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On the Gospel of John, Part 17: The Parable of the Feeding in the Wilderness
As it is recorded in John chapter 5, Yahshua Christ had made several bold assertions concerning His Own identity and His mission, and the authority which He had attested was given to Him from God Himself. Believing Christ, His assertions established the fact that He is the prophetic Son of the 2nd Psalm, the appointed Son prophesied by David who would ultimately rule over and judge the nations of the earth, and the very works which He was able to perform proved that His assertions were true. If Yahshua Christ is that Son of the 2nd Psalm, then He must also be the expected Messiah, a Son of Man who would be handed an everlasting kingdom by the Ancient of Days, as it is described in Daniel chapter 7. So it is fitting that God Incarnate referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”. Not believing Christ, His fantastic claims would indeed be seen as blasphemies by the religious authorities of the time. The Judaeans, being more concerned with the keeping of the law as they interpreted it, were blind to the plain truths revealed in the miracles which He was able to perform, and saw Him only as a blasphemer.
Later on in John chapter 5 Christ had asserted that Moses had written about Him, and that if one did not believe Him, then one can not truly believe Moses. Therefore if we are Christians, then what we now know as Judaism is a false religion, having been completely discredited by Christ just as it is discredited by Moses. The words of the prophets prove that Christ is true, and that He is the coming prophet of which Moses had written, as the apostles had also interpreted the words of Moses. In the Book of Daniel it is also written, that Jerusalem would be rebuilt after the destruction of the original city by the Babylonians, and then after a prescribed period of time, the rebuilt city would again be destroyed after the coming of the Messiah.
So if no other Messiah can be identified within that narrow and specific period of time, then Yahshua Christ is indeed the Messiah of Daniel, and He is also the coming prophet of which Moses had written, and the Son of which David wrote in the Psalms. If a man did not believe Christ before 33 AD, he surely should have believed Him by 70 AD, but unfortunately, so far as we can tell from the testimony of Josephus, the fear of the Jews was more than most men could bear, and the truth of the accounts of Christ were heavily suppressed by them throughout Judaea and the east. For this reason also, to this very day the rabbis of the Jews labor to corrupt the plain and historically verifiable interpretation of Daniel chapter 9, and the priests of the modern Judaized so-called churches succumb to their deceptions. In my opinion, it can further help Christians to determine that the Gospels are true when they see the lies which are written about Christ in the Talmud. If the Gospel accounts were not true, and if they did not spread so successfully in spite of the Jews, the Jews would have had no reason to invent such fabulous tales, and devise such horrible slander. They continue doing those same things today.
Concerning the circumstances of the narrative here in John, in John chapter 2 a Passover was mentioned. Christ had gone to Jerusalem for that Passover, as it is commanded in the law, and then while He was in Jerusalem He had the conversation with Nicodemus, and He returned to Galilee as it is recorded in John chapter 4. Then at the beginning of John chapter 5 we see Christ returned to Jerusalem once again for a feast, which may or may not have been another Passover. There were three feasts each year, the feast of unleavened bread which began with the Passover, the feast of weeks which was called Pentecost in the New Testament, and the feast of tabernacles, where all the men of Israel were required to appear before Yahweh. This we may read in Deuteronomy chapter 16: “16 Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles…” Now here as we proceed in John chapter 6, we shall see that another Passover is mentioned. Later, in John chapter 7, a feast of tabernacles is mentioned, and in John chapter 10 there is mention of the subsequent winter. The final Passover of the ministry of Christ is first mentioned in John chapter 11, and most of the entire second half of his gospel covers a period of only a few days.
As a study of the chronology of the ministry of Christ suggests, if He was baptized by John on or around the feast of trumpets near the beginning of autumn in 28 AD, then here in John chapter 6 we are nearing the Passover of either 30 or 31 AD. The 28 AD date for the beginning of His ministry may be established in Luke chapter 3, as it began in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, which began in the summer of 28 AD. Reckoning that His ministry endured for a full three-and-a-half years, according to the prophecy of Daniel chapter 9 and His own parables, then John explicitly mentions only three of the four Passovers which must have occurred during that period. So ostensibly, the final Passover which is mentioned in John chapter 11, upon which Christ was ultimately crucified, occurred in 32 AD, three-and-a-half years after His ministry began. John explicitly mentions three of the four Passover feasts which must have occurred during the ministry of Christ, but all of the other gospels mention only the final Passover of His ministry.
While no chronology of ancient times is going to be perfect, this is the closest that I can imagine coming with the evidences that I have been able to accumulate. I have mentioned this chronology at least once before in this commentary, I have explained it in my commentary on Luke several years ago, and I elaborate upon it here because of the manner in which even some pastors in Christian Identity would interpret a passage from Isaiah, which Christ had also cited in reference to Himself , that reads “61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” Christ cited this passage, in part, in reference to Himself as it is recorded in Luke chapter 4.
So because He was prophesied “to proclaim the acceptable year” of Yahweh, certain commentators insist that His ministry lasted for only one year. Clifton even had a book attempting to prove this somewhere in his library. But that is not what the passage says. His ministry was not the “acceptable year”, but rather, a part of His purpose was to proclaim the “acceptable year”, and whatever we think of that, there is a vast difference between the two. The plain record in John, if we count only those Passovers and the other feasts which the apostle mentions explicitly, shows that the ministry of Christ must have lasted for at least two-and-a-half years, but ostensibly, as we may determine from the other sources which I have mentioned, it spanned three-and-a-half years.
Now, after the discourse which Christ had given those who opposed Him, and even persecuted Him, in Jerusalem after He had healed the lame man, as we read in John chapter 5, He evidently departed from Jerusalem after attending the unnamed feast, and at the opening of John chapter 6 we read:
VI 1 After these things Yahshua departed across the sea of Galilaia from Tiberias,
The Sea of Galilee was called either the Sea of Chinnereth or Chinneroth in the books of Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua. It is not mentioned by name after Joshua chapter 19. While the phrase “Sea of Galilee” does not appear in the Old Testament, the area called Galilee is mentioned in Joshua chapters 20 and 21, in 1 and 2 Kings and in 1 Chronicles. The name also appears in English versions almost universally in Isaiah 9:1, where in the King James Version we see the phrase “Galilee of the nations”. However I would contend, and I have in a paper by that title, that in that passage of Isaiah it should only be interpreted as the “circuit of the nations”, or “region of the nations”. Only one major translation agrees with that assertion, which is the Jewish Publication Society's 1917 edition of the Hebrew Bible in English which has “district of the nations”. While the source may be odious, we must admit that not everything Jews do is wrong, and just as many Jews are employed in producing what are considered to be Christian translations of the Scriptures. The context in which the phrase appears in Isaiah proves that there it should be “region of the nations”, after the literal meaning of the term which was translated as Galilee.
Here in this opening verse of John chapter 6, the phrase τῆς θαλάσσης (of the sea) τῆς γαλιλαίας (of Galilee) τῆς τιβεριάδος (of Tiberias) is actually three consecutive Genitive Case nouns, each accompanied by a definite article. The King James Version translators had interpreted the phrase as “the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias”, adding several words to the text which they did not completely indicate. Another phrase in John chapter 21 is interpreted in the King James Version as “by the sea of Tiberias” where in the Christogenea New Testament I have “by the sea at Tiberias”. Tiberias was one city on the Sea of Galilee. In the Greek phrase here I have interpreted the first Genitive Case noun as describing what Yahshua crossed, which is the sea, as it is immediately preceded by the preposition πέραν, which means beyond or across. The second noun is interpreted as indicating which sea He crossed, which is that of Galilee, and the third as indicating where He had crossed it from, which is Tiberias. The context supports this translation where in verse 23 we see a reference to other vessels which came “from Tiberias”. Here the 3rd century papyri P66 wants the phrase which we render as “from Tiberias”. The Codex Bezae (D) has “into the region of Tiberias”, which is odd and contrary to the context when we consider John’s words in verse 23.
[I understand that some of these explanations are lengthy and may seem trivial, but they must be made if we are to do a proper commentary.]
2 and a great crowd followed Him, because they had observed the signs which he made for those who were sick.
The verb θεωρέω is to observe here, after the 3rd century papyrus P75 and the Codices Vaticanus (B), Bezae (D), and Alexandrinus (A), which varies slightly. The 3rd century papyrus P66, Codex Sinaiticus (א) and the Majority Text have a form of ὁράω instead, which is “they saw” in the King James Version. The Codex Washingtonensis (W) has “and a great crowd followed Him, who observed the signs…”
Here it may be imagined that the great crowd may have followed Him ever since the healing of the lame man. But by writing “after these things”, John could not have intended to be giving a precisely detailed linear narrative of every even tin the ministry of Christ, because at the end of chapter 5 Christ was last seen speaking in Jerusalem, and now in the very next verse here in chapter 6, He is described as being in Tiberias, a city which is on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee and 105 miles from Jerusalem by the most likely route. That route along which Christ had evidently traveled quite frequently goes from Jerusalem east through Jericho and then north along the west bank of the River Jordan. So by writing “after these things” John only intends to begin describing an event which happened some time after whatever events he had recorded previously. Many things in the interim were evidently not included in this Gospel, for whatever reason.
Therefore, while we may imagine that a crowd of people may have followed Christ from Jerusalem to Tiberias, we have no direct evidence of that here. In the descriptions of the other gospels which also record what is about to happen here, there are many more details which John had omitted here, some of which we shall discuss. So John continues:
3 Then [D and W have “Therefore”] Yahshua went up into the mountain and sat there with His students. 4 Now it was near the Passover, the feast of the Judaeans.
Since a Passover was mentioned in John chapter 2, and another feast in chapter 5, it is apparent that on the premise that our assertion of a three-and-a-half year duration for the ministry of Christ is correct, this is either the second or the third Passover in His ministry, and it is either 30 or 31 AD. Only three of the four Passovers during the course of His ministry are mentioned in the Gospel of John. In my opinion, I am persuaded that this is the third Passover, for reason that John’s account, as well as the others which record this event, seem to become more detailed as the ministry of Christ runs its course. But even if it has only been only one year since the last Passover which John had mentioned explicitly, in chapter 2 of his Gospel, rather than two years, it is nevertheless quite noticeable how few were the events in the ministry of Christ which the apostle had chosen to record. As he informs us in the closing of his Gospel, in chapter 21, “25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”
5 Then Yahshua raising His [literally “the”] eyes and observing that a great crowd comes to Him, says to Philippos: “From where could we [P75 has “they”] buy bread, that they may eat?” 6 But He said this trying him, for He knew what He was going to do.
A great crowd came to Christ from Tiberias. While there is no record of Christ having preached in Tiberias itself, He must have done something in Tiberias to make this great crowd want to take to the sea in order to follow Him into the wilderness. As we shall see, the events which are about to transpire here were recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels. In both Matthew and Mark, Christ had spent considerable time preaching in Galilee immediately before these events, and He even sent His disciples out in pairs into diverse villages. During that time, He is said to have healed many, and even raised a girl who was esteemed to be dead. So it seems that the crowd which followed Him from Tiberias had accumulated during that time, of which John’s account tells us nothing.
Now, where John had written “But He said this trying Him”, in reference to what Yahshua had asked Philipp, this reveals an aspect of the character of God which men easily forget, or which they do not even understand. It is not just that a man tempt God, as many men are wont to do. So we read in Luke chapter 4 in the words of Christ: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” But God does tempt, or try, men.
Some commentators believe that James contradicts or refutes this notion, where he wrote in his epistle: “13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” But that is not the case, and those words do not contradict what John informs us of here. James declared that God tempts no man with evil. But as we see here in John chapter 6, Yahweh, who is Yahshua Christ, since He is God incarnate, certainly does tempt men in other ways.
There is a signal example of man tempted by God in this manner in the Exodus account. Yahweh, wroth with the children of Israel when they sinned with the golden calf, told Moses that he would destroy them all and make his seed, meaning the seed of Moses, an even greater nation. At the time, Moses was at least 80 years old. But Moses cared more for his brethren than he cared to see himself be exalted, and instead of contemplating his harem, he prayed on their behalf. The account is summarized by Moses himself, retrospectively, in Deuteronomy chapter 9, which we shall read in part: “13 Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they. 15 So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands. 16 And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you. 17 And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes. 18 And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also.”
This is why Moses was special and why he was chosen for his mission: because he cared more for his people than for his own advancement or aggrandizement. It is fully evident that this is why Moses was chosen in the first place, because he killed an Egyptian in defense of his own people, sacrificing his own prestige, comfort and wealth on their behalf, even when they despised him for it. If Moses had assented to the destruction of the people, it was justified because they had turned to idolatry so quickly after they had agreed to keep Yahweh’s laws and to obey Him at Sinai. But instead of seeking his own glory, Moses chose to petition Yahweh for their mercy. So Yahweh tempted Moses with elevation, and Moses prayed for his people instead. Yahweh does indeed tempt men, but as James said, He does not tempt men with evil.
So, after being tempted in this comparatively innocuous manner:
7 [P66 and א have “Then”] Philippos replied [א and D have “replies”] to Him [א wants “to Him]: “Two hundred denarions’ worth of loaves are not sufficient for them, that each would receive a little [P75, B and D have “some little”; the text follows P66, א, A, W and the MT]!” 8 One of His students, Andreas the brother of Simon Petros, says to Him: “9 There is a [A and the MT have “one”] young boy here who has five barley loaves and two fishes, but what are these for so many?” [D has “… but these are for so many!”]
The phrase “two hundred denarion’s worth of loaves” is literally “wheat-loaves of two hundred denarii”, where the meaning in our language is clear. I did not attempt to translate denarion or the plural, denarii. At the very end of Appendix A in the Loeb Classical Library edition of The Gallic War by Julius Caesar, translated by H. J. Edwards and first published in 1917, the following comment is found, which speaks of the pay scale of Caesar’s soldiers around 50 BC and it says: “Before Caesar's time the scale of pay was 120 denarii (1,200 asses, about £4) a year; he increased it to 225 denarii (about £7 10s.).” The “asses” mentioned here were Roman coins, the ἀσσάριον or assarius, which are also found in Scripture. An assarius was “two mites” or the farthing found in Mark chapter 12.
By the time of Christ it is apparent that the denarius was considered a fair day’s wage for a laborer, for which we may see the parable of the vineyard workers in Matthew chapter 20, where the King James Version translates denarion as penny. Comparatively, if a day’s wage for a common laborer in our money today is $100, and that is now a low figure in most markets, Philip would require $20,000 to purchase bread for this multitude! That would amount to about $4 per loaf, if each man ate one loaf, but here only the number of the men is given, and I would suspect that there must also have been women and children present.
The three other Gospels do not mention Tiberias, and since none of them mention any Passover but the final one, it is usually very difficult to precisely correlate the various events recorded in John with those recorded in the other Gospels. But the circumstances of the account of the feeding of a multitude which is recorded in Matthew 14 (14:15-21), Mark 6 (6:35-44) and Luke 9 (9:12-17) match so precisely with John’s description of this account here, that they certainly must all be the same. So this feeding of the multitude is recorded in all four gospels, and from them we can also see the timing of other significant events, such as the death of John the Baptist. Another miraculous feeding of the masses is described in Matthew chapter 15 and Mark chapter 8, which is different from this one in several aspects.
So in Matthew chapter 14, we see a description of the death of John the Baptist, and then we read: “13 And hearing it Yahshua withdrew from there in a vessel to a desert place by Himself. And crowds hearing it followed Him on foot from the cities.” Now in this here account, John said they had come by boat, but that does not mean that others had not come on foot, and Matthew may have known differently. Continuing with Matthew: “14 And coming out He saw a great crowd and was deeply moved by them, and He healed their sick. 15 Now it becoming late the students came forth to Him saying ‘The place is a desert and the time has already passed! Release the crowds, in order that departing into the villages they may buy food for themselves.’ 16 But Yahshua said to them: ‘They have no need to depart, you give to them to eat.’ 17 Then they say to Him: ‘We have not here except five loaves and two fish.” 18 But He said: ‘Bring them here to Me.’ 19 And commanding the crowds to recline upon the grass, taking the five loaves and two fish, looking up into the heaven He blessed and having broken them gave the loaves to the students, and the students to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were filled, and they took the excess of fragments, filling twelve baskets. 21 Now those men eating were about five thousand, besides women and children!” Mark also recorded those events in that same order. Luke records this feeding of the multitude, but he did not record the death of John the Baptist which preceded it. Luke did, however, record where Herod had heard of Christ just before this time and some of the people had imagined that John the Baptist could have been raised from the dead.
Reconciling the events as they are described here in John with this same event as it is described in the other gospels, where John said “after these things Yahshua departed across the sea” in verse 1 he must mean to describe something which happened a significant time after Christ was speaking in Jerusalem, and where he said “a great crowd followed Him” he means only to describe a great crowd following Christ as He was now in Galilee. Where John added “Yahshua went up into the mountain” in verse 3 and then “observing that a great crowd comes to Him” in verse 5, that certainly all correlates with Matthew’s statement that, upon hearing of the death of John, “Yahshua withdrew from there in a vessel to a desert place by Himself. And crowds hearing it followed Him on foot from the cities.” The Gospels are written in such a concise manner, that on the occasions where two or more of them have recorded a particular event, when we correlate the different accounts we are often led to a more complete perspective of the event that is quite different than if we had only read a single description.
Upon learning that one young boy “has five barley loaves and two fishes”, which is really something which He must have already known:
10 [P66 and D add “Therefore”; A, W and the MT add “Then”; the text follows P75, א and A] Yahshua said “Cause [literally ‘make’] the men to recline.” Now there was much grass at the place. Then the men reclined, the number being about five [א has “three”; the text follows P28, P66, P75, A, B, D, W, and the MT] thousand. 11 Then Yahshua took the loaves and giving thanks [א and D have “and had given thanks and”] distributed equally [or “in like manner”] to those reclining [D and the MT have “distributed to the students, and the students to those reclining”; the text follows P28, P66, P75, א, A, B and W], and as much as they desired of the fishes.
Where John had written “now there was much grass at that place”, the implication is that grass is more comfortable to sit upon than other terrain. While the synoptic gospels describe this place as a “desert place”, the Greek word ἔρημος describes something which is desolate, lone, or solitary, a word which has nothing to do with topography.
The feeding in the desert was a literal fulfillment of certain prophecies in Scripture where Yahweh had promised to feed His sheep. So by the miraculous feeding of His people, we know that Christ is indeed the Good Shepherd, as He later refers to Himself. Thus we read in Isaiah chapter 40: “9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” The very word “gospel” means “good tidings”. Again, from Isaiah chapter 49: “8 Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; 9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. 10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.”
Once again, from Ezekiel chapter 34 we read: “11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. 15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment…. 23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.” And again from Hosea chapter 4: “16 For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.”
Finally, for our purposes here because this list of relevant passages is not exhaustive, from Micah chapter 5: “2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. 3 Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.”
All of these are notable Messianic prophecies, they were all speaking of Yahshua Christ, the Shepherd who came to seek out and to feed His sheep, and as a digression, we may see that He also literally fulfilled a more general statement found in Proverbs chapter 10: “21 The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.” So He fulfilled all of these Scriptures in a literal manner, as a type and as a proof that He shall also fulfill them in the more significant and transcendental manner in which they are meant to be fulfilled.
Notice the symbolism here. There is no record in any of the four gospels that as Yahshua fed the crowds, He preached to them. Rather, they followed Him into the wilderness for what He had already preached and what He had already done among them while they were in the cities. So when they came to Him in the wilderness, He fed them. He departed for the wilderness from Tiberias, a city which was built by Herod Antipas around 20 AD, and named in honor of the Roman Emperor. This was the same Herod of the Gospels who persecuted Christ, as the same emperor still ruled in Rome. The city was certainly the most cosmopolitan city of Galilee, and Herod had built it as his capital city, from which he governed his tetrarchy.
So we read in Revelation chapter 12: “1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. 5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. ”
In the parable of Revelation chapter 12, and as the subsequent verses of the chapter prove, the third of the stars were the fallen angels who rebelled against Yahweh at the beginning, and it was their race from which Herod the Great, or better, Herod the Edomite, had come, the father of this Herod Antipas, who sought to destroy the Christ child as soon as He was born. The woman represents the collective children of Israel, the 12 stars upon her crown representing their twelve tribes. The man child is Christ Himself, and after he was “caught up unto God”, His angels, the apostles, fed the woman in the wilderness with the Gospel of Christ until all of the nations which had sprung from the ancient Israelites had ultimately accepted Christianity and had blossomed into a Christian society. They are still fed in that manner today through their Gospels and epistles. But as it also says later in the chapter, from that time the dragon, that same race from which the family of Herod was sprung, has made war with the woman.
Just as the account of the Samaritan woman was a parable of sorts, an allegory of the reconciliation of the “lost sheep” of the house of Israel with Yahweh their God in Christ, the feeding of the people in the desert is also an allegory for the coming of the Gospel of Christ which would ultimately feed all of the lost sheep spread abroad, as it is prophesied in Revelation chapter 12, and which we have also seen is promised in the words of the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea and Micah. Perhaps Christ, departing from Tiberius and followed by His people, whom He then fed, makes an example for us to this day. When Mystery Babylon falls and those who seek Him come out of it, He shall also feed them in the same manner.
In this same manner we may determine the meaning of the admonition of Christ to His apostles which now follows:
12 Then as they were satiated, He says to His students: “Gather the excess fragments, that not anything is lost.” 13 So they gathered and had filled twelve baskets of fragments from the five barley loaves which had been left over by those who had eaten.
If the food is just food, it should not matter if any fragments were left behind to be eaten by the beasts of the wilderness. But if the food were an allegorical representation of the Word of God, then it is not meant for the beasts, and the apostles were commanded to take care that none of it is lost. Perhaps in that manner also, the fact that there were twelve baskets of food left over represents the fact that the gospel was meant first for the remnant in Judaea, and then it was to be taken to the twelve tribes which were spread abroad.
Concerned with the immediate aspects of the meaning of the event, John continues:
14 Then the men, seeing the sign [P75, B and 091 have “signs”] which He [A and the MT have “Yahshua”] had made, said that “this is truly the Prophet who is coming into the Society!” [The text follows א, D and the MT]
This is an acknowledgement that Yahshua is indeed the expected Christ, the prophet prophesied by Moses who was also the Messiah of Daniel and the Son of the 2nd Psalm who would rule over all nations. So in response to this realization on the part of these men:
15 Then Yahshua, knowing that they were going to come and to seize Him in order that they would make Him king [א has “and to seize Him and appoint Him King”; the text follows P75, A, B and W, and D and the MT which vary only slightly], He alone withdrew [א has “fled”] back into the mountain [D adds “and there He prayed”].
Of course, the people being excited at the advent of the Messiah may not have hesitated to commit an act which would amount to rebellion against Rome. They would have expected the incarnate Messiah to be King, as even the apostles had asked Christ after His resurrection, and immediately prior to His ascension, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 1: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” The future apostle Nathanael declared from the beginning the implications if Yahshua were the Christ as it is recorded in John chapter 1: “49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Perhaps a year after this event in John chapter 6, as it is recorded later in John chapter 12, when Christ makes His triumphal procession through the gates of Jerusalem seated on an ass, the people “13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
The purpose of the Messiah at His first advent was to die on behalf of His people, as Daniel prophesied concerning the Messiah, in Daniel chapter 9: “25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” So the Day of Judgment requires a second advent, and that is evident in many other ways in the words of the prophets.
The means of the salvation of Israel, as it was described by Paul in his epistles and especially in Romans chapter 7, are also described in the 116th Psalm, where it is proclaimed that “13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. 14 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. 16 O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. 17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. 18 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, 19 In the courts of the LORD'S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.” This cup of salvation was the ultimate sacrifice of Christ by His death, so in that same manner He prayed as an example to men in the garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me! But not as I desire, rather as You do!” As He had already explained to His apostles, He knew that He must die, but that He would also be resurrected. However in any event, He also knew how He would die, and here He could not allow Himself to be made King by the people, although His accusers used that against Him at His trials. So here in this chapter, John illustrates the fact that it was never the intention of Christ to be King at His first advent.
After the feeding of the multitude, John proceeds to explain only part of an account of which we see a fuller description in Matthew chapter 14:
16 Now as it was late, His students went down to the sea 17 and boarding into a vessel they went across the sea to Kapharnaoum. And already it had become dark [א and D have “Now the darkness came upon them”], and Yahshua had not yet come to them [P75 has “Yahshua was not yet with them”; A and the MT want “yet”; the text follows P28, א , B, D, and W, although they nearly all vary in word order and have minor other differences], 18 and the sea was stirred up, a great wind blowing. 19 Then having sailed about twenty-five or thirty stadia, they observe Yahshua walking upon the sea and coming near the vessel, and they feared.
According to Liddell & Scott, a στάδιον is “600 Greek or 606 ¾ English feet, about 1/8th of a Roman mile”. Therefore 25 or 30 stadia would be 2.87 or 3.45 of our modern miles, respectively. The English furlong is only a little longer than a stadium, so the King James translation is a fair one even if it is not precisely accurate. If the hands of a clock were transposed onto the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias would be approaching the 9 and Capernaum would be at the 11, and the distance between them straight across the water would be about six-and-a-half miles. But here it must be noted that Yahshua did not come to Capernaum from Tiberias, but from some other location around the Sea of Galilee that is only described as a “desert”, or wilderness, where they had all eaten the bread and fishes.
For one reason or another John seems to want some of the details in this account which concern Peter, as does Mark where the event is recorded in chapter 6 of his Gospel, and Peter is not mentioned. But where we find an account of this same event in Matthew, in chapter 14, he described Peter’s desire to walk on water along with Yahshua at this very point, and his version ends by saying: “28 Then responding to Him, Petros said ‘Prince, if it is You, bid for me to come to You upon the waters!’ 29 And He said ‘Come!’ And descending from the vessel Petros walked upon the waters and came to Yahshua. 30 But seeing the wind he feared, and beginning to sink cried out, saying ‘Prince, save me!’ 31 Then immediately Yahshua extending the hand took hold of him and says to him: ‘You of little faith, for what reason do you doubt?’ 32 And upon their ascending into the vessel, the wind abated. 33 Then those in the vessel worshipped Him, saying ‘You are truly a Son of Yahweh!’”
It is interesting that, after the people leave the cities to follow Yahshua into the wilderness, He feeds them there, and otherwise they would have had no food. Then we see this sign, where He walks on the water, transcending the limitations of the physical world. Peter tried to follow Him in that, and failed on account of what Christ had described as a lack of faith, while it is clear from Matthew’s account that Peter’s lack of faith was caused when he was distracted by the physical elements around him. Drawn to the elements of the physical world, Peter failed to transcend its limitations. Following Yahshua in faith, Christians also have the hope of transcending the worldly physical limitations.
Evidently, following the unrecorded acts of Peter which we find in Matthew, after Yahshua is seen walking on the water and He approaches them:
20 Then He says to them: “I am. Do not be afraid.”
While in my translations I usually opted for a literal rendering of most New Testament words and phrases, the Greek phrase ἐγώ εἰμι, which is literally “I am”, may have been rendered colloquially as “It is I”, as the King James Version has it here in verse 20. I sought to maintain the literal translation of this phrase especially, since in other contexts it often directly identifies Christ with Yahweh, who professes on several occasions in Isaiah that “I am”, especially in connection with the promise of the coming of a Savior and Redeemer.
21 Then they wanted to take Him into the vessel, and immediately the vessel came upon the land to which they were going.
Matthew informs us that Yahshua had boarded the vessel, so perhaps John’s description did not mean to preclude that here. Now John’s account continues in relation to the people who had before followed after Christ from Tiberias:
22 On the next day the crowd which stood across the sea had seen [the MT has “seeing”] that there was not another boat there except one, and that Yahshua had not entered together with His students into the vessel, but only His students had departed.
The word which we translate as vessel throughout this account is usually πλοῖον, for which the King James Version more frequently has ship. Here in verse 22 the King James Version twice has boat, where we have boat only once. In the Greek texts, on the first occasion, where we have boat, the word is found in the diminutve form, which is πλοιάριον. The King James Version has boat more often because elsewhere the manuscripts are divided.
In our commentary on Luke Chapter 5 given here nearly seven years ago, we wrote: “About the word vessel, a πλοῖον (Strong's #4143) in the Christogenea New Testament is most often a vessel, since the word boat seems not to do these accounts justice, and ship perhaps creates an image too large. The word describes a craft of any size, and those mentioned in Acts chapters 27 and 28 are certainly quite large. A merchant craft is properly a ναῦς (3491), a word which appears only at Acts 27:41. These vessels here were at least large enough for several men to work on for long periods of time, and would also hold their sizable catch of fish (i.e. John 6:16-21 and 21:1-11), and therefore they were no simple rowboats. Such a vessel, believed to be 2000 years old, was discovered in Galilaia and is discussed in the September-October 2004 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. That vessel was approximately 27 feet long, 7-and-a-half feet wide, and over 4 feet high. Men of the time seem to typically have been between 5'6” and 5'9”…. [there is] a diminutive form of πλοῖον ... which may be … ‘skiff’ or ‘boat’.”
There are many differences among the manuscripts in this portion of John’s account, although none of them change it significantly. In verse 22, following the words “except one”, the Codex Sinaiticus (א) inserts the clause “that one into which the students of Yahshua boarded”, while the Codex Bezae (D) inserts “into which His students had boarded” and the Majority Text inserts “that one into which His students had boarded”; our text follows the papyrus P75 and the Codices Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B) and Washingtonensis (W).
Here John cited the astonishment of the crowd as evidence supporting his testimony that Yahshua had indeed walked across the water to meet with the disciples and to be with them in Capernaum. So he continues:
23 But vessels came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate the bread giving thanks to Yahweh.
Here in the first clause of verse 23 the Codex Sinaiticus (א) has “Therefore upon vessels having come over from Tiberias”; the Codex Alexandrinus (A) and the Majority Text “But then came boats from Tiberias”; the Codex Bezae (D) “Upon other boats having come from Tiberias”; the Codex Washingtonensis (W) “But then came vessels from Tiberias”; and the uncial codex 091 “But boats came from Tiberias”. The Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece edition 27 (NA27), following some manuscripts in one part, and some in another, has a reading very close to that of codex 091, and the translation would be the same. Our text here follows papyrus P75 and the Codex Vaticanus (B).
Often I ponder whether or not I should share all of these details of differences among the manuscripts in the audio presentation of this commentary. However it is fitting that listeners hear these differences so that they better understand the nature of them. Many other minor differences are ignored, but even the significant differences among the most ancient manuscripts rarely change the context or substance of the matters which are recorded. There are, however, several major interpolations which are found in just a few or in later manuscripts of the New Testament that are more significant, more important, and must be understood. One of those which we shall soon discuss is found in John 7:53 through 8:11. Here my translation is as literal as I could make it, and I always sought to determine the oldest and clearest text from the available copies. But John’s words must be followed closely in order to understand what he meant, so evidently various scribes attempted to clarify his intended meaning, at least as they had perceived it.
Returning to the narrative itself, Tiberias was not near the place where they ate bread, but rather, the vessels from Tiberias had just now approached the place where they had eaten bread. Evidently, while according to Matthew at least some of them came on foot, according to John the crowds that followed Yahshua had come on vessels, since He had initially departed from Tiberias on a vessel, and ostensibly, after they had eaten of the loaves and the fish, many of them returned on vessels for the night, while some had stayed behind. So there were only two vessels left near the place where they had eaten, and of those the apostles took one, and the other was left behind. Of the people who returned to Tiberias the evening before, at least many of these came back the following day, and in that manner we have these circumstances which John is describing. So John’s testimony continues:
24 Therefore when the crowd had seen that Yahshua is not there [א has only “And seeing that Yahshua was not there”], nor His students, they themselves boarded into the boats and came to Kapharnaoum seeking Yahshua.
This “crowd” is the crowd which stayed behind at the place where they had eaten. They learned that Yahshua was not in Tiberias from the people who had just arrived from Tiberias. Those people had also eaten of the bread and fishes the day before, but they must have went home for the night. That is the picture that John is portraying.
Where I have “they themselves boarded into the boats”, following the Codices Vaticanus (B) and Washingtonensis (W), the papyrus P75 has “they themselves went up into the boats”; the Codex Sinaiticus (א) “they themselves went up into the vessel”; the Codex Alexandrinus (A) and the Majority Text “they themselves boarded into the vessels”; and the Codex Bezae (D) “they took the boats for themselves”.
The people who just returned from Tiberias knew that Yahshua was not in Tiberias, and now they knew that He was not where they had eaten the bread. They people who remained where they had eaten the bread just found out that Yahshua was not in Tiberias. So they correctly surmised that He and His disciples had gone to Capernaum, and now all of them would depart and look for Him there. So John continues:
25 And finding Him across the sea they said to Him “Rabbi, when did You arrive [א has “had You come”, D “did You come”] here?”
They had seen two remaining vessels at the place where they had eaten, and they knew that the disciples had departed in one of them without Him, so they wondered how it was that He got there. He responds pragmatically, ignoring their bewilderment:
26 Yahshua replied to them and said: “Truly, truly I say to you, you seek Me not because you have seen signs, but because you have eaten of the loaves and have been satiated!
This appraisal represents the eternal struggle of man, at least since he was told that “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground” (Genesis 3:19). Man is always in need of carnal fulfillment, and often he pursues it at the expense of spiritual fulfillment, which is the true bread of life. So we read in Deuteronomy chapter 8, where Moses speaks of Yahweh to the children of Israel: “3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”
So “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh” is the food which abides for eternal life, as Christ now attests to His followers:
27 You must work not for that food which perishes but for that food [א wants “food” here] which abides for eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give [א and D have “which the Son of Man gives”] to you. Indeed Yahweh the Father has confirmed Him!”
So the miraculous feeding of the multitude in the wilderness is symbolic of the feeding of the children of the promises with the Gospel of the Christ. Come out from Babylon, and one may find that the simple things in life and communion with God are far more valuable than carnal satisfaction, yet the apostles sought to feed many with little money, and by no means could they afford it. So Christ fed many with nothing, five loaves and two fishes had satisfied a multitude, and the miracle points the way to what things in life it is that Christians should seek after. The men respond:
28 Then they said to Him “What should we do that we may accomplish the works of Yahweh?”
Here the word do is from the Greek word ποιέω, accomplish is from ἐργάζομαι, where perform may also have been fitting, and works is from the related noun ἔργον, so the final phrase may have been rendered, as the King James Version has it, “that we might work the works of God”. The Codex Bezae (D) inverts forms of ποιέω and ἐργάζομαι, for which a literal rendering may read “What should we work, that we may do the works of God?” Both the Codices Bezae (D) and Washingtonensis (W) also have an Aorist tense of ποιέω, rather than a Present, tense which I will not distinguish here.
29 Yahshua replied and said to them: “This is the work of Yahweh: that you would [D, W and the MT have ‘shall’] believe in Him whom He sent!”
Man can accomplish nothing of merit on his own, and therefore without God man will amount to nothing. So man cannot begin to do good without first having faith in Christ. Man struggles even to feed himself in the wilderness, but with faith in Christ even that dilemma can be solved for him.
Throughout the words of the prophet Isaiah we see the statement “I am He” in relation to a savior and a redeemer. Notably, in direct relation to the Gospel of Salvation as it is prophesied in Isaiah chapter 52: “6 Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. 7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”
In John chapter 8 Yahshua tells His adversaries: “24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” If Yahweh promised Himself as Savior and Redeemer, a promise which appears throughout Isaiah, and if Christ asserts that it is He whom Yahweh has sent, then the children of Israel must believe that Christ is Yahweh who has come as their Savior and Redeemer, and therefore His Word as it is found in the Gospel is the true “food which abides for eternal life”. His having fed their fathers with manna in the desert, and His having fed them with fishes and loaves in the wilderness are all a sign that they should consume His Words, and live by them.
Part 18 of this commentary I hope to have that next week, if Yahweh is willing, where we hope to discuss The Bread of Life.