|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:54-57 Before our gospel passover we must renew our repentance. Thus by a voluntary purification, and by religious exercises, many, more devout than their neighbours, spent some time before the passover at Jerusalem. When we expect to meet God, we must solemnly prepare. No devices of man can alter the purposes of God: and while hypocrites amuse themselves with forms and disputes, and worldly men pursue their own plans, Jesus still orders all things for his own glory and the salvation of his people.
Verse 54. - This constituted the close of his earthly ministry after his ordinary method. Jesus therefore walked (cf. John 7:1) no more openly (παῥῤησίᾳ; cf. John 7:4) among the Jews; but he deputed thence into the country nigh unto the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim. Westcott says the place is mentioned in connection with Bethel (2 Chronicles 13:19). Not far from Bethel, on the border between Benjamin and Ephraim, is Taiyibeh a conical hill with a village perched aloft, which Robinson ('Bibl. Res.,' 2:127) and Stanley ('Sinai and Palestine,' p. 210) identify with this Ephraim. In this form the word does not appear in the Old Testament, but Ensebius and Jerome make it twelve miles from Jerusalem, on the east of the road leading to Sichem; and Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 4:09.9) speaks of "two little towns of Bethela and Ephraim, through which Vespasian passed and left garrisons." Hengstenberg identifies it with "Baal-hazor, which is by Ephraim" (2 Samuel 13:23). The maps of Van der Welt and of the Palestine Exploration Society place it on the site of Ephraim, Ephron (2 Chronicles 13:19), or Ophrah (Joshua 18:23), about seven miles north-east from Bethel, and give as second designation Apharaim. The intelligence must have reached our Lord that the Sanhedrin had formally pronounced sentence against him. This may have induced him to retire from Jerusalem until the next great feast, when he would publicly challenge their allegiance. From this neighborhood our Lord could (as we learn from the synoptists) have easily joined the caravan from Persea, which, after crossing Jordan near Jericho, there set its face towards Jerusalem, or the caravan which may have come through Samaria to Bethel. There he abode a (tarried) with the disciples. Μετὰ (says Godet) is not synonymous with σύν, but equivalent to - he confined himself in the desert region north-east of Jerusalem to the company of the twelve.
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Jesus therefore,.... Knowing the resolution the sanhedrim had taken to put him to death, and the schemes they were forming to apprehend him:
walked no more openly among the Jews; at, or near Jerusalem; he did not teach in their streets, nor work miracles, nor appear in public company:
but went thence, from Bethany:
unto a country near to the wilderness: whether this was the wilderness of Judea, where John came preaching, and near to which our Lord was before he came to Bethany, or the wilderness of Bethaven, Joshua 18:12, is not certain:
into a city called Ephraim; the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, call it Ephren, and so some copies; it seems to be the same with the Ephraim of the Misnic and Talmudic doctors; concerning which they say (r),
"Micmas and Mezonicha are the first for fine flour, and the next to them is Ephraim in the valley.''
For it seems there were two Ephraims, one in the valley, and another in the mount (s) it was a place very fruitful for wheat; hence that saying of Jannes and Jambres, the magicians of Egypt, to Moses (t);
"do you bring straw to Ephraim?''
which was a proverbial expression, the same with ours of carrying coals to Newcastle: they seeing Moses do signs and wonders, supposed he did them by enchantment; and the sense of their proverb is, do you bring enchantments into Egypt, where there are so many already? This Ephraim, the Jews say (u), is the same with that in 2 Chronicles 13:19, and as there Bethel is mentioned with it, it seems to have been in the tribe of Benjamin: and it may be observed, that Josephus (w) speaks of an Ephraim, along with Bethel likewise; so that they all seem to mean the same place; and according to the same writer, it was but a little city, and it may be an obscure one, for which reason Christ withdrew to it. Epiphanius (x) makes mention of the wilderness of Bethel and Ephraim, through which he travelled, accompanied by a Jew, as he came up from Jericho to the hill country; and is very likely the same wilderness which is here spoken of; and by some called Quarentana, and placed by the river Chereth, in the tribe of Benjamin, north east of Jerusalem; and the same writer elsewhere calls (y) Ephraim, the city of the wilderness: according to Jerom (z), it was twenty miles from Aelia, or Jerusalem; though according to Eusebius, it was but eight miles, which is thought to be the truest account; and by them both is said to be a very large village, and in which they may not differ from Josephus; for it might be a large village, and yet a little city. Jerom (a) takes notice of a place called Aphra, in the tribe of Benjamin, which he says at that time was called the village Effrem, and was five miles from Bethel eastward; and of another called Aphraim, a city in the tribe of Issachar, which in his time went by the name of the village Affarea, six miles from the legion, northward; the former agrees best with this Ephraim.
And there continued with his disciples; spending his time in private conversation with them, teaching and instructing them in things concerning the kingdom of God, his time with them being now but short.
(r) Misn. Menachot, c. 8. sect. 1.((s) Barlenora in ib. (t) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 85. 1. Gloss. in ib. Tzcror Hammor, fol. 170. 2. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 86. fol. 75. 4. (u) Yom. Tob. in Misn. Menachot, c. 8. sect. 1. & Gloss. in T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 83. 2.((w) De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 9. sect. 9. (x) Adv. Haeres. l. 1. Tom. II. Haeres. 30. (y) Ib. Haeres. 29. (z) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 91. A. (a) lb. fol. 88. H. I.
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