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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Matthew 19

Verse 1

He departed (μετηρεν). Literally, to lift up, change something to another place. Transitive in the LXX and in a Cilician rock inscription. Intransitive in Matthew 13:53 and here, the only N.T. instances. Absence of οτ or κα after κα εγενετο, one of the clear Hebraisms in the N.T. (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 1042f.). This verse is a sort of formula in Matthew at the close of important groups of λογια as in Matthew 7:28; Matthew 11:1; Matthew 13:53.

The borders of Judea beyond Jordan (εις τα ορια της Ιουδαιας περαν του Ιορδανου). This is a curious expression. It apparently means that Jesus left Galilee to go to Judea by way of Perea as the Galileans often did to avoid Samaria. Luke (Luke 17:11) expressly says that he passed through Samaria and Galilee when he left Ephraim in Northern Judea (John 11:54). He was not afraid to pass through the edge of Galilee and down the Jordan Valley in Perea on this last journey to Jerusalem. McNeile is needlessly opposed to the trans-Jordanic or Perean aspect of this phase of Christ's work.

Verse 3

Pharisees tempting him (Φαρισαιο πειραζοντες αυτον). They "could not ask a question of Jesus without sinister motives" (Bruce). See Matthew 4:1 for the word (πειραζω).

For every cause (κατα πασαν αιτιαν). This clause is an allusion to the dispute between the two theological schools over the meaning of Deuteronomy 24:1. The school of Shammai took the strict and unpopular view of divorce for unchastity alone while the school of Hillel took the liberal and popular view of easy divorce for any passing whim if the husband saw a prettier woman (modern enough surely) or burnt his biscuits for breakfast. It was a pretty dilemma and meant to do Jesus harm with the people. There is no real trouble about the use of κατα here in the sense of προπτερ or because of (Robertson, Grammar, p. 509).

Verse 5

Shall cleave (κολληθησετα). First future passive, "shall be glued to," the verb means.

The twain shall become one flesh (εσοντα ο δυο εις σαρκα μιαν). This use of εις after ειμ is an imitation of the Hebrew, though a few examples occur in the older Greek and in the papyri. The frequency of it is due to the Hebrew and here the LXX is a direct translation of the Hebrew idiom.

Verse 6

What therefore God hath joined together (ο ουν ο θεος συνεζευξεν). Note "what," not "whom." The marriage relation God has made. "The creation of sex, and the high doctrine as to the cohesion it produces between man and woman, laid down in Gen., interdict separation" (Bruce). The word for "joined together" means "yoked together," a common verb for marriage in ancient Greek. It is the timeless aorist indicative (συνεζευξεν), true always.

Bill (βιβλιον). A little βιβλος (see on Matthew 1:1), a scroll or document (papyrus or parchment). This was some protection to the divorced wife and a restriction on laxity.

Verse 8

For your hardness of heart (προς την σκληροκαρδιαν υμων). The word is apparently one of the few Biblical words (LXX and the N.T.). It is a heart dried up (σκληρος), hard and tough.

But from the beginning it hath not been so (απ' αρχης δε ουκ γεγονεν ουτως). The present perfect active of γινομα to emphasize the permanence of the divine ideal. "The original ordinance has never been abrogated nor superseded, but continues in force" (Vincent). "How small the Pharisaic disputants must have felt in presence of such holy teaching, which soars above the partisan view of controversialists into the serene region of ideal, universal, eternal truth" (Bruce).

Verse 9

Except for fornication (παρεκτος λογου πορνειας). This is the marginal reading in Westcott and Hort which also adds "maketh her an adulteress" (ποιε αυτην μοιχευθηνα) and also these words: "and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery" (κα ο απολελυμενην γαμησας μοιχατα). There seems to be a certain amount of assimilation in various manuscripts between this verse and the words in Matthew 5:32. But, whatever reading is accepted here, even the short one in Westcott and Hort (μη επ πορνεια, not for fornication), it is plain that Matthew represents Jesus in both places as allowing divorce for fornication as a general term (πορνεια) which is technically adultery (μοιχεια from μοιχαω ορ μοιχευω). Here, as in Matthew 5:31, a group of scholars deny the genuineness of the exception given by Matthew alone. McNeile holds that "the addition of the saving clause is, in fact, opposed to the spirit of the whole context, and must have been made at a time when the practice of divorce for adultery had already grown up." That in my opinion is gratuitous criticism which is unwilling to accept Matthew's report because it disagrees with one's views on the subject of divorce. He adds: "It cannot be supposed that Matthew wished to represent Jesus as siding with the school of Shammai." Why not, if Shammai on this point agreed with Jesus? Those who deny Matthew's report are those who are opposed to remarriage at all. Jesus by implication, as in Matthew 5:31, does allow remarriage of the innocent party, but not of the guilty one. Certainly Jesus has lifted the whole subject of marriage and divorce to a new level, far beyond the petty contentions of the schools of Hillel and Shammai.

Verse 10

The disciples say unto him (λεγουσιν αυτω ο μαθητα). "Christ's doctrine on marriage not only separated Him τοτο χαελο from Pharisaic opinions of all shades, but was too high even for the Twelve" (Bruce).

The case (η αιτια). The word may refer to the use in verse Matthew 19:3 "for every cause." It may have a vague idea here = ρες, condition. But the point clearly is that "it is not expedient to marry" (ου συμφερε γαμησα) if such a strict view is held. If the bond is so tight a man had best not commit matrimony. It is a bit unusual to have ανθρωπος and γυνη contrasted rather than ανηρ and γυνη.

Verse 11

But they to whom it is given (αλλ' οις δεδοτα). A neat Greek idiom, dative case of relation and perfect passive indicative. The same idea is repeated at the close of verse Matthew 19:12. It is a voluntary renunciation of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. "Jesus recognizes the severity of the demand as going beyond the capacity of all but a select number." It was a direct appeal to the spiritual intelligence of the disciples not to misconceive his meaning as certainly the monastic orders have done.

Verse 13

Rebuked them (επετιμησεν αυτοις). No doubt people did often crowd around Jesus for a touch of his hand and his blessing. The disciples probably felt that they were doing Jesus a kindness. How little they understood children and Jesus. It is a tragedy to make children feel that they are in the way at home and at church. These men were the twelve apostles and yet had no vision of Christ's love for little children. The new child world of today is due directly to Jesus.

Verse 14

Suffer (αφετε). "Leave them alone." Second aorist active imperative.

Forbid them not (μη κωλυετε). "Stop hindering them." The idiom of μη with the present imperative means just that.

Of such (των τοιουτων). The childlike as in Matthew 18:3.

Verse 16

What good thing (τ αγαθον). Mark (Mark 10:17) has the adjective "good" with "Teacher."

May have (σχω). Ingressive aorist subjunctive, "may get," "may acquire."

Verse 17

Concerning that which is good (περ του αγαθου). He had asked Jesus in verse Matthew 19:16 "what good thing" he should do. He evidently had a light idea of the meaning of αγαθος. "This was only a teacher's way of leading on a pupil" (Bruce). So Jesus explains that "One there is who is good," one alone who is really good in the absolute sense.

Verse 20

What lack I yet? (τ ετ υστερω?) Here is a psychological paradox. He claims to have kept all these commandments and yet he was not satisfied. He had an uneasy conscience and Jesus called him to something that he did not have. He thought of goodness as quantitative (a series of acts) and not qualitative (of the nature of God). Did his question reveal proud complacency or pathetic despair? A bit of both most likely.

Verse 21

If thou wouldest be perfect (ε θελεις τελειος εινα). Condition of the first class, determined as fulfilled. Jesus assumes that the young man really desires to be perfect (a big adjective that, perfect as God is the goal, Matthew 5:48).

That thou hast (σου τα υπαρχοντα). "Thy belongings." The Greek neuter plural participle used like our English word "belongings." It was a huge demand, for he was rich.

Verse 22

Went away sorrowful (απηλθεν λυπουμενος). "Went away grieved." He felt that Jesus had asked too much of him. He worshipped money more than God when put to the test. Does Jesus demand this same test of every one? Not unless he is in the grip of money. Different persons are in the power of different sins. One sin is enough to keep one away from Christ.

Verse 23

It is hard (δυσκολως). With difficulty. Adverb from δυσκολος, hard to find food, fastidious, faultfinding, then difficult.

Verse 24

It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye (ευκοπωτερον εστιν καμηλον δια τρηματος ραφιδος εισελθειν). Jesus, of course, means by this comparison, whether an eastern proverb or not, to express the impossible. The efforts to explain it away are jejune like a ship's cable, καμιλον or ραφις as a narrow gorge or gate of entrance for camels which recognized stooping, etc. All these are hopeless, for Jesus pointedly calls the thing "impossible" (verse Matthew 19:26). The Jews in the Babylonian Talmud did have a proverb that a man even in his dreams did not see an elephant pass through the eye of a needle (Vincent). The Koran speaks of the wicked finding the gates of heaven shut "till a camel shall pass through the eye of a needle." But the Koran may have got this figure from the New Testament. The word for an ordinary needle is ραφις, but, Luke (Luke 18:25) employs βελονη, the medical term for the surgical needle not elsewhere in the N.T.

Verse 25

Were astonished (εξεπλησσοντο). Imperfect descriptive of their blank amazement. They were literally "struck out."

Verse 26

Looking on them (εμβλεψας). Jesus saw their amazement.

Verse 27

What then shall we have? (τ αρα εστα ημιν?) A pathetic question of hopeless lack of comprehension.

Verse 28

In the regeneration (εν τη παλινγενεσια). The new birth of the world is to be fulfilled when Jesus sits on his throne of glory. This word was used by the Stoics and the Pythagoreans. It is common also in the mystery religions (Angus, Mystery Religions and Christianity, pp. 95ff.). It is in the papyri also. We must put no fantastic ideas into the mouth of Jesus. But he did look for the final consummation of his kingdom. What is meant by the disciples also sitting on twelve thrones is not clear.

Verse 29

A hundredfold (εκατονπλασιονα). But Westcott and Hort read πολλαπλασιονα, manifold. Eternal life is the real reward.

Verse 30

The last first and the first last (ο εσχατο πρωτο κα ο πρωτο εσχατο). This paradoxical enigma is probably in the nature of a rebuke to Peter and refers to ranks in the kingdom. There are many other possible applications. The following parable illustrates it.

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 19". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/matthew-19.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.