Adam Clarke Commentary
Christ appoints seventy disciples to go before him, two by two, to preach, heal, etc., Luke 10:1-12. Pronounces woes on Chorazin and Capernaum, Luke 10:13-16. The seventy return, and give account of their mission, Luke 10:17-20. Christ rejoices that the things which were hidden from the wise and prudent had been revealed unto babes, and shows the great privileges of the Gospel, Luke 10:21-24. A lawyer inquires how he shall inherit eternal life, and is answered, Luke 10:25-29. The story of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:30-37. The account of Martha and Mary, Luke 10:38-42.
The Lord appointed other seventy - Rather, seventy others, not other seventy, as our translation has it, which seems to intimate that he had appointed seventy before this time, though, probably, the word other has a reference to the twelve chosen first: he not only chose twelve disciples to be constantly with him; but he chose seventy others to go before him. Our blessed Lord formed every thing in his Church on the model of the Jewish Church; and why? Because it was the pattern shown by God himself, the Divine form, which pointed out the heavenly substance which now began to be established in its place. As he before had chosen twelve apostles, in reference to the twelve patriarchs, who were the chiefs of the twelve tribes, and the heads of the Jewish Church, he now publicly appointed (for so the word ανεδειξεν means) seventy others, as Moses did the seventy elders whom he associated with himself to assist him in the government of the people. Exodus 18:19; Exodus 24:1-9. These Christ sent by two and two:
That he would send forth - Εκβαλῃ . There seems to be an allusion here to the case of reapers, who, though the harvest was perfectly ripe, yet were in no hurry to cut it down. News of this is brought to the Lord of the harvest the farmer, and he is entreated to exert his authority, and hurry them out; and this he does because the harvest is spoiling for want of being reaped and gathered in. See the notes on Matthew 9:37, Matthew 9:38.
Carry neither purse nor scrip - See on Matthew 10:9; (note), etc., and Mark 6:8; (note), etc.
Salute no man by the way - According to a canon of the Jews, a man who was about any sacred work was exempted from all civil obligations for the time; forasmuch as obedience to God was of infinitely greater consequence than the cultivation of private friendships, or the returning of civil compliments.
The son of peace - In the Jewish style, a man who has any good or bad quality is called the son of it. Thus, wise men are called the children of wisdom, Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35. So, likewise, what a man is doomed to, he is called the son of, as in Ephesians 2:3, wicked men are styled the children of wrath: so Judas is called the son of perdition, John 17:12; and a man who deserves to die is called, 2 Samuel 12:5, a son of death. Son of peace in the text not only means a peaceable, quiet man, but one also of good report for his uprightness and benevolence. It would have been a dishonor to this mission, had the missionaries taken up their lodgings with those who had not a good report among them who were without.
The laborer is worthy - See on Matthew 10:8, Matthew 10:12; (note).
Go not from house to house - See on Matthew 10:11; (note). It would be a great offense among the Hindoos if a guest, after being made welcome at a house, were to leave it and go to another.
The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you - Εφ ὑμας, is just upon you. This was the general text on which they were to preach all their sermons. See it explained, Matthew 3:2; (note).
He that despiseth you, despiseth me - "The holy, blessed God said: 'Honor my statutes, for they are my ambassadors: and a man's ambassador is like to himself. If thou honor my precepts, it is the same as if thou didst honor me; and if thou despise them, thou despisest me." R. Tancum. "He that murmurs against his teacher is the same as if he had murmured against the Divine Shekinah." Sanhedrin, fol. 110.
The seventy returned again with joy - Bishop Pearce thinks they returned while our Lord was on his slow journey to Jerusalem, and that they had been absent only a few days.
I beheld Satan - Or, Satan himself, τον Σαταναν, the very Satan, the supreme adversary, falling as lightning, with the utmost suddenness, as a flash of lightning falls from the clouds, and at the same time in the most observable manner. The fall was both very sudden and very apparent. Thus should the fall of the corrupt Jewish state be, and thus was the fall of idolatry in the Gentile world.
To tread on serpents, etc. - It is possible that by serpents and scorpions our Lord means the scribes and Pharisees, whom he calls serpents and a brood of vipers, Matthew 23:33, (see the note there), because, through the subtilty and venom of the old serpent, the devil, they opposed him and his doctrine; and, by trampling on these, it is likely that he means, they should get a complete victory over such: as it was an ancient custom to trample on the kings and generals who had been taken in battle, to signify the complete conquest which had been gained over them. See Joshua 10:24. See also Romans 16:20. See the notes on Mark 16:17, Mark 16:18.
Because your names are written in heaven - This form of speech is taken from the ancient custom of writing the names of all the citizens in a public register, that the several families might be known, and the inheritances properly preserved. This custom is still observed even in these kingdoms, though not particularly noticed. Every child that is born in the land is ordered to be registered, with the names of its parents, and the time when born, baptized, or registered; and this register is generally kept in the parish church, or in some public place of safety. Such a register as this is called in Philemon 4:3; Revelation 3:5, etc., the book of life, i.e. the book or register where the persons were enrolled as they came into life. It appears also probable, that when any person died, or behaved improperly, his name was sought out and erased from the book, to prevent any confusion that might happen in consequence of improper persons laying claim to an estate, and to cut off the unworthy from the rights and privileges of the peaceable, upright citizens. To this custom of blotting the names of deceased and disorderly persons out of the public registers, there appear to be allusions, Exodus 32:32, where see the note; and Revelation 3:5; Deuteronomy 9:14; Deuteronomy 25:19; Deuteronomy 29:20; 2 Kings 14:27; Psalm 69:28; Psalm 109:13, and in other places.
Rejoiced in spirit - Was truly and heartily joyous: felt an inward triumph. But τῳ πνευματι, τῳ ἁγιῳ, the Holy Spirit, is the reading here of BCDKL, six others; the three Syriac, later Persic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, all the Itala except one, and Augustin and Bede. These might be considered sufficient authority to admit the word into the text.
I thank thee - Bishop Pearce justly observes, the thanks are meant to be given to God for revealing them to babes, not for hiding them from the others. See on Matthew 11:25; (note).
Thou hast hid - That is, thou hast not revealed them to the scribes and Pharisees, who idolized their own wisdom; but thou hast revealed them to the simple and humble of heart.
The Codex Alexandrinus, several other very ancient MSS., and some ancient versions, as well as the margin of our own, begin this verse with, And turning to his disciples, he said. But as this clause begins Luke 10:23, it is not likely that it was originally in both. Griesbach has left these words out of the text, and Professor White says, Certissime delenda, "These words should most assuredly be erased."
All things are delivered to me - See on Matthew 11:27; (note).
Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see - There is a similar saying to this among the rabbins, in Sohar. Genes., where it is said, "Blessed is that generation which the earth shall bear, when the King Messiah cometh."
Thou shalt love the Lord - See this important subject explained at large, on Matthew 22:37-40; (note).
Thy neighbor as thyself - See the nature of self-love explained, on Matthew 19:19; (note).
Willing to justify himself - Wishing to make it appear that he was a righteous man, and that consequently he was in the straight road to the kingdom of God, said, Who is my neighbor? supposing our Lord would have at once answered, "Every Jew is to be considered as such, and the Jews only." Now as he imagined he had never been deficient in his conduct to any person of his own nation, he thought he had amply fulfilled the law. This is the sense in which the Jews understood the word neighbor, as may be seen from Leviticus 19:15-18. But our Lord shows here, that the acts of kindness which a man is bound to perform to his neighbor when in distress, he should perform to any person, of whatever nation, religion, or kindred, whom he finds in necessity. As the word πλησιον signifies one who is near, Anglo Saxon, he that is next, this very circumstance makes any person our neighbor whom we know; and, if in distress, an object of our most compassionate regards. If a man came from the most distant part of the earth, the moment he is near you he has a claim upon your mercy and kindness, as you would have on his, were your dwelling-place transferred to his native country. It is evident that our Lord uses the word πλησιον (very properly translated neighbor, from nae or naer, near, and buer, to dwell) in its plain, literal sense. Any person whom you know, who dwells hard by, or who passes near you, is your neighbor while within your reach.
And Jesus answering - Rather, Then Jesus took him up. This I believe to be the meaning of the word ὑπολαβων ; he threw out a challenge, and our Lord took him up on his own ground. See Wakefield's Testament.
A certain man went down from Jerusalem - Or, A certain man of Jerusalem going down to Jericho. This was the most public road in all Judea, as it was the grand thoroughfare between these two cities for the courses of priests, twelve thousand of whom are said to have resided at Jericho. See Lightfoot.
Fell among thieves - At this time the whole land of Judea was much infested with hordes of banditti; and it is not unlikely that many robberies might have been committed on that very road to which our Lord refers.
And by chance - Κατα συγκυριαν properly means the coincidence of time and circumstance. At the time in which the poor Jew was half dead, through the wounds which he had received, a priest came where he was. So the priest's coming while the man was in that state is the coincidence marked out by the original words.
Priest and Levite are mentioned here, partly because they were the most frequent travelers on this road, and partly to show that these were the persons who, from the nature of their office, were most obliged to perform works of mercy; and from whom a person in distress had a right to expect immediate succor and comfort; and their inhuman conduct here was a flat breach of the law, Deuteronomy 22:1-4.
Samaritan is mentioned merely to show that he was a person from whom a Jew had no right to expect any help or relief, because of the enmity which subsisted between the two nations.
Pouring in oil and wine - These, beaten together, appear to have been used formerly as a common medicine for fresh wounds. Bind up a fresh cut immediately in a soft rag or lint, moistened with pure olive oil, and the parts will heal by what is called the first intention, and more speedily than by any other means.
An inn - Πανδοχειον, from παν, all, and δεχομαι, I receive; because it receives all comers.
Two pence - Two denarii, about fifteen pence, English; and which, probably, were at that time of ten times more value there than so much is with us now.
He that showed mercy - Or, so much mercy. His prejudice would not permit him to name the Samaritan, yet his conscience obliged him to acknowledge that he was the only righteous person of the three.
Go, and do thou likewise - Be even to thy enemy in distress as kind, humane, and merciful, as this Samaritan was. As the distress was on the part of a Jew, and the relief was afforded by a Samaritan, the lawyer, to be consistent with the decision he had already given, must feel the force of our Lord's inference, that it was his duty to act to any person, of whatever nation or religion he might be, as this Samaritan had acted toward his countryman. It is very likely that what our Lord relates here was a real matter of fact, and not a parable; otherwise the captious lawyer might have objected that no such case had ever existed, and that any inference drawn from it was only begging the question; but as he was, in all probability, in possession of the fact himself, he was forced to acknowledge the propriety of our Lord's inference and advice.
Those who are determined to find something allegorical, even in the plainest portions of Scripture, affirm that the whole of this relation is to be allegorically considered; and, according to them, the following is the true exposition of the text.
The certain man means Adam - went down, his fall - from Jerusalem, שלום יראה yorih shalom, he shall see peace, perfection, etc., meaning his state of primitive innocence and excellence - to Jericho, (ירחי yareacho, his moon), the transitory and changeable state of existence in this world - thieves, sin and Satan - stripped, took away his righteousness, which was the clothing of the soul - wounded, infected his heart with all evil and hurtful desires, which are the wounds of the spirit - half dead, possessing a living body, carrying about a soul dead in sin.
The priest, the moral law - the Levite, the ceremonial law - passed by, either could not or would not afford any relief, because by the law is the knowledge of sin, not the cure of it. A certain Samaritan, Christ; for so he was called by the Jews, John 8:48; - as he journeyed, meaning his coming from heaven to earth; his being incarnated - came where he was, put himself in man's place, and bore the punishment due to his sins - had compassion, it is through the love and compassion of Christ that the work of redemption was accomplished - went to him, Christ first seeks the sinner, who, through his miserable estate, is incapable of seeking or going to Christ - bound up his wounds, gives him comfortable promises, and draws him by his love - pouring in oil, pardoning mercy - wine, the consolations of the Holy Ghost - set him on his own beast, supported him entirely by his grace and goodness, so that he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him - took him to an inn, his Church, uniting him with his people - took care of him, placed him under the continual notice of his providence and love - when he departed, when he left the world and ascended to the Father - took out two pence, or denarii, the law and the Gospel; the one to convince of sin, the other to show how it is to be removed - gave them to the host, the ministers of the Gospel for the edification of the Church of Christ - take care of him, as they are Gods watchmen and God's stewards, they are to watch over the flock of Christ, and give to each his portion of meat in due season. What thou spendest more, if thou shouldst lose thy health and life in this work - when I come again, to judge the world, I will repay thee, I will reward thee with an eternity of glory.
Several primitive and modern fathers treat the text in this way. What I have given before is, I believe, the meaning of our blessed Lord. What I have given here is generally true in itself, but certainly does not follow from the text. Mr. Baxter's note here is good: "They who make the wounded man Adam, and the good Samaritan Christ, abuse the passage." A practice of this kind cannot be too strongly reprehended. Men may take that advantage of the circumstances of the case to illustrate the above facts and doctrines; but let no man say this is the meaning of the relation; no: but he may say, we may make this use of it. Though I cannot recommend this kind of preaching, yet I know that some simple upright souls have been edified by it. I dare not forbid a man to work by whom God may choose to work a miracle, because he follows not with us. But such a mode of interpretation I can never recommend.
A certain village - If this village was Bethany, where Martha and Mary lived, at less than two miles' distance from Jerusalem, see John 11:1, John 11:18; John 12:2, then this must have happened later than Luke places it; because, in Luke 19:29, he represents Jesus as having arrived after this at Bethany; and what is said in Luke 13:22, and Luke 17:11, seems to confirm that this visit of Jesus to Martha and Mary ought to be placed later. Bishop Pearce.
Received him - Kindly received, ὑπεδεξατο, she received him in a friendly manner, under her roof; and entertained him hospitably. So the word is used in the best Greek writers. Martha is supposed by some to have been a widow, with whom her brother Lazarus and sister Mary lodged.
Sat at Jesus' feet - This was the posture of the Jewish scholars, while listening to the instructions of the rabbins. It is in this sense that St. Paul says he was brought up at the Feet of Gamaliel, Acts 22:3.
Martha was cumbered - Περιεσπατο, perplexed, from περι, about, and σπαω, I draw. She was harassed with different cares and employments at the same time; one drawing one way, and another, another: a proper description of a worldly mind. But in Martha's favor it may be justly said, that all her anxiety was to provide suitable and timely entertainment for our Lord and his disciples; for this is the sense in which the word διακονιαν, serving, should be taken. And we should not, on the merest supposition, attribute earthly-mindedness to a woman whose character stands unimpeachable in the Gospel; and who, by entertaining Christ and his disciples, and providing liberally for them, gave the highest proof that she was influenced by liberality and benevolence, and not by parsimony or covetousness.
Dost thou not care - Dost thou not think it wrong, that my sister thus leaves me to provide and prepare this supper, alone?
Help me - Συναντιλαβηται, from συν, together, and αντιλαμβανομαι, to support. The idea is taken from two pillars meeting together at the top, exactly over the center of the distance between their bases, and thus mutually supporting each other. Order her to unite her skill and strength with mine, that the present business may be done with that speed and in that order which the necessity and importance of the case demand.
Thou art careful and troubled - Thou art distracted, μεριμνας, thy mind is divided, (see on Matthew 13:22; (note)), in consequence of which, τυρβαζῃ, thou art disturbed, thy spirit is thrown into a tumult.
About many things - Getting a variety of things ready for this entertainment, much more than are necessary on such an occasion.
One thing is needful - This is the end of the sentence, according to Bengel. "Now Mary hath chosen, etc.," begins a new one. One single dish, the simplest and plainest possible, is such as best suits me and my disciples, whose meat and drink it is to do the will of our heavenly Father.
Mary hath chosen that good part - That is, of hearing my word, of which she shall not be deprived; it being at present of infinitely greater importance to attend to my teaching than to attend to any domestic concerns. While thou art busily employed in providing that portion of perishing food for perishing bodies, Mary has chosen that spiritual portion which endures for ever, and which shall not be taken away from her; therefore I cannot command her to leave her present employment, and go and help thee to bring forward a variety of matters, which are by no means necessary at this time. Our Lord both preached and practised the doctrine of self-denial; he and his disciples were contented with a little, and sumptuous entertainments are condemned by the spirit and design of his Gospel.
Multos morbos, multa fercula fecerunt.
"Many dishes, many diseases."
Bishop Pearce remarks that the word χρεια, needful, is used after the same manner for want of food in Mark 2:25, where of David it is said, χρειαν εσχε, he had need, when it means he was hungry. I believe the above to be the true meaning of these verses; but others have taken a somewhat different sense from them: especially when they suppose that by one thing needful our Lord means the salvation of the soul. To attend to this is undoubtedly the most necessary of all things, and should be the first, the grand concern of every human spirit; but in my opinion it is not the meaning of the words in the text. It is only prejudice from the common use of the words in this way that could make such an interpretation tolerable. Kypke in loc. has several methods of interpreting this passage. Many eminent commentators, both ancient and modern, consider the text in the same way I have done. But this is termed by some, "a frigid method of explaining the passage;" well, so let it be; but he that fears God will sacrifice every thing at the shrine of Truth. I believe this alone to be the true meaning o£ the place, and I dare not give it any other. Bengelius points the whole passage thus: Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful. Now, Mary hath chosen that good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.
That the salvation of the soul is the first and greatest of all human concerns, every man must acknowledge who feels that he has a soul; and in humility of mind to hear Jesus, is the only way of getting that acquaintance with the doctrine of salvation without which how can he be saved? While we fancy we are in no spiritual necessity, the things which concern salvation will not appear needful to us! A conviction that we are spiritually poor must precede our application for the true riches. The whole, says Christ, need not the physician, but those who are sick. Martha has been blamed, by incautious people, as possessing a carnal, worldly spirit; and as Mary Magdalene has been made the chief of all prostitutes, so has Martha of all the worldly-minded. Through her affectionate respect for our Lord and his disciples, and through that alone, she erred. There is not the slightest intimation that she was either worldly-minded or careless about her soul; nor was she at this time improperly employed, only so far as the abundance of her affection led her to make a greater provision than was necessary on the occasion. Nor are our Lord's words to be understood as a reproof; they are a kind and tender expostulation, tending to vindicate the conduct of Mary. The utmost that can be said on the subject is, Martha was well employed, but Mary, on this occasion, better.
If we attend to the punctuation of the original text, the subject will appear more plain. I shall transcribe the text from Bengel's own edition, Stutgardiae, 1734, 12 mo. Luke 10:41, Luke 10:42. Luke 10:41, αποκριθεις δε ειπεν αυτῃ ὁ Ιησους, Μαρθα, Μαρθα, μεριμνᾳς και τυρβαζῃ περι πολλα· ἑνος δε εϚι χρεια. Μαρια δε την αγαθην μεριδα εξελεξατο, ἡτις ουκ αφαιρεθησεται απ 'αυτης . "Then Jesus answered her, Martha, Martha, thou art anxiously careful and disturbed about many things; but one thing is necessary. But Mary hath chosen that good portion which shall not be taken away from her." I have shown, in my notes, that Martha was making a greater provision for her guests than was needful; that it was in consequence of this that she required her sister's help; that Jesus tenderly reproved her for her unnecessary anxiety and superabundant provision, and asserted that but one thing, call it course or dish, was necessary on the occasion, yet she had provided many; and that this needless provision was the cause of the anxiety and extra labor. Then, taking occasion, from the circumstances of the case, to vindicate Mary's conduct, and to direct his loving reproof more pointedly at Martha's heart, he adds, Mary hath chosen a good portion; that is, she avails herself of the present opportunity to hear my teaching, and inform herself in those things which are essential to the salvation of the soul. I cannot, therefore, order her to leave my teaching, to serve in what I know to be an unnecessary service, however kindly designed: for it would be as unjust to deprive her of this bread of life, after which she so earnestly hungers, as to deprive thee, or thy guests, of that measure of common food necessary to sustain life. All earthly portions are perishing: "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats, but God will destroy both it and then; but the work of the Lord abideth for ever;" her portion, therefore, shall not be taken away from her. This is my view of the whole subject; and all the terms in the original, not only countenance this meaning, but necessarily require it. The words, one thing is needful, on which we lay so much stress, are wanting in some of the most ancient MSS., and are omitted by some of the fathers, who quote all the rest of the passage: a plain proof that the meaning which we take out of them was not thought of in very ancient times; and in other MSS., versions, and fathers, there is an unusual variety of readings where even the thing, or something like it, is retained. Some have it thus; Martha, Martha, thou labourest much, and yet a little is sufficient, yea, one thing only. Others: And only one thing is required. Others: Thou art curious and embarrassed about many things, when that which is needful is very small. Others: But here there need only a few things. Others: But a few things, or one only, is necessary. Now these are the readings of almost all the ancient versions; and we plainly perceive, by them, that what we term the one thing needful, is not understood by one of them as referring to the salvation of the soul, but to the provision Then to be made. It would be easy to multiply authorities, but I spare both my own time and that of my reader. In short, I wonder how the present most exceptionable mode of interpretation ever obtained; as having no countenance in the text, ancient MSS. or versions, and as being false in itself; for even Christ himself could not say, that sitting at his feet, and hearing his word, was the One thing Needful. Repentance, faith, prayer, obedience, and a thousand other things are necessary to our salvation, besides merely hearing the doctrines of Christ, even with the humblest heart.
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