The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire BibleLuke 18:13
And the publican standing afar off…
Not at the
outermost porch, or at the door: for
``a man might not fix his place at the door of the
synagogue, but, (qyxry) , "he must go afar off",
the space of two doors, and then pray F18;''
it may be in the court of the Gentiles, when the Pharisee was in the
court of the Israelites; at least he was afar off from him: and
indeed, those who came to humble themselves before the Lord, and
confess their sins, were obliged to stand at the distance of four
cubits one from another, that one might not hear the prayers and
confessions of the other F19: and it might be, that this poor man
might stand at a greater distance than was required, that he might
not displease the Pharisee, who, he knew, would resent it, should he
stand near him; or rather this was done, to testify the sense he had
of his state and condition, and of his unworthiness; as that he was
afar off from God, and unworthy to draw nigh unto him, and deserved
to be kept at a distance from him for ever. So it is said F20 of the
Israelites, that they trembled at Mount Sinai, and "stood afar off",
(Mtwntwne twrwhl) , "to show their humility": and under a work of
the law, and under such a like dispensation was this publican; and
would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven:
and which, as
it was an humble posture he stood in, agrees with the rules the Jews
``the order (or posture) of the body, how is it? when a man
stands in prayer he ought to set his feet one by the side
of the other, and fix his eyes, (hjml) , "below", as if he
looked to the earth; and his heart must be open above, as
if he stood in the heavens; and lay his hands upon his
heart, putting the right hand over the left; and must
stand as a servant before his master, with trembling, and
fear, and dread, and may not put his hands upon his loins.''
And agreeably to this, it is elsewhere F23 said,
``he that prays, ought to fix his eyes below, and his heart
And the Jews used to look downward, or shut their eyes, for the sake
of attention in prayer; and it was even forbidden them to open their
eyes to look upon the wall F24. This showed in the publican, that the
guilt of his sins lay heavy on him; that he could not look up; that
shame filled him with blushing; that sorrow caused his countenance to
fall; and that fear of divine wrath, and displeasure, possessed him;
and that he looked upon himself as unworthy of the smiles of heaven,
but smote upon his breast:
pointing at the fountain of his sin;
expressing by this action, his sorrow, and repentance for it; and an
aversion and abhorrence of himself on account of it, joined with
indignation and revenge; and he did this to arouse and stir up all
the powers and faculties of his soul, to call upon God. The Persic
version renders it, "he fell on his knees, and beat the earth with
his head"; taking a sort of revenge on himself for sin:
saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
This is his prayer; a
short, but a very full one, and greatly different from that of the
Pharisee: in which is a confession that he was a sinner; a sinner in
Adam, who had derived a sinful nature from him, being conceived and
born in sin; and a sinner by practice, having committed many actual
transgressions, attended with aggravating circumstances; a guilty and
filthy sinner, a notorious one, deserving of the wrath of God, and
the lowest hell: he speaks of himself, as if he was the only sinner
in the world; at least, as if there was none like him: and there is
in this prayer also a petition; and the object it is put up to, is
"God", against whom he had sinned; with whom there is mercy and
forgiveness; and who only can forgive sin; and who has promised that
he will: and has proclaimed his name, a God, pardoning iniquity,
transgression, and sin; and has given instances of his forgiving
grace and mercy; and therefore the publican was right in addressing
him by confession: the petition he makes to him is, to be "merciful",
or "propitious" to him; that is, to show mercy to him, through the
propitiary sacrifice of the Messiah, which was typified by the
sacrifices under the law: the first thing a sensible sinner wants, is
an application of pardoning grace and mercy; and forgiveness springs
from mercy; and because the mercy of God is free and abundant,
therefore pardon is so: but this is not to be expected from an
absolute God, or God out of Christ. God is only propitious in Christ:
hence it may be observed, that God pardons none but those to whom he
is propitious in his Son; and that he forgives sin upon the foot of a
reconciliation, and satisfaction made to his law, and justice, and so
pardon is an act of justice, as well as of mercy; and that there is
no pardoning mercy but through Christ. The Arabic version renders it,
"spare me, because I am a sinner"; see (Psalms 25:11) .
F18 Piske Harosh Beracot, c. 1. art. 7. Vid. T. Hieros. Beracot, fol.
F19 Jarchi & Bartenora in Pirke Abot. c. 5. sect. 5.
F20 Tzeror Hammor, fol. 80. 1.
F21 Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 5. sect. 4. & Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot
Tora, pr. affirm. 19.
F23 T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 105. 2.
F24 Tzeror Hammor, fol. 25. 3.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Luke 18:13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=lu&chapter=018&verse=013>. 1999.