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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament
Matthew 14



Verse 1

Matthew 14:1. ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ, at that time) It was now about a year from the commencement of our Lord’s public ministry.— ἤκουσεν, heard) The ears and courts of kings resound with news; but spiritual matters, however widely published, scarcely ever arrive there.(654)

Verse 2

Matthew 14:2. παισὶν, servants) The friends of princes are for the most part yonng.(655) In time of fear, the great speak promiscuously with the small.— οὔτος, this) Herod was tormented by his conscience.(656) It was not consistent with the character of such a king to arrive at an absolute decision. He concluded, but with doubt; see Luke 9:7; Luke 9:9. Herod was a Sadducee; but Sadduceeism wavers when anything strange occurs. Reason [mere human reason] prefers ascribing marvellous circumstances to ancient, or at least departed saints, rather than to those who are alive; and to those whom it has once begun to esteem highly rather than to others.(657)ἰωάννης, John) Herod had not heard of the works of Jesus before the death of John. John had not performed any miracles during his life; but because he had been a holy man, men now suppose that he must nevertheless have possessed miraculous power; cf. ch. Matthew 16:14. So great power has the reputation of holiness even with those who are themselves unholy. Moreover, as the actions of Christ were ascribed to John even when dead, it was necessary that he should decrease in order that Christ might increase. The Greeks speak much and often of the things which our Lord’s forerunner, slain before Him, announced and preached to the dead; see Leo Allatius,(658) de libris ecclesiast. Gr. pp. 303, 304; and Wetstein(659) on the dialogue against the Marcionites, p. 33. So do the Latins also, quoted by Ittigius(660) in his dissertation on the gospel preached to the dead, § xi.; see also Ambrose on Luke 1:17, and Gerson’s(661) second lecture on St Mark.— βαπτιστής, the Baptist) This surname is given to John even by Herod, even by the daughter of Herodias, even by Josephus, so celebrated was it.— αὐτὸς, he) himself.— αἱ δυνάμεις, mighty works) He speaks of them as objective realities.— ἐν αὐτῷ in Him) sc. in Jesus.

Verse 3

Matthew 14:3. ἡρωδιάδα, Herodias) This princess was hostile to the latter Elias, as Jezebel to the former.— τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, his brother) Most authorities(662) prefix φιλίππου from St Mark, who is known not to have taken all things from St Matthew by his being the only one who names this brother of Herod. The shorter reading of St Matthew has been preserved intact by the Vulgate, ‘fratris,’ of his brother, alive, and not childless, as we learn from Josephus, 18. 7; but it was sufficient for the Evangelist to say that he was his brother. Herodias(663) was also the niece of both, being the daughter of their brother Aristobulus.

Lachm. with BZ Orig. 3, 470b. reads φιλίππουαὐτοῦ. b has αὐτιὺ φιλίππου. Tischend. omits φιλίππου with Da (?) c Vulg. φιλίππου looks like a gloss of the harmonies from Mark 6:17. However, the omission might also come similarly from Luke 3:19.—ED.

The marg. of both Editions agree with the Gnomon. But Vers. Germ. retains φιλίππου in this passage.—E. B.

Verses 3-12

Matthew 14:3-12. γάρ ἡρώδης, κ. τ. λ., for Herod, etc.) It was not necessary that the death of John should be foretold in the Old Testament, or be described professedly and in order; because he did not die for us. The mention of him, however, is gracefully resumed when our Lord was now in the zenith of His career.

Verse 4

Matthew 14:4. οὐκ ἔξεστι, it is not lawful) John did not break the force of bitter truth by arguments of a too conciliatory nature; neither his words were soft, nor his dress. John did not come into Galilee, but yet he was able to reprove Herod.— σοὶ, to thee) Sins even of kings should be rebuked in the second person.— ἔχειν, to have) Theologians must not give up questions concerning marriage (see ch. Matthew 19:3-4), since it is their duty to examine everything which is lawful or unlawful; cf. ch. Matthew 22:17.

Verse 5

Matthew 14:5. ἐφοβήθη, feared) They often fear who crush the witnesses of truth, whilst the witnesses themselves fear not their oppressors.(664)

Verse 6

Matthew 14:6. γενεσίῳν) Either the day on which he was born, as the LXX. use the word in Genesis 40:20, or that on which he began to reign. Remarkable days of high festival are accompanied with great danger of falling into sin.(665)ὠρχήσατο, she danced) A light matter; the handle of a most weighty matter.— θυγάτηρ, daughter) Salome by name.— ἐν τῶ μέσῳ, in the midst) in the sight of all during the banquet.

Verse 7

Matthew 14:7. ὡμολόγνσεν, promised, agreed) The girl had asked by dancing; and the king appears, even before this, to have been in the habit of giving her something on his birth-day.

Verse 8

Matthew 14:8. προβιβασθεῖσα, being before instructed) i.e. before she asked.— ὧδε, here) Before the king could repent.— πίνακι, in a charger) which perhaps she held in her hand. The ungodly know how to propose the most horrible things with elegance of language and sweetness of sound.

Verse 9

Matthew 14:9. ἐλυπήθη, was grieved) Conscience was not yet entirely banished from the monarch’s breast. The sudden necessity of executing an evil purpose startles even the worst. The joys of this world are accompanied by sadness.— βασιλεὺς, the king) strictly tetrarch; see Matthew 14:1.— συνανακειμένους, reclining at his table) The king feared the guests, the guests the king. By not interceding as they ought to have done for John, they became accomplices in his murder.

Verse 10

Matthew 14:10. ἀπεκεφάλισε, he beheaded) Even this kind of death was a proof that John was not the Messiah: cf. John 19:36.(666)ἰωάννην, John) a sudden and violent death, even by decapitation, is not always miserable.

Verse 11

Matthew 14:11. τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς, to her mother) who without doubt treated it cruelly.

Verse 12

Matthew 14:12. τὸ σῶμα, his body) without the head.— ἐλθόντες, κ. τ. λ., coming, etc.) From that circumstance the death of John was advantageous to his disciples.(667)ἀπήγγειλαν, announced) It is not said with what manifestation of feeling Jesus received this announcement; doubtless He received it as it befitted the Lord.

Verse 13

Matthew 14:13. ἀκούσς, having heard) sc. those things which are mentioned in Matthew 14:1-12.(668)ἀνεχώρησεν, departed) The murderer of the Baptist was unworthy to hear or see the Lord: see ch. Matthew 21:23-27. Afterwards, indeed, he did see Him; Luke 23:8; not, however, coming of His own accord, but forced by the violence of His enemies; and therefore Herod’s seeing Him, on that occasion, was not a sign of favour. Cf. the case of Samuel and Saul, 1 Samuel 15:35; 1 Samuel 19:24.— κατʼ ἰδίαν, apart) no one being taken with Him, except His disciples.— πεξῇ, on foot) See Eustathius.(669)

Verse 14

Matthew 14:14. ἐξελθὼν, having come forth) sc. from His retreat into public.

Verse 15

Matthew 14:15. ὀψίας, evening) The evening has various degrees; see Matthew 14:23.— ὥρα, the hour) sc. for dismissing the people, of taking food and rest, or of going to search for food.— ἑαυτοῖς for themselves) The disciples seem sometimes to have bought food for them.

Verse 16

Matthew 14:16. οὐ χρείαν, no need) We should not labour for that which is not necessary.— ὑμεῖς, you) significantly. The disciples already possessed the rudiments of miraculous faith.(670)

Verse 17

Matthew 14:17. ἄρτους, loaves) obtained for the present exigency one by one.

Verse 19

Matthew 14:19. ἀνακλιθῆναι, to be seated) The faith of the people is thus exercised.— τοὺς ἄρτους, the loaves) sc. whatever was there.— ἀναβλέψας, looking up) Jesus referred everything to the Father (see John 11:41; John 17:1) with the most entire confidence: far different from the practice of sinners; see Luke 18:13.— οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ, but His disciples) A prelude to their future administration.(671) See Acts 4:35.

Verse 20

Matthew 14:20. πἀντες, all) How much more can all partake of the one body of the Lord in the Holy Super.— κλασμάτων, of fragments) of most excellent bread; cf. John 2:10. A most substantial miracle. The people were not permitted to carry any away for the sake of curiosity.— δώδεκα, twelve) see Gnomon on ch. Matthew 16:9. There were remnants also of fishes; see Mark 6:43. They were preserved for future eating, not, like manna, as a memorial.

Verse 21

Matthew 14:21. γυναικῶν καὶ παιδίων, women and children) of whom no doubt there was a large number.

Verse 22

Matthew 14:22. εὐθέως, straightway) Our consideration ought not to dwell on things which we have well done.— ἠνάγκασεν, constrained, compelled) as it is allowable to believe, for important reasons. They did not willingly sail alone.— τὸ πλοῖον, the vessel) mentioned in Matthew 14:13.— ἕως, κ. τ. λ., until, etc.) He is not said to have told them that He should pray. He gave an example of praying in secret.

Verse 23

Matthew 14:23. τὸ ὄρος, the mountain) which was in that region. Mountains and elevated places (see Acts 10:9) are especially suited for prayer, on account of their solitude, and their being open to heaven.— κατʼ ἰδίαν, apart) Not even the disciples being present. In such a retreat, matters of the greatest importance took place between God and the Mediator. It was no dramatic representation that interceded for us.(672) What passed between Christ and the Father may be inferred, for example, from Psalms 16 and Luke 11:2-3. Cf. Matthew 14:1 and John 17— προσεύξασθαι, to pray) beyond midnight; see Matthew 14:25. The fruit may be seen in Matthew 14:33-34.

Verse 25

Matthew 14:25. τετάρτη, fourth) and last. The Jews also divided the night into four watches. The disciples were subjected to great straits for some time, till He brought them help.— ἀπῆλθε, He departed) His prayers, though they had lasted a long while, being as it were broken off, He departed to help His disciples.— περιπατῶν, κ. τ. λ., walking) though the wind blew strong.

Verse 26

Matthew 14:26. ἐτάραχθησαν, they were troubled) We often take Christ for another rather than for Christ: cf. Matthew 14:2. The disciples now feared not only the sea, but also the Lord.— φάντασμα, an apparition) φάντασμα and φάσμα are identical in meaning. See Wisdom of Solomon 17:15; Wisdom of Solomon 17:4. Nor does φαντασία greatly differ from them. Ibid. Matthew 18:17.

Verse 28

Matthew 14:28. κέλευσον, command) A remarkable exercise of faith. Peter, from desire for Jesus, leaves the vessel, whether he has to walk on the sea or to swim through it. Cf. John 21:7.

Verse 29

Matthew 14:29. ἐλθε, come) More is required of him who offers himself spontaneously to Christ; he is more greatly tempted, more mightily preserved.

Verse 30

Matthew 14:30. βλέπων, seeing) Peter both felt the wind, and saw it on the waves.— τὸν ἄνεμον the wind.) The wind had been strong before that, but had not been so much observed by Peter.— ἐφοβήθη, he was afraid) Although he was a fisherman, and a good swimmer; see John 21:7. They who have begun to depend on grace are less able to employ nature.— καταποντίζεσθαι, to sink) According to the measure of his faith, he was supported by the water; just as the Israelites prevailed according as the hands of Moses were held up.

Verse 31

Matthew 14:31. ὀλιγόπιστε, O thou of little faith) Even great faith is little in comparison of that which we ought to have. We should also possesss constancy.— εἰς τί, wherefore? to what end?) With what advantage? He is not blamed because he came out of the vessel, but because he did not remain in the firmness of faith. He was right in exposing himself to trial; but he ought to have persevered.— ἑδίστασας, didst thou doubt) The nature of faith is perceived from its opposites, doubt and fear. See Mark 5:36; Romans 14:23; James 1:6.(673)

Matthew 14:35. οἱ ἄνδρες, the men) who perhaps were engaged in labouring in the fields.—V. g.

Verse 36

Matthew 14:36. ΄όνον, κ. τ. λ., only, etc.) Such was their pious humility.(674)


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Bibliography Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 14:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 28th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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