Matthew 11
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
11:1. ἐκεῖθεν] No fixed locality is assigned to the foregoing discourse. It was not delivered at Capernaum, but on a journey, see ch. 9:35. αὐτῶν is also indeterminate, as in ch. 4:23; 9:35.

2-30.] Message of enquiry from the Baptist: our Lord’s answer, and discourse thereon to the multitude. Luke 7:18-35. There have been several different opinions as to the reason why this enquiry was made. I will state them, and append to them my own view. (1) It has been a very generally received idea that the question was asked for the sake of the disciples themselves, with the sanction of their master, and for the purpose of confronting them, who were doubtful and jealous of our Lord, with the testimony of His own mouth. This view is ably maintained by Chrysostom; τίνος οὖν ἕνεκεν ἔπεμψεν ἐρωτῶν; ἀπεπήδων τοῦ Ἰησοῦ οἱ Ἰωάννου μαθηταί· καὶ τοῦτο παντί που δῆλόν ἐστι· καὶ ζηλοτύπως ἀεὶ πρὸς αὐτὸν εἶχον. καὶ δῆλον ἐξ ὧν πρὸς τὸν διδάσκαλον ἔλεγον (John 3:26), καὶ πάλιν (John 3:25), καὶ αὐτῷ πάλιν προσελθόντες ἔλεγον (Matthew 9:14),—οὔπω γὰρ ἦσαν εἰδότες τίς ἦν ὁ χριστός, ἀλλὰ τὸν μὲν Ἰησοῦν ἄνθρωπον ψιλὸν ὑποπτεύοντες, τὸν δὲ Ἰωάννην μείζονα ἢ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον, ἐδάκνοντο εὐδοκιμοῦντα τοῦτον ὁρῶντες, ἐκεῖνον δέ,· καθὼς εἶπε, λοιπὸν λήγοντα. Hom. xxxvi. 2, 3, p. 408. And similarly Euthymius and Theophylact. This view is also adopted and eloquently defended by Stier, Reden Jesu, 2nd edn., i. p. 392 sq. The objections to this view are,—that the text evidently treats the question as coming from John himself; the answer is directed to John; and the following discourse is on the character and position of John. These are answered by Stier with a supposition that John allowed the enquiry to be made in his name; but surely our Saviour would not in this case have made the answer as we have it, which clearly implies that the object of the miracles done was John’s satisfaction. (2) The other great section of opinions on the question is that which supposes doubt to have existed, for some reason or other, in the Baptist’s own mind. This is upheld by Tertullian (cont. Marc. iv. 18, vol. ii. p. 402, ed. Migne, not iv. 5, as Bp. Wordsworth: nor is there any ambiguity in the main features of his view, as Bp. W. implies) and others, and advocated by De Wette, who thinks that the doubt was not perhaps respecting our Lord’s mission, but His way of manifesting Himself, which did not agree with the theocratic views of the Baptist. This he considers to be confirmed by ver. 6. Olshausen (in loc.) and Neander (Leben Jesu, p. 92) suppose the ground of the doubt to have lain partly in the Messianic idea of the Baptist, partly in the weakening and bedimming effect of imprisonment on John’s mind. Lightfoot carries this latter still further, and imagines that the doubt arose from dissatisfaction at not being liberated from prison by some miracle of our Lord. (Hor. Hebr. in loc.) This however is refuted by Schöttgen (Hor. Hebr. in loc.). The author of the Quæstiones et Resp. ad Orthodoxos among the works of Justin Martyr suggests, and Benson (Hulsean Lectures for 1820, p. 58 sqq.) takes up, the following solution: ἐπειδὴ διάφοροι φῆμαι περὶ ὧν ἐποιήσατο θαυμάτων ὁ Ἰησοῦς διέτρεχον, τῶν μὲν λεγόντων, Ἡλίας ἐστὶν ὁ ταῦτα ποιῶν· τῶν δέ, Ἱερεμίας· τῶν δέ, ἄλλος τις τῶν προφητῶν· ταύτας τὰς φήμας ἀκούων ὁ Ἰωάννης ἐν τῇ εἰρκτῇ πέμπει τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ μαθεῖν εἰ ὁ τὰ σημεῖα ποιῶν αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ μαρτυρηθείς, ἢ ἕτερός τις ὁ παρὰ τῶν πολλῶν θρυλλούμενος. γνοὺς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῦ Ἰωάννου τὸν σκοπόν, ἐπὶ τῆς παρουσίας τῶν μαθητῶν Ἰωάννου ἐποίησε πολλὰ θαύματα, πείθεν αὐτοὺς καὶ τὸν Ἰωάννηυ διʼ αὐτῶν ὡς αὐτὸς εἴη ὁ πεποιηκὼς καὶ τὰ ἐπʼ ὀνόματι ἑτέρων φημιζόμενα θαύματα, ὁ ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ μαρτυρηθείς. Resp. 38, p. 456. (3) It appears to me that there are objections against each of the above suppositions, too weighty to allow either of them to be entertained. There can be little doubt on the one hand, that our Saviour’s answer is directed to John, and not to the disciples, who are bonâ fide messengers and nothing more:—πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάννῃ can, I think, bear no other interpretation: and again the words μακάριός ἐστιν ὃς ἐὰν μὴ σκανδαλισθῇ ἐν ἐμοί must equally apply to John in the first place, so that, in some sense, he had been offended at Christ. On the other hand, it is exceedingly difficult to suppose that there can have been in John’s own mind any real doubt that our Lord was ὁ ἐρχόμενος, seeing that he himself had borne repeatedly such notable witness to Him, and that under special divine direction and manifestation (see ch. 3:16, 17: John 1:26-37).

The idea of his objective faith being shaken by his imprisonment is quite inconsistent not only with John’s character, but with our Lord’s discourse in this place, whose description of him seems almost framed to guard against such a supposition.

The last hypothesis (that of the Pseudo-Justin) is hardly probable, in the form in which it is put. We can scarcely imagine that John can have doubted who this Person was, or have been confounded by the discordant rumours which reached him about His wonderful works. But that one form of this hypothesis is the right one, I am certainly disposed to believe, until some more convincing considerations shall induce me to alter my view. (4) The form to which I allude is this: John having heard all these reports, being himself fully convinced Who this Wonderworker was, was becoming impatient under the slow and unostentatious course of our Lord’s self-manifestation, and desired to obtain from our Lord’s own mouth a declaration which should set such rumours at rest, and (possibly) which might serve for a public profession of His Messiahship, from which hitherto He had seemed to shrink. He thus incurs a share of the same rebuke which the mother of our Lord received (John 2:4); and the purport of the answer returned to him is, that the hour was not yet come for such an open declaration, but that there were sufficient proofs given by the works done, to render all inexcusable, who should be offended in Him, And the return message is so far from being a satisfaction designed for the disciples, that they are sent back like the messenger from Gabii to Sextus Tarquinius, with indeed a significant narrative to relate, but no direct answer; they were but the intermediate transmitters of the symbolic message, known to Him who sent it, and him who received it.

It is a fact not to be neglected in connexion with this solution of the difficulty, that John is said to have heard of the works, not τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, but τοῦ χριστοῦ: the only place where that name, standing alone, is given to our Lord in this Gospel. So that it would seem as if the Evangelist had purposely avoided saying τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, to shew that the works were reported to John not as those of the Person whom he had known as Jesus, but of the Deliverer—the Christ; and that he was thus led to desire a distinct avowal of the identity of the two. I have before said that the opening part of the ensuing discourse seems to nave been designed to prevent, in the minds of the multitude, any such unworthy estimations of John as those above cited. The message and the answer might well beget such suspicions, and could not from the nature of the case be explained to them in that deeper meaning which they really bore; but the character of John here given would effectually prevent them, after hearing it, from entertaining any such idea.

2. ἀκούσας] From his own disciples, Luke 7:18. The place of his imprisonment was Machærus. ὁ μὲν ὑποψίᾳ τοῦ Ἡρώδου δέσμιος εἰς τὸν Μαχαιροῦντα πεμφθείς, … (μεθόριον δέ ἐστι τῆς τε Ἀρέτα καὶ Ἡρώδου ἀρχῆς).… ταύτῃ κτίννυται. Jos. Antt. xviii. 5. 2.

4.] ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἐθεράπευσεν πολλοὺς ἀπὸ νόσων καὶ μαστίγων καὶ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν, καὶ τυφλοῖς πολλοῖς ἐχαρίσατο βλέπειν. Luke, ver. 21. From καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς … ἐν ἐμοί, is nearly verbatim in the two Gospels.

5.] The words νεκροὶ ἐγ. have raised some difficulty; but surely without reason. In Luke, the raising of the widow’s son at Nain immediately precedes this message; and in this Gospel we have had the ruler’s daughter raised. These miracles might be referred to by our Lord under the words νεκ. ἐγ.; for it is to be observed that He bade them tell John not only what things they saw, but what things they had heard, as in Luke.

It must not be forgotten that the words here used by our Lord have an inner and spiritual sense, as betokening the blessings and miracles of divine grace on the souls of men, of which His outward and visible miracles were symbolical. The words are mostly cited from Isaiah 35:5, where the same spiritual meaning is conveyed by them. They are quoted here, as the words of Isa_53 are by the Evangelist in ch. 8:17, as applicable to their partial external fulfilment, which however, like themselves, pointed onward to their greater spiritual completion.

εὐαγγελίζονται is passive,—see reff. and 2Kings 18:31 in the LXX. In ref. Luke it is also passive, but with the thing preached as its subject. Stier remarks the coupling of these miracles together, and observes that with νεκ. ἐγ. is united πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται, as being a thing hitherto unheard of and strange, and an especial fulfilment of Isaiah 61:1.

6.] See note on ver. 2.

7-30.] The discourse divides itself into two parts: (1) vv. 7-19, the respective characters and mutual relations of John and Christ: (2) vv. 20-30, the condemnation of the unbelief of the time—ending with the gracious invitation to all the weary and heavy laden to come to Him, as truly ὁ ἐρχόμενος.

7.] The following verses set forth to the people the real character and position of John; identifying him who cried in the wilderness with him who now spoke from his prison, and assuring them that there was the same dignity of office and mission throughout. They are not spoken till after the departure of the disciples of John, probably because they were not meant for them or John to hear, but for the people, who on account of the question which they had heard might go away with a mistaken depreciation of John. ὁ πολὺς ὄχλος ἐκ τῆς ἐρωτήσεως τῶν Ἰωάννου μαθητῶν πολλὰ ἂν ἄτοπα ὑπενόησεν οὐκ εἰδὼς τὴν γνώμην μεθʼ ἧς ἔπεμψε τοὺς μαθητάς. καὶ εἰκὸς ἦν διαλογίζεσθαι πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς καὶ λέγειν Ὁ τοσαῦτα μαρτυρήσας μετεπείσθη νῦν, καὶ ἀμφιβάλλει εἴτε οὗτος εἴτε ἕτερος εἴη ὁ ἐρχόμενος; ἆρα μὴ στασιάζων πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν ταῦτα λέγει; ἆρα μὴ δειλότερος ὑπὸ τοῦ δεσμωτηρίου γενόμενος; ἆρα μὴ μάτην καὶ εἰκῆ τὰ πρότερα εἴρηκεν; ἐπεὶ οὖν πολλὰ τοιαῦτα εἰκὸς ἦν αὐτοὺς ὑποπτεύειν, ὅρα πῶς αὐτῶν διορθοῦται τὴν ἀσθένειαν, καὶ ταύτας ἀναιρεῖ τὰς ὑποψίας. Chrysostom, Hom. xxxvii. 1, p. 414. And our Lord, as usual, takes occasion, from reminding them of the impression made on them by John’s preaching of repentance, to set forth to them deep truths regarding His own Kingdom and Office.

8. ἀλλά] If it was not that, …; so in Demosth. Coron. p. 233, τί γὰρ καὶ βουλόμενοι μετεπέμπεσθʼ ἂν αὐτούς; ἐπὶ τὴν εἰρήνην; ἀλλʼ ὑπῆρχεν ἅπασιν. ἀλλʼ ἐπὶ τὸν πόλεμον: see Klotz, Devar. p. 5.

τί ἐξήλθατε] The repetition of this question, and the order of the suggestive answers, are remarkable. The first sets before them the scene of their desert pilgrimage—the banks of Jordan with its reeds (as Dr. Burton quotes from Lucian Hermotim., κάλαμος ἐπʼ ὄχθῃ παραποταμίῳ πεφυκὼς καὶ πρὸς πᾶν τὸ πνέον σαλευόμενος);—but no such trifles were the object of the journey: this suggestion is rejected without an answer. The second reminds them that it was a man—but not one in soft clothing, for such are not found in deserts. The third brings before them the real object of their pilgrimage in his holy office, and even amplifies that office itself. So that the great Forerunner is made to rise gradually and sublimely into his personality, and thus his preaching of repentance is revived in their minds.

ἐν μαλακοῖς] Contrast this with the garb of John as described ch. 3:4. Such an one, in soft raiment, might be the forerunner of a proud earthly prince, but not the preacher of repentance before a humble and suffering Saviour; might be found as the courtly flatterer in the palaces of kings, but not as the stern rebuker of tyrants, languishing in their fortress dungeons.

9. προφήτην] We read, ch. 21:26, that ‘all accounted John as a prophet.’

περισσότερον is neuter (as always in N.T.), not masculine; as πλεῖον, ch. 12:41, 42. E. V. rightly, more than a prophet.

John was more than a prophet, because he did not write of, but saw and pointed out, the object of his prophecy;—and because of his proximity to the Kingdom of God. He was moreover more than a prophet, because he himself was the subject as well as the vehicle of prophecy. But with deep humility, he applies to himself only that one, of two such prophetic passages, which describes him as φωνὴ βοῶντος, and omits the one which gives him the title of ὁ ἄγγελός μου, here cited by our Lord.

10. σου] Our Lord here changes the person of the original prophecy, which is μου. And that He does so, making that which is said by Jehovah of Himself, to be addressed to the Messiah, is, if such were needed (compare also Luke 1:16, Luke 1:17, and 76), no mean indication of His own eternal and co-equal Godhead. It is worthy of remark that all three Evangelists quote this prophecy similarly changed, although St. Mark has it in an entirely different place. The student should compare the passage in the LXX with the three citations,—h. l., Mark 1:2, and Luke 7:27. Also, that the high dignity and honour which our Lord here predicates of the Baptist, has a further reference: He was thus great above all others, because he was the forerunner of Christ. How great then above all others and him, must HE be.

11. ἐγήγερται] Not merely a word of course, but especially used of prophets and judges, see reff., and once of our Saviour Himself, Acts 5:30.

γεννητοῖς is most likely masculine. See reff.

ὁ δὲ μικρότερος] This has been variously rendered and understood. Chrysostom’s interpretation is as follows:—“ὁ δὲ μικρότερος, ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστι.” μικρότερος, κατὰ τὴν ἡλικίαν καὶ κατὰ τὴν τῶν πολλῶν δόξαν, καὶ γὰρ ἔλεγον αὐτὸν φάγον καὶ οἰνοπότην· καὶ “οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τοῦ τέκτονος υἱός;” καὶ πανταχοῦ αὐτὸν ἐξηυτέλιζον. Hom. xxxvii. 2, p. 416. And a little afterwards:—περὶ ἑαυτοῦ λέγων εἰκότως κρύπτει τὸ πρόσωπον διὰ τὴν ἔτι κρατοῦσαν ὑπόνοιαν καὶ τὸ μὴ δόξαι περὶ ἑαυτοῦ μέγα τι λέγειν· καὶ γὰρ πολλαχοῦ φαίνεται τοῦτο ποιῶν. τί δέ ἐστιν “ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν;” ἐν τοῖς πνευματικοῖς καὶ τοῖς κατὰ τὸν οὐρανὸν ἅπασι. καὶ τὸ εἰπεῖν δὲ “οὐκ ἐγήγερται ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν μείζων Ἰωάννου” ἀντιδιαστέλλοντος ἦν ἑαυτῷ τὸν Ἰωάννην, καὶ οὕτως ἑαυτὸν ὑπεξαιροῦντος. εἰ γὰρ καὶ γεννητὸς γυναικὸς ἦν αὐτός, ἀλλʼ οὐχ οὕτως ὡς Ἰωάννης· οὐ γὰρ ψιλὸς ἄνθρωπος ἦν, οὐδὲ ὁμοίως ἀνθρώπῳ ἐτέχθη, ἀλλὰ ξένον τινὰ τρόπον καὶ παράδοξον, ib. 2, 3, p. 417. So also Euthymius and Theophylact: but such an interpretation is surely adverse to the spirit of the whole discourse. We may certainly say that our Lord in such a passage as this would not designate Himself as ὁ μικρότερος compared with John, in any sense: nor again is it our Lord’s practice to speak of Himself as one ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν, or of His own attributes as belonging to or dependent on that new order of things which this expression implies, and which was in Him rather than He in it. Besides, the bare use of the comparative ὁ μικρότερος, with its reference left to be inferred, is, unless I am mistaken, unprecedented. If this had been the meaning, we should surely have had αὐτοῦ after μικρότερος. Again, the analogy of such passages as Matthew 5:19; Matthew 18:1, would lead us to connect the preceding adjective μικρότερος with ἐν τῇ β. τ. οὐ., and not the following.

The other, the usual interpretation, I am convinced, is the right one: but he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he. The comparative with the article is not put for the superlative, although in English we are obliged to render it so, but signifies ‘he that is less than all the rest’ (Winer, § 35. 4); and here is generic, of all the inferior ones.

There is very likely an allusion to Zechariah 12:8: “He that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David.”

Thus the parallelism is complete: John, not inferior to any born of women—but these, even the least of them, are born of another birth (John 1:12, John 1:13; John 3:5). John, the nearest to the King and the Kingdom—standing on the threshold—but never having himself entered; these, ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ, subjects and citizens and indwellers of the realm, ὧν τὸ πολίτευμα ἐν οὐρανοῖς. He, the friend of the Bridegroom; they, however weak and unworthy members, His Body, and His Spouse.

Meyer, giving in substance the above interpretation, believes that αὐτοῦ, i.e. Ἰωάν. τοῦ β., is to be supplied after μικρότερος. This would be unobjectionable in sense, but is it, in usage? See reff., and remember that ἐν τ. βασ.… is equivalent in meaning to τῶν ἐν τ. βασιλείᾳ. Maldonatus (cited by Meyer) quotes the logical axiom, ‘minimum maximi est majus maximo minimi.’

12.] The sense of this verse has been much disputed. (1) βιάζεται has been taken in a middle sense; ‘forcibly introduces itself,’ ‘breaks in with violence,’ as in the similar passage Luke 16:16, πᾶς εἰς αὐτὴν βιάζεται. Certainly such a sense agrees better with εὐαγγελίζεται, which we find in Luke, than the passive explanation of βιάζεται: but it seems inconsistent with the latter half of the verse to say that it breaks in by force, and then that others break by force into it. (2) βιάζεται is taken passively; so πόλεις … τὰς βεβιασμένας, Xen. Hell. v. 2. 15 (Meyer;—which is however, like many of his citations, incorrect): ‘suffereth violence,’ E. V. And thus the construction of the verse is consistent: ‘and the violent take it by force.’ Believing this latter interpretation to be right, we now come to the question, in what sense are these words spoken? Is βιάζεται in a good or a bad sense? Does it mean, ‘is taken by force,’ and the following, ‘and men violently press in for their share of it, as for plunder;’—or does it mean, ‘is violently resisted, and violent men (viz. its opponents, the Scribes and Pharisees) tear it to pieces?’ This latter meaning bears no sense as connected with the discourse before us. The subject is not the resistance made to the kingdom of heaven, but the difference between a prophesied and a present kingdom of heaven. The fifteenth verse closes this subject, and the complaints of the arbitrary prejudices of ‘this generation’ begin with ver. 16. We conclude then that these words imply From the days of John the Baptist until now (i.e. inclusively, from the beginning of his preaching), the kingdom of heaven is pressed into, and violent persons—eager, ardent multitudes—seize on it. Of the truth of this, notwithstanding our Lord’s subsequent reproaches for unbelief, we have abundant proof from the multitudes who followed, and outwent Him, and thronged the doors where He was, and would (John 6:15) take Him by force (the very word ἁρπάζω being used) to make Him a king. But our Lord does not mention this so much to commend the βιασταί, as to shew the undoubted fact that ὁ ἐρχόμενος was come:—that the kingdom of heaven, which before had been the subject of distant prophecy, a closed fortress, a treasure hid, was now undoubtedly upon earth (Luke 17:21 and note), laid open to the entrance of men, spread out that all might take. Thus this verse connects with ver. 28, δεῦτε πρός με πάντες, and with Luke 16:16, πᾶς εἰς αὐτὴν βιάζεται. Compare also with this throwing open of the kingdom of heaven for all to press into, the stern prohibition in Exodus 19:12, Exodus 19:13, and the comment on it in Hebrews 12:18-24.

13, 14.] The whole body of testimony as yet has been prophetic,—the Law and Prophets, from the first till Zacharias the priest and Simeon and Anna prophesied; and according to the declaration of prophecy itself, John, in the spirit and power of Elias, was the forerunner of the great subject of all prophecy. Neither this—nor the testimony of our Lord, ch. 17:12—is inconsistent with John’s own denial that he was Elias, John 1:21. For (1) the question there was evidently asked as assuming a re-appearance of the actual Elias upon earth: and (2) our Lord cannot be understood in either of these passages as meaning that the prophecy of Malachi 4:5 received its full completion in John. For as in other prophecies, so in this, we have a partial fulfilment both of the coming of the Lord and of His forerunner, while the great and complete fulfilment is yet future—at the great day of the Lord. Malachi 4:1.

ὁ μέλλων ἔρχεσθαι here may not be = ὃς ἔμελλεν ἔρχεσθαι (as Bengel, ‘sermo est tanquam e prospectu testamenti veteris in novum’), but is perhaps strictly future, who shall come. Compare ch. 17:11, where the future is used. The εἰ θέλετε δέξασθαι must be taken as referring to the partial sense of the fulfilment implied: for it was (and is to this day) the belief of the Jews that Elias in person should come before the end.

15.] These words are generally used by our Lord when there is a further and deeper meaning in His words than is expressed: as here—‘if John the Baptist is Elias, and Elias is the forerunner of the coming of the Lord, then know surely that the Lord is come.’

16. δέ] Implying ‘the men of this generation have ears, and hear not; will not receive this saying; are arbitrary, childish, and prejudiced, not knowing their own mind.’

τίνι ὁμοιώσω;] See similar questions in Mark 4:30: Luke 13:18, Luke 13:20; and note on ch. 7:24.

ὁμοία ἐστὶν παιδίοις: as children in their games imitate the business and realities of life, so these in the great realities now before them shew all the waywardness of children. The similitude is to two bodies of children, the one inviting the other to play, first at the imitation of a wedding, secondly at that of a funeral;—to neither of which will the others respond. Stier remarks that the great condescension of the preaching of the Gospel is shewn forth in this parable, where the man sent from God, and the eternal Word Himself, are represented as children among children, speaking the language of their sports. Compare Hebrews 2:14. It must not be supposed that the two bodies of children are two divisions of the Jews, as some (e.g. Olsh.) have done: the children who call are the Jews, those called to, the two Preachers; both belonging, according to the flesh, to ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη,—but neither of them corresponding to the kind of mourning (in John’s case) with which the Jews would have them mourn, or the kind of joy (in the Lord’s case) with which the Jews would have them rejoice. The converse application, which is commonly made, is against the ὁμοία ἐστὶν παιδίοις, by which the first παιδία must be the children of this generation; and nothing can be more perplexed than to render ὁμοία ἐστίν ‘may be illustrated by,’ and invert the persons in the parable. Besides which, this interpretation would lay the waywardness to the charge of the Preachers, not to that of the Jews.

18. μήτε ἐσθ. μήτε πίν.] Luke 7:33 fills up this expression by inserting ἄρτον and οἶνον. See ch. 3:4. The neglect of John’s preaching, and rejection of his message, is implied in several places of the Gospels (see ch. 21:23-27: John 5:35, πρὸς ὥραν): but hence only do we learn that they brought against him the same charge which they afterwards tried against our Lord. See John 7:20; John 10:20.

19. ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων] Alluding to our Lord’s practice of frequenting entertainments and feasts, e.g. the marriage at Cana, the feast in Levi’s house, &c. See also ch. 9:14.

καί = and yet; see John 16:32.

ἡ σοφία, the divine wisdom which hath ordered these things.

ἐδικ. was justified—the same tense as ἦλθεν both times—refers to the event, q. d., ‘they were events in which wisdom was justified, &c.’ The force of the aorist is not to be lost by giving a present meaning to either of the verbs. The meaning seems to be, that the waywardness above described was not universal, but that the τέκνα σοφίας (in allusion probably to the Book of Proverbs, which constantly uses similar expressions: see ch. 2:1; 3:1, 11, 21; 4:1, &c.) were led to receive and justify (= clear of imputation) the Wisdom of God, who did these things. Cf. Luke 7:29, where in this same narrative it is said, οἱ τελῶναι ἐδικαίωσαν τὸν θεόν, βαπτισθέντες τὸ βάπτισμα Ἰωάννου. The τέκνα σοφίας are opposed to the wayward παιδία above, the childlike to the childish; and thus this verse serves as an introduction to the saying in ver. 25. Chrysostom understands the verse differently: τουτέστιν, εἰ καὶ ὑμεῖς οὐκ ἐπείσθητε, ἀλλʼ ἐμοὶ λοιπὸν ἐγκαλεῖν οὐκ ἔχετε. Thus ὑμεῖς = τὰ τέκνα τῆς σοφ., as being the people of the Lord; and ἡ σοφία is our Lord Himself. This seems far-fetched, and not so consistent with the context as the other interpretation.

ἀπό (reff.), not exactly equivalent to ὑπό, but implying ‘at the hands of’ the person whence the justification comes.

20-30.] Second part of the discourse. See on ver. 7.

20. τότε ἤρξατο] This expression betokens a change of subject, but not of locality or time. The whole chapter stands in such close connexion, one part arising out of another (e.g. this out of ver. 16-19), and all pervaded by the same great undertone, which sounds forth in vv. 28-30, that it is quite impossible that this should be a collection of our Lord’s sayings uttered at different times. I would rather regard the τότε ἤρξατο as a token of the report of an ear-witness, and as pointing to a pause or change of manner on the part of our Lord. See note on Luke 10:13.

ὅτι οὐ μετ.] Connect this with the first subject of our Lord’s preaching, ch. 4:17. The reference is to some unrecorded miracles, of which we know (Luke 4:23: John 21:25) that there were many.

21. Χοραζείν] According to Jerome (cited by Winer, Realwörterbuch) a town of Galilee, two (according to Eusebius twelve, but most likely an error in the transcription) miles from Capernaum. It is no where mentioned except here and in the similar place of Luke. The etymology is uncertain. Some would read χώρα ζίν.

Βηθσαϊδάν] Called πόλις John 1:45,—κώμη Mark 8:23,—in Galilee John 12:21;—on the western bank of the lake of Gennesaret, near the middle, not far from Capernaum; the birth-place of Simon Peter, Andrew, and Philip. Both this and Chorazin appear to be put as examples of the lesser towns in which our Lord had wrought His miracles (the κωμοπόλεις of Mark 1:38), as distinguished from Capernaum, the chief town (ver. 23) of the neighbourhood.

Τύρῳ κ. Σιδῶνι] These wealthy cities, so often the subject of prophecy, had been chastised by God’s judgment under Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander, but still existed (Acts 12:20; Acts 21:3, Acts 21:7; Acts 27:3).

ἐν σάκ. κ. σποδῷ μετ. is probably an allusion to Jonah 3:6, or to general Eastern custom.

23.] The sense has been variously interpreted. Some suppose it to allude to the distinguished honour conferred on Capernaum by our Lord’s residence there. So Euthymius: ἡ Καπερναοὺμ ἔνδοξος γέγονε διὰ τὸ κατοικεῖν ἐν αὐτῇ τὸν χριστὸν καὶ τὰ πολλὰ τῶν θαυμάτων ἐν αὐτῇ τελέσαι. Others (as Grotius) to the rich fisheries carried on at Capernaum, by means of which the town was proud and prosperous. Jerome says, ‘Ideo ad inferna descendes, quia contra prædicationem meam superbissime restitisti.’ He also mentions the first interpretation. Others, as Stier (Reden Jesu, i. 491), refer the expression to the lofty situation of Capernaum, which however is very uncertain. The first interpretation appears to me the most probable, seeing that our Lord chose that place to be the principal scene of His ministry and residence, ἡ ἰδία πόλις ch. 9:1. The very sites of these three places are now matter of dispute among travellers. See Robinson, vol. iii. pp. 283-300. Dr. Thomson, “The Land and the Book,” p. 359, was sure he found Chorazin in the ruins bearing the name Khorazy, lying in a side valley of the Wady Nashif, which runs down to the lake on the East of Tell Hûm (Capernaum). And this, in spite of Dr. Robinson’s rejection of the identification.

ἐν Σοδόμοις] The comparison between sinful Israel and Sodom is common in the O.T. See Deuteronomy 32:32: Isaiah 1:10: Lamentations 4:6: Ezekiel 16:46-57.

ἔμεινεν ἄν] This declaration of the Lord of all events, opens to us an important truth, that the destruction of Sodom was brought about, not by a necessity in the divine purposes—still less by a connexion of natural causes—but by the iniquity of its inhabitants, who, had they turned and repented, might have averted their doom. The same is strikingly set before us in the history of Jonah’s preaching at Nineveh.

24, and 22.] These verses are connected with those respectively preceding them thus:—‘If these mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon—in Sodom—they would have, &c.; but, since no such opportunity was afforded them, and ye, Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum, have had and rejected such, it shall be more tolerable, &c.’ And as to the saying of our Lord, ‘If more warnings had been given they would have repented,’—it is not for the infidel to say, ‘Why then were not more given?’—because every act of God for the rescue of a sinner from his doom is purely and entirely of free and undeserved grace, and the proportion of such means of escape dealt out to men is ruled by the counsel of His will who is holy, just, and true, and willeth not the death of the sinner; but whose ways are past our finding out. We know enough when we know that all are inexcusable, having (see Rom 1:2Rom 1:2Rom 1:2.) the witness of God in their consciences; and our only feeling should be overflowing thankfulness, when we find ourselves in possession of the light of the glorious Gospel, of which so many are deprived.

That the reference here is to the last great day of judgment is evident, by the whole being spoken of in the future. Had our Lord been speaking of the outward judgment on the rebellious cities, the future might have been used of them, but could not of Sodom, which was already destroyed.

This ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται is one of those mysterious hints at the future dealings of God, into which we can penetrate no further than the actual words of our Lord reveal, nor say to what difference exactly they point in the relative states of those who are compared. See also Luke 12:47, Luke 12:48.

25, 26.] This is certainly a continuation of the foregoing discourse; and the ἀποκριθείς, which seems to have nothing to refer to, does in reality refer to the words which have immediately preceded. The ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ κ. is not chronological, but gives additional solemnity to what follows. There may have been a slight break in the discourse; the older interpreters, and Meyer, insert the return of the Apostles; but I do not see any necessity for it. The whole ascription of praise is an answer: an answer to the mysterious dispensations of God’s Providence above recounted. With regard to the arrangement in Luke, see note on Luke 10:21.

ἐξομολογοῦμαι] Not merely, ‘I praise Thee,’ but ‘I confess to Thee,’ ‘I recognize the justice of Thy doings;’ viz. in the words ναὶ ὁ πατὴρ ὅτι κ.τ.λ. Stier remarks that this is the first public mention by our Lord of His Father; the words in ch. 10:32, 33 having been addressed to the twelve (but see John 2:16). We have two more instances of such a public address to His Father, John 11:41; John 12:28; and again Luke 23:34. It is to be observed that He does not address the Father as His Lord, but as Lord of heaven and earth; as ὁ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργῶν κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, Ephesians 1:11.

ἔκρυψας.… ἀπεκάλυψας] didst hide, and didst reveal in the deeper and spiritual sense of the words; the time pointed at being that in the far past, when the divine decrees as to such hiding and revealing were purposed. See 1Corinthians 2:9-12.

ταῦτα, these mysterious arrangements, by which the sinner is condemned in his pride and unbelief, the humble and childlike saved, and God justified when He saves and condemns. These are ‘revealed’ to those who can in a simple and teachable spirit, as νήπιοι, obey the invitation in vv. 28-30, but ‘hidden’ from the wise and clever of this world, who attempt their solution by the inadequate instrumentality of the mere human understanding. See 1Corinthians 1:26-31.

27.] In two other places only in the three first Gospels (besides the similar passage, Luke 10:22) does the expression ὁ υἱός occur: see reff. The spirit of this verse, and its form of expression, are quite those of the Gospel of John; and it serves to form a link of union between the three synoptic Gospels and the fourth, and to point to the vast and weighty mass of discourses of the Lord which are not related except by John. We may also observe another point of union:—this very truth (John 3:35) had been part of the testimony borne to Jesus by the Baptist—and its repetition here, in a discourse of which the character and office of the Baptist is the suggestive groundwork, is a coincidence not surely without meaning. The verse itself is in the closest connexion with the preceding and following, and is best to be understood in that connexion: πάντα μοι παρεδόθη ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτά in ver. 25 (on the tenses, see note above, ver. 25), only ἀπεκάλυψας could not be used of the Eternal Son, but παρεδόθη, for He is Himself the Revealer;—οὐδεὶς ἐπιγ. τ. υἱὸν …, none but the Almighty Father has full entire possession of the mystery of the Person and Office of the Son: it is a depth hidden from all being but His, Whose Purposes are evolved in and by it:—οὐδὲ τ. πατέρα.… nor does any fully apprehend, in the depths of his being, the love and grace of the Father, except the Son, and he to whom the Son, by the Eternal Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, will reveal Him. (Certainly αὐτόν must be understood after ἀποκαλύψαι, as in E. V.; some, e.g. Stier, take ἀποκ. absolutely, ‘make His revelations.’ Luther supplies ‘it.’) See Colossians 2:2. Some (from ver. 25) understand the Father as the Revealer here also; and undoubtedly He is so, but mediately through the Son. See John 6:45, John 6:46. Then in close connexion with the ᾧ ἐὰν βούληται, which by itself might seem to bring in an arbitrariness into the divine counsel, follows, by the eternal Son Himself, the δεῦτε πρός με πάντες, the wonderful and merciful generalization of the call to wisdom unto salvation. In Luke this verse is introduced by καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς εἶπεν. The words however are of doubtful genuineness: see there.

28.] This is the great and final answer to the question σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, ἢ ἕτερον προσδοκῶμεν; … δεῦτε πρός με πάντες. As before, we may observe the closest connexion between this and the preceding. As the Son is the great Revealer, and as the ᾧ ἐὰν βούληται is by His grace extended to all the weary—all who feel their need—so He here invites them to receive this revelation, μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ. But the way to this heavenly wisdom is by quietness and confidence, rest unto the soul, the reception of the divine grace for the pardon of sin, and the breaking of the yoke of the corruption of our nature. No mere man could have spoken these words. They are parallel with the command in Isaiah 45:22, which is spoken by Jehovah Himself.

κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, the active and passive sides of human misery, the labouring and the burdened, are invited. Doubtless, outward and bodily misery is not shut out; but the promise, ἀνάπαυσις ταῖς ψυχαῖς, is only a spiritual promise. Our Lord does not promise to those who come to Him freedom from toil or burden, but rest in the soul, which shall make all yokes easy, and all burdens light. The main invitation however is to those burdened with the yoke of sin, and of the law, which was added because of sin. All who feel that burden are invited.

29.] μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, both ‘from My example,’ which however is the lower sense of the words, and ‘from My teaching,’ from which alone the ἀνάπαυσις can flow; the ἀποκάλυψις of vv. 25 and 27.

εὑρήσετε ἀνάπ. τ. ψ. ὑμ. quoted from Jeremiah 6:16 Heb. Thus we have it revealed here, that the rest and joy of the Christian soul is, to become like Christ; to attain by His teaching this πραότης and ταπεινότης of His.

Olshausen makes an excellent distinction between ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, an attribute of divine Love in the Saviour, and ταπεινὸς or πτωχὸς τῷ πνεύματι, ch. 5:3: Proverbs 29:23, which can only be said of sinful man, knowing his unworthiness and need of help.

καρδία is only here used of Christ. (Stier on John 14:1.)

30.] χρηστός, easy, ‘not exacting;’ answering to ‘kind,’ spoken of persons, Luke 6:35. See 1John 5:3. Owing to the conflict with evil ever incident to our corrupt nature even under grace, the ἀνάπαυσις which Christ gives is yet to be viewed as a yoke and a burden, seen on this its painful side, of conflict and sorrow: but it is a light yoke; the inner rest in the soul giving a peace which passeth understanding, and bearing it up against all. See 2Corinthians 4:16.

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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