Acts 9:37

37 At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs.

Acts 9:37 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 9:37

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 F6,

``they do all the necessaries for the dead (on the sabbath), they anoint him, (Nyxydmw) , "and they wash him";''

yet that of Maimonides deserves some notice F7;

``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 F8: and this has been the custom of other nations, if not of all nations: the custom with the Turks is this F9; 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 F11 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 F12. 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 F13:

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 ) .


F6 Misn. Sabbat, c. 23. sect. 5.
F7 Hilch. Ebel, c. 5. sect. 4.
F8 Buxtorf. Synagog. Jud. c. 49. p. 699, 700. Leo Modena's History of the Rites of the Jews, par. 5. c. 8.
F9 Bobovius de Visitat. Aegrot. p. 18. Georgievitz de Turc. Moribus, p. 36.
F11 Hist. Ethiop. l. 3. c. 6.
F12 Vid. Kirchmannum de Funeribus Roman. l. 1. c. 7.
F13 Sperling de Baptismo Ethnicorum, c. 4. p. 26, 27.

Acts 9:37 In-Context

35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.
37 At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs.
38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, "Please come to us without delay."
39 So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.