Matthew 15:33

"And the disciples said to him, Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?" ESV.

In the feeding of the 4000 in Matt 15, the disciples ask Jesus where they could get enough bread to feed everyone. My question is did they not learn anything from the feeding of the 5000 in the chapter before (Matt 14)? They should have known it wouldn't be a problem for Jesus to take care of the crowd's hunger!

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2 Answers 2


There is one complicating factor that may be worth considering--one major distinction between the two events that may have presented matters in a different light to the minds of Jesus' disciples (though certainly not to Jesus).

The feeding of the "five thousand" had taken place at Bethsaida (see Luke 9:10), where the crowd of hungry people was composed predominantly of Jews. A little lad's lunch, with five barley loaves and two small fish--the standard fare among the common peasants, had been multiplied to feed a crowd in which the men alone numbered 5000, and still there were 12 baskets of remnants collected after all had been satisfied.

But the feeding of the "four thousand" (men again, not counting women and children), took place in the region of Decapolis (see Mark 7:31, onward)--the same place in which he had been earlier refused after casting the demons from the two demoniacs into a herd of swine, which subsequently drowned themselves. These were not Jews, but were considered as Gentiles and heathen.

The disciples still held onto their Jewish prejudices against these people.

After asking their faithless question as to where bread could be found in the wilderness for all those people, they did, still, bring Jesus what was available: seven loaves and two fish. That was all they had. And this time, the leftovers were gathered into seven large baskets.

Essentially, the question was asked of the disciples with a twist: it was not merely their faith in question, but their prejudices.


There can be no legitimate excuse for the disciples' lack of faith. But their lack of faith was compounded by their prejudice toward the non-Jews present. Essentially, it was a new lesson for the disciples--one they had not yet learned previously, that Jesus values people and not just the "chosen" people.


There is a parallel account of Matthew 15:21-39 and Mark 7:24 - 8:9 comprised of three main events;

  1. The encounter of a Canaanite woman (Matthew) or Syrophoenician woman (Mark)
  2. Healing of the Gentiles
  3. Jesus fed the four thousand, who were gentiles.

These three events all involved gentiles. Matthew's account may not so obvious, but Mark's account is pretty clear, for Decapolis was by then a group of ten Hellenistic cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, that they adopted the Roman culture.

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis (Mark 7:31 NIV)

The disciples should have recalled how Jesus replied the Canaanite woman,

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24 NIV)

Now when Jesus asked to feed these four thousands gentiles, was the exception to the Canaanite woman applicable? This might be an uncertainty in the disciples' mind.

I think Jesus intentionally brought the feeding of the five thousands Jews and the feeding of the four thousands gentiles together, to tell His disciples He was the Lord of the Jews, He was also the Lord of the Gentiles

Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, (Romans 3:29 NIV)

Yet Jesus was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, but His disciples were going to complete the Great Commission. The feeding of the four thousand Gentiles is a perfect examples to prepare their mindset, that in Him, Gentiles and Jews are the same.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8 NIV)

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