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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Luke 4

 

 

Verses 1-13

IV.

(1-13) Being full of the Holy Ghost.—See Notes on Matthew 4:1-11. The words used by St. Luke describe the same fact as those used by St. Matthew and St. Mark, and agree with the Spirit given “not by measure” of John 3:34


Verse 3

(3) Command this stone.—The singular form is somewhat more vivid than the plural, “these stones,” in St. Matthew.


Verse 5

(5) The kingdoms of the world.—St. Luke uses the word (literally, the inhabited world) which was commonly used as co-extensive with the Roman empire. On the difference in the order of the temptations, see Note on Matthew 4:5.

In a moment of time.—The concentration of what seems an almost endless succession of images into the consciousness of a moment is eminently characteristic of the activity of the human soul in the state of ecstasy or vision.


Verse 6

(6) For that is delivered unto me.—Better, hath been delivered unto me. The specific assertion of the usurped dominion, though implied in St. Matthew, is in its form peculiar to St. Luke. (See Note on Matthew 4:9.) The notion that any such delegated sovereignty had been assigned to the Tempter, either before or after his fall from his first estate, has, it need hardly be said, no foundation in Scripture. It asserts that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” (Psalms 24:1); and the claim of the Tempter was a lying boast, resting only on the permitted activity and temporary predominance of evil in the actual course of the world’s history.


Verse 13

(13) When the devil had ended all the temptation.—Better, had completed every kind of temptation. The three trials were each typical in character, and taken together they made up the cycle of those to which our Lord’s human nature was then open.

For a season.—Till a [convenient] season—i.e., till the close of the great work, the time of the power of darkness (Luke 22:53), when the prince of this world again came (John 14:30), and, trying then the power of suffering, as he had before tried the allurement of the world, found that he was foiled in the latter temptation as he had been in the earlier.


Verse 14

(14) Returned in the power of the Spirit.—The phrase, which meets us again in Romans 15:13, indicates a new phase of the life of the Son of Man, a change from its former tenor as striking as that which passed over the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, when new powers of thought and utterance were developed which had before been latent.


Verse 15

(15) Being glorified.—The dawn of the day of work was bright. Wonder, admiration, glory, waited on the new Prophet. Soon, however, when His preaching involved a demand on men’s faith and obedience beyond what they had expected, it roused opposition, and the narrative that follows is the first stage of that antagonism.

Again, as in St. Matthew, the reader must be reminded that the narrative of John 2-5 comes in between the Temptation and the commencement of the Galilean ministry.


Verse 16

(16) And he came to Nazareth.—The narrative that follows, signally interesting in itself, has also the special interest of being peculiar to St. Luke. We may naturally think of it as having come to him from the same group of informants as those from whom he derived his narrative of the Infancy. (See Introduction.) He may have journeyed from Cæarea to Nazareth during St. Paul’s imprisonment in the former city, and obtained his information on the spot. It is clear that our Lord did not begin His ministry at Nazareth. He came there when His fame was, in some measure, at least, already established.

As his custom was.—This, then, had been His wont before He entered on His work. Children were admitted to the synagogue at the age of five. At thirteen attendance was obligatory. It was open to any man of reputed knowledge and piety, with the sanction of the ruler of the synagogue, to read the lessons (one from the Law and one from the Prophets), and our Lord’s previous life had doubtless gained the respect of that officer. Up to this time, it would seem, He had confined Himself to reading. Now He came to preach, after an absence possibly of some months, with the new power that had already made Him famous. The work of preaching also was open to any person of adequate culture, who had a “word of exhortation” to address to the worshippers. (Comp. Acts 13:15.) The constitution of the synagogue in thus admitting the teaching functions of qualified laymen, was distinctly opposed to the root-idea of sacerdotalism.


Verse 17

(17) The book of the prophet Esaias.—The Law—i.e., the Pentateuch—was commonly written on one long roll. The other books, in like manner—singly or combined, according to their length—were written on rolls of parchment, and were unrolled from the cylinder to which they were fastened. Here, it is clear, Isaiah formed a roll by itself. It is a natural inference from the fact that it was given to Him, that it contained the prophetic lesson for the day. In the calendar of modern Jews, the lessons from Isaiah run parallel with those from Deuteronomy. The chapter which He read stands as the second lesson for the day of Atonement. We cannot prove that the existing order obtained in the time of our Lord’s ministry, but everything in Judaism rests mainly on old traditions; and there is therefore nothing extravagant in the belief that it was on the day of Atonement that the great Atoner thus struck what was the key-note of His whole work.

When he had opened the book.—Better, when He had unrolled.


Verse 18

(18) The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.—The passage that follows reproduces, with a few unimportant variations, the LXX. version of Isaiah 61:1-2. The words “to heal the broken-hearted” are not in the best MSS. “To set at liberty them that are bruised” is not found in the present text of Isaiah. It is a legitimate inference that the passage which Jesus thus read was one in which He wished men to see the leading idea of His ministry. Glad tidings for the poor, remission of sins, comfort for the mourners, these were what He proclaimed now. These were proclaimed again in the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. We cannot fail to connect the opening words with the descent of the Spirit at His baptism. That was the “unction from the Holy One” (1 John 2:20) which made Him the Christ, the true anointed of the Lord.

Recovering of sight to the blind.—The English version of Isaiah rightly follows the Hebrew in giving “the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” The blindness is that of those who have been imprisoned in the darkness.


Verse 19

(19) The acceptable year of the Lord.—The primary reference was to the year of Jubilee, when land that had been mortgaged returned to its owner, and debts were forgiven, and Israelite slaves released (Leviticus 25:9-10). It was to our Lord, as it had been to Isaiah, the type of the “year” of the divine kingdom. A somewhat slavish literalism, which the study of St. John’s Gospel (Luke 2, 5, 6, 7, 12) would have dispelled in an hour, led some of the Fathers to infer from this that our Lord’s ministry lasted but for a single year.


Verse 20

(20) And he closed the book.—Better, rolled up, as describing the actual manner of closing. The description is characteristic as indicating (1) that it probably came in the first instance from an eye-witness-and (2) the calmness and deliberation with which our Lord acted.

And sat down.—This conveys to us the idea of falling back to a place of comparative obscurity among the congregation. To the Jew it implied just the opposite. The chair near the place from which the lesson was read was the pulpit of the Rabbi, and to sit down in that chair (as in Matthew 5:1; Matthew 23:2) was an assumption by our Lord, apparently for the first time in that synagogue, of the preacher’s function. This led to the eager, fixed gaze of wonder which the next clause speaks of.

Fastened on him.—The Greek word so rendered is noticeable as being used twelve times by St. Luke, (chiefly in the Acts), and twice by St. Paul (2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:13), and by no other writer of the New Testament. It had been used by Aristotle in his scientific writings, and was probably a half-technical word which St. Luke’s studies as a physician had brought into his vocabulary, and which St. Paul learnt, as it were, from him.


Verse 21

(21) This day is this scripture fulfilled.—It is obvious that we have here only the opening, words of the sermon preached on the text from Isaiah. There must have been more than this, remembered too vaguely for record, to explain the admiration of which the next clause speaks. But this was what startled them: He had left them as the son of the carpenter—mother, brethren, sisters were still among them—and now He came back claiming to be the Christ, and to make words that had seemed to speak of a far-off glorious dream, as a living and present reality.


Verse 22

(22) The gracious words.—Literally, the words of grace. It is noticeable that the latter noun does not occur at all in St. Matthew or St. Mark, becomes prominent in the Acts, and is afterwards the most characteristic word of the Epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter.


Verse 23

(23) Physician, heal thyself.—There is something interesting in our finding this proverb in the Gospel of the beloved physician. May we think of him as hearing the proverb casually, tracking out its application, and so coming on this history? It was, probably, so far as is known, a common Jewish proverb; but there is no trace of it in Greek writers, and it was therefore likely to attract his notice.


Verse 24

(24) No prophet is accepted.—The proverb is remarkable as having been quoted by our Lord certainly twice, possibly oftener: (1) on this His first visit after His baptism to Nazareth; (2) on His second visit (Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4). St. John’s reference to it (John 4:44) may have risen out of one or other of these two occasions, but it rather conveys the impression of the saying having been often on the lips of Jesus.


Verse 26

(26) Save unto Sarepta.—Better, but unto Sarepta, the Greek conjunction here marking a contrast rather than an exception. Sarepta, the Zarephath of 1 Kings 17:9, was a Phoenician city lying between Tyre and Sidon. The reference to this incident at the commencement of our Lord’s ministry is a striking instance of His method of reading the underlying lessons of the narratives of the Old Testament, such as we see afterwards in His reference to David eating the shewbread. (See Notes on Matthew 12:3-4.) In what seemed a mere episode in the life of Elijah He finds a truth which implies the future calling of the Gentiles. When He complied with the prayer of the Syro-Phœnician woman, He was doing as Elijah had done.


Verse 27

(27) Eliseus the prophet.—The original gives, as was natural, the Greek form of Elisha, as before of Elijah.

Saving Naaman.—Better, but Naaman. as before.


Verse 28

(28) Were filled with wrath.—The admiration they had felt at first was soon turned into bitterness. They heard themselves spoken of as though there might be a faith in Zidon and in Syria which was not found in Israel, of which they themselves were altogether destitute.


Verse 29

(29) The brow of the hill.—See Notes on Luke 1:26. The hill now shown as the Mount of Precipitation is about two miles from the city, and could hardly have been the place referred to. There is, however, a cliff about forty feet high close to the city.

That they might cast him down headlong.—The Greek word implies casting down from a cliff or precipice. It was not a recognised Jewish punishment, as flinging from the Tarpeian rock was at Rome; but we have an instance of it as an improvised method of execution in Amaziah’s treatment of the Edomite prisoners in 2 Chronicles 25:12. A multitude under the influence of fanaticism or anger is always fertile in expedients of this nature.


Verse 30

(30) He passing through the midst of them.—The words do not necessarily involve a directly supernatural deliverance, as though the multitude had been smitten with blindness, or our Lord had become invisible. We have no right to insert miracles in the Gospel records. Calmness, silence, the moral power of self-possessed righteousness have in themselves a power, often proved, to baffle the fury of an angry mob.


Verse 31

(31) And came down to Capernaum.—See Note on Matthew 4:13. St. Luke, it will be noticed, gives, what St. Matthew does not give, the reason of the removal.


Verse 32

(32) At his doctrine.—Better, His teaching, as elsewhere. The form and manner was what amazed men.

His word was with power.—The word used is the same as the “authority” of Matthew 7:29. There was no timid references to the traditions of the elders or the dictum of this or that scribe, such as they were familiar with in the sermons they commonly heard in their synagogues.


Verses 33-37

(33-37) And in the synagogue.—See Notes on Mark 1:23-27. The narrative, as being common to these two Gospels, and not found in St. Matthew, may be looked on as having probably been communicated by one Evangelist to the other when they met at Rome (Colossians 4:10; Colossians 4:14). See Introduction to St. Mark.


Verse 38-39

(38, 39) And he arose out of the synagogue.—. See Notes on Matthew 8:14 Peculiar to St. Luke and indicating what we may venture to call accurate diagnosis, are the “great fever,” our Lord’s “rebuking” the fever, and the “immediate” rising to minister.


Verse 40-41

(40, 41) Now when the sun was setting.—See Notes on Matthew 8:16-17. Common to St. Luke and St. Mark are the “divers diseases,” and the silence imposed on the demoniacs. The words of the demoniacs, “Thou art the Son of God,” and “they knew that He was the Christ,” are peculiar to this Gospel.


Verses 42-44

(42-44) And when it was . . .—Again we have a narrative omitted by St. Matthew, but common to St. Luke and St. Mark. See Notes on Mark 1:35-39.

The people sought him.—The Greek tense implies continued seeking.

And stayed him.—Better, tried to stay Him. Their wish was that He should remain at Capernaum, heal their sick, teach them, and perhaps also that they and their fellow-townsmen might thus share in the fame of the new Prophet.


Verse 43

(43) I must preach.—Better, I must declare the glad tidings of the kingdom. The Greek verb is literally “to evangelise,” and is quite distinct from that commonly translated “preach.”

To other cities also.—Literally, to the other cities, with a special reference, probably, to those of Galilee.


Verse 44

(44) He preached.—Literally, was preaching.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Luke 4:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/luke-4.html. 1905.

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