John 11:39

39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

John 11:39 in Other Translations

King James Version (KJV)
39 Jesus said,Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
English Standard Version (ESV)
39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days."
New Living Translation (NLT)
39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
The Message Bible (MSG)
39 Jesus said, "Remove the stone." The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, "Master, by this time there's a stench. He's been dead four days!"
American Standard Version (ASV)
39 Jesus saith, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time the body decayeth; for he hath been [dead] four days.
GOD'S WORD Translation (GW)
39 Jesus said, "Take the stone away." Martha, the dead man's sister, told Jesus, "Lord, there must already be a stench. He's been dead for four days."
Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
39 "Remove the stone," Jesus said. Martha, the dead man's sister, told Him, "Lord, he already stinks. It's been four days."
New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
39 "Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad smell. Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days."

John 11:39 Meaning and Commentary

John 11:39

Jesus said, take ye away the stone
This was said either to the Jews, or rather to the servants that came along with Martha and Mary; and this he ordered, not to facilitate the resurrection, or merely in order to make way for Lazarus: he that could command him to come forth, could have commanded away the stone, but he chose to have it removed this way, that the corpse might be seen, and even smelt; and that it might be manifest, there was no fallacy, nor any intrigue between him, and the sisters of the deceased in this matter: this order was contrary to a rule of the Jews, which forbid the opening of a grave after it was stopped up {h}; but a greater than the fathers of the traditions was here, even he who has the keys of hell, or the grave, and can open, or order it to be opened, when he pleases:

Martha the sister of him that was dead:
that is, of Lazarus, as the Persic version expresses it, calling him, "Gazarus",

saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh;
or smells; not that she perceived this upon their moving the stone, but she concluded it from the time he had been dead, and had lain in the grave, in which dead bodies usually putrefy and smell: whether she said this out of respect to her brother, being unwilling he should be exposed to the view of persons, in such a state of corruption, she knew he must now be; or whether out of respect to Christ, lest he should be disordered with the offensive smell, is not certain: however, it seems as if she had no notion that Christ was about to raise her brother from the dead; and that the stone was commanded to be removed for that purpose, not merely for a sight of the dead, but that the dead might be seen to come forth alive: she imagined that Christ only wanted to have the stone removed, that he might have a sight of his deceased friend, which she thought would be very disagreeable and nauseous; so soon had she forgot what Christ had said to her, and lost that little exercise she had of faith and hope, with respect to the resurrection of her brother. Frames of soul, and acts of grace, are very changeable, and uncertain things; and especially when carnal reasoning is indulged.

For he hath been [dead] four days;
he had been so long in the grave, ( John 11:17 ) . The word "dead" is not in the text; he might have been dead longer; though the Jews usually buried on the same day a person died: however, the sense is here, he had been so long in the grave; and so the Persic version renders it, "for it is the fourth day that he has been in the grave"; in the original text it is, "he is one of four days"; so many days he had been in the house appointed for all living; so long he had been removed from the sight of men, and had been in another world, and had begun another era, and four days had passed in it; he was so many days old according to that: so that his countenance was changed, he was not fit to be seen, nor approached unto; nor was there any hope of his returning to life. The Jews F9 say, that

``for three days the soul goes to the grave, thinking the body may return; but when it sees the figure of the face changed, it goes away, and leaves it, as it is said, ( Job 14:22 ) .''

So of Jonah's being three days and three nights in the whale's belly, they say F11,

``these are the three days a man is in the grave, and his bowels burst; and after three days that defilement is turned upon his face.''

Hence, they do not allow anyone to bear witness of one that is dead or killed, that he is such an one, after three days, because then his countenance is changed F12, and he cannot be well known.


F8 Apud Buxtorf Lex. Rab. col. 437.
F9 Bereshit Rabba, sect. 100. fol. 88. 2. & T. Hieros. Moed Katon, fol. 82. 2.
F11 Zohar in Exod. fol. 78. 2.
F12 Misn. Yebamot, c. 16. sect. 3. & Maimon. Jarchi, & Bartenora in ib. & Maimon. Hilchot Gerushim, c. 13. sect. 21. T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 120. 1. & Gloss. in ib.

John 11:39 In-Context

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.

Cross References 1

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