Jesus therefore again groaning in himself comes to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay on it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Jesus therefore again groaning in himself.—See Note on John 11:33. Their evil thoughts, expressed in John 11:37, are the cause of this new emotion of anger.
It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.—The sepulchres were dug in the rock, either vertically, with an entrance from above (comp. Note on Luke 11:44), or horizontally, with an entrance from the side, and were frequently adaptations of natural caves. (Comp. Note on Matthew 27:60.) Such sepulchres remain to the present day, and travellers are shown one which is said to be that of Lazarus. The entrance is from above it by twenty-six steps; and this must have been so, if we press the words “lay upon it.” The original words, however, may certainly apply to the horizontal slab which closes the entrance to the sepulchre; and the identification of this particular sepulchre is to be received with caution. The tact of the body being laid in a sepulchre agrees with the general tone of the narrative that the family was one of substance.John 11:38-40. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it — Or, as Dr. Campbell reads, shut up with a stone. The graves of the common people probably were digged like ours, but persons of distinction were, as with us, interred in vaults. So Lazarus was; and such was the sepulchre in which Christ was buried. See note on Matthew 27:60. Probably this custom was kept up among the Jews in imitation of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their wives, except Rachel, being buried in the cave of Machpelah, Genesis 49:29-31. These caves were commonly in rocks, which abounded in that country, either hollowed by nature, or hewn by art. And the entrance was shut up with a great stone, which sometimes had a monumental inscription. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone — Our Lord, says Bishop Hall, “could with infinite ease have commanded the stone to roll away of itself, without employing any to remove it; but he judiciously avoided all unnecessary pomp and parade, and mingled all the majesty of this astonishing miracle with the most amiable modesty and simplicity.” Besides, he thus removed the minutest suspicion of fraud, for they who removed the stone would, from the putrefied state of the body, have sufficient evidence that it was there, dead; while all who were present might, and no doubt did, see it lying in the sepulchre when the stone was removed, before Jesus gave the commanding word, Come forth. Martha said, Lord, by this time he stinketh — Thus did reason and faith struggle together; for he hath been dead four days — The word dead is not in the original, which is only, τεταρταιος γαρ εστι, for he hath been four days, namely, in the grave, and not four days dead only. That this was Martha’s meaning is evident from John 11:17, where it is said, that when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had laid in the grave four days already; and therefore he must have been dead at least five or six, for a day or two must have been spent in making preparation for the burial. “Providence directed Martha to mention this circumstance before Lazarus was raised, that the greatness of the miracle might be manifest to all who were present. It is beautiful to observe the gradation that was in the resurrections of the dead effected by our Lord. The first person whom he raised, namely, Jairus’s daughter, had been in the state of the dead only a few hours; the second, the widow of Nain’s son, was raised as his friends were carrying him out to burial. But when Jesus recalled Lazarus to life, he had been in the grave no less than four days; and therefore, according to our way of apprehending things, his resurrection was the greatest miracle of the three. As Peter Chrysologus observes, ‘the whole power of death was accomplished upon him; the whole power of the resurrection showed forth in him.’” — Macknight. Jesus saith, Said I not unto thee — It appears by this that Christ had said more to Martha than is before recorded; if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God — Remarkably displayed in a work of signal mercy and power.Matthew 8:28.
A stone lay upon it - Over the mouth of the cave. See Matthew 27:60.
a cave—the cavity, natural or artificial, of a rock. This, with the number of condoling visitors from Jerusalem, and the costly ointment with which Mary afterwards anointed Jesus at Bethany, all go to show that the family was in good circumstances.Groaning in himself as before, John 11:33, so showing himself yet further to be truly man, and not without human affections. He cometh to the place where Lazarus’s dead body was laid, which, the evangelist telleth us, was
a cave, or a hollow place in the earth, or some rock. And they were wont to roll some great stones to the mouth of those graves, as we see in the burial of our Saviour, Matthew 27:66.
cometh to the grave of Lazarus,
it was a cave; either a natural one, such as were in rocks and mountains, of which sort there were many in Judea, and near Jerusalem being a rocky and mountainous country, of which Josephus (x) makes mention; where thieves and robbers sheltered themselves, and could not easily be come at and where persons in danger fled to for safety, and hid themselves; and the reason why such places were chose to bury in, was because here the bodies were safe from beasts of prey: or this was an artificial cave made out of a rock, in form of one, as was the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea; and it was the common custom of the Jews to make caves and bury in; yea, they were obliged to it by their traditions: thus says Maimonides (y),
"he that sells a place to his friend to make in it a grave or that receives from his friend a place to make in it a grave, , "must make a cave", and open in it eight graves, three on one side and three on another, and two over against the entrance "into the cave": the measure of "the cave" is four cubits by six, and every grave is four cubits long, and six hands broad, and seven high; and there is a space between every grave, on the sides a cubit and a half, and between the two in the middle two cubits.''
And elsewhere (z) he observes, that
"they dig "caves" in the earth, and make a grave in the side "of the cave", and bury him (the dead) in it.''
And such caves for burying the dead, were at and near the Mount of Olives; and near the same must be this cave where Lazarus was buried; for Bethany was not far from thence: so in the Cippi Hebraici we read (a), that at the bottom of the Mount (of Olives) is a very great "cave", said to be Haggai the prophet's; and in it are many caves.--And near it is the grave of Zachariah the prophet, in a "cave" shut up; and frequent mention is made there of caves in which persons were buried; See Gill on Matthew 23:29; perhaps the custom of burying in them might take its rise from the cave of Machpelah, which Abraham, their father, bought for a buryingplace for his dead. The sepulchre of Lazarus is pretended (b) to be shown to travellers to this day, over which is built a chapel of marble, very decent, and comely, and stands close by a church built in honour of Martha and Mary, the two sisters of Lazarus, in the place where their house stood; but certain it is, that the grave of Lazarus was out of the town:
and a stone lay upon it. Our version is not so accurate, nor so agreeable to the form of graves with the Jews, nor to this of Lazarus's; their graves were not as ours, dug in the earth and open above, so as to have a stone laid over them, for they often were, as this, caves in rocks, either natural, or hewn out of them by art; and there was a door at the side of them, by which there was an entrance into them; and at this door a stone was laid it would be better rendered here, and "a stone was laid to it"; not "upon it", for it had no opening above, but to it, at the side of it; and accordingly the Syriac and Persic versions read, "a stone was laid at the door of it"; and the Arabic version, "and there was a great stone at the door of it", as was at the door of Christ's sepulchre. In the Jewish sepulchres there was "a court" (c) which was before the entrance into the cave; this was four square; it was six cubits long, and six broad; and here the bearers put down the corpse, and from hence it was carried into the cave, at which there was an entrance, sometimes called , "the mouth of the cave" (d); and sometimes, , "the door of the grave" (e); of its form, measure, and place, there is no express mention in the Jewish writings: it is thought to be about a cubit's breadth, and was on the side of the cave; so that at it, it might be looked into; and at the mouth of the cave was a stone put to stop it up, which was called from its being rolled there; though that with which the mouth of the cave was shut up, was not always a stone, nor made of stone; Maimonides (f) says, it was made of stone, or wood, or the like matter; and so in the Misna (g) it is said,
, "the covering for a grave", (or that with which it is stopped up,) if it be made of a piece of timber, whether it stands, or whether it inclines to the side, does not defile, but over against the door only;''
See Gill on Matthew 27:60.
(x) Antiqu. l. 14. c. 15. sect. 5. (y) Hilchot Mecira, c. 21. sect. 6. (z) Hilchot Ebel, c. 4. sect. 4. (a) P. 27, 29. Ed. Hottinger. (b) ltinerar. Bunting. p. 364. (c) Misn. Bava Bathra, c. 6. sect. 8. (d) Misn. ib. (e) Maimon. R. Samson, & Bartenora in Misn. Ohalot, c. 15. sect. 8. (f) In Misn. Ohalot, c. 2. sect. 4. (g) Ib c. 15, sect. 8.Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 11:38. This πονηρία (Chrysostom) of the τινές stirred afresh, in the midst of His pain, His deep, though quiet, indignation; in this case, however, it was less noticeable, not being attended with the ταράσσειν ἑαυτόν of John 11:33.
εἰς τὸ μνηεῖον] to the grave (not into, see what follows; comp. John 11:31). The sepulchral vaults were entered either by a perpendicular opening with steps, or by an horizontal one; they were closed either by a large stone, or by a door. They exist in great numbers, down to the present day; Robinson, II. p. 175 ff., and his more recent Researches, p. 327 ff.; Tobler, Golgotha, p. 251 ff. The grave of Lazarus would have been of the first kind if ἐπέκεντο ἐπʼ αὐτῷ be rendered: it lay upon it; the one at present shown as the grave of Lazarus, though probably without sufficient reason (see Robinson, II. p. 310), is such. But ἐπέκ. ἐπʼ αὐτ. may also mean: it lay against it, before it (comp. Hom. Od. 6. 19 : θύραι δʼ ἐπέκειντο); and then the reference would be to a grave with an horizontal entrance. No decision can be arrived at. The description of the grave would seem to imply that Lazarus was a man of some position.John 11:38. Ἰησοῦς οὖν πάλιν ἐμβριμώμενος. “Jesus, then, being again deeply moved.” “Quia non accedit Christus ad sepulcrum tanquam otiosus spectator, sed athleta qui se ad certamen instruit, non mirum est si iterum fremat.” Calvin. To refer the renewed emotion to the sayings of the Jews just reported is to take for granted that Jesus heard them, which is most unlikely. The tomb ἦν σπήλαιον … αὐτῷ, “was a cave,” either natural, as that which Abraham bought, Genesis 23:9, or artificial, hewn out of the rock, as our Lord’s, Matthew 27:60.—λίθος ἐπέκειτο ἐπʼ αὐτῷ, “a stone lay upon it,” i.e., on its mouth to prevent wild animals from entering. The supposed tomb of Lazarus is still shown and is described by several travellers.38. groaning in himself] See on John 11:33. This shews that ‘in His spirit’ not ‘at His spirit’ is the right translation there. Their sneering scepticism rouses His indignation afresh.
to the grave] See on John 11:17. Insert now before ‘it was a cave.’ The having a private burying-place indicates that the family was well off. The large attendance of mourners and the very precious ointment (John 12:3) point to the same fact.
upon it] The Greek may mean ‘against it,’ so that an excavation in the side of a rock or mound is not excluded. What is now shewn as the sepulchre of Lazarus is an excavation in the ground with steps down to it. The stone would keep out beasts of prey.John 11:38. Πάλιν ἐμβριμώμενος, again groaning) By this groan Jesus also repelled the Jews’ gainsaying, lest it should tempt His own mind to give up the raising of Lazarus, etc. He refutes them by deed, not by words. Comp. John 11:33, notes.Verse 38. - Jesus therefore again moved with indignation within himself. The (ἐν ἑαυτῷ) "in himself" is not so forcible an expression as "shuddering in his spirit (ver. 33), but it implies a continuity of grand, holy indignation against the anomaly of death, from which the human family and he as its Representative were suffering (cf. ver. 33). He cometh to the grave. The (μνημεῖον or) tomb is forthwith described as (σπήλαιον) a den, cavern, or cave, from σπέος, spelunca, of which, partly natural, partly artificial, abundant use was made in the East. A stone lay (ἐπ αὐτῷ) against it; or, over it; i.e. either closing it up as a pit, or closing the mouth of it, by being rolled along a ledge horizontal with the base of the excavation. The former kind of cave is shown at Bethany, but no dependence can be placed on the tradition. (Cf. the account of our Lord's own tomb, to which a stone was roiled, Matthew 27:60; Matthew 28:2; Mark 16:3, 4; Luke 24:2; cf. also Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' pp. 101-108; and art. "Burial," in Smith's 'Dictionary.') The tomb of Joseph was that of a rich man, and all these circumstances show opulence, rather than the beggary and rags of the Lazarus of the parable.
This would be the meaning if the tomb were a vertical pit; but if hollowed horizontally into the rock, it may mean lay against. The traditional tomb of Lazarus is of the former kind, being descended into by a ladder.
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