In the book of Matthew, chapter 9 verses 20-22, which reads, “Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment”, we are introduced to a woman with no name. She is known for having an issue of blood. In other scriptures, she is also referred to as the hemorrhaging woman. Whether she has an issue of blood, or is hemorrhaging, she is definitely a woman with an infirmity. Let’s take a look back for a moment, in the book of Leviticus, chapter 15 verses 19-33, it reads, "When a woman has her menstrual flow, she shall be in a state of impurity for seven days. Anyone who touches her shall be unclean until evening. Anything on which she lies or sits during her impurity shall be unclean. Anyone who touches her bed shall wash his garments, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. Whoever touches any article of furniture on which she was sitting, shall wash his garments, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. But if she is on the bed or on the seat when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening. If a man dares to lie with her, he contracts her impurity and shall be unclean for seven days; every bed on which he then lies also becomes unclean. "When a woman is afflicted with a flow of blood for several days outside her menstrual period, or when her flow continues beyond the ordinary period, as long as she suffers this unclean flow she shall be unclean, just as during her menstrual period. Any bed on which she lies during such a flow becomes unclean, as it would during her menstruation, and any article of furniture on which she sits becomes unclean just as during her menstruation. Anyone who touches them becomes unclean; he shall wash his garments, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. "If she becomes freed from her affliction, she shall wait seven days, and only then is she to be purified. On the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent. The priest shall offer up one of them as a sin offering and the other as a holocaust. Thus shall the priest make atonement before the LORD for her unclean flow. "You shall warn the Israelites of their uncleanness, lest by defiling my Dwelling, which is in their midst, their uncleanness be the cause of their death. "This is the law for the man who is afflicted with a chronic flow, or who has an emission of seed, and thereby becomes unclean; as well as for the woman who has her menstrual period, or who is afflicted with a chronic flow; the law for male and female; and also for the man who lies with an unclean woman." A woman was considered ceremonially unclean when having a discharge of blood that lasted well past her period of menstruation. It did not have to last past her normal period of menstruation; it was even during her period of menstruation. She was not allowed to touch anyone, nor could anyone touch her. She was not allowed to share in the annual worship celebrations that were considered important in Judaism. She was not allowed to go into the temple courts, she could not light the candles for the Sabbath evening nor could she participate in the Passover meal. It was as if she was non-existent in an existing world.
In the book, Every Woman in the Bible, it reads; “The rabbis went beyond the Old Testament teaching on menstrual uncleanness. They urged that a man separate from his wife several days before and after her period to avoid contamination.” A woman normally has her menstrual cycle from 3-5 days, an at the most, 7 days. We are looking at a woman not having any type of relationship with her spouse for close to two weeks. In that same book, “Rabbi Yoshayah even warned men that they might die if they failed to keep away from their wives when they approached their periods.”
There are a few questions that come to mind when thinking of this woman. How did she care for herself during this period of affliction? Were there any family members that she could turn to for support? Were there means for her to keep clean during this time? What was the environment she lived in? Were there surgeons that were present in that time that could have performed a hysterectomy on her, and would she have chosen to have one? Why didn’t she just say that this is just something that she has to live with until the day she dies? Was she seeking Jesus out? Why did she touch the hem of his garment, why not His sleeve or His shoulder? Was she trying to hide from the others as she sought Jesus out, or was she so pressed to get the healing that she needed, that she was not going to let man, nor their laws, stand in her way?
We know from the scriptures that when Jesus encountered this woman, He was on the way to the home of Jarius to heal his daughter. The books of Matthew and Mark give similar accounts to this story, but they also have a few differences, not major, but enough to make you ask when did the deliverance from this affliction take place. Matthew is more vague in his account, while Mark goes into a little more detail. In the New American Bible, the book of Matthew, chapter 9 verses 20-22, it reads,
A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured."
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, "Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you." And from that hour the woman was cured.
In the book of Mark, chapter 5 starting at verse 25, it reads,
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" But his disciples said to him, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'" And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
The difference indicated between the two writers is, Matthew states she was cured from the affliction that very hour when Jesus told her that her faith has saved her. In the book of Mark, the indication is the flow of blood dried up once she touched his garment.
Having an issue of blood for twelve years brings up this question. What were her means of taking care of herself? When women are having there menstrual cycles, it is very essential to practice good hygiene. Women need to bathe thoroughly daily to keep from producing a foul odor. Women also use feminine products to keep from having a leakage of blood. Even thought there is no statement in the bible regarding feminine products, I located an article on the internet called The History of Tampons. The article states, “The ancient Egyptians invented the first disposable tampons made from softened papyrus. The ancient Greeks invented tampons made from line wrapped around a small piece of wood, recorded in writing by Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C. Other materials used for the first tampons have included: wool, paper, vegetable fibers, sponges, grass, and later cotton.” Provided that she was able to use the tampons made by the Egyptians, she would have had some form of comfort, in a sense that she would not be walking around leaking blood whenever she moved.
Another piece of information that is not provided is, where is this particular lady from? We know that Jarius was from Caperneum, a region near the sea, which is stated in verse 21 of the 5th chapter of Mark. If this woman were also a citizen of Caperneum, then there would be water around that she could gather to bathe in.
According to the law, women were not allowed to touch anyone or anything while they were considered unclean, because whatever she touched became unclean. No information is provided as to whether or not she has a husband or children. If she were married, because of the Levitical law, her husband would not be allowed to lay with her for a period of about 1 to 2 weeks. I had to ask myself how long would her husband have waited on her to be healed to resume marital relations. I even posed that question to my husband, just to try and understand her spouse may have felt, if she had one. This woman was considered ceremonially unclean, and if she were married, according to the laws of that time, her husband could have put her away (divorced her), which is stated in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 24 verse 1, which reads, “When a man hath taken a wife, an married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.” She had to live without the affection of a husband for twelve years. There was no hugging, no touching, no sexual relationship, and no intimacy. Everyone and everything, for a condition that she had no control over, had abandoned her. What if she had given birth to a child prior to that, she could not hold that child, not care for that child, not nourish that child, nor embrace that child for twelve long years. Imagine being her child and not being able to experience the love of its mother for twelve years.
For years she went to the doctors, not getting any better, only worse. For years, she paid money trying to find a cure for this mysterious illness, this infirmity that she was plagued with. Women of today who suffer with prolonged menstrual periods, have the option of having it surgically corrected. They either have a D&C (dilatation and curettage), and/or a hysterectomy. I wondered if there were doctors that could have performed such a medical act, and there was one, but he did not perform that particular surgery until approximately between 98 AD and 138 AD, according to the article by T.N.K. Raju, M.D., D.C.H entitled, Soranus of Ephesus: Who Was He and What Did He Do? This took place after her divine appointment with Jesus. According to the article written by Karen Giblin, which is entitled, Hysterectomy-A Bookmark Article and Explanations, the name of this man was Soranus of Ephesus, and he was a Greek physician. Once the first hysterectomy had been done, they were not randomly performed. They were only done if there was a life threatening gynecological condition. When a woman is given a hysterectomy, she has an irreversible means of birth control. She is no longer able to give life. If the surgery had been available to her, would she have had it done? The scriptures indicate that she had exhausted all means of finances for doctors to heal her of this dreadful illness, but they do not indicate what the treatment was. I do not believe that she would have had that surgery done, for one reason. She would never be able to give birth to a child. We know from history that women were looked lowly upon if they were not able to produce a child, especially a man-child. We can look in the book Genesis for the story of Sarah and Abraham, and for the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah. We can also go into I Samuel and read about Hannah.
These women were barren and could not produce and heir for their husbands, so other women (concubines) were given to their mates for the act of reproduction. In the case of Jacob, Rachel was barren, but her sister, Jacobs’ other wife, Leah, was not.
For the length of time that she had this infirmity, I have asked the question, why didn’t she give up? I even wonder how did she live so long being afflicted with this infirmity. When a woman has her menstrual cycle, it is very draining physically and mentally. You are tired and have no energy. Even though your body replenishes its blood supply, there is still a certain amount of fatigue that a woman endures during that period of time. This woman had been bleeding for twelve years, the equivalency of 4384 days. She was undoubtedly physically and emotionally drained. We hear about people daily, who bleed to death in a matter of minutes or days. Why was she still alive? Even though the blood flow replenishes itself, I wonder, how could a woman bleed for so long non-stop and yet live? I have had the misfortune of watching my father bleed to death internally, in addition to having an emergency surgery myself, because I had began to hemorrhage during childbirth, which leads me to this question, what caused her infliction? Today, women can hemorrhage to death in no time, but there is a woman who came before us that lived twelve years with that affliction before she was healed, but she lived.
This woman, per my earlier notes, was practicing Judaism. When did she began to believe in Jesus the Christ? When did she decide that she was going to seek Jesus out? We know the extent of Jesus’ public ministry was three years, but doing that three year time period, had she began to look for Jesus, trying to find Him who was considered the ultimate healer. The scripture does not state if she was a citizen of the town that Jesus was in, it just implies that she heard about Jesus, and looked for Him. It may have appeared that she was choosing Jesus as a last resort, but I believe that she wanted Jesus all alone. I believe that she had done all she could, but when she HEARD about Jesus, she had hope. I believe that she may have realized that Jesus was her redeemer and her healer, and that the reason why she was not dead was because of the will of God.
When the woman found Jesus, the scripture lets us know that she pressed through the crowd to get to Him. The Bible lets us know that she says if she could just touch the hem of his garment. Why didn’t she touch his sleeve or his shoulder? I believe that she touched His garment at the hem and not Him nor His sleeve or shoulder because she wanted to protect Jesus. I also believe that by that time, she may have been on the ground and reached out to Him. She was also protecting herself to a certain degree. In an article from the Bible Bulletin Board entitled, Women of the Bible - The Woman with the Issue of Blood, ” a woman was prohibited from touching a man in public”. As previously stated in the book of Leviticus, anything or anyone that she touched would be considered unclean. She knew Jesus could heal her, but she did not want for Him to be considered unclean in the process. I believe this theory of mine, one because, the Levitical law, but the other, because He was considered to be the lamb that would be sacrificed for our sins, and He would have to be so without a spot or a blemish. In the book of Exodus, chapter 12, verse 5 we read, “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats.” Jesus was without spot or a blemish, and was not unclean. Jesus is called “The Lamb of God”, who came to take away the sins of the world. I believe the woman pressed her way through the crowd, not being concerned of others, only seeing Jesus. I believe that she was so weak from losing so much blood over the years that it took all of her strength to get to Jesus. I believe that she was pressing through the crowd so hard, and just as hard as she was pressing to get to Jesus, others were pressing with that same type of force, just to get to the Savior. I believe through the entire pressing she may have fell and she knew she had to get to Him to be set free, so reached with an outstretched arm and touched the hem of His garment. I believe that during it all, even if she had not been on the ground, she would not have touched Jesus physically. I believe that she did necessarily care who saw her; she was just trying to get her healing. Her intentions were not to make her Savior unclean. When the woman touched his garment, He immediately knew someone had touched him. It was no ordinary touch that you get when you are in the midst of a crowd, but a special touch. At that moment, Jesus knew that someone had touched Him. According to Mark chapter 5, verse 29 it reads, “Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” And He looked around to see the woman who had done this.”
In the Genesis Rabba 17:8, which is referenced in the book Every Woman in the Bible, describes the male-female differences; ” one being that the man makes the demands on the woman, but the woman does not make the demand on the man”. In this particular scenario, the woman made the demand on Jesus (the man). For her to step out of her comfort zone took great courage and strength. According to the book of Matthew, chapter 9, Jesus looked for whomever touched Him. As He looked around He saw the woman, and she told Him her story. One of the most amazing things in that is, Jesus listened. Remember, He was on the way to the home of Jarius to heal his daughter. Since women were not considered as important as men, others may have found that strange for Jesus to consider the plight of this woman, over the task that He was going to do. But, because He was Jesus, gender did not make a difference. I don’t believe that Jesus stopped because someone touched Him. I believe He stopped because when He was touched, He felt the virtue (power) leave Him.
She had to be a woman of great faith and courage to defy the laws of man and to press forward to get to Jesus. She went from being an outcast to an example of hope to all who believed in Jesus. I believe that she waited on Jesus, not in the sense that she just sat around doing nothing, but in the sense that she knew He could heal her. I believe that she was living according to the scripture that was in the book of Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31 that reads, “But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. I also believe that she lived the scripture that states, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” I believe once she heard about Jesus, she called upon Him morning, noon and night. When she touched Jesus, she was silently crying, but He heard her spirit. In a sermon by Jamal Harrison-Bryant, he stated, “this woman had so much faith, she did not need an appointment to see Jesus, she did not have to even touch Him, she knew that His anointing was so great that all she had to do was just touch the hem of his garment.” Now, that is faith.
That woman is an example for us today. We need to realize that Jesus is not a last resort, but the first person we should call on in the time of trouble. She teaches us how to walk in faith and never give up. She shows us that even though her body was drained physically, she would not allow death to overtake her. I believe God looked down on her with love and said that He was going to bless her because she never gave up. She reminds me of God’s servant Job. I believe that she lost all she ever had, but because of her faithfulness and love for the Lord, when God blessed her, He gave her everything back, and not only that, but He gave her everything in abundance. I believe He gave her love, a family, friends, health and wealth.
She waited on Jesus, and when He came, she pressed and pressed, making her way through the crowd. She was crying out in her spirit, Jesus, Jesus, help me Jesus. She kept saying to herself, if she could only just touch the hem of His garment. She kept telling herself that she knew what man said, and she knew the law, but she also kept saying in her spirit that Jesus would change all of that. When she made it through the crowd, she reached out and she touched the hem of His garment. Jesus stopped and said, “Who touched me?” His disciples told Him that it was the crowd pressing against him, but He told them that it was not because the power left Him. He turned around and saw this woman, fearful, yet bold, who needed Him. He talked with her, and before He went on His way to do the task that He was going to do, he said to her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be healed of thy infirmity.
Richards, Larry and Sue. Every Woman in the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999
Capoccia, Kathryn. Women of the Bible - The Woman with the Issue of Blood N.J. Bible Bulletin Board, 2000
All scripture references are taken from the New American Bible, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987
and the Holy Bible (KJV), Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993
Giblin, Karen. Hysterectomy-A Bookmark Article and Explanations, 2004
Raju, T.N.K., M.D.,D.C.H. Soranus of Ephesus:Who was He and What Did He Do? 2002
Bellis, Mary. The History of Tampons(http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bltampons.htm 2005
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