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Bible Commentaries
Luke 7

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Luke 7:1-10. See the notes at Matthew 8:5-13.

Verse 1

In the audience of the people - In the hearing of the people.

Verse 2

Who was dear unto him - That is, he was valuable, trusty, and honored.

Verse 4

They besought him instantly - Urgently or earnestly.

He was worthy - The centurion. He had showed favor to the Jews, and it was not improper to show him a kindness.

Verse 11

A city called Nain - This city was in Galilee, in the boundaries of the tribe of Issachar. It was about two miles south of Mount Tabor, and not far from Capernaum; It is now a small village inhabited by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Dr. Thomson (“The Land and the Book,” vol. ii. p. 158) locates it on the northwest corner of a mount now called Jebel ed Duhy, one hour’s ride from the foot of Mount Tabor. Of this place he says: “This mount is now called Jebel ed Duhy and that small hamlet on the northwest corner of it is Nain, famous for the restoration of the widow’s son to life. It was once a place of considerable extent, but is now little more than a cluster of ruins, among which dwell a few families of fanatical Moslems. It is in keeping with the one historic incident that renders it dear to the Christian, that its only antiquities are tombs. These are situated mainly on the east of the village, and it was in that direction, I presume, that the widow’s son was being carried on that memorable occasion. It took me just an hour to ride from the foot of Tabor to Nain.”

Verse 12

The gate of the city - Cities were surrounded by walls, to defend them from their enemies. They were entered through “gates” placed at convenient distances from each other. In most cities it was not allowed to bury the dead within the walls; hence, they were carried to some convenient burial-place in the vicinity of the city.

A dead man carried out - A funeral procession. Anciently no Jews were buried within the walls of the city, except the kings and distinguished persons, 1 Samuel 28:3; 2 Kings 21:18. The custom of burying within cities, and especially within the walls of churches or in their vicinity, had its origin among Christians very early; yet perhaps few customs are more deleterious to health than burials within large cities, especially within the walls of frequented buildings. The effluvia from dead bodies is excessively unwholesome. Burial-places should be in situations of retirement, far from the tread of the happy and busy world, where all the feelings may be still and calm, and where there can be no injury to health from the mouldering bodies of the dead.

Verse 16

Came a fear on all - An “awe” or solemnity at the presence of one who had power to raise the dead, and at the miracle which had been performed.

Glorified God - Praised or honored God that he had sent such a prophet.

And, That God hath visited his people - Some said one thing and some another, but all expressing their belief that God had showed special favor to the people.

Hath visited - See Luke 1:68.

The raising of this young man was one of the most decisive and instructive of our Lord’s miracles. There was no doubt that he was dead. There could be no delusion, and no agreement to impose on the people. He came near to the city with no reference to this young man; he met the funeral procession, as it were, by accident, and by a word he restored him to life. All those who had the best opportunity of judging - the mother, the friends - believed him to be dead, and were about to bury him. The evidence that he came to life was decisive. He sat up, he spoke, and “all” were impressed with the full assurance that God had raised him to life. Many witnesses were present, and none doubted that Jesus “by a word” had restored him to his weeping mother.

The whole scene was affecting. Here was a widowed mother who was following her only son, her stay and hope, to the grave. He was carried along - one in the prime of life and the only comfort of his parent - impressive proof that the young, the useful, the vigorous, and the lovely may die. Jesus met them, apparently a stranger. He approached the procession as if he had something important to say; he touched the bier and the procession stood still. He was full of compassion for the weeping parent, and by a word restored the youth, stretched upon the bier, to life. He sat up, and spoke. Jesus therefore had power over the dead. He also has power to raise sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, to life. He can speak the word, and, though in their death of sin they are borne along toward ruin, he can open their eyes, and raise them up, and restore them revived to real life or to their friends. Often he raises up children in this manner, and gives them, converted to God, to their friends, imparting as real joy as he gave to the widow of Nain by raising her son from the dead, And every child should remember, if he has pious parents, that there is “no way” in which he can give so much joy to them as by embracing Him who is the resurrection and the life, and resolving to live to his glory.

Verses 19-35

See this passage explained in Matthew 11:2-19.

Luke 7:29

The people - The common people.

That heard him - That heard “John.”

The publicans - The tax-gatherers, the worst kind of people, who had, however, been converted.

Justified God - Considered God as “just” or “right” in the counsel which he gave by John - to wit, in calling people to repentance, and in denouncing future wrath on the impenitent. Compare Matthew 11:19.

Being baptized ... - They “showed” that they approved of the message of God by submitting to the ordinance which he commanded - the ordinance of baptism. This verse and the following are not to be considered as the words of “Luke,” but the continuation of the discourse of our Lord. He is saying what took place in regard to John. Among the common people he was approved and obeyed among the rich and learned he was despised.

Luke 7:30

But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected ... - It appears from Matthew 3:7 that some of the Pharisees came to John to be baptized; but still this is entirely consistent with the supposition that the great mass of Pharisees and lawyers rejected him.

The counsel of God - The counsel of God toward them was the solemn admonition by John to “repent” and be baptized, and be prepared to receive the Messiah. This was the command or revealed will of God in relation to them. When it is said that they “rejected” the counsel of God, it does not mean that they could frustrate his purposes, but merely that they violated his commands. Men cannot frustrate the “real” purposes of God, but they can contemn his messages, they can violate his commands, and thus they can reject the counsel which he gives them, and treat with contempt the desire which he manifests for their welfare.

Against themselves - To their own hurt or detriment. God is wise and good. He knows what is best for us. He, therefore, that rejects what God commands, rejects it to his own injury. It “cannot” be well for any mortal to despise what God commands him to do.

Luke 7:31-35

See this passage explained in the notes at Matthew 11:16-19. “And the Lord said.” This clause is wanting in almost all the manuscripts, and is omitted by the best critics.

Verse 36

One of the Pharisees - His name was Simon, Luke 7:10. Nothing more is known of him. It is not improbable, however, from what follows Luke 7:40-47, that he had been healed by the Saviour of some afflictive disease, and made this feast to show his gratitude.

Sat down to meat - The original word here means only that he placed himself or reclined at the table. The notion of “sitting” at meals is taken from modern customs, and was not practiced by the Jews. See the notes at Matthew 23:6.

Meat - Supper. Food of any kind. Sat down to eat.

Verse 37

In the city - What city is meant is unknown. Some have supposed it was Nain; some Capernaum; some Magdala; and some Jerusalem.

Which was a sinner - Who was depraved or wicked. This woman, it seems, was known to be a sinner - perhaps an abandoned woman or a prostitute. It is certain that she had much to be forgiven, and she had probably passed her life in crime. There is no evidence that this was the woman commonly called Mary Magdalene.

An alabaster-box ... - See the notes at Mark 14:3.

Verse 38

Stood at his feet behind him - They reclined, at their meals, on their left side, and their feet, therefore, were extended from the table, so that persons could easily approach them. See the notes at Matthew 23:6.

Began to wash his feet - The Jews wore sandals. These were taken off when they entered a house. It was an act of hospitality and kindness to wash the feet of a guest. “She” therefore began to show her love for the Saviour, and at the same time her humility and penitence, by pouring forth a flood of tears, and washing his feet in the manner of a servant.

Kissed his feet - The kiss was an emblem of love and affection. In this manner she testified her love for the Lord Jesus, and at the same time her humility and sense of sin by kissing his feet. There could be few expressions of penitence more deep and tender than were these. A sense of all her sins rushed over her mind; her heart burst at the remembrance of them, and at the presence of the pure Redeemer; with deep sorrow she humbled herself and sought forgiveness. She showed her love for him by a kiss of affection; her humility, by bathing his feet; her veneration, by breaking a costly box - perhaps procured by a guilty life - and anointing his feet. In this way we should all come, embracing him as the loved Redeemer, humbled at his feet, and offering all we have - all that we have gained in lives of sin, in our professions, by merchandise and toil, while we were sinners - offering “all” to his service. Thus shall we show the sincerity of our repentance, and thus shall we hear his gracious voice pronounce our sins forgiven.

Verse 39

He spake within himself - Thought.

If he were a prophet - The word “prophet” here means, not one who predicts future events, but one who knows the hearts of people. If Jesus had been sent from God as a prophet, he supposed that he would have known the character of the woman and would have rebuked her.

Would have known ... - Because Jesus did not rebuke her and drive her from his presence, he inferred that he could not be acquainted with her character. The Pharisees considered it improper to hold communion with those who were notorious sinners. They judged our Saviour by their own rules, and supposed that “he” would act in the same way; and Simon therefore concluded that he did not know her character and could not be a prophet. Jesus did not refuse the society of the guilty. He came to save the lost; and no person ever came to him so sure of finding a “friend,” as those who came conscious that they were deeply depraved, and mourning on account of their crimes.

That toucheth him - The “touch” of a Gentile, or a person singularly wicked, they supposed to be polluting, and the Pharisees avoided it. See Matthew 9:11.

Verse 41

A certain creditor - A man who had lent money or sold property, the payment for which was yet due.

Five hundred pence - About 69 dollars 26 cents, or 14 British pounds, 11 shilling, 8d. See the notes at Matthew 18:28.

Fifty - About 7 dollars, or 1 British pound, 9 shillings, and 2d.

Verse 42

Frankly forgave - Freely forgave, or forgave entirely without any compensation. This is not designed to express anything about the way in which God forgives sinners. He forgives - forgives freely, but it is in connection with the “atonement” made by the Lord Jesus. If it was a mere “debt” which we owed to God, he might forgive, as this creditor did, without an equivalent. But it is “crime” which he forgives. He pardons as a moral governor. A parent might forgive a “debt” without any equivalent; but he cannot pardon an offending child without regarding his own “character” as a parent, the “truth” of his threatenings, the good order of his house, and the maintenance of his authority. So our sins against God, though they are called “debts,” are called so “figuratively.” It is not an affair of “money,” and God cannot forgive us without maintaining his word, the honor of his government, and law - in other words, without an “atonement.” It is clear that by the creditor here our Saviour meant to designate God, and by the “debtors,” sinners and the woman present. Simon, whose life had been comparatively upright, was denoted by the one that owed “fifty” pence; the woman, who had been an open and shameless sinner, was represented by the one that owed “five hundred.” Yet “neither” could pay. Both must be forgiven or perish. So, however much difference there is among people, “all” need the pardoning mercy of God, and “all,” without that, must perish.

Verse 43

I suppose ... - He saw not “the point” of our Lord’s parable. By thus saying, therefore, he condemned himself, and prepared the way for our Lord’s reproof.

Verse 44

Seest thou this woman? - You see what this woman has done to me, compared with what you have done. She has shown me expressions of regard which you, in your own house, have not shown.

I entered into thine house - I came at your invitation, where I might expect all the usual rites of hospitality.

Thou gavest me no water for my feet - Among Eastern people it was customary, before eating, to wash the feet; and to do this, or to bring water for it, was one of the rites of hospitality. See Genesis 18:4; Judges 19:21. The reasons for this were, that they wore “sandals,” which covered only the bottom of the feet, and that when they ate they reclined on couches or sofas. It became therefore necessary that the feet should be often washed.

Verse 45

Thou gavest me no kiss - The kiss was a token of affection or a common mode of salutation, and Simon had even neglected this mark of welcoming him to his house. It was often used among “men” as a sign of salutation. Compare Genesis 33:4; Exodus 18:7; Matthew 26:49.

Hath not ceased to kiss my feet - How striking the difference between the conduct of Simon and this woman! He, with all the richness of a splendid preparation, had omitted the common marks of regard and affection. She, in humility, had bowed at his feet, had watered them with tears, and had not ceased to kiss them. The most splendid entertainments do not always express the greatest welcome. There may be in such entertainments much insincerity - much seeking of popularity or some other motive; but no such motive could have operated in inducing a broken-hearted sinner to wash the Saviour’s “feet” with tears.

Verse 46

My head with oil - The custom of pouring oil upon the head was universal among the Jews. The oil used was sweet oil or oil of olives, prepared in such a way as to give an agreeable smell. It was also used to render the hair more smooth and elegant. See Ruth 3:3; 2Sa 12:20; 2 Samuel 14:2; Psalms 23:5.

With ointment - This “ointment” was a mixture of various aromatics, and was therefore far more costly and precious than the “oil” commonly used for anointing the head. Her conduct, compared with that of Simon, was therefore more striking. “He” did not give even the common oil “for his head” used on such occasions. “She” had applied to “his feet” a far more precious and valuable “unguent.” “He” therefore, showed comparatively “little” love. “She” showed “much.”

Verse 47

Wherefore I say unto thee - As the result of this, or because she has done this; meaning by this that she had given “evidence” that her sins had been forgiven. The inquiry with Simon was whether it was proper for Jesus to “touch her” or to allow her to touch him, because she was such a sinner, Luke 7:39. Jesus said, in substance, to Simon, “Grant that she has been as great a sinner as you affirm, and even grant that if she had “continued so” it might be improper to suffer her to touch me, yet “her conduct” shows that her sins have been forgiven. She has evinced so much love for me as to show that she is no longer “such a sinner” as you suppose, and it is not, therefore, “improper” that she should be suffered to come near me.”

For she loved much - In our translation this would seem to be given as a reason why her sins had been forgiven - that she had loved much “before” they were pardoned; but this is clearly not the meaning. This would be contrary to the whole New Testament, which supposes that love “succeeds,” not “precedes” forgiveness; and which nowhere supposes that sins are forgiven “because” we love God. It would be also contrary to the design of the Saviour here. It was not to show “why” her sins had been forgiven, but to show that she had given evidence that they actually “had” been, and that it was proper, therefore, that she should come near to him and manifest this love. The meaning may be thus expressed: “That her sins, so many and aggravated, have been forgiven - that she is no longer such a sinner as you suppose, is manifest from her conduct. She shows deep gratitude, penitence, love. Her conduct is the “proper expression” of that love. While you have shown comparatively little evidence that you felt that “your sins” were great, and comparatively little love at their being forgiven, “she” has shown that she “felt” hers to be great, and has loved much.”

To whom little is forgiven - He who feels that little has been forgiven - that his sins were not as great as those of others. A man’s love to God will be in proportion to the obligation he “feels” to him for forgiveness. God is to be “loved” for his perfections, apart from what he has “done” for us. But still it is proper that our love should be increased by a consideration of his goodness; and they who feel - as Christians do - that they are the “chief of sinners,” will feel under infinite obligation to love God and their Redeemer, and that no “expression” of attachment to him can be “beyond” what is due.

Verse 48

Thy sins are forgiven - What a gracious assurance to the weeping, loving penitent! How that voice, spoken to the troubled sinner, stills his anguish, allays his troubled feelings, and produces peace to the soul! And how manifest is it that he that could say thus “must” be God! No man has a “right” to forgive sin. No man “can” speak peace to the soul, and give assurance that its transgressions are pardoned: Here, then, Jesus gave indubitable proof that he was God as well as man; that he was Lord of the conscience as well as the pitying friend; and that he was as able to read the heart and give peace there, as he was to witness the external expression of sorrow for sin.

Verse 49

Who is this ... - A very pertinent question. Who could he be but God? Man could not do it, and there is no wonder that they were amazed.

Verse 50

Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace - See the notes at Mark 5:34.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/luke-7.html. 1870.
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