Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
EARS ON THE
The season of the year when this occurred is determined by the event
itself. Ripe corn ears are found in the fields only just before harvest.
The barley harvest seems clearly intended here, at the close of our
March and beginning of our April. It coincided with the Passover season,
as the wheat harvest with Pentecost. But in Luke
we have a still more definite note of time, if we could be certain of
the meaning of the peculiar term which he employs to express it. "It
came to pass (he says) on the sabbath, which was the
first-second," for that is the proper rendering of the word, and
not "the second sabbath after the first," as in our version. Of the
various conjectures what this may mean, that of SCALIGER is the most approved, and, as we think, the
freest from difficulty, namely, the first sabbath after the second day
of the Passover; that is, the first of the seven sabbaths which were to
be reckoned from the second day of the Passover, which was itself a
sabbath, until the next feast, the feast of Pentecost
(Le 23:15, 16;
De 16:9, 10)
In this case, the day meant by the Evangelist is the first of those
seven sabbaths intervening between Passover and Pentecost. And if we
are right in regarding the "feast" mentioned in
as a Passover, and consequently the second during our Lord's
public ministry (see on
this plucking of the ears of corn must have occurred immediately after
the scene and the discourse recorded in
which, doubtless, would induce our Lord to hasten His departure for the
north, to avoid the wrath of the Pharisees, which He had kindled at
Jerusalem. Here, accordingly, we find Him in the fields--on His way
probably to Galilee.
1. At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn--"the
and his disciples were an hungered--not as one may be before his
regular meals; but evidently from shortness of provisions: for Jesus
defends their plucking the corn-ears and eating them on the plea of
and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat--"rubbing them in
2. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy
disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day--The
act itself was expressly permitted
But as being "servile work," which was prohibited on the sabbath day,
it was regarded as sinful.
3. But he said unto them, Have ye not read--or, as Mark
has it, "Have ye never read."
what David did when he was an hungered, and they that were with
4. How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread,
which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with
him, but only for the priests?--No example could be more apposite than
this. The man after God's own heart, of whom the Jews ever boasted, when
suffering in God's cause and straitened for provisions, asked and
obtained from the high priest what, according to the law, it was illegal
for anyone save the priests to touch. Mark
says this occurred "in the days of Abiathar the high priest." But this
means not during his high priesthood--for it was under that of his
father Ahimelech--but simply, in his time. Ahimelech was soon succeeded
by Abiathar, whose connection with David, and prominence during his
reign, may account for his name, rather than his father's, being here
introduced. Yet there is not a little confusion in what is said of
these priests in different parts of the Old Testament. Thus he is
called both the son of the father of Ahimelech
and Ahimelech is called Ahiah
5. Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the
priests in the temple profane the sabbath--by doing "servile work."
and are blameless?--The double offerings required on the sabbath day
could not be presented, and the new-baked showbread
could not be prepared and presented every sabbath morning, without a
good deal of servile work on the part of the priests; not to speak of
circumcision, which, when the child's eighth day happened to fall on a
sabbath, had to be performed by the priests on that day. (See on
Joh 7:22, 23).
6. But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the
temple--or rather, according to the reading which is best supported,
"something greater." The argument stands thus: "The ordinary rules for
the observance of the sabbath give way before the requirements of the
temple; but there are rights here before which the temple itself must
give way." Thus indirectly, but not the less decidedly, does our Lord
put in His own claims to consideration in this question--claims to be
presently put in even more nakedly.
7. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not
&c.). See on
ye would not have condemned the guiltless--that is, Had ye understood
the great principle of all religion, which the Scripture everywhere
recognizes--that ceremonial observances must give way before moral
duties, and particularly the necessities of nature--ye would have
refrained from these captious complaints against men who in this matter
are blameless. But our Lord added a specific application of this great
principle to the law of the sabbath, preserved only in Mark: "And he
said unto them, the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
A glorious and far-reaching maxim, alike for the permanent
establishment of the sabbath and the true freedom of its
8. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day--In what sense
now is the Son of man Lord of the sabbath day? Not surely to abolish
it--that surely were a strange lordship, especially just after saying
that it was made or instituted for MAN--but to
own it, to interpret it, to preside over it, and
to ennoble it, by merging it in the "Lord's Day"
breathing into it an air of liberty and love necessarily unknown
before, and thus making it the nearest resemblance to the eternal
HEALING OF A
HAND ON THE
Healing of a Withered Hand
9. And when he was departed thence--but "on another sabbath"
he went into their synagogue--"and taught." He had now, no doubt,
arrived in Galilee; but this, it would appear, did not occur at
Capernaum, for after it was over, He "withdrew Himelf," it is said
"to the sea"
whereas Capernaum was at the sea.
And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered--disabled by
paralysis (as in
It was his right hand, as Luke
And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath
days? that they might accuse him--Mark and Luke
say they "watched Him whether He would heal on the sabbath day." They
were now come to the length of dogging His steps, to collect materials
for a charge of impiety against Him. It is probable that it was to
their thoughts rather than their words that Jesus addressed
Himself in what follows.
11. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you that
shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day,
will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
12. How much then is a man better than a sheep?--Resistless appeal!
"A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast"
and would instinctively rescue it from death or suffering on the
sabbath day; how much more his nobler fellow man! But the reasoning, as
given in the other two Gospels, is singularly striking: "But He knew
their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise
up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then
said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the
sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life or to destroy it?"
(Lu 6:8, 9),
or as in Mark
"to kill?" He thus shuts them up to this startling alternative: "Not
to do good, when it is in the power of our hand to do it, is to do
evil; not to save life, when we can, is to kill"--and must the letter
of the sabbath rest be kept at this expense? This unexpected thrust
shut their mouths. By this great ethical principle our Lord, we see,
held Himself bound, as man. But here we must turn to Mark, whose
graphic details make the second Gospel so exceedingly precious. "When
He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the
hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man"
This is one of the very few passages in the Gospel history which reveal
our Lord's feelings. How holy this anger was appears from the
"grief" which mingled with it at "the hardness of their hearts."
13. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he
stretched it forth--the power to obey going forth with the word of
and it was restored whole, like as the other--The poor man, having
faith in this wonderful Healer--which no doubt the whole scene would
singularly help to strengthen--disregarded the proud and venomous
Pharisees, and thus gloriously put them to shame.
14. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how
they might destroy him--This is the first explicit mention of their
murderous designs against our Lord. Luke
says, "they were filled with madness, and communed one with another
what they might do to Jesus." But their doubt was not, whether
to get rid of Him, but how to compass it. Mark
as usual, is more definite: "The Pharisees went forth, and straightway
took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy
Him." These Herodians were supporters of Herod's dynasty, created by
Cæsar--a political rather than religious party. The Pharisees
regarded them as untrue to their religion and country. But here we see
them combining together against Christ as a common enemy. So on a
(Mt 22:15, 16).
Jesus Retires to Avoid Danger
15. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence--whither,
our Evangelist says not; but Mark
says "it was to the sea"--to some distance, no doubt, from the
scene of the miracle, the madness, and the plotting just recorded.
and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all--Mark
gives the following interesting details: "A great multitude from
Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and from Jerusalem, and from
Idumea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great
multitude, when they had heard what great things He did, came unto Him.
And He spake to His disciples, that a small ship"--or "wherry"--"should
wait on Him because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him. For
He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon Him for to touch
Him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw Him,
fell down before Him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And
He straitly charged them that they should not make Him known"
How glorious this extorted homage to the Son of God! But as this was
not the time, so neither were they the fitting preachers, as BENGEL says. (See on
Coming back now to our Evangelist: after saying, "He healed them all,"
16. And charged them--the healed.
that they should not make him known--(See on
17. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet,
18. Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul
is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall show
judgment to the Gentiles.
19. He shall not strive nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice
in the streets.
20. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not
quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory--"unto truth," says
the Hebrew original, and the Septuagint also. But our Evangelist
merely seizes the spirit, instead of the letter of the prediction in
this point. The grandeur and completeness of Messiah's victories would
prove, it seems, not more wonderful than the unobtrusive noiselessness
with which they were to be achieved. And whereas one rough touch will
break a bruised reed, and quench the flickering, smoking flax, His
it should be, with matchless tenderness, love, and skill, to lift up the
meek, to strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees, to
comfort all that mourn, to say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be
strong, fear not.
21. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust--Part of His present
audience were Gentiles--from Tyre and Sidon--first-fruits of the great
Gentile harvest contemplated in the prophecy.
Mt 12:22-37. A
REPLY TO THE
The precise time of this section is uncertain. Judging from the
statements with which Mark introduces it, we should conclude that it was
when our Lord's popularity was approaching its zenith, and so before the
feeding of the five thousand. But, on the other hand, the advanced state
of the charges brought against our Lord, and the plainness of His
warnings and denunciations in reply, seem to favor the later period at
which Luke introduces it. "And the multitude," says Mark
(Mr 3:20, 21),
"cometh together again," referring back to the immense gathering which
Mark had before recorded
--"so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when His
friends"--or rather, "relatives," as appears from
and see on
--"heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him; for they said, He is
beside Himself." Compare
"For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God."
22. Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil--"a demonized
blind and dumb, and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and the dumb
both spake and saw.
23. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of
David?--The form of the interrogative requires this to be rendered,
"Is this the Son of David?" And as questions put in this form (in
Greek) suppose doubt, and expect rather a negative answer, the
meaning is, "Can it possibly be?"--the people thus indicating their
secret impression that this must be He; yet saving themselves
from the wrath of the ecclesiastics, which a direct assertion of it
would have brought upon them. (On a similar question, see on
and on the phrase, "Son of David," see on
24. But when the Pharisees heard it--Mark
says, "the scribes which came down from Jerusalem"; so that this had
been a hostile party of the ecclesiastics, who had come all the way
from Jerusalem to collect materials for a charge against Him. (See on
they said, This fellow--an expression of contempt.
doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub--rather, "Beelzebul"
the prince of the devils--Two things are here implied--first,
that the bitterest enemies of our Lord were unable to deny the reality
of His miracles; and next, that they believed in an organized
infernal kingdom of evil, under one chief. This belief would be of
small consequence, had not our Lord set His seal to it; but this He
immediately does. Stung by the unsophisticated testimony of "all the
people," they had no way of holding out against His claims but by the
desperate shift of ascribing His miracles to Satan.
25. And Jesus knew their thoughts--"called them"
and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to
desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not
stand--"house," that is, "household"
26. And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how
shall then his kingdom stand?--The argument here is irresistible. "No
organized society can stand--whether kingdom, city, or household--when
turned against itself; such intestine war is suicidal: But the works I
do are destructive of Satan's kingdom: That I should be in league with
Satan, therefore, is incredible and absurd."
27. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children--"your sons," meaning here the "disciples" or pupils
of the Pharisees,
who were so termed after the familiar language of the Old Testament in
speaking of the sons of the prophets
&c.). Our Lord here seems to admit that such works were wrought by
them; in which case the Pharisees stood self-condemned, as expressed in
"Therefore shall they be your judges."
28. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God--In Luke
it is, "with (or 'by') the finger of God." This latter expression is
just a figurative way of representing the power of God, while
the former tells us the living Personal Agent was made use of by
the Lord Jesus in every exercise of that power.
the kingdom of God is come unto you--rather "upon you," as the same
expression is rendered in Luke
--that is, "If this expulsion of Satan is, and can be, by no other than
the Spirit of God, then is his Destroyer already in the midst of you,
and that kingdom which is destined to supplant his is already rising on
29. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house--or rather,
"the strong man's house."
and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he
will spoil his house.
30. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not
with me scattereth abroad--On this important parable, in connection
with the corresponding one
31. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be
forgiven unto men--The word "blasphemy" properly signifies
"detraction," or "slander." In the New Testament it is applied, as it is
here, to vituperation directed against God as well as against men; and
in this sense it is to be understood as an aggravated form of sin. Well,
says our Lord, all sin--whether in its ordinary or its more aggravated
forms--shall find forgiveness with God. Accordingly, in Mark
the language is still stronger: "All sin shall be forgiven unto the
sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme."
There is no sin whatever, it seems, of which it may be said, "That is
not a pardonable sin." This glorious assurance is not to be limited by
what follows; but, on the contrary, what follows is to be explained by
but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto
32. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be
forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall
not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to
come--In Mark the language is awfully strong, "hath never forgiveness,
but is in danger of eternal damnation"
rather, according to what appears to be the preferable though very
unusual reading, "in danger of eternal guilt"--a guilt which he will
underlie for ever. Mark has the important addition
"Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit." (See on
What, then, is this sin against the Holy Ghost--the unpardonable sin?
One thing is clear: Its unpardonableness cannot arise from anything in
the nature of sin itself; for that would be a naked contradiction to
the emphatic declaration of
that all manner of sin is pardonable. And what is this but the
fundamental truth of the Gospel? (See
Ac 13:38, 39;
Ro 3:22, 24;
&c.). Then, again when it is said
that to speak against or blaspheme the Son of man is pardonable, but
the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is not pardonable, it is not to be
conceived that this arises from any greater sanctity in the one blessed
Person than the other. These remarks so narrow the question that the
true sense of our Lord's words seem to disclose themselves at once. It
is a contrast between slandering "the Son of man" in His veiled
condition and unfinished work--which might be done "ignorantly, in
and slandering the same blessed Person after the blaze of glory which
the Holy Ghost was soon to throw around His claims, and in the
full knowledge of all that. This would be to slander Him with eyes
open, or to do it "presumptuously." To blaspheme Christ in the former
condition--when even the apostles stumbled at many things--left them
still open to conviction on fuller light: but to blaspheme Him in the
latter condition would be to hate the light the clearer it became, and
resolutely to shut it out; which, of course, precludes salvation. (See
The Pharisees had not as yet done this; but in charging Jesus with
being in league with hell they were displaying beforehand a malignant
determination to shut their eyes to all evidence, and so, bordering
upon, and in spirit committing, the unpardonable sin.
33. Either make the tree good, &c.
34. O generation of vipers--(See on
how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance
of the heart the mouth speaketh--a principle obvious enough, yet of
deepest significance and vast application. In
we find it uttered as part of the discourse delivered after the choice
of the apostles.
35. A good man, out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth
good things--or, "putteth forth good things":
and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil
things--or "putteth forth evil things." The word "putteth"
indicates the spontaneity of what comes from the heart; for it is out
of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaketh. We have here a
new application of a former saying (see on
Here, the sentiment is, "There are but two kingdoms, interests,
parties--with the proper workings of each: If I promote the one, I
cannot belong to the other; but they that set themselves in wilful
opposition to the kingdom of light openly proclaim to what other
kingdom they belong. As for you, in what ye have now uttered, ye have
but revealed the venomous malignity of your hearts."
36. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak,
they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment--They might
say, "It was nothing: we meant no evil; we merely threw out a
supposition, as one way of accounting for the miracle we witnessed; if
it will not stand, let it go; why make so much of it, and bear down with
such severity for it?" Jesus replies, "It was not nothing, and at the
great day will not be treated as nothing: Words, as the index of the
heart, however idle they may seem, will be taken account of, whether
good or bad, in estimating character in the day of judgment."
Mt 12:38-50. A
DEMANDED AND THE
HIM, AND THE
Lu 11:16, 24-36;
A Sign Demanded, and the Reply
The occasion of this section was manifestly the same with that of the
38. Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying,
Master--"Teacher," equivalent to "Rabbi."
we would see a sign from thee--"a sign from heaven"
something of an immediate and decisive nature, to show, not that His
miracles were real--that they seemed willing to concede--but that
they were from above, not from beneath. These were not the same class
with those who charged Him with being in league with Satan (as we see
Lu 11:15, 16);
but as the spirit of both was similar, the tone of severe rebuke is
39. But he answered and said unto them--"when the people were gathered
an evil and adulterous generation--This latter expression is
best explained by
"Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye
dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord." For
this was the relationship in which He stood to the covenant-people--"I
am married unto you"
seeketh after a sign--In the eye of Jesus this class were but the
spokesmen of their generation, the exponents of the reigning spirit of
and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet
40. For as Jonas was--"a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the
Son of man be to this generation"
For as Jonas was
three days and three nights in the whale's belly--
so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of
the earth--This was the second public announcement of His resurrection
three days after His death. (For the first, see
Jonah's case was analogous to this, as being a signal judgment of God;
reversed in three days; and followed by a glorious mission to the
Gentiles. The expression "in the heart of the earth," suggested by the
expression of Jonah with respect to the sea
in the Septuagint), means simply the grave, but this considered
as the most emphatic expression of real and total entombment. The
period during which He was to lie in the grave is here expressed in
round numbers, according to the Jewish way of speaking, which was to
regard any part of a day, however small, included within a period of
days, as a full day. (See
1Sa 30:12, 13;
Es 4:16; 5:1;
Mt 27:63, 64,
41. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation,
&c.--The Ninevites, though heathens, repented at a man's preaching;
while they, God's covenant-people, repented not at the preaching of the
Son of God--whose supreme dignity is rather implied here than expressed.
42. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this
generation, &c.--The queen of Sheba (a tract in Arabia, near the
shores of the Red Sea) came from a remote country, "south" of Judea, to
hear the wisdom of a mere man, though a gifted one, and was transported
with wonder at what she saw and heard
They, when a Greater than Solomon had come to them, despised and
rejected, slighted and slandered Him.
43-45. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, &c.--On this
important parable, in connection with the corresponding one
A charming little incident, given only in
Lu 11:27, 28,
seems to have its proper place here.
And it came to pass, as He spake these things, a certain woman of
the company--out of the crowd.
lifted up her voice and said unto Him, Blessed is the womb that
bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked--With true
womanly feeling she envies the mother of such a wonderful Teacher. And
a higher and better than she had said as much before her (see on
How does our Lord, then, treat it? He is far from condemning it. He
only holds up as "blessed rather" another class:
But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of
God, and keep it--in other words, the humblest real saint of
God. How utterly alien is this sentiment from the teaching of the
Church of Rome, which would doubtless excommunicate any one of its
members that dared to talk in such a strain!
His Mother and Brethren Seek to Speak with Him and the Answer
46. While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his
Mt 13:55, 56).
stood without, desiring to speak with him--"and could not come at
Him for the press"
For what purpose these came, we learn from
Mr 3:20, 21.
In His zeal and ardor He seemed indifferent both to food and repose,
and "they went to lay hold of Him" as one "beside Himself." Mark
says graphically, "And the multitude sat about Him"--or "around
47. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand
without, desiring to speak with thee, &c.--Absorbed in the awful
warnings He was pouring forth, He felt this to be an unseasonable
interruption, fitted to dissipate the impression made upon the large
audience--such an interruption as duty to the nearest relatives did not
require Him to give way to. But instead of a direct rebuke, He seizes on
the incident to convey a sublime lesson, expressed in a style of
49. And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples--How graphic
is this! It is the language evidently of an eye-witness.
and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven,
the same is my brother, and sister, and mother--that is, "There stand
here the members of a family transcending and surviving this of earth:
Filial subjection to the will of My Father in heaven is the indissoluble
bond of union between Me and all its members; and whosoever enters this
hallowed circle becomes to Me brother, and sister, and mother!"