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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Mark 5

Verse 1

(1) The country of the Gadarenes.—The better MSS. give “Gerasenes,” some “Gergesenes.”

Verses 1-20


(1-20) See Notes on Matthew 8:28-34.

Verse 2

(2) A man with an unclean spirit.—The phrase. though not peculiar to St. Mark, is often used by him where the other Gospels have “possessed with demons, or devils.” St. Mark and St. Luke, it will be noticed, speak of one only; St. Matthew of two.

Verse 3

(3) No man could bind him.—The better MSS. give, “no man could any longer bind him.” The attempt had been so often made and baffled that it had been given up in despair.

Verse 4

(4) Bound with fetters and chains.—These were not necessarily of metal. The two processes of snapping the latter by one convulsive movement and wearing away (not “breaking”) the latter by friction, rather suggests the idea of ropes, or cords, as in the case of Samson (Judges 15:13). In Psalms 149:8 the “chains” seem distinguished from the “links of iron.” The vivid fulness of the whole description is eminently characteristic of St. Mark’s style.

Verse 5

(5) Cutting himself with stones.—This feature, again, is given only by St. Mark.

Verse 6

(6) He ran and worshipped him.—The precise attitude would be that of one who not only knelt but touched the ground with his forehead in token of his suppliant reverence.

Verse 7

(7) Thou Son of the most high God.—This is the first occurrence of the name in the New Testament, and is therefore a fit place for a few words as to its history. As a divine name “the Most High God” belonged to the earliest stage of the patriarchal worship of the one Supreme Deity. Melchizedek appears as the priest of “the Most High God” (Genesis 14:18). It is used by Balaam as the prophet of the wider Semitic monotheism (Numbers 24:16), by Moses in the great psalm of Deuteronomy 32:8. In the Prophets and the Psalms it mingles with the other names of God (Isaiah 14:14; Lamentations 3:35; Daniel 4:17; Daniel 4:24; Daniel 4:32; Daniel 4:34; Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:22; Daniel 7:25; Psalms 7:17; Psalms 9:2; Psalms 18:13; Psalms 46:4, and elsewhere). In many of these passages it will be seen that it was used where there was some point of contact in fact or feeling with nations which, though acknowledging one Supreme God, were not of the stock of Abraham. The old Hebrew word (Elion) found a ready equivalent in the Greek ὕψιστος (hypsistos), which had already been used by Pindar as a divine name. That word accordingly appeared frequently in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and came into frequent use among Hellenistic or Greek-speaking Jews, occurring, e.g., not less than forty times in the book Ecclesiasticus. It was one of the words which, in later as in earlier times, helped to place the Gentile and the Jew on a common ground. As such, it seems, among other uses, to have been frequently used as a formula of exorcism; and this, perhaps, accounts for its being met with here and in Luke 8:28, Acts 16:17, as coming from the lips of demoniacs. It was the name of God which had most often been sounded in their ears.

I adjure thee.—The verb is that from which comes our word “exorcise.” The phrase is peculiar to St. Mark, and confirms the notion that the demoniac repeated language which he had often heard. He, too, seeks in some sense to “exorcise,” though it is in the language not of command, but entreaty.

Verse 8

(8) For he said unto him.—The Greek verb is in the imperfect tense, he was saying, as though the demoniac had interrupted our Lord even while the words were in the act of being uttered.

Thou unclean spirit.—It is noticeable that our Lord first speaks as if the men were oppressed by a single demon only, and that it is in the answer of the man himself that we learn that their name was Legion. (On the man’s use of the word “Legion,” see Note on Matthew 8:29.)

Verse 10

(10) He besought him much that he would not send them.—The words are singularly significant of the state of the demoniac as half-conscious of his own personal being, and half-identifying himself with the disturbing demoniac forces which were tormenting him, and yet in so doing were leading him to look on the great Healer as his tormentor.

Verse 13

(13) They were about two thousand.—The number, which is peculiar to St. Mark, may be noted as another instance of his graphic accuracy in detail.

Verse 15

(15) And had the legion.—This special form of the antithesis between the man’s past and present state is given by St. Mark only.

Verse 19

(19) The Lord hath done for thee.—Coming from our Lord’s lips, and having “God” as its equivalent in Luke 8:39, the word “Lord” must be taken in its Old Testament sense, as referring, not to the Lord Jesus, but to the Father.

Verse 20

(20) Decapolis.—On the import of the name and the extent of the district so called, see Note on Matthew 4:25.

Verses 22-43

(22-43) And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers.—See Notes on Matthew 9:18-25, where the narrative is found in a different connection as coming immediately after the feast in St. Matthew’s house, which St. Mark has given in Mark 2:14-18.

Jairus.—The name is given by St. Mark and St. Luke only. It was a Græcised form of the Jair of Judges 10:3, Numbers 32:41. It meets us in the Apocryphal portion of Esther (xi. 2) as the name of the father of Mardocheus, or Mordecai.

Verse 23

(23) Lieth at the point of death.—Literally, is at the last point; in extremis.

Verse 26

(26) Was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.—The fact is the same as in St. Luke 8:43, who, however, does not mention that she grew worse, but it is, as usual, expressed more graphically.

Verse 29

(29) She felt in her body.—Another graphic and therefore characteristic touch, giving not only the fact, but the woman’s consciousness of it.

Verse 30

(30) That virtue had gone out of him.—Literally, knowing fully in Himself the virtue that had gone out of Him. The word “virtue” is used in the old medical sense, the power or force which brings about a certain definite result. So men spoke of the soporific “virtue” of this or that drug. And the term is used here, not less than in Luke 5:17, with a like technical precision, for the supernatural power that, as it were, flowed out at the touch of faith.

Verse 32

(32) He looked round about.—The tense of the Greek verb implies a continued looking.

Verse 33

(33) The woman fearing and trembling.—The whole description is fuller than that in St. Matthew.

Verse 34

(34) Go in peace.—The phrase has become so idiomatic that we dare not change it, but it may be well to remember that the true meaning of the Greek is “Go into peace.”

Verse 35

(35) Why troublest thou.—The primary meaning of the verb is “to strip or flay.” (See Note on Matthew 9:36.)

The Master.—Strictly, as almost always, the Teacher.

Verse 38

(38) Wailed greatly.—The word used is the same as that in 1 Corinthians 13:1, in connection with the “tinkling” (or better, clanging) sound of a cymbal, and, formed as it is from an interjection, alala, is applied to the inarticulate cries either of despair or victory.

Verse 40

(40) They laughed him to scorn.—Here again the verb implies continuous action.

Verse 41

(41) Talitha cumi.—Here, as in the Ephphatha of Mark 7:34, the Evangelist gives the very syllables which had fallen from the lips of the Healer, and been proved to be words of power. It would probably be too wide an inference to assume from this that our Lord commonly spoke to His disciples and others in Greek, but we know that that language was then current throughout Palestine, and the stress laid on the Aramaic words in these instances, as in the Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani on the cross, shows that they attracted a special notice.

Verse 42

(42) She was of the age of twelve years.—St. Mark gives the age at the end of the narrative, St. Luke at the beginning, St. Matthew not at all; a proof of a certain measure of independence in dealing with the materials upon which the three narratives were severally founded.

Verse 43

(43) That something should be given her to eat.—This, again, is common to St. Mark and St. Luke, but is not given by St. Matthew. It suggests the thought that the fuller report must have come from one who had been present in the chamber where the miracle was wrought.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Mark 5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.