And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night.—He is mentioned only by St. John. (Comp. Notes on John 3:1-2; John 7:50.)
A mixture of myrrh and aloes.—For “myrrh,” comp. Note on Matthew 2:11. “Aloes” are not elsewhere mentioned in the New Testament, but they are joined with myrrh in the Messianic Psalm 45:8. The aloe is an Eastern odoriferous wood—to be distinguished from the aloes of commerce—and chips of the better kinds are now said to be worth their weight in gold. The myrrh and aloes were probably pulverised and mixed together, and then placed in the linen in which the body was wrapped.
About an hundred pound weight.—Comp. Notes on John 12:3 et seq. The quantity is clearly much more than could have been placed in the linen which surrounded the body; but the offering was one of love, and part of it may have been placed in the sepulchre. We read of the burial of Asa, that they “laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries’ art” (2Chronicles 16:14).Matthew 27:57-61.
brought … myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pounds weight—an immense quantity, betokening the greatness of their love, but part of it probably intended as a layer for the spot on which the body was to lie. (See 2Ch 16:14) [Meyer].John 3:1-21. We again heard of him standing up for Christ in the sanhedrim, John 7:50. We read no more of him till now, where he shows his love to his dead body; bringing a hundred pounds weight of myrrh and aloes, which were both of them drugs used in embalming dead bodies, as also in perfuming other things, Psalm 45:8.
which at the first came to Jesus by night; who, when Christ first entered on his ministry, or when he first came unto him, came to him by night to discourse with him about his Messiahship, doctrine, and miracles, John 3:1 for being one of the Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews, and a Rabbi or master in Israel, he was ashamed or afraid to converse publicly with him; however, he went away a disciple; and though he did not openly profess him, he loved him, and believed in him, and now being dead showed his respect to him:
and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight: not himself, but by his servants. This mixture of myrrh and aloes together, and which was a very large quantity, and exceeding costly, was not designed the embalming of his body, and preserving it from putrefaction; for he was not embalmed, though myrrh and cassia and other odours were used in embalming (y); but for perfuming it, and in honour and respect unto him: it was sweet smelling myrrh, and an aromatic spice called "aloe" he brought, and not the common aloe. Nonnus calls it the "Indian aloe", which was of a sweet odour; for which reason it was brought. These are both reckoned with the chief spices, Sol 4:14. Myrrh was one of the principal spices in the anointing oil and holy perfume, Exodus 30:23. It is a kind of gum or resin called "stacte", that issues either by incision, or of its own accord, out of the body or branches of a tree of this name, which grows in Arabia and Egypt; and being of an agreeable smell, was used at funerals: hence those words of Martial (z) "---& olentem funera myrrham"; and so Nazianzen, speaking of his brother Caesarius, says (a),
"he lies dead, friendless, desolate, miserable, , "favoured with a little myrrh".''
And so the aloe was used to perfume, and to give a good scent, Proverbs 7:17 and Christ's garments are said to smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, Psalm 45:8. Some have thought, that this was a mixture of the juice of myrrh, and of the juice of the aloe plant, and was a liquid into which the body of Christ was put: but this will not so well agree with the winding of the body in linen, with these in the next verse, where they are called spices. A Jew (b) objects to this relation of the evangelist as unworthy of belief: he affirms, that this was enough for two hundred dead bodies, and that it could not be carried with less than the strength of a mule, and therefore not by Nicodemus. In answer to which, it is observed by Bishop Kidder (c), that we having nothing but the Jew's own word for it, that this was enough for two hundred bodies, and a load for a mule; and that it should be told what was the weight of the or pound, mentioned by the evangelist, ere the force of the objection can be seen; and that it is a thing well known, that among the Jews the bodies of great men were buried with a great quantity of spices: it is said of Asa, that "they buried him in his own sepulchre which he had made for himself, in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours, and divers kinds of spices", 2 Chronicles 16:14. To which may be added, what is before observed, that this was not brought by Nicodemus himself, but by his servants; and what they did by his orders, and he coming along with them, he may be said to do. Just as Joseph is said to take down the body of Jesus from the cross, wind it in linen, and carry it to his sepulchre, and there bury it; this being done by his servants, at his orders, or they at least assisting in it; and as Pilate is said to put the title he wrote upon the cross, though it was done by others, at his command.
(u) T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 56. 1.((w) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 20. 1.((x) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 43. 1.((y) Herodotus in Euterpe, c. 86. (z) L. 11. Epigr. 35. (a) Epist. 18. p. 78l. Tom. I.((b) Jacob Aben Amram, porta veritatis No. 1040. apud Kidder, Demonstration of the Messiah, part 3. p. 65, 66. Ed. fol. (c) Ib.And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 19:39. ἦλθε δὲ καὶ Νικόδημος. “Thus Jesus by being lifted up is already drawing men unto Him. These Jewish aristocrats first confess Him in the hour of His deepest degradation.” Plummer. Nicodemus is identified as ὁ ἐλθὼν … τὸ πρῶτον, “he who came to Jesus by night at the first”; John 3:1, in contrast to the boldness of his coming now. φέρων μίγμα … ἑκατόν. μίγμα, a “confection” or “compound,” cf. Sir 38:8. σμύρνης καὶ ἀλόης, “of myrrh and aloes”. Myrrh was similarly used by the Egyptians, see Herod., ii. 83. Cf. Psalm 45:9. ὡσεὶ λίτρας ἑκατόν. The λίτρα (libra) was rather over eleven ounces avoirdupois. The enormous quantity has been accounted for as a rich man’s expression of devotion, or as required if the entire body and all the wrappings were to be smeared with it, and if the grave itself was to be filled with unguents as in 2 Chronicles 16:14.39. Nicodemus] Another coincidence. Nicodemus also was a member of the Sanhedrin (iii. 1), and his acquaintance with Joseph is thus explained. And it is S. Mark who tells us that Joseph was one of the Sanhedrin, S. John who brings him in contact with Nicodemus. It would seem as if Joseph’s unusual courage had inspired Nicodemus also. We are not told whether or no Nicodemus had ‘consented to the counsel and deed of them.’
at the first] Either the first time that he came to Jesus, in contrast to other occasions; or simply at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Comp. John 10:40).
myrrh and aloes] Myrrh-resin and pounded aloe-wood, both aromatic substances: ‘All thy garments are myrrh and aloes’ (Psalm 45:8). Comp. Matthew 2:11. Aloes are not mentioned elsewhere in N.T. For ‘mixture’ (migma) the two best MSS. read roll (eligma), and the purpose of this large quantity was probably to cover the Body entirely. Comp. 2 Chronicles 16:14.
about an hundred pound] 1200 ounces. There is nothing incredible in the amount. It is a rich man’s proof of devotion, and possibly of remorse for a timidity in the past which now seemed irremediable: his courage had come too late.Καὶ Νικόδημος, and Nicodemus) Whose faith had already put itself forth into exercise by a kind of confession (ch. John 7:50) six months before this time; but now it is manifested by an altogether distinguished work of love.—Harm., p. 581.]Verse 39. - But there came also Nicodemus who at the first came to him by night pointing back (as the evangelist also does at John 7:50) to the memorable converse with our Lord detailed in John 3:1-20, when Jesus made clear to his visitor that he would be lifted up, even as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness." There is no proof that this "ruler of the Jews" and "master in Israel" had been encouraged by the act of Joseph; but it might seem that these two between them had arranged the costly cerements. There is a world of suggestion lying in this quietly mentioned fact. Doubtless there were many others of timid disposition, who had received deeper convictions than the narrative of the Passion seems to suggest. Nicodemus had said, "We know that thou art a Teacher sent from God." By reason of their unacknowledged faith, the way was prepared for the marvelous conversions of Pentecost and later days. Nicodemus came to the cross, in all probability aided by the loving cares of the women and the disciple whom Jesus loved, bringing a mixture of myrrh, an odoriferous gum, and aloes, a fragrant wood, prepared for the embalming process, about an hundred pounds weight. This was a vast quantity. It reminds the reader of "the myrrh and aloes" of the royal Bridegroom of the Church (Psalm 45.); of the frankincense and myrrh brought by the Wise Men of the East; of the lavish gift of Mary the sister of Lazarus; of the outburst of boundless love which, spite of all the cruel persecution and rejection to which the Lord was exposed, at length was lavished upon him. The myrrh and aloes were pounded and mixed for the purposes of resisting the decomposition of death. The method was entirely to cover the ὀθονίαι, with its pungent and purifying powder, and then to swathe the whole body with the grave-clothes thus enriched.
The contrast is marked between his first and his second coming.
Only here in the New Testament. Some authorities read ἕλιγμα, a roll.
Roman pounds, of nearly twelve ounces. The large quantity may be explained by the intention of covering the entire body with the preparation, and by the fact that a portion was designed for the couch of the body in the grave. Compare the account of the burial of Asa, 2 Chronicles 16:14. "Extraordinary reverence in its sorrowful excitement does not easily satisfy itself" (Meyer).
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