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Bible Commentaries

John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew

Matthew 14

 

 

Verses 1-12

Matthew 14:1-12.
Jesus Is Supposed To Be John The Baptist Risen From The Dead. Account Of John's Death

Thus far, Matthew's narrative of our Lord's ministry in Galilee, commencing with Matthew 4:12, has to a great extent disregarded the order of time, and followed an arrangement according to topics, better suited to his object of proving to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah, and explaining the true nature of the Messianic reign. (Compare on Matthew 4:12; Matthew 8:1; Matthew 9:35; Matthew 11:2; Matthew 12:1.) From this point onward, he follows the order of time, with a few slight variations in Matthew 21 and Matthew 26, made for the purpose of convenience in the grouping.

I. Matthew 14:1 f. Herod Supposes Jesus To Be John The Baptist Risen From The Dead

Compare Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-9.

At that time (season), indefinite as in Matthew 12:1, see on "Matthew 11:25". Herod the tetrarch (a term explained on Matthew 2:19), was the son of Herod the Great (see on Matthew 2:1), and one of the three among whom he divided his dominions. The Tetrarch's mother was a Samaritan; he was distinguished from the numerous other Herods by the name Antipas, a contraction of Antipater. He and his brother Archelaus (Matthew 2:22) had spent their youth at Rome. His tetrarchy included Galilee (see on "Matthew 4:12") and Perea (see on "Matthew 19:1"), the region east of the Jordan, from the Sea of Galilee to the northern part of the Dead Sea. As Tetrarch of Galilee, he had been the civil ruler of Jesus almost from the first, and John's baptizing in Perea (John 1:28) put him also in Herod's power. He had now been ruling about thirty-two years. His first wife was the daughter of Aretas, (1 Corinthians 11:32) king of the Nabathaean Arabs, whose capital was the famous Petra, and whose dominions adjoined Perea on the south, the fortress of Machaerus being on the border. (See on "Matthew 14:3".) After many years Herod made proposals of marriage to his niece Herodias, sister to Herod Agrippa I. (the Herod of Acts 12), and wife of his own half-brother, Herod Philip. Her husband was not the Tetrarch Philip (see on "Matthew 2:20"), who married her daughter (see on "Matthew 14:6"), but was another son of Herod the Great, left by him in a private station, and by Josephus called simply Herod. ("Ant." 17, 1, 2; 18, 5, 1 and 4.) The simple and natural supposition that his name was Herod Philip removes all conflict here between Josephus and the Gospels. Herodias was a woman of towering ambition, and readily accepted, if indeed she had not maneuvered to secure, the proposals of Antipas to give her a royal station, agreeing that she would divorce her husband, (compare Mark 10:12) while he must divorce his Arab wife. Although accustomed to incestuous marriages in this Herod family, the people must have been greatly outraged at the Tetrarch's taking the wife of his still living brother, to whom she had borne a child. Hence the effort he appears to have made to get the famous John the Baptist to endorse the marriage, which would have had a powerful effect on the popular mind. The injured daughter of Aretas escaped to her father; and some years later, disputes having arisen about boundaries he was led by the double motive of revenge and interest to make war upon Herod. The latter's army was defeated and destroyed, and he was saved from ruin by the interference of the Romans. Josephus ("Ant." 18,5,2) states that some of the Jews thought the destruction of the army a judgment from God for Herod's treatment of John the Baptist, whom he proceeds to eulogize, (as quoted above on Matthew 3:2), and says that Herod put him to death from fear that his great influence might lead to a rebellion. This account in Josephus becomes more intelligible through the facts given in the Gospels. Herod Antipas was not naturally a cruel man, but self-indulgent and unscrupulous. There were many other wicked deeds for which John felt bound to reprove him, (Luke 8:19) besides the shameful marriage. Like most weak rulers he attempted to use cunning, and Jesus afterwards called him a "fox."—The (Luke 15:32 f.) three Herods called by that name in the New Testament may be readily distinguished by remembering that "Herod the Great murdered the infants, Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist, and Herod Agrippa killed James and imprisoned Peter." But we know from Josephus that many others of the family bore the name of the great founder. Thus each of the Philips mentioned above was named Herod Philip, and the Agrippa before whom Paul spoke was called Herod Agrippa, like his father who slew James.

Heard of the fame of (R. V. report concerning) Jesus, compare on Matthew 4:24. Herod usually resided during his latter years at Tiberias, a town on the S. W. shore of the Sea of Galilee, from which it was sometimes called Lake Tiberias (see on "Matthew 4:12; Mat_4:18"). We have no account of our Lord's ever visiting this town, and perhaps he stayed away to avoid exciting the hostility of Herod, who might be jealous of one beginning to be popularly regarded as King of the Jews. But his teachings and miracles had spread the report of him far and wide, till it penetrated even the precincts of the court. The recent mission of the Twelve (ch. 10) had probably contributed to this, for both in Mark (Mark 6:14) and Luke (Luke 9:7) the statement follows immediately upon the account of that mission, which would naturally make a great stir all over the country. Herod paid little attention to religious movements among his subjects, or he would have heard of Jesus earlier; for it had now been certainly one and a half, and probably two and a half years (see on "Matthew 12:1") since our Lord's baptism, and for a year or more he had been actively at work in Galilee, teaching and working a great number of miracles. But it was in accordance with the luxurious and rather slothful character of the Tetrarch, that he should be thus ignorant. It may be (Edersheim), that as Tiberias had been recently built (Josephus "Ant." 18, 2, 3), he was still spending much of his time at other places, which would partly account for his ignorance; yet Galilee was at anphotosy rate the most important part of his dominions.

Matthew 14:2. And said unto his servants. The word is pais (see on "Matthew 8:6"), literally boy and thence 'servant,' and often applied to the officers of an Oriental court (Genesis 40:20, 1 Samuel 16:17; 1 Samuel 1 Maccabees 1:6, 1 Maccabees 1:8), just as the term is in Matthew 18:23, and elsewhere. We know from Luke 8:3, that "Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward" had, apparently some time before this, accompanied Jesus in his journeyings, and ministered to him and his followers from her property. It would seem more likely that "Manaen (Menahem) the foster brother of Herod the Tetrarch ", (Acts 13:1) became a Christian at a later period. This is John the Baptist, see on "Matthew 3:1". He is risen from the dead, with emphasis on 'he' (compare on Matthew 1:21), implying that this remarkable person of whom they heard was not anyone else than just he, come to life again. Here is a display of philosophizing, and a touch of guilty conscience. 'From the dead,' i.e., from among the dead. From Mark 8:15, compared with Matthew 16:6, many have interred (even Plumptre) that Herod was a Sadducee, but without sufficient ground. It is not likely that he intelligently and heartily adopted the religious views of either party, but the opinions of the Pharisees as to the resurrection (see on "Matthew 8:7") would form a natural basis in his mind for the notion here expressed. This notion did not originate with Herod, but was one of the conflicting opinions which he heard of as expressed among the people. (Luke 9:7)

Some Jews believed in a species of metempsychosis, the soul of a righteous dead man entering a new body born for the purpose (Josephus "War," 2, 8, 14). But in regard to Elijah, Jeremiah, and the famous prophets in general, it was believed that one of them might simply come to life again, the same in soul and body. (Luke 9:8, Luke 9:19) Herod at first questioned this theory about Jesus, (Luke 9:9) but afterwards adopted it, (Matthew 14:2, Mark 6:14) and insisted on it as the only correct view. (Mark 6:16) He may possibly have concluded (Luketter.) that the people would cherish less malice against him for killing the prophet now that he was restored to them. At a later period we find this notion still maintained by some of the people. (Matthew 16:14) Herod's desire to see Jesus, (Luke 9:9) was perhaps partly that he might settle this question, but partly arose from mere curiosity to see him work a miracle; certainly the latter was his feeling a year later. (Luke 23:8-11) And therefore, viz., because he has risen from the dead, and may well thus have supernatural powers, which he did not before possess. (John 10:41) Mighty works, etc., or, the powers work in him. Perhaps the phrase 'miraculous powers' would best express the sense, the term being (see on "Matthew 12:38"), which frequently means miracles, regarded as works of power, but here denotes the powers exercised and manifested in the miraculous deeds. Shew forth—work, exert themselves, operate, produce their effect. In him, as the seat of their residence and exercise.

II. Matthew 14:3-12. Imprisonment And Death Of John The Baptist

Mark 6:16-29, Luke 3:19 f.; Matthew and Mark here stop to tell about Herod's putting John to death; and as introductory to that, they tell of his imprisonment, which occurred probably more than a year earlier (see on "Matthew 4:12"). Luke closes the parallel passage (Luke 8:7-9) without describing the death of John; but in ending his account of John's early preaching, he had already mentioned in advance that Herod cast John into prison. (Luke 3:19 f.) This return to a subject in one case, and anticipation of it in another, are both conformed to the fitness of things in historical narrative, which requires that the events to be narrated shall not always be strung along in the order of their actual occurrence, but grouped according to natural principles, or else the story will not be interesting and impressive. Mark here gives, as is characteristic of his Gospel, more minute and vivid details than the other Evangelists. Herod had laid hold on John, literally, 'laid hold', the writer just stating the occurrence historically, and leaving the reader to see for himself the obvious fact that this was antecedent to what he has just before narrated.(1)

Bound him and put him in prison. The place of his imprisonment and death, as we learn from Josephus ("Ant.," 18, 5, 2), was machaerus, about seven miles from the Dead Sea, on the N. E. side. Some writers wish to Jet aside the express statement of Josephus, and locate the narrative at some other point; but their arguments are of very little strength. Machaerus was first fortified by one of the Maccabaean princes, about 100 B. C., and having been destroyed by the Roman conquerors, was rebuilt and very strongly fortified by Herod the Great. The sole ancient description of the place (Josephus "War," 7, 6) has recently been strikingly confirmed by the only full modern description (Tristram ,"Land of Moab," A. D., 1873). It lies on mountains far loftier than those around Jerusalem. There are ruins of a city, covering more than a square mile. Beyond a valley rises a long flat ridge, more than a mile long and quite difficult of access, all of which was made a strong fortress. From this ridge rises a high, conical hill, the top of which is one hundred yards in diameter, and which was fortified as an impregnable citadel. In this citadel, besides a very deep well, and a very large and deep cemented cistern, are now found "two dungeons, one of them deep and its sides scarcely broken in," which have "small holes still visible in the masonry, where staples of wood and iron had once been fixed. One of these must surely have been the prison-house of John the Baptist." (Tristram.) On this high ridge Herod the Great built an extensive and beautiful palace. The vicinity of the fortress and city was remarkable for mineral fountains, bitter and sweet, hot and cold, whose mingled waters formed baths, good for various diseases, especially for strengthening the nerves. The most celebrated of these were in the valley just north of Machaerus, called the Callirrhoe ('fair-flow'), to which Herod the Great was carried not long before his death. There were also neighbouring mines of sulphur and alum. Altogether, Machaerus was a delightful summer residence for the rulers, as well as a strong fortress on the boundary between Perea and Arabia. It had for a short time been subject to King Aretas (Josephus,"Ant.," 18, 5, 1 in the Greek), but was now again held by Herod, who when visiting Peres would naturally be attracted by the mountain palace and the luxurious baths. We may suppose that on some former visit he summoned John, who did much of his preaching on the eastern bank of the Jordan, to come to Machaerus and give an opinion about his marriage, and there left him in prison. In that remote and hopeless imprisonment, in one of those deep and dark dungeons which were so cold in winter and so hot in summer, the great Baptizer languished (see on "Matthew 11:2") for probably more than a year, until the court came again. He was allowed occasional visits from his followers, who brought him news of what was going on in the land—among other things of the works of Jesus (Matthew 11:2)—and who finally bore his headless body to the tomb.

For Herodias' sakes his brother Philip's wife, see on "Matthew 14:1". For John said unto him. The Greek verb is in the imperfect tense, and this is carefully reproduced by the Old Latin and the Vulgate, the Memphitic, and the Peshito. Mark also (Mark 6:18) has the same tense. It can hardly be here taken as the mere descriptive imperfect, but seems to mean that John said it repeatedly, as may also be hinted by the tense of 'being reproved' in Luke 3:19. We are not informed how John came to give Herod his judgment, but it is likely that the Tetrarch sent for John, hoping that he would be over-awed when standing in his presence, and so would feel bound to speak favourably of the marriage-which would have a salutary effect in allaying the popular discontent. But John stood before him, apparently several times, "in the spirit and power of Elijah" before Ahab (compare on Matthew 3:4). Indeed, Herod and Herodias strikingly resemble Ahab and Jezebel. In his early preaching John had been equally bold, rebuking the Pharisees and Sadducees, (Matthew 3:7) as fearlessly as the masses. And now he reproves Herod, not merely for the marriage, but for all his other acts of wrong-doing. (Luke 3:19) Every great reformer sometimes finds it necessary to be very bold and outspoken. So Luther at the Diet of Worms, and Knox before Mary Stuart; and he who was "meek and lowly" to the toiling and burdened, was stern and severe towards the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees even when he knew they were plotting to kill him, and would eventually succeed. It is not lawful, strictly it is not permissible; thou art not at liberty, viz., because the law of Moses forbade such a marriage. (Leviticus 18:16, Leviticus 20:21) The law required the marriage of a deceased and childless brother's wife, but here the brother was still living and had a daughter. The ground of condemnation stated, (compare Mark 6:18) is not that she was his niece, though that too was forbidden by the law (as implied in Leviticus 18:12 f.), but his brother's wife. Nominally, she had divorced her former husband; but while the Jewish usages of that time allowed a man to divorce his wife for almost any cause (see on "Matthew 19:3"), for a woman to divorce her husband (mentioned only in Mark 10:12) was a Roman custom, which they held in great abhorrence. Josephus says ("Ant." 18. 5, 4) that "being minded to confound her country's institutions," she made this marriage.

Matthew 14:5. He feared the multitude (or crowd), because they counted him as a prophet. (compare Matthew 21:26, Matthew 21:46) 'Counted,' held, regarded, is in the imperfect tense, giving their habitual way of regarding him. 'Prophet,' see on "Matthew 7:22". Observe that it was the 'crowd,' what we call "the masses," that held this opinion; the Jewish religious rulers were quite too jealous to tolerate such an idea. (Matthew 21:25-27, Matthew 21:32) Mark says (Mark 6:19) literally that "Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to kill him; and she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. And upon hearing him he would be much perplexed, and would hear him gladly." All the verbs are here in the imperfect tense, describing actions continued or repeated from time to time. The apparent conflict between this statement and that of Matthew may be explained in various ways. We may suppose that Herod was angry at first, when John condemned his marriage, and censured all his wickedness and wanted to kill him, but fearing the masses, imprisoned him instead; afterwards, talking with John, and his wrath having cooled, he came to feel as Mark describes, and so continued during his imprisonment. Or it may be that while generally favourable to John, and disposed to "keep him safe" from the wrath of Herodias, he sometimes felt inclined to yield to her solicitations, but was then restrained by fear of the crowd. It seems plain that Herodias was watching for a chance to compass John's destruction, from the expression of Mark, (Mark 5:21) "and when a convenient day was come."

Matthew 14:6 f. But when Herod's birthday was kept, or came. The correct Greek text (as in Tischendorf and Westcott Hort) has a very peculiar construction, but without difference in the substantial meaning.(1) The term 'birthday' was also sometimes applied to the anniversary of a king's accession (Edersh.), but Wieseler's extended argument for so understanding it here is quite inconclusive. It is easy to suppose that when Herod's birthday approached he was sojourning at Machaerus, accompanied by leading military and civil officials of his dominions. (Mark 6:21) The daughter of Herodias, viz., of her former marriage (see on "Matthew 14:1"), was named Salome (Jos."Ant." 18, 6, 4); and also apparently sometimes called Herodias, as required by the reading of the earliest and best manuscripts in Mark 6:22, 'his daughter Herodias' (Westcott Hort and margin Rev. Ver.), and supported by Origen's expression here, "the dance of Herodias." It is very easy to believe that besides the name Salome, which was common in the family (borne by Herod the Great's sister), she may have also been called by her mother's name, even as so many men of the family were called Herod. This girl subsequently married her uncle, Philip the Tetrarch (Jos.,"Ant.," 18, 5; compare on Matthew 14:1 and on Matthew 2:20), but the marriage did not last long, as Philip died "in the twentieth year of the reign of Tiberias" (Josephus "Ant.," 18, 4, 6), say A. D. 33 or 34. Keim has, for the sake of his theories, revived the old notion that the crucifixion occurred in A. D. 34, and the death of John only a few months earlier; but Meyer remarks that the girl's dancing is quite appropriate for A. D. 29, but not for A. D. 34, when she had been for some time married, perhaps was a widow. Danced before them, or in the midst; i.e., of the banqueting-hall, or of the company, and so in full view of all; it is a phrase frequently used in Greek to denote publicity. We cannot readily determine just how far this act was indecorous on her part. In all Eastern countries, women being kept in great seclusion, it has always been considered extremely improper for a female to dance in public. It is very common to hire dancing women to exhibit at entertainments (e. g., the Hindoo nautch-girls), but the business is highly disreputable, and it is commonly taken for granted that they are women of bad character. True, Jewish women lived in less seclusion than in other Eastern nations, and there are instances of their taking part by songs and dancing in public rejoicings (e. g., 1 Samuel 18:6); but this was considered a religious act, (compare Exodus 15:20, 2 Samuel 6:21) and quite a different thing from taking the place of dancing-girls at a feast. The Romans, too, had their dancing-girls at entertainments, but regarded it as a disreputable calling. A Latin inscription says, "It was disgraceful both to dance, and for a virgin to come into the banqueting-hali to men who had drank freely." Cornelius Nepos: "We know that according to our manners, dancing' is even put among vices." Cicero : "Hardly any man dances when sober (unless perchance he is crazy), whether it be in solitude or at a moderate and decorous feast". and he mentions a Greek father who was amazed at the proposition of a drunken guest that he should send for his daughter to come in. On the whole, one must reach the conclusion that if a respectable Jewish maiden came in to dance at a feast, it would be very surprising to the guests, and could hardly fail to be regarded as very unbecoming. It was therefore a bold step which Herodias took, in sending her daughter to dance before Herod and his grandees. Would they be shocked by the immodest exposure of a princess, er would they be fascinated by the novel spectacle of a high-born and charming girl going through the voluptuous movements of an Oriental dance? The experiment succeeded. She pleased Herod, and all the company. (Mark 6:22) No doubt rapturous expressions of admiration burst from the lips of the half drunken revellers. It is common for dancing girls to receive presents, proportioned to the admiration their performance has excited; and Salome might naturally expect to receive some present on the Tetrarch's birthday. Accordingly, Herod, anxious to express his gratification, and also to play the magnificent before this grand assembly, promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. He even affected, petty ruler as he was, and not properly a king at all, to imitate the grandiloquence of the great Persian monarchs, (Esther 5:3, Esther 5:6, Esther 7:2) and, with drunken dignity, swore to give her what she asked,"unto the half of my kingdom." (Mark 6:23)

Matthew 14:8. And she, being before instructed (Rev. Ver., put forward) by her mother, or 'urged on,' 'instigated.' Our early English versions, following the Vulgate, mistranslated into 'being before instructed,' and thus created an apparent conflict with Mark, who says (Mark 6:24) that she went out and inquired of her mother what she should ask. It is pathetic to think how many Bible students have puzzled over this manufactured difficulty.(1) We can imagine the satisfaction with which Herodias heard how well her bold scheme had succeeded, and seized the opportunity for wreaking her vengeance. The girl sympathized, and made the shocking proposal 'with haste', (Mark 6:25) Or more exactly 'with zeal,' eagerly. Give me here. Mark adds 'forthwith.' Probably Salome and her mother feared that Herod would change his mind if they waited till he was sober. In a charger, more exactly, upon a dish, or 'platter' (so translated in Luke 11:39), and signifying a bowl or dish, usually made of wood, but upon Herod's table, probably of costlier materials. The Latin versions here have discus, from which we borrow disk and dish. Wyc. and Rheims have 'dish,' Tyn., Cram, and Gen., 'platter'; King James introduced 'charger,' which was formerly used in English for a large dish. It is much better to use the homely word, which at once shows the idea to be that a dish should be taken from the table. John Baptist's head. This designation of John was evidently familiar to all, for it was used by Salome and by Herod, by our Lord, and the Evangelists generally, and by Josephus (see on "Matthew 3:1").

Matthew 14:9-11. The king. It was quite common to call a tetrarch king, as a matter of compliment (see on "Matthew 2:20"); we find this often in Josephus, as well as in the New Testament. Indeed the Greek term was often applied with great latitude to any sovereign ruler, from the Roman imperator (1 Timothy 2:2, 1 Peter 2:17) down to petty sovereigns like Herod. Was sorry, or, grieved. The thing would be wrong, and also unpopular. (Matthew 14:5) But his wife ruled him, as on many other occasions. There is no good ground for the suspicion of some writers that Herod himself planned all this thing, in order to have an excuse before the people for slaying John. The idea conflicts with the language of Matthew and of Mark, (Mark 6:20) and a drunken promise to a dancer would have seemed to the people a very poor excuse for killing a prophet. For the oath's sake—rev. Ver., his oaths, while above in Matthew 14:7 it was 'with an oath.' Mark also (Matthew 6:26) has here the plural. We may conclude that Herod had several times repeated his tipsy promise to the girl, with various oaths. And them which sat with him at meat, more exactly, reclined with him, the usual posture at table (see on "Matthew 8:11"). He was superstitious about his oaths, as many very wicked men are, and was ashamed not to keep the promise he had so frequently made, and so solemnly confirmed before the assembled dignitaries. But a grossly wicked promise is better broken than kept, especially when no one will really lose thereby. As to the general subject of oaths, see on Matthew 5:33-37.

The girl waited for her reward, and the king sent 'immediately.' (Mark 6:37) Some argue that this term, with 'here' in Matthew 14:8, and'straightway' in Mark 6:25, cannot be taken literally, because the spectacle would have spoiled all festive enjoyment; but they have forgotten how Herodias' ancestor, Alexander Jannaeus, while holding a feast with his concubines, commanded eight hundred rebels to be crucified in full view, and their wives and children to be slain before their eyes. (Josephus "Ant.," 13, 14, 2.) A great feast usually began about the close of the day, and so it was probably late at night when the executioner came and awoke John and hurriedly beheaded him. After his weary imprisonment of more than a year, the Baptizer was now suddenly cut off. But his work was ended; he had come as the herald of the Messianic reign, and that reign was now being established; the answer of Jesus to his message (Matthew 11:2 ff.) had doubtless cleared his perplexities and removed lingering doubts; there was nothing more to live for, and to die was gain. Nor is it anything very dreadful to die suddenly, if one has lived the life of faith. This murder of the greatest among the prophets in his dungeon was in itself hardly so shocking a sight, as the scene yonder in the banqueting hall. There stood the maiden, her cheek still flushed with her recent exertion, while the guests sought to drown their painful emotions in wine, and the executioner hastened on his cruel errand. When the dish was brought, with the bleeding head upon it, no doubt she took it daintily in her hands, lest a drop of blood should stain her gala dress, and tripped away to her mother, as if bearing her some choice dish of food from the king's table. It was not uncommon to bring the head of one who had been slain to the person who ordered it, as a sure proof that the command had been obeyed. When the head of Cicero was brought to Fulvia, the wife of Antony, she spat upon it, and drawing out the tongue that had so eloquently opposed and condemned Antony, she pierced it with her hair-pin, with bitter gibes. Jerome refers to this incident, and says that Herodias did likewise with the head of John. We know not his authority for the assertion, but the darling desire of the Herod family seems to have been to ape the worst follies and cruelties of the Roman nobility.

Antipas and his family are not mentioned again by Matthew, but he appears in Luke 13:31 f. and Luke 23:7-12. Some ten years later, when Herodias' scapegrace brother Agrippa (the Herod of Acts 12) had, through the friendship of the Emperor Caligula, been appointed king over the former tetrarchy of Philip, this ambitious woman was consumed with envy, and gave her husband no rest until, in spite of his love of ease and his caution, he went with her to Rome, to see if he could not also be formally declared king. But Agrippa sent letters to the Emperor, accusing Antipas of treasonable correspondence with the Parthians, upon which he was deposed from office and banished to Gaul or Spain (Josephus "Ant.," 18, 7, "War," 2, 9, 6), whence he never returned. The Emperor offered Herodias her freedom and her private property for her brother's sake, but she declared that she loved her husband too well to forsake him in his misfortunes; whereupon she was banished with him. One fancies it was not that she loved her husband more, but her brother less; and it may have been a trick to excite the young Emperor's sympathies.

Matthew 14:12. There were still men who regarded themselves as distinctively John's disciples. (See on "Matthew 9:14".) But even those who adhered to him most tenaciously knew well how constantly he had pointed them to Jesus; and the report of the two sent by John on a mission of inquiry (Matthew 11:2) must have made its impression on them. We may therefore suppose that most of them now attached themselves to Jesus. Some, however, continued to regard John as the Messiah. Thirty years after this we meet persons at Ephesus, "knowing only the baptism of John." (Acts 18:25, Acts 19:3) In the second century we find a petty Gnostic sect who held John to be the Messiah. The Greek word translated corpse (Rev. Ver.) was not very often used, and was altered by many copyists into the somewhat similar word meaning body (Com. Ver.), (likewise in Mark 15:45); and so buried him was altered into buried it. (Compare on Matthew 24:28)

Thus ended the career of John the Baptizer. (See on Matthew 3:1, Matthew 11:2, Matthew 11:11, Matthew 17:12 f.; Matthew 21:25-32) The traits which all remark as conspicuous in his character are self-denial, courage, and humility. For many years he lived a life of great hardship and loneliness, that he might be better fitted for his work as a reformer. As to his courage in speaking the truth, see on Luke 23:4. His humility, in constantly turning away attention from himself to another, (John 1:29, John 1:35) and his rejoicing to see that other "increase," while he himself decreased, (John 3:30) was so genuine and thorough that it seems to us a matter of course in his character. Belfrage (in Kitto): "In the splendour of Christ's grace and truth John was happy to be darkened, and in such fame he was content to be forgotten Had his honours been ten thousand times brighter than they were, he would have laid them all at Christ's feet. John in his ministry was not like the evening star—sinking into the darkness of night, but like the morning star—lost to our view in the brightness of the day." In one sense (see on "Matthew 11:11"), John was really the first Christian martyr—an honour usually assigned to Stephen.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 14:1 f. Herod the Tetrarch's first knowledge of Jesus. (1) How ignorant is many a ruler of the great moral and religious movements going on among his subjects. (2) How quickly a man's guilty conscience will suppose any startling event to be connected with his own wrong doing. (3) How surely will superstition misinterpret the supernatural. (4) How strongly does one crime tempt to the commission of another.

Matthew 14:6. Hall: "A meet daughter for such a mother. It is not so frequently seen that the child follows the good qualities of the parent; it is seldom seen that it follows not the evil. What with traduction, what with education, it were strange if we should miss any of our parent's misdispositions."

Matthew 14:8.—Herodias' fearful revenge. (1) As often, the offence had consisted simply in telling the truth, Matthew 14:4. (2) Delay had made the desire of revenge grow fierce, Matthew 14:5, Mark 6:19 f. (3) The longing for revenge caused a recognized violation of decency, Mark 6:6. (4) The demand for revenge was made with circumstances of inhuman cruelty, Mark 6:8, Mark 6:25. (5) The result was universal publicity as to the original crime, widespread popular reproach, and an uneasy conscience, Mark 6:2.

Mark 6:9. The downward progress of wrongdoing. (1) Yielding to lust and ambition, Herod forms an unlawful marriage. (2) Uneasy through popular complaint, he tries to make a prophet speak falsely. (3) Angered by the prophet's refusal, he imprisons, and wishes he could dare to kill him. (4) Won by the prophet's wisdom, he cannot preserve him from the wiles of his wife, Mark 6:19 f. (5) Wild with drunken revelry, he makes a foolish promise. (6) Shocked and grieved at the consequent demand, he yet has not courage to refuse. Plumptre: "Like most weak men, Herod feared to be thought weak." (7) Dreading reproach from the guests, he exposes himself to their utter contempt; for they perfectly understand the cause of the demand and the shame of his compliance. (8) Getting rid of the prophet, he falls a prey to superstitious fears of the prophet's rising again, Mark 6:2. Hall: "The misgrounded sorrow of worldly hearts doth not withhold them from their intended sins. It is enough to vex, not enough to restrain them. Herod was sorry, but he sends the executioner for John's head.... As many a one doth good only to be seen of men, so many a one doth evil only to satisfy the humour and opinion of others."

Mark 6:10. A remarkable death. (1) Sudden and shocking. (2) A relief from weary and hopeless confinement. (3) An occasion of everlasting disgrace to those who inflicted it. (4) To the sufferer, an introduction into eternal peace and joy.

Mark 6:6-12. Death of John the Baptist. (1) An immodest performance charming a drunken company, Mark 6:6. (2) A tipsy man indulging in magnificent promises, Mark 6:7, Mark 6:23. (3) A malignant woman seizing an opportunity for revenge, Mark 6:8. (4) A foolish pride of consistency leads a man reluctantly to do a grossly wicked deed, Mark 6:9. (5) After weary waiting, a sudden death, Mark 6:10 f.

Mark 6:12. Henry: "When anything ails us at any time, it is our duty and privilege to make Christ acquainted with it.... John had long since directed his disciples to Christ, and turned them over to him but they could not leave their old master while he lived; therefore he is removed that they may go to Jesus. It is better to be drawn to Christ by want and loss than not to come to him at all."


Verses 13-36

Matthew 14:13-36.
Jesus Feeds The Five Thousand, And Walks Upon The Water

We have here three closely related events: feeding the multitude, walking on the water, healing the sick in the Plain of Gennesaret.

I. Matthew 14:13-21. In A Desert Place He Feeds The Multitude

Recorded also in Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14. This is the first time in the course of Matthew's Gospel that John has appeared as parallel. The earlier chapters of John, as indeed the greater part of his Gospel, treat of events and discourses which the other Evangelists have not described. In the present case, John wishes to record the great discourse on the bread of life, (John 6:22-71) and he therefore describes the miracle which occasioned it. When Jesus heard of it, he departed, as in Matthew 2:22. What he heard may have been either the death of John, (Matthew 14:12) or the fact that Herod considered him to be John risen from the dead. (Matthew 14:1 f.) It may even be that he heard both reports at the same time. At any rate, the cruel murder of John showed what Herod was capable of, and made it obviously prudent for Jesus to withdraw from his dominions, especially now, when the mission of the Twelve had spread throughout Galilee the expectation that the reign of Messiah was about to commence, which the people generally would understand to mean an earthly kingdom, established by a great conqueror who would trample down the Herodian dynasty, the Romans and all. Compare our Lord's escape in infancy from the murderous jealousy of Herod's father, excited by a single inquiry after one born king of the Jews. (Matthew 2:1 ff.) By crossing to the northeast of the lake, Jesus would reach a very retired and thinly settled region, belonging to the tetrarchy of Philip, who was a comparatively good ruler (see on "Matthew 2:20"), and to whose dominions he retired several time afterwards. (Matthew 15:29, Matthew 16:13) On a former occasion (Matthew 12:15) we have seen Jesus withdrawing from the persecution of the Pharisees, as he will again do in Matthew 15:21. On the evening of this day (Matthew 14:22) we shall find him abandoning his chosen place of retirement, to check the fanaticism of the masses. In fact, our Lord now enters upon a series of withdrawals, to avoid Herod, or the Pharisees, or his fanatical followers. In the present case there was a still further reason (Mark 6:30 f.; Luke 9:19), viz., to seek a place of rest for the twelve apostles, who had just returned from their novel, laborious, and very exciting mission throughout Galilee. It must have been highly exciting to the apostles to find that they could work miracles, and to proclaim with enthusiasm the near approach of the Messianic reign. (Matthew 10:7 f.) After such a strain for several weeks or months, they sorely needed rest for body and mind; and our Lord has here set us the example of paying regard to the conditions of health and vigour, in proposing an excursion into the country for rest. (Mark 6:31) We believe it has never been noticed that the season of these successive withdrawals was late spring and summet (from the Passover to near the Feast of Tabernacles); and that from the hot shores of the lake, far lower than the surface of the Mediterranean, he retired in each case to a mountain region—across the lake, to Tyre, to Decapolis, to Cesarea Philippi. His plan for escaping notice and obtaining rest was on this first occasion defeated, as heretofore in John 4:6 if., and hereafter in Mark 7:24 f.

Matthew 14:13. By ship, Rev. Ver. in a boat, compare on Matthew 4:21. Into a desert place, a thinly inhabited region (see on "Matthew 3:1"), without large towns, but containing villages. (Matthew 14:15) Luke (Luke 9:10) shows that the region visited pertained to a city called Bethsaida, which must be distinct from the Bethsaida of Matthew 11:21 (see on "Matthew 11:21"), for the disciples recrossed the same evening to Bethsaida in the land of Gennesaret near Capernaum. (Mark 6:45, Mark 6:53, John 6:17, John 6:24) Bethsaida on the eastern side of tim Jordan, a mile or more above its mouth, was rebuilt and adorned by Philip the Tetrarch, (Josephus Antiquities 18, 2, 1) under the new name of Julius, in honour of Julia, daughter of Augustus; and there Philip was afterwards buried. From the mouth of the Jordan a plain extends along the eastern shore of the lake for some three and a half miles, gradually narrowing as the lake curves towards the mountain. This plain, while not equal to that of Gennesaret on the other side, is mainly fertile, and was under careful cultivation, but at its southern end the mountain comes so near the lake as to make a very retired locality; and on the lower part of the mountain sides are beautiful grassy slopes, which answer to all the conditions of the narrative before us. The people (Rev. Ver. multitudes)... followed him on foot. Jesus obviously set out by boat from Capernaum, or some place in its vicinity. The excited crowds of people, seeing that the boat was going eastward, across the northern part of the lake, hurried along the shore, and passing around the upper end of the lake, reached the same locality which the boat was seeking. Nay, so eagerly did they run that at least some of them "outwent " Jesus and his disciples, (Mark 6:33) who doubtless rowed slowly, as their object was rest, and who possibly had some distance to go after they landed. Out of the cities. From is the exact translation; yet as they had obviously been in the cities, all the versions from Tyn. to K. James render 'out of,' precisely as in Matthew 3:16. These cities would include Capernaum, with perhaps Chorazin and the western Bethsaida, and of course the eastern Bethsaida, with probably others unknown to us. The crowd was very likely augmented by persons from farther north on their way to the Passover, (John 6:4) who could be easily excited by talk about the Messianic reign. The Jordan has a ford about two miles above its mouth; there may have been a bridge, though we have no knowledge of it; and there would certainly be many boats, belonging to the important city of Bethsaida Julias, which could cross the narrow river again and again in a short time.

Matthew 14:14. And Jesus went (or, came) forth. The word 'Jesus' was introduced into many copies because this was the beginning of a church "Lesson." (See on "Matthew 13:36".) 'Came forth' naturally means out of the boat. Hort, Introduction, Sec. 138, thinks that this would cause 'followed' in Matthew and Luke to contradict 'outwent them' in Mark. But it is easy to understand that the crowd set out from Capernaum after the boat started, and thus were following, and yet that some of them reached the other side before tile boat arrived. Of course 'came forth' might mean from some nook in the mountain, but there is nothing to suggest that idea except the supposed contradiction. John says, (John 6:3, R.V.) that he 'went up into the mountain,' viz., the mountain range which skirts the eastern side of the lake. Climbing leisurely the mountain-side, and at length sitting down with his disciples for rest, he found the crowd about him continually increasing. Though they were disturbing his retirement and repose, he did not repulse or turn away from them, but 'received them.' (Luke 9:11) Moved with compassion toward them, (compare on Matthew 9:36), i.e., the people in general, though with special reference to their sick. This last word, meaning literally, 'without strength,' is not found elsewhere in Matthew (though several times in Mark), but is substantially equivalent to that used in Matthew 10:8 and in Matthew 25:36-44. We learn from Mark (Mark 6:34) that he also began to teach them many things, and from Luke (Luke 9:11) that he taught concerning the Messianic reign.

Matthew 14:15-18. And when it was evening. The Jews were accustomed to distinguish between the first evening and the second evening. Just what the distinction was, has not been certainly determined (Edersh.); it is commonly supposed that the first was from about 3 P. M. to sunset, the second from sunset on into the night. In Matthew 14:23 the second evening is meant; but here in Matthew 14:15 it is the first evening; compare Luke 9:12, "and the day began to decline" (Bible Union Ver). The disciples were here simply the Twelve. (Luke 9:12) This is a desert place, see on "Matthew 14:13". The time is now past. The Greek expression is peculiar, and may mean either 'the time' as in Wyc. and King James, or 'the day' as in Tyn. For the origin and uses of the Greek word, see Lid. and Scott and Grimm. Some have rendered, 'The hour (for taking food) is past,' but this can hardly be correct. May go into the villages, small, unwalled towns (see on "Matthew 9:35"), such as might well exist in the neighbouring plain, and on the lower slopes of the mountain. Mark adds 'fields' or 'farms'; and Luke includes the idea of finding lodging as well as food. They did spend the night in that region. Give ye them to eat, with emphasis on 'ye,' as the Greek shows. Mark (Mark 6:37) adds that the disciples asked if they must go away and buy the value of two hundred denarii in loaves. This would be about thirty dollars, and with a purchasing power at least ten times as great as now. It is not intended to intimate that the disciples had so much money, the value of two hundred days' labour, (Matthew 20:2) but rather the contrary. Mark and Luke add other details, not in conflict with Matthew. But John (John 6:5-9) appears at first sight to represent the matter quite differently. There, Jesus himself introduces the subject of feeding the people, speaking of it to Philip. He seems to have made this suggestion to Philip at an earlier period, when the crowd first became very large, (John 6:5) and left it to work upon his mind, in order to 'prove him' (compare on Matthew 4:1), viz., as to whether he would have such faith in the miraculous powers of Jesus as to think of his feeding this vast crowd by a miracle. Philip had no such thought, and said that two hundred denaries' worth of loaves would not suffice; but Andrew, who was standing by, spoke of the boy with his five barley loaves and two fishes. (John 6:9) Later in the afternoon, we may suppose, the Twelve came to Jesus, as narrated by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Having heard of the conversation with Philip, they naturally mention (Mark 6:37) the same large and round sum that he had spoken of; and the lad's supply of food some of the Twelve had by this time purchased or engaged. In this or some similar way, the apparent discrepancies may be reconciled. The loaves were probably round, flat cakes, not large, (Luke 11:5) but resembling what in many parts of this country are called "hoecakes." Fish formed an important part of the food of the people living around the lake. John (John 6:9, John 6:12) seems to take pains to say that the loaves were of barley, cheap and coarse bread. Jesus made no sumptuous feast with delicacies, but gave them homely and wholesome food.

Matthew 14:19-21. And he commanded the multitudes to sit down, or, recline, the usual posture in eating, see on "Matthew 8:11". The other Evangelists show that he gave this command through the disciples; what he did through them he did himself (compare on Matthew 8:5). It was a pleasant season of the year, just before the Passover, (John 6:4) which was nearly the same time as our Easter. On the grass. John (John 8:10) says there was much grass in the place, and Mark, (Mark 6:39) that it was green. Mark also says that he bade them recline 'by companies' or banqueting parties,—"and they reclined garden-beds, garden-beds, by hundreds and by fifties." Five thousand men, reclining in this orderly arrangement along the green slope of the mountain, must have spread over an extensive space, probably several acres, and as the afternoon sun shone on their bright-hued Oriental garments, they looked like beds in a flower-garden. And yonder at one end of the area, with eyes uplifted toward heaven, stands the Wonder worker, who is about to feed this vast crowd with the five loaves and two fishes now held in his hands. Nor was this arrangement merely beautiful, but also useful. It rendered the miracle manifest, since all could see that their supply came from Jesus, and that he had only the five loaves and two fishes. It prevented selfish crowding; for so the feeble, including the women and children, had an equal chance to be supplied, and the apostles could move about among the people in an orderly manner, and furnish all alike. Tile number of persons present could thus be easily ascertained. To count out the groups of fifty and a hundred, and arrange them in this orderly fashion, must have required a considerable time, yet Jesus thought the matter of sufficient importance to wait till it could be done. He blessed, may mean either blessed God, or blessed the loaves and fishes, as in Luke 9:16. John (John 6:11) says 'gave thanks,' Rev. Ver. The same variety of phrase occurs in the parallel miracle to this (Matthew 15:36), and in the accounts of the Lord's Supper (see on "Matthew 26:26"). This blessing or thanksgiving seems to have corresponded with the grace before eating, which was customary among the Jews as it is among us. And were filled, compare on Matthew 5:6. All got "as much as they would," or wished. (John 6:11) As to the mode in which the food was multiplied, we can form no conception; and it is idle to speculate concerning a matter so distinctly supernatural. Observe how readily our Lord returns from the supernatural to the natural. The fragments, etc., or as in Rev. Ver., What remained over of the broken pieces. The last Greek term is formed upon 'broke' in Matthew 14:19, and denotes not crumbs made by eaters, but a surplus of the pieces into which Jesus and the disciples had broken the food. The same expression recurs in Matthew 15:37. The five loaves and two fishes had yielded not only enough, but much to spare. Twelve baskets full. The Greek word is kophinos, borrowed in Latin cophinus, and in English as coffin; Wyc. here renders 'cofyns.' It was probably an oblong basket of moderate size. A. quite different Greek word is used in Matthew 15:37; and the distinction is maintained in Matthew 16:9, Matthew 16:10. We learn from the satirical allusions in Juvenal (III. 14) that the Jews of that age in Italy were in the habit of carrying a basket in travelling, probably in order to keep a supply of such food as they could eat without ceremonial defilement; accordingly we are not surprised to find baskets here, even when the owners had neglected to put food in them. Perhaps each of the Twelve took a basket and filled it, which would account for the number of baskets mentioned. This command to save the surplus, 'that nothing be lost', (John 6:12) was suited to teach economy. It must be manifest that we have no right to waste anything, however ample our resources, when we see him who is the Lord of all, just after multiplying a little food into a vast quantity, now carefully saving the surplus pieces of coarse barley bread and fish. Thus also the disciples had constantly before them, for some days at least, a memento of the extraordinary miracle they had witnessed. Lacking in spiritual susceptibility, and living amid a succession of miracles, they needed such a reminder. (See Mark 6:52, Matthew 16:9) Beside women and children. The number of these was probably small in proportion to the men, for otherwise Mark, Luke, and John would hardly have omitted to mention them. In John (John 6:10) there is possibly an allusion to them: "Make the people recline.... so the men reclined." The former term is the general one, which might include women and children. Perhaps only the men were counted out in groups, the women and children being apart to themselves. (See Blunt, "Undesigned Coincidences," in Bib. Comm.)

Origen, followed by Jerome and many Fathers, runs wild in allegorizing the bread, the walking on the sea, etc. Thus Jerome says the lad with five loaves and two fishes means Moses with his five books and two tables of the law; and Origen, that the reclining by hundreds denotes consecration to the Divine Unity (the hundred being a sacred number), and reclining by fifties denotes remission of sin, through a mystical allusion to the Jubilee and the Pentecost. Such dreadful stuff from surpassingly gifted men ought re be a warning as to the perils of allegorizing. Some eminent recent rationalists make equally ludicrous attempts to explain away this miracle and that of walking on the waves. If these lifelike narratives, given in such vivid detail by all four Gospels, could be considered to represent mere legends, then the Gospels would be nowhere worthy of confidence.

This great miracle of feeding the multitude could not fail to make a profound impression; and the people who witnessed it took it as showing beyond question that "this is of a truth the prophet that cometh into the world ", (John 6:14, Rev. Ver.) i.e., probably the prophet predicted by Moses. (Deuteronomy 18:15, Deuteronomy 18:18, John 7:21, John 7:25, John 7:40, Acts 3:22, Acts 7:37) The Jews did not all identify 'the prophet' with Messiah; but the persons here concerned evidently did, for they were on the point of coming and seizing Jesus to make him a king. (John 6:15) It was probably their design to carry him with them to Jerusalem to the approaching Passover, and there proclaim him the anointed king, whether he consented or not. Perhaps they were all the more disposed at this time to rise against Herod and the Romans, from indignation at the recent outrageous murder of John the Baptist. (Josephus,"Antiquities,"18, 5, 2.)

II. Matthew 14:22-33. Jesus Walks Upon The Water

Found also in Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21. Luke here begins to shorten his narrative, continuing to do so up to Luke 9:50. Jesus, or he, constrained. Here again, as in Matthew 14:14, the word Jesus was interpolated by copyists, because a "Lesson" began at this point. 'Constrained' is more exactly rendered 'compelled,' as in Wyc., Gen. There was no use in staying there any longer. The hope of rest was gone, and the fame of this great miracle would only increase the popular excitement, and augment the danger of arousing the jealousy of his enemies. So Jesus determines to return to the west side of the lake, where we shall find him the next day busy healing the sick (v. at), and teaching in the synagogue. (John 6:24, John 6:59) Shortly after he will withdraw in a different direction, to the borders of Phenicia; (Matthew 15:21) compare above on Matthew 14:13. For the present he wishes to be alone; so he proceeds to break up the vast gathering, and begins by separating the disciples from the people and himself. They were naturally slow to leave the scene of so astonishing a miracle. It is also likely that they sympathized not a little with the popular disposition to coerce Jesus into assuming the crown and sceptre of Messiah. (John 6:15) Possibly, too, they saw indications of the coming adverse wind, and dreaded such a storm as that of Matthew 8:23. Whatever was the cause of their reluctance, Jesus 'compelled them,' of course by earnestly enjoining it. Unto the other side. Mark (Mark 6:45) adds 'to Bethsaida,' and John (John 6:17, Rev. Ver.) says they 'were going over the sea unto Capernaum'; see above on "Matthew 14:13". It would seem strange to be compelled to leave the sacred spot, the interested crowds, the Master himself. So we, too, must often do what the Lord in his providence and his word clearly requires, even when it seems to us a strange and painful course. While he sent, etc.; Rev. Ver., more accurately, till he should dismiss the multitudes.(1) This he probably did by going about among them, saying that he should do nothing more that day, and requesting them to disperse. They noticed, however, that he did not go with the disciples, and having now no occasion for anxiety about food, they spent the night in that vicinity. (John 6:22) He went up into a (the) mountain, on the east of the lake. (John 6:3; see above on "Matthew 14:14".) We may suppose that he had come down towards the shore to see the disciples off, and now 'departed again' (John 6:15) to the mountain, and went up into a higher and more secluded portion. Here in the mountain solitude and mild spring air he continued the greater part of the night (Matthew 14:25) in prayer. Jesus not only prayed regularly and frequently, (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 11:1) but when any special exigency in his life arose he spent much time in special prayer; e. g., when he was about to select the twelve apostles, (Luke 6:12) and in the agony of Gethsemane. The occasion for protracted prayer in the present instance appears to have been that the strong popular desire to make him a king, together with the jealousy of Herod and of the Pharisees, increased the difficulty of his position, and made him deeply feel the need of his Father's direction and support. Through this fanatical crowd, Satan was again offering him worldly dominion upon condition of pursuing a worldly policy. (Matthew 4:8 f.) His earnest teaching throughout the day as to the Messianic reign, (Luke 9:11) had not corrected the popular misapprehensions; he could not bring the people to his views, could not conform to their views; and if he refused, they would sooner or later turn against him, and encourage the rulers to destroy him.

Matthew 14:24 f. It seems likely from the use of 'evening' in Matthew 14:23, (Mark 6:47, John 6:16) and from other expressions of John, that already in the early part of the night the disciples had gone out into the midst of the lake, and there continued to be harassed by the fierce opposing wind until towards morning. The ship (boat) was now in the midst of the sea. John (John 6:19) says they had gone 'about five and twenty or thirty furlongs,' from three to three and a half miles (the stadion being less than our furlong), when they saw Jesus walking, etc.(1) From the probable place of feeding the five thousand across to Capernaum (Tel Hum), is about four and a half miles. The attempt of some critics to make out an error here, by insisting that 'the midst' must mean the mathematical middle, is simply puerile. Tossed, literally, tortured, as in Matthew 8:6, Matthew 8:29. While the Com. Ver. has here 'tossed,' and in Mark 6:48 'toiling,' it translates the same word 'tormented in Matthew 8:6, Matthew 8:29. For the wind was contrary. John adds that it was a 'great wind.' It might seem that this statement shows they had sails, contrary to what has been said on Matthew 4:21; but Mark says they were 'toiling' (or distressed) in rowing, for the wind was contrary,' etc.(2) Jesus saw them thus harassed, (Mark 6:48) but for a long time did not go to them. When they were in the former storm, (Matthew 8:24) he was with them, and they only needed to awake him; but now he had compelled them to start, and had remained ashore. Thus their faith was more severely tried, and thereby in the end increased. In the fourth watch of the night. The ancient Hebrews divided the night, probably the period from sunset to sunrise, into three watches (Judges 7:19; Lamentations 2:19; Exodus 14:24; 1 Samuel 11:11) The Greeks appear to have had the same division. But after Pompey's conquest, B.C. 63, the Jews gradually adopted the Roman fashion of four watches. (compare Mark 13:35, and see Wieseler,"Synopsis," p. 371) At this season of the year, soon after the vernal equinox, (John 6:4) the 'fourth watch' would be from about three to six o'clock. We have no means of determining more exactly the time of Jesus' coming. Jesus went (literally, he came) unto them, The name 'Jesus' was added by some copyists, to make the statement plainer. In like manner the common Greek text has 'came' changed to 'went away.' Mark adds, 'and he would have passed by them.' Literally, wished to pass. This might perhaps be understood in a weakened sense, as nearly equivalent to the phrase, 'would have passed'; but it more probably means that judging from his actions he wished to pass. Compare Luke 24:28.

Matthew 14:26 f. When the disciples saw him. They all saw him; (Mark 6:50) and near the boat (John 6:19) It is a spirit, an apparition is the exact rendering. In Luke 24:37, Luke 24:40, 'spirit' represents the Greek word commonly so translated. The disciples believed in apparitions, as did all the Jews (except the Sadducees), and as all nations seem naturally disposed to do. The opinions of the Twelve at that time have no authority for us, since they had many erroneous notions from which only the subsequent inspiration of the Comforter delivered them. Be of good cheer, Tyn and followers, is more exactly 'courage,' as in Matthew 9:2, Matthew 9:22; weak faith made them cowardly, see on "Matthew 8:26". Jesus spoke straightway, in his kind desire to free them at once from their fear. It is I. They would recognize his voice.

Matthew 14:28-31. This incident is recorded by Matthew only. Lord, it be (is) thou. The form of expression implies that he takes for granted it is the Lord. Instead of 'Lord' we might translate 'Master,' (Tyn., Cran.), see on "Matthew 8:19". Seeing Jesus thus walking on the water, Peter immediately felt the desire natural to bold spirits to do anything which they see others do; and under a sudden impulse of confidence in Jesus—mingled, no doubt, with his usual self-confidence—he proposed and undertook to walk upon the water himself. We must remember that the Twelve, on their recent mission, had been empowered to work miracles. (Matthew 10:8) Perhaps also he was prompted by the desire to get near his loved teacher as soon as possible, as in John 21:7. Jesus consented to his coming. Peter would thus learn a needed lesson in the only way in which such confident spirits will learn, viz., from experience. Walked on the water, literally, waters, the plural being an imitation of the Hebrew word for water, which is used only in the plural; so in Matthew 14:28, Mark 9:22, John 3:23. To go to Jesus. The marginal reading of Rev. Ver., 'and came to Jesus,'(1) is very likely correct; it would make the lesson more striking, to Peter and to us, for thus his faith failed when his task was almost finished. When he saw the wind. Boisterous, or strong, is an unwarranted addition. O thou of little faith, see on "Matthew 6:30"and see on "Matthew 8:26". He does not say 'of no faith.' And he does not rebuke Peter's self-confident presumption, but his weakness of faith, just as in Matthew 8:10, he commends the centurion's faith rather than his humility; see also Matthew 15:28. Of course faith would have no natural power to keep him from sinking, as it would in swimming, because he was performing a supernatural act; God chose to put honour upon faith by enabling him to do this, so long as he did not doubt. Peter must bare felt a wholesome shame and confusion at the result of his bold attempt, but the other disciples had no time to notice it, nor he himself to be greatly pained, because all were engrossed with admiration for the wonder-working power of Jesus.

Matthew 14:32 f. And when they were come into the ship. Gone up, represents the correct Greek text, and not simply 'come into.' John says (John 6:21) 'They were willing therefore to receive him into the ship,' or boat. At first they bad feared him as an apparition; but the well-known voice, and the words and deeds of love, overcame all their fear. The wind ceased, and the boat which had been far out on the lake, was immediately at the land. (John 6:21) These things naturally made a great impression on their minds. They hat were in the ship (boat) is a general expression, and might include not merely the Twelve, but other persons who aided in managing the boat; as in Matthew 8:27. Came and worshipped him.(1) It is difficult to determine whether their worship or prostration (compare on Matthew 2:2), was simply reverence to a man, or real worship as to the Deity. And so as to the phrase thou art the Son of God, which here occurs for the first time in Matthew.

It seems clear that by this designation the Jews, including the disciples, meant the Messiah. (Matthew 16:16, Matthew 26:63, Matthew 27:40, Matthew 27:43, Matthew 27:54; John 1:49, John 6:69) But they appear to have had very vague ideas as to the purport of the expression. The High Priest spoke of Messiah as the Son of God, (Matthew 26:63) while they by no means regarded Messiah as divine. The Jews called Jesus a blasphemer for speaking of himself as the Son of God, (John 10:33, John 19:7) but they called many things blasphemy in which there was no assumption of divinity. (Compare on Matthew 9:3) This saying of the disciples shows a decided advance on that of Matthew 8:27, but we must not press it into meaning all that we should mean by the same expression. Mark (Mark 6:52) censures their astonishment at this miracle, for which the miracle of the loaves would have prepared them if their minds had not been stupid and dull. This language of Mark does not necessarily forbid the supposition that they were now convinced Jesus was divine; but it best falls in with the idea that they were at a lower standpoint.

We have thus had, Matthew 14:13-33, another interesting account (compare on Matthew 13:1) of a whole day in our Saviour's busy life. See "A Day in the Life of Jesus of Nazareth," in Wayland's "University Sermons."

III. Matthew 14:34-36. After Feeding The Five Thousand, Jesus Revisits The Plain Of Gennesaret

Found also, with further details, in Mark 6:53-56. When they were gone over, the same word as in Matthew 9:1. They came into the land, etc. The general statement is first made, 'they came into (or upon) the land,' came to shore, and this is followed by the more particular statement 'unto Gennesaret.' The relation between the two clauses not being understood by some copyists or early students, it was easily changed into 'they came unto the land of Gennesaret,' as in the common Greek text and the Com. Version. Gennesaret was the name of a plain lying on the northwest side of the lake, about three and a half miles long, and at some points over two miles wide. It is glowingly described by Josephus ("War," 3, 10, 8) as of unrivalled beauty, fertility, and variety of products; and modern travellers find his statements justified, if we make allowance for the present wretched cultivation and paucity of inhabitants. Stanley: "No less than four springs pour forth their almost full grown rivers through the plain; the richness of the soil displays itself in magnificent wheat fields; whilst along the shore rises a thick jungle of thorn and oleander, abounding in birds of brilliant colours and various forms."The soil is a dark loam, very rich; and by irrigation will produce three crops a year. We know of no large city in this plain. Capernaum was pretty certainly at Tel Hum, further north (see on "Matthew 4:13"); and Chorazin was probably at Keraseh, up in the hills (see on "Matthew 11:21"). Whether the considerable ruins in the northern angle of the plain represent the western Bethsaida, so often mentioned with Capernaum and Chorazin, we cannot determine. At the southern angle of the plain are a few huts called Mejdel, doubtless the ancient Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene. From this remarkable plain the Sea or Lake of Galilee was sometimes called Lake of Gennesaret. (Luke 5:1) Had knowledge of (i.e., knew) him, or recognized him. Mark adds 'straightway;' they might well recognize him at once, for he had laboured much in that vicinity. All that country round about, as in Matthew 3:5. All that were diseased, or ill, the same phrase as in Matthew 4:24. That they might touch, a non-final use of the Greek conjunction, see on "Matthew 5:29". The hem (or border) of his garment, see on "Matthew 9:20"f. The healing there recorded took place at Capernaum not long before, and probably encouraged the persons here mentioned. Were made perfectly whole, literally, were thoroughly saved (healed), a compound of the verb used in Matthew 9:21. Mark gives (Mark 6:54 ff.) further details, showing Jesus as entering into cities, villages, and country places, and everywhere healing the sick, which probably occupied several days. Weiss thinks it incredible that there were now so many sick to be healed in the region of Jesus' common residence. But he had been absent some time, on the journey about Galilee, (Matthew 11:1) and the season of malarial fevers had come. For previous instances of a general statement concerning numerous miracles of healing, see Matthew 4:23 f.; Matthew 8:16, Matthew 9:35.

On the morning after the five thousand were fed, they came across in borrowed boats to Capernaum, and crowded into the synagogue, where Jesus was teaching. To this idle and gaping crowd, delighted at getting plenty to eat without working, he addressed the great discourse of John 6:26-59.

Homiletical And Practical

John 6:13 f. Jesus here an example. (1) In prudently withdrawing from danger. (2) In seeking bodily and mental rest for himself and his disciples, compare Mark 6:31. (3) In relinquishing needed rest in order to, do men good, Matthew 14:14, compare John 4:6 ff.

John 4:14-21. Feeding the multitude. (1) A lesson in compassion, John 4:14 f. (2) A lesson in obedience, John 4:16-18. (3) A lesson in order, John 4:19. (4) A lesson in economy, John 4:20. (5) A lesson as to the harmony of the natural and the supernatural, John 4:20 f.

John 4:19. Hall: "What an honour was this to thy servants, that as thou wert Mediator betwixt thy Father and men, so thou wouldst have them, in some beneficial occasion, mediate betwixt men and thee."

John 4:23. Occasional seasons of retirement for long-continued prayer, whether to a private apartment, or to the solitude of nature, are much needed in this hurried age. There is something very impressive in the still depths of a forest, or the recesses of a mountain, as a scene of solitary prayer. "The groves were God's first temples"; and the noblest houses of worship cannot so powerfully appeal to our feelings of devotion. Chrys.: "The wilderness is the mother of quiet; it is a calm and a harbour, delivering us from all turmoils."

John 4:24. Henry: "Though troubles and difficulties may disturb us in our duty, they must not drive us from it; but through the midst of them we must press forward."

John 4:25. "Man's extremity is God's opportunity."

John 4:26. Henry: "Most of our danger from outward troubles arises from the occasion they give for inward troubles."

John 4:24-27. Danger and deliverance. (1) Perilous struggles long-continued make us deeply feel our need of help. (2) Approaching deliverance sometimes wears an alarming aspect, John 4:26. (3) Divine encouragement is given "straightway," just as soon as it is really best for us John 4:27. (4) In life's worst trials, to recognize the Saviour's voice brings courage and hope. (5) Storm and struggle make us enjoy more the calm that follows, and appreciate more highly the Lord who delivers us (Matthew 14:32 f.).

John 4:28-31. Walking the waves. (1) The instinct of imitation. (2) Self-appointed tests of divine presence and power. (3) Self-confidence often curiously blended with confidence in the Lord. (4) There is frequently strength enough to complete a task, and then collapse at the close, John 4:29, margin of Rev. Ver. (5) Happy the man whose conscious helplessness leads him to cry for divine help. (6) Many an experience makes us take shame to ourselves, and give glory to God.

John 4:27. Hall: "Let heaven be but as one scroll, and let it be written all over with titles, they cannot express more than 'It is I.'"

John 4:28. Henry: "The boldest spirits must wait for a call to hazardous enterprises, and we must not rashly and presumptuously thrust ourselves upon them."

John 4:30. Henry: "Looking at difficulties with an eye of sense, more than at precepts and promises with an eye of faith, is at the bottom of all our individual fears, both as to public and personal concerns..... When faith is weak, prayer should be strong."

John 4:31. Henry: "Our doubts and fears would soon vanish before a strict inquiry into the cause of them."

John 4:35. Henry: "Those that have got the knowledge of Christ themselves should do all they can to bring others acquainted with him too. We can no better testify our love for our country than by promoting and propagating in it the knowledge of Christ."

 


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Bibliography Information
Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 14:4". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jbm/matthew-14.html. 1886.

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