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Bible Commentaries

John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew
Matthew 15



Verse 29

Matthew 15:29 to Matthew 16:4.
Jesus Feeds The Four Thousand, Southeast Of The Lake, And Returns To Galilee

This is found also in Mark 7:31 to Mark 8:13. And Jesus departed from thence. We have no means of knowing how long he stayed in the country of Tyre; certainly not very long, for all the journeys of Matthew 15-18 occupied less than six months. (See on "Matthew 15:1", and see on "Matthew 19:1".) Mark (Mark 7:31) says, in the correct text, that, 'he went out from the borders of Tyre, and came through Sidon unto the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis.' This shows that in leaving the territory of Tyre he went northwards through the territory of Sidon, or through the city itself, the expression being in this case ambiguous. We have no information concerning the rest of his sojourn in Phoenicia. Next, he must have passed eastward across the Jordan, and then southward, until, going through the district of the Ten Cities, Decapolis (see on "Matthew 4:25"), he came to the shores of the lake, somewhere-on its southeastern border. (For description of the Lake of Galilee, see on "Matthew 4:18".) This region also was out of Herod's jurisdiction, like those to which he had previously withdrawn. (Matthew 13:13, Matthew 15:21) The desire to keep out of Herod's territory at that time may have caused him to take the circuit just described, instead of going direct from Tyre through Galilee and crossing the lake. He appears not to have stopped in the neighbourhood of Cesarea Philippi, probably through desire to revisit the environs of the lake; but soon the malignant attack of the Pharisees and Sadducees will make him go away again. (Matthew 16:4) He was now in the vicinity of Gadara (one of the Ten Cities), the same region in which he had healed the two demoniacs, and suffered the legion of evil spirits to destroy the swine. (Matthew 8:28 ff.) This time his ministry produces a greater impression, perhaps through the testimony of the restored demoniac. (Luke 8:39) Persons from Decapolis had followed him long before. (Matthew 4:25) And went up into a (the) mountain, the mountain range running along east of the lake. (Compare John 6:3) The mountain of Matthew 5:1 was on the western side of the lake. The more northern part of this easterly range was the place of feeding the Five Thousand (see on "Matthew 14:13"), and now a similar miracle is wrought on its more southern part. And sat down there, the usual posture of a teacher. (See on "Matthew 5:1".)

Matthew 15:30 f. Here, seated on a point in the mountain range, probably in view of the lake, he wrought many miracles of healing, and again fed the multitudes. In this case a large proportion of those present must have been Gentiles, as the Ten Cities were more a Gentile than a Jewish district. He must have spent at least several days in this region, since it required some time for his presence to become generally known, and the Four Thousand had been 'three days' (Matthew 15:32) in close attendance on his ministry. Great multitudes, literally, many crowds, as in so many other passages. We have here another general account of numerous miracles. (Compare Matthew 4:23, Matthew 8:16, Matthew 9:35, Matthew 12:15 f.) One of those wrought at this time and place was tile healing of a deaf and dumb man, described by Mark alone. (Mark 7:32-37) The order of the words lame, blind, etc., (Matthew 15:30) varies greatly in different documents, having doubtless been affected by Matthew 15:31; but this is a matter of no consequence. The word rendered maimed signifies crooked, bent, contracted; it is sometimes applied to cases of mutilation, the loss of some part of the body, (Matthew 18:8) which is the meaning of our word maimed, but is not often so used, and probably the best English word here would be 'crippled.' Malchus' ear (Matthew 25:31) is the only recorded instance of our Lord's miraculously restoring a missing part of the body. And many others. The kinds of diseases were so numerous that they could not all be named. Matthew appears to have selected those associated with predictions of Messiah. (See on "Matthew 11:5".)

Cast them down at his feet, implies not carelessness, but hurry and bustle amid the crowd of applicants. 'His feet' was easily changed by copyists into 'the feet of Jesus.' (Compare on Matthew 14:14)(1) The dumb to speak; speaking, etc., is the literal translation. (So Wyc.) And they glorified the God of Israel. In Matthew 9:8 it is simply 'and they glorified God.' But it was natural to mention that these heathen people glorified 'the God of Israel.'

Matthew 15:32-38. Compare on the similar feeding of the Five Thousand, Matthew 14:15-21. I have compassion, as in Matthew 9:36. Three days. They had no doubt brought some food with them, which was now exhausted. They showed great zeal to see and hear and be healed, remaining so long in the thinly inhabited region, sleeping on the ground two nights in the open air, living on the food brought with them, and slow to leave when it was gone. And I will not (or am not willing to) send them away fasting. ('I would not,' Rev. Ver., is hardly an improvement upon 'I will not'; it removes a possible ambiguity, but seems to suggest a condition.) Some of them were from a distance. (Mark 8:3) His (the) disciples, (Matthew 15:33) 'his' being easily added from Matthew 9:32. So much bread, literally, so many loaves, for the Greek is plural. In the wilderness, or a desert place, a wild country with few inhabitants, see on "Matthew 14:13" and see on "Matthew 3:1". Only a region containing large towns could at short notice furnish food for such a multitude, and this wild country was a good many miles from the nearest cities of Decapolis. A few little fishes. The diminutive form emphasizes the fact that the supply was meagre; in Matthew 15:36 it is the common word for 'fishes.' Here again the people are commanded to recline on the ground, and probably in companies and rows as before, (Mark 6:39 f.) though nothing is here laid of it. Seven baskets full In this case the number of baskets corresponds to the number of loaves; in the previous case (Matthew 14:20) to the number of apostles. Euthym.: "Showing that it is easy for him to do as he wishes." In Mark 8:19 f. our Lord seems to treat it as a matter of importance that such a quantity of broken pieces remained in each case. Beside women and children, mentioned by Matt. only, as before in Matthew 14:21.

This miracle is recorded both by Matthew and Mark, and the former miraculous feeding by all four of the Evangelists. And shortly after, (Matthew 16:9) we find it recorded both by Matt. and Mark that our Lord referred to the two miracles as separately teaching the same lesson. This conclusively shows that strikingly similar events did occur in our Lord's history, a thing to be remembered with reference to the two visits to Nazareth, the two instances of cleansing the temple, the two women who anointed Jesus, the parable of the pounds and that of the talents, etc, where it happens that the two events or discourses are recorded only by different Evangelists; and some expositors jump to the conclusion that they are nothing but varying and conflicting accounts of the same matter. If the feeding of five thousand with five loaves had been recorded only by one Gospel, and that of four thousand with seven loaves only by one or two others, it would have been most confidently asserted that these were the same miracle. Let us neither be nervous harmonizers, nor eager to assume that harmonizing is impossible. It is worth observing how natural in these two miracles are the points of agreement, and how striking are some of the differences. It was natural that the situation should in both cases be the wild country, where sufficient food could not be obtained from ordinary Sources; that the kind of food multiplied should be that which was common on the shores of the lake; that Jesus should 'bless' or 'give thanks' before breaking the bread, according to custom, and should distribute the food by the help of the disciples, a matter of obvious convenience and propriety. On the other hand, the precise locality in the wild country is different in the two cases; there is now, in the parched summer, no mention of reclining on the grass, as Matthew, Mark, and John, all mention in the former case, when it was spring; the supply of food is here greater than before, while the number of persons is smaller; the people here have remained three days; in the other case only one day. There is also a slight, but quite remarkable difference as to the word rendered 'basket.' This is in all four Gospels in the first miracle, and (or sphuris) in both Gospels here; and in the subsequent mention of these miracles (Matthew 16:9 f.; Mark 6:19 f.) it is again in both Gospels with reference to the first, and spurious with reference to the second miracle. We do not know the precise difference between the two words, but the careful observance of the distinction throughout, strikingly shows how entirely distinct the two miracles were. Origen and Chrys. suppose that the spurious was somewhat large, and this seems confirmed by its use in lowering Paul from the wall of Damascus, (Acts 9:25) while the appears to have been a small provision basket, such as a Jew on a journey commonly carried with him (see on "Matthew 14:20"). The disciples may have now had these large baskets because they had been making a long journey.

The strange thing about this second miracle is the fact that the apostles do not recur (Matthew 15:33) to the former miraculous feeding, which took place but a short time before. Many critics have thought this utterly inexplicable, and on this ground have denied the reality of the second miracle, though explicitly and repeatedly affirmed. But let us remember. Our Lord had sternly rebuked the crowd who shared in the previous feeding for following him the next day with the hope of being fed again, (John 6:2) and had been much displeased at the popular determination produced by that miracle to make him a king. Nay, he had hurried tile disciples themselves unwillingly away, partly, it is probable, because they sympathized with this popular design. (See on "Matthew 14:22".) In this state of things the disciples might naturally doubt whether lie would repeat a miracle which had been formerly attended by such undesirable results, and might at any rate feel great delicacy about suggesting the idea that he should do so. (Compare Mark 9:32, "were afraid to ask him.") But as soon as he intimates such an intention, by asking how many loaves they have, they express no surprise nor doubt, but go on to carry out the details.

And he sent away the multitudes, see on "Matthew 14:22"f. And took ship, literally, entered into the boat, see on "Matthew 4:21". The boat which they were accustomed to use may have been brought from Capernaum, while they were staying here on the S. E. side. Into the coasts of Magdala, or orders of Magadan.(1) This is unquestionably the correct reading, which was early changed to Magdala, a familiar name, easily connecting itself with Mary Magdalene. The position of Magadan is unknown, as is that of Dalmaimtha. (Mark 8:10) They appear to have been on the western side of the lake, being reached by boat frets the other side, and especially because from them the party crossed to the northeastern side. (Matthew 16:5, Mark 8:13)

Jesus Feeds The Four Thousand, Southeast Of The Lake, And Returns To Galilee, Continued

Matthew 16:1. That which follows occurred at Magadan, somewhere on the western side of the lake. The Pharisees also, with the Sadducees. Here, as in Matthew 3:7, there is but one article (literally, the Pharisees and Sadducees), presenting the Sadducees as accompanying the Pharisees, and perhaps as of less importance; so also in Matthew 16:6, Matthew 16:11 f. The Sadducees appear only three times in the Gospel history; (1) witnessing the baptism of John, Matthew 8:7, (2) tempting Jesus here, (3) tempting him, not at the same time with the Pharisees, but separately, in Matthew 22:23. (Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27) They are also spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 16:6, Matthew 16:11 f., and are mentioned nowhere else in the Gospels. Only a few weeks before, and not more than a few miles away, Jesus had severely censured the Pharisees as hypocrites and violators of God's word (Matthew 15:6-7) and had spoken of them as blind guides of the people, unworthy of notice. Yet the dissembled hostility here indicated was not first awakened by that censure, for they had already accused him of being in league with Beelzebub. (Matthew 12:24) Some critics think it incredible that Sadducees should have come with Pharisees. But they were temporarily united by common hostility to Jesus. Compare Herod and Pilate, Luke 23:12, and Psalms 2:2. Tempting (American Revisers would render 'trying him'), testing him (compare on Matthew 4:1, Matthew 4:7), with the hope that he will not stand the test, will not be able to show the sign; compare Matthew 19:3, Matthew 22:18, Matthew 22:35. The Scribes and Pharisees had asked a sign from him in Matthew 12:38, and were refused. Now the Pharisees and Sadducees make a similar demand specifically for a 'sign from heaven' (so also Mark 8:11), and get (Matthew 16:4) exactly the same refusal as before. (Matthew 12:39) They might be thinking of such signs as when Moses gave bread from heaven, (Psalms 78:23 ff.; John 6:30 f.) Joshua made the sun and moon stand still, Samuel brought thunder and rain in time of harvest, Elijah repeatedly called down fire from heaven, and at Isaiah' s word the shadow went back on the dial; compare Joel 2:30 ff. Origen conjectures that they regarded signs on earth as wrought in Beelzebul. (Matthew 12:24) Probably some Jews really expected celestial signs of Messiah's approach; but the present request was made from bad motives. Jesus promised "great signs from heaven" in connection with his second coming, (Matthew 24:29 f.; Luke 21:11, Luke 21:25; compare Revelation 15:1) and predicted that the false Christs would show great signs. (Matthew 24:24)

Matthew 16:2 f. This passage (except the opening words, He answered and said unto them), is quite certainly not a part of Matt. It is wanting in a number of the earliest documents (MSS., versions and Fathers);(1) no reason can be imagined for its omission, and it may readily have come from Luke 12:54-56, where the closing and principal expression is substantially the same, and the difference consists simply in using other signs of the weather. As the passage is retained by Rev. Ver., we mention that Wet. cites from Greek and Roman writers, these and various other signs of the weather; and that these signs hold good in England and in our country, being expressed by the saying, "Red sky at night is the shepherd's delight; Red sky in the morning is the shepherd's warning," which probably came to us from England. The signs of the times (seasons) would be the various indications then observable that the Messianic epoch was at hand, indications in the civil and religious condition of Israel, the fulfilment of Messianic prophecies, and the miracles wrought by Jesus and his followers. The other terms of the passage as inserted in Matt. call for no explanation. Even of the documents containing the passage, several of the best omit hypocrites, (Matthew 16:3) evidently drawn from Luke 12:56.

Matthew 16:4. This repeats his former reply to a similar demand, Matthew 12:38-40, and so on probably a later occasion, Luke 11:29 f. Some critics cannot believe that Jesus would several times repeat the same thing; but see Int. to Matthew 5. Of the prophet Jonas, or, Jonah. To Jonah was easily added 'the prophet' (common Greek text) from Matthew 12:39. Mark (Mark 8:12) records only the general refusal to give a sign, without mentioning the exception, the sign of Jonah, and states that in replying he "sighed deeply in his spirit." Jesus is beginning to find it hard to endure such perverse and malignant opposition. (compare Matthew 17:17) Left them and departed. (compare Matthew 21:17) Bengel: "Just severity." One of our Lord' s reasons for previously withdrawing from Galilee had been the hostility of the Pharisees (see on "Matthew 15:21"). So now again he withdraws to the neighbourhood of Cesarea Philippi, the region farthest removed from Jerusalem and its hypocritical and malignant parties. (Matthew 15:1) It is not likely that he remained at Magadan longer than a day or two.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 15:29-31. New fields and new labours; compare Acts 10:38.

Matthew 15:32. Ryle: "It is a curious and striking fact that of all the feelings expressed by our Lord upon earth, there is none so often mentioned as compassion. His joy, his sorrow, his thankfulness, his anger, his wonder, his zeal, are all occasionally recorded. But none of these feelings are so frequently mentioned as compassion." Henry: "Our Lord Jesus keeps an account how long his followers continue their attendance on him, and takes notice of the difficulty they sustain in it." (Revelation 2:2)

Matthew 15:33. Henry: "Forgetting former experience leaves us under present doubts."Matthew 16:1. Origen: "Often now also we see persons who hold the most discordant opinions in philosophy or other matters, seeming to harmonize that they may mock at and war against Jesus Christ in his disciples."

Matthew 16:1, Matthew 16:4. Signs. (1) Even our Lord's early signs convinced Nicodemus and his friends. (John 3:2) (2) The many signs of the next two years did not satisfy malignant opposers (Matthew 16:1), and were even ascribed by them to Beelzebul. (Matthew 12:24) (3) Captious demands for special signs he always refused. (Matthew 16:4; compare Luke 4:23) (4) Even the sign of Jonah (Matthew 16:4), when it came in his resurrection, while a conclusive proof, was rejected by many. (Matthew 28:15, Acts 25:19) (5) Even years afterwards the Jews demanded fresh signs, but the 'called' found Christ crucified the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:22 ff.)


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Bibliography Information
Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 15:4". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". 1886.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 27th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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