|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
9:36-43 Many are full of good words, who are empty and barren in good works; but Tabitha was a great doer, no great talker. Christians who have not property to give in charity, may yet be able to do acts of charity, working with their hands, or walking with their feet, for the good of others. Those are certainly best praised whose own works praise them, whether the words of others do so or not. But such are ungrateful indeed, who have kindness shown them, and will not acknowledge it, by showing the kindness that is done them. While we live upon the fulness of Christ for our whole salvation, we should desire to be full of good works, for the honour of his name, and for the benefit of his saints. Such characters as Dorcas are useful where they dwell, as showing the excellency of the word of truth by their lives. How mean then the cares of the numerous females who seek no distinction but outward decoration, and who waste their lives in the trifling pursuits of dress and vanity! Power went along with the word, and Dorcas came to life. Thus in the raising of dead souls to spiritual life, the first sign of life is the opening of the eyes of the mind. Here we see that the Lord can make up every loss; that he overrules every event for the good of those who trust in him, and for the glory of his name.
Verse 36. - Joppa; now Jaffa, the ancient seaport of Jerusalem (Jonah 1:3; 2 Chronicles 2:16). It was in the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:46). A certain disciple; a female disciple, as the word means; μαθήτρια only occurs here in the New Testament and rarely elsewhere. Tabitha; the Aramean form of the Hebrew צְבִי, a gazelle, or in Greek Dorcas. The beauty and grace of the gazelle made it an appropriate name for a woman. Some have thought, with probability, that she was a deaconess of the Church. The thirty-eighth verse shows that there was already a Church at Joppa About half the population of seven thousand are said to be still Christians. Compare the qualifications of a widow as set forth by St Paul (1 Timothy 5:10). The phrase, good works, is quite Pauline (Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:10; Titus 2:7; 1 Timothy 2:10). Almsdeeds. The word alms (from ἐλεημοσυνή) is one of those Greek words which has been domiciled in the English language through the Church. So bishop, priest, deacon, Κύριε ἐλέητον, trisagion, stole, Paschal, Litany, Liturgy, and many others.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now there was at Joppa,.... The same with Japho, Joshua 19:46 a sea port town in the tribe of Dan, said by some historians (w) to be a very ancient one, even before the flood. It is now called Jaffa, and its name, in the Hebrew tongue, signifies beauty: some say it had its name from Jope, the daughter of Aeolus, the wife of Cepheus, the founder of it; and others derive it from the name of Japhet, because it looks towards Europe, which is inhabited by the sons of Japhet. It was built upon a hill, as Pliny (x) says; and so high, as Strabo (y) reports, that Jerusalem, the metropolis of Judea, might be seen from thence, which was distant from it forty miles; as may be concluded from what Jerom, (z) says, who lived at Bethlehem many years: his words are; from Joppa, to our little village Bethlehem, are forty six miles; now Bethlehem was six miles distant from Jerusalem, to the south of it, and Joppa was to the west of it. The place is well known by Jonah's taking ship there, and going for Tarshish, when he was cast into the sea, and devoured by a fish; from whence the Ionian sea might have its name: and this was the occasion of the fable of Andromeda being exposed to a fish of a prodigious size at this place; the bones of which, Pliny (a) relates, were brought to Rome from hence, being forty foot long; and, the stones, to which she was bound, Jerom (b) says, were shown in his time on this shore: and here also, the inhabitants report, may be seen some stones in the sea, on which Peter stood and fished, when he dwelt in this place.
A certain disciple, called Tabitha; this was a woman's name, the masculine name was Tabi. R. Gamaliel had a manservant of this name (c), and also a maidservant, whose name was Tabitha (d); yea, every maidservant of his was called mother Tabitha, and every manservant father Tabi (e):
which by interpretation is called Dorcas; which signifies a roe in the Greek language, as Tabitha does in the Syriac:
this woman was full of good works; was constantly employed in doing good; her works were both many and good:
and alms deeds which she did; she was very kind and beneficent to the poor; she wrought with her hands much for their sakes, as appears by what follows.
(w) Mela, l. 1. Solin. Polyhistor. c. 47. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 13. (x) Nat. Hist. ib. (y) Geograph. l. 16. (z) Epist. ad Dardanum, Tom. 3, fol. 23. K. (a) Nat. Hist. l. 9. c. 5. (b) Comment. in Jonam, c. 1. v. 3.((c) Misn. Beracot, c. 2. sect. 7. (d) T. Hieros. Nidda, fol. 49. 4. Vajikra Rabba, sect. 19. fol. 160. 4. (e) Massecheth Semachot, c. 1. sect. 13.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
36-39. at Joppa—the modern Jaffa, on the Mediterranean, a very ancient city of the Philistines, afterwards and still the seaport of Jerusalem, from which it lies distant forty-five miles to the northwest.
Tabitha … Dorcas—the Syro-Chaldaic and Greek names for an antelope or gazelle, which, from its loveliness, was frequently employed as a proper name for women [Meyer, Olshausen]. Doubtless the interpretation, as here given, is but an echo of the remarks made by the Christians regarding her—how well her character answered to her name.
full of good works and alms-deeds—eminent for the activities and generosities of the Christian character.
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