In another blog friendofthefamily.wordpress.com I had posted excerpts from a book in progress entitled Journey. Each leg of the “Journey” was intended to take the reader into a deeper understanding of a virtually unexplored facet of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand, wherein Scripture itself provides sufficient detail to establish, at least symbolically, the precise pattern by which the feedings took place. The fact that this information is somewhat hidden from superficial view is no excuse for discounting it. After all, we read from Proverbs 25:2:

 

“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.”

 

Perhaps a big reason as to why God does conceal information in Scripture is to allow those who yearn for the deeper things of God to see facets of His nature that are not obvious to the more superficial (and perhaps more indifferent) readers of His Word.

 

I had presented the patterns of the feedings in an earlier book Family of God, including in appendices the algebraic analysis that had led to this insight. The mathematical treatment was admittedly rather complex, which probably put off a number of readers from acquiring a full understanding of what I was attempting to demonstrate. Realizing this, I undertook to present to my readers a greatly simplified, more readily understandable and intuitively satisfying version of the feeding patterns. The “Journey” series was the result.

 

One of my readers came back to me with two issues that he considered to be problems with my treatment. In doing so he conferred upon me a huge favor, for which I am so grateful that I wish to share it with you all.

 

The favor is that, as with many “problems” of this kind, addressing it in the detail that it required led to a deeper and so to a better view of the feeding process. The result is that I added the following to my work in progress as well as my original posting entitled “Chapter 5: The Journey’s Fourth Leg”:

 

 

“What was THAT? Startled passengers looked wide-eyed at one another as the train recovered from the hard bounce it received. 'A bump in the roadbed,' someone offered. 'Let’s hope that doesn’t happen too often,' someone else said.”

 

The bump seemed to be large and dangerous to the journey. This is what had happened: a very knowledgeable Biblical scholar, upon reviewing the feeding of the five and four thousand, presented not one, but two important objections to the numerical patterns that have been presented in the previous legs of the journey. “First,” he said, “the five and four thousand were just the menfolk. The Gospel accounts of the feedings noted that women and children were also gathered at the feeding sites. Jesus certainly would have fed them too, so the feedings involved substantial numbers beyond the five and four thousand mentioned. Second, the baskets differed in size. The baskets used to collect the remainder from the feeding of the five thousand were small handbaskets. On the other hand, the collection baskets used in the feeding of the four thousand were much larger. The small handbaskets would be reasonably full with five loaves, but not the large baskets. They could have held a lot more.”

 

These objections certainly do give a person reason to wonder. But somehow this person’s rejection of any meaning associated with the numbers just didn’t quite sit right. Scripture doesn’t treat numbers lightly. They are important, often crucial to an in-depth understanding of the narrative. There must be something significant to the numbers five thousand, four thousand, twelve and seven.

 

A clue to the deeper meaning of this person’s objections actually came from that person himself. He remarked that, according to Luke 9:10, the five thousand were fed near Bethsaida on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, while the four thousand were fed, according to Mark 7:31, near Decapolis on the south shore. “The north shore,” he said, “was predominantly Jewish, while the south shore was mostly Gentile.”

 

Well now, that’s some pretty important news. It fits nicely with the twelve baskets associated with the five thousand, since twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel. It also fits in well with the seven baskets of the four thousand, since seven is the number of the representative Churches that Jesus spoke of to John in Revelation 1:20. Interestingly, this news also impacts the objection that the number of people fed exceeded the numbers given in the Bible. Here’s why: the feedings were symbolic of a more important truth than the physical feedings – that Jesus, as the Word of God, was giving them His Word the real Bread of Life, as He declared in John 6:26b, 27 and 35b:

 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labor not for the food which perisheth, but for that food which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you; for him hath God the Father sealed.”

 

“I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

 

Given the symbolic nature of the feedings, then, the numbers were exceedingly important. The women and children were certainly fed along with the men, but it was the menfolk to whom the Word of God was primarily directed, it being their responsibility to interpret and direct this Word to their womenfolk. Moreover, within the Jewish faith it was the responsibility of the men to propagate this Word to other men, whereas in the new Christian faith the women were directly involved, right along with the men, in propagating the Word. This difference is borne out in Acts 2:16 - 18, wherein the Christian women as well as the men not only were involved in the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, but were expected to actively use that gift:

 

“But this is that which was spoken through the prophet, Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy: . . .”

 

In accordance with that difference between the Jewish and Christian faiths, the Jewish women (and children) would leave behind no remainders of bread from their feeding, whereas at least the Christian women would indeed leave behind remainders symbolic of the propagation of the Word. Consequently, the baskets involved in collecting remainders from the feeding of the Jewish five thousand would be small, as they would only need to collect from the men. On the other hand, the baskets involved in collecting remainders from the feeding of the Gentile four thousand would need to be larger, to accommodate not only the five loaves per basket from the men, but the additional loaves from the women (and children).

 

So it turns out that the two objections made by this individual actually complemented each other to support the importance of the numbers. Better yet, they have given us a deeper insight into the symbolic importance of the feeding episodes. The track is clear ahead, and free of bumps.

 

 

Published by Art Perkins