The Song of the Woman Who Bled

Mark 5:25-34

When you have no more money you can spend,
Then men will tell you, “You cannot be cured.”
Though Jesus makes it better in the end,
First tribulation has to be endured.
The disappointment, when you’ve been assured
That medicine will help you, is profound:
You realize health cannot be procured.
The words that came from God your woes compound:
The Law says you’re unclean, and for that you’re renowned.

Twelve years deprived of normal human touch;
Twelve years of feeling weaker every day;
Twelve years of finding every hope you clutch
Is just one more mirage along the way;
Twelve years of ever more intense dismay
Will leave you apathetic and benumbed.
My pain in mind and body who could weigh?
By whom could all my suffering be summed?
What man could understand the depths that I have plumbed?

In deep affliction God gave me a gift,
A gift that I could never overrate,
The gift of faith, which overcame the rift—
So spurning the restrictions of my state,
Escaping from the prison of my fate,
With certitude I plunged into the crowd.
My fear and trembling were already great
Before the Master asked for me out loud,
And what I’d hoped and done I haltingly avowed.

The Lord of all in Eden knew full well
Where Eve and Adam hid; and yet He posed
A question that enabled them to tell
Him what He might have readily disclosed.
And Jesus could have easily exposed
Who I was, yet He let me on my own
Tell what had happened. Shaking, not composed,
The glory of the Master I made known,
And all the people learned the mercy I’d been shown.

Those precious words, “Your faith has made you whole,”
Mean, “By My precious gift you have been healed.”
It’s one more thing about Him to extol,
That His amazing power He concealed,
While my poor faith He publicly revealed,
Giving me credit for what He had done.
Who but the Lord omnipotence could wield
Effectively, and yet all glory shun?
You learn what humble means, when you have touched the Son.

I touched His garment on the tasseled fringe,
Containing just a single strand of blue.
My faith was dominant, my guilt a twinge . . . .
I touched, I felt His power, and I knew
A glory that is given unto few
Of those who suffer in the realm below.
O, truly Jesus Christ makes all things new!
For your soul to rejoice like mine and glow
There’s crucial symbolism that you need to know.

The flow of blood defiled and made unclean,
So I was quite cut off from other Jews.
And scarlet sin flows from us to demean
Ourselves and others like us, who refuse
To fall before the Lord and let Him choose
Our ways and means, for they are His by right.
But when by faith we touch Him Christ renews
Our spirits, filling up our souls with light:
What miracle is greater than a heart contrite?

The hem of Aaron’s robe had golden bells
With linen pomegranates mingled round.
The gospel rings out clearly and compels
Weak ones who would be fruitful to resound
The great good news that all our hopes are crowned
In our High Priest, who comes from Jesse’s stem.
And there is no more beautiful a sound
Than the hymn of gratitude that’s sung by them,
The Bride who’s tapped the power hidden in His hem.



Philip Rosenbaum, now retired, has been the director of a residential wilderness school for troubled boys, and the curator of a collection of antique fine art. He is the author of one published volume of verse, Holy Week Sonnets, and one ebook, The Wedding Party: An Epic Poem. His two published works in prose are How To Enjoy the Boring Parts of the Bible and The Promise (on the importance of honoring parents). He lives in northern Virginia.

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19 Responses

  1. Monika Cooper

    I will have to read it more but this is wonderful. I’m struck by the similarity and difference here between Mary Magdalene’s meeting with the risen Lord, when she was commanded not to touch Him, and this furtive touch from the woman who bled. It wasn’t “don’t touch Me” that day but “who touched Me?”

    I love how the poet compares the questioning of the woman to God’s questioning of Adam: Jesus brings faith, rather than guilt, out of hiding, faith that heals and takes away sin. I love too the comparison/contrast of Our Lord’s hem with the hem of Aaron’s garment. The single strand of blue is mysterious but beautiful; I’ll have to research that. And the final line: breathtaking.

    • Philip Rosenbaum

      I’m happy that my poem sparks such thoughtful reflections, some of which had not occurred to me.

      Here are the endnotes to “The Woman who Bled”:

      The Song of the Woman Who Bled: Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48.

      Woman Who Bled, stanza 1, The Law says you’re unclean: any flow of blood rendered a person unclean, Leviticus 15:25-27.

      Woman Who Bled, stanza 3, The gift of faith, which overcame the rift: the rift, the great divide between the clean and the unclean under Mosaic law. One who touched an unclean person became unclean until evening, and until the toucher bathed in water. Leviticus, Chapter 15, especially verses 2, 7-8, 19, 25-27.

      Woman Who Bled, stanza 4, The Lord of all in Eden . . . posed / A question: Genesis 3:9.

      Woman Who Bled, stanza 6, a single strand of blue: Numbers 15:37-41.
      my guilt: guilt, because the touch of an unclean person rendered a clean person unclean. Leviticus 15:7, 19.

      Woman Who Bled, stanza 7, scarlet sin: Isaiah 1:18.

      Woman Who Bled, stanza 8, The hem of Aaron’s robe: Exodus 39:1, 22-26.
      Jesse’s stem: Matthew 1:1, 5-6.

  2. Cynthia Erlandson

    This is a truly marvelous account of the thoughts that may have gone through this poor woman’s mind. And I second Monika’s comments above; the comparisons to Adam, and to Aaron, and the bringing out of the symbolism, are poignant, and very artistically done! Bravo!

  3. Julian D. Woodruff

    A magnifying and energizing interpretation of the episode, with many striking lines. Thanks, Mr. Rosenbaum.

  4. Gigi Ryan

    You have brought truth to light in this beautiful poem.
    The last line, “The Bride who’s tapped the power hidden in His hem.” especially, gives me chills. Thank you for all you must have invested to create this.

  5. Margaret Coats

    A glorious masterpiece, Philip. It flows easily for an attentive reader, and you offer convincing exegetical interpretation of details in the story. I love the idea of strong, effective faith as a gift given in affliction. And then you turn this faith into a means for the woman to understand quickly the compassionate divinity of Jesus, who conceals Himself to let her become important, and grow spiritually as He heals her. Your focus on her feeling of His power is a remarkable meditation on the heart of this Gospel event. Her sermon telling others to “let Him choose our ways and means, for they are His by right” is magnificent. I wonder if she is one of the 144 saints in your book, “The Wedding Party,” which would then be an epic in Spenserian stanzas.

  6. V. Paige Parker

    You make writing iambic pentameter look effortless. I enjoyed the rhyme pattern and the extra foot at the end of each stanza. I love the part about the humility of Christ. “You learn what humble means, when you have touched the Son.” Well done!

  7. Yael

    I enjoy your thoughtful and detailed poetic re-telling of this very interesting Bible story, thank you.


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