Matthew 14:2
And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
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(2) This is John the Baptist.—In Matthew 16:14, Luke 9:7-9, this is given as one of the three opinions that were floating among the people as to our Lord’s character, the other two being, (1) that He was Elijah, and (2) that He was one of the old prophets who had risen again. The policy of the tetrarch connected him with the Sadducean priestly party rather than with the more popular and rigid Pharisees, and a comparison of Matthew 16:6 with Mark 8:15 at least suggests the identity of the “leaven of Herod” with that of the Sadducees. On this supposition, his acceptance of the first of the three rumours is every way remarkable. The superstitious terror of a conscience stained with guilt is stronger than his scepticism as a Sadducee, even though there mingled with it, as was probable enough, the wider unbelief of Roman epicureanism. To him the new Prophet, working signs and wonders which John had never worked, was but the re-appearance of the man whom he had murdered. It was more than a spectre from the unseen world, more than the metempsychosis of the soul of John into another body. It was nothing less than John himself.

14:1-12 The terror and reproach of conscience, which Herod, like other daring offenders, could not shake off, are proofs and warnings of a future judgment, and of future misery to them. But there may be the terror of convictions, where there is not the truth of conversion. When men pretend to favour the gospel, yet live in evil, we must not favour their self-delusion, but must deliver our consciences as John did. The world may call this rudeness and blind zeal. False professors, or timid Christians, may censure it as want of civility; but the most powerful enemies can go no further than the Lord sees good to permit. Herod feared that the putting of John to death might raise a rebellion among the people, which it did not; but he never feared it might stir up his own conscience against him, which it did. Men fear being hanged for what they do not fear being damned for. And times of carnal mirth and jollity are convenient times for carrying on bad designs against God's people. Herod would profusely reward a worthless dance, while imprisonment and death were the recompence of the man of God who sought the salvation of his soul. But there was real malice to John beneath his consent, or else Herod would have found ways to get clear of his promise. When the under shepherds are smitten, the sheep need not be scattered while they have the Great Shepherd to go to. And it is better to be drawn to Christ by want and loss, than not to come to him at all.This is John the Baptist - Herod feared John. His conscience smote him for his crimes. He remembered that he had wickedly put him to death. He knew him to be a distinguished prophet; and he concluded that no other one was capable of working such miracles but he who had been so eminent a servant of God in his life, and who, he supposed, had again risen from the dead and entered the dominions of his murderer. The alarm in his court, it seems, was general. Herod's conscience told him that this was John. Others thought that it might be the expected Elijah or one of the old prophets, Mark 6:15. 2. And said unto his servants—his counsellors or court-ministers.

This is John the Baptist: he is risen from the dead, &c.—The murdered prophet haunted his guilty breast like a specter and seemed to him alive again and clothed with unearthly powers in the person of Jesus.

Account of the Baptist's Imprisonment and Death (Mt 14:3-12). For the exposition of this portion, see on [1301]Mr 6:17-29.

Ver. 1,2. This and the following history is related by Mark more largely, Mark 6:14-30; by Luke more shortly, Luke 9:7-9. We heard before, that the Romans, under whom the Jews now were, had altered the government of the Jews from a kingdom to a tetrarchy, or government of four. Luke telleth us who were the tetrarchs, Luke 3:1. Herod (as we read there) was the tetrarch of Galilee. He had before this time put John Baptist to death, upon what occasion, and in what manner, we shall hear by and by. He heareth of the fame of Jesus. Luke saith he heard of all that was done by him, and was perplexed; that some said John the Baptist was risen from the dead; others, that Elias had appeared; others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. But Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him. Mark saith, Mark 6:14, that king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad): and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him. Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. So as it seems though others had various opinions, yet Herod was fixed in this, that this man was John the Baptist risen again from the dead. Though Luke reports him as speaking more doubtfully, (as he might do to the people), yet Matthew and Mark speak him affirming of it more confidently (probably to his courtiers and confidants). There was an opinion amongst the heathens, that the souls of men and women, when they died, went into other bodies. Some think that Herod was infected with that, and that this is the meaning of his suspicion that John was risen from the dead; that his soul, which he had forced from his body, was gone into another body, so as it might be revenged on him. Or else he thought that John was indeed raised from the dead, (which yet by search might quickly have been known), and therefore mighty works showed themselves in him.

And said unto his servants,.... Those of his household, his courtiers, with whom he more familiarly conversed; to these he expressed his fears, that it might be true what was suggested by the people, and he was ready to believe it himself;

this is John the Baptist: some copies add, "whom I have beheaded", as in Mark 6:16 the guilt of which action rose in his mind, lay heavy on him, and filled him with horror and a thousand fears:

he is risen from the dead; which if he was a Sadducee, as he is thought to be, by comparing Matthew 16:6 with Mark 8:15 was directly contrary to his former sentiments, and was extorted from him by his guilty conscience; who now fears, what before he did not believe; and what he fears, he affirms; concluding that John was raised from the dead, to give proof of his innocence, and to revenge his death on him:

and therefore mighty works do show themselves in him, or "are wrought by him"; for though he wrought no miracles in his lifetime, yet, according to a vulgar notion, that after death men are endued with a greater power, Herod thought this to be the case; or that he was possessed of greater power, on purpose to punish him for the murder of him; and that these miracles which were wrought by him, were convincing proofs of the truth of his resurrection, and of what he was able to do to him, and what he might righteously expect from him.

And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty {a} works do shew forth themselves in him.

(a) By works he means that force and power by which works are performed, and not the works which are often seen before.

Matthew 14:2. Τοῖς παισὶν αὐτοῦ] to his slaves (comp. note on Matthew 8:6), who, according to Oriental ideas, are no other than his courtiers. Comp. 1 Samuel 16:17; 1Ma 1:6; 1Ma 1:8; 1 Maccabees 3 Esdr. Matthew 2:17; Diod. Sic. xvii. 36.

αὐτός] indicating by its emphasis the terror-stricken conscience: He, the veritable John.

ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν] from the dead, among whom he was dwelling in Hades. The supposition of Wetstein and Bengel, that Herod was a Sadducee (erroneously founded upon Mark 8:15, comp. Matthew 16:6), is no less inconsistent with what he here says about one having risen from the dead, than the other supposition that he believed this to be a case of metempsychosis (Grotius, Gratz, von Cölln); for he assumes that not merely the soul, but that the entire personality of John, has returned. Generally speaking, we do not meet with the doctrine of transmigration among the Jews till some time after; see Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 463 f. [E. T. 545 f.]. Herod’s language is merely the result of terror, which has been awakened by an evil conscience, and which, with the inconsistency characteristic of mental bewilderment, believes something to have happened—though contrary to all expectation—which, in ordinary circumstances, was looked upon as theoretically impossible; while, again, the opinions that were circulating respecting Jesus (Luke 9:7 f.) would suggest, in the case before us, the particular idea to which Herod here gives expression. The Pharisaic belief in the resurrection, which was not unknown to Herod, became, in spite of himself, the psychological starting-point.

διὰ τοῦτο] on this account, because he is no ordinary man, but one risen from the dead.

αἱ δυνάμεις] the powers manifesting themselves in his miracles.

Matthew 14:2. παισὶν αὐτοῦ: not his sons, but his servants, i.e., the courtiers, great men in their way, not the menials in the palace. The king would propound his odd theory in familiar talk, not in solemn conclave.—αὐτός ἐστιν, etc. It is this theory we have to thank for the narrative following, which in itself has no special connection with the evangelic history, though doubtless Christians would naturally read with interest the fate of the forerunner of Jesus. The king has the Baptist on the brain; and remarkable occurrences in the religious world recall him at once to mind. It is John! he (αὐτὸς) is risen; theory begotten of remorse; odd enough, but better than Pharisaic one begotten of malevolence; both witnessing to the extraordinary in Christ’s career.—διὰ τοῦτο: the living John did no miracles, but no saying what a dead one redivivus can do?—ἐνεργοῦσιν, not: he does the mighty works, but: the powers (δυνάμεις) work in him, the powers of the invisible world, vast and vague in the king’s imagination.

2. he] The Greek is emphatic, “he himself,” “in his own person.”

risen from the dead] A proof that Herod did not hold the Sadducean doctrine, that there is no resurrection.

and therefore] In consequence of having risen from the dead he is thought to be possessed of larger powers. Alford remarks that this incidentally confirms St John’s statement (ch. Matthew 10:41), that John wrought no miracle while living.

mighty works do shew forth themselves] Literally, works of power are active in him.

Matthew 14:2. Παισὶν, servants) The friends of princes are for the most part yonng.[655] In time of fear, the great speak promiscuously with the small.—ΟὟΤΟς, this) Herod was tormented by his conscience.[656] It was not consistent with the character of such a king to arrive at an absolute decision. He concluded, but with doubt; see Luke 9:7; Luke 9:9. Herod was a Sadducee; but Sadduceeism wavers when anything strange occurs. Reason [mere human reason] prefers ascribing marvellous circumstances to ancient, or at least departed saints, rather than to those who are alive; and to those whom it has once begun to esteem highly rather than to others.[657]—ἸΩΆΝΝΗς, John) Herod had not heard of the works of Jesus before the death of John. John had not performed any miracles during his life; but because he had been a holy man, men now suppose that he must nevertheless have possessed miraculous power; cf. ch. Matthew 16:14. So great power has the reputation of holiness even with those who are themselves unholy. Moreover, as the actions of Christ were ascribed to John even when dead, it was necessary that he should decrease in order that Christ might increase. The Greeks speak much and often of the things which our Lord’s forerunner, slain before Him, announced and preached to the dead; see Leo Allatius,[658] de libris ecclesiast. Gr. pp. 303, 304; and Wetstein[659] on the dialogue against the Marcionites, p. 33. So do the Latins also, quoted by Ittigius[660] in his dissertation on the gospel preached to the dead, § xi.; see also Ambrose on Luke 1:17, and Gerson’s[661] second lecture on St Mark.—ὁ βαπτιστής, the Baptist) This surname is given to John even by Herod, even by the daughter of Herodias, even by Josephus, so celebrated was it.—αὐτὸς, he) himself.—αἱ δυνάμεις, mighty works) He speaks of them as objective realities.—ἐν αὐτῷ in Him) sc. in Jesus.

[655] Alluding to two of the meanings of παὶς, the one implying youth, the other attendance on a superior.—(I. B.)

[656] So far was he from speaking thus in jest.—E. B.

[657] John most speedily attained the consummation of his course; but those who had deprived him of life, subsequently atoned most dearly for it.—V. g.

[658] LEO ALLATIUS (or ALLACCI). A laborious and indefatigable writer, of a vast memory, whose writings display great reading. Born in the Isle of Chios, of Greek parents, 1586. Having been admitted into the Greek College at Rome, he embraced the Roman Catholic religion, and was eventually appointed keeper of the Vatican library by Pope Alexander VII. Died 1669.—(I. B.)

[659] The author here intended is not J. J. Wetstein, Bengel’s great critical rival, but JOHN RUDOLPH WETSTEIN, son of the author of the same name. He was a native of Basle, and became a theologian and philologist of that Academy. He was born in 1647, and died in 1711. He published at Basle, in 1674, “Origen against the Marcionites,” in Greek and Latin, with notes.—(I. B.)

[660] THOMAS ITTIGIUS, a native of Leipsic, of which Academy he became a theologian and historian; was born 1643, and died 1710. He was the author of many learned works.—(I. B.)

[661] JOHN GERSON; born at Gerson, in France, in 1363; educated at Paris, where he became Canon and Chancellor of the Church. He greatly distinguished himself, at the Council of Constance, by many speeches, especially by one, in which he enforced the superiority of the Council over the Pope. He was one of the most illustrious men of his time, and obtained the surname of Doctor Christianissimus. Cave says that no one can be conversant with his works without very great benefit. His writings are very numerous.—(I. B.)

Verse 2. - And said unto his servants. According to Luke, the following assertion was brought forward by some, but was, it would seem, summarily rejected by Herod (Luke 9:7, 9); according to Mark (ἔλεγον, Westcott and Hort, text) it was common talk, and agreed to by Herod (Mark 6:14, 16). If a reconciliation of so unimportant a verbal disagreement be sought for, it may perhaps lie in Luke representing Herod's first exclamation, and Matthew, with Mark, his settled belief. Clearly Herod did not originate it, as the summary account in our Gospel would lead us to suppose. This is John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1 and Matthew 4:12, notes). (For this opinion about our Lord, compare, besides the parallel passages referred to in the last note, also Matthew 16:14.) He (αὐτός, Matthew 1:21, note) is risen from the dead. The other dead still lie in Hades (ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν). Plumptre, on Mark, adduces a curious passage from Persius, 5:180-188, which he thinks is based on a story that when Herod celebrated another of his birthdays (cf. ver. 6) in Rome, in A.D. , he was terrified by a Banquo-like appearance of the murdered prophet. The superstition that already suggested to Herod the resurrection of John might well act more strongly on the anniversary of the murder, and after he had connived at the death of the One who, by his miracles, showed that he possessed greater power than John. And therefore; "because he is no ordinary man, but one risen from the dead" (Meyer). Mighty works do show forth themselves in him (αἱ δυνάμεις ἐνεργοῦσιν ἐν αἰ τῷ) do these powers work in him (Revised Version). "These" (αἱ, the article of reference), i.e. these which are spoken of in the report (ver. 1). Αἱ δυνάμεις may be

(1) specifically miracles (cf. Matthew 13:58), in which case they are regarded as potentially active in John before their completion in history; or

(2) the powers of working miracles, as perhaps in 1 Corinthians 12:28. Observe that this passage confirms the statement of John 10:41, that John performed no miracle. Observe that it is also an indirect witness to the fact of our Lord performing miracles. For Herod's utterance is not such as a forger would have imagined. Matthew 14:2
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