Luke 7:39
Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spoke within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touches him: for she is a sinner.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(39) This man, if he were a prophet.—The words show that the Pharisee had had a half-feeling of respect for our Lord as a teacher, that he at least knew that He was looked upon by the people as a prophet. There is traceable in what he says a tone of satisfaction at having detected what seemed to him inconsistent with the conception of a prophet’s character. It is noticeable that he, like the woman of Samaria (John 4:19), sees that character manifested, not merely in prediction, but in the power to read the secrets of men’s lives and hearts. (Comp. 1Corinthians 14:24-25.) He knew what the woman was, and the so-called prophet did not.

Luke 7:39. Now when the Pharisee saw it — When Simon observed what was done, that Jesus permitted such a notorious sinner to approach, nay, and to touch him; he spake within himself — He thought in his heart; This man, if he were a prophet — As he pretends to be; would have known what manner of woman — What a vile, abominable creature; this is that toucheth him — Thus familiarly; and instead of allowing her to do so, would immediately have driven her away with just disdain, as the tradition of the elders directs; for it was a maxim with the Pharisees, that the very touch of the wicked caused pollution. “But though Simon did not declare his sentiments, they were not hidden from Christ, who, to show him that he was a prophet, and that he knew not only the characters of men, but the inward and invisible state of their minds, conversed with him immediately upon the subject of his thoughts. The scope indeed of what he said was, to convince Simon how absurdly he reasoned. Nevertheless, Jesus did not expose him before the company, by making what he said within himself public, but, with great delicacy, pointed out the unreasonableness of his thoughts to Simon alone, without letting the guests at table know any thing of the matter.”7:36-50 None can truly perceive how precious Christ is, and the glory of the gospel, except the broken-hearted. But while they feel they cannot enough express self-abhorrence on account of sin, and admiration of his mercy, the self-sufficient will be disgusted, because the gospel encourages such repenting sinners. The Pharisee, instead of rejoicing in the tokens of the woman's repentance, confined his thoughts to her former bad character. But without free forgiveness none of us can escape the wrath to come; this our gracious Saviour has purchased with his blood, that he may freely bestow it on every one that believes in him. Christ, by a parable, forced Simon to acknowledge that the greater sinner this woman had been, the greater love she ought to show to Him when her sins were pardoned. Learn here, that sin is a debt; and all are sinners, are debtors to Almighty God. Some sinners are greater debtors; but whether our debt be more or less, it is more than we are able to pay. God is ready to forgive; and his Son having purchased pardon for those who believe in him, his gospel promises it to them, and his Spirit seals it to repenting sinners, and gives them the comfort. Let us keep far from the proud spirit of the Pharisee, simply depending upon and rejoicing in Christ alone, and so be prepared to obey him more zealously, and more strongly to recommend him unto all around us. The more we express our sorrow for sin, and our love to Christ, the clearer evidence we have of the forgiveness of our sins. What a wonderful change does grace make upon a sinner's heart and life, as well as upon his state before God, by the full remission of all his sins through faith in the Lord Jesus!He spake within himself - Thought.

If he were a prophet - The word "prophet" here means, not one who predicts future events, but one who knows the hearts of people. If Jesus had been sent from God as a prophet, he supposed that he would have known the character of the woman and would have rebuked her.

Would have known ... - Because Jesus did not rebuke her and drive her from his presence, he inferred that he could not be acquainted with her character. The Pharisees considered it improper to hold communion with those who were notorious sinners. They judged our Saviour by their own rules, and supposed that "he" would act in the same way; and Simon therefore concluded that he did not know her character and could not be a prophet. Jesus did not refuse the society of the guilty. He came to save the lost; and no person ever came to him so sure of finding a "friend," as those who came conscious that they were deeply depraved, and mourning on account of their crimes.

That toucheth him - The "touch" of a Gentile, or a person singularly wicked, they supposed to be polluting, and the Pharisees avoided it. See Matthew 9:11.

39. the Pharisee—who had formed no definite opinion of our Lord, and invited Him apparently to obtain materials for a judgment.

spake within himself, &c.—"Ha! I have Him now; He plainly knows nothing of the person He allows to touch Him; and so, He can be no prophet." Not so fast, Simon; thou hast not seen through thy Guest yet, but He hath seen through thee.

How easily are persons (though seemingly well inclined and fair) offended, who have not the love of God rooted and grounded in their hearts! Did then all men who were prophets know persons at first sight?

1. It is certain they knew no more of people’s hearts and lives than God was pleased to reveal to them, or they knew by converse with them, and observation of them.

2. Suppose she had been a sinner, might she not be a convert now? And did not her behaviour toward Christ (before mentioned) witness a change in her?

3. Admit she had been yet such a sinner, yet might not she touch Christ?

This was indeed a Pharisaical error, that all not of their own religion, and all persons notorious for some sins, were in the same order as lepers, and other persons that were Levitically or legally unclean, so as none might touch them, but that contact made them also unclean. It is said also of the Samaritans, that when they met a Jew, or a Christian, they would first call out to him, Do not touch me. That there was of old such a party amongst the Jews that cried, Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou, is plain from Isaiah 65:5. Now when the Pharisee, which had bidden him, saw it,.... Simon, who had invited Christ to eat with him, when he saw what was done by the woman, how she stood at his feet, and washed them with her tears, and wiped them with her hairs, and then kissed and anointed them:

he spoke within himself; not openly and publicly, being in good manners, though not in real respect to Christ, unwilling to affront his guest; but turned these things over in his mind, and reasoned upon them within himself:

saying, this man, if he were a prophet; as he was said, and believed to be by many, but questioned by this Pharisee:

would have known who and what manner of woman this is, that toucheth him; he took it for granted that Christ did not know this woman personally, that she was one of the city; nor her character, or "what" was "her fame", as the Syriac version renders it, which was very ill; or "her condition", as the Arabic version, she being not a religious person, but a notorious lewd one: this he concluded, from his admitting her to such nearness to him, and familiarity with him; and from hence argues within himself, that he could not be a prophet; since, according to his notion of a prophet, he must know persons and their characters; though this was not always requisite in a prophet, nor did the prophetic gift at all times show itself in this way: however, this man reasoned upon the commonly received notions of the Pharisees, both of the Messiah, the prophet that Moses said should come, and of their own conduct, and of all religious men: their notion with respect to the Messiah was, that he should be of so quick an understanding, or smell, as in Isaiah 11:3 that he should know at once who was a wicked person, and who not.

"Bar Coziba (they say (w)) reigned two years and a half; he said to, the Rabbans, I am the Messiah; they replied to him, it is written of the Messiah, Isaiah 11:3 that he smells, or is of quick understanding and judges (the gloss on it is, he smells on a man, and judges and knows, , "who is a wicked man"): let us see whether he smells and judges; and when they saw that he did not smell and judge, they killed him.''

But Jesus, the true Messiah, could do so; he knew who were sinners, he knew this woman to be one, as the following account shows: and their notion with respect to the conduct of religious persons towards the common people, and those of a bad character, and which the Pharisee here suggests, was, that the touch of such persons was defiling, and therefore to be avoided: for they say (x), that

"the Pharisees, if they touched the garments of the common people, they were defiled.''

And therefore when they walked in the streets,

"they walked in the sides (of the ways), that they might not be defiled, "by the touch" of the common people (y)''

For she is a sinner; a notorious one; or "that she is a sinner"; and the sense is, Christ, had he been a prophet, the Pharisee intimates, would have known that this woman was a vile creature; and he would have shown it; by his abhorrence and rejection of her; or as the Persic version adds, "would have declared her sins".

(w) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 9. (x) Maimon. in Misn. Chagiga, c. 2. sect. 7. (y) Ib. Hilchot Abot Hatumaot, c. 13. sect. 8.

{7} Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: {e} for she is a sinner.

(7) Rashness is the companion of pride.

(e) The Pharisee respects the law, which holds that those who touch the defiled are defiled.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 7:39-40. To the Pharisee in his legal coldness and conceit, the essence, the moral character of the proceeding, remains entirely unknown; he sees in the fact that Jesus acquiesces in this homage of the sinful woman the proof that He does not know her, and therefore is no prophet, because He allows Himself unawares to be defiled by her who is unclean.

οὗτος] placed first with an emphasis of depreciation.

ποταπή] of what character, Luke 1:29.

ἥτις ἅπτ. αὐτοῦ] she who touches, comes in contact with Him.

ὅτι] that she, namely.

Luke 7:40. Jesus saw into the thoughts of the Pharisee. The ἔχω κ.τ.λ. is a “comis praefatio,” Bengel. Observe that the Pharisee himself, in respect of such a scene, does not venture to throw any suspicion of immorality on Jesus.Luke 7:39. ὁ φαρισαῖος, for the fourth time; this time he is most appropriately so designated because he is to act in character.—εἰ ἦν προφήτης: not the worst thing he could have thought. This woman’s presence implies previous relations, of what sort need not be asked: not a prophet, but no thought of impurity; simply ignorant like a common man.—ἐγίνωσκεν ἂν, indicative with ἂν, as usual in a supposition contrary to fact.—τίς καὶ ποταπὴ, who and what sort of a woman; known to everybody and known for evil.—ἄπτεται: touch of a man however slight by such a woman impossible without evil desire arising in her. So judged the Pharisee; any other theory of her action inconceivable to him.39. This man] The word in the original expresses the supercilious scorn which is discernible throughout in the bearing of the speaker.

who and what manner of woman] ‘Who,’ because the particular offender was notorious for her beauty and her shame. This rather strengthens the inference that the woman was Mary of Magdala, for the legends of the Jewish Talmud respecting her shew that she was well known.

that toucheth him] Rather, “who is clinging to him.” Simon makes a double assumption—first that a prophet would have known the character of the woman, and next that he would certainly have repelled her. The bearing and tone of the Rabbis towards women closely resembled that of some mediaeval monks. They said that no one should stand nearer them than four cubits. But Jesus knew more of the woman than Simon did, and was glad that she should shed on His feet the tears of penitence. A great prophet had declared long before that those which say, “Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou,” were “a smoke in my nose.” Isaiah 65:5.Luke 7:39. Εἰ, if) Nay, but if thou, Simon, didst know what kind of a character this woman was now become, thou wouldest judge otherwise.—προφήτης, a prophet) [The people had called Him so, Luke 7:16.—V. g.] Previously Simon had doubted: now he quickly [and without hesitation] affirms the contrary [viz. that He without doubt is not a prophet].—Ἐγίνωσκεν ἂν, He would have known) Not even does this follow, that he, whoever does not know any man that comes in his way, is decidedly no prophet.—ἅπτεται, touches) His idea was, that not even a touch of such a sinner was to be borne, much less the whole of her proceeding.Verse 39. - Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This Man, if he were a Prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him. It is clear that it was no mere curiosity which prompted his asking the Master to be his Guest. Respect and love for the Galilaean Teacher alternated with dread of what the Pharisee order to which he belonged would think of his conduct. As we have said, he compromised the matter with his heart, by inviting Jesus publicly, but then only receiving him with the coldest formality. He seems half-glad of this incident, for it seemed in some measure to excuse his haughty unfriendly reception of One from whom he had undoubtedly received rich spiritual benefit, as we shall see further on. "Hardly a great Prophet, then, after all, else he would have known all about her." This was what at once occurred to Simon. For she is a sinner. Yes, in Simon's mind, and in the world's estimation, but before the throne of God she was differently viewed. She had heard the Master's loving call to repentance, and a new life and a change had taken place in her whole being since she had listened to his voice.
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