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Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 8

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

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Introduction

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

2 Christ cleanseth the leper,

5 healeth the centurion’s servant,

14 Peter’s mother-in-law,

16 and many other diseased:

18 showeth how he is to be followed:

23 stilleth the tempest on the sea,

28 driveth the devils out of two men possessed,

31 and suffereth them to go into the swine.

Verse 1

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

Great multitudes followed him. — They had been deeply affected by his discourse on the mount, and the charm still drew them after him. The circumstance is, however, mentioned as an introduction to the miracle which follows, to show that it was done publicly in the presence of a great number of witnesses; so that it became to them the seal of the reality of that “authority” which Christ had assumed in his late sermon, and with which they had been so much impressed.

Verse 2

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

A leper. — From the nature of this loathsome disease, its cure, even in cases not hopeless, could only be effected by slow degrees; so that the instantaneous healing of a leper, and that by a touch, was an unequivocal miracle. The spots of the leprosy dilate themselves until they cover the whole body; the pain is not very great, but great debility of the system is induced, and great grief and depression of the spirits, so as sometimes to drive the unhappy patient to self-destruction. But this miserable object was now at the feet of Him who could both pity and save.

Worshipped him. — This he did by prostrating himself; a common mark of profound reverence among the Jews, and other eastern people. Religious worship is not intended, but civil respect; for he probably knew nothing more of Christ than that he was a great prophet, endued with the power of working miracles. Nor is his address, “Lord,” to be taken in a religious sense; but was usual with the Jews when speaking to a superior. If, however, he knew and believed him to be the Messiah, there might be a farther reference in his mind, both in the act of prostration, and in the application of the title, “Lord,” Κυριε , which was also used in themost sacred sense; for it is not improbable that he might have deeper views than the brevity of the history indicates; but this does not clearly appear. However that may be, he had full faith in Christ’s power; as far as he knew him he trusted him; and by this teaches us that our higher knowledge ought to call forth a proportionate faith.

Verse 3

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

And touched him. — He that touched a leper, or touched a dead body, was by the law rendered unclean. Our Lord might have healed the one and raised the other without this action; but in each case he put forth his hand and touched. This was probably to show that the law was not applicable to him, who, by touching a leper, instead of contracting impurity, imparted health, and by whose touch death itself became life. So he took our nature without its defilement, and lived sinless in a sinful world; coming into contact with fallen and corrupt man only to sanctify and to save him. Many comparisons have been founded upon this history by fanciful divines and preachers, who have traced numerous parallels between the leprosy and our natural corruption, and between the manner in which our Lord healed the leper, and that in which he restores diseased souls to soundness. No doubt all the miracles of healing performed by our Lord were TYPES as well as ATTESTATIONS. They exhibited his compassion, and they hold him forth under that affecting character, which he himself professed, the “Physician” of souls. The true resemblance was not, however, designed to be pursued into minute particulars, which, as they rest on mere human authority, are without authority; and it is enough for us to know that he both CAN and WILL make clean from sin all who come to him in the same spirit as this poor leper.

Saying, I will, be thou clean, &c. — Here the latent Divinity of our Lord again breaks forth. As he taught with authority, he heals with authority, and in both, the very MANNER places him infinitely above the highest commissioned servants: I WILL, BE THOU CLEAN! No wonder this language has reminded critics of the sublime sentence, “Let there be light, and there was light.” But in marking the sublimity of the style, they have often forgotten the sublimity of the person, who was “the Most High” himself; for the use of this language by any other would have been no subject of just admiration, it would have been greatly criminal.

Verse 4

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

See thou tell no man. — It is very singular that acute commentators upon this passage should have elaborated so many grave hypothetical reasons for the secrecy imposed upon the leper in this instance, when the miracle was evidently performed in the presence of “the multitudes” that followed Christ. The meaning clearly is, Hasten to the priest to be examined by him and pronounced clean, and fit to be received into society, and offer the gift that Moses commanded; and, till this is done, tell no man. The reason is obvious; that the priest might pronounce him clean, according to his office in such cases, on an unbiassed judgment of the fact.

For a testimony unto them. — The plural, αυτοις , being used has led some to suppose that the priests were not intended as the persons to be benefited by the testimony of this miracle, since but one is mentioned, — show thyself to the priest. Priest is, however, probably used in a collective sense for the whole body who might then be attending their ministrations at Jerusalem. Or the plural may be used to comprehend both the priests, and all to whom the man might afterward speak of his cure; for the fact, that the priest had pronounced him clean, and in token of that had permitted him to enter the temple and offer his gift, was a public and official testimony to the truth of the miracle.

Verse 5

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

A centurion. — A Roman officer, commander of a hundred men. The centurions were usually stationed in the towns of the Roman provinces to preserve order. The probability is, that this officer, through his residence in Judea, had attained a knowledge of the true God; he had certainly given profound attention to the accounts of the character, teaching, and miracles of our Lord; and if he had made himself acquainted with the Jewish Scriptures, of which there can be little doubt, he might regard him, not as a mere prophet, however great, but as that mysterious and exalted personage announced in those Scriptures as the Messiah. Certain it is that he regarded him as something more than mortal, as appears from the sequel.

Verse 6

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

Sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. — Not merely paralytic, but also afflicted with strong pains, grievously tormented. The verb βασανιζειν signifies to torture, from βασανος , a Lydian stone, upon which metals were proved; hence the verb signifies to apply an engine of torture, in examinations of criminals, and metaphorically, to afflict and torment.

Verses 7-10

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

And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him, &c. — The benevolent promptitude with which our Lord yields to the centurion’s request, is the first circumstance to be noted in the narration; the second is the humility of the centurion himself, joined with his singular faith. Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but only speak the word, ειπε λογω , which is the reading adopted by Wetstein and others, on the authority of many MSS., and some of the versions; command by a word, and my servant shall be healed. But it is chiefly in the reason which the centurion assigns, in urging that it was unnecessary for Christ to go to his house, that the peculiar clearness of this pious soldier’s views, and the strength of his confidence, are particularly manifested. For I am a man under authority, &c.; the sense of which is, For though I myself am A MAN, and SUBORDINATE to others, being under the authority of Cesar and my superior officers, yet having soldiers under me, I say to one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; obeying my word with instant promptitude and entire subjection: how much more shall all diseases, and therefore all natural things whatever, obey thee, who hast SUPREME AUTHORITY and ABSOLUTE POWER in thyself! That this man must have had some highly superior glimpses of the Divinity of Christ must be supposed, to account for this language. It was not the hyperbolical language of an oriental, for he was a Roman; and that it was not the language of compliment is certain from his having a faith in Christ corresponding to it; a faith at which our Lord marvelled, and which he declared so great that he had not found a faith equal to it in Israel. He was surely taught of God, and to him had already been given, in some considerable degree, “a revelation of the mystery of Christ,” which had not been made to others. He considered our Lord as possessed in himself of more than human power; and a steady view and firm belief of that fact was the foundation of his absolute trust.

Verse 11

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

Many shall come from the east, &c. — This instance of a pious Gentile having so readily embraced the knowledge of the true God, and having come through the study of the Jewish Scriptures to so clear an acquaintance with the character of the Messiah, of whom they speak, and farther, so readily admitting that evidence of the claim of Jesus to be that Messiah which his numerous miracles had afforded, here leads our Lord to predict the future calling and salvation of the Gentiles from all parts of the earth. Those who interpret the words, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, of the reception of the Gentiles into the Church on earth, and becoming the sons of Abraham through faith, and heirs of the promises made to him, forget that the sense of this phrase is fixed by our Lord in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus, where the latter, in his disembodied state, is represented as in “THE BOSOM of Abraham.” The expression refers to the custom of reclining on couches at table, where he that was nearest another was said to be or to lie in his bosom; so that the felicity of Lazarus was expressed in that parable, just as here, under the idea of a great banquet, where the most honoured guests reclined next to the principal personages. Thus Josephus represents one of the seven Maccabee brethren encouraging the rest to persevere in their religion though they should die for it, “for Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, will receive us after our decease into their bosoms.” The words, therefore, respect the felicity of the believing Gentiles in heaven; where, so far from being placed in inferior circumstances to the Jews, they are represented as sitting, or rather reclining, ανακλινομαι , with the glorified patriarchs themselves, though not their natural descendants. Thus, those “that are of the faith,” whether Jew or Gentile, “are blessed with faithful Abraham,” and none but such. This mode of representing celestial felicity under the metaphor of a social banquet, was not peculiar to the Jews. It is often found in Greek authors. So Epictetus, εση ποτε των θεων αξιος συμποτης , “You will in due time be a worthy guest of the gods.” And Socrates, in his Apology, speaks of future blessedness as a state of delightful converse and abode with the renowned heroes and sages of antiquity. All goodness is, however, by these heathens, shut out of this conception; whereas, as it is used in the Scriptures, it stands connected with the noblest and most spiritual hopes.

Verse 12

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

But the children of the kingdom, &c. — The Jews are here intended; and the phrase employed was equivalent to their expressions, “a son of the world to come,” and “children of the world to come;” meaning those who expected and were particularly entitled to the kingdom of Messiah. — The import of the phrase, cast out into outer darkness, can only be understood by referring also to the customs of those countries. — Great feasts were always made at night; the house in which the guests assembled was brilliantly illuminated with a profusion of lights, which were not only for use, but symbols of joy and gladness, so that those who intruded without authority, or misconducted themselves, when cast out, were thrust into outer darkness, or the darkness without; and their disappointment and disgrace are expressed in this passage by “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” words too strong indeed to indicate the mortification of being merely excluded from a feast, and leading us therefore to the thing intended; exclusion from heaven into the darkness and despair of an eternal misery. How different is this doctrine of Christ from the rabbinical bigotry, that “all Israel should have a portion in the world to come: but that the heathen should be fuel for hell fire!” On the contrary, God will save true believers of all nations, whether Jew or Gentile; but the obstinately wicked of every race, and without respect of persons, shall suffer the just judgment which shall follow rejected mercy.

Verse 13

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

And as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee, &c. — This is God’s rule of proportion: it is done to us “according to our faith.” The centurion’s trust had a just proportion to his knowledge of Christ’s character; and God proportioned the blessing to his trust. And his servant was healed in the self-same hour.

Verse 14

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

Peter’s wife’s mother. — Peter’s residence was at Capernaum; and from this passage it appears that he was a married man. With little grace therefore do the papists, contend for the celibacy of the clergy, when it is clear the very apostle of whom they boast as the rock on which their Church is built was married, and remained so long after he had entered fully upon his labours as an apostle, 1 Corinthians 9:5.

Verse 15

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

He touched her hand, &c. — Sometimes our Lord healed by a word, sometimes by a touch, and in the case of the leper by both. Perhaps in this case both were used; for St. Luke says, “he rebuked the fever,” as he rebuked the winds and the waves on another occasion; and his assuming this tone of authority was an illustration of the words of the centurion. All things, the elements of nature, the restless seas, the boisterous winds, the fiercest diseases, and, let us not forget, the infection of sin itself in the heart of man, acknowledge his AUTHORITY, and yield to his REBUKE. And she arose and ministered; which was in proof of the instant communication of health and vigour; leaving behind no debility, as in the case of all fevers cured by ordinary means. So perfect were the miracles of Christ! That she arose and ministered to them, that is, supplied them with refreshments, is perhaps an indication that she was the mistress of the family: if so, Peter was but a lodger there, as her son-in-law. Her humble rank in life forbids us, however, to think that she had servants at command; so that she herself actually served at table what her hospitality had provided. Such were the first disciples of Christ, and such the lowly manner in which the Lord of all things resided among men!

Verse 16

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

When the even was come. — From the other evangelists it appears that the mother-in-law of Peter was healed on the Sabbath; and as the day among the Jews ended at sunset, the people, now that the Sabbath was past, brought their sick. When cases of affliction were immediately before our Lord, he healed them instantly, though it were on the Sabbath day, deciding that it was “lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.” But he did not go BEYOND the immediate necessity of the case, even “to do good.” He did not INVITE the attendance of the sick upon him on that day though it was a day of leisure with their friends to bring them, lest their just reverence for the Sabbath should be diminished, and his own sacred exercises in the synagogues, and those of his disciples, should be interrupted. They probably knew his views on these subjects, and therefore only when the Sabbath was over brought the cases to him.

Cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick. — The terms here employed fully refute the notion of those who resolve demoniacal possessions into those bodily diseases with which the possessed were often afflicted at the same time. He cast out εξεβαλε , the spirits, and HEALED, εθεραπευσεν , the sick, An essential distinction between the cases could not be more strongly marked. See note on Mark 1:34.

Verse 17

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

That it might be fulfilled, &c. — That is, thus were fulfilled the words of Isaiah 53:4, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” St. Matthew’s quotation differs a little from the Hebrew, and somewhat more from the present copies of the LXX; but is, in sense, the same. The only difficulty lies in this application of the words of the prophet to the taking and bearings, of bodily diseases, when they refer primarily to the taking away of sin, by those vicarious sufferings of the Messiah of which Isaiah unquestionably speaks. This has led many commentators to consider this quotation as another, instance of the use of prophecy by the evangelist in an accommodated sense; on which some remarks will be found in the note on Matthew 1:22. But this objectionable theory is applied, in the instance before us, under very defective views of our Lord’s atonement, and the import of the prophet’s words respecting it. Through that atonement all our blessings come; and as all our sufferings are the consequences of sin, none of them could have been removed had not propitiation been made for sin, and the right to deliver us from all its consequences been acquired by our Redeemer. Whatever blessings, therefore, our Lord bestowed during his ministry on earth, were given with reference to that “bearing” of the PENALTY of sin which he was ultimately to sustain, and by virtue of which he was to take it away, in all its consequences, as to all those who should come to him in faith. And as by virtue of that anticipated atonement he, while on earth, “forgave sins,” so by virtue of the same anticipated atonement he healed the diseases of the body, all which are the fruits of sin. Whenever, therefore, he did either of these, removing either sin itself from the consciences of men, or any of its consequences from their persons, in virtue of his being the appointed sin- offering, those words of the prophet, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and earned our sorrows,” were directly fulfilled: since these were the proofs and effects of his substitution in our place as the accepted sacrifice; they were all, in a word, demonstrations of the efficacy of his atonement.

Nor are we to suppose, as the criticism here objected to does, that Christ “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows” by actual vicarious suffering only when upon the cross. He bore them, as the penalty of sin, in his agony as well as at his crucifixion; and often previously, whenever he “groaned in spirit,” and was “troubled.” All his humiliations, and all his mental distresses, in coming into a world so full of sin and misery, formed a part of the grand sum of vicarious suffering by which “the sin of the world” was to be taken away; and upon his spirit the sight of that accumulated misery, so often presented by the multitudes of sick and possessed and tormented persons, produced a sorrowful effect. We see this often exemplified: we see it at the tomb of Lazarus, although he was about to raise him to life. His sorrow then was not common sorrow; his groaning in spirit cannot be thus explained; and the “compassion” of Christ on other occasions, to the miserable, was not the common compassion of men, but a distinct and deeper feeling; a part of the load and pressure of trouble laid upon his infinitely tender spirit, which he was to sustain. Hence after his miracles of healing we have no expressions of exultation arising from the triumphs of his benevolence; no indications of that joyous feeling which relieves the painful sympathy of merely humane persons when they have succeeded in conveying relief. The whole mass of the world’s wo lay upon his spirit from the beginning to the end; for as his office was to take away the “sin of the world,” he must first bear its weight.

It was in this sense that St. Matthew says, he took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses; not, certainly, by transferring the infirmities and sickness to his own person, for he became neither infirm nor sick; nor do the words used signify simply to take or bear away, much less the Hebrew term used by Isaiah, but that he took them and carried them as A LOAD or BURDEN, the sustaining of which was a part of the process of the great atonement. In the strictest sense, therefore, the prophecy quoted by that evangelist was here “fulfilled;” not indeed fully, for Christ had much more to sustain; but still directly and properly. It is remarkable, too, that this is the comprehensive sense in which some of the Jewish writers view this passage; which is no small confirmation of the meaning attached by Matthew to the words of Isaiah, since all their prejudices lay against a suffering Messiah. Thus, in their book of Zohar it is said, “There is one temple which is called the temple of the sons of affliction; and when the Messiah comes into that temple, and reads all the afflictions, all the griefs, and all the chastisements of Israel, which came upon them, then all of them shall come upon him; and if there were any that would lighten them off from Israel, and take them upon himself, there is no son of man that can bear the chastisements of Israel, because of the punishment of the law, as it is said, Surely he hath borne our griefs,” &c.

Verse 18

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

The other side. — That is, of the lake or sea of Galilee. He departed by water to the south-eastern side, and thus evaded the crowd, to obtain some space for retirement; and probably to avoid keeping great multitudes for any long time together, lest the jealousy of the government might be excited.

Verses 19-20

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

A certain scribe came and said, &c. — That this man was influenced only by sordid motives, hoping for rank and wealth, if Jesus should prove the Messiah, is very probable from our Lord’s reply. The foxes have holes, &c. He was about to pass over the lake wearied and exhausted by his labours; and in the place to which he was going, there was no house, no family, to receive him. To his own poverty he therefore alludes, since he had no means of providing accommodation where no friendly family was found to receive him. There is great emphasis here in the application of the phrase “Son of man” to himself. “A son of man” is the Jewish phrase for a real human being; but “THE Son of man” is a designation of Messiah, and is taken from Psalms 80:17; and especially from Daniel 7:13-14, where the holy prophet says, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him, and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom,” &c. This prophecy was by the Jews uniformly applied to the Messiah; and our Lord, in his answer to the scribe, applies it to himself; yet as though he had said, I am indeed the Son of man spoken of by Daniel, and, as thou professest to believe, the Messiah; but instead of a kingdom, and glory, and dominion, I have not where to lay my head, — no house of my own, much less a palace and a kingdom. Of a spiritual reign the scribe had no notion; and being cut off from the hope of a visible and earthly one, he probably retired. I will follow thee, said this forward professor, whithersoever thou goest; but he secretly meant, only into the paths of publicity and enjoyment, not into those of humility and suffering. Yet wherever Christ leads, the true disciple must follow him.

Verses 21-22

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

Suffer me first to go and bury my father. — The father probably was not dead, but aged; and the request was for permission to cease from a constant attendance on Christ, which those were obliged to who were called to the ministry of the word, until his parent should die and be interred. Probably also some worldly feeling, as well as filial affection, might have a share in dictating the request. He was therefore to be put to the test and proved. Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead; let those who are dead to all sense of spiritual things, bury those who are corporally dead: in other words, let worldly men take care of worldly interests; thou art called to follow me, and to be trained up to impart spiritual instruction and life to others, and for this every thing is to be forsaken. This is a saying which ought to sink deep into the ears of ministers, and of those who are called to this office. In the phrase, Let the dead bury their dead, is an instance of the use of the same word in a sentence in two different senses.

It is a rhetorical figure called antanaclisis, and occurs often in Scripture, and particularly in the pointed sayings of our Lord, without attending to which they are liable to be misinterpreted. The figurative representation of earthly and wicked men, as in a state of death, was frequent both among Jews and heathens. Thus Philo, “dead to virtue, alive to evil;” and Clemens Alexandrinus remarks that “the philosophers esteem those dead who subject the mind to sense.” The disciple who made this request is by tradition said to be Philip. Whoever it might be, it would seem that he remained with Christ.

Verse 23

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

And when he was entered into a ship. — Rather one of the small vessels used for navigating the lake, a fishing vessel, though of considerable size, for his disciples embarked with him. The conversation with the scribe and the disciple just mentioned, took place while our Lord was preparing to embark.

Verse 24

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

A great tempest. — The sea of Galilee, though generally calm, was liable to heavy and sudden hurricanes, coming down from the surrounding mountains.

Verse 26

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

O ye of little faith. — Faith here, as in most places of the New Testament, includes in it the idea of trust. Some degree of faith they had for they came to Christ and awoke him, praying him to save them; but it was mingled with great fears. Why are ye fearful? Their faith was not that entire trust which tranquillizes and assures the soul in the greatest danger: in such a case as this, great fear was the evidence of little faith: for how could they perish when their Master was with them; he whose power over nature they had so often seen and acknowledged? For this they were justly reproved. — He rebuked the winds, and the sea, &c. — So that it was in the height of the tempest, amid the very rage and fury of the elements, and in the extremity of danger, that he issued his authoritative command, and there was a great calm. The very simplicity of the narrative heightens the sublimity of the whole scene as it passes before us; — the suddenness and fury of the storm; the vessel labouring among the overwhelming waves; the terror of the disciples; the calm repose of Jesus, asleep amid all this uproar; the majesty of his action, — “he arose and rebuked the wind and the sea;” the immediate effect, — “there was a great calm,” — so nobly expressed in the original, και εγενετο γαληνη μεγαλη , that one almost feels the absolute repose which one almighty word produced. “Not only was the wind laid, but the surface of the sea,” says Bishop Pearce, “became smooth and level, which γαληνη properly signifies; whereas after a storm is over, the water of the sea is for a long time in motion. This circumstance, therefore, helps to show the full force of the miraculous power exerted.”

Verse 27

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

What manner of man is this? &c. — Man is not in the original; and the text would have been better translated, What kind of person or being is this? ποταπος εστιν ουτος ; for there was here an overwhelming manifestation of the glory and power of Christ’s Divine nature; though, like light from a parted cloud, it was quickly shrouded again in the veil of his humble condition and demeanour. Hence it is said by Mark, that the disciples “feared exceedingly;” and by Luke, that “they being afraid wondered.” — The danger was over, their fears as to that had subsided; but fear of another kind, a deep and amazing awe in the presence of Him who had just exhibited an attribute of omnipotence. The wonder was great but indefinite; it dazzled rather than enlightened them; but after the resurrection of their Lord they knew how to interpret the whole case. “The waters saw thee, O GOD, the waters saw thee, and were afraid; at thy rebuke they fled.” “Jehovah on high is mightier than the noise of many waters.”

Verse 28

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

Country of the Gergesenes. — Mark and Luke say, “the country of the Gadarenes; St. Matthew probably naming it from Gergesa, and the others from Gadara, which were near each other; but the ancient reading was probably των Γαδαρηνων , as in Mark and Luke.

Out of the tombs. — Tombs or sepulchres, not only among the Jews, but other easterns also, were often spacious subterranean caves excavated in the rock, and sometimes served as places of abode to those outcasts who were expelled from the habitations of men. A recent traveller, Mr. Light, visited the scene of this miracle and observes, “The tombs still exist in the form of caverns, in the sides of the hills that rise from the lake; and from their wild appearance may well be considered the habitations of men ‘exceeding fierce,’ possessed by devils. They extend to a distance of more than a mile from the present town.”

Verse 29

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

What have we to do with thee? &c. — This phrase implies impatience at being troubled at the presence or interference of another. They apprehended, no doubt, that Christ would dispossess them; and they not only feared this, but that he might inflict upon them some signal punishment before their time; that is, before the day of judgment, when evil spirits and wicked men will receive their final and irreversible sentence. Future torment is the sad prospect of both. Let the still living sinner make haste to escape it.

Verse 30

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

A herd of swine feeding. — The Jews were forbidden to eat swine’s flesh; but the baser sort of them, for gain, would often breed these animals to sell to foreigners, which was probably the case here, as this part of the country had many Gentiles residing in it. Such Jews were, however, detested by their brethren: hence their rabbins say, “Cursed be the man that bringeth up hogs and dogs!” It was no doubt to punish these degenerate Jews that our Lord suffered the swine to be destroyed by the demons: and as to the question of property, they could have no legal right in such animals; for, by a law made in the time of Hyrcanus, the Jews were forbidden to keep any swine in their country, which, with all other of their country laws in force in the time of Hyrcanus, as we learn from Josephus, Augustus commanded by an edict to be respected by the Roman governors. — No injustice was therefore done them. Gadara, however, as we learn from Josephus, was so much inhabited by Gentiles as to be popularly called a Grecian city; and, as such, was annexed by Augustus to Syria. Here, then, a regular market for swine’s flesh was at hand; and this was a temptation to gain which many of the Jewish inhabitants could not resist.

So the devils besought him. — St. Luke mentions but one possessed man, confining his attention, probably, to him with whom our Lord spoke; but he also states the devils to be numerous: “What is thy name? And he said, Legion; because many devils had entered into him.”

This history is decisive against those who would resolve the possessions mentioned in the New Testament into cases of madness. For here the whole conversation is evidently carried on, not with the afflicted men themselves, but with some other beings using their organs. For, could these men, if mere lunatics, have known our Lord? Or, if they knew his person, which is unlikely, how should they know him to be the Son of God, and give him his most appropriate designation? What could insane men mean by being tormented before their time? Or how could they impel the swine into the sea, when they remained still present with Christ, perfectly cured, as appears from St. Luke? Such forced attempts at interpretation, in compliment to the proud but vain philosophy of man, more become an infidel than a professed Christian expositor. On the contrary, the circumstances of this miracle appear to have been minutely recorded in order to demonstrate the reality of these possessions. The devils being permitted to enter the herd of swine, while the men they had before possessed remained at the feet of Christ, calm and still, was a visible proof that a number of distinct though invisible beings had previously employed their malignant agency upon the subjects of our Lord’s mercy, but who were rebuked and driven away.

Verse 34

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

Depart out of their coasts. — They seem to have considered this destruction of the herd of swine, which, being large, probably belonged to many proprietors, as a punishment for their violation of the law; and because they feared other judgments, and yet were not brought to repentance, they besought even the world’s Redeemer to depart from them! Thus the language of the obstinately wicked to Christ, like that of the devils themselves, was, “What have we to do with thee?” “Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” See notes on Mark 5:1, &c. and Luke 8:26.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 8". "Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Romans". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwc/matthew-8.html.
 
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