Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bible Study: Dorcas

Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which when translated, means Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and acts of mercy which she did. In those days, she became sick, and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. As Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. Peter got up and went with them. When he had come, they brought him into the upper room. All the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out, and knelt down and prayed. Turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand, and raised her up. Calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. He stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.

— Acts 9:36-43 WEB*

The seaport city of Joppa was 35 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Known as the seaport of Jerusalem, Joppa had the only natural harbor on the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and Ptolemais in the southern part of Phoenicia. It was at this port where Jonah tried to escape God’s plan for him (Jonah 3). Today it is known as Jaffa, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Many poor people lived in Joppa. Sailors and fishermen often met their deaths on the Mediterranean. This may account for “all the widows” for whom Dorcas made garments.

Joppa was both a Gentile and a Jewish town. People often had a Hebrew or Aramaic name and a Greek one. The woman's Aramaic name was Tabitha, which means gazelle. Tabitha also means “one who sees clearly.” Tabitha had many Greek friends. They called Tabitha by their Greek word for gazelle, Dorcas. In Greek, Dorcas also means beauty and grace.

Dorcas was called a disciple (Acts 9:36). This is the only time the feminine form of the Greek word for disciple is used in the New Testament.

Dorcas’s body was washed in preparation for burial according to custom. Because there was no embalming among the Jews burial usually took place the same day a person died.

Peter was called from Lydda, about 12 miles southeast of Joppa. He was present at each of the three recorded incidents where Jesus raised people from the dead (Matthew 9:18-25; Luke 7:11-17; John 11:1-44). It was God who raised Dorcas, not Peter. Because of this miracle, “many people believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:42).

Some days the news can be full of people in some type of a crisis. The crisis doesn’t even have to be far away. It could be someone close to you. It’s common to want to help. Sometimes you feel like you would do anything to make the situation easier. What is your first reaction when a crisis arises in your home or community?

The one thing we can all do at any time is pray. It should be the first thing that we do.

Both Dorcas and Peter helped others. Think about what Peter did—he got down on his knees and prayed. God healed Dorcas!

Never underestimate the power of prayer.

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the LORD. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the LORD will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. — James 5:13-17

You may never know how your prayers will impact someone. But your prayers are the most important way you can help!

Pray for the many people and situations the Lord brings to your mind.


* WEB – the World English Bible, a Public Domain, Modern English translation of the Holy Bible developed by Rainbow Missions, Inc. URL:


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