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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 4

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


Then the Spirit led Jesus. Mark says the Spirit made him go. Into the desert. Tradition places the temptation in the deserted area between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, especially on the mountain called Quarantania. To be tempted. See Hebrews 2:18; Romans 8:3. The One who came to destroy Satan’s kingdom had to be attacked by the Adversary at the very beginning, This was to test Christ; to prepare him to aid us (Hebrews 4:15) and to set us an example. The three temptations mentioned by Matthew are the three classes of temptation which come to all mankind. By the Devil. The prince of darkness is very real. Satan is: a person (Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12; Hebrews 2:14; Jude 1:6); a fallen angel (John 8:44; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Devil means false accuser; enemy.

Verse 2


After spending forty days and nights. Moses and Elijah both went without food for the same length of time. It was a period of spiritual power, of meditation and prayer, and of preparation for his work. He did not need food while this was taking place. Jesus was hungry. As this period ended, he felt the pangs of nature. Luke indicates the Devil tempted Jesus all during the forty days (Luke 4:2).

Verse 3


The Devil came to him. He chose a time of physical weakness to press this temptation. It is uncertain whether Satan came in a personal form, or as the whisper of an evil spirit. If you are God’s Son. A taunt. Satan is saying: “Show your power—if you have any.” But if Jesus had used his power to escape this problem, he would have failed to suffer as we do. Also, Jesus came to serve, never to use his Divine power for his own benefit. To do as Satan said would have been to distrust God. Self-denial was the law of Christ’s mission.

Verse 4


Jesus answered. Jesus uses the “sword of the Spirit” [the Bible] as his weapon. He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 LXX [read the context]. But on every word. God sustains on bread, but uses other means when it suits his purpose, He fed Israel on manna, sent by his word. We can trust his promise.

Verse 5


To the Holy City. We are not told how he took him. The highest point. Probably the lofty porch overhanging the valley of Kedron. From the roof to the valley floor was 300 feet, Josephus tells us.

Verse 6


If you are God’s Son. Again the taunt. Note the Devil can quote scripture too. Jesus had demonstrated his trust in God’s word. The Devil asks him to go from the extreme of distrusting God, to recklessly testing God. This is seen again and again as the people ask for a sign from heaven. Perhaps Satan is asking him to perform one stupenduous miracle in Jerusalem where all can see, to gain such fame that he can gain the throne while bypassing the Cross. This would have robbed the world of its Savior. “That the Messiah must suffer, and rise from death on the third day” (Luke 24:46). God will give orders to his angels. Satan quotes Psalms 91:11-12 but omits “to protect you wherever you go.” The promise is limited to those who live as God instructs.

Verse 7


You must not put. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16. No need for argument. What Satan asks is forbidden.

Verse 8


A very high mountain. He spreads a panoramic view of the world. Not literally visible, but visualized by the eye of the mind.

Verse 9


All this I will give you. No disguise here. Satan claims to rule the world. Jesus came to be King, but the road he must follow involves a horrible price. Satan offers a short-cut. He will bring Israel to him, set up David’s throne, make him the Messiah-ruler of the world—if he will only give up this idea of a spiritual Kingdom and worship the god of this world [Satan]. Israel looks for a material kingdom. So the temptation is to turn away from the Cross and the Tomb, to set up an outward, worldly regime.

Verse 10


Go away, Satan! Jesus rebukes him. “Go away” implies disgust. Satan is called by name and commanded to leave. Worship the Lord your God and serve only him! Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13. This forbids worship of any other object than Jehovah, whether idols, false gods, church leaders, saints or angels. The first temptation was through hunger—“What the sinful self desires”; the second through vanity and conceit—“what people see and want”; the third through avid ambition—“everything in this world that people are so proud of.” (1 John 2:15-17.)

Verse 11


Then the Devil left him. Luke adds: “for a while.” When the Devil is opposed, he flees. Angels came. When he had opposed the Tempter and won the battle, heavenly messengers came to help with food and also with spiritual comfort.

Verse 12


When Jesus heard. Matthew makes no attempt to follow the order of events. He omits a year between the temptation and this verse. (1) Jesus had returned to Bethany east of the Jordan (John 1:15-37) where the first disciples were called; (2) The return to Galilee and the miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11); (3) The first Passover of the Lord’s ministry at Jerusalem, and the first purifying of the temple (John 2:13-25); (4) The conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21); (5) His ministry in Judea (John 4:2); (6) He leaves for Galilee, goes through Samaria, the woman at the well (John 4:4-42); (7) Heals the official’s son (John 4:46-54); (8) A period of seclusion in Galilee, John the Baptist in prison (Matthew 4:12); (9) Attends a religious feast, miracle at the pool of Bethzatha (John 5:0); (10) Returns to Galilee, April, 28 A.D. We see that more than a year elapsed between the temptation and John’s imprisonment. John was put in prison because he rebuked Herod (Matthew 14:4; Mark 6:17). He went away to Galilee. Prudently (John 4:3). Christ had been teaching in Judea.

Verse 13


Not . . . in Nazareth. They had rejected him (Luke 4:16-30), Lived in Capernaum. A city of 30,000 on the northwest shore of the Lake of Galilee, It was an important city, had a synagogue, a Roman army garrison, and a customs station with Matthew as the tax officer. It was abandoned long ago. It was “Christ’s own city” because he made it his home. It was on the border between the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Verse 14


To make come true. Matthew’s way of saying this fulfilled prophecy. This prophecy is found in Isaiah 9:1-2.

Verse 15


Of the sea. Lake Galilee is the “sea.”.

Verse 16


The people. Those of the area just mentioned. Who live in darkness. Religious ignorance. Will see a great light. Light means Truth. Christ is the light of the world! Jesus taught in the area described, and the prophecy came true.

Verse 17


From that time. Probably from the time Jesus began to live in Capernaum. Jesus began to preach. This begins his Galilean ministry. Turn away from your sins. What Jesus now preaches is identical to John’s message (Matthew 3:2). He commands them to turn from sin to God, because the Kingdom is near. This was still preparing for the “setting up” of his Kingdom, which could not happen until he was glorified in death and resurrection. (See Luke 24:44-49.)

Verse 18


As Jesus walked. The sea or lake of Galilee, named for the province of Galilee on its western side. Also called Lake Gennesaret; About thirteen miles long and six miles wide. The Jordan river runs through it and on into the Dead Sea. Jesus lived, taught, and did most of his miracles on its borders. He saw two brothers. Simon and Andrew were already disciples of Jesus (John 1:35-39). Jesus gave Simon the new name of Cephas or Peter, which means “rock,” (see John 1:42). They lived in Bethsaida on the north shore of Lake Galilee (John 1:44). They were fishermen, a prosperous trade on the lake.

Verse 19


Come with me. They had continued to fish. Now they are formally called to devote all their time to a new work. They are to become apostles—special messengers of Christ.

Verse 20


At once. They did not question his word of command. They obeyed at once!

Verse 21


Two other brothers. Probably all Jesus called to be apostles were already his disciples (see John 1:29-51). This was a formal call to take up the “obligation” of Christ. James and John were also fishermen. Zebedee was their father, Salome their mother. Thought to be cousins of Jesus.

Verse 22


At once. They had received a higher call. They left their father and followed.

Verse 23


Jesus went all over Galilee. These next three verses condense the work and teaching of a long period, and introduce the detailed account given in the following chapters. Teaching. The Jews met every Sabbath [Saturday] in their synagogues for worship. This gave Jesus a ready-made audience. It was the custom to read from the Old Testament Scriptures, then a teacher or rabbi was asked to speak. This custom gave Jesus, and his disciples, a fine opportunity to proclaim the New Covenant. Good News of the Kingdom. The Good News of the speedy arrival of the long awaited Kingdom of the Messiah (Matthew 16:28; Luke 9:27). He did not at this time announce himself to be the Messiah. Healing. He loved mankind, and he healed the body so that he might heal the soul.

Verse 24


The news. What he was doing attracted attention. Syria was the Roman province north and east of Palestine, and may have included the latter at this time. Antioch and Damascus were in this province [see map]. People with demons. Demons are evil spirits with the ability to hurt people. They are servants of the ONE Devil. People were actually subject to the control of these demons. Consider: (1) supernatural strength (Mark 5:4); (2) blindness (Matthew 12:22); (3) predict the future (Acts 16:16); (4) demons knew Jesus (Mark 1:24); (5) Jesus spoke to them (Matthew 8:32); (6) demoniacs spoke of this control (Mark 5:9); (7) apostles affirmed it (Luke 10:17); (8) Jesus affirmed it (Matthew 12:28); (9) Peter affirmed it (Acts 10:38); [Satan’s power over the Christian is limited. See 1 Corinthians 10:13. ]

Verse 25


Great crowds. Attracted by his teaching and his miracles. [see map for Galilee and the Ten Towns.] Jesus was: (1) active; (2) he went to the people; (3) he went where the busiest people were; (4) he went where worshipping people were; (5) he went where needy people were.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 4". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/matthew-4.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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