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Ver. 1. Now when he had ended all his sayings , etc.] That is, when Jesus, as the Persic version expresses it, had finished all the above sayings, doctrines, and instructions; not all that he had to say, for he said many things after this: in the audience of the people ; of the common people, the multitude besides the disciples; and that openly, and publicly, and with a loud and clear voice, that all might hear: he entered into Capernaum ; Jesus entered, as the Syriac version reads, into his own city, and where he had been before, and wrought miracles.
Ver. 2. And a certain centurion's servant , etc.] The same that Matthew makes mention of, ( Matthew 8:5,6). who was dear unto him ; to the centurion, being an honest, upright, faithful, and obliging servant; as Tabi was to Rabban Gamaliel, of whom his master said f275 , “Tabi my servant, is not as other servants, hyh rçk , “he is upright”.” was sick : of a palsy; (see Matthew 8:6), and ready to die ; in all appearance his case was desperate, and there was no help for him by any human means, which makes the following cure, the more remarkable.
Ver. 3. And when he heard of Jesus , etc.] That he was come, as the Ethiopic version adds, into the city of Capernaum; or of his miracles, which he had done there, and elsewhere: he sent unto him the elders of the Jews : in whom he had an interest, judging himself, being a Gentile, very unworthy and unfit to go himself, and ask a favour of so great a person as Christ was, such was his modesty and humility. These elders he sent, were not the more ancient inhabitants of the city, called Urah µ[ ynqz , “the elders of, or among the common people”, as distinguished from hrwt ynqz , “the elders of the law”, or those that were old in knowledge; of both which it is said by R. Simeon ben Achasia f276 , that “the elders of the common people, when they grow old, their knowledge fails in them, as it is said, ( John 12:20) but so it is not with the “elders of the law”; but when they grow old, their knowledge rests in them, as it is said, ( Job 12:12).”
But these were either some principal officers of the city, called the elders of the people elsewhere; particularly, who were members of the sanhedrim; for as elders, when they design the elders in Jerusalem, mean the great sanhedrim there; so elders, in other places, intend the sanhedrim, consisting of twenty one persons, or the bench of three; and such were these, the centurion sent to Christ: beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant : he besought him most earnestly by these messengers, that he would come to his house, and cure his servant of the palsy, by laying his hands on him, or commanding the distemper off, by a word speaking; or in what way he should think fit, for he made no doubt that he was able to heal him.
Ver. 4. And when they came to Jesus , etc.] To that part of the city where he was; either at Peter's house, where he used to be when in this place; or rather it might be as he was passing along the streets, that they came up to him they besought him instantly ; or with great vehemence and importunity; very studiously and carefully they urged the case, and pressed him much to it: saying, he was worthy for whom he should do this ; or, “for whom thou shouldst do this”, as the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions read, and some copies; and which reading connects the words best. This speech of theirs savours of their “pharisaic” tenet and notion of merit, and is very different from the sense the poor centurion had of himself.
Ver. 5. For he loveth our nation , etc.] The Jewish nation, which was Christ's nation, as well as theirs, he being a Jew; (see John 18:35). This they mention as an argument to induce him to have a regard to the centurion, though he was a Gentile; since he was a friend of the Jews, and well affected and disposed to them, which was very rare: it was not common for the Gentiles to love the Jews, any more than the Jews the Gentiles; there was an hatred, yea, an enmity between them; but this man, very likely, was a proselyte to their religion, as the following instance seems to show: and he hath built us a synagogue ; at his own private charge, and by the assistance of his soldiers under him, whom he might employ in this work: sometimes a single person built a synagogue at his own expense, and gave it to the citizens; of which the Jews say, f278 “if a man builds an house, and afterwards devotes it to a synagogue, it is as a synagogue.”
Ver. 6. Then Jesus went with them , etc.] The elders of the Jews, towards the centurion's house, after hearing their request, and their reasons for it; and that without any reluctancy, he at once complied, made no hesitation, or difficulty about it, but went with them very freely: and when he was now not far from the house ; of the centurion, where his servant lay sick; he having some notice of his coming, and of his being near his house, in his great humility, and being conscious to himself of his unworthiness to have such a person under his roof, sent messengers to prevent him: the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself ; or do not fatigue thyself by coming to the house, stop, go no further; for I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof : he might know full well the law of the Jews, that it was not lawful for a Jew to go into the house of an uncircumcised Gentile; and though he might be a proselyte of righteousness, and so his house was free of entrance; yet considering his own meanness, and the greatness of Christ, who was become so famous for his doctrines and miracles, he thought it too great a stoop for Christ to come into his house, and too high a favour for him to enjoy.
Ver. 7. Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee , etc.] In person; therefore he sent the elders of the Jews to him first, and now some of his friends, who delivered these words in his name: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed ; speak but the word only, rebuke the distemper, command it off, and it will be gone; so great was his faith in the power of Christ.
Ver. 8. For I also am a man set under authority , etc.] Of the Roman senate; “or belonging to the emperor”, as the Arabic version renders it; and under the command of a tribune, as a centurion was: so that this is not an amplification, but a diminution of his office; and his sense is, that even he who was but an inferior officer, yet had such power as after related: having under me soldiers ; an hundred, or more: and I say unto one, go, and he goeth, and to another, come, and he cometh, and to my servant, do this, and he doth it ; as this his servant used to do, and whom he may intend, who now lay sick, and therefore was dear unto him. His meaning is, that Christ could as easily command, and call off a distemper, add it would obey him, as he could command obedience from his soldiers and servant, and have it, and more so.
Ver. 9. When Jesus heard these things , etc.] Which the friends of the centurion related from him, and in his name; or which he himself delivered, coming up to Christ after them: he marvelled at him ; at his great humility and modesty, and the strength of his faith, and his manner of reasoning: and turned him about ; from him, and his friends: and said unto the people that followed him ; from the mount to Capernaum, and as he was passing along the streets: I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel ; or “among the Israelites”, as the Syriac; or “among the children of Israel”, as the Persic; or “in all Israel”, as the Arabic version reads, as he did in this single Gentile; (See Gill on “ Matthew 8:10”).
Ver. 10. And they that were sent , etc.] Both the elders of the Jews, and the friends of the centurion: returning to the house ; of the centurion, where his servant lay, and from whence they came: found the servant whole that had been sick ; for he was healed directly, as soon as the centurion had expressed his faith, and Christ had declared that it should be according to it, ( Matthew 8:13).
Ver. 11. And it came to pass the day after , etc.] The Vulgate Latin reads “afterward”, not expressing any day, as in ( Luke 8:1), but the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions, read to the same sense as we, the day after, the next day, on the morrow, after he had cured the centurion's servant in Capernaum, where he staid all night: that he went into a city called Naim ; which Jerom places near Mount Tabor, and the river Kison. The Jews speak of a Naim in, the tribe of Issachar, so called from its pleasantness, and which seems to be the same place with this. The Persic version reads it, “Nabetis”, or “Neapolis”, the same With Sychem in Samaria, but without reason: and many of his disciples went with him ; not only the twelve, but many others: and much people ; from Capernaum, and other parts, that followed him to see his miracles, or for one end or another, though, they did not believe in him; at least these were only hearers, and had, not entered themselves among the disciples, Ver. 12. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city , etc.] Of Naim: behold: there was a dead man carried out ; of the city; for they, used not to bury in cities, but in places without, and at some distance: the burying places of the Jews were not near, their cities f281 ; and they had different ways of carrying them out to be buried, according to their different ages: a child under a month old was carried out in the bosom of a person; if a full month old, in a little coffin, which they carried in their arms; one of a twelve month old was carried in a little coffin on the shoulder; and one of three years old on a bier or bed, and so upwards; and in this manner was this corpse carried out: who was the only son of his mother ; hence the sorrow and mourning were the greater; (see Zechariah 12:10) and she was a widow ; and if she had been supported by her son, her loss was very considerable; and having neither husband, nor son, to do for her, her case was very affecting: and much people of the city was with her ; according to the age of persons was the company that attended them to the grave: if it was an infant, not a month old, it was buried by one woman, and two men, but not by one man, and two women; if a month old, by men and women; and whoever was carried out on a bier or bed, many mourned for him; and whoever was known to many, many accompanied him f283 ; and which was the case this dead man: he seems to have been well known and respected by the company that attended him to his grave; of these some were bearers, and these had their deputies, and these again theirs; for as they carried their dead a great way, they were obliged often to change their bearers; and of the company, some went before the bier, and others went after it f284 : besides, what served to increase company at a funeral was, that it was looked upon as an act of kindness and mercy to follow a corpse to the grave f285 ; to which may be added, and what must always tend to increase the number at such a time, that, according to the Jewish canons f286 “it was forbidden to do any work at the time a dead man was buried, even one of the common people.”
Ver. 13. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her , etc.] Knowing her case, that she was a widow, and had lost her only son: and said unto her, weep not ; signifying, that he would help her, which he did without being asked to do it, as usual in other cases.
Ver. 14. And he came and touched the bier , etc.] Or “bed”, as the Syriac version renders it; and such was hjm , “the bier”, or bed, on which one of three years old, and upward, was carried as above mentioned: so that on which Herod was carried to his grave is called klinh “a bed”, by Josephus f287 . As for the bed, or bier, of what sort it was that they carried out their dead upon, take the following account: f288 “formerly the rich carried out (their dead) upon a bed called Dargash, (which is said to be a bed that was not platted with ropes, and is called a bed of fortune f290 ,) and the poor carried out (their dead) upon one that was called Celicah, (or Celibah, as sometimes read; and this was made in the form of an iron horn, on which they bound the corpse, that it might not fall; and it was called so, because it was made like a coup of birds as the word is used in ( Jeremiah 5:27)) and the poor, were made ashamed; and therefore they ordered that all should carry out (their dead) on a Celicah, for the honour of the poor.”
To this Christ came near and touched: not that by his touching of that, the dead should be raised; but this he did as a signal, that the bearers should stop. The Jews say, one of the charges that Jacob gave to his sons before his death, was, to: “take care (says he) that no uncircumcised person, ytjmb [gy , touch my bed, or “bier”, lest the Shekinah remove from me; but, according to this order, do unto me, carry me, three on the north, three on the south, three on the east, and three on the west, etc.”
From whence it should seem, that a circumcised person, as Christ was, might touch a bier without offence, or hurt, and without contracting any ceremonial pollution: to touch a dead body, or the bone of man, or a grave, was forbidden by the law, ( Numbers 19:16) and so, according to the traditions of the elders f293 , the stone that was rolled at the mouth of the sepulchre, and the, side of the sepulchre, defiled by touching; but I do not find that touching a bier was ever forbidden. And they that bare him stood still : these are they that are called hjmh yaçwg “the bearers of the bed”, or “bier”: and Maimonides says, “they carry the dead upon their shoulders to the grave; and the bearers of the bier are forbidden to put on their sandals, lest the latchet of any one of them should fail, and should be found to hinder him doing his duty.”
And elsewhere it is said f295 , “the bearers of the bed, or bier, and their deputies, and their deputies' deputies, both before the bier and after it, find whoever the bier stood in need of, were free;” i.e. from reading the Shema, or, “hear, O Israel”, etc. and from prayer: the reason of their having so many bearers was, because they carried the dead a great way to be buried. King Herod was carried after this manner two hundred furlongs from Jerusalem, to the castle of Herodion f296 : and he said, young man, I say unto thee, arise . The Ethiopic version adds, “and he arose”: Christ spoke as one that had the keys of death and the grave; and divine power went along with his words, which raised the dead man to life; and full proof this is of the true and proper deity of Christ.
Ver. 15. And he that was dead , etc.] That had been dead, (for he was now alive,) as it was a clear case to all his relations and friends, or they would never have brought him out to bury him: sat up ; upon the bed, or bier: and began to speak; both which, his sitting up and speaking, were plain proofs of his being brought to life: and he delivered him to his mother ; for whose sake he raised him from the dead, commiserating her case: wherefore, as Christ showed his power in raising the dead man, he discovered great humanity, kindness, and tenderness, in delivering him alive to his mother; which might be done after he came off of the bier, by taking him by the hand, and leading him to his mother, and giving him up into her arms: think what affecting scene this must be!
Ver. 16. And there came a fear on all , etc.] That were there present, and heard, and saw what was done. Not a fear of dread, and terror, and of punishment, as in devils and wicked men; but a fear and reverence of the divine majesty, whose power and presence they were sensible must be there at that time: and they glorified God ; they praised him, and gave thanks to him, ascribing this amazing action to divine power, and gave God the glory of it; and blessed him for the Messiah, who was sent unto them, as they concluded Jesus to be, from this wonderful instance: saying, that a great prophet is risen up among us; even that great prophet Moses wrote of, and said should be raised up from among the children of Israel, ( Deuteronomy 18:15,18) and that God hath visited his people.
The Arabic version adds, “for good”. For God sometimes visits for evil, in a wave of wrath and sore displeasure; but this was a visitation for good: they concluded that God had looked upon them with a look of love, and had a gracious regard to them, and had sent them the Messiah, who, they hoped, would deliver them from the Roman yoke; as he had formerly looked upon, and visited their fathers, and sent a redeemer to them, to deliver them from Egyptian bondage. The Ethiopic version renders it, “and God hath mercy on his people”; and the Persic version, “God hath looked upon his people, and hath taken care of them.”
Ver. 17. And this rumour of him , etc.] Or the report of this surprising miracle in raising a dead man to life, that was carrying to his grave, went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about ; not only Judea, and the several cities, towns, and villages in it, but all the country round about it, especially Galilee. The Persic version reads, “all countries which are round about Jordan”; see ( Matthew 3:5).
Ver. 18. And the disciples of John showed him of all these things .] The miracles that were wrought by Christ; particularly the healing of the centurion's servant, and the raising from the dead the widow of Naim's son, and what fame and reputation Christ got every where by his doctrine, and mighty works. John was now in prison, when these his disciples came and related these things to him; (see Matthew 11:2) and they spoke of them, not as commending Christ for them; but as envying, grieving, and complaining, that he carried away all the honour and glory from John their master, for whom they had the greatest regard.
Ver. 19. And John calling unto him two of his disciples , etc.] Which were a sufficient number to be sent on an errand, to ask a question, and report the answer, or bear witness to any fact they should see, or hear done. Sent them unto Jesus, saying, art thou he that should come, or look we for another? not that he doubted that Jesus was the Messiah; nor was it for his own satisfaction so much that he sent these disciples of his with this question, but for theirs; and to remove all doubt and hesitation from them about Christ.
Ver. 20. When the men were come to him , etc.] To Jesus; “those two men”, as the Arabic version reads; “the disciples”, as the Persic version; the same that John sent from the castle of Machaerus, where he was now a prisoner, to Christ, who was teaching in some city or town of Galilee: they said, John the Baptist ; so well known by his being the administrator of the ordinance of baptism: hath sent us unto thee, saying, art thou he that should come, or look we for another? (See Gill on “ Matthew 11:3”).
Ver. 21. And in that same hour , etc.] Or at that same time, for a precise hour is not intended: one exemplar reads, “in that day”, in which these men came to Christ, he , Jesus, as the Persic version expresses it, cured many of their infirmities ; bodily weaknesses and disorders: and plagues; which were inflicted on them as scourges and corrections for sin, very severe diseases, as epilepsies, leprosies, palsies, etc. and of evil spirits; or devils, which he dispossessed and commanded out of the bodies of men; though sometimes evil spirits, with the Jews, signify some kinds of bodily diseases: as when it is said f297 “whoever puts out a lamp because he is afraid of Gentiles, or of thieves, or of h[r jwr , “an evil spirit”, or because of a sick man that is asleep, he is free.”
Upon which Maimonides observes, “an evil spirit they call all kinds of diseases, which, in the Arabic language, go by the name of “melancholy”; for it is one kind of the diseases mentioned, which makes a sick man to fly, and separate himself from mankind, as if he was afraid of the light, or of coming into the company of men:” and unto many that were blind he gave sight; freely, as an act of grace and kindness, as the word signifies, without any merit, or motive, in them.
Ver. 22. Then Jesus answering said unto them , etc.] “To the disciples”, as the Persic; to both, as the Arabic: when he had wrought these cures, he turned himself to the disciples of John, and made answer to their question.
The Vulgate Latin leaves out the word “Jesus”, rendering it, “and he answering”; in the following words: go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard . They had just seen many cured of infirmities, plagues, and evil spirits, and they had heard the doctrines of the Gospel preached by him; and the former were in confirmation of the latter, and both were proofs of his being the Messiah: the particulars of which follow, how that the blind see ; that is, they that had been blind, and some that were born blind received their sight, which was what was never heard of before, from the beginning of the world; and which, as it is an instance of Christ's almighty power, showing him to be God; so it was a fulfilment of a prophecy concerning him as the Messiah, who, when he came, was to open the eyes of the blind, ( Isaiah 35:5) and this was true, not only in a corporeal, but in a spiritual sense: and generally so it was, that when the blind received their bodily sight, they also received their spiritual sight; and both were evidences of the true Messiahship of our Lord Jesus. The lame walk ; these were among those who were cured of their infirmities; and this also was prophesied of the Messiah, and was now accomplished by Jesus, that “the lame man” should “leap as an hart”, ( Isaiah 35:6) and so was to be considered by John, and his disciples, as another proof of his being the true Messiah: the lepers are cleansed ; of this sort were they who were cured of their plagues: the leprosy was called a plague; hence the treatise of leprosy, in the Misna, is, by the Jews, called Negaim, or “plagues”. The deaf hear ; so in the above prophecy in Isaiah, it is predicted, that “the ears of the deaf should be unstopped” in the days of the Messiah; and which therefore must be considered as a further confirmation of Jesus being he that was to come, and that another was not to be looked for. The dead are raised : whether there were any raised at this time, or no, is not certain; but certain it is, that there had been one raised from the dead, if not in the presence of these disciples, yet just before they came to Christ, of which John had been informed by some of his disciples, if not these; and of which an account is given before in this chapter, and which is what none but the mighty God can do. To the poor the Gospel is preached : it was preached both by the poor, the disciples of Christ, and to the poor, mean, base, and illiterate among the Jews; and also to the poor, meek, and lowly in heart, as was prophesied should be, by the Messiah, ( Isaiah 61:1) so that put all together, here were undoubted proofs, and a full demonstration, that Jesus was the Messiah; (See Gill on “ Matthew 11:4”). (See Gill on “ Matthew 11:5”).
Ver. 23. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me .] The Arabic version renders it, “blessed is he that doubts not of me”. The Persic and Ethiopic versions both add to the text, the former rendering the words thus, “blessed is he that is not brought into offence and doubt concerning me”; and the latter thus, “blessed are they who do not deny me, and are not offended in me”: particular regard is had to the disciples of John, who both doubted of Christ as the Messiah, and were offended at his popularity and success; (See Gill on “ Matthew 11:6”).
Ver. 24. And when the messengers of John were departed , etc.] The Syriac and Persic versions read, “the disciples of John”; and the Arabic version, “the two disciples of John”; the two that he sent, when they were gone back with the answer of Christ; he, “Jesus”, as the Persic version expresses it, began to speak unto the people concerning John; not caring to say any thing about him to the messengers, or whilst they were present, lest he should be charged with flattery; (See Gill on “ Matthew 11:7”) What went ye into the wilderness for to see? a reed shaken with the wind ? an inconsistent, wavering, and unstable man? if so, they were greatly mistaken; or the motions and gesture of the man? (See Gill on “ Matthew 11:7”).
Ver. 25. But what went you out for to see ? etc.] If not his air and action, what was it? was it his apparel and dress? was it to see a man clothed in soft raiment? If this was the case, their labour was in vain, and they had their walk for nothing; for John was clothed with camels' hair, rough and undressed, and was girt with a leathern girdle; there was nothing in his person, mien, and garb, that was attractive: they which are gorgeously, apparelled ; or richly clothed, as John was not: and live delicately ; in the most elegant manner, and on the richest dainties, as John did not, his food being locusts and wild honey: are in kings' courts ; and not in a wilderness, where John; came preaching.
Ver. 26. But what went ye out for to see ? etc.] What led your curiosity to go into the wilderness after him, since it could not be any of the above things? was it to see a prophet ? which was the case; for John was a prophet, and was known to be one; and the fame of him, as such, drew vast numbers to see and hear him, there not having been a prophet among the Jews, for some hundreds of years: yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet ; not that he was the prophet Moses did say should come; nor was he the priest that should arise with the “Urim” and “Thummim”, that the “Tirshatha”, Nehemiah spoke of; nor was he the king Messiah; but he was his forerunner, he saw him and baptized him, and so was greater than any of the prophets that went before him.
Ver. 29. And all the people that heard him , etc.] Either Christ saying these things in commendation of John, and gave their assent to them, and showed their approbation of them, having been baptized by him; or rather, the people that had heard John preach the doctrines of repentance and faith, and of baptism; for these words seem rather to be the words of Christ, relating the success of John's ministry among different persons: and the publicans justified God; even those wicked men, who were before profligate and abandoned sinners, when they came under John's ministry, were so wrought upon by the power and grace of God through it, that they approved of, and applauded the wisdom, goodness, and grace of God, in sending such a prophet as John; in qualifying him in the manner he did, and giving in him a commission to preach such doctrines, and administer such an ordinance as he did: and this their approbation of the divine conduct, and their thankfulness for the same, they testified by their being baptized with the baptism of John; they expressed their sentiments by their obedience; they declared it was right in God to institute such an ordinance, and for John to administer it; and that it became them to submit to it, as a part of righteousness to be fulfilled; they hereby signified, that they thought that it was agreeable to the nature of God, who is holy, just, and good, suitable to the Gospel dispensation, and very fit and proper for them.
Ver. 30. But the Pharisees and lawyers , etc.] Or Scribes, as the Syriac and Persic versions read; for the Scribes and lawyers were the same sort of persons. The Ethiopic version calls them, “the Scribes of the city”: these “rejected the counsel of God against themselves”; against their own advantage, to their hurt and detriment; since by their impenitence and unbelief, and through their rejection of Christ and his forerunner, and the Gospel and the ordinances of it, they brought ruin and destruction, both temporal and eternal, upon themselves: or “towards themselves”, or “unto them”; that is, they “rejected the command of God unto them”, as the Arabic version renders it: for by “the counsel of God” here, is not meant his purpose, intention, and design, with respect to these persons, which was not, nor never is frustrated; but the precept of God, and so the Ethiopic version renders it, they despised the command of God : that is, the ordinance of baptism, which was of God, and the produce of his counsel and wisdom, as the whole scheme, and all the ordinances of the Gospel are, and not the invention of men: or they rejected this “in themselves”, as it may be rendered, and is by the Syriac and Persic versions; not openly and publicly, for they were afraid of the people, but inwardly and privately, and which their actions and conduct declared: being not baptized of him ; of John: by their neglect of this ordinance, they testified their aversion to it, and rejection of it.
Ver. 31. And the Lord said , etc.] This clause is not in the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions, nor in some copies, nor in Beza's most ancient copy; and being omitted, more clearly shows, that the two former verses are the words of Christ, and not an observation the evangelist makes, on the different behaviour of Christ's hearers, upon the commendation he had given of John: whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation; or “to what men shall I liken them”, as the Persic version: the phrase “men of this generation”, is Rabbinical; so yçwa awhh ard , the men of that “generation”, are more beautiful in work than these, says the Targumist on ( Ecclesiastes 7:11). “And to what are they like?” To that which follows.
Ver. 32. They are like to children , etc.] The Pharisees and lawyers, who rejected the counsel of God, and the baptism of John, were like to “children”; not for innocence, simplicity, meekness, and humility; their characters were the reverse; but rather, for their ignorance, and want of understanding, their folly and weakness; nor are they here compared to the children that piped and mourned, but to those surly and ill natured ones, who made no answer to those that did. They, together with Christ, and John the Baptist, are in general likened to children, sitting in the market place ; where children were wont to be, there being a variety of persons and things to be seen; and which may design the temple, or the synagogues, or any place of concourse, where the Pharisees met, with John, Christ, and their disciples: and calling one to another, and saying ; they that were good natured, and more disposed to mirth and innocent diversions: we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept : they imitated the pipers at weddings, expecting their companions would have danced, as was usually done by the others, when the pipe was played upon; and they mimicked the mourning women at funerals, expecting their fellows would have made as though they had wept; whereas they would do neither, showing a dislike both to the one and to the other. The children that imitated the pipers, represent Christ and his disciples, who delivered the joyful sound of the Gospel; and the children that acted the part of the mourners, signify John the Baptist, and his disciples, who preached the doctrine of repentance; and the children that would not join with, nor make any answer to the one, or the other, intend the Scribes and Pharisees, who were not pleased with either of them, as the following words show; (See Gill on “ Matthew 11:16”). (See Gill on “ Matthew 11:17”).
Ver. 33. For John the Baptist , etc.] Who is designed by the children that mourned in the above simile, with whom his character and conduct agree; he preached very mournful doctrine, delivered it in a very solemn and awful manner, and lived a very austere life, and fasted much, as did also his disciples. The word “Baptist” is here added by Luke, which Matthew has not, to distinguish him from others; and it may be, because he had just spoke of his baptism. The Persic version only reads, “the Baptist”; of him our Lord says, that he came neither eating bread, nor drinking wine ; which were the common food and drink of men, but his diet were locusts and wild honey, and from this he often abstained; nor would he attend festivals and entertainments, or be free and sociable with men: “bread” and “wine” are here mentioned, which are not in Matthew: and ye say, he hath a devil ; is mad, or melancholy; for madness and melancholy, or the hypochondriac disorder, was by them sometimes imputed to a diabolical possession, and influence, as the cause of it; and though these men pretended to great austerity of life, and frequent fastings, yet John was too abstemious for them, and they could not agree with his doctrine nor method of living; (See Gill on “ Matthew 12:18”).
Ver. 34. The son of man is come eating and drinking , etc.] That is, eating bread and drinking wine, as other people do; and shuns no man's company, goes to a wedding, dines with a Pharisee, and eats with publicans and sinners, and carries it freely and courteously to all men: and ye say, behold a gluttonous man and a wine bibber ; an epicurian, a drunkard, a mere sot, one that gives up himself to sensual pleasures: a friend of publicans and sinners ; a good fellow, a boon companion, that sits with them, and encourages them in their revellings and drunkenness: such an ill use did the Jews make of our Lord's free, harmless, and innocent conversation with men; and in such a horrid manner did they traduce and vilify him, who was holy in his nature, harmless in his life, separate from sinners, knew no sin, nor ever committed any.
Ver. 35. But wisdom is justified of all her children .] That is, Christ, who is the wisdom of God, and who acted the wise part, in behaving in such a free manner with all sorts of men, and even with publicans and sinners, whereby he became useful to their souls, called them to repentance, converted and saved them: and these are his children, which were given him by the Father; for whose sake he partook of flesh and blood, and whom he redeemed, that they might receive the adoption of children; and to whom, believing in him, he gives power to become the children of God: and these justify him from all such scandalous imputations, and by their lives and conversations show, that the doctrine of Christ is not a licentious one, or leads to libertinism, and indulges men in their carnal sensual lusts and pleasures; but, on the contrary, teaches them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly: the word “all”, is inserted by Luke, which is not in Matthew; signifying, that this is the universal sense and practice of all the real offspring of Christ, the sons of wisdom, who are wise to do good.
Ver. 36. And one of the Pharisees , etc.] Whose name was Simon, ( Luke 7:40,43,44) Desired that he would eat with him ; take a meal with him, either a dinner or a supper: this he did under a disguise of respect, and show of affection to him; though very likely with a design upon him to ensnare him, or take some advantage against him if he could; for it is certain, that he did not treat him with those civilities and ceremonies commonly used to guests; (see Luke 7:44-46). And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat : he made no hesitation about it, but at once accepted of his invitation, though he knew both the man and his intentions; having nothing to fear from him, and being willing to carry it courteously to all men, and give proof of what he had just now said of himself, ( Luke 7:34).
Ver. 37. And behold, a woman in the city , etc.] Not Mary Magdalene, spoken of in ( Luke 8:2) under another character; and is a different person, who had not been taken notice of by the evangelist before; nor Mary the sister of Lazarus, who is said to anoint the feet of Christ, and wipe them with her hair, ( John 12:3). The character given of this woman, does not seem so well to agree with her; at least, the fact here recorded, cannot be the same with that; for this was in Galilee, and that in Bethany; this in the house of Simon the Pharisee, that in the house of Lazarus; this was some time before Christ's death, and after this he went a circuit through every city and village, that was but six days before his death, and after which he never went from those parts; nor is this account the same with the history, recorded in ( Matthew 26:6,7) ( Mark 14:3) for that fact was done in Bethany also, this in Galilee; that in the house of Simon: the leper, this in the house of Simon the Pharisee; that was but two days before the death of Christ, this a considerable time before; the ointment that woman poured, was poured upon his head, this upon his feet: who this woman was, is not certain, nor in what city she dwelt; it seems to be the same in which the Pharisee's house was; and was no doubt one of the cities of Galilee, as Naim, Capernaum, or some other at no great distance from these: which was a sinner ; a notorious sinner, one that was known by all to have been a person of a wicked, life and conversation; a lewd woman, a vile prostitute, an harlot, commonly reputed so: the Arabic word here used, signifies both a sinner and a whore f298 ; and so the word, sinners, seems to be used elsewhere by Luke; (see Luke 15:1,2) compared with ( Matthew 21:31,32). Some think she was a Gentile, Gentiles being reckoned by the Jews sinners, and the worst of sinners; but this does not appear: when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house ; having observed it herself, that he was invited by him, and went with him, or being informed of it by others, brought an alabaster box of ointment : ointment was used to be put in vessels made of “alabaster”, which kept it pure and incorrupt; and this stone was found about Damascus, so that there might be plenty of it in Judea; at least it might be easily had, and such boxes might be common; and as this woman appears to have been a lewd person, she might have this box of ointment by her to anoint herself with, that she might recommend herself to her gallants. The historian reports, that “Venus gave to Phaon an alabaster box with ointment, with which Phaon, being anointed, became the most beautiful of men, and the women of Mitylene were taken with the love of him.”
If this box had been provided with such a view; it was now used to another and different purpose.
Ver. 38. And stood at his feet behind him , etc.] Christ lay upon a bed, or couch, as was the custom of the ancients, both Jews and others, at meals, with his feet put out behind; and between the couches and the walls of the room, there was a space for servants to wait and serve, and such are therefore said to “stand at the feet”; and the phrase is used, as descriptive of servants in waiting f301 ; and in such a situation this woman put herself, as being also ashamed and afraid to come before Christ, and look him in the face; and here she stood weeping for her sins, and melted down with the love of Christ to her soul, and at his discourse: and began to wash his feet with tears : which fell from her eyes in such abundance upon his feet, as she stood by him that they were like a shower of rain, as the word signifies, with which his feet were as it were bathed and washed; his shoes or sandals being off, as was the custom at eating so to do, lest they should daub the couch or bed, on which they lay f302 . Her tears she used instead of water; for it was the custom first to wash the feet before they were anointed with oil, which she intended to do; and for which purpose she had brought with her an alabaster box of ointment: it is said of one, “when he came home, that his maid brought him a pot of hot water, and he washed his hands and his feet in it; then she brought him a golden basin full of oil, and he dipped his hands and his feet in it, to fulfil what is said, ( Deuteronomy 33:24) and after they had eaten and drank, he measured out oil, etc.”
And it is: a general rule with the Jews f304 , “that whoever anoints his feet, is obliged to washing or dipping.” And did wipe them with the hairs of her head ; which were long, and hung loose about her shoulders, it being usual and comely for women to wear long hair, ( 1 Corinthians 11:15). That which was her ornament and pride, and which she took great care of to nourish and put in proper form, to, render her desirable, she uses instead of a towel to wipe her Lord's feet, and her tears off of them. A like phrase is used of one by Apuleius, “his verbis & amplexibus mollibus decantatus maritus, lachrymasque ejus suis crinibus detergens, etc. f305 :” “and kissed his feet”. This was no unusual practice with the Jews; we often read of it f306 : “R. Jonathan and R. Jannai were sitting together, there came a certain man, ywlgr qçnw , “and kissed the feet” of R. Jonathan.”
Again f307 “R. Meir stood up, and Bar Chama, hy[rka hyqçn , “kissed his knees”, or “feet”.”
This custom was also used by the Greeks and Romans among their civilities, and in their salutations f308 : and anointed them with the ointment ; which she brought with her.
Ver. 39. Now when the Pharisee, which had bidden him, saw it , etc.] Simon, who had invited Christ to eat with him, when he saw what was done by the woman, how she stood at his feet, and washed them with her tears, and wiped them with her hairs, and then kissed and anointed them: he spoke within himself; not openly and publicly, being in good manners, though not in real respect to Christ, unwilling to affront his guest; but turned these things over in his mind, and reasoned upon them within himself: saying, this man, if he were a prophet; as he was said, and believed to be by many, but questioned by this Pharisee: would have known who and what manner of woman this is, that toucheth him ; he took it for granted that Christ did not know this woman personally, that she was one of the city; nor her character, or “what” was “her fame”, as the Syriac version renders it, which was very ill; or “her condition”, as the Arabic version, she being not a religious person, but a notorious lewd one: this he concluded, from his admitting her to such nearness to him, and familiarity with him; and from hence argues within himself, that he could not be a prophet; since, according to his notion of a prophet, he must know persons and their characters; though this was not always requisite in a prophet, nor did the prophetic gift at all times show itself in this way: however, this man reasoned upon the commonly received notions of the Pharisees, both of the Messiah, the prophet that Moses said should come, and of their own conduct, and of all religious men: their notion with respect to the Messiah was, that he should be of so quick an understanding, or smell, as in ( Isaiah 11:3) that he should know at once who was a wicked person, and who not. “Bar Coziba (they say f309 ) reigned two years and a half; he said to, the Rabbans, I am the Messiah; they replied to him, it is written of the Messiah, ( Isaiah 11:3) that he smells, or is of quick understanding and judges (the gloss on it is, he smells on a man, and judges and knows, byyhh ym , “who is a wicked man”): let us see whether he smells and judges; and when they saw that he did not smell and judge, they killed him.”
But Jesus, the true Messiah, could do so; he knew who were sinners, he knew this woman to be one, as the following account shows: and their notion with respect to the conduct of religious persons towards the common people, and those of a bad character, and which the Pharisee here suggests, was, that the touch of such persons was defiling, and therefore to be avoided: for they say f310 , that “the Pharisees, if they touched the garments of the common people, they were defiled.” And therefore when they walked in the streets, “they walked in the sides (of the ways), that they might not be defiled, [gmb , “by the touch” of the common people f311 ” For she is a sinner ; a notorious one; or “that she is a sinner”; and the sense is, Christ, had he been a prophet, the Pharisee intimates, would have known that this woman was a vile creature; and he would have shown it; by his abhorrence and rejection of her; or as the Persic version adds, “would have declared her sins”.
Ver. 40. And Jesus answering said unto him , etc.] Christ being God omniscient, knew not only the character and conversation of this woman, which were publicly known by all, that knew any thing of her, but also the secret thoughts and reasonings of the Pharisee, and makes answer to them; which shows, that he was a prophet, in the sense of this man; yea, more than a prophet: Simon, I have somewhat to say to thee ; this could not be Simon Peter, Christ spoke to, as some have suggested; for the answer is made unto the Pharisee, and he is the person addressed by the name of Simon; even he, into whose house Christ entered, and now was, as appears from ( Luke 7:44). And he saith, Master ; or teacher, or doctor; or as the Syriac version, “Rabbi”; which was the common salutation of doctors: say on . This was a way of speaking in use with the Jews, giving leave to proceed in a discourse; and as Christ was now a guest in this man's house, he asks leave of him, and he grants him it: so we read of R. Simeon ben Gamaliel that he said to R. Ishmael ben Elishah, “is it thy pleasure that I should say before thee one thing? he said unto him, rwma , “say on”.”
Again, R. Jochanan ben Zaccai said to a certain governor, “suffer me to say one thing to thee: he replied to him, rwma , “say on”.”
Ver. 41. There was a certain creditor , etc.] All the Oriental versions premise something to this. The Syriac version reads, “Jesus said unto him”.
The Arabic version, “then he said”. The Persic version, “Jesus said”; and the Ethiopic version, “and he said to him”; and something of this kind is understood, and to be supplied in the text: which had two debtors, the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty ; these were, as the word shows, Roman “denarii” or “pence”; the former of these sums, reckoning a Roman penny at seven pence halfpenny of our money, amounted to fifteen pounds and twelve shillings and six pence; and the latter, to one pound eleven shillings and three pence; the one of these sums was ten times larger, than the other. This is a parable: by “the creditor”, God is meant, to whom men owe their beings, and the preservation of them, and all the mercies of life; and are under obligation to obedience and thankfulness: hence: no man can merit any thing of God, or pay off any old debt, by a new act of obedience, since all is due to him: by the “two debtors” are meant, greater and lesser sinners: all sins are debts, and all sinners are debtors; not debtors to sin, for then it would not be criminal, but lawful to commit sin, and God must be pleased with it, which he is not, and men might promise themselves impunity, which they cannot; but they are debtors to fulfil the law, and in case of failure, are bound to the debt of punishment: and of these debtors and debts, some are greater, and others less; not but that they, are all equally sinners in Adam, and equally guilty and corrupted by his transgression; and the same seeds of sin are in the hearts of all men, and all sin is committed against God, and is a breach of his law, and is mortal, or deserving of death, even death eternal; but then as some commands are greater, and others less, so must their transgressions be: sin more immediately committed against God, is greater than that which is committed against our neighbour; and besides, the circumstances of persons and things differ, which more or less aggravate the offence.
Ver. 42. And when they had nothing to pay , etc.] Neither the lesser nor greater debtor; for though not alike in debt, yet both insolvent: man has run out his whole stock, which the God of nature gave him, in his original creation and primitive state; and is become a bankrupt and a beggar, is poor, wretched, and miserable; he has no money, he has nothing to offer for a composition, much less for payment; he has no righteousness, and if he had, it would be nothing to pay with; since that itself, even in perfection, is due to God, and cannot discharge a former debt: sin being committed against an infinite being, is in some sense an infinite debt, and requires an infinite satisfaction, which a finite creature can never give; and he is therefore liable to a prison, and that for ever: but behold the wonderful grace of God, the creditor! he frankly forgave them both : their whole debts, without regard to any merits of theirs, which they could not have, or any motives in them, or any conditions to be performed by them, but purely of his sovereign will, free grace, and rich mercy, though not without regard to the satisfaction of his Son; which by no means hinders the frankness of the pardon, or obscures the grace of it, but increases and illustrates it; seeing this satisfaction is of God's own finding out, providing, and accepting; and is at his own expense, and without money and price, to the debtors: tell me therefore, which of them will love him most ; or “ought to love him most”, as the Ethiopic version. The Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, leave out the first part of this clause, “tell me”.
Ver. 43. Simon answered and said , etc.] Very readily, without any hesitation, not being aware of the application of it, to the instance he had been pondering in his mind: I suppose, that he to whom he forgave most ; it was his opinion, and to him a plain case, that he that owed the largest debt, and that being forgiven him fully, and freely, as he was under the greatest obligation, so as he ought, he would show the greatest love and affection to his kind and gracious creditor: and he said unto him ; that is, Jesus said, as the Syriac and Persic versions express it: thou hast rightly judged ; this is a right and true judgment of the case; it is according to the nature and truth of things, and what is obvious and clear at first sight, and which every one must agree to.
Ver. 44. And he turned to the woman , etc.] That stood behind him at his feet, and said to Simon, seest thou this woman ? and what she has done? pointing to her, and comparing him, and her, and their actions together, whereby he might judge of the preceding parable, and how fitly it might be applied to the present case: I entered into thine house ; not of his own accord, but by the invitation of Simon, and therefore might have expected the usual civilities: thou gavest me no water for my feet : to wash them with, no, not so much as water; a civility very common in those hot countries, where walking without stockings, and only with sandals, they needed often washing; and which was very refreshing, and was not only used to travellers and strangers, but to guests, and was usually done by the servants of the house; (See Gill on “ Luke 7:38”). but she hath washed my feet with tears . The Persic version reads, “with the tears of her eyes”; which made a bath for his feet; and wiped them with the hairs of her head . The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions read only, “with her hair”, which she used instead of a towel, when Simon neither gave him water to wash with, nor a towel to wipe with.
Ver. 45. Thou gavest me no kiss , etc.] A token of civility among friends, when they met together on any occasion. The Jews have a saying f314 , that “all kisses are foolish, excepting three; the kiss of grandeur or dignity, as in ( 1 Samuel 10:1) and the kiss at parting, as in ( Ruth 1:14) and the kiss at meeting, as in ( Exodus 4:27) (of which sort this kiss may be thought to be), to which some add the kiss of consanguinity (or that used by relations to one another), as in ( Genesis 29:11)” but this woman, since the time I came in . The Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions read, “since she came in”; and so two of Stephens's copies; which seems to be the more agreeable reading, seeing Christ was in Simon's house before this woman came; for she knowing that he was there, came thither after him: hath not ceased to kiss my feet ; which shows, that this action was repeated by her times without number, even ever since she came into the house.
Ver. 46. Mine head with oil thou didst not anoint , etc.] No not with common oil, so usually done at feasts, (see Psalm 23:5) but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment ; even “with ointment” amsbd , “of spices”, as the Syriac version renders it. There is, throughout the whole account, an opposition between the conduct of Simon, and this woman: he gave him no common water to wash his feet with, she shed floods of tears, and with them bathed his feet, and then wiped them clean with the hairs of her head; he gave him not the usual salutation by kissing his head or lips, but she kissed his feet, and that over and over again; he did not so much as anoint his head with common oil, when she anointed his feet with costly ointment brought in an alabaster box. These several ceremonies to guests were used by their hosts, in other nations, such as washing, anointing, and kissing f315 .
Ver. 47. Wherefore I say unto thee , etc.] Not “for this that she hath done”, as the Persic version very wrongly renders it; not because she had washed Christ's feet with tears, and wiped them with her hairs, and kissed and anointed them, therefore her sins were forgiven; nor upon this account, and for those reasons did Christ say, or declare, that they were forgiven; but ou carin , “for this cause”, or reason, he said this to Simon the Pharisee, to remove his objections, to rectify his mistakes, and stop his murmuring and complaining, by observing, that though she had been a great sinner, yet she was now not such an one as he took her to be; she was a pardoned sinner, and not that guilty and filthy creature he imagined; the guilt of all her sins was removed, and she was cleansed from all her filthiness: her sins, which are many, are forgiven ; though she was like the largest debtor in the parable, which owed five hundred pence, yet the whole score was cleared; though her sins were numerous, and attended with very aggravating circumstances, which denominated her a sinner in a very emphatic sense, a notorious one, yet they were all fully, and freely forgiven: for she loved much ; or “therefore she loved much”: her great love was not the cause of the remission of her sins, but the full and free remission of her many sins, which had been, manifested to her, was the cause of her great love, and of her showing it in the manner she had done: that this is the sense of the words, is clear from the parable, and the accommodation of it to the present case, otherwise there would be no agreement. Upon relating the parable of the two debtors, Christ puts the question to Simon, which of the two it was most reasonable to think would love most? his answer is and which Christ approved of, he to whom most was forgiven; where, it is plain, that according to our Lord's sense, and even Simon's opinion of the case, that forgiveness is the cause, and love the effect; and that according as the forgiveness is of more or less, love is proportionate; and which is applied to the case in hand: this poor woman had been a great sinner; her many sins were pardoned; and therefore she expressed much love to him, from whom she had received her pardon by the above actions, and much more than Simon had done: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little ; this is an accommodation of the other part of the parable, and has a very special respect to Simon, the Pharisee, whose debts, in his own opinion, were few or none, at least ten times less than this woman's; and he had little or no sense of the forgiveness of them, or of any obligation to Christ on that account; and therefore was very sparing of his love and respect, and even of common civilities to him.
Ver. 48. And he saith unto her , etc.] Directing his discourse to the woman that now stood before him: thy sins are forgiven ; which was said, partly on account of the Pharisee, to let him see, that he knew this woman, what she was, and had been; that she had been a sinner, a great sinner, one that owed five hundred pence, but was now forgiven, washed, cleansed, sanctified, and justified, and therefore not to be shunned and avoided; and partly on the woman's account, that she might have a fresh discovery of the forgiveness of her sins, for her comfort under the severe censure of the Pharisee, and that her faith in it might be strengthened; as also on his own account, to show that he was not only a prophet that had extraordinary knowledge of persons, and their characters, but that he was the most high God, to whom belonged the prerogative of pardoning sin.
Ver. 49. And they that sat at meat with him , etc.] Other Pharisees that sat at Simon's table with Christ, whom he had invited as guests, on this occasion of seeing and conversing with Jesus; or some of Simon's family, that sat down to eat with him; began to say within themselves ; that is, either thought and reasoned in their own minds, or whispered among themselves: who is this that forgiveth sins also ? who not content to transgress the traditions of the elders, by admitting a sinful woman to touch him, but assumes that to himself which is peculiar to God, to forgive sin: this they said, not as wondering at him, what manner of person he must be, that with such authority pronounced the forgiveness of sin, as Grotius thinks; but rather as offended with him, and filled with indignation against him, and so censuring and reproaching him for wickedness and blasphemy.
Ver. 50. And he said to the woman , etc.] Notwithstanding the Pharisee's censure, both of him and her: thy faith hath saved thee ; meaning either the object of her faith, himself, who was the author of eternal salvation to her; or that she, through faith in him, had received the blessings of salvation, pardon, righteousness, and life from him, and the joys and comfort of it; and had both a right unto, and a meetness for eternal glory and happiness: go in peace ; of conscience, and serenity of mind; let nothing disturb thee; not the remembrance of past sins, which are all forgiven, nor the suggestions of Satan, who may, at one time or another, present them to view; nor the troubles and afflictions of this present life; which are all in love; nor the reproaches and censures of men of a “pharisaic” spirit: go home to thy house, and about thy business, and cheerfully perform thy duty both to God and men; and when thou hast done thy generation work, thou shalt enter into eternal peace and joy.