The next morning, rising up early, Jesus goes out into Mark i. 35.
a solitary place to pray. Simon and others go out to seek Luke iv. 42. Him because the multitude waited for Him. He replies,
that He must also preach in the neighboring towns. He Mark i. 38.
goes preaching in the synagogues and working miracles. Luke iv. 43.
This quick departure from Capernaum may perhaps be explained from the Lord's desire that'a period of reflection should follow the surprise and wonder which His words and works had excited in the minds of the people. Their astonishment at the supernatural power He manifested, and their readiness to come to Him as a healer of the sick, did not prove the possession of true faith. He therefore will leave them to meditate on what they have seen and heard, and depart to visit the other cities and villages of Galilee, probably, as has been suggested, following some fixed order of visitation. Galilee at that time, according to Josephus,3 was very populous. " The towns are numerous, and the multitude of villages so crowded with men, owing to the fecundity of the soil, that the smallest of them contains above 15,000 inhabitants." Elsewhere he incidentally mentions4 that there were 204 cities and villages in Galilee, thus giving a population of more than three millions.
3 War, 3. 3. 2. * Life, 45.
This statement is confirmed in general by Dion Cassius, who says, that under Hadrian 985 villages of the Jews were laid waste.1 Making all necessary allowance for the exaggeration of Josephus in regard to the populousness of each village, still it is apparent that the land wras crowded with people, and that the Lord, with all His activity, could, during the brief period of His ministry, have visited but a part of the towns. We see also whence came the multitudes who seem to have followed Him wherever He went.*
That this, the Lord's first circuit with His disciples, must have continued some time, appears from the statements of the Evangelists, (Mark i. 39—ii. 1; Luke iv. 44; Matt. iv. 23,) though their language may perhaps describe His general activity rather than any particular period of it. The expressions in Mark ii. 1, S? ^/xepwv " after some days," is indefinite, and its length must be otherwise determined. The attempt of Greswell to show, from the number of places He would visit, and the length of the stay He would make in each, that the duration of a circuit would never be less than three months, and probably never less than four, rests upon no sound basis. Ellicott, (168,) going to the other extreme, makes this circuit to have lasted only four or five days. It is intrinsically improbable that, as Greswell supposes, Jesus should have journeyed now wholly around Galilee, keeping on its boundary lines. What particular parts of the province He at this time visited, we have no data to decide, but it is certain that early in His ministry He visited the cities of Bethsaida and Chorazin, adjacent to Capernaum, and labored much in them, though of these labors there is little or no mention, (Matt. xi. 21.) His fame rapidly spread, and soon the people from the regions adjacent to Galilee began to gather to him.
Raumer, 81. 2 See Greswell, iv. 486.
Of His works of healing during the first circuit, no instance is given, unless the healing of the leper (Matt. viii. 2; Luke v. 12 ; Mark i. 40) took place at this time. Matthew places it immediately after the Sermon on the Mount. Luke introduces it with no mark of time : " And it came to pass when He was in a certain city," &c. Mark connects it with the first circuit in Galilee, but with no mention of place. That this healing is not chronologically placed by Matthew, appears from the whole arrangement of chapters viii. and ix. The first verse of chapter viii. more properly belongs to the conclusion of the history of the Sermon on the Mount; verse second begins the narrative of healings and other miracles, of which ten particular examples are successively recorded, but without regard to the exact order of time in which they occurred. After healing the leper, Jesus commands him to go and show himself to the priests, and to say nothing to any one else of the miracle, (Matt. viii. 4.) This command of silence plainly implies that the miracle had been done privately, and not in the presence of the multitude, and could not have been, therefore, as He came from the Mount, for great crowds then followed him. Nor in the presence of the people could a leper have approached Him.1 This command to keep silence the leper disobeys, and every where publishes abroad what Jesus had done. This wonderful cure, for leprosy was deemed incurable, made the people to throng to Him in such crowds, that He could no more enter into any city.2 He was obliged to retire to the desert, or uninhabited places, to avoid them; but even then they gathered to Him from every quarter.
If then the healing of the leper be placed during this circuit, it was probably during the latter part of it. As He
1 Greswell, ii. 296, note, infers that Jesus was in some house apart when the leper applied to Him, and that his cure took place in private.
2 Or into the city—i. e,, Capernaum. So Norton.
As he proceeded from place to place, He healed such sick persons as were brought to Him, and the reports of these cures spreading in every direction, all in every city would be brought so soon as His presence was known. The leprosy may have been one of the last forms of disease He healed, partly because of want of faith on the part of the lepers, and partly because it was difficult for them, amidst such crowds, to get access to Him. But why in this case should silence be enjoined? And why, after He had wrought so many other cures, should this have aroused so much attention as to make it necessary for Him to avoid the cities and go into uninhabited places ? The most probable answer is, that the public proclamation of this miracle gave the people such conceptions of His mighty power to heal, that all thronged to Him to be healed, and thus His teachings, the moral side of His work, were thrust into the shade. It was the word which He wished to make prominent, and the work was but subsidiary. He would not that the people should merely wander after Him as a miracle worker, but should learn through His works the true nature of the redemption He came to proclaim.