The Miracles of Feeding the Thousands
The miracles of feeding thousands of men were great evidences to Christ’s divine powers that cannot be explained away by doubters. These miracles blessed thousands of lives. The Bible says, in the account of the 5000, that there were that much men “beside women and children” (Matthew 14:21). So, Bible scholars believe that the actual number that was fed that day could have been 15000-20000 people.
After the crowds ate of the loaves and fishes, they believed that Jesus was “that prophet” (John 6:14; Deuteronomy 18:15; Matthew 11:3; John 4:25) who was to come into the world. The indisputable miracles helped them be certain that Jesus must be the One foretold by all the prophets (Luke 24:27; John 1:45), the coming King of Israel (Isaiah 9:6, 7 Luke 1:32, 33).
Was the Feeding of the 4000 and 5000 Two Separate Events?
Bible critics have claimed that the feeding of the 4000 and the 5000 refer to one event. These critics base their assumptions to the points of similarities in the two stories. Christ’s miracle of feeding the 4000 (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-10), at first, may seem to be similar to the one He did for the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15).
But Jesus Himself stated that the feeding of the 4000 and 5000 were two separate events: “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven” (Mark 8:18-20).
Here are the differences between the two accounts that clearly prove that Jesus did indeed feed the multitudes on two separate occasions:
- Number of counted men fed: one was 5,000, the other, 4,000.
- Time: one, immediately following the third Galilean tour, the other following a trip into Phoenicia.
- Circumstances that led Jesus to the region: one to be alone with His disciples, the other was that Jesus already in the region and healing people.
- One occurred after arrival by sea, the other by land as the context implies.
- One was near Bethsaida Julias, the other appears to be near Gergesa.
- One Jesus preached for a duration of one day, the other He taught for three days.
- One the crowd had not brought provisions, the other the crowd apparently had provisions for a day or two, implying a prearranged arrangement.
- In one the disciples introduce the problem and propose sending the crowds home, in the other Jesus introduces the problem, implying that it is the duty of the disciples to do something about it.
- One mentions the presence of green grass, the other does not give that detail.
- There was an organized seating effort for one, while the other has no mention of that.
- Kind of baskets used to gather the surplus: the one kophinoi, the other was spurides.
- The quantity gathered: one was 12 kophinoi, the other 7 spurides.
- In one Jesus sends the disciples on ahead across the lake and retires to the hills to pray, the other He accompanies them.
- Destination: one is Capernaum or Gennesaret, the other is Magdala.
- One was followed by a storm on the lake, the other has no mention of a stormy crossing.
Therefore, the points of difference disqualify a common origin for the two accounts.
In His service,