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Bible Commentaries
Luke 13

Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & RomansWatson's Expositions

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Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

1 Christ preacheth repentance upon the punishment of the Galileans, and others.

6 The fruitless fig tree may not stand.

11 He healeth the crooked woman:

18 showeth the powerful working of the word in the hearts of his chosen, by the parable of the grain of mustard seed, and of leaven:

24 exhorteth to enter in at the strait gate,

31 and reproveth Herod and Jerusalem.

Verse 1

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The Galileans whose blood, &c. — As this incident is not mentioned by Josephus, it is impossible to ascertain the occasion of this slaughter. Pilate was a severe and cruel governor, αμειλικτος , as Philo describes him, and ready to take severe and indiscriminate revenge when there was any approach to tumult. Such turbulent commotions did in fact frequently take place at the great feasts at Jerusalem, and especially the passovers; and it is not unlikely that in one of these Pilate fell upon a body of Galileans. The place of the slaughter must have been Jerusalem, and in the precincts of the temple; because their blood is said to have been mingled with their sacrifices, that is, with the blood of their sacrifices. The conclusion to which the Jews probably had come was, that on account of this calamity being permitted to overtake them, they were in a peculiar sense sinners, sinners above others. They did not infer this from their tumultuous disposition; for to oppose the Roman authority was, in the estimation of the Jews, a virtue rather than a crime: but, as we may collect from the other example of the falling of the tower of Siloam, adduced by our Lord, it was the received notion that great calamities marked out the sufferers as special objects of the Divine displeasure, and therefore as eminently sinners. Our Lord corrects this uncharitable and pernicious error. He does not deny that the suffering parties were sinners, or that all calamity is generally to be considered the punishment of sin; but he discountenances the notion that they were sinners more than other inhabitants of Jerusalem, and that external sufferings are to be taken as the comparative measure of moral guilt; and further, on these circumstances he grounds the solemn warning, Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. This threat has in it the nature of a prediction; for great numbers of impenitent Jews, at the siege of Jerusalem, perished in a similar manner. The temple was often the seat of conflict, and the sacred places were drenched with the blood of the priests, and those who had come to offer sacrifices; while the fall of the tower of Siloam, one of the towers of the city walls, near the fountain of Siloam, upon the eighteen victims, might be considered as emblematical of the fall of those towers and walls of their city, amid the ruins of which the Jews perished. The parable which follows urges still farther the necessity of immediate repentance.

Verses 6-7

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

A fig tree planted in his vineyard. — The union of vines and fig trees in the same garden or plot of ground appears to have been quite customary; and one of the most beautiful images of rural tranquillity and prosperity is that of men “sitting under their vines and fig trees,” none making them afraid. Many of their orchards were planted with vines and fig trees in alternate rows.

Came and sought fruit thereon. — The proprietor did this for three years, reckoning, no doubt, from the time when it had become mature or capable of bearing fruit. The fig tree is said not to bring forth edible fruit until it has been planted three years; but if so, there can be no allusion to this, since the planter well enough knew that it would be useless to seek fruit upon it the first or second year, and yet he is represented as having gone three years seeking fruit. — The three years, therefore, mark his care not to condemn a tree to the axe which might become fruitful; for the easterns are peculiarly careful of their fruit trees, on which they depend for food more than we: and also his patience in waiting until the case became hopeless.

Why cumbereth it the ground? — More literally, Why does it make the ground idle? that is, to cease from bearing fruit; which it would do, if the same space were occupied by a good tree. Why does it uselessly take up room? Cut it down, and plant another tree. The word is rare in heathen authors, and is used but four times in the LXX. — St. Paul, however, employs it six times; but chiefly in figurative applications. It is from κατα and αργος , that is, αεργος , ceasing from labour.

Verse 8

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Till I shall dig about it, and dung it. — That these means were not necessary to produce fertility in fig trees, is evident from their growing and bearing fruit often by the waysides; and therefore these words of the vine-dresser denote the application of extraordinary means of conquering the barrenness. If, however, they were used in the cultivation of fig trees in enclosures, as appears from the classical quotations adduced by Wetstein, then the meaning of our Lord is, that it should be dug about and manured for another season; but still the words imply something extraordinary in the care and attention which were to be bestowed, upon it.

Verse 9

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

If it bear fruit, well. — The well is supplied by the translators, but it properly and emphatically fills up the sense. Similar ellipses occur in the best Greek writers, as Kypke and Wetstein have shown. Euthymius supplies the ellipse by ευ εχει . As to the meaning of the parable, nothing can be more obvious, or more instructive. The fig tree certainly represents the Jewish nation, planted by the hand of God himself, and favoured with special culture in his own vineyard, in order that it might yield the fruits of religion and piety. Nor does there seem any good reason why the three years, in which he is coming to seek fruit, should not have respect to the three years of our Lord’s public ministry, although some would take them for an indefinite time. Certainly, as “where much is given much is required,” the privilege of our Lord’s great and attested ministry laid the nation under additional obligation to bring forth the fruits of righteousness, and these were actually in a proportionate measure required from them. — The three years’ delay before the sentence was pronounced, shows the calm and patient manner in which God governs the world; for he is “slow to anger, though great in power.” The vine-dresser represents our great Mediator.

By his intercessions a longer space was obtained for the Jewish nation, and multiplied means of salvation by the effusions of the Spirit and the preaching of the apostles; so the final execution of the sentence could no more be questioned on the ground either of justice or mercy, than the cutting down of a fig tree, after a delay of four years from the period of maturity, and the use of all means to render it fruitful. In this parable the Jews were solemnly warned of the necessity of instant repentance; and both the long suffering and righteousness of God in his dealings with them were illustrated. If this be the natural and obvious primary sense of the parable, the pious use which has often been made of it in sermons to rouse both nations and individuals to a sense of the necessity of IMMEDIATE REPENTANCE, may be fully justified against the cavils of some commentators. The PRINCIPLES involved in the parable are doubtless those on which almighty God acts in the case of all, who, like the Jews, are favoured with peculiar religious advantages. Toward them he will exercise “long suffering;” all will find a pleading, pitying Intercessor; but mercy has its limit, mediation its boundary; and persevering unfruitfulness will bring “the axe to the root of the tree.” These things were not spoken to the Jews only, but to us.

Verse 11

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

A spirit of infirmity. — That is, an evil spirit producing infirmity, for this follows from what is stated verse 16, “This woman whom Satan hath bound;” so that the πνευμα ασθενειας is not, as some pretend, a Hebrew idiom for the disease. She had been contracted or bent double by Satan; and, at the healing touch of our Lord, she was made straight, stood upright, and glorified God. This is a fine emblem of his raising the souls of men bent to earth, and fixed only on worldly pursuits, inspiring them with heavenly affections, teaching them to look upward, and thus to glorify God. On our Lord’s healing on the Sabbath day, see the notes on Matthew 12:1-12.

Verse 15

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Thou hypocrite. — This affectation of regard to the Sabbath, to the neglect of the exercise of mercy when they had no interest at stake, and yet practising it when their property was concerned, as in the case of the care they took of their beasts on the Sabbath, was manifest hypocrisy, as being done under the influence of mercenary motives.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Luke 13". "Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Romans". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwc/luke-13.html.
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