located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea
about 45 miles northwest of Jerusalem. It was a chief seaport for the
Palestine. Solomon had the Cedar trees of Lebanon floated in the
Sea along the coastline to Joppa when he built the Temple in Jerusalem.
Herod rebuilt the Temple, he also used the seaport of Joppa to receive
Cedar trees. Jonah tried to run and hide from God by fleeing to Joppa
boarding a ship to Tarshish. Joppa’s residents were both Jews and
the time of Luke’s writing.
account of Dorcas occurred in the early
stages of the church with the church comprised of both Jews (Hebrew)
proselyted Jews (Gentiles). This may be the reason Luke chose to refer
the Hebrew name and the Greek name for the readers of the Book of Acts.
Hebrew name, Tabitha, and the Greek name, Dorcas, mean gazelle or roe.
Greeks used Dorcas, i.e., ‘female gazelle,’ as a term of endearment for
women” (New Unger's). It was not a
common practice to define names in the Bible. By Luke recording the
Tabitha, then giving the Greek interpretation, Dorcas, seems to place
significance on the definition of her name. Jamieson, Fausset and
makes the following observation that “the Greek name for an antelope or
gazelle, which, from the grace of its motions and the beauty of its
frequently employed as a proper name for women. The interpretation of
is given by the historian, to signify that it expressed the character
bore among the Christians of the place.”
Luke tells us
that Dorcas was a disciple of Christ. A
disciple is a learner or pupil. The use of the word disciple in the New
Testament implies one is a learner or pupil of Christ. The Greek word
disciple in this context is in feminine form and is only used in Acts
reference to Dorcas (International
Standard Bible Encyclopaedia). The term disciple is used many times
throughout the New Testament. Jesus told the Jews who believed on him,
continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 11:35).
twelve of his disciples to be apostles (Luke 6:13).
describes the actions of Dorcas. She was
full of good works and “almsdeeds.” The term good works literally means
toil, labor or act beneficially. The word “almsdeeds” literally means
compassion towards the poor. Since Dorcas was a faithful Christian, she
a monetary contribution during the first day of the week worship.
use of the word “almsdeeds” signifies that Dorcas went beyond the
giving by bestowing gifts to the poor and those in need. The Bible does
indicate the financial status of Dorcas. She may have been a wealthy
used her wealth to help others. She may have had a modest income and
she could to help the poor. Her status in life may have been similar to
the widow Jesus praised in Mark 12:42-44 when she gave all that she
we do know is that as a disciple of Christ, Dorcas put her faith in
providing some of the necessities of life to those in need.
sick and died. Luke neither tells what
illness caused Dorcas to die nor does he tell how long she was sick. He
matter-of-factly states the obvious without any unnecessary added
As was the custom of the day, upon Dorcas’ death her body was washed.
the death of Ananias and Sapphira whose bodies were buried immediately
their deaths, Dorcas’ body was laid in an upper room. The purpose for
burial was because of the quick decomposition of the flesh in the hot
atmosphere of the region. So, why was Dorcas placed in an upper room
immediately buried is not revealed in Scripture.
passing of their dear friend and benefactor,
the disciples sent two men to Lydda to request that Peter come to them
Lydda was about 10 miles southeast of Joppa (Wycliffe). Ten
miles was an
easy distance for Peter to come to Joppa and bring Dorcas back to life
her body would begin to decompose. Some commentaries suggest that this
reason for placing Dorcas’ body in the upper room rather than an
arrival in Joppa, he was taken directly to
the upper room where the body of Dorcas rested. Many of the widows who
had helped while alive stood by weeping. They showed Peter the clothes
made for them. This scene is similar to that of our modern day viewing
loved one dies. Years ago, the body was laid out in a room at the home
one who died where friends and loved ones gathered for a period of
reminiscing about the life of the loved one. Current practice utilizes
of a funeral home or a church building to accomplish the same purpose.
Peter sent all
those gathered around the body of Dorcas
out of the room. He then kneeled and prayed to God. After his prayer,
to the body and told Dorcas to arise. He gave her his hand, lifted her
called to those gathered in the home. Dorcas was now alive!
that Peter called the saints and the
widows, indicating that all those gathered were not Christians.
some of the widows to whom Dorcas provided clothing were not members of
Lord’s church. Dorcas provided for believers and non-believers. Her
kindness and good deeds were directed to those in need not to
This quiet act
of God, through the hand of Peter, of
restoring life to Dorcas was soon known throughout the city of Joppa.
people of Joppa soon believed in the Lord. Their belief was not a
believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” Their belief involved hearing
10:17), believing (Acts 8:37), repenting of sins (Acts 17:30),
(Romans 10:9-10) and being baptized (Acts 2:38). Many souls were saved
fires of hell because one woman chose to do what she could with what
she had to
show kindness to those in need.
Dorcas was a Christian woman who put her faith to work.
What doth it
profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath
faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister
and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in
ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things
needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not
is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have
shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by
the correlation between saying we love God
and showing we love God by our actions. She was not like the “Cretians”
rebuked in his letter to Titus. These individuals professed to know
their actions told a different story. Their actions told all that
that they actually denied God. Paul condemned the “Cretians” for their
and instructed Titus to rebuke them (Titus 2:12-16). She exemplified
of Christ in Matthew 25:34-36. Christ taught that when we help those in
are serving him. When we fail to help those in need, we deny him and
punished accordingly. Dorcas did not hide what God had given as did the
talent man in Matthew 25:14-30, but bountifully used her abilities to
Dorcas was not
a Sunday worship only Christian. She
understood that being a Christian required action. Dorcas used her
show others her faith in God.
Are you using
the talents and abilities God has given
you to serve him? When you die, will friends gather to mourn your death
talk about all the wonderful things you did for them? Will the church
which you worship miss the great works that you do? Will your funeral
that of Dorcas?
Dorcas saw a need and fulfilled that need.
in the seaport town of Joppa. Shipwrecks
and the death of the sailors were prevalent. I am sure there were many
devastated by the loss of a husband and father. With this loss came the
an income and the ability to obtain the necessities of life. Dorcas saw
need to provide clothing to those less fortunate than her. She did not
and wonder why no one was helping the poor. She did not go to the elders
and say, “Someone ought to help these poor people.” She did not
poor for their inability to care for themselves. Dorcas used the
gave her, took needle and thread in hand, sewed garments, and gave them
those who were unable to provide for themselves.
Paul told the
Corinthians, “Now therefore perform the
doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a
performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a
mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to
hath not” (2 Corinthians 8:11-12) It takes more than a willing mind, it
action on our part. God expects us to use what we have in service to
cannot wait until we are financially secure before we help others. We
do what we can, with what we have each time an opportunity arises to
Are you like
Dorcas? Do you see a need and fulfill
that need? Are you proclaiming Christ by helping those in need?
Dorcas made the church her family.
Scriptures lack any mention of family, we
can assume Dorcas was either a widow with no children or she never
With no physical family members to hold her back, it was easier for
make the church her family. It was Christians and those toward whom she
good influence who were gathered at her bedside upon her death. On the
hand, Christian women who have spouses, children, parents and siblings
not dedicated Christians have a harder time putting Christ first as is
commanded in Mark 14:26. As difficult as it may be, we must
emotional distance between ourselves and family members who will
pull us away from our God. Amos asked the rhetorical question, “Can two
together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The implied answer is no;
individuals cannot walk the same path when each wants to go a different
direction. Spiritually, when some family members do not embrace Christ
Savior, they are not walking the same path as those who have obeyed the
Faithful Christians have very little in common with non-Christians.
are faithful to God do not enjoy the entertainment enjoyed by most
non-Christians. As faithful Christians it is difficult to discuss the
with those who do not hold the same beliefs that we hold so dear.
our non-Christian family members do not want to spend time with our
friends, thus making fellowship with Christians a difficult task. Paul
Romans to prefer one another (Romans 12:10). Christians need to spend
with those who will help them go to heaven than with those who pull
from God. Yes, we do have a responsibility to our families, but we have
greater responsibility to God. We need to be sure we do not let our
responsibilities out weigh our spiritual responsibilities.
If you are
single, please be careful who you date. Any
individual who you date is a possible spouse. Most Christians who date
marry non-Christians experience heartache and discouragement. Many
who marry non-Christians will fall away from the church or become weak
as they try to balance family responsibilities with spiritual
Often, children brought into the family are lost to the church because
conflicting life styles they observe in the home.
Are you like
Dorcas? Do you prefer to spend your time
with faithful Christians? Are you spending more time with non-Christian
and friends than with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Like Dorcas,
opt to more closely associate with your Christian family—the Lord’s
Clarke, Adam. Adam Clarke’s Commentary.
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia.
Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM.
Chicago: Moody P.,
“Thyatira.” Holy Land Photos. 28 Mar. 2007
CD-ROM. Chicago: Moody P., 1962