Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Matthew 14

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors


Matthew 14:0


The Death of John the BaptistJohn the Baptist BeheadedEvents of Decisive Acceptance or Rejection of JesusThe Death of John the BaptistHerod and Jesus
(Matthew 13:53-27)
Death of John
Matthew 14:1-12Matthew 14:1-12Matthew 14:1-12Matthew 14:1-2Matthew 14:1-2
John the Baptist Beheaded
Matthew 14:3-5Matthew 14:3-12
Matthew 14:6-7
Matthew 14:8
Matthew 14:9-12
The Feeding of the Five ThousandFeeding the Five ThousandFive Thousand FedJesus Feeds the Five ThousandFirst Miracle of the Loaves
Matthew 14:13-21Matthew 14:13-21Matthew 14:13-21Matthew 14:13-14Matthew 14:13-14
Matthew 14:15Matthew 14:15-21
Matthew 14:16
Matthew 14:17
Matthew 14:18-21
Walking on WaterJesus Walks on the SeaJesus Walks on WaterJesus Walks on the WaterJesus Walks on the Water and, with Him, Peter
Matthew 14:22-33Matthew 14:22-33Matthew 14:22-27Matthew 14:22-26Matthew 14:22-33
Matthew 14:27
Matthew 14:28-33Matthew 14:28
Matthew 14:29-30
Matthew 14:31
Matthew 14:32-33
The Healing of the Sick in GennesaretMany Touch Him and are Made Well Jesus Heals the Sick in GennesaretCures at Gennesaret
Matthew 14:34-36Matthew 14:34-36Matthew 14:34-36Matthew 14:34-36Matthew 14:34-36

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

BACKGROUND TO Matthew 14:1-36

A. Herod the Tetrarch who is mentioned in Matthew 14:1ff.; Luke 3:1; Luke 9:7; Luke 13:31, and Matthew 23:7, was the son of Herod the Great. At the death of Herod the Great, his kingdom was divided among three of his sons (Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Philip). The term "Tetrarch" meant "leader of the fourth part." This Herod was known as Herod Antipas which is the shortened form of Antipater. He controlled Galilee and Perea (4 B.C. - a.d 39). This meant that much of Jesus' ministry was in the territory of this second generation Idumean ruler.

B. Herodias was the daughter of Herod Antipas'brother, Aristobulus, which made her his niece. She had also been previously married to Philip, the half brother of Herod Antipas. This was not Philip the Tetrarch who controlled the area just north of Galilee, but the other brother Philip who lived in Rome. Herodias had one daughter by Philip (Salome). On Herod Antipas'visit to Rome he met and was seduced by Heroditas who was looking for political advancement. Therefore, Herod Antipas divorced his wife, who was a Nabatean princess and Herodias divorced Philip so that she and Herod Antipas could be married. She was also the sister of Herod Agrippa I (cf. Acts 12:0).

C. We learn the name of Herodias'daughter, Salome, from Flavius Josephus in his book The Antiquities of the Jews Matthew 18:5:4. She must have been between the ages of twelve and seventeen at this point. She was obviously controlled and manipulated by her mother. She later married Philip the Tetrarch but was soon widowed.

D. About ten years after the beheading of John the Baptist, Herod Antipas went to Rome at the instigation of his wife Herodias to seek the title of king because Agrippa I, her brother, had received that title. But Agrippa I wrote Rome and accused Antipas of corroboration with the Parthians, a hated enemy of Rome from the Fertile Crescent (Mesopotamia). The Emperor apparently believed Agrippa I and Herod Antipas, along with his wife Herodias, was exiled to Spain.

E. It may make it easier to remember these different Herods as they are presented in the New Testament by remembering that Herod the Great killed the children in Bethlehem; Herod Antipas killed John the Baptist; Herod Agrippa I killed the Apostle James; and Herod Agrippa II heard Paul's appeal recorded in the book of Acts.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why are verses Matthew 14:3-12 thought to be a parenthesis?

2. Can you identify the different Herods mentioned in the New Testament?

3. Why was Herodias so angry with John the Baptist?

4. What was the purpose of Jesus' miracles?

5. Why did Jesus feed the multitudes twice after rejecting the Devil's temptation to do this in Matthew 4:1-4?

6. How is the fearful reaction of Peter and the disciples so helpful to us in our faith?

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 14:1-5 1At that time Herod the Tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, 2and said to his servants, "This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him." 3For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 4For John had been saying to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." 5Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.

Matthew 14:1 "At that time Herod the Tetrarch heard the news about Jesus" Matthew apparently inserted a parenthesis between Matthew 14:1-2 and Matthew 14:13 dealing with the earlier death of John the Baptist. (What Jesus heard in Matthew 14:13 was not the death of John the Baptist but the report that Herod had heard about Him and thought that He was John the Baptist come back to life.)

Matthew 14:2 "This is John the Baptist" See account in Luke 9:7-9.

"that is why miraculous powers are at work in him" Herod apparently was superstitious and this magnified his guilt over the beheading of John the Baptist. There are no historical records of John the Baptist ever performing any miracles.

Matthew 14:3 "Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison" We learn from Josephus'Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.2 that this was the prison of Machaerus (cf. Matthew 4:12; Matthew 11:2). It was apparently a high, impregnable fortress to the southeast of the Dead Sea on the border of the Nabatean Empire. It is interesting to note that Herod's first wife successfully defected to her father, Aretas (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:32), by requesting to come to this particular summer palace. Later, her father had a military clash with her former husband, Herod Antipas, and totally defeated him. Herod would have been removed from office then if the Roman authorities had not intervened.

"Herodias" The New Testament TransLine by Michal Magill has a good summary of her.

" She was the grand-daughter of Herod the Great, the daughter of Aristobulus, the sister of Agrippa I. See 2:1. She married Herod Philip I, a paternal brother of her father. Later, she left him and married Herod Antipas, also a paternal brother of her father by a different wife. She chose to go into exile with Antipas when he was exiled in A.D. 39" (p. 49).

Matthew 14:4 "for John had been saying to him" The verb is imperfect tense which meant repeated action in past time. John had apparently made this accusation repeatedly. These charges were based either on Herod Antipas and Herodias (his niece) being too closely related to be married (cf. Leviticus 18:16), or more probably, because they were each had been illegally divorced (cf. Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Matthew 14:5 "Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd" This seems to be in direct contradiction to Matthew 14:9. However, the schizophrenia of these eastern potentates was notorious. Apparently there was a fascination with John because Herod often called him to talk with him (cf. Mark 6:20), yet at the same time, there was great fear!

"because they regarded John as a prophet" Jesus said in Matthew 11:7-11 that John was the last OT prophet and the greatest man ever born of woman under the old covenant. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY at Matthew 11:9.

Verses 6-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 14:6-12 6But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod, 7so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8Having been prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist." 9Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. 10He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.

Matthew 14:6 "But when Herod's birthday came" There is some archaeological, linguistic evidence that this may refer to an annual feast recognizing his inauguration. Judging from the available historical evidence, it was simply his birthday. On these occasions great feasts were the rule of the day.

"the daughter of Herodias danced before them" Salome's dance (see Josephus, Antiq. 18.5.4) must have greatly surprised everyone present because in this day and time dancing women were considered to be immoral. For a princess to dance before a group of drunken guests, particularly at this young age, must have been astonishing. The implication of the context is that it was a sensual dance instigated by her mother to win Herod's approval.

Matthew 14:8 "Having been prompted by her mother" The word " prompted" was the strong Greek term "urged." This shows that this young girl was not only manipulated by her mother, but also controlled by her in an obviously premeditated plan to secure the death of John the Baptist (cf. Mark 6:22-25).

Matthew 14:9 "although he was grieved" He was sorry-not because he was going to commit the premeditated murder of an innocent man, but because he had made an oath (secular use of "confess," cf. Luke 22:6) and he was embarrassed to break it before his drunken guests (cf. Mark 6:26).

Matthew 14:11 "and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother" We do not know what the mother did with the head. There is a tradition, first mentioned by Jerome in the 4th century A.D., that she pulled out his tongue and stuck a pin through it.

The Greek term "girl" was used both of Jairus'daughter (cf. Mark 5:41-42 where she is said to be twelve) and Salome, therefore, she was probably a teenager.

Verses 13-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 14:13-14 13Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:13 "when Jesus heard about John" This seems to refer to Matthew 14:1 and 2 and not the intervening parenthesis of Matthew 14:3-12.

"He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself" This account of Jesus feeding the five thousand is also recorded in Mark 6:32-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-13. Apparently He wanted to get away to pray. This was His normal custom which helped Him to be prepared for the circumstances He faced. If Jesus needed to get away to pray, how much more do believers?

"when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities" Jesus never got tired of nor impatient with the crowds, but was always moved with compassion (cf. Matthew 14:14). This is a theme in Matthew's Gospel (cf. Matthew 9:36; Matthew 15:32). Jesus, although tired and needing a time of retreat for prayer, still made people the priority. He cured all of those who were brought to Him, although He usually did not go out of His way to heal. He did not primarily want to be known as a healer but His compassion overflowed whenever He was in the presence of human misery. The healings of Jesus did two things: (1) they confirmed His message and (2) they showed the character and presence of the Messianic kingdom. Jesus is recorded as healing people numerous times in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. Matthew 4:23; Matthew 8:16; Matthew 9:35; Matthew 14:14; Matthew 15:30; Matthew 19:2; Matthew 21:14). I still believe in a supernatural God who heals. I do not understand why God heals some and does not heal others. I believe that there was a special emphasis on healing during the first century to confirm Jesus' message as there was a special outburst of the demonic during His lifetime. This same pattern may be repeated before the Second Coming. See Special topic: Is Healing God's Plan for Every Age? at Matthew 19:2.

Verses 15-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 14:15-21 15When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." 16 But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!" 17They said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." 18 And He said, "Bring them to Me." 19Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

Matthew 14:15 "When it was evening" See Matthew 14:23. Matthew presents this chapter as one day in the life of Jesus (cf. Matthew 14:23). It is assumed that the Jews of Jesus' day had an early evening and a late evening. The early one would occur at 3 p.m. in the afternoon when the offering of the evening sacrifice occurred in the Temple. The later one would be sometime just after sunset.

"this place is desolate" This idiom meant that there was no large town or village close by, not that it was an uninhabited desert region.

Matthew 14:16 Jesus apparently told the disciples to provide for these people (cf. Mark 6:37). "You give them something to eat" is emphatic in the Greek text. They were stunned. This was a training opportunity for them, as was the storm (cf. Matthew 14:32).

Matthew 14:17 "We have here only five loaves and two fish" This was one boy's lunch (cf. John 6:9). Commentators who are nervous about miracles (William Barclay and other logical positivists) try to say that what happened was that this young boy shared his lunch and others who had brought their lunches shared them, which provided enough food for everybody. This is an obvious example of one's presuppositions misinterpreting the biblical author's obvious meaning. Where did the twelve full baskets that were left over come from if this was simply a sharing of lunches? Also notice that Jesus supernaturally multiplied the bread; but did not waste any of it because the disciples picked up the small pieces to eat later. This multiplication of food was the exact temptation of the evil one in Matthew 4:1-4, to get Jesus to feed the needy humanity. One of the reasons why Jesus may have wanted to get alone to pray was this previous temptation. The people wanted to make Him the "bread king" (cf. John 6:15).

Matthew 14:18 "Bring them to Me" Jesus was doing this not only to feed the crowd, but to teach the disciples and to build their faith. This was the true purpose of many of His miracles. Compassion for the needy and the desire to build the faith of His disciples were the twin motivations of the miracles.

This feeding would also have had Jewish Messianic implications. The Jews expected the Messiah to perform acts like Moses. This new manna may have been one such act (cf. John 6:0).

Matthew 14:19 "ordering the people to sit down on the grass" Literally this says "to recline on the grass." This was the normal eating posture in Palestine. They were in groups of hundreds and fifties (cf. Mark 6:39-40). The presence of this lush, green grass meant that it was probably in the spring time.

"looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food" The normal position of prayer for the Jews was with the eyes and hands lifted up to heaven. It was unusual for them to kneel to pray. Our modern practice of bowing our heads and closing our eyes comes from the parable of the Pharisee and the sinner. If we are going to bow our head and close our eyes, to be truly biblical we should also beat our breasts (cf. Luke 18:9-14)!

Matthew 14:20 "twelve full baskets" See Special Topic below.


Matthew 14:21 "There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children" This being a somewhat isolated place, there were probably not too many women or children present unless they were sick and had been brought to be healed. The full number may have been somewhere around six or seven thousand but this is uncertain.

Since the Gospel of Matthew is directed to Jewish readers, this may have addressed the cultural issue of men eating separately from women and children (cf. NASB Study Bible, footnote, p. 1389).

Verses 22-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 14:22-27 22Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

Matthew 14:22 "Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat" Why Jesus forced the disciples into the boat is unspecified. It could have involved

1. the inappropriate actions of the crowd (cf. Mark 6:15)

2. another example of His supernatural power to build the disciples'faith (cf. Mark 6:45-51; John 6:15-21)

"while He sent the crowds away" They had become excited over this miraculous feeding and attempted to make Him king (cf. John 6:15). This was exactly the temptation of the evil one in Matthew 4:1-4 regarding the turning of the stones to bread. It was for this very reason that Jesus needed to get away, pray and speak with the Father about His further ministry. There was great confusion among the people concerning His healings and, here, of the feeding of the multitude.

Matthew 14:23 "He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray" This was His original intent back in Matthew 14:13. The Gospels repeatedly record Jesus getting alone to pray. If He, being God Incarnate, needed this, how much more do we?

Matthew 14:24 "the boat was already a long distance from the land" Mark 6:47 says the boat was in the middle of the lake.

Matthew 14:25

NASB, NKJV, NJB" in the fourth watch of the night" NRSV" early in the morning" TEV"between three and six o'clock in the morning"

This was a technical term to designate the fourth Roman watch of the night, which was 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. (cf. Mark 13:35). Originally the Jews had only three watches during the night (cf. Judges 7:19; Lamentations 2:19), but during the Roman period they adopted this fourfold division. Notice that Jesus had been in prayer for most of the night.

"He came to them, walking on the sea" Because the waves and the wind were up, He must have come in and out of sight as the waves lifted up the boat. Here again Jesus showed His power over nature. We learn from the other Gospels that Jesus meant to simply walk past them but, because of their fright, He had to get in the boat with them.

Matthew 14:26 "it is a ghost" This is exactly what they would say in the Upper Room in Luke 24:37. They were terrified. Jesus' first words to them were "Stop being afraid" (present imperative with the negative particle. These words of encouragement are repeated often (cf. Matthew 14:27; Matthew 17:7; Matthew 28:19; Mark 6:50; Luke 5:10; Luke 12:32; John 6:20; Revelation 1:17).

Matthew 14:27 Jesus spoke to His disciples two commands.

1. NASB, "take courage"

NKJV, "be of good cheer"

NRSV, "take heart"

TEV, NJB, "courage"

This is a present active imperative. Jesus spoke these words often to

a. a paralytic, Matthew 9:2

b. hemorrhagic woman, Matthew 9:22

c. the disciples in a boat, Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50

d. a blind man, Mark 10:49

e. the disciples in the upper room, John 16:33

f. Paul, Acts 23:11

2. " Do not be afraid" - This is a present middle/passive deponent imperative. Jesus spoke these words to

a. disciples in a boat, Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20

b. Peter after his great catch of fish, Luke 5:10

c. disciples while teaching them, Luke 12:32

d. at transfiguration, Matthew 17:7

e. women at the tomb, Matthew 28:10

f. Paul at Corinth, Acts 18:9

g. Paul at sea, Acts 27:24

h. John on Patmos, Revelation 1:17

These same words were spoken by angels to

1. Zacharias, Luke 1:13

2. Mary, Luke 1:30

3. shepherds, Luke 2:10

4. women at the tomb, Matthew 28:5

Verses 28-33

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 14:28-33 28Peter said to Him, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." 29 And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God's Son!"

Matthew 14:28 "Peter said to Him" This event is recorded only in Matthew's Gospel. Peter was so impetuous. He was a mixture of great faith and great doubt.

"if it is you" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Peter recognized it was Jesus.

Matthew 14:30 "seeing the wind" He saw and felt the wind and the waves and began to lose his faith focus.

"Lord, save me" This is a good example of the word " saved" used in the OT sense of "physical deliverance" (cf. James 5:15).

Matthew 14:31 "You of little faith" This is a recurrent theme in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. Matthew 6:30; Matthew 8:26; Matthew 16:8). Many of Jesus' miracles were done to increase the faith of the disciples. God works with those who have little faith. Amen!

Matthew 14:32 "worshiped Him, saying, 'You are certainly God's Son'" Jesus accepted this worship. How much they really understood concerning the term " Son of God" (see Special Topic at Matthew 27:54) and how much they understood by hearing and seeing the supernatural aspects of His ministry is uncertain. This obviously set the stage for the full theological confession of Matthew 16:16. Matthew's Gospel does not exhibit the "Messianic secret" to the extent Mark's Gospel does (i.e., Mark 6:52).

The term "Son of God" was used quite often in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. Matthew 4:3, Matthew 4:6; Matthew 16:16; Matthew 26:63; Matthew 27:40, Matthew 27:43, Matthew 27:54). There is no article with the term here as in Luke 27:54. Many assumed that this implied that they did not have the full theological implication of the term, which implied full deity. This may be true. Their understanding was progressive and not instantaneous. But it is dangerous to build too much theology on the presence or absence of the Greek article!

Verses 34-36

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 14:34-36 34When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.

Matthew 14:34 "When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret" There is ambiguity in the words "crossed over." In Mark 6:45 there was a place called Bethsaida which meant "house of fish." There must have been two Bethsaidas or else there was some confusion in the geography of the various accounts of the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus was staying in the territory of Philip the Tetrarch and not going back to the territory of Herod the Tetrarch. Gennesaret was primarily a Gentile area. Maybe this was His way of getting away from the Jewish crowds as He would later at Caesarea Philippi.

Matthew 14:35 "and when the men of that place recognized Him" The exact same thing that happened in Matthew 14:13 happens again and Jesus again took time to minister to needy people. They had the same kind of superstitious faith as the woman with the issue of blood in Matthew 9:20-they wanted to touch the tassel of His prayer shawl (cf. Matthew 14:36). Jesus accepted and worked with even this weak faith. His compassion can be clearly seen even for these superstitious non-Jews.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Matthew 14". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/matthew-14.html. 2021.
Ads FreeProfile