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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Matthew 4

Verses 1-99

Ch. 4: 1 11 . The Temptation of Jesus. Mark 1:12 , Mark 1:13 ; Luke 4:1-13

St Mark’s account is short; the various temptations are not specified; he adds the striking expression “he was with the wild beasts.” St Luke places the temptation of the Kingdoms of the World before that of the Pinnacle of the Temple.

Generally it may be remarked the account can have come from no other than Jesus Himself. The words of the Evangelist describe an actual scene not a dream. The devil really came to Jesus, but in what form he came is not stated. These were not isolated temptations in the life of Jesus. Cp. Luke 22:28 , “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations .” But they are typical temptations, comprehending all the forms of temptation by which human nature can be assailed. For, as it has often been said, the three temptations cover the same ground as “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16 ) in which St John sums up the evil of the world.

Viewing the temptation in a personal reference to Jesus Christ we discern Him tempted (1) As the Son of Man the representative of humanity in whom human nature in its perfection triumphs over sin. An important element in the Atonement. (2) As the second Adam regaining for man what the first Adam lost for man. (3) As the Son of Abraham following the fortunes of his race, tempted in the wilderness as the Hebrews were tempted. A thought present implicitly in our Lord’s answers. (4) As the true Messiah or Christos rejecting the unreal greatness which was the aim of false Messiahs.

The lesson of each and all of the temptations is trust in God and submission to God’s will the result of Metanoia (repentance).

1 . led up of the Spirit ] The agency of the Spirit of God is named in each of the Synoptists. St Mark uses the strong expression “the Spirit driveth him forth.” St Luke uses the preposition ἐν (in) denoting the influence in which Jesus passed into the wilderness.

the wilderness ] See note on ch. 3:1, but the locality of the temptation is not known.

The desert unpeopled by men was thought to be the abode of demons. So Jesus meets the evil spirit in his own domains, the Stronger One coming upon the strong man who keepeth his palace (Luke 11:21 , Luke 11:22 ). The retirement preparatory to the great work may be compared with that of Elijah and of Paul. It is perhaps an invariable experience in deeply religious lives to be taken into the desert of their own hearts and there to meet and resist the temptations that assailed Christ.

of the devil ] Gk. διάβολος . Hebr. Satan = one who opposes, an adversary. The Greek word conveys the additional ideas of (1) deceiving, (2) calumniating, (3) accusing.

2 . he was afterward a hungred ] The words imply that the temptation was not throughout the forty days, but at the end of the forty days.

3 . that these stones be made bread ] The temptation is addressed to the appetite, Use thy divine power to satisfy the lusts of the flesh.

4 . Jesus answers by a quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3 . The chapter sets forth the teaching of the wilderness. The forty years were to the Jews what the forty days are to Jesus. The Lord God proved Israel “to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna … that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every [word, omitted in Hebr.] that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”

Christ’s test of sonship is obedience and entire trust in God who alone is the giver of every good gift. The devil’s test of sonship is supply of bodily wants, external prosperity, &c.

5 . taketh him up ] The situation of Jerusalem is remarkably high. It was probably the loftiest capital in the ancient world.

the holy city ] Jerusalem is so designated by St Matthew alone.

a pinnacle ] strictly the pinnacle pinnacle, lit. ‘a little wing,’ an architectural term for a wing-like projection. The particular pinnacle was probably on the roof of one of the Temple Porches overlooking the deep valley of the Kedron or of Hinnom. Josephus speaking of the “Royal Porch” says “if anyone looked down from the top of the battlements he would be giddy, while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth.” Antiq. xv. 11. 5.

6 . it is written ] Psalms 91:11 , Psalms 91:12 . The words “to keep thee in all thy ways” are omitted in the text. The omission distorts the meaning of the original, which is that God will keep the righteous on their journeys, and is no inducement to tempt God by rash venture or needless risk. The Psalmist himself probably quotes Proverbs 3:23 . “Thus [i. e. by obedience: see preceding verses] shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.”

7 . Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God ] Deuteronomy 6:16 . The verse ends “as ye tempted him in Massah.” The reference to Massah (Numbers 20:7-12 ) shews the true meaning of the Saviour’s answer. Moses and Aaron displayed distrust in God when they tried to draw to themselves the glory of the miracle instead of “sanctifying the Lord.” Jesus will not glorify Himself in the eyes of the Jews by a conspicuous miracle. His work as the Son of Man is to glorify the Father’s name through obedience. Cp. John 12:28 .

8 . an exceeding high mountain ] It is idle to ask what this mountain was, or in what sense Jesus saw the kingdoms of the world. It is enough that the thought and the temptation of earthly despotism and glory were present to the mind of Jesus.

9 . All these things will I give thee ] Satan, the “prince of this world,” (John 7:31 ) claims the disposal of earthly thrones. This is more clearly brought out by St Luke (ch. 4:6), “All this power will I give thee and the glory of them, for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it.” The arrogance, selfishness, and cruelty of contemporary rulers would give force to such an assumption. A Tiberius or a Herod Antipas might indeed be thought to have worshipped Satan.

10 . Get thee hence, Satan ] It is instructive to find these words addressed to Peter (ch. 16:23) when he put himself as it were in the place of the tempter. See note ad loc .

him only shalt thou serve ] Deuteronomy 6:10-13 . Idolatry, multiplicity of aims, and forgetfulness of God are the dangers of prosperity and ambition. See context of passage in Deut.

12 16 . Jesus returns into Galilee

Mark 1:14 ; Luke 4:14 , who assigns no reason; John 4:1-3 . St John gives a further reason “when the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, he left Judæa, &c.”

12 . when Jesus had heard ] probably also because he had heard. It was a needful precaution against the cruel treachery of Herod Antipas. At Capernaum He would be close to the dominions of Herod Philip.

John was cast into prison ] at Machærus. The cause of John’s imprisonment is stated at length ch. 14:3, 4 (where see note) and Luke 3:19 , Luke 3:20 .

On hearing of the death of John the Baptist Jesus retired into the wilderness. See ch. 14:13.

departed into Galilee ] by the shortest route through Samaria. John 4:4 . During this journey must be placed the conversation with the woman of Samaria. This was after a ministry in Judæa, which had lasted eight months (Ellicott, Lectures on the life of our Lord , p. 130), some incidents of which are related by St John, 2 and 3.

Galilee ] = a circle or circuit originally confined to a “circle” of 20 cities given by Solomon to Hiram 1 Kings 9:11 . Cp. Joshua 20:7 . From this small beginning the name spread to a larger district, just as the name of Asia spread from a district near the Mæander, first to the Roman Province, then to a quarter of the Globe. The Jews were in a minority in those parts. The population mainly consisted of Phœnicians, Arabs, and Greeks.

13 . leaving Nazareth ] partly because of the unbelief of the Nazarenes, partly (we may infer) in order to be in a frontier town from which He might easily pass from the jurisdiction of Antipas.

Capernaum ] or Capharnaum, a town on the N. W. shore of the Sea of Galilee. The exact site is keenly disputed. It was, perhaps, at Khan Minyeh (see map), not quite on the Sea, but on the plain of Gennesaret, at a short distance from the sea. It was the scene of a considerable traffic, and had a large Gentile element in its population.

Others identify Capernaum with the modern Tell Hûm, at the N. end of the Lake in the plain of the Jordan. The name Tell Hûm nearly

THE SEA OF GALILEE,

called the Lake of Gennesareth (Luke 5:1 ), the Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1 and 21:1).

Bethsaida Julias , rebuilt by Herod Philip, the tetrareh, and called Julias after Julia, daughter of Augustus. See note, ch. 4:19.

Kerazeh , identified by Capt. Wilson with Chorazin . Ch. 11:21.

Highland or The Mountain , the probable scene of the Sermon on the Mount and of the appearance of Jesus Christ, ch. 28:16.

Tell Hûm , the site of Capernaum , according to Thomson ( Land and Book ), Capt. Wilson, Dean Stanley latterly , and others.

Et Tabigah , by some thought to be the Bethsaida (“House of Fish”), mentioned as being the home of Peter, Andrew and Philip (John 1:44 ); see chs. 8:14 and 11:21. Near Et Tabigah is a large fountain, probably “the fountain of Capharnaum” “mentioned by Josephus, B. J. iii. 10. 8, from which water was conveyed by an aqueduct to the plain of Gennesareth. Traces of this aqueduct and of an octagonal reservoir are distinctly visible. See Recovery of Jerusalem , p. 349.

Khan Minyeh , the site of Capernaum according to Dean Stanley in S. and P. (in Preface to Rec. of Jerusalem the Dean inclines to the Tell Hûm site), Dr Robinson, Mr Macgregor (Rob Roy), and others.

El Ghuweir or The Land of Gennesareth , a fertile plain 2½ miles in length, about 1 mile in breadth; ch. 14:34.

Mejdel , the Magdala of ch. 15:39.

Tiberias . Not mentioned in this Gospel. But possibly Herod Antipas was holding his Court here when John Baptist was put to death at Machærus; ch. 14:6 foll. It was built by Herod Antipas and named Tiberias in honour of the Emperor. See note, ch. 14:13 21, and cp. John 6:1 , John 6:23 .

K’hersa , identified with Gergesa. Gerasa (not the well-known Gerasa N. of the Jabbok; see Smith, Bib. Dic. sub voc.) is probably another form of the same name. See ch. 8:23.

Gadara , the capital of “the country of the Gadarenes,” to which district Gergesa belonged.

A and B , disputed sites for the miracle of feeding 5000; ch. 14:13 21.

corresponds with Kefr na Hum, thought by some to have been the ancient form of Capernaum. The most interesting point in the identification is that among the ruins at Tell Hûm are remains of a Synagogue, in which some of the Saviour’s “mighty works” may have been wrought. See map.

Whatever the truth may be in this question it is certain that in passing from Nazareth to Capernaum Jesus left a retired mountain home for a busy and populous neighbourhood, “the manufacturing district of Palestine.”

14 . Esaias ] Read the whole of the prophecy (ch. 8:11 9:6) which is unfortunately broken in the E. V. by the division into chapters.

15 . Galilee of the Gentiles ] See above, v. 12.

16 . the people which sat in darkness ] The invasion of Tiglathpileser, whom Ahaz called in to assist him against Rezin and Pekah, fell with great severity on the Northern tribes (2 Kings 15:29 ). Yet even they are promised a great deliverance [“there shall not hereafter be darkness in the land that was distressed,” Isaiah 9:1 ], in the first instance, by the destruction of Sennacherib, from temporal distress (cp. Is. chs. 10 and 11 with ch. 9:1 6); secondly, by the advent of the Messiah, from spiritual darkness.

17 22 . The Call of Peter and Andrew and of the sons of Zebedee. See Mark 1:16-20

In Luke Simon is mentioned without any introduction, ch. 4:38. The narrative of Luke 5:3-11 must be referred to a different occasion, though v. 11 corresponds with v. 22 of this chapter. St Luke adds that the sons of Zebedee were partners with Simon. John, 1:35 42, refers to a previous summons. We learn there that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, and that Bethsaida was the city of Andrew and Peter.

17 . For Metanoia (Repentance) and the Basileia (Kingdom), which are the key-notes of our Saviour’s preaching, see note, ch. 3:2.

18 . a net ] a casting-net; the Greek word is used only here and Mark 1:16 . Cp. Verg. Georg. I. 141, Alius latum funda jam verberat amnem.

fishers ] The fisheries on the Sea of Galilee, once so productive, are now deserted. It seems that the Bedawin have an invincible dislike and dread of the sea. Consequently there is scarcely a boat to be seen, and the Lake yields no harvest. See Land and Book , 401.

19 . fishers of men ] A condensed parable explicitly drawn out, ch. 13:47 50.

22 . and their father ] St Mark (1:20) adds “with the hired servants.” We may infer that Zebedee and his sons and their partners were raised above the lowest social rank.

23 25 . Jesus preaches the Gospel and cures Diseases in Galilee

Special instances of cure are recorded in Mark 1:13 and foll.; Luke 4:31 and foll.

23 . their synagogues ] The synagogue, built on a hill or on the highest place in the city, distinguished sometimes by a tall pole corresponding to a modern steeple, was as familiar and conspicuous in a Jewish town as the Church is in an English village. Sometimes, however, the synagogue was placed on the bank of a river. Sometimes it was constructed without a roof and open to the sky.

1. Divine service was held in the synagogue on the Sabbath and also on the second and fifth day of each week.

2. The service consisted in reading the Law and the Prophets by those who were called upon by the “Angel of the Church,” and in prayers offered up by the minister for the people; the people responding “Amen” as with us.

3. But the Synagogues were not churches alone. Like Turkish mosques they were also Courts of Law in which the sentence was not only pronounced but executed, “they shall scourge you in their synagogues.” Further, the Synagogues were Public Schools, “the boys that were scholars were wont to be instructed before their masters in the synagogue” (Talmud). Lastly, the Synagogues were the Divinity Schools or Theological Colleges among the Jews.

4. The affairs of the Synagogue were administered by ten men, of whom three, called “Rulers of the Synagogue,” acted as judges, admitted proselytes and performed other important functions. A fourth was termed the “Angel of the Church” or bishop of the congregation; three others were deacons or almoners. An eighth acted as “interpreter,” rendering the Hebrew into the Vernacular; the ninth was the master of the Divinity School, the tenth his interpreter; see ch. 10:27.

It is interesting to trace in the arrangements of the Synagogue part of the organization of the Christian Church. This note is chiefly due to Lightfoot ad loc.

preaching the gospel of the kingdom ] i. e. “heralding the good tidings,” for the thought see ch. 4:3 note, and cp. Isaiah 40:0 .

The word translated gospel does not occur in St Luke or St John, it is a favourite word with St Paul, but is elsewhere used twice only in the N. T., viz. 1 Peter 4:17 and Revelation 14:6 .

It is desirable to observe the original and spiritual form of the expression, “to preach the gospel,” for the words are sometimes used in a narrow and polemical sense.

24 . throughout all Syria ] The fame passes to the north and east, rather than to the south. Galilee is connected by trade and affinity with Damascus rather than with Jerusalem.

torments ] The original Greek word signifies a “touch-stone,” then “torture,” the touch-stone of justice; then a disease that racks and agonizes the limbs like the torture which many a poor Galilean had experienced in the courts of law.

possessed with devils ] The possession of the human soul by spiritual powers or beings is distinguished from ordinary diseases here, and also by St Luke, who, as a physician, is exact in his description of the various forms of disease. The distinguishing feature of such demoniacal possession may be described as the phenomenon of double consciousness. The occult spiritual power becomes, as it were, a second self, ruling and checking the better self. The Greek word in the text, lit. subject to a dæmon or dæmonion , has no precise English equivalent. The word “devil” should be confined to the translation of διάβολος , see note, ch. 4:1. It is most unhappily used as a rendering of δαιμόνια in 1 Corinthians 10:20 , 1 Corinthians 10:21 . In classical Greek the word is used of the divine voice which warned Socrates, and of the divine power or force which Demosthenes sometimes fancied to be hurrying on the Hellenic race in a fatal course.

those which were lunatick ] Lit. affected by the moon ; the changes of the moon being thought to influence mad persons. The passage is important as distinguishing dæmoniacal possession from lunacy.

The only special instance of curing a lunatic is recorded in ch. 17:14 21 and in the parallel passages. The origin of mental disease may often be traced to licentious living. Observe the frequent instances of unclean spirits met with in these districts.

The Christian Church has followed her divine Founder’s example in this tendance of bodily ailment. The founding of hospitals and the care of the sick are distinguishing features of Christianity and among the most blessed fruits of it. A deeper respect for life and a deeper sense of purity have followed as necessary consequences.

It is contended by some that the “several house” of 2 Chronicles 26:21 was a hospital. Possibly this was so, but the spirit of Judaism in this respect was not the spirit of Christianity. It may readily be acknowledged, however, that the Jews of the present day are the foremost in works of charity and tender regard for the sick.

25 . Decapolis ] Lit. a group of ten cities . The cities included in this group are variously named by different authors, they lay to the E. and S. of the Sea of Galilee; by some Damascus is mentioned as belonging to the group.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/matthew-4.html. 1896.