Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Hem of His Garment

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, Malachi 4:2

One of the best known miracles of healing that Jesus performed was the occasion when a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the hem of his garment (Matthew 9:20). The woman was, in fact, reaching for the tassels on Jesus' prayer shawl. In Hebrew, these tassels, which are attached to the corners of the prayer shawl, are called tzitzit. Why should she stoop to touch the fringe? Why not his arm, or his feet?

As the Atorah (prayer shawl) was placed over the head, it formed his own tent. Wings of the garment were formed when the arms were held out. [Note: It was common to pray with upraised arms in Jewish prayer.] For this reason, the corners of the prayer shawl are often called "wings." During the first century there were several traditions associated with the tzitzit concerning Messiah.

One was that these knotted fringes possessed healing powers. Certainly the woman with the issue of blood knew of these traditions, which would explain why she sought to touch the hem (the wings) of Jesus' prayer garment. The same word used in Numbers 15:38 for corner is used in Malachi 4:2 for wings. With this understanding in mind, an ancient Jew under the prayer shawl could be said to be dwelling in the secret place of the Most High and under His wings (Ps. 91:1-4).

The lady with the issue knew that if Jesus were the promised Messiah, there would be healing in His wings (fringes). That this was the opinion of many other people is revealed by the crowd who sought his healing powers, "that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole," Matthew 14:36. When one realized the significance of this concept to the first-century Hebraic mind, it becomes clear why this woman was instantly healed. She was expressing her faith in Jesus as the Son of Righteousness with healing in His wings and declaring her faith in God's prophetic Word.



  1. It sure makes a lot more sense when you know these things! Thanks.

  2. Much of this is inaccurate, based upon a misunderstanding of Hebrew which has been spread to you unawares from people who I wish knew better and have spread this errant Bible interpretation all over the internet. No serious commentary, Hebrew or Gentile, liberal or Bible believing, agrees with the view suggested here, as attractive as it is and as much as Jesus brings healing (certainly not any of the commentaries written by evangelicals who are scholars). Saying "wings" = "hems" because the same word is used in both places is like saying "grave" means both "serious" and "tomb" at the same time. The word means one or the other. And the meanings are separate, just as you find 2 or three different meanings for the same word. You best determine meaning by looking at the immediate context instead of looking all over for the same word used in different ways. Some pastor who doesn't know how both language and Hebrew works looked in a Hebrew dictionary and saw "wings, extremities, hem" listed under one word and said "Hey, maybe they all mean the same thing." As I recall, this language mistake is called "illegitimate totality transfer." This woman would never have understood the passage in this way. No Jew in the first century would have. Because they knew how their language worked. Indeed, Jesus healed her in spite of her superstitious thinking about the tassels (which was known in the day and in other cultures--the hem was considered and extension of the person himself) showing that even imperfect faith, so long as it is in Jesus, the source of all healing, brings healing. It's not the faith itself, but the object of that faith. To have strong faith in thin ice can be deadly in the winter, but weak faith in thick ice, well that's safe as being sheltered under the one is who like the sun in His brilliance and whose (as in the context in Malachi) brilliance will set the evil ones on fire and bring healing to those who are His.