Blindness in the Old Testament

Despite the number of miracles recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures (also known as the Old Testament), there are no accounts of any blind person being able to miraculously see. There are accounts of God making people blind as in Genesis 19 when the angels strike the corrupt men of Sodom trying to enter Lot’s home with blindness (v. 11), and in 2 Kings chapter 6 when God struck some men blind at the request of Elisha (after Elisha prayed for the Lord to open his servant’s eyes to see the angels (vv.15-23).






The blind were unclean and could not offer a sacrifice (Leviticus 21:18, 22:22; Deuteronomy. 15:21). There are many other references, both physical and metaphorical, but there is not a single instance of a blind person being made to see by God or by a prophet.




However there are specific passages that state the Lord can make the blind see:




 “The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;

The LORD loves the righteous.” Psalm 147:8





Prophecies of Giving Sight to the Blind

There are prophecies of the blind being given sight in the future:





“On that day those who are deaf will hear words of a book,

And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of those who are blind will see.” Isaiah 29:18





“Then the eyes of the blind will be opened

And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.” Isaiah 35:5





“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;

My chosen one in whom My soul delights.

I have put My Spirit upon Him;

He will bring forth justice to the nations.

He will not cry out nor raise His voice,

Nor make His voice heard in the street….”

“I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness,

I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,

And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,

As a light to the nations,

To open blind eyes,

To bring out prisoners from the dungeon

And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.” Isaiah 42:1-2; 6-7





Isaiah chapter 42 is a Messianic prophecy about God’s coming Servant. In verses 18 to 20, God rebukes his servant Israel for being deaf and blind to God, and for being “trapped in caves” or “hidden away in prisons” (v. 22). This forms a stark contrast to the Servant announced at the beginning of the passage who will “open blind eyes” and release those  “from the dungeon.”






So the stage is set for this coming Servant: Jesus’ astounding miracles of healing the blind.







Jesus Heals the Blind

While in Capernaum (Matthew 9) and leaving Jericho (Matthew 20), Jesus heals two blind men in each place (9:27-30; 20:29-34). Matthew records that the crowds brought the lame, the sick, and the blind to be healed by Jesus (Matthew 15: 29-31) and Luke states that many were healed (Luke 7:21). Jesus opens the eyes of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52).





In John 9, Jesus heals the man born blind. This astounding and lengthy account pits the blind man against the Pharisees who do not want to believe that Jesus healed him. The blind man accurately and astutely points out:






“Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (vv. 32-33)






Jesus went against the Pharisees by healing this man on the Sabbath (Jesus healed on the Sabbath several times in other cases). The Pharisees considered this to be work. Moreover, Jesus healed the man using clay, which he mixed with his saliva and applied to the blind man’s eyes (verse 6). It was against the law of the Pharisees to make clay on the Sabbath since they interpreted it as work. So the Pharisees thought Jesus could not be from God because he violated the Sabbath doing these things.





The Pharisees’ response is to promptly put the blind man out of the synagogue (meaning he is ex-communicated).






Jesus’ Messiahship Authenticated

Jesus affirmed his Messiahship with his ability to perform miracles, including a reference to healing the blind, in two places. In the synagogue, Jesus read aloud from the scroll of Isaiah and Luke records these words from Jesus:









The first part is from Isaiah 61, but Jesus also referenced the Hebrew prophecies in Isaiah 35 and 42 that the eyes of the blind would be opened. Jesus then announced that this scripture was fulfilled, astonishing and angering his hearers because he was claiming to be the promised Messiah.




When John was in prison, he sent word to Jesus asking if he (Jesus) was the promised Messiah. Jesus gave this reply, quoting in part Isaiah 35:





“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.’” Matthew 11:4-5



Who Are the Blind?

The longest account of a healing miracle by Jesus is John 9, its very length indicating its significance. It is worth noting that before Jesus heals the blind man, he tells the disciples “I am the Light of the wordl” (v. 5). It is reasonable to consider that there is no account of a blind person healed in the Old Testament because the Light of the world had not yet come. Jesus healing blind men was an emphasis on his attribute of being this Light.





Jesus also tells the disciples that the man was born blind not due to any fault of his parents or his (the Jews thought that being born blind was a result of sin and that one could sin in the womb), but so that  “the works of God might be displayed” (v. 5). These works were Jesus’ miracles, authenticating him as the Messiah.





Jesus purposefully heals the blind man on the Sabbath, so that when the blind man goes to the Pharisees, they decide Jesus is a sinner and is not from God (v. 16) because he healed on the Sabbath, overlooking the pivotal and unprecedented claim from the blind man that Jesus healed him. This indicates that the Pharisees were not willing to see Jesus for who he was.







The Pharisees then question the man’s parents, refusing to believe Jesus could have healed the man. The parents affirm he is their son, that he was born blind and now sees (vv. 20-21), but do not want to say more in fear of being thrown out of the synagogue (vv. 22-23).






The account continues with the Pharisees questioning the blind man again. The blind man is still unaware of who Jesus is; he only knows that Jesus opened his eyes. The man becomes irritated with the Pharisees who state they are followers of Moses but do not know where Jesus is from.





The man replies in a way that refutes the Pharisees, saying that his eyes were opened and that





“Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (vv. 32-33)





After the Pharisees angrily put the man out of the synagogue, Jesus goes to the healed man and reveals who he is and the man believes and worships Jesus (vv. 35-38). Jesus then pronounces judgment on the Pharisees who had interacted with him by declaring:






“‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’ Those who were with Him from the Pharisees heard these things and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now that you maintain, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.'” (vv. 39-41).







As is so often the case with Scripture and with Jesus, the content is profound on many levels. The blind man is healed without knowing who Jesus is (showing that miracles from Jesus did not necessitate belief) but readily believes after Jesus reveals who he is.





The healed blind man sees better than the Pharisees, even before he knows who Jesus is, because he affirms that anyone who can heal like this must be from God since it has never been done before. Opposed to this, the Pharisees, who are learned in the Scriptures and should recognize the Messiah based on the prophecies, refuse to admit Jesus is the Messiah because he violated their man-based laws about doing work on the Sabbath,  thus revealing their willful spiritual blindness. Their own flawed  intrepretatons of God’s law kept them from seeing  Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus pierces through the outward religious sight of the Pharisees to uncover their inner blindness — their obstinate rejection of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah.







Jesus is the Light of the World

The theme of blindness must be seen in view of Jesus declaring he is the Light of the world, both here in John 9 and elsewhere, as well as Jesus being called a light by others (John 1:4-9, 3:19-20, 8:12, 12:35, 36, 46; Acts 26:23; 1 John 1:5, 7; 2:8, 10), as well as recognizing this healing as a prophesied miracle of the Messiah.







Those who believe in Christ who paid the penalty for sins are forgiven of all sins and partake of that Light (Philippians 2:15; Colossians 1:12; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 2:10), becoming “sons” (and daughters) and “children of light” (John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5).






The healing of the blind, both physically and spiritually, is a work that can be done only by God through Jesus Christ.






“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” Jesus in John 12:46






“…for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” Ephesians 5:8





Related Information

This brief article by Dr. Max Younce answers the question:

“In Matthew 20:29-34 the Bible says Jesus healed two blind men in departing from Jericho; but in Mark 10:46-52, Mark says he only healed one blind man. Which is right? Is this a contradiction?”