8. Preaching the gospel, 13:53-17:23

vii] The feeding of the four thousand


Leaving the region of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus journeys to the Sea of Galilee and settles on the side of a mountain. Crowds come to him there and he heals the mute, crippled, lame and blind. The people are amazed and give praise to the God of Israel. Jesus, aware that the crowds of people had been with him now for three days and that they were hungry, tells the disciples that he does not want to send them away hungry as they may not make it home. The disciples can't see what they can do about the problem and so Jesus asks for their supplies, seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Having commanded the people to sit down, Jesus blesses the food and distributes it. Everyone is satisfied with some seven full baskets of uneaten food remaining. The number who ate is 4,000, excluding women and children.


Jesus feeds the lost with bread from heaven / a life-giving Word from God.


i] Context: See 13:53-58.


ii] Structure: The feeding of the four thousand:

Setting, v29;

A summary of Jesus' healings, v30-31;

The miracle of the 4,000, v32-38;

Transitional note, v39.


vi] Interpretation:

In a preemptive expression of the messianic banquet we witness Jesus, the new Moses, feeding a lost people with bread from heaven / a life-giving Word from God.

A dominant line of interpretation has rested on the assumption that the feeding of the 4,000 is a feeding of Gentiles. The Canaanite woman received the crumbs of divine mercy, which blessing is followed up with an unrestricted feeding / blessing of 4,000 Gentiles. The "children", over the household pets, have only a "priority in feeding - blessing for the Gentiles is beginning to dawn", Carson. Yet, Matthew's account really has nothing in it which would indicate that Jesus is healing and feeding Gentiles. Even the crowd's praise to the "God of Israel", often viewed as more likely uttered by Gentiles than Jews, is a covenantal title found in the OT and always uttered by Jews. See D&A for their argument against a Gentile feeding, p563/4.

The contextual issue is not Jew and Gentile, but clean and unclean. Holiness, and thus divine acceptance, is not maintained / furthered by regulation / law, as if the washing of hands can purify. The human heart is corrupt, corrupting action and thus defiling every individual. Only the crumbs from the table of the one righteous man can cleanse. And he is no giver of crumbs, but of satisfying, overabundant, enlivening bounty, both now, and at the messianic banquet.


Again, this narrative looks back to the discourse on the mission's message; it serves as a paradigm for the gospel at work: The news of the kingdom / the Word of God / the bread (manna) from heaven / the "children's bread", is the source of life, freely and abundantly bestowed.

As already noted, many commentators argue that the narratives look forward to the next discourse rather than apply the previous discourse. Keener, for example, argues that this narrative prepares for the next discourse on the subject of the Christian community - life under kingdom authority. "This narrative, like the feeding of the five thousand, teaches Matthew's community about Jesus power and care for his people. He heals the multitude, acts out of compassion for their need and provides for them."


Biblical theology: Even more than the feeding of the 5,000, this account evokes images of the wilderness wanderings, Exodus 16 (cf., also the feeding miracle of Elisha in 2Kgs.4:42-44) - Note John 6:1-3. All the indicators of Mount Zion typology are present: beside the sea, up on a mountain, the people gather (the lost sheep of Israel), Jesus is sitting, praise is to the God of Israel, in the erhmia, "wilderness", bread in abundance. "In Jewish expectation, Zion is the eschatological gathering site of scattered Israel, a place of healing, and the place of the messianic feast", D&A. In a sense, the miracle proclaims Jesus as the "new Moses" and therefore authenticates his messianic credentials and his inauguration of the messianic banquet / the kingdom. This wilderness miracle is therefore a sign of the gospel, a sign that the kingdom of heaven / God is at hand. God is again calling out his remnant / lost people and sustaining them to eternal life.


Authenticity: The debate over whether the feeding of the 4,000 is a duplication, through oral transmission, of the feeding of the 5,000 (a doublet), or whether it is a record of a miracle in its own right, is beyond resolution. There are significant differences between both feedings, but at the same time, there are significant similarities. The easy acceptance of both Matthew and Mark of a double feeding may be down to the Biblical precedence of the feeding miracles of Elijah and Elisha, cf., Blomberg. As it stands, the story serves the divine intent of revelation within the context of Matthew's gospel, and in the end, that's all that matters.


iii] Synoptics:

Although Matthew and Mark's episode-sequence continues to align, we are confronted with one of those occasions when Matthew's account seems to better reflect the received tradition than Mark. The pericopes found in 15:1-16:12 are likely to have existed together before either Matthew or Mark used them in their gospels. They are stitched together by a typical Semitic key, in this case "bread". To the modern eye, such a key has little significance, but not so to a first century Hebrew. Whereas it is usually held that Matthew in v30-31 has summarized Mark's healing of the deaf mute, Mk.7:31-37, rejecting its magical overtones, it may well be that Mark has replaced a bland summary of Jesus healing ministry with a more spectacular miracle story. Mark's healing story does little for our understanding of the gospel; it clashes with the context and is problematic - Jesus is presented as a quack performing magical tricks. Matthew's setting, v29 (found also in John's feeding story, 6:1-3), and summary of Jesus' three-day healing ministry , v30-31, moves smoothly to the feeding of the 4,000. However we allocate sources, Matthew's account sits easily with the discourse on defilement, the healing of the Canaanite woman's daughter, the feeding of the 4,000 and the yeast of the Pharisees, and certainly serves to further his narrative purpose, namely, to demonstrate the gospel at work.

Text - 15:29

i] Setting, v29.

metabaV (metabainw) aor. part. "[Jesus] left [there]" - [and] having moved from one place to another = departed [there jesus went]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to go"; "Jesus departed from there and went ..." "Jesus left there and went along the coast of the lake of Galilee", Barclay.

para + acc. "along" - Spacial; "beside the Sea of Galilee."

thV GalilaiaV (a) gen. "[Sea] of Galilee" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / locative; "the sea / lake which is located in Galilee" - "Gennesaret", or "Tiberias", or just "the lake"

anabaV (anabainw) aor. part. "then he went up" - [and] having gone up [to the mountain he was sitting there]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "was sitting", but possibly adverbial, temporal, as NIV; "he went up into (=on) the mountain and sat down there." The verb "to sit down" is imperfect, durative. "He climbed the hill and sat there", Barclay.


ii] Summary account of Jesus healing ministry, v30-31. Hagner argues that "this pericope is really Matthew's own formulation, suggested by Mark's narrative more than drawn from it or even based upon it." This seems unlikely; see above.

autw/ dat. pro. "[came to] him" - [and great crowds came to] him. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to come to."

econteV (ercomai) pres. part. "bringing" - The participle is probably adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the coming, as NIV, or simply attendant circumstance, "came and brought", although it could possibly be adjectival, attributive, limiting crowds, so Quarles. "They had brought with them many who were lame, deformed, blind, dumb, as well as many others who were suffering in some way", Cassirer.

meq (meta) + gen. "-" - with [them lame, blind, crippled, mute and many others]. Expressing association / accompaniment. The sense is "that the healthy brought with them those with impaired health", Morris. It is interesting how the the list of sick persons varies in the manuscript tradition.

para + acc. "at" - [and they laid them] beside [the feet of him and he healed them]." Spacial; "by, alongside, near, ..." The verb riptw normally means "to throw / cast", but obviously the sick are "placed" at Jesus' feet.


wJste + inf. "-" - so that [the crowd to amaze = was amazed]. This construction introduces a consecutive clause expressing result; "with the result that ...." The verb qaumazw, "to wander, marvel, be amazed", is often presented as a positive response, but it is a step short of faith. Although without faith, the people respond in praise to God as they witness the great variety of healings performed by Jesus.

blepontaV (blepw) pres. part. "when they saw" - seeing. The participle is adverbial, best taken as temporal, as NIV.

lalountaV (lalew) pres. part. "[the mute] speaking" - [mutes] speaking [cripples healthy and lame walking around and blind seeing]. The participle, as with the participles "walking about" and "seeing", introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they saw.

edoxasan (doxadzw) aor. "they praised" - [and] they extolled, glorified. Probably with the sense of "they praised and thanked God.", so Morris, or "glorified God", Nolland.

Israhl gen. proper "[the God] of Israel" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / subordination; "the God who rules over Israel." Expressing a unique relationship in that God may rule over all nations, but he is Israel's Lord in particular. As noted above, the suggestion that the phrase "the God of Israel" is more likely a Gentile ascription has little merit; See Cousland, The Crowds in the Gospel of Matthew, p19.


iii] Jesus feeds the 4,000, v32-38: a) Jesus discusses the issue of food supplies for the crowd with his disciples, v32-34.

proskalesamenoV (proskalew) aor. mid. part. "[Jesus] called [his disciples to him and said]" - [jesus] having summoned [the disciples of him said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said"; "summoned .... and said.

splagcnizomai pres. "I have compassion" - i feel deep sorrow, concern. The word is often used of Jesus, but this is the only occasion when Jesus says it of himself.

epi + acc. "for [these people]" - upon [the crowd]. Possibly here expressing reference / respect, "with respect to the crowd", but better expressing goal, "a marker of feelings directed toward someone", BDAG, "for", as NIV. "I am heart-sorry for the crowd", Barclay.

oJti "-" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus feels sorry for the crowd.

h[dh adv. "already" - already [they remain]. Temporal adverb.

moi dat. pro. "with me" - me. The dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to remain with." Note that the verb "to remain", as with "to not have", is a durative present tense indicating that the crowd has remained with Jesus during the three days on the mountain side and has not been able to obtain supplies of food over that period (other than what they brought with them???).

hJmerai treiV "three days" - Here in the nominative case when an accusative of time expressing duration would be expected, cf., Moule IB p31.

ti pro. "-" - [and they do not have] what. Interrogative pronoun; "they do not have anything, what do they have to eat?" Zerwick argues that the relative pronoun o{ might have been expected, but probably not here.

fagwsin (fagw) aor. subj. "to eat" - A deliberative subjunctive used in an indirect question.

apolusai (apoluw) aor. inf. "[I do not want] to send" - [and I do not wish] to send away [them fasting, hungry]. The infinitive is usually classified as complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "I do not will, wish", but it may also be classified as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Jesus does not want to do, namely, to send them away starving.

mhpote + subj. "-" - lest [they become weak, frail = collapse]. Introducing a negated purpose clause, "in order that they not"; "I don't want to send them home without anything or they will collapse on the way", Phillips.

en + dat. "on [the way]" - Adverbial use of the preposition, temporal; "while they are traveling home."


autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [and the disciples say] to him. Dative of indirect object.

poqen "where" - from where? Interrogative conjunction.

hJmin dat. pro. "could we get" - to us. Dative of interest, advantage; "from where to/for us." Somewhat elliptical; "from where in this wilderness is there for us so many loaves that we may feed so great a crowd?" = "From where in this solitary place could we possibly obtain a sufficient number of loaves ... to enable us to feed a crowd as large as this?", Cassirer.

en + dat. "in [this remote place]" - in [wilderness, desert]. Local; expressing space.

wJste + inf. "to [feed]" - The construction introduces a final clause expressing purpose; "in order to feed / satisfy a crowd like this."

tosouton pro. "such [a crowd]" - so great [a crowd]. This demonstrative pronoun is used also of the artoi, "bread" = "food" - a great amount of food is required for a great crowd.


autoiV dat. pro. "[and Jesus said] to them - [and jesus says] to them [how many loaves do you have]? Dative of indirect object.

oiJ de "they [replied]" - but/and [said]. Transitional, serving as a contrastive indicator in dialogue, but not adversative; "and they said."

icqudia (on) "[a few] small fish" - [seven and a few] fish. A diminutive of "fish", so probably "little fish", as NIV, but possibly a reference to the scant supply on hand.


b) Jesus feeds the crowd, v35-38. The crucial point made in the account is that "everyone" ate, they were "satisfied" and there was an abundance of uneaten food left over - the abundance of manna for all Israel, the overflowing abundance of the messianic feast.

paraggeilaV (paraggelw) aor. part. "he told [the crowd]" - [and] commanding, giving order to [the crowd]. The participle may be taken as adverbial, temporal, "when he had ordered the crowd", consecutive, "so he ordered the crowd to sit down", modal, "directing the crowd to sit down, or simply attendant on "he took", "he told the crowd ..... and then took ....." The verb has a military sense, "commanded, ordered", and being aorist it is punctiliar - Jesus gave the command.

tw/ oclow/ (oV) dat. "the crowd" - Dative of direct object after the para prefix verb "to give a command to."

anapesein (anapiptw) aor. inf. "to sit down" - to recline. The infinitive serves to introduce an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus orders the crowd to do.

epi + acc. "on [the ground]" - Spacial; "down upon."


eucaristhsaV (eucaristew) aor. part. "when he had given thanks" - [he took the seven loaves and the fish and] having given thanks. The participle is adverbial, best taken as temporal, as NIV. Saying a blessing over food, cf., 14:19, euloghsen, "he blessed them." Saying grace is an act of giving thanks for God's gracious bounty, and is specifically stated here.

edidou (didwmi) imperf. "gave them" - [he broke and] gave. The imperfect is durative; Jesus kept giving the food to the disciples and the disciples gave it / distributed it to the gathered people.

toiV maqhtaiV (hV ou) "to the disciples" - to the disciples [and the disciples gave them to the crowds]. As with "to the crowds", dative of indirect object.


panteV adj. "[they] all [ate]" - [and] everyone [ate]. The feeding was not exclusive; all those present ate.

twn klasmatwn (a atoV) gen. "of broken pieces" - [and were satisfied and the remaining] of the fragments. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Of the portions of bread and fish which were broken by Jesus (the "broken pieces", "fragments"), there was seven baskets full left over. So, the people were "satisfied", with an abundance of food left over. The "fragments" / "broken pieces" are not the scraps.

spuridaV (iV idoV) "[seven] basket[fuls]" - [were seven] baskets [full]. The basket here is different to the one used at the feeding of the 5,000. This basket is more like a sack, probably with a handle, small or large.

to perisseuon (peisseuw) pres. part. "that were left over" - remaining. The participle probably serves as a substantive; "what was left over / the food remaining." Many translations, as NIV, treat it as adjectival, attributed.


oiJ ... esqionteV (esqiw) pres. part. "the number of those who ate" - [and] the ones eating [were four thousand men]. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb to-be.

cwriV + gen. "besides" - besides, in addition to / apart from, without [women and children]. Expressing dissociation. "Women and children being left out of account", Cassirer.


iv] Transitional note, v39. The people are sent away and Jesus moves on to Magadan. The town is unknown, but possibly Magdala is intended on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

apolusaV (apoluw) aor. part. "after Jesus had sent [the crowd] away" - [and] having sent away [the crowds]. The participle is usually taken as adverbial, best treated as temporal; "after sending away the crowds", ESV.

ta oJria (on) "the vicinity [of Magadan]" - [he entered into the boat and came to] the border [of magadan]. The word "border, boundary" is often used of a region, or district, so as NIV. "Went to the region of Magadan", ESV = "he came to shore near the town of Magadan", CEV. The proper genitive "of Magadan" is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / local; "the region where Magadan is located."


Matthew Introduction


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