Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep [market]
The word "market" is not in the text, and of such a market, no account is given in the Scripture, nor in the Jewish writings; and besides, in our Lord's time, sheep and oxen were sold in the temple; rather therefore this signifies, the sheep gate, of which mention is made, in ( Nehemiah 3:1 Nehemiah 3:32 ) ( 12:39 ) , through which the sheep were brought into the city, to the temple.
The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read, "there is at Jerusalem a sheep pool"; and so it is interpreted in the Arabic version, and Jerom calls it the "cattle pool" F6. The Targumist on ( Jeremiah 31:39 ) speaks of a pool called (hlge hkyrb) , "the calf", or "heifer pool", as Dr. Lightfoot renders it; though the translations of it, both in the London Polyglott, and in the king of Spain's Bible, interpret it "the round pool". This pool of Bethesda, is thought by some, to be the same which the Jews call the great pool in Jerusalem; they say F7,
``between Hebron and Jerusalem, is the fountain Etham, from whence the waters come by way of pipes, unto the great pool, which is in Jerusalem.''And R. Benjamin F8 speaks of a pool, which is to be seen to this day, where the ancients slew their sacrifices, and all the Jews write their names on the wall: and some think it was so called, because the sheep that were offered in sacrifice, were there washed; which must be either before, or after they were slain; not before, for it was not required that what was to be slain for sacrifice should be washed first; and afterwards, only the entrails of a beast were washed; and for this there was a particular place in the temple, called (Nyxydmh tkvl) "the washing room"; where, they say F9, they washed the inwards of the holy sacrifices. This pool here, therefore, seems rather, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, to have been a bath for unclean persons; and having this miraculous virtue hereafter spoken of, diseased persons only, at certain times, had recourse to it. The Syriac and Persic versions call it, "a place of a baptistery"; and both leave out the clause, "by the sheep market", or "gate": it is not easy to say where and what it was:
which is called in the Hebrew tongue, Bethesda;
which signifies, according to the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, "an house of mercy", or "grace", or "goodness"; because many miserable objects here received mercy, and a cure. Hegesippus F11 speaks of a Bethesda, which Cestius the Roman general entered into, and burnt; and which, according to him, seems to be without Jerusalem, and so not the place here spoken of; and besides, this is called a pool, though the buildings about it doubtless went by the same name. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read Bethsaida, very wrongly; and it is called by Tertullian F12 the pool of Bethsaida. The Hebrew tongue here mentioned is (rhnh rbe lv btk) , "the language of those beyond the river" F13, i.e. the river Euphrates; which is the Chaldee language, as distinct from the Assyrian language, which is called the holy and blessed language; the former is what the Cuthites, or Samaritans used; the latter, that in which the book of the law was written F14.
Having five porches;
or cloistered walks, which were very convenient for the diseased, which lay here for a cure, so Nonnus: Athanasius
F6 De Locis Hebraicis, p. 89. L. Tom. III.
F7 Cippi Hebraici, p. 10.
F8 Itinerar. p. 43.
F9 Misn. Middot, c. 5. sect. 2. Maimon. Beth Habbechira, c. 5. sect. 17.
F11 De Excidio, l. 2. c. 15.
F12 Adv. Judaeos, c. 13.
F13 De Semente, p. 345. Tom. I.
F14 In Chambers' Dictionary, in the word "Piscina".
F15 Vid. Gloss. in T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 115. 1. Megilla, fol. 18. 2. & Sanhedrin, fol. 21. 2.
F16 Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Yadaim, c. 4. sect. 5. Vid. Gloss. in T. Bab. Megillia, fol. 8. 2.