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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Matthew 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Matthew 4:1. Then — After the afore-mentioned glorious manifestation of his Father’s love, by which he was armed for the combat. Was Jesus led by the Spirit — By a strong impulse of the Spirit of God, of which he was full; into the wilderness — Probably, the wilderness near Jordan, which, as Mr. Maundrell, who travelled through it, assures us, is a miserable and horrid place, consisting of high, barren mountains, so that it looks as if nature had suffered some violent convulsions there. Our Lord, probably, was assaulted in the northern part of it, near the sea of Galilee, because he is said by Luke to be returning to Nazareth, from whence he came to be baptized. To be tempted of the devil — That is, the chief of the devils, Satan, the everlasting enemy of God and man. The proper meaning of the original word here, and in other places of the Old and New Testaments, translated to tempt, is to try. Hence we sometimes, as Genesis 22:1, read of God’s tempting men, as well as of the devil’s tempting them. But there is this difference between the temptations, or trials, that are immediately from God, and those that are from Satan, by God’s permission. We are tempted, or tried, by God, that our righteousness, our faith, love, patience, and every grace and virtue, may be manifested, approved, and further increased: and therefore, as James says, Blessed is the man who, in this sense, endureth temptation. But the devil tempts, or tries us, in expectation of finding us insincere, or unstable, and with a view to lead us into sin by his subtlety and power; in which sense God, who cannot be tempted with evil, or see any thing desirable in it, tempteth no man. Doubtless, it must have been for some very great and good ends that the Holy Spirit thus moved our Lord to repair into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. For though, by his repairing thither, he might partly intend to enjoy a devout retirement, that as man he might give vent to those sacred passions which the late grand occurrences of the descent of the Spirit upon him, and the miraculous attestation of a voice from heaven, had such a tendency to inspire; yet no doubt he foresaw that this season of intercourse with heaven would be followed by a violent assault from hell, and he went into the wilderness with a view also to meet and combat with the grand adversary of mankind. Probably, as Theophylact observes, one grand end might be to teach us that when we have consecrated ourselves to God’s service, and have been favoured with peculiar marks of divine acceptance, and the consolations of his Spirit, we must expect temptations; and to teach us, by our Lord’s example, how we may best and most effectually resist them, even by an unshaken faith, 1 Peter 5:9; and by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, Ephesians 6:17. 2d, Our Lord was tempted thus, that his perfect holiness might be tried and approved. 3d, That Satan might be conquered, which he never had perfectly been by any man before. 4th, That Christ might become a merciful and faithful high priest, one who can succour his people in time of need, and pity them when they happen to fall by temptation. The apostle assigns this reason expressly, Hebrews 2:17-18. And, 5th, That assurance might be given to his people of an everlasting victory over, and deliverance from, the power of Satan.


Verse 2

Matthew 4:2. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights — As Moses, the giver, and Elias, the restorer of the law, had done before: he was afterward a hungered — That is, he was as sharply assaulted with hunger, as any man is at any time for want of food. Thus he was fitted for the ensuing trial of his trust in God. And, as an ancient writer observes, We are then especially to expect temptations, when we are alone, and when we are in straits and exigencies, from which we see no ordinary way of deliverance, which was the case with Christ. For he was hungry, and in a wild wilderness, where was no food, and was at last fed miraculously by angels ministering unto him.


Verse 3

Matthew 4:3. And when the tempter came to him — In a visible shape and appearance, to tempt him outwardly, as he had done inwardly before. For it appears from the account which Mark and Luke have given us of this matter, that our Lord had been tempted by the devil invisibly during the whole of the above-mentioned forty days — but now, it seems, he came to him in a visible form, probably in the human, as one that desired to inquire further into the evidences of his mission. Accordingly he said, If thou be the Son of God — In such an extraordinary sense as thou hast been declared to be, and if thou art indeed the promised Messiah, expected under that character, command that these stones be made bread — To relieve thy hunger, for in such circumstances it will undoubtedly be done. Thus Satan took advantage of our Lord’s distress to tempt him to doubt his being the Son of God in the sense in which he had just been declared to be so; and it seems the object of this first temptation was, to excite in his mind a distrust of the care and kindness of his heavenly Father, and to induce him to use unwarranted means to relieve his hunger. But it is objected here, If Christ were God, why should he be tempted? Was it to show that God was able to overcome the temptations of the devil? Could there be any doubt of this? We answer, he was man, very man, as well as God, “of a reasonable soul, and human flesh subsisting,” and it was only as man that he was tempted. If it be replied, that seeing his human nature was personally united to the divine, it must still be superfluous to show that even his human nature, thus influenced, should be able to baffle the assaults of Satan: Irenæus, an eminent father of the second century, answering this very objection, then made by the Ebionites, (the elder brethren of the Photinians and Socinians,) observes that, as he was man, that he might be tempted, so he was the Word, that he might be glorified; the Word, (or Godhead,) being quiescent in his temptation, crucifixion, and death. These words being preserved and cited, says Dr. Whitby, by Theodoret, show that the latter fathers approved of this solution of this difficulty. Among the reasons assigned of our Lord’s temptation, one is, the consolation of his members conflicting with the adversary of their souls. For, in that he suffered, being tempted, he can sympathize with, and succour those that are tempted; affording them the same Spirit that was in him, that they may resist the devil with the same weapons, and overcome him with the same assistance, by which he, in his human nature, combated and conquered. Now this ground of comfort would be wholly taken from us, if Christ overcame Satan merely by virtue of that nature, by which he was απειραστος κακων, James 1:13, incapable of being overcome by temptation. But if, with Irenæus, we affirm that the divinity was then quiescent in him, and that he overcame Satan by virtue of the Spirit given to him, we, who have the same unction from the Holy One, may also hope to do it by his aid.


Verse 4

Matthew 4:4. It is written — There is no better way of answering the tempter, than by opposing the word of God to his temptations. This is that sword of the Spirit that must put him to flight. The Church of Rome, therefore, by taking from the people the word of God, disarm them as to the spiritual combat. Man shall not live by bread alone — These words are quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3, and signify that bread, or ordinary sustenance, is not necessary to support the life of man; that God can feed and sustain him by other means: but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live — That is, by whatsoever he shall appoint for his sustenance; or even by his bare word. Therefore, it is not needful that I should work a miracle to procure bread, without any intimation of my Father’s will. He can support me without bread, as he fed the Israelites in the wilderness; and, on the other hand, even bread itself, if these stones were turned into it, could not nourish me without his blessing; which I could not expect, were I to attempt a miracle of this kind merely in compliance with thy suggestions. Here we are taught, in imitation of Christ, always to maintain such an humble dependance on the divine blessing, as never to venture out of the way of it, be our necessity ever so urgent.


Verses 5-7

Matthew 4:5-7. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city — That is, the city Jerusalem, frequently called the holy city in Scripture, see Nehemiah 11:1; Isaiah 52:1; Daniel 9:24; and that with great propriety, as being for ages the place of the special residence of Jehovah. It has been supposed by many, that Satan transported our Lord through the air, but whether he did or not cannot be determined from this passage, the original word, παραλαμβανει, signifying no more than that he took him along with him. And setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple — That is, one of the battlements, for it is not to be supposed that our Lord stood on the point of a spire. The roof of the temple, like that of their houses, was flat, and had a kind of balustrade round it, to prevent people falling off, and somewhere on the edge of this we may suppose that Satan placed Christ, in his attacking him with this temptation. This, in some parts of it, and particularly over the porch, was so exceedingly high that one could hardly bear to look down from it. And saith, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down — Thereby to show to all the people about the temple, that thou art indeed the Son of God; which they will fully believe when they shall see thee fly without falling, or fall without being hurt. As in the former assault, Satan tempted Christ to distrust the care of divine providence, so he now tries to persuade him to presume upon it, and to expose himself to danger unnecessarily; nay, in effect, to take the direct course to destroy himself, and try whether God would preserve him as his Son. For it is written, &c. — In the former temptation the devil did not quote Scripture, but having been repelled in that assault by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, he here takes up the same weapon. He shall give his angels charge concerning thee — As if he had said, Since thou trustest so much in providence as to expect to be sustained by it, even without food, now throw thyself down, to give more undoubted evidence of thy dependance upon it: and, as the miracle will be a full proof that thou art the Son of God, and will undeniably convince the people of it, so thou canst have no room to doubt of thy safety, the Scripture having declared that his angels shall take care of thee. Jerome, and many after him, have well observed here, that though Satan quotes Scripture, he does it falsely. He artfully leaves out the words, In all thy ways. To throw himself down, and fly through the air, was none of our Lord’s ways. He had no call, no warrant, from God, to decline the stairs by which he might go down from the top of the temple, and precipitate himself from the battlements thereof. God had never granted, nor even promised to any, the protection of angels in sinful and forbidden ways; nor adjudged that his special providence should watch over and preserve them, who should voluntarily throw themselves into dangers which they might lawfully avoid. Add to this, that Satan seems to mock our Saviour’s true use of Scripture by this abuse of applying it, not to instruct but to deceive, separating the protection of God’s providence from man’s duty, and extending the promise of the former to those who neglected the latter; and putting God upon working a miracle, to declare that which he had already made sufficiently evident. We learn from our Lord’s example here, that it is never right to expose ourselves to unnecessary danger in expectation of an extraordinary deliverance. And we learn, too, that it is not only necessary that we should take the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and make ourselves familiarly acquainted with it, that we may be furnished for the combat with the prince of darkness, but that we should enter into the design and meaning of it, in order that, if Satan attempt to draw his artillery from thence, we may be able to guard against that most dangerous stratagem, and to answer perverted passages of Holy Writ by others more justly applicable. Jesus said, It is written again — Viz., Deuteronomy 6:16, to prevent the ungrateful abuse of such promises as these, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God — By demanding further evidence of what is already made sufficiently plain, as my being the Son of God is, by the miraculous and glorious testimony he has so lately given me. I shall not, therefore, require any more signs to prove it, nor express any doubt of God’s power or goodness toward me; nor shall I act as the Israelites did, when they said, Exodus 17:7, Is the Lord among us or not? when he had given them ample proof that he was present with them, and had taken, and would take care of them, and provide for them. It is to be observed that the above precept, respecting tempting God, does not forbid too much, but too little confidence in God, and the calling in question his presence with, and care over his people. But in the general, to make an undue and unwarrantable trial of God, is to tempt him, whether the trial respect his power or goodness. See Numbers 14:22; Psalms 78:18; Isaiah 7:12; Matthew 16:1.


Verse 8-9

Matthew 4:8-9. Again the devil taketh him up — In what way is not said; into an exceeding high mountain — Probably one of the mountains in the wilderness, and from that eminence, partly by the advantage of the place, from which he might behold many magnificent buildings, rich fields, pleasant meadows, hills covered with wood and cattle, rivers rolling through the fertile valleys, and washing the cities as they passed along; and partly by an artful visionary representation, showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them — Whatsoever was gay, splendid, or glorious, either in respect of the honours, riches, or pleasures of the world; their great and opulent cities, sumptuous edifices, costly attire, equipage, pomp, and splendour; displaying to his view one of the finest prospects that the most pleasurable and triumphant scenes could furnish out; and all this, not one after another, but in a moment of time, that so they might amaze and affect him the more with their splendour, and on a sudden prevail upon him, which otherwise they would not have been so likely to do. And saith unto him — With the most egregious impudence, falsehood, and pride; All these things will I give thee — All this glory and power, and all these possessions, if thou wilt fall down and worship me — The devil now showed clearly who he was, and therefore Christ, in answering this suggestion, calls him by his proper name, Satan, which, though he undoubtedly knew him, he had not done before. We may learn from hence not to conclude we are utterly abandoned of God when we are assaulted with horrible temptations; Christ himself, we see, was tempted even to worship the devil: but in such cases let us, like Jesus, resolutely repel the temptation, rather than parley with it. Dr. Doddridge observes, that, if we suppose Satan, in these two last temptations, to have worn the form of an angel of light, it will make them both appear more plausible; “for thus he might pretend, in the former, to take charge of Christ in his fall, as one of his celestial guards; and in this latter to resign to him a province which God had committed to his administration and care.” And this, he thinks, may not be inconsistent “with supposing that he first appeared as a man, (it may be as a hungry traveller, who pretended to ask the miracle of turning stones into loaves for his own supply,) for angels, under the Old Testament, had often worn a human form.”


Verse 10

Matthew 4:10. Then saith Jesus, Get thee hence, Satan — The expression, υπαγε, σατανα, plainly expresses Christ’s authority over Satan, as well as his detestation of so vile a suggestion: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, &c. — It would therefore be unlawful to worship thee, who art no other than a mere creature, even though thou wast indeed his deputy on earth; and how much more then must it be so, as thou art, in reality, the great avowed enemy of God and man! for such, under all thy disguise, I well know thee to be. It appears from these words, that religious worship, or service, is due to God alone, and cannot be lawfully given to a creature. From whence we must infer, that Christ is not a mere creature: for all men are to honour him, even as they honour the Father, John 5:23. And all the angels of God are commanded to worship him, Hebrews 1:6 : and it is given as the character of all Christians, 1 Corinthians 1:2, that they call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord: and Colossians 3:24, That they serve the Lord Christ. As to the answer made by some to this irrefragable argument in favour of our Lord’s divinity, it appears from this very passage to have no weight in it. God alone say they, is to be worshipped as the first and principal cause of all things, and the chief author of our salvation; but yet, religious worship and service may be paid to Christ, as the intermediate cause of that salvation which God, by him, hath revealed and brought to us. For as there are no footsteps of this distinction in the holy Scriptures, so it is plain that our Lord’s reply to Satan here entirely condemns it. The devil, it is manifest, did not require to be worshipped by Jesus as the original cause and supreme governor of the world. He frankly owns that all the power he had over the kingdoms of the earth was given to him. He claims, therefore, only a subordinate worship; and yet our Lord rejects his claim, not on the ground of his being a liar and usurper, who had no such power, and therefore had no right to any such worship; but on the ground of God only having a right to any kind of religious worship, saying, in the words of Moses, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him ONLY shalt thou serve. Christ, therefore, cannot be worshipped lawfully, if he be not God as well as man.


Verse 11

Matthew 4:11. Then the devil — Being so baffled and confounded as not to be able to present any other temptation which seemed more likely to prevail, leaveth him — Namely, for a season, as Luke observes meditating no doubt some future assault, and especially designing, by and by, to use all stratagems to take away his life. And, behold, angels came and ministered unto him — Not only furnishing him with proper supplies for his hunger, but also congratulating him on so illustrious a victory over the prince of darkness; and doing him honour by the appearance of a number of them, (for one of them would nave sufficed to bring him food,) after this horrible combat with Satan, to which, for wise and gracious reasons, he was pleased to condescend. And it may encourage us in all our temptations to remember, that if our conflict be thus maintained, the struggle will, ere long, be over; and angels, who are now spectators of the combat, will at length congratulate our victory. God teaches us, by all this, that our lives are to have their vicissitudes of temptation and consolation, and that our temptation shall have a happy issue, and that when ordinary means fail we may expect extraordinary helps.


Verse 12

Matthew 4:12. Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison — Namely, for reproving Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, for taking his brother Philip’s wife, and for other evils, Matthew 14:3-4 : he departed into Galilee — Viz., from Judea. This it seems he did, partly to avoid the envy of the Pharisees, John 4:3, and partly to encourage John’s disciples, and to continue the preaching interrupted by his confinement, being desirous to improve those good impressions which the ministry of John had made on the minds of the people, and which would not be erased but deepened by the injurious things they saw him suffer. Thus it becomes one messenger of God to carry on the work begun by another. But it is to be observed, that this was not the first, but the second time of Jesus’s going into Galilee. Nor did he take this journey immediately upon his temptation; but at some distance of time: viz., after the events had taken place which are recorded in the latter part of the first, and in the second and third chapters of John’s gospel. His first journey from Judea into Galilee is mentioned John 1:43; John 2:1. Then he went into Judea again, and celebrated the passover at Jerusalem, John 2:13. He baptized in Judea, while John was baptizing at Enon, John 3:22-23. All this time John was at liberty. But the Pharisees being offended, chap. Matthew 4:1, and John put in prison, he then took this journey into Galilee.


Verse 13

Matthew 4:13. Leaving Nazareth — Namely, when they had rejected his word, and even attempted to kill him, as is described Luke 4:29 : he came and dwelt in Capernaum, upon the sea-coast — “Capernaum is nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament, either by its own name or by any other. Probably it was one of those towns which the Jews built after their return from Babylon. Its exact situation has not, as yet, been determined with certainty by geographers: only, from its being on the confines of the two tribes, Reland and others conjecture that it stood somewhere on the north- west shore of the lake of Gennesareth. According to Josephus, Bell., 3:18, the length of this lake was one hundred furlongs, or twelve miles and a half, and its breadth forty furlongs, or five miles. Pliny says it was sixteen miles long, and six broad. Anciently, the lake of Gennesareth was called the sea of Chinneroth, Numbers 34:11; but in later times, it was named the sea of Galilee, because that country formed part of its shore, and the sea of Tiberias: from the city Tiberias, lying on the south-west coast thereof. Its bottom is gravel, which gives its waters both a good colour and taste. The river Jordan runs through the middle of it, and stocks it with a variety of excellent fish. In the countries round this lake, our Lord spent a great part of the two former years of his public life; and though he afterward enlarged the compass of his journeys, yet they always enjoyed a considerable share of his blessed company and divine instructions.” — Macknight.


Verse 14-15

Matthew 4:14-15. That it might be fulfilled. — Or, whereby was fulfilled, that which was spoken by Esaias — Namely, Isaiah 9:1-2, where see the notes. The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, &c. — Isaiah, in this passage, comforts the Jewish Church of his time against the desolation about to be made through the Assyrian invasion, by foretelling that they who should have the greatest share in that calamity should afterward enjoy, in the greatest plenty, the means of salvation through Christ’s abode and preaching among them: By the way of the sea — That is, on the coasts of the lake of Gennesareth, commonly called a sea: Galilee of the Gentiles — Or nations; that is, Galilee in the confines of, or encompassed by, the heathen nations. Or, perhaps the reason of the name may rather be, that many Gentiles were early settled there, and had filled the country with a variety of superstitions, in consequence of Solomon’s giving a tract of land here to Hiram. See 1 Kings 9:11-13. Hence it was soon filled with foreigners, and peopled with a mixture of Phœnicians, Egyptians, and Arabians, as we learn from Strabo, an ancient writer.


Verse 16

Matthew 4:16. The people who sat in darkness — They whose predecessors were afflicted by the Assyrians, and who, before Christ visited them, were captives of Satan, and had lived in gross ignorance of God and religion, being far from Jerusalem, the place of worship, and intermixed with the Tyrians, Sidonians, and other wicked heathen: saw a great light — This is spoken by Isaiah in the prophetic style, which represents things future as already accomplished, because certainly to be accomplished. This whole country had been overspread with spiritual darkness, but, by the example and preaching of Christ, the day-spring from on high visited it, diffusing among its inhabitants knowledge and holiness, and guiding their feet into the way of peace. “There were several reasons,” says Dr. Macknight, “which might determine Jesus to be so much about the sea of Galilee. 1st, The countries which surrounded this sea were large, fertile, and populous, especially the two Galilees. For, according to Josephus, Bell., Matthew 3:2, they alone had many towns, and a multitude of villages, the least of which contained above 15,000 souls. On the east side of the lake were Chorazin, Gadara, and Hippon; on the west, Capernaum, Tiberias, Bethsaida, and Tarrichea, with other places of inferior note. Wherefore, as it was agreeable to the end of Christ’s coming that his doctrine should be spread extensively, and his miracles wrought publicly, no country could be a fitter scene for his ministry than this. Besides its numerous inhabitants, there were at all times many strangers resorting to the trading towns on the lake, who, after hearing Jesus preach, could carry home with them the glad tidings of salvation which were the subjects of his sermons. Capernaum, chosen by Christ as the place of his residence, was a town of this kind, and much frequented. 2d, The countries round the lake were remote from Jerusalem, the seat of the scribes and Pharisees, who would not have borne with patience the presence of a teacher held in such estimation as Jesus deservedly was. We know this by what happened in the beginning of his ministry, when he made and baptized many disciples in Judea. They took such offence at it, that he was obliged to leave the country. Wherefore, as it was necessary that he should spend a considerable time in preaching and working miracles, both for the confirmation of his mission, and for the instruction of his disciples in the doctrines they were afterward to preach, these countries were, of all others, the most proper for him to reside in, or rather, they were the only places where he could be with safety for any time.”


Verse 17

Matthew 4:17. From that time Jesus began to preach — He had preached before, both to Jews and Samaritans, John 4:41; John 4:45, but from this time he began to preach publicly and statedly, and to insist on the same doctrine that John had done: and with good reason, for the repentance which John taught, still was and ever will be, the necessary preparation for that inward kingdom of heaven, or, of God, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The phrase, however, is not only used with regard to individuals, in whom that kingdom is to be established, but also with regard to the Christian Church, the whole body of believers. In the former sense, it is opposed to repentance, by which it is preceded; in the latter, to the Mosaic dispensation. Our Lord now properly and fully entered upon his prophetic office; which consisted of three things: preaching, or making known the will of God; gathering disciples; and working miracles. The first of these he does here, and more largely chap. 5., 6., 7., and in his many parables and other discourses. The second, Matthew 4:18-22. The third, as being necessary to confirm his doctrine, on all occasions, from time to time, till his departure hence.


Verse 18

Matthew 4:18. And Jesus, walking, &c., saw two brethren — One of the two, at least, namely, Andrew, had been a disciple of the Baptist. And the Apostle John “informs us, John 1:40; John 1:42, that they had both before been called to the knowledge of Christ, upon the banks of Jordan, and that the name of Peter had been given to Simon. And it is probable that, from their first acquaintance with him, they followed Jesus for some time, and went with him to Cana and Capernaum, John 2:3; John 2:12; and afterward to Jerusalem, John 2:13; John 2:17; and tarried with him while he continued in Judea, John 3:22. But when the Pharisees grew jealous of the number of his followers, and Herod was offended at the popularity of John, we may suppose that Jesus, at his return to Galilee, might think it prudent to dismiss his disciples for a time, till he himself had gone about from place to place to preach the gospel, and had informed the people more particularly of the character of his person, and the nature of his doctrine: or, possibly, they might leave him at the time when the Samaritans prevailed upon him to go with them to their city, John 4:40. Be this as it may, we read no more of his disciples being with him, till he now found them at the sea of Galilee. For they no sooner were gone home, but they returned again to their old employment, and continued in it till they were now taken off from any further regard to their worldly business, and were particularly called by Christ to a constant attendance upon him.” — Doddridge. Casting a net into the sea. — Namely, to wash it, for, according to Luke 5:2, they were washing their nets, when he called them. For they were fishers — He called such mean persons to show, 1st, the freedom of his grace, in choosing such weak instruments; 2d, his power, in that by such men he could subdue the world; 3d, the depth of his wisdom, in providing thus for his own honour, that the instruments might not carry away the glory of the work.


Verse 19-20

Matthew 4:19-20. He saith unto them — Namely, after some previous circumstances, an account of which is given, Luke 5:1-11. Follow me — That is, not only now and then, as you have hitherto done, since my baptism, John 1:37; but now leave your ordinary employments, and become my constant attendants; that by continually hearing my doctrine, and seeing my miracles, you may be fitted, in due time, to become my messengers to mankind. It is observable that, when God has called men to offices of dignity and usefulness among his people, or has particularly appeared in their favour, they have generally been engaged in some honest employment. Saul was seeking his father’s asses, and David was keeping his father’s sheep, when the Lord called them to the kingdom. The shepherds were feeding their flocks when they received information from the angel, accompanied by the heavenly host, of the birth of Christ. God called Amos from the flock, Gideon from the threshing floor, and the apostles here from their fishing. God does not encourage idleness, nor despise persons in mean employments. And I will make you fishers of men — You shall gather men into the gospel net, and gain them over to the faith; and such abundant success will I give you, that the number of souls converted by you, shall be greater than that of the fishes you have been used to catch. See notes on Ezekiel 37:6-10. Observe, reader! The work of ministers is here set forth. They are not to fish for a livelihood, much less for honour and applause to themselves, but to win souls to God, and are to bait their hooks and order their nets for this end: which, however, will never be answered if, either by mere general discourses, they make the meshes so wide that sinners will find an easy passage through them, or, by abstract reasonings, and fine-spun speculations, they make the threads so small that they can easily break them; or, if they neglect to close the net upon those they have enclosed, by a proper and pointed application of their subject. Nor will all our art or labour make us fishers of men, without the divine blessing. Without this, like the disciples of old, we may toil all day and all night, but we shall catch nothing, or nothing to purpose. And it is to be observed further, that the apostles were not immediately to enter upon the work of the ministry, but were first to follow Jesus. And the apostles, in the choice of one to succeed Judas, limited themselves in their election to those that had companied with them all the time the Lord Jesus had gone in and out among them, Acts 1:21. Those who do not observe this become fishers for something else rather than the souls of men. They straightway left their nets and followed him — Influenced by the power of his word, and struck with the wonderful miracle recorded Luke 5:6-9. It is not of indispensable necessity that those who are called to the ministry of the word should have nothing else to do. Paul’s hand ministered to his necessities and those of his companions. But it is very desirable that they should be so supported as to be able to give themselves wholly up to the work of the Lord.


Verse 21-22

Matthew 4:21-22. Going on from thence — Mark says, A little further thence, He saw two other brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother — The reader will observe, there was another James, the son of Alpheus, or Cleophas, commonly called James the Less. In a ship, with Zebedee their father — By the sea-side, mending their nets — Which had been broken by the vast draught of fishes they had taken just before. And he called them — Not with his voice only, but by his Spirit affecting and drawing their hearts, so that they immediately left their ship and their father, and indeed their earthly all, and followed him.


Verse 23

Matthew 4:23. And Jesus went about all Galilee — Accompanied, it seems, by the four disciples above named; teaching in their synagogues — The word, συναγωγη, rendered, synagogue, may either signify the congregation, or the place in which they assembled. But it seems here, and generally, to mean the latter. Synagogues were in every city, from the time of the Babylonish captivity, and perhaps before that time. For, it is certain, the Jews neither did nor could assemble in the temple at Jerusalem for public worship every sabbath day, and therefore it is probable they had other places throughout the country to assemble in. This seems, indeed, to have been absolutely necessary, not only that the people might join in prayer together, but to bring them, in some degree, acquainted with the law of God. For, as copies of it were very scarce, the body of the people must, of necessity, have remained ignorant of it, unless it were read to them in public, and that in other places besides the temple, which the women in general could not visit at all, and the men but very seldom. Accordingly, in the 74th Psalm, which, by whomsoever it was composed, plainly speaks of the destruction of the temple, of Jerusalem, and of the Jews, by the Chaldeans, we read of all the synagogues of the land being burned up, which certainly implies that there were synagogues in the land before they were thus destroyed; and therefore before the captivity of Babylon. After the restoration from Babylon, they became very frequent. Even in Jerusalem itself, where one would have imagined they were less necessary, on account of the temple being there, the Hebrew doctors and other ancient and learned writers inform us, that there were above four hundred. It was usual to have service in them thrice a day, on three days of the week, when public prayer was put up, and the Scriptures were read and expounded. And though it belonged chiefly to the priests, Levites, and scribes to teach, yet it was the custom for any one of ability to do it. Preaching the gospel of the kingdom — Namely, that doctrine whereby the kingdom of heaven, that is, of grace here and glory hereafter, is revealed and offered to men, and, by obedience to which, they come to partake of it. Healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people — Intending by these beneficent actions to confirm his doctrine, at the same time that he relieved the temporal distresses of mankind.


Verse 24

Matthew 4:24. His fame went through all Syria — Of which the country of the Jews and Samaritans was but a small part. Pliny tells us, that Syria contained several provinces, Comagene to the north, Phœnicia to the west, Cœlosyria to the south, Palmyrene, and the province of Seleucia, in the middle part. If, by all Syria, the evangelist means all these different provinces of Syria, our Lord’s fame must at this time have been exceedingly great. Nor is there any thing incredible in the evangelist’s affirmation, taken in the largest sense. For considering the number and greatness of the miracles which he performed, it would not have been beyond belief, had the historian told us that the fame of them reached as far as the communication of the Jews with the rest of the world extended. And they brought unto him those that were possessed with devils, and those lunatic, and those that had the palsy — These are justly reckoned cases of as great misery, and of as little hope, as any to be found among men. The evangelist, therefore, properly instanced these. And he healed them, and thereby wonderfully displayed both his power and his love.


Verse 25

Matthew 4:25. And there followed him great multitudes — Affected with the sight, or fame of his miracles, which was now very great, from Galilee — Its many and populous towns and villages. See note on Matthew 4:15. From Decapolis — A tract of land on the east side of the sea of Galilee, which had its name from δεκα, ten, and πολις, a city, because it contained only ten cities, which were situated near each other, and formed into a distinct district, the metropolis of which was Damascus.

 


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

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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