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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Matthew 9

Verse 1

His own city (την ιδιαν πολιν). Capernaum (Mark 2:1; Matthew 4:13).

Verse 2

They brought (προσεφερον). Imperfect, "were bringing," graphic picture made very vivid by the details in Mark 2:1-41.2.4 and Luke 5:17. " Lying on a bed " (stretched on a couch), perfect passive participle, a little bed or couch (κλινιδιον) in Luke 5:19, "a pallet" (κραβατος) in Mark 2:4; Mark 2:9; Mark 2:11.

Thy sins are forgiven (αφιεντα). Present passive indicative (aoristic present). Luke (Luke 5:21) has αφεωντα, Doric and Ionic perfect passive indicative for the Attic αφειντα, one of the dialectical forms appearing in the Koine.

Verse 3

This man blasphemeth (ουτος βλασφημε). See the sneer in "this fellow." "The prophet always is a scandalous, irreverent blasphemer from the conventional point of view" (Bruce).

Verse 6

That ye may know (ινα ειδητε). Jesus accepts the challenge in the thoughts of the scribes and performs the miracle of healing the paralytic, who so far only had his sins forgiven, to prove his Messianic power on earth to forgive sins even as God does. The word εξουσια may mean either power or authority. He had both as a matter of fact. Note same word in Matthew 9:8.

Then saith he to the sick of the palsy (τοτε λεγε τω παραλυτικω). These words of course, were not spoken by Jesus. Curiously enough Matthew interjects them right in the midst of the sayings of Jesus in reply to the scorn of the scribes. Still more remarkable is the fact that Mark (Mark 2:10) has precisely the same words in the same place save that Matthew has added τοτε, of which he is fond, to what Mark already had. Mark, as we know, largely reports Peter's words and sees with Peter's eyes. Luke has the same idea in the same place without the vivid historical present λεγε (ειπεν τω παραλελυμενωι) with the participle in place of the adjective. This is one of the many proofs that both Matthew and Luke made use of Mark's Gospel each in his own way.

Take up thy bed (αρον σου την κλινην). Pack up at once (aorist active imperative) the rolled-up pallet.

Verse 9

At the place of toll (επ το τελωνιον). The tax-office or custom-house of Capernaum placed here to collect taxes from the boats going across the lake outside of Herod's territory or from people going from Damascus to the coast, a regular caravan route.

"Called Matthew" (Μαθθαιον λεγομενον) and in Matthew 10:3 Matthew the publican is named as one of the Twelve Apostles. Mark (Mark 2:14) and Luke (Luke 5:27) call this man Levi. He had two names as was common, Matthew Levi. The publicans (τελωνα) get their name in English from the Latin publicanus (a man who did public duty), not a very accurate designation. They were detested because they practised graft. Even Gabinius the proconsul of Syria was accused by Cicero of relieving Syrians and Jews of legitimate taxes for graft. He ordered some of the tax-officers removed. Already Jesus had spoken of the publican (Matthew 5:46) in a way that shows the public disfavour in which they were held.

Verse 10

Publicans and sinners (τελωνα κα αμαρτωλο). Often coupled together in common scorn and in contrast with the righteous (δικαιο in Matthew 9:13). It was a strange medley at Levi's feast (Jesus and the four fisher disciples, Nathanael and Philip; Matthew Levi and his former companions, publicans and sinners; Pharisees with their scribes or students as on-lookers; disciples of John the Baptist who were fasting at the very time that Jesus was feasting and with such a group). The Pharisees criticize sharply "your teacher" for such a social breach of "reclining" together with publicans at Levi's feast.

Verse 12

But they that are sick (αλλα ο κακως εχοντες). Probably a current proverb about the physician. As a physician of body and soul Jesus was bound to come in close touch with the social outcasts.

Verse 13

But go ye and learn (πορευθεντες δε μαθετε). With biting sarcasm Jesus bids these preachers to learn the meaning of Hosea 6:6. It is repeated in Matthew 12:7. Ingressive aorist imperative (μαθετε).

Verse 14

The disciples of John (ο μαθητα Ιωανου). One is surprised to find disciples of the Baptist in the role of critics of Christ along with the Pharisees. But John was languishing in prison and they perhaps were blaming Jesus for doing nothing about it. At any rate John would not have gone to Levi's feast on one of the Jewish fast-days. "The strict asceticism of the Baptist (Matthew 11:18) and of the Pharisaic rabbis (Luke 18:12) was imitated by their disciples" (McNeile).

Verse 15

The sons of the bride-chamber (ο υιο του νυμφωνος). It is a late Hebrew idiom for the wedding guests, "the friends of the bridegroom and all the sons of the bride-chamber" (Tos. Berak. ii. 10). Cf. John 2:29.

Verse 16

Undressed cloth (ρακους αγναφου). An unfulled, raw piece of woollen cloth that will shrink when wet and tear a bigger hole than ever.

A worse rent (χειρον σχισμα). Our word "schism." The "patch" (πληρωμα, filling up) thus does more harm than good.

Verse 17

Old wineskins (ασκους παλαιους). Not glass "bottles" but wineskins used as bottles as is true in Palestine yet, goatskins with the rough part inside. "Our word bottle originally carried the true meaning, being a bottle of leather. In Spanish bota means a leather bottle, a boot, and a butt. In Spain wine is still brought to market in pig-skins " (Vincent). The new wine will ferment and crack the dried-up old skins.

The wine is spilled (εκχειτα), poured out.

Verse 18

Is even now dead (αρτ ετελευτησεν). Aorist tense with αρτ and so better, "just now died," "just dead" (Moffatt). Mark (Mark 5:23) has it "at the point of death," Luke (Luke 8:42) "lay a dying." It is not always easy even for physicians to tell when actual death has come. Jesus in Matthew 9:24 pointedly said, "The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth," meaning that she did not die to stay dead.

Verse 20

The border of his garment (του κρασπεδου του ιματιου). The hem or fringe of a garment, a tassel or tuft hanging from the edge of the outer garment according to Numbers 15:38. It was made of twisted wool. Jesus wore the dress of other people with these fringes at the four corners of the outer garment. The Jews actually counted the words Jehovah One from the numbers of the twisted white threads, a refinement that Jesus had no concern for. This poor woman had an element of superstition in her faith as many people have, but Jesus honours her faith and cures her.

Verse 23

The flute-players (τους αυλητας). The girl was just dead, but already a crowd "making a tumult" (θορυβουμενον) with wild wailing and screaming had gathered in the outer court, "brought together by various motives, sympathy, money, desire to share in the meat and drink going at such a time" (Bruce). Besides the several flute-players (voluntary or hired) there were probably "some hired mourning women (Jeremiah 9:17) praeficae, whose duty it was to sing naenia in praise of the dead" (Bruce). These when put out by Jesus, "laughed him to scorn" (κατεγελων), in a sort of loud and repeated (imperfect) guffaw of scorn. Jesus overcame all this repellent environment.

Verse 27

As Jesus passed by (παραγοντ Ιησου). Associative instrumental case with ηκολουθησαν. It was the supreme opportunity of these two blind men. Note two demoniacs in Matthew 8:28 and two blind men in Matthew 20:30. See the same word παραγων used of Jesus in Matthew 9:9.

Verse 29

Touched their eyes (ηψατο των οφθαλμων). The men had faith (Matthew 9:28) and Jesus rewards their faith and yet he touched their eyes as he sometimes did with kindly sympathy.

Verse 30

Were opened (ηνεωιχθησαν). Triple augment (on οι ωι, ε and then on preposition αν = ην).

Strictly charged them (ενεβριμηθη αυτοις). A difficult word, compound of εν and βριμαομα (to be moved with anger). It is used of horses snorting (Aeschylus, Theb. 461), of men fretting or being angry (Daniel 11:30). Allen notes that it occurs twice in Mark (Mark 1:43; Mark 14:5) when Matthew omits it. It is found only here in Matthew. John has it twice in a different sense (John 11:33 with εν εαυτω). Here and in Mark 1:32 it has the notion of commanding sternly, a sense unknown to ancient writers. Most manuscripts have the middle ενεβριμησατο, but Aleph and B have the passive ενεβριμηθη which Westcott and Hort accept, but without the passive sense (cf. απεκριθη). "The word describes rather a rush of deep feeling which in the synoptic passages showed itself in a vehement injunctive and in John 11:33 in look and manner" (McNeile). Bruce translates Euthymius Zigabenus on Mark 1:32: "Looked severely, contracting His eyebrows, and shaking His head at them as they are wont to do who wish to make sure that secrets will be kept." "See to it, let no one know it" (ορατε, μηδεις γινωσκετω). Note elliptical change of persons and number in the two imperatives.

Verse 32

A dumb man (κωφον). Literally blunted in tongue as here and so dumb, in ear as in Matthew 11:5 and so deaf. Homer used it of a blunted dart (Iliad xi. 390). Others applied it to mental dulness.

Verse 34

By the prince of the devils (εν τω αρχοντ των δαιμονιων). Demons, not devils. The codex Bezae omits this verse, but it is probably genuine. The Pharisees are becoming desperate and, unable to deny the reality of the miracles, they seek to discredit them by trying to connect Jesus with the devil himself, the prince of the demons. They will renew this charge later (Matthew 12:24) when Jesus will refute it with biting sarcasm.

Verse 35

And Jesus went about (κα περιηγεν ο Ιησους). Imperfect tense descriptive of this third tour of all Galilee.

Verse 36

Were distressed and scattered (ησαν εσκυλμενο κα εριμμενο). Periphrastic past perfect indicative passive. A sad and pitiful state the crowds were in. Rent or mangled as if by wild beasts. Σκυλλω occurs in the papyri in sense of plunder, concern, vexation. "Used here of the common people, it describes their religious condition. They were harassed, importuned, bewildered by those who should have taught them; hindered from entering into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 23:13), laden with the burdens which the Pharisees laid upon them (Matthew 23:3). Εριμμενο denotes men cast down and prostrate on the ground, whether from drunkenness, Polyb. v. 48.2, or from mortal wounds" (Allen): This perfect passive participle from ριπτω, to throw down. The masses were in a state of mental dejection. No wonder that Jesus was moved with compassion (εσπλαγχνισθη).

Verse 38

That he send forth labourers (οπως εκβαλη εργατας). Jesus turns from the figure of the shepherdless sheep to the harvest field ripe and ready for the reapers. The verb εκβαλλω really means to drive out, to push out, to draw out with violence or without. Prayer is the remedy offered by Jesus in this crisis for a larger ministerial supply. How seldom do we hear prayers for more preachers. Sometimes God literally has to push or force a man into the ministry who resists his known duty.

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 9". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/matthew-9.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.