And a very great multitude
Which consisted partly of the great multitude which followed Christ from Jericho, and partly of the much people that were come up to the feast of the passover from divers parts, and met him from Jerusalem; see ( John 12:12 John 12:13 ) . These, many of them, for it cannot be thought to be done by them all,
spread their garments in the way;
either in the middle of the road, instead of carpets, to ride upon; the Persic version adds, "that he might pass over them": this they did, in honour to him as a king. So when Jehu declared to the princes of Israel, that he was anointed king of Israel, they hastened, and took every man his garment, and put it under him, ( 2 Kings 9:13 ) that is, to tread upon; though the Jewish writers F24 say, it was done that he might be higher than them all, suitable to the dignity of a king: and it is reported F25 of Cato Uticensis, the emperor, that his soldiers strewed their garments for him to walk upon: or these garments were spread by the way side. Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, that little tents might be raised by them along the road, upon which they spread their garments to make a show, in imitation of the feast of tabernacles, to which there is a very great resemblance in many things which occur in this account; when they used to spread linen cloth, garments, and fruits, over their booths, for decoration and ornament; as appears from their traditions about these things:
``(Nydo hyle oryp) , "if a man spreads a linen cloth over it", (his booth,) because of the sun, or under it, because of the falling of leaves or spreads it over a canopy, it is not right; but he may spread it over the bedposts F26.''That is, for ornament, as the commentators observe F1. Again,
``(dgb hyle vrp) , if a man spreads a garment over it, (his booth,) or if he spreads it under it, because of what falls it is not right; but if he spreads it so as that it is, (htwanl) , "for ornament", it is right; and so if he covers it according to the tradition of it, and encompasses it with various kinds of fruits, and precious things, and vessels which hang upon it, whether on its walls, or on its covering, so they be for ornament, it is right F2.''In like manner, the multitude might hang their garments, to make the show the greater, either on such booths, or on the houses and trees, that were upon the road, as they went along.
Others cut down branches from the trees;
from the olive trees, as the Persic version expresses it, which grew in great plenty hereabout; and also from the palm trees, the branches of which, with the boughs of other trees, were what the Jews used to carry in their hands on the feast of tabernacles; see ( Leviticus 23:40 ) and the Evangelist John expressly says, that the people which met Christ from Jerusalem at this time, did take branches of palm trees in their hands, ( John 12:13 ) . And though this was not the time of the feast of tabernacles, but of the passover, yet it was common with the Jews to signify their joy upon any occasion, by such ways and methods they used at that least: so upon the cleansing of the tower of Jerusalem, by Simon Maccabeus, the Jews entered into it with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees:
``And entered into it the three and twentieth day of the second month in the hundred seventy and first year, with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and with viols, and hymns, and songs: because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel.'' (1 Maccabees 13:51)Likewise upon purifying the temple, which had been polluted by Antiochus, they kept eight days with gladness as in the feast of tabernacles, and bare branches and fair boughs, and palms also, as in the Apocrypha: 6 And they kept the eight days with gladness, as in the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long afore they had held the feast of the tabernacles, when as they wandered in the mountains and dens like beasts. 7 Therefore they bare branches, and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto him that had given them good success in cleansing his place. (2 Maccabees 10) But here it is said, and they strawed them in the way:
not in the middle of the road, which would have been an hindrance to riding; but by the way side, upon, the booths, or houses in the road, in honour of him; just as the Jews F3 say,
``the streets were strewed with myrtles, and the courts with purple, when Mordecai went out of the king's gate.''
F24 R. Levi ben Gersom, & R. Samuel Laniado in loc.
F25 Plutarch in Aleibiade.
F26 Misn. Succa, c. 1. sect. 3.
F1 Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.
F2 Maimon. Hilch. Succa, c. 5. sect. 17.
F3 Targum in Esther viii. 15.