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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Luke 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-4

Luke 11:1-4. As he was praying in a certain place — Our Lord’s whole time was occupied, either in instructing his numerous followers, or in confirming his doctrine by miracles of mercy, wrought for the relief of the afflicted, or in the exercises of devotion. This evangelist has mentioned Christ’s praying much more frequently than any of the other evangelists. He tells us, Luke 3:21, when he was baptized he was praying; Luke 5:16, that he withdrew into the wilderness and prayed; Luke 6:12, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer; Luke 9:18, that he was alone, praying; and soon after, that he went up into a mountain, and as he prayed was transfigured, Luke 9:28-29; and here, that he was praying in a certain place. Whether he was now praying alone, and the disciples only knew that he was so, or whether he prayed with them, is uncertain; it is most probable they were joining with him. One of his disciples said, Lord, teach us to pray — Inform us what we ought especially to desire and pray for, and in what words we ought to express our desires and petitions. It seems this disciple had not been present when our Lord, in the beginning of his ministry, gave his hearers directions concerning their devotions; or, if he was present, he had forgotten what had then been said. As John also taught his disciples — The Jewish masters used to give their followers some short form of prayer, as a peculiar badge of their relation to them. This, it is probable, John the Baptist had done. And in this sense it seems to be, that the disciples now asked Jesus, to teach them to pray. Accordingly he here repeats that form which he had before given them in his sermon on the Mount, and likewise enlarges on the same head, though still speaking the same things in substance. And this prayer, uttered from the heart, and in its true and full meaning, is indeed the badge of a real Christian: for is not he such whose first and most ardent desire is the glory of God, and the happiness of man, by the coming of his kingdom? who asks for no more of this world than his daily bread, longing meantime for the bread that cometh down from heaven? and whose only desires for himself are forgiveness of sins (as he heartily forgives others) and sanctification? When ye pray, say — And what he said to them is undoubtedly said to us also. We are therefore here directed not only to imitate this in all our prayers, but frequently, at least, to use this very form of prayer. For an explanation of this prayer, see the notes on Matthew 6:9-13. There are some differences between the form in Matthew and this recorded here; by which it appears it was not the design of Christ that we should be always confined to the very words of either form; for then there would have been no difference between them. One difference, indeed, which the reader will probably notice, is in the translation only, which ought not to have been, where there is none in the original; and that is in the third petition, as in heaven, so in earth; whereas the words are the very same, and in the same order, as in Matthew; but there is a difference in the fourth petition: in Matthew we pray, Give us daily bread this day; here, give it us [ καθημεραν] day by day: that is, Give us each day the bread which our bodies require, as they call for it; not, Give us this day bread for many days to come; but, as the Israelites had manna, let us have bread, to-day for to-day, and to-morrow for to- morrow; that thus we may be kept in a state of continual dependance upon God, as children upon their parents, and may have our mercies fresh from his hand daily; and may find ourselves under fresh obligations to do the work of every day in the day, according as the duty of the day requires, because we have from God the supplies of every day in the day, according as the necessity of the day requires. Here is, likewise, some difference in the fifth petition. In Matthew it is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive; here it is, Forgive us our sins, (which proves that our sins are our debts,)

for we forgive; not that our forgiving those that have offended us can merit pardon from God, or be an inducement to him to forgive us; he forgives for his own name’s sake, and his Son’s sake: but this is a very necessary qualification for forgiveness: and if God have wrought it in us, we may plead the work of his grace, for the enforcing of our petitions for the pardon of our sins; Lord, forgive us, for thou hast thyself inclined us to forgive others. There is another addition here; we plead not only in general, we forgive our debtors, but in particular we profess to forgive every one that is indebted to us, without exception. We so forgive our debtors, as not to bear malice or ill-will to any, but true love to all, without any exception whatsoever. Here also the doxology in the close is wholly omitted, and the Amen; for Christ would leave his disciples at liberty to use that, or any other doxology, fetched out of David’s Psalms; or rather, he left a space here to be filled up by a doxology more peculiar to the Christian institutes, ascribing glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


Verses 5-8

Luke 11:5-8. And he said, &c. — “Having, by a short form, taught his disciples that they were not in prayer to use a multiplicity of words, with vain repetitions; he proceeded to caution them, on the other hand, against coldness, indifference, and slackness in their supplications. The evil of this, and the necessity of asking affectionately, with importunity and perseverance, he taught them by a parable; in which he showed them, that importunity, that is, earnestness and frequency in asking, are the proper, natural expressions of strong desires, and, by consequence, that God very properly requires these things in men, before he bestows on them such favours as they stand in need of, just as he requires them to be earnestly desirous of these favours before he blesses them therewith.” — Macknight. Which of you shall have a friend, &c. — As if he had said, Who is there of you that has not observed the efficacy of importunate requests? If, for instance, he shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight — The most unseasonable time imaginable for asking a favour; and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves — Do me this favour on account of our mutual friendship; for a friend of mine — One to whom I am particularly indebted; in his journey is come to me — Having travelled so late and long, my friend is both weary and hungry; and I have nothing to set before him — A case certainly very urgent. And he from within — Being of a churlish disposition; shall answer and say, Trouble me not — Do not disturb me thus at so late an hour; what you ask will put me to a great deal of trouble: the door is now shut — And must have its locks and bolts opened, and my children are with me in bed — Or as τα παιδια μου μετεμου εις την κοιτην εισιν, may be rendered, my servants, together with me, are in bed. My servants are in bed as well as myself, and probably they are fast asleep, so that there is nobody at hand to give you what you want. I cannot rise and give thee — You cannot expect that I will rise and give you the loaves. I say unto you, Though he will not rise, &c. — This man, though he would not yield to the calls and influence of friendship, yet will he be prevailed upon by the force of importunity; because it shows both the greatness of the supplicant’s distress, and the earnestness of his desire.


Verse 9-10

Luke 11:9-10. I say unto you, Ask, &c. — Pray frequently, and be most earnest and importunate in your prayers, because thus you shall obtain whatsoever you ask agreeably to the will of God. For if importunity would prevail thus with a man that was displeased at it, much more will it prevail with God, who is infinitely more kind and ready to do good to us than we are one to another; and is not displeased at our importunity, but accepts it, especially when the object of it is spiritual mercies. If he do not answer our prayers, and grant our requests presently, yet he will answer them in due time, if we continue to pray and exercise faith in his power, love, and faithfulness. Ask, therefore, what God in his word authorizes you to ask, and what you are persuaded it would be for God’s glory that you should receive, and it shall be given you — Either the thing itself which you ask, or that which is equivalent; either the removal of the thorn in the flesh, or grace sufficient to enable you to bear it. Of this we have an assurance from Christ’s own mouth, who knows his Father’s mind, and in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen. But we must not only ask, we must also seek, in the use of means; must second our prayers with our endeavours; and in asking and seeking, we must continue urgent, still knocking at the same door, and we shall at length prevail. For every one that asketh receiveth — Even the meanest saint shall have his petition granted, that asks earnestly, importunately, and in faith. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, Psalms 34:6. When we ask of God those things which Christ, in the above prayer, has directed us to ask, namely, that his name may be sanctified; that his kingdom may come, and his will be done; — in these requests we must be importunate, and must never hold our peace day or night. See on Matthew 7:7-8; where the same passage occurs.


Verse 11-12

Luke 11:11-12. If a son shall ask bread of any of you — Further to assist your faith on these occasions, reflect upon the workings of your own hearts toward your offspring. Let any of you, that is a father, and knows the heart of a father, a father’s affection to, and care for, a child, say, if his son ask bread to satisfy his hunger, will he give him a stone — In the shape of a loaf? or, If he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent — Which has some resemblance of a fish; or if he ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion — Which, instead of nourishing him, might sting him to death?

Naturalists tell us, that the body of a scorpion is very like an egg, especially if the scorpion be of the white kind, which is the first species mentioned by Ælian, Avicenna, and others. Bochart has produced testimonies to prove that the scorpions in Judea were about the bigness of an egg; and therefore there, a white scorpion being very like an egg, might to children, who were not capable of distinguishing the one from the other, be offered in place thereof, if the person so doing meant that it should sting and destroy them. These different instances are mentioned by Jesus, in order that the doctrine which he is here inculcating might make the stronger impression upon his hearers. See on Matthew 7:9-11.


Verse 13

Luke 11:13. If ye then, being evil — If ye, who are, at least, comparatively evil, and perhaps inclined to a penurious and morose temper, yet know how to give good gifts to your children — And find your hearts disposed to relieve their returning necessities, by a variety of daily provisions; — if earthly parents, though evil, be yet so kind; if they, though weak, be yet so knowing, that they give with discretion, give what is best, in the best manner and time; much more shall your heavenly Father — Who has wrought these dispositions in you, and who infinitely excels the fathers of our flesh, as in power, so also in wisdom and goodness, be ready to bestow every necessary good, and even to give the best and most excellent gift of all, his Holy Spirit, to them that sincerely and earnestly ask him; a gift, inclusive of, or followed by, all the good things we ought to pray for; more than which, with its effects and consequences, we do not need, to make us wise, holy, happy, and useful; the Holy Spirit being the source of spiritual life to and in us here, and the earnest of eternal life hereafter; a gift which, therefore, it concerns us all earnestly, constantly, and perseveringly to pray for. Observe well, then, reader, both that it is our indispensable duty to ask this gift, and that we have all possible encouragement to believe that, if we ask aright, we shall not ask in vain. For as certainly as God’s power enables him, so certainly does his goodness incline him, and his promise bind him, to give it, and that to all those that ask as they are here directed.


Verses 14-23

Luke 11:14-23. And he was casting out a devil — See on Matthew 9:32-34; and Matthew 12:22-23. Some said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub — These he answers, Luke 11:17. Others, to try whether it were so or not, sought a sign from heaven — These he reproves, in the 29th and following verses. Beelzebub signifies the lord of flies, a title which the heathen gave to Jupiter, whom they accounted the chief of their gods, and yet supposed him to be employed in driving away flies from their temples and sacrifices. The Philistines worshipped a deity under this name as the god of Ekron: from hence the Jews took the name, and applied it to the chief of the devils. He, knowing their thoughts, &c. — See this whole paragraph explained, on Matthew 12:25-30. A house divided against a house — That is, one part of a family divided against, and contending with, an other part, falleth, cometh to inevitable ruin. If I cast out devils by the finger of God — That is, by a power manifestly divine. Perhaps the expression intimates further that it was done without any labour: no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you — Unawares, unexpectedly; so the expression, εφθασεν εφυμας, implies. When a strong man armed — Alluding to Satan, strong in himself, and armed with the pride, obstinacy, and security of him in whom he dwells.


Verses 24-26

Luke 11:24-26. When the unclean spirit — See notes on Matthew 12:43-45.


Verse 27-28

Luke 11:27-28. As he spake these things, a certain woman, &c. — While Jesus thus reasoned, in confutation of the Pharisees, a woman of the company, ravished with his wisdom, and perhaps believing him to be their long-expected Messiah, expressed her admiration of his character in an exclamation upon the happiness of the woman who had the honour of giving him birth; a thought very natural for a woman. But he said, Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it — As if he had said, The blessedness which you prize so much, and which could be enjoyed by one woman only, however great, is far inferior to a blessedness which is in every one’s power, namely, that which arises from the knowledge and practice of the will of God. If even she that bare me had not attended to this, she would have forfeited all her blessedness.


Verses 29-32

Luke 11:29-32. When the people were gathered thick together. — It seems, on this occasion, the multitude gathered round him in a great crowd, and pressed upon him, in expectation that he was going to show them the sign from heaven which some of them had required from him. But he repulsed them, by telling them that they were an evil race of men, who discovered a very perverse disposition, in seeking signs after so many miracles had been wrought by him; for which reason no greater sign should be given them than those they were daily beholding, except the sign of the Prophet Jonas. See notes on Matthew 12:38-42. They repented at the preaching of Jonas — But it was only for a season. Afterward they relapsed into wickedness, till (after about forty years) they were destroyed. It is remarkable, that in this also the comparison held. God reprieved the Jews for about forty years: but they still advanced in wickedness, till, having filled up their measure, they were destroyed with an utter destruction.


Verses 33-36

Luke 11:33-36. No man, when he hath lighted a candle — The meaning is, God gives you this gospel-light, that ye may repent. Let your eye be singly fixed on him, aim only at pleasing God; and while ye do this, your whole soul will be full of wisdom, holiness, and happiness. But when thine eye is evil — When thou aimest at any thing else, thou wilt be full of folly, sin, and misery. On the contrary, If thy whole body be full of light — If thou art filled with holy wisdom, having no part dark, giving way to no sin or folly, then that heavenly principle will, like the clear flame of a lamp in a room that was dark before, shed its light into all thy powers and faculties. For a fuller explanation of these verses, see notes on Matthew 5:15; Matthew 6:22-23; Mark 4:21-22.


Verse 37

Luke 11:37. And as he spake, a Pharisee besought him to dine with him — Our Lord having proved the truth of his mission, against the malicious cavils of his enemies, in the manner above stated, when he had made an end of speaking, one of the Pharisees present invited him to dine with him. It is not said whether he gave him the invitation as a mark of respect for him, or with an insidious design. The severity with which Jesus reproved the superstition of the Pharisees, while he sat at meat with them, and the malice which they discovered, in urging him to say things offensive to the magistrate or to the people, make it probable that the latter rather was the case. Nevertheless, he accepted the invitation, and went along with the Pharisee, and sat down at table without washing, as, it seems, all the other guests had done. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled, &c. — Expressed great surprise at our Lord’s showing such an open contempt of their traditions. And the Lord said, Now ye Pharisees — Probably many of them were present at the Pharisee’s house; make clean the outside of the cup, &c. — Ye are at great pains to keep every thing clean that touches your food, lest your bodies should be defiled in eating; but ye are at no pains to keep your minds clean from pollutions that are incomparably worse, — the pollutions of rapine, covetousness, and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without, &c. — Did not he, who made the body, make the soul also? Wherefore ye are grossly stupid and foolish, not to see, that, if God requires purity of body, because it is his own workmanship, he will much more insist on purity of mind, which is the nobler part of human nature. And therefore, instead of that scrupulousness with respect to meats and washings, which engrosses so much of your attention, you ought to apply yourselves to the duties of justice, mercy, and charity, as an evidence that your hearts are right with God, that you love him better than the world, and prefer the pleasing of him to amassing wealth, or attaining any temporal good. It is justly observed here, by Dr. Macknight, that “we are not to imagine alms-giving was particularly mentioned by Christ, in his exhortation to the Pharisees, because it is of greater value and necessity than the other virtues. He recommended it to that sect, because they were generally remarkable for their covetousness and extortion, vices which must be repented of, by making restitution to those who have been injured by them. And when these cannot be known or found, the compensation must be made to the poor, as having the next right; because what is given to them is lent to God; but the Pharisees were of an incorrigibly stubborn disposition, which no instruction, however mild or persuasive, could influence; wherefore our Lord, on this occasion, wisely treated them with a kind and wholesome severity, denouncing most dreadful woes against them for being so zealous in the ceremonial institutions of religion, while they utterly neglected the precepts of morality.” Wo unto you — That is, miserable are you. In the same manner is the phrase to be understood throughout the chapter; for ye tithe, &c. — Ye pay tithes of these things, and pass over judgment and the love of God — Ye show such care and exactness in performing ceremonial precepts, that ye do not neglect even the least of them; but the great duties of godliness and righteousness, of the love of God and all mankind, and the duties of truth, justice, mercy, and charity, flowing therefrom, ye utterly neglect, as things of no importance in comparison. Nevertheless, these ought ye to have done — The duties of piety and morality ought to have been the principal objects of your care, while, at the same time, the other should not have been left undone. See on Matthew 23:23-26.


Verse 43-44

Luke 11:43-44. Wo unto you, for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, &c. — Here he denounces the judgment of God against them for their pride, which was so excessive, that it appeared in their carriage in the streets, and at all public meetings. See on Matthew 23:6-7. Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees — In this wo he joins the scribes with the Pharisees, and condemns the hypocrisy of both. For ye are as graves, &c. — Under a show of humility and contempt of the world, you are proud, voluptuous, and rapacious, and so resemble concealed graves, which are apt to pollute those who walk over them. Or, as graves appear not when overgrown with grass, so that men are not aware till they stumble upon them, and either hurt themselves, or, at least, are defiled by touching them, so your deceit, hypocrisy, and wickedness are not discovered, being hid under the appearance of strict sanctity which you put on; but, nevertheless, these your vices defile and injure many. On another occasion Christ compared them to whited sepulchres, fair without, but foul within. See on Matthew 23:27-28.


Verse 45

Luke 11:45. Then answered one of the lawyers, &c. — A doctor, or interpreter of the law. The Jewish lawyers (as our translation not very properly terms them) were the most considerable species of scribes, who applied themselves peculiarly to study and explain the law. Probably many of them were Pharisees, but it was no ways essential to their office that they should be so. What touched the person here speaking was, that our Lord, in his last wo, Luke 11:44, had joined the scribes with the Pharisees. Master, thus saying, thou reproachest us — The rebuke which thou hast given the scribes and Pharisees in so general a way, affects us lawyers also. And he said, Wo unto you also, ye lawyers — The lawyers, even of the Pharisean denomination, had done unspeakable mischief by their erroneous interpretation of Scripture, which they perverted to favour the tradition of the elders as much as possible, and so bound heavy burdens on men’s shoulders, which they themselves would not touch with one of their fingers. Jesus, therefore, spake his mind freely concerning them also, laid open their character, and denounced further woes against them. Wo unto you, for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets — He blames them for building the sepulchres of the prophets, because they did it from no regard to the murdered prophets, though in words they pretended to venerate their memory, but in order to make an ostentation of their piety. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers — By all your conduct you show that inwardly, in your minds, you approve of the deeds of your fathers, who persecuted the prophets; for they killed them, and ye build their sepulchres — You are men of precisely the same character and disposition with them; hypocrites, who covered the grossest acts of wickedness with the specious appearance of piety. For like them you pretend great reverence for the ancient prophets, while ye destroy those whom God sends to yourselves. Ye therefore bear witness, by this deep hypocrisy, that you are of the very same spirit with them. Or, more at large, thus: “From your known disposition, as well as from your open practice, which is to trample upon the laws of God, as often as they stand in the way of your wicked purposes, and particularly from your persecuting the messengers of God, one is obliged to think that you build the sepulchres of the prophets whom your fathers killed, not from any pious regard for God, whose messengers they were, nor to do honour to the prophets themselves, but to do honour to their murderers, as approving of their deeds, and intending to perpetuate the memory of them to posterity with applause. The great men among the Jews always possessed the true spirit of politicians. In the time of the prophets they made no scruple to kill persons, whom they knew to be the messengers of God, because, forsooth, the good of the state required it. In our Saviour’s time, Caiaphas, the high- priest, openly avowed this principle in a full meeting of the grandees. For when some were opposing the resolution of the major part of the council, who had determined to kill Jesus, and urged the unlawfulness of the action, he told them plainly that they were a parcel of ignorant bigots, who knew nothing at all either of the principles or ends of government, which render it necessary oft-times to sacrifice the most innocent for the safety of the community. Therefore also said the wisdom of God — Agreeably to this the wisdom of God hath said, in many places of Scripture, though not in these very words, I will send them prophets, &c. — Because you imitate the ways of your fathers, by persecuting the messengers of God; because you carry your wickedness to as great a pitch as your fathers did; for these reasons God hath declared his last resolutions concerning you: he hath said, I will send them prophets and apostles, yea, and my beloved Son, notwithstanding I know they will persecute and slay them: That the blood of all the prophets, &c. — That by this last and greatest act of rebellion, the iniquity of the nation being completed, God may at length testify how much he was displeased with this people from the beginning, for persecuting and murdering his prophets, and that by sending upon the generation which completed the iniquity of the nation, such signal judgments as should evidently appear to be the punishment of that great and accumulated wickedness, committed by them in their several successive generations. Verily I say, It shall be required of this generation — And so it was within forty years, in a most astonishing manner, by the dreadful destruction of the temple, the city, and the nation. The justice of such a procedure every thinking person will acknowledge, who considers that sins committed by men, as constituting a body politic, can only be punished in the present life; the proper punishment of national sins being national judgments, even such judgments as dissolve the transgressing state. And these the providence of God thinks necessary for its own vindication, always inflicting them upon nations, when the measure fixed upon by God for punishment is filled up, that the wrath of God being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, the nations of the world may be awed and kept in subjection to the government of God. See on Matthew 23:29-33.


Verse 52

Luke 11:52. Wo unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge — Ye have obscured and destroyed the true knowledge of the Messiah, which is the key both of the present and the future kingdom of heaven. Or, by your wrong interpretations of Scripture, you have filled the people with strong prejudices against the gospel, so that you not only reject it yourselves, but hinder others from receiving it. See on Matthew 23:13.


Verse 53-54

Luke 11:53-54. As he said these things, the scribes and Pharisees began to urge him — The freedom which Jesus now took with the Pharisee and his guests, provoked them exceedingly, for they were guilty of the crimes which he laid to their charge; and to be revenged, they urged him to speak upon a variety of topics relative to religion and government, hoping that he might let something drop which would render him either obnoxious to the magistrate or to the people.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 11:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/luke-11.html. 1857.

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Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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