Does Jesus' command to the father and mother of the damsel - after He had raised her, that something should be given her to eat - indicate that they had been starving her to death? (Mark 5:40-43)

Mark 5:43 - And he charged them straightly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

What makes this last statement so significant to me is that Jesus didn’t just “tell” this to the parents, He “commanded” it, for some reason.

  • This is a medical question, not a biblical one. The bible account is totally silent about why the girl died. Only pure speculation could come up with the answer you seek, but this site is for delving into the text itself to get the answer. The text in question does not give any clues, so this is not a question for Biblical Hermeneutics. Of course, if you can come up with some biblical research that lends substance to your question, that would keep it on here.
    – Anne
    Commented Jan 31 at 17:05
  • @Anne - When Jesus issues a command I consider there is a significant reason for it. Although I don't see in the text itself a clue, maybe someone else with more knowledge of the texts can see a Biblical reason for it.
    – Joanne
    Commented Jan 31 at 23:22
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    Some parts of the gospel have him commanding (the wind and the waves etc) but what if this last statement was a practical instruction to parents who did not know (let's say, for example) that their revived daughter's blood sugar levels were low, so she needed food for a medical reason? I have just speculated in this comment, which is why I would not try to answer, because we are all in the realms of speculation here, which this Hermeneutics site eschews.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 1 at 9:38
  • @Anne - Matt. 13:19 is saying that if you hear the word of the kingdom, and don’t understand it, then the wicked one will come and catch it away. We all may be just speculating at this point, but I believe Jesus’ words were meant to be understood. In my Bible the last statement was not a practical instruction, it was a command. There is a difference why a person would tell someone something, and why they would command it of them.
    – Joanne
    Commented Feb 1 at 16:16

4 Answers 4


This is quite uncomplicated - eating was used as a sign of life. We see this a few times in the gospel record:

  • Luke 8:54, 55 - But Jesus took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” Her spirit/breath returned, and at once she got up. And He directed that she be given something to eat.
  • Luke 24:41-43 - While they were still in disbelief because of their joy and amazement, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” So they gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate it in front of them.
  • Mark 1:30, 31 - Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever, and they promptly told Jesus about her. 31So He went to her, took her by the hand, and helped her up. The fever left her, and she began to serve them.

The gospel record is completely silent about the cause of death of Jairus' daughter. However, being the synagogue ruler, it is extremely unlikely (to the point of impossibility) that Jairus was starving his daughter.

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    +1 I'd only add the reasonable speculation that her disease probably caused to lose her appetite and become malnourished. She was alive again but she sill needed to recover her strength. Commented Jan 31 at 21:13
  • @DanFefferman - that is quite possible but I believe unlikely. When Jesus healed, He healed completely. Indeed, unless this were the case, then the cause of death would not be removed and she would die again. If she awoke from death malnourished, then does this mean that Jesus resurrected her to five minutes before death or 1 hour before death or 1 day before death? Jesus restored her fully functional. Her most likely cause of death was the very common fever due to multiple cause, but this is speculation.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 31 at 21:18
  • @Dottard - These examples you give are sayings or directives. In this instance, what makes it most significant to me is that it is a commandment, which carries a lot more weight. –
    – Joanne
    Commented Jan 31 at 23:24

By logging in to https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%205&version=NIV one can differentiate between the phraseology used by different versions of Mk 5:43. For instance, NIV uses the term ' he told them'.

Have a look at Verse 23 where Jairus reports that his daughter 'is dying'. She must have been sick for sometime eating nothing.

And also look at Verse 42 which says she started walking about on getting up from her deathbed .She must have been hungry and looking for food. Now, human body has a self-regulating method of consumption of food .Once you are sick, maximum energy is diverted to the affected organs so as to cure them. Less energy is used in digestion of food .That leads to loss of appetite and the tendency to vomit out the food already taken in. A child of twelve years in good health is sure to consume more food for additional energy. Hence the direction of Jesus, the Greatest Physician!

One more interpretation for Verse 43: If a guest to a family tells the mother to give food to her children she will be offended ( Mind your business, young man, I know when my children need food !) Jesus wants Jairus to treat him as an integral part of the family,and not as a guest. So he takes on himself the 'privilege' of asking the household to give food to the child.

  • Persons using the NIV interpretation would probably have no problem with this text, I wouldn’t either. In my case, I’m using the Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, King James Version, and a word sometimes can change the whole meaning of a phrase. In this case, I see telling someone to do something is more like informing them, whereas commanding they do something is a requirement by someone exercising authoritative power over a possible reluctant person.
    – Joanne
    Commented Feb 1 at 3:19
  • That is right, Joanne. Let us keep in mind that Mark was not a direct witness to the miracle, and wrote down the narrative after the death and resurrection of the Lord. The whole perception about Jesus changed after the Resurrection. With Jesus, the Saviour and Lord as the protagonist, narrative of any previous incident i.e. pre-resurrection, would change. That fact could be understood by reading the Emmaus incident. So, if Mark used the word 'commanded: he was not wrong. ( When a Minister writes something on an official file , the words are ' minutes' and not just ' notes'! ) Commented Feb 1 at 3:41
  • Are you saying that the word telling was actually the word Jesus used at the time of the incident but Mark used the word command because of the way he perceived Jesus after the resurrection? I couldn’t rely on any Scripture if I believed Jesus’ words spoken had been changed. I’ve read where Jesus was called quite a few different things, but protagonist was not one of them.
    – Joanne
    Commented Feb 1 at 4:34
  • Joanne, see Jesus ' rebuking' the wind in Mtt 8, Lk 8 and Mk 4. Jesus did not say ' I rebuke you' to the wind, but the Evangelists interpreted the words, signs and the facial expressions of Jesus in order to conclude that he had rebuked the wind, an inanimate force of nature. Put yourself in the shoes of Jairus and listen to Jesus saying :"Good girl, keep moving ;now Jairus, give her something to eat , she must be hungry. ' Was it a command ? Commented Feb 1 at 5:08
  • In case, the girl had starved to death, a sudden intake of food would have harmed her. Persons on long fast break it by consuming light liquids , not solid food. Would not Jesus know the practice ? Commented Feb 1 at 12:26

Good Question .What is so amazing about the Bible is its correspondence to the real world events, and to real-time history. A fairy tale or mythological writing would overlook the intimate details of reality...but not the Bible. There is an old book called Remarkable Incidents that lists many of the minute details, casually given, that confirm the authenticity of the Bible. Jesus's command illustrates this: He recognizes the reality of effects of death on a body: physical dehydration, lack of sustenance (protein) for life.

The parents, who loved their daughter, did not starve her to death. Although a prolonged illness might have prevented her from eating enough. But there is more!

We know by Jesus's words that the girl was really dead, not just in a coma. His miracle of the resurrection of a dead body is validated by the need for food being given right away! And the ability of the girl to eat showed actual healing.

Original Greek The Greek word used by Jesus translated in the KJV as "command" is eipon, which comes from the Greek verb, epo. It was also used in 6:37, "He answered and said to them, Give them to eat..." According to W.E. Vine's Dictionary of the Original Greek Words, it denoted "to speak, say, bid, command." The majority of modern translations, here (Mark 5 43 and 6:37) simply translate, "told them."

If Jesus wanted to be greatly emphatic, He would have used diatasso, entello, keleuo, protasso. These are variously translated as "Command, enjoin, give order, charge, strong injunction, etc." So, too much weight or consideration is given to the KJV usage of "command"! The emphatic word used in the first half of this verse in question, was diesteilato, "charged them straitly." (KJV) With a different meaning from our word, which is much more moderate.

That "no one should know about this" brings up another issue beyond the scope of this question.

  • Your answer makes sense but Jesus didn’t issue that commandment after He raised Lazarus from the dead, even though he had been dead longer. (Jn. 11:38-46). I would think that Jairus, being one of the rulers of the temple, would know those things and would not need to be commanded to do it.
    – Joanne
    Commented Jan 31 at 23:29
  • @ Joanne - Men are men, and often need correction and direction when it come to meeting the practical needs of family matters! As for Lazarus, Jesus knew Martha's propensity and probably had confidence that that busy cook would feed her brother without being told. Eh? (Luke 10:38-42) But we speculate. Peace. Thanks for your input!
    – ray grant
    Commented Jan 31 at 23:54
  • lol I agree with your analysis of men in general and Martha in particular, however we don’t get a clue about Jairus’ wife. If Jesus hadn’t “commanded” it to them, it wouldn’t bother me, and I would consider it insignificant. An example I’m thinking of may be like relating to children: for one you can just tell them to do something and it will be done, but with the rebellious child you may have to command them, and then if they disobey, let them suffer the consequences.
    – Joanne
    Commented Feb 1 at 1:57
  • @ Joanne - Sitting on Ponder Rock some more, I was thinking that since Jesus was keen on loving "children" that he thought it good to give the child something to comfort her after she experienced a horrible ordeal of dying. Akin to a person giving candy to a child who was just getting over experiencing a car wreck. Something to comfort her, or prevent PTSS. (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.). Just a thought that lit upon the branches of my mind.
    – ray grant
    Commented Feb 1 at 20:35
  • Well answered, ray grant. I had to ' edit' your answer with a (.) , just to be able to upvote. Commented Feb 2 at 2:29

The story of Mark 5:21-43 is blending two of Jesus' perfect works together: 1) the healing of a woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years, and 2) the raising of a 12 year old damsel. It is also showing the spiritual significance of the number 12. When Jesus was 12 years old He was found in the temple, hearing and asking questions of the doctors (Luke 2:46), telling his mother, who inquired of Him,and those with her: Don't you know I must be about my Father's business?

Because of the age of the damsel, she was now entering adulthood, and it was important she get spiritual food, which her father, being one of the rulers of the synagogue, had been providing others, and possibly neglecting her needs (necessitating Jesus issuing a command). Jesus, raising her from the dead, and "commanding" to her parents that she be given something to eat, shows the spiritual significance of the number 12 in Scripture: God's power and authority; completing one phase in life and entering another, and the need for spiritual food for this new phase of life.

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    Joanne, the girl was twelve means that she was mature enough to go to the kitchen and eat..But she was simply walking around without realising the hunger. Hence the intervention of Jesus. Think of the process involved in appetite, intake of food , digestion and disposal of the waste . Are they not miracles of creation, and spiritual enough ? Of course, spiritual food is important . But right at that moment, she required physical food. Jesus knew it better. Commented Feb 4 at 3:38
  • @KadalikattJosephSibichan - Which two competing theories are you referring to? God’s Word vs. Occam’s Razor? I’d like to be around on judgment day when you’re teaching God that principle.
    – Joanne
    Commented Feb 4 at 3:41
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    At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children (Mtt 11:25). Occam propounded that things are explained best when explained in simplest terms. He was himself a British theologian. Commented Feb 4 at 3:55
  • By the way, thanks Joanne, for giving me a chance to frame another Question on BHE, involving Mtt 11:25.See you there ! Commented Feb 4 at 4:18
  • @KadalikattJosephSibichan - Jesus taught spiritual principles, many in parables, which were hard for many to understand. In this case, this was the daughter of a spiritual leader He was talking to, so I’m sure he got the message.
    – Joanne
    Commented Feb 4 at 4:23

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