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Matthew 14:1-36

Last Updated 9/9/00


At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger. And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children. And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.

1 Herod

For more information on Herod and the Roman politics at the time, refer to our background article, First Century Religious and Political Background.

5   they counted him as a prophet.

What is a prophet? To many people, the word is associated with someone who predicts the future. Although this can be a part of a prophet's life, this is not represent what a Biblical prophet is all about. Nor should Biblical prophets be defined solely as bringers of messages of impending doom or calls for repentance, although they may have done that at times as well.

Interestingly, the first person in the Bible to be called a "prophet," is not one that people usually associate much with that title. That person is Abraham.

God told King Abimelech:

Genesis 20:7 - Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.

As Scripture shows us, Abraham was best known for his intimacy with God and carrying out of God's will wherever he went.

The Hebrew word for prophet, is Navie, which may come from the root Nava, meaning "to flow," or "gush forth." This would imply that a prophet is also a "channel" for bringing spiritual power from God to bear on a certain situation.

Thus, we have God saying this to Moses about his brother:

Exodus 7:1 - And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.

Many people associate Aaron (the prophet) being God's spokeman to Pharaoh. However, examining the account of the meetings with Pharaoh, we see that it was Moses that did the talking directly. Scripture does show us however, that it was Aaron that brought about the first miracles. Aaron acted as a prophet for Moses, being the "channel" for bringing down God's spiritual power.1

All of the above should not blur the distinction between the "office" of prophet, which has a time and place in history, and the gift of prophecy, which we are told to seek after:

1 Corinthians 14:1 - Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

The "flow," or "gushing forth," of the will of God through a person, was promised byYeshua:

John 7:38 - He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

13  by ship into a desert place apart

The Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew has, "... into the wilderness of Judea." This would make sense as the origins of both John and Yeshua's ministries are in this area.

17  We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

Yeshua "replicates" a miracle by the great prophet Elisha, only to a far greater magnitude:

2 Kings 4:42-44 - And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat. And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof. So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.
19  he blessed, and brake

One of the common misconceptions is that Yeshua "blessed the food" (here, and at the "Last Supper," where it is said He "blessed the bread and the wine"). This is an incorrect understanding of what was being done, and has led to many unscriptural traditions (such as blessing of pets, cars, etc.) Some even teach that by "blessing" unkosher food, this makes it permissible to eat. What Yeshua did, and what Jews did and do today, is to bless God. The prayer over the food, is actually a prayer thanking God for his sustenance.

A typical prayer Yeshua would have said (which is still said today), is:

Baruch attah Adoonai, Elohenu Melech ha-Olam, haMotzi lechem min ha'aretz.

Which may be translated (note who is being blessed):

Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the Universe, who brings bread from the earth.

26  the disciples saw him walking on the sea

Evidently, Yeshua was in a state where He could be seen at night across the waters. This may be compared to his appearance when seen with Moses and Elijah, in Matthew chapter 17.

His return is described as being in such radiance as well:

2 Thessalonians 2:8 - And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

30  he was afraid; and beginning to sink,

Peter was no doubt an expert swimmer, being a fisherman by trade. Why was he so fearful when he went under water only a few feet from the boat? Evidently, the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text may not tell the full story.

There is spiritual connotation to the water, especially "the sea." In mystical Jewish literature, the "sea" is the spiritual realm. Sinking into the sea, as such, can be seen as a rapid deterioration of one's spiritual condition. (Something that occured in Peter's life more than once, such as in Matthew 16:23 and Matthew chapter 26). Peter's cry as he was sinking was not for a lifeguard.

32  And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

Not only was Peter's condition calmed (verse 30) but so were the physical elements.

Psalm 65:8 - Who stillest the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples

36   as many as touched were made perfectly whole.

The same was said about Paul's clothing. In fact even his garments had some kind of miraculous power about them (Acts 19:12). Unfortunately, due to a lack of grounding in God's Torah, many superstitions have emanated from these specific miracles. Instead of focusing on learning and doing the Torah (which conforms us to the image of God), people have resorted to creating and using everything from medals to "prayer cloths," in vain efforts to bring themselves "closer to God." Another more recent trend is the misuse of "Jewish things," such as the tallit (in both Christian and Messianic circles) for similar purpose.

1. See Meditation and the Bible, Aryeh Kaplan, 1978, Samuel Weiser, Inc. York Beach, Maine, pp. 27-30.