Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
After these things - After the transactions which are recorded in the last chapters had taken place, and after the offence he had given the Jews. See Joh 5:18.
Jesus walked - Or Jesus lived, or taught. He traveled around Galilee teaching.
In Jewry - In Judea, the southern division of Palestine. Compare the notes at Joh 4:3.
The Jews sought - That is, the rulers of the Jews. It does not appear that the common people ever attempted to take his life.
The Jews' feast of tabernacles - Or the feast of tents. This feast was celebrated on the 15th day of the month Tisri, answering to the last half of our month September and the first half of October, Num 29:12; Deu 16:13-15. It was so called from the tents or tabernacles which on that occasion were erected in and about Jerusalem, and was designed to commemorate their dwelling in tents in the wilderness, Neh 8:16-18. During the continuance of this feast they dwelt in booths or tents, as their fathers did in the wilderness, Lev 23:42-43. The feast was continued eight days, and the eighth or last day was the most distinguished, and was called the great day of the feast, Joh 7:37; Num 29:35. The Jews on this occasion not only dwelt in booths, but they carried about the branches of palms; willows, and other trees which bore a thick foliage, and also branches of the olive-tree, myrtle, etc., Neh 8:15. Many sacrifices were offered on this occasion Num. 29:12-39; Deu 16:14-16, and it was a time of general joy. It is called by Josephus and Philo the greatest feast, and was one of the three feasts which every male among the Jews was obliged to attend.
His brethren - See the notes at Mat 12:47.
Thy disciples - The disciples which he had made when he was before in Judea, Joh 4:1-3.
The works - The miracles.
For there is no man ... - The brethren of Jesus supposed that he was influenced as others are. As it is a common thing among men to seek popularity, so they supposed that he would also seek it; and as a great multitude would be assembled at Jerusalem at this feast, they supposed it would be a favorable time to make himself known. What follows shows that this was said, probably, not in sincerity, but in derision; and to the other sufferings of our Lord was to be added, what is so common to Christians, derision from his relatives and friends on account of his pretensions. If our Saviour was derided, we also may expect to be by our relatives; and, having his example, we should be content to bear it.
If thou do ... - It appears from this that they did not really believe that he performed miracles; or, if they did believe it, they did not suppose that he was the Christ. Yet it seems hardly credible that they could suppose that his miracles were real, and yet not admit that he was the Messiah. Besides, there is no evidence that these relatives had been present at any of his miracles, and all that they knew of them might have been from report. See the notes at Mar 3:21. On the word brethren in Joh 7:5, see the Mat 13:55 note, and Gal 1:19 note.
My time ... - The proper time for my going up to the feast. We know not why it was not yet a proper time for him to go. It might be because if he went then, in their company, while multitudes were going, it would have too much the appearance of parade and ostentation; it might excite too much notice, and be more likely to expose him to the envy and opposition of the rulers.
Your time ... - It makes no difference to you when you go up. Your going will excite no tumult or opposition; it will not attract attention, and will not endanger your lives. Jesus therefore chose to go up more privately, and to remain until the multitude had gone. They commonly traveled to those feasts in large companies, made up of most of the families in the neighborhood. See the notes at Luk 2:44.
The world cannot hate you - You profess no principles in opposition to the world. You do not excite its envy, or rouse against you the civil rulers. As you possess the same spirit and principles with the men of the world, they cannot be expected to hate you.
I testify of it - I bear witness against it. This was the main cause of the opposition which was made to him. He proclaimed that men were depraved, and the result was that they hated him. We may expect that all who preach faithfully against the wickedness of men will excite opposition. Yet this is not to deter us from doing our duty, and, after the example of Jesus, from proclaiming to men their sins, whatever may be the result.
I go not up yet - Jesus remained until about the middle of the feast, Joh 7:14. That is, he remained about four days after his brethren had departed, or until the mass of the people had gone up, so that his going might excite no attention, and that it might not be said he chose such a time to excite a tumult. We have here a signal instance of our Lord's prudence and opposition to parade. Though it would have been lawful for him to go up at that time, and though it would have been a favorable period to make himself known, yet he chose to forego these advantages rather than to afford an occasion of envy and jealousy to the rulers, or to appear even to excite a tumult among the people.
Murmuring - Contention, disputing.
He deceiveth the people - That is, he is deluding them, or drawing them away by pretending to be the Messiah.
Spake openly of him - The word translated "openly," here, is commonly rendered "boldly." This refers doubtless, to those who really believed on him. His enemies were not silent; but his friends had not confidence to speak of him openly or boldly that is, to speak what they really thought. Many supposed that he was the Messiah, yet even this they did not dare to profess. All that they could say in his favor was that he was a good man. There are always many such friends of Jesus in the world who are desirous of saying something good about him, but who, from fear or shame, refuse to make a full acknowledgment of him. Many will praise his morals, his precepts, and his holy life, while they are ashamed to speak of his divinity or his atonement, and still more to acknowledge that they are dependent on him for salvation.
About the midst - Or about the middle of the feast. It continued eight days.
The temple - See the notes at Mat 21:12.
And taught - Great multitudes were assembled in and around the temple, and it was a favorable time and place to make known his doctrine.
Knoweth this man letters - The Jewish letters or science consisted in the knowledge of their Scriptures and traditions. Jesus exhibited in his discourses such a profound acquaintance with the Old Testament as to excite their amazement and admiration.
Having never learned - The Jews taught their law and tradition in celebrated schools. As Jesus had not been instructed in those schools, they were amazed at his learning. What early human teaching the Saviour had we have no means of ascertaining, further than that it was customary for the Jews to teach their children to read the Scriptures. Ti2 3:15; "from a child thou (Timothy) hast known the holy scriptures."
My doctrine - My teaching, or what I teach. This is the proper meaning of the word "doctrine." It is what is taught us, and, as applied to religion, it is what is taught us by God in the Holy Scriptures.
Is not wine - It is not originated by me. Though I have not learned in your schools, yet you are not to infer that the doctrine which I teach is devised or invented by me. I teach nothing that is contrary to the will of God, and which he has not appointed me to teach.
His that sent me - God's. It is such as he approves, and such as he has commissioned me to teach. The doctrine is divine in its origin and in its nature.
If any man will do his will - Literally, if any man wills or is willing to do the will of God. If there is a disposition in anyone to do that will, though he should not be able perfectly to keep His commandments. To do the will of God is to obey His commandments; to yield our hearts and lives to His requirements. A disposition to do His will is a readiness to yield our intellects, our feelings, and all that we have entirely to Him, to be governed according to His pleasure.
He shall know - He shall have evidence, in the very attempt to do the will of God, of the truth of the doctrine. This evidence is internal, and to the individual it is satisfactory and conclusive. It is of two kinds.
1. He will find that the doctrines which Jesus taught are such as commend themselves to his reason and conscience, and such as are consistent with all that we know of the perfections of God. His doctrines commend themselves to us as fitted to make us pure and happy, and of course they are such as must be from God.
2. An honest desire to obey God will lead a man to embrace the great doctrines of the Bible. He will find that his heart is depraved and inclined to evil, and he will see and feel the truth of the doctrine of depravity; he will find that he is a sinner and needs to be born again; he will learn his own weakness, and see his need of a Saviour, of an atonement, and of pardoning mercy; he will feel that he is polluted, and needs the purifying influence of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, we may learn:
1. That an honest effort to obey God is the easiest way to become acquainted with the doctrines of the Bible.
2. Those who make such an effort will not cavil at any of the doctrines of the Scriptures.
3. This is evidence of the truth of revelation which every person can apply to his own case.
4. It is such evidence as to lead to certainty. No one who has ever made an honest effort to live a pious life, and to do all the will of God, has ever had any doubt of the truth of the Saviour's doctrines, or any doubt that his religion is true and is suited to the nature of man. They only doubt the truth of religion who wish to live in sin.
5. We see the goodness of God in giving us evidence of his truth that may be within every man's reach. It does not require great learning to be a Christian, and to be convinced of the truth of the Bible. It requires an honest heart, and a willingness to obey God.
Whether it be of God - Whether it be divine.
Or whether I speak of myself - Of myself without being commissioned or directed by God.
That speaketh of himself - This does not mean about or concerning himself, but he that speaks by his own authority, without being sent by God, as mere human teachers do.
Seeketh his own glory - His own praise, or seeks for reputation and applause. This is the case with mere human teachers, and as Jesus in his discourses manifestly sought to honor God, they ought to have supposed that he was sent by him.
No unrighteousness - This word here means, evidently, there is no falsehood, no deception in him. He is not an impostor. It is used in the same sense in Th2 2:10-12. It is true that there was no unrighteousness, no sin in Jesus Christ, but that is not the truth taught here. It is that he was not an impostor, and the evidence of this was that he sought not his own glory, but the honor of God. This evidence was furnished:
1. in his retiring, unobtrusive disposition; in his not seeking the applause of people;
2. in his teaching such doctrines as tended to exalt God and humble man;
3. in his ascribing all glory and praise to God;
Did not Moses give you the law? - This they admitted, and on this they prided themselves. Every violation of that law they considered as deserving of death. They had accused Jesus of violating it because he had healed a man on the Sabbath, and for that they had sought his life, Joh 5:10-16. He here recalls that charge to their recollection, and shows them that, though they pretended great reverence for that law, yet they were really its violators in having sought his life.
None of you ... - None of you Jews. They had sought to kill him. This was a pointed and severe charge, and shows the great faithfulness with which he was accustomed to proclaim the truth.
Why go ye about to kill me? - Why do ye seek to kill me? See Joh 5:16.
The people - Perhaps some of the people who were not aware of the designs of the rulers.
Thou hast a devil - Thou art deranged or mad. See Joh 10:20. As they saw no effort to kill him, and as they were ignorant of the designs of the rulers, they supposed that this was the effect of derangement.
One work - The healing of the man on the Sabbath, John 5.
Ye all marvel - You all wonder or are amazed, and particularly that it was done on the Sabbath. This was the particular ground of astonishment, that he should dare to do what they esteemed a violation of the Sabbath.
Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision - Moses commanded you to circumcise your children, Lev 12:3. The word "therefore" in this place - literally "on account of this" - means, "Moses on this account gave you circumcision, not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;" that is, the reason was not that he himself appointed it as a new institution, but he found it already in existence, and incorporated it in his institutions and laws.
Not because ... - Not that it is of Moses. Though Jesus spoke in accordance with the custom of the Jews, who ascribed the appointment of circumcision to Moses, yet he is careful to remind them that it was in observance long before Moses. So, also, the Sabbath was kept before Moses, and alike in the one case and the other they ought to keep in mind the design of the appointment.
Of the fathers - Of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Gen 17:10.
Ye on the sabbath-day ... - The law required that the child should be circumcised on the eighth day. If that day happened to be the Sabbath, yet they held that he was to be circumcised, as there was a positive law to that effect; and as this was commanded, they did not consider it a breach of the Sabbath.
A man - Not an adult man, but a man-child. See Joh 16:21; "She remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world."
That the law of Moses should not be broken - In order that the law requiring it to be done at a specified time, though that might occur on the Sabbath, should be kept.
Are ye angry ... - The argument of Jesus is this: "You yourselves, in interpreting the law about the Sabbath, allow a work of necessity to be done. You do that which is necessary as an ordinance of religion denoting separation from other nations, or external purity. As you allow this, you ought also, for the same reason, to allow that a man should be completely restored to health - that a work of much more importance should be done." We may learn here that it would be happy for all if they would not condemn others in that thing which they allow. People often accuse others of doing things which they themselves do in other ways.
Every whit whole - Literally, "I have restored the whole man to health," implying that the man's whole body was diseased, and that he had been entirely restored to health.
Judge not according to the appearance - Not as a thing first offers itself to you, without reflection or candor. In appearance, to circumcise a child on the Sabbath might be a violation of the law; yet you do it, and it is right. So, to appearance, it might be a violation of the Sabbath to heal a man, yet it is right to do works of necessity and mercy.
Judge righteous judgment - Candidly; looking at the law, and inquiring what its spirit really requires.
Do the rulers know indeed ... - It seems from this that they supposed that the rulers had been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, but that from some cause they were not willing yet to make it known to the people. The reasons of this opinion were these:
1. They knew that they had attempted to kill him.
2. They now saw him speaking boldly to the people without interruption from the rulers.
They concluded, therefore, that some change had taken place in the sentiments of the rulers in regard to him, though they had not yet made it public.
The rulers - The members of the Sanhedrin, or great council of the nation, who had charge of religious affairs.
Indeed - Truly; certainly. Have they certain evidence, as would appear from their suffering him to speak without interruption?
The very Christ - Is truly or really the Messiah.
Howbeit - But. They proceeded to state a reason why they supposed that he could not be the Messiah, whatever the rulers might think.
We know this man whence he is - We know the place of his birth and residence.
No man knoweth whence he is - From Mat 2:5, it appears that the common expectation of the Jews was that the Messiah would be born at Bethlehem; but they had also feigned that after his birth he would be hidden or taken away in some mysterious manner, and appear again from some unexpected quarter. We find allusions to this expectation in the New Testament, where our Saviour corrects their common notions, Mat 24:23; "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe it not." And again Joh 7:26, "If they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert, go not forth; behold, he is in the secret chambers, believe it not." The following extracts from Jewish writings show that this was the common expectation: "The Redeemer shall manifest himself, and afterward be hid. So it was in the redemption from Egypt. Moses showed himself and then was hidden." So on the passage, Sol 2:9 - "My beloved is like a roe or a young hart" - they say: "A roe appears and then is hid; so the Redeemer shall first appear and then be concealed, and then again be concealed and then again appear." "So the Redeemer shall first appear and then be hid, and then, at the end of 45 days, shall reappear, and cause manna to descend." See Lightfoot. Whatever may have been the source of this opinion, it explains this passage, and shows that the writer of this gospel was well acquainted with the opinions of the Jews, however improbable those opinions were.
Ye know whence I am - You have sufficient evidence of my divine mission, and that I am the Messiah.
Is true - Is worthy to be believed. He has given evidence that I came from him, and he is worthy to be believed. Many read this as a question - Do ye know me, and know whence I am? I have not come from myself, etc.
Then they sought to take him - The rulers and their friends. They did this:
1. because of his reproof; and,
2. for professing to be the Messiah.
His hour - The proper and the appointed time for his death. See Mat 21:46.
Will he do more miracles? - It was a common expectation that the Messiah would work many miracles. This opinion was founded on such passages as Isa 35:5-6, etc.: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as an hart," etc. Jesus had given abundant evidence of his power to work such miracles, and they therefore believed that he was the Messiah.
The people murmured such things - That is, that the question was agitated whether he was the Messiah; that it excited debate and contention; and that the consequence was, he made many friends. They chose, therefore, if possible, to remove him from them.
Yet a little while am I with you - It will not be long before my death. This is supposed to have been about six months before his death. This speech of Jesus is full of tenderness. They were seeking his life. He tells them that he is fully aware of it; that he will not be long with them; and implies that they should be diligent to seek him while he was yet with them. He was about to die, but they might now seek his favor and find it. When we remember that this was said to his persecutors and murderers; that it was said even while they were seeking his life, we see the special tenderness of his love. Enmity, and hate, and persecution did not prevent his offering salvation to them.
I go unto him that sent me - This is one of the intimations that he gave that he would ascend to God. Compare Joh 6:62.
Ye shall seek me - This probably means simply, Ye shall seek the Messiah. Such will be your troubles, such the calamities that will come on the nation, that you will earnestly desire the coming of the Messiah. You will seek for a Deliverer, and will look for feign that he may bring deliverance. This does not mean that they would seek for Jesus and not be able to find him, but that they would desire the aid and comfort of the Messiah, and would be disappointed. Jesus speaks of himself as the Messiah, and his own name as synonymous with the Messiah. See the notes at Mat 23:39.
Shall not find me - Shall not find the Messiah. He will not come, according to your expectations, to aid you. See the notes at Matt. 24.
Where I am - This whole clause is to be understood as future, though the words AM and cannot are both in the present tense. The meaning is, Where I shall be you will not be able to come. That is, he, the Messiah, would be in heaven; and though they would earnestly desire his presence and aid to save the city and nation from the Romans, yet they would not be able to obtain it - represented here by their not being able to come to him. This does not refer to their individual salvation, but to the deliverance of their nation. It is not true of individual sinners that they seek Christ in a proper manner and are not able to find him; but it was true of the Jewish nation that they looked for the Messiah, and sought his coming to deliver them, but he did not do it.
The dispersed among the Gentiles - To the Jews scattered among the Gentiles, or living in distant parts of the earth. It is well known that at that time there were Jews dwelling in almost every land. There were multitudes in Egypt, in Asia Minor, in Greece, in Rome, etc., and in all these places they had synagogues. The question which they asked was whether he would leave an ungrateful country, and go into those distant nations and teach them.
Gentiles - In the original, Greeks. All those who were not Jews were called Greeks, because they were chiefly acquainted with those pagans only who spake the Greek language. It is remarkable that Jesus returned no answer to these inquiries. He rather chose to turn off their minds from a speculation about the place to which he was going, to the great affairs of their own personal salvation.
In the last day - The eighth day of the festival.
That great day - The day of the holy convocation or solemn assembly, Lev 23:36. This seems to have been called the great day:
1. because of the solemn assembly, and because it was the closing scene.
2. because, according to their traditions, on the previous days they offered sacrifices for the pagan nations as well as for themselves, but on this day for the Jews only (Lightfoot).
3. because on this day they abstained from all servile labor Lev 23:39, and regarded it as a holy day.
4. On this day they finished the reading of the law, which they commenced at the beginning of the feast.
5. because on this day probably occurred the ceremony of drawing water from the pool of Siloam.
On the last day of the feast it was customary to perform a solemn ceremony in this manner: The priest filled a golden vial with water from the fount of Siloam (see the notes at Joh 9:7), which was borne with great solemnity, attended with the clangor of trumpets, through the gate of the temple, and being mixed with wine, was poured on the sacrifice on the altar. What was the origin of this custom is unknown. Some suppose, and not improbably, that it arose from an improper understanding of the passage in Isa 12:3; "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." It is certain that no such ceremony is commanded by Moses. It is supposed to be probable that Jesus stood and cried while they were performing this ceremony, that he might:
1. illustrate the nature of his doctrine by this; and,
2. call off their attention from a rite that was uncommanded, and that could not confer eternal life.
Jesus stood - In the temple, in the midst of thousands of the people.
If any man thirst - Spiritually. If any man feels his need of salvation. See Joh 4:13-14; Mat 5:6; Rev 22:17. The invitation is full and free to all.
Let him come unto me ... - Instead of depending on this ceremony of drawing water let him come to me, the Messiah, and he shall find an ever-abundant supply for all the wants of his soul.
He that believeth on me - He that acknowledges me as the Messiah, and trusts in me for salvation.
As the scripture hath said - This is a difficult expression, from the fact that no such expression as follows is to be found literally in the Old Testament. Some have proposed to connect it with what precedes - "He that believeth on me, as the Old Testament has commanded or required" - but to this there are many objections. The natural and obvious meaning here is, doubtless, the true one; and Jesus probably intended to say, not that there was any particular place in the Old Testament that affirmed this in so many words, but that this was the substance of what the Scriptures taught, or this was the spirit of their declarations. Hence, the Syriac translates it in the plural - the Scriptures. Probably there is a reference more particularly to Isa 58:11, than to any other single passage: "Thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not." See also Isa 44:3-4; Joe 3:18.
Out of his belly - Out of his midst, or out of his heart. The word "belly" is often put for the midst of a thing, the center, and the heart, Mat 12:40. It means here that from the man shall flow; that is, his piety shall be of such a nature that it will extend its blessings to others. It shall be like a running fountain - perhaps in allusion to statues or ornamented reservoirs in gardens. in which pipes were placed from which water was continually flowing. The Jews used the same figure: "His two reins are like fountains of water, from which the law flows." And again: "When a man turns himself to the Lord, he shall be as a fountain filled with living water, and his streams shall flow to all the nations and tribes of men" (Kuinoel).
Rivers - This word is used to express abundance, or a full supply. It means here that those who are Christians shall diffuse large, and liberal, and constant blessings on their fellow-men; or, as Jesus immediately explains it, that they shall be the instruments by which the Holy Spirit shall be poured down on the world.
Living water - Fountains, ever-flowing streams. That is, the gospel shall be constant and life-giving in its blessings. We learn here:
1. that it is the nature of Christian piety to be diffusive.
2. that no man can believe on Jesus who does not desire that others should also, and who will not seek it.
3. that the desire is large and liberal - that the Christian desires the salvation of all the world.
4. that the faith of the believer is to be connected with the influence of the Holy Spirit, and in that way Christians are to be like rivers of living water.
Of the Spirit - Of the Holy Spirit, that should be sent down to attend their preaching and to convert sinners.
For the Holy Ghost was not yet given - Was not given in such full and large measures as should be after Jesus had ascended to heaven. Certain measures of the influences of the Spirit had been always given in the conversion and sanctification of the ancient saints and prophets; but that abundant and full effusion which the apostles were permitted afterward to behold had not yet been given. See Acts 2; Act 10:44-45.
Jesus was not yet glorified - Jesus had not yet ascended to heaven - to the glory and honor that awaited him there. It was a part of the arrangement in the work of redemption that the influences of the Holy Spirit should descend chiefly after the death of Jesus, as that death was the procuring cause of this great blessing. Hence, he said Joh 16:7, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send him unto you." See also Joh 7:8-12; Joh 14:15-16, Joh 14:26. Compare Eph 4:8-11.
The Prophet - That is, the prophet whom they expected to precede the coming of the Messiah - either Elijah or Jeremiah. See Mat 16:14.
See the notes at Mat 2:4-6.
Where David was - Sa1 16:1-4.
The officers - Those who had been appointed Joh 7:32 to take him. It seems that Jesus was in the midst of the people addressing them, and that they happened to come at the very time when he was speaking. They were so impressed and awed with what he said that they dared not take him. There have been few instances of eloquence like this. His speaking had so much evidence of truth, so much proof that he was from God, and was so impressive and persuasive, that they were convinced of his innocence, and they dared not touch him to execute their commission. We have here:
1. A remarkable testimony to the commanding eloquence of Jesus.
2. Wicked men may be awed and restrained by the presence of a good man, and by the evidence that he speaks that which is true.
3. God can preserve his friends. Here were men sent for a particular purpose. They were armed with power. They were commissioned by the highest authority of the nation. On the other hand, Jesus was without arms or armies, and without external protection. Yet, in a manner which the officers and the high priests would have little expected, he was preserved. So, in ways which we little expect, God will defend and deliver us when in the midst of danger.
4. No prophet, apostle, or minister has ever spoken the truth with as much power, grace, and beauty as Jesus. It should be ours, therefore, to listen to his words, and to sit at his feet and learn heavenly wisdom.
Are ye also deceived? - They set down the claims of Jesus as of course an imposture. They did not examine, but were, like thousands, determined to believe that he was a deceiver. Hence, they did not ask them whether they were convinced, or had seen evidence that he was the Messiah; but, with mingled contempt, envy, and anger, they asked if they were also deluded. Thus many assume religion to be an imposture; and when one becomes a Christian, they assume at once that he is deceived, that he is the victim of foolish credulity or superstition, and treat him with ridicule or scorn. Candor would require them to inquire whether such changes were not proof of the power and truth of the gospel, as candor in the case of the rulers required them to inquire whether Jesus had not given them evidence that he was from God.
The rulers - The members of the Sanhedrin, who were supposed to have control over the religious rites and doctrines of the nation.
The Pharisees - The sect possessing wealth, and office, and power. The name Pharisees sometimes denotes those who were high in honor and authority.
Believed on him - Is there any instance in which those who are high in rank or in office have embraced him as the Messiah? This shows the rule by which they judged of religion:
1. They claimed the right of regulating the doctrines and rites of religion.
2. They repressed the liberty of private judgment, stifled investigation, assumed that a new doctrine must be heresy, and labored to keep the people within inglorious bondage.
3. They treated the new doctrine of Jesus with contempt, and thus attempted to put it down, not by argument, but by contempt, and especially because it was embraced by the common people. This is the way in which doctrines contrary to the truth of God have been uniformly supported in the world; this is the way in which new views of truth are met; and this the way in which those in ecclesiastical power often attempt to lord it over God's heritage, and to repress the investigation of the Bible.
This people - The word here translated "people" is the one commonly rendered "the multitude." It is a word expressive of contempt, or, as we would say, the rabble. It denotes the scorn which they felt that the people should presume to judge for themselves in a case pertaining to their own salvation.
Who knoweth not the law - Who have not been instructed in the schools of the Pharisees, and been taught to interpret the Old Testament as they had. They supposed that any who believed on the humble and despised Jesus must be, of course, ignorant of the true doctrines of the Old Testament, as they held that a very different Messiah from him was foretold. Many instances are preserved in the writings of the Jews of the great contempt in which the Pharisees held the common people. It may here be remarked that Christianity is the only system of religion ever presented to man that in a proper manner regards the poor, the ignorant, and the needy. Philosophers and Pharisees, in all ages, have looked on them with contempt.
Are cursed - Are execrable; are of no account; are worthy only of contempt and perdition. Some suppose that there is reference here to their being worthy to be cut off from the people for believing on him, or worthy to be put out of the synagogue (see Joh 9:22); but it seems to be an expression only of contempt; a declaration that they were a rabble, ignorant, unworthy of notice, and going to ruin. Observe, however:
1. That of this despised people were chosen most of those who became Christians.
2. That if the people were ignorant, it was the fault of the Pharisees and rulers. It was their business to see that they were taught.
3. There is no way so common of attempting to oppose Christianity as by ridiculing its friends as poor, and ignorant, and weak, and credulous. As well might food, and raiment, and friendship, and patriotism be held in contempt because the poor need the one or possess the other.
Nicodemus - See Joh 3:1.
One of them - That is, one of the great council or Sanhedrin. God often places one or more pious men in legislative assemblies to vindicate his honor and his law; and he often gives a man grace on such occasions boldly to defend his cause; to put men upon their proof, and to confound the proud and the domineering. We see in this case, also, that a man, at one time timid and fearful (compare Joh 3:1), may on other occasions be bold, and fearlessly defend the truth as it is in Jesus. This example should lead every man entrusted with authority or office fearlessly to defend the truth of God, and, when the rich and the mighty are pouring contempt on Jesus and his cause, to stand forth as its fearless defender.
Doth our law ... - The law required justice to be done, and gave every man the right to claim a fair and impartial trial, Lev 19:15-16; Exo 23:1-2; Deu 19:15, Deu 19:18. Their condemnation of Jesus was a violation of every rule of right. He was not arraigned; he was not heard in self-defense, and not a single witness was adduced. Nicodemus demanded that justice should be done, and that he should, not be condemned until he had had a fair trial. Every man should be presumed to be innocent until he is proved to be guilty. This is a maxim of law, and a most just and proper precept in our judgments in private life.
Art thou also of Galilee? - Here is another expression of contempt. To be a Galilean was a term of the highest reproach. They knew well that he was not of Galilee, but they meant to ask whether he also had become a follower of the despised Galilean. Ridicule is not argument, and there is no demonstration in a gibe; but, unhappily, this is the only weapon which the proud and haughty often use in opposing religion.
Ariseth no prophet - That is, there is no prediction that any prophet should come out of Galilee, and especially no prophet that was to attend or precede the Messiah. Compare Joh 1:46. They assumed, therefore, that Jesus could not be the Christ.
And every man went unto his own house - There is every mark of confusion and disorder in this breaking up of the Sanhedrin. It is possible that some of the Sadducees might have joined Nicodemus in opposing the Pharisees, and thus increased the disorder. It is a most instructive and melancholy exhibition of the influence of pride, envy, contempt, and anger, when brought to bear on an inquiry, and when they are manifestly opposed to candor, to argument, and to truth. So wild and furious are the passions of men when they oppose the person and claims of the Son of God! It is remarkable, too, how God accomplishes his purposes. They wished to destroy Jesus. God suffered their passions to be excited, a tumult to ensue, the assembly thus to break up in disorder, and Jesus to be safe, for his time had not yet come. "The wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain," Psa 76:10.