Healing of Woman Bent Double

Passage Luke 13:10-17. Jesus heals this “daughter of Abraham,” proclaiming she is loosed.

She was long-standing member of the covenant with Abraham. Evidently Jesus saw that she was right with God. It is possible for a believer to be demonically attacked (but not possessed).

The translations are mine, but if you would like to see many other translations, please go to biblegateway.com. I include the Greek text to bring out the nuances, but readers may ignore the left column, if they wish.

Let’s begin.

Jesus Heals a Woman Bent Double on Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17)

10 Ἦν δὲ διδάσκων ἐν μιᾷ τῶν συναγωγῶν ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν. 11 καὶ ἰδοὺ γυνὴ πνεῦμα ἔχουσα ἀσθενείας ἔτη δεκαοκτὼ καὶ ἦν συγκύπτουσα καὶ μὴ δυναμένη ἀνακύψαι εἰς τὸ παντελές. 12 ἰδὼν δὲ αὐτὴν ὁ Ἰησοῦς προσεφώνησεν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ· γύναι, ἀπολέλυσαι τῆς ἀσθενείας σου, 13 καὶ ἐπέθηκεν αὐτῇ τὰς χεῖρας· καὶ παραχρῆμα ἀνωρθώθη καὶ ἐδόξαζεν τὸν θεόν. 14 Ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ ἀρχισυνάγωγος, ἀγανακτῶν ὅτι τῷ σαββάτῳ ἐθεράπευσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, ἔλεγεν τῷ ὄχλῳ ὅτι ἓξ ἡμέραι εἰσὶν ἐν αἷς δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι· ἐν αὐταῖς οὖν ἐρχόμενοι θεραπεύεσθε καὶ μὴ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ σαββάτου. 15 ἀπεκρίθη δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ κύριος καὶ εἶπεν· ὑποκριταί, ἕκαστος ὑμῶν τῷ σαββάτῳ οὐ λύει τὸν βοῦν αὐτοῦ ἢ τὸν ὄνον ἀπὸ τῆς φάτνης καὶ ἀπαγαγὼν ποτίζει; 16 ταύτην δὲ θυγατέρα Ἀβραὰμ οὖσαν, ἣν ἔδησεν ὁ σατανᾶς ἰδοὺ δέκα καὶ ὀκτὼ ἔτη, οὐκ ἔδει λυθῆναι ἀπὸ τοῦ δεσμοῦ τούτου τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ σαββάτου; 17 καὶ ταῦτα λέγοντος αὐτοῦ κατῃσχύνοντο πάντες οἱ ἀντικείμενοι αὐτῷ, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἔχαιρεν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐνδόξοις τοῖς γινομένοις ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ. 10 Now, he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And look! A woman having a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years! She was bent over and unable to stand up completely straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you have been freed of your infirmity!” 13 And he placed his hands on her, and instantly she straightened up and began to glorify God. 14 In reply, the synagogue ruler, indignant that Jesus healed on the Sabbath, proceeded to tell the crowd, “There are six days you ought to work; on one of them come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day!” 15 In reply to him, the Lord said, “Hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you untie his ox or donkey from its stall and lead it to drink on the Sabbath? 16 Should not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan had bound—look at her!—eighteen years, be loosed from this bondage on the Sabbath day? 17 After saying these things, his opponents were put to shame, and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful works that were done by him.


Yes, Jesus honored the Sabbath—or at least he liked to enter a synagogue and teach there (Luke 4:15, 16). He probably knew something dramatic would happen on this day. No doubt he saw the daughter of Abraham coming into the synagogue. He may have even seen her walking through the village or area. He may have met her because he knew she had been like that for eighteen years (see below for more discussion).

“spirit”: many of our fellow believers in Christ teach that this was not really a spirit, but a disposition of some sort. Of course they are wrong. A spirit really did hold her down. So when does the physical end and the spiritual begin, or the spiritual end and the physical begin? This question is impossible to answer with full precision. So we need the discerning of spirits, a gift which is designed just for this need (1 Cor. 12:7-11). This gift is not for bossing people around or scaring people about a satanic atmosphere; it is for freeing specific people from specific demonic oppression.

7. Gifts of the Spirit: Discernings of Spirits

Evidently, Jesus used the discerning of spirits to understand that Satan was involved in her condition. But please don’t draw the far-reaching conclusion that Satan is behind every sickness. Sometimes the body just gets weak (“unstrong”; see the next point) and deteriorates naturally.

“infirmity”: it is the plural of the noun astheneia (pronounced ah-stheh-nay-ah), and the prefix a– is the negation, and the stem –sthen– means “strength” or “strong,” so literally it means “unstrong.” It means, depending on the context, primarily “weakness”; and secondarily “sickness, disease.” The NIV translates it throughout the NT: weakness (most often), weaknesses, weak, crippled, diseases, illness, illnesses, infirmities, infirmity, invalid, sick, sickness, sicknesses. Here it means a physical handicap or infirmity.

“you have been freed”: it comes from one verb apoluō (pronounced ah-poh-loo-oh and used 66 times, mostly in the Gospels and Acts; see vv. 15-16 for a related verb). It is in the perfect tense (completed past tense) and passive (it is being done for her and on her). BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, says the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “as a legal term, to grant acquittal, set free, release, pardon”; (2) “to release from a painful condition, free”; (3) “to permit or cause someone to leave a particular location, let go, send away, dismiss”; (4) “to grant a request and so be rid of a person, satisfy”; (5) “to dissolve a marriage relationship, to divorce”; (6) in the middle voice, “to make a departure from a locality, go away.” Here the second definition fits best, but the first and third ones are also attractive. It is used only here as a command of healing, but it is used in the medical community of the ancient world to describe the relaxing of tendons and taking off bandages, among other things (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 457). Recall that Luke was called a “beloved physician” (Col. 4:14).

“Satan”: he is an evil spirit being, with a mind, will and perhaps even emotions. We can see this emotional side when demons shriek as they leave someone. They cry out when they are defeated. Satan is the leader of all demons, and here he stands in for demons generally. We should not make too much of Jesus invoking him by name, because Satan himself did not likely possess that part of this woman’s body. In v. 11 Luke informs us that “a spirit” of infirmity had attached itself to her. We say “Satan attacked me” when we mean a demonic attack generally. It’s the same thing here. Jesus was speaking in general terms. This daughter of Abraham was, in part, under the thrall or bondage of Satan’s kingdom.

Yes, if people back then untied (verb luō and pronounced loo-oh) their oxen or donkeys to lead them to water, then shouldn’t this daughter of Abraham be loosed (also luō) from her infirmity—look! for eighteen years?

The verb luō is the stem of apoluō in v. 12. Luō means, depending on the context, literally (1) “loose, untie, set free” … figuratively “break untie, free, release”; (2) “break up, tear down”; (3) “destroy, bring to an end, abolish, do away with … repeal, annul, abolish” (Shorter Lexicon). In untying an ox or donkey, it is the first literal definition. In loosing the woman from Satan’s grasp, it is figurative first definition. But I like how Luke used both terms to express the spiritual truth or freedom, in a kind of wordplay. And I like how he used the related verb apoluō in v. 12. The whole pericope is about freedom from disease and Satan.

“look at her”: it is the verb “look” again (see v. 11), and “at her” has been added word because I can Jesus pointing to her and saying, “Look at how long she had been tied up by Satan—eighteen years! She is of much more value than an ox or donkey!” While he is saying that, she is praising God, testing her physical healing about leaning backward and forward and twisting around.

Application for Ministry

Let’s learn from the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah. In this section I number my points for clarity and order.

1.. I like how Jesus saw her somewhere in the synagogue and called her forward. He called her to himself. It moves and inspires me that he is about to work a miracle, and he is so confident in his ability to do so that he calls her forth in front of everyone. I hear stories about healing evangelists who get a picture of a disease on someone—like an x-ray superimposed on his body—and calls him forward. Then the prayer of healing takes place. Wonderful. I celebrate things like that, like the people are about to do in this pericope or section of Scripture.

2.. So Jesus pronounces her healing in the completed past tense, as if it had already happened in the Spirit and in his vision or mind. It was a done deal. Such faith! We can learn from this that we too can speak words of healing to the sick or disabled person.

3.. “He placed his hands on her.” This is part of healing, as well. It offers the personal touch, literally. Today, a man laying hands on a woman must be done in public, with witnesses looking on, so there will be no false accusations.

4.. Those who pray for the sick regularly also believe that power can be transferred from one person to the another, as the Spirit wills (Luke 6:19; 8:41-48). The most remarkable example is when many people from all over Israel, and Tyre and Sidon, touched him. “And the entire multitude was trying to touch him because power came out of him and healed them” (Luke 6:19). Such a display of manifest power is stunning. He laid hands on other people too (Luke 4:40; 6:13).

5.. She instantly or immediately was straightened up. And therefore she instantly and immediately praised or glorified God. How did she do this? She probably lifted her hands straight up to give thanks. She tested her back. She moved and twisted around. She bent forwards and backwards. Then she shouted her praise—or probably did that. Wouldn’t you? Luke often notes that praise comes out of a healing or another blessing (2:20; 4:15; 5:25-26; 7:16; 17:15; 18:43).

6.. We should be careful about over-generalizing the truth that Satan stands behind some diseases and disabilities, as seen here. Sometimes this evil spirit does cause physical ailments; other times the diseases are organic. We need discernment of spirits.

7. Gifts of the Spirit: Discernings of Spirits

7.. I like these scholars’ comments:

“Is a person not as important as a beast of burden (see 12:7; see 1 Cor 9:8-10)? Animals are unbound on the Sabbath; this woman was unbound on the Sabbath. The difference is that she was unbound by God, and she was not set free from a stall but from the captivity of Satan” (Garland, comment on 13:15).

He clarifies that her restoration by God’s power means that God’s working through Jesus to restore Israel and to throw off the shackles of Satan. Luke looks at Jesus ministry as a battle with Satan (10:18; 11:14-23; 22:3, 31) and at disease as evidence of Satan’s tyrannous influence (Acts 10:38).

If animals were bound or tied up in their stables or barns, and they are unbound or untied, then this woman can be unbound or untied from Satan’s control (Stein, comment on v. 16).

The crowds are dividing into two big opinions: “The healing leaves no room to sit on the fence” (Bock. p. 1219).

8.. Why the confrontation between Jesus and the restrictive synagogue leader (and others)? First-century Israel was an honor-and-shame society. Verbal and active confrontations happened often. By active is meant actions. Here the confrontation is both verbal and acted out. Jesus healed the deformed woman, so he won the actual confrontation, and this victory opened the door to his verbal victory with religious leaders who were binding people up with traditions. They needed to be loosed from them. He even called the leaders “hypocrites!” It may seem strange to us that Jesus would confront human opponents, because we are not used to doing this in our own lives, and we have heard that Jesus was meek and silent.

More relevantly, for many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here it is about replying to the synagogue ruler and defeating him and his needlessly restrictive traditions. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them. In short, fight like Jesus! But you don’t have to call them hypocrites (or you could), unless you have no hypocrisy lurking inside you.

Of course, caution is needed. The original context is a life-and-death struggle between the kingdom of God and religious traditions. Get the original context, first, before you fight someone in a verbal sparring match. This was a clash of worldviews. Don’t pick fights or be rude to your spouse or others. Discuss things with him or her.

In any case, today, do not allow critics to take advantage of you. They say we should not pray regularly for the sick or they do not like our style. But healing miracles are for today.

9..  As I write in all the healing posts:

Let it be noted that Jesus never went in for “decree and declare.” (Name one time he used such verbiage during his prayer for the sick. Nor did the disciples use those formulaic words in Acts).

Instead, God the Father through his Son who was anointed by the Spirit performed miracles of healing. Jesus clarified that he does only what he sees his Father doing (John 5:19). He lives because of the Father (John 6:57). He speaks only what the Father taught him (John 8:28). He does what he sees the Father do (John 10:37).  What Jesus says is just what the Father told him to say (John 12:49-50, 57). Perhaps the most important verse about miracles: “Many good works I have shown you from My Father” (John 10:32). (In John’s Gospel, “good works” = miracles, at a minimum.)

And so the Father through his Son who was anointed by the Spirit, performed all miracles during his Son’s ministry (Acts 10:38). The Son obeyed and followed his Father.

10..We too should develop life in the Spirit (Gal. 5), so we can hear from the Father through the Spirit, in Jesus’s name and authority granted to us. We will never heal as Jesus did, because he is the Anointed One without limits (John 3:34). But after the cross and the Son’s ascension, the Spirit can distribute the gifts of healings (plural) as he determines (1 Cor. 12:11), not as we “name and claim” or “decree and declare.” Let the Spirit work, and you listen and obey, and then rebuke a disease (not the person) or pray for healing.

4. Gifts of the Spirit: Gifts of Healings

Kenneth Copeland Gets a Pacemaker

Is ‘Decreeing’ Biblical for Christians?

What Is Biblical Confession?

For more commentary on this passage go to the chapter in Luke:

Luke 13

Scroll down to the right verses.

See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:

Bible Basics about Satan and Demons and Victory Over Them

Satan and Demons: Personal

Satan and Demons: Theology

Satan and Demons: Origins

Maybe these two articles will benefit you in practical ways:

Bible Basics about Deliverance

Magic, Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Fortunetelling


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s