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Monday, October 2nd, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Matthew 19

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Matthew 19:1-12. See also Mark 10:1-12.

Verse 1

Coasts of Judea beyond Jordan - The narrative here refers to the last journey of the Saviour from Galilee to Jerusalem, to attend the last Passover which he celebrated.

A considerable lapse of time occurred between his last discourse in the preceding chapter and what is recorded here, and several important events have been recorded by Luke and John which occurred in the interval, as the sending out of the seventy disciples Luke 10:1-16; the Saviour’s going up to the feast of Tabernacles, and his final departure from Galilee, passing through Samaria Luke 9:51-56; John 7:2-10; the healing of the ten lepers Luke 17:11-19; the public teaching of Jesus at the feast of Tabernacles John 7:11-53; the account of the woman taken in adultery John 8:1; the reproof of the unbelieving Jews, and the escape of the Saviour from their hands John 8:12-59; the instruction of the lawyer, and the parable of the good Samaritan Luke 10:28-37; the incidents in the house of Martha and Mary Luke 10:38-42; the return of the seventy Luke 10:17-24; the healing of the blind man on the Sabbath John 9:1-41; the festival of the Dedication John 10:22-42; the raising of Lazarus John 11:1-46; and the counsel of Caiaphas against Jesus, and the retiring of Jesus from Jerusalem John 11:47-54. See Robinson’s Harmony. Matthew and Mark now resume the narrative by relating that after Jesus had left Galilee he approached Jerusalem by passing through the country beyond Jordan. The country was, in general, called Perea, and appertained to Judea, being the region formerly occupied by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. The word “coasts” means regions or parts. See the notes at Matthew 2:16.

Verse 3

The Pharisees came - See the notes at Matthew 3:7.

Tempting him - This means, to get him, if possible, to express an opinion that should involve him in difficulty.

Is it lawful ... - There was the more art in the captious question which they proposed, as at that time the people were very much divided on the subject. A part, following the opinions of Hillel, said that a man might divorce his wife for any offence, or any dislike he might have of her. See the notes at Matthew 5:31. Others, of the school of Shammai, maintained that divorce was unlawful except in case of adultery. Whatever opinion, therefore, Christ expressed, they expected that he would involve himself in difficulty with one of their parties.

Verses 4-6

And he answered and said ... - Instead of referring to the opinions of either party, Jesus called their attention to the original design of marriage, to the authority of Moses an authority acknowledged by them both.

Have ye not read? - Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:21-22. “And said, For this cause,” etc., Genesis 2:24. That is, God, at the beginning, made but one man and one woman: their posterity should learn that the original intention of marriage was that a man should have but one wife.

Shall leave his father and mother - This means, shall bind himself more strongly to his wife than he was to his father or mother. The marriage connection is the most tender and endearing of all human relations more tender than even that bond which unites us to a parent.

And shall cleave unto his wife - The word “cleave” denotes a union of the firmest kind. It is in the original taken from gluing, and means so firmly to adhere together that nothing can separate them.

They twain shall be one flesh - That is, they two, or they that were two, shall be united as one - one in law, in feeling, in interest, in affection. They shall no longer have separate interests, but shall act in all things as if they were one - animated by one soul and one wish. The argument of Jesus here is, that since they are so intimately united as to be one, and since in the beginning God made but one woman for one man, it follows that they cannot be separated but by the authority of God. Man may not put away his wife for every cause. What God has joined together man may not put asunder. In this decision he really decided in favor of one of the parties; and it shows that when it was proper, Jesus answered questions without regard to consequences, from whatever cause they might have been proposed, and however much difficulty it might involve him in. Our Lord, in this, also showed consummate wisdom. He answered the question, not from Hillel or Shammai, their teachers, but from Moses, and thus defeated their malice.

Verse 7

Why did Moses ... - To this they objected that Moses had allowed such divorces Deuteronomy 24:1; and if he had allowed them, they inferred that they could not be unlawful. See the notes at Matthew 5:31.

Verse 8

He saith unto them ... - Jesus admits that this was allowed, but still he contends that this was not the original design of marriage. It was only a temporary expedient growing out of a special state of things, and not designed to be perpetual. It was on account of the hardness of their hearts. Moses found the custom in use. He found a hard-hearted and rebellious people. In this state of things he did not deem it prudent to forbid a practice so universal; but it might be regulated; and, instead of suffering the husband to divorce his wife in a passion, he required him, in order that he might take time to consider the matter, and thus make it probable that divorces would be less frequent, to give her a writing; to sit down deliberately to look at the matter, and probably, also, to bring the case before some scribe or learned man, to write a divorce in the legal form. Thus doing, there might be an opportunity for the matter to be reconciled, and the man to be persuaded not to divorce his wife. This, says our Saviour, was a permission growing out of a particular state of things, and designed to remedy a prevailing evil; but at first it was not so. God intended that marriage should be between one man and one woman, and that they were only to be separated, in the case specified, by him who had formed the union.

Hardness of your hearts - He speaks here of his hearers as a part of the nation. The hardness of you Jews; as when we say, we fought with England and gained our independence; that is, we, the American people, though it was done by our fathers. He does not mean to say, therefore, that this was done on account of the people whom he addressed, but of the national hardness of heart - the stubbornness of the Jewish people as a people.

Verse 9

And I say unto you - Emphasis should be laid here on the word “I.” This was the opinion of Jesus - this he proclaimed to be the law of his kingdom this the command of God ever afterward. Indulgence had been given by the laws of Moses; but that indulgence was to cease, and the marriage relation to be brought back to its original intention. Only one offence was to make divorce lawful. This is the law of God; and by the same law, all marriages which take place after divorce, where adultery is not the cause of divorce, are adulterous. Legislatures have no right to say that people may put away their wives for any other cause; and where they do, and where there is marriage afterward, by the law of God such marriages are adulterous!

Verse 10

His disciples say ... - The disciples were full of Jewish notions. They thought that the privilege of divorcing a wife when there was a quarrelsome disposition, or anything else that rendered the marriage unhappy, was a great privilege; and that in such cases to be always bound to live with a wife was a great calamity. They said, therefore, that if such was the case - such the condition on which people married - it was better not to marry.

Verse 11

All men cannot receive this saying - The minds of people are not prepared for this. This saying evidently means what the disciples had just said that it was good for a man not to marry. It might be good in certain circumstances - in times of persecution and trial, or for the sake of laboring in the cause of religion without the care and burden of a family. It might be good for many to live, as some of the apostles did, without marriage, but it was not given to all people, 1Co 7:1, 1 Corinthians 7:7,1 Corinthians 7:9. To be married, or unmarried, might be lawful, according to circumstances, 1 Corinthians 7:26.

Verse 12

For there are some eunuchs ... - Jesus proceeds to state that there were some who were able to receive that saying and to remain in an unmarried state. Some were so born; some were made such by the cruelty of men; and there were some who voluntarily abstained from marriage for the kingdom of heaven’s sake - that is, that they might devote themselves entirely to the proper business of religion. Perhaps he refers here to the Essenes, a sect of the Jews (see the notes at Matthew 3:7), who held that marriage was unsuitable to their condition; who had no children of their own, but perpetuated their sect by adopting the poor children of others. Eunuchs were employed chiefly in attending on the females or in the harem. They rose often to distinction, and held important offices in the state. Hence, the word is sometimes used with reference to such an officer of state, Acts 8:27.

Verse 13

Then were brought little children - See also Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17. Probably these were brought by some of his followers, who desired not only to devote themselves to Jesus, but all that they had - their children as well as themselves. All the Jews were accustomed to devote their children to God by circumcision. It was natural, therefore, under the new dispensation, that it should be done. Luke says they were infants. They were undoubtedly those who were not old enough to come by choice, but their coming was an act of the parents.

Put his hands on them and pray - It was customary among the Jews, when blessings were sought for others in prayer, to lay the hands on the head of the person prayed for, implying a kind of consecration to God. See Genesis 48:14; Matthew 9:18. They had also much confidence in the prayers of pious men, believing that those blessed by a saint or a prophet would be happy. See Numbers 22:6; Luke 2:28.

The disciples rebuked them - That is, reproved them, or told them it was improper. This they did, probably, either:

1.Because they thought that they were too young; or,

2.Because they thought that they would be troublesome to their Master.

Verse 14

Jesus said, Suffer little children, ... - Mark adds, he was much displeased at what the disciples said. It was a thing highly gratifying to him, and which he earnestly sought, that children should be brought to him, and a case where it was very improper that they should interfere.

Of such is the kingdom of heaven - The kingdom of heaven evidently means here the church. See the notes at Matthew 3:2. In Mark and Luke it is said he immediately added, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall not enter therein.” Whosoever shall not be humble, unambitious, and docile, shall not be a true follower of Christ or a member of his kingdom. Of such as these - that is, of persons with such tempers as these - is the church to be composed. He does not say of those infants, but of such persons as resemble them, or are like them in temper, is the kingdom of heaven made up. As emblematic, therefore, of what his own followers were to be, and as having traits of character so strongly resembling what he required in his followers, it was proper that they should be brought to him. At the same time, it was proper on their own account that they should be brought to him, and that his blessing should be sought on them.

All are fallen; all have, a tendency to sin, and none but Jesus can save them. Little children, too, are in a world of sickness and death, and in the beginning of life it is proper to invoke on them the blessing of the Saviour. They are to live forever beyond the grave; and as they have just entered on a career of existence which can never terminate, it is an appropriate act to seek the blessing of that Saviour who only can make them happy forever, as they enter on their career of existence. No act, therefore, can be more proper than that by which parents, in a solemn ordinance of religion, give them up to God in baptism, consecrating them to his service, and seeking for them the blessing of the Saviour. It is probable - it is greatly to be hoped - that all infants will be saved. No contrary doctrine is taught in the sacred Scriptures. But it does not appear to be the design of this passage to teach that all infants will be saved. It means simply that they should be suffered to be brought to Christ as amiable, lovely, and uncorrupted by the world; as having traits of mind resembling those among real Christians; and as themselves needing his blessing.

Verse 15

He laid his hands on them - Mark says he blessed them. That is, he pronounced or sought a blessing on them.

Verses 16-30

He saith unto him, Which? - In reply to the inquiry of the young man, Jesus directed him to the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and fifth Exodus 20:12-16, as containing the substance of the whole - as containing particularly what he intended to show him that he had not kept. See notes at Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:27.

Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder - See the notes at Matthew 5:21-26.

Thou shalt not commit adultery - See the notes at Matthew 5:27-32.

Thou shalt not steal - To steal is to take the property of another without his knowledge or consent.

Thou shalt not bear false witness - Give testimony contrary to truth. This may be done in a court of justice, or by private or public slander. It means to say things of another which are not true.

Honour thy father ... - That is,

  1. Obey them, keep their commands,Colossians 3:20; Colossians 3:20; Ephesians 6:1-3.
  2. Respect them, show them reverence.
  3. Treat their opinions with respect - do not despise them or ridicule them.
  4. Treat their habits with respect. Those habits may be different from ours; they may be antiquated, and to us strange, odd, or whimsical; but they are the habits of a parent, and they are not to be ridiculed.
  5. Provide for them when sick, weary, old, and infirm. Bear with their weakness, comply with their wishes, speak to them kindly, and deny yourselves of rest, and sleep, and ease, to promote their welfare.

To this he added another - the duty of loving our neighbor, Leviticus 19:18. This Christ declared to be the second great commandment of the law, Matthew 22:39. A neighbor means:

1.Any person who lives near to us.

2.Any person with whom we have dealings.

3.A friend or relative, Matthew 5:43.

4.Any person - friend, relative, countryman, or foe, Mark 12:31.

5.Any person who does us good or confers a favor on us, Luke 10:27-37,

This commandment means, evidently:

1.That we should not injure our neighbor in his person, property, or character.

2.That we should not be selfish, but should seek to do him good.

3.That in a case of debt, difference, or debate, we should do what is right, regarding his interest as much as our own.

4.That we should treat his character, property, etc., as we do our own, according to what is right.

5.That, in order to benefit him, we should practice self-denial, or do as we would wish him to do to us, Matthew 7:12.

It does not mean:

1.That the love of ourselves, according to what we are, or according to truth, is improper. The happiness of myself is of as much importance as that of any other man, and it is as proper that it should be sought.

  1. It does not mean that I am to neglect my own business to take care of my neighbor’s. My happiness, salvation, health, and family are committed especially to myself; and, provided I do not interfere with my neighbor’s rights or violate my obligations to him, it is my duty to seek the welfare of my own as my first duty, 1 Timothy 5:8, 1 Timothy 5:13; Titus 2:5. Mark adds to these commandments, “Defraud not;” by which he meant, doubtless, to express the substance of this to love our neighbor as ourselves. It means, literally, to take away the property of another by violence or by deceiving him, thus showing that he is not loved as we love ourselves.

Matthew 19:20

1. We should not throw ourselves unnecessarily in the way of the enemies of religion, Matthew 19:1. Jesus, to avoid the dangers to which he was exposed, left Jerusalem, and passed over to the other side of the Jordan. If duty calls us to remain in the presence of our enemies and the enemies of religion, we should do it. If we can do them good, we should do it. If our presence will only provoke them to anger and bitterness, then we should turn aside. Compare the notes at Matthew 10:23.

2. People will seek every occasion to ensnare Christians, Matthew 19:3. Questions will be proposed with great art, and with an appearance of sincerity, only for the purpose of leading them into difficulty. Cunning men know well how to propose such questions, and triumph much when they have perplexed believers. This is often the boast of people of some standing, who think they accomplish the great purposes of their existence if they can confound other people, and think it signal triumph if they can make others as miserable as themselves.

3. We should not refuse to answer such persons with mildness, when the Bible has settled the question, Matthew 19:4-6. Jesus answered a captious question, proposed on purpose to ensnare him. We may often do much to confound the enemies of religion, and to recommend it, when without passion we hear their inquiries, and deliberately inform them that the question has been settled by God. We had better, however, far better, say nothing in reply, than to answer in anger or to show that we are irritated. All the object of the enemy is gained if he can make us angry.

4. People will search and pervert the Bible for authority to indulge their sins and to perplex Christians, Matthew 19:7. No device is more common than to produce a passage of Scripture known to be misquoted or perverted, yet plausible, for the purpose of perplexing Christians. In such cases, the best way, often, is to say nothing. If unanswered, people will be ashamed of it; if answered, they gain their point, and are ready for debate and abuse.

5. We learn from this chapter that there is no union so intimate as the marriage connection, Matthew 19:6. Nothing is so tender and endearing as this union appointed by God for the welfare of man.

6. This union should not be entered into slightly or rashly. It involves all the happiness of this life and much of that to come. The union demands:

(1)Congeniality of feeling and disposition;

(2)Of rank or standing in life;

(3)Of temper;

(4)Similarity of acquirements;

(5)Of age;

(6)Of talent;

(7)Intimate acquaintance.

It should also be a union on religious feelings and opinions:

(1)Because religion is more important than anything else;

(2)Because it will give more happiness in the married life than anything else;

(3)Because where one only is pious, there is danger that the religion of the other will be obscured and blighted;

(4)Because no prospect is so painful as that of eternal separation;

(5)Because it is paganish, brutal, and mad, to partake the gifts of God in a family and offer no thanksgiving; inexpressibly wicked to live from day to day as if there were no God, no heaven, no hell;

(6)Because death is near, and nothing will soothe the pangs of parting but the hope of meeting in the resurrection of the just.

7. No human legislature has a right to declare divorces except in one single case, Matthew 19:9. If they do, they are accessories to the crime that may follow, and presume to legislate where God has legislated before them.

8. Those thus divorced, or pretended to be divorced, and marrying again, are, by the declaration of Jesus Christ, living in adultery, Matthew 19:9. It is no excuse to say that the law of the land divorced them. The law had no such right. If all the legislatures of the world were to say that it was lawful for a man to steal or to commit murder, it would not make it so, and, in spite of human permission, God would hold a man answerable for theft and murder. So, also, of adultery.

9. The marriage union demands kindness and love, Matthew 19:6. The husband and the wife are one. Love to each other is love to a second self. Hatred, and anger, and quarrels are against ourselves. The evils and quarrels in married life will descend on ourselves, and be gall and wormwood in our own cup.

10. Infants may be brought to Jesus to receive his blessing, Matthew 19:12-15. While on earth, he admitted them to his presence and blessed them with his prayers. If they might be brought then, they may be brought now. Their souls are as precious; their dangers are as great; their salvation is as important. A parent should require the most indubitable evidence that Jesus will not receive his offspring, and will be displeased if the offering is made, to deter him from this inestimable privilege.

11. If children may be brought, they should be brought. It is the solemn duty of a parent to seize upon all possible means of benefiting his children, and of presenting them to God to implore his blessing. In family prayer, in the sanctuary, and in the ordinance of baptism, the blessing of the Redeemer should be sought early and constantly on their precious and immortal souls.

12. Earnestness and deep anxiety are proper in seeking salvation, Matthew 19:16. The young man came running; he kneeled. It was not form and ceremony; it was life and reality. Religion is a great subject. Salvation is important beyond the power of language to express. Eternity is near, and damnation thunders along the path of the guilty. The sinner must be saved soon, or die forever. He cannot be too earnest. He cannot press with too great haste to Jesus. He should come running, and kneeling, and humbled, and lifting the agonizing cry, “What must I do to be saved?”

13. We should come young, Matthew 19:20. No one can come too young. God has the first claim on our affections. He made us, he keeps us, he provides for us, and it is right that we should give our first affections to him. No one who has become a Christian ever yet felt that he had become one too young. No young person that has given his heart to the Redeemer ever yet regretted it. They may give up the frivolous world to do it; they may leave the circles of the dance and the song; they may be exposed to contempt and persecution, but no matter. He who becomes a true Christian, no matter of what age or rank, blesses God that he was inclined to do it, and the time never can come when for one moment he will regret it. Why, then, will not the young give their hearts to the Saviour, and do that which they know they never can for one moment regret?

14. It is no dishonor for those who hold offices, and who are people of rank, to inquire on the subject of religion, Luke 18:18. Men of rank often suppose that it is only the weak, the credulous, and the ignorant that ever feel any anxiety about religion. Never was a greater mistake. It has been only profligate, and weak, and ignorant people that have been thoughtless. Two-thirds of all the profound investigations of the world have been on this very subject. The wisest and best of the pagans have devoted their lives to inquire about God and their own destiny. So in Christian lands. Were Bacon, Newton, Locke, Milton, Hale, and Boerhaave men of weak minds? Yet their deepest thoughts and most anxious inquiries were on this very subject. So in our own land. Were Washington, Ames, Henry, Jay, and Rush men of weak minds? Yet they were professed believers in revelation. And yet young men of rank, and wealth, and learning often think that they show great independence in refusing to think of what occupied the profound attention of these men, and fancy they are great only by refusing to tread in their steps. Never was a greater or more foolish mistake. If anything demands attention, it is, surely, the inquiry whether we are to be happy forever, or wretched; whether there is a God and Saviour; or whether we are “in a forsaken and fatherless world.”

15. It is as important for the rich to seek religion as the poor, Matthew 19:22. They will as certainly die; they as much need religion. Without it they cannot be happy. Riches will drive away no pain on a death-bed - will not go with us when we die - will not save us.

16. It is of special importance that wealthy young persons should be Christians. They are exposed to many dangers. The world - the “happy” and flattering world - will lead them astray. Fond of fashion, dress, and amusement, as many of them are, they are exposed to a thousand follies and dangers, from which nothing but religion can secrete them. Besides, they may do much good; and God will hold them answerable for all the good they might have done with their wealth.

17. The amiable, the lovely, the moral, need also an interest in Christ, Mark 10:21. If amiable, we should suppose they would be ready to embrace the Saviour. None was ever so moral, so lovely, so pure as he. If we really loved amiableness, then we should come to him - we should love him. But, alas! how many amiable young persons turn away from him, and refuse to follow him! Can they be really lovers of that which is pure and lovely? If so, then why turn away from the Lamb of God?

18. The amiable and the lovely need a better righteousness than their own. With all this, they may make an idol of the world; they may be proud, sensual, selfish, prayerless, and thoughtless about dying. Externally they appear lovely; but oh, how far is the heart from God!

19. Inquirers about religion usually depend on their own works, Matthew 19:16. They are not willing to trust to Jesus for salvation, and they ask what they shall do; and it is only when they find that they can do nothing - that they are poor, and helpless, and wretched that they east themselves on the mercy of God and find peace.

20. Compliments and flattering titles are evil, Matthew 19:17. They ascribe something to others which we know they do not possess. Often beauty is praised where we know there is no beauty - accomplishment where there is no accomplishment - talent where there is no talent. Such praises are falsehood. We know them to be such. We intend to deceive by them, and we know that they will produce pride and vanity. Often they are used for the purpose of destruction. If a man praises us too much, we should look to our purse or our virtue. We should feel that we are in danger, and the next thing will be a dreadful blow - the heavier for all this flattery. They that use compliments much, expect them from others; are galled and vexed when they are not obtained; and are in danger when they are.

21. If we are to be saved, we must do just what God commands us. Matthew 19:17-18. This is all we have to do. We are not to invent anything of our own. God has marked out the course, and we must follow it.

22. We are easily deceived about keeping the law, Matthew 19:17. We often think we observe it, when it is only the outward form that we have kept. The law is spiritual, and God requires the heart.

23. Riches are a blessing if used aright; if not, they are deceitful, dangerous, ruinous, Matthew 19:23-24. Thousands have lost their souls by the love of riches. None have ever been saved by it.

24. It is our duty to forsake all for Christ, Matthew 19:27-29. Be it little or much, it is all the same to him. It is the heart that he looks at; and we may as really show our love by giving up a fishing-boat and net, as by giving up a palace or a crown. If done in either case, it will be accepted.

25. Religion has its own rewards, Matthew 19:28-29. It gives more than it takes. It more than compensates for all that we surrender. It gives peace, joy, comfort in trial and in death, and heaven beyond. This is the testimony of all Christians of all denominations of all that have lived, and of all that do live that they never knew true peace until they found it in the gospel. The testimony of so many must be true. They have tried the world in all its forms of gaiety, folly, and vice, and they come and say with one voice, Here only is true peace. On any other subject they would be believed. Their testimony here must be true.

26. Those eminent for usefulness here will be received to distinguished honors and rewards in heaven, Matthew 19:28. They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as stars in the firmament forever. See the notes at Daniel 12:3.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/matthew-19.html. 1870.
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