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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Matthew 8

 

 

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Verse 1

Matthew 8:1. When he was come down from the mountain — Where he had delivered the divine discourse contained in the preceding chapters; great multitudes followed him — To the town toward which he went, desirous, probably, of receiving further instruction from him, or of witnessing the performance of some of his miraculous acts. And, behold, there came a leper — Leprosies, in those countries, were seldom curable by natural means, any more than palsies or lunacy. It is likely, though this leper might not mix with the people: he had heard our Lord at a distance. And worshipped him — That is, kneeled, or fell down before him; saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean — Doubtless, he had seen or been informed of some of the miraculous cures which Christ had wrought. Jesus put forth his hand and touched him — Though leprosies were the most nauseous of all the distempers incident to the human body, and the most infectious, insomuch that the bare sight of a leper could not fail to raise a loathing in all who looked on him; nevertheless, Jesus, with great benignity, drew near and touched this man, and, instead of being polluted by touching him, cleansed the leper with his touch, and sent him away very joyful by reason of his cure, which rendered him agreeable to himself, and gave him access again to the society of men. Immediately his leprosy was cleansed — Immediately on Christ’s touching him, and saying, I will, be thou clean — How wonderful the power thus displayed! and how irresistible, one would suppose, must be the evidence, arising from such a fact, of the divine mission and authority of the person who performed such a cure; who restored, in a moment, to perfect soundness, the body of a man covered all over with the most loathsome disease imaginable! Observe, reader, the instruction which this miracle gives us. Our souls are by nature entirely overspread with the leprosy of sin, and where can we apply for help but to the healing power and recovering grace of this Divine Saviour? And be the malady ever so deep, spreading, or inveterate, we may surely adopt the words of this leper, and say, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And we have every reason to hope, if we so apply, that his compassion will be moved in our favour, and his power exerted for our cure.


Verse 4

Matthew 8:4. Jesus saith, See thou tell no man — Although our Lord was now followed by a great multitude of people, yet it seems not many of them were witnesses of this miracle, Jesus, probably, taking the person aside from the people before he wrought it, otherwise, as Doddridge observes, it does not appear that there could have been room for this charge of secrecy; the meaning of which undoubtedly was, Tell no man that thou wast healed by me; that is, as some suppose, till thou hast offered thy gift to the priest; and he, by receiving it, hath owned thee to be clean from thy leprosy; lest they, hearing that thou wast cleansed by me, should, out of envy to me, refuse to acknowledge thy being cleansed. It must be observed, however, that he commanded many others absolutely to tell none of the miracles he had wrought upon them. And this he seems to have done, chiefly for one or more of these reasons: 1st, to prevent the multitudes from thronging him, in the manner related Mark 1:45; Mark 2 d, to fulfil the prophecy, (Isaiah 42:1, &c.,) that he would not be vain or ostentatious: this reason St. Matthew assigns, Matthew 12:17, &c.; 3d, to avoid being taken by force and made a king, John 6:15; John , , 4 th, that he might not enrage the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees, who were the most bitter against him, any more than was unavoidable, Matthew 16:20-21. But show thyself to the priest — That is, to any one of the priests to whom the rest have committed the office of examining cases of leprosy. Here it is well observed by Dr. Lightfoot, that, though the priesthood was much degenerated from its primitive institution, and many human inventions were added to God’s law, touching the priest’s examination of the lepers who pretended to be cleansed; yet Christ sends this leper to submit to all these human inventions, as knowing that, though they indeed corrupted, yet they did not destroy the divine institution, and annihilate the office. For a testimony to them — That is, offer thy gift for a testimony that thou art cleansed from thy leprosy. Dr. Campbell, by the them here mentioned, understands, the people, and therefore translates the clause, Make the oblation prescribed by Moses for notifying [the cure] to the people. The them here, says he, “could not be the priests, for it was only one priest, (namely, the priest then intrusted with that business,) to whom he [the man cleansed] was commanded to go. Besides, the oblation could not serve as an evidence to the priest. On the contrary, it was necessary that he should have ocular evidence, by an accurate inspection in private, before the man was admitted into the temple, and allowed to make the oblation; but his obtaining this permission, and the solemn ceremony consequent upon it, was the public testimony of the priest, the only legal judge, to the people, that the man’s uncleanness was removed. This was a matter of the utmost consequence to the man, and of some consequence to them. Till such testimony was given, he lived in a most uncomfortable seclusion from society. No man durst, under pain of being also secluded, admit him into his house, eat with him, or so much as touch him. The antecedent, therefore, to the pronoun them, though not expressed, is easily supplied by the sense. To me it is equally clear: that the only thing meant to be attested by the oblation was, the cure. The suppositions of some commentators on this subject are quite extravagant. Nothing can be more evident, than that the person now cleansed was not permitted to give any testimony to the priest, or to any other, concerning the manner of his cure, or the person by whom it had been performed. ‘ ορα μηδενι ειπης, See thou tell nobody. The prohibition is expressed by the Evangelist Mark in still stronger terms. Prohibitions of this kind were often transgressed by those who received them; but that is not a good reason for representing our Lord as giving contradicting orders.”


Verse 5

Matthew 8:5. There came unto him a centurion — A captain of a hundred Roman soldiers, in Herod’s pay; saying, My servant lieth sick of the palsy, grievously tormented — Or, afflicted, as the word βασανιζομενος often signifies. Palsies are not attended with torment. Jesus saith, I will come and heal him — Thus showing both his kindness, and how acceptable to him the humanity of this centurion to his servant was. The centurion answered, Lord, I am not worthy, &c. — That is, he signified that he did not mean Christ should take the trouble of going to his house, he being a Gentile, but only that he would be so good as to command his servant’s cure, though at a distance; for he knew his power was equal to that effect, diseases and devils of all kinds being subject to his command, as his [the centurion’s] soldiers were to him. For I am a man under authority, &c. — As if he had said, If I, who am but an inferior officer, can make the soldiers under my command, and the servants in my house, go whither I please, and do what I please, merely by speaking to them; much more canst thou make diseases go or come at thy word, seeing they are all absolutely subject to thee. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled — Our Lord’s marvelling on this occasion, by no means implies that he was ignorant either of the centurion’s faith, or of the grounds on which it was built. He knew all this fully before the man spake one word. But as he possessed a real human, as well as a real divine nature, and is elsewhere represented as susceptible of the human affections of desire, aversion, joy, and sorrow, so he is here represented as influenced by that of admiration, a passion excited by the greatness and beauty of an object, as well as by its novelty and unexpectedness. And he expressed his admiration of the centurion’s faith, in the praise which he bestowed on it, with a view to make it the more conspicuous, declaring he had not found such great faith, namely, in the divine power resident in Jesus, (who, by outward appearance, was only a man,) no, not in Israel. Thus he taught those around him what to admire; not worldly pomp, or glory, or valour, but the beauty of holiness, and the ornaments which are in the sight of God of great price. Observe, reader, the wonders of grace, should affect us more than the wonders of nature or providence, and spiritual attainments more than any achievements in this world.


Verse 11-12

Matthew 8:11-12. From this exalted pitch of faith, found in a heathen, Jesus took occasion to declare the merciful purpose which God entertained toward all the Gentiles, namely, that he would accept their faith as readily as the faith of the Jews, and admit them, with the founders of the Jewish nation, to the privileges and blessings of his kingdom. Many, says he, shall come from the east and west, &c. — Many, from the farthest parts of the earth, shall embrace the terms, and enjoy the rewards, of the gospel covenant established with Abraham. But the Jews, who have the first title to them, shall be shut out from the feast; from grace here, and glory hereafter. The words, ανακλιθησονται μετα αβρααμ, &c., properly signify, shall sit down at table with Abraham, &c., a phraseology often used in Scripture, which represents the present privileges and future rewards of the righteous, and especially the latter, under the idea of a sumptuous entertainment. See Luke 14:15; Matthew 22:1; Revelation 19:9. And, though the joys of heaven be all of a spiritual kind, this metaphor needs not be thought strange, since, as Le Clerc observes, “we can neither speak ourselves, nor understand others speaking of our state in the life to come, unless phrases taken from the affairs of this life be made use of.” But the children of the kingdom — So he terms the Jews, even the unbelieving Jews, because they had been born and brought up within the pale of the visible Church, and enjoyed all the advantages which it afforded its members: shall be cast out into outer darkness — Our Lord here alludes to the custom which the ancients had of making their great entertainments, for the most part, in the evening, with candlelight. And the outer darkness, or darkness without the house, signifies, 1st, the state of heathenish darkness, or of ignorance and error, in which those are who are without the pale of the Church of God, and into which, it is here foretold, the Jews should be cast for their rejection of Christ; and, 2d, the state of future misery, into which, as many of them as continued till death in impenitence and unbelief, should finally be cast, with all hypocrites and unbelievers. And Jesus said, Go thy way, &c. — Having spoken, as observed above, he dismissed the centurion with an assurance that his servant was well; and at the same time intimated that the miracle had been wrought in consequence of, and according to, his faith, which, though not the meritorious cause of the cure, had been the means through which the Lord Jesus had been pleased to effect it. And his servant was healed in the self-same hour — Or, rather, in that instant, as εν τη ωρα εκεινη, here evidently means.


Verse 14-15

Matthew 8:14-15. And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house — As is related Mark 1:29, &c.; he saw his wife’s mother laid — Peter was then young, as were all the apostles; sick of a fever — Fevers are ordinary distempers, and often cured by ordinary means, but this was a great fever, Luke 4:38; and it is probable such means, though used, had proved ineffectual. And he touched her hand, and the fever left her — Namely, immediately. The cure was wrought in an instant, and not slowly, like cures produced in the course of nature, or by medicine. For though the length and violence of her distemper had brought her into a weak and languid state, her full strength returned all at once, insomuch, that, rising up immediately, she prepared a supper for them, and served them while at meat, showing hereby that she was perfectly restored.


Verse 16-17

Matthew 8:16-17. When even was come, they brought unto him many, &c. — The news of this miracle being spread through the town, those who had sick relations or friends resolved to apply to Jesus for a cure. Only, because it was the sabbath, they did not come immediately to him. They waited till the holy rest was ended, which, according to the Jewish form of the day, was at sunsetting, at which time, according to Mark 1:32, and Luke 4:40, they brought the sick in great numbers to him: and he took pity on them and healed them all, casting out the devils from the demoniacs with his word — His authoritative and powerful word, the same by which he made the world, and all things therein. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias — That is, whereby was fulfilled, namely, in a lower sense than that primarily intended by the prophets; saying, Himself took our infirmities, &c. — Isaiah spoke it in a more exalted sense. The evangelist here only alludes to those words as being capable of this lower meaning also. Such instances are frequent in the sacred writings, and are elegances rather than imperfections. He fulfilled these words in the highest sense, by bearing our sins in his own body on the tree: in a lower sense, by sympathizing with us in our sorrows, and healing us of the diseases which were the fruit of sin.


Verses 18-20

Matthew 8:18-20. Now when Jesus saw great multitudes — When Jesus did the things before mentioned he was in Capernaum, Matthew 8:5, but the multitude pressing him, he gave orders to pass over the sea of Galilee, otherwise called the sea of Tiberias, that both himself and the people might have a little rest. And a certain scribe came — Namely, as they went in the way from the house, out of which he came, to the shore where he proposed to embark. See Luke 9:57. And said unto him, with all the appearance of profound respect, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest — Being determined to devote myself entirely to the service of thy kingdom. This scribe seems to have concluded, from the zeal with which the people flocked about our Lord, that he would soon declare himself to be the Messiah, and become a mighty prince; Jesus, therefore, knowing his motives to be of a worldly and ambitious nature, saith unto him, The foxes have holes, &c. As if he had said, Do not flatter yourself with the expectation of any temporal advantages from attending me, for I plainly tell you, that whereas (not to speak of domestic animals which are under the care of man) even the very foxes have holes, &c., for themselves and their young, but the Son of man, successful as his kingdom must at length be, now appears in such low circumstances, that he has not so much as a place where he may lay his head; and his followers must expect no better condition. Therefore do not follow me from any view of temporal advantage. The phrase Son of man, is borrowed from Daniel 7:13, where the prophet describes the universal dominion to which the Messiah, in quality of the Son of man, was to be raised. This name, therefore, when applied to our Lord, at the same time that it denotes his human nature, brings into view the glorious kingdom over which, in his human nature, he was to preside. Nevertheless, on several occasions it is used in a sense which implies deep humiliation, being the name given to the ancient prophets on account of the low estimation in which they were sometimes held by their countrymen. It is the appellation which Christ commonly gives himself, and that, as it seems, out of humility, as having a relation to his mean appearance in this world.


Verse 21-22

Matthew 8:21-22. And another said, Lord, &c. — Luke informs us, Luke 9:59, that Christ had said to this man, Follow me, to which command he replied, as is here stated, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father — His meaning seems to be, Suffer me to continue at home with my father, who is far advanced in years, till I have performed the last filial office to him, in committing his body to the dust: for it does not appear that his father was already dead. But Jesus said, Follow me — Namely, immediately; and let the dead bury their dead — Let such as are dead in sin, spiritually dead, being insensible to the concerns of their souls and eternity, employ themselves in interring their deceased relatives and friends: or, leave the business of the world to those that are alive to it, and dead to God and things divine.


Verses 23-27

Matthew 8:23-27. When he was entered into the ship — Being, as is said above, about to cross the lake; his disciples followed him — Even as many as were desirous of learning of him, and could get a passage, either in that vessel or any others that were near. And there arose a great tempest in the sea σεισμος μεγας, a great commotion, or, agitation of the waters, namely, in consequence of a sudden change of the weather, and storm coming on: an emblem this of the storms of persecution which should afterward assault his church. Insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves — Which threatened to sink it and all that were in it to the bottom. So the time of man’s extremity is God’s opportunity: but he was asleep — Being fatigued, it seems, with the labours of the day. And his disciples awoke him — Being terribly afraid, while they beheld the sky lowering, heard the winds roaring, and observed the sea and the clouds to be driven with the fury of the tempest; saying, Lord, save us, we perish — Thus manifesting both their faith in his power, and their weakness in not considering who was with them in the ship. And he saith, Why are ye fearful — Can ye imagine that God would suffer me to be lost in a tempest? or that I would consult my own safety in the neglect of yours? The disciples, having seen their Master perform many miracles, had abundant reason to rely on his power and goodness, even in a greater danger than this. For, though their vessel had sunk, he who gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, drove away palsies and fevers with speaking a word, could easily have saved them all, by making them walk firmly on the water, as he enabled one of them to do afterward. Their timidity, therefore, was altogether culpable, and the reproof he gave them just; O ye of little faith? — As if he had said, You undertook this voyage at my command, and are you afraid that you should perish in it? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds — As a master might do a company of turbulent servants. First he composed the spirits of his disciples, then the sea. And there was a great calm — Namely, instantly, as soon as he had uttered the words, Peace, be still, Mark 4:39. But the men marvelled — Luke says, Being afraid, they wondered, Luke 8:25 : and Mark, They feared exceedingly; saying, What manner of man is this? — Surely he is more than man, who can thus command winds and seas! This reflection of theirs, as well as their fear in the time of danger, may seem to some unaccountable, considering to how many and great miracles of his they had been witnesses. But it must be observed that hitherto his miracles were generally upon diseased persons, and that, till now, he had given no proof of his dominion over the elements of wind and water, which, it seems, were thought less subject to human power than distempers of the body.


Verse 28

Matthew 8:28. And when he was come to the other side, &c. — This history is related by Mark 5:1-4, &c.; and by Luke 8:26-27, more at large than here by Matthew: and they report it to be done in the country of the Gadarenes, who, it is evident, were the same people with those called here Gergesenes; Gadara and Gergesa being towns near each other, and the country between them taking its name indifferently from either place. There met him two possessed with devils — St. Mark and St. Luke mention only one, who was probably the fiercer of the two, and the person who spoke to our Lord first. But this is no way inconsistent with the account which St. Matthew gives. The tombs — Doubtless those malevolent spirits love such tokens of death and destruction. Tombs were usually in those days in desert places, at a distance from towns, and were often made in the sides of caves, in the rocks and mountains. No one could pass — Safely. And behold, they cried out — Namely, the devils, using the man’s tongue, What have we to do with thee — Why dost thou concern thyself about us? — It is a Hebrew phrase, made use of when men wish not to be troubled with the company or importunity of others. Jesus, thou Son of God — The devils knew him to be the Son of God, though the Jews would not believe that he was. Art thou come to torment us before the time — Before the great day of judgment?


Verses 30-32

Matthew 8:30-32. And there was a good way off from them — That is, at a considerable distance, although, it seems, within their view; a herd of many swine — Which it was not lawful for the Jews to keeps much less to eat: yet great numbers of them were bred up in that extreme part of the country, out of regard to the gain of such merchandise, for they sold them to the Roman soldiers, and other Gentiles, who were very numerous in these parts. So the devils besought him — For they were entirely in his power, and under his control; saying, if thou castest us out — Which they suspected he would do; suffer us to go into the herd of swine — By making this request the devils acknowledged that it was not in the power even of a legion of them to do any mischief to so contemptible a creature as a swine without Christ’s permission, far less could they destroy the man in whom they lodged. Indeed the whole of this history teaches us to rely on the providence of God, and not to live in fear of evil spirits. They are under the strictest restraint, and cannot hurt us without the divine permission. Mark says that they first besought him much, that he would not send them out of the country; and Luke, that he would not command them to go into the deep, εις αβυσσον, into the abyss, meaning, doubtless, the place where wicked spirits are punished. By requesting to be permitted to enter into the swine, “they doubtless proposed to prevent any good effect which the miracle of delivering the men from their power might have had on the Gadarenes, and to render Christ odious to that wicked people.” Their design could not be hid from Jesus, nevertheless he granted their request, “not only because he knew it would render the miracle more public, but because it would prove the reality of the possession, and make men understand both how great the power of evil spirits is, and how terrible the effects of their malice would be, if they were not restrained. For no sooner was the permission granted, than the keepers, who were with the swine, and the disciples, who were at a distance, beheld, to their great astonishment, the whole herd running furiously down the mountains, and leaping from the tops of the rocks into the sea, where they were drowned, to the number of two thousand; while the possessed furious madmen became all of a sudden meek and composed, having recovered the entire use of their reason, the first exercise of which doubtless would lead them to a high admiration of his goodness, who had delivered them from the oppression of the devil. Jesus might permit the devils thus to fall on the herd as a punishment also to the Gadarenes for keeping swine, which were a snare to the Jews, and to make trial of their disposition, whether they would be more affected with the loss of their cattle, than with the recovery of the men, and the doctrine of the kingdom. Whatever were the reasons, it is certain that, though he might rightfully have used all men’s properties as he pleased, yet this, and the withering of the barren fig-tree, are the only instances wherein man suffered the least damage by any thing our Lord ever did. However, neither the owners of the herd nor of the fig-tree could justly complain of their loss, since the good of mankind, not in that period and corner only, but in every succeeding age, through all countries, has been so highly promoted at such a trifling expense to them.” “No miracles are more suspicious than pretended dispossessions, as there is so much room for collusion in them; but it was self-evident that a herd of swine could not be confederates in any fraud: their death, therefore, in this instructive and convincing circumstance, was ten thousand times a greater blessing to mankind than if they had been slain for food, as was intended.” — See Macknight and Doddridge.


Verse 33-34

Matthew 8:33-34. They that kept them — went into the city, and told every thing — And also in the country, Luke 8:34. They circumstantially related what had happened to the two demoniacs, and how the demons had been ejected from them. And the whole city came out to meet Jesus — Their curiosity was excited, and they went out in crowds to see what was done, and to satisfy themselves, on the testimony of their own senses, as to the truth of so unparalleled a fact. And when they saw him — And observed the demoniacs sitting at his feet, clothed, and in their right minds: (the disciples having, it seems, charitably supplied them with such upper garments as they could spare,) they perceived how great Christ’s power was, and were exceedingly afraid, having trespassed in the matter of the swine, which was an unclean food; or, if the herd belonged to the Syrian inhabitants of the town, they might know the law, and consequently, taking the destruction of their cattle as a rebuke, they could not but dread further punishment from this prophet of the Jews, who was come to vindicate the neglected institutions of Moses; and therefore besought him that he would depart out of their coasts — For they loved their swine better than their souls! And are not many of the same mind? And Jesus, who never forced his company on those who were so insensible of its value as not to desire it, nor wrought miracles of healing without being asked, went into the ship and returned back again, Luke 8:37. Thus the destruction of the swine had the effect which the devils proposed. The men, however, who had been possessed by the demons, but were now delivered, and in their right minds, and, no doubt, full of the praises of Jesus, remained in the country, by his direction, to be living witnesses of his power and goodness, and of the stupidity and ingratitude of these Gadarenes. Mark 5:19.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 8:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-8.html. 1857.

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Saturday, July 4th, 2020
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13
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