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Jehovah’s Witnesses

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)

Matthew 14:1-36

14  At that time Herod, the district ruler, heard the report about Jesus+  and said to his servants: “This is John the Baptist. He was raised up from the dead, and this is why these powerful works* are operating in him.”+  Herod had arrested John and had bound him and imprisoned him because of He·roʹdi·as, the wife of Philip his brother.+  For John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.”+  However, although he wanted to kill him, he feared the crowd, because they took him for a prophet.+  But when Herod’s birthday+ was being celebrated, the daughter of He·roʹdi·as danced for the occasion and pleased Herod so much+  that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.  Then she, at her mother’s prompting, said: “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”+  Grieved though he was, the king, out of regard for his oaths and for those dining with him,* commanded it to be given. 10  So he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11  His head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12  Later his disciples came and removed his corpse and buried him; then they came and reported to Jesus. 13  At hearing this, Jesus departed from there by boat into an isolated place to be alone. But the crowds, getting to hear of it, followed him on foot from the cities.+ 14  When he came ashore, he saw a large crowd, and he felt pity for them,+ and he cured their sick ones.+ 15  But when evening fell, his disciples came to him and said: “The place is isolated and the hour is already late; send the crowds away, so that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.”+ 16  However, Jesus said to them: “They do not have to leave; you give them something to eat.” 17  They said to him: “We have nothing here except five loaves and two fish.” 18  He said: “Bring them here to me.” 19  And he instructed the crowds to recline on the grass. Then he took the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said a blessing,+ and after breaking the loaves, he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20  So they all ate and were satisfied, and they took up the leftover fragments, 12 baskets full.+ 21  Now those eating were about 5,000 men, as well as women and young children.+ 22  Then, without delay, he made his disciples board the boat and go ahead of him to the opposite shore, while he sent the crowds away.+ 23  After sending the crowds away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.+ When evening came, he was there alone. 24  By now the boat was many hundreds of yards away from land, struggling against the waves because the wind was against them. 25  But in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26  When they caught sight of him walking on the sea, the disciples were troubled, saying: “It is an apparition!”* And they cried out in their fear. 27  But at once Jesus spoke to them, saying: “Take courage! It is I; do not be afraid.”+ 28  Peter answered him: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you over the waters.” 29  He said: “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat and walked over the waters and went toward Jesus. 30  But looking at the windstorm, he became afraid. And when he started to sink, he cried out: “Lord, save me!” 31  Immediately stretching out his hand, Jesus caught hold of him and said to him: “You with little faith, why did you give way to doubt?”+ 32  After they got up into the boat, the windstorm abated. 33  Then those in the boat did obeisance to him, saying: “You really are God’s Son.”+ 34  And they crossed over and came to land in Gen·nesʹa·ret.+ 35  On recognizing him, the men of that place sent word into all that surrounding country, and people brought him all those who were ill. 36  And they pleaded with him that they might just touch the fringe of his outer garment,+ and all those who touched it were made completely well.


Or “these miracles.”
Or “for his dinner guests; for those reclining at the table with him.”
Or “illusion.”

Herod: That is, Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great.—See Glossary.

district ruler: Lit., “tetrarch” (meaning “ruler over one fourth” of a province), a term applied to a minor district ruler or territorial prince ruling only with the approval of the Roman authorities. The tetrarchy of Herod Antipas consisted of Galilee and Perea.—Compare study note on Mr 6:14.

John the Baptist: See study note on Mt 3:1.

Herod: That is, Herod Antipas.—See Glossary.

arrested John . . . and imprisoned him: The Bible does not mention where this took place. Josephus says that John was imprisoned and killed at Machaerus fortress, which was located on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. (Jewish Antiquities, Book 18, chap. 5, par. 2 [Loeb 18.119]) It is possible that John spent some time in that prison. (Mt 4:12) However, it is likely that at the time of his death, John was held in Tiberias, a city located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The reasons for this conclusion are as follows: (1) John seems to have been imprisoned near where Jesus was carrying out his ministry in Galilee. John heard of Jesus’ works, and from jail he sent his disciples to speak with Jesus. (Mt 11:1-3) (2) Mark states that “the most prominent men of Galilee” were in attendance at Herod’s birthday party, indicating that it was held at Herod’s residence in Tiberias. John was evidently in captivity close to where the party took place.Mr 6:21-29; Mt 14:6-11.

Herodias, the wife of Philip his brother: Herod Antipas became infatuated with Herodias, the wife of his half brother Herod Philip. Herodias divorced Philip, Antipas divorced his wife, and Herodias and Antipas were married. John the Baptist was arrested for criticizing this immoral union, one that was contrary to Jewish law.

birthday . . . celebrated: This event likely occurred at Herod Antipas’ residence in Tiberias. (See study notes on Mt 14:3; Mr 6:21.) The Bible mentions just two birthday celebrations—the one referred to here, at which John was beheaded; the other, that of a Pharaoh, at which the Egyptian monarch’s chief baker was executed. (Ge 40:18-22) These two accounts are similar in that both occasions were marked with great feasting and the granting of favors and both are remembered for executions.

the king: Herod Antipas’ official Roman title was “tetrarch,” as seen from study note on Mt 14:1. However, he was popularly referred to as “king.”

his oaths: The use of the plural “oaths” (in contrast with the singular at Mt 14:7) may indicate that Herod emphasized or confirmed his promise with repeated oaths.

felt pity: Or “felt compassion.”—See study note on Mt 9:36.

you give them something to eat: This is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels.Mt 14:15-21; Mr 6:35-44; Lu 9:10-17; Joh 6:1-13.

fish: In Bible times, fish were commonly prepared by broiling or by salting and drying and were often eaten along with bread. The fish Jesus used were likely salted and dried.

after breaking the loaves: Bread was often made in flat loaves that were baked hard. Therefore, breaking the loaves to eat them was customary.Mt 15:36; 26:26; Mr 6:41; 8:6; Lu 9:16.

baskets: These may have been small wicker baskets with a cord handle that a traveler could use for carrying them. It is thought that they had a volume of approximately 7.5 L (2 gal).—See study notes on Mt 16:9, 10.

as well as women and young children: Only Matthew mentions the women and the young children when reporting this miracle. It is possible that the total number of those miraculously fed was well over 15,000.

many hundreds of yards: Lit., “many stadia.” A stadium (Greek, staʹdi·on) equaled 185 m (606.95 ft), that is, one eighth of a Roman mile.

fourth watch: That is, from about 3:00 a.m. until sunrise at about 6:00 a.m. This division is according to the Greek and Roman system of four night watches. The Hebrews formerly divided the night into three watches of about four hours each (Ex 14:24; Jg 7:19), but by this time, they had adopted the Roman system.

did obeisance to him: Or “bowed down to him; paid him homage.” These people recognized Jesus as God’s representative. They rendered obeisance to him, not as to a god or a deity, but as to “God’s Son.”—See study notes on Mt 2:2; 8:2; 18:26.

Gennesaret: A small plain (measuring about 5 by 2.5 km (3 by 1.5 mi) bordering the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee. At Lu 5:1, the Sea of Galilee is called “the lake of Gennesaret.”


Northeast Portion of the Sea of Galilee
Northeast Portion of the Sea of Galilee

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the plain where Jesus is thought to have fed about 5,000 men, as well as women and children.

Fish and Loaves
Fish and Loaves

Among the fish found in Israel are varieties of bream, carp, perch, and tilapia. Fish were commonly broiled or salted and dried. Bread made with freshly ground wheat or barley flour was baked daily. Often the bread was unleavened (Hebrew, mats·tsahʹ), made by simply mixing flour and water without adding leaven before kneading the dough.


In the Bible, a number of different words are used to describe various types of baskets. For example, the Greek word identifying the 12 vessels used to gather leftovers after Jesus miraculously fed about 5,000 men indicates that they may have been relatively small wicker handbaskets. However, a different Greek word is used to describe the seven baskets that contained the leftovers after Jesus fed about 4,000 men. (Mr 8:8, 9) This word denotes a large basket or hamper, and the same Greek word is used to describe the kind of basket in which Paul was lowered to the ground through an opening in the wall of Damascus.Ac 9:25.