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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 4

Vincent's Word StudiesVincent's Studies

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Verse 1

The Devil [του διαβολου] . The word means calumniator, slanderer. It is sometimes applied to men, as to Judas (John 6:70); in 1 Timothy 3:11 (slanderers); and in 2 Timothy 3:3, and Titus 2:3 (false accusers). In such cases never with the article. The Devil, Satan, the God of this world [ο διαβολος] , is always with the article and never plural. This should be distinguished from another word, also wrongly rendered devil in the A. V. - daimwn, and its more common neuter form diamonion, both of which should be translated demon, meaning the unclean spirits which possessed men, and were cast out by Christ and his apostles. The Rev., unfortunately, and against the protest of the American revisers, retains devil for both words, except in Acts 17:18, where it renders as A. V. gods.

The Son of God. By its position in the sentence Son is emphatic. "If thou standest to God in the relation of Son."

Bread [αρτοι] . Lit., loaves or cakes. So Wyc., loaves. These stones were perhaps those "silicious accretions," which assume the exact shape of little loaves of bread, and which were represented in legend as the petrified fruits of the cities of the plain. By a similar fancy certain crystallizations on Mount Carmel and near Bethlehem are called "Elijah 's melons," and the "Virgin Mary 's peas;" and the black and white stones found along the shores of the Lake of Galilee have been transformed into traces of the tears of Jacob in search of Joseph. The very appearance of these stones, like the bread for which the faint body hungered, may have added force to the temptation. This resemblance may have been present to Christ 's mind in his words at Matthew 7:9.

Verse 4

It is written [γεγραπται] . The perfect tense. "It has been written, and stands written." The first recorded words of Jesus after his entrance upon his ministry are an assertion of the authority of scripture, and that though he had the fulness of the Spirit. When addressing man, our Lord seldom quoted scripture, but said I say unto you. In answer to Satan he says, It is written.

Verse 5

Taketh [παραλαμβανει] . The preposition para (with, by the side of), implies taketh along with himself, or conducteth. It is the same word which all three evangelists use of Lord 's taking his chosen apostles to the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28).

The holy city. Matthew alone calls Jerusalem by this name, in accordance with the general intent of his gospel to connect the old economy with the new.

Pinnacle of the temple [το πτερυγιον του ιερου] . Pinnacle, from the Latin pinnaculum, a diminutive of pinna or penna (a wing), is a literal translation of pterugion, which is also a diminutive (a little wing or winglet). Nothing in the word compels us to infer that Christ was placed on the top of a tower or spire, which is the popular meaning of pinnacle. The word may be used in the familiar English sense of the wing of a building. Herod 's temple had two wings, the northern and southern, of which the southern was the higher and grander; that being the direction in which the chief enlargement of the temple area made by Herod was practicable. That enlargement, according to Josephus, was effected by building up walls of solid masonry from the valley below. At the extremity of the southern side of the area, was erected the "royal portico," a magnificent colonnade, consisting of a nave and two aisles, running across the entire space from the eastern to the western wall. Josephus further says, that "while the valley of itself was very deep, and its bottom could scarcely be seen when one looked down from above, the additional vastly high elevation of the portico was placed on that height, insomuch that, if any one looked down from the summit of the roof, combining the two altitudes in one stretch of vision, he would be giddy, while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth." This, in comparison with the northern wing, was so emphatically the wing of the temple as to explain the use of the article here, as a well - known locality. The scene of the temptation may have been (for the whole matter is mainly one of conjecture) the roof of his portico, at the southeastern angle, where it joined Solomon 's Porch, and from which the view into the Kedron valley beneath was to the depth of four hundred and fifty feet.

The word temple (iJeron, lit., sacred place) signifies the whole compass of the sacred inclosure, with its porticos, courts, and other subordinate buildings; and should be carefully distinguished from the other word, naov, also rendered temple, which means the temple itself - the "Holy Place" and the "Holy of Holies." When we read, for instance, of Christ teaching in the temple [ιερον] we must refer it to one of the temple - porches. So it is from the iJeron, the court of the Gentiles, that Christ expels the money - changers and cattle - merchants. In Matthew 27:51, it is the veil of the naov which is rent; the veil separating the holy place from the holy of holies. In the account of Zacharias entering into the temple of the Lord to burn incense (Luke 1:9), the word is naov, the holy place in which the altar of incense stood. The people were "without," in the fore - courts. In John 2:21, the temple of his body, iJeronwould be obviously inappropriate.

Verse 6

In their hands [επι] . On their hands (so Rev.) is more correct, and gives a different picture from the A. V. in : lifted on their hands, as on a litter or platform.

Verse 7

Again [παλιν] . Emphatic, meaning on the other hand, with reference to Satan 's it is written (ver. 6); as if he had said, "the promise which you quote most be explained by another passage of scripture." Archbishop Trech aptly remarks, "In that 'It is written again' of Christ, lies a great lesson, quite independent of that particular scripture which, on this occasion, he quotes, or of the use to which he turns it. There lies in it the secret of our safety and defence against all distorted use of isolated passages in holy scripture. Only as we enter into the unity of scripture, as it balances, completes, and explains itself, are we warned against error and delusion, excess or defect on this side or the other. Thus the retort, 'It is written again, ' must be of continual application; for indeed what very often are heresies but one - sided, exaggerated truths, truths rent away indeed from the body and complex of the truth, without the balance of the counter - truth, which should have kept them in their due place, co - ordinated with other truths or subordinated to them; and so, because all such checks are wanting, not truth any more, but error."

Verse 12

Was cast into prison [παρεδοθη] . The verb means, first, to give, or hand over to another. So, to surrender a city or a person, often with the accompanying notion of treachery. The Rev., therefore, rightly renders, was delivered up.

Verse 16

The people which sat [ο καθλημενος] ; Wyc., dwelt. The article with the participle (lit., the people, the one sitting) signifying something characteristic or habitual : the people whose characteristic it was to sit in darkness. This thought is emphasized by repetition in a stronger form; sitting in the region and shadow of Death. Death is personified. This land, whose inhabitants are spiritually dead, belongs to Death as the realm of his government.

Verse 17

To preach [κηρυσσειν] . Originally, to dischard the duty of a herald [κηρυξ] ; hence to cry out, proclaim (see on 2 Peter 2:5). The standing expression in the New Testament for the proclamation of the Gospel; but confined to the primary announcement of the message and facts of salvation, and not including continuous instruction in the contents and connections of the message, which is expressed by didaskein (to teach). (Both words are used in Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35; Matthew 11:1).

Verse 18

The sea [την θαλασσαν] . The small lake of Gennesaret, only thirteen miles long and six wide in its broadest part, is called the sea, by the same kind of popular usage by which Swiss and German lakes are called See; as the Konigsee, the Trauensee. So, also, in Holland we have the Zuyder Zee. The Latin mare (the sea) likewise becomes meer in Holland, and is used of a lake, as Haarlemmer Meer; and in England, mere, as appears in Windermere, Grasmere, etc.

A net [αμφιβληστρον] . From ajmfi, around, and ballw, to throw. Hence the casting - net, which, being cast over the shoulder, spreads into a circle [αμφι] . The word is sometimes used by classical Greek writers to denote a garment which encompasses the wearer. In ver. 20, the word net again occurs, but representing a different Greek word [δικτυον] which is the general name for all kinds of nets, whether for taking fish or fowl. Still another word occurs at Matthew 13:47, saghnh, the draw - net. See farther on that passage.

Verse 21

Mending [καταρτιζοντας] . Not necessarily repairing; the word means to adjust, to "put to rights." It may mean here preparing the nets for the next fishing.

Verses 23-24

23, 24. Sickness, Disease, Torments, Taken, Lunatic. The description of the ailments to which our Lord 's power was applied gains in vividness by study of the words in detail. In ver. 23, the Rev. rightly transposes sickness and disease; for nosov (A. V., sickness) carries the notion of something severe, dangerous, and even violent (compare the Latin noceo, to hurt, to which the root is akin). Homer always represents nosov as the visitation of an angry deity. Hence used of the plague which Apollo sent upon the Greeks (" Iliad, "1 10). So Sophocles (" Antigone," 421) calls a whirlwind qeian noson (a divine visitation). Disease is, therefore, the more correct rendering as expressing something stronger than sickness or debility. Sickness, however, suits the other word, malakian. The kindred adjective, malakov, means soft, as a couch or newly - ploughed furrow, and thus easily runs into our invidious moral sense of softness, namely, effeminacy or cowardice, and into the physical sense of weakness, sickness. Hence the word emphasizes the idea of debility rather than of violet suffering or danger.

In ver. 24 we have, first, a general expression for ailments of all kinds : all that were sick (lit., all who had themselves in evil case; pantav touv kakwv econtav). Then the idea of suffering is emphasized in the word taken [συνεξομενους] , which means literally held - together or compressed; and so the Rev. holden is an improvement on taken, in which the A. V. has followed Wyc. and Tyn. The word is used of the multitude thronging Christ (Luke 8:45). Compare, also, "how I am straitened (Luke 12:50); and I am in a strait (Philippians 1:23). Then follow the specific forms of suffering, the list headed again by the inclusive word nosoiv, diseases, and the kai following having the force of and particularly. Note the word torments [βασανοις] . basanovoriginally meant the" Lydian stone, "or touchstone, on which pure gold, when rubbed, leaves a peculiar mark. Hence, naturally, a test; then a test or trial by torture." Most words, "says Professor Campbell (" On the Language of Sophocles ")" have been originally metaphors, and metaphors are continually falling into the rank of words, "used by the writer as mere vehicles of expression without any sense of the picturesque or metaphorical element at their core. Thus the idea of a test gradually passes entirely out of basanov, leaving merely the idea of suffering or torture. This is peculiarly noticeable in the use of this word and its derivatives throughout the New Testament; for although suffering as a test is a familiar New Testament truth, these words invariably express simply torment or pain. Wycliffe renders," They offered to him all men having evil, taken with divers sorrows and torments; "and Tyndale," All sick people that were taken with divers diseases and gripings. " Lunatic, or moon - struck, [σεληνιαζομενους] , is rendered by Rev. epileptic, with reference to the real or supposed influence of the changes of the moon upon the victims of epilepsy.

Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/vnt/matthew-4.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.
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