Matthew 14:13
When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) When Jesus heard of it.—We may, I think reverently trace as the motives of this withdrawal, (1) the strong personal emotion which the death of one whom Jesus had known and loved could not fail to cause, and (2) the wish to avoid being the centre of the popular excitement which the death of John was likely to cause, and which we know, as a matter of fact (Jos. Ant. xviii. 5, § 2), was so strong that men looked on all the subsequent troubles of Antipas and his wife as a retributive judgment for it. This was, indeed, sufficiently shown by the eagerness with which the people followed Him into His retirement. Two other circumstances, named by the other Evangelists, tended to increase the crowd that thronged around Him. (1) The Twelve had just returned from their missionary circuit (Mark 6:30-31; Luke 9:10), and it was, indeed, partly to give them, too, an interval of repose that He thus withdrew from His public work; and (2) the Passover was coming on (John 6:4), and all the roads of Galilee were thronged with companies of pilgrims hastening to keep the feast at Jerusalem.

Into a desert place.—St. Luke names this as “a city called Bethsaida,” i.e., one of the two towns bearing that name on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. The name (which signified House of Fish=Fish-town) was a natural one for villages so placed, and the topography of all countries, our own included, presents too many instances of two or more places bearing the same name. with some distinctive epithet, to make the fact at all strange here. In St. Mark’s account the disciples sail, after the feeding of the five thousand, to the other Bethsaida (Mark 6:45); and as this appears in John 6:17 to have been in the direction of Capernaum, the scene of the miracle must have been Bethsaida-Julias. on the north-east shore of the lake.

Matthew 14:13-14. When Jesus heard it, he departed thence — It appears from Mark 6:30, that the disciples of John arrived with the news of their master’s death at, or immediately after, the time when the apostles returned from their mission, and gave Jesus an account of the miracles which they had performed, and of the success of their ministry. Perhaps tidings of John’s death had reached them before their return, and had caused them to hasten it. Be this as it may, it is probable that the distressing intelligence had thrown them into great consternation, and that our Lord retired into the desert with them with a view to allay it, and to give them an opportunity to indulge such meditations as were suitable to so awful a dispensation. Mark assigns also another reason of our Lord’s retreat on this occasion, namely, the continual hurry the apostles were kept in by the multitude, which thronged about Jesus to such a degree, that they had not leisure so much as to eat without interruption, and much less for religious retirement and recollection. Perhaps, likewise, by this retreat, our Lord proposed to shun Herod, who desired to see him, and might be contriving some method of obtaining an interview with him; for Jesus had perfect knowledge not only of the conversation which passed at the court of Galilee, but also of Herod’s thoughts and designs. When the people heard thereof — That is, heard to what place he was going, they followed him on foot out of the cities — They went after him by land, and travelled with such eagerness that they arrived at the place before him, having increased their numbers out of all the cities by which they passed. And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude — Much greater, it appears, than that which he had left at Capernaum. On this occasion, as on many others, he was moved with compassion toward them, because, says Mark, they were as sheep not having a shepherd. Therefore, he both preached to them and healed their sick — Healed them, says Luke, that had need of healing — Even all, it appears, that were brought to him.

14:13-21 When Christ and his word withdraw, it is best for us to follow, seeking the means of grace for our souls before any worldly advantages. The presence of Christ and his gospel, makes a desert not only tolerable, but desirable. This little supply of bread was increased by Christ's creating power, till the whole multitude were satisfied. In seeking the welfare of men's souls, we should have compassion on their bodies likewise. Let us also remember always to crave a blessing on our meals, and learn to avoid all waste, as frugality is the proper source of liberality. See in this miracle an emblem of the Bread of life, which came down from heaven to sustain our perishing souls. The provisions of Christ's gospel appear mean and scanty to the world, yet they satisfy all that feed on him in their hearts by faith with thanksgiving.A full narrative of the feeding the five thousand is given in each of the other evangelists: in Mark 6:32-44; in Luke 9:10-17; in John 6:1-14.

Matthew 14:13

And when Jesus heard of it, he departed - He went to a place of safety.

He never threw himself unnecessarily into danger. It was proper that he should secure his life until the appointed time had come for him to die.

By a ship into a desert place - That is, he crossed the Sea of Galilee. He went to the country east of the sea, into a place little inhabited. Luke says Luke 9:10 he went to a place called Bethsaida. See the notes at Matthew 11:21. "A desert place" means a place little cultivated, where there were few or no inhabitants. On the east of the Sea of Galilee there was a large tract of country of this description rough, uncultivated, and chiefly used to pasture flocks.

Mt 14:12-21. Hearing of the Baptist's Death, Jesus Crosses the Lake with Twelve, and Miraculously Feeds Five Thousand. ( = Mr 6:30-44; Lu 9:10-17; Joh 6:1-14).

For the exposition of this section—one of the very few where all the four Evangelists run parallel—see on [1302]Mr 6:30-44.

See Poole on "Matthew 14:14".

When Jesus heard of it,.... Of the death of John, and of the cruel usage he had met with; and particularly, that his fame had reached the court of Herod, and that he was talked of there, and said by Herod himself to be John the Baptist, that was risen from the dead;

he departed thence by ship, into a desert place apart; to avoid Herod, though not through fear of death; but because his time was not yet come: which may teach us, that it is lawful to shun dangers, when there is an opportunity; which may be done, without betraying truth, or sacrificing a good conscience. The other evangelists, Mark and Luke, assign another reason of this departure of Christ's, that it was upon the return of his disciples to him from their embassy; when having given him an account of what they had done, and taught, he judged it proper they should retire, and get some refreshment and rest; and both may very well be thought to be the reasons of this recess. At the same time that John's disciples brought him the news of their master's death, Christ's disciples return to him, with the account of the success of their ministry; who might not only be weary, and want refreshment, but be discouraged in their minds, at this instance of cruelty; wherefore Christ thought it necessary to retire, partly for his own safety, and partly for their ease; and that he might have an opportunity of fortifying their minds against all trials and persecutions they were to meet with: the place from whence he departed, was either Capernaum, his own country and city, or Nazareth, where we have lately heard of him; or some other place in Galilee, where he was, when John's disciples came to him: the place whither he went, was "a desert place"; and, as Luke says, "belonging to the city called Bethsaida", the city of Andrew and Peter, which lay on the other side of the sea of Galilee, or Tiberias; over which he went by ship, John 6:1.

And when the people had heard thereof; of his departure, and whither he went,

they followed him on foot out of their cities; such as Nazareth, Capernaum, Tiberias, and others; and passing the bridge at Jordan, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, they outwent the ship, and got thither before them, as Mark relates. This showed their great affection and zeal for Christ, and their diligence in attending on him.

When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 14:13. Since we find it stated immediately before that κ. ἐλθ. ἀπήγγειλαν τῷ Ἰησοῦ, it is clear that the καὶ ἀκούσας, which is not further defined, can only be referred to the ἀπήγγειλαν of the preceding verse (Jerome, Augustine, Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus, Maldonatus, de Wette, Ewald, Keim); while the reference to Matthew 14:2, so frequent since Chrysostom’s time, is arbitrary, inasmuch as Matthew does not so much as hint at it. There is no anachronism here, occasioned by Mark 6:31 (Weiss in the Stud. u. Krit. 1861, p. 40 f.). Matthew does not show such want of skill in the use he makes of Mark; neither does he go to work in so reckless and confused a way as Wilke and Holtzmann would have us believe. But the narrative runs somewhat as follows: (1) Matthew mentions that, at that time, Herod heard of Jesus, who was then in Nazareth, and said: This is John, and so on; (2) thereupon he gives an account of the death of John, to which reference has thus been made; (3) and lastly, he informs us in Matthew 14:12 f. how Jesus came to hear of this death, and how it led to His retiring into some solitude or other, to shelter Himself for a little from the persecution of Herod, which was probably being directed against Himself as well. From this it would appear that it must have been whilst Herod, who had just beheaded John, was indulging such dangerous thoughts regarding Jesus (Matthew 14:2), that the latter, through hearing from John’s own disciples of the fate of their master, so felt the necessity of being upon His guard against Herod’s hostility, that He took the precaution to retire lest His own death should be precipitated. Comp. Matthew 4:12, Matthew 12:15. It is clear from the shape in which the narrative is thus presented, that the beheading of John is to be understood as having taken place only a short time before the words of Matthew 14:2 had been uttered, so that the terror that was awakened in Herod’s conscience when he heard of Jesus came on the back of his recent crime; but there was no reason why Matthew 14:1-2 should have been regarded as a literary expedient devised merely for the purpose of introducing John once more into the narrative.

ἐκεῖθεν] from the place, where He had been staying when the intelligence reached Him; whether this was still Nazareth (Matthew 13:54) or some other locality in Galilee, is determined by ἐν πλοίῳ, according to which it must have been a place upon the sea-coast.

ἔρημον τόπον] according to Luke 9:10, near to Bethsaida in Gaulonitis, lying within the dominion of Philip the tetrarch.

κατʼ ἰδίαν] “nemine assumto nisi discipulis,” Bengel.

πεζοί (see critical notes): by land, walking round by the head of the lake.

πόλεων] of Galilee.

Matthew 14:13-21. Jesus retires; feeding of thousands (Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17).

13–21. Jesus retires to a Desert Place, where He feeds Five Thousand

Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:5-14This is the only miracle narrated by all the Evangelists. In St John it prepares the way for the memorable discourse on the “Bread of Life.” St John also mentions, as a result of this miracle, the desire of the people “to take Him by force and make Him a king.” There is a question as to the locality of the miracle. St Luke says (ch. Matthew 9:10) that Jesus “went aside privately into a desert place belonging to a city called Bethsaida.” St Mark (ch. Mark 6:45) describes the disciples as crossing to Bethsaida after the miracle. The general inference has been that there were two Bethsaidas; Bethsaida Julias, near the mouth of the Jordan (where the miracle is usually said to have taken place), and another Bethsaida, mentioned in the parallel passage in St Mark and possibly John 1:44. But the Sinaitic MS. omits the words in italics from Luke, and at John 6:23 reads, “When, therefore, the boats came from Tiberias, which was nigh unto the place where they did eat bread.” If these readings be accepted, the scene of the miracle must be placed near Tiberias; the Bethsaida of Mark, to which the disciples crossed, will be the well-known Bethsaida Julias, and the other supposed Bethsaida will disappear even from the researches of travellers.

Matthew 14:13. Ἀκούσς, having heard) sc. those things which are mentioned in Matthew 14:1-12.[668]—ἀνεχώρησεν, departed) The murderer of the Baptist was unworthy to hear or see the Lord: see ch. Matthew 21:23-27. Afterwards, indeed, he did see Him; Luke 23:8; not, however, coming of His own accord, but forced by the violence of His enemies; and therefore Herod’s seeing Him, on that occasion, was not a sign of favour. Cf. the case of Samuel and Saul, 1 Samuel 15:35; 1 Samuel 19:24.—κατʼ ἰδίαν, apart) no one being taken with Him, except His disciples.—πεξῇ, on foot) See Eustathius.[669]

[668] Namely, that the fame of Himself had reached Herod. Comp. John 4:13.—Harm., p. 331.

[669] EUSTATHIUS, the grammarian, who flourished in the twelfth century, was Bishop of Thessalonica. He wrote commentaries on Homer, and on Dionysius the geographer. He must not be confounded with the amatory writer, Eumathius the Macrembolite, who wrote under this name in the fifteenth century, and was an obscure grammarian.—(I. B.)

Verses 13-21. - The feeding of the five thousand. Parallel passages: Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13. The miracle was deemed so characteristic of our Lord's work, in his care for men and his power to sustain them, and more especially in its being a parable of his readiness to supply spiritual food, that it was recorded not only by each of the three evangelists who used the framework, but also by the one who depended entirely upon his own materials. But though St. John's account of it is on the whole independent, yet even this has expressions which are certainly due to the influence of the source used by the synoptists, or, less probably, of one or other of our present Gospels. The evangelist relates

(1) the occasion of the miracle (vers. 13, 140;

(2) the preparation of the disciples (vers. 15-18);

(3) the miracle itself (vers. 19, 20);

(4) a summary statement of the numbers fed (ver. 21). Verse 13. - When Jesus heard of it (cf. ver. 12b, note), he departed. (For the form of the sentence, see Matthew 4:12; Matthew 12:15.) Thence by ship; in a boat (Revised Version); Matthew 8:23. Into a desert place apart. Defined in John 6:3 as "the mountain;" in Luke 9:10 as "a city called Bethsaida." The spot appears to have been in part of the plain El-Batiha, which is at the northcast corner of the Sea of Galilee on the Gaulonitis side of the Jordan, and in which stood Bethsaida-Julias. Mark 6:45 implies that there was a second Bethsaida on the western side of the lake, which, though not alluded to by Josephus, is expressly spoken of in John 12:21, and is probably referred to in all the other passages of the New Testament where the name Bethsaida occurs. And when the people (the multitudes, Revised Version) had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. The fact that it was near a feast time (John 6:4, the Passover, if the text be right; and cf. infra, ver. 19, note) perhaps accounts for the multitudes being so large. Some at least would be on their way up to Jerusalem. Matthew 14:13On foot (πεζῇ)

Rev., by land in margin, which is better; for the contrast is between Jesus' journey by ship and that of the multitude by land.

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