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  • VINCENT'S NEW TESTAMENT
    WORD STUDIES - MATTHEW 14

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    CHAPTER XIV

    1. Tetrarch. A ruler of a fourth part. Archelaus had obtained two-fourths of his father's dominions, and Antipas (this Herod) and Philip each one-fourth.

    The fame (akohn). Better as Rev., report. Lit., hearing.

    3. Put him in prison (en fulakh apeqeto). Lit., "put him away or aside" (apo). This prison was the fortress of Machaerus on the east side of the Dead Sea, almost on a line with Bethlehem, above the gorge which divided the Mountains of Abarim from the range of Pisgah. Perched on an isolated cliff at the end of a narrow ridge, encompassed with deep ravines, was the citadel. At the other end of this ridge Herod built a great wall, with towers two hundred feet high at the corners; and within this inclosure, a magnificent palace, with colonnades, baths, cisterns, arsenals - every provision, in short, for luxury and for defence against siege. The windows commanded a wide and grand prospect, including the Dead Sea, the course of the Jordan, and Jerusalem. In the detached citadel, probably in one of the underground dungeons, remains of which may still be seen, was the prison of John. "We return through what we regard as the ruins of the magnificent castle-palace of Herod, to the highest and strongest part of the defences - the eastern keep or the citadel, on the steep slope, one hundred and fifty yards up. The foundation of the walls all around, to the height of a yard or two above the ground, are still standing. As we clamber over them to examine the interior, we notice how small this keep is: exactly one hundred yards in diameter. There are scarcely any remains of it left. A well of great depth, and a deep, cemented cistern, with the vaulting of the roof still complete, and - of most terrible interest to us - two dungeons, one of them deep down, its sides scarcely broken in, 'with small holes still visible in the masonry where staples of wood and iron had once been fixed!' As we look down into its hot darkness, we shudder in realizing that this terrible keep had, for nigh ten months, been the prison of that son of the free wilderness, the bold herald of the coming kingdom, the humble, earnest, self-denying John the Baptist" (Edersheim, "Life and Times of Jesus").

    6. Birthday (genesioiv). Though some explain it as the anniversary of Herod's accession. The custom of celebrating birthdays by festivities was not approved by the strict Jews; but it is claimed that the Herodian princes adopted the custom. The Roman satirist, Persius, alludes to a festival known as "Herod's Day," and pictures a banquet on that occasion.

    "But when Come Herod's day, and on the steaming panes The ranged lamps, festooned with violets, pour The unctuous cloud, while the broad tunny-tail Sprawled o'er the red dish swims, and snowy jars Swell with the wine." Sat. v. 180-183.

    Before (en tw mesw). Rev., in the midst. Wyc., leaped in the middle.

    7. He promised (wmologhsen). Lit., confessed; conveying the idea of acknowledging the obligation of his oath. Salome had degraded herself to perform the part of an almeh or common dancer, and could claim her reward.

    8. Being before instructed (probibasqeisa). Wyc., monestid, with warned in explanation. Both wrong. Rev., rightly, being put forward. Compare Acts xix. 33, where the right meaning is, they pushed Alexander forward out of the crowd; and not as A.V., drew out. The correct rendering slightly relieves Salome of the charge of wanton cruelty, and throws it wholly upon Herodias.

    Here (wde). She demanded it on the spot, before Herod should have had time to reflect and relent; the more so, as she knew his respect for John (compare was sorry, ver. 9). The circumstances seem to point to Machaerus itself as the scene of the banquet; so that the deed could be quickly done, and the head of the Baptist delivered while the feast was still in progress.

    In a charger (epi pinaki). The Revisers cannot be defended in their retention of this thoroughly obsolete word. A charge is originally a burden; and a charger something loaded. Hence, a dish. Wyc., dish. Tynd., platter.

    9. The oath's sake (dia touv orkouv). But the A.V. puts the apostrophe in the wrong place. The word is plural, and the Rev. rightly renders for the sake of his oaths. It is implied that Herod in his mad excitement had confirmed his promise with repeated oaths.

    11. To the damsel (tw korasiw). Diminutive, the little girl. Luther gives magdlein, little maid.

    13. On foot (pezh). Rev., by land in margin, which is better; for the contrast is between Jesus' journey by ship and that of the multitude by land.

    15. Desert (erhmov). In the Greek order standing first as emphatic. The dominant thought of the disciples is remoteness from supplies of food. The first meaning of the word is solitary; from which develops the idea of void, bereft, barren.

    Both meanings may well be included here. Note the two points of emphasis. The disciples say, Barren is the place. Christ answers, No need have they to go away.

    Give (dote). The disciples had said, "Send them away to buy for themselves." Christ replies, Give ye.

    19. Brake. As the Jewish loaves were thin cakes, a thumb's breadth in thickness, and more easily broken than cut.

    20. Were filled (ecortasqhsan). See on Matt. v. 6.

    Baskets (kofinouv). Wyc., coffins, a transcription of the Greek word. Juvenal, the Roman satirist, describes the grove of Numa, near the Capenian gate of Rome, as being "let out to the Jews, whose furniture is a basket (cophinus) and some hay" (for a bed), "Sat." iii. 14. These were small hand-baskets, specially provided for the Jews to carry levitically clean food while travelling in Samaria or other heathen districts. The word for basket used in relating the feeding of the four thousand (Matthew xv. 37) is spuriv, a large provision-basket or hamper, of the kind used for letting Paul down over the wall at Damascus (Acts ix. 25). In Matthew xvi. 9, 10, Christ, in alluding to the two miracles, observes the distinctive term in each narrative; using kofinouv in the case of the five thousand, and spuridav in the other. Burgon ("Letters from Rome") gives a drawing of a wicker basket used by the masons in the cathedral at Sorrento, and called coffano. He adds, "Who can doubt that the basket of the gospel narrative was of the shape here represented, and that the denomination of this basket exclusively has lingered in a Greek colony, where the Jews (who once carried the cophinus as a personal equipment) formerly lived in great numbers?"

    22. Constrained. Implying the disciples' reluctance to leave him behind.

    24. Tossed (basanizomenon). Rev., better, distressed. See on Matthew iv. 24.

    26. A spirit (fantasma). Of which our word phantasm is a transcription. Rev., rather stiffly, apparition. Wyc., phantom.

    29. To go to (elqein prov). But some of the best texts read kai hlqen prov, and went toward.

    30. He was afraid. "Although," says Bengel, "a fisherman and a good swimmer" (John xxi. 7).

    32. Ceased (ekopasen). A beautiful word. Lit., grew weary; sank away like one who is weary.

    36. Were made perfectly whole (dieswqhsan). The preposition dia, through or thorough, indicates complete restoration.

    The Rev. omits perfectly, because whole, in itself, implies completeness.

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