Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
LEAVEN OF THE
This section of miscellaneous matter evidently follows the preceding one
in point of time, as will be seen by observing how it is introduced by
Feeding of the Four Thousand
1. In those days the multitude being very great, &c.
2. I have compassion on the multitude--an expression of that deep
emotion in the Redeemer's heart which always preceded some remarkable
interposition for relief. (See
Mt 14:14; 20:34;
before the mission of the Twelve; compare
Jud 2:18; 10:16).
because they have now been with me--in constant attendance.
three days, and have nothing to eat:
3. And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint
by the way--In their eagerness they seem not to have thought of the
need of provisions for such a length of time; but the Lord thought of
it. In Matthew
it is, "I will not send them away fasting"--or rather, "To send them
away fasting I am unwilling."
4. From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the
wilderness?--Though the question here is the same as when He fed the
five thousand, they evidently now meant no more by it than that
they had not the means of feeding the multitude; modestly leaving
the Lord to decide what was to be done. And this will the more appear
from His not now trying them, as before, by saying, "They need not
depart, give ye them to eat"; but simply asking what they had, and then
giving His directions.
5. And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven--It was important in this case, as in the former, that the precise number
of the loaves should be brought out. Thus also does the distinctness of
the two miracles appear.
9. And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent
them away--Had not our Lord distinctly referred, in this very
chapter and in two successive sentences, to the feeding of the five
thousand and of the four thousand as two distinct miracles, many
critics would have insisted that they were but two different
representations of one and the same miracle, as they do of the two
expulsions of the buyers and sellers from the temple, at the beginning
and end of our Lord's ministry. But even in spite of what our Lord
says, it is painful to find such men as NEANDER
endeavoring to identify the two miracles. The localities, though both
on the eastern side of the lake, were different; the time was
different; the preceding and following circumstances were different;
the period during which the people continued fasting was different--in
the one case not even one entire day, in the other three days; the
number fed was different--five thousand in the one case, in the other
four thousand; the number of the loaves was different--five in the one
case, in the other seven; the number of the fishes in the one case is
definitely stated by all the four Evangelists--two; in the other case
both give them indefinitely--"a few small fishes"; in the one case the
multitude were commanded to sit down "upon the green grass"; in the
other "on the ground"; in the one case the number of the baskets taken
up filled with the fragments was twelve, in the other seven; but more
than all, perhaps, because apparently quite incidental, in the one case
the name given to the kind of baskets used is the same in all the four
narratives--the cophinus (see on
in the other case the name given to the kind of baskets used, while it
is the same in both the narratives, is quite different--the
spuris, a basket large enough to hold a man's body, for Paul was
let down in one of these from the wall of Damascus
It might be added, that in the one case the people, in a frenzy of
enthusiasm, would have taken Him by force to make Him a king; in the
other case no such excitement is recorded. In view of these things, who
could have believed that these were one and the same miracle, even if
the Lord Himself had not expressly distinguished them?
Sign from Heaven Sought
10. And straightway he entered into a ship--"into the ship," or
with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha--In
it is "the coasts of Magdala." Magdala and Dalmanutha were both on the
western shore of the lake, and probably not far apart. From the former
the surname "Magdalene" was probably taken, to denote the residence of
Mary Magdalene. Dalmanutha may have been a village, but it cannot now
be identified with certainty.
11. seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him--not in the
least desiring evidence for their conviction, but hoping to entrap Him.
The first part of the answer is given in Matthew alone
(Mt 16:2, 3):
"He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be
fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul
weather to-day: for the sky is red and lowering [sullen, gloomy].
Hypocrites! ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern
the signs of the times?" The same simplicity of purpose and careful
observation of the symptoms of approaching events which they showed in
common things would enable them to "discern the signs of the times"--or
rather "seasons," to which the prophets pointed for the manifestation
of the Messiah. The scepter had departed from Judah; Daniel's seventy
weeks were expiring, &c.; and many other significant indications of the
close of the old economy, and preparations for a freer and more
comprehensive one, might have been discerned. But all was lost upon
12. And he sighed deeply in his spirit--The language is very strong.
These glimpses into the interior of the Redeemer's heart, in which our
Evangelist abounds, are more precious than rubies. The state of the
Pharisaic heart, which prompted this desire for a fresh sign, went to
His very soul.
and saith, Why doth this generation--"this wicked and adulterous
seek after a sign?--when they have had such abundant evidence
There shall no sign be given unto this generation--literally, "If
there shall be given to this generation a sign"; a Jewish way of
expressing a solemn and peremptory determination to the contrary
Margin). "A generation incapable of appreciating such
demonstrations shall not be gratified with them." In
He added, "but the sign of the prophet Jonas." (See on
Mt 12:39, 40.)
13. And he left them--no doubt with tokens of displeasure.
and entering into the ship again, departed to the other
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees
14. Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in
the ship with them more than one loaf--This is another example of that
graphic circumstantiality which gives such a charm to this briefest of
the four Gospels. The circumstance of the "one loaf" only remaining, as
WILKINSON remark, was more suggestive of their Master's
recent miracles than the entire absence of provisions.
15. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of
the Pharisees--"and of the Sadducees"
and of the leaven of Herod--The teaching or "doctrine"
of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees was quite different, but both
were equally pernicious; and the Herodians, though rather a political
party, were equally envenomed against our Lord's spiritual teaching.
The penetrating and diffusive quality of leaven, for good
or bad, is the ground of the comparison.
16. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have
no bread--But a little while ago He was tried with the obduracy of the
Pharisees; now He is tried with the obtuseness of His own disciples. The
nine questions following each other in rapid succession
show how deeply He was hurt at this want of spiritual apprehension, and
worse still, their low thoughts of Him, as if He would utter so solemn
a warning on so petty a subject. It will be seen, however, from the
very form of their conjecture, "It is because we have no bread,"
and our Lord's astonishment that they should not by that time have
known better with what He took up His attention--that He ever left
the whole care for His own temporal wants to the Twelve: that He
did this so entirely, that finding they were reduced to their last loaf
they felt as if unworthy of such a trust, and could not think but that
the same thought was in their Lord's mind which was pressing upon their
own; but that in this they were so far wrong that it hurt His
feelings--sharp just in proportion to His love--that such a thought of
Him should have entered their minds! Who that, like angels, "desire to
look into these things" will not prize such glimpses above gold?
17. have ye your heart yet hardened?--How strong an expression
to use of true-hearted disciples! See on
18. Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not?--See
and do ye not remember?
19. When I brake the five loaves among five thousand--"the five
how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? &c.
21. How is it that ye do not understand?--"do not understand that the
warning I gave you could not have been prompted by any such petty
consideration as the want of loaves in your scrip." Profuse as were our
Lord's miracles, we see from this that they were not wrought at random,
but that He carefully noted their minutest details, and desired that
this should be done by those who witnessed, as doubtless by all who read
the record of them. Even the different kind of baskets used at the two
miraculous feedings, so carefully noted in the two narratives, are here
also referred to; the one smaller, of which there were twelve, the other
much larger, of which there were seven.
Blind Man at Bethsaida Restored to Sight
22. And he cometh to Bethsaida--Bethsaida Julias, on the northeast
side of the lake, whence after this He proceeded to Cæsarea Philippi
and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch
23. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the
town--Of the deaf and dumb man it is merely said that "He took him
but this blind man He led by the hand out of the town, doing it
Himself rather than employing another--great humility, exclaims BENGEL--that He might gain his confidence and raise his
and when he had spit on his eyes--the organ affected--See on
and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw aught.
24. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking--This is
one of the cases in which one edition of what is called the received
text differs from another. That which is decidedly the best supported,
and has also internal evidence on its side is this: "I see men; for I
see [them] as trees walking"--that is, he could distinguish them from
trees only by their motion; a minute mark of truth in the narrative, as
ALFORD observes, describing how human objects had appeared to him during
that gradual failing of sight which had ended in blindness.
25. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look
up; and he was restored, and saw every man clearly--Perhaps the one
operation perfectly restored the eyes, while the other imparted
immediately the faculty of using them. It is the only recorded
example of a progressive cure, and it certainly illustrates similar
methods in the spiritual kingdom. Of the four recorded cases of sight
restored, all the patients save one either came or were brought to the Physician. In the case of the man born blind, the Physician came
to the patient. So some seek and find Christ; of others He is found who
seek Him not.
26. Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town--Besides
the usual reasons against going about "blazing the matter," retirement
in this case would be salutary to himself.
For the exposition, see on