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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 22

 

 

Verses 1-46


Parables of the Marriage of the King's Son and the Wedding Garment

1-14. Marriage of the King's Son (peculiar to St. Matthew). Jesus concludes His discourse by reiterating in still clearer and stronger language the teaching of the last parable, viz. His Divine Sonship, the impending destruction of Jerusalem, the rejection of the Jews, and the call of the Gentiles. He concludes with a warning to the Gentiles not to abuse the mercy about to be extended to them, by appearing at the feast (i.e. becoming Christians) without the garment of repentance and pureness of living.

This parable is probably quite distinct from that of the Great Supper (Luke 14:16). The latter says nothing of the wedding garment, of the fall of Jerusalem, or of the Sonship of Christ. Its occasion, moreover, was entirely different, and, from its contents, it was obviously spoken before the hostility between Christ and the Pharisees had reached its height.

1. And Jesus answered] viz. their attempt to seize Him, Matthew 21:46, by another parable.

2. A certain king] i.e. God. A marriage] RV 'a marriage feast,' which would last seven or fourteen day (Genesis 29:27; Judges 14:12; Tobit 8:19). The marriage is between Christ and His Church (Revelation 21:2; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Isaiah 54:5, etc.), which begins here, but is perfected in the world to come. For Jewish ideas as to the Messiah's great feast, see on Matthew 8:11.

3. His servants] i.e. Moses and the prophets, and especially the Baptist, the last and greatest prophet of the old dispensation. Them that were bidden] i.e. the Jews.

4, Other servants] i.e. the Apostles. The repetition of the invitation was a Jewish custom. 'What' (said the rabbis) 'was the boast of the men of Jerusalem? Not one of them went to a banquet, unless he were twice invited.' 6, The remnant] are the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees, who were the chief persecutors of the apostles (Acts 5:40; Acts 7:58; Acts 12:2; Acts 14:5, etc.), as distinguished from the nation generally, which only 'made light of 'the Apostles' message.

7. His armies] 'The armies of the Romans, who, under Vespasian and Titus, slew these murderers, and burnt their city, Jerusalem.'

8. Then saith he] Not indicating that no Gentile converts were to be made before that date, but that from that time 'the fulness of the Gentiles' would begin (Romans 11:25).

9. Into the highways] RV 'the partings of the highways.' More probably it means the places where the roads from the country enter a city, and so by metaphor, Gentile territory (Grimm). So also Euthymius: 'He calls the cities and villages of the Gentiles the outlets of the highways, signifying the forlorn state of the Gentiles.'

To feast the poor was quite common. The Talmud says, 'It was a custom among rich men to invite poor travellers to feasts.'

10. Both bad and good] Signifying, as in the parable of the net, that the Church is to consist of good and evil, and that the entrance into it is not to be denied to any but scandalous sinners.

11. To see (RV 'behold') the guests] The scene changes to the last judgment, when the fitness of the guests to be there will be the subject of a solemn scrutiny. Theophylact well says, 'The entrance to the marriage feast is without scrutiny, for by grace alone were we all called, both good and bad. But the subsequent life of those who have entered in, will not be without scrutiny, but the King will make a most exact scrutiny of those who after their entry into the faith, shall be found with filthy garments. Let us therefore tremble, reflecting that unless a man live a pure life, faith by itself is of no avail, for not only is he cast out of the marriage feast, but is cast into the fire.' A wedding garment] Eastern etiquette is strict, and to appear without the festive garment that custom prescribes, would be a serious offence. Since the judgment is according to works, the wedding garment is not faith, or imputed righteousness, but a holy life.

13. The servants] RM 'ministers,' i.e. the angels.

14. Cp. Matthew 20:16. Some think that this indicates that only a few of all mankind will be finally saved, but Theophylact is probably right in saying that it refers to the Jews of our Lord's time, all of whom were called, but few were chosen, because few accepted the invitation. The 'calling' must be carefully distinguished from the 'choosing.' The calling is the act of God, and does not depend on human will; but whether a man is finally chosen or not, depends upon his own conduct after his call.

15-22. The tribute money (Mark 12:13; Luke 20:20). The Sanhedrin, not having the power of life and death, tried to entrap Jesus into an answer which might be made an excuse for handing Him over to Pilate on a charge of rebellion and treason. The Pharisees, who concocted the plot, did not appear in it openly, but sent their disciples, and the Herodians, who, from hostility to Jesus, were quite willing to join in the attempt to destroy Him.

16. Herodians] i.e. partisans of the dynasty of the Herods. They supported the Roman domination.

17. Is it lawful?] The party of the Zealots, founded by Judas of Galilee, held that, Israel being a theocracy, and God the only King, it was unlawful to pay tribute to any foreign power, The Pharisees asked whether Christ agreed with Judas. The hypocrisy of the question appears in this, that the Pharisees at heart agreed with Judas, yet they were plotting to put Jesus to death on a charge of supporting his policy. Tribute] see on Matthew 17:25.

19. A penny] see on Matthew 18:28. It was a Roman coin, and the Jewish schools held it for a maxim that he whose coin was in circulation was king. The rabbis said, 'Wheresoever the money of any king is current, there the inhabitants acknowledge that king for their lord.' So in the Talmud, Abigail refuses to recognise David as king, saying, 'The money of our Lord Saul as yet is current.'

20. Whose.. image?] The rabbis objected to human figures on coins as savouring of idolatry. Edersheim says, 'Neither Herod nor Herod Antipas had any image on their coins. This must therefore have been either a foreign one (Roman), or else one of the Tetrarch Philip, who exceptionally had the image of Tiberius on his coins'. See Edersheim, 'Life,' App. II.

21. Render therefore unto Caesar] A pregnant saying, destroying the basis of Jewish nationalism, and defining the relation of Church and State for all time. A brief exposition must suffice. Christ showed, (1) His sympathy with imperialism, as opposed to national and racial particularism. Intending Himself to found a universal Church, He openly showed His sympathy with the great and beneficent empire which broke down the barriers of national hatred and prejudice, established universal peace, and ensured the diffusion of culture, knowledge, and useful arts; (2) that submission and loyalty to civil power is a duty binding on the conscience. Christ says not only 'Give,' but 'Render,' signifying that submission is due; (3) that nevertheless there are limits to the obedience due to the civil power. When Caesar asks not for tribute, but for worship, as actually happened at this time, he is to be resisted; if the State prescribes the religious worship of its subjects, obedience is not due; (4) that consequently Church and State are not one thing, but two, each with its peculiar powers given by God, and that all attempts to amalgamate them, or to subject the one to the other, are wrong; (5) that religious persecution is unlawful. The State has no authority to enforce any particular religion within its borders, and the Church has no authority to use the sword of the magistrate in its behalf.

23-33. The Sadducees and the Resurrection (Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27). A less dangerous interview than the preceding. The Sadducees sought to bring Jesus into contempt and ridicule with the multitude by asking Him a question which they thought He could not answer.

23. Sadducees] see on Matthew 3:7. Shall marry his wife] see Deuteronomy 25:5. The Levirate marriage was falling into disuse at this time. The Mishna (200 a.d.) recommends that the eus torn should no longer be observed.

28. Whose wife shall she be?] Two errors underlay the question: (1) That in the resurrection men will rise to a natural life; (2) that the Law will continue in force. The sceptical Sadducees naturally represented the doctrine of the Resurrection in its most ridiculous form.

There was some division of opinion among the rabbis as to whether resurrection would be to a natural or to a supernatural (spiritual) life. A few took the spiritual view, e.g. Rabbi Raf is reported to have often said, 'In the world to come they shall neither eat, nor drink, nor beget children, nor trade. There is neither envy nor strife, but the just shall sit with crowns on their heads, and shall enjoy the splendour of the Divine Majesty.' But the majority inclined to a materialistic view of the resurrection. The pre-Christian book of Enoch says that the righteous after the resurrection shall live so long that they shall beget thousands. The received doctrine is laid down by Rabbi Saadia, who says, 'As the son of the widow of Sarepton, and the son of the Shunamite, ate and drank, and doubtless married wives, so shall it be in the resurrection'; and by Maimonides, who says, 'Men after the resurrection will use meat and drink, and will beget children, because since the Wise Architect makes nothing in vain, it follows of necessity that the members of the body are not useless, but fulfil their functions.' The point raised by the Sadducees was often debated by the Jewish doctors, who decided that 'a woman who married two husbands in this world is restored to the first in the next.'

30. The angels] Jesus takes the opportunity of rebuking the Sadducees' disbelief in angels (Acts 23:8).

32. I am the God of Abraham] Exodus 3:6. The proof of the resurrection is taken from the Law, not because the Sadducees rejected the Prophets and Hagiographa, of which there is no certain proof, but because to every Jew the Law was of higher authority than any other part of the canon. Theophylact says, 'He said not “I was,” but “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” For though they are dead, yet they live through the hope of the resurrection. Here the Lord opposes the heresy of the Sadducees, saying, “God is not the God of the dead, i.e. of men who have altogether perished, but of the living, i.e. of those who have immortal souls, and though they are now dead will rise again.”' Strictly speaking, the argument of Jesus is an argument for human immortality, but to Jewish minds the idea of immortality necessarily carried with it the idea of a resurrection.

34-40. The great commandment of the Law (Mark 12:28). Considering that this question was asked by an individual Pharisee, that there is nothing ensnaring in it, and that Jesus commended His questioner, saying, 'Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God' (Mk), it is probable that this was not a temptation, but a test, an honest appeal for information on the part of one who had heard His last answer with admiration. St. Luke records a somewhat similar incident in another connexion (Luke 10:25). Some regard it as another version of this incident.

35. A lawyer] i.e. a scribe, or rabbi.

Tempting him] i.e. proving Him, testing His penetration and knowledge of the Law by a hard question.

36. Which is the great commandment?] A question debated by the Jewish schools. The best Jewish opinion coincided with our Lord's. Philo, our Lord's contemporary, says, 'To speak briefly, of the innumerable detailed exhortations and commandments, the two which in the most general manner sum up the whole, are the duties of piety and holiness towards God, and of lovingkindness and justice towards man. Each of these is sub-divided into various special duties, all of them praiseworthy': see on Matthew 7:12. The first commandment is Deuteronomy 6:5, the second Leviticus 19:18. The former formed part of the prayers of the phylacteries, daily recited by every Jew: see on Matthew 23:6. Both are somewhat freely quoted according to the LXX.

37. Heart.. soul.. mind] i.e. all one's powers. 'Heart' in Hebrew is the inward man, sometimes the understanding; 'soul' is life, often, but not always, physical life; 'mind' is nearly the same as reason, or rational soul. It must here be understood as embracing spirit, i.e. the religious faculty.

41-46. The title Son of David (Mark 12:35; Luke 20:41). A saying of Jesus from the oldest tradition, of great doctrinal importance. He declares Himself dissatisfied with the honourable title of Son of David, because He is in reality also David's Lord. By applying Psalms 110 to Himself He claims, (1) a seat at God's right hand; (2) lordship over all the human race; (3) an eternal priesthood and empire: 'Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.'

41. Jesus asked them] Having repelled the attack of the Pharisees, Jesus takes the offensive, and demonstrates that they are wrong to regard the Messiah as a mere man.

43. David] The question has been raised whether our Lord here definitely decides the Davidic authorship of Psalms 110. Probably not. His object is to show that the Pharisees' low view of the Messiah is inconsistent with their own premises, not to teach the true authorship of the Psalm.

44. The Lord (i.e. God) said unto my Lord] i.e. to David's Lord, the Messiah, Psalms 110:1. The Jews fully accepted the Messianic interpretation of this Psalm. Babbi Joden said, 'In the time to come the Holy and Blessed God will place King Messiah at His right hand, according to Psalms 110'

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Matthew 22:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/matthew-22.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, August 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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