How to cite this article:
Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “Possessed Man in Girgashite Territory,” The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction (Jerusalem Perspective, 2023) [https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/26210/].
Matt. 8:28-9:1; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39
(Huck 51, 106; Aland 91, 137; Crook 95, 159)
וַיָּבֹא אֶל אֶרֶץ הַגִּרְגָּשִׁי אֲשֶׁר עַל פְּנֵי הַגָּלִיל וַיֵּצֵא לִקְרָאתוֹ אִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי מִן הָעִיר אֲשֶׁר הַשֵּׁד בּוֹ וּזְמָן הַרְבֵּה לֹא לָבַשׁ בְּגָדִים וּבְבַיִת לֹא יָשַׁב אֶלָּא בַּקְּבָרִים פְּעָמִים הַרְבֵּה חָטַף אוֹתוֹ וַיַּאַסְרוּהוּ בַּנְחֻשְׁתַּיִם וַיְנַתֵּק אֶת מוֹסְרוֹתָיו וַיִּנְהַג אוֹתוֹ אֶל הַחוֹרָבוֹת וְהִנֵּה קָרָא בְּקוֹל גָּדוֹל לֵאמֹר מַה לִּי וָלָךְ יֵשׁוּעַ בֶּן אֵל עֶלְיוֹן בָּאתָ אֵלַי לְצָעֵר אוֹתִי וַיִּשְׁאָלֵהוּ יֵשׁוּעַ מַה שִּׁמְךָ וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ לִגְיוֹן כִּי נִכְנְסוּ בּוֹ רִבּוֹא שֵׁדִים וַיָּאִיצוּ הַשֵּׁדִים בּוֹֹ לֵאמֹר אַל תְּגָרֵשׁ אֹתָנוּ מִן הָאָרֶץ וַיְהִי שָׁם עֵדֶר חֲזִירִים הַרְבֵּה רֹעֶה בָּהָר וַיָּאִיצוּ בוֹֹ לֵאמֹר אִם אַתָּה מוֹצִיא אֹתָנוּ גָּרֵשׁ אֹתָנוּ לְעֵדֶר הַחֲזִירִים וְנִכָּנֵס בָּם וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם לְכוּ וַיֵּצְאוּ רוּחוֹת הַטֻּמְאָה מִן הָאָדָם וַיִּכָּנְסוּ בַּחֲזִירִים וְהִנֵּה גָּלַשׁ כָּל הָעֵדֶר מִן הַצּוֹק אֶל הַיָּם וַיָּמֻתוּ בַּמַּיִם וַיִּרְאוּ הָרוֹעִים וַיָּנוּסוּ וַיֵּלְכוּ אֶל הָעִיר וַיַּגִּידוּ אֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר רָאוּ וְהִנֵּה כָּל הָעִיר יָצְאָה לִקְרַאת יֵשׁוּעַ וַיִּמְצְאוּ אֶת הָאָדָם מְלוּבָּשׁ בְּגָדִים וְיוֹשֵׁב תַּחַת רַגְלֵי יֵשׁוּעַ וַיִּירְאוּ יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה וַיַּגִּידוּ לָהֶם הָרוֹעִים אֶת אֲשֶׁר קָרָה וַיִּשְׁאָלוּהוּ לָלֶכֶת מִגְּבוּלָם וְהוּא חָזַר
Yeshua arrived in the territory of the Girgashites, which is opposite the Galil. Out came a certain man from the nearby village to meet him. But this man had a demon in him. Because of it he had neither worn clothes nor lived at home for a long time. Rather, he lurked among the graves. The demon seized him so often that the townspeople bound him in chains. Yet the demon snapped them apart and drove him off to a place of ruins.
Suddenly, the possessed man yelled at Yeshua in a loud voice, shouting, “What do you and I have in common, O Yeshua, Son of God Most High? Have you come here to torment me?”
At that, Yeshua asked him, “What is your name?”
“Ligyon,” the possessed man replied. (He had earned this nickname because many demons had entered him.)
Then the demons began to urge Yeshua, telling him, “Don’t expel us from our territory!”
Now at that location a herd consisting of a great many pigs was grazing on the hillside, so the demons urged Yeshua, saying, “If you must force us out of the man, at least drive us away to the herd of pigs so that we may enter them.”
“Go!” Yeshua replied.
So the impure spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs. But the entire herd tumbled down the ridge into the sea, where they all drowned in the water. When the swineherds saw what happened, they ran away and, coming to the village, they told all about what they had seen.
When they heard this, everyone in the village went out to prevent Yeshua from coming any closer. Finding the man whom Yeshua had liberated from the demons dressed and sitting calmly at Yeshua’s feet, they were filled with dread. The swineherds identified Yeshua as the culprit, and everyone asked him to leave their territory, so he returned from whence he came.
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3. Conjectured Stages of Transmission
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The themes of ritual purity and the redemption of Israel (both the people and the land) unite and give meaning to the strange events described in Possessed Man in Girgashite Territory. The hordes of impure spirits who colonized the possessed man’s psyche and the herd of impure pigs that trampled holy ground were both emblematic of Israel’s subjection to the hostile Roman Empire in different ways. The possession of individuals by demons mirrored the pressures that subjection to Roman imperial rule placed on the Jewish people. The raising of pigs on a small parcel of Israel’s inheritance to be eaten by Gentiles or sacrificed to pagan deities mirrored the trampling of the entire Holy Land by Roman rulers and their legions, who spread terror and impurity wherever they went.
Jesus’ expulsion of the demons from the possessed man and his removal of the pigs from the land were symbolic of a greater redemption that had already begun. The demonic powers that had invaded and colonized the possessed man also animated the Roman Empire and manipulated its policy. Therefore, just as the impure spirits had been driven out of the possessed man, so the degrading and dehumanizing system of Roman imperialism would be abolished from Israel. And just as the defeat of the demons resulted in running the pigs out of the territory, so the defeat of Satan would result in expelling the Roman presence from the Holy Land. Without ever drawing the sword, without ever spilling a drop of blood, the land and the people of Israel could be liberated through the redeeming power of the Holy Spirit.
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-  For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’” ↩
-  This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source. ↩