There is a lad here
Who either belonged to Christ and his disciples, and was employed to carry their provisions for them; which, if so, shows how meanly Christ and his disciples lived; or he belonged to some in the multitude; or rather he came here to sell what he had got:
which hath five barley loaves.
The land of Canaan was a land of barley, as well as wheat, ( Deuteronomy 8:8 ) ; this sort of grain grew there in plenty, and was in much use; the Jews had a barley harvest, ( Ruth 1:22 ) , which was at the time of the passover; for on the second day after the passover, the sheaf of the first fruits was waved before the Lord, which was of barley; hence the Targumist on the place just cited, paraphrases it thus;
``they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of the passover, and on the day the children of Israel began to reap the sheaf of the wave offering, which was of barley.''And it was now about the time of the passover, as appears from ( John 6:4 ) , and had it been quite the time, and the barley sheaf had been waved, it might have been thought that these loaves were made of the new barley; but though barley was in use for bread among the Jews, as is evident, from the mention that is made of barley loaves and cakes, ( 2 Kings 4:42 ) ( Judges 7:13 ) ; yet it was bread of the coarsest sort, and what the meaner sort of people ate; see ( Ezekiel 4:12 ) . Yea, barley was used for food for horses and dromedaries, ( 1 Kings 4:28 ) ; and since therefore these loaves were, if not designed for the use of Christ and his twelve apostles, yet for some of his followers, and which they all ate of; it is an instance of the meanness and poverty of them: but however, they had better bread than this, even the bread of life, which is afterwards largely treated of in this chapter, which some of them at least ate of; and as our countryman Mr. Dod used to say,
``brown bread and the Gospel are good fare:''and it may be further observed, that the number of these loaves were but few; there were but "five" of them, for "five thousand" persons; and these do not seem to be very large ones, since one lad was able to carry them; and indeed, these loaves were no other than cakes, in which form they used to be made:
and two small fishes;
there were but "two", and these "small"; it is amazing, that five thousand persons should everyone have something of them, and enough: these fishes seem to be what the Jews F3 call (ynynwm) , and which the gloss interprets "small fishes": and by the word which is used of them, they seem to be salted, or pickled fishes, and such it is very probable these were; Nonnus calls them, (icyuav optaleouv) , "fishes which were broiled", or perhaps dried in the sun; see ( Luke 24:42 ) .
But what are they among so many?
everyone cannot possibly have a taste, much less any refreshment, still less a meal.
F3 T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 60. 2. & Sanhedrin, fol. 49. 1.