In what ways was this event similar to the feeding of the 5000 recorded in Mat 14:13-21 and Mar 6:30-44? Think: what was multiplied? Was it a large or small number who were fed? Were women and children included in the count of those who were fed at each? Was it in Judea or Galilee where the events took place? In the city or in the country? On the east, west, north or south side of the Sea of Galilee? Were there leftovers? Because of its similarity to the earlier miracle of the loaves and fishes, liberal scholars hold that this event is merely another version of the feeding of the 5000 and point to this as evidence that the Bible record cannot be trusted as accurate.
In what many more ways was this event different? Think: How many are recorded as being fed at each event? How long had the people been with Jesus before the feeding of the 5000, and how long had they been with Him before the feeding of the 4000? Cf. Mat 14:13-15, 15:32. Where in particular did the feeding of the 5000 take place, and where in particular did the feeding of the 4000 take place? Cf. Luk 9:10f, Mar 7:31f, Mat 15:29f. What is particularly significant about the different location of where the feeding of the 4000 took place, and what does it indicate about the most significant difference between the two groups who were fed? Think: was the region of the Decapolis where the 4000 were fed Jewish territory, as was the location of the feeding of the 5000 near Bethsaida in Herod Philip’s tetrarchy? Was it a matter of not having enough money to buy food that hindered the disciples from providing for the 4000, as it was for the feeding of the 5000 (Mar 6:35-37)? See Mar 8:4, Mat 15:33.
Exactly how many loaves and fishes were multiplied at each event? See Mat 14:17, 15:34. How much was left over after each event? Mat 14:20, 15:37. What containers were used to hold the leftovers? Note: at the feeding of the 5000 all four Gospels say the disciples gathered the remnants in 12 “baskets” (Greek ko,finoj), while at the feeding of the 4000 Matthew and Mark write that they picked up seven “large baskets” (Greek spuri,j); cf. Mat 16:9-10 and Mar 8:19-20 where the same distinction is made, and cf. Act 9:25 for how large these “large baskets” had to be. Was there any mention of grass at the feeding of the 4000? Cf. Mat 14:19, Mar 6:39, Joh 6:10. Observe on the above maps the more arid region of the Decapolis, especially on the top of the “mountain” (Mat 15:29) where Jesus had gone up, as compared to the greener area to the north near Bethsaida where the feeding of the 5000 took place.
In light of the many distinctions made between the miracles, should we suppose that they are in fact different versions of the same event as liberal scholars do? Do liberal scholars come to their conclusion on the basis of sound scholarship, or on the basis of their preconceived disposition that the Bible is not the inspired word of God?
What was Jesus’ attitude towards the multitude, and how was it different from that of the Pharisees, especially for a multitude in a Gentile land? See Mat 15:32. How long had the crowd remained with Jesus, in spite of having little or nothing to eat? What does this indicate about the great desire for light and truth that the Gentiles had, and how does that contrast with so many of the Jews who were rejecting Jesus? Cf. Mat 15:1-2,21-22. Do we hunger and thirst for truth and righteousness as much as they did? For what reason did Jesus not wish to send the multitude away hungry? Cf. Mar 8:3. What does the fact that some of the people had come from a distance indicate about the spread of Jesus’ fame? What does it indicate about the great love for the truth some had that would cause them to come from so far? How is that an example for us? What hope does Mat 15:32 give us that as we tarry with the Lord and abide in His presence He will supply all of our needs? Do you think the Lord is as moved by compassion to meet the physical needs of those who have not the same love for the truth and will not tarry with Him because their greater love is for their flesh?
Approximately how long after the feeding of the 5000 took place (in the spring of the year around the time of the Passover, Joh 6:4) would the feeding of the 4000 have taken place? Cf. the events in Mat 14:22-15:28 that may have taken from a few weeks to several months. In spite of the recent and similar feeding of the multitude near Bethsaida, why should we not suppose the disciples’ question in Mat 15:33 is entirely surprising? Think: was it Jesus’, or is it God’s, usual custom to miraculously provide for the needs of people, or are such events somewhat rare because except in unusual circumstances He provides for people’s needs by working jointly with them and in and through others? Cf. 2Th 3:6-12.
Did Jesus personally deliver the bread He multiplied to all the people? See Mat 15:36. In what way is this a picture of the way He feeds people spiritually? Are we true disciples in the sense of receiving bread from Jesus and distributing it to others? In the Lord’s feeding of the multitude, was there just enough in order to tide the people over until they could get home and get a real meal? See Mat 15:37. What does this teach us about how the word of God is able to meet our every need and satisfy all our hunger?
After dismissing the crowds, where does Matthew say Jesus went? See Mat 15:39. Where does Mark say He went? See Mar 8:10. What does this indicate about the “region of Magadan” and the “district of Dalmanutha”? Although the exact location of this area is not known, where can we surmise it may have been? See a Bible map and cf. Mar 8:11-13,22. Note: KJV reads “Magdala”, a place on the western shore of the Lake of Galilee, about 3 miles south of Tiberias. “The best external evidence supports Magadan, yet not only the site, but even the existence of such a place-name is uncertain. The parallel passage in Mar 8:10 has ‘the districts of Dalmanutha’ an equally unknown site and name.” (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament). Since Magadan and Dalmanutha were unknown sites, later copyists substituted Magdala which was a known site, supposing Magadan to be a corruption of Magdala, which is possible: it fits as a region that would be traveled to by boat from the region of Decapolis and that was on “the other side” of the lake from Bethsaida where they later traveled to. Thus Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene from whom Jesus had cast 7 demons (Luk 8:2), may conceivably be the location referred to.