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Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.
[The Jews’ feast of Tabernacles.] Tisri. Let us draw down this month from its beginning to this feast of Tabernacles:
1. "The first day of the month Tisri was the beginning of the year, for stating the years, the intermissions of the seventh year, and the jubilees."
Upon this day was the ’blowing of trumpets,’ Leviticus 23:24; and persons were sent out to give notice of the beginning of the year. On this day began the year of the world 3960, in the middle of which year Christ was crucified.
2. The second day; observed also as holy by the Jews that were in Babylon, that they might be sure not to miss the beginning of the year.
3. A fast for the murder of Gedaliah: for so they expound those words, (Zechariah 8:19) "the fast of the seventh month."
4. This day was the high priest in the apartment to which he then betook himself from his own house, that he might inure himself by exercise to the rites of the day of Atonement approaching, and be ready and fitted for the service of that day. "Seven days before the day of Expiation they sequestered the chief priest from his own house, and shut him up into an apartment, substituting to him another priest, lest accidentally there should some sort of uncleanness befall him."
5-8. All those seven days, after he betook himself from his own house to this chamber until the day of atonement, he sprinkles the blood of the daily sacrifice; offers the incense; snuffs the lamps; and brings the head and legs of the sacrifice to the altar, that he may be the more handy in his office upon the Expiation-day. In those seven days they send him some of the elders of the Beth Din; that they may read before him the office of that day. And at length those elders deliver him to the elders of the priesthood, who instruct him in handling the incense; and lead him into the apartment abtines; where they swear him, that he shall perform the service of that day according to rule, and not according to the Sadducees.
9. Whereas for the whole seven days they permitted him to eat according to his usual custom; the evening of this day approaching, they diet him more sparingly, lest a full stomach should occasion sleep. They spend the whole night waking; and when they find him nodding or inclining to sleepiness, then, either by words or some noise, they rouse and waken him.
10. The day of Expiation, a solemn fast. On this day began the year of jubilee, when it came about, Leviticus 25:9. And indeed this year, which is now under our consideration, was the twenty-eighth jubilee, reckoning from the seventh year of Joshua, wherein the land as subdued and rested from war, Joshua 11:23.
11-13. The multitude now gather together towards the feast of Tabernacles, that they might purify themselves before the feast, and prepare necessaries for it, viz. little tents, citrons, bundles of palms and willows, etc. But if any were defiled by the touch of a dead body, such were obliged to betake themselves to Jerusalem, before the feast of Expiation, that they might undergo seven days’ purification before the feast of Tabernacles.
14. They were generally cut or trimmed on the vespers of the feast for the honour of it.
15. The first day of the feast of Tabernacles, a feast-day. Thirteen young bullocks offered, etc. Numbers 29:13; and so on. The preparation of the Chagigah. They lodge that night in Jerusalem.
16. The second day of the feast. Twelve young bullocks offered. The appearance of all the males in the court.
17. The third day. Eleven young bullocks.
18. The fourth day. Ten.
19. The fifth day. Nine.
20. The sixth day. Eight.
21. The seventh day. Seven.
22. The eighth day. One young bullock offered.
Upon all these days there was a pouring out of water upon the altar with wine (a thing not used at any other time); and for the sake of that, great joy, and singing, and dancing; such as was not all the year besides.
"At the close of the first day of the feast, they went down into the Court of the Women, and there prepared a great stage."
"The religious and devout danced before them, having lighted torches in their hands, and sang songs and doxologies. The Levites with harps, psalteries, cymbals, and other instruments of music without number, stood upon those fifteen steps by which they went down from the Court of the Women, according to the fifteen psalms of degrees, and sang. Two priests also stood in the upper gate, which goes down from the Court of Israel to the Court of the Women, with two trumpets in their hands. When the cock crew
"The Rabbins have a tradition. Some of them while they were dancing said, ’Blessed be our youth, for that they have not made our old men ashamed.’ These were the religious, and men of good works. And some said, ’Blessed be our old men, that have made atonement for our youth.’ And both one and the other said, ’Blessed be he who hath not sinned; and he who hath, let it be forgiven him.’ "
As to the reason of this mirth and pleasantness, we shall see more in our notes on John 7:38.
For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, show thyself to the world.
[In secret; openly.] these brethren of Christ, whoever they were, did not as yet believe; because they saw him live so obscure, and did not behave himself with that pomp and outward appearance which they expected in the Messiah. And therefore they persuade him to go into Judea, where he had baptized most disciples, John 3:22; that, upon the lustre of his miracles, he might shine with greater splendour and majesty.
Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come.
[I go not up yet unto this feast.] That passage in St. Luke, Luke 9:51, "When the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem" must have relation to this story; as will be very evident to any one that will study the harmony of the gospel; especially if they observe, that this evangelist tells us of two journeys after this which Christ took to Jerusalem, viz. Luke 13:22, to the feast of the Dedication; and Luke 17:11, to the feast of the Passover. He had absented himself a long time from Judea, upon the account of those snares that had been laid for him; but now, when he had not above six months to live and converse in this world, he determines resolutely to give all due manifestations of himself, both in Judea, and wherever else he should happen to come. And for this cause he sent those seventy disciples before his face, into every city and place where he himself would come. Luke 10:1.
When therefore he tells his unbelieving brethren, I go not up yet; etc., he does not deny that he would go at all, but only that he would not go yet; partly, because he had no need of those previous cleansings which they had, if they had touched any dead body; partly, that he might choose the most fit season for the manifestation of himself.
But if we take notice how Christ was received into Jerusalem five days before the Passover, with those very rites and solemnities that were used at the feast of Tabernacles, viz. "with branches of palms," etc. John 12:13, these words may seem to relate to that time; and so the word feast might not denote the individual feast that was now instant, but the kind of feast, or festival-time. As if he had said, "You would have me go up to this feast, that I may be received by my disciples with applause; but I do not go up to that kind of festivity; the time appointed for that affair is not yet come."
Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
[About the midst of the feast.] On some work-day of the feast. But was he not there on the first or second day of the feast, to perform those things that ought to have been performed, making ready the Chagigahs, and appearing in the court? If he was there the second day, he might be well enough said to be there about the midst of the feast; for that day was not a festival; unless perchance at that time it might have been the sabbath: and for absence the first day, there were certain compensations might be made.
"The compensations that might be made for the first day were these: if any one was obliged to offer on the first day, and did not do it, he compensated by offering upon any other day."
But that which is here said, that "he went up into the Temple and taught, about the midst of the feast;" need not suppose he was absent from the beginning of it: nor ought we rashly to think that he would neglect any thing that had been prescribed and appointed in the law. But if may be reasonably enough questioned, whether he nicely observed all those rites and usages of the feast that had been invented by the scribes. That is, whether he had a little tent or tabernacle of his own, or made use of some friend’s, which was allowed and lawful to be done. Whether he made fourteen meals in that little booth, as is prescribed. Whether he carried bundles of palms and willows about the altar, as also a citron; whether he made his tent for all those seven days his fixed habitation, and his own house only occasional; and many other things, largely and nicely prescribed in the canons and rules about this feast.
Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
[Why go ye about to kill me?] the emphasis or force of this clause lies chiefly in the word me; "Why go you about to kill me? none of you all perform the law as you ought; and yet your great design is to kill me; as a transgressor of it: why me; and not others?"
Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers); and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
[Ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.] They do all things that are necessary towards circumcision on the sabbath day. "R. Akibah saith, Any work that may be done on the vespers of the sabbath must not be done on the sabbath; but circumcision, when it cannot be done on the vespers of the sabbath, may be done on the sabbath day."
"Danger of life nulleth the sabbath: circumcision also, and its cure; nulleth the sabbath."
But as to this matter, they distinguish in Bereshith Rabba; "Jacob of Nabor taught us in Tsur: It is lawful to circumcise the son of a stranger on the sabbath day. R. Haggai heard this, and sent to him saying, Come and be disciplined;" etc. And a little after; "R. Haggai saith to him, Lie down
Let us look a little into the way of Christ’s arguing in this place: to me it seems thus: "Moses, therefore, gave you circumcision, that you might rightly understand the nature of the sabbath: for, I. Circumcision was to be observed by the fathers before Moses, punctually on the eight day. II. Now, therefore, when Moses established the laws about the sabbath, he did by no means forbid the work of circumcision on the sabbath, if it happened to be the eighth day. III. For this did Moses give and continue circumcision among you, that you might learn from hence to judge of the nature of the sabbath day. And let us, therefore, argue it: If by Moses’ institution and allowance it was lawful, for the advantage of the infant, to circumcise him on the sabbath day, is it not warrantable, by Moses’ law, for the advantage of a grown man, to heal him on the sabbath day? If it be lawful to wound an infant by circumcision, surely it is equally, if not much more, lawful to heal a man by a word’s speaking."
Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.
[When Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.] How doth this agree with John 7:42, and with Matthew 2:5-6? They doubted not, indeed, but he should give the first manifestation of himself from Bethlehem; but then they supposed he would be hid again; and after some space of time make a new appearance, from what place no one could tell.
Jewish authors tell you, that Christ, before their times, had indeed been born in Bethlehem, but immediately snatched away they knew not whither, and so hid that he could not be found. We related the whole story before in our notes at Matthew 2:1.
Their conceptions in this thing we have explained to us in Midras Schir; "’My beloved is like a roe or a young hart,’ Canticles 2:9. A roe appears and is hid, appears and is hid again. So our first redeemer
They conceive a twofold manifestation of the Messiah; the first, in Bethlehem; but will straightway disappear and lie hid. At length he will shew himself; but from what place and at what time that will be, no one knew. In his first appearance in Bethlehem, he should do nothing that was memorable; in his second was the hope and expectation of the nation. The Jews therefore who tell our Saviour here, that "when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is," whether they knew him to have been born at Bethlehem or no, yet by his wonderful works they conceive this to have been the second manifestation of himself: and therefore only doubt whether he should be the Messiah or no, because they knew the place
Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.
[He that sent me is true, whom ye know not.] "The men of Judea may be credited as to the purity of the wine and the oil." Gloss: "Even the people of the land, the very vulgar sort, may be credited for the purity of the wine and the oil, which is dedicated by them to the altar in the time of the vintage or pressing."
Men not known by name or face to the priests, yet if they offered wine or oil, were credited as to the purity and fitness of either, from their place of habitation. There are numberless instances of men, though perfectly unknown, yet that may be credited, either as to tithes, or separating the Trumah; or giving their testimony, etc. To the same sense our Saviour, John 5:31, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true"; i.e. in your judicatories it is not of any value with you, where no one is allowed to be a witness for himself. And in this place, "’He that hath sent me,’ although you know him not, yet ’is he true, or worthy belief,’ however I myself may not be so amongst you."
Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?
[To the dispersed among the Gentiles, etc.] i confess Gentiles; in the apostle’s writings, does very frequently denote the Gentiles; to which that of the Rabbins agrees well enough, the wisdom of the Greeks; i.e. the wisdom of the Gentiles. But here I would take Gentiles in its proper signification for the Greeks. It is doubtful, indeed, whether by the dispersed among the Gentiles ought to be understood the dispersed Greeks; or the Jews dispersed amongst the Greeks. There was no nation under heaven so dispersed and diffused throughout the world as both Greeks and Jews were.
In the very heart of all the barbarous nations the Greeks had their cities, and their language spoken amongst the Indians and Persians; etc.
And into what countries the Jews were scattered, the writings, both sacred and profane, do frequently instance. So that if the words are to be taken strictly of the Greeks; they bear this sense with them; "Is he going here and there amongst the Greeks; so widely and remotely dispersed in the world?"
That distinction between the Hebrews and the Hellenists explains the thing. The Jews of the first dispersion, viz. into Babylon, Assyria, and the countries adjacent, are called Hebrews; because they used the Hebrew; or Transeuphratensian language: and how they came to be dispersed into those countries we all know well enough, viz. that they were led away captive by the Babylonians and Persians. But those that were scattered amongst the Greeks used the Greek tongue, and were called Hellenists; and it is not easy to tell upon what account, or by what accident, they came to be dispersed amongst the Greeks; or other nations about. Those that lived in Palestine, they were Hebrews indeed as to their language, but they were not of the dispersion; either to one place or another, because they dwelt in their own proper country. The Babylonish dispersion was esteemed by the Jews the more noble, the more famous, and the more holy of any other. "The land of Babylon is in the same degree of purity with the land of Israel." "The Jewish offspring in Babylon is more valuable than that among the Greeks; even purer than that in Judea itself." Whence for a Palestine Jew to go to the Babylonish dispersion, was to go to a people and country equal, if not superior, to his own: but to go to the dispersion among the Greeks; was to go into unclean regions, where the very dust of the land defiled them: it was to go to an inferior race of Jews, and more impure in their blood; it was to go into nations most heathenized.
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
[In the last day, that great day of the feast.] The evangelist speaks according to a received opinion of that people: for from divine institution it does not appear that the last day of the feast had any greater mark set upon it than the first: nay, it might seem of lower consideration than all the rest. For on the first day were offered thirteen young bullocks upon the altar; on the second, twelve; and so fewer and fewer, till on the seventh day it came to seven; and on this eighth and last day of the feast there was but one only. As also for the whole seven days there were offered each day fourteen lambs, but on this eighth day seven only, Numbers_29. So that if the numbers of the sacrifices add any thing to the dignity of the day, this last day, will seem the most inconsiderable, and not like the great day of the feast.
I. But what the Jews’ opinion was about this matter and this day, we may learn from themselves:
"There were seventy bullocks, according to the seventy nations of the world. But for what is the single bullock? It is for the singular nation
"On the eighth day it shall be a holy day; for so saith the Scripture, ’For my love they are my adversaries, but my prayer is for them,’ Psa :. Thou seest, O God, that Israel, in the feast of tabernacles, offers before thee seventy bullocks for the seventy nations. Israel, therefore, say unto thee, O eternal Lord, behold we offer seventy bullocks for these; it is but reasonable, therefore, that they should love us; but on the contrary, as it is written, ’For our love they are our adversaries.’ The holy blessed God, therefore, saith to Israel, ’Offer for yourselves on the eighth day.’ " A parable. "This is like a king, who made a feast for seven days, and invited all the men in that province, for those seven days of the feast: but when those seven days were past, he saith to his friend, ’We have done what is needful to be done towards these men; let thee and me return to enjoy together whatever comes to hand, be it but one pound of flesh, or fish, or herbs.’ So the holy blessed God saith to Israel, ’The eighth day shall be a feast or holy day,’ " etc.
"They offer seventy bullocks for the seventy nations, to make atonement for them, that the rain may fall upon the fields of all the world; for, in the feast of tabernacles, judgment is made as to the waters ": i.e. God determines what rains shall be for the year following.
Hence, therefore, this last day of the feast grew into such esteem in that nation above the other days; because, on the other seven days they thought supplications and sacrifices were offered not so much for themselves as for the nations of the world, but the solemnities of the eighth day were wholly in their own behalf. And hence the determination and finishing of the feast when the seven days were over, and the beginning, as it were, of a new one on the eighth day. For,
II. They did not reckon the eighth day as included within the feast, but a festival day separately and by itself.
The eighth day is a feast by itself, according to these letters; by which are meant,
1. The casting of lots. Gloss: "As to the bullocks of the seven days, there were no lots cast to determine what course of priests should offer them, because they took it in order, etc.; but on the eighth day they cast lots."
2. A peculiar benediction by itself.
3. A feast by itself. Gloss: "For on this day they did not sit in their tents." Whence that is not unworthy our observation out of Maimonides; "If any one, either through ignorance or presumption, have not made a booth for himself on the first day of the feast
4. A peculiar sacrifice. Not of six bullocks, which ought to have been, if that day were to have been joined to the rest of the feast, but one only.
5. A song by itself. Otherwise sung than on other days.
6. The benediction of the day by itself; or as others, the royal blessing; according to that 1 Kings 8:66; "On the eighth day Solomon sent the people away: and they blessed the king." But the former most obtains.
To all which may be added what follows in the same place about this day; "A man is bound to sing the Hallel "
He is bound to rejoice; that is, to offer thank-offerings for the joy of that feast.
And he bound is to honour that last day, the eighth day of the feast, as well as all the rest.
On this day they did not use their booths; nor their branches of palms; nor their pome-citrons; but they had their offering of water upon this day as well as the rest.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
[Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.] To this offering of water, perhaps, our Saviour’s words may have some respect; for it was only at this feast that it was used, and none other. You have the manner of this service described in the place above quoted, to this purpose:
After what manner is this offering of water? "They filled a golden phial containing three logs out of Siloam. When they came to the water gate"
"R. Judah saith, They offer one log every of those eight days: and they say to him that offered it, ’Lift up thy hand’: for upon a certain time there was one that offered it upon his feet"
"Whoever hath not seen the rejoicing that was upon the drawing of this water, hath never seen any rejoicing at all."
This offering of water, they say, was a tradition given at mount Sinai: and that the prophet Jonah was inspired by the Holy Ghost upon this offering of water.
If you ask what foundation this usage hath, Rambam will tell us, "There are some kind of remote hints of it in the law. However, those that will not believe the traditional law, will not believe this article about the sacrifice of water."
I. They bring for it the authority of the prophet Isaiah, the house of drawing; for it is written, "With joy shall ye draw water," etc. Isaiah 12:3.
This rejoicing (which we have described before) they called the rejoicing of the law; or for the law; for by waters they often understand the law; Isaiah 55:1; and several other places; and from thence the rejoicing for these waters.
II. But they add moreover, that this drawing and offering of water signifies the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
"Why do they call it the house of drawing? Because thence they draw the Holy Spirit." Gloss in Succah; ubi supr.: "In the Jerusalem Talmud it is expounded, that they draw there the Holy Spirit, for a divine breathing is upon the man through joy."
Another Gloss: "The flute also sounded for increase of the joy." Drawing of water, therefore, took its rise from the words of Isaiah: they rejoiced over the waters as a symbol and figure of the law; and they looked for the holy Spirit upon this joy of theirs.
III. But still they add further: "Why doth the law command, saying, Offer ye water on the feast of Tabernacles? The holy blessed God saith, Offer ye waters before me on the feast of Tabernacles, that the rains of the year may be blessed to you." For they had an opinion, that God, at that feast, decreed and determined on the rains that should fall the following year. Hence that in the place before mentioned, "In the feast of Tabernacles it is determined concerning the waters."
And now let us reflect upon this passage of our Saviour, "He that believeth in me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." They agree with what he had said before to the Samaritan woman, John 4:14; and both expressions are upon the occasion of drawing of water.
The Jews acknowledge that the latter Redeemer is to procure water for them, as their former redeemer Moses had done. But as to the true meaning of this, they are very blind and ignorant, and might be better taught by the Messiah here, if they had any mind to learn.
I. Our Saviour calls them to a belief in him from their own boast and glorying in the law: and therefore I rather think those words, as the Scripture hath said; should relate to the foregoing clause, "Whosoever believeth in me, as the Scripture hath spoken about believing, Isaiah 28:16; ’I lay in Sion for a foundation a tried stone: he that believeth,’ etc.: Habakkuk 2:4. ’The just shall live by his faith.’ " And the Jews themselves confess, that six hundred and thirteen precepts of the law may all be reduced to this, "The just shall live by faith"; and to that of Amos 5:6; "Seek the Lord, and ye shall live."
II. Let these words, then, of our Saviour be set in opposition to this right and usage in the feast of Tabernacles of which we have been speaking: "Have you such wonderful rejoicing at drawing a little water from Siloam? He that believes in me, whole rivers of living waters shall flow out of his own belly. Do you think the waters mentioned in the prophets do signify the law? They do indeed denote the Holy Spirit, which the Messiah will dispense to those that believe in him: and do you expect the Holy Spirit from the law, or from your rejoicing in the law? The Holy Spirit is of faith, and not of the law," Galatians 3:2.
(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
[For the Holy Ghost was not yet.] These words have relation to that most received opinion of the Jews about the departure of the Holy Spirit after the death of Zechariah and Malachi. To this also must that passage be interpreted, when those of Ephesus say, Acts 19:2; "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost": that is, We have indeed heard of the Holy Ghost’s departure after the death of our last prophets, but of his return and redonation of him we have not yet heard. O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; Habakkuk 3:2. He calls the seventy years of captivity the midst of the years; for, on the one hand, it had been seven times seventy years from the birth of Samuel, the first of the prophets, to the captivity, and, on the other hand, it was seven times seventy years from the end of the captivity to the death of Christ. The prayer is, that the gift of prophecy might not be lost, but preserved, whiles the people should live exiled in a heathen country. And according to the twofold virtue of prophecy, the one of working miracles, the other of foretelling things to come, he uses a twofold phrase, revive thy work; and make known. Nor indeed was that gift lost in the captivity, but was very illustrious in Daniel, Ezekiel, etc. It returned with those that came back from the captivity, and was continued for one generation; but then (the whole canon of the Old Testament being perfected and made up) it departed, not returning till the dawn of the gospel, at what time it appeared in inspiring the blessed Virgin, John Baptist and his parents, etc.: and yet "the Holy Ghost was not yet come," that is, not answerably to that large and signal promise of it in Joel 2:28.
But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
[This people, etc.] The people of the earth; in common phrase, opposed to the disciples of the wise men; whom they call the holy people; but the former they call the accursed.
They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
[Art thou also of Galilee?] it seems to be spoken scoffingly: "Art thou of those Galileans that believe in this Galilean?"
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Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on John 7". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18