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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 4

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

To be tempted of the devil (πειρασθηνα υπο του διαβολου). Matthew locates the temptation at a definite time, "then" (τοτε) and place, "into the wilderness" (εις την ερημον), the same general region where John was preaching. It is not surprising that Jesus was tempted by the devil immediately after his baptism which signified the formal entrance upon the Messianic work. That is a common experience with ministers who step out into the open for Christ. The difficulty here is that Matthew says that "Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil." Mark (Mark 1:12) puts it more strongly that the Spirit "drives" (εκβαλλε) Christ into the wilderness. It was a strong impulsion by the Holy Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness to think through the full significance of the great step that he had now taken. That step opened the door for the devil and involved inevitable conflict with the slanderer (του διαβολου). Judas has this term applied to him (John 6:70) as it is to men (2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3) and women (she devils, 1 Timothy 3:11) who do the work of the arch slanderer. There are those today who do not believe that a personal devil exists, but they do not offer an adequate explanation of the existence and presence of sin in the world. Certainly Jesus did not discount or deny the reality of the devil's presence. The word "tempt" here (πειραζω) and in Matthew 4:3 means originally to test, to try. That is its usual meaning in the ancient Greek and in the Septuagint. Bad sense of εκπειραζω in Matthew 4:7 as in Deuteronomy 6:16. Here it comes to mean, as often in the New Testament, to solicit to sin. The evil sense comes from its use for an evil purpose.

Verse 2

Had fasted (νηστευσας). No perfunctory ceremonial fast, but of communion with the Father in complete abstention from food as in the case of Moses during forty days and forty nights (Exodus 34:28). "The period of the fast, as in the case of Moses was spent in a spiritual ecstasy, during which the wants of the natural body were suspended" (Alford). "He afterward hungered" and so at the close of the period of forty days.

Verse 3

If thou art the Son of God (ε υιος ε του θεου). More exactly, "If thou art Son of God," for there is no article with "Son." The devil is alluding to the words of the Father to Jesus at the baptism: "This is my Son the Beloved." He challenges this address by a condition of the first class which assumes the condition to be true and deftly calls on Jesus to exercise his power as Son of God to appease his hunger and thus prove to himself and all that he really is what the Father called him.

Become bread (αρτο γενωντα). Literally, "that these stones (round smooth stones which possibly the devil pointed to or even picked up and held) become loaves" (each stone a loaf). It was all so simple, obvious, easy. It would satisfy the hunger of Christ and was quite within his power.

It is written (γεγραπτα). Perfect passive indicative, stands written and is still in force. Each time Jesus quotes Deuteronomy to repel the subtle temptation of the devil. Here it is Deuteronomy 8:3 from the Septuagint. Bread is a mere detail (Bruce) in man's dependence upon God.

Verse 5

Then the devil taketh him (τοτε παραλαμβανε αυτον ο διαβολος). Matthew is very fond of this temporal adverb (τοτε). See already Matthew 2:7; Matthew 3:13; Matthew 4:1; Matthew 4:5. Note historic present with vivid picturesqueness. Luke puts this temptation third, the geographical order. But was the person of Christ allowed to be at the disposal of the devil during these temptations? Alford so holds.

On the pinnacle of the temple (επ το πτερυγιον του ιερου). Literally "wing:" the English word "pinnacle" is from the Latin pinnaculum, a diminutive of pinna (wing). "The temple" (του ιερου) here includes the whole temple area, not just the sanctuary (ο ναος), the Holy Place and Most Holy Place. It is not clear what place is meant by "wing." It may refer to Herod's royal portico which overhung the Kedron Valley and looked down some four hundred and fifty feet, a dizzy height (Josephus, Ant. XV. xi. 5). This was on the south of the temple court. Hegesippus says that James the Lord's brother was later placed on the wing of the temple and thrown down therefrom.

Verse 6

Cast thyself down (βαλε σεαυτον κατω). The appeal to hurl himself down into the abyss below would intensify the nervous dread that most people feel at such a height. The devil urged presumptuous reliance on God and quotes Scripture to support his view (Psalms 91:11). So the devil quotes the Word of God, misinterprets it, omits a clause, and tries to trip the Son of God by the Word of God. It was a skilful thrust and would also be accepted by the populace as proof that Jesus was the Messiah if they should see him sailing down as if from heaven. This would be a sign from heaven in accord with popular Messianic expectation. The promise of the angels the devil thought would reassure Jesus. They would be a spiritual parachute for Christ.

Verse 7

Thou shall not tempt (ουκ εκπειρασεις). Jesus quotes Deuteronomy again (Deuteronomy 6:16) and shows that the devil has wholly misapplied God's promise of protection.

Verse 8

And showeth him (κα δεικνυσιν αυτω). This wonderful panorama had to be partially mental and imaginative, since the devil caused to pass in review "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them." But this fact does not prove that all phases of the temptations were subjective without any objective presence of the devil. Both could be true. Here again we have the vivid historical present (δεικνυσιν). The devil now has Christ upon a very high mountain whether the traditional Quarantania or not. It was from Nebo's summit that Moses caught the vision of the land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 34:1-3). Luke (Luke 4:5) says that the whole panorama was "in a moment of time" and clearly psychological and instantaneous.

Verse 9

All these things will I give thee (ταυτα σο παντα δωσω). The devil claims the rule of the world, not merely of Palestine or of the Roman Empire. "The kingdoms of the cosmos" (Matthew 4:8) were under his sway. This word for world brings out the orderly arrangement of the universe while η οικουμενη presents the inhabited earth. Jesus does not deny the grip of the devil on the world of men, but the condition (εαν and aorist subjunctive, second class undetermined with likelihood of determination), was spurned by Jesus. As Matthew has it Jesus is plainly to "fall down and worship me" (πεσων προκυνησηις μο), while Luke (Luke 4:7) puts it, "worship before me" (ενωπιον εμου), a less offensive demand, but one that really involved worship of the devil. The ambition of Jesus is thus appealed to at the price of recognition of the devil's primacy in the world. It was compromise that involved surrender of the Son of God to the world ruler of this darkness. "The temptation was threefold: to gain a temporal, not a spiritual, dominion; to gain it at once; and to gain it by an act of homage to the ruler of this world, which would make the self-constituted Messiah the vice-regent of the devil and not of God" (McNeile).

Verse 10

Get thee hence, Satan (Hυπαγε, Σατανα). The words "behind me" (οπισω μου) belong to Matthew 16:23, not here. "Begone" Christ says to Satan. This temptation is the limit of diabolical suggestion and argues for the logical order in Matthew. "Satan" means the adversary and Christ so terms the devil here. The third time Jesus quotes Deuteronomy, this time Deuteronomy 6:13, and repels the infamous suggestion by Scripture quotation. The words "him alone thou shalt serve" need be recalled today. Jesus will warn men against trying to serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). The devil as the lord of the evil world constantly tries to win men to the service of the world and God. This is his chief camouflage for destroying a preacher's power for God. The word here in Matthew 4:10 for serve is λατρευσεις from λατρις a hired servant, one who works for hire, then render worship.

Verse 11

Then the devil leaveth him (τοτε αφιησιν αυτον ο διαβολος). Note the use of "then" (τοτε) again and the historical present. The movement is swift. "And behold" (κα ιδου) as so often in Matthew carries on the life-like picture. "

Angels came (aorist tense προσηλθον punctiliar action)

and were ministering (διηκονουν, picturesque imperfect, linear action)

unto him ." The victory was won in spite of the fast of forty days and the repeated onsets of the devil who had tried every avenue of approach. The angels could cheer him in the inevitable nervous and spiritual reaction from the strain of conflict, and probably also with food as in the case of Elijah (1 Kings 19:6). The issues at stake were of vast import as the champions of light and darkness grappled for the mastery of men. Luke 4:13 adds, that the devil left Jesus only "until a good opportunity" (αχρ καιρου).

Verse 12

Now when he heard (ακουσας δε). The reason for Christ's return to Galilee is given here to be that John had been delivered up into prison. The Synoptic Gospels skip from the temptation of Jesus to the Galilean ministry, a whole year. But for John 1:19-3 we should know nothing of the "year of obscurity" (Stalker). John supplies items to help fill in the picture. Christ's work in Galilee began after the close of the active ministry of the Baptist who lingered on in prison for a year or more.

Verse 13

Dwelt in Capernaum (Κατωικησεν εις Καφαρναουμ). He went first to Nazareth, his old home, but was rejected there (Luke 4:16-31). In Capernaum (probably the modern Τελλ Hυμ) Jesus was in a large town, one of the centres of Galilean political and commercial life, a fishing mart, where many Gentiles came. Here the message of the kingdom would have a better chance than in Jerusalem with its ecclesiastical prejudices or in Nazareth with its local jealousies. So Jesus "made his home" (κατωικησεν) here.

Verse 16

Saw a great light (φως ειδεν μεγα). Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1, and applies the words about the deliverer from Assyria to the Messiah. "The same district lay in spiritual darkness and death and the new era dawned when Christ went thither" (McNeile). Light sprang up from those who were sitting in the region and shadow of death (εν χορα κα σκια θανατου). Death is personified.

Verse 17

Began Jesus to preach (ηρξατο ο Ιησους κηρυσσειν). In Galilee. He had been preaching for over a year already elsewhere. His message carries on the words of the Baptist about "repentance" and the "kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 3:2) being at hand. The same word for "preaching" (κηρυσσειν) from κηρυξ, herald, is used of Jesus as of John. Both proclaimed the good news of the kingdom. Jesus is more usually described as the Teacher, (ο διδασκαλος) who taught (εδιδασκεν) the people. He was both herald and teacher as every preacher should be.

Verse 18

Casting a net into the sea (βαλλαντας αμφιβληστρον εις την θαλασσαν). The word here for net is a casting-net (compare αμφιβαλλω in Mark 1:16, casting on both sides). The net was thrown over the shoulder and spread into a circle (αμφ). In Matthew 4:20 and Matthew 4:21 another word occurs for nets (δικτυα), a word used for nets of any kind. The large drag-net (σαγηνη) appears in Matthew 13:47.

Verse 19

Fishers of men (αλεεις ανθρωπων). Andrew and Simon were fishers by trade. They had already become disciples of Jesus (John 1:35-42), but now they are called upon to leave their business and to follow Jesus in his travels and work. These two brothers promptly (ευθεως) accepted the call and challenge of Jesus.

Verse 21

Mending their nets (καταρτιζοντας τα δικτυα αυτων). These two brothers, James and John, were getting their nets ready for use. The verb (καταρτιζω) means to adjust, to articulate, to mend if needed (Luke 6:40; Romans 9:22; Galatians 6:1). So they promptly left their boat and father and followed Jesus. They had also already become disciples of Jesus. Now there are four who follow him steadily.

Verse 23

Went about in all Galilee (περιηγεν εν ολη τη Γαλιλαια). Literally Jesus "was going around (imperfect) in all Galilee." This is the first of the three tours of Galilee made by Jesus. This time he took the four fishermen whom he had just called to personal service. The second time he took the twelve. On the third he sent the twelve on ahead by twos and followed after them. He was teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom in the synagogues chiefly and on the roads and in the streets where Gentiles could hear.

Healing all manner of diseases and all manner of sickness (θεραπευων πασαν νοσον κα πασαν μαλακιαν). The occasional sickness is called μαλακιαν, the chronic or serious disease νοσον.

Verse 24

The report of him went forth into all Syria (απηλθεν η ακοη αυτου εις ολην την Σψριαν). Rumour (ακοη) carries things almost like the wireless or radio. The Gentiles all over Syria to the north heard of what was going on in Galilee. The result was inevitable. Jesus had a moving hospital of patients from all over Galilee and Syria. " Those that were sick " (τους κακως εχοντας), literally "those who had it bad," cases that the doctors could not cure. "

Holden with divers diseases and torments " (ποικιλαις νοσοις κα βασανοις συνεχομενους). "Held together" or "compressed" is the idea of the participle. The same word is used by Jesus in Luke 12:50 and by Paul in Philippians 1:23 and of the crowd pressing on Jesus (Luke 8:45). They brought these difficult and chronic cases (present tense of the participle here) to Jesus. Instead of "divers" say "various" (ποικιλαις) like fever, leprosy, blindness. The adjective means literally many colored or variegated like flowers, paintings, jaundice, etc. Some had "torments" (βασανοις). The word originally (oriental origin) meant a touchstone, "Lydian stone" used for testing gold because pure gold rubbed on it left a peculiar mark. Then it was used for examination by torture. Sickness was often regarded as "torture." These diseases are further described "in a descending scale of violence" (McNeile) as "demoniacs, lunatics, and paralytics" as Moffatt puts it, "demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics" as Weymouth has it, (δαιμονιζομενους κα σεληνιαζομενους κα παραλυτικους), people possessed by demons, lunatics or "moon-struck" because the epileptic seizures supposedly followed the phases of the moon (Bruce) as shown also in Matthew 17:15, paralytics (our very word). Our word "lunatic" is from the Latin luna (moon) and carries the same picture as the Greek σεληνιαζομα from σεληνη (moon). These diseases are called "torments."

Verse 25

Great multitudes (οχλο πολλο). Note the plural, not just one crowd, but crowds and crowds. And from all parts of Palestine including Decapolis, the region of the Ten Greek Cities east of the Jordan. No political campaign was equal to this outpouring of the people to hear Jesus and to be healed by Jesus.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/matthew-4.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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