Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Then when Jesus came—i.e., to the neighbourhood of Bethany. He did not at once enter the village itself (John 11:20; John 11:30).
He found that he had lain in the grave four days already.—The Jewish custom was to bury on the day of death. (Comp. Acts 5:6-10.) The whole tone of the narrative places the time of death at the point indicated by the summons to go into Judæa, in John 11:7 (see Note there). Counting the parts of the days on which they set out and on which they arrived as included in the four days, in accordance with the Jewish method, we have two whole days and parts of two other days spent upon the journey. There is no indication that they halted on the way, but everything suggests rather that they went as quickly as possible. The common view, which supposes the place where John was baptising to have been on the southern Jordan, cannot be made consistent with this long journey; and it is usual to assume that Lazarus died on the day that the message reached the Lord, that after his death our Lord remained two days where He was, and that the fourth day was occupied on the journey to Bethany. It is believed that the meaning of the narrative is brought out more fully by the interpretation which has been followed above, and that the four days for the journey is perfectly natural on the supposition which has been adopted, that the journey was from Tellanihje, which was north of the Sea of Galilee.John 11:17-19. When Jesus came, he found — When Jesus and his disciples were come nigh to Bethany, they were told by some of the inhabitants, whom, it seems, they met accidentally, that Lazarus had been buried four days. Therefore, as a day or two must have been spent in making preparation for the burial, he could not well be less than five days dead when Jesus arrived. Now Bethany — The place where Lazarus had lived; was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off — Or somewhat less than two miles: so that he was well known in the city, had many friends there; and many of the Jews, who dwelt there, came to Martha and Mary — When the funeral was over; that they might comfort them — In their trouble for the loss of their brother. “The evangelist mentions the vicinity of Bethany to Jerusalem, and speaks of the company of friends that were with the two sisters, to show that by the direction of Providence this great miracle had many witnesses, some of whom were persons of note, and inhabitants of Jerusalem.”came to Bethany where Lazarus died; he found he had lain in the grave four days; so as probably Christ came not to Bethany till four days or more after the death of Lazarus, or near upon. But possibly it is better judged by others, that Christ was not yet come into Bethany, but only to the place where he met Martha; because it is said after this, John 11:30, that Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him; which it is probable was at Lazarus’s sepulchre, out of the town, but near it, as all the Jewish burying places were; where he heard from the relation of Martha how long Lazarus had been buried. Our Saviour could have come sooner had he pleased, for though Bethabara was on the other side of Jordan, (so out of the confines of Judea), yet, if we may give any credit to those who have laboured in the study of places, it was not above four miles off Jerusalem, so as it could not be six miles from Bethany, which our Saviour could have travelled in a less time than four or five days. Some think Lazarus died the same day news came to Christ of his sickness; after which we read, John 11:6, that he stirred not of two days; after which it was, John 11:7, that he took up thoughts of going into Judea. After this, possibly, he lingered one or two days; John 11:14, he tells them Lazarus was dead. Our Saviour was willing to protract the time, that the miracle might be more conspicuous and remarkable.
for he found he had lain in the grave four days already; it is very likely that he died the same day that Mary and Martha sent to Christ to acquaint him with his sickness, and the same day he was buried; for the Jews used to bury the same day a person died, and so they do now: and after Christ had this account, he stayed two days where he was, and on the third day, he proposed to his disciples to go into Judea; and very probably on that, or on the next day, which was the fourth, they set out and came to Bethany; See Gill on John 11:39.Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 11:17. Ἐλθών] into the neighbourhood of Bethany, see John 11:30. That Jesus went by the direct road, may be taken for granted in view of the end He had before Him; to insert here events from the Synoptic Gospels for harmonistic purposes, only causes confusion.
εὗρεν] namely, after inquiry.
τέσσαρας] As we must assume that Lazarus did not die before the day on which the words of John 11:7 ff. were spoken, whilst Jesus was made at once and directly aware of the departure of His friend, then, if the Lord, as is probable, commenced the journey on the same day, and if Lazarus, agreeably to the Jewish custom, was buried on the day of his death, two full days and parts of two other days (the first and fourth) must have been spent in travelling to Bethany. No material objection can be urged against this supposition, seeing that we do not know how far northwards in Peraea Jesus was sojourning when He received the message announcing the illness. The usual opinion—still entertained even by Luthardt, Ebrard, Gumlich, Hengstenberg, Godet—is, that Lazarus died and was buried on the very day on which Jesus received the message. Were this the case, Jesus must have remained that day and the two following in Peraea, and have first begun the journey on the fourth day (a journey which some suppose to have occupied merely ten or eleven hours, or even a shorter time), and completed it on the same (Ebrard) or on the following day. On this supposition, however, Jesus would either not have known of the death of His friend before the third day, which would be quite opposed to the character and wording (John 11:4; John 11:6) of the narrative; or else He would know of it as soon as it happened, and therefore at the time of the arrival of the messenger, which would alone accord with the tone of the entire history; in this latter case, the two days’ postponement of His departure, which, notwithstanding He had resolved on, would be unnatural and aimless, and the words of John 11:4, which treat the sickness of Lazarus as still continuing, would have been inappropriate. Correctly, therefore, have Bengel (on John 11:11 with the comparison of John 4:52) and Ewald fixed the death of Lazarus as contemporaneous with John 11:7-8, so that the occurrence of the death and the knowledge thereof possessed by Jesus determined His leaving at once. They would then have arrived at Bethany on the fourth day (comp. on John 1:28).
 But see van der Velde, Reise durch Syr. u. Pal. II. p. 245 ff. The actual road was undoubtedly considerably longer than the distance in a straight line.John 11:17-44. The raising of Lazarus.17. Then when Jesus came] Better, When therefore Jesus came, not to the house, nor to Bethany, but to the vicinity (John 11:20; John 11:30). In John 11:16 also ‘then’ should be therefore, S. John’s favourite particle to express a sequence in fact.
he found] i.e. on enquiry. It would seem as if Christ’s miraculous power of knowing without the ordinary means of information was not in constant activity, but like His other miraculous powers was employed only on fitting occasions. It was necessary to His work that He should know of Lazarus’ death; it was not necessary that He should know how long he had been buried, nor where he had been buried (John 11:34). Comp. John 1:48, John 4:18. Similarly, Peter’s prison-gate opens ‘of its own accord;’ Mary’s house-door does not (Acts 12:10-16).
in the grave] Or, in the sepulchre. Our translators use three different English words for the same Greek word; ‘grave’ in this chapter John 5:28; Matthew 27:52, &c.; ‘tomb’ Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:2; Mark 6:29, &c.; ‘sepulchre’ of Christ’s resting-place. ‘Sepulchre’ would be best in all cases. Another Greek word for ‘tomb’ used by S. Matthew only is rendered ‘tomb’ Matthew 23:29, and ‘sepulchre’ Matthew 23:27, Matthew 27:61; Matthew 27:64; Matthew 27:66, Matthew 28:1.
four days] No doubt he had been buried the day he died, as is usual in hot climates where decomposition is rapid; moreover, he had died of a malignant disease, probably a fever. Jehu ordered Jezebel to be buried a few hours after death (2 Kings 9:34); Ananias and Sapphira were buried at once (Acts 5:6; Acts 5:10). If Christ started just after Lazarus died, as seems probable, the journey had occupied four days. This fits in well with the conclusion that Bethabara or Bethany was in the north of Palestine, possibly a little south of the Sea of Galilee; near Galilee it must have been (comp. John 1:28-29; John 1:43). But on the other hand Lazarus may have died soon after Christ heard of his illness; in which case the journey occupied barely two days.Verse 17. - So; or, thereupon; for οϋν not infrequently indicates the relation between two narratives, as well as between two state-meats or arguments. When Jesus came into the neighborhood of the village (see ver. 30), he found, on inquiry, that he (Lazarus) already during four days had been in the grave; or literally, had had four days. These four days are differently counted. Alford, Luthardt, Hengstenberg, Lange, Gorier, Westcott, and Moulton believe that this mention proves that Lazarus died and was buried on the day on which the message was sent, which, if it took one day to deliver, and if one day had been consumed in the return of Jesus, would leave the other two days as those of the delay in Peraea. Meyer and Ewald, with Bengel and Watkins, think that he died at the conclusion of the delay, that Jesus became aware of it, and told his disciples of it, and spent the two days, or parts of them, in the journey; that on the fourth day he reached Bethany. The former and usual view is the more obvious one, although it must turn ultimately on the position of Bethany beyond Jordan. If the recent speculations of the Palestine Exploration Society and Caspari be correct, the distance between the two Bethanys may have required at least two days for the journey, and therefore favors the latter interpretation. If Bethany (Bethabara) be near Jericho, the distance between them would be much less, and the former and usual reckoning must prevail.
Literally, found him having already four days in the tomb.
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