Now there was at Joppa - This was a sea-port town on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, about a day's journey from Jerusalem. It is supposed to be the same which is called in the Old Testament Japho, which belonged to the tribe of Dan, Joshua 19:46. It is at present called Jaffa, and is still a place of considerable note.
A certain disciple named Tabitha - This word is more properly Syriac than Hebrew. Tebitho is the word in the Syriac version, and is their manner of writing the Hebrew צבי tsebi, the ט teth being changed for the צ tsaddi . The word tabio, and the feminine tabitho, have the same meaning as the Hebrew צבי tsebi and the Greek Δορκας, Dorcas, and signify the gazel or antelope; and it is still customary in the east to give the names of beautiful animals to young women. The comparison of fine eyes to those of the antelope is continually occurring in the writings of the Arabic and Persian poets. The person in the text probably had her name in the same way. She was very beautiful, and was therefore called Tabitha and Dorcas.
This woman was full of good works - She spent her life in acts of kindness and charity. Her soul was full of love to God and man; and her whole time was filled up with works of piety and mercy.
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 1 Timothy 2:10; Titus 2:7.
And almsdeeds - Acts of kindness to the poor.
In the course of his ministry the apostle Peter visited the believers at Lydda. Here he healed Aeneas, who for eight years had been confined to his bed with palsy. “Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole,” the apostle said; “arise, and make thy bed.” “He arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.” AA 131.1Read in context »
Let the children and youth learn from the Bible how God has honored the work of the everyday toiler. Let them read of “the sons of the prophets” (2 Kings 6:1-7), students at school, who were building a house for themselves, and for whom a miracle was wrought to save from loss the ax that was borrowed. Let them read of Jesus the carpenter, and Paul the tentmaker, who with the toil of the craftsman linked the highest ministry, human and divine. Let them read of the lad whose five loaves were used by the Saviour in that wonderful miracle for the feeding of the multitude; of Dorcas the seamstress, called back from death, that she might continue to make garments for the poor; of the wise woman described in the Proverbs, who “seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands;” who “giveth meat to her household, and their task to her maidens;” who “planteth a vineyard,” and strengtheneth her arms;” who “stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, ... reacheth forth her hands to the needy;” who “looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” Proverbs 31:13, 15, R.V.; 31:16, 17, 20, 27. Ed 217.1
Of such a one, God says: “She shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs 31:30, 31. Ed 217.2
For every child the first industrial school should be the home. And, so far as possible, facilities for manual training should be connected with every school. To a great degree such training would supply the place of the gymnasium, with the additional benefit of affording valuable discipline. Ed 217.3Read in context »
This chapter is based on Acts 9:32 to 11:18.
Peter, in pursuance of his work, visited the saints at Lydda. There he healed Aeneas, who had been confined to his bed for eight years with the palsy. “And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.” SR 281.1Read in context »