John 11:54
Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went there to a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(54) Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews.—He had heard of the decree of the Sanhedrin which had been publicly made known (John 11:57), and therefore avoided persons who would have carried it into effect.

“The Jews” are, as before, the hostile party. The passage is a good illustration of St. John’s use of the term, for He was of course among Jews, in the ordinary meaning of the word, during the sojourn at Ephraim. (Comp. Note on John 1:19.)

But went thence unto a country near to the wilderness.—All the better MSS. read “unto the country . . .” as in contrast to the city, Jerusalem, where “the Jews” dwelt. He went from Bethany, when He had heard of what had taken place at Jerusalem, “into the country.” This is further defined as “near to the wilderness,” and then the name of the city is given.

Into a city called Ephraim.—The position of this “city” is not known. The MSS. spell it variously as Ephraim, Ephrem, Ephram, and Ephratha. Eusebius and Jerome both assumed it to be the same place as Ephron, but differed as to its position, the former fixing it at eight, and the latter at twenty miles, north-east from Jerusalem. Both would place it, therefore, in Judæa; and this agrees with its position “near to the wilderness,” for the desert of Judæa extended nearly as far as Jericho. In 2Chronicles 13:19, we have an Ephrain or Ephron (according to the written text and the LXX.) in connection with the neighbourhood of Bethel. This is mentioned by Josephus (Wars, iv. 9, § 9), and is near to the wilderness of Bethaven. It is possibly the place named here; but a Jew would naturally use the phrase, “the wilderness,” to mean the desert of Judæa. Dr. Robinson would identify Ephraim and Ephron with Ophrah (Joshua 18:23; 1Samuel 17:23), and fix the locality at the modern el-Taiyibeh, four or five miles east from Bethel, and sixteen from Jerusalem, which would agree roughly with the position assigned by Jerome. We must be content to leave the matter in this uncertainty. (Comp. Note on Luke 17:11.)

11:54-57 Before our gospel passover we must renew our repentance. Thus by a voluntary purification, and by religious exercises, many, more devout than their neighbours, spent some time before the passover at Jerusalem. When we expect to meet God, we must solemnly prepare. No devices of man can alter the purposes of God: and while hypocrites amuse themselves with forms and disputes, and worldly men pursue their own plans, Jesus still orders all things for his own glory and the salvation of his people.No more openly - No more publicly, in the cities and towns. Jesus never exposed his life unnecessarily to hazard. Although the time of his death was determined in the counsel of God, yet this did not prevent his using proper means to preserve his life.

The wilderness - See the notes at Matthew 3:1.

A city called Ephraim - This was probably a small town in the tribe of Ephraim, about five miles west of Jericho.

53. they took council together to put him to death—Caiaphas but expressed what the party was secretly wishing, but afraid to propose.

Jesus … walked no more openly among the Jews—How could He, unless He had wished to die before His time?

near to the wilderness—of Judea.

a city called Ephraim—between Jerusalem and Jericho.

Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; for he being the true paschal Lamb, was to be slain at that feast, and put an end to that type, and would therefore reserve himself for that time, which was now at hand. A

city called Ephraim: what this Ephren or Ephraim was, interpreters vainly busy themselves in inquiring; it was some obscure city, and near the wilderness; some think it was in the lot of Benjamin, others think it was in the lot of Ephraim, and obtained its name from the tribe in whose lot it was. The Scripture no where mentions it; and it cannot be expected, but that in so many changes of government as had befallen the Jews, the names of places should be so altered, that we should be at loss for many of them: wherever it was, it is said that Christ and his disciples continued there in some privacy. Jesus therefore,.... Knowing the resolution the sanhedrim had taken to put him to death, and the schemes they were forming to apprehend him:

walked no more openly among the Jews; at, or near Jerusalem; he did not teach in their streets, nor work miracles, nor appear in public company:

but went thence, from Bethany:

unto a country near to the wilderness: whether this was the wilderness of Judea, where John came preaching, and near to which our Lord was before he came to Bethany, or the wilderness of Bethaven, Joshua 18:12, is not certain:

into a city called Ephraim; the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, call it Ephren, and so some copies; it seems to be the same with the Ephraim of the Misnic and Talmudic doctors; concerning which they say (r),

"Micmas and Mezonicha are the first for fine flour, and the next to them is Ephraim in the valley.''

For it seems there were two Ephraims, one in the valley, and another in the mount (s) it was a place very fruitful for wheat; hence that saying of Jannes and Jambres, the magicians of Egypt, to Moses (t);

"do you bring straw to Ephraim?''

which was a proverbial expression, the same with ours of carrying coals to Newcastle: they seeing Moses do signs and wonders, supposed he did them by enchantment; and the sense of their proverb is, do you bring enchantments into Egypt, where there are so many already? This Ephraim, the Jews say (u), is the same with that in 2 Chronicles 13:19, and as there Bethel is mentioned with it, it seems to have been in the tribe of Benjamin: and it may be observed, that Josephus (w) speaks of an Ephraim, along with Bethel likewise; so that they all seem to mean the same place; and according to the same writer, it was but a little city, and it may be an obscure one, for which reason Christ withdrew to it. Epiphanius (x) makes mention of the wilderness of Bethel and Ephraim, through which he travelled, accompanied by a Jew, as he came up from Jericho to the hill country; and is very likely the same wilderness which is here spoken of; and by some called Quarentana, and placed by the river Chereth, in the tribe of Benjamin, north east of Jerusalem; and the same writer elsewhere calls (y) Ephraim, the city of the wilderness: according to Jerom (z), it was twenty miles from Aelia, or Jerusalem; though according to Eusebius, it was but eight miles, which is thought to be the truest account; and by them both is said to be a very large village, and in which they may not differ from Josephus; for it might be a large village, and yet a little city. Jerom (a) takes notice of a place called Aphra, in the tribe of Benjamin, which he says at that time was called the village Effrem, and was five miles from Bethel eastward; and of another called Aphraim, a city in the tribe of Issachar, which in his time went by the name of the village Affarea, six miles from the legion, northward; the former agrees best with this Ephraim.

And there continued with his disciples; spending his time in private conversation with them, teaching and instructing them in things concerning the kingdom of God, his time with them being now but short.

(r) Misn. Menachot, c. 8. sect. 1.((s) Barlenora in ib. (t) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 85. 1. Gloss. in ib. Tzcror Hammor, fol. 170. 2. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 86. fol. 75. 4. (u) Yom. Tob. in Misn. Menachot, c. 8. sect. 1. & Gloss. in T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 83. 2.((w) De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 9. sect. 9. (x) Adv. Haeres. l. 1. Tom. II. Haeres. 30. (y) Ib. Haeres. 29. (z) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 91. A. (a) lb. fol. 88. H. I.

{9} Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.

(9) We may give place to the rage of the wicked, when it is expedient to do so, but yet in such a way that we do not swerve from God's calling.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 11:54. Jesus accordingly, Ἰησοῦς οὖν, not to precipitate matters, οὐκ ἔτιαὐτοῦ, “no longer went about openly among the Jews, but departed thence (i.e., from Bethany or Jerusalem and its neighbourhood) to the country near the desert (χώραν in contrast to the city; the particular part being the wilderness of Bethaven, a few miles north-east of Jerusalem) to a city called Ephraim (now Et-Taiyibeh, anciently Ophrah, see Smith’s Hist. Geog., 256, 352; ‘perched on a conspicuous eminence and with an extensive view, thirteen miles north of Jerusalem,’ Henderson’s Palestine, p. 161), and there He spent some time with His disciples”.54. therefore] The decree of the Sanhedrin for His apprehension had been published (John 11:57); the sentence of death was probably a secret among themselves.

openly] Comp. John 7:10. He withdraws from all intercourse with His adversaries.

went thence unto a country] Departed thence into the country.

the wilderness] The desert of Judæa, which extended to the confines of Jericho, would naturally be meant by ‘the wilderness.’

Ephraim] This place cannot be identified with certainty. Eusebius makes it eight miles, Jerome twenty miles, N.E. of Jerusalem: both make it the same as Ephron. If the Ephraim of 2 Chronicles 13:19 and Josephus (B. J. iv. ix. 9) be meant, the wilderness would be that of Bethaven.John 11:54. Οὐκέτι, no more) This was not the result of fear.—Ἐφραΐμ, Ephraim) See 2 Samuel 13:23, “Baal-hazor, beside Ephraim.”Verse 54. - This constituted the close of his earthly ministry after his ordinary method. Jesus therefore walked (cf. John 7:1) no more openly (παῥῤησίᾳ; cf. John 7:4) among the Jews; but he deputed thence into the country nigh unto the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim. Westcott says the place is mentioned in connection with Bethel (2 Chronicles 13:19). Not far from Bethel, on the border between Benjamin and Ephraim, is Taiyibeh a conical hill with a village perched aloft, which Robinson ('Bibl. Res.,' 2:127) and Stanley ('Sinai and Palestine,' p. 210) identify with this Ephraim. In this form the word does not appear in the Old Testament, but Ensebius and Jerome make it twelve miles from Jerusalem, on the east of the road leading to Sichem; and Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 4:09.9) speaks of "two little towns of Bethela and Ephraim, through which Vespasian passed and left garrisons." Hengstenberg identifies it with "Baal-hazor, which is by Ephraim" (2 Samuel 13:23). The maps of Van der Welt and of the Palestine Exploration Society place it on the site of Ephraim, Ephron (2 Chronicles 13:19), or Ophrah (Joshua 18:23), about seven miles north-east from Bethel, and give as second designation Apharaim. The intelligence must have reached our Lord that the Sanhedrin had formally pronounced sentence against him. This may have induced him to retire from Jerusalem until the next great feast, when he would publicly challenge their allegiance. From this neighborhood our Lord could (as we learn from the synoptists) have easily joined the caravan from Persea, which, after crossing Jordan near Jericho, there set its face towards Jerusalem, or the caravan which may have come through Samaria to Bethel. There he abode a (tarried) with the disciples. Μετὰ (says Godet) is not synonymous with σύν, but equivalent to - he confined himself in the desert region north-east of Jerusalem to the company of the twelve. Wilderness

The wild hill-country, northeast of Jerusalem.

Ephraim

The site is uncertain. Commonly taken as Ophrah (1 Samuel 13:17), or Ephraim (2 Chronicles 13:19), and identified with el-Taiyibeh, sixteen miles from Jerusalem, and situated on a hill which commands the Jordan valley.

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