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Woman with the Issue of Blood

Reference Matthew 9:18-22, Mark 5:22-34, Leviticus 15:19-33

One day Jesus was walking by Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee, with an official of the synagogue who had stopped Him and begged for His help with his very sick daughter.  As was typically the case, Jesus, now famous in this region for His miracles, was thronged by the crowds who followed Him everywhere.  Like any celebrity, they pressed in, longing to get a closer look, to hear His words or to touch Him.

The passage is clear that this is his “little daughter” – this is not his adult child.  This is not a woman.  She is a child.  His little daughter who hasn’t even had a chance to be a woman yet.

He specifically asks Jesus to “lay hands on her” – to touch his little girl and make her well so she can live.  Jesus follows the man toward the little dying child.

Here, we have presented to us one of the most pathetic characters of the gospels.  She is introduced as “a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years.”

Almost certainly, this means that at some point, she had started her menstrual cycle, but it had never stopped.  In our day, that would be terribly inconvenient.  In her day, it meant much more.

The Levitical laws prescribed that a woman was ceremonially unclean during the bleeding period of her cycle for seven days. During this time, anyone who touched her or any surface she sat or lied on was also unclean.

Keep in mind that the original intent of “unclean” did not connect to sin or morally impurity – far from it.   There is a lot that could be talked about here, but ceremonial uncleanness was a way of setting something apart from other things. In the Jewish world, blood was considered the very element of life.  Life was in the blood.  To bleed would normally mean something bad, so bleeding was treated with a serious attitude.

This would mean that this woman was not only facing the consequences of losing this blood, but the restrictions with being ceremonially unclean.  To make matters worse, in the time of Jesus, Rabbinical and Pharisaical teaching had added other restrictions and a much worse attitude onto women in this phase of their cycle.

Likely she could not handle money, tools, food or anything else that was not also unclean.

Now, consider the application.  For most women in child-bearing years, this mean that for seven days each month, they were unable to prepare food, handle money, touch tools or surfaces in the home… so essentially this became a one week vacation from normal responsibilities each month!

Further consideration – these people generally lived in relatively small communities within communities.  Often, women in the same community begin to experience their period at similar times!  So, beyond even a vacation – leaving fathers and grandparents with the responsibilities of the home and older children – it was a time when women of childbearing years would gather.

Some say that many Jewish communities would have had a special tent just outside of the village where these women stayed for these seven days.  Imagine the teaching, gossip, comfort and friendships lived out as most of the woman from the ages of early teens to menopause gathered together in an overlapping seven days.  This was a brilliant move on God’s part to offer rest, training and fellowship for these women and to create a system in which husbands and other family members would appreciate what the woman brought to the family.

No wonder that, when combined with the Jewish yearning to have children, a girl’s first period was likely celebrated!

However, this beautiful system sometimes broke down.  It had broken in the case of this particular woman.

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