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Ch. 8:1 9 . The Feeding of the Four Thousand
1. the multitude being very great ] The effect of these miraculous cures on the inhabitants of the half-pagan district of Decapolis was very great. So widely was the fame of them spread abroad, that great multitudes brought their sick unto the Lord (Matthew 15:30 ), and upwards of four thousand, without counting women and children (Matthew 15:38 ), gathered round Him and His Apostles, and continued with Him upwards of three days (Mark 8:2 ).
4. And his disciples answered him ] Though the Apostles are the writers, they do not conceal from us their own shortcomings, or the fact that they had so soon forgotten so great a miracle.
From whence can a man satisfy ] It has been suggested that “it is evermore thus in times of difficulty and distress. All former deliverances are in danger of being forgotten; the mighty interpositions of God’s hand in former passages of men’s lives fall out of their memories. Each new difficulty appears insurmountable; as one from which there is no extrication; at each recurring necessity it seems as though the wonders of God’s grace are exhausted and had come to an end.” Comp. ( a ) Exodus 17:1-7 , and ( b ) Exodus 16:13 with Numbers 11:21 , Numbers 11:23 . Trench on the Miracles , p. 356. Still it has also been well observed that “many and many a time had the Apostles been with multitudes before, and yet on one occasion only had He fed them. Further, to suggest to Him a repetition of the feeding of the Five Thousand would be a presumption which their ever-deepening reverence forbade, and forbade more than ever as they recalled how persistently He had refused to work a sign, such as this was, at the bidding of others.” Farrar’s Life of Christ , i. p. 480.
6. to sit down ] Where is not distinctly specified. All we can certainly gather is that it was on the eastern side of the Lake, and in a desert spot (Matthew 15:33 ), possibly about the middle or southern end of the Lake.
8. seven baskets ] Not the small wicker cophinoi of the former miracle, but large baskets of rope, such as that in which St Paul was lowered from the wall of Damascus (Acts 9:25 ). We notice at once the difference between this and the Miracle of the Five Thousand:
( a ) The people had been with the Lord upwards of three days, a point not noted on the other occasion;
( b ) Seven loaves are now distributed and a few fishes, then five loaves and two fishes;
( c ) Five thousand were fed then, four thousand are fed now;
( d ) On this occasion seven large rope-baskets are filled with fragments, on the other twelve small wicker baskets.
( e ) The more excitable inhabitants of the coast-villages of the North would have taken and made Him a king (John 6:15 ); the men of Decapolis and the Eastern shores permit Him to leave them without any demonstration.
10 21. The Leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod
10. the parts of Dalmanutha ] or as St Matthew says, into the coasts of Magdala (15:39), or according to some MSS. Magadan . Nothing is known of Dalmanutha. It must clearly have been near to Magdala, which may have been the Greek name of one of the many Migdols (i. e. watch-towers) to be found in the Holy Land, possibly the Migdal-el of Joshua 19:38 , and its place may now be occupied by a miserable collection of hovels known as el-Mejdel on the western side of the Lake, and at the S. E. corner of the Plain of Gennesaret. “Just before reaching Mejdel, we crossed a little open valley, the Ain-el-Barideh, with a few rich cornfields and gardens straggling among the ruins of a village, and some large and more ancient foundations by several, copious fountains, and probably identical with the Dalmanutha of the New Testament.” Tristram’s Land of Israel , p. 425. If the reading Magadan in Matthew 15:39 stands, we may conjecture either (a) that it and Dalmanutha were different names for the same place, or ( b ) that they denoted contiguous spots, either of which might give its name to the same region.
11. And the Pharisees ] Our Lord seems purposely to have avoided sailing to Bethsaida or Capernaum, which lay a little north of Magdala, and which had become the head-quarters of the Pharisees; but they had apparently watched for His arrival, and now “ came forth ” to meet Him accompanied for the first time by the Sadducees (Matthew 16:1 ), their rivals and enemies.
began ] They had made their arrangements for a decisive contest, which began with a demand for a sign.
a sign from heaven ] The same request had already been twice proffered. (1) After the first cleansing of the Temple (John 2:18 ); (2) after the feeding of the Five Thousand (John 6:30 ); and (3) again shortly after the walking through the cornfields (Matthew 12:38 ). By such a “sign” was meant an outward and visible luminous appearance in the sky or some visible manifestation of the Shechînah , the credentials of a prophet. They asked in effect, “Give us bread from heaven, as Moses did, or signs in the sun and moon like Joshua, or call down thunder and hail like Samuel, or fire and rain like Elijah, or make the sun turn back on the dial like Isaiah, or let us hear the Bath-Kôl , the ‘daughter of the Voice,’ that we may believe Thee.”
12. he sighed deeply in his spirit ] Not merely, we may conclude, at their hardened disbelief, but also with the feeling that the decisive crisis of the severance from the ruling powers had come. “For the demand for a sign from heaven was a demand that He should, as the Messiah of their expectation, accredit Himself by a great overmastering miracle; thus it was fundamentally similar to the temptation in the wilderness, which He had repelled and overcome.” Lange.
There shall no sign be given ] Literally, If a sign shall be given to this generation , a Hebrew form of strong abjuration. Comp. Hebrews 3:11 , where see the margin; 4:3, 5; Genesis 14:23 ; Numbers 14:30 . St Mark does not mention the sign of “Jonah the prophet” mentioned by St Matthew (16:4).
13. he left them ] “Justa severitas,” Bengel. “It was His final rejection on the very spot where He had laboured most, and He was leaving it, to return, indeed, for a passing visit, but never to appear again publicly, or to teach, or work miracles.”
the other side ] i. e. the eastern side of the Lake.
14. had forgotten ] In the hurry of their unexpected re-embarkation they had altogether omitted to make provision for their own personal wants.
15. the leaven of the Pharisees ] Leaven in Scripture, with the single exception of the Parable (Matthew 13:33 ; Luke 13:20 , Luke 13:21 ), is always a symbol of evil (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:6 , 1 Corinthians 5:7 , 1 Corinthians 5:8 ; Galatians 5:9 ), especially insidious evil, as it is for the most part also in the Rabbinical writers. See Lightfoot on Matthew 16:6 . The strict command to the children of Israel that they should carefully put away every particle of leaven out of their houses during the Passover-week, rests on this view of it as evil.
the leaven of Herod ] “and,” as it is in St Matthew’s Gospel, “ of the Sadducees .” The leaven of the Pharisees was hypocrisy (Luke 12:1 ), of the Sadducees, unbelief , of Herod, worldliness; all which working in secrecy and silence, and spreading with terrible certainty, cause that in the end “the whole man is leavened,” and his whole nature transformed.
17. yet hardened ] as on the former occasion, the walking on the sea (Mark 6:52 ).
19. how many baskets ] Observe how our Lord reproduces in this allusion to the putting forth of His miraculous power not only the precise number but the precise kind of baskets taken up on each occasion. See above, on 6:43. Wyclif brings out this in his translation: “Whanne I brak fyue looues among fyve pousand, and hou many coffyns ful of brokene mete ye token up?… whanne also seuene looues among foure thousand, how many leepis of brokene mete se token up?”
21. ye do not understand ] They seem to have thought that He was warning them against buying leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
22 26. The Blind Man in Eastern Bethsaida
22. Bethsaida ] i. e. Bethsaida Julias , which lay upon the northeastern coast of the Sea of Tiberias.
23. he took the blind man ] Even as He did with the other sufferer, whose case came before us in Mark 7:33 . As then, so now, the Lord was pleased to work gradually and with external signs: (i) He leads the man out of the town; (ii) anoints his eyes with the moisture of His mouth; (iii) lays His hands upon him twice (Mark 8:23 , Mark 8:25 ); (iv) inquires of the progress of his restoration.
24. as trees, walking ] He had not been born blind. He remembered the appearance of natural objects, and in the haze of his brightening vision he saw certain moving forms about him, “trees he should have accounted them from their height, but men from their motion.”
25. saw every man clearly ] or rather, began to see all things clearly , “So that he syy clerely alle thingis,” Wyclif. The word translated “clearly” literally = “far-shining,” “far-beaming.” The man meant that he could now see clearly far and near . This is one of the few instances of a strictly progressive cure recorded in the Gospels. “His friends asked that He would touch him. To this demand for an instant act followed by an instant cure, the Lord opposed His own slow and circumstantial method of procedure.” Lange. Comp. the cure of Naaman, 2 Kings 5:10 , 2 Kings 5:11 , 2 Kings 5:14 .
26. to his house ] Bethsaida, therefore, was not the place of his residence; he was to go immediately from the place to his own home not even to the village to which he had already come, and he was not to mention it to any one dwelling in that village, or whom he might meet by the way.
27 9:1 . Cæsarea Philippi. The Confession of St Peter
27. And Jesus went out ] The Redeemer and His Apostles now set out in a northerly direction, and travelled some 25 or 30 miles along the eastern banks of the Jordan and beyond the waters of Merom, seeking the deepest solitude among the mountains, for an important crisis in His Life was at hand. The solitude of the beautiful district, whither the Saviour now journeyed, is illustrated by the fact that it is the only district of Palestine where a recent traveller found the pelican of the wilderness (Psalms 102:6 ). See Thomson’s Land and the Book , pp. 260, 261; Caspari’s Introduction , p. 163, n.
into the towns ] The little company at length reached the “ villages ,” as it is literally, or the “ parts ” or “ regions ” (Matthew 16:13 ) of the remote city of Cæsarea Philippi, near which it is possible He may have passed in His circuit from Sidon a very few weeks before. See above, 7:24, n., Bishop Ellicott’s Lectures , p. 225.
Cæsarea Philippi ] “Sezarie of Philip” (Wyclif) lay on the north-east of the reedy and marshy plain of El Huleh , close to Dan, the extreme north of the boundaries of ancient Israel, (i) Its earliest name according to some was Baal-Gad (Joshua 11:17 , Joshua 12:7 , Joshua 13:5 ) or Baal-Hermon (Judges 3:3 ; 1 Chronicles 5:23 ), when it was a Phœnician or Canaanite sanctuary of Baal under the aspect of “Gad,” or the god of good fortune, (ii) In later times it was known as Panium or Paneas , a name which it derived from a cavern near the town, “abrupt, prodigiously deep, and full of still water,” adopted by the Greeks of the Macedonian kingdom of Antioch, as the nearest likeness that Syria afforded of the beautiful limestone grottoes, which in their own country were inseparably associated with the worship of the sylvan Pan , and dedicated to that deity. Hence its modern appellation Baneas . (iii) The town retained this name under Herod the Great, who built here a splendid temple, of the whitest marble, which he dedicated to Augustus Cæsar, (iv) It afterwards became part of the territory of Herod Philip, tetrarch of Trachonitis, who enlarged and embellished it, and called it Cæsarea Philippi , partly after his own name, and partly after that of the Emperor Tiberius. Jos. Ant . xv. 10. 3; Bel. Jud . i 21. 3. It was called Cæsarea Philippi to distinguish it from Cæsarea Palestinæ , or Cæsarea “ on the sea .” Dean Stanley calls it a Syrian Tivoli, and “certainly there is much in the rocks, caverns, cascades, and the natural beauty of the scenery to recall the Roman Tibur. Behind the village, in front of a great natural cavern, a river bursts forth from the earth, the ‘upper source’ of the Jordan. Inscriptions and niches in the face of the cliffs tell of the old idol worship of Baal and of Pan.” Tristram, Land of Israel , p. 581.
he asked his disciples ] It was in this desert region that the Apostles on one occasion found Him engaged in solitary prayer (Luke 9:18 ), a significant action which had preceded several important events in His life, as ( a ) the Baptism, ( b ) the election of the Twelve, and ( c ) the discourse in the synagogue of Capernaum. It was now the precursor of a solemn and momentous question. Hitherto He is not recorded to have asked the Twelve any question respecting Himself, and He would seem to have forborne to press His Apostles for an explicit avowal of faith in His full Divinity. But on this occasion He wished to ascertain from them, the special witnesses as they had been of His life and daily words, the results of those labours, which were now drawing in one sense to a close, before He went on to communicate to them other and more painful truths.
28. they answered ] In this answer we have the explanation, which common rumour, in His own days, offered of His marvellous works. (1) Some, like the guilty Herod, said He was John the Baptist risen from the dead; (2) others that He was Elijah, who, like Enoch, had never died, but was taken up bodily to heaven and had now returned as Malachi predicted (4:5); (3) others that He was Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14 ), who was expected to inaugurate the reign of the Messiah; (4) others again that He was one of the “old prophets” (Luke 9:19 ). But they did not add that any regarded Him as the Messiah.
29. Thou art the Christ ] To the momentous question, But whom say ye that I am? St Peter, as the ready spokesman of the rest of the Apostles, made the ever-memorable reply, Thou art the Christ, the Messiah (Matthew 16:16 ; Luke 9:20 ), the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16 ), but in the Gospel written under his eye the great announcement respecting his own memorable confession and the promise of peculiar dignity in the Church the Lord was about to establish, find no place.
31. And he began to teach them ] The question and the answer it called forth were alike preparatory to strange and mournful tidings, which He now began to reveal distinctly to the Apostles respecting Himself, for clear and full before His eyes was the whole history of His coming sufferings, the agents through whom they would be brought about, the form they would take, the place where He would undergo them, and their issue, a mysterious resurrection after three days.
32. openly ] i. e. not publicly, but “ plainly ” (“ pleinli ,” Wyclif) and “ without disguise ” Comp. John 11:14 , “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” Before this there had been intimations of the End, but then they had been dark and enigmatical. ( a ) The Baptist had twice pointed Him out as the Lamb of God destined to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29 ). ( b ) At the first Passover of His public ministry He Himself had spoken to the Jews of a Temple to be destroyed and rebuilt in three days (John 2:19 ), and to Nicodemus of a lifting up of the Son of Man, even as Moses had lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:12-16 ); ( c ) He had intimated moreover to the Apostles that a day would come when the Bridegroom should be taken from them (Matthew 9:15 ), and ( d ) in the synagogue at Capernaum He had declared that He was about to give His flesh for the Life of the world (John 6:47-51 ). Now for the first time He dwelt on His awful Future distinctly, and with complete freedom of speech.
And Peter ] The selfsame Peter, who a moment before had witnessed so noble and outspoken a confession to his Lord’s Divinity.
took him ] i. e. took Him aside (and so Tyndale and Cranmer render it), by the hand or by the robe, and began earnestly and lovingly to remonstrate with Him. The idea of a suffering Messiah was abhorrent to him and to all the Twelve.
33. when he had turned about and looked on his disciples ] Observe the graphic touches of St Mark. The Apostle who had restrained the Evangelist from preserving the record of that which redounded to his highest honour, suppresses the record neither of his own mistaken zeal, nor of the terrible rebuke it called forth.
Get thee behind me ] The very words which He had used to the Tempter in the wilderness (Matthew 4:10 ), for in truth the Apostle was adopting the very argument which the great Enemy had adopted there.
thou savourest not ] Thou art thinking of , thy thoughts centre on. This rendering of the Greek word for “ to think ” is suggested by the Latin sapere , which is found in the Vulgate and retained from Wyclif’s Version. It is derived directly from the substantive savour , Fr. saveur , Lat. sapor , from sapere . Thus Latimer quoting 1 Corinthians 13:11 writes, “When I was a child I savoured as a child.” “In confusion of them that so saveren earthely thinges.” Chaucer, Parson’s Tale . “Thy words shew,” our Lord would say to the Apostle, “that in these things thou enterest not into the thoughts and plans of God, but considerest all things only from the ideas of men. This attempt of thine to dissuade Me from My ‘baptism of death’ is a sin against the purposes of God.”
34. he had called ] Even in these lonely regions considerable numbers would seem to have followed Him, apparently at some little distance. These He now called to Him , and addressed to them, as well as to His Apostles, some of His deepest teaching, making them sharers in this part of His instruction.
will ] i. e. whosoever is resolved . “Will” here is not the will simply of the future tense, but the will of real desire and resolution . Comp. John 7:17 , if any man will do His will (i. e. is resolved at all costs to do it ), he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God .
take up his cross ] The first intimation of His own suffering upon the cross.
35. shall lose it ] This solemn saying our Lord is found to have uttered on no less than four several occasions: ( a ) here, which corresponds with Matthew 16:25 , Luke 9:24 ; ( b ) Matthew 10:39 ; ( c ) Luke 17:33 ; ( d ) John 12:25 .
37. in exchange ] i. e. to purchase back . By soul here is meant “life” in the higher sense. The “price” which the earthly-minded man gives for the world is his soul. But after having laid that down as the price, what has he for a “ransom-price,” to purchase it again? The LXX. use the original word in Ruth 4:7 ; Jeremiah 15:13 .
38. adulterous ] The generation is called “adulterous,” because its heart was estranged from God. Comp. Jeremiah 31:32 ; Isaiah 54:5 .
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the Fourth Week after Epiphany