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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 14

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-13


Matthew 14:1-33 (Mark 6:14-56; Luke 9:7-17; John 6:1-21)

Contents:—Jesus withdraws Himself from the court of Herod Antipas, who had just murdered John the Baptist. The priestly realm of the Lord in the desert among the poor people; or, the first miraculous feeding of the multitude. Priestly sway of the Lord amid the terrors of the night at sea.

1. Retirement of the Lord from the vicinity of Herod. Matthew 14:1-13

1,      At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, 2And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.1 3For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him [out of the way]2 in prison for Herodias’ sake,3 his brother Philip’s4

4     , wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. 5And when he would have put him to death, he feared5 the multitude, because they counted [held] him as a prophet. 6But when Herod’s birthday was kept,6 the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would [should] ask. 8And she, being before instructed of [led on by]7 her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger [platter].89And the king was sorry:9 nevertheless [but] for the oath’s sake, and them which sat 10[that reclined] with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11And his head was brought in a charger [platter], and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. 12And his disciples came, and took up the body,10 and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

13     When Jesus heard of it, he departed [withdrew from, ἀνεχώρησεν] thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof , they followed him on foot out of the cities.


Chronological Arrangement.—The offence which Christ had experienced in His own city is followed by another offence on the part of His sovereign. This may have been another practical reason why Matthew records in this connection what had taken place on a former occasion. The chronological succession of events appears from John 6:1. After the return of Jesus from the festival of Purim, He passed over the Sea of Galilee, as it would seem near Tiberias. Evidently the feeding of the multitude, here recorded, was the first occasion of that kind; the circumstances are the same as in John—five loaves, two fishes, five thousand people, twelve baskets full of fragments;—the narrative being followed in both Gospels by an account of Christ’s walking on the sea. On the other hand, Luke reports the return of the Apostles (Luke 9:10), after having recorded that Herod had wished to see Jesus. Christ, however, withdraws with His disciples into the wilderness near Bethsaida (on the other side of the lake). There the miraculous feeding of the multitude took place. Mark records in the same manner and connection the motive for His passage across the sea, as also His feeding the multitude and walking on the waters. From all this we conclude that this event took place at the time when Jesus again met His disciples in Galilee, on His return from the visit to Jerusalem, which closed with His last missionary journey through Galilee. On the other hand, Matthew 11:12-13, represents the Saviour as again going about with His disciples.

Matthew 14:1. Herod Antipas (Ἀντίπας = Ἀντίπατρος), the son of Herod the Great and of Malthace, a Samaritan. In his testament, Herod had appointed him tetrarch of Galilee and Peræa. Antipas entered into a secret contract of marriage with Herodias, the daughter of Aristobulus, his half-brother, and the wife of another half-brother, Herod Philippus; and in consequence repudiated his lawful wife, the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia. Aretas declared war and conquered Herod; but was prevented by the Romans from following up his victory. From motives of ambition, Herodias persuaded her weak and indolent husband to repair to Rome, after the accession of Caligula, in order to secure for himself the title of king, which had been previously obtained by Herod Agrippa, the nephew of Antipater (Jos. Antiq. 18, 7, 1). But, on the accusation of Agrippa, Antipater was deposed by the emperor, and banished to Lyons, where Herodias, his wife, followed him. He died in Spain, whither probably he was afterward transported. From the first, Herod was a light-minded, unreliable, prodigal, and luxurious prince; hence also he proved superstitious and cunning (Luke 13:32; Mark 8:15), and on certain occasions, either from folly or weakness, utterly heartless, cruel, and callous (see the history of the Passion). Jewish tradition likewise represents him in an unfavorable light. Herod Philippus, the son of a high priest’s daughter, was disinherited by his father, and lived as a private citizen. He must not be confounded with Philip the tetrarch. According to Jerome (Contra Rufin. 3:42), Herodias vented her fury even against the dead body of John the Baptist. The daughter of Herodias here spoken of was by the first marriage; her name was Salome (Jos. Antiq. 18, 5, 4).—On the title τετράρχης, comp. Bretschneider, Lexicon. The term tetrarch, or ruler over a fourth part of the country, is here used in a general sense, and as equivalent to ethnarch. Properly speaking, Herod was a triarch. See Matthew 2:0.

At that time.—The sovereign over the country of Jesus seems now to have heard of Him for the first time. Grotius suggests that Antipater had only returned from Rome; Baronius, that he had been engaged in war with Aretas. In our view of the matter, the tetrarch had been wholly absorbed by the pleasures and the follies of his court, until, as his conscience became aroused, he began to bestow more attention upon such events and tidings. However, it is probable that at the time when Jesus went through the various cities along the Sea of Galilee, Antipater had resided at Machærus, which was at some distance from the scene of the Saviour’s preaching.

Matthew 14:2. Unto his servants,—or slaves, viz, his courtiers. An Oriental mode of expression.

This is John the Baptist.—It has sometimes been argued that Herod was a Sadducee, partly on the ground of a mistaken combination of Mark 8:15 with Matthew 16:6 (the expression in the one passage being, “the leaven of Herod,” in the other, “the leaven of the Sadducees”), and partly from the notion, now exploded, that the Sadducees were immoral libertines. But then the difficulty naturally arose, how he could in that case have believed in the resurrection of the dead. Wetstein suggests that an evil conscience had awakened in his breast doubts and fears on this subject; while Meyer infers from the passage that he had not been a Sadducee. Still more unsatisfactory is the explanation offered by Grotius, and others, that Herod had referred to the transmigration of souls, as the monarch distinctly speaks of the resurrection of John. The Jews never seriously entertained such a doctrine, although it has sometimes been imputed to the Pharisees. In our opinion, Herod was neither a Pharisee nor a Sadducee by conviction, although he was identified with the latter party, chiefly, perhaps, from tendencies shared by the whole of his family. In this view of the case, it is quite conceivable that he should have spoken under the influence of a conscience roused and quickened by superstitious fears, and that all the more readily, that the people generally, and even the courtiers of Herod, seem at that time to have been speculating upon, and discussing the character and mission of Jesus. The rejection of the Pharisees must to a certain extent have counteracted the public testimony borne to Jesus. Hence some said that He was Elijah; others, that He was one of the old prophets, perhaps Jeremiah; while some broached the idea, that in Him John the Baptist was risen from the dead (Luke 9:7). We may readily suppose that, in the circumstances, some of the flatterers at court, in their desire to quiet the fears of their prince, may have caught at this. Suffice it, Herod immediately took it up. It might serve various purposes. At any rate, it implied a kind of denial of the Messiah-ship of Jesus; besides, it would diminish his guilt, accord with his superstitious disposition, flatter his theological ambition (remember Henry VIII.), and serve as apology for his desire to see Jesus, which to some might appear suspicious. Nay, he may even have given expression to these views in a semi-hypocritical manner, as “a fox,” Luke 13:32. At all events, a theological curiosity like that of Herod, and such motives, could only repel the Lord Jesus.

Matthew 14:4. It is not lawful, Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21.—Josephus adds, that besides this motive for imprisoning John, Herod was also afraid lest John should excite a popular tumult (Antiq. 18, 5, 2). But this apprehension must have originated in the Baptist’s denunciations of his adultery.

Matthew 14:6. Herod’s birth-day.—The anniversary of his accession to the throne, his kingly birth; Psalms 2:7; 1 Samuel 13:1. Suicer, Thesaurus, i. p. 746; Wieseler, 293.11—The dativ. abs. [according to the true reading] is probably intended to indicate that the feast was nearing its close; hence that the guests were intoxicated, and that the excitement of thescene offered the most favorable opportunity for accomplishing the satanic purpose of Herodias.

Danced before them.—The dance of Salome was, “without doubt, mimic, and probably voluptuous. Hor. Obadiah 1:3Obadiah 1:3, Obadiah 1:6, Obadiah 1:21.” [Meyer.] The poor girl was on the mother’s side a grandchild of Mariamne, the Asmonean princess. Her dancing was a crime not only against the Baptist, but also against Philip her own father. To engage in a profane dance, and that, as the text has it, έντῷμέσῳ—in the midst, referring probably not merely to the banqueting-hall, but to the circle of spectators which formed around her—was to forget even the decency and decorum of a Jewish maid.

Matthew 14:8. But she being prepared (wrought upon, led on) by her mother.—Meyer: “προβιβασθεῖσα, induced, instigated, not instructed.” But the verb includes the idea of instructing along with that of training and determining. In the present instance, not merely was moral resistance overcome, but, evidently, cunning and detailed instructions had been given. Every one of the expressions used by her points to the determination of taking Herod by surprise.

Matthew 14:9. And the king was sorry.—This is not incompatible with Matthew 14:5. Herodias had on former occasions sought to kill the Baptist. (Lachmann, following Cod. C. and others, reads ἐζήτει in Mark 6:19.) But Herod (influenced by her) was merely willing, or inclined toward it (θέλων; the word θέλειν is frequently applied to inclination, where as yet there is no decision). Two opposite motives kept him in a state of indecision. On the one hand, he was urged on by the rancor of Herodias; while, on the other, he was kept back by fear of the people. Nor was his sorrow merely caused by a sudden call of conscience; he was startled by this terrible demand, made in so daring and ghastly a manner, which awakened him all at once from intoxication to full consciousness of the important political consequences of this act.

For the sake of the oath.—An instance of sinful performance of an oath (Meyer). But the remark about them that reclined with him at table is significant. Two elements besides his oath seem to have determined him—his princely honor, and the hatred of the court to the Baptist. In all this fashionable throng, no angel’s voice was heard on behalf of John.

Matthew 14:11. And his head was brought in a platter.—The narrative seems to imply that the head of the Baptist was brought while the feast still lasted. This circumstance, however, suggests the place where the banquet was held. If Herod had been at Tiberias, his usual residence, the messengers would have required two days to execute their commission. Fritzsche assumes that Herod was at the time actually at Tiberias, and concludes that the narrative must be incorrect in this particular. Following the opinion of Maldonatus, Grotius, and others, Meyer holds that the feast had taken place in Machærus itself. According to Hug and Wieseler, it was celebrated at Julias or Livias, another place of residence of Antipas, situate not far from Machærus, in the mountains on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. This view seems to us to have most in its favor. Not only was there a royal palace at Livias, but the narrative, more especially in Mark, conveys the impression that the messengers of Herod were despatched to some distance.

Matthew 14:12. And went and told Jesus.—An evidence that the faith of the Baptist had been entirely re-established by his embassy to Jesus, and that it had also served to attach the disciples of John to the person of the Saviour—a bond further strengthened by the death of their master. However, some of John’s disciples may have taken offence when Christ still persevered in His course of endurance and submission; and this may have driven them into the an tagonism which afterward issued in the formation of a separate sect. The execution of the Baptist took place shortly before Easter, in the year 782 (John 6:4). When in the summer of the year 781 Jesus returned from Judea to Galilee, John was at Znon, near Salim, in the midst of his ministerial activity. But when, toward the month of Adar (about March) of the year 782, Christ journeyed to Jerusalem to attend the festival of Purim, John had been already for some time confined to prison. Accordingly, we infer that his imprisonment must have taken place during the autumn of the year 781, and that he was confined for fully half a year. Thus his active life was somewhat shorter than that of the Lord. While the operations of Christ gradually extended from Galilee to Judea, the reverse was the case with those of the Baptist. Commencing his work in the wilderness of Judah, he gradually passed through the lower valley of the Jordan to Salim and Ænon, John 3:23, and lastly to the court of Herod. And as the Lord met death at Jerusalem, so His forerunner at the court of the ruler of Galilee.

Matthew 14:13. When Jesus heard of this.—Referring in the first instance to the tidings brought by the disciples of John. Besides, we must not overlook, as an additional motive for Christ’s departure, the impression produced by these tidings upon the disciples. No doubt the Apostles, as well as the disciples of John, were deeply moved by the news of the Baptist’s execution. The enthusiasm with which they had returned from their first mission had in great measure given place to depression. This seems to be implied in the language of Mark: “Come ye yourselves apart, and rest a while.” Luke conveys the impression that Antipas was taking measures to brine about an interview with Jesus. This determined Christ immediately to leave the place where He then was—probably Tiberias, whither Antipas may in the interval have returned. The motives of the Saviour were, moral abhorrence and distrust of Herod, and the necessity of restoring the disciples to a right state of feeling—the more so, that Judas was in his heart already forsaking the cause of the gospel. On the eastern shore of the lake, and in the wilderness, He and they were safe under the mild sway of Philip, the only one of Herod’s sons who deserved the name of a good prince. (See the article in the Encyclops.)

Into a desert place apart.—According to Luke 9:10, in Gaulonitis, near the eastern Bethsaida. In the dominions of Philip, Jesus found a safe retreat, where His followers might recover their tone of mind, and prepare for going forth anew.


1. On three different occasions was the Lord repelled by the duplicity and utter want of all character in Herod. On the occasion just considered, this prince was anxious for an interview, partly from political motives, and partly from superstitious curiosity, in the hope of thereby assuaging the voice of conscience. Again, shortly before the Saviour for the last time left Galilee, Herod conveyed to Him by a third party a threat, for the purpose of inducing Him immediately to quit his territory (Luke 13:31). Lastly, on the day of Christ’s final sufferings we mark the same bold and carnal intrusiveness, inducing him to ask for signs and miracles—demands which the Saviour met with unbroken silence, Luke 23:8. Thus Antipas may be designated as the representative of that class with whom the Saviour enters upon no terms,—whom He avoids when they flatter, rebukes when they threaten, and at last punishes by complete silence. Again, we may learn from the case of Antipas, the sad upshot of a disposition to be interested in , and patronizingly to condescend to, the gospel, which characterizes the relation of so many superstitious worldlings toward that which is holy.

2. Herod seems to have been inclined to bestow on the Lord the vacant place of honor formerly occupied by John at his court (comp. Mark 6:20). But Christ treats the execution of the prophet as aimed against Himself. And so it really was. After all, every true martyrdom is the martyrdom of Christ in the world.

3. Besides the two elements already adverted to—the Lord’s independence of all worldly pomp and His wisdom—we may also notice in this history both the faithfulness of John’s disciples, and the earnestness of the poor people who followed Him on foot out of all their cities.
4. It is a strange fact that the marriage offences in the families of princes during the Middle Ages appear to have been partly an heir-loom of the Crusades, and thus to point back to the Arabs and to Hagar. The Idumeans were a race kindred to the Arabs. The history of the family of Herod is full of such offences. Nor can we fail to perceive the increased importance attaching to such sins in the case of princes, though, in general, the family must ever be regarded as the root of the state.
5. The vows of Herod. Sinful vows must be repented of. Gossner: God would rather have us break our word than His word.


How the great of this world stand affected toward the message concerning the works of Jesus: 1. It is late of reaching them; 2. it is ill understood; 3. it is wrongly interpreted.—Herod Antipas the figure of a weak despotism, as Herod the Great was of a strong tyranny. 1. Wherein they agree: In their contempt of men, selfishness, want of feeling, cunning, and affectation of Intellectual and spiritual aspirations. 2. Wherein they differ: In the case of strong despots, pride and cruelty are foremost, and voluptuousness only secondary; while the reverse is the case with weak tyrants.—How a Herod seeks to appease his conscience: 1. By superstition; 2. by theological pretensions; 3. by an affectation of Interest in spiritual achievements.—How superstition and the service of sin support and minister to each other.—Sketch of a demoralized court: 1. Hypocritical religiosity; 2. dissolute manners and marriage scandals; 3. a poor statecraft; 4. luxurious festivities; 5. bloody donations and payments.—Sad portraiture of the world and its pomp: 1. Its religion and its theology; 2. its pretended liberty and its love: 3. its works and its feasts; 4. its interest in the Beautiful and its art; 5. its oaths and its scrupulous honor.—Bloody marriages connected with the history of martyrs (Ahab. Herod, etc.12).—The feast of Herod viewed in the light of his reign.—The festivities of worldliness.—The character of Herod—Herodias.—The courtiers.—The flattery and deceit of the fashionable world.—How the tempter watches for the moment of our intoxication.—Cordial agreement between the wicked both at the beheading of John and at the crucifixion of Christ.—The sorrow of Herod, and the fear of Pilate.—How they both thought themselves excused.—Salome; or, awful lessons given by a mother.—Art in the service of sin.—The oath of Herod; or, how he wishes to be conscientious in his own way.—The courage and faithfulness of John the Baptist.—Becoming, modest, and yet firm and faithful manner, in which the Baptist reproved the sin of Herod.—Faithful unto the end.—Different estimate attaching to the blood of prophets: 1. In the sight of the wicked, and of their blind instruments; 2. of vain people; 3. of faithful disciples; 4. of the Lord Himself.—Bloody presents of tyrants and of enemies of the truth.—How the sufferings of the saints often serve to efface both their disappointments And their weaknesses.—How the Lord applied as to Himself the death of John.—How in reality it was Christ’s death which was encompassed.—Christ suffering in His martyrs.—How moral abhorrence drives the Lord across the wide sea, and far into the wilderness.—Conduct of Jesus toward Antipas.—The decease of John a prelude to that of Christ.—Comparison between the end of John and that of Christ: 1. The one long confined, the other suddenly carried away; 2. in the one case the secrecy of the prison; in the other, the concourse of the people at Golgotha; 3. the one beheaded, the other crucified, etc.—Blessing of good princes in whose territories believers have often found a refuge.—Safe retreats which the Lord in ancient and in modern times has prepared for His own.—The servants of the Lord recovering themselves in retirement.

Starke:—Courts are generally the paradise of foxes and of flatterers.—Hedinger: Many an honest man has paid with his fortune and success, if not with his life, for the dancing, the flattery, or the calumnies of a harlot.—A sedate and devout Christian leaves dancing to goats, calves, and children, and orders his steps according to the word of God, and not the directions of the dancing-master.—Incest, adultery, and unlawful divorce, were combined in this instance.—Hedinger: Persecution, reproach, and death are like daily bread to faithful preachers.—Great lords may issue their injunctions, but they cannot annul one of God’s commandments.—The servants of the Lord must bear testimony to the truth, whatever may befall them in consequence.—J. Hall Courage and impartiality—two very necessary qualities in a preacher.—Zeisius: There is nothing in which courts are more deficient than in preachers of the truth.—Osiander: The noble and the mighty too frequently imagine that they are at liberty to do anything they please, just as if there were no God in heaven.—What folly to be afraid of man and of the devil, and not to fear God!—In the godless, one affection often restrains another; so that it is nature, not grace, which restrains them from many a sin.—A thoughtless oath.—Contradiction: To swear by the name of God in the midst of sinful festivities.—Thoughtless and daring promises.—Curse of parents who encourage their children to sin.—Canstein: There is nothing so bad or so devilish which an adulterous and shameless woman would not undertake and perform, Proverbs 23:27-28.—It is the way of the wicked to prefer their own honor to that of God.—Hall: It is more difficult to arrest sin in its progress than to avoid its commencement.—Zeisius: The death of God’s people is precious in His sight, however grievous the torments which men may inflict on them.—Abel the first just one under the Old, John under the New, Testament.—The birthday of Herod to full shame, that of John to full glory.—Majus: In general, harlots are not afraid of shedding blood, and often murder their own children.—Osiander: The splendid banquets of the wicked have often a very sorrowful termination.—True disciples and hearers will reverence a faithful teacher even after his death.—Zeisius: Let the bodies of the saints be honorably committed to the grave: they are the temples of the Holy Spirit.—Quesnel: Let us open our hearts to Christ.—It is an alleviation of our misery to be able to communicate it to friends.—It is an act of friendship to warn another of his danger.

Heubner:—Anecdotes on the connection between unbelief and superstition; instances of a bad conscience, of bold reproof from the pulpit, p. 205–207.—Courtiers have enough to do to discuss their worldly affairs. But when the kingdom of heaven spreads among the people, the great of this world take notice of it, if it were only on account of the political influence which it may exert.—Frequently, however, the world takes notice of what passes in the kingdom of heaven from hostility to it, or in order to mock.—The coarser unbelief, the nearer to superstition.—How did Herod come to think of John?—An uneasy conscience.—An evil conscience sees terrors everywhere.—A Jezebel could not be wanting in the history of the second Elijah.—Fear of the people often acts as a curb upon despotism.—The fear of God delivers from that of man.—Worldly festivities often become the occasion of iniquitous deeds.—Danger, when mothers try to show off their children,—Sinful promises can never be binding.—False ambition.—Tyrants are themselves under the most abject tyranny.—The head of a prophet a spectacle to gaze on. (“The body of Coligny was exposed during the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and his head sent to Rome.”)


[1] Matthew 14:2.—[Αἱ δυνάμεις ἐνεργοῦσιν ἐν αὐτῷ; Lange: darum walten die Wunderkräfte in ihm; Ewald: desswegen wirken die Heilmächte in ihm; J. Wesley: Therefore these mighty powers exert themselves in him; Green (Gram. of the N. T., p. 151): The Spiritual Powers are active in him; Conant and the revised N. T. of the Am. Bible Union: therefore do these powers work in him.—P. S.]

[2] Matthew 14:3.—Lachmann: ἀπέθετο, after Cod. B. So also Origen twice. [Cod. Sinait. sustains the more expressive reading ἐν φυλακῇ� instead of ἔθετο ἐν φυλ.—P. S.]

[3] Matthew 14:3.—[Conant and the N. T. of the A. B. U. more smoothly: for the sake of Herodias.—P. S.]

[4] Matthew 14:3.—Φιλίππου is wanting in Cod. D., Vulg., etc. Meyer regards it as an insertion from Mark.

[5] Matthew 14:5.—[Lange: er war willens (geneigt) ihn su tödten, fürchtete sich aber, etc. Conant and the N. T. of the A. B. U.: and he desired (θέλων) to put him to death, but feared (ἐφοβήθη)—P. S.]

[6] Matthew 14:6.—Lachmann, Tischendorf: γενεσίοις δὲ γενομένοις, after B., D., Z. [Cod. Sinait sustains this reading for the received reading: γενεσίων δὲ�.—P. S.]

[7] Matthew 14:8.—[Lange translates προβιβασθεῖσα: bearbeitet von; Luther: zugerichtet; de Wette: bewogen; Stier: angestiftet; Meyer: gefördert, dazu gebracht; Ewald still stronger: aufgestachelt. Conant: “The verb προβιβάζειν means to lead forward, to lead on, the only use of πρό in this compound. The error of the English vernacular Bible originated in the Vulgate rendering prœmonita. Margin of the Bishops’ Bible: ‘Or enticed, or induced.’ ”—P. S.]

[8] Matthew 14:8.—[Tyndale, Coverdale, Cranmer, Genevan, and the Bishops’ Bible, all correctly render ἐπὶ πίνακι: in a platter (a large, shallow dish), for which the translators of King James substituted: in a charger, which also means a large dish, but now more commonly a horse used in battle. Wiclif and the Rheims Vers. have: in a dish, the Lat. Vulg.: in disco.—P. S]

[9] Matthew 14:9.—The reading: ἐλυήθη is not quite sure. Lachmann and Tischendorf [also Tregelles and Alford] read with B., D., etc.: λυπηθείς. [But this does not affect the sense, nor the English rendering.—P. S.]

[10] Matthew 14:12.—Lachmann, after the oldest authorities, reads: πτῶμα. [Cod. Sinait. sustains πτῶμα, corpse, against the usual σῶμα, body.—P. S.]

[11][The word γενέσια may just as well be taken in he usual sense, birthday, as is done by Meyer. See his references in loc.—P. S.]

[12][Remember also the fearful night of St. Bartholomew, Aug. 24, 1572, and the massacre of the Huguenots in Paris, after the marriage of Henry of Navarre with the sister of the king of France, to which all the leaders of the French Protestants had been treacherously invited, to be must cruelly murdered. Pope Gregory XIII., on hearing the news of the destruction of twenty or thirty thousand Protestants in one night, and the probable destruction of heresy in France, caused a Te deum to be sung in the churches of Rome, and a medal to be struck in commemoration of this infernal tragedy. This approbation is one of the foulest deeds of popery and one of the darkest spots on the pages of its history, deplored and condemned even by many Catholics. Comp. Wachler: Die Beuthochzeit, Leip., 1828, and the respective sections in the Histories of the French Reformation.—P. S.]

Verses 14-21

2. The First Miraculous Feeding. Matthew 14:14-21

14     And Jesus [he]13 went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. 15And when it was evening, his [the]14 disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time [hour, ὥρα] is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. 16But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

17, 18     And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. 19And he commanded the multitude to sit down [recline, ἀνακλιθῆναι] on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his [the] disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. 20And they did all eat [all ate],15 and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve [travelling] baskets full. 21And they that had eaten [ate]16 were about five thousand men, beside women and children.


Matthew 14:14. And when He went forth, ἐξελών.—According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Christ had gone εἰς ἔρημον τόπον κατ̓ ἰδίαν; according to John, also εἰς τό ὄρος. He now went forth upon the ground covered by the multitudes who had followed Him; and, moved with compassion, His first occupation was again to heal their sick.

Matthew 14:15. And when it was evening, Ὀψ ία ς δὲ γενομένης.—“This refers to the first evening which lasted from the ninth to the twelfth hour of the day [according to the Jewish mode of counting from sunrise to sunset]; while Matthew 14:23 refers to the second evening, which commenced at the twelfth hour [at six o’clock P. M.]. See the word עֶרֶב in Gesen. Lex.” Meyer

The hour is now past.—Fritzsche and Käuffer: tempus opportunum, sc. disserendi et sanandi.—De Wette, Meyer: The day-time. Why not more definitely, in view of what follows: the hour of the evening meal?—De Wette and Meyer have erroneously supposed that the account of this event, as recorded by John, where Jesus Himself is represented as introducing the question as to the bread, is incompatible with the narrative in the other gospels. But as John evidently intended to relate merely the fact of the miraculous feeding, we must not press his words as if he meant that the Saviour had put this question when first beholding the people. According to the account in John, it was a lad who had the five loaves and the two fishes.

Matthew 14:18. To recline on the grass.—In Palestine, spring commences in the middle of February. If, therefore, the festival of Purim occurred that year on the 19th of March, the miraculous feeding must have taken place in the second half of March, or during the middle of spring in the holy land.

[Green grass (ἐπὶ τῷ χλορῷ χόρτῳ, as Mark 6:39 has it), or pasture, which, according to John 6:10, abounded in that region, was a delightful resting-place at that season of the year in Palestine. Mark adds a graphic touch concerning the manner in which the Saviour commanded the multitude to recline on the pasture ground, viz., in ranks (better, by parties, or in groups, Greek: πρασιαὶ, πρασιαὶ = areolatim, in square garden plots), by hundreds, and by fifties (John 6:40; comp. Luke 9:14 : “by fifties, in a company”). They probably formed two semicircles, an outer semicircle of thirty hundreds, and an inner semicircle of forty fifties. This was a wise, symmetrical arrangement, which avoided all confusion, and facilitated an easy and just distribution of the food among all classes by the disciples.—P. S.]

Matthew 14:19. He took the five loaves.—Baked according to Jewish fashion; bread-cakes, in the shape of a plate.

He blessed.—Literally, He gave praise, εὐλόγησε. John expresses it: εὐχαριστήσας. Luke uses the terms ευλόγησεν αὐτούς, indicating the consecration of the bread, as in the Eucharist, 1 Corinthians 10:16. “According to Jewish custom, at the commencement of every meal the head of the house gave thanks while he broke bread. This prayer was called ‘a blessing.’ ” According to Mark, the disciples distributed the bread among the people, who were arranged in groups, Mark 6:40.

Matthew 14:20. Of the fragments.—Broken pieces,17 not crumbs. [Olshausen: With the God of nature, as with nature herself, the most prodigal bounty goes hand in hand with the nicest and exactest economy. This notice of the Evangelist is an additional mark of the truthfulness of the narrative, and the divine character of the miracle. The gathering of the fragments was also for the purpose of impressing the miracle more vividly on the memory, and perpetuating its effect, as well as for teaching a lesson of economy.—P. S.]

Twelve travelling-baskets full, κόφινοι.—The number twelve seems to refer to that of the Apostles, although it by no means implies that the baskets belonged to them. The Apostles gathered these fragments, when each brought his basket full. All the second miraculous feeding, the seven baskets are called σπυρίδες, the term employed for the round plaited baskets commonly used for bread and for fishes. De Wette: “The narrative clearly conveys the fact, that more fragments were left than would have constituted the five loaves. Paulus [the rationalist] attempts to paraphrase the language of the text: ‘they took there twelve baskets full.’ Of course, that would destroy the miraculous character of the event. But this clumsy device may now be regarded as only a historical curiosity.”

Matthew 14:21. And they that had eaten.—As the feast of Passover was at hand, the people had already collected in larger numbers.

General Remarks. 1. On the relation of this miracle to the other miraculous feeding related in Matthew 15:32.—The critical conjecture of Schleiermacher, Strauss, and others, that the first and the second miraculous feeding were, in reality, two different and incorrect narratives of one and the same event, is evidently untenable. Irrespective of the confusion which is presumed to exist in the account of the Evangelists, even a slight consideration of the differences in point of time and circumstances will convince us of its groundlessness The provision, the number of the people, and the fragments left on each occasion, were entirely dissimilar. Besides, in the first instance, the miracle was wrought on the evening of the first day; in the second, after the people had remained for three days with the Saviour. Lastly, there is an equal difference between the events which preceded and succeeded each of these miracles. In the one instance, Jesus had passed over from the western shore, and the feeding of the multitude was succeeded by His walking on the sea. In the other instance, Jesus had arrived at the eastern shore, after His journey through the Phœnician territory, and the district around the sources of the Jordan, while the miracle was succeeded by His last conflict with the Pharisees and Sadducees of Galilee. Again, the people which were fed on each occasion were, as might readily be supposed, those who had just listened to his teaching, and who followed Him from the places which He had visited. Accordingly, on the first occasion they were chiefly gathered from the cities along the western shore of the lake; while, on the second, they assembled from the mountains on the eastern side. Lastly, as the place where the miracle took place was different, so the time also,—the first occurring in spring, and the second a considerable time after Easter, or in summer.

2. The miracle itself.—Different theories on the subject have been current. 1. It has been attempted to explain it away: (a) By exegetical devices , or attempts to represent it as a natural event. Thus Paulus suggests that those who sat down at this meal were induced by the example of Christ to give up their provisions, etc. Similarly, Gfrörer, Ammon, etc. (b) On the mythical theory; it being supposed that it was an imitation of Old Testament models (Exodus 16:0; 1Ki 17:8-16; 2 Kings 4:1; 2 Kings 4:42), with the view of meeting the popular notions concerning the Messiah (Strauss).18 (c) By viewing it symbolically.19 This may be characterized as a combination of the theory of Paulus with the mythico-poetical theory of Strauss. It is supposed that, with special reference to certain analogous passages, a natural event had assumed in the mind of the Church a symbolical bearing; the truth thus conveyed being simply, that Jesus had broken the bread of life, or the bread of Christian fellowship (de Wette). (d) By regarding it as a parable (i.e., as mythical only so far as its form is concerned); the narrative being supposed to have arisen from what was originally intended as a parable (Weisse).—2. The miracle has been fully admitted, but it has been viewed,—(a) as an abstract miracle, or simply as the result of omnipotence, no attempt being made to account for it either in a mental or moral sense; nay, these intermediate links of connection being intentionally ignored or denied. (b) An attempt has been made to account for the manner in which the miracle was brought about by what Olshausen calls a quickening and accelerating of the natural process—an explanation which we frankly confess our inability to understand.20 (c) Christ effected the increase of the provision τῷ λόγῳ καὶ τῆ εὐλογίᾳ (Origen, Meyer). Everybody admits this; but the difficulty is, what we are to understand by the expression εὐλόγησεν αὐτούς in Luke. (d) We regard it as a concrete and moral, manifestation of the miraculous power of Christ. This miraculous feeding may be viewed as a parallel to the miraculous production of wine at the marriage in Cana, and both as foreshadowing the Eucharist. In His capacity as glorified Redeemer, Christ is here working and acting upon His creatures, quickening, so to speak, and infinitely enlarging the qualities inherent in bread; while, at the same time, He awakens a corresponding disposition in those who sit down to partake of the meal. It is a heavenly meal where hearts and minds as well as bodies are fed, and where the inner man is not dead, or standing without, like a beggar, but where, for the time, all are treated as members of Jesus in the house of the Lord. Viewed in this light, the increase of quantity is just the blessing of God the Son, as Creator of the kingdom of bliss and of love. This explanation, we venture to say, has not yet been sufficiently understood and appreciated. However, it must not be regarded as implying that the result produced was merely moral and religious. As in the production of the wine, power went forth from the Logos, by which earthly water was converted into heavenly wine—real wine, though not of earthly vintage; so, in the present case also, power went out from Him which increased the natural quality of the bread—enlarged it—just as, to some extent, the leaven does. Even the operation of leaven shows that bread is thus capable of having its powers increased.21 Something of this kind seems to have been present to the mind of Olshausen, who also aptly remarks, that “throughout the gospel history we never read of any purely creative work on the part of the Saviour. Just as nature forms a new creation from the seed, so Christ transforms water into wine, or increases the five loaves; but without some substratum He creates neither wine nor bread.”22 In thinking of similar miracles under the Old Testament, we specially recall to mind the provision of manna and of quails; while we regard as a parallel case what is recorded of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:8 : “And he rose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.”

[The English and American interpreters generally pass by in silence, or expressly reject, all attempts to make this and similar miracles intelligible, and resort to an act of divine omnipotence on the part of Him who was the Eternal Word of God, similar to the original act of creation, with this difference, however, that in our case there was a material substratum to work on in the five loaves and two fishes, so that it was not a creation out of nothing, but an act of creative accretion; the bread growing and multiplying in the hands of Christ (so J. A. Alexander, and Owen), or of the distributing apostles (so Alford, following Meyer), or of the eaters, or of all, at all events in such a manner that the whole multitude were abundantly fed, and much more remained and was gathered in the twelve travelling-baskets, than the whole original provision. Trench, Notes on the Miracles, p. 267 (6th ed., Lond., 1858): “Here, too, even more remarkably than in the case of the water changed into wine, when we seek to realize to ourselves the manner of the miracle, it evermore eludes our grasp. We seek in vain to follow it with our imaginations. … But this is the wisdom of the sacred narrator, to leave the description of the indescribable unattempted. His appeal is to the same faith which believes ‘that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen, were not made of things which do appear’ (Hebrews 11:3).” J. A. Alexander, on Matthew 14:21 : “The greatness of the miracle consists not merely in the vast increase of nutritive material, but in the nature of the process which effected it, and which must be regarded as creative, since it necessarily involves not merely change of form or quality, or new combinations of existing matter, but an absolute addition to the matter itself. … The only rational alternative is either to refute the overwhelming proof of authenticity and inspiration, or to accept the passage as the literal record of a genuine creative miracle, the first and greatest in the history [is the raising of Lazarus not equally great if not greater?], and therefore perhaps fully detailed in all the Gospels.” Even the German commentator H. A. W. Meyer, so often quoted in this work (Com. on Matt., p. 298 sq. of the 4th ed.), in view of the unanimous testimony and circumstantial agreement of the evangelists, fully admits the miracle, but, in view of its transcendent creative character, renounces all attempts at a rational explanation. He derives the interpretations of Paulus, Strauss, Weisse, de Wette, from a denial of the possible creative working on dead matter, a power which is not explained by the heterogeneous idea of a hastened process of nature (Olshausen), but which stands historically so firm, that we must rest satisfied with its absolute incomprehensibleness (dass man sich bei der völligen Unbegreiflichkeit dieser möglichen schöpferischen Einwirkung beruhigen muss, auf Veranschaulichung des Processes durch natürliche Analogieen verzichtend). But compare the forcible second doctrinal reflection of Dr. Lange, which follows.—P. S.]


1. The holy feast spread in the wilderness for the upbuilding of the spiritual Israel is evidently intended as a contrast to the bloody festivities enacted in the palace of Herod, which may be said to have accelerated the ruin of the nation. Here, the curse of sin destroys the enjoyment of the choicest gifts, and the guests at the rich banqueting table are still thirsting for the blood of the prophet. There, heaven’s blessing converts a few barley loaves and fishes into a spiritual feast. Thus the holy desert realm of Christ rises in all its beauty and majesty by the side of the crumbling kingdom of the old world, sinking through moral decay. Israel in the wilderness, fed by the manna, may be regarded as the Old Testament type of this history;—as its counterpart, David in the wilderness and in the cave of Adullam, when all who were distressed gathered around him. There is the same contrast, as here, between Saul the persecuting tyrant, and David the anointed of the Lord,—only the excellency, as always, is of the New Dispensation; for if David had to ask the shew-bread from others, Christ gives it to all the people around Him. Nor are similar instances in the history of Christ’s people wanting. Severinus, Columbanus, and others, remind us of the miraculous provision (das Wunderbrod); while the Waldenses, the Hussites, the Huguenots, [the Puritans], and other of God’s persecuted people, have often partaken in the wilderness of such miraculous food. Nor let us forget that since so large a portion of the gifts of earth is devoted to selfishness, luxury, and sin, it is the more incumbent on God’s people to devote the remainder to the Lord, in order that, by the blessing of Christ, it may be converted into the miraculous provision of the kingdom of love. Thus is it at all times true, that Jesus, while poor Himself, feeds the hungering people of rich Herod.

2. The Church has rejected the doctrine of Patripassianism as a heresy. We would add a warning against a parallel error which we might call Patrimessianism, in reference to the miracles of Christ. The distinction between the economy of the Father and of the Son must ever be kept in mind: creation being ascribed to the Father, and redemption—which, however, also includes transformation—to the Son. Hence it is a confusion of these economies to represent as strictly (or rather abstractly and magically) creative acts what really are manifestations of this transforming power. Besides, we must not forget that when the Church repudiated Monophysite views in reference to the person of Christ, the same principle also applies to the manifestation and the economy of the Son. Hence we must always view Him as the God-Man, and all His working as thean-thropic. He is the Creator in a moral and religious sense, who above all influences the heart, and who, by and with the heart, transforms all old things into new. Under His word the withered hand moves and extends, along with the withered heart. Perhaps the idea, that a ban of miscarriage and of barrenness rests on our earthly bread, which Christ removed by this miracle, showing the positive fulness which it contains when His blessing descends upon it, may, in some measure, help us to understand the grand mystery which awaits us at the final transformation of this world (the transformation of what is mortal, the renovation of the earth, the setting free of its fulness, and the restoration of the tree of life).


The tidings of the death of the Baptist an indication to the Lord to prepare in retirement.—Infinite riches of Christ even when a fugitive.—The wickedness of Herod could not embitter the heart of Christ.—Despite the opposition of the great of this world, the people were drawn after Him.—How the Lord still rewards with His miracles the confidence that leadeth after Him into the wilderness.—The Lord, who withdrew into the wilderness from the intrusiveness and presumption of the great, is drawn out again by the confidence of the poor and the needy who look up to Him for help.—The compassion of the Lord ever new, and ever assuming new forms.—How the disciples closed the day’s work, and how the Master closed it.—The old and the new time as represented by these two sayings: “Send the multitude away,” and, “Give ye them to eat.”—It is not necessary for them to go away.—It is not necessary to go away from Jesus for anything.—The feast of Herod and the feast of Christ (the former at first a meal of pleasure, then of guilt, and lastly of anxiety and of sorrow; the latter at first a meal of necessity, then of the Spirit, and at last of heavenly transport).—The desert realm of Christ founded in love a figure of His heavenly kingdom.—The Lord gives everything in His kingdom without price: 1. Healing; 2. teaching; 3. provision. The grace before the meal and its effects.—How those around the Lord enter into spiritual fellowship with Him by faith: 1. The Apostles, by inviting to the meal; 2. the people, by gathering around Him.—The miraculous feeding at meeting, and that at parting.—Trust entirely to the blessing of Christ.—Throw open the secret springs of blessing.—Gather the fragments; or, the superabundance of the kingdom of heaven is always combined with the greatest carefulness of its resources.—How the Lord of glory watcheth over His gifts and husbandeth them: 1. In nature (life from death); 2. in grace (Christ made poor); 3. in glory (every thing converted into good).—How the Lord converts the wilderness from a dwelling-place of evil spirits into a well-spring for the kingdom of heaven: 1. In a literal sense; 2. in a figurative sense.

Starke:—Quesnel: The further Christ appears to remove from us, the more closely should we endeavor to follow Him.—Jesus has never been idle, but has always wrought with His Father, Joh 5:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:8.—It is often unseasonable to listen to the dictates of reason, when we should rather think of the goodness and the omnipotence of God.—Still it is right to use all ordinary and prudent means, since God always honors their employment.—Hedinger: Christ can create bread even in the wilderness, Psalms 78:19.—It matters not with the Lord whether the provision be great or small, Psalms 107:36.—It is the Lord who addeth the blessing.—We should bring back to the Lord the bread which we have got from His hand, in order that He may bless it.—Let us not think of the smallness of our provision, but rather of the blessing of God.—Cramer: Why weepest thou? the Lord reigneth, Psalms 145:15.—Let us not preserve anything from covetousness, but for future use.—To bestow alms on the needy will never make us poorer.—God can nourish those who have many children quite as readily as those who have none.

Gerlach:—Meat is sanctified by the word of God and prayer, 1 Timothy 4:5.—Hence the wicked first defile and corrupt the meat, and then, by the meat, themselves.—Those who are desirous of witnessing this glorious miracle must be willing to be content with barley loaves and dry fishes.—Heubner: Christ never continued late meetings with a large multitude. His example may therefore be rightly quoted in reference to protracted conventicles at night (still, a Christian congregation can scarcely be placed on the same level with this multitude, comp. Acts 20:7).—Jesus as the Head of a house.—Grace before meat enjoined by the example of Christ.—Similarly, carefulness, preservation, order, and arrangement taught by His example.—The daily miracle of the feeding of the millions who people our earth.

[Prudentius:—Tu cibus panisque noster, Tu perennis suavitas; nescit esurire in œvum, qui Tuam sumit dapem.—Trench: Christ proclaims Himself in this miracle the true bread of the world, that should assuage the hunger of man, the inexhausted and inexhaustible source of all life, in whom there should be enough and to spare for all the spiritual needs of all hungering souls in all ages.—D. Brown: (Com. on Mark 6:35-44): The Bible, so little in bulk, like the five barley loaves and the two fishes, what thousands upon thousands has it fed, and will it feed, in every age, in every land of Christendom, to the world’s end!—P. S.]


[13] Matthew 14:14,—Ἰησοῦς is wanting in Codd. B., C, etc., as also in Matthew 14:22 [and Matthew 14:25]. Probably in both [all] cases inserted from the beginning of Scripture-lessons. [So Meyer. Cod. Sinait. likewise omits Ἰησοῦς in Matthew 14:14; Matthew 14:22; Matthew 14:25.—P. S.]

[14] Matthew 14:15.—[The critical editions omit αὐτοῦ after οἱ μαθηταί. Lange, however, translates: “seine Jünger,” and takes no notice of this difference of reading.—P. S.]

[15] Matthew 14:20.—[Εφαγον πάντες, lit: they all ate. It is the simple past tense, while the C. Vers.: did all eat, is in modern English an emphatic expression, the auxiliary did implying a doubt or denial of the fact.—P. S.]

[16] Matthew 14:21.—[Lit.: the persons eating, οἱδέ ἐσ θίον τε ς. The present participle means the time present, asusual, but with reference to a past act of numbering the persons fed.—P. S.]

[17][Κλάσματα from κλάω, to break, as fragments from frango, Bruchstücke from brechen.—P. S.]

[18][In his new and more popular work on the Life of Jesus, which has just appeared (Leipzig, 1864, p. 496 sqq.), Strauss takes the same mythical view of this miracle, as in his larger work, and states that the account of the evangelists contains no feature which may not be satisfactorily explained from the Mosaic-prophetic precedent of the twofold miraculous feeding of Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 16:0 and Numbers 11:0). and from the antitype of the Christian eucharist.—P. S.]

[19][Hase. and de Wette.]

[20][Olshausen’s idea of a divinely hastened process of nature (ein beschleunigter Naturprocess), by which Christ brought about in a moment, what comes to pass by the slow process of growth in several months, does not suffice in the case without the additional hypothesis of a hastened process of art (Kunstprocess), or the combined labor of mowing, reaping, threshing, grinding, and baking, by which wheat is changed into bread. Nor does the form of the miracle favor this attempt to explain the inexplicable. We should rather expect in this case that the Saviour had cast a few grains of wheat into the ground and made them germinate into a rich harvest at once. But this would have been rather an unnatural miracle, such as the apocryphal Gospel of St. Thomas really ascribes to the child Jesus, at least as regards the quantity of wheat produced from a single grain for the benefit of the poor. (Thilo: Cod. Apocryph., p. 302.)—P. S.]

[21][As, indeed, God’s creatures should not be viewed as dead abstractions, but as possessing living powers and principles, on which the Creator may breathe, giving them new, or rather enlarged capacities; thus working what to the carnal onlooker may seem a miracle, in the sense of being an interference with the course of nature, while the deeper thinker, or the devout believer, sees in it only a higher order of nature, the setting free of qualities and powers, bound down by sin. through the operation of an ever-present, almighty, and all-gracious Sovereign.—The Edinb. Translator.]

[22][Olshausen adds, however (vol. i., p. 520, in Kendrick’s edition): “In these remarks I refer only to the recorded facts; how far it is conceivable that Christ’s miraculous powers might have been put forth in a different form, is another question. According to the gospel history, the Saviour constantly appears as the restorer of creation. He creates no new men but He transforms the old; He makes no new bodily members formerly wanting, but He restores the old that were useless.”—But on the other hand He raised the dead to life, and is literally and truly the Resurrection and the Life. He brought life and immortality to light. The regeneration of the Spirit, too, is a new birth, a new creation, by which we become “new creatures” in Christ Jesus.—P. S.]

Verses 22-33

3. Jesus Walking on the Sea. Matthew 14:22-33

22     And straightway Jesus [he] constrained his disciples to get [enter, ἐμβῆναι] into a ship, and to go before him unto [to] the other side, while he sent [until he should have sent] the multitudes away. 23And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart [καἰ ἰδίαν] to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. 24But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with [vexed by the] waves: for the wind was contrary. 25And in the fourth watch of the night [at 3 o’clock, a. m.] Jesus went unto them, walking on [over] the sea.23 26And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea,24 they were troubled, saying. It is a spirit [spectre, φάντασμα]; and they cried out for fear. 27But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. 28And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 29And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he25 walked on [over] the water [ἐπὶ τὰ ὕδατα], to go to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught [took hold of] him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? 32And when they were [had] come [up]26 into the ship, the wind ceased. 33Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God [Θεοῦ υἱὸς εἶ].


Connection.—The same order as that of the narrative before us is observed in the Gospels of Mark and John. Luke wholly omits the event.

Matthew 14:22. Straightway He constrained His disciples, εὐθές ή νάγκασε.—The miraculous feeding had made the strongest impression on the minds of the people, who now wished to make Christ their king, i.e., to proclaim Him Messiah, John 6:15. On this, as on other occasions, Jesus had considerable difficulty in withdrawing Himself from the multitude, which, according to John, followed Him to the western shore. The reason why Jesus dismissed his disciples was probably their sympathy with the enthusiasm of the people. In proportion as they had at first been encouraged by the success of their apostolic mission, must have been their depression when the tidings of John’s martyrdom arrived (Mark 6:30-31; Luke 9:10). This sudden revulsion of feeling rendered them all the more susceptible to impressions such as those evoked by the scene which they had just witnessed. In all likelihood, the proposal to make Jesus king was intended in contrast to the crime of Herod, and was hence all the more dangerous. The Lord tarried behind in order to withdraw Himself the more easily from the people after He had calmed them. Upon a lonely, quiet mountain-top would He offer His sacrifice on that notable and glorious day.

To go before Him.—With Lightfoot and Wieseler, we view the event as follows:—The disciples were not to pass over directly, but only to go before Him along the coast, and to take Him up at the place appointed (πρὸςΒηθσαϊδάν, which Wieseler understands as referring to the eastern Bethsaida, above the mouth of the Jordan). When Jesus had dismissed the people and ascended the mountain, the ship was already a prey to the wind and waves, and driven, contrary to the will of the disciples, into the middle of the sea. (The expression βασανιζόμενον implies that the ship was helpless.) During three watches, or till about three o’clock in the morning, the disciples had vainly endeavored to bring the ship back to the eastern coast, in order to meet the Master near Bethsaida. They were only driven farther westward; and when the Saviour finally came into the ship, they were already quite close to the western shore. While thus laboring till completely exhausted, the Lord Jesus awaited them on the eastern shore. It was under these distressing circumstances that He felt impelled to manifest His miraculous power, in an entirely new manner. Compassion for those who toiled on the sea, and a sense of exaltation over the rebellious element which separated Him from His disciples, determined Him to go forth upon the sea. In this view of the matter, this miracle is as full of meaning and importance as any other of the many displays of His compassion and love.—According to the common view, which is adopted even by Meyer, the Lord had commanded the disciples to pass over before Him; but their passage was much retarded by contrary winds, when He, walking on the sea, overtook them, and calmed the storm. Against this view we have to urge the following considerations: 1. If the above view were correct, we should have expected that the disciples would have asked the Master how he intended to pass over. No other ship than theirs was in waiting (John 6:0); nor would it have been possible to have contemplated the long road by land, more especially as the Evangelist speaks of προάγειν, which implies a short passage, until He had dismissed the people. Least of all would the disciples expect that Christ would walk over the sea, else they could not afterward have been afraid and regarded Him as a spectre. 2. If it had been intended that the disciples should have directly passed over, and not have met the Lord on the eastern shore, the journey by which they so soon reached the middle of the sea would have been extremely rapid, and the statement about contrary winds would appear unaccountable. 3. As the disciples were close by the western shore when the Lord came up to them, the miracle which He performed would have been entirely useless if they had hitherto followed their intended destination. On the other hand, we urge in favor of our own interpretation: 1. The terms προάγει ν, ἕως,—implying that He intended to join them very shortly. The expression εἰςτὸπέραν must be explained as meaning, “in the direction of,” or “toward the other side,” or else “with a view to passing to the other side.” 2. If, as John states, Capernaum was their ultimate destination, the obvious interpretation of πρὸς Βηθσαϊδάν would be that it referred to the eastern Bethsaida, not far from the mouth of the Jordan, and that the disciples were to sail along the coast, and there to meet the Lord. 3. Under such circumstances, it would indeed be contrary to their will when they found themselves in the evening in the midst of the sea. The ship had been driven out by a contrary wind, and all their efforts at rowing proved insufficient to counteract its effects. The ship was Βασανιζόμενον. 4. According to the account in John, they were close by the western shore when the Saviour joined them, and the wind was still strong. Had it been a westerly wind their difficulties would by that time have been almost overcome, and thus help arrived too late. But here the objection may be urged, that, according to the narrative of Matthew and Mark, the wind was allayed when Jesus entered the ship. It might be argued that the wind, which was contrary to them while they sought to reach the eastern shore, would now be propitious, when, after having received Jesus into the ship, they would steer for the western shore. But a glance at the map will remove this difficulty. From any point on the eastern shore the disciples would require to steer northward in order to reach Julias. A strong northeasterly wind had driven them in an opposite direction, and far into the sea. Hence they were probably a good way beyond Capernaum; and if the wind had lasted, it would still have been contrary to them in reference to reaching that port. This also explains the terror of Peter. The Lord came in a northeasterly direction, while Peter, in meeting Him, had to go against wind and waves. 5. Lastly, according to our interpretation of this miracle, it was evidently called forth by the distress of the disciples, which at the same time was symbolical, while the miraculous help afforded them had both a direct and a symbolical import.

Matthew 14:25. In the fourth watch of the night,i.e., between three and six o’clock in the morning. At an earlier period both the Jews and the Greeks divided the night into three watches, each of four hours. From the time of Pompey, however, they adopted the Roman practice of reckoning four watches, each of three hours, viz., ὀψέ. μεσονύκτιον, ὰλεκτοροφωνία, πρωϊ̓. (Comp. Winer sub Nachtwache.)

Matthew 14:25-26. Over the sea ( Matthew 14:25, ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν, according to the true reading); on the sea Matthew 14:26, ἐπὶ τ ῆὶ ς θαλ.)—The text thus points out a nice, but very important distinction. In Matthew 14:25, the main point of the narrative lies in this, that Jesus hastened over the sea to join the disciples; while in Matthew 14:26 the disciples are chiefly struck with the miraculous sight of one walking on the sea. It is scarcely necessary to say that the gloss of Paulus, Stolz, and Gfrörer, “walking on the high shore above the sea,” is a poor evasion of the difficulty.27 Any such idea is completely refuted by the expression περιεπάτησεν ἐπ τα ὕδατα (ver 29), and by the scene between Christ and Peter, as well as by the impossibility of a conversation carried on between Christ on the shore and the disciples in the midst of the sea [especially during a storm on the lake]. Besides, the terror of the disciples shows that the event was miraculous.

The miracle itself.—It has been regarded: 1. As merely a manifestation of the sway of the Son of God over the elements—a Monophysite view which has lately again been advanced by Meyer.28 In reply, it is sufficient to say, that the narrative implies not merely sway over the elements, but also omnipotent sway over the body of the Lord Jesus, which was not a docetic, but a real body. 2. We have already adverted to the natural [or rather unnatural, because grammatically and exegetically impossible] explanation by Paulus and others, which is wholly incompatible with the narrative. 3. Some have represented it as merely a natural event, which tradition had clothed in a symbolical or mythical form (Baumgarten-Crusius, Hase, and partly also de Wette). 4. Bolten speaks of swimming (! !). 5. Some have characterized it as a mythical anecdote of the sea, with special reference to 2 Kings 2:14; 2 Kings 6:6; Job 9:8, and to foreign legends (Strauss). 6. Weisse views it allegorically; while, 7. Olshausen holds that our Lord here manifested a power inherent in His higher corporeity. Meyer denounces this view as docetic,—a charge which Olshausen might have retorted with much greater justice; for manifestly, if we suppose that the divinity of Christ had sustained His human nature while walking on the water, we make a complete separation between the two natures in the person of Christ, which after all is Docetism. Olshausen is, in the main, right in remarking that it is a mistake to regard the transformation of Christ as the work of a moment, but that this transformation and perfection extended over all His life. We object only to the manner in which he expresses this truth. It were more correct to say, that while the transfiguration of Christ, viewed as a state, commenced with His resurrection, the disposition toward it was not only inherent in His body from the first, but increasingly manifested itself and developed during the whole course of His life. Hence also the Lord manifested this glory on special occasions, even before His final sufferings. At His baptism it had appeared in a sign from heaven. Again, at the miracle in Cana, and when miraculously feeding the multitude, it had shone forth, and that not merely as inherent in Him, but as extending to others and working wonders. And now, in the extremity of his disciples, it burst forth in all its majesty; while soon afterward it manifested itself even in a visible manner on the Mount of Transfiguration, for the twofold purpose of showing that the Lord Jesus entered, of His own free choice, upon the path of suffering which now opened before Him, and of confirming the faith of the disciples. From the fact that by faith Peter could share in this matter, we infer that the walking on the sea was a momentary manifestation of a spiritual power, inherent in the body of Christ, which had not as yet appeared. Peter—as indeed our human nature generally—possessed the same inherent power, which represents the germ of the resurrection. But in our present stato this power is clogged and fettered by sinfulness; and in this instance is only awakened by the wonderworking word of the Lord, while it again disappears so soon as faith gives place to doubt. Thus this miracle of Christ is a miracle on His own person, just like the miraculous birth, the testimony at His baptism, the transfiguration on the mount, the resurrection, and the ascension—pointing back to the first two, and again forward to these other events. This miracle on Him led to the miracle by Him, or to the summons addressed to Peter to walk with Him on the water. The instances sometimes adduced of somnambulists29 and others who have walked on the water can by no means explain this miracle, but they deserve notice as mechanical and pathological manifestations of a power, showing what is possible and inherent in human nature, weighed down as it still is by sin, and concealed by the contrast between the first and the second life. At any rate, they shed a dim light over that world of higher life which the God-Man opened up, and into which Peter for a short space entered, through the operation of faith.

[Trench, following Olshausen, Neander, Ullmann, and other German divines, remarks on this miracle (Notes on the Miracles, p. 286): “The miracle is not the violation, nor yet the suspension of law, but the incoming of a higher law, as of a spiritual in the midst of natural laws, and the momentary asserting, for that higher law, of the predominance which it was intended to have, and but for man’s fall it would always have had, over the lower; and with this a prophetic anticipation of the prevalence which it shall one day recover. Exactly thus was there here the sign of the lordship of man’s will, when that will is in absolute harmony with God’s will, over external nature. In regard of this very law of gravity, a feeble, and for the most part unconsciously possessed, remnant30 of his power survives to man in the well-attested fact that his body is lighter when he is awake than sleeping [as was observed even by Pliny, Hist. Nat. vii. 18]; a fact which every man who has carried a child would be able to attest. From this we conclude that the human consciousness, as an inner centre, works as an opposing force to the attractionof the earth and the centripetal force of gravity, however unable now to overbear it.”—P. S.]

Matthew 14:26. It is a ghost, or a spectre [not spirit, as in the E. V.], φάντασμά [not πνεῦμα] ἐστιν.—Their belief in the apparition of spectres is here presupposed. The vivid sketch of their sudden terror may be regarded as an indirect evidence of the faithfulness of the narrative. They seem to have regarded the apparition as an indication of coming evil.—According to the narrative of John, they were already between twenty-five and thirty furlongs from the eastern shore, i. e., across about three fourths of the lake.

Matthew 14:28. [Alford: “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 afterward. 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 Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21.”—Peter’s fault lay in the words: “Bid me,” which betray an ambitious and overconfident desire to outdo and outdare the other disciples, and may be regarded as a prelude of the boastful: “Although all shall be offended at Thee, yet will not I.”—P. S.]

Matthew 14:29. And He said: Come!—One of those commands of sovereignty which prove that the Lord possessed the full consciousness of His power. [But it is more probably the permissive Come, i. e., “Make the experiment, if thou desirest.” The Lord knew that Peter’s courage would fail him.—P. S.]

Matthew 14:30. But when he saw the wind boisterous,i. e., the high waves, impelled by the wind, rushing against him. [As long as Peter looked to Jesus only, he rose by faith over the elements of nature; but as soon as he looked away from Jesus to the boisterous waves, he began to doubt, to despond, and to sink.—P. S.]

Matthew 14:31. Wherefore didst thou doubt?—Διστάζειν means properly, to turn irresolutely in two directions, to waver, Matthew 28:17. ΙΙρῶτον μὲν ἐθάῤῥησας, ὕστερον δὲ ἐδειλὶασας. Euth. Zigabenus.

Matthew 14:32. And when they were come into the ship—Meyer: “According to the narrative in John, Christ did not enter the ship, though the disciples were willing to receive Him. An actual though unimportant discrepancy.” Olshausen accounts for the difficulty by remarking that the disciples at first sought to avoid what they regarded as a spectre; but when they recognized the Lord, they were anxious to receive Him,—which implied, as a matter of course, that He actually entered the ship. Again, in the Gospel of Mark, we read: ἤ θελεπαρελ θεῖναὐ τούς. Apparently it had been the intention of Christ to precede the disciples, and to point out the direction in which to follow Him. This intention was afterward modified by the occurrence with Peter. Accordingly, we interpret the narrative in John as follows: They were willing to receive Him into the ship on the eastern shore at the commencement of their passage, and now (after the scene on the sea, and His entering the ship, which John passes over) they were immediately at the western coast, whither they went. Thus Christ had passed over the greater part of the sea before meeting the disciples.

Matthew 14:33. Of a truth Thou art the [a] Son of God.—Not merely the Messiah in the ordinary sense, but with special reference to His divine character as revealed in the New Testament. Meyer: “According to Matthew, Jesus is here for the first time owned by man as the Son of God (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 4:3; Matthew 8:29).” [The persons here introduced as ο ἱἐντῷ πῷ πλοίῳ were probably the crew of the ship, the boatmen, the mariners, and perhaps some other passengers, as distinct from the disciples; comp. Matthew 14:15; Matthew 14:19; Matthew 14:22; Matthew 14:26, and οί ἄνθρωποι, Matthew 8:27. So Jerome: Nautœ atque vectores. Jerome adds: “The sailors acknowledge Him to be truly the Son of God on witnessing one miracle, the calming of the tempest: yet Arius proclaims Him to be a mere creature.” But it should not be overlooked that the omission of the article before υἱός generalizes the meaning of the term. Christ is more than a son of God, He is the Son of God, in a unique and absolute sense, as He is the Son of Man. The mariners, however, being probably Jews, could not understand the term in a polytheistic sense, and meant to infer from Christ’s control over the elements that He was clothed with divine power.—P. S.]


1. On the miracle itself, see the exegetical notes.

2. Scripture often compares the people to the sea and its waves (Psalms 46:0; Daniel 7:3; Revelation 13:1). Christ had just assuaged a storm on land, which had almost swept away the disciples. The same scene is now re-enacted in a figurative manner. Jesus sways the waves of the sea as He had calmed those of the people, and as He shall sway those of the nations. But the Apostles are unequal to the emergency. And when Peter ventures for a while to walk with the Lord on the waves, he soon sinks in the storm, and is only preserved when Christ brings him back into the ship which contains the rest of the Apostles, with the reproof: O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

3. Along with a view of the exaltation of Christ over all nature, we here obtain a glimpse not only of the future glory of the children of God, but also how the throes and struggles of nature are calmed and cease at the feet of Jesus. The narrative contains three miracles combined. The first prefigured and introduced Christ’s resurrection and ascension. From the second we learn how, even upon earth, believers may, in anticipation of their future glory, triumph and conquer in the midst of waves or flames. The third affords us an insight how nature herself shall be delivered from her subjection to vanity into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Lastly, we have here a typical prophecy of the future dominion of the spirit of Christianity over the sea of nations. A British painter, H. Richter, has given us the most affecting representation of Christ’s walking over the sea.

4. Shortly before this, Christ had conquered two giants which ever endanger society—famine, and revolutionary attempts to establish a new millennium By removing the terrors of the deep, He overcame a third and equally great danger. In the interval He had been on the mount. From the mountain of prayer did the great Captain of humanity conduct all His wars, and gain all His conquests. But Christ preferred to meet these three giants, rather than trust Himself to the whims of that despot who, after having murdered the Baptist, showed a disposition to condescend to Himself.

5. From that time forward commenced the sway of the Spirit of Christ, by which He will ultimately subdue these three giants in the world.
6. It is true that Peter could swim; but in his terror he lost not only his spiritual, but even his natural, attainments.
[Trench: Peter is here the image of all the faithful of all ages, in the seasons of their weakness and their fear. So long as they are strong in faith, they are able to tread under foot all the most turbulent agitations of an unquiet world; but when they lose heart and fear, they begin to sink; and were it not for Christ’s sustaining hand, which is stretched out in answer to their cry, they would be wholly overwhelmed and swallowed up.—P. S.]


Christ walking on the sea: 1. He goes over the sea to bring help; and hence walks, 2. on the sea, displaying His omnipotence.—The three miracles combined prefiguring the threefold transfiguration: 1. Of the Lord; 2. of believers; 3. of nature (Rom. viii.).—Why the Lord constrained His disciples to quit the multitude; or, the dangers accruing to the Church from the enthusiasm of popular excitement.—Christ had as frequently to withdraw from the people as to go and meet them.—The disciples would have sent away the people when they were hungry; Christ dismisses them when they were too well satisfied.—Jesus, in those nights of prayer solitary on mountains, alone with His Father.—The lonely nights of the Saviour, of which the blessing descends on the world in the light of day.—The disciples driven by the sea from the Lord until the fourth watch: 1. In the gospel narrative; 2. in the history of the Church.—How the necessity of the disciples evokes the most glorious power of the Lord.—The miracles occasioned by the need of His people.—How the fear of spirits increases a thousandfold the real terrors of life.—The fear of spectres: 1. The truth lying at the foundation of it; 2. its errors and dangers.—Sad self-deception on the part of the disciples: to be afraid of their Lord and Saviour as if He had been a spectre.—How the disciples in the ship of the Church still cry out from fear, whenever the Lord comes over the waves with a new display of His glory.—How they imagine that the Lord Himself is always obliged to pass over in a vessel.—How the world will be set free from its fear of spectres: 1. From superstition, by faith; 2. from apparitions, by miracles; 3. from fear, by peace; 4. from crying out, by giving praise.—“Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.”—The reply of Peter: “Lord, if it be Thou,”—indicating the appearance of uncertainty in the midst of faith.—The faith of Peter.—The character of Peter the same here as at the time of Christ’s last sufferings, and during his later apostolate (Acts 8:10; Galatians 2:0).—The history of Peter on the sea, a prelude to his fall.—“And He said: Come.”—How it clearly appears that the Lord grants help only on condition of a faith, which, however, Himself has called forth.—Origin of doubt: he looked much at the wind, and little at the Lord.—How the Lord rescues His own from all depths of the sea.—Jesus, the Saviour of His people amid the terrors of the sea.—Christ an all-sufficient Saviour both at sea and on land.—The Spirit of Christ in His victory over the resistance of nature.—If our strength prove insufficient to bring us to Christ, His strength is sufficient to bring Him to us.—How unexpectedly at the end of the journey!—They wished to land on the eastern, but landed on the western shore.—The first confession of the Messiah as the Son of God, the fruit of a night of unparalleled terror.—The most glorious success following the most hopeless toil.—Evening and morning witnessing the miracles of the Lord.—How Christ ever reminds us of His former miracles by working new wonders.—“They worshipped Him;” or, the homage due to Christ as king.—Christ walking on the sea, a prelude to the history of His sufferings and resurrection: 1. Christ separated by the people from His disciples; 2. Christ lost to view in the darkness of night on the other shore; 3. the disciples driven from Him, and toiling in deep sorrow and need; 4. the miraculous reappearance of Christ: fear and joy.

Starke:Quesnel: An humble person will withdraw from praise and glory.—Zeisius: The word which we have heard and learned must be evidenced by the cross.—Osiander: The kingdom of Christ not of this world.—Christ withdrew from worldly honors, while we seek them; is this to follow after Him?—J. Hall: Worldly prosperity is more dangerous than adversity.—If Christ was thus instant in prayer, how much more should we wrestle in it!—The quiet of evening the time for prayer.—Alone with God.—Quesnel: The Church like a ship in the midst of the sea.—God leads His own people often in strange, but always in a blessed and holy, way, Psalms 4:3.—If Jesus be absent, there is only misery and temptation. Nov. Bibl. Tub.J. Hall: Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.—New wants will bring fresh help and fresh experiences.—Hedinger: The heart of man is unstable,—bold now, and again fearful, Jeremiah 17:9.—Bibl. Wurt.: Alas! how fearful do believers often become in their difficulties and sorrows.—Canstein: Even believers are afraid when God comes to them in an unusual way.—J. Hall: The gracious help of Christ comes always at the right moment.—“It is I; “ I am with thee in trouble, Psalms 91:15.—The confidence of Christians.—The assurance of Christ’s gracious presence the greatest comfort of Christians in their deepest sorrows.—Hall: A good sheep knows even the voice of its shepherd, John 10:4.—Lord, bid me come unto Thee.—The word of Christ a strong bridge.—With God we can achieve mighty things.—Nature and grace side by side.—However good our purpose, it is shaken by temptation.—Bibl. Wurt.: Beware of being too bold.—Christ does not suffer us to sink in our weakness.—Quesnel: It is good for Christians that God from time to time allows them to feel their weakness and their impotence.—Our help is in the name of the Lord.—The Lord sometimes allows His people to sink, but only in order to humble them.—Osiander: To doubt the help of God, must lead to adversity; therefore keep firm hold of the promise, and do not sink, Isaiah 43:12.—Canstein: The Lord ministers to His ministers more than they minister to Him.—Zeisius: Christ the wonder-worker, whom even the wind and waves obey.—Quesnel: A consideration of the miracles of Jesus tending to strengthen our faith.—Christ claiming our worship, Philippians 2:10.

Gerlach: The glorified body of Christ was, as it were, visible even through His earthly body; Matthew 17:0. Hence the waves were like firm soil under Him; just as Christ passed through the world untouched by human corruption and unmoved by the passions around Him.—In his faith and deep attachment to Jesus, Peter can no longer bear the uncertainty. As on other occasions, so now, he precedes the other disciples; but not knowing his own weakness, he soon fails.—Greater than common demands are made upon those who come prominently forward; but if their temptations are stronger, their deliverances are also more glorious.

Heubner:—In the history of Christ, work and prayer always succeeded each other. Ora et labora.—His need of solitude.—God allows sorrow to befall us because He foresees its end.—When He is absent, rest is wanting.—When the Helper is expected, He is already present.—He knows the need of His people.—The presence of Jesus drives away all fear.—Peter feels his human impotence only when he is on the water; i. e., when he has progressed beyond human experience and strength into the domain of faith, where the power of God alone can sustain him. He now feels that he has passed beyond the limits of human nature, and this sense overpowers him (but only because his heart is divided).—Faith can never wholly sink; it takes hold of the right hand of the Lord.

[Augustine:—Amas Deum, ambulas super mare: sub pedibus tuis est seculi tumor. Amas seculum, absorbebit te.—Chrysostom: We need not fear the tempest, but only the weakness of our faith. Hence Christ does not calm the storm, but takes Peter by the hand.—It is of no use to be near Christ in person, unless we are near Him by faith.—Wordsworth: Peter was enabled by Christ to walk on the sea; so the risen bodies of the saints will be enabled to fly upward and meet Him in the air, 1 Thessalonians 4:17.—Peter sinks without Christ. (Think of the Church of Rome in her errors.)—P. S.]


[23] Matthew 14:25.—Ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν, B., R., D.. al., [Cod. Sinait]. instead of the lect. recepta: ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης. [Lange: dahin schreitend über das Meer; Ewald: wandelnd über den See; Meyer: über den See hin wandelnd.—P. S.]

[24] Matthew 14:26.—Here B., C., D., etc., [Cod. Sinait], read ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης;—the text. rec. with younger MSS.: ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν. [The E. Vers. obliterates the distinction between ἐπὶ τήν (accusative of motion), and ἐπὶ τῆς (the genitive, of the mere appearing on the lake); as does also the Lat. Vulgate (super mare in both cases), and Luther (auf dem Meer.). The change of case is appropriate. The disciples saw the Lord walking on the lake, when He walked over the lake to meet them. Comp. the Exeg. Note, and Meyer in loc.—P. S.]

[25] Matthew 14:29.—[Better Conant: And coming down from the ship, Peter walked, etc., καταβὰς�, κ.τ.λ.—P. S.]

[26] Matthew 14:32.—[The oldest authorities, including Cod. Sinaiticus. read ἀνα βάντων, “when they had come up,” for the ἐμ βάντων of the received text. Tischendorf adheres to the latter, but Iachmann, Tregelles, and Alford adopt the former.—P. S.]

[27][The preposition ἐπί with the genitive may mean: on the bank of, but only after verbs of rest, as in John 21:1 (ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσησ τῆς Τιβεριάδος), not after verbs of motion, as περιπατεῖν, and still less with the accusative.—P. S.]

[28][I can see no monophysitism in Meyer, who simply says in loc. (p. 300): “Die Sache bleibt ein wunderbares Gehen auf dem See, welches. … unter den Gesichtspunkt der Christo als Sohn Gottes inwohnenden Herrschaft über die Elemente und ihre Kräfte zu stellen, hinsicht ich des Wie der Ausfόhrung aber völlig unbestimmbar ist;” i. e., Meyer admits here a supernatural miracle, which must be derived from Christ’s power over nature dwelling in Him as the Son of God, but the exact mode of which cannot be defined.—P. S.]

[29]Die Seherin von Prevorst, 1:77.

[30][This collocation of words, placing two or more adjectives, which are defined by adverbs, before the noun, is a palpable Germanism, which to the English ear sounds heavy and inelegant. It is strange that Dr. Trench, who wrote such readable books on the English language, and the study of words, and is otherwise a fresh, racy, and idiomatic writer, should be frequently so careless and nonchalant in his style.—P. S.]

Verses 34-36


Matthew 14:34-36, Matthew 15:1-38

Contents:—Secret landing of the Lord in Galilee, and His recognition. Accusation of the deputation from the synagogue at Jerusalem, that His disciples transgressed the traditions. Reply of Jesus, and rebuke addressed to the Pharisees of Galilee. Christ’s teaching to the disciples in reference to tradition. Jesus journeying into the heathen country of Tyre and Sidon, and the woman of Canaan. Second miraculous feeding of the multitude; or, second realm in the desert, as contrasted with that of the spiritual authorities, which allowed the people to perish from want.

1. The deputation from Jerusalem, and the rebuke of Jesus addressed to the Pharisees of Galilee. Christ’s teaching to the disciples in reference to tradition. Matthew 14:34-36; Matthew 15:1-20

Matthew 14:34 And when they were gone [had passed] over,31 they came into the land of Gennesaret. 35And when the men of that place had knowledge of him,32 they sent out into all that country round about,33 and brought unto him all that were diseased; 36And besought him that they might only touch the hem [fringe]34 of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.35

Matthew 15:1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees which [who] were of Jerusalem,36 saying, 2Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by [because of]37 your tradition? 4For God commanded, saying,38 Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death [surely die].[39] 5But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his[40] father or his10 mother, It is a gift [devoted to God, a sacrifice], by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 6And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free.41 Thus have ye made the commandment [law]42 of God of none [no] effect by [because of] your 7tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias [Isaiah] prophesy of you, saying, 8This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth,43 and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. [Isaiah 29:13.] 9But in vain they do worship me, 10teaching for [as] doctrines the commandments of men. And [then] he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a [the] man [i. e., makes him legally unclean]; but that which cometh out of the month, this defileth a [the] man. 12Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? 13But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14Let them alone: they be [are, εἰσι] blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall [will] fall into the ditch. 15Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. 16And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? 17Do not ye yet [Do ye not],44 understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? 18But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man 19For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false 20witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a [the] man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a [the]45 man.


Matthew 14:34. Into the land of Gennesaret.—As the time of persecution had commenced, they probably landed on a retired part of the coast. This appears, 1. from the manner in which the place where they landed is described; 2. from the circumstance that the people of that place brought sick persons from the scattered houses in the district, and that, according to Mark, Jesus passed through villages and towns before He appeared in the synagogue at Capernaum; while, lastly, this view is also supported by the analogous account of the landing, contained in Matthew 15:39. The designation, “land of Gennesaret,” Mark 6:53, was given to the western shore of the lake; from which, indeed, the latter derived its name. According to Josephus (De Bello Judges 3:10, Judges 3:8), the district extended 30 furlongs in length and 20 in breadth, so that it must have comprised only a part of the western shore. Robinson (ii. p. 400) suggests that it extended from Khân Minyeh on the north to Mejdel on the south; in which case it would nearly embrace the modern district of el-Ghuweir, or the “Little Ghôr.” According to Josephus, the climate of this district was very mild, and the soil fertile.

Matthew 14:35. And when the men of that place had knowledge of Him.—Meanwhile morning had dawned, and Jesus was immediately recognized by the people.

Matthew 14:36. The fringe of His garment.—Comp. Matthew 9:20. Christ merely passed through the district, and the haste of His journey accounts for the manner in which the cures were performed; the expression being at the same time symbolical, and indicating on the one hand the most passing touch, and on the other the strong faith of the people in that district. We might almost have expected that tradition would have laid the scene of healing the woman with the issue of blood in the country of Gennesaret instead of at Paneas. If that woman lived here after she was restored, we may perhaps conjecture that ever afterward special importance attached in the mind of the people to this mode of healing. But we must remind the reader that Jesus passed through the lower district of the sea-shore when He performed that miracle.

Matthew 15:1. Then met Jesus, etc.—The following three sections (about the washing of hands, the woman of Canaan, and the second feeding of the multitude) are only related by Matthew and by Mark. Between these events and those formerly related, we must insert the address of Jesus, in the synagogue at Capernaum, concerning the manna of heaven (John 6:22-71), as also the festival of Easter, which, according to John 6:0, was close at hand, even at the first feeding of the multitude. From Luke 10:38, we would infer that Jesus had on that occasion tarried in Bethany, while the disciples went on to Jerusalem. In the Jewish capital, the disciples seem to have given offence by their bold statements and by the evangelical liberty of their conduct. Hence Jesus was now charged with heresy in Galilee, and was watched in the field. Then followed the healing of the man with the withered hand, and of him who was possessed with a blind and dumb devil, the last conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees of Galilee, the parables and probably the events recorded in Luke 13:1-9; Luke 13:11-17. Meantime, the deputation of Pharisees and scribes, with which our section opens, had arrived from Jerusalem; having been despatched partly on account of the offence which the disciples had given in the holy city, and partly on account of the report of the Pharisees of Galilee, to the effect that Jesus was too powerful for them, and that they required assistance from the capital.—The arrangement of Matthew follows the order of things more than of time. After having related how the Lord was repelled by the ruler of Galilee, he now records the conflict between Jesus and the supreme authorities of the synagogue.

The Pharisees and Scribes.—With the article.[1] We adopt the arrangement of Codd. B., D., Orig., etc., by which the Pharisees are mentioned before the scribes, although this is opposed by Lachmann and Tischendorf. The persecution at Jerusalem originated with the Pharisees, the scribes having given it a proper legal form in the shape of a deputation from the synagogue. This is no doubt indicated by the use of the article, and not, as Meyer supposes, “the scribes who lived in Jerusalem and had come thence.” The deputation represented the whole body of the Pharisees and scribes in Jerusalem. There are references to several such deputations in the New Testament.

Matthew 15:2. Why do Thy disciples transgress?—Referring to the occasion to which we have above alluded. The charge is at first urged in a cautious manner, although the Master is made responsible for the supposed transgressions of His disciples.—The tradition, παράδοσις.—A new and more dangerous mode of attack. Hitherto they had only charged Him with violating the Sabbath, or with supposed transgressions of the law itself. But now they based their accusations upon tradition, as of acknowledged authority. The miraculous cures of Jesus and His teaching might be urged in answer to their charges of violation of the law; but the disciples were apparently, transgressing the traditions without any excuse for it. The παραδοσις, ἄγραφος διδασκαλία. Hesychius. See the Sermon on the Mount. Within the circle of His disciples, Jesus had from the first declared Himself opposed to traditions, but their renunciation on the part of His followers had only of late appeared. This charge of the Pharisees is illustrated by the following extract. Meyer: “The Jews attached greater value to tradition than even to the written law, appealing in support of it to Deuteronomy 4:14; Deuteronomy 17:10. More especially did they pay respect to the traditionary injunction of washing the hands before meals, to which it was thought Leviticus 15:11 referred. See Lightfoot, Schöttgen, and Wetstein on the passage.” Jesus did not reject this, tradition, viewing it merely as a custom (which was also common among the Persians, Greeks, and Romans). He only refused to recognize it as a binding or religious ordinance, and hence omitted it in urgent circumstances. The whole passage may be regarded as throwing a peculiar light upon the history of Pharisaism, with its “hedge around the law,” and upon that of the Sanhedrin and of the Talmud.

Of the elders.—Fritzsche: The teachers of the law. Meyer: Our ancestors, with special reference to Hebrews 11:2. But we must not forget that the official πρεσβύτεροι of the Sanhedrin and of the synagogues were the theocratic authorities which administered and sanctioned the traditions of their ancestors.

Matthew 15:4. Let him die the death.—In the original Hêbrew: מוֹת יוּמָת, he shall surely die. The Sept. renders it, he shall end by death (by execution): θανάτῳ τελευτάτω.

Matthew 15:5. But ye say.—The change of the verb deserves notice. It is a gift, δωρον, קָרְבִּן, a sacrifice or gift to the temple. There are two significant omissions in the phraseology of the text. 1. ἐστι or ἔσται is omitted. If a person merely pronounced the word “Corban” over any possession or property, it was irrevocably dedicated to the temple. Thus it became a kind of interdict. Compare Lightfoot, von Ammon ii. 226. Mishna, נדיים, de votis. Joseph. Contr. Ap. 1, 22.–2. “But ye say, or make the tradition, Whosoever shall say to his father, or his mother, It is a gift! that with which thou mightest be assisted by me,” … Here Jesus breaks off and allows His opponents to state their own conclusion, which was as follows: “he is free of his duty as a child.” The Lord seems unwilling to draw, or at least to state, the sinful conclusion at which Pharisaism had arrived. Hence the aposiopesis, which appears most clearly in the language of Mark, is peculiarly suitable.2 Perhaps the inference might have been differently expressed by some of the Rabbins. Jesus, however, draws his own conclusion,3 which is: He will surely not honor his father or his mother. So Meyer. But Grotius, Bengel, and Winer regard this clause as being the words of the Pharisees themselves, implying: He need not honor his father, etc. But this view is improbable in itself, and contrary to the language of the text. [Not at all. Comp. my critical note 11 on Matthew 15:5-6, p. 275.—P. S.]

Matthew 15:6. Made of no effect.—More than merely “transgressed.” Some Rabbins (as Rabbi Eliezer) regarded the duty of children to honor their parents as higher than all the commandments. But the Jewish authorities insisted that vows, even if incompatible with this injunction, were binding.

Matthew 15:7. Well (aptly, καλῶς) did Isaiah prophesy of you. Isaiah 29:13.—Not in the sense of natural inspiration (de Wette), nor of prediction in the strictest sense (Meyer), nor merely of application (Maldonatus); but as in Matthew 13:14 sqq. with special reference to Isaiah 6:0. We have here the other aspect of the hardening to which the prophet referred, in the shape of a pretended sanctity. As the statement of Isaiah in reference to the hardening of his cotemporaries was completely fulfilled in the cotemporaries of Jesus, so also his statement about their pretended sanctity; in other words, his verbal prophecy about his cotemporaries was, in this respect also, a typical prophecy of the times of Jesus.

Matthew 15:9. In vain, μάτην.—Meyer explains the expression as implying that it was fruitless (without moral result) and groundless (temere). In our opinion, it expresses the idea of emptiness or vanity, which includes groundlessness in point of principle, and fruitlessness so far as results were concerned. The Hebrew text has no expression corresponding to this μάτην; but the Sept. may probably have translated from another reading.

Matthew 15:10. Then He called the multitude.—The Saviour turns away from these hypocrites, whose questions about the washing of the hands He does not even condescend to answer, since out of their own mouths they were convinced of making the commandments of God of no effect. Christ now turns to the people, and instructs them in the difference between Levitical and real defilement.

Matthew 15:11. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth;i.e., with reference to the relation between Levitical defilement and the חל, or profanus, in the real sense of the term. The Lord presents the Levitical idea of impurity in a moral light. The question is not—to take the present instance—to be decided by the physical mouth (or the use of certain meats), but by the moral mouth (or the language). What is here said concerning the going into and coming out of the mouth, applies to the whole series of Levitical and moral injunctions concerning purity. The statement was in the first place, indeed, intended as a justification of His disciples on the charge brought against them by the Pharisees. But the inference was obvious, that all these injunctions required to be fulfilled in a higher sense (although this did not imply that the Lord denied their validity as Levitical ordinances). As a matter of course, when the symbol would be completely fulfilled, its outward representation must fall to the ground.

Matthew 15:12. After they heard this saying.—“This remark is commonly referred to Matthew 15:3-9. But we would rather apply it, with Euthym. Zigab, to Matthew 15:11.” Meyer. It is, indeed, quite true that it would have been impossible for them to have replied to Matthew 15:3-9, while in answer to Matthew 15:11 they might bring against Him the charge of subverting not only tradition, but even the written law. Still, their anger about His application to them of the prophecy of Isaiah must have increased their resentment and offence at His λόγος. Nor must we here omit to observe the moral distinction between giving offence to the Pharisees and to the least of the disciples.

Matthew 15:13. Every plant.—Referring to the teaching and the traditions of the Pharisees (Ewald, Meyer, etc.), not to their persons (Fritzsche, Olshausen, de Wette). At the same time, we should also bear in mind what was said in Matthew 13:0 about the identification of individuals with the doctrines which they professed.

Matthew 15:14. Into the ditch.—The cistern. Meyer supposes that the expression refers to Gehenna, implying that they were hopelessly lost. But, in our opinion, it primarily applies to historical and national, not to personal judgments. We infer this from the fact, that both classes of the blind are said to fall into the ditch,—those who feel their need of being guided (or the people), as well as those who think they see, and assume to be leaders (sec John 9:0). The difference between them, however, was very great; and with reference to the Jewish people, comp. Romans 9-11.

Matthew 15:15. Peter.—Acting as the representative of all the disciples; see Mark 7:17.—This parable.—The whole discourse was parabolical, but sufficiently explained by the context, and not, as Peter seems to have supposed, a separate parable in the more limited sense of the term. It appears as if Peter had felt it difficult to distinguish between the symbol and the reality. Jesus had employed the physical as an emblem of the moral mouth, and in that particular His statement might be regarded as parabolical. But even in that respect the parabolical form had not been strictly carried out.

Matthew 15:17. Do not ye understand?—The place where the bodily functions are finally purified, is that where they terminate, ὁ� (which, according to Suidas, designates both anum and sellam; derivatur enim άπὸ τῶν ἑδρῶν. The term is evidently related to ἄφεδρος, by which the Sept. render the place where menstruous women underwent purification). But that which constitutes the true nature of man can only be cleansed if the heart, whence words and actions issue, is purified. And this is the only true purity, contrasted with which all symbolical purifications are of no value. (See above, the antithesis between mercy and sacrifice.) A symbol becomes null and void if applied against the truth which it had been intended to present to the mind. In that case its real object is lost, and it does harm instead of good. Compare here Mark.

Matthew 15:19. For out of the heart proceed.—The Saviour implies that evil works first pass through the channel of an evil mouth, thus disclosing the evil state of the heart.


1. As the Gospel history unfolds, the gulf between the believing and the unbelieving portion of the people becomes wider. If the former would fain touch the hem of His garment in order to be restored, the latter excommunicate Him, because His disciples had offended against their traditions.
2. Let us mark the progressive hostility against the Lord. First the Pharisees of Judea, then they of Galilee, had pronounced against Him; while both are now combined against Him and His word. The expression, “the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem,” clearly implies that they were a deputation from the synagogue, representing the whole body of the Pharisees and scribes.
3. No doubt the peculiar arrangement adopted by Matthew was intended to indicate this state of matters. Hence the description of Christ’s conflict with the secular authorities is followed by that of the assaults on the part of the Pharisees and scribes.
4. The increasing bitterness of His enemies appears also from the circumstance, that they now charged Him, in presence of the people, with setting at nought popular traditions. They evidently seem to have regarded the conduct of the disciples as reflecting the teaching of their Master. Hence the Lord feels called upon to set before the people the contrast between self-righteous traditionalism and the eternal commandments of God. This He illustrates in connection with the first and most special law of humanity. But the principle here laid down embraces a far wider range. It condemns all dead traditionalism which is inconsistent with life, and indeed every ecclesiastical ordinance which in spirit or in form is incompatible with the fundamental principles of our humanity, with the institutions of God, or with the demands of our moral nature.

5. The mere traditions of men are plants which our Father in heaven has not planted. They have sprung from temporal motives, were subservient to temporal interests, and became a temporal curse to those who blindly followed them. Hence also they shall at last meet with an earthly fate, and be rooted up. According to Heubner, the future tense, here used, must be regarded as implying that a certain thing must necessarily be done. But although it is quite true that Christ by His word roots up the principle of tradition in His Church, yet the actual process of uprooting will take place in the course of those judgments which the progress of history shall evolve. Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:13.

6. The antithesis between the mouth in the physical and in the moral sense involved a principle by which all the ordinances concerning meats were removed, in view of and as fulfilled by the law of the spirit. This, indeed, was the main ground of offence to the Pharisees. However, it was not the intention of the Lord to annul on this occasion these ordinances, as little as He meant to enjoin the cessation of sacrifices when He quoted the saying of the prophet, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” In the present instance also, a reference to the Hebrew expression would exhibit the right relationship between what was material and what immaterial (which had been perverted by hypocrisy), implying, as it did, that the latter was of no importance, and even contemptible, when contrasted with what in itself was material. On the symbolical import of these ordinances comp. the well known works on Old Testament Symbolism [by Bähr, Kurtz, Fairbairn], and the article Reinigkeit in Winer’s Bibl. Encycl. The religious lustrations prescribed in the law gave rise to the pharisaical ordinances concerning the washing of hands before meals. In His teaching the Lord goes back upon the fundamental principle of all lustrations, laying peculiar stress on the antithesis between what was external and what was internal, since the Pharisees were in danger of substituting what was intended as a symbol, for the reality to which it pointed.

7. The words of Jesus may be regarded both as a doctrinal and as a controversial statement. The charge of the Pharisees implied that He and His disciples were a company of defiled sinners. Our Lord retorts by showing that defilement really attached to the Pharisees, not in any outward sense, but by the wicked thoughts issuing from their hearts. The doctrine, that out of the heart come evil thoughts, is not inconsistent with the dogma concerning the devil, since Satan can only tempt man, not produce sin in him. Comp. James 1:14.

8. The moment when Christ turns from the rulers of the synagogue to address Himself to the people, is both highly significant in itself and typical. The same may be said of the fact, that immediately afterward He passed for the first time beyond the boundary of the Holy Land; not, indeed, directly into the coast of Tyre, although soon afterward into the territory of Sidon. “Perhaps He found it necessary to impress upon the disciples, who as yet could not fully receive the contrast between Pharisaism and the religion of the Spirit, that the curse of defilement hung over the Holy Land.” Similarly, Elijah, when he could no longer find a habitation in Judea, had passed into Phœnicia, and even tarried there for a time.


The welcome and the ban which awaited the Lord on His return into His own country.—The secret landing of the Lord anon a public event.—The secret arrival of Christ a blessed event for the poor and needy who trusted in Him.—How the Pharisees and scribes would have shut up the way of the Lord: 1. Opposing their human authority to His divine mission; 2. their vain scholastic questions to His heavenly Revelation 3:0. the objections of their traditionalism to His proclamation of mercy; 4. their miserable pretensions to His blessed reality; 5. their thoughts of death to His way of life.—Sad decay of the once glorious synagogue.—The small masters in the presence of the great Master. 1. They call on Him, who is the Judge and Saviour of the world, to rebuke His disciples; 2. to wash that hand which restores life and health; 3. to purify that mouth whose word and breath sanctify the world; 4. to hallow the meal of Him who is the bread of life.—The traditionalism of the elders in its antagonism to the law of the Eternal One: 1. By a perversion of the law it dares to prefer charges against Him who is the personal law; 2. by its traditions it renders vain even the eternal commandments of God; 3. under the mask of sanctity it dares to condemn everlasting righteousness itself.—Inseparable connection between zeal for traditions and hypocrisy.—How the Lord brings to nought the plans of these zealots: 1. By replying to them, (a) throwing light on their doctrine; (b) on their character; 2. by turning from them, (a) giving liberty to the people by the word of liberty; (b) giving liberty to His own disciples by the call of liberty: “Let them alone.”—Hypocrisy in its historical development: 1. What forms it assumed at the time of Isaiah 2:0. at the time of Christ; 3. in our own days.—The unprofitableness and the judgments of hypocrisy: 1. It is a spurious service of the lips; 2. it is a vain and external service of the temple; 3. it is the vain service of the schools (unreal in the family, in the church, in the school, and in the state).—Let us meet the hypocrisy of officialism by imitating the example of the Lord and turning to the people.—The teaching of the Pharisees, and the doctrine of the Lord. 1. The former exalt what is sensuous above that which is spiritual, the external (as, for example, washings, fasts, prayers, almsgiving, etc.) above the internal; while Jesus sanctifies what is external by that which is internal. 2. The Pharisees convert the emblem into the reality, and thereby destroy it; while Jesus merges in and fulfils the symbol by the reality.—The offence of the Pharisees.—Objections to traditionalism: 1. It wants a divine origin. It has not its root in truth or in life, and hence has neither divine authority nor divine efficacy. It will give way before divine institutions (it is rooted up); it must give way before spiritual civilization, like heathenism, or like primeval forests.—“Let them alone” ( Matthew 15:13), or justification of the Reformation by the mouth of the Lord.—The blind leaders of the blind. 1. What they have in common: (a) Their guilt; (b) their ultimate fate. 2. Wherein they differ: the blind leaders are responsible both for themselves and for those whom they mislead; but, on the other hand, it is equally sinful on the part of the blind to allow themselves to be led by blind leaders.—The fall into the ditch.—“Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth into the mouth,” etc.?—Terrible import of these words of the Lord in regard to those who pass moral judgments upon points connected with merely outward observances.—Even the mouth must be regarded as sacred to the Lord, and what it partakes becomes a spiritual feast, but only from its connection with, and dependence upon, the state of the heart.—If we seek purity in external things, our purification, being of the earth, will pass away.—That which proceedeth out of the mouth cometh forth from the heart.—Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life, Proverbs 4:23.—The deeds of the heart manifesting themselves by the words of the mouth.—Whatever cleaves to and defaces an object contrary to its purpose, defiles it; hence the defilement of sin.—The progress of that defilement which separates between the Lord and us: 1. Evil distinctions (exaltation of the outward over the inward); 2. adulteries (apostasy from the living God); 3. fornications (with the world and its pomp); 4. thefts (what is holy is taken from the Lord and given to the world); 5. false witnesses (lying accusations against what is holy); 6. blasphemies (see Matthew 12:0).—What defileth a man before God: 1. Wherein defilement consisteth; 2. how it is contracted.—How eternal purity answered the charge of defilement brought against it by impure sinners.—How the wondrous beauty, purity, and delicacy of the emblem may be perverted into impurity, if it is set up in opposition to the reality which it was intended to foreshadow.

Starke:—Nov. Bibl. Tub.: Those self-conceited hypocrites who boast of being the Church, are generally the worst enemies and persecutors of the kingdom of Christ. Full of impurity themselves, they represent as sin what is not sin, and spy out the liberty of Christians, Galatians 2:4; 2 Timothy 3:5.—What a shame that the name of God should be used as a pretext to cover ambition and covetousness! This the false church has always done.—Quesnel: A desire for new inventions, and love for old errors and superstitions, are the fruitful source whence the disturbances of the Church spring, 1 Timothy 1:4-7.—Cramer: This is the mark of all hypocrites and sanctimonious persons, that they treat as a matter of conscience things indifferent, while they deal lightly with things of which they should make a matter of conscience.—Woe to children who would rather see the back than the face of their parents, who would rather commit them to the grave than support them!—Quesnel: It is sacrilegious to devote to God what should have been given in fulfilment of duties to which the instincts of nature and the law of God equally point.—Hedinger: Beware of sanctimonious people: they deceive the simple, but are ignorant of Christ.—Nothing is to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving, 1 Timothy 4:4.—An unwashen mouth.—The heart in its natural state a poisonous fountain of evil thoughts.—Every plant, etc., 1 Corinthians 3:12.—It is quite possible to be spiritually blind while possessing accurate knowledge of the letter and even outward learning, Isaiah 56:10.—Nov. Bibl. Tub.: That which is external can neither defile nor sanctify what is within, but the mind and heart sanctify or defile the outward deed.—Gossner: Lying traditions are turned into truth, and the Word of God and the truth of Christ are condemned as lies and heresies.—God desires above all the heart.—Look to your plants. What does not proceed from God is not tolerated by God.—Preachers and hearers often lie in the same ditch of ignorance, worldliness, and pharisaical self-righteousness.

Lisco:—It is characteristic of a false faith to exalt the traditions of men above the commandments of God.—Gerlach:—It is characteristic of sin that it cannot remain quiescent, but must manifest itself outwardly, and thereby be completed.—A high reputation before men, and the applause of our cotemporaries, are of no avail in the kingdom of God if the new birth be wanting.—That which is external remains such, even though a man have received it internally.

Heubner:—Genuine and spurious purity.—The false teachers calling the heavenly Master to account.—They accuse Him of instilling into His disciples erroneous and dangerous principles.—Let us not be astonished when we see the most vain and heartless persons arrogating to themselves the post of leaders in religious matters.—Custom has frequently the most pernicious authority, and proves a fetter to the truth.—Immense difference between the traditions of men and the commandments of God.—Outward religious claims can never come into conflict with those of love.—None could have been further removed from a religion without love and righteousness than Christ.—Any religious or ecclesiastical usage which proves inconsistent with the law of love is an abomination unto Him.—The words of the prophets always true.—The human heart the same at different periods of time.—Man has a natural tendency to hypocrisy.—How careful are we to be outwardly pure, regardless of the state of matters within!—To follow Jesus, we must be free from all human authority.—The heart of man, which ought to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, naturally the dwelling-place of all abominations.


[1][See my critical note 6, p. 275. Cod. Sinait likewise puts the Pharisees first.—P. S.]

[2][The aposiopesis is clear in the parallel passage of Mark 7:11, after κορβᾶν, but he omits the second clause altogether, viz. the words: (καὶ) οὐ μὴ τιμήσει (τιμήσῃ), which create the only difficulty in our case.—P. S.]

[3][This is inconsistent with the preceding remark that the Saviour was unwilling to draw or to state the conclusion of the Pharisees.—P. S.]

[31] Matthew 14:34.—[Διαπράσατες, Ewald and Lange: da sie hinübergeschifft waren; G. Campbell: having passed over; A. Norton, Conant, and the N. T. of the A. B. U.: passing over; Rheims and Archbishop Kendrick (The Four Gospels, N. Y. 1849): having passed the water; Wiclif: whanne thei hadden passid ouer the see.—P. S.]

[32] Matthew 14:35.—[Lange: da die Leute … Ihn erkannten; Norton: when they saw who he was; Campbell, and Conant: knowing him, ἐπιγνόντες αὐτόν.—P. S.]

[33] Matthew 14:35.—[Εἰς ὅλην τὴν περί χωρον ἐκείνην, into the whole neighboring country; Lange: in die ganze Umgegend; Campbell: through all that country; Conant: into all that country round (omitting only the about of the E. V.—P. S.]

[34] Matthew 14:36.—[Κράσπεδα correspond to the צִרצִית, which the Jews were directed to wear on the corners of the outer garments, Numbers 15:38 sq. Campbell, and Kendrick translate: tuft; Norton, and Conant: fringe; all the older English versions to A. D. Matt 1611: hem—P. S.]

[35] Matthew 14:36.—[Campbell, Norton, and Conant drop: perfectly; but Lange retains it: (vollständig) geheilt, διεσώθησαν; Meyer: sie wurden durchgerettet, so dass sie sofort gesund aus der Krankheit hervorgingen.—P. S.]

[36]Ch. 15, Matthew 14:1.—[Simpler and better with modern translators and revisers: Pharisees, and Scribes from Jerusalem (dropping: which were), even in case we retain the article οί before ἀπό, which is omitted in the authorities of Lachmann and Tregelles, and also in Cod. Sinaiticus.—P. S.]

[37] Matthew 14:3.—[Διὰ τὴν παράδοσιν ὑμῶν, or on account of, or for the sake of (Conant), but not: on the pretense of (Norton), nor: by (E. V. and Campbell). The preposition διά with the accusative seldom, if ever, denotes instrumentality; besides this would not suit the connection; for, as Conant correctly remarks, “it was regard for tradition, as of higher worth and authority, which led them to set aside the word of God, and it is this with which they are here charged.” The Vulgate correctly translates: propter traditionem vestram; the Peschito (Syriac V.) likewise; on account of your tradition; Wiclif, Rheims: for your tradition; Cranmer: because of; Tyndale and Geneva B. falsely: through, for which the Bishops’ B. and King James’ B. substituted by. All the good German versions have: um .. willen, or wegen, on account of.—P. S.]

[38] Matthew 14:4.—[So according to the reading: ἐνετείλατο λέγων. But the older reading of manuscripts, versions, and patristic citations, is εῖπε, said (without commanded). So Lachm. and Tischend., while Alford retains ἐνετεἰλα το λἐγων. Lange puts geboten und (commanded and) in smaller type in parenthesis.—P. S.]

[39] Matthew 14:4.—[Θανάτῳ τελεντάτω, lit: shall end by death, shall be executed, the inaccurate LXX rendering of the intensive Hebrew form מוֹח יָמוּת, Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9.—P. S.]

[40] Matthew 14:5.—[His before father and mother, need not be italicized; the definite article in Greek (τῷ πατρὶ ἢτῇ μητρί) having here the force of our possessive pronoun.—P. S.]

[41] Matthew 14:5-6.—[The translation of this somewhat difficult sentence, which is generally regarded as elliptical, but not necessarily so, depends partly on the construction (see Exeg. Notes), partly on the reading. The common text reads, Matthew 14:6 : οὐ μὴ τιμήσῃ (which the E. V. co-ordinates with ἂν εἴπῃ, as a second part of the protasis: whosoever shall sayand honor not); but the majority of ancient critical authorities are in favor of the future: οὐ μὴ τιμήσει, either with καί (so Tischendorf and Alford), or without καί (as Lachmann and Tregelles read). The Cod. Sinait likewise omits καί, but reads τιμηση, and inserts after ὠφεληθῇς the words: ονδεν εστιν, which I have not seen in any other manuscript or critical apparatus (the reading is: ουδεν εστιν ου μη τιμηση τον πρα, abridged for πατέρα, etc.). The choice lies between the following explanatory translations: (1) But ye say:Whoever saith to his father or mother: ‘A gift’ [i.e., it is an offering consecrated to God, and therefore not alienable to other use], ‘whatsoever thou mightest be profited with from me’ [i. e., by which I might support thee]; and honor not (καὶ οὐ μὴ τιμήσῃ, coördinate with ἂν εἴπῃ, and second member of the protasis) his father or his mother …” (supply the apodosis: he shall be free, or is free, viz., from the obligation of the fifth commandment). And [words of the Saviour] ye have made the law of God of no effect, for the sake of your tradition. (2) Or, if we read (καὶ) οὐ μὴ τιμήσει, and commence here the words of the Lord, we must translate: But ye say: “Whoever saith to his father or his mother: ‘It it a gift [i.e., an inalienable altar-offering] from which thou mightest be benefited by me,’ ” … [supply the apodosis of the Pharisees: the same is not bound to honor or support his parents, since by doing so he would violate his vow, or alienate what belongs to God]. (And) he [words of Christ] shall in no wise honor his father or his mother. And thus ye have made the law of God of no effect, etc. So Meyer and Lange. But this ellipsis seems somewhat forced and unnatural. (3) Or, finally, we may regard the second clause, with Grotius, Bengel, Winer, and Conant, as the apodosis, no matter whether we read: καὶ οἰ μὴτι μὴσῃ, or οὐμὴ τι μήσει. I prefer the latter (without καὶ) as the older reading, and explain: But ye say: “Whoever saith, etc., he (the same) shall in no wise honor his father or his mother.” Thus have ye, etc. This explanation avoids the hypothesis of an aposiopesis and requires no supplement of an apodosis; it also retains the full force of οὐμὴ, a strong negative asseveration, which in connection with the future expresses earnest dissuasion or positive prohibition (as in Matthew 16:22 : οὐ μὴ ἒσται σοι τοῦτο). If we retain καί we must explain it, with Winer: “he too,” i.e., in such a case (comp. Winer’s Grammatik, etc., § 64 sub aposiopesis, p. 529, note: wer zu seinen Eltern sprichtder braucht auchin diesem Falleseine Eltern nicht zu ehren), or rendor with Scrivener: he shall not then honor. At all events it seems to me most natural to regard the second clause as the apodosis of the Pharisees, which expresses their decision and neutralizes the fifth commandment. The Saviour thinks it unnecessary to refute them and simply states the result: Thus ye have made the law if God of no effect.—Conant observes, that the ellipsis in the Common Version: he shall be free, “is supplied from Beza’s Latin Version: insons erit, and is one of the many evidences of its influence (often injurious) on King James’ revisers.”—P. S.]

[42] Matthew 14:6.—[The authorities are divided between τὴ νἐν τολὴν, the commandment, τὸν νόμον, the law (Tischend., Alford), and τὸν λόγον, the word (Lachm. and Tregelles.—P. S.]

[43] Matthew 14:8.—The words of the text. rec.: ἐγγίζει μοι ὁ λαὸς οὗτος τῷ στόματι αὐτῶν, are wanting in the oldest authorities [including Cod. Sinait.], and omitted in all critical editions [since Griesbach]. Probably an insertion from the Septuagint.

[44] Matthew 14:17.—[Leave out yet. The best authorities and editions read οὐ, not, for οὔπω, not yet. Dr. Lange includes such, yet, in parenthesis.—P. S.]

[45] Matthew 14:20.—[The Greek has always the definite article before ἄνθρωπος in this section, and the E. Vers, thus renders it in Matthew 14:18 : defile the man.—P. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 14". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/matthew-14.html. 1857-84.
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