Archive for June 25th, 2013

One of the things I love the most as I study scripture is when someone explains the meaning of a story in great depth, using their knowledge of historical facts of the period and/or subtle shades of meaning “hidden” in the original languages of the Bible (Greek and Hebrew with a little Aramaic).  The Biblestudytools.com email series called “Today’s Topical Bible Study” had a bang-up essay on 6-21 that I wanted to share.  It was about this familiar story:


Mark 5:25-29 (NIV)

25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

Some of what is said in the essay actually refers to Luke’s version of this event:

Luke 8:43-48 (NLT)

43 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. 44 Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” 47 When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. 48 “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”


And here’s the fascinating stuff:


“The NLT states that she touched the fringe of His garment…  The tense of the phrase in verse 28 means that she kept saying this to herself as she pressed her way through the crowd.”

“We can’t know what led this woman who had suffered so to believe that she would be healed by Jesus like this; possibly there was a notion held by some that a healer had power in his clothing, so she reached out to Jesus by faith.”


 Why was what this woman did so risky? There were two important reasons:

She was Considered Unclean

A menstruating woman or one with other bleeding was considered to be unclean as long as they continued to do so (Leviticus 15:25-27). This meant that anyone that touched her or that she touched would also be unclean. Being in this crowd would have made many unclean, including Jesus. A woman in her condition would be unable to go to the temple to worship, or be around anyone she might touch. She would be a social outcast. “In her extremity of need—incurable illness and socio-religious isolation—she was a living ‘dead’ person for 12 years. Her restoration to wholeness of life anticipated the dramatic raising of Jairus’ daughter who died after living for 12 years.”

She Dared Touch a Prayer Shawl

The woman touched the fringe of Jesus’ prayer shawl, or Greek kraspedon; a margin, i.e., a fringe or tassel, border, hem. According to the Mosaic law every Jew was obliged to wear a fringe or tassel at each of the four corners of the outer garment, one thread of each tassel to be blue. These tassels were to be to them a perpetual reminder of the law of God, and of their duty to keep it (Numbers 15:38-39; Deuteronomy 22:12.) This was the “hem” that the woman touched, perhaps supposing there was some peculiar virtue in it.

The Torah requirements stated that they needed to wear blue tassels to remind them of the sky; this dye was tremendously expensive (about $10,000 an ounce in today’s value), so having only one of these tassels dyed was acceptable. The number of dyed tassels then would represent status, authority, and holiness—the more blue tassels, the more status. It was against the law to touch a man’s prayer shawl unless one was a member of a man’s family. Thus this was a desperate act of this woman, because this would have serious consequences if she were not healed.”

“Jesus wouldn’t take the disciples’ sarcasm for an answer, but knew what had happened. He sought out the woman (Greek, he kept looking and scrutinizing the crowd; the article and participle in Greek in vs. 32 are feminine in nature, further indicating He knew who did it) who had hidden in the crowd.”

“When Jesus called her “daughter,” He made her a part of His family, which meant there was no penalty for touching his prayer shawl, and took away her fears. This is the only time in the gospels that Jesus directly called someone “daughter.””


Pretty cool, huh?  I wonder if the woman was hedging her bets when she touched Jesus’ prayer shawl, because if she actually touched HIM she’d be making him unclean;  in that frenzied crowd she could be fairly certain that no one would notice she had touched the hem of his garment, so it might not seem risky, but actually touching Jesus, making him unclean (which I’m guessing is actually impossible, but she would not have known that), THAT she’d have to be certain that he would notice, and the already excited crowd might be easily be swayed to harm or kill her once they realized she had made both the healer and everyone she had touched to reach him unclean.  I’m no expert in these matters, it just seems to fit the facts.  Either way;  verrrrrrrrrry interesting.

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