Then came the Jews round about him, and said to him, How long do you make us to doubt? If you be the Christ, tell us plainly.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Then came the Jews round about him.—The words mean literally, they encircled Him. It is again the impression of one who saw what he records. He remembers how they stood in a circle round our Lord, and watched Him with eager eyes as they asked their question.
How long dost thou make us to doubt?—Literally, How long dost Thou lift up our souls? or, as the margin, “How long dost Thou keep us in suspense?” The words exactly express what was probably the real state of fluctuation in which many of these Jews then were. They do not in the true sense “believe” (John 10:25-26), and they soon pass to the other extreme of seeking to stone Him (John 10:31); but in many of them the last miracle, and the words accompanying it, had left a conviction that He was more than human, and not possessed by a demon. (See Note on John 10:21.) Two months have passed away, not, we may believe, without many an earnest thought and much anxious weighing of evidence concerning Him. And now the Feast of Dedication has come, and what thoughts have come with it? It is the Feast of Lights, and He had declared Himself the Light of the world. It is the Feast of Freedom, telling how the Maccabees had freed their nation from the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes, and He has declared that “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). It is the feast which commemorates the cleansing of the Temple, and His first public appearance in the Temple was to cleanse it and claim it as His Father’s house. May there not be, then, a close connection between the statement that “it was the Feast of the Dedication,” and the question, “How long dost thou excite our souls?” Was He, the question would seem to ask, really the Messiah or not? though by the Messiah they mean only a temporal prince. Was He, like the Judas of whom they were thinking, raised up as a deliverer from the Roman power, to give them the freedom which had long been the national dream?
If thou be the Christ, tell us.—Comp. Note on Luke 22:67.John 10:24-26. Then came the Jews round about him, &c. — Here the Jews came and required him to put them out of doubt, by telling them plainly, whether he was the Messiah or not: Jesus knowing that it was not information they were seeking, but an opportunity of accusing him to the Romans, as a seditious person, who aspired to be a king, directed them, as before, to form a judgment of him from his actions. Jesus answered, I told you, and ye believed not — What our Lord had been lately saying of himself, (see the preceding verses,) as the good shepherd, was equivalent to a declaration of his being the Messiah. Besides, he had already performed those miracles which were to characterize and distinguish the Messiah, such as cleansing the lepers, giving sight to the blind, &c.; and if they had but followed the dictates of their own rabbis, or of their own unprejudiced reason, they must have acknowledged that he had sufficiently established his claim to the title of the Messiah. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep — Because ye do not, will not follow me: because ye are proud, unholy, lovers of praise, lovers of the world, lovers of pleasure, not lovers of God. The reason why ye do not believe in me is not that the proofs of my mission are insufficient, but because ye are not of an humble and teachable disposition, free from worldly passions, and willing to receive the doctrine that comes from God. Persons of this character easily know, by the nature of my doctrine and miracles, who I am, and consequently readily believe in and follow me.John 7:31. Yet the rulers made a difficulty. They alleged that he was from Galilee, and that the Messiah could not come from thence, John 7:52. He was poor and despised. He came contrary to the common expectation. A splendid prince and conqueror had been expected. In this perplexity they came to him for a plain and positive declaration that he was the Messiah.
How long dost thou make us to doubt?—"hold us in suspense" (Margin).
If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly—But when the plainest evidence of it was resisted, what weight could a mere assertion of it have?Matthew 16:20, &c. They therefore come to him, demanding a plain resolution in the case, as some of their minds were in some suspense about it. It was but a captious question; for had he denied it, besides that it had been the denial of a truth which he came to bear a testimony unto, they had had a great advantage to have lessened his reputation amongst those who had believed on him as such. Had he affirmed it, he had brought himself in danger of the Roman governor; for the Jews indeed expected a Messiah, a Christ, but to be a temporal prince, to deliver them from their enemies; and for him to have declared himself such a Christ as they expected, had been fatal to him. He therefore answers with his usual prudence and wariness to this question.
and said unto him, how long dost thou make us doubt? or as the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions literally render it, "how long dost thou take away our soul?" that is, deprive us of the knowledge of thee; Nonnus renders it, "wherefore dost thou steal away our minds with words?" so Jacob when he went away privately, without the knowledge of Laban, is said to steal away the heart of Laban, as it is in the Hebrew text, in Genesis 31:20 (o). In like manner the Jews charge Christ with taking away their soul, or stealing away their heart, or hiding himself from them; not telling them plainly, who he was: therefore say they,
if thou be the Christ, tell us plainly; freely, boldly, openly, in express words; this they said, not as desirous of knowing who he was, or for the sake of information, but in order to ensnare him; that should he say he was not the Christ, as they might hope he would, for fear of them, now they had got him by himself, hemmed him in, it would then lessen his credit among the people; and should he say he was the Messiah, they would have whereof to accuse him to the Roman governor, as an enemy to Caesar, as one that set up for king of the Jews.Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 10:24. Οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι] Here too the standing party of opposition.
ἐκύκλωσαν] encircled Him. The word graphically sets forth the urgency and obtrusiveness of the Jews; but neither implies that Jesus had been deserted by His followers (Lange), nor represents the Ἰουδαῖοι as pushing in between Him and His disciples, and so enclosing Him in their midst (Godet).
ἔλεγον αὐτῷ] “This speak they out of a false heart, with a view to accusing and destroying Him,” Luther. According to Hengstenberg, they really vacillated between an inclination and disinclination to believe. But see John 10:26; John 10:31. They desire an express and thoroughly direct declaration, though not as if making a last attempt to induce Jesus to take up the rôle of a political Messiah (Lange).
τ. ψυχ. ἡμ. αἴρεις] αἴρειν not in the sense of take away (Nonnus: ὑποκλέπτεις φρένα; Elsner: enecas); but in that of lift up. It denotes to excite the soul, which, according to the connection, may be due to very different mental influences (Eur. Ion. 928; Hec. 69; Aesch. Sept. 198; Soph. O. R. 914; Proverbs 19:18; Philo, de Monarch. I. p. 218; Joseph. Antt. 3:2. 3; 3:5. 1); in this case, by strained expectation, which thou causest us. The explanation: ἀναρτᾷς μεταξὺ πίστεως κ. ἀπιστίας (Euth. Zigabenus, and many others), is an approximation to the sense, but is not the precise signification of the words.
εἰ σὺ εἶ, etc.] if thou, and so forth, as in Luke 22:67.John 10:24. Here the Jews ἐκύκλωσαν αὐτόν, “ringed Him round,” preventing His escape and with hostile purpose; cf. Plutarch’s Them., xii. 3. Their attitude corresponded to the peremptory character of their demand: Ἕως πότε τὴν ψυχὴν ἡμῶν αἴρεις; Beza renders αἴρεις by “suspendis, i.e., anxiam et suspensam tenes?” For which Elsner blames him and prefers “why do you kill us with delay?” But αἴρω occurs not infrequently in the sense of “disturb”. Soph., Oed. Tyr., 914, αἴρει θυμὸν Οἰδίπους, Oedipus excites his soul; Eurip., Hecuba, 69, τί ποτʼ αἴρομαι ἔννυχος οὕτω δείμασι; cf. Virgil, Aeneid, iv. 9, “quae me suspensam insomnia terrent?” “Why do you keep us in suspense?” is a legitimate translation. “If Thou art the Christ tell us plainly.”—παρρησίᾳ, in so many words, devoid of all ambiguity; cf. John 16:29. This request has a show of reasonableness and honesty, as if they only needed to hear from Himself that He was the Christ. But it is never honest to ask for further explanation after enough has been given. Nothing more surely evinces unwillingness to believe. Besides, there was always the difficulty that, if He categorically said He was the Christ, they would understand Him to mean the Christ of their expectation.24. Then came the Jews round about, &c.] Better, The Jews therefore compassed Him about (Luke 21:20; Hebrews 11:30; Revelation 20:9) and kept saying to Him. They encircled Him in an urgent and obtrusive manner, indicating that they were determined to have an answer.
How long dost thou make us to doubt?] The margin is better with hold us in suspense. The literal meaning is How long dost Thou excite our mind? If Thou art the Christ tell us with openness (see on John 7:4). They put a point-blank question, as the Sanhedrin do at the Passion (Luke 22:67). Their motives for urging this were no doubt mixed, and the same motive was not predominant in each case. Some were hovering between faith and hostility and (forgetting John 8:13) fancied that an explicit declaration from Him might help them. Others asked mainly out of curiosity: He had interested them greatly, and they wanted His own account of Himself. The worst wished for a plain statement which might form material for an accusation: they wanted Him to commit Himself.John 10:24. Ἐκύκλωσαν, came round about) How gratifying that would have been to the Saviour, if they had done so in faith!—καὶ ἔλεγον, and they were saying) owing to the unreasonable impulse of a murmuring nature.—αἴρεις, dost thou raise up) keep in suspense; i.e. Thou dost worry to death, Thou dost wear our life out. Let the phrase, John 10:18 [οὐδεὶς αἴρει αὐτήν, “no man taketh it away”—My life]; but it was they that were wretchedly worrying themselves to death. He had been long staying amongst them, especially after the Feast of Tabernacles.—εἰπέ, tell us) As if indeed He had never told them and showed who He was: see John 10:25, “I told you, and ye believed not.” Presently after He speaks openly at John 10:30; John 10:36; John 10:38, “I and My Father are one:—Say ye, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God?—that ye may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” We often think, If I could hear or read this or that, expressed in this or that way, I would be able to believe. But God alone knows how it is most fitting to speak with us, in order to cherish and exercise our faith.—παῤῥησίᾳ, plainly) freely, in express terms.Verse 24. - Then the Jews came round about him. Not necessarily (with Godet) separating him from his disciples, but in a threatening and imperative fashion, demanding an immediate answer. It is probable that he had absented himself for two months in the neighborhood, had even been in Peraea (cf. Luke 9.), and met the multitudes coming up to the feasts. The πάλιν πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου of ver. 40, is best understood by his having been there before. The difficulty of his making retrospective reference to the similitude and allegory of the first part of this chapter is removed by the simple supposition that he saw in this group of his interrogators many of those who had heard his former discourse. And said unto him, How long dost thou hold our soul in suspense? - αἴρειν τὴν ψυχὴν ἡμῶν; used in the sense of "lift up the soul," and so used in similar connection in the classics (Eurip., 'Ion,' 928; 'Hec.,' 69; AEschylus, 'Sept.,' 198; also Josephus, ' Ant.,' 3:2. 3) - If thou art the Christ (simple supposition), tell us plainly. Observe in John 16:25 our Lord's own contrast between speaking ἐν παροιμίαις and speaking παῥῤησίᾳ, with open, clear utterance. They had heard his parables, and say, "Let him drop all reserve, and deliver himself in categoric form." Archdeacon Watkins has well recalled the various utterances which fell on the more susceptible of the Jerusalemites. This was the Feast of Lights, and has he not called himself the Light of the world? This was a feast commemorative of freedom from the Syrian yoke, and had he not said, "If the Son set you free, ye shall be free indeed"? ' This was the Feast of the Purification of the Temple; had not his first act been a cleansing of the courts of the temple? We cannot wonder at the summons and challenge of the people.
Literally, lift up our soul. Excite us and inflame our hopes. Rev., hold us in suspense.
See on John 7:13.
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