And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and broke, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass.—This, too, was done with a calm and orderly precision. They were to sit down in companies of fifty or a hundred each, and thus the number of those who were fed became a matter of easy calculation. St. Mark, with a vivid picturesqueness, describes them as presenting the appearance of so many beds of flowers in a well-ordered garden. The bright colours of Eastern dress probably made the resemblance more striking than it would be with a like multitude so arranged among ourselves.
Looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake.—The act was natural and simple enough, the “saying grace” (St. John uses the word, “giving thanks”) of the head of a Jewish household as he gathered his family around him. The formulæ in such cases were commonly short and simple, like our own, such e.g. as, “May God, the ever-blessed One, bless what He has given us.” Looking, however, to the teaching which followed the miracle, as in John 6, and to our Lord’s subsequent use at the Last Supper of the same words and acts, with others which gave them a new and higher meaning, we can hardly be wrong in thinking that as He now distributed the earthly bread to the hungering crowd, through the agency of His Apostles, there was present to His mind the thought that hereafter He would, through the same instrumentality, impart to souls that hungered after righteousness the gift of communion with Himself, that thus they might feed on the true Bread that cometh down from heaven.
It lies in the nature of the case, as a miracle of the highest order, that the process of multiplication is inconceivable in its details. Did each loaf, in succession, supply a thousand with food, and then come to an end, its place taken by another? Was the structure of the fishes, bone and skin and head, reproduced in each portion that was given to the guests at that great feast? We know not, and the Evangelists did not care to ask or to record. It was enough for them that the multitude “did all eat, and were filled.”Matthew 14:19-21. He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass — Mark says, by companies, as we render the phrase συμποσια, συμποσια, which is literally, companies, companies, that is, in separate companies. These, as appears by comparing Mark 6:39 with Luke 9:14, consisted some of fifty persons, some of a hundred, according as the ground would admit. Our Lord probably ordered them to be ranged in this manner that they might sit compactly, that their numbers might appear, that the meat might be divided among them with ease, and that none might be neglected in the distribution. And no sooner did Christ signify his will to the disciples, and they intimated it to the multitude, than they all instantly did as they were ordered: so great an opinion had they of Christ’s wisdom and power! Though they thus sat on the ground, under no canopy but the sky, and had only barley bread, and, as it seems, cold or dried fishes to eat, and probably nothing but water to drink; yet, as Mr. Henry truly and beautifully observes, there was more real grandeur displayed by the Master of this feast than by Ahasuerus, in that royal feast which was intended to show the riches of his glorious kingdom, and the honour of his excellent majesty. And took the five loaves, &c. — Thus acting like the master of a family among the Jews, who was wont to take the bread into his hands and to give thanks to God, before any at the table was permitted to eat any thing: And looking up to heaven — With great reverence and affection; he blessed — That is, says Dr. Whitby, with whom agree many other commentators, he blessed, or gave thanks to God, the liberal giver of all good, for his infinite beneficence in furnishing food to all flesh, and for the power he had conferred on him of relieving mankind by his miracles, particularly that which he was about to work, and which perhaps he prayed for, to raise the attention of the multitude, as we find him doing before the resurrection of Lazarus, John 11:41. They apprehend that his looking up to heaven when he blessed, shows that his blessing was directed to God, and that it imported a thanksgiving for his great goodness. Accordingly John expresses it by ευχαριστησας, having given thanks, he distributed, &c. It must be observed, however, that most commentators refer the expression, he blessed, to the loaves and fishes, because Luke says expressly, ευλογησεν αυτους, he blessed them; that is, he commanded upon them that singular blessing by which they were multiplied in the distribution. Thus God is said to bless the springing of the corn, Psalm 65:10. And gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude — “It is not to be supposed,” says Macknight, “that twelve persons could put first a piece of bread, and then a piece of fish, into the hands of five thousand men, besides the women and children, who were all fed with such expedition, that, notwithstanding the thing was not so much as proposed to the disciples till about three, all was over by five o’clock in the afternoon, as may be gathered from John 6:16, where see the note. It is natural, therefore, to conclude, that, in distributing the meat, the disciples used the most expeditious method, putting, by their Master’s direction, the bread first, and after that the fish, into the hands of those only who sat at the ends of the ranks, with orders to give it to their companions. On this supposition, the meat must have extended its dimensions, not in our Lord’s hands only, but in the hands of the multitude likewise, continuing to swell till there was a greater quantity than they, who held it, could make use of; so that breaking off what was sufficient for themselves, they gave the remainder to the persons next them, who, in like manner, saw the bread and fish swell in their own hands till they also had enough and to spare. The meat being thus created among the hands of the multitude, and before their eyes, as long as there was a single person to be fed, they did all eat, and were filled, to their unspeakable astonishment. In this manner did he who is the Bread of Life feed about ten thousand people, (for doubtless the women and children were as numerous as the men,) with five loaves and two small fishes, giving a magnificent proof, not only of his goodness, but of his creating power. For after all had eaten to satiety, the disciples, at Jesus’s command, (see note on John 6:12,)
took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces of meat, each disciple a basket, in which there must have been much more than the quantity at first set before the Lord to divide. The stupendous miracle, therefore, without all doubt, was conspicuous, not to the disciples only, who, carrying each his basket in his hand, had an abiding, sensible demonstration of its truth, but to every individual guest at this divine feast, who had all felt themselves delighted, filled, refreshed, and strengthened by the meal. This being one of the most astonishing, and at the same time the most extensively convincing of all the miracles Jesus performed during the course of his ministry, every one of the evangelists has recorded it; and, which is remarkable, it is the only one found in each of their histories.
The Jews never sat, as we do, at meals, but reclined or lay at length. See the notes at Matthew 23:6. Mark and Luke add that they reclined in companies, by hundreds and by fifties.
And looking up to heaven, he blessed - Luke adds, he blessed "them;" that is, the loaves. The word "to bless" means, often, to give thanks; sometimes to pray for a blessing; that is, to pray for the divine favor and friendship; to pray that what we do may meet his approbation. In seeking a blessing on our food, it means that we pray that it may be made nourishing to our bodies; that we may have proper gratitude to God, the giver, for providing for our wants; and that we may remember the Creator while we partake the bounties of his providence. Our Saviour always sought a blessing on his food. In this he was an example for us. What he did we should do. It is right thus to seek the blessing of God. He provides for us; he daily opens his hand and satisfies our wants, and it is proper that we should render suitable acknowledgments for his goodness.
The custom among the Jews was universal. The form of prayer which they used in the time of Christ has been preserved by their writers, the Talmudists. It is this: "Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, who hast produced this food and this drink from the earth and the vine."
For the exposition of this section—one of the very few where all the four Evangelists run parallel—see on Mr 6:30-44.See Poole on "Matthew 14:21".
and took the five loaves and the two fishes: into his hands, lifting them up, that they might be seen by the whole company; and they be fully convinced of the miracle going to be wrought by him:
and looking up to heaven; to his Father in heaven, who is the Father of mercies; and from whom every mercy and blessing of life comes; and giving thanks to him for the same, as was usually done by him,
he blessed the five loaves and the two fishes;
and brake the loaves, and divided the fishes;
and gave the loaves, and fishes also,
to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitude; who were the ministers and servants of Christ, employed by him in this manner, for the more orderly and quick dispatch of this business: and which was an emblem of their spiritual work and office: who received all their food from Christ, which they distributed to the churches, and fed them with.And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 14:19. Ἐπὶ τ. χόρτ.] upon the grass, Matthew 13:2.
Participle following upon participle without conjunctions, and in logical subordination. See Stallbaum, ad Plat. Apol. p. 27 A; Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 1. 18; Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 249.
κλάσας] The loaves were in the form of cakes, a thumb’s breadth in thickness, and about the size of a plate. Winer, Realwörterbuch, under the word Backen. Robinson, Pal. III. pp. 40, 293.
In saying grace Jesus did what was done by the father of a family. In John it is expressed by εὐχαρισατήσας, because the meaning of the grace was the giving of thanks (comp. notes on Matthew 26:26 f.; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 14:16); Luke again says: εὐλόγησεν αὐτούς, where we have the idea of a consecrating prayer, as in the case of the Lord’s supper.Matthew 14:19. κελεύσας, λαβὼν, ἀναβλέψας, participles without copula all leading up to εὐλόγησεν, the central chief action: rapid, condensed narrative, briefly, simply, recounting an amazing event.—εὐλόγησεν with accusative (ἄρτους) understood. He blessed the loaves and fishes.—καὶ κλάσας ἔδωκεν, then dividing them gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave to the multitude.—τῷ λόγῳ καὶ τῇ εὐλογίᾳ αὔξων καὶ πληθύνων αὐτούς, Origen.19. to sit down on the grass] Rather, grassy places. St Mark and St Luke mention that they sat in companies “by hundreds and by fifties” (Mark), “by fifties” (Luke). St John notes the time of year; “the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.”Matthew 14:19. Ἀνακλιθῆναι, to be seated) The faith of the people is thus exercised.—τοὺς ἄρτους, the loaves) sc. whatever was there.—ἀναβλέψας, looking up) Jesus referred everything to the Father (see John 11:41; John 17:1) with the most entire confidence: far different from the practice of sinners; see Luke 18:13.—οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ, but His disciples) A prelude to their future administration. See Acts 4:35.
 Sc. of the charities distributed to the needy brethren.—ED.)Verse 19. - And he commanded the multitude; the multitudes (Revised Version). Here also the plural (ver. 15), because they are thought of as grouped over the ground. To sit down; i.e. to recline as at a meal (ἀνακλιθῆναι). On the grass (ἐπὶ τοῦ χ´ρτου). The addition of "green" (χλωρός) in Mark suits the time of the Passover (ver. 13, note), but hardly of any later feast, for the grass would have been dried up. And took the five loaves, and the two fishes. He used all the means there were. And looking up to heaven. So also Mark 7:34; John 17:1. He blessed. He may well have used the blessing that is still used over bread ("Blessed art thou, Jehovah our God, King of the world, that causest bread to come forth from the earth"); for this can be apparently traced to the second or third century A.D., and is probably much older still (cf. Edersheim, 'Life,' 1:684; Zunz, 'Gottesdienstliche Vortrage,' p. 371, edit. 1832). (For the habit of saying grace before meals, cf. Matthew 15:36; Matthew 26:26; Romans 14:6; 1 Corinthians 10:30; 1 Timothy 4:5; see also 1 Samuel 9:13.) And brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. That the people received the bread at the hands of the disciples is not mentioned by St. John. Perhaps because his chapter dwells so much on the need of direct contact with Christ. But Christ's work through his agents, both before and after his time on earth, is an important point with the synoptists.
As the Jewish loaves were thin cakes, a thumb's breadth in thickness, and more easily broken than cut.
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