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Bible Commentaries

John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew

Matthew 19

 

 

Verses 1-12

Matthew 19:1-12.
Departure From Galilee. Instructions As To Divorce

The greater part of this section is found also in Mark 10:1-12. Our Lord now leaves Galilee, and comes into Perea. Matthew and Mark make no mention of anything intervening, and a little later both bring us to the triumphal entry and the final Passover. But Luke, after completing his account, parallel to Matthew and Mark, of the ministry in Galilee, describes Jesus as (Luke 9:51-56) going from Galilee not into Perea, but through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem. With this agrees John's account (Matthew 19:2-10) of his going in secret from Galilee to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, six months before the final Passover. Then Luke goes on in Luke 10:1 to Luke 18:14, with a long account of the Saviour's sayings and actions, after which he again becomes parallel (Luke 18:15) with Matthew (Matthew 19:13) and Mark, (Mark 10:13) and so continues to the end. We have heretofore noticed that Luke greatly condensed his narrative of the series of withdrawals from Galilee, giving to it only Luke 9:10-50, while Matt. gives Matthew 14:13 to Matthew 18:35, and Mark gives Mark 6:30 to Mark 9:50. It seems plain that Luke thus condensed in order to make room for the mass of matter in reserve, which for the most part is peculiar to him. Some of the miracles and discourses he goes on to narrate closely resemble several which Matthew and Mark gave during the ministry in Galilee before the withdrawals, and which Luke did not there introduce; e. g., the blasphemous accusation in Luke 11:14-36 resembles Matthew 12:22-45, Mark 3:19-30, and the discourse against temporal anxiety in Luke 12:22-31 resembles Matthew 6:25-34. In the present state of harmonistic inquiry, we must choose between two theories. (1) Luke in Luke 10:1 to Luke 18:14, must be supposed, with Robinson's Harmony and others, to give a loosely arranged mass of material, mainly falling between the last Feast of Tabernacles and the last Passover, but partly belonging in fact to the ministry in Galilee, where similar matters were given by Matthew and Mark. This loose arrangement is unlikely in itself, particularly in the case of one who expressly undertook to write an orderly account. (Luke 1:3)(1) (2) Wieseler has pointed out ("Chron. Syn.," followed by Tischendorf's "Syn. Evang.," Ellicott's "Lectures on Life of Christ," G. W. Clark's "Harmony of the Gospels") that Luke in this large section three times speaks of Jesus as going to or towards Jerusalem, (Luke 9:51-53, Luke 13:22, Luke 17:11) and has proposed to take the first of these three as parallel to our Lord's going up for the Feast of Tabernacles, (John 7:2 ff.) the second to the journey for raising Lazarus, (John 11:17 f) the third as beginning the journey to the final Passover; and accordingly to arrange all this section of Luke, as belonging to the last six months of our Lord's ministry, and as located in Judea and Perea. It thus becomes a ministry distinct from that in Galilee narrated by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and the similar events and discourses are to be regarded as not identical but repetitions, such as it is unquestionable that Jesus often made (see above, beginning of Matthew 5). This view, well wrought out in Clark's Harmony, is followed in the present Com. as involving fewer difficulties than any other, and indeed as quite probably correct. At any rate, it is clear, from the comparison with Luke and John, that Matthew and Mark pass over nearly all the last six months of our Lord's ministry, just as both they and Luke passed over that early ministry of probably as great length in Judea which is recorded by John (see above on "Matthew 4:12"). Matthew and Mark have in fact confined themselves entirely to the ministry in Galilee and vicinity, except the final Passover and a few incidents on the journey thereto.

Matthew 19:1 f. Jesus goes from Galilee into Perea, and exercises his ministry. Departed is not simply 'went away,' but 'removed,' a rare word used in New Testament only here and in Matthew 13:53. It must not be here pressed to prove a permanent removal, for in Matthew 13:53 there was only a temporary removal across the lake. The statement that he departed from Galilee when he had finished these sayings, would most naturally mean that he left immediately upon completing the discourse of Matthew 18; compare the same phrase in Matthew 7:28, Matthew 11:1, Matthew 13:53. We should then take this departure as parallel to that of Luke 9:51 ff., viz., to attend the Feast of Tab., and the gap of nearly six months would have to fall between the two adjacent words 'departed' and 'came.' Wieseler holds that this departure was parallel to Luke 17:11, where Jesus returns from Judea through Samaria and a portion of Galilee, and probably joins the pilgrims on the way from Galilee through Perea to Jerusalem. In this way 'departed' is followed naturally by 'came,' but 'when he had finished these sayings' has to be understood loosely. Mark's expression (Mark 10:1) agrees best with Wieseler's view. However much was to be omitted, we could not expect a break in the narrative; see remarks introductory to Matthew 4:12, It is well to observe that nothing in the interpretation of what follows will depend upon this nice question of chronology and harmony.

Matthew's account of the ministry in Galilee has continued since Matthew 4:12. That ministry appears to have lasted, if we take the feast of John 5:1 to be a passover, nearly two years, the last six months, however, being nearly all spent in the series of withdrawals to adjoining districts. (Matthew 14:13 to Matthew 17:20.) Matthew occupies himself especially with teachings concerning the kingdom of heaven, while most of the parables given in Luke 13-18 refer only to individual piety, and would thus not come into Matthew's plan.

Into the coasts of Judea. Borders rather than 'coasts,' see on "Matthew 2:16"; Matthew 15:22. Beyond Jordan.

The Greek construction is peculiar, but makes 'beyond Jordan' state the route by which he came into the borders of Judea. Mark (Mark 10:1, correct text) has 'into the borders of Judea and beyond Jordan.' Copyists and early students saw that this differed somewhat from Matt., and so some omitted Mark's 'and,' others changed 'and' into 'through' (Com. Ver.). Mark's expression thus gives a twofold designation of the region into which he came, viz., the borders of Judea, and Perea. Matt. might seem to locate the following matters in Judea, after Jesus had passed through Perea; Mark refers them indefinitely to both districts; the Harmony (see Matthew 20:17, Matthew 20:29) pretty clearly places the earlier Portion, certainly Matthew 19:1-15, in Perea. The region 'beyond Jordan,' i. e., east of the Jordan (see on "Matthew 4:25"), from its mouth to near the Lake of Galilee, was in the Roman period often called 'the beyond (district),' 'the Perea,' the Greek word for beyond being peran. The Galilean Jews preferred to go to Jerusalem by way of Perea, so as to avoid the unfriendly Samaritans; (Luke 9:52 f.) though the direct route through Samaria was sometimes taken (compare Josephus,"Life," 52). Perea included the dominions of Sihon and part of those of Og, or the districts later called Gilead and part of Bashan. The Romans separated Decapolis (see on "Matthew 4:25") from this district, and accordingly Josephus ("War," 8, 3, 3) says that Perea extended from Machaerus to Pella (nearly opposite the plain of Esdraelon and Bethshean). It was divided into a rougher and very beautiful northern portion, and a southern portion, which latter comprised the plain immediately east of the lower Jordan, and the high table-land beyond. So far as we can judge, our Lord here appears in Southern Perea, on his way to Jericho and Jerusalem. (Matthew 20:29, Matthew 21:1) Many places of this region are of great interest in Old Testament studies, but none appear distinctly in the New Testament save Machaerus (see on "Matthew 14:3"), and 'Bethany beyond Jordan,' 'the place where John was at first baptizing', (John 1:28 f.; John 10:40) and this last spot cannot be determined (compare on Matthew 3:13). We can therefore get no local colouring for Matthew 19:3 to Matthew 20:28. Like Galilee, Perea had so few Jews in the time of Judas Maccabaeus that he transferred them all to Judea for safe keeping; (1 Maccabees 5:23, 1 Maccabees 5:45) but during the reign of Herod the Great the Jewish population of Perea evidently became considerable, which will account for the expressions in Matthew 20:2 and John 10:40-42; and this district was an important part of the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas. For accounts of Perea, see especially Schultz in Herzog, Art. "Palestina," (4); Robinson's "Phys. Geog."; Tristram's "Laud of Moab "; Merrill's "East of the Jordan" but all are quite incomplete.

Great multitudes, see on "Matthew 4:25". Here, as so often in Galilee, vast numbers of the people throng and crowd around him. It is probable (see in Clark's "Harmony ") that this was subsequent to the sojourn beyond Jordan mentioned in John 10:41-42, when "many resorted unto him," and "many believed on him there." It is not necessary to suppose a considerable stay in that region at this time, in order to account for the collection of great crowds, for they probably consisted in part of persons journeying to Jerusalem for the Passover. And he healed them there, as he had often done in Galilee. 'Them' of course means not all of the crowds, but such as needed healing. Mark says, (Mark 10:1) 'and, as he was wont, he taught them again.' Thus the Galilean ministry is reproduced in Perea—crowds, healing, teaching. And here is another instance of a general statement, which must be pondered in order to realize the extent of our Lord's work. (Compare Mark 4:23, Mark 9:35, Mark 14:14, Mark 16:20)

Matthew 19:3. An inquiry as to divorce. Distinguish the original question of some Pharisees, John 10:3; the answer, John 10:4-6; an objection and his reply, John 10:7-9; a doubting remark by the disciples and his reply, John 10:10-12. Mark's report

(Mark 10:2-12) omits the last portion, and gives the rest with: slight differences of expression and order, but to the same general effect. The Pharisees. 'The' in Com. Ver., also in Mark 10:1, was an addition by copyists, because 'the Pharisees are generally spoken of as a class. In like manner, unto him after saying, and unto them in Mark 10:4 are wanting in the earliest and best documents, and were very easily added by copyists. As to the Pharisees, see on "Matthew 3:7". Tempting him, as in Matthew 16:1, putting him to the test, (Amer. Revisers preferred 'trying him'), and hoping he would say something they could use among the people to his prejudice, by representing his teaching either as intolerably severe, or as wanting in fidelity to the law of Moses. Perhaps they also hoped he would speak of divorce in a way offensive to Herod and Herodias. (See on "Matthew 14:3".) The place was not very far from Machaerus, and they might have remembered the fate of the prophet John, the Baptizer. The opposition of the Pharisees to Jesus appearing in Matthew 12:2, Matthew 12:14, Matthew 12:24, Matthew 12:38, and continued in Matthew 15:1 and Matthew 16:1, is here renewed towards the end of his ministry, and will be maintained until the end. See other cases of testing him with hard questions in Matthew 22:17, Matthew 22:35. Is it lawful, or permissible, as in Matthew 12:10, Matthew 14:4. For a man is naturally suggested, and so was readily supplied by some early copyists, especially as it is genuine in the parallel passage of Mark 10:4; while we could not account for its omission here in several of the earliest and best documents, if originally present. To put away his wife was understood as involving the right to take another—the Jews knew nothing of a mere legalized separation, without right of re-marriage.—upon the general subject of our Lord's teachings as to divorce, see on "Matthew 5:31"f. These Pharisees in Perea probably did not know of that former teaching in Galilee. If the saying in Luke 16:18 was distinct from this, it would appear to have been uttered in this same Perean district, and a little earlier than the present occasion (Clark's "Harm.," Edersh.) The reference is to Deuteronomy 24:1, "When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement,"etc. The euphemistic Hebrew phrase translated 'some unseemly thing,' has always been obscure. It is literally (as in margin of Com. Ver.), 'some matter of nakedness,' and appears to mean derivatively, something indecent, shameful, disgraceful, hateful. The Rabbis disputed much as to its exact meaning and limitations. The Mishna has a whole treatise on divorce, Gittin, but chiefly occupied with minute directions as to the preparation of the document and conditions of its validity. The last paragraph reads: "The school of Shammai says, no one shall put away a wife unless there has been found in her something disgraceful (a phrase exactly corresponding to that of Deuteronomy 24:1), as written, 'because he hath found something unseemly in her'; the school of Hillelsays, even if she has burnt his food, as written, 'because he hath found something unseemly in her'; Rabbi Akiba says, even if he find another more beautiful than she is, as written, 'if she find no favour in his eyes.'" Maimonides explains (Note in Surenh. Mishna) that the school of Shammai rests on the term "unseemly"; the school of Hillelon the term "something." Rabbi Akiba took the phrase he quotes to mean in respect to beauty. Alas! with what perverse ingenuity men quibble to make the Bible mean what suits their wishes. We see the folly of this practice in others, but are all in great danger of doing likewise. Observe that in the Mishna the school of Shammai use simply the general phrase, something disgraceful or unseemly, as in the law. A late Midrash on Numbers 5:30, quoted in Wet., and two passages in the Talmud mentioned by Edersheim, state that the school of Shammai recognized no ground but unchastity. It is worth inquiry whether this was anything more than an incorrect interpretation afterwards put upon the language of the Mishna. Josephus, who was a Pharisee, gives ("Ant.," 4, 8, 23) a paraphrase of the law which uses essentially the same phrase as here:

"If one wishes to be divorced from his wife for any causes whatsoever (and many such causes might happen among mankind), let him give assurance in writing that he will never more live with her," etc. It is evident that in our Lord's eyes the expression 'something unseemly' might extend to other faults besides unchastity, for otherwise there would have been no occasion for what he says in Numbers 5:8. The Pharisees, by holding up before him the Hillelview in its most extreme form, probably hoped to drive him to take the Shammai view, which was extremely unpopular. He did not side with either party, but (as in Matthew 22:21) cut into the heart of the matter, reaching a fundamental and decisive principle.

Matthew 19:4-6. Reply to the Pharisees. Have ye not read, compare on Matthew 12:3. The Scribes and Pharisees boasted of their acquaintance with the law, and he reproaches them with ignorance of it. He makes first a reference to Genesis 1:27, and then a quotation from Genesis 2:24. That he which made them, 'Created' (Rev. Ver. margin) is probably here the correct reading,(1) altered into 'made' to agree with Sept., with the word here immediately following, and with Mark 10:6; but there is obviously no substantial difference. The words male and female have in the Greek an emphatic position. From the beginning, the race included the two sexes, and these were to be united in marriage. And said, viz., he who created them said, the words of Adam in that exalted mood being taken as expressing the will of the Creator. Leave father and mother. Even the important filial relation will give way to one higher still. The twain is given by the Septuagint, and several other versions of Old Testament, and only expresses emphatically what the Hebrew implies. Shall be (or become) one flesh. The union of soul is expressed, and therefore intensified, by a bodily union. Compare Ecclus. Sirach 25:26, "If she go not as thou wouldst have her, cut her off from thy flesh," break the bodily union; Ephesians 5:28 ff., "to love their wives as their own bodies." In Ephesians 5:6 the closing statement is repeated for emphasis. And there our Lord draws the conclusion that the two thus united into one ought not to be separated. Joined together is literally yoked together (so also in Mark), an image frequently employed among the Greeks for marriage. (Compare 1 Corinthians 6:14, Leviticus 19:19) Tyn., Cram, Gen., here render 'coupled.' Let not man. Theophyl: "Showing what an interval there is between God who joined together, and man who puts asunder." Our Lord has thus laid down a broad general rule that the bond of marriage ought never to be broken. A little after (Matthew 19:9) he mentions, as if incidentally, an exception to this rule, about which there was no difference of opinion among his hearers, and which is in fact only apparently an exception, because in that case the essential bond has been broken.

Matthew 19:7-9. The Pharisees raise an objection, very naturally suggested, and our Lord replies. Moses (in Deuteronomy 24:1) had certainly allowed divorce, and they held that he had commanded it; how could the prophet of Nazareth declare that divorce was contrary to the nature and divine design of marriage? The Talmud of Jerusalem even represents it as a peculiar privilege of Israel, not shared by the Gentiles. A writing of divorcement. The same phrase is rendered bill of divorcement in Com. Ver. of Mark 10:4 and Deuteronomy 24:1, and there ought to have been no difference in translation. The Greek is slightly different above in Matthew 5:31. Moses.... suffered you. Jesus speaks of the law in Deuteronomy as coming from Moses. It is very hard to reconcile this with the fashionable theories as to a late date of Deuteronomy, and indeed of the whole Pentateuch; it is necessary to maintain either that Jesus was mistaken, and this as to the word of God, or else that he used the phraseology of his time in a highly misleading fashion. Many similar expressions of his are given in the Gospels. (Compare on Matthew 22:43.) The Pharisees had said that Moses commanded; our Lord's reply puts it, 'suffered.' But in Mark 10:3 f. he says 'command,' and they answer 'suffer.' We learn then that the law did not require the wronged husband to put away his unfaithful wife; he might forgive her upon repentance, as the prophets so often declared Jehovah willing to do with his unfaithful spouse, Israel. The law suffered him to put away his wife, and commanded him in so doing to give the formal writing. Because of the hardness of your hearts. The preposition (pros) translated 'because,' signifies 'looking to,' 'considering,' 'having regard to.' It was wise not to attempt too much in these civil regulations for such a people. Remember that the Mosaic regulations as to marriage and divorce were civil enactments, though resting on an ethical basis. The nation of emancipated slaves whom Moses brought out of Egypt had no doubt fallen into great laxity concerning marriage, as slaves always do, and he was wise enough to know that it would be a slow and difficult task to lift them up to a high standard of morality in this important respect. Yet he placed serious restrictions upon the existing facility of divorce (see on "Matthew 5:31"f.), and even in this matter Jesus was only "completing "the law by going further in the same direction (compare on Matthew 5:17). 'Hardness of heart' (Romans 2:5; Ecclus. Sirach 16:10) denotes not merely lack of proper feeling, as we use the phrase, but lack of proper perceptions and will (compare on Matthew 6:21). The Israelites who received the law were not qualified for elevated ethical perceptions, dispositions, or conduct, and would fiercely break over a severe enactment; and their descendants were still too much of the same character. But the Messiah proposes to lift them higher; and in this matter to return to the original divine design of marriage. Our Lord thus recognizes that the practical direction of the law of Moses in this particular respect fell short of perfection. But we must observe that he does not declare the Old Testament as a whole to be imperfect even in this respect, but simply goes back to its earliest teaching on the subject, its great fundamental principles. Malachi 2:14-16 speaks of divorces as offensive to Jehovah; but the Rabbis quibbled, some saying/that this only forbade a man's putting away his first wife. And I say unto you, solemnly calling their attention (compare on Matthew 5:18). Mark 10:10 shows that this was said 'in the house'—we know not what house—where the disciples renewed the conversation. Matthew joins it without break to the foregoing, and it was really a part of the discourse on divorce. Our Lord gives his own authoritative statement on the subject, applying the principle of Mark 10:6, and declares that divorce is not only not allowable 'for every cause' (Matthew 19:3), but not allowable at all—except of course for unchastity.(1) See the leading terms explained above on the similar statement of Matthew 5:32. That was made in Galilee, and we are now in Southern Perea, a year or two later. It seems strange to modern readers that the highly important exception our Lord makes is so slightly mentioned, both here (Matthew 19:9) and in Matthew 5:32, and that in Mark and Luke (on a somewhat earlier occasion, Matthew 16:18) it is not recorded at all. The explanation is that among the Jews there was no question on this point. The strictest school of Rabbis, that of Shammai, allowed divorce for unchastity, if not for other disgraceful acts. So this matter did not need to be dwelt on, hardly needed to be mentioned, as it would be taken for granted by all parties. But the question is naturally asked, how could there be divorce for conjugal unfaithfulness, when the law punished that offence with death? It is evident that the law was not regarded as compelling the husband to bring forth his adulterous wife for the death penalty. Joseph was minded to put Mary away privately, and was prevented only by learning from the angel that her condition involved no guilt. (Matthew 1:19 f) In the doubtless true story, though not belonging to Scripture, of the adulterous woman brought before Jesus, (John 8:3-11) the Scribes and Pharisees are represented as "tempting him " (just as here) with the question whether the law is to be enforced in her case, and he does not say that it must he. And in the Talmud it is perfectly plain that the Jews did divorce for adultery instead of stoning, and no one thought of condemning it.

In Mark 10:12 the statement is expressly declared to hold of a woman also, who divorces her husband. Everywhere in Old Testament, and everywhere else in New Testament, only the case of a man divorcing his wife is presented, the opposite case being doubtless a very rare occurrence in Oriental life. We might take for granted that the same principles would apply to a woman divorcing her husband, and this saying expressly enjoins such an application. It had become quite common for Roman women to divorce their husbands and marry again, and this custom had begun to affect the official and fashionable circles in Palestine—as when Herodias divorced her husband, Herod Philip, to marry Herod Antipas (see on "Matthew 14:3"). This makes it natural that our Lord should once refer to that side of the question, and that Mark's Gospel should take pains to report the saying, as he wrote especially for Gentile, and perhaps especially for Roman readers.

Matthew 19:10-12. A remark by the disciples and the Master's reply. The fact that this was 'in the house' (Mark), with only the disciples present, accords well with the delicacy of the subject. This naive remark shows that even they shared largely the popular views and feelings concerning marriage and divorce, and thought that as an indissoluble union, marriage was to be avoided. Similar (Plumptre) is the view of Milton's "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce." If the case be so, and the form of expression implies that they accept the supposition as true. The word rendered 'case' is rendered 'cause' in Matthew 19:3. It seems here necessarily to mean 'case' or 'matter,' and this sense is very generally accepted, though it has not been established by other usage. The Latin versions have causa. Meyer's attempt to make it here mean cause is not successful. It is not good (or expedient) to marry, the term rendered 'it is profitable' in Matthew 18:6, Matthew 5:29 f.; see also in 1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 10:23. Our Lord's reply is that marriage is some times not expedient. All men cannot receive this saying, viz., the saying that it is not expedient to marry. What they have said is true in some cases, and for a special reason, quite different from the one intimated by them. To understand 'this saying' as his own saying, that marriage is indissoluble, would make the Saviour contradict his own argument, for he had argued from the divine purpose in the creation of man. 'Receive' does not here mean to accept as true, but the peculiar Greek word signifies to have space in one's nature for something—like a vessel holding so much, compare John 21:25—sometimes in the sense of capacity to know (Lid. and Scott), here in the sense of capacity to act out. 'Not all men have room (capacity) for this saying.' The capacity depends on physiological constitution and general temperament, making it practicable to be happy and useful without marriage. Some men are naturally disqualified for marriage, and others have been disqualified by human action. Some voluntarily abstain from marriage for the kingdom of heaven's sake, for the sake of greater usefulness in-proclaiming its truths and promoting its establishment. Some Rabbinical writers also use the phrase, "made themselves eunuchs," as a figure for voluntary and entire sexual abstinence. The phrase was, and would still be, natural enough in Oriental speech, however repulsive to us. It would probably never have been understood literally by any one, but for well known practices among some heathen devotees in Asia Minor and elsewhere. Origen took it literally in his youth and acted upon it, but interprets it altogether spiritually in his commentary on this passage.—The Jewish feeling regarded marriage as universally desirable; Jesus says that for some persons it is best to abstain. He thus distinctly intimates that celibacy may give great advantages in promoting Christianity, as the Apostle Paul afterwards urged in 1 Corinthians 7. Where a man feels deeply moved to engage in some form of religious work, with the prosecution of which marriage would greatly interfere, then it is well if he can be willing to remain unmarried. So John the Baptist, and Paul. But Paul by no means pressed celibacy upon all, recognizing natural differences in regard to it, and full liberty of personal decision. And so the Saviour did, even repeating, He that is able, etc. Observe that neither Jesus nor Paul nor Scripture anywhere favours the ascetic notion that marriage is impure, or essentially less pure than celibacy; on the contrary, "Let marriage be had in honour among all", (Hebrews 13:4, Rev. Ver.) and it was false teachers of the worst type who were in later times "forbidding to marry." (1 Timothy 4:1-3) The question is not of a more or less holy slate, but of greater or less usefulness, in promoting the kingdom of heaven. Among the apostles to whom Jesus said this, celibacy was not the rule, but the exception. Simon Peter was married, (Matthew 8:14) and when Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 9:5 ff., R.V.), "the rest of the apostles," and "the brethren of the Lord," carried their wives with them in their missionary journeys. Paul himself remained unmarried for the sake of giving himself without hindrance to his work.—The (1 Corinthians 7:32 f.) Romish rule of universal celibacy in the priesthood occasioned a Protestant reaction to the opposite extreme. Protestant public opinion almost demands that a minister shall marry. Yet how much missionary work, in savage or sickly countries, or in home fields that cannot support a family, could be far better done by unmarried men. How many a young minister cuts short his preparatory studies, or prosecutes them amid great interruption and hindrance, or is obliged to begin pastoral work in too exacting a field, for the sake of an unnecessarily early marriage. Every one must decide for himself; but he should decide in view of life as a whole, and of the life to come.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 19:3. Tempting Jesus. (1) With hard questions, Luke 11:16, Matthew 16:1, Matthew 19:3, Matthew 22:18, Matthew 22:35. (2) By efforts to restrain him from going forward to death, Matthew 16:22 f. compare John 12:27 and Matthew 26:36 ff. (3) By suggesting positive sin, Matthew 4:1-11.

Matthew 4:6. God and man as to marriage. (1) All the fundamental relations of society are based on human nature as originally created. (2) Marriage was designed by the Creator to be a complete union of two into one, and indissoluble; the one sin that justifies divorce does so because it has essentially broken the union. (3) Wherever man has violated God's design, by separating the married for reasons which do not break the essential bond, there follow great and ever growing evils. In such cases re-marriage may seem to prevent adultery, but it is itself adultery (Matthew 19:9). (4) It is man's highest wisdom, interest, and duty-best for the parties concerned and best for society—to follow God's law of marriage, strictly and faithfully.


Verses 13-15

Matthew 19:13-15.
Little Children Are Brought To Jesus For His Blessing

Found also in Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17. Luke here again becomes parallel to Matthew and Mark, and continues so to the end, see above on "Matthew 19:1". The place of this occurrence appears to have been Southern Perea, in some house, (Mark 10:10) and the time a few days before the triumphal entry, see on "Matthew 19:1". Then is naturally, though not of necessity (see on "Matthew 3:13"), understood strictly, as denoting the time of the foregoing conversation upon divorce. Mark has simply 'and.' Were there brought. Mark has 'they brought,' impersonal, like "they say"; Luke, 'they brought unto him their babes also,' which shows that the parents brought them. They were so moved by his teaching and healing as not only to seek a personal blessing, but a blessing upon their babes also. Mark and Luke have the Greek imperfect tense, describing them as engaged in bringing. And they have 'rebuked' in the same tense; while the parents were bringing and the disciples were rebuking, Jesus spoke. Little children, called 'babes' in Luke, and small enough to be naturally taken in one's arms (Mark). These terms forbid our understanding children old enough to exercise faith. Put his hands on them, and pray. The Jews had always valued the "blessing" of a father, a prophet, a great rabbi, or other venerable person. The Talmud says they brought their young children to the synagogue for this purpose. "After the father of the child had laid his hands on his child's head, he led him to the elders, one by one, and they also blessed him, and prayed that 'he might grow up famous in the law, faithful in marriage, and abundant in good works." (Buxtorf, in Geikie.) To lay hands on them, or (Mark and Luke) 'touch them,' was the symbol of invoking a blessing upon them, and seemed to establish a personal relation between the good man and the person blessed. See Genesis 48:14, Numbers 27:18, Acts 6:6, Acts 13:3; compare Matthew 9:18, Matthew 9:20. They came to Jesus as a rabbi or a prophet; and he did what they de, sired, took the children in his arms and blessed them. (compare Mark 10:16) And the disciples rebuked them. This in Matt. might mean rebuked the children or rebuked those who brought them; in Mark and Luke it is clearly the latter, which is obviously appropriate. Jesus had just been speaking of a highly important practical topic, viz., the propriety of divorce, and the expediency of marriage. The disciples had renewed the subject after leaving the Pharisees, (Mark 10:10) and the Master was pursuing it in private. Perhaps (Wet.) they were just thinking of other questions to ask on the subject. They did not want the privacy of Messiah the King to be interrupted, and these deeply interesting instructions stopped, by what they regarded as the mere trivial matter of bringing babes for the teacher's blessing. Compare Matthew 20:31, 2 Kings 4:27. Our Lord not only spoke in opposition to their rebuke, but (Mark) 'was moved with indignation,' a strong word, the same as in Matthew 20:24, Matthew 26:8. Why was he so indignant? He warmly loved infant children. All good men ought to feel a tender affection for them, and it seemed that the disciples were in this respect deficient. This very scene has so taught the Christian world to love infant children that it is difficult for us to realize the apparent feelings of the disciples. They thought the infants and their parents unworthy of the Messiah's notice; and he was indignant at such a conception of childhood and of him. Moreover, while they were annoyed at the interruption of valued instruction, they were forgetting that some months before he (Matthew 18:1 ff.) had expressly used a little child as an object-lesson to give them a deserved rebuke for their selfish ambition and jealous strife. This was one of the lessons they most needed, and from that time forth they ought never to have looked at a little child without recalling the lesson and laying it to heart afresh. But no. They have forgotten the lesson, and behold little children without being reminded. In a day or two they will again manifest (Matthew 20:20 ff.) the ambition and jealousy he had used that illustration to correct. There may have been other grounds for the Master's indignation, and some of these may not have been correctly conceived. But we seem to perceive (a) a misapprehension of him, for he tenderly loved little children; (b) a defect in their own character, in that they did not love them as he did; (c) a grievous forgetfulness, and persistence in wrong dispositions he had taken such pains to correct; and it may also be that (d) he was displeased at their assuming the right to decide who should approach him, without waiting to know his wishes. More than once before he has sharply reproved them for not understanding or not remembering his instructions. (Matthew 16:8-11, Matthew 16:23, Mark 6:52, Matthew 11:25, Matthew 7:21-23 ; compare hereafter Matthew 20:22; John 14:9.)

Matthew 19:14. The repetition, suffer and forbid not, is highly emphatic. It was vividly remembered, for Matthew, Mark, and Luke gave the same words, with a slight difference of order. 'Suffer' is aorist tense, expressing the simple action without the notion of continuance; 'forbid' is present tense, 'do not be forbidding', or 'do not make a practice of forbidding.' The distinction obtains in Matthew, Mark, and Luke; and the difference was felt, for the manuscript D has in Matthew and Luke altered 'forbid' to aorist. To come unto me is a general expression, not necessarily denoting either unaided locomotion or conscious spiritual approach, both of which are here forbidden by the terms 'babes' and 'were brought.' The disciples rebuked the parents and thus repelled the children they were bringing; but there must be free access to him. What follows may grammatically be a reason for their coming, or a reason why the disciples must let them come, and not forbid them. The latter seems to be the thought. For of such is the kingdom of heaven. Here, as commonly, Matthew has the Jewish phrase 'kingdom of heaven,' Mark and Luke, 'kingdom of God' (compare on Matthew 3:2); otherwise the phrase is identical in all three. For 'of such is,' the Amer. Revisers give 'to such belongeth,' compare Matthew 5:3, Matthew 5:10; Luke 6:20; James 2:5. (So Meyer, Grimm, Jelf.) But the difference is not important. 'Such' evidently means childlike persons, as he had previously taught in Matthew 18:3. The only question is whether it also means children. To understand it in both senses at the same time is very difficult. Morison argues that it means simply and exclusively children such as these, and not childlike adults at all. There is plenty of warrant in usage for so understanding the word 'such'; but does not the connection here in Mark and Luke absolutely require the sense of childlike persons? They both add, 'whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein.' This is exactly what Jesus said on a former occasion, (Matthew 18:3) when, as almost all commentators agree, he was using the little child only as an illustration. Morison's position is therefore untenable in this case. 'Such' certainly means childlike persons, and apparently does not mean children at all. So the Memphitic, "for persons of this sort, theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And the Peshito takes great pains, "for those who are like them, theirs is the kingdom of heaven." All the Greek commentators explain it as meaning the childlike, none of them mentioning children as included, and several expressly stating the contrary. Nor does any Greek commentator, so far as we can find, mention infant baptism in connection with the passage, though they all practised that rite. Origen speaks only of the childlike; and so Cyril : "The new-born child is a symbol of innocence; for the babe is as it were a new creature..... Christ does not wish us to be without intelligence when he says, 'For to such belongs (or, of such is) the kingdom of heaven,' but to be infants in evil, and in intelligence perfect (full-grown)." Chrys.: "Teaching them (the disciples) to be lowly, and to trample under foot worldly pride, he receives them, and takes them in his arms, and to such as them promises the kingdom; which kind of thing he said before also," i. e., in Matthew 18:3 f. Theophyl.: "He did not say 'these,' but 'such,' i. e., the simple the guileless, the innocent." Euthym.: "He did not say 'to these belongs the kingdom of heaven,' but 'to such,' those who imitate the simplicity of these." Anon. takes the occasion to exhort parents to bring their children incessantly to the priests, that they may put their hands on them and pray for them. Even the great Latin commentator, Jerome (followed by Bode), tells us: "He significantly said 'such,' not 'these,' in order to show that not age reigns, but character, and that the reward is promised to those who should have similar innocence and simplicity." But Tertullian and Augustine do mention, not this clause but that which precedes, in connection with infant baptism. Tertullian (on Baptism, 18) advises delay of baptism till there has been proper instruction, "delay according to each one's condition and disposition and even age; and especially as to the little ones.... The Lord does indeed say, 'Forbid them not to come unto me.' Let them come, then, while they are growing up; let them come while they are learning, while they are being taught whither to come; let them be made Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent age hasten to remission of sins?" He here shows, as throughout the treatise, that baptism is regarded by him and those he addresses, as securing remission and making persons Christians. So Cyprian ("Ep. to Fidus ") and Origen (on Romans 5 and Homily 14 on Luke 2.) give as the reason for infant baptism that the infants may receive remission of original sin, that the defilement of sin may be washed away through water and the Spirit, etc., but neither of them mentions this passage, nor does Origen mention infant baptism in his interpretation of this passage. He says (on Rom.), "The church received it as a tradition from the apostles, to give baptism to little ones also." Augustine ("Serm. 174") says: "No one passes from the first man (Adam) to the second (Christ) save through the sacrament of baptism. In little children born and not yet baptized, behold Adam; in little children born and baptized and therefore born again, behold Christ ".... What is it that thou sayest, little children have no sin at all, not even original sin? What is it that thou sayest, but that they should not approach to Jesus? But Jesus cries out to thee, 'Suffer the little ones to come to me.' Aug. very frequently gives the same reason for infant baptism, constantly and vehemently assailing the Pelagians with the argument that there is no propriety in infant baptism unless infants are under the guilt of original sin, but we have found no other instance in which he associates with it this passage. Calvin says "both children and those who are like them." Alexander (on Mark): "More satisfactory is Calvin's explanation of the sentence as referring both to children (i. e., to believing children) and to those who arc like them in their childlike qualities."But believing children are in the same position as believing adults; so this is virtually admitting that there is here no reference to infants who are incapable of belief. Alexander adds, "The application of this passage to infant baptism, although scornfully rejected as absurd by its opponents, is entirely legitimate, not as an argument, but as an illustration of the spirit of the Christian system with respect to children." Bengel says: "Grant that such as are like infants are meant, then much more infants themselves, who are such, have the kingdom of God, and should and can receive it by coming to Christ."And he actually thinks it helps the matter to add: "Many of those who were then infants, afterwards when grown up believed on Christ Jesus." Meyer : "Not little children, but men of a childlike disposition, Matthew 18:3 f."; and to the same effect Fritz., Block, Luketter., Keim, Godet. Olsh.: "Of that reference to infant baptism which it is so common to seek in this narrative, there is clearly not the slightest trace to be found. The Saviour sets the children before the apostles as symbols of spiritual regeneration, and of the simple childlike feeling therein imparted." Geikie: "Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of heaven is given only to such as have a childlike spirit and nature like theirs."(1) To sum up. (a) There is no good ground for understanding 'such' as meaning children themselves, but only childlike believers (as in Matthew 18:3.) No question is here made that those dying in infancy are saved. They are saved through the atonement of Christ and the work of the Spirit, but this must hold true of all alike, without reference to any ceremony, and no matter whether their parents were believers, unbelievers, or heathen. The Messianic kingdom is always spoken of in connection with, and seems naturally to imply, persons capable of conscious submission to Christ's reign. It is here said to belong to, or consist of, the childlike, and (according to Mark and Luke) no others. If 'such' includes infants, it includes all infants, not only those dying in infancy, and those that live and become believers, but those that live a life of sin and are finally lost; in what sort of sense does the Messianic kingdom belong to (or consist of) these? (b) If it were supposed that 'such' does include literal children, it would not follow that infants ought to be baptized. There is here no allusion to baptism, and no one imagines that Jesus caused these little ones to be baptized. We know that at one period Jesus was baptizing (through his disciples) very many persons, (John 3:22, John 4:1 f.) but no one questions that they were baptized as penitent believers in the Messianic reign. Infant baptism seems to have arisen afterwards from the belief that baptism was necessary to salvation, being, in all the early references to it, associated with that belief, and only as an afterthoght was ground for it sought in an inference from this passage. In like manner Zwingli, in his controversies with the Anabaptists, introduced theargument from the Abrahamic covenant.(2)

Matthew 19:15. Laid his hands on them, of course with the accompanying prayer (Matthew 19:13) that they might be blessed. Mark adds that he 'took them in his arms,' apparently from the arms of those who brought them,' and blessed them, laying his hands upon them'; he must then have been seated—we have seen that he was probably in a house. His blessing them means that he prayed (Matthew 19:13) that they might be blessed. We cannot possibly know what results followed to the infants from this benediction. He prayed that his crucifiers might be forgiven, and they were—if they repented and believed. And departed thence. Mark 10:17 may perhaps indicate that he left sooner than was expected. Was it because of his indignation at the disciples?

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 19:13-15. Jesus and infant children. (1) Jesus tenderly loves infant children, (compare Mark 10:16) for he has the same feelings now as when on earth. (Hebrews 13:8) (2) It is right for parents continually to seek the blessing of Jesus upon their infant children. (3) It is a great mistake and a great fault to take no interest in infants; they who do so are quite unlike Jesus, and forget one of his most impressive lessons. (Compare Matthew 18:3) (4) All followers of Jesus ought to be childlike, i. e., teachable, loving, free from selfish ambition and jealousy, etc.; not only ought to be, but absolutely must be childlike. (Mark 10:15; compare Matthew 18:3 f.; 1 Corinthians 14:20)—This passage can hardly be used in addressing Sunday school children as a proof that Jesus specially loves them, for they are deeply conscious of sin, and ought to ask from Jesus a new heart, forgiveness, and help to live as his followers. The lesson here is for adults, and the passage is often so misused as simply to promote in children a most hurtful conceit, to the effect that they are greatly better than grown people.


Verses 16-22

Matthew 19:16-22.
The Rich Young Ruler

Found also in Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23.

Jesus has left the house in which he blessed the babes (Matthew 19:15; Mark 10:10), and is going forth into the road, (Mark 10:17) doubtless on the way towards Jerusalem (Matthew 20:17) for the last Passover. The place is still pretty certainly in Southern Perea. (Matthew 19:1, Matthew 20:29)

Matthew 19:16. One came. 'One' may be taken loosely (see on "Matthew 8:19"), as we in English often use it, to mean some one, a certain one; but is perhaps better taken strictly—not now a crowd, (Matthew 19:2) only a single person, but a very interesting and important case. Matthew tells us that he was a young man (Matthew 19:20-22), Luke that he was a 'ruler', (Matthew 18:18) not probably meaning one of the Sanhedrin, (John 3:1) but a ruler of the local synagogue; (Matthew 9:18) all three state that he was very wealthy. The theory of Plumptre that this was Lazarus of Bethany, rests entirely upon certain resemblances, as wealth, high standing, and the fact that Jesus is said to have loved him, and it must be regarded as a pleasant, homiletical fancy, rather than even a probable historical fact. The resurrection of Lazarus was almost certainly before this time. For 'came to him,' Mark says vividly, Rev. Ver., 'ran to him, and kneeled to him.' Finding that Jesus had left the house, and eager not to miss the desired instruction, he runs to overtake him, and then kneels in profound reverence. Good Master, i. e., teacher (didaskalos), see on "Matthew 8:19". 'Good' is wanting in the earliest and best documents, and was manifestly brought in by copyists from Mark and Luke. The same early documents, with many others of great importance, read Matthew 8:17 as in Rev. Ver., which, especially as the meaning is not obvious, would be readily changed to agree with Mark and Luke.(1) What good thing shall I do? He has done many good things, what else? (Matthew 19:20.) That I may have eternal life, compare on Matthew 25:46. He is sincerely and deeply desirous of gaining it, as he has shown by his conduct heretofore, and shows now by his eagerness to learn from the Galilean teacher who is passing by. Contrast the lawyer of Luke 10:25, who quibbled. (Matthew 19:29.)

Matthew 19:17. It is possible (Aug.) that Jesus used first the expression in Mark and Luke, and afterwards that in Matt. (Rev. Ver.) But the Evangelists often report a saying in different terms. (See on "Matthew 3:17".) Both forms here express truth, and they substantially agree. To call him 'good' (Mark and Luke), was a sort of flattery to one approached only as a Rabbi, perfectly good—keep that word for him. No religious teacher would really like to be accosted as "a good man." So here, to ask a teacher concerning that which is good, what good thing shall be done, must not be with the notion that any mere human teacher is of himself qualified to give the desired instruction. Only God is perfectly good; and lessons of goodness are not lessons of mere human ethical wisdom, but of divine instruction. This is a surpassingly important truth. Men in every age and country are prone to think of mere human instruction in morals and religion, and to forget that the highest religious wisdom must come from him who alone is perfect wisdom and perfect goodness. But if thou wilt, or wishest to (compare on Matthew 15:32, Matthew 16:24), enter into life (comp on Matthew 5:20), keep the commandments. Bengel: "Those who feel secure Jesus refers to the law; the contrite he consoles with the gospel."

Matthew 19:18 f. Which, if strictly translated, would be what sort of, what kind of commandments, not inquiring as to particular precepts, but classes. Yet this Greek pronoun is used somewhat loosely in New Testament, and may here mean simply which. In Modern Greek it has that meaning always. The ruler may have expected new commandments, or a special selection from those existing. The Rabbis would have prescribed stricter attention to traditional observances. Jesus did not propose new commandments, but a new spirit and motive. The sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments are given, then the fifth, and then Matt. alone adds the general precept (Leviticus 19:18) which sums up all the second table of the law; compare on Matthew 22:39. Luke quotes the same five commandments as Matt.; Mark, likewise, but inserting 'do not defraud,' equivalent to the tenth commandment. Thou shalt do no murder (Rev. Ver., shalt not kill). So also Com. Ver. in Matthew 5:21, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20; and Romans 13:9. The Old Testament Revisers, on the contrary, have changed 'thou shalt not kill' into 'thou shalt do no murder,' Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17. The Hebrew and Greek verbs are frequently used for unlawful killing, murder, but not uniformly.

Matthew 19:20. All these things has the emphasis here (according to the probable text) on 'all'; in Mark and Luke it is on 'these things.' Have I kept. Rev. Ver. gives observed. So Tyn. and Gen. here, and all early English versions in Mark 10:20, while all give 'kept' for the same word in Luke 18:21. In Luke 18:17 above, 'kept' represents a different word. From my youth up is spurious in Matt., but genuine in Mark and Luke, and so was really said.(1) The speaker was still a 'young man,' but it is quite common for young men to look back to their youth, viz., boyhood, and as a very remote period. He must have been sincere in his profession, and really blameless in outward conformity to law, for 'Jesus looking upon him loved him.' (Mark.) What lack I yet? Mark and Luke give as the beginning of the Saviour's reply, 'One thing thou lackest.' So the question here must not be regarded as a mere self-righteous expression. The only observance he had ever thought of was external and superficial; in regard to this, he had been very careful and correct. The Talmud repeatedly mentions persons as having kept the whole law, in one case "my holy ones, who have kept the whole law, from Aleph to Tau," like Alpha to Omega. The Great Teacher does not stop for distinctions between the external and the spiritual which the young ruler would have found it difficult to appreciate, but cuts through all his self-delusion and self-complacency by an extraordinary demand.

Matthew 19:21. If thou wilt be, wishest to be, as in Matthew 19:17. Perfect, so as to lack nothing, see on "Matthew 5:48". Go, go along, go promptly, as in Matthew 4:10, Matthew 5:24, Matthew 13:44, Matthew 18:15. Sell that thou hast, (compare Matthew 13:46) a comprehensive expression, strengthened in Mark by 'whatsoever,' in Luke by 'all.' To the poor. Here again (see on "Matthew 5:3"; Matthew 11:5) the notion of 'beggars' is quite out of place; the wisest giving is not always to beggars. The Talmud (Wet.) speaks of a rabbi as saying to some Gentiles who sought instruction, "Sell all that you have, and moreover you ought to become proselytes."—This was a special test, exactly suited to the young ruler, as appears from his sorrowful failure to meet it. The principle involved is supreme devotion to Christ. The test of this is different for different people. Some find it harder to renounce hopes of worldly honour and fame for Christ's sake, than to renounce wealth; and for others the hard trial is to abandon certain gratifications of the various appetites or of taste. Abraham left his native country at God's command, but became rich and famous. Moses gave up the distinction and refined pleasures of court life, and tried patiently to rule a debased and intractable people. Elisha left his property at the call of God through Elijah. Paul abandoned his ambitious hope of being a great rabbi. All should be willing even to die for Christ, (Matthew 16:24, ff.) though not many are actually required to do so. The Romanists build on this passage their theory that for all persons and times voluntary and absolute poverty is a chief means of securing the highest spiritual attainments. But there is no intimation that Jesus requires this of all his followers. He said nothing of the kind to any but the Twelve, and a few who, like them, were called to leave home and travel about the country with him. Treasure in heaven, see on "Matthew 6:20". And come, follow me, see on "Matthew 4:19". Many documents in Mark, and one or two in Matthew add 'taking up thy cross,' borrowed from Mark 8:34, Matthew 16:24.

Matthew 19:22. He went away sorrowful Mark prefixes 'his countenance fell,' he looked gloomy,' dark-faced; compare a similar expression in Luke 24:17 (correct text). It was a painful disappointment; his eager longing and hope gave way to gloom—he could not give up his great possessions. Among all nations, but especially among the Jewish higher classes, the idea of falling from great wealth to utter poverty would be extremely painful. He went away, and appears no more in the history. One would incline to the hopeful persuasion that he afterwards became a true Christian, since Jesus loved him. But the story ends very sadly. And its lesson applies very closely to many whose, possessions' are by no means 'great.'

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 19:17-21. We need no new commandments, but a new motive, supreme devotion to Christ. So in Romans 8:1-17, there is presented the same old law, but a new revelation of forgiveness (Matthew 19:1), a new moral force (Matthew 19:2), a new motive (Matthew 19:15).

Romans 8:16-22. The young ruler. (1) There may be much religious earnestness, and a lovable sincerity, without true Christian piety. (2) To become a thorough Christian requires no new precepts, but a new spirit. (3) A complete Christian character and life cannot exist without complete submission to Christ. (4) The tests of submission to Christ will be very different in different cases, but must in every case be squarely met. (5) Turning away from Christ with regret and gloomy sadness, is yet turning away.

Matthew 19:17. (latter part). If thou wishest to enter into life. (1) The wish. (a) None enter who do not wish. (b) None who wish to enter need fail. (2) The way. (a) The commandments must be kept not only outwardly, but inwardly, spiritually. (b) This can be done through help of Christ and of the other Comforter. (c) That help is received only where there is supreme devotion to Christ.

Matthew 19:20. What lack I yet? (1) He might seem to others to lack nothing; he has wealth, honour, a blameless outward life, and a deep sincerity and earnestness. (2) He is conscious of lacking something, and eager to supply the lack. (3) He really lacks everything; for he has only kept the commandments outwardly, and thus altogether imperfectly. (4) He lacks one thing, (Mark 10:21) without which all is inadequate, and with which all will work toward perfection and eternal life; and that one thing is supreme devotion to Christ.

Matthew 19:22. He went away sorrowful. (1) He went away sorrowful. (2) He went away sorrowful.


Verse 23

Matthew 19:23 to Matthew 20:16.
Hard For The Rich To Be Saved. Reward Of Sacrifices For Christ's Sake

This section, except the parable, is found also in Mark 10:23-31, Luke 18:24-30. In both it is immediately connected as here with the story of the young ruler. Luke tells us, 'And Jesus seeing him said'; Mark, 'Jesus looked round about, and said' While the young man walked gloomily away, Jesus looked at him and at his disciples, and spoke to them the great lessons which follow. The section divides itself into Luke 18:23-26, Luke 18:27-30, and Matthew 20:1-16.

I. Matthew 19:23-26. Hard For The Rich To Be Saved

Mark 10:23-27, Luke 18:24-27. Verily I say unto you, calling special attention, see on "Matthew 5:18". A rich man shall hardly enter. It is hard for a rich man (Rev. Ver.), was the rendering of Tyndale and followers. The Com. Ver. though more literal, would now suggest improbability rather than difficulty. The Jews inclined to think it much easier for a rich man than for a poor man. The former had in his very prosperity a proof of the divine favour; he was prima facie a good man, and might feel very hopeful about entering the kingdom. Our Lord had not long before this spoken a parable, (Luke 16:19) in which, contrary to what all Jews would have expected the beggar Lazarus went to Abraham's bosom, and the rich man to torment. Much earlier (comp on Matthew 5:3) he had shown that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor, if they have the corresponding poverty in spirit. Kingdom of heaven, see on "Matthew 3:2". He was far from meaning, that all poor men will be saved, and all rich men lost; for Lazarus was carried to the bosom of Abraham, who in life was very rich, as were also Isaac and Jacob and Joseph, David and Solomon, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and apparently the family of Bethany. On the perils of riches, compare Matthew 13:22, 1 Timothy 6:9 f. The expression in Com. text of Mark 10:24, 'for them that trust in riches,' must be omitted.(1) This strong statement our Lord now repeats (v. 34), in a hyperbolical form such as he so often employed to awaken attention and compel remembrance. (See on "Matthew 5:39".) It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. So also Mark and Luke. The camel was the largest beast familiar to the Jews, and the needle's eye was the smallest opening in any familiar object. So the expression denotes an impossibility, and it was so understood by the disciples and so treated by Jesus just after. (Matthew 19:26) A little later, (Matthew 23:24) our Lord will again use the camel as the largest beast in another hyperbolical expression, "who strain out the gnat and swallow the cabin the Talmud, for an elephant to go through a needle's eye is several times employed as an expression of impossibility, the Jews in foreign countries having now become familiar with an animal even larger than the camel. Our Lord may have been using a proverb (compare on Matthew 7:3), but there is no proof that such a saying was current in his time. The (Sura VII, 88) borrows, as it often does, the saying of Jesus: "Those who say our signs are lies and are too big with pride for them, for these the doors of heaven shall not be open, and they shall not enter into Paradise until a camel shall pass into a needle's eye." The notion that the word means a cable, found in Cyril on Luke, and in a scholium ascribed to Origen (Tisch.), and mentioned by Theophyl. and Euthym. as held by "some," was merely an attempt to soften the incongruity of the image; and the statement of the late lexicographer Suidas and a scholium on Aristophanes that kamelos is the animal, kamilos a thick cable, probably arose from that attempt. (Liddell and Scott.) The Memph., Latin, and Pesh. versions give camel. Origen understands the camel, and takes the phrase as a figure for the impossible; so Chrys. and followers. Jerome explains likewise, but adds that as Isaiah declares (Isaiah 60:6) that the camels of Midian and Ephah come to Jerusalem with gifts, and though curved and distorted they enter the gates of Jerusalem, so the rich can enter the narrow gate by laying aside their burden of sins and all their bodily deformity—which is only his loose allegorizing upon a point not brought into view by the Saviour. A gloss to Anselm (A. D. 1033-1109), given in Aquinas, says that "at Jerusalem there was a certain gate called the Needle's Eye, through which a camel could not pass, save on its bended knees and after its burden had been taken off; and so the rich," etc. This is to all appearance a conjecture suggested by Jerome's allegorizing remark. Lord Nugent many years ago (quoted in Morison, from Kitto) heard at Hebron a narrow entrance for foot-passengers, by the side of the larger gate, called "the eye of a needle." Fish (p. 165), speaking of the Jaffa gate at Jerusalem, says: "There is here a small gate in the large one, bearing the name Needle's Eye. My dragoman informed me of this, and said it had always been so called. I afterwards inquired of a Christian Jew, for thirty years a resident in Jerusalem, who verified the statement, and farther said that any little gate like that, in a large one, in both Palestine and Egypt, was called a needle's eye (a fact which I have since ascertained from other sources)." So far as this usage really exists, it probably arose from the saying in the New Testament, the Talmud and the Koran, together with Jerome's allegorizing remark. It is perfectly evident that Jesus was understood, and meant to be understood, as stating an impossibility; and as to the incongruity of the image, it is no greater than that of Matthew 23:24, and employed an animal as familiar to his hearers as the horse is to us.

Matthew 19:25 f. The disciples were exceedingly amazed, for this was contrary to all the notions in which they were reared. Since everybody believed that a rich man was shown by his wealth to have God's favour, and could secure further favour by his beneficence, and since Jesus has declared that it is practically impossible for a rich man to enter the Messianic kingdom, they very naturally asked, Who then can be saved? with emphasis on 'who' and 'can.' Their idea is that things being as the Master has stated (which is the meaning of the particle translated 'then'), nobody can be saved. And to this he assents. As a matter of human power, no one can be saved; but with God all things are possible, (compare Luke 1:37, Job 42:2, Genesis 18:14) and the divine omnipotence may save even a rich man.

II. Matthew 19:27-30. Jesus Promises Reward To Those That Have Left All For His Sake

Mark 10:28-31, Luke 18:28-30. Peter speaks for his companions as well as himself (see on "Matthew 16:16"), and the answer is addressed to them all, 'you' (Matthew 19:28). Behold, we, the word 'we' being expressed in the Greek, and thus emphatic; so also in Mark and Luke. Have forsaken all, as the rich young ruler had just refused to do. (Matthew 19:22) And followed thee, compare on Matthew 4:19 f. Luke 18:28 has (correct text) 'have left our own,' i. e., property, while the young ruler would not leave his. Some had left their calling as fishermen, Matthew a public office, James and John their parents, Peter his home and family. What shall we have therefore? without any special emphasis on 'we.' This clause is not given by Mark or Luke, being obviously implied in Peter's foregoing statement. The apostle's inquiry may be easily stigmatized as self-complacent or mercenary. But Jesus evidently did not so regard it. They had made real sacrifices, and were following him in worldly destitution with dismal worldly prospects, for they were now near Jerusalem, where he would be rejected and put to death. (Matthew 16:21) The situation was very serious. Jesus solemnly promises great reward to the Twelve (Matthew 19:28), and extends it to all who have left anything for his sake (Matthew 19:29); and then guards against all selfish and jealous claims of superior reward in Luke 18:30, illustrated by the parable which follows.

Matthew 19:28. He begins with a solemn assurance, as in Matthew 19:23, Verily I say unto you, see on "Matthew 5:18". This special promise to the Twelve is found only in Matthew, to whose Jewish readers it would be of special interest. In the regeneration. The Greek word here used (palingenesia) is found nowhere else in New Testament save Titus 3:5, where it denotes the spiritual new birth. Here it has a very different sense. Plutarch uses it for the appearance of souls in new bodies (Pythagorean doctrine of transmigration); M. Antoninus speaks, according to a Stoic conception, of "the periodical new-birth of the universe," viz., in spring; Philo, according to another Stoic conception, foretells a new-birth of the world out of fire; Cicero speaks of his "restoration to dignities and honours " as "this new birth of ours"; and a late Piatonist says, "Recollection is a new birth of knowledge." These uses will illustrate our passage, which has a kindred but profounder sense. When the Messianic reign is fully established, there will be a new-birth of all things, called also a "restoration of all things", (Acts 3:21, Revelation Ver.) "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13; compare Revelation 21:1, Revelation 21:5), and the deliverance of the whole creation from the bondage of corruption at the revealing of the sons of God in redeemed bodies. (Romans 8:18-23) The Peshitta here translates 'in the new world,' or new age, period. (Compare on Matthew 12:32.) Understood thus, 'in the regeneration'(1) is manifestly not connected with 'ye that have followed me,' for it denotes not the beginning, but the consummation of the Messianic reign, when the Son of man (see on "Matthew 8:20") shall sit in the throne of his glory , compare, Matthew 25:31; also Matthew 7:22, Matthew 16:27. All this high-wrought imagery of a universal restoration, a new birth, a new universe, must of course be interpreted as imagery, and must not be so understood as to exclude other facts of the future which are plainly revealed, as in Matthew 25:46. Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, is of course an image. It is idle to insist upon the exact number twelve, (compare Revelation 21:12-14) and so to be troubled about the fact that while Matthias took the place of Judas, Paul made thirteen apostles. Judging the twelve tribes of Israel certainly does not mean that only Jews will be judged, or that one apostle will judge one tribe. The Oriental king, and the Roman emperor, was also a judge, and when he sat on his throne in public, it was usually for the purpose of hearing petitions or complaints and giving judgment, Such a monarch often had persons seated near him (called by the Romans "assessors"), to aid him in judging; compare Revelation 4:4; "round about the throne were four and twenty thrones." To this position of dignity and honour will the Twelve be exalted at the consummation of the Messianic kingdom; compare 1 Corinthians 6:2, "the saints shall judge the world." Our Lord will use the same image again on the night before the crucifixion, Luke 22:30.

Matthew 19:29. Not only the Twelve are to be rewarded, but every one that hath forsaken (left) anything for his sake; 'every one' is in the Greek a very strong expression; every one whosoever. The enumeration is substantially the same in Mark and Luke. But Luke, while condensing some of the other expressions, has also 'or wife,' and this, as so often happened in parallel passages, crept early into many copies of Matthew and Mark. Being omitted by fewer earlier copies of Matt. than of Mark, the Rev. Ver. here places it in the margin. Though not belonging to either Matthew or Mark, we know from Luke that the word was spoken.

The list of objects is not intended in any case to be complete; it mentions several principal things, and we understand that the same is true of anything else. Houses may have been mentioned first because some of the Twelve, as Simon Peter, had left homes; lands last, because real estate among the Jews was specially valuable property, not to be alienated, compare Acts 4:34, Acts 4:37. The most exactly similar case at the present time is seen in the foreign missionary, or in a converted heathen, who is cast out by his kindred, and finds compensation in the Christian affection and kind offices of the other converts, and in the joy of serving Christ, and hoping for eternal life. More remotely similar is the case of a worldly young person in a Christian land, who becomes converted, and forsakes worldly pleasures and companionships. Shall receive a hundredfold. It is doubtful whether we should read this as in Mark, or 'manifold' (Rev. Ver., margin), as in Luke. The question is of no practical importance.(1) We might in reading Matt. think only of rewards after death. Mark 10:30 says, 'a hundredfold now in this time.... and in the world to come eternal life'; and such a distinction seems to be intended in Matt. also. Jesus speaks of earthly rewards first, but does not mean literally similar things to those left, but equivalent things—blessings temporal or spiritual, that will compensate many times over for all that was abandoned. The expressions cannot possibly be understood literally, because that would be promising in Mark a hundred mothers, and compare Luke.

Matthew 19:30. But many that are first shall be last, etc. This enigmatical saying is given also by Mark 10:31. In Matthew our Lord proceeds to illustrate it by a parable, at the close of which (Matthew 20:16) he repeats the saying. In the parable an employer pays, and asserts his right to pay, the same wages to labourers who began later in the day, as to those who began early. Then Jesus is here speaking of the rewards that will be given his followers, and declares that these will be given as a matter of sovereignty, without recognizing any claim to precedence. So the immediate application of the saying to the Twelve is probably to the order in which they became disciples. In their disputes as to which should have the highest place in the kingdom (compare on Matthew 18:1), now shortly to be renewed, (Matthew 20:20) some of the disciples might naturally urge that the highest places should be given to those who first followed the Master. So far as we know, these were John and Andrew, next Andrew's brother Simon, and presently Philip and Nathanael. (John 1:35-51) Now Simon and Andrew, John and his brother James, were afterwards together called to leave other employments and follow Jesus, (Matthew 4:18-22) are repeatedly mentioned together as being in his company, (Mark 1:39; Mark 13:3) and constitute the first four in every list of the Twelve (see on "Matthew 10:2"). Peter, James, and John were alone with Jesus during that night upon the mountain, (Matthew 17:1) of which they would give the others no account, (Matthew 17:9) as they had been on a former interesting occasion. (Mark 5:37) And presently James and John will ask through their mother (Matthew 20:20) for the two highest places. These facts make it not at all unnatural to suppose that the order of time entered into their disputes. Our Lord then means that he, or the Father, (Matthew 20:23) will act as he shall think proper (Matthew 20:15) in respect to precedence, and many who entered his service late will receive greater reward than others who entered earlier; he will recognize no claim on any such ground. A notable instance would be the Apostle Paul. But while immediately designed to check disputes as to this question of time, the principle is stated generally and may have other applications. It is presupposed throughout, as already involved in Matthew 19:28 f., that Christ's servants will be differently rewarded; we learn here that this reward will not be regulated by the mere outward conditions of the time spent in his service, or the results actually attained, but will be conferred according to his own judgment and sovereign pleasure. David, who meant to build, will be rewarded as truly, and it may be as richly, as Solomon who built; James who was early slain, as truly as his brother who lived so long. The often repeated view of some Fathers that the reference was to Jews and Gentiles, is quite untenable. The equal reward of some who die early is set forth by a somewhat similar illustration in Talmud Jerus., Berach., ch. II, 8 (Schwab), designed to give comfort in regard to the early death of a rabbi. A king hired many labourers, and seeing one who worked remarkably well, took him apart after two hours to walk with him to and fro. At even he paid this man as much as the others, and when they complained, he said, 'This man has done more in two hours than you in a whole day.' In like manner the young rabbi knew the law better when he died at the age of twenty-eight than any other would have known it if he had lived to be a hundred. Thus the resemblance to our Lord's illustration is only partial, and the point of application quite different, while in itself very pleasing.

Reward Of Sacrifices For Christ's Sake, Continued

III. Matthew 20:1-16. Parable Of The Labourers Who Received The Same Reward

Found in Matthew only. It is designed to illustrate the saying of Matthew 19:30, which is repeated at the close, as the outcome of the illustration. (Matthew 20:16) The terms of the parable itself are for the most part plain.

Matthew 20:1-6. The kingdom of heaven, the Messianic reign (see on "Matthew 3:2") is like, in some respects resembles, the following story (compare on Matthew 13:24) Unto a man, that is a householder. As the story is told in the past tense throughout, the Amer. Revisers very naturally wish to insert 'that was', rather than 'that is', as in Matthew 13:22, where the present tense follows. 'Householder', or housemaster, is the same word as in Matthew 10:25 (See on "Matthew 10:25"); Matthew 13:52, Matthew 13:57, and below in Matthew 21:21, Matthew 21:33, Matthew 21:24, Matthew 21:43. He owns a house, and a vineyard. (Matthew 20:8) A penny, denarius, about seventeen cents, see on Matthew 18:28. This was the customary wages of a soldier or a labourer; Plin. XXXIII, 8; Tac., Ann. I, 17; Tobit 5:14; Talmud. The third hour. The Jews divided the day, from Sunrise to sunset, into twelve parts. At the vernal and autumnal equinox these would be exactly as long as an hour with us, but at other seasons would be longer or shorter. The sixth hour would always be noon, the third and ninth would correspond loosely to our 9 A.M. and 3 P.M.; the eleventh hour loosely to an hour before sunset. In the market place, or public square, where people came together for business or conversation. Go ye also, 'ye' being expressed in the Greek and thus emphatic. Whatsoever is right, no definite bargain as with the first set. In the supposed actual occurrence this might result from haste, or from the fact that they would now be glad to find employment at all, and would trust the employer's justice without s definite arrangement. As to the illustration, this point prepares for the result, and the peculiar application. About the eleventh hour. Here 'hour' is not expressed in the correct Greek text, but naturally suggested. Others standing idle. The word 'idle' is here wanting in very many of the earliest and best documents, and was obviously drawn by copyists from Tobit 5:3 and the end of Tobit 5:6. Why stand ye here all the day idle? This is often used homiletically as representing persons who are slothful in neglecting to work in Christ's vineyard. But such application is unwarranted, and alien to the tone of the parable. The reason given by these men is treated as valid, and they are paid for a full day's work.

Matthew 20:7. Go ye also, 'ye' emphatic, as in Matthew 20:4 (1) Obviously this employer of labour acts very peculiarly. (Compare Bruce.) It is not necessary to seek parallel cases, nor wise to propose his course as a model in ordinary business (as Ruskin does in "Unto this last," the title being drawn from Matthew 20:12.) The thing is possible, and the story is meant as an illustration of God's course, who is other and higher than man. (Isaiah 55:8 f.)

Matthew 20:8-12. His steward, same word in Luke 8:3, Galatians 4:2, is natural in the story of a great employer; what good is done by saying that the steward represents Christ? (Compare on Matthew 13:3) Beginning from the last was a special direction given, in order that those hired earlier might see that all were paid alike.

Matthew 20:11. Murmured, a strong word, more exactly, grumbled. The Greek word, the Latin murmur, and the English grumble, are all onomatopoetic. The tense is imperfect, describing the grumbling as in progress.

Matthew 20:12. Have wrought but one hour. Spent is the meaning, rather than 'wrought'. The heat, the same word as in Luke 12:55, James 1:11. The Rev. Ver. renders 'scorching heat' in this v. and Luke, and 'scorching wind' in James and puts 'hot wind' in the margin of Matthew and Luke. The word means 'burner', and is applied sometimes to burning heat in general, but more frequently in Septuagint to the burning east wind. (See Grimm.) The order of the words, 'the burden of the day and the scorching heat', (kauson), as well as the more frequent use in that sense, renders it likely that the hot wind is here intended. Mere heat is so common in Palestine that it would scarcely be worth remark: but the dry and scorching east wind is something terrible. Even in February (1871) this dry east wind, having come across the desert sands and lost all its moisture, in an hour so parched the mouth and nostrils as to make breathing painful and speech difficult. The position of the article in the Greek makes it impossible to render, 'the burden and heat of the day' (as in Tyn. and followers.)

Matthew 20:13-16. Friend, or 'comrade,' a familiar and kindly term, as in Matthew 11:16, Matthew 22:12, Matthew 26:50.

14. Take, take up, or 'take away.' They had received the pay, but perhaps had laid it down again, or stood holding it in the hand, unwilling to go off with it. I will give. The Rev. Ver., It is my will to give, conveys the meaning well. The Greek is expressed in English by 'will to' or 'wish to', (Matthew 15:32, Matthew 16:24, Matthew 19:17) according to the nature of the case; compare Matthew 20:15, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9.

Matthew 20:15. Is it not lawful, permissible. (See on Matthew 14:4) To do what I will with mine own? The Saviour here illustrates his sovereignty in the whole matter of rewarding his followers. Or, Is thine eye evil, here expresses jealousy and hate, (Mark 7:22, Deuteronomy 15:9, Proverbs 28:22) quite different from the meaning in Matthew 6:23. 'Or' is in the correct Greek text.

Matthew 20:16. The latter clause of this verse in the common Greek text, for many be (are) called, but few chosen, is wanting in leading early documents, and evidently brought in from Matthew 22:14, where there is no variation in the reading.(1) Our Lord here repeats the saying of Matthew 19:30, which he introduced the parable to illustrate. It is very natural that it should be repeated in a general form, without the restrictive 'many' of the first statement. Some able writers (Meyer, Weiss, others) urge that the parable and this statement teach that in the consummated Messianic kingdom all will have an equal reward. But this is inconsistent with the first statement, and with the distinct intimation of Matthew 19:28 f. that there will be difference of reward. The general thought of the parable is that the assignment of individual rewards will be a matter of divine sovereignty, precisely as in Matthew 20:23, Acts 1:7. We have seen on Matthew 19:30 that this had a special application for the disciples, but as a general principle may be variously applied. It is very true, as some commentators urge, and it may be properly recalled here, that God will reward men more according to aim and spirit than to time spent or results achieved: but the Saviour does not here say that, or distinctly imply it.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 20:23-26. Salvation of the rich. (1) It is hard, Matthew 20:23. (a) Many peculiar sins connected with wealth, in procuring, loving, using, retaining it. (b) Men find it difficult to withdraw the heart from wealth, (Matthew 6:21) and give it in supreme devotion to Christ (compare Matthew 20:21 f.); and without this there can be no salvation. (2) It is not only hard, but impossible, Matthew 20:24, Matthew 20:26; yea, it is impossible for any man to be saved, through human wisdom, power, or goodness.

Matthew 20:23. Euthym.: "If the rich man with difficulty, the covetous man not at all; for if he that does not give his own possessions is condemned, much more he that also grasps the possessions of others."

Matthew 20:25. Who then can be saved? Henry: "Considering the many difficulties that are in the way of salvation, it is really strange that any are saved. 'When we think how good God is, it may seem a wonder that so few are his; but when we think how bad man is, it is more a wonder that so many are, and Christ will be eternally admired in them."

Matthew 20:27. Forsaking all. The all may not be much, yet it is much to forsake all. Chrys.: "The forsaking was done for the sake of following, and the following was rendered easier by the forsaking."

Matthew 19:27-30. Forsaking and receiving. (1) Christ's servant must actually forsake many things, and be willing to forsake all things, for the sake of him and his work. (2) The negative forsaking must be accompanied by positive following. (3) He shall receive incomparably more than he has forsaken—both in time and in eternity. (4) The rewards received by different servants will be very different in degree, Matthew 19:28. (5) But Christ himself must decide what each one's reward shall be, Matthew 19:30, compare Matthew 20:1-16; we must make no claims and no complaints.

Matthew 20:28. They who follow Jesus in this world shall reign with him in the better world.

Matthew 20:29. Cyril: "He does not say that they shall have many fathers or mothers in place of one, or many fields in place of few, but that all the earthly things will be incomparably excelled by the heavenly, and the things that are saved will be more valuable than those that are lost."

Matthew 20:1-16. The labourers in God's vineyard and their reward. (1) Unlike many human employers, God cares as much for the good of the workers as for the amount of work done. (2) God's service is not repose in a "Castle of Indolence," but hard work in a vineyard; self-denial and toil in promoting our own piety and that of others. (3) God will reward his workers richly—in this life (Matthew 19:29, compare Mark 10:30), and in the life to come. (Matthew 5:8, Matthew 19:21, Matthew 19:28) (4) He will give to none less than he had promised (Matthew 20:13), but he will give to some much more than he had promised; he will give as a sovereign (Matthew 20:15), and his workers must recognize that he does all things well. (Matthew 20:16, compare Matthew 19:30)

 


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Bibliography Information
Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 19:4". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jbm/matthew-19.html. 1886.

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