|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
Verses 18, 19. - Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem. This geographical observation is introduced to explain the following verse. Meyer and Alford think that the use of the past tense, η}ν, may be perfectly justified in making reference to past events; yet, since John is the only New Testament writer who uses it, the usage may have been adopted by him because, at the time when he wrote his Gospel, Bethany had been for the time destroyed with Jerusalem itself. The construction is peculiar: ὡς ἀπὸ (compare a similar use of πρὸ, John 12:1; John 21:8; Revelation 14:20; see Winer, p. 697, Eng. trans.). Many think that it is to be understood - about fifteen stadia from it - a kind of trajection of the preposition; but Winer thinks that it points to the spot where the fifteen stadia might be supposed to terminate, i.e. "lying off at the end of the fifteen stadia," and so giving an adverbial force to the preposition: and he adds a long list of similar constructions in later Greek writers. The stadium was 606.75 feet - less than the eighth of an English mile; the distance was therefore between a mile and a half and a mile and three quarters. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary. "The Jews" is a phrase generally, not uniformly, used by John to denote those permanently hostile to our Lord, and often of the upper and ruling classes. These, therefore, had one more trial of faith, one further opportunity of recognizing his glory. Many of them came to Martha and Mary. They came to comfort them, according to ordinary usage among the Jews after bereavement. This ceremony often lasted seven days. Concerning (their) brother. We cling to earthly love. The gush of strong affection that mourners lavish on the dead deepens their love to one another, and the praises of the departed often gild and almost pierce the veil itself. The fact that many Jews should have taken the trouble to journey nearly two miles to comfort the bereaved sisters shows that the family at Bethany was one of some wealth, position, and importance (cf. Matthew 26:6-13). If so, it is exceedingly unlikely that the narrative stands in any relation to the parable of the rich man and the beggar.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem,.... Which was a reason why them were so many of the Jews come there to condole the two sisters upon the death of their brother; and by this means the following miracle became more known there: it was
about fifteen furlongs off; that is, about two miles, for seven furlongs and a half made a Jewish mile, as appears from one of their canons (c), which runs thus:
"they do not spread nets for doves, except it be distant from an habitable place, , "thirty furlongs";''
which the commentators say (d) are "four miles": and still more expressly it is said (e), that
"between Jerusalem and Zuck, (the place where the scape goat was had,) there were ten tents, and ninety furlongs, "seven and a half to every mile".''
Hence a furlong was called one seventh and a half of a mile (f), which was 266 cubits, and two thirds of one.
(c) Misn. Bava Kama, c. 7. sect. 7. (d) Maimon. Jarchi, & Bartenora in ib. (e) Misn. Yoma, c. 6. sect. 4. (f) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 33. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Rotzeach, c. 13. sect. 6.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18. Bethany was nigh Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs—rather less than two miles; mentioned to explain the visits of sympathy noticed in the following words, which the proximity of the two places facilitated.
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