Vincent's Word Studies
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,
A ruler of a fourth part. Archelaus had obtained two-fourths of his father's dominions, and Antipas (this Herod) and Philip each one-fourth.
The fame (ἀκοὴν)
Better as Rev., report. Lit., hearing.
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.
For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife.
Put him in prison
(ἐν φυλακῇ απέθετο). Lit., "put him away or aside" (ἀπὸ). This prison was the fortress of Machaerus on the east side of the Dead Sea, almost on a line with Bethlehem, above the gorge which divided the Mountains of Abarim from the range of Pisgah. Perched on an isolated cliff at the end of a narrow ridge, encompassed with deep ravines, was the citadel. At the other end of this ridge Herod built a great wall, with towers two hundred feet high at the corners; and within this inclosure, a magnificent palace, with colonnades, baths, cisterns, arsenals - every provision, in short, for luxury and for defence against siege. The windows commanded a wide and grand prospect, including the Dead Sea, the course of the Jordan, and Jerusalem. In the detached citadel, probably in one of the underground dungeons, remains of which may still be seen, was the prison of John. "We return through what we regard as the ruins of the magnificent castle-palace of Herod, to the highest and strongest part of the defences - the eastern keep or the citadel, on the steep slope, one hundred and fifty yards up. The foundations of the walls all around, to the height of a yard or two above the ground, are still standing. As we clamber over them to examine the interior, we notice how small this keep is: exactly one hundred yards in diameter. There are scarcely any remains of it left. A well of great depth, and a deep, cemented cistern, with the vaulting of the roof still complete, and - of most terrible interest to us - two dungeons, one of them deep down, its sides scarcely broken in, ' with small holes still visible in the masonry where staples of wood and iron had once been fixed!' As we look down into its hot darkness, we shudder in realizing that this terrible keep had, for nigh ten months, been the prison of that son of the free wilderness, the bold herald of the coming kingdom, the humble, earnest, self-denying John the Baptist" (Edersheim, "Life and Times of Jesus").
For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.
And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
Though some explain it as the anniversary of Herod's accession. The custom of celebrating birthdays by festivities was not approved by the strict Jews; but it is claimed that the Herodian princes adopted the custom. The Roman satirist, Persins, alludes to a festival known as "Herod's Day," and pictures a banquet on that occasion.
Comes Herod's day, and on the steaming panes
The ranged lamps, festooned with violets, pour
The unctuous cloud, while the broad tunny-tail
Sprawled o'er the red dish swims, and snowy jars
Swell with the wine."
Sat. v., 180-188.
Before (ἐν τῷ μέσῳ)
Rev., in the midst. Wyc., leaped in the middle.
Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
He promised (ὡμολόγησεν)
Lit., confessed; conveying the idea of acknowledging the obligation of his oath. Salome had degraded herself to perform the part of an almeh or common dancer, and could claim her reward.
And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.
Being before instructed (προβιβασθεῖσα)
Wyc., monestid, with warned in explanation. Both wrong. Rev., rightly, being put forward. Compare Acts 19:33, where the right meaning is, they pushed Alexander forward out of the crowd; and not as A. V., drew out. The correct rendering slightly relieves Salome of the charge of wanton cruelty, and throws it wholly upon Herodias.
She demanded it on the spot, before Herod should have had time to reflect and relent; the more so, as she knew his respect for John (compare was sorry, Matthew 14:9). The circumstances seem to point to Machaerus itself as the scene of the banquet; so that the deed could be quickly done, and the head of the Baptist delivered while the feast was still in progress.
In a charger (ἐπὶ πίνακι)
The Revisers cannot be defended in their retention of this thoroughly obsolete word. A charge is originally a burden; and a charger something loaded. Hence, a dish. Wyc., dish. Tynd., platter.
And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.
The oath's sake (διὰ τοὺς ὅρκους)
But the A. V. puts the apostrophe in the wrong place. The word is plural, and the Rev. rightly renders for the sake of his oaths. It is implied that Herod in his mad excitement had confirmed his promise with repeated oaths.
And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
To the damsel (τῷ κορασίῳ)
Diminutive, the little girl, Luther gives mgdlein, little maid.
And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
On foot (πεζῇ)
Rev., by land in margin, which is better; for the contrast is between Jesus' journey by ship and that of the multitude by land.
And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
In the Greek order standing first as emphatic. The dominant thought of the disciples is remoteness from supplies of food. The first meaning of the word is solitary; from which develops the idea of void, bereft, barren.
Both meanings may well be included here. Note the two points of emphasis. The disciples say, Barren is the place. Christ answers, No need have they to go away.
The disciples had said, "Send them away to buy for themselves." Christ replies, Give ye.
But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
He said, Bring them hither to me.
And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
As the Jewish loaves were thin cakes, a thumb's breadth in thickness, and more easily broken than cut.
And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
Were filled (ἐχορτάσθησαν)
See on Matthew 5:6.
Wyc., coffins, a transcription of the Greek word. Juvenal, the Roman satirist, describes the grove of Numa, near the Capenian gate of Rome, as being "let out to the Jews, whose furniture is a basket (cophinus) and some hay" (for a bed), "Sat." iii., 14. These were small hand-baskets, specially provided for the Jews to carry levitically clean food while travelling in Samaria or other heathen districts. The word for basket used in relating the feeding of the four thousand (Matthew 15:37) is σπυρίς, a large provision-basket or hamper, of the kind used for letting Paul down over the wall at Damascus (Acts 9:25). In Matthew 16:9,Matthew 16:10, Christ, in alluding to the two miracles, observes the distinctive term in each narrative; using κοφίνους in the case of the five thousand, and σπυρίδας in the other. Burgon ("Letters from Rome") gives a drawing of a wicker basket used by the masons in the cathedral at Sorrento, and called cffano. He adds, "Who can doubt that the basket of the gospel narrative was of the shape here represented, and that the denomination of this basket exclusively has lingered in a Greek colony, where the Jews (who once carried the cophinus as a personal equipment) formerly lived in great numbers?"
And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
Implying the disciples' reluctance to leave him behind.
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
Rev., better, distressed. See on Matthew 4:24.
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
A spirit (φάντασμα)
Of which our word phantasm is a transcription. Rev., rather stiffly, apparition. Wyc., phantom.
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
To go to (ἐλθεῖν πρὸς)
But some of the best texts read καὶ ἦλθεν πρὸς, and went toward.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
He was afraid
"Although," says Bengel, "a fisherman and a good swimmer" (John 21:7).
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
A beautiful word. Lit., grew weary; sank away like one who is weary.
Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.
And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased;
And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.
Were made perfectly whole (διεσώθησαν)
The preposition διά, through or through, indicates complete restoration.
The Rev. omits perfectly, because whole, in itself, implies completeness.