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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 10

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-42

X 1-42 Missionary Instruction —Our Lord calls together the chosen Twelve (1-4) to regulate their conduct an their first, and local, missionary, journey, 5-16; 40-42; further instructions, 17-19, relate to a more distant future and a wider mission where they will meet not contempt only but inexorable and universal persecution, 17-23. Conscious of the Son’s example and of the Father’s loving vigilance the disciple must not capitulate, 24-33; his old life may be torn up by the roots, but he shall find a new, 34-39. Mt’s well-knit discourse is probably a synthesis of our Lord’s missionary instructions given on different occasions.

X 1-4 The Twelve (Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; cf. Acts 1:13)—Mt does not narrate the call of the Twelve (cf.Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1) but presupposes it and mentions their names, in passing. The section is but a summary introduction to the discourse. Here alone Mt calls them ’Apostles’ (i.e. ’envoys’), elsewhere ’The Twelve’. The number is chosen evidently because it suits our Lord’s plan of campaign but it has the further advantage of symbolizing the twelve patriarchs of the new Israel. All four lists of the Apostles. (Mt; Mk; Lk; Ac) agree. in placing Simon, Philip, James (’the Less’) at the head of each group of four. The members of each group are the same in each list, but within the group the names are interchanged in the various lists. Mt gives the names in pairs (cf. Lk), suggesting that this was the order of their sending. Mt (only) describes Simon Peter as ’the first’—a phrase unnecessary at the head of a list unless it indicates pre-eminence of dignity, *Plummer, 147. The name Peter (cf. 16:18 note) was probably conferred (Knabenbauer, Lagrange) and explained (Lagrange) on this occasion; cf.Mark 3:16. Andrew (like Philip) bears a completely Greek name, evidently not an uncommon custom in Galilee of the Gentiles’ where Greek was freely spoken. Had other considerations not intervened, Andrew should have appeared at the head of the list because he was the first to come to Jesus, John 1:40. James and John both bear Hebrew names. James (Jacob) ’the Greater’ was martyred under Agrippa I in a.d. 44, Acts 12:1 f.; John (’the beloved disciple’) lived to write the Fourth Gospel towards the end of the century. Philip, like Peter and Andrew, was a native of Bethsaida, John 1:44. Bartholomew (Bar-Tolmai, i.e. son of T.) is commonly identified with the Nathanael of John 1:45 on the grounds that Nathanael is associated there (as Bartholomew here) with Philip and because Nathanael is grouped with the Apostles in John 21:2. Thomas (Aramaic: te?ôma?; Greek : d?+´d?µ??, John 11:16, ’ the twin’) precedes Matthew (unlike Mk; Lk) possibly for politeness’ sake; modesty may account, too, for Mt’s insertion of ’the publican’ (and see note to 9:9). James of Alpheus (possibly James, son of Cleophas, cf.John 19:25) is called ’the Less’ or’ the Small’, Mark 15:41, to distinguish him from James, son of Zebedee. He is probably to be identified with the Apostle, ’brother of the Lord’, first bishop of Jerusalem (cf.Galatians 1:19; Acts 15:13). Thaddeus is apparently an Aramaic name (’stout’?) and another name for Jude (brother) of James, Luke 6:16. The surname Thaddeus (Mt; Mk) or the addition’ of James’ (Lk) distinguishes him from Judas the traitor. Simon the Cananean, better ’the Zealous’ (Aramaic: qana’na’) or possibl ’the Zealot’ (WV), i.e. former member of the active Jewiseh nationalist party. Judas Iscariot,i.e. ’man of Qeriyôth’, a soubriquet derived from his father, John 6:71. Qeriyôth is an unidentified village of Judah, Joshua 15:25. Judas himself probably lived in Galilee like the other Apostles.

5-16 Instructions for the Local Mission (Mark 6:8-11; Luke 9:2-5; cf.Luke 10:4-12; Matthew 11:24)—5-6. In the divine plan Israel was to be first beneficiary of the Messianic offer, Romans 1:16; the Apostles, therefore, are not yet to walk the roads leading to non-Jewish districts (’the way of the Gentiles’)—neither northwards to pagan Syria nor south to Samaria, mixed in population and diluted in Yahwism since the Assyrian colonization of the 8th cent.; cf.John 4:7. The mission is confined to Galilean territory. Mk and Lk, writing for Gentile readers, delicately omit the prohibition.

7-8. The theme of the preaching is summed up in a sentence. It is the Baptist’s theme (3:2 note) and our Lord’s, 4:17. Miracles will guarantee the genuineness? of their message. Their missionary purpose must not be obscured or defeated by the passing of money; the power of miracle and doctrine had cost the Apostles nothing. 9-10. Our Lord’s advice for the journey is not ’practical’ in the usual sense, but consists in a complete reliance on Providence. No need for gold, silver, copper in their girdle-pouches (DV ’money in your purses’); nor food-satchel nor warm clothing (cf.Mark 6:9) but barefoot and unarmed (’nor a staff’). Mk, 6:8-9, allows shoes and a staff. It would be difficult to prove that Mk and Mt are speaking of different varieties of shoe and staff (cf. however, Knabenbauer in loc; Power, Bi 4 [ 1923] 241-66; WV note). It is more probable (Maldonatus, Lagrange, Prat, Buzy, Bover) that the general sense, and not the actual words, is preserved by each evangelist and worded according to his scope (cf. Augustine’s words quoted on 9:18-19). Thus Mt’s atmosphere is of complete detachment, Mk is more practical; the substance of each is the same, viz. no undue anxiety but reliance upon Providence. The supernatural powers of the Apostles cannot be sold or bought, 8, but for the labour involved in their exercise, and in the preaching of the gospel they deserve their upkeep (cf.Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; Galatians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 9:13-14). Providence will see that this is provided.

11-15. Arrived at his destination the Apostle having found a respectable (DV ’worthy) house should lodge there until he leaves the town lest he appear restless or fickle or over-particular in material things. ’Peace!’ (šalôm) is the common oriental greeting, but on apostolic lips it takes a religious significance; it is efficacious if its recipients be worthy. In biblical writings, ’peace’ is the sum of all blessings. This apostolic blessing (like God’s own word, cf.Isaiah 55:11) cannot be robbed of its intrinsic power by the unworthiness of the person addressed: it returns to the giver that he may confer the rejected benefit on some worthy house. The despised blessing even becomes a curse: the last Judgement will show that such rejection of the good news of the Kingdom is a crime greater even than the typical wickedness of ’the cities of the plain’, Gen 19. Meanwhile, the Apostle will show symbolically that the unworthy house, though evidently Jewish, is no better than pagan territory. The gesture of ’shaking the dust from the feet’ is exclusively Jewish, practised on return to the Holy Land after journeys on the ’impure’ soil of paganism. It is ironical that the gesture should be turned against Jews (cf. also Paul in Acts 13:51); the Holy Land itself is not proof against uncleanness. It becomes clear that the old order of a confident national religion is passing; cf. 3:9.

16. The sombre possibility of rejection leads, through this transitional verse, to the prospect of active persecution. Good is not violent; evil is (the opposition is brought out symbolically by ’sheep ’and ’wolves’); the only defence of the Good, therefore, is the prudence of the serpent quick to perceive attack and to elude it, together with the moral armour of innocence (of which the dove is symbol) which robs the attacking Evil of its pretexts.

17-23 Persecution Prospect (Matthew 24:9, Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-17, Luke 21:19 and cf.Luke 12:11 f.)—The horizon widens and darkens and the tone of the passage suggests that Mk and Lk (as even Mt in summary fashion, 24:9, 13) have rightly placed its delivery at the end of our Lord’s life.

17-20. The terms (kings, governors, testimony to the Gentiles) though possibly explainable of Jewish territory (cf. 10:5) hint at a wider field. Parenthetically, 19-20, the Apostles are assured that they may still rely on Providence in their official defence of the gospel-message. No anxious thought (µð+^ µe??µ?ð+´sðte, cf. 6:27) will be necessary; the Spirit of their Father will suggest their line of defence. The readiness of the Apostles to face trial with courage will be a guarantee of their doctrine. We should notice how, in the remainder of this chapter, our Lord presents himself as the focus of devotion; cf. ’for my sake’ etc., 18, 22, 32f, 37f, 39. The emphasis would be unique and intolerable in the mouth of a merely human prophet. 21-23. Domestic dissension (not the formal overthrow of the old authorities spoken of in 10:35 where Micah 7:6 is quoted) will result because it is a new and practical religion with a defined rallying-point (’for my name’s sake’) that is to be preached, not merely a philosophical system. Perfect endurance (cf. on 24:13) will alone secure salvation: hence the preacher must persevere though hounded from town to town. He need not fear that he will exhaust the cities, his places of refuge, before the ’Son of Man’ intervenes on his behalf; cf. on 16:28.

24-33 Moral and Physical Violence; Intrepidity (cf. Luke 6:40; Luke 12:2-9; cf.Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26)—Fear of calumny must not prevent the preaching of the mystery of the Kingdom, 24-27; fear of death must not deter the confessors of Christ, 28-33. The tenor of the words suggests that they concern the period after our Lord’s death.

24-25. A tiny parable, lightly ironical, warns the disciples that at least they may expect no better treatment than their Teacher. They should be satisfied with the same. Indeed, lacking their Master’s personal dignity, the slaves may expect worse—he had already been accused of alliance with ’the prince of devils’, 9:34. Vg, DV read ’Beelzebub, identifying the Beelzebul ’ of the Gk text with the name of the god of Accaron, 4 Kg 1:2 f.; 6:16. Beelzebub is probably the Heb. form of the Assyrian bêl dabâbi (an opponent in a process of law). The name was chosen by the Philistines perhaps because this god was adorea, in placatory fashion, as man’s adversary (Heb. šatan) in the final judgement. The correct reading of all the Gk NT texts is ’Bee(l)zebul ’ which appears to be related to the B’Izbl (actually Zbl-B’l) of the RasShaimra-Ugarit texts, i.e. the prince-god (prince, Ugaritic zbl,cf.Genesis 30:20; god, b’l). Since the pagan gods are reckoned as demons, 1 Corinthians 10:20, the term Beelzebul becomes equivalent to ’the prince of devils’ (cf. 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15). Cf. Zorell, Lexicon Hebraicum, 1947, Ba’al;Ze?ûl. The name is therefore apt for the arch-enemy of the true God.

26-27. Repeated calumny may lead to self-doubt which, however, is excluded in this case by the knowledge that the perfect Master was thus attacked (’therefore fear them not’). Another reason for confidence in these circumstances is that the truth will prevail either when the gospel-message triumphs on earth or at least in the final account, 32f. With this for comfort let the knowledge of the Kingdom, confided in the intimacy of the apostolic circle (cf. 13:11) be boldly and publicly declared!

28-31. God alone, not the devil (cf.James 4:7) is to be feared, for only with his permission can both soul and body be consigned to perdition (not to ’destruction’, i.e. to annihilation, since the idea of the annihilation of the soul would be strange to Jewish theology; cf. Bonsirven, 1, 527-9). The apparent harshness of 28b is due to the vigour of Semitic expression which does not distinguish the permissive from the positive will of God; cf. 13:15 note. A second consideration to cast out fear is that the disciple is not lonely and abandoned among his enemies—he who creates and cares for the sparrows is his Father and cares for every fibre of his being. If the persecutor triumphs over the body (his only sphere, cf. 28) it is only because the Father permits it; such treatment is only a mysterious form of the Father’s care.

32-33. By way of conclusion to the gist of the discourse (enduring loyalty to the Son and to his teaching, 17-31) our Lord sounds a personal note. On the basis of fidelity to his own person (a point of considerable theological importance) he is to be counsel for the defence or prosecution before the Father-Judge who, with the Son, will be watching from heaven.

34-39 The New Loyalty and the New Affection (cf. Luke 12:51-53; Luke 14:25-27; Luke 17:33)—Our Lord introduces an important modification into the current hope of Messianic days: the peace he brings is between God and man, not between man and man, as the world might give, John 14:27, and as the Jews expected; cf. Bonsirven 1, 442-4. The dividing sword is his doctrine (cf.Hebrews 4:12); its supernatural edge cuts, if necessary, through the natural domestic loyalties (cf.Micah 7:6 where the words are a lament for the chaotic state of Samaria). For himself personally, not for his Father only, our Lord boldly claims man’s whole heart, 37— it is the claim of God. Even the grim prospect of crucifixion (all too familiar in Galilee since the ruthless suppression of the recent outbreaks, cf. Jos., Ant. 17, 10, 10) must be faced. But again (cf. 23, 32) the section closes with a word of comfort (in paradoxical form due to the epigraramatic omission of distinctions): he that hath found (i.e. secured, procured) his (natural) life shall lose his (supernatural) life; he that hath lost his (natural) life for my sake—not through any other considerations as a Stoic might sacrifice it—shall find a supernatural one.

40-42 Sharing the Work and Reward of the Ministry (Luke 10:16; cf.Matthew 18:5; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48; Mark 9:41)—These concluding vv follow naturally upon 14: the ’reception’ (cf. 14) is not so much a material welcome (cf. 42) as a docility to the apostolic message (cf.Luke 10:16: he that heareth you’) which is that of Christ and his rather. It is a meritorious reception of one who speaks on behalf of God (’prophet’) if it is accorded not from merely natural politeness but from a supernatural motive recognizing God’s truth or God’s sanctity in the person of his ministers (’in the name of’, i.e. precisely as, because he is; cf. Joüon ad loc). Even material help, 42, given with the same motive to an insignificant and weary Apostle will associate the giverwith the work, and therefore with the reward, of the Apostle.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Matthew 10". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/matthew-10.html. 1951.
 
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