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MATTHEW CHAPTER 4
Matthew 4:1-11 Christ fasts forty days, is tempted of the devil, and ministered unto by angels.
Matthew 4:12-16 He dwelleth in Capernaum,
Matthew 4:17 begins to preach,
Matthew 4:18-20 calleth Peter and Andrew,
Matthew 4:21,Matthew 4:22 James and John,
Matthew 4:23-25 teacheth in the synagogues, and healeth the diseased.
This is mentioned by two of the other evangelists, Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1 Luke saith that, being full of the Holy Ghost, he returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit, & c. Mark saith, immediately the Spirit drove him. Great manifestations of Divine love are commonly followed with great temptations. Others observe, that temptations usually follow baptism, the beginnings of spiritual life, and covenants made with God. He
was led up: some think he was taken up; Mark useth the word εκβαλλει, the Spirit thrust him out: we must not understand an act of compulsion, doubtless he went voluntarily.
Of the Spirit; the Holy Spirit, that lighted upon him as a dove.
Into the wilderness. Mark’s saying, Mark 1:13, that he was there with wild beasts, lets us know that it was not such a wilderness as John began to preach in, Matthew 3:1; but a howling wilderness full of wild beasts. The end is expressed in the last words,
to be tempted of the devil: thus his temptations are distinguished from Divine temptations, such as Abraham had, Genesis 22:1; and by tempted here is meant solicited, or moved to sin, in which sense God tempteth no man, James 1:13. The general notion of tempting is, making a trial; God makes a trial of his people for the proof and manifestation of their gracious habit. Satan, by moving to sin, makes a trial of corruption, which was the reason that, although Christ was tempted, that he might be able to succour those that are tempted, Hebrews 2:18, and that he might taste all those evils to which we are exposed, and might overcome the devil; yet when the Prince of this world came, he could effect nothing against him, because he found nothing in him to comply with his motions.
He was in the wilderness, a place of solitude, and so fitter for Satan’s purpose, and he was
an hungred, which was another advantage Satan had. But he was not an hungred till he had fasted forty days and forty nights. Here was the Divine power miraculously seen, in upholding the human nature of Christ without any thing to eat: this was a miracle. The like did Moses before the law, Elijah under the law. Christ doth the same in the beginning of the gospel; nor did he fast as the Jews were wont, of whom we sometimes read that they kept fasts several days; they only fasted in the day time, but ate their food at night; or sometimes only forbare pleasant bread, as Daniel did, Daniel 10:2,Daniel 10:3, for three full weeks. But Christ fasted from all food, and that not only forty days, but forty nights also; from whence may easily be gathered, how idly, if not impiously, the papists found their fasting forty days in Lent. Here all Christ’s acts (most certainly his miraculous works) are not recorded for our imitation; some of them are only for our adoration; all his miraculous acts are so. There can be nothing more sottish than for us to think that because Christ (supported by the Divine nature) fasted forty days, therefore we are obliged to do it; and because we cannot fast forty days and forty nights, without eating something, therefore we may eat fish, though no flesh (when all know that to some palates there is no more delicate food than fish); or we are obliged to fast in the day time, though not at night. And because Christ once in his lifetime fasted forty days and forty nights, therefore we must do so every year; or that the church hath any power to enjoin any such thing. If papists think Christ’s fast of forty days and forty nights obliges them to imitation, let them keep them as he did, (with such a fasting I mean), and try whether they be able to do it, or whether four days or nights, instead of forty, will not convince them of their folly. Christ fasted forty days and forty nights, and thereby showed he was God man, the Divine nature supported the human; afterward he was hungry, to show that he was truly man, touched with the feeling of our infirmities, in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin, Hebrews 4:15.
And when the tempter, viz. Satan, the devil, as he is called, came unto him, probably in some visible shape, he, forming an audible voice of the air, said,
If thou be the Son of God, ( not that he doubted it, which showed his horrible impudence),
command that these stones, (this stone, saith Luke, Luke 4:3) be made bread. The temptation plainly was to the use of means which God did not allow him, to relieve him in his distress of hunger, to distrust the providence of God in supporting of him. A temptation common to those who are the members of Christ, and enough to instruct us, that we ought to look upon all thoughts and motions to the use of means not allowed by God, in order to a lawful end, as temptations vel a carne, vel hoste, either from our own flesh, for every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed, James 1:14, or from our grand adversary the devil. It is not much material for us to know from which, they being both what we ought to resist, though those from Satan are usually more violent and impetuous.
So also Luke 4:4. There is no better answering the tempter than by opposing the precepts of holy writ to his motions to sin. The word is called the sword of the Spirit, Ephesians 6:17. The papists, therefore, denying people the use of the word, disarm them as to the spiritual combat.
It is written Deuteronomy 8:3. Though man ordinarily liveth by common bread, such food as men usually eat, yet God’s power is not restrained, he can uphold the life of man when that is wanting, as he supported the Israelites by manna (to which that text relates); nor is God obliged to create any extraordinary means, for his power, which is seen in creating such means, can produce the same effect without such means if it pleaseth him. His power must be seen in creating the means, and in upholding the proper power and faculty of the means, in order to their end; why cannot he by the same power produce the effect without any such means?
By the holy city is meant Jerusalem, once a holy city, Daniel 9:24; now, though a most impure and filthy city upon many accounts, yet, upon other accounts still a holy city, being the only city in the world which had then in it the true worship of the true God, and in which God doubtless, who in Ahab’s time had seven thousand in Israel, had many holy people. How the devil took Christ into the holy city is variously argued and judged; the words used in the Greek are such as would incline us to think he was not carried by force, but followed the tempter willingly, and set upon a place on the top of the temple, higher than the other parts of it. The end of his being set there the next verse tells us.
Before the devil had tempted our Lord to diffidence or distrust in God’s providence, and the use of means not allowed by God to supply himself; here he tempts him to an unwarrantable presumption, and confidence of and concerning the Divine protection. In the former temptation the devil used no Scripture, but having been repelled in that assault by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, Ephesians 6:17, he here takes up the same weapon. The thing to which the tempter solicits our Saviour, was the throwing himself down from a precipice, a temptation, in effect, to destroy himself; which is one of those fiery darts which he commonly throws at the people of God in their hours of melancholy, or under great pressures of affliction; but the usual argument which he useth to them, is deliverance from their terrors, the preventing of want, or avoiding shame. The argument he useth to our Lord is quite of another nature, the special protection of God promised to God’s people, Psalms 91:11,Psalms 91:12. Herein he transforms himself into an angel of light, according to 2 Corinthians 11:14, and lets us know that truth may be abused to the patronage of lies; and that there is no hook more dangerous to the members of Christ, than that which is baited with Scripture misinterpreted and misapplied, which holy writ always is when it is so interpreted or so applied as to be made an argument to sin. This portion of holy writ is both:
1. Falsely cited; and,
2. As ill applied.
a) In the quotation the tempter leaves out those words, in all thy ways. This was none of our Savour’s ways, he had no call, no warrant from God to decline the stairs by which he might have gone down, and to throw himself down. God had never promised, nor ever given, any the protection of angels in sinful and forbidden ways.
b) He misapplies this text, using it not to instruct, but to deceive; dividing between man’s duty and God’s providence; making this word a promise to be fulfilled upon Christ’s neglect of his duty; extending the promise of special providence as to dangers into which men voluntarily throw themselves; putting God upon working miracles to declare Christ to be his Son, where there was no need, and of which there was no use, mocking our Saviour’s true use of Scripture, with Scripture abused, and many other ways: but he had to do with one not ignorant of his devices.
This is written Deuteronomy 6:16. To make an undue and unwarrantable trial of God, is to tempt God, whether the trial respecteth his power or his goodness; thus the word is used, Numbers 14:22; Psalms 78:18; Isaiah 7:12; Matthew 16:1. By this answer Christ lets the devil know that he abused Scripture in his quotation of it; such as casting of himself down, when he had a plain way to go down by the stairs, would not have been an act of faith, but presumption; not a trusting God upon his word, but a tempting of God, expressly contrary to his command, Deuteronomy 6:16.
This is the third temptation by which the tempter solicits our Saviour to sin, and of all other the most impudent. For what can be more impudent than for the creature to expect a homage to him from him who was his Creator. What mountain this was, and how our Saviour was taken up into it, are things not revealed, and of very little concern for us to know. The text tells us it was exceeding high, yet not high enough from whence one kingdom could be seen in the extent of it. It is therefore most probable that Dr. Lightfoot judgeth most truly, that
"the devil, being the prince of the power of the air, formed an airy horizon before the eyes of Christ, carrying such pompous and glorious appearance of kingdoms, states, and royalties in the face of it, as if he had seen those very kingdoms and states indeed."
Such things the devil can do, and doth do, by condensing the air first, then shaping and figuring, and lastly so colouring it, that it may represent what he intends. All these things he promised to give our Saviour, if he would fall down and worship him. The same eminent person well observes, that
"what Luke calls worshipping before the devil, Matthew calls worshipping the devil";
and concludes solidly,
"that if to worship before the devil be to worship the devil, worshipping before an image (as the papists do) must be worshipping the image."
The devil here arrogates to himself what was God’s alone to give, and such ordinarily are the devil’s promises of things, as to which he hath no power to fulfil what he promiseth.
As this was of all the three the most impudent temptation, so our Lord receiveth it with the highest detestation, saying,
Get thee hence, Satan by which words he doth not only show his detestation of this temptation, but also chides him off from any further tempting him. The sense is, Satan, I know better things, viz. that a religious adoration is not to be given unto any but unto God alone. Thou art a creature; no worship is due unto thee: to worship before thee (so Luke phrases it, Luke 4:7) is to worship thee. This is expressly contrary to the command of God, Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20. It is also observable, that our Saviour opposeth this to the devil’s words, εαν προσκυνήσῃς ἐνώπιόν μου, if thou falling down wilt worship me; and that Christ answers, Tον Yεος σου προσκυνησεις και αυτω λατρευσεις; which shows the idleness of the papists’ distinction of doulia and latreia; the first of which they say may be given to the creature, the second only unto God; by which they justify their veneration of images. The using a posture of adoration before the creature in an act of worship, Christ here interprets a worshipping the creature, if the creature either exacts it of us, or we purposely set it before us, or choose it as an object exciting or moving us to such an act of adoration, which the papists do. Not that all prostration before the creature is an act of Divine adoration; there is a civil as well as a Divine worship; and in Divine worship the position of the creature before us may be merely for convenience, or accidental. But all prostration in an act of Divine worship is a posture of adoration, and where a creature is chosen and set before us in that act or posture, to excite or move us, it partakes of the homage. There is some little difference between the words, Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20, and those of St. Matthew; but that is said to be written, which is written as to the substance and sense, though not in those terms. Moses saith, Thou shalt fear; as Matthew quotes it it is,
Thou shalt worship. The term fear applied unto God, signifieth any act of religion, whether external or internal, and though the last words in Deuteronomy, thou shalt swear by his name, be not mentioned in Matthew, yet enough are quoted for our Saviour’s purpose. Falling down and worshipping belongeth only to God, (saith our Saviour), not to thee; let me therefore hear of thee no more.
Resist the devil, saith James, James 4:7, and he shall flee from you. Thus he did from the Head, thus he shall do from the members: but as he did not flee from Christ till commanded away, so neither till commanded off by God doth he leave the people of God; but upon our resistance God will command him off, that we may not be tempted above our strength. The evil angels leaving him, the good
angels came and ministered unto him, whether by bringing him food, or bringing him off the mount, or otherwise executing his commands, is not expressed, and it is too much curiosity to inquire. God by this teacheth us, that our lives are to have their vicissitudes of temptations and consolations, and that our temptations shall have a happy issue, and that when ordinary means fail we may expect extraordinary influences and assistances. Luke saith, he departed from him for a season, to let us know, that though there was an end of his more eminent temptations, yet he was not afterward without Satan’s assaults.
John was some time after this cast into prison, for his free reproving Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, for taking Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and other evils, Matthew 14:3,Matthew 14:4; Mark 6:17; Luke 3:19,Luke 3:20. Jesus heard of this accident, and
departed into Galilee. There were many things happened between Christ’s temptations and this his motion into Galilee, which are omitted by all the evangelists except John, and by him recorded in his four first chapters. Neither by Galilee must we understand the Nether Galilee, which was within the jurisdiction of Herod, but the Upper Galilee, called Galilee of the Gentiles, Matthew 4:15, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali, which was in the jurisdiction of Philip, a man of a less bloody disposition. Others make it under Herod’s jurisdiction, but where the Pharisees had less to do than in Judea. Our Saviour doth not out of cowardice avoid danger, but he knew his time was not yet come. But some judicious interpreters think that our Saviour first went into the Lower Galilee, and from thence soon after into the Upper Galilee: that which makes this more probable is the next words, And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum; so as it should seem he first went to Nazareth, which was in the Lower Galilee.
By this (as was said before) it should seem that our Lord first went into the Nether Galilee, where Nazareth was, which after a time he left, and went to Capernaum; which Capernaum was a city near the sea, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali, whose lots in the land of Canaan were contiguous, and by the seaside, as appeareth by Joshua 19:1-51.
The text in Isaiah 9:1,Isaiah 9:2, where the words are, Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. The Jews make a great many objections against the application of this text unto Christ, as indeed they do against the application of all texts cited out of the Old Testament by the evangelists. Christians, believing that the evangelists being holy men, who wrote not from a private spirit private interpretations, have not any reason to regard what their interest leadeth them to object: but even Christian interpreters are divided in their sentiments whether these words are said to be fulfilled, in this motion of Christ unto Galilee, in a literal, or typical, or a more improper and analogical sense; nor is it any great matter with which of them we agree. For my own part, I see no reason why Isaiah 9:2 should not be literally understood of and applied unto Christ. There is nothing more ordinary in the prophets, than, after a threatening of judgment and captivity unto the people, to comfort such as feared God amongst them with promises of the Messiah, and the spiritual salvation which was to be brought in. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali suffered much by Benhadad, 1 Kings 15:20, and more by Tiglath-pileser, 2 Kings 15:29, before the general captivity of the ten tribes, 2 Kings 17:6. The Lord by the prophet, Isaiah 8:1-22, had been threatening this general captivity; possibly the prophet might say the affliction of those parts should not be so great as the second mentioned, 2 Kings 15:29; because by the story it seems they were generally carried into captivity before the more general destruction of the other tribes there. Saith he, This darkness shall be abundantly hereafter compensated, by the coming of the Messiah, and preaching amongst this people; who living at a great distance from Jerusalem, never had such a light as some other parts of Judea, and first drank of the cup of God’s wrath in their captivity. It was called
Galilee of the Gentiles, because it was near to the men of Tyre, who were Gentiles, and had doubtless in it a greater mixture of Gentiles than any other part of Canaan, ever since Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in this Galilee, 1 Kings 9:11.
From the time of Christ’s baptism, or from the time that he heard that John was committed to prison, he, who before had preached and taught privately, and more rarely, began to preach more ordinarily and publicly, and the sum of his doctrine was the same with that of John the Baptist, confirming his doctrine, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. See the sense of those words, Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:15.
Whether by the sea he here meant the lake of Gennesaret, or the ocean, is not worth the arguing, for the Jews called all great collections of waters the seas, according to Genesis 1:10.
He saw two brethren,
Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, whether natural brethren, or called so because of their joint employment,
casting a net into the sea, either for the catching of fish, or for the washing of their nets: see Luke 5:2.
For they were fishers: sea men (as the word seems to signify) used to fish in the sea. Simon had a ship of his own, Luke 5:3. The evangelists’ differing relation of the call of Simon and Andrew hath made a great deal of work for interpreters. The greatest difference seemeth to be betwixt Matthew, in this text, and John, John 1:35-38. But certainly John speaketh of one call in those verses, the other evangelists of another. According to John, they were called to the knowledge of and first acquaintance with Christ while John was in the public exercise of his ministry, for they were his disciples, John 1:35,John 1:36,John 1:39, they are said at that time to have abode with him that day. Probably they again returned to their old employment, and when John was imprisoned, Christ, walking by the sea, saw them, and then called them to the apostleship. There are other differences in their call observed betwixt Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but such as may be easily answered by those who observe, that there is nothing more ordinary, than for the evangelists, in reporting the same history, one of them to supply more largely what the other had recorded more summarily.
Here was their call to the office of apostles. It is observable that God’s calls of men to places of dignity and honour, and his appearances of favour to them, have ordinarily been when they have been busied in the honest employments of their callings. Saul was seeking his father’s asses, David keeping his father’s sheep, when the Lord called them to the kingdom. The shepherds were feeding their flocks when they had the revelation of Christ. He calleth four apostles from their fishery; Amos from amongst the herdmen of Tekoa; Matthew from the receipt of custom; Moses when keeping Jethro’s flock, Exodus 3:1,Exodus 3:2; Gideon from the threshing floor, Judges 6:11. God never encourages idleness, but despiseth not persons in meanest employments.
Follow me, that is, to return no more to your employment.
I will make you fishers of men: here is the work of ministers set out, to gain souls to God; they are not to fish merely for a livelihood, much less for honour and applause to themselves, but to win souls to God, and are to bait their hooks and order their nets to this end, which they will never serve, if either by general discourses they make the meshes so wide that all will dart through them, or if by their wit and learning they make their discourses so fine and curious that few or none of their hearers can understand them. Nor will all our art make us fishers of men: I will make you, saith Christ. Paul may plant, and Apollos may water, God must give the increase. But yet we must order our nets rationally and probably in order to our end, and without that cannot expect God’s blessings. Nor were the apostles presently to enter upon the work of the ministry, but first to follow him. And indeed such should all gospel ministers be. In the choice of Matthias, Peter limited the people in their election to those that had accompanied with them all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out amongst them, Acts 1:21. Other ministers commonly prove fishers for something else, not for the souls of men.
When Christ calls, men shall obey; when he calls, he draweth. It is not of indispensable necessity that men who exercise the ministry should have nothing else to do, Paul’s hands ministered to his necessities; but nothing but a providing for ourselves and households can excuse ministers in entangling themselves with the things of this life. Churches that are able ought better to provide for their ministers, and ministers so provided for sin if they do not wholly give up themselves to their work, 1 Timothy 4:15.
There was another James, Matthew 10:3, the son of Alpheus, called James the less, brother of Joses and Salome, Mark 15:40. This was
James the son of Zebedee, and John, who is thought to be the evangelist. Christ calleth them, not with his voice only, but by his Spirit, affecting their hearts, so as they immediately left their ship and their father. Elsewhere the disciples say, Master, we have left all and followed thee; probably their employment with their ship was their all. They left their father also, but it was upon Christ’s call, in which case it is every man’s duty,
and followed him, to learn of him before they went out to preach him, and to be witnesses of his miracles, &c.
Jesus Christ having now called four disciples, did not judge it sufficient to send them about, but himself went about all the places of that dark country of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues; the word signifieth both the congregation convened and the place. Here it signifieth both. Synagogues were of old time, Acts 15:21; how ancient we know not. Some think that they were no older than the return out of the captivity of Babylon: but I am posed then in determining where the body of the Jews ordinarily worshipped God on the sabbath days, for it is certain they did not all go up to the temple at Jerusalem. In the Old Testament we read of them only, Psalms 74:8, as at that time burnt up. As to the order of them, we only read, that they had some rulers, Acts 13:15, who directed those who were to speak words of exhortation. The Scriptures were read in them, Acts 15:21; the law and the prophets, Acts 13:15. They prayed in them, Matthew 6:5; they expounded Scripture in them, Luke 4:16-19. Christ preached in the synagogues; not only there, we shall find him preaching on the mount in the next chapter, and in private houses; but he did not decline the synagogues, either as to preaching or hearing, not wholly separating from a church corrupt enough through traditions, but not idolatrous. But what did he preach?
The gospel of the kingdom; the glad tidings for lost sinners, that was come into the world, by the revelation of him, who was the true Messias, and the true and only way by which men might come to the kingdom of God, and be eternally saved. This is what all his ministers should publish; not their own conceits, or dictates of men, or things impertinent to the salvation of souls, but
the gospel of the kingdom. And healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease amongst the people: the Greek is, all diseases and sicknesses, yet surely some died in Galilee in that time. This is another text, to prove that the term all in Scripture doth not always signify every individual, but some individuals of every, species. Christ confirmed his doctrine, and Divine mission, by these miraculous operations.
Syria is said to be bounded on the north by Cilicia, by Egypt on the south, on the west with the sea, and on the east with Euphrates, and to comprehend within it all Judea, Bethany, Galilee, Decapolis, Samaria, Idumea, Palestina, Syrophoenicia, Syria of Damascus, and Syria of Antioch. Christ’s fame spread very far doubtless, because of the good he did, and the miracles he wrought, and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases: ‘all’ here again can signify no more than very many that were indisposed and ill affected as to their bodily health, those that were sick of, or detained in their beds or houses by, divers diseases. Though Christ showed his power in curing some diseases which physicians judge incurable, yet he showed his kindness also in relieving others not so fatally sick.
And torments; such as were troubled with great pains, as if they were upon racks, or in the hands of tormentors, that set themselves to torture them.
And those which were possessed with devils: of these sorts of persons we shall read often in the gospel: this is the first time we meet with the term. It is observed that in the Old Testament we read little of any such persons; (we read only of Saul’s being vexed with an evil spirit); we read much of them in the New Testament, and in ecclesiastical history for some years after Christ: they called them energumeni. Some think God, in those first times of the gospel, permitted the devil to this degree, that the power of our Saviour might be the more seen in casting them out, and in giving authority to his disciples to cast them out, which was a great demonstration of his Divinity. Others think that God did it for a demonstration of the error of the Sadducees, who held there were no spirits. The gospel seemeth to hint two sorts of these persons: some upon whom the devil had power no further than to rack and torture them, Mark 5:3-5; Luke 9:39; others in whom he dwelled bodily, and divined and prophesied in them, Acts 16:16.
And those which were lunatic; affected with such diseases as use to increase in some times of the moon, or at such times to seize persons: of this nature we know divers, more particularly the falling sickness and dropsy.
And those that had the palsy, a disease caused by the resolution of the nerves. Those diseases are mentioned which men account hardest to be cured, if capable of cure by men: Christ, to show his Divine power, healed them. Christ did not only cure these bodily distempers, but he also preached the gospel of the kingdom to heal their soul distempers. We read of many who came to him for bodily cure, but of none that said to him: What shall we do to be saved? How sensible are men and women of their bodily pains and diseases, more than of their soul’s wants!
They followed for the loaves, for the benefit of the bodily cures, or out of curiosity, though some (probably) followed him out of love, and to learn of him.
Decapolis hath its name from ten cities comprehended in it. Here was a mixture both of Jews and Gentiles following Christ, who came to be a Saviour of them both, and to pull down the partition wall between both, to make them both one gospel church, Ephesians 2:14.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30