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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Luke 12

 

 

Verses 1-59


The Leaven of the Pharisees. The Rich Fool

1-12. Jesus warns His followers against Pharisaic hypocrisy, and exhorts them to be courageous in face of opposition. This speech is not unsuitable to the context in St. Luke, but the whole of the sayings are found also in St. Matthew's Gospel, generally in a more natural connexion (mostly in the charge to the Twelve, Luke 10:5-42). Perhaps St. Luke here groups together savings spoken at different times.

1. When there were] RV 'when the many thousands of the multitude were gathered together.' They were attracted by the dispute between our Lord and the Pharisees recorded in the last chapter Since our Lord begins by addressing His disciples, and warns them of coming persecutions, it may be inferred that the multitude was at first inclined to side with the Pharisees; yet see Luke 12:13, where the authority of Jesus is plainly recognised. The leaven] see on Matthew 16:6, Matthew 16:11, Matthew 16:12.

2-9. See on Matthew 10:26-33.

2, 3. These vv. have a different connexion and meaning in Mt.

2. Hypocrisy, like that of the Pharisees, is useless and foolish, for in the Judgment Day there will be a merciless exposure of it.

3. For in that day the most secret words and thoughts of hypocrites will be proclaimed to the whole creation. Therefore (RV 'Where-fore')] is better translated 'for,' 'because '(cp. Luke 1:20; Luke 19:44; Acts 12:23).

10. See on Matthew 12:31, Matthew 12:32.

11, 12. See on Matthew 10:17-20.

13-21. Parable of the rich fool (peculiar to Lk). The parable teaches that since death and judgment are inevitable, men ought to devote their attention to laying up treasure in heaven, not on earth.

13. Divide the inheritance] Such questions were decided by the 'bench of three 'of the local synagogues. Christ, as usual, refuses to be drawn into any political or semi-political action. The unseasonable request of the man (he appears to have interrupted our Lord's discourse to make it), showed that his mind was too much set upon worldly things.

14. Who made me?] Cp. Exodus 2:14.

15. For a man's life] The Gk. is difficult and the translation doubtful, but the sense seems to be that neither a man's physical nor his spiritual life is dependent upon great possessions. A healthy and happy human life can be lived in a state of comparative poverty, and spiritual life is rather hindered than aided by great possessions. Others understand it to mean that a man's life is not like a possession, but infinitely more valuable. Cp. below (Luke 12:23), 'the life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.'

16. Brought forth] The man's wealth was honestly and justly acquired. His fault was not injustice, but covetousness.

17. I have no room] 'Thou hast barns, the mouths of the poor which can hold much; barns which can never be pulled down or destroyed, for they are heavenly and divine, if indeed it be true that he who feeds the poor, feeds God' (Theophylact).

19. To my soul] The fool speaks as if earthly wealth could supply the needs of an immortal soul.

20. This night, etc.] lit. 'this night do they (i.e. the angels of vengeance) require thy soul of thee.' The righteous man willingly and joyfully commits his soul to God; but from the wicked man it is exacted with stern terror.

21. Rich toward God] On laying up treasure in heaven, which is here meant, see on Matthew 6:19-21.

There is an interesting rabbinical parallel to this parable: 'Once Rabbi Simeon went to a certain circumcision and there feasted. The father gave them old wine, seven years old, to drink, saying, “With this wine will I grow old, rejoicing in my son.” They feasted together till midnight. At midnight Rabbi Simeon, trusting to his own virtue, went out to go into the city, and on the way met the angel of death, who, he perceived, was very sad. He asked therefore, “Why art thou so sad?” He replied, “I am sad for the speeches of those who say, I will do this or that ere long, though they know not how quickly they may be called away by death. The man who just boasted, 'With this wine I will grow old, rejoicing in my son,' behold his time draws near. Within thirty days he must be snatched away.” The rabbi said to him, “Do thou let me know my time.” The angel answered, “Over thee and such as thou art, we have no power; for God, being delighted with good works, prolongeth your lives.”'

22-34. Against anxiety about wealth and worldly things. Almost the whole of this section occurs in St. Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. The present context, however, is very suitable, and is perhaps correct.

22-31. See on Matthew 6:25-33.

29. Neither be ye of doubtful mind] or, 'neither be ye high-minded.'

32. Fear not, little flock] A beautiful and tender saying peculiar to Lk, intended to encourage the disciples who would be for so long in so hopeless a minority. The sense is, 'If God is willing to give you the kingdom, much more will He give you food and raiment, therefore you need not be afraid (Luke 12:33) to sell that ye have and give alms.'

33. See on Matthew 19:21; Matthew 6:20. Sell that ye have, etc.] Christ addresses not all the disciples, but those who, like the apostles, had received a call to leave all, and devote themselves to the work of the ministry.

Bags (RV 'purses') which wax not old] The purses which will keep your money safely are not your own, but those of the poor on whom you bestow your charity. Placed in those purses, your earthly treasure will become 'treasure in the heavens that faileth not.'

34. See on Matthew 6:21.

35-48. Exhortation to vigilance. The greater part of it appears also (and most appropriately) in Matthew 24. The apostles and other ministers of the word are chiefly addressed, though there is a lesson for all (Luke 12:41.). The question of Peter (Luke 12:41) is peculiar to Lk.

35, 36. A little parable peculiar to Luke, warning the apostles to be ready for Christ's second coming, which will be sudden. The apostles are compared to slaves left to watch the house (the Church) while the master (Christ) goes to a wedding feast (i. e. ascends into heaven). Their loins are girded because they have housework to do (preaching the gospel and ruling the Church), and they have lighted lamps, because their task is to enlighten a dark and sinful world by their shining example. Christ's return from the marriage feast is His Second Advent, or it may mean His judgment of each individual soul at death. The 'marriage feast' here is not the final joy of the blessed, as in the. parable of the Ten Virgins, but Christ's session at the right hand of God between the Ascension and Second Advent.

The parable, though primarily intended for the rulers of the Church, is applicable to all Christians, for all have received some kind of commission from Christ.

37, 38. See on Matthew 24:46. These vv. continue the parable. Those whom Christ shall find watching at His Second Coming, He will invite to share in the final feast (the joy of heaven); when He Himself will serve them, supplying them with all blessedness, and wiping away all tears from their eyes. The second and third watches are the second and third of the Roman four watches (Matthew 14:25). They thus represent the dead of night, and by metaphor the unexpectedness of the Second Advent. The Jews reckoned only three night watches.

39, 40. See on Matthew 24:43-44; Another parable in which, by a curious inversion, the goodman (master) of the house means the apostles, and the thief Christ. Christ is so called from the secrecy and unexpectedness of His coming.

41. (Peculiar to Lk.) Christ does not answer Peter's question directly, but His answer shows that He is speaking mainly of the apostles and those in authority.

42-46. See on Matthew 24:45-50.

47. 48. (Peculiar to Lk.) Christ here seems to assert (cp. Luke 10:12, Luke 10:14) that there will be degrees of future punishment.

48. He that knew not] 'The reference is to the future pastors of the Church. “He that knew not,” will still be punished, for he could have known; but not punished so much as the other, for the other was presumptuous, but this one was slothful; and presumption is a greater sin than sloth' (Euthymius). They will ask the more] Christ through His angels will demand 'His own with usury,' i.e. will demand that the talents entrusted to each man shall have been improved, and turned to good use. In the case of the Apostles He will demand what souls they have gained besides their own.

49-53. The strife that the gospel will produce. In different connexions in Mt.

49. A paradox. The Prince of Peace comes to bring strife and bloodshed, fire and sword, into the world, because only through war can lasting peace be attained. Some, however, understand by fire, the fire of Christian love.

What will I, etc.] i.e. 'how much I wish that it were already kindled!' (Theophylact). Other translations: 'What more have I to desire, if it be already kindled? '(Plummer).' What do I desire? Would that it were already kindled!' (Origen).

50. See on Matthew 20:22 = Mark 10:38. A baptism] i.e. Christ's Passion. Straitened] i.e. afflicted, oppressed.

51-53. See on Matthew 10:34-36.

54-59. Ignorance of the signs of the times.

54-56. See on Matthew 16:1-3.

57. Peculiar to Lk. Of yourselves] Why, even without signs, do you not judge rightly of Me and My doctrine by the natural light of reason and conscience?

58, 59. See on Matthew 5:25, Matthew 5:26.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Luke 12:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/luke-12.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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