Who was Dorcas or Tabitha in the New Testament?

BibleAsk Team


Dorcas is a Greek name meaning “gazelle.” Also, Tabitha is an Aramaic name that corresponds to the Hebrew name Zibiah in the Old Testament (2 Kings 12:1; 2 Chronicles 24:1), or Zibia (1 Chronicles 8:9) and it has the same meaning.  The woman Dorcas, or Tabitha, lived in the town of Joppa (Acts 9:36), a city on the Mediterranean Sea.

Her Ministry

Dorcas was regarded as a deaconess in the church at Joppa. And she had a special care for the widows of the church (Acts 6:1; 9:39). Her ministry was probably started by Philip, one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:3, 5). Dorcas expressed her compassion in two ways: she gave her services in “good works” and she gave her means in “almsdeeds” (Acts 9:36). In this manner, she gave herself as well as her possessions.

Her Death

Sadly, one day Dorcas became sick and died. And her body was washed (Acts 9:36) according to custom of “purification of the dead” in the Mishnah (Shabbath 23. 5, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, p. 771). And this act confirmed that Dorcas was really dead and not in a coma.

In Jewish custom, burial took place on the day of death (Acts 5:6, 10). But the church delayed her burial in the hope of divine intervention. And they laid her body in the upper room. Lydda was near Joppa. So, when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” (verse 38). The believers hoped that as Peter had just healed Aeneas, he would restore Dorcas to life.

Peter’ Prayer for a Miracle

Immediately, Peter responded and he came to the home where she laid. Many widows were mourning her death there. And they all showed Peter “the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them” (Acts 9:39). Because the people mourned with great noise (Acts 9:39), Peter sent them all out of the room (verse 40). In doing so, he was following his Lord’s example in the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:39, 40).

Then, Peter prayed to God as Elijah prayed to resurrect the widow’s child (1 Kings 17:17–23), and also as Elisha, who prayed to resurrect the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4:33). Thus, the early church obtained its power through prayer (Acts 1:14, 24; 6:4, 6; 8:15; 9:11; 10:2; etc.).

God Answers

Peter received God’s confirmation that his prayer was heard. So, he turned to the woman and said, “Tabitha, get up.” And, she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up” (verse 40). Then, Peter presented her alive to those that new her (verse 41). As a result, news of this miracle spread quickly. The whole area of Joppa was aroused, and the gospel message received a great response and many believed in the Lord.

Through this miracle, God showed both His power and His willingness to bless those that help the poor (Galatians 2:10). For the religion that God accepts is “to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). And a true faith in the heart will always manifest itself in the outward evidence of Christ-like actions (Micah 6:8).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

More Answers: