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Jesus feeds the 5,000

Jesus left the area of Tyre and Sidon and travelled along the Sea of Galilee. He went up a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds had followed him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, and many others, and laid them at his feet and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. They praised the God of Israel.

The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes (Giovanni Lanfranco)Jesus called his disciples to him and said,

“I have compassion for these people. They have already been with me for three days and have had nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry or they may collapse on their way home.”

His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”

Jesus told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, not including the women and children.

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After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.

What the story means to us today

A monumental moment in time – the blessing for Gentiles has begun to take fruit

Jesus has just finished healing a Gentile woman’s daughter despite his ministry being dedicated to the Jews. Now, still in Gentile territory, Jesus feeds the Gentiles out of compassion. If it was not clear in the prior verses, it’s made perfectly clear here: Jesus’ ministry has extended to the Gentiles. This marks a monumental moment in history. The blessing for Gentiles has begun to take fruit.

Additional thoughts and considerations

Jesus continues his ministry outside Herod’s jurisdiction

The verses do not tell us precisely where Jesus was located – only that he left the region of Tyre and Sidon and went along the Sea of Galilee. If he crossed the sea, he would be in Jewish territory. On the east side, however, was Gentile territory. Mark provides the missing detail when he says Jesus went “into the region of Decapolis”, a distinctly Gentile territory which puts Jesus outside of King Herod’s jurisdiction. For the time being, Jesus remains safe from prosecution.

The similarities and differences between the feeding of the four thousand and the feeding of the five thousand

Jesus feeds the 5,000Below are the similarities and differences between this miraculous feeding and the feeding of the five thousand.

Similarities

  • Both take place in a remote area
  • Both fed the crowds with bread and fish (a common staple of the area)
  • Both say the disciples distributed the food
  • Both end in a boat trip (but so do many other stories that took place along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee)

Differences

  • Four thousand vs. five thousand fed
  • Story takes place on the northeast shore vs. the southeast shore of Galilee
  • Different supply of food in the beginning
  • Different amount of leftovers
  • Longer duration (three days in this instance)
  • Gentiles are fed vs. Jews

This feeding of the four thousand’s similarity to the feeding of the five thousand

This miracle was reported in Matthew and Mark (see Mark 8:1-10). Some may wonder if this miracle is a “doublet” of the feeding of the five thousand miracle that was presented earlier in the New Testament. Both miracles are obviously similar with a major difference – the earlier miracle fed the Jews while this miracle feeds the Gentiles.

It is likely Jesus purposely fed both audiences to show his message was applicable to both Jews and Gentiles. More importantly, if the events were doublets and a reader of Matthew knew there was only one miraculous feeding, the integrity of the entire author’s work would be impugned. Remember, Matthew’s writings occurred within a few decades of the events. Some readers would have been alive during Jesus’ reign on earth and would have known if there were one or two miraculous feedings.

Finally, both Matthew and Mark later record Jesus referencing the two feedings as two distinct events. In Matthew 16:9-11, Jesus says,

“Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?”

We can be confident that there were two separate miraculous feedings.

Jesus’ popularity was so great, people stayed with him despite nagging hunger

Jesus feeds the four thousand - Artist uknownJesus told the disciples,

“I have compassion for these people. They have already been with me for three days and have had nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry or they may collapse on their way home.”

In events such as this, the people did not leave until Jesus dismissed them and Mark 8:3 tells us that many travelled long distances to hear Jesus preach. Jesus message was so powerful, the crowds, numbering in the thousands, would stay to hear him speak, forgoing even food so they could hear every word Jesus spoke.

Today we can “hear” Jesus’ message through the New Testament. How wonderful would it be if people today still had such a strong hunger his word?

Four thousand fed – or more

The verses tell us, “The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children.” Women and children were not included in the count of participants in the miraculous feeding. Thus, the number that ate that day could have easily numbered more than ten thousand.

The science and history behind the story

The “vicinity of Magadan”

The last verse tells us, “After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan”. Mark says they went “to the region of Dalmanutha”. The location of Magadan (and Dalmanutha) is not currently known.

The next story tells us that the Pharisees and Sadducees approached Jesus about producing a sign from heaven. Presuming the events occurred in sequence, we can assume that Jesus crossed from the Gentile side of Galilee to the Jewish side and thus, Magadan would likely have been located on the western shore of Galilee.

Bible Text

NIV

29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The NET Bible

Jesus feeds the 5,00015:29 When he left there, Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up a mountain, where he sat down. 15:30 Then large crowds came to him bringing with them the lame, blind, crippled, mute, and many others. They laid them at his feet, and he healed them. 15:31 As a result, the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they praised the God of Israel.

15:32 Then Jesus called the disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have already been here with me three days and they have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry since they may faint on the way.” 15:33 The disciples said to him, “Where can we get enough bread in this desolate place to satisfy so great a crowd?” 15:34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven—and a few small fish.” 15:35 After instructing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 15:36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and after giving thanks, he broke them and began giving them to the disciples, who then gave them to the crowds. 15:37 They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 15:38 Not counting children and women, there were four thousand men who ate. 15:39 After sending away the crowd, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

New King James Version

29 Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

32 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

33 Then His disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?”

34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”

And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.”

35 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. 37 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left. 38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

The Message

Jesus feeds the 4000 - Artist UnknownAfter Jesus returned, he walked along Lake Galilee and then climbed a mountain and took his place, ready to receive visitors. They came, tons of them, bringing along the paraplegic, the blind, the maimed, the mute—all sorts of people in need—and more or less threw them down at Jesus’ feet to see what he would do with them. He healed them. When the people saw the mutes speaking, the maimed healthy, the paraplegics walking around, the blind looking around, they were astonished and let everyone know that God was blazingly alive among them.

32 But Jesus wasn’t finished with them. He called his disciples and said, “I hurt for these people. For three days now they’ve been with me, and now they have nothing to eat. I can’t send them away without a meal—they’d probably collapse on the road.”

33 His disciples said, “But where in this deserted place are you going to dig up enough food for a meal?”

34–39 Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

“Seven loaves,” they said, “plus a few fish.” At that, Jesus directed the people to sit down. He took the seven loaves and the fish. After giving thanks, he divided it up and gave it to the people. Everyone ate. They had all they wanted. It took seven large baskets to collect the leftovers. Over four thousand people ate their fill at that meal. After Jesus sent them away, he climbed in the boat and crossed over to the Magadan hills.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. 30 And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them: 31 Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.

32 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. 33 And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? 34 And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. 35 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36 And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. 37 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full. 38 And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.

39 And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archaeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database

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