And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Twelve baskets full.—The basket here is the cophinus, a small basket carried in the hand, and often used by travellers to hold their food. So Juvenal (Sat. iii. 14) describes the Jews of Italy as travelling with “their cophinus and a wisp of hay,” by way of pillow, as their only luggage. St. John records that the gathering was made by our Lord’s express commands, “that nothing be lost.” The marvellous display of creative power was not to supersede forethought, thrift, economy in the use of the gifts it had bestowed. It is probable, from the language of the disciples in Mark 6:37, and from John 13:29, that they were in the habit of distributing food to the poor in the villages and towns in which they preached, and the fragments were, we may believe, reserved for that use.
The quantity must have been greatly increased to have supplied so many. He that could increase that small quantity so much had the power of creation; and he that could do that could create the world out of nothing, and had no less than divine power.
Twelve baskets full - The size of these baskets is unknown. They were probably such as travelers carried their provisions in. They were used commonly by the Jews in their journeys. In traveling among the Gentiles or Samaritans, a Jew could expect little hospitality. There were not, as now, public houses for the entertainment of strangers. At great distances there were caravansaries, but they were intended chiefly as lodging-places for the night, and not to provide food for travelers. Hence, in journeying among strangers or in deserts, they carried baskets of provisions, and this is the reason why they were furnished with them here. It is probable that each of the apostles had one, and they were all filled. John Joh 6:12 says that Jesus directed them to gather up these fragments, that nothing might be lost - an example of economy. God creates all food; it has, therefore, a kind of sacredness; it is all needed by some person or other, and none should be lost.
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 were filled; they were satisfied, they had a full meal, they had enough, and to spare; see 2 Chronicles 31:10 which the Targumist paraphrases thus.
"And Azariah said unto him, who was appointed chief over the house of Zadok, and said, from the time that they began to separate the offering, to bring it into the sanctuary of the Lord, , "we have eat and are filled", and have "left much"; for "the word of the Lord" hath blessed his people, and what is left, lo! it is this plenty of good.''
The Jews used not to reckon it a meal, unless a man was filled, and account it an ill sign, if nothing was left: but here was fulness, and more left than was first had; which was gathered up, either for the use of the poor, or reserved for after service; teaching us liberality to the needy, and frugality, not to waste that which is left.
And they took up of the fragments that remained, twelve baskets full; according to the number of the disciples, every man had his basket full. It may be inquired, where they could have so many baskets in the wilderness? It is not likely, that everyone of the apostles had a basket with him; it is indeed not improbable, but that they might be furnished with them from some in the company, who might bring provisions with them, either for their own use, or to sell; see John 6:9 but perhaps the reason why they were so easily supplied with such a number of baskets in a desert place, might be a custom which the Jews (h) had of carrying baskets with hay and straw, in commemoration of what they did in Egypt; when they were obliged to carry bricks in baskets, and to go about and pick up straw in baskets to make bricks; hence the (i) Epigrammatist calls a "Jew", "cistifer", a "basket bearer", or "carrier"; and Juvenal (k) laughs at these people, as if all their household goods lay in a basket, and a little hay, or straw: it is said of R. Siraeon, that when he went to the school, , "he carried a basket" on his shoulders (l); the gloss suggests, it was to sit upon; but a basket is not very proper for a seat; very likely it was for the above reason: such a custom will account for it, how such a number of baskets could be come at in the wilderness.
(h) Nicholas de Lyra, in Psal. lxxxi. 6. (i) Nubere: nupsisti Gellia Cistifero. Martial. Epigram. 1. 5. Ephesians 17. (k) Judaeis: quorum Cophinus foenumque supellex. Juvenal. Satyr. 3. cum dedit ille locum, Cophino, foenoque relicto. ib. Satyr. 6. (l) T. Bab. Nedarim, fol. 49. 2.And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 14:20 f. Τῶν κλασμ. is independent of τὸ περισς. (the fragments that were over), with which latter also δώδεκα κοφ. πλήρεις, twelve baskets full, is in apposition. In travelling, the Jews carried small baskets with them to hold their provisions and other necessaries. For κόφινος, see Jacobs, ad Anthol. IX. p. 455. It is more general (in Xen. Anab. iii. 8. 6, it is used in the sense of a dung-basket) than σπυρίς (Matthew 15:37; Acts 9:25).
ἦραν] they took up, from the ground on which the people had been eating. The subject of the verb is the apostles (John 6:12); each of the Twelve fills his travelling-basket. But the κλάσματα are the pieces (comp. Matthew 14:19, κλάσας) into which the loaves had been divided, and which had so multiplied in the course of distribution that a great quantity still remained over.
γυναικ. κ. παιδ.] occurring frequently in classical writers, and sometimes with the order of the words inverted; Maetzner, ad Lycurg. p. 75. But observe here the diminutive παιδίων, little children, whom their mothers either carried in their arms or led by the hand.
To explain away the miracle, as Paulus has done (who thinks that the hospitable example of Jesus may have induced the people to place at His disposal the provisions they had brought along with them; comp. Gfrörer, Heiligth. u. Wahrh. p. 171 ff.; Ammon, L. J. II. p. 217 f.), is inconsistent with the accounts of all the evangelists, and especially with that of the eye-witness John. Notwithstanding this, Schleiermacher, L. J. p. 234, thought that, even on exegetical principles, the plural σημεῖα in John 6:26 (but see note on this passage) would justify him in declining to rank the incident among the miracles; whilst Schenkel thinks he sees his way to an explanation by supposing what is scarcely possible, viz. that Jesus fed the multitude with a rich supply of the bread of life from heaven, which caused them to forget their ordinary food, though at the same time He devoutly consecrated for their use the provisions which they had brought with them, or had managed to procure for the present emergency. Weizsäcker likewise leaves the fact, which is supposed to underlie the present narrative, too much in a state of perplexing uncertainty; this element of fact, he thinks, must somehow correspond with the symbolism of the miracle, which is intended to teach us that there is no sphere in which the believer may not become a partaker of the fulness of Jesus’ blessing. Keim, adhering above all to the ideal explanation that the bread which Jesus provided was spiritual bread, and referring by way of parallel to the story of the manna and the case of Elisha, follows the Paulus-Schenkel line of interpretation, in conceding a residuum of historical fact, though he seems to doubt whether that residuum will be considered worth retaining. But to eliminate the element of fact altogether, is no less inconsistent with historical testimony. This, however, has been done by Strauss, who thereupon proceeds to account for the narrative, partly by tracing it to some original parable (Weisse, I. p. 510 ff.), partly by treating it as a myth, and deriving it from the types of the Old Testament (Exodus 16; 1 Kings 17:8-16; 2 Kings 4:42 ff.) and the popular Messianic ideas (John 6:30 f.), partly by supposing it to belong to the lofty sphere of ideal legend (Ewald, see note on John 6:12), and partly by understanding it in a symbolic sense (Hase, de Wette). Such a mode of dealing with this incident is the result of denying the possibility of bringing a creative agency to bear upon dead, rather upon artificially prepared materials,—a possibility which is not rendered more conceivable by having recourse to the somewhat poor expedient of supposing that what was done may have been brought about by an accelerated natural process (Olshausen). But that such agency was actually brought to bear, is a historical fact so well established by the unanimous testimony of the evangelists, that we must be contented to accept it with all its incomprehensibility, and, in this case not less than in that of the changing of water into wine at Cana, abandon the hope of being able to get a clearer conception of the process of the miracle by the help of natural analogies. The symbolical application, that is, to the higher spiritual food, was made by our Lord Himself in John 6:26 ff.; but, in doing so, He takes the miraculous feeding with material bread as His historical basis and warrant. Moreover, the view of Origen, that it was τῷ λόγῳ καὶ τῇ εὐλογίᾳ that Jesus caused the bread to multiply, is greatly favoured by the fact that the circumstance of the thanksgiving is mentioned by the whole four evangelists, and above all by Luke’s expression: εὐλόγησεν αὐτούς.Matthew 14:20. δώδεκα κοφ. πλ. is in appos. with τὸ περισσεῦον τ. κ. They took the surplus of the broken pieces to the extent of twelve baskets.—κοφίνους, answering to the Rabbinical קופא, a basket of considerable size (“ein grosses Behältniss,” Wünsche). Each of the Twelve had one. The word recalls the well-known line of Juvenal (Sat. iii. 14): “Judaeis, quorum cophinus foenumque suppellex,” on which and its bearing on this place vide Schöttgen (Hor. Tal.) and Elsner.20. they took up of the fragments] The Greek word for fragments is connected with the verb “to break” in the preceding verse. The true meaning of the word is therefore “the portions broken off for distribution.”
twelve baskets] The same word kophinoi is used for baskets in the four accounts of this miracle, and also by our Lord, when He refers to the miracle (ch. Matthew 16:9); whereas a different word is used in describing the feeding of four thousand and in the reference made to that event by our Lord (ch. Matthew 16:10). The Roman poet Juvenal describes a large provision-basket of this kind, together with a bundle of hay, as being part of the equipment of the Jewish mendicants who thronged the grove of Egeria at Rome. The motive for this custom was to avoid ceremonial impurity in eating or in resting at night.Matthew 14:20. Πἀντες, all) How much more can all partake of the one body of the Lord in the Holy Super.—κλασμάτων, of fragments) of most excellent bread; cf. John 2:10. A most substantial miracle. The people were not permitted to carry any away for the sake of curiosity.—δώδεκα, twelve) see Gnomon on ch. Matthew 16:9. There were remnants also of fishes; see Mark 6:43. They were preserved for future eating, not, like manna, as a memorial.Verse 20. - And they did all eat, and were filled (ἐχορτάσθησαν, Matthew 5:6, note). And they. Undefined, but seen from Matthew 16:9; John 6:12, to have been the disciples. Took up of the fragments that remained; that which remained over of the broken pieces (Revised Version); i.e. of the pieces broken by our Lord for distribution (ver. 19). Twelve baskets full. The disciples personally lost nothing by the miracle (ver. 15, note), the provision basket that each always carried was now replenished. Baskets; "cofyns" (Wickliffe); κοφίνους (cf. Luke 9:17, note; and the Talmudic saying, "He that has bread in his basket is not like him that has not bread in his basket," Talm. Bab., 'Yoma,' 74b).
See on Matthew 5:6.
Wyc., coffins, a transcription of the Greek word. Juvenal, the Roman satirist, describes the grove of Numa, near the Capenian gate of Rome, as being "let out to the Jews, whose furniture is a basket (cophinus) and some hay" (for a bed), "Sat." iii., 14. These were small hand-baskets, specially provided for the Jews to carry levitically clean food while travelling in Samaria or other heathen districts. The word for basket used in relating the feeding of the four thousand (Matthew 15:37) is σπυρίς, a large provision-basket or hamper, of the kind used for letting Paul down over the wall at Damascus (Acts 9:25). In Matthew 16:9,Matthew 16:10, Christ, in alluding to the two miracles, observes the distinctive term in each narrative; using κοφίνους in the case of the five thousand, and σπυρίδας in the other. Burgon ("Letters from Rome") gives a drawing of a wicker basket used by the masons in the cathedral at Sorrento, and called cffano. He adds, "Who can doubt that the basket of the gospel narrative was of the shape here represented, and that the denomination of this basket exclusively has lingered in a Greek colony, where the Jews (who once carried the cophinus as a personal equipment) formerly lived in great numbers?"
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