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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Luke 18

 

 

Verse 1

Luke 18:1. And he spake, &c. — ελεγε δε και παραβολην αυτοις. He also spake a parable to them. The particle δε, here used, plainly implies, that this parable has a relation to the preceding discourse, of which indeed it is a continuation, but which is improperly interrupted by the division of the chapters. There is in it, and in the following parable, a particular reference to the distress and trouble they were soon to meet with from their persecutors, which would render the duties of prayer, patience, and perseverance peculiarly seasonable. That men ought always to pray — At all times, on all occasions, or frequently, (as the word παντοτε, here rendered always, signifies, John 18:20,) and not to faint — Under their trials, not to despond, or yield to evils, as εκκακειν, here used, signifies, so as to be wearied out by them, and cease from prayer, as unavailing to procure relief. It frequently happens, that after men have prayed for any particular blessing, they desist, because God does not immediately grant them their petition. To show the evil of this, and to recommend importunity and perseverance in prayer especially when we are in pursuit of any spiritual mercy or mercies, relating either to ourselves, our friends, or the church of God, the present parable is introduced. As delivered on this occasion, it seems to have been principally designed to inspire the disciples with earnestness and perseverance in their prayers for the coming of the Son of man to destroy the Jewish constitution, notwithstanding God should long defer the accomplishment of their desire. For this event is represented, not only here, but in several other passages of Scripture, as a thing exceedingly to be wished for in those days. The reason was, the Jews in every country were their bitterest persecutors, and the chief opposers of Christianity. See Luke 21:28; Hebrews 10:25; James 5:7; 1 Peter 4:7. Independent of this, however, in the course of his ministry, our Lord often recommended frequency, earnestness, and perseverance in prayer, not because God is, or can be, ever tired out with our importunity; but because it is both an expression and exercise of our firm belief of, and confidence in, his power and goodness, without which it would not be fit for God to bestow his blessings upon us, nor would we be capable of receiving and using them. See on Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-8. Of continual praying, see on 1 Thessalonians 5:17.


Verses 2-5

Luke 18:2-5. There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, &c. — This magistrate, being governed by atheistical principles, had no inducement from religion to do justice; at the same time, being very powerful, he did not regard what men said or thought of him; wherefore, in all his decisions, he was influenced merely by passion or interest. And there was a widow, &c., and she came, saying, Avenge me of, or rather, as εκδικησον με means, do me justice on, mine adversary — The word properly signifies, to judge a cause, and defend the injured judicially from the injurious person. The English word avenge, therefore, does not exactly hit the sense here intended, although, as Dr. Campbell observes, in the application of the parable, Luke 18:7, it answers better than any other term. This widow, having no friends to assist her, could neither defend herself from injuries, nor obtain satisfaction for them when committed; hence, in an instance where she was greatly oppressed, she found herself obliged to petition the judge for redress. This he would not grant for a while — He was so addicted to his pleasures, and of so indolent a disposition, that he would not put himself to the trouble of even examining her cause, notwithstanding that the grievous injustice which had been done to her pleaded powerfully in her behalf. But afterward he said — Or thought within himself; Though I fear not God — And therefore will not do this widow justice through the influence of any dread I have of his displeasure; nor regard man — Nor fear being called to an account for my neglect by any superior among men. Yet, because this widow troubleth me — With the repeated representations of her case; I will avenge her — I will do her justice; lest by her continual coming she weary me — “The word υπωπιαζη με, properly signifies, to beat on the face, and particularly under the eye, and hence to beat in general, as 1 Corinthians 9:27. In this passage it has a metaphorical meaning, and here signifies to give great pain, such as arises from severe beating. The sense of the clause, therefore, is, that the uneasy feelings which this widow raised in the judge’s breast, by the moving representations which she gave him of her distress, affected him to such a degree that he could not bear it, and therefore, to be rid of those feelings, he resolved to do her justice. The passage, understood in this sense, has a peculiar advantage, as it throws a beautiful light on our Lord’s argument, Luke 18:6-7, and lays a proper foundation for the conclusion which it contains.”


Verses 6-8

Luke 18:6-8. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith — “If the repeated, importunate cries of the afflicted do at length make an impression on the hearts even of men so wicked as to glory in their impiety, injustice, and barbarity, they will much more be regarded by God; most gracious, who is ever ready to bestow his choicest blessings, when he sees his creatures fit to receive them. Arguments of this kind, taken from the feeling goodness, or even from the imperfections of men, to illustrate the superior and infinite perfections of God, were often made use of by Jesus, and with great success, in working the conviction designed. Such appeals force their way directly into men’s hearts, bear down all opposition, and make a lasting impression.” And shall not God avenge his own elect, &c. — So the true disciples of Christ are continually termed in the New Testament, being chosen of God to be his peculiar people instead of the Jews, whom he rejected because they rejected Christ: who cry to him day and night

A just description this of God’s real people; though he bear long with them Though God may bear long with the wicked, and seem deaf to the cries which his people send up to his throne day and night for deliverance, the just view which he has of their affliction will, in due time, move him to punish severely their enemies. Though this was spoken, as has been intimated above, with a particular reference to the destruction of the Jews, described in the preceding prophecy, yet the sentiment expressed is applicable to all cases in which God’s people are oppressed by their enemies. I tell you, he will avenge them speedily — “Or rather, suddenly; for so εν ταχει may signify. Besides, Scripture and experience teach us, that in most cases punishment is not speedily executed against the evil works of evil men; but that when the divine patience ends, oftentimes destruction overtaketh the wicked as a whirlwind, and by its suddenness becomes the more heavy.” To understand the passage thus, “removes the seeming opposition between this clause and the end of the precedent verse, the reconciling of which has given rise to several strained criticisms, and probably to the various readings found there; not to mention, that it agrees exactly with the subject in hand, the destruction of the Jewish nation having been represented by our Lord in this very discourse, as what would be exceeding sudden and heavy. See Luke 17:24.” — Macknight. Thus also Dr. Doddridge: “It is plain God might wait long, and yet at length execute a speedy and sudden vengeance. Compare Psalms 73:19; Habakkuk 2:3; and especially Sirach 35:18; to which Grotius supposes there is an allusion here.” Several other interpretations of the passage have been proposed, but none of them appear to be so probable as this, nor to be justified by the text. When the Son of man cometh — Namely, to execute judgment on the Jewish nation; shall he find faith on the earth? — Or rather, in the land; namely, the land of Judea; the word γη often signifying, not the earth in general, but some particular land, or country, as in Acts 7:3-4; Acts 7:11, and in numberless other places. The believing Hebrews were evidently in great danger of being wearied out with their persecutions and distresses. Or, by faith here may be meant the belief of the particular truth which Christ had been inculcating, namely, that God would, in due time, avenge his elect, and signally punish their oppressors; and the question may imply, that when Christ should come for that purpose, faith in his coming would be in a great measure lost. Accordingly, it appears from 2 Peter 3:4, that many infidels and apostates scoffed at the expectation of Christ’s coming, which the godly in those days cherished.


Verse 9-10

Luke 18:9-10. And he spake this parable — Having in the preceding parable guarded his disciples against faintness and weariness in prayer, he here guards them against the contrary extreme of self-confidence: unto certain — For the conviction of certain persons in his train; who trusted in themselves that they were righteous — Who had a high opinion of their own piety, and on that account despised others as greatly inferior to them, both in holiness and in the favour of God. Observe, reader, these persons were, properly speaking, not hypocrites: the Pharisee here mentioned was evidently not a hypocrite, any more than he was an outward adulterer; but, mistaking his real state and character, he sincerely believed himself to be righteous, and accordingly told God so in the prayer which none but God heard. Two men went up into the temple to pray — It seems it was not the hour of public prayer, but they went thither to offer up their personal devotions, as was usual with pious people at that time, when the temple was not only the place, but the medium of worship; God having promised, in answer to Solomon’s request, that whatever prayer should be offered in a right manner in, or toward that house, it should, therefore, the rather be accepted. Christ is our temple, and to him we must have an eye in all our approaches to God. One a Pharisee — As if he had said, One of that sect so honoured among them; and the other a publican — Whom they were used to number with the most contemptible of mankind.


Verse 11-12

Luke 18:11-12. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself — The original clause, σταθεις προς εαυτον ταυτα προσηυχετο, it seems, should rather be rendered, standing by himself prayed these things. Read thus, it is characteristical of the sect, who always affected to dread pollution from the touch of those whom they considered as their inferiors in piety. Thus this Pharisee kept himself at as great a distance as he could from the miserable sinner who had entered the temple with him, as if he feared being defiled by coming near him, or any other person less holy than himself. God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men — That is, not as the generality of my countrymen; extortioners, ( αρπαγες, rapacious,) unjust, adulterers — Such are they, but I thank God I am not like them: or even as this publican — A great many good things he here says of himself, which we may suppose to be true. 1st, He was free from gross and scandalous sins. He was not an extortioner, not a usurer, nor an oppressor to his debtors or tenants, but equitable and kind to all dependant upon him: and not rapacious, seizing other men’s property under false pretences. He was not unjust in any of his dealings, did no wrong to any man; did not take advantage of any man’s ignorance, want of experience, or necessity, in buying or selling. He was not an adulterer, but had possessed his vessel in sanctification and honour. 2d, He attended the ordinances of God, and used all the means of grace, and not only those that were most commonly used, such as reading the word of God and prayer, but even fasting; yea, he fasted twice in the week, and that partly as an act of temperance, and partly as a help to devotion. This the Pharisees and their disciples were wont to do, keeping two private fasts every week, namely, on Mondays and Thursdays, as the primitive Christians did on Wednesdays and Fridays. Thus he glorified God with his body. Yet this was not all, for, 3d, He gave tithes of all that he possessed, according to the law, and so glorified God with his property. Many of the Pharisees were wont to give one full tenth of their income to the house and worship of God, and another tenth in alms to the poor. The sum of this plea is, I do no harm; I use all the means of grace; and I do all the good in my power. This was his righteousness, and of this righteousness, it must be observed, he gives God the glory, at least in appearance, ascribing it not to himself but to God, for he says, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men, &c. — And yet this Pharisee, notwithstanding all this, was not in a state of acceptance with God, but in a state of guilt, condemnation, and wrath. And what then will become of many professing Christians, who are so far from going beyond this Pharisee in any of these branches of righteousness, that they fall far short of him in every one of them. But why was not this Pharisee accepted of God? 1st, Because he trusted in this righteousness, (which, after all, was very imperfect,) not being acquainted with himself, nor knowing how far he came short of the glory of God, and how he was involved in sin and guilt. Hence he was not humbled before God, nor brought to experience that true repentance toward him, without which there is no forgiveness. 2d, Because he evidently thought highly of himself; nay, and boasted of his fancied righteousness, dwelling upon it with delight, even in his prayers; as if all his business at the temple had been to tell God Almighty how good he was. He went up to the temple indeed to pray, but, it appears, forgot his errand: for in what he said there is not one word of prayer: he was so full of himself, and his own goodness, that he thought he had need of nothing, no, not of the favour and grace of God. 3d, His giving God thanks for his righteousness, although, if it had been done in a proper spirit, it would have been a good thing, yet in him seems to have been a mere piece of formality, savouring of pride; and being, properly speaking, a praising of himself rather than of God; and such a praising of himself as implied the highest contempt of others, and particularly of his fellow-worshipper, the publican.


Verse 13-14

Luke 18:13-14. And the publican, standing afar off — 1st, Under a sense of his being unworthy to be permitted to draw near to God, or to go up among his people into the court of Israel, though probably a Jew, he stood at a distance in the court of the Gentiles, probably without the stone wall, termed by the apostle, the middle wall of partition, which Gentiles and unclean Israelites were not permitted to pass. Or, if it seem more probable, from the Pharisee’s mentioning him in his prayer, that he was in the same court with him, and within his view, as Salmasius thinks, then, his standing afar off implies, that he came no farther than the gate, being so self-abased that he would not go near the Pharisee, whom he esteemed much more holy than himself. Thus he owned that God might justly behold him afar off, and send him into a state of eternal distance from him, and that it was a great favour that God was pleased to admit him thus nigh. 2d, Standing thus at a distance, he would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven — Much less his hands, as was usual in prayer. He lifted up his heart indeed to God in holy desires; but, through shame and humiliation, did not lift up his eyes in holy confidence and courage. His iniquities were gone over his head as a heavy burden, so that he was not able to look up; and his downcast looks were an indication of the dejection of his mind at the thoughts of his sinfulness and guilt. 3d, He smote upon his breast — In a holy indignation at himself for sin. “The sinner’s heart first smites him in a penitent rebuke, 2 Samuel 24:10; and then he smites his heart with penitent remorse.” — Henry. 4th, His address to God was the very reverse of that of the Pharisee: as full of humility and humiliation, as the Pharisee’s was of pride and ostentation; as full of repentance for sin, and desire toward God, as his was of confidence in himself and his own righteousness and sufficiency. This prayer of the publican was short; fear and shame hindered him from saying much, sighs and groans swallowed up his words: but what he said was to the purpose, God be merciful to me a sinner — Observe, reader, 1st, He owns himself to be a sinner, and guilty before God, which the Pharisee did not, but spoke as if he were pure from sin. 2d, He has no dependance but upon the mercy of God. The Pharisee had insisted upon the merit of his unblameable conduct, his fastings and tithes; but the poor publican disclaims all thought of merit, and flees to mercy as his city of refuge. 3d, He earnestly prays for the benefit of that mercy, O God, be merciful, be propitious, to me, forgive my sins; be reconciled to me, and receive me graciously. And blessed be God that we have his prayer on record as a prayer answered. Our Lord Jesus, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secret is hid, who is perfectly acquainted with all proceedings in the court of heaven, assures us that this poor, broken-hearted penitent went to his house justified rather than the other — And so shall we, if we pray for the same blessing in the same spirit of penitence, humility, and fervour, through Jesus Christ. The Pharisee, doubtless, thought if one of them must be justified, and not the other, certainly it must be he rather than the publican. But Christ affirms the contrary: I tell you, says he, with the utmost assurance, and declare it to you as a most momentous and interesting truth, which it concerns you all to believe and lay to heart, that this publican was justified, and not the Pharisee. The self-righteous Pharisee goes away rejected, his sins are not pardoned, nor is he delivered from condemnation; but the publican, upon his penitent and humble address, obtains what he asked; and him, whom the Pharisee would not have set with the dogs of his flock, God sets with the children of his family! Christ, having finished the parable, made an application of it to the persons for whose sake chiefly it was delivered, by repeating his favourite and well-known maxim, He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. See on Matthew 23:12.

Upon the whole, “this parable teaches us several important lessons: as, that the generality of men are great strangers to themselves, and ignorant of their own characters; that they oftentimes thank God in words, while their hearts are by no means penetrated with a due sense of them; that a man may be very ready to censure others, without ever forming a thought of reforming himself; and that, in a certain sense, we may be clear of open and scandalous sins, while we are full of inward spiritual wickedness, pride, envy, malice, and hypocrisy. To conclude: by propounding this parable immediately after that of the importunate widow, our Lord has taught us, that although our prayers must be very earnest and frequent, they should always be accompanied with the deepest humility; because no disposition of mind is more proper for such weak and frail beings as men to appear with before the great God, than an absolute self-abasement.” — Macknight.


Verses 15-17

Luke 18:15-17. They brought unto him infants, &c. — The contents of these verses we had Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; where see the notes. The passage very fitly follows the story of the publican, as a confirmation of the truth which was to be illustrated by that parable, that those shall be accepted with God and honoured, who humble themselves, and that Christ has in store for them the choicest and best blessings.


Verses 18-30

Luke 18:18-30. And a certain ruler — The following account is given us both by Matthew and Mark; from whom we learn, that he was a young man, and very rich: but only Luke informs us that he was a ruler, or magistrate. For an explanation at large of this whole paragraph, see notes on Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-27. Yet lackest thou one thing Namely, to love God more than mammon. Our Saviour knew his heart, and presently put him upon a trial which laid it open to the ruler himself. And to cure his love of the world, which could not in him be cured otherwise, Christ commanded him to sell all that he had. But he does not command us to do this; but to use all to the glory of God.


Verses 31-34

Luke 18:31-34. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, &c. — See notes on Matthew 22:17-19; Mark 10:32-34. They understood none of these things — They could not but understand the literal meaning of what our Lord said. But as they could not reconcile this to their preconceived opinion of the Messiah’s kingdom, they were utterly at a loss in what parabolical, or figurative sense to take what he said concerning his sufferings; having their thoughts still taken up with the temporal kingdom.


Verses 35-43

Luke 18:35-43. A certain blind man, &c. — Of the miracle here recorded, see on Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 18:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/luke-18.html. 1857.

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Friday, January 17th, 2020
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