John 5:4
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
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5:1-9 We are all by nature impotent folk in spiritual things, blind, halt, and withered; but full provision is made for our cure, if we attend to it. An angel went down, and troubled the water; and what disease soever it was, this water cured it, but only he that first stepped in had benefit. This teaches us to be careful, that we let not a season slip which may never return. The man had lost the use of his limbs thirty-eight years. Shall we, who perhaps for many years have scarcely known what it has been to be a day sick, complain of one wearisome night, when many others, better than we, have scarcely known what it has been to be a day well? Christ singled this one out from the rest. Those long in affliction, may comfort themselves that God keeps account how long. Observe, this man speaks of the unkindness of those about him, without any peevish reflections. As we should be thankful, so we should be patient. Our Lord Jesus cures him, though he neither asked nor thought of it. Arise, and walk. God's command, Turn and live; Make ye a new heart; no more supposes power in us without the grace of God, his distinguishing grace, than this command supposed such power in the impotent man: it was by the power of Christ, and he must have all the glory. What a joyful surprise to the poor cripple, to find himself of a sudden so easy, so strong, so able to help himself! The proof of spiritual cure, is our rising and walking. Has Christ healed our spiritual diseases, let us go wherever he sends us, and take up whatever he lays upon us; and walk before him.An angel - It is not affirmed that the angel did this "visibly," or that they saw him do it. They judged by the "effect," and when they saw the waters agitated, they concluded that they had healing properties, and descended to them. The Jews were in the habit of attributing all favors to the ministry of the angels of God, Genesis 19:15; Hebrews 1:14; Matthew 4:11; Matthew 18:10; Luke 16:22; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Acts 12:11. This fountain, it seems, had strong medicinal properties. Like many other waters, it had the property of healing certain diseases that were incurable by any other means. Thus the waters of Bath, of Saratoga, etc., are found to be highly medicinal, and to heal diseases that are otherwise incurable. In the case of the waters of Bethesda there does not appear to have been anything "miraculous," but the waters seem to have been endued with strong medicinal properties, especially after a periodical agitation. All that is special about them in the record is that this was produced by the ministry of an angel. This was in accordance with the common sentiment of the Jews, the common doctrine of the Bible, and the belief of the sacred writers. Nor can it be shown to be absurd or improbable that such blessings should be imparted to man by the ministry of an angel. There is no more absurdity in the belief that a pure spirit or holy "angel" should aid man, than that a physician or a parent should; and no more absurdity in supposing that the healing properties of such a fountain should be produced by his aid, than that any other blessing should be, Hebrews 1:12. What man can prove that all his temporal blessings do not come to him through the medium of others - of parents, of teachers, of friends, of "angels?" And who can prove that it is unworthy the benevolence of angels to minister to the wants of the poor, the needy, and the afflicted, when "man" does it, and Jesus Christ did it, and God himself does it daily?

Went down - Descended to the pool.

At a certain season - At a certain time; periodically. The people knew "about" the time when this was done, and assembled in multitudes to partake of the benefits. Many medicinal springs are more strongly impregnated at some seasons of the year than others.

Troubled the water - Stirred or "agitated" the water. There was probably an increase, and a bubbling and agitation produced by he admission of a fresh quantity.

Whosoever then first - This does not mean that but one was healed, and that the first one, but that those who first descended into the pool were healed. The strong medicinal properties of the waters soon subsided, and those who could not at first enter into the pool were obliged to wait for the return of the agitation.

Stepped in - Went in.

Was made whole - Was healed. It is not implied that this was done instantaneously or by a miracle. The water had such properties that he was healed, though probably gradually. It is not less the gift of God to suppose that this fountain restored gradually, and in accordance with what commonly occurs, than to suppose, what is not affirmed, that it was done at once and in a miraculous manner.

In regard to this passage, it should be remarked that the account of the angel in John 5:4 is wanting in many manuscripts, and has been by many supposed to be spurious, There is not conclusive evidence, however, that it is not a part of the genuine text, and the best critics suppose that it should not be rejected. One difficulty has been that no such place as this spring is mentioned by Josephus. But John is as good a historian, and as worthy to be believed as Josephus. Besides, it is known that many important places and events have not been mentioned by the Jewish historian, and it is no evidence that there was no such place as this because he did not mention it. When this fountain was discovered, or how long its healing properties continued to be known, it is impossible now to ascertain. All that we know of it is what is mentioned here, and conjecture would be useless. We may remark, however, that such a place anywhere is an evidence of the great goodness of God. Springs or fountains having healing properties abound on earth, and nowhere more than in our own country. Diseases are often healed in such places which no human skill could remove. The Jews regarded such a provision as proof of the mercy of God. They gave this healing spring the name of a "house of mercy." They regarded it as under the care of an angel. And there is no place where man should be more sensible of the goodness of God, or be more disposed to render him praise as in a "house of mercy," than when at such a healing fountain. And yet how lamentable is it that such places - watering places - should be mere places of gaiety and thoughtlessness, of balls, and gambling, and dissipation! How melancholy that amid the very places Where there is most evidence of the goodness of God, and of the misery of the poor, the sick, the afflicted, men should forget all the goodness of their Maker, and spend their time in scenes of dissipation, folly, and vice!

4. an angel, &c.—This miracle differed in two points from all other miracles recorded in Scripture: (1) It was not one, but a succession of miracles periodically wrought: (2) As it was only wrought "when the waters were troubled," so only upon one patient at a time, and that the patient "who first stepped in after the troubling of the waters." But this only the more undeniably fixed its miraculous character. We have heard of many waters having a medicinal virtue; but what water was ever known to cure instantaneously a single disease? And who ever heard of any water curing all, even the most diverse diseases—"blind, halt, withered"—alike? Above all, who ever heard of such a thing being done "only at a certain season," and most singularly of all, doing it only to the first person who stepped in after the moving of the waters? Any of these peculiarities—much more all taken together—must have proclaimed the supernatural character of the cures wrought. (If the text here be genuine, there can be no doubt of the miracle, as there were multitudes living when this Gospel was published who, from their own knowledge of Jerusalem, could have exposed the falsehood of the Evangelist, if no such cure had been known there. The want of Joh 5:4 and part of Joh 5:3 in some good manuscripts, and the use of some unusual words in the passage, are more easily accounted for than the evidence in their favor if they were not originally in the text. Indeed Joh 5:7 is unintelligible without Joh 5:4. The internal evidence brought against it is merely the unlikelihood of such a miracle—a principle which will carry us a great deal farther if we allow it to weigh against positive evidence). This water had not always in it this healing virtue, but only when it was

troubled, and this was at a certain season, how often the Scripture hath not determined; some will have it to be only at their great feasts, of the passover, and Pentecost, &c., but the Scripture saith no such thing. None must think that the angel appeared in any visible shape, but the rolling or troubling of the waters was a certain sign, that that was the time when alone they were medicinal; nor were many healed at one time, but only one person, that could first get into this water, he was healed, let his disease be what it would. The waters not being constantly medicinal, but, first, at a certain time, when they were troubled; and then, secondly, not for all, but only to him who could first get in; and, thirdly, for any disease, of what sort or kind soever his disease was; sufficiently confutes the opinion of those who fancy that the waters derived this healing virtue from the entrails of the beasts offered in sacrifice being washed there; for besides that this is denied by some, who say those entrails were washed in a room on purpose for that use within the temple; if they had derived their healing virtue from thence in a natural, rational way, they would have exerted their virtue upon more than him who first stepped in, and not at the time only when they were troubled, nor would their virtue have extended to all kinds of diseases. Of whatever use this pool therefore was before, certain it is at this time God made use of the water in it to heal, and so as men might see that it healed not by any natural, but a miraculous operation. The Scriptures of the Old Testament make no mention of it. And it is observed by those who are versed in the Jewish Rabbins, that neither do they make the least mention of it. Which makes it very probable, that they had this virtue, not from the time of the building of the sheep gate by Shallum, Nehemiah 3:15; nor from the time when the Asmonean family was extinct; or the rebuilding or further building and adoring the temple by Herod; but a little before the birth of Christ, as a figure of him being now coming, who, Zechariah 13:1, was a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and from whom is both our cleansing and our healing, as these waters, which before had a cleansing, and now received also a healing virtue.

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool,.... This angel is not to be understood of a messenger sent from the sanhedrim, or by the priests, as Dr. Hammond thinks; who has a strange conceit, that this pool was used for the washing of the entrails of the sacrifices; and which at the passover being very numerous, the water in it mixed with the blood of the entrails, was possessed of an healing virtue; and which being stirred by a messenger sent from the sanhedrim for that purpose, whoever went in directly received a cure: but this angel was "an angel of the Lord", as the Vulgate Latin, and two of Beza's copies read; and so the Ethiopic version reads, "an angel of God"; who either in a visible form came down from heaven, and went into the pool, the Ethiopic version very wrongly renders it, "was washed in the pool"; or it was concluded by the people, from the unusual agitation of the water, and the miraculous virtue which ensued upon it, that an angel did descend into it; and this was not at all times, but at a certain time; either once a year, as Tertullian thought, at the time of the feast of the passover, or every sabbath, as this was now the sabbath day; or it may be there was no fixed period for it, but at some times and seasons in the year so it was, which kept the people continually waiting for it:

and troubled the water; agitated and moved it to and fro, caused it to swell and rise, to bubble and boil up, and to roll about, and be as in a ferment. The Jews have a notion of spirits troubling waters; they speak of a certain fountain where a spirit resided, and an evil spirit attempted to come in his room; upon which a contest arose, and they saw , "the waters troubled", and think drops of blood upon them (q): the Syriac (r) writers have a tradition, that

"because the body of Isaiah the prophet was hid in Siloah, therefore an angel descended and moved the waters.''

Whosoever then first after the troubling of the waters stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had; from whence it seems, that only one person at a season received a cure, by going in first into the water, so Tertullian thought (s): the Jews ascribe an healing virtue to the well of Miriam; they say,

"a certain ulcerous person went to dip himself in the sea of Tiberias, and it happened at that time, that the well of Miriam flowed, and he washed, and was healed (t).''

Now this angel may represent a minister of the Gospel, for such are called angels, Revelation 1:20; being called of God, and sent by him, with messages of grace to the sons of men; and the preaching of the Gospel by such, may be aptly signified by the troubling of the waters, as it is by the shaking of heaven, earth, and sea; see Haggai 2:6, compared with Hebrews 12:25; especially when attended with the Spirit of God, who moved upon the face of the waters in the first creation; and who, in and by the ministry of the word, troubles the minds of men, and whilst the prophet prophesies, causes a shaking among the dry bones, which is done at certain seasons; for as there are certain seasons for the preaching of the Gospel, so there is more especially a fixed, settled, and appointed one, for the conversion of God's elect; who are called according to purpose, and at the time the Lord has appointed: and whoever now, upon the preaching of the Gospel, are enabled to step forth and come to Christ, and believe in him, are cured of all their soul maladies and diseases, be they what they will; all their inquiries are pardoned, their persons justified, and they are saved in Christ, with an everlasting salvation: and as this cure was not owing to any natural virtue in the water, nor even to the angels troubling it, but to a supernatural power; so the conversion of a sinner is owing to ministers, and to the word and ordinances as administered by them, but to the superior power of the grace of God; and which is exerted in his time, and on whom he pleases.

(q) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 24. fol. 165. 2.((r) Vid. Hackspan. Interpr. Errabund. sect. 20. (s) De Baptismo, c. 5. (t) Midrash Kohelet, fol. 71. 4.

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
John 5:4. Ἄγγελος, an angel) To many without doubt that event has seemed purely natural [not supernatural]; because it took place κατὰ καιρόν.—κατὰ καιρόν, at certain times) Were these times at equal intervals? Were they especially about the time of Pentecost? Who knows?—κατέβαινεν, used to go down [went down]) Past time. Therefore this phenomenon had ceased before that John wrote.—ἐταράσσετο, was troubled) By the passive verb is expressed the phenomenon as it presented itself to the eyes of all, although they knew not the angel’s action.[103]—ΠΡῶΤΟς, the first) To him that hath, it shall be given.

[103] They could not positively know that it was the doing of an angel, but they judged of the cause from the effects.—E. and T.

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