1At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,
1 CHAPTER XIV.
NOTES ON CHAP. XIV.
Verse 1. Herod the tetrarch] This was Herod Antipas, the son
of Herod the Great. See Clarke on Mt 2:1, where an account is
given of the Herod family. The word tetrarch properly signifies a
person who rules over the fourth part of a country; but it is
taken in a more general sense by the Jewish writers, meaning
sometimes a governor simply, or a king; see Mt 14:9. The
estates of Herod the Great were not, at his death, divided into
four tetrarchies, but only into three: one was given by the
Emperor Augustus to Archelaus; the second to Herod Antipas, the
person in the text; and the third to Philip: all three, sons of
Herod the Great.
2And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
2 Verse 2. This is John the Baptist] ονεγωαπεκεφαλισα, Whom
I beheaded. These words are added here by the Codex Bezae and
several others, by the Saxon, and five copies of the Itala.-See
the power of conscience! He is miserable because he is guilty;
being continually under the dominion of self-accusation, reproach,
and remorse. No need for the Baptist now: conscience performs the
office of ten thousand accusers! But, to complete the misery, a
guilty conscience offers no relief from God-points out no
salvation from sin.
He is risen from the dead] From this we may observe: 1. That
the resurrection of the dead was a common opinion among the Jews;
and 2. That the materiality of the soul made no part of Herod's
creed. Bad and profligate as he was, it was not deemed by him a
thing impossible with God to raise the dead; and the spirit of
the murdered Baptist had a permanent resurrection in his guilty
3 ¶ For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife.
3 Verse 3. For Herodias' sake] This infamous woman was the
daughter of Aristobulus and Bernice, and grand-daughter of Herod
the Great. Her first marriage was with Herod Philip, her uncle,
by whom she had Salome: some time after, she left her husband, and
lived publicly with Herod Antipas, her brother-in-law, who had been
before married to the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia Petraea.
As soon as Aretas understood that Herod had determined to put away
his daughter, he prepared to make war on him: the two armies met,
and that of Herod was cut to pieces by the Arabians; and this,
Josephus says, was supposed to be a judgment of God on him for the
murder of John the Baptist. See the account in Josephus, Antiq.
lib. xviii. c. 7.
4For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.
4 Verse 4. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to
have her.] Here is an instance of zeal, fidelity, and courage,
highly worthy of imitation. Plainness, mildness, and modesty, are
qualifications necessary to be observed when we reprove the
great. The best service a subject can render his prince is to lay
before him, in the plainest but most respectful manner, what the
law of God requires of him, and what it forbids. How unutterable
must the punishment of those be who are chaplains to princes, or
great men, and who either flatter them in their vices, or wink at
5And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
5 Verse 5. He feared the multitude] Miserable prince! who fears
more to offend his people, than to sin against his God, by
shedding innocent blood. When a man resists sin only by the help
of human motives, he cannot long defend himself.
6But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
6 Verse 6. Herod's birth-day] Either the day in which he was
born, or the day on which he began to reign; for both were termed
birth-days. See 1Sa 13:1, and Ho 7:5. The kings of Persia
were accustomed to reject no petition that was preferred to them
during the entertainment. See Herodotus in Calliope, and
The daughter-danced] This was Salome, mentioned before.
Danced: by a literal rendering of the saltavit of the Vulgate, in
my old MS. of the English Bible, the whole of this business seems
to be treated with sovereign contempt: for thus says the
translator, Shee leped in the myddle.
7Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
8And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.
8 Verse 8. Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.] The
word charger formerly signified a large dish, bowl, or drinking
cup: the Saxon has [Anglo-Saxon], a dish, Tindal, a platter; any
thing is better than charger, which never conveyed much meaning,
and now conveys none. The evangelist says she was instructed
before, by her mother, to ask the Baptist's head! What a most
infernal mother, to give such instructions to her child! and what
a promising daughter to receive them! What a present for a young
lady!-the bloody head of the murdered forerunner of Jesus! and
what a gratification for an adulterous wife, and incestuous
mother! The disturber of her illicit pleasures, and the troubler
of her brother-husband's conscience, is no more! Short, however,
was their glorying! See Clarke on Mt 14:3.
9And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.
9 Verse 9. The king was sorry] He knew John to be a righteous
man, and at first did many things gladly which John told him it
was his duty to perform: Mr 6:20.
Nevertheless, for the oath's sake] The OATHS, ορκους-he had
probably sworn again and again-one sin begets many.
And them which sat with him at meat] Who were probably such as
himself, and would have considered it a breach of honour if he had
not fulfilled his sworn promise: he therefore commanded it to be
10And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
11And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
11 Verse 11. His head was given to the damsel: and she brought it
to her mother.] There is no person so revengeful as a lascivious
woman when reproved and blamed. A preacher of the Gospel has most
to fear from this quarter:-the first of this profession lost his
life for the sake of truth and chastity; and others, especially
those who have any thing to do with men in power who are
profligates, may learn what they are to expect in return for a
faithful discharge of their duty.
12And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
12 Verse 12. His disciples came, and took up the BODY] The HEAD
was in the possession of Herodias, who, 'tis probable, took a
diabolic pleasure in viewing that speechless mouth which had often
been the cause of planting thorns in her criminal bed; and in
offering indignities to that tongue from which she could no longer
dread a reproof. Her character justifies every bad conjecture
that can well be formed on this head: and St. Jerome positively
says that, when she got it, she drew out the tongue, and thrust it
through with her bodkin. On the whole we may observe:-
That the diversions of the world, feasting and dancing, are but
too commonly the occasions of sin. After so fatal an example as
this, can we doubt whether balls are not snares for souls;
destructive of chastity, modesty, and sometimes even of humanity
itself; and a pernicious invention to excite the most criminal
passions! How many on such occasions have sacrificed their
chastity, and then, to hide their shame, have stifled the feelings
of the human being and the parent, and, by direct or indirect
means, have put a period to the innocent offspring of their
connections! Unhappy mother, who exposes her daughter to the same
shipwreck herself has suffered, and makes her own child the
instrument of her lust and revenge! Behold here, ye professedly
religious parents, the fruits of what was doubtless called in
those times, elegant breeding and accomplished dancing! Fix your
eyes on that vicious mother, that prostituted daughter, and
especially on that murdered ambassador of God, and then send your
children to genteel boarding-schools, to learn the accomplishment
of DANCING! where the fear of God makes no part of the education.
13 ¶ When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
13 Verse 13. When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence] Had the
blessed Jesus continued in that place, it is probable the hand of
this impure female murderer would have been stretched out against
him also: he withdrew, therefore, not through fear, but to teach
his messengers rather to yield to the storm than expose themselves
to destruction, where, from circumstances, the case is evidently
The people-followed him on foot] πεζη, or, by land, which is
a common acceptation of the word in the best Greek writers. See
many examples in Kypke.
14And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
14 Verse 14. Jesus-was moved with compassion] εσπλαγχνισθε, he was
moved with tender compassion, so I think the word should in
general be translated: See Clarke on Mt 9:36.
As a verb, it does not appear to have been used by any but
ecclesiastical writers. It always intimates that motion of the
bowels, accompanied with extreme tenderness and concern, which is
felt at the sight of the miseries of another.
15 ¶ And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
15 Verse 15. Send the multitude away, that they may go-and buy]
The disciples of Christ are solicitous for the people's temporal
as well a spiritual welfare: and he is not worthy to be called a
minister of Christ, who dues not endeavour to promote both to the
uttermost of his power. The preaching of Christ must have been
accompanied with uncommon power to these people's souls, to have
induced them to leave their homes to follow him from village to
village, for they could never hear enough; and to neglect to make
use of any means for the support of their lives, so that they
might still have the privilege of hearing him. When a soul is
either well replenished with the bread of life, or hungry after
it, the necessities of the body are, for the time, little
16But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
16 Verse 16. They need not depart] He that seeks first the
kingdom of heaven is sure to have every temporal requisite. When
a man ensures the first, God always takes care to throw the other
into the bargain. He who has an interest in Jesus has in him an
inexhaustible treasure of spiritual and temporal good. Though the
means by which man may help his fellows have failed, we are not to
suppose that the bounty of God is exhausted. When we are about to
give up all hope of farther supply, the gracious word of Christ
still holds good-They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
Give ye them to eat.] Should we say, Lord, how shall thy poor,
feeble ministering servants feed so many hungry souls as attend
thy word! Begin at the command of Jesus-make the attempt-divide
what you have-and the bread of God shall be multiplied in your
hands, and all shall eat and be satisfied.
17And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
17 Verse 17. We have here but five loaves and two fishes.] When
we are deeply conscious of our own necessities, we shall be led to
depend on Jesus with a firmer faith. God often permits his
servants to be brought low, that they may have repeated
opportunities of proving the kindness and mercy of their gracious
Lord and Master.
18 He said, Bring them hither to me.
18 Verse 18. Bring them hither to me.] No creature of God should
be considered as good or safe without the blessing of God in it.
If thou have but even a handful of meal and a few herbs, bring
them to Christ by prayer and faith, and he will make them a
sufficiency for thy body, and a sacrament to thy soul. Let
the minister of the Gospel attend also to this-let him bring all
his gifts and graces to his Maker-let him ever know that his word
can be of no use, unless the blessing of Christ be in it.
19And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
19 Verse 19. And took the five loaves, &c.] This was the act of
the father of a family among the Jews-his business it was to take
the bread into his hands, and render thanks to God, before any of
the family was permitted to taste of it.
Looking up to heaven] To teach us to acknowledge GOD as the
Supreme Good, and fountain of all excellence.
He blessed] The word God should, I think, be rather inserted
here than the word them, because it does not appear that it was
the loaves which Christ blessed, but that God who had provided
them; and this indeed was the Jewish custom, not to bless the
food, but the God who gave it. However, there are others who
believe the loaves are meant, and that he blessed them in order to
multiply them. The Jewish form of blessing, or what we term
grace, before and after meat, was as follows:-
And brake] We read often in the Scriptures of breaking bread,
never of cutting it: because the Jews made their bread broad and
thin like cakes, and to divide such, being very brittle, there was
no need of a knife.
20And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
20 Verse 20. They did all eat, and were filled] Little or much is
the same in the hands of Jesus Christ. Here was an incontestable
miracle-five thousand men, besides women and children, fed with
five cakes and two fishes! Here must have been a manifest
creation of substance-the parts of the bread were not dilated to
make them appear large, nor was there any delusion in the
eating-for they all ate, and were all filled. Here then is one
miracle of our Lord attested by at least five thousand persons!
But did not this creation of bread prove the unlimited power of
Jesus? Undoubtedly: and nothing less than eternal power and
Godhead could have effected it.
They took up-twelve baskets] It was customary for many of the
Jews to carry a basket with them at all times: and Mr. Wakefield's
conjecture here is very reasonable:-"By the number here
particularized, it should seem that each apostle filled his own
bread basket." Some think that the Jews carried baskets in
commemoration of their Egyptian bondage, when they were accustomed
to carry the clay and stubble to make the bricks, in a basket that
was hung about their necks. This seems to be what Sidonius
Apollinaris refers to in the following words, Epist. vii. 6.
Ordinis res est, ut, (dum in allegorica versamur AEgypto) Pharao
incedat cum diademate, Israelita cum COPHINO.
These words of Alcimus Avitus, lib. v. 30, are to the same
It appears that a basket about the neck, and a bunch of hay,
were the general characteristic of this long enslaved and
oppressed people in the different countries where they sojourned.
The simple reason why the Jews carried baskets with them
appears to be this:-When they went into Gentile countries, they
carried their own provision with them, as they were afraid of
being polluted by partaking of the meat of heathens. This also
obliged them probably to carry hay with them to sleep on: and it
is to this, in all likelihood, that Juvenal alludes.
After five thousand were fed, twelve times as much, at least,
remained, as the whole multitude at first sat down to!
See Clarke on Lu 9:16.
21And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
22 ¶ And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
22 Verse 22. Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship]
Either they were afraid to return into the jurisdiction of Herod,
or they were unwilling to embark without their Lord and Protector,
and would not enter their boat till Christ had commanded them to
From this verse it appears that Christ gave some advices to the
multitudes after the departure of his disciples, which he did not
wish them to hear.
Unto the other side] Towards Capernaum, Mt 14:34.
Joh 6:16, 17, or Bethsaida, see on Mr 6:45.
23And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
23 Verse 23. He went up into a mountain apart, to pray] He whom
God has employed in a work of mercy had need to return, by prayer,
as speedily, to his Maker, as he can, lest he should be tempted to
value himself on account of that in which he has no merit-for the
good that is done upon earth, the Lord doth it alone. Some make
this part of our Lord's conduct emblematic of the spirit and
practice of prayer, and observe that the proper dispositions and
circumstances for praying well are: 1. Retirement from the world.
2. Elevation of the heart to God. 3. Solitude. 4. The silence
and quiet of the night. It Is certain that in this also Christ
has left us an example that we should follow his steps.
Retirement from the world is often a means of animating,
supporting, and spiritualizing prayer. Other society should be
shut out, when a soul comes to converse with God.
24But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
24 Verse 24. Tossed with waves] Grievously agitated. This is the
proper meaning of the word βασανιζομενον: but one MS. reads
βαπτιζομενον, plunged under the waves, frequently covered with
them; the waves often breaking over the vessel.
25And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
25 Verse 25. The fourth watch] Anciently the Jews divided the
night into three watches, consisting of four hours each. The
first watch is mentioned, La 2:19:
the second, Jud 7:19;
and the third, Ex 14:24;
but a fourth watch is not mentioned in any part of the OLD
Testament. This division the Romans had introduced in Judea, as
also the custom of dividing the day into twelve hours: see
The first watch began at six o'clock in the evening, and continued
till nine; the second began at nine, and continued till twelve;
the third began at twelve, and continued till three next morning;
and the fourth began at three, and continued till six. It was
therefore between the hours of three and six in the morning that
Jesus made his appearance to his disciples.
Walking on the sea.] Thus suspending the laws of gravitation
was a proper manifestation of unlimited power. Jesus did this by
his own power; therefore Jesus showed forth his Godhead. In this
one miracle we may discover three:-1. Though at a distance from
his disciples, he knew their distress. 2. He found them out on
the lake, and probably in the midst of darkness. 3. He walked
upon the water. Job, speaking of those things whereby the
omnipotence of God was demonstrated, says particularly, Job 9:8,
He walketh upon the waves of the sea: intimating that this was
impossible to any thing but Omnipotence.
26And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
26 Verse 26. It is a spirit] That the spirits of the dead might
and did appear, was a doctrine held by the greatest and holiest of
men that ever existed; and a doctrine which the caviliers,
free-thinkers and bound-thinkers, of different ages, have never
been able to dispove.
27But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
27 Verse 27. It is I; be not afraid] Nothing but this voice of
Christ could, in such circumstances, have given courage and
comfort to his disciples: those who are grievously tossed with
difficulties and temptations require a similar manifestation of
his power and goodness. When he proclaims himself in the soul,
all sorrow, and fear, and sin are at an end.
28And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
28 Verse 28. Bid me come unto thee on the water.] A weak faith is
always wishing for signs and miracles. To take Christ at his
word, argues not only the perfection of faith, but also the
highest exercise of sound reason. He is to be credited on his own
word, because he is the TRUTH, and therefore can neither lie nor
29And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
29 Verse 29. Peter-walked on the water] However impossible the
thing commanded by Christ may appear, it is certain he will give
power to accomplish it to those who receive his word by faith; but
we must take care never to put Christ's power to the proof for the
gratification of a vain curiosity; or even for the strengthening
of our faith, when the ordinary means for doing that are within
30But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
30 Verse 30. When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid] It
was by faith in the power of Christ he was upheld; when that faith
failed, by which the laws of gravitation were suspended, no wonder
that those laws returned to their wonted action, and that he began
to sink. It was not the violence of the winds, nor the raging of
the waves, which endangered his life, but his littleness of faith.
31And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
31 Verse 31. Jesus stretched forth his hand] Every moment we stand
in need of Christ: while we stand-we are upheld by his power only;
and when we are falling, or have fallen, we can be saved only by
his mercy. Let us always take care that we do not consider so
much the danger to which we are exposed, as the power of Christ by
which we are to be upheld; and then our mountain is likely to
32And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
32 Verse 32. The wind ceased.] Jesus is the Prince of peace, and
all is peace and calm where he condescends to enter and abide.
33Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
33 Verse 33. Thou art the Son of God.] It is probable that these
words were spoken either by the sailors or passengers, and not by
the disciples. Critics have remarked that, when this phrase is
used to denominate the MESSIAH, both the articles are used, ευιος
τουθεου, and that the words without the articles mean, in the
common Jewish phrase, a Divine person. It would have been a
strange thing indeed, if the disciples, after all the miracles
they had seen Jesus work-after their having left all to follow
him, &c., were only now persuaded that he was the promised
Messiah. That they had not as yet clear conceptions concerning
his kingdom, is evident enough; but that they had any doubts
concerning his being the promised Messiah is far from being clear.
34 ¶ And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.
34 Verse 34. The land of Gennesaret.] It was from this country
that the sea or lake of Gennesaret had its name. In this
district, on the western side of the lake, were the cities of
Capernaum and Tiberias.
35And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased;
35 Verse 35. The men of that place had knowledge of him] i.e.
They knew him again. They had already seen his miracles; and now
they collect all the diseased people they can find, that he may
have the same opportunity of showing forth his marvellous power,
and they of being the instruments of relieving their friends and
They brought unto him all that were diseased] And Jesus received
and healed every man and woman of them. And is not the soul, in
the sight of God, of more value than the body? and will he
withhold his healing power from the former, and grant it so freely
to the latter? This cannot be. Let a man come himself to Jesus,
and he shall be saved and afterwards let him recommend this Christ
to the whole circle of his acquaintance, and they, if they come,
shall also find mercy.
36And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.
36 Verse 36. That they might only touch the hem of his garment]
What mighty influence must the grace and Spirit of Christ have in
the soul, when even the border or hem of his garment produced such
wonders in the bodies of those who touched it! Here is a man who
has turned from sin to God through Christ, and the healing hand of
Jesus is laid upon him. Then, no wonder that he knows and feels
his sins forgiven, his soul purified, and his heart filled with
the fulness of his Maker. Lord, increase our faith! and we shall
see greater manifestations of thy power and glory! Amen.