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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

John 9

Parallel with the three manifestations of glory in Galilee, John reports three manifestations in Judea. That which now lies before us takes the second place among them, the first having been narrated in ch. 5. The third is the resurrection of Lazarus. Each of these manifestations represents an entire class: the first, the χωλοὶ? περιπατοῦ?σι (the lame walk); the second, the τυφλοὶ? ἀ?ναβλέπουσι (the blind see); the third, the νεκροὶ? ἐ?γείρονται , (the dead are raised up), of Matthew 11:5; and there is a progress discernible from the lower to the higher.

The section opens with the narrative of the fact itself, the miraculous healing of the man that had been born blind, in ch. John 9:1-7. Then follows, vers. 8-34, the record of the plots to which this fact gave rise among the Jews. The design of the Evangelist, in his elaborate development of all their schemes, was to show how by their means the fact itself was placed beyond all doubt or suspicion, and how the enemies of Christ were obliged, by their very efforts to obscure His glory, to set that glory in a still more glorious light. To the physical healing of the man born blind, there is appended in ch. John 9:35-37 his spiritual healing; viz. his being quickened into faith by means of Christ, πτωχοὶ? εὐ?αγγελίζονται , Matthew 11:5. A challenging utterance of Christ concerning this spiritual healing excited a conflict between Him and the Pharisees; a conflict which first was concerned with spiritual blindness, vers. 40, 41, and then gave Christ occasion to develop His whole relation with the Pharisees, as it was illustrated by the great fact before them, ch. John 10:1-18. Then follows, finally, a record of the division which arose among the Jews in consequence of this saying of Christ, and of the fruit which His great miracle bore on one portion of the multitude, vers. 19-21. The section is declared to be one whole, complete in itself, by the fact that its last words, ch. John 10:21, refer to the healing of the blind, with which it began; so that the end of it returns back into its beginning.

That John did not record this miracle merely because of the discourses connected with it, but that rather it had an independent interest of its own in his eye (comp. on ch. John 6:1), is abundantly proved by the minute particularity with which he has communicated the dealings of the Jews in relation to it. In this he could have had no other aim than to place the miraculous fact beyond all doubt. His object was not “to delineate the growing hatred of the enemies of Jesus;” this is manifest from ch. 9:31-12. Those who there first began the investigation are not to be classed amongst the “enemies of Jesus.” The whole record teaches us that the reason why John does not give so many detailed miraculous narratives as his three predecessors, was not that he attached a less importance to them,—a notion in itself inconceivable, when we remember that in none of the Gospels does Christ so expressly and repeatedly appeal to His miracles as in John’s,—but rather because he found that the three earlier Evangelists had abundantly provided for the preservation of the miracles. It was not his purpose to render them superfluous, but only to supplement them. But the series of detailed miraculous narratives which he also gives, serve as representatives of their kinds, and direct us to look in the first Evangelists for their completion.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. “And as Jesus passed by. He saw a man which was blind from his birth.”— Παράγειν may mean either going farther or passing by. According to the first acceptation, the event about to be recorded is closely connected with the occurrence of the former section; according to the second, its chronological relation is left undefined. We decide in favour of the latter. Παράγειν , with the signification of going farther, occurs elsewhere only in combination with ἐ?κεῖ?θεν , Matthew 9:9; Matthew 9:27. This addition intimated, what otherwise the word would not have said, that it must not be taken in the usual sense of passing by: comp. Luke 18:37, where, instead of ὅ?τι Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς παράγε , in Matthew 20:30, stands ὅ?τι Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς ὁ? παρέρχεται . If we take παράγειν in the signification of going farther, then two great conflicts with the Pharisees follow in direct succession. The Evangelist describes in ch. John 8:1 to John 10:21 what took place during the whole interval between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication. John selects and makes prominent three scenes belonging to this period, in which the glory of Jesus was manifested, which were of special significance in regard to His relations with the Jews, and on occasion of which He uttered sayings of most comprehensive importance for His Church: the first in ch. John 8:12-29; the second in ch. John 8:31-59; and the third in our present section. It is not probable that the second and the third of these scenes bordered so closely on each other, without any resting-point between them. There is no force in the objection, that παράγειν must be a superfluous word, if it bears the meaning of passing by. It points to the fact, that Jesus did not seek an opportunity for the miracle, but that it presented itself to Him unsought. Nor must the and be pressed into the service of a close connection with what precedes. It is enough to refer to the junction by and between the body of the Gospel and the prologue, ch. John 1:19. The and only establishes generally the internal relation between the fact recorded in this section and the fact recorded in the preceding. Matthew 4:18 is very similar to this transition: περιπατῶ?ν δὲ? παρὰ? τὴ?ν θάλασσαν τῆ?ς Γαλιλαίας εἶ?δε δύο ἀ?δελφούς . And, as there we must explain, when Jesus once was walking, so here also; and in the same period between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication, Jesus passing by saw the blind man, as in ver. 8, described as a beggar. He probably sat in the spot where beggars were accustomed to resort—the neighbourhood of the Temple. That he had been born blind, was doubtless a notorious fact. He, a well-known person, might have perpetually announced it himself, in order to excite compassion amongst those who passed by.

That Jesus saw the blind man, was made known probably by His looking at him; for, otherwise, the seeing would not be a known fact. He looked at him with a loving and significant glance; and by that means the attention of the disciples was directed to him.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. “And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

It is an undeniable fact, that severe sicknesses are not seldom the consequences of great sins. Experience testifies it; and in the threatenings of God’s law against daring transgressors, sicknesses are expressly mentioned amongst many other evils: Deuteronomy 28:22; Leviticus 26:16. This is the basis of fact for the widely extended notion that all severe sicknesses, and generally all heavy afflictions, are the result of special and extraordinary transgressions. This current and popular opinion—which cannot but mislead to uncharitable judgment upon the sufferer, and Pharisaic self-complacency—we find the Pharisees arguing from as a settled axiom, ver. 34. In the book of Job it is represented by a trio of persons, in age and rank the chief figures round Job; whilst behind them the youthful Elihu, the representative of a new development of wisdom, introduces a better interpretation of evil. This book condemned that notion for ever; but it is not given to every man to penetrate its meaning and spirit; and thus the fallacy which it contends against has ever anew sprung up. It commends itself to low and common spirits by its simplicity and palpableness; it has the advantage of rendering it unnecessary to weep with those that weep; it saves a man from the obligation, when he looks at heavy affliction, of smiting on his breast and saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner; “it gives the natural man the comfortable feeling that he is so much better than the sufferer, as he is more fortunate. The disciples themselves could not disentangle themselves from this notion, to which they here give expression, just as Acts 28:4 represents the current view in the heathen world. Yet their question here shows that the feeling of its unsoundness was stirring in their minds.

The disciples did not ask about sin generally, but about that sin in particular which, in its nature, would draw after it such and so fearful a punishment. Jesus was expected not only to say who had sinned, but also, when He had decided for the one or the other, to solve those apparently insuperable difficulties which the solution itself would encounter. Probably they were not without a secret presentiment that there was a third solution; but as yet they speak only after the current notion. That third explanation of the problem could not be entertained without impeaching the Divine righteousness; and the piety of the disciples was too living and pure to allow them to admire the thought of “a simply natural side of evil,”—a hypothesis which would place nature by the side of God as a second and independent power. Yet the first and second explanations were surrounded by many and great difficulties. The man born blind could not himself be chargeable as the cause of his own misery; for if he had been born in sin and shapen in iniquity, yet this was common to all mankind, and could not justify a punishment so enormous in his case, and so far exceeding the ordinary limits of mortal punishment. Nor was the sin of his parents sufficient to account for so great a calamity. It is the all-pervading doctrine of Scripture, that no man is punished unless himself guilty; and that only ungodly sons are involved in the doom of their parents. (Comp. Beiträge, Th. 3, s. 545.) Where there is a notorious transmission of bodily evil from parents to children, that transmission must be looked at from a quite different point of view: it must not be regarded as the punishment of guiltless children for the sin of their parents. The saying of Exodus 20:5, “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children,” is falsely interpreted when it is made to declare the punishment of innocent children on account of their parents guilt. There, children are spoken of who are like their parents. Onkelos was right in adding, quando pergunt filii in peccando pone parentes. There are two great classes exhibited: that of the ungodly, in whom the curse works onwards; and that of the pious, in whom the blessing works inwards. But this man born blind was generally known to be one who feared God. It is said in Deuteronomy 24:16, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” It is true that this passage treats primarily of the rule which the Jewish magistracy were to observe, and not of the rule which God observes. But if Exodus 20:5 is made to refer to a common suffering of even guiltless sons, then the ministers of God would be obliged, in executing vengeance upon evil-doers, to include the children in the punishment. But, on the other hand, if Exodus 20:5 refers only to those sons who are connected with their fathers in the fellowship of guilt, then there must be a distinction between the heavenly and the earthly judge, and the latter must not involve the sons in the punishment of their fathers. For God alone is the “Trier of the hearts and reins;” God alone knoweth with certainty whether or not the root of sin is thriving in the children. After all that has been said, in the background of the disciples minds the question rose, And if neither of these sinned, how is the problem to be solved?

Verse 3

Ver. 3. “Jesus answered. Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but (he was born blind) that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

The question here was obviously concerning such a sin as was the direct cause of this suffering. Augustin: Si ergo et parentes ejus habuerunt peccatum et iste habuit peccatum, quare dominus dixit: neque hie peccavit neque parentes ejus, nisi ad rem, de qua interrogatus erat, ut caecus nasceretur? Sinfulness is the general lot of mankind. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one,” is the language of Job 14:4. All suffering presupposes this common sin. It is not enough (with Anton) to refer to the “supreme dominion of God, who has power to use any man for any end of His own, being the absolute ruler; and therefore every creature is bound to yield himself up to that absolute rulers end.” An absolutely holy being could not possibly be elected to this end, that the works of God might be manifested in him. The Theodicée in relation to sufferings rests upon this, that all suffering must be first of all regarded as punishment, although we must not limit ourselves to this one-sided view alone. The Lord Himself declares, ch. John 5:14, Luke 5:20, that all sickness in particular stands in a direct connection with sin. All sicknesses are punishments of sin, our Lord teaches in ch. John 5:14. The Old Testament teaches us, and so does experience, that many severe sicknesses are the punishment of heavy sins. What is here taught is, that severe sicknesses and trials are not necessarily the results of specific transgression; so that we cannot absolutely and unconditionally argue from the calamity to the guilt. Man by his sinfulness has deserved every affliction; but in the distribution of sufferings other motives are in operation than the Divine retributive justice. Oftentimes those who are relatively the best, are visited with the severest dispensations of trial; so that the conclusion from the specific suffering to the specific guilt is always unjustifiable.

The works of God in ver. 4 are not the works “which God has commanded,” but the works which God doeth. According to Genesis 1:2-3, Psalms 104:24, the expression must be pre-eminently referred to the works of creation. These works of God, which were once displayed in the creation, and are still going on in the preservation of all things, are here to become manifest anew: the whole body of those works are to be exhibited in this one particular example of miraculous healing. The man born blind could be cured only by a repetition of the creating energy of God. And parallel with this reference to the creating works of God, there follows the reference to Genesis 2:7 in ver. 6. The works of God are also works of Christ. The intimate and perfect connection between the Creator and the Redeemer is exhibited in ch. John 1:3 and John 8:25, according to which Christ was the agent also in the creation of the world. God’s works were to be exhibited not only in the bodily healing of the blind man, but also in the spiritual healing that followed. The former paved the way for the latter in the Divine purpose: comp. ver. 39. It was the spiritual cure that first shed the true light upon the infliction of bodily blindness. If the man born blind had not been tried with this calamity, he would probably not have been one of the “not seeing” in ver. 39; he would have been involved in the mazes of Pharisaic misconception, and might have been brought by Christ’s appearance not to sight, but to deeper blindness. Thus the punishment inflicted upon him, born in sin, by the Divine righteousness, was at the same time the greatest blessing, and the highest manifestation of the love of his God. It made it easier for him to abide in his simplicity, and to become a “babe,” the necessary condition of participation with Christ.

Verses 4-5

Vers. 4, 5. “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Our Lord, while He prepared Himself to manifest the works of God in the blind man, and to approve on him the same power which once said, “Let there be light, and there was light,” refers here to the motive which dictated His act, and by the same saying gives His disciples an exhortation to redeem, with all diligence and all zeal, the time appointed for their own earthly labours. In ver. 4 there is an undeniable allusion to Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” “The duty of doing all that it is in any way possible to do, is based, in the second part of the verse, on the consideration that what is here left undone never is done; that the tasks appointed by God for this life, which are here unaccomplished, remain unaccomplished; and that the gifts and powers lent for this life should be used in this life” (Comm. on Ecclesiastes, p. 216, Clark’s Transl.) The “work” stands first in this original passage. Its applicability, even to Christ Himself, appears obvious, when we observe that He, when He says, “I must work,” has His own personality in view, and speaks of Himself in His actual life. What Christ did not do of the work of His earthly life, of His duty as the Redeemer, manifested in the form of a servant, and made in all things like unto us, could not afterwards be repaired. The night here corresponds in the original to Sheol. Accordingly, it appears to be no other than the night of death, towards which Christ was travelling with hasty steps. In harmony with this, the day would be the time of His stay upon earth. This also is confirmed by ver. 5, according to which the day is the time during which Jesus was in the world. Because the day is destined for labour,—comp, Psalms 104:22-23, “The sun ariseth; . . . Man goeth forth unto his work, and to his labour, until the evening,”—it is appropriate as marking the time for earthly work and business. But our present passage must not be viewed apart from ch. John 11:9-10, where the day is the time of happiness and unhindered work, and the night is the time of passion and suffering. And here also, therefore, we must take a broader view of the night; not making it begin with the moment of death, but with the entrance of the season of suffering, which ended all active work; when the vocation is no longer to do, but to suffer, the will of God. This also better accords with other passages of John, in which the night occurs with a symbolical signification: comp. on ch. John 11:9-10. The hortatory tendency of the words is evident from the reference to the original passage in Ecclesiastes. (Bengel: Johannes saepe describit Christum de rebus suis ita loquentem indefinite, uti convenit in quemvis pium in talibus rebus, c. John 11:9, John 12:24-25.) This shows that nothing is spoken of here that is specifically peculiar to Christ. Instead of ἐ?μέ , many MSS. read ἡ?μᾶ?ς . This reading is not sufficiently supported; but it arose from the correct view, that underneath what Jesus said concerning Himself there was latent an exhortation to the Apostles. On the other hand, some have referred the words only to the disciples, misled by the difficulty which the saying presents when applied to Christ, and forgetting that He is here speaking in His proper and peculiar character as manifested in the form of a servant. This must be kept in view also in ver. 5. Christ, who is with His own always unto the end of the world, who reveals Himself to them, and dwells within them, is, even after His glorification, the light of the world. But that does not come here into consideration. Our text speaks only of the Christ who was found in the form of a man. Ὅ?ταν , in the sense of “during the time when.” The light is healing and salvation: comp. on ch. John 8:12. And it was here peculiarly appropriate, inasmuch as in the case which gave occasion to this general utterance, misery appeared in the form of blindness, both bodily and spiritual, ver. 39. The practical conclusion was, “And therefore I may not be weary of sending forth the beams of My light.” In these words, too, there is an analogous joint reference to the servants of Christ: this is evident from “Ye are the light of the world,” in Matthew 5:14. That itself contained the strongest injunction to let their light shine so long as they were in the world.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. “When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle: He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.”

The blind man, doubtless, knew that it was Jesus with whom he had to do, and that this Jesus had already miraculously healed many, else he would not have suffered the clay to be put on his eyes, or have followed the direction to go to the pool of Siloam, without uttering some objection like that which Naaman, 2 Kings 5:11, expressed under similar circumstances. In ver. 11 he answers the question, How were thine eyes opened? by saying, that a man called Jesus had made clay, etc. Doubtless the bystanders were very diligent in setting him right. The spitting occurs elsewhere in connection with other healing acts of Jesus, Mark 7:33; Mark 8:23. It signified, just like the touching of Matthew 20:34, and the placing the finger in the ear, Mark 7:33, the going forth of healing power from the person of the Lord. That it was not the real conductor of this power, but must be understood symbolically, is plain, from the fact that it was not always applied; for example, not in the case of the blind men at Jericho, Matthew 20:29; Mark 10:46. But this present instance differs from all others in which the spittle occurs. Christ does not spit upon the eye of the blind man, but upon the earth, thus preparing a clay for His purpose. There must have been a special reason for this; and we are the rather led to regard this as a symbolical act, because the second circumstance, the sending to the pool of Siloam, bears so evidently a symbolical character. Genesis 2:7 gives us the key: “And the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” The allusion to that passage pointed out the great fact, that the creating work of God (ver. 3) was here renewed; and that the same creating energy which first called man into being, was manifested in this healing act. In the present case, the spitting—which has this in common with the spitting in the other cases, that it was the symbolical conductor of the quickening power of the Healer—corresponds to the in-breathing of the breath of life at the creation. As by means of this the dust became a living being, so by means of the spittle the dust received a healing and quickening power.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. “And said unto him. Go wash in the pool of Siloam (which is, by interpretation. Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.”

The blind man did not obtain his sight until he had first washed in the pool of Siloam. There would doubtless be many friendly people among the bystanders who would be glad to guide him thither. But as the pool was in the immediate neighbourhood—the beggar sat probably near the Temple, comp. Acts 3:2—and in the way which he had daily to take, he might indeed have gone thither alone. Strictly translated, it runs, “Go, wash into the pool of Siloam;” and the reason is plain enough, as whatever was washed away entered the pool. And it is not without purpose that the expression is “pool of Siloam.” The name Siloam properly belonged only to the spring, the present Fountain of Mary, “whose waters flowed through a subterranean canal, circuitous, and 1750 feet long, into the brook of Siloam “(von Raumer). We read in Nehemiah 3:15 of the pool of Siloah, שלח ; and חשלח in that passage corresponds to the preceding חעין . That the name Siloam was originally appropriated only to the spring, is made abundantly plain by many passages of Josephus. In Book i. 4, 1, of the work on the Jewish War, he says: καθήκει μέχρι Σιλωάμ· οὕ?τω γὰ?ρ τὴ?ν πηγὴ?ν γλυκεῖ?αν τε καὶ? πολλήν οὖ?σαν ἐ?καλοῦ?μεν ; and in ch. ii, καὶ? ἔ?πειτα πρὸ?ς νότον ὑ?πὲ?ρ τὴ?ν Σιλωὰ?μ ἐ?πιστρέφον πηγήν . The fountain of Siloam is referred to alone twice in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 8:6 and Nehemiah 3:15. It is of great importance to the understanding of our present passage, that the signification of the name should be held fast. It may be, so far as its form is concerned, either a passive formation from Piel, the reduplication of the second letter of the root being omitted (Ewald, § 156, h), or, which is better (Ewald, § 155, d), an adjectival form like יִ?לּ?וֹ?ד , born, שִ?ׁ?כּ?וֹ?ר , drunken, “not as a simple participle, but as an independent adjective further modified.” They are “words which give the idea of an internally fixed and abiding characteristic or property; and thus they are primarily a strengthened form of the simple participles and adjectives.” The participle Pahul שָ?ׁ?לווּ?חַ? denotes one who is on an occasion sent; שִ?ׁ?לווֹ?חַ? , on the other hand, a missionary, one whose mission is permanent. Accordingly, the spring did not derive its name from its sending out water; but the passive signification decides the form. And שלח , too, which is used in Nehemiah 3:15 instead of שלוח , has a passive signification—that generally of a projectile weapon, missile. The notion of Rodiger, that the word signified emissio aquae, aquaeductus, rests upon the theory, already shown to be wrong, that the name properly belonged to the canal or the pool. The sent required a sender. If the stream of water was called Sent, the fountain must have been the Sender; as we read in Ezekiel 31:4 of the Nile, “and sent out her little rivers (conduits) unto all the trees of the field.” But if, as we have shown, the name originally was appropriated to the spring, then there must be in the background a sender independent of the water. To understand this Sender, with Ewald, as an indefinite Christ, “sent forth, flowing freely, streaming abundantly,” would be appropriate enough if we found ourselves in the domain of idolatry, which makes God’s of all things, and not in the domain of living faith in a personal God. To us the Sender can be no other than He who generally “sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills,” Psalms 104:10, where we have simply a commentary on the name Siloam, just as we also have in Psalms 18:17, “He sent from above.” And thus viewed, the name Silchim, which we find in Joshua 15:32 with Ajin (comp. on ch. John 11:23), stands in connection with Siloam. In the dry and parched south country, the springs were pre-eminently regarded as messengers of God. This one was, according to Josephus, sweet, and flowed abundantly; he further seems to intimate that this last property gave it its name. Isaiah, ch. John 8:6, recognises in it, and in the power of blessing which was concealed under its insignificance, a figure of the kingdom of God in Israel; whilst, in opposition to its soft flow, the “waters of the river, strong and many,” were a figure of the kingdom of this world. The very remarkable fluctuations which befell the fountain must ever have turned attention towards its supernatural origin and design. Ritter, in the Erdkunde, xvi. 447, says, “The Itinerarium Burdig. in the year 333 mentions this spring, which flowed through six days and six nights, but on the Sabbath neither by day nor night. (Hence Pliny, H. N. xxxi. 18: In Judaea rivus Sabbatis omnibus siccatur.) Jerome is more definite on Isaiah 8:6. The fountain Siloam lies at the foot of Mount Zion; and its waters do not flow regularly, but only on certain days and hours: then, however. with great tumult, rushing out of hidden caves and holes in the most hidden rocks.” The sudden rise and fall of water in the Mary Fountain, of which William of Tyre says, “interpolatum habens fluctum” (comp. on these fluctuations the remarks upon ch. John 5:2; Ritter, p. 456), is even to the present day a mystery; Robinson, 11:158. Josephus alludes to the abundant flow of the fountain Siloam, at the time of the siege of Titus, as a miracle, τέρας ; de Bell. Jud. v. 9, 4. “On the ground of these phenomena the Mohammedans attached great value to the brook Siloam: they joined it with Zemzem, and made these two the fountains of paradise:” Ritter, p. 450. It has been also observed upon ch. John 5:2, that many attributed the perturbations of the waters to a dragon concealed within. What is there said concerning the angel who moved the water, is in harmony with the name of Sent.

This explanation of the name of the fountain of Siloam furnishes us the key to the fact of our Lord’s having sent the blind man to the pool which was formed out of that fountain. That humble messenger, with its beneficent power spreading around, in Isaiah a symbol of the kingdom of God, was a type of the supreme Divine Messenger; and it is to be observed in relation to this, that it is in John that Christ is described continually as the Sent of God. (Grotius: Christus ubique se vocat missum a patre, c. John 3:17; John 3:34; John 5:36; John 5:38, et alibi passim, unde et ἀ?πόστολος dicitur, Hebrews 3:1.) As in ch. 5 Jesus represents Himself and His Church as the real pool of Bethesda, so He declares Himself here to be the real Sent one, or Siloam; without much demonstration, but infinitely rich in blessing and invigoration for the people of God. And that the symbolical meaning of the act might not be missed, John adds the Greek explanation of the name Siloam. Everywhere, when he appends such an interpretation, he has a deep reason for it; he never does so merely for the sake of etymology: comp. John 1:39; John 1:42-43. Calvin excellently expresses the idea which is stamped upon the whole transaction: “In the person of one man the condition of our nature is delineated; we are all of us from our mothers womb deprived of light and vision, and the cure of this evil is to be sought for only in Christ.” Siloam is all the more appropriate as a type of Christ, because our Lord dispenses His benefit through the water of baptism, to which Augustin referred the waters of Siloam: Lavit ergo oculos in ea piscina, quae interpretatur missus, baptizatus est in Christo. Water appears in ch. John 3:5 as one of the indispensable factors of participation in Christ and His kingdom. And we may regard as applicable to the pool of Siloam what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:21: ὦ? καὶ? ὑ?μᾶ?ς ἀ?ντίτυπον νῦ?ν σῴ?ζει βάπτισμα .

We shall now make some general remarks touching our Lord’s miracles of healing on the blind. In harmony with what Isaiah, in ch. Isaiah 35:5, prophesied of the time of the Messiah, “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped,” these specific miracles assume a pre-eminent place among the wonderful works of Christ. As His individual restorations of the dead to life were types and pledges of the universal bodily resurrection of believers at the end of the world; so the restorations of sight to the blind were primarily signs and pledges that blindness, and generally all the physical misery which sin has introduced, are to be removed by Christ. Then these healings give consolation and hope to that state of abandonment and helplessness which in the Old Testament is so often represented by blindness,—the point of similarity being the inability to find the way: Deuteronomy 28:29; Isaiah 59:10; Job 12:25; Zephaniah 1:17. Whenever we find ourselves without counsel and help, we should look up to Christ as the Saviour of the blind. But the main point is, that the healing of the bodily blind was the pledge of the healing of spiritual blindness. This was included by the prophet Isaiah, as is plain from the fact, that this prophet so often speaks of spiritual blindness and deafness, e.g. in ch. Isaiah 29:18, where it is said of the time of the Messiah, “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness;” ch. Isaiah 42:18, Isaiah 43:8. Christ speaks often of spiritual blindness: in John 9:39; John 9:41 of this chapter, and in Matthew 15:14; Matthew 23:16, etc. He thereby gives us a hint as to the point of view from which we are to regard the healings of the physically blind; that we are to derive from them inexhaustible assurance that He can and He will cure all our spiritual maladies. The connection between physical and spiritual blindness appears in this narrative more definitely than anywhere else. Jesus, in vers. 35 seq., heals also the spiritual blindness of the man born blind; and we mark that the bodily healing was the means to that higher end, the instrument for the accomplishment of the spiritual cure: comp. especially ver. 39. The final result was, that the man born blind received “the enlightened eyes of the heart,” Ephesians 1:18. Augustin, therefore, was quite right: Si quod significat hoc quod factum est cogitemus, genus humanum est iste caecus: haec enim caecitas contigit in primo homine per peccatum, de quo omnes originem duximus non solum mortis sed etiam iniquitatis.

Verse 8

In vers. 8-12, there is a record of the impression which the event produced in the immediate circle of the healed man’s friends. The result of the whole was, that they could find no way of escaping the acknowledgment of the fact: they had been most intimately acquainted with the personal history and case of the blind man, and to their declaration concerning the matter every reasonable doubter must look for confirmation and decision.

Ver. 8. “The neighbours, therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was a beggar, said. Is not this he that sat and begged?”

In relation to the Pres. Part. θεωροῦ?ντες , we may apply with propriety Ewald’s remark (§ 168) concerning, the Hebrew participle: “It is, like the Infinitive, altogether a noun in this, that it does not recognise that slight beginning of distinction in time which exists in the verb.” The כל ידעיו לפנים in Job 42:11 perfectly corresponds, as also Job 20:7. So also with the participles καθήμενος and προσαιτῶ?ν . “That he was a beggar,” equivalent to “in his capacity as a beggar.” The fact of his being a beggar intimates at the same time his bodily calamity; for the blind only were, as a rule, beggars by profession: comp. Mark 10:46. The less authenticated reading τυφλός (“that he was blind”) sprang from a forgetfulness of the fact that begging presupposed the physical calamity.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. “Some said. This is he; others said. He is like him; but he said, I am he.”

Bengel remarks on “He is like like him:” Quidvis prius fingit et putat humana ratio quam miraculum factum credat, John 5:18; Acts 2:13. Sed eo magis confirmatur veritas.

Verses 10-11

Vers. 10, 11. “Therefore said they unto him. How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.”

The healed man’s own declaration had set aside all doubt as to the identity of his person; and now the investigation turns to the manner and process of the cure. The opening of the eyes refers, according to Hebrew phraseology, not so much to the material member, as to the sense of sight. It has been incorrectly inferred from the words, “a man that is called Jesus,” that the blind man had never known anything of the celebrity of Christ. But his description is to be explained by the fact, that he everywhere adheres firmly and simply to that which he had himself experienced; while the willingness with which he submitted to the treatment of our Lord can be accounted for only on the supposition that he was well acquainted with His fame, and that the report of His specific deeds had reached his ears. The reading εἰ?ς τὸ?ν Σιλωὰ?μ is better supported than εἰ?ς τὴ?ν κολυμβήθραν τοῦ? Σιλωάμ , which seems to have been surreptitiously brought in from ver. 7. But yet it is not impossible that the former reading originated in an effort at compression, and in a comparison with Luke 13:4. Ἀ?ναβλέπειν is thought by many to mean, not seeing again, but looking up. It must, however, be understood, as it is commonly used concerning the restoration of the blind, as for instance in Matthew 11:5; Mark 8:25; Luke 18:43. Seeing is to man the normal condition. And, therefore, even of a man born blind it may be said, when he is brought into this normal condition, that he has come to see again.

Verse 12

Ver. 12. “Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.”

Jesus had withdrawn, after accomplishing the cure, for the same reason that made Him convey Himself away when He had restored the sick man of thirty and eight years: comp. on ch. John 5:13. They inquired where Jesus was, probably that they might question Himself concerning the point which afterwards they consulted and decided upon with the Pharisees. The violation of the Sabbath by Christ’s miraculous healing had already, at an earlier period, given offence, comp. ch. John 7:23; and hence this circumstance came all the more readily to their minds.

Verse 13

In vers. 13-34, the investigation of the matter before the Pharisees is narrated.

Ver. 13. “They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.”

Berl. Bib.: “Let us to the learned with this matter—it is for them to investigate. They must know all about it, for it belongs to them. But this was a mistake. They brought a man born blind, but now enlightened, to those who were stone blind still, to men who were bent on increasing in their blindness, and who made the light itself darken them all the more.” The Pharisees here denote the parley: comp. on ch. John 1:24. They were here represented by individual notabilities. The neighbours aimed primarily only to come to a sure judgment in a controversy which interested themselves; and therefore they brought the man to those who were held to be the most competent judges, to the “seers” of ver. 39, to those who knew how to distinguish things that differed, Romans 2:18. There is no trace here of any “spiritual judicial investigation on the part of the supreme judicature;” and ch. John 7:32 seq. is essentially different. Here the Pharisees are everywhere spoken of; there the ἀ?ρχιερεῖ?ς , the chief of the priests, are coupled with them, and in ver. 45 even occupy the first place, while the mention of the servants, and of Nicodemus as one of their number, in ver. 50 (comp. ch. John 3:1), lead to the supposition of the Sanhedrim. Lücke remarks, “John denotes the Sanhedrists also, in ch. John 7:47, merely by the word οἱ? Φαρισαῖ?οι . But the more exact definition had in that case preceded already. Nor can ch. John 11:46 be adduced as in point: for in ver. 47 the species follows at once upon the genus. The blind man lay under no external obligation to go with them. But he went willingly, because he had a good conscience, and was perfectly ready to bear testimony to the truth, and to do honour to his Healer. The healed man of ch. 5 went, according to ver. 15, voluntarily, and announced to the Jews that Jesus had made him whole.

Verses 14-15

Ver. 14. “And it was the Sabbath-day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.”

The circumstance here noted was the specific reason why they should bring the matter before the Pharisees. The actual fact they themselves had found to be established. But this was in conflict with the violation of the Sabbath, and they knew not themselves how to solve the contradiction. The preparation of the clay was not introduced in vain: this was held to be a work. Jesus had certainly of set purpose chosen the Sabbath for His work of healing: comp. on ch. John 5:9. He designed to give matter of offence to the Pharisees, who, by their exaggerated severity in the externalities of the Sabbath festival, sought to compensate for their lacking spiritual service (Augustin: Sabbatum carnaliter observabant, spiritualiter sistabant). And He would teach the people how the Sabbath was really to be used. His polemic in act was not directed against Moses, but against the caricature into which Pharisaism had turned the Mosaic Sabbath. Berlenb. Bible: “The Sabbath was a rest from evil, as also from servile works, which centre in ourselves. But it was not to be a day of rest when the honour of God and the furtherance of our neighbours’ good were concerned.”

Ver. 15. “Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them. He put clay upon mine eves, and I washed, and do see. This was again the second time, after the questioning by the neighbours, ver. 10. They hoped that he would yield to pressure, and be induced to change his declaration according to their mind. But his answer remains steadily consistent, and that was a token of his truth.

Verse 16

Ver. 16. “Therefore said some of the Pharisees. This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath-day. Others said. How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.”

So plain and palpable was the miracle, that there was a contradiction arising even in the midst of their own party. Those who originated this contradiction were such as Nicodemus, ch. John 7:50; and ch. John 12:42 also, according to which even many of the “rulers” believed on Him, is in strict harmony with our present passage. But the opposers were, as Lampe remarks, inferior to the rest, not only in number, but also in zeal: they assumed the position of a vanishing minority. They omitted the violation of the Sabbath, because it could not be concealed from them that there was a great difference between the Mosaic and the Pharisaic Sabbath. But they did not assert that difference: they contented themselves with laying stress upon the fact of the miraculous healing.

Verse 17

Ver. 17. “They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes t He said, He is a prophet.”

The Pharisees are the subject of λέγουσι as is shown by the πάλιν , which refers to ver. 15. And this of itself proves that the questioning had a hostile intent: for the Pharisees were, as a mass, hostile. The interrogations everywhere proceeded from enemies. The dissent was only partial, and it is not further referred to. The matter, in spite of the dissentients, took its course. “That he hath opened thine eyes,” is equivalent to “What thinkest thou in reference to it? for whom boldest thou him on account of it?” The question touched the fact first, and then the judgment upon the person. The Pharisees hoped that the healed man would give them in this matter a handle for reaching the fact in a circuitous way. If he was not absolutely sure that Jesus had accomplished the act by supernatural divine powers: if he let fall anything about the possibility of secret means and magical arts, they would have had something to use in their purpose. But his brief and plain declaration, “He is a prophet,” disconcerted their hopes.

Verse 18

Ver. 18. “But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.”—“They act,” says Calvin, “as if one should seek to extinguish a flame by his breath.” The Jews here, comp. on ch. John 1:19, are identical with the Pharisees in the preceding. They now sought to extract something from the parents of the healed man; and this was the third stage. And here also the result was, that the more they investigate the miracle, in order to bring it into doubt, the more they place it beyond suspicion. They did not believe until they had called the parents,—not as if they would then have believed. The meaning is, that unbelief led them to this procedure. Very frequently an end is specified which is not in itself the ultimate one, but only in a certain relation important, so that the end lying behind it is left unnoticed: comp. Matthew 1:25; Daniel 1:21; Beitr. Th. i. s. 66, 67.

Verse 19

Ver. 19. “And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he, now see?”

There are three questions here, which the parents answer in their order: Is he your son? Do ye dare still to maintain that he was born blind? And if so, how has he obtained his sight?

Verses 20-23

Vers. 20-23. “His parents answered them, and said. We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: but by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age, ask him; he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he should he put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age, ask him.”

The parents plainly declare the truth on the first two questions; on the third they do not venture to commit themselves, but they point to their son as trustworthy. The expression συνετέθειντο , “they had determined among themselves,” refers rather to a party concert than to a formal decree of the Sanhedrim. Ch. John 16:2 shows that the latter had not yet been arrived at; proving, moreover, that the Apostles themselves had not yet been cast out of the synagogue. It was quite in harmony with the cunning policy of the Pharisees, that they first exhibited the excommunication afar off, giving signs that it would come to that, so that every one might take due heed. If they had been precipitate in rushing to conclusions, they might have excited a resolute opposition. The report of a decree which was to be passed sufficed to awe and terrify fearful minds. The New Testament mentions only one kind of excommunication,—exclusion from the synagogue, and generally from the fellowship of the people of God: ἀ?φορίειν , Luke 6:22; ἀ?ποσυνάγωγοι , John 12:42, John 16:2. This first decree was followed directly by the second,—the punishment of death. That the Mishna, in agreement with the New Testament, contains only one kind of excommunication, has been shown by Gildemeister, Blendwerke des Rationalismus, 1841.

The fourth stage now follows in vers. 24-34. The Pharisees, on the challenge of the parents, “ask him,” assault the man born blind afresh. They press upon him more rigorously, and seek to extract from him a more agreeable answer. But in vain. The boldness of the healed man increases as he penetrates more fully their design. He deals with them in such a manner that they must at last cast him out.

Verse 24

Ver. 24. “Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.”—“Give God the glory” is derived from Joshua 7:19, where Joshua says to Achan, “My son, give, I pray thee, glory (Sept. δὸ?ς δόξαν ) to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto Him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.” We give God the glory when we, out of reverence for His authority, tell the truth, even though the truth lead to our own shame and destruction. Augustin shows what lay in the background of this pious phrase: Quid est da gloriam Deo? nega quod accepisti. Hoc plane non est gloriam Deo dare, sed Deum potius blasphemare.

Verses 25-33

Vers. 25-27. “He answered and said. Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?”

This question contains a latent reproof. Such would be the only justification of the repeated questionings. But of this ye will not think.

Vers. 28, 29. “Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.” We have no proof whatever that he is “of God,” ver. 33; “a teacher come from God,” ch. John 3:2.

Ver. 30. “The man answered and said unto them, Why, herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.” The γὰ?ρ gives the motive of the rejoinder which he makes, and of that expression in his countenance which said, “I must contradict you.” The Hebrew כי very often marks such a style of referring to the force of circumstances: Genesis 29:32; Exodus 3:12.

Vers. 31-33. “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” The οἴ?δαμεν points to the source of all true knowing in Israel—the Holy Scriptures. There we often find the declaration that God heareth not sinners, but heareth only the righteous who fear Him: for example, in Job 27:9, where it is said of the hypocrite, “Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?” in Psalms 66:18, “If I have regarded iniquity in my heart (had it in my eye), the Lord would not hear me;” Proverbs 15:29, “The Lord is far from the wicked: but He heareth the prayer of the righteous;” Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 59:2-3. The blind man had doubtless heard this little word from his devout parents, and had kept it in his heart. So the ἐ?κ τοῦ? αἰ?ῶ?νος οὐ?κ ἠ?κούσθη is an Old Testament reminiscence: comp. Isaiah 64:3.

Verse 34

Ver. 34. “They answered and said unto him. Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.”

The “born in sin” points to Psalms 51. But the appended “altogether” hints at an aggravated original sin, which was to be inferred from his having been born blind. We must not make this casting out an excommunication; for those with whom the blind man had to do were not able or inclined to execute this. We have shown that it is erroneous to understand ver. 22 of an already fixed decree to excommunicate the disciples of Jesus. If even the Apostles themselves had not been excommunicated, it is hardly likely that they would proceed to a formal sentence upon the blind man, who had never vet known and acknowledged Jesus as the Christ. The casting out suggests the place where the transaction occurred: comp. Acts 7:58; Acts 13:50. Doubtless there was another casting out in prospect, of which this one was the earnest and prelude: comp. ver. 22; 3 John 1:10. It was that which gave it the significance which ver. 35 presupposes.

In vers 35-37, it is recorded how the blind man was led by Christ to faith. Ver. 35. “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him. He said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”

Jesus had at first intentionally withdrawn from the healed man; the act was to exert its influence in his soul like leaven. The Pharisaic opposition was to fan the feeble flame of his faith. And when this was done, “Jesus the good Shepherd sought the poor sheep.” The significance of the expression Son of God must not be measured according to the notions of the blind man—we can hardly determine what these would be, because deeper views by the side of the more superficial were made current by the sayings of the Old Testament, and by the explanations of the Baptist—but according to the nature of the case, and the teaching of Christ. Faith in the Son of God might have existed—so far as its beginning goes—where the degree of knowledge was as yet very weak. The reality was more powerful than the notion of it. The influence of the Holy Ghost leads the well-disposed and submissive far beyond themselves.

Verses 36-38

Ver. 36. “He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?

The καὶ? which begins the answer has baffled many. But here, as in ch. John 14:22, Mark 10:26, Luke 10:29, it proceeded only from the lively impulse to connect the answer immediately with the question. The blind man had a presentiment of the meaning of Jesus question, and therefore he entered into it so vividly.

Ver. 37. “And Jesus said unto him. Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee.” The seeing here must refer to what then was passing, the then present meeting; for when he was healed, the blind man had not seen Jesus. That the two points are kept distinct by καὶ?—καὶ?—not only, but also—is to be explained by the dignity of the Person, and the greatness of the favour which had befallen the blind man.

Ver. 38. “And he said, Lord, believe. And he worshipped Him.” We must not conclude from this proskynesis, that the healed man had any clear knowledge of the full divinity of Jesus. There can be no reasonable question, indeed, that it had a religious significance. John never uses the word in any other sense. But the worship which, according to Matthew 4:10, is due only to the Lord God, was not only rendered to Him directly, but also to Him in the person of those who bore His image, of His representatives, of the holders of His gifts and offices: comp. my commentary on Revelation 19:10. And we can infer from this proskynesis only that the healed man discerned in Christ a true bearer and representative of the divine glory.

Verse 39

Ver. 39. “And Jesus said. For judgment I am come into this world; that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind.”

Jesus made what had taken place the basis of an utterance which excited a conflict betwixt Him and the Pharisees. The universal truth which He here declared, had had its exemplification both in the blind man and the Pharisees, Jesus did not speak only to His disciples, but had all who were present in His view. And as the Pharisees would necessarily take offence at His saying, we may conclude that our Lord foresaw it, and spoke intentionally. Κρίσις is, in ch. John 3:19, the judicial act, and κρίμα the product of it. To both portions of the company, what had passed was a judicial act; both received their rights: those who sought the path found it, according to the rule which Wisdom in Proverbs 8:17 laid down, “I love them that love me, and those that seek me early shall find me.” The declaration that Jesus came into the world for judgment, is not contradictory to ch. John 3:17, where it is said that God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved; for in that passage it is only the first and proper design of the mission of Christ that is spoken of. And here, in harmony with that passage, the saving work upon those who see not takes precedence of the destroying work upon those who see. But, at the same time, that the seeing become blind, must be regarded as a design, because it is the necessary consequence of the manifestation of Christ. Consistently with this saying, our Lord, in Matthew 11:25, thanks God, not merely that He had revealed truth to the babes, but also that He had hidden it from the wise. The result, therefore, must accordingly have been one desired and willed by Himself. When the blinding of the wise was placed under the point of view of a Divine judgment, this removed an objection which might be taken—namely, that the chief representatives of Judaism and its culture turned away from Jesus,—those chief men who were beyond all others, as it seemed, fit to test the evidences of His Divine mission.

When Jesus spoke of His coming into the world. He pointed to the fact that His existence as the Son of man was preceded by another Divine and glorious existence: comp. on ch. John 1:9. “That those who see not might see: “this was witnessed in the man born blind. In the “Lord, I believe,” the man who had been hitherto blind attained to spiritual sight; for he had been up to this time spiritually blind. He had grown up without cultivation, a simple and mere man. But that which was on the one hand a lack, was on the other an advantage. He knew nothing, but he did not boast himself of his knowledge; and did not, in his proud dependence upon knowing, close his heart against the wisdom from above. And as soon as the Saviour made Himself known as such, he worshipped Him.—“And those that see might be made blind.” The seers were then the Jews, in relation to the Gentiles: comp. Romans 2:18-20. Israel had seen much, and his ears had been opened, Isaiah 42:20. When this seeing was connected with humility, it was an advantage and a help. But side by side with the advantage, there was also the danger. Among the Jews, again, the Pharisees were the seeing, whom Paul had in view pre-eminently in the passage above alluded to. They were the representatives of the Jewish culture and learning. But their always limited knowledge was attended by its companion, dimness and obscurity. They boasted themselves of their miserable knowledge; shut their “minds against the wisdom from above; and assumed the position of judges where it behoved them only to adore. Thus the manifestation of Christ could be to them only a dispensation of blinding. Not only did it make their blindness manifest, but it also increased that blindness; in their embittered opposition to it, they lost the elements of truth which still had survived in their knowledge. The darkness of antichristian Judaism was infinitely more profound than that of the pre-Christian. It everywhere exhibited the plainest traces of a consummate judgment and doom. The truth that the preaching of the word of God, where it meets with perfect unsusceptibility, is followed by a righteous Divine judgment of deeper blindness, and by ruin as its result, had been plainly declared in Isaiah 6:10, where the Lord says to the prophet, as the representative of all His servants in His kingdom down to Christ, “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” The apparently universal sentence contains a limitation in its reference to the relations then presented before the Lord. Those who see not are of the kind of the blind man; those who are such, not merely objectively considered, but also in their spirit, τῷ? πνεύματι , Matthew 5:3, and in their consciousness see not; those who bitterly feel their lack, and carry about with them a sense of longing for help from above. Those who see are of the Pharisees kind, who boast of their seeing, as generally is the case with them, and presume upon it. There are among those who see not, such as do not attain to seeing through Christ; and the not seeing has its own peculiar dangers and hindrances—such, for instance, as dull indifference. So there are among those who see, such as make, like Nicodemus, their seeing an advantage, to whom their intellectual knowledge forms a bridge to the spiritual. But this remains always and everywhere true, that the seeing is not itself an absolute good. Our saying points emphatically to the great dangers of culture and knowledge in all ages—dangers, however. which are specially great in times when knowledge has taken a direction estranged from God.

According to the general interpretation, the seeing are such as are reputed, or repute themselves, to see, but do not see in reality. This interpretation is not only opposed by the plain expression, in which the Saviour speaks simply of those who see, but also by a series of parallel passages which are obviously written and to be read under the same aspect. To the seeing here correspond the wise and prudent in Matthew 11:25. They were manifestly those who, in opposition to the uncultivated multitude, were enlightened; those who had the key of knowledge, Luke 11:52. When the Lord, in Matthew 9:12, says, Οὐ? χρείαν ἔ?χουσιν οἱ? ἰ?σχύοντες ἰ?ατροῦ? ἀ?λλʼ? οἱ? κακῶ?ς ἔ?χοντες , it is plain that the whole are not those who fancy themselves whole. They are those who keep themselves far removed from a manifest life of sin. The parable of the prodigal son places this matter clearly before our eyes. But behind the relative soundness there may lurk concealed a much worse disease. There is the danger of forgetting that the soundness is only relative; and of coming to despise the true means of help for the deeply hidden malady and peril. So even in Luke 5:32, where the Lord says, Οὐ?κ ἐ?λήλυθα καλέσαι δικαίους ἀ?λλὰ? ἁ?μαρτωλοὺ?ς εἰ?ς μετάνοιαν , the righteous are not merely the imaginary righteous. The Pharisees were really righteous in relation to the publicans and harlots, and the Jews in relation to the Gentiles; but such righteous persons “who need no repentance,” Luke 15:7, are, as is emphatically shown in Ecclesiastes 7:15-17, in many respects worse than open sinners, because they will not admit the regeneration, because they are always filled with pride and presumption, and everywhere inclined to act as judges and condemn others. Beneath the plus there is concealed, in all such quasi-righteousness, a most miserable minus. Such a righteousness, although not a mere imagination, may under certain circumstances prove a great and insurmountable obstacle to salvation.

Verse 40

Ver. 40. “And some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words, and said unto Him, Are we blind also?”

Jesus was here, as usual in His exits, surrounded by an immense multitude: comp. ch. John 10:19-21. Among these were found a number of Pharisees who were wont to follow the Lord as spies, and watch all His steps and movements: Luke 11:54; Luke 14:1. These well understood that the declaration of Jesus bore the character of a challenge, and was meant for them. They also rightly discerned that, if they were to become blind through Christ’s manifestation, it must follow that they had been before, although in a certain sense seeing, yet in another and more important sense, blind; just as in Matthew 15:14 they were exhibited as blind leaders of the blind, apart from their relation to Christ, through which they only became more blind. For nothing but such a previously existing blindness could, as being misunderstood and denied, bring down upon them the judgment of blindness. And it was this charge on the part of Christ that excited the pride of the Pharisees to the extreme of rebellion. But this moral perturbation was itself a proof how well grounded was the reproach. “It was a manifest sign of their blindness,” says Quesnel, “that they knew not that they were blind.” It is altogether a mistake to interpret, “They thought they were reckoned amongst the not seeing, who stood in need of spiritual help from Jesus.” Such intellectual misunderstandings among the men who “saw,” are at once to be rejected. The weakness of the Pharisees was always in the spiritual domain.

Verse 41

Ver. 41. “Jesus said unto them. If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”—“Jesus,” observes Lyser, “does not retract what He had said, but rather charges them with a double blindness; one through which they saw nothing in spiritual things, and another through which they did not understand that they Mere blind.” This deeper blindness Jesus had already, in ver. 39, laid to their charge, so that He here only sincerely holds fast what He had there asserted. “If ye were blind,” is accordingly equivalent to “If ye merely suffered under that simple blindness which is the universal disease of human nature, blind from the birth,” “ye would not have sinned,” that is, no special sin, none of all-penetrating significance: comp. ch. John 15:22; John 15:24. That Jesus does not intend to withdraw natural blindness from the region of sin, is shown by “your sin remaineth.“ Accordingly, the “ye would have no sin “is equivalent to “no abiding, unpardonable sin.” The “your sin abideth” forms the antithesis to “his righteousness endureth for ever.” which, in Psalms 112:3; Psalms 112:9, is said concerning the devout man; it is parallel with “it shall not be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the world to come” of Matthew 12:32, and “ye shall die in your sin “of John 8:21. As in this last quoted passage, so in the present one, sin means the aggregate guilt of sin. And with the sin the corresponding wrath of God bears a permanent character: comp. ch. John 3:36. The οὖ?ν , which Lachmann brackets and Tischendorf omits, occurs so disproportionately often in John, that Greek transcribers must have felt a strong inclination to strike it out.

Our Lord takes occasion, from the conflict with the Pharisees to which the healing of the blind man had given birth, to establish His whole relation to them. In ch. John 10:1-18, He exhibits Himself as the good Shepherd, in opposition to them as wicked shepherds. And this relation of opposition rests upon an Old Testament basis. Jeremiah, in ch. Jeremiah 23:1-8, places Messiah the good Shepherd in contrast with the evil pastors who destroyed and scattered the sheep of the Lord’s pasture. There the wicked pastors are primarily wicked kings (see the Christology on the passage); but in the time of Christ the place of these was taken by the Pharisees, in whose hands was for the most part all the civil authority that still existed. Ezekiel follows Jeremiah in his prediction concerning the prophets of Israel, ch. 34. Destruction is prophesied against the wicked shepherds, the perverse rulers of the people; and salvation is promised to the lost sheep of Israel through the Lord, who would Himself assume the pastoral office over them, and guide them by His servant David. There we read in ver. 23, “And I will set up one Shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even My servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.” Jeremiah and Ezekiel are followed by Zechariah in ch. 11. Israel, devoted by God’s judgment to destruction, appears there as a flock doomed to slaughter. The angel of the Lord takes to himself the shepherd office over the poor, and arouses himself to deliver them from the evil pastors who lead them to destruction. But the rebellion of the wicked shepherds, and of the flock also, constrain him to give up his charge to the full misery which only through him had been hitherto averted. To these prophecies of the Old Testament, our Lord’s discourses in the other three Evangelists often recur. With allusion to them. He declares Himself to be sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and exhibits Himself as the good Shepherd, Luke 15:1-7.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 9". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.