Mark 5 Bible Commentary

John Lightfoot’s Bible Commentary

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(Read all of Mark 5)
1. And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.

[Into the country of the Gadarenes.] So also Luke: But Matthew, into the country of the Gergesenes. And, which ought not to be passed over without observation, Mark and Luke, who call it the country of the Gadarenes, make mention only of one possessed person; but Matthew, who calls it the country of the Gergesenes, speaks of two. We know what is here said by commentators to reconcile the evangelists. We fetch their reconciliation from the very distinction of the words which the evangelists use, and that from those conclusions:

I. We say the region of the Gergesenes was of broader extent and signification than the region of the Gadarenes was, and that the region of the Gadarenes was included within it. For whether it were called so from the old Gergashite family of the Canaanites, or from the muddy and clayey nature of the soil, which was called Gergishta by the Jews, which we rather believe; it was of wider extension than the country of the Gadarenes; which denoted only one city, and the smaller country about it, and that belonged to Gadara. But this country comprehended within it the country of Gadara, of Hippo, and of Magdala, if not others also.

II. We say Gadara was a city of heathens, (hence it is less marvel if there were swine among them) which we prove also elsewhere, when we treat of the region of Decapolis.

III. We say there were two possessed persons according to Matthew, one a Gadarene, another coming from some other place than the country of Gadara, namely, from some place in the country of the Gergesenes.

IV. We believe that that Gadarene was a heathen; and that Mark and Luke mentioned only him on set purpose, that so they might make the story the more famous. Any one skilled in the chorography of the land of Israel might understand that the country of the Gadarenes was of heathen possession: they therefore mark him with that name, that it might presently be perceived that Christ now had to do with a heathen possessed person; which was somewhat rare, and except the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman, without any example. Matthew would describe the greatness of the miracle; he therefore mentions two most miserably possessed persons: but Mark and Luke choose out only one, and him more remarkable for this very thing, that he was a Gadarene, and by consequence a heathen. These things, well weighed, do not only confirm the concord between the evangelists, but render the story far clearer. For,

First, It is to be marked that the devil adjures Christ not to "torment" him, verse 7, which is not elsewhere done by him: as though he were without Christ's jurisdiction among the heathens. And,

Secondly, Christ does not elsewhere ask any about their name, besides this alone, as being of more singular example and story.

Thirdly, The heathen name legion, argues him a heathen concerning whom the story is.

Fourthly, The devils besought him much that he would not send them out of the country; for being among heathens, they thought they were among their own.

Our Saviour, therefore, healed those two in Matthew together, the one, a Gadarene and heathen, and the other from some other place, a Gergesene and a Jew; and that not without a mystery; namely, that there should be comfort in Christ both to Jews and Gentiles, against the power and tyranny of Satan. Of those two, Mark and Luke mention the more remarkable.

9. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.

[My name is Legion.] I. This name speaks a numerous company, the devil himself being the interpreter; "Legion (saith he) is my name, for we are many."

And among the Jews, when a man would express a great number of any thing, it was not unusual to name a legion: "R. Eliezer Ben Simeon saith, It is easier for a man to nourish a legion of olives in Galilee, than to bring up one child in the land of Israel."

II. Among the Talmudists, a legion bespeaks an unclean company; at least, they reckoned all the legions for unclean: "The Rabbins deliver: a legion that passeth from place to place, if it enter into any house, the house is thereby become unclean. For there is no legion which hath not some carcaphalia. And wonder not at this, when the carcaphalion of R. Ismael was fastened to the heads of kings." "'Carcaphal' (saith the Gloss) is the skin of a head pulled off from a dead person, which they make use of in enchantments."

III. What the Romans thought of their legions, take from the words of Caesar to the Spaniards: "Did ye not consider, if I were overthrown, that the people of Rome have ten legions, which could not only resist you, but pull down even heaven itself?" What then is the power of "more than twelve legions of angels"!

14. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.

[Told it in the country.] Told it in the fields. But to whom? To them that laboured, or that travelled in the fields? So chapter 6:36: That they may go away into the 'fields' round about, and buy themselves bread. From whom, I pray, should they buy in the fields? And verse 56: And wheresoever they entered into towns or 'fields,' they laid the sick in the streets, or markets. What streets or markets are there in the fields?

"Rabba saith, That food made of meal, of those that dwell in the fields, in which they mingle much meal, over it they give thanks." Dwellers in the field, saith the Gloss, are inhabitants of the villages. And the Aruch saith, "private men who dwell in the fields": that is, in houses scattered here and there, and not built together in one place, as it is in towns and cities.

15. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.

[In his right mind.] Firm, or sound of understanding, in Talmudic speech.

23. And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.

[My little daughter.] "A daughter from her birthday, until she is twelve years old complete, is called 'little,' or 'a little maid.' But when she is full twelve years old and one day over, she is called 'a young woman.'"

26. And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,

[And had suffered many things of many physicians.] And it is no wonder: for see what various and manifold kinds of medicines are prescribed to a woman labouring under a flux: "R. Jochanan saith, Bring (or take) of gum of Alexandria the weight of a zuzee: and of alum, the weight of a zuzee: and of crocus hortensis the weight of a zuzee: let these be bruised together, and be given in wine to the woman that hath an issue of blood, &c.

"But if this does not benefit, take of Persian onions thrice three logs, boil them in wine, and then give it her to drink, and say Arise from thy flux

"But if this does not prevail, set her in a place where two ways meet, and let her hold a cup of wine in her hand; and let somebody come behind her and affright her, and say, Arise from thy flux.

"But if that do no good, take a handful of cummin, and a handful of crocus, and a handful of foenum groecum. Let these be boiled in wine, and give them her to drink, and say, Arise from thy flux."

But if these do not benefit, other doses and others still are prescribed, in number ten or more, which see, if you please, in the place cited [Bab. Schabb. fol. 110.]. Among them I cannot omit this:

"Let them dig seven ditches: in which let them burn some cuttings of such vines as are not circumcised, [that is, that are not yet four years old]. And let her take in her hand a cup of wine. And let them lead her away from this ditch, and make her sit down over that. And let them remove her from that, and make her sit down over another. And in every removal you must say to her, Arise from thy flux," &c.

41. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.

[Talitha kumi.] "Rabbi Jochanan saith, We remember when boys and girls of sixteen and seventeen years old played in the streets, and nobody was offended with them." Where the Gloss is, Tali and Talitha is a boy and a girl.

[Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.] Talitha kumi signifies only Maid, arise. How comes that clause then, I say unto thee, to be inserted?

I. You may recollect here, and perhaps not without profit, that which was alleged before; namely, that it was customary among the Jews, that, when they applied physic to the profluvious woman, they said, "Arise from thy flux"; which very probably they used in other diseases also.

II. Christ said nothing else than what sounded all one with, Maid, arise: but in the pronouncing and uttering those words that authority and commanding power shined forth, that they sounded no less than if he had said, "Maid, I say to thee, or I command thee, arise." They said, "Arise from thy disease"; that is, "I wish thou wouldst arise": but Christ saith, Maid, arise; that is, "I command thee, arise."

43. And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

[He commanded that something should be given her to eat.] Not as she was alive only, and now in good health, but as she was in a most perfect state of health, and hungry: "The son of Rabban Gamaliel was sick. He sent, therefore, two scholars of the wise men to R. Chaninah Ben Dusa into his city. He saith to them, 'Wait for me, until I go up into the upper chamber.' He went up into the upper chamber, and came down again, and said, 'I am sure that the son of Rabban Gamaliel is freed from his disease.' The same hour he asked for food."