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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 10

 

 

Verse 1

§ 57. — THE TWELVE INSTRUCTED, AND SENT ON A TRIAL MISSION.

Twelve — Why was the number twelve selected? Doubtless in allusion to the twelve tribes of Israel. In Matthew 19:28, Jesus says to his twelve disciples: “Ye shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” By this sacred number our Lord intimated to the Jewish nation that he, the heir of David, and God’s Messiah or Anointed One, was king of Israel, and these his tribal judges or viceroys.


Verse 2

2. Apostles — The word apostle signifies one sent. It is derived from the Greek word αποστελλω, apostello, which is the very word used in Matthew 10:5, and translated sent forth.

35. — CATALOGUE OF THE TWELVE, 2-4.

By a careful comparison of the four different Apostolic catalogues given by the narrators, we shall find them divisible, as below, by parallel lines, into three classes; each class being headed by the same name, and each class including the same names, but with the lower names in each class variously ranged: —

Matthew 10:2-4.

Mark 3:16-19.

Luke 6:14-16.

Acts 1:13.

1 Simon Peter.

Simon Peter.

Simon Peter.

Peter.

2 Andrew, his brother.

James.

Andrew.

James.

3 James, son of Zebedee.

John.

James.

John.

4 John, his brother.

Andrew.

John.

Andrew.

5 Philip.

Philip

Philip.

Philip.

6 Bartholomew.

Bartholomew.

Bartholomew.

Thomas.

7 Thomas.

Matthew.

Matthew.

Bartholomew.

8 Matthew.

Thomas.

Thomas.

Matthew.

9 James, son of Alpheus.

James.

James.

James.

10 Lebbeus, Thaddeus.

Thaddeus.

Simon Zelotes.

Simon Zelotes.

11 Simon, the Canaanite.

Simon.

Judas, bro. of James.

Judas, bro. of James.

12 Judas Iscariot.

Judas Iscariot.

Judas Iscariot

— —

2. First, Simon, who is called Peter — Peter was a native of Bethsaida, in Galilee, and was the son of a certain Jonas, whence he is named on one occasion in the Gospel history Simon Bar-jona, that is, son of Jona, (Matthew 16:17.) Along with his brother Andrew, he followed the occupation of a fisherman at the Sea of Galilee. It is probable that before they became known to Christ they were both disciples of John the Baptist. John, in the first chapter of his Gospel, states this fact in regard to Andrew, and informs us that Andrew introduced Simon to our Lord, who gave him the Syriac name of Cephas, equivalent to the Greek Petros, which signifies a stone. It was not till some time after this introduction that Peter was called to the special discipleship, (Matthew 4:18-20.) Most of what we know of Peter is derived from the New Testament, especially from the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and his own two epistles. Subsequent to his history in the Acts, he seems to have lived in the East, as one of his epistles is addressed to the Churches of Asia Minor and was written from Babylon. According to ecclesiastical history of authentic character, he was subsequently at Rome, and there suffered martyrdom under the reign of Nero. The story that he was Bishop of Rome, upon which popery asserts her claim to supremacy, has no historical value.

Andrew his brother — The name of Andrew, though of Greek origin, was common among the Jews. The apostle of this name was, like his brother Peter, a native of the Galilean Bethsaida. He was a disciple of John the Baptist, and was led by John’s testimony to believe in Jesus. He introduced Peter to our Lord, but was soon surpassed by him in eminence of apostolic character. Together with Peter, he was called from his fishing net to be a fisher of men. He is not very conspicuous in the Gospels. He is mentioned at the feeding of the five thousand, as the introducer of several Greeks to our Lord, and as asking, with Peter, James, and John, for an explanation of our Lord’s remark touching the destruction of the temple. Tradition affirms that he afterward preached in Scythia, and that he was crucified at Patrae in Achaia.

James the son of Zebedee — James and John were the sons of Zebedee and Salome of Bethsaida, in Galilee. Their father seems to have been a man of some wealth, prosecuting the business of fishing in the lake, with hired workmen. The respectability of the family is evidenced by John’s acquaintance with the high priest, and easy circumstances are indicated by the fact that John became responsible for the maintenance of his Lord’s mother. These two brothers were summoned to the apostleship soon after the call of Peter and Andrew, and, like them, paid a prompt obedience to the call. They were selected to be witnesses with Peter alone on several solemn occasions, as at the transfiguration, and at the agony at Gethsemane. It was for James and John that the ambitious Salome asked the premiership or place of prime honour in the Messiah’s kingdom. They were styled by our Lord “sons of thunder,” probably from their ardent temperament and bold eloquence as preachers. James was one of the first Christian martyrs, being slain by Herod Agrippa, as narrated in Acts 12:2. Clement of Alexandria says that such was his firmness in death, that the officer at his execution was converted thereby to Christianity, and was martyred with him.

And John his brother — Of John we have said much in the foregoing notes. With the exception of Peter, he is the most conspicuous and the most interesting character in the apostolic college. To the books of the New Testament he contributed a Gospel, three epistles, and the Apocalypse. He survived all the apostles, living at Ephesus, perhaps as bishop, until about the close of the first century. His character appears to have been affectionate, and as some think, almost feminine. Wonder has been felt why he should have been called a son of thunder. But those who remember that he was the author of the Apocalypse can hardly be at a loss for a reason.


Verse 3

3. Philip — Philip was the fifth of the apostles who came from Bethsaida. He was one of the less conspicuous of the twelve. His first acquaintance with the Lord is narrated in the first chapter of John. To him our Lord put the question previous to the miracle of feeding the five thousand, which tested his faith, and proved him not to be very spiritual. The same want of spirituality is manifested by his request at the last supper: “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” When certain Greeks desired of him an introduction to Jesus, he hesitated, and consulted Andrew concerning the matter. This indicates that he enjoyed less nearness to Jesus than other apostles. Tradition says that he preached the Gospel in Phrygia. Nor did his early want of spiritual elevation prevent his wearing a martyr’s crown, as he is said to have incurred a martyr’s fate at Hierapolis.

Bartholomew — The Hebrew form of this name is Bar-tolmai, or son of Tolma. Bartholomew is supposed to be identical with Nathanael, mentioned in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. The reason for this supposition is that Philip and Bartholomew are mentioned together in the first three Gospels, while no Nathanael is mentioned; whereas in the fourth Gospel Philip and Nathanael are associated, without any mention of Bartholomew. Bartholomew, then, was the “Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile.” He is not often distinctively mentioned by the evangelists. He is said to have preached the Gospel in India. It is an authentic fact of ecclesiastical history, that a copy of Matthew’s Gospel in Hebrew was found by Pantaenus in India, left there by Bartholomew. It is not known where he died.

Thomas — The two names of this apostle, Thomas and Didymus, signify in the Greek and Hebrew languages respectively, twin. Of his origin or family relations there is no authentic account. He is remarkable among the apostles for his rigid demand of sensible evidence of the Lord’s resurrection. Yet his appears not to have been a diseased skepticism. His mind travelled slowly, and required a solid basis of truth. When he felt his foundations firm, his fidelity to his Lord was true, and his courage bold. Thomas is said, traditionally, to have preached the Gospel in Parthia. The Christians of the Syrian Church in India claim him as their founder, and call themselves by his name.

Matthew the publican — Of Matthew a full account is prefixed to his Gospel in this volume.

James the son of Alpheus — Called by Mark, James the Less. His father Alpheus is also called Cleophas, and his mother was Mary, sister of the virgin mother. James was therefore cousin of the Lord.

Our view is that there were three Jameses, of whom the following parallel sketches will give a correct view.

1. JAMES, son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John.

2. JAMES, (the Less,) son of Alpheus or Cleophas.

3. JAMES, son of Joseph and Mary, and half brother of the Lord Jesus.

One of the twelve. Matthew 10:2.

One of the twelve. Matthew 10:2.

Not one of the twelve nor at first a believer in Jesus. Matthew 10:2-4; John 7:5.

One of the three specially honoured disciples. Matthew 17:1; Matthew 26:37.

Jude the apostle was his brother, (Luke 6:16,) and this Jude was author of Jude’s epistle. Judges 1:1.

Named among the family of Jesus. Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3.

Killed with the sword of Herod-Agrippa Acts 12:2.

The mother of James was Mary, sister of the blessed mother; so that he was cousin of the Lord. John 19:25; Luke 24:10.

Brethren of the Lord appear as believers, yet separate from the twelve. Acts 1:13-14.

He had a brother Joses. Matthew 27:56.

James, not one of the twelve, has a vision of the risen Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:5; 1 Corinthians 15:7.

James, though not of the twelve, postnamed an apostle. Galatians 1:19.

Called by Eusebius “the Just.”

Resident pastor at Jerusalem.

“James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars.” Galatians 2:9.

“Paul went in with us unto James: and all the elders were present.” Acts 21:18.

Certain came from James to Peter. Galatians 2:12.

Present at council. Acts 15:6-29.

Author of the Epistle. Martyred at Jerusalem

Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus — He is called Thaddeus by Mark, and Judas (the Greek form of the name Judah) by Luke. He is the “Judas not Iscariot” mentioned by John, John 14:22. He was probably brother of James the Less, son of Mary, (sister of the virgin mother,)and therefore cousin-german of the Saviour. His name is found in the question of the Nazarenes, “James and Joses and Simon and Judas.” He was probably the Jude who wrote the epistle bearing that name. Little or nothing is known of his subsequent history. But his grandchildren are summoned to appear before the Emperor Domitian, as has been mentioned in our notes on the first chapter of Matthew.


Verse 4

4. Simon the Canaanite — Least is known in regard to this apostle of all the twelve. He is not mentioned in the New Testament out of the catalogue. The epithet Canaanite is an Aramaic word, signifying Zealot. This name indicates that he had belonged to the fanatical sect of Judas the Gaulonite before he became an apostle of Jesus.

Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him — Luke styles him the traitor, that is, betrayer. His name is uniformly brought last because he was the least respected. The name Iscariot is the Greek form for Isch Kerioth, or man of Kerioth. Kerioth was a small town of Judea. Judas is conspicuous among the apostles for dark traits of character, and the events of a dark history.

So much will have to be said of him in our future notes, that we may say very little here.


Verse 5

I. DIRECTIONS FOR THEIR PRESENT JOURNEY, Matthew 10:5-15.

This first part of the discourse is also divisible into three parts: 1. Their journey and business, Matthew 10:5 to Matthew 8:2. Their provisions, Matthew 10:9; Matthew 10:3. Their reception, Matthew 10:11-14.

5. Go — This was the word — Go. It embraced the commission of an apostle, and it embraces the mission of every preacher. Christ is his starting point, the world his field, souls his object; and he is not to stand, but to move; not to stay, but to GO.

Not into the way of the Gentiles — Our Lord’s direction first tells them where not to go. The way or route through the nations and tribes lying out of Palestine, is prohibited. Any city of the Samaritans — Our Lord forbids not going into the way of the Samaritans, but into any city of theirs. Samaria lay between Galilee and Judea. The way from one to the other therefore lay through Samaria. Into this way our Lord himself went, but not into any city of that section. The Gospel might be dropped by them, as by our Lord himself passingly and by the way, but not be directly carried into any centre of population.

Why did our Lord thus limit his apostles to Palestine and to Israel? For the same reason, we may reply, that he made Israel primitively his chosen people. The whole Old Testament dispensation was limited to Israel. Amid the apostacy of the nations, God deposited his truth, his ordinances, and his oracles for safe preservation with one people. Upon one land he concentrated the light of his truth. These deposits were there held in reserve for the fulness of the times, in order that, when the proper period should arrive, that light might be diffused, and ultimately fill the whole earth. As he who would fill a whole room with light first deposits the light in the lamp, so God, to illuminate the nations, first deposits his truth in his lamp, his chosen people. It was fitting, therefore, that this first mission should not be limitless and without concentration. The land of the Messiah should be the place for preaching the Messiah. Israel, unfaithful as he had been, was still the best prepared medium to receive and propagate the Messiah’s doctrine. The oracles, the prophecies, the types, the temple, the sacrifices, all of which pointed to the Messiah, were still in Israel. Jews were therefore the first receivers and first proclaimers of the Gospel. As Christ had chosen twelve tribes from the nations, so he chose twelve apostles from the tribes. It was the mission of the apostles to indoctrinate the tribes, that the tribes might indoctrinate the nations. But after the Lord’s resurrection an enlarged commission, embracing the world, was conferred upon them. They were to go into all nations, and preach the Gospel to every creature.

The peculiar history of the Samaritans is mostly learned from the Old Testament. After the revolt of the ten tribes Samaria became their capital, and from it the population generally received the name Samaritans. In the ninth year of Hoshea, king of Israel, the main body of the better population were taken captive and transported by Shalmanezer to Assyria. 2 Kings 17. To fill their place, a population of Assyrians was colonized by the same king in northern Palestine. These idolaters were assailed by lions; and considering their depredations to be produced by the anger of Jehovah, the God of Israel, they sent for a priest of the tribe of Levi, who came by their wish and dwelt in Bethel, to teach them the religion of the true God. A mixed religion as well as a mixed people resulted. Idolatry and Judaism were combined in their doctrines; Assyrian and Israelite blood were blended in their race. When the Jews returned from their captivity to Judea, feuds arose between the Samaritans and Jews, which last to the present hour. In the reign of Darius Nothus, king of Persia, Manasses, son of the high priest of the Jews, married the daughter of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria; and being required by the Mosaic law to divorce her, he preferred to go over to the Samaritans. Under the patronage of his father in law he became Samaritan high priest, with a temple erected for him on Mount Gerizim. From that time Jew and Samaritan became hateful to each other.

In our Saviour’s time Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. John 4:9. The worst thing a Jew supposed he could utter of Jesus was, Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil. John 8:48. Our Saviour in the present verse recognizes the Jews as the covenant people in distinction from Samaritans; but on several occasions he manifested his purity from the Jewish malignity against them. He made a Samaritan the hero of one of his parables, in disparagement of a Jewish priest and Levite. Luke 10:33. The Samaritans, many of them, believed upon him. John 4:29. See also Luke 9.

Of the Samaritans but a few families now remain, namely, at Nablous, the ancient Shechem. They have a venerable copy of the law, strictly keep the Sabbath, observe the ancient festivals, and firmly expect the Messiah.


Verses 5-42

§ 57. — CHARGE TO THE APOSTLES, Matthew 10:5-42.

The unity of this discourse demonstrates the oneness of its delivery, a point disputed by Olshausen and others. It consists properly of three parts. The first (Matthew 10:5-15) directs their demeanour during this present trial mission. The second (Matthew 10:16-23) predicts their trials and persecutions through their whole apostolate. The third (Matthew 10:24-42) states the duty of suffering, the struggle to ensue, and the results, namely, the reward and penalty of the acceptance or rejection of their Gospel. The discourse, therefore, is complete and symmetrical. There is not a sentence or a word inappropriate to the occasion.


Verse 6

6. But go rather — Having told them where not to go, our Lord now teaches them whither they should go. Lost sheep — Lost, as having forsaken the true shepherd, and wandered from the true fold. Yet still they are sheep, not wolves. They are children of the covenant, and especially are they the sheep, who are predisposed and ready to obey the true voice of the shepherd when heard. House — That is, family or lineage.


Verse 7

7. As ye go — Our Lord here implies that they would continually extend their missionary travels. They were to be true itinerants, travelling after they had preached, and preaching as they travelled.

The kingdom of heaven — A kingdom which is the opposite of the kingdoms of this world, and still more of the kingdom of hell. Of this kingdom the crown prince is Messiah. When, therefore, they proclaimed the approach of this kingdom, they of course implied the Messiah’s coming.


Verse 8

8. Heal the sick — The preaching was to be confirmed by the miracle. The miraculous powers were a foretaste and premonition of the nature of that kingdom. They were the first rays of its manifestation; and the powers of that kingdom, exercised by these apostles, prove them its true heralds. The four evils which these miracles removed, namely, sickness, leprosy, death, and devils, were all tokens and products of the reign of hell. Raise the dead — This clause, being omitted by some manuscripts of the New Testament, is suspected by some able critics to be an interpolation. The absence of any account of such miracle by them performed, does, indeed, prove nothing; for no account is given, of any performances during this mission. But the supposition of so great a miracle stands opposed to the general analogy of that state of pupilage in which the apostles remained during the Saviour’s life. Freely give — Sell no miracles; sell no Gospel. As the apostleship, the Gospel, and the power were received by you unbought, so give that Gospel unsold. All this freeness, however, presupposes that the gratitude of those whom you freely bless will, not, indeed, pay you, but freely give you all your needs require. The miracle by which you save other’s lives and souls, must not sustain your own. You are not to live by miracle.


Verse 9

9. Provide — Thus far our Lord has described their errand; he now comes to their equipment; which is to be no equipment at all. Whoever has money in his pocket, raiment upon his person, may keep them and go; but nothing additional must he provide. The Saviour here specifies the three current metals which formed the money of the day. Parallel to these we have, at the present day, gold, silver, and copper, making the eagle, the dollar, the cent. Not a brass penny or farthing was the apostle to provide for his journey. Purses — The folds of the girdle served, as a Jewish purse, to carry money. But allusion may be made to the custom of sewing money in a girdle or belt, to be worn next the skin, for safe keeping.


Verse 10

10. Nor scrip — The scrip was a wallet slung by thongs upon the person, to contain provisions or other necessaries. They are, as Dr. Thomson states, “merely the skins of kids stripped of wool and tanned by a very simple process.” Dr. T. well adds. “By the way, the entire ‘outfit’ of these first missionaries shows that they were plain fishermen, farmers, or shepherds; and to such men there was no extraordinary self-denial in the matter or the mode of their mission. We may expound the ‘instructions’ given to these primitive evangelists somewhat after the following manner:

Provide neither silver, nor gold, nor brass in your purses. You are going to your brethren in the neighbouring villages, and the best way to get to their hearts and their confidence is to throw yourselves upon their hospitality. Nor was there any departure from the simple manners of the country in this. Neither do they encumber themselves with two coats. They are accustomed to sleep in the garments they have on during the day, and in this climate such plain people experience no inconvenience from it. They wear a coarse shoe, answering to the sandal of the ancients, but never take two pairs of them; and although the staff is an invariable companion of all wayfarers, they are content with one. Of course, such ‘instructions’ can have only a general application to those who go forth, not to neighbours of the same faith and nation, but to distant climes, and to heathen tribes.”

Nor yet staves — The plural of staff. According to the parallel passage in Mark, our Lord expressly permitted a staff. Some have, therefore, found an imaginary contradiction in the passage. To reconcile the discrepancy, commentators have imagined that a single staff was permitted, but not two staves or more. But who ever heard of a traveller providing himself with a number of staves? The true meaning is, that he who had a staff might take it, but he who had not should not provide it.

Workman is worthy of his meat — Humanly speaking, indeed, every man is entitled to an equivalent for what he gives. The man who gives his talents, his acquirements, his labour for a people’s good, is humanly entitled to pay. Hence, in a true sense, the people do not give, but pay. It is not a charity, but a debt. There is a pecuniary obligation as well as a divine requirement. Yet who can pay the value of the Gospel? See note on Matthew 10:8.


Verse 11

11. Inquire who in it is worthy — Worthy to receive the offer of the Gospel by their readiness to receive it and to entertain its ministers. The apostles enter a town and inquire who is spiritually minded, where lives a pious Jew, or what man is predisposed to believe in the celebrated Jesus of Nazareth. Him they conclude to be worthy, and to his house they apply for admittance.


Verse 12

12. Salute it — According to the customary form among the Jews, namely, “Peace be to this house.” But this was not to be a mere form. In that phrase of technical politeness, religion should breathe a divine power. It is not a compliment, but a prayer and a blessing.


Verse 13

13. Your peace return to you — The blessing they cannot receive. Resume it, and bear it away with yourself. And when thus rejected be careful that no anger of yours shall mar the peace that comes back to you.


Verse 14

14. Dust of your feet — Such was the custom of stricter Jews in departing from a heathen city. But henceforth the rejecters of Jesus, though Jews by blood, are heathen in heart. The meaning of the symbol of shaking the dust from your feet, is solemn and striking. It declares the city polluted, and not a particle of it shall adhere to the apostle’s person. It is given over to itself, and consigned to its own destruction.


Verse 15

15. Sodom and Gomorrah — Genesis 19. For their sins these cities were destroyed by a miraculous fire from Jehovah. But, as Jude informs us, this was but a symbol of eternal wrath, by which they were set forth as suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. The temporal fire is a visible emblem of the invisible fire never to be quenched.

It shall be more tolerable — It is to be remarked that our Lord here speaks in the future; that is, a time is coming at some future day. What future day that is, he now specifies. The day of judgment — Of that day of judgment Jesus gives a vivid description in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. See also Revelation 20. Than for that city — Our Lord is not here threatening the innocent bricks and walls, but the guilty inhabitants of the cities who reject his Gospel. And from his words we learn: 1. That there is a future day in which the inhabitants of the earth, at the different periods of its history, are to stand before the judgment-seat of God and receive their sentence. 2. The degree of punishment will be measured according to the privileges enjoyed and the guilt incurred. 3. Acceptance of the message of God when sent is the only method of escape and the only means of salvation.


Verse 16

II. PREDICTIONS OF APOSTOLIC ENDURANCE OF PERSECUTION, Matthew 10:16-23.

In this second part our Lord expands the view from the present trial mission, so as to comprehend the warfare and sufferings of their entire apostolate.

16. Sheep in the midst of wolves — A most impressive image of the contrast between the meek messenger of the Gospel and the persecutors by whom he will be surrounded. Helpless, unarmed, undefended, to all appearance his only destiny is destruction.

Wise as serpents, harmless as doves — The secret stealth of the serpent has rendered him a favourite Oriental image of cunning. But the same word is here used that we find in the Septuagint, Genesis 3:1 : “The serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field.” Harmless as doves — By the same symbolism, abounding in Scripture, the dove is the emblem of innocence and purity. By this combination of emblems of contrasted character our Lord describes the true Christian wisdom. It is innocently artful; it is simple yet sharp-sighted; it is inventive to accomplish schemes of good.

As the serpent is the bodily emblem of Satan, so the dove is the bodily emblem of the Holy Spirit. The true apostle is to be shrewd like Satan, yet pure like the Spirit of his Master.


Verse 17

17. Beware of men — These wolves are men. And men, as such, are depraved in heart. Of all such, in their depraved, unregenerated character, have a care, for evil is to be expected from them. The evils to be expected our Lord next describes. Councils — The smaller courts in Palestine, yet including the grand Sanhedrim in Jerusalem.

Scourge you in their synagogues — Scourging is mentioned as a punishment in the Mosaic law. (Deuteronomy 25:13.) The criminal, being laid upon the ground, was scourged with a whip of three lashes, so that thirteen blows should inflict thirty-nine stripes. This was the forty save one which St. Paul received, 2 Corinthians 11:24. In their synagogues — The synagogue was the ordinary place of the Jewish courts of justice. Matthew 23:24; Acts 22:19.


Verse 18

18. Brought before governors — Procurators and proconsuls. Such were Pilate, Felix, and Festus. And kings — Such were Herod, Agrippa, and the Roman emperor. For a testimony against them — A memento in the great day of judgment, that the Gospel had been preached unto them, and had been rejected by them. And the Gentiles — For our Lord is now contemplating a field of trial far beyond the boundaries of Palestine, to which he had limited their present trial mission. From the humble encounters which they were to undergo before the magistrates and mobs in the towns of Palestine; our Lord mounts to their arraignments before the great ones of the earth and their expanded missions into the various Gentile nations. Here is a quiet yet signal prophecy of the spread of the Gospel in distant lands, and an intimation of the persecutions which marked the progress of Christianity for several centuries.


Verse 19

19. Take no thought — Our Lord here earnestly places the mind of the persecuted apostle on its true basis. Let him renounce all earthly tempers and human ingenuity, and cast himself in simple, Christlike dependence upon divine aid.


Verse 20

20. It is not ye that speak — Their words will be God’s words. In the demoniacs the devils spake through the human organs. In the arraigned apostles the Holy Spirit shall speak, making their voice his voice, and their tongue his organ. The Spirit of your Father — It is God’s Spirit, and at that moment he recognises you as sons of God. Hence our Lord does not here say, My Father, but places the protecting fatherhood of God directly over his apostles.

The assurances here given that premeditation of their speech was unnecessary to the apostles before their persecutors, are not to be rashly applied to every preacher in the administration of the Gospel. A neglect of preparation for the pulpit is carelessness; an avoidance of it under the expectation of inspiration is fanaticism. No doubt a divine influence attends a faithful administration of the word, but not so as to supersede the best and fullest exertion of the human faculties.

We have here the doctrine of inspiration stated in its strongest form. In the apostles, in the moment of trial, the Holy Spirit would reside, and the words they spake should be his words. Its existence with the apostles, at any rate, in certain exigencies, is here beyond doubt asserted. And who can affirm, that in those sacred documents, the New Testament Scriptures, the same inspiration does not exist. If the apostles were furnished with this inspiration in their momentary times of trial, how much more important, that in recording their words for ages for the instruction of the Church and the conversion of the world, they should possess the same high qualification.


Verse 21

21. Brother shall deliver up the brother to death — Persecution shall arise, in which all natural ties shall be disregarded. These predictions were amply fulfilled in the first ages of Christianity. Shall deliver up — Shall give information of them to the magistrate, and shall surrender them to the officer or government in pursuit of them. Children shall rise up against their parents — The children shall start up, accuse their parents of being Christians, and cause them to be put to death.


Verse 22

22. Shall be hated of all men — That is, of all men out of the Christian community. Tacitus, the Roman historian, says, like a true pagan, that “the Christians were convicted of enmity to the human race;” Jews hated them as revolters from their own religion. Pagans could tolerate each other, and respect and worship each other’s gods. But the Christians abhorred all paganism, and so all pagans abhorred them; thus, Christians were hated of all men, whether Jews or Gentiles. The Christian was surrounded on every side by Jewish and by pagan rites. Every hour of the day, and at every turn, he was called upon to manifest his aversion to them. The consequence was, that while every other sect was tolerated, Christianity was the object of bloody persecution. For my name’s sake — This endurance of persecution, and this abhorrence of false religions, was neither a fiery fanaticism nor a vain superstition. It was for Jesus’s sake. It was suffering for truth, for Christ, and for God. Endureth to the end — To the end of his life and probation. To have once put faith in Christ is not the full condition of salvation. Faith, and perseverance of faith to the end, are the complete condition. That faith may be renounced. The Saviour once accepted, may be afterward rejected. Apostacy, total and final, may forfeit the reward.


Verse 23

23. Persecute you in this city — Our Lord now momentarily reverts to the present trial and specimen mission upon which they are just proceeding. It is to towns and cities, rather than to rural districts, that they are going. Nay, they are commencing, as it were, the entire circuit (which they will never complete) of the cities of Palestine. They have no time to delay and fight the battle in cities that reject them. Driven from one city, let them hasten to another. They will not have visited even then all the cities of Israel before their special mission to Israel will be closed. Jesus will come at his resurrection, and give them a new commission for all the nations of the earth.

The command to flee was little accordant with a false human courage. But a heroism such as the world admires is not what Christ required. Christians who acted from the spirit of opposition, or the love of glory, were very apt to apostatize in the time of danger. The true martyr never sought death; never made a display of heroism; and never failed when, reposing faith in Christ, he meekly suffered for his name.

The Son of man — We have before remarked that this epithet was usually applied to our Lord by himself alone. See note on Matthew 8:20. Its first application to the Messiah is in Daniel 7:13 : “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom,” etc.

Upon this passage we may remark:

1. The Jews of all ages applied this pictorial description to their future Messiah. Our Saviour, therefore, in claiming this title, and habitually applying it to himself, claimed the title of Messiah.

2. This picture and title intimate that the Messiah would possess a human nature, and spring from a human origin, and therefore refer primarily to the humility of the Messiah. With a pure humility, therefore, does our Lord make it his own habitual epithet for himself.

3. Yet the title includes also his exaltation and glorification. He is seen “in the clouds of heaven.” He is led as a Son into the presence and before the throne of his Father Almighty. There is he invested with a divine royalty. Beneath him is placed a kingdom universal and eternal. This is the kingdom of heaven, yet it rules over the earth, comprehending authority over all nations.

4. This scenic picture has a complete fulfilment in the resurrection and ascension of Christ; when coming in body from the tomb, and in soul from Hades, he announced that all power was given to him, and ascended to the presence in glorified state of the Father Almighty. There was he invested with a universal kingdom, and took his seat on the right hand of the majesty of God. There shall he reign until he has subdued all enemies under his feet. Compare note on Matthew 16:28, and Matthew 28:18.

Till the Son of man be come — The apostles will not have gone over the cities of Israel till that coming, foreseen by Daniel, shall have withdrawn them from their special mission to Israel, and given them a mission to the world.

Of this expression, till the Son of man be come, very different interpretations have been given by commentators.

It has been referred to the judgment day, or second advent of Christ to judge the world. But this event did not take place in a shorter period than was requisite for the apostles to have gone over all the cities of Israel.

It is referred, however, by the great body of commentators, to the destruction of Jerusalem. Thus Stier gives a very plausible exposition, importing that the apostles will not be able to complete the circuit of Israel before that Christ, by his providence, will have overthrown the Jewish state, and have abolished the externalities of the Jewish dispensation. Nevertheless I am unable to adopt this view, as I shall show more fully in my notes on Matthew 24, 25. I will here remark, that the destruction of Jerusalem is, I think, nowhere called the coming of Christ. There is nothing in that event to render it a terminus of the past, or a commencement of the future. Judaism ended at the crucifixion. At that moment her ritual, her sacrifices, her temple, her priesthood, her whole status, were null, and nothing in the world. The resurrection and ascension were the inauguration of the new dispensation. And what explains this clause specially is, that then the cities of Israel were no longer the circumscribed field of the apostolic mission, but a universal commission was given. Hence it is that our Lord charges his apostles that, with the speediest circuit, they would not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come. Compare note on Matthew 16:28, and Matthew 28:18.


Verse 24

The Duty, Matthew 10:24-33.

24. Disciple is not above his master — So, according to many Jewish proverbs, the pupil of the rabbi was far his inferior. If the master undergo indignity, still deeper insult must the servant accept. And so with what force could our suffering Saviour, who endured the cross, require his disciples to endure by his own previous yet unparalleled example! He is our precedent for suffering, our pattern in suffering, but infinitely above us in the measure of suffering. He is our Lord, not by suffering less, but in the supremacy of his endurance.


Verses 24-42

III. THE DUTY, THE STRUGGLE, AND THE ISSUE, Matthew 10:24-42.

The duty: The reasonableness, the safety, and the reward of confessing Christ, Matthew 10:24-33. The struggle: A division between the nearest connections, a stern necessity of preferring truth to human ties, Matthew 10:34-39. The issue: All that receive Christ in his apostles, and who benefit and further their mission in faith, shall join them in the reward, Matthew 10:40-42.

This, the closing part of the discourse, stands in close connection with the train of thought which it completes. The previous part has described their mission and duties as apostles; what follows describes rather the case of those to whom they preach, yet including also those who preach. If persecutions must be suffered, to suffer is reasonable, it is safe, it attains a reward.


Verse 25

25. Called the master of the house — Our Lord presents himself now under a slightly new figure. In the last verse he was a rabbi, with his pupils. In the present expression he is a householder, with his domestics. Their foes have not shrunk to call him by the most opprobrious epithets; still less respect can be expected for them. Beelzebub — This word is the Greek form of the name of Baal-zebub, (the Philistine god worshipped at Ekron,) signifying the lord of flies. See 2 Kings 1:2. But the reading of the word in this verse, best supported by the manuscripts, is, by a slight alteration, Beelzeboul. This is undoubtedly here the true form. The Jews were accustomed to express their contempt of a thing by some slight change of its name, which gave it a disgusting or even indecent meaning. Beelzeboul signifies lord of dung. And the word dung was also their contemptuous epithet for idolatry, since they intended to give the filthiest possible name to what they considered the vilest possible sin. Beelzebub, therefore, they changed to Beelzeboul, lord of dung, or perhaps, idolatry. No worse epithet did they feel themselves able to invent for Jesus. It was perhaps from the title lord of idolatry, thus acquired, that Beelzebub was reputed prince of devils. And in the extremity of their hatred, their attributing to Jesus the name of this supreme demon, indicated their consciousness of the mighty power he manifested.

And now the discipleship of Christ is a great family, and if its enemies have launched their foulest calumnies against its illustrious head, what right have its members to expect exemption from reproach?


Verse 26

26. Nothing covered, that shall not be revealed — All their words and deeds of darkness and violence shall be exposed in the broad light of God’s judgment.


Verse 27

27. What I tell you in darkness — My words uttered in privacy, or enveloped in parables, shall also come forth. As their deeds are to come to the light of condemnation, so my Gospel shall come forth to publication, to vindication, and to victory. That speak ye — Be ye its publishers. In light — In publicity. So far from allowing persecution to suppress the word, carry it forth from this preparatory retirement and proclaim it to the world. Hear in the ear — The pupil of the rabbi held his ear intent to receive the utterances of his master. Upon the housetops — It is still a custom in the East to make public proclamation to the city from a housetop. Dr. Thomson says: “At the present day local governors in country districts cause their commands thus to be published. Their proclamations are generally made in the evening, after the people have returned from their labours in the field. The public crier ascends the highest roof at hand, and lifts up his voice in a long-drawn call.”


Verse 28

28. Fear not them which kill the body — Neither miraculous power nor divine promise insures the apostles against bodily harm or bodily death. But they are enjoined to possess a superiority to fear of these corporeal injuries. And in these words is the primal source of the martyr spirit. It is courage founded on faith. Body… soul — We have here the two parts of man’s compound nature placed in contrast. They are two separate things.

The body is not the soul. The soul is not the body. This is demonstrably the doctrine of the text. Them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul — From these words, it follows that the body may be dead, and the soul alive. Men can murder the body, they can extinguish its corporeal life. They may burn it to ashes, and scatter its particles to the four winds. Yet still the soul is alive. No blows can murder it, no fire can burn it, no water drown or quench it. Nothing less than this can be the meaning of the text, and against the text no materialism can stand. But rather fear him — Namely, God. Fear, then, and fear as the dread of punishment, is a right and suitable feeling. And those who say that such a feeling is too base to be indulged, are contradicted by this text. And those who deny any punishment from God after the death of the body, contradict these words of Christ. To destroy both soul and body — The Lord does not say kill both soul and body. To destroy is not to kill, still less to annihilate, but to ruin. Our Lord’s words teach, not the dismissal of the soul from existence, but its catastrophe and ruin in existence. And this is an evil, a destruction, which we are bound to fear, as a possible reality beyond our bodily death. In hell — In Gehenna. This word Gehenna, or valley of Hinnom, in its primitive and literal sense, designated a gorge south of Jerusalem, otherwise called Tophet, where the offals of the city were ordinarily burned. As a place of defilement and perpetual fire, it became to the Jewish mind the emblem, and the word became the name, of the perpetual fire of retribution in a world to come. Hence, loose reasoners have endeavoured to maintain that this valley was the only hell. And upon this sophism the heresy of Universalism is mainly founded. But the present text demonstrates that beyond the death of the body, and therefore in a future state, there is a hell or Gehenna, which the soul may suffer, more terrible than bodily death, and more to be feared than any evil that man can inflict. God is the author of that evil; it lies beyond death, it is executed upon the soul as well as the body. No plausible interpretation can expel these meanings from this text.

The following statement is from Kitto’s Cyclopedia:

“Hell is represented by Sheol in the Old, and by Hades in the New Testament. But hell, as the place of final punishment for sinners, is more distinctively indicated by the term Gehenna, which is the word translated ‘hell’ in Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 18:9; Matthew 23:15; Matthew 23:33; Mark 9:43; Mark 9:45; Mark 9:47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. It is also distinctively indicated by such phrases as ‘the place of torment,’ (Luke 16:28;) ‘everlasting fire,’ (Matthew 25:41;) ‘the hell of fire,’ ‘where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,’ (Mark 9:44.) The dreadful nature of the abode of the wicked is implied in various figurative expressions, such as ‘outer darkness,’ ‘I am tormented in this flame,’ ‘furnace of fire,’ ‘unquenchable fire,’ ‘where their worm dieth not,’ ‘the blackness of darkness,’ ‘torment in fire and brimstone,’ ‘the ascending smoke of their torment,’ ‘the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone,’ (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 13:42; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30; Luke 16:24; comp. Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Judges 1:13; comp. Revelation 14:10-11; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8.) The figure by which hell is represented as burning with fire and brimstone is probably derived from the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as that which describes the smoke as ascending from it, (comp. Revelation 14:10-11, with Genesis 19:24; Genesis 19:28.) To this coincidence of description Peter also most probably alludes in 2 Peter 2:6.”

Is it not more probably derived from the fire of Gehenna?

In regard to the valley of Hinnom, see supplementary note, page 351 (End of Matthew).

Note to Matthew 10:28, page 135.

“The valley of the son of Hinnom,” (Joshua 15:8,) so called from some unknown person in very early times, running east and west, intersects the Kedron at the southeast corner of the city. At this place the idolatrous Israelites “burnt their children in the fire” (Jeremiah 7:31) unto Moloch, a deity represented by a brass image with the face of a bull. The drum (toph) which was used to drown the cry of the victim gave the place the name of Tophet, (Jeremiah 19:6.) The deep “gorge” of Gehenna (as its Greek name is written) is described by Prof. Hackett as “almost terrific.” “A wall of frowning rocks and precipices hangs over us on the left, and the southern extremity of Zion rises so steeply on the right that one must almost look up into the zenith in order to scale the top of it with the eye…

I found myself oppressed, at length, with a feeling so desolate and horror-stricken, that it was a relief to get through with my task, and come forth where I could see and hear again the sights and sounds of a living world.” The name of this ancient gloomy yet fiery recess was fifty used to designate hell.


Verse 29

29. Are not — Our Lord now farther states an additional reason for the feeling of safety in suffering in his behalf. They are under an infallible divine protection. Two sparrows — The sparrow is the very emblem of a being of little consequence. A farthing — Equal to about half a cent of our money. Fall on the ground — That is, perish or expire. Without your Father Not their Father, but your Father. They are his creatures, you are his children. They are but animated forms, you are undying souls. They are naturally perishable, you are immortal. They are taken care of not so much for themselves as for you.


Verse 31

31. More value than many sparrows — Were men as transient in existence as sparrows, they would be of as little value. The words of the poet would then be true, who says of the Deity,

“He sees with equal eye, as God of all,

A hero perish, or a sparrow fall.”

If man be perishable as the sparrow, he approaches no nearer to infinity than the sparrow. To the eye of the Infinite, therefore, both would be equal; but since man’s immortal nature endures as long as the Deity himself, he thereby becomes infinitely more valuable than the animal that perisheth. Under such a protector, then, as God, and so valuable in his sight, why should we fear to suffer, since he will never permit us utterly to perish for his truth? Fully, therefore, does it follow that it is most safe to suffer for Christ.


Verse 32

32. Whosoever — Whether of yourselves who preach, or of those who hear your preaching. Shall confess me — Shall acknowledge in the face of persecution that I am his Lord and Master. Him will I confess — It requires courage and truthfulness to confess one amid enemies and despisers, however glorious he may be. So it requires constancy and truthfulness to confess an unworthy and humble creature before a company of grand and glorious persons. The former courage is displayed toward Christ by the Christian in this world. In recompense, Christ will display the latter constancy and truth in the day of final judgment.


Verse 33

33. Whosoever shall deny me… him will I also deny — The shame of man on earth, of Christ in the world to come. Before my Father — Our Lord styles God your Father and my Father; but in very different senses. He is their Father as they are his children and under his protection. God, the sovereign, is his Father when, as his only begotten Son, he judges the world.


Verse 34

34. Think not that I am come to send peace — From the meekness of my character and my Gospel you might imagine that I am to send peace, not only in spirit, but in result among mankind. But not so; my mission is to separate the righteous from the wicked. My goodness is to attract to itself all the good who have affinity with it. And this affinity of the good for the good, and of evil for the evil, will produce a division, a ferment, a strife, a sword. When the right goes forth into a world of wrong there must be war. Each principle will rally its own adherents and its own army under its own banner, and terrible will he the struggle until right or wrong, heaven or hell, attain the victory.


Verses 34-39

The Struggle, Matthew 10:34-39.

The result of Christ’s coming and of their preaching will not be merely peace, but a sword, a struggle, a series of struggles, dividing communities, severing the nearest ties, and requiring a preference of the true and the right above the loved and the dear.


Verse 35

35. I am come to set a man at variance against his father — So God set faithful Abraham at variance against his father, the idolatrous Terah. So religion sets the pious child in opposition to the impious parent. So temperance sets the sober child at variance with the drunken father. For the right, the pure, the good are at variance with the wrong, the defiled, the bad. Light is as much opposed to darkness, as darkness is to light. Truth would annihilate error, and holiness hates sin. The daughter against her mother — The Christianized daughter shall abhor the lusts and licentiousness of her heathen mother. The converted mother shall turn with horror from the impurity of her heathen daughter. The daughter-in-law — The ties of marriage are often dearer than the ties of consanguinity. Yet even these must yield to higher claims and the ties of God and truth, higher than any ties of man to man.


Verse 36

36. A man’s foes… of his own household — The division line of principle shall cut like a straight sword right through the centre of the house. Upon either side that line, born of the same blood, are the opposing adherents of heaven and hell.


Verse 37

37. He that loveth father or mother more than me — Think not that the sacrifice of kindred ties is to be made by the wicked alone. Earthly affections, when they come in collision, must be postponed to divine obligations. Truth is more authoritative than a parent. The Redeemer hath done more for us than the nearest relative. Where the drawings of affection would seduce us to sin their power must be rejected.


Verse 38

38. Taketh not his cross — As our Saviour had not been crucified, some have affirmed that he could not have uttered these words at this time. And some sceptical writers have affirmed that it is put into the mouth of Jesus in this passage by an anachronism on the part of the evangelist. But death by crucifixion, though a Roman punishment, had already been made by the Roman dominion perfectly familiar to Jewish eyes. It was the natural subject of allusion whenever the highest punishment of the law was to be mentioned. And for the same reason that it was the most obvious punishment specified in this discourse, it was the mode of our Saviour’s death. It was the representative method of capital execution. If the Lord was conscious that this was to be the mode of his own death, it would be rather a covert allusion to the secret future fact, than a proper prediction or prophecy.

Our Lord here indeed specifies what did not take place at his own crucifixion. One did follow him, taking up not his own cross, but the cross of the Saviour. But what the Lord here commands is, that each follower should take up, not his Saviour’s cross, but his own. The requirement is, that as Christ bore his own cross to his own crucifixion, so his followers should bear each his own cross to his own crucifixion. So the great crucified leader is followed by an endless train of crucified followers. They are crucified symbolically, in all their sufferings of mind or body, in behalf of Christ and of truth. Each follower who hath the spirit of his Master, is crucified in fact or in readiness of spirit. The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of martyrdom.


Verse 39

39. He that findeth his life — Findeth his life by avoiding the cross mentioned in the last verse. Our Lord uses the word findeth here in the sense of saveth, in order to form an antithesis with the word loseth.

But the greatest difficulty in the interpretation of this verse is in the word life. The Greek word ψυχη, psyche, signifies either life or soul, inasmuch as it is the presence of the soul in the body which constitutes it a living body. It is the same word as is rendered soul in Matthew 10:28. In our view it should have been rendered soul throughout the discourse. The force of the antithesis, then, in the present verse would be this: He that, by avoiding the cross, findeth or saveth his soul, (as the vivifier of his body,) shall lose it in the future world. He attains a present, earthly, and corporeal retention of his soul, by the future loss of his soul in the world to come. He that loseth his life — Loseth his soul from his body by a martyr’s death. Shall find it — In the world of heavenly blessedness.


Verses 40-42

The Result, Matthew 10:40-42.

All that receive the apostles, and God and Christ, in them, shall share with the apostles in their reward.

40. He that receiveth you — The phrase that receiveth you, imports undoubtedly receiving in faith their mission. It implies the heartfelt acceptance of Christianity, and the reception of the saving grace of the Gospel. Receiveth me — As his accepted and sufficient Saviour.

41. He that receiveth a prophet — That is, with a faithful acceptance of his message. In the name of a prophet — With a full recognition of his character and mission, and in spite of the persecutions of a faithless world. Shall receive a prophet’s reward — Sharing both the prophet’s faith and the prophet’s danger, he shall share the prophet’s reward.

42. One of these little ones — A tender appellation for his apostles. They were sheep in the midst of wolves, they were harmless like doves, they were tender like little ones. A cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple — In the glowing climate of Palestine, the pursued and persecuted apostle might find a cup of cold water the preservation of his life. And whosoever, in recognition of his discipleship, that is, because he was a disciple of Jesus, and from love to his Master, shall furnish him this precious boon, shall in no wise lose his reward. His faith has worked by love, and has been justified by works.

Here, therefore, is no shadow of a denial of the doctrine of justification by faith; but an assertion that works in faith are graciously rewarded of God. And in such faith the slightest work, the simplest cup of cold water, is a noble investment for a great reward.

It is said that in India the Hindoos go often a great distance for water, boil it to render it healthful, and then, in honour of some idol, stand by the roadside until night offering drink to travellers. Such an act of faith in Christ performed for his apostles cannot fail of its reward.

This commissioning of the apostles opens the SIXTH PERIOD of our Lord’s history upon earth. It is the period of his expanding ministry. See Historical Synopsis. His apostles go forth; the Baptist retreats from the world; the fame of Jesus fills the palace of Herod; and the faith of his disciples is so established that at the next period he commits to them the keys of his kingdom and prepares for his departure. Matthew 16:13-21.

Neither Matthew nor either of the other evangelists gives a detailed account of the mission of the apostles. While our Saviour was upon earth, and preaching, it seems as if the evangelist held all other ministries of little account. Mark tells us (Mark 6:12-13) that “they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” And in Mark 6:30 : “The apostles gathered themselves unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.” And this was followed by their crossing over Lake Gennesaret, and the feeding of the five thousand. We are informed in the first verse of the next chapter, that when Jesus had finished this discourse, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 10:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/matthew-10.html. 1874-1909.

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