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Bible Commentaries
Luke 13

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-17

E. The Son of Man in relation to the Sin of One and the Misery of Another. Luke 13:1-17

1There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood 2Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus [he] answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they 3[have] suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise 4perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

6He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground [makes the ground useless]? 8And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it 10, down. And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And, behold, there was1 a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. 12And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. 15The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite [Ye hypocrites2], doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead, him away to watering? 16And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? 17And when he had said [while he said] these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.


Luke 13:1. At that season.—According to Luke this intelligence comes to the Saviour while He is in Galilee, where he had just (Luke 11:12) repelled the imputations of His enemies, and warned the people against the leaven of the Pharisees. Probably we are to conceive the matter thus, that among the listeners to His last discourse there were some who had just received the mournful tidings in respect to the Galileans, and now hastened to communicate them to the Saviour, in order to hear His judgment upon the matter. In all probability the cruel deed had been perpetrated very shortly before, and had excited general exasperation.

Of the Galileans.—Many things here concurred to heighten the hideousness of this deed. Pilate, Procurator of Judæa, had, contrary to law, attacked subjects of Herod. Pilate, the heathen, had not even held sacred holy things, but had perpetrated a massacre in the temple. It is as if the exasperation at this act yet echoed in Luke in the very form of the expression,—Whose blood Pilate had mingled.—A tragically graphic delineation, which justifies the conjecture that these unfortunate ones had been wholly on a sudden fallen upon and slain by the Roman soldiers. What the provocation to this deed was cannot be stated with certainty, nor is there any ground to understand here (Euthym. Zigab., Theophyl., Grotius, a. o.) particularly followers of Judas Gaulonites. But it is certain that the Galileans at that time were exceedingly inclined to popular commotions (Josephus, Ant. Judges 17:9, Judges 17:3); that even at the feast in Jerusalem tumult not unfrequently arose; and that Pilate was not the man to desist, from regard to the sanctity of a locality, from executing a punishment recognized as necessary. If we call to mind the atrocities which the Romans, particularly afterwards, committed against the Jews, the murder of these Galileans will then appear to us only as a single drop in an unfathomable sea; and we must not be surprised if we find this deed, although it was generally known in the days of Jesus (τῶν Γαλιλ.), only noted down by Luke. An indirect argument for its credibility we find in the enmity subsequently alluded to between Pilate and Herod, Luke 23:12, which perhaps originated from this illegal act. It is, however, not apparent that this intelligence was communicated to the Saviour in any particularly hostile intent, and as Luke moreover gives no intimation in reference to the time when or the feast at which this massacre was committed by Pilate, he takes from us all possibility of drawing any chronological deduction whatever from this isolated historical datum.

Luke 13:2. Suppose ye.—In all probability those who brought this intelligence to our Lord were involved in the common error that so sudden a death in the midst of so sacred an employment must without doubt be regarded as a special proof of the terrible wrath of God upon those so slain. Were they perchance thinking of that which the Saviour had just said, Luke 12:47-48, upon exact correspondence in the future of retribution with sin, and did they wish over against this to draw His attention to the connection between sin and punishment even in this life? The Saviour at least considers it necessary to contradict the erroneous fancy that these Galileans were in any way stamped as greater sinners than all others by the judgment which had befallen them (ἐγένοντο declarative). He by no means denies the intimate connection between natural and moral evil, but He disputes the infallible certainty of the assumption that every individual visitation is a retribution for individual transgressions, and does not concede to those who are witnesses of a judgment the right, from the calamity which strikes some before others, to permit themselves a conclusion as to their moral reprobacy. But we abuse the declaration of the Saviour if we understand it in such a sense as that these Galileans did not deserve at all to be called ἁμαρτωλοί, but rather martyrs.

Luke 13:3. I tell you, Nay.—“Dominus hoc profert ex thesauris sapientiœ divinœ.” Bengel.—Our Lord knows and sets Himself against the perverseness of so many who, when they hear of public calamities, are much more inclined to direct their look without than within. In opposition to this He gives the earnest intimation that the fate of individuals ought to be the mirror for all.—Unless ye repent.—This declaration is the more apposite if we assume that the momentous intelligence had been brought to the Saviour with the intent to awaken in Him thereby the apprehension that a similar fate might also perchance threaten Him and His followers. No! not He, He declares: they themselves had an approaching Divine judgment to fear. Before Jesus’ eyes all Galilee stood forth to view as already ripe to future judgment, and in order to show that Judæa was in no respect securer, He subjoins the reminiscence, Luke 13:4-5, of a similar casualty.

Likewise perish.—The reading ὡσαύτως (Tischendorf) appears to deserve the preference above the weaker ὁμοίως (Lachmann). The Saviour does not mean to say that they shall perish in a similar, but that they shall perish in the same manner, namely, through the cruelty of the Romans, who were destined to avenge in terrible wise the evil deed of rejecting the Messiah. What streams of blood were afterwards shed in the same temple, and how many at the same time were buried under the rubbish and the ruins of the city and of the temple!

Luke 13:4. Those eighteen.—Again the Lord alludes to a similar event, which was yet fresh in every one’s memory. From a cause to us unknown, one of the towers standing not far from the brook Siloam had fallen in, and had buried eighteen corpses in its ruins. That it was a tower of the city-wall (Meyer) is not proved.—Here also was the rule and application the same as in the foregoing example, only that to the Saviour now not only the fate of impenitent individuals, but at the same time that of the whole Jewish state, stands before His soul; in spirit He sees much more than a single tower, He sees City and Temple fallen. The question possibly arising, to what circumstances so many who yet were quite as great sinners as those eighteen owed hitherto their preservation from such a lot, the Saviour now answers with the parable of the Unfruitful Fig-tree.

Siloam, comp. John 9:7, in all probability the same piece of water which in Nehemiah 3:15 appears under the name Shelah [Siloa in E. V.], a pool in the neighborhood of the fountain-gate, outside of Jerusalem, in the valley of Kedron, which perhaps David or one of his successors had dug (comp. Isaiah 8:6), and in whose vicinity there was also a village or place of like name. Apparently it received this name (the Sent), because the water with which this pool was supplied was conducted artificially through the rocks. Although Josephus often speaks of Siloah, the archæologists are nevertheless still as ever more or less at variance about the locality in which this pool must be actually sought. The principal views can be seen stated in Winer, ad loc., and as to the question whether Siloah and Gihon must be identified with one another, comp. Hamelsveld, Bibl. Geog. 2. p. 187. As to the rest, nothing more in detail is known about the πύργος ἐν τῷ Σιλ. The view of Stier, however, that the eighteen unfortunate men were prisoners who were confined in the tower, in whose case therefore it might so much the more easily appear as if a Divine judgment had overtaken them, is quite as much without proof as the opinion of Sepp that they were laborers, among whom also was the mason whom, according to the statement of Jerome, our Lord had formerly healed. See above on Luke 6:6.

Luke 13:6. A Fig-tree … in his vineyard.—Although the mention of a fig-tree in a vineyard sounds somewhat singular, it is yet by no means incongruous or in conflict with Deuteronomy 22:9, which undoubtedly speaks of seed but not of trees. If we assume the fig-tree as the symbol of Israel (Hosea 9:10; Matthew 21:19), the vineyard could then only designate the whole world, in which these people had been planted as an entirely peculiar phenomenon. “Ficus arbor, cui per se nil loci est in vinea. Liberrime Israelem sumsit Deus.” Bengel.

Luke 13:7. Then said he.—If God is the Lord of the vineyard, the gardener can only be Christ. This view deserves at least the preference above the somewhat arbitrary assumption of Stier that by the vineyard the rulers and leaders of Israel collectively are understood, as in Matthew 21:33. It is by no means proved that the expression: “Behold I come,” Luke 13:7, applies to Christ alone. The Father Himself is here represented as the comer, because He, since the day of the New Covenant had dawned, might with the fullest right expect peculiar fruits from the fig-tree of Israel. It is undoubtedly certain that everything that is said of the fig-tree is still applicable to each particular individual, and that every one entrusted with the care of souls may recognize his type in the gardener; but quite as manifest is it also, according to the connection of Luke 13:1-5, that the Saviour here before all has the Jewish state in mind, and that the indirect setting forth of His own person as a gardener agrees perfectly with the care which He had so long expended on this fig-tree, as well as with His character as the Intercessor who prays for the guilty.

These three years I come.—The three years indicated not the previous duration of the ministry of Jesus among Israel (Bengel), and as little the whole ante-christian period (Grotius), and least of all the τρεῖς πολιτείας of the judges, the kings, and the high-priests (Euthym. Zigab.); but denote in general a definite brief time, which here is limited to this particular number three, because the tree when planted brought forth as a rule its fruits within three years. But if one insists on having a definite time for God’s work of grace on Israel, we may reckon the time from the public appearance of John the Baptist—a half year before the entrance of Jesus on His office—up to the present moment, which altogether does not make up much less than three years. To this labor of grace, however, Israel had hitherto in no way given answering results. Not only did the fig-tree bear no fruit, but it also withdrew from other trees, by shade, absorption, &c., the warmth and the sap which they might have received if this had not stood in the way (καταργεῖ, see Meyer, ad loc.).

Luke 13:8. This year also.—A sufficient but brief time is still given to the fig-tree to bring forth better fruits.—Dig about it and dung it.—Intimation of the condition and augmented labor of grace with which the Saviour in the last weeks and days of His life requited the growing hatred of His enemies. To intercession He now joins strenuous activity, and only if this also is in vain will He forbear to make intercession for the unfruitful fig-tree. Yet He does not say that He Himself will hew it down, but only He no longer holds back the Lord of the vineyard, and entreats no longer for something that remains incorrigible. He yet counts it as possible that in the fourth year fruits may become apparent which the three first years had not brought, but He also assumes it as certain that in the opposite case the fig-tree must be removed out of the vineyard.

Luke 13:10. And He was teaching.—The narrative of the healing of the infirm woman is peculiar to Luke. The time when this miracle took place is not more particularly stated; but the shamelessness with which the Archisynagogus expresses his displeasure against Jesus, allows the conjecture that we have to assign to this event a place in the last period of the public life of our Lord. The reception of the narrative into this connection may at the same time serve as a proof how the Saviour, according to His own declaration, even amid increasing opposition, yet continued to dig about and to dung the unfruitful fig-tree. As to the rest, this Sabbath-miracle has much agreement with others already related, and apparently it is to be attributed to this circumstance also that Matthew and Mark pass it over in silence. Against the credibility of the fact this silence proves nothing, except with those who deny the possibility or profitableness of miracles of this sort a priori.

ΙΙνεῦμα�.—We may plainly recognize that Luke here understands a species of possession; she was plagued by a πνεῦμα, which caused an ἀσθένεια. Her nervous energies were so weakened that she could not raise herself up. “Ex nervorum contractione incurvum erat corpus.” Calvin. With the words: “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity,” the Saviour calls her unexpectedly to Himself, and therefore works psychically upon her, in order to make her receptive for the benefit which He is about to bestow upon her physically. Finally He lays His hands upon her, and now too the ordinary result does not fail to follow.

Luke 13:14. The ruler of the synagogue.—In this man anger at the supposed Sabbath desecration is visibly in conflict with a kind of fear which the miracle just performed has aroused in him. What he does not venture to say to the Saviour Himself he says to the people, with so loud a voice that the Saviour also should hear it. But that the miracle can make no other impression whatever upon him, is a strong testimony against him. However, it appears also from Luke 13:17, that besides him there were yet other ἀντικείμενοι present in the synagogue, which at the same time is an internal proof of the correctness of the reading ὑποκριταί, Luke 13:15.

Luke 13:15. The Lord, cum emphasi.—The Son of Man makes Himself now heard as Lord of the Sabbath, and that in figurative language similar to that which He had already more than once used in a case of this kind. Take note however of the distinction between the argumentum ad hominem which is made use of here, and that which is made use of Luke 14:5 (comp. Matthew 12:11-12). That it was really permitted on the Sabbath to take out one’s beast to drink, is proved by Lightfoot and Wetstein, ad loc. How was it possible that that which for a beast was regarded as a desirable benefit, should be condemned as a misdeed, so soon as it was performed on a human being?

Luke 13:16. Being a daughter of Abraham.—Not merely a general antithesis between man and beast, and far less a conception of the human personality deserving of sympathy, restricted according to Jewish popular notions (De Wette), but an emphatic designation of the spiritual relation which existed between father Abraham and this his daughter, comp. Luke 19:9. That we are entitled to regard this woman as a daughter of Abraham in the spiritual sense, appears even from this, that the Saviour does not once ask as to her faith, doubtless because He had already read this in her heart, while besides, her glorifying of God immediately after the miracle, Luke 13:13, testifies of her devout disposition of soul; nor is the declaration: “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” here made. Where now such a daughter of Abraham was bound by Satan, the Saviour could not forbear to snatch from him this booty.

Whom Satan hath bound.—More plainly than by this otherwise superfluous expression the Saviour could not give it to be understood that He regarded the demoniacal condition of this sufferer as the effect of a direct Satanical influence. Since possession can never be merely corporeal, it may be assumed that along with the spirit of discouragement and privation of power, the spark of faith had maintained or developed itself in the woman.

Luke 13:17. And all the people rejoiced, comp. Luke 5:26; Luke 9:43.—The Saviour’s words roused the conscience, as His deed roused the sensibility. The view of this miracle renews again the recollection of the former ones, and the continuity (γινομένοις) of this beneficent activity disposes heart and mouth to the glorifying of God. This accord of praise to the honor of the Father was to the Son a proof that He this time also had not tarried in Galilee in vain, and accompanied Him as it were on His way, now when He, as it appears, is leaving this land, in order to repair to the feast of the Dedication, John 10:0.


1.Luke 13:1-9, we see the Saviour over against human sin; Luke 13:10-17, over against human misery: both times in the full glory of His love and holiness. This for justification of the inscription chosen for this division.

2. The Saviour declares Himself on the one hand against the light-mindedness of those who entirely deny the intimate connection between natural and moral evil; on the other hand against the narrowness of those who consider individual misfortune and individual punishment as words of one and the same signification. The true point of view from which national calamities are to be regarded as voices calling to a general conversion, is here brought forward.
3. This parable of the Unfruitful Fig-tree contains not only the brief summary of the history of Israel, but also of the gracious dealing of God with every sinner. For all who live under the light of the Gospel there comes earlier or later a καιρὸς τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς, Luke 19:44, which when it has passed by unused, makes them ripe for the righteous judgment of God. But the Mediator of the New Covenant is at the same time their Intercessor, as long as deliverance is yet possible. So far then from the long-suffering of God affording any ground for the expectation of a final escape from punishment, it is, on the other hand, a pledge that the contemning of it is finally requited in the most terrific manner. Thus do we find here also the representation of a final judgment followed by no subsequent recovery whatever.

4. As this parable brings before our mind the image of the people of Israel, it permits us at the same time to cast a glance into the holy soul of the Mediator, for to His intercession was it owing that the Jewish state yet stood. The lengthening out of the time of grace for this Unfruitful Fig-tree had also been the object of His still nightly prayers. Undoubtedly if in the words: “Hew it down,” the words and spirit of the Baptist reëcho (Matthew 3:10), there is heard in these words: “Lord, let it alone this year also,” the compassionateness of the Son of Man, who was not come to destroy men’s souls, but to save them.

5. Parallels to the parable of the Unfruitful Fig-tree: Isaiah 5:1-7; Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:3; Psalms 80:9-11; Mark 11:12-14. Respecting the Sabbath miracles of our Lord, see on Luke 6:1-11.

6. The suffering of the woman in the synagogue is the faithful image of the misery into which Satan plunges man as to his soul; her healing is the image of redemption. The reality of this miracle is indirectly testified even by the president of the synagogue, who is indeed mean enough indirectly to censure the woman because she has allowed herself to be healed, but does not yet possess shamelessness enough to deny that here a sudden healing took place.


Jesus, 1. Over against the sin of mankind, Luke 13:1-9 : a. with inexorable severity does He rebuke sin, Luke 13:1-5; b. with inexhaustible patience does He wish to preserve the sinner, Luke 13:6-9; Luke 2:0. over against the wretchedness of mankind, Luke 13:9-17 : a. where Jesus comes He finds wretchedness; b. where Jesus finds wretchedness He brings healing.

Many men find satisfaction in being the first bringers of evil tidings.—The Lord often answers us very differently from what we could wish and expect.—Unexpected death.—All who are overtaken by heavy and deserved calamities are sinners, but not for that greater sinners than others.—What befalls others should serve us as a warning, 1 Corinthians 10:11.—The riches of the patience and long-suffering of God, Romans 2:4.—The parable of the Unfruitful Fig-tree the image of the dealing of God with the sinner: 1. The careful labor, 2. the righteous investigation, 3. the unhappy result, 4. the righteous judgment, 5. the entreating Intercessor, 6. the last delay.—The goodness and severity of God, Romans 11:22.—In the heavenly counsel of grace there are days which may outweigh whole years, and years which may outweigh whole centuries.—The acceptable year of the Lord, Isaiah 61:2.—All gracious leadings of God have the one purpose that we may really bring forth fruit.—Whoever brings forth no fruit is at the same time injurious to others.—The Lord is patient, but of great power, Nahum 1:3.—The true Sabbath-keeping fixed by the example of the Saviour, Luke 13:10-17; Luke 13:1. Indicated, 2. justified.—The house of the Lord the best refuge for sufferers.—No suffering so tedious that the Saviour cannot yet give deliverance.—The Lord understands even unuttered sighs.—The terrible might of Satan over body and soul.—Whom the Son hath made free, he should praise the Father.—Even the most glorious revelations of love are lost for him who has a mind at enmity with God.—Hypocrisy and cowardice not seldom intimately connected.—Even where the Saviour is only indirectly blamed He does not permit it to pass without an answer.—Hypocrisy condemned before the tribunal of the human, 1. Understanding, 2. sensibility, 3. conscience.—Ashamed must all be who rise up against Jesus.—How the Saviour vanquishes His enemies: 1. By the deed, 2. by the word of His love.—Jesus breaks asunder the bonds of Satan.—The shaming power of truth.—Glorifying of God the fruit of the work of redemption.

Starke:—Ever something new, and seldom anything good.—God’s open enemies must often be the instruments of His judgment on those who were wont to be called His people.—Canstein:—Men are in no place and in no employment sure that this or that calamity may not befall them.—Cramer:—Faithful preachers should direct all that they hear to the end of edifying and improving the church.—Brentius:—The judgments of God are incomprehensible; it befits us thereat to lay our hands on our mouths and to admire them in holy humility.—Quesnel:—We ought ourselves to seek the fruit in our lives before God comes to seek it.—Public and private intercessions avail much with God when they are fervent.—When the time of grace is passed Christ intercedes no longer.—The sinner is hewn down when God gives him over to the judgment of reprobacy.—Cramer:—Examples of tedious sicknesses are necessary, and wholesome for us to know, Romans 5:3-5.—Jesus looks upon the bowed down, the lowly, and the meek, that He may lift them up and elevate them.—Public assemblies have a promise of blessing; let no one forsake them.—In churches and schools there have undoubtedly been many blind zealots that have more hurt than profited the kingdom of God.—Quesnel:—Religion must often serve as a pretext to avarice and envy; be watchful against this.—Necessity and love know no law.—Canstein:—Nothing suits better with the day of the Lord than the work of the Lord and the destruction of the works of Satan.—The high value of the souls redeemed through Christ can never be urged and impressed enough.—Although faithful shepherds and teachers must everywhere here go through the valley of misery, yet they obtain one victory after another.

Heubner:—Purpose of God in special judgments of calamity.—God sends harbingers before heavy tempests.—The false comfort which men draw from others’ calamities.—To perish in the ruin of a city is a small matter compared with the misery of finding one’s destruction in the future ruin of the world.—God also counts the years.—The sinner everywhere derogates from the good of earth.—Envy against God even takes on the guise of piety.—Without Christ the spirit is bowed down and not capable of praise.

The Parable.—Arndt:—The greatness and the duration of the Divine forbearance.—Zimmermann:—How the Divine long-suffering leads the sinner to amendment.—Lisco:—The righteousness of God as it has been made manifest in Christ.—The whole parable admits also of an admirable application for a sermon on New Year’s morning.

The Miracle.—Pichler:—The Lord Jesus such a Saviour as we need: 1. For deliverance out of so manifold need, 2. for the revelation of our inmost heart, 3. for advancement in the life of faith and humility.—Palmer:—Wherever the Saviour comes there does He meet wretchedness and sin.—Schmidt:—Opposition to the Saviour, a. how it arises, b. how it is dissolved (through truth and grace).—Lisco:—The true Sabbath-keeping.


Luke 13:11; Luke 13:11.—Ἠν, a usual interpolation, by whose omission with B., [Cod. Sin.,] L., X., Lachmann, Tischendorf, [Meyer, Tregelles,] and others, the liveliness of the narrative is heightened.

Luke 13:15; Luke 13:15.—The plural, ὑποκριταί, has externally and internally preponderating authority. The singular of the Recepta has only arisen from the fact that the copyist had the preceding αὐτῷ in his eye. But the Saviour addresses Himself, in the person of the ruler of the synagogue, to the whole genus of hypocrites represented by him. [Υποκριταί is supported by A., B., Cod. Sin., 13 other uncials, against 3.—C. C. S.]

Verses 18-21

F. The Nature, the Entrance, the Conflict of the Kingdom of God. Luke 13:18-35

1. Parables (Luke 13:18-21)

18Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble 19[compare] it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed [became] a great tree; and the fowls [birds] 20of the air lodged in the branches of it. And3 again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal [flour], till the whole was leavened.


General Remarks.—Comp. the remarks on the parallel passage in Matthew and Mark. The manner in which Luke connects these two parables with the preceding (ἔλεγεν οὖν) is so loose that nothing constrains us to assume that the Saviour delivered them immediately after the previously mentioned miracle. The true historical connection in which they originally belong is found exclusively in Matthew and Mark; and on what ground Luke communicates them precisely here, is hard to determine otherwise than conjecturally. According to Meyer, Jesus, after the conclusion of the previous scene, Luke 13:17, sees Himself warranted in entertaining the most glorious hopes for the Messianic kingdom, which He then expresses in these parables. According to Lange, both parables in the sense of the Evangelist serve to explain the last narrative of healing, each one a particular side of it. According to Schleiermacher, these parables contain a reference to that which the Saviour had just been teaching in the synagogue. It is, however, hard to deny that Luke 13:17 makes the impression of a formula of conclusion (Strauss), and that with Luke 13:18 a new Pericope in Luke’s account of the journey begins.

Luke 13:18. Unto what is the kingdom of God like?—According to Mark 4:30 also, the parable of the Mustard-Seed begins with such a subjective and familiar exclamation; more objective is the representation in Matthew. That, moreover, the question of the Saviour does not give witness to actual uncertainty and perplexity, but rather belongs to the familiar and dramatic form of His address, is, of course, understood.

Luke 13:19. A grain of mustard seed.—See Matthew 13:32. The scientific objection that the mustard-seed is by no means the smallest of all the species of seeds on earth, is doubtless most simply refuted by the observation that here it is by no means littleness in and of itself, but littleness in relation to the great plant which came forth from this seed, and which, especially in Palestine, reached often a considerable height. At the time of Jesus, also, the mustard-seed was sometimes used by the scribes as an image to indicate the extreme of littleness. So, for example, was the earth in comparison with the universe compared with a mustard-seed, and this was named “hardly a seed.” See Lightfoot, ad loc.

Into his garden.—In Matthew only “his field,” in Mark “the earth,” is mentioned. Moreover, the mustard-seed in Luke simply becomes εἰς δένδρον μέγα, while the comparison with other plants mentioned in Mark and Luke is here omitted. Variations of this kind, however, do not entitle us to assume that the Saviour uttered this parable twice. We find, at least here in Luke, rather an express reference back to what has been previously uttered than, so soon again, a repetition of it. In Mark the beautiful conclusion of the parable is elaborated in a most graphic manner.

Luke 13:20. ΙΙαλίν, Again.—Now follows the parable of the Leaven, which Mark has passed over, and which only Matthew in addition, Luke 13:33, communicates, with whose account that of Luke agrees ad literam. See Lange, ad loc. The view of Stier, who here by the three measures of meal understands, with other things, the three sons of Noah, whose posterity must be thoroughly leavened with Christianity, and afterwards the three parts of the world according to ancient geography (so that Columbus, in 1492, would, in this respect, have destroyed the correctness of this parable), shows, perhaps, much genius, but yet is also tolerably arbitrary. Quite as groundless and untenable is it to find here an allusion to the trichotomy of man, as of a microcosm according to body, soul, and spirit. How much more simple, on the other hand, is Bengel’s remark as to this number three, “quantum uno tempore ab homine portari, vel ad pinsendum sumi soleret.” Comp. Genesis 18:6.


1. Both parables, that of the Mustard-Seed and that of the Leaven, refer to the same fundamental thought, to the blessed spreading abroad of the kingdom of God, first in the extensive, afterwards, also, in the intensive, sense. They belong very especially to those parables of the Saviour which bear the prophetic character, and in every century of Christianity find in greater or less degree their fulfilment. With the first parable this was especially the case in the time of Constantine the Great; with the second, in the middle ages, on the diffusion of Christianity in different European states through the influence of the Catholic Church. Every interpretation, however, which assumes that these parables have been realized not only a parte potiori, but exclusively, in a single period of the Christian Church, is to be unconditionally rejected.

2. The intention with which the Saviour refers by a double image to the blessed extension of His kingdom could be no other than this, to take away scandal at the poor, weak, first beginnings of the same, and to encourage His disciples, when they should afterwards have to begin their work with a scarcely perceptible commencement.
3. The here-expressed principle: maximum e minimo, is unquestionably the fundamental idea of the kingdom of God, and presents a specific distinction between this and the kingdoms of the world, in whose history commonly the reverse, minimum e maximo, is contained.

4. It is from a Christological point of view remarkable how the Saviour here not only expresses an obscure expectation of a quiet faith, but the utmost possible certainty of the triumph of His kingdom, notwithstanding the most manifold opposition. Before the eye of His spirit the Future has become To-day, and the history of the development of many centuries is concentrated into a moment of time. If He now begins to inquire with what He shall best compare this kingdom, we cannot suppress the inquiry, with what shall we compare the King Himself? Compare Isaiah 40:25.


The history of the development of the kingdom of God: 1. From small beginnings; 2. with visible blessing; 3. to an astounding greatness.—The parable of the Mustard-Seed the image of the history: 1. Of the Founder of the kingdom of God; 2. of the Church generally; 3. of every Christian life in particular.—The Leaven: 1. Leaven leavens only meal (inward affinity of the Gospel to the heart); 2. the whole meal (harmonious development of all the powers of man and of mankind through Christianity); but, 3. only gradually, comp. 2 Corinthians 3:18, and 1 John 2:12-14; 1 John 4:0. in secret (1 Peter 3:4), yet Song of Solomon , 5. that it does not rest so long as yet a part of the mass of meal has not been leavened.—Does the parable of the Leaven give a good ground for the doctrine of an ἀποκατάστασις σπάντων?—The distinction between the working of the leaven in the mere mass of meal, and of the working of the Spirit of God in the heart; the sphere of physical necessity and of moral freedom to be carefully held separate.—The kneading woman the image of the restless activity which is required in the kingdom of God, and for the same.—Labor for the kingdom of God: 1. Apparently insignificant; 2. continually unwearying; 3. and finally, blessed labor.—If the meal has once been worked through, we must then leave the leaven time and quiet for its effect.—Resemblance of the Gospel and the leaven.—The leaven a minute, powerful, wholesome, penetrating substance.—The Word of God must be carefully mingled with everything human: “nil humani a se alienum putat.”—The kingdom of God follows, in the whole of mankind, no other course of development than in every individual.—The past, the present, and the future, considered in the light of these two parables.—The development of the kingdom of God from small beginnings a revelation of the glory of God. Even by this the kingdom of God stands above us: 1. As a creation of God’s own omnipotence; 2. an instructive theatre of the wisdom of God; 3. an inestimable benefit of the love of God.—The development of the kingdom of God from small beginnings an awakening voice: 1. To thankful faith; 2. to spiritual growth; 3. to enduring zeal.—These parables the image of Israel, the glory of Christendom, the hope of the heathen world.—The distinction between human philanthropy and the, delivering love of the Lord. The first turns itself as much as possible to the collective mass, and seeks in this way to work upon the individual; the second turns to the single individual, in order to press through to the collective mass.

Starke:—Hedinger:—Christianity infects by word, example, and conversation. Happy he who stands in the fellowship of the saints in light.—Brentius:—There are neither words nor similitudes enough to depict the beauty of the kingdom of God.—Bibl. Wirt.:—The Gospel changes and renews the man the more, the longer it works upon him.—We must guard well against this, that we be not like such a leavened dough which quickly rises and quickly falls again, and so our conversion and godliness be more a puffing-up than of a firm, abiding character.

Eylert:—The course of the development of the Divine kingdom on earth: 1. Little is the beginning; 2. gradual the progress; 3. great and glorious the issue.—Arndt:—The inward activity of the kingdom of heaven: 1. Where; 2. how; 3. what it works.—A. Schweizer:—From the least there comes the greatest.—The penetrating nature of the kingdom of God: 1. Because its aim is to lay hold of everything human; 2. because its power as Divine is victorious; 3. because the whole heart of its ministers is engaged for it (a sermon upon the kingdom of God, Zurich, 1851).—For other ideas see on the parallels in Matthew and Mark.


Luke 13:20; Luke 13:20.—The καί of the Recepta, expunged by Scholz and Tischendorf, but defended again by Meyer, appears to us very suspicious.

Verses 22-30

2. A Serious Answer to an Idle Question (Luke 13:22-30)

22And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And [But] Hebrews 2:0; Hebrews 2:04said unto them, Strive [Ἀγωνίζεσθε] to enter in at the strait gate [through the narrow door4]: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27But [And] he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me,all ye workers of iniquity. 28There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God.and you yourselves thrust out. 29And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down [recline at table, ἀνακλιθή σονται] in the kingdom of God. 30And, behold, there are last which shall be first; and there are first which shall be last.


Luke 13:22. And He went.—According to our view the historical matter which Luke gives in Luke 13:22 to Luke 17:10, should follow immediately after the Saviour’s presence at the feast of the Purification of the Temple, John 10:22-39. From Jerusalem the Saviour repaired to the land beyond Jordan, and the region “where John at first baptized,” John 10:40. There He remained until the account of the sickness of Lazarus called Him to Bethany, John 11:6. About this time, therefore, there took place the journey from Peræa to Judæa, which lasted about three days, and nothing hinders us in Luke’s narrative of travel, Luke 13:22 seq., from understanding particularly this journey. See Wieseler, l. c., p. 322. With Luke 17:0, then, the account of the Saviour’s last journey to the feast of Purification properly first begins. That we are at liberty to understand the words εἰς Ἱερουσαλ., Luke 13:22, quite as well of the direction as of the purpose of the journey, will hardly be disputed; but that it here must be taken in the former signification, results from the comparison with John 2:54. Jesus’ answer also to the Pharisees, which He, according to Luke 13:31, gave them on the very day of the departure, agrees in respect to the chronological datum contained therein in a remarkable manner with John 11:6; and even the conjecture of the above-named chronologist appears to us by no means without reason, that the name Lazarus in the parable, Luke 16:19-31, was also chosen by the Saviour intentionally, in the thought of His just-deceased friend.

Luke 13:23. Then said one.—Time and place are not particularly stated. Even the matter of the question would not give us any right to pass a less favorable judgment upon the inquirer, if the Saviour’s answer did not of itself induce the conjecture that the man hitherto had not been rightly in earnest to procure his own salvation. In any case he was only an external follower of Jesus, Luke 13:24, who did not suppose that there could be any ground for him to be seriously concerned about the deliverance of his own soul. Apparently the question had been elicited by what he had, either himself or from others, come to know of the lofty strictness of the requirements of Jesus, to which, however, only few gave ear.

Are there few that be saved?—Respecting the peculiar significance of εἰ in such questions see Meyer, ad loc. “Dubitanter interrogat, ita ut interrogatio videatur directa esse.” Saved by reception into the Messianic kingdom under the conditions fixed therefor.

Luke 13:24. Strive, ἀγωνίζεσθε, “Certate.”—From the way in which the Saviour answers, it sufficiently appears how He judges the question and the questioner. It appears from this that the man had not asked this question from inward interest, nor even from compassion upon so many who might perhaps be lost, and least of all out of concern for the salvation of his own soul. It had rather been a question from pure curiosity, which was joined with frivolity and pride. Without giving a distinct decision, the Saviour brings the question immediately from the sphere of abstract theory to that of pure Praxis, and does not even address His words to the questioner alone, with whom He does not further converse, but to all who were to-day listening to Him. That, however, the Saviour’s instruction contains an answer—it is true indirect, but yet satisfactory and powerful—to the question addressed Him, strikes us at once on comparing the two, and we cannot, therefore, find any ground for the conjecture that such questions are only employed by Luke, as well here as in Luke 12:41, as elsewhere, in order to continue the discourse (De Wette). On the other hand, precisely such traits appear to us to bear the stamp of life and movement, freshness and simplicity. We may with safety assume that the questioner was more or less surprised at the small number of the followers of Jesus, but quite as certainly did he hold himself assured, above many, of the inheritance of eternal life, according to the popular faith of the Jews: “Omni Israelitœ erti portio in mundo futuro.” See Lightfoot, ad loc.

The narrow door.—Comp. Lange on Matthew 7:13. We can find nothing improbable in supposing that the Saviour used so simple and speaking an image in His public instructions more than once, and the less as it is here brought up in a peculiar way.

Many shall seek.—We have doubtless here to understand such a seeking as does not yet deserve the name ἀγωνίζεσθαι,—a seeking, therefore, without true earnestness, and without the firm purpose to obtain entrance at any price. Even when one knows more than a superficial longing to be saved, he often seeks its satisfaction in his own way, and therefore misses the true goal. It is worthy of notice that those who are here represented as ζητήσοντες desire it is true the entrance, but not definitely διὰ τῆς στενῆν θύρας. One may do much for his own salvation, and without success, if he omits the one thing that is needful.

Shall not be able.—Understand principally the moral impossibility of entering into God’s kingdom in another way than that of the narrow gate (=μετάνοια). When this shall come to light the Saviour shows, Luke 13:25-27.

Luke 13:25. When (namely).—The Luke 13:25-27 contain two examples of fruitless and vain seeking to enter. First, they knock, and call, but too late; then, Luke 13:27, they appeal, but without reason, to their acquaintance with the master of the house. The similitude is not borrowed from a wedding to which single guests come too late (Matthew 25:10-12), but from a family whose head has waited as long as possible for a return of the members of the family wandering about outside; who now, when the time of waiting has expired, inexorably refuses to admit them. Observe the striking climax: first, standing some time without, then knocking, then calling, finally reminding of former acquaintance, but all in vain.

I know ye not whence ye are.—With these words the Lord in the most decided way denies that they, let them be otherwise what they would, are members of His family. This declaration is immediately after repeated, yet with still greater emphasis, which sufficiently shows that the judgment is inexorable, and that a stern ἀπόστητε follows it. “How can He call them workers of iniquity if He is so wholly ignorant of them? For this very reason: because they outwardly stood so very near to Him, and have become inwardly so very strange to Him; have become, in the figurative sense, barbarians, whose origin is so wholly from a remote distance, so deeply back in the darkness, that the Lord of worlds, so to say, cannot know their descent; and because they, by the fact that they have for the Saviour of the world so darkened their being, betray that they must have come by great evil deeds to this terrible self-marring.” Lange.

Luke 13:26. We have eaten and drunk.—See on Matthew 7:22. Here we are especially to emphasize the fact that it is an eating and drinking before the Lord (ἐνώπιον) that is spoken of, without inward communion with Him; while what follows, “in our streets,” is meant to signify that He had previously, at all events, known them well, and that it was almost impossible that they should now be so entirely strange to Him. The attempt to bring the apparently so forgetful master of the house in this way to recollection is taken from the very life. The reminder of His teaching and preaching on the streets indicates at the same time that it is no one else that is here spoken of than the very Christ who appeared in the flesh.

Luke 13:28. There shall be.—In a certain sense a third ἄρξεσθε, and that the most terrible of all. The expelled are now represented as those who find themselves in the midst of night (hell), but at this remove are yet witnesses of the joy which awaits the members of the family. As participants of this joy the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament come here into the foreground, the spiritual ancestors of the same children who now, through their own fault, have become so wretched. The Marcionitic reading, πάντας τοὺς δικαίους, designedly withdraws from the representation this Israelitish element which the connection necessarily requires, and is, therefore, on this internal ground to be rejected (against Volkmar).

Luke 13:29. And they shall come.—See on Matthew 8:11-12.—It is worthy of note that here the mention of the πολλοί is omitted, which we find in the parallel passage. For the Saviour would, by the repetition of this word, even here, have given a decided answer to the question (Luke 13:23), which, however, was not in His intention, and was in conflict with His wisdom in teaching. Yet, from the image of a company at table, we may perhaps infer that we are not to understand individuals only. As respects, moreover, the significance of the judgment here passed by the Saviour, we must undoubtedly concede that by it, according to the connection, not eternal damnation, but the temporal exclusion of the Jews from the blessings of the Messianic kingdom is meant (Stier), while on the other hand nothing hinders, us either from referring the here-applied Biblical method of speech in its whole force to the eternal fate of those who persevere in unbelief and impenitence even to the end.

Luke 13:30. There are last.—“Respecting the originality of these gnomes, uttered in various places and in different connections, we cannot in any one passage decide.” Meyer. The sense is, however, in the different passages, different. Matthew 19:30 the πρῶτοι are it is true ἔσχατοι, but not for that entirely excluded from the kingdom of God; here they decidedly are. There it is only a putting back, here it is an entire rejection, that takes place. There the Saviour had in mind servants craving reward, here unbelieving rejectors of Himself. Besides, He here speaks (without article) in a wholly general manner of some πρῶτοι and of some ἔσχατοι, and thereby leads the questioner (Luke 13:22) back into his own heart, that he may maturely weigh on which side he stands.

What impression this whole instruction of the Saviour made upon this unnamed man the Scripture does not mention. Apparently it was too superficial to enable him to fathom in its whole fulness the deep sense of the word—the decided announcement of the rejection of Israel. It, however, remains remarkable, and also serves as a proof that these chapters in Luke have reference to the last period in the public life of our Lord, that it is precisely here and in the three parables of the following chapter, that this thought of the calling of the Last before the unthankful First, comes so strongly into the foreground. It is shown in this that the fruitless labor of Jesus on the house of Israel is now soon to come to an end.


1. This whole discourse affords a weighty contribution to the right estimation of the kingdom of God. On the one hand this appears before us as something in the highest degree desirable. He who enters therein is blessed (Luke 13:23); he finds himself in the most desirable company of the blessed (Luke 13:28-29), and has received a place among the first (Luke 13:30); but on the other hand it is impossible to inherit this kingdom without personal conflict, and although not a few sit there at table (Luke 13:29), yet many seek access in vain (Luke 13:24). Without doubt the Saviour has here in the mention of these fruitless seekers, not only the unrighteous, but also the self-righteous in mind. Accordingly, the here proposed question is not hard to answer. The entrance to the kingdom of God is not so difficult as many have believed, for the narrow door stands open to all; but this entrance, again, is not so easy as many imagine, for only with hard conflict does one enter therein, and many seek it in vain.

2. As upon the nature of this kingdom, so is there here thrown upon the character of its King a bright light. On the one hand we are seized with a sense of His holy severity; on the other, of His love stooping to the dust. But above all we admire His incomparable wisdom in teaching, by which He knows how to bring back the questioner from the unfruitful domain of speculation to that of Praxis. In this view the Saviour is a never-equalled example, especially for spiritual converse with such members of the Church as direct their eye rather to the dark than to the bright side of the Gospel; who subtilize upon the βάθη τοῦ Θεοῦ; who would rather dispute about predestination than listen to the personal requirements of faith and conversion; in a word, who continually are beginning, where on the other hand they ought to stand still and conclude. Comp. Deuteronomy 29:29. Unnecessary questions the Gospel answers only to a certain degree; but to the one thing that is needful the answer is to be read, Acts 16:30-31.

3. Here also, as in Luke 13:34-35, the Saviour gives for the failure of so many to be saved, an ethical, no metaphysical ground. He considers the matter entirely from the anthropological side. Very especially is this method a fitting and profitable one for popular instruction.

4. What the Saviour here says in relation to the rejection of Israel must be complemented from that which His apostle teaches respecting this (Romans 11:25-26); the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. What, however, gives to this instruction the highest significance for all following times and races, is the earnest declaration that no outer participation in the blessings of the Messianic kingdom can give claim to future blessedness, unless one has really taken in earnest the requirement of μετάνοια.

5. The inexorable sternness with which the householder, even after the repeated calling and begging, unconditionally refuses entrance, contrasts remarkably with the great laxity with which many preachers and theologians continually bring forward the ἀποκατάστασις πάντων as an infallible expectation. Without the solemn conception of an “everlastingly too late,” the preaching of the Gospel is robbed of its most salutary salt.

6. Even if we do not venture with Bengel to maintain that in the order of the four regions of Heaven (East, West, North, South), the course of the history of missions, which began in the Orient, and now stand in the South, is given, yet unquestionably the here-uttered principle: “There are last,” &c., has its great significance, even for Christian mission labor. Many nations that might be called first, compared with other participants of the faith, and heirs of the kingdom, have retrograded, because they have become sluggish and cold. Others, who were originally poor, unknown, and in the background, come forward in the ranks of Christian nations with honor. And what is here said of first and last has found its literal fulfilment in Israel and the heathen world. Christian Europe may well pray that this may not become true in respect of itself, and that the rain of the Spirit which bedews America and the remote heathen lands, may not continue withheld from its own soil.


The question: What shall I do to be saved? the most urgent question of life.—The question whether few are saved, may be put from different motives: 1. From idle curiosity; 2. from concealed concern; 3. from secret pride; 4. from true love of man.—Salvation no matter of abstract speculation, but of persevering personal conflict.—Strive to enter in: 1. A weighty requirement; 2. a just requirement; 3. a beneficent requirement; 4. a practicable requirement.—Many seek to enter in but are not able: 1. When they will enter in through another door than the narrow one; 2. when they will enter in through the narrow door indeed, but only if they have made it somewhat wider; 3. when they will enter in through the narrow door indeed, but without leaving behind what cannot be taken along.—Salvation as far from being easy as from being impossible.—The solemn significance of the “everlastingly too late.” First are able, but will not; afterwards will, but are not able.—The narrow door: 1. Sought too slothfully; 2. found too late.—The door is closed: 1. When? 2. for whom? 3. for how long?—We must be born of God, or else the Lord Himself does not know whence we are.—No excuses will help when the day of grace has gone by.—Knocking at the door of grace helps on this side, but not on the other side, of the grave.—The increased anger of the Jews when they saw that others were called to the participation of the salvation by themselves refused, revealed itself even in their bitterness towards the first believing Gentiles. Acts 15:45, 46.—The fathers called out of pure grace, the children thrust out by their own fault.—The kingdom of God is like to a feast: 1. The entertainment; 2. the entertainer; 3. the guests; 4. the spectators.—A too-late repentance is in vain. Many first shall be last; many last shall be first. 1. The truth of this saying: a. in the days of the Saviour, b. in the Christian world of all following days, c. in the sphere of missions; 2. Causes of this phenomenon: a. pride and slothfulness of many first, b. the earnestness and eagerness for salvation of many last, c. the holy love of God which regards all according to their works; 3. Value of this observation: it preaches a. to the last courage, b. to the first humility, c. to both faith on the Lord, who will be the centre of union between first and last.—“This saying should terrify the greatest saints.” Luther.

Starke:—It is indeed of moment to know the character of those who are saved, but not the number of the saved.—Canstein:—Men have indeed the desire for future blessedness, but it is the smallest number who value it so highly that for it they are willing to give up the present and visible.—Quesnel:—God has His hours, which man must not let slip by in vain.—Zeisius:—Late repentance seldom true repentance.—Osiander:—Hypocrites are before God, with all their outward holiness, but workers of iniquity.—Brentius:—Who here in the kingdom of grace will not be a citizen, and member of God’s family, cannot be such in the kingdom of glory; one has relation to the other.—They who are farthest from the kingdom of God often receive it most eagerly.—Lord, everlasting thanks to Thee that Thou hast also called the heathen!—Canstein:—God has at all times the Church on earth; He is not bound to any nation.—Boast not of thy prerogatives above others; it may before evening turn out otherwise than it was at early morning.—Heubner:—There was here a question of curiosity. Many such there are; so was also the question concerning the salvation of the heathen, and concerning evil angels, among theologians, often more a curious one than otherwise.—The idle expectations of those who imagine themselves to have a right to salvation.—Not rank or nation, or the like, makes worthy of salvation, but doing according to Jesus’ will.


Luke 13:24; Luke 13:24.—Θύρας, according to B., D., L., [Cod. Sin., T.] The Rec. πύλης is taken from Matthew 7:13.

Verses 31-35

3. The Menace of Herod. The Woe uttered over Jerusalem (Luke 13:31-35)

(Luke 13:34-35 parallel to Matthew 23:37-39.)

31The same day5 there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out,and depart hence; for Herod will [means to, θέλει] kill thee. 32And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils [demons], and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected [or, I shall end my work here]. 33Nevertheless I must walk to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. 34O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! 35Behold, your house is left unto you desolate:6 and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.


Luke 13:31. The same day.—This whole narrative is peculiar to Luke, but bears an internal character of probability and consistency, and constitutes unquestionably an essential link in the series of his accounts respecting Herod, with reference to his relation to John and Jesus. Remember that not only Galilee, but also Peræa and the boundary district in which Jesus now was (Luke 13:22), belonged to the jurisdiction of Herod. If the Saviour, according to Luke 9:51, was not in that province, this is a proof that here another journey than the just-named district is designated (against De Wette).

Get thee out.—The question arises, whether these Pharisees actually spoke in the name of Herod, or whether they only made use of that name in order to expel the Saviour, by the scattering abroad of a false report. The latter view (Olshansen, Stier, Ebrard) appears at first sight not improbable, since such a piece of craft agrees very well with their character, as this is manifested everywhere, and it could hardly be assumed that Herod, who already previously and afterwards again (Luke 9:9; Luke 23:8) manifested so much curiosity in relation to Jesus, should this time have sent such a message to Him. And yet this difficulty, if it is closely considered, is not much more than a mere appearance. Self-contradiction belongs to the character of those whose conscience is ill at ease, and it is therefore psychologically very easily conceiváble that Herod, sometimes filled with desire and sometimes with fear, wished at the one time to remove our Lord from him, and at another time to attract Him to him. So had he also trembled before the shade of John the Baptist, although he did not in his heart believe in immortality or eternal life; and so might he just as well sometimes wish the Nazarene at his court, sometimes, again, beyond the boundaries of his province. But that he desired the latter just now, had its ground perhaps in the whisperings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, as well as in anger at the fact that the company of Jesus’ followers extended even to families of the court-party, Luke 8:3. And as now wickedness is most disposed to creep in crooked ways, and is ever of cowardly nature, it is quite agreeable to his disposition that he should use the Pharisees, who in turns flattered and feared him, as messengers to the Nazarene, against whom he did not venture to fight with open visor. These were underhandedly to threaten Him with possible dangers; perhaps, he may have thought, He will then voluntarily withdraw.—On this interpretation the answer of the Saviour is justified, and we do not see ourselves necessitated to discover by a forced interpretation in the ἀλώπηξ the Pharisees themselves, and in this image the fact that the Saviour saw through the craft and the lie. On all these grounds, we believe that the message really proceeded from Herod, and that the answer was directed to this Tetrarch.

Luke 13:32. Tell that fox.—Intimating craft and slyness. Proofs of this significance (proofs superfluous, as the matter is self-evident), are found in Wetstein, a. o. Against the objection, that such an answer to Herod on the part of Jesus would have been hardly seemly, it must be remarked, that antiquity, in this respect, was not so excessively courtly as modern times; that the man who wasted the vineyard of the Lord (Song of Solomon 2:15), fully deserved this name, and that surely no one in this respect deserved less to be spared than this tyrant, who had shortly before stained his hands with a prophet’s blood. Moreover, the Saviour has here yet more the man than the prince in mind (Lange), and the fear of drawing upon Himself the displeasure of such a man, did not in the least measure arise in Him, as appears from the message which He immediately adds. There is not therefore any need of assuming that this whole message of the Pharisees was only the consequence of an uncertain report, or of a cabal which these had formed with the courtiers of Herod (Riggenbach). In this very thing Herod already showed himself worthy of the name of “Fox,” that he availed himself for once of such go-betweens, who at all events wished the removal of the Lord as ardently as he.

Behold I cast out demons.—Intentionally the Saviour speaks not of His words but of His miraculous deeds; because these had most strongly excited the uneasiness of Herod (Luke 9:9). We have already seen before, that To-Day, To-Morrow, and the Third Day, are no proverbial intimation of a brief but ascertained period of time, but are the exact statement of the time which the Saviour needed for travel from Peræa to Bethany, in the immediate neighborhood of Jerusalem.—Τελειοῦμαι, Present Middle, not in the sense of “I die,” which is in conflict as well with the connection as with the usus loquendi; but in the sense of “I accomplish.” Not My work in general, but this part of My work, the casting out of demons, &c. Not an instant earlier will He leave the domain of the Tetrarch, than the mission to be accomplished by Him is discharged. Herod might therefore have spared himself the trouble of such an embassy. “This is one of the deepest words in the mouth of Jesus, which opens a view into the innermost essence of His history.” Baumgarten.

Luke 13:33. Nevertheless I must.—“No obscure and apparently inaccurately reported utterance” (De Wette), but a very intelligible intimation that He has nothing to fear from Herod, as long as His day of life endures, and that He united the fullest repose in the present with the clearest consciousness of His impending departure. Very well does Meyer give the nexus of the thoughts: “Nevertheless (although I do not allow Myself to be disturbed in that three days’ activity by your devices), yet the necessity lies before Me that I to-day, to-morrow, and the next day, should follow your πορεύου ἐντεῦθεν, since it is not admissible that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.”—That definite time therefore He still continues to work in Galilee, but at the same time, while He so works, proceeds towards Judæa; not because Herod chases Him away, but because He must follow a higher decree, since it would conflict with all rule that a prophet should be slain out of the capital, which, so to express it, possessed in this respect a sad monopoly. It appears at once that the three days in Luke 13:33 can denote no other space of time than in Luke 13:32.

It cannot be.—Holy irony united with deep melancholy. On the third day will the Saviour be at Jerusalem, which is destined afterwards to become the theatre of His bloody death. The view of Sepp (l. c. ii. p. 424), that the three days here were meant to be a symbolical intimation of the three years of the public life of the Lord, is arbitrariness itself, and in direct conflict with the connection. The common objection against this saying of the Saviour, that all the prophets nevertheless were not killed at Jerusalem,—among others John was not,—is best refuted by the remark that the latter had not fallen as a victim of the unbelief of the Jews, and that the Saviour here does not mean to give statistics, but a general rule. Besides this, it is less the local situation that is here in view, than the symbolical significance of Jerusalem as the capital of the Theocratic State. Every murder of a prophet committed by the Jews, proceeded mediately or immediately from the elders of the people, who had there their seat; as for example, the horrors of the reign of terror at the end of the last century, in the south of France, proceeded from Paris as the centre. As to the rest, the Pharisees themselves might now judge how insignificant in the eyes of the Lord, after such a δεῖ ordered by a higher hand, a casual and passing threat like that of Herod must be.

Luke 13:34. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.—Comp. Luke 23:37-39, Lange, ad loc. If we will not assume that this expression also was used twice by the Saviour (Stier), we have then to choose between its arrangement in Luke or in Matthew. The former is assumed by Olshausen, the other by De Wette, Ebrard, Lange, Meyer, and many others. The lamentation over Jerusalem is unquestionably much more plainly explicable at the end of the public life of Jesus, at His last leaving of the temple, than here, when He was yet far from Jerusalem. This lamentation appears to have been taken up by Luke in this place, only on account of its logical connection with Luke 13:32, and so far not incongruously.

Luke 13:35. Blessed is He that cometh.—The view (Wieseler, Paulus) that the Saviour here means the customary Easter greeting of the inhabitants of the city to the arriving pilgrims, and therefore, in other words, means to give notice that He would not be seen before this feast any more in the capital, appears to us unnaturalness itself, and to be only grounded on harmonistic predilections. Why should the Saviour have expressed Himself so indirectly, if He thereby would state nothing else than the term of His impending arrival in the capital? The true explication see in Lange, on the parallel passage.


1. Already here, as also farther on in the history of the Passion, we see that secular and spiritual might conspire against the Saviour. In a certain measure, the fulfilment of the prophetic word, Psalms 2:0, Herod appears here allied with the Pharisees, as afterwards (Luke 23:12) with Pilate, both times in opposition to Jesus.

2. In a striking manner, over against the craft and cowardice of the tyrant, does the undisturbed clearness of vision and the steady courage of the Son of man come into view; to this moment also in His history is the declaration John 11:9, applicable. Over against the fox, the Saviour appears in lamb-like patience, but also in lion-like courage.

3. These words of the Saviour belong to the prophecies of His suffering and dying, in the wider sense of the word. They show that He is plainly conscious to what an end His earthly course will come, where this end awaits Him, and by whom it was to be prepared for Him. Such a departure out of Herod’s province is certainly to be regarded as a victory. No one takes His life from Him; He alone has power to lay it down (John 10:18).

4. The heart-thrilling lamentation of the Saviour over Jerusalem, affords a powerful testimony against the fatalistic view, as if Jerusalem must have fallen at all events and absolutely. Either the tears of our Lord over His land and people are an illusive semblance, or we must on the strength of such expressions assume not only an abstract, but a very essential possibility that the chosen people, if it really had known the time of its visitation, would yet have been spared and preserved. “The might of the Almighty appears as powerlessness before the stiffneckedness of the creature, and has only tears to overcome it with. Whose heart will venture to answer here with a system of the head: Thy willing and drawing was now no truly earnest one, Thy lamentation was only a scoffing and sport, for Thy irresistible grace was not present to give them the will?” Stier.
5. Now as ever is the threat fulfilled upon Israel: “Ye shall no longer see Me.” Their senses are blinded, and the veil of the Talmud, which hangs over their eyes, is twice as heavy as the veil of Moses. But the last promise also: “until the time come,” &c., points to a happier future, which, e. g. Zechariah 12:0, Romans 11:0, and in other places of the Scripture, is yet more precisely designated.


Jesus over against false friends and irreconcilable enemies.—The dangerous counsel which seeming friendship gives to leave the appointed post.—What the one Herod had begun, the other after thirty years continues. Now that the Saviour will not let Himself be lured to the court of the Tetrarch, He is expelled from His jurisdiction.—How restlessly and yet how restfully does the Saviour strive towards the goal set before Him.—The Fox over against the Hen, Matthew 23:37.—The Christian also is in a certain sense inviolable, so long as he is necessary upon the earth.—The triumphant return from Galilee.—The mournful prerogative of Jerusalem.—Jesus over against Herod. There stand over against one another: 1. Steady courage and wretched cowardice; 2. heavenly simplicity and creeping craft; 3. unshaken fixedness and anxious indecision; 4. certain expectation of departure and powerless threats.—Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem!—How Jerusalem stands related to the Lord and the Lord to Jerusalem.—The rejection of Christ the culminating point of the wickedness of Jerusalem.—Whoever will not seek refuge under the wings of the Hen, falls as a booty into the talons of the Eagle.—House left desolate.—Night and morning in Israel’s state.—The arousing voice of the Saviour to Jerusalem is addressed to every sinner: 1. The loving care which waits for Jerusalem; 2. the iniquity which reigns in Jerusalem; 3. the compassion which laments for Jerusalem; 4. the retribution which comes upon Jerusalem; 5. the gleam of light which breaks through for Jerusalem.

Starke:—Zeisius:—Satan’s way in his children is to draw the saints from good partly through craft, partly through terror, but a Christian must take no account of this.—Osiander:—When therefore counsels are brought before us, we should measure them according to the word and our own vocation. If they are contrary thereto, despise them.—The business of true teachers requires that they should call things by their names: who shall take offence with them for that?—God’s work can no man, how mighty soever he be, hinder or set back.—In great cities great sins are committed.—Shame on thee, thou enemy, who often dost not venture to call by name thy real or supposed injurer, while Jesus did it!—Zeisius:—Not the loving God, but men’s own wickedness, has the fault of their temporal and eternal destruction.—Osiander:—The persecution of the Gospel is the principal one of the causes why cities, lands, &c., are laid desolate.—Quesnel:—What a fearful wilderness is in the heart when God departs from it; what a darkness when the eternal light no longer shines therein!—Bibl. Wirt.:—The greater the grace God shows to a people, the greater punishment follows if this grace is unthankfully repelled.

Nitzsch:—Pred. v. p. Luke 95: Christ at Jerusalem:—1. Calling love and obstinate repugnance; 2. deadly hatred and self-sacrificing faithfulness.—Tholuck:—Pred. i. p. Luke 173:—So many of them as are lost, are lost not through God, but through their own will (O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!):—1. What appears opposed to this declaration; 2. what confirms it; 3. to what it summons us.


Luke 13:31; Luke 13:31.—After the Rec. ἡμἑρα, which appears to deserve the preference over the reading ὥρᾳ, accepted by Scholz and Griesbach, [Tischendorf, Cod. Sin.]

Luke 13:35; Luke 13:35.—Ἔρημος is omitted by a preponderating number of authorities, and is probably borrowed from Matthew 23:38.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Luke 13". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/luke-13.html. 1857-84.
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