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Bible Commentaries
Luke 11

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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Luke 11:1-13 Christ teacheth to pray, assuring that God will give all good things to them that ask him.

Luke 11:14-26 He casteth out a devil, and reproveth the blasphemy of the Pharisees, who ascribed the miracle to the power of Beelzebub.

Luke 11:27,Luke 11:28 He showeth who are the truly blessed,

Luke 11:29-36 and the inexcusableness of not believing his gospel.

Luke 11:37-54 He reprehends the outward show of holiness in the Pharisees, and pronounces woes against them and the scribes and lawyers.

Verse 1

This seemeth to be a different time from that mentioned by Matthew, where our Saviour directed his disciples to pray; there his direction was part of his sermon on the mount. Besides, the doxology or conclusion is there left out. It is said here,

as he was praying in a certain place. Christ looked upon all places as holy enough for prayer. It also looks as if at this time our Saviour was not at his more secret devotions, but with the twelve, (which were his family), praying with them.

When he ceased: this is very observable against those who pretend impulses of the Spirit, to disturb ministers in the time when they are praying and preaching; it may easily be known from what spirit such impulses are. The disciples of Christ often propounded questions to him after preaching, but never interrupting him in his work, nor before he was retired into a house. They now come to be informed about prayer, but they stay till he had first ceased. We having no account in holy writ of John’s disciples asking him, or his teaching of them to pray, are more at a loss to determine whether our Saviour did intend that his disciples should use these words, as the phrase here seemeth to import, or only pray in this sense,

after this manner, as Matthew saith; indeed nothing can be concluded from either phrase by any judicious person.

For as we read in many places in Scripture, that Christ answered and said, when it is manifest the meaning is, he spake words to that import or sense, (the evangelists reporting the words spoken with variations of expression), so when we pray we may say,

Our Father which art in, heaven, &c., though we do not use the same words and syllables.

Verses 2-4

See Poole on "Matthew 6:9-13". Whoso compares this prayer as it is recorded by Matthew will find the form of words differing in more things than one; not only the doxology or conclusion is left out wholly by Luke, but for σημερον, there we have χαθ’ ημεραν, here, for οφειληματα Luke hath αμαρτιας, for ως και ημεις αφιεμεν τοις οφειλετιας ημων we have here και γαρ αυτοι αφιεμεν παντι οφειλοντι ημιν; from whence plainly appears that our Saviour did not intend to oblige his disciples to the same syllabical words, but only to words of the same import, that is, to praying for the same things: yet that Christians have a liberty to use the same words is out of question, and as much out of question that they have a liberty to vary, still keeping their eyes upon the matter of this prayer, and not forgetting that when they go unto God in that holy duty.

Verses 5-9

The plain meaning of our Saviour in this parable, is to teach us that we ought not only to pray, but to be importunate with God in prayer; to continue in prayer, as the apostle phrases it, Colossians 4:2, and to watch thereunto with all perseverance, Ephesians 6:18. This in the Greek is called αναιδειαν, impudence, which though in our language it is generally taken in an ill sense, yet here signifieth no more than a holy boldness, or pursuing our petitions notwithstanding delays or denials. For those words, Luke 11:9, See Poole on "Matthew 7:7", where the same words are found.

Verses 10-13

See Poole on "Matthew 7:8" and following verses to Matthew 7:11. As our Saviour’s design in the former words appeareth to be our information, that thought the hand of God be full of good things proportioned to all the necessities of his creatures, yet they must not expect to have them without asking, he will for them be inquired of by the house of Israel, Ezekiel 36:37; and all his promises for the collation of good things must be interpreted, with a supposition of people’s seeking them at his hand; as also that every lazy, cold, formal praying will not obtain them at the hand of God, but the working, fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much. His design in these verses seemeth to be, to let us know, that fervent and importunate prayer will not prevail with God to give us any thing but what shall be good for us; for he knoweth that the general desire of our souls is for nothing but what is good; if we ask for things hurtful, it is but a lapse or miscarriage of our tongues, caused from the blindness and ignorance of our minds. No man knowingly will ask any thing of another that shall do him hurt; and though our children, through their want of knowledge and judgment to discern between things that are good or evil for their bodies, may ask of us, and cry unto us, for things that are hurtful, yet we, who know that they would not ask for them if they had the use of their reason, and well knew their noxious quality, considering their circumstances, will not give them to them. So our heavenly Father, though he heareth us crying for such things as he knoweth (considering our circumstances) would be mischievous and hurtful to us, yet he will not give us any thing of that nature; and so in denying the words of our lips, he yet answereth the general scope and designs of our souls, which is to have only what is good for us. But if we ask any thing which is good and wholesome for us, and profitable unto us, in the circumstances in which we are, we may be sure that God will give them to us, as we may that an earthly parent will deny nothing to his children crying, which is in his power to give, and which he knoweth to be good for them; for the nature of all good lieth in the convenience and suitableness of the thing to the wants and necessities of the person that receiveth it. And every such thing must also be according to the will of God, according to his promise, Psalms 84:11, to withhold no good thing from them that live uprightly. So as both God’s fatherly relation, and the knowledge we have that he is a God that cannot lie nor repent, are assurances to us, that whatsoever good thing we ask we shall obtain of him, and nothing else, although we ask and cry for it. Therefore whereas Matthew saith, Matthew 7:11, How much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him! Luke saith here,

How much more shall he give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him!

Verse 14

The devil is here called dumb, from his effect upon the demoniac, in restraining the use of his tongue.

Verses 15-23

See Poole on "Matthew 9:34". See Poole on "Matthew 12:24", and following verses to Matthew 12:30. See Poole on "Mark 3:22", and following verses to Mark 3:27.

Verses 24-26

See Poole on "Matthew 12:43-45". From these verses we may observe,

1. That the devil may in some sort and degree be cast out of persons and places, while yet in other respects they may be his house, and he may dwell in and amongst them. Their bodies, their country, may be in great measure delivered from his power, and he may yet keep possession of their souls. This ordinarily happeneth in places where the gospel is faithfully preached; though there remain abundance of men whose lives evidence that the devil hath a too great possession of their souls, yet those places, and persons inhabiting in them, are more freed from witchcraft, and the power which the devil exercises (by God’s permission) upon men’s and women’s bodies, and cattle, &c., than other more paganish and ignorant places. He may also in a sense be said to be cast out of persons that are reclaimed from vicious and debauched lives, yet are not brought home to God, only are more enlightened, and more under the power of restraining grace; yet their souls may be his house.

2. The devil, cast out in any degree, is unquiet till (if possible) he hath recovered as full a power over and possession of men and women as he ever had.

3. If he ever recovers it, their latter end is worse than their beginning, Hebrews 6:4; Hebrews 10:26; 2 Peter 2:20.

Verses 27-28

We are very prone to bless persons from external privileges, and the favours of Divine Providence, which do not at all change or affect the hearts of those to whom they are given; but God looketh with another eye upon persons. Christ doth not here deny his mother to have been blessed; her cousin Elisabeth (Luke 1:42) had pronounced her blessed amongst women, and the angel had before called her highly favoured, and told her that she had found favour with God. But our Saviour here declareth that her blessing did not so much lie in that her womb bare, and her paps gave suck to him, as in that she was one who heard and kept the word of God; for he pronounces all such as did so principally blessed. Nor must we separate what God hath put together; the blessing is not pronounced to those who barely hear the word of God, the blessed and the unblessed pariter adeunt, pariter audiunt, they may go to church together, and hear the word together, but the blessing is to those that hear the word of God, and keep it. See James 1:22,James 1:23. The word to some that hear it may be a savour of death unto death. The soul that through grace is made obedient to the will of God, is a more happy soul than the virgin Mary was, considered merely as the mother of Christ, without the consideration of her faith and holiness.

Verses 29-32

See Poole on "Matthew 12:38", and following verses to Matthew 12:42. Matthew saith, they were the Pharisees that came to him, desiring to see a sign from heaven: they did the same again, Matthew 16:1. Christ was very ready to work miracles to encourage and confirm his hearers’ faith, but not to satisfy unbelievers’ curiosity. Instead therefore of showing them signs from heaven, he denounces the just judgment of God against them, for their not believing in him. See further the notes upon the aforementioned parallel texts.

Verse 33

We met with this similitude Luke 8:16; Matthew 5:15; See Poole on "Luke 8:16", See Poole on "Matthew 5:15". It was a kind of proverbial speech, and so applicable to divers subjects. Some think that our Saviour bringeth in these words as a reason why he would show the Pharisees no sign, viz. because he knew it would do them no good, it had been like the lighting of a candle and putting it under a bushel, which no man doth. Others think that by it he designs to give an account why he pronounced those blessed who heard the word and did it, Luke 11:28, because practice, and giving light to others, is the end of all hearing.

Verses 34-36

See Poole on "Matthew 6:22", See Poole on "Matthew 6:23". Our Saviour’s speech in these verses is plainly both elliptical (something being in itself to be understood) and also metaphorical. The sense is this, What the eye is to the body, that the soul, the mind and affections, are to the whole man. Now look, as the eye is the organ by which light is received to guide a man’s steps, so that if that be perfect, without any mixture of ill humours, &c., the body from it takes a full and right direction how to move and act; but if that be vitiated by ill humours, the man knows not how to direct his bodily steps: so if a man’s soul, (which answereth the bodily eye), more especially a man’s understanding or judgment, be darkened, perverted, prejudiced, or his affections be debauched or depraved, he will not know how to move one step right in his duty; but if his understanding have a right notion of truths, and he judgeth aright concerning the things and ways of God, and his affections be not depraved, then the whole man will be in a capacity to receive the light and revelations of truth, as they shall be communicated to him, even as he who hath a perfect eye receiveth and is able to make use of the bright shining of a candle.

Verse 37

This is the second time we meet with our Saviour at a Pharisee’s house. He saith of himself, that he came eating and drinking, that is, allowing himself a free, though innocent, converse with all sorts of people, that he might gain some. The Pharisees were, as to the generality of them, the most bitter, stubborn, and implacable enemies Christ had, yet he refused not to go and sit at meat with a Pharisee.

Verse 38

Matthew 15:2, the Pharisees quarrelled with the disciples upon this account; here this Pharisee is offended at Christ himself. Mark gives us the reason of it, Mark 7:3, For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. Concerning this tradition of theirs, and the ground of it,

See Poole on "Matthew 15:2", See Poole on "Mark 7:3". We would all be infallible, and therefore cannot allow others to differ from us in a rite, which hath no foundation in God’s word, and wonder at those who cannot see with our eyes, nor practise according to our latitudes.

Verses 39-40

We have much the same, though delivered in another form, with a denunciation of a woe, See Poole on "Matthew 23:25". We must not imagine that our Saviour here reflects upon the cleansing of vessels in which we put our meat and drink, for undoubtedly, as to them, the Pharisees washed both the inside and the outside. And the conceit of them is amiss who think that by the inward part, Luke 11:39, he means the meat in their dishes, which was gotten indeed by ravening, and wickedness, extortion, &c.; for it is a hard interpretation of the inward part of the platter, to say, by it is meant the meat in the platter; but neither doth our Saviour say, the inward part of the dish, but your inward part, by which he plainly means the soul. Our Saviour doth therefore certainly compare the Pharisees to dishes or platters washed or scoured only on the outside, and blames their hypocrisy in this, that they were mighty solicitous about an outside purity and cleanness, but for the inward purity of the heart and soul, they took no care at all about that; they were very scrupulous about undefiled hands, but nothing at all about having their souls and inward powers and affections undefiled. This he telleth them was most egregious folly, for God, that made the body, made the soul also, and therefore would exact a purity in the inward as well as the outward man, especially considering that he loveth truth in the inward parts.

Verse 41

πλὴν τὰ ἐνόντα δότε ἐλεημοσύνην. The word ενοντα being a word not ordinarily used in a sense which will fit this place, hath made a great abounding in their own senses amongst interpreters; some translating it, Give such things as are within for alms; others, such things as you have; others, such things as are necessary; others, such things as ye are able, as if κατα were to be understood before τα ενοντα, according to what you have. Others, what things remain, after the serving your own necessities, and a just restitution to those whom you have wronged. Others think it is but a connexion of our Saviour’s speech, and the sense is, Moreover there is but one thing to be done, Give alms, &c., as if it were το ενον I do not see but our own translation is as good as any, and κατα seems to be understood in the Greek. According to what you have, which is truly and justly your own, not theirs whom you have wronged, nor your creditors’, nor your families’, for their necessities; give alms of all that.

And, behold, all things are clean unto you. Not, your souls are clean; though that must first be, yet our Saviour is not here directing that, or the means and methods for it; but all things are clean to you, you may lawfully and without guilt use them: Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, Titus 1:15. Our Saviour’s words are a plain exhortation to repentance, that lieth in the change of our minds; and that inward change of our minds must be evidenced by the change of our actions, and particularly by a restitution in case of wrong done to any. The Pharisees were a covetous, rapacious generation, full of extortion, devouring widows’ houses, &c. Their repentance was to be evidenced by contrary works; those were works of justice and mercy. God calleth to the Israelites for the first, Isaiah 1:16,Isaiah 1:17. Christ calls to the Pharisees for the latter. Such works of mercy as might evidence their hearts to be truly changed: and then, saith our Saviour, all things will be clean to you, which otherwise will not be with all your traditional superstitious washings. And needs it must be so, for no soul can repent truly without the influence and assistance of Divine grace, which God giveth not, but to those souls which are washed with the blood of Christ. So that before a soul can produce the fruits of true repentance, it must be justified by faith, and sanctified by the Spirit of holiness. Or if we understand it only of that repentance which an unjustified soul may have, yet even that may so far profit, as to have our outward things so blessed to us, that we may use them without any pollution or guilt, and have them outwardly blest to us.

Verse 42

See Poole on "Matthew 23:23". There are two great notes of hypocrites:

1. To be more exact, in and zealous for the observation of rituals and the traditions of men, than in and for the observation of the moral law of God.

2. In matters of morality, to be more exact and strict in and for little things, than for things more grave and weighty.

There is no commandment of God so little as we may neglect, or despise, or disobey it; but yet there is a difference in duties, and we ought to have more regard to the greater than to the lesser.

Verse 43

See Poole on "Matthew 23:6", See Poole on "Matthew 23:7". Their fault was not in their taking them, but in their affecting them, and in being ambitious of them. God is the God of order, and we are bound to give honour to whom honour belongs; but pride and ambition are detestable sins, especially in such as should be teachers of humility, and the vanity of all things below.

Verse 44

See Poole on "Matthew 23:27", where our Saviour compares the Pharisees to whited sepulchres: here he compares them to sepulchres, but not as there to denote their hypocrisy, appearing white, but having nothing within but rottenness; but upon the account of the contagion of them, and their pollution of others that were not aware of them. To understand our Saviour, we must consider the Levitical law, Numbers 19:16; where we shall find that not only he that touched a dead body, but he that touched a grave, was legally unclean for seven days. Christ here alludes to that, though he be speaking not of legal, but moral uncleanness. By reason of the law afore mentioned, the Jews took care to whiten their graves, that people might see them, and avoid that danger. To such whited sepulchres Christ compares the Pharisees, Matthew 23:27. But some graves might not be whited, or the colour washed off, so as they did not appear, and men could not be aware of them, but ran into a pollution by them. To such graves he in this place compares them. They were men that externally appeared not to be what they were. The Jews took the Pharisees’ for great saints, (the strictest sect of their religion), so strict they were in their duties to their traditions, &c.; which external severity and formal behaviour covered their extortion, and covetousness, and malice, and erroneous opinions, so as people did not suspect them of any such guilt.

Verse 45

This lawyer was a scribe of the law, Luke 11:44. The work of these men was to interpret the law; the Pharisees strictly observed their decrees and interpretations. The lawyer therefore spake rightly in thinking our Saviour’s words had some reflection upon men of his order, but he woefully erred both in thinking his own order was unblamable, and also in calling our Lord’s just reproof a reproaching them. But by this he gives an occasion to him, who used rightly to divide the word of God, and to give every one their portion out of it, to let them know wherein they were faulty, as well as the Pharisees.

Verse 46

See Poole on "Matthew 23:4".

Verses 47-51

See Poole on "Matthew 23:29" and following verses to Matthew 23:36. The Pharisees, like a company of wretched hypocrites, under a pretence of their honouring the memories of the prophets under the Old Testament, took great care to repair and to adorn their sepulchres, while in the mean time their hearts were as full of malice against the truth, and against Christ and those who came to reveal God’s will to them, as ever were their fathers against the prophets; and, saith our Saviour, I, who am the Wisdom of God, tell you, that I shall send you apostles, and prophets, and some of them you shall kill, others you shall persecute; that all the righteous blood that hath been shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharias, may come on you; which mind being in you, the same as in your persecuting predecessors, your building and adorning the old prophets’ tombs is not (as you would have it thought) any testimony of your honour to the prophets, but rather to your fathers that killed them, a kind of trophy for the victory your fathers got over the prophets of the Lord; so as by that act you give a testimony that you own them as your fathers who killed the prophets, and glory in what they did, for if you truly honoured their memory, you would not retain the same malicious, bloody mind. It is gross hypocrisy for men to magnify the servants of God in former ages, and in the mean time to malign and persecute the servants of the same God in a present age, owning but the same truths, and living up to the same rule. See Poole on "Matthew 23:29", and following verses to Matthew 23:36, where the same things are said with larger circumstances. They truly honour martyrs, that live the same lives they did, and adhere to the same truths of God, in a testimony to which they died.

Verse 52

Matthew saith, Matthew 23:13, for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, &c. I take the sense of these words to be, You have taken away knowledge, which is the key by which men enter into the kingdom of God. Though knowledge itself be but a common gift, and men may have great measures of it, and yet perish for ever, 1 Corinthians 13:2, yet it is the foundation of all saving grace. How shall they believe in him of whom, they have not heard? Romans 10:14. So, how shall they obey a rule they do not know, or repent of those sins which they do not know to be so? So as those that are the hinderers of people’s coming to the knowledge of the will of God, are the vilest instruments upon earth in hindering men’s and women’s salvation. The papists are highly guilty of this, in keeping their laity from the Scriptures in a language intelligible to them. But how were the scribes guilty of this? The Jews were never hindered from reading or hearing of the law; it was read in their synagogues every sabbath day. But we must know that knowledge is highly advantaged by an interpretation of the mind and will of God. But how did the scribes take away this? They preached and interpreted the law of God.

Answer. They gave not the true sense of it, but so preached that people were scarce any whit the wiser, as to the knowledge of the law of God, only they made people understand their traditions and ceremonies: their doctrines were the traditions of men. Now they occupying the places of teachers, and no better discharging their work, instead of giving, took away knowledge from them, and proved blind leaders of the blind. Whoever they are that arrogate to themselves the office of teaching, and supplying the places of teachers, and either do not make preaching, and instruction of the people under their charge, their business, or who preach in styles and methods their people understand not, or who preach other things than what they prove to be the revealed will of God, fall deeply under the condemnation of this text. See Poole on "Matthew 23:13".

Verses 53-54

Herein the vile genius of these wretched men was seen, Christ was become their enemy because he told them the truth; his reproofs in order to their reformation and amendment do but fill them with madness against him. Nor are wicked and malicious men at any time fair enemies.

They urge him vehemently, and provoke him to speak of many things; they lie at the catch, in wait for him; hoping that in his many words, and answers to their many captious questions, they should hear something from him, upon which they might form an accusation against him to Pilate, the Roman governor, for his blood was that they thirsted after. If it were thus done to the green tree, let us not wonder if it be so done also to the dry. The hearts and practices of malicious and wicked men, in succeeding generations, do (as in a glass) answer the hearts of persons of their spirits and morals in preceding generations. Malice will never regard justice or equity.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 11". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/luke-11.html. 1685.
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