Thoughts on Jairus and the Sick Woman (Luke 8:41-43)

Luke tells the story of two miracles and intertwines them as one longer story. Is it possible the woman is the mother of Jairus' daughter?

Luke tells the story of two miracles and intertwines them as one longer story. I’ve thought about the specifics of the story, which are not the primary focus, but something interesting to consider, and have wondered about something. Jairus’ daughter is “about twelve years of age” and the sick woman suffered from a “flow of blood for twelve years.” I find the twelve years statements interesting.

Let me begin by making two statements. First, I cannot say the ideas I mention are factual, but only concepts I’d considered. Second, I do not believe the number twelve possesses any numerological value. In other words, it is not a sign or symbol of some hidden truth.

I remember this story being discussed in a class I took at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The professor stated that some commentators believe this woman suffered from a birth-related difficulty, possibly caused by a difficult birth or related to her menstrual cycle. Such a problem would be considered ceremonial unclean. It is interesting that, if it is related to giving birth, that she is in the same city with a sick child of a religious and politcal leader who is around the same age.

Is it possible she is the mother of Jairus’ daughter? If she is, upon giving birth twelve years prior, she suffers a difficulty which results in the child not being in perfect health and the mother suffering “a flow of blood” problem. Eventually, the daughter faces death caused by the sickness ailing her since birth. Because of his prominent position in the synagogue, Jairus cannot defile himself by touching an ‘unclean’ woman, even his wife. Therefore, he disassociates himself from her, yet they both live in the same area. Or maybe he doesn’t touch her, but they remain in the same house. Either way, he does not make himself ceremonial unclean and she lives in that uncleanliness. Now they come together and the woman, in faith, is healed by Christ and the daughter is restored by Christ, despite the lack of full faith of Jairus. Jesus heals the family and allows them to come together without fear of becoming (Jairus) or being (woman) unclean.

When I asked if it was possible this woman was the mother of Jairus’ daughter, the professor dismissed such an idea as not within the text and, hence, should be rejected. I propose, that the Bible does not say or imply she is the child’s mother, but it does not deny such. Therefore, it is not clear if they are related or not. The fact that Luke intertwines them (the only such case of intermixed miracles in scripture), the daughter’s age matches the duration of the woman’s illness, and they are in the same location, opens the door to this speculation.

What does this have to do with the point of the text? Not much, but it does make for an interesting idea. Also, it is possible the people would have known of any such relation and this could have had a greater impact on the audience at the time. But again, the point of this text is not the relation of the woman to Jairus and his daughter, but the faith of the woman and the faith of Jairus contrasted as Jesus reveals himself as a compassionate savior.

About John L. Rothra
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