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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Mark 5

Verses 1-99

Ch. 5:1 20 . The Healing of the Gadarene Demoniac

1. they came ] to the eastern shore, but not even there was the Lord destined to find peace or rest.

the Gadarenes ] All three Gospels which record this miracle vary in their readings between (1) Gadarenes , (2) Gergesenes , and (3) Gerasenes . ( α ) Gadara , the capital of Peræa, lay S. E. of the southern extremity of Gennesaret, at a distance of about 60 stadia from Tiberias, its country being called Gadaritis, ( β ) Gerasa lay on the extreme eastern limit of Peraea, and was too far from the Lake to give its name to any district on its borders, ( γ ) Gergesa was a little town nearly opposite Capernaum, the ruined site of which is still called Kerza or Gersa . Origen tells us that the exact site of the miracle was here pointed out in his day. St Mark and St Luke using the word Gadarenes indicate generally the scene of the miracle, Gadara being a place of importance and acknowledged as the capital of the district. See Thomson’s Land and the Book , pp. 375 378.

2. out of the tombs ] These tombs were either natural caves or recesses hewn by art out of the rock, often so large as to be supported with columns, and with cells upon their sides for the reception of the dead. Such places were regarded as unclean because of the dead men’s bones which were there (Numbers 19:11 , Numbers 19:16 ; Matthew 23:27 ). Such tombs can still be traced in more than one of the ravines on the eastern side of the Lake. Thomson’s Land and the Book , p. 376.

a man ] St Matthew (8:28) mentions two demoniacs, St Luke (8:27), like St Mark, only speaks of one. Probably one was better known in the country round than the other, or one was so much fiercer that the other was hardly taken any account of. “Amid all the boasted civilisation of antiquity, there existed no hospitals, no penitentiaries, no asylums; and unfortunates of this class, being too dangerous and desperate for human intercourse, could only be driven forth from among their fellow-men, and restrained from mischief by measures at once inadequate and cruel.” Farrar’s Life of Christ , i. p. 334.

no, not with chains ] This is a general expression for any bonds confining the hands or feet. Comp. Acts 21:33 ; Ephesians 6:20 ; Revelation 20:1 ; fetters were restricted to the feet.

4. he had been often ] Each Evangelist adds something to complete the picture of the terrible visitation, under which the possessed laboured. St Matthew that he made the way impassable for travellers (8:28); St Luke that he was without clothing (8:27); St Mark that he cried night and day and cut himself with stones (5:5).

broken in pieces ] For another instance of the extraordinary muscular strength which maniacs put forth see Acts 19:16 .

6. afar off ] St Mark alone tells us this. While, as a man, he is attracted towards the Holy One; as possessed by the Legion, he desires to withdraw from Him.

7. What have I to do with thee? ] Literally, What is there between Thee and me? What have we in common? Why interferest Thou with us?

I adjure thee ] Notice the intermixture of praying and adjuring, so characteristic of demoniac possession when brought into the presence of Christ.

9. My name is Legion ] “He had seen the thick and serried ranks of a Roman legion, that fearful instrument of oppression, that sign of terror and fear to the conquered nations.” Even such, terrible in their strength, inexorable in their hostility, were the “lords many,” which had dominion over him. Compare (i) the “seven demons,” by whom Mary Magdalene was possessed (Luke 8:2 ), (ii) the “seven other spirits” “worse than the first,” which our Lord describes as taking up their abode in a man (Matthew 12:45 ).

10. out of the country ] i. e. as it is expressed in St Luke, into “the abyss of hell” (8:31).

11. a great herd swine ] The lawless nature of the country, where Jews lived mingled with Gentiles, the Evangelist denotes by the circumstance of the two thousand swine, emphasizing the greatness of the herd. If their owners were only in part Jews, who merely trafficked in these animals, still they were not justified before the Law. The territory was not altogether Jewish.

13. down a steep place ] At Kerza or Gersa , “where there is no precipice running sheer to the sea, but a narrow belt of beach, the bluff behind is so steep, and the shore so narrow, that a herd of swine rushing frantically down, must certainly have been overwhelmed in the sea before they could recover themselves.” Tristram’s Land of Israel p. 462.

the sea ] This, as we have seen above (3:7), was one of the names, by which the Lake of Gennesaret was called.

15. clothed ] because, as St Luke informs us (8:27), before the wretched man wore no clothes . “On descending from the heights of Lebanon, I found myself,” writes Warburton, “in a cemetery … The silence of the night was now broken by fierce yells and howlings , which I discovered proceeded from a naked maniac , who was fighting with some wild dogs for a bone.” The Crescent and the Cross , II. 352.

17. to depart out of their coasts ] Many were doubtless annoyed at the losses they had already sustained, and feared greater losses might follow. “And their prayer was heard: He did depart; He took them at their word; and let them alone” (cf. Exodus 10:28 , Exodus 10:29 ). Trench on the Miracles , p. 177.

18. And when he was come … ] Rather, when He was in the act of stepping into the ship.

that he might be with him ] Either (i) in a spirit of deepest gratitude longing to be with his Benefactor, or (ii) fearing lest the many enemies, from whom he had been delivered, should return. Comp. Matthew 12:44 , Matthew 12:45 .

19. and tell them ] On others (comp. Matthew 8:4 ; Luke 8:56 ) after shewing forth towards them His miraculous power, He enjoined silence; on this man He enjoined publicity. He appoints him to be a living memorial of His own saving Power, and so to become the first great preacher in the half-heathen district.

20. Decapolis ] When the Romans conquered Syria, b. c. 65, they rebuilt, partially colonized, and endowed with peculiar privileges “ten cities,” the country which was called Decapolis. All of them lay, with the exception of Scythopolis, East of the Jordan, and to the East and South-East of the Sea of Galilee. They were (but there is some variation in the lists), 1 Scythopolis, 2 Hippos, 3 Gadara, 4 Pella, 5 Philadelphia, 6 Gerasa, 7 Dion, 8 Canatha, 9 Abila, 10 Capitolias. The name only occurs three times in the Scriptures, ( a ) here; ( b ) Matthew 4:25 , and ( c ) Mark 7:31 ; but it seems to have been also employed to denote a large district extending along both sides of the Jordan.

21 24. The Petition of Jairus

21. unto the other side ] i. e. the western side of the Lake, near Capernaum.

22. the rulers of the synagogue ] Each synagogue had a kind of Chapter or College of Elders, presided over by a ruler , who superintended the services, and possessed the power of excommunication. From this place, e.g., compared with Acts 13:15 , it would appear that some synagogues had several rulers.

Jairus by name ] It is but rarely we know the names of those who were the objects of the Saviour’s mercy. He afterwards probably was one of those who came to the Lord pleading for the centurion at Capernaum (Luke 7:3 ). The aid he then asked for another, he now craves for himself, but under the pressure of a still greater calamity.

23. My little daughter ] His “ only daughter ,” Luke 8:42 . The use of diminutives is characteristic of St Mark. Here we have “little daughter;” in v . 41 “damsel,” or “ little maid; ” in 7:27, “dogs = “ little dogs ,” “ whelps; ” in 8:7, a few small fishes; ” in 14:47, his ear , literally “ a little ear .” She was about 12 years of age, Luke 8:42 .

at the point of death ] The original word here used is one of the frequent Latinisms of St Mark. See Introduction. She lay a dying (Luke 8:42 ), and all but gone when he left her, the sands of life ebbing out so fast, that he could even say of her that she was “dead” (Matthew 9:18 ), at one moment expressing himself in one language, at the next in another.

24. thronged him ] The word thus rendered only occurs here and at v . 31.

25 34. The Healing of the Woman with an Issue of Blood

25. a certain woman ] “Such overflowing grace is in Him, the Prince of Life, that as He is hastening to the accomplishing of one work of His power, He accomplishes another, as by the way.” Trench, p. 188.

an issue of blood ] Her malady was especially afflicting (Leviticus 15:19-27 ), for not only did it unfit her for all the relationships of life, but was popularly regarded as the direct consequence of sinful habits.

28. his garment ] The law of Moses commanded every Jew to wear at each corner of his tallith a fringe or tassel of blue, to remind them that they were God’s people (Numbers 15:37-40 ; Deuteronomy 22:12 ). “Two of these fringes usually hung down at the bottom of the robe, while one hung over the shoulder where the robe was fastened round the person.” Those who wished to be esteemed eminently religious were wont to make broad, or “enlarge the borders of their garments” (Matthew 23:5 ).

29. of that plague ] On this word see above, note on 3:10.

30. Who touched my clothes? ] He who with the eye of His Spirit saw Nathanael under the fig tree (John 1:47 , John 1:48 ), recognised at once (Mark 5:30 ) the magnetic touch of faith however weak and trembling (Luke 8:46 ). “Many throng Him, but only one touches Him.” “Caro premit, fides tangit,” says St Augustine.

32. he looked round ] Another proof of St Mark’s graphic power. The tense in the original is still more expressive. It denotes that He kept on looking all round , that His eyes wandered over one after the other of the many faces before Him, till they fell on her who had done this thing.

33. fearing and trembling ] She may have dreaded His anger, for according to the Law (Leviticus 15:19 ) the touch of one, afflicted as she was, caused ceremonial defilement until the evening.

told him ] i. e. probably all the particulars we find in verses 25, 26, and this before all the people (Luke 8:47 ).

34. Daughter ] Our Lord is recorded to have addressed no other woman by this title. It calmed all her doubts and fears.

go in peace ] This is not merely “go with a blessing,” but abi in pacem, enter into peace , “as the future element in which thy life shall move,” and be whole of thy plague . Be = esto perpetuo. “Post longam miseriam, beneficium durabile .” Bengel.

35 43. The Raising of the Daughter of Jairus

35. why troublest thou the Master? ] Or as, literally rendered, it is in St Luke’s Gospel (8:49), “ trouble not the Master any further .” The word, here translated “ trouble ,” one which is used here and here alone by St Mark and St Luke (except Luke 7:6 ), denotes properly (1) to flay: then (2) to fatigue or to worry , often with a more particular allusion to fatiguing with the length of a journey.

36. heard ] Perhaps according to a better reading, “ overheard. ” The very instant the Lord heard the message, He hastens to reassure the ruler with a word of confidence and encouragement.

37. save Peter, and James, and John ] This is the first time we hear of an election within the election. “That which He was about to do was so great and holy that those three only, the flower and crown of the Apostolic band, were its fitting witnesses.” The other occasions when we read of such an election were equally solemn and significant, (1) the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2 ); and (2) the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37 ).

38. them that wept ] These were the hired mourners, chiefly women; whose business it was to beat their breasts (Luke 8:52 ), and to make loud lamentations at funerals; comp 2 Chronicles 35:25 ; Jeremiah 9:17 , Jeremiah 9:18 ; Amos 5:16 . The Rabbinic rule provided for the poorest Israelite at least two flute-players, and one mourning woman. “A Ruler of the Synagogue, bereaved of his only child, may well have been prodigal in the expression of his grief.”

39. but sleepeth ] Comp. His words in reference to Lazarus (John 11:11 ). The Lord of life takes away that word of fear, “ She is dead ,” and puts in its room that milder word which gives promise of an awakening, “ She sleepeth .”

41. Talitha cumi ] = “ Little Maid, arise. ” Doubtless St Peter, who was now present, often recalled the actual words used on this memorable occasion by our Lord, and told them to his friend and kinsman St Mark. So it is the same Evangelist, who preserves the very word, which our Lord used, when He opened the ears of the deaf man, Ephphatha (7:34). The mention of these words goes to prove that in ordinary life our Lord availed Himself of the popular Aramaic dialect.

42. And immediately her spirit came again and she arose straightway (Luke 8:55 ), and began to walk . There is no struggle, no effort on his part, Who is “ the Resurrection and the Life ” (John 11:25 ); we read of no “crying unto the Lord,” or “stretching himself upon the child three times” as in the case of Elijah at Sarepta (1 Kings 17:21 ); He “lieth not upon the child, or putteth his mouth upon her mouth, and his eyes upon her eyes, and his hands upon her hands” as in the case of Elisha (2 Kings 4:34 ), He speaks but a word and instantly He is obeyed.

a great astonishment ] The word thus rendered denotes sometimes (1) a trance , as in Acts 10:10 , “but while they made ready, he (St Peter) fell into a trance; ” and Acts 22:17 , “while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance ,” with which comp. 2 Cor. 12:23 (ii) amazement, awe , as in Luke 5:26 , “and amazement seized all;” Mark 16:8 , “ trembling and amazement seized them;” Acts 3:10 , “and they were filled with wonder and amazement .” Here it points to a very extremity of astonishment.

43. something should be given her to eat ] At once to strengthen the life thus wonderfully restored, and to prove that she was no spirit, but had really returned to the realities of a mortal existence.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Mark 5". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.