Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, being sick, John xi. 1-46. they send a messenger to the Lord in Perea to inform Him of his sickness. After receiving the message He abides still two days in the place where He was. Taking the disciples with Him, He then goes to Bethany and raises Lazarus from the dead. Many of the Jews present believed on Him, but others departing to Jerusalem tell
what had occurred to the Pharisees. A council is sum- John xi. 47-5?. moned, and Caiaphas the high priest advises that He be put to death. Jesus, learning this, goes with His disciples to a city called Ephraim, and His enemies give a commandment, that, if any man know where He is, he should show it, that they might take Him.
At this point in Luke's narrative we insert the account given by John of the journey of Jesus to Bethany to raise Lazarus, and of His subsequent departure to Ephraim and sojourn there. The Lord waits two days after receiving the message of the sisters ere He departs for Bethany. It is not certain how long after the death of Lazarus He arrived there. It is said (v. 17) that " when He came He found that he had lain in the grave four days already." We may then count as the first, that on which the message was sent and received; the two following days of waiting, and on the fourth He departs from Perea and arrives at Bethany If we suppose Lazarus to have died on the same day that the message was sent, and to have been buried the same day, as was customary, (see Acts v. 6 and 10,) the day of the Lord's arrival was the fourth after the interment. Reckoning a part of a day as a whole, we have thus the four days. Lardner * supposes that his burial was the day following his death. "If he died on the first day of the week, he was buried on the second, and raised on the fifth. He had been dead four days complete, and buried four days incomplete."
Tholuck (in loco) thinks it improbable that Jesus could have made the journey (perhaps 23-29 miles) in one day, and yet arrive in Bethany in season to do all that is recorded of Him. He must have spent parts of two days upon the road. He supposes, therefore, that Lazarus died the night following the arrival of the messenger and was buried the next day, and that Jesus reached Bethany the fifth day. The first day was that of the burial; the second and third were spent in waiting ; the fourth in journeying; on the fifth He reaches Bethany and raises Lazarus.
i Works, x. 26, note.
Some place the death of Lazarus on the last of the two days of waiting, referring in proof to Christ's words vs. 11 and 14.1 He had waited till the death should take place, and, so soon as it did, He announced it to the disciples, saying, " Lazarus is dead." Thus He is made to reach Bethany on the sixth day.8
That the Lord, after He commenced this journey, went directly to Bethany, lies upon the face of the narrative.3 Yet, some suppose that much related by the Synoptists finds here its proper place. Krafft (117) identifies the beginning of the journey with Mark x. 17 : " And when He was gone forth into the way," &c.; and Mark x. 32, Matt. xx. 17, and Luke xviii. 31, with its progress. An enumeration of the events which he here brings together wTill show the great improbability of his arrangement: the discourse upon the danger of riches, the reward of the apostles, the third announcement of His approaching death, the strife of the apostles for supremacy, the entrance into Jericho attended by crowds, healing of the blind men, interview with Zaccheus, parable of the pounds; all this on the way to Bethany. Ebrard does not follow Krafft, yet supposes that, as He was two or more days on the way, He may have made several circuits. All suppositions of this kind are wholly untenable. The Lord went to Bethany for a special purpose, attended only by His followers, and without publicity.4
* Bengel, Krafft.
a See Greswell, ii. 513; Ebrard, 456 ; Stud. u. Krit., 1862, p. 65. 3 So Meyer, Teschendorf, Lichtenstein, Robinson.
* The arrangement of McKnight is extraordinary. Placing Bethany, where He was sojourning, on the Jordan in northern Perea, he supposes Jesus to have gone through Samaria and Galilee, and on the way to have healed the ten lepers, (Luke xvii. 11,) and thence to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to Bethany of Judea.
A very slight examination shows that Krafft's order is without basis. It is scarcely possible that the Lord, going up to Bethany for a special purpose, and this a considerable period before the Passover, should have taken the Twelve, and said unto them : " Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man, shall be accomplished," (Luke xviii. 31.) Did the great multitude that followed Him from Jericho go on with Him to Bethany ? (Matt, xx. 29.) It is besides apparent that the journey through Jericho, made with such publicity, had Jerusalem as its goal, and that there was no delay, save for a few hours at Bethany, preparatory to the triumphal entry, (John xii. 1-12.)
Bethany lies on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, some fifteen furlongs (one and a half miles) southeast from Jerusalem. The etymology of the name is uncertain. According to some it means a a low place," locus depressionis, as lying in a little valley; according to others, a u house of dates," or " place of palms," locus dactylorum.1 It is not mentioned in the Old Testament. Its chief interest to us is in connection with Lazarus and his two sisters. Its proximity to Jerusalem, and its retired position, made it a convenient and pleasant resting place for the Lord upon His journeys to and from the feasts, although there is mention made but once of His presence there (Luke x. 38-42) prior to the resurrection of Lazarus. It is now a small village of some twenty houses, occupied by Bedouin Arabs. "A wild mountain hamlet, screened by an intervening ridge from the view of the top of Olivet, perched on its broken plateau of rock, the last collection of human habitations before the desert hills which reach to Jericho—this is the modern village of El-Lazarieh." a Little that is ancient is now to be found. A tradition, that dates back to an early period, points out the sites of the houses of Simon and of Lazarus, and the sepulchre of the latter.
i Lightfoot, x. 85 j Winer, i. 67. 2 Stanley, 186.
"This," says Porter,1 " is a deep vault, partly excavated in the rock, and partly lined with masonry. The entrance is low, and opens on a long, winding, half ruinous staircase, leading down to a small chamber, and from this a few steps more lead down to another smaller vault, in which the body of Lazarus is supposed to have lain. This situation of the tomb in the centre of the village scarcely agrees with the Gospel narrative, and the masonry of the interior has no appearance of antiquity. But the real tomb could not have been far distant." Thomson says, (ii. 599 :) "By the dim light of a taper we descended very cautiously by twenty-five slippery steps to the reputed sepulchre of Lazarus, or El-Azariyeh, as both tomb and village are now called. But I have no description of it to give, and no questions about it to ask. It is a wretched concern, every way unsatisfactory, and almost disgusting." Robinson denies that the sepulchre now shown could have been that of Lazarus.
The impression which the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus made upon the people at large, was very great. It was in all its circumstances so public, and so well authenticated, that it wTas impossible for the most sceptical to deny it, even if it did not lead them to faith in Jesus. It is said (vs. 45, 46,) " Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, believed on Him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done." From the grammatical construction, Meyer infers that those who went to the Pharisees were of those who believed, and that they went that they might testify to them of the miracle.2 As all did not believe on Him, it is more probable that some of these unbelievers went to the Pharisees, an$ that their motive was evil. The ecclesiastical rulers felt that it was now high time that something should be done, and they proceed at once to call a council to determine what steps should be taken.
i Hand Book, i. 188.
3 See, contra, Luthardt and Alford in loco.
Their deliberations ended with the resolve that He should be put to death. This may be regarded as the decisive and final rejection of Jesus by the Jewish authorities. Much earlier the Jews at Jerusalem had sought to slay Him as a Sabbath breaker and blasphemer, (John v. 16-18 ;) the Pharisees and Herodians in Galilee had taken counsel how they might destroy Him, (Mark iii. 6 ;) the Sanhedrim had agreed to excommunicate any one who should confess that He was Christ, (John ix. 22;) on one occasion officers had been sent to arrest Him, (John vii. 32 ;) and there was a general impression that His enemies would not rest till He was removed out of the way, (John vii. 25.) But it does not appear that to this time there had been a determination of the Sanhedrim, in formal session, that He should die. The miracle at Bethany, and its great popular effect, brought the matter to a crisis. The nation, in its highest council, presided over by the high priest, decided in the most solemn manner that the public safety demanded His death. All that now remained to be done was to determine how His death could be best effected.
It is to be noticed how, in the deliberations of the Sanhedrim, truth and justice were made wholly subservient to selfish policy. That Jesus had wrought a great and wonderful miracle at Bethany, was not denied. Indeed it was admitted, and made the basis of their action against Him: " If we let Him thus alone, all will believe on Him." But on what ground rested their fear that " the Romans would come and take away both their place and nation" ? It seems plain that they did not look upon Jesus as one who, under any circumstances, would fulfil their Messianic hopes, and establish a victorious kingdom. Even if all were to believe on Him, and He should set up Himself as King, He could not resist the Homans. His undeniable miracles could not authenticate His Messiahship. This strikingly shows how little the impression made by the character of Jesus, His wTorks and teachings, corresponded to the prevalent conceptions of the Messiah. It was to the Pharisees impossible that He, the teacher, the prophet, should become the leader of armies, the assertor of their national rights, the warrior like David. They felt that in Him their hopes never could be fulfilled. His growing popularity with the people, if it led to insurrection, could only bring upon them severer oppression. In this point of view, it was better that He should die, whatever might be His miraculous powers, than that all through Him should perish.
If, as the narrative plainly implies, the Sanhedrim held its session as soon as possible after the knowledge of the resurrection of Lazarus reached it, the Lord's departure to Ephraim could not have been long delayed. He could not remain in Bethany without each hour putting His life in peril. That He went secretly to Ephraim, aj>pears from the commandment given by the chief priests and Pharisees that " if any man knew where He were, he should show it, that they might take Him." Yet the Twelve seem to have accompanied Him, or, which is more probable, to have gathered to Him there. It is not improbable that others, also, may have resorted to Him. Of the city Ephraim, in which He took refuge, little is known, and different sites have been assigned it. In 2d Chronicles xiii. 19, mention is made of an Ephraim in connection with Bethel and Jeshanah. Josephus1 speaks of Ephraim in connection with Bethela, or Bethel. It was a small town lying in the mountainous district of Judah, and conquered by Vespasian. Eusebius mentions an Ephraim as lying eight Roman miles north of Jerusalem. Jerome,2 who mentions the same place, puts it at twenty miles.
* War, 4. 9. 9. * Raumer, 171.
Lightfoot identifies the Ephraim of Chronicles, of Josephus, and of the text.1 That the Ephron of Eusebius and Jerome is the same plaee, can scarcely be questioned; and their conflicting statements as to its distance from Jerusalem may be explained, as Robinson does, by the supposition that the latter corrects the former. Wieseler maintains that Eusebius is right. Proceeding upon these data, Robinson thinks that he finds the site of Ephraim in the modern Taiyibeh, which is situated about twenty Roman miles northeast of Jerusalem, and some five or six miles northeast of Bethel, upon a lofty hill, overlooking all the valleys of the Jordan. This identification is accepted by many.3 Ebrard, however, denies that the Ephraim of Josephus can be identified with that of the Evangelist, and places the latter southeast from Jerusalem; because that Jesus, on His way from it to Jerusalem, passed through Jericho. Sepp places it in the land of Gilead ; Luthardt regards its position as doubtful.
1 So Teschendorf, "Wieseler.
* So Bitter, Porter, Lange, Lichtenstein, Smith's Diet, of Bible, Ellicott.