He that has the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)He that hath the bride is the bridegroom.—This is the only instance in this Gospel where the familiar imagery of an Eastern marriage meets us. (See Note on Matthew 9:15, where we have the same imagery in the answer of our Lord to these same disciples of John, then taking sides with the Pharisees, on the question of fasting.) The “friend of the bridegroom”—called by the Hebrews “Shōshbēn,” and by the Greeks “Paranymph”—was charged with the preliminaries of the marriage. He arranged the contract, acted for the bridegroom during the betrothal, and arranged for, and presided at, the festivities of the wedding-day itself. It was a position of honour, in proportion to the position of the bridegroom himself, and was given to his chief friend. That friend then joyed in his joy, and there was none brighter on that day than he. This in John’s thought is an illustration of his own position. The bridegroom is the Messiah; the bride is the Kingdom of God—the church, consisting of all who with pure hearts are willing to receive Him; the friend who has arranged the betrothal, who has prepared these hearts, is John himself. He now stands and hears the Bridegroom. Some of those who had been prepared by him for the Bridegroom would have come, it may be, and told him of his words. He is now near at hand. Throngs crowd to Him. The bride is approaching. Do they see in all this matter for envy? It is to him the consummation of all hopes. The life-work has not been in vain. The cup runs over. The joy is fulfilled.
But the friend of the bridegroom - He whose office it is to attend him on the marriage occasion. This was commonly the nearest friend, and was a high honor.
Rejoiceth greatly - Esteems himself highly honored by the proof of friendship.
The bridegroom's voice - His commands, requests, or conversation.
This my joy ... - "I sustain to the Messiah the relation which a groomsman does to the groom. The chief honor and the chief joy is not mine, but his. It is to be expected, therefore, that the people will come to him, and that his success will be great. The relation of Christ to the church is often compared with the marriage relation, denoting the tenderness of the union, and his great love for his people. Compare Isaiah 62:5; Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:9; Revelation 22:17; Ephesians 5:26-27, Ephesians 5:32; 2 Corinthians 11:2.
A man can receive, &c.—assume nothing, that is, lawfully and with any success; that is, Every man has his work and sphere appointed him from above, Even Christ Himself came under this law (Heb 5:4).2 Corinthians 8:5, he is the Bridegroom of it, Matthew 22:2 2 Corinthians 11:2 Ephesians 5:23,25,29; as his Father was the Husband of the Jewish church; it belongeth to him to give laws to it, and to order matters and affairs in it. I am but as one who is
the friend of the bridegroom, one of the children of the bride chamber, Matthew 9:15, and have by my preaching prepared the people of the Jews for him; and instead of being troubled to hear that he is come, I rejoice greatly to hear his voice. So far am I from repining to hear that multitudes go to him, that
my joy is fulfilled; that is, I have no greater satisfaction than to hear it. 2 Corinthians 11:2. These Christ has in a conjugal relation; and he came, and comes to have them after this manner: he saw them in his Father's purposes, and decrees, in all the glory he meant to bring them to; and loved them, and desired them of his Father, as his spouse, who gave them to him, as such; and he betrothed them to himself for ever; and in time he sends his ministering servants with his Gospel, to engage and betroth them to him; and by the power of his grace, he makes them willing to give up themselves to him; which is the open espousal of them; and at the last day, when the number of the elect are completed, the marriage of the Lamb will be publicly solemnized, and a marriage supper will be made; and all that are called, and ready, will enter into the marriage chamber, and share in the joys, and pleasures of that day: thus by virtue of the Father's gift, Christ has them now as his own property, as his portion, his jewels, his bride, and wife; and by, and through his great love to them, he has them not only in his arms, from whence they can never be plucked; but in his heart, where they are set as a seal; and by virtue of this love, they are united to him, become one with him, are members of his body, flesh, and bones; and are one spirit with him, and nothing can be able to separate them; and he will have them all with, him to all eternity, to be where he is, and behold his glory: and now, he that has the bride in this sense,
is the bridegroom; and such is Christ; see Matthew 9:15; and he acts, and behaves, as such; he loves the saints, as a bridegroom loves his bride, with a love prior to theirs; with a love of complacency and delight, which is single, chaste, and inviolable; free, and sovereign, wonderful, unchangeable, and from everlasting to everlasting: he sympathises with them in all their adversities, and afflictions; he nourishes, and cherishes them, and provides everything for them, for food, and clothing, for refreshment and protection; and interests them in all he has: and an amazing instance of grace this is, that such who are no better than others, children of wrath by nature; exceeding great sinners, guilty, and filthy; bankrupts, and beggars on the dunghill; and yet are taken into so near a relation to him; who is in the form of God, and equal to him, the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, the Son of God, in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells; the King of kings, and Lord of lords. And this being the case, John suggests, that by these persons following Christ, and giving up themselves to him, it appeared that he was the bridegroom; and to whom should they betake themselves but to him? Nor did it become him, or any other, to seek to draw them from him; nor should any envy his enjoyment of them, since they were his in so peculiar a sense, and in so near a relation:
but the friend of the bridegroom; meaning himself: and such is every true minister of the Gospel; he is a lover of Christ, a friend to his interest, and seeks by all means to promote it, and to bring souls unto him. The allusion is to a custom among the Jews, who, at their marriages, used to have persons both on the side of the bride, and of the bridegroom, as companions that attended each, and were called their friends; see Judges 14:20. Such an one is called by the Rabbins, and this word is interpreted by "a lover", or "friend", the same as here; and by "his" (the bridegroom's) "friend" in the time of his marriage (s). There were two of these, one for the bride, and another for the bridegroom; for so it is said (t), formerly they appointed two
""friends", one for him (the bridegroom), and one for her (the bride), that they might minister to the bridegroom, and do all things at their entrance into the marriage chamber. --And formerly, these friends slept where the bridegroom and bride slept.''
And so as John is here represented as the friend of Christ, the bridegroom of the church; the Jews speak of Moses as the friend of God, the bridegroom of the people of Israel. So one of their writers (u), having delivered a parable concerning a certain king going into a far country, and leaving his espoused wife with his maid-servants, who raising an evil report on her, his friend tore in pieces the matrimonial contract, thus applies it:
"the king, this is the holy, blessed God; the maidens, these are the mixed multitude; and "the friend", this is Moses; and the spouse of the holy, blessed God is Israel.''
The Jews say (w), that Michael and Gabriel were the "bridal friends" to the first Adam.
Which standeth; the phrase may be seen in the above parable of the Jewish writer (x) referred to, , "his friend standeth": this was the posture of servants, and is fitly applied to John, who was the harbinger of Christ, and judged himself unworthy to bear his shoes; and well agrees with the ministers of the Gospel, who stand before Christ, wait upon him, and minister in his name, and are the servants of the churches for his sake:
and heareth him; hearkens to his words; observes, and obeys them; hears his voice, so as to understand it, and distinguish it from another's; and hears it with delight and pleasure, as every true friend of Christ does his Gospel, which is his voice, and is a joyful sound; and so
rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: such an one rejoices at the sight of his person, and in communion with him; he rejoices at the sound of his voice; and is delighted to hear him in the ministry of the word, calling to one, and to another, to come unto him, and causing them to believe in him, and give up themselves to him.
This my joy therefore is fulfilled; in Christ, he being come in person, and his voice heard in the land of Judea, and multitudes of souls flocking to him, who believing in him, were baptized; than which nothing could be a greater pleasure to John, or to any Gospel minister. This was the accomplishment and perfection of his joy, which carried it to its utmost height: this was what he wished for; and now he had the desire of his heart. It was usual for the friend of the bridegroom to carry provisions with him, and eat and drink with the bridegroom, and rejoice with him; and this rejoicing was mutual. Hence those words,
"give me "my friend", that I may rejoice with him:''
the gloss upon it is,
"and eat at his marriage, even as he also rejoiced, and ate at my marriage (y).''He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 3:29-30. Symbolical setting forth of his subordinate relation to Jesus. The bridegroom is Jesus, John is the friend who waits upon Him; the bride is the community of the Messianic kingdom; the wedding is the setting up of that kingdom, now nigh at hand, as represented in the picture which the Baptist draws (comp. Matthew 9:15; Matthew 25:1 ff.). The O. T. figure of God’s union with His people as a marriage (Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:18-19; Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9) forms the basis of this comparison. It may reasonably be doubted whether Solomon’s Song (especially John 5:1; John 5:6) was likewise in the Baptist’s thoughts when employing this illustration (Bengel, Luthardt, Hengstenberg); for no quotation is made from that book in the N. T., and therefore any allegorical interpretation of this Song with Messianic references cannot with certainty be presupposed in the N. T. Comp. Luke 13:31, note.
He to whom the bride (the bride-elect of the marriage feast) belongs is the bridegroom,—therefore it is not I.
The friend of the bridegroom (κατʼ ἐξοχήν: the appointed friend, who serves at the wedding) is the παρανύμφιος, who is also, Sanhedr. f. 27, 2, called אוהב, but usually שושבן. Lightfoot, p. 980; Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. s.v.; Schoettgen, p. 335 ff.; and see on 2 Corinthians 11:2.
ὁ ἑστηκὼς κ. ἀκούων αὐτοῦ] who standeth (tanquam apparitor, Bengel) and attentively heareth him, i.e. in order to do his bidding. Contrary to the construction (καὶ), and far-fetched, is the rendering of B. Crusius: “who is waiting for him (ἑστηκ.), and when he hears him, viz. the voice of the approaching bridegroom. (?)” Tholuck also, following Chrysostom, brings in what is not there when he renders: “who standeth, having finished his work as forerunner.” The Baptist had still to work on, and went on working. The ἑστηκ. must be regarded as taking place at the marriage feast, and not before that, during the bridal procession (Ewald, who refers to the frequent stoppages which took place in it); but it does not mean standing at the door of the wedding chamber, nor ἀκ. αὐτοῦ the audible pleasure of the newly married pair. An indelicate sensualizing (still to be found in Kuinoel) unwarranted by the text.
χαρᾷ χαίρει] he rejoiceth greatly; see Lobeck, Paralip. p. 524; Winer, p. 424 [E. T. p. 584]. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:9, where, in like manner, διά stands instead of the classical ἐπί, ἐν, or the dative.
διὰ τὴν φωνὴν τοῦ νυμφ.] This is not to be understood of his loud caresses and protestations of love (Grotius, Olshausen, Lange), nor of the command of the bridegroom to take away the cloth with the signum virginitatis (thus debasing the beautiful figure, Michaelis, Paulus), nor of the conversing of the bridegroom with the bride (Tholuck and older expositors),—all of which are quite out of keeping with the general expression; the reference is merely to the conversation and joy of the bridegroom amid the marriage mirth. Comp. Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9; Jeremiah 25:10. The explanation, also, which makes it the voice of the approaching bridegroom who calls the bride to fetch her home, would need to be more precisely indicated (against B. Crusius and Luthardt), and is not in keeping with ὁ ἑστηκώς; the activity of Jesus, moreover, was already more than a call to the bringing home, which might have symbolized His first appearing. Comp. Matthew 9:15.
Note, besides, how the ardent expression of joy stands contrasted with the envious feelings of John’s disciples.
αὕτη οὖν ἡ χαρὰ, κ.τ.λ.] ΟὖΝ infers the ΑὝΤΗ from the application of the figure: this joy, therefore, which is mine, viz. at the bridegroom’s voice.
πεπλήρωται] has been fulfilled completely, so that nothing more is wanting to it. The Baptist, with prophetic anticipation, sees, in the successful activity of Jesus, and in the flocking of the people to Him, the already rising dawn of the Messiah’s kingdom (the beginning of the marriage). On πεπλήρ. comp. John 15:11, John 16:24, John 17:13; 1 John 1:4.
ΔΕῖ] as in John 3:14. This noble self-renunciation was based upon the clear certainty which he had of the divine purpose.
αὐξάνειν] in influence and efficiency.
ἘΛΑΤΤΟῦΣΘΑΙ] the counterpart of increase: to become less, Jeremiah 30:16; Symm.; 2 Samuel 3:1; Ecclus. 35:23, al.; Thuc. ii. 62. 4; Theophr. H. pl. vi. 8. 5; Josephus, Antt. vii. 1. 5. Comp. Plat. Leg. iii. p. 681 A: αὐξανομένων ἐκ τῶν ἐλαττόνων.
 The working of Jesus was so manifest, and now so near to the Baptist, that this feature of the comparison is fully explained by it. Neither in this place nor elsewhere is there any answer to the question, whether and what personal intercourse the Baptist had already had with Him (Hengstenberg thinks “through intermediate persons, especially through the Apostle John”). In particular, the assumption that the interview with Nicodemus became known to the Baptist (through the disciples of Jesus who had previously been the Baptist’s disciples) is quite unnecessary for the understanding of the words which here follow (against Godet).
 For the παρανύμφιος does not stand there waiting for the bridegroom, but accompanies him on his way to the bride’s house. The standing and waiting pertain to the female attendants on the bride, Matthew 25:1 ff.John 3:29. ὁ ἔχων τὴν νύμφην … The bride is the familiar O.T. figure expressive of the people in their close relation to God (Isaiah 54:5, Hosea 2:18, Psalms 45). This figure passes into N.T. Cf. Matthew 22:2, Ephesians 5:32, Jam 4:4.—ὁ ἔχων, he that has and holds as a wife. Cf. Mark 6:18, Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 62:5.—νυμφίος ἐστίν, it is the bridegroom, and no one else, who marries the bride and to whom she belongs. There is only one in whom the people of God can find their permanent joy and rest; one who is the perennial spring of their happiness and life.—ὁ δὲ φίλος τοῦ νυμφίου, the friend, par excellence, the groomsman, παρανύμφιος, νυμφάγωγος, or in Hebrew Shoshben, who was employed to ask the hand of the bride and to arrange the marriage. For the standing and duties of the Shadchan and Shoshben see Abraham’s Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, pp. 170, 180. The similar function of the Hindu go-between or ghatak is fully described in The City of Sunshine. The peculiar and intense gratification [χαρᾷ χαίρει, intensely rejoices, see especially Lücke, who renders “durch und durch”; Weizsäcker, “freut sich hoch”; R.V, “rejoiceth greatly”] of this functionary was to see that his delicate task was crowned with success; and of this he was assured when he stood and heard the bridegroom directly welcoming his bride [“voice of bridegroom” as symbol of joy, Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9].—αὕτη οὖν ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ πεπλήρωται. This is the joy which John claims for himself, the joy of the bridegroom’s friend, who arranges the marriage, and this joy is attained in Christ’s welcoming to Himself the people whom John has prepared for Him and directed to Him. Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:2, where Paul uses similar language. It is not John’s regret that men are attracted to Jesus: rather it is the fulfilment of his work and hope. This was the God-appointed order.
 Revised Version.29. John explains by a figure his subordination to the Messiah.
He that hath the bride] Here only in this Gospel does this well-known symbol occur. It is frequent both in O.T. and N.T. Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:19-20; Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9. Comp. Song of Solomon, passim; Matthew 9:15; Matthew 25:1. In O.T. it symbolizes the relationship between Jehovah and His chosen people, in N.T that between Christ and His Church.
the friend of the bridegroom] The special friend, appointed to arrange the preliminaries of the wedding, to manage and preside at the marriage feast. Somewhat analogous to our ‘best man,’ but his duties were very much more considerable. A much closer analogy may be found among the lower orders in the Tyrol at the present day. Here the Messiah is the Bridegroom and the Church His Bride; John is His friend who has prepared the heart of the Bride and arranged the espousal. He rejoices to see the consummation of his labours.
heareth him] i.e. listens attentively to do his bidding.
because of the bridegroom’s voice] Heard in the midst of the marriage-festivities.
is fulfilled] i.e. has been fulfilled and still remains complete. Comp. John 15:11, John 16:24, John 17:13; 1 John 1:4.John 3:29. Ὁ ἔχων) He who hath, or whom the bride follows. All come to Jesus: hence it is clear, that Jesus is the Bridegroom. See the Song of Solomon.—φίλος, the friend) Dear to the Bridegroom, loving the Bridegroom. The derivation of John accords. It is the part of a friend to rejoice,—ὁ ἐστηκώς, who standeth) as His attendant.—ἀκούων) hearing Him speaking with the bride, John 3:32; John 3:34, “What He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth;—He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God.” These two participles are part of the subject: the predicate is χαίρει, rejoiceth.—φωνήν, the voice) by which the Bridegroom testifies His presence, John 3:32. This voice sweetly attracts the bride.—ἡ χαρά, joy) without sadness and envy.
 Viz., with this character, as friend of the Bridegroom. John in Hebr. = the favour of God.Verse 29. - And now the Baptist bethinks him of another remarkable image, with which, as a student of the Old Testament, and being himself "more than a prophet," He was familiar. The tenderness of the imagery had not hitherto, however, comported with the ministry of the vox clamantis. Whereas the New Testament represents the loving kindness and righteousness of the Lord God under the metaphor of a Father's love to his prodigal but repenting children, the prophets were often disposed to set forth the same idea in the light of a Husband yearning over his bride, even betrothing her a second time unto himself after her faithlessness and folly. Jehovah and Jehovah's King and Representative are set forth as the Bridegroom of the true Israel (Psalm 45; Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:19, 20; the Song of Solomon 1; Ezekiel 16; Malachi 2:11, etc.); and the New Testament writers, especially John himself, who delights in the image (Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2, 9; Revelation 22:17), and Paul, who compares the relation of the Saviour to his Church under this endearing imagery (Ephesians 5:32; 2 Corinthians 11:2), vindicate the legitimacy of the metaphor. The Baptist might easily think of this language, but it is more than possible that he had been profoundly touched by the news that had reached him concerning the presence of Jesus at a marriage feast. John had been a Nazarite from his birth. Jesus was revealing himself amid the pleasures and innocent joys of life and love. John's conception of the kingdom had been that of severance from the world - seclusion, ascetic restraint. Jesus had manifested his glory amid the festival and in the common life and daily ways of men. John may have seen that there was much in this to captivate the heart of the true Israel; and he glances at the bridal of heaven and earth in this new conception of the mission of the Messiah. It may have staggered him, as he had taught Israel to hope for One whose hand would be more heavy upon them and on their sins than his had been. Where was the axe laid at the root of the trees? where the fire that scorches to cleanse and purify? But he accepted to some extent the new revelation, and found his own place in the novel reconstruction of the kingdom. So he says, He that hath the bride is the bridegroom. However, John throws in a novel thought, explanatory of his own position, and not found in the Old Testament imagery: "I am not the Bridegroom," says he; "but it is also true that I am not the Bride. Such is my position that I am standing outside the company of those who are the prophetic 'Bride.'" The friend of the bridegroom (φίλος τοῦ νυμφίου παρανύμφιος, answering to the אוהֵב and שׁושְׁבֶן of the Aramaic writers) is he who acts the part of intermediary - the confidant of both. He presides at the ceremonies of the betrothal and at the wedding tent, and especially in the interests of the bridegroom. The image was probably suggested to him by the great discovery made by the friend of the Cana bridegroom touching the "glory" of the mysterious Guest on that typical occasion. "The friend of the bridegroom" differs profoundly from the Bridegroom. The Christ will prove ready to occupy this position, and John has declared that he is not the Christ. Moreover, John differs from the Bride; he does not receive the lavish love, nor the deep intimacies of that affection, nor the dowry of sacrificial devotion with which that love will at length be won. This paranymphios standeth and heareth him. It is not said, "seeth him." Some have argued that John here calls attention to the fact that all that the Bridegroom has been saying has reached him by means of the information brought to him on the part of those who were both his own disciples and the disciples of Jesus; but the next clause is inconsistent with this. The friend of the bridegroom stands ready to do the will and promote the honour and pleasure of his friend. (The materialistic and sensualistic manner in which some have pressed the force of the imagery is out of place.) "The voice of the bridegroom," the hilarious joy of the bridegroom, is a proverbial expression (Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9; Jeremiah 25:10). There is a contrast felt between the formal business-like fellowship that prevailed between the bride and the friend of the bridegroom, and the free outspoken love of the bridegroom himself. The lispings of prophecy are contrasted with the outspoken utterances of the gospel of love. And he rejoiceth with joy (χαρᾷ χαίρει; cf. for this form of expression, which corresponds with the frequent Hebrew juxtaposition of the finite verb with the infinitive absolute, the LXX. of Isaiah 30:19; Isaiah 66:10; Deuteronomy 7:26, etc.; Luke 22:15; Acts 4:17; Acts 5:28; Acts 23:14; James 5:17). It is not an indubitable Hebraism, because similar expressions are found in the classics, as Plato, 'Sympos.,' 195, B., φεύγων φυγῇ; 'Phaedr.,' 265, D.; Soph., 'OEd. Rex,' 65; see Winer, 'Gramm. E.T.,' p. 585. This is the only place where such a construction occurs in the writings of John) because of the bridegroom's voice. Intense joy is thus ascribed to one who was the minister of the bliss of another. This my joy - or, this joy, therefore, which is mine - hath been made full. "I have thus completed my task, and reached the climax of my bliss. I have wooed and won," The bridal of heaven and earth is begun. In subsequent words of Jesus and his disciples other great epochs of complete consummation are referred to. The joy of the Lord will only be entirely realized when, after the resurrection and the second advent, the rapture of fellowship with his Bride will be completed. But the Baptist recognized that his own work was finished when the Messiah had been introduced to those who understood something of his claims, when the kingdom was at hand, when there were many who sought and found their Lord.
Friend of the bridegroom
Or groomsman. The term is appropriate to Judaea, the groomsmen not being customary in Galilee. See Matthew 9:15, where the phrase children of the bridechamber is used. (See on Mark 2:19). In Judaea there were two groomsmen, one for the bridegroom, the other for his bride. Before marriage they acted as intermediaries between the couple; at the wedding they offered gifts, waited upon the bride and bridegroom, and attended them to the bridal chamber. It was the duty of the friend of the bridegroom to present him to his bride, after marriage to maintain proper terms between the parties, and especially to defend the bride's good fame. The Rabbinical writings speak of Moses as the friend of the bridegroom who leads out the bride to meet Jehovah at Sinai (Exodus 19:17); and describe Michael and Gabriel as acting as the friends of the bridegroom to our first parents, when the Almighty himself took the cup of blessing and spoke the benediction. The Baptist represents himself as standing in the same relation to Jesus.
Rejoiceth greatly (χαρᾷ χαίρει)
This my joy (αὕτη ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ)
A very emphatic expression: this, the joy which is mine. The change of style in the following verses seems to indicate that the words of the Baptist break off at this point, and are taken up and commented upon by the Evangelist.
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