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Bible Commentaries
Luke 12

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

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Verse 1

1. πρῶτον ] I am not convinced by Olsh., De Wette, and Meyer, that this belongs to προσέχ .… Every instance which they quote of πρῶτον being thus used, is where some definite matter is subsequent to the thing said or done; e.g. Matthew 6:33 . But here is no such matter: πρ . would only mean, ‘ earnestly ,’ ‘ be sure that you ’ … which meaning I do not think it bears. I have therefore coupled it with τοὺς μ . αὐτ ., as distinguishing this section from what follows spoken to the crowd , Luke 12:13 ff. On the rest, see on Matthew 16:6 .

Verses 1-12

1 12. ] WARNING AGAINST HYPOCRISY. A discourse spoken immediately or very soon after the former, and in connexion with it; consisting for the most part of sayings repeated from other occasions, and found nearly verbatim in Matt. It is impossible that there should be any reasonable doubt of this view, when we remember that some of them have appeared before, or appear again, in this very Gospel.

While our Lord was in the house of the Pharisee, the multitudes appear to have assembled together again. If so, ἐν οἷς will mean, during which things, viz. those related above.

He comes forth to them (ch. Luk 11:53 ) in the spirit of the discourse which He has just completed, and cautions his disciples against that part of the character of the Pharisees which was most dangerous to them . The connexion of these twelve verses may be thus enunciated: Beware of hypocrisy ( Luk 12:1 ), for all shall be made evident in the end ( Luk 12:2 ), and ye are witnesses and sharers in this unfolding of the truth ( Luk 12:3 ). In this your work, ye need not fear men; for your Father has you in His keeping ( Luk 12:4-7 ) and the confession of my name is a glorious thing ( Luk 12:8 ), but the rejection of it ( Luk 12:9 ), and especially the ascription of my works to the evil one ( Luk 12:10 ), a fearful one. And in this confession ye shall be helped by the Holy Spirit in the hour of need ( Luk 12:11-12 ).

Verses 2-9

2 9. ] See on Matthew 10:26-33 .

Verse 3

3. ἀνθ ʼ ὧν ] wherefore.

Verse 4

4. τοῖς φίλοις μου ] See John 15:13-15 .

Verse 10

10. ] See on Matthew 12:31 .

Verses 11-12

11, 12. ] See on Matthew 10:19-20 .

Verse 13

13. ] The man was evidently not a disciple , nor preparing to be one (as Schleierm. thinks), but some hearer in the crowd , whose mind had been working in him during our Lord’s last sayings about the care of Providence for His friends, and he thought this was just the care his circumstances wanted; being, as appears, oppressed by his brother in the matter of his patrimony. Possibly too he had an idea that the Messias, or the great Rabbi to whom he was listening, was come to set all things right; and with that feeling which we all have of the surpassing injustice of our own wrongs, broke out with this inopportune request.

Verses 13-21


Verse 14

14. ] ἄνθρ ., a word of solemn reproof: see Romans 2:1 ; Romans 9:20 . The ἄνθρ . also forms a definite subject for ὑμᾶς to refer to, … ‘ men ,’ i.e. mankind in general. This question is expressed in almost the very words of the Egyptian rejecting the arbitration of Moses, Exodus 2:14 ; and may shew us the essential difference of the two offices of Moses and Christ.

Verse 15

15. ] αὐτούς , i.e. τὸν ὄχλον . He saw into the covetousness of the man’s disposition, and made it an instructive warning for his hearers.

πάσης πλ . ] There is a meaning in πάσης every kind of πλ . This kind , of which they had an example before them, was by no means one of the worst; but all kinds must be avoided.

οὐκ ἐν τ .… ] not, because a man has abundance, does his life (therefore) consist in his goods. That is, no man’s life ἐστιν ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχ . consists in what he possesses ( οὐκ ἐπ ʼ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ἄνθρωπος ); … nor ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν τινί , by his having abundance, can this be made to be the case. Man’s life is of God , not of his goods, however abundant they may be . And this is the lesson conveyed by the following parable, and lying at the foundation of the still higher lesson conveyed in Luke 12:21 .

ζωή is life in the pregnant sense, emphatically his life; including time and eternity. This is self-evident from the parable and its application.

Verse 16

16. ] Our Lord in this parable sets before us one arrived at the very height of worldly prosperity, and that by no unfair means; ‘non limite perturbato, non spoliato paupere, non circumvento simplice.’ Aug. Serm. 178, c. 2, vol. v. It was by God’s blessing that he became thus rich, which might have been a real blessing, if he had known how to use it.

Verse 17

17. ] ‘Character animi sine requie quieti, egregie expressus.’ Bengel.

οὐκ ἔχω ποῦ συν . ] ‘… Habes apothecas inopum sinus, viduarum domus, ora infantum … Istæ sunt apothecæ quæ maneant in æternum.’ Ambrose de Nabuthe, ch. vii. 37, vol. i. p. 575.

Verses 18-19

18, 19. ] “His folly is fourfold: he forgets the Giver (‘ my fruits, my goods’), he greedily reserves all for himself ( συνάξω ἐκεῖ πάντα ), he imagines such things to be food for his soul ( ψυχή , … ἀναπ ., φ ., π ., εὐφρ . ) he forgets death , which is every day possible.” (Stier, iii. 146, edn. 2.) A very striking similarity is found in Sir 11:18-19 , ἔστι πλουτῶν ἀπὸ προσοχῆς καὶ σφιγγίας αὐτοῦ , καὶ αὕτη ἡ μερὶς τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ · ἐν τῷ εἰπεῖν αὐτὸν Εὗρον ἀνάπαυσιν , καὶ νῦν φάγωμαι ἐκ τῶν ἀγαθῶν μου , καὶ οὐκ οἶδε τίς καιρὸς παρελεύσεται , καὶ καταλείψει αὐτὰ ἑτέροις καὶ ἀποθανεῖται . Stier thinks this a convincing proof that our Lord did occasionally refer to the Apocrypha (?).

Verse 20

20. ] God said unto him, perhaps it is meant, by some unmistakable judgment; but more likely, as occurring in a parable, the words are to be literally taken. By supposing merely a divine decree to be meant, without personal communication , as Grotius, Kuinoel, and Trench do, we lose the impressive part of the parable, where the man’s selfishness and folly is brought into immediate contact with the solemn truth of his approaching death, which certainly our Lord intends us to contemplate.

ἄφρων , opposed to his worldly prudence; ταύτῃ τῇ ν . to the ἔτη πολλά ; the ψυχή in the one case, at its ease, eating, drinking, and making merry, to the ψυχή in the other, demanded, rendered up, judged.

αἰτοῦσιν , not strictly impersonal; there are those whose business it is, even the angels , the ministers of the divine purposes: see ch. Luk 6:38 and note. The merely impersonal sense may be defended: cf. Luke 12:48 : but this saying seems so solemn, as to require something more.

ἃ ἡτοίμασας , which thou madest ready; but not for thyself .

Verse 21

21. ] οὕτως , thus: in utter confusion, and sudden destitution of all help and provision for eternity. There is no ἔσται : because the case, alas, is an every-day one in every place.

ἑαυτῷ εἰς θεὸν ] The meaning of these expressions will be brought out thus: He who is rich for himself , laying up treasure for himself , is by so much robbing his real inward life, his life in and toward God, of its resources: he is laying up store for, providing for, the flesh; but the spirit , that which God looketh into and searcheth, is stripped of all its riches.

These words may also, as remarked on ch. Luke 6:20 , shew that Luke does not, as supposed by some recent critics, use ‘riches’ as merely this world’s wealth , but with a deeper spiritual meaning.

Verses 22-31

22 31. ] LESSONS OF TRUST IN GOD. In the closest connexion with the preceding; διὰ τοῦτο , quœ cum ita sint ,’ since worldly riches are of so little real use, &c.: see Matthew 6:25-33 , and notes.

Verse 24

24. ] τοὺς κόρακας , who are elsewhere spoken of in Scripture as the objects of the divine care: see Job 38:41 ; Psalms 147:9 .

Verse 26

26. ἐλάχιστον ] This shews the truth of the interpretation of ἡλικ . given in the note on Matt. A cubit would not be ἐλάχιστον to add to the stature, but a very large increase: [whereas, as Trench observes, “a cubit would be infinitesimally small when compared to his length of life, that life being contemplated as a course , or race , which he may attempt, but ineffectually, to prolong.”]

Verse 29

29. ] μετεωρίζ ., certainly not ‘ nolite in sublime tolli ,’ Vulg.; which Meyer approves, and Luther has adopted. For what have high thoughts to do with the present subject, which is, the duty of dismissing anxiety and over-carefulness, in confidence on God’s paternal care? It is, be not anxious, ‘at sea,’ tossed about between hope and fear. So Thucyd. (ii. 8) describes Greece as being πᾶσα μετέωρος when the two first cities were at war.

Verse 32

32. τὸ μικ . π . ] Thus He sets himself forth as their Shepherd (John 10:1 ff.), and them (as in Isa 41:10-14 ) as a weak and despised people.

Verses 32-34

32 34. ] Our Lord gives to his own disciples an assurance of the Father’s favour as a ground for removing all fear from them, and shews them the true riches, and how to seek them.

Verse 33

33. ] Meyer endeavours to evade the force of this, by supposing it addressed only to the Apostles and then existing disciples. But it is said to the μικρὸν ποίμνιον , who are all the elect people of God .

πωλ . ] This is the true way of investing worldly wealth: ‘He that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord.’ See on Matthew 6:19-21 .

Verse 35

35. ] There is a slight reference to, or rather another presentation of the truth set forth in, the parable of the virgins, Matthew 25:1 ff. But the image here is of servants waiting for their Lord to return from the wedding; left at home and bound to be in readiness to receive him. There is only a hint at the cause of his absence he is gone to a wedding: γάμοι may mean almost any feast or entertainment and the main thought here only is that he is away at a feast, and will return. But in the background lies the wedding in all its truth not brought out here, but elsewhere, Matthew 22:1 ff; Matthew 25:1 ff.

αἱ ὀσφ . περ . ] See reff., and John 13:4 .

οἱ λύχνοι ] See note on Matthew 25:1 .

Verses 35-48

35 48. ] EXHORTATIONS TO WATCHFULNESS. The attitude and employment of the μικρὸν ποίμνιον is carried on, even to their duty of continual readiness for their Lord’s coming. These verses are connected with Luke 12:32 ‘since your Father hath seen fit to give you the kingdom, be that kingdom, and preparation for it, your chief care.’ There are continual points of similarity, in this part of the discourse, to Matthew 24:42 ff., but no more: and the close connexion quite forbids us to imagine that the sayings have been collected merely by the Evangelist.

Verse 36

36. ] καὶ ὑμεῖς emphatic distinguished from the ὀσφ . and λύχ . above: ye yourselves, i.e. your whole conduct and demeanour.

κρούσαντος αὐτῷ a very common construction of the gen. abs.: see ch. Luke 17:12 ; Luk 22:10 alli [88] . and Winer, § 30. 11, rem., edn. 6, for classical examples.

[88] alli= some cursive mss.

Verse 37

37. ] See Revelation 3:20-21 , where the same similitude is presented, and the promise carried on yet further, to the sharing of his Throne . The Lord himself, in that great day of his glory, the marriage-supper of the Lamb, will invert the order of human requirements (see ch. Luk 17:8 ), and in the fulness of his grace and love will serve his brethren: the Redeemer, his redeemed, the Shepherd, his flock.

παρελθ ., coming in turn to each. Compare the washing of the disciples’ feet in John 13:1 ff., which was a foreshewing of this last great act of self-abasing love.

Verse 38

38. ] Olsh. observes that the first watch is not named, because the marriage itself falls on it: but his view that because the fourth is not named, our Lord follows the ancient custom of the Jews and divides the night into three watches, is probably incorrect: it is more likely (Meyer) that the fourth is not named, because the return was not likely to be so long delayed; for the decorum of the parable.

Verse 39

39. ] I am surprised that Schleiermacher can have imagined (transl. p. 198) that this verse has been inserted so as to break the connexion, and by a later hand. Nothing can be more exact and rigid than the connexion as it now stands. Our Lord transfers, to shew the unexpected nature of his coming, and the necessity of watchfulness, the relation between Himself and the servants , to that between the thief and the οἰκοδεσπότης . For the purposes of this verse, they represent the οἰκοδεσπότης collectively, as put in charge with the Lord’s house and household (thus the verse is intimately connected with Luk 12:42 ): and in the further application, individually each as the οἰκοδεσπότης of his own σκεῦος , to be kept with watchfulness against that day: He is represented by the thief ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ὡς κλέπτης , Revelation 16:15 ; Revelation 3:3 .

Olshausen’s view, that the οἰκοδ . is the ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμ . τούτου , is surely quite out of keeping with the main features of the parable. That he should be put in the place of the watching servants ( καὶ ὑμεῖς ) seems impossible: besides that the πιστὸς οἰκονόμος below is this very οἰκοδ ., being such in the absence of his Lord, but the οἰκονόμος when He appears.

Verse 41

41. ] τὴν παρ . τ ., not the two last verses (Stier), but the whole: Who are they that are thus to wait and watch, and to be thus honoured at the Lord’s coming? This question, coming in so suddenly and unconnectedly and remaining apparently unanswered, is among the many proofs of the originality and historic reality of this discourse (against De Wette, &c.).

Verse 42

42 ff. ] Our Lord does not answer the question directly, but proceeds with His discourse, so as to furnish it with an answer; viz. that in its highest sense it applies to his Apostles and ministers, inasmuch as to them most has been given as the οἰκονόμοι but that its application is gradationally downwards through all those who know their Master’s will, even to the lowest, whose measure both of responsibility and of reward is more limited. For the comment on Luk 12:42-46 see on Matthew 24:45-51 . Notice that ἀπίστων here = ὑποκριτῶν in Matt.

Verses 47-48

47, 48. ] Primarily , in reference to the question in Luke 12:41 , οἱ γνόντες = ἡμεῖς , the disciples.

οἱ μὴ γνόντες = πάντες , the multitude: but the application is not limited to this: the truth is one of universal extent. The 47th verse needs little explanation: after both πολλάς and ὀλίγας , πληγάς is to be supplied, see reff.: and cf. Aristoph. Nub. 959, ἐπετρίβετο τυπτόμενος πολλάς .

ἑτοιμ ., not ἑαυτόν , but, matters, πρὸς τ . θ . αὐ .: almost in the absolute sense of ‘making ready:’ it refers back to the γίνεσθε ἕτοιμοι of Luke 12:40 ; this readiness being not only preparing himself , but the matters over which he has charge, Luke 12:35 . There is reference to Deuteronomy 25:2 .

ὁ δὲ μὴ γν . ] The case is of one (a disciple in the first reference, but then generally of all men) who bona fide is ignorant of his Lord’s will. That such persons shall be punished , is both the sentence of the law, see Leviticus 5:17-19 , and an inference from the truth set forth Luke 12:57 , and Romans 1:19-20 ; Romans 1:32 ; Romans 2:14-15 , that the natural conscience would have prevented the μὴ ποιῆσαι . (Observe that the two classes, not included here , are ὁ γνοὺς καὶ ποιήσας , and ὁ μὴ γνοὺς καὶ ποιήσας , as far as that can be said (see Rom 2:14 ); the reference here being only to the μὴ ποιήσας in both cases, or rather to the μὴ π . in the first case and its equivalent π . ἄξια πληγῶν in the second.) But the difficulty seems to be to assign a spiritual meaning to the δαρήσεται ὀλίγας . That such will be the case , would à priori be consonant to the justice of the Judge of all the earth: and we have it here declared, that it shall be so: but how , is not revealed to us. It is in vain for the sinner to encourage himself in sin from such a declaration as this: for the very knowledge of the declaration excludes him from the exemption. “Our ears have heard the voice divine; We cannot be as they.” (Christian Year.)

παντὶ ᾧ , attr. for παρὰ παντός , ᾧ .

πολὺ πολύ ] The second πολύ is not the πολύ that has been given, but a proportionable amount of result of diligence, a πολύ which he is to render.

περισσ . ] Perhaps, more than from others: but more likely more than had been deposited with him , viz. that, and the interest of it: see Matthew 25:15 ff.

Verse 49

49. πῦρ ] It is extraordinary that the official announcement of the Baptist (ch. Luk 3:16 ) αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πν . ἁγ . καὶ πυρί connected with the mention of a baptism here, with the promise Acts 1:5 , and the appearance Acts 2:3 , so strikingly expressed as διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρός , have not kept the Commentators in general (Bleek is an exception) from falling into the blunder of imagining here that the fire is synonymous with, and means no more than, the discord and division which follow. The fire is, the gift of the Holy Spirit , the great crowning result of the sufferings and triumph of the Lord Jesus. To follow this out in all its references belongs to another place: see notes on Mark 9:49 , and Acts 2:3 . This fire, in its purifying and separating effects on the mass of mankind, causes the διαμερισμός afterwards spoken of.

The construction of τί θέλ . εἰ ἤδ . ἀν . has been ever a matter of dispute, while the meaning is on all hands nearly agreed. The three prevalent explanations of it are: (1) which is Origen’s (app [89] ), and is adopted by Grot., and defended by Meyer [formerly] and Stier, making εἰ = εἴθε , and rendering, and what will I? would that it were already kindled! Certainly thus there is nothing forced in the construction; we have εἰ for ‘ utinam ’ joined with aorist in Joshua 7:7 ; but the abrupt short ejaculation seems unlike the usual character of our Lord’s discourses. It is true the structure of Joh 12:27 affords an instance of a similar question, καὶ τί εἴπω ; … and under similar circumstances, of His soul being troubled . (2) which Theophyl., Kuinoel, Olsh., De Wette, Bleek, &c. [so Meyer, edn. 5, see Moulton’s Winer, p. 562, note 3] adopt, taking τί = ὡς , as some do, adopting that reading, in Matthew 7:14 (but see note there), and εἰ = ὅτι , and rendering, How I wish that it were already kindled! But here we have serious difficulties of an idiomatic kind: τί is apparently never thus used and εἰ only after words of wondering, being grieved, &c.: see Mark 15:44 .

[89] apparently.

(3) That of Euthym [90] , Beza, &c., and the E. V., ‘What will I, if it be already kindled?’ i.e. τί πλεῖον θέλω ἐὰν ἀνήφθη ; τί πλεῖον ἀναμένω ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ; Euth. This also presents no constructional, but a very great contextual difficulty; for by Luk 12:50 it evidently was not yet kindled; and even if this were overcome, the expression, evidently a deep one of personal anxiety (and be it remembered Who said it), would be vapid and unmeaning in the extreme.

[90] Euthymius Zigabenus, 1116

All things then being considered, I prefer the first explanation.

Verses 49-53

49 53. ] The connexion appears to be this: the immense and awful difference between the faithful and unfaithful servants brings our Lord to the ground of that difference, and its necessary development in the progress of His kingdom on earth.

Verse 50

50. ] The symbolic nature of Baptism is here to be borne in mind. Baptism = Death . The figure in the Sacrament is the drowning , the burial , in the water, of the old man and the resurrection of the new man: see 1 Peter 3:20-22 , and notes. The Lord’s Baptism was His Death , in which the Body inherited from the first Adam ( ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας ) was buried, and the new Body ( τὸ σῶμα τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ ) raised again: see Romans 6:1-11 , but especially Luke 12:10 . And He was straitened (the best possible rendering) till this was accomplished: i.e. in anxiety and trouble of spirit.

The δέ here implies, but first, i.e. before that fire can be shed abroad. Here we have then, as Stier expresses it, a ‘passio inchoata’ of our Lord; the first utterance of that deep anguish, which afterwards broke forth so plentifully, but coupled at the same time with holy zeal for the great work to be accomplished.

Verses 51-53

51 53. ] The work of this fire , as it burns onward in the world, will not be peace, but division: see Malachi 3:2-3 ; Malachi 3:18 ; Malachi 4:1 , where we have the separating effect of this fire in its completion at the great day: see also Matthew 3:12 .

On the passage itself, see notes on Matthew 10:35-36 .

Verse 54

54. ] There is a somewhat similar saying of our Lord at Matthew 16:2 ff., but differing both in its occasion and its substance.

τὴν νεφ ., just as τὰς νεφέλας , the cloud, that usually rises there: see 1 Kings 18:44 . The west, in Judæa, would be the direction of the sea.

Verses 54-59

54 59. ] REPROACHES FOR BLINDNESS TO THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES. The connexion of this with the foregoing is natural and close. ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ( Luk 12:52 ), the distinction shall begin to be made; the discord and division between those who discern τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον ( Luk 12:56 ) and those who do not. Our Lord then turns to the crowd ( καί . He not only said to the disciples the foregoing, but also to the crowd the following) and reproaches them (1) for their blindness , in not being able to discern it, as they did the signs in the natural heavens; and (2) for their want of prudence ( Luk 12:57-59 ), in not repenting and becoming reconciled to the law of God while yet there was time. Schleiermacher and De Wette can discover no connexion, and yet the latter thinks Luke inserted the sayings of Luk 12:54-56 out of Matthew 16:0 , because of Luke 12:49 ff.

Verse 55

55. ] ὅταν , sc. ἴδητε .

Verse 56

56. ] τὸ πρ . τῆς γῆς perhaps referring to other signs of rain or heat from the appearance of the hills, &c.

τὸν δὲ κ . τ .… ] The signs of this time were very plain; the sceptre had departed from Judah; the general expectation of the coming of the Messiah is testified even by profane authors; the prophets had all spoken of Him, and the greatest of them, the Baptist, had announced His arrival.

Verse 57

57. ] In what follows, our Lord takes occasion from the request about the inheritance , which had begun this discourse, to pass to infinitely more solemn matters. There is, I think, no denying that the κρίνειν τὸ δίκ . and the ὁ ἀντίδικός σ . have a reference to that request, in the ability and duty of every man to ‘judge what is right:’ but the sense of the words far outruns that reference, and treats of loftier things. ‘ Why do ye not discern of yourselves your true state that which is just the justice of your case as before God? You are going (the course of your life is the journey) with your adversary (the just and holy law of God) before the magistrate (God Himself); therefore by the way take pains ( δὸς ἐργ ., da operam a Latinism: there is no reference to interest of money, as Thl., who also has the other interpretation, supposes) to be delivered from him (by repentance, and faith in the Son of God, see Psa 2:12 ), lest he drag thee to the judge ( κριτής who adjudges the case and inflicts the fine; that is, the Son, to whom all judgment is committed), and the judge deliver thee to the exactor (see Mat 13:41 ), and the exactor cast thee into prison ’ (ditto, Luk 12:42 ).

Verse 59

59. ] See on Matthew 5:25 , and, on λεπτόν , Mark 12:42 .

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Luke 12". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hac/luke-12.html. 1863-1878.
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