John 1:47
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(47) Jesus saw Nathanael coming.—Nathanael is at once willing that his prejudice should give way before the force of truth. He is coming, when the look directed towards others rests also upon him. It finds the character which it tests earnest and honest. What gave rise to the form in which this is expressed is not stated. There is clearly some unexpressed link with the history of Jacob. The word for “guile” is the same word as the LXX. word for “subtlety” in Genesis 27:35. The thought then is, “Behold one who is true to the name of Israel, and in whom there is nothing of the Jacob (Genesis 27:36). There is something in the words which comes as a revelation to Nathanael. Were they a proof that the Presence before whom he stood read to the very depths of his own thought? Under the shade of a tree, where Jews were accustomed to retire for meditation and prayer, had the Old Testament history of Jacob been present to his mind? Was he too “left alone,” and did he “prevail with God?” And does he now hear the inmost thought expressed in words, carrying certainty to his soul, and giving him too the victory of seeing God “face to face with life preserved?” (Genesis 32:24).

John 1:47-51. Jesus saw Nathanael coming — “Nathanael, being a man of a candid disposition, resolved to go and converse with Jesus, that he might judge with the more certainty concerning his pretensions. He was coming therefore with Philip on this errand, when Jesus, who knew his thoughts, honoured him with the amiable character of a true Israelite, in whom there was no guile — A plain, upright, honest man, one free from hypocrisy, and open to conviction; one who not only derived his pedigree from Abraham, but who inherited his virtues.” — Macknight. Nathanael saith, Whence knowest thou me — I am a perfect stranger to thee; how then canst thou know my character? Jesus answered — I am not so entire a stranger to thy character as thou art ready to suppose; nor do I take it from uncertain report. Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast alone under the fig- tree, I saw thee — As if he had said, I was present in spirit to observe what passed in that secret retirement. I know how well thou deservest the testimony which I have now borne to thine integrity. Nathanael was so struck with this express reference to what he was certain none could know but God and his own conscience, that all his prejudices were at once removed; and he immediately replied, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, &c. — So he acknowledges more than he had heard from Philip: he makes a confession both of the person and office of Christ. Happy they that are thus ready to believe, swift to receive the truth and grace of God! Just thus the woman of Samaria argued, (John 4:29,) Come see a man who told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? — Which plainly intimates, that they supposed the Messiah would be endowed with the most perfect knowledge, and have the gift of prophecy in the highest degree. Because I said, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou — Dost thou believe me to be the Messiah, because of the supernatural knowledge of thy character and secret actions which I have now discovered? Thou shalt see greater things than these — Greater instances of my power and knowledge, consequently more remarkable proofs of my mission. Verily, verily, I say unto you — “There is no doubt that these words are to be taken for a solemn affirmation, in which it was observable that John has constantly repeated the αμην, verily, while it is only mentioned once by the other evangelists; and this we may suppose him to have done, either to excite the greater attention, or in a more emphatical and stronger manner to assert the truth, not only of the thing affirmed, but of the person who affirms it. For as amen in the Hebrew signifies truth, (Isaiah 65:16,) so Christ, as being the true and faithful witness, is called the Amen, Revelation 3:14. This repeated asserveration, therefore, may be considered as an intimation to us, not only that the saying, unto which it is prefixed is true, but that we must regard it as proceeding from the true and faithful witness.” — Doddridge. Hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending, &c. — Ye shall see the whole frame of nature subject to my commands, and such a surprising train of miracles wrought by me, in the whole course of my succeeding ministry, with such remarkable interpositions of Providence in my behalf, as will not only leave you no room to doubt of my mission from God, but will make it appear as if heaven was opened, and all the angels of God were continually, (as they appeared in a vision to Jacob, Genesis 28:12,) ascending and descending to wait upon the Son of man, and to receive and execute his orders. Or, if we understand the prediction more literally, we may, with Dr. Hammond, refer it to Christ’s ascension, when the heaven was opened to receive him, and the angels came down from thence to wait on him, and ascended after him. The appearance of an angel in his agony might also be referred to, and of those who waited on him at his resurrection, and so he may be considered as referring his disciples to the greatest of his miracles, his resurrection from the dead, by which the truth of his mission was put beyond all doubt. And even his second and glorious coming may be included, or, as some think, may be principally intended; as if he had said, “All who believe on me now, in my state of humiliation, shall hereafter see me come in my glory, and all the angels of God with me.” 1:43-51 See the nature of true Christianity, it is following Jesus; devoting ourselves to him, and treading in his steps. Observe the objection Nathanael made. All who desire to profit by the word of God, must beware of prejudices against places, or denominations of men. They should examine for themselves, and they will sometimes find good where they looked for none. Many people are kept from the ways of religion by the unreasonable prejudices they conceive. The best way to remove false notions of religion, is to make trial of it. In Nathanael there was no guile. His profession was not hypocritical. He was not a dissembler, nor dishonest; he was a sound character, a really upright, godly man. Christ knows what men are indeed. Does He know us? Let us desire to know him. Let us seek and pray to be Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile; truly Christians, approved of Christ himself. Some things weak, imperfect, and sinful, are found in all, but hypocrisy belongs not to a believer's character. Jesus witnessed what passed when Nathanael was under the fig-tree. Probably he was then in fervent prayer, seeking direction as to the Hope and Consolation of Israel, where no human eye observed him. This showed him that our Lord knew the secrets of his heart. Through Christ we commune with, and benefit by the holy angels; and things in heaven and things on earth are reconciled and united together.An Israelite indeed - One who is really an Israelite - not by birth only, but one worthy of the name. One who possesses the spirit, the piety, and the integrity which become a man who is really a Jew, who fears God and obeys his law. Compare Romans 9:6; Romans 2:28-29.

No guile - No deceit, no fraud, no hypocrisy. He is really what he professes to be - a Jew, a descendant of the patriarch Jacob, fearing and serving God. He makes no profession which he does not live up to. He does not say that Nathanael was without guilt or sin, but that he had no disguise, no trick, no deceit - he was sincere and upright. This was a most honorable testimony. How happy would it be if he, who knows the hearts of all as he did that of Nathanael, could bear the same testimony of all who profess the religion of the gospel!

47. an Israelite indeed … no guile—not only no hypocrite, but with a guileless simplicity not always found even in God's own people, ready to follow wherever truth might lead him, saying, Samuel-like, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth" (1Sa 3:10). They are not all Israel, which are of Israel, Romans 9:6. For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, Romans 2:28,29. Christ seeing Nathanael (though he was prejudiced by Philip’s mistake, or the common mistake of his nation) coming to see him, and seeing not only his body and bodily motion, but his heart also, and the motions of that, saith of him, Behold one who is not only born an Israelite, but is a true Israelite, like his father Jacob, a plain man, Genesis 25:27;

in whom is no guile; in whom there is no deceit, no doubleness of heart. Such ought Christians to be, no crafty, deceitful, double minded men, but men of great sincerity and plainness of heart, laying aside all malice, and all guile, 1 Peter 2:1, like little children, Matthew 18:3. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him,.... For notwithstanding his prejudices, he was a man of so much uprightness and honesty, that he thought Philip's request was very reasonable; and that it was but right, and fair, that he should see, and hear, and judge, for himself, whether the person Philip spoke of was the Messiah, or not; and therefore he came along with him; and as he was coming, Jesus saw him, who knew all that had passed between him and Philip:

and saith of him; to those that were standing by him, and in the hearing of Nathanael,

behold an Israelite indeed! a son of Israel, as the Syriac and Persic versions read; a true son of Jacob's; an honest, plain hearted man, like him; one that was an Israelite at heart; inwardly so; not one after the flesh only, but after the Spirit; see Romans 2:28; and which was a rare thing at that time; and therefore a note of admiration is prefixed to it; for all were not Israel, that were of Israel; and indeed but a very few then: and so, , "a son of Israel", and , "a perfect Israelite", are (s) said of such who have regard to the articles of the Jewish faith, though not even of the seed of Israel: it is added,

in whom there is no guile; not that he was without sin; nor is this said of him; nor was he in such sense without guile, as Christ himself was; but guile was not a governing sin in him: the course of his life, and conversation, was with great integrity, and uprightness, and without any prevailing hypocrisy and deceit, either to God, or men. This Christ said to show how much such a character is approved by him; and that he knew the secrets of men's hearts, and the inward frames of their minds,

(s) Addareth Eliahu apud Trigland de Sect. Karaeorum, c. 10. p. 175, 176.

{20} Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

(20) Simple uprightness discerns the true Israelites from the false.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 1:47. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? A question of astonishment that the Messiah should come out of Nazareth. But Nathanael asks thus doubtingly, not because Nazareth lay in Galilee, John 7:52 (the Fathers, Luther, Melancthon, Ebrard, and many), nor because of its smallness, as too insignificant to be the birth-place of the Messiah (Lücke, De Wette, Hug, Krabbe, Ewald, Lange, Brückner, and others), nor from both reasons together (Hengstenberg); nor, again, because the prophecy did not speak of Nazareth as the Messiah’s birth-place (Godet); but, as the general expression τὶ ἀγαθόν proves (it is not the more special ὁ Χριστός), because Nathanael, and probably public opinion likewise, looked upon the little town as morally degenerate: it must have been so regarded at least in the narrow circle of the surrounding villages (Nathanael belonged to Cana). We have no historical proof that this was so; outside the N. T. the place is not mentioned, not even in Josephus; nevertheless Mark 6:6, and the occurrence recorded Luke 4:15 ff., well correspond with Nathanael’s judgment as to its disrepute in a moral point of view.

ἀγαθόν] which yet must above all be the case if the Messiah were to come therefrom,

He whose coming must be a signally holy and sublime manifestation.

ἔρχου κ. ἴδε] “optimum remedium contra opiniones praeconceptas,” Bengel.John 1:47. Philip’s announcement is received with incredulity.—ἐκ Ναζαρὲτ δύναταί τι ἀγαθὸν εἶναι; “Can anything good be from Nazareth.” Cf. John 8:52, “out of Galilee ariseth no prophet”. Westcott, representing several modern interpreters, explains: “Can any blessing, much less such a blessing as the promised Messiah, arise out of a poor village like Nazareth, of which not even the name can be found in the O.T.?” But probably Nathanael was influenced by the circumstance that he himself was of Cana (John 21:2), only a few miles from Nazareth, and with the jealousy which usually exists between neighbouring villages (inter accolas odium) found it hard to believe that Nazareth could produce the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 53:2, “a root out of a dry ground”). From this remark of Nathanael’s light is reflected on the obscurity and unobtrusiveness of the youth of Jesus. Though living a few miles off, Nathanael never heard of Him. To his incredulity Philip wisely replies, ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε; as Bengel says, “optimum remedium contra opiniones praeconceptas”. And Nathanael shows himself to be willing to have his preconceptions overcome. He goes with Philip.47. saw Nathanael coming] This contradicts the theory that Christ overheard Nathanael’s question. S. John represents Christ’s knowledge of Nathanael as miraculous; as in John 1:42 He appears as the searcher of hearts.

an Israelite indeed] In character as well as by birth: what follows shews what is meant. The ‘guile’ may refer to the ‘subtilty’ of Jacob (Genesis 27:35) before he became Israel: ‘Behold a son of Israel, who is in no way a son of Jacob.’ The ‘supplanter’ is gone; the ‘prince’ remains. His guilelessness appears in his making no mock repudiation of the character attributed to him (John 1:48). He is free from ‘the pride that apes humility.’John 1:47. Περὶ αὐτοῦ) concerning Him, not immediately to Himἀληθῶς, truly) An affirmation showing intimate knowledge.—Ἰσραηλίτης, an Israelite)[44] one worthy to see angels ascending and descending, as Jacob did [on the ladder in his dream], John 1:51; comp. Genesis 28:12. No mere creature could bear the name, Israel, unless it were divinely given him; so vast [comprehensive] it is: the guileless, ἄδολοι, are worthy of it. [A pre-eminent virtue truly is guilelessness.—V. g.] This speech contains a proof 1) of His omniscience; 2) of His benignity. Nathanael had been hasty; John 1:46, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” The Lord gives to him Himself as the Good.

[44] ch. John 7:42, “Hath not the Scripture said that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was.” The expression of the Evangelist, ch. John 4:44, as to Judea, “His own country,” implies his taking for granted the birth-place, as recorded by the Three Synoptic Gospels.—E. and T.Verse 47. - Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him - for Nathanael at once obeyed the summons of Philip - and saith of him; not, to him - saith in the hearing of the unnamed disciple, who could not leave his Master's side. There are numerous indications in ch. 1 and 2 of a qualification of Jesus which, in John 2:25, is described as knowing what was in man. He read the thought and character of Simon and Philip, of Nathanael, and of his mother; and here he makes use of his Divine prerogative and, as on a multitude of other occasions, penetrated the surface to the inner motive and heart. Behold, an Israelite indeed; one who fulfils the true idea of Israel, a prince with God, a conqueror of God by prayer, and conqueror of man by submission, penitence, and restitution; one who has renounced the spirit of supplanter and taken that of penitent. "Confident in self-despair," he has relinquished his own strength, and lays hold of the strength of God, and is at peace. In whom is no guile; i.e. no self-deception, and no disposition to deceive others. The (Psalm 32:1, 2) description of the blessedness of "the man whose transgressions are forgiven,... and in whose spirit [LXX., 'mouth'] there is no guile (δόλος)," is the finest key to the significance of this passage. Christ does not say that this man is sinless, but guileless - free and full in his confession, knowing himself, and sheltering himself under no devices or seeming shows. The publican (it has been well said) was without guile when he cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" The Pharisee was steeped in self-deception and guile when he said, "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men." Sincerity, openness of eye, simplicity of speech, no wish to appear other than what he is before God and man, affirms his guilelessness. Alas! the so called Israelite has widely departed from the fundamental idea of such a character, though not more so than Christians have become unlike the ideal disciples of Jesus. An Israelite indeed (ἀληθῶς Ἱσραηλίτης)

Literally, truly an Israelite. An Israelite not merely in descent, but in character, according to the ideal laid down in God's law. The word Israelite itself was an honorable designation. See on men of Israel, Acts 3:12, and compare remarks on Jews, John 1:19.

Guile (δόλος)

Properly, a bait for fish, and related at the root to δελεάζω, to catch with a bait, or beguile. See on beguiling, 2 Peter 2:14. The true Israelite would be the true child of Israel after he had ceased to be the Supplanter. It is an interesting fact that in Genesis 25:27, Jacob is called a plain man, i.e., as some explain the Hebrew, a perfect or upright man, and others, a man of quiet and simple habits, and that the Septuagint renders this adjective by ἄπλαστος, unfeigned, without disguise, simple, guileless. The Greek here reads literally, in whom guile is not.

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