Nathanael answered and said to him, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Thou art the Son of God.—The recognition begets recognition. That strange Presence he had felt as a spiritual power quickening hope and thought, making prophets’ words living truths, filling with a true meaning the current beliefs about the Messiah;—yes; it goes through and through him again now. It is there before him. “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel.” (For these titles as existing in the Messianic expectation of the day, comp. John 11:27; John 12:13; John 12:15; Matthew 26:63; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7. See also Note on the quotation from Zech. in Matthew 21:5.)Matthew 23:10.
The Son of God - By this title he doubtless meant that he was the Messiah. His conscience told him that he had judged right of his character, and that therefore he must know the heart and the desires of the mind. If so, he could not be a mere man, but must be the long-expected Messiah.
The King of Israel - This was one of the titles by which the Messiah was expected, and this was the title which was affixed to his cross, John 19:18. This case of Nathanael John adduces as another evidence that Jesus was the Christ. The great object he had in view in writing this gospel was to collect the evidence that he was the Messiah, John 20:31. A case, therefore, where Jesus searched the heart, and where his knowledge of the heart convinced a pious Jew that he was the Christ, is very properly adduced as important testimony.Rabbi, which Nathanael here giveth to Christ, is of the same significance with Rabban, and Rabboni, John 20:16, Rabban, Rabhi, Rabbi, all which signify Master, and my Master; a name which in that age they usually gave their teachers, as a title of honour, Matthew 23:7,8, titles that began about the time of our Saviour; for Buxtorf tells us, purer antiquity gave no such titles to their teachers or prophets, thinking it not possible to give those persons (extraordinarily sent of God) titles answerable to their dignity. They say, Hillel, about our Saviour’s time, was the first who was so called; Rabban was counted the highest, Rabbi the next, Rabbi the least. Rabban, they say, lasted about two hundred years, given to seven after Hillel. Nathanael calls him also
the Son of God, as Peter and the other disciples did, Matthew 14:33, and Peter, Matthew 16:16. But it appeareth, by many following passages, that they had but a faint persuasion of this, till he was declared so with power, by his resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4. He acknowledgeth Christ also the King of Israel, that is, the true Messiah. This was the title of the Messiah, Matthew 21:5 27:11.
Rabbi; that is, master, as it is interpreted in John 1:38, and is not here, because it is there:
thou art the Son of God; not by creation, for this would be to say no more of him, than may be said of every man; nor by adoption, for in that sense Nathanael himself was a Son of God, and many others; nor on account of his wonderful incarnation, which, it is very likely, at this time Nathanael knew nothing of; nor by reason of his resurrection from the dead, which, as yet, was not, and still less might be known by this person; nor because of his office, as Mediator, for this is expressed in the next clause; but by nature, as being of the same essence, and possessed of the same perfections God is; and of which he was convinced by the instances he gave of his omniscience; for it was from hence, and no other consideration, that he concludes him to be the Son of God: wherefore this phrase must be understood of him, not as Mediator, but as a divine person; as the natural, essential, and eternal Son of God; and who is truly and properly God: he adds,
thou art the King of Israel; having in view, no doubt, the passage in Psalm 2:6, where the characters of Son of God, and King of Zion, meet in the same person: not King of Israel, in a literal sense; though he was the son of David, and a descendant of his in a right line, and was of the royal line, and had a legal right to the throne of Israel; and Nathanael might have a view to this, being tinctured with the common national prejudice, that the Messiah would be a temporal prince: but his kingdom is not of this world; nor with observation; but is spiritual; and he is a King over Israel in a spiritual sense, even of saints, whether Jews or Gentiles: whom he conquers by his power, and rules in their hearts by his Spirit, and grace; and protects, and defends them from all their enemies.Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 1:49. The approaching Nathanael heard the testimony of Jesus, and does not decline His commendation,—itself a proof of his guileless honesty; but he asks in amazement how Jesus knew him.
ὄντα ὑπὸ τ. συκῆν] belongs, as John 1:51 shows, not to φωνῆσαι, but to εἶδόν σε. Therefore, before Philip, John 1:46-47, met and called (φωνῆσαι, comp. John 2:9, John 4:16, John 9:28, John 18:33), Nathanael had been under a fig-tree; whether the fig-tree of his own house (Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10), whether meditating (possibly upon the Messianic hope of the people), praying, reading,—which, according to Rabbinical statements (see in Lightfoot, Schoettgen, Wetstein), were employments performed beneath such trees,—we are not informed. He had just come from the tree to the place where Philip met him.
ΕἾΔΌΝ ΣΕ] is usually taken as referring to a glance into the depth of his soul, but contrary to the simple meaning of the words, which affirm nothing else than: I saw thee, not ἔγνων σε, or the like. Comp. also Hengstenberg. The miraculous element in the ΕἾΔΌΝ ΣΕ, which made it a ΣΗΜΕῖΟΝ to Nathanael, and which led to his confession which follows in John 1:50, must have consisted in the fact that the fig-tree either was situated out of sight of the place, or so far off that no one with ordinary powers of sight could have discerned a person under it. ΕἾΔΌΝ ΣΕ thus simply interpreted gives the true solution to Nathanael’s question, because there could not have been this rapport of miraculous far-seeing on the part of Jesus, had it not just been brought about by the immediate recognition of the true Israelite when he was at that distance. This spiritual elective affinity was the medium of the supernatural εἶδόν σε. Nonnus well says: ὌΜΜΑΣΙ ΚΑῚ ΠΡΑΠΊΔΕΣΣΙ ΤῸΝ Οὐ ΠΑΡΕΌΝΤΑ ΔΟΚΕΎΩΝ. Jesus would not have seen an ordinary Jew, who, being therefore without this spiritual affinity, was beyond the limits of sight.
ὑπὸ τὴν συκ.] with the article: “under that well-known fig-tree, beneath which you were,” or, if the tree was within the range of vision, pointing towards it. De Wette also rightly abides by the simple meaning, I saw thee, but thinks that what caused the astonishment of Nathanael was the fact that Jesus saw him when he believed himself to he unobserved (though John regarded this seeing as supernatural). But this does not give an adequate motive psychologically for the confession of John 1:50; and we must further assume, with Ewald, that the words of Jesus reminded Nathanael of the deep and weighty thoughts which he was revolving when alone under the fig-tree, and he thus perceived that the depths of his soul were laid open before the spiritual eye of Jesus, though this is not indicated in the text.
 The reference of the εἶδόν σε to the same place where Philip called him (so, after the Greek Fathers, B. Crusius) must be rejected, because neither the πρὸ τοῦ
φωνῆσαι nor the ὄντα ὑπὸ τὴν συκῆν would thus have their appropriate and necessary point.
 Where it is imagined, though without the slightest hint to that effect in the text, that Jesus had a short time before passed by the fig-tree unobserved.John 1:49. The significance of this utterance is further shown by what follows. Naturally Nathanael is surprised by this explicit testimony from one with whom he has had no acquaintance and who has notwithstanding truly described him, and he asks, πόθεν με γινώσκεις; “how do you know me?” perhaps imagining that some common friend had told Jesus about him. But Jesus ascribes it to another cause: πρὸ τοῦ σε φίλιππον φωνῆσαι ὄντα ὑπὸ τὴν συκῆν εἶδον σε, I saw thee under the fig tree before Philip called thee (not, I saw thee somewhere else before Philip called thee when you were under the fig tree). “Under the fig tree” is obviously significant. Such trees were planted by the wayside (Matthew 21:19), and the large thick leaf afforded shade. It was the favourite garden tree of the Jews, so that “sitting under one’s fig tree” meant being at home (Micah 4:4, Zechariah 3:10). The tree formed a natural arbour affording shade and privacy. Thus Schoettgen quotes that it is related of Rabbi Jose and his disciples, “solebant summo mane surgere et sedere et studere sub ficu”. And Lightfoot (Hor. Heb., in loc.) says that Nathanael was “aut orans, aut legens, aut meditans, aut aliquid religiosum praestans, in secessu sub aliquâ ficu et extra conspectum hominum”. But evidently Nathanael understood that Jesus had not only seen him when he thought he was unobserved, but had penetrated his thought in retirement, and understood and sympathised with his prayer under the fig tree, for the impression made upon him by this knowledge of Jesus is profound.49. thou art the Son of God] We know from other passages that this was one of the recognised titles of the Messiah; John 11:27; Matthew 26:63; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Luke 4:41. ‘Son of David’ was more common.
the King of Israel] Omit ‘the.’ This phrase “is especially important, because it breathes those politico-theocratic hopes, which since the taking of Jerusalem, Christians at least, if not Jews, must have entirely laid aside.” S. How could a Christian of the second century have thrown himself back to this?John 1:49. Ἀπεκρίθη, he answered) Considerate quickness in believing brings with it a blessed [sumptuous] portion: slowness is censured, Luke 24:25, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe.”—σὺ εἶ ὁ ὑιος τοῦ Θεοῦ, Thou art the Son of God) ch. John 6:69, “We believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now Nathanael himself confesses more than he had heard from Philip: and retracts his doubt as to the goodness of Jesus.—ὁ ὑιός—ὁ βασιλεύς, the Son—the King) A confession as to the person and office of Christ. σὺ εἶ ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, Thou art the King of Israel) and so my King also, since Thou dost acknowledge me to be a genuine Israelite.Verse 49. - Nathanael was overcome by irresistible conviction that here was the Searcher of hearts, One gifted with strange powers of sympathy, and with right to claim obedience. Answered him - now for the first time with the title of Rabbi, or teacher - Thou art the Son of God. Nothing is more obvious than that this is the reflection of the testimony of the Baptist. "The Son of God," not "a Son of God," or "a Man of God," but the Personage whose rank and glory my master John had recognized. He may have doubted before whether the Baptist had not gone wild with hallucination, and could have meant what he said. Now the reality has flashed upon his mind from the glance of the Saviour's eye and the tones of his voice (see notes on ver. 34). The great term could not have meant to him what it does now to the Church. Still the truth involved in his words is of priceless significance. Luthardt says, "Nathanael's faith will never possess more than it embraces at this moment." Godet adds, "The gold seeker puts his hand on an ingot; when he has coined it, he has it better, but not more." The idea of the Divine sonship comes from the Old Testament prophecy, has its root in Psalm 2 and 72, and in all the strange wonderful literature which recognized in the ideal King upon Zion and upon David's throne One who forevermore has stood and will stand in personal relations with the Father. The Divine sonship is the basis on which Nathanael rears his further faith that he is the King of Israel. He is Messiah-King, because he is "Son of God." The true Israelite recognizes his King (cf. Luke 1:32; Matthew 2:2; John 12:13). We are not bound to believe that Nathanael saw all that Peter subsequently confessed to be the unanimous conviction of the twelve (John 6:69; Matthew 16:16); but the various symphonies of this great confession encompass the Lord from his cradle to the cross. The synoptic narrative is as expressive and convincing as the Johannine.
Nathanael here gives the title, which he had withheld in his first address.
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