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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 4

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-25

Matthew 4:1 . Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit, υπο του πνευματος , the Holy Spirit, as indicated by the Greek article, and declared in the verses preseding. Led into the wilderness, where he was with the wild beasts. Mark 1:12-13. Here, like Moses on the mount, Exodus 24:0., the Saviour enjoyed abstraction from the world, and lived with the Father, without need of earthly food, as the saints shall live in heaven. Here also, as Moses received the law, so the Saviour received the new law, the law of the Spirit of life.

To be tempted of the devil, of the accuser, as in Revelation 12:9-10. But the word in authors is often applied to persons guilty of calumny and slander. In Hebrew, the evil one is called Satan, the adversary. The LXX call him διαβολος diábolus, dev, or devil, from the Persic. St. Paul charges both men and women not to be διαβολοι diaboloi, false accusers. 2 Timothy 3:3. Titus 2:3. Satan is often called ο πονηρος , the evil one, as in 1 John 5:18, and again in Matthew 4:19. “The whole world lieth in the wicked one.” The satyrs mentioned in Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14, are called διαμονια demons by the LXX, and are followed by the evangelists when speaking of inferior spirits. In many places they are called διαμων , and διαμονιον ; and in profane authors, numen, larva, genius, &c. Christian, these are thine enemies. Take the panoply, the whole armour of God. What Milton says is founded on ancient faith.

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep. Paradise Lost, book 4:677.

Matthew 4:2 . He was afterwards an hungered. Hunger may be regarded as the keenest sensation of nature, and has often excited the passions to desperate deeds.

Matthew 4:3 . The tempter came to him. Probably in the person of some aged patriarch, full of good offices; but though professing humanity, he brought him stones instead of bread. Our Milton, whose genius is surpassed by none, in the ninth book of Paradise Lost, makes the same tempter enter the serpent, and sport his coils and gambols in the presence of Eve, who being delighted and astonished with his conversation, said, I thought the beasts were dumb; how is it that you can reason and speak? I have acquired all this vivacity, and all these superior endowments, he replied, by eating the most delicious fruits of a certain tree. Eve beguiled by these and similar arguments, plucked and ate! The serpent then fled, well knowing the influence the woman would have over her husband.

In like manner, the second Adam must be tried as well as the first. No auxiliaries must be allowed the Saviour, and no restraints must be imposed on the prince of darkness, beyond the limits of his commission. The battle must be fairly fought, and on the great theatre of the spiritual world. The ministry of angels must be suspended, as was the battle between the Trojans and the Greeks, while Achilles and Hector engaged in single combat.

If thou be the Son of God. If thou art what the voice from heaven has said, God’s beloved Son; the only begotten, the emanation of the Father’s glory, the Word, the Wisdom, the power of God by whom all things were created, command that these stones be made bread. Here is the true idea of the Son of God, who is one substance with the Father. Here is the true, the fair inference drawn from his Divinity, that of creative power. Command that these stones be made bread. The inference of the apostle John is the same: “all things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Such also is the inference of other inspired men. Psalms 33:6. Proverbs 8:22; Proverbs 8:30. Colossians 1:15.

Satan’s design however was hidden under fair appearances of words; his aim was if possible to beguile the Saviour, to induce a distrust of providence, and attempt a miracle in unbelief. Nay, not a miracle only, but a superabundance of miracles; he does not say this stone, but “these stones.” Had he succeeded in this temptation, he had succeeded also in drawing the Saviour into sin, and so of frustrating the work of human redemption. What was the Saviour’s reply?

Matthew 4:4 . Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. This was our Lord’s answer, which intimates that as bread sustains the body, so the promises of God sustain the soul. Thus also he teaches us in the trying hour, to run to the bible for counsel and divine support. Those weapons of distrust, of doubt and fear, are still the artillery of the prince of darkness to harrass the saints. Strange arguments, that we should distrust the love of a heavenly Father, and the promises of God, which are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus. To these precious words of grace, let us alway have recourse in the day of conflict; and let us abate nothing of their plenitude, because they are like the source from which they flow, infinite and inexhaustible.

Matthew 4:5-7 . Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, the name of Jerusalem in all the east, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said, If thou be the Son of God, a point, (according to Theophylact) of which I am in doubt, give proof that thou art the Messiah of the ancient church by riding on the wings of the wind, and making the clouds thy chariot. Cast thyself down, for he shall give his angels charge concerning thee. To this insinuation our Lord answered, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Thus Satan was completely foiled; he could neither excite the Saviour to vanity, nor disturb the meekness of his temper. God has indeed given his angels charge concerning us; but it is while we are in the path of duty, and not of presumption: how otherwise have we lived among deaths, and been safe in the midst of dangers? Assuredly the good angel of the Lord hath redeemed us from all evil, and from all mischief.

Matthew 4:8 . Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. Here is the third round of the combatants, and the last effort of the foe. Here was presented the riches, the glories, and pleasures of the world in the aggregate; the glory for which the Sesostrises, the Nebuchadnezzars, the Alexanders, the Cæsars have waded through rivers of blood. The world have bowed to these fading glories and worshipped their gods. They were presented to the Saviour with all the plausible eclat of Lucifer, that he who could show them, could also give them. This was Satan’s grand stroke for victory, a stroke which seldom fails; for what can dazzle mortals more than a crown?

Matthew 4:10 . It is written, said the Saviour, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. This simple word, the sharp sword of the Spirit, vanquished the foe; he fled, too far degraded for disgrace, leaving the Lord arrayed in all his conquering glory. Now, as at his resurrection, he beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

Beware, oh christian, of the unitarian philosophy, a vain substitute for revelation. With these men, all is here a mere vision, a dream, a nothing. Thus the glory of Christ is lost in the pride of science, falsely called wisdom. Thus the mediatorial glory is lost, that Christ was made like unto his brethren, and was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.

Matthew 4:12 . Now, when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, by the malice of Herodias, aided as critics say, by the malice of the scribes and pharisees, he departed from Nazareth to Galilee of the gentiles; for Herod’s territories extended to upper Galilee. It is probable that some storm of persecution followed the arrest of John the baptist. Matthew 14:0.

Matthew 4:16 . The people which sat in darkness saw great light. Isaiah spake these words to comfort the nation in complicated invasions and wars; but ever worshipping with the Messiah before his eyes, he saw him coming as the light of the gentiles and the glory of the people of Israel. A state of nature is a state of darkness, loaded with crimes, and groaning with miseries; and what is worse, they know not the way of life, till the dayspring from on high shall visit them.

Matthew 4:19 . I will make you fishers of men. Sweet is that voice, and gracious that call, to cast the net into the sea and save souls. And of all the godlike pleasures which the mind can taste, none is equal to that. Oh young man, pursued with that inward call, quench it not. To gain the mind by truth, and win the heart with grace, is to save a soul from death, to become a crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord. Resist it not, and God who gives it will make your way to the sanctuary.

Matthew 4:23 . Teaching in their synagogues. A synagogue was not formed but where there were ten men learned in the law, and men who were at leisure from secular affairs. Hence the synagogues were mostly governed by men advanced in years. Three of these were magistrates, according to Dr. Lightfoot, who judged of disputes, of thefts, of various acts of uncleanness, of the admission of proselytes, and of the laying on of hands. Next to these was the Chazan, that is the angel of the church, or episcopos overseer of the congregation. He superintended those who read the law, and sometimes preached; but he employed whom he pleased to read. Three of the ten were called Parnasin: that is pastors, deacons or almoners. And these officers are frequently called the seven good men of the city by the Talmudists. The man who held the eighth rank in the synagogue was the interpreter; the office of the ninth and tenth is not so distinctly known. This account justifies an assertion of Ostervald, that the primitive christians performed their worship much after the manner of the jews. See my translation of his Exercise of the Sacred Ministry. It justifies, in regard to officers, what Jerome says, that bishop and presbyter were originally the same office; the one being the title of age, the other of dignity.

Matthew 4:24 . Those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic he healed. Wide as all India, and the gentile islands, devil- worship is practised; but the priests of demons mostly officiate in the night. Why then doubt that Satan may really dwell in his worshippers? St. Luke, a physician, makes the same distinction between demoniacy and lunacy. The former is supernatural, and often connected with disease, as in Mark 9:25: the latter is a corporeal infirmity, and claims the most indulgent compassion.


The moment our Saviour entered on a sphere of labour, he entered on a scene of conflicts. Satan took alarm at the glory of his person, and the expectation of his work. Though God tells not his secrets to his enemies, Satan was well acquainted with the scriptures, and with all the glorious circumstances of the incarnation and birth of Christ; the adversary and accuser therefore thought it high time to be busy. But, despairing of success, he watched an opportunity, firmly believing that our Saviour might degrade himself with sin. He did not dare to tempt him in presence of the church, but on seeing that the Holy Spirit had led him into the desert to a miraculous fast of forty days, as was prefigured by Moses and Elias, he ventured, on perceiving him hungry, to induce him to change stones into bread, for he had once changed the dew of heaven into manna to feed his hungry people. This was apparently kind of Satan; for he always tempts man to sin under the notion of some pleasure, or some good. But the latent object of the deceiver was to induce him to despair of God’s protecting care.

The beloved Son, ever faithful to his Father’s love, said with resentful horror, Get thee hence, Satan. The temptation to project himself from the temple was equally despised. The third equally so; the glories of earth had no charms for him who possessed the glories of heaven. Then, oh my soul, if thy Saviour would not please the enemy for the throne and sovereignty of the earth, do not thou please him for any mean and momentary compliance, for all sin is pain and not pleasure. Be faithful to thy God, and he will raise thee to greater honour than Satan can either promise or bestow.

Ministers also may learn many things from the temptations of Christ. The entrance on their work is often a time of temptation in every view, and Satan, in the course of their work, will try every temptation both of presumption, despair, and worldly allurements. They will not, they cannot get through without being exposed to many a fiery dart of the wicked one, and even to the end of life. Let them, like the Saviour, begin their work with frequent fastings, and constant prayer; and habituate themselves to the love of solitude and retirement. Above all, let us be thankful that the second Adam has foiled the foe, and that he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/matthew-4.html. 1835.
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