Bible Commentary in 8 Volumes
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
Notes on Chapter 10
Verse 1. Twelve disciples— Our Lord seems to have had the twelve patriarchs, heads of the congregation of Israel, in view, in his choosing twelve disciples. That he had the plan of the ancient Jewish Church in his eye is sufficiently evident from Matthew 19:28; and from Luke 10:1; 22:30; John 17:1, etc., and Revelation 21:12-14.
He gave them power against unclean spirits— The word kata, against, which our translators have supplied in Italic, is found in many MSS. of good note, and in the principal versions. Here we find the first call to the Christian ministry, and the end proposed by the commission given. To call persons to the ministry belongs only to Him who can give them power to cast out unclean spirits. He whose ministry is not accompanied with healing to diseased souls, was never called of God. But let it be observed, that, though the spiritual gifts requisite for the ministry must be supplied by God himself, yet this does not preclude the importance of human learning. No man can have his mind too well cultivated, to whom a dispensation of the Gospel is committed. The influence of the Spirit of God was no more designed to render human learning useless, than that learning should be considered as superseding the necessity of Divine inspiration.
Verse 2. Apostles— This is the first place where the word is used. apostolov, an apostle, comes from apostellw, I send a message. The word was anciently used to signify a person commissioned by a king to negotiate any affair between him and any other power or people. Hence apostoloi and khrukev, apostles and heralds, are of the same import in Herodotus. See the remarks at the end of chap. 3.
It is worthy of notice, that those who were Christ’s apostles were first his disciples; to intimate, that men must be first taught of God, before they be sent of God. Jesus Christ never made an apostle of any man who was not first his scholar or disciple. These twelve apostles were chosen. 1. That they might be with our Lord, to see and witness his miracles, and hear his doctrine. 2. That they might bear testimony of the former, and preach his truth to mankind.
The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; etc.— We are not to suppose that the word prwtov, first, refers to any kind of dignity, as some have imagined; it merely signifies the first in order-the person first mentioned. A pious man remarks: “God here unites by grace those who were before united by nature.” Though nature cannot be deemed a step towards grace, yet it is not to be considered as always a hinderance to it. Happy the brothers who are joint envoys of Heaven, and the parents who have two or more children employed as ambassadors for God! But this is a very rare case; and family compacts in the work of the ministry are dangerous and should be avoided.
Verse 3. Bartholomew— Many are of opinion that this was Nathanael, mentioned John 1:46, whose name was probably Nathanael bar Talmai, Nathanael, the son of Talmai: here, his own name is repressed, and he is called Bar Talmai, or Bartholomew, from his father.
Matthew the publican— The writer of this history. See the preface.
James the son of Alpheus— This person was also called Cleopas, or Clopas, Luke 24:18; John 19: 25. He had married Mary, sister to the blessed Virgin, John 19:25.
Verse 4. Simon— He was third son of Alpheus, and brother of James and Jude, or Judas, Matthew 13:55.
The Canaanite— This word is not put here to signify a particular people, as it is elsewhere used in the Sacred Writings; but it is formed from the Hebrew anq kana, which signifies zealous, literally translated by Luke, Luke 6:15, zhlwthv, zelotes, or the zealous, probably from his great fervency in preaching the Gospel of his Master. But see “Luke 6:15”.
Judas Iscariot— Probably from the Hebrew twyrq çya ish kerioth, a man of Kerioth, which was a city in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 15:25, where it is likely this man was born.
As arksa iscara, signifies the quinsy, or strangulation, and Judas hanged himself after he had betrayed our Lord, Dr. Lightfoot seems inclined to believe that he had his name from this circumstance, and that it was not given him till after his death.
Who also betrayed him— Rather, even he who betrayed him, or delivered him up; for so, I think, o kai paradouv auton should be translated. The common translation, who ALSO betrayed him, is very exceptionable, as it seems to imply, he was betrayed by some others, as well as by Judas.
Verse 5. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded— To be properly qualified for a minister of Christ, a man must be, 1. filled with the spirit of holiness; 2. called to this particular work; 3. instructed in its nature, etc.; and, 4. commissioned to go forth, and testify the Gospel of the grace of God. These are four different gifts which a man must receive from God by Christ Jesus. To these let him add all the human qualifications he can possibly attain; as in his arduous work he will require every gift and every grace.
Go not into the way of the Gentiles— Our Lord only intended that the first offers of salvation should be made to the Jewish people; and that the heathen should not be noticed in this first mission, that no stumbling-block might be cast in the way of the Jews.
Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not— The Samaritans had afterwards the Gospel preached to them by Christ himself, John 4:4, etc., for the reason assigned above. Such as God seems at first to pass by are often those for whom he has designed his greatest benefits, (witness the Samaritans, and the Gentiles in general,) but he has his own proper time to discover and reveal them.
The history of the Samaritans is sufficiently known from the Old Testament. Properly speaking, the inhabitants of the city of Samaria should be termed Samaritans; but this epithet belongs chiefly to the people sent into that part of the promised land by Salmanezer, king of Assyria, in the year of the world 3283, when he carried the Israelites that dwelt there captives beyond the Euphrates, and sent a mixed people, principally Cuthites, to dwell in their place. These were altogether heathens at first; but they afterwards incorporated the worship of the true God with that of their idols. See the whole account, 2 Kings 17:5, etc. From this time they feared Jehovah, and served other gods till after the Babylonish captivity. From Alexander the Great, Sanballat, their governor, obtained permission to build a temple upon Mount Gerizim, which the Jews conceiving to be in opposition to their temple at Jerusalem, hated them with a perfect hatred, and would have no fellowship with them. The Samaritans acknowledge the Divine authority of the law of Moses, and carefully preserve it in their own characters, which are probably the genuine ancient Hebrew; the character which is now called Hebrew being that of the Chaldeans. The Samaritan Pentateuch is printed in the London Polyglott, and is an undeniable record. A poor remnant of this people is found still at Naplouse, the ancient Shechem; but they exist in a state of very great poverty and distress, and probably will soon become extinct.
Verse 6. But go rather to the lost sheep, etc.— The Jewish Church was the ancient fold of God; but the sheep had wandered from their Shepherd, and were lost. Our blessed Lord sends these under-shepherds to seek, find, and bring them back to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls.
Verse 7. And as ye go, preach— poreuomenoi de khrussete, and as you proceed, proclaim like heralds-make this proclamation wherever ye go, and while ye are journeying. Preach and travel; and, as ye travel, preach-proclaim salvation to all you meet. Wherever the ministers of Christ go, they find lost, ruined souls; and, wherever they find them, they should proclaim Jesus, and his power to save. For an explanation of the word proclaim or preach, see on “Matthew 3:1”.
From this commission we learn what the grand subject of apostolic preaching was-THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND! This was the great message. “They preached,” says Quesnel, “to establish the faith; the kingdom, to animate the hope; of heaven, to inspire the love of heavenly things, and the contempt of earthly; which is at hand, that men may prepare for it without delay.”
Verse 8. raise the dead— This is wanting in the MSS. marked EKLMS of Griesbach, and in those marked BHV of Mathai, and in upwards of one hundred others. It is also wanting in the Syriac, (Vienna edition,) latter Persic, Sahidic, Armenian, Sclavonic, and in one copy of the Itala; also in Athanasius, Basil, and Chrysostom. There is no evidence that the disciples raised any dead person previously to the resurrection of Christ. The words should certainly be omitted, unless we could suppose that the authority now given respected not only their present mission, but comprehended also their future conduct. But that our blessed Lord did not give this power to his disciples at this time, is, I think, pretty evident from Matthew 10:1, and from Luke 9:6, 10; Luke 10:19, 20, where, if any such power had been given, or exercised, it would doubtless have been mentioned. Wetstein has rejected it, and so did Griesbach in his first edition; but in the second (1796) he has left it in the text, with a note of doubtfulness.
Freely ye have received, freely give.— A rule very necessary, and of great extent. A minister or laborer in the Gospel vineyard, though worthy of his comfortable support while in the work, should never preach for hire, or make a secular traffic of a spiritual work. What a scandal is it for a man to traffic with gifts which he pretends, at least, to have received from the Holy Ghost, of which he is not the master, but the dispenser. He who preaches to get a living, or to make a fortune, is guilty of the most infamous sacrilege.
Verse 9. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass, in your purses— eiv tav xwnav umwn, in your GIRDLES. It is supposed that the people of the east carry their money in a fold of their girdles. This is scarcely correct: they carry it in a purse in their bosom, under their girdles. This I have often observed.
In a thousand instances an apostolic preacher, who goes to the wilderness to seek the lost sheep, will be exposed to hunger and cold, and other inconveniences; he must therefore resign himself to God, depending on his providence for the necessaries of life. If God have sent him, he is bound to support him, and will do it: anxiety therefore, in him, is a double crime, as it insinuates a bad opinion of the Master who has employed him. Every missionary should make himself master of this subject.
Have no money in your purse, is a command, obedience to which was secured by the narrow circumstances of most of the primitive genuine preachers of the Gospel. Whole herds of friars mendicants have professed the same principle, and abandoned themselves to voluntary poverty; but if the money be in the heart it is a worse evil. In the former case, it may be a temptation to sin; in the latter, it must be ruinous.
Verse 10. Nor scrip for your journey— To carry provisions. This was called lymrwt tormil, by the rabbins; it was a leathern pouch hung about their necks, in which they put their victuals. This was properly, the shepherd’s bag.
Neither two coats, etc.— Nothing to encumber you
Nor yet staves— rabdon, a staff, as in the margin, but, instead of rabdon, staff, which is the common reading, all the following MSS. and versions have rabdouv, staves, and CEFGKLMPS. V. ninety-three others, Coptic, Armenian, latter Syriac, one of the Itala, Chrysostom, and Theophylact. This reading is of great importance, as it reconciles this place with Luke 9:3, and removes the seeming contradiction from Mark 6:8; as if he had said: “Ye shall take nothing to defend yourselves with, because ye are the servants of the Lord, and are to be supported by his bounty, and defended by his power. In a word, be like men in haste, and eager to begin the important work of the ministry. The sheep are lost-ruined: Satan is devouring them: give all diligence to pluck them out of the jaws of the destroyer.”
The workman is worthy of his meat.— thv trofhv autou, of his maintenance. It is a maintenance, and that only, which a minister of God is to expect, and that he has a Divine right to; but not to make a fortune, or lay up wealth: besides, it is the workman, he that labors in the word and doctrine, that is to get even this. How contrary to Christ is it for a man to have vast revenues, as a minister of the Gospel, who ministers no Gospel, and who spends the revenues of the Church to its disgrace and ruin!
Verse 11. Into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter— In the commencement of Christianity, Christ and his preachers were all itinerant.
Inquire who in it is worthy— That is, of a good character; for a preacher of the Gospel should be careful of his reputation, and lodge only with those who are of a regular life.
There abide till ye go thence.— Go not about from house to house, Luke 10:7. Acting contrary to this precept has often brought a great disgrace on the Gospel of God. Stay in your own lodging as much as possible, that you may have time for prayer and study. Seldom frequent the tables of the rich and great; if you do, it will unavoidably prove a snare to you. The unction of God will perish from your mind, and your preaching be only a dry barren repetition of old things; the bread of God in your hands will be like the dry, mouldy, Gibeonitish crusts, mentioned Joshua 9:5. He who knows the value of time, and will redeem it from useless chit-chat, and trifling visits, will find enough for all the purposes of his own salvation, the cultivation of his mind, and the work of the ministry. He to whom time is not precious, and who lives not by rule, never finds time sufficient for any thing-is always embarrassed-always in a hurry, and never capable of bringing one good purpose to proper effect.
Verse 12. Salute it— legoutev eirhnh en tw oikw toutw, saying, “Peace be to this house.” This clause, which, as explanatory of the word aspasasqe, is necessary to the connection in which it now stands, is added, by the MSS. D and L, and forty-three others, the Armenian, Ethiopic, Slavonic, Saxon, Vulgate, all the copies of the old Itala, Theophylact, and Hilary. The clause is also found in several modern versions. The modern Greek has legontev? eirhnh eiv to skhpri touto. The Italian, by Matthew, of Erberg, and of Diodati, renders it thus: Pace sia a questa casa. Peace be to this house.
It is found also in Wickliff, and in my old MS. Seyinge, pees be to this hous. Some suppose it is an addition taken from Luke; but there is nearly as much reason to believe he took it from Matthew.
Peace, µwlç, among the Hebrews, had a very extensive meaning:-it comprehended all blessings, spiritual and temporal. Hence that saying of the rabbins, wb twlwlk twkrbh lkç µwlç lwdg Gadal shalom, shecol haberacoth culoloth bo. Great is PEACE, for all other blessings are comprehended in it. To wish peace to a family, in the name and by the authority of Christ, was in effect a positive promise, on the Lord’s side, of all the good implied in the wish. This was paying largely even beforehand. Whoever receives the messengers of God into his house confers the highest honor upon himself, and not upon the preacher, whose honor is from God, and who comes with the blessings of life eternal to that man and his family who receives him.
In India, it is customary for a way-faring man, when night draws on, to enter a house, and simply say, “Sir, I am a guest with you this night.” If the owner cannot lodge him, he makes an apology, and the traveler proceeds to another house.
Verse 13. If that house be worthy— If that family be proper for a preacher to lodge in, and the master be ready to embrace the message of salvation.
Your peace— The blessings you have prayed for shall come upon the family: God will prosper them in their bodies, souls, and substance.
But if it be not worthy— As above explained.
Let your peace— The blessings prayed for, return to you. prov umav epistrafhtw, it shall turn back upon yourselves. They shall get nothing, and you shall have an increase.
The trials, disappointments, insults, and wants of the followers of Christ become, in the hand of the all-wise God, subservient to their best interests: hence, nothing can happen to them without their deriving profit from it, unless it be their own fault.
Verse 14. Shake off the dust of your feet.— The Jews considered themselves defiled by the dust of a heathen country, when was represented by the prophets as a polluted laud, Am 7:17, when compared with the land of Israel, which was considered as a holy land, Ezekiel 45:1; therefore, to shake the dust of any city of Israel from off one’s clothes or feet was an emblematical action, signifying a renunciation of all farther connection with them, and placing them on a level with the cities of the Heathen. See “Amos 9:7”.
Verse 15. In the day of judgment— Or, punishment,-krisewv. Perhaps not meaning the day of general judgment, nor the day of the destruction of the Jewish state by the Romans; but a day in which God should send punishment on that particular city, or on that person, for their crimes. So the day of judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, was the time in which the Lord destroyed them by fire and brimstone, from the Lord out of heaven.
If men are thus treated for not receiving the preachers of the Gospel, what will it be to despise the Gospel itself-to decry it-to preach the contrary-to hinder the preaching of it-to abuse those who do preach it in its purity-or to render it fruitless by calumnies and lies! Their punishment, our Lord intimates, shall be greater than that inflicted on the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah!
Verse 16. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves— He who is called to preach the Gospel is called to embrace a state of constant labor, and frequent suffering. He who gets ease and pleasure, in consequence of embracing the ministerial office, neither preaches the Gospel, nor is sent of God. If he did the work of an evangelist, wicked men and demons would both oppose him.
Wise (fronimoi prudent) as serpents, and harmless as doves.— This is a proverbial saying: so in Shir hashirim Rabba, fol. 16, “The holy blessed God said to the Israelites, Ye shall be towards me as upright as the doves; but, towards the Gentiles, as cunning as serpents.”
There is a beauty in this saying which is seldom observed. The serpent is represented as prudent to excess, being full of cunning, Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3; and the dove is simple, even to stupidity, Ho 7:11; but Jesus Christ corrects here the cunning of the serpent, by the simplicity of the dove; and the too great simplicity of the dove, by the cunning of the serpent. For a fine illustration of this text, see the account of the Boiga:
“This species is remarkably beautiful, combining the richest colors of the finest gems with the splendor of burnished gold, mingled with dark brown shades, which contrast and heighten its brilliant ornaments. The whole under surface of the head and body is of a silver white, separated from the changing blue of the back by a golden chain on each side, the whole length of the body. This fine blue and silver, ornamented with gold, by no means give a full idea of the beautiful embroidery of the boiga. We must take in all the reflected tints of silver color, golden yellow, red, blue, green, and black, mingled, and changing in the most extraordinary and beautiful manner possible; so that, when about to change its skin, it seems studded with a mixed assemblage of diamonds, emeralds, topazes, sapphires, and rubies, under a thin transparent veil of bluish crystal. Thus, in the rich and torrid plains of India, where the most splendid gems abound, nature seems to have chosen to reunite them all, together with the noble metals, to adorn the brilliant robe of the boiga. This is one of the most slender of serpents in proportion to its length. The specimens in the royal collection, which exceed three feet in length, are hardly a few lines in diameter. The tail is almost as long as the body, and at the end is like a needle for fineness; yet it is sometimes flattened above, below, and on the two sides, rendering it in some measure square. From the delicacy of its form, its movements are necessarily extremely agile; so that, doubling itself up several times, it can spring to a considerable distance, with great swiftness. It can twine and twist itself, most readily, and nimbly, around trees or other such bodies; climbing, or descending, or suspending itself, with the utmost facility. The boiga feeds on small birds, which it swallows very easily, notwithstanding the small diameter of its body, in consequence of the great distensibility of its jaws, throat, and stomach, common to it with other serpents. It conceals itself under the foliage of trees, on purpose to surprise the small birds, and is said to attract them by a peculiar kind of whistling, to which the term of song has been applied; but we must consider this as an exaggeration, as its long divided tongue, and the conformation of its other organs of sound, are only adapted for producing a hiss, or species of simple whistle, instead of forming a melodious assemblage of tones. Yet, if nature has not reckoned the boiga among the songsters of the woods, it seems to possess a more perfect instinct than other serpents, joined to more agile movements, and more magnificent ornament. In the isle of Borneo, the children play with the boiga, without the smallest dread. They carry it in their hands, as innocent as themselves, and twist it about their necks, arms, and bodies, in a thousand directions. This circumstance brings to recollection that fine emblem of Candour and Confidence imagined by the genius of the ancients: a child smiling on a snake, which holds him fast in his convolutions. But, in that beautiful allegory, the snake is supposed to conceal a deadly poison; while the boiga returns caress for caress to the Indian children who fondle it, and seems pleased to be twisted about their delicate hands. As the appearance of such nimble and innocent animals in the forests must be extremely beautiful, displaying their splendid colors, and gliding swiftly from branch to branch, without possessing the smallest noxious quality, we might regret that this species should require a degree of heat greatly superior to that of our regions, and that it can only subsist near the tropics, in Asia, Africa, and America. It has usually a hundred and sixty-six large plates, and a hundred and twenty-eight pairs of small plates, but is subject to considerable variation.
“According to this representation, the boiga is not merely to be praised for its beauty, but may be said to fulfill the old maxim of combining the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove.” Cepede’s Hist. of Oviparous Quadrupeds and Serpents.
Instead of akeraioi, harmless, or as the Etymol. Mag. defines it, without mixture of evil, the Cod. Bezae reads aploustatoi, simple-uncompounded,-so all the copies of the old Itala, the Vulgate, and the Latin fathers; hut this curious and explanatory reading is found in no other Greek MS.
Verse 17. But beware of men— Or, be on your guard against men, twn anqrwpwn THESE men; i.e. your countrymen; those from whom you might have reasonably expected comfort and support; and especially those in power, who will abuse that power to oppress you.
Councils— sunedria, sanhedrins and synagogues. See on “Matthew 5:22. “By synagogues we may understand here, not the places of public worship, but assemblies where three magistrates, chosen out of the principal members of the synagogue, presided to adjust differences among the people: these had power, in certain cases, to condemn to the scourge, but not to death. See Acts 22:19; 2 Corinthians 11:24, compared with Luke 12:11.” See Lightfoot.
Verse 18. Ye shall be brought before governors, etc.— “This affords a striking proof of the prescience of Christ. Who could have thought, at that time, that these despised and illiterate men could excite so much attention, and be called upon to apologize for the profession of their faith before the tribunals of the most illustrious personages of the earth?” Wakefield.
By governors and kings we may understand, the Roman proconsuls, governors of provinces, and the kings who were tributary to the Roman government, and the emperors themselves, before whom many of the primitive Christians were brought.
For a testimony against them and the Gentiles.— That is, to render testimony, both to Jews and Gentiles, of the truth and power of my Gospel.
Verse 19. Take no thought how or what ye shall speak— mh merimnhsete-Be not anxiously careful, because such anxiety argues distrust in God, and infallibly produces a confused mind. In such a state, no person is fit to proclaim or vindicate the truth. This promise, It shall be given you, etc., banishes all distrust and inquietude on dangerous occasions; but without encouraging sloth and negligence, and without dispensing with the obligation we are under to prepare ourselves by the meditation of sacred truths, by the study of the Holy Scriptures, and by prayer.
It shall be given you in that same hour what— This clause is wanting in the MSS. D and L, and several others, some versions, and several of the fathers: but it is found in Mark 13:11, without any various reading; and in substance in Luke 11:13.
Verse 20. For it is-the Spirit of your Father, etc.— This was an extraordinary promise, and was literally fulfilled to those first preachers of the Gospel; and to them it was essentially necessary, because the New Testament dispensation was to be fully opened by their extraordinary inspiration. In a certain measure, it may be truly said, that the Holy Spirit animates the true disciples of Christ, and enables them to speak. The Head speaks in his members, by his Spirit; and it is the province of the Spirit of God to speak for God. Neither surprise, defect of talents, nor even ignorance itself, could hurt the cause of God, in the primitive times, when the hearts and minds of those Divine men were influenced by the Holy Spirit.
Your Father— This is added to excite and increase their confidence in God.
Verse 21. And the brother shall deliver up the brother, etc.— What an astonishing enmity is there in the soul of man against God and goodness! That men should think they did God service, in putting to death those who differ from them in their political or religious creed, is a thing that cannot be accounted for but on the principle of an indescribable depravity.
O shame to men! devil with devil damn’d
Firm concord holds, men only disagree
Of creatures rational; though under hope
Of heavenly grace; and, God proclaiming peace,
Yet live in hatred, enmity, and strife
Among themselves, and levy cruel wars,
Wasting the earth, each other to destroy!
PAR. Lost, b. ii. l. 496
Verse 22. Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake— Because ye are attached to me, and saved from the corruption that is in the world; therefore the world will hate you. “The laws of Christ condemn a vicious world, and gall it to revenge.”
He that endureth to the end shall be saved— He who holds fast faith and a good conscience to the end, till the punishment threatened against this wicked people be poured out, he shall be saved, preserved from the destruction that shall fall upon the workers of iniquity. This verse is commonly understood to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem. It is also true that they who do not hold fast faith and a good conscience till death have no room to hope for an admission into the kingdom of God.
Verse 23. But when they persecute you— It is prudence and humility (when charity or righteousness obliges us not to the contrary) to avoid persecution. To deprive those who are disposed to do evil of the opportunities of doing it; to convey the grace which they despise to others; to accomplish God’s designs of justice on the former, and of mercy on the latter, are consequences of the flight of a persecuted preacher. This flight is a precept to those who are highly necessary to the Church of Christ, an advice to those who might imprudently draw upon themselves persecution, and of indulgence for those who are weak. But this flight is highly criminal in those mercenary preachers who, through love to their flesh and their property, abandon the flock of Christ to the wolf. See Quesnel.
In this city, flee ye into another— There is a remarkable repetition of this clause found in the MSS. DL and eight others; the Armenian, Saxon, all the Italia except three; Athan., Theodor., Tertul., August., Ambr., Hilar., and Juvencus. Bengel, in his gnomon approves of this reading. On the above authorities Griesbach has inserted it in the text. It probably made a portion of this Gospel as written by Matthew. The verse in the MSS. is as follows:-But when they shall persecute you in this city, flee ye into another; and if they persecute in the other, flee ye unto another.
Ye shall not have gone over (ended or finished, margin) the cities, etc.— The word teleshte here is generally understood as implying to go over or through, intimating that there should not be time for the disciples to travel over the cities of Judea before the destruction predicted by Christ should take place. But this is very far from being the truth, as there were not less than forty years after this was spoken, before Jerusalem was destroyed: teleiwn kai manqanantwn are used by the Septuagint. 1 Chronicles 25:8, for those who teach and those who learn. And toiv teleioiv is used by the apostle, 1 Corinthians 2:6, for those who are perfectly instructed in the things of God. Ovid has used the Latin perficio, which answers to the Greek teleiow in exactly the same sense.
Phillyrides puerum cithara perfecit Achillem.
“Chiron TAUGHT the young Achilles to play on the harp.” For these reasons some contend that the passage should be translated, Ye shall not have INSTRUCTED, i.e. preached the Gospel in the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be came. The Greek divines call baptism teleiwsiv or initiation. See Leigh. Crit. sacr. Edit. Amst. p. 326, 328.
Dr. Lightfoot supposes the meaning to be: “Ye shall not have traveled over the cities of Israel, preaching the Gospel, before the Son of man is revealed by his resurrection, Romans 1:4; compare Acts 3:19, 20; 5:26. To you first, God, raising up his Son, sent him to bless you, etc. The epoch of the Messiah is dated from the resurrection of Christ.” After all, the place may be understood literally; for telein tav poleiv, to finish the cities, is only a concise mode of speech, for telein odon dia tav poleiv, to complete the journey through the cities. To finish the survey, to preach in every one:-till the Son of man be come, may refer either to the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of pentecost, or to the subversion of the Jewish state. See Rosenmuller.
Verse 24. The disciple is not above his master— Or in plainer terms, A scholar is not above his teacher. The saying itself requires no comment, its truth and reasonableness are self-evident, but to the spirit and design we should carefully attend. Jesus is the great teacher: we profess to be his scholars. He who keeps the above saying in his heart will never complain of what he suffers. How many irregular thoughts and affections is this maxim capable of restraining! A man is not a scholar of Christ unless he learn his doctrine; and he does not learn it as he ought unless he put it in practice.
Verse 25. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master— Can any man who pretends to be a scholar or disciple of Jesus Christ, expect to be treated well by the world? Will not the world love its own, and them only? Why, then, so much impatience under sufferings, such an excessive sense of injuries, such delicacy? Can you expect any thing from the world better than you receive? If you want the honor that comes from it, abandon Jesus Christ, and it will again receive you into its bosom. But you will, no doubt, count the cost before you do this. Take the converse, abandon the love of the world, etc., and God will receive you.
Beelzebub— This name is variously written in the MSS. Beelzebaul, Beelzeboun, Beelzebud, but there is a vast majority in favor of the reading Beelzebul, which should, by all means, be inserted in the text instead of Beelzebub. See the reasons below, and see the margin.
It is supposed that this idol was the same with bwbz l[b Baalzebub the
god fly, worshipped at Ekron, 2 Kings 1:2, etc., who had his name changed afterwards by the Jews to lwbz l[b Baal zebul, the dung god, a title expressive of the utmost contempt. It seems probable that the worship of this vile idol continued even to the time of our Lord; and the title, being applied by the Jews to our blessed Lord, affords the strongest proof of the inveteracy of their malice.
Dr. Lightfoot has some useful observations on this subject, which I shall take the liberty to subjoin.
“For the searching out the sense of this horrid blasphemy, these things are worthy observing,
“I. Among the Jews it was held, in a manner, for a matter of religion, to reproach idols, and to give them odious names. R. Akibah saith, Idolatry pollutes, as it is said, Thou shalt cast away the (idol) as something that is abominable, and thou shalt say to it, Get thee hence: (Isaiah 30:22.) R. Lazar saith, Thou shalt say to it, Get thee hence: that which they call the face of God, let them call the face of a dog. That which they call owk y[ ein cos, the FOUNTAIN OF A CUP, let them call ≈wq y[ ein kuts, the FOUNTAIN OF TOIL (or of flails.) That which they call hydg gediyah, FORTUNE, let them call ayylg geliya, a STINK, etc. That town which sometimes was called Bethel, was afterwards called Bethaven. See also the tract Schabbath.
“II. Among the ignominious names bestowed upon idols, the general and common one was lwbz Zebul, DUNG, or a DUNGHILL. ‘Even to them that have stretched out their hands lwbzb bezebul in a dunghill, (that is, in an idol temple, or in idolatry,) there is hope. Thou canst not bring them (into the Church) because they have stretched forth their hands bezebul, in a dunghill. But yet you cannot reject them, because they have repented.’ And a little after, He that sees them dunging, ylbzb (that is, sacrificing,) to an idol, let him say, Cursed be he that sacrifices to a strange god. Let them, therefore, who dare, form this word in Matthew into Beelzebub. I am so far from doubting that the Pharisees pronounced the word BEELZEBUL, and that Matthew so wrote it, that I doubt not but the sense fails if it be writ otherwise.
“III. Very many names of evil spirits, or devils, occur in the Talmud, which it is needless here to mention. Among all the devils, they esteemed that devil the worst, the foulest, as it were, the prince of the rest, who ruled over the idols, and by whom oracles and miracles were given forth among the Heathens and idolaters. And they were of this opinion for this reason, because they held idolatry, above all other things, chiefly wicked and abominable, and to be the prince and head of evil. This demon they called lwbz l[b Baal-zebul, not so much by a proper name, as by one more general and common; as much as to say, the lord of idolatry: the worst devil, and the worst thing: and they called him the prince of devils, because idolatry is the prince (or chief) of wickedness.”
Verse 26. Fear them not— A general direction to all the persecuted followers of Christ. Fear them not, for they can make you suffer nothing worse than they have made Christ suffer; and under all trials he has promised the most ample support.
For there is nothing covered, etc.— God sees every thing; this is consolation to the upright and dismay to the wicked; and he will bring into judgment every work, and every secret thing, whether good or bad, Ecclesiastes 12:14.
Verse 27. What I tell you in darkness— A man ought to preach that only which he has learned from God’s Spirit, and his testimonies; but let him not pretend to bring forth any thing new, or mysterious. There is nothing that concerns our salvation that is newer than the new covenant; and in that there are, properly speaking, no mysteries: what was secret before is now made manifest in the Gospel of the ever-blessed God. See Ephesians 3:1-12.
What ye hear in the ear— The doctor who explained the law in Hebrew had an interpreter always by him, in whose ears he softly whispered what he said; this interpreter spoke aloud what had been thus whispered to him. Lightfoot has clearly proved this in his Horae Talmudicae, and to this custom our Lord here evidently alludes. The spirit of our Lord’s direction appears to be this: whatever I speak to you is for the benefit of mankind,-keep nothing from them, declare explicitly the whole counsel of God; preach ye, (khruxate proclaim,) on the house-tops. The houses in Judea were flat-roofed, with a ballustrade round about, which were used for the purpose of taking the air, prayer, meditation, and it seems, from this place, for announcing things in the most public manner. As there are no bells among the Turks, a crier proclaims all times of public worship from the house-tops. Whoever will give himself the trouble to consult the following scriptures will find a variety of uses to which these housetops were assigned. Deuteronomy 22:8; Joshua 2:6; Judges 9:51; Nehemiah 8:16; 2 Samuel 11:2; 2 Kings 23:12; Isaiah 15:3; Jeremiah 32:29, and Acts 10:9.
Lightfoot thinks that this may be an allusion to that custom, when the minister of the synagogue, on the Sabbath eve, sounded with a trumpet six times, upon the roof of a very high house, that from thence all might have notice of the coming in of the Sabbath. The first blast signified that they should heave off their work in the field: the second that they should cease from theirs in the city: the third that they should light the Sabbath candle, etc.
Verse 28. Fear not them which kill the body— twn apokteinontwn.
Those who slay with acts of cruelty, alluding probably to the cruelties which persecutors should exercise on his followers in their martyrdom. But are not able to kill the soul. Hence we find that the body and the soul are distinct principles, for the body may be slain and the soul escape; and, secondly, that the soul is immaterial, for the murderers of the body are not able, mh dunamenwn, have it not in their power, to injure it.
Fear him— It is, not hell-fire we are to fear, but it is God; without the stroke of whose justice hell itself would be no punishment, and whose frown would render heaven itself insupportable. What strange blindness is it to expose our souls to endless ruin, which should enjoy God eternally; and to save and pamper the body, by which we enjoy nothing but the creatures, and them only for a moment!
Verse 29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?— assariou. A Roman AS was one-tenth of a DENARIUS, which was about sevenpence-halfpenny, and one-tenth of sevenpence-halfpenny makes just three farthings.
The word assarion, which we translate farthing, is found among the rabbins in the word roy[ aisar, which, according to Maimonides, is equal to four grains of silver, but is used among them to express a thing of the lowest, or almost no value. Our Lord seems to have borrowed the expression, One of them shall not fall on the ground, etc., from his own countrymen. In Bereshith Rabba, sec. 79, fol. 77, it is said: In the time in which the Jews were compelled to apostatize, Rab. Simeon, Ben. Jochai, and Eliezer his son hid themselves in a cave, and lived upon dry husks. After thirteen years they came out; and, sitting at the mouth of the cave, they observed a fowler stretching his nets to catch birds; and as often as the Bath Kol said owmyd dimos, escape! the bird escaped; but when it said alwqpo spicula, a dart, the bird was taken. Then the rabbin said, Even a bird is not taken without Heaven, i.e. without the will of God, how much less the life of man! The doctrine intended to be inculcated is this: The providence of God extends to the minutest things; every thing is continually under the government and care of God, and nothing occurs without his will or permission; if then he regards sparrows, how much more man, and how much more still the soul that trusts in him!
Fall on the ground— Instead of epi thn ghn, Origen, Clement, Chrysostom, Juvencus, and six MSS. of Mathai, read eiv thn pagida, into a snare. Bengel conjectures that it might have been written at first, epi thn paghn; that the first syllable pa being lost out of the word, ghn, the earth, instead of paghn, snare, became the common reading.
Without your Father.— Without the will of your Father: thv boulhv, the will or counsel, is added here by Origen, Coptic, all the Arabic, latter Persic, Gothic, all the Itala except two; Tert., Iren., Cypr., Novatian, and other Latin fathers. If the evidence be considered as insufficient to entitle it to admission into the text, let it stand there as a supplementary italic word, necessary to make the meaning of the place evident.
All things are ordered by the counsel of God. This is a great consolation to those who are tried and afflicted. The belief of an all-wise, all-directing Providence, is a powerful support under the most grievous accidents of life. Nothing escapes his merciful regards, not even the smallest things of which he may be said to be only the creator and preserver; how much less those of whom he is the Father, Savior, and endless felicity! See on “Luke 12:7”.
Verse 30. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.— Nothing is more astonishing than the care and concern of God for his followers. The least circumstances of their life are regulated, not merely by that general providence which extends to all things, but by a particular providence, which fits and directs all things to the design of their salvation, causing them all to co-operate for their present and eternal good. Romans 5:1-5.
Verse 31. Fear ye not-ye are of more value— None can estimate the value of a soul, for which Christ has given his blood and life! Have confidence in his goodness; for he who so dearly purchased thee will miraculously preserve and save thee. Did the poet intend to contradict Christ when he said:
“He sees with equal eye, as God of all, A HERO perish, or a SPARROW fall?”
How cold and meagre is this shallow deistical saying! But could the poet mean, that a sparrow is of as much worth in the sight of God, who regards (if we may believe him) things only in general, as an immortal soul, purchased by the sacrifice of Christ?
Verse 32. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men— That is, whosoever shall acknowledge me to be the Messiah, and have his heart and life regulated by my spirit and doctrine. It is not merely sufficient to have the heart right before God; there must be a firm, manly, and public profession of Christ before men. “I am no hypocrite,” says one; neither should you be. “I will keep my religion to myself” i.e. you will not confess Christ before men; then he will renounce you before God.
We confess or own Christ when we own his doctrine, his ministers, his servants, and when no fear hinders us from supporting and assisting them in times of necessity.
Verse 33. Whosoever shall deny me— Whosoever prefers his worldly interest to his duty to God, sets a greater value on earthly than on heavenly things, and prefers the friendship of men to the approbation of GOD.
Let it be remembered, that to be renounced by Christ is to have him neither for a Mediator nor Savior. To appear before the tribunal of God without having Christ for our Advocate, and, on the contrary, to have him there as our Judge, and a witness against us,-how can a man think of this and not die with horror!
Verse 34. Think not that I am come to send peace, etc.— The meaning of this difficult passage will be plain, when we consider the import of the word peace, and the expectation of the Jews. I have already had occasion to remark, (Matthew 10:12,) that the word µwlç shalom, rendered by the
Greeks eirhnh, was used among the Hebrews to express all possible blessings, temporal and spiritual; but especially the former. The expectation of the Jews was, that, when the Messiah should come, all temporal prosperity should be accumulated on the land of Judea; therefore thn ghn, in this verse, should not be translated the earth, but this land. The import of our Lord’s teaching here is this, Do not imagine, as the Jews in general vainly do, that I am come to send forth, (ballein,) by forcing out the Roman power, that temporal prosperity which they long for; I am not come for this purpose, but to send forth (ballein) the Roman sword, to cut off a disobedient and rebellious nation, the cup of whose iniquity is already full, and whose crimes cry aloud for speedy vengeance. See also on “Luke 12:49”. From the time they rejected the Messiah, they were a prey to the most cruel and destructive factions; they employed their time in butchering one another, till the Roman sword was unsheathed against them, and desolated the land.
Verse 35. I am come to set a man at variance— The spirit of Christ can have no union with the spirit of the world. Even a father, while unconverted, will oppose a godly child. Thus the spirit that is in those who sin against God is opposed to that spirit which is in the followers of the Most High. It is the spirits then that are in opposition, and not the persons.
Verse 36. A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.— Our Lord refers here to their own traditions. So Sota, fol. 49. “A little before the coming of the Messiah, the son shall insult the father, the daughter rebel against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and each man shall have his own household fur his enemies.” Again, in Sanhedrin, fol. 97, it is said: “In the age in which the Messiah shall come, the young men shall turn the elders into ridicule; the elders shall rise up against the youth, the daughter against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and the man of that age shall be excessively impudent; nor shall the son reverence his father.” These are most remarkable sayings, and, by them, our Lord shows them that he was the Messiah, for all these things literally took place shortly after their final rejection of Christ. See the terrible account, given by Josephus, relative to the desolations of those times. Through the just judgment of God, they who rejected the Lord that bought them became abandoned to every species of iniquity; they rejected the salvation of God, and fell into the condemnation of the devil.
Father Quesnel’s note on this place is worthy of deep attention. “The father (says he) is the enemy of his son, when, through a bad education, an irregular love, and a cruel indulgence, he leaves him to take a wrong bias, instructs him not in his duty, and fills his mind with ambitious views. The son is the father’s enemy, when he is the occasion of his doing injustice, in order to heap up an estate for him, and to make his fortune. The mother is the daughter’s enemy, when she instructs her to please the world, breeds her up in excess and vanity, and suffers any thing scandalous or unseemly in her dress. The daughter is the mother’s enemy, when she becomes her idol, when she engages her to comply with her own irregular inclinations, and to permit her to frequent balls and plays. The master is the enemy of his servant, and the servant that of his master, when the one takes no care of the other’s salvation, and the latter is subservient to his master’s passions.”
Verse 37. He that loveth father or mother more than me— He whom we love the most is he whom we study most to please, and whose will and interests we prefer in all cases. If, in order to please a father or mother who are opposed to vital godliness, we abandon God’s ordinances and followers, we are unworthy of any thing but hell.
Verse 38. He that taketh not his cross— i.e. He who is not ready, after my example, to suffer death in the cause of my religion, is not worthy of me, does not deserve to be called my disciple.
This alludes to the custom of causing the criminal to bear his own cross to the place of execution; so Plutarch, ekastov ruv kakourgwn ekferei ton autou stauron. Each of the malefactors carries on his own cross. See “John 19:17”.
Verse 39. He that findeth his life, etc.— i.e. He who, for the sake of his temporal interest, abandons his spiritual concerns, shall lose his soul; and he who, in order to avoid martyrdom, abjures the pure religion of Christ, shall lose his soul, and perhaps his life too. He that findeth his life shall lose it, was literally fulfilled in Archbishop Cranmer. He confessed Christ against the devil, and his eldest son, the pope. He was ordered to be burnt; to save his life he recanted, and was, notwithstanding, burnt. Whatever a man sacrifices to God is never lost, for he finds it again in God.
There is a fine piece on this subject in Juvenal, Sat. viii. l. 80, which deserves to be recorded here.
Verse 40. He that receiveth you— Treats you kindly, receiveth me; I will consider the kindness as shown to myself; for he who receiveth me, as the true Messiah, receiveth that God by whose counsels and through whose love I am come.
Verse 41. He that receiveth a prophet— profhthn, a teacher, not a foreteller of future events, for this is not always the meaning of the word; but one commissioned by God to teach the doctrines of eternal life. It is no small honor to receive into one’s house a minister of Jesus Christ. Every person is not admitted to exercise the sacred ministry; but none are excluded from partaking of its grace, its spirit, and its reward. If the teacher should be weak, or even if he should be found afterwards to have been worthless, yet the person who has received him in the name, under the sacred character, of an evangelist, shall not lose his reward; because what he did he did for the sake of Christ, and through love for his Church. Many sayings of this kind are found among the rabbins, and this one is common: “He who receives a learned man, or an elder, into his house, is the same as if he had received the Shekinah.” And again: “He who speaks against a faithful pastor, it is the same as if he had spoken against God himself.” See Schoettgen.
Verse 42. A cup of cold water— udatov, of water, is not in the common text, but it is found in the Codex Bezae, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, Slavonic, all copies of the Itala, Vulgate, and Origen. It is necessarily understood; the ellipsis of the same substantive is frequent, both in the Greek and Latin writers. See Wakefield.
Little ones— My apparently mean and generally despised disciples.
But a cup of water in the eastern countries was not a matter of small worth. In India, the Hindoos go sometimes a great way to fetch it, and then boil it that it may do the less hurt to travelers when they are hot; and, after that, they stand from morning to night in some great road, where there is neither pit nor rivulet, and offer it, in honor of their god, to be drunk by all passengers. This necessary work of charity, in these hot countries, seems to have been practised by the more pious and humane Jews; and our Lord assures them that, if they do this in his name, they shall not lose their reward. See the Asiatic Miscellany, vol. ii. p. 142.
Verily-he shall in no wise lose his reward.— The rabbins have a similar saying: “He that gives food to one that studies in the law, God will bless him in this world, and give him a lot in the world to come.” Syn. Sohar.
Love heightens the smallest actions, and gives a worth to them which they cannot possess without it. Under a just and merciful God every sin is either punished or pardoned, and every good action rewarded. The most indigent may exercise the works of mercy and charity; seeing even a cup of cold water, given in the name of Jesus, shall not lose its reward. How astonishing is God’s kindness! It is not the rich merely whom he calls on to be charitable; but even the poor, and the most impoverished of the poor! God gives the power and inclination to be charitable, and then rewards the work which, it may be truly said, God himself hath wrought. It is the name of Jesus that sanctifies every thing, and renders services, in themselves comparatively contemptible, of high worth in the sight of God. See Quesnel.