And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And when it was evening.—The narrative that follows is, in many ways, one of the most important in the Gospel narratives. (1.) It is the only miracle recorded by all the four Evangelists, and thus is practically one of the chief data for interweaving the supplemental narrative of St. John with that of the other three. (2.) It was the fullest manifestation of the sovereignty of the Son of Man over the world of nature. The act was distinctly, if we accept the facts of the case, one of creative power, and does not admit. as some of the works of healing might seem to do, of being explained away as the result of strong faith or excited imagination on the part of those who were its objects. The only rationalising explanation which has ever been offered—viz., that our Lord by His example, in offering the five loaves and the two fishes for the use of others than His own company of the Twelve, stirred the multitude to bring out the little store which, till then, each man in his selfish anxiety had kept concealed—is ludicrously inadequate. The narrative must be accepted or rejected as a whole; and if accepted, it is, as we have said, a proof of supernatural, if not absolutely of divine, power. (3.) No narrative of any other miracle offers so many marks of naturalness, both in the vividness of colouring with which it is told, and the coincidences, manifestly without design, which it presents to us. It is hardly possible to imagine four independent writers—independent, even if two of them were derived from a common source—reproducing, in this way, a mere legend. (4.) The nature of this evidence will be seen in all its strength by combining the facts of the four records as we proceed. (5.) The miracle was important, as we see from John 6, on account of its dogmatic symbolism. It became the text of the dialogue at Capernaum in which (not to anticipate the Notes on the fourth Gospel) communion with the life of Christ was shadowed forth under the figure of eating the flesh of Him who is the true Bread from heaven.
His disciples came to him.—In St. John’s narrative, Philip and Andrew are prominent as speakers, and our Lord puts to the former the question, “Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?” As Philip and Andrew both belonged to one of the Bethsaidas, their local knowledge made the question natural. It was apparently after this private conversation that the main body of the disciples came to their Master beseeching Him to dismiss the multitude that they might buy food in the nearest villages. They were met by what must have seemed to them the marvellous calmness of the answer: “They need not depart, give ye them to eat.” Philip’s rough estimate having been passed on to the others, they answer that it would take two hundred pennyworth of bread (the Roman penny, as a coin, was worth 7½d. of our money, but its value is better measured by its being the average day’s wages of a soldier or labourer, Matthew 20:2) to feed so great a number (Mark 6:37; John 6:7). Then Jesus asks them, “How many loaves have ye?” and Andrew (John 6:8), as the spokesman of the others, replies that they have found a lad with five loaves (barley loaves, in St. John, the food of the poor) and two fishes.Matthew 14:15-18. And when it was evening his disciples came to him — That is, the first evening, which began at three in the afternoon. That this is the meaning is plain from Matthew 14:23, where another evening is said to have come after the people were fed and dismissed. Accordingly, Mark says, they came when the day was now far spent; and Luke, when the day began to wear away: saying, This is a desert place — Where there is neither food nor lodging to be had; and the time is now past — The word ωρα, here translated time, denotes the season of doing any thing. Here it seems to signify the season of the people’s attending on Christ, which was now past, because they had continued with him as long as they could without receiving some refreshment. Send the multitude away, that they may go, and buy themselves victuals — Thus the disciples manifested their concern for the temporal as well as spiritual relief of the people: and it be comes all ministers of Christ to imitate them herein, and regard the bodily necessities of their hearers, as well as those of their souls. But Jesus said, They need not depart — Namely, in order to procure victuals. He would neither dismiss them hungry, as they were, nor detain them longer without food, nor put them to the trouble and charge of buying victuals for themselves, but orders his disciples to provide for them: Give ye them to eat — Alas, poor disciples! they had nothing for themselves: how then should they give the multitude to eat? Observe, reader, when Christ requires of us what of ourselves we are unable to perform, it is to show us our weakness, and to excite us to look to him that worketh all our works in us and for us. They said, We have here but five loaves and two fishes — Provision certainly very insufficient to satisfy the hunger of five thousand men, and a great multitude of women and children. It must be observed, that Christ had not yet shown his power in any such way as that in which he was now about to manifest it, and the proofs he had given of it in other instances were not now recollected or adverted to by the disciples. Christ’s ordering them, therefore, to give food to this immense multitude of men, women, and children, seems to have greatly surprised them. But, as John observes, John 6:6, he himself knew what he would do. He said, Bring them hither to me — That I may bless them. Observe, reader, the way to have our temporal blessings, blessings indeed, is to bring them to Christ; for they can only be sanctified by his word, and by prayer to him. That is likely to prosper, and be a comfort to us, which we put into the hands of our Lord Jesus, that he may dispose of it as he pleases, and that we may receive it back from his hand, and then it will be doubly sweet to us. And what we give in charity, we should bring to Christ first, that he may graciously accept it from us, and graciously bless it to those to whom it is given.
For the exposition of this section—one of the very few where all the four Evangelists run parallel—see on Mr 6:30-44.Mark 6:35, &c; by Luke, Matthew 9:10-12, &c.; by John, Matthew 6:1-3, &c. These words lead us to it, and show us the occasion of it. Our Saviour was withdrawn to a more private place, which, because little inhabited, is called
a desert place. Luke saith it was near Bethsaida, Luke 9:10. The people, as it seemeth, had been together some time. It was now afternoon, and the time of dining was past. It was evening in the Jewish sense (who called it all evening after the sun was turned, and therefore had two evenings, as those skilled in their writings tell us, betwixt which the passover was to be killed). The disciples therefore pitying the multitudes, who, they presumed, might be hungry, come to our Saviour, and move him to dismiss them, that they might get something to eat in the villages of the adjacent country. Matthew 14:23 between which two evenings Christ made the multitude to sit down, and he fed them in a miraculous manner; and the disciples reason for the dismission of the multitude, that might go into the neighbouring villages, and buy provisions, shows that it could not be the last, but the first of these evenings, that is here meant.
His disciples came to him; the twelve, whom he had left in that part of the desert he retired to; or on the mount, where he had sat down with them for their rest and refreshment:
saying, this is a desert place; where no food was to be had; where were no houses of entertainment:
and the time is now past; not the time of the day, but of dining: the usual dinner time was past, which, with the Jews, was the fifth hour of the day, and answers to eleven o'clock with us, or at furthest six; which, with us, is twelve at noon; concerning which, the Jewish doctors thus dispute (f).
"The first hour, is the time of eating for the Lydians, or Cannibals; the second for thieves, the third for heirs, the fourth for workmen, and the fifth for every man: but does not R. Papa say, that the fourth is the time of dining for every man? But if so, if the fourth is the time for every man, the fifth is for workmen, and the sixth for the disciples of the wise men.''
Which is elsewhere (g) delivered with some little variation, thus;
"the first hour is the time of eating for Lydians; the second, for thieves; the third, for heirs; the fourth, for workmen; the fifth, for scholars; and the sixth, for every man: but does not R. Papa say, &c.''
But supposing the usual time of dining to be, at the furthest, at the sixth hour, at twelve o'clock, this time must be elapsed, since the first evening was commenced; so that the reasoning of the disciples is very just,
send the multitude away. Christ was preaching to them, the disciples move that he would break off his discourse, and dismiss them; in the synagogue the manner of dismissing the people was, by reading the or "dismission", which was some passage out of the prophetic writings.
That they may go into the villages and buy themselves victuals; the little towns which lay nearest the desert, where they might be supplied with suitable provisions.And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 14:15 ff. Comp. Mark 6:35 ff.; Luke 9:12 ff.; John 6:5 ff. Ὀψίας] means, in this instance, the first evening, which lasted from the ninth till the twelfth hour of the day. It is the second evening, extending from the twelfth hour onwards, that is meant in Matthew 14:24. Gesenius, Thes. II. p. 1064 f.
ἡ ὥρα] the time, i.e. the time of the day; comp. Mark 11:11. Some, like Grotius, understand: meal time; others (Fritzsche, Käuffer): tempus opportunum, sc. disserendi et sanandi. But the “disserendi” is a pure importation; and how far the suitable time for healing might be said to have gone by, it is impossible to conceive. Our explanation, on the other hand, is demanded by the context (ὀψίας δὲ γενομ.), besides being grammatically certain. See Raphael, Polyb.; Ast, Lex. Plat. III. p. 580.
ἑαυτοῖς] for we, as far as we are concerned, have nothing to give them.
According to John 6:5 ff., it was Jesus who first began to inquire about bread, and that not in consequence of the evening coming on. An unimportant deviation, which shows that even the memory of an apostle may sometimes be at fault. Of greater consequence is the fact that, according to John, Jesus puts the question whenever he sees the multitude,—a circumstance made to tell against John by Strauss especially; comp. also Baur and Hilgenfeld. And there can be no doubt that this little detail is an unconscious reflection of the Johannine conception of Christ, according to which it was but natural to suppose that Jesus had Himself intended to work a miracle, and that from the very first, so that in John the recollection of the order of proceeding, which we find recorded by the Synoptists with historical accuracy, had been thrust into the background by the preponderating influence of the ideal conception. Comp. note on John 6:5 f. John, on the other hand, mentions the more precise and original detail, that it was a παιδάριον who happened to have the bread and fish.
δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φαγ.] said in view of what the disciples were immediately to be called upon to do; therefore, from the standpoint of Jesus, an anticipation of that request, which the expectation of something in the way of miracle was just about to evoke on the part of the disciples. Bengel well observes: ὑμεῖς, vos, significanter. “Rudimenta fidei miraculorum apud discipulos.”Matthew 14:15-21. The feeding.15. And when it was evening] In the Jewish division of the day there were two evenings. According to the most probable view the space of time called “between the evenings” (Exodus 12:6) was from the ninth to the eleventh hour. Hence the first evening ended at 3 o’clock, the second began at 5 o’clock. In this verse the first evening is meant, in Matthew 14:23 the second.Matthew 14:15. Ὀψίας, evening) The evening has various degrees; see Matthew 14:23.—ἡ ὥρα, the hour) sc. for dismissing the people, of taking food and rest, or of going to search for food.—ἑαυτοῖς for themselves) The disciples seem sometimes to have bought food for them.Verse 15. - And when it was evening. But not as late as the "evening" of ver. 23. (For a discussion upon the technical division of two "evenings," see Gesenius, 'Thesaurus,' p. 1064.) It appears that the first evening was from the ninth to the twelfth hour (our 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the equinoxes), and the second evening was for a short time, perhaps forty minutes, after sunset (cf. Matthew 8:16, note). His (the, Revised Version) disciples came to him, saying. St. John alone has recorded our Lord's previous conversation with Philip (John 6:5-7). This is a desert place; the place is desert (Revised Version), which better marks the parallelism with the next clause. And the time is now (already, Revised Version) past (ἡ ὥρα ἤδη παρῆλθεν); i.e. probably the hour at which he was accustomed to dismiss his audience. For he would often have to consider their wish to get home before nightfall. Send the multitude away; the multitudes (Revised Version); for now again they are regarded separately as having to go in different directions. That they may go (go away) into the villages, and buy themselves victuals; food (Revised Version). One at least of the disciples would have a keen eye for the amount of the contents of the common purse.
In the Greek order standing first as emphatic. The dominant thought of the disciples is remoteness from supplies of food. The first meaning of the word is solitary; from which develops the idea of void, bereft, barren.
Both meanings may well be included here. Note the two points of emphasis. The disciples say, Barren is the place. Christ answers, No need have they to go away.
The disciples had said, "Send them away to buy for themselves." Christ replies, Give ye.
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