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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
John 7

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-53


The Feast of Tabernacles

John 7:1 to John 10:21. Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles, October, 28 a.d.

After the discourse of John 6, delivered just before Passover 28 a.d., Jesus did not go up to Jerusalem (John 7:1), but devoted Himself for five or six months to active work in various parts of Galilee, of which St. John says nothing. At the close of this period He visited the country of Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24), made a tour through Decapolis, where He fed the 4,000 (Mark 8:1), retired to Cæsarea Philippi, where St. Peter made his great confession (Mark 8:27.), and subsequently, at a place not specified, was transfigured. To this period belong the gradual falling away of the people, the widening of the breach with the Pharisees, the deepening of the faith of the apostles, who are led to acknowledge Him as the Son of God, and the prophecies of Death and Resurrection which followed the Transfiguration. When, in October, Jesus went up to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, His Galilean ministry was over, and He knew that His death was impending.

The account of our Lord's teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles is remarkably vivid, and bears all the marks of historic accuracy (see especially the graphic details in John 7:11-15, John 7:25-27, John 7:31-32, John 7:40-52, and in John 9). He sets His claims before the inhabitants of Jerusalem with great urgency, knowing that His time on earth is short. His hearers will die in their sins unless they believe that He is the Messiah (John 8:24). He is more than the Messiah; He is the Son of God, self-existent and eternal (John 8:58), the Living Water (John 7:37), the Light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:5), the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep (John 10:14-15), and the giver of true freedom (John 8:36). He works only one miracle, but it is an important one, enforcing His claim to be the Light of the world (John 9).

1. To kill] see John 5:18.

2. Feast of tabernacles] or, 'feast of ingathering,' or, 'of harvest,' held in October, marked the completion of the harvest of fruit, oil, and wine. For eight days the people lived in booths, in memory of the wanderings in the wilderness. Numerous sacrifices were offered. Among the notable ceremonies were the procession to Siloam to fetch water, and its pouring out at the altar (cp. John 7:37), the singing of the Hallel (Psalms 113-118), the daily processions round the altar, and the lighting of the four great golden candlesticks in the Court of the Women (cp. John 8:12).

3. Thy disciples] Only a few disciples followed Jesus in His Galilean tours. At the great Feast of Tabernacles they would be gathered together in great numbers.

5. The unbelief of the brethren was removed after the resurrection by the appearance to James (1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:14). Being unbelievers, they were evidently not of the number of the Twelve. For an account of them see on Matthew 12:50.

6. My time] as indicated by God's will. Your time] They, having no special commission from God, were bound by no such considerations as He. Moreover, they were in no danger: the world looked upon them as its own.

8. I go not up yet] Many ancient authorities omit 'yet,' but in any case it is to be understood.

14. Finding that He had a strong party on His side, Jesus came forth from His retirement and taught.

15. Letters] i.e. rabbinical learning. Having never learned] i.e. having never been the pupil of a recognised rabbi or scribe, as Paul was of Gamaliel.

16, 17. 'My teaching, like that of the prophets of old, is a direct inspiration from God, and not, like that of the scribes, a tradition of men. It appeals to the heart, not to the head. Not the learned, but those who apply themselves earnestly to do God's will, will perceive that it comes from God. 19. You are not keeping the Law. Moses commanded you not to shed innocent blood, and yet you seek to slay Me, an innocent man.'

20. His opponents hypocritically try to make Him think them innocent.

21f. I did one work (eight months ago when I healed the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda), and ye are still marvelling (because I did it on the sabbath day). 'Moses would not have marvelled. Moses recognised that works of piety and charity may be done on the sabbath day. In fact, he commanded circumcision to be performed on the sabbath day as on other days, and you obey his command. How, then, can you object to My miracle of healing? To heal a man is as much a work of piety and charity as to circumcise him.'

22. Not because] RV 'not that.'

27. Jewish ideas as to the Messiah were not very consistent. One view was that His birthplace and lineage would be notorious (cp. Matthew 2); others held that His manifestation would be shrouded in mystery.

33, 34. A call to decision, and a reproach for rejecting their deliverer.

34. Hereafter, when misfortunes come upon you, you shall seek My help, and shall not find it.

35. The dispersed (RV 'the Dispersion') among the Gentiles (RV 'the Greeks')] i.e. the Jews living in heathen lands. The Jews, not seriously but mockingly, attribute to our Lord the design which St. Paul afterwards carried out, of abandoning the Holy Land, and making the Jewish synagogues throughout the Empire centres for diffusing the gospel among proselytes and other Gentiles.

37. The last day] The feast proper closed on the seventh day, but the eighth day, which is probably here meant, was kept as a sabbath with a holy convocation to commemorate the entrance into Canaan (Leviticus 23:36). If any man thirst] Here, as to the woman of Samaria, Christ declares Himself the giver of 'the living water.' This declaration is connected with the ritual of the feast. On every day of the feast except the last, a golden pitcher of water was fetched (in literal fulfilment of Isaiah 12:3) from the pool of Siloam by a priest, and poured together with wine on the W. side of the altar at the time of the morning sacrifice, amid the singing of psalms and hymns. This water was held to symbolise the miraculous water which supplied the Israelites in the wilderness, and also the outpouring of the Spirit promised in the days of the Messiah. On the eighth day, when the water was not poured out, Jesus came forward declaring Himself the giver of the true water which that water typified, viz. the Holy Spirit.

38. The scripture] Our Lord combines the sense of several OT. passages, e.g. Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 58:11; Ezekiel 47:1. Belly] here, by a Hebraism, for a man's inmost soul: cp. the use of beten ('belly') in Proverbs 18:8; Proverbs 20:27, Proverbs 20:30; Proverbs 22:18; Proverbs 26:22; Job 15:2, Job 15:35; Job 32:18, Job 32:19. Christ compares Himself with the Temple. As the fountain of Siloam poured forth its waters from the Temple mountain, so a stream of heavenly life issues from the Redeemer, and from all who have become like Him. We have here a striking expression of the power of Christian influence.

39. The Holy Ghost was not yet given] Under Christianity, the Holy Spirit, though personally distinct from Christ, is still the Spirit of Jesus, i.e. the Spirit of the Saviour. He could not, however, become this until the saving work of Christ was complete, until Christ had died for our sins upon the cross, risen again for our justification, and ascended into heaven to plead the merits of His sacrifice with the eternal Father. Hence the Comforter could not be given as the Comforter, until Jesus had been glorified: cp. John 16:7.

40. The Prophet] i.e. the prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15, regarded not as the Messiah, but as a forerunner of the Messiah.

42. Bethlehem] St. John was not ignorant of the birthplace of Jesus. He is here only reporting the words of others.

49. Cursed] RV 'accursed,' viz. because of their ignorance. The contempt of the Pharisees for those who have not received a rabbinical training is a touch true to life.

50, 51. Nicodemus has made some advance in boldness. He ventures, though timidly, to plead for justice for our Lord. He was certainly right on the point of law: see Exodus 23:1; Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 19:15.

52. The Pharisees were wrong not only in their law, but in their facts, for Jonah at least was a Galilean. In any case the saying would not apply to our Lord, who was a Judæan. The narrative, interrupted by the interpolation John 7:53 to John 8:11, is resumed John 8:12.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on John 7:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/john-7.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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