Attention!
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Matthew 14

Verse 1

14:1 The Herodian family was a prominent one in the days of Christ and the early years of the church. Its head was Herod the Great who had several sons by a number of wives. The name "Herod" became a family title and the various members had personal names that made distinctions between them. The different members of the Herodian family held offices of greater or lesser importance in Palestine and figured largely in the affairs of the church as well as the nation. The one in this verse was Herod Anti-pas, son of Herod the Great. Tetrarch originally meant "ruler of a fourth part of some territory," but finally came to mean one who had the ruler-ship over a small part of any district to which he might be assigned.

Verse 2

14:2 Hearing of the fame of Jesus, Herod thought he would have to make some kind of an explanation of it since he could not deny the facts. He doubtless had a sort of guilty feeling over the way he had treated John the Baptist and it gave him this weird-like impression. He explained the matter to his servants by saying that John had come back to life and was doing these mighty works in the person of Jesus. However, this return to life on earth to which Herod referred was not a part of the general resurrection that is taught in the Scriptures, but to a belief that many people had that is described in the histories and other works of reference as "transmigration." I shall quote Webster's definition of the word: "Act or instance of transmigrating; specifically, the passing of the soul at death into another body or successive bodily forms, either human or animal; also (often transmigration of souls), the doctrine that souls so pass." We know that such a doctrine did not originate with any true teacher from God, although many of His professed people took up with it. The idea of repeated transmigrations was based on the theory of Brahma, the Hindu name of the Supreme Being. I shall quote from Myers Ancient History (pages 99, 100) on this matter: "A chief doctrine of Brahmanism is that all life, apart from Brahma, is evil, is travail and sorrow. . . . The only way to redemption from evil lies in communion with and final absorption with Brahma. But this return to Brahma is dependent upon the soul's purification, for no impure soul can be reabsorbed into Brahma. . . . As only a few In each generation reach the goal, it follows that the great majority of men must be born again, and yet again, until all evil has been purged away from the soul and eternal repose is found in Brahma. He who lives a virtuous life is at death born into some higher caste, and thus he advances towards the longed-for end. The evil man, however, is born into a lower caste, or perhaps his soul enters some unclean animal. This doctrine of rebirth is known as the transmigration of souls." While this doctrine originated with the heathen teachers, it had become widely known in the time of Christ and the apostles and was reflected even in the opinions of some of the Jews. That made it necessary for our Saviour and his apostles to deal with it (Mat 16:14; Mar 8:28; Heb 6:2), hence the reader should make himself familiar with this paragraph for future reference when the subject may be mentioned.

Verse 3

14:3 The imprisonment and slaying of John the Baptist had taken place several months before this but nothing was stated on the subject at the time. Now the remark of Herod being recorded by Matthew brought up the subject which might leave the reader in confusion, hence he interrupts his story and goes back to tell that incident, beginning with this verse and running through verse 12. The cause of the trouble was the marriage of Herod with the wife of his brother Philip I.

Verse 4

14:4. John the Baptist told Herod that it was unlawful for him to have her. That would have been a true accusation for more than one reason, but the most outstanding one was the fact that his brother Philip was still living.

Verse 5

14:5 Herod would have slain John in spite work, but was kept from it by the force of public opinion which held John in high esteem as a prophet of God. Besides, Herod might not personally have been inclined so harshly towards .him if he had not been influenced by his wicked wife. Mar 6:19 tells us that she quarreled with John and would have put him to death had she been able to do so.

Verse 6

14:6 But an unexpected event gave her the opportunity she wanted to accomplish her, wicked purpose that was prompted by an adulterous heart. Herod celebrated his birthday by a banquet to which he invited the high men of rank in his estate. The text does not state that his program included the following performance, but for some reason the daughter of his wife by a previous marriage danced before him and his guests. The word for dance is ORCHEOMAI which Thayer defines simply, "to dance." Robinson defines it, "to lift up, to raise aloft; to leap, to dance." Young's definition is, "to lift up (the feet), dance." There is no intimation of any display of musical rhythm, but on the other hand from the definitions of the word in the lexicons, and also from the effects her dancing had on the adulterous mind of Herod, the conclusion is clear that the girl exposed herself before the eyes of that lustful king. It says it pleased Herod, and that pleasure overcame his better judgment.

Verse 7

14:7 Herod was so overcome by the effect of the girl's appearance before his eyes that he seems to have lost his reason. He told her with an oath and without any stipulation that she could have whatever she asked, and Mark's account says that Herod extended his offer to include half of his kingdom.

Verse 8

14:8 Before instructed of her mother. Herodias knew the nature of Herod, in that he was willing to marry her while her husband was living. Doubtless it was her suggestion that caused the girl to dance before the group and display .her charms in the way she did. She further prompted her daughter what to do in.case her dancing produced the effect she anticipated. Consequently she asked for the head of John the Bapist in a charger which means a large dish. The wicked woman would not risk merely request ing the death of John for she would never be sure that it was carried out. But if his head is severed from this body and brought to her she would know the deed was done.

Verse 9

14:9 The king was not expect-ing such a request as this and he was doubtless genuinely sorry because of it. But he had bound his promise with an oath in the knowledge of his royal guests, and pride as well as a 'false notion of the sacredness of an oath, though a sinful one, prevailed over his personal sentiments so that he commanded the wish to be granted and gave orders to the executioner to behead the righteous man.

Verse 10

4:10 John was in prison and the beheading was done there.

Verse 11

4:11 The head of John the Baptist was placed in a dish and brought to the damsel. The head of that forerunner of Christ, the one who had been foretold by the prophets, the man whose preaching aroused the multitudes of all Judea, was severed from his body because he dared to rebuke a lustful man and woman for their wickedness. Of course the damsel was true to the orders of her mother and delivered this reward of her own immoral actions to the vicious woman waiting for it.

Verse 12

4:12 His disciples means the disciples of John. They got possession of his body and buried it, then went and told Jesus because they knew that he would be concerned.

Verse 13

4:13 When Jesus heard it means what the disciples of John had just reported. Hence the whole narrative including the works of Jesus goes back to the time of the death of John and proceeds again from there. Jesus wished some privacy or at least some relief from the presence of the crowds after receiving the sad news, and hence he went into a ship and journeyed to a place not much inhabited. Notwithstanding, the people came in throngs on foot to follow him.

Verse 14

4:14 The patience and love of Jesus knew no bounds. He went out to this place for a little relaxation from the press of the multitudes, but when they came on after him his compassion asserted itself and he healed their sick.

Verse 15

4:15 It was getting on towards the close of day and the crowds were lingering in the presence of Jesus. Thinking they might not realize the hour and thus would let darkness find them without provisions, the disciples suggested that Jesus send them into the villages for food.

Verse 16

4:16 This situation provided the occasion of one of the most noted of the miracles of Jesus. The faith of the disciples was to be tested, also they were to receive a lesson on the subject of cooperation; Jesus told them to feed the people.

Verse 17

4:17 The reply of the disciples indicates they had no miraculous power, and that they thought they were expected to feed the multitudes from their own private stores. Hence they explained how scant was their supply of food.

Verse 18

4:18 The amount of supplies the disciples had would not have been even a taste for the crowds, but the lesson was that whatever man has, whether little or much, must be contributed to the cause if he expects the Lord to make the project effective.

Verse 19

4:19 Grass is mentioned which indicates that the place was not without moisture even though it was called a desert. The word means a territory that was not occupied generally by people. It would be more orderly to serve a large crowd if sitting than while standing. Looking up to heaven was a gesture of recognition of the source of the good things at hand. Blessed is from EULOGEO and Thayer's first definition is, "to praise, celebrate with praises." The clause means that Jesus took the bread in his hands before serving, then looked up toward heaven and "Praised God from whom all blessings flow." It was orderly to pass the bread out through the hands of the disciples, besides it made them partakers with Jesus in the service of the hour.

Verse 20

4:20 Even had the whole multitude been able each person to have tasted of the amount of bread the disciples had, it would not have been a miracle although a remarkable thing. They not only tasted but ate-not only ate but were filled; which could not have been accomplished naturally with five loaves. And to show that filled was not figurative there were twelve baskets full of fragments taken up. Why bother with these scraps when it was so easy to obtain bread with Jesus with them? Joh 6:12 reports the same event and adds the reason given by Jesus was "that nothing be lost."

Verse 21

4:21 It may have been only a coincidence that there was one loaf to each thousand men, but by leaving out the enumeration of the women and children that figure of pro rata was obtained.

Verse 22

4:22 Jesus constrained or commanded his disciples to enter a ship and go across the sea before him. He wished to dismiss the multitudes which would require some considerable time because of the large number of them.

Verse 23

4:23 Before Joining the disciples Jesus retired to a mountain to pray, so that by the time evening had come he was alone. That would be a very suitable situation for prayer with his Father.

Verse 24

4:24 In the meantime a storm had come up and the disciples were having difficulty with their ship. Wind was contrary means the wind was blowing against them or in the opposite direction to that in which they wished to row. Evidently Jesus was expecting such a condition and selected the occasion for one of his great miracles.

Verse 25

4:25 The fourth watch was the same as our three o'clock in the morning, as the twelve hours of the night were divided into four divisions of three hours each, beginning at six in the evening. Thus the hour that Jesus went toward the disciples was still in darkness although not very far from the time of daylight.

Verse 26

4:26 Peering out over the sea in the darkness the disciples saw an object on the surface of the water coming toward them. While it was still in the darkness of night, yet it was not total darkness, so that an object could be discerned but not very distinctly. The sight startled them and they cried out with fear because they thought it was a spirit. Ordinarily a spirit is not supposed to be something that can be seen, but the original for this spirit is PIIANTASMA which means a phantom or something that appears to exist but which belongs to the unseen world. There is enough of the superstitious in most people to make them have a weird or uneasy feeling in the presence of such an appearance, hence the disciples cried out in their fright.

Verse 27

4:27 They did not recognize Jesus from his appearance but did know his voice, hence the Lord spoke to let them realize who was coming to them.

Verse 28

4:28 We are not told the motive that Peter had in wanting to walk on the water. If it was from a desire to make a show, the Lord certainly knew how to humble him.

Verse 29

4:29 Peter actually got started walking on the surface of the sea and hence had evidence that it was Jesus who was dealing with him miraculously. This should have reassured him that no harm need come to him.

Verse 30

4:30 The power of the Lord is not affected by any apparent difficulties. Peter had started on his journey over the sea and had evidence that Jesus was there. He also should have remembered the previous event (chapter 8:23-27) in which the sea was calmed by the Lord's voice. But his human nature got the better of him and he began to sink. Of course Jesus would not let his disciple perish, but he used the occasion to rebuke him by allowing him to think he was going to sink and perish.

Verse 31

4:31 The Lord chastised him at the same time he was rescuing him by accusing him with having little faith. A good lesson may be obtained for all of us from this event. It does not require as much faith to appear firm when everything is favorable. The test comes when it appears that things are against us, and it is then that we should think of the words of Paul in Rom 8:31, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Verse 32

4:32 Whether it was the mere presence of Jesus in the ship that quieted the storm we are not told, or that he commanded it to be so as he did in the case referred to above. What we know is that when he entered the vessel the wind ceased.

Verse 33

4:33 The circumstance had a deep effect on the men in the ship and caused them to worship Jesus. See the comments on chaper 2:2 for the meaning of that word. The worship in this case took the form of a confession that Jesus is the Son of God. That was one purpose of the miracles that Jesus performed according to Joh 20:30-31, and not merely to gratify the curiosity of idle or disinterested people.

Verse 34

4:34 The storm being over, the ship resumed its journey and landed on the western shore of Galilee at the country of Gennesaret.

Verse 35

4:35 The fame of Jesus had become known in this territory. After his arrival the sick were sent for and brought into the presence of the man who was known as the healer of all kinds of diseases.

Verse 36

4:36 Touching the garment of Jesus had no curative effect in itself, but the act showed their faith and they were healed as a reward for it, on the same principle as that of the woman in chapter 9:20-22.
Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 14". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/matthew-14.html. 1952.