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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

Matthew 14

Verses 1-12

aMATT. XIV. 1-12; bMARK VI. 14-29; cLUKE IX. 7-9.

b14 And c7 Now a1 At that season bKing Herod [Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. See Matthew 10:41), but there was a prevalent idea among the ancients that departed spirits were endowed with superhuman powers, and Herod therefore supposed that the risen John had brought these powers with him from the spirit world.] cAnd he sought to see him. [Jesus purposely kept out of the reach of Herod, knowing the treacherous cunning of his nature ( Luke 13:32), and Herod’s curiosity was not gratified until the day of Christ’s crucifixion ( Luke 23:8-12), and then its gratification was without sanctification.] b15 But others said, It is Elijah. And others said, It is a prophet, even as one of the prophets. 16 But Herod, when he heard thereof, said, John, whom I beheaded, he is risen. [Some thought that Elijah might have returned, as the Scripture declared, or that Jesus might be a prophet just like the great prophets of old. Matthew, by introducing what follows with the word "for," gives us the reason why Herod clung to this singular opinion of Jesus. He did so because this opinion was begotten in the morbid musings of a conscience stained with the blood of John.] 17 For Herod himself had sent forth [370] and laid hold upon John, aand bound him, and put him in prison the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. bfor he had married her. [Herodias was the daughter of Aristobulus, who was the half-brother of Herod Philip I. and Herod Antipas, and these two last were in turn half-brothers to each other. Herodias, therefore, had married her uncle Herod Philip I, who was disinherited by Herod the Great, and who lived as a private citizen in Rome. When Herod Antipas went to Rome about the affairs of his tetrarchy, he became the guest of his brother Herod Philip I., and repaid the hospitality which he received by carrying off the wife of his host.] 18 For John said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. [The marriage was unlawful of three reasons: 1. The husband of Herodias was still living; 2. The lawful wife of Antipas (the daughter of Aretas, king or emir of Arabia) was still living; 3. Antipas and Herodias, being nephew and niece, were related to each other within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity.] 19 And Herodias set herself against him, and desired to kill him; but she could not: 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was much perplexed, and he heard him gladly. a5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. [Herod feared both John and his influence. His fear of the man as a prophet caused him to shelter John against any attempts which his angry wife might make to put him to death, and led him to listen to John with enough respect to become perplexed as to whether it were better to continue in his course or repent. At other times, when the influence of Herodias moved him most strongly, and he forgot his personal fear of John, he was yet restrained by fear of John’s influence over the people.] 6 But when Herod’s birthday came, b21 And when a convenient day was come [A day suited to the purposes of Herodias. The phrase refers to Mark 6:19], that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, and the high captains, and [371] the chief men of Galilee; 22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself [the language seems to indicate that others had first come in and danced] came in and danced, ain the midst, bshe pleased Herod and them that sat at meat with him [This dancer was Salome, daughter of Herod Philip and niece of Herod Antipas. The dancing of the East was then, as now, voluptuous and indecent, and nothing but utter shamelessness or inveterate malice could have induced a princess to thus make a public show of herself at such a carousal]; a7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she should ask. band the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. 23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. [The rashness of the king’s promise is characteristic of the folly of sin. Riches, honors, kingdoms, souls are given for a bauble in the devil’s market.] 24 And she went out, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? [She may have known beforehand what to ask. If so, she retired and asked her mother that the brunt of the king’s displeasure might fall upon her mother.] And she said, The head of John the Baptist. a8 And she, being put forward by her mother, bcame in straightway with haste unto the king [she wished to make her request known before the king had time to put limitations upon her asking], and asked, saying, {asaith} bI will that thou forthwith give me ahere on a platter the head of John the Baptist. [She asked for the prophet’s head that she and her mother might have the witness of their own eyes to the fact that he was dead, and that they might not be deceived about it.] 9 And the king was grieved; bwas exceeding sorry [because the deed went against his conscience and his sense of policy as above stated]; but for the sake of his oaths, and of them that {awhich} sat at meat, bhe would not reject her. ahe commanded it to be given [The oath alone would not have constrained Herod to grant Salome’s request, for if left alone [372] he would rightly have construed the request as not coming within the scope of the oath. The terms of his oath looked to and anticipated a pecuniary present, and not the commission of a crime. But Herod’s companions, being evil men, joined with the evil women against the man of God, and shamed Herod into an act which committed him forever to a course of guilt. Thus, a bad man’s impulses are constantly broken down by his evil companions]; b27 And straightway the king forth a soldier of his guard, aand beheaded John in the prison. band commanded to bring his head: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 and brought his head {ahis head was brought} bon a platter, and gave it {aand given} bto the damsel: and the damsel abrought it bgave it to her mother. [To the anxious, unrestful soul of Herodias this seemed a great gift, since it assured her that the voice of her most dangerous enemy was now silent. But as Herod was soon filled with superstitious fears that John had risen in the person of Christ, her sense of security was very short-lived. The crime stamped Herod and Herodias with greater infamy than that for which John had rebuked them.] 29 And when his disciples heard thereof, they came and took up his {athe} corpse, band laid it in a tomb. aand buried him; and went and told Jesus. [Herod had feared that the death of John would bring about a popular uprising, and his fears were not mistaken. As soon as they had decently buried the body of the great preacher, John’s disciples go to Jesus, expecting to find in him a leader to redress the Baptist’s wrongs. They knew the friendship of John for Jesus, and, knowing that the latter intended to set up a kingdom, they believed that this would involve the overthrow of Herod’s power. They were ready now to revolt and make Jesus a king. See Matthew 12:13, John 6:1, John 6:2, John 6:15. But Jesus would not aid them to seek the bitter fruits of revenge, nor did he intend to set up such a kingdom as they imagined.]

[FFG 369-373]

Verse 13

(Spring, A. D. 29.)
Subdivision A.

aMATT. XIV. 13; bMARK VI. 30-32; cLUKE IX. 10; dJOHN VI. 1.

b30 And the apostles gather themselves together unto Jesus; cwhen they were returned, band they told {cdeclared unto} bhim all things, whatsoever they had done, and whatsoever they had taught. [They had fulfilled the mission on which Jesus had sent them, and on returning each pair made to him a full report of their work.] 31 And he saith unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place [an uninhabited place], and rest a while. For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. [Need of rest was one reason for retiring to the thinly settled shores east of the lake. Matthew proceeds to give us another reason for his retiring.] a13 Now d1 After these things awhen Jesus heard it [Heard about John’s death. The excitement caused by this event, and the efforts to use Jesus as a leader in revolt, as indicated at the close of the last section, constituted another reason why Jesus should withdraw from the multitude], che took them [the apostles], and withdrew athence capart b32 And they went away in the {aa} boat, dto the other side of the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. cto a city called Bethsaida. bto a desert place apart. [They sailed to the northeastern shore of the lake to a plain lying near the city of Bethsaida Julius.] [374]

[FFG 374]

Verses 13-21

(Spring, A. D. 29.)
Subdivision B.
aMATT. XIV. 13-21; bMARK VI. 33-44; cLUKE IX. 11-17; dJOHN VI. 2-14.

c11 But {aand} the multitudes heard thereof [heard of Jesus and his disciples crossing the lake], b33 And they saw them going, and cperceiving it, bmany knew them, d2 And a great multitude followed him, because they beheld the signs which he did on them that were sick. band they ran together there on foot from all the cities, and outwent them. a14 And he came forth, and saw a great multitude, and had compassion on them, bbecause they were as sheep not having a shepherd cand he welcomed them, band he began to teach them many things. cand spake unto them of the kingdom of God, aand healed their sick. cand them that had need of healing he cured. [Jesus probably set sail from near Capernaum, and from thence across the lake to the narrow, secluded plain of El Batihah, where he landed is less than five miles. Seeing him start, the people followed him by running along the northern shore, and, though having a little farther to go, they traveled faster than the sailboat, and were waiting for him on the shore when he arrived.] d3 And Jesus went up into the mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. [The level plain did not afford a good platform from which to address the people.] 4 Now the passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. [This passover is computed to have been held on April 16, A. D. 29. This statement as to the time of year prepares us for his further statement that there was much grass in the plain. It also explains in part the gathering of a multitude in this secluded region. Pilgrims on their way to the passover would gladly go several miles out of their way to see the great Prophet perform a miracle. The excitement, due to the mission of the twelve and the death of the Baptist, also tended to swell the [375] crowd.] c12 And the day began to wear away; b35 And when the day was now far spent, a15 And when even was come, bhis disciples cthe twelve bcame unto him cand said unto him, {asaying,} bThe place is desert, and the day is now far spent; aand the time is already past [the time to seek lodging and provisions had gone by, and therefore the multitude must act quickly]; b36 send them athe multitudes {cmultitude} away, that they may go into the villages and country around, and lodge, and get provisions: aand buy themselves food. bsomething to eat. cfor we are here in a desert place. [The apostles were the first to think of eating, and naturally enough, for they had started on empty stomachs, and their own discomfort made them anticipate the sad plight in which the multitude would soon find itself.] a16 But Jesus said unto them, They have no need to go away; d5 Jesus therefore lifting up his eyes, and seeing that a great multitude cometh to him, saith unto Philip, Whence are we to buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred shillings’ worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little. [Jesus tested Philip to see which way he would turn in his weakness. Jesus asked where the bread might be bought, knowing that power to feed the multitude resided in himself ( Isaiah 55:1), but Philip wondered where the money was to be had to buy it.] b37 But he answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred shillings’ worth of bread, and give them to eat? [The word translated shilling is the Roman denarius, worth about seventeen cents. The sum was not large, as we reckon money, but, considering the purchasing power of money in those days, it was an imposing sum, and it is to be doubted if the treasury-bag of Judas ever contained the fourth part of it. For a denarius was the regular price for a day’s labor.] 38 And he saith unto them, How many [376] loaves have ye? go and see. d8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, who hath five barley loaves, and two fishes: but what are they among so many? bAnd when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. a17 And they say unto him, {csaid,} aWe have here but cno more than five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. 14 For they were about five thousand men. [When sent to see what was in their larder, it appears that they had nothing at all. Andrew reports the finding of the boy’s lunch while it was as yet the boy’s property. Some of the others, having secured it from the boy, report it now at the disposal of Jesus, but comment on its insufficiency. Eastern loaves were thin and small, like good-sized crackers, and around the Sea of Galilee, the salting and preserving of small fish was an especial industry. These fish, therefore, were about the size of sardines. The whole supply, therefore, was no more than enough for one hungry boy. But each loaf had to be divided between a thousand, and each fish between twenty-five hundred men.] a18 And he said, Bring them hither to me. 19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down cAnd d10 Jesus said, cunto his disciples, Make them dthe people sit down. cin companies, about fifty each. 15 And they did so, and made them all sit down. b40 And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. dNow there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. [By thus arranging them in orderly companies, Jesus accomplished several things. He saved his apostles much time and labor in distributing the food. He insured that each one should be fed, and that the reality of the miracle could not be questioned, and he ascertained definitely how many men were fed.] c16 And d11 Jesus therefore took athe five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, che blessed and brake them, band brake the loaves; dand having [377] given thanks, he distributed to them that were set down; aand gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes. {cand gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.} dlikewise also of the fishes as much as they would. band the two fishes divided he among them all. 42 And they all ate, cand were all filled. [He blessed the loaves and fishes by returning thanks for them. This and similar acts of Jesus are our precedents for giving thanks, or, "asking the blessing," at our tables]: d12 And when they were filled, he saith unto his disciples, Gather up the broken pieces which remain over, that nothing be lost. [Christ is the economist of the universe. This command was in keeping with his laws which permit nothing to suffer annihilation. Ruin and destruction have no other effect than merely to change the form of things. Every atom of the material world which was here at the beginning of creation is here to-day, though it may have changed its form a million times in the progress of events.] So they gathered them up, cand there was taken {athey took} cup that which remained over to them of athe broken pieces, dand filled atwelve baskets full. {bbasketfuls,} dwith broken pieces from the five barley loaves, which remained over unto them that had eaten. band also of the fishes. a21 And they that did eat {bate} the loaves were aabout five thousand men, besides women and children. [Considering the distance from any town, the women and children would not likely be numerous. They form no part of the count, for Eastern usage did not permit the women to sit with the men. They, with the little ones, would stand apart.] d14 When therefore the people saw the sign which he did, they said, This is of a truth the prophet that cometh into the world. [That is to say, this is the Messiah, the prophet promised at Deuteronomy 18:15. Their desire to avenge the death of John made them feverishly anxious for the appearance of the Messiah, but this faith was inconstant.] [378]

[FFG 375-378]

Verses 22-36

(Spring, A. D. 29.)
Subdivision C.
aMATT. XIV. 22-36; bMARK VI. 45-56; dJOHN VI. 15-21.

d15 Jesus therefore perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force, to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain himself alone. [Jesus had descended to the plain to feed the multitude, but, perceiving this mistaken desire of the people, he frustrated it by dismissing his disciples and retiring by himself into the mountain.] a22 And straightway he constrained the {bhis} adisciples to enter into the boat, and to go before him unto the other side, bto Bethsaida [the suburb of Capernaum] atill he should send the multitudes {bwhile he himself sendeth the multitude} away. [The obedience of the disciples in leaving him helped to persuade the multitude to do likewise.] 46 And when he had taken leave of them, a23 And after he had sent the multitudes away, he went up {bdeparted} ainto the mountain apart to pray: and when even was come, he was there alone. [The news of John’s assassination was calculated to exasperate him in the highest degree, and also to deeply distress him. He needed the benefits of prayer to keep down resentment, and to prevent despondency. For this he started away as soon as he heard the news, but the people prevented him till night.] d16 And when evening came, his disciples went down unto the sea; 17 and they entered into a boat, and were over the sea unto Capernaum. b47 And when even was come, the boat was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. dand it was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. [They evidently expected that he would follow. Possibly they skirted the shore, hoping that he would hail them and come on board.] 18 And the sea was rising by reason of a great wind that blew. a24 But the boat [379] was now in the midst of the sea, distressed by the waves; for the wind was contrary. [That is, it blew from the west, the direction toward which the disciples were rowing.] b48 And seeing them distressed in rowing, for the wind was contrary unto them, about {ain} bthe fourth watch of the night [from 3 to 6 A. M.] he cometh {acame} bunto them, awalking upon the sea. [The disciples of Jesus can rest assured that the eyes of the Lord will behold their distresses, and that sooner or later the Lord himself will arise and draw near for their deliverance.] d19 When therefore they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs [that is, about three and a half miles, or about half way across the sea], they behold Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the boat: band would have passed by them: a26 And {b49 but} awhen the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, dand they were afraid. bthey supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; asaying, It is a ghost; and they cried out for fear. b50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. [Their fears would probably have been greater if Jesus had approached the boat, for they were severe enough to make them cry out, even when he was seen to be passing by them.] a27 But straightway Jesus spake unto {bwith} them, and saith unto them, {asaying,} Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. [There was no mistaking that voice. If Isaac knew the voice of Jacob ( Genesis 27:22), Saul the voice of David ( 1 Samuel 26:17), and Rhoda the voice of Peter ( Acts 12:13), much more did the apostles know the voice of the great Master.] d21 They were willing therefore to receive him into the boat. [Superstitious fears are not always so soon allayed. His voice brought great assurance.] a28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the waters. 29 And he said, Come. And Peter went down from the boat, and walked upon the waters to come to Jesus. [This scene comports with the character of Peter, who had always a rash willingness [380] to go into danger, and a lack of steadfastness to hold out through it.] 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, Lord, save me. [So long as the attention of Peter was fixed upon the Lord’s command he succeeded in his venture; but so soon as he let the power of the tempest distract his thoughts, his faith failed and he began to sink.] 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and took hold of him, and saith unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? [Fear is a source of doubt and an enemy of faith. Those who would achieve the victories of faith must overcome their fears.] b51 And he went up unto them into the boat; a32 And when they were gone up into the boat, the wind ceased. band they were sore amazed in themselves; 52 for they understood not concerning the loaves, but their heart was hardened. dand straightway the boat was at the land whither they were going. a33 And they that were in the boat worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. [The disciples showed the hardness of their hearts in that the working of one miracle did not prepare them either to expect or to comprehend any other miracle which followed. They ought to have worshipped Jesus as the Son of God when they saw the five thousand fed, but they did not. But when he had done that, and had walked upon the water, and quieted the wind, and transported the boat to the land, they were overcome by the iteration of his miraculous power, and confessed his divinity.] 34 And when they had crossed over, they came to the land, unto Gennesaret. band moored to the shore. [The land of Gennesaret was a plain at the western end of the lake of Galilee. Josephus describes it as about thirty furlongs in length by twenty in average width, and bounded on the west by a semicircular line of hills.] 54 And when they were come out of the boat, straightway the people knew him, a35 And when the men of that place knew him, they sent into band ran round about that whole region, and began to carry about on [381] their beds those that were sick, where they heard he was. aand brought unto him all that were sick; b56 And wheresoever he entered, into villages, or into cities, or into the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, a36 and they besought him that they might only touch bif it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole. [Though the apostles had started their boat toward Capernaum, the storm appears to have deflected their course, and the language of the text suggests that they probably came to land at the south end of the plain, somewhere near Magdala, and made a circuit of the cities in the plain of Gennesaret on their way to Capernaum. As he did not stop in these cities, the sick were laid in the street that they might touch him in passing through. Moreover, as they knew the course that he was taking, by running ahead they could anticipate his arrivals and have the sick gathered to take advantage of his presence. The story of the woman who touched the hem of his garment had evidently spread far and wide, and deeply impressed the popular mind.]

[FFG 379-382]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 14". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.