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Ver. 1. And he entered again into the synagogue , etc..] Perhaps in Capernaum, where he had before cast out the unclean spirit; but not on the same day, nor on that day he had had the debate with the Pharisees, about his disciples plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath day; but on another sabbath, perhaps the next; (see Luke 6:6). And there was a man there which had a withered hand ; who came there either for a cure, knowing Christ to be in the synagogue, or for the sake of worship; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:10”).
Ver. 2. And they watched him , etc..] The ruler of the synagogue, and the principal men in it; particularly the Scribes and Pharisees, who followed him wherever he went; they observed him diligently, and kept their eyes upon him; this lame man being in the synagogue, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath day ; which, knowing his readiness to do good, they might expect he would: that they might accuse him ; as they had accused his disciples before, of the violation of the sabbath: according to the Evangelist Matthew, they put a question to him, whether it was lawful to heal on the sabbath day? with this view, that they might, one way or another, have something to accuse him of, either to the people, or to the sanhedrim; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:10”).
Ver. 3. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand , etc..] After he had reasoned with them from the lesser to the greater, upon their own principles and practices, in relieving and taking out a sheep fallen into a ditch, on a sabbath day, ( Matthew 12:10,11), and knowing “their thoughts”, as Luke says, ( Luke 6:8), their reasonings and designs; and as the Persic version here, from thence “understanding their conspiracy”, turns himself to the lame man, and bids him stand forth : or, as in Luke, “rise up and stand forth in the midst”, ( Luke 6:8). He bid him rise up from his seat, and stand forth in the midst of the synagogue: this he said, partly to raise the attention of the people to the following miracle; and partly to move commiseration upon the sight of the object; and to aggravate the hard heartedness of the Pharisees; as also, that it might be manifest to all, that the man's hand was really withered; and that there was no fraud in the following cure.
Ver. 4. And he saith unto them , etc..] Either to the whole multitude, to all the assembly in the synagogue; and so the Persic version renders it, “again he said to the multitude”; or rather, to the Scribes and Pharisees, who were watching him, and had put a question to him, which he answers by another: is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil, to save life, or to kill ? The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions read, or “to destroy”, as in ( Luke 6:9), To do evil, kill, or destroy, are not lawful at any time; and to do good, and to save life, must be right at all times: our Lord has a particular view to the Scribes and Pharisees, and the question is put home to their own consciences; whose hearts and thoughts, designs and views, were all open to Christ; and who were now watching to do evil to him, and even to destroy and take away his life: for the violation of the sabbath was death by the law, and this was what they sought to accuse him of: now he puts the question to them, and makes them judges which must appear most right and just in the sight of God and men, for him to heal this poor man of his withered hand, though on the sabbath day; which would be doing a good and beneficent action to him, whereby his life would be saved, and preserved with comfort and usefulness, and he would be in a capacity of getting his livelihood; or for them to cherish an evil intention against him, to seek to bring mischief on him; and not only destroy his character and usefulness as much as in them lay, but even take away his very life also: he leaves it with them to consider of which was most agreeable to the law of God, the nature of a sabbath, and the good of mankind; but they held their peace ; or “were silent”, not being able to return an answer, but what must have been in his favour, and to their own confusion, and therefore chose to say nothing.
Ver. 5. And when he had looked round about on them , etc..] In the several parts of the synagogue; for there were many of them on every side of him; which he might do, to observe their countenances, which might justly fall, upon such a close question put to them, and what answer they would return to him: and his look upon them was with anger , with a stern countenance, which showed indignation at them, though without sin, or any desire of revenge, for the evil they were meditating against him; for at the same time he had pity and compassion for them, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts : or “the blindness of their hearts”, as the Vulgate Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions render it; being troubled in his human soul, both at their inhumanity and cruelty to a miserable object, whose cure, in their opinion, would have been a breach of the sabbath; and to himself, having a malicious design against him, should he perform it; and at their stupidity and ignorance of the law of God, the nature and design of the sabbath, and of their duty to God, and their fellow creatures: wherefore as one not to be intimidated by their evil designs against him, or prevented thereby from doing good, he saith unto the man, stretch forth thine hand ; that is, the lame one; and such power went along with his words, as at once effected a cure: and he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other . This last clause, “whole as the other”, is not in the Vulgate Latin, nor in the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions; and may be added from ( Matthew 12:13); see the note there; since it is wanting in the Alexandrian copy, and in Beza's most ancient copy, and in others.
Ver. 6. And the Pharisees went forth , etc..] Out of the synagogue, being dreadfully galled with the reasonings of Christ, at the silence and confusion they were put to, and with the miracle he wrought, to the exposing of them, and establishing his own credit: and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him : (see Gill on “ Matthew 22:16”). How they might destroy him : persisting still in their evil intentions, though Christ had so fully and clearly exposed the wickedness of them: and it is to be observed, that those men who thought it was not lawful to heal a lame man on the sabbath day, yet make no scruple of meeting and consulting together on that day, and even with profane men, what measures and methods were best to take, to destroy the life of an innocent person.
Ver. 7. But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea , etc..] Knowing their evil designs against him, he departed out of the synagogue, and city of Capernaum; and taking his disciples with him, he went to the shore of the sea of Galilee; not out of fear, but because his time was not yet come, and he had more work to do: and a great multitude from Galilee : from the several parts of it, in which country he now was: and from Judea : that part of the land of Israel, which was particularly so called, and belonged to the tribe of Judah.
Ver. 8. And from Jerusalem , etc..] The metropolis of the country of Judea; and from Idumea , or Edom, as the Syriac version reads it; a country that lay on the south of Judea, formerly inhabited by the sons of Edom, but now by Jews; or at least the inhabitants of it were proselytes to the Jewish religion. Mention is made of the plains of Idumea, along with Gazera, Azotus, and Jamnia, as in 1 Maccabees: “Howbeit all the hindmost of them were slain with the sword: for they pursued them unto Gazera, and unto the plains of Idumea, and Azotus, and Jamnia, so that there were slain of them upon a three thousand men.” (1 Maccabees 4:15) Pliny speaks of Idumea and Judea together, as a part of Syria; and Ptolemy says f44 , this country lies on the west of the river Jordan; and it is here added, and from beyond Jordan ; the country of Peraea, on the east of Jordan: and they about Tyre and Sidon ; either the inhabitants of these places, as the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions favour, reading “a great company from Tyre and Sidon”; or those that lived near the borders, and upon the confines of these cities of Phoenicia: a great multitude ; when all met together, from these several parts; who when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him : for his fame went through all the countries, for the miracles he wrought; which drew this vast concourse of people after him; and who, inquiring where he was, came to him at the sea of Galilee.
Ver. 9. And he spake unto his disciples , etc..] In an authoritative way; he ordered and commanded them, that a small ship should wait on him : that a boat should be got ready, be near at hand, and attend him, who was on shore; that he might go into it, should there be any occasion for it; and from thence preach to the people: because of the multitude ; which came from the above parts, and all together made a very numerous body of people: lest they should throng him ; crowd, press, afflict, and distress, and make him uneasy, that he could not be able to stand conveniently, and preach to them: so that should this be the case, as it was very likely it would, having a small vessel near the shore, he could go into it, and free himself from such an inconvenience.
Ver. 10. For he had healed many , etc..] Of various diseases, and the fame of this brought more still to him: insomuch that they pressed upon him ; or pushed upon him, with great eagerness and violence. The Arabic version renders it, “they rushed upon him, so that they fell”: they pushed on, and pressed so hard to get to him, that they fell upon one another, and on him: the Persic version renders it, “they cast themselves on him, for the sake of touching him”; which must be very troublesome indeed. Though some think the phrase signifies no more, than that they fell down before him at his feet, in a submissive and petitionary way, entreating they might have the favour for to touch him ; either any part of his body, or his garments, even the hem of them: and so the Ethiopic version translates the words; “they prayed him that they might touch him”; (see Mark 6:56). As many as had plagues ; of leprosy, and other diseases, which were inflicted on them by God, as scourges and chastisements for their sins, as the word signifies, and which answers to µ y [ gn , “Negaim”; concerning which, there is a whole treatise in the Misna; and which bears that name, and particularly regards the plagues of leprosy. Some versions join this with the beginning of the next verse. The Syriac version reads thus, “who had plagues of unclean spirits”; as if these plagues were their being possessed by unclean spirits. The Persic version thus, “having plagues from unclean spirits”; as if these plagues were inflicted upon them by them, and which was sometimes the case. The Arabic version after this manner, “who had diseases and unclean spirits”; both the one and the other.
Ver. 11. And unclean spirits, when they saw him , etc..] That is, as the Syriac and Arabic versions read, “they who had unclean spirits”: or, as the Ethiopic, “they that were possessed with unclean spirits”; as soon as ever they beheld Christ, though they had never seen him before, and he was an entire stranger to them, yet fell down before him : the unclean spirits being said to do that, which they that were possessed with them did; and which, notwithstanding their possession of them, they could not prevent, but were obliged to admit of it, as a token of their subjection to Christ: and even the devils themselves in the men, cried, saying, thou art the Son of God ; a divine person, equal with God; and such his power over them, and his healing all manner of diseases, by a word, or touch, showed him to be.
Ver. 12. And he straitly charged them , etc..] Or vehemently rebuked them, as the Syriac and Arabic versions render it; or threatened them much and vehemently, as the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic. The Persic version renders it, “threatened many”; both the devils that confessed him, and the many that were healed of their diseases: he gave them a strict and severe charge, that they should not make him known ; or “his work”, as the Arabic, his miracles: he sought not vain glory and popular applause, nor did he need the testimony of men or devils; and especially did not choose the latter, lest his enemies should traduce him, as having familiarity with them, as they did.
Ver. 13. And he goeth up into a mountain , etc..] Near Capernaum, being solitary, and a place of recess and retirement, “to pray”, as Luke says, ( Luke 6:12), who adds, “and continued all night in prayer to God”, notwithstanding the great fatigue of the day past. His prayer, as is very probable, was chiefly concerning the great and important work, which was upon his mind, and he was about to do; the making and constituting twelve of his disciples, as his apostles, to preach in his name, and work miracles: and calleth unto him whom he would ; that is, “when it was day”, as the above evangelist observes; when he called his disciples, such as had been for some time followers of him, as many of them as he thought fit: for it seems by the same evangelist, that others were called to him besides the twelve; and out of them he chose them: the phrase “whom he would”, is in the Arabic version rendered, “whom he loved”; and it is a common observation of expositors, that the choice and call of the apostles to office, were not according to their will, works and merits, but according to the sovereign will and grace of Christ, who chose them, and not they him: but to me there seems no foundation for such a remark here, though it is a truth; because this regards not the call of the twelve only, and much less of them to office, but a call of many of the followers of Christ to come to him on the mountain: and they came unto him ; as many as he called out of the multitude; and from among these he made the following choice.
Ver. 14. And he ordained twelve , etc..] Or made, constituted, and appointed twelve men, out of those he called to him. The Arabic version adds, “and called them apostles”; which seems to be taken out of ( Luke 6:13). That they should be with him ; constantly, in private and in public; be taken into his family, and reckoned such; be his familiars, and privy to all his affairs; hear all his discourses, and see his miracles; that so they might be trained up and fitted for the great work he designed them for: and that he might send them forth to preach ; the Gospel in Judea first, and then in all the world: for he did not at this time send them to preach, only chose; called, and appointed them; and after they had been with him some time, and were better qualified for such service, he sent them forth, as in ( Matthew 10:1,5), for this constitution of them was before that mission, and was in order to it.
Ver. 15. And to have power to heal sicknesses , etc..] All manner of corporeal diseases that attend men and women: and to cast out devils ; from such who were possessed with them: that is, he chose and appointed them to be his apostles, with a view of conferring such powers upon them hereafter; for as yet, they were not vested with them, nor sent out to exercise them; no, not till near twelve months after.
Ver. 16. And Simon he surnamed Peter .] Or Cephas, which signifies a rock, or stone, because of his courage and constancy, his strength and fortitude, steadiness and firmness of mind: this name was imposed upon him, not at the time of his mission as an apostle; nor when he made that noble confession of his faith in Christ, as the Son of the living God, at which time this name was taken notice of; but when Christ first called him to be his disciple and apostle; (see John 1:42).
Ver. 17. And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James , etc..] These are mentioned next, as being first called after Peter and Andrew: and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, the sons of thunder : either because of their loud and sonorous voice; or their warm zeal for Christ, and fervency in their ministry: or for their courage in opposing the enemies of Christ, and the power that went along with their words; which either put to confusion and silence, or issued in conviction and conversion. The Syriac version reads, “Benai Regesh”, and the Persic, “Beni Reg'sch”. The Jews, as our learned countryman Mr. Broughton has observed f45 , sometimes pronounce “Scheva” by on, as Noabyim”, for “Nebyim”; so here, “Boanerges” for Benereges”, or “Benerges”. There is a city which was in the tribe of Dan, mentioned in ( Joshua 19:45), which is called “Bene-berak, the sons of lightning”; and is spoken of in the Jewish f46 writings, as a place where several of the Rabbins met, and conversed together: the reason of this name may be inquired after.
Ver. 18. And Andrew , etc..] The brother of Peter; and Philip , who was of Bethsaida; and Bartholomew , whom Dr. Lightfoot thinks is the same with Nathaniel: the name may be the same with ˆ wymlt rb , “Bar Talmion”, with the Jews f47 ; (See Gill on “ Matthew 10:3”). (See Gill on “ John 1:41”). and Matthew , the publican, who was called Levi; and Thomas , who was called Didymus, from his being a twin; and James, the son of Alphaeus , to distinguish him from the other James, the son of Zebedee, and who is sometimes called “the less”; and Thaddaeus , whose name was also Lebbaeus, and likewise Jude, the author of the Epistle that bears that name; and Simon the Canaanite , or Zelotes; of these men, and their several names, (See Gill on “ Matthew 10:2-4”).
Ver. 19. And Judas Iscariot , etc..] So called to distinguish him from the other Judas; and is mentioned last for the following reason: which also betrayed him ; and which action of his will ever render his name infamous among men. This man, with the rest, our Lord chose to be an apostle of his, though he knew he would betray him; in order to fulfil the purposes of God, the prophecies of the Old Testament, and bring on the work of man's redemption he came into the world to perform. And they went into an house at Capernaum ; the house of Simon and Andrew, where Jesus used to be when there: they went home with him from the mountain; and from that time became his domestics, and were looked upon by him as his family, and were admitted to the greatest nearness and intimacy with him.
Ver. 20. And the multitude coming together again , etc..] Either the multitude that were about the door of this house; insomuch that there was no room about, nor any coming near it, ( Mark 2:2), or the multitude that came from different parts, and had thronged about him at the sea side, before he went up into the mountain: these understanding that he was come down from thence, and was returned to Capernaum, and was at Simon's house, flocked thither, in great numbers, to see his person, hear his doctrines, and observe his miracles; so that they could not so much as eat bread ; the press was so great, and their importunities so urgent, either to hear him preach, or have their sick healed, that Christ, and his disciples, had neither room nor opportunity to eat some food for the refreshment of nature; though it was very necessary, and high time they had, especially Christ, who had been up all night, which he had spent in prayer; and had been very busy that morning in calling and appointing his apostles, and instructing them what they should do.
Ver. 21. When his friends heard of it , etc..] Not his spiritual friends, his disciples and followers, that believed in him; but his kinsmen, as the Syriac and Ethiopic versions render the words, who were so according to the flesh; when they heard where he was, and what a crowd was about him, so that he could not so much as take the necessaries of life for his refreshment and support, they went out to lay hold on him : either out of their houses at Capernaum, or they went forth from Nazareth, where they dwelt, to Capernaum, to take him from this house, where he was thronged and pressed, along with them; where he might have some refreshment without being incommoded, and take some rest, which seemed very necessary: so that this was done in kindness to him, and does not design any violent action upon him, in order to take him home with them, and to confine him as a madman; though the following words seem to incline to such a sense; for they said, he is beside himself : some render it, “he is gone out”: that is, out of doors, to preach again to the people, which they might fear would be greatly detrimental to his health, since, he had had no sleep the night before; had been much fatigued all that morning, and for the throng of the people could take no food; so that for this reason they came to take him with them, to their own habitations, to prevent the ill consequences of such constant exercise without refreshment. Moreover, though this may not be the sense of the word, yet it is not to be understood of downright madness and distraction, but of some perturbation of mind, which they imagined, or heard, he was under; and answers to a phrase frequently used by the Jews, that such an one, wt [ d h p rjn , “his knowledge is snatched away”, or his mind is disturbed; which was sometimes occasioned by disorder of body: so it is said f48 , “a deaf woman, or one that is foolish, or blind, ht [ d h p rjn ç w , or “whose mind is disturbed”; and if there are any wise women, they prepare themselves, and eat of the oblation.”
On that phrase, “whose mind is disturbed”, the note of Maimonides is, “it means a sick person, whose understanding is disturbed through the force of the disease:” and was sometimes the case of a person when near death f49 : and it was usual to give a person that was condemned to die, and going to be executed, a grain of frankincense in a cup of wine, wt [ d Prjt ç ydk , “that so his knowledge may be snatched away”, or his mind disturbed f50 , and: be intoxicated; that so he might not be sensible of his pain, or feel his misery; in all which cases, there was nothing of proper madness: and so the kinsmen and friends of Christ, having heard of the situation that he was in, said one to another, he is in a transport and excess of mind; his zeal carries him beyond due bounds; he has certainly forgotten himself; his understanding is disturbed; he is unmindful of himself; takes no care of his health; he will certainly greatly impair it, if he goes on at this rate, praying all night, and preaching all day, without taking any rest or food: wherefore they came out, in order to dissuade him from such excessive labours, and engage him to go with them, where he might have rest and refreshment, and be composed, and retire.
Ver. 22. And the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem , etc..] Or, “but the Scribes”, etc.. who had an aversion to Christ, and a different opinion of him: these were they, who having heard much of the doctrine and miracles of Christ, came down from Jerusalem, which lay in the upper, and higher part of the land of Israel, into Galilee, a low country, to make their observations upon him; and take every advantage they could against him, being men, in their way, letter learned, and artful, and cunning: these said, he hath Beelzebub : or, as the Syriac and Persic versions render it, “Beelzebub is in him”: sometimes they call him Beelzebub; sometimes say that he cast out devils by him; and here, that he had him, or was in him; Beelzebub possessed him, and assisted him, and there was a confederacy and familiarity between them: and by the prince of devils casteth he out devils ; for so they reckoned Beelzebub to be; (see Gill on “ Matthew 10:25”), (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:24”).
Ver. 23. And he called them unto him , etc..] The Jerusalem Scribes, to come nearer to him, and attend to what he had to say in defence of his character and miracles: and said unto them in parables : similitudes, and proverbial expressions, as the following seem to be, how can Satan cast out Satan ? or one devil cast out another? how unreasonable is it to suppose it? can it ever be thought that such, whose interest it is to unite, would ever oppose and dispossess one another? if therefore, as if he should say, I am Beelzebub, or have him, and he is in me, and I am in confederacy with him; was this the case, can any think I should ever cast him out of others, as I do?
Ver. 24. And if a kingdom be divided against itself , etc..] Any of the kingdoms of this world, and the kingdom of “Satan”: that kingdom cannot stand : not long; its internal broils and divisions will, soon bring it to desolation; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:25”).
Ver. 25. And if a house be divided against itself , etc..] Any family, small or great, that house cannot stand ; its contentions and discords will soon bring it down from a comfortable and flourishing situation, to a very distressed one; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:25”).
Ver. 26. And if Satan rise up against himself , etc..] As he must do in such a case as this, if devils are cast out by Beelzebub, the prince of devils: and be divided ; one devil against another, as the above calumny supposes; he cannot stand, but hath an end : his kingdom cannot stand long, but must soon come to an end; his power and authority will soon be destroyed, both over his own species, and among men; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:26”).
Ver. 27. No man can enter into a strong man's house , etc..] This is properly a parable; the other seem to be proverbs, or sayings, that were commonly used to show the ill consequences of discords, factions, and divisions, as is explained in the note on (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:29”).
Ver. 28. Verily I say unto you , etc..] The Scribes and Pharisees, who had not only blasphemed him, but the Spirit of God also: all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme ; God; or the Son of God, angels, and men, and that through the blood of Christ, and when brought to a sense of the evil of them; for though pardon is procured before, it is not applied till then; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:31”).
Ver. 29. But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost , etc..] Against his person, and the works performed by him, by ascribing them to diabolical power and influence, as the Scribes did, hath never forgiveness : there is no pardon provided in the covenant of grace, nor obtained by the blood of Christ for such persons, or ever applied to them by the Spirit; but is in danger of eternal damnation . The Vulgate Latin reads it, and so it is read in an ancient copy of Beza's, guilty of an eternal sin; a sin which can never be blotted out, and will never be forgiven, but will be punished with everlasting destruction; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:32”).
Ver. 30. Because they, said, he hath an, unclean spirit .] They charged Christ with having a devil, and his miracles with being wrought by the help of the devil; when, at the same time, they knew in their own consciences they were works which were wrought by the finger and Spirit of God, and so were guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost; the unpardonable sin, for which there is no remission: and this is mentioned as a reason why our Lord said what he did concerning that sin; because they had been guilty of it, and so were liable to everlasting punishment on account of it.
Ver. 31. There came then his brethren and his mother , etc..] At the same time he was speaking to the Scribes, who seem to be different persons from his friends and kinsmen, ( Mark 3:21), and standing without ; for Christ was within, in the house, talking with the Scribes and Pharisees, and preaching to the people; and the crowd being so great, that they could not get into the house; they sent unto him, calling him : they not only sent one in to let him know who they were, and that they were without doors, desirous to speak with him; but also, with a voice as loud as they could, called to him themselves; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:46”).
Ver. 32. And the multitude sat about him , etc..] In a circle, all around him, to hear him preach; so that there was no such thing as the messenger coming near him; but the message being whispered from one to another, it came to those who sat nearest him: and they said unto him, behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee : in five of Beza's ancient copies, and in his most ancient one, are added, and thy sisters: agreeably, Christ hereafter makes mention of sister, as well as mother and brother; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:47”), and so it is read in the Alexandrian copy.
Ver. 33. And he answered them , etc..] The multitude that sat about him, and informed him of his mother and brethren being without, and desirous of speaking with him: saying, who is my mother, or my brethren ? which is said not through ignorance or contempt, but either, as displeased with the interruption given him; or with a view to take an opportunity from hence of expressing his superior value to his spiritual relations; which looks with no favourable aspect on the superstitious notions, and veneration of the virgin Mary among the papists; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:48”).
Ver. 34. And he looked round about on them which sat about him , etc..] To find out his disciples among them, and point them out particularly, by stretching forth his hand towards them: and said, behold my mother and my brethren : not in a natural, but in a spiritual sense; his mother, because, in regeneration, he was formed in them; his brethren, because, by adoption, his God was their God, his Father their Father; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:49”).
Ver. 35. For whosoever shall do the will of God , etc..] By believing in Christ, receiving him as a Saviour and Redeemer, and submitting to him in all his ordinances, as King of saints: the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother : such are openly, and manifestly related to Christ in a spiritual sense; and are as dear to him, and more so, than such persons are who stand in such a relation to others, or did to him according to the flesh. And this shows not only the near relation, and strong affection which Christ has for his people, but that he is not ashamed of them; and it may be concluded, that he will resent, in the keenest manner, every injury that is done them; (see Gill on “ Matthew 12:50”).