And Jesus said unto them
To the disciples of John, the Pharisees being present, who both have here a full answer; though it seems to be especially directed to the former:
can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the
bridegroom, is with them?
By the "bridegroom" Christ means himself, who stands in such a relation to his church, and to all, believers; whom he secretly betrothed to himself from all eternity, in the covenant of grace; and openly espouses in the effectual calling; and will still do it in a more public manner at the last day John, the master of those men, who put the question to Christ, had acknowledged him under this character, ( John 3:29 ) and therefore they ought to own it as belonging to him; so that the argument upon it came with the greater force to them. By "the children of the bride chamber" are meant the disciples, who were the friends of the bridegroom, as John also says he was; and therefore rejoiced at hearing his voice, as these did, and ought to do; their present situation, having the presence of Christ the bridegroom with them, required mirth and not mourning, John, their master, being witness. The allusion is to a nuptial solemnity, which is a time of joy and feasting, and not of sorrow and fasting; when both bride and bridegroom have their friends attending them, who used to be called (hpwxh ynb) , "the children of the bride chamber". The bride had her maidens waiting on her; and it is said F9,
``she did not go into the bridechamber but with them; and these are called, (atpwx ynb) , "the children of the bride chamber".''So the young men that were the friends of the bridegroom, which attended him, were called by the same name; and, according to the Jewish canons, were free from many things they were otherwise obliged to: thus it is said F11:
``the bridegroom, his friends, and all (hpwxh ynb) , "the children of the bride chamber", are free from the booth all the seven days;''that is, from dwelling in booths at the feast of tabernacles, which was too strait a place for such festival solemnities. And again,
``the bridegroom, his friends, and all (hpwxh ynb) , "the children of the bride chamber", are free from prayer and the phylacteries;''that is, from observing the stated times of attending to these things, and much more then were they excused from fasting and mourning; so that the Pharisees had an answer sufficient to silence them, agreeably to their own traditions. Give me leave to transcribe one passage more, for the illustration of this text F12.
``When R. Lazar ben Arach opened, in the business of Mercava, (the visions in the beginning of Ezekiel,) Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai alighted from his ass; for he said it is not fit I should hear the glory of my Creator, and ride upon an ass: they went, and sat under a certain tree, and fire came down from heaven and surrounded them; and the ministering angels leaped before them, (hpwx ynbk) , "as the children of the bride chamber" rejoice before the bridegroom.''The time of Christ's being with his disciples, between his entrance on his public ministry, and his death, is the time here referred to, during which the disciples had very little care and trouble: this was their rejoicing time, and there was a great deal of reason for it; they had no occasion to fast and mourn; and indeed the Jews themselves say F13, that
``all fasts shall cease in the days of the Messiah; and there shall be no more but good days, and days of joy and rejoicing, as it is said, ( Zechariah 8:19 ) .''But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from
in a forcible manner, and put to death, as he was;
and then shall they fast
and mourn, and be in great distress, as John's disciples now were, on account of their master being in prison.
F9 Zohar in Gen. fol. 6. 4.
F11 T. Bab. Succa, fol. 25. 2. & Hieros. Succa, fol. 53. 1. Maimon. Succa, c. 6. sect. 3.
F12 T. Hieros. Chagiga, fol. 77. 1.
F13 Maimon. Hilchot Taaniot, c. 5. sect. 19.