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Bible Commentaries
Luke 14

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4037. A.D. 33.

Our Lord, being invited to dine with a Pharisee,

(1,) Cures a man who had a dropsy, cautions those present against an affectation of precedence, and urges them to works of charity, Luke 14:1-14 .

(2,) He foretels, in the parable of the great supper, the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles, Luke 14:15-24 .

(3,) He urges upon his disciples the necessity of considering the difficulties of religion before they took up a profession of it, Luke 14:25-35 .

Verses 1-4

Luke 14:1-4. And it came to pass About this time, probably just as our Lord was finishing his journey through Herod’s dominions; he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees Τινος των αρχοντων Φαρισαιων , of a certain one of the ruling Pharisees, that is, of a magistrate, or a member of the great council, called the sanhedrim. This person probably resided generally in Jerusalem, but had a country-seat in Peræa; and happening to meet with Jesus while he abode there, he carried him home to dinner. The invitation, however, it appears was insidious; for we are told they watched him That is, the chief Pharisee and others of his sect, who were gathered together for this very end, watched all his words and actions, in order that they might find something to blame in them, whereby they hoped to blast his reputation as a prophet. And behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy Who, having heard that Jesus was to dine there, had got himself conveyed thither, in hopes of receiving a cure. And Jesus Answering the thoughts which he saw arising in their hearts; spake unto the lawyers The doctors of the law; and other Pharisees who were then present. Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day Can there be any thing in so benevolent an action, as healing a distempered person, inconsistent with the sacred rest required on that day? And they held their peace Not being able, with any face, to deny the lawfulness of the action, and yet being unwilling to say any thing which might seem to authorize or countenance those cures which Christ performed on sabbath days, as well as at other times, and which in general they had been well known to censure. And he took him Επιλαβομενος , taking him by the hand, or laying his hand on him, he healed him and let him go Απελυσε , sent him away. The moment that Jesus laid his hand on the man, his complexion returned, and his body was reduced to its ordinary size; becoming, at the same time, vigorous and fit for action, as appeared by the manner in which he went out of the room. Doubtless our Lord could have accomplished this cure as well by a secret volition, and so might have cut off all matter of cavilling. But he chose rather to produce it by an action, in which there was the very least degree of bodily labour that could be, because that thus he had an opportunity of reproving the reigning superstition of the times.

Verses 5-6

Luke 14:5-6. And answered them Accordingly, while the Pharisees were considering with themselves how to turn the miracle against him, he disconcerted them by proving the lawfulness of what he had done from their own practice. Which of you shall have an ass, &c., fallen into a pit on the sabbath day Will you, for fear of breaking the sabbath, let it pass before ye attempt to draw the beast out? and not rather make all the haste you can to save its life, though it should cost you a great deal of work? But the labour of this cure was barely that Jesus laid his hand on the man. His argument, therefore, was what the grossest stupidity could not overlook, nor the most virulent malice contradict. Our Lord had used the same reasoning before, almost in the same words, when vindicating the cure of the man whose hand was withered, Matthew 12:14; and at another time had urged an argument in effect the same, with regard to the cure of the crooked woman, Luke 13:15. Which may serve, among a variety of other instances, to vindicate several repetitions which must be supposed, if we desire to assert the exact and circumstantial truth of the sacred historians. And they could not answer him again What he said was so consonant to common sense, and common practice, that they had not a word to reply. They were much ashamed, therefore, and vexed at their disappointment, having gathered themselves together, and invited him in with a design to insnare him.

Verses 7-11

Luke 14:7-11. And he put forth a parable The ensuing discourse is so termed, because several parts of it are not to be understood literally. To those which were bidden From this circumstance, that the guests were bidden, and from what is said, Luke 14:12, it appears that this was a great entertainment, to which many were invited: which renders it still more probable that the meeting was concerted, and the company chosen with a view to insnare Jesus. When he marked how they chose out the chief rooms Πρωτοκλισιας , the chief seats. The pride of the Pharisees discovered itself in the anxiety which each of them had manifested to get the chief places at table. Jesus had taken notice of it, and now showed them both the evil and the folly of their behaviour, by its consequences. He mentioned this in particular, that pride exposes a man to many affronts, every one being desirous to mortify a vain person; whereas humility is the surest way to respect. The general scope of what our Lord here says is, (not only at a marriage-feast, but on every occasion,) He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Verses 12-14

Luke 14:12-14. Then said he also to him that bade him In the time of dinner, Jesus directed his discourse to the person who had invited him, and showed him what sort of people he should bid to his feasts. When thou makest a dinner, &c., call not thy friends That is, I do not bid thee call thy friends, or thy rich neighbours. Our Lord leaves these offices of courtesy and humanity as they were, and teaches a higher duty. Or, “by no means confine thy hospitality to thy rich relations, acquaintance, and neighbours, lest the whole of thy reward be an invitation from them to a like entertainment.” So Macknight: but surely it is also implied in this precept of our Lord, that we should be sparing in entertaining those that need it not, in order that we may assist those that do need, with what is saved from those needless entertainments. Lest a recompense be made thee This fear is as much unknown to the world as even the fear of riches. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor Have tables also for the poor, that they may partake of thy entertainments. Dr. Whitby’s observations on this passage are worthy of attention. 1st, “Christ doth not absolutely forbid us to invite our friends, our brethren, or kinsfolk, to testify our mutual charity and friendship, and how dear our relations are to us; only he would not have us invite them out of a prospect of a compensation from them again, but to prefer the exercising of our charity to them who cannot recompense us. As comparative particles are sometimes in sense negative, so negative particles are often in sense only comparative: as Proverbs 8:10, Receive my instructions, and not (that is, rather than) silver; Joel 2:18, Rend your hearts, and not (that is, rather than) your garments; John 6:27, Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth, &c. So here, Be not so much concerned to call thy friends as to call the poor. 2d, Nor does he lay upon us a necessity, by this precept, to call the lame, the blind, or the maimed to our tables; but either to do this, or what is equivalent to us in respect of charge, and more advantageous to them and their families, namely, to send them meat or money, to refresh them at home.” And thou shalt be blessed Μακαριος , happy. This will afford thee a much nobler satisfaction than banquets can give: for, though they cannot make thee any recompense in the same way, their prayers shall descend in blessings on thy head; and besides all the pleasure thou wilt find in the exercise of such beneficence, thou shalt be abundantly recompensed at the resurrection of the just, if thy bounties proceed from a principle of faith and piety.

Verse 15

Luke 14:15. When one of them that sat at meat heard these things, being touched therewith, he said, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God Blessed is the man who shall live in the time of the Messiah, and share the entertainments he will prepare for his people, when these virtues of humility, condescension, and charity shall flourish in all their glory. To eat bread, is a well-known Hebrew phrase for sharing in a repast, whether it be at a common meal or at a sumptuous feast. The word bread is not understood as suggesting either the scantiness or the meanness of the fare. “The kingdom of God, here, does not signify the kingdom of heaven in the highest sense, but only the kingdom of the Messiah, of which the carnal Jew here speaks, according to the received sense of his nation, as of a glorious temporal kingdom, in which the Jews should lord it over the Gentile world, enjoy their wealth and be provided with all temporal blessings and delights, in which they placed their happiness.” Whitby. Thus also Dr. Campbell, who assigns the following reasons for understanding the expression in the same light: “1st, This way of speaking of the happiness of the Messiah’s administration suits entirely the hopes and wishes which seem to have been long entertained by the nation concerning it. 2d, The parable which, in answer to the remark, was spoken by our Lord, is on all hands understood to represent the Christian dispensation. 3d, The obvious intention of that parable is, to suggest the prejudices which, from notions of secular felicity and grandeur, the nation in general entertained on that subject; in consequence of which prejudices, what in prospect they fancied so blessed a period, would, when present, be exceedingly neglected and despised; and, in this view, nothing could be more apposite, whereas there appears no appositeness in the parable on the other interpretation;” that is, on understanding the kingdom of God, in the preceding remark, as signifying the kingdom of future glory.

Verses 16-17

Luke 14:16-17. Then said he, A certain man, &c. He delivered the following parable to show the person who made the remark, and others, that how great soever the happiness would be of those who should share the blessings of the Messiah’s kingdom, yet that many, who, under mistaken notions of it, professed to desire it, were under the force of such carnal prejudices that, though it would be offered to them with every circumstance that would recommend it, they would in fact slight, yea, and reject it, and that with disdain, preferring carnal to spiritual blessings, a kingdom of this world to one related to another; while, in the mean time, the Gentiles would embrace the gospel with cheerfulness, and thereby be prepared to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the abodes of the blessed. The parable of the marriage-feast, recorded Matthew 22:1-14, (where see the note,) was evidently spoken with the same view, though on a different occasion. Made a great supper By this is evidently meant the rich and abundant provision which God has made in his gospel for the spiritual wants of mankind, termed a feast of fat things, Isaiah 25:6, (where see the notes, as also on Isaiah 55:1-2;) a feast of truth and information for the understanding, of pardon and peace for the conscience, of love, hope, and joy for the affections; bread to nourish and strengthen, wine to cheer and exhilarate the soul and all its powers and faculties. Observe, reader, there is in Christ, and in the truth and grace displayed in, and communicated by his gospel, what will be food, nay, and a feast, a rich and agreeable feast, for the soul of man that knows its own capacities, for the soul of a sinner that knows its own necessities and miseries. This provision is called a supper, because in those countries supper-time was the chief time for feasts and entertainments of all kinds, when the business of the day was finished. The manifestation of gospel grace to the world was made in the evening of the world’s day, and the fruition of the fulness of that grace in heaven is reserved for the evening of our day. And bade many To this feast, which is prepared for all people, Isaiah 25:6, God had given a general invitation by the light of reason and conscience, by the secret influences of his Spirit, and the dispensations of his providence; and the whole nation of the Jews he had especially and particularly invited by his servants the prophets. And at supper-time he sent his servant At the opening of the gospel dispensation, he sent the harbinger of the Messiah, John the Baptist, the Messiah himself, his Son and servant, with his servants, the apostles: first twelve, and then seventy, he sent through all parts of the country, during the time of Christ’s personal ministry. And when the Christian mysteries were finished; when sin was expiated by the death of Christ, death overcome by his resurrection, and the truth of the gospel sealed and confirmed by both; when a way into heaven was opened by his ascension, and the Holy Ghost, in his gifts and graces, obtained for his followers, by his intercession: when the gospel church was planted, and this rich provision was ready to be served up on a gospel table, those who before had been invited were more closely and earnestly pressed to come in immediately, and partake of the bounty of their great Master. Such was the call given to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea, at and after the day of pentecost, by the apostles and other Christian ministers; such was that which was afterward given to the Gentile nations, and such is the call now given to us. Its language is, all things are now ready, therefore come to the feast; to come to which, in the gospel language, is to repent of sin, and believe in Christ. Thus John the Baptist, and thus our Lord and his apostles, invited men to the gospel feast, saying, The kingdom of God is at hand, ηγγικε , hath approached, or is come: Repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Verses 18-20

Luke 14:18-20. And they all with one consent Απο μιας is all that is in the original. It seems most natural to supply the ellipsis by the word γνωμης , consent, as our translators have done, an interpretation maintained by Beza and Wolfius. Began to make excuse As if by mutual agreement they had all contrived to put a slight upon the entertainment, and to affront him that had kindly provided it, and invited them to partake of it. The first said, I have bought a piece of ground, &c., and another, I have bought five yoke of oxen “It is a beautiful circumstance that our Lord here represents both these bargains as already made; so that going to see the farm and to prove the oxen that evening, rather than the next morning, was merely the effect of rudeness on the one hand, and of a foolish, impatient humour on the other; and could never have been urged, had they esteemed the inviter, or his entertainment. Accordingly, it is commonly found in fact, that men neglect the blessings and demands of the gospel, not for the most important affairs in life, with which they seldom interfere; but to indulge the caprice and folly of their own tempers, and to gratify the impulse of present passions, sometimes excited on very low occasions.” Doddridge. Another said, I have married a wife, &c., I cannot come “As the process of the parable represents a wise and good man offended with this excuse among the rest, we must suppose something either in the circumstance of receiving the message, or of appointing the time for entertaining company on his marriage, which implied a rude contempt of the inviter, and made the reply indecent. It was not necessary to descend to such particulars.” “If the first of the persons here invited had had so important an affair to transact as the purchasing of a farm, or the second the buying of five yoke of oxen, or the third the marrying of a wife, and if these affairs had come upon them unexpectedly, the very evening they had promised to spend at their rich neighbour’s house; but especially if these affairs could not have been delayed without missing the opportunity of doing them, their excuses would have been reasonable. But none of all these was the case. The farm and the oxen were already purchased, and the wife was married; so that the seeing of the farm, and the proving of the oxen, were pieces of unreasonable curiosity, which might easily have been deferred till next morning. And with respect to the new-married man’s pretending that he could not leave his wife for a few hours, it was such an excess of fondness as was perfectly ridiculous; not to mention that he ought to have thought of this, when the invitation was sent him the preceding day. Wherefore, their refusing so late to come to their rich friend’s supper, on such trifling pretences, was the height of rudeness, inasmuch as it implied the greatest disrespect to their friend, and contempt of his entertainment. No wonder, therefore, that he was very angry when his servant returned and brought him their answer.” Macknight. We may observe, further, respecting these excuses, that the things which were the matter of them were not only little things, and of small concern, comparatively speaking, and things which might have been easily done at another time, which would not have interfered with this important invitation; but they, were lawful things. Each of the actions here alleged, in behalf of the refusal of these persons to attend the feast, was wholly lawful: there was nothing criminal in any of them. They were such as might well be, and are constantly done, in perfect consistency with embracing the gospel and its blessings. But these men rendered the things which were otherwise lawful and innocent, criminal and destructive by their abuse. And, while they were kept by means of them from the royal feast, they became the cause of their utter ruin. It was a wise saying of Judge Hale’s (see his Life) that “we are ruined by things allowed.” People’s trades and families, and the necessary avocations of life, by the too great anxiety wherewith they are pursued and regarded, become as powerful obstacles to the experience and practice of true religion, and as much prevent men’s eternal salvation, as grosser sins. We have proof of this every day: while men, engaged in pursuits otherwise laudable, by their too close attachment to them, withdraw their minds totally from God, and from heaven, and neglect that which to regard duly would forward and advantage even their temporal concerns. To provide for a family, to prosecute industriously and honestly the business of a man’s calling, to be faithful to his wife, and to take care of his children, are certainly high and commendable duties, enjoined by God, and amiable in the sight of men. But when these, or any of them, are loved and pursued with such attachment and intenseness as to prevent our complying with the gracious invitations of God; to alienate our minds from Christ and the gospel; to keep us from the due and regular discharge of our duly to our God and Redeemer; then, how laudable soever our pursuits may be, how honest and upright soever our employments, truth it is, they will as certainly exclude us from the joys of our Lord, and his eternal feast; will as certainly draw down his wrath upon us, as if our neglect of him proceeded from any cause more criminal.

Verses 21-24

Luke 14:21-24. So that servant came, and showed his lord these things So ministers ought to lay before the Lord in prayer the obedience or disobedience of their hearers. Then the master of the house Who had made the entertainment; being angry As he reasonably might be, to see such an affront put upon his splendid preparations, and such an ungrateful return made for the peculiar kindness and respect he had shown, in sending for these guests; said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets, &c. Being of a benevolent and generous disposition, he determined that preparations so great should not be made in vain: and since those for whom they were first intended slighted the favour, he resolved that a great number still should be made happy with his supper, though they were of the poorer sort, nay, and diseased too; and the rather, because the persons of this class, upon whom he proposed to bestow his supper, had never partaken of such a meal before. He therefore ordered his servant to go as fast as he could into the streets and lanes of the city Where the poor used to be, and to bring them all in, however maimed, or halt, or blind they might be. The servant readily went as directed, and quickly returned, saying, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded These poor, distressed people, are come in, and have sat down at the table. Many of the Jews were obedient to the gospel call, and were brought to God, and became members of the Church of Christ; but not the scribes and Pharisees, and such as Christ was now at dinner with, but such as are here mentioned, the poor of this world, and the afflicted; or such as were figuratively represented by them, the publicans and sinners. And yet there is room The supper being great, and the hall of entertainment spacious, all those whom the servant happened to find in the streets and lanes of the city did not fill the tables. Wherefore, knowing that his lord’s intention was to make as many happy with this feast as possible, he came and told him there was still room for more. The lord said, Go out into the highways and hedges, &c. The benevolence and generosity of this great lord were such, that he could not be easy till as many people were brought in to partake of his supper as his house, with all the apartments where tables could be placed, would contain. Wherefore he ordered his servant to go even out of the city, to the highways and hedges leading into it, where beggars usually had their stations; and to use the most earnest entreaties with those who showed any unwillingness, in order that his house might be filled with guests. Thus the apostles, and first preachers of the gospel, were not to confine their labours to the towns and cities of Judea, but extend them to all parts of the country, and invite to the gospel feast persons of all descriptions: or rather, being rejected by the Jews, they are here commanded to turn, as Paul expresses it, to the Gentiles, and to offer them the blessings of the gospel, though as unlikely to be called into the Church of Christ, as vagrants in the highways are to be invited to a feast at a nobleman’s house. As to the clause, Compel them to come in, “How vainly,” says Whitby, “these words are brought to prove, that men may be compelled by the secular arm to embrace the true faith, appears, 1st, From the nature of a banquet, to which no man is compelled by force, but only by the importunity of persuasion: 2d, From the scope of the parable, which respects the calling of the Gentiles, whom only Mohammedans think fit by force of arms to compel to the faith.” Indeed, the word αναγκασον , rendered compel, frequently, as Elsner has shown, signifies only, pressing persuasion. And it certainly cannot here imply that any external violence was to be used with these persons; for only a single servant was sent out to them, who surely was not capable of forcing so great a multitude to come in, as was necessary to fill his lord’s house. The proper meaning of the expression, therefore, here is, Use the most powerful persuasion with them; and so it fitly denotes the great efficacy of the apostle’s preaching to the idolatrous Gentiles, whereby vast numbers of them were prevailed with to embrace the gospel. Indeed, force has no manner of influence to enlighten men’s consciences; so that, though one should pretend to believe, and should actually practise a worship contrary to his opinion, it could never please God, being mere hypocrisy. Those, therefore, who suppose that this passage of the parable justifies the use of external violence in matters of religion, are grossly mistaken. For I say unto you, that none, &c. This declaration of the master of the house refers to the commands given to his servant, Luke 14:21; Luke 14:23. Because he had determined to reject and abandon those first invited, therefore his servant was ordered to go out and gather guests from the streets and lanes, and then from the highways and hedges. None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper This is like that sentence which God passed on those ungrateful Israelites who despised the pleasant land. He sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest What is here intended is, that, because the Jews rejected Christ and his gospel, they were given up by God to hardness of heart, and a reprobate mind. “Grace despised,” says Henry, “is grace forfeited, like Esau’s birthright. They that will not have Christ when they may, shall not have him when they would. Even those that were bidden, if they slight the invitation, shall be forbidden. When the door is shut, the foolish virgins will be denied entrance.” Only, the reader must remember, that not the condition of individuals, but the general state of the nation is here described; in which view, the parabolical representation is perfectly just, notwithstanding many individual Jews have believed on Christ, and obtained eternal life.

Verses 25-27

Luke 14:25-27. And there went great multitudes with him It seems they accompanied him from place to place, with eager desire, doubtless, to have the Messiah’s kingdom erected; proposing to themselves all manner of wealth and temporal advantage therein. One day, therefore, as they were on the road with him, he thought fit to show them plainly their mistake: he turned and said, If any man come to me, and hate not, &c. As all the hopes of temporal felicity under his reign, which his disciples entertained, were to be blasted; as he himself was to suffer an ignominious death; and as they were to be exposed unto all manner of persecutions, he declared publicly to the multitude, that, if they proposed to be his disciples, it was absolutely necessary that they should prefer his service to every thing in the world, and by their conduct show that they hated father, and mother, and wife, and children, that is to say, loved the dearest objects of their affections less than him. As in this, so in several other passages of Scripture, the word hatred signifies only an inferior degree of love. Father and mother, and other relations, are particularly mentioned by our Lord, because, as matters then stood, the profession of the gospel was apt to set a man at variance with his nearest relations. Whosoever doth not bear his cross, &c. See on Matthew 10:37-38.

Verses 28-33

Luke 14:28-33. Which of you, intending to build a tower, (the word πυργος here signifying the same as the Hebrew migdol, seems to denote any great building whatever,) sitteth not down first and counteth the cost To illustrate the necessity of their weighing deliberately, whether they were able and prepared to bear all their losses and persecutions to which the profession of the gospel would expose them, which indeed was the only term on which they could be his disciples, he desired them to consider how prudence would direct them to act in other cases of importance. The most thoughtless person among you, as if he had said, will not resolve on a matter of such importance as the building of a house, without previously calculating the expense; because you know that the builder who begins without counting the cost, being obliged to leave off for want of money, exposes himself to the ridicule of all passengers who look on the half- finished edifice. In like manner, the king who declares war without comparing his forces with those of his enemy, and considering whether the bravery of his troops, and the conduct of his generals, will be able to make up what he wants in numbers, is sure to be ingloriously defeated, unless he humbly sue for peace before the matter comes to an engagement. So likewise Like the person who began to build and was not able to finish; or like the king who, being afraid to face his enemy, sends an embassy and desires terms of peace; whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath Who does not engage so earnestly and resolutely in his Christian warfare, as to hold all things cheap in comparison with life eternal, and be ready to forsake them when I call him to it; he cannot be my disciple He cannot be acknowledged by me as such, because my disciples will be exposed to such trials, to such reproaches, losses, imprisonments, tortures, and martyrdoms, that unless they prefer me, and the cause in which I am engaged, to all visible and temporal things whatever, they certainly will not steadily adhere to me, or continue faithful and constant in my service. “Christ does not here require that we should actually renounce these [temporal] things, but that our heart and our affections should be so taken off from them, that we always love them less than we love him; and be always ready to part with them when we cannot keep them without making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience.”

Whitby. To the same purpose Baxter: “A man cannot be Christ’s disciple if he prefer not the kingdom of heaven before all worldly interest, and forsake it not all comparatively, in esteem and resolution now, and in act when he is called to it.” “It was in this sense that the apostles understood their Master: for though they are said to have forsaken all and followed him, they still retained the property of their goods, as is evident from the mention that is made of John’s house, into which he took our Lord’s mother, after the crucifixion; and from Peter and the other disciples prosecuting their old trade of fishing, with their boat and nets, after their Master’s resurrection: nevertheless, though they thus retained the use and dominion of their property, they had truly forsaken all, in the highest sense of their Master’s precept, being ready, at his call, to leave their families, occupations, and possessions, as often and as long as he thought fit to employ them in the work of the gospel. Upon the whole, therefore, it appears, that the renunciation and self-denial which Christ requires, does not consist in actually parting with all before he calls us to do so, but in being disposed to part with all, that when he calls we may do it.” See Macknight.

Verses 34-35

Luke 14:34-35. Salt is good If you are not my disciples indeed, your outward profession will be very insignificant: for, though salt in general is a good thing, and my servants, as I formerly intimated (see on Matthew 5:13,) are the salt of the earth; yet I must again add, if the salt have lost his savour Or be grown insipid, how can its saltness be restored to it? or what can recover those whom my gospel will not influence and reclaim? It is neither fit for the land, &c. As insipid salt is such a vile and worthless thing, that it is neither fit to be used of itself, as manure for the land, nor even to be cast upon the dunghill, to be there mixed with other manure; but men cast it out It is thrown out of doors, and trampled under foot like mire in the streets. So you, my disciples, will be no less useless and contemptible, if, under the advantages and obligations of a Christian profession, you are destitute of a true principle of integrity and piety, of which you will certainly be destitute if you do not thus deny yourselves, and stand disposed to forsake all for my sake and the gospel’s, as far as, and whenever, I shall call you to it. See notes on Mark 9:49-50.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 14". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/luke-14.html. 1857.
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