John 11:19
And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary.—Better, and many of the Jews had come . . .—They had come before our Lord’s arrival. The word “Jews” is to be understood in St. John’s general sense (comp. Note on John 1:19) of those opposed to our Lord, who had lately sought to stone Him (John 10:31), and afterwards to take Him by force (John 10:39). The family at Bethany was one of position and substance (comp. Notes on Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9), and they would naturally have had many friends among the higher rank of the Jews. Another reading, which has considerable authority, is “had come to the women with Martha and Mary,” or “to Martha and Mary and their friends.”

To comfort them concerning their brother.—The days of mourning were usually thirty, which were divided into (1) three days of weeping; (2) seven days of lamentation; (3) twenty days of sorrow. This fourth day after the death was the first of the seven days of lamentation. Lightfoot has collected, in a long note on this text, quotations from the Rabbis illustrating the mourning customs, and giving examples of the words used.

11:17-32 Here was a house where the fear of God was, and on which his blessing rested; yet it was made a house of mourning. Grace will keep sorrow from the heart, but not from the house. When God, by his grace and providence, is coming towards us in ways of mercy and comfort, we should, like Martha, go forth by faith, hope, and prayer, to meet him. When Martha went to meet Jesus, Mary sat still in the house; this temper formerly had been an advantage to her, when it put her at Christ's feet to hear his word; but in the day of affliction, the same temper disposed her to melancholy. It is our wisdom to watch against the temptations, and to make use of the advantages of our natural tempers. When we know not what in particular to ask or expect, let us refer ourselves to God; let him do as seemeth him good. To enlarge Martha's expectations, our Lord declared himself to be the Resurrection and the Life. In every sense he is the Resurrection; the source, the substance, the first-fruits, the cause of it. The redeemed soul lives after death in happiness; and after the resurrection, both body and soul are kept from all evil for ever. When we have read or heard the word of Christ, about the great things of the other world, we should put it to ourselves, Do we believe this truth? The crosses and comforts of this present time would not make such a deep impression upon us as they do, if we believed the things of eternity as we ought. When Christ our Master comes, he calls for us. He comes in his word and ordinances, and calls us to them, calls us by them, calls us to himself. Those who, in a day of peace, set themselves at Christ's feet to be taught by him, may with comfort, in a day of trouble, cast themselves at his feet, to find favour with him.Many of the Jews - Probably their distant relatives or their friends.

To comfort - These visits of consolation were commonly extended to seven clays (Grotius; Lightfoot).

19. many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them—Thus were provided, in a most natural way, so many witnesses of the glorious miracle that was to follow, as to put the fact beyond possible question. Not to pray with them for the soul of their brother departed. That departed souls are in a capacity to be advantaged by the prayers of their friends, or any such thing, are corruptions of latter times; but they had a civil usage of mourning for their friends, the time for which was anciently thirty days. They mourned for Jacob forty days, Genesis 50:3; for Aaron thirty days, Numbers 20:29; so for Moses, Deu 34:8. It is probable the days were fewer for persons of an inferior quality, but they had some days for all; during which days their neighbours and friends came to visit them, and relieve them in their sorrow, with such arguments as they had. And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary,.... Or "to those that were about Martha and Mary"; in order to have access to them, they came to them, and to the rest of the family; though the phrase may design them only, as the Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions read: these Jews, as appears from the context, John 11:18, came from Jerusalem, and might be some of the principal inhabitants; and it may be concluded, that these persons, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, were people of note and figure; and indeed all the accounts of them here, and elsewhere, show the same; see Luke 10:38. The end of their coming to them was

to comfort them concerning their brother; by reason of his death, as was usual with the Jews to do, after the dead was buried; for they did not allow of it before: hence that saying (g) of R. Simeon ben Eleazar,

"do not comfort him (thy friend) in the time his dead lies before him.''

The first office of this kind was done when they returned from the grave; for it is said (h), when they return

"from the grave they make rows round about the mourner, "to comfort him", and they make him to sit, and they stand, and there never were less than ten in a row.''

It was an ancient custom for the mourners to stand in their place in a row, and all the people passed by, and every man as he came to the mourner comforted him, and passed on (i). But besides these consolations, there were others administered at their own houses, which were usually done the first week, for it is said (k),

"the mourner the first week does not go out of the door of his house; the second he goes out, but does not sit, or continue in his place; the third he continues in his place, but does not speak; the fourth, lo, he is as every other man. R. Judah says, there is no need to say, the first week he does not go out of the door of his house, for behold, all come to his house, "to comfort him".''

And is was on the third day more particularly on which these consolatory visits were paid (l):

"on the first day he (the mourner) did not wear his phylacteries; on the second, he put them on; on the third day, others come to comfort him.''

This rule the Jews here seem to have observed, since Lazarus had been dead four days; and they were come from Jerusalem hither to comfort his sisters on account of his death. The whole of this ceremony is thus related by Maimonides (m),

"how do they comfort mourners? after they have buried the dead, the mourners gather together, and stand on the side of the grave; and all that accompany the dead stand round about them, one row within another: and there is no row less than ten; and the mourners are not of the number; the mourners stand on the left hand of the comforters; and all the comforters go to the mourners, one by one, and say to them, , "may ye be comforted from heaven": after that the mourner goes to his house, and every day of the seven days of mourning, men come to comfort him; whether new faces come, or do not, the mourner sits down at the head, (or in the chief place,) and no comforters may sit but upon the floor, as it is said, Job 2:13, "and they sat with him on the ground": nor may they say any thing until the mourner has opened his mouth first, as it is said, Job 2:13, "and none spake a word unto him": and it is written afterwards, Job 3:1, "so opened Job his mouth", &c. and Eliphaz answered, Job 4:1, and when he nods with his head, the comforters may not sit with him any longer, that they may not trouble him more than is necessary. If a man dies, and there are no mourners to be comforted, ten worthy men go and sit in his place all the seven days of mourning; and the rest of the people gather to them; and if there are not ten fixed every day, ten of the rest of the people gather together, and sit in his place:''

for this business of comforting mourners was reckoned an act of great piety and mercy (n); and these Jews here might come, not so much out of respect to the dead, or to his sisters, as because it was thought to be a meritorious act.

(g) Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 18. (h) Gloss in Cetubot, fol. 8. 2. & in Beracot, fol. 16. 2.((i) Gloss in T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 19. 1.((k) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 23. 1.((l) Massech. Semachot, c. 6. fol. 14. 3.((m) Hilch. Ebel, c. 13. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4. (n) Maimon. in Misn. Peah, c. 1. sect. 1.

{4} And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

(4) God, who is the maker of nature, does not condemn natural emotions, but shows that they ought to be guided by the rule of faith.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 11:19. ʼΕκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων] is generally taken as equivalent to Ἱεροσολυμιτῶν, but altogether without ground. Wherever John uses the term “the Jews,” unless it be in the purely national sense (as in John 2:6, John 2:13, John 3:1, John 4:9, and frequently), to distinguish them as a nation from other nations, he constantly means the Jewish opposition to Jesus. See on John 1:19. So also here (compare Brückner, Gumlich, Godet). On them, however, the miracle produced the noteworthy deep impression which will be recorded in John 11:45-46. The Lazarus family, which, without doubt, was a highly respected one, must—and might it not have been so, notwithstanding its friendship with Jesus?—have had many acquaintances, perhaps also relatives, among these Jews.

πρὸς τὰς περὶ Μ. κ. Μ.] is not quite identical in force with πρὸς τὴν Μ. κ. Μ. (so Lachmann after B. C. L. X. א.), but describes the two sisters with their surroundings (Bernhardy, p. 263; Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. ii. 4. 2; comp. Acts 13:13). The words might also denote the sisters alone, according to later Greek usage (see Valckenaer, Schol. ad Acts 13:13; Lehrs, Quaest. Ep. p. 28 ff.); this usage, however, is quite foreign to the New Testament, besides that, in the present connection, the expression employed has its special propriety, they being men who had come. It implies, moreover, that the household was one of a higher class.

ἵνα παραμ. αὐτ.] The expression of sympathy and consolation, which was connected with definite formalities, lasted usually seven days (1 Samuel 31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:12; Jdt 16:23). See Lightfoot, p. 1070 ff.19. many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary] Better, many from among the Jews had come, &c. The received text with some good authorities has ‘had come to Martha and Mary and their friends,’ but this is not the best-attested reading. ‘The Jews’ here, as usual, means Christ’s opponents; they would come mostly, if not entirely, from Jerusalem.

to comfort them] It was part of the Jewish ceremonial of mourning that many (ten at least) should come and condole. Genesis 27:35; comp. 2 Samuel 12:17; Job 2:11. It is said that the usual period of mourning was thirty days; three of weeping, seven of lamentation, twenty of sorrow. But the instances in Scripture vary: Jacob, seventy days with an additional seven (Genesis 50:3; Genesis 50:10); Aaron and Moses, thirty days (Numbers 20:29; Deuteronomy 34:8); Saul and Judith, seven days (1 Samuel 28:13; Jdg 16:24; comp. Sir 22:12; 2Es 5:20). Josephus tells us that Archelaus mourned for his father seven days, and the Jews for himself, thirty days (B. J. ii. i. 1; iii. ix. 5). The Mishna prescribes seven days for near relations.John 11:19. [295] ΠΟΛΛΟΊ) many, on account of being in their neighbourhood.—τὰς περί) An idiomatic phrase. Acts 13:13 [ΟἹ ΠΕΡῚ ΠΑῦΛΟΝ, Paul and his company], Acts 28:7[296]—ἵνα παραμυθήσωνται, that they might be comforted) some days after the burial. In the present day we say, to condole with.

[295] John 11:17. τέσσαρας ἡμέρας, four days) Therefore Lazarus was buried on the very day of his death. Comp. ver. 39, “Lord, by this time he stinketh; for he hath been dead four days.”. V. g.

[296] ἐν τοῖς περὶ τὸν τόπον, in the same quarters. So here translate, Martha, Mary and her friends. A and Rec. Text read τὰς περὶ M. But BCLXabc Vulg. read πρὸς τὴν M. D reads πρὸς M., omitting τήν.—E. and T.Many of the Jews came

Rev., rightly, had come. The tense is the pluperfect. Lazarus' friendship with Jesus had not caused him to be regarded as an apostate, at whose burial every indignity would have been shown. People were even to array themselves in white, festive garments in demonstration of joy. Here, on the contrary, every token of sympathy and respect seems to have been shown.

To Martha and Mary (πρὸς τὰς περὶ Μάρθαν καὶ Μαρίαν).

Literally, to those about Martha and Mary; a Greek idiom for Martha and Mary and their companions, or attendants. Compare οἱ περὶ Παῦλον, Paul and his companions (Acts 13:13). Somewhat analogous is our familiar idiom when we speak of going to visit a household: I am going to Smith's or Brown's, by which we include the head of the household with its members. Westcott and Hort and Tregelles, however, read πρὸς τὴν Μάρθαν κ. Μ., to Martha and Mary. So also the Revisers' text.

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