John 11:44
And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
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(44) And he that was dead came forth.—“Wonder at a wonder within a wonder!” is Basil’s comment on these words; and many of the older expositors regard the power to move, when bound hand and foot, as itself a miracle. But this seems not to be necessary, and if not necessary, is not to be resorted to. (Comp. Note on John 6:21.) The grave-clothes may have been bound round the limbs separately, as in the Egyptian mummies, and this would not prevent motion; or (and this is more probable) the body may have been “wrapped in a linen cloth,” which encompassed the whole, except the head (Matthew 27:59), but still left motion possible. The word rendered “grave-clothes” is used nowhere in the New Testament except in this passage. It means properly the bands or straps by which the linen sheet was fastened to the body, and which kept the spice from falling out. (Comp. John 19:40.) We find it used elsewhere for straps and thongs generally. They were made of rushes, linen,, and other materials. The word is used once in the Greek of the Old Testament, where it means the belts by which beds are girded (Proverbs 7:16).

And his face was bound about with a napkin.—For the word “napkin,” comp. Note on Luke 19:20. It means here the cloth placed round the forehead and under the chin, but probably not covering the face.

Loose him, and let him go.—This command is in itself strong proof that the earlier part of the verse is not to be interpreted as a narrative of miraculous incidents.

John 11:44. And he that was dead — Greek, ο τεθνη κως, he that had been dead; came forth — “The dead man heard the voice of the Son of God, and came forth immediately. For he did not revive slowly, and by degrees, as the dead child did which was raised by the Prophet Elisha; but the effect instantly following the command, plainly showed whose the power was that reanimated the breathless clay.” As the people present were not so much as thinking of a resurrection, they must have been greatly “surprised when they heard our Lord pray for it. The cry, Lazarus, come forth, must have astonished them still more, and raised their curiosity to a prodigious pitch. But when they saw him spring out alive and in perfect health, that had been rotting in the grave four days, they could not but be agitated with many different passions, and overwhelmed with inexpressible amazement.” Bound hand and foot with grave-clothes — Which were wrapped round each hand and each foot. And his face was bound about with a napkin

If the Jews buried as the Egyptians did, the face was not covered with it, but it only went round the forehead, and under the chin, so that he might easily see his way. “It would have been the least part of the miracle, had Jesus made the rollers, wherewith Lazarus was bound, unloose themselves from around his body before he came forth. But he brought him out just as he was lying, and ordered the spectators to loose him, that they might be the better convinced of the miracle.” Accordingly, in taking off the grave- clothes, they had the fullest evidence, both of his death and resurrection. For, on the one hand, in stripping him, the linen would offer both to their eyes and smell abundant proofs of his putrefaction, (John 11:39,) and by that means convince them that he had not been in a deliquium, but was really departed: and on the other, by his lively countenance appearing when the napkin was removed, his fresh colour, his active vigour, and his brisk walking, they who came near him and handled him, were made sensible that he was in perfect health, and had an opportunity to try the truth of the miracle, by the closest examination.

“Every reader must be sensible, that there is something incomparably beautiful in the whole of our Lord’s behaviour on this occasion. After having given such an astonishing instance of his power, he did not speak one word in his own praise, either directly or indirectly. He did not chide the disciples for their unwillingness to accompany him into Judea. He did not rebuke the Jews for having, in former instances, maliciously detracted from the lustre of his miracles, every one of which derived additional credit from this incontestable wonder. He did not say how much they were to blame for persisting in their infidelity, though he well knew what they would do. He did not intimate, even in the most distant manner, the obligations which Lazarus and his sisters were laid under by this signal favour. He did not upbraid Martha and Mary with the discontent they had expressed, at his having delayed to come to the relief of their brother. Nay, he did not so much as put them in mind of the mean notion they had entertained of his power; but, always consistent with himself, he was on this, as on every other occasion, a pattern of perfect humility and absolute self-denial.” — Macknight.

11:33-46 Christ's tender sympathy with these afflicted friends, appeared by the troubles of his spirit. In all the afflictions of believers he is afflicted. His concern for them was shown by his kind inquiry after the remains of his deceased friend. Being found in fashion as a man, he acts in the way and manner of the sons of men. It was shown by his tears. He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Tears of compassion resemble those of Christ. But Christ never approved that sensibility of which many are proud, while they weep at mere tales of distress, but are hardened to real woe. He sets us an example to withdraw from scenes of giddy mirth, that we may comfort the afflicted. And we have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities. It is a good step toward raising a soul to spiritual life, when the stone is taken away, when prejudices are removed, and got over, and way is made for the word to enter the heart. If we take Christ's word, and rely on his power and faithfulness, we shall see the glory of God, and be happy in the sight. Our Lord Jesus has taught us, by his own example, to call God Father, in prayer, and to draw nigh to him as children to a father, with humble reverence, yet with holy boldness. He openly made this address to God, with uplifted eyes and loud voice, that they might be convinced the Father had sent him as his beloved Son into the world. He could have raised Lazarus by the silent exertion of his power and will, and the unseen working of the Spirit of life; but he did it by a loud call. This was a figure of the gospel call, by which dead souls are brought out of the grave of sin: and of the sound of the archangel's trumpet at the last day, with which all that sleep in the dust shall be awakened, and summoned before the great tribunal. The grave of sin and this world, is no place for those whom Christ has quickened; they must come forth. Lazarus was thoroughly revived, and returned not only to life, but to health. The sinner cannot quicken his own soul, but he is to use the means of grace; the believer cannot sanctify himself, but he is to lay aside every weight and hinderance. We cannot convert our relatives and friends, but we should instruct, warn, and invite them.He that was dead - The same man, body and soul.

Bound hand and foot - It is not certain whether the whole body and limbs were bound together, or each limb separately. When they embalmed a person, the whole body and limbs were swathed or bound together by strips of linen, involved around it to keep together the aromatics with which the body was embalmed. This is the condition of Egyptian mummies. See Acts 5:6. But it is not certain that this was always the mode. Perhaps the body was simply involved in a winding-sheet. The custom still exists in western Asia. No coffins being used, the body itself is more carefully and elaborately wrapped and swathed than is common or desirable where coffins are used. In this method the body is stretched out and the arms laid straight by the sides, after which the whole body, from head to foot, is wrapped round tightly in many folds of linen or cotton cloth; or, to be more precise, a great length of cloth is taken and rolled around the body until the whole is enveloped, and every part is covered with several folds of the cloth. The ends are then sewed, to keep the whole firm and compact; or else a narrow bandage is wound over the whole, forming, ultimately, the exterior surface. The body, when thus enfolded and swathed, retains the profile of the human form; but, as in the Egyptian mummies, the legs are not folded separately, but together; and the arms also are not distinguished, but confined to the sides in the general envelope. Hence, it would be clearly impossible for a person thus treated to move his arms or legs, if restored to existence.

The word rendered "grave-clothes" denotes also the bands or clothes in which new-born infants are involved. He went forth, but his walking was impeded by the bands or clothes in which he was involved.

And his face ... - This was a common thing when they buried their dead. See John 20:7. It is not known whether the whole face was covered in this manner, or only the forehead. In the Egyptian mummies it is only the forehead that is thus bound.

Loose him - Remove the bandages, so that he may walk freely. The effect of this miracle is said to have been that many believed on him. It may be remarked in regard to it that there could not be a more striking proof of the divine mission and power of Jesus. There could be here no possibility of deception:

1. The friends of Lazarus believed him to be dead. In this they could not be deceived. There could have been among them no design to deceive.

2. He was four days dead. It could not be a case, therefore, of suspended animation.

3. Jesus was at a distance at the time of his death. There was, therefore, no agreement to attempt to impose on others.

4. No higher power can be conceived than that of raising the dead.

5. It was not possible to impose on his sisters, and to convince them that he was restored to life, if it was not really so.

6. There were many present who were convinced also. God had so ordered it in his providence that to this miracle there should be many witnesses. There was no concealment, no jugglery, no secrecy. It was done publicly, in open day, and was witnessed by many who followed them to the grave, John 11:31.

7. Others, who saw it, and did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, went and told it to the Pharisees. But they did not deny that Jesus had raised up Lazarus. They could not deny it. The very ground of their alarm - the very reason why they went - was that he had actually done it. Nor did the Pharisees dare to call the fact in question. If they could have done it, they would. But it was not possible; for,

8. Lazarus was yet alive John 12:10, and the fact of his resurrection could not be denied. Every circumstance in this account is plain, simple, consistent, bearing all the marks of truth. But if Jesus performed this miracle his religion is true. God would not give such power to an impostor; and unless it can be proved that this account is false, the Christian religion must be from God.

44. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go—Jesus will no more do this Himself than roll away the stone. The one was the necessary preparation for resurrection, the other the necessary sequel to it. The life-giving act alone He reserves to Himself. So in the quickening of the dead to spiritual life, human instrumentality is employed first to prepare the way, and then to turn it to account. The fashion of their dressing up the dead differeth, according to the fashion of several countries; among the Jews, we understand by this text, they tied a napkin about their head, and some clothes about their hands and feet. They wound the whole body in linen clothes with spices, John 19:40; this was (as is there said) their manner to bury. So, Acts 5:6, the young men are said to have wound Ananias, and carried him out, and buried him. And this is that which certainly is meant here by these words,

bound hand and foot: and here is a second miracle, that one so wrapped and bound up should be able to move and come forth. Christ bids,

Loose him, and let him go, to evidence him truly recovered to life again, and that the miracle was perfectly wrought. About this miracle there are two curious questions started:

1. Whether the raising of Lazarus to life was done by the mere Divine power of Christ, or by the person of Christ; so as the human nature, being personally united to the Divine nature, had also a share in it; the Divine nature communicating its property of quickening the dead to the human nature? That it was the person of Christ that raised Lazarus, and he who did it was truly man and truly God, is out of doubt. But that there was any such communication of the properties of the Divine nature to the human nature, that it also had a share in this effect, is justly denied, and doubted by many great divines: but it is a question tending to no great profit for us to know.

2. Where Lazarus’s soul was these four days wherein it was separated from the body? The Scripture hath not told us this, and it speaks too great curiosity to inquire too strictly. Though we are taught from the parable of Dives and Lazarus, that the souls of departed saints do ordinarily and immediately pass into heaven, or Abraham’s bosom; yet what should hinder, but that in these cases, where it appears to have been the Divine will that the souls of persons departed should again be returned into their bodies in a short time, they might by a Divine power be kept under the custody of angels, until the time of such restoration of them.

And he that was dead came forth,.... That is, he who had been dead, being now made alive, and raised up, and set on his feet, came out of the cave:

bound hand and foot with grave clothes; not that his hands were bound together, and much less his hands and feet together, with any bands or lists of cloth; but his whole body, as Nonnus expresses it, was bound with grave clothes from head to foot, according to the manner of the eastern countries, Jews, Egyptians, and others, who used to wrap up their dead in many folds of linen cloth, as infants are wrapped in swaddling bands: and their manner was to let down their arms and hands close by their sides, and wind up altogether from head to foot: so that there was another miracle besides that of raising him from the dead; that in such a situation, in which he could have no natural use of his hands and feet, he should rise up, stand on his feet, walk, and come forth thus bound, out of the cave:

and his face was bound about with a napkin; the use of which was not only to tie up the chin and jaws, but to hide the grim and ghastly looks of a dead corpse; and one of the same price and value was used by rich and poor: for it is said (m),

"the wise men introduced a custom of using "a napkin", (the very word here used, which Nonnus says is Syriac,) of the same value, not exceeding a penny, that he might not be ashamed who had not one so good as another; and they cover the faces of the dead, that they might not shame the poor, whose faces were black with famine.''

For it seems (n),

"formerly they used to uncover the faces of the rich, and cover the faces of the poor, because their faces were black through want, and the poor were ashamed; wherefore they ordered, that they should cover the faces of all, for the honour of the poor.''

Jesus saith unto them; to the servants that stood by:

loose him, and let him go; unwind the linen rolls about him, and set his hands and feet at liberty, and let him go to his own house.

(m) Maimon. Hilchot Ebel, c. 4. sect. 1, (n) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 27. 1.

And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
John 11:44. Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ τεθνηκὼς, “And out came the dead man,” δεδεμένοςπεριεδέδετο, “bound feet and hands with grave-bands,” κειρίαις, apparently the linen bandages with which the corpse was swathed. Opinions are fully given in Lampe. “And his face was bound about with a napkin.” Cf. John 20:7. “The trait marks an eye-witness,” Westcott.—λέγειὑπάγειν. “Jesus says to them, ‘Loose him and let him go away’.” He did not require support, and he could not relish the gaze of the throng in his present condition.

44. came forth] It is safest not to regard this as an additional miracle. The winding-sheet may have been loosely tied round him, or each limb may have been swathed separately: in Egyptian mummies sometimes every finger is kept distinct.

graveclothes] The Greek word occurs here only in N.T. Comp. Proverbs 7:16. It means the bandages which kept the sheet and the spices round the body. Nothing is said about the usual spices (John 19:40) here; and Martha’s remark (John 11:39) rather implies that there had been no embalming. If Lazarus died of a malignant disease he would be buried as quickly as possible.

face] The Greek word occurs in N.T. only here, John 7:24, and Revelation 1:16 : one of the small indications of a common authorship (see on John 15:20 and John 19:37).

napkin] A Latin word is used meaning literally ‘a sweat-cloth.’ It occurs John 20:7; Luke 19:20; Acts 19:12. Here the cloth bound under the chin to keep the lower jaw from falling is probably meant. These details shew the eyewitness.

let him go] The expression is identical with ‘let these go their way’ (John 18:8); and perhaps ‘let him go his way’ would be better here. Lazarus is to be allowed to retire out of the way of harmful excitement and idle curiosity.

The reserve of the Gospel narrative here is evidence of its truth, and is in marked contrast to the myths about others who are said to have returned from the grave. Lazarus makes no revelations as to the unseen world. The traditions about him have no historic value: but one mentioned by Trench (Miracles, p. 425) is worth remembering. It is said that the first question which he asked Christ after being restored to life was whether he must die again; and being told that he must, he was never more seen to smile.

John 11:44. Τοὺς πόδας, feet) The two feet had been swathed up together, or else each separately.—κειρίαις) The same word occurs in LXX. Proverbs 7:16, “I have decked my bed with coverings” [κλίνηνκειρίαις].

Verse 44. - He that (had died and) was (up to that time) dead, came out (of the grave), bound feet and hands with grave-bands. The swathing of the limbs after the Egyptian fashion, each limb separately, renders the action most natural, because ἐξῆλθεν is used. Lazarus did not simply stand in his grave. The early commentators and Stier saw in this emergence of the swathed Lazarus an additional miracle, just as they augmented the force of the supposition involved in the ὄζει, into the fact that our Lord raised from death a putrefy-tug corpse. Both suppositions would be unnecessary adjuncts of the proof of the glory of God and power of Christ. Lucke and others refer to the habit of swathing separate limbs, but in such a way as not to impede motion if the person thus swathed desired it. Meyer and Godet see no necessity for the suggestion of the early writers. Kuinoel thinks that ἐξῆλθε was used of the mere struggle of the swathed body to escape. The above supposition is the most probable. So Westcott. (Κειρία, an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον of the New Testament, is used of girdle or bandage.) And his face was bound about with a napkin. The surrounding of the face with a sudarium is the touch of an eyewitness. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and suffer him to depart; the part which bystanders might perform; this was the wise advice of Friend and Teacher. (For similar injunctions of a physical and practical kind on other occasions, see Luke 7:15 and Luke 8:55.) The majestic miracle is no further pressed by the evangelist, but left to tell its own sublime meaning, which in the multiplicity of exegetical hypotheses we are in danger of missing.

"Behold a man raised up by Christ.
The rest remaineth unrevealed -
He told it not; or something sealed
The lips of that evangelist."
John 11:44Grave-clothes (κειρίαις)

Literally, swathing-bands. Only here in the New Testament. In John 19:40; John 20:5, John 20:7, ὀθόνια, linen bands, is used.

A napkin (σουδαρι.ῳ)

See on Luke 19:20.

It is interesting to compare this Gospel picture of sisterly affection under the shadow of death, with the same sentiment as exhibited in Greek tragedy, especially in Sophocles, by whom it is developed with wonderful power, both in the "Antigone" and in the "Electra."

In the former, Antigone, the consummate female figure of the Greek drama, falls a victim to her love for her dead brother. Both here, and in the "Electra," sisterly love is complicated with another and sterner sentiment: in the "Antigone" with indignant defiance of the edict which refuses burial to her brother; in the "Electra" with the long-cherished craving for vengeance. Electra longs for her absent brother Orestes, as the minister of retribution rather than as the solace of loneliness and sorrow. His supposed death is to her, therefore, chiefly the defeat of the passionate, deadly purpose of her whole life. Antigone lives for her kindred, and is sustained under her own sad fate by the hope of rejoining them in the next world. She believes in the permanence of personal existence.

"And yet I go and feed myself with hopes

That I shall meet them, by my father loved,

Dear to my mother, well-beloved of thee,

Thou darling brother" (897-900).

And again,

"Loved, I shall be with him whom I have loved

Guilty of holiest crime. More time is mine

In which to share the favor of the dead,


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