John 7
Benson Commentary
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.
John 7:1. After these things — That is, after he had miraculously fed the five thousand, walked on the sea to his disciples, and discoursed with the multitude concerning the bread of life, as is recorded in the preceding chapter; Jesus walked in Galilee — That is, continued there, and instructed his disciples for some months after the second passover; for he would not walk in Jewry — Would not continue in Judea; because the Jews — Those of them who did not believe in him, and in particular the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees; sought an opportunity to kill him — Either by private assassination, tumultuous assault, or legal process, being incensed by the growing fame of his miracles, and the freedom of his discourses.

Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand.
John 7:2-9. Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand — Instituted in commemoration of the Israelites dwelling in tents in the wilderness, and celebrated in booths erected for that purpose, with great solemnity and joy. For a particular account of the time, manner, and reason of this feast, see Leviticus 23:34-43. His brethren, therefore — So called, according to the Jewish way of speaking: namely, his near kinsmen, probably his cousins, the sons of his mother’s sister; said unto him, Depart hence — From this obscure place; and go into Judea — “As they did not believe on him, they condemned him in their own minds, and intimated that he acted altogether absurdly in passing so much of his time in Galilee, and the other remote corners of the country, while he pretended to so public a character as that of the Messiah; that it would be much more for his interest to make disciples in Jerusalem and Judea, the seat of power; and that he ought to work his miracles there as publicly as possible, before the great and learned men of the nation, whose decision in his favour would have great influence to induce others to believe on him.” Then Jesus said, My time is not yet come — Either to manifest myself or go up to Jerusalem. Jesus, knowing the malice of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, did not incline to be among them longer than was absolutely necessary, lest they should take away his life prematurely. But your time is always ready — You may go up with safety any time you please, since you have done nothing to make the Jews unfriendly to you as I have done; who by the strictness of my doctrine, and the freedom of my reproofs, have provoked their malice to the highest pitch. The world cannot hate you — Because you are of the world; but me it hateth — And all who bear the same testimony. Go ye up unto this feast — Whenever it suits you to go without waiting for me. I go not up yet — He does not say, I will not go up at all, but not yet. There may be reason for deferring a particular duty, which yet must not be wholly omitted. My time is not yet full come — Namely, the time of his sufferings, which the evangelist calls his hour; (chap. John 8:20;) or the time of his going up to the feast. When he had said these words, he abode still in Galilee — Namely, a few days longer.

His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.
For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.
For neither did his brethren believe in him.
Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.
The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.
Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.
When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.
But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.
John 7:10. But when his brethren — His carnal relations and their friends, in whose company he did not choose to travel; were gone up, then went he also to the feast — In obedience to the divine command, and because it would give him an opportunity of honouring God, and doing good; but not openly — Not publicly, with a train of attendants, as he had often done: but as it were in secret — With as much privacy as possible; and that probably rather for fear of giving offence than of receiving injury: he would not unnecessarily provoke the government, which his being accompanied with a multitude of people would have done. And this suggests another reason for his delay. Had he taken this journey at the usual time, the multitudes who were on the road would have gathered round him, and accompanied him to Jerusalem, and at once have excited the notice, and provoked the malice and envy of his enemies; he therefore did not set out till the greater part of the people were gone, and then went up as privately as possible, neither preaching nor working miracles by the way.

Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?
John 7:11-13. Then the Jews — The men of Judea, particularly of Jerusalem, not seeing him appear as usual; sought him at the feast — Namely, at the beginning of it; and said, Where is he? — What is become of Jesus? What can have prevented his coming to the feast? As he had formerly attended the principal feasts, and signalized himself by the miracles which he wrought, he had made himself the subject of much discourse and observation. And there was much murmuring among the people Γογγυσμος πολυς, much whispering: many private debates, especially among those who were come from distant parts. The word murmuring is not proper in this place, as it conveys the notion of discontent and grumbling, which does not appear to be suggested by the original term. It expresses solely the secrecy and caution which the people found it convenient to use in speaking on this subject, being prompted not by their resentments but by their fears. And it stands opposed to παρρησια, openly, which occurs in the next verse. For some said, He is a good man — Eminently pious and benevolent; others — Being under the force of strong prejudices, and suspecting the worst; said, Nay, but he deceiveth the people — Seduces and misleads the ignorant populace, and the wiser part of the nation must see that he will undoubtedly at last draw his followers into ruin, as some other impostors have lately done. See Acts 5:36-37. Howbeit — Though they thus privately debated the matter among themselves; no man spake openly of him — Namely, in his favour; for fear of the Jews — Of those that were in authority, these being jealous of his growing fame, and looking with a very malignant eye on all who took any peculiar notice of him, or manifested any regard for him. In the mean time, those that thought contemptibly of him, might doubtless have spoken their minds as freely as they pleased, being in no danger of punishment from the rulers or higher classes of the people.

And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.
Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.
Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
John 7:14-18. Now about the midst of the feast — Which lasted eight days; Jesus went up into the temple and taught — Probably on the sabbath day. His business was to preach the gospel of the kingdom, and he readily did it in every time and place of concourse: and doubtless vast multitudes would be assembled in the temple on this occasion. And the Jews who heard him marvelled — Were amazed, both at the excellence and importance of the doctrines which he delivered, and at the clear, convincing, and forcible manner in which he declared them: saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned — How comes he to be so well acquainted with sacred literature, as to be able thus to expound the Scriptures with such propriety and gracefulness; having never learned — Seeing he hath never learned this at any place of education? Jesus answered, My doctrine is not mine — It is not the product of human wisdom: I have neither been taught it by masters, nor have I acquired it by my own study: but his that sent me — It is the doctrine of God, who has inspired me with it because I am his messenger. If any man will do his will Εαν τις θελη, if any man be willing, especially if he be also desirous and determined, in dependance on divine grace, to do God’s will, as far as he is acquainted with it; he shall know of the doctrine, &c. — A universal rule this with regard to all persons and doctrines. They that are thoroughly willing and desirous to comply with the will of God, shall certainly have his will made known to them. Observe here, reader, who these are: they are such as are impartial and sincere in their inquiries concerning it, and are not biased by any carnal inclinations or interests; they are such as are convinced of the infinite importance of knowing and doing his will, in order to their eternal salvation, being persuaded that only those that know and do it shall enter the kingdom of heaven: Matthew 7:21. They are such as carefully and diligently use the means which God has appointed to be used in order thereto; especially the means of prayer, for supernatural light, and of hearing, reading, and meditating on the word of God. Such shall know the doctrine of Christ, and the will of God; 1st, Because Christ has promised to give them that knowledge, namely, by opening the eyes of their understanding, which he is well able to do. Those who improve the light they have, and carefully walk according to it, shall, by divine grace, have that light increased, and be thereby secured against all destructive and hurtful errors. 2d, Because they are prepared to receive that knowledge. Those that are inclined to submit to the rules of the divine law, are disposed to admit the rays of the divine light. Those whose desire and care it is to resemble God, are in the fittest disposition to become acquainted with him. Whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself — Pious and good men can easily judge of any teacher, whether he and his doctrine come from God; not only because the divine wisdom and goodness are interested to secure such from capital errors, but because they themselves have no predominant evil inclinations to prejudice them against the truth when it appears; and because they can discern how far any doctrine is conformable to the principles of piety and virtue which they possess. He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory — If one teaches what makes for the advancement of his own worldly interest, or for the gratification of his pride, or any other evil passion, the doers of the will of God will immediately know that such a teacher is an impostor. But he that seeketh his glory that sent him, &c. — Whereas, if a teacher proposes doctrines which have a tendency to reform men, and to advance the glory of God, without regard to the opinion of the world, or to his own temporal interest; the same is true — He must certainly be sent of God, and should not by any means be suspected of imposture; and no unrighteousness is in him — No falsehood, no design to deceive the world. See Macknight.

And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
John 7:19-20. Did not Moses give you the law — As if he had said, But you are unrighteous; for you violate the very law for which you profess so much zeal. There is a remarkable beauty in this sudden turn of the sentiment. Some of the Jews called Jesus a false prophet: because on the sabbath day he had healed the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, (John 5:9,) pretending that it was a gross violation of the law of Moses, such as no good man, far less a prophet, would be guilty of. In answer to these evil surmises, he told them plainly, that however much they pretended to reverence the authority of Moses in his law, they made no scruple to violate the most sacred of his precepts; having entered into a resolution of murdering him, directly contrary to every Law of God and man; and being now employed in laying secret plots against his life: a reproof this, which came in with singular propriety and force, immediately after Jesus had, by the most convincing arguments, proved his mission from God. The people answered, Thou hast a devil — Either thou art mad, or thou art actuated by the malice of the devil, or by a lying spirit; who goeth about to kill thee? — Probably these, who spake thus, came from distant parts of the country, and did not know the design of the priests and rulers.

The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?
Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.
John 7:21-24. Jesus answered, I have done one good work, and ye all marvel — I have done a miracle of an extraordinary kind on the sabbath day, an action which ye think inconsistent with the character of a good man, and therefore ye wonder that I should have performed it. But I can easily vindicate my character, by an argument which it is not in your power to gainsay. Moses therefore gave you circumcision — That is, the law of circumcision. Dr. Campbell joins the words δαι τουτο, here rendered therefore, to the end of the former verse, following Theophylact, and some whom he terms “our best authors,” observing, that “nothing can be more incongruously connected than the words are in the English, and most other modern translations; where our Lord’s performing a miracle is represented as the cause why Moses gave them circumcision.” Thus also Doddridge, Wesley, Wynne, and Worsley, who translate the last clause of the preceding verse, I have done one work, and ye all marvel at it, or, on account of it. If we retain the common pointing, as all the versions do, the interpretation of this verse (John 7:22) must be, Because that Moses gave you the precept concerning circumcision, ye even circumcise a man on the sabbath day. But the correction just now proposed makes the sense more clear and elegant, thus: Moses gave you the law of circumcision, (though indeed it was far more ancient than he, being a precept enjoined to and observed by, the patriarchs,) and on the sabbath day ye circumcise a man. If a man receive circumcision on the sabbath day, that the law of Moses may not be broken — The precept of circumcision required, that every male should be circumcised the eighth day from his birth. Though the eighth day happened on the sabbath, this ceremony was not deferred: and the law of circumcision vacated the law of the sabbath. Are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole — Or, have made a whole man sound; on the sabbath day? — Since you think yourselves bound to dispense with the strict observation of the sabbath for the sake of another precept, which is only of a ceremonial nature, how can ye be angry with me, because, in pursuance of the great end of all the divine laws, I have cured a man who was infirm in all his members, and that with far less bodily labour than that with which you perform the ceremony of circumcision, and cure the wound that is made by it? Judge not according to the appearance, &c. — Consider the nature of the things, and judge impartially, without regard to your own prejudices, or the superstition of your teachers. Dr. Campbell renders the clause, Judge not from personal regards, thinking that translation gives more exactly the sense of the original expression, μη κρινετε κατοψιν. “There can be no question,” says he, “that this precept is of the same import with those which enjoin strict impartiality between the parties, or to have no respect of persons in judgment. The application of it is obvious on this occasion. If the Jews had been strictly impartial and equitable, they would have seen that they could not vindicate Moses for enjoining such a violation of the sabbatical rest as was occasioned by circumcising, while they condemned Jesus for his miraculous cures, which required less labour, and were not less evidently calculated for promoting a good end. Nay, they could not excuse themselves for the one practice, if Jesus was blameable for the other.”

Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?
John 7:25-27. Then — While our Lord was thus discoursing in the temple; some of them of Jerusalem — Some of the inhabitants of the city, who knew more of the designs of the sanhedrim than the others who had spoken before; said, Is not this he whom they seek to kill? — Seek an opportunity to put to death? But lo — He is not only come up hither to the feast, but speaks openly and freely in the very temple itself, and they are so far from seizing him, that they do not so much as say any thing to prohibit him. Do the rulers know indeed — Are they now fully convinced; that this is the very Christ — And that therefore they were mistaken in their former censures? Howbeit, we know this man, whence he is — And therefore have sufficient reason to conclude, that he cannot be the Messiah: for, when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is — This Jewish tradition was true in regard to his pre-existing and divine nature: in that respect, according to the obvious popular sense of Isaiah 53:8, None could declare his generation: but it was not true with regard to his human nature, for both his family, and the place of his birth, were plainly foretold. And “it is evident from Matthew 2:4-5, that the Jews apprehended the Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem; and from a multitude of other places, that they knew he was to be a descendant of David.” Archbishop Tillotson supposes, that the words, no man knoweth whence he is, “refer to an expectation the Jews had, that he would be born of a virgin. As for the notion which Justin Martyr mentions, that the Messiah should, for a while, be hid, it seems more modern, and they must put a strange interpretation on Isaiah 53:8; Micah 5:2; and Psalm 110:4, to draw any such consequence from these passages, as Dr. Whitby and M. L’Enfant suppose they did.” — Doddridge.

But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?
Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.
Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.
John 7:28. Then cried Jesus — Probably with a loud and earnest voice, and with allusion to the words which they had just spoken in a private manner to each other, and which they imagined he could not have heard, as he taught in the temple at some distance from them; Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am — Or, as it seems the clause should rather be rendered, Do you know both me, and know whence I am? Thus it is read by Doddridge, Wesley, Wynne, and also by Campbell, who observes upon it, “As the words are plainly capable of being read as an interrogation, it is, in every respect, most eligible to translate them so in this place. In the way they are commonly rendered they contain a direct contradiction to what our Lord says, John 8:14; John 8:19. Nor does it satisfy that both may be true in different senses, since these different senses do not appear from the context. Nay, in effect, he contradicts them in the same breath, inasmuch as he tells the people, that they know not him who sent him. When they said, We know whence this man is, the same thing was evidently meant as when they said, (John 6:42,) Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? Now our Lord tells them plainly, that they did not know his father, and consequently could not tell whence (that is, of what parentage) he was. And I am not come of myself — With vain and false pretences to a divine mission; but he that sent me — And gives daily proof thereof, by the miracles which I perform in his name; is true — And therefore will not bear witness to a deceiver. Or, as the words may be paraphrased, “Though you pretend to know me and whence I am, it does not follow that I am destitute of the prophetical characters of the Messiah, and an impostor, come to you of my own accord. I am really sent to you by God, who is true in all the prophecies he uttered by his servants concerning the Messiah, for they are all fulfilled in me.” But him you know not — On the contrary, “You are wholly ignorant of his blessed perfections and gracious counsels, and have no inclination to obey his will.”

But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.
Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.
John 7:30-32. Then they sought to take him — “The defence which he made did not pacify his enemies, for some of them would gladly have apprehended him; however, none of them had the courage to lay hands on him, being restrained by Providence, because the season of his sufferings was not yet come.” And many of the people believed on him — “In the mean time the miracle which he had lately performed on the infirm man was so great and so well known, and this defence, by which he justified himself, so clear and convincing, that many of the people believed on him publicly affirming, that he was the Messiah.” The Pharisees heard that the people murmured — Or, whispered, rather, see on John 7:12; such things concerning him — And were greatly displeased and alarmed at it; and, with the other members of the sanhedrim, particularly the chief priests, among whom were many Sadducees, (Acts 4:1,) sent officers — From the chamber in which they held their council, into the adjacent court of the temple; to take him — To apprehend and bring him before them, thinking thus, it seems, to confute his pretensions, and punish him. This, as appears from John 7:45; John 7:50; John 7:53, took place on the last and great day of the feast.

And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?
The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.
Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.
John 7:33-34. Then said Jesus — Continuing his discourse, (from John 7:29,) which they had interrupted, Yet a little while am I with you — My ministry among you is drawing toward a conclusion; you ought, therefore, while it lasts, to make the best possible improvement of it. For ye shall seek me, and shall not find me — You shall earnestly desire my presence with you, but shall not obtain it. “This seeking for the Messiah was general through the nation, during the calamities in Judea, occasioned by Titus and his armies; and has continued among the Jews ever since, in all the countries where they have been dispersed, but to no purpose, for their Messiah having already appeared, it is in vain to expect another. By thus predicting his own death, our Lord insinuated that he both knew the present disposition of the council, and foresaw that they would soon put an end to his ministry by taking away his life.” And where I am — Or, where I shall then, and always be; ye cannot come — Referring to his speedy exaltation to the heavenly world, and the impossibility of their being admitted thither: for so a similar expression, used John 8:21, evidently means, namely, Ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. Perhaps, also, our Lord might refer to the impotent malice with which, after his exaltation to the Father’s right hand, they should oppose his triumphant cause.

Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.
Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?
John 7:35-36. Then said the Jews, Whither will he go — Jesus spake concerning his death, resurrection, and ascension, but the Jews did not understand him; for they imagined that he threatened to leave them, and go among their brethren of the dispersion. Will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles — Greek, των Ελληνων, of the Greeks, that is, the Jews scattered abroad in different nations, Greece particularly; and teach the Gentiles Τους Ελληνας, the Greeks, the heathen themselves. By Greeks, we are here to understand idolatrous Gentiles, and not Hellenists, or Jews, who used the Greek language; for these were the dispersed among them. There is, therefore, says Dr. Doddridge, a sarcasm “in these words, beyond what commentators have observed. They insinuate that if he was to go into foreign countries, to address himself to the Jews there, who might be supposed not so well instructed as those who lived in Judea and at Jerusalem, he would not be able to make any proselytes, even among these; but would be constrained to apply himself to the ignorant and stupid Gentiles, to seek disciples among them; which, to be sure, appeared to these haughty scorners one of the most infamous circumstances that could be imagined, and most incompatible with the character of the true Messiah.” What manner of saying is this — This saying is unintelligible and absurd: for though his meaning be, that he is going to preach among the Gentiles, surely it is possible for us to follow him thither.

What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
John 7:37. In the last day, &c. — Namely, the eighth day, when, according to the institution of Moses, (Leviticus 23:34; Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35, where see the notes,) there was to be a holy convocation, or general and solemn assembly of the people, attended with some extraordinary sacrifices. This day is called the great day of the feast, on account of the high esteem in which the nation of the Jews held it, as a day kept holy solely on their own account. On the seven preceding days they held that sacrifices were offered, not so much for themselves as for the whole world; in the course of them, seventy bullocks being sacrificed for the seventy nations of the world: but the sacrifices of this day they considered as being offered for Israel alone, on whose behalf only several solemnities of the day were observed. Tremellius, on this text, observes, from the Talmud, that the Jews used on this day to march round the altar seven times, singing hosannas, with palm branches in their hands, in memory of the Israelites, in the days of Joshua, marching round Jericho seven times on the day of its fall. He informs us also, from the same authority, that on this day they drew water with great joy from the fountain or brook of Siloam, at the foot of mount Zion, and carried it to the priests in the temple, with the sound of the trumpet and great rejoicing, where they poured out part of it, mingled with wine, as a drink-offering, which they accompanied with prayers to God for rain. For, as at the passover, they offered an omer, to obtain from God his blessing upon the harvest; at pentecost, their first-fruits, to request his blessing on the fruits of the trees; so, at the feast of the tabernacles, they offered water, as a token of their desire for a plentiful rain to fall at the following seed-time; the people, in the mean time, singing, With joy shall ye draw water from the wells of salvation, Isaiah 12:3. Part of the water they drank, with loud acclamations, in commemoration of the mercy shown to their fathers, who were relieved by the miracle of a great stream of water made to gush out of a rock, when the nation was ready to die with thirst, in a sandy desert, where there was neither river nor spring.

The Jewish writers pretend that Haggai and Zechariah were the institutors of these rites, and that in performing them they acted according to the directions of these prophets. Be this as it may, it is probable, as Dr. Lightfoot has shown, from some Jewish writers, that among other things intended to be expressed hereby, the ceremony was also meant to be emblematical of their desire and expectation of the coming of the Messiah, and of the effusion of the Holy Spirit under his dispensation. But whatever might be the original intention of these ceremonies, we learn from the same writer (Tremellius) that the Jews had miserably perverted it, by the addition of their own magical ceremonies. Christ, therefore, probably intended to lead them back to the principal design and meaning of the institution, and to draw their minds from the terrestrial water, and all earthly and temporal things, to the water of life, and to himself, the chief scope of this feast and of all other ceremonies. For, as it was his custom to raise moral and spiritual instructions from sensible occurrences, he took this opportunity of inviting, in the most solemn and affectionate manner, all who were in pursuit, whether of knowledge, holiness, or happiness, to come unto him, and drink, in allusion to the rite they were then employed about. Jesus stood — Probably on some eminence, where he could be seen and heard by the surrounding multitude, as the priest did who poured out the water mentioned above; and cried — “Intentâ voce, quo magis attentionem excitaret,” (Grotius,) with a loud voice, that he might excite the greater attention. If any man thirst — That is, sincerely and earnestly desire true happiness, and long for the blessings promised under the administration of the Messiah; let him come unto me — By faith. Let him believe that I am able and willing to satisfy his most ardent and enlarged desires, and rely on me to do it; and drink — That is, he shall drink; he shall receive the blessings for which he thirsts; for I am most ready freely to communicate every needful blessing, and particularly those supplies of the Spirit, which you profess sincerely and earnestly to desire. Compare Isaiah 55:1.

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
John 7:38-39. He that believeth on me — With a living faith, and with his heart unto righteousness; as the Scripture hath said — As God in the Scriptures hath promised and attested in many places; out of his belly — From within him, from his mind and heart; shall flow rivers of living water — He shall receive spiritual blessings, or communications of divine grace, in so great an abundance, that he shall not only be refreshed and comforted himself, but shall be instrumental in refreshing and comforting others. The expression, Out of his belly shall flow rivers, is used with allusion to receptacles round springs, out of which great quantities of water flow by pipes: and the figure therefore signifies the plenitude of spiritual gifts and graces to be possessed by believers, and the happy effects which they should produce in the world. Thus the apostles and first messengers of Christ were both watered themselves and enabled to water others, Gentiles as well as Jews, not with small streams, but with large rivers of divine knowledge and grace, so that the countries, which till then had been barren, became exceeding fruitful in holiness and righteousness. Accordingly the evangelist adds, by way of explication, this spake he of the Spirit — Of the Holy Spirit’s gifts and graces; which they who believed on him should receive Εμελλον λαμβανειν, were about to receive, namely, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, according to his promise, John 14:16; and John 16:7. The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit had, in a great measure, ceased since the death of Zechariah and Malachi. They had been faintly manifested in the approach of the Messiah, as to Zechariah and Elizabeth, to Simeon and Anna, and especially to John the Baptist, who is said to have been filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb; but the full effusion of these gifts, foretold by Isaiah and Joel, took not place till after the ascension of Christ, and was yet to come. On the day of pentecost, and not before, these extraordinary gifts were communicated to the apostles, evangelists, and many other believers, to fit them for converting the world. The universality, however, of the invitation and promise here given, makes it evident that, on this occasion, our Lord had the ordinary influences of the Spirit in his eye, which the evangelist’s remark, that the Holy Ghost was not yet given, will not exclude; because, even these might at that time be said not to have been given, as they had been given but sparingly, in comparison of the plentiful distribution which was to be made of them to all believers after Christ’s ascension. Accordingly, the ordinary influences of the Spirit are often in Scripture represented as the consequences and reward of faith, Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 1:12-14.

(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.
John 7:40-44. Many of the people therefore — Even the officers sent to apprehend Christ, (see John 7:46,) as welt as many others of our Lord’s hearers; when they heard this saying — Namely, the gracious invitation above mentioned, which indeed was a more free declaration and promise than he commonly made, were so affected thereby, that they exclaimed, Of a truth this is the Prophet — Namely, the prophet like unto Moses, mentioned Deuteronomy 18:15. For, as the article is prefixed, it is most natural to render the expression, the prophet. And yet, as in the next verse this prophet is distinguished from the Christ; perhaps they only intended to signify that they thought one of the ancient prophets was revived. For many of the Jews supposed, that not only Elias, but also another of the prophets, would appear again among them, before the coming of the Messiah: to which opinion the question put to John, (John 1:21,) Art thou that prophet, may be considered as referring. See the note there. Others said, This is the Christ — The Messiah himself. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? — This they spoke because they were led away with a common mistake, that Jesus was born in Nazareth. Hath not the Scripture said, &c. — Is not your acknowledging a Galilean for the Messiah contrary to the Scriptures, which have determined his nativity to Bethlehem, the town of his ancestor David? But how could they forget that Jesus was born there? Had not Herod the Great given them terrible reason to remember it, by the general massacre made of all the infants in that town and neighbourhood. So there was a division among the people because of him — They were divided in their sentiments, and a warm dissension took place among them on his account. And some would have taken him — The contention was carried to such a height, that his enemies, considering him as the cause of it, and knowing on what errand the officers were come, threatened to apprehend him, and would have done it, had they not been restrained by the providence of God.

Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
So there was a division among the people because of him.
And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?
John 7:45-49. Then came the officers to the chief priests, &c. — Namely, without accomplishing the purpose for which they were sent; and they — The chief priests and other members of the sanhedrim, perceiving the officers had not executed their commission; said, Why have ye not brought him — According to the orders you received from us? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man — Surely no man living ever addressed his hearers in so engaging and irresistible a manner. They seem to have intended to intimate, that, had the chief priests and Pharisees heard him themselves, his discourse must have disarmed their resentment against him. Then answered the Pharisees — Far from being softened by the account the officers gave; Are ye also deceived — Ye, who have the advantage of knowing our sentiments concerning this man? Have any of the rulers — Men of rank or eminence; or of the Pharisees — Men of learning or religion; believed on him? But this people Οχλος ουτος, this populace; who knoweth not the law — This ignorant rabble; so they affected to call Christ’s friends; are cursed — Are, by that ignorance, exposed to the curse of being thus seduced.

The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?
Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?
But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)
John 7:50-53. Nicodemus, he who came to Jesus by night — Having now got a little more courage; being one of them — Being present, as a member of the great council, saith to them, Doth our law judge (κρινει, condemn) any man before it hear him — Before the magistrate, appointed to execute it, summon him into his presence, that he may hear from him what he has to say in his own defence; and know what he doeth — Namely, from credible witnesses? As if he had said, Do not we ourselves act as if we knew not the law, if we pass sentence on a man before we hear him? They answered — By personal reflection; the argument they could not answer, and therefore did not attempt it. For, notwithstanding that perfect knowledge of the law, and that high reverence for its precepts, which they made such boast of, they were acting directly contrary to the most essential principles of equity established by it. But, being greatly exasperated by Nicodemus’s reproof, which was the more poignant and provoking, because it was well founded; and being in a violent passion with him, for condemning their conduct, and speaking favourably of Jesus, they asked him, with an air of disdain and surprise mixed with fierceness, Art thou also of Galilee — Art thou one of his party? One of the ignorant, low faction, that has leagued to support a Galilean Messiah in opposition to the law, which has determined the Messiah’s nativity to Bethlehem? Search and look; for out of Galilee ariseth (or rather, hath arisen, as ουκ εγηγερται properly signifies) no prophet — They could not but know the contrary. They knew Jonah arose out of Gath-hepher; and Nahum from another village in Galilee. Yea, and Thisbe, the town of Elijah the Tishbite, was in Galilee also. They might, likewise, have known that Jesus was not born in Galilee, but at Bethlehem, even from the public register there, and from the genealogies of the family of David. Add to this, that many of the people had heard the shepherds declare, on the testimony of the angel, that he was born at Bethlehem, and had wondered at the words which had been told them by the shepherds, Luke 2:15-18. Nay, and the chief priests and Pharisees were not ignorant that the wise men from the East went to Bethlehem to worship him soon after he was born, as king of the Jews: the memory of which facts could not be lost in the space of thirty years. Here, then, we have a striking instance of the power of prejudice to shut men’s eyes against the clearest truth. Dr. Campbell, however, thinks they did not mean all that they expressed; because, when men’s passions are inflamed, they are not wont to be accurate in their words, or distinct in recollecting, on the sudden, things which make against them; and that therefore this expression of the Pharisees, whom prejudice, pride, and envy had concurred in blinding, need not appear surprising to us. And every man went unto his own house — The council separated immediately: for, being conscious that their poor answer would not bear examination, they took care, by rising up and dispersing, to prevent a reply. So that short, plain question of Nicodemus, spoiled all their measures, and for the present frustrated their designs. A word spoken in season, how good is it! especially when God gives it his blessing.

Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?
They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
And every man went unto his own house.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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