|<< John 7 >>|
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Jesus continues in Galilee, John 7:1. He is desired to go to the feast of tabernacles, John 7:2-5. His answer, John 7:6-9. He goes up, and the Jews seek him at the feast, John 7:10-13. He teaches in the temple, John 7:14-24. The Jews are confounded by his preaching, John 7:25-27. He continues to teach; they wish to slay him, John 7:28-30. Many of the people believe on him, John 7:31. The Pharisees murmur, and our Lord reasons with them, John 7:32-36. His preaching on the last day of the feast, John 7:37-39. The people are greatly divided in their opinions concerning him, John 7:40-44. The officers, who were sent by the Pharisees to take him, return, and because they did not bring him, their employers are offended, John 7:45-49. Nicodemus reasons with them, John 7:50-53.
1After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.
After these things - St. John passes from the preceding discourse of our Lord, which he delivered a little before the passover, John 6:4, to the Feast of Tabernacles, which happened six months after, and thus omits many things mentioned by the other evangelists, which our blessed Lord said and did during that time. He had already gone over Galilee four or five times; and he continued there, because he found that the hatred of the Jews was such that they would kill him if they could meet with him in Judea; and his time to suffer was not yet come.
For he would not walk in Jewry - Instead of this, some MSS., versions, and fathers read, ουγαρ ειχεν εξουσιαν, he had not authority, or liberty to walk, etc. That is, he was no longer tolerated, and could not preach publicly in Judea, but at the risk of his life. He found greater scope for the exercise of his important ministry in Galilee than in Judea, as the chief priests, etc., were continually plotting his death.
2Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand.
Feast of tabernacles - This feast was celebrated on the fifteenth day of the month Tisri, answering to the last half of our September, and the first half of October. This month was the seventh of the ecclesiastical, and first of the civil, year. The feast took its name from the tents which were erected about the temple, in public places, in courts, and on the flat roofs of their houses, and in gardens; in which the Jews dwelt for eight days, in commemoration of the forty years during which their fathers dwelt in the wilderness. It was one of the three solemn annual feasts in which all the males were obliged, by the law, to appear at Jerusalem.
This feast was celebrated in the following manner. All the people cut down branches of palm trees, willows, and myrtles, (and tied them together with gold and silver cords, or with ribbons), which they carried with them all day, took them into their synagogues, and kept them by them while at prayers. On the other days of the feast they carried them with them into the temple and walked round the altar with them in their hands, singing, Hosanna! i.e. Save, we beseech thee! - the trumpets sounding on all sides. To this feast St. John seems to refer, Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:10, where he represents the saints standing before the throne, with palm branches in their hands, singing, Salvation to God, etc. On the seventh day of the feast, they went seven times round the altar, and this was called Hosanna rabba, the great Hosanna. See the notes on Matthew 21:9. But the ceremony at which the Jews testified most joy was that of pouring out the water, which was done on the eighth day of the feast. A priest drew some water out of the pool Siloam, in a golden vessel, and brought it into the temple; and at the time of the morning sacrifice, while the members of the sacrifice were on the altar, he went up and poured this water mingled with wine upon it, the people all the while singing, with transports of joy, Isaiah 12:1-6, especially Isaiah 12:6 : With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. To this part of the ceremony, our Lord appears to allude in John 7:37, of this chapter.
During this feast many sacrifices were offered. On the first day, besides the ordinary sacrifices, they offered, as a burnt-offering, thirteen calves, two rams, and fourteen lambs with the offerings of flour and the libations of wine that were to accompany them. They offered also a goat for a sin-offering. On all the succeeding days they offered the same sacrifices, only abating one of the calves each day, so that when the seventh day came, they had but seven calves to offer. On the eighth day, which was kept with greater solemnity than the rest, they offered but one calf, one ram, and seven lambs, for a burnt-offering, and one goat for a sin-offering, with the usual offerings and libations. On this day, they also offered in the temple the first fruits of their latter crops, or of those things which come latest to maturity. During the feast, the 113th, 114th, 115th, 116th, 117th, 118th, and 119th Psalms were sung. Leo of Modena says that, though Moses appointed but eight days, yet custom and the devotion of the people have added a ninth to it, which is called the joy of the law, because that on it they complete the reading of the Pentateuch. See Calmet's Com. and Dict., and father Lamy. For the law relative to this institution, see Leviticus 23:39, Leviticus 23:40 (note), etc., and the notes there; and Numbers 29:16, etc.
3His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.
His brethren - said - It is generally supposed that these were the children of the sisters of his mother Mary; but some of the ancients have stated that Joseph had several children by a former wife. See the account of the evangelist prefixed to this Gospel. No solid proof can be alleged against this; nor can we pretend to say that these were not the children of Joseph and Mary. Our blessed Lord, it is true, was her first born, while she was yet a virgin; but no man can prove that he was her last. It is an article of faith, in the Popish Church, to believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary; and in this respect, without any reason, several Protestants seem to be Papists. However this may be, it is certain that the Hebrews gave the name of brethren to all the relatives of a particular family. See Genesis 31:32, Genesis 31:46.
That thy disciples also may see - That is, the disciples which he had made two years and six months before, at the Passover: John 2:23.
4For 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.
No man that doeth any thing in secret, etc. - They took it for granted that Christ was influenced by the same spirit which themselves felt; and that therefore he should use every opportunity of exhibiting himself to the public, that he might get into repute; and they hoped that a part of his honor would be reflected back upon themselves, as being his near relations. They seem to have said: "It is too little to employ thyself in working miracles in Galilee, in the country, and in small villages, among an ignorant and credulous people, from whom thou canst not get much credit: go to Jerusalem, the capital, and among the learned doctors, in the presence of the whole nation assembled at this feast, work thy miracles, and get thyself a name."
5For neither did his brethren believe in him.
Neither did his brethren believe in him - They did not receive him as the promised Messiah; but, having seen so many of his miracles, they could not but consider him as an eminent prophet. They supposed that, if he were the Messiah, he would wish to manifest himself as such to the world; and, because he did not do so, they did not believe that he was the salvation of Israel.
6Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.
My time is not yet come - It is probable our Lord meant no more than this, that he had some business to transact before he could go to Jerusalem; but his brethren, having nothing to hinder them might set off immediately. Others think he speaks of his passion: My time of suffering is not yet come: as ye are still in friendship with the world, ye need not be under any apprehension of danger: ye may go when ye please. The first sense I think is the best.
7The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.
The world cannot hate you - The Jews will not persecute you, because ye are in their sentiments and interests. Ye also expect a worldly Messiah.
But me it hateth - Because I condemn its injustice, its pride, its ambition, and its maxims, by my life and doctrine. It is very likely that the term world means here the Jewish people only: this is an acceptation in which ὑ κοσμος frequently occurs in this Gospel. See on John 17 (note).
8Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.
I go not up yet unto this feast - Porphyry accuses our blessed Lord of falsehood, because he said here, I will not go to this feast, and yet afterwards he went; and some interpreters have made more ado than was necessary, in order to reconcile this seeming contradiction. To me the whole seems very simple and plain. Our Lord did not say, I will not go to this feast; but merely, I go not yet, ουπω, or am not going, i.e. at present; because, as he said John 7:6, and repeats here, his time was not yet come - he had other business to transact before he could go. And it is very likely that his business detained him in Galilee till the feast was half over: for we do not find him at Jerusalem till the middle of the feast, John 7:14, i.e. till the feast had been begun four days. He might also be unwilling to go at that time, there being such a great concourse of people on the road to Jerusalem, and his enemies might say that he had availed himself of this time and multitude in order to excite sedition.
9When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.
10But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.
But when his brethren were gone up - Having despatched his business, and the concourse of people being now past, he went up also.
11Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?
Then the Jews sought him - By Jews here are to be understood the scribes, Pharisees, and rulers of the people, and not the inhabitants of the province of Judea. It appears, from the following verses, that many of the people were prejudiced in his favor, but they dared not to own it publicly for fear of the Jews, i.e. for fear of the rulers of the people.
12And 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.
Some said, He is a good man - The multitude were divided in their opinions concerning him: those who knew him best said, He is a good man. Those who spoke according to the character given him by the priests, etc., said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Those who spoke evil of him spoke out, because they had the rulers on their side; but those who spoke good of him were obliged to do it in private, because they feared these rulers. Calumny and slander are among the privileged orders; they stalk abroad with their thousand brazen mouths, and blast the reputation of the followers of God. Benevolence and candor are only on sufferance; and a whisper in secret is the most they are permitted to give in behalf of Christ and his followers, whose laws and maxims condemn a vicious world, and goad it to revenge.
13Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.
14Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
The midst of the feast - Though the canons required him to be there on the first day, for the performance of a great variety of rites, yet, as these were in general the invention of their doctors, he might think it very proper neither to attend nor perform them.
15And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? - The Jewish learning consisted in the knowledge of their own scriptures, and the traditions of their elders. In this learning our blessed Lord excelled. No person ever spoke with more grace and dignity, or knew better how to make a more proper use, or a happier application, of Jewish allegories and parables; because none ever penetrated the sense of the Scriptures as he did; none ever cited them more successfully, or ever showed their accomplishment in so complete and satisfactory a manner. As these branches of learning were taught at the Jewish schools, and our Lord had never attended there, they were astonished to find him excelling in that sort of learning, of which they themselves professed to be the sole teachers.
16Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
My doctrine is not mine - Our blessed Lord, in the character of Messiah, might as well say, My doctrine is not mine, as an ambassador might say, I speak not my own words, but his who sent me: and he speaks these words to draw the attention of the Jews from the teaching of man to the teaching of God; and to show them that he was the promised Messiah, the very person on whom, according to the prophet, (Isaiah 11:2), the Spirit of Jehovah - the Spirit of wisdom, counsel, understanding, might, and knowledge, should rest.
17If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
If any man wilt do his will, etc. - I will give you a sure rule by which ye may judge of my doctrine: If you really wish to do the will of God, begin the practice of it; and take my doctrine, and apply it to all that you know God requires of man; and if you find one of my precepts contrary to the nature, perfections, and glory of God, or to the present or eternal welfare of men, then ye shall be at liberty to assert that my doctrine is human and erroneous, and God has not sent me. But if, on the contrary, ye find that the sum and substance of my preaching is, That men shall love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves; and that this doctrine must bring glory to God in the highest, while it produces peace and good will among men; then acknowledge that God has visited you, and receive me as the Messiah promised to your fathers.
18He 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.
He that speaketh of himself, etc. - I will give you another rule, whereby you shall know whether I am from God or not: If I speak so as to procure my own glory, to gratify vanity, or to secure and promote my secular interests, then reject me as a deceiver and as a false prophet. But if I act only to promote the glory of God, to induce all men to love and obey him; if I propose nothing but what leads to the perfection of his law, and the accomplishment of its ordinances, you cannot help acknowledging me at least for a true prophet; and, if you add to this the proofs which I have given of my mission and power, you must acknowledge me as the mighty power of God, and the promised Messiah.
And no unrighteousness is in him - Or, there is no falsehood in him: so the word αδικια should be translated here; and it is frequently used by the Septuagint for שקר sheker, a lie, falsehood, etc. See in Psalm 52:3; Psalm 119:29, Psalm 119:69, Psalm 119:104, Psalm 119:163; Psalm 144:8. This is its meaning in Romans 2:8; where αδικια, falsehood, is put in opposition to αληθεια, truth.
19Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
Did not Moses give you the law, etc. - The scribes and Pharisees announced our Lord to the multitude as a deceiver; and they grounded their calumny on this, that he was not an exact observer of the law, for he had healed a man on the Sabbath day, John 5:9, John 5:10; and consequently must be a false prophet. Now they insinuated, that the interests of religion required him to be put to death:
1. As a violator of the law; and,
2. as a false prophet and deceiver of the people.
To destroy this evil reasoning, our Lord speaks in this wise: If I deserve death for curing a man on the Sabbath, and desiring him to carry home his bed, which you consider a violation of the law, you are more culpable than I am, for you circumcise a child on the Sabbath, which requires much more bustle, and is of so much less use than what I have done to the infirm man. But, if you think you do not violate the law by circumcising a child on the Sabbath, how can you condemn me for having cured one of yourselves, who has been afflicted thirty and eight years? If you consider my conduct with the same eye with which you view your own, far from finding any thing criminal in it, you will see much reason to give glory to God. Why, therefore, go ye about to kill me, as a transgressor of the law, when not one of yourselves keeps it?
20The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?
Thou hast a devil - The crowd, who made this answer, were not in the secret of the chief priests. They could not suppose that any person desired to put him to death for healing a diseased man; and therefore, in their brutish manner, they say, Thou hast a demon - thou art beside thyself, and slanderest the people, for none of them desires to put thee to death. The Codex Cyprius (K), four others, and the margin of the later Syriac, attribute this answer to the Jews, i.e. those who were seeking his life. If the reading, therefore, of οἱ Ιουδαιοι, the Jews, be received instead of ὁ οχλος, the multitude, it serves to show the malice of his enemies in a still stronger light: for, fearing lest their wish to put him to death might not be gratified, and that his teaching should prevail among the common people; to ruin his credit, and prevent his usefulness, they give out that he was possessed by a demon; and that, though he might be pitied as a miserable man, yet he must not be attended to as a teacher of righteousness. Malice and envy are ever active and indefatigable, leaving no stone unturned, no mean unused, that they may win the object of their resentment. See the note on John 7:26.
21Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.
I have done one work - That of curing the impotent man, already referred to. See John 5:9.
And ye all marvel - or, ye all marvel because of this. Some have δια τουτο, in connection with θαυμαζετε, which the common pointing makes the beginning of the next verse, and which, in our common version, is translated therefore; but this word conveys no meaning at all, in the connection in which it is thus placed. Proof of this construction Kypke gives from Themistius, Strabo, and Aelian. All the eminent critics are on the side of this arrangement of the words.
22Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
But of the fathers - That is, it came from the patriarchs. Circumcision was not, properly speaking, one of the laws of the Mosaic institution, it having been given at first to Abraham, and continued among his posterity till the giving of the law: Genesis 17:9, Genesis 17:10, etc.
Ye - circumcise a man - That is, a male child: for every male child was circumcised when eight days old; and if the eighth day after its birth happened to be a Sabbath, it was nevertheless circumcised, that the law might not be broken, which had enjoined the circumcision to take place at that time, Leviticus 12:3. From this and several other circumstances it is evident that the keeping of the Sabbath, even in the strictest sense of the word, ever admitted of the works of necessity and mercy to be done on it; and that those who did not perform such works on that day, when they had opportunity, were properly violators of every law founded on the principles of mercy and justice. If the Jews had said, Why didst thou not defer the healing of the sick man till the ensuing day? He might have well answered, Why do ye not defer the circumcising of your children to the ensuing day, when the eighth day happens to be a Sabbath? - which is a matter of infinitely less consequence than the restoration of this long-afflicted man.
23If 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?
Every whit whole - The law of circumcision required the removal of a small portion of flesh, which was considered a blot and reproach among the Hebrews, because it confounded them with the nations who were not in covenant with God. Christ, to this, opposes the complete cure of the infirm man, who was diseased throughout his whole body: if the one was permitted on the Sabbath day, for the reason already alleged, surely the other had stronger reasons to recommend it.
Some think that the original words, ὁλον ανθρωπον, should be translated, the whole man; and that the meaning is, that the blessed Savior made him whole both in body and soul. This makes the miracle the greater, and shows still more forcibly the necessity of doing it without delay.
Battier ap. Wets. supposes that, instead of ὁλον, χωλον should be read - I have made a Maimed man whole; but there is no countenance for this reading in any of the MSS., versions, or fathers.
24Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
Judge not according to the appearance - Attend to the law, not merely in the letter, but in its spirit and design. Learn that the law which commands men to rest on the Sabbath day is subordinate to the law of mercy and love, which requires them to be ever active to promote God's glory in the comfort and salvation of their fellow creatures; and endeavor to judge of the merit or demerit of an action, not from the first impression it may make upon your prejudices but from its tendency, and the motives of the person, as far as it is possible for you to acquaint yourselves with them; still believing the best, where you have no certain proof to the contrary.
25Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?
26But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?
That this is the very Christ? - In most of the common printed editions αληθως is found, the Very Christ; but the word is wanting in BDKLTX, twenty-two others, several editions; all the Arabic, Wheelock's Persic, the Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, and all the Itala but one, Origen, Epiphanius, Cyril, Isidore, Pelusian, and Nonnus. Grotius, Mill, Bengel, and Griesbach, decide against it. Bishop Pearce says, I am of opinion that this second αληθως, in this verse, should be omitted, it seeming quite unnecessary, if not inaccurate, when the words αληθως εγνωσαν, had just preceded it.
Calmet observes that the multitude which heard our Lord at this time was composed of three different classes of persons:
1. The rulers, priests, and Pharisees, declared enemies of Christ.
2. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, who knew the sentiments of their rulers concerning him.
3. The strangers, who from different quarters had come up to Jerusalem to the feast, and who heard Christ attentively, being ignorant of the designs of the rulers, etc., against him.
Our Lord addresses himself in this discourse principally to his enemies. The strange Jews were those who were astonished when Christ said, John 7:20, that they sought to kill him, having no such design themselves, and not knowing that others had. And the Jews of Jerusalem were those who, knowing the disposition of the rulers, and seeing Christ speak openly, no man attempting to seize him, addressed each other in the foregoing words, Do the rulers know indeed that this is the Christ? imagining that the chief priests, etc., had at last been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah.
27Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.
No man knoweth whence he is - The generality of the people knew very well that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, in the city, and of the family, of David; see John 7:42. But, from Isaiah 53:8, Who shall declare his generation? they probably thought that there should be something so peculiarly mysterious in his birth, or in the manner of his appearing, that no person could fully understand. Had they considered his miraculous conception, they would have felt their minds relieved on this point. The Jews thought that the Messiah, after his birth, would hide himself for some considerable time; and that when he began to preach no man should know where he had been hidden, and whence he had come. The rabbins have the following proverb: Three things come unexpectedly:
1. A thing found by chance.
2. The sting of a scorpion: and,
3. The Messiah.
It was probably in reference to the above that the people said, No man knoweth whence he is. However, they might have spoken this of his parents. We know that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, of the family of David; but no man can know his parents: therefore they rejected him: John 6:42, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?
28Then 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.
Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am - Perhaps they should be read interrogatively: Do ye both know me, and know whence I am? Our Lord takes them up on their own profession, and argues from it. Since you have got so much information concerning me, add this to it, to make it complete; viz. that I am not come of myself; am no self-created or self-authorized prophet; I came from God: - the testimony of John the Baptist, the descent of the Holy Ghost, the voice from heaven, the purity and excellence of my doctrine, and the multitude of my miracles, sufficiently attest this. Now, God is true who has borne testimony to me; but ye know him not, therefore it is that this testimony is disregarded.
29But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.
But I know him: for I am from him - Instead of εἰμὶ, I am, some editions, the Syriac Hieros. read εἷμι, I came, according to the Attics. Nonnus confirms this reading by paraphrasing the word by εληλυθα, I came. As the difference between the two words lies only in the accents, and as these are not found in ancient MSS., it is uncertain which way the word was understood by them: nor is the matter of much moment; both words amount nearly to the same meaning and εἷμι, I came, seems too refined.
30Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.
31And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?
Will he do more miracles - It was the belief of the Jews, and they founded it upon Isaiah 35:5, that, when the Messiah came, he would do all kinds of miracles; and, in order that they might have the fullest proof of the Divine mission of Christ, it had pleased God to cause miracles to cease for between four and five hundred years, and that John the Baptist himself had not wrought any. His miracles, therefore, were a full proof of his Divine mission.
32The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.
The people murmured such things - The people began to be convinced that he was the Messiah; and this being generally whispered about, the Pharisees, etc., thought it high time to put him to death, lest the people should believe on him; therefore they sent officers to take him.
33Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.
Yet a little while am I with you - As he knew that the Pharisees had designed to take and put him to death, and that in about six months from this time, as some conjecture, he should be crucified, he took the present opportunity of giving this information to the common people, who were best disposed towards him, that they might lay their hearts to his teaching, and profit by it, while they had the privilege of enjoying it.
The word αυτοις, to them, in the beginning of this verse, is wanting in BDEGHLMS, more than eighty others, both the Syriac, later Persic, Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, Gothic, Slavonic, Saxon, most copies of the Vulgate and the Itala. It is omitted also by Euthymius, Theophylact, Augustin, and Bede. Our Lord did not speak these words to the officers who came to apprehend him, as αυτοις here implies, but to the common people, merely to show that he was not ignorant of the designs of the Pharisees, though they had not yet been able to put them into practice.
34Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.
Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me - When the Roman armies come against you, you will vainly seek for a deliverer. But ye shall be cut off in your sins, because ye did not believe in me; and where I am - in the kingdom of glory, ye cannot come; for nothing that is unholy shall enter into the new Jerusalem. In this, and the thirty-sixth verse, εἰμὶ, I am, is read by several εἷμι, I came, as in the twenty-ninth verse; and in these two last places the Ethiopic, Arabic, three copies of the Itala, Nonnus, and Theophylact, agree. See the note on John 7:29.
35Then 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?
The dispersed among the Gentiles - Or Greeks. By the dispersed, are meant here the Jews who were scattered through various parts of that empire which Alexander the Great had founded, in Greece, Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor, where the Greek language was used, and where the Jewish Scriptures in the Greek version of the Septuagint were read. Others suppose that the Gentiles themselves are meant - others, that the ten tribes which had been long lost are here intended.
36What 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?
37In 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.
In the last day, that great day of the feast - This was the eighth day, and was called the great day, because of certain traditional observances, and not on account of any excellence which it derived from the original institution. On the seven days they professed to offer sacrifices for the seventy nations of the earth, but on the eighth day they offered sacrifices for Israel; therefore the eighth day was more highly esteemed than any of the others. It is probably to this that the evangelist refers when he calls the last day the great day of the feast. See the account of the feast of tabernacles, in the note on John 7:2 (note). It was probably when they went to draw water from the pool Siloam, and while they were pouring it out at the foot of the altar, that our Lord spoke these words; for, as that ceremony pointed out the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, our Lord, who was the fountain whence it was to proceed, called the people to himself, that, by believing on him, they might be made partakers of that inestimable benefit.
38He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said - He who receives me as the Messiah, according to what the Scripture has said concerning me; my person, birth, conduct, preaching, and miracles, being compared with what is written there as ascertaining the true Messiah. Out of his belly - from his heart and soul; for in his soul shall this Spirit dwell.
Living water - As a true spring is ever supplied with water from the great deep, with which it has communication, so shall the soul of the genuine believer be supplied with light, life, love, and liberty, and all the other graces of the indwelling Spirit, from the indwelling Christ. The Jews frequently compare the gifts and influences of the Holy Spirit to water in general - to rain, fountains, wells, rivers, etc., etc. The Scriptures abound in this metaphor. Psalm 36:8, Psalm 36:9; Isaiah 44:3, Isaiah 44:4; Joel 2:23.
39(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.)
Was not yet given - Δεδομενον, given is added by the Codex Vaticanus, (B.) the Syriac, all the Persic, later Syriac with an asterisk, three copies of the Slavonic, Vulgate, and all the Itala but three; and several of the primitive fathers. The word seems necessary to the completion of the sense.
Certain measures of the Holy Spirit had been vouchsafed from the beginning of the world to believers and unbelievers: but that abundant effusion of his graces spoken of by Joel, Joel 2:28, which peculiarly characterized the Gospel times, was not granted till after the ascension of Christ:
1. Because this Spirit in its plenitude was to come in consequence of his atonement; and therefore could not come till after his crucifixion.
2. It was to supply the place of Christ to his disciples and to all true believers; and therefore it was not necessary till after the removal of his bodily presence from among them. See our Lord's own words, John 14:16-18, John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7-15.
40Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.
Of a truth this is the Prophet - The great prophet, or teacher, spoken of by Moses, Deuteronomy 18:15, which they improperly distinguished from the Messiah, John 7:41. Some no doubt knew that by the prophet, the Messiah was meant; but others seem to have thought that one of the ancient prophets should be raised from the dead, and precede the appearing of the Messiah.
41Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
Shalt Christ come out of Galilee? - As the prophets had declared that the Messiah was to come from the tribe of Judah, and from the family of David, and should be born in the city of Bethlehem, these Jews, imagining that Christ had been born in Galilee, concluded that he could not be the Messiah. Had they examined the matter a little farther, they would have found that he had his birth exactly as the prophets had foretold; but, for want of this necessary examination, they continued in unbelief, and rejected the Lord that bought them. Many still lose their souls nearly in the same way. They suffer themselves to be led away by common report, and become prejudiced against the truth, refuse to give it a fair hearing, or to examine for themselves. It is on this ground that deism and irreligion have established themselves, and still maintain their posts.
42Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
Where David was? - That is, where he was born, 1 Samuel 16:1, 1 Samuel 16:4, and where he was before he became king in Israel.
43So there was a division among the people because of him.
There was a division - Σχισμα, a schism; they were divided in sentiment, and separated into parties. This is the true notion of schism.
44And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
Would have taken him - Or, they wished to seize him. And this they would have done, and destroyed him too at that time, had they been unanimous; but their being divided in opinion, John 7:43, was the cause, under God, why his life was at that time preserved. How true are the words of the prophet: The wrath of man shall praise thee; and the remainder thereof thou wilt restrain! Psalm 76:10.
45Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?
Then came the officers - They had followed him for several days, seeking for a proper opportunity to seize on him, when they might fix some charge of sedition, etc., upon him; but the more they listened, the more they were convinced of his innocence, purity, and consummate wisdom.
46The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
Never man spake like this man - Though these officers had gone on the errand of their masters, they had not entered into their spirit. They were sent to apprehend a seditious man, and a false prophet. They came where Jesus taught; they found him to be a different person to the description they received from their masters, and therefore did not attempt to touch or molest him. No doubt they expected when they told their employers the truth, that they would have commended them, and acknowledged their own mistake: but these simple people were not in the secret of their masters' malice. They heard, they felt, that no man ever spoke with so much grace, power, majesty, and eloquence. They had never heard a discourse so affecting and persuasive. So Jesus still speaks to all who are simple of heart. He speaks pardon - he speaks holiness - he speaks salvation to all who have ears to hear. No man ever did or can speak as he does. He teaches The Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth.
47Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?
48Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?
Have any of the rulers - believed on him? - Very few. But is this a proof that he is not of God? No, truly. If he were of the world, the world would love its own. The religion of Christ has been in general rejected by the rulers of this world. A life of mortification, self-denial, and humility, does not comport with the views of those who will have their portion in this life. It has ever been a mark of the truth of God that the great, the mighty, and the wise have in general rejected it. They are too much occupied with this world to attend to the concerns of the next.
49But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
This people - Ὁ οχλος, This rabble. The common people were treated by the Pharisees with the most sovereign contempt: they were termed עם הארץ am ha-arets, people of the earth; and were not thought worthy to have a resurrection to eternal life. Wagenseil and Schoettgen have given many proofs of the contempt in which the common people were held by the Pharisees. Those who were disciples of any of the rabbins were considered as being in a much better state. When they paid well, they purchased their masters' good opinion.
50Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)
Nicodemus - being one of them - That is, a Pharisee, and a ruler of the Jews: see on John 3:1 (note).
51Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?
Doth our law judge any man - Τον ανθρωπον, the man, i.e. who is accused. Perhaps Nicodemus did not refer so much to any thing in the law of Moses, as to what was commonly practiced among them. Josephus says, Ant. b. xiv. c. 9. s. 3, That the law has forbidden any man to be put to death, though wicked, unless he be first condemned to die by the Sanhedrin. It was probably to this law, which is not expressly mentioned in the five books of Moses, that Nicodemus here alludes. See laws relative to this point, Deuteronomy 17:8, etc.; Deuteronomy 19:15.
52They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
Art thou also of Galilee? - They knew very well that he was not; but they spoke this by way of reproach. As if they had said, thou art no better than he is, as thou takest his part. Many of the Galileans had believed on him, Which the Jews considered to be a reproach. Art thou his disciple, as the Galileans are?
Search, and look - Examine the Scriptures, search the public registers, and thou wilt see that out of Galilee there ariseth no prophet. Neither the Messiah, nor any other prophet, has ever proceeded from Galilee, nor ever can. This conclusion, says Calmet, was false and impertinent: false, because Jonah was of Gathheper, in Galilee: see 2 Kings 14:25, compared with Joshua 19:13. The Prophet Nahum was also a Galilean, for he was of the tribe of Simeon; and some suppose that Malachi was of the same place. The conclusion was false, because there not having been a prophet from any particular place was no argument that there never could be one, as the place had not been proscribed.
53And every man went unto his own house.
And every man went, etc. - The authority and influence of Nicodemus, in this case, was so great that the Sanhedrin broke up without being able to conclude any thing. As the feast was now ended, they were not obliged to continue any longer in or about Jerusalem; and therefore all returned to their respective dwellings.
This verse and the first eleven verses of the following chapter are wanting in several MSS. Some of those which retain the paragraph mark it with obelisks, as a proof of spuriousness. Those which do retain it have it with such a variety of reading as is no where else found in the sacred writings. Professor Griesbach leaves the whole paragraph in the text with notes of doubtfulness. Most of the modern critics consider it as resting on no solid authority.