|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
7:1-13 The brethren or kinsmen of Jesus were disgusted, when they found there was no prospect of worldly advantages from him. Ungodly men sometimes undertake to counsel those employed in the work of God; but they only advise what appears likely to promote present advantages. The people differed about his doctrine and miracles, while those who favoured him, dared not openly to avow their sentiments. Those who count the preachers of the gospel to be deceivers, speak out, while many who favour them, fear to get reproach by avowing regard for them.
Verses 1, 2 - And after these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he was not willing to walk in Judaea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Tabernacles, was at hand. The last clause supplies a valuable chronological datum. This great climacteric feast of ingathering and joyful memories of all the goodness of Jehovah was held on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:34-36). Consequently, according to John's own statement, six months had elapsed between the transactions at Bethsaida and Capernaum, and those which he now proceeds to describe. During these six months some of the most thrilling events in the synoptic narrative must have been enacted. The Lord "walked in Galilee." He had discussed the whole question of Pharisaic and ceremonial cleansing and food, and the entire principle of revelation and tradition (Matthew 15. and Mark 7.). He had given express illustration of his own teaching by venturing even into heathen cities, and there healing the Syro-Phoenician's child. He had journeyed towards the north of Palestine, into the Greek cities of Decapolis (Mark 7:31), and had made a great demonstration of his healing powers on the mountain heights above the Sea of Galilee. There too (Mark 7:1-9) he had once more fed multitudes by his word, on the second miraculous meal. It is probable that the multitudes were Gentiles, whose stock of food would have been exhausted by a three days' sojourn; that at least they were not excitable Galilaeans, who might come by force and make him a King. The Pharisees assailed him, asking for a sign. The disciples, by the mouth of Peter, had confessed their faith (Matthew 16:13-28) in more explicit form and force than before (John 6:68, 69), and Christ had explained in yet more definite terms than in the synagogue in Capernaum the needs be for his Passion, death, and resurrection. The Transfiguration on the mountain, with its ineffaceable impressions, had followed, with numerous miracles, parables, and connected instructions (Matthew 16, 17, 18.). Jesus walked for six months in Galilee, knowing, as we learn from these verses, that the authorities in Jerusalem were utterly hostile to him, and had neither forgotten nor forgiven the assertion of his special claims when he was on the last occasion in Jerusalem at the unnamed feast (be it the Feast of Passover or Tabernacles, the Feast of Purim or Trumpets). The outburst of hostility which kept him so long from Jerusalem was circulating in angry vibrations to the very borders of Galilee. The hour for the final conflict was in abeyance until he had preached more explicitly the Divine gospel of love and redemption, and had left the indestructible seed in human hearts. There was malice in Galileo as well as in Judaea, but it took a different form. Thoma regards the sixth chapter as the ideal treatment by the fourth evangelist of the events recorded in the synoptic narrative, and, strangely enough, treats the wonders on the sea and on the land as parallels to the synoptic account of the temptation! The objection to this is not so much the underlying dissimilarity of idea as the chronological position assigned by Matthew and Luke to the temptation before John was imprisoned, whereas these events occur after his execution. Further, the synoptists record these two miracles in their proper place in the biography as well as describe the temptation. That the deep inner meaning and teaching of ch. 6. corresponds with that of the last Supper, no reader can miss; nor that this confession of Peter is the highest point of the earlier and later narratives we do not question; but their striking resemblance to each other, instead of transforming this Gospel into a philosophical allegory, appears to us to prove that we have the same historic Christ in Both narratives. The Feast of Tabernacles, the σκηνοπηγία, or tent pitching, called by Philo σκηναί, was the last great feast of the sacred year. It had its relation to the natural and providential goodness of God. Just as the Passover commemorated the opening of the harvest and the first fruits of the grain, and as Pentecost celebrated the completion of the harvest, so the "Tabernacles" implied the ingathering of the fruit of the vine and of the olive, and summed up the joyful acknowledgments for the whole year. Again, as the "Passover" recorded the deliverance from Egyptian bondage by the destroying angel who spared the blood sprinkled home, and the "Pentecost" probably (Maimonides) commemorated the giving of the Law, so the "Tabernacles" recalled in a festive form the time of Israel's wandering in the wilderness, when they dwelt in tabernacles. Joyfulness and astonishing ceremonial characterized the festival. The city of palaces broke out into booths of trees and leaves in every possible space, on walls and housetops in courtyards, and even in waggons and on the backs of camels. The people carried their palm branches and citrons in their hands, and great merriment, almost suggestive of heathen rites, prevailed. It probably gathered up about it, as some Christian festivals have done, other ancient or surrounding customs. The number of bullocks sacrificed during the seven days - one fewer on each day, beginning with thirteen - amounted in all to seventy (13+12+11+10+9+8+7 = 70). This the rabbis regarded as referring to the seventy nations of heathendom. Additional peculiarities were conspicuous in the immense number of priests who were required to take part in the sacrifices. The blasts of priests' trumpets which regulated the ceremonial, the great musical procession employed in brining water from the Pool of Siloam, then within the city wall, added another noticeable feature. The water was brought in a golden goblet, and poured into a silver funnel, which conveyed it by pipes to the Kedron, and was thus supposed to bless the thirsty land. This act was accompanied by singing the great Hallel, and the shouts and songs of Zion were heard far over hill and valley. At night time universal illumination prevailed, and huge candelabra in the temple court shed a radiance over the whole city. These peculiarities of the feast rendered it the most popular, if not the most sacred, of all the feasts ('Ant.,' 8:04, 1, Ἐορτὴ ἁγιωτάτη καὶ μεγίστη). It was a time when the national sentiment often burst into fierce flame. Various historic glories of the past were called to remembrance, and spiritual privileges were symbolized in the ritual. The fact that the feast held this important place in the affections and enthusiasm of the people explains the anxiety of the family of Jesus that, whatever his claims really were, they should be canvassed in the metropolis and decided by the only authorities adequate to the task.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. Which began on the fifteenth day of the month Tisri, which answers to part of our September; when the Jews erected tents or booths, in which they dwelt, and ate their meals during this festival; and which was done, in commemoration of the Israelites dwelling in booths in the wilderness; and was typical of Christ's tabernacling in human nature; and an emblem of the saints dwelling in the earthly houses and tabernacles of their bodies, in this their wilderness and pilgrimage state. Some assign other reasons of this feast, as that it was appointed in commemoration of the divine command, for building the tabernacle; and others, that it was instituted in memory of the protection of the people of Israel under the cloud, as they travelled through the wilderness; by which they were preserved, as in a tent or booth; and to this inclines the Targum of Onkelos, on Leviticus 23:43, which paraphrases the words thus, "That your generations may know, that in the shadow of the clouds, I caused the children of Israel to dwell, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt": and one of the Jewish commentators (a) suggests, that the reason why the first place the Israelites pitched at, when they came out of Egypt, was called Succoth, which signifies "tents", or "tabernacles", is, because there they were covered with the clouds of glory: but the true reason of this feast is that which is first given, as is clear from Leviticus 23:43, and because they were obliged to dwell in tents, as soon as they came out of Egypt, therefore the first place they encamped at, was called "Succoth", or tabernacles, Exodus 12:37. This feast was not kept at the time of year the people came out of Egypt; for that was at the time of the passover; but was put off, as it seems, to a colder season of the year; and which was not so convenient for dwelling in booths; lest it should be thought they observed this feast for the sake of pleasure and recreation, under the shade of these bowers; which, as appears from Nehemiah 8:15, were made of olive, pine, myrtle, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees; and were fixed, some on the roofs of their houses, others in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God; and others in the streets: an account of the sacrifices offered at this feast, is given in Numbers 29:13, in which may be observed, that on the first day thirteen young bullocks were offered; on the second, twelve; on the third, eleven; on the fourth, ten; on the fifth, nine; on the sixth, eight; and on the seventh, seven; and on the eighth, but one. The Jews, in their Misna, have a treatise called "Succa", or the "Tabernacle", in which they treat of this feast; and which contains various traditions, concerning their booths, their manner of living in them, and other rites and usages observed by them, during this festival: they are very particular about the measure and form, and covering of their booths; a booth might not be higher than twenty cubits, nor lower than ten hands' breadth; and its breadth might not be less than seven hands' breadth by seven; but it might he carried out as wide as they pleased (b), provided it had three sides: they might not cover their booths with anything, but what grew out of the earth, or was rooted up from thence; nor with anything that received uncleanness, or was of an ill smell, or anything that was fallen and faded (c): into these booths they brought their best goods, their best bedding, and all their drinking vessels, &c. and left their houses empty; for here was their fixed dwelling; they only occasionally went into their houses (d); for here they were obliged to dwell day and night, and eat all their meals, during the seven days of the feast; and however, it was reckoned praiseworthy, and he was accounted the most religious, who ate nothing out of his booth (e); they were indeed excused when it was rainy weather, but as soon as the rain was over, they were obliged to return again (f) and besides, their dwelling and sleeping, and eating and drinking, in their booths, there were various other rites which were performed by them; as particularly, the carrying of palm tree branches in their hands, or what they call the "Lulab"; which was made up of branches of palm tree, myrtle, and willow, bound up together in a bundle, which was carried in the right hand, and a pome citron in the left; and as they carried them, they waved them three times towards the several quarters of the world; and every day they went about the altar once, with these in their hands, saying the words in Psalm 118:25, "Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord, O Lord I beseech thee, send now prosperity": and on the seventh day, they went about the altar seven times (g): also there were great illuminations in the temple; at the going out of the first day of the feast, they went down to the court of the women; they made a great preparation (i.e. as Bartenora explains it, they set benches round it, and set the women above, and the men below); and there were golden candlesticks there, and at the head of them four golden basins, and four ladders to every candlestick; and four young priests had four pitchers of oil, that held a hundred and twenty logs, which they put into each basin; and of the old breeches and girdles of the priests, they made wicks, and with them lighted them; and there was not a court in Jerusalem, which was not lighted with that light; and religious men, and men of good works, danced before them, with lighted torches in their hands, singing songs and hymns of praise (h); and this continued the six nights following (i): there was also, on everyone of these days, another custom observed; which was that of fetching water from the pool of Siloah, and pouring it with wine upon the altar, which was attended with great rejoicing; of which; see Gill on John 7:37, to which may be added, the music that was used during the performance of these rites; at the illumination in the court of the women, there were harps, psalteries, cymbals, and other instruments of music, playing all the while; and two priests with trumpets, who sounded, when they had the signal; and on every day, as they brought water from Siloah to the altar, they sounded with trumpets, and shouted; the great "Hallel", or hymn, was sung all the eight days, and the pipe was blown, sometimes five days, and sometimes six (k); and even on all the eight days; and the whole was a feast of rejoicing, according to Leviticus 23:40.
(a) Baal Hatturim in Numbers 33.5. (b) Misn. Succa, c. 1. sect. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Succa, c. 4. sect. 1.((c) Misn. Succa, sect. 4, 5, 6. Maimon. ib. c. 5. sect. 1, 2, &c. (d) Maimon. ib. c. 6. sect. 5. (e) Misn. ib. c. 2. sect. 5, 6. Maimon. ib. sect. 6, 7. (f) Maimon. ib. sect. 10. (g) Misn. ib. c. 4. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Maimon. Hilch. Lulab, c. 7. sect. 5, 6, 9, 23. (h) Misn. Succa, c. 5. sect 2, 3, 4. (i) Maimon. ib. c. 8. sect. 12. (k) Misn. ib. c. 4. sect. 8, 9. & c. 5. 1, 4, 5. & Eracin, c. 2. sect. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. feast of tabernacles … at hand—This was the last of the three annual festivals, celebrated on the fifteenth of the seventh month (September). (See Le 23:33, &c.; De 16:13, &c.; Ne 8:14-18).
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