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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 21

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-11

Matthew 21:1-11 . The Triumphal Entry ( Mark 11:1-11 *, Luke 19:23-38, John 12:12-19).— Mt. curiously misrepresents the poetic description of one animal in Zechariah 9:9 by making Jesus send for two, and even perhaps ride upon both, though “ thereon” ( Matthew 21:7) may refer to the garments. The intimation to the owner that Jesus would speedily return the borrowed colt ( Mark 11:3) is changed to an assertion that the owner would at once comply with the Master’ s demand ( Matthew 21:3). Mk.’ s “ layers of leaves” (or straw) now becomes “ branches from the trees” ; in Jn. these are further defined as palm branches, and are carried in the hands. For the scene, cf. 1Ma_13:51 . Mt., like Lk., regards “ Hosanna” as a cry of acclamation, “ Welcome!” or “ Hail!” hence “ to the son of David” ; this is nearer the original meaning than Mk.’ s “ Hosanna in the highest.” Matthew 21:10 b and Matthew 21:11 are peculiar to Mt. “ This is a prophet” does not involve any contradiction of Matthew 21:9; it is the obvious answer of the Galileans to the Jerusalem inquirers.

Verses 12-17

Matthew 21:12-17 . The Cleansing of the Temple ( Mark 11:15-19 *, Luke 19:45-48, John 2:13-16).— Mt. here omits the first part of Mk.’ s divided account of the figtree, and links the Temple incident with the entry. It is the temple “ of God” ( Matthew 21:12), and the phrase “ for all nations” ( Matthew 21:13) is omitted, though, as Lk. also omits, this need not be pressed as an indication of Mt.’ s exclusiveness.

Matthew 21:14-16 . Mt. only; he is fond of healings ( cf. Matthew 14:14, Matthew 19:2). The acclamation of the boys (not children) is an unexpected and agreeable touch, more than atoning for the omission of Mark 11:16 ( cf. Luke 19:39 f.). These ebullitions shocked the authorities much more than the trading had done. In his answer Jesus indirectly admits His claim to be the Messiah.

Verses 18-22

Matthew 21:18-22 . The Cursing of the Fig Tree and the Power of Faith ( Mark 11:12 ff., Mark 11:20-26 *).— What Mk. has severed, Mt. joins together. The miracle is enhanced by happening at once. The special mention of Peter is strangely omitted. In both Gospels the tree is condemned for falsity, not fruitlessness, and symbolises Jerusalem rather than the nation. Besides Luke 13:6-9 * cf. Hosea 9:10. The lesson Jesus points is the efficacy of believing prayer. “ This mountain” would be Olivet; apart from the familiar metaphor Jesus may have had Zechariah 14:4 in mind. The saying is found in another form in Matthew 17:20. Lk. ( Luke 17:5 f.) substitutes “ this sycamine tree.” Mk.’ s addendum ( Matthew 11:25) reminds us of 1 Corinthians 13:2. The cursing of the fig tree gives no sanction for cursing our neighbour.

Verses 23-27

Matthew 21:23-27 . The Question of Authority ( Mark 11:27-33 *, Luke 20:1-8).— Mk. is no doubt right in connecting the priest’ s question with the purging of the Temple, though “ these things” may include teaching (and healing). For “ scribes and elders” Mt. has “ elders of the people.”— By what authority: lit. “ by what kind of authority,” i.e. human or Divine, ecclesiastical or civil.

Verses 28-32

Matthew 21:28 to Matthew 22:14 . A trilogy of parables, perhaps from Q, enforcing the implicit teaching of the fig-tree incident.

Matthew 21:28-32 . The Parable of the Two Sons.— Mt. only. With Matthew 21:32 cf. Luke 7:29 f. Wellhausen points out that in Mt. the religious relationship between man and God is usually service, not sonship. God is King or householder; and though here He is Father, the sons are His servants. The parable is clear, its application ( Matthew 21:31 f.) obvious and pointed. Yet early interpreters like Origen, Chrysostom, and Jerome took the two sons to be Jews (professing righteousness but rejecting Christ) and Gentiles (disobeying the Law but accepting Christ), and this led to the inverted order of the sons which we find in many texts (esp. B followed by WH and Moffatt). Another curious reading (D and Syr. Sin.), while supporting the more likely order, makes the priests and elders reply ( Matthew 21:31) “ the last.” If this is the correct reading, we must suppose that they deliberately gave an absurd answer, in order to spoil the argument, or (Merx, very unlikely) that the whole story is meant as “ a deadly but most accurate satire on the morality of the Scribes who keep the letter and neglect the spirit” (Montefiore, p. 711). RV no doubt gives the right order, for if the first son had said “ Yes” the second would not have been asked. And the reply of the second, “ I, sir, (will go) “ emphasizes both the contrast with the first and his submission to his father. The parable reminds us of the Prodigal Son and his brother, and is an effective illustration of Matthew 7:21 ( cf. Matthew 23:3). Note the advance made by Matthew 21:32 on Mark 2:17. “ Came in the way of righteousness,” i.e., he inaugurated the right way of life, salvation through repentance; or, “ he stood for the manner of life which righteousness demands” (Allen).

Verses 33-46

Matthew 21:33-46 . The Parable of the Vineyard ( Mark 12:1-12 *, Luke 20:9-18).— The chief peculiarities of Mt.’ s version are ( Matthew 21:39) the slaying of the heir outside the vineyard (perhaps a recollection of Jesus suffering “ without the gate” ), ( Matthew 21:41) the opponents of Jesus pronouncing sentence on themselves and their class, and Matthew 21:43, where the word “ nation” need not exclude Jews. Note that Mt. here (as in Matthew 12:38) has “ kingdom of God.” His usual expression, “ kingdom of heaven,” denotes the eschatological realm to be inaugurated at the Second Advent. This Kingdom had never been in the possession of the Jews, and so could not be taken from them. Mt. therefore uses “ kingdom of God” in the theocratic sense familiar to the Jews of the time. Its use here may have led to its introduction in Matthew 21:31.

Matthew 21:46. Cf. Matthew 21:26, also Matthew 14:5, and in another light Matthew 21:11.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Matthew 21". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/matthew-21.html. 1919.
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