Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 19 February 2012; Revised 9 March 2018
Scripture: Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online. Click here for DSS abbreviations.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Good News of Mark" because Mark describes his book as "good news" (1:1).
Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Mark and his book.
Date: Winter A.D. 28-29
Teaching in Nazareth
Parallel Passage: Matthew 13:54-58
1 Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him.
Jesus: The English transliteration of the Greek Iēsous, which itself is a transliteration of Yeshua, our Lord's Hebrew name given to him by his parents in accordance with angelic direction. Yeshua is the only name by which he was known to contemporaries. See the note on 1:1 for the background of this precious name.
came into His hometown: Grk. patris, a place or region one can call home. Depending on an exact definition only three cities would qualify as Yeshua's hometown: Bethlehem (birthplace), Nazareth (childhood residence) and Capernaum (adult residence, Matt 4:13). The context contain several indicators that Nazareth is in view. The first indicator are the words "went out from there," which ostensibly refer to Capernaum where Yeshua had performed the healing miracles of the two women in chapter five. The second indicator is found in verse 3 in the words of Yeshua's critics and then in verse 4 in his own words.
Yeshua may have adopted Capernaum as his principal residence, but he would be forever known as "Yeshua of Nazareth" (Matt 26:71; Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; 18:37; John 1:45; Acts 10:38; 26:9) and "Yeshua the Nazarene" (Mark 10:47; 14:67;16:6; Luke 24:19; John 18:5, 7; 19:19; Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 22:8). For more on the background of Nazareth see the note on 1:23. Therefore, Yeshua makes a return trip to Nazareth, which is described only here in Mark. On the first trip to Nazareth (Luke 4:16-20), Yeshua did not have his disciples.
and His disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs, one who learns through instruction from a teacher. In the apostolic writings mathētēs corresponds to the Heb. talmid and occurs only in the apostolic narratives. followed Him: See the note on 2:15 for the expectations of a disciple.
2 When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands?
When the Sabbath: Grk. sabbaton, a transliteration of Heb. shabbath (DNTT 3:405), which is derived from the verb shabath ("cease, desist, rest" BDB 991). The term is used of all the appointed times on God's calendar, including the first and last days of week-long festivals (Lev 23), because they were days of rest. Here sabbaton refers to the seventh day of the week. but See the note on 1:21. came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., to become or come into being, lit. "having come." He began to teach: Grk. didaskō, pres. inf., to teach or instruct, often used in the Besekh of instructing disciples. in the synagogue: Grk. sunagōgē means a gathering-place or place of assembly and in the rest of the Besekh refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning. See the note on 1:21.
There's no indication that he repeated the lesson of his first visit which coincided with the regular Parashah reading from Isaiah. It's very possible that he proclaimed his standard Kingdom message, calling on them to repent. The listeners would be naturally astonished because Yeshua connected the arrival of the Kingdom with his presence. The listeners proceed to ask five questions, though not necessarily directed at Yeshua. The questions could have been a part of audience reaction to which Yeshua was an observer. The first three questions basically deal with where, what and how. The where question dealt with the origin of his teaching.
3 "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him.
Is not this the carpenter: Grk. tektōn, a carpenter, wood-worker or builder (BAG; LSJ; Thayer). Some Syriac MSS (Cureton Gospels and Peshitta) and the Jewish Tosefta Baba Kamma (10:8) translate tektōn with the Aramaic naggar, a term meaning one who makes chests, cupboards, stools and benches. This understanding is also supported in the Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian and Gothic versions of Mark (Lane, f9, 202). Some early church fathers disputed this reference and amended it to conform to Matthew 13:55, "son of the carpenter," because attributing a menial trade to Yeshua in the Greco-Roman world would invite scorn. However, the MS support for the Markan text is overwhelming. The few church fathers who objected did not consider the Jewish context. What should be noted, of course, is that Mark does not say Yeshua was a carpenter nor does Yeshua ever identify himself as a carpenter. Mark simply reported what critics in Nazareth said, which also happened to be the truth. Yeshua was no stranger to scorn.
The question of the critics alludes to the fact that fathers in Jewish culture were required to teach their sons a trade and Joseph was a carpenter (Matt 13:55). Shammai (50 B.C. - A.D. 30), the Pharisee and President of the Sanhedrin during most of Yeshua's ministry was known to be a carpenter (Shab. 31a). At that time carpenters were regarded as particularly learned. If a difficult problem was under discussion by the scribes, they would ask, "Is there a carpenter among us, or the son of a carpenter who can solve the problem for us?" (Flusser 14) So, the question of the critics does not imply that they are incredulous that a common ordinary fellow could be making himself out to be a rabbi and miracle-worker. They know he has learning and they likely remembered his last teaching in the synagogue that resulted in his near assassination.
Rather, the questions likely reflect the status of Nazareth as a town of no distinction and no one from this town had ever become noteworthy in Israel. There may have even been jealousy at work. "He thinks he's better than us." What separated Yeshua from other rabbis was that he taught as one having authority (1:22). He manifested divine wisdom they had not encountered before. There is probably also jealousy at work in the fact of his miracles.
the son of Mary: "son of Miriam." This is an unusual reference because sons were generally known by their father's name. Whether the father was living or dead did not affect the custom, and so on the face of it does not prove absolutely that Joseph was dead. In John 6:42 the critics ask, "Isn't this Yeshua, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know [perfect tense]? (TLV)" The perfect tense, given its emphasis on action occurring in the past with continuing results to the present, might suggest that Joseph was still alive at that point. However, Yeshua would not have committed his mother into John's care while on the cross (John 19:27) if Joseph were still alive then. John 6:42 lends weight to the assumption of Joseph being dead based on identifying the antecedent of "father and mother." If the antecedent were Yeshua, then the perfect tense of "know" would imply that Joseph was still alive at that point and that "father and mother" refers to Joseph and Miriam. On the other hand, the relative pronoun "whose," being of the same genitive case as Joseph, would indicate that Joseph's parents are the ones identified. Thus, the statement means "we know Yeshua's grandparents."
and brother: Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a biological brother. Usage in the Besekh is generally literal, but figurative uses also abound indicating affinity in common interests or culture. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings (Mark 1:16, 19; 3:17; Acts 1:14; 7:13) or euphemistically as fellow Israelites (Matt 5:22-24; Acts 9:17). The term in context with the names following refers to his blood relations. The Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Miriam has no basis in Scripture and denies this godly woman her place in Jewish culture as a wife and mother. Yeshua had at least six half-siblings.
of James: Grk. Iakōbos is a Grecized form of Iakōb ("Jacob"), which transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"), but rendered as "James" in Christian Bibles. See the note on 1:19. There are five men named Jacob ("James") in the Besekh. This Jacob eventually became the leader of the believing community in Jerusalem and the author of perhaps the first epistle written by an apostle. and Joses: Grk. Iosēs. Matthew 13:55 lists Joseph (Grk. Iosēph; Heb. Yosef) as one of the four brothers, so Joses may be either a separate name (just as Matthew had two Hebrew names) or a variant spelling of Joseph. Several manuscripts have Grk. Iosē, which Metzger says is a transcription of Heb. Yose, the Galilean form of Yosef. Nothing more is known of him, other than he was present for Pentecost (Acts 1:14).
and Judas: Grk. Ioudas, a transliteration of Heb. Y'hudah ("Judah") meaning "praise YHVH." The proper name Judas was very common in the time of Yeshua because it was not only the Greek form of one of the twelve patriarchs, but it was also made popular by the Jewish hero Judas Maccabaeus who led the nation in their fight for independence from Syria in 166 BC. The Besekh mentions seven men named Judas, including the one who betrayed Yeshua. This Judas wrote the epistle known as "Jude." and Simon: Grk. Simōn, a transliteration of the Heb. Shim'on. There are nine men in the Besekh known as Simon. Nothing further is known of this Simon other than he was present for Pentecost (Acts 1:14)
Are not His sisters here with us? Miriam gave birth to at least two girls. That Yeshua had half-sisters is also attested in Matthew 13:56. And they took offense: Grk. skandalizō, impf. pass. is drawn from the imagery of trap-setting or laying obstacles in another's way. In this context the verb means to cause reaction over what appears to be publicly offensive.
4 Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household."
A prophet: Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). However, in Scripture the word-group also refers simply to speaking on God's behalf, often described as "forth-telling." While others referred to Yeshua as a prophet (verse 15 below), this appears to be the only occasion when he uses the label for himself. is not without honor: Grk. atimos, held in low esteem, without honor or respect. Yeshua then describes three levels of relationship as concentric circles, beginning with the outer circle.
except in his hometown: Grk. patris. See verse 1 above. This circle included Israelites generally that resided in Nazareth. and among his own relatives: pl. of Grk. sungenēs, connected by lineage or related by blood. Yeshua may have intended the circle to include his tribal relations (tribe of Judah) or even extended relatives by blood or marriage that resided in Nazareth. and in his own household: Grk. oikia may refer to both a structure for dwelling or as a metaphor for a group that dwells together in a structure, including both family and servants. The inner circle may refer to his nuclear family or even extended family beyond parents and siblings.
Yeshua quotes a proverb that reflects a common experience and has parallels in Jewish and Greek literature, although unlike the parallels Yeshua uses the label of "prophet" (Wessel). At the worst the proverb says that familiarity breeds contempt, but more realistically it simply means that those who know someone best may not fully appreciate the capabilities and qualities that others recognize. Even today a teacher or preacher may be considered ordinary at home but fifty miles can make him brilliant.
5 And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.
And He could: Grk. dunamai, impf. mid., to be capable for doing or achieving. do: Grk. poieō, aor. inf., be active in bringing about a state or condition, to do or to perform. no miracle: Grk. dunamis, ability to function effectively, an exhibition of singular capability, i.e., wondrous deed or miracle. In the LXX dunamis was used to translate Hebrew words that referred to military forces or the power of a ruler (DNTT 2:602). there: Grk. ekei, adv., in that place, as opposed to here or another place. except: Grk. ei mē, lit., "if not," reflects a strong Hebraic negation. The first part of the verse would mean "And He would not have done any miracle there if not for the fact that…"
he laid: Grk. epitithēmi, aor. part., to place something on, to lay. hands: pl. of Grk. cheir, the body part with fingers. Yeshua healed many people by touching them with his hands (Mark 6:5; 8:23, 25; Luke 4:40; 14:4). Laying on of hands, as well as anointing with oil, was a common method of healing (Mark 5:23; Jas 5:14-15). on a few: Grk. oligos, in reference to quantity, few. sick people: pl. of Grk. arrōstos, ill or sick. The term is general and does not connote severity. and healed them: Grk. therapeuō, to offer helpful service or to heal in a physical sense. Here the latter meaning is intended. Yeshua may not have been totally successful in his home town, but he did touch the lives of a few people and they would never be the same. They would always remember what God had done for them. Yet, these victories could not lessen the disappointment that a lack of trust in him pervaded the community.
6 And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching.
And He wondered: Grk. thaumazō, impf., to be extraordinarily impressed, amazed, astonished, surprised. at their unbelief: Grk. apistia, refusal to give credence to. And He was going around: Grk. periago, impf., to travel in an area, to go around or go about. the villages: pl. of Grk. kōmē, a village, smaller and less prestigious than a city. teaching: Grk. didaskō, pres. part., to teach or instruct, often used in the Besekh of instructing disciples. The description of Yeshua's ministry suggests that what he did in Nazareth was typical of his ministry elsewhere. He taught in synagogues (1:39), as well as the countryside, and healed all who came to him.
Parallel Passages: Matthew 10:1, 9-14; Luke 9:1, 3-5
7 And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits;
And He summoned the twelve: See the commentary on 3:16-19 regarding the appointment of the apostles. send them out in pairs: this practice conforms to the Torah standard that truth must be confirmed by two or three witnesses. gave them authority: Grk. exousia is used for the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval. See the note on 2:9. In context this authority might mean the freedom of choice, the capability or a specific commission. over unclean spirits: pl. of Grk. akatharton pneuma. See the notes on 1:23 and 1:34 concerning the evil entities. The authority of the apostles over unclean spirits or demons is first mentioned in 3:15. The mission recognizes the reality of spiritual warfare, in which he intended that his apostles be victorious.
8 and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff--no bread, no bag, no money in their belt--
and He instructed: Grk. paraggellō, aor., to give authoritative direction. The verb is derived from the preposition para, "beside," "alongside of" and angellō, "to serve as a messenger." The verb is not in the imperative mood so Yeshua is not issuing orders. It's as if he is saying, "Now men, I'm going to send you out to spread the good news of the Kingdom and I have some guidelines that will assure the best chance of success." Mark preserves only a portion of the complete instructions found in Matthew 10:5-40. The guidelines given here relate only to the immediate mission whereas the instruction in Matthew also contains principles that would guide post-Pentecost evangelism. The instructions can be divided into three subjects: (1) preparation for the journey; (2) actions on arrival at the destination and (3) specific ministry actions.
nothing for their journey: Yeshua intended the disciples to learn dependence on God, but the stress on taking "nothing" emphasizes the short-term nature of the mission. In one sense the instruction seems unnecessarily detailed. He not only tells them what not to take, but also what to take. except a mere staff: Grk. rabdos means a rod, staff or stick. Rabdos was also used to refer to a ruler’s scepter and a stick used as a means of punishment, but here the staff is a simple aid for walking in the hilly country and a self-defense weapon against robbers. "A staff only" does not preclude the sandals and tunic, but is set in contrast to the bread, bag and money.
no bread: Grk. artos, bread, without respect to leavening. Since bread was eaten at every meal in biblical lands, it was often used as a synonym for food and the support of life in general quite apart from its literal meaning (DNTT 1:250). Thus, to take no "bread" would mean to take nothing to eat on the way. no bag: Grk. pēra, a shoulder bag used for carrying provisions; a traveler's bag or a beggar's collecting bag. no money: Grk. chalkos, a metal, whether copper, brass or bronze, here referring to coins made from common metal. The instructions in Matthew include no gold or silver (Matt 10:8). in their belt: Grk. zōnē, a belt or girdle used for carrying money. Ancient custom was to keep small change in the belt (girdle) (Rienecker).
9 but to wear sandals; and He added, "Do not put on two tunics."
but to wear: Grk. hupodeō, perf. mid. part., to tie on so as to support from below in reference to footwear. sandals: pl. of Grk. sandalion, flat footwear, sandal. The word is not specific as to material, although they might be made of leather, cloth, wood or even grass. This seems like an unnecessary instruction, since Jews did not travel around the country barefooted. Yeshua is probably implying that they should wear common sandals, such as that worn by shepherds, and not what was worn by the wealthy. In addition, while the apostles could wait to eat at their destination, they had to take care of their feet to get there.
Do not put on two tunics: pl. of Grk. kitōn, a garment worn next to the skin. The tunic was a long piece of cloth folded in half with holes for the arms and head and might be made of leather, wool or linen. Ordinarily, a man wore two articles of clothing, the inner tunic and the outer mantle or robe. The limitation might have been for comfort in mild weather, but more likely Yeshua wanted them to avoid the appearance of wealth. The instructions, in effect, created a uniform for the apostles so that they were equal. No doubt some of the apostles were better off financially than the others, but he didn't want any "class envy" to arise. The principle of avoiding ostentation still applies to those engaged in ministry for the Master.
10 And He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town.
Yeshua establishes the standard of support for servants of God in the Kingdom (cf. Ex 20:15; 25:2; Jer 22:13; Matt 10:10; 1Cor 9:4, 7, 10-11; Gal 6:6). Moreover, just as a rabbi deserves to be supported by his students, so the messengers of Rabbi Yeshua deserve to be supported while about his mission. The instruction in the feeding of the five thousand would reverse this responsibility.
11 "Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them."
Any place: The generic term could refer to either house or town. that does not receive you: the verb refers to the customary hospitality expected for travelers. There were no motels, so travelers were normally given shelter in private homes, especially those on the routes people would take to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. In Jerusalem it seems to have been the custom to hang a curtain in front of the door, to indicate that there was still room for guests (Edersheim-Sketches 47). Hosts were expected to be polite, to wait upon guests personally and to be generous in their provisions. By the same token the guest was to inquire about the welfare of the family, to eat of such things as were set before one, and, finally, to part with a blessing.
or listen to you: the disciples are reminded of their mission. They are not seeking hospitality simply for free lodging. They are to share the good news of the Kingdom with their hosts and call for a response. Implied in sharing the message would be to conduct immersions for those who responded favorably. However, if the local residents refused to obey the summons to repent and believe, then the disciples were not to engage in fruitless arguments. Their mission was to look for people genuinely interested in the good news.
shake the dust off: This instruction may seem reactionary and contradict the "turning the cheek" principle, but refusal of hospitality ("does not receive you") according to the rules for demeanor and generosity laid down by Rabbinic authority deserved public censure. Similarly, refusing to "listen" violated the foundational principal of Rabbinic education which incorporated give and take, question and answer. Paul followed this principle literally on his first missionary journey when he left Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:51). The action was directed against those who had incited strong opposition to Paul's ministry there, even though many Jews and Gentiles did believe.
12 They went out and preached that men should repent.
They went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part., to go out from one place to another place, to travel. and preached: Grk. kērussō, aor., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald. In the Besekh the verb applies mostly about the reign of God and associated themes. that men: these two words are not in the Greek text, but are supplied since there is no stated object for the verb "repent." While the message might have been directed to men, there would have been no intention to exclude women. Since the good news of the Kingdom was for all Israelites it would be better to say "that everyone."
should repent: Grk. metanoeō, pres. subj., to have a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior, generally translated as "repent." In the LXX metanoeō almost always renders Heb. nacham (SH-5162), to be sorry, change one's mind or repent, sometimes used of God (1Sam 15:29; Jer 4:28; 18:8; Amos 7:3, 6; Jon 3:9, 10; 4:2; Zech 8:14) and other times of humans (Jer 8:6, 10; 31:19; Joel 2:13, 14). In Greek culture metanoeō did not fully convey the intent of the biblical concept. In the Tanakh repentance is best represented by the word shuv (SH-7725), bring back to mind, to return, turn back, turn around. When used for repentance shuv means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God’s will as expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909, e.g., 1Kgs 8:33, 35, 48; 2Chr 7:14; Isa 59:20).
Jewish translators generally used epistrephō (SG-1994) or strephō (SH-4762), to translate shuv as repentance. These Greek verbs mean to turn, turn around, turn back or be transformed (DNTT 1:354). However, the use of metanoeō by Yeshua and the apostles is obviously meant to express the force of shuv (DNTT 1:357). In the LXX metanoeō is used one time to render Heb. shuv: "Remember this, and show yourselves men; bring again [Heb. shuv] to mind, you transgressors." (Isa 46:8 mine). God goes on to say, "I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion and my glory for Israel" (46:13). The use of metanoeō may reflect a desire to emphasize the beginning point of change with a decision of the will to receive the salvation being offered.
Of interest is that the verb "repent" occurs only twice in the book of Mark. The first time is on the lips of Yeshua (1:15) who uses it as a command. However, here the verb is in the subjunctive mood, which denotes mild contingency or probability and looks toward what is conceivable or potential. The disciples may not have wanted to appear confrontational. Yeshua had commanded people to repent, but the message of the apostles seems more like an effort at persuasion, "you really should repent."
13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.
anointing: Grk. aleiphō, impf., apply a substance in a rubbing or smearing action. The anointing here is much more than the simple touch of anointing that occurs in Christian rituals. with oil: Grk. elaion refers to oil of the olive tree fruit. Olive oil was used as a salve in ancient times for many ailments. Olive oil represented the blessing of God. Abundance of oil was one of God’s promises to Israel (Deut 8:8). The first use of the word in Genesis 27:18 where Jacob anointed a stone with oil was an act which symbolized his promise that if God would bless him with safety and supplies, he would return to God a tenth and build a place of worship. The oil likely represented an advance payment on the tithe to demonstrate his commitment. Later the Levites, who were the "tithe" of Israel to God, would be liberally anointed with oil when they were commissioned for service (cf. Ps 133:2).
many sick people: pl. of Grk. arrōstos, physically ill or sick; lit. "many sick ones." and healing them: Grk. therapeuō, impf., to offer helpful service or to heal in a physical sense. Here the latter meaning is intended. "Them" is supplied to refer back to the antecedent for the action. To anoint someone for healing, then, is a serious act which denotes giving that person to God and expecting God to bless.
Martyrdom of Yochanan the Immerser
Parallel Passages: Matthew 14:1-12; Luke 9:7-9
14 And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, "John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him."
And: Grk. kai, conj. King: Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate Heb. melek. In the Tanakh the title "king" was not associated with the size of territory governed (often a city), but the authority wielded. The executive and judicial functions (and sometimes legislative) of government were vested in one person. Herod: Grk. Hērōdēs, a personal name perhaps meaning "son of a hero." The Herod mentioned here is Antipas, son of Herod the Great. When his father died, Antipas became tetrarch ("ruler of the fourth part") of Galilee and Perea. Upon his succession Caesar Augustus denied Antipas the royal title of "king." His pursuit of the title would eventually lead to his dismissal and exile to Gaul in AD 39 under Caligula (Lane). Wessel (following Lane) suggests that Mark may be using the title of "king" here ironically, or perhaps he is reflecting local custom.
Of course, throughout the Tanakh, the chief civil administrator of a city or region was called "king," but in Roman politics the title of king included a certain amount of independence that Caesar would no longer tolerate in a land known for its uprisings against Roman rule. Herod's disregard for Jewish sensitivities was manifest not only in his marriage to Herodias but in the selection of an ancient cemetery as the site for his capital, Tiberias, which Lane suggests made it impossible for Jews to live there. According to the Torah it was only actual physical contact with a corpse that caused uncleanness, not going into an area where people were buried. Only consider that the feeding of the five thousand occurred near Tiberias and when Yeshua left the area to return to Capernaum boats of people followed him from Tiberias (John 6:23). There is no evidence that Jews did not live in Tiberias.
heard: lit. "And heard, the King, Herod" is typical Hebraic construction. Herod heard of the apostolic mission and its success, as well as the tribute paid to the miraculous works of Yeshua. people were saying: pl. of Grk. legō, impf., to make a statement or utterance, whether in oral or written form, to say something. KJV has "he said," following the Textus Receptus. Although the majority of MSS have "he said," the reading of some early MSS, as well as Augustine, seemed preferable for the editors of the Nestle Text (Metzger). Herod had been informed what other people had been saying about Yeshua and connecting his success with Yochanan the Immerser. Other versions translate the verb as "some were saying" or "some said" (CEV, CJB, ESV, GNB, HCSB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV), which may be more accurate to the situation. There was not really a consensus of opinion as the next verse indicates. Then in verse 16 Herod joins the chorus of popular sentiment.
John: Grk. Ioannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yochanan and means "the Lord is gracious," the Baptist: Grk. baptizō, pres. part., lit. "the one immersing," means to dip, soak, or immerse into a liquid. A better translation would be "Yochanan the Immerser." See the note on 1:4 for more information on this great prophet. has risen: Grk. egeirō, perf. pass., to move from an inert state or position, to rise or raise, also to awaken, to rouse. from the dead: Grk. nekros, one without life, dead, normally used of physical death, but also figuratively of spiritual death. and that is why these miraculous powers: pl. of Grk. dunamis. See verse 5 above. are at work Grk. energeō, to be vigorous in pursuit of an objective, lit. "operating." in him: A reference to Yeshua.
15 But others were saying, "He is Elijah." And others were saying, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old."
But others were saying: The opening clauses indicates the nature of popular speculation. He is Elijah: Grk. Ēlias, which represents the Heb. Eliyah ("My God is"). The prophet's name first occurs in 1 Kings 17:1 as Eliyahu and thereafter 62 times, but also as Eliyah (first in 2Kgs 1:3 and thereafter 4 times) (BDB 45). The LXX transliterates the name uniformly as Ēlias, and thus this form is followed in the Greek New Testament. The spelling of the prophet's name in the Besekh is an interesting historical story in English versions. The early English versions from 1395 to 1729 (Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishop's, Geneva, KJV-1611, and Mace) all render the name in the Besekh literally as "Elias." It was John Wesley in his 1755 translation of the New Testament who introduced "Elijah." The KJV-1768 version retained "Elias," but "Elijah" endured and was incorporated by succeeding English versions.
Early in his ministry Yochanan had been asked whether he was Elijah (John 1:21). The expectation of Elijah's return began with Malachi (Mal 4:5). As Mark's introduction in chapter one indicates there were many points of commonality between Elijah and Yochanan, prompting the belief of some that Elijah had indeed returned.
He is a prophet: Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). However, in Scripture the word-group also refers simply to speaking on God's behalf, often described as "forth-telling." Yochanan was also asked if he was "the Prophet," the figure of the Messiah prophesied by Moses (Deut 18:15). Malachi and Moses represent the bookends of the Tanakh and together provided the basis for Messianic expectations.
like one of the prophets of old: Others were skeptical, but were at least willing to acknowledge that Yochanan was a true prophet and belonged to that exclusive company of great prophets in Israel's history. The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of Hebrew prophets. Some left literary works that later became Scripture. Others left no writings. Some gave advice to kings. Some prophesied in worship settings. Some saw visions. Some proclaimed a message in startling symbolic actions. Some were gentle, some were fiery, some were confrontational, some worshipful, some full of joy, others full of sadness. But, they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 11).
Hebrew prophets were generally men, the first mentioned being Abraham (Gen 20:7). Great prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, as well as the literary prophets, all men, provided the most significant ministry to Israel. As early as 3 BC the Sages had declared, "Our Rabbis taught: Since the death of the last prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, the Holy Spirit [of prophetic inspiration] departed from Israel" (Sanhedrin 11a). Unfortunately, the place of biblical prophecy would eventually be replaced in Rabbinic Judaism by the authority of the Sages (Baba Bathra 12a; cf. John 8:53). Yet, people knew that the prophetic voice had returned in power with Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 11:13).
16 But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, "John, whom I beheaded, has risen!"
I beheaded: Herod states his responsibility, even though he did not actually wield the sword against Yochanan. has risen: Grk. egeirō. See verse 14 above. It seems difficult to credit, but apparently there was enough consensus of opinion in the populace or even among Herod's own staff that he was influenced to adopt the prevailing view. Yochanan must have risen from the dead.
17 For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her.
Mark begins to narrate the circumstances leading up to Yochanan's death, which preceded the present time by a few months. For Herod himself: This is typical Hebraic redundancy to highlight an individual. had sent: Grk. apostellō, aor. part., to send someone with an official assignment. and had John arrested: Grk. krateō, to grasp, to hold fast to. and bound: Grk. deō, to bind as a physical restraint. in prison: Grk. phulakē, a place for detaining a lawbreaker. This is not a prison in the sense of a place of confinement for a specified period of detention, but a place in which one is confined until disposition is made of the detainee's case. Josephus says that Yochanan was put in prison at Machaerus, the castle fortress situated in Perea, on the eastern side of the Dead Sea (Ant. XVIII, 5:2). Mark does not identify the place of Yochanan's imprisonment.
on account of: Grk. dia, lit. "through." The proposition could imply that it was at the insistence of Herodias that Herod had Yochanan arrested. Given the rest of the story her possible role in the arrest and imprisonment, as well as the execution, cannot be discounted. On the other hand, this verse may simply be saying that Yochanan would never have been arrested if Herod had not married Herodias. Herodias: (c. 15 BC-after 39 AD) was a Jewish princess of the Herodian Dynasty. She was the daughter of Aristobulus IV (one of the two sons of Herod the Great and the Hasmonean princess Mariamne I) and Bernice (a daughter of Herod's sister Salome I, and of Costabarus, governor of Idumea). She was also a full sister of King Agrippa.
the wife: Grk. gunē, an adult female person without respect to age, social status, or marital status, except as defined by the context. In the LXX gunē renders the Heb. ishshah ("woman"). When a woman is connected to a man by name then gunē is rendered as 'wife.' of his brother Philip: a son of Herod the Great and a brother of Herod Antipas. Since Mark offers no further information scholars debate whether this Philip is the same Philip identified in Luke 3:1 as tetrarch over Ituraea and Trachonitis, an area north of the Decapolis and northeast of the Sea of Galilee. Herod the Great had fifteen sons, two of whom were named Philip. because he had married her: Grk. gameō, taking a woman in marriage, accomplished primarily by physical consummation. See my web article Marriage in Ancient Israel.
Josephus identified the first husband of Herodias as Herod [Philip], the son of Herod the Great, who was born of Mariamne (Ant. XVIII, 5:4). This Philip was not the tetrarch and is referred to by historians as Herod II or Herod Philip I. Lane comments on the identification issue:
"It is common to suppose that 'Philip' can only mean Herod Philip, the son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra, who was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis. But the tetrarch and the husband of Herodias were the sons of different mothers and there is no firm reason why they could not have received the same name. The full name of Herodias' first husband is unknown, but no evidence exists that it was not Herod Philip [the "I"]. Moreover, no detail in Mark's narrative lends support to the supposition that his reference is to the tetrarch Philip." (216)
Luke 3:1 identifies the two tetrarchs, Herod Antipas and Philip, as brothers. Luke 3:19, in recounting the marriage of Herodias, omits the name of Philip and simply says, "But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him [Yochanan] because of Herodias, his brother's wife…" It might be assumed that the antecedent of "brother" in this verse can only be the brother mentioned in verse 1. However, the two verses are separated by different contexts and there were fifteen brothers. Eventually the daughter of Herodias would be married to Philip the Tetrarch (Ant. XVIII, 5:4), which would hardly be the case if he were her father.
18 For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."
John had been saying: Grk. legō, impf., to make an utterance, whether orally or in writing. The imperfect tense indicates a repetitive activity. to Herod: The syntax does not necessarily imply that Yochanan spoke the message in an audience with Herod, although that is possible. Yochanan displayed the moral courage of the great prophets in Israel's history by rebuking sin in government. Yochanan did not take issue publicly over governing policies, taxation or other matters that Jewish citizens no doubt complained about with regard to an Edomite king. Yochanan was not of the school of accommodation that has historically characterized the relationship between the clergy and political powers.
It is not lawful: Christian commentators typically describe the marriage between Antipas and Herodias as adulterous and incestuous, although Yochanan does not resort to this terminology. By biblical definition adultery is sexual relations with a married woman. Scripture does not have a term equivalent to "incest," but Leviticus 18 does proscribe sexual intimacy and marriage within certain degrees of consanguinity. The modern definition of incest means marriage or cohabitation between persons related by blood (or other legal status) and not legally permitted to marry. "Unlawful" in this context means contrary to Torah, not Roman law or modern law. It is not uncommon for man-made rules to be more strict than God's rules.
your brother's wife: Grk. gunē. See the previous verse. The phrase would be lit. translated as "the woman of [= "belonging to"] your brother." In Scripture when a woman belongs to one man with the expectation of sexual intercourse (Gen 2:21-22), the Hebrew or Greek word is translated as "wife." In modern times marriage is regulated by the State, but in Bible times marriage was governed by the individual parties and their families. The reader should note that Yochanan's ire was not directed at a marriage between a man and his niece. Herodias essentially traded one uncle for another. The list of prohibited marriages in the Torah (Lev 18) and the Mishnah (Yeb. 1:1) does not include marriage between a man and his niece, and Yochanan clearly accepted Herodias as Philip's wife.
This is also not a situation of bigamy as defined in modern laws. Under Torah a man could have more than one wife at a time, but a woman could not have more than one husband at a time. Ironically, no mention is made of the fact that Herod’s father had ten wives without censure, one of whom, a Samaritan, was the mother of Antipas (Josephus, Ant. XVII, 1:3). At any rate, Herodias and Philip were divorced by her action prior to the marriage with Antipas (Ant. XVIII, 5:4), thus making her eligible for remarriage. Yochanan was not saying that marrying one's (ex) sister-in-law is absolutely unlawful, but that it was unlawful in the circumstances. Ordinarily, a man was prohibited to marry a woman who had been a wife of his brother, whether divorced or widowed (Lev 18:16; 20:21).
The only way a man could take his brother's wife would be if the brother died without a male heir (Deut 25:5). See my web article Levirate Marriage. Compounding the error is that Antipas divorced his first wife Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabataea, in favor of Herodias. Such a legal device (divorce in order to remarry someone already identified) was perfectly legal under Roman law, but was called adultery by Yeshua (Mark 10:11). The basis for Yochanan's indictment is based on two facts: the Herodian family was considered Jewish because the Edomites had been converted by the Hasmoneans, who had ruled Israel in the second century B.C. Second, the Torah specifically requires strangers and foreigners living in the Land of Israel to obey God's commandments (Num 15:14-16). Those facts made Antipas accountable to the God of Israel, and since the sin of Antipas was public record, then Yochanan's public rebuke was justified.
19 Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so;
Herodias: See verse 17 above. had a grudge against him: Grk. enechō, refers to internalized hostility, to bear ill-will, to hold a grudge. and wanted: Grk. thelō, impf., to have a desire for something. to put him to death: Grk. apokteinō, aor. inf., to murder someone or to end someone's life by force, lit. "Herodias wanted to murder him." and could not do so: Grk. dunamai, to be capable for doing or achieving. Even though Herodias had the status of a royal princess and queen, her only authority would have extended to her household. She did not have judicial power, which was vested only in the King.
20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.
for Herod: See verse 14 above. was afraid: Grk. phobeomai, impf. mid., to fear. The verb has two basic meanings that are opposite: (1) to be in a state of apprehension, fearful and (2) to have special respect or reverence for, i.e., deep respect. Herod's emotion could have been a mixture of both. Most Bible versions translate the verb with the first meaning, but a few translate with the second meaning (CJB, HCSB, MSG, NLT, TLV). of John: See verse 14 above. knowing: Grk. oida, perf. part., to know something in an objective sense. The verb has a present tense meaning (Rienecker). that he was a righteous: Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with Torah standards for acceptable behavior, upright or just. Yochanan loved his neighbor.
and holy man: Grk. hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of God. Yochanan loved His God without reservation. and he kept him safe: Grk. suntēreō, to guard, to keep safe. And when he heard him: Grk. akouō, aor. part., to hear in the sense of listening to the substance of what was said. he was very perplexed: Grk. aporeō, to be without a way, to be in a state of bewilderment. Herod heard the words, but didn't fully comprehend the message. Mark relates a striking contrast between the attitudes of Herodias and Antipas toward Yochanan. Herod was not as concerned about public opinion as Herodias and probably would have kept Yochanan imprisoned for years. For his part Herod apparently liked Yochanan and bore him no ill will. Herod found Yochanan to be entertaining and quite enjoyed listening to him.
21 A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee;
A strategic: Grk. eukairos, adj., well-timed or suitable. day: The scheming Herodias finally realized that an opportunity could be created out of a banquet. The guest list included the upper strata of society. came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 2 above. when: Grk. hote, temporal adv. Herod: See verse 14 above. on his birthday: Grk. genesia, birthday, an anniversary of one's birth. gave: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 5 above. a banquet: Grk. deipnon can mean (1) the daily main meal, generally in the evening (Luke 14:12), (2) a royal feast or formal banquet (Matt 23:6; Mark 6:21; Luke 14:16-17; Rev 19:9), or (3) a Jewish festival meal, such as the Passover Seder (John 13:2, 4; 21:20; 1Cor 11:20). The second meaning is intended here. for his lords: pl. of Grk. megistan, a highly ranked person or royal associate.
and military commanders: pl. of Grk. chiliarch, commonly used of a Roman military tribune who commanded a thousand men or more. and the leading men: pl. of Grk. prōtos, standing out in significance or importance, i.e., prominent men. Thus, Antipas invited the leaders of aristocracy, the military and the business community. of Galilee: Grk. Galilaia a transliteration of Heb. Galil, a location name meaning "circle" or "region." Galilee was the northern part of Israel above the hill country of Ephraim and of Judah and encompassed the areas originally given to the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dan. In the time of Yeshua Galilee was a Roman province measuring about 40 miles north to south and about 30 miles east to west. The province of Galilee was bounded by the Province of Syria on the west and north, the River Jordan and Sea of Galilee on the east and the Province of Judea on the south. However, among Jews Galilee would always be associated with the territory of former tribal lands.
22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you."
the daughter of Herodias: The daughter mentioned here is the daughter of Philip and Herodias. Some Greek MSS (including Sinaiticus, 4th cent. and Alexandrinus, 5th cent.) read "his [Herod's] daughter Herodias," causing some scholars historically to assume the name of the girl was Herodias. However, in verse 24 Herodias is identified as the girl's mother. The word herself (KJV has "said Herodias") is the result of a pronoun autēs followed by the definite article tēs with Herodias, lit. "the daughter of her the Herodias." Metzger suggests that this phrasing with a redundant pronoun anticipating a noun could be an Aramaism (sic 77). [More likely an Hebraism.] came in and danced: Grk. orcheomai, to dance. Commentators suggest the dance was of a lewd nature, but Mark passes no judgment on it. The term itself does not mean a sensual dance.
she pleased: Grk. areskō, to give pleasure or gratification by meeting needs or interests. The girl must have been quite skillful at the dance. Herod and his dinner guests: Grk. sunanakeimai, pres. mid. part., lit., "the ones reclining at table." Non-festival meals were normally eaten while sitting on the floor or ground (Gen 27:19; 1Sam 20:5; Jer 16:8; Ezek 44:3; Matt 14:19; 15:35; Luke 17:7), but the reclining posture was reserved for festive occasions. Rabbinic custom specified that reclining was only on the left side to facilitate eating with the right hand (Pes. 108a). Ask me: The dance pleased Herod and the guests, and typical of royal vanity (and male stupidity) he made a foolish offer of a reward without restrictions.
23 And he swore to her, "Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom."
And he swore: Grk. omnumi, to take an oath affirming veracity of what one says, to swear. Such an oath would have been legally binding. Considering the outcome it's very possible that the form of the oath was "I vow by the life of my head," which was commonly used (Sanh. 3:2). Whatever you ask: Grk. aiteō, aor. subj., to ask for in expectation of a response, to request. I will give: Grk. didōmi, fut., to give in the sense of a gift. up to: Grk. heōs, a prep. that sets a limit, 'up to.' half: Grk. ēmisus, one half.
of my kingdom: Grk. basileia, kingship, royal power or reign, and by extension the territory over which the king ruled. The expression is a way of speaking used by princes, when they give full power to persons to ask what they will of them; and to express their great generosity by signifying a value as much as half a kingdom comes to (Gill on Matt 14:7; cf. Esth 5:3). Herod may well have been drunk to make such an outlandish offer, but it was not uncommon in pagan banquets for the rich to compete with each other in the presents they made to dancing girls of money and jewels (Clarke).
24 And she went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist."
her mother: The familial reference means that the girl was Salome, the daughter of Herodias and Philip, her former husband. What shall I ask for: Salome is sometimes depicted as a femme fatale or a dangerous female seductress, but the narrative here clearly lays the responsibility for Yochanan's execution on Herodias.
25 Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter."
Immediately: Grk. euthus, adv., lit. "And immediately." This is a dramatic device that Mark uses frequently. she came: Grk. eiserchomai, to enter into a place. in a hurry: Grk. spoudē, haste or speed. to the king: i.e., Herod. and asked, saying: This is a typical Hebraic redundancy. The phrase functions as quotation marks to introduce the actual words spoken. Salome proceeds to repeat the wish of her mother, but the girl added two points to the request. I want you to give me: Grk. didōmi, to give in the sense of a gift. at once: Grk. exautēs, adv., at once, immediately or without delay. The time factor was not mentioned in the mother's request. the head: Grk. kephalē, the head as an anatomical term. of John the Baptist: Yochanan the Immerser. on a platter: Grk. pinax, a household item varying in size, a dish or platter capable of holding the head. Salome added the point of a platter, because obviously she didn't want to touch the head. The girl must have been devoid of natural feeling to present such a grotesque demand.
26 And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her.
And although the king: i.e., Herod. was very sorry: Grk. perilupos, in a condition of deep inward pain or disappointment, very distressed. yet because of his oaths: pl of Grk. orkos, that which restricts or constrains, an oath. The plural form points back to the promise given at least twice (verse 22 and 23). and because of his dinner guests: Grk. anakeimai, pres. mid. part., to lie down and in this instance to recline at a table for eating, lit., "the ones reclining at table." he was unwilling: lit. "he did not wish." to refuse her: Grk. atheteō, aor. inf., in a legal sense to invalidate or nullify, or in a personal sense to go back on a promise, to break faith. Herod left himself no loophole and as a result he was willing to commit murder to avoid being embarrassed.
27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison,
Immediately: lit. "And immediately," Mark's dramatic method of changing the scene. the king: i.e., Herod. sent an executioner: Grk. spekoulatōr, a soldier below centurion, a soldier whose duties included execution. and commanded: Grk. epitassō, aor., to command or to order. him to bring back: Grk. pherō, aor. inf., may mean (1) to move an entity from one position to another by physical transport or guidance; or (2) direct something that is of a cognitive nature. The first meaning applies here. his head: Grk. kephalē. And he went: Grk. aperchomai, aor. part., to be in movement from a position. and had him beheaded: Grk. apokephalizō, aor., to cut off the head, to decapitate, lit., "beheaded him." The soldier carried out his orders. in the prison: Grk. phulakē. See verse 17 above. Given the location of Yochanan's imprisonment the beheading and presentation to Herod did not take place the same day as the request.
28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.
Since ancient banquets could last several days, it's possible that some of the guests witnessed the presentation to Salome. The syntax implies that the soldier made the presentation, not King Herod. Salome then passed the platter to her mother, Herodias. The common idiomatic expression of a "head on a platter" comes from this ghastly gift.
29 When his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.
When his disciples heard: It's not likely there was any public announcement, but the news circulated informally and quickly. they came and took away his body: the disciples acted promptly. Among Jews the deceased was normally buried within two days of death at the most. We may assume that the disciples were able to obtain Yochanan's head for burial, as well. and laid it in a tomb: Grk. mnēmeion, a place for depositing remains of a deceased person held in memory, burial place, grave or tomb. Rock tombs were common, sometimes containing chambers and sometimes a single room provided with a bench or shelf on which the body was placed, the entrance being closed by a large flat stone rolled or pushed into position.
Date: Spring A.D. 29
30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught.
Mark transitions from the interlude concerning Yochanan's sufferings back to the present situation. The apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos, a delegate, ambassador, envoy, messenger, emissary or official representative. The noun occurs 80 times in the Besekh, but only ten times in the Yeshua histories. Only here does Mark use the word "apostles" for the disciples. In this context the title is descriptive of their function and is not a title. In Greek culture apostolos was used of an envoy representing a king and a commander of a naval expedition (DNTT 1:127). In the LXX apostolos occurs only in 1 Kings 14:6 where it translates Heb. shaluach, pass. part. of shalach (SH-7971), "one being sent." The verb shalach appears many times of an angelic or human agent by God on a mission to deliver a message or accomplish deliverance (e.g., Gen 19:13; Ex 3:12; Num 20:16; 1Sam 12:11; 2Sam 12:1; 2Chr 32:21; Jer 26:12; 49:14; Ezek 3:5).
First century Judaism institutionalized the office of shaliach (Aram. pass. part. of shalach), who acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender, as the Mishnah says, "the agent (Heb. shaluach) is as the one who sends him" (Ber. 5:5). When the high priest authorized Paul to initiate persecution against the disciples he was acting as the priest's shaliach (Acts 9:1-2). A peculiarity of the shaliach is that these representatives were not missionaries to win others to Judaism. The shaliach’s mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128). Nevertheless, when Yeshua, the Great High Priest, appointed the twelve disciples and Paul as his shlichim (pl. of shaliach), the mission was broad and its duration indefinite.
In the apostolic writings the term apostolos-shaliach is first applied to the original Twelve (Matt 10:2), then Mattathias (Acts 1:25-26), Paul (Rom 1:1), Barnabas (Acts 14:4) and Jacob (the brother of Yeshua, Gal 1:19), because they too had "seen the Lord" and been approved to speak on His behalf (Acts 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:6; 1Jn 1:1). In Romans 16:7 Paul mentions Andronicus and Junia as apostles. All true apostles had the authority to proclaim the good news, determine orthodox doctrine, impose requirements ("bind and loose," Matt 16:19; 18:18), and shepherd the congregations they founded (cf. 1Cor 14:37). While the gift of apostleship (e.g., serving as a cross-cultural missionary), continued beyond the first century (1Cor 12:28), the unique authority of the apostolic office ended with the original apostles and the publication of their sacred writings.
While Christian versions uniformly translate apostolos as "apostle" Messianic Jewish versions prefer "emissary" (CJB, HNV, TLV) or "ambassador" (MW). Jews consider the term "apostle" as a distinctly Christian word, perhaps owing to the unbiblical doctrine of apostolic succession in the Catholic Church. However, the English word "apostle," derived from the Old English word "apostol" (one who is sent), essentially transliterates the Greek word, which translates the meaning of the Hebrew word shaliach. Since the use of apostolos ("apostle") in the Bible originated within an Israeli context, then we may confidently say that "apostle" is a Jewish word. The misuse of it by Christians does not change its origin.
gathered together: Grk. sunagō, pres. pass., to bring together in a collective manner. The apostles who had returned from their mission trip (verses 7-11 above). with Jesus: Yeshua chairs the meeting. and they reported: Grk. apangellō, to report back in response to a direction or to relate as the result of personal experience, observation or other source of information. to him all that they had done: Grk. poieō, aor., be active in bringing about a state or condition, to do or to perform. and taught: Grk. didaskō, aor., to teach or instruct, often used in the Besekh of instructing disciples. The disciples reported their activities recorded in verses 12 and 13 above. From their point of view it must have been a successful time of ministry.
31 And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)
Come away: Grk. deute, an interjection that calls for action, 'come on!' or 'come!' by yourselves: lit. "you yourselves." The redundant pronouns emphasize that just the apostles were included in the invitation. to a secluded: Grk. erēmos, adj., unpopulated, lonely place, deserted, desolate or desert. place: Grk. topos, anonymous geographical area, a place. and rest: Grk. anapauō, aor. mid. imp., to refresh with rest; have respite from activity. a while: Grk. oligos, in reference to extent, little. Mark goes on to explain the reason for the rest.
Yeshua became concerned about the apostles' need for rest. The apostolic mission had definitely been successful. Perhaps in their eagerness to please Yeshua and the positive response of the people, the apostles hadn't been able to rest, just as happened to Yeshua in 3:20. The apostles were in constant demand and anyone in ministry knows from experience that deprivation of food and sleep can be a recipe for disaster. So, Yeshua called them to come away for a time and replenish themselves.
Parallel Passages: Matthew 14:12-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:5-13
32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
They went away: Grk. aperchomai, aor., to be in movement from a position with or without mention of destination, to go, go away or depart. in the boat: Grk. ploion in biblical times denoted any vessel that could go out on a body of water, whether lake, inland sea or ocean; used frequently in the apostolic narratives of the fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee. to a secluded: Grk. erēmos, adj. place: Grk. topos. See the note on the previous verse. The description is of an unpopulated area. by themselves: True to Yeshua's wishes only the disciples left with their master on the boat. For this purpose Yeshua chose the place outside the territory of Antipas, nearest to Capernaum.
According to Luke 9:10 Yeshua withdrew to Bethsaida (Heb. Beth-Tzaida), 'the house of fishing,' or 'Fisher-town,' as we might call it, located on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, on the eastern side of the Jordan River, just inside the territory of the Tetrarch Philip. Originally a small village, Herod Philip had converted it into a town, and named it Julias, after Caesar's daughter (Edersheim 464).
33 The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them.
The people saw them going: Grk. hupagō, pres. part., to proceed from a position or a departure point, to go away, to leave. and many recognized them: Grk. epiginōskō, aor., awareness based on previous knowledge, to know, to recognize. and ran there together: Grk. suntrechō, aor., to come on the run together, to hurry together. on foot: This appears to be a tautology, for how else would people run. The point appears to be that the people who wanted to follow Yeshua did not embark on a boat or obtain animals to ride. from all the cities: pl. of Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly. The news of Yeshua's departure quickly spread throughout the area.
and got there ahead of them: The demanding public, unconcerned about the needs of these servants of God, prevented Yeshua from conducting his spiritual retreat. The district of Bethsaida-Julias was only a few hours' sail from Capernaum, but an even a shorter distance by land. The crowd saw what direction the boat headed and as people followed on foot, many others from neighboring villages would have joined them. It would not have been hard to track the progress of the boat's sail. Some were so fleet of foot as to arrive at the place before Yeshua's boat.
34 When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
When Jesus went ashore: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part., to move away from a place or position, lit. "And going forth" (Marshall). "Jesus" is not in the Greek text. He saw a large: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, many, much or great. crowd: Grk. ochlos refers to an assembled company of people. The noun occurs frequently in the apostolic narratives and designates those that came to hear Yochanan the Immerser and Yeshua from a particular locality. In many passages the people are contrasted with the ruling classes (Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees) who despised the ochlos as ignorant masses accursed for not keeping Torah (DNTT 2:800f). The noun ochlos does not hint at numbers, but in this case "crowd" is defined as "large." The reader learns just how large in verse 44 below. The size of the multitude may be partially accounted for by the fact that Passover was near, so that many must have been starting on their journey to Jerusalem, round the Lake and through Perea (Edersheim 465).
and He felt compassion: Grk. splagchnizomai, aor. pass., to have pity, to feel sympathy, to be moved with compassion. The fact that Yeshua had compassion on them illustrates his holy nature, because these selfish people did not deserve such concern. they were like sheep: Grk. probaton, sheep, an animal in the care of a shepherd. without a shepherd: Grk. poimēn, shepherd. The idiomatic expression "sheep without a shepherd" functions as a play on words. The people of Israel are often likened to sheep (cf. Ps 79:13; 95:7; 100:3; Jer 23:1; Ezek 34:31) and Israel had its shepherds in the form of rabbis, synagogue leaders and national leaders in the Sanhedrin. However, these shepherds were no better than hirelings who cared nothing for the sheep (John 10:11-14).
The people had had a better shepherd in Yochanan the Immerser, but his murder likely had a depressing effect on people. At this moment they were "sheep without a shepherd" and into the vacuum stepped Yeshua. and He began to teach: Grk. didasko, pres. inf., to teach or instruct, here of explaining spiritual truth, most likely by the use of parables (Mark 4:11). them many things: The adjective polus used above for the size of the crowd now does service in describing the content of Yeshua's teaching. The message of Yochanan was essentially to repent as preparation for the wrath to come. However, the people needed to move beyond elementary teaching (cf. Heb 6:1-2). Much of the content of Yeshua's teaching focused on the intent of Torah commandments and the nature of Kingdom living (as in the Sermon on the Mount).
35 When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and it is already quite late;
When it was already quite late: The Greek text is difficult at this point and lit. would be "And now an hour much coming" (Marshall). His disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs, one who learns through instruction from a teacher. In the apostolic writings mathētēs corresponds to the Heb. talmid and occurs only in the apostolic narratives. See the note on 2:15 for the expectations of disciples. came: Grk. proserchomai, aor. part., to approach from a point to a person, to come, to go to or to approach. to Him and said: The syntax functions as quotation marks. This place: Grk. topos, a geographical area. is desolate: Grk. erēmos. See verse 31 above. and it is already quite late: the disciples repeat the opening clause to the verse "and now hour a much" (Marshall). In the mind of the disciples the point had been reached when the crowd had become hungry. They had brought no food with them and no food sources were immediately at hand.
36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."
send them away: Grk. apoluō, aor. imp., to release or dismiss. so that they may go: Grk. aperchomai, aor. part., to be in movement from a position with or without mention of destination, to go away, to depart. into the surrounding: Grk. kuklō, adv., of points touched within a geographical area, round about. countryside: Grk. agros normally refers to a plot of ground used mainly for agriculture, i.e., a field, and occasionally as the countryside outside a city or village. and villages: Grk. pl. of Grk. komē, a village, smaller and less prestigious than a city. and buy: Grk. agorazō, aor. subj., a commercial transaction, to buy or purchase. themselves something to eat: Grk. ethio, aor. subj., to consume food by mouth, lit. "for themselves what they may eat" (Marshall).
After some time devoted to teaching and the day perhaps approaching late afternoon Yeshua's disciples became concerned for the crowd. Their mission trip no doubt helped to sensitize them to the needs of others. Since they were in an unpopulated area, food was not a readily available commodity. The only sensible solution seemed to be to dismiss the people so they could go and buy what they needed. While the disciples had healed people and cast out demons, it never occurred to them to personally address the need of the hungry. They believed in personal responsibility and when people can take care of themselves, then they should do so without burdening the rest of the community (cf. 1Tim 5:5-10).
37 But He answered them, "You give them something to eat!" And they said to Him, "Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?"
You give them something: Just as Yeshua expected his apostles to rely on the support of others during their mission trip (verse 10 above), he now applies the same principle to them. "Just as these people fed you, so now you feed them." And they said: This translation makes the verse awkward due to the insertion of the full stop after "eat" and rendering the present tense verb "say" as if it were past tense. There was no punctuation in the original manuscripts. Yeshua's instruction is clearly a response to the question of the disciples. There should be no exclamation point or period after "eat," and the transitional words should be translated "because they were saying." Shall we go: The question of the disciples reflects a certain rigidity in problem-solving. They really didn't know what to do, so in the circumstances the most logical solution seemed to be making the crowd responsible for their food.
and spend two hundred denarii: Since a denarius was the standard daily wage for a laborer, 200 would be over half a year's wages. on bread: pl. of Greek artos (Heb. lechem), which refers to a baked product produced from cereal grain and also to food or nourishment in general. Based on the head count given in verse 44, the disciples quickly computed the monetary amount. The daily minimum bread ration for the poor was about one and three-quarters pints (Peah 8:7). The price of grain or flour was one denarius for each seah (about three gallons) so the daily ration cost a twelfth of a denarius. However, the disciples reckoned on a twenty-fifth of a denarius per head, which was the normal price of a half day's ration (Jeremias 123). The question hints that perhaps the group had that much money on hand, since Yeshua did have financial supporters (Luke 8:3). Of course, they might not have had it if Judas had already begun embezzling team funds (John 12:6).
38 And He said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go look!" And when they found out, they said, "Five, and two fish."
How many loaves: pl. of Greek artos. See the previous verse. Yeshua asked his disciples to conduct an inventory to determine what was available to meet the need of feeding the multitude. Yeshua already knew the answer and even if every disciple had the meager amount found, it still would not have but this was a teachable moment. Five: Grk. pente, the number five. John reports that the loaves were made of barley (6:9), the most common bread available. Unlike modern loaves of bread, these were small and flat. One could easily eat several of them at a single meal (Wessel). and two fish: pl of Grk. ichthus. The term does not define the species. Five loaves and two fish were obviously not enough to feed so large a group.
39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass.
And He commanded: Grk. epitassō, to command or to order. Yeshua took charge of the feeding operation and began to give directions. There is no indication that the crowd knew food was going to be served. sit down: Grk. anaklinō, aor. inf., to cause to recline in order to eat. The typical method was to recline on the left side and eat with the right hand. The verb does not mean to sit, and yet every standard Bible version has this translation. The only versions that render the verb as "recline" are the very literal versions, the LITV and YLT. The Greek word for "sit" is kathēmai. Bible translators apparently think that rendering the ancient custom accurately would be too confusing.
by groups: Grk. sumposion originally referred to a drinking party or banquet; also a hall where such activity took place. Here the noun simply means a party or group of people eating together (BAG). The term actually occurs twice in a row in the Greek text, lit. "companies companies" (Marshall). This redundancy reflects Hebrew syntax similar to the repetition of "seven seven" in Genesis 7:2 (and 7:3) to denote the grouping of clean animals going on the ark. on the green: Grk. chlōros, a color between blue and yellow on the spectrum. Here used of vegetation means a light green. grass: Grk. chortos, grass that grows in a field or meadow. The description evokes the imagery of Psalm 23:2 of the Lord who makes David to "lie down in green pastures" and may recall the promise of Ezekiel 34:31, "As for you, My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are men, and I am your God."
40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.
They sat down: Grk. anapiptō, 'fall back,' then 'recline,' especially at meals. This is the same verb used of John leaning back on Yeshua's breast in the Passover meal (John 13:25). Reclining reflected a relaxed atmosphere. in groups: Grk. prasia, originally a garden plot or garden bed (BAG). The noun, like sumposion in the previous verse, occurs twice in a row, i.e., "groups groups" (Marshall). of hundreds: pl. of Grk. ekaton, one hundred. and of fifties: pl. of Grk. pentēkonta, fifty. Luke records that the people reclined in groups of fifty (Luke 9:14). Various commentators have found a symbolic meaning to the arrangement. The arrangement may suggest the teacher-student relationship. The "rabbis compared their classes to vineyards because they were arranged in rows, Heb. shuroth shuroth; and we may compare our own use of the word 'seminary,' which means a 'seedplot'" (P. Carrington, According to Mark, p. 136, cited in Wessel).
Lane finds in this arrangement an allusion to the Mosaic camp in the wilderness and notes that Qumran documents use these subdivisions to describe true Israel assembled in the desert in the period of the last days. Thus, the people taught by Yeshua are shown to be "the people of the new exodus who have been summoned to the wilderness to experience messianic grace." Mark portrays Yeshua as the second Moses who transforms the leaderless flock (v. 34 above) into the people of God. In any event the group size is divisible by ten, the minimum number (Heb. minyan) for any group or religious activity, including saying grace (Meg. 3:2).
41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.
And He took: Grk. lambanō, aor. part., to take hold of something with the hands. the five loaves and the two fish: See verse 38 above. and looking up: Grk. horaō, Yeshua is reported in six passages to have prayed while looking (with his eyes open) up (Mark 7:34; Luke 9:16; John 11:41; 17:1). Christians often pray with eyes closed, but there is no command on the subject in the Bible. Closing one’s eyes may help to avoid distraction and concentrate on God, but if anyone chooses to keep their eyes open, they have the Messiah as their model. The phrase, "toward heaven," can also carry the secondary meaning, "toward God" (Stern 52).
toward heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Danker). In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. word hashamayim ("the heavens") (DNTT 2:191). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to at least three different places (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere of the earth or "face" of hashamayim. The second heaven is interstellar space, populated with the sun, moon and stars. Finally, the third heaven is the abode of God the Father and the home of angels. See the note on 1:10 for specific Scripture references. Here the third heaven is in view.
He blessed the food: Grk. eulogeō, aor., to invoke divine favor or to express high praise, to bless, to offer a blessing; in this case the latter meaning. The corresponding Heb. verb is barak, which lit. means to kneel or to bless (BDB 138). In the Tanakh barak is an endowment of favor or beneficial power (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser, either from God to man, from man to man or parent to child. However, the verb often occurs in the context of a man blessing God (e.g., Ps 103:1). The words "the food" are not found in the Greek text and the verb should be simply rendered as "He offered a blessing (Heb. b'rakah)."
Yeshua as a Jew learned to bless God on many occasions for every enjoyable thing in life. (These may be found in the Talmud tractate Berakoth.) He also followed the Pharisaic practice of blessing God before eating (Ber. 35a), whereas the Torah only requires blessing God after eating (Deut 8:10). Reference to this custom occurs in 15 verses, some with eulogeō (Matt 14:19; 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 9:16; 24:30 and 1Cor 10:16) and some with eucharisteō ("give thanks," Matt 15:36; Mark 8:6; 14:23; Luke 22:17; John 6:11; Acts 27:35; Rom 14:6; 1Cor 11:24). Christian Bibles either mistranslate the custom as blessing the food (as the NASB here) or asking God to bless the food or contain inconsistent translation, correct in some verses and incorrect in other verses. Consistent and correct translation of the custom may be found in Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MW, OJB, TLV).
The b'rakhah is a sentence or paragraph of praise and thanksgiving to God, commencing with the formula, Barukh attah Adonai, ("Blessed are you, O LORD," quoting Psalm 119:12) (Ber. 1:4) and continuing with an action verb and phrase that describes what God does that merits praise. For bread the blessing (called Motzi) ends with "who brings forth [Heb. ha-motzi] bread [Heb. lechem] from the earth [Heb. min ha-aretz]" (Ber. 6:1). The b'rakah for the fish, since they do not grow from the earth, ends with "by whose word all things exist" (Ber. 6:3; 40b). The phrase "King of the universe" in Jewish blessings that follows the opening invocation is a later rabbinic addition to emphasize the kingship of God over His people (Ber. 12a; 40b; 49a). The phrase may have been inserted in reaction to Yeshua being identified as the King of Israel (John 1:49) and King of the Jews (Matt 2:2; Mark 15:2; John 19:19), but Yeshua is also the King of the universe (John 1:3; Eph 1:10; Col 1:16-17; Rev 5:13).
The "grace" before eating said by Christians typically asks God to bless the food, but this is not what Yeshua did. Jews bless God, not food. Blessing God for food (or anything else) does not mean conveying something to God He doesn’t already have or to change Him in some way. Blessing God is also not simply an expression of gratitude, although that is included in the concept. Blessing God recognizes His omnipotent power over the natural processes necessary to food production and attributes the honor due Him for His gracious provision. Since the root meaning of barakh is to kneel, it's not hard to see how we can bless God. We can kneel before Him and acknowledge our utter dependence on Him. (For more on this subject see Irene Lipson, Blessing the King of the Universe: Transforming Your Life Through the Practice of Biblical Praise, Lederer Books, 2004.)
and broke: Grk. kataklaō, aor., to break in pieces. The aorist tense captures the comprehensive nature of the breaking without offering a rationale of how the breaking provided sufficient quantity for 5,000+ people. This was a very traditional way of sharing the bread, tearing the bread rather than cutting it with a knife. Although the use of a knife is allowed there has been a longstanding Jewish custom of refraining from using a knife or other utensil, as a symbol of the day when there will no longer be nation lifting up sword against nation (Isa 2:4). Hence, the common biblical and Jewish phrase for this is "breaking bread (Heb. betziat lechem) (Kasdan 150. See Jer 16:7; Lam 4:4; Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 24:30, 35; Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11; 27:35; 1Cor 10:16; 11:23-24).
the loaves: pl. of Grk. artos. See verse 8 above. The verb "broke" implies something of the texture of the bread. This was not the fluffy sliced white bread of modern times. and He kept giving: Grk. didōmi, impf., to give, a generic verb that does duty for a variety of situations in which giving or a donation takes place. The imperfect tense with its emphasis on continuous action in past time describes the process of the divine miracle.
them to the disciples: To witness the miraculous breaking and giving the bread must have been truly mind-boggling. For the disciples to later fail to grasp the significance of this miracle may seem inexplicable, yet the Israelites in the wilderness failed to appreciate God's provision in the miraculous provision of manna. to set before them: The distribution of the food was handled by delegation for efficiency, but for the people it would also reflect Yeshua's calling of his disciples as servants of God. and He divided up: Grk. merizō, aor., to cause to be in parts or pieces, to divide. The use of a different verb than that used of "breaking" the bread calls attention to the texture of the fish versus the bread. the two fish: lit. "the two fishes." among them all: lit. "to all." All the people in the crowd received food from the five loaves and two fishes.
42 They all ate and were satisfied,
They all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. that conveys the idea of comprehensiveness, 'all.' Everyone in the crowd as well as Yeshua's party are included. ate: Grk. esthiō, to consume food by mouth. and were satisfied: Grk. chortazō, to meet the need for food, to have one's fill, to be satisfied. There was no rationing and no scrimping. Everyone had all they wanted to eat.
43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish.
and they picked up: Grk. airō, to raise up, to lift up. "They" refers to the apostles (John 6:12). twelve full: pl. of Grk. plēroma, that which is there as a result of filling, lit. 'fullnesses.' baskets: pl. of Grk. kophinos, a relatively large sturdy container, a basket, probably produced in various sizes. According to Lane these were the small wicker baskets every Jew took with him when away from home (231). In it he carried his lunch and some needed essentials so that he would not have to eat defiling Gentile food (Wessel). Thus every disciple gathered up fragments in his own basket. of the broken pieces: Grk. klasma, something broken off, a broken piece or fragment. According to John 6:13 the twelve baskets contained barley loaves. and also of the fish: pl. of Grk. ichthus, fishes. There was also left-over fish, but none of the narratives give the quantity. The implication is that each basket also contained some fish.
There can be no question but that Yeshua performed a special creation-type miracle. Not only were all the people fed and their hunger satisfied, but there was more left over at the end than there had been at the beginning--twelve basketfuls. John's version adds the reason for the post-feeding collection as "so that nothing will be lost" (6:12). According to Jewish custom, destruction of food is prohibited (Stern 171). In other words, waste not, want not.
44 There were five thousand men who ate the loaves.
There were five thousand: This number could easily have been calculated because of the division of the crowd into groups of hundreds and fifties. men: Mark is clear that the headcount did not include women and children under bar/bat mitsvah age. Stern notes that Elisha, by a similar miracle of creation, fed one hundred people with twenty loaves of bread (2Kgs 4:42–44), but Yeshua fed perhaps ten thousand with fewer loaves (52). who ate: Grk. esthiō, aor. part. See verse 42 above.
the loaves: pl. of Grk. artos. Greek MSS are about evenly divided, some containing the words tous artous and others omitting the words. Metzger suggests the reason for the omission of artos is because it raises the awkward question why "loaves" should be singled out with no mention of the fish. So, some versions put these words in brackets. However, if we consider that artos not only means bread as a baked product, but the food of a meal in general (so Danker; e.g. Mark 3:20; Luke 14:1; John 13:18; 2Th 3:8), then there is no reason not to include the words.
45 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away.
Immediately: Mark's narrative indicates an abruptness to ending the picnic and urging his disciples to leave. Jesus made His disciples: The hurried departure was no doubt due to the people recognizing Yeshua as the promised Prophet (cf. 6:15) and their determination to proclaim him king (John 6:14-15). The dismissal of the disciples prevented them from exacerbating the situation by telling the people the miraculous character of the evening meal (Lane 234). get into the boat: Grk. ploion. See verse 32 above. This is no doubt the same boat they used to come to this area.
to the other side: i.e., the opposite shore. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing." Bethsaida: Grk. Bēthsaida, a transliteration of Heb. Beit-Tsaidah, a location name meaning "house of fish." The city was known as Bethsaida-Julias and was located on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This town was rebuilt under Philip the tetrarch, a son of Herod the Great, who named it Julias in honor of the Emperor Augustus' daughter. The apostolic narratives place the city near Chorazin (Matt 11:21). Josephus locates Bethsaida east of the Jordan and in lower Gaulanitis, the Tetrarchy of Philip (Wars II, 9:1; III, 3:5). Bethsaida was the home of Andrew, Peter, and Philip (John 1:44; 12:21).
He Himself was sending: Grk. apoluō, pres. See verse 36 above. the crowd away: The present tense of the verb indicates a determined effort to defuse the volatile atmosphere and dismiss the unruly crowd. To be alone surely took some doing, and probably only the onset of darkness hurried people back to their homes.
46 After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.
After bidding them farewell: Grk. apotassō, aor. mid. part., to bid farewell, take leave of, say goodbye to. He left: Grk. aperchomai, to be in movement from a position, to depart or leave. for the mountain: Grk. oros means "mountain," "hill," or "hill-country." The corresponding Heb. word, har, is given in Scripture to a comparatively large ridge, a collection of small hills and to many hogbacks in Israel. Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings. However, in Scripture a single Hebrew and Greek word is used to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height. It's noteworthy that Yeshua does not stay in the open area where the great picnic had taken place, nor does he venture into a neighboring village or city. He heads to a high point, probably a short distance away, in order to be alone with his heavenly Father.
to pray: Grk. proseuchomai, aor. mid. inf., to petition deity for some personal desire. In the LXX proseuchomai renders Heb. palal, to intervene or interpose, i.e., judge. The verb has a variety of meanings, including arbitrate, judge, intercede and pray. By definition the Hebrew and Greek words for prayer do not strictly encompass blessing or praising God, although such expressions are important. In simple terms prayer is making requests known to God (Rom 1:10; Phil 4:6). Yeshua likely had many things to pray about. He carried the burden for many, as well as his mission. If the Messiah felt the constant need to take time for private prayer, how much more important is it for his disciples.
47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land.
When it was: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., to become or come into being, lit. "having come." In the Greek text the verb follows the word "evening." evening: Grk. opsia, a variant form of opsios, the period between daylight and darkness, evening. See the note on 1:32. By itself "evening" is not a definite clock time, since the term generally referred to any time after the noon hour. More exact determination must be made from the context. Yeshua had probably dismissed the crowd at least by mid-afternoon and coincided the beginning of his prayer time with the afternoon prayer time associated with the evening sacrifice at the temple, about 3 P.M. the boat: Grk. ploion. See the note verse 32. was in the middle: Grk. mesos means midst, middle, or center.
of the sea: Grk. thalassa (corresponding to Heb. yam) used of both a sea, such as the Mediterranean, and inland bodies of water, such as a lake. The English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule. Thalassa (as its Hebrew counterpart) simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. It's not clear whether Mark intends "middle" to be the exact center of the Sea or the mid-way point between the point of departure (Bethsaida-Julias) and the destination (Bethsaida of Galilee) as the crow flies. The Sea of Galilee is thirteen miles long north to south and eight miles wide at its widest point. The relative position of the boat, thanks to the storm, could have satisfied either definition.
He was alone: Grk. monos signifies the exclusion of any others. on the land: Grk. gēs, earth as a planet, land in contrast to the sea or ground in which is planted. Mark paints a dramatic picture of Yeshua in a peaceful setting with solid earth under his feet and his disciples in a boat on top of water. Yeshua succeeded in having some quiet time without anyone making a pressing demand. With the crowd gone and the disciples on the Sea, Yeshua had time to pray and he prayed for some time before setting out to cross the lake.
48 Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.
Seeing them straining: Grk. basanizō, pres. pass. part., subject to severe distress; when sailors experience adverse weather conditions, 'to labor.' at the oars: Grk. elaunō, pres. inf., to apply force for forward movement, lit. "in the rowing." for the wind: Grk. anemos, in general the air currents called 'wind,' normally out of the west, although wind can come from any direction. was against them: One can only wonder whether the wind being against them was the result of God the Father holding up the boat for the divine appointment with Yeshua. the fourth watch: According to Roman reckoning the night was divided into four watches: 6-9 P.M., 9-12 P.M., 12-3 A.M., and 3-6 A.M (Wessel). There was some difference of opinion among the Jews, whether the night should be divided into three or four watches. The latter (which would count the night at twelve instead of nine hours) was adopted by many Jewish authorities and this accounts for Mark's reference (Edersheim 471; Berachot 3b).
He came: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., to come or arrive with emphasis on the point from which movement began or to go with emphasis on the goal of the movement. to them: The prep. pros with the plural pronoun indicates Yeshua's destination. walking: Grk. peripateō, pres. part., to engage in pedestrian activity, to go about, to walk. on the sea: Grk. thalassa. See the previous verse. He intended: Grk. thelō, impf., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something. Some versions (KJV, NIV, NKJV, NLT) leave the question of desire or intention ambiguous by translating "he was about to" or words to that effect. Wessel believes this translation would be supported by assuming that this is "the impression of an eyewitness as to what was happening." However, the verb speaks clearly of Yeshua's intention, not a disciple's assumption of intention.
to pass by: Grk. parerchomai, aor. inf., to move spatially from one position to another, to go past OR to come alongside. Danker prefers the first meaning here. The NASB (as the ESV, GNB, HCSB, MSG, NCV, NRSV, RSV), in agreement with Danker, indicates that Yeshua had the intention of walking on to the shore and meeting his disciples there. However, considering that the verb combines the preposition para ("beside," "alongside") and the verb erchomai ("to come or to go"), the CJB translates the best in my view by saying "He meant to come alongside them." Since the storm didn't affect Yeshua's walking he could have passed by without being noticed at all. But, the verb is preceded by statement that "he came to them." The meaning of the verb should be interpreted from the end result.
49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out;
But when they saw: Grk. horaō, aor. part., to perceive with the eyes. Him walking: Grk. peripateō, pres. part. See the previous verse. on the sea: Grk. thalassa. See verse 47 above. Mark heightens drama by stating first Yeshua's activity and then the disciples watching Yeshua do the same activity. To Yeshua the walking was ordinary. To the disciples the walking was extraordinary, even impossible. they supposed: Grk. dokeō, to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion. that it was a ghost: Grk. phantasm, some entity that discloses itself in a mysterious manner. Given the awareness in ancient culture of other-worldly powers, the term could be rendered as apparition or ghost.
Lane mentions there was a popular belief that spirits of the night brought disaster, which is preserved in a Talmudic saying, "Rabbah said: Seafarers told me that the wave that sinks a ship appears with a white fringe of fire at its crest, and when stricken with clubs on which is engraven, 'I am that I am, Yah, the Lord of Hosts, Amen, Amen, Selah', it subsides" (Baba Bathra 73a).
50 for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, "Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid."
for they all saw Him: Mass hallucination is possible, but such was not the case here. Twelve men, most of whom would have had experience with lake storms, would have sworn in a court of law that they saw a man of flesh and blood walking on water. and were terrified: Grk. tarassō, cause to be in a disturbed or agitated state. Their senses screamed that what they saw was impossible. And, if the laws of nature, such as gravity, were being set aside, what else could happen? But immediately: Grk. euthus, immediately or at once. This word is Mark's favorite dramatic device to shift scenes. He spoke: Grk. laleō, to make an oral statement, to speak or to talk.
with them: The prep. meta, 'with,' and the plural pronoun, contrasts with "He came to them" in verse 48. Yeshua speaks quickly to allay the disciples' fear and to correct their delusion as if he were already in the boat and he's carrying on a normal conversation. and said: Grk. legō, to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or written. to them: Yeshua addressed his disciples, cognizant of their fear. Yeshua addresses his disciples with a three-part message fraught with meaning and designed to alter their perspective of the situation. Take courage: Grk. tharreō, pres. imp., to be of good courage or to be encouraged. Marshall has "be of good cheer." This was a command to take a positive view of the circumstances. He then follows with the reason they could cheer up.
it is I: Grk. egō eimi, lit. "I am." The expression occurs 47 times in the Besekh, 34 times on the lips of Yeshua, often as a way of identifying himself to his disciples and others (Matt 14:27; John 4:26; 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 18:5, 6, 8; Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15). However, in John's writings Yeshua frequently couples egō eimi with a descriptive metaphor (John 6:35, 48, 51; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5; Rev 1:8, 17; 2:23; 22:16). Such statements indicate that Yeshua had a firm grasp of his own identity. Stern suggests that the metaphoric expressions imply a claim even greater than being the Messiah, because they are too similar to the God of Israel's self-revelation in the Tanakh to be accidental (168).
In classical Hebrew "I am" would be a form of the very name of God (YHVH), which is the imperfect Hebrew tense of the verb "to be" (Kasdan 152). In the LXX egō eimi is spoken a few times by men in regular self-references: Abraham (Gen 23:4); Moses (Ex 4:10; 31:2); Saul (1Sam 9:21); Isaiah (Isa 6:8) and Jeremiah (Jer 1:7). However, the pronoun present tense verb combination of "I am" is most often spoken by the God of Israel in reference to Himself, first without qualification, such as "I am who I am" (Ex 3:14; also in Isa 41:4; 43:10, 25 twice; 46:4 twice; 47:8, 10; 48:12; 51:12 twice; 52:6). More commonly God says egō eimi kurios, "I am YHVH" (48 times; e.g., Ex 7:5; 16:12; 29:46; Lev 11:44; 26:1; Deut 5:6; 32:39; Isa 45:8; 61:8; Jer 24:7; Ezek 7:9; 28:22; 29:6; 30:8).
do not: Grk. mē, not. be afraid: Grk. phobeō, pres. mid. imp., to be in a state of apprehension, which, as a negative emotion, may range from ordinary fear to abject terror. The middle voice, imperative mood and present tense of the verb combined with the negative particle mē indicates a command to stop a practice in progress. Yeshua announced his identity as the One who had everything under control, so there is no need to fear. Not recorded by Mark is the miraculous walking on water by Peter who courageously gets out of the boat at the invitation of Yeshua (Matt 14:28-31).
51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished,
He got into the boat: lit., "And he went up to them into the boat" (Marshall). And no doubt with the mouths of the disciples hanging open. If it was Yeshua's intention to walk by he didn't have to get in the boat. and the wind stopped: See the note on Yeshua stilling the wind and waves in Mark 4:35-41. they were utterly astonished: Grk. existēmi, impf. mid., undergoing a psychological change suggesting demeanor or impressionableness outside normal expectations, to be amazed. Probably the disciples were not astonished that the wind stopped, and with it the storm, but that Yeshua had actually walked on top of the water and the wind stopped coincidental with his arrival. In any event their fear was gone.
52 for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.
for they had not gained any insight: Grk. suniēmi, to grasp the significance of something. The opening phrase is lit., "for they did not understand" (Marshall). from: Grk. epi, prep. expresses the idea of hovering or being over. In this context the focus is on the basis for drawing a conclusion, so the word could be rendered as "in the presence of." the incident: The words "the incident" are not in the Greek text. of the loaves: pl. of Grk. artos. See the notes on verse 8 and 37 above. In other words, the disciples did not grasp the significance of the power at work in the breaking of the loaves. The creation power that divided five loaves into enough portions to feed about ten thousand people is the same power that would enable Yeshua to walk on water and calm the storm.
but their heart: Grk. kardia, here used figuratively of the inner person, including character, cognition, emotion and volition. was hardened: Grk. pōroō, perf. pass. part., cause to be callous, to cause imperviousness to effort at stimulating reception of a message, to harden or petrify. Mark's assessment was that the disciples were not capable of lateral thinking or "thinking outside the box." Since the passive voice indicates that the subject receives the action, then perhaps the hardening was not a deliberate act of the will, but the result of a sovereign withholding of enlightenment (cf. John 1:9; 1Cor 2:8).
53 When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore.
When they had crossed over: Grk. diaperaō, aor. part., to move across from one point to another, used of separated geographical areas and ordinarily by boat. they came to land at Gennesaret: Grk. Gennēsaret (Heb. Ginosar), a place name of a town meaning 'circle.' The name dates back to the time of Joshua (Josh 11:2; 1935). The name was used as an alternate name for the Sea of Galilee, called Lake Gennesaret (Luke 5:1). The boat of travelers did not make their destination of Bethsaida (which lay close to Capernaum), but landed a few miles away to the southwest. and moored to the shore: Grk. prosormizo (from ormos, 'cord, chain'), used of a boat coming to land and then tying it up to secure it.
54 When they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him,
No sooner had Yeshua and his disciples disembarked from the boat than people in the vicinity recognized the great rabbi and prophet. He was a "rock star" of his time and no matter where he was, as soon as he was spotted, a crowd would gather to him.
55 and ran about that whole country and began to carry here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was.
and ran about: Grk. peritrechō, to run around or about. The verb describes a flurry of activity with a sense of urgency. that whole country: Grk. chōra, a stretch of territory as contrasted with owned property. and began to carry: Grk. peripherō, pres. inf., to carry about. here and there on their pallets: pl. of Grk. krabattos, a humble pad for sleeping or resting, a mat; also frequently used by the infirm. those who were sick: Grk. kakōs (from kakos, bad), ill or sick. The term covered a wide range of ailments that required treatment, but the mention of pallets indicates especially serious medical cases. to the place they heard He was: The needy people didn't know precisely Yeshua's location, but the oral news reports stated where he was last seen.
56 Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.
The chapter ends with a summary statement of Yeshua's healing ministry. Wherever He entered villages: pl. of Grk. komē. See verse 6 above. or cities: pl. of Grk. polis. See verse 33 above. or countryside: Grk. agros. See verse 36 above. they were laying: Grk. tithēmi, impf., to put or place. the sick: Grk. astheneō, pres. part., to experience weakness in the body, to be sick. in the market places: pl. of Grk. agora, a place for gathering, especially of a marketplace as the center of civic life. and imploring Him: Grk. parakaleō, impf., to call to be at one's side with the connotation of urgency; when used for securing help or assistance the verb would be rendered as 'entreat' or 'implore.' that they might just touch: Grk. haptō, aor. mid. subj., to make contact with, to touch, take hold of or grasp.
the fringe: Grk. kraspedon, which refer to a tassel sewn into the hem of the garment. Observant Jewish men in Yeshua’s time wore tassels or fringes (Heb. tzitziyot, pl. of tzitzit) on the four corners of their garment in accordance with the Torah (Num 15:37-40; Deut 22:12). of His cloak: Grk. himation, a covering for the body, generally referring to clothing or apparel, but in this context it means an outer garment. For more on this practice see the note on Mark 5:27-28. and as many as touched: Grk. haptō, already defined. it were being cured: Grk. sozo, impf. pass., to rescue from a hazardous condition or circumstance. The verb is used in various contexts to refer to being rescued from bodily peril, including sickness and death, as well as from spiritual peril, frequently in an apocalyptic sense of being delivered from God's wrath. It may well be that repeated healings by grasping Yeshua's tzitziyot were the result of public awareness of healing the woman with the issue of blood.
The reason for this manner of healing may be found by comparing two verses of Scripture. In Numbers 15:38 the command of the Lord states; "Make tzitzit at kanphei (upon the corners) of your garments." Kanaph is the Hebrew word for "corner;" but it also can mean "wing." Malachi 4:2 uses this word, "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings [Heb. kanaph]." When anyone touched the fringe, the tzitziyot, of Yeshua's cloak, that person touched the Son of Righteousness. Taking hold of the tassel was symbolic of taking hold of the God of Israel and, claiming the promise of Malachi. Whether the people understood this biblical connection is unknown. All they knew was that it worked.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barker: William P. Barker, Everyone In the Bible. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online at BibleHub.com.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah(1883). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993. Also online.
Edersheim-Sketches: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), Sketches of Jewish Social Life (1876). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994. Also online.
Edersheim-Temple: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Temple: It's Ministry and Services (1874). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994. Also online.
Fisher: Anthony J. Fisher (d. 2000), Greek New Testament [NA26]. University of York, nd.
Flusser: David Flusser, The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus' Genius. 4th ed. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2007.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
Gruber-Akiva: Daniel Gruber, Rabbi Akiva's Messiah: The Origins of Rabbinic Authority. Elijah Publishing, 1999.
ISBE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939. Website HTML, 2011. Online.
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Josephus: Flavius Josephus (Yosef ben Matityahu; c. 75-99 A.D.), Wars of the Jews. trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Kasdan: Barney Kasdan, Matthew Presents Yeshua, King Messiah: A Messianic Commentary. Lederer Books, 2011.
Lane: William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1974. (NICNT)
Leman: Derek Leman, A New Look at the Old Testament. Mt. Olive Press, 2006.
Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Moody Press, 1980.
Wessel: Walter W. Wessel, Mark. Vol. 8, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
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