No man knoweth whence he is - The generality of the people knew very well that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, in the city, and of the family, of David; see John 7:42. But, from Isaiah 53:8, Who shall declare his generation? they probably thought that there should be something so peculiarly mysterious in his birth, or in the manner of his appearing, that no person could fully understand. Had they considered his miraculous conception, they would have felt their minds relieved on this point. The Jews thought that the Messiah, after his birth, would hide himself for some considerable time; and that when he began to preach no man should know where he had been hidden, and whence he had come. The rabbins have the following proverb: Three things come unexpectedly:
It was probably in reference to the above that the people said, No man knoweth whence he is. However, they might have spoken this of his parents. We know that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, of the family of David; but no man can know his parents: therefore they rejected him: John 6:42, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?
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 Matthew 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, Matthew 24:23; “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe it not.” And again John 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, Song of Song of Solomon 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 Matthew 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 Isaiah 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 John 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 Matthew 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 Matthew 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, Leviticus 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 Leviticus 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 John 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 Isaiah 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.
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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 44:3-4; Joel 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, Matthew 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 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 John 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 John 7:8-12; John 14:15-16, John 14:26. Compare Ephesians 4:8-11.
The Prophet - That is, the prophet whom they expected to precede the coming of the Messiah - either Elijah or Jeremiah. See Matthew 16:14.
The officers - Those who had been appointed John 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 John 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 John 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 John 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, Leviticus 19:15-16; Exodus 23:1-2; Deuteronomy 19:15, Deuteronomy 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 John 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,” Psalm 76:10.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 7:4". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". "www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-7.html. 1870.
Meanwhile Jesus had quietly arrived at Jerusalem. He had chosen an unfrequented route by which to go, in order to avoid the travelers who were making their way to the city from all quarters. Had He joined any of the caravans that went up to the feast, public attention would have been attracted to Him on His entrance into the city, and a popular demonstration in His favor would have aroused the authorities against Him. It was to avoid this that He chose to make the journey alone. DA 452.1
In the midst of the feast, when the excitement concerning Him was at its height, He entered the court of the temple in the presence of the multitude. Because of His absence from the feast, it had been urged that He dared not place Himself in the power of the priests and rulers. All were surprised at His presence. Every voice was hushed. All wondered at the dignity and courage of His bearing in the midst of powerful enemies who were thirsting for His life. DA 452.2
Standing thus, the center of attraction to that vast throng, Jesus addressed them as no man had ever done. His words showed a knowledge of the laws and institutions of Israel, of the sacrificial service and the teachings of the prophets, far exceeding that of the priests and rabbis. He broke through the barriers of formalism and tradition. The scenes of the future life seemed outspread before Him. As one who beheld the Unseen, He spoke of the earthly and the heavenly, the human and the divine, with positive authority. His words were most clear and convincing; and again, as at Capernaum, the people were astonished at His teaching; “for His word was with power.” Luke 4:32. Under a variety of representations He warned His hearers of the calamity that would follow all who rejected the blessings He came to bring them. He had given them every possible proof that He came forth from God, and made every possible effort to bring them to repentance. He would not be rejected and murdered by His own nation if He could save them from the guilt of such a deed. DA 452.3Read in context »
How was it with the rebellious inhabitants of the antediluvian world? After rejecting the message of Noah, they plunged into sin with greater abandon than ever before, and doubled the enormity of their corrupting practices. Those who refuse to reform by accepting Christ find nothing reformative in sin; their minds are set to carry their spirit of revolt, and they are not, and never will be, forced to submission. The judgment which God brought upon the antediluvian world declared it incurable. The destruction of Sodom proclaimed the inhabitants of the most beautiful country in the world incorrigible in sin. The fire and brimstone from heaven consumed everything except Lot, his wife, and two daughters. The wife, looking back in disregard of God's command, became a pillar of salt. TM 75.1
How God bore with the Jewish nation while they were murmuring and rebellious, breaking the Sabbath and every other precept of the law! He repeatedly declared them worse than the heathen. Each generation surpassed the preceding in guilt. The Lord permitted them to go into captivity, but after their deliverance His requirements were forgotten. Everything that He committed to that people to be kept sacred was perverted or displaced by the inventions of rebellious men. Christ said to them in His day, “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?” And these were the men who set themselves up as judges and censors over those whom the Holy Spirit was moving to declare the word of God to the people. (See John 7:9-23, 27, 28; Luke 11:37-52.) TM 75.2Read in context »