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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
John 7

 

 

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Verse 1

§ 81.JESUS’S GOING UP TO, AND FIRST TWO DISCOURSES AT, THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES, John 7:2-53; John 8:1.

1. After these things—For the order of events consult the Harmony, p. 101.

Walked—To traverse, and so to reside. Jewry—Judea. This term Jewry is retained in this place alone from the oldest English translation. It signifies a place or quarter where Jews reside; and a section of London bears the name. Were a revised translation to be made, doubtless this word would be replaced by Judea.


Verse 2

2. Jews—Note on John 1:19.

Feast of tabernacles—This was one of the three great annual feasts which every Jew was required to attend at Jerusalem. It took place early in October, and was a celebration of the sojourn of Israel in the wilderness. The wilderness residence was imitated by the building of tabernacles, that is, booths or wig-wams made of autumnal bushes and boughs, so that the vacant grounds were occupied with a sudden rural city, in which the people held their temporary residence. It was held during seven days, yet an eighth was added, which finally became the great day of the feast, (John 7:37.) Within the temple grounds there was no well or water spring; and each morning, after the early sacrifice, a priest went with a large golden pitcher and drew water from the fount of Siloam, at the side of the temple mount, and thence returned in joyous procession to the grand altar, behind which he poured the water forth to descend to the subterranean watercourses beneath. This ceremony at once commemorated the miraculous furnishing of water to famishing Israel, and prefigured the higher impartation of the Holy Spirit to Israel’s thirsting nation. So festal was this rite that the rabbins say that he who has not seen this Joy of the waters knows not what rejoicing is. In process of time, and, doubtless, in our Saviour’s day, this feast had degenerated into profane revelry; so disgracefully, indeed, that a pagan writer, Plutarch, honestly records that it was a feast of Bacchus! Fully to understand the transactions and discourses at this visit to the metropolis, the whole passage as far as John 10:21, with its brief appendix of the Feast of Dedication, to John 10:40, should be read.


Verse 3

3. His brethren—His brothers. That these were the sons of Joseph and Mary would scarcely have been questioned but for doctrinal reasons. See note on Matthew 10:3; Matthew 13:55. Their names were James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. As Jesus was the eldest, and but slightly over thirty, these must have been in their green young manhood. This must account for their ambitious half-belief and half-disbelief of the Messiahship of Jesus. They believed a miraculous basis for success to be in him if he will only show it out to the world; but he does not realize their idea of a divine, warlike, hero Messiah. After the sad yet wonderful events of the crucifixion and resurrection these brothers believed! They consented to accept as Messiah a Saviour of the world, instead of a Liberator of the Jews. This very James became “James the Just,” the author of the Epistle of James, the bishop of Jerusalem, and the martyr to the faith he here disowns. And this Judas is the Jude author of the Epistle bearing that name.

Depart hence—Leave this obscure provincial Galilee.

Go into Judea—Go to the headquarters of pure Judaism, to the great metropolis.

Thy disciples—Who will be assembled in their fullest force at the feast, whether they belong to Judea or Galilee. They were doubtless aware that in eastern Judea the preaching of John and Jesus both had won many disciples to Christ.

See the works—They believed that he could show works that might justify the faith of his disciples.


Verse 4

4. No man—Omitting the italics, (injudiciously inserted by the translators,) the verse may read, No man doeth anything in secret yet seeketh to be himself known openly. That is, no man does both stay in secret and desire to be public. It is inconsistent, and contrary to common sense or ordinary human conduct.

If thou do these things—If thou proposest thyself to be a miraculous founder. There is a non-committalism in this if that leads the Evangelist to the explanation in the following verse.


Verse 5

5. Neither… his brethren believe—The brothers of a sinless, perfect child would, then, give him no credit for being such! However right he may be, they would always hold him wrong when he differed from themselves. So they do on the present occasion. He is waiting his “time” from the Father in his most perfect rectitude of soul, and these brothers rather think him a miraculous fool!


Verse 6

6. My time—My time for challenging the nation at the metropolis. The word time here has no doubtful meaning. See note on John 2. It has not the slightest reference, as some suppose, to his death. Jesus goes not up to this feast, because the divinely appointed and divinely signified time for going to it has not yet come. When that comes he will go.

Your time—Is your own, and acknowledges no divine regulation.

Alway ready—When you please.


Verse 7

7. The world—To which (John 7:4) ye so ambitiously bid me show myself.

Cannot hate you—You and it are quite too good friends.

Me it hateth The great world is wrong, and it hates the Holy One who would set it right.


Verse 8

8. I go not up yet—The best authorities decide that the word yet should be rejected from the text. His true Words are, I go not up to this feast. That Jesus did not then intend to go up to the feast is perfectly clear from the reason alleged, namely, My time is not yet. This of course clearly means that when his time came he would go up. It came and he went. Jesus uses a word that applied only to the present, I go not. He spoke not for the future; but, obediently unknowing the moment, he leaves the decision of the time to the Father, and tells precisely as he knows.

Not yet full come Phraseology which clearly implies that his time was at an unknown nearness. Doubtless, the Divine Will was that Jesus should not encounter the preparations of the authorities to assassinate him at the beginning of the feast. Nor is he permitted to know and to reveal to his brothers his later coming, lest they should report it at Jerusalem, that he would be there before the close. At the proper moment, in the middle of the feast week, Jesus is suddenly within their midst, and amid the confusion of the elements he overrides and defeats all the machinations of the Jewish powers.


Verse 9

9. Abode still in Galilee—So that this conversation took place some days before the departure of his brothers to the feast. Did Jesus during this time send forward his disciples to prepare his quiet way through Samaria, in order that he might thence perform the solemn symbolical act of commissioning the Seventy? This might fully explain why he had no conscious certainty that the Divine Will would call him to stem the torrent of hate and fury at the metropolis.


Verse 10

10. Not openly—Not with the ordinary pilgrim caravans by the ordinary route on the east side of Jordan.

As it were in secret—Not by any actual concealment; but informing no one except his apostles, and taking the cross route through Samaria. See map.


Verse 11

11. Where is he?—While he is in secret, engaged in his sacred mission, the Jews of the capital are on the alert for his coming, ready, doubtless, to make an end of his life.


Verses 11-36

Jesus overmasters the commotions at the Feast of Tabernacles, John 7:11-53.

His first Feast-of-Tabernacles discourse, John 7:11-36.

In the following striking narrative of the fermentation on his account at Jerusalem, we must first note the different parties engaged. There are, first, the Jews, (John 7:11,) or hostile Judaists, who embrace the special partisans of the rulers. Second, there are the people, (John 7:12,) who consist of the miscellaneous crowd who have come to the feast; including friends, enemies, and indifferentists towards Jesus. Third, there are Jerusalemites, (John 7:25,) the permanent residents of the metropolis. The chief priests and rulers, being Pharisees, not being generally present, are the real conspirators against his life, who would set the people on, or would apprehend him by their officers.


Verse 12

12. The people—Among these masses there are of course all shades of opinion. The friends of Jesus would consist of Galileans and scattered inhabitants of Judea, who from the time of John’s and Jesus’s baptisms in the Jordanic region had never forgotten their faith. As the fierce inquiries after Jesus by the Jews are heard, a murmur passes through the crowd. Favorable but feeble assertions are heard that he is a good man; to which the charge of being a popular deceiver is retorted. The friends of Jesus are in a timid minority; and even if they were in a majority the organized force is in the hands of the Jews. A quiet doubtless ensued as the conclusion arose, perhaps from the report of his brothers, that he was not to be present at the feast. Things are in this condition for the first three days of the feast, when an unexpected event takes place.


Verse 14

14. Jesus… into the temple, and taught—Jesus himself is suddenly found in the temple, and teaching! There is no proof of anything miraculous about it. But it is his hour now to brave the commotion, to proclaim the truth, and to make a show of the weakness of human power against God.


Verse 15

15. Jews marvelled—Before they have time to adopt any measures these Judaists have, in spite of themselves, heard the discourse of Jesus, and a strange wonder arises, how one not a trained rabbi can discourse so learnedly and wisely.

Letters—Sacred literature was all the letters or learning which the Jews had.

Reply of Jesus to the query how he learned to teach, 16-24.

His teaching or doctrine is direct from God, and is by him kept, 16-19; they too have a law from God through Moses, but break it in seeking his life. Then occurs a base interruption, 20; which disregarding, Jesus proceeds to illustrate their breach of law and his observance of it in the miracle at Bethesda, 21-34.


Verse 16

16. My doctrine—The words teaching and doctrine mean the same thing.

His that sent me—It is God’s own teaching through my lips.


Verse 17

17. Any man will do—More correctly, If any man wills to do his will. The first word will is not the auxiliary verb, but is the verb to will, to purpose, to put forth a volition. He who in his heart truly and persistently purposes to do the divine will, will be taught the way and the truth. Hence the failure of these Jews to find the truth in Christ. They had no will to do God’s will. They freely chose error and death.


Verse 18

18. His own glory—Jesus preserved his rectitude by seeking God’s will and glory alone; the Jew lost his by seeking his own glory, disregarding God’s will, and breaking God’s law.


Verse 19

19. None… keepeth the law… kill me—A glaring instance in proof. Ever since the miracle at Bethesda, (John 5:2-16,) the Jews have plotted his death, (John 5:16; John 7:1; John 7:13; John 7:25.)


Verse 20

20. The people—This base interruption seems to be ejaculated from his enemies in the crowd. His imputation of murderous purpose they denounce as the frenzy of one possessed. The utterers might have supposed they spoke truth; but there are others in the crowd (John 7:25) that know the reality of the murderous intent.


Verse 21

21. Jesus answered—He disregards the interruption, and prosecutes his argument to show how they break the law of Moses while he does the will of God, (21-24.) In his miracle at Bethesda, he argues, he as truly did the will of God by healing on the Sabbath day as they observe the law of Moses in circumcising on the Sabbath day. The law of the Sabbath is truly broken in neither case. For both were religious and holy acts on the Sabbath day, in accordance with God’s will and law.


Verse 22

22. Of the fathers—Given first to Abraham by God, it was incorporated into the Mosaic law. This did not make it prior to the Sabbath; for that was at the creation.


Verse 23

23. Circumcision… every whit whole—There is here, no doubt, an allusion to the physical contrast, Circumcision is mutilation; the healing was making whole. The exertion of physical power in both cases is equally palpable and strong; so that, physically, they would equally be work, and both would break the Sabbath were they not both and equally religious acts. The miracle was a religious act, as being an organic part of the scheme of God in man’s redemption, as truly as the Sabbath itself.


Verse 24

24. According to the appearance—By the mere external act, as if that settled in all cases its right or wrong.

Righteous judgment—Applying the principles of conscience to the nature of the deed and motive. True religion has this proof of its genuineness namely, that it agrees with and truly quickens and strengthens our conscience.


Verse 25

25. Seek to kill—Thus refuting the interruption of the others in John 7:20.


Verses 25-29

Reasonings of the Jerusalemites and Jesus’s reply, John 7:25-29.

The Lord’s reference in John 7:23, to his miracle at Bethesda, (John 7:2-9,) months before, awakens the recollections of a number of permanent inhabitants of the capital of his person, miracle, and the conspiracy of the Jews against him.


Verse 26

26. Do the rulers know indeed—Do they now cease to assail him because they have secretly discovered the truth of his Messiahship. So strong were these proofs that these Jerusalemites suspect that the rulers in their hearts believe him to be the Christ.


Verse 27

27. Howbeit—Notwithstanding this appearance in his favour.

No man knoweth whence—Contrary to the theory of these Jerusalemites, prophecy had foretold the descent of the Messiah, namely, from David; and the place of his birth, Bethlehem. Yet there are passages, such as Isaiah 53:8, Micah 5:2. which maintain the mystery of his origin, which Jesus rightly explains in the next verse by applying to his divine nature.


Verse 28

28. Cried Jesus—Over the murmur and mutual disputation of the mixed multitude the voice of Jesus peals in one bold testimony to his own mission.

Ye both know me—We do not here (like Stier and Alford) find any “irony;” but a firm affirmation that they knew his human, but not his divine origin. That during the testimony of John to Jesus, the parentage, descent, and birthplace of the latter should be made matter of inquiry and information we cannot doubt. Humanly, then, he was known to them. He… whom ye know not—God, indeed, they knew; but God as the Father and fountain of Christ they knew not.


Verses 30-36

Attempts to apprehend Jesus, and his response, John 7:30-36.

This bold self-assertion by Jesus, rung in loud tones through the temple audience room, excites some of the Judaists to the earnest wish to seize his person; but a supernatural awe unnerves their purpose. His hour for submission had not come. See note on John 2:4.


Verse 31

31. The people—See note on John 7:10.

Miracles—This many so far believed as to recognize that he possessed a supernatural commission authenticated by supernatural deeds. There was no reliable faith of the heart. Jesus could not commit himself to them as faithful followers.


Verse 32

32. The Pharisees—To which sect the rulers belonged.

Heard—Though these bystanders had not the nerve to apprehend him, they had the spirit to carry the news of Christ’s preaching and its effects to these Pharisees. They may have then been in session in the hall Gazith.

Sent officers—The success of these officers is given in their report, John 7:46. Our Evangelist gives this account parenthetically, and then proceeds with his narrative of the struggle of Jesus with the crowd.


Verse 33

33. Then said Jesus—The consciousness of Jesus that, spite of these attempts to apprehend him, his hour is not yet come, points his thought to the hour when they should be empowered to crucify him and his departure take place. There is a tender plaintiveness in his language in contrast with his previous exclamation. But his melting is less for himself than for them.


Verse 34

34. Seek me—But not seek him aright. Their day of revelation having been abused, in the day of their desolation they would seek the Messiah’s aid in blindness that none but the Messiah they reject can relieve.

Where I am Am at the time of your desolation.


Verse 35

35. That we shall not find him—They seem to think that if he remains within the limits of Israel they would be able to find him. It must be, therefore, that he means to go to the

Gentiles. The dispersed—The diaspora or dispersion; that is, the locality or countries of the Gentiles wherever the Jews are scattered.

Teach the Gentiles—Here was uttered an unconscious prophecy. Christ did, through his apostles, go to the Jews, as scattered through Gentile lands, and evangelize the Gentiles.


Verse 36

36. What manner of saying—There is something perplexing in the Lord’s dark intimation, which their interpretation does not solve. If he is about to depart, need they apprehend him? If he goes to the Gentiles, can he do mischief to Israel? Are he and his followers about to apostatize from Judaism? They are not clear what steps to take; whether to secure his apprehension or desist.


Verse 37

Jesus’s second Feast-of-Tabernacles discourse; its effects; followed by the defeat of the rulers, John 7:37-53.

37. In the last… great day—(See note on John 7:2)—No festal water (type of the Spirit) was drawn from Siloam on this day, and Jesus stood forth to supply the deficit by proclaiming the outpouring of the real Holy Spirit, 37-39. A divided sentiment and struggle ensue, 40-44. The officers return disappointed to the authorities who break up in division and defeat.

Jesus stood and cried—The second grand proclamation of Jesus through the crowd of fermenting parties. The commencement only of the discourse is given. Its purpose is to apply the typical waters to their now present antitype, proclaiming that the hour of their grand fulfilment has come.


Verse 38

38. Out of his belly—As the priest poured the water from the belly of the golden pitcher. Thus shall the holy power go forth from the person of every believer to convince and convert the world. But as the next verse interprets the water to be the Spirit, is it biblical to say that the Holy Spirit flows forth from the believer? In view of this objection Stier has, with much plausibility, so punctuated the text as to give the following meaning: “If any man thirst let him come unto me; and let him drink that believeth in me; as the Scripture saith, Out of his belly shall flow rivers,” etc. The flowing forth of the rivers would by this interpretation be from the person of Christ himself. The term belly, or bowels, would then be borrowed not from the pitcher but from the mountain. The mountain is the base of the temple, and so the water flows forth from the temple as the Spirit flows forth from the body of Christ, the holy living temple.


Verse 39

39. Holy Ghost was not yet—Not that the Holy Ghost did not yet exist. The term Holy Ghost evidently designates, here, its earthly manifestation or efficient influences, which as yet had not taken place. In this view the italic word given, supplied by the translators, is hardly needed.

Glorified The ascension of Christ was the fixed condition to the effusion of the Spirit. See note on John 16:7.


Verse 40

40. The people—The masses assembled from various regions to the feast.

The Prophet—Referring, doubtless, to the great prophet predicted by Moses, (Deuteronomy 18:15,) which the people here do not identify with the Messiah.


Verse 42

42. Seed of David—Like many sceptical reasoners of the present day, these men ignore what they cannot confute, namely, that the descent of Jesus from David was matter of record, and his birth at Bethlehem was claimed by his followers as fact.


Verse 43

43. A division—Some adducing, doubtless, the well known truth of his descent and birth; while others are so incensed that they are ready, if some one will only lead the way in laying hands upon him, to join in his apprehension. This failure is followed by a closing defeat, which our Evangelist proceeds to narrate.


Verse 45

Disappointment of the authorities that Jesus is not taken, John 7:45-53.

45. Then came the officers—Who were dispatched, as narrated in John 7:32, by the rulers sitting in Gazith.

Brought him—He was clearly to be arraigned for trial. These men would, if possible, have anticipated the hour of his death.


Verse 46

46. Spake like this—The chagrin of the rulers at his not being brought must have been aggravated by the reason assigned. It was the effect of the speaking of Jesus upon the people (John 7:32) which first alarmed them, and produced the sending of officers for his apprehension; but how much more cause of alarm have they when their very instruments are spell-bound by his utterances! And then, again… the example of the people both influenced the opinions of the officers and frightened them from apprehending Jesus.


Verse 48

48. Any of the… Pharisees—The Pharisees are infallible authority for Pharisees.


Verse 49

49. This people—By whose example and opinions you have been deterred from apprehending this impostor.

Cursed—Great was the Rabbinical contempt of the commonalty who studied not the law; and even of the student of the law who did not humbly minister to the doctor. Such were dogs, people of the earth, not to be eaten with, to be excluded from all honourable offices, and accursed.

The law—By the law here are meant the Jewish Scriptures, the oral traditions said to be handed down parallel with the written text from the time of writing, and the whole body of interpretations of both by the doctors.

Cursed—If the people obeyed not the doctors, they were worthy to be excommunicated, to receive no earthly pity, and to descend to eternal ruin. The officers of course perceive that this curse, though professedly pronounced upon this people, really rebounds upon themselves, who are now agreeing with the people.


Verse 50

50. Nicodemus saith—The words of Nicodemus are a model of caution, but wonderfully to the point. They would have it that no ruler believed on Jesus; but here they are met by one who dares to be his advocate. They curse the people ignorant of the law, and he convicts them of violating the law.


Verse 51

51. Doth our law—The law prescribed that the accused should be heard before judges. Deuteronomy 17:8. Nicodemus does not, indeed, defend Jesus; he only puts in an estopment upon their procedure against him.


Verse 52

52. Thou… of Galilee?—It was easier to assail him with personality than to meet his plea. Nicodemus was doubtless a Jerusalemite, but as a taunt they make him a Galilean.

Search and look—Into the records of Scripture or later history.

No prophet—So that Jesus can make no claim to the prophetic character. This sounds very much like a proverb aptly quoted as authority in the case. As a proverb it was admissibly true; for though some five or six ancient prophets were natives of that territory, none had there arisen since it became Galilee. It is to be noted that they use the present tense. As to the older history, John is not responsible for the accuracy of these angry Pharisees, who were in a mood to stretch the truth to gain a point.


Verse 53

53. Every man went—These words are of the same disputed character as the first eleven verses of the following chapter, upon which see our notes.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 7:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-7.html. 1874-1909.

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Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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