Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Then said his disciples.—Better, Therefore . . . Their remark immediately arises out of what our Lord has said. They are glad to catch at any reason for not going to Judæa.
If he sleep, he shall do well.—More exactly, If he be fallen asleep, he shall be saved. There could be, therefore, no reason for His going, as the disease had passed the crisis. Sleep is given by the Rabbis as one of six favourable symptoms, and that it is so is a common-place in authors of all periods. From the apparent suddenness of the attack, and rapidity of the progress of the disease, it would seem to have been the “great fever” which was common in Palestine (comp. John 4:52, and especially Note on Luke 4:38), and in which sleep would be the sign that the fever had ceased.
he shall do well; or "be saved" from the disease; he will be delivered from it; he will recover out of it; it is a sign the distemper is leaving him, and he is growing better, and will be restored to his health again: the Ethiopic version renders it by many words, "he will be well", and "will awake", and "will live". Sound sleep is a sign of health. This they said to, put off their master from going into Judea, fearing the danger he would be exposed unto.Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)12. Then said his disciples] Better, Therefore said the disciples to Him. They catch at any chance of escape from the dreaded journey.
if he sleeps he shall do well] Better, if he be fallen asleep, he shall be saved, will be cured. Probably they thought that Christ meant to go and cure Lazarus (John 11:37, comp. John 9:3); and here they infer from his sleeping that he will recover without Christ’s aid: consequently Christ need not go. They are too full of anxiety to notice Christ’s significant words ‘I go, that I may awake him,’ whereas the rendering in our Bible reads like an expostulation against waking him, as if it meant ‘a sick man should not be disturbed.’ For other instances in which the disciples grossly misunderstand Christ, see John 4:33, John 14:5; John 14:8; John 14:22; Matthew 16:7; and comp. John 3:4; John 3:9, John 4:11; John 4:15, John 6:34; John 6:52, John 7:35, John 8:22; John 8:33; John 8:52. This candour in declaring their own failings adds to our confidence in the veracity of the Evangelists. It is urged that the misunderstanding here is too gross to be probable: but they had not unnaturally understood Christ Himself to nave declared that Lazarus would not die (John 11:4); this being so, they could not easily suppose that by sleep He meant death. Moreover, when men’s minds are on the stretch the strangest misapprehensions become possible.John 11:12. Εἰ κεκοίμηται, if he sleep) Often a long sleep is a means of restoration to health. The disciples were supposing that the sleep was sent to Lazarus by Jesus, in order that what He had Himself foretold might come to pass: John 11:4, “This sickness is not unto death, but, etc., that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”Verse 12. - The disciples therefore say unto him, Lord, if he have fallen asleep, he will recover. Wunsche quotes 'Berach,' fol. 57, b, "Sleep is a good sign for the sick." The language of the disciples is somewhat remarkable; at least their misunderstanding is puzzling (Reuss and Strauss think it is a sign of the unhistorical); but it probably arose out of the statement, made two days before, that "the sickness was not unto death," and from their eager and affectionate desire to prevent their Lord's retraining to Judaea. If he have fallen asleep, he well recover (be saved). The whole narrative is throbbing with deeper meanings than lie on the surface of it. The theory of the sanitary effects of sleep in fever are well known, and the rousing from such sleep might seem hazardous; but the disciples were catching at straws to save their Master.
Literally, shall be saved. Rev., he will recover. Wyc., shall be safe. Tyndale's Version of the New Testament, shall he do well enough.
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