|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:1-11 Did Christ pour out his soul unto death for us, and shall we think any thing too precious for him? Do we give him the precious ointment of our best affections? Let us love him with all the heart, though it is common for zeal and affection to be misunderstood and blamed; and remember that charity to the poor will not excuse any from particular acts of piety to the Lord Jesus. Christ commended this woman's pious attention to the notice of believers in all ages. Those who honour Christ he will honour. Covetousness was Judas' master lust, and that betrayed him to the sin of betraying his Master; the devil suited his temptation to that, and so conquered him. And see what wicked contrivances many have in their sinful pursuits; but what appears to forward their plans, will prove curses in the end.
Verse 3. - And while he was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster cruse (ἀλάβαστρον) - literally, an alabaster; as we say, "a glass," of a vessel made of glass - of ointment of spikenard very costly (μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτελοῦς); and she brake the cruse, and poured it over his head. This anointing of our Lord appears to have taken place on the Saturday before Palm Sunday (see John 12:1). The anointing mentioned by St. Luke (Luke 7:36) evidently has reference to some previous occasion. The narrative here and in St. Matthew and St. John would lead us to the conclusion that this was a feast given by Simon - perhaps in grateful acknowledgment of the miracle which had been wrought upon Lazarus. He is called "Simon the leper," probably because he had been a leper, and had been healed by Christ, although he still retained the name of "leper," to distinguish him from others named Simon, or Simeon, a common name amongst the Jews. There came a woman. This woman, we learn from St. John (John 12:2, 3), was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. The vessel, or cruse, which she had with her was made of alabaster, a kind of soft, smooth marble, which could easily be scooped out so as to form a receptacle for ointment, which, according to Pliny ('Nat. Hist.,' 13:3), was best preserved in vessels made of alabaster. The vessel would probably be formed with a long narrow neck, which could easily be broken, or crushed (the word in the original is συντρίψασα so as to allow of a free escape for the unguent. The ointment was made of spikenard νάρδου πιστικῆς). The Vulgate has nardi spicati. If this is the true interpretation of the word πιστικῆς, it would mean that this ointment was made from a bearded plant mentioned by Pliny ('Nat. Hist.,' 12:12), who says that the ointment made from this plant was most precious. The plant was called by Galen "nardi spica." Hence πιστικῆν it would mean "genuine" ointment - ointment made from the flowers of the choicest kind of plant, pliny ('Nat. Hist.,' 12:26) says that there was an inferior article in circulation, which he calls "pseudo-nard." The Syriac Peshito Version uses an expression which means the principal, or best kind of ointment. The anointing of the head would be the more usual mark of honor. It would seem most probable that Mary first wiped the feet of Jesus, wetting them with her tears, and then wiping off the dust, and then anointing them; and that she then proceeded to break the neck of the cruse, and to pour its whole contents on his head.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And being in Bethany,.... A place about two miles from Jerusalem, whither he retired after he had took his leave of the temple, and had predicted its destruction; a place he often went to, and from, the last week of his life; having some dear friends, and familiar acquaintance there, as Lazarus, and his two sisters, Martha and Mary, and the person next mentioned:
in the house of Simon the leper; so called because he had been one, and to distinguish him from Simon the Pharisee, and Simon Peter the apostle, and others; See Gill on Matthew 26:6;
as he sat at meat there came a woman; generally thought to be Mary Magdalene, or Mary the sister of Lazarus:
having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard; or "pure nard", unmixed and genuine; or liquid nard, which was drinkable, and so easy to be poured out; or Pistic nard, called so, either from "Pista", the name of a place from whence it was brought, or from "Pistaca", which, with the Rabbins, signifies "maste"; of which, among other things, this ointment was made. Moreover, ointment of nard was made both of the leaves of nard, and called foliate nard, and of the spikes of it, and called, as here, spikenard. Now ointment made of nard was, as Pliny says (w), the principal among ointments. The Syriac is, by him, said to be the best; this here is said to be
very precious, costly, and valuable:
and she brake the box. The Syriac and Ethiopic versions render it, "she opened it"; and the Persic version, "she opened the head", or "top of the bottle", or "vial":
and poured it on his head; on the head of Christ, as the same version presses it; See Gill on Matthew 26:7.
(w) Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 12.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. And being in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman—It was "Mary," as we learn from Joh 12:3.
having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard—pure nard, a celebrated aromatic—(See So 1:12).
very precious—"very costly" (Joh 12:3).
and she brake the box, and poured it on his head—"and anointed," adds John (Joh 12:3), "the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." The only use of this was to refresh and exhilarate—a grateful compliment in the East, amid the closeness of a heated atmosphere, with many guests at a feast. Such was the form in which Mary's love to Christ, at so much cost to herself, poured itself out.
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