"As they came near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany." So also Luke: when, according to the order of the story, one would think it should rather be said, 'To Bethany and Bethphage.' For Christ, in his travelling, came to Bethany, and there lodged, John 12; and from that city went forward by the space almost of a mile, before he came as far as Bethphage. And yet it is named by them in this order, "To Bethphage and Bethany"; that it might be shewn that the story is to be understood of the place where Bethany and Bethphage touch upon one another: Matthew therefore names Bethphage alone.
We have elsewhere shewn more at large these two things out of the Talmudists, which do not a little tend to the clearing of this matter:
I. That a tract, or one part of mount Olivet, was called Bethany, not from the town of that name, where Lazarus dwelt, but the town was so called from that tract; and that tract from the dates or palm trees growing there, Beth Hene, the place of dates.
II. That there was no town at all named Bethphage, but another tract of Olivet was so called, for green figs growing there; that is the meaning of Beth-phagi, 'The place of green figs'; and that the village, or outmost street of Jerusalem, lying next it, was called by the same name.
We observed also, that that place in mount Olivet, where these two tracts Bethany and Bethphage touched on one another, was a sabbath-day's journey from the city, or thereabouts. Which how it may be applied to illustrate the present business we are upon, let us say a few things concerning such a journey.
How far the bounds of a sabbath-day's journey reached, every one knows: and every one knows that that space was measured out every way without the cities, that the certain bounds might be fixed, and that there might be no mistake; and that, by some evident mark, the limits might be known, that they might not remain doubtful in a thing wherein they placed so much religion.
These are the rules of the masters concerning measuring two thousand cubits from every side of the city:
"A city which is long or square, when it hath four just corners, they let be as it is; and they measure two thousand cubits for it on every side. If it be round, they frame it into a square, and they measure from the sides of that square. If it be triangular, they frame it into a square, and measure from the sides of the square," &c. And after, "They measure only with a line of fifty cubits, and that of flax."
An intimation is given concerning the marks of those bounds by that canon; "They do not ride upon a beast" (on the sabbath, and on a holy-day), "that they go not forth beyond the bounds." Where the Gloss is, "Because he that walketh not on foot seeth not the marks of the bounds."
It is said by St. Mark, that the two disciples sent by Christ "found the colt tied where two ways met." Let me pass my conjecture,--that it was in such a place where a mark was set up of a sabbath-day's journey from the city; where the sabbath-way from the city, and the common way thence into the country, touched on one another.