SUMMARY.--Herod's Opinion of Christ.
The Death of John the Baptist.
Jesus Crosses the Sea.
The Vast Multitude That Follows.
The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes.
The Multitude Wishing to Make Jesus a King Is Dismissed.
The Disciples Sent Upon the Sea While Jesus Retires to Pray.
The Storm on the Sea.
Christ on the Waters.
The Failure of Peter's Faith.
1. Herod the tetrarch. Compare
Mark 6:14-29 and Luke 9:7-9.
Herod Antipas, one of the sons of "Herod the King." See notes on
for information on the Herods. Called the tetrarch, or ruler of
a fourth part, because he inherited one-fourth of the kingdom of his
Heard of the fame of Jesus. Absent much of the time from Galilee
in campaigns against Aretas, king of Arabia, he probably did not hear
much until his return home.
2. This is John the Baptist. Herod claimed to be a Sadducee, and
hence held that there was no life whatever after death, but under the
terrors of a guilty conscience his creed undergoes a change. Hence his
first thought when he hears of the deeds of Jesus is that the murdered
John has risen from the dead.
Therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. During
his life John wrought no miracles
Herod supposed that his resurrection had clothed him with new power.
This opinion was shared by others
(Matt. 16:14; Mark 8:28).
3. For Herod had laid hold on John. This arrest of John the
Baptist had taken place a year 
previous, shortly before our Lord's second visit to Galilee
(Matt. 4:12; Mark 1:14),
the events of which are given by John,
The prison was the castle of Machærus. See note on
Herodias' sake. Antipas had been, while at Rome, the guest of
his brother Herod Philip. Here he became entangled by the snares of
Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; and he repaid the hospitality he
had received by carrying her off. He had himself long been married to
the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia. This Herodias was the
granddaughter of "Herod the King," and, hence, the niece of both her
lawful husband and of Herod Antipas, who now had her.
4. It is not lawful for thee to have her. The marriage was
unlawful for these three reasons: (1) The former husband of Herodias
(Philip) was still living. (2) The former wife of Antipas was still
living. (3) Besides, the Jewish law did not permit a man to marry his
5. He feared the multitude.Mark
says he feared John also. He no doubt feared John's influence with the
6. When Herod's birthday was kept. In imitation of the Roman
emperors, the Herodian princes kept their birthdays with feasting and
revelry and magnificent banquets. We learn from
that he made a supper, or banquet feast.
The daughter of Herodias. Her name, according to Josephus, was
Salome, a daughter by Philip, Herod's brother. She was
afterwards married to her uncle Philip, the tetrarch of Iturea
Danced. It was not customary for the ladies of high rank to
dance beyond the limit of the harem. The Oriental dance of a libertine
character. But her wicked mother induced her own daughter thus to
degrade herself in order to accomplish her revengeful purpose.
7. He promised with an oath to give her whatever she would ask.
Herod confirms his promise by an oath. It was a common custom to reward
a dancer or actor, on a great occasion like this, who pleased, and to
ask what they wished. Herod knew that Salome danced because she had a
request to make.
8. Give me John the Baptist's head in a charger.Mark
tells us that she went to consult her mother before she made her
request. That vile woman was prepared with an answer. Indeed, she had
manipulated the whole affair so as to secure Herod's consent to the
murder of John.
In a charger. An old English word for a large dish, so called
from the load it sustained.
9. The king was sorry. The Greek word
thus translated is very strong, and denotes a very great grief, and
For the oath's sake, and them which sat with him. It was not so
much his regard for the oath which he had taken, but his shrinking from
the taunt of the guests, if they should see him draw back from his
10. He sent and beheaded John in the prison. The executioner did
his work in the dark dungeon; the wicked Herodias had triumphed.
11. She brought it to her mother. The first Elijah had his
Jezebel, who sought his life; the second Elijah had his Jezebel, the
not less inhuman Herodias, who obtained his life. 
12. His disciples. John's.
13. When Jesus heard of it. When he heard of the fate of John
the Baptist and of Herod's conjectures concerning himself. It was a
busy time. The twelve had just returned from a highly successful
ministry and his own popularity was at its greatest height. The crowds,
anxious to see, converse with him, or to be healed, pressed on him so
as to give no leisure for reflection, or even to eat
It was but natural that he should wish a quiet season on receiving the
tidings of the death of one related to him like John.
Into a desert place. Not a sandy, barren spot, but one
uninhabited and lonely. They crossed the Sea of Galilee
and proceeded in the direction of Bethsaida-Julias, as its northeastern
just above the entrance of the Jordan into it. To the south of it was
the green and narrow plain of El-Batihah, "with abundant grass,
and abundant space for the multitude to have sat down."
They followed him on foot out of the cities. The multitudes,
seeing the course of the boat that bore the Savior and the twelve from
Capernaum, rushed along the shore in order to reach its landing place
in advance. The country west of the Sea of Galilee was, at that period,
according to Josephus, wonderfully populous. Capernaum alone had 30,000
inhabitants, and there were twelve other cities upon or near its
14. And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude. When he
disembarked from the boat, the multitude was waiting. That it was great
is shown by the fact that the men numbered 5,000, apart from the women
Was moved with compassion. He seems, from
to have retired to the mountain for a short time, but then, filled with
compassion, returned to the multitude. This is the only miracle of
which there is an account in each of the four gospels. The parallel
accounts are in
Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-14.
15. When it was evening. It was the "first evening" which began
at the decline of day about three o'clock in the afternoon. The second
evening, according to Jewish customs, began at sunset. The day had
already been spent in teaching and healing.
This is a desert place. And hence there would be no hamlets
dotting it, in which the multitudes could get provisions for
themselves. There are no farm houses in Palestine. The whole population
lives in towns or villages, and often the farmers go many miles to
16. Give ye them to eat. We learn from the
that the disciples did not understand how this could be done, though
they cheerfully obeyed.
17. We have here but five loaves and two fishes. It was Andrew
who spoke. The loaves here were of barley meal made into small,
thin cakes, baked hard on the side of the oven, so as to be broken.
19. He commanded the multitude to sit down. We learn from
that they sat down in companies.
On the grass.John
says, "there was much grass there." It was in the spring season, in
Nisan, "the month of flowers," and the slopes were rich with the spring
Looking up to heaven. In prayer we should use such outward gestures
as may most fitly serve to express the inward disposition and holy
affections of our heart and soul.
He blessed. He either gave thanks or asked the Father's blessing
on the food.
20. Twelve baskets full. Baskets were taken by the Jews on
journeying, to carry their provisions, etc., that they might not have
to depend on Gentiles, and so incur the risk of ceremonial
21. Five thousand men. Thus there was one loaf to every thousand
men. Christ is the bread if life, satisfying the hunger of the soul
for love, forgiveness, immortality, usefulness, progress, knowledge. He
gives that bread to his disciples and bids them to distribute it to the
multitude. Such is its blessed and divine nature that the more they
distribute to hungry, famishing souls, the more they have remaining for
22. Straightway. Immediately; after satisfying to the full the
wants of the multitude. Compare
Mark 6:45-56, and John 6:15-21.
He constrained his disciples. They were loath to go without
their Master. Yet he wished to be alone. He had come to the "desert
place" for retirement; the multitude followed, and sought after the
miracle to proclaim him King. His disciples probably sympathized. Hence
he sent them, too, away, and stayed to pray and reflect alone.
To go to the other side.John
says, toward Capernaum.
23. When he had sent the multitudes away. They were in an
excited condition; hence, great prudence, perhaps an exercise of some
constraining power, was necessary.
Into a mountain apart to pray. The refuge of Christ in every
great crisis was lonely prayer.
24. In the midst of the sea. About twenty-five or thirty
furlongs, or three and a half miles from the shore
about the middle of the lake.
For the wind was contrary. The wind came rushing down from the
mountains, and in attempting to make land at Bethsaida, where the Lord
had directed, it was in their faces. Sudden gusts are common on the Sea
of Galilee. Thompson says he encountered one of such fury that no
rowers could row a boat across the lake. There had now arisen one of
those sudden and violent squalls to which all inland waters, surrounded
by lofty hills intersected with deep gorges, are liable.
25. In the fourth watch. The Jews, who used to divide the night
into three watches, latterly adopted the Roman division into four
watches, as here; so that, at the rate of three hours to each, the
fourth watch, reckoning from six P.M., would be
three o'clock in the morning.
Jesus went to them. The Lord saw their trouble from his
mountain-top, and through the darkness of the night, for his heart was
all with them; yet would he not go to their relief till his own time
26. A spirit. An apparition, an unreal appearance of a real
is not that unusually rendered "spirit." He would appear to them at
first like a dark, moving speck upon the waters, then as a human
figure; but in the dark, tempestuous sky, and not dreaming that it
could be their Lord, they take it for a spirit
Cried out. In fright.
27. It is I; be not afraid. How often has he to speak this word
of encouragement, even to his own! almost always when they are brought
suddenly, or in an unusual way, face to face with him. See
Gen. 15:1; 21:17;
Judg. 6:23; Matt. 28:5; Luke 2:10.
It is I. Literally, I am. The same language used by Jesus
for which the Pharisees would have stoned him, and in the Old Testament
to designate Jehovah
Here I should prefer to give it this meaning: Christ says not merely,
"It is I, your Friend and Master;" he says, at least implies, it is the
"I AM," who is coming to you, the Almighty One who rules wind and
waves, who made them, and whom they obey.
28. Bid me come unto thee. Peter is led by no praiseworthy
motives, but rather by vain glory.
29. And he said, Come. I suppose the Lord bade Peter to come in
order to teach him a lesson.
30. When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid. He stepped
into the water, but the roaring winds and rushing billows were too much
for his faith.
31. Jesus . . . caught him . . . said, O thou of little faith!
Peter's act did not exemplify his faith, but his doubts. True faith
never attempts wonders merely for the sake of doing them. It is a fact
that ought to be noted that the Gospels narrate the failures in
miraculous power on the part of the apostles as well as their success.
No book of myths would do this. At the same time it is always made
plain why they failed.
32. The wind ceased. They were safe, for the Lord was with them.
Under his arms there is always safety.
33. They that were in the ship came and worshipped him. Not only
did they approach him with an outward unforbidden gesture of worship,
"but they avowed him, for the first time collectively, to be the Son
34. They came into the land of Gennesaret. A small district four
miles long and two or three wide, on the west side of the Sea of
Galilee, to which it gave one of its names. Josephus describes it as
the garden of the whole land, and possessing a fertility and loveliness
almost unparalleled. 
35. They brought those that were diseased. His fame was so
well known in that region that his coming at once caused a commotion.
In a country where there are no skilled physicians and little known of
sanitary laws, there is great need of a Healer. Geikie, who traveled
through this same region with a medical friend, says that crowds would
gather with their sick as soon as they knew there was a physician.
Hence the importance of medical missions.
36. The hem of his garment. The numbers that pressed upon him
seemed almost too large for him to be able to heal them singly by
laying his hands upon them, therefore many begged that they might be
allowed to touch if it were but the border of his garment.
Soon after followed the ever-memorable discourse, so strikingly in
accordance with the present passover season, in the synagogue of
Capernaum, respecting the "Bread of Life"