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Bible Commentaries
John 2

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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John 2:1-11 Christ turneth water into wine in Cana of Galilee.

John 2:12 He goeth to Capernaum.

John 2:13-17 Thence to Jerusalem, where he driveth the buyers and sellers out of the temple.

John 2:18-22 He giveth his own death and resurrection for a sign.

John 2:23-25 Many believe in him because of his miracles, but he would not trust himself unto them.

Verse 1

Whether it was the third day after that our Saviour had left the province of Judea or the third day after Philip came to him, or after Peter or Nathanael came to him, is hardly worth the disputing; if it be to be interpreted with relation to John 1:43, (which speaks of the day following), it must be the third day after Simon came to Christ, there happened to be a marriage in Cana of Galilee. Some reckon three cities of this name; one in the lot of Manasseh, another in the lot of Ephraim, another in rite lot of Asher. This Cana is concluded by most interpreters to be the same mentioned, Joshua 19:28, which was in the tribe of Asher, which was in Galilee: some others say, it was another Cana, near to Capernaum. At this wedding feast was the virgin Mary, our Lord’s mother; and it is probable that the persons for whose marriage the feast was solemnized were some of the virgin’s kindred or near relations. Some think, from the virgin’s taking notice of the want of wine, that it was a family where she had either a constant charge, or the charge for that day.

Verse 2

Whether only the five disciples mentioned in the former chapter, or some others also, the Scripture doth not say. Christ and his disciples being at this marriage feast, both lets us know that feasting at such a time is proper, and that the most severe religious persons may lawfully be present at such meetings; only they are obliged to keep to rules of frugality, modesty, and sobriety, to a breach of which possibly such meetings may give more temptations.

Verse 3

The word υστερησαντος may as well be translated, coming short, or behind, as wanting; and so some think it is to be understood; but Mary tells Jesus, they had no wine: they either had none, or she discerned it came short; they had not enough. It lets us know the frugality of him who made the feast. But whether Mary told her Son of it in expectation that he should supply it by a miracle, or that he should entertain the company with some pious discourse while the want should be supplied, is not so easy to determine: that which seems to oppose the first (and most generally received) opinion, is, that this was the first miracle he wrought, which we have upon record; nor had our Saviour by any words given her hope to see any miraculous operations from him; for though some say he had, from the last verse of the former chapter, yet the words can hardly be strained to such a sense, nor doth it appear that Mary was in Judea to hear them. But yet it seems probable she had some such expectation, both from our Saviour’s answer, John 2:4, and from her saying to the servants, John 2:5,

Whatsoever he say unto you, do it; and though Christ had as yet done no public miracle, yet what the virgin might have seen of him in thirty years time, while he lived at home with her, we cannot tell.

Verse 4

That it was ordinary with the Jews, speaking to women, to call them by the name of their sex, is plain from Matthew 15:28; Luke 13:12; Luke 22:57; John 4:21. But that, speaking to their relations, they were wont to own their relation in their compellation, sometimes is also evident, from 1 Kings 2:20, Ask on, my mother. So as our Saviour’s here calling the blessed virgin, Woman, not mother, is agreed by most to signify to her, that in this thing he did not own her as his mother, and so clothed with an authority to command him. And indeed so much the next words (what have I to do with thee?) signify, which is a form of speech that both signifies some displeasure for her unseasonable interrupting him, and also that she had no right nor authority upon him in this thing. See the use of the same phrase, Judges 11:12; 2 Samuel 16:10; Ezra 4:3; Matthew 8:29; Matthew 27:19. None was more obedient and respective to his parents than our Saviour, Luke 2:51, therein fulfilling the will of God, Jeremiah 35:13,Jeremiah 35:14; but in the business of his calling he regarded them not, Matthew 12:48; Luke 2:49; and hath hereby taught us our duty, to prefer our obedience to our heavenly Father before our obedience to any earthly relation, Matthew 5:37; Luke 14:26. He hath also hereby taught us, that the blessed virgin is not to be preferred before her Son (as the papists do). Besides this, our Lord giveth another reason for his not present hearkening to his mother,

mine hour is not yet come; either, because the time was not yet come to work miracles publicly; or to show her, that she was not to prescribe the time to him when he should work miraculously; thereby also showing us, that for things in this life we are to submit our desires to the Divine will, and to wait God’s leisure; yet by this expression he also gives her some hopes that he would in his own time supply this want.

Verse 5

She plainly by these words declareth her confidence that Christ (notwithstanding the repulse he gave her) would supply this want; and therefore taking no notice of Christ’s reprehension of her, she orders the servants to be absolutely obedient to him, doing, without disputing, whatsoever he bid them; and indeed such is the obedience which we all owe to God and Jesus Christ.

Verse 6

The Jews were wont in their dining rooms to have waterpots standing; whether one for every guest (upon which account some think here were six) doth not appear. For the contents of these vessels, it is uncertain; the reason is, because the Jewish measures, both for things dry and liquid, are much unknown to us, most countries varying in their measures. According to our measures, these vessels should contain three hogsheads, or near it; but it is not probable that so great vessels of stone should stand in a room: the end of their standing there was for the people to wash in, before they did eat, Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3, and to wash their vessels in, Mark 7:4. We are certain of the number of the vessels, but not of the contents of them. Some say, they held so much water as, being turned into wine, was enough for one hundred and fifty persons; but we can make no certain judgment of it.

Verse 7

Either the water was defiled by some persons washing in it, or else the vessels were not full. Our Lord commands them to be filled (the water pots, not wine vessels)

with water, pure water; he commands them all to be filled by the servants, who could attest the miracle, that there was nothing in the vessels but pure water. Here was no new creature to be produced; he doth not therefore command the production of wine out of nothing; but only the transformation of a creature already existent into a creature of another kind. The servants dispute not his command, nor ask any reason of his command, but yield that ready and absolute obedience which we all of us owe to Divine precepts. They fill them, and so full that they could hold no more.

Verse 8

The Jews had one who was to order the affairs of their feast, and who is upon that account called the master, or

governor, of it; to whom our Saviour directs, that some of this newly made wine should be carried; either that they might not suspect it was by some art provided by him, or because he was of the best judgment in those affairs. The servants yield the same ready obedience to his commands which they had before yielded.

Verse 9

Our Saviour’s action, by which he turned the water into wine, being not obvious to the senses of any; but only the secret motion of his will, willing the thing to be; is not recorded, only the effect and the consequents of it are. The papists would from hence argue, that the bread in the sacrament may be called bread, though it be transubstantiated, as the water here is called water, though it were turned into wine; but it must be observed, that it is not here called water, without the addition of

that was made wine: we have no such addition in the gospel, where the sacramental bread is called bread; it is not said, the bread which now is turned into the flesh of Christ; nor doth the Scripture any where (as here) attest any such transubstantiation. The governor of the feast had a cup of wine presented to him, but knew not whence it came; only the servants, who by Christ’s command first filled the vessels, and drew out this cupful, they knew.

Verse 10

The governor calls the bridegroom, (at whose cost the provision for the feast was to be provided), and minds him, that he seemed to have done contrary to the common practice of such as made feasts; for they used to bring forth their best wine first, when men’s palates were quickest, and least adulterated; and worse after that they had drank well; so the word μεθυσθωσι signifies, as appears by the Septuagint’s translation of the Hebrew word so signifying, Genesis 43:34; Haggai 1:6; not only men’s distempering themselves with wine, which it also sometimes signifieth; and this speaketh our translation of it, 1 Corinthians 11:21, are drunken, something hard, the word not necessarily nor always so signifying; and they must be very uncharitable to the primitive church of Corinth, who can think that it would permit persons actually drunken to come to the Lord’s table. But the custom, it seems, was, if they had any wine worse than another, to bring it out to their guests after that the edge of their palates was a little blunted with the taste of better. Now this bridegroom, as the governor of the feast (who knew nothing of the miracle) thought, had kept his briskest and most generous wine to the last; thereby giving a great approbation of the miracle, not only owning it to be true wine, but much better than they had before at the feast.

Verse 11

The sense is not, that this was the first miracle which Christ wrought in Cana of Galilee; but this was the first miracle which Christ wrought after he was entered upon the public ministry, and it was wrought in that Cana which is within the confines of Galilee, either in the lot of Zebulun or Asher: yet there are some who would not have it the first miracle which Christ wrought, but the first which he wrought in that place; but there is no reason for such an interpretation; for then there had been no reason for the following words, for Christ did not manifest his glory there only; though some object those wonderful or miraculous things happening at our Saviour’s birth, of which we read, Matthew 2:9; Luke 2:9. Yet as some distinguish between mira and miracula, so others give a more plain and satisfactory answer, telling us those were miraculous operations more proper to the Father and the Spirit, thereby attesting the Deity of Christ, than to Christ considered as God man. This was the first of those miraculous operations which were wrought by Christ Jesus as God man, by which he manifested his glory, the glory mentioned in John 1:14, as of the only begotten of the Father; his Divine majesty and power.

And his disciples, who before believed on him, John 1:41,John 1:45, now more firmly believed on him, John 14:1, as Mediator. In Scripture that is often said to be, which doth not commence, but increase from that time and occasion.

Verse 12

Capernaum was a city lifted up to heaven, for mercies of all sorts, which Christ foretold, Matthew 11:28, should be brought down to hell, for their contempt of his doctrine and miracles. It was in the tribe of Naphtali, whose lot was contiguous to Zebulun, and lay on the north east of it; a place where Christ afterwards preached much, and wrought many miracles, Matthew 8:13,Matthew 8:14; Matthew 9:18; Mark 2:1; Mark 5:22; a place brought so low in Hierom’s time, that it scarce consisted of seven poor cottages of fishermen. Thither at this time went Christ,

and his mother, and his brethren, ( by which term the Scripture often expresses any near kinsmen),

and his disciples; whether only the five mentioned in the former chapter, or others also, is not said. But they did not at that time stay long there, probably because the passover time (when they were to be at Jerusalem) was so nigh, as would not admit any long stay before they began their journey; and it is likely that the company mentioned here to be with Christ at Capernaum, did also design to go along with him to the passover, of which we next read.

Verse 13

Concerning the Jewish passover we have once and again spoken in our notes on the other evangelists. The institution of it was Exodus 12:1-51. It was to be solemnized yearly in the place which the Lord should choose, according to the law, Deuteronomy 16:6. Christ, though he was not naturally subject to the law, yet to fulfil all righteousness, and to redeem his people from the curse of the law, Galatians 4:5, kept the passover yearly, taking also advantage from the conflux of the people to Jerusalem at that time, to make himself and his doctrine more known. None of the other evangelists make mention of more than one passover between the time of Christ’s baptism and death: John plainly mentions three, one here, another in John 6:4, the last, John 18:39; and some think that he mentions another, though more obscurely, John 5:1. Our Lord was at them all.

Verse 14

Matthew 21:12; Luke 19:45, is a piece of history so like this, that some have questioned whether it mentions not the same individual matter of fact; but it is apparent that it doth not:

1. Because St. John mentions it as done three years before it, at the first passover; all the other evangelists mention what they report as done at the fourth passover.

2. The circumstances of the narrative make it appear.

a) John mentions only the ejection of the sellers; all the others mention the ejection both of the buyers and sellers.

b) Here, he only saith they had made his Father’s house a place of merchandise; the others say, that whereas it was written, it should be called a house of prayer, they had made it a den of thieves.

c) Here he only bids them that sold doves take their goods away; the others say he overturned the seats of them that sold doves: so as our Saviour plainly appeareth to have done this twice, at his first passover and at the last.

For the more full explication of the parts of this history, See Poole on "Matthew 21:12". See Poole on "Mark 11:15". See Poole on "Luke 19:45". The reason of their bringing oxen, and sheep, and doves into the temple, was to supply those that came afar off, and could not bring their sacrifices with them, with such sacrifices as the law required in several cases. The money changers were there, to change the people’s money into half shekels, every one being obliged to offer his half shekel, Exodus 30:13. Our Saviour did not condemn this course of accommodating of people; but blames the covetousness of the priests, who for their private lucre had made the temple their marketplace, whenas there was room enough elsewhere.

Verse 15

It concerns not us to inquire where our Saviour had the small cords, of which he made his whip; there were doubtless cords enough at hand, taken off from beasts brought thither, though he was himself in no Franciscan habit, as the papists idly dream. But herein was the mighty power of God seen, that Christ, a single, private, obscure person, should without any more noise or opposition drive out the multitude of these hucksters, and overturn their tables. Nor I think (after the consideration of this circumstance) need we inquire by what authority he did this? It was prophesied of him, Malachi 3:1, that he should come to his temple; Malachi 3:3, should sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver. Christ here, according to that prophecy, cometh to his temple, and begins to purge it.

Verse 16

At this his first coming, he gives them that sold doves a liberty to take their goods away; but at the last coming, Matthew 21:12, it is said, he overturned their seats. Those that think this precedent sufficient to vindicate private persons tumultuous pulling down images, seem not to consider, that Christ was no private person, (though so esteemed), and did what he did as Lord of his house. Those who urge it as inferring magistrates and superiors duty in this case, urge it well; for it may well be from hence concluded, that it is the will of Christ, that places set apart for public worship, should neither wickedly be made dens of thieves, nor yet indecently made places for men to buy and sell in; though we can ascribe no such holiness to any place as to the temple, which had not only a particular dedication, but was built by God’s order, his acceptation of it declared, and had peculiar promises annexed to it; besides its prefiguration of Christ (of which we shall speak more afterward); yet even nature itself teacheth, that there is a decent reverence and respect due to such places. This action of Christ’s also, before he had published the doctrine of the gospel, instructs us, that those who have authority are not always to refrain from removing instruments of superstition and idolatry, or gross and indecent corruptions, until people be first by the preaching of the true doctrine persuaded willingly to part with them. But if this were to make God’s house a place of merchandise for men, there to sell oxen, and sheep, and doves, and keep shops for changing money; what do papists make such houses, by their showing their relics and images to people, thereby to get money for their priests, and for selling pardons, indulgences, &c.? Never were God’s houses to that degree made places of merchandise, and dens of thieves, if every one that cheateth for his profit be (as he is) a thief.

Verse 17

The disciples, as well as the rest of the people there present, could not but be astonished at this so strange a thing, to see a single person, and he in no repute but as a private person, to make a whip, and with authority drive the buyers and sellers out of the temple, and nobody to oppose him; but they remembered the words of David, Psalms 69:9. Some think that John here reports what they did after Christ’s resurrection; and, indeed, whoso considereth the following part of the gospel history, would think that it were so; for they did not seem so early to have had a persuasion of Christ’s Divine nature, nor that he was the Messiah; or if they at this time remembered it, and apprehended that Christ was the Son of David, the impression seems to have worn off. It is a greater question whether Psalms 69:1-36 (from whence this quotation is) is to be understood of Christ, properly and literally, or merely as the Antitype to David, of whom that Psalm is literally to be understood? Some of the Lutherans think that Psalm primarily concerned Christ. Mr. Calvin and others think it only concerned Christ as David’s Antitype. The former, for their opinion, take notice of the frequent quotation of it in the New Testament, Matthew 27:48; John 19:28; Acts 1:20; Romans 15:3. The other urge that there are some things in that Psalm which cannot agree to Christ. The matter is not much. Zeal is nothing but a warmth of love and anger. It is good to be zealous, yea, swallowed up with zeal, in a good cause; but men must take heed of the Pharisaical zeal, not according to knowledge. Christ was zealous, but the cause was good.

Verse 18

Which of the Jews, whether some of the magistrates, or the priests, (who were more specially concerned for their profit), or the common people, or all together, is not said. They undertake not to justify their fact, nor could they deny it, but they ask him

what sign he could show them to justify his Divine authority. For this seemeth to have been their principle, that let corruptions and abuses in a church be never so great, yet they were not to be reformed, but either by the ordinary authority of the magistrate, or by all extraordinary authority from God. Such an extraordinary authority they would acknowledge in prophets; but they expected that those who pretended to such an extraordinary Divine mission, should be able to confirm that mission by some miraculous operations, as Moses did, Exodus 4:30. They had had no prophets now for four hundred years amongst them; the Jews required therefore a sign, 1 Corinthians 1:22. The papists were at the same point with the first reformers; but they mistook, for they brought no new doctrine, but still cried, To the law and to the testimony; and where the true doctrine and sacraments are upheld, there is a true church, which hath power to call and send out preachers.

Verse 19

Our Saviour refuseth to give them any sign, but that of his resurrection the third day from the dead. This was the sign to which he afterwards refers the Pharisees, Matthew 12:39; Luke 11:29. Our Saviour’s words must not be understood as commanding or licensing them to destroy him, but as foretelling what they would do. It is in Scripture very ordinary to use the imperative mood for the future tense of the indicative; see Genesis 42:18; Deuteronomy 32:50; Isaiah 8:9,Isaiah 8:10; Isaiah 54:1; John 13:27.

Destroy, is as much as, I know you will destroy, or, If you do destroy this temple, I will build it up in three days. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is ordinarily in Scripture attributed to the Father; but here Christ saith he would do it; and the Spirit, by whom he is said to have been quickened, equally proceedeth both from the Father and the Son. Nor is this the only text where it is attributed to Christ; see John 20:17,John 20:18. It was the work of the Trinity, out of itself, and so the work of all the three Persons. These words were three years after this made a great charge against Christ, Matthew 26:61; but they reported them thus, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. He said only, this temple, meaning his body.

Verse 20

The Jews understood his words of that material temple in which they at this time were, which the best interpreters think was the temple built by Ezra and Zerubbabel; but how to make it out that it was forty six years building, they are not well agreed. Some say, Cyrus reigned thirty, Cambyses eight, Darius six; these added together make forty four. Others say that the Magi reigned two years more. Some reckon to Cyrus thirty one, to his son Cambyses nine, Darius six. Others say that the years wherein the building was hindered during Artaxerxes’s time, Ezra 4:21, added to the two years of Darius, Ezra 4:24, in whose sixth year it was finished, are reckoned together. The Jews thought it strange that our Saviour should undertake in three days to rear a building which had cost their forefathers so many years.

Verse 21

But, alas, our Saviour spoke not of their material temple, but of the temple of his body; which yet was proper speaking: for if the apostle calleth our bodies the temple of God, as he doth, 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; it much more may be said so of the body of Christ: for as God dwelt in the temple, and there revealed his will, and would be there worshipped; how properly must the notion of the temple agree to Christ, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily, Colossians 2:9, who revealeth his Father’s nature and will to men, Matthew 11:27, and in whom all must worship him? So as the temple at Jerusalem was every way a most illustrious type of Christ, and Christ might well, speaking concerning his body, say, Destroy this temple; and thus Christ (would these blind Jews have seen it) drew off the Jews from glorying in their temple, Jeremiah 7:4; and from the temple, which was but a type, (as the tabernacle was before, Acts 7:44; Hebrews 9:23,Hebrews 9:24), to himself, prefigured by those houses, Hebrews 9:11. Nor doth he think fit at this time to speak more plainly; for as he knew that the perverse Jews, in seeing would not see, nor bear any such doctrine; so he also knew, that his better disciples were as yet weak in faith; and none putteth new wine into old bottles.

Verse 22

Even Christ’s own disciples at the first rather admired than perfectly understood their Lord. It is said of Christ, Luke 24:45, a little before his ascension into heaven, Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scripture. The disciples did not distinctly understand many things till after Christ’s resurrection from the dead, when they saw the things accomplished, and when Christ further opened their eyes; which was also further done when the Holy Ghost came upon them in the days of Pentecost. Thus we hear for the time to come; and the seed which lieth a long time under the clods, at last springeth up through the influence of heaven upon it.

And they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said; the disciples then more clearly and more firmly believed the Scriptures, and were able to make a clearer application and interpretation of them. By the Scripture here, are meant the Scriptures of the Old Testament; to which is added, and the word which Jesus had said. Christ’s words gave them a clearer insight into the Scriptures of the Old Testament; and the harmony of the writings of the Old Testament with Christ’s words under the New Testament, confirmed the disciples’ faith in both.

Verse 23

To believe in Christ’s name, and to believe in Christ himself, are one and the same thing; as it is the same to call upon God, and to call upon the name of God: so Acts 3:16. The meaning is, that they believed the things which were published concerning his person and office: yet the periphrasis,

Believed in his name, is not vain; but declareth a mutual relation between God and the word, by the preaching of which he maketh himself known to the world.

True faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. I think it is to no purpose disputed here by some, whether the faith here mentioned was true faith, yea or no. It appeareth by what followeth, that it was not true justifying faith; but it was true in its kind. To make up true justifying, saving faith, which the apostle calls the faith of God’s elect, three things are required:

1. A knowledge of the proposition of the word revealing Christ: this is acquired by reading, hearing, meditation, &c.

2. The second is assent, which is the act of the understanding, agreeing in the truth of the word revealed, when such an assent is given to a proposition, if merely upon the Divine revelation of it: this is faith, a true faith in its kind.

3. Upon this now (in those who savingly believe) the will closes with Christ as an adequate object; for it receiveth him, accepteth him, relies on him as its Saviour, and moveth by the affections to love, desire, hope, rejoice in him; and commandeth the outward man into an obedience to his law.

Now it is very possible, that, through a common influence of the Holy Spirit of God, men upon the hearing of the word, especially having the advantage of seeing miraculous operations confirming the word, may give a true assent to the proposition of the word, as a proposition of truth, and yet may never receive Christ as their Saviour, close with him, trust in him, desire, love, or obey him; this was the case of these persons, many at least of them. They believed, seeing the miracles which Christ did: they wanted a due knowledge of Christ founded in the word; neither had they any certain, steady, fixed assent, founded in the discerning the truth of the proposition; their assent was sudden, founded only upon the miracles they saw wrought; so as though they might have some confidence in him, as a famous person, and some great prince, from whom they might expect some earthly good, yet this was all, which was far enough from true saving faith.

Verse 24

Christ did not take all these seeming believers into his bosom, nor call them after him, nor maintain any familiar fellowship and communion with them; but made haste again into Galilee, till his time was come, knowing that in so public a place of danger they were not to be trusted; for being God blessed for ever, he had knowledge of the hearts of all men.

Verse 25

And needed not any information concerning the principles and humours of all men; for he perfectly knew men, not only from their more external acts and behaviours, (as we know them), but he knew what was in them, searching the hearts, and trying the reins, which is the property of God alone, 1 Kings 8:39; Psalms 33:15. Here what we formerly observed is again observable, that oft times in holy writ, for the further confirmation of a proposition, to a universal affirmative is added a contrary negative. Here ariseth a question, agitated between the Lutherans and the Calvinists, Whether Christ as man knew all things, and what is in the heart of man. They affirm it, because of the personal union of the Divine and human natures in Christ. We say, that although there be such a personal union, yet the properties of each nature remain distinct; upon which account Christ denieth that he, as the Son of man, knew the day and hour of the end of the world. Besides, by the same reason that omniscience belongeth to the human nature of Christ, omnipotence, infiniteness, and omnipresence, also must; which last indeed they affirm, seeing that without it they were not able to defend their doctrine of consubstantiation, or the presence of the body and blood of Christ, wherever the sacrament of his supper is administered; but this being a matter polemical, we shall not here discourse it. Those who would be satisfied as to what is said on either side, may find enough in Gerard, Hunnius, and Farnovius, on the Lutherans’ side; and in Zanchius and others on the Calvinists’ side, Zanchius de Natura and Attributis Dei, lib. 3. cap. 2. qu. 16.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 2". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/john-2.html. 1685.
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