Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
After these things - After the appointment of the twelve apostles, and the transactions recorded in the previous chapters.
Other seventy - Seventy others besides the apostles. They were appointed for a different purpose from the apostles. The apostles were to be with him; to hear his instructions; to be witnesses of his miracles, his sufferings, his death, his resurrection and ascension, that they might “then” go and proclaim all these things to the world. The seventy were sent out to preach immediately, and chiefly where he himself was about to come. They were appointed for a temporary object. They were to go into the villages and towns, and prepare the way for his coming. The number “seventy” was a favorite number among the Jews. Thus, the family of Jacob that came into Egypt consisted of seventy, Genesis 46:27. The number of elders that Moses appointed to aid him was the same, Numbers 11:16, Numbers 11:25. The number which composed the great Sanhedrin, or council of the nation. was the same. It is not improbable that our Saviour appointed this number with reference to the fact that it so often occurred among the Jews, or after the example of Moses, who appointed seventy to aid him in his work; but it is evident that the office was “temporary” - that it had a specific design - and of course that it would be improper to attempt to find now a “continuation” of it, or a parallel to it, in the Christian ministry.
Two and two - There was much wisdom in sending them in this manner. It was done, doubtless, that they might aid one another by mutual counsel, and that they might sustain and comfort one another in their persecutions and trials. Our Lord in this showed the propriety of having “a religious friend,” who would be a confidant and help. Every Christian, and especially every Christian minister, needs such a friend, and should seek some one to whom he can unbosom himself, and with whom he can mingle his feelings and prayers.
Purse scrip shoes - See the notes at Matthew 10:10.
Salute no man by the way - Salutations among the Orientals did not consist, as among us, of a slight bow or an extension of the hand, but was performed by many embraces and inclinations, and even prostrations of the body on the ground. All this required much “time;” and as the business on which the seventy were sent was urgent, they were required not to “delay” their journey by long and formal salutations of the persons whom they met. “If two Arabs of equal rank meet each other, they extend to each other the right hand, and having clasped, they elevate them as if to kiss them. Each one then draws back his hand and kisses it instead of his friend‘s, and then places it upon his forehead. The parties then continue the salutation by kissing each other‘s beard. They gave thanks to God that they are once more permitted to see their friend - they pray to the Almighty in his behalf. Sometimes they repeat not less than ten times the ceremony of grasping hands and kissing.”
It may also be added, in the language of Dr. Thomson (“The Land and the Book,” vol. i. p. 534), that “there is such an amount of insincerity, flattery, and falsehood in the terms of salutation prescribed by etiquette, that our Lord, who is truth itself, desired his representatives to dispense with them as far as possible, perhaps tacitly to rebuke them. These ‹instructions‘ were also intended to reprove another propensity which an Oriental can scarcely resist, no matter how urgent his business. If he meets an acquaintance, he must stop and make an endless number of inquiries and answer as many. If they come upon people making a bargain or discussing any other matter, they must pause and intrude their own ideas, and enter keenly into the business, though it in no wise concerns them; and more especially, an Oriental can never resist the temptation to assist “where accounts are being settled or money counted out.” The clink of coin has a positive fascination to them. Now the command of our Saviour strictly forbade all such loiterings. They would waste time, distract attention, and in many ways hinder the prompt and faithful discharge of their important mission.” The salutation of friends, therefore, was a ceremony which consumed much time; and it was on this account that our Lord on this occasion forbade them to delay their journey to greet others. A similar direction is found in 2 Kings 4:29.
The son of peace - That is, if the “house” or “family” be “worthy,” or be disposed to receive you in “peace” and kindness. See Matthew 10:13. “The son of peace” means one “disposed” to peace, or peaceful and kind in his disposition. Compare Matthew 1:1.
See the notes at Matthew 10:11. On this passage Dr. Thomson (“The Land and the Book,” vol. i. p. 534) remarks: “The reason (for the command, ‹Go not from house to house‘) is very obvious to one acquainted with Oriental customs. When a stranger arrives in a village or an encampment, the neighbors, one after another, must invite him to eat with them. There is a strict etiquette about it, involving much ostentation and hypocrisy, and a failure in the due observance of this system of hospitality is violently resented, and often leads to alienations and feuds among neighbors; it also consumes much time, causes unusual distraction of mind, leads to levity, and every way counteracts the success of a spiritual mission.”
The devils are subject unto us - The devils obey us. We have been able to cast them out.
Through thy name - When commanded in thy name to come out of those who are possessed.
I beheld Satan - “Satan” here denotes evidently the prince of the devils who had been cast out by the seventy disciples, for the discourse was respecting their power over evil spirits. “Lightning” is an image of “rapidity” or “quickness.” I saw Satan fall “quickly” or rapidly - as quick as lightning. The phrase “from heaven” is to be referred to the lightning, and does not mean that he saw “Satan” fall “from heaven,” but that he fell as quick as lightning from heaven or from the clouds. The whole expression then may mean, “I saw at your command devils immediately depart, as quick as the flash of lightning. I gave you this power - I saw it put forth - and I give also now, in addition to this, the power to tread on serpents,” etc.
To tread on serpents - Preservation from danger. If you tread on a poisonous reptile that would otherwise injure you, I will keep you from danger. If you go among bitter and malignant enemies that would seek your life, I will preserve you. See the notes at Mark 16:18.
Scorpions - The scorpion is an animal with eight feet, eight eyes and a long jointed tail, ending in a pointed weapon or sting. It is found in tropical climates, and seldom exceeds 4 inches in length. Its sting is extremely poisonous, and it is sometimes fatal to life. It is in Scripture the emblem of malicious and crafty men. When rolled up it has some resemblance to an egg, Luke 11:12; Ezekiel 2:6. The annexed cut will give an idea of its usual form and appearance.
The enemy - Satan. The meaning of this verse is, that Jesus would preserve them from the power of Satan and all his emissaries - from all wicked and crafty men; and this shows that he had divine power. He that can control Satan and his hosts that can be present to guard from all their machinations, see all their plans, and destroy all their designs, must be clothed with no less than almighty power.
Rather rejoice - Though it was an honor to work miracles, though it is an honor to be endowed with talents, and influence, and learning, yet it is a subject of “chief” joy that we are numbered among the people of God, and have a title to everlasting life.
Names are written in heaven - The names of citizens of a city or state were accustomed to be written in a book or register, from which they were blotted out when they became unworthy, or forfeited the favor of their country. Compare Psalm 69:28; Exodus 32:32; Deuteronomy 9:14; Revelation 3:5. That their “names were written in heaven,” means that they were “citizens” of heaven; that they were friends of God and “approved” by him, and would be permitted to dwell with him. This was of far more value than all “earthly” honor, power, or wealth, and “in” this people should rejoice more than in eminent endowments of influence, learning, talents, or possessions.
A certain lawyer - One who professed to be well skilled in the laws of Moses, and whose business it was to explain them.
Stood up - Rose - came forward to address him.
Tempted him - Feigned a desire to be instructed, but did it to perplex him, or to lead him, if possible, to contradict some of the maxims of the law.
Inherit eternal life - Be saved. This was the common inquiry among the Jews. “They” had said that man must keep the commandments - the written and oral law.
What is written - Jesus referred him to the “law” as a safe rule, and asked him what was said there. The lawyer was doubtless endeavoring to justify himself by obeying the law. He trusted to his own works. To bring him off from that ground - to make him feel that it was an unsafe foundation, Jesus showed him what the law “required,” and thus showed him that he needed a better righteousness than his own. This is the proper use of the law. By comparing ourselves with “that” we see our own defects, and are thus prepared to welcome a better righteousness than our own - that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the law becomes a schoolmaster to lead us to him, Galatians 3:24.
To justify himself - Desirous to appear blameless, or to vindicate himself, and show that he had kept the law. Jesus wished to lead him to a proper view of his own sinfulness, and his real departure from the law. The man was desirous of showing that he had kept the law; or perhaps he was desirous of justifying himself for asking the question; of showing that it could not be so easily settled; that a mere reference to the “words” of the law did not determine it. It was still a question what was meant by “neighbor.” The Pharisees held that the “Jews” only were to be regarded as such, and that the obligation did not extend at all to the Gentiles. The lawyer was probably ready to affirm that he had discharged faithfully his duty to his countrymen, and had thus kept the law, and could justify himself. Every sinner is desirous of “justifying himself.” He seeks to do it by his own works. For this purpose he perverts the meaning of the law, destroys its spirituality, and brings “down” the law to “his” standard, rather than attempt to frame his life by “its” requirements.
Jesus answering - Jesus answered him in a very different manner from what he expected. By one of the most tender and affecting narratives to be found anywhere, he made the lawyer his own judge in the case, and constrained him to admit what at first he would probably have denied. He compelled him to acknowledge that a Samaritan - of a race most hated of all people by the Jews - had shown the kindness of a neighbor, while a “priest” and a “Levite” had denied it “to their own countrymen.”
From Jerusalem to Jericho - Jericho was situated about 15 miles to the northeast of Jerusalem, and about 8 miles west of the river Jordan. See the notes at Matthew 20:29.
Fell among thieves - Fell among “robbers.” The word “thieves” means those who merely take “property.” These were highwaymen and not merely took the property, but endangered the life. They were “robbers.” From Jerusalem to Jericho the country was rocky and mountainous, and in some parts scarcely inhabited. It afforded, therefore, among the rocks and fastnesses, a convenient place for highwaymen. This was also a very frequented road. Jericho was a large place, and there was much traveling to Jerusalem. At this time, also, Judea abounded with robbers. Josephus says that at one time Herod the Great dismissed 40,000 men who had been employed in building the temple, a large part of whom became highwaymen (Josephus “Antiquities,” xv. 7). The following remarks of Professor Hackett, who visited Palestine in 1852, will furnish a good illustration of the scene of this parable. It is remarkable that a parable uttered more than eighteen hundred years ago might still be appropriately located in this region.
Professor Hackett (“Illustrations of Scripture,” p. 215,216) says of this region: “It is famous at the present day as the haunt of thieves and robbers. No part of the traveler‘s journey is so dangerous as the expedition to Jericho and the Dead Sea. The Oriental pilgrims who repair to the Jordan have the protection of an escort of Turkish soldiers; and others who would make the same journey must either go in company with them, or provide for their safety by procuring a special guard. I was so fortunate as to be able to accompany the great caravan at the time of the annual pilgrimage. Yet, in spite of every precaution, hardly a season passes in which some luckless wayfarer is not killed or robbed in going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. The place derives its hostile character from its terrible wildness and desolation. If we might conceive of the ocean as being suddenly congealed and petrified when its waves are tossed mountain high, and dashing in wild confusion against each other, we should then have some idea of the aspect of the desert in which the Saviour has placed so truthfully the parable of the good Samaritan. The ravines, the almost inaccessible cliffs, the caverns, furnish admirable lurking-places for robbers. They can rush forth unexpectedly upon their victims, and escape as soon almost beyond the possibility of pursuit.
“Every circumstance in this parable, therefore, was full of significance to those who heard it. The Saviour delivered it near Bethany, on the border of the frightful desert, Luke 10:25, Luke 10:38. Jericho was a sacerdotal city. The passing of priests and Levites between that place and Jerusalem was an everyday occurrence. The idea of a caravanserai or ‹inn‘ on the way was not invented, probably, for the sake of the allegory, but borrowed from the landscape. There are the ruins now of such a shelter for the benighted or unfortunate on one of the heights which overlook the infested road. Thus it is that the instructions of our Lord derive often the form and much of their pertinence from the accidental connections of time and place.”
By chance - Accidentally, or as it happened. It means that he did not do it with a “design” to aid the man that was wounded.
A certain priest - It is said that not less than 12,000 priests and Levites dwelt at Jericho; and as their business was at Jerusalem, of course there would be many of them constantly traveling on that road.
When he saw him - He saw him lie, but came not near him.
Passed by on the other side - On the farther side of the way. Did not turn out of his course even to come and see him.
A Levite - The Levites, as well as the priests, were of the tribe of Levi, and were set apart to the duties of religion. The special duty of the priest was “to offer sacrifice” at the temple; to present incense; to conduct the morning and evening services of the temple, etc. The office or duty of the “Levites” was to render assistance to the priests in their services. In the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness, it was their duty to transport the various parts of the tabernacle and the sacred utensils. It was their duty to see that the tabernacle and the temple were kept clean; to prepare supplies for the sanctuary, such as oil, incense, wine, etc. They had also the care of the sacred revenues, and after the time of David they conducted the sacred “music” of the temple service, 1 Chronicles 23:3-5, 1 Chronicles 23:24-32; 1 Chronicles 24:27-31.
Came and looked on him - It is remarked by critics, here, that the expression used does not denote, as in the case of the priest, that he accidentally saw him and took no farther notice of him, but that he came and looked on him more attentively, but still did nothing to relieve him.
A certain Samaritan - The Samaritans were the most inveterate foes of the Jews. They had no dealings with each other. See the notes at Matthew 10:5. It was this fact which rendered the conduct of this good man so striking, and which was thus set in strong contrast with the conduct of the priest and the Levite. “They” would not help their own afflicted, and wounded countryman. “He,” who could not be expected to aid a Jew, overcame all the usual hostility between the people; saw in the wounded man a neighbor, a brother, one who needed aid; and kindly denied himself to show kindness to the stranger.
Pouring in oil and wine - These were often used in medicine to heal wounds. Probably they were mingled together, and had a highly sanative quality. How strikingly is his conduct contrasted with the priest and Levite! And, how particularly as well as beautifully by this does our Saviour show what we ought to do to those who are in circumstances of need! He does not merely say “in general” that he showed him kindness, but he “told how” it was done. He stopped - came where he was - pitied him - bound up his wound - set him on his own beast - conducted him to a tavern - passed the night with him, and then secured the kind attendances of the landlord, promising him to pay him for his trouble and all this without desiring or expecting any reward. If this had been by a Jew, it would have been signal kindness; if it had been by a Gentile, it would also have been great kindness; but it was by a Samaritan - a man of a nation most hateful to the Jews, and therefore it most strikingly shows what we are to do to friends and foes when they are in distress.
Two pence - About 27 cents, or 1 shilling, 2d. This may seem a small sum, but we are to remember that that sum was probably ten times as valuable then as now - that is, that it would purchase ten times as much food and the common necessaries of life as the same sum would now. Besides, it is probable that all the man wanted was “attention” and kindness, and for all these it was the purpose of the Samaritan to pay when he returned.
The host - The innkeeper.
Was neighbour - Showed the kindness of a neighbor, or evinced the proper feelings of a neighbor. The lawyer had asked him who was his neighbor? Jesus in this beautiful narrative showed him who and what a neighbor was, and he did this in a way that disarmed his prejudice, deeply affected him in regard to his own duty, and evinced the beauty of religion. Had he “at first” told him that a Samaritan might be a neighbor to a Jew and deserve his kindness, he would have been at once revolted at it; but when, by a beautiful and affecting narrative, he brought the “man himself” to see that it might be, he was constrained to admit it. Here we see the beauty of a parable and its use. It disarmed prejudice, fixed the attention, took the mind gently yet irresistibly, and prevented the possibility of cavil or objection. Compare, also, the address of Nathan to David, 2 Samuel 12:1-7.
He that showed mercy - His “Jewish” prejudice would not permit him “to name” the Samaritan, but there was no impropriety, even in his view, in saying that the man who showed so much mercy was really the neighbor to the afflicted, and not he who “professed” to be his neighbor, but who would “do nothing” for his welfare.
Go, and do thou likewise - Show the same kindness to “all” - to friend and foe - and “then” you will have evidence that you keep the law, and not “till” then. Of this man we know nothing farther; but from this inimitably beautiful parable we may learn:
1. That the knowledge of the law is useful to make us acquainted with our own sinfulness and need of a Saviour.
2. That it is not he who “professes” most kindness that really loves us most, but he who will most deny himself that he may do us good in times of want.
3. That religion requires us to do good to “all” people, however “accidentally” we may become acquainted with their calamities.
4. That we should do good to our enemies. Real love to them will lead us to deny ourselves, and to sacrifice our own welfare, that we may help them in times of distress and alleviate their wants.
5. That he is really our neighbor who does us the most good - who helps us in our necessities, and especially if he does this when there has been “a controversy or difference” between us and him.
6. We hence see the beauty of religion. Nothing else will induce people to surmount their prejudices, to overcome opposition, and to do good to those who are at enmity with them. True religion teaches us to regard every man as our neighbor; prompts us to do good to all, to forget all national or sectional distinctions, and to aid all those who are in circumstances of poverty and want. If religion were valuable for nothing “but this,” it would be the most lovely and desirable principle on earth, and all, especially in their early years, should seek it. Nothing that a young person can gain will be so valuable as the feeling that regards all the world as one great family, and to learn early to do good to all.
7. The difference between the Jew and the Samaritan was a difference in “religion” and “religious opinion;” and from the example of the latter we may learn that, while people differ in “opinions” on subjects of religion, and while they are zealous for what they hold to be the truth, still they should treat each other kindly; that they should aid each other in necessity; and that they should thus show that religion is a principle superior to the love of sect, and that the cord which binds man to man is one that is to be sundered by no difference of opinion, that Christian kindness is to be marred by no forms of worship, and by no bigoted attachment for what we esteem the doctrines of the gospel.
A certain village - Bethany. See John 11:1. It was on the eastern declivity of the Mount of Olives. See the notes at Matthew 21:1.
Received him - Received him kindly and hospitably. From this it would seem that “Martha” was properly the mistress of the house. Possibly she was a widow, and her brother Lazarus and younger sister Mary lived with her; and as “she” had the care of the household, this will also show why she was so diligently employed about domestic affairs.
Sat at Jesus‘ feet - This was the ancient posture of disciples or learners. They sat at the “feet” of their teachers - that is, beneath them, in a humble place. Hence, Paul is represented as having been brought up at the “feet” of Gamaliel, Acts 22:3. When it is said that Mary sat at Jesus‘ feet, it means that she was “a disciple” of his; that she listened attentively to his instructions, and was anxious to learn his doctrine.
Martha was cumbered about much serving - Was much distracted with the cares of the family, and providing suitably to entertain the Saviour. It should be said here that there is no evidence that Martha had a worldly or covetous disposition. Her anxiety was to provide suitable entertainment for the Lord Jesus. As mistress of the family, this care properly devolved on her; and the only fault which can be charged on her was too earnest a desire to make such entertainment, when she might have sat with Mary at his feet, and, perhaps, too much haste and fretfulness in speaking to Jesus about Mary.
Dost thou not care - This was an improper reproof of our Lord, as if “he” encouraged Mary in neglecting her duty. Or perhaps Martha supposed that Mary was sitting there to show him the proper expressions of courtesy and kindness, and that she would not think it proper to leave him without his direction and permission. She therefore “hinted” to Jesus her busy employments, her need of the aid of her sister, and requested that he would signify his wish that Mary should assist her.
Thou art careful - Thou art anxious.
Troubled - Disturbed, distracted, very solicitous.
Many things - The many objects which excite your attention in the family. This was probably designed as a slight reproof, or a tender hint that she was improperly anxious about those things, and that she should, with Mary, rather choose to hear the discourses of heavenly wisdom.
But one thing is needful - That is, religion, or piety. This is eminently and especially needful. Other things are of little importance. This should be secured first, and then all other things will be added. See 1 Timothy 4:8; Matthew 6:33.
That good part - The portion of the gospel; the love of God, and an interest in his kingdom. She had chosen to be a Christian, and to give up her time and affections to God.
Which shall not be taken away - God will not take away his grace from his people, neither shall any man pluck them out of his hand, John 10:28-29.
From this interesting narrative we learn:
1. That the cares of this life are dangerous, even when they seem to be most lawful and commendable. Nothing of a worldly nature could have been more proper than to provide for the Lord Jesus and supply his wants. Yet even “for this,” because it too much engrossed her mind, the Lord Jesus gently reproved Martha. So a care for our families may be the means of our neglecting religion and losing our souls.
2. It is of more importance to attend to the instructions of the Lord Jesus than to be engaged in the affairs of the world. The one will abide forever; the other will be but for a little time.
3. There “are” times when it is proper to suspend worldly employments, and to attend to the affairs of the soul. It “was” proper for Mary to do it. It would have been proper for Martha to have done it. It “is” proper for all on the Sabbath and at other occasional seasons - seasons of prayer and for searching the word of God - to suspend worldly concerns and to attend to religion.
4. If attention to religion be omitted at “the proper time,” it will always be omitted. If Mary had neglected to hear Jesus “then,” she might never have heard him.
5. Piety is the chief thing needed. Other things will perish. We shall soon die. All that we can gain we must leave. But the “soul” will live. There is a judgment-seat; there is a heaven; there is a hell; and “all” that is needful to prepare us to die, and to make us happy forever, is to be a friend of Jesus, and to listen to his teaching.
6. Piety is the chief ornament in a female. It sweetens every other virtue; adorns every other grace; gives new loveliness to the tenderness, mildness, and grace of the female character. Nothing is more lovely than a female sitting at the feet of the meek and lowly Jesus, like Mary; nothing more unlovely than entire absorption in the affairs of the world, like Martha. The most lovely female is she who has most of the spirit of Jesus; the least amiable, she who neglects her soul - who is proud, frivolous, thoughtless, envious, and unlike the meek and lowly Redeemer. At his feet are peace, purity, joy. Everywhere else an alluring and wicked world steals the affections and renders us vain, frivolous, wicked, proud, and unwilling to die.
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