Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The miracle at Cana in Galilee, where our Lord changed water into wine, Joh 2:1-11. He goes to Capernaum, Joh 2:12. He purges the temple at the feast of the passover, Joh 2:13-17. The Jews require a miracle, as a proof that he had authority to do these things, Joh 2:18. In answer he refers to his own death and resurrection, Joh 2:19-22. Many believe on him while at the feast of the passover, to whom Jesus would not trust himself, Joh 2:23-25.
Cana of Galilee - This was a small city in the tribe of Asher, Jos 19:28, and by saying this was Cana of Galilee, the evangelist distinguishes it from another Cana, which was in the tribe of Ephraim, in the Samaritan country. See Jos 16:8; Jos 17:9.
Some suppose that the third day, mentioned here, refers to the third day of the marriage feast: such feasts lasting among the Jews seven days. See Jdg 14:12, Jdg 14:17, Jdg 14:18, and Bishop Pearce.
The mother of Jesus was there - Some of the ancients have thought that this was the marriage of John the evangelist, who is supposed to have been a near relative of our Lord. See the sketch of his life prefixed to these notes.
And both Jesus was called, and his disciples - There are several remarkable circumstances here.
1. This was probably the first Christian wedding that was ever in the world.
2. The great Author of the Christian religion, with his disciples, (probably then only four or five in number, see Joh 1:37, etc.), were invited to it.
3. The first miracle Jesus Christ wrought was at it, and in honor of it.
4. The mother of Christ, the most pure of all virgins, the most holy of all wives, and the first Christian mother, was also at it.
5. The marriage was according to God, or these holy persons would not have attended it.
6. The bride and bridegroom must have been a holy pair, otherwise they would have had nothing to do with such holy company.
Marriage is ever honorable in itself; but it is not at all times used honourably. Where Jesus is not invited to bless the union, no good can be expected; and where the disciples of sin and Satan are preferred to the disciples of Christ, on such occasions, it is a melancholy intimation that so bad a beginning will have a bad ending. I am afraid we may search long, before we find a marriage conducted on such principles as this appears to have been, even among those who make more than a common profession of the religion of Christ.
They have no wine - Though the blessed virgin is supposed to have never seen her son work a miracle before this time, yet she seems to have expected him to do something extraordinary on this occasion; as, from her acquaintance with him, she must have formed some adequate idea of his power and goodness.
Woman, what have I to do with thee? - Τι εμοι και σοι, γυναι: O, woman, what is this to thee and me? This is an abrupt denial, as if he had said: "We are not employed to provide the necessaries for this feast: this matter belongs to others, who should have made a proper and sufficient provision for the persons they had invited." The words seem to convey a reproof to the virgin, for meddling with that which did not particularly concern her. The holiest persons are always liable to errors of judgment: and should ever conduct themselves with modesty and humility, especially in those things in which the providence of God is particularly concerned. But here indeed there appears to be no blame. It is very likely the bride or bridegroom's family were relatives of the blessed virgin; and she would naturally suppose that our Lord would feel interested for the honor and comfort of the family, and, knowing that he possessed extraordinary power, made this application to him to come forward to their assistance. Our Lord's answer to his mother, if properly translated, is far from being disrespectful. He addresses the virgin as he did the Syrophoenician woman, Mat 15:28; as he did the Samaritan woman, Joh 4:21, as he addressed his disconsolate mother when he hung upon the cross, Joh 19:26; as he did his most affectionate friend Mary Magdalene, Joh 20:15, and as the angels had addressed her before, Joh 20:13; and as St. Paul does the believing Christian woman, Co1 7:16; in all which places the same term, γυναι which occurs in this verse, is used; and where certainly no kind of disrespect is intended, but, on the contrary, complaisance, affability, tenderness, and concern and in this sense it is used in the best Greek writers.
Mine hour is not yet come - Or, my time, for in this sense the word ὡρα is often taken. My time for working a miracle is not yet fully come. What I do, I do when necessary, and not before. Nature is unsteady - full of haste; and ever blundering, in consequence. It is the folly and sin of men that they are ever finding fault with the Divine providence. According to them, God never does any thing in due time - he is too early or too late: whereas it is utterly impossible for the Divine wisdom to forestall itself; or for the Divine goodness to delay what is necessary.
His mother saith, etc. - The virgin seems to have understood our Lord as hinted above. It was not yet time to grant them a supply, because the want had not as yet been generally felt. But, silently receiving the respectful caution, she saw that the miracle should be wrought when it best suited the purposes of the Divine wisdom.
After the manner of the purifying of the Jews - Or, for the purpose of the purifying of the Jews. The preposition κατα, which I have translated, for the purpose, often denotes in the best Greek writers the final cause of a thing. See several examples produced by Raphelius, from Arrian and Herodotus. These six vessels were set in a convenient place, for the purpose of the Jews washing their hands before they sat down to meat, and probably for other purposes of purification. See this custom referred to in Mat 15:2 (note). As to the number six, we need seek for no mystery in it; the number of pots was proportioned to the number of the guests.
Containing two or three firkins apiece - Measures or metretes, μετρητας. Bishop Cumberland supposes that the Syrian metretes is here meant, which he computes to have held seven pints and one eighth of a pint; and, if this computation be right, the whole six water pots might have contained about fourteen gallons and a quart. Others make each metretes to contain ten gallons and two pints: see Arbuthnot. But the contents of the measures of the ancients are so very uncertain that it is best, in this and numberless other cases, to attempt to determine nothing.
Governor of the feast - The original word, αρχιτρικλινος, signifies one who is chief or head over three couches, or tables. In the Asiatic countries, they take their meals sitting, or rather reclining, on small low couches. And when many people are present, so that they cannot all eat together, three of these low tables or couches are put together in form of a crescent, and some one of the guests is appointed to take charge of the persons who sit at these tables. Hence the appellation of architriclinus, the chief over three couches or tables, which in process of time became applied to the governor or steward of a feast, let the guests be many or few; and such person, having conducted the business well, had a festive crown put on his head by the guests, at the conclusion of the feast. See Ecclesiasticus, 32:1-3. It is very common for the Hindoos to appoint a person who is expert in conducting the ceremonies of a feast to manage as governor. This person is seldom the master of the house.
And they bare it - A question has been asked, "Did our Lord turn all the water into wine which the six measures contained?" To which I answer: There is no proof that he did; and I take it for granted that he did not. It may be asked, "How could a part be turned into wine, and not the whole?" To which I answer: The water, in all likelihood, was changed into wine as it was drawn out, and not otherwise. "But did not our Lord by this miracle minister to vice, by producing an excess of inebriating liquor?" No; for the following reasons:
1. The company was a select and holy company, where no excess could be permitted. And,
2. Our Lord does not appear to have furnished any extra quantity, but only what was necessary. "But it is intimated in the text that the guests were nearly intoxicated before this miraculous addition to their wine took place; for the evangelist says, ὁταν μεθυσθωσι, when they have become intoxicated." I answer:
1. It is not intimated, even in the most indirect manner, that these guests were at all intoxicated.
2. The words are not spoken of the persons at that wedding at all: the governor of the feast only states that such was the common custom at feasts of this nature; without intimating that any such custom prevailed there.
3. The original word bears a widely different meaning from that which the objection forces upon it. The verbs μεθυσκω and μεθυω, from μεθυ, wine, which, from μετα θυειν, to drink after sacrificing, signify not only to inebriate, but to take wine, to drink wine, to drink enough: and in this sense the verb is evidently used in the Septuagint, Gen 43:34; Sol 5:1; 1 Maccabees 16:16; Hag 1:6; Ecclus. 1:16. And the Prophet Isaiah, Isa 58:11, speaking of the abundant blessings of the godly, compares them to a watered garden, which the Septuagint translate, ὡς κηπος μεθυων, by which is certainly understood, not a garden drowned with water, but one sufficiently saturated with it, not having one drop too much, nor too little.
The good wine until now - That which our Lord now made being perfectly pure, and highly nutritive!
This beginning of miracles - It was probably the first he ever wrought: - at any rate, it was the first he wrought after his baptism, and the first he wrought publicly.
His glory - His supreme Divinity: Joh 1:14.
His disciples believed on him - Were more abundantly confirmed in their faith, that he was either the promised Messiah, or a most extraordinary prophet, in the fullest intercourse with the ever blessed God.
And the Jews' passover was at hand - This was the reason why he stayed but a few days at Capernaum, Joh 2:12, as he wished to be present at the celebration of this feast at Jerusalem.
This was the first passover after Christ's baptism. The second is mentioned, Luk 6:1. The third, Joh 6:4. And the fourth, which was that at which he was crucified, Joh 11:55. From which it appears,
1. That our blessed Lord continued his public ministry about three years and a half, according to the prophecy of Daniel, Dan 9:27. And,
2. That, having been baptized about the beginning of his thirtieth year, he was crucified precisely in the middle of his thirty-third. See Martin.
Found in the temple those that sold oxen, etc. - This is a similar fact to that mentioned Mat 21:12; Mar 11:15; Luk 19:45. See it explained on Mat 21:12 (note). If it be the same fact, then John anticipates three years of time in relating it here; as that cleansing of the temple mentioned by the other evangelists took place in the last week of our Lord's life. Mr. Mann, Dr. Priestley, and Bp. Pearce, contend that our Lord cleansed the temple only once; and that was at the last passover. Calvin, Mr. Mede, L'Enfant and Beausobre, Dr. Lardner, Bp. Hurd, and Bp. Newcome, contend that he purged the temple twice; and that this, mentioned by John, was the first cleansing, which none of the other evangelists have mentioned. Let the reader, says Bp. Newcome, observe the order of events.
"Jesus works his first miracle at Cana of Galilee, Joh 2:11; then he passes a few days at Capernaum, which bring him on his way to Jerusalem, Joh 2:12. The passover being near, he goes up to Jerusalem, Joh 2:13, and casts the traders out of the temple, Joh 2:15, Joh 2:16, At the passover he works many miracles, Joh 2:23. While he is in Jerusalem, which city he does not leave till, Joh 3:22, Nicodemus comes to him by night, Joh 3:1, Joh 3:2. Joh 3:2 contains a reference to Joh 2:23. After these things, Jesus departs from Jerusalem, and dwells and baptizes in Judea, Joh 3:22. And all these incidents take place before John was cast into prison, Joh 3:24. But the second cleansing of the temple happens most clearly during the last week of our Lord's life, after the death of the Baptist, and at a time when it would be absurd to say that afterwards Jesus dwelt and baptized in Judea."
The vindication of God's house from profanation was the first and the last care of our Lord; and it is probable he began and finished his public ministry by this significant act.
It certainly appears that John directly asserts an early cleansing of the temple, by the series of his history; as the other three evangelists assert a later cleansing of it. And though the act mentioned here seems to be nearly the same with that mentioned by the other evangelists, yet there are some differences. St. John alone mentions the scourge of rushes, and the casting out of the sheep and oxen. Besides, there is a considerable difference in our Lord's manner of doing it: in the cleansing mentioned by the three evangelists, he assumes a vast deal of authority, and speaks more pointedly concerning himself, than he appears to do in this cleansing mentioned by St. John: the reason which has been given is, In the first cleansing he was just entering upon his public ministry, and therefore avoided (as much as was consistent with the accomplishment of his work) the giving any offense to the Jewish rulers; but, in the last cleansing, he was just concluding his ministry, being about to offer up his life for the salvation of the world, in consequence of which he speaks fully and without reserve. For answers to all the objections made against two cleansings of the temple, see the notes at the end of Bp. Newcome's Greek Harmony of the Gospels, pp. 7-9.
The zeal of thine house - See Psa 59:10. Zeal to promote thy glory, and to keep thy worship pure.
What sign showest thou - See on Mat 12:38 (note); Mat 16:1 (note). When Moses came to deliver Israel, he gave signs, or miracles, that he acted under a Divine commission. What miracle dost thou work to show us that thou art vested with similar authority?
Destroy this temple - Τον ναον τουτον, This very temple; perhaps pointing to his body at the same time.
Forty and six years was this temple in building - The temple of which the Jews spake was begun to be rebuilt by Herod the Great, in the 18th year of his reign: Josephus. Ant. b. xv. c. 11, s. 1; and xx. c. 9, s. 5, 7. But though he finished the main work in nine years and a half, yet some additional buildings or repairs were constantly carried on for many years afterwards. Herod began the work sixteen years before the birth of our Lord: the transactions which are here related took place in the thirtieth year of our Lord, which make the term exactly forty-six years. Rosenmuller. Josephus, Ant. b. xx. c. 8, s. 5, 7, has told us that the whole of the buildings belonging to the temple were not finished till Nero's reign, when Albinus, the governor of Judea, was succeeded by Gessius Florus, which was eighty years after the eighteenth year of Herod's reign. See Bp. Pearce.
Of the temple of his body - Rather, the temple, his body: his body had no particular temple: but it was the temple of his Divinity - the place in which, as in the ancient temple, his Godhead dwelt; See how the Jews perverted these words, Mat 26:60 (note), and the notes there.
Remembered that he had said this unto them - Αυτοις, to them, is wanting in AEHLMS, Matt. BV, upwards of one hundred others; both the Syriac; Persic, Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, and Itala. Griesbach has left it out of the text.
They believed the scripture - The scripture which the evangelist immediately refers to may have been Psa 16:10. Compare this with Act 2:31, Act 2:32, and with Act 13:35-37. See also Psa 2:7, and compare it with Heb 1:5, and Heb 5:5, and with Act 13:33. They understood these scriptures in a sense in which they never before understood them.
It is the property of many prophecies never to be understood except by their accomplishment; but these are so marked that, when their fulfillment takes place, they cannot be misunderstood, or applied to any other event.
Many believed in his name - They believed him to be the promised Messiah, but did not believe in him to the salvation of their souls: for we find, from the following verse, that their hearts were not at all changed, because our blessed Lord could not trust himself to them.
He knew all men - Instead of παντας all men, EGH, and about thirty others, read παντα, every man, or all things; and this I am inclined to believe is the true reading. Jesus knew all things; and why? Because he made all things, Joh 1:3, and because he was the all-wise God, Joh 1:1; and he knew all men, because he alone searches the heart, and tries the reins. He knows who are sincere, and who are hypocritical: he knows those in whom he can confide, and those to whom he can neither trust himself nor his gifts. Reader, he also knows thee: thy cares, fears, perplexities, temptations, afflictions, desires, and hopes; thy helps and hinderances; the progress thou hast made in the Divine life, or thy declension from it. If he know thee to be hypocritical or iniquitous, he looks upon thee with abhorrence: if he know thee to be of a meek and broken spirit, he looks on thee with pity, complacency, and delight. Take courage - thou canst say, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I do love thee, and mourn because I love and serve thee so little: then expect him to come in unto thee, and make his abode with thee: while thy eye and heart are simple, he will love thee, and thy whole soul shall be full of light. To him be glory and dominion for ever!