Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.V.
(1-20) See Notes on Matthew 8:28-34.
(1) The country of the Gadarenes.—The better MSS. give “Gerasenes,” some “Gergesenes.”
And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,(2) A man with an unclean spirit.—The phrase. though not peculiar to St. Mark, is often used by him where the other Gospels have “possessed with demons, or devils.” St. Mark and St. Luke, it will be noticed, speak of one only; St. Matthew of two.
Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:(3) No man could bind him.—The better MSS. give, “no man could any longer bind him.” The attempt had been so often made and baffled that it had been given up in despair.
Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.(4) Bound with fetters and chains.—These were not necessarily of metal. The two processes of snapping the latter by one convulsive movement and wearing away (not “breaking”) the latter by friction, rather suggests the idea of ropes, or cords, as in the case of Samson (Judges 15:13). In Psalm 149:8 the “chains” seem distinguished from the “links of iron.” The vivid fulness of the whole description is eminently characteristic of St. Mark’s style.
And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.(5) Cutting himself with stones.—This feature, again, is given only by St. Mark.
But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,(6) He ran and worshipped him.—The precise attitude would be that of one who not only knelt but touched the ground with his forehead in token of his suppliant reverence.
And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.(7) Thou Son of the most high God.—This is the first occurrence of the name in the New Testament, and is therefore a fit place for a few words as to its history. As a divine name “the Most High God” belonged to the earliest stage of the patriarchal worship of the one Supreme Deity. Melchizedek appears as the priest of “the Most High God” (Genesis 14:18). It is used by Balaam as the prophet of the wider Semitic monotheism (Numbers 24:16), by Moses in the great psalm of Deuteronomy 32:8. In the Prophets and the Psalms it mingles with the other names of God (Isaiah 14:14; Lamentations 3:35; Daniel 4:17; Daniel 4:24; Daniel 4:32; Daniel 4:34; Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:22; Daniel 7:25; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 9:2; Psalm 18:13; Psalm 46:4, and elsewhere). In many of these passages it will be seen that it was used where there was some point of contact in fact or feeling with nations which, though acknowledging one Supreme God, were not of the stock of Abraham. The old Hebrew word (Elion) found a ready equivalent in the Greek ὕψιστος (hypsistos), which had already been used by Pindar as a divine name. That word accordingly appeared frequently in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and came into frequent use among Hellenistic or Greek-speaking Jews, occurring, e.g., not less than forty times in the book Ecclesiasticus. It was one of the words which, in later as in earlier times, helped to place the Gentile and the Jew on a common ground. As such, it seems, among other uses, to have been frequently used as a formula of exorcism; and this, perhaps, accounts for its being met with here and in Luke 8:28, Acts 16:17, as coming from the lips of demoniacs. It was the name of God which had most often been sounded in their ears.
I adjure thee.—The verb is that from which comes our word “exorcise.” The phrase is peculiar to St. Mark, and confirms the notion that the demoniac repeated language which he had often heard. He, too, seeks in some sense to “exorcise,” though it is in the language not of command, but entreaty.
For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.(8) For he said unto him.—The Greek verb is in the imperfect tense, he was saying, as though the demoniac had interrupted our Lord even while the words were in the act of being uttered.
Thou unclean spirit.—It is noticeable that our Lord first speaks as if the men were oppressed by a single demon only, and that it is in the answer of the man himself that we learn that their name was Legion. (On the man’s use of the word “Legion,” see Note on Matthew 8:29.)
And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.(10) He besought him much that he would not send them.—The words are singularly significant of the state of the demoniac as half-conscious of his own personal being, and half-identifying himself with the disturbing demoniac forces which were tormenting him, and yet in so doing were leading him to look on the great Healer as his tormentor.
And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.(13) They were about two thousand.—The number, which is peculiar to St. Mark, may be noted as another instance of his graphic accuracy in detail.
And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.(15) And had the legion.—This special form of the antithesis between the man’s past and present state is given by St. Mark only.
Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.(19) The Lord hath done for thee.—Coming from our Lord’s lips, and having “God” as its equivalent in Luke 8:39, the word “Lord” must be taken in its Old Testament sense, as referring, not to the Lord Jesus, but to the Father.
And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.(20) Decapolis.—On the import of the name and the extent of the district so called, see Note on Matthew 4:25.
And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,(22-43) And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers.—See Notes on Matthew 9:18-25, where the narrative is found in a different connection as coming immediately after the feast in St. Matthew’s house, which St. Mark has given in Mark 2:14-18.
Jairus.—The name is given by St. Mark and St. Luke only. It was a Græcised form of the Jair of Judges 10:3, Numbers 32:41. It meets us in the Apocryphal portion of Esther (xi. 2) as the name of the father of Mardocheus, or Mordecai.
And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.(23) Lieth at the point of death.—Literally, is at the last point; in extremis.
And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,(26) Was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.—The fact is the same as in St. Luke 8:43, who, however, does not mention that she grew worse, but it is, as usual, expressed more graphically.
And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.(29) She felt in her body.—Another graphic and therefore characteristic touch, giving not only the fact, but the woman’s consciousness of it.
And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?(30) That virtue had gone out of him.—Literally, knowing fully in Himself the virtue that had gone out of Him. The word “virtue” is used in the old medical sense, the power or force which brings about a certain definite result. So men spoke of the soporific “virtue” of this or that drug. And the term is used here, not less than in Luke 5:17, with a like technical precision, for the supernatural power that, as it were, flowed out at the touch of faith.
And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.(32) He looked round about.—The tense of the Greek verb implies a continued looking.
But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.(33) The woman fearing and trembling.—The whole description is fuller than that in St. Matthew.
And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.(34) Go in peace.—The phrase has become so idiomatic that we dare not change it, but it may be well to remember that the true meaning of the Greek is “Go into peace.”
While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?(35) Why troublest thou.—The primary meaning of the verb is “to strip or flay.” (See Note on Matthew 9:36.)
The Master.—Strictly, as almost always, the Teacher.
And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.(38) Wailed greatly.—The word used is the same as that in 1Corinthians 13:1, in connection with the “tinkling” (or better, clanging) sound of a cymbal, and, formed as it is from an interjection, alala, is applied to the inarticulate cries either of despair or victory.
And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.(40) They laughed him to scorn.—Here again the verb implies continuous action.
And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.(41) Talitha cumi.—Here, as in the Ephphatha of Mark 7:34, the Evangelist gives the very syllables which had fallen from the lips of the Healer, and been proved to be words of power. It would probably be too wide an inference to assume from this that our Lord commonly spoke to His disciples and others in Greek, but we know that that language was then current throughout Palestine, and the stress laid on the Aramaic words in these instances, as in the Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani on the cross, shows that they attracted a special notice.
And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.(42) She was of the age of twelve years.—St. Mark gives the age at the end of the narrative, St. Luke at the beginning, St. Matthew not at all; a proof of a certain measure of independence in dealing with the materials upon which the three narratives were severally founded.
And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.(43) That something should be given her to eat.—This, again, is common to St. Mark and St. Luke, but is not given by St. Matthew. It suggests the thought that the fuller report must have come from one who had been present in the chamber where the miracle was wrought.