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The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible

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John 13:23

Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom
Not pressing upon that part of Christ's body, which would have been irreverent in John, and troublesome to Christ; but leaning at table upon his bed or couch, on which he lay; and which was next to, and just before Christ; so that he was very near unto, and seemed to lie in the bosom of Christ; as such are said to do, who sit next at table to another. The posture of the Jews at table, was either "sitting" or "lying", and a difference they make between these two;

``if, say they F4, (Nybvwy wyh) , "they sat" to eat everyone asked a blessing for himself; but if (wbyoh) , "they lay down", one asked a blessing for them all.''

This lying down was not on their backs, nor on their right side, but on their left; for they say F5, that

``lying down on the back, is not called (hbyoh) , "lying down"; and lying on the right side, is not called lying down.''

And the reason given is F6, because they have need of the right hand to eat with; but as they elsewhere F7 observe,

``they used to eat lying along, leaning on the left side, their feet to the ground, and every man on a single couch.''

Would you know the order in which they, lay, take the account as they have given it F8;

``when there were but two couches, the principal person lay first, and the second to him above him; and when there were three, the principal person lay in the middle, the second to him above him, and the third below him; and if he would talk with him, he raised himself upright, and sitting upright he talked with him; that is, as the gloss explains it, if the principal person was desirous to talk with him that was second to him, he must raise himself up from his lying down, and sit upright; for all the white he is leaning, he cannot talk with him, because he that is second to him, is behind the head of the principal person, and the face of the principal person is turned to the other side; and it is better for the second to sit below him, that he may hear his words, whilst he is leaning.''

The form in which Christ and his disciples sat or lay at table, we may conceive was this F9; a table was placed in the middle and as many beds or couches round it, as there were persons; Christ the principal and most worthy person lay first, with his head toward the table, his face somewhat turned from it, leaning on his left elbow upon the couch; in this posture lay Jesus, upon the first couch; in the same posture lay John, in the next to him, and just before him; the hinder part of his head being towards, and near the breast and bosom of Jesus; whence he is said to lean upon it: now to lie next to the principal person, was a very great honour, as well as a mark of great affection; and for John to lie next to Jesus, and as it were to lean on his bosom, showed how much he was respected and honoured by him; and therefore John modestly conceals his name, and only says,

one of his disciples whom Jesus loved;
Christ, as the Son of God, and surety of his people, loved his true disciples, as he does all his elect, alike; not one more than the other; but as man, he had a particular affection for this disciple, and therefore admitted him near his person, and was very familiar with him.


F4 Misn. Beracot, c. 6. sect. 6.
F5 T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 108. 1.
F6 Gloss in ib.
F7 Gloss in T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 46. 2. & Bartenora in Misn. Beracot, c. 6. sect. 6.
F8 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 46. 2.
F9 Vid. Alstorphium delectis veterum, p. 109, 110.


Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 13:23". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". <>. 1999.


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