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Bible Commentaries
Luke 13

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

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Verse 1

1. ] ἐν αὐτ . τ . καιρ . may mean at that very time viz. as He finished the foregoing discourse: but it is not necessary to interpret thus; for, Matthew 12:1 ; Matthew 14:1 , the similar expression, ἐν ἐκείνῳ τ . κ . is certainly indefinite .

παρ .… ἀπαγγ ., came with the news, not, as Stier supposes, ‘ were in the crowd, and remarked to the Lord concerning these Galilæans ,’ in consequence of what He had said ch. Luke 12:57 : such a finding of connexion is too fine-drawn, and is a fault which we may excuse in Stier, for his many services in interpreting our Lord’s discourses, but must not imitate . It is obvious that no connexion is intended between this incident and the foregoing discourse.

περὶ τ . Γ . ] The historical fact is otherwise unknown. The way of speaking here shews that it was well known to the writer. It must have occurred at some feast in Jerusalem, on which occasions riots often took place (see Jos. Antt. xvii. 9. 3; 10. 2), and in the outer court of the temple. Such slaughters were frequent, and would not be particularly recorded by the historians. This mingling of their blood with their sacrifices seems to have been thought by the narrators evidence that they were very depraved sinners: for this was their argument, and is unconsciously that of many at this day, ‘the worse the affliction, the more deserved:’ see Genesis 42:21 ; Acts 28:4 .

Verses 1-9


Verses 2-3

2, 3. ] Our Lord perceives this to be their reasoning they did not express it, as is plain by the δοκεῖτε ὅτι He does not deny that all the Galilæans were sinners, and deserved God’s judgments, but that these were pre-eminently so . The ὁμοίως (the force of which is lost in the E. V., ‘ likewise ’) should be rendered in like manner, as indeed the Jewish people did perish by the sword of the Romans.

Verses 4-5

4, 5. ] Our Lord introduces this incident as shewing that whether the band of man or (so called) accidents, lead to inflictions of this kind, it is in fact but one Hand which doeth it all Amos 3:6 . There is also a transference from the Galilæans a despised people to the inhabitants of Jerusalem , on whom the fulness of God’s wrath was to be poured out in case of impenitence. Of the incident itself, or of the tower in Siloam (probably the district in which the fountain, John 9:7 , was situated, though on the whole matter, and the situation of the fountain itself, there is considerable uncertainty), we know nothing. Josephus says of the wall of the ancient city, πρὸς νότον ὑπὲρ τὴν Σιλωὰμ ἐπιστρέφον πηγήν , B. J. ver. 4. 2: see also Nehemiah 3:15 . In B. J. vi. 7. 2, he uses μέχρι τοῦ Σιλωάμ , as here, meaning apparently a district of the city: see on John l. c.

ὀφειλέται , sinners, see Matthew 6:12 ; perhaps the same thought may be traced as pervading the saying, as in Luke 12:58-59 , of the last chapter. (No such idea as that the tower was a prison for debtors is for a moment to be thought of.)

ὡσαύτως ] See on ὁμοίως above, similarly in the ruin of your whole city. This does not render it necessary that these words should have been spoken to actual dwellers in Jerusalem: for nearly the whole nation was assembled there at the time of the siege.

Verses 6-9

6 9. ] This Parable has perhaps been interpreted with hardly enough reference to its own peculiar context, or to the symbolic language of Scripture in other places. Ordinarily (also in Trench, Par. in loc.) the owner of the vineyard is explained to be the Eternal Father: the dresser and intercessor, the Son of God: the fig-tree, the whole Jewish people: the vineyard, the world . But it may be objected to this, that the owner comes to seek the fruit, which can be properly said only of Him who εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν who is even in Matt. ὁ κληρονόμος and by implication there, the possessor of the vineyard ὅταν ἔλθῃ (for that destruction He universally represents as His coming). The other objections will come out in the direct exposition of the Parable, which I take to be this: The link which binds it to the foregoing is ἐὰν μὴ μετανοῆτε …; and it is addressed rather to individuals than to the whole nation though of course to the whole nation as made up of individuals. The vineyard is not the world , which would be wholly inconsistent with Scripture symbolism (for Mat 13:24 the comparison is to ἡ βασ . τ . οὐρ . the gospel dispensation , in which the field not the vineyard is the whole world); but, as in Isaiah 5:7 , the house of Israel and the men of Judah (see notes on Matthew 21:33 ff.). The fig-tree planted in the vineyard among the vines (a usual thing) denotes an individual application, fixing each man’s thought upon one tree and that one, himself; just as the guest without the wedding-garment in Matthew 22:0 . He who had the tree planted in His vineyard ( ‘All things that the Father hath, are Mine’ Joh 16:15 ), came seeking fruit, and found it not: see Mat 21:19 and note. (The vinedresser, see below.) He commands it to be cut down, as encumbering the soil (exhausting it, rendering it inactive: see reff.); three years has He been coming and seeking fruit in this tree, and he findeth none. Then, at the intercession of the vinedresser, He consents (for this is implied) to spare it this year also, until it has been manured; if that fail, the Intercessor himself has no more plea to urge it is to be cut down. Now who is this Intercessor? First look at the matter of fact. Who were the vinedressers of God’s vineyard? They were many. Moses, the Prophets, the Baptist, the Lord Himself, the Apostles and Teachers after Him. But what one Personality might be set forth as pervading all these, ‘striving with man’ in them all as being ὁ ἀμπελουργός ? Clearly, it seems to me, the Holy Spirit of God . In the passage just alluded to, Genesis 6:3 , we can hardly but recognize the main features of our present parable; especially when the Days of Noah are compared by the Lord Himself to His own coming to vengeance. The intercessory office of the Spirit ( ὁ παράκλητος , see on Joh 14:16 ), pleading with man and for man, and resigning that blessed conflict when met with inveterate obduracy, is often set before us in Scripture. (See the whole history of Saul; Zechariah 7:12-14 ; Proverbs 1:23-32 ; Isaiah 63:10 ; Nehemiah 9:20 ; Romans 8:26-27 .)

Verse 7

7. τρία ἔτη ] I have little doubt (against Bleek, alli [91] .) that an allusion is intended to the three years of our Lord’s ministry . The objection to this, that the cutting down ought then to have taken place at the end of τοῦτο τὸ ἔτος , does not apply; for all is left indefinite in the request and the implied answer. In the individual application, many thousands did bear fruit this very year; and of those who did not, who shall say when the Spirit ceased pleading with them, and the final sentence went forth?

[91] alli= some cursive mss.

καὶ τ . γ . κατ . ] Why, besides bearing no fruit, is it impoverishing the soil [rendering the neighbouring ground useless] ?

Verse 8

8. ] σκ . καὶ βάλ . κ ., dig holes about the root, and cast in manure, as is done (Trench in loc.) to orange-trees in the south of Italy: and to hops in England.

Verse 9

9. ] After καρπόν , λείπει , τὸ εὖ ἔχει , Euthym [92] ; but not without reason: to fill up the aposiopesis did not belong to the purpose of this parable .

[92] Euthymius Zigabenus, 1116

εἰς τὸ μέλλον , not ἔτος (Meyer), but indefinite (see reff.), hereafter: and purposely so; because, in the collective sense , the sentence lingered.

ἐκκόψεις , THOU shalt cut it down not ἐκκόψω ; and I find in this an additional proof of the correctness of the foregoing interpretation. It is the κύριος τ . ἀμπελῶνος who ὅταν ἔλθῃ , κακοὺς κακῶς ἀπολέσει αὐτούς .

All judgment is committed to THE SON: it is not the work of the Holy Spirit to cut down and destroy, for He is the Giver of life .

The above interpretation is partially given by Stier, who has however in my view (in his 2nd edn. also) quite missed the ἀμπελουργός , understanding by him the husbandmen in Matthew 21:0 , forgetting that they are destroyed in the sequel of that parable, and that their position, that of the tenants of the vineyard, does not appear at all in this, any more than does the ἀμπελουργός in that.

Verse 10

10. ] Time and place alike indefinite.

Verses 10-21

10 21. ] HEALING OF A WOMAN ON THE SABBATH: DISCOURSE THEREUPON. Peculiar to Luke , except the parables, which are in Matthew 13:31-33 ; Mark 4:31-34 .

Verse 11

11. πν . ἀσθ . ] Her weakness was the effect of permitted power of the evil one ( Luk 13:16 ); but whether we are to find here a direct instance of possession , seems very doubtful. There is nothing in our Lord’s words addressed to her, to imply it: and in such cases He did not lay on His hands, or touch , but only in cases of sickness or bodily infirmity.

εἰς τὸ παντελές belongs to ἀνακύψαι , not to δυναμ .: see note on ref. Heb.

Verse 12

12. ] There is no reason to suppose any eminence of faith in her though we may fairly conclude that she was there with some expectation of a cure: see Luke 13:14 .

ἀπολέλ . expresses the setting free of her muscles from the power which bound them down, and then, Luke 13:13 , the laying on of the divine hands confers upon her strength to rise and stand upright. It would be, in such a case, one thing to be loosed from the stiffening of years, and another to have strength at once conferred to stand upright.

Verse 14

14. ] The ruler speaks not either to Jesus or to the woman; but covertly and cowardly, to the multitude . Stier notices the self-stultification of this speech, in making θεραπεύεσθαι , a reception of divine grace and help, a species of ἐργάζεσθαι .

Verse 15

15. ὑποκριταί ] The Lord saw the real thoughts of his heart, that they were false, and inconsistent with his pretended zeal, and addressed the multitude as represented by him, their leader. A man hardly could give forth a doctrine so at variance with common sense and common practice, without some by-end, with which he covered his violation of truth. That by-end here was enmity to and jealousy of Jesus.

The instance chosen exactly fits the circumstances. A beast tied to the manger is confined down as this poor woman was.

Verse 16

16. ] The contrast is strongly drawn between a dumb animal , and (not merely a human creature, but) a daughter of Abraham one of the chosen people (I cannot see any necessity for a spiritual daughtership ( Gal 3:7 ) being here implied), between a few hours , since the last watering, and ‘lo these eighteen years ’ (compare Luke 13:7 , ἰδοὺ τρ . ἔτ .)

Verse 17

17. ] So far am I from thinking a description of this kind to be a mere general close, put in by the Evangelist, that I would take it as an accurate and graphic account of the immediate effect of our Lord’s power and irresistible words, and the following parables as spoken immediately thereupon , shewing the people the ultimate conquest which the Kingdom of God should obtain over all opposition, however strong. On the parables themselves, see on Matthew 13:31-33 .

[18 21. ] These two parables, found in Matthew as above, and the former of them in Mark 4:30-32 , seem to have been again spoken by our Lord at this time, in reference to the progress of His Gospel indicated in Luke 13:17 . οὖν , Luke 13:18 , is important, as pointing out the connexion. ]

Verse 22

22. ] This notice includes what follows in the cycle of this last journey, but disclaims any definiteness of place or time for it. But certainly it seems to follow in natural order after our Lord’s solemn warnings to repentance at the beginning of this chapter.

The enquirer can hardly have been a disciple of Jesus (see Luk 13:28 ), but most likely a Jew from the multitude , who had heard his discourses, and either from Jewish pride, or perhaps from real desire to learn from Him, put this question.

Verses 22-30

22 30. ] ANSWER TO THE QUESTION AS TO THE NUMBER WHO SHALL BE SAVED. Our Lord repeats, occasion being given by a question peculiar to Luke, parts of His discourses spoken elsewhere, as referred to below.

Verse 23

23. ] On οἱ σωζόμενοι , see note, Acts 2:47 . Here, the implication of final salvation is obvious.

αὐτούς , the multitude. Similar sayings have occurred in the Sermon on the Mount, but the connexion here is intimate and strict.

Verse 24

24. ] See on Matthew 7:13 . The description of the broad and narrow ways is not here inserted, as probably by this time, ἡ στενὴ θύρα (or πύλη ) was a familiar image.

ζητ . εἰς . κ . οὐκ ἰσχ ., not, ‘shall seek to enter by it , and shall not be able:’ the emphasis of the command is, seek to enter at the strait door: for many shall seek to enter (elsewhere), and shall not be able. After εἰσελθ ., is to be supplied in both places, εἰς σωτηρίαν , or εἰς τ . βασ . τ . θεοῦ . This remark will dispose of the punctuation of Lachmann and Tischendorf in his earlier editions, who place only a comma at ἰσχύσουσιν , and connect it with ἀφ ʼ οὗ .

Verse 25

25. ] A reason why this ἀγωνίζεσθαι is so important: because there will be a day when the gate will be shut . The figure is the usual one, of a feast , at which the householder entertains (in this case) the members of his family. These being assembled, he rises and shuts the door, and none are afterwards admitted.

The ἀφ ʼ οὗ extends to ἐστέ , end of Luk 13:25 and the second member of the sentence begins with τότε .

ἔξω ἑστάναι and κρούειν both depend on ἄρξησθε : Hearing that the door is shut , ye begin to stand without and knock. On the spiritual import, see note on Matthew 25:11 .

οὐκ οἶδ . π . ἐστέ , ye are none of my family have no relationship with me .’

Verse 26

26. ἐφάγ . ἐνώπ . σου κ . ἐπ . ] As applied to the then assembled crowd , these words refer to the miracles of feeding, perhaps also to His having so often sat at meat in the houses of various persons (the κ . ἐπίομεν must not be pressed as meaning any thing different from ἐφάγ .: the expression is a general one for taking a meal); as applied to Christians , to the eating and drinking whereof those miracles were anticipatory.

Both these are ἐνώπιόν σου merely, in His presence; very different from the drinking μεθ ʼ ὑμῶν of which He speaks Matthew 26:29 , and from the δειπνήσω μετ ʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς μετ ʼ ἐμοῦ , Revelation 3:20 .

ἐν τ . πλ . ἡμ . ἐδ ., applicable directly to those to whom the words were spoken; and further, in its fuller sense, to all among whom the gospel is preached, even till the end.

Verse 27

27. ἐργάται ἀδικ . ] This unusual expression seems to mean, persons engaged in the hire and receiving the wages of unrighteousness: see Matthew 7:23 , where οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τ . ἀνομίαν answers to it. This meaning of ἐργάτης is peculiar: see reff.

Verses 28-29

28, 29. ] See Matthew 8:11-12 , and notes.

The verses occur here in a different connexion: ‘ Ye Jews, who neglect the earnest endeavour to enter now, shall weep and gnash your teeth when ye see all the saints, Jews and Gentiles, in the Kingdom of God, and yourselves excluded ’ (see ch. Luk 16:23 ).

In these two verses is the real answer to the question of Luk 13:23 given: ‘ they shall be MANY but what is that to you, if you be not among them?

Verse 30

30. ] As the words here stand somewhat different from those in Mat 20:16 they seem to be a prophetic declaration of what shall be in the course of the ingathering of these guests; viz. that some who were the first, or among the first to believe, shall fall from their high place, and vice versa. This former has, as Stier notices (iii. 200), been remarkably the case with the Oriental Churches, which were the first founded and flourishing: and, we may add, with the mother Church of Jerusalem, which has declined, while her Gentile offsets have flourished.

Verse 31

31. ] ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ is not necessarily definite .

These Pharisees appear to have been sent by Herod for the purpose of getting rid of Jesus out of his jurisdiction. Considering his character, it is hardly possible that he should really have wished to kill one who was so popular; he refused to do so when Jesus was in his power afterwards in Jerusalem; but, as great multitudes were now following Him about, and superstitious fears, as we know, agitated Herod, he wished to be quit of Him, and took this means of doing so. I think this view is necessary to justify the epithet applied to Herod, which certainly implies cunning on his part . Stier thinks the Pharisees invented the tale about Herod: but then how can the epithet applied to him be explained? I cannot for a moment believe, as he does, that our Lord saw through the lie of the Pharisees, and yet adopted it, meaning the ἀλώπηξ to signify themselves. “That Jesus in a public discourse uses such an expression of the ruler of his country, is not to be judged of by the manners, and ways of speech, of our times. The free-spokenness of the ancient world, which we meet with especially in the Hebrew prophets, allowed such strong expressions, without any thing peculiarly offensive being found in them.” Bleek.

Verses 31-35

31 35. ] WARNING OF HEROD’S ENMITY; OUR LORD’S REPLY. Peculiar to Luke: the apostrophe in Luk 13:34-35 was spoken by our Lord also on another occasion, Matthew 23:37-39 .

Verses 32-33

32, 33. ] The interpretation of this answer is difficult, for two reasons (1) that the signification of the σήμ ., αὔρ ., and ἡ τρίτη is doubtful (2) that the meaning of τελειοῦμαι is also doubtful.

The days mentioned are ordinarily supposed to be proverbially used; σήμ . for His present working αὔριον , for that between the present time and his arrival at Jerusalem ἡ τρ ., for that arrival, and the end of his work and course by his Death.

Against this, is (1) the positive use of the three days , in an affirmative sentence, of which no instance can be brought where the proverbial meaning is implied: (2) the πορεύεσθαι belonging to all three in Luke 13:33 , whereas thus it only belongs to the two first.

The interpretation adopted by Meyer (and Bleek) is this: In three days (literal days) the Lord’s working of miracles in Galilee would be ended, which had excited the apprehension of Herod: and then He would leave the territory, not for fear of Herod, but because He was going to Jerusalem to die. The objection to this is, that the sense of ending these present works of healing , &c. does not seem a sufficient one for τελειοῦμαι . Meyer takes it as middle but qu., is a middle present ever thus placed alone? Is not such a form, when standing thus, necessarily passive? And though the word τελειοῦμαι is not found earlier than the writings of the Fathers in the sense of ‘ suffering martyrdom ,’ it is found in that of ‘ being perfected ’ which, as applied to the Lord, included his Death: see reff. I own that neither of the above interpretations satisfies me, and still less the various modifications of them which have been proposed (e.g. by Stier and Wieseler; De Wette adopts none). Nor can I suggest any less open to objection: but merely state my conviction, (1) that the days mentioned must have some definite fixed reference to three actual days: (2) that τελειοῦμαι is the pres. pass. , and is used in the solemn sense elsewhere (reff.) attached to the word.

If this Gospel had been a chronological calendar of our Lord’s journey, the meaning would probably have been clear: but as we have none such, it is, and I believe must remain, obscure. Bp. Wordsworth’s note is much to the point: “It must be remembered that Herod was ruler of Peræa as well as of Galilee: and that John the Baptist had been put to death at Machærus, where Herod had a palace, about ten miles E. of Jericho, and thirty E. of Jerusalem. St. Matt., Matthew 19:1 , and St. Mark, Mark 10:1 ; Mark 10:46 , speak of our Lord being in Peræa, whence He passed over the river Jordan, and so came to Jericho, and thence to Bethany and Jerusalem for His Passion. Herod had put John to death not in Galilee but in Peræa: and if our Lord was now, as seems probable, in Peræa or near it, it was very likely that the Pharisees should endeavour to intimidate Him with a threat of Herod’s anger.”

τῇ ἐχ . = τῇ τρίτῃ above, and is not less precise (Stier).

πορεύεσθαι , to journey the very word in which they had addressed Him, πορ . ἐντεῦθεν .

οὐκ ἐνδ ., a monopoly not without exceptions, for John had been put to death by Herod out of Jerusalem.

But our Lord’s saying is not to be so literally pressed; He states the general rule, which in His own case was to be fulfilled. There is no reference to the power of the Sanhedrim to judge and condemn false prophets (as Grot., Lightf., &c. think), for the fact of ἀπολέσθαι only is here in question; and our Lord never would place himself in such a category (Meyer).

Verses 34-35

34, 35. ] These verses are in too close connexion with the preceding to allow of the supposition that they are inserted unchronologically, as Grot., Me [93] ., De W., Neander, and even Schleierm. suppose: and their variations from those in Matthew ( Mat 23:37-39 ) are striking and characteristic. For γάρ , which there accounts for the ἐρημία of the temple, then for the last time left by our Lord, does not appear here , but δέ , introducing a fresh saying, having I believe another meaning: and the words ἀπ ʼ ἄρτι , which follow ἴδητε there , marking that moment as the commencement of the dereliction, are here omitted. Surely these differences indicate an uttering of the words prophetically , previous to their utterance in the act of departure. Our Lord overleaps in prophetic foresight the death just set forth as certain, and speaks of the ages to come, during which the holy city should be desolate and trodden down of the Gentiles.

[93] Meyer.

That the very words εὐλ . ὁ ἐρχ . κ . τ . λ . were used by the multitude at the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, I should much rather ascribe to a misunderstanding by them and the disciples of this very declaration, than for a moment suppose that these words found any sufficient fulfilment in that entry (Erasmus, Paulus, Wieseler).

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Luke 13". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hac/luke-13.html. 1863-1878.
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