Mark 6:35-44. When the day was far spent, &c. See notes on Matthew 14:15-21, where the circumstances of the miracle here recorded are explained at large. And they sat down in ranks Or rather, in squares, as Campbell renders πρασιαι , observing, “The word denotes a small plat, such as a flower-bed in a garden. It has this meaning in Eccl 24:31. I do not find it in the LXX., or in any other part of the New Testament. These beds were in the form of oblong squares. The word is therefore very improperly rendered either ranks or rows.” Thus, also, Dr. Macknight, “They sat down in oblong squares. The word συμποσιον , used here by Mark, signifies a company of guests at a table, but κλισια , the word in Luke, denotes properly as many of them as reclined on one bed, according to the eastern manner of eating. By Christ’s order therefore, the people were to sit down to this meal in companies, consisting some of fifty persons, some of a hundred, according as the ground would admit. The members of each company, I suppose, were to be placed in two rows, the one row with their faces toward those of the other, as if a long table had been between them. The first company being thus set down, the second was to be placed beside the first in a like form, and the third by the second, till all were set down, the direction of the ranks being up the hill. And as the two ranks of every division were formed into one company, by being placed with their faces toward each other; so they were distinguished from the neighbouring companies, by lying with their backs turned to their backs. And the whole body thus ranged, would resemble a garden plot, divided into seed-beds, which is the proper signification of πρασιαι , the name given by Mark to the several companies after they were formed.”
It has been observed, in the note on Matthew 14:19, &c., that the meat must have extended its dimensions, not in our Lord’s hands only, but in the hands of the multitude likewise, a circumstance which suggests further reasons for the people’s being set down in the manner above explained. “For as they were fed on a mountain, we may reasonably suppose that the ground was somewhat steep, and that they lay with their heads pointing up the hill, in such a manner, that reclining on their elbows, they were almost in a sitting posture, and had their eyes fixed on Jesus, who stood below them, in a place that was more plain, at a little distance from the ends of the ranks. Without doubt, therefore, they all heard his thanksgiving and prayer for the miracle, saw him give the disciples the meat, and were astonished above measure when they perceived that instead of diminishing it increased under his creating hands. Moreover, being set down in companies, and every company being divided into two ranks, which lay fronting each other, the ranks of all the companies were parallel, and pointed toward Jesus, and so were situated in such a manner that the disciples could readily bring the bread and fish to them that sat at the extremities of the ranks. To conclude, by this disposition there must have been such a space between the two ranks of each company, that every individual in it could easily survey the whole of his own company, as well those above him as those below him; and therefore, when the meat was brought, and handed from one to another, they would all follow it with their eyes, and see it swelling, not only in their own hands, but in the hands of their companions likewise, to the amazement and joy of every person present.”
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