During the first days of the feast there was much in- John vih 11-13. quiry among the people concerning Jesus, and His probable appearance at the feast, but no one spake openly through fear of the Jews. After His arrival at Jerusa- John vii. 14-31 lem, He went into the temple and taught. His enemies wish to arrest Him but do not, and many people believe on Him. Upon a subsequent day of the feast the Phar- John vii. 32-53. isees make an attempt to arrest Him, but it fails, and the officers they had sent return declaring, " never man spake like this man." Nicodemus makes an useless effort to induce them to act with equity.
Here, as elsewhere in the Gospel of John, a distinction is to be noted, although not always preserved, between the " Jews " and the " people." By the former he means the nation as headed up in its rulers, and represented by them, and ever hostile to the Lord. Thus he says, (v. 11,) "the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, Where is He?" Again, (v. 13,) " no man spake openly of Him, for fear of the Jews." By the latter He means the people, (literally " crowd," " multitude," o^Xos,) regarded as an assemblage of individuals, amongst whom there were many differences of opinion, some favorable and some unfavorable to Jesus. (See v. 12.) A large portion of the crowd on this occasion was composed of pilgrims to the feast, and these are distinguished from the citizens of Jerusalem, (v. 25.) But there was no public expression of opinion in His favor, all His friends being afraid of the hierarchy. His sudden appearance in the temple at so late a period of the feast surprised all; and the power of His speech, not the truths that He uttered, made His enemies to marvel. It will serve to the understanding of the present narrative to keep in mind that at the time of the healing of the impotent man the Jewish rulers determined, perhaps formally in full Sanhedrim, to put Him to death, (John v. 16-18;) that this determination was known to some at least of the citizens of Jerusalem; and that Jesus had not, from that time to the present, entered Judea. He can now, therefore, refer back to that miracle, and to the purpose to kill Him, as to things well known to the rulers and to some of the people, although some of the multitude, doubtless the feast pilgrims, (v. 20,) were ignorant of this purpose. Thus we readily see why the citizens were surprised that He should be allowed to speak at all in the temple.
It is not plain when the Pharisees and chief priests (v. 32) sent officers to take Him. It was perhaps, as said by Stie'r, upon the day following His appearance in the
temple, and before the last day of the feast. Greswell supposes that for prudential reasons they deferred the attempt till the last day. It was plainly an act not of individuals hut of the Sanhedrim, which probably was assembled specially for the purpose. They were induced to take this step by the great impression his teachings had made upon the people. But, if the officers were sent before the last day, they seem to have waited for a more favorable hour, perhaps fearing to attempt an arrest, and contented themselves with watching Him till the conclusion of the feast. Upon the last day some of the multitude (v. 44) would have taken Him, but the officers, who had been greatly moved by His words, made no effort to do so, much to the vexation of those who had sent themrand to whom they now made their report.
It is disputed whether " the last great day of the feast" (v. Si) was the seventh or eighth. Most maintain the latter.1 According to the law, (Numb. 29, 35,) upon the eighth day a solemn assembly should be held and special sacrifices offered. This day seems to have become in popular estimation the great day of the feast. Lightfoot, (in loco,) after stating the Jewish opinions as to the meaning of the several sacrifices, adds: "On the other seven days they thought supplications and sacrifices were offered, not so much for themselves as for the nations of the world; but the solemnities of the eighth day were wholly in their own behalf. They did not reckon the eighth day as included within the feast, but a festival day, separately and by itself." 2 It is questioned whether the drawing of water, to which the Lord is supposed to allude, (vs. 37, 38,) and which took place upon each of the seven days, took place also upon the eighth.3
i So Meyer, Alford, Tholuck, Lichtenstein; contra, Greswell.
2 See Josephus, Antiq., 3. 10. 4.
3 See Winer, ii. 8, note 2; Alford in loco.
But if it did not, as Alford rightly remarks, it would not exclude a reference to what had been done on the preceding days. Many, however, maintain that water was also poured out on the eighth day; and that Christ's words were spoken as the priest who bore it entered the court.1
The haughtiness of the priests and Pharisees, and their contempt for all not of themselves, are strikingly displayed in their remarks upon the return of the officers; and their rejection of the manifestly just and legal proposition of Nicodemus, shows that they were bound by no considerations of equity. It is possible that others agreed with Nicodemus, and that there were internal dissensions in the council.
1 See Tholuck in loco.