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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Matthew 19

Verse 1

19:1 Jesus had been in Galilee for some time and then moved Into the region on the east side of Jordan. Just across the river was the territory of Judea which is the meaning of the words coasts of Judea beyond Jordan.

Verse 2

19:2 As usual, great crowds followed him and he healed them there. That was different from the way it is done or professed to be done by the false workers of miracles today, who require that the patient have faith and come back for more help.

Verse 3

19:3 Jesus answered all questions that were put to him that were of importance, and that of divorce was certainly in that class. The Pharisees were not sincerely seeking information when they asked this question, for the writer says they asked it tempting him. But for the benefit of others who could hear him and for those who would read it in the record, the Lord gave his explanation of the delicate subject.

Verse 4

19:4 Jesus went back to the beginning of man, and all discussions of this subject should go there for the proper basis of whatever is said. It should be observed that both words male and female are singular, showing that the Lord intended that one partner only should be engaged with another in this union.

Verse 5

19:5 For this cause means because God made one man for one woman to reproduce the race. That being true, they must be free from all other human beings in this relationship. That will make it necessary for the man (he being the aggressor and head in all of the social affairs of life as is evident all through the Bible) to leave his parental home in order to form a union with a female and thus establish another family. Leave is from KATALEIPO which Thayer defines, "To leave behind; to depart from, leave; to forsake, leave to one's self," etc. Certainly it does not mean that he must desert his parents in other respects, but in the matter of forming a union for the perpetuation of the race, a man must act independently with regard to this physical relationship. Most human laws regarding the "age of consent" have ignored this Biblical law of God: When a male is old enough to perform the marriage act he is instructed that he may leave his parents and contract marriage with a female. Cleave is from KOLLAO which Thayer defines, "To glue, glue to, glue together, cement, fasten together; join one's self to, cleave to." This "joining" is accomplished by the act that makes them one flesh according to the closing statement that they twain shall be one flesh.

Verse 6

19:6 Are no more twain is a positive proof that the fleshly union that is formed by the first intimate relationship is permanent, and not that the fact of being one flesh applies only at the time the act is being performed as some people teach. It is stated that God has joined this man and woman into one flesh, and the only "ceremony" that was used was the fleshly act. Were there no human laws on the subject, the fleshly act would be the only thing that would constitute marriage in heaven's sight. But as man began to multiply on the earth and social conditions became more complex, the need for laws of regulation to keep the relation between the sexes pure was recognized by human leaders and such laws were enacted. The only thing God has to do in such laws is to recognize them and to require His creatures to obey them. What God joined . . . 'no man put asunder. The Lord would not make a ruling against a sin that could not be committed. The fact that He did forbid man to sever this union which He alone had formed by the intimate relation proves that such a putting asunder can be committed. The only conclusion that is possible, then, is that the union will be put asunder when either party to it has relation with another; that act will form another union which will sever the preceding one.

Verse 7

19:7 It was natural for them to ask this question, for they knew that the law which Moses gave did not hold strictly to the foregoing requirements.

Verse 8

19:8 Jesus did not say that the original law of marriage had been repealed. Neither did he say that Moses ignored it and "permitted" them to divorce their wives as it is so frequently stated. There is a vast difference between permitting a thing and suffering it. The first is equivalent to an endorsement but the second means only to tolerate something under protest. The people had become so hardened in worldliness that the original law was held off for the time being. But that period of indulgence was over when Jesus spoke and man was to be held to the law of marriage as it existed from the beginning and as Jesus stated it in verses 4 and 5.

Verse 9

19:9 This verse names the only ground on which a married man or woman may be divorced and remarry lawfully in the sight of God. Fornication forms another fleshly union and automatically breaks the previous one. By that same token the innocent one is free and may remarry without committing adultery. To say that there is no exception to the law of marriage and divorce is to contradict Jesus, for he plainly says that fornication is an exception. Let it be noted that it is the remarriage where no guilt of fornication exists that constitutes the sin of adultery. There are cases where a person may need a divorce other than because of fornication on the part of the companion. In such instances the legal separation may be obtained but the said person would not have the scriptural right to remarry as long as the other one remained clear morally.

Verse 10

9:10 The disciples had heard the conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees and doubtless were given information that was very new to them. See the comments at verse 3 about answering questions for the benefit of the hearers besides those who asked them. This explanation about the strictness of the marriage relation gave the disciples a feeling of hesitancy about contracting marriage. They expressed that feeling with the saying it is not good to marry. They meant that the best thing for a man to do is to abstain from marriage altogether.

Verse 11

9:11 That was too strong a saying for more than one reason, and Jesus replied that not all men could receive or adopt this saying, meaning the words in italics in the preceding verse. Jesus meant that it would not be a good thing for men generally to adopt that rule of life, and that only certain men could safely refrain from entering the marriage relation and he proceeded to describe them.

Verse 12

9:12 The only means God created for the perpetuation of the human race was the fleshly union of the sexes. As an inducement for man to cooperate with Him in this he established the mutual attraction of the male and female for each other. Like most blessings from God, this one was subject to misuse and unlawful enjoyment. For this reason the institution of family relationship was given so that human beings could have a lawful means of gratification and at the same time accomplish the divine edict to "multiply and replenish the earth." From the foregoing truths we may understand that it is a moral risk for a man to decide against entering marriage, for he will be tempted to yield to his sexual inclinations unlawfully. But a eunuch may safely refrain from it and thus adopt the saying of the disciples "not to marry," because such a person is free from this fleshly tendency. The Lord then named three classes of these eunuchs. The one is a person who was born without this normal function and hence would not have any inclination toward the opposite sex. Another is a man who has been mutilated by others for whatever reason, and by such action has been robbed of his manly powers. The third one is a man who has been able so to subdue this fleshly tendency that the opposite sex makes no appeal to him. The apostle Paul was one of such characters (1Co 7:7). Outside of these three classes of eunuchs the only divine safeguard against un-chastity is the institution of marriage, and the proper exercise of the function in that relationship of husband and wife. (See 1Co 7:5.)

Verse 13

9:13 Little children is not figurative but means literally a small child. The parents recognized Jesus as an individual who could bestow a blessing according to his own wisdom on these helpless creatures. The disciples were still somewhat confused as to the nature of the work that Jesus intended to accomplish. With this erroneous view of it, they considered this act on the part of the people as an interruption and rebuked them in the hearing of Jesus.

Verse 14

9:14 The key word in this passage is such, and if the disciples had recalled the lessons of chapter 18:1-5 they would not have uttered their rebuke. Jesus did not say that the kingdom of heaven would contain little children, but it was to have men and women who had become such persons by repentance and humility.

Verse 15

9:15 The Son of God would not have to make a physical contact with a person in order to bestow a blessing. The act of putting his hands on the little children was a form of caress or endearment.

Verse 16

9:16 The man who came to Jesus was evidently a Jew in good standing and understood what the law required of its followers. But he also must have learned something about Jesus and his teaching (Master is from a word that also means teacher), and had the idea that something very different would have to be done to obtain what he was offering to the world, hence the question stated in this verse.

Verse 17

9:17 None good but God. Jesus did not deny being a good person, for in Joh 10:11 he even affirmed that he was the good shepherd. Since he was a member of the Godhead, he wished this man to know that in calling him good it was equivalent to calling him God, since all goodness comes from Him. He then gave the young man an answer to his question which was doubtless different from what he expected. When he told him to keep the commandments he did not understand to what he could have reference since the regular commandments of the law had already been his rule of life.

Verse 18

8-19 He asked Jesus to specify the commands that were meant and he repeated the six of the deca-logue that pertained to dealings between man and man.

Verse 20

9:20 Jesus did not question the statement of the young man that he had kept all of those laws, hence we may conclude that this claim was true. But Jesus was here to set up another kingdom with other• laws, and perhaps something would need to be added to the life of this young man who had lived up to the letter of the law. He doubtless asked confidently what lack yet?

Verse 21

9:21 We need not think this man was merely pretending to be interested, for there is nothing in the conversation of Jesus that indicated that he had an unfavorable feeling toward him; instead; as Mark's account gives it (Mat 10:21) he loved the young man. But he could read the minds of men and he knew this man was a rich Jew and that he was devoted to his wealth. It is not necessarily wrong to be wealthy, but it is so when one is attached to his riches as this man was. That would constitute an "emergency" that required special legislation, hence Jesus told him the thing he lacked was the separation of his wealth from personal use and devotion of it to others.

Verse 22

9:22 This shaft "hit its mark" for the young man went away sorrowing because of his great possessions. What he ever did about it we are not told.

Verse 23

9:23 Hardly is from DUSKOLOS which Thayer defines, "with difficulty." The sacrifices that a rich man is called upon to make enter so deeply into his devotion to the business of getting more money, that it is difficult for him to bring about that change in his manner of life. Verse 24. Needle is from RHAPHIS which Thayer defines, "a needle," and he shows that the word comes from BHAPTO which means, "to sew." Donne-gan defines rhaphis, "a needle, awl, or other instrument for sewing." The Authorized version renders this verse correctly, for the words are so defined in the lexicon of the Greek language.

Verse 25

9:25 The disciples knew that a camel could not naturally go through the eye of a needle, and they took the comparison to mean that few if any persons could be saved.

Verse 26

9:26 Jesus supplied the point the disciples overlooked, namely, that a thing impossible with men does not have to be so with God. He could actually take a camel through the eye of a needle, but in doing so there would be some kind of change made in the camel's body that its earthly master could not cause it to make. A rich man can be saved, but it cannot be if he continues in his devotion and trust in his riches.

Verse 27

9:27 The apostles then saw the point and understood that the illustration of the camel and needle meant that one must go to the utmost in sacrificing his personal interests in order to secure the favors that the kingdom of heaven offers to the world. Peter spoke to Jesus on behalf of the other apostles as he was generally the spokesman for them. He stated that they had forsaken all to follow Jesus and asked what it would bring to them. We should bear in mind that following Jesus as he meant it was to leave their homes bodily so as to travel over the country with him. (See Mar 3:14 on being "with him.")

Verse 28

9:28. Regeneration is from PALIG-GENESIA which has a very extensive meaning in Greek literature, but its proper definition is, "new birth, reproduction, r e n e w a 1, recreation."--Thayer. It occurs only twice in the New Testament and the other place is Tit 3:5 where it is used in connection with "washing." Heb 10:22 says that it is our bodies that are washed and the connection there also shows that it applies to persons who have been regenerated by obedience to the Gospel. Hence it is clear that Jesus was speaking of the Christian Dispensation, after the kingdom of heaven was set up and he would be its king, sitting in glory at his Father's right hand. But he arranged his rule of government by delegating the writing of the law to his twelve apostles. That law was to be in force unto the end of the world (chapter 28:20), and in that figurative way they would be occupying the twelve thrones. Twelve tribes of Israel is a figure of speech based on the fact that under the Jewish system God's people were grouped into that many tribes. Under the Gospel system there is only one tribe but the law is administered by the twelve apostles, hence Christians are referred to as twelve tribes. (See Act 26:7; Jas 1:1.)

Verse 29

9:29 These apostles had forsaken all of their earthly interests for the time being that they might be with Jesus literally in his journeys among the people. But it was not to be permanent, for, when the personal ministry of Christ was completed, they could resume their former manner of life, at least to some extent. But even that temporary self-denial was to be rewarded with such good things (Mar 10:30 adds "now in this time"), and after the judgment it was to bring eternal life.

Verse 30

9:30 This verse is a statement of general principles. The words first and last do not always mean chronologically but sometimes are used with reference to importance. If any specific sense is to be attached to them in any case, the connection will have to be considered in determining the meaning. But the words usually mean that persons who are expected to be foremost in accepting the truth are often the least concerned, and vice versa.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 19". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/matthew-19.html. 1952.