John 2:6
And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
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(6) Waterpots, or pitchers, like to but larger than the vessels used for carrying water, as in John 4:28. These were placed in the outer court, away from the guest-chamber, for the governor of the feast is ignorant of the circumstances (John 2:9). It is natural that an eyewitness should remember the number and know roughly their size. There were six of them, containing about twenty gallons apiece; but hidden meanings referring to the number or the quantity are brought to the text, not derived from it. The measure rendered “firkin” is metretes, which is used for the Hebrew, “bath” in 2Chronicles 4:5. This (Jos. Ant. viii. 2, § 9) gives nearly nine gallons as the value of the “firkin,” which multiplied by two or three gives the contents of each pitcher as from about eighteen to twenty-seven gallons; or, approximately, from 100 to 150 gallons for the whole. Our own word “firkin” is probably “a little fourth,” and equal to nine gallons, or the fourth of a barrel (comp. Tierce, which is one-third). It is used only here in the Bible.

John 2:6. There were six water-pots of stone — Which were placed there, some of them for the cleansing of cups and tables, &c., and others for such purifications as required the immersion of the whole body; after the manner of the purifying of the Jews — Who were accustomed to purify themselves by frequent washings, particularly before eating; containing two or three firkins apiece — A large quantity, but exactly how much, is not now easy to be ascertained. The original word, μετρητας, here used, is translated by Dr. Campbell baths, because the Hebrew measure, bath, is thus rendered in the Septuagint, 2 Chronicles 4:5. He acknowledges, however, that this is not a decisive proof that it ought to be so rendered: but says, “I have not found any thing better in support of a different opinion. Some think, that as μετρητης was also the name of an Attic measure, the evangelist (most of whose readers were probably Greeks) must have referred to it, as best known in that country. There are other suppositions made, but hardly any thing more than conjecture has been advanced in favour of any of them. It ought not to be dissembled, that in most of the explanations which have been given of the passage, the quantity of liquor appears so great as to reflect an improbability on the interpretation.” The doctor observes, however, that the English translation is more liable to this objection than his version, the firkin containing nine gallons, whereas the bath is commonly rated at seven and a half, and, according to some, but four and a half; in which case the amount of the whole is but half of what the English translation makes it. The quantity thus reduced, he thinks, will not be thought so enormous, considering 1st, The length of time, commonly a week, spent in feasting on such occasions, and the great concourse of people which they were wont to assemble. To this may be added, that whatever the quantity of water contained in these water-pots might be, there is no proof that our Lord turned the whole of it into wine, or that he turned into wine any of it, any otherwise than as it was drawn out.

2:1-11 It is very desirable when there is a marriage, to have Christ own and bless it. Those that would have Christ with them at their marriage, must invite him by prayer, and he will come. While in this world we sometimes find ourselves in straits, even when we think ourselves in fulness. There was want at a marriage feast. Those who are come to care for the things of the world, must look for trouble, and count upon disappointment. In our addresses to Christ, we must humbly spread our case before him, and then refer ourselves to him to do as he pleases. In Christ's reply to his mother there was no disrespect. He used the same word when speaking to her with affection from the cross; yet it is a standing testimony against the idolatry of after-ages, in giving undue honours to his mother. His hour is come when we know not what to do. Delays of mercy are not denials of prayer. Those that expect Christ's favours, must observe his orders with ready obedience. The way of duty is the way to mercy; and Christ's methods must not be objected against. The beginning of Moses' miracles was turning water into blood, Ex 7:20; the beginning of Christ's miracles was turning water into wine; which may remind us of the difference between the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ. He showed that he improves creature-comforts to all true believers, and make them comforts indeed. And Christ's works are all for use. Has he turned thy water into wine, given thee knowledge and grace? it is to profit withal; therefore draw out now, and use it. It was the best wine. Christ's works commend themselves even to those who know not their Author. What was produced by miracles, always was the best in its kind. Though Christ hereby allows a right use of wine, he does not in the least do away his own caution, which is, that our hearts be not at any time overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, Lu 21:34. Though we need not scruple to feast with our friends on proper occasions, yet every social interview should be so conducted, that we might invite the Redeemer to join with us, if he were now on earth; and all levity, luxury, and excess offend him.Six water-pots of stone - Made of stone; or, as we should say, stoneware.

After the manner - After the usual custom.

Of the purifying - Of the "washings" or ablutions of the Jews. They were for the purpose of washing the hands before and after eating Matthew 15:2, and for the formal washing of vessels, and even articles of furniture, Luke 11:39; Mark 7:3-4.

Two or three firkins - It is not quite certain what is meant here by the word "firkins." It is probable that the measure intended is the Hebrew "bath," containing about 7 12 gallons.

6. firkins—about seven and a half gallons in Jewish, or nine in Attic measure; each of these huge water jars, therefore, holding some twenty or more gallons, for washings at such feasts (Mr 7:4). The Jews were wont in their dining rooms to have waterpots standing; whether one for every guest (upon which account some think here were six) doth not appear. For the contents of these vessels, it is uncertain; the reason is, because the Jewish measures, both for things dry and liquid, are much unknown to us, most countries varying in their measures. According to our measures, these vessels should contain three hogsheads, or near it; but it is not probable that so great vessels of stone should stand in a room: the end of their standing there was for the people to wash in, before they did eat, Matthew 15:2 Mark 7:3, and to wash their vessels in, Mark 7:4. We are certain of the number of the vessels, but not of the contents of them. Some say, they held so much water as, being turned into wine, was enough for one hundred and fifty persons; but we can make no certain judgment of it.

And there were set six water pots of stone,.... To distinguish them from other vessels made of different matter: for the Jews had

"vessels made of dust, and the dung of beasts, , "vessels of stone", vessels of earth, vessels made of shells, vessels of nitre, vessels made of the bones and skins of fishes (t).''

And as these vessels were very likely for washing of hands, such were used for that purpose: their rule is (u),

"they may put water for the hands in all sorts of vessels; in vessels of dung, in stone vessels, and in vessels of earth.''

At a wedding were set vessels of various sizes to wash hands and feet in; there was one vessel called which the gloss says was a large pitcher, or basin, out of which the whole company washed their hands and their feet; and there was another called which was a lesser and beautiful basin, which was set alone for the more honourable persons, as for the bride, and for any gentlewoman (w); and such might be these six stone jars, or pots:

after the manner of the purifying of the Jews; or "for the purifying either Jews", as the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it; that is, for the washing of them, their hands and feet, and their vessels, pots, and cups, according to the traditions of the elders; see Mark 7:2;

containing two or three firkins apiece. The Ethiopic version reads, "some held two measures, and some three"; how large the "metreta", or "measure" was, which we render a "firkin", is not certain; it is most likely it answered to the "Hebrew bath", which was a common measure of liquids with the Jews, and held four gallons and a half, or more; See Gill on Luke 16:6; so that such of these vessels, that held two of these measures, contained nine gallons, and such as held three of them, thirteen gallons and a half; and six of these contained a large quantity of wine, one with another: and which makes the following miracle the greater; and shows the liberality of Christ the more, in providing for the following days of the feast, for a marriage was kept seven days (x); and for the family, some time after it was over.

(t) Misn. Celim, c. 10. sect. 1. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (u) Misn. Yadaim, c. 1. sect. 2.((w) Gloss in T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 77. 2.((x) Maimon. Hilchot Ishot, c. 10. sect. 12, 13.

And there were set there six {c} waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three {d} firkins apiece.

(c) These were vessels made for the use of water, in which they washed themselves.

(d) Every firkin contained one hundred pounds, at twelve ounces a pound: By this we gather that Christ helps them with one thousand and eight hundred pounds of wine.

(about 135 imperial gallons or 600 litres Ed.)

John 2:6. Ἐκεῖ] Whether in the feast chamber, or possibly in the vestibule, we are not told.

ὑδρίαι] water-pitchers for carrying water, John 4:28; often in the LXX.; Dem. 1155. 6; Arist. Vesp. 926; Lysistr. 327, 358; Lucian, Dem. enc. 29.

ἕξ] Not stated as explanatory of the Jewish custom, but as vividly describing the exact circumstances, yet not with any symbolic significance (six, Lange thinks, was the number of poverty and labour).

κείμεναι] positae, set down, placed there. Comp. John 19:29; Jeremiah 24:1; Xen. Oec. viii. 19 : χύτραςεὐκρινῶς κειμένας.

κατὰ τὸν καθαρ. τῶν Ἰουδ.] i.e. for the sake of cleansing (the hands and vessels, Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3 ff.; Luke 11:39; Lightfoot, p. 974), which the Jews practised before and after meals. On κατὰ, in which, as in 2 Timothy 1:1, “notio secundum facile transit in notionem propter” (Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 3. 12). Comp. Winer, p. 376 [E. T. p. 602].

μετρητάς] In conformity with his Hellenic tendency, John gives the Attic measure, which, however, is equal to the Hebrew בַּת (Josephus, Antt. viii. 2. 9). The Attic metretes contained 12 χόες or 144 κοτύλαι, 1½ Roman amphorae, i.e. about 21 Würtemburg measures (see Wurm, de ponderum etc. rationib. 126), and about 33 Berlin quarts, in weight eighty pounds of water [about 87/8 gallons] (Bertheau, Gesch. d. Israel, p. 77). Comp. Böckh, Staatshaush. I. 127; Hermann, Privatalterth. § 46. 10. Each pitcher contained two or three metretae (which are not, with Ammon, to be referred to a smaller measure, nor even, with Ebrard, to that of an amphora); for as a row of six pitchers is named, ἀνά can, consistently with the context, only be taken in a distributive sense, not in the signification—which is, besides, linguistically untenable (see Winer, p. 372 [E. T. pp. 496–7])—of circiter, according to which all six must have held only about two or three metretae (Paulus, Hug). The great quantity of water thus turned into wine (252–378 Würtemburg measures, 106–160 gallons) seems out of all proportion, and is used by Strauss and Schweizer to impugn the historic character of the narrative; but it is conceivable if we consider the character of the miracle as one of blessing (compare the miraculous Feedings), and that we are to suppose that what was left over may have been intended by Jesus as a present for the married pair, while the possible abuse of it during the feast itself was prevented by the presence of the Giver. We must also bear in mind that the quantity was suggested to Him by the six pitchers standing there; and therefore, if the blessed Wonder worker had not merely to measure the amount of the need, He had occasion all the more not to keep within the exact quantity which the circumstances demanded, by changing the contents of only one or two pitchers into wine, and omitting the rest. The blessing conferred by the Wonderworker has also, considering the circumstances, its appropriateness and decorum, in keeping with which He was not to act in a spirit of calculation, but, on the contrary, to give plentifully, especially when, as was here the case, this abundance was suggested by the vessels which were standing there.

John 2:6. There were there, hard by or in the feast-room, there were ὑδρίαι λίθιναι ἓξ κείμεναι, “six stone water jars standing”. Stone was believed to preserve the purity and coolness of the water. [According to Plutarch, Tib. Gracchus, these jars were sometimes used for drawing lots, wooden tablets being put in the jars and shaken.] Similar stone jars are still used in Cana and elsewhere. They were κείμεναι, set; “in purely classical Greek κεῖμαι is the recognised passive perfect of τίθεμαι” (Holden, Plutarch’s Themist., p. 121).—κατὰ τὸν καθαρισμὸν τῶν Ἰουδαίων. For the washing of hands and vessels. Cf. Mark 7. “Abluendi quidem ritum habebant ex Lege Dei, sed ut mundus semper nimius est in rebus externis, Judaei praescriptâ a Deo simplicitate non contenti continuis aspersionibus ludebant: atque ut ambitiosa est superstitio, non dubium est quin hoc etiam pompae serviret, quemadmodum hodie in Papatu videmus, quaecunque ad Dei cultum pertinere dicuntur, ad meram ostentationem esse composita,” Calvin. The number and size are given that the dimensions of the miracle may appear. There were six χωροῦσαι ἀνὰ μετρητὰς δύο ἢ τρεῖς, “holding two or three firkins each”.—ἀνὰ is here distributive, a classical use; cf. also Matthew 20:9-10, Mark 6:40. Accordingly the Vulgate translates “capientes singulae metretas binas”. The Attic μετρητής held about nine gallons, so that averaging the jars at twenty gallons the six would together contain 120 gallons. The English translation has firkin, that is, vierkin, the fourth of a barrel, a barrel being thirty imperial gallons. It is difficult to assign any reason for giving the number and capacity of these jars, except that the writer wished to convey the idea that their entire contents were changed into wine. This prodigality would bring the miracle into closer resemblance to the gifts of nature. Also it would furnish proof, after the marriage was over, that the transformation had been actual. The wedding guests had not dreamt it. There was the wine. It was no mesmeric trick. Holtzmann, in a superior manner, smiles at the prosaic interpreters who strive to reduce the statement to matter of fact.

6. six waterpots of stone] As an eyewitness S. John remembers their number, material, and size. The surroundings of the first miracle would not easily be forgotten. It is idle to seek for any special meaning in the number six. Vessels of stone were preferred as being less liable to impurity.

purifying] Comp. Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3 (see note); Luke 11:39.

two or three firkins] ‘Firkin’ is an almost exact equivalent of the Greek metrçtes, which was about nine gallons. The six pitchers, therefore, holding from 18 to 27 gallons each, would together hold 106 to 162 gallons.

John 2:6. Ὑδρίαι) water-pots, rather more broad in shape, than high: for they were lying [κείμεναι]; and they were capacious, long, broad, and deep, out of which draughts might be drawn, John 2:8.—κατὰ) for [Engl. Vers., after the manner of].—τῶν Ἰουδαίων, of the Jews) who used to have frequent washings. The Evangelist did not write among the Jews, [as] John 2:13; John 5:1 [prove].—μετρητάς, metretæ [firkins, three-fourths of the Attic medium, about nine gallons Engl.]) 2 Chronicles 4:5, Septuag. χωροῦσα (בתים) μετρητὰς [baths] πρισχιλίους. Hist. Bel, John 2:2, σεμιδάλεως ἀρτάβαι δώδεκα καὶ πρόβατα τεσσαράκοντα καὶ οἴνου μετρηταὶ ἓξ. With these seventy priests were filled, besides women and children. See the same passage, John 2:9. Nor is there any doubt but that the remains left over were large. On this analogy the 15 metretæ in Cana could have sufficed for the giving drink to more than 175 men, besides women and children, certainly not fewer; for giving food to whom, 30 artabæ (a Persian measure = 1 medimnus + 2 chœnices) or 1530 chœnices, and 100 sheep, would be needed. I say purposely, on this analogy; and also, presently after, I refer the words, for giving food to whom, to the words, more than 175, not to 175; and thereby the word more itself is much enlarged in its meaning. Comp. 1Es 8:22 (20). Matt. Hostus shows that 12 metretæ (at Frankfort on the Oder) are 7773/5 nossellæ; but that 18 metretæ are 11662/5 nossellæ: thus the mean between for 15 metret145 will be 972 nossellæ.

Verse 6. - Now there were (set, or) placed there six water pots of stone, after the Jews' manner of purifying, containing two or three firkins apiece. Stone was often used for these receptacles, as more calculated to preserve the purity of the water (Wunsche refers to 'Beza,' 2:2; Westcott quotes 'Sofa,' 4; Barclay, in his translation of 'Mishna,' § 17, enumerates earthenware and other material as lawful). It is interesting that these stone jars are still used in this very neighbourhood for like purposes ('Pict. Palestine'). This large number of jars of considerable magnitude was doubtless due in part to the number of the guests, and to the scrupulous attention to ceremonial purity that was enjoined by the oral law (see 'Mishna,' § 17; and Lightfoot, in loc.). They were accustomed to wash, not only the hands, but "cups, brazen vessels, and tables" (see Matthew 15:2 and parallel passages). (For this use of κατά, see 2 Timothy 1:1, in which "according to" easily passes into the sense of "for the sake of, after the manner of.") The Attic measure metretes was equal to the Hebrew bath (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:02. 9), and stands for it in the LXX. of 2 Chronicles 4:5, and this equalled 1.5 Roman amphorae, 8 gallons + 7.5 pints. So that six jars containing 2 or 3 metretes, say 2.5 = 6 x 2.5 x 8 gallons + 7.5 pints = 6 x 2.5 × 71.5 pints = 134 gallons and a fraction. The jars may have differed in shape, according as they were adapted for different purposes; but ἀνά must be translated distributively, and we cannot evade the enormous capacity of the jars, and therefore the abundance of the gift thus provided. Various efforts have been made to reduce the extent of the provision; but the obvious implication of the narrative is that the six jars were the locale of the miracle. Dr. Moulton and Dr. Westcott suggest that these water pots were filled with pure water, but that the wine was "drawn" from the water supply to which the servants had access, and that no more wine was provided than that which was borne to the governor of the feast. Others have supposed that simply the water drawn from the jars was transformed in the process. These suppositions make the entire reference to the water pots extremely obscure and unnecessary. The large quantity of wine thus offered to these humble folks corresponds with the affluence of Nature in all her moods - the munificence of spring blossoms, the harvest of the sea, the exuberance of sunlight, the superfluity of rain that falls on the oceans, the copiousness of all God's ways. When, on other occasions, the Lord added to the supplies of food in fishes and bread, his lavish abundance corresponds with the riches of his loving kindness on this occasion. There was provided, not the material for a meal, but an ample dowry for such a bride. No mere magical change, momentarily confounding perception and leaving no trace behind, but a supply which would be a standing proof of the reality of what had been done. John 2:6Water-pots (ὑδρίαι)

Used by John only, and only in the Gospel, John 2:7; John 4:28. Water-pots is literally correct, as the word is from ὕδωρ, water.

Of stone

Because less liable to impurity, and therefore prescribed by the Jewish authorities for washing before and after meals.

After the manner of the purifying, etc.

That is, for the purifications customary among the Jews.

Containing (χωροῦσαι)

From χῶρος, a place or space. Hence, to make room or give place, and so, to have space or room for holding something.

Firkins (μετρητὰς)

Only here in the New Testament. From μετρέω, to measure; and therefore, properly, a measurer. A liquid measure containing nearly nine gallons.

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