Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Matthew 14

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-36

D. Round and About Galilee: Formation of the Apostles—XIV 1-XX 16. XIV 1-12 Antipas, Jesus, the Baptist (Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9; Luke 3:19-20)—1-2. Antipas (called ’Herod’ on his coins), son of Herod the Great by Malthace the Samaritan, was tetrarch (’ruler in that quarter’ KNT) of Galilee and Peraea ( 4 b.c. to a.d. 39). He was living probably in his new town of Tiberias on the SW. bank of the Lake when reports of our Lord’s activity became too persistent to ignore. Only guilty superstition could have prompted his absurd conjecture, if, indeed, it is to be taken seriously; cf.Luke 9:9. His courtiers had other ideas, Mark 6:15.3-4. The imprisonment of John had taken place before our Lord began his Galilean ministry, 4:12. Its cause was John’s denunciation of Antipas’s adulterous marriage, Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21. Herodias was the wife of his half-brother Philip—not Philip, tetrarch of Trachonitis and Iturea, Luke 3:1, but a private individual. To make the case worse, Antipas, though the Baptist does not mention it, was the uncle of Herodias.

5. Mt, unlike Mk, content with general statements of events, does not mention the murderous intent of Herodias, though cf. 8. Nor does he represent as adequately as Mark 6:20 the vacillating character of Antipas, fascinated by John, half-persuaded by Herodias, held back by fear of John’s many supporters. This perplexity seems to have lasted for nearly a year.

6. The scene was the banquet-hall of the fortress-palace of Machaerus (Mkawer;cf. Jos., Ant. 18, 5, 2). The castle, rebuilt by Herod the Great, lay between Callirhoe and the Arnon. It stood in the mountains of Moab on the southern border of Antipas’s Peraean dominion, cf. Abel 2, 371 f The occasion was the birthday of Antipas; cf. Schürer, 1, 2, 26 f. In place of the usual courtesans danced Salome, daughter of Herodias by her first husband; cf.. Jos., Ant. 18, 5, 4. This condescension of a young princess of the blood (perhaps about fifteen years old at the time, certainly not more than twenty) was doubtless instigated by the far-sighted Herodias.

7-8. Antipas fell into the trap. The girl’s mother then instructed her (p??ß?ßa+´??: not ’instruct before’, DV; and cf.Mark 6:24) to ask for the head of the Baptist who lay in the dungeons. The girl herself pertly added’ here, in a dish’; cf. Mark 1:24-25.

9. The unexpected and cold-blooded request sobered Antipas. He was being rushed into an act which did not suit his Policy, 5, nor entirely answer his feelings, Mark 6:20. He was a king (tetrarch in fact, ’king’ in popular speech; cf. Holzmeister, Historia Aetatis Novi Testamenti, Rome 1932, 54) and a royal, if drunken, oath could not be recalled—if uttered in public! 10-11. The courageous Baptist died a martyr’s death for the sanctity of marriage. His head went fitly back to the woman who had schemed so carefully for it.

12. Antipas possibly silenced his strange conscience by allowing the disciples of John to bury the body. For the subsequent history of Antipas, Herodias, Salome, cf. Jos., Ant. 18-5, 1-4.

13-21 First Multiplication of Loaves (Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:10b-17; John 6:1-15)—13. If Mt’s formula is not a transitional cliché it implies that our Lord’s suggestion of repose for his disciples (Mk) was reinforced by the fate of the Baptist, 12, and the sinister reflexion of Antipas, 2. The people were evidently excited; Antipas might act; our Lord used his human prudence and retired to a place’ apart’, i.e. not so much secluded as removed from the crowds. He and his disciples were on the west side of the Lake (cf. 22, 34), presumably near Capharnaum, Mark 6:32. They quietly withdrew from Antipas’s territory and sailed to that of Philip the tetrarch, to the neighbourhood of Bethsaida Julias in Gaulanitis; cf.Luke 9:10. The crowds, not to be thwarted, followed on foot; doubtless they had observed whither the boat was heading. The distance (c 6 m.) was almost twice that by sea, but the disciples, in need of rest, were in no hurry and the crowd arrived first, Mark 6:33, Its numbers had increased as it went. 14. Our Lord’s heart could never resist suffering. In the broad, uncultivated ’plain that lies to the SE. of Bethsaida between hills and sea he healed the sick. He taught the simple folk, too, Mark 6:34.

15. The work went on until late afternoon (’evening’: ?+?f?+´a?, cf. 23). Our Lord took no heed but the hungry disciples called his attention to the fact that the time (for refreshment ?) had slipped by. They were perhaps not thinking solely of the multitudes! 16-17. The Master’s command must have left them dumbfounded. It was Peter’s brother, John 6:8, who told of the boy with the five cheap (barley) loaves and the two dried fish. This remark of Andrew’s was not meant to be helpful—Philip had already calculated that two hundred days’ labour would not buy the necessary provender.

18-19. The plain of Bethsaida is green in spring at the time of the Pasch, John 6:4, and all sat down on the grass in companies, Mark 6:40, at our Lord’s bidding. He evidently wished to give the impression of a formal meal and, in the same spirit, he invoked a blessing like the father of a family. The breaking of the bread also, being mentioned by all four evangelists, is evidently significant: our Lord repeated this action just one year later, at the Last Supper. 26:26. It would appear that the ceremony was deliberately symbolic of the Holy Eucharist but the symbolism is our Lord’s: : the very sober account of he evangelists suggests historical intention on their part and not mere symbolism. Moreover, the presence of the fish and the absence of wine does not suggest that we have here’ a mere symbol of the Eucharist. (On the opinions of non-Catholic critics cf. Lagrange, Mt, 170f.) Whether the bread increased in our Lord’s hands or in the Apostles’ does not appear.

20-21. The prodigality of God’s gifts does not excuse human waste and the remnants are gathered up. They fill twelve baskets (the property, perhaps, of the twelve Apostles) whereas the original amount had been carried in one—the boy’s. The ’baskets’ here are ’hampers’ in 15:37 (second multiplication) and the distinction is preserved when our Lord recalls the two miracles, 16:9-10. It would seem that the distinction is not merely literary: ’The ?óF???? of 14:20 appears to have been a strong wicker "basket"’ (as used for farmwork) ’the sF???+´? of 15:37 a larger "hamper" used chiefly for food (cf.Acts 6:25)’ (WV note to Matthew 16:9-10).

22-33 Our Lord (Mark 6:45-52; John 6:16-21) and Peter (Mt only) walk on the Waters —22-23. The miracle of the loaves had dangerously excited the people, John 6:14f. It was important that the Apostles should not share their political frenzies; our Lord therefore dispatched them boatwards .(e?+?? p???+???) while he sent the people home. He did not rejoin the Apostles who evidently waited at the lakeside until night fell (John 6:17. In Mt and Mk ?+?f?+´a as in 15, but here, apparently, bearing the meaning ’night’, cf. Lagrange, Mk, 173). Instead, he slipped away from the crowd to pray in the hills surrounding the plain.

24-25. The Apostles left without him, but made poor progress against the high (Jn) and contrary wind. Driven, no doubt, off their course they were in midlake (over 3 m. Out; Jn) making little headway. There was only one way to rejoin the dispirited Apostles and our Lord tobk it. The time was between 3 and 6 in the morning—the ’fourth watch’ of the night according to the Roman reckoning used by the Jews at this time, SB 1, 688 f. 26-27. The cry of the Apostles: ’It is a ghost’ proceeded from the apparent impossibility of any other explanation. The familiar voice calmed and convinced.

28-31. Peter now appears for the first time with his high qualities and their endearing human defects. He is devoted to his Master and sublimely confident in him but, conscious suddenly of self, he cries out in fright. The hand of Jesus is ready and his approach gentle: ’Of little faith!’ If this could be said of Peter for his momentary fear, what of us? asks St Jerome, PL 26, 104.

32-33. To Peter on the water and now to the Apostles in the boat it is clear that they are safe with their Master: the wind drops as he joins them. The Apostles (’those in the boat’, cf. 22) are carried away. They confess the divinity of their Master (cf. § 50g), who with divine power has walked the waters; cf.Job 9:8. Their confession is, however, a sudden outburst due to the pressure of miracle upon miracle. Peter’s calm and considered profession in 16:16 is clearly regarded by Mt as of much higher quality, 16:17; and cf. Scripture, 1 ( 1946) 32f.

34-36 Miracles at Gennesaret (Mark 6:53-56)—Stretching for c 4 m. along the west side of the Lake between ’Ain Tabgba and Magdala and less than 2 M. So Of Capharnaum is a rich plain about 2 m. broad at its widest part. It is not improbable that the name of this plain was Gennesar and that the name Gennesaret (not Genesar’ DV), with the feminine suffix, is that of a village in the vicinity of Capharnaum ( Lagrange, Mk, 177). The inhabitants immediately recognized our Lord who was well known in neighbouring Capharnaum. As usual, they ran (Mk) to fetch their sick. Many were healed by the touch of the tassel (??a+´sped??; cf. 9:20 note) of his cloak.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Matthew 14". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/matthew-14.html. 1951.
Ads FreeProfile