Matthew Chapter 15, Verse 32
"But 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 will1 not send them away fasting, lest they faint
in the way."
Both above, when going to do this miracle, He first healed them that
were maimed in body, and here He doth the self-same thing; from the healing
of the blind and the lame, He goes on to this again.
But why might it be, that then His disciples said, "Send away the multitude,"
but now they said not so; and this, though three days had past? Either
being themselves improved by this time, or seeing that the people had no
great sense of hunger; for they were glorifying God for the things that
But see how in this instance too He doth not proceed at once to the
miracle, but calls them forth thereunto. For the multitudes indeed who
had come out for healing durst not ask for the loaves; but He, the benevolent
and provident one, gives even to them that ask not, and saith unto His
disciples, "I have compassion, and will not send them away fasting."
For lest they should say that they came having provisions for the way,
He saith, "They continue with me now three days;" so that even if they
came having any, it is all spent. For therefore He Himself did not this
on the first and second day, but when all had been consumed by them, in
order that having first been in want, they might more eagerly accept His
Therefore He saith, "Lest they faint in the way;" implying both their
distance to be great, and that they had nothing left.
"Then, if thou art not willing to send them away fasting, wherefore
dost thou not work the miracle?" That by this question and by their answer
He might make the disciples more heedful, and that they might show forth
their faith, coming unto Him, and saying, "Make loaves."
But not even so did they understand the motive of His question; wherefore
afterwards He saith to them, as Mark relates, "Are your hearts so hardened?
Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not?"2
Since, if this were not so, wherefore doth He speak to the disciples,
and signify the multitude's worthiness to receive a benefit, and add also
the pity He Himself feels?
But Matthew saith, that after this He also rebuked them, saying, "O
ye of little faith, do ye not yet understand, nor remember the five loaves
of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? nor the seven loaves
of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?"3 So completely
do the evangelists harmonize one with another.
What then say the disciples? Still they creep on the ground, although
He had done so very many things in order that that miracle might be kept
in memory; as by His question, and by the answer, and by making them minister
herein, and by distributing the baskets; but their state of mind was yet
Wherefore also they say to Him, "Whence should we have so many loaves
in the wilderness?"4
Both before this, and now, they make mention of the wilderness; themselves
in a weak way of argument so speaking, yet even hereby putting the miracle
above suspicion. That is, lest any should affirm (as I have indeed already
said), that they obtained it from some neighboring village, the place is
acknowledged, that the miracle may be believed. With this view, both the
former miracle and this He works in a wilderness, at a great distance from
The disciples, considering none of all this, said, "Whence should we
have so many loaves in a wilderness?" For they thought verily He had said
it as purposing next to enjoin them to feed the people; most foolishly;
since with this intent He had said, and that lately, "Give ye them to eat,"5
that He might bring them to an urgent need of entreating Him.
But now He saith not this, "Give ye them to eat," but what? "I have
compassion on them, and will not send them away fasting;" bringing the
disciples nearer, and provoking them more, and granting them clearer sight,
to ask these things of Him. For in truth they were the words of one signifying
that He hath power not to send them away fasting; of one manifesting His
authority. For the expression, "I will not," implies such a purpose in
2. Since however they still spake of the multitude merely, and the place,
and the wilderness (for "whence," it is said, "should we have in a wilderness
so many loaves, as to fill so great a multitude"?); and not even so understood
what He said, He proceeds to contribute His own part, and saith unto them,
"How many loaves have ye? And they say, Seven, and a few little fishes."6
And they no more say, "But what are these among so many?"7 as they had
said before. So that although they reached not His whole meaning, yet nevertheless
they became higher by degrees. For so He too, arousing their mind hereby,
puts the question much as He had done before, that by the very form of
the inquiry He might remind them of the works already done.
But as thou hast seen their imperfection hereby, so do thou observe
the severity of their spirit, and admire their love of truth, how, writing
themselves, they conceal not their own defects, great as they were. For
it was no small blame to have presently forgotten this miracle, which had
so recently taken place; wherefore they are also rebuked.
And herewith consider also their strictness in another matter, how they
were conquerors of their appetite; how disciplined to make little account
of their diet. For being in the wilderness and abiding there three days,
they had seven loaves.
Now all the rest He doth as on the former occasion; thus He both makes
them sit down on the ground, and He makes the loaves multiply themselves
in the hands of the disciples. For, "He commanded," it is said, "the multitude
to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves, and the fishes,
and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to His disciples, and the disciples
to the multitude."8
But when we come to the end, there is a difference.
For, "they did all eat," so it is said, "and were filled, and they took
up of the broken meat that was left,9 seven baskets full. And they that
did eat were four thousand men, besides women and children."10
But why at the former time, when there were five thousand, did twelve
baskets full remain over and above, whereas here, when there were four
thousand, it was seven baskets full? For what purpose, I say, and by what
cause, were the remnants less, the guests not being so many?
Either then one may say this, that the baskets on this last occasion11
were greater than those used before,12 or if this were not so, lest the
equality of the miracle should again cast them into forgetfulness, He rouses
their recollection by the difference, that by the variation they might
be reminded of both one and the other. Accordingly, in that case, He makes
the baskets full of fragments equal in number to His disciples, in this,
the other baskets equal to the loaves; indicating even hereby His unspeakable
power, and the ease wherewith He exercised His authority, in that it was
possible for Him to work such miracles, both in this way and in the other.
For neither was it of small power, to maintain the exact number, both then
and now; then when there were five thousand, now when there were four thousand;
and not suffer the remnants to be more than the baskets used on the one
occasion or on the other, although the number of the guests was different.
And the end again was like the former. For as then He left the multitude
and withdrew in a ship, so also now; and John also saith this.13 For since
no sign did so work upon them to follow Him, as the miracle of the loaves;
and they were minded not only to follow Him, but also to make Him a king;14
avoiding all suspicion of usurping royalty, He hastens away after this
work of wonder: and He doth not even go away afoot, lest they should follow
Him, but by entering into a ship.
"And He sent away the multitudes," so it saith, "and went on board the
ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala."15
1 [R. V., "would,", qe/lw.
2 Mark viii. 17, 18.
3 Matt. xvi. 8-10.
4 Matt. xv. 33. [R. V., "in a desert place."]
5 Matt. xiv. 16.
6 Matt. xv. 34.
7 John vi. 9.
8 Matt. xv. 35, 36. [The imperfect e0di/dou "kept giving,"
is found here, against the rec. text.-R.]
9 [R. V., "that which remained over of the broken pieces."]
10 Matt. xv. 37, 38.
11 spuri/dej. That the spuri/j was of large size would
appear from Acts ix. 25, where this word is again used. Ko/finoj is the
word commonly used hy the LXX. for basket; that it was in common use among
the Jews seems proved by the well-known line lo Juvenal, Sat. iii. 14.
"Jud'is, quorum cophinus f'numque suppellex." See also Sat. vi. 545, 542.
13 John vi. 17.
14 John vi. 15.
15 Matt. xv. 39. [R. V., "Magadan," following a better
supported reading; so Jerome, Augustin, and others.-R.]