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have been of no use, therefore, in proving to them that he was from God, to have worked miracles. He gave sufficient proof of his mission, and left them in their chosen unbelief, yet without excuse. It is also true, in spiritual things, that the unbelief of a people prevents the influences of the Holy Spirit from being sent down to bless them. God requires faith. He hears only the prayer of faith. And when there is little true belief, and prayer is cold and formal, there the people sleep in spiritual death, and are unblessed.
1 AT that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,
'Herod the tetrarch.' See also Mark vi. 14-16. Luke ix. 7-9. This was the son of Herod the great, who died about three or four years after the birth of Christ, and left his kingdom to his three sons, of whom this Herod Antipas was one. He ruled over Galilee and Perea. See note, Matt. ii. 15. The title tetrarch literally denotes one who rules over a fourth part of any country.
2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.
'This is John the Baptist.' His conscience smote him for his crimes. He remembered that he had wickedly put John to death. He knew him to be a distinguished prophet; and he concluded that no other one was capable of working such miracles. The alarm in his court it seems was general, Herod's conscience told him that this was John. Others thought that it might be the expected Elijah, or one of the old prophets, Mark vi. 15.
3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. 4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. 5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
For Herod had laid hold on John,' &c. See Mark vi. 17—20. Luke iii. 19, 20. This Herodias was a grandaughter of Herod the Great. She was first married to Herod Philip, by whom she had a daughter, Salome, probably the one that danced and pleased Herod. Josephus says that this marriage of Herod Antipas with Herodias took place while he was on a journey to Rome. He stopped at his brother's; fell in love with his wife; agreed to
put away his own wife, the daughter of Aretas, king of Petræa; and Herodias agreed to leave her own husband, and live with him. They were living, therefore, in adultery and incest; and John, in faithfulness, though at the risk of his life, had reproved
them for their crimes.
6 But when Herod's birth-day was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
See also Mark vi. 21-29. But when Herod's birth-day was come.' Kings were accustomed to observe the day of their birth with much pomp, and commonly also to give a feast to their principal nobility. See Gen. xl. 20. Mark adds that this birthday was kept by making a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates in Galilee. 'The daughter of Herodias.' That is, Salome, her daughter by her former husband. There is no evidence that it was common for females to dance in this manner in the presence of men. It was a violation of all the rules of modesty and propriety. One great principle of all eastern nations is to keep their females from public view. If they appear in public, it is always with a veil, so closely drawn that their faces cannot be seen. No modest woman would have appeared in this manner before the court; and it is probable, therefore, that she partook of the dissolute principles of her mother.
8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.
'Being before instructed of her mother.' Not before she danced, but afterwards; and before she made the request of Herod. See Mark vi. 24. In a charger.' The original word means a large dish, on which food is placed. We should have supposed that she would have been struck with abhorrence at such a direction. But she seems to have been gratified. John, by his faithfulness, had offended the whole family; and here was ample opportunity for an adulterous mother and dissolute child to gratify their resentment. It was customary then for princes to require the heads of persons ordered for execution to be brought to them, to gratify their resentment, and to ascertain that the sentence had been executed.
9 And 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.
'And the king was sorry.' Herod had a high respect for John, and feared him. He knew that he was a holy man. He had done some things in obedience to John's precepts, Mark vi. 20.
John was in high repute among the people, and Herod might have been afraid that his murder might excite commotion. Herod, though a wicked man, does not appear to have been insensible to some of the common principles of human nature. Here was a great and most manifest crime proposed: no less than the murder of an acknowledged prophet of the Lord. It was deliberate. It was to gratify the malice of a wicked woman. It was the price of a few moments' entertainment. His conscience, though in feeble and dying accents, checked him. He would have preferred a request not so manifestly wicked, and that would not have involved him in so much difficulty. For the oath's sake.' Herod felt that he was bound by this oath. But he was not. The oath should not have been taken. But being taken, he could not be bound by it. No oath could justify a man in committing murder. The true principle is, that Herod was bound by a prior obligation, by the law of God, not to commit murder; and no act of his, be it an oath, or any thing else, could free him from the obligation. And them which sat with him at meat.' This was the strongest reason why Herod murdered John. He had not firmness enough to obey the law of God, and to follow the dictates of conscience, against the opinions of wicked men. He was afraid of the charge of cowardice, and want of spirit; afraid of ridicule, and the contempt of the wicked. This is the source of much youthful guilt. We are led along by others. We have not firmness enough to follow the teachings of a father, and of the law of God. Young men are afraid of being called mean and cowardly by the wicked; and they often sink in vice, never to rise again. At meat.' That is, at supper. The word meat, at the time the bible was translated, meant provisions of all kinds.
10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
What an offering to a woman! Josephus says of her that 'she was a woman full of ambition and envy, having a mighty influence on Herod, and able to persuade him to things he was not at all inclined to.' This is one of the many proofs that we have that the evangelists drew characters according to truth.
12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
The head was with Herodias. The body, with pious care, the disciples buried. 'And went and told Jesus.' It is not unreasonable to suppose that in their affliction they came to him for consolation in all our afflictions we should follow their example, and go and tell Jesus.
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.
A full narrative of the feeding of the five thousand is given in each of the other evangelists: in Mark vi. 32-44; in Luke ix. 10-17; in John vi. I-14. 'And when Jesus heard of it, he departed.' He went to a place of safety. He never threw himself unnecessarily into danger. It was proper that he should secure his life, till the time should come when it would be proper for him to die. By a ship into a desert place.' That is, he crossed the sea of Galilee. He went to the country east of the sea, into a place little inhabited. Luke says, ix. 10, he went to a place called Bethsaida. See note, Matt. xi. 20. A desert place,' means a place little cultivated, where there were few or no inhabitants. On the east of the sea of Galilee there was a large tract of country of this description-rough, uncultivated, and chiefly used to pasture flocks.
14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
'Was moved with compassion.' That is, pitied trem. Mark, vi. 34, says he was moved with compassion because they were as sheep having no shepherd; they had no teachers and guides, who cared for them, and took pains to instruct them. The scribes and pharisees were haughty and proud, and cared little for the common people; and when they did attempt to teach them, they led them astray. They therefore came in great multitudes to him who preached the gospel to the poor, Matt. xi. 5; and who was thus the good Shepherd, John x. 14.'
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.
"The time is now past.' That is, the day is passing away; it is near night.
16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
John adds, that previous to this, Jesus had addressed Philip, and asked, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? This he said to prove him; that is, to try his faith; to try the confidence of Philip in himself. Philip immediately began to think of their ability to purchase food for them. Two hundred pennyworth of bread, said he, would not be enough. In the ori
ginal it is two hundred denarii. These were Roman coins, amounting to about seven pence three farthings each. The whole two hundred therefore would have been equal to six pounds, nine shillings, and two pence sterling. In the view of Philip this was a great sum; a sum which twelve poor fishermen were by no means able to provide. Jesus knew how much they had, and he required of them, as he does of all, implicit faith, and told them to give the people to eat. He requires us to do our duty, or what he commands; and we need not doubt that he will give us strength to accomplish it.
17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
These loaves were in the possession of a lad, or young man, who was with them, and were made of barley, John v. 9. Barley was a cheap kind of food.
18 He said, Bring them hither to me. 19 And 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.
'To sit down.' In the original it is, to recline on the grass, or to lie as they did at their meals. The Jews never sat, as we do, at meals, but reclined or lay at length. See note, Matt. xxiii. 6. Mark and Luke add, that they reclined in companies, by hundreds and by fifties. And looking up to heaven he blessed.' Luke adds, he blessed them; that is, the loaves. It is remarkable that our Saviour always sought a blessing on his food. In this he was an example for us. It is right thus to seek the blessing of God. He provides for us; he daily opens his hand, and satisfieth our desires; and it is proper that we should render suitable acknowledgments for his goodness. And brake.' The loaves of bread, among the Jews, were made thin and brittle, and were therefore broken and not cut.
20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
And they did all eat, and were filled.' This was an undoubted miracle. The quantity must have been greatly increased, to have supplied so many. He who could increase that small quantity so much, had the power of creation; and he who could do that, could create the world out of nothing, and had no less than Divine power. 'Twelve baskets full.' They were probably such as travellers carried their provisions in. John, vi. 12, says, that Jesus directed them to gather up these fragments, that nothing