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Bible Commentaries
Luke 4

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Verses 1-14

On the temptation of Jesus, see the notes at Matthew 4:1-11.

Luke 4:2

Being forty days tempted - That is, through forty days he was “tried” in various ways by the devil. The temptations, however, which are recorded by Matthew and Luke did not take place until the forty days were finished. See Matthew 4:2-3.

He did eat nothing - He was sustained by the power of God during this season of extraordinary fasting.

Luke 4:13

Departed for a season - For a time. From this it appears that our Saviour was “afterward” subjected to temptations by Satan, but no “particular” temptations are recorded after this. From John 14:30, it seems that the devil tried or tempted him in the agony in Gethsemane. Compare the notes at Hebrews 12:4. It is more than probable, also, that Satan did much to excite the Pharisees and Sadducees to endeavor to “entangle him,” and the priests and rulers to oppose him; yet out of all his temptations God delivered him; and so he will make a way to escape for “all” that are tempted, and will not suffer them to be tempted above that which they are able to bear, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Luke 4:14

In the power of the Spirit - By the “influence” or direction of the Spirit.

A fame - A report. See Matthew 4:24.

Verse 15

Glorified of all - Praised by all; or, all were pleased with his instructions, and admired his wisdom.

Verse 16

And, as his custom was, he went ... - From this it appears that the Saviour regularly attended the service of the synagogue. In that service the Scriptures of the Old Testament were read, prayers were offered, and the Word of God was explained. See the notes at Matthew 4:23. There was great corruption in doctrine and practice at that time, but Christ did not on that account keep away from the place of public worship. From this we may learn:

  1. That it is our duty “regularly” to attend public worship.
  2. That it is better to attend a place of worship which is not entirely pure, or where just such doctrines are not delivered as we would wish, than not attend at all.

It is of vast importance that the public worship of God should be maintained; and it is “our” duty to assist in maintaining it, to show by our example that we love it, and to win others also to love it. See Hebrews 10:25. At the same time, this remark should not be construed as enjoining it as our duty to attend where the “true” God is not worshipped, or where he is worshipped by pagan rites and pagan prayers. If, therefore, the Unitarian does not worship the true God, and if the Roman Catholic worships God in a manner forbidden and offers homage to the creatures of God, thus being guilty of idolatry, it cannot be a duty to attend on such a place of worship.

The synagogue - See Matthew 4:23.

Stood up for to read - The books of Moses were so divided that they could be read through in the synagogues once in a year. To these were added portions out of the prophets, so that no small part of them was read also once a year. It is not known whether our Saviour read the lesson which was the regular one for that day, though it might seem “probable” that he would not depart from the usual custom. Yet, as the eyes of all were fixed on him; as he deliberately looked out a place; and as the people were evidently surprised at what he did, it seems to be intimated that he selected a lesson which was “not” the regular one for that day. The same ceremonies in regard to conducting public worship which are here described are observed at Jerusalem by the Jews at the present time. Professor Hackett (“Illustrations of Scripture,” p. 232) says: “I attended the Jewish worship at Jerusalem, and was struck with the accordance of the ceremonies with those mentioned in the New Testament. The sacred roll was brought from the chest or closet where it was kept; it was handed by an attendant to the reader; a portion of it was rehearsed; the congregation rose and stood while it was read, whereas the speaker, as well as the others present, sat during the delivery of the address which formed a part of the service.”

Verse 17

There was delivered unto him - By the minister of the synagogue, or the keeper of the sacred books. They were kept in an “ark” or chest, not far from the pulpit, and the minister gave them to whomsoever he chose, to read them publicly.

The book - The volume contained the prophecy of Isaiah. It would seem, from this, that the books were kept separate, and not united into one as with us.

When he had opened the book - Literally, when he had “unrolled” the book. Books, among the ancients, were written on parchments or vellum that is, skins of beasts, and were “rolled” together on two rollers, beginning at each end, so that while reading they rolled off from one to the other. Different forms of books were indeed used, but this was the most common. When used the reader unrolled the manuscript as far as the place which he wished to find, and kept before him just so much as he would read. When the roller was done with, it was carefully deposited in a case.

The place where it was written - Isaiah 61:1-2.

Verse 18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me - Or, I speak by divine appointment. I am divinely inspired to speak. There can be no doubt that the passage in Isaiah had a principal reference to the Messiah. Our Saviour directly applies it to himself, and it is not easily applicable to any other prophet. Its first application might have been to the restoration of the Jews from Babylon; but the language of prophecy is often applicable to two similar events, and the secondary event is often the most important. In this case the prophet uses most striking poetic images to depict the return from Babylon, but the same images also describe the appropriate work of the Son of God.

Hath anointed me - Anciently kings and prophets and the high priest were set apart to their work by anointing with oil, 1 Kings 19:15-16; Exodus 29:7; 1 Samuel 9:16, etc. This oil or ointment was made of various substances, and it was forbidden to imitate it, Exodus 30:34-38. Hence, those who were set apart to the work of God as king, prophet, or priest, were called the Lord’s anointed, 1 Samuel 16:6; Psalms 84:9; Isaiah 45:1. Hence, the Son of God is called the “Messiah,” a Hebrew word signifying the “Anointed,” or the “Christ,” a Greek word signifying the same thing. And by his being “anointed” is not meant that he was literally anointed, for he was never set apart in that manner, but that “God had set him apart” for this work; that “he” had constituted or appointed him to be the prophet, priest, and king of his people. See the notes at Matthew 1:1.

To preach the gospel to the poor - The English word “gospel” is derived from two words - “God” or “good,” and “spell,” an old Saxon word meaning “history, relation, narration, word, or speech,” and the word therefore means “a good communication” or “message.” This corresponds exactly with the meaning of the Greek word - “a good or joyful message - glad tidings.” By the “poor” are meant all those who are destitute of the comforts of this life, and who therefore may be more readily disposed to seek treasures in heaven; all those who are sensible of their sins, or are poor in spirit Matthew 5:3; and all the “miserable” and the afflicted, Isaiah 58:7. Our Saviour gave it as one proof that he was the Messiah, or was from God, that he preached to “the poor,” Matthew 11:5. The Pharisees and Sadducees despised the poor; ancient philosophers neglected them; but the gospel seeks to bless them - to give comfort where it is felt to be needed, and where it will be received with gratitude. Riches fill the mind with pride, with self-complacency, and with a feeling that the gospel is not needed. The poor “feel” their need of some sources of comfort that the world cannot give, and accordingly our Saviour met with his greatest success the gospel among the poor; and there also, “since,” the gospel has shed its richest blessings and its purest joys. It is also one proof that the gospel is true. If it had been of “men,” it would have sought the rich and mighty; but it pours contempt on all human greatness, and seeks, like God, to do good to those whom the world overlooks or despises. See the notes at 1 Corinthians 1:26.

To heal the brokenhearted - To console those who are deeply afflicted, or whose hearts are “broken” by external calamities or by a sense of their sinfulness.

Deliverance to the captives - This is a figure originally applicable to those who were in captivity in Babylon. They were miserable. To grant deliverance to “them” and restore them to their country - to grant deliverance to those who are in prison and restore them to their families - to give liberty to the slave and restore him to freedom, was to confer the highest benefit and impart the richest favor. In this manner the gospel imparts favor. It does not, indeed, “literally” open the doors of prisons, but it releases the mind captive under sin; it gives comfort to the prisoner, and it will finally open all prison doors and break off all the chains of slavery, and, by preventing “crime,” prevent also the sufferings that are the consequence of crime.

Sight to the blind - This was often literally fulfilled, Matthew 11:5; John 9:11; Matthew 9:30, etc.

To set at liberty them that are bruised - The word “bruised,” here, evidently has the same “general” signification as “brokenhearted” or the contrite. It means those who are “pressed down” by great calamity, or whose hearts are “pressed” or “bruised” by the consciousness of sin. To set them “at liberty” is the same as to free them from this pressure, or to give them consolation.

Verse 19

To peach the acceptable year of the Lord - The time when God is willing to accept of people, or to receive sinners coming to him. The gospel assures us that the guilty “may” return, and that God will graciously receive them. There is, perhaps, here, an allusion to the year of jubilee - the fiftieth year, when the trumpet was blown, and through the whole land proclamation was made of the liberty of Hebrew slaves, of the remission of debts, and of the restoration of possessions to their original families, Leviticus 25:8-13. The phrase “the acceptable year” means the time when it would be acceptable to God to proclaim such a message, or agreeable to him - to wit, under the gospel.

Verse 20

And he closed the book - That is, he rolled it up again. See the notes at Luke 4:17.

And he gave it again to the minister - That is, to the one in the synagogue who had charge of the books. The word means “servant,” and the office was not much unlike that of a sexton now. It was his duty, among other things, to take charge of the books, to hand them to the reader of the law, and then return them to their place.

And sat down - This was usual in speaking in their synagogues. See the notes at Matthew 5:1.

Were fastened on him - Were intently fixed on him, waiting to see what explanation he would give of the words.

Verse 21

This scripture - This writing, or this part of the Scriptures.

Fulfilled - It is coming to pass; the thing originally intended by it is about to be accomplished.

In your ears - In your “hearing;” or you hear, in my preaching, the fulfillment of this prophecy. It is probable that he said much “more” than is here recorded, but Luke has preserved only the “substance” of his discourse. This was the “amount” or “sum”” of his sermon, or his explanation of the passage, that it was now receiving its accomplishment.

Verse 22

All bare him witness - All were witnesses of the power and truth of what he said. Their reason and conscience approved of it, and they were constrained to admit the force and propriety of it, and on this account they wondered.

They wondered - They were struck with the truth and force of his words; and especially when they remembered that he was a native of their own place, and that they had been long acquainted with him, and that he should “now” claim to be the Messiah, and give so much evidence that he “was” the Christ.

The gracious words - The words of grace or favor; the kind, affectionate, and tender exposition of the words, and explanation of the design of his coming, and the nature of the plan of redemption. It was so different from the harsh and unfeeling mode of the Pharisees; so different from all their expectations respecting the Messiah, who they supposed to be a prince and a bloody conqueror, that they were filled with astonishment and awe.

Verse 23

Physician, heal thyself - This proverb was probably in common use at that time. The meaning is this: Suppose that a man should attempt to heal another when he was himself diseased in the same manner; it would be natural to ask him first to cure himself, and thus to render it manifest that he was worthy of confidence. The connection of this proverb, here, is this: “You profess to be the Messiah. You have performed miracles at Capernaum. You profess to be able to deliver us from our maladies, our sins, our afflictions. Show that you have the power, that you are worthy of our confidence, by working miracles here, as you profess to have done at Capernaum.” It does not refer, therefore, to any purification of his own, or imply any reflection on him for setting up to teach them. It was only a demand that he would show the proper evidence “by miracles” why they should trust in him, and he proceeds to show them why he would not give them this evidence.

Whatsoever we have heard done - Whatsoever we have heard that thou hast done. It would seem, from this, that Christ had before this performed miracles in Capernaum, though the evangelist has not recorded them.

In Capernaum - Capernaum was on the northwest corner of the Sea of Tiberias, and was not far from Nazareth. It is not improbable that some of those who then heard him might have been present and witnessed some of his miracles at Capernaum. See the notes at Matthew 4:13.

Verse 24

No prophet is accepted - Has honor, or is acknowledged as a prophet. See the notes at Matthew 13:57.

Verse 25

Of a truth - Truly, and therefore worthy of your credit. He calls attention to two cases where “acknowledged” prophets had so little honor in their own nation that they bestowed their favors on foreigners. So, says he, such is the want of faith in my own country, that I shall work no miracles here, but shall give the evidence of my divine mission to others.

In Israel - In the land of Israel, or Judea. It was therefore the more remarkable, since there were so many in his own country whom he might have helped, that the prophet should have gone to a pagan city and aided a poor widow there.

The days of Elias - The days of Elijah. See the account of this in 1 Kings 17:8-24.

Three years and six months - From 1Ki 18:1, 1 Kings 18:45, it would seem that the rain fell on the “third year” - that is, at the “end” of the third year after the rain had ceased to fall at the usual time. There were two seasons of the year when rains fell in Judea - in October and April, called the “early” and “latter” rain; consequently there was an interval between them of six months. To the three years, therefore, when rain was withheld “at the usual times,” are to be added the previous six months, when no rain fell as a matter of course, and consequently three years “and six months” elapsed without rain.

A great famine - A great want of food, from long continued and distressing drought.

Verse 26

Save unto Sarepta - Sarepta was a town between Tyre and Sidon, near the Mediterranean Sea. It was not a “Jewish” city, but a Sidonian, and therefore a “Gentile” town. The word “save” in this verse does not express the meaning of the original. It would seem to imply that the city was Jewish. The meaning of the verse is this: “He was sent to none of the widows in Israel. He was not sent except to Sarepta, to a woman that was a “Sidonian.” Dr. Thomson (“The Land and the Book,” vol. i. p. 232-236) regards Sarepta as the modern Sarafend. He says that the ruins have been frequently dug over for stone to build the barracks at Beirut, and that the broken columns, marble slabs, sarcophagi, and other ruins indicate that it was once a flourishing city. A large town was built there in the time of the Crusades.

Verse 27

Many lepers - For an account of the leprosy see the notes at Matthew 8:1.

Time of Eliseus - Time of Elisha. The word “Eliseus” is the Greek way of writing the word Elisha, as Elias is of Elijah.

Saving Naaman the Syrian - The account of his cure is contained in 2 Kings 5:0.

Verse 28

Filled with wrath - They were enraged, probably, for the following reasons:

  1. They saw that the cases applied to themselves, because they would not receive the miraculous evidences of his mission.
  2. That he would direct his attention to others, and not to them.
  3. That the “Gentiles” were objects of compassion with God, and that God often showed more favor to a “single” Gentile than to multitudes of Jews in the same circumstances.
  4. That they might be “worse” than the Gentiles. And,
  5. That it was a part of his design to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, and not confine his labors to them only.

On these accounts their favor was soon turned to wrath, and the whole transaction shows us:

  1. That popular applause is of little value.
  2. That the slightest circumstances may soon turn the warmest professed friendship to hatred. And,
  3. That people are exceedingly unreasonable in being unwilling to hear the truth and profit by it.

Verse 29

The brow of the hill whereon ... - The region in which Nazareth was is hilly, though Nazareth was situated “between” two hills, or in a vale among mountains. The place to which they led the Saviour is still shown, and is called the “Mount of Precipitation.” It is at a short distance to the south of Nazareth. See the notes at Matthew 2:23.

Cast him down - This was the effect of a popular tumult. They had no legal right to take life on any occasion, and least of all in this furious and irregular manner. The whole transaction shows:

  1. That the character given of the Galileans elsewhere as being especially wicked was a just one.
  2. To what extremities the wickedness of the heart will lead people when it is acted out. And,
  3. That people are opposed to the truth, and that they would do anything, if not restrained, to manifest their opposition.

Verse 30

Passing through the midst of, them, went his way - This escape was very remarkable. It is remarkable that he should escape out of their hands when their very object was to destroy him, and that he should escape in so peaceful a manner, without violence or conflict. A similar case is recorded in John 8:59. There are but two ways of accounting for this:

  1. That “other Nazarenes,” who had not been present in the synagogue, heard what was doing and came to rescue him, and in the contest that rose between the two parties Jesus silently escaped.
  2. More probably that Jesus by divine power, by the force of a word or look, stilled their passions, arrested their purposes, and passed silently through them. That he “had” such a power over the spirits of people we learn from the occurrence in Gethsemane, when he said, “I am he; and they went backward and fell to the ground,” John 18:6.

Verses 31-44

See this explained in the notes at Mark 1:21-39.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/luke-4.html. 1870.
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