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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Mark 4:21

And He was saying to them, "A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand?

Adam Clarke Commentary

Is a candle - put under a bushel! - The design of my preaching is to enlighten men; my parables not being designed to hide the truth, but to make it more manifest.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/mark-4.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Is a candle brought … - A candle is not lit up to be put immediately under a measure or a bed, where it can give no light. Its design is to give light. So my preaching by parables is not designed to obscure the truth, but to throw light on it. You should understand those parables, and, understanding them, should impart the truth to others also, as a candle throws its beams upon a dark world.

Bushel - The word here used in the original means a measure for grain containing about 12 quarts.

Bed - A couch, either to sleep on at night or to recline on at their meals. Probably the latter is here meant, and is equivalent to our saying a candle is not brought to be put “under” the table, but “on” it. See the notes at Matthew 23:6.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/mark-4.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Mark 4:21

Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed?

The extension of the kingdom

The kingdom, as it appeared in its beginning, is like the little grains of wheat cast into the damp soil in the chilly days of spring. To the mature Christian of today it is like the city which John saw, filling all his vision, let down out of heaven from God, glowing with strange opaline light, so that neither sun nor moon were longer needed, with jasper walls and pavements of transparent gold, and great gates, each a single pearl, and at each gate a glorious angel. This parable teaches us that one of the agencies bringing about this result is man’s work in the kingdom.

1. To make known its character and the conditions of entrance into it. Even the smallest taper is lighted in order that it may give light. The youngest disciple is to shine for the guidance of others. The rays of one little lamp, piercing through miles of gloom, have saved noble ships from destruction, with all their precious living freight. It may have been only such a lamp as lights one little room; but it was surrounded by powerful reflectors, which sent its rays afar, and multiplied its influence a hundredfold.

2. To give his mind and heart to increase his knowledge and experience of the truth by which the kingdom grows. The lighted lamp must have oil to feed upon. We cannot be making known the character of the kingdom unless our knowledge of it is growing. Alas for him before whose eyes the vision of the heavenly city, once seen, is allowed to fade and disappear! On the other hand, the more brightly we shine, the more eagerly we seek and the more fully we receive that which keeps the light burning. The more generously we give to others what we know of the gospel, the more clearly it will be revealed to us. (A. E. Dunning.)

The Word not to be hidden

This reproves those who hide their knowledge of the Word, and keep it to themselves only, shutting up this light within their own breast, as it were, as in a close and private place, that it cannot be seen of others, and so as others have no benefit by it. They do not shine to others by the light of that knowledge which is in them; they show forth no fruits of it in a holy conversation; neither are they careful to communicate their knowledge to others by instruction of them in the ways of God. What is this but hiding the candle under a bushel, or setting it under a bed, when it should be set upon a candlestick, that the light of it might be plainly seen by those in the house? Let such consider how great a sin it is to hide the spiritual gifts bestowed on us by God, and not to employ them well to the glory of God and the good of our brethren. If thou hast never so much knowledge in the Word, and yet dost hide it only in thine own breast, and in thine own head, and dost not shine to others by the light of it, then thy knowledge is no sanctified and saving knowledge; for if it were, it could not thus lie hid and buried in thee, but it would manifest itself toward others for their good: it would not only enlighten thy mind, but also thy whole outward life and conversation, causing thee to shine as a light or candle unto others. (G. Petter.)

Sharing our light

It might seem a superfluous thing to urge the communication of gospel hopes and comforts, but there is none more needed. For one person who puts the candle on a candlestick, there are twenty that put it under a bushel-a dull wooden measure that keeps in all the light. There are many sorts of bushels.

1. One very bad one, and much employed to cover the light, is modesty (falsely so called). Modesty pretends to be not good enough or wise enough to speak, and turns the soul into a dark lantern.

2. Selfishness is another bushel for the light; forbidding men to take the trouble to shed it.

3. Indolence.

4. Fearfulness.

5. Despair of people heeding.

6. A narrow doctrine of salvation.

7. Sometimes a little scientific knowledge, creating conceit, makes a bushel; men being so anxious to mix the earthly with the heavenly light that the grave, sweet light of godly knowledge cannot get though the mistiness of the earthly mixture. (R. Glover.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Mark 4:21". The Biblical Illustrator. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/mark-4.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

And he said unto them, Is the lamp brought to be put under the bushel, or under the bed, and not to be put on the stand?

This verse and through Mark 4:25 make up a paragraph of disconnected sayings of Christ, brought together here in a remarkable application in a new context, indicating that the sacred Scriptures have a vitality and meaning of their own, even out of context. Jesus did here exactly what Paul did in Romans 10:8, where he quoted Deuteronomy 30:11-14 with an application not found in Deuteronomy. Both Richard A. Batey[17] and John Locke[18] have commented on this, which is actually one of the most important prerequisites for truly understanding Scripture. It is precisely the lack of the insight into this phenomenon which cripples much of the exegesis coming out of the critical schools.

The truth of Mark 4:21 has a double meaning: (a) that which is inherent in it, and (b) that which it denotes in context. Is such a characteristic of the word of God what is meant by its being "a two-edged sword"? (Hebrews 4:12). It is obvious that Jesus used "the same sayings in different contexts,"[19] saying "the same things over and over";[20] and "It is evident that he repeated his sayings, and used them sometimes in a different connection."[21] To this evident, obvious truth should be added the equally evident fact that he did not repeat sayings verbatim, but varied his terminology. Therefore, we shall study this verse both ways, inherently, and in context.

In (this) context: Jesus had just emphasized the concealment of his teachings through the use of parables; but this reference to the lamp shows that the concealment will end. As Cranfield interpreted it:

No one in his right senses would carry a lighted lamp into a house simply in order to hide it ... No more must it be supposed that God's whole purpose in sending Jesus is that he should be concealed.[22]

Inherently: Christ warned against hiding the lighted lamp (a) under a vessel (Luke 8:16), (b) under a bushel (Mark 4:21), (c) under a bed (Mark 4:21; Matthew 5:15), or (d) in a cellar (that is, "in a secret place")[23] (Luke 11:33). Notice the remarkable correspondence between these things which hide the light and the thorns which choke out the word (Mark 4:19): (a) stands for cares (the vessel), (b) stands for riches (the bushel), with (c) and (d) standing for wicked pleasures associated with both the bed and the sacred place. The proximity of this verse to Mark 4:19 strongly suggests that the thought connects there rather than with Mark 4:12 as suggested by Cranfield.

On the stand ... In all the references in the above paragraph, the "stand" is conspicuously mentioned as the place for the lighted lamp. An apostle made this to be a congregation of the Lord's church (Revelation 1:20), indicating still another application of this mighty one-sentence parable. In this application, the lighted lamp is the Christian, and his lamp should be displayed on the stand, that is in the church or congregation.

[17] Richard A. Batey, The Letter of Paul to the Romans (Austin: R. B. Sweet Co., 1969), p. 134.

[18] John Locke, Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul (Boston, 1832), p. 347.

[19] W. N. Clarke, op. cit., p. 62.

[20] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 95.

[21] E. Bickersteth, op. cit., p. 158.

[22] C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 164.

[23] Nestle Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972).


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/mark-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And he said unto them,.... At the same time, after he had explained the parable of the sower; for though the following parabolical and proverbial expressions were delivered by Christ at other, and different times, and some of them twice, as related by other evangelists; yet they might be all of them expressed or repeated at this time, by our Lord, showing why he explained the above parable to his disciples; and that though he delivered the mysteries of the Gospel in parables to them that were without, yet it was not his design that these things should be always kept a secret, and that from all men: for as the Gospel might be compared to seed, so likewise to a candle, the design and use of which is to give light to men: wherefore he asks,

is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not to be set on a candlestick? when a candle is brought into a room, in the night, where company are together, to converse, or read, or work; is it proper that it should be covered with a bushel, or any other hollow vessel? or when brought into a bedchamber, is it right to put it under the bed? is it not most fitting and convenient, that it should be set in a candlestick, and then it will be of use to all in the room? so the Gospel, which is the candle of the Lord, he had lighted up in the evening of the Jewish world, in the land of Judea; it was not his will that it should be always, and altogether, and from all men, covered with parables, and dark sayings, without any explanation of them; but that the light of it should be communicated, especially to them his; disciples, who were to be the lights of the world, and which were to shine openly before men, for their good, and the glory of his heavenly Father; see Matthew 5:14.


Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/mark-4.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

2 And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

(2) Although the light of the gospel is rejected by the world, yet it ought to be lit, if for no other reason than this, that the wickedness of the world might be revealed.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/mark-4.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

And he said unto them, Is a candle — or “lamp”

brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? — “that they which enter in may see the light” (Luke 8:16). See on Matthew 5:15, of which this is nearly a repetition.


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/mark-4.html. 1871-8.

People's New Testament

Is the lamp put under a bushel? The Jews used lamps instead of candles. These were set on, not a candlestick, but a light stand. See note on Matthew 5:15. It is possible that these words, as well as Mark 4:24, were not spoken on this day, but borrowed from the Sermon on the Mount, because they are parables of a certain kind.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "People's New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/mark-4.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Not to be put on the stand? (ουχ ινα επι την λυχνιαν τετηιouch hina epi tēn luchnian tethēi̱). First aorist passive subjunctive of τιτημιtithēmi with ιναhina (purpose). The lamp in the one-room house was a familiar object along with the bushel, the bed, the lampstand. Note article with each. ΜητιMēti in the Greek expects the answer no. It is a curious instance of early textual corruption that both Aleph and B, the two oldest and best documents, have υπο την λυχνιανhupo tēn luchnian (under the lampstand) instead of επι την λυχνιανepi tēn luchnian making shipwreck of the sense. Westcott and Hort actually put it in the margin but that is sheer slavery to Aleph and B. Some of the crisp sayings were repeated by Jesus on other occasions as shown in Matthew and Luke. To put the lamp under the bushel (μοδιονmodion) would put it out besides giving no light. So as to the bed or table-couch (κλινηνklinēn) if it was raised above the floor and liable to be set on fire.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/mark-4.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

A candle ( ὁ λύχνος )

Properly, the lamp, as Rev.

Brought ( ἔρχεται )

Lit., cometh. Doth the lamp come? This impersonation or investing the lamp with motion is according to Mark's lively mode of narrative, as is the throwing of the passage into the interrogative form. Compare Luke 8:16. The lamp: the article indicating a familiar household implement. So also “the bed” and “the stand.”

Bushel ( μόδιον )

The Latin modius. One of Mark's Latin words. See on Matthew 5:15. The modius was nearer a peck than a bushel.

Bed ( κλίνην )

A couch for reclining at table.

Candlestick ( λυχνίαν )

Rev., correctly, stand; i.e., lampstand. See on Matthew 5:15.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/mark-4.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

And he said, Is a candle — As if he had said, I explain these things to you, I give you this light, not to conceal, but to impart it to others. And if I conceal any thing from you now, it is only that it may be more effectually manifested hereafter. Matthew 5:15; Luke 8:16; 11:33.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/mark-4.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

And he said unto them, Is the lamp brought to be put under the bushel, or under the bed1, [and] not to be put on the stand?

  1. Is the lamp brought to be put under the bushel, or under the bed,
  2. [and] not to be put on the stand? For notes on a similar passage, see .


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "The Fourfold Gospel". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/mark-4.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Bed; the couch upon which it was customary to recline at meals.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/mark-4.html. 1878.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

21 And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

Ver. 21. Is a candle brought] Or lighted, q.d. Take the benefit of the light of the gospel, suffer it not to stand under a bed or bushel; for "there is nothing hid," viz. in our hearts, "but it shall be opened," viz. by the power of the word most plainly. Lex, lux, law, light, the word is a curious critique, Hebrews 4:12.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/mark-4.html. 1865-1868.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. The end and design of Christ in revealing his word and will to his disciples, and in communicating to them the light of spiritual knowledge; namely that they may communicate it to others, and not keep it close unto themselves. Even as the candle in a house diffuses and disperses its light to all that come within the reach of it; in like manner ought all Christians, and particularly Christ's ministers, by the light of life and doctrine, to direct persons in their way towards heaven. Such as are enlightened by God in any measure, with the knowledge and understanding of his word, ought not to conceal and hide this knowledge within themselves, but communicate it to others, and employ it for the good and benefit of others.

Observe, 2. The cautionary direction given by Christ to his disciples, to take heed how they hear the word. Such as would profit by hearing of the word must diligently attend to the matter of the doctrine which they hear, and also to the manner how they hear. Such is the majesty and authority of the Person that speaks to us in the word, such is the sublimity and spirituality of the matter, and so great is our danger, if we miscarry under the word, that it nearly concerns us to take heed, both what we hear, and how we hear.

Observe, 3. The argument which our Saviour makes use of to quicken his disciples to communicate the knowledge, and improve the grace they had received for the good and benefit of others. To him that hath shall be given. That is, such as improve their spiritual gifts shall have them increased; such as improve them not shall have them blasted.

Learn hence, That the best course we can take to increase and thrive in grace is to exercise and improve it. He that hides his talent doth not only forfeit it, but is in danger of being punished severely for the non-improvement of it.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/mark-4.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

21.] ἔρχεσθαι is also used in the classics of things without life: cf. Hom. Il. τ. 191, ὄφρα κε δῶρα | ἐκ κλισίης ἔλθωσι … and see Rost and Palm, Lex.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/mark-4.html. 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Mark 4:21. καὶ, and) Mark 4:24 is closely connected with Mark 4:20, and those that go before: therefore also this comes in between parenthetically; comp. Luke 8:16. In this sense, the earth covers for a considerably long time the seed committed to it; whereas you, on the contrary, ought to put forth into action the power of the word, which you have heard, immediately upon hearing it.— ὁλύχνος, a candle [torch-light]) So also Christ comes, together with His Gospel, as the true light. And a man himself ought to be, not the bushel, but the candlestick; comp. Luke 8:16-18.— κλίνην, a couch [not as Engl). Vers., (34) (35)(36)(37)) where food is taken.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/mark-4.html. 1897.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

Mark

LAMPS AND BUSHELS

Mark 4:21.

The furniture of a very humble Eastern home is brought before us in this saying. In the original, each of the nouns has the definite article attached to it, and so suggests that in the house there was but one of each article; one lamp, a flat saucer with a wick swimming in oil; one measure for corn and the like; one bed, raised slightly, but sufficiently to admit of a flat vessel being put under it without danger, if for any reason it were desired to shade the light; and one lampstand.

The saying appeals to common-sense. A man does not light a lamp and then smother it. The act of lighting implies the purpose of illumination, and, with everybody who acts logically, its sequel is to put the lamp on a stand, where it may be visible. All is part of the nightly routine of every Jewish household. Jesus had often watched it; and, commonplace as it is, it had mirrored to Him large truths. If our eyes were opened to the suggestions of common life, we should find in them many parables and reminders of high matters.

Now this saying is a favourite and familiar one of our Lord, occurring four times in the Gospels. It is interesting to notice that He, too, like other teachers, had His favourite maxims, which He turned round in all sorts of ways, and presented as reflecting light at different angles and suggesting different thoughts. The four occurrences of the saying are these. In my text, and in the parallel in Luke’s Gospel, it is appended to the Parable of the Sower, and forms the basis of the exhortation, ‘Take heed how ye hear.’ In another place in Luke’s Gospel it is appended to our Lord’s words about ‘the sign of the prophet Jonah,’ which is explained to be the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it forms the basis of the exhortation to cultivate the single eye which is receptive of the light. In the Sermon on the Mount it is appended to the declaration that the disciples are the lights of the world, and forms the basis of the exhortation, ‘Let your light so shine before men.’ I have thought that it may be interesting and instructive if in this sermon we throw together these three applications of this one saying, and try to study the threefold lessons which it yields, and the weighty duties which it enforces.

I. So, then, I have to ask you, first, to consider that we have a lesson as to the apparent obscurities of revelation and of our duty concerning them.

That is the connection in which the words occur in our text, and in the other place in Luke’s Gospel, to which I have referred. Our Lord has just been speaking the Parable of the Sower. The disciples’ curiosity has been excited as to its significance. They ask Him for an explanation, which He gives minutely point by point. Then he passes to this general lesson of the purpose of the apparent veil which He had cast round the truth, by throwing it into a parabolic form. In effect He says: If I had meant to hide My teaching by the form into which I cast it, I should have been acting as absurdly and as contradictorily as a man would do who should light a lamp and immediately obscure it.’ True, there is the veil of parable, but the purpose of that relative concealment is not hiding, but revelation. ‘There is nothing covered but that it should be made known.’ The veil sharpens attention, stimulates curiosity, quickens effort, and so becomes positively subsidiary to the great purpose of revelation for which the parable is spoken. The existence of this veil of sensuous representation carries with it the obligation, ‘Take heed how ye hear.’

Now all these thoughts have a far wider application than in reference to our Lord’s parables. And I may suggest one or two of the considerations that flow from the wider reference of the words before us.

‘Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed and not upon a candlestick?’ There are no gratuitous and dark places in anything that God says to us. His revelation is absolutely clear. We may be sure of that if we consider the purpose for which He spoke at all. True, there are dark places; true, there are great gaps; true, we sometimes think, ‘Oh! it would have been so easy for Him to have said one word more; and the one word more would have been so infinitely precious to bleeding hearts or wounded consciences or puzzled understandings.’ But ‘is a candle brought to be set under a bushel?’ Do you think that if He took the trouble to light it He would immediately smother it, or arbitrarily conceal anything that the very fact of the revelation declares His intention to make known? His own great word remains true, ‘I have never spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth.’ If there be, as there are, obscurities, there are none there that would have been better away.

For the intention of all God’s hiding-which hiding is an integral part of his revealing-is not to conceal, but to reveal. Sometimes the best way of making a thing known to men is to veil it in a measure, in order that the very obscurity, like the morning mists which prophesy a blazing sun in a clear sky by noonday, may demand search and quicken curiosity and spur to effort. He is not a wise teacher who makes things too easy. It is good that there should be difficulties; for difficulties are like the veins of quartz in the soil, which may turn the edge of the ploughshare or the spade, but prophesy that there is gold there for the man who comes with fitting tools. Wherever, in the broad land of God’s word to us, there lie dark places, there are assurances of future illumination. God’s hiding is in order to revelation, even as the prophet of old, when he was describing the great Theophany which flashed in light from the one side of the heaven to the other, exclaimed, ‘There was the hiding of His power.’

‘He hides the purpose of His grace

To make it better known.’

And the end of all the concealments, and apparent and real obscurities, that hang about His word, is that for many of them patient and diligent attention and docile obedience should unfold them here, and for the rest, ‘the day shall declare them.’ The lamp is the light for the night-time, and it leaves many a corner in dark shadow; but, when ‘night’s candles are burnt out, and day sits jocund on the misty mountain-tops,’ much will be plain that cannot be made plain now.

Therefore, for us the lesson from this assurance that God will not stultify Himself by giving to us a revelation that does not reveal, is, ‘Take heed how ye hear.’ The effort will not be in vain. Patient attention will ever be rewarded. The desire to learn will not be frustrated. In this school truth lightly won is truth loosely held; and only the attentive scholar is the receptive and retaining disciple. A great man once said, and said, too, presumptuously and proudly, that he had rather have the search after truth than truth. But yet there is a sense in which the saying may be modifiedly accepted; for, precious as is all the revelation of God, not the least precious effect that it is meant to produce upon us is the consciousness that in it there are unscaled heights above, and unplumbed depths beneath, and untraversed spaces all around it; and that for us that Word is like the pillar of cloud and fire that moved before Israel, blends light and darkness with the single office of guidance, and gleams ever before us to draw desires and feet after it. The lamp is set upon a stand. ‘Take heed how ye hear.’

II. Secondly, the saying, in another application on our Lord’s lips, gives us a lesson as to Himself and our attitude to Him.

I have already pointed out the other instance in Luke’s Gospel in which this saying occurs, in the 11th chapter, where it is brought into immediate connection with our Lord’s declaration that the sign to be given to His generation was ‘the sign of the prophet Jonah,’ which sign He explains as being reproduced in His own case in His Resurrection. And then he adds the word of our text, and immediately passes on to speak about the light in us which perceives the lamp, and the need of cultivating the single eye.

So, then, we have, in the figure thus applied, the thought that the earthly life of Jesus Christ necessarily implies a subsequent elevation from which He shines down upon all the world. God lit that lamp, and it is not going to be quenched in the darkness of the grave. He is not going to stultify Himself by sending the Light of the World, and then letting the endless shades of death muffle and obscure it. But, just as the conclusion of the process which is begun in the kindling of the light is setting it on high on the stand, that it may beam over all the chamber, so the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, His exaltation to the supremacy from which He shall draw all men unto Him, are the necessary and, if I may so say, the logical result of the facts of His incarnation and death.

Then from this there follows what our Lord dwells upon at greater length. Having declared that the beginning of His course involved the completion of it in His exaltation to glory, He then goes on to say to us, ‘You have an organ that corresponds to Me. I am the kindled lamp; you have the seeing eye.’ ‘If the eye were not sunlike,’ says the great German thinker, ‘how could it see the sun?’ If there were not in me that which corresponds to Jesus Christ, He would be no Light of the World, and no light to me. My reason, my affection, my conscience, my will, the whole of my spiritual being, answer to Him, as the eye does to the light, and for everything that is in Christ there is in humanity something that is receptive of, and that needs, Him.

So, then, that being so, He being our light, just because He fits our needs, answers our desires, satisfies our cravings, fills the clefts of our hearts, and brings the response to all the questions of our understandings-that being the case, if the lamp is lit and blazing on the lampstand, and you and I have eyes to behold it, let us take heed that we cultivate the single eye which apprehends Christ. Concentration of purpose, simplicity and sincerity of aim, a heart centred upon Him, a mind drawn to contemplate unfalteringly and without distraction of crosslights His beauty, His supremacy, His completeness, and a soul utterly devoted to Him-these are the conditions to which that light will ever manifest itself, and illumine the whole man. But if we come with divided hearts, with distracted aims, giving Him fragments of ourselves, and seeking Him by spasms and at intervals, and having a dozen other deities in our Pantheon, beside the calm form of the Christ of Nazareth, what wonder is there that we see in Him ‘no beauty that we should desire Him’? ‘Unite my heart to fear Thy name.’ Oh I if that were our prayer, and if the effort to secure its answer were honestly the effort of our lives, all His loveliness, His sweetness, His adaptation to our whole being, would manifest themselves to us. The eye must be ‘single,’ directed to Him, if the heart is to rejoice in His light.

I need not do more than remind you of the blessed consequence which our Lord represents as flowing from this union of the seeing heart and the revealing light-viz., ‘Thy whole body shall be full of light.’ In every eye that beholds the flame of the lamp there is a little lamp-flame mirrored and manifested. And just as what we see makes its image on the seeing organ of the body, so the Christ beheld is a Christ embodied in us; and we, gazing upon Him, are ‘changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit.’ Light that remains without us does not illuminate; light that passes into us is the light by which we see, and the Christ beheld is the Christ ensphered in our hearts.

III. So, lastly, this great saying gives us a lesson as to the duties of Christian men as lights in the world.

I pointed out that another instance of the occurrence of the saying is in the Sermon on the Mount, where it is transferred from the revelation of God in His written word, and in His Incarnate Word, to the relation of Christian men to the world in which they dwell. I need not remind you how frequently that same metaphor occurs in Scripture; how in the early Jewish ritual the great seven-branched lampstand which stood at first in the Tabernacle was the emblem of Israel’s office in the whole world, as it rayed out its light through the curtains of the Tabernacle into the darkness of the desert. Nor need I remind you how our Lord bare witness to His forerunner by the praise that ‘He was a burning and a shining light,’ nor how He commanded His disciples to have their ‘loins girt and their lamps burning,’ nor how He spoke the Parable of the Ten Virgins with their lamps.

From all these there follows the same general thought that Christian men, not so much by specific effort, nor by words, nor by definite proclamation, as by the raying out from them in life and conduct of a Christlike spirit, are set for the illumination of the world. The bearing of our text in reference to that subject is just this-our obligation as Christians to show forth the glories of Him who hath ‘called us out of darkness into His marvellous light’ is rested upon His very purpose in drawing us to Himself, and receiving us into the number of his people. If God in Christ, by communicating to us ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ,’ has made us lights of the world, it is not done in order that the light may be smothered incontinently, but His act of lighting indicates His purpose of illumination. What are you a Christian for? That you may go to Heaven? Certainly. That your sins may be forgiven? No doubt. But is that the only end? Are you such a very great being as that your happiness and well-being can legitimately be the ultimate purpose of God’s dealings with you? Are you so isolated from all mankind as that any gift which He bestows on you is to be treated by you as a morsel that you can take into your corner and devour, like a grudging dog, by yourselves? By no means. ‘God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts in order that’ we might impart the light to others. Or, as Shakespeare has it, in words perhaps suggested by the Scripture metaphor,

‘Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,

Not light them for themselves.’

He gave you His Son that you may give the gospel to others, and you stultify His purpose in your salvation unless you become ministers of His grace and manifesters of His light.

Then take from this emblem, too, a homely suggestion as to the hindrances that stand in the way of our fulfilling the Divine intention in our salvation. It is, perhaps, a piece of fancy, but still it may point a lesson. The lamp is not hid ‘under a bushel,’ which is the emblem of commerce or business, and is meant for the measurement of material wealth and sustenance, or ‘under a bed’-the place where people take their ease and repose. These two loves-the undue love of the bushel and the corn that is in it, and the undue love of the bed and the leisurely ease that you may enjoy there-are large factors in preventing Christian men from fulfilling God’s purpose in their salvation.

Then take a hint as to the means by which such a purpose can be fulfilled by Christian souls. They are suggested in the two of the other uses of this emblem by our Lord Himself. The first is when He said, ‘Let your loins be girded’-they are not so, when you are in bed-’and your lamps burning.’ Your light will not shine in a naughty world without your strenuous effort, and ungirt loins will very shortly lead to extinguished lamps. The other means to this manifestation of visible Christlikeness lies in that tragical story of the foolish virgins who took no oil in their vessels. If light expresses the outward Christian life, oil, in accordance with the whole tenor of Scripture symbolism, expresses the inward gift of the Divine Spirit. And where that gift is neglected, where it is not earnestly sought and carefully treasured, there may be a kind of smoky illuminations, which, in the dark, may pass for bright lights, but, when the Lord comes, shudder into extinction, and, to the astonishment of the witless five who carried them, are found to be ‘going out.’ Brethren, only He who does not quench the smoking flax but tends it to a flame, will help us to keep our lamps bright.

First of all, then, let us gaze upon the light in Him, until we become ‘light in the Lord.’ And then let us see to it that, by girt loins and continual reception of the illuminating principle of the Divine Spirit’s oil, we fill our lamps with ‘deeds of odorous light, and hopes that breed not shame.’ Then,

‘When the Bridegroom, with his feastful friends,

Passes to bliss on the mid-hour of night,’

we shall have ‘gained our entrance’ among the ‘virgins wise and pure.’


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Bibliography
MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/mark-4.html.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The import of this verse may be learned from Matthew 5:15,16, where the words are, and applied by an exhortation to holiness, being an argument drawn from the end for which men receive gifts and grace from God, which is not only for their own advantage, though (like the husbandman) those that have it reap first of their own fruit, but for the good and advantage of others also. Some think that Christ here speaketh of himself, who is the Light of the world, and therefore opened this parable unto them. But the context in Matthew guiding us to the true sense of the words, I see no reason for us to busy ourselves in searching out another, especially when the connexion is so fair with the foregoing words, where he had been describing the good ground by bringing forth fruit, some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred fold. What therefore the sowing the seed in the good ground, mentioned in the parable, is, that is the lighting up of a candle in this verse; and the light showed by the lighted candle, not put under a vessel, or a bed, but in a candlestick, is the same thing with the fruit before mentioned.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Mark 4:21". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/mark-4.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Is a candle brought; spoken here of the candle of Christ’s teachings, lighted in the souls of his disciples that they may let the light of their knowledge shine on others. Jesus Christ does not impart knowledge to men that they may keep it to themselves, but that they may impart it for the benefit of their fellow-men.


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Bibliography
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Family Bible New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/mark-4.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

21. καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς. As in Mark 4:13, we have a new section marked. It consists of isolated Sayings, the setting of which has not been preserved by tradition. Cf. ἔλεγεν in Mark 4:11. Mt., as often, omits the imperf. The Sayings are scattered in Mt., and to some extent in Lk. also.

΄ήτι ἔρχεται; Does it come into the room? Is it brought in? Like the interrogative μή (Mark 2:19), μήτι expects a negative reply (Mark 14:19; Matthew 7:16; Matthew 12:23; etc.). We talk of letters and presents “coming.” Just as the seed has to be sown everywhere, so the light must shine everywhere.

ὁ λύχνος. Not “a candle” (A.V.), but the lamp (R.V.). See on Mark 4:3. See Trench, Syn. § xlvi.; D.B. art. “Lamp.” In each case the article denotes that which is commonly found in houses, “the bushel,” “the bed,” “the lampstand”; and in each case A.V. ignores the art. The λύχνος is the inner meaning of parables, the light of the Gospel without parabolic covering. The disciples who hear and understand are the λυχνίαι (Revelation 1:20); it is their business to make others understand; debet esse non modius sed candelabrum (Beng.).

τὸν μόδιον. The bushel; Lk. has the vague word σκεῦος. “Hiding one’s light under a bushel” has become an English proverb, and we must not alter the translation; but the Roman modius was about a quarter of a bushel. The Greek μέδιμνος, which is often rendered “bushel,” was about a bushel and a half. ΄όδιος occurs in papyri.

ὑπὸ τὴν κλίνην. Probably the bed for sleeping on (Mark 7:30; Luke 17:34) rather than the couch for reclining at table.


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Bibliography
"Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/mark-4.html. 1896.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Jesus continued his address to the inquiring disciples (cf. Mark 4:10-20). The lamp would have been a small clay dish with the edges pinched up to form a spout. A small piece of fabric typically hung over the spout from the body of the lamp serving as a wick. These household lamps usually held only a few teaspoons of oil and rested on pieces of wood or plaster protruding from a wall. The basket was a common container that held about a peck (one-quarter bushel).

The lamp seems to represent the illumination that Jesus had just given about the purpose of the parables and the meaning of the parable of the soils. He did not want His disciples to conceal what He had just told them but to broadcast it. In His day this involved revelation about the impending kingdom particularly. In the wider sphere of application it would include all that God has revealed (cf. Psalm 119:105).

Another interpretation sees Jesus as the light that His disciples were not to conceal. [Note: E.g, Wessel, p652.] Jesus elsewhere spoke of Himself as the light of the world ( John 8:12). Nevertheless in this context the light seems to represent revelation. Light has both metaphorical meanings in Scripture.


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Bibliography
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/mark-4.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Mark 4:21. See on Matthew 5:15. The application here is to teaching in parables: Although thus spoken in secret, they were not to remain mysteries, confined to a few; the purpose, as in case of a lamp, was to give light. Hence they should take care to learn their meaning, ‘not hiding them under a blunted understanding, nor when they did understand them, neglecting the teaching of them to others’ (Alford).


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Bibliography
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/mark-4.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Mark 4:21. μήτι ἔρχεται, does the light come, for is it brought, in accordance with classic usage in reference to things without life; examples in Kypke, e.g., οὐκ ἔμεινʼ ἐλθεῖν τράπεζαν νυμφίαν. Pindar, Pyth., iii., 28 = “non exspectavit donec adferretur mensa sponsalis”.— . τ. κλίνην: not necessarily a table-couch (Meyer), might be a bed, high enough to be in no danger of being set on fire. Vide on Matthew 5:15. The moral: let your light shine that others may know what ye know.


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/mark-4.html. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/mark-4.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Is . . . brought = Doth . . come. Figure of speech l"rosopopoeia App-6.

candle = the lamp. Greek. luchnos. App-130.

to be put = in order to be placed.

under. Greek. hupo. App-104.

bushel = the measure.

bed. Greek kline. Not the same word as in Mark 2:4 .

and not to be = [Is it] not [brought] in order that it may be.

candlestick = the lampstand.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/mark-4.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

And he said unto them, Is a candle [or 'lamp,' ho (Greek #3588) luchnos (Greek #3088)] - brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? - "that they which enter in my see the light" (Luke 8:16). See the note at Matthew 5:15, of which this is nearly a repetition.


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/mark-4.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

And put it under a bowl? Jewish lamps were a cup filled with oil, with a wick floating in it. The very purpose of a lamp would make it foolish to cover it with a bowl or hide it under the bed. The same thing is true of Truth. [Jesus probably taught these same things many times.]


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Bibliography
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "The Bible Study New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/mark-4.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(21) Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel?—See Note on Matthew 5:15. St. Mark, it will be noted, omits all the other parables that follow in St. Matthew, and connects with that of the Sower sayings more or less proverbial, which in St. Matthew appear in a different context. Looking at our Lord’s method of teaching by the repetition of proverbs under different aspects and on different occasions, it is not unlikely that this of the “candle” was actually spoken in the connection in which we find it here. Their knowledge of the meaning of the parable was not given them for themselves alone, but was to shine forth to others. We probably owe to the saying so uttered the record of this parable given in three out of the four Gospels.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/mark-4.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?
Is a
Isaiah 60:1-3; Matthew 5:15; Luke 8:16; 11:33; 1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 5:3-15; Philippians 2:15,16
bushel
"The word in the original signifieth a less measure, as Mt 5:15, marg."

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Mark 4:21". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/mark-4.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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