|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
6:30-44 Let not ministers do any thing or teach any thing, but what they are willing should be told to their Lord. Christ notices the frights of some, and the toils of others of his disciples, and provides rest for those that are tired, and refuge for those that are terrified. The people sought the spiritual food of Christ's word, and then he took care that they should not want bodily food. If Christ and his disciples put up with mean things, surely we may. And this miracle shows that Christ came into the world, not only to restore, but to preserve and nourish spiritual life; in him there is enough for all that come. None are sent empty away from Christ but those who come to him full of themselves. Though Christ had bread enough at command, he teaches us not to waste any of God's bounties, remembering how many are in want. We may, some time, need the fragments that we now throw away.
Verse 40. - And they sat down in ranks (ἀνέπεσον πρασιαὶ πρασιαὶ); literally, they reclined. The Greek word πρασια means "a garden plot" or "bed," literally, a bed of leeks. They were disposed symmetrically. Probably the English word "ranks" expresses the meaning as clearly as any could do. This arrangement was probably made, partly that the numbers might be better known, partly that all things might be done in an orderly manner, and that each might have his portion. St. Matthew's account (Matthew 14:21) seems to imply that the "men" were separated from the "women and children."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they sat down in ranks,.... Or "beds": in such form as little beds are placed in a garden, or as rows of vines in a vineyard, in which form the scholars of the wise men sat in their schools: it is said (g),
"R. Eliezer ben Azariah expounded before the wise men in the vineyard (i.e. the university) of Jabneh: though was there a vineyard there? but these are the disciples of the wise men, who are made, or placed, , "rows, rows", or "in ranks", as a vineyard.''
By hundreds, and by fifties; that is, an hundred in "each" bed, or row, and fifty in "each" bed, or row, as the word signifies: each distinct bed, or row, had either a hundred, or fifty in it.
(g) T. Hieros. Beraeot, fol. 7. 4. Vid. Gloss. in T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 42. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
40. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties—Doubtless this was to show at a glance the number fed, and to enable all to witness in an orderly manner this glorious miracle.
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