Mark 8 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

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(Read all of Mark 8)


This section of miscellaneous matter evidently follows the preceding one in point of time, as will be seen by observing how it is introduced by Matthew.

Feeding of the Four Thousand (Mr 8:1-9).

1. In those days the multitude being very great, &c.

2. I have compassion on the multitude--an expression of that deep emotion in the Redeemer's heart which always preceded some remarkable interposition for relief. (See Mt 14:14; 20:34; Mr 1:41; Lu 7:13; also Mt 9:36, before the mission of the Twelve; compare Jud 2:18; 10:16).
because they have now been with me--in constant attendance.
three days, and have nothing to eat:

3. And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way--In their eagerness they seem not to have thought of the need of provisions for such a length of time; but the Lord thought of it. In Matthew (Mt 15:32) it is, "I will not send them away fasting"--or rather, "To send them away fasting I am unwilling."

4. From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?--Though the question here is the same as when He fed the five thousand, they evidently now meant no more by it than that they had not the means of feeding the multitude; modestly leaving the Lord to decide what was to be done. And this will the more appear from His not now trying them, as before, by saying, "They need not depart, give ye them to eat"; but simply asking what they had, and then giving His directions.

5. And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven--It was important in this case, as in the former, that the precise number of the loaves should be brought out. Thus also does the distinctness of the two miracles appear.

9. And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away--Had not our Lord distinctly referred, in this very chapter and in two successive sentences, to the feeding of the five thousand and of the four thousand as two distinct miracles, many critics would have insisted that they were but two different representations of one and the same miracle, as they do of the two expulsions of the buyers and sellers from the temple, at the beginning and end of our Lord's ministry. But even in spite of what our Lord says, it is painful to find such men as NEANDER endeavoring to identify the two miracles. The localities, though both on the eastern side of the lake, were different; the time was different; the preceding and following circumstances were different; the period during which the people continued fasting was different--in the one case not even one entire day, in the other three days; the number fed was different--five thousand in the one case, in the other four thousand; the number of the loaves was different--five in the one case, in the other seven; the number of the fishes in the one case is definitely stated by all the four Evangelists--two; in the other case both give them indefinitely--"a few small fishes"; in the one case the multitude were commanded to sit down "upon the green grass"; in the other "on the ground"; in the one case the number of the baskets taken up filled with the fragments was twelve, in the other seven; but more than all, perhaps, because apparently quite incidental, in the one case the name given to the kind of baskets used is the same in all the four narratives--the cophinus (see on Mr 6:43); in the other case the name given to the kind of baskets used, while it is the same in both the narratives, is quite different--the spuris, a basket large enough to hold a man's body, for Paul was let down in one of these from the wall of Damascus (Ac 9:25). It might be added, that in the one case the people, in a frenzy of enthusiasm, would have taken Him by force to make Him a king; in the other case no such excitement is recorded. In view of these things, who could have believed that these were one and the same miracle, even if the Lord Himself had not expressly distinguished them?

Sign from Heaven Sought (Mr 8:10-13).

10. And straightway he entered into a ship--"into the ship," or "embarked."
with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha--In Matthew (Mt 15:39) it is "the coasts of Magdala." Magdala and Dalmanutha were both on the western shore of the lake, and probably not far apart. From the former the surname "Magdalene" was probably taken, to denote the residence of Mary Magdalene. Dalmanutha may have been a village, but it cannot now be identified with certainty.

11. seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him--not in the least desiring evidence for their conviction, but hoping to entrap Him. The first part of the answer is given in Matthew alone (Mt 16:2, 3): "He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to-day: for the sky is red and lowering [sullen, gloomy]. Hypocrites! ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" The same simplicity of purpose and careful observation of the symptoms of approaching events which they showed in common things would enable them to "discern the signs of the times"--or rather "seasons," to which the prophets pointed for the manifestation of the Messiah. The scepter had departed from Judah; Daniel's seventy weeks were expiring, &c.; and many other significant indications of the close of the old economy, and preparations for a freer and more comprehensive one, might have been discerned. But all was lost upon them.

12. And he sighed deeply in his spirit--The language is very strong. These glimpses into the interior of the Redeemer's heart, in which our Evangelist abounds, are more precious than rubies. The state of the Pharisaic heart, which prompted this desire for a fresh sign, went to His very soul.
and saith, Why doth this generation--"this wicked and adulterous generation" (Mt 16:4).
seek after a sign?--when they have had such abundant evidence already.
There shall no sign be given unto this generation--literally, "If there shall be given to this generation a sign"; a Jewish way of expressing a solemn and peremptory determination to the contrary (compare Heb 4:5; Ps 95:11, Margin). "A generation incapable of appreciating such demonstrations shall not be gratified with them." In Mt 16:4 He added, "but the sign of the prophet Jonas." (See on Mt 12:39, 40.)

13. And he left them--no doubt with tokens of displeasure.

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mr 8:14-21).

14. Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf--This is another example of that graphic circumstantiality which gives such a charm to this briefest of the four Gospels. The circumstance of the "one loaf" only remaining, as WEBSTER and WILKINSON remark, was more suggestive of their Master's recent miracles than the entire absence of provisions.

15. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees--"and of the Sadducees" (Mt 16:6).
and of the leaven of Herod--The teaching or "doctrine" (Mt 16:12) of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees was quite different, but both were equally pernicious; and the Herodians, though rather a political party, were equally envenomed against our Lord's spiritual teaching. See on Mt 12:14. The penetrating and diffusive quality of leaven, for good or bad, is the ground of the comparison.

16. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread--But a little while ago He was tried with the obduracy of the Pharisees; now He is tried with the obtuseness of His own disciples. The nine questions following each other in rapid succession (Mr 8:17-21) show how deeply He was hurt at this want of spiritual apprehension, and worse still, their low thoughts of Him, as if He would utter so solemn a warning on so petty a subject. It will be seen, however, from the very form of their conjecture, "It is because we have no bread," and our Lord's astonishment that they should not by that time have known better with what He took up His attention--that He ever left the whole care for His own temporal wants to the Twelve: that He did this so entirely, that finding they were reduced to their last loaf they felt as if unworthy of such a trust, and could not think but that the same thought was in their Lord's mind which was pressing upon their own; but that in this they were so far wrong that it hurt His feelings--sharp just in proportion to His love--that such a thought of Him should have entered their minds! Who that, like angels, "desire to look into these things" will not prize such glimpses above gold?

17. have ye your heart yet hardened?--How strong an expression to use of true-hearted disciples! See on Mr 6:52.

18. Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not?--See on Mt 13:13.
and do ye not remember?

19. When I brake the five loaves among five thousand--"the five thousand."
how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? &c.

21. How is it that ye do not understand?--"do not understand that the warning I gave you could not have been prompted by any such petty consideration as the want of loaves in your scrip." Profuse as were our Lord's miracles, we see from this that they were not wrought at random, but that He carefully noted their minutest details, and desired that this should be done by those who witnessed, as doubtless by all who read the record of them. Even the different kind of baskets used at the two miraculous feedings, so carefully noted in the two narratives, are here also referred to; the one smaller, of which there were twelve, the other much larger, of which there were seven.

Blind Man at Bethsaida Restored to Sight (Mr 8:22-26).

22. And he cometh to Bethsaida--Bethsaida Julias, on the northeast side of the take, whence after this He proceeded to Cæsarea Philippi (Mr 8:27).
and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him--See on Mr 7:32.

23. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town--Of the deaf and dumb man it is merely said that "He took him aside" (Mr 7:33); but this blind man He led by the hand out of the town, doing it Himself rather than employing another--great humility, exclaims BENGEL--that He might gain his confidence and raise his expectation.
and when be had spit on his eyes--the organ affected--See on Mr 7:33.
and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw aught.

24. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking--This is one of the cases in which one edition of what is called the received text differs from another. That which is decidedly the best supported, and has also internal evidence on its side is this: "I see men; for I see [them] as trees walking"--that is, he could distinguish them from trees only by their motion; a minute mark of truth in the narrative, as ALFORD observes, describing how human objects had appeared to him during that gradual failing of sight which had ended in blindness.

25. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up; and he was restored, and saw every man clearly--Perhaps the one operation perfectly restored the eyes, while the other imparted immediately the faculty of using them. It is the only recorded example of a progressive cure, and it certainly illustrates similar methods in the spiritual kingdom. Of the four recorded cases of sight restored, all the patients save one either came or were brought to the Physician. In the case of the man born blind, the Physician came to the patient. So some seek and find Christ; of others He is found who seek Him not.

26. Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town--Besides the usual reasons against going about "blazing the matter," retirement in this case would be salutary to himself.


For the exposition, see on Mt 16:13-28.