In the Fulness of Time/Part 103

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2008
In this passage Jesus performs miracles among those who were considered heathens to the Jews of His day. Dr. Figart explains the evidence showing the feeding of the 4000 is a different event from the feeding of the 5000.

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Christ Healing Many Suffering Gentiles. Matthew 15:29-31

Matthew 15:29-31 – And Jesus departed from there, and came near unto the Sea of Galilee, and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. And great multitudes came unto him having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and put them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them, Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be well, the lame to walk, and the blind to see; and they glorified the God of Israel.

When Matthew 15:29 relates the journey of Jesus from the borders of Tyre and Sidon, it indicates that he “came near unto the Sea of Galilee.” Mark 7:31 adds that He “came unto the Sea of Galilee through the midst of the borders of Decapolis,” or Ten Cities. This extensive district of ten cities was essentially heathen territory. Their ancient monuments show in which of them Zeus, Astarte and Athene, or some other Grecian gods were worshiped. This district was subject unto the governor of Syria.

The number and variety of cures could have reached into the hundreds, since this ministry lasted for three days, according to verse 32, and so impressed the Gentile multitude that they “wondered” (thaumasai; marveled) and “glorified the God of Israel.”

Christ Feeding Four Thousand Gentiles. Matthew 15:32-39

Matthew 15:32-39 – Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. And his disciples say unto him, From where should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and broke them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat and were filled: and they took up of the broken pieces that were left seven baskets full. And they that did eat were four thousand men, besides women and children. And he sent away the multitude, and got into a boat and came into the borders of Magdalan.

Some of the more liberal writers sense the similarities between the feeding of the five thousand in 14:15-21 and this account of the four thousand, and attempt to show that this is a duplication of the previous account. There are some similarities, but when the differences are listed there is no doubt that two separate instances of miraculous feeding occurred. There are at least seven distinctions to be observed.

  1. The time of the year was different, possibly separated by a number of weeks. In 14:19, Jesus commanded the five thousand to “recline on the grass” (anaklithenai epi tous chortous), whereas in 15:35 He told them to sit “on the earth” (epi ten gen). After a few weeks of hot sun, the grass dried up and thus the five thousand sat on the earth.
  2. The length of His ministry was longer. In 14:15 all happened on one day, but in 15:32 the people had been there for three days. Possibly they prepared for a longer period of time since so many of them had brought sick ones to be healed. Even so, their provisions would have eventually depleted and they became hungry.
  3. The place was not the same. They were definitely in Gentile territory, in the area of Decapolis which was under Syrian jurisdiction, as mentioned above.
  4. Therefore, the people were Gentiles, not Jews. He had ministered to Gentiles before, in Matthew 4:24, and to the Roman centurion on Matthew 8. This was one reason why the Syrophoenician woman knew about Him.
  5. The baskets used in this occurrence were Gentile baskets, much larger than those used by the Jews. In 14:20 the word is kophinoi when the baskets were mentioned. These were only large enough for one person’s meal. In 15:37 when they took up seven baskets, the word is spurides, a type of basket used by a merchant in which to carry his wares. It was much larger, and would hold as much as fifty loaves of bread. As a matter of record, it was the kind of basket used to lower the Apostle Paul down the wall in Damascus according to Acts 9:25.
  6. Matthew specifically mentions that “they glorified the God of Israel” (15:31); the words “of Israel” would not have been spoken if these people had been Jews.
  7. Finally, Jesus Himself later referred to both incidents separately. Matthew 16:9-10 and Mark 8:19-20 both mention each occurrence, proving there was no duplication of the first account. Incidentally, in each of these two passages Jesus correctly uses the different words for “baskets” in the proper order!

In the fulness of time, when Jesus returns to earth, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father! Those who refuse to bow before Him and believe in Him, will be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity!

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