One important Jewish concept, which is often missed in English translations of the Bible, concerns the story of a woman with an issue [flux] of blood, recorded in Matthew 9:20-21. Having heard that the Messiah was near, the woman said within herself, "If I should only touch His garment, I shall be healed." The text indicates that it was specifically the hem of His garment that she touched, an important detail from a Jewish viewpoint.

The English word hem is a translation of a Greek word meaning a tassel of twisted wool. These tassels were attached to the corners of the prayer shawl and were - and still are - worn by observant Jews in obedience to the biblical commandments found in Numbers 15:37-41 and Deuteronomy 22:12. They are intended to remind the people of God’s commandments.

In Numbers 15:38 the word translated border or corner is a Hebrew word which can also be translated ‘wings’ - as it is some seventy-six times in the biblical text. It means ‘edge’, ‘extremity’, ‘corner’, and specifically, for a bird or an army, it means ‘wing’. For this reason the corners of the prayer shawl are often called wings.

In Jesus' day, Jewish men wore a simple tunic both at home and at work. When appearing in public, they would cover their tunic with a large rectangular cloth which draped over the shoulder and fell to the ankles. This cloth was called a tallit and served as protection from cold and rain. Hanging from the end of each of its four corners (wings) was a tassel in obedience to the biblical command.

The Sun of Righteousness

The woman knew from the prophet Malachi (4:2) that when Messiah came, he would have healing power in these tassels at the corners [wings] of His garment. “And unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings”. She was not alone in this. Both in Matthew 14:36, and Mark 6:56 a great many were brought to him “and besought Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment; and as many as touched were made thoroughly well”. The Greek word ‘touch’ in these cases involves ‘touch freely’ or ‘handle’. She - and they - freely touched the tassels at the corners of His outer garment.

The full application of Malachi 4:1-3 does not happen until the day of the kingdom when Christ will take up his millennial reign. It is then that the wicked are dealt with, as it states in verses 1 and 3. As with so many Old Testament prophecies, there was a partial fulfilment when Christ came – partial, because they refused their king. As Israel “sent” Christ to glory via the cross, so the faithful remnant will enter the kingdom via the great tribulation.
MM Feb. 2008.

Acknowledgement: An article of the same name by Dr. R. Brooker, (www.rbooker.com), was used in the preparation of this article.