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Bible Commentaries

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Matthew 14

Verse 1

1. ] This Herod was Herod ANTIPAS, son of Herod the Great, ἐκ Μαλθάκης τῆς Σαμαρείτιδος , and own brother of Archelaus (Jos. B. J. i. 28. 4). The portion of the kingdom allotted to him by the second will of his father (in the first he was left as king) was the tetrarchy of Galilee and Peræa (Jos. Antt. xvii. 8. 1). He married the daughter of the Arabian king Aretas; but having during a visit to his half-brother Herod Philip (not the tetrarch of that name, but another son of Herod the Great, disinherited by his father) become enamoured of his wife Herodias, he prevailed on her to leave her husband, and live with him. (See below, on Matthew 14:4 .) This step, accompanied as it was with a stipulation of putting away the daughter of Aretas, involved him in a war with his father-in-law, which however did not break out till a year before the death of Tiberius (A.D. 37, U.C. 790; Jos. Antt. xviii. 5. 1 3), and in which he was totally defeated and his army destroyed by Aretas; a divine vengeance, according to the Jews, for the death of John the Baptist (Josephus, ibid.). He and Herodias afterwards went to Rome at the beginning of Caligula’s reign, to complain of the assumption of the title of king by Agrippa his nephew, son of Aristobulus; but Caligula having heard the claims of both, banished Antipas and Herodias to Lyons in Gaul, whence he was afterwards removed to Spain, and there died: Jos. Antt. xviii. 7. 1, 2.

The following events apparently took place at Machærus, a frontier fortress between Peræa and Arabia: see below on Matthew 14:10 .

τὴν ἀκοὴν Ἰησοῦ ] It was the fame of the preaching and miracles of the twelve , on their mission, of which Herod heard, probably in conjunction with the works of Christ: see [133] Mark.

[133] When, in the Gospels, and in the Evangelic statement, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 , the sign (║) occurs in a reference, it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in the other Gospels, which will always be found indicated at the head of the note on the paragraph. When the sign (║) is qualified , thus, ‘║ Mk.,’ or ‘║ Mt. Mk.,’ &c., it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in that Gospel or Gospels, but not in the other or others .

Verses 1-12

1 12. ] HEROD HEARS OF THE FAME OF JESUS. PARENTHETICAL ACCOUNT OF THE DEATH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST. Mark 6:14-29 . Luke 9:7-9 , who does not relate the death of John.

Verse 2

2. ] παῖς = δοῦλος .

αὐτός ] emphatic; equivalent in English to “ it is he, that ” … In Luk 9:7 it is said that Herod διηπόρει διὰ τὸ λέγεσθαι ὑπό τινων ὅτι Ἰωάνν . ἐγήγ . κ . τ . λ . There is no inconsistency in these accounts: the report originated with others: but if Herod διηπόρει concerning it, he, in the terrors of a guilty conscience, doubtless gave utterance to these words himself. There is no evidence that Herod was a Sadducee, or a disbeliever in the resurrection as then held by the Pharisees. See also note on Mark 8:14 .

There is no allusion here to metempsychosis, but to the veritable bodily resurrection, and supposed greater power acquired by having passed through death. This is an incidental confirmation of John 10:41 , where we read that John wrought no miracle while living .

Verse 4

4. ] The marriage was unlawful for these three reasons: (1) The former husband of Herodias , Philip, was still living . This is expressly asserted by Josephus, Antt. xviii. 5. 4, Ἡρωδιάς , ἐπὶ συγχύσει φρονήσασα τῶν πατρίων , Ἡρώδγαμεῖται τοῦ ἀνδρὸς τῷ ὁμοπατρίῳ ἀδελφῷ , διαστᾶσα ζῶντος . (A reply to the attempt made by some to interpret these last words, ‘ having previously been divorced from him while living ,’ is hardly needed, in the presence of the two unqualified synchronous participles, φρονήσασα and διαστᾶσα . Besides, the part. is not ἀπο στᾶσα , as erroneously quoted by the Bp. of Exeter [Philpotts]: see his published speech of Feb. 25, 1851, note.) The same is surely implied by the whole narrative, and the word μετοικίσασθαι , Antt. xviii. 5. 1. (2) The former wife of Antipas was still living , and fled to her father Aretas on hearing of his intention to marry Herodias: Jos. ibid. (3) Antipas and Herodias were already related to one another within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity . For θυγάτηρ ἦν Ἀριστοβούλου , καὶ οὗτος ἀδελφὸς αὐτῶν (of Antipas and Philip), Jos. ib. See the Bp.’s note, and a reply to it in substance the same as the foregoing, in the Quarterly Journal of Sacred Lit. for Oct. 1852 and Jan. 1853. I may add that the remark of Josephus (Antt. xviii. 5. 4), that Salome’s birth had taken place previously to the infidelity of Herodias, is not given, as understood by the Bp. (after Tertullian, adv. Marcion. iv. 34, vol. ii. p. 443), as the technical reason why her conduct was ἐπὶ συγχύσει τῶν πατρίων , but as a moral aggravation of her unnatural crime. It was unlawful by Leviticus 18:16 .

Verse 5

5. ] This verse is further expanded in Mark: ὁ γὰρ Ἡρ . ἐφοβεῖτο τὸν Ἰωάν . εἰδὼς αὐτὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον καὶ ἅγιον , καὶ συνετήρει αὐτόν , καὶ ἀκούσας αὐτοῦ πολλὰ ἐποίει , καὶ ἡδέως αὐτοῦ ἤκουεν . Josephus, not being aware of any other grounds for his imprisonment, alleges purely political ones: δείσας Ἡρώδης τὸ ἐπὶ τοσόνδε πιθανὸν αὐτοῦ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις μὴ ἐπὶ ἀποστάσει τινὶ φέροι .… πολὺ κρεῖττον ἡγεῖται , πρίν τι νεώτερον ἐξ αὐτοῦ γενέσθαι , προλαβὼν ἀναιρεῖν .… Antt. xviii. 5. 2.

εἶχον ] literally, ‘ possederunt eum tanquam prophetam;’ and thus Meyer maintains it must be rendered: but as our ‘ hold ,’ so ἔχω comes to be applied to the estimate formed of a man or thing, which subjectively is our possession of him or it.

Verse 6

6. γενεσίοις ] the birthday. This name was given in classical Greek to an anniversary celebration of the memory of the dead . So Herod., iv. 26, having described such a celebration among the Issedones, adds, παῖς δὲ πατρὶ τοῦτο ποιέει κατάπερ οἱ Ἕλληνες τὰ γενέσια . Phrynichus, Hesych [134] , and Ammonius lay it down that γενέσια is not to be used for γενέθλια , a birthday . But the adj. was certainly so used in later Greek: e.g. ἄγοντες τ . γενέσιον ἡμέραν τ . παιδίου , Jos. Antt. xii. 4. 7 (in Dio Cassius xlvii. 18, lvi. 46, lxvii. 2, usually cited, the γενέσια , though bearing this meaning, are in each case in honour of a dead person). See Suicer, Thes. under γενέθλια , and Lobeck’s note, Phryn. p. 103. Heins., Grot., a [135] ., hold that the word here means the feast of Herod’s accession: but they give no proof that it ever had such a meaning. Among the seasons kept by the Gentiles, enumerated in the Rabbinical work Avoda Sara, we have גנוסיא של מלכים : see Lightfoot in loc. [On the dative “compare the examples quoted by Jelf, § 699.” Moulton’s Winer, p. 276, note 1.]

[134] Hesychius of Jerusalem, cent y . vi.

[135] alii = some cursive mss.

A great feast was given to the nobility of Galilee, Mark 6:21 . The damsel’s name was Salome (Jos. Antt. xviii. 5. 4), daughter of Herodias by her former husband Philip. She afterwards married her uncle Philip, tetrarch of Ituræa and Trachonitis: and he dying childless, she became the wife of her cousin Aristobulus, son of Herod king of Chalcis, by whom he had three sons, Herod, Agrippa, and Aristobulus. The dance was probably a pantomimic dance.

Verse 9

9. ] βασιλεύς was a title which Herod never properly possessed. Subsequently to this event, Herodias prevailed on him to go to Rome to get the title, which had been granted to his nephew Agrippa. He was opposed by the emissaries of Agrippa, and was exiled to Lugdunum. See note on Matthew 14:1 , and Josephus there cited.

Herod was grieved because he heard John gladly ( Mar 6:20 ), and from policy did not wish to put him to death on so slight a cause. This is not inconsistent with his wishing to put him to death: his estimate of John was wavering and undecided, and he was annoyed at the decision being taken out of his hands by a demand, compliance with which would be irrevocable.

Verse 10

10. ] It appears from the damsel’s expression δός μοι ὧδε and this verse, that the feast was held either at Machærus or at no great distance from it. Antipas had a palace near, τὰ πλησίον Ἰορδάνου βασίλεια κατὰ Βηθαράμαθον , B. J. ii. 4. 2; but he was not there on account of the war with Aretas , see above.

Verse 13

13. ] There is some difficulty here in conceiving how the narration is to proceed continuously. The death of the Baptist is evidently retrospectively and parenthetically inserted: and yet the retirement of our Lord in this verse seems to be the immediate consequence of his hearing of that occurrence. But this may well have been so: for (1) the disciples of John would be some days in bringing the news from Machærus to Capernaum, and the report mentioned in Mat 14:1 might reach Herod meantime; (2) the expression with which that report is introduced, ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ , extends it over a considerable space of time; and (3) the message which the disciples of John brought to our Lord might have included both particulars, the death of their Master, and the saying of Herod respecting Himself.

He went across the lake ( Joh 6:1 ) into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaïda ( Luk 9:10 ). His retirement (Luke, ibid., and Mar 6:30 ) was connected also with the return of the twelve from their mission: compare the full and affecting account of the whole transaction in Mark 6:30-35 .

Verses 13-21

13 21. ] FEEDING OF THE FIVE THOUSAND. Mark 6:30-44 .Luke 9:10-17; Luke 9:10-17 . John 6:1-13 , where also see notes.

Verse 14

14. ] ἐξελθών , from his place of retirement.

Verse 15

15. ] This ὀψία was the first evening, the decline of the day, about 3 p.m.; the ὀψία in Matthew 14:23 , after the miracle, was late in the night.

ὥρα ] the time of the day is now late , ἦν τῆς ὥρας μικρὸν πρὸ δύντος ἡλίου , Xen. Hell. vii. 2. 22.

Verses 16-17

16, 17. ] δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φ ., which is common to the three first Evangelists, is considerably expanded in the more detailed account of John 3:1-36 ; John 4:1-54 ; John 5:1-47 ; John 6:1-71 ; John 7:1-53 ; it was Andrew who spoke in our Matthew 14:17 , and the five loaves and two fishes were brought by a lad: John 6:8-9 . They were barley loaves and ( salt ) fish; ibid. And we have (perhaps, but see note there) the vast concourse accounted for in John by the fact that the Passover was at hand , and so they were collected on their journey to Jerusalem.

See a very similar miracle in 2 Kings 4:42-44 ; only then there were twenty barley loaves and an hundred men. See also Numbers 11:21-22 .

Verse 19

19. ηὐλόγησεν ] Luke supplies αὐτούς , the loaves and fishes: John has for it εὐχαριστήσας . Both are one. The thanks to heaven is the blessing on the meat. ὁ Σωτὴρ πρῶτον ἀνέβλεψεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν ταῖς ἀκτῖσι τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτοῦ οἱονεὶ καταβιβάζων δύναμιν ἐκεῖθεν τὴν ἀνακραθησομένην τοῖς ἄρτοις καὶ τοῖς ἰχθύσι μέλλουσι τρέφειν τοὺς πεντακισχιλίους , καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο ηὐλόγησε τ . π . ἄρτους κ . τ . δ . ἰχθ ., τῷ λόγῳ κ . τῇ εὐλογίᾳ αὔξων κ . πληθύνων αὐτούς . Orig [136] in loc. This miracle was one of symbolic meaning for the twelve, who had just returned from their mission, as pointing to the δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε , δωρεὰν δότε of ch. Mat 10:8 in a higher sense than they then could have understood it: but see the symbolic import of the miracle treated in the notes to John 6:1-71 .

[136] Origen, b. 185, d. 254

Meyer well remarks that the process of the miracle is thus to be conceived: the Lord blessed, and gave the loaves and fishes to the disciples, as they were; and then, during their distribution of them , the miraculous increase took place, so that they broke and distributed enough for all.

Verse 20

20. κοφίνους ] in the construction, is in apposition with τὸ περισσεῦον .

The cophinus was the usual accompaniment of the Jew: see Juv [137] Sat. iii.14 ‘Judæis, quorum cophinus fœnumque supellex;’ and Sat. vi. 542. Reland, whom Schöttgen (in loc.) follows, supposes that the basket was to carry their own meats on a journey, for fear of pollution by eating those of the Gentiles, and the hay to sleep on for the same reason.

[137] Juvencus , 330

Verse 21

21. ] χωρὶς γυν . κ . παιδ . is peculiar to Matt., although this might have been inferred from ἄνδρες being used in the other three Evangelists. See note on John 6:10 .

Verse 22

22. εἰς τὸ πέραν ] Mark adds πρὸς Βηθσαϊδάν , John εἰς Καφαρναούμ : for the Bethsaïda, the city of Philip and Andrew and Peter, was distinct from Bethsaïda Julias, in whose neighbourhood the miracle took place, and in the direction of Capernaum.

Verses 22-33

22 33. ] JESUS WALKS ON THE SEA. Mark 6:45-52 . (Luke omits this incident.) John 6:16-21 . The conviction of the people after the foregoing miracle was, that Jesus was the Messiah; and their disposition, to take Him by force, and make Him a king. See John 6:14-15 . For this reason he constrained His disciples to leave Him, because they were but too anxious to second this wish of the multitude; and their dismissal was therefore an important step towards the other.

Verse 25

25. ] The fourth watch according to the Roman calculation, which was by this time common among the Jews (who themselves divided the night into three parts or watches). This would be, near the vernal equinox which this was, between three and six in the morning .

ἀπῆλθεν πρὸς αὐτ . ] a mixed construction for ἀπῆλθεν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄρους καὶ ἦλθεν πρὸς αὐτ . The words περιπατ . ἐπὶ τὴν θάλ . (or τῆς θαλάσσης , the gen. of the mere appearing on the spot, the accus. of motion, over the sea . Webst. and Wilk. cite ἐπὶ πολλὰ ἀλήθην Od. ξ . 120, ἐπ ʼ ἔννεα κεῖτο πέλεθρα Od. λ . 577) are common to the three Evangelists, and can have no other meaning here, than that the Lord walked bodily on the surface of the water . The passages commonly cited to shew that ἐπί with a gen. can mean ‘on the bank of,’ are not applicable here, being all after verbs of rest , not of motion. 4 Kings Matthew 2:7 : Dan 8:2 Theod.: John 21:1 . In ref. Job we read of the Almighty, ὁ τανύσας τὸν οὐρανὸν μόνος καὶ περιπατῶν ὡς ἐπ ʼ ἐδάφους ἐπὶ θαλάσσης . Mark adds καὶ ἤθελεν παρελθεῖν αὐτούς : John, καὶ ἐγγὺς τοῦ πλοίου γινόμενον . See notes on John.

Verse 28

28. ] This narrative respecting Peter is peculiar to Matthew. It is in very strict accordance with his warm and confident character, and has been called almost a ‘rehearsal’ of his denial afterwards. It contains one of the most pointed and striking revelations which we have of the nature and analogy of faith; and a notable example of the power of the higher spiritual state of man over the inferior laws of matter, so often brought forward by our Lord. See ch. Matthew 17:20 ; Matthew 21:21 .

Verse 32

32. ] John ( Joh 6:21 ) adds καὶ εὐθέως ἐγένετο τὸ πλοῖον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς εἰς ἣν ὑπῆγον : see note there.

Verse 33

33. ] These persons were probably the crew of the ship, and distinct from the disciples. On θεοῦ υἱός , see note, ch. Matthew 4:3 . It is the first time that our Lord is called so by men in the three synoptic Gospels. See ch. Matthew 3:17 ; Matthew 4:3 ; Matthew 8:29 : and John 1:34 ; John 1:50 . This feeling of amazement and reverence pervaded the disciples also: see the strong expression of Mark 6:52 .

Verses 34-36

34 36. ] Mark 6:53-56 . Gennesar or Gennesaret , a district from which the lake was also occasionally so called, extended along its western shore. See Josephus’s glowing description of the beauty and fertility of this plain, B. J. iii. 10. 7. At its northern end was Capernaum, near which our Lord landed, as would appear from John 6:24-25 .

Verse 36

36. παρεκάλ .… ἵνα ] For a discussion of the construction of verbs of entreaty, &c. with ἵνα and ὅπως , see note, 1 Corinthians 14:13 .

On κρασπ . see note on ch. Matthew 9:20 .

διεσ . as E. V., were made perfectly whole.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 14". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.