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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Multitude —This word is used in Authorized and Revised Versions to translate ὄχλος and πλῆθος.

(1) ὅχλος is defined by Grimm-Thayer as ‘a casual collection of people, a multitude of men who have flocked together in some place, a throng.’ The plural οἱ ὅχλοι, which often occurs in Mt. and Lk., is found twice in Mk., viz mark.  Mark 6:33 (Textus Receptus; all the best Manuscripts omit] and  Mark 10:2 without the article; once only in Jn. ( John 7:12 where אD Vulgate give sing.), meaning probably the various groups or companies (cf.  Luke 2:44) which had come up to the feast. In Authorized Version it is rendered ‘multitude’ and frequently ‘people,’ also ‘press’ ( Mark 2:4;  Mark 5:27;  Mark 5:30,  Luke 8:19;  Luke 19:3) and ‘company’ ( Luke 5:29;  Luke 6:17;  Luke 9:38 (but ‘people’ in  Luke 9:37 ]  Luke 12:13,  John 6:5). Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 usually gives ‘multitude,’ but in some passages prefers ‘crowd,’ from A.S. crúdan , ‘to push,’ ‘throng, apparently in cases where the ὄχλος would cause inconvenient pressure, cf.  Mark 3:9 (διὰ τὸν ὄχλον ἵνα μὴ θλίβωσιν αὐτόν), also  Matthew 9:23,  Mark 2:4;  Mark 5:27;  Mark 5:30,  Luke 8:19;  Luke 19:3; yet in  Mark 5:31 where συνθλίβοντα is used of ὅχλον (translation ‘crowd’ in the previous verse), and in  Luke 5:1 where the ὅχλος is described as pressing upon Him (ἐπικεῖσθαι), Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 rather inconsistently uses ‘multitude.’ The following phrases may be noted—( a ) ὄχλος ἱκανος, which Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 in  Mark 10:46 translates ‘great multitude’ (Authorized Version a ‘great number of people’), yet in  Luke 7:12 renders, as Authorized Version, ‘much people,’ probably because in the preceding verse ‘great multitude’ is used for a different collection of persons; ( b ) ὁ πολὺς ὁχλος or ὁ ὀχλος πολύς forming almost a composite term ‘the common people’ ( Mark 12:37,  John 12:9;  John 12:12 (Revised Version margin)); ( c ) ὁ σλεῖστοι ὀχλος,  Matthew 21:8 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘the most part of the multitude,’ Authorized Version ‘a very great multitude,’ Vulgate plurima turba  ; in  Mark 4:1 ὄχλος πλεῖστος is read by אB, al.; ( d ) τῶν μυριάδων τοῦ ὄχλου,  Luke 12:1 ‘the many thousands of the multitude’ (Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885), ‘an innumerable multitude of people’ (Authorized Version), multis turbis (Vulgate); this ὄχλος appears to be the largest mentioned in the Gospels, and the words ‘in the mean time’ (ἐν οἶς) at the beginning of the verse suggest that it was drawn together by the conflict between Christ and His adversaries which is narrated in the previous chapter.

(2) πλῆθος occurs 12 times in the Gospels, of which 8 are in Lk. ( Luke 1:10;  Luke 2:13;  Luke 5:6;  Luke 6:17;  Luke 8:37;  Luke 19:37;  Luke 23:1;  Luke 23:27), 2 in Mk. ( Mark 3:7-8), and 2 in Jn. ( John 5:3;  John 21:6); in only two cases la it used otherwise than of a collection of persons ( Luke 5:6,  John 21:6 a ‘multitude of fishes’). Authorized Version renders the word by ‘multitude’ in all passages except  Luke 23:27 where it gives ‘company.’ There is more variety in Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 which employs ‘multitude’ in 9 places, but also ‘company’ ( Luke 23:1), ‘number of the people’ ( Luke 6:17), and ‘people’ in  Luke 8:37, where Humphry ( Commentary on the Revised Version ) says it would not be in accordance with English idiom to say ‘the whole multitude of the country’; yet the latter is the translation of Authorized Version, which does not usually err in this respect. ‘People’ is elsewhere almost invariably reserved by Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 to translation λαός. All three Gr. words occur in  Luke 6:17 ὄχλος πολὺς μαθητῶν αὐτπῦ καὶ πλῆθος πολὺ τοῦ λαοῦ (Authorized Version ‘the company of his disciples and a great multitude of people,’ Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘a great multitude of his disciples and a great number of the people’).

The multitude occupies a distinct position in the Gospels; those of whom it was composed are marked off from the disciples (cf.  Mark 8:34,  Luke 9:16;  Luke 9:18, and  Matthew 23:1, where the disciples appear round Jesus in the foreground, the multitude farther off, and the Pharisees in the background). They are also distinguished from the ruling classes who despised them and held them in contempt, regarding them as accursed through their ignorance of the Law ( John 7:49), and a prey to any designing teacher ( John 7:12;  John 7:47 f.). Thus the ‘multitude’ answers to ‘am hâ’ârcẓ , ‘people of the land,’ ‘common persons,’ which was the name given to those who were not h ăb çrîm, i.e. not strict observers of the Law (see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible iii. 743a, 826). Hillel used to say, ‘No brutish man is sin-fearing, nor is one of the people of the land pious,’ and Rabbinical writers used such contemptuous expressions as ‘the ignorant is impious; only the learned shall have part in the resurrection’ (Godet on  John 7:49). Yet it was felt that the multitude would be formidable from its very numbers if it were only united under a leader in one common purpose. Accordingly we read that Herod was restrained from putting John the Baptist to death since he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet ( Matthew 14:5). For the same reason the chief priests and elders dared not say that John’s baptism was of men ( Matthew 21:26). This same fear prevented the chief priests and the Pharisees from laying hold on Jesus ( Matthew 21:46); they decided not to arrest Him on the feast day ( Mark 14:2), ‘lest haply there shall be a tumult of the people’ (λαοῦ, note the future ἔσται, which shows their positive expectation of trouble); and they arranged with Judas for His betrayal ‘in the absence of the multitude’ ((Revised Version margin) ‘without tumult,’ ἄτερ ὄχλου,  Luke 22:6; cf.  Luke 19:47 f.). The multitude, however, at ordinary times was greatly under the influence of their rulers, looking up to them as guides in religious matters, cf.  John 7:12-13 ‘there was much murmuring among the multitudes concerning him: some said, He is a good man; others said, Not so, but he leadeth the multitude astray. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.’ This whole chapter is important as showing the relations between the ruling classes and the multitude, and also the discussions between different sections of the latter as to the claims of Jesus, and the gradual development into belief or disbelief (see especially  John 7:25-27;  John 7:31;  John 7:40-44 and art. Murmuring). Here also perhaps may be noted  Luke 12:1. The violent scene of ch. 11 ‘had found its echo outside; a considerable crowd had flocked together. Excited by the animosity of their chiefs, the multitude showed a disposition hostile to Jesus and His disciples. Jesus feels the need of turning to His own, and giving them, in presence of all, those encouragements which their situation demands’ (Godet). The power of the same influence is seen in the account of the Trial, cf.  Matthew 27:20 ‘the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus’—words which suggest that if left to themselves they might have listened to Pilate’s proposal, but their leaders turned the scale against Jesus. It must be remembered that this multitude which cried for His blood was mainly, if not entirely, composed of Jews of Jerusalem. It was therefore quite distinct from the multitude which had accompanied Jesus at His triumphal entry, and which largely consisted of pilgrims from Galilee coming to the feast. For the meeting of the two multitudes see  Matthew 21:10-11, and note how the answer of  Matthew 21:11 is already greatly modified from the Hosanna cries of  Matthew 21:9. Accordingly the favourite use of these incidents as illustrations of the proverbial fickleness of a crowd—shouting Hosanna and waving palm branches one day, and crying ‘Crucify him’ the next—though attractive, is without justification.

Jesus regarded with deep pity the multitudes who came to Him. We read that on one occasion He had compassion on them because they were ἐσκυλμένοι καὶ ἐρριμμένοι, as sheep not having a shepherd. ( Matthew 9:36).

If these words primarily describe the physical aspect of those who came to Him on this occasion, then ἐσκσυλμένοι, which properly means ‘flayed,’ ‘mangled,’ will signify here ‘distressed and wearied by long traveling’; and ἐρριμμενοι, ‘prostrated by fatigue, lying down like tired sheep’ (cf. Vulgate jacentes ). Thus they will express mute misery, and a half unconscious appeal to the Divine compassion, and they are so taken by Meyer, and Bruce in Expos, Gr. Testament . But if, as seems more likely, the expressions are mainly figurative, ἐσκυλμένοι will mean ‘hunted and distressed by spiritual foes,’ harassed by the tyranny of the scribes and Pharisees with their ‘heavy burdens’ (cf.  Matthew 23:4); and ἐρριμμενοι, ‘scattered,’ without true spiritual shepherds, John the Baptist being imprisoned and their regular teachers shamefully neglecting their duties. This agrees better with the Lord’s remark in v. 37 that ‘the labourers are few,’ and with the commission of the Twelve immediately following in ch. 10, as the result of His compassion; so Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘distressed and scattered’; Authorized Version ‘they fainted,’ following Textus Receptus, which reads ἐκλελυμένοι for ἐσκυλμένοι, with very little MS support.

On other occasions His compassion for the multitude led Him to heal their sick ( Matthew 14:14), and to feed the 4000 ( Matthew 15:32,  Mark 8:2).

The astonishment and wonder with which the multitude regarded Jesus is a very marked feature in the Gospels, especially in Mk. and Lk. (see art. Attributes of Christ, ii. 9). These feelings were excited by the manner and substance of His teaching ( Matthew 7:28;  Matthew 22:33,  Mark 1:22,  Luke 4:32), by His words of grace ( Luke 4:22), and also by His mighty works ( Matthew 9:8;  Matthew 9:33;  Matthew 15:31,  Mark 2:12;  Mark 5:20;  Mark 7:37,  Luke 4:36;  Luke 5:26;  Luke 7:16;  Luke 9:43;  Luke 11:14). The people never became so familiar with His miracles as to take them as a matter of course. It is noted that they received His words and acts with gladness (cf.  Mark 12:37 and  Luke 13:17, where there is a contrast to the feeling of His adversaries who ‘were ashamed’). They greatly enjoyed the discomfiture of His enemies when He easily replied to their subtle questions and escaped their cleverly laid snares. Jesus was very popular with the ordinary people; it is frequently recorded that great multitudes followed Him (cf.  Matthew 4:25;  Matthew 8:1;  Matthew 12:15;  Matthew 19:2). At other times we read that, attracted by His teaching and His miracles, ‘all the city was gathered together at the door’ ( Mark 1:33); ‘they came from every quarter’ ( Mark 1:45); their attendance was so persistent that Jesus and the disciples ‘could not so much as eat bread’ ( Mark 3:20); it was necessary to address them from the boat ( Matthew 13:2); they brought their sick and maimed to Him ( Matthew 15:31,  Mark 1:32); they pressed upon Him and heard the word of God ( Luke 5:1); and their rapt attention to His preaching, even during the last days at Jerusalem, is described by St. Luke ( Luke 19:48) in emphatic language, ‘the people all hung upon him, listening’ (ἐξεκρέματο αὐτοῦ ἀκούων). The feeding of the 5000 produced such an effect that they were ‘about to come and take him by force to make him king’ ( John 6:15), proclaiming Him the Son of David (cf.  Matthew 12:23;  Matthew 21:9;  Matthew 21:15); and His enemies bore striking testimony to His popularity when they said, ‘Lo, the world is gone after him’ ( John 12:19). Even in the region of Caesarea Philippi, whither He had gone for retirement, we are surprised to find mention of a multitude, which may indeed have consisted mainly of Gentiles ( Mark 8:34). Edersherm ( LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Edersheim].] ii. 45 f.) thinks there is a previous mention of a non-Israelite multitude in  Matthew 15:31 ‘the multitude wondered … and they glorified the God of Israel’ (but see Alford’s note). ‘By the reiteration of this word we are constantly reminded that our Lord, wherever He went, drew about Him eager crowds of the common people, who sometimes thronged and pressed upon Him too closely, sometimes followed Him, far from their own homes, and always heard Him gladly’ (Humphry, Commentary on the Revised Version , on  Matthew 7:28).

Christ, however, was not deceived as to the depth of these impressions; He did not court their applause or seek their favour. On the contrary, it is recorded that on several occasions He withdrew Himself from the multitude (cf.  Matthew 8:18,  John 6:15), and the expression ἀφεὶς τοὺς ὅχλους, used in  Matthew 13:36,  Mark 4:36, means ‘leaving the multitude’ (Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885), not ‘sending them away’ (Authorized Version). Knowing that such popularity would not further the Kingdom of God, and would lead afterwards to serious disappointment, He sought at times to repress it, and showed the danger and loss and self-sacrifice involved in being His disciples; cf. His teaching as to the necessity of being willing to forsake everything ( Luke 14:25 f.). The parables of Matthew 13 give a very sober estimate of the value of the professions of the multitude. Yet His popularity with the simple-hearted people of Galilee continued until the end, as was shown at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Certain sections of Christ’s teaching were specially addressed to the multitude, viz. the discourse about defilement ( Matthew 15:10 f.,  Mark 7:14 f. where, turning from the Pharisees and the scribes, ‘he called to him the multitude, and said unto them, Hear and understand’; ἑκείνους μὲν ἐπιστομίσας καὶ καταισχύνας ἀφῆκεν ὡς ἀνιάτους· τρέπει δὲ τὸν λόγον πρὸς τὸν ὅχλον ὡς ἁξιολογώτερον, Euthym.); the first three parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13); the passage showing the need of renunciation and of counting the cost ( Luke 14:25 f. ||); the section dealing with the Bread of Life ( John 6:24 f.); the questions concerning John the Baptist, and the statement as to his character and mission ( Matthew 11:7 f.); and the passage dealing with the scribes and Pharisees ( Matthew 23:1 f.), which was spoken to the multitudes and to His disciples; cf. also  Mark 2:13. See also Crowd.

Literature.—In addition to the notes on the various passages in Commentaries, two suggestive sermons may be mentioned: Vaughan, Earnest Words for Earnest Men  : ‘The Christian aspect of a multitude’; A. K. H. B., The Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson  : ‘A great multitude a sad sight.’

W. H. Dundas.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [2]

1: Ὄχλος (Strong'S #3793 — Noun Masculine — ochlos — okh'-los )

is used frequently in the four Gospels and the Acts; elsewhere only in  Revelation 7:9;  17:15;  19:1,6; it denotes (a) "a crowd or multitude of persons, a throng," e.g.,  Matthew 14:14,15;  15:33; often in the plural, e.g.,  Matthew 4:25;  5:1; with polus, "much" or "great," it signifies "a great multitude," e.g.,  Matthew 20:29 , or "the common people,"  Mark 12:37 , perhaps preferably "the mass of the people." Field supports the meaning in the text, but either rendering is suitable. The mass of the people was attracted to Him (for the statement "heard Him gladly" cp. what is said in  Mark 6:20 of Herod Antipas concerning John the Baptist); in   John 12:9 , "the common people," RV, stands in contrast with their leaders (ver. 10);  Acts 24:12 , RV, "crowd;" (b) "the populace, an unorganized multitude," in contrast to demos, "the people as a body politic," e.g.,  Matthew 14:5;  21:26;  John 7:12 (2nd part); (c) in a more general sense, "a multitude or company," e.g.,   Luke 6:17 , RV, "a (great) multitude (of His disciples)," AV, "the company;"  Acts 1:15 , "a multitude (of persons)," RV, AV, "the number (of names);"  Acts 24:18 , RV, "crowd" (AV, "multitude"). See Company , No. 1, Number

2: Πλῆθος (Strong'S #4128 — Noun Neuter — plethos — play'-thos )

lit., "a fullness," hence, "a large company, a multitude," is used (a) of things: of fish,  Luke 5:6;  John 21:6; of sticks ("bundle"),  Acts 28:3; of stars and of sand,  Hebrews 11:12; of sins,  James 5:20;  1—Peter 4:8; (b) of persons, (1) a "multitude:" of people, e.g.,  Mark 3:7,8;  Luke 6:17;  John 5:3;  Acts 14:1; of angels,  Luke 2:13; (2) with the article, the whole number, the "multitude," the populace, e.g.,  Luke 1:10;  8:37;  Acts 5:16;  19:9;  23:7; a particular company, e.g., of disciples,  Luke 19:37;  Acts 4:32;  6:2,5;  15:30; of elders, priests, and scribes,  Acts 23:7; of the Apostles and the elders of the Church in Jerusalem,  Acts 15:12 . See Assembly , No. 3. Bundle No. 2, COMPANY, No. 5.

 Luke 12:1

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [3]

A. Noun.

Hâmôn ( הָמֹן , Strong'S #1995), “multitude; lively commotion; agitation; tumult; uproar; commotion; turmoil; noise; crowd; abundance.” This noun appears 85 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods.

The word represents a “lively commotion or agitation”: “Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me?” (Isa. 63:15).

Hâmôn represents the stirring or agitation of a crowd of people: “When Joab sent the king’s servant, and me thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was” (2 Sam. 18:29). In Isa. 17:12 the word is synonymously parallel to hâmôn , “rumbling”: “Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!”

Sometimes hâmôn represents the noise raised by an agitated crowd of people (a “tumult”): “And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult [raised by the report that the battle was lost]?” (1 Sam. 4:14). In Isa. 13:4 the word represents the mighty sound of a gathering army rather than the confused outcry of a mourning city: “The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle.” A young lion eating his prey is not disturbed by the noise of a band of shepherds trying to scare him off (Isa. 31:4). There are exceptions to the rule that the word represents the sound of a large number of people. In 1 Kings 18:41 hâmôn signifies the roar of a heavy downpour of rain (cf. Jer. 10:13), and in Jer. 47:3 it represents the tumult of chariots.

Hâmôn sometimes means a “multitude or crowd” from which a tumult may arise. Frequently the word represents a large army: “And I will draw unto thee, to the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude [NASB, “many troops”] …” (Judg. 4:7; cf. 1 Sam. 14:16). Elsewhere hâmôn represents a whole people: “And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel …” (2 Sam. 6:19). Finally, any great throng, or a great number of people (Gen. 17:4—the first occurrence) may be represented by this word.

A great number of things can be indicated by hâmôn “O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee a house for thine holy name …” (1 Chron. 29:16).

Abundance of possessions or wealth is indicated by hâmôn , as in: “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked” (Ps. 37:16; cf. Eccl. 5:10— parallel to “silver” [money]; Isa. 60:5).

Finally, hâmôn refers to a group of people organized around a king, specifically, his courtiers: “Son of man, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to his multitude [his train or royal retinue]; Whom art thou like in thy greatness?” (Ezek. 31:2). Thus in Ps. 42:4 the word can represent a festival procession, a kind of train.

B. Verb.

Hâmâh ( הָמָה , Strong'S #1993), “to make a noise, be tumultuous, roar, groan, bark, sound, moan.” This verb, which occurs 33 times in biblical Hebrew, has cognates in Aramaic and Arabic. Psalm 83:2 contains one appearance: “For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.”

King James Dictionary [4]

MUL'TITUDE, n. L. multitudo, form multus, many.

1. The state of being many a great number. 2. A number collectively the sum of many. 3. A great number, indefinitely.

It is a fault in a multitude of preachers, that they utterly neglect method in their harangues.

4. A crowd or throng the populace applied to the populace when assembled in great numbers, and to the mass of men without reference to an assemblage.

He the vast hissing multitude admires.

The multitude have always been credulous, and the few artful.

Webster's Dictionary [5]

(1): ( n.) A great number of persons or things, regarded collectively; as, the book will be read by a multitude of people; the multitude of stars; a multitude of cares.

(2): ( n.) The state of being many; numerousness.

(3): ( n.) A great number of persons collected together; a numerous collection of persons; a crowd; an assembly.