Luke 4:17
And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
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(17) The book of the prophet Esaias.—The Law—i.e., the Pentateuch—was commonly written on one long roll. The other books, in like manner—singly or combined, according to their length—were written on rolls of parchment, and were unrolled from the cylinder to which they were fastened. Here, it is clear, Isaiah formed a roll by itself. It is a natural inference from the fact that it was given to Him, that it contained the prophetic lesson for the day. In the calendar of modern Jews, the lessons from Isaiah run parallel with those from Deuteronomy. The chapter which He read stands as the second lesson for the day of Atonement. We cannot prove that the existing order obtained in the time of our Lord’s ministry, but everything in Judaism rests mainly on old traditions; and there is therefore nothing extravagant in the belief that it was on the day of Atonement that the great Atoner thus struck what was the key-note of His whole work.

When he had opened the book.—Better, when He had unrolled.

Luke 4:17-19. There was delivered to him the book of Esaias — A paragraph of the law having, according to custom, been read before. See on Acts 13:15. When he had opened the book Αναπτυξας, having unrolled the volume of the book. The books of the ancients, as is well known, consisted of one long sheet of paper or parchment, which they rolled up neatly on a round piece of wood. When a book of this kind was to be read, they unrolled it gradually as they read it, and put what was read round another piece of wood of the same sort with the former. He found the place — The expression, ευρε τον τοπον, seems to imply, that upon unrolling the book, the passage here mentioned immediately met his eye, by the particular providence of God. Many commentators, however, think, that as the Scriptures were read in order, the passage mentioned was that which fell of course to be read in the synagogue that day. And according to the custom of all the synagogues, this passage was to be read with the fiftieth section of the law, appointed for the last sabbath of the sixth, or the first of the seventh month, answering to our August and September. So that if our Lord read this passage as the ordinary lesson for the day, the chronology of this part of the history is thereby determined. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me — This was said of the prophets, when they were under an immediate afflatus of the Holy Spirit; but it was here, doubtless, primarily meant of the Messiah: because he hath anointed me — That is, hath commissioned me with authority, qualified me with gifts, and set me apart for the important offices here mentioned. The expression is used in allusion to the Jewish prophets, priests, and kings, who were consecrated to their offices by anointing them with oil. The unction of the Messiah was the Holy Spirit, which he had without measure. To preach the gospel to the poor — The reason why I, the Messiah, enjoy so great a degree of inspiration, and am endowed with the power of working such astonishing miracles is, because God hath commissioned me to preach the glad tidings of salvation to the poor, and by so doing, to heal the broken-hearted — That is, to relieve and comfort all those, without distinction, whose hearts are broken by sharp convictions of sin, and fears of future punishment. The passage of Isaiah here quoted, in our translation stands thus: To preach good tidings to the meek — But the word ענוים, signifies more properly persons in a low and afflicted condition. It is certainly an unspeakable recommendation of the gospel dispensation, that it offers the pardon of sin, and salvation, to all on the same terms. The rich, here, have no pre- eminence over the poor; as they seem to have had under the law, which prescribed such costly sacrifices for the atonement of sin as were very burdensome to the poor. The Prophet Isaiah, therefore, in describing the happiness of gospel times, very fitly introduces the Messiah mentioning this as one of the many blessings which would accrue to the world from his coming, that the glad tidings of salvation were to be preached by him and his ministers to the poor, and consequently were to be offered to them without money and without price. To preach deliverance to the captives — To proclaim to the captives of sin and Satan liberty from the power of their tyrannical masters, on the terms of repentance toward God, and faith in the Messiah, now manifested: and to confer that liberty on such as complied with these terms. And recovering of sight to the blind — Not merely to confer bodily sight on a few blind individuals, but to open the eyes of the understanding of millions, and cure their spiritual blindness, by imparting to them the spirit of wisdom and revelation. Thus, Isaiah 42:6-7, the Messiah is said to be given for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes. And the commission given to Paul, as recorded, Acts 26:18, was, I send thee to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light: in both which passages spiritual illumination is undoubtedly solely intended. To set at liberty them that are bruised — With the heavy load of their fetters and chains; with the guilt and power of their iniquities, and the condemnation and wrath due to them on that account. Here is a beautiful gradation, in comparing the spiritual state of man to the miserable state of those captives who were not only cast into prison, but, like Zedekiah, had their eyes put out, and were laden and bruised with chains of iron. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord — To proclaim that happy period of the divine dispensations toward mankind, in which a full and free remission of all their offences was to be offered to them, and which might be fitly represented in prophecy by the Jewish jubilee, wherein debts were forgiven, slaves released, and inheritances restored to their original owners. For a further explanation of this passage, see the notes on Isaiah 61:1-3; and Isaiah 42:6-7. 4:14-30 Christ taught in their synagogues, their places of public worship, where they met to read, expound, and apply the word, to pray and praise. All the gifts and graces of the Spirit were upon him and on him, without measure. By Christ, sinners may be loosed from the bonds of guilt, and by his Spirit and grace from the bondage of corruption. He came by the word of his gospel, to bring light to those that sat in the dark, and by the power of his grace, to give sight to those that were blind. And he preached the acceptable year of the Lord. Let sinners attend to the Saviour's invitation when liberty is thus proclaimed. Christ's name was Wonderful; in nothing was he more so than in the word of his grace, and the power that went along with it. We may well wonder that he should speak such words of grace to such graceless wretches as mankind. Some prejudice often furnishes an objection against the humbling doctrine of the cross; and while it is the word of God that stirs up men's enmity, they will blame the conduct or manner of the speaker. The doctrine of God's sovereignty, his right to do his will, provokes proud men. They will not seek his favour in his own way; and are angry when others have the favours they neglect. Still is Jesus rejected by multitudes who hear the same message from his words. While they crucify him afresh by their sins, may we honour him as the Son of God, the Saviour of men, and seek to show we do so by our obedience.There was delivered unto him - By the minister of the synagogue, or the keeper of the sacred books. They were kept in an "ark" or chest, not far from the pulpit, and the minister gave them to whomsoever he chose, to read them publicly.

The book - The volume contained the prophecy of Isaiah. It would seem, from this, that the books were kept separate, and not united into one as with us.

When he had opened the book - Literally, when he had "unrolled" the book. Books, among the ancients, were written on parchments or vellum that is, skins of beasts, and were "rolled" together on two rollers, beginning at each end, so that while reading they rolled off from one to the other. Different forms of books were indeed used, but this was the most common. When used the reader unrolled the manuscript as far as the place which he wished to find, and kept before him just so much as he would read. When the roller was done with, it was carefully deposited in a case.

The place where it was written - Isaiah 61:1-2.

16. as his custom was—Compare Ac 17:2.

stood up for to read—Others besides rabbins were allowed to address the congregation. (See Ac 13:15.)

Ver. 17-19. The words differ in some things from the words of the prophet out of which they are quoted, Isaiah 61:1, where is nothing of recovering of sight to the blind; but they exactly agree with the Septuagint version, only, Luke 4:19, they have kalesai, to call, and Luke hath khruxai, to preach, according to which probably the copies of the Septuagint in use with them were. It was their manner in the synagogues for the minister (an officer appointed to that purpose, see Luke 4:20) to bring the book of the law or of the prophets which was to be read, and to deliver it to him that officiated for that time, who, when he had read, redelivered it to the same officer to be laid up. Their writers tell us, that the books of Moses were divided into several portions, which they were tied to read in order; but for the books of the prophets, he that officiated was more at liberty to read in what place and proportion he pleased. Our Lord readeth Isaiah 61:1, which, according to the Septuagint copy, was as Luke here translated; and by the way, this custom of the writers of the New Testament, (writing in Greek), to quote texts out of the Old Testament, very often according to that Septuagint translation, may, first, give us some account of the difficulty we met with Luke 3:1-38, where Sala was made the son of Cainan, and the grandchild of Arphaxad, whereas Moses mentions no Cainan, Genesis 11:1-32 Luke, taking the quotation of the Septuagint, might put it in according to them, for they have it in Genesis 11:12. Secondly, it may learn us not to be too curious as to minute things in Scripture, for had it been a thing of moment, the Holy Spirit of God had certainly never suffered Luke to write after their copy, either there or here. God never had a church in any place, but he soon stirred up some to make an interpretation of the Scriptures for their use, and so far assisted them, that though they might differ from the Hebrew text, or the Greek, in some minute things, yet they differed not in any thing of moment necessary for us to know and believe in order to salvation. And the frequent quotations we have in the New Testament out of the Septuagint, incline us to think that it is the will of God, that particular persons in churches should make use of such versions, and take them for the Holy Scriptures, not lightly and ordinarily varying from them; the translating of Scriptures, being not an ordinary ministerial gift, but the work of some stirred up by God unto it, and whom he more than ordinarily so assists, as that they have not erred in any momentous thing. If this may be admitted, we need not lay the fault upon those who transcribed Luke’s copy. But let us come to the text itself.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me. Anointing may signify two things:

1. The endowment of the person with gifts and abilities fit for his work. Thus, 1Jo 2:27, the anointing is said to teach us all things; and Christ is said, Psalm 45:7 Hebrews 1:9, to be anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, which the Baptist seemeth to interpret, John 3:34, God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.

2. Anointing also was a symbol of God’s calling out and sending a person to the execution of an office, 2 Kings 9:6.

3. I find also anointing used as a symbol of God’s purpose and designation of a person to an employment, to the performance of which he did not presently call him; thus David was anointed, 1 Samuel 16:13.


the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, I conceive is meant, exciting and quickening Christ to the present execution of that office to which God had anointed him; that is:

1. Of old designed him;

2. Fitted him, giving him the Spirit not by measure;

3. Now called him to the exercise of it: and because the Lord had so designed him, so prepared, and now so called him, the Spirit now excited and quickened him.

God stirreth up none to take upon them the office of the ministry, whom he hath not fitted with gifts for the discharge of it. But what was this employment to which Christ was anointed? euaggelizesyai, to preach the gospel to the poor. This was the great work of our Lord and Saviour, to preach. And what? The gospel, the glad tidings of salvation. To whom? htwcoiv: it is used to signify those that are mean in the world, and, by a figure, those that are miserable and afflicted; and this I should take to be the sense here, in conformity to that other phrase which our Saviour useth to John’s disciples, Matthew 6:5, and to that of the apostle, 1 Corinthians 1:27. Christ was first sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, who were all at this time in a poor afflicted state and condition, and amongst them chiefly to the meaner sort. The rulers believed not on him, John 7:48; to teach ministers what Erasmus saith, Nulla nobis anima vilis videri debet, pro qua Dominus gloriae mori non est dedignatus, That they are too proud that despise the poor, and that we ought not to count any soul vile for which he who was the Lord of glory disdained not to die: we may add, to which the great Minister of the circumcision took himself to be anointed to preach.

I had rather thus understand it, than of such as are poor in spirit; which seem to be understood in the next words, he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, whether wounded in the sense of sin, or melted in the sense of mercy: the whole hearted are such as see no need of repentance, no need of a Saviour; Christ came not to heal these; The whole need not a physician.

It followeth, to preach deliverance to the captives; to let them know, that are yet slaves to sin and to their lusts, that there is a way for their deliverance.

And recovering of sight to the blind; to let all blind sinners know, that there is an eye salve discovered, which if applied will recover their spiritual sight.

To set at liberty them that are bruised: it is of the same significance with binding up the broken in heart.

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord; the true jubilee, when every soul may be set free from the bonds of its sins, 2 Corinthians 6:17; the year of God’s good will; that the time was now come, when in every nation he that feared God, and wrought righteousness, should be accepted with him, Acts 10:35. And there was delivered unto him,.... By the "Chazan", or minister, to whom he gave it again, Luke 4:20, for the "Chazan" of the synagogue, was, "the minister" (r); one part of whose business was, to deliver the book of the law to, and take it from him that read: when an high priest read, the method taken was this (s);

"the "Chazan", or minister of the synagogue, took the book of the law, and gave it to the ruler of the synagogue, and the ruler of the synagogue gave it to the "Sagan", and the "Sagan" gave it to the high priest, and the high priest stood and received, and read standing.''

The same method was observed, when a king read in the book of the law (t); but when a common priest, or an inferior person read, so much ceremony was not used, as to hand the book from one to another: the manner in their synagogues and schools, was this (u);

"the "Chazan" brought out the book of the law, and the priest read, and after him a Levite; then the "Chazan" of the synagogue brought the book of the law down, to the head of the captivity, and all the people stood; and he took the book of the law into his hands, and "stood and read" in it; and the heads of the schools stood with him, and the head of the university of Sofa interpreted it; and returned the book of the law to the "Chazan", and he returned it to the chest.''

That part of the sacred volume which was delivered unto Jesus at this time, was

the book of the prophet Esaias; it is very likely, that the lesson out of the prophets for that day, was to be read out of the prophecy of Isaiah; and it seems probable, that it was the single book of Isaiah, or that prophecy rolled up by itself, in one volume, that was delivered to Christ; as the law was divided, into five parts, each fifth part was sometimes in a book, or volume by itself: hence a fifth part of the law, is by the Jews interpreted (w), "a book" of the law, in which there is but one fifth part; so might the prophets be in separate and distinct books, and it as if they sometimes were, by the following account (x) a man may

"join together the law, the prophets, and the holy writings, as one, the words of R. Meir. R. Juda says, the law by itself, the prophets by themselves, and the holy writings by themselves; and the wise men say, each by themselves (i.e. each book by itself;) and says R. Judah, it happened to Baithus ben Zunin, that he had eight prophets joined together as one; and there are that say, that he had not, but, , "every one by itself."''

And when he had opened the book; or unrolled it, for books formerly were written in rolls of paper and parchment; and in this form, is the book of the law with the Jews, in their synagogues, to this day:

"all books, they say (y), are rolled from the beginning to the end of them, but the book of the law is rolled to the middle of it, and a pillar, or column, is made for it here and there; says R. Eliezer with R. Zadok, so the writers of books in Jerusalem made their books: the Rabbins teach, that they do not make the book of the law its length, more than its circumference, nor its circumference more than its length.''

Such a roll, or volume, of the prophet Isaiah, Christ unrolled, till he came to the place he intended to read: it is a rule with the Jews (z) that

"they do not unroll the book of the law in the congregation, because of the glory of the congregation.''

It may therefore be asked, whether Christ did not break this rule, since he unrolled the book that was given him, publicly in the synagogue? To which it may be replied, that it was lawful to unroll the book of the prophets, which was what Christ did, but not the law; for so runs another of their rules, (a).

"they skip in the prophets, but not in the law, because, , "that they unroll a prophet publicly", but they do not unroll the law publicly.''

Christ having thus unrolled the volume of the prophet Isaiah, which was put into his hands by the "Chazan", or minister,


And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had {d} opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

(d) Their books in those days were rolled up as scrolls upon a ruler: and so Christ unrolled or unfolded it, which is here called opened.

Luke 4:17. Ἐπεδόθη] it was given up to Him—that is to say, by the officer of the synagogue, Lightfoot, p. 763.

Ἡσαΐου] the reading of the Parascha (section out of the law), which preceded that of the Haphthara (prophetic section), appears to have been already concluded, and perhaps there was actually in the course a Haphthara from Isaiah.[84] But in accordance with His special character (as κύριος τοῦ σαββάτου, Matthew 12:8), Jesus takes the section which He lights upon as soon as it is unrolled (ἈΝΑΠΤ., comp. Herod. i. 48, 125), and this was a very characteristic Messianic passage, describing by very definite marks the Messiah’s person and work. By ἈΝΑΠΤΎΞΑς ΤῸ ΒΙΒΛ. and ΕὟΡΕ the lighting exactly on this passage is represented as fortuitous, but just on that account as being divinely ordered (according to Theophylact: not κατὰ συντυχίαν, but ΑὐΤΟῦ ΘΕΛΉΣΑΝΤΟς).

[84] The arrangement of the present Haphtharas was not yet settled at the time of Jesus. See Zunz, Gottesd. Vorträge d. Juden, p. 6.Luke 4:17. Ἡσαίου: the second lesson, Haphtarah, was from the prophets; the first, Parashah, from the Law, which was foremost in Rabbinical esteem. Not so in the mind of Jesus. The prophets had the first place in His thoughts, though without prejudice to the Law. No more congenial book than Isaiah (second part especially) could have been placed in His hand. Within the Law He seems to have specially loved Deuteronomy, prophetic in spirit (vide the temptation).—εὗρε τόπον: by choice, or in due course, uncertain which; does not greatly matter. The choice would be characteristic, the order of the day providential as giving Jesus just the text He would delight to speak from. The Law was read continuously, the prophets by free selection (Holtz., H. C.).17. there was delivered unto him] Literally, “there was further handed to Him.” The expression means that after He, or another, had read the Parashah, or First Lesson, which was always from the Pentateuch, the clerk handed to him the Roll of Isaiah, which contained the Haphtarah, or Second Lesson.

when he had opened the book] If anaptuxas is the true reading, it means ‘unrolling.’ The Thorah, or Law, was written on a parchment between two rollers, and was always left unrolled at the column for the day’s lesson; but the Megilloth of the Prophets, &c., were on single rollers, and the right place had to be found by the reader (Maphtir).

he found] The word heure leaves it uncertain whether the ‘finding’ was what man calls ‘accidental,’ or whether it was the regular haphtarah of the day. It is now the Second Lesson for the great day of Atonement; but according to Zunz (the highest Jewish authority on the subject) the present order of the Lessons in the Synagogue worship belongs to a later period than this.

the place where it was written] Isaiah 61:1-2. Our Lord, according to the custom of the Synagogue, must have read the passage in Hebrew, and then—either by Himself, or by an interpreter (Methurgeman)—it must have been translated to the congregation in Aramaic or Greek, since Hebrew was at this time a dead and learned language. The quotation is here freely taken by the Evangelist from the LXX., possibly from memory, and with reminiscences, intentional or otherwise, of other passages.Luke 4:17. Βίβλιον Ἡσαΐου, the book of Isaiah) The Haphtara or publicly-read portion for that Sabbath was from Isaiah: moreover the table which was usually attached to the Hebrew Bibles (Scripture-rolls) of the Jews, connects most of the portions read from Isaiah with those read from Deuteronomy: from which it may be inferred what was the time of year when this Sabbath occurred.—ἀναπτύξας, having unrolled [the scroll on which Isaiah’s prophecies were written]) So the form of the books of that age required.—εὗρε, He found) immediately, and as it were accidentally. The mode of dispensing the Divine word is marvellous: but we ought not to tempt God by casting lots;[45] comp. Acts 8:32. The pious use of Biblical ‘sortes’ or lots, is better than that of Homeric or Virgilian ‘sortes.’ See E. Neuhus. i. 3, fatid. Sacror., ch. ix, pp. 329, 330. J. C. Pfaff. Diss. de Evang. § 25.

[45] i.e. Opening the Bible hap-hazard, in hopes that God would work a miracle by making some passage present itself to solve our difficulties, just as the heathen consulted the oracular ‘sortes.’—ED. and TRANSL.Verse 17. - And there was delivered unto him the Book of the Prophet Esaias. In the sabbath service there were two lessons read. The first was always taken from the Pentateuch (the Law). The five books of Moses were written on parchment, (usually) between two rollers, and the day's lesson was left unrolled for the reader's convenience. The Prophets were on single rollers, no special portion being left open. It has been suggested that the great and famous Messianic passage read by our Lord was the lesson for the day. This is quite uncertain; indeed, it is more probable that Jesus, when the roll of Isaiah was handed to him by the ruler of the synagogue, specially selected the section containing this passage. The book (βιβλίον)

A diminutive of βίβλος, the inner bark of the papyrus, used for writing. Hence a roll. The word is also used to denote a division of a work, and is therefore appropriate here to mark the writings of a single prophet as related to the whole body of the prophetic writings.

Opened (ἀναπτύξας)

Lit., unrolled. Both this and the simple verb πτύσσω, to close (Luke 4:20), occur only once in the New Testament. The former word was used in medical language of the opening out of various parts of the body, and the latter of the rolling up of bandages. The use of these terms by Luke the physician is the more significant from the fact that elsewhere in the New Testament ἀνοίγω is used for the opening of a book (Revelation 5:2-5; Revelation 10:2, Revelation 10:8; Revelation 20:12); and εἰλίσσω, for rolling it up (Revelation 6:14).


As if by chance: reading at the place where the roll opened of itself, and trusting to divine guidance.

Was written (ἦν γεγραμμένον)

Lit., was having been written; i.e., stood written.

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