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Bible Dictionaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary

Bethesda

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The word signifies, the house of mercy; from Beth, an house; and Chesed, mercy. It was the pool which the evangelist John speaks of, John 5:2. I refer to the account. It is probable, that into this pool the waters from the temple emptied themselves: and if so, all the washings of the sacrifices. And some have been weak enough to fancy, that the efficacy of the pool arose from thence. And others, equally erroneous, have supposed that some mineral quality might be in the pool, from the waters imbibing it in passing over certain strata of the kind, as the mineral waters of Bath, and other places of the like nature. But had they attended to what the Holy Ghost hath recorded, by his servant John, in the history of the Bethesda, they would have observed, that the peculiar miraculous quality the pool possessed, was only at a certain season, and from the descent of an angel into the pool; and the miracle expressly limited also to one person.

Some have raised questions of doubt concerning the reality of the pool itself, because it is not noticed by any of the evangelists but John. But this, if admitted as an argument of doubt, would go farther than the objectors perhaps intend; since the same cause of objection would equally hold good against the pool of Siloam, the resurrection of Lazarus, several of the sweet and precious discourses of Christ, his miracle of Cana, at Galilee, and very many other blessed relations concerning the Lord Jesus, which are mentioned by none of the other evangelists. But these are childish objections, since we know that one among the many causes for which the gospel according to St. John was added to the other memoirs of the Lord Jesus Christ, was purposely to relate some circumstances, which Matthew, Mark, and Luke, had not done. (See John 20:30-31; Joh 21:25)

Some have expressed their surprise that Josephus, the Jewish historian, should have been altogether silent concerning the pool of Bethesda. But not to remark that Josephus was not born at the time the pool was in repute, the well-known hatred he bore to every thing that had respect to the person and glory of the Lord Jesus, might well account for his not even glancing at the Bethesda, which must have connected with it Christ's miracle there; rendered so memorable as it was, from the cure he wrought, by speaking a word, on the poor man, of a disease of thirty-eight years standing. And surely, no one who reads his history of Israel's Exodus, and their passage through the Red Sea, can be astonished that he should pass by all notice of the pool of Bethesda.

It is truly blessed to the believer in Christ, that his faith is not founded "in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." The Holy Ghost hath given his, testimony to the many blessed truths in his servant John's writings, and of consequence, to the reality and certainty of this pool of Bethesda among the rest. And I humbly conceive, that the pool itself was specially intended, by the mercy of the Lord, to be a standing miracle among his people during their dark estate from the departure of the Spirit of prophecy, which ended with Malaichi to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; as is to shew, that the Lord "had not cast away his people whom he foreknew." Here, therefore, was a direction to wait for Christ. And as he was "the fountain to be opened in that day, to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness," the pool of Bethesda might shadow forth his coming. So that when the Lord came and wrought the miracle on the poor man of long infirmity, without the ministry of the pool, this might shew that the intention for which this pool had been appointed was now answered, and the substance being come, the shadow ceased for ever, We hear no more of the pool of Bethesda, after this miracle of Christ in the cloisters of it; and, as is supposed, the efficacy of it was now no more.

I cannot take leave of the subject without first desiring the reader to remark with me, the improvement to be made of it. The Bethesdas of the gospel we still have, in the several ordinances and means of grace. But as then, it was the descent of an angel into the pool which gave efficacy to the waters, so now, it is by the coming of our Lord Jesus, the almighty angel of the covenant, into our midst, that any saving effect can be derived from the purest ordinances, or forms of worship. Where Jesus is not, there is no life-giving stream in any of the waters of ordinances. And it should be remarked, moreover, that our Bethesdas are not like this by the sheep market gate in Jerusalem. It is our mercy that the cure is not, as that was, limited to one poor sufferer, and him the first that came to it. But the gospel invitation in Jesus, is to every one that thirsteth. And the last is sometimes made first. And all that come, the Lord himself saith, "he will in no wise cast out." Yea, more than this still. Our Lord Jesus doth not limit his grace to our Bethesdas, or ordinances, but he worketh without them, (as in the instance of the poor man at the Jewish Bethesda) or with them, as seemeth best to his infinite wisdom, and for the display of his grace. Hail! thou glorious Healer! JEHOVAH Rophe of thy people! (Exodus 15:26)

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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Bethesda'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/pmd/b/bethesda.html. London. 1828.

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