Tzitziyot — צִיצִת

The Synoptic Gospels all tell the story of a woman with a flow of blood … She came up from behind and touched the tzitzit of Yeshua’s garment and was immediately healed (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48). On another occasion, a crowd brought to Yeshua all who were sick and implored Him that they might just touch the tzitzit of His garment. The account ends with Matthew writing; all who touched it were cured (Matthew 14:34-36; cf. Mark 6:56).

Some commentators gloss over these accounts, explaining them away as God’s accommodation of the superstitious mindset of the age. The word translated hem, is actually referring to the fringes, or tassels, plural tzitziyot {צִיצִת} in Hebrew, required to be on the four corners of all clothing of Jewish men, in accordance with God's instruction.

In Mosaic Law, God instructed His people; Make tassels on the corners of your garments and put a blue cord on each tassel. You are to do this for all time to come. This was to serve as a reminder of their religious obligations and responsibilities, that they were God’s people who’d been rescued from slavery in Egypt and called to keep His commandments. (Numbers 15:37-41, see also Deuteronomy 22:12).

This outer garment became known as a tallit, and eventually evolved into the prayer shawl. The tassels are tied into 613 knots, a reminder of the 613 Laws of Moses, of which there are 365 prohibitions (you shall not laws), and 248 affirmations (you shall laws). The knots also correspond with the ineffable name of God, the unspoken yod-hey-vav-hey, Yahweh.

Jewish men use prayer shawls to cover their heads, shut out the world and so be in God’s Presence. These prayer shawls (tallit) are white, representing the Heavens, or the dwelling place of God; the colour blue represents the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). The tallit could easily be what Yeshua was referring to in Matthew 6:6, when He said go into your inner room, separate from the people around, and pray in secret to your Father.

In the Ancient Near East a person’s garment was significant in that the corner tassels were representative of identity and authority.

Boaz and Ruth

Ruth went to Boaz to receive his blessing that would help her out of her difficult situation. She went to the threshing floor and slept at his feet. In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. 'Who are you?' he asked. 'I am your handmaid, Ruth,' she said. 'Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer’ (Ruth 3:8-9). She was asking him to identify with her. (The same Hebrew word means wing or corner of a garment).

Boaz immediately understood and replied: 'Don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character' (Ruth 3:11).

What Ruth did in asking Boaz to spread the corner of his garment over her was a symbolic way of saying she was placing herself under Boaz's authority. He did everything necessary and eventually married her.

Saul and David

David humiliated King Saul by sneaking up to him in a cave at the Spring of Ein Gedi and cutting off his tassels, the symbol of Saul’s authority. David's men said; 'This is the day the Lord spoke of when He said to you, 'I will deliver your enemy into your hand, so you may do to him as seems good in your eyes.’

Afterward, David’s heart was troubled for having cut off a corner of Saul's robe. He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord' (1 Samuel 24:4-6).

David understood that to steal someone's tassel was to steal his authority. Even though David did this to prove to Saul that he was not trying to kill him, the symbol of taking the corner fringe would be humiliation to Saul. This bothered David and so he immediately went out of the cave and prostrated himself in humility before Saul to prove he was not trying to kill him.

David said: 'Why do you listen when men say, 'David intends you harm?' This day have you seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, 'I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord's anointed.' See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe, but did not kill you. Now understand and recognise that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life' (1 Samuel 24:8-11).

Everyone, including Saul, knew David had been anointed by Samuel to be the next king, which is why Saul feared David. At Ein Gedi, David had literally taken Saul's authority and at that point, he probably could have taken the throne from Saul. But, he didn't; rather, he let God choose the time for him to receive the throne.

This act convinced Saul that David was telling the truth. David's act of giving back Saul's authority also reconciled the two men. Saul said: 'May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands' (1 Samuel 24:19b-20).


When God spoke of making a Covenant with Israel, He pictured Himself as spreading the corner of His garment over her (Ezekiel 16:8)—a symbol of identifying with her as His bride.

So important were the corners of a Jewish man’s garment in ancient Israel that the Old Testament closes with a prophecy of the Messiah that references the corners of His garment (Malachi 4:2); But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.

The Hebrew word for wings in this passage is kanaf (כָּנָף) a word which specifically means the fringe-like feathers or edges of a bird's wing, not the whole wing — just like eagle or hawk circles in the sky utilising their fringe-like feathers. This word could be translated — wings or fringes.

Jews in Yeshua’s day were familiar with the Old Covenant. Indeed, some Pharisees wore elaborate tassels on the corners of their garments for people to notice and regard them as closely identified with God (Matthew 23:5They make their tefillin wide and their tzitziyot long). When people reached for the corners of Yeshua’s garment, it was more than just a grab for the most accessible part. It was a sign they wanted to identify with Him.

Under His wings

When the woman on the shores of the Sea of Galilee pressed through the crowd, she was not content to just randomly touch Yeshua. She’d spent all her money on cures that hadn't worked. It was a bold step for her to push through the crowd, for according to Torah, it was forbidden for her to be out in public with her condition, being considered unclean (Leviticus 15:25). But she was desperate. She’d nothing to lose and knew Messiah could heal and so she anxiously sought out Yeshua. But why did she want to touch the hem of His garment — the tzitziyot of His tallit?

The woman approached from behind because she was afraid, being in a state of ritual impurity. Normally the impure defiles the pure (see Haggai 2:11-13). But here the opposite occurs through the purity of Yeshua and of His Tzitziyot. Maybe she remembered the Messianic promise in the scroll of Malachi (see above) and so by faith reached out, touched the tzitziyot, and was healed. Hallelujah!

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