Today I want to touch on one of my favorite passages that illustrates the importance of understanding Hebrew and the context of the Bible. One of my teachers once told me that “text without context is pretext,” and I couldn’t agree more.
For this example we turn to the Italian prophet Malachi (horrible joke, I know). Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. In Malachi 4:2 the Bible states that the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his “wings,” or “rays.” Most English translations use wings for this passage, the NIV uses “rays.”
What’s fascinating about this passage and the Hebrew language is that there were far less words in Biblical Hebrew than say modern English, so a Hebrew word can have a wide range of meanings. The Hebrew word in Malachi 4:2 is “Kanaf,” and this is the word translated to “wings” or “rays” in most English Bibles. One other meaning for the word “Kanaf” is borders or edges of a garment, which of course raises the question, where else do we find the Kanaf mentioned?
The rabbis looked at Malachi 4:2 and taught that when the Messiah comes, he will have healing in his “Kanaf,” or the corners/edges of his garment. All Jewish people wore tassels on the corners or edges of their garment in accordance with Numbers 15:38-39.
This prophecy is fascinating when read in context of the story of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years that is mentioned in the synoptic (Matthew, Mark, Luke) gospels. If you turn to Matthew 9, you’ll find one of my all-time favorite Bible headings, my Bible says, “A Dead Girl and a Sick Woman,” in bold. In any case, Matthew 9 (see also Luke 8:43 and Mark 5:25) mentions in verse 20 that there was a woman who had been “subject to bleeding for 12 years.” A very funny side note is that when Mark tells the exact same story he mentions that “no doctor could cure her,” and Luke (who was a doctor), leaves the part about “no doctor being able to cure her,” out of his description of the story.
Matthew 9:20-22 states that the woman touched the edge of Jesus cloak. When read in context of Malachi 4:2, this story is amazing. She had believed in the prophecy that when the Messiah comes, he will have healing in his “Kanaf,” or the edges of his garment. Why else would she have fought through the crowds to grab the “edge of his cloak?” When she does this Jesus informs her that her faith has healed her. Incredible story and even more so when put in context of the prophecy in Malachi 4:2.