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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 21

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New TestamentMeyer's Commentary

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Matthew 21:1 . πρὸς τὸ ὄρος ] Instead of πρός , Lachm. and Tisch. have εἰς , following B C** 33, codd. of It. Or. (once). Correctly; πρός is taken from Mark 11:1 ; Luke 19:29 .

Matthew 21:2 . πορεύθητε ] Lachm. Tisch. 8 : πορεύεσθε , following important evidence. But the transcribers happened to be more familiar with πορεύεσθε (Matthew 10:6 , Matthew 22:9 , Matthew 25:9 ; Matthew 25:41 ).

For ἀπέναντι , Lachm. Tisch. 8 have κατέναντι , which, though sanctioned by important evidence, is borrowed from Mark and Luke.

ἀγάγετε , for which, with Lachm., ἄγετε should be read, is likewise taken from the parallel passages (see, however, on Mark 11:2 ).

Matthew 21:3 . With the Received text, Lachm. and Tisch. read ἀποστελεῖ , following B D H M א , Vulg. It. Copt. Sahid. Arm. Or., while Matth. Griesb. Scholz, on the other hand, have adopted ἀποστέλλει . Important evidence on both sides. The connection seemed to require the future, which was acordingly introduced here and in Mark 11:3 .

Matthew 21:4 . ὅλον ] is to be deleted, with Lachm. and Tisch. 8, following C* D L Z א , vss. Or. Chrys. Hil. Comp. Matthew 1:22 , Matthew 26:56 .

Matthew 21:5 πῶλον ] Lachm. Tisch.: ἐπὶ πῶλον , following B L N א , 1, 124, vss. Correctly; in the Sept. there is only one ἐπί .

Matthew 21:6 . The evidence of B C D 33 in favour of συνέταξεν (Lachm. Tisch. 7) is sufficient. Tisch. 8, with the Received text, reads προσέταξεν , the more usual form.

Matthew 21:7 . For the first ἐπάνω αὐτῶν , Lachm. and Tisch. 8 read ἐπʼ αὐτῶν , following B L Z א , 69, Or., with which we may class D and codd. of It., which have ἐπʼ αὐτόν . The transcriber would be apt mechanically to anticipate the subsequent ἐπάνω .

ἐπεκάθισεν (Elz.: ἐπεκάθισαν ) is supported by decisive evidence (adopted by Matth. Griesb. Fritzsche, Scholz, Lachm. Tisch.), so that instead of supposing it to be taken from Mark 11:7 (comp. John 12:14 ), we should rather regard the reading of the Received text as derived from Luke 19:35 .

Matthew 21:8 . ἐστρώννυον ] Tisch. 8 : ἔστρωσαν , following only D א * Or. A repetition of ἔστρωσαν in the earlier part of the verse.

Matthew 21:9 . προάγοντες ] Lachm. Tisch.: προάγ . αὐτόν , following B C D L א , min. vss. Or. Eus. This αὐτόν , which in itself is not indispensable, was still more apt to be omitted in consequence of Mark 11:9 .

Matthew 21:11 . Lachm. (B D א , Or.) puts ὁ προφ . before Ἰησοῦς ; so also Tisch. 8. But how current was the use of the phrase, “Jesus of Nazareth!”

Matthew 21:12 . τοῦ Θεοῦ ] deleted by Lachm., following B L א , min. vss. and Fathers. It was omitted as superfluous, and from its not being found in Mark and Luke, also in consequence of its not occurring elsewhere in the New Testament.

Matthew 21:13 . ἐποιήσατε ] Fritzsche, Lachm. Tisch.: ποιεῖτε , following B L א , 124, Copt. Aeth. Or. Eus. Correctly; ἐποιήσατε is from Luke. Comp. on Mark 11:17 .

Matthew 21:19 . μηκέτι ] Lachm. and Tisch.: οὐ μηκέτι , following, it is true, only B L; but οὐ would readily be omitted, all the more that Mark 11:14 has simply μηκέτι .

Matthew 21:23 . ἐλθόντι αὐτῷ ] Lachm. Tisch. 8 : ἐλθόντος αὐτοῦ . See on Matthew 8:1 .

Matthew 21:25 . Ἰωάννου ] Lachm. and Tisch.: τὸ Ἰωάννου , which is sufficiently attested by B C Z א , Or.; τό was omitted as superfluous.

παρʼ ἑαυτ .] Lachm.: ἐν ἑαυτ ., following B L M** Z, min. Cyr. Gloss in accordance with Matthew 16:7-8 .

Matthew 21:28 . μου ] upon important evidence, is with Fritzsche, Tisch. to be deleted as an interpolation.

Matthew 21:30 . ἑτέρῳ ] So also Griesb. Scholz, Tisch. The δευτέρῳ (Lachm.) of the Received text is opposed by C* D E F G H K U X Δ Π א , min. vss. and Fathers, and, coming as it does after πρώτω , looks like an exegetical gloss.

Matthew 21:31 . πρῶτος ] Lachm.: ὕστερος . Maintained Rinck and Schweizer [7] in the Stud. u. Krit . 1839, p. 944. Comp. Ewald also, who, however, suggests ὕστερον , sc μεταμεληθείς . Similarly Buttm. in the Stud. u. Krit . 1860, p. 343 ff. ὕστερος is found in B, while D, vss. (also codd. of It. and the Vulg.) and several Fathers read ἔσχατος . Consequence of the transposition that had taken place in Matthew 21:29-30 (B, min. vss. and Fathers): ὁ δὲ ἀποκρ . εἶπεν · Ἐγὼ , κὐρ ., καὶ οὐκ ἀπῆλθεν . Καὶ προσελθ . τῷ ἑτέρῳ εἶπ . ὡς . Ὁ δὲ ἀποκρ . εἶπεν · Οὐ θέλω , ὕστερον δὲ , κ . τ . λ . But this transposition was the result of the ancient interpretation of the two sons as referring to the Jews and the Gentiles.

Matthew 21:32 . οὐ ] Lachm.: οὐδέ , following B, min. Syr cur and jer . Copt. Aeth. It. Vulg. Hilar. The compound negative, the force of which had not been observed, would be omitted all the more readily that δέ occurs just before.

Matthew 21:33 . τις after ἄυθρωπος (in Elz. Matth.) is deleted by Griesb. and more recent editors, in accordance with decisive evidence.

Matthew 21:38 . κατάσχωμεν ] Lachm. and Tisch.: σχῶμεν , following B D L Z א , min. Or. Cyr. The compound form, for sake of greater precision.

Matthew 21:44 . This whole verse is wanting in D, 33, Cant. 21 :Verc. Corb. 1, 2, Or. Eus. (?) Lucif. Cyr. (?); condemned by Griesb., bracketed by Lachm., deleted by Tisch. The external evidence is not sufficient to warrant deletion. Had the words been borrowed from Luke 20:18 , they would have been inserted after Matthew 21:42 , and the first half of the passage would have been in closer agreement with Luke (that is to say, the πᾶς would not have been left out). The omission, again, might well be due to a mistake on the part of the copyist, whose eye might pass at once from αὐτῆς καί to αὐτὸν καί .

Matthew 21:46 . ὡς ] Lachm. and Tisch.: εἰς , following B L א , 1, 22, Or. ὡς from Matthew 21:26 ; Matthew 14:5 .

[7] Schweizer explains thus: ὁ ὕστερος , SC. ἀπελθών (which Buttm. should not have declared to be erroneous). The answer, he says, is hesitating and reluctant, perhaps intentionally ambiguous . But coming after the question τίς ἐκ τῶν δύο , κ . τ . λ ., the simple ὁ ὕστερος can only he taken as equivalent to ὁ δεύτερος , as in Xen. Hell . i. 7. 6, al . Lachm. was of opinion that the answer was intended to be inappropriate (comp. already Jerome), though he ultimately decided in favour of the view that the words λέγουσιν … Ἰησοῦς , which Or. omits, are spurious. See the latter’s Praefat . II. p. v. Tisch., Bleek, and others have correctly upheld the reading of the Received text.

Verse 1

Matthew 21:1 . Comp. Mark 11:1 ff.; Luke 19:29 ff. Καὶ ἦλθον εἰς Βμθφαγῆ ] by way of giving greater precision to the foregoing ἤγγισαν εἰς Ἱερος . They had come towards Bethphage ; that is, as the connection shows (Matthew 21:2 ), they had not actually entered the village, but were close upon it, so that it lay right before them; comp. on John 4:5 . Hard by them (“in latere montis Oliveti,” Jerome) was the neighbouring village of Bethany (Matthew 21:17 ), about which, however, and its position with reference to Bethphage (Robinson, Pal . II. p. 312), nothing more precise can now be said. Consequently there is no divergence from Mark and Luke, so that it is unnecessary to understand εἰς , versus , after ἦλθον (Fritzsche), which is distinct from, and more definite than, ἤγγισαν .

Of Bethphage , בֵּית פַּאנֵי , house of figs, no trace remains (Robinson, as above). It is not once mentioned in the Old Testament, though frequently in the Talmud. Buxtorf, p. 1691; Hug, Einl. I. p. 18.

τότε ] an important juncture. “Non prius; vectura mysterii plena,” Bengel. To any one travelling from Jericho, the holy city would be in full view at Bethphage (not at Bethany). And Jesus makes due arrangements for the entry; it is not something done simply to gratify the enthusiastic wishes of those about Him (Neander, de Wette, Weizsäcker); comp. Keim, III. p. 85 f.


The stay of Jesus at Bethany, recorded by John (Matthew 12:1 ff.), does not admit of being inserted into the account given by the Synoptists (in answer to Ebrard, Wichelh. Komment. über d. Leidensgesch . p. 149; Lichtenstein); we should rather say that these latter expressly forbid the view that the night had been passed at Bethany, all the more that they introduce the anointing (Matthew 26:6 ff.; Mark 14:3 ff.), and consequently the stay of Jesus at this village after the triumphal entry, and that not merely in the order of their narrative, but also in the order of events (Matthew 26:2 ; Mark 14:1 ). This likewise in answer to Wieseler, p. 391 f.

The tradition, to the effect that the triumphal entry took place on the Sunday (Palmarum) , is in no way inconsistent with the synoptic narrative itself , and agrees at the same time with John 12:1 ; John 12:12 , inasmuch as it would appear from this evangelist that the day on which Jesus arrived at Bethany was most probably the 8th of Nisan, which, however, according to John’s representation, must have been Saturday (see note on John 12:1 ). Still, as regards the dates of the passion week, there remains this fundamental divergence, that, according to the Synoptists, the Friday on which Jesus died was the 15th, while according to John (see note on John 18:28 ) it was the 14th of Nisan; and further, that John 12:12 represents Jesus as having passed the night at Bethany previous to His triumphal entry, while according to the synoptical account He appears to have gone at once from Jericho to Jerusalem. In any case, the most authentic view of this matter is that of John, on whose authority, therefore, must rest the tradition that Sunday was the day on which Christ rode into the city.

Verse 2

Matthew 21:2 f. Εἰς τὴν κώμην , κ . τ . λ .] Bethphage .

εὐθέως ] essentially appropriate to the specific character of the instructions: immediately , after you have entered.

The mention of two animals made by Matthew, though seemingly at variance with Mark 11:2 , Luke 19:30 , John 12:14 , represents the matter more correctly than the other evangelists, and is neither to be explained symbolically (of Judaism and heathenism, Justin Martyr), nor to be regarded as a reduplication on the part of Matthew (Ewald, Holtzmann), nor to be traced to a misapprehension of the words of the prophet (de Wette, Neander, Strauss, Hilgenfeld), who intends וְעַל עַיִר as an epexegetical parallel to עַל־חֲמֹר ; for just in the same way are we to understand καὶ ἐπὶ πῶλον , Matthew 21:5 , so that, according to Matthew as well, Jesus rides upon, the foal, though accompanied by the mother, a detail which the other evangelists fail to notice. Moreover, it is simply arbitrary to assign a mythical character to the prediction of Jesus on the strength of Genesis 49:11 (Strauss; on the other hand, Bleek).

ὅτι ] recitative.

ἀποστέλλει ] so far from refusing, He sends them away. The present represents as already taking place what will immediately and certainly be realized. Comp. Mark 4:29 . In εὐθέως δέ , but at once, observe Jesus’ marvellous knowledge, not merely of the fact that the animals would undoubtedly be found awaiting them exactly as He said they would be, but of the further fact that the people of the place are so loyal to Him as perfectly to understand the meaning of the ὁ κύριος , κ . τ . λ ., and to find in those words sufficient reason for at once complying with His request. Comp. Matthew 26:18 . The idea of a magical virtue attaching to the use of the name Jesus (Strauss) is foreign to the text; while, on the other hand, we fail to satisfy the requirements of the three accounts of this incident by resolving it into a mere case of borrowing (Paulus) or requisition (Keim).

The simple account of John does not affect the credibility of the synoptic narrative (also in answer to Bleek). See note on John 12:14 f.

Verse 4

Matthew 21:4 f. Ἵνα πληρωθῇ ] not accidental, but in accordance with the divine purpose of fulfilling, etc. This quotation, which is a free rendering, partly of the original Hebrew and partly of the Septuagint, combines Isaiah 62:11 ( εἴπατε … Σιών ) and Zechariah 9:9 , where the riding of the ideal Messianic king upon an ass is simply a representation, not indeed of absolute humility (Hengstenberg, Christol . III. p. 360 f.), for such riding is a sign of πραΰτης , but of a peaceful disposition; comp. Ewald, Propheten , I. p. 256, Exodus 2:0 . He does not come upon a war-horse, not ἅρματα ἐλαύνων ὡς οἱ λοιποὶ βασιλεῖς , Chrysostom. The incident in which Jesus then realized the recognised fulfilment of the prophecy (Hengstenberg, Ewald, Keim) would suggest the strained interpretation of the figure, and quite properly, inasmuch as Christ’s riding into the city revealed the typical nature of the form in which the prophet embodied his prediction (Düsterdieck, de rei propheticae natura ethica , 1852, p. 78 f.). For the prophetic expression daughter of Zion (the locality of the town regarded as its mother), see Knobel’s note on Isaiah 1:8 . Comp. Lamentations 1:6 .

σοί ] Dative of ethical reference, common likewise in classical Greek along with ἔρχεσθαι .

καὶ ἐπὶ πῶλον ] See note on Matthew 21:2 . καί is epexegetical .

υἱὸν ὑποζυγ .] בֶּן־אֲתֹנוֹת . For ὑποζύγιον , beast of burden, a term more frequently used in the Septuagint to designate the ass, comp. Herod, ix. 24, 39, 41; Xen. Anab. i. 3. 1; Lucian, Cynic, x.; Polyb. iii. 51. 4; 3 Esdr. Mat 5:43 ; 2 Peter 2:16 .

Verse 7

Matthew 21:7 . They spread their outer garments upon both animals, being uncertain which of them Jesus intended to mount.

The (second) ἐπάνω αὐτῶν must necessarily be referred, with Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Castalio, Beza, Homberg, Fritzsche, Winer, p. 165 [E. T. 219], to the garments , in which case it is clear from Matthew 21:5 that Jesus sat upon the foal . Were we to refer αὐτῶν to the animals , the result would be the absurd idea (which Strauss, B. Bauer, Volkmar make use of against Matthew) that Jesus mounted both of them at once , not one after the other (Fritzsche, Fleck), seeing that κ . ἐπεκάθισεν ἐπ . αὐτῶν denotes the instantaneous, finished act which followed the spreading of the garments. To suppose (Ebrard, Olshausen), by way of justifying the reference to the animals, that we have here a loose form of speech, corresponding to the German phrase: he leaps from the horses, and such like, is out of the question, for the simple reason that no such σύλληψις can be assumed in the case of Matthew 21:5 , all the less so that, from this verse, it would appear that it was the dam on which Jesus rode, with the foal walking by her side.

Verse 8

Matthew 21:8 . Manifestations of respect, such as kings were usually greeted with on entering cities, 2 Kings 9:13 ; Wetstein’s note on this passage; Robinson, II. p. 383.

ὁ πλεῖστος ὄχλος ] the most of the people , the greatest part of the multitude. Comp. Plat. Rep . p. 397 D; Thuc. vii. 78; Xen. Anab . iii. 2. 36.

ἑαυτῶν ] states what the multitude did with their own garments, after the disciples had spread theirs upon the two beasts.

Verse 9

Matthew 21:9 ff. Ὡσαννά ] הוֹשִׂיעָה נָא , Psalms 118:25 , bestow blessing! addressed to God. The dative is due to the meaning of the verb (opitulare) contained in ὡσαννά .

ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστ .] Grant blessing in the highest places (Luke 2:14 ), i.e. in the highest heaven (Ephesians 4:10 ), where Thy throne is fixed, and from which let it descend upon the Messiah. The interpretation of Fritzsche, Olshausen: let blessing be proclaimed (by the angels) in heaven! is far-fetched. No less so is that of de Wette, Bleek: let Hosanna be confirmed in heaven, let it be ratified by God! Nor is ἐν τ . ὑψ . equivalent to ὁ ὢν τ . ὑψ . (grant blessing, O Thou who art in heaven), as Beza, Vatablus, Calovius, Bengel, Kuinoel, are disposed to think.

ἐν ὀνόμ . κυρίου ] i.e. as sent by God to be His representative, John 5:43 .

Speaking generally, the exclamation may be described as an outburst of enthusiasm expressing itself, in a free and impromptu manner, in language borrowed from the hymn for the feast of Tabernacles, Psalms 118:0 . (Succoth iv. 5).

ἐσείσθη ] was thrown into a state of commotion (Pind. Pyth. iv. 484; Soph. Ant. 163), on account of the sensation created by this Messianic entry into the city. The excitement was contagious.

ὁ προφήτης ] the well-known prophet. The crowds that accompanied Him had, in most explicit terms, designated Him the Messiah; but the less interested people of the city wished above all to ascertain His name and rank. Hence the full reply, Ἰησοῦς … Γαλιλ ., in which the ὁ ἀπὸ Ναζαρ . τ . Γαλιλ . doubtless betrays somewhat of the Galilean consciousness of the multitude, inasmuch as it was for most part composed of Galileans.


The triumphal entry of Jesus is not a final attempt to establish the Messianic kingdom in a political sense (Wolfenb. Fragm.) , such a kingdom having been entirely foreign to His purpose and His function. It is rather to be regarded as His last public and solemn appearance as the Messiah, an appearance which, coming as it did immediately before His passion, was on the one hand a matter of deep personal interest because of the necessary bearing it was felt to have upon the mission of His life; while, if taken in connection with what happened so soon after, it was calculated, on the other hand, to destroy all expectations of a merely political kind. The time was now come when Jesus felt that, just because He was the Messiah, it behoved Him to do something and for this He appropriates the prophet’s symbol of the Prince of Peace by way of contrast to His practice hitherto of forbidding the publication of His Messiahship. This step, which, from the fact of the crisis being so near, might now be taken without risk, He had postponed till the eve of His death, a circumstance of the utmost significance as regarded the sense in which His Messiahship was to be understood. This incident, too, was one of the things for which His hour had not previously come (John 6:15 ). Comp. note on John 7:5 f. Strauss asserts that there is here the possibility at least of a mythical story, though his objections are far from being to the point. See, on the other hand, Ebrard and Bleek. According to Wittichen, Jahrb. f. D. Theol . 1862, p. 365, Jesus did not intend this incident to be regarded in any other light than as an ordinary festival procession , but the multitude, without consulting Him , turned it into an occasion for a Messianic demonstration. This is not in keeping with the unusual preparations mentioned in Matthew 21:2 ; comp. Matthew 21:7 .

Verse 12

Matthew 21:12 . Different from Mark 11:11 ; Mark 11:15 , where the narrative is more precise; comp. Weiss’ note on Mark.

In the court of the Gentiles were the tabernae , הניות , where animals, incense, oil, wine, and other requisites for sacrifice were exposed for sale. Lightfoot on this passage.

The money-changers ( κολλυβ ., see Phrynichus, p. 440) exchanged on commission ( קולבון , Maimonides, Shekal. 3) ordinary money for the two drachmae pieces which were used in paying the temple tribute (see note on Matthew 17:24 ).

This cleansing of the temple is, with Chrysostom, Paulus, Kuinoel, Tholuck, Olshausen, Kern, Ebrard, Baumgarten

Crusius, Schleiermacher, Hengstenberg, Wieseler, to be regarded as the second that took place, the first being that recorded in John 2:13 ff., and which occurred on the occasion of the first visit to Jerusalem. The abuse having been repeated, there is no reason why Jesus should not have repeated this purifying process, and that (in answer to Hofmann, Luthardt, Hengstenberg) without any essential difference. The absence, in the synoptical account, of any allusion to a previous occasion, is sufficiently explicable from the length of time that intervened, and from the fact that the Synoptists take no notice generally of what took place during the earlier visit to Judea. The similarity of the accompanying circumstances may be accounted for from the similarity of the incidents themselves; whereas the supposition that the cleansing took place only on one occasion would necessarily involve a chronological derangement extending to almost the whole period of Christ’s ministry, a derangement which can neither be fairly imputed to the synoptical narrative nor even conceived of as far as John is concerned, whose testimony is that of an eye-witness. This is not “wishy-washy criticism” (Keim), but it is based upon the authenticity of the fourth Gospel, as well as upon the weighty and unanimous testimony of the synoptical writers, to sacrifice whose authority for the sake of John would be both one-sided and violent. This, however, is what Wetstein, Lücke, Neander, de Wette, Bleek, Ewald, Weizsäcker have done. Others, again, have rejected the fourth evangelist’s account, so far as its chronology is concerned, in favour of that of the Synoptists (Ziegler, Theile, Strauss, Baur, Weisse, Hilgenfeld, Schenkel, Keim). Comp., further, the remarks under John 2:17 .

Verse 13

Matthew 21:13 . Free combination of Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 , and taken from the Sept.

κληθής .] how sacred the purpose for which it was intended, but ye , etc.

ποιεῖτε (see critical notes) censures this desecration of the temple as a thing in which they are still persisting .

σπήλαιον λῃστῶν ] The strong language of the prophet (otherwise in John) was in keeping with the emotion that was awakened in Jesus. The use of such language is sufficiently accounted for by the fact that avarice had taken up its abode in those sacred precincts to carry on its huckstering and money-changing: τὸ γὰρ φιλοκερδὲς λῃστρικὸν πάθος ἐστι , Theophylact. Differently Fritzsche: “Vos undequaque pecuniam, animalia hue congerere sustinetis, ut latrones praedam comportant in speluncam,” where, however, due prominence is not given to the distinctive point of comparison, viz. the robbery .

In Matthew 21:12-13 , Jesus acts with higher authority than that of a mere zealot (Numbers 25:11 ): He addresses Himself to the purifying of the temple and its worship with such a reforming energy as, according to Malachi 3:1-3 , befitted the Messiah . Comp. Bertholdt, Christol . p. 163; Ullmann, Sündl . p. 177. And the acquiescence of the astonished multitude is all the more intelligible on the occasion of this cleansing, that the indignant reformer had just celebrated His triumphal march into the city in the character of Messiah. But even on the first occasion, John 2:0 , their acquiescence is sufficiently explicable from the sudden and decided nature of the proceeding, taken in connection with the spiritually-imposing character of the Lord’s person and bearing (“divinitatis majestas lucebat in facie,” Jerome), so that it is quite needless to resort to the hypothesis of a miracle (Origen, Jerome).

Verse 14

Matthew 21:14 ff. The insertion of Matthew 21:14-16 from the apostolic tradition is peculiar to Matthew.

τὰ θαυμάσια ] the only instance of this usage in the New Testament, though very common in classical Greek and the Sept.: the wonderful things , viz. the cleansing of the temple and the miraculous cures. This combination has suggested the use of the more comprehensive term.

Matthew 21:16 . ἀκούεις κ . τ . λ .] in a tone of rebuke, implying that He was the occasion of such impropriety, and was tolerating it.

ὅτι ] recitative . The reply of Jesus, so profoundly conversant with the true sense of Scripture, is as much as to say that this shouting of the children is altogether befitting, as being the praise which, according to Psalms 8:3 , God has perfected .

νηπίων κ . θηλαζόντων ] In explaining the words of the psalm, there is no need to have recourse to the fact that children usually received suck for two and three years (Grimm’s note on 2Ma 7:27 ), nor even to the idea of the children being transformed into adult instruments in effecting the triumph of God’s cause (Hofmann, Weiss, u. Erf . II. p. 118), but only to bear in mind that, as a genuine poet, the psalmist seemed to hear, in the noise and prattle of the babes and sucklings , a celebration of their Maker’s praise. But, inasmuch as those children who shouted in the temple were not νήπιοι ( i.e . in connection with θηλάζ . infantes , Isaiah 11:8 ; 1 Corinthians 3:1 ), the scriptural warrant by which Jesus here justifies their hosannas may be said to be based upon an inference a minore ad majus . That is to say, if, according to Psalms 8:3 , God had already ordained praise from the mouths of sucklings , how much more has He done so from the mouths of those little ones who now shouted hosanna! The former , though unable to speak, and still at the mother’s breast, are found praising God; how much more the latter , with their hosanna cries! These last are shouted in honour of the Messiah , who, however, is God’s Son and Representative, so that in His δόξα God is glorified (John 13:31 ; John 14:13 ; Philippians 2:11 ), nay, God glorifies Himself (John 12:28 ).

κ . ηὐλίσθη ἐκεῖ ] Consequently He did not pass the night in the open air (in answer to Grotius), for neither in classical Greek do we always find αὐλίζεσθαι used in the sense of bivouacking (Apollonid. 14; Diod. Sic. xiii. 6). Comp. Tob 4:14 ; Tob 6:10 ; Tob 9:5 ; Judges 19:9 f.

On Bethany, some 15 stadia from Jerusalem (John 11:18 ), see Tobler, Topogr. v. Jerus . II. p. 432 ff.; Robinson, Pal . II. p. 309 ff.; Sepp, Jerus. u. d. heil. Land , I. p. 583 ff. At present it is only a miserable village, known by the Arabic name of el-Aziriyeh (from el-Azir , i.e. Lazarus ). For the name , see note on John 1:28 .

Verse 19

Matthew 21:19 . Comp. Mark 11:19 ff. Μίαν ] “unam illo loco,” Bengel.

ἐπὶ τῆς ὁδοῦ ] The tree, which was by the side of the public road (not on private property), stood above the road , either projecting over it merely, or occupying an eminence close to it, or the road itself may have been in a ravine. It was a favourite practice to plant fig-trees by the roadside, because it was thought that the dust, by absorbing the exuding sap, was conducive to the better growth of the fruit, Plin. N. H . xv. 19.

ἦλθεν ἐπʼ αὐτήν ] not: conscendit arborem (Fritzsche), but: He went up to it. From seeing the tree in foliage , Jesus expected, of course (for it was well known that the fig-tree put forth its fruit before coming into leaf), to find fruit upon it as well, namely, the early boccôre , which, as a rule, did not ripen till June, and not the harvest-figs, Kermuse , that had been on the tree all winter, and the existence of which He could not infer from seeing leaves . Comp. Tobler, Denkbl. aus Jerus . p. 101 ff. On the disappointed expectation of Jesus, Bengel observes: “maxima humanitatis et deitatis indicia uno tempore edere solitus est.” It is a perversion of the text to say, with Chrysostom, Euthymius Zigabenus, that He did not expect to find fruit upon the tree, but went up to it merely for the purpose of working the miracle. Moreover, the hunger is alleged to have been only a σχηματίζεσθαι (Euthymius Zigabenus), or an esuries sponte excitata (Cornelius a Lapide). The account of the withering of the tree, contained in Mark 11:12 ff., Mark 11:19 f., is more precise and more original (in answer to Köstlin, Hilgenfeld, Keim). Matthew abridges.

Verse 21

Matthew 21:21 f. Instead of telling the disciples, in reply to their question, by what means He (in the exercise of His divine power) caused the tree to wither, He informs them how they too might perform similar and even greater wonders (John 14:12 ), namely, through an unwavering faith in Him (Matthew 17:20 ), a faith which would likewise secure a favourable answer to all their prayers. The participation in the life of Christ, implied in the πίστις , would make them partakers of the divine power of which He was the organ, would be a guarantee that their prayers would always be in harmony with the will of God, and so would prevent the promise from being in any way abused.

The affair of the fig-tree ( τὸ τῆς συκῆς , comp. Matthew 8:33 ) should neither be explained on natural grounds (Paulus says: Jesus saw that the tree was on the point of dying, and that He intimated this “in the popular phraseology”! Comp. even Neander, Baumgarten-Crusius, Bleek), nor regarded as a mythical picture suggested by the parable in Luke 13:6 ff. (Strauss, de Wette, Weisse, Hase, Keim), but as the miraculous result of an exercise of His will on the part of Jesus , such a result as is alone in keeping with the conception of Christ presented in the Gospel narrative. But the purpose of the miracle cannot have been to punish an inanimate object, nor, one should think, merely to make a display of miraculous power (Fritzsche, Ullmann), but to represent in a prophetic, symbolical, visible form the punishment which follows moral barrenness (Luke 13:6 ff.), such a punishment as was about to overtake the Jews in particular, and the approach of which Jesus was presently to announce with solemn earnestness on the eve of His own death (Matthew 21:28-44 ; Matthew 22:1-14 ; Matthew 22:23-25 ). It is true He does not make any express declaration of this nature, nor had He previously led the disciples to expect such (Sieffert); but this objection is met partly by the fact that the πῶς of the disciples’ question, Matthew 21:20 , did not require Him to do so, and partly by the whole of the subsequent denunciations, which form an eloquent commentary on the silent withering of the fig-tree.

αἰτήσητε ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ ] Comp. note on Colossians 1:9 : what ye will have desired in your prayer .

πιστεύοντες ] Condition of the λήψεσθε . He who prays in faith , prays in the name of Jesus , John 14:13 .

Verse 23

Matthew 21:23 . Comp. Mark 11:27 ff.; Luke 20:1 ff.

Διδάσκοντι ] while He was engaged in teaching.

ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ] in virtue of what kind of authority . Comp. Acts 4:7 . The second question is intended to apply to Him who has given the authority; the first is general, and has reference to the nature of the authority (whether it be divine or human).

ταῦτα ] these things , cannot point merely to the cleansing of the temple (Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus), which is too remote for such special reference. As little can the teaching by itself be intended (Grotius, Bengel), that being a matter in connection with the ministry of Jesus about which the Sanhedrim was comparatively unconcerned, and for which He did not need a higher authority. We should rather say that, in their ταῦτα , the questioners mean to include all that up till that moment Jesus had done and was still doing in Jerusalem, and therefore refer to the triumphal entry, the cleansing of the temple, the miraculous healing and the teaching in the temple, all which, taken together, seemed to betoken the Messianic pretender. Comp. de Wette, Bleek, Weizsäcker, p. 532; Keim, III. p. 112. The members of the Sanhedrim hoped either to hear Him acknowledge that the ἐξουσία was divine , or presumptuously assert that it was self-derived , so that in either case they might have something on which to found judicial proceedings against Him. They seem to have been a provisional deputation of the Sanhedrim appointed to discover a pretext for excommunicating Him. Comp. John 1:19 .

Verse 24

Matthew 21:24 f. Jesus prudently frustrates their design by proposing in reply a puzzling question, which, in the circumstances, they did not know how to answer.

λόγον ἕνα ] a single word, a single question ; not more. The subject of the question itself is admirably chosen, seeing that the work of reform in which Jesus was engaged had a necessary connection with that of John; both would stand and fall together.

πόθεν ἦν ] whence did it proceed? The following alternative is explanatory: was it from God , who had commissioned John, or from men , so that he baptized simply on his own authority or that of his fellow-mortals? The latter was out of the question, if John was a prophet (Matthew 21:26 ). Comp., further, Acts 5:39 .

διελογ . παρʼ ἑαυτοῖς ] they deliberated by themselves , privately κατʼ ἰδίαν , i.e. with each other , during a brief pause for private consultation, before giving their decision, which was intimated in the subsequent ἀποκριθέντες τῷ Ἰησοῦ . διαλογίζεσθαι in this instance also denotes reflection combined with mutual consultation . Comp. Matthew 16:7 ; Mark 8:16 ; Luke 20:14 .

ἐπιστεύσατε αὐτῷ ] λέγοντι πολλὰ καὶ μεγάλα περὶ ἐμοῦ , Euthymius Zigabenus.

Verse 26

Matthew 21:26 f. Φοβούμεθα τὸν ὄχλον ] Those words are preceded by an aposiopesis , the import of which, however (Luke 20:6 ), is indicated by the words themselves.

The language of embarrassment: “ But suppose we should say: From men; we are afraid of the people ” etc. Comp. note on Acts 23:9 .

πάντες γὰρ , κ . τ . λ .] See on Matthew 14:5 .

καὶ αὐτός ] He also on His part; for as they with their wretched οὐκ οἴδαμεν left the question of Jesus unanswered , so now in like manner He with His decided and humbling οὐδὲ ἐγώ ( neither do I ) refuses to answer theirs.

Verses 28-32

Matthew 21:28-32 . Peculiar to Matthew, and doubtless taken from the collection of the sayings of the Lord.

Jesus now assumes the offensive in order to convince His adversaries of their own baseness.

τέκνα and τέκνον suggest the father’s love .

Matthew 21:30 . ἐγώ ] is to be taken elliptically , and that with due regard at the same time to its emphatic character, in virtue of which it forms a contrast to the negative answer of the other son: I , sir, will go and work in the vineyard this very day. The κύριε expresses the hypocritical submission of the man.

The publicans and harlots are represented by the first mentioned son; for previous to the days of John they refused to obey the divine call (in answer to the command to serve Him, which God addressed to them through the law and the prophets, they practically said: οὐ θέλω ), but when John appeared they accorded him the faith of their hearts, so that, in conformity with his preaching, they were now amending their ways, and devoting themselves to the service of God. The members of the Sanhedrim are represented by the second son; for, while pretending to yield obedience to the law of God revealed in the Scriptures (by the submissive airs which they assumed, they practically uttered the insincere ἐγὼ , κύριε ), they in reality disregarded it, and, unlike the publicans and the harlots, they would not allow themselves to be influenced by the movement that followed the preaching of the Baptist, so that neither the efforts of John nor the example of the publicans and harlots had any effect upon them in the way of producing conversion. To understand by the two sons the Gentiles and the Jews , is entirely against the context.

προάγουσιν ὑμᾶς ] as though the future entering into the Messianic kingdom were now taking place. The going before , however, does not necessarily imply that others are following. Comp. Matthew 18:14 .

ἐν ὁδῷ δικαιοσύνης ] in the way of righteousness, i.e. as one whose walk and conversation are characterized by moral integrity, ἐν ἀμέμπτῳ βίῳ (Theophylact), ἵνα καὶ ἀξιόπιστος φανῇ (Euthymius Zigabenus). Comp. 2Pe 2:21 ; 2 Peter 2:2 ; Proverbs 8:20 ; Proverbs 12:28 ; Proverbs 17:23 . The preaching of righteousness (de Wette, Bleek, Keim) would have been expressed by some such terms as ὁδὸν δικαιος . διδάσκων (Matthew 22:16 ).

ἰδόντες ] the fact, namely, that the publicans and harlots believed Him.

οὐδὲ μετεμελ . ὕστ .] did not even feel penitent afterwards (Matthew 21:29 ), far less did you get the length of actual conversion. The example of those others produced so little impression upon you. The emphasis is not on ὕστερ ., but on μετεμ .

τοῦ πιστεῦσαι ] Object of μετεμ . ὕστ ., so as to believe Him .

Verse 33

Matthew 21:33 ff. Comp. Mark 12:1 ff, Luke 20:9 ff. Jesus, in Matthew 21:28 ff., having shown His adversaries how base they are, now proceeds to do this yet more circumstantially in another parable (founded, no doubt, upon Isaiah 5:1 ff.), in which, with a lofty and solemn earnestness, He lays bare to them the full measure of their sin against God (even to the killing of His Son), and announces to them the punishment that awaits them.

ὤρυξεν ἐν αὐτῷ ληνόν ] dug a wine-vat in it . Comp. Xen. Oec . xix. 2 : ὁπόσον βάθος ὀρύττειν δεῖ τὸ φυτόν . This was a trough dug in the earth for the purpose of receiving the juice of the grape as it flowed down from the press through an aperture covered with a grating. See Winer, Realw . I. p. 653 f.

πύργον ] a tower , for watching the vineyard. Such tower-shaped structures were then, and are still, in common use for this purpose (Tobler, Denkbl . p. 113.

ἐξέδοτο ] he let it out (Pollux, i. 75; Herod, i. 68; Plat. Parm , p. 127 A; Dem. 268, 9), namely, to be cultivated. Seeing that the proprietor himself collects the produce (Matthew 21:34 ; Matthew 21:41 ), we must assume that the vineyard was let for a money rent, and not, as is generally supposed, for a share of the fruit. For nothing is said in this passage about payment in kind to the proprietor, including only part of the produce. Otherwise in Mark 12:2 ; Luke 20:10 ; comp. Weiss’ note on Mark.

τοὺς καρποὺς αὐτοῦ ] αὐτοῦ is often taken as referring to the vineyard ; but without reason, for there is nothing to prevent its being referred to the subject last mentioned. It was his own fruit that the master wished to have brought to him. The fruit of the vineyard, and the whole of it too, belongs to him .

ἐλιθοβόλησαν ] they stoned him (Matthew 23:37 ; John 8:5 ; Acts 7:58 f., Matthew 14:5 ; Hebrews 12:20 ), forms a climax to ἀπέκτ ., as being a “species atrox” (Bengel) of this latter.

ἐντραπής .] a reasonable expectation.

εἶπον ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ] they said one to another .

καὶ σχῶμεν τὴν κληρον . αὐτοῦ ] and let us obtain possession of his inheritance , namely, the vineyard to which he is the heir. In these words they state not the result of the murder (as in Mark), but what step they propose to take next . After the death of the son, who is therefore to be regarded as an only one, they intend to lay claim to the property.

ἐξέβαλον κ . ἀπέκτ .] differently in Mark 12:8 , hence also the transposition in D, codd. of It. This passage contains no allusion to the previous excommunication (Grotius), or to the crucifixion of Christ because it took place outside of Jerusalem (comp. Hebrews 13:12 f.; so Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Olshausen), but simply describes the scene in which the son on his arrival is thrust out of the vineyard and murdered .

The parable illustrates the hostile treatment experienced time after time by God’s prophets (the δοῦλοι ) at the hands of the leaders (the husbandmen) of the Jewish theocracy (the vineyard), an institution expressly designed for the production of moral fruit, and also shows how their self-seeking and love of power would lead them to put to death even Jesus, the Son, the last and greatest of the messengers from God. Comp. Acts 7:51 f. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, likewise find a meaning in the hedge (the law), the wine-vat (the altar), and the tower (the temple). So also Bengel, who sees in ἀπεδήμησεν an allusion to the “ tempus divinae taciturnitatis ;” while Origen takes it as referring to the time when God ceased to manifest Himself in a visible shape.

Verse 40

Matthew 21:40 f. According to Mark and Luke, it is Jesus who replies. But how appropriate and how striking (comp. Matthew 21:31 ) that the adversaries themselves are forced to pronounce their own condemnation (in answer to Schneckenburger, de Wette, Bleek)!

κακοὺς κακῶς ἀπολέσει αὐτ .] as despicable creatures (scoundrels), He will miserably destroy them . The collocation κακοὺς κακῶς serves to indicate in an emphatic manner the correspondence between the conduct in question and its punishment. See Wetstein’s note; Fritzsche, Diss. in 2 Cor. ii. p. 147 f.; Lobeck, Paralip . p. 58. Comp. Eur. Cycl . 270: κακῶς οὗτοι κακοὶ ἀπόλοινθʼ ; and, in general, Lobeck, ad Soph. Aj . 866; Elmsl. ad Eur. Med . 787. If we are to apply the parable in accordance with the order of thought, and, therefore, in conformity with the meaning intended by Jesus Himself, we cannot understand the coming of the κύριος and the execution of the punishment as denoting the second advent and the last judgment ; for, apart from the fact that it is God and not Christ that is represented by the κύριος , the words οἵτινες ἀποδώσουσιν , κ . τ . λ ., would point to the period subsequent to the advent and the judgment, a reference not in keeping with the sense of the passage. The true reference is to the destruction of Jerusalem , the shape in which the divine judgment is to overtake the then guardians of the theocracy, whereupon this latter would be entrusted to the care of other guides ( i.e . the leaders of the Christian church as representing the true Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ ), who as such will be called upon to undertake the duties and responsibilities of their unfaithful predecessors. Comp. Matthew 22:7 ; John 7:34 ; Ephesians 4:11 f. Such are the things which those hostile questioners “ ἄκοντες προφητεύουσι ” (Euthymius Zigabenus).

ἐν τοῖς καιροῖς αὐτῶν ] αὐτῶν refers to the γεωργοί : at the terms prescribed to them for doing so .

Verse 42

Matthew 21:42 . The enemies of Jesus have answered correctly, but they are not aware that they have thus pronounced their own condemnation, since those who thrust out the Son that was sent to them are no other than themselves. To bring this fully home to them (Matthew 21:45 ), is the purpose of the concluding words added by our Lord. The quotation is from the Septuagint version of Psalms 118:22 f., which was composed after the captivity, and in which the stone, according to the historical sense of the psalm, represents the people of Israel , who, though rejected by the Gentiles, were chosen by God to form the foundation-stone of His house (the theocracy); while, according to the typical reference of the passage (which the Rabbinical teachers also recognised, see Schoettgen), it denotes the ideal head of the theocracy, viz. the Messiah .

λίθον ὅν ] a stone which , attraction of very frequent occurrence.

ἀπεδοκίμ .] as not fit for being used in the building.

οὗτος ] this , and no other.

κεφαλὴν γωνίας ] רֹאשׁ פִּנָּה , head of the corner, i.e. corner-stone (in Hesychius we find κεφαλίτης in the sense of corner-stone; see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 700), is the metaphorical designation of Him on whom the stability and development of the theocracy depend, without whom it would fall to pieces, and in this respect He resembles that stone in a building which is indispensably necessary to the support and durability of the whole structure. The antitype here referred to is not the Gentiles (Fritzsche), but, as must be inferred from the connection of our passage with what is said about the Son being thrust out and put to death, from the further statement in Matthew 21:44 , and from the common usage throughout the New Testament (Acts 4:11 ; Ephesians 2:20 ; 1 Peter 2:7 ), the Messiah.

ἐγένετο αὕτη ] did he become so (viz. the corner-stone, κεφαλὴ γωνίας ). Here the feminine is not a Hebraism for the neuter (as little is it so in 1 Samuel 4:7 ; Psalms 27:4 ), as Buttmann, Neut. Gr. p. 108 [E. T. 123], would have us suppose, but strictly grammatical, inasmuch as it refers to κεφ . γων .; and accordingly we find that in the Septuagint also זאת is rendered according to its contextual reference. To refer to γωνίας merely (Wetstein) is inadmissible, for this reason, that, in what precedes, κεφαλὴ γων . was the prominent idea.

καὶ ἔστι θαυμαστὴ , κ . τ . λ .] viz. this κεφαλὴ γων . “Our eyes,” as referring to believers.

Verse 43

Matthew 21:43 . Διὰ τοῦτο ] therefore , because, according to the psalm just quoted, the rejected stone is destined to become the corner-stone. What is contained in the following announcement is the necessary consequence of the inversion of the order of things just referred to. The λέγω ὑμῖν , however, like the ἀφʼ ὑμῶν below, implies the obvious intermediate thought: “for it is you who reject this corner-stone.”

ἀρθήσεται ἀφʼ ὑμῶν ] for they, along with the whole Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα represented by them, were by natural right the owners of the approaching Messianic kingdom, its theocratic heirs; comp. Matthew 13:38 .

ἔθνει ποιοῦντι , κ . τ . λ .] Jesus is not here referring to the Gentiles , as, since Eusebius’ time, many, and in particular Schenkel, Hilgenfeld, Keim, Volkmar, have supposed, but, as the use of the singular already plainly indicates, to the whole of the future subjects of the kingdom of the Messiah, conceived of as one people , which will therefore consist of Jews and Gentiles, that new Messianic people of God, which is to constitute the body politic in the kingdom that is about to be established, 1 Peter 2:9 . The fruits of the Messiah’s kingdom are those fruits which must be produced as the condition of admission (Matthew 5:3 ff., Matthew 13:8 ). Hence, likewise, the use of the present ποιοῦντι ; for Jesus regards the future subjects of the kingdom as already anticipating its establishment by producing its fruits . The metaphor is to be regarded as an echo of the parable of the vineyard. The fruits themselves are identical with those mentioned in Ephesians 5:9 ; Galatians 5:22 ; Romans 6:22 .

Verse 44

Matthew 21:44 . After having indicated the future punishment in the merely negative form of ἀρθήσεται κ . τ . λ ., Jesus now proceeds to announce it in positive terms, by means of parallelism in which, without dropping the metaphor of the stone, the person in question is first the subject and then the object. A solemn exhausting of the whole subject of the coming doom. And whosoever will have fallen upon this stone (whosoever by rejecting the Messiah shall have incurred the judgment consequent thereon) shall he broken (by his fall); but on whomsoever it shall fall (whomsoever the Messiah, as an avenger, shall have overtaken), it shall winnow him, i.e . throw him off like the chaff from the winnowing-fan. συνθλᾶσθαι ( to be crushed ) and λικμᾶσθαι , which form a climax, are intended to portray the execution of the Messianic judgments. λικμάω is not equivalent to conterere, comminucre , the meaning usually assigned to it in accordance with the Vulgate, but is rather to be rendered by to winnow, ventilare ( Il . v. 500; Xen. Oec . xviii. 2. 6; Plut. Mot . p. 701 C; Lucian, Gymnas . xxv.; Ruth 3:2 ; Sir 5:10 ). See likewise Job 27:21 , where the Sept. employs this figurative term for the purpose of rendering the idea of driving away as before a storm ( שׂער ). Comp. Daniel 2:44 ; Wis 11:20 .

Observe the change which the figure undergoes in the second division of the verse. The stone that previously appeared in the character of the corner-stone, lying at rest, and on which, as on a stone of stumbling (Isaiah 8:14 f.), some one falls, is now conceived of as rolling down with crushing force upon the man; the latter having reference to the whole of such coming (Matthew 21:40 ) in judgment down to the second advent; the former expressing the same thought in a passive form, κεῖται εἰς πτῶσιν (Luke 2:34 ).

Verse 45

Matthew 21:45 f. It was the hint contained in this concluding remark that led Jesus at once to follow up what had been already said with another parabolic address directed against His enemies.

οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς κ . οἱ Φαρις .] identical with the οἱ ἀρχ . κ . οἱ πρεσβύτεροι of Matthew 21:23 , so that, in the present instance, the latter are designated by the name of the party to which they belonged.

ἔγνωσαν ] what had now become clear to them from what was said, Matthew 21:42-44 . The confident manner in which they express themselves in Matthew 21:41 bears up to that point no trace of such knowledge, otherwise we should have to suppose that they consciously pronounced their own condemnation.

εἰς (see critical remarks) προφήτην : held Him as a prophet, i.e. in Him they felt they possessed a prophet; on εἰς , which is met with in later writers in the sense of the predicate, see Bernhardy, p. 219.

Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 21". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hmc/matthew-21.html. 1832.
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