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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Matthew 4



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. Divine service was held in the synagogue on the Sabbath and also on the second and fifth day of each week.

Verses 1-11


Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13.

St Mark’s account is short; the various temptations are not specified; he adds the striking expression ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων. St Luke places the temptation of the Kingdoms of the World before that of the Pinnacle of the Temple.

Generally it may be remarked that the account can have come from no other that Jesus Himself. The words of the Evangelist describe an actual scene—not a dream. The devil really came to Jesus, but in what manner he came is not stated. These were not isolated temptations in the life of Jesus. Cp. Luke 22:28, ‘Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.’ But they are typical temptations, representative of the various forms of temptation by which human nature can be assailed. For, as it has often been said, the three temptations cover the same ground as ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’ (1 John 2:16) in which St John sums up the evil of the world.

Viewing the temptation in a personal reference to Jesus Christ we discern Him tempted [1] As the Son of man—the representative of humanity—in whom human nature in its perfection triumphs over sin. An important element in the Atonement. [2] As the second Adam regaining for man what the first Adam lost for man. [3] As the Son of Abraham following the fortunes of his race, tempted in the wilderness as the Hebrews were tempted: a thought present implicitly in our Lord’s answers. [4] As the true Messiah or Christos rejecting the unreal greatness which was the aim of false Messiahs. He would not win popular enthusiasm by becoming a wonder-working γόης or μάγος greater than Theudas or than Simon Magus, or a prince more powerful than the Maccabees or than Cæsar.

Hence a warning for the Church as a Missionary Church. She is tempted to win her conquests by forbidden ways, by lying signs and wonders, by grasping at the dominion of this world, by alliance with the powers of the world, by craft and policy, not by submission and suffering.

The lesson of each and all of the temptations is trust in God and submission to God’s will—the result in us of μετάνοια.

Verse 2

2. The service consisted in reading the Law and the Prophets by those who were called upon by the ‘Angel of the Church,’ and in prayers offered up by the minister for the people; the people responding ‘Amen’ as with us.

Verse 3

3. But the synagogues were not churches alone. Like Turkish mosques they were also Courts of Law in which the sentence was not only pronounced but executed, ‘they shall scourge you in their synagogues.’ Further, the synagogues were Public Schools, ‘the boys that were scholars were wont to be instructed before their masters in the synagogue’ (Talmud). Lastly, the synagogues were the Divinity Schools or Theological Colleges among the Jews.

Verse 4

4. The affairs of the synagogue were administered by ten men, of whom three, called ‘Rulers of the Synagogue,’ acted as judges, admitted proselytes and performed other important functions. A fourth was termed the ‘Angel of the Church’ or bishop of the congregation; three others were deacons or almoners. An eighth acted as ‘interpreter,’ rendering the Hebrew into the vernacular; the ninth was the master of the Divinity School, the tenth his interpreter; see ch. Matthew 10:27.

It is interesting to trace in the arrangements of the synagogue the germs of the organization of the Christian Church. This note is chiefly due to Lightfoot Hor. Hebr. ad loc.

αὐτῶν. Often used of the Jews without any definite antecedent, cp. οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν. Luke 5:30.

νόσονμαλακίαν. Probably to be distinguished as ‘acute’ and ‘chronic’ diseases, μαλακίαν implying general prostration of the bodily powers. It is not classical in this sense. The word is confined to St Matthew in N.T.

ἐν τῷ λαῷ, i.e. among the Jews.

Verse 5

5. ἁγίαν πόλιν. This designation used of the actual Jerusalem by St Matthew alone is transferred to the heavenly Jerusalem, Revelation 11:2; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 22:19.

τὸ πτερύγιον. Not as in A.V. ‘a pinnacle,’ but either [1] ‘the pinnacle,’ or winglike projection (πτερύγιον = ‘a little wing’), i.e. some well-known pinnacle of the Temple, probably on one of the lofty porticoes overlooking the deep Valley of Kidron or Hinnom; or [2] ‘the roof’ of the Temple or one of the porticoes—a sense which πτε ρὸν bears in the classics; cp. Scholiast on Aristoph. Aves 1110. διὰ τὰ ἐν τοῖς ναοῖς ἀετώματατὰς γὰρ τῶν ἱερῶν στέγας πτερὰ καὶ ἀετοὺς καλοῦσιν. πτερύγιον itself does not appear to be classical in this sense. Eus. H. E. II. 23 names in the same definite way τὸ πτερ. τοῦ ἱεροῦ.

Verse 6

6. βάλε σεαυτὸν κάτω. The depth was immense: Josephus speaking of the ‘Royal Porch’ (στοὰ βασιλική) says ‘if anyone looked down from the top of the battlements he would be giddy, while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth.’ Antiq. XV. 11. 5.

γέγραπται. Psalms 91 [90 LXX]:11, 12. The quotation follows the LXX. version, but the words τοῦ διαφυλάξαι σε ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς σου are omitted in the text. The omission distorts the meaning of the original, which is that God will keep the righteous on their journeys. No inducement is offered by them to tempt God by rash venture or needless risk. The Psalmist himself probably quotes Proverbs 3:23. ‘Thus [i.e. by obedience: see preceding verses] shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.’

Verse 7

7. οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου., Deuteronomy 6:16. The verse ends ‘as ye tempted him in Massah.’ The reference to Massah (Numbers 20:7-12) shows the true meaning of the Saviour’s answer. Moses and Aaron displayed distrust in God when they tried to draw to themselves the glory of the miracle instead of ‘sanctifying the Lord.’ Jesus will not glorify Himself in the eyes of the Jews by a conspicuous miracle. His work as the Son of Man is to glorify the Father’s name through obedience. Cp. John 12:28.

Verse 8

8. εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν λίαν. It is idle to ask what this mountain was, or in what sense Jesus saw the kingdoms of the world. It is enough that the thought and the temptation of earthly despotism and glory were present to the mind of Jesus. The Galilæans put the same temptation to Jesus when they wished to make Him a king (John 6:15), and even the disciples shared the hope of an earthly Messianic kingdom. The picture of the expected Deliverer was drawn by the popular imagination from the memory of the Maccabees or from the actual power of Cæsar, and this was the thought which the tempter presented to Christ.

Verse 9

9. ταῦτά σοι πάντα δώσω. Satan, the ‘prince of this world’ (John 12:31), claims the disposal of earthly thrones. This is more clearly brought out by St Luke (Luke 4:6), ‘All this power will I give thee and the glory of them, for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it.’ The arrogance, selfishness and cruelty of contemporary rulers would give force to such an assumption. A Tiberius or a Herod Antipas might indeed be thought to have worshipped Satan.

ἐὰν πεσὼν προσκυνήσῃς μοι, i.e. acknowledge as sovereign, as the lesser kings acknowledged Cæsar: jus imperiumque Phraates | Cæsaris accepit genibus minor. Hor. Ep. I. 12. 27.

Verse 10

10. ὕπαγε σατανᾶ. It is instructive to find these words addressed to Peter (ch. Matthew 16:23) when he put himself as it were in the place of the tempter. See note ad loc.

In Homer ὑπάγειν is used of bringing cattle under the yoke, ὕπαγε ζύγον ὤκεας ἵππους, a force which some have given to the word in this passage ‘bow thyself to the yoke of God;’ against this is the early gloss ὁπίσω μου found in some MSS., and the entirely prevalent use of the verb in other passages.

καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις., Deuteronomy 6:10-13. Idolatry, multiplicity of aims, and forgetfulness of God are the dangers of prosperity and ambition. See context of passage in Deut.

Verse 11

11. διηκόνουν, from διακονέω. The Attic form of the imperfect is ἐδιακόνουν; but διηκόνουν is possibly a right reading, Eur. Cycl. 406. διακονεῖν is strictly to ‘serve at table,’ ‘minister food,’ hence the appropriateness of the word in its use, Acts 6:2.

Verse 12

12. ἀκούσας δέ, ‘having heard,’ not only when but also because He heard. It was a needful precaution against the cruel treachery of Herod Antipas. At Capernaum He would be close to the dominions of Herod Philip.

παρεδόθη. παραδιδόναι is used of ‘delivering’ to death (Acts 3:13), to a judge (ch. Matthew 5:25), or of casting into prison (Luke 12:58 τῷ πράκτορι; Acts 8:3 and here); but it is possible that the idea of treachery and betrayal may also be present as in ch. Matthew 10:4, Matthew 27:3-4; 1 Corinthians 11:23.

The place of imprisonment was Machærus. The cause of John’s imprisonment is stated at length ch. Matthew 14:3-4 (where see note) and Luke 3:19-20.

On hearing of the death of John the Baptist Jesus retired into the wilderness. See ch. Matthew 14:13.

ἀνεχώρησεν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν. By the shortest route through Samaria. John 4:4. During this journey must be placed the conversation with the woman of Samaria. This was after a ministry in Judæa, which had lasted eight months (Ellicott, Lectures on the life of our Lord, p. 130), some incidents of which are related by St John, 2. and 3.

Γαλιλαία = a circle or circuit, originally confined to a ‘circle’ of 20 cities given by Solomon to Hiram, 1 Kings 9:11. Cp. Joshua 20:7 and Joshua 8:2 (where the Vulgate reads Galilæa Philistim ‘the circle’ or ‘district’ of the Philistines). From this small beginning the name spread to a larger district, just as the name of Asia spread from a district near the Mæander, first to the Roman Province, then to a quarter of the Globe. The Jews were in a minority in those parts. The population mainly consisted of Phœnicians, Arabs, and Greeks.

Verses 12-16


Mark 1:14; Luke 4:14, who assigns no reason; John 4:1-3. St John gives a further reason ‘when the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, he left Judæa,’ &c.

Verse 13

13. καταλιπὼν τὴν Ναζαρά. Partly because of the unbelief of the Nazarenes, partly (we may infer) in order to be in a frontier town from which He might easily pass from the jurisdiction of Antipas.

Καφαρναούμ, a town on the N.W. shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was the scene of a considerable traffic, and had a large Gentile element in its population. The exact site is keenly disputed. It was, perhaps, at Khan Minyeh (see map), not quite on the sea, but on the plain of Gennesaret, at a short distance from the sea.

Others, with greater probability, identify Capernaum with the modern Tell Hûm, at the N. end of the Lake in the plain of the Jordan. The name Tell Hûm nearly corresponds with Kefr na Hum, thought by some to have been the ancient form of Capernaum. The most interesting point in the identification is that among the ruins at Tell Hûm are remains of a synagogue, in which some of the Saviour’s ‘mighty works’ may have been wrought. See map.

Whatever the truth may be in this question it is certain that in passing from Nazareth to Capernaum Jesus left a retired mountain home for a busy and populous neighbourhood, ‘the manufacturing district of Palestine.’

Verse 14

14. διὰ Ἡσαΐου. Read the whole of the prophecy (Isaiah 8:11 to Isaiah 9:6) which is unfortunately broken in the E.V. by the division into chapters, and is more mistranslated than any other passage of like importance.

Verse 15

15. Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν. See above, Matthew 4:12.

ὁδὸν θαλάσσης. The accusative may be explained either by the regimen of the omitted Hebrew words or by taking ὁδὸν as an adverbial accusative influenced by a similar use of the Hebrew derech.

The immediate historical reference of the prophecy was to the invasion of Tiglathpileser, whom Ahaz called in to assist him against Rezin and Pekah. It fell with great severity on the northern tribes (2 Kings 15:29). Yet even they are promised a great deliverance [‘As in the former time, he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, so in the latter time he hath made it glorious,’ Isaiah 9:1], in the first instance, by the destruction of Sennacherib, from temporal distress (cp. Isa. chs. 10. and 11. with ch. Matthew 9:1-6); secondly, by the advent of the Messiah, from spiritual darkness.

Verse 16

16. ὁ λαὸς ὁ καθήμενος, κ.τ.λ. The quotation nearly follows the Hebrew of Isaiah 9:1-2 (two lines of the original being omitted). The LXX. presents a wide difference in form.

The repeated καθήμενοςκαθημένοις of the text represents two distinct Hebrew words, the first signifying literally ‘walking.’ The parallelism suffers by the Greek translation, ‘to sit’ being an advance on ‘to walk,’ as implying a more settled condition. Cp. Psalms 1:1, ‘walked … stood … sat.’ In like manner σκιὰ θανάτου is an advance on σκότος, and φῶς ἀνέτειλεν αὐτοῖς implies a great deal more than φῶς εἶδεν μέγα.

Verse 17

17. ἀπὸ τότε, for classical ἐξ ἐκείνου [χρόνου].

For μετάνοια and βασιλεία, which are the key-notes of our Saviour’s preaching, see note, ch. Matthew 3:2.

Verses 17-22


See Mark 1:16-20.

In Luke, Simon is mentioned without any introduction, ch. Luke 4:38. The narrative of Luke 5:3-11 must be referred to a different occasion, though Luke 5:11 corresponds with Matthew 4:22 of this chapter. St Luke adds that the sons of Zebedee were partners with Simon. John 1:35-42 refers to a previous summons. We learn there that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, and that Bethsaida was the city of Andrew and Peter.

Verse 18

18. ἀμφίβληστρον, ‘a casting-net,’ here only in N.T. (in Mark 1:16 the true reading is ἀμφιβάλλοντας ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ). The word occurs Herod. I. 141. Cp. Soph. Antig. 343, κουφονόων τε φῦλον ὀρνίθων ἀμφιβαλὼν ἄγειπόντου τʼ εἰναλίαν φύσιν. Virgil alludes to the same kind of net, Georg. I. 141. Alius latum funda jam verberat amnem.

ἦσαν γὰρ ἁλιεῖς. The fisheries on the Sea of Galilee, once so productive, are now deserted. It seems that the Bedawin have an invincible dislike and dread of the sea. Consequently there is scarcely a boat to be seen, and the Lake yields no harvest. See Land and Book, 401.

ἁλιεῖς, lit. ‘sea-folk’ (ἄλς), Homeric but not in Attic writers, one of the many words that disappear from literature in the long interval between Homer and the Alexandrine epoch.

ἁλιέων βίος is quoted as a proverbial expression for a life of extreme poverty. (See Wetstein.) Such it undoubtedly was in general, but see below, Matthew 4:22. No fitter training than that of the fisherman could be imagined for the perils and privations of the apostle’s life.

Verse 19

19. δεῦτε. Frequent in Homer and in lyric poets. It was used as an ‘animating interjection’ (Buttmann), without any necessary connection with movement, as ἔρως με δεῦτε Κύπριδος ἕκατι | γλυκὸς κατείβων καρδίαν ἰαίνει. Alcman. (Buttmann, Lex. 316–319.) This word is an instance of epic influence on Alexandrine Greek as it is not Attic: in N.T. it is rare except in this Gospel.

ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων. A condensed parable explicitly drawn out, ch. Matthew 13:47-50. Cp. Jeremiah 16:16, ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τοὺς ἁλιεῖς τοὺς πολλούς, λέγει κύπιος καὶ ἁλιεύσουσιν αὐτούς.

Verse 22

22. καὶ τὸν πατέρα. St Mark (Mark 1:20) adds ‘with the hired servants.’ We may infer that Zebedee and his sons and their partners were raised above the lowest social rank.

Two modernisms may be noticed in this verse, ἀφέντες preferred in Hellenistic Greek to λείπω and compounds of λείπω: and ἀκολουθεῖν used in the N.T. to the exclusion of ἕπεσθαι which does not occur (the compound συνέπεσθαι is found in one passage, Acts 20:4).

Verse 23

23. ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς. The synagogue, built on a hill or on the highest place in the city, distinguished sometimes by a tall pole corresponding to a modern steeple, was as familiar and conspicuous in a Jewish town as the Church is in an English village. Sometimes, however, the synagogue was placed on the bank of a river. Sometimes it was constructed without a roof and open to the sky.

Verses 23-25


Special instances of cure are recorded in Mark 1:13 and foll.; Luke 5:31 and foll.

Verse 24

24. εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συρίαν. The fame passes to the north and east, rather than to the south. Galilee is connected by trade and affinity with Damascus rather than with Jerusalem.

βασάνοιςσυνεχομένους. βάσανος is [1] a ‘touch-stone,’ the lapis Lydius by which the quality of gold and other metals was tested. The process is alluded to Herod. VII. 10. Cp. also Theognis 417, ἐς βάσανον δʼ ἐλθὼν παρατρίβομαι ὥστε μολίβδῳ | χρυσός. [2] Then ‘torture’ the touch-stone of justice, because no testimony was believed unless elicited by this means, comp. the same sequence of thought in the expression ‘to put to the question.’ [3] Hence a disease that racks and agonizes the limbs like the torture which many a poor Galilæan had experienced in the courts of law.

For the question of ‘demoniacal possession’ see ch. Matthew 7:22.

συνέχειν is used specially of the pressure and constraint of disease and pain; cp. Luke 4:38, συνεχομένη πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ.

σεληνιαζομένους, ‘affected by the moon;’ the changes of the moon being thought to influence mad persons. The passage is important as distinguishing demoniacal possession from lunacy.

The only special instance of curing a lunatic is recorded in ch. Matthew 17:14-21 and in the parallel passages, where the symptoms described are those of epilepsy. The origin of mental disease may often be traced to licentious living. Observe the frequent instances of unclean spirits met with in these districts.

The Christian Church has followed her divine Founder’s example in this tendance of bodily ailment. The founding of hospitals and the care of the sick are distinguishing features of Christianity and among the most blessed fruits of it. A deeper respect for life and a deeper sense of purity have followed as necessary consequences.

It is contended by some that the ‘several house’ of 2 Chronicles 26:21 was a hospital. Possibly this was so, but the spirit of Judaism in this respect was not the spirit of Christianity. It may readily be acknowledged, however, that the Jews of the present day are the foremost in works of charity and tender regard for the sick.

Verse 25

25. Δεκάπολις, a group of ten cities. The cities included in this group are variously named by different authors, they lay to the E. and S. of the Sea of Galilee; by some Damascus is mentioned as belonging to the group. See map.

For the form of the word cp. Herod. I. 144, κατάπερ οἱ ἐκ τῆς Πενταπόλιος νῦν χώρης Δωριέες, πρότερον δὲ Ἑξαπόλιος τῆς αὐτῆς ταύτης καλεομένης.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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