Mark 5:9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

4 Answers 4


Why did Jesus permit the demon's request to send them to the pigs in Mark 5:13?

Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.


Possible reasons

1/ The owners of the pigs (unclean animals) may have been Jews and thus quilty of disrespect of the Law.

2/ Jesus did not exercise foreknowledge as to what the demons would do once they entered the unclean animals.

3/ The life of a man was more valuable than a herd of swine.

4/ It demonstrated to the observers, Jesus' power over the demons and demonic powers.

5/ All creation belongs to God, thus Jesus as God's representative had every right to permit the demons to take possession of the swineherd.

6/ It demonstrated to the observers the satanic influence and harm of the demons that such creatures, can do to animals and humans that became possessed.

  • Re #1, the story takes place in the Decapolis region, which is gentile.
    – user39728
    Apr 1, 2021 at 13:27
  • Ben Crowell: Correct, a confederation of ten cities (from Greek deʹka, meaning “ten,” and poʹlis, “city”). The name also applied to the region in which most of these cities were centered.​Matthew 4:25. Most of the population was Greek settlers that grew on earlier Jewish towns, within the populations of these cities doubtless included many Jews, Apr 1, 2021 at 17:58

The first point that needs to be understood is that this event in Mark occurs outside of Judah.

MARK 5:5 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes

The fact that they were farming pigs is another clue - an unclean animal for Jews. Being outside Judah, in another nation, is crucial - in Deuteronomy the land was allocated by God -

DEUT 32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,     when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.

God set the boundaries. Jesus was in a land - under the ownership of another god (son of God). And this by decree of his Father! So these demons, these evil spirits had another over them - legally. They had a legal right to be in that territory - that’s why Jesus (had to) allow the request!

They (the demons) were afraid because they knew who Jesus was, and that he had power/authority over them! So they (legally) pleaded their case.

The reason Jesus purposefully wanted to come to this land is to demonstrate to the spiritual realm that He had that authority. That is, Jesus was making a statement! This visit was ‘by design’ - intentional, to make a bold statement to the spiritual realm.

The storm He encountered when crossing over to the Gerasenes was also a sign. The entities of that ‘foreign’ nation generated that violent tempest - because they could! And again, Jesus rebuking the storm again ‘sent a message’ of proclamation.

This interpretation will not sit comfortably with some traditional doctrinal views - so I encourage you to cautiously consider this view. This view is founded on some relatively recent teaching that uses a ‘second temple perspective/lens’ (Jewish/Hebrew), and not the traditional ‘lens’ that many prefer, that originated as result of the reformation.


The story takes place in the Decapolis region, which was gentile. The deuteronomic prohibition against keeping pigs didn't apply to gentiles, so Jesus wasn't going through this region on a mission to exterminate swine, any more than he would have gone through a gentile region on a circumcision campaign.

Mental illness, physical illness, sin, and ritual uncleanliness were all a single phenomenon in the culture of this time and place. For Jews listening to this story, the design of the story would be such that it would evoke every possible type of uncleanliness: graves, gentiles, unclean spirits, pigs, and a man cutting himself (blood was unclean). It's a comprehensive collection of stereotypical types of uncleanliness, sort of like in our culture if you were telling a haunted house story, and the haunted house had every culturally stereotyped characteristic of a haunted house. The idea is that Jesus is such a badass that he can walk into this environment and fix everything.

Re the specifics of the demon's request and Jesus's assent, I think the logic of the story is pretty clear. We begin with jousting over names and recognition. The normal format of these stories is that the unclean spirits are the only people that recognize Jesus's cosmic identity, and knowing someone's identity gives you power over them. Jesus's demand to know the spirits' identity is a power-play on his part, but the spirits evade the demand. Jesus makes an initial attempt at the exorcism, but it fails (Mark 5:7-8). (This initial failure occurs in other healing stories about Jesus as well.) After this, Jesus uses a trick on the spirits. They want to be able to stay in the region (5:10), and they try to make a deal with Jesus in which they can live in the herd of pigs (5:12). Jesus cleverly assents, but then destroys the pigs.

So basically the logic is that this is presented as the scariest, toughest exorcism of all time, and Jesus initially fails, so he devises a trick in order to win.


These demons were on a mission assigned by a greater evil power instructing them to accomplish particular goals. Possessing and torturing the demoniac was apparently in keeping with their duties. If they were forced out of the very area where they were performing Satan's commands, he might punish them more severely for that failure than merely leaving this poor man alone temporarily. They recognised Jesus. They were in heaven with Him before they were rocketed out. He knew them, as well, having existed with them since before their rebellion. In fact, He was before they ever were. The pigs died but Legion continued to engage in evil towards mankind in whatever ways possible, including returning to the Gadarene to see if they could reenter and repossess him. That's what demons do after they've failed to remain inside their prey.

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