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Old Testament Parallels to John 6:1-15

by Pastor Beisel ~ February 27th, 2008

The theme of ingathering is strong in John 6:1-15, especially with regard to the 12 baskets of left-over fragments. Jesus told his disciples to “gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” Was Jesus indicating by this sign that the scattered remnant of the 12 tribes of Israel was being gathered in Him?

Some other Old Testament parallels:

  • In John 6:5, Jesus says to Philip: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” In Numbers 11:13, Moses asks: “Where can I get meat for all these people?”
  • John 6:41, 43 the Jews “grumble about him.” In Num. 11:1, the people grumble about their misfortunes.
  • John 6:9 mentions a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish. In a similar account in 2 Kings 4:42-44, Elisha fed one hundred men with twenty barley loaves and some ears of grain. Both accounts use for the word “boy,” paidarion (in 2 Kings referring to Elisha’s servant).
  • Both accounts include a question of disbelief, the command to distribute the loaves, and the fact that all ate with food left to spare.
  • The “abundance of grass” may be an allusion to the messianic age (see Psalm 23:2, John 10:9-10). The bountiful meal evokes OT messianic prophecy (Isaiah 25:6-8; 49:9-11).
  • Jesus’ command to “gather up the leftover fragments” echoes the words of the narrative in Ruth 2:14, “She ate all she wanted and had some left over.”
  • It was customary at Jewish meals to collect what was left over. Pieces of bread were not to be thrown away, and any food the size of an olive or larger was to be picked up.
  • “Twelve baskets” may allude to Jesus’ restoration of Israel by calling twelve disciples to form the core of his new messianic community.
  • Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 is clearly in view in the words of 6:14, “the prophet who is to come into the world.” Andreas Koesterberger notes that this OT passage “featured significantly in the messianic expectations at Qumran (cf. 4Q175 5-8; 1QS IX, 11).”

1 Response to Old Testament Parallels to John 6:1-15

  1. ToddPeperkorn

    Really excellent notes, Paul. Thanks!

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