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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
Matthew 11



Other Authors
Verse 1

Commanding ( διατάσσων )

The preposition διά has a distributive force: giving to each his appropriate charge.

Their cities ( αὐτῶν )

The towns of those to whom he came - the Galilaeans. Compare Matthew 4:23.

Verse 2

Two of his disciples ( δύο )

But the correct reading is διά , by. He sent by his disciples. So Rev.

Verse 3


Emphatic. Art thou “the Coming One?” - a current phrase for the Messiah.

Verse 5

The lame walk

Tynd., The halt go.

Verse 6

Be offended ( σκανδαλιοθῇ )

See on Matthew 5:29. Rev., shall find none occasion of stumbling. Compare Wyc., shall not be slandered.

Verse 7

As they departed ( τούτων δὲ πορευομένων )

Rev., more literal and better, as these went their way; or while they, John's disciples, were departing' thus giving the simultaneousness of Jesus' words with the act of departure.

To see ( θεάσασθαι )

Rev., to behold. θεᾶσθαι , like θεωρεῖν , expresses the calm, continuous contemplation of an object which remains before the spectator. Compare John 1:14. Another verb is used in Christ's repetition of the question, Matthew 11:8, Matthew 11:9; ἰδεῖν in the ordinary sense of seeing. The more earnest expression suits the first question.

Verse 12

Suffereth violence ( βιάζεται )

Lit., is forced, overpowered, taken by storm. Christ thus graphically portrays the intense excitement which followed John's ministry; the eager waiting, striving, and struggling of the multitude for the promised king.

The violent take it by force ( βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν )

This was proved by the multitudes who followed Christ and thronged the doors where he was, and would have taken him by force (the same word) and made him a king (John 6:15). The word take by force means literally to snatch away, carry off. It is often used in the classics of plundering. Meyer renders, Those who use violent efforts, drag it to themselves. So Tynd., They that make violence pull it unto them. Christ speaks of believers. They seize upon the kingdom and make it their own. The Rev., men of violence, is too strong, since it describes a class of habitually and characteristically violent men; whereas the violence in this case is the result of a special and exceptional impulse. The passage recalls the old Greek proverb quoted by Plato against the Sophists, who had corrupted the Athenian youth by promising the easy attainment of wisdom: Good things are hard. Dante has seized the idea:

Regnum coelorum (the kingdom of heaven) suffereth violence

From fervent love, and from that living hope

That overcometh the divine volition;

Not in the guise that man o'ercometh man,

But conquers it because it will be conquered,

And conquered, conquers by benignity.”

Parad., xx., 94-99.

Verse 14

If ye will ( εἰ θέλετε )

More correctly, Rev., If ye are willing or disposed. For there would naturally be an unwillingness to receive the statement about John's high place, in view of John's imprisonment.

Verse 16

Children ( παιδίοις )

Diminutive, little children. The Rev. Donald Fraser gives the picture simply and vividly: “He pictured a group of little children playing at make-believe marriages and funerals. First they acted a marriage procession; some of them piping as on instruments of music, while the rest were expected to leap and dance. In a perverse mood, however, these last did not respond, but stood still and looked discontented. So the little pipers changed their game and proposed a funeral. They began to imitate the loud wailing of eastern mourners. But again they were thwarted, for their companions refused to chime in with the mournful cry and to beat their breasts … .So the disappointed children complained: 'We piped unto you and ye did not dance; we wailed, and ye did not mourn. Nothing pleases you. If you don't want to dance, why don't yon mourn? … It is plain that yon are in bad humor, and determined not to be pleased'” (“Metaphors in the Gospels”). The issue is between the Jews (this generation ) and the children of wisdom, Matthew 11:19.

Market-places ( ἀγοραῖς )

From ἀγείρω , to assemble. Wyc., renders cheepyngecompare cheepsidethe place for buying selling; for the word cheap had originally no reference to small price, but meant simply barter or price. The primary conception in the Greek word has nothing to do with buying and selling. Ἀγορά is an assembly; thenthe place of assembly. The idea of a place of trade comes in afterward, and naturally, since trade plants itself where people habitually gather. Hence the Roman Forum was devoted, not only to popular and judicial assemblies, but to commercial purposes, especially of bankers. The idea of trade gradually becomes the dominant one in the word. In Eastern cities the markets are held in bazaars and streets, rather than in squares. In these public places the children would be found playing. Compare Zechariah 8:5.

Verse 17

Mourn ( ἐκόψασθε )

Lit.,beat or strike (the breast), as in oriental funeral lamentations.

Verse 20

Mighty works ( δυνάμεις )

The supernatural works of Christ and his apostles are denoted by six different words in the New Testament, exhibiting these works under different aspects and from different points of view. These will be considered in detail as they occur. Generally, a miracle may be regarded: 1. As a portent or prodigy ( τέρας )as Acts 7:36, of the wonders shown by Moses in Egypt. 2. As a sign ( σημεῖον )pointing to something beyond itself, a mark of the power or grace of the doer or of his connection with the supernatural world. So Matthew 12:38. 3. As an exhibition of God's glory ( ἔνδοξον ), Luke 13:17; glorious things. 4. As a strange thing ( παράδοξον ) Luke 5:26. 5. As a wonderful thing ( θαυμάσιον ), Matthew 21:15. 6. As a power ( δύναμις ); so here: a mighty work.

Verse 22

But ( πλὴν )

Better Rev., howbeit, or as Wyc., nevertheless. Chorazin and Bethsaida did not repent; therefore a woe lies against them; nevertheless they shall be more excusable than you who have seen the mighty works which were not done among them.

Verse 25


In reply to something which is not stated.

I thank ( ἐξομολογοῦμαι )

Compare Matthew 3:6, of confessing sins. Lit., I confess. I recognize the justice and wisdom of thy doings. But with the dative, as here ( σοι, to thee )it means to praise, with an undercurrent of acknowledgment; to confess only in later Greek, and with an accusative of the object. Rev. gives praise in the margin here, and at Romans 14:11. Tynd., I praise.

Prudent ( συνετῶν )

Rev., understanding; Wyc., wary. From the verb συνίημι , to bring together, and denoting that peculiarity of mind which brings the simple features of an object into a whole. Hence comprehension, insight. Compare on Mark 12:33, understanding ( συνέσεως )Wise ( σοφῶν ) and understanding are often joined, as here. The general distinction is between productive and reflective wisdom, but the distinction is not always recognized by the writer.

Verse 27

Are delivered ( παρεδόθη )

More lit., were delivered, as of a single act at a given time, as in this case, where the Son was sent forth by the Father, and clothed with authority. Compare Matthew 28:18.

Knoweth ( ἐπιγινώσκει )

The compound indicating full knowledge. Others behold only in part, “through a glass, darkly.”

Verse 28

Labor and are heavy-laden ( κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι )

The first an active, the second a passive participle, exhibiting the active and passive sides of human misery.

Give rest ( ἀναπαύσω )

Originally to make to cease; Tynd.,ease; Wyc., refresh. The radical conception is that of relief.

Verse 29

Yoke ( ζυγόν )

“These words, as recorded by St. Matthew, the Evangelist of the Jews, must have sunk the deeper into the hearts of Christ's Jewish hearers, that they came in their own old, familiar form of speech, yet with such contrast of spirit. One of the most common figurative expressions of the time was that of the yoke for submission to an occupation or obligation. Very instructive for the understanding of the figure is this paraphrase of Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41. The section Deuteronomy 6:4-9 was said to precede Deuteronomy 11:13-21, so that we might take upon ourselves the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and only after that the yoke of the commandments. The Saviour's words must have had a special significance to those who remembered this lesson; and they would now understand how, by coming to the Saviour, they would first take on them the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and then that of the commandments, finding this yoke easy and the burden light” (Edersheim, “Life and Times of Jesus,” and “Jewish Social Life”)Meek ( πραΰ́ς )

See on Matthew 5:5.

Lowly ( ταπεινός )

The word has a history. In the classics it is used commonly in a bad and degrading sense, of meanness of condition, lowness of rank, and cringing abjectness and baseness of character. Still, even in classical Greek, this is not its universal usage. It is occasionally employed in a way which foreshadows its higher sense. Plato, for instance, says, “To that law (of God) he would be happy who holds fast, and follows it in all humility and order; but he who is lifted up with pride, or money, or honor, or beauty, who has a soul hot with folly, and youth, and insolence, and thinks that he has no need of a guide or ruler, but is able himself to be the guide of others, he, I say,is left deserted of God” (“Laws,” 716). And Aristotle says: “He who is worthy of small things, and deems himself so, is wise” (“Nich. Ethics, iv., 3). At best, however, the classical conception is only modesty, absence of assumption. It is an element of wisdom and in no way opposed to self-righteousness (see Aristotle above). The word for the Christian virtue of humility ( ταπεινοφροσύνη )was not used before the Christian era, and is distinctly an outgrowth of the Gospel. This virtue is based upon a correct estimate of our actual littleness, and is linked with a sense of sinfulness. True greatness is holiness. We are little because sinful. Compare Luke 18:14. It is asked how, in this view of the case, the word can be applied to himself by the sinless Lord? “The answer is,” says Archbishop Trench, “that for the sinner humility involves the confession of sin, inasmuch as it involves the confession of his true condition; while yet for the unfallen creature the grace itself as truly exists, involving for such the acknowledgment, not of sinfulness, which would be untrue, but of creatureliness, of absolute dependence, of having nothing, but receiving all things of God. And thus the grace of humility belongs to the highest angel before the throne, being as he is a creature, yea, even to the Lord of Glory himself. In his human nature he must be the pattern of all humility, of all creaturely dependence; and it is only as a man that Christ thus claims to be lowly; his human life was a constant living on the fulness of his Father's love; he evermore, as man, took the place which beseemed the creature in the presence of its Creator” (“Synonyms,” p. 145). The Christian virtue regards man not only with reference to God, but to his fellow-man. In lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself (Philemon 2:3, Rev.). But this is contrary to the Greek conception of justice or righteousness, which was simply “his own to each one.” It is noteworthy that neither the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, nor the New Testament recognize the ignoble classical sense of the word.

Ye shall find ( εὑρήσετε )

Compare I will give you and ye shall find. The rest of Christ is twofold- given and found. It is given in pardon and reconciliation. It is found under the yoke and the burden; in the development of Christian experience, as more and more the “strain passes over” from self to Christ. “No other teacher, since the world began, has ever associated learn with rest. 'Learn of me,'says the philosopher, 'and you shall find restlessness.' 'Learn of me,' says Christ, 'and you shall find rest'” (Drummond, “Natural Law in the Spiritual World”)i1.

Verse 30

Easy ( χρηστὸς )

Not a satisfactory rendering. Christ's yoke is not easy in the ordinary sense of that word. The word means originally, good, serviceable. The kindred noun, χρηστότης , occurring only in Paul's writings, is rendered kindness in 2 Corinthians 6:6; Titus 3:4; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 2:7 (Rev.), and goodness, Romans 2:4 (Rev.). At Luke 5:39, it is used of old wine, where the true reading, instead of better, is good ( χρηστός )mellowed with age. Plato (“Republic,” 424) applies the word to education. “Good nurture and education ( τροφὴ γὰρ καὶ παίδευσις χρηστὴ ) implant good ( ἀγαθὰς ) constitutions; and these good ( χρησταὶ ) constitutions improve more and more;” thus evidently using χρηστός and ἀγαθός as synonymous. The three meanings combine in the word, though it is impossible to find an English word which combines them all. Christ's yoke is wholesome, serviceable, kindly. “Christ's yoke is like feathers to a bird; not loads, but helps to motion” (Jeremy Taylor).


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 11:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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