Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.Ch. Mark 6:1-6. Christ is despised at Nazareth
1. his own country] that is, Nazareth. From this time forward He ceased to have His abiding residence at Capernaum, although He still assembled His disciples on passing occasions. This visit to Nazareth is recorded only by St Matthew and St Mark.
And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?2. he began to teach in the synagogue] For his former visit here see Luke 4:6 sq. The conduct of His hearers on this occasion did not betray the frantic violence exhibited at His first visit.
mighty works] Rather, powers. This is one of the four names given by the Evangelists to the miracles which the Lord was pleased to work while incarnate here on earth. They are called:
(α) “Wonders,” a term never used alone, but always in conjunction with other names. They are continually styled “signs and wonders,” or “signs” or “powers” alone, but never “wonders” alone. By this word the effect of astonishment, which the work produces on the beholder, is transferred to the work itself. The word only occurs once in St Mark, in Mark 13:22, and there it is in conjunction with “signs.”
(β) “Signs,” as being tokens and indications of something beyond themselves, of the near presence and working of God, the seals and credentials of a higher power. The word is an especial favourite with St John, though in our Version “sign” too often gives place to the vaguer “miracle,” to the great detriment of the true meaning and force of the word. It occurs three times in St John, twice in St Mark 16:17; Mark 16:20 alone, and once in conjunction with “wonders,” Mark 13:22.
(γ) “Powers,” that is of God, coming into and working in this world of ours. As in the “wonder” the effect is transferred and gives a name to the cause, so here the cause gives its name to the effect. The word occurs four times in St Mark: Mark 5:30 (A. V. virtue), Mark 6:2; Mark 6:14; Mark 9:39. In our Version it is rendered sometimes “wonderful works” (Matthew 7:22), sometimes “mighty works” (Matthew 11:20; Mark 6:14; Luke 10:13), and still more frequently “miracles” (Acts 2:22; Acts 19:11; Galatians 3:5), thus doing away with a portion of its force.
(δ) “Works.” This is a significant term very frequently used by St John. With him miracles are the natural form of working for Him, whose Name is Wonderful (Isaiah 9:6), and Who therefore doeth “works of wonder.” Comp. John 6:28; John 7:21; John 10:25; John 10:32; John 10:38; John 14:11, &c. See Abp. Trench on the Parables, Introd.
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.3. Is not this the carpenter?] Save in this one place, our Lord is nowhere Himself called “the Carpenter.” According to the custom of the Jews, even the Rabbis learnt some handicraft. One of their proverbs was that “he who taught not his son a trade, taught him to be a thief.” Hence St Paul learnt to “labour with his own hands” at the trade of a tent-maker (Acts 18:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 4:12). “In the cities the carpenters would be Greeks, and skilled workmen; the carpenter of a provincial village could only have held a very humble position, and secured a very moderate competence.” Farrar’s Life of Christ, I. 81.
the brother of James, and Joses …] The four “brothers” here mentioned, and “the sisters,” whose names are nowhere recorded, were in all probability the children of Clopas and Mary, the sister and namesake of the blessed Virgin, and so the “cousins” of our Lord. (Compare Matthew 27:56 with Mark 15:40 and John 19:25.) Joseph would seem to have died at some time between a. d. 8 and a. d. 26, and there is no reason for believing that Clopas was alive during our Lord’s ministry. It has been suggested, therefore, that the two widowed sisters may have lived together, the more so as one of them had but one son, and He was often taken from her by His ministerial duties. Three other hypotheses have been formed respecting them: (1) that they were the children of Joseph by a former marriage; (2) that they were the children of Joseph and Mary; (3) that Joseph and Clopas being brothers, and Clopas having died, Joseph raised up seed to his dead brother, according to the Levirate law.
But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.4. A prophet is not without honour] He repeats to them once more almost the same proverb which He before uttered in their hearing and from the same place (Luke 4:24).
And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.5. no mighty work] Literally, no power. He performed some miracles, but not all He would have done, because of their deep-seated unbelief. His miraculous power was not magical. It was an influence which required and presupposed faith.
And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.6. he marvelled] Our Lord does not marvel at other human things generally, but He does marvel on the one hand, at faith, when, as in the case of the centurion, it overcomes in its grandeur all human hindrances, and, on the other, at unbelief, when it can, in the face of numerous Divine manifestations, harden itself into a wilful rejection of Himself. He now seems to have left Nazareth never to return to it, or preach in its synagogue, or revisit the home, where He had so long toiled as the village Carpenter.
he went round about] On the evening of the day of His rejection at Nazareth, or more probably on the morrow, our Lord appears to have commenced a short circuit in Galilee, in the direction of Capernaum.
And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;7–13. Mission of the Twelve
7. he called] Rather, He calleth unto Him.
two and two] St Mark alone records this. They were sent forth probably in different directions on a tentative mission, to make trial of their powers, and fit them for a more extended mission afterwards. Their election had taken place in the solitude of a mountain range their first mission occurred amidst the busy towns and villages of Galilee.
And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:8. and commanded them] Now follows a brief summary of the charge, which the Lord proceeded to give them on this occasion, and which is recorded at far greater length by St Matthew, Matthew 10:5-42.
save a staff] They were to go forth with their staff as they had it at the time, but they were not (Matthew 10:10) to “seek,” or “procure one carefully” for the purposes of this journey. The “staff” in Matthew 10:10, depends on “acquire not” or “provide not for yourselves” in Mark 6:9.
no scrip] Scrip, from Sw. skrâppa, denotes a “wallet” or “small bag.” Comp. 1 Samuel 17:40, “And (David) took his staff in his hand and chose him five smooth stones, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip.” It was so called, perhaps, because it was designed to hold scraps, trifling articles, scraped off as it were from something larger. It was part of the pilgrim’s or traveller’s equipage: comp. Piers Ploughman’s Vis. 3573;
“I seigh nevere palmere
With pyk ne with Scrippe,”
and Shakespeare, As you like it, III. 2. 171,
“Though not with bag and baggage, yet with scrip and scrippage.” The scrip of the Galilean peasants was of leather, “the skins of kids stripped off whole, and tanned by a very simple process,” used especially to carry their food on a journey, and slung over their shoulders (Thomson’s Land and the Book, p. 355).
no money] “There was no departure from the simple manners of the country in this. At this day the farmer sets out on excursions, quite as extensive, without a para in his purse, and a modern Moslem prophet of Tarshîshx thus sends forth his apostles over this identical region. No traveller in the East would hesitate to throw himself on the hospitality of any villager.” Thomson’s Land and Book, p. 346.
But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.9. be shod with sandals] That is, they were to take no other shoes with them for travelling “than their ordinary sandals of palm-bark.” So now “the Galilean peasants wear a coarse shoe, answering to the sandal of the ancients, but never take two pair with them.”
two coats] That is, they were not to take with them a change of raiment.
And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.10. there abide] “When a stranger arrives in a village or an encampment, the neighbours, one after another, must invite him to eat with them. There is a strict etiquette about it, involving much ostentation and hypocrisy: and a failure in the due observance of this system of hospitality is violently resented, and often leads to alienation and feuds among neighbours. It also consumes much time, causes unusual distraction of mind, leads to levity, and everyway counteracts the success of a spiritual mission. The Evangelists … were sent, not to be honoured and feasted, but to call men to repentance, prepare the way of the Lord, and proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. They were, therefore, first to seek a becoming habitation to lodge in, and there abide until their work in that city was accomplished.” The Land and the Book, p. 347.
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.11. the dust under your feet] For instances of the carrying out of this command, compare the conduct of St Paul at Antioch in Pisidia, Acts 13:51, and at Corinth, Acts 18:6. The action must be regarded as symbolical of a complete cessation of all fellowship, and a renunciation of all further responsibility. It was customary with Pharisees when they entered Judæa from a Gentile land, to do this in token of renunciation of all communion with heathenism; those who rejected the Apostolic message were to be looked upon as those who placed themselves beyond the pale of fellowship and communion.
And they went out, and preached that men should repent.
And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.13. anointed with oil] St Mark alone mentions this anointing as the method, whereby the healing of the sick was effected. Though not expressly ordered, it was doubtless implied in the injunction to “heal the sick” (Matthew 10:8). The prophet Isaiah (Mark 1:6) alludes to the use of oil for medicinal purposes, and we find this form of cure prescribed thirty years later than this Gospel, by St James in his general Epistle (Mark 5:14). It was much used by the Jews for curative purposes, and thus supplied at once a fitting symbol and an efficient means in these miraculous cures wrought by the Apostles. For the use of the symbolical media by our Lord Himself comp. Mark 8:23; John 9:6.
And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.14–29. The Murder of John the Baptist
14. And king Herod heard of him] This first missionary journey of the Apostles was but short, and they would seem to “have returned to Capernaum as early as the evening of the second day,” Bp. Ellicott’s Gospel History, p. 196. This Herod was Herod Antipas, to whom, on the death of Herod the Great, had fallen the tetrarchy of Ituræa and Peræa. He is here called “king,” or “prince,” in the ancient and wide sense of the word. St Matt. (Mark 14:1), and St Luke (Luke 9:7), style him more exactly “the tetrarch.”
his name] It is peculiar to St Mark that he connects the watching observation of Herod Antipas with the work of Christ as extended by the preaching and miracles of His Apostles.
was risen from the dead] Herod’s guilty conscience triumphed over his Sadducean profession of belief that there is no resurrection. Comp. Matthew 16:6; Mark 8:15.
Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets.
But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.16. It is John] The words in the original, according to the best MSS., are very striking. John whom I (= I myself; the pronoun “has the emphasis of a guilty conscience”) beheaded—this is he—he is risen. Josephus confirms the account of these forebodings when he tells us that after the utter defeat of Herod Antipas by Aretas, the people regarded it as a righteous retribution for the murder of John (Jos. Ant. xviii. 5. 1, 2).
For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her.17. For Herod] St Mark now proceeds more fully than the first Evangelist to relate the circumstances of the murder of the Baptist.
for Herodias’ sake] During one of his journeys to Rome, Herod Antipas had fallen in with Herodias the wife of his brother Herod Philip, a son of Herod the Great and Mariamne, who was living there as a private person. Herodias was not only the sister-in-law, but the niece of Antipas, and already had a daughter who was grown up. Herod himself had long been married to the daughter of Aretas, Emîr of Arabia Petræa, but this did not prevent him from courting an adulterous alliance with Herodias, and she consented to become his wife, on condition that the daughter of the Arabian prince was divorced. But the latter, suspecting her husband’s guilty passion, did not wait to be divorced, and indignantly fled to the castle of Machærus, and thence to her father’s rocky fortress at Petra, who forthwith assembled an army to avenge her wrongs, and defeated Herod in a decisive battle (Jos. Ant. Mark 6:1).
For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.18. For John had said] Herod was probably on his way to meet his father-in-law, when he first encountered the Baptist, who, in the presence of the Galilean king, proved himself no “reed shaken by the wind” (Luke 7:24), but boldly denounced the royal crimes (Luke 3:19), and declared the marriage unlawful. For this outspoken faithfulness he was flung into prison, probably in the castle of Machærus or “the Black Fortress,” which Herod’s father had built in one of the most abrupt wâdys to the east of the Dead Sea, to overawe the wild Arab tribes of the neighbourhood. Though originally in the possession of Aretas, Herod had probably seized the fortress after the departure of his first wife to her father’s stronghold at Petra (Jos. Ant. xviii. 5. 2).
Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:19. had a quarrel] or as it is rendered in the margin, “had an inward grudge” against him. The word here translated “had a quarrel” occurs in Luke 11:53, where we have rendered it, “and the Pharisees began to urge Him vehemently,” and in Genesis 49:23, where the dying Jacob says of Joseph, “The archers sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him.” It denotes literally (1) to “hold” or “keep fast within one;” then (2) to “lay up” or “cherish wrath” against another. Comp. Herod. i. 118, vi. 119. In Tyndale and Cranmer’s Versions it is rendered “laid waite for him,” in the Rhemish, “sought all occasion against him.”
would have killed] The word in the original is much stronger, and denotes that she had a settled wish to kill him. Some Versions read “she sought” or “kept seeking” means to kill him.
For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.20. observed him] Rather, as in the margin, kept him, i. e. kept him safe from her machinations. The original word occurs in Matthew 9:17, and Luke 5:38, “they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”
when he heard him] The Greek here is still more emphatic; “and when he heard him, he used to do many things, and used to listen to him gladly.” Not once or twice but many times Herod sent for his lonely prisoner, even as Felix sent for St Paul (Acts 24:26), and listened to him as he reasoned with him of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, and not only listened, but listened gladly; nay more, he “did many things;” many things, but not “the thing.” He would not put away his unlawful wife.
And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;21. a convenient day] i. e. a suitable day for her fell designs.
on his birthday] In imitation of the Roman emperors, the Herodian princes kept their birthdays with feasting and revelry and magnificent banquets. Wieseler, however, considers the word denotes a feast celebrating Herod’s accession, but this is more than doubtful. Birthday festivals were one sample of foreign habits introduced into Palestine and spread there by the Herodians.
made a supper] probably at Machærus or some neighbouring palace.
lords, high captains] or “chiliarchs.” The words here used denote servants of the state, civil and military.
chief estates] This term denotes men of high rank, and includes the Galilæan nobles generally. Comp. Fuller Ch. Hist. V. iii. 28, “God never gave grace nor knowledge of Holy Scripture to any great estate or rich man.” State is also employed in the same way. Thus Adams says (Nichol’s Puritan Divines), “Sin deals with her guests as that bloody prince that, having invited many great states to a solemn feast.”
And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.22. the daughter of … Herodias] Her name was Salome, and she afterwards married (1) Philip the tetrarch of Trachonitis, her paternal uncle, and (2) Aristobulus, the king of Chalcis. “A luxurious feast of the period was not regarded as complete unless it closed with some gross pantomimic representation; and doubtless Herod had adopted the evil fashion of his day. But he had not anticipated for his guests the rare luxury of seeing a princess—his own niece, a granddaughter of Herod the Great and of Mariamne, a descendant, therefore, of Simon the High Priest, and the great line of Maccabæan princes—a princess, who afterwards became the wife of a tetrarch, and the mother of a king—honouring them by degrading herself into a scenic dancer.” Farrar’s Life of Christ, I. 391.
And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.23. unto the half of my kingdom] Compare the words of Ahasuerus (i. e. Xerxes) to Esther: “What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom” (Esther 5:3; Esther 7:2).
And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.24. The head of John the Baptist] Herodias saw that her hour was come. No jewelled trinket, no royal palace, no splendid robe, should be the reward of her daughter’s feat—“Ask,” said she, “for the head of John the Baptizer.”
And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.25. straightway with haste] Observe the ready alacrity, with which she proved herself a true daughter of her mother.
by and by] i. e. “immediately.” Comp. Matthew 13:21, “when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended;” Luke 17:7, “which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by?” Luke 21:9, “but the end is not by and by,” In all these instances the expression has its old meaning of “at once,” “immediately.” Thus Edward IV. is reported to have said on his death-bed, “I wote not whether any prechers’ woordes ought more to moue you than I that is goyng by and by to the place that they all preche of,” Hall, Ed. v. fol. 116; “Men dare not give the name of emperor to any other, for he punisheth his offender and traitor by and by; but they dare give the name of God to others, because He for repentance suffereth the offenders;” Homily Against Idolatry, pt. iii.
a charger] = “a large dish,” or “platter.” This word only occurs here and in the parallel, Matthew 14:8. It comes from the Fr. charger and O. E. charge = “to load;” hence it means “that on which anything is laid, a dish,” as the Hebrew word thus rendered (Numbers 7:13, &c.) is elsewhere given (Exodus 25:29). Thus Fuller says of Oswald, king of Northumberland, when he was told that a number of poor people were at his gate, that he commanded “not onely that the meat set before him should be given them, but also that the large Silver-Charger holding the same should be broken in pieces and (in want, perchance, of present coin) parted betwixt them:” Ch. Hist. ii. 76.
And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.26. exceeding sorry] The Greek word thus translated is very strong, and denotes very great grief and sorrow. It is used of (1) the rich young ruler, “when he heard this, he was very sorrowful,” Luke 18:23; (2) of our Lord Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34.
And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison,27. an executioner] Literally, a soldier of the guard. The word Speculator denotes (1) a looker-out, spy, scout; (2) a special adjutant, soldier of the guard. These scouts formed a special division in each legion; but under the emperors a body bearing this name was specially appointed to guard the emperor and execute his commands (Tac. Hist. i. 24, 25; II. 11; Suet. Claud. xxxv.). Hence they were often employed as special messengers in seeking out those who were proscribed or sentenced to death (Seneca, de Ira i. 16). In the earlier English Versions the word is rendered “hangman,” but this term describes a mere accident of his office. The use of a military term, compared with Luke 3:14, is in accordance with the fact that Herod was at this time making war on Aretas (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 5. 1).
And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.
And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.29. laid it in a tomb] and then “went and told Jesus” (Matthew 14:12) of the death of His great Forerunner, over whom He had pronounced so remarkable a eulogy (Luke 7:27-28).
And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.30–44. Return of the Twelve. Feeding of the Five Thousand
30. gathered themselves together] Their brief tentative mission was now over, and they returned to Capernaum.
And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.31. there were many coming and going] The Passover was now nigh at hand (John 6:4) and the pilgrim companies would be on the move towards the Holy City.
And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.32. they departed into a desert place] They crossed the Lake of Gennesaret (John 6:1) and proceeded in the direction of Bethsaida-Julias, at its north-eastern corner (Luke 9:10), just above the entrance of the Jordan into it. Bethsaida-Julias was originally only a village, but was rebuilt and enlarged by Herod Philip not long after the birth of Christ. He raised it to the dignity of a town, and called it Julias after Julia the daughter of Augustus. Philip occasionally resided there, and there died and was buried in a costly tomb (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 4. 6). To the south of it was the green and narrow plain of El-Batîhah, “with abundant grass, and abundant space for the multitudes to have sat down” (Tristram’s Land of Israel, p. 439).
And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him.33. ran afoot] The multitudes saw the vessel start from Capernaum, and quickly ran along the coast and round the northern extremity of the Lake, where they met the little company disembarking on the shore. The motive of their coming in such large numbers is stated by St John, John 6:2.
And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.34. he came out] Comparing the account in the Fourth Gospel, we may conjecture that on landing the Lord and His disciples ascended the hill-side (John 6:3) and there waited awhile till the whole multitude was assembled. Then descending, He saw them all, and moved with compassion began to “teach them many things concerning the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:11), and healed them that had need of healing.
And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:35. a desert place] The locality was probably part of the rich but uninhabited plain at the mouth of the Jordan.
Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.36. send them away] Already earlier in the day the Lord had asked the Apostle Philip, Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat? and he, thinking of no other supplies save such as natural means could procure, had replied that two hundred pence would not suffice to provide sustenance for such a number (John 6:5-7). Then He left this confession of inability to work in their minds, and it was now in the eventide that the Apostles came to Him with the proposition contained in this verse.
He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?37. Shall we go and buy] With one mouth they seem to have reiterated what St Philip had said earlier in the day.
two hundred pennyworth] The specifying of this sum is peculiar to St Mark and St John. The word translated penny is the denarius, a silver coin of the value originally of 10 and afterwards of 16 ases. The denarius was first coined in b. c. 269, or 4 years before the first Punic war, and originally was of the value of 8½d. of our money, later it = 7½d. It was the day-wages of a labourer in Palestine (Matthew 20:2; Matthew 20:9; Matthew 20:13). “It so happens that in almost every case where the word denarius occurs in the N. T. it is connected with the idea of a liberal or large amount; and yet in these passages the English rendering names a sum which is absurdly small.” Prof. Lightfoot on the Revision of the N. T. p. 166.
He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.38. go and see] In the interval between their going and return they learnt that a lad in their company had five barley loaves, and two small fishes, which they could secure for purchase. They were only barley loaves (John 6:9), the food even then, for the most part, of beasts, or of the poor and the unfortunate. Comp. 2 Kings 7:1. The fact has an important bearing on Jdg 7:13.
And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.39. by companies] Literally, drinking parties. The word alludes to an orderly social grouping, catervatim. The words are repeated by a Hebraism in the original, like the “two and two” of Mark 6:7.
upon the green grass] St Mark alone mentions the green grass, “still fresh in the spring of the year, before it had faded away in the summer sun.” It was the season of the Passover, corresponding to our March or April, hence there was “much grass in the place;” comp. John 6:10.
And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.40. in ranks] Literally, they reclined in parterres (areolatim). “As they sat in these orderly groups upon the grass, the gay red and blue and yellow colours of the clothing, which the poorest Orientals wear, called up in the imagination of St Peter a multitude of flowerbeds in some well-cultivated garden.” Farrar’s Life of Christ, p. 402. “Our English ‘in ranks’ does not reproduce the picture to the eye, giving rather the notion of continuous lines. Wyclif was better, ‘by parties;’ perhaps in groups would be as near as we could get to it in English.” Trench, Miracles, p. 265. St Mark here, as elsewhere, doubtless reproduces the description of the scene by St Peter.
by hundreds, and by fifties] “Two long rows of 100, a shorter one of 50 persons. The fourth side remained, after the manner of the tables of the ancients, empty and open.” Gerlach.
And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.41. and blessed] The words, though not given, were probably those of the ordinary grace before meat in use in Israel. “He gives thanks to God, as the father surrounded by his household was on the occasion of the Passover wont to do, for His natural gifts and covenant blessings. This action is made almost equally prominent in each of the four Narratives, and after the thanksgiving, He distributed the food, as the father was accustomed to do at the Paschal meal.” See note on Mark 14:16.
and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples] The first of these words denotes an instantaneous, the second a continuous act. The multiplication of the loaves and fishes had a beginning and went on in the hands of Christ between the acts of breaking and distributing the bread. Comp. 2 Kings 4:42-44.
And they did all eat, and were filled.
And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.43. they took up] in obedience to our Lord’s command (John 6:12), Who would teach them that wastefulness even of miraculous power was wholly alien to the Divine economy.
baskets] “tuelue coffyns full,” Wyclif. All the Evangelists alike here use cophinoi for the small common wicker-baskets, in which these fragments were collected, at the feeding of the Five Thousand, and the word spurides, or large rope-baskets, when they describe the feeding of the Four Thousand. These wicker baskets were the common possession of the Jews, in which to carry their food in order to avoid pollution with heathens; “Judaeis, quorum cophinus foenumque supellex,” Juv. Sat. III. 14. The same distinction is made by our Lord when He alludes to both miracles (Mark 8:19-20; Matthew 16:9-10).
And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.44. five thousand men] besides women and children (Matthew 14:21), who would not sit down with the men, but sit or stand apart.
And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.45–52. The Walking on the Lake
45. And straightway] The impression made upon the people by the miracle just narrated was profound. It was the popular expectation that the Messiah would repeat the miracles of Moses, and this “bread of wonder,” of which they had just partaken, recalled to the minds of the multitudes the manna, which the Great Lawgiver had given to their forefathers. They were convinced, therefore, that the Saviour was none other than “the Prophet,” of whom Moses had spoken, and in this conviction they would have taken Him by force and made Him a king (John 6:14-15). To defeat this intention the Saviour bade His Apostles take ship and cross over to the other side of the Lake.
unto Bethsaida] i. e. the western Bethsaida, the town of Philip, Andrew, and Peter, in the neighbourhood of Capernaum (John 6:17).
And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.47. in the midst of the sea] With all their efforts and the toil of the entire night they had not in consequence of contrary winds (John 6:18) accomplished more than five and twenty or thirty furlongs, i. e. scarcely more than half of their way, the Lake being forty or forty-five furlongs in breadth, when one of the sudden storms, to which the Lake is subject, rushed down from the western mountains. See above, Mark 4:37.
And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.48. he saw them toiling in rowing] The word translated “toiling,” which also occurs in Matthew 14:24, is a very striking expression. It denotes (1) to test metals with the touchstone, (2) to rack, torture, (3) to torment as in Matthew 8:29, “art Thou come to torment us before the time?”, and Matthew 8:6, “Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.” Here it seems to imply that they were tortured, baffled, by the waves, which were boisterous by reason of the strong wind that blew (John 6:18). Wyclif translates it “travailing in rowing;” Tyndale and Cranmer, “troubled in rowing.”
the fourth watch] The proper Jewish reckoning recognised only three watches or periods, for which sentinels or pickets remained on duty. They were entitled (1) the first, or beginning of the watches, from sunset to 10 p.m. (Lamentations 2:19), (2) the middle watch, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Jdg 7:19), and (3) the morning watch, from 2 a.m. to sunrise (Exodus 14:24; 1 Samuel 11:11). After the Roman supremacy the number of watches was increased to four, sometimes described by their numerical order, as here and in Matthew 14:25; sometimes by the terms (1) even, closing at 9 p.m.; midnight; cock-crowing, at 3 a.m.; morning, at 6 a.m.
would have passed by them] He came quite near their vessel on the storm-tost waves, and seemed to wish to lead the way before them to the western shore. Comp. Luke 24:28-29.
But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:49. a spirit] An unsubstantial appearance. So they thought on the evening of the world’s first Easter Day, when they saw Him after His resurrection. See Luke 24:36-37. Wyclif translates it “they gessiden him for to be a fantum;” Tyndale and Cranmer “a sprete;” the Rhemish “a ghost.”
For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.50. be not afraid] St Mark does not record St Peter’s attempt to go to his Lord upon the Lake, which is narrated only by St Matthew, Matthew 14:28-30.
And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.51. they were sore amazed] Observe the strong expressions here employed. Not only were they “sore amazed,” but “beyond measure.” Never had the disciples been so impressed by the majesty of Christ as they were now in consequence of this miracle. St Matthew, Matthew 14:33, tells us that the impression made extended also to those who were with them in the ship, i. e. probably the crew. Not only did they approach Him with an outward unforbidden gesture of worship, “but they avowed for the first time collectively, what one of them had long since separately declared Him to be, the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33; comp. John 1:49), Bp. Ellicott’s Lectures, p. 211.
For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.52. hardened] See note above, Mark 3:5.
And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.53–56. Miracles of Healing in the Land of Gennesaret
53. the land of Gennesaret is only mentioned here and in Matthew 14:34. It is the same as the modern el-Ghuweir, a fertile crescent-shaped plain, on the north-western shore of the Lake of Gennesaret, about 3 miles in length and 1 in width. From its sheltered situation, and especially from its depression of more than 500 feet below the level of the ocean, its climate is of an almost tropical character. Josephus speaks of it as if it were an earthly paradise, in which every kind of useful plant grew and flourished. Jos. B. J. III. 10. 8.
drew to the shore] or, as Tyndale and Cranmer translate it, “drew up into the haven.”
And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him,54. they knew him] The dawn had now broken, and the people on shore at once recognised the Great Healer, and craved His help in behalf of their sick and afflicted.
And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was.
And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.56. but the border of his garment] The numbers that pressed upon Him seemed almost too large for Him to be able to heal them singly by laying His hands upon them, therefore many begged that they might be allowed to touch if it were but the border of His garment. Comp. above, Mark 5:27. Soon after followed the ever memorable discourse so strikingly in accordance with the present Passover-season in the synagogue of Capernaum respecting “the Bread of Life” (John 6:22-65).