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Bible Commentaries
Luke 13

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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This chapter continues the sombre judicial strain of Luke 12:54-59 . Beginning with a general reference to the impending doom of Israel, as foreshadowed by a reported tragedy which had befallen certain individuals, it ends with a specific prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem similar to that which closes the great anti-Pharisaic discourse in Matthew 23:0 . The dramatic effect of the prediction there is entirely lost in Lk.’s narrative, which in subsequent chapters continues its report of the teaching of Christ as if the end were still a great way off.

Verse 1

Luke 13:1 . παρῆσαν δέ , etc.: The introduction to the gruesome story naturally implies a temporal connection between what follows and what goes before: i.e. , some present when Jesus spoke as reported in Luke 12:54-59 took occasion to tell Him this piece of recent news, recalled to their minds by what He had said about judgment and how to avert it. There is no good reason to suppose that the connection is merely topical, and that the preface is simply a literary device of Lk. τῶν Γαλ .: the article implies that the story was current. ὧν τὸ αἷμα , etc.: So the story was told among the horrified people: the blood of the poor Galilean victims ruthlessly shed by Pilate while they were in the very act of offering sacrifice. Perfectly credible in those times under such a ruler, and in reference to such victims, Galileans, free in spirit, restive under the Roman yoke. Similar incidents in Josephus, though not this precise occurrence.

Verses 1-5

Luke 13:1-5 . The Galilean tragedy , peculiar to Lk., as is the greater part of what follows, on to Luke 18:14 .

Verse 2

Luke 13:2 . ἀποκριθεὶς : Jesus answered to an implied question. Those who told the story expected Him to make some remarks on it; not such doubtless as He did make. δοκεῖτε , think ye; probably that was just what they did think. The fate of the Galileans awakened superstitious horror prone to impute to the victims special criminality. παρὰ πάντας τ . Γ ., in comparison with all Galileans . To make the point more vivid the victims are compared with men of their own province, disposition, and temptations. ἐγένοντο , became, were shown to be. πεπόνθασι , have suffered, an irrevocable fact.

Verse 3

Luke 13:3 . οὐχί , an emphatic “no,” followed by a solemn “I say to you”. The prophetic mood is on the speaker. He reads in the fate of the few the coming doom of the whole nation. ὁμοίως , in a similar way. ὡσαύτως , the reading in T.R., is stronger = in the same way. Jesus expresses Himself with greater intensity as He proceeds = ye shall perish likewise; nay, in the same way (Luke 13:5 , ὡσαύτως ), your towers and temples falling about your ears.

Verse 4

Luke 13:4 . Jesus refers to another tragic occurrence, suggesting that He was acquainted with both. His ears were open to all current news, and His mind prompt to point the moral. The fact stated, otherwise unknown to us. ὀφειλέται , word changed, in meaning the same as ἁμαρτωλοὶ , moral debtors paying their debt in that dismal way.

The utterances of Jesus on this occasion do not bear on the general question: how far may lot be viewed as an index of character? which was not then before His mind. He assumed that the sufferers in the two catastrophes were sinners and even great sinners, so acquiescing in the popular view, because He wanted to point a lesson for the whole nation which He regarded as fast ripening for judgment. From the saying in the Teaching on the Hill concerning the Father in Heaven giving sunshine and rain to evil and good alike, it is evident that He had risen not only above popular current opinion, but even above the O.T. view as to the connection between physical and moral good and evil. That saying implies that there is a large sphere of Divine action within which moral distinctions among men are overlooked, that good may come to had men and evil to good men. To our Lord it would not have appeared impossible that some of the best men in Israel might be involved in the two calamities here mentioned.

Verse 6

Luke 13:6 . Συκῆν εἶχέν τις : a fig tree, quite appropriate and common in corners of a vineyard, yet not the main plant in such a place; selected rather than a vine to represent Israel, by way of protest against assumed inalienable privilege. “Perish,” Jesus had said once and again (Luke 13:3 ; Luke 13:5 ). Some hearers might think: What! the Lord’s elect people perish? Yes, replies Jesus in effect, like a barren fig tree cast out of a vineyard, where at best it has but a subordinate place.

Verses 6-9

Luke 13:6-9 . Parable of the barren fig tree , peculiar to Lk., probably extemporised to embody the moral of the preceding narratives; takes the place in Lk. of the cursing of the fig tree in Mt. and Mk.

Verse 7

Luke 13:7 . ἀμπελουργόν , the vine-dresser ( ἄμπελος , ἔργον ) here only in N.T. ἰδοὺ , lo! as of one who has a right to complain. τρία ἔτη , three years, reckoned not from the planting of the tree (it is three years after planting that it begins to bear fruit), but from the time that it might have been expected in ordinary course to yield a crop of figs. Three years is not a long period, but enough to determine whether it is going to be fruit-bearing, the one thing it is there for. In the spiritual sphere in national life that cannot be determined to soon. It may take as many thousand years. ἔρχομαι , I keep coming, the progressive present. The master comes not merely once a year, but again and again within the year, at the seasons when fruit may be found on a fig tree (Hahn). Cf. δουλεύω in Luke 15:29 . οὐχ εὑρίσκω , I do not find it. I come and come and am always disappointed. Hence the impatient ἔκκοψον , cut it out (from the root). ἵνα τί καὶ : καὶ points to a second ground of complaint. Besides bearing no fruit it occupies space which might be more profitably filled. καταργεῖ (here and in Paul’s epistles), renders useless; Vulgate, occupat , practically if not verbally the right rendering. A barren fig tree renders the land useless by occupying valuable space.

Verse 8

Luke 13:8 . τοῦτο τὸ ἔτος , one year more; he has not courage to propose a longer time to an impatient owner. κόπρια (neuter plural from adjective κόπριος ), dung stuffs. A natural proposal, but sometimes fertility is better promoted by starving, cutting roots, so preventing a tree from running to wood.

Verse 9

Luke 13:9 . εἰς τὸ μέλλον : if it bear the coming year well ( εὖ ἔχει understood). ἐκκόψεις , if not, thou shalt cut it down thou, not I. It depends on the master, though the vinedresser tacitly recognises that the decision will be just. He sympathises with the master’s desire for fruit. Of course when the barren tree is removed another will be planted in its place. The parable points to the truth taught in Luke 13:29 .

Verse 10

Luke 13:10 . ἐν τοῖς σάββασι : may mean on Sabbaths (Hahn, who refers to the discriminating use of singular and plural in Lk.) and imply a course of instruction in a particular synagogue for weeks.

Verses 10-17

Luke 13:10-17 . Cure in a synagogue on a Sabbath day , peculiar to Lk.

Verse 11

Luke 13:11 . πνεῦμα ἀσθενείας : the Jews saw the action of a foreign power in every form of disease which presented the aspect of the sufferer’s will being overmastered. In this case the woman was bent and could not straighten herself when she tried. συγκύπτουσα , bent together, here only in N.T. εἰς τὸ παντελές goes with ἀνακύψαι , and implies either that she could not erect her head, or body at all , or entirely . The former is more in keeping with the idea of bondage to a foreign spirit (Schanz). Similar use of the phrase in Hebrews 7:25 .

Verse 12

Luke 13:12 . προσεφώνησε : Jesus, ever prompt to sympathise, called her to Him when His eye lit upon the bent figure. ἀπολέλυσαι : perfect for future, the thing as good as done; spoken to cheer the downcast woman while she approaches. The cure was consummated by touch when she came up to Jesus (Luke 13:13 ), whereupon the eighteen years’ sufferer burst into praise: ἐδόξαζε τὸν Θεόν . A lifelike moving scene.

Verse 14

Luke 13:14 . But religious propriety in the person of the ruler of the synagogue is once more shocked: it is a Sabbath cure. ἔλεγε τῷ ὄχλῳ : He spoke to the audience at Jesus plausibly enough; yet, as so often in cases of religious zeal, from mixed motives. Christ’s power and the woman’s praise annoyed him.

Verse 15

Luke 13:15 . ὑποκριταί : plural less personal than the singular (T.R.), yet severe enough, though directed against the class. The case put was doubtless according to the prevailing custom, and so stated as to make the work done prominent ( λύει , looses, that one bit of work: ἀπάγων , leading the animal loosed to the water, that another, vide Bengel). ποτίζει , gives him drink, at least to the extent of drawing water from the well, if not of carrying it to the animal’s mouth (the former allowed, the latter disallowed in the Talmud, vide Lightfoot and Wünsche).

Verse 16

Luke 13:16 . The case of the woman described so as to suggest a parallel and contrast: a daughter of Abraham versus an ox or ass; bound by Satan , not merely by a chain round the neck; for eighteen years, not for a few hours. The contrast the basis of a strong a fortiori argument. The reply is thoroughly in the spirit of Jesus, and the whole incident, though peculiar to Lk., is a credible reminiscence of His ministry; whether placed in its true historical setting is a matter of minor moment.

Verse 17

Luke 13:17 . The religious leaders and the people behave according to their character; the former ashamed, not as convinced but as confounded, the latter delighted both by the works and by the words of Jesus.

Verses 18-21

Luke 13:18-21 . The parables of the mustard seed and the leaven (Matthew 13:31-33 , Mark 4:30-32 ). Lk. may have introduced these parables here either because the joy of the people was in his view the occasion of their being spoken, Jesus taking it as a good omen for the future, or because he found in his source the two things, the cure and the parabolic speech, recorded together as incidents of the same meeting in the synagogue. In either case it is implied that the parables were spoken in a synagogue, in the latter case as a part of a regular synagogue address. This is the interesting feature in Lk.’s report of these parables. It is the only instance in which parables are connected with synagogue addresses as their occasion. The connection is every way credible, both from the nature of the two parables, and from the fact that Jesus was wont to speak to the people in parables. How many unrecorded parables He must have spoken in His synagogue addresses on His preaching tour through Galilee, e.g. (Mark 1:39 ).

Verse 19

Luke 13:19 . κῆπον , garden, more exact indication of place than in Mt. and Mk. δένδρον , a tree; an exaggeration, it remains an herb, though of unusually large size.

Verse 20

Luke 13:20 . The parable of the leaven is given as in Mt. The point of both is that the Kingdom of Heaven, insignificant to begin with, will become great. In the mind of the evangelist both have probably a reference to Gentile Christianity.

Verse 22

Luke 13:22 is a historical notice serving to recall the general situation indicated in Luke 9:51 . So again in Luke 17:11 . “Luke gives us to understand that it is always the same journey which goes on with incidents analogous to those of the preceding cycle,” Godet. Hahn, however, maintains that here begins a new division of the history and a new journey to Jerusalem, yet not the final one. This division extends from this point to Luke 17:10 , and contains (1) words of Jesus on the way to Jerusalem (Luke 13:22-35 ), (2) words spoken probably in Jerusalem (Luke 14:1-24 ), (3) words spoken after the return to Galilee. διδάσκων , teaching; the main occupation of Jesus as He went from village to village. The long section from Luke 9:51 to Luke 18:14 is chiefly didactic in contents, though an occasional healing is recorded. καὶ πορ . ποι ., the καὶ is epexegetic = and at the same time; His face set towards Jerusalem as He taught.

Verses 22-30

Luke 13:22-30 . Are there few that be saved? This section is a mosaic of words found dispersed in the pages of Mt.: the strait gate (Luke 13:24 ) in Matthew 7:14 ; the pleading for admission (Luke 13:26-27 ) recalls Matthew 7:21-23 ; the exclusion from the kingdom (Luke 13:28-29 ) reproduces Matthew 8:11-12 ; the apothegm in Luke 13:30 = Matthew 19:30 ; Matthew 20:16 . The parabolic word concerning the master of the house (Luke 13:25 ) seems to be an echo from the parable of the ten virgins . The question as to the number of the saved introducing the group need not be an artificial heading furnished by Lk. or the compiler of his source.

Verses 23-24

Luke 13:23-24 . εἰ ὀλ . οἱ σωζ .: εἰ introduces a direct question as in Matthew 12:10 and Luke 22:49 : are those who are being saved few? πρὸς αὐτούς , to them , not to the questioner merely but to all present, as the reply was of general concern.

Verse 24

Luke 13:24 . ἀγωνίζεσθε εἰς .: stronger than Mt.’s εἰσέλθετε , suggesting the idea of a struggle or prize-fight (1 Corinthians 9:25 ) in which only a few can win, so virtually answering the question in the affirmative. διὰ τ . σ . θύρας , through the narrow door ( πύλης , gate, in Mt.): no interpretation of the door here any more than in Mt. But the connection suggests repentance (Luke 13:23 ; Luke 13:25 ). The Kingdom of Heaven is here conceived of as a house. πολλοί : the idea is that many shall desire admission and shall not obtain it. The reason in the parable is the narrowness of the door, making it impossible for so many to get in in a short time. All are in earnest; no stress is to be laid on ζητήσουσιν , shall seek , as if it meant something less than ἀγωνίζεσθε (Godet). All strive, but success is for the strongest who can push the weaker aside. So in the parable. In the interpretation the one point to be insisted on is: be in dead earnest.

Verses 25-27

Luke 13:25-27 . Here begins a new parable and a new sentence, though some (Beza, Lachmann, W. and H [115] ) connect with what goes before, putting a comma after ἰσχύσουσιν . Against this is not only the change from the third person to the second ( ἄρξησθε ), but the fact that the cause of exclusion is different: not the narrowness of the door, but coming too late . The case put now is that of the master of a house who is giving an entertainment. He waits for a certain time to receive his guests. At length, deeming that all are, or ought to be, present, he rises and shuts the door, after which no one can be admitted. Some, however, come later, knock at the door, and are refused admission. The moral of this parable is distinct; of the former parable it was: be in earnest; of this it is: be not too late. ἑστάναι καὶ κρούειν : both verbs depend on ἄρξησθε : ye begin to stand without and to knock. Some take ἑστάναι as = a participle, but it is better to take it as denoting a first stage in the action of those arriving late. At first they expect that the door will be opened soon as a matter of course, and that they have nothing to do but to step in. By-and-by they find it will be necessary to knock, and finally, being refused admission even when the door is opened, they are fain to plead (Luke 13:26 ). καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς : the καὶ here has the force of then . The sense would have been clearer had it been omitted. Here properly begins the apodosis of the sentence and the close of the parable proper = then he answering will say: I do not know you. πόθεν ἐστέ : these added words rather weaken than strengthen the laconic οὐκ οἶδα ὑμᾶς of Matthew 25:12 = you must be strangers, not of those invited.

[115] Westcott and Hort.

Verse 26

Luke 13:26 . This verse is viewed by many as the apodosis of a long sentence beginning with ἀφʼ οὗ (Luke 13:25 ), and the emotional character of the passage, in which parable and moral are blended, goes far to justify them. But it is better on the whole to find here a new start. ἐνώπιόν σου , before thee, either, as thy guests or hosts (Capernaum feast, dinners in the houses of Pharisees), i.e. , with thee; or. under thine eve involving a claim simply of neighbourhood. The former is the more likely, because it puts the case more strongly in their favour.

Verse 27

Luke 13:27 . οὐκ οἶδα , etc.: the same answer, iteration cum emphasi (Bengel). ἀπόστητε , etc.: nearly as in Matthew 7:23 . This answer goes entirely out of the parable into the moral sphere. In the parable exclusion is due to arriving too late; in the spiritual sphere to character. ἀδικίας , Mt. has ἀνομίαν , lawlessness. Against the tendency-criticism Schanz remarks: “ ἀνομία in Mt. is Jewish-Christian but not anti-Pauline, ἀδικία Pauline but not anti-Jewish”.

Verse 28

Luke 13:28 . ἐκεῖ , there; then , according to Euthy. Zig. ( τότε , ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ ). Kuinoel also takes it as an adverb of time in accordance with Hebraistic usage, and Bornemann cites instances from Greek authors of the same use of adverbs of place as adverbs of time. But there is not only verbally correct, but graphic: there, outside the door of the house where patriarchs and prophets feast, shall the excluded weep and gnash their teeth, all the more because they think they have a right, as belonging to the chosen race, to be within.

Verses 28-30

Luke 13:28-30 . Concluding reflections .

Verse 29

Luke 13:29 points to an aggravation of the misery of the outcasts: men coming from every quarter of the globe to join the festive company and finding admission. The shut door and the too late arrival are now out of view, and for the private house of the parable is substituted the Kingdom of God which it represents. It is needless to ask whether Mt. or Lk. has given this saying in its true place. Perhaps neither has The important point is their joint testimony to the saying as a true utterance of Jesus.

Verse 30

Luke 13:30 . The same remark applies to this saying. As it stands here it refers to Jews as the first who become last, and to Gentiles as the last who become first, and the distinction between first and last is not one of degree, but absolute = within and without.

Verse 31

Luke 13:31 . ἔξελθε : Luke 17:11 shows that Lk. did not attach critical importance to this incident as a cause of Christ’s final departure from Galilee. θέλει σε ἀποκτεῖναι : was this a lie, an inference, a message sent by Herod in order to intimidate, or a fact which had somehow come to the knowledge of the reporters? It is impossible to ascertain. The answer of Jesus seems to imply that He regarded the Pharisees as messengers, and also innocent tools of the crafty king. But He answers according to the ex facie character of the message, that of friends warning against a foe, while probably having His own thoughts as to where the craft and the enmity lay. The one thing certain is that there was low cunning somewhere. The king was using the Pharisees, or the Pharisees the king, or perhaps they were both playing the same game. Possibly the evangelist viewed the Pharisees as friends.

Verses 31-33

Luke 13:31-33 . Warning against Herod by Pharisees , peculiar to Lk., but Mk. (Mark 3:6 , Mark 8:15 ) has prepared us for combined action of court and religious coteries against Jesus similar to that against Amos (Luke 7:10-13 ), both alike eager to be rid of Him as endangering their power.

Verse 32

Luke 13:32 . τῇ ἀλώπεκι ταύτῃ , this fox; the fox revealed in this business, ostensibly the king, but in a roundabout way the would-be friends may be hit at (Euthy. Zig.). The quality denoted by the name is doubtless cunning, though there is no clear instance of the use of the fox as the type of cunning in the Scriptures elsewhere. σήμερον , etc.: this note of time is not to be taken strictly. Jesus is in the prophetic mood and speaks in prophetic style: to-day, to-morrow, and the third day symbolise a short time. τελειοῦμαι as to form may be either middle or passive. If middle it will mean: finish my healing (and teaching) ministry in Herod’s territory (Galilee and Peraea). This meaning suits the connection, but against it is the fact that the verb is never used in a middle sense in N.T., and very rarely in classics. Taken passively it will mean: I am perfected by a martyr’s death (Hebrews 11:40 ; Hebrews 12:23 ). Commentators are much divided between these meanings.

Verse 33

Luke 13:33 . πλὴν , for the rest, or, on the other hand, introducing the other side of the case = I must work still for a little space, yet I must keep moving on southwards, as the proper place for a prophet to die is Jerusalem, not Galilee. The second note of time ( σήμερον ) coincides with the first: work and moving southwards go hand in hand. οὐκ ἐνδέχεται , it is not fitting (here only in N.T., cf. Luke 17:1 ). John was murdered in Machaerus, but that was an offence against the fitness of things. The reply of Jesus is full of dignity and pathos. In effect He says: I am not to be driven out of Galilee by threats. I will work till the hour comes. Nevertheless keep your minds easy, princes and Pharisees! I must soon endure a prophet’s fate, and not here. I go to meet it in the proper place, though not in fear of you.

Verses 34-35

Luke 13:34-35 . Apostrophe to Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-38 ), suitably introduced here as in sympathy with the preceding utterance, though not likely to have been spoken at this time and place, as indeed it is not alleged to have been. It is given nearly as in Mt. τὴν νοσσιὰν (for τὰ νοσσία in Mt.) = a nest ( nidum suum , Vulgate), hence the young in the nest. Vide remarks on Mt., ad loc.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 13". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/luke-13.html. 1897-1910.
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