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The woman healed after eighteen years

Aug 13, 2014

After mentioning the eighteen people who were killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed in Jerusalem, Jesus then heals a woman who had been bent over for eighteen years. Luke 13:10-13 says,

10 And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12 And when Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” 13 And He laid His hands upon her; and immediately she was made erect again, and began glorifying God.

We are told that this condition was “caused by a spirit.” In other words, the condition was not merely physical but had a spiritual cause. This evil spirit had kept her bound as a slave for eighteen years, and then Jesus set her free. Notice that Jesus did not say “you are healed,” but rather “you are freed.”

The Meaning of Eighteen

The coincidence of the number eighteen in two stories so close together is significant, because eighteen is the biblical number of oppression or bondage.

I wrote in my book, The Biblical Meaning of Numbers from One to Forty,

The 18th time Abram is mentioned is in Gen. 12:18, where his wife was in the house of Pharaoh (bondage). After Abraham is mentioned for the 18th time in Gen. 18:19, the Lord speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah who were in bondage to sin.

The 18th time Israel is mentioned is found in Gen. 46:8, at the beginning of their Egyptian bondage:

8 Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, Jacob and his sons, who went to Egypt…

There are also eighteen Old Testament references to Israel’s Egyptian bondage. (Genesis 15:13, 14; Exodus 1:14; 2:23 (twice); 6:5, 9; 13:3, 14; 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6; 6:12; 8:14; 13:5, 10; 20:6; Joshua 24:17; Judges 6:8).

Hence, we see the woman bound for eighteen years as a type of the larger picture of Israel (and Judah) who were bound by captivity first to Egypt and later to beast nations. In the laws of tribulation the long captivity was to continue for “seven times” (Leviticus 26:18), which could be either seven years or 7 x 360 years (i.e., 2,520 years). In this case we see that 2,520 is a multiple of 18, being 18 x 140. One “time” (360) is 18 x 20.

It is of note that one “time” is 20 cycles of 18 years, because 20 is the biblical number of redemption. Likewise, “seven times” is 140 cycles of 18 years. The number 14 signifies “deliverance, or release.” So we see that the Great White Throne will be called into session at the 140th Jubilee from Adam, as I explained in my book, Secrets of Time. Most see it only in terms of divine judgment, but it is actually a time of release from death and the time where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Him as Lord.

Connecting the Two Stories

Recall that the eighteen who were killed by falling tower were examples of innocent people in Jerusalem who were in the wrong place at the wrong time (Luke 13:4). The story was given as an example of what was yet to happen to many innocent people in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. when Rome destroyed the city on account of the fanatic nationalists pictured in Luke 13:2.

The woman bound for eighteen years can be seen as a further enlargement upon the prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction. The eighteen innocent people killed by the tower demands some sort of solution. Otherwise, one may think that all of this was inevitable and without hope of escape for anyone. But when Jesus freed the woman bound for eighteen years, He showed that He Himself was the solution.

In the big picture, there were many people in the nation who were religious fanatics who believed that it was their duty to fight the Romans. Many of these were of the “evil fig” school of Shammai, whose teachings ran contrary to that of Jeremiah and Daniel. Yet there were also many “good figs” who followed the peaceful teachings of Hillel, but were drawn into the conflict with Rome by circumstances outside of their control. Jesus had much in common with Hillel in this matter.

The two schools of thought—Shammai and Hillel—are pictured in the two illustrations in Luke 13:1-5. In verse 11 the woman is an enlargement upon the story of the innocent ones killed by circumstances beyond their control (the falling tower). She, then, in a sense becomes a metaphor for the peaceable Judeans of the school of Hillel, who more readily accepted Jesus’ teachings. In the end, however, Jesus shows Himself to be the real solution to the overall problem. Only He could set the woman free from the spirit that had bound her for so many years.

In other words, a national acceptance of Jesus and His way of thinking would have prevented the disaster in 70 A.D. Only a few believed His words and took heed to His warning, and these escaped before the destruction of the city.

The Objection of the Synagogue Official

The prevalent attitude of religious leaders and teachers at that time made it difficult for them to have faith in Jesus, because their long-established traditions differed from Jesus’ interpretation of the law. Jesus had set the woman free after being bound for eighteen years; but instead of rejoicing over her newly-found freedom, the synagogue official could see only that Jesus was disobeying God by violating the Sabbath. Luke 13:14 says,

14 And the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the multitude in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; therefore come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”

Luke’s account shows that Jesus had taken the initiative in healing the woman. There is no indication that she came to Him asking to be healed, though the synagogue official appears to chastise the woman herself for asking to be healed on the Sabbath. Luke 13:15, 16 records Jesus’ response,

15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall, and lead him away to water him? 16 And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

The term hypocrite comes from the Greek word hupokrites, which means “one who answers; an interpreter, an actor, stage-player; pretender.”

We see here a clash of legal opinions between the Master and a synagogue actor pretending to be a teacher of the divine law. The synagogue official had raised the Sabbath laws on so high a pedestal that he could not balance his viewpoint with the rest of the law. The law in Deuteronomy 22:1 says,

1 You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman.

Likewise, verse 4 says,

4 You shall not see your countryman’s donkey or his ox fallen down on the way, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly help him to raise them up.

No doubt the synagogue official would have objected, saying, “Yes, but don’t do this on a Sabbath day.” Jesus probably would have responded, “Where does the law make that exception? Shall we love others six days a week and be exempt from love on the seventh?” The official was more interested in ceremony and forms. Jesus was more interested in the outworking of divine love, which is the spirit of the law and the principle on which hangs the entire law (Matthew 22:40).

Most of their houses contained a stall at one end of the house for the animals to be housed at night. Each morning—even on the Sabbath—the people released the animals in order to lead them to water. They already understood that the laws in Deuteronomy 22 applied to the release of animals on the Sabbath. If God was so concerned about donkeys and oxen, how much more concern would He have for the people themselves?

Jesus applied the spirit of the law to the woman who was in need of release. This is a good example of how the law is spiritual (Romans 7:14) and must be applied spiritually. The law did not specifically forbid or condone watering animals on the Sabbath, nor did it speak of healing on the Sabbath. But Jesus used the laws regarding animals to justify His right to heal on the Sabbath. In fact, because the law mandated kindness to animals, it was Jesus’ duty to heal, even on the Sabbath.

This raises another interesting legal question. If it was Jesus’ duty to heal people, based upon the law in Deuteronomy 22, then is it not also our duty to heal people in the name of Jesus? We have always thought of this as our right, which gives us options; but if it is a duty, then this could modify how we view the gift of healing. Luke 13:17 concludes,

17 And as He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated [kataischyno, “disgraced, shamed, losing face], and the entire multitude was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.

It is doubtful that Jesus was ever invited back to teach in that synagogue, unless by popular demand.


This is the seventy-first part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in the Book of Luke


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