And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And a very great multitude.—Better, the greater part of the multitude. Part of the crowd had come with Him from Galilee, part streamed from Bethany, excited by the recent resurrection of Lazarus (John 12:17). Some went before Him, some followed. As they advanced they were met by a fresh crowd pouring forth from Jerusalem. Of the latter, St. John records that they came out with palm-branches in their hands, as if to salute a king with the symbols of his triumph. (Comp. Revelation 7:9.)
Spread their garments in the way.—This, again, was a recognised act of homage to a king. So Jehu, when the officers of the army of Israel chose him as their ruler, walked upon the garments which they spread beneath his feet (2Kings 9:13). So Agamemnon, tempted to an act of barbaric pomp, after the manner of Eastern kings, entered his palace at Mycenæ, walking upon costly carpets (Æschylus, Agam. 891).John 12:13 that these branches were branches of the "palm-tree." The palm was an emblem of "joy and victory." It was used by the Roman soldiers, as well as the Jews, as a symbol of peace. See 1 Macc. 13:51; 2 Macc. 10:6, 7; Revelation 7:9.
The "palm-tree" is common in warm climates, and was abundant in Palestine. The finest grew about Jericho and Engedi. Hence, Jericho was called the city of "palm-trees." The palm has a long and straight body, a spreading top, and an appearance of very great beauty. It produces an agreeable fruit, a pleasant shade, a kind of "honey" little inferior to the honey of bees, and from it was drawn a pleasant "wine" much used in the East. On ancient coins the palm-tree is often a symbol of Judea. On coins made after Jerusalem was taken, Judea is represented by a female sitting and weeping under a palm-tree. A reference to the palm-tree occurs often in the Bible, and its general form and uses are familiar to most readers.
Strictly speaking, the palm has no branches, but at the summit from forty to eighty twigs or leaf-stalks spring forth. These are referred to in Nehemiah 8:15. The leaves are set around the trunk in circles of about six. The lower row is of great length, and the vast leaves bend themselves in a curve toward the earth: as the circles ascend, the leaves are shorter. In the month of February, there sprout from between the junctures of the lower stalks and the trunk little scales, which develop a kind of bud, the germ of the coming fruit. These germs are contained in a thick and tough skin, not unlike leather. According to the account of a modern traveler, a single tree in Barbary and Egypt bears from fifteen to twenty large clusters of dates, weighing from 15 to 20 lbs. each. The palm-tree lives more than 200 years, and is most productive from the 30th until the 80th year. The Arabs speak of 260 uses to which the different parts of the palm-tree are applied.
The inhabitants of Egypt, Arabia, and Persia depend much on the fruit of the palm-tree for their subsistence. Camels feed on the seed, and the leaves, branches, fibres, and sap are all very valuable.
The "branches" referred to by John Joh 12:13 are the long "leaves" which shoot out from the top of the tree, and which were often carried about as the symbol of victory. Compare the notes at Isaiah 3:26.
Mt 21:1-9. Christ's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on the First Day of the Week. ( = Mr 11:1-11; Lu 19:29-40; Joh 12:12-19).
For the exposition of this majestic scene—recorded, as will be seen, by all the Evangelists—see on Lu 19:29-40.See Poole on "Matthew 21:9". John 12:12. These, many of them, for it cannot be thought to be done by them all,
spread their garments in the way; either in the middle of the road, instead of carpets, to ride upon; the Persic version adds, "that he might pass over them": this they did, in honour to him as a king. So when Jehu declared to the princes of Israel, that he was anointed king of Israel, they hastened, and took every man his garment, and put it under him, 2 Kings 9:13 that is, to tread upon; though the Jewish writers (x) say, it was done that he might be higher than them all, suitable to the dignity of a king: and it is reported (y) of Cato Uticensis, the emperor, that his soldiers strewed their garments for him to walk upon: or these garments were spread by the way side. Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, that little tents might be raised by them along the road, upon which they spread their garments to make a show, in imitation of the feast of tabernacles, to which there is a very great resemblance in many things which occur in this account; when they used to spread linen cloth, garments, and fruits, over their booths, for decoration and ornament; as appears from their traditions about these things:
, "if a man spreads a linen cloth over it", (his booth,) because of the sun, or under it, because of the falling of leaves, &c. or spreads it over a canopy, it is not right; but he may spread it over the bedposts (z).''
That is, for ornament, as the commentators observe (a). Again,
, if a man spreads a garment over it, (his booth,) or if he spreads it under it, because of what falls it is not right; but if he spreads it so as that it is, "for ornament", it is right; and so if he covers it according to the tradition of it, and encompasses it with various kinds of fruits, and precious things, and vessels which hang upon it, whether on its walls, or on its covering, so they be for ornament, it is right (b).''
In like manner, the multitude might hang their garments, to make the show the greater, either on such booths, or on the houses and trees, that were upon the road, as they went along.
Others cut down branches from the trees; from the olive trees, as the Persic version expresses it, which grew in great plenty hereabout; and also from the palm trees, the branches of which, with the boughs of other trees, were what the Jews used to carry in their hands on the feast of tabernacles; see Leviticus 23:40 and the Evangelist John expressly says, that the people which met Christ from Jerusalem at this time, did take branches of palm trees in their hands, John 12:13. And though this was not the time of the feast of tabernacles, but of the passover, yet it was common with the Jews to signify their joy upon any occasion, by such ways and methods they used at that least: so upon the cleansing of the tower of Jerusalem, by Simon Maccabeus, the Jews entered into it with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees:
"And entered into it the three and twentieth day of the second month in the hundred seventy and first year, with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and with viols, and hymns, and songs: because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel.'' (1 Maccabees 13:51)
Likewise upon purifying the temple, which had been polluted by Antiochus, they kept eight days with gladness as in the feast of tabernacles, and bare branches and fair boughs, and palms also, as in the Apocrypha:
6 And they kept the eight days with gladness, as in the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long afore they had held the feast of the tabernacles, when as they wandered in the mountains and dens like beasts. 7 Therefore they bare branches, and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto him that had given them good success in cleansing his place. (2 Maccabees 10)
But here it is said,
and they strawed them in the way: not in the middle of the road, which would have been an hindrance to riding; but by the way side, upon, the booths, or houses in the road, in honour of him; just as the Jews (c) say,
"the streets were strewed with myrtles, and the courts with purple, when Mordecai went out of the king's gate.''
(x) R. Levi ben Gersom, & R. Samuel Laniado in loc. (y) Plutarch in Aleibiade. (z) Misn. Succa, c. 1. sect. 3.((a) Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (b) Maimon. Hilch. Succa, c. 5. sect. 17. (c) Targum in Esther 8.15.And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 21:8. Manifestations of respect, such as kings were usually greeted with on entering cities, 2 Kings 9:13; Wetstein’s note on this passage; Robinson, II. p. 383.
ὁ πλεῖστος ὄχλος] the most of the people, the greatest part of the multitude. Comp. Plat. Rep. p. 397 D; Thuc. vii. 78; Xen. Anab. iii. 2. 36.
ἑαυτῶν] states what the multitude did with their own garments, after the disciples had spread theirs upon the two beasts.Matthew 21:8. ὁ δὲ πλεῖστος ὄχλος, etc., the most part of the crowd, follow the example of the two disciples, and spread their upper garments on the way, as it were to make a carpet for the object of their enthusiasm, after the manner of the peoples honouring their kings (vide Wetstein, ad loc.).—ἄλλοι δὲ ἔκοπτον: others, a small number comparatively, took to cutting down branches of trees and scattering them about on the way. Had they no upper garments, or did they not care to use them in that way? The branches, if of any size, would not improve the road, neither indeed would the garments. Lightfoot, perceiving this—“hoc forsan equitantem prosterneret”—thinks they used garments and branches to make booths, as at the feast of tabernacles. It was well meant but embarrassing homage.8. a very great multitude] Rather, the greater part of the crowd.
spread their garments in the way] Instances are recorded of similar acts of respect shewn to Rabbis by their disciples. See Schöttgen, ad loc.Matthew 21:8. Ὁ δὲ πλεῖστος ὄχλος, but the people, who were in great numbers.—ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ, in the way) [i.e in the midst of the way or road]; not only κατὰ τὴν ὁδόν, by the side of the way; for St Luke (Luke 19:36) uses the expression ὑπεστρώννυον, they spread them under, [i.e. so that He should ride over them].—κλάδους, branches) It was customary with the Jews and other ancient nations to manifest their public joy by cutting down branches from trees.Verse 8. - A very great multitude; ὁ δὲ πλεῖστος ὄχλος: Revised Version, the most part of the multitude. This interpretation has classical authority (see Alford), but the words may well mean," the very great multitude;" Vulgate, plurima autem turba. This crowd was composed of pilgrims who were coming to the festival at Jerusalem, and "the whole multitude of the disciples" (Luke 19:37). Spread their garments (ἱμάτια) in the way. Fired with enthusiasm, they stripped off their abbas, as the two disciples had done, and with them made a carpet over which the Saviour should ride. Such honours were often paid to great men, and indeed, as we well know, are offered now on state occasions. Branches from the trees. St. John (John 12:13) particularizes palm trees as having been used on this occasion; but there was abundance of olive and other trees, from which branches and leaves could be cut or plucked to adorn the Saviour's road. The people appear to have behaved on this occasion as if at the Feast of Tabernacles, roused by enthusiasm to unpremeditated action. Of the three routes which lay before him, Jesus is supposed to have taken the southern and most frequented, between the Mount of Olives and the Hill of Offence.
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