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When Jesus healed the man born blind in John 9, he sent him to the pool of Siloam:

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth... 6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. 8 The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? 9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. 10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? 11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.

Why was Jesus' behavior different from when he healed another blind man in Bethsaida?

Mark 8:22-26

22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.

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  • The man born blind was told: “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” before he received his sight. (Joh 9:7) This was undoubtedly a test of his faith, just as bathing in the Jordan River was required of Naaman before he was freed from his leprosy.​—2Ki 5:10-14.
    – Kris
    Mar 3 at 18:13
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    I would agree with you, but why did Jesus not ask the same for the blind man in Bethsaida? Mar 3 at 18:18
  • Does this answer your question? Why is the blind man in John 9 sent to the pool that means "sent"?
    – Dottard
    Mar 4 at 2:07
  • @Dottard That question is about what the name means, not why Jesus sent the blind man there. Mar 4 at 2:12
  • I think that is the point - the man was sent there because of the name - Jesus wanted to make a point about being sent.
    – Dottard
    Mar 4 at 2:17

3 Answers 3

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I'll propose there are at least 3 reasons:

  • A test of faith
  • Safety
  • To teach about Himself

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A test of faith

John does not record that the blind man had asked Jesus for this miracle (as is the case in many other miracles); Jesus provides for the man an opportunity to exercise faith. Jesus provides the power and the miracle, but receipt of this power & transformation from God is contingent upon the blind man exercising faith to obey the instructions Jesus has provided him.

As in the case of Naaman, who was asked to do something simple, there was a powerful lesson taught here. When God (or His servants) provide instruction, it is possible to dismiss this instruction because it is simple. Fortunately, Naaman had clear-sighted servants who taught him the principle:

if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? (see 2 Kings 5:13).

The way may be simple, but that is not reason to reject it.

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Safety

In the previous chapter there is an attempt to stone Jesus. While Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles the religious leaders are trying to have Jesus arrested so they can kill Him. There is significant political energy being invested here to try to stop Jesus.

Jesus presumably knew that the healing of this man would result in an uproar. By healing the man in stages and sending him somewhere else, Jesus provided a simple means to ensure He (Jesus) was safely out of reach when the healing was completed and the political machinations began (see the rest of John 9).

Jesus gave Himself time to get out of harm's way while the blind man traveled to the pool. It wasn't time for Jesus to be arrested yet, so He didn't spring the trap that had been set for Him.

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To teach about Himself

The pool of Siloam springs from the Fountain of the Virgin, and it was used in the drawing of water for the Feast of the Tabernacles, which taught symbolically of deliverance. Jesus was born of a virgin, and the Messiah who brought deliverance was a focus of the Feast of Tabernacles.

As Ryan Gardner has observed:

by choosing the Pool of Siloam as the place for the miracle to occur, the Savior was superimposing himself on the most important event of the Feast of Tabernacles. It was as if he was saying, “You come to the Pool of Siloam to ‘draw water out of the wells of salvation’—I am the well of salvation.” (source)

The meaning of the name of the pool is given by John as "sent", or ἀπεσταλμένος.

Expositor's Commentary offers the following insight:

The word ἀπεσταλμένος is so frequently used by Jesus of Himself that...we naturally apply it here also to Himself, as if the noiseless Stream which their fathers had despised (Isaiah 7:6) and which they could trace to its source, was a fit type of Him whom the Jews rejected because they knew His origin

Indeed, earlier during the same Feast of the Tabernacles, it is exactly this that the religious leaders use as a pretext for rejecting Jesus (see John 7:41,52): they claim to know where Jesus is from (Galilee), and based upon this presupposition they reject Him (since the Messiah was supposed to come from Bethlehem). Oh, the irony. They rejected Jesus because of what they thought they knew about Him. How often do we reject a book without ever looking beyond its cover?

On multiple levels the pool of Siloam represents Christ. The man went to the pool in darkness; when he left the pool his world was full of light.

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  • Well- answered, HTTR. But, I personally have a different view on your point of Safety. It was a Sabbath day. Jesus did the manual labor of mixing of clay and also promped the blind man to walk a distance, perhaps entailing more steps than was permissible on Sabbath. All that was done in public. Was he really worried of his own safety ? Mar 4 at 7:32
  • Just finished reading the "source" material that you pointed to. I never knew about the Temple's 70 foot high Menorah (within the women's courtyard) with the four bowls (with wicks) at the top of each, which when lit cast a truly surreal light. The article of course went into great depth regarding the healing of the blind man, who was sent to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam and all that that signified. However, for all that was written here, the writer seemed to be totally ignorant of the 'highly plausible' fact that Jesus could truly have been born at the time of "Tabernacles". + 1. Mar 4 at 17:34
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    @OldeEnglish yeah I was wondering about that too -- I know I number of individuals who see great symbolism in the possibility of Jesus being born at Tabernacles. Of course, there's also great symbolism in the possibility He was born at Passover =). Mar 5 at 0:08
  • Aahh ....! I forgot that you believe in a Passover birth as also being a distinct possibility =). Mar 5 at 3:19
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Parables
In John's Gospel, Jesus never teaches by speaking in parables. However, the basic definition of a parable is to compare things side-by-side.

The word ‘parable’ is simply the English form of a quite common Greek word (parabolē) which in ordinary Greek usage meant the putting of one thing alongside another by way of comparison or illustration. 1

John's Gospel lacks the type of parable found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Yet it is filled with parables of different types such as using words with double meanings; composing passages using a chiastic outline. C.K. Barrett describes the arrest scene as intentionally "to show an acted parable, that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." 2

The Two Sabbath Healings
John describes two healings which take place on the Sabbath. In addition to the accusations made about violating the Sabbath, as seen below, the two are meant to be compared.

John 5:1-14 John 9:1-11
Man who is waiting for another to put him into a pool is sent away from the pool Man who is waiting outside the Temple is sent to put himself into a pool
Man who hears and obeys can't identify Jesus Man who hears and obeys can identify Jesus
Man with eyesight sees Jesus but is unable to identify Him Man who cannot see can identify Jesus only by hearing His voice
Man leaves the pool and goes to the Temple Jesus leaves the Temple and the man goes to the pool
Event ends with Jesus finding the man Event ends with Jesus finding the man
Healing event ends when Jesus finds the man in the Temple and tells him to sin no more that nothing worse may happen to him Event begins when disciples ask Jesus who sinned the man or his parents
Lame man should have been carried to the Temple to observe the Sabbath Blind man prevented from observing the Sabbath in the Temple
Healed man goes to the Temple and worships on the Sabbath Healed man cast out of the synagogue worships Jesus on the Sabbath

Some assumptions from the comparison are speculative. For example, the lame man worshiping on the Sabbath and the blind man prevented from entering the Temple. But the issue of sin suggests a man blind from birth may have been seen as one born out of an illicit union and prohibited from entering the Temple (cf. Deuteronomy 23:2). Regardless, when the two events are compared a question about his parents sinning no longer seems absurd; it follows logically from what Jesus told the first man.

There is another parallel between the two. The pool of Bethesda is north of the Temple; the pool of Siloam is south. The first man traveled south from Bethesda to the Temple. The second continued to go south from the Temple to Siloam. The two men made a trip from the north end to the south running through the Temple, and what is made obvious in the second, "sent" is also found in the first. The lame man was also sent: he was sent away from the pool.

The journey from the Temple to the pool of Siloam was two and times further than from the pool of Bethesda and required traveling through the Lower City. This meant the blind man would have passed by hundreds of homes having water in pots for purification (like those at the wedding in Cana). At any time along the way he could have stopped to wash his face using water intended for purification; it is not difficult to imagine residents offering to wash the man without his having to make his way to the far end of the city. In fact, since the pool of Siloam supplied the city's drinking water, it is not difficult to imagine residents telling to ignore the instructions to go to Siloam but to use water taken from the pool. If anyone offered to wash him or tried to stop him, we know the blind man persisted in going to and washing in Siloam.

Sent
By sending the man to Siloam other themes in the Gospel are magnified. One is Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The lame man obeys Jesus but is unable to identify Him despite seeing and hearing His voice. The blind man also obeys yet he knows Jesus simply from the sound of His voice.

Another theme is the inefficacy of Mosaic purification rituals contrasted with obedience to Jesus. The comparison is antithetical. Water in purification pots in Cana turned to wine was used for drinking; water in Jerusalem intended for drinking was used to wash away the clay Jesus made. What "worked" was doing what Jesus said.

Also there is the theme of Jesus as the replacement for the Temple. The blind man found outside the Temple was sent to Siloam; he had to go away from the Temple. Once he can see, he defends Jesus, who he has never seen. After he is cast out, Jesus finds him and he worships Jesus. This recalls an earlier purification.

John 2:

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The man who was blind and may have been prevented from worshipping in the Temple is cast out of the other legal place of worship, yet does worship on the Sabbath, not in the Temple or synagogue, but when Jesus is in the midst of His disciples and he believes in the Son of Man.


1. D.E. Nineham, The Gospel of St. Mark, The Seabury Press, 1963 p. 126
2. C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St John, S.P.C.K., 1962, p. 435

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Note that it was Jesus who took the initiative in healing the man born blind. The person required solid signs on the way to healing. Human spit was, and still is, considered to be containing medicinal properties. With his blind eyes physically sealed by the spittle clay, he was naturally guided by someone else to the pond of Siloam. Jesus gave him enough time to let the feeling of miraculous healing sink into his mind. See that the man is later confronted by the Pharisees (John 9:13-27) and he is courageous enough to give them a befitting reply: “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” Yes, he had already become a disciple of Jesus!

On the other hand, the second man had not been born blind and the request, most probably from his own side, was made to Jesus to heal him. He was already initiated into the prospect of getting healed. Here again, the healing takes place staccato. First, he sees men like trees; then, he sees with clarity.

Let us also keep in mind that the Siloam miracle took place on Sabbath, entailing the physical work of mixing the clay and walking to the pond. Jesus was clearly and publicly defiant of the scrupulous Sabbath laws that the Pharisees had been advocating for. In the Bethsaida case, it was not a Sabbath, yet Jesus asked the man to go home and 'keep quiet' about the miracle.

By the way, Jesus has a word of caution against those who think that God works in fixed patterns: "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

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  • One note on your last point: We don't know what Jesus will do, because in a way he is unpredictable. His ways our not like our ways. That doesn't mean we can't extract valuable messages from his actions. If we don't have a reason for what Christ did, that is a place of growth for us. Mar 4 at 2:10
  • Thomas Smith, Jesus did not even follow the simple rules of arithmetic. He fed 5000 men with 5 loaves of bread , with 12 baskets of leftover. But, he used 7 loaves to feed 4000 men with only 7 baskets of leftover ! Mar 4 at 2:32
  • Jesus had a reason for that. Jesus had a reason for everything he does. (See Ephesians 1:11) Mar 4 at 12:22
  • If course, Thomas Smith. But then, God's reasons do not fit into the frame of human standards, as can be seen from the Parable of Labourers of Vineyard ( Mtt 20:1-16). Mar 4 at 14:22
  • Sure, sometimes we don't understand God's reasoning, but is that the case for this question? (btw, sorry for the late response) Mar 5 at 12:14

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