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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

Matthew 4

Verses 1-11


XIX.
JESUS TEMPTED IN THE WILDERNESS.
aMATT. IV. 1-11; bMARK I. 12, 13; cLUKE IV. 1-13.

c1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, b12 And straightway the Spirit driveth him forth cand a1 Then [Just after his baptism, with the glow of the descended Spirit still upon him, and the commending voice of the Father still ringing in his ears, Jesus is rushed into the suffering of temptation. Thus abrupt and violent are the changes of life. The spiritually exalted may expect these sharp contrasts. After being in the third heaven, Paul had a messenger of Satan to buffet him-- 2 Corinthians 12:7] was Jesus led up [The two expressions "driveth" and "led up" show that Jesus was drawn to the wilderness by an irresistible impulse, and did not go hither of his own volition ( Ezekiel 40:2). He was brought into temptation, but did not seek it. He was led of God into temptation, but was not tempted of God. God [87] may bring us into temptation ( Matthew 6:13, Matthew 26:41, Job 1:12, Job 2:6), and may make temptation a blessing unto us, tempering it to our strength, and making us stronger by the victory over it ( 1 Corinthians 10:13, James 1:2, James 1:12), but God himself never tempts us-- James 1:13] of the Spirit into the wilderness [The wilderness sets in back of Jericho and extends thence along the whole western shore of the Dead Sea. The northern end of this region is in full view from the Jordan as one looks westward, and a more desolate and forbidding landscape it would be hard to find. It is vain to locate the temptation in any particular part of it. Jesus may have wandered about over nearly all of it] to be tempted of the devil [As a second David, Jesus went forth to meet that Goliath who had so long vaunted himself against all who sought to serve God, and had as yet found none to vanquish him. The account of the temptation must have been given to the disciples by Jesus himself, and as it pleased him to give it to us as an actual history of real facts, it behooves us to accept it without being presumptuously inquisitive. Of course, it has supernatural features, but the supernatural confronts us all through the life of Jesus, so there is nothing strange about it here. Jesus had taken upon him our flesh, and hence he could be tempted, with a possibility of falling. But his divinity insured his victory over temptation. He became like us in ability to fall, that he might make us like unto himself in power to resist. It behooved him to be tempted, and thus sharing our nature with its weakness and temptation he might bring us to share his nature with its strength and sinlessness ( Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 4:16). Sinlessness does not preclude temptation, else Adam could not have been tempted, nor could Satan himself have fallen. Moreover, temptation is in so sense sin. It is the yielding of the will to temptation which constitutes sin. The spiritual history of humanity revolves around two persons; namely, the first and the second Adam. The temptation of Christ was as real as that of Adam. He had taken upon himself our temptable nature ( Philippians 2:7, Philippians 2:8), and he was tempted not as a private soldier, but as the second Adam, the Captain of [88] our salvation ( Hebrews 2:10-18). The failure of the first Adam brought sorrow, darkness and death; the success of the second Adam brought joy, light and immortality. One of the tenets of modern infidelity is the denial of the personality of the devil. It is asserted that the idea of a devil was not known to the early Hebrews, but was borrow from Persian dualism. The Persians held that there were two contending deities--a good one and a bad one; and the Hebrews, according to these critics, learned this doctrine from the Persians during the days of their Babylonian captivity, and modified it so that the god of evil became the devil. But such a theory is based upon the absurd notion that all the books of the Old Testament were written after the return of the Jews from Babylon. Their theory requires this notion, for the books of Genesis and Job, which were written centuries before the captivity, both show a knowledge of this being, and the first connects him and his work with the very beginning of human history. Those who believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures must also believe in the personality of the devil, for they plainly teach it. The devil is a fallen angel ( Judges 1:6, 2 Peter 2:4). This doctrine need startle no one, for as there are good and bad spirits in the body, so there are good and bad spirits out of the body. Since God permits sinful spirits in the body, why should he not also permit them out of the body? If there can be a Herod, a Nero, a Judas, among men, why may there not be a Satan among evil spirits? Being but an angel, Satan is neither omnipresent, omniscient nor omnipotent. He is only a tolerated rebel, as we are tolerated rebels. He was the first sinner ( 1 John 3:8), and was the originator of sin ( John 8:44). He is the perpetual tempter of mankind ( Revelation 20:2, Revelation 20:8), but he shall be conquered by the Redeemer ( John 12:31, Revelation 12:9), and may be conquered by us also through the grace of Christ ( 1 Peter 5:8, 1 Peter 5:9, James 4:7); but is, nevertheless, dangerous ( Revelation 2:10, Revelation 3:9). Jesus, therefore, teaches us to pray for deliverance from him ( Matthew 6:13, R.V.). Jesus will destroy the works of Satan ( 1 John 3:8), and Satan himself shall suffer eternal punishment [89] ( Revelation 20:10). There is but one devil in the spirit world. The word which our King James Version translates "devils" should be translated "demons." The word "devil" means false accuser or slanderer, and the word in the plural is twice applied, metaphorically, to men and women ( 2 Timothy 3:3, 1 Timothy 3:11). The devil is called slanderer because he speaks against men ( Revelation 12:10-12) and against God ( Genesis 3:1-5). The word "devil" is Greek. The word "Satan" is Hebrew, and means adversary ( Job 2:1). Satan is referred to under many other terms, such as Beelzebub ( Matthew 12:24); serpent ( Revelation 12:9); prince of the powers of the air ( Ephesians 2:2); Abaddon (Hebrew) and Apollyon (Greek), meaning destroyer ( Revelation 9:11); Belial, meaning good for nothing ( 2 Corinthians 6:15); murderer and liar ( John 8:44); prince of this world ( John 12:31); god of this world ( 2 Corinthians 4:4); and the dragon ( Revelation 12:7). These terms are always used in the Bible to designate an actual person; they are never used merely to personify evil. The devil may have appeared to Jesus in bodily form, or he may have come insensibly as he does to us. Our Lord’s temptation makes the personality of the tempter essential, else Christ’s own heart must have suggested evil to him, which is incompatible with his perfect holiness.] b13 And he was cled in the Spirit [that is, under the power of the Spirit] in the wilderness [Isolation from humanity is no security from temptation. In fact, our present passage of Scripture shows that it is highly favorable to temptation. The experience of all hermits shows that loneliness is the mother of a multitude of evil desires] 2 during forty days [Matthew speaks of the temptation as coming "after" forty days. Evidently Mark and Luke regard the long fast as part of the process of temptation, seeing that without it the first temptation would have been without force. There is no evidence of any other specific temptations before the three], being tempted of bSatan; cthe devil, band he was with the wild beasts [A graphic touch, showing the dreariness and desolation of the wilderness, and indicating its peril. Lions, [90] wolves, leopards and serpents have been found in the Judæan wilderness]; cAnd he did eat nothing [It used to be thought that a forty days’ absolute fast was a practical impossibility, and Luke’s words were therefore modified to mean that he ate very little. But as a forty days’ fast has been safely accomplished in modern times, and as it was Jesus who fasted, we see no reason why we should not take Luke’s statement literally, as indicating an absolute fast] in those days: and when they were completed. a2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights [A forty days’ fast was accomplished by Moses ( Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 9:18), and by Elijah ( 1 Kings 19:8), and it is a significant fact in this connection that these two men appeared with Christ at his transfiguration ( Matthew 17:3). Those who share Christ’s sufferings shall also share his glorification ( Romans 8:17, 2 Timothy 2:11, 2 Timothy 2:12). The forty days’ fast became a basis for the temptation. We are told that temptation results from the excitement of desire ( James 1:14), and, as a rule, the greater the desire the greater the temptation. Viewed from this standpoint the temptation of the second Adam greatly exceeded in strength that of the first, for Adam abstained as to a particular fruit, but Christ fasted as to all things edible], he afterward hungered. [Here, for the first time, our Lord is shown as sharing our physical needs. We should note for our comfort that one may lack bread and suffer want, and still be infinitely beloved in heaven.] 3 And the tempter came [Satan is pre-eminently the tempter, for other tempters are his agents. He may possibly have appeared as an angel of light ( 2 Corinthians 11:14), but the purpose of his coming is more important than the manner of it. He came to produce sin in Jesus, for sin would render him forever incapable of becoming our Saviour--a sacrifice for the sins of others] c3 And the devil said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it {acommand that these stones} become bread. [The devil’s "if" strikes at the faith of Christ, and faith is the bond of union and accord between man and God. The main sin of this temptation was therefore distrust, though [91] it had other sinful phases. The Father’s voice had just declared the Sonship of Jesus, and Satan here boldly questions the truth of God’s words, just as he did in the beginning ( Genesis 3:3-5). The temptation smacks of curiosity, and curiosity is the mother of many sins. Though Satan so glibly questioned the divinity of Christ, his kingdom soon began to feel the power of that divinity ( Luke 4:34-41), and shall continue to feel it until his kingdom is destroyed ( Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 3:8). This temptation appealed to the present appetite, the impulse of the moment, as many of our temptations do. It has been quaintly said of the tempter that "he had sped so successfully to his own mind by a temptation about a matter of eating with the first Adam, that he practiced the old manner of trading with the second." This first temptation is still Satan’s favorite with the poor. He suggests to them that if they were really the beloved objects of God’s care, their condition would be otherwise. We should note that Jesus wrought no selfish miracle. Such an act would have been contrary to all Scripture precedent. Paul did not heal himself ( 1 Corinthians 12:7-9, Galatians 4:13, Colossians 4:14), nor Epaphroditus, ( Philippians 2:25-27), nor Trophimus ( 2 Timothy 4:20). Denying himself the right to make bread in the wilderness, Christ freely used his miraculous power to feed others in the desert ( Matthew 14:15-21), and merited as just praise those words which were meant as a bitter taunt-- Matthew 27:42.] 4 But he {c4 And Jesus} aanswered and said, cunto him, It is written [Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. It is a saying relative to the times when Israel was sustained by manna in the wilderness. The case of Jesus was now similar to that of Israel. He was in a foodless wilderness, but he trusted that as God had provided for Israel in its helplessness, so would he now provide for him. Israel sinned by doubt and murmuring, and proposing to obtain bread in its own way--that is, by returning to Egypt ( Exodus 16:1-9). Jesus avoided a like sin. We should note the use which our Lord made of Scripture: in his hour of trial he did not look to visions and voices and special revelation for guidance, but used the written Word as the lamp [92] for his feet ( Psalms 119:105); in the conflict of temptation he did not defend himself by his own divine wisdom, but used that wisdom which God had revealed to all Israel through his prophets. Jesus fought as a man ( Philippians 2:6, Philippians 2:7), and used that weapon which, as God, he had given to man ( Ephesians 6:17). Jesus used the Scripture as of final, argument-ending authority. Eve also started with "God hath said" ( Genesis 3:3); but she was not constant in her adherence to God’s word. Jesus permitted Satan neither to question nor pervert the Scripture], Man [In using the word "man" Jesus takes his stand with us as a human being] shall not live by bread alone [Called out of Egypt as God’s Son ( Matthew 2:15), Jesus could well expect that he would be fed with manna after his forty days’ fast. He trusted that God could furnish a table in the wilderness ( Psalms 78:19). We, too, have abundant reason for a like trust. God gave us our lives, and gave his Son to redeem them from sin. He may let us suffer, but we can not perish is we trust him. Let us live by his word rather than by bread. It is better to die for righteousness than to live by sin. God fed Israel with supernatural bread, to show the people that they lived thus, and not by what they were pleased to call natural means. The stomach is a useful agent, but it is not the source of life, nor even the life sustainer. Those who think that the securing of bread is the first essential to the sustaining of life, will fail to seek any diviner food, and so will eventually starve with hunger--soul hunger.] abut by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God [To satisfy our sense of duty is often more pleasant than to appease the pangs of hunger ( John 4:32-34, Job 23:12, Jeremiah 15:16). The trust of Jesus that God would speak in his behalf and save him, was like that of Job ( Job 13:15). God can sustain our lives without food if he chooses. We shall live if God wills it, bread or no bread; and we shall likewise die at his word ( Matthew 6:25, John 6:47-58, Acts 17:28). God can support our lives independent of our body-- Matthew 10:28.] 5 Then the devil taketh him [Matthew emphasizes the [93] compulsory companionship of Satan. Jesus was in the hands of Satan as was Job ( Job 2:5, Job 2:6); but in Jesus’ case Satan had the power of life and death, and he eventually took Jesus to the cross and slew him there] into the holy city [A common name for Jerusalem. The inscription on Jewish coins was "Jerusalem the Holy." Arabs to-day call it "el Kuds," "the Holy." The Holy City did not exclude the tempter nor temptations. The church may be the scene of man’s sorest trial to resist wrong. But in the Holy City which is to come there will be no temptation]; c9 And he led him to Jerusalem, aand set him [The two verbs "taketh" and "setting" imply that Satan exercised a control over the bodily person of our Lord] on the pinnacle of the temple [It is not known exactly what spot is indicated by the word "pinnacle." Hence three places have been contended for the proper locality: 1. The apex of the temple structure itself. 2. The top of Solomon’s porch. 3. The top of Herod’s royal portico. As to the temple itself, Josephus tells us that its roof was covered with spikes of gold, to prevent even birds from alighting upon it, and, if so, men could not stand upon it. Solomon’s porch, or the eastern portico, faced the Mount of Olives, and has been fixed upon by tradition as the place from which James, the Lord’s brother, was hurled. The royal portico of Herod was at the southeast corner of the temple enclosure, and overlooked the valley of Kidron. Here was then, and is yet, the greatest height about the temple, and it was, therefore, the most suitable place for Satan’s proposal], 6 and saith {csaid} aunto him, If [Godly life rests on faith. The life the devil would have us lead rests on ifs and uncertainties, on doubt and skepticism. We should note that foolish men doubt the divinity of Jesus, but the temptations of our Lord show how positively Satan was convinced of it. The opening scenes of Christ’s ministry are redolent with his divinity. The Baptist asserted his purity and might, the Spirit visibly acknowledged his worthiness, the Father audibly testified to his Sonship, and the devil twice assaulted him as the divine champion] thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down [94] [The first temptation was to under-confidence; the second to over-trust and presumption--two very dangerous conditions of the soul. Men begin by disparagingly doubting that Jesus can save them from their sins, and end by recklessly presuming that he will save them in their sins. Comparing this with Eve’s temptation, we find that she was vainly curious to see if she might be like God ( Genesis 3:5), but Christ resisted such curiously. It is urged by some as to this temptation that there is no hint of vainglory or display, because nothing is said about casting himself down in the presence of the people, and that Jesus was merely taken to the temple because the sacred locality would tend to heighten his trust in the protecting promise which Satan quoted. But this ground is not well taken, for 1. The temple presumes a crowd. 2. We have a right to presume that this temptation would be like others to which Jesus was subjected. He was frequently invited to work miracles to satisfy curiosity, and he invariably refused to do so]: cfrom hence: 10 for it is written [This quotation is taken from Psalms 91:11, Psalms 91:12, and applies to man generally. Note 1. The devil’s head is full of Scripture, but to no profit, for his heart is empty of it. 2. By quoting it he shows a sense of its power which modern rationalism would do well to consider. 3. Satan’s abuse of Scripture did not discourage Christ’s use of it], He shall give his angels charge concerning thee [Regarding Satan’s words as a quotation, we are struck with the fact that his knowledge of this particular passage was based upon his personal experience. He had been confronted by the presence of the guardian angels and had fretted at it ( Job 1:10, 2 Kings 6:8, 2 Kings 6:17, Psalms 34:7, Judges 1:9). As a temptation, Satan’s words appeal to Jesus to be more religious; to put more trust and reliance upon the promises of the Father; and he puts him in the place--the temple--where he might argue that God could least afford to let his promise fail], to guard thee: 11 and, On their hands they shall bear thee up [All who love pomp, display of artistic taste, gaieties of fashion, intoxication of fame, etc., fall by this temptation. Those who truly rest on God’s promises, stand on a sure [95] foundation, but those who rise on bubbles must come down when they burst], Lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone. 12 And Jesus answering, said unto him, aagain it is written {csaid,} ["Written," "said"; the writings of Scripture are in general the sayings of God. But the Bible is not made up of isolated texts. To get a right understanding we must compare Scripture with Scripture. We could have no higher indorsement of the Old Testament than this use of it by Christ. It was sufficient for him in his temptations, and with the addition of the New Testament, it is sufficient for us in all things-- 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 3:17, Colossians 3:3-16], aThou shalt not make trial [Make experiment upon God, set traps for him, put one’s self in dangerous situations, hoping thereby to draw forth some show of loving deliverance. Had Jesus cast himself down, he would have demanded of the Father a needless miracle to prove his Sonship, and would thereby have put the love of God to an unnecessary trial. All who jeopardize themselves without any command of God or call of duty, make trial of his love] of the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him [whether naturally or supernaturally, "whether in the body or out of the body" ( 2 Corinthians 12:2-4), we can not tell. But it was a real, practical trial and temptation] unto an exceeding high mountain [it is immaterial which mountain this was; for from no mountain could one see the whole earth with the natural eye], c5 And he led him up, aAnd showeth {cshowed} ahim [It is not said by either evangelist that Jesus saw the kingdoms from the mountain-top, but that Satan showed them to him. From any high Judæan mountain it would be easy for him to locate Rome, Greece, Egypt, Persia and Assyria, and as he pointed out their locality a few brief words of description would picture them to the imagination of Jesus, and cause their glories to move before his eyes. But it is very likely that to this description some sort of supernatural vision was added. It tempted the eye of Jesus as the luscious fruit did the eye of Eve-- Genesis 3:6] all the kingdoms of the world [It tempted Jesus to realize the dreams [96] which the Jewish nation entertained. It was an appeal to him to reveal himself in the fullness of his power and authority as above generals, princes, kings, and all beings of all ages. An appeal to obtain by physical rather than by spiritual power; by the short-cut path of policy rather than by the long road of suffering and martyrdom. Jesus came to obtain the kingdoms of the world. He was born King of the Jews, and confessed himself to be a King before Pilate. All authority is now given to him, and he must reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet, and until all the kingdoms of the world become his kingdom. Satan’s way to obtain this kingdom differed from God’s way. He might obtain it by doing Satan’s will and becoming his worshiper, or by worshiping God and doing his will. Satan would give the speedier possession, but God the more lasting. We also strive for a kingdom; but let us obtain ours as Christ did his], and the glory of them [That is, all their resources as well as their magnificence. Their cities, lands and people, their armies, treasures and temples, etc. Many parents, in encouraging their children to seek earthly glory and distinction, unconsciously assist Satan in urging this temptation]; cin a moment of time [These words strongly indicate that the prospect must have been supernaturally presented. The suddenness of the vision added greatly to the power of the temptation]; a9 and he cthe devil said unto him, To thee will I give all this authority {aAll these things will I give thee,} [From the standpoint of Christ’s humanity, how overwhelming the temptation! It was the world’s honors to one who had for thirty years led the life of a village carpenter; it was the world’s riches to him who had not where to lay his head. From the standpoint of Jesus’ divinity the temptation was repulsive. It was a large offer in the sight of Satan, but a small one in the sight of him who made all the worlds. Such offers are large to the children of the world, but small to those who are by faith joint-heirs with Christ ( Romans 8:17, Philippians 3:7, Philippians 3:8). But the temptation was, nevertheless, very specious and plausible. The power of Jesus linked with that of Satan, and [97] operating through Jewish fanaticism and pagan expectation would, in a few months, have brought the whole earth into one temporal kingdom, with Jesus as its head. But the kingdom of Christ rested upon a surer promise ( Psalms 2:8) than that here given by the "father of lies." God had promised, and, despite the pretensions of Satan, God had not yet retired from the government of the world. It was true that Satan and his emissaries had, by usurpation, gained an apparent possession of the world, but Jesus had right to it as the heir of God ( Matthew 21:33-43). Being stronger than Satan, he had come to regain his kingdom, not by treaty, but by conquest ( Luke 11:19-22). Moreover, he would obtain it as a spiritual and not as a carnal kingdom. Servants of Christ should remember this. Every attempt to establish Messiah’s kingdom as an outward, worldly dominion is an effort to convert the kingdom of heaven into the kingdom of the devil. God’s kingdom can not be secularized. It should be noted also that Satan omits the words "if thou art the Son of God" in this instance, for their presence would have marred the force of the temptation. Note also that this was the only temptation wherein Satan evinced any show of generosity. He is slow to give anything, and most of us sell out to him for nothing-- Isaiah 52:3], and the glory of them: for it hath been delivered unto me [Satan does not claim an absolute but a derivative right, and his claim is not wholly unfounded ( John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11). But the kingdom has been delivered unto him by men rather than by God ( Ephesians 2:2). How much more quickly Jesus would have obtained power, had he received it from men by consenting to co-operate with them in their sinful practices as does Satan]; and to whomsoever I will [Not so Jesus. His giving is according to the Father’s will-- Matthew 9:23] I give it [The Emperor Tiberius then held it in the fullest sense ambition ever realized. Yet he was the most miserable and degraded of men. Satan knows how to take full toll for all that he gives.] 7 If [In the temptations Satan uses three "ifs." The first "if" is one of despairing doubt; the second, one of vainglorious speculation; the third, one of moral and [98] spiritual compromise] thou therefore wilt afall down and worship cbefore me [Satan and God each seek the worship of man, but from very different motives. God is holiness and goodness, and we are invited to worship him that we may thereby be induced to grow like him. But Satan seeks worship for vanity’s sake. How vast the vanity which would give so great a reward for one act of worship! Verily the devil is fond of it. He gives nothing unless he obtains it, and all his generosity is selfishness. Worshiping before Satan is the bending of the soul rather than of the body. He holds before each of us some crown of success, and says: "Bend just a little; slightly compromise your conscience. Accept the help of Pharisee and Sadducee, and keep silent as to their sins. Mix a little diplomacy with your righteousness. Stoop just a little. If you do, I will aid you and insure your success. If you do not, I will defeat you and laugh at your failures." It is Satan’s sin to make such suggestions, but it is not our sin until we comply with them. We may more quickly obtain by his wrong way, but more surely by God’s right way. Let no Christian be humiliated or discouraged by gross temptation, since even the Son of God was tempted to worship the devil. What Jesus would not do, the Beast has done, and has received the kingdoms for a season ( Revelation 13:1-9). Note, too, that it is all one whether we worship Satan, or mammon, the gift which he offers-- Matthew 6:24], it shall all be thine. 8 And a10 Then cJesus answered and said {asaith} cunto him, aGet thee hence [The passionate utterance of an aroused soul. Indignation is as divine as patience ( Ephesians 4:26). Satan’s sweetest temptation was most disgusting to Christ, for its sin was so grossly apparent. It ran counter to the very first of the ten commandments. Jesus would give it no room in his thoughts; he spurned it, as being as heinous as the law describes it ( Deuteronomy 5:6-11). Temptation must be peremptorily rejected. Jesus did not stop to weigh the worthiness of Satan; it was sufficient that God only is to be worshiped. As God, Jesus was himself an object of worship; but as man he worshiped the Father privately and publicly. Satan [99] sought to command Jesus, but was commanded of him. Step by step Satan has obeyed this command, and foot after foot, earth’s spiritual world has been yielded by his departing presence], Satan [The first and second temptations were so subtle and covert, and their sin so skillfully disguised, as to suggest that Satan himself was disguised. If so, his pride and vanity, revealed in this last temptation, betrayed him so that Jesus tore off his mask and called him by his right name. When he tempted him in a somewhat similar matter, Jesus called Simon Peter by this name ( Matthew 16:23), but he laid a different command upon each of them. To Satan he spoke as an enemy, saying, "Get thee hence." He ordered Satan from his presence, for he had no proper place there. To Peter he spoke as to a presumptuous disciple, saying, "Get thee behind me." The disciple is a follower of his master, and his proper place is in the rear]: for it is written [Jesus gives a free translation of Deuteronomy 6:13. He substitutes the word "worship" for the word "fears." Fear prohibits false and induces true worship, and loving worship is the source of all acceptable service. The three Scripture quotations used by Jesus are all from the book of Deuteronomy. He struck Satan with that very part of the Spirit’s sword which modern critical infidelity, in the name of religion, and often aided by so-called religious organizations, seeks to persuade us to cast away], Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. [By serving God, Jesus obtained all the earthly authority which the devil offered him, and heavenly authority in addition thereto ( Matthew 28:18). So much better are the rewards of God than Satan’s.] c13 And when the devil had completed every temptation. a11 Then the devil leaveth {che departeth from} him for a season. [See James 4:7. But Satan left to return many times. Here was the first being endowed with human nature who had defeated Satan under all circumstances for thirty years. This was Satan’s first defeat under Christ’s ministry. His last is yet to come, and it shall come by this same Christ. Temptations are battles. They leave the victor stronger and the [100] vanquished weaker. Hence Satan when resisted is represented as fleeing. But he only flees for a season. He never despairs of the conflict so long as man is on the earth. Christ was constantly tempted by the returning devil ( Luke 22:28). As Jesus hung upon the cross, all these three temptations with their accompanying "ifs" were spread out before him-- Matthew 27:39-43] aand behold, angels came [They had probably witnessed the contest. Compare 1 Corinthians 4:9, 1 Timothy 3:16. Angels do not appear again visibly ministering unto Jesus until we find him in Gethsemane ( Luke 22:43). When Satan finally departs from us, we, too, shall find ourselves in the presence of angels-- Luke 16:22] and ministered unto him. [Jesus was probably fed by the angels, as was Elijah by one of them ( 1 Kings 19:4-7). Satan and suffering first, then angels, refreshment and rest. God had indeed given his angels charge, and they came to him who refused to put the father to the test. But they did not succor Jesus during his temptation, for that was to be resisted by himself alone-- Isaiah 63:3.]

[FFG 87-101]

Verse 12


XXVI.
JESUS SETS OUT FROM JUDÆA FOR GALILEE.

Subdivision A.
REASONS FOR RETIRING TO GALILEE.
aMATT. IV. 12; bMARK I. 14; cLUKE III. 19, 20; dJOHN IV. 1-4.

c19 but Herod the tetrarch [son of Herod the Great, and tetrarch, or governor, of Galilee], being reproved by him [that is, by John the Baptist] for Herodias his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things which Herod had done [A full account of the sin of Herod and persecution of John will be found at Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-29. John had spoken the truth to Herod as fearlessly as to the Pharisees, publicans and soldiers], 20 added this also to them all [the sins of Herod, as a ruler, already outweighed [138] his virtues; (comp. Daniel 5:27); but, with reckless abandon, Herod went on, adding to the weighty reasons which justified his condemnation], that he shut up John in prison. [In the fortress at Machærus, east of the Dead Sea, as we learn from Josephus. The duration of the ministry of John the Baptist is variously estimated at from fourteen to eighteen months.] b14 Now after John was delivered up [either delivered up by the people to Herod ( Matthew 17:12), or delivered up by Herod himself to the warden of the castle of Machærus ( Luke 12:58), or by Providence to Herod himself-- Acts 2:23], awhen he [Jesus] heard [he was in Judæa when he heard it] that John was delivered up [and], d1 When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John [We saw at John 3:26 how the Baptist heard about the number of Jesus’ baptisms, being informed by his jealous friends. Like jealous friends, no doubt, informed the Pharisees. Jesus may have known of this information being given by reason of his supernatural powers, but it is more likely that he heard of it in a natural way] 2 (although Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples) [Jesus, as divine Lawgiver, instituted baptism, and his disciples administered it. We nowhere hear of the disciples of John administering baptism. In fact, the Baptist, like the disciples of Jesus, baptized under a divine commission, and could not delegate the power to others. It was the office of Jesus to commission others to this work, not to perform it himself. Had he done so, those baptized by him might have foolishly claimed for themselves some peculiar honor by reason thereof ( 1 Corinthians 1:14, 1 Corinthians 1:15). Jesus was the spiritual baptizer, in which baptism the efficacy lies in the administrant; but water baptism, the efficacy of which lies rather in the spirit of the one baptized than in the virtues of the administrant, Jesus left to his disciples], 3 he left Judæa, and departed again {awithdrew bcame} dinto Galilee. [We have in these verses two reasons assigned for the withdrawal of Jesus into Galilee, namely: 1. The imprisonment of John the Baptist [139] 2. Knowledge of the Pharisees that Jesus was baptizing more disciples than John. The first gives us the reason why he went to Galilee, the second the reason why he left Judæa. Jesus did not go into Galilee through fear of Herod, for Herod was tetrarch of Galilee. The truth is, the absence of John called for the presence of Jesus. The northern part of Palestine was the most fruitful soil for the gospel. During the last six or eight months of John’s ministry we find him in this northern field, preparing it for Christ’s kingdom. While we can not say definitely that John was in Galilee (Bethabara and Ænon being the only two geographical names given), yet he certainly drew his audiences largely from the towns and cities of Galilee. While John occupied the northern, Jesus worked in the southern district of Palestine; but when John was removed, then Jesus turned northward, that he might sow the seed of the kingdom in its most fruitful soil. But if there was a reason why he should go to Galilee, there was an equal reason why he should depart from Judæa. His popularity, manifesting itself in the number of his baptisms, was exciting that envy and opposition which caused the rulers of Judæa eventually to take the life of Jesus ( Matthew 27:18). The Pharisees loved to make proselytes themselves ( Matthew 23:15). They no doubt envied John’s popularity, and much more, therefore, would they be disposed to envy Christ. The influence of the Pharisees was far greater in Judæa than in Galilee, and the Sanhedrin would readily have arrested Jesus had he remained in Judæa ( John 7:1, John 10:39), and arrest at this time would have marred the work of Jesus. Therefore, since it is neither sinful nor unbecoming to avoid persecution, Jesus retired to Galilee, when he remained until his second passover. By birth a prophet of Judæa, he became, in public estimation, by this retirement, a prophet of Galilee. Though Jesus first taught in Judæa, the ministry in Galilee so far eclipsed the work in Judæa that it was spoken of as the place of beginning ( Luke 23:5, Acts 10:37), and prophetically designated as the scene of the divine manifestation-- Matthew 4:14.] 4 And he must needs pass through Samaria. [The province which [140] took its name from the city of Samaria, and which lay between Judæa and Galilee. Owing to the hatred which existed between Jews and Samaritans, many of the Jews went from Jerusalem to Galilee by turning eastward, crossing the Jordan, and passing northward through Peræa. This journey required about seven days, while the more direct route, through Samaria, only took three days. Galilæans often passed through Samaria on their way to and from the Jerusalem feast (Josephus’ Ant. xx. 6, 1). The arrest of John would scatter his flock of disciples ( Mark 14:27), and Jesus, as chief shepherd ( 1 Peter 5:1-4), hastened to Galilee, to gather together those which might else go astray and be lost.]

[FFG 138-141]

Verses 13-16


XXIX.
JESUS’ TEMPORARY RESIDENCE AT CAPERNAUM.
aMATT. IV. 13-16.

a13 And leaving Nazareth [This expression means that Jesus now ceased to make Nazareth his home. For description of Nazareth, see Matthew 8:20). He may have dwelt with some of his disciples--for instance, Simon Peter-- Matthew 8:14-16], which is by the sea, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali [Capernaum was in Naphtali, and the border of the tribe of Zebulun was three or four miles south of it. This part of the country was densely populated, and had in it many choice spirits such as Jesus chose for his apostles]: 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet [ Matthew 8:14-16], saying, 15 The land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. [This land or region was the first to suffer in the beginning of those wars which finally resulted in the captivity of the ten tribes. The people of this district were smitten by Benhadad ( 1 Kings 15:20), and afterwards by Tiglath-pileser ( 2 Kings 15:29, 1 Chronicles 5:26), some time before the general captivity of the ten tribes ( 2 Kings 17:6). It is called Galilee of the Gentiles, because it was, according to Strabo and others, inhabited by Egyptians, Arabians, and Phoenicians, as well as by Hebrews.] 16 The people that [160] sat in darkness saw great light, And to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, To them did light spring up. [Those who by reason of their ignorance and depravity suffered the torments of war, and sat as it were under the shadow of the wing of death, were designated by prophecies as the class among whom the light of the gospel would spring up in the fullness and richness of its blessing. Jesus, the "Light of the world," fulfilled this prophecy, and apart from him there can be no pretense of its fulfillment. Galilee had its prophets, but the enemies of Jesus themselves bear witness that none of them were great enough "lights" to fulfill this prophecy-- John 7:52.]

[FFG 160-161]

Verse 17


XXVII.
GENERAL ACCOUNT OF JESUS’ TEACHING.
aMATT. IV. 17; bMARK I. 14, 15; cLUKE IV. 14, 15.

a17 From that time Jesus began to preach [The time here indicated is that of John the Baptist’s imprisonment and Jesus’ return to Galilee. This time marked a new period in the public ministry of Jesus. Hitherto he had taught, but he now began to preach. When the voice of his messenger, John, was silenced, the King became his own herald. Paul quoted the Greeks as saying that preaching was "foolishness," but following the example here set by Christ, he used it as the appointed means for saving souls. While Matthew gives us many of the earlier incidents of Christ’s life, he enters upon the account of his ministry at the time when Jesus returned to Galilee. From that time forward he was probably an eye-witness of the events which he records], bpreaching the gospel of God, 15 And saying, {aand to say,} Repent ye; for bthe time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God {aof Heaven} bis at hand. [Jesus preached the gospel or good news of his own advent and of the setting up of the unending kingdom which should convert the world to righteousness and save the souls of men. We should note that Jesus himself declares that the prophesied time for the setting up of his kingdom was at hand. There were many general prophecies as to this kingdom, but one which especially fixed the time of its coming; viz.: Daniel 9:24-27. This prophecy tells of seventy weeks in which each day is reckoned as a year, so that the seventy weeks equal four hundred and ninety years. They are to be counted from the date of the decree which ordered the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The Messiah, or Prince, was to come at the beginning of the seventieth week, or four hundred and eighty-three years from the date of the decree. Some take the decree referred to as to be that mentioned in Nehemiah 2:7, Nehemiah 2:8. Jahn and Hales fix the date [155] of this decree in the year 444 B. C. According to this, Jesus would have begun his ministry in the year A. D. 39. Others take the decree to be mentioned in Ezra 7:12-26., which was thirteen years earlier, and which would bring the beginning of the ministry of Jesus to the year A. D. 26. But there is much uncertainty about all ancient chronology. Suffice it to say that Daniel told in round numbers how long it would be until Messiah should come, and that Jesus said that this time had been fulfilled. It would have been easy to ascertain the correct chronology at the time when Jesus spoke, and we have no record that any presumed to dispute his statement. Jesus announced the coming of a new dispensation. The King had already come, but the kingdom in its organization and administration was as yet only "at hand." Until the crucifixion of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the kingdom could not be fully organized, for the blood shed upon the cross furnished the means for purification which precedes a proper entrance into the kingdom, and the coming of the Holy Spirit afforded that indwelling strength by which those entering are enabled to abide therein]: repent ye, and believe in the gospel. [That is, prepare for the kingdom by repenting of sin, and by believing the glad news that the kingdom was approaching, for the King had come ( John 1:49). The preaching of Jesus at this time did not differ materially from that of John the Baptist, for John preached repentance and the approaching kingdom ( Matthew 3:2), and the gospel ( Luke 3:18), and belief in the King ( John 1:29, John 1:36, John 3:36). The fact that repentance comes before belief in this passage is by some taken as an indication that repentance precedes faith in the process of conversion, but it should be remembered that the preaching here is addressed to the Jewish people, who already believed in God, and in the Scripture as the revelation of God. They were, therefore, required to bring forth fruit worthy of the old faith and the old revelation as preparatory to their reception of the new faith and the new revelation. Thus repentance and faith appears to be the established order for Hebrews ( Hebrews 6:1), and their [156] proselytes ( Acts 20:21), because of the spiritual standpoint or condition in which the gospel found them. But those who have no faith in God can surely have no repentance toward him, for belief precedes every call upon God, whether for mercy, pardon, or any other blessing-- Romans 10:13, Romans 10:14], cand a fame went out concerning him through all the region round about. [The miracles of Jesus and the manner in which he taught caused the people to glorify his name.] 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. [If we may trust later tradition (and the New Testament corroborates it), synagogues were very plentiful in that day, there being at least one in each town. In the synagogue the people met on Sabbath and feast days. The temple at Jerusalem was used for ceremonial worship, but the services in the synagogue were of far different order, the study and application of the Scripture being the principal feature.]

[FFG 155-157]

Verses 18-21


XXX.
JESUS CALLS FOUR FISHERMEN TO FOLLOW HIM.
(Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum.)
aMATT. IV. 18-22; bMARK I. 16-20; cLUKE V. 1-11.

a18 And walking b16 And passing along by the sea of Galilee [This lake is a pear-shaped body of water, about twelve and a half miles long and about seven miles across at its widest place. It is 682 feet below sea level; its waters are fresh, clear and abounding in fish, and it is surrounded by hills and mountains, which rise from 600 to 1,000 feet above it. Its greatest depth is about 165 feet], he [Jesus] saw atwo brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, {bthe brother of Simon} casting a net in {ainto} the sea [The New Testament speaks of three kinds of nets, viz.: the amphiblestron, which is only mentioned here; the sagene, mentioned only at Matthew 13:47; and the dictua, which is mentioned in all other places. The dictua was a casting-net; the sagene, a seine or dragnet; and the amphiblestron was a drawnet, a circular bell-shaped affair, which was thrown upon the water, so that it spread out and [161] caught, by sinking, whatever was below it]; for they were fishers. [Though Simon and Andrew had been companions of Jesus on at least one journey, they did not as yet understand that his service would require all their time. The facts that Jesus now temporarily resided at Capernaum afforded them an opportunity to return to their old occupation, which they readily embraced. Fishing was then a prosperous trade on the lake of Galilee.] b17 And Jesus said {ahe saith} bunto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. [It was an invitation to follow, that they might be instructed by hearing his teaching and beholding his work. Jesus called them from a lower to a similar but higher labor. He calls all honest tradesmen in this manner. He invites carpenters to build his temple, servants to serve the great King, physicians to heal immortal souls, merchants to invest in pearls of great price, etc. The fisherman found many points of resemblance between the old and new calling, such as, 1, daily hardships and dangers; 2, earnest desires for the objects sought; 3, skill and wisdom in the use of means, etc. Disciples are fishers, human souls are fish, the world is the sea, the gospel is the net, and eternal life is the shore whither the catch is drawn.] a21 And going on from thence ba little further, ahe saw two other brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, bwho also were in the boat awith Zebedee their father, mending their {bthe} nets. [They also, like Peter and Andrew, were at work when Jesus found them. God calls the busy to his business. For instances where God had called the busy, see cases of Moses ( Exodus 3:1, Exodus 3:2), Gideon ( Judges 6:11), Saul ( 1 Samuel 10:1-3), David ( 1 Samuel 16:11-15), Elisha ( 1 Kings 19:19-21), Matthew ( Matthew 9:9), Saul ( Acts 9:1-6). Moreover most of these were called from lowly work, for such is God’s method ( 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). We should note two reasons why God chose the lowly and unlearned: 1, their minds being free from prejudice were more ready to entertain new truth; 2, the strength of the gospel was made more apparent by the [162] weakness of its ministers ( 1 Corinthians 2:3-5, 2 Corinthians 4:7, Zechariah 4:6). Of these two brothers, James was the first apostolic martyr and John the last survivor of the twelve. James was beheaded about A. D. 44 ( Acts 12:1, Acts 12:2); and John, after upwards of seventy years of Christian service, died at Ephesus about A. D. 100.] 20 And straightway he called them [From Matthew and Mark we would suppose that Jesus was alone when he called the two sets of brothers, and that with them he immediately left the lake. But we learn from Luke that he taught and worked a miracle before leaving the lake]: c1 Now it came to pass, while the multitude pressed upon him and heard the word of God, that he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret [This body of water bore many names. It was anciently called Chinnereth ( Numbers 34:11), or Chinneroth ( Judges 12:3), from a fortified town ( Joshua 19:35) and district ( 1 Kings 15:20) in Naphtali bearing that name. It is here called Gennesaret, from a plain of that name upon its northwestern shore (which may be a corruption of the old name Chinnereth.) It received its name, Galilee, from the district to which it belongs, and in later times it bore the name Tiberias ( John 6:1), from the city of that name on its western shore]; 2 and he saw two boats standing by the lake: but the fishermen had gone out of them, and were washing their nets. [We may conceive of the fishermen, in answer to Jesus’ call, drawing their boats together to the point where he stood upon the shore. Then, as Jesus stood teaching, they occupied themselves in the shallow water behind by washing their nets while they listened to him.] 3 And he entered into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. [He did this that he might avoid the press, and that the people might be better able both to see and to hear.] And he sat down [the usual attitude or posture of a teacher] and taught the multitudes out of the boat. 4 And when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a [163] draught. ["Put out" is in the singular, being addressed to Simon alone; "let down" is plural, being addressed generally to those in the boat.] 5 And Simon answered and said, Master, we have toiled all the night, and took nothing: but at thy word I will let down the nets. ["Master" is a broader word than "Rabbi"; it indicates a superior, but does not confine his superiority to matters of instruction. The words of Peter show a willingness to oblige or honor Jesus, but are devoid of hope as to the thing proposed. Night was the time for fishing ( John 21:3); and the proper place to cast the net was near the shore; but if Jesus wished to fish by daylight in the middle of the lake, Simon was not too weary to humor the wish.] 6 And when they had done this, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes; and their nets were breaking [that is, the nets began to snap when they tried to lift them out of the water]; 7 and they beckoned unto their partners in the other boat, that they should come and help them. [This indicates that they were well out into the lake, where it was easier to beckon than to shout explanations. Some think the marvel wrought by Jesus made them speechless, but they were so engrossed in the magnitude and value of the catch that the full glory of the miracle had not yet come upon them.] And they came, and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. [They probably ran a second net under the one which enclosed the fishes, and by thus doubling the strength of the net were able to draw the fish up between the boats. A great load thus suddenly dumped in the side of a boat will cause it to list, dip water and threaten to sink. Such appears to have been the case here until the loads were so distributed as to right the ships.] 8 But Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was amazed, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken [This miracle came home to the soul of Peter because it was wrought in his own boat, with his own nets, and concerned his own business. [164] Religion is only powerful as it becomes personal. Peter’s request shows how deeply the miracle impressed him. It gave him that sense of the divine presence which never fails to overwhelm the hearts of men. No man can behold God in his glory and live ( Exodus 33:20-23, Exodus 20:18, Exodus 20:19); and though there have been exceptions where men have seen God or his representatives and lived ( Exodus 24:9-11, Judges 6:21-23, Judges 13:22, Judges 13:23, Isaiah 6:1-5, Daniel 10:16-19, Genesis 32:30); yet no man, not even the purest, has ever stood in the presence of God or his ministers without feeling such a sense of weakness and sinfulness as to almost extinguish life-- Revelation 1:17, Job 42:5, Job 42:6]; 10 and so were also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. [Jesus here shows the purpose for which this miracle had been wrought. It was a prophetic type or picture which foreshadowed the triumphs of the day of Pentecost and other seasons when the apostles had great ingatherings of souls through the preaching of the gospel.] 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they astraightway cleft all [that is to say, Peter and Andrew], bleft the nets [but James and John], aleft the boat and their father, bZebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after him. {cfollowed him} [The four partners, boats, different kinds of nets, hired servants, etc., and the fact that Salome, the wife of Zebedee, was one of those who ministered to Christ out of her substance ( Matthew 27:55, Matthew 27:56, Luke 8:3), all indicate a business of respectable proportions: a fact which suggests that the church of Christ would catch more souls if all its parts were in partnership. Evidently when the four men left the boats and nets Zebedee took charge of them. While the four rightly recognized that the divine call was superior to their earthly obligations, there is nothing which leads us to imply that their sudden departure discomfited Zebedee. The call of Christ here marks a change in their relationship to him. Hitherto discipleship had not materially interfered with [165] business, but this present call separated them from their occupation, and prepared them for the call to be apostles which came later, and which required them to be his constant companions-- Mark 3:14.]

[FFG 161-166]

Verses 23-25


XXXIII.
JESUS MAKES A PREACHING TOUR
THROUGH GALILEE.
aMATT. IV. 23-25; bMARK I. 35-39; cLUKE IV. 42-44.

b35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up went out [i. e., from the house of Simon Peter], and departed into a desert place, and there prayed. [Though Palestine was densely populated, its people were all gathered into towns, so that it was usually easy to find solitude outside the city limits. A ravine near Capernaum, called the Vale of Doves, would afford such solitude. Jesus taught ( Matthew 6:6) and practiced solitary prayer. We can commune with God better when alone than when in the company of even our dearest friends. It is a mistaken notion that one can pray equally well at all times and in all places. Jesus being in all things like men, except that he was sinless ( Hebrews 2:17), must have found prayer a real necessity. He prayed as a human being. Several reasons for this season of prayer are suggested, from which we select two: 1. It was a safeguard against the temptation to vainglory induced by the unbounded admiration and praise of the multitude whom he had just healed. 2. It was a fitting preparation on the eve of his departure on his first missionary tour.] c42 And when it was day, he came out and went into a desert place. [Mark has in mind the season when Jesus sought the Father in prayer, and so he tells us it was "a great while before day." Luke has in mind the hour when Jesus faced and spoke to the multitude, so he says, "When it was day."] b36 And Simon. [As head of the house which Jesus had just left, Simon naturally acted as leader and guide to the party which sought Jesus] and they that were with him [they who were stopping in Simon’s house; viz.: Andrew, James, and John] followed after him [172] [literally, "pursued after him." Xenophon uses this word to signify the close pursuit of an enemy in war. Simon had no hesitancy in obtruding on the retirement of the Master. This rushing after Jesus in hot haste accorded with his impulsive nature. The excited interest of the people seemed to the disciples of Jesus to offer golden opportunities, and they could not comprehend his apparent indifference to it]; 37 and they found him, and say unto him, All are seeking thee. [The disciples saw a multitude seeking Jesus for various causes: some to hear, some for excitement, some for curiosity. To satisfy the people seemed to them to be Christ’s first duty. Jesus understood his work better than they. He never encouraged those who sought through mere curiosity or admiration ( John 6:27). Capernaum accepted the benefit of his miracles, but rejected his call to repentance-- Matthew 11:23.] 38 And he saith unto them, Let us go elsewhere into the next towns [the other villages of Galilee], that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth. [I. e., I came forth from the Father ( John 16:28) to make and preach a gospel. His disciples failed to understand his mission. Afterwards preaching was with the apostles the all-important duty-- Acts 6:2, 1 Corinthians 1:17.] cand the multitudes sought him after him, and came unto him, and would have stayed him, that he should not go from them. [They would have selfishly kept his blessed ministries for their own exclusive enjoyment.] 43 But he said unto them, I must preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God to the other cities also: for therefore was I sent. [Jesus sought to arouse the entire nation. That which the disciples regarded as a large work in Capernaum was consequently in his sight a very small one. Those who understand that it is God’s will and wish to save every man that lives upon the earth will not be overelated by a successful revival in some small corner of the great field of labor.] b39 And he aJesus went about in all Gailiee [The extreme length of Galilee was about sixty-three miles, and its extreme width about thirty-three miles. Its average [173] dimensions were about fifty by twenty-five miles. It contained, according to Josephus, two hundred and forty towns and villages. Its population at that time is estimated at about three millions. Lewin calculates that this circuit of Galilee must have occupied four or five months. The verses of this paragraph are, therefore, a summary of the work and influence of Jesus during the earlier part of his ministry. They are a general statement, the details of which are given in the subsequent chapters of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke--the Gospel of John dealing more particularly with the work in Judæa], binto their synagogues throughout all Galilee, ateaching in their synagogues [The word "synagogue" is compounded of the two Greek words "sun," together, and "ago," to collect. It is, therefore, equivalent to our English word "meeting-house." Tradition and the Targums say that these Jewish houses of worship existed from the earliest times. In proof of this assertion Deuteronomy 31:11, Psalms 74:8 are cited. But the citations are insufficient, that in Deuteronomy not being in point, and the seventy-fourth Psalm being probably written after the Babylonian captivity. It better accords with history to believe that the synagogue originated during the Babylonian captivity, and was brought into the motherland by the returning exiles. Certain it is that the synagogue only came into historic prominence after the books of the Old Testament were written. At the time of our Saviour’s ministry synagogues were scattered all over Palestine, and also over all quarters of the earth whither the Jews had been dispersed. Synagogues were found in very small villages, for wherever ten "men of leisure," willing and able to devote themselves to the service of the synagogue, were found, a synagogue might be erected. In the synagogues the people met together on the Sabbaths to pray, and to listen to the reading of the portions of the Old Testament, and also to hear such instruction or exhortation as might be furnished. With the permission of the president of the synagogue any one who was fitted might deliver an address. Thus the synagogues furnished Jesus (and in later times his disciples also) with a congregation [174] and a suitable place for preaching. We find that on week days Jesus often preached in the open air. But the synagogues are thus particularly mentioned, probably, because in them were held the most important services, because they were necessary during the rainy and cold season, and because their use shows that as yet the Jewish rulers had not so prejudiced the public mind as to exclude Jesus from the houses of worship], and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, band casting out demons [Mark singles out this kind of miracle as most striking and wonderful], aand healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness among the people. 24 And the report of him went forth into all Syria [caravans passing through Galilee back and forth between the Mediterranean seaports on the west and the Persian cities on the east, and between Damascus on the north and Egypt on the south, would carry the reports concerning Jesus far and wide]: and they brought unto him all that were sick, holden with divers diseases and torments, possessed with demons, and epileptic, and palsied; and he healed them. [Thus, by his actions, Jesus showed that the kingdom of God had come. The wonders of Moses were mostly miracles of judgment, those of Jesus were acts of compassion. The diseases here enumerated are still among the most difficult for physicians to handle. The term "palsy" included all forms of paralysis, catalepsy, and cramps.] 25 And there followed him great multitudes [these popular demonstration, no doubt, intensified the erroneous notion of his disciples that the kingdom of Jesus was to be one of worldly grandeur] from Galilee and Decapolis [Decapolis is formed from the two Greek words "deka," ten, and "polis," city. As a geographical term, Decapolis refers to that part of Syria lying east, southeast, and south of the Lake of Galilee. There is some doubt as to which were the ten cities named, for there seem at times to have been fourteen of them. Those commonly reckoned are 1. Damascus. 2. Philadelphia. 3. Raphana. 4. Sycthopolis. 5. Gadara. 6. Hyppos. 7. Dion. 8. Pella. 9. Galas. 10. Kanatha. The [175] other four are Abila and Kanata (distinct from Kanatha), Cæsarea Philippi, and Gergesa. None of these were in Galilee save Sycthopolis. According to Ritter, these cities were colonized principally by veterans from the army of Alexander the Great. A reminiscence of their Macedonian origin is found in the fact that there was a city named Pella in Macedonia. These cities are said to have been formed into a confederacy by Pompey the Great. In the time of Jesus they were chiefly inhabited by Greeks or heathens, and not by Jews. Josephus expressly calls Gadara and Hyppos Greek cities] and Jerusalem and Judæa and from beyond the Jordan. [The land beyond Jordan was called Peræa, which means "beyond." According to Josephus, it included territory between the cities of Pella on the north and Machærus on the south. That is to say, its northern boundary began on the Jordan opposite the southern line of Galilee, and its southern boundary was at Moab, about the middle of the east shore of the Dead Sea.] c44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.

[FFG 172-176]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 4". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tfg/matthew-4.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.