1. And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he
departed from Galilee, and come into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;
[He came unto the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan.] If it were barely said, the
coasts of Judea beyond Jordan, by the coasts of Judea one might understand the
bounds of the Jews beyond Jordan. Nor does such a construction want its parallel in
Josephus; for "Hyrcanus (saith he) built a fortification, the name of which was Tyre,
between Arabia and Judea, beyond Jordan, not far from Essebonitis." But see
Mark here, chapter 10:1, relating the same story with this our evangelist: He came,
saith he, into the coasts of Judea, (taking a journey from Galilee,) along the
country beyond Jordan.
3. The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful
for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
[Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?] Of the causes, ridiculous
(shall I call them?) or wicked, for which they put away their wives, we have spoke
at chapter 5:31. We will produce only one example here; "When Rabh went to Darsis
('whither,' as the Gloss saith, 'he often went'), he made a public proclamation, What
woman will have me for a day? Rabh Nachman, when he went to Sacnezib, made a public
proclamation, What woman will have me for a day?" The Gloss is, "Is there any
woman who will be my wife while I tarry in this place?"
The question here propounded by the Pharisees was disputed in the schools, and they
divided into parties concerning it, as we have noted before. For the school of Shammai
permitted not divorces, but only in the case of adultery; the school of Hillel, otherwise.
8. He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to
put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
[Because Moses for the hardness of your hearts suffered, &c.] Interpreters
ordinarily understand this of the unkindness of men towards their wives; and that not
illy: but at first sight hardness of heart for the most part in Scripture denotes
rather obduration against God than against men. Examples occur everywhere. Nor does this
sense want its fitness in this place: not to exclude the other, but to be joined with it
I. That God delivered that rebellious people for the hardness of their hearts to
spiritual fornication, that is, to idolatry, sufficiently appears out of sacred story, and
particularly from these words of the first martyr Stephen, Acts 7:42: God turned, and
gave them up to worship the host of heaven, &c. And they seem not less given up to
carnal fornication, if you observe the horrid records of their adulteries in the Holy
Scripture, and their not less horrid allowances of divorces and polygamies in the books of
the Talmudists: so that the particle...carries with it a very proper sense, if you
interpret it to, according to its most usual signification; "Moses to
the hardness of your hearts added this, that he permitted divorces; something that savours
of punishment in itself, however you esteem it for a privilege."
II. But you may interpret it more clearly and aptly of the inhumanity of husbands
towards their wives: but this is to be understood also under restriction: for Moses
permitted not divorces, because, simply and generally men were severe and unkind towards
their wives; for then, why should he restrain divorces to the cause of adultery? but
because, from their fierceness and cruelty towards their wives, they might take hold of
and seek occasions from that law which punished adultery with death, to prosecute their
wives with all manner of severity, to oppress them, to kill them.
Let us search into the divine laws in case of adultery a little more largely.
1. There was a law made upon the suspicion of adultery, that the wife should undergo a
trial by the bitter waters, Numbers 5: but it is disputed by the Jewish schools, rightly
and upon good ground, whether the husband was bound in this case by duty to prosecute his
wife to extremity, or whether it were lawful for him to connive at and pardon her, if he
would. And there are some who say he was bound by duty; and there are others who
say that it was left to his pleasure.
2. There was a law of death made in case of the discovery of adultery, Deuteronomy
22:21-23: "If a man shall be found lying with a married woman, both shall die,"
&c. Not that this law was not in force unless they were taken in the very act; but the
word shall be found is opposed to suspicion, and means the same as if it were said,
"When it shall be found that a man hath lain," &c.
3. A law of divorce also was given in case of adultery discovered, Deuteronomy 24:1;
for in that case only, and when it is discovered, it plainly appears from our Saviour's
gloss, and from the concession of some Rabbins also, that divorces took place: for, say
they in the place last cited, "Does a man find something foul in his wife? he cannot
put her away, because he hath not found foul nakedness in her"; that is, adultery.
But now, how do the law of death and that of divorce consist together? It is answered,
They do not so consist together that both retain their force; but the former was partly
taken off by the latter, and partly not. The Divine Wisdom knew that inhuman husbands
would use that law of death unto all manner of cruelty towards their wives: for how ready
was it for a wicked and unkind husband to lay snares even for his innocent wife, if he
were weary of her, to oppress her under that law of death! And if she were taken under
guilt, how cruelly and insolently would he triumph over her, poor woman, both to the
disgrace of wedlock and to the scandal of religion! Therefore the most prudent, and withal
merciful lawgiver, made provision that the woman, if she were guilty, might not go without
her punishment; and if she were not guilty, might go without danger; and that the wicked
husband that was impatient of wedlock might not satiate his cruelty. That which is said by
one does not please me, "That there was no place for divorce where matrimony was
broke off by capital punishment"; for there was place for divorce for that end, that
there might not be place for capital punishment. That law indeed of death held the
adulterer in a snare, and exacted capital punishment upon him, and so the law made
sufficient provision for terror: but it consulted more gently for the woman, the weaker
vessel, lest the cruelty of her husband might unmercifully triumph over her.
Therefore, in the suspicion of adultery, and the thing not discovered, the husband
might, if he would, try his wife by the bitter waters; or if he would he might connive at
her. In case of the discovery of adultery, the husband might put away his wife, but he
scarce might put her to death; because the law of divorce was given for that very end,
that provision might be made for the woman against the hardheartedness of her husband.
Let this story serve for a conclusion; "Shemaiah and Abtalion compelled
Carchemith, a libertine woman-servant, to drink the bitter waters." The husband of
this woman could not put her away by the law of Moses, because she was not found guilty of
discovered adultery. He might put her away by the traditional law, which permitted
divorces without the case of adultery; he might not, if he had pleased, have brought her
to trial by the bitter waters; but it argued the hardness of his heart towards his wife,
or burning jealousy, that he brought her. I do not remember that I have anywhere in the
Jewish pandect read any example of a wife punished with death for adultery. There is
mention of the daughter of a certain priest committing fornication in her father's house,
that was burnt alive; but she was not married.
13. Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his
hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
[Then were little children brought unto him.] Not for the healing of some
disease; for if this had been the end propounded, why did the disciples keep them back
above all others, or chide any for their access? Nor can we believe that they were the
children of unbelieving Jews, when it is scarcely probable that they, despising the
doctrine and person of Christ, would desire his blessing. Some therefore of those that
believe brought their infants to Christ, that he might take particular notice of them, and
admit them into his discipleship, and mark them for his by his blessing. Perhaps the
disciples thought this an excess of officious religion; or that they would be too
troublesome to their Master; and hence they opposed them: but Christ countenanceth the
same thing, and favours again that doctrine which he had laid down, chapter 18:3; namely,
that the infants of believers were as much disciples and partakers of the kingdom of
heaven as their parents.
18. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not
commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
[Thou shalt do no murder, &c.] It is worthy marking, how again and again in
the New Testament, when mention is made of the whole law, only the second table is
exemplified, as in this place; so also Romans 13:8,9, and James 2:8,11, &c. Charity
towards our neighbour is the top of religion, and a most undoubted sign of love towards
21. Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast,
and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow
[Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.] When Christ calls it perfection
to sell all and give to the poor, he speaks according to the idiom of the nation, which
thought so: and he tries this rich man, boasting of his exact performance of the law,
whether, when he pretended to aspire to eternal life, he would aspire to that perfection
which his countrymen so praised. Not that hence he either devoted Christians to voluntary
poverty, or that he exhorted this man to rest ultimately in a Pharisaical perfection;
but lifting up his mind to the renouncing of worldly things, he provokes him to it by the
very doctrine of the Pharisees which he professed.
"For these things the measure is not stated; for the corner of the field" to
be left for the poor; "for the firstfruits for the appearance in the Temple"
(according to the law, Exodus 23:15,17, where, what, or how great an oblation is to be
brought, is not appointed), "for the shewing mercy, and for the study of the
law." The casuists, discussing that point of 'shewing mercy,' do thus determine
concerning it: "A stated measure is not indeed prescribed to the shewing of mercy, as
to the affording poor men help with thy body," that is, with thy bodily labour;
"but as to money there is a stated measure, namely, the fifth part of thy wealth; nor
is any bound to give the poor above the fifth part of his estate, unless he does it out
of extraordinary devotion." See Rambam upon the place, and the Jerusalem Gemara:
where the example of R. Ishbab is produced, distributing all his goods to the poor.
24. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a
needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
[A camel to go through the eye of a needle, &c.] A phrase used in the
schools, intimating a thing very unusual and very difficult. There, where the discourse is
concerning dreams and their interpretation, these words are added. They do not shew a
man a palm tree of gold, nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle. The Gloss
is, "A thing which he was not wont to see, nor concerning which he ever
In like manner R. Sheshith answered R. Amram, disputing with him and asserting
something that was incongruous, in these words; "Perhaps thou art one of those of
Pombeditha, who can make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle": that is, as
the Aruch interprets it, "who speak things that are impossible."
28. And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me,
in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also
shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
[Ye that have followed me, in the regeneration.] That the world is to be renewed
at the coming of the Messias, and the preaching of the gospel, the Scriptures assert, and
the Jews believe; but in a grosser sense, which we observe at chapter 24. Our Saviour,
therefore, by the word regeneration, calls back the mind of the disciples to a
right apprehension of the thing; implying that renovation, concerning which the Scripture
speaks, is not of the body or substance of the world; but that it consists in the renewing
of the manners, doctrine, and a dispensation conducing thereunto: men are to be
renewed, regenerated,--not the fabric of the world. This very thing he teaches
Nicodemus, treating concerning the nature of the kingdom of heaven, John 3:3.
[When the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit.]
These words are fetched out of Daniel, chapter 7:9,10; which words I wonder should be
translated by the interpreters, Aben Ezra, R. Saadia, and others, as well Jews as
Christians, thrones were cast down. R. Solomon the Vulgar, and others, read it
righter, thrones were set up: where Lyranus thus, "He saith thrones in
the plural number, because not only Christ shall judge, but the apostles, and perfect men,
shall assist him in judgment, sitting upon thrones." The same way very many
interpreters bend the words under our hands, namely, that the saints shall at the day of
judgment sit with Christ, and approve and applaud his judgment. But, 1. besides, that the
scene of the last judgment, painted out in the Scripture, does always represent as well
the saints as the wicked standing before the tribunal of Christ, Matthew 25:32, 2
Corinthians 5:10, &c.; we have mention here only of "twelve thrones." And,
2, we have mention only of judging the "twelve tribes of Israel." The sense,
therefore, of the place may very well be found out by weighing these things following:
I. That those thrones set up in Daniel are not to be understood of the last judgment of
Christ, but of his judgment in his entrance upon his evangelical government, when he was
made by his Father chief ruler, king, and judge of all things: Psalm 2:6, Matthew 28:18,
John 5:27. For observe the scope and series of the prophet, that, after the four
monarchies, namely, the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian, and the Syro-Grecian,
which monarchies had vexed the world and the church by their tyranny, were destroyed, the
kingdom of Christ should rise, &c. Those words, "The kingdom of heaven is at
hand," that judiciary scene set up Revelation 4 and 5, and those thrones Revelation
20:1, &c. do interpret Daniel to this sense.
II. The throne of glory, concerning which the words before us are, is to be understood
of the judgment of Christ to be brought upon the treacherous, rebellious, wicked people.
We meet with very frequent mention of the coming of Christ in his glory in this sense;
which we shall discourse more largely of at chapter 24.
III. That the sitting of the apostles upon thrones with Christ is not to be understood
of their persons, it is sufficiently proved; because Judas was now one of the
number: but it is meant of their doctrine: as if he had said, "When I shall
bring judgment upon this most unjust nation, then our doctrine, which you have preached in
my name, shall judge and condemn them." See Romans 2:16.
Hence it appears that the gospel was preached to all the twelve tribes of Israel before
the destruction of Jerusalem.