(1-6) And he went out from thence.—See Notes on Matthew 13:54-58.
His disciples follow him.—St, Matthew does not name this fact. As put by St. Mark it seems to imply that the disciples did not accompany their Master, but came subsequently.
Such mighty works.—As the Evangelist notes in Mark 6:5 that no mighty work had been done in Nazareth, these must refer to what had been reported there.
No money.—As the margin gives, no brass, or rather bronze, or money. The coins referred to are probably the “farthing” and the “mite” of Mark 12:42.
“But when the feast of Herod’s birthday comes,
And, through the window, smoke-besmeared, the lamps,
Set in due order, wreaths of violets round,
Pour out their oily fumes, and in the dish
Of red-clay porcelain tail of tunny swims,
And the white flagon bellies out with wine,
Thou mov’st thy lips, yet speak’st not, and in fear
Thou keep’st the Sabbath of the circumcised,
And then there rise dark spectres of the dead,
And the cracked egg-shell bodes of coming ill . . .
It is clear that a description so minute in its details must have been photographed, as it were, from some actual incident, and could not have been merely a general picture of the prevalence of Jewish superstition in Roman society. Commentators on the Roman poet have, however, failed to find any clue to the incident thus graphically related. Can we, starting from what the Gospels tell us as to the character of Antipas, picture to ourselves a scene that explains his strange mysterious hints? In A.D. 39 Herod Agrippa I., the nephew of the Tetrarch, obtained the title of king from the Emperor Caligula. Prompted by the ambition of Herodias, Antipas went with her to Rome, to seek, by lavish gifts and show of state, the same distinction. The emissaries of Agrippa, however, thwarted his schemes, and he was deposed and sent into exile at Lugdunum. May we not conjecture that the same superstitious terror which made him say that John the Baptist was risen from the dead followed him there also? “Herod’s birthday” again comes round, and there is a great feast, and instead of the “lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee,” senators and courtiers and philosophers are there, and, lo! there is a pause, and the Tetrarch rises in silent horror—as Macbeth at the apparition of Banquo’s ghost—and he sees the dark form shaking its gory locks, and his lips move in speechless terror, and he “does many things” on the coming Sabbath, and the thing becomes a by-word and a proverb in the upper circles of Roman society, and is noted in the schools of the Stoics as an illustration of what superstition can effect. The view thus stated is, of course, not more than a conjecture, but it at least explains phenomena. Persius died, at the age of twenty-eight or thirty, in A.D. 62, and may well therefore have heard the matter talked of in his boyhood.
A just man and an holy.—The two words indicate—the first, righteousness as seen in relation to man; the second, the same element of character in relation to God.
Observed him.—The word has been differently interpreted, but Luke 2:19, where it is translated “kept,” seems decisive as to its meaning that Herod had a certain reverence for his prisoner. In English, however, to “keep” a man is ambiguous, and the “observed” of our version seems on the whole preferable to any other.
He did many things.—The better MSS. give, “he was much perplexed.”
His lords, high captains, and chief estates.—St. Mark alone gives the account of the guests. The three words mean respectively—(1) the magnates, or officials of the court; (2) the chiliarchs, or chief captains (literally, captain of a thousand—the same word as in Acts 21:31; Acts 26:26) in the Roman legion; (3) the chief men (“estates” to modern ears is too formal a word), probably the large landowners of the province.
And buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.—The better MSS. give simply, “buy themselves what they may eat.”
In the streets.—Better, in the market-places.
The border of his garment.—Better, the hem, or fringe. See Note on Matthew 9:20.
Were made whole.—The Greek tense implies an event frequently recurring.