|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 37. - Fell sick for was sick, A.V.; and when they had washed her for whom when they had washed, A.V. For the phrase in those days, comp. Acts 6:1. The days here meant are those while Peter was in those parts. An upper chamber (ὑπερώον), as in Acts 1:13. The upper chamber was much more private and quiet than a room on the ground floor (see 2 Kings 4:10, 11).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it came to pass in those days,.... While Peter was in those parts, and particularly at Lydda, which was near:
that she was sick and died; fell ill with some disorder, and died of it:
whom, when they had washed; as was the manner of the Jews; and this they did, even though it was on a sabbath day: for so their canon runs (f),
"they do all the necessaries for the dead (on the sabbath), they anoint him, "and they wash him";''
yet that of Maimonides deserves some notice (g);
"it is forbidden to anoint part of the body, as the whole body; but if it is to remove filth, it is lawful; and so it is forbidden to wash part of the body with hot water, but with cold water they may wash his face, his hands, and his feet, but not the whole body.''
This custom still continues, and their usual method is to wash the body with hot water, in which they put dried roses and camomile flowers: likewise, they take an egg, and beat it up in wine, and therewith anoint the head; and this washing and anointing are done by some at the house before the corpse is carried out (as here); but in some places, especially where there is a large number of Jews, all this is done in the burying places; where they have a little house, whither they carry the corpse, and put it on a table, and there wash it; and after washing, put, it into a coffin, and inter it (h): and this has been the custom of other nations, if not of all nations: the custom with the Turks is this (i); the body being laid upon a board, and covered with a linen cloth, one of the ecclesiastical elders washes it with hot water and soap, another being present to hand the water; but they do not suffer others to look on: the body is thrice washed; and the third time they mingle camphire with it; and being washed, it is put into a coffin. And Ludolphus (k) reports of the Abyssines, that their bodies being well washed and perfumed, they wrap them up in garments, and then are put upon a bier, and buried. And this was the practice both of the ancient Grecians and Romans, that as soon as ever anyone was dead, the body was immediately washed and anointed. Thus Creon is said to fetch Jocaste to wash her dead son; and Antigone requests of Creon, that she might wash her brother (l). It has been the custom of some countries to wash their dead bodies in rivers: and some people, in the northern parts, have chose, for this reason, to have their burying places near the banks of rivers, that their dead bodies might be washed in running water: and the Indians, which live at a distance from the river Ganges, will go fifteen or twenty days journey thither, to wash their corpse in it, though then putrefied, and then burn them; yea, they take their sick alive when they think they will die, and put them up to their middle in rivers, that they may die in pure and clear water; and they enjoin a very severe penance on those who omit to bring such as are near death, to a river to be washed (m):
they laid her in an upper chamber. The Ethiopic version reads quite the reverse; "they put her in the lower part of the house": which is not likely. Dr. Lightfoot conjectures that this upper chamber might be the common meeting place of the saints; and that they put her here, that if Peter should work a miracle all might be spectators of it; and certain it is, that the Jewish doctors used to meet in upper rooms, and confer together; See Gill on Mark 2:4, and such there were in Lydda; See Gill on Acts 1:13 and such there were in Lydda; Acts 9:32.
(f) Misn. Sabbat, c. 23. sect. 5. (g) Hilch. Ebel, c. 5. sect. 4. (h) Buxtorf. Synagog. Jud. c. 49. p. 699, 700. Leo Modena's History of the Rites, &c. of the Jews, par. 5. c. 8. (i) Bobovius de Visitat. Aegrot. p. 18. Georgievitz de Turc. Moribus, p. 36. (k) Hist. Ethiop. l. 3. c. 6. (l) Vid. Kirchmannum de Funeribus Roman. l. 1. c. 7. (m) Sperling de Baptismo Ethnicorum, c. 4. p. 26, 27.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
37. when they had washed—according to the custom of civilized nations towards the dead.
in an—rather, "the"
upper chamber—(compare 1Ki 17:19).
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