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Chapter 14

14:1 Herod the tetrarch [Hērōidēs tetraarchēs]. Herod Antipas ruler of Galilee and Perea, one-fourth of the dominion of Herod the Great. The report concerning Jesus [tēn akouēn Iēsou]. See on 4:24. Cognate accusative, heard the hearing (rumour), objective genitive. It is rather surprising that he had not heard of Jesus before.

14:2 His servants [tois paisin autou]. Literally “boys,” but here the courtiers, not the menials of the palace. Work in him [energousin]. Cf. our “energize.” “The powers of the invisible world, vast and vague in the king’s imagination” (Bruce). John wrought no miracles, but one redivivus might be under the control of the unseen powers. So Herod argued. A guilty conscience quickened his fears. Possibly he could see again the head of John on a charger. “The King has the Baptist on the brain” (Bruce). Cf. Josephus (War, I. xxx. 7) for the story that the ghosts of Alexander and Aristobulus haunted the palace of Herod the Great. There were many conjectures about Jesus as a result of this tour of Galilee and Herod Antipas feared this one.

14:3 For the sake of Herodias [dia Hērōidiada]. The death of John had taken place some time before. The Greek aorists here [edēsen, apetheto] are not used for past perfects. The Greek aorist simply narrates the event without drawing distinctions in past time. This Herodias was the unlawful wife of Herod Antipas. She was herself a descendant of Herod the Great and had married Herod Philip of Rome, not Philip the Tetrarch. She had divorced him in order to marry Herod Antipas after he had divorced his wife, the daughter of Aretas King of Arabia. It was a nasty mess equal to any of our modern divorces. Her first husband was still alive and marriage with a sister-in-law was forbidden to Jews (Le 18:16). Because of her Herod Antipas had put John in the prison at Machaerus. The bare fact has been mentioned in Mt 4:12 without the name of the place. See 11:2 also for the discouragement of John [en tōi desmōtēriōi] (place of bondage), here [en tēi phulakēi] (the guard-house). Josephus (Ant. xviii. 5.2) tells us that Machaerus is the name of the prison. On a high hill an impregnable fortress had been built. Tristram (Land of Moab) says that there are now remains of “two dungeons, one of them deep and its sides scarcely broken in” with “small holes still visible in the masonry where staples of wood and iron had once been fixed. One of these must surely have been the prison-house of John the Baptist.” “On this high ridge Herod the Great built an extensive and beautiful palace” (Broadus). “The windows commanded a wide and grand prospect, including the Dead Sea, the course of the Jordan, and Jerusalem” (Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus).

14:4 For John said unto him [elegen gar Iōanēs autōi]. Possibly the Pharisees may have put Herod up to inveigling John to Machaerus on one of his visits there to express an opinion concerning his marriage to Herodias (Broadus) and the imperfect tense [elegen] probably means that John said it repeatedly. It was a blunt and brave thing that John said. It cost him his head, but it is better to have a head like John’s and lose it than to have an ordinary head and keep it. Herod Antipas was a politician and curbed his resentment toward John by his fear of the people who still held [eichon], imperfect tense) him as a prophet.

14:6 When Herod’s birthday came [genesiois genomenois tou Hērōidou]. Locative of time (cf. Mr 6:21) without the genitive absolute. The earlier Greeks used the word [genesia] for funeral commemorations (birthdays of the dead), [genethlia] being the word for birthday celebrations of living persons. But that distinction has disappeared in the papyri. The word [genesia] in the papyri (Fayum Towns, 114-20, 115-8, 119-30) is always a birthday feast as here in Matthew and Mark. Philo used both words of birthday feasts. Persius, a Roman satirist (Sat. V. 180-183), describes a banquet on Herod’s Day. Danced in the midst [ōrchēsato en tōi mesōi]. This was Salome, daughter of Herodias by her first marriage. The root of the verb means some kind of rapid motion. “Leaped in the middle,” Wycliff puts it. It was a shameful exhibition of lewd dancing prearranged by Herodias to compass her purpose for John’s death. Salome had stooped to the level of an [almeh], or common dancer.

14:7 Promised with an oath [meta horkou hōmologēsen]. Literally, “confessed with an oath.” For this verb in the sense of promise, see Ac 7:17. Note middle voice of [aitēsētai] (ask for herself). Cf. Es 5:3; 7:2.

14:8 Put forward [probibastheisa]. See Ac 19:33 for a similar verb [probalontōn], “pushing forward.” Here (Acts) the Textus Receptus uses [probibazō]. “It should require a good deal of ‘educating’ to bring a young girl to make such a grim request” (Bruce). Here [hōde]. On the spot. Here and now. In a charger [epi pinaki]. Dish, plate, platter. Why the obsolete “charger”?

14:9 Grieved [lupētheis]. Not to hurt, for in verse 5 we read that he wanted [thelōn] to put him to death [apokteinai]. Herod, however, shrank from so dastardly a deed as this public display of brutality and bloodthirstiness. Men who do wrong always have some flimsy excuses for their sins. A man here orders a judicial murder of the most revolting type “for the sake of his oath” [dia tous horkous]. “More like profane swearing than deliberate utterance once for all of a solemn oath” (Bruce). He was probably maudlin with wine and befuddled by the presence of the guests.

14:10 Beheaded John [apekephalisen Iōanēn]. That is, he had John beheaded, a causative active tense of a late verb [apokephalizō]. Took his head off.

14:11 She brought it to her mother [ēnegken tēi mētri autēs]. A gruesome picture as Herodias with fiendish delight witnesses the triumph of her implacable hatred of John for daring to reprove her for her marriage with Herod Antipas. A woman scorned is a veritable demon, a literal she-devil when she wills to be. Kipling’s “female of the species” again. Legends actually picture Salome as in love with John, sensual lust, of which there is no proof.

14:12 And they went and told Jesus [kai elthontes apēggeilan tōi Iēsou]. As was meet after they had given his body decent burial. It was a shock to the Master who alone knew how great John really was. The fate of John was a prophecy of what was before Jesus. According to Mt 14:13 the news of the fate of John led to the withdrawal of Jesus to the desert privately, an additional motive besides the need for rest after the strain of the recent tour.

14:13 In a boat [en ploiōi] “on foot” [pezēi], some MSS. [pezōi]. Contrast between the lake and the land route.

14:14 Their sick [tous arrōstous autōn]. “Without strength” [rhōnnumi] and [a] privative). [Esplagchnisthē] is a deponent passive. The verb gives the oriental idea of the bowels [splagchna] as the seat of compassion.

14:15 When even was come [opsias genomenēs]. Genitive absolute. Not sunset about 6 P.M. as in 8:16 and as in 14:23, but the first of the two “evenings” beginning at 3 P.M. The place is desert [erēmos estin ho topos]. Not a desolate region, simply lonely, comparatively uninhabited with no large towns near. There were “villages” [kōmas] where the people could buy food, but they would need time to go to them. Probably this is the idea of the disciples when they add: The time is already past [hē hōra ēdē parēlthen]. They must hurry.

14:16 Give ye them to eat [dote autois h–meis phagein]. The emphasis is on [h–meis] in contrast (note position) with their “send away” [apoluson]. It is the urgent aorist of instant action [dote]. It was an astounding command. The disciples were to learn that “no situation appears to Him desperate, no crisis unmanageable” (Bruce).

14:17 And they say unto him [hoi de legousin autōi]. The disciples, like us today, are quick with reasons for their inability to perform the task imposed by Jesus.

14:18 And he said [ho de eipen]. Here is the contrast between the helpless doubt of the disciples and the confident courage of Jesus. He used “the five loaves and two fishes” which they had mentioned as a reason for doing nothing. “Bring them hither unto me.” They had overlooked the power of Jesus in this emergency.

14:19 To sit down on the grass [anaklithēnai epi tou chortou]. “Recline,” of course, the word means, first aorist passive infinitive. A beautiful picture in the afternoon sun on the grass on the mountain side that sloped westward. The orderly arrangement (Mark) made it easy to count them and to feed them. Jesus stood where all could see him “break” [klasas] the thin Jewish cakes of bread and give to the disciples and they to the multitudes. This is a nature miracle that some men find it hard to believe, but it is recorded by all four Gospels and the only one told by all four. It was impossible for the crowds to misunderstand and to be deceived. If Jesus is in reality Lord of the universe as John tells us (Joh 1:1-18) and Paul holds (Col 1:15-20), why should we balk at this miracle? He who created the universe surely has power to go on creating what he wills to do.

14:20 Were filled [echortasthēsan]. Effective aorist passive indicative of [chortazō]. See Mt 5:6. From the substantive [chortos] grass. Cattle were filled with grass and people usually with other food. They all were satisfied. Broken pieces [tōn klasmatōn]. Not the scraps upon the ground, but the pieces broken by Jesus and still in the “twelve baskets” [dōdeka kophinous] and not eaten. Each of the twelve had a basketful left over [to perisseuon]. One hopes that the boy (Joh 6:9) who had the five loaves and two fishes to start with got one of the basketsful, if not all of them. Each of the Gospels uses the same word here for baskets [kophinos], a wicker-basket, called “coffins” by Wycliff. Juvenal (Sat. iii. 14) says that the grove of Numa near the Capenian gate of Rome was “let out to Jews whose furniture is a basket (cophinus) and some hay” (for a bed). In the feeding of the Four Thousand (Matthew and Mark) the word [sphuris] is used which was a sort of hamper or large provisions basket.

14:21 Beside women and children [chōris gunaikōn kai paidiōn]. Perhaps on this occasion there were not so many as usual because of the rush of the crowd around the head of the lake. Matthew adds this item and does not mean that the women and children were not fed, but simply that “the eaters” [hoi esthiontes] included five thousand men [andres] besides the women and children.

14:22 Constrained [ēnagkasen]. Literally, “compelled” or “forced.” See this word also in Lu 14:23. The explanation for this strong word in Mr 6:45 and Mt 14:22 is given in Joh 6:15. It is the excited purpose of the crowd to take Jesus by force and to make him national king. This would be political revolution and would defeat all the plans of Jesus about his kingdom. Things have reached a climax. The disciples were evidently swept off their feet by the mob psychology for they still shared the Pharisaic hope of a political kingdom. With the disciples out of the way Jesus could handle the crowd more easily, till he should send the multitudes away [heōs hou apolusēi tous ochlous]. The use of the aorist subjunctive with [heōs] or [heōs hou] is a neat and common Greek idiom where the purpose is not yet realized. So in 18:30; 26:36. “While” sometimes renders it well. The subjunctive is retained after a past tense instead of the change to the optative of the ancient Attic. The optative is very rare anyhow, but Luke uses it with [prin ē] in Ac 25:16.

14:23 Into the mountain [eis to oros]. After the dismissal of the crowd Jesus went up alone into the mountain on the eastern side of the lake to pray as he often did go to the mountains to pray. If ever he needed the Father’s sympathy, it was now. The masses were wild with enthusiasm and the disciples wholly misunderstood him. The Father alone could offer help now.

14:24 Distressed [basanizomenon]. Like a man with demons (8:29). One can see, as Jesus did (Mr 6:48), the boat bobbing up and down in the choppy sea.

14:25 Walking upon the sea [peripatōn epi tēn thalassan]. Another nature miracle. Some scholars actually explain it all away by urging that Jesus was only walking along the beach and not on the water, an impossible theory unless Matthew’s account is legendary. Matthew uses the accusative (extension) with [epi] in verse 25 and the genitive (specifying case) in 26.

14:26 They were troubled [etarachthēsan]. Much stronger than that. They were literally “terrified” as they saw Jesus walking on the sea. An apparition [phantasma], or “ghost,” or “spectre” from [phantazō] and that from [phainō]. They cried out “from fear” [apo tou phobou] as any one would have done. “A little touch of sailor superstition” (Bruce).

14:28 Upon the waters [epi ta hudata]. The impulsiveness of Peter appears as usual. Matthew alone gives this Peter episode.

14:30 Seeing the wind [blepōn ton anemon]. Cf. Ex 20:18 and Re 1:12 “to see the voice” [tēn phōnēn]. “It is one thing to see a storm from the deck of a stout ship, another to see it in the midst of the waves” (Bruce). Peter was actually beginning to sink [katapontizesthai] to plunge down into the sea, “although a fisherman and a good swimmer” (Bengel). It was a dramatic moment that wrung from Peter the cry: “Lord, save me” [Kurie, sōson me], and do it quickly the aorist means. He could walk on the water till he saw the wind whirl the water round him.

14:31 Didst thou doubt? [edistasas?]. Only here and 28:17 in the N.T. From [distazō] and that from [dis] (twice). Pulled two ways. Peter’s trust in the power of Christ gave way to his dread of the wind and waves. Jesus had to take hold of Peter [epelabeto], middle voice) and pull him up while still walking on the water.

14:32 Ceased [ekopasen]. From [kopos], toil. The wind grew weary or tired, exhausted itself in the presence of its Master (cf. Mr 4:39). Not a mere coincidence that the wind ceased now.

14:33 Worshipped him [prosekunēsan autōi]. And Jesus accepted it. They were growing in appreciation of the person and power of Christ from the attitude in 8:27. They will soon be ready for the confession of 16:16. Already they can say: “Truly God’s Son thou art.” The absence of the article here allows it to mean a Son of God as in 27:54 (the centurion). But they probably mean “the Son of God” as Jesus was claiming to them to be.

14:34 Gennesaret [Gennēsaret]. A rich plain four miles long and two broad. The first visit of Jesus apparently with the usual excitement at the cures. People were eager to touch the hem of Christ’s mantle like the woman in 9:20. Jesus honoured their superstitious faith and “as many as touched were made whole” [hosoi hēpsanto diesōthesan], completely [di-] healed.

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