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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Matthew 10

Verse 1

His twelve disciples (τους δωδεκα μαθητας αυτου). First mention of the group of "learners" by Matthew and assumed as already in existence (note the article) as they were (Mark 3:14). They were chosen before the Sermon on the Mount was delivered, but Matthew did not mention it in connection with that sermon.

Gave them authority (εδωκεν αυτοις εξουσιαν). "Power" (Moffatt, Goodspeed). One may be surprised that here only the healing work is mentioned, though Luke (Luke 9:2) has it "to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick." And Matthew says (Matthew 10:7), "And as ye go, preach." Hence it is not fair to say that Matthew knows only the charge to heal the sick, important as that is. The physical distress was great, but the spiritual even greater. Power is more likely the idea of εξουσια here. This healing ministry attracted attention and did a vast deal of good. Today we have hospitals and skilled physicians and nurses, but we should not deny the power of God to bless all these agencies and to cure disease as he wills. Jesus is still the master of soul and body. But intelligent faith does not justify us in abstaining from the help of the physician who must not be confounded with the quack and the charlatan.

Verse 2

The names of the twelve apostles (των δωδεκα αποστολων τα ονοματα). This is the official name (missionaries) used here by Matthew for the first time. The names are given here, but Matthew does not say that they were chosen at this time. Mark (Mark 3:13-19) and Luke (Luke 6:12-16) state that Jesus "chose" them, "appointed" them after a night of prayer in the mountain and came down with them and then delivered the Sermon (Luke 6:17). Simon heads the list (πρωτος) in all four lists including Acts 1:13. He came to be first and foremost at the great Pentecost (Matthew 10:2 and Matthew 10:3). The apostles disputed a number of times as to which was greatest. Judas Iscariot comes last each time save that he is absent in Acts, being already dead. Matthew calls him the betrayer (ο παραδιδους). Iscariot is usually explained as "man of Kerioth" down near Edom (Joshua 15:25). Philip comes fifth and James the son of Alphaeus the ninth. Bartholomew is the name for Nathanael. Thaddaeus is Judas the brother of James. Simon Zelotes is also called Simon the Canaanean (Zealous, Hebrew word). This is apparently their first preaching and healing tour without Jesus. He sends them forth by twos (Mark 6:7). Matthew names them in pairs, probably as they were sent out.

Verse 5

These twelve Jesus sent forth (τουτους τους δωδεκα απεστειλεν ο Ιησους). The word "sent forth" (απεστειλεν) is the same root as "apostles." The same word reappears in Matthew 10:16.

Way of the Gentiles (οδον εθνων). Objective genitive, way leading to the Gentiles. This prohibition against going among the Gentiles and the Samaritans was for this special tour. They were to give the Jews the first opportunity and not to prejudice the cause at this stage. Later Jesus will order them to go and disciple all the Gentiles (Matthew 28:19).

Verse 6

The lost sheep (τα προβατα τα απολωλοτα). The sheep, the lost ones. Mentioned here first by Matthew. Jesus uses it not in blame, but in pity (Bruce). Bengel notes that Jesus says "lost" more frequently than "led astray." "If the Jewish nation could be brought to repentance the new age would dawn" (McNeile).

Verse 7

As ye go, preach (πορευομενο κηρυσσετε). Present participle and present imperative. They were itinerant preachers on a "preaching tour," heralds (κηρυκες) proclaiming good news. The summary message is the same as that of the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) that first startled the country, "the kingdom of heaven has drawn nigh." He echoed it up and down the Jordan Valley. They are to shake Galilee with it as Jesus had done (Matthew 4:17). That same amazing message is needed today. But "the apprentice apostles" (Bruce) could tell not a little about the King of the Kingdom who was with them.

Verse 9

Get you no gold (μη κτησησθε). It is not, "Do not possess" or "own," but "do not acquire" or "procure" for yourselves, indirect middle aorist subjunctive. Gold, silver, brass (copper) in a descending scale (nor even bronze).

In your purses (εις τας ζωνας υμων). In your girdles or belts used for carrying money.

Verse 10

No wallet (μη πηραν). Better than "scrip." It can be either a travelling or bread bag. Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, pp. 108f.) shows that it can mean the beggar's collecting bag as in an inscription on a monument at Kefr Hanar in Syria: "While Christianity was still young the beggar priest was making his rounds in the land of Syria on behalf of the national goddess." Deissmann also quotes a pun in the Didaskalia=Const. Apost. 3, 6 about some itinerant widows who said that they were not so much χηρα (spouseless) as πηρα (pouchless). He cites also Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida III. iii. 145: "Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back, wherein he puts alms for oblivion."

For the labourer is worthy of his food (αξιος γαρ ο εργατης της τροφης αυτου). The sermon is worth the dinner, in other words. Luke in the charge to the seventy (Luke 10:7) has the same words with μισθου (reward) instead of τροφης (food). In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul quotes Luke's form as scripture (η γραφη) or as a well-known saying if confined to the first quotation. The word for workman here (εργατης) is that used by Jesus in the prayer for labourers (Matthew 9:38). The well-known Didachˆ or Teaching of the Twelve (xiii) shows that in the second century there was still a felt need for care on the subject of receiving pay for preaching. The travelling sophists added also to the embarrassment of the situation. The wisdom of these restrictions was justified in Galilee at this time. Mark (Mark 6:6-13) and Luke (Luke 9:1-6) vary slightly from Matthew in some of the details of the instructions of Jesus.

Verse 13

If the house be worthy (εαν η η οικια αξια). Third class condition. What makes a house worthy? "It would naturally be readiness to receive the preachers and their message" (McNeile). Hospitality is one of the noblest graces and preachers receive their share of it. The apostles are not to be burdensome as guests.

Verse 14

Shake off the dust (εκτιναξατε τον κονιορτον). Shake out, a rather violent gesture of disfavour. The Jews had violent prejudices against the smallest particles of Gentile dust, not as a purveyor of disease of which they did not know, but because it was regarded as the putrescence of death. If the apostles were mistreated by a host or hostess, they were to be treated as if they were Gentiles (cf. Matthew 18:17; Acts 18:6). Here again we have a restriction that was for this special tour with its peculiar perils.

Verse 15

More tolerable (ανεκτοτερον). The papyri use this adjective of a convalescent. People in their vernacular today speak of feeling "tolerable." The Galileans were having more privileges than Sodom and Gomorrah had.

Verse 16

As sheep in the midst of wolves (ως προβατα εν μεσω λυκων). The presence of wolves on every hand was a fact then and now. Some of these very sheep (Matthew 10:6) at the end will turn out to be wolves and cry for Christ's crucifixion. The situation called for consummate wisdom and courage. The serpent was the emblem of wisdom or shrewdness, intellectual keenness (Genesis 3:1; Psalms 58:5), the dove of simplicity (Hosea 7:11). It was a proverb, this combination, but one difficult of realization. Either without the other is bad (rascality or gullibility). The first clause with αρνας for προβατα is in Luke 10:3 and apparently is in a Fragment of a Lost Gospel edited by Grenfell and Hunt. The combination of wariness and innocence is necessary for the protection of the sheep and the discomfiture of the wolves. For "harmless" (ακεραιο) Moffatt and Goodspeed have "guileless," Weymouth "innocent." The word means "unmixed" (α privative and κεραννυμ), "unadulterated," "simple," "unalloyed."

Verse 17

Beware of men (προσεχετε απο των ανθρωπων). Ablative case with απο. Hold your mind (νουν understood) away from. The article with ανθρωπων points back to λυκων (wolves) in Matthew 10:16.

To councils (εις συνεδρια). The local courts of justice in every Jewish town. The word is an old one from Herodotus on for any deliberative body (χονχιλιυμ). The same word is used for the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.

In their synagogues (εν τοις συναγωγαις αυτων). Here not merely as the place of assembly for worship, but as an assembly of justice exercising discipline as when the man born blind was cast out of the synagogue (John 9:35). They were now after the exile in every town of any size where Jews were.

Verse 19

Be not anxious (μη μεριμνησητε). Ingressive aorist subjunctive in prohibition. "Do not become anxious" (Matthew 6:31). "Self-defence before Jewish kings and heathen governors would be a terrible ordeal for humble Galileans. The injunction applied to cases when preparation of a speech would be impossible" (McNeile). "It might well alarm the bravest of these simple fishermen to be told that they would have to answer for their doings on Christ's behalf before Jewish councils and heathen courts" (Plummer). Christ is not talking about preparation of sermons. "In that hour " (εν εκεινη τη ωρα), if not before. The Spirit of your Father will speak to you and through you (Matthew 10:20). Here is no posing as martyr or courting a martyr's crown, but real heroism with full loyalty to Christ.

Verse 22

Ye shall be hated (εσεσθε μισουμενο). Periphrastic future passive, linear action. It will go on through the ages.

For my name's sake (δια το ονομα μου). In the O.T. as in the Targums and the Talmud "the name" as here stands for the person (Matthew 19:29; Acts 5:41; Acts 9:16; Acts 15:26). "He that endureth to the end" (ο υπομεινας εις τελος). Effective aorist participle with future indicative.

Verse 23

Till the Son of man be come (εως ελθη ο υιος του ανθρωπου). Moffatt puts it "before the Son of man arrives" as if Jesus referred to this special tour of Galilee. Jesus could overtake them. Possibly so, but it is by no means clear. Some refer it to the Transfiguration, others to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, others to the Second Coming. Some hold that Matthew has put the saying in the wrong context. Others bluntly say that Jesus was mistaken, a very serious charge to make in his instructions to these preachers. The use of εως with aorist subjunctive for a future event is a good Greek idiom.

Verse 25

Beelzebub (βεεζεβουλ according to B, βεελζεβουλ by most Greek MSS., βεελζεβουβ by many non-Greek MSS.). The etymology of the word is also unknown, whether "lord of a dwelling" with a pun on "the master of the house" (οικοδεσποτην) or "lord of flies" or "lord of dung" or "lord of idolatrous sacrifices." It is evidently a term of reproach. "An opprobrious epithet; exact form of the word and meaning of the name have given more trouble to commentators than it is all worth" (Bruce). See Matthew 12:24.

Verse 26

Fear them not therefore (μη ουν φοβηθητε αυτους). Repeated in verses Matthew 10:28 and Matthew 10:31 (μη φοβεισθε present middle imperative here in contrast with aorist passive subjunctive in the preceding prohibitions). Note also the accusative case with the aorist passive subjunctive, transitive though passive. See same construction in Luke 12:5. In Matthew 10:28 the construction is with απο and the ablative, a translation Hebraism as in Luke 12:4 (Robertson, Grammar of the Greek N.T. in the Light of Historical Research, p. 577).

Verse 28

Destroy both soul and body in hell (κα ψυχην κα σωμα απολεσα εν γεεννη). Note "soul" here of the eternal spirit, not just life in the body. "Destroy" here is not annihilation, but eternal punishment in Gehenna (the real hell) for which see on Matthew 5:22. Bruce thinks that the devil as the tempter is here meant, not God as the judge, but surely he is wrong. There is no more needed lesson today than the fear of God.

Verse 29

Two sparrows (δυο στρουθια). Diminutive of στρουθος and means any small bird, sparrows in particular. They are sold today in the markets of Jerusalem and Jaffa. "For a farthing" (ασσαριου) is genitive of price. Only here and Luke 12:6 in the N.T. Diminutive form of the Roman as, slightly more than half an English penny.

Without your Father (ανευ του πατρος υμων). There is comfort in this thought for us all. Our father who knows about the sparrows knows and cares about us.

Verse 31

Than many sparrows (πολλων στρουθιων). Ablative case of comparison with διαφερετε (our differ).

Verse 32

Shall confess me (ομολογησε εν εμο). An Aramaic idiom, not Hebrew, see also Luke 12:8. So also here, "him will I also confess" (ομολογησω κ'αγω εν αυτω). Literally this Aramaic idiom reproduced in the Greek means "confess in me," indicating a sense of unity with Christ and of Christ with the man who takes the open stand for him.

Verse 33

Shall deny me (αρνησητα με). Aorist subjunctive here with οστις, though future indicative ομολογησε above. Note accusative here (case of extension), saying "no" to Christ, complete breach. This is a solemn law, not a mere social breach, this cleavage by Christ of the man who repudiates him, public and final.

Verse 34

I came not to send peace, but a sword (ουκ ηλθον βαλειν ειρηνην, αλλα μαχαιραν). A bold and dramatic climax. The aorist infinitive means a sudden hurling of the sword where peace was expected. Christ does bring peace, not as the world gives, but it is not the force of compromise with evil, but of conquest over wrong, over Satan, the triumph of the cross. Meanwhile there will be inevitably division in families, in communities, in states. It is no namby-pamby sentimentalism that Christ preaches, no peace at any price. The Cross is Christ's answer to the devil's offer of compromise in world dominion. For Christ the kingdom of God is virile righteousness, not mere emotionalism.

Verse 35

Set at variance (διχασα). Literally divide in two, διχα. Jesus uses Micah 7:1-6 to describe the rottenness of the age as Micah had done. Family ties and social ties cannot stand in the way of loyalty to Christ and righteous living.

The daughter-in-law (νυμφην). Literally bride, the young wife who is possibly living with the mother-in-law. It is a tragedy to see a father or mother step between the child and Christ.

Verse 38

Doth not take his cross (ου λαμβανε τον σταυρον αυτου). The first mention of cross in Matthew. Criminals were crucified in Jerusalem. It was the custom for the condemned person to carry his own cross as Jesus did till Simon of Cyrene was impressed for that purpose. The Jews had become familiar with crucifixion since the days of Antiochus Epiphanes and one of the Maccabean rulers (Alexander Jannaeus) had crucified 800 Pharisees. It is not certain whether Jesus was thinking of his own coming crucifixion when he used this figure, though possible, perhaps probable. The disciples would hardly think of that outcome unless some of them had remarkable insight.

Verse 39

Shall lose it (απολεσε αυτην). This paradox appears in four forms according to Allen (I) Matthew 10:39 (2) Mark 8:35; Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24 (3) Luke 17:33 (4) John 12:25. The Wisdom of Sirach (Hebrew text) in 51:26 has: "He that giveth his life findeth her (wisdom)." It is one of the profound sayings of Christ that he repeated many times. Plato (Gorgias 512) has language somewhat similar though not so sharply put. The article and aorist participles here (ο ευρων, ο απολεσας) are timeless in themselves just like ο δεχομενος in verses Matthew 10:40 and Matthew 10:41.

Verse 41

In the name of a prophet (εις ονομα προφητου). "Because he is a prophet" (Moffatt). In an Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 37 (A.D. 49) we find ονοματ ελευθερου in virtue of being free-born. "He that receiveth a prophet from no ulterior motive, but simply qua prophet (ut prophetam, Jer.) would receive a reward in the coming age equal to that of his guest" (McNeile). The use of εις here is to be noted. In reality εις is simply εν with the same meaning. It is not proper to say that εις has always to be translated "into." Besides these examples of εις ονομα in verses Matthew 10:41 and Matthew 10:43 see Matthew 12:41 εις το κηρυγμα Ιωνα (see Robertson's Grammar, p. 593).

Unto one of these little ones (ενα των μικρων τουτων). Simple believers who are neither apostles, prophets, or particularly righteous, just "learners," "in the name of a disciple" (εις ονομα μαθητου). Alford thinks that some children were present (cf. Matthew 18:2-6).

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 10". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/matthew-10.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.