Friday, 13 April 2012

Feeding 5000 and 4000 - What is the difference?

What is the difference between the two Miracles - Feeding 5000 in Matthew 14 and Feeding 4000 in Matthew 15?
Did Matthew make a mistake and repeat the Miracle of Feeding the 5000?  
No!!  Rather, the consecutive reports demonstrate that Jesus came to offer the Bread of Life to ALL humanity, both Jews and Gentiles, as we see when we note the 7 points of difference between the two Miracles:
1.      5000 - the hour is already late’ is a Jewish phrase that refers to the time of the Temple evening offering and to the time of saying the evening Shema (Deut.6.4) which was said at evening & morning  - (‘when you lie down & when you rise up’)   Evidence that the 5000 were Jews.

     4000  - ‘they glorified the God of Israel.’  The addition of ‘of Israel’ emphasises that the 4000 did not glorify their own pagan gods for His miracles of healing.   Instead, 'they glorified the God of Israel'.
Evidence that the 4000 were Gentiles.

2.   5000  -  ‘go into the villages and buy’ indicates that there were shops nearby.  Evidence of the heavily populated Jewish Galilee.
     4000    - ‘lest they faint on the way’  indicates that there were no shops nearby.  Evidence of the sparsely populated Gentile Decapolis on the east side of the Sea of Galilee.

3.   5000  -  The use of the numbers 5 (loaves) & 5000 (men) refers to the Pentateuch (the 5 books) and the use of the number 12 (baskets) refers to the 12 tribes of Israel.  Evidence that the 5000 were Jews.
      4000  -  The use of 7 (loaves and baskets) refers to the spiritual completion and perfection when both Jews and Gentiles will be fed by Him (Bread). The use of 4000 (men) refers to the world of N,S,E & W. The use of the numbers 7 & 4 are evidence that the 4000 were Gentiles.

4.       5000 -  two small fish’. John 6.9 uses the Greek word opsarion for ‘fish’. This word refers to the salted and dried ‘small fish’ from the factory at Magdala which the boy had probably been given by his  mother.  Magdala had a thriving port and processed a considerable tonnage of ‘opsarion’ caught in the Sea of Galilee.  Like most ports there was a high incidence of immorality which may fill in the  background for the incident of casting out the 7 demons from the prostitute Mary (Miriam) of Magdala    - Mark 16.9.  Evidence that the 5000 were Jews.
     4000 -  ‘little fish’. Matthew & Mark both use the Greek word ichthus which is the standard word for ‘fish’

5.       5000  -  ‘much grass’. John and Mark use the Greek word  chortos  which means herbage, grass or hay, and Mark emphasises it by adding ‘green’.
       4000  -  ‘on the ground’. In the report of the 4000 there is no mention of ‘grass’ by either Matthew or Mark. 
      Evidence that the Gentile east of Galilee was not so heavily cultivated.

6.       5000 -  He blessed’.  Jesus said the Hamotzi which, in Jewish custom, includes all the food that is about to be eaten. ‘Blessed are You, O LORD our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth (Hamotzi) bread from the earth’. Evidence that the 5000 were Jews.
        4000  -  having blessed them’ (the fish). In Mark 8.6 & 7 Jesus blessed the loaves and the fish separately in accordance with the pagan custom of blessing separately each type of food to be eaten.
      Evidence that the 4000 were Gentiles.

7.       5000  -  ‘baskets’. Matthew 14.20, Mark 6.43, Luke 9.17 & John 6.13 use the Greek word kophinos, which refers to a small shoulder basket used specifically by Jews to carry their food and bedding when travelling.  Evidence that the 5000 were Jews.
     4000  -  ‘large baskets’.  Matthew 15.37 & Mark 8.8 use the Greek word  spuris, which means 'hamper'.  Paul was lowered down the Damascus walls in a spuris  - Acts 9.25.  

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  1. Thank you for this explanation of the two feedings. I had always wondered the significance. Now I know! God bless.

  2. Thanks. Divine revelation..awesome!!!!

  3. This explanation has helped me on my bible oral report! THANK YOU!!!

  4. Very well interpreted! Your excellent analogy is a clear example of the need for closer examination of all passages. Although that is impossible for people like me, the study of only a very, very few will be interesting as well as fun!

  5. Very well interpreted! Most importantly, you understand and explain "the Bread of Life" and how it's offered to everyone. (still is) Very uplifting, thank you!
    Your analogy is reason to more closely study the many passages written. Although that would be impossible for someone like me, looking at - and referencing - only a very, very few passages is interesting as well as fun!

  6. I appreciated your commentary distinguishing between the two separate episodes indicating the different target groups our Lord was addressing. However, I believe that there is an additional, overriding point Jesus was making, one that has been ignored. The feedings both had a common metaphorical implication: When we go to Him and faithfully tarry (note that those who followed had been there for extended periods of time) while seeking understanding. Jesus was moved by compassion and desired to feed them, just as He wants to feed all those who faithfully wait upon Him. However, all that was available in both instances were a few loaves and fish...signifying that men have little to offer our Lord. Jesus, in turn, demonstrated His divine power by taking so little and multiplying it beyond what men can much so that in both cases there were a large amounts left over. The leftovers indicate that although men may have little to offer God, as we give what we are able, our Lord is able to multiply it and return far more; in other words, we cannot out give God. The final question is rhetorical in nature: What did the people do with the leftovers? Is it possible that God desires for His followers to take the abundant excess He has provided and feed others with what we've been given? That message applies to all Christians today...God expects us to take what we have been so abundantly supplied and feed others as we go forth seeking to make disciples of all nations, all the while taking from what we've been so graciously supplied.

  7. Thank you , I immediately realized there was a deeper meaning here when Jesus specifically asked "do you still not understand" I couldn't figure it out I am glad that you did

  8. Awesome, so helpful, thank you for sharing, may the Lord richly bless you!

  9. Thank you so much! I had a Sabbath School lesson the other day regarding the difference between the two, but it didn't really clarify which was Gentile and which was Jewish feedings. This gave ALOT more information that I could have hoped for, it was really cool to learn more fully about the differences.

  10. Why did the disciples ask the same question when Jesus ask them to give the 4000 food to eat. Where to get enough food to feed them. This is strange as they just witness the feeding of the 5000..

  11. Very much enjoyed your insight into the 2 different miraculous feedings by Christ. Two brief additional points 1) Jew's fed first (5000) then Gentile after (4000).
    2) significant variation on number of days hungry, Jew's (5000) that evening whereas Gentile's (4000) was after 3 days. Might this represent Christ's resurrection on the 3rd day opening the door for gentiles (grafted in).