Luke 9:13

ESV But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.”
NIV He replied, 'You give them something to eat.' They answered, 'We have only five loaves of bread and two fish--unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.'
NASB But He said to them, 'You give them something to eat!' But they said, 'We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.'
CSB "You give them something to eat," he told them."We have no more than five loaves and two fish," they said, "unless we go and buy food for all these people."
NLT But Jesus said, 'You feed them.' 'But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,' they answered. 'Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?'
KJV But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people.

What does Luke 9:13 mean?

The Twelve are with Jesus in an unpopulated area near the northern end of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 9:10). Jesus brought them there to rest after their return from a very full ministry trip (Luke 9:1–6). "He said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat" (Mark 6:31). But a great crowd followed them. Jesus welcomed the crowd, teaching them and healing them (Luke 9:11). The disciples grow concerned that the crowd is hungry and will need lodging (Luke 9:12). Instead of relying on God to feed the people, their first instinct is to send the people to the homes and shops around Bethsaida (Mark 6:35–36).

John writes that Jesus told them to feed the crowd to test them (John 6:6). It's interesting to note that despite their own successful ministry healing and casting out demons (Luke 9:1–6), the disciples don't seem to think of using God's power to feed people. Not long after, they find themselves unable to rescue a possessed boy (Luke 9:37–43). But James and John are confident that they can call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village that rejects Jesus (Luke 9:52–55). The disciples seem to think their power is to bring the kingdom of God and defend their position in it, not help those in need.

By the disciples' estimate, to feed all the people would take two hundred denarii, roughly two hundred days' wages of a common laborer (Mark 6:37; John 6:7). John includes that Jesus already knows how He will feed the crowd and that the loaves and fish come from a boy who is present (John 6:5–9).

Herod Antipas heard of the disciples' power over demons and disease and pondered Jesus' identity. One option spreading around Galilee is that Jesus is a prophet—perhaps even one from Israel's history. Jesus' wording does nothing to disavow this belief. This entire scene is very reminiscent of something that happened during Elisha's ministry. A man brings Elisha an offering of food, and Elisha instructs his servant to give it to the group of men with him. Elisha's servant balks, as the food is not enough, but under Elisha's instruction the men eat and even have leftovers (2 Kings 4:42–44).
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