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Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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Verses 1-16. See also Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44

Verse 1. And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem. They were going up now from Jericho, Matthew 20:29. The distance was about nineteen miles. The most of the way was a desert, or filled with caves, and rocks, and woods--a fit place for robbers. See Luke 10:30. The Mount of Olives, or Olivet, is on the east of Jerusalem. Between this and Jerusalem there runs a small stream called the brook Kidron, or Cedron. It is dry in the hot seasons of the year, but swells to a considerable size in time of heavy rains. See Barnes "John 8:1". The Mount of Olives was so called from its producing in abundance the olive. It was from Jerusalem about a Sabbath day's journey, Acts 1:12. On the west side of the mountain was the garden of Gethsemane, Luke 22:39; Mark 4:32. On the eastern declivity of the mountain, were the villages of Bethphage and Bethany. Mark and Luke say that he came near to both those places. He came nearest to Bethphage, and sent his disciples to the village over against them, to Bethany, [Bethpage?]. Bethany was the place where Lazarus dwelt whom he raised from the dead, (John 11:1) where Martha and Mary dwelt; and where Mary anointed him with ointment against the day of his burying, John 12:1-7. These circumstances are omitted by the three first evangelists, but supplied by John, who wrote after them. The Mount of Olives is about a mile in length, and about seven hundred feet in height, and overlooks Jerusalem; so that from its summit almost every part of the city can be seen. The mountain is composed of three peaks or summits. Our Saviour is supposed to have ascended from the middle one. The olive is a fruit well known among us as an article of commerce. The tree blooms in June, and bears white flowers. The fruit is small. It is first green, then pale, and, when fully ripe, black. It incloses a hard stone, in which are the seeds. The wild olive was common, and differed from the other only in being of a smaller size. There are two roads from Jerusalem to Bethany; one around the southern end of the Mount of Olives, and the other across the summit. The latter is considerably shorter, but more difficult; and it was probably along this road that the Saviour went.

{w} "And when they" Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29

Verse 2. Go into the village over against you. The village here meant was not far from Bethany, and about two miles east of Jerusalem, (Mark and Luke.) He had lodged at Bethphage [Bethany] the night before, and in the morning sent his disciples to the village over against them; that is, to Bethany, [Bethphage,] John 12:1-12.

Ye shall find an ass tied, etc. In Judea there were few horses, and those were chiefly used in war. Men seldom employed them in common life, and in ordinary journeys. The ass, the mule, and the camel, are still most used in eastern countries. To ride on a horse was sometimes an emblem of war; on a mule and an ass the emblem of peace. Kings and princes commonly rode on them in times of peace; and it is mentioned as a mark of rank and dignity to ride in that manner, Judges 10:4; 12:14; 1 Samuel 25:20. So Solomon, when he was inaugurated as king, rode on a mule, 1 Kings 1:33. Riding in this manner, then, denoted neither poverty nor degradation, but was the appropriate way in which a king should ride, and in which, therefore, the King of Zion should enter into his capital--the city of Jerusalem.

Mark and Luke say, that he told them they should find "a colt tied." This they were directed to bring. They mention only the colt, because it was this on which he rode.

Verse 3. The Lord hath need of them. This means no more than the master has need of them. The word lord often means no more than master as opposed to servant, Matthew 10:24; Ephesians 6:6; 1 Peter 3:5,6. The word is sometimes used in the Bible as applied to God, or as a translation of the name JEHOVAH. Its common use is a mere title of respect given by an inferior to a superior, by a servant to a master, by a disciple to a teacher. As a title of high respect it was given to Christ, or the Messiah. The persons to whom these disciples were sent were probably acquainted with the miracles of Jesus, and favourably disposed towards him. He had attracted great notice in that region particularly by raising Lazarus from the dead, and most of the people regarded him as the Messiah.

Verses 4,5. All this was done, etc. The prophecy here quoted is found in Zechariah 9:9. It was always, by the Jews, applied to the Messiah.

Daughter of Zion. That is, Jerusalem. Zion was one of the hills on which the city of Jerusalem was built. On this stood the city of David and some strong fortresses. The names daughter and virgin were given to it often, in accordance with the oriental figurative manner of expression. See Barnes "Isaiah 1:8"; See Barnes "Amos 5:2"; See Barnes " :"; See Barnes "Isaiah 47:1". It was given to them as an expression of their beauty or comeliness.

Meek. See Barnes "Matthew 5:5". The expression here rather denotes peaceful, not warlike; not with pomp, and state, and the ensigns of ambition. He came in the manner in which kings were accustomed to ride, but with none of their pride and ambitious feeling.

Sitting upon an ass, etc. He rode on the colt, (Mark and Luke.) This expression in Matthew is one which is common with all writers.

{x} "prophet" Zechariah 9:9

Verse 5. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 21:4"

{y} "daughter of Zion" Isaiah 62:11; Mark 11:4; John 12:15

Verse 6. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 7. And put on them their clothes. This was done as a token of respect, \\2Ki 9:13\\.

Verse 8. And a very great multitude, etc. Others showed the same respect by throwing their garments before him; others by cutting down branches of trees, and casting them in the way. This was the way in which conquerors and princes were often honoured. To cast flowers, or garlands, or evergreens, before a warrior returning from victory, or a king entering into his kingdom, was a common way of testifying joyful and triumphant feeling. Thus Josephus says, that Alexander and Agrippa were received at Jerusalem. So in our own land, some of the most acceptable tokens of rejoicing ever bestowed upon Washington were garlands of roses scattered in his path by children. So the path of Lafayette was often strewed with flowers, as a mark of respect and of a nation's gratitude. John says, John 12:13, that these branches were branches of the palm-tree. The palm was an emblem of joy and victory. It was used by the Roman soldiers as well as the Jews, as a symbol of peace. See 1 Mac. xiii. 51; 2 Mac. x. 6, 7; Revelation 7:9.

The palm-tree is common in warm climates, and was abundant in Palestine. The finest grew about Jericho and Engeddi. Hence Jericho was called the city of palm-trees. The palm has a long and straight body, a spreading-top, and an appearance of very great beauty. It produces an agreeable fruit, a pleasant shade, a kind of honey little inferior to the honey of bees, and from it was drawn a pleasant wine, much used in the east. On ancient coins the palm-tree is often a symbol of Judea. On coins, made after Jerusalem was taken, Judea is represented by a female sitting and weeping under a palm-tree. A reference to the palm-tree occurs often in the Bible, and its general form and uses are familiar to most readers. We give an, engraving of the tree, and add a description of it for the use of those to whom it is not familiar.

Strictly speaking, the palm-tree has no branches; but at the summit, from forty to eighty twigs, or leaf-stalks, spring forth, which are intended in Nehemiah 8:15. The leaves are set around the trunk in circles of about six. The lower row is of great length, and the vast leaves bend themselves in a curve towards the earth; as the circle ascend, the leaves are shorter. In the month of February, there sprout from between the junctures of the lower stalks and the trunk little scales, which develop a kind of bud, the germ of the coming fruit. These germs are contained in a thick and tough skin, not unlike leather. According to the account of a modern traveller, a single tree in Barbary and Egypt bears from fifteen to twenty large clusters of dates, weighing from fifteen to twenty pounds each. The palm-tree lives more than two hundred years, and is most productive from the thirtieth until the eightieth year. The Arabs speak of two hundred and sixty uses to which the different parts of the palm-tree are applied.

The inhabitants of Egypt, Arabia, and Persia, depend much on the fruit of the palm-tree for their subsistence. Camels feed on the seed; and the leaves, branches, fibres, and sap, are all very valuable.

The "branches" referred to by John, (John 12:13,) refer to the long leaves which shoot out from the top of the tree, and which were often carried about as the symbol of victory. Comp. See Barnes "Isaiah 3:26".

Verse 9. Hosanna to the Son of David\ etc. The word hosanna means, "Save now," or, "Save, I beseech thee." It is a Syriac word, and was the form of acclamation used among the Jews. It was probably used in the celebration of their great festivals. During those festivals they sang the 115th, 116th, 117th, and 118th psalms. In the chanting or singing of those psalms, the Jewish writers inform us, that the people responded frequently hallelujah or hosanna. Their use of it on this occasion was a joyful acclamation, and an invocation of a Divine blessing by the Messiah.

Son of David. The Messiah.

Blessed is he, etc. That is, blessed be the Messiah. This passage is taken from Psalms 118:25,26. To come in the name of the Lord, is to come by the authority of the Lord; to come commissioned by him to reveal his will. The Jews had commonly applied this to the Messiah.

Hosanna in the highest. This may mean either "Hosanna in the highest, loftiest strains;" or it may mean a prayer to God, "Save now, O thou that dwellest in the highest heaven, or among the highest angels." Perhaps the whole song of hosanna may be a prayer to the Supreme God, as well as a note of triumphant acclamation: "Save now, O thou supremely great and glorious God; save by the Messiah that comes in thy name."

Mark adds, that they shouted "Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord." That is, the kingdom, promised to David, 1 Kings 2:4; 8:25. Coming in the name of the Lord, means coming according to the promise of the Lord. Its meaning may be thus expressed: "Prosperity to the reign of our father David, advancing now according to the promise made to him, and about to be established by the long-promised Messiah, his descendant." Luke adds, \\"Lu 19:38\\ that they said, "Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest." The word peace is used here as significant of joy, triumph, exultation in heaven at this event. There will be increased peace and rejoicing from the succession of the redeemed: and let glory and praise be given to God among the highest angels.

There is no contradiction here among the evangelists. Among such a multitude the shouts of exultation and triumph would by no means be confined to the same words. Some would say one thing, and some another; and one evangelist recorded what was said by a part of the multitude, and another what was said by another part.

{z} "Blessed" Psalms 118:26; Matthew 23:39
{a} "in the highest" Luke 2:14

Verse 10. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved. There was great excitement. The sight of such a multitude, the shouts of the people, and the triumphant procession through the city, excited much attention and inquiry.

Verse 11. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verses 12-22. This paragraph contains the account of the barren fig-tree, and of the cleansing of the temple, See also Mark 11:12-19 Luke 19:45-48.

Verse 12. And Jesus went into the temple of God, etc. From Mark 11:11-15, it is probable that this cleansing of the temple did not take place on the day that he entered Jerusalem in triumph, but on the day following. He came and looked round upon all things, Mark says, and went out to Bethany with the twelve. On the day following, returning from Bethany, he saw the fig-tree. Entering into the temple, he purified it on that day; or, perhaps, he finished the work of purifying it on that day, which he commenced the day before. Matthew has mentioned the purifying of the temple, which was performed probably on two successive days; or has stated the fact, without being particular as to the order of events. Mark has stated them more particularly, and has divided what Matthew mentions together.

The temple of God, or the temple dedicated and devoted to the service of God, was built on Mount Moriah. The first temple was built by Solomon, about 1006 years before Christ, 1 Kings 6:1. He was seven years in building it, 1 Kings 6:38. David, his father, had contemplated the design of building it, and had prepared many materials for it, but was prevented, because he had been a man of war, 1 Chronicles 22:1-9; 1 Kings 5:5. This temple, erected with great magnificence, remained till it was destroyed by the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar, five hundred and eighty-four years before Christ, 2 Chronicles 36:6,7,19.

After the Babylonish captivity, the temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel, but with vastly inferior and diminished beauty. The aged men wept when they compared it with the glory of the former temple, Ezra 3:8,12. This was called the second temple. This temple was often defiled in the wars before the time of Christ. It had become much decayed and impaired. Herod the Great, being exceedingly unpopular among the Jews, on account of his cruelties, was desirous of doing something to obtain the favour of the people, and accordingly, about sixteen years before Christ, and in the eighteenth year of his reign, he commenced the work of repairing it. This he did, not by taking it down entirely at once, but by removing one part after another till it had become in fact a new temple, greatly surpassing the former in magnificence. It was still called by the Jews the second temple; and by Christ's coming to this temple thus repaired, was fulfilled the prophecy in Haggai 2:9. On this building Herod employed eighteen thousand men, and completed it so as to be fit for use in nine years, or about eight years before Christ. But additions continued to be made to it, and it continued increasing in splendour and magnificence, till ANNO DOMINI 64. John says, John 2:20, "forty and six years was this temple in building." Christ was then thirty years of age, which, added to the sixteen years occupied in repairing it before his birth, makes forty-six years.

The word temple was given, not merely to the sacred edifice, or house itself, but to all the numerous chambers, courts, and rooms connected with it, on the top of Mount Moriah. The temple itself was a small edifice, and was surrounded by courts and chambers half a mile in circumference. Into the sacred edifice itself our Saviour never went. The high priest only went into the holy of holies, and that but once a year; and none but priests were permitted to enter the holy place. Our Saviour was neither. He was of the tribe of Judah, and he consequently was allowed to enter no farther than the other Israelites into the temple. The works that he is said to have performed in the temple, therefore, are to be understood as having been performed in the courts surrounding the sacred edifice. These courts will now be described. The temple was erected on Mount Moriah. The space on the summit of the mount was not, however, large enough for the buildings necessary to be erected. It was therefore enlarged by building high walls, from the valley below, and filling up the space within. One of these walls was six hundred feet in height. The ascent to the temple was by high flights of steps. The entrance to the temple, or to the courts on the top of the mount, was by nine gates, all of them extremely splendid. On every side they were thickly coated with gold and silver. But there was one gate of peculiar magnificence. This was called the beautiful gate, Acts 3:2. It was on the east side, and was made of Corinthian brass, one of the most precious metals in ancient times. See the Introduction to 1 Corinthians, 1. This gate was fifty cubits, or seventy-five feet in height. The whole temple, with all its courts, was surrounded by a wall about twenty-five feet in height. This was built on the wall raised from the base to the top of the mountain; so that from the top of it to the bottom, in a perpendicular descent, was in some places not far from six hundred feet. This was particularly the case on the south-east corner; and it was here, probably, that Satan wished our Saviour to cast himself down. See Barnes "Matthew 4:6". On the inside of this wall, between the gates, were piazzas, or covered porches. On the eastern, northern, and western sides there were two rows of these porches; on the south, three. These porches were covered walks, about twenty feet in width, paved with marble of different colours, with a flat roof of costly cedar, which was supported by pillars of solid marble, so large that three men could scarcely stretch their arms so as to meet around them. These walks or porches afforded a grateful shade and protection to the people in hot or stormy weather. The one on the east side was distinguished for its beauty, and was called Solomon's porch, John 10:23; Acts 3:11. It stood over the vast terrace or wall which Solomon had raised from the valley beneath, and which was the only thing of his work that remained in the sacred temple.

When a person entered any of the gates into this space within the wall, he saw the temple rising before him with great magnificence. But the space was not clear all the way up to it. Going forward, he came to another wall, inclosing considerable ground, considered more holy than the rest of the hill. The space between this first and second wall was called the court of the Gentiles. It was so called because Gentiles might come into it, but they could proceed no farther. On the second wall, and on the gates, were inscriptions in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, forbidding any Gentile or unclean person from proceeding farther on pain of death: This court was not of equal dimensions all the way round the temple. On the east, north, and west, it was quite narrow. On the south it was wide, occupying nearly half of the whole surface of the hill. In this court the Gentiles might come. Here was the place where much secular business was transacted. This was the place occupied by the buyers, and sellers, and the money-changers, and which Jesus purified by casting them out.

The inclosure within the second wall was nearly twice as long from east to west as from north to south. This inclosure was also divided. The eastern part of it was called the court of the women; so called because women might advance thus far, but no farther. This court was square. It was entered by three gates: one on the north, one on the east directly opposite to the beautiful gate, and one on the south. In passing from the court of the Gentiles to that of the women, it was necessary to ascend about nine feet by steps. This court of the women was inclosed with a double wall, with a space between the walls about fifteen feet in width, paved with marble. The inner of these two walls was much higher than the one outside. The court of the women was paved with marble. In the corners of that court were different structures for the various uses of the temple. It was in this court that the Jews commonly worshipped. Here, probably, Peter and John, with others, went up to pray, Acts 3:1. Here, too, the Pharisee and publican prayed: the Pharisee near the gate that led forward to the temple, the publican standing far off on the other side or the court, Luke 18:9-14. Paul also was seized here, and charged with defiling the temple, by bringing the Gentiles into that holy place, Acts 21:26-30.

A high wall on the west side of the court of the women divided it from the court of the Israelites; so called because all the males of the Jews might advance there. To this court there was an ascent of fifteen steps. These steps were in the form of a half circle. The great gate to which these steps led was called the gate Nicanor. Besides this, there were three gates on each side, leading from the court of the women to the court of the Israelites.

Within the court of the Israelites was the court of the priests, separated by a wall about a foot and a half in height. Within that court was the altar of burnt offering, and the laver standing in front of it. Here the priests performed the daily service of the temple. In this place, also, were accommodations for the priests, when not engaged in conducting the service of the temple; and for the Levites, who conducted the music of the sanctuary.

The following is a view of the temple and its courts, as here described:

The temple, properly so called, stood within the court. It surpassed in splendour all the other buildings of the holy city; perhaps in magnificence unequalled in the world. It fronted the east, looking down through the gates Nicanor and the beautiful gate, and onward to the Mount of Olives. From the Mount of Olives on the east there was a beautiful and commanding view of the whole sacred edifice. It was there that our Saviour sat, when the disciples directed his attention to the goodly stones with which the temple was built, Mark 13:1. The entrance into the temple itself was from the court of the priests, by an ascent of twelve steps. The porch in front of the temple was a hundred and fifty feet high, and as many broad. The open space in this porch, through which the temple was entered, was one hundred and fifteen feet high, and thirty-seven broad, without doors of any sort. The appearance of this, built as it was with white marble, and decorated with plates of silver, from the Mount of Olives was exceedingly dazzling and splendid. Josephus says, that in the rising of the sun it reflected so strong and dazzling an effulgence, that the eye of the spectator was obliged to turn away. To strangers at a distance it appeared like a mountain covered with snow; for where it was not decorated with plates of silver, it was extremely white and glistening.

The temple itself was divided into two parts: the first, called the sanctuary or holy place, was sixty feet in length, sixty feet in height, and thirty feet in width. In this was the golden candlestick, the table of shew-bread, and the a]tar of incense. The holy of holies, or the most holy place, was thirty feet each way. In the first temple, this contained the ark of the covenant, the tables of the law, and over the ark was the mercy-seat and the cherubim. Into this place no person entered but the high priest, and he but once in the year. These two apartments were separated only by a vail, very costly and curiously wrought. It was this rail which was rent from the top to the bottom when the Saviour died, Matthew 27:51. Around the walls of the temple, properly so called, was a structure three stories high, containing chambers for the use of the officers of the temple. The temple was wholly rased to the ground by the Romans under Titus and Vespasian, and was wholly destroyed, according to the predictions of the Saviour. See Barnes "Matthew 24:2". The site of it was made like a ploughed field. Julian the apostate attempted to rebuild it, but the workmen, according to his own historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, were prevented by balls of fire breaking out from the ground. See Warburton's Divine Legation of Moses. Its site is now occupied by the mosque of Omar, one of the most splendid specimens of Saracenic architecture in the World.

And cast out them that bought and sold in the temple. The place where this was done was not the temple itself, but the outer court, or the court of the Gentiles. This was esteemed the least sacred part of the temple; and the Jews, it seems, did not consider it profanation to appropriate this to any business in any way connected with the temple service. The things which they bought and sold were, at first, those pertaining to the sacrifices. It is not improbable, however, that the traffic afterwards extended to all kinds of merchandise. It gave rise to much confusion, noise, contention, and fraud, and was exceedingly improper in the temple of the Lord.

The tables of the money changers. Judea was subject to the Romans. The money hi current use was Roman coin. Yet the Jewish law required that every man should pay a tribute to the service of the sanctuary of half a shekel, Exodus 30:11-16. This was a Jewish coin; and it was required o herald in that coin. It became therefore a matter of convenience to have a place where the Roman coin might be exchanged for the Jewish half-shekel. This was the professed business of these men. Of course they would demand a small sum for the exchange; and among so many thousands as came up to the great feasts, it would be a very profitable employment, and one easily giving rise to much fraud and oppression.

The seats of them that sold doves. Doves were required to be offered in sacrifice, Leviticus 14:22; Luke 2:24. Yet it was difficult to bring them from the distant parts of Judea. It was found much easier to purchase them in Jerusalem. Hence it became a business to keep them to sell to those who were required to offer them.

Mark adds, Mark 11:16 that he would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. That is, probably, any of the vessels or implements connected with the traffic in oil, incense, wine, etc., that were kept for sale in the temple.

{b} "Jesus went" Mark 11:11; Luke 19:45; John 2:15

Verse 13. And said--It is written, etc. This is written in Isaiah 56:7. The first part of this verse only is quoted from Isaiah. The rest, "but ye have made it a den of thieves," was added by Jesus, denoting their abuse of the temple. Thieves and robbers live in dens and caves. Judea was then much infested with them. In their dens, thieves devise and practise iniquity. These buyers and sellers imitated them. They made the temple a place of gain; they cheated and defrauded; they took advantage of the poor, and by their being under a necessity of purchasing these articles for sacrifice, they robbed them, by selling what they had at an enormous price.

The following reasons may be given why this company of buyers and sellers obeyed Christ:

(1.) They were overawed by his authority; and struck with the consciousness that he had a right to command.

(2.) Their own consciences reproved them; they knew they were guilty, and dared make no resistance.

(3.) The people generally were then on the side of Jesus, believing him to be the Messiah.

(4.) It had always been the belief of the Jews that a prophet had a right to change, regulate, and order the various affairs relating to external worship, They supposed Jesus to be such, and they dared not resist him.

Mark and Luke add, that in consequence of this, the scribes and chief priests attempted to put him to death, Mark 11:18,10 Luke 19:47,48. This they did from envy, Matthew 27:18. He drew off the people from them, and they envied and hated him. They were restrained then for fear of the people; and this was the reason why they plotted secretly to put him to death, and why they afterwards so gladly heard the proposals of the traitor, Matthew 26:14,15.

{c} "is written" Isaiah 56:7
{d} "den of thieves" Jeremiah 7:11

Verse 14. No Barnes text on this verse.

{e} "and he healed them" Isaiah 35:6

Verses 15,16. When the Chief Priests. The chief men of the nation were envious of his popularity. They could not prevent it; but being determined to find fault, they took occasion to do so from the shouts of the children. Men often are offended that children have anything to do with religion, and deem it very improper that they should rejoice that the Saviour has come. Our Lord Jesus viewed this subject differently. He saw that it was proper that they should rejoice. They are interested in the concerns of religion; and then, before evil principles get fast hold of their minds, is a proper time to love and obey him. He confounded them by appealing to a text of their own Scriptures. This text is found in Psalms 8:2. This quotation is not made directly from the Hebrew, but from the Greek translation. This, however, should create no difficulty. The point of the quotation was to prove that children might offer praise to God. This is expressed in both the Hebrew and the Greek.

{f} "Hosanna" Matthew 21:9

Verse 16. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 21:15"

{g} "Out of the" Psalms 8:2

Verse 17. Bethany. See Barnes "Matthew 21:1".

Verse 18. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 19. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, etc. This tree was standing in the public road. It was therefore common property, and any one might lawfully use its fruit. Mark says, Mark 11:13, "Seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came," etc. That is, not far off from the road; but seeing it at a considerable distance, having leaves appearing healthy and luxuriant, they presumed that there would be fruit on it. Mark says, (Mark 11:13,) "He came, if haply he might find anything thereon." That is, judging from the appearance of the tree, it was probable that there would be fruit on it. We are not to suppose that our Lord was ignorant of the true condition of the tree, but he acted according to the appearance of things; being a man as well as Divine, he acted of course as men do act in such circumstances.

And found nothing thereon, but leaves only. Mark Mark 11:13 gives as a reason for this, that "the time of figs was not yet." That is, the time of gathering the figs was not yet, or had not passed. It was a time when figs were ripe, or fit to eat, or he would not have gone to it, expecting to find them. But the time of gathering them had not passed, and it was to be presumed that they were still on the tree. This took place on the week of the passover, or in the beginning of April. Figs in Palestine are commonly ripe at the passover. The summer in Palestine begins in March, and it is no uncommon thing that figs should be eatable in April. It is said that they sometimes produce fruit the year round.

Mark 11:12,13 says that this took place on the morning of the day on which he purified the temple. Matthew would lead us to suppose that it was on the day following. Matthew records briefly what Mark records more fully. Matthew states the fact that the fig-tree was barren and withered away, without regarding minutely the order, or the circumstances in which the event took place. There is no contradiction. For Matthew does not affirm that this took place on the morning after the temple was cleansed, though he places it in that order. Nor does he say that a day did not elapse after the fig-tree was cursed before the disciples discovered that it was withered; though he does not affirm that it was so. Such circumstantial variations, where there is no positive contradiction, go greatly to confirm the truth of a narrative. They show that the writers were honest men, and did not conspire to deceive the world.

And said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee, etc. Mark calls this "cursing" the tree, Mark 11:21. The word curse does not imply here anger, or disappointment, or malice. It means only devoting to this destruction, or this withering away. All the curse that was pronounced, was in the words that no fruit should grow on it. The Jews used the word curse, not as always implying wrath, and anger, but to devote to death, or to any kind of destruction, Hebrews 6:8. It has been commonly thought that he did this to denote the sudden withering away, or destruction of the Jewish people. They, like the fig-tree, promised fair, That was full of leaves, and they full of professions. Yet both were equally barren. And as that was destroyed, so were they soon to be. It is certain that this would be a good illustration of the destruction of the Jewish people; but there is not the least evidence that our Saviour intended it as such; and without such evidence, we have no right to say that that was its meaning.

And presently the fig tree withered away. That is, before another day. See Mark. It is probable that they were passing directly onward, and did not stop then to consider it. Matthew does not affirm that it withered away in their presence, and Mark affirms that they made the discovery on the morning after it was "cursed."

{h} "when he saw" Mark 11:13
{1} "saw a fig tree", or "One fig tree"
{i} "withered away" Jude 1:12

Verse 20. And when the disciples saw it. That is, on the morning following that on which it was cursed, Mark 11:20.

They marvelled, saying, etc. Peter said this, Mark 11:21. Matthew means only to say that this was said to him; Mark tells us which one of them said it.

Verse 21. Jesus answered and said, etc. Jesus took occasion from this to establish their faith in God, Mark 11:22. He told them that any difficulty could be removed by faith. To remove a mountain, denotes the power of overcoming any difficulty. The phrase was so used by the Jews. There is no doubt that this was literally true, that if they had the faith of miracles, they could remove the mountain before them the mount of Olives--for this was as easy for God to do by them as to heal the sick, or raise the dead. But he rather referred, probably, to the difficulties and trials which they would be called to endure in preaching the gospel.

{k} "If ye have faith" Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6; James 1:6
{l} "???" Matthew 8:12

Verse 22. And all things, etc. He adds an encouragement for them to pray, assuring them that they should have all things which they asked. This promise was evidently a special one, given to them in regard to working miracles. To them it was true. But it is manifest that we have no right to apply this promise to ourselves. It was designed specially for the apostles; nor have we a right to turn it from its original meaning.

{m} "in prayer" Matthew 7:7; Mark 11:24; James 5:16; 1 John 3:22; 5:14

Verses 23-27. See also Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8.

Verse 23. When he was come into the temple. That is, probably, into the inner court; the court of the Israelites. They took this opportunity when he was not surrounded by the multitude.

By what authority, etc. There was a show of propriety in this question. He was making great changes in the affairs of the temple, and they claimed the right to know why this was done, contrary to their permission. He was not a priest; he had no civil or ecclesiastical authority as a Jew. It was sufficient authority indeed, that he came as a prophet, and worked miracles. But they professed not to be satisfied with that.

These things. The things which he had just done, in overturning the seats of those that were engaged in traffic, Matthew 21:12.

{n} "And when" Mark 11:27; Luke 20:1
{o} "By what" Exodus 2:14

Verses 24,25. And Jesus answered etc. Jesus was under no obligation to give them an answer. They well knew by what authority he did this. He had not concealed his power in working miracles, and had not kept back the knowledge that he was the Messiah. He therefore referred them to a similar case--that of John the Baptist He knew the estimation in which John was held by the people. He took the wise in their own craftiness. Whatever answer they gave, he knew they would convict themselves. And so they saw, when they looked at the question. They reasoned correctly. If they said, From heaven, he would directly ask why they did not believe him. They professed to hear all the prophets. If they said. Of men, their reputation was gone, for all the people believed that John was a prophet.

The baptism of John. For an account of this, see Matthew chapter 3. The word baptism here probably includes all his work. This was his principal employment; and hence he was called the Baptist, or the Baptizer. But our Saviour's question refers to his whole ministry.-- "The ministry of John, his baptism, preaching, prophecies--was it from God, or not?" If it was, then the inference was clear that Jesus was the Messiah; and then they might easily know by what authority he did those things.

From heaven. By Divine authority, or by the command of God.

Of men. By human authority.

Verse 25. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 21:24"

Verse 26. We fear the people. They feared that the people would stone them, (Luke.) Such an unpopular sentiment as to profess that all that John did was imposture, would have probably ended in tumult, perhaps in their death.

{p} "for all held John" Matthew 14:5

Verse 27. We cannot tell. This was a direct falsehood. They could have told; and it should have been, we will not tell. There was no reason but that why they did not tell. The reason probably why they would not acknowledge that John was a prophet was that, if they did, they saw he could easily show them by what authority he did those things; i.e., as Messiah. John predicted him, pointed him out, baptized him, came as his forerunner, to fulfil the prophecies. If they acknowledged one, they must the other. In this way our Saviour was about to lead these crafty men to answer their own question, to their own confusion, about his authority. They saw this; and having given them a sufficient answer, there was no need of stating anything further.

Verses 28-32. But what think ye? A way of speaking designed to direct them particularly to what he was saying, that they might be self-convicted.

Two sons. By those two sons our Lord intends to represent the conduct of the Jews, and that of the Publicans and sinners.

In my vineyard. See Barnes "Matthew 21:33". To work in the vineyard here represents the work which God requires man to do.

I will not. This had been the language of the Publicans and wicked men. They refused at first, and did not profess to be willing to go.

Repented. Changed his mind. Afterwards, at the preaching of John and Christ, the publicans--the wicked--repented, and obeyed.

The second--said, I go, sir: and went not. This represented the conduct of the Scribes and Pharisees--professing to obey God; observing the external rites of religion; but opposed really to the kingdom of God, and about to put his Son to death.

Whether of them twain, etc. Which of the two.

They say unto him, The first. This answer was correct. But it is strange that they did not perceive that it condemned themselves.

Go into the kingdom of God. Become Christians, or more readily follow the Saviour. See Barnes "Matthew 3:2".

Before you. Rather than you. They are more likely to do it than you. You are self-righteous, self-willed, and obstinate. Many of them had believed, but you have not. John came unto you in the way of righteousness. That is, in the right way, or teaching the way to be righteous; to wit, by repentance. Publicans and harlots heard him, and became righteous, but they did not. They saw it, but, as in a thousand other cases, it did not produce the proper effect on them, and they would not repent.

Verse 29. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 21:28"

{r} "but afterward" 2 Chronicles 33:12,13; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 2:1-13

Verse 30. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 21:28"

Verse 31. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 21:28"

Verse 32. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 21:28"

{s} "Publicans" Luke 3:12
{t} "harlots" Luke 7:37
{u} "repented not" Revelation 2:21

Verses 33-46. The parable of the vineyard. This is also recorded in Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19.

Verse 33. Hear another parable. See Barnes "Matthew 13:3".

A certain householder. See Barnes "Matthew 20:1".

Planted a vineyard. A place for the cultivation of grapes. It is often used to represent the church of God, as a place cultivated and valuable. Judea was favourable to vines, and the figure is frequently used, therefore, in the sacred writers. See Matthew 20:1. It is used here to represent the Jewish people; the people chosen of the Lord, cultivated with care, and signally favoured; or perhaps more definitely, the city of Jerusalem.

Hedged it round about. This means, he inclosed it, either with a fence of wood or stone, or more probably with thorns, thick set and growing--a common way of inclosing fields in Judea, as it is in England.

And digged a winepress in it. Mark says, "digged a place for the wine-vat." This should have been so rendered in Matthew. The original word does not mean the press in which the grapes were trodden, but the vat, or large cistern into which the wine ran. This was commonly made by digging into the side of a hill. The wine-press was made of two receptacles. The upper one, in Persia at present, is about eight feet square, and four feet high. In this the grapes are thrown, and trodden by men, and the juice runs into the large receptacle, or cistern below. See Barnes "Isaiah 63:2,3".

And built a tower. See also Isaiah 5:2. In eastern countries at present these towers are often eighty feet high, and thirty feet square. They were for the keepers who defended the vineyard from thieves and animals, especially foxes. Song of Solomon 1:6; 2:16.

And let it out, etc. This was not an uncommon thing. Vineyards were often planted to be let out for profit.

Into a far country. This means, in the original, only that he departed from them. It does not mean that he went out of the land. Luke adds, "for a long time." That is, as appears, till the time of the fruit; perhaps for a year. This vineyard denotes doubtless the Jewish people, or Jerusalem. But these circumstances are not to be particularly explained. They serve to keep up the story. They denote in general that God had taken proper care of his vineyard, i.e. his people; but beyond that we cannot affirm that these circumstances, of building the tower, etc., mean any particular thing, for he has not told us that they do. And where he has not explained them, we have no right to attempt it.

{v} "planted" Psalms 80:8-16; Song of Solomon 8:11,12; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Mark 12:1
Luke 20:9

Verse 34. And when the time of the fruit drew near, etc. The time of gathering the fruit. The vineyard was let out, probably for a part of the fruit, and the owner sent to receive the part that was his.

Sent his servants. These doubtless represent the prophets sent to the Jewish people.

{w} "servants" 2 Kings 17:13

Verse 35. And beat one. The word here translated beat, properly means to flay, or to take off the skin. Hence to beat, or to whip, so that the skin in many places is taken off.

And killed another. Isaiah is said to have been put to death by sawing him asunder. See Luke 13:34; Hebrews 11:37; 1 Samuel 22:18; 1 Kings 19:10.

And stoned another. This was, among the Jews, a common way of punishment, Deuteronomy 13:10; 17:7; Joshua 7:26. Especially was this the case in times of popular tumult, and of sudden indignation among the people, Acts 7:58; 14:19; John 8:59; 10:31. This does not imply of necessity that those who were stoned died, but they might be only severely wounded. Mark says, "At him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away," etc.

There is a little variation in the circumstances, as mentioned by Matthew, and by Mark and Luke; but the substance is the same. Mark and Luke are more particular, and state the order in which the servants were sent one after another. They all denote the dealing of the people of Israel towards the prophets. All these things had been done to them. See Hebrews 11:37; Jeremiah 44:4,5,6; 2 Chronicles 36:16; Nehemiah 9:26; 2 Chronicles 24:20,21.

{x} "And the husbandman" 2 Chronicles 36:16; Nehemiah 9:26; Jeremiah 25:3-7; Matthew 5:12
Matthew 23:34-37; Acts 7:52; 1 Thessalonians 2:15; Hebrews 11:36,37 Revelation 6:9

Verse 36. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 37. Last of all, etc. Mark adds, that this was an only son, greatly beloved. This beautifully and most tenderly exhibits the love of God, in sending his only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die for men. Long had he sent the prophets, and they had been persecuted and slain. There was no use in sending any more prophets to the people. They had done all they could do. God had one only-begotten and well-beloved Son, whom he might send into the world, and whom the world ought to reverence, even as they should the Father, John 5:23. To reverence, denotes honour, esteem, deference--that feeling which we have in the presence of one greatly our superior;--to give such a person, in our feelings and by our deportment, the honour which is due to his rank and character. God is often represented in the Bible as giving his Son, his only-begotten and well-beloved Son, for a lost world, John 3:16,17; 1 John 4:9,14; Romans 8:3,32; Galatians 4:4.

Verse 38. But when the husbandmen, etc. They determined to kill him; and as he was the only son, they supposed they could easily seize on the property. It was rented to them, was in their possession, and they resolved to keep it. This circumstance has probably no reference to any particular conduct of the Jews, but is thrown in to keep up the story, and fill up the narrative. An heir is one who succeeds to an estate, commonly a son; an inheritance is what an heir receives.

{y} "heir" Hebrews 1:1,2

Verse 39. And they caught him, etc. This refers to the conduct of the Jews in putting the Saviour to death. So they understood it, Matthew 21:45. The Jews put him to death, after they had persecuted and slain the prophets. This was done by giving him into the hands of the Romans, and seeking his crucifixion, Matthew 27:20-25; Acts 2:23; Acts 7:51,52.

And cast him out of the vineyard. The vineyard in this parable may represent Jerusalem. Jesus was crucified out of Jerusalem, on Mount Calvary, Luke 23:33.

{z} "caught him" Acts 2:23; 4:25-27

Verse 40. When the lord therefore, etc. Jesus then asked them a question about the proper way of dealing with those men. The design of asking them this question was that they might condemn themselves, and admit the justice of the punishment that was soon coming upon them.

Verse 41. They say, etc. They answered according as they knew men would, act and would act justly in doing it. He would take away their privileges, and confer them on others. This was the answer which Jesus wished. It was so clear, that they could not answer otherwise. He wished to show them the justice of taking away their national privileges, and punishing them in the destruction of their city and nation. Had he stated this at first, they would not have heard him. He, however, by a parable led them along to state themselves the very truth which he wished to communicate, and they had then nothing to answer, they did not, however, yet see the bearing of what they had admitted.

{a} "destroy" Psalms 2:4,5,9; Zechariah 12:2
{b} "other husbandmen" Luke 21:24; Romans 9:26; 11:11

Verses 42,43. Jesus saith, etc. Jesus, having led them to admit the justice of the great principle on which God was about to act towards them, proceeds to apply it by a text of Scripture, declaring that this very thing which they admitted in the case of the husbandmen, had been predicted respecting themselves. This passage is found in Psalms 118:22,23. It was first applicable to David; but no less to Jesus.

The stone. The figure is taken from building a house. The principal stone for size and beauty is that commonly laid as the corner stone.

Which the builders rejected. On account of its want of beauty, or size, it was laid aside, or deemed unfit to be a corner-stone. This represents the Lord Jesus, proposed to the Jews as the foundation, or corner-stone on which to build the church: rejected by them--the builders --on account of his want of comeliness or beauty; i.e., of what they esteemed to be comely or desirable, Isaiah 53:2,3.

The same is become, etc. Though rejected by them, yet God chose him, and made him the foundation of the church. Christ is often compared to a stone, a corner-stone, a tried, i.e. a sure, firm foundation--all in allusion to the custom of building, Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:7.

Lord's doing. The appointment of Jesus of Nazareth to be the foundation of the church, is by miracle and prophecy proved to be the work of God.

Marvellous in our eyes. Wonderful in the sight of his people. An object of gratitude and admiration. That he should Select his only Son; that he should stoop so low, be despised, rejected, and put to death; that God should raise him up, and build a church on this foundation, embracing the Gentile as well as the Jew, and spreading through all the world, is a subject of wonder and praise to all the redeemed.

{c} "stone" Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6,7

Verse 43. The kingdom of God, etc. Jesus applies the parable to them--the Jews. They had been the children of the kingdom, or under the reign of God; having his law, and acknowledging him as King. They had been his chosen and peculiar people. But he says that now this privilege should be taken away, and they cease to be the peculiar people of God; and the blessing should be given to a nation who would bring forth the fruits thereof, or be righteous; that is, to the Gentiles, Acts 28:28.

Verse 44. Whosoever shall fall, etc. There is an allusion here, doubtless, to Isaiah 8:14,15. Having made an allusion to himself as a Stone, or a Rock, Matthew 21:42, he proceeds to state the consequences of coming in contact with it. He that falls upon it, shall be broken; he that runs against it--a corner-stone, standing out from the other parts of the foundation--shall be injured, or broken in his limbs or body. He that is offended with my being the foundation, or that opposes me, shall, by the act, injure himself; make himself miserable by so doing, even were there nothing farther, But there is something farther.

On whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. That is, in the original, will reduce him to dust, so that it may be scattered by the winds. There is an allusion here, doubtless, to the custom of stoning as a punishment among the Jews. A scaffold was erected, twice the height of the man to be stoned. Standing on its edge, he was violently struck off by one of the witnesses; if he died by the blow and the fall, nothing farther was done; if not, a heavy stone was thrown down on him, which at once killed him. So the Saviour speaks of the falling of the stone on his enemies. They who oppose him, reject him, and continue impenitent, shall be crushed by him in the day of judgment, and perish for ever.

{g} "it will grind" Hebrews 2:2,3

Verse 45. They at last perceived that he spoke of them, and would have gratified their malice at once, but they feared the people.

Verse 46. No Barnes text on this verse.

{k} "took him for a prophet" Luke 7:16; John 7:40

REMARKS ON MATTHEW CHAPTER 21

(1.) Jesus is omniscient, and sees and knows all things, ver. 2. (2.) It is our duty to obey the Lord Jesus, and to do it at once, ver. 3. When he commands, there should be no delay, What he orders is right; and we should not hesitate or deliberate about it. (3.) Especially is this the case where he is to be honoured, as he was on this occasion, vets. 7, 8. If it was for our interest or honour only that we obeyed him, it would be of less consequence. But our obedience will honour him; and we should seek that honour by any sacrifice or self-denial. (4.) We should be willing to give up our property to honour the Lord Jesus, yet. 3. lie has a right to it. If given to spread the gospel, it goes as this did,.to increase "the triumphs of our King." We should be willing to give our wealth, that he might "gird on his sword," and "ride prosperously among the heathen." ]{very one saved among the heathen, by sending the gospel to them, will be for the honour of Jesus. They will go to swell his train, when he shall enter triumphantly into his kingdom at the day of judgment (5.) It is our duty to honour him, vers. 7--9. He is King of Zion He is Lord of all. tie reigns, and shall always reign.

"Sinners! whose love can ne'er forget.' The wormwood and the gall, Go spread your trophies at his feet, And crown him Lord of all.

"Ye chosen seed of Israel's race, Ye ransomed from the fall. Hail him who saves you by his grace. And crown him Lord of all.

"Let every kindred, every tribe, On this terrestrial ball, To him all majesty ascribe, And crown himsLord of all."

(6.) Children should also honour him, and shout hosanna to him, ver. 15. The chief priests and scribes, in the time of our Saviour, were displeased that they did it; and many of the great, and many formal profeasts since, have been displeased that children should

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 21". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bnn/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=021>.  

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