And the Jews' passover was near at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand.—Comp. Notes on John 2:13; John 6:4.
Out of the country.—Not the country near Ephraim, but the country generally, as opposed to the city.
To purify themselves.—The Law ordained no special purifications before the Passover, but on the general principle of ceremonial cleanness, a large number of pilgrims would necessarily go up before the feast to observe the legal rites and offer the required sacrifices. The time required varied from one to six days. (Comp. Genesis 35:2; Exodus 19:10-11; Numbers 9:10; 2Chronicles 30:17-18; and Notes on John 18:28, and Acts 21:24; Acts 21:26; Acts 24:18.)John 11:55-57. And — Soon after this; the Jews’ passover was nigh — The last passover that Christ attended; and many — From all parts of the country; went up to Jerusalem — Some little time before the commencement of the feast; to purify themselves — By certain preparatory sacrifices and ceremonies, that they might be ready to eat the passover. Those who were under any legal incapacity of celebrating the great solemnities of the Jewish religion, usually went up to Jerusalem before the feast to cleanse themselves, by offering the appointed oblations for their purification. For they who had committed sins which were to be expiated by sacrifices, were not obliged to travel instantly to Jerusalem to offer them, but might defer the doing it till the next feast, at which they were obliged to be present. Moreover, those who were under vows of Nazaritism, usually ordered matters so, that those vows were concluded at one of the great feasts. These things occasioned a great concourse of people at Jerusalem before the feasts, and especially before the passover. And, as the time necessary for many purifications was seven days, when Jesus came to the city at this season, six days before the passover, (John 12:1; John 12:9; John 12:12,) he found great multitudes there. Then sought they for Jesus — Some of them being desirous to see and hear him, and others, perhaps, wanting to discover him to his avowed enemies, the Pharisees: and, as it could not but be generally known, that the surprising miracles which he had lately wrought had very much inflamed the rage and envy of his persecutors, many of the people were in doubt whether he would venture to appear in public; and spake among themselves as they stood in the temple — Where they were performing the rites of their worship; What think ye — Respecting his coming to the passover? Do you suppose that, after this alarm, he will not have courage to come? Now both the chief priests and Pharisees — Concluding that he would not fail to come according to his usual custom, no longer dissembling their malice; had given a commandment — Or issued a proclamation; that if any man knew where he was, he should — Immediately; show it, that they might take him — Might apprehend, and bring him to his trial, as a disturber of the public peace, and a person dangerous to the state. Thus did these wicked rulers, through the restless, causeless, and incorrigible malice that was in their hearts against the Son of God, labour to involve others with themselves in the guilt of murdering him: and if they could find any man capable of betraying him, they wished to persuade him that it was his duty to do it! But notwithstanding their proclamation, though doubtless many knew where he was, yet such was his interest in the affections of some, and such God’s hold on the consciences of others, that he continued undiscovered. Matthew 26:2-17. Its being called the Jews' Passover shows that John wrote this gospel among people who were not Jews, and to whom it was necessary, therefore, to explain their customs.
To purify themselves - This purifying consisted in preparing themselves for the proper observation of the Passover, according to the commands of the law. If any were defiled in any manner by contact with the dead or by any other ceremonial uncleanness, they were required to take the prescribed measures for purification, Leviticus 22:1-6. For want of this, great inconvenience was sometimes experienced. See 2 Chronicles 30:17-18. Different periods were necessary in order to be cleansed from ceremonial pollution. For example, one who had been polluted by the touch of a dead body, of a sepulchre, or by the bones of the dead, was sprinkled on the third and seventh days, by a clean person, with hyssop dipped in water mixed in the ashes of the red heifer. After washing his body and clothes he was then clean. These persons who went up before the Passover were doubtless those who had in some manner been ceremonially polluted.
many went up to purify themselves. There was no general legal purification required before men did eat the passover; but there were several legal uncleannesses, and purifications necessary to cleanse men from them; now those who had any special purification to pass, went before others, that they might have time to do what the law required of them.
and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem, before the passover: not only from the country where Ephraim was, but from all other countries in Judea and Galilee: all the males were obliged to go up to Jerusalem, at the time of the passover, where it was only kept; but many went before that time, for the reason following:
to purify themselves; we read in 2 Chronicles 30:18 of many that had not cleansed themselves, and yet ate the passover; for whom Hezekiah prayed, that they might be pardoned, which shows that they had done amiss: upon which place, Jarchi has this observation; that
"Judah (the men of Judah) were all clean, because they were near to Jerusalem, and could purify and sanctify themselves, and return to Jerusalem; but many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and Issachar, and Zabulon, could not do so.''
And this seems to be the case of these people, they were country people, that lived at a distance, and not having purified themselves from several uncleannesses, came up before the time, that they might cleanse themselves, and be ready at the time: in several cases purification was required; as with new mothers, menstruous and profluvious persons, and such that had touched a dead body, or any creeping thing, and in other cases; and which by reason of distance, might be neglected; wherefore it was necessary they should come up before the time of the passover, to fit themselves for it: the rule about defiled persons eating the passover, is this (b);
"if the congregation is polluted, or the greatest part of it, or the priests are unclean, and the congregation pure, it is kept in uncleanness; but if the lesser part of the congregation is defiled, the pure keep the first passover, and the unclean the second.''
This, their commentators say (c), is to be understood of uncleanness, by touching the dead, which required seven days of purification; and it is very probable that this was the case of these persons, since it was about so many days before the passover, that they came up; see John 12:1. The account Maimonides (d) gives of this matter is this;
"who is a defiled person, that is put off to the second passover? everyone who cannot eat the passover, on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan, because of his uncleanness; as profluvious men and women, menstruous and new mothers, and the husbands of menstruous women; but he that toucheth the dead carcass of a beast, or a creeping thing, and the like, on the fourteenth, lo, he dips, and they slay for him (the passover) after he has dipped; and in the evening, when his sun is set, he eats the passover; he that is defiled by touching the dead, whose seventh day happens to be on the fourteenth, though he dips and is sprinkled on, and lo, he is fit to eat the holy things at evening, yet they do not kill for him, but he is put off to the second passover; as it is said, Numbers 9:6. "And there were certain men who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the passover on that day"; by tradition it is learned, that it was their seventh day, and therefore they asked if it should be killed for them, and they should eat at evening? and it was declared to them, that they should not kill for them: of what is this to be understood? when he is polluted with a defilement by the dead, which Nazarites shave for; but if he is polluted with other defilements by the dead, which the Nazarites do not shave for, they kill for him on his seventh day, after he has dipped, and is sprinkled upon; and when his sun is set, he eats his passover; a profluvious person, who sees two appearances, and reckons seven days, and dips on the seventh, they kill for him, and he eats at evening.--They do not kill for a menstruous woman on her seventh day, for lo, she does not dip till the eighth night, and she is not fit to eat holy things until the ninth night.''
These, with many other cases there instanced, may serve to illustrate this passage.
(b) Misn. Pesachim, c. 7. sect. 6. Vid. Maimon. Korban Pesach. c. 7. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. & Biah Hamikdash, c. 4. sect. 10-18. (c) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. ib. (d) Hilchot Korban Pesach. c. 6. sect. 1, 2, 3.And the Jews' passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 11:55. Ἦν δὲ ἐγγ. τ. πάσχα τ. Ἰ.] Comp. John 2:13, John 6:4.
ἐκ τῆς χώρας] as in John 11:45,—accordingly: out of the country (as opposed to Jerusalem), not: out of that district (Grotius, Bengel, Olshausen).
ἵνα ἁγνίσ. ἑαυτ.] refers to the legal usages of self-purification, which varied greatly according to the degrees of the Levitical uncleannesses (washings, sacrifices, etc.). These, in compliance with the general principle of appearing before God pure (Genesis 35:2; Exodus 19:10-11), were completed before the beginning of the feast, in order to obtain from the priest the declaration of ceremonial cleanness, Numbers 9:10; 2 Chronicles 30:17-18, et al. Comp. John 18:28. Pilgrims accordingly set out according to their needs, in good time before the feast; see Lightfoot, p. 1078, and Lampe.John 11:55-57. Approach of the Passover.55. And the Jews’ passover] Now the passover of the Jews. See notes on John 2:13 and John 6:4.
to purify themselves] (Acts 21:24.) Again we have evidence that the Evangelist is a Jew. No purifications are ordered by the Law as a preparation for the Passover. But to be ceremonially unclean was to be excluded (John 18:28); hence it was customary for those who were so to go up to Jerusalem in good time so as to be declared clean before the Feast began.John 11:55.  Ἐκ τῆς χώρας) out of that region, John 11:54, “the country near to the wilderness, into a city of which, Ephraim” [Jesus had retired]; just as from all other regions.—ἵνα) That they might purify themselves, and remove all hindrances to their eating the passover.
 λεγομένην, called) It must have been therefore an obscure place.—V. g.—κἀκεῖ διέτριβε, and there continued) This retreat was prior to His arrival in Jericho, For before that He came to Jericho. He was alone with His disciples: but at Jericho a numerous crowd of people, flocking together to Him, accompanied Him in His solemn entry into Jerusalem, and escorted Him in meeting the multitude from that city. Matthew 20:17, “Jesus, going up to Jerus., took the Twelve apart;” 29, “As they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him;” John 21:8-9, “The multitudes that went before, and that followed—cried, Hosanna;” Mark 10:46, “He went out of Jericho—with a great number of people.”—Harm., p. 431.Verse 55. - Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand: and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover, that they might purify themselves. Ἐκ τῆς χώρας meant "from the country" generally. Though the Law did not specifically recommend purification "before the Passover," yet the general principle of ceremonial cleansings had been applied to the Feast of the Passover (see 2 Chronicles 30:16-20; Acts 21:24). The time required varied from one to six days (Exodus 19:10, 11; Numbers 9:10).
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