Acts 9:36
Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
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(36) There was at Joppa. . . .—The Hebrew form of the name, Japho (pronounced Yapho), appears in Joshua 19:46, but the English version more commonly gives the better-known Joppa, as in 2Chronicles 2:16; Ezra 3:7; Jonah 1:3). It was famous in Greek legends as the spot where Andromeda had been bound when she was delivered by Perseus (Strabo, xvi., p. 759; Jos. Wars, i. 6, § 2). The town stood on a hill so high that it was said (though this is not in conformity with the fact) that Jerusalem could be seen from its summit. It was the nearest port to that city, and though the harbour was difficult and dangerous of access, was used for the timber that, first under Solomon, and afterwards under Zerubbabel, was brought from Lebanon for the construction of the Temple (1Kings 5:9; 2Chronicles 2:16; Ezra 3:7). In the history of Jonah it appears as a port from which ships sail to Tarshish and Spain (Jonah 1:3). Under the Maccabean rulers the harbour and fortifications were restored (1 Maccabees 4:5; 1 Maccabees 4:34). By Augustus it was given to Herod the Great, and afterwards to Archelaus (Jos. Ant. xv. 7, § 3; xvii. 11, § 4), and on his deposition, became part of the Roman province of Syria. It was at this time and later on notorious as a nest of pirates. Here also we may, as in the case of Lydda (see Note on Acts 9:32), see the work of Philip as the probable founder of the Church.

Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas.—Both the Hebrew and Greek names mean Antelope or Gazelle. The fact that she bore both implies some points of connection both with the Hebrew and Hellenistic sections of the Church. The Greek form occurs, in the curious combination of Juno Dorcas, on one of the inscriptions in the Columbarium of Livia, now in the Capitoline Museum at Rome, as belonging to an Ornatrix of the Empress. Was the disciple of Joppa in any way connected with the slave, whose very function implied skill in needlework? If, as is probable, the Church at Joppa owed its foundation to Philip (see Note on Acts 8:40), we may trace in the position which she occupied, in relation to the “widows” of the Church, something of the same prudential wisdom as had been shown in the appointment of the Seven, of whom he had been one.

Full of good works.—The form of the expression may be noticed as characteristic of St. Luke, and his favourite formula for conveying the thought of a quality being possessed in the highest degree possible. So we have “full of leprosy” in Luke 5:12, “full of grace” and “full of faith” in Acts 6:5; Acts 6:8. (Comp. also Acts 13:10; Acts 19:28.)

Acts 9:36-38. There was at Joppa — A noted seaport in the neighbourhood, lying on the Mediterranean sea, about forty miles from Jerusalem, and the nearest maritime town to it. It is mentioned in the Old Testament by the name of Japho, (see Joshua 19:46,) and was the place to which the materials for building Solomon’s temple were brought in floats by sea, and carried from thence by land to Jerusalem. It was here that Jonah took ship for Tarshish, (Jonah 1:3,) and, as it lay between Azotus and Cesarea, it was probably one of the cities where Philip preached the gospel in his progress. There are still some remains of it under the name of Jaffa. A certain disciple, named Tabitha, by interpretation, Dorcas — She was probably a Hellenist Jewess, known among the Hebrews by the Syriac name, Tabitha; while the Greeks called her, in their own language, Dorcas. They are both words of the same import, and signify a roe, or fawn. These circumstances of places and persons are recorded to evidence the certainty of the history. This woman was full of good works and alms-deeds — Which upon all proper occasions she performed; thus showing her faith by her works. And it came to pass in those days — While Peter was at Lydda; that she was sick and died — Removed by Divine Providence in the midst of her usefulness, probably to give Peter occasion, by another and still more remarkable miracle than that just mentioned, of confirming the gospel, and awakening men’s attention to it; whom, when they had washed — According to the custom prevailing among the Hebrews, Greeks, and Latins; and still in use among us; they laid her in an upper chamber — In her grave-clothes. And as Lydda was nigh to Joppa — Being only six miles distant; and the disciples had heard that Peter was there — And that he had lately raised Eneas by a miracle from a bed of affliction; they sent two men Two, to render the message more solemn and respectful; desiring that he would not delay to come — They do not mention the reason for which they desired his coming. But it is probable that it was not merely that he might give them advice and comfort in their great sorrow for the loss of so good and useful a woman: it is likely they had also some expectation of his restoring her to life: which, if they had, it was certainly a remarkable instance of the greatness of their faith, as it does not appear that any of the apostles had, before this, raised any one from the dead. Were we to have been judges, perhaps we should have thought it better that Stephen should have been raised than Dorcas; but it is our happiness and duty to submit our reasonings on what we think fittest and best, to the infinitely wiser determination of Providence.

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.At Joppa - This was a seaport town situated on the Mediterranean, in the tribe of Dan, about 30 miles south of Caesarea, and 45 northwest of Jerusalem. It was the principal seaport of Palestine; and hence, though the harbor was poor, it hind considerable celebrity. It was occupied by Solomon to receive the timber brought for the building of the temple from Tyre 2 Chronicles 2:16, and was used for a similar purpose in the time of Ezra, Ezra 3:7. The present name of the town is Jaffa. It is situated on a promontory jutting out into the sea, rising to the height of about 150 feet above its level, and offering on all sides picturesque and varied prospects. "It owes its existence to the low ledge of rocks which extends into the sea from the extremity of the little cape on which the city stands, and forms a small harbor. Insignificant as it is, and insecure, yet there being no other on all this coast, it was sufficient to cause a city to spring up around it even in the earliest times, and to sustain its life through numberless changes of dynasties, races, and religions down to the present hour. It was, in fact, the only harbor of any notoriety possessed by the Jews throughout the greater part of their national existence. To it the timber for both the temples of Jerusalem was brought from Lebanon, and no doubt a lucrative trade in cedar and pine was always carried on through it with the nations who had possession of the forests of Lebanon. Through it also nearly all the foreign commerce of the Jews was conducted until the artificial port of Caesarea was built by Herod. Here Jonah came to find a ship in which to flee from the presence of the Lord, and from it he sailed for Tarshish.

"Twenty-five years ago the inhabitants of city and gardens were about 6000; now there must be 15,000 at least, and commerce has increased at even a greater ratio. Several sources of prosperity account for the existence and rapid increase of Jaffa. It is the natural landing-place of pilgrims to Jerusalem, both Christians and Jews, and they have created a considerable trade. The Holy City itself has also been constantly rising in importance during the present generation. Then there are extensive soap factories, not only here, but in Ramleh, Lydd, Nablus, and Jerusalem, much of which is exported from this port to all the cities along the coast, to Egypt, and even to Asia Minor through Tarsus. The fruit trade from Jaffa is likewise quite considerable, and lately there have been large shipments of grain to Europe. Add to this that silk is now being cultivated extensively along the river 'Aujeh, and in the gardens about the city, and the present prosperity of Jaffa is fully explained.

"Jaffa is celebrated in modern times for her gardens and orchards of delicious fruit more than for anything else. They are very extensive, flourishing, and profitable, but their very existence depends upon the fact that water to any amount can be procured in every garden, and at a moderate depth. The entire plain seems to cover a river of vast breadth, percolating through the sand en route to the sea. A thousand Persian wheels working night and day produce no sensible diminution, and this exhaustible source of wealth underlies the whole territory of the Philistines down to Gaza at least, and probably much further south.

"The fruits of Jaffa are the same as those of Sidon, but with certain variations in their character. Sidon has the best bananas, Jaffa furnishes the best pomegranates. The oranges of Sidon are more juicy and of a richer flavor than those of Jaffa; hut the latter hang on the trees much later, and will bear to be shipped to distant regions. They are therefore more valuable to the producer. It is here only that you see in perfection fragrant blossoms encircling golden fruit. In March and April these Jaffa gardens are indeed enchanting. The air is overloaded with the mingled spicery of orange, lemon, apple, apricot, quince, plum, and china trees in blossom. The people then frequent the groves, sit on mats beneath their grateful shade, sip coffee, smoke the argela, sing, converse, or sleep, as best suits their individual idiosyncrasies, until evening, when they slowly return to their homes in the city. To us of the restless West, this way of making kaif soon wearies by its slumberous monotony, but it is Elysium to the Arabs.

"I have been strolling along the streets, or rather street of Jaffa, for there seems to be but one, and a more crowded thoroughfare I never saw. I had to force my way through the motley crowd of busy citizens, wild Arabs, foreign pilgrims, camels, mules, horses, and donkeys. Then what a strange rabble outside the gate, noisy, quarrelsome, ragged, and filthy! Many are blind, or at least have some painful defect about their eyes, and some are leprous. The peasants hereabout must be very poor, to judge by their rags and squalid appearance. I was reminded of Dorcas and the widows around Peter exhibiting the coats and garments which that benevolent lady had made, and I devoutly hoped she might be raised again, at least in spirit, for there is need of a dozen Dorcas societies in Jaffa at the present time. "The Land and the Book" (Thomson), vol. 2, pp. 271-281.

Tabitha - This word is properly Syriac, and means literally the "gazelle" or "antelope." The name became an appellation of a female, probably on account of the beauty of its form. "It is not unusual in the East to give the names of beautiful animals to young women" (Clark). Compare Sol 2:9; Sol 4:5.

Dorcas - A Greek word signifying the same as Tabitha. Our word "doe" or "roe" answers to it in signification.

Full of good works - Distinguished for good works. Compare 1 Timothy 2:10; Titus 2:7.

And almsdeeds - Acts of kindness to the poor.

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.

Joppa, a post town: see Acts 10:5. These circumstances of places and persons are set down to evidence the certainty of the history.

Tabitha, according to the Syriac dialect, then in use amongst the Jews, and Dorcas, as she was called amongst the Greeks; it being common for the same person to have two names, one Hebrew and the other Greek, as Thomas, who was called Didymus, and Cephas, who was called Peter.

Full of good works; she was rich in good works, which are the best riches, last longest, and go farthest.

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.

{11} Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

(11) Peter clearly declares, by raising up a dead body through the name of Christ, that he preaches the glad tidings of life.

Acts 9:36. ʼΙόππη, יָפוֹ, now Jaffa, an old, strong, and important commercial city on the Mediterranean, directly south of the plain of Sharon, at this time, after the deposition of Archelaus, belonging to the province of Syria. See Tobler, Topogr. v. Jerus. II. p. 576 ff.; Ruetschi in Herzog’s Encykl. VII. p. 4 f.

μαθήτρια] whether virgin, widow, or wife, is undetermined.[251] On this late Greek word (only here in the N. T.), see “Wetstein.

Ταβιθά, Aramaic טְבִיתָא, which corresponds to the Hebrew צְבִי (ظَبْى), i.e. ΔΟΡΚΆς (Xen. Anab. i. 5. 2; Eur. Bacch. 698; Ael. H. A. xiv. 14), a gazelle (Bochart, Hieroz. I. p. 924 ff., II. p. 304); Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 848. It appears as a female name also in Greek writers (Luc. Meretr. D. 9, Meleag. 61 f.), in Joseph. Bell. iv. 3. 5, and the Rabbins (Lightfoot, ad Matth. p. 39); and the bestowal of this name is explained from the gracefulness of the animal, just as the old Oriental love-songs adorn their descriptions of female loveliness by comparison with gazelles.

καὶ ἐλεημ.] καί: and in particular. Comp. Acts 9:41. That Tabitha was a deaconess (Thiersch, Sepp), is not implied in the text; there were probably not yet any such office-bearers at that time.

[251] But probably a widow. To this points πᾶσαι αἱ χῆραι of ver. 39; all the widows of the church, who lamented their dead companion.

Acts 9:36-43. Tabitha raised from the dead.

36–43. Dorcas Raised to life. Peter’s stay at Joppa

36. Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple] For an account of Joppa, one of the great seaports on the coast of Palestine, see Dictionary of the Bible.

Dorcas is called a disciple that it may be seen that under the gospel there is no distinction between male and female (Galatians 3:28).

named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas] Tabitha is the Aramaic form of a Hebrew proper name (2 Kings 12:1) which signifies a gazelle (cp. Song of Solomon 4:5), as does the Greek word Dorcas.

this woman was full of good works, &c.] A favourite form of expression with St Luke. Cp. “Stephen full of faith and power” (Acts 6:8); Elymas, “full of all subtilty” (Acts 13:10); and the Ephesians “full of wrath” (Acts 19:28). The sense is “given up to” or “devoted to.”

Acts 9:36. Ἔργων, of works) These works, consisting in the making of garments, were estimated at a high value, and recompensed with a great reward.—ἐλεημοσυνῶν, of alms-deeds) Therefore there did not exist at Joppa community of goods.

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. Acts 9:36Disciple (μαθήτρια)

A feminine form, only here in New Testament.

Tabitha - Dorcas

The latter word being the Greek equivalent of the former, which is Aramaic, and meaning gazelle, which in the East was a favorite type of beauty. See Sol 2:9, Sol 2:17; Sol 4:5; Sol 7:3. It was customary at this time for the Jews to have two names, one Hebrew and the other Greek or Latin; and this would especially be the case in a seaport like Joppa, which was both a Gentile and a Jewish town. She may have been known by both names.

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