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the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
John 7

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 2-10


John 7:2-10 . “And the feast of the Jews, called Tabernacles, was nigh.” (Leviticus 23:34.) This great annual solemnity was held in September, commemorative of their sojourn in the wilderness forty years, dwelling in tents. Therefore all Israel, beginning on the Sabbath and closing on the following Sabbath, dwelt in tents eight days, in the enjoyment of what we would now call a holiness camp-meeting. As the Temple Campus contains thirty-five acres, there all of their great national feasts were held.

“Then His brothers said to Him, Depart thence, and go into Judea, in order that Thy disciples shall see the works which Thou art doing; for no one doeth anything in secret and himself seeketh to be public.” “If You do these things, manifest Yourself to the world;” for His brothers did not yet believe on Him. “Jesus says to them, My time is not yet, but your time is always ready. The world is not able to hate you; but it hateth Me, because I testify concerning it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast; I do not go up to this feast. Speaking these things, He remained in Galilee; but when His brothers went up to the feast, then He also went up; not publicly, but in secret.” Six months previously He had declined to go to the Passover, having attended the two preceding, at the first of which He began His ministry; evidently because He saw they were determined to crown Him. King. Though He goes to this Feast of Tabernacles, after it gets under headway, He declined to go at the first with the crowd, as they were intent on His royal coronation. He says, “I do not go to this feast;” not saying He did mot intend to go at a later date. Here we see that even at this late period of His ministry, two and one-half years having rolled away, His brothers i.e., James, Judas, Joses, and Simon did not believe on Him. They believed that He was a mighty prophet, and in all probability entertained vague hopes that He might prove to be the Christ who was to redeem Israel. As He had hitherto spent nearly all of the time of His ministry in the comparatively obscure regions of Galilee, they were anxious to get Him off to Jerusalem, where He would meet the vast multitudes at the feast, and come in contact with the thronging population of South Palestine, that they might witness His mighty works. His brothers thought He needed pushing out, and were trying to do it. None of His four younger brothers were among the original Twelve; James and Judas (called Jude in E.V.) falling in about the time of His resurrection the latter becoming the apostle of Tartary; and the former, the pastor of the Apostolic Church at Jerusalem, a signal compliment paid him because of his brotherhood to the Lord.

Verses 11-16



John 7:11-16 . “Therefore the Jews continued to seek Him at the feast, and say, Where is He? And there was much murmuring concerning Him among the multitude; some said that He is good; others said, No, but He deceiveth the multitude.”

V. 13. “No one, indeed, spoke openly concerning Him, on account of the fear of the Jews. And the festival already being midway, Jesus came up into the temple, and was teaching. Then the Jews were astonished, saying, How does this One know letters, having never been taught? And Jesus responded to them, and said, My teaching is not Mine, but of Him that sent Me.” Jesus began His ministry, according to the prophecies, by coming into the temple and purifying it, casting out the buyers and sellers. Remaining but a few days after the Passover in Judea, He returned to Galilee, His native land, where He remained, preaching, healing the sick, and casting out demons, till the next Passover, which He also attended, returning to Galilee very soon after its adjournment. Remaining in Galilee the ensuing year, He did not go up to Jerusalem to the next Passover, which was the third in His ministry, evidently because the multitude, going from the cities around the Galilean Sea, were determined to crown Him King; consequently remaining in Galilee six months longer, with two little exceptions the one when he went into Syria to Caesarea-Philippi, and the other when He went into Phenicia, the land of Tyre and Sidon. Now the Feast of Tabernacles, coming off in September, has rolled round. Having declined to go in the crowd, with His brothers and friends, in time for the opening, He goes on later, accompanied by His apostles, preaching and working miracles in Samaria as He passed along, arriving in Jerusalem about Wednesday, the festival, commemorative of Israel’s wilderness peregrinations, having opened on Sunday, and, as it says here, went immediately into the temple and began to teach. The critics even deny that He was ever in the temple proper, that being reserved for the priests alone; but this word “temple” was really applied to the Holy Campus, which is said to contain thirty-five acres, having very many elegant buildings on it at that time, and quite a number now, in several of which e. g., Solomon’s Porch and the Treasury He taught the people; but as the vast multitudes during the festivals occupied the open air, it is more than likely that the most of His preaching in the temple was out on the pavement of that vast area, and over- canopied by naught save the blue, arching skies. During this eighteen months’ absence from Jerusalem and Judea, constant reports were coming from His fields of labor in Galilee, thrilling the people with wonder, curiosity, and amazement, all revolving in their minds what kind of a man can He be. Meanwhile, the high priests and Pharisees are most cunningly maneuvering to break the force of these thrilling reports and prejudice the people against Him, frequently sending their sharpest critics all the way to Galilee to hound Him wherever He went, hanging with diabolical chicanery on His lips, watching and criticizing every word, twisting and perverting all His utterances, laboring night and day to catch up something which they can pervert and magnify into an accusation against Him, so, if possible, to have Him arrested and turned over to the Sanhedrin or the proconsul. They charge Him with deceiving the multitude. How? Why, impressing them that He is the Messiah, when they claim that He is not. By the statement that He had never been taught, is simply meant that He had never gone to school to a rabbi that they knew of, there being no common schools in that day. During this long interval of His absence from the South, the scribes and Pharisees have done their utmost to obliterate His influence in Jerusalem and Judea. Now, thirty months of His ministry having passed away, and not perhaps more than one month, all told, spent in the metropolis, but nearly all of His time having been appropriated in Galilee, an obscure country compared with Jerusalem and Judea, after the vociferous clamors of the clergy all this time, telling the people that He would never come back there, and if He did they would arrest Him, His sudden and bold appearing and preaching amid the vast multitudes on the Temple Campus produces a tremendous sensation, raising popular inquiry, and exciting curiosity to the very acme, and at the same time arousing all the clergy and official laity to unite against Him, determined if possible to so implicate Him as to secure His arrest, feeling chagrined before the multitude, who had so often heard them boasting that He would never come back, and certifying that if He did they would arrest Him and put Him to death, as they claimed that He richly deserved, as a false prophet.

Verses 17-18


John 7:17-18 . “If any one may wish to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether I speak from God or from Myself. He that speaketh from himself, seeketh his own glory; he that seeketh the glory of Him that sent Him, the same is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” In this passage, where the E. V. says, “If any one will do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine,” the great salient point is actually omitted, using “will” as an auxiliary to “do;” whereas it is the leading verb on which the infinite “to do” depends, the original being thele, and should read, “If any one may will to do His will;” not simply to be willing or to wish to do His will, or to resolve to do His will, but actually to put forth the volition to do His will, which, in the Divine estimation, is actually doing it; because, “while man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart.” Hence, with God, the volition to do a thing is actually doing it. When you resolve to commit a crime, you are guilty of committing it, though mechanically kept from it by uncontrollable circumstances. Now, you see from this statement of our Lord, that the secret of human ignorance in reference to God’s Word and will is in the heart, rather than the understanding. Our Churches abound in people who say they can not understand sanctification. They are under the delusion of the devil, who is side-tracking them on intellectual lines, simply to keep them from getting it. Sanctification, like regeneration, is an experience which no one can understand till he gets it. The way out off this difficulty is simply to resolve, “I will have it or die,” and become an indefatigable seeker at the altar and everywhere else. In that case, you are sure to get it, and equally sure to understand it. Here, Jesus condemns the man who speaks of himself and seeks his own glory, thus putting all selfishness under eternal interdict. Sam Jones well says, “Hell is nothing but selfishness on fire.” Man is a dependency, independency invariably alienating him from God and superinducing eternal ruin.

Verses 19-23


John 7:19-23 . “Did not Moses give you the law? and no one of you keeps the law.” Do you not see the utter collapse and failure of their religion, as neither priest nor people kept the law? Can we keep it? Certainly, by the grace of God in Christ. “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10) Hence, you see, all who have perfect love do, by the grace of God, keep and fulfill the law; not literally, but spiritually. “Why do you seek to kill Me? The multitude responded, Thou hast a demon; who seeks to kill thee?” Though the high priests and Pharisees had threatened to kill Him if He ever came back to Jerusalem, the respondent from the crowd did not know it. “Jesus responded, and said to them, One work I did, and you are all amazed.” That was the work of healing the invalid at the pool, which He did eighteen months previously, when last at Jerusalem. “Moses gave you circumcision: not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers; and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.” God instituted circumcision in the days of Abraham, long before Moses was born. Jesus had healed the invalid of thirty-eight years on the Sabbath-day, while attending the second Passover of His ministry. The penalty under the law for violating the Sabbath being death by stoning, consequently they are constantly maneuvering to arrest and bring Him before the Sanhedrin, and try Him for Sabbath-breaking. Here He utterly nullifies the allegation by the fact that they circumcise a man on the Sabbath. “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you mad at Me because I made a man entirely well on the Sabbath?” Thus He turns the argument against them, breaking their heads with their own club.

Verses 24-31


John 7:24-31 . “Judge not according to sight.” The verb here is in the perpetual present, setting forth human proneness to judge people from the outward appearance. “But judge righteous judgment.” The verb in this clause is in the aorist tense, which means an instantaneous action and a permanent state following, involving the conclusion that instead of these helter-skelter judgments from the outside, we are to deliberately investigate, ascertain the truth, adopt it, and stick to it permanently. “Then certain ones of the Jerusalemites were saying, Is not this the One whom they are seeking to kill? And, behold, He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.” These people in Jerusalem knew well that the high priests, scribes, and Pharisees had determined and boasted, during His long absence in Galilee, that if He ever came back there, they would kill Him. “Whether have the rulers truly found out that He is the Christ.” There was a prevalent, popular dogma that when Christ came, the wise rabbis and the Sanhedrin would be the first to find it out and tell the people. Now, as these Jerusalemites had heard them say that if He ever came back there they would have Him arrested and put to death, at the same time predicting that He would never come, alleging that He could do wonders off in Galilee among the ignorant people, but they dared Him to come to Jerusalem; and now that He is here, boldly and powerfully preaching to the multitudes, attending the Festival of Tabernacles, on the Temple Campus, and they do not molest Him; therefore they conclude that their great men must in some way have found out that He is the Christ, and consequently are just letting Him alone. “But we know this One, whence He is; but when Christ may come, no one knows whence He is.” There was a popular dogma that when Christ comes on tile earth, He will suddenly appear to the people, and no one will know anything about His origin, the prophecies of His conception and birth being mystified, so they did not understand them. “Then Jesus cried out, teaching in the temple, and saying, You know Me, and you know whence I am. But I did not come of Myself, but the One having sent Me is true, whom you know not.” He had been born at Bethlehem, only seven miles south of Jerusalem, and lived thirty years at Nazareth, only one hundred and fifty miles north of Jerusalem. Of course, He was well known to the Jewish nation, being a native of their country. But while they knew Him personally, though they claimed to be the most godly people in the world, He here frankly informs them that they do not know Him. “I know Him, because I am with Him, and He has sent Me.” Jesus here uses the present tense, only applicable to His Divinity, which was omnipresent, His humanity at that time being confined to this world. We frequently hear silly twaddle nowadays in reference to the impracticability of His presence on earth and in heaven during the millennium. All this is answered by His own proclamation, stating that while in Jerusalem, He was present with the Father. “Then they were seeking to arrest Him, and no One laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.” Jesus was immortal till His work was done, and so are His true followers. Therefore let us fear neither sickness nor death. We shall live till we finish our work. Then heaven will be infinitely preferable. “And many of the multitude believed on Him, and continued to say, When Christ may come, will He do more miracles than those which this Man doeth?” N.B. Myriads of people were then at Jerusalem who had witnessed His mighty works in Galilee.

Verses 32-34


John 7:32-34 . “The Pharisees heard the multitude murmuring these things concerning Him, the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers that they may arrest Him.” His powerful preaching during the tabernacle festival is winning many converts, so they are believing on Him on all sides, and there is a great stir among the people; the thousands from Galilee and elsewhere, who had heard Him preach and witnessed His miracles, clamoring among all the people, so there is a great commotion, and everybody talking about the wonderful Prophet of Galilee. So here, at their great camp-meeting, He is more magnetic than all the high priests, theologians, rabbis, and Pharisaical magnates combined. Consequently, they get awfully mad, and resolve to carry on their threat, as the people are already twitting them with cowardice. So they cut the matter short, and send officers to arrest and bring Him at once to the Sanhedrin, assembled in the Judgment Hall of Caiaphas on Mount Zion.

Verses 33-36


John 7:33-36 . “Then Jesus said, Yet a little while I am with you, and I go to Him that sent Me. You shall seek Me, and shall not find Me, and where I am you are not able to come. Then the Jews said to one another, Whither is He about to go, that we shall not find Him? Whether is He about to go into the dispersion of the Greeks, and to teach the Greeks? What is this word which He said, Ye shall seek and not find Me, and where I am you are not able to come?” During the Alexandrian conquests, the Greeks conquered the whole world, and became the rulers of all nations, thus establishing their beautiful, concise, definite, vivid, perspicuous, and in every way wonderful language in every nation under heaven, preparatory for the preaching of Jesus and His apostles and the evangelization of the globe. The Jews, the most enterprising people in the world, had gone away on mercantile expeditions, and settled in all the important cities of the world, a glorious preparation for the evangelization of all nations, the Jews constituting the nucleus of the gospel Church, and becoming the heralds of the living Word to the ends of the earth. Now the meaning of this passage is, they propound the question whether Jesus, forsaking the home- lands, will go away into the Jewish settlements of the Gentile cities, and preach to the Jews in their world-wide dispersion among all nations.

Verses 37-39


John 7:37-39 . “And on the last great day of the festival, Jesus stood, and continued to cry out, saying, If any one may thirst, let him come and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture said, Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. And He spoke this concerning the Spirit which those believing on Him were about to receive; for He was not yet; because Jesus was not yet glorified.” This is really the grand, salient proclamation of all the preaching of our Savior recorded by John on the present occasion.

The Scripture here referred to is Ezekiel 47:1-12, where we have that glorious description of the holy waters, flowing out from the right hand of the altar eastward, and down into the Dead Sea, transforming the wilderness of Judea into blooming gardens and fruitful fields, sanctifying and redeeming the poisonous waters of the Dead Sea, filling them with multitudes of the most valuable fishes, revivifying the whole surrounding country, dotting the shores of that desolate sea with thriving villages and populous cities, clothing the whole surrounding country with fruits and flowers, perennial verdure, and transforming all that vast, desolate region into an earthly paradise, thus symbolizing the wonderful potency of Spirit- filled people to transform the darkest jungles of our city slums and the gloomy wastes of heathen lands into holiness camp-meetings and millennial harbingers. The E. V., unfortunately, mars this wonderful passage by the translation, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” using a word entirely too physical in its signification to harmonize with this superlatively spiritual passage. The word is koilia, which means “belly, stomach, heart, chest,” etc. Now you see the word we want here is “heart.” How beautiful the passage, “Out of his heart [i.e., his interior, spiritual being] shall flow rivers of living water!” This is one of the finest passages in all the Bible, transcendently profound, sublime, thrillingly edifying, lucidly expository of the glorious, positive side of experimental sanctification, progressing indefinitely, through time and eternity first, ankle-deep, putting us where we walk with God incessantly, going only where Jesus goes; then wading in to the knees, reaching an experience of great proficiency in kneeology, though ever so ignorant of theology, where we learn the grand secret of conquering on our knees; passing another interim of recognition and appreciation, we wade in up to the loins i. e., get where we vote our whole precinct for the Lord Jesus Christ, in everything keeping our eye on God, all temporal interests and emoluments left in oblivion; passing another interval of progress, we wade in over our heads; as now the waters have risen to a swimming depth, the specific gravity of the human body being less than that of water, we have nothing to do but lie supine, with limbs relaxed, facing the blue dome of the beautiful celestial temple, and float ad libitum with the current of God’s providence and grace, perfectly secure in the triple leadership of His Word, Spirit, and providence, respectively guiding the intellect, heart, and body.

Verse 39


John 7:39 . “And He spoke this concerning the Spirit which those who believe on Him were about to receive; for he was not yet [given]; because Jesus was not yet glorified.” The Holy Ghost has been in the world in all ages, illuminating, convicting, regenerating, and sanctifying the people. Of course, He could not comfort the people in the administration of the complete, historic work of Christ till it had been consummated, by His vicarious atonement, resurrection, ascension, and intercession. While He was, in a sense, a Comforter of the O. T. saints, they only enjoyed the consolation of the prophecies setting forth the stupendous work of Christ in the world’s redemption. After the verification of all these wonderful prophecies relative to the stupendous work of the Son, Executive of human redemption from the fall, there was an immeasurable augmentation of the consolatory facilities, in the illumination of the spiritual understanding, in order to the reception and appropriation of the vicarious atonement in all of its grand, inexhaustible, and universal realities, comprehensive of every human being, from Adam down to the latest posterity. Thus the human side necessary to the reception of heavenly consolation was actually centuplicated by the glorious work of Christ, the confirmation of which was the glorification of Jesus. Many have risen claiming to be Christ e. g., Theudas, Simon Magnus, Marchochab, etc.; and Mohammed even claimed to be greater than Christ, the trouble with them and all others consisting in the failure of the resurrection. Hence the glorification of Jesus and His ascension to the Father were the indispensable confirmations of His Christhood. Therefore the Holy Ghost must have all of these indisputable historic facts with which to satisfy and comfort the illuminated and sanctified intellect. Consequently this momentous history must actually transpire before the Holy Spirit could use these thrilling realities in the consolation of the saints. Of course, you all see clearly from this Scripture that this climacteric experience of heavenly rivers flowing out of the heart was actually received when the Holy Ghost fell on them at Pentecost. Hence the glorification of Jesus certainly preceded the descension of the Comforter on that notable occasion. We certainly could not conclude that our Lord was glorified long before Pentecost, as evidently these events are closely identified in the order of consecution, the one being the antecedent and the other the consequent. I find the word edoxasthe, for the glorification of Jesus, is in the passive voice and aorist tense, peculiarly signifying an instantaneous and complete action, which evidently took place when He flew up from Mt. Olivet. This work of glorification, wrought by the Holy Ghost, eliminates all ponderous matter out of the organism, simultaneously spiritualizing the body and rendering it imponderable.

Verses 40-44


John 7:40-44 . “Then some of the multitude, hearing these words, continued to say, Truly this One is the Prophet.” This is a phrase in O. T. often applied to the Messiah. “Others continued to say, He is the Christ.” I trow, the latter were Galileans, who had so frequently heard Him preach and witnessed His mighty works. “Others continued to say, Whether does Christ come out of Galilee?” Doubtless these were Jerusalemites, who looked with a degree of contempt on the Galileans, whose opportunities of light and culture had been quite inferior to those of Southern Palestine. “Does not the Scripture say that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” Do you not see the gross and inexcusable ignorance here manifested? Bethlehem being only seven miles distant, and Jesus actually having been born there, according to the prophecies they now quote against Him, being shamefully ignorant of the fact that He was not born up in Galilee, as they claim, but in Bethlehem, and though constantly stigmatized as a Galilean, He was really a Bethlehemite. “Therefore there was a division in the crowd with reference to Him.” It seems that none there present knew the facts of His having been born in Bethlehem, all thinking that He was really a Galilean, some claiming His Christhood, notwithstanding the ostracism brought to bear against Galilee, and others rejecting him altogether on that account. Why did not He or some of His apostles speak out, and tell them that He was born in Bethlehem of Judea? It would have done no good, because they had a caviling spirit, and would have lighted on something else. “And some of them wished to arrest Him, but no one laid hands on Him.” They could not touch Him till His work was done.

Verses 45-49


John 7:45-49 . “Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, Why did you not lead Him along? The officers responded, Never did a man speak as this Man is speaking.” The Sanhedrin were in session in the Hall of Caiaphas on Mount Zion, in the west end of the city, while Jesus was preaching on the Temple Campus in the east end. These officers came for the express purpose of arresting and leading Him away to the Sanhedrin for trial. You see their excuse is utterly silly, no plausibility in it whatever. The simple solution of the matter was, they could not put their hands on Him; an unseen Power simply disqualifying them to touch Him. When they did their utmost, they signally failed to lay a solitary hand on His person. Hence, after much delay and endeavor to arrest Him, they are forced to give up in despair, and go back without Him. He was intangible and immortal till His work was done a grand consolation, substantially true in case of His faithful followers.


“The Pharisees responded to them, Whether are you also deceived?” They now turn the tantalizing reproach on the officers, doing their utmost to intimidate everybody from following Him. “Whether has any one of the rulers of the Pharisees believed on Him? But this rabble, not knowing the law, are accursed.” Here you see they pertinaciously condemn everybody who does not follow their leaders. This has always been the case with fallen Churches. Nothing but the full sanctification of the Holy Ghost ever does save people from human leadership, which is all wrong, as no really godly person wants to lead; but all such do their utmost, by instruction, exhortation, and prayer, to prevail on the people to follow Jesus only. Human leadership is a trick of the devil, by which he has populated hell with millions; as the leader, getting out of kilter by Satanic maneuver or human intrigue, he and all his followers will plunge headlong into hell. God’s leaders don’t want any following; but all do their utmost to get the people to follow the Lord. You are in awful danger of perdition when following a human leader, as none are infallible, and the best are liable to make mistakes which would prove fatal. I have been presiding elder and pastor frequently, yet I never wanted any human following.

Verses 50-52


John 7:50-52 . “Nicodemus says to them, being one of them, Whether does our law condemn a man until it may first have a hearing with him, and know what he doeth? They responded, and said to him, Whether are you also from Galilee? Search and see that no prophet riseth from Galilee.” You see here they are ringing charges of reproach on Galilee, because most remote from Jerusalem, the center of light and knowledge, the home of the hierarchy, the seat of the rabbinical colleges, and the glory of Israel. Consequently they look down with contempt on the poor, ignorant Galileans, and think they have made a point, because the prophecies do not specify a great prophet in that age rising out of Galilee, whereas it was not at all applicable to Jesus, who had simply used it as an evangelistic field. Nicodemus never survived that memorable nocturnal sermon which Jesus preached to him, more than two years ago, on the new birth. As he was an influential member of the Sanhedrin, which was solid against Jesus, how beautiful to see him, true to his convictions, standing alone, and thus daring to vindicate Him! It is a significant fact that Jesus was actually mobbed, being denied a fair trial according to Jewish law, as you here see from the testimony of Nicodemus, which, like the English and American Magna Charta, guaranteed to every accused person a fair trial, bringing the witnesses face to face, and giving them a chance to “implead one another.”

It is equally true in reference to Roman law, as testified by Festus in case of Paul, that every man under accusation had a right to bring the witnesses face to face, prove the guilt or innocence of the accused, and thus bring about a true verdict of acquittal or condemnation in harmony with right and equity. Jonah, one of the first Hebrew prophets, called of God to preach to the Ninevites, was a Galilean, despite all this howl against Jesus on the allegation of no prophet rising from Galilee.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on John 7". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/john-7.html.
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