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Bible Commentaries

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

 

 

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Verse 1

Matthew 11:1. When Jesus had made an end of commanding, that is, of giving instruction to his twelve disciples, and thereby of preparing them for the service they were now to undertake, he departed to teach and preach in their cities — The other cities of Israel, being unwearied and constant in his great work.


Verses 2-6

Matthew 11:2-6. Now when John had heard in the prison (into which he had been cast by Herod Antipas, a little after he began his public ministry, chap. Matthew 4:12, and Matthew 14:3, &c.) of the works of Christ — That is, of some of his many miracles, &c. — He sent two of his disciples — Not, as is probable, because he doubted himself, but to confirm their faith. And said, Art thou he that should come — Namely, the Messiah? Or look we for another — Under that character? “Considering what clear evidence John had received by a miraculous sign from heaven that Jesus was the Messiah, (see John 1:33,) and what express and repeated testimonies he himself had borne to this truth, it cannot reasonably be supposed that he now doubted of it. But some of his disciples, offended and discouraged by his long imprisonment, as well as the freedom of Christ’s conversation, so different from the austerity used by their master and his disciples, might begin to call it in question, and therefore John might think it necessary to put them in the way of obtaining further satisfaction.” — Doddridge. Now at this very time, according to Luke, (Luke 7:21,) Jesus cured many of their infirmities and plagues, &c. He therefore said to these disciples, Go and show John those things which ye hear and see — Which are a stronger proof of my being the Messiah than any bare assertions can be. Comp. Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 61:1. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me — Or brought to doubt my being the Messiah on account of the mean circumstances in which I appear. For many will be induced to question it, notwithstanding all the evidences I have given, and shall give of it.


Verses 7-10

Matthew 11:7-10. And as they departed — Or, as Luke has it, when they were departed, Jesus began to say concerning John — What he would not say concerning him in the hearing of these his disciples, lest he should seem to flatter him, or to compliment him into an adherence to his former testimony. To avoid all suspicion of this kind, he deferred his commendation of him till the messengers were gone: and then delivered it to the people, to prevent all imaginations as if John were wavering in his judgment, and had sent the two disciples for his own rather than their satisfaction. What went ye out into the wilderness, in which he preached, to see? A reed shaken by the wind — That is, a man of an unstable disposition, of a weak and cowardly conduct? In this question, which implies a strong negation, the invincible courage and constancy of the Baptist are applauded. His imprisonment for reproving King Herod showed that he was not afraid of men; and as for his constancy, though it might seem a little shaken by the message which he sent, it was not impaired by it in the least. For his faith in Christ could not but remain inviolable, as it had been founded on a particular revelation, and on the visible descent of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by a voice from heaven, declaring him to be the Son of God. A man clothed in soft raiment — An effeminate courtier, accustomed to fawning and flattery? You may expect to find persons of such a character in palaces, not in a wilderness. In this question, the austere and mortified life of the Baptist is praised, and the spiritual nature of the Messiah’s kingdom insinuated. His forerunner did not resemble any of the officers who attend the courts of earthly princes, and consequently Christ himself was in no respect to be like an earthly prince. A prophet? yea, and more (Luke, much more) than a prophet — John justly deserved to be called a prophet, because he excelled in every thing peculiar to a prophet. He was commissioned by God, and had immediate communication with him, John 1:33; he foretold that the kingdom of heaven, spoken of by Daniel, was at hand. He pointed out the Messiah by revelation. He declared the terrible judgments that were to befall the Jews on account of their impenitence, their unbelief, and their rejecting the Messiah, Luke 3:17. And he was more than a prophet, inasmuch as he was the Messiah’s harbinger, sent to prepare the way before him, (see note on Malachi 3:1,) an office which clothed him with a dignity superior to that of a simple prophet; not to mention that he had the honour of baptizing the Messiah himself.


Verse 11

Matthew 11:11. Among them that are born of women — That is, among the whole race of mankind in all former ages, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist — As John, with regard to his religious and moral character, was the best of men, so he had some peculiar honours superior to any prophet of former generations. “Our Lord,” says Macknight, “honoured the Baptist with the magnificent title of the greatest of all the prophets, under the law, for four reasons. 1st, He was the subject of ancient prophecies, and had long been expected by the people of God under the character of Elias, a name given him by Malachi, because he was to possess the spirit and power of Elias. 2d, His conception and birth had been accompanied with miracles. 3d, When the season of his inspiration came, he was favoured with a clearer revelation concerning the Messiah than had been enjoyed by any of the prophets under the law. 4th, By his preaching he prepared the Jews for receiving the gospel, and consequently began that more excellent dispensation.” Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven — That is, in the gospel dispensation, when fully opened, understood, and enjoyed in all its privileges and blessings, is greater than he — For Christ’s ministers, and even his real people in general, under the gospel, were to receive superior supplies of the Spirit, and know many important truths respecting our Lord and his kingdom which had not been revealed to John himself. So Doddridge understands the clause. But Baxter confines it to Christ’s ministers, paraphrasing the verse thus: “There hath not been a greater than John before him; as being nearest the kingdom of the Messiah: but yet the least of my ministers in this my kingdom is greater than he, and shall have more eminent gifts of the Spirit, as well as a more excellent office and work; so far shall my kingdom, begun after my ascension, excel all ages that were before it.” Others, again, think the expression, is greater than he, is only applicable to Christ’s first servants, namely, the apostles and evangelists, and New Testament prophets, and interpret the words thus: “Though the Baptist excelled all the preceding prophets, the least inspired person in the kingdom of heaven, the least apostle or preacher of the gospel, was a greater prophet than he, being much better acquainted with the character, disposition, and doctrine of Christ. They were also employed, not in making preparation for, but in erecting the Messiah’s kingdom; hence they were greater than the Baptist in respect of the dignity of their office. Moreover, having gifts bestowed on them to fit them for that office, far superior to his, they were greater in respect of their illumination. They had the Spirit so dwelling in them, that, on all occasions they could declare the will of God infallibly, being, as it were, living oracles. To conclude, as they had likewise been the subjects of ancient oracles, Acts 2:16, they had long been expected by the people of God.”


Verse 12

Matthew 11:12. And from the days of John the Baptist — That is, from the time he had borne his public testimony to the approach of the Messiah, or from the time when he had fulfilled his ministry, the kingdom of heaven — The dispensation which admits all persons equally, upon their repentance and faith, suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force — The spirits of men are so excited and animated by a desire after this kingdom, that it is, as it were, attacked like a besieged city, men of all sorts pressing to get into it, with a violence like that of men who are taking a place by storm. As if he had said, “Multitudes are flocking around me, to be instructed in the nature of my kingdom; and some, who were formerly of most licentious characters, and looked upon as utterly unfit to be subjects of the Messiah’s kingdom, are resolutely set on enjoying the blessings of it.” He that hath ears to hear, let him hear — A kind of proverbial expression, requiring the deepest attention to what is spoken.


Verses 16-19

Matthew 11:16-19. Whereunto shall I liken this generation — That is, the men of this age? They are like those froward children, of whom their fellows complain that they will be pleased no way. Saying, We have piped unto you, &c. — “It was usual in Judea, at feasts, to have music of an airy kind, accompanied with dancing, Luke 15:25; and at funerals, melancholy airs, to which were joined the lamentations of persons hired for that purpose. The children, therefore, in that country, imitating these things in their diversions, while one band of them performed the musical part, if the other, happening to be froward, would not answer them by dancing or lamenting, as the game directed, it naturally gave occasion to this complaint, We have piped, &c, which at length was turned into a proverb.” John came neither eating nor drinking — In a rigorous, austere way, like Elijah. And they say, He hath a devil — He is melancholy from the influence of an evil spirit. So, it is probable, the Pharisees in particular said. The Son of man came eating and drinking — Conversing in a free, familiar way. And they say, Behold a man gluttonous, &c. — Jesus did not practise those mortifications which rendered the Baptist remarkable. He fared like other men, and went into mixed companies, not avoiding the society even of publicans and sinners, but neither would they hear him; for, notwithstanding he maintained the strictest temperance himself, and never encouraged the vices of others, either by dissimulation or example, they attributed that free way of living to a certain laxness of principle, or unholiness of disposition. But wisdom is justified of her children — That is, my wisdom herein is acknowledged by all those who are truly wise, and all such will justify all God’s dispensations toward them in order to their salvation, and will entirely acquiesce therein.


Verses 20-24

Matthew 11:20-24. Then began he to upbraid the cities — Which he had often blessed with his presence, and in which he had preached many awakening sermons, and performed many astonishing miracles. It is observable, he had never upbraided them before. Indeed, at first they had received him with all gladness, Capernaum in particular. Wo unto thee, Chorazin, &c. — That is, miserable art thou. For these are not curses or imprecations, as has been commonly supposed; but a solemn, compassionate declaration of the misery they were bringing on themselves. Chorazin and Bethsaida were cities of Galilee, standing by the lake of Gennesareth, in which and the neighbouring places Jesus spent a great part of his public life. See notes on chap. Matthew 4:13-16. If the mighty works — The great miracles, which were done in you, had been done [of old] in Tyre and Sidon — Though cities inhabited by heathen, and remarkable for their luxury, pride, and contempt of religion, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes — That is, they would have exercised the deepest repentance, for sackcloth and ashes were used by the Jews in token of the bitterest grief. But I say unto you — Besides this general denunciation of wo to those stubborn unbelievers, I declare particularly that the degree of their misery will be greater than even that of Tyre and Sidon, yea, of Sodom. And thou, Capernaum, &c. — He mentions Capernaum separately by itself, and last of all, because, being the place of his ordinary residence, it had been blessed with more of his sermons and miracles than any other town. Nevertheless it abounded with wickedness of all kinds, and therefore he compared it to that city which, on account of the greatness of its crimes, had been the most terrible example of the divine displeasure that ever the world had beheld. It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, &c. — That is, the condition of the inhabitants even of the land of Sodom, in the day of the final judgment, shall be more tolerable than thy condition. For thy condemnation shall rise in proportion to thy more aggravated guilt, and to those more valuable mercies and privileges which thou hast abused. Dr. Hammond understands this passage as referring to the temporal calamities to come on those places by the Romans; who did indeed shortly after overrun the whole country, and made dreadful ravages in some of those cities. But, as Doddridge justly observes, “There is no evidence that the destruction of those cities was more dreadful than that of Tyre and Sidon, and it was certainly less so than that of Sodom and Gomorrah: besides, our Lord plainly speaks of a judgment that was yet to come on all these places that he mentions.” From this passage, therefore, we learn “two important particulars: 1st, That the punishments to be inflicted upon wicked men in the life to come shall not be all equal, but in exact proportion to the demerit of the sins of each. 2d, That great and signal punishments, befalling sinners in this life, will not screen them from the wrath of God in the life to come; for Jesus Christ, the judge, here declares that Sodom, though burned by fire and brimstone from heaven, shall suffer such dreadful things, that, in speaking of the pains of the damned, he mentions this city as an example of very great punishment.” — Macknight.


Verse 25-26

Matthew 11:25-26. At that time Jesus answered, &c. — This word does not always imply that something had been spoken, to which an answer is now made. It often means no more than the speaking in reference to some action or circumstance preceding. The following words Christ speaks in reference to the case of the cities above mentioned: I thank thee — That is, I acknowledge and joyfully adore the justice and mercy of thy dispensations. The original word, εξομολογουμαι, sometimes denotes to confess sins, sometimes to acknowledge favours, and sometimes also to adore or celebrate. It is chiefly in the last of these senses that the word is to be here understood. Because thou hast hid — That is because thou hast suffered these things to be hid from men, who are in other respects wise and prudent, while thou hast discovered them to those of the weakest understanding, to them who are only wise to God-ward. We have the same idiom, Romans 6:17, God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed, &c. — The thanks are not given for their having been formerly the servants of sin, but for their being then obedient. “It seems they were but a few, and those generally the lower sort of people, who embraced Christ’s doctrine, and co-operated with him in erecting his kingdom; nor was his religion soon to meet with a better reception in the other countries where it was to be preached; circumstances which, in the eyes of common wisdom, were melancholy and mortifying. But our Lord foresaw that, by the direction of God, these very circumstances would become the noblest demonstrations of his personal dignity, the clearest proofs of the excellence of his religion, and the most stupendous instances of his power, who, by such weak instruments, established his dominion in every part of the habitable world, against the policy, the power, and the malice of devils and men combined to oppose it. Our Lord, therefore, properly made the rejection of the gospel by the great men of the nation, and the reception of it by persons in lower stations, the matter of a special thanksgiving, both now and afterward in Judea, Luke 10:21. νηπιοι, babes, in Scripture language, are persons whose faculties are not improved by learning, but who, to that sagacity and understanding which is purely natural, join the dispositions of modesty, sincerity, humility, docility, and all the other engaging qualities that are to be found in children. This is plain from Matthew 18:3. Babes, therefore, stand in opposition, not to men of sound judgment and reason, but to proud politicians and men of learning, who are so full of themselves that they disdain to receive instruction from others, and who make all their abilities subservient to their advancement in this world.” — Macknight.


Verse 27

Matthew 11:27. All things are delivered unto me, &c. — Here our Lord seems to address, not so much his disciples, as those of the people that stood near him, with a reference to what he had last spoken. As if he had said, Do not be led, by the example of your great and learned men, to slight and despise me; for mean and humble as my circumstances now appear, all things relating to the salvation of mankind are delivered into my hands, even all authority, power, and judgment. And no man knoweth the Son, but the Father — No one knoweth the mystery of his person, his character, and dignity; no one knoweth what he has done, and what he is yet to do, for the salvation of the world; save the Father that sent him. “These words evidently declare that there is something inexplicably mysterious in the nature and person of Christ; which indeed appears in the most convincing manner, from the account elsewhere given of his Deity in Scripture.” Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, &c. — Neither can any one savingly know God the Father, but the Son, by whom alone he is fully comprehended in his nature and attributes, his counsels and dispensations, his works and ways; and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him — Or make him savingly known by the gospel, and the illumination of the Spirit. Thus John, The Son of God hath given us an understanding to know, ( τον αληθινον,) the true one; and we are in the true one in, or through, his Son Jesus Christ. The worship, therefore, of the Jews, who reject Christ, and consequently do not receive the knowledge of the living and true God through him, of modern Deists, and of all unbelievers, is in fact rendered to an imaginary deity; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ being to them an unknown God.


Verse 28

Matthew 11:28. Come unto me — Our Lord here shows to whom he is pleased to reveal the Father, and the things said above to be hid from the wise and prudent; to those that labour, or, are weary, as κοπιωντες may be rendered, and are heavy laden; namely, those that are weary of the slavery of sin and Satan, and of the love of the world and the pursuit of its vanities, and desire and labour after a state of reconciliation and peace with God, and rest in him; and who, till they enjoy these blessings, are heavy laden with a sense of the guilt and power of their sins, and of the displeasure of God due to them on account thereof. To these, and also to such as are burdened with the distresses of life and various trials, Jesus graciously says, Come unto me — The original word, δευτε, come, expresses not so much a command, as a friendly request; a familiar exhorting, desiring, and begging a person to do any thing, particularly what is pleasant, and would be profitable to him if done. To come to Christ, is to apply to him in faith and prayer for such blessings as we see we want. And I — I alone, (for no one else can,) will give you freely, (what you cannot purchase,) rest, namely, from the guilt of sin by justification, and from the power of sin by sanctification; rest, from a sense of the wrath of God and an accusing conscience, in peace with God and peace of mind; rest, from all carnal affections, and fruitless worldly cares, disquietudes, and labours, in the love of God shed abroad in your hearts; and rest in the midst of the afflictions, trials, and troubles of life, in a full assurance that all things shall work for your good, and that, though in the world you may have tribulation, in me you shall have peace. Some commentators, by the rest offered in this invitation, understand that freedom from the burdensome services of the law which Christ has granted to men through the promulgation of the gospel. And it must be owned that this interpretation is favoured by the subsequent clause, in which men are invited to take on them Christ’s yoke and burden, from the consideration that they are light and easy, namely, in comparison of Moses’s yoke. There is no reason, however, for confining the rest of the soul here offered to that particular privilege of Christianity. It is more natural to think that it comprehends therewith all the blessings of the gospel whatsoever. Christianity, when embraced in faith and love, and possessed in the life and power of it, gives rest to the soul, because, 1st, it clearly informs the judgment concerning the most important points, removing all doubts concerning them; 2d, it settles the will in the choice of what is for its happiness; 3d, it controls and regulates the passions, and keeps them under subjection to the peace and love of God. Philippians 4:7; Colossians 3:14-15. See Dodd’s sermon on this text.


Verse 29-30

Matthew 11:29-30. Take my yoke upon you — Believe in and obey me: hearken to me as a teacher, rely on me as a Saviour, and be subject to me as a governor. And learn of me ΄αθετε απεμου, Be my disciples; be taught by me, namely, all things pertaining to your acceptance with God, your duty, and your happiness: for I am meek and lowly in heart — Meek toward all men, lowly toward God. As an instructer, I will show myself to be most mild, gentle, and forbearing; kind and condescending toward all my disciples, directing them with tenderness, patience, and lenity, in the way to pardon, life, and salvation, not imposing on them any unnecessary burdens: and, as an example, recommending by my practice both meekness and humility; meekness by bearing all kinds of injuries, and humility by condescending to do the meanest good offices to the meanest of mankind. Learn, then, of me to be meek and humble, both in disposition and behaviour; and ye shall find rest to your souls — That composure, tranquillity, and satisfaction which nothing but humility and meekness, with an entire subjection to me, can give. The original words may be properly rendered, Ye shall find refreshment to your souls, such as you would in vain seek elsewhere; refreshment, arising from clear manifestations of the divine favour, consoling influences of his Spirit, lively hopes of his glory, and sensible communion with him. For my yoke is easy — Gr. χρηστος, gracious, sweet, benign, agreeable; and my burden light — Or, pleasant, as

ελαφρον also signifies. Such it is to those in whose hearts the love of God prevails over the love of the world and sin. To them, the commandments of God are not grievous, but delightful. They love his law, and their pleasure is in it all the day long.

 


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

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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