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Bible Commentaries
Luke 11

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Verse 1

As he was praying - Luke has taken notice of our Saviour’s praying often. Thus, at his baptism Luke 3:21; in the wilderness Luke 5:16; before the appointment of the apostles, he continued all night in prayer Luke 6:12; he was alone praying Luke 9:18; his transfiguration also took place when he went up to pray Luke 9:28-29.

Teach us to pray - Probably they had been struck with the excellency and fervor of his prayers, and, recollecting that “John” had taught his disciples to pray, they asked him also to teach “them.” We learn, therefore:

  1. That the gifts and graces of others should lead us to desire the same.
  2. That the true method of praying can be learned only by our being properly taught. Indeed, we cannot pray acceptably at all unless God shall teach us how to pray.
  3. That it is proper for us to meditate beforehand what we are to ask of God, and to arrange our thoughts, that we may not come thoughtlessly into his presence.

Verses 2-4

See this passage explained in the notes at Matthew 6:9-13.

Luke 11:4

For we also forgive ... - This is somewhat different from the expression in Matthew, though the sense is the same. The idea is, that unless we forgive others, God will not forgive us; and unless we come to him “really” forgiving all others, we cannot expect pardon. It does not mean that by forgiving others we “deserve” forgiveness ourselves, or “merit it,” but that this is a disposition or state of mind without which God cannot consistently pardon us.

Every one that is indebted to us - Every one that has “injured” us. This does not refer to pecuniary transactions, but to offences similar to those which “we” have committed against God, and for which we ask forgiveness. Besides the variations in the “expressions” in this prayer, Luke has omitted the doxology, or close, altogether; and this shows that Jesus did nor intend that we should always use just this “form,” but that it was a general direction how to pray; or, rather, that we were to pray for these “things,” though not always using the same words.

Verses 5-7

And he said unto them ... - Jesus proceeds to show that, in order to obtain the blessing, it was necessary to “persevere” in asking for it. For this purpose he introduces the case of a friend’s asking bread of another for one who had come to him unexpectedly. His design is solely to show the necessity of being “importunate” or persevering in prayer to God.

At midnight - A time when it would be most inconvenient for his friend to help him; an hour when he would naturally be in bed and his house shut.

Three loaves - There is nothing particularly denoted by the number “three” in this place. Jesus often threw in such particulars merely to fill up the story, or to preserve the consistency of it.

My children are with me in bed - This does not necessarily mean that they were in the “same bed” with him, but that they were “all” in bed, the house was still, the door was shut, and it was troublesome for him to rise at that time of night to accommodate him. It should be observed, however, that the customs of Orientals differ in this respect from our own. Among them it is not uncommon indeed it is the common practice for a whole family - parents, children, and servants - to sleep in the same room. See “The Land and the Book,” vol. i. p. 180. This is “not” to be applied to God, as if it were troublesome to him to be sought unto, or as if “he” would ever reply to a sinner in that manner. All that is to be applied to God in this parable is simply that it is proper to “persevere” in prayer. As a “man” often gives because the request is “repeated,” and as one is not discouraged because the favor that he asks of his neighbor is “delayed,” so God often answers us after long and importunate requests.

Verse 8

I tell you - The Latin Vulgate here adds, “if he shall continue knocking.” Though this is not in the Greek, yet it is indispensable that it should be understood in order to the sense. Knocking “once” would not denote “importunity,” but it was because he “continued” knocking.

His importunity - His troublesome perseverance; his continuing to disturb the man, and refusing to take any denial. The word “importunity” denotes perseverance in an object, without any regard to time, place, or circumstances - an improper perseverance. By this the man was influenced. Rather than be disturbed he would rise and give what was asked. This is to be applied to God in no other sense than that he often hears prayers and grants blessings even “long after” they appear to be unanswered or withheld. He does not promise to give blessings “at once.” He promises only that he will do it, or “will answer” prayer. But he often causes his people long to wait. He tries their faith. He leaves them to persevere for months or years, until they “feel” entirely their dependence on him, until they see that they can obtain the blessing in no other way, and until they are “prepared” to receive it. Often they are not prepared to receive it when they ask it at first. They may be proud, or have no just sense of their dependence, or they would not value the blessing, or it may “at that time” not be best for them to obtain it. But let no one despair. If the thing is for “our” good, and if it is proper that it “should” be granted, God will give it. Let us first ask aright; let us see that our minds are in a proper state; let us feel our need of the blessing; let us inquire whether God has “promised such” a blessing, and “then” let us persevere until God gives it. Again: people, when they ask anything of God, often give over seeking. They go “once,” and if it is not granted they are discouraged. It is not so when we ask anything of people. “Then” we persevere; we take no denial; we go again, and “press” the matter until we obtain it. So we should of God. We should go again and again, until the prayer is heard, and God grants what we ask of him.

Verses 9-12

See this explained in the notes at Matthew 7:7-11.

Luke 11:12

“A scorpion” See the notes at Luke 10:19. Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, vol. i. p. 379) says: “There is no imaginable likeness between an egg and the ordinary black scorpion of this country, neither in color nor size, nor, when the tail is extended, in shape; but old writers speak of a “white” scorpion, and such a one, with the tail folded up, as in specimens of fossil trilobites, would not look unlike a small egg. Perhaps the contrast, however, refers only to the different properties of the egg and the scorpion, which is sufficiently emphatic.”

Pliny (“N. H.,” xi. 25) says that in Judea the scorpions are about the size of an egg, and not unlike one in shape.

Verses 14-23

See this passage explained in the notes at Matthew 12:22-30.

Verses 24-26

See the notes at Matthew 12:43-45.

Verses 27-28

A certain woman - One of the crowd.

Blessed is the womb ... - She thought that the “mother” of such a person must be especially happy in having such a son.

Yea, rather blessed ... - Jesus admits that she was happy - that it was an honor to be his mother, but he says that the chief happiness, the highest honor, was to obey the word of God. Compared with this, all earthly distinctions and honors are as nothing. Man’s greatest dignity is in keeping the holy commandments of God, and in being prepared for heaven. See the notes at Luke 10:20.

Verses 29-32

See the notes at Matthew 12:38-42.

Verses 33-36

These verses are found in Matthew, but in a different connection. See the notes at Matthew 5:15; Matthew 6:22-23.

Verse 37

And as he spake - While he was addressing the people, and particularly while he was reproving that generation and declaring its crimes.

A certain Pharisee - The Pharisees had been particularly referred to in the discourse of the Saviour recorded in the previous verses. This one, perhaps, having felt particularly the force of the remarks of Jesus, and being desirous of being alone with him, invited him to go home with him. There is little doubt that this was for the purpose of drawing him away from the people; that he did it with a malignant intention, perhaps with a design to confute Jesus in private, or to reprove him for thus condemning the whole nation as he did. He might have seen that those who attacked Jesus “publicly” were commonly unsuccessful, and he desired. probably, to encounter him more privately.

Besought him - Asked him.

To dine with him - The Jews, as well as the Greeks and Romans, had but two principal meals. The first was a slight repast, and was taken about ten or eleven o’clock of our time, and consisted chiefly of fruit, milk, cheese, etc. The second meal was partaken of about three o’clock P. M., and was their principal meal. The “first” is the one here intended.

He went in - Though he knew the evil design of the Pharisee, yet he did not decline the invitation. He knew that it might afford him an opportunity to do good. These two things are to be observed in regard to our Saviour’s conduct in such matters:

  1. That he did not decline an invitation to dine with a man simply because he was a Pharisee, or because he was a wicked man. Hence, he was charged with being gluttonous, and a friend of publicans and sinners, Matthew 11:19.
  2. He seized upon all occasions to do good. He never shrank from declaring the truth, and making such occasions the means of spreading the gospel. If Christians and Christian ministers would follow the example of the Saviour always, they would avoid all scandal, and might do even in such places a vast amount of good.

Sat down - Reclined at the table. See the notes at Matthew 23:6.

Verse 38

Saw it - Saw that he sat immediately down without washing.

Marvelled - Wondered. Was amazed. It was so unusual, and in his view so improper.

Had not first washed - He wondered particularly, as he had been among a mixed multitude, and they esteemed the “touch” of such persons polluting. They never ate, therefore, without such washing. The origin of the custom of washing with so much formality “before” they partook of their meals was that they did not use, as we do, knives and forks, but used their hands only. Hence, as their hands would be often in a dish on the table, it was esteemed proper that they should be washed clean before eating. Nor was their impropriety in the thing itself, but the Pharisees made it a matter of ceremony; they placed no small part of their religion in such ceremonies; and it was right, therefore, that our Lord should take occasion to reprove them for it. Compare Mark 7:4.

Verse 39

See Matthew 23:25. “Ravening.” Robbery, plunder. Here the sense is that the cup and platter were filled with what had been unjustly taken from others. That is, they lived by their wickedness; their food was procured by dishonesty and extortion. This was a most terrible charge; and as it was applied, among others, to the man who had invited the Saviour to dine with him, it shows that nothing would prevent his dealing faithfully with the souls of people. Even in the Pharisee’s own house, and when expressly invited to partake of his hospitality, he loved his soul so much that he faithfully warned him of his crimes.

Verse 40

Ye fools - How unwise and wicked is your conduct! The word denotes not only “want of wisdom,” but also wickedness. Compare Psalms 14:1; Proverbs 13:19; Proverbs 14:9. Your conduct is not merely “foolish,” but it is a cloak for sin - designed to countenance wickedness.

Did not he ... - Did not God, who made the “body,” make also the “soul?” You Pharisees take great pains to cleanse the “body,” under a pretence of pleasing “God.” Did “he”” not also make the “mind?” and is it not of as much importance that “that” should be pure, as that the body should?

Verse 41

Alms - Charity. Benefactions to the poor.

Such things as ye have - Your property; though it has been gained unjustly: though you have lived by rapine, and have amassed wealth in an improper manner, yet, since “you have it,” it is your duty to make the best of it and do good. By giving to the poor, you may show your repentance for your crimes in amassing money in this manner. You may show that you disapprove of your former course of life, and are disposed henceforward to live honestly. If this be the meaning of this passage, then it shows what is the duty of those who have by unjust gains become wealthy, and who are “then” converted to God. It may not be possible for them in every case to make exact restitution to those whom they have injured; thousands of instances of wrong they may have forgotten; many persons whom they have injured may have died; but still they may show, by giving to others, that they do not think their gains acquired honestly, and that they truly repent. They may devote their property to God; distribute it to the poor; or give it to send the gospel to the heathen world. Thus may they show that they disapprove of their former conduct; and thus may be seen one great principle of God’s government - “that good finally comes out of evil.”

And behold ... - Doing this will show that you are a true penitent, and the remainder of your property you will enjoy with a feeling that you have done your duty, and no longer be smitten with the consciousness of hoarding unjust gains. The object of the Saviour here seems to have been to bring the Pharisee to repentance. Repentance consists in sorrow for sin, and in forsaking it. This he endeavored to produce by showing him:

  1. The “evil” and hypocrisy of his conduct; and,
  2. By “exhorting” him to ““forsake” his sins, and to “show” this by doing good.

Thus doing, he would evince that the “mind” was clean as well the “body;” the “inside” as well as the “outside.”

Verse 42

See Matthew 23:23.

Rue - This is a small garden plant, and is used as a medicine. It has a rosy flower, a bitter, penetrating taste, and a strong smell.

Verses 43-44

See Matthew 23:6, Matthew 23:27.

Verse 45

Lawyers - Men learned in the law; but it is not known in what way the lawyers differed from the “scribes,” or whether they were Pharisees or Sadducees.

Thus saying, thou ... - He felt that the remarks of Jesus about loving the chief seats, etc., applied to them as well as to the Pharisees. His conscience told him that if “they” were to blame, “he” was also, and he therefore applied the discourse to himself.

Reproachest - Accusest. Dost calumniate or blame us, for we do the same things. Sinners often consider “faithfulness” as “reproach” - they know not how to separate them. Jesus did “not” reproach or abuse them. He dealt faithfully with them; reproved them; told them the unvarnished truth. Such faithfulness is rare; but when it “is” used, we must expect that people will flinch, perhaps be enraged. Though their consciences tell them they are “guilty,” still they will consider it as abuse.

Verse 46

See the notes at Matthew 23:4.

Verses 47-51

See the notes at Matthew 23:29-36.

Luke 11:49

The wisdom of God - By the “wisdom of God,” here, is undoubtedly meant the Saviour himself. What he immediately says is not written in the Old Testament. Jesus is called “the word of God” John 1:1, because he is the medium by which God “speaks” or makes his will known. He is called “the wisdom of God,” because by him God makes his wisdom known in creation (Colossians 1:13-18 and in redemption 1 Corinthians 1:30. Many have also thought that the Messiah was referred to in the Proverbs 8:1 of Proverbs, under the name of Wisdom.

I will send ... - See Luke 10:3; Matthew 10:16.

Shall slay ... - Compare John 16:2; Acts 7:52, Acts 7:59; James 5:10; Acts 12:2; Acts 22:19; 2 Corinthians 11:24-25; 2 Chronicles 36:15-16.

Verse 52

Woe unto you, lawyers! - See the notes at Matthew 23:13.

The key of knowledge - A key is made to open a lock or door. By their false interpretation of the Old Testament they had taken away the true key or method of understanding it. They had hindered the people from understanding it aright. “You endeavor to prevent the people also from understanding the Scriptures respecting the Messiah, and those who were coming to “me” ye hindered.” If there is any sin of special magnitude, it is that of keeping the people in ignorance; and few people are so guilty as they who by false instructions prevent them from coming to a knowledge of the truth, and embracing it as it is in Jesus.

Verse 53

To urge him vehemently - To press upon him “violently.” They were enraged against him. They therefore pressed upon him; asked him many questions; sought to entrap him, that they might accuse him.

Provoke him ... - This means that they put many questions to him about various matters, without giving him proper time to answer. They proposed questions as fast as possible, and about as many things as possible, that they might get him, in the hurry, to say something that would be wrong, that they might thus accuse him. This was a remarkable instance of their cunning, malignity, and unfairness.

Verse 54

Laying wait for him - Or, rather, laying “snares” for him It means that they endeavored to entangle him in his talk; that they did as men do who catch birds - who lay snares, and deceive them, and take them unawares.

That they might accuse him - Before the Sanhedrin, or great council of the nation, and thus secure his being put to death.

From this we may learn:

1. That faithful reproofs must be expected to excite opposition and hatred. Though the “conscience” may be roused, and may testify against the man that is reproved, yet that does not prevent his hating the reproof and the reprover.

2. We see here the manner in which wicked people endeavor to escape the reproofs of conscience. Instead of repenting, they seek vengeance, and resolve to put the reprover to shame or to death.

3. We see the exceeding malignity which people have against the Lord Jesus. Well was it said that he was set for the fall of many in Israel, that thereby the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed! Luke 2:34-35. Men, now, are not by nature less opposed to Jesus than they were then.

4. We see the wisdom, purity, and firmness of the Saviour. To their souls he had been faithful. He had boldly reproved them for their sins. They sought his life. Multitudes of the artful and learned gathered around him, to endeavor to draw out something of which they might accuse him, yet in vain. Not a word fell from his lips of which they could accuse him. Everything that he said was calm, mild, peaceful, wise, and lovely. Even his cunning and bitter adversaries were always confounded, and retired in shame and confusion. Here, surely, must have been something more than man. None but “God manifest in the flesh” could have known all their designs, seen all their wickedness and their wiles, and escaped the cunning stratagems that were laid to confound and entangle him in his conversation.

5. The same infinitely wise Saviour can still meet and confound all his own enemies and those of his people, and deliver all his followers, as he did himself, from all the snares laid by a wicked world to lead them to sin and death.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/luke-11.html. 1870.
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