For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool,
&c.] This angel is not to be understood of a messenger sent from the sanhedrim, or by the priests, as Dr. Hammond thinks; who has a strange conceit, that this pool was used for the washing of the entrails of the sacrifices; and which at the passover being very numerous, the water in it mixed with the blood of the entrails, was possessed of an healing virtue; and which being stirred by a messenger sent from the sanhedrim for that purpose, whoever went in directly received a cure: but this angel was "an angel of the Lord", as the Vulgate Latin, and two of Beza's copies read; and so the Ethiopic version reads, "an angel of God"; who either in a visible form came down from heaven, and went into the pool, the Ethiopic version very wrongly renders it, "was washed in the pool"; or it was concluded by the people, from the unusual agitation of the water, and the miraculous virtue which ensued upon it, that an angel did descend into it; and this was not at all times, but at a certain time; either once a year, as Tertullian thought, at the time of the feast of the passover, or every sabbath, as this was now the sabbath day; or it may be there was no fixed period for it, but at some times and seasons in the year so it was, which kept the people continually waiting for it:
and troubled the water;
agitated and moved it to and fro, caused it to swell and rise, to bubble and boil up, and to roll about, and be as in a ferment. The Jews have a notion of spirits troubling waters; they speak of a certain fountain where a spirit resided, and an evil spirit attempted to come in his room; upon which a contest arose, and they saw (ayymd ayybwbre) , "the waters troubled", and think drops of blood upon them F17: the Syriac F18 writers have a tradition, that
``because the body of Isaiah the prophet was hid in Siloah, therefore an angel descended and moved the waters.''Whosoever then first after the troubling of the waters stepped in
was made whole of whatsoever disease he had;
from whence it seems, that only one person at a season received a cure, by going in first into the water, so Tertullian thought F19: the Jews ascribe an healing virtue to the well of Miriam; they say,
``a certain ulcerous person went to dip himself in the sea of Tiberias, and it happened at that time, that the well of Miriam flowed, and he washed, (yotyaw) , and was healed F20.''Now this angel may represent a minister of the Gospel, for such are called angels, ( Revelation 1:20 ) ; being called of God, and sent by him, with messages of grace to the sons of men; and the preaching of the Gospel by such, may be aptly signified by the troubling of the waters, as it is by the shaking of heaven, earth, and sea; see ( Haggai 2:6 Haggai 2:7 ) , compared with ( Hebrews 12:25 Hebrews 12:26 ) ; especially when attended with the Spirit of God, who moved upon the face of the waters in the first creation; and who, in and by the ministry of the word, troubles the minds of men, and whilst the prophet prophesies, causes a shaking among the dry bones, which is done at certain seasons; for as there are certain seasons for the preaching of the Gospel, so there is more especially a fixed, settled, and appointed one, for the conversion of God's elect; who are called according to purpose, and at the time the Lord has appointed: and whoever now, upon the preaching of the Gospel, are enabled to step forth and come to Christ, and believe in him, are cured of all their soul maladies and diseases, be they what they will; all their inquiries are pardoned, their persons justified, and they are saved in Christ, with an everlasting salvation: and as this cure was not owing to any natural virtue in the water, nor even to the angels troubling it, but to a supernatural power; so the conversion of a sinner is owing to ministers, and to the word and ordinances as administered by them, but to the superior power of the grace of God; and which is exerted in his time, and on whom he pleases.
F17 Vajikra Rabba, sect. 24. fol. 165. 2.
F18 Vid. Hackspan. Interpr. Errabund. sect. 20.
F19 De Baptismo, c. 5.
F20 Midrash Kohelet, fol. 71. 4.