What is the significance of the hem of Jesus’ garment?

There are various  passages in the Bible that refers to incidents whereby people who touched the “Hem” of Jesus’ garments were instantly healed. Some of  these accounts are found in the following chapters:

Matthew 9:20-22 “And suddenly, a woman who had flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And that women was made well from that hour.”

and

Matthew 14:36 “and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.”

The word “hem” means “fringe, tassel, or the border of a garment”. It says in Numbers 15:38-39 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.”

The word used is “Tzitzit” and it speaks of a “tassel”. The mantle of the time was a long rectangular cloth that draped down over the body. It had four corners at the bottom. The Israelite’s were to attach tassels to the four corners of their garments and hem the garment in blue. Over time this style had changed and instead of the four corners, the cloth became more rounded at the bottom. Due to no longer having the four corners, the Israelites  developed something called the “Tallit”. All orthodox Jews of the day wore a Tallit. When the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of His garment she would have touched one of the tassels.

The “tallit” also served as a prayer shawl, which a person would read an inscription that is embroidered into the garment. He was to kiss the first word of the inscription, kiss the last word of the inscription and then place the shawl over his head for a moment of reflection.  When in deep prayer, the head would be wrapped in the “tallit” to shut off the worshiper from the world. and many commentators have suggested that this is what Jesus spoke of when he said to enter into your closet for prayer in Matthew 6:6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

Let’s begin by looking at some old testament references of the hem of the garment for a quick background of its symbolism.

1. Old Testament references to the hem/tallit:

  • David cut off Saul’s garment:

1 Samuel 24 1-22, verse 4 says “Then the men of David said to him, “This is the day which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’ “And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.”

When David spared Saul’s life, he took away evidence in showing Saul that he had the power to kill him but he did not. The act of cutting of the hem of Saul’s robe was of a great significance.  David had just robbed Saul of his status symbol, the fringe of his robe that identified him as king. The hem of the garment at this point was also a decorative feature which made a statement about the status and importance of the wearer. Jesus in-fact rebuked the Pharisees for enlarging their fringes in Matthew 23:5 “They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.” They were trying to magnify their importance , whereas the original intent and the purpose of the fringe and tassels was lost. It was meant as a reminder of all the commandments of the Lord and to do them (Number 15:39)

  • Saul rips tassel of Samuel’s garment:

In 1 Samuel 15, Samuel rebuked Saul for failing to kill all the Amalekites, their king, and their cattle, and when Samuel turned around to go, Saul reached out to stop him and in doing so ripped the tassel from Samuel’s garment. Samuel used this as a picture of what God was going to do with the kingdom of Israel, that it would be ripped away from Saul.

  • Elijah’s mantle

When Elijah was taken up into Heaven, Elisha was given Elijah’s mantle. This could possibly be his tallit or outer garment.

and there are more references of the garment.

So now, let us look at importance of the hem of Jesus’ garment and what we can learn as a believer in Christ.

2. Hem of the garment – What we can learn as a believer

From the above we can relate the garment from a believers point of view through the story of the woman with the issue of blood.

Let us look at the story of the woman with the issue of blood, who knowing that Jesus the Messiah was passing by. This woman took every opportunity to make her way close enough, to touch just the hem of the garment of Jesus. She came to Jesus in such a manner as to conceal herself so that no one would notice who she is. So, why did she do this?

According to Leviticus 15:19,25,27 it says

v19″If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening.
v25 “‘If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other than at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean.'”
v27 “Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.”

According to the same account in the Gospel of Mark, she had an issue of blood for 12 years (Mark 5:25). According to Leviticus 15:28 “‘But if she is cleansed of her discharge , then she shall count for herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean.”

By this law, she has been unclean for 12 years. Can you imagine the implications of this? She is not meant to touch anyone, not her husband (if she had one), nor children(if any) or family, or friends nor could she do any house work, or even prepare her family food. She had to be isolated because of her impurity. It was as being as good as dead.

But one day she hears that Jesus is coming to town, and she finds this the perfect opportunity for her healing. She had tried every other option available and spent all she had but to no avail. This was her last hope.

According to Matthew 9:21, she says…”If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.”” What was it about the garment of the Lord that she had such faith, that if Jesus was really the Messiah that she would receive healing?

Remember that she could not reveal herself to anyone around her otherwise this would be seen as a serious crime. Anything and anyone she touches would become unclean. She is taking a big risk in the belief that there is healing at the hem of the garment of Jesus. What did she know that gave her such assurance that if this is really the Messiah, that she would receive healing by touching His garment?

According to the prophecy in Malachi 4:2 it says “But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings’…”  The word “wings” used here is the same as the word “borders” seen in Numbers 15:38. So the woman knew that if this is the Messiah, then surely if I can just get close enough to touch the hem or the borders of His garment, I can surely receive healing. She was embracing the promise that the Messiah had healing in His wings. She looked upon Jesus and  believed that He was who He claimed to be. When she had touched the hem of His garment, it was the same as touching Him. She looked to Him by faith and when her faith touched His grace she was healed. She came to the right person in the right manner and received what she was after.

This is the great faith she put in the scriptures as well as having enough faith to trust Jesus as the prophesied Messiah to come. By her faith she was healed instantly. Jesus responds saying “your faith has made you well”.

What can we as believers learn from this? There are 5 important lessons we can learn from this:

a. The relationship to God:

Numbers 15:40-41 “And that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.”

This is a reminder of a personal relationship with God. They were to remember who they were, whose they were, and what was expected of them. Their garment was a reminder that they were a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Exodus 19:6) They were to be like no other people in this world. They were in a faith relationship with the Jehovah God. The blue in the garment is the color of heaven, and it was there to remind them of the high heavenly calling among all the nations of the world.

We likewise must continue in our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and remembering that we are now children of God by the witness of the Holy Spirit and we are now like no other people in this world. We have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb (Jesus), and as it says in Revelation 1:5-6 “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

So let us always remember to be led by the Holy Spirit and maintain our relationship with the heavenly Father.

b. It is a reminder of a present relationship:

When we read in Numbers 15:41, we can see the words “I am” used twice, pressing the fact that He indeed is our God and that our God is a present help, a present Savior, a present Lord and our present King. He is not just the God of the future in heaven, but He is our God presently and forevermore. This is why we have the Holy Spirit dwell within us and we become the temple of God as it says in 2 Corinthians 6:16 “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

c. Our requirements before God:

The tassels sown on all four corners was a reminder of the requirement for obedience, no matter which way they turned they would see them as a reminder to keep God’s law. Similarly we need that reminder too. We are not saved by keeping the commandments, but we prove our love and transformation in Christ by keeping the commandments  as it says in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep my commandments.”

We do not have tassels to remind us, but we have someone far greater; the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

d. Our responsibilities before God:

In Number 15:39 says “And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined,”

We should not be seeking after the things of our own hearts and the lusts of our eyes . There needs to be an inward and an outward obedience . It is possible for someone to keep the letter of the law and violate the spirit of it. Likewise we also need a reminder to keep the law outwardly and inwardly as it says in Jeremiah 31:33 “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

e. Our redemption by God:

In Numbers 15:41 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.”

This is a reminder of how the Israelites got out of Egypt. It was by the blood of the lamb, because of the mercy of God. God provided for them through the wilderness wanderings and fed them when they were hungry, and protected them all the way to the land of promise. It is the same with us. The ultimate price was paid on the cross for our sins by Jesus Christ,  so that we are no longer a slave to sin. He now lives in us through the Holy Spirit and is with us on our Journey until we reach our promised land, where we will worship our Lord God Almighty for all eternity. Praise God!

In conclusion, the woman embraced the promise of Malachi 4:3, looking for healing in His “wings”. She looked upon Jesus and believed the He was who He claimed to be. When she touched the hem of His garment, it was the same as touching Him. She came by faith to the right person in the right manner and received healing.  Do you need to touch Him today? Do you need healing in your body, cleansing from you sin and a right relationship with God? If you are lost and would like to come under the covering of His wings, and receive salvation, then come touch the hem of His garment.

If you are not walking in humble obedience , come touch the hem of his garment, if there are problems and burdens in your life and you need help, come  touch His garment.

You can do this right now with  a simple prayer, accepting Christ into your hearts and from this moment on, you will be covered by His sacrifice, accepted into His family and become a child of God. That is amazing.

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If you have never given your life to Christ, and you feel the call of God in your heart. Now is the time to respond and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.

You can receive remission of your sins, not by your own works, but through faith in Jesus Christ who already paid the price for us. All you have to do is to accept his sacrifice in your place as a free gift. Take this moment to declare you have accepted the free gift by saying the following prayer:

“God I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me. Amen.”

If you would like to know more about having a relationship with Jesus Christ, please contact us and we would love to talk to you about living a life with Jesus as the center of your life.

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Bible reading from New King James Version (NKJV)

Material from biblestories.stellaris.com.au, trumperoftruthonline.org, sermoncentral.com, terravistabaptist.org,