Matthew 4
Pulpit Commentary
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Verses 1-11. - THE TEMPTATION. (Parallel passages: Luke 4:1-13; a summary in Mark 1:12, 13.) The Father's acceptance of the Lord's consecration of himself for the work of the kingdom does not exclude temptation, but rather necessitates it. Psychologically, the reaction from the ecstasy of joy in hearing the announcement of Matthew 3:17 was certain; ethically, such testing as would accompany the reaction was desirable. Even the Baptist was, as it seems, not without a special temptation during this period (cf. John 1:19; and Bishop Westcott's note). At the very commencement of his official life the Lord is led consciously to realize that he has entered on a path of complete trust (even as his brethren in the flesh, Hebrews 2:13) for all personal needs, a path which required great calmness and common sense, and along which he must take his orders for final victory, not from worldly principles, but direct from God. In Luke the order of the second and third temptations is reversed. Against the supposition of Godet and Ellicott, that St. Luke is historically correct, the "Get thee hence Satan!" (ver. 10) seems conclusive. At any rate, for St. Matthew's aim in this Gospel the temptation that he places third is the crucial one; the true King will not take an irregular method of acquiring sovereignty. Verse 1. - Then; temporal. Mark, "and straightway." Immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon him. Was led up ... into the wilderness. Up (Matthew only); from the Jordan valley into the higher country round (cf. Joshua 16:1), in this case into the desert (Matthew 3:1). There is nothing told us by which we may identify the place, but as the scene of the temptation must have been near the scene of the baptism, namely, on the west side of Jordan (Matthew 3:1, note), it may be presumed that the temptation was on the west side also. The sharp limestone peak (Godet) known since the Crusades as Quarantana, "from the quarantain, or forty days of fasting" (Trench, Studies,' p. 6), may, perhaps, have been the actual spot. The only important objection to this is that directly after the temptation (as seems most probable) he comes to John in "Bethany beyond Jordan," John 1:28 (not necessarily to be identified with "Bethabara" of the Received Text; its locality is quite unknown). If he went east of Jordan after the temptation, he would still be on one of the great roads to Galilee (Luke 9:52, etc.). The conjecture that the fasting and temptation took place on Sinai is suggested by the analogy of Moses and Elijah, but by absolutely nothing in the Gospels. Led up of the Spirit into the wilderness; Mark, "the Spirit driveth him forth;" Luke, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led in the Spirit in the wilderness" (with a leading that lasted throughout the temptation, ἤετο... ἐν... ἐν...πειραζόμενος). He was no doubt himself inclined to go apart into the desert that he might meditate uninterruptedly upon the assurance just given, and the momentous issues involved in his baptism; but the Holy Spirit had also his own purposes with him. The Holy Spirit cannot, indeed, tempt, but he can and does lead us into circumstances where temptation is permitted, that we may thereby be proved and disciplined for future work. In Christ's case the temptation was an important part of that moral suffering by which he learned full obedience (Hebrews 5:8). Notice that even if the expression in Matthew 3:16, "the Spirit of God descending," does not in itself go beyond the expressions of Jewish teachers who deny his Personality, it would be hard to find so personal an action as is implied by the words, "Jesus was led up of the Spirit," attributed to the Spirit in non-Christian writings. For Isaiah 63:10, 11, 14 is much less definite, and passages, e.g. in Ezekiel 3:12-14, interpret themselves by Ezekiel 1:21. To St. Matthew himself the Personality of the Holy Ghost must, in the light of Matthew 28:19, have been an assured fact. To be tempted of the devil. So Luke; i.e. the great calumniator, him whose characteristic is false accusation; e.g. against men (Revelation 12:10-12); against God (Genesis 3:1-5). Here chiefly in the latter aspect. Each of the three temptations, and they are typical of all temptations; is primarily a calumniation of God and his methods. Mark has "of Satan," a Hebrew word equivalent to "adversary," which the LXX. nearly always renders by διαβάλλω, (compare also Numbers 22:22, 32). Probably by the time of the LXX. the idea of the evil spirit accusing as in a law-court, was more prominent than the earlier thought of him as an adversary. Spiritual resistance by the evil spirit to all good is a less-developed thought than his traducing God to man, and, after some success obtained, traducing man to God. Evil may resist good; it may also accuse both God and those made after the likeness of God.
And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
Verse 2. - And when he had fasted... he was afterwards an hungred. He was so absorbed in prayer that it was only after his six weeks meditation that he felt the need of food. But though his humanity had been elevated and his spiritual sense quickened by this at the time almost unconscious fast, it left him physically prostrate and completely exposed to attack. "In certain morbid conditions, which involve a more or less entire abstinence from food, a period of six weeks generally brings about a crisis, after which the demand for nourishment is renewed with extreme urgency. The exhausted body becomes a prey to a deathly sinking. Such, doubtless, was the condition of Jesus; he felt himself dying. It was the moment the tempter had waited for to make his decisive assault" (Godet). Luke (cf. Mark?) probably (though not in the Revised Version) represents the temptation as continuous during the whole period. Of this Matthew says nothing, but only describes the final scenes, when the might of the tempter was felt to the uttermost, and his defeat was most crucial. Forty. Trench's remark is well worth study: "On a close examination we note it to be everywhere there [i.e. in Holy Scripture] the number or signature of penalty, of affliction, of the confession, or the punishment, of sin (Studies, p. 14). Nights. The mention of nights as well as days brings out more vividly the continuance and the completeness of the abstinence (cf Genesis 7:4, 12 [17, LXX.]; Exodus 24:18; Deuteronomy 9, especially 18; 1 Kings 19:8).
And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
Verse 3. - The tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5 only; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3). Came; came up to him (προσελθών). The word expresses local nearness, and suggests, though we cannot affirm it as certain, that he appeared visibly. The thought of physical nearness is continued in "taketh him" (vers. 5, 8), and "the devil leaveth him" and "angels came near" (ver. 11; cf. ver. 5, note). On the other hand, such expressions may be parabolic, and intended to express the closeness of the spiritual combat. To him; not after "came," but after "said" (Revised Version, with manuscripts). If thou be; art (Revised Version) (εἰ... εϊ) - the "if" of assumption (cf. Colossians 3:1). The devil does not attempt to throw doubt on the truth of the utterance in Matthew 3:17. His words rather mean, "Thou knowest what was said, thou bast been gradually realizing that assurance of Sonship; use, then, that privilege which thou undoubtedly hast" (comp. Matthew 27:40, where, in mockery, the same truth is assumed). Wetstein, following Origen and pseudo-Ignatius,' Philipp.,' § 9, says that the tempter did not know, or at least doubted, whether Jesus was really God, for otherwise he would never have tempted him. This is, surely, to miss the meaning of the temptation for our Lord himself; for he was tempted as Man. Satan might well haw known that he was God incarnate, and yet not have known whether as Man he might not yield. Weiss ('Life,' 1:343) mistakenly thinks that the object of this first temptation was to insinuate doubt in the mind of Jesus as to his Messiahship. "Command that these stones become bread, and if thou canst not do so, then thou art not the Son of God." Command that; εἰπὸν (cf. Westcott and Hort, 2. App., p. 164) ἵνα (cf. Matthew 20:21, and Winer,§ 44:8). These stones, ie. lying about. Farrar (on Luke 4:3; and especially in 'Life of Christ,' illustrated edit., pp. 99, 100) suggests that there is a special reference to the "loaf-shaped fossils," septaria, which are found in Palestine - as, indeed, in most other countries. But though these "flattened nodules of calcareous clay, ironstone, or other matter" (Page, ' Handbook of Geolog. Terms,' etc., 1859, p. 327) often assume fantastic shapes, perhaps even distantly resembling either an English loaf or a fiat Jewish cake (vide infra) , it seems quite unnecessary to see any allusion to them here. (For the comparison of bread and a stone, cf. Matthew 7:9.) Be made; Revised Version, become; rightly, because there is no thought of the process of manufacture in γένωνται, Bread; Revised Version margin, "Greek, loaves" (ἄρτοι). "The Israelites made bread in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one's thumb, and as large as a plate or Platter; hence it was not cut, but [e.g. Matthew 14:19] broken" (Thayer). In Luke the devil points to one stone only, and tempts him to bid it become a loaf.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Verse 4. - It is written. Our Lord's three quotations are from Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 6:16, 13. Some portion of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21, because included in the Sh'ma) was the first part of Scripture taught a Jewish child. Possibly, though there is no evidence upon the subject, the neighbouring portions were often added. If they had been in our Lord's case, such a recurrence of them to his mind in his present state of exhaustion is in complete accord with psychological probability. Man... God (Deuteronomy 8:3, LXX.). As we could not accept Weiss's interpretation of the object of the devil's temptation, so neither can we accept his interpretation of our Lord's reply, that it is equivalent to "Not by means either natural or supernatural, is man's life really sustained, but by exact obedience to God's command." Our Lord quotes the passage in its primary meaning, which was fully applicable to the present occasion. It is equivalent to "Man lives, not necessarily by natural means, but by even supernatural means, if God so wishes." "The creative word, the ῤῆμα Θεοῦ, which alone imparts to the bread its sustaining power, can sustain, even as he is confident that in the present need it will sustain, apart from the bread" (Trench, 'Studies,' p. 35). The words of Deuteronomy are paraphrased in Wisd. 16:26, where the author, in a thoroughly Jewish exposition, enumerates the lessons taught by the giving of the manna. "It was altered... that thy children, O Lord, whom thou lovest, might know that it is not the growing of fruits that nourisheth man; but that it is thy Word, which preserveth them that put their trust in thee." By every word. Ἐπί (Textus Receptus; Westcott and Hort) is doubtless right. The alteration to ἐν (Lath-mann, Tregelles) is probably due to a tendency towards the simple expression of means, but perhaps to the feeling that life, especially spiritual life, is maintained rather in a sphere than on a basis (cf. Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12).
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
Verse 5. - Then the devil taketh him up. Revised Version omits "up." Matthew (παραλαμβάνει, here and ver. 8) lays stress on the companionship, and, in a sense, compulsion; Luke (ἤγαγεν, ver. 9; ἀναγαγὼν, ver. 5), on guidance and locality. Into the holy city (Luke, "into Jerusalem"). From Isaiah 52:1, the end of which verse, "There shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean," heightens the implied contrast of the devil's presence there. (For the expression, cf. also Matthew 27:53; Revelation 11:2; Revelation 21:2, 10; also Hebrews 11, 12.) The name has remained down to the present day (El-Kuds). And setteth; and he set (Revised Version, with manuscripts). The right reading (ἔστησεν, as in Luke) is probably a trace of the basis common to the two records. Possibly, however, it may here be a merely accidental similarity with Luke (who employs the aorist throughout the section), caused by Matthew's desire to emphasize the momentariness of the devil's act. Some think that, as at the end of the temptation Christ is in the wilderness, this removal to Jerusalem is solely mental, without any motion of his body. Improbable; for to make such a temptation real, our Lord's mind must have suffered complete illusion. He must have thought that he was "on the pinnacle." On a (the, Revised Version) pinnacle of the temple (ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ) . What is exactly meant by this definite and evidently well-known term is not easy now to determine. "Some understand this of the top or apex of the sanctuary (τοῦ ναοῦ) [cf. Hegesippus, in Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 2:23:11, 12 (Heinichen), where the Jews bid James stand, ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ, and it is afterwards said that they set him ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ναοῦ]; others of the top of Solomon's porch; and others of the top of the Royal Portico" (Thayer). Of this last Josephus ('Ant.,' 15:11. 5) makes special mention, saying, in his exaggerated style, that human sight could not reach from the top of it to the bottom of the ravine on whose edge it stood. Edersheim ('Life,' etc., 1:303) thinks that possibly the term means "the extreme corner of the 'wing-like' porch, or ulam, which led into the Sanctuary." This last would suit a possible interpretation of Daniel 9:27, as referring to a part of the temple under the name of "the pinnacle," which had been used for heathen sacrifices, probably in the worship of the sun. Cf. Revised Version margin there, with the ἐπὶ τὸ ἱερόν of Theodotion's version, and also the LXX. itself (vide Field's 'Hexapla').
And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Verse 6. - If thou be the Son of God (ver. 3, note). For it is written. Psalm 91:11, 12, verbally from the LXX., but omitting the clause, "to keep thee in all thy ways." Luke omits only "in all thy ways." The clause, according to either record, was omitted possibly because the devil shrank from reminding Jesus of "ways" which he need not take; more probably because . ' ways" hardly fitted this case (cf. Weiss). Trench ('Studies,' p. 40), following St. Bernard, says that the omission of the clause alters the whole character of the quotation, considering that "ways" implies ways appointed by God. But this appears to be strained. The devil, appealing to Jesus' consciousness of abiding communion with God (Psalm 91:1), bids him enjoy to the full the promise of God's protection. There is no thought here of a "miracle of display" to the multitudes who were assembled, "as a matter of course," on the temple area (Meyer; cf. even Trench). Neither the devil's solicitation nor our Lord's reply hint at anything else than Divine protection. If it be urged that for this any one of the many precipices by the Dead Sea, e.g. those of the Quamntana (ver. 1, note) itself, would have been sufficient, the answer may be found in the fact that at the temple, the seat of God's special manifestation, God's special protection might be looked for. There is a slight doubt whether the ὅτι after γέγραπται is recitative (Westcott and Hort, and most) or part of the quotation (Rheims, Meyer, Weiss). In favour of the latter view is the fact that the recitative ὅτι is not used elsewhere in this section (vers. 4, 7, 10), but as in Luke 4:10 it can hardly be other than recitative (for another ὅτι is inserted before "on their hands"), the probability is that it was recitative in the oral source, and therefore recitative here. In their hands; Revised Version, on; ἐπὶ χειρῶν. The thought is not so much of surrounding care as of physical support through space. Lest at any time; Revised Version, lest haply; and so always, for "in the New Testament use of rids particle (μή ποτέ) the notion of time usual to ποτέ seems to recede before that of contingency" (Thayer).
Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Verse 7. - It is written again; i.e. in addition, not to our Lord's previous quotation (ver. 4), in which case we should expect to lind πάλιν in ver. 10, but to the devil's appeal to Scripture. Bengel, "Scriptura per Scripturam interpretanda et concilianda" (cf. Art. XX., "Neither may it [the Church] so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another"). Thou shalt not tempt (Deuteronomy 6:16, verbally from the LXX., and equivalent to the Hebrew, except that the Hebrew verb is in the plural). In Deuteronomy the sentence continues, "as ye tempted him in Massah;" i.e. ye shall not test the reality of his presence and the greatness of his power as ye did (Exodus 17:1-7) at Rephidim. The act proposed to our Lord would have been precisely parallel to that sin of old (cf. Judith's words to the people of Bethulia that, by fixing a limit of days for God to deliver them, they in reality tempted God [ἐπειράσατε τὸν Θεόν] Judith 8:12: cf. also Psalm 78:41). "In this refusal of Christ's are implicitly condemned all who run before they are sent, who thrust themselves into perils to which they are not called; all who would fain be reformers, but whom God has not raised up and equipped for the work of reformation; and who therefore for the most part bring themselves and their cause together to shame, dishonour, and defeat; with all those who presumptuously draw drafts on the faithfulness of God, which they have no scriptural warrant to justify them in believing that He will honour" (Trench, 'Studies,' p. 43).
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
Verse 8. - Into an exceeding high mountain (εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν λίαν; cf. Ezekiel 40:2; Revelation 21:10). Not in Luke. While no material mountain would have enabled our Lord to see all the kingdoms, etc., with his bodily eyes, it is probable that the physical elevation and distance of landscape would psychologically help such a vision. The Quarantana, which "commands a noble prospect" (Soein's ' Baedeker,' p. 263), may have been the spot. In the case of Ezekiel it is expressly said that his being "brought into the land of Israel, and set upon a very high mountain," was only "in the visions of God." All the kingdoms of the world (τοῦ κόσμου; but Luke, τῆς ρἰκουμένης, i.e. of the whole world as occupied by man, cf. Bishop Westcott on Hebrews 2:5). Cyrus says (Ezra 1:2), "All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord, the God of heaven, given me." And the glory of them'; "i.e. their resources, wealth, the magnificence and greatness of their cities, their fertile lands, their thronging population" (Thayer); cf. Matthew 6:29; Revelation 21:24, 26. The kingdoms themselves and their outward show. Contrast the words of the seraphim, "The whole earth is full of his glory" (Isaiah 6:3). In Luke this expression does not occur at this point, but in the tempter's words. As it there comes more abruptly, that is perhaps the more original position. St. Luke adds, "In a moment of time."
And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
Verse 9. - All these things will I give thee (ταῦτά σοι πάντα δώσω). The devil puts "these things" and "thee" in the sharpest contrast. In Luke the devil says, "To thee will I give all this authority, and the glory of them: for it [i.e. the authority] hath been delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it;" i.e. there the devil speaks of giving, not actual possession of the things themselves (Matthew), but the authority that this implied, "and the glory of them." According to St. Luke, he does not attempt to conceal the fact that he has not absolute possession, but he claims authority as delegated to him, and as capable of being delegated by him to another. His claim was false as absolutely stated, but is true relatively in so far that even his usurpation of power must have been permitted (cf. our Lord's term for him, "The prince of this world"). If thou wilt fall down and worship me; i.e. prostrate thyself in obeisance before me - the Eastern method of acknowledging the superiority of a person (cf. Genesis 23:7; 1 Samuel 20:41; 2 Samuel 1:2; 2 Samuel 9:6). The expression does not mean "worship me as God" (for this surely was far too coarse a temptation to overcome any even ordinarily pious Israelite; cf. Weiss), but "acknowledge my rights as over-lord." It is not a question of apostasy (1 Kings 18:21; cf. Joshua 24:15), but of submission to the methods inculcated by Satan, which placed the immediate and the visible above the future and the unseen (Genesis 3:5; Exodus 32:4).
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Verse 10. - Get thee hence, Satan. "Avaunt, Satan" (Rheims). Christ does not address him directly till this climax. The two previous temptations were, comparatively speaking, ordinary and limited. This temptation calls out a passionate utterance of a personality stirred, because touched, in its depths. Only once again do we find our Lord so moved, in Matthew 16:23 (the "Western" and "Syrian" addition here of ὀπίσω μου from that passage emphasizes the feeling common to the two cases), when a similar representation is made to him that he ought to escape the troubles which his Messianic position, in fact, brought upon him. For it is written (Deuteronomy 6:13); from the LXX., which differs from the Hebrew by

(1) translating תירא, "fear," by προσκυνήσεις (but B has φοβηθήσῃ); and

(2) the paraphrastic insertion of "only." Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Worship; προσκυνέω) , as in ver. 9. Serve; λατρεύω, "in perfect subjection to a sovereign power" (Bishop Westcott on Hebrews 8:2, Add. Note). Our Lord's reply cuts up the devil's solicitation by the root. "I do not enter," he means, "into the question of thy authority over these things, and of thy power concerning them. I acknowledge thee not. The command which I willingly obey excludes all homage and service to any other over-lord than God alone. I accept not thy orders and thy methods. I take my commands direct from God." Observe that our Lord does not say how he is to gain the kingdoms for his own; this would be the care of him whose command he follows. But before ascending, the Lord proclaimed (Matthew 28:18) that he had received (i.e. gained through suffering, Hebrews 2:10: Philippians 2:9) more than (note "in heaven") what the devil would have given him as a reward of obedience to false principles.
Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Verse 11. - The devil leaveth him; Luke, "departed from him for a season." For though there are crises of temptation, the devil never finally gives up his attack while the object of it is still on earth. May not even direct assaults be included in the remarkable epitome of Messianic life found in Luke 22:28? And, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. Kept back before both by the presence of the evil one, and by the need for the God-Man to contend alone, they now came up to him and ministered to him so long as they could be helpful (for the change of tenses, cf. Matthew 8:15). Mark however (Mark 1:13) implies that they had been present at other times than after this last crisis. Ministered; possibly supplying his bodily need (cf. Matthew 8:15; Luke 10:40); but as, after all, bodily sustenance is but secondary to spiritual, the latter must at least be included (cf. Hebrews 1:14). In Luke 22:43 the "strengthening" would appear to be of his whole nature within and without, through the medium of his spirit.
Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
Verses 12-16. - JESUS' WITHDRAWAL INTO GALILEE. (Parallel passages: Mark 1:14; Luke 4:14, 15.) According to some commentators, a new section begins here; but probably these verses are still preliminary. Our Lord's activity does not begin till ver. 17. But now he withdraws to Galilee, settling in Capernaum, thus fulfilling prophecy. Verse 12. - Now when Jesus had heard. If we had the synoptic Gospels alone, we should have supposed that the Baptist was imprisoned immediately after the end of our Lord's temptation (cf. this verse with Luke 4:14); but St. John (John 3:24) expressly states that he had not been cast into prison when the events recorded in John 1:43-3:23 took place. "For a time Christ and the Baptist worked side by side, preaching ' repentance' (Mark 1:15 [also Matthew 4:17]) and baptizing [John 3:22]. The Messiah took up the position of a prophet in Judaea, as afterwards in Galilee" (Bishop Westcott, on John 3:22-24). The events in Galilee related in John 2:1-12 were "preparatory to the manifestation at Jerusalem which was the real commencement of Christ's Messianic work. St. John records the course and issue of this manifestation: the other Evangelists start with the record of the Galilaean ministry, which dates from the imprisonment of the Baptist" (Bishop Westcott, on John 3:24). He adds, on John 4:43, "It seems probable that the earlier part of the synoptic narratives (Mark 1:14 - 2:14, and parallels) must be placed in the interval which extended from John 4:43-5:1." Matthew alone states directly that the news of the Baptist having been taken by Herod was the motive of our Lord's withdrawal into Galilee. He says nothing to show whether our Lord withdrew because he would avoid a like treatment himself, or, as is on the whole more likely, because he did not wish to be mixed up in the tumults to which John's capture appears to have given rise (cf. Matthew 14:5). Was cast into prison; "was delivered up" (Revised Version and Authorized Version margin); παρεδόθη, absolutely (cf. Mark 1:14; Romans 4:25; also infra, Matthew 10:19; 1 Corinthians 13:3). If the more proper meaning of the word may be insisted on, the thought is of the person to whom John was committed rather than of the place; John being delivered up, that is to say, by Herod to his officials. But in usage it appears rather to mean only compulsory removal, loss of liberty. Mark (Mark 6:19, 20) points out the temporary protection that the imprisonment gave to John against the resentment of Herodias. He departed; Revised Version, he withdrew; ἀνεχώρησεν,. A favourite word of St. Matthew's (ten times; Mark and John once each; Acts twice). It always implies some motive for the change of place, and is frequently used of departure directly consequent upon knowledge acquired. Hence it often implies a feeling of danger. Into Galilee; whence he had come (Matthew 3:13). Hence "returned" (Luke). In Galilee he would still be in Herod's dominions; but, as being in his own home, he would not attract so much attention. N.B. - Between vers. 12 and 13 some place the incident of his preaching at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30); but ver. 23 of that passage assumes much previous work at Capernaum, and can therefore hardly be as early as this.
And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
Verse 13. - And leaving Nazareth. Finally as a place of residence. The form Ναζαρά occurs only here and Luke 4:16, which in itself well suits the opinion that Luke 4:16-30 is only a fuller account of this sojourn at Nazareth (cf. Weiss, ' Matthaus-Evang.'). He came and dwelt; i.e. made his home in (cf. Matthew 2:23). Not as having a house of his own there, so that he could take shelter in it as of right (cf. Matthew 8:20, "The foxes have holes," etc.); but probably settling his mother there, and being himself generally admitted to some one's house (perhaps Peter's, cf. Matthew 8:14, 16) when he came to the town. In Capernaum. Most probably the modern Tell-hum, upon the north-western shore, two miles from where the Jordan enters the lake. On the interesting relic of the synagogue, presumably that built by the centurion (Luke 7:5), vide especially Bishop Westcott on John 6:59. The identification with Tell-Hum can, however, hardly be considered as absolutely settled. "Some of the narratives of pilgrims of the sixth and seventh centuries appear to place Capernaum here. Jewish authors mention a place called Karat Tankhum, or Nakhum; and as the Arabic Tell ("hill") might easily be substituted for the word Kaphar ("village"), and Nakhum corrupted to Hum, Capernaum and Tell-Hum may be identical. On the other hand, Sepp supposes that the name of the Minim (Jewish Christians), who are known to have been numerous at Capernaum down to the time of Constantine, has been preserved in the Khan Minyeh" (Socin's ' Baedeker,' p. 373). Which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim. The details are mentioned to show the accordance with the following prophecy. Neubauer ('Geogr. du Talm.,' p. 222, edit. 1868) points out that, according to Joshua 19:33, 34, and the notices in the Talmud, the whole western side of the lake was in Naphtali, and that hence Capernaum could not, strictly speaking, be "in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim." He himself explains the discrepancy by saying that St. Matthew imitates the Haggadistic methods in accommodating the geography to the text he quotes. But it is clear that the expression is satisfied by the fact that Zebulun was really near Capernaum, and that numbers of those who frequented the town must have come from Zebulun. The position of Capernaum thus formed quite a sufficient reason for quoting the prophecy in Isaiah. Our evangelist, who (ch. 2.) had noticed the coining of distant heathen to worship Messiah, though he was persecuted by the then ruler of the nation, found it very significant that his public activity should begin at a distance from the home of the hierarchy, and in a district which had been the first to suffer from heathen attacks in the past, and had at the present moment a population in which there was a great mixture of the heathen element (cf. Weiss, 'Matthiaus-Evang.').
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
Verse 15. - The land of Zabulon, etc. From Isaiah 9:1, 2, spoiled in the Authorized Version, but rendered correctly in the Revised Version. Isaiah says that those parts of the land which had borne the first brunt of the Assyrian invasions under Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29; el. Zechariah 10:10), shall be proportionately glorified by the advent of Messiah. Wetstein gives a tradition from the 'Pesikt. Zut.,' of Messiah ben Joseph first appearing in Galilee; but the whole passage (quoted in Dalman's 'Der Leidende und der Sterbende Messias,' pp. 10-13) clearly points to a knowledge of the New Testament. As to the form of the quotation, observe:

(1) Matthew disregards the Hebrew construction, and gives merely the general sense.

(2) He takes it from the Hebrew, not the LXX.

(3) This last point is doubtless to be connected with the fact that the quotation does not occur in the other Gospels, i.e. that it did not belong to the Petrine cycle of teaching, and if it did belong to the "Matthean" cycle, not to that form which was current among Gentile Christians (cf. A. Wright, 'Composition of the Four Gospels.' p. 104). Zabulon and... Nephthalim, equivalent to the later Upper and Lower Galilee. By the way of the sea; toward the sea (Revised Version); cf. Jeremiah 2:18; "i.e. the district on the W. of the Sea of Galilee, as opposed to 'the other side of Jordan,' and 'the circle of the nations,' i.e. the frontier districts nearest to Phoenicia, including 'the land of Cabul' (1 Kings 9:11-13), which formed part of the later Upper Galilee. Via Marls, M. Renan observes, was the name of the high road from Acre to Damascus, as late as the Crusades. 'Way,' however, here means 'region' (cf. Isaiah 58:12; Job 24:4)" (Cheyne, on Isaiah 9:1). Yet hardly so; ὁδόν, is adverbial, 1 Kings 8:48 (equivalent to 2 Chronicles 6:38), and designates the stretching of the districts of Zebulun and Naphtali towards the sea. The sea is the Sea of Galilee. The close union of this clause in the Authorized Version with the following words, "beyond Jordan," misses its true meaning as explanatory of the position of Zebulun and Naphtali, and rather takes it as describing some special locality east of Jordan. Beyond Jordan; i.e. the eastern side, mentioned in 2 Kings 15:29 as having suffered with Naphtali under the Assyrian invasion; see further ver. 25. Galilee of the Gentiles (vide supra, "by the way of the sea").
The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
Verse 16. - The people which sat; "who walk" (Hebrew). Saw great light; saw a great light (Revised Version); unnecessarily except as a matter of English, for it can hardly mean a definite light, Messiah. Φῶς both here and in the next clause means light as such. And to them which sat. So the Hebrew, but the LXX. generally οἱ κατοικοῦντες. In the region and shadow of death. The region where death abides, and where it casts its thickest shade. The Hebrew is simply "in the land of the shadow of death" (בארצ צלמות, according to the traditional interpretation), which the present LXX. (Vatican) probably represents (ἐν χώρᾳ σκιᾷ θανάτου) , the ς of σκιᾶς having been misread before θ. But copyists, not understanding this, inserted καὶ between χώρᾳ and σκιᾷ (as in A), and this reading became popularly known, and was used by the evangelist. That the reading of A was derived from the evangelist is unlikely, for the reading σκιᾷ must, at all events, have been before his time. Light is sprung up; to them, did light spring up (Revised Version); ἀνέτειλεν. The tense emphasizes not the abiding effect (e.g. in the fact that so many of the disciples were Galilaeans), but the moment of his appearance. The father of the Baptist also remembered this passage of Isaiah (Luke 1:78, 79, where cf. Godet).
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Verse 17-16:20. - THE FIRST STAGE OF CHRIST'S WORK AND TEACHING. Verse 17 - The proclamation. From that time; ἀπὸ τότε (elsewhere in the New Testament only Matthew 16:21; Matthew 26:16; Luke 16:16); i.e. from the time of his residence in Capernaum (ver. 13). Apparently our Lord, after the baptism, went to John (vide supra, ver. 1), then retired to Galilee, going first to Nazareth, then finally leaving it as his home for Capernaum. At Caper-nauru his public activity begins. From that time; the phrase expresses not merely "at that time," but "from that time," as the starting-point. Henceforth this was to be his message, even though its form might be altered. The phrase marks, as in Matthew 16:21, the commencement of a new stage in his life. His earlier work with John the Baptist is not included in the oral Gospel, probably because the twelve were not yet joined to him in formal and continuous adhesion. Repent, etc. His words are exactly the same as the Baptist's (Matthew 3:2), with whom, indeed, he had been very lately associated. There is no evidence that he meant by them anything else than the Baptist meant (cf. Introduction, p. 24.). It is very intelligible that quite early (Old Syriac) an attempt should be made to harmonize this summary of his preaching rather with that of his disciples (Matthew 10:7).
And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
Verses 18-22. - The summons to help in his work: his first formal adherents. (Parallel passage: Mark 1:16-20 Luke 5:1, 2, 9-11, very doubtful, but cf. Godet].) On the relation of this call to the meeting with Andrew and Peter, recorded in John 1:40-42, vide especially Bishop Westcott there. That was "the establishment of a personal relationship;" this "a call to an official work." Verse 18. - And Jesus, walking. Revised Version rightly omits "Jesus," and inserts "he" before "saw." The right reading does not detract so much from the emphatic statement of ver. 17. By the Sea of Galilee. His walk lay along the lake. Socin ('Baedeker,' p. 372) speaks of "the probability that there was a frequented road from the mouth of the Jordan skirting the bank of the lake." Two brethren, Simon... and Andrew his brother; the addition, "his brother," emphasizing the relationship. Christ's coming would divide households (Matthew 10:21). He would, therefore, be the more glad when members of one family united in following him. Simon, etc. (vide Matthew 10:2, note). Called; Revised Version, who is called; i.e. not specially by Christ, but in common usage among Christians (Matthew 10:2). Casting a net; βάλλοντας ἀμφίβληστρον (no var. lect.). Probably later than and explanatory of the form found in the parallel passage, Mark 1:16, ἀμφιβάλλοντας (alone). A net; i.e. a casting-net of circular, bell-like shape, "which, when skilfully cast from over the shoulder by one standing on the shore or in a boat, spreads out into a circle (ἀμφιβάλλεται) as it falls upon the water, and then, sinking swiftly by the weight of the leads attached to it, encloses whatever is below it" (Trench, 'Syn.,' § 64.). It specializes δίκτυον (any net, ver 20), and differs from σαγήνη (the long draw-net, Matthew 13:47).
And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Verse 19. - Follow me; come ye after me (Revised Version); δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου. There is no thought of continuous following from place to place (ἀκολουθεῖν) , but of immediate detachment from the present sphere of their interest and of attachment to Jesus as their leader. And I will make you fishers of men; Mark, "to become fishers of men," laying more stress on the change in their character necessary for success in this new kind of fishing. Luke 5:10 brings out the change in the nature of the work(ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν). Fishers. The word suggests care, patience, skill, besides habits of life fitted for endurance of privation and fatigue. The same promise is, as it seems, related in Luke 5:10, where notice:

(1) It is connected with the miracle of the draught of fishes.

(2) It is not verbally identical with this: Μὴ φοβοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀνθρώπους ἔσῃ ζωγρῶν.

(3) The words are addressed individually to Simon.
And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
Verse 20. - And they straightway left their nets. (For their leaving everything Wetstein, on ver. 19, compares Epictetus, 12, Ἐάν δὲ κυβερνήτης καλέσῃ τρέχε ἐπὶ τὸ πλοῖον ἀφεὶς ἐκεῖνα πάντα μηδὲν ἐπιστρεφόμενος, "If the steersman call, run to the ship, leaving all those things, without regarding anything.") The Rheims Version, with its love of archaisms, has, "But they incontinent, leaving the nettes, followed him."
And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.
Verse 21. - Other two brethren (cf. ver. 18, note); in Matthew only. James the son of Zebedee. Why is the father of Peter and Andrew never mentioned, save incidentally, and by our Lord (Matthew 16:17; John 1:42; John 21:15-17)? Probably Zebedee and his wife Salome became, unlike Peter's parents, well-known believers. It may be that Peter was the eldest of the Twelve, and that his father was already dead or, though perhaps believing on Jesus, was too old to take any special part in the work. Luke (Luke 5:10) adds, "Who were partners with Simon" - an item of information perhaps obtained from the same source as his first and second chapters. In a ship; in the boot (Revised Version), and so always in the Gospels. The word (πλοῖον) may be used of any sized vessel (equivalent to "large ship ' in Acts 27.), but here, as managed by so few men, it is equivalent to "boat." Other words translated "boat" in the New Testament are πλοιάριον, "little boat" (Mark once, John four times), and σκάφη, "small ship's boat" (Acts 27:16, 30, 32). Josephus says ('Bell. Jud.,' 2:21.8) that when he gathered all the boats on the lake to attack Tiberius, there were "not more than four sailors in each;" by which he probably means, not the number of men wherewith he was able to equip them, but the number he found already managing them. With Zebedee their father. In Matthew only. Mending their nets. The first pair of brothers were in the excitement of catching; the second had perhaps caught, and were mending their nets with a view to a fresh attempt; in neither case was there a moment's delay. And he called them. This time his words are not given.
And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
Verse 22. - Left the ship and their father, and followed him (ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ) . St. Matthew emphasizes the facts that they left both natural relations (so also St. Mark, adding the vivid detail, "the hired servants") and means of livelihood, and that here their continuous following of Christ began. St. Mark rather lay stress on their leaving the old life (ἀπῆλθον ὀπίσω αὐτοῦ) .
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
Verses 23-25. - The firstfruits of popular enthusiasm. As on Christ's call a few followed him (vers. 20-22), so after his circuit in Galilee did crowds, from all parts of the Holy Land, also follow him (ver. 25), though less immediately and devotedly. As to these verses (23-25), notice -

(1) Nearly all ver. 23 recurs in Matthew 9:35.

(2) Vers. 24, 25 occur in the parallels in different connexions. St. Mark places them in Matthew 3:7, 8, after he has recorded details of many miracles which are found later in Matthew. St. Luke places them in Matthew 6:17, 18, immediately before the sermon on the mount (as in Matthew), but after the call of the Twelve.

(3) St. Matthew, therefore, did not arrange his Gospel with a sole regard to chronology.

(4) The verses are clearly a summary of our Lord's work and influence in the early part of his ministry.

(5) Weiss ('Manual,' 2:277, etc.) considers that vers. 23 and 24 are a heading to the description of the teaching and healing activity of Jesus (Matthew 4:25 - 9:34), and that the repetition of ver. 23 in Matthew 9:35 marks the heading of the next section (Matthew 9:36-14:12). It is, indeed, remarkable that in Matthew 9:35 it occurs just before the definite setting apart of the twelve, and again that the phrase, "And seeing the multitudes," is found both in Matthew 5:1 and in Matthew 9:36. Possibly the saying was part of the original setting of the two discourses, ch. 5-7. and ch. 10. Verse 23. - And Jesus went about all Galilee; in all Galilee (Revised Version, with the manuscripts). This indicates, not so much systematic itineration round the cities in order (contrast the simple accusative in Matthew 9:35 [Mark 6:6]; 23. 15), as going hither and thither among them (cf. Acts 13:11). All (Matthew 8:34, note). Teaching... preaching... healing. Our Lord, unlike the Baptist, takes men as and where he can find them; the religious, by teaching in the synagogues; the mass of people, by preaching, presumably in public places; the sick, by healing them wherever they are brought to him. Notice the threefold cord of all Christ-like ministry - teaching, especially those who have desires heavenwards; preaching, especially to the unconverted; healing, which cares for all physical life. Synagogues. (For a detailed account, vide Schurer, II. 2. pp. 52, etc.; and for a short account, vide Keil, 'Arch.,' § 30.) "The synagogues were places of assembly for public worship, where on sabbaths and feast-days (at a later period, also on the second and fifth days of the week) the people met together for prayer, and to listen to the reading of portions of the Old Testament, which were translated and explained in the vernacular dialect. With the permission of the president, any one who was fitted might deliver addresses" (Meyer). The gospel. The first time it occurs in the text of St. Matthew. Of the kingdom. The phrase is used thus absolutely only elsewhere in Matthew 9:35 and Matthew 24:14 (Mark 1:15 is a false reading). This expression (with ver. 17, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand") is the earliest form of the message. The good news centred in the kingdom, i.e. the realization of the position accepted by the nation at Sinai, with all that that involved, (vide Introduction, p. 23.). The phrase, "the gospel of the kingdom," refers only to the blessedness of its approach, and says nothing (unlike ver. 17)of the preparation for it. Healing (θεραπεύων). As compared with ἰάομαι (rare in Matthew, in the active only Matthew 13:15, which is from the LXX., but frequent in Luke) θεραπεύω thinks rather of the healer, who renders the service; ἰάομαι, rather of the healed, the completeness of the cure (cf. Matthew 8:7, 8), Sickness; disease, Revised Version; νόσον, laying stress on the pain and disorder. Disease; sickness, Revised Version; μαλακίαν, laying stress on the weakness. (For the two words in combination, cf. Deuteronomy 7:15.) Among the people (ἐν τῷ λαῷ). These words are wanting in the true text of Matthew 9:35. The people; i.e. the Jews, as contrasted with those included in ver. 24. Not that St. Matthew means to exclude any sick Gentile who happened to be living among the Jews; but in this verse he is thinking only of those who lived near, and he naturally uses the word which connotes the Jewish people. If others came, it was only because they lived ἐν τῷ λαῷ.
And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
Verse 24. - And his fame; Revised Version, and the report of him (ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ). Our use of the word "fame" implies reputation and honour, which are not included under ἀκοή. Went throughout all (ver. 23) Syria; Revised Version, went forth into; ἀπῆλθεν εἰς. The expression not merely means that the report spread far and wide, but that it went beyond the expected limits of the Holy Land into the whole of Syria, i.e., probably, the Roman province with which Palestine was in some degree (Schurer, 1:2:46) incorporated. All sick people that were taken with divers diseases; Revised Version, grammatically, all that were sick, holden with, etc. Possibly, "all that were sick" is the genus of which the following expressions represent species; but Matthew 8:16 and Mark 1:32-34 suggest that the words all to diseases refer to bodily diseases only. The arrangement would then be

(1) bodily diseases,

(a) ordinary (ποικίλαις νόσοις),

(b) violent and painful cases (βασάνοις);

(2) mental diseases,

(a) supernatural,

(b) natural;

(3) incurable, affecting the body also. And those which were possessed with devils. Weiss, 'Life,' 2. pp. 76-88 (especially against Meyer), points out that our Lord shared the belief in the reality of possession by evil spirits, and that therefore, though some of the current ideas may have been superstitious, there must have been a basis of truth in the belief. See by all means Trench on the healing of the Gadarene demoniacs (Matthew 8:28). And those which were lunatick; Revised Version, and epileptic . - "epilepsy being supposed to return and increase with the increase of the moon" (Thayer, s.v. σεληνιάζεσθαι which occurs in the New Testament only here and in Matthew 17:15).
And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.
Verse 25. - The mention of the multitudes here serves as a transition to the sermon on the mount. The description of the con stituent paris of the multitudes is very similar to that found in Mark 3:7, 8, and is probably derived from the same source, Mark preserving in most respects the fuller form. Great multitudes; ὄχλοι πολλοί (not "many multitudes," but as plural of ὄχλος πολύς, Matthew 20:29); almost (Luke 5:15) peculiar to this Gospel (Matthew 8:1, where see note [18, Received Text; Matthew 12:15, Received Text]; Matthew 13:2; 15:30; 19:2). Decapolis. A kind of confederacy, originally of ten towns, the organization being apparently the work of Pompey. All were east of Jordan except Bethshan (Scythopolis). The names, as given in Pliny, are - Damascus, Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis, Gadara, Hippus, Dium, Pella, Galasa (read Gerasa) , Kanatha. Schurer adds, Abila (not Abila of Lysanias) and Kanata (distinct from Kanatha) . These towns, like the great maritime cities, e.g. Joppa, and Caesarea Stratonis, were independent political communities, which - at least, after the time of Pompey - were never internally blended into an organic unity with the Jewish region, but were at most externally united with it under the same ruler" (Schurer, II. 1. p. 121). The population in them was chiefly heathen. Across Jordan; equivalent to Peraea, as in ver. 15 and Matthew 19:1, i.e. from Mount Hermon to the river Arnon (Weiss-Meyer); but according to Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 3:03. 3), between the rivers Jabbok and Amen (Alford). "The country east of Jordan was known as Peraea (the country beyond) in the wider sense, but Peraea proper was the small district extending from the river Amen (Mojib) to the Zerka, and now called Belka" (Socin's ' Baedeker,' p. 54). To the places mentioned here as those whence people came, Mark adds Idumaea; Mark and Luke add Tyre and Sidon.

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