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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 22

 

 

Verses 1-14

Tuesday of Passion Week.

§ 114. — PARABLE OF THE WEDDING OF THE KING’S SON, Matthew 22:1-14.

At the close of the last chapter there seems to have been a suspension of the discourse of the Lord to the Pharisees, which he uttered in reply to their demand for his authority for his doings. They seem to have consulted as to the expediency of laying hands upon him. They conclude that this is not safe, and our Lord takes the occasion still farther to prosecute his answer to their question, or rather his discourse in consequence of that question.

In this parable our Lord illustrates the dealings of God with the Jews from the commencement to the time of the destruction of the Jewish state and church, 2-7; then he traces the vocation of the Gentiles until the judgment day, 8-10; and finally the condemnation in judgment of those who are clad, (like the Pharisees he disputes with,) not in the righteousness of Christ, but in their own, 11-14.


Verse 2

2. Like unto a certain king — This parable is an expansion of the one in Luke 14:16. This is delivered later in our Lord’s history, after the guilt of his enemies had become more glaring, and their punishment more sure. Our Lord therefore changes the rich man to a king; paints the guilt of the rejecters in more aggravated colours; assigns them a more terrible destruction, prosecutes the history of their being supplanted by the Gentiles; and traces it even until their condemnation at the judgment day. The king is God the Father Almighty; the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; the marriage is his espousing the Church on earth; the marriage supper is the participation of the Gospel by men.


Verse 3

3. Sent forth his servants — This verse describes the preaching of the Gospel before the death of Christ, namely, by the apostles and seventy.

Call them that were bidden — In Eastern countries a double call is given to guests at an entertainment: the first to allow them chance to prepare, and the second to inform them that the time has arrived, and all is ready. So these guests now to be called had all been bidden. The very plan of the Gospel bids every man to come; and then the ministry go forth to call those whom the Gospel has bidden.


Verse 4

4. Sent forth other servants — After the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God had made all things ready, other servants went forth. We have therefore in Matthew 22:4-7 the Gospel history to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. It is true that many of the servants sent forth after the crucifixion were the same persons as went forth before the crucifixion. But they were other in their commission, and were accompanied by other ministers of the word.

All things are ready — The great entertainment has been made, the table of salvation has been spread, and all things are ready for acceptance. Fatlings — This word includes all animals that are fattened for food.


Verse 5

5. Made light of it — We have in these two verses two classes of rejecters of the Gospel described; namely, those who slight its offers, and they who persecute its offerers. Of the former we have in this verse described also two classes, namely, those who go to enjoy the estate they have, and those who go to get gain they have not by traffic.


Verse 6

6. Remnant — The persecutors are the comparative few and more violent. Strauss objects that it is unnatural to represent men as murdering those who merely come to invite them to a marriage. But he forgets that this is a king’s invitation; and the persons are in a state of rebellious hostility to their sovereign, and simply avail themselves of this chance of showing their hostility to him. They are therefore guilty of treason. Similar was the offence of Vashti in refusing to obey the invitation of the king. Esther 1:12. And this is a significant picture of the madness of man’s rebellion against the mercy of God.


Verse 7

7. Wroth — Wrathful. After the preachers of the Gospel had proclaimed the doctrines of their risen Saviour, amid the bitterest contempt and persecution, for near forty years after his death, the iniquities of the Jews became full, God in his providence sent the Romans, who destroyed their city, removed the apparatus of their Church, and annihilated their state. Of this series of judgments we have here a brief but vivid picture, which is more fully, but scarce more clearly, filled out in chap. xxiv, than it is here outlined. Sent forth his armies — Perhaps God sent out his angelic armies to accomplish the sentence of his justice upon the guilty city and race. (Revelation 19:14.) But the armies of Vespasian and Titus, as being instruments of God’s vengeance, may be called his armies. Of the movements of even wicked men, he may so avail himself as to accomplish his own righteous purposes without any merit on their part, or any approval or compulsion or inevitable causation or decree on his. So God says, Isaiah 10:5 : “O Assyrian, rod of mine anger.” Jeremiah 25:9 : “Nebuchadnezzar my servant.” Their city — It was once the king’s city; it is now the city of the murderers, and the armies that destroyed it are reckoned as his.


Verse 8

8. Then saith he — As the Jews are now cast off, God will call the Gentiles to partake of his Gospel. Not worthy — They had rendered themselves unworthy of farther offers by their rejection of those they had received.


Verse 9

9. Into the highways — Not into the country, as some might think; for the whole transaction belongs to the city. The word highways seems to signify the intersection of the city streets; which, were the natural places to find the largest number of men to invite. The king had at first invited the select classes; but they having refused to come, he now sends for the despised and poor.


Verse 10

10. So these servants went out — Unto the Gentile world, going, that is, “into all the world, to preach the Gospel to every creature.” The minister is sent of God. The ministry is a divine institution, sanctioned by Christ, and will last to the judgment day. Both bad and good — That is, every sort of character, moral or vicious. Yet the good are not too good to need the Gospel, nor the bad so bad as to have no hope if they will accept it.


Verse 11

11. When the king came in to see the guests — The parabolic history overleaps vast spaces of time, and at one spring brings us to the judgment day. This is figured under the image of the king coming in to see the marriage guests. So this marriage lasts from the time of the coming of the Son of man to the time of his second appearing. Grandees who gave entertainments in ancient times, used to enter the dining hall after the guests were seated. Suetonius describes the Emperor Augustus as coming in while his guests were at table, and leaving before they had risen. Had not on a wedding garment — In the East much more regard is paid to the proprieties of costume for particular occasions than among us. To appear at court without a court dress is indeed, in monarchical countries, viewed as an insult. But to appear at a royal marriage in one’s ordinary dress could have nothing less in it than the most gross contempt.


Verse 12

12. Friend — There is here the politeness of solemn rebuke. Speechless — The spirit of brave contempt has deserted him at the trying time. Men, who are now loquacious and brave in sin and ungodly error, will be terribly dumb in the hour when conscious guilt within responds to the terrible voice of God’s judgment without.

It is plainly presupposed that he was fully able to have been clothed with the proper garments. Poor though he was, it is not his poverty but his neglect, or his contempt, which has prevented his supplying himself with the proper garments. And this is illustrated by the fact that in Eastern countries, and in some degree among the Romans, the custom existed of supplying to the guests the proper vesture for the festal occasion. That this custom existed in ancient times is rendered probable by such passages as Genesis 46:22; 2 Kings 10:22; Esther 6:8; Revelation 3:5. So Charden narrates that the vizier of a Persian Shah lost his life for not appearing before his sovereign in a gift robe.

It will then be noted this man represents the Pharisee who rejects the offered righteousness of Christ, and appears in judgment in his own righteousness. It is not the case of the thousands who pay no attention to the invitation of the feast, or those who persecute the inviters. It is one of those men good enough, in their own esteem, to come and stand the gaze of the host in their own natural character, slighting the robe of “the righteousness of God.” What was this but the case of the very men with whom our Lord is now contending?

But why does our Lord suppose but one man of this character? Doubtless for two reasons. One is, that to suppose many would be to destroy the good order of the feast by supposing too great a breaking up. The second is, that any Pharisee in the company who might have conscience enough left, might feel it to be his own single case and tremble.

And he who reads, as well as those who heard, has abundant reason to be earnest lest this one be a true picture of his own case. Unless clothed in “the fine linen which is the righteousness of the saints,” we shall be found guilty of a sad contempt when we appear before God, for which we shall be speechless when he puts the awful, How?


Verse 13

13. Servants — The officers. A different word and a different class of persons from the one who called to the wedding. Bind him — As lictors bind a criminal for his doom. Outer darkness — The outdoor darkness.

The guilty guest in the parable is thrown from the splendour of the banquet into the horrors of the midnight street. See note on Matthew 8:12.


Verse 14

14. For many are called — The high and the low, the good and the bad, were called to come to the marriage feast. Few are chosen — Or elected, as the word means. Myriads are not chosen because they do not come. And we know not how many who come fail of being chosen, because they have not accepted salvation by Christ. The dogma that they are not chosen because they are secretly predestinated by God’s decree not to be chosen, affirms simply what is not said or implied. That dogma would lay the blame on God, and not upon those who are not chosen, and charge insincerity upon the call. It is to be noted that the choosing is after the calling.


Verse 15

15. Entangle him in his talk — Ensnare him, (a metaphor drawn from taking wild birds,) by involving him with the government; or by exposing his ignorance upon some point of law or religion.


Verses 15-46

§ 115. — PHARISEES, HERODIANS, SADDUCEES, AND A SCRIBE QUESTION JESUS.

JESUS QUESTIONS THE PHARISEES, Matthew 22:15-46.

The Pharisees had now, in answer to their question as to his authority, (Matthew 21:23,) listened to some three home-coming and searching parables. They now resort to allies for aid. First, they bring up the HERODIANS, who retire from the encounter silenced, Matthew 22:16-22. Then come up the SADDUCEES, who retire in similar defeat, Matthew 22:23-33. Then from a group of the Pharisees a LAWYER tries him with a question, and is forced to acknowledge the wisdom of his answer; and finally the Lord, taking the aggressive with a query, completes their confusion and overthrow, 34-46. Jesus in the next chapter turns to the people and to his disciples.


Verse 16

16. Herodians — The Herodians were a political party rather than a religious sect. They were probably the partizan supporters of the Herod family, and so favourable to the Roman dominion. They were not therefore very strenuous for the peculiarities of the Jewish religion.

It was about one hundred and twenty years previous to this time that the Roman general Pompey, acting as arbiter between two rival claimants to the Jewish government, had subjugated Judea to the Roman sway. By Roman power the Herod family was sustained in authority over different provinces of Palestine. The pure Jews were grieved to see cruel and avaricious rulers appointed over their native land; theatres and Grecian gaities introduced contrary to Jewish manners; the Roman eagles displayed upon the military standards; the Tower of Antonia so refitted as to command the temple under Roman arms, and the high priests so often and capriciously removed by the Roman rulers as to make that ancient and sacred dignity almost an annual appointment.

This state of things was doubtless sustained by the Herodians. And yet Herod Antipas was at this time plotting to attain for his own royalty an independence of Roman power. He was secretly aiming to acquire the dominion, not only of Galilee but of Judea, which was his natural inheritance from his father Herod the Great. For this purpose he had formed a secret alliance with Artabanus, king of Parthia, and kept concealed military equipments for 70,000 men. The plot was revealed to the emperor by Agrippa, (see note on chap. xiv,) and Herod Antipas was banished to Gaul, where he died. The Herodians were, therefore, probably parties who at heart favoured the Herod family, as heads of an independent sovereignty.

Extremely opposed to this party of Herodians was the faction of Judas the Gaulonite, who held that it was rebellion against God to submit to the Romans or to pay to them tribute. These were fanatical Jews, going indeed beyond the law; for there is nothing in the Old Testament forbidding to submit when conquered by a foreign power. The whole nation so submitted when conquered and carried to Babylon. Master, we know — They tell true, but with a most false intention. Neither carest thou for any man — Not even Herod himself. They put on the air of expecting complete independence from him, under the hope that he will commit himself to some rebellious sentiment.

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Verse 17

17. Lawful to give tribute unto Cesar, or not — If he say no, then he will incur the hostility of government. If yes, he loses the favour of the people, by which of late he had been so completely protected. The tribute was a poll-tax, or levy of a denarius upon every person, imposed by the Roman government ever since Judea became a province. Cesar was a name common to all the emperors, derived originally from Julius Cesar, the proper founder of Roman imperialism in the place of the old republic. The present emperor was Tiberius.


Verse 19

19. Show me the tribute money — The rule of dominion among the Jews themselves was, “He is sovereign who stamps the coin.” By the very fact then that they had at hand as current coin the Roman penny, they acknowledged that the emperor was the established and settled governor of the country.

Brought unto him a penny — The Roman denarius was first coined B. C. 269, four years after the close of the first Punic war. It became current coin in Judea after its subjection. It was the pay of a day’s labour in Palestine; a soldier’s pay was less. Like our word dime, it signifies ten, that is, ten ases, but it was nearer the value of our shilling, being about fifteen cents.


Verse 20

20. Image and superscription — The image was probably the likeness of the Roman emperor Tiberius Cesar. The superscription was the motto upon the coin, which declared his sovereignty. In earlier ages the coin bore the symbols of the republic.


Verse 21

21. They say unto him, Cesar’s — And thus they acknowledge that Cesar’s superiority is peacefully submitted to in the quiet of society and the commercial exchanges. The things which are Cesar’s — If you consent to receive the gift of peace and order from Cesar, you must consent to render the payment of the expenses of his government.

In this reply our Lord evades the peculiarity of every party, yet sustains the truth in question. The Herodians cannot complain, for Cesar’s government is not attacked. The Pharisees cannot complain, for his decision is but their own confession put in shape. The very Gaulonites cannot complain; for he does not decide that there are no just grounds for revolutionizing the government from the foundations, and asserting independence alike of Cesar’s coin and Cesar’s authority. All he decides is, that while Cesar’s government is the acknowledged government, it must receive its dues. Our Lord refused to act as a political patriot or as a political arbiter. He simply decides as a religious teacher that government is right, and that an acknowledged government must receive the dues of a government. Unto God the things that are God’s — But Cesar has no right to infringe the rights of God. Human laws are limited by the divine law. The Christian must as far as possible comply with both. Where the human law conflicts with the divine, he must obey the latter and suffer the consequences.


Verse 22

22. Marvelled — The Herodians had doubtless been induced by the Pharisees to suspect that Christ was setting up a royalty in opposition to Cesar; but they find that he lays down maxims that not even a Roman would deny.


Verse 23

ENCOUNTER WITH THE SADDUCEES, Matthew 22:23-33. (See note preceding Matthew 22:14.)

23. Say that there is no resurrection — And their intention is to show from Moses, that the doctrine of the resurrection involves an inexplicable difficulty.


Verse 24

24. Moses said, If a man die — Deuteronomy 25:5-6. This law requiring a man to marry the widow of a deceased elder brother and raise up children as being his, was intended to prevent the loss of the memory of a son of Abraham. It was a part of the system by which the memory of the institutes of the old and true religion was to be preserved.


Verse 25

25. Seven brethren — The foundation of this imaginary case is in the apocraphal book of Tobit 3:8. The Sadducees assume that the resurrection includes the revival of the relations existing in the present world. Consequently any second marriage produces this supposed contest in the world to come. How much more a sevenfold marriage. The Pharisees believed that the resurrection would take place at Messiah’s coming, and a renovated realm should be established, in which the risen dead would engage in all the affairs of a new but sublunary life. Marriage, procreation, building, government would all continue. The difficulty stated by the Sadducees would, in that case. truly arise. Which of several risen husbands should have the risen wife? Which of a line of princes should be king?


Verse 29

29. Ye do err — To err means to wander. They do not merely make a mistake, but they wander in ignorance of the Scriptures. Not knowing the Scriptures — What they have to say, namely, with regard to man’s relations in eternity. Nor the power of God — By which he is able to carry our resurrection through, despite all the difficulties raised by theology or science. Even at the present day the main objections against the resurrection are at issue with its possibility, through not knowing the Scriptures and the power of God.


Verse 30

30. For — He first corrects their first error, namely, regarding human relationships in a future world. In the resurrection — In the resurrection state. Neither marry — Spoken of males. Given in marriage — Spoken of females. Our sexual relations cease with the present state. As the angels — Not that they are angels; as some imagine that angels are truly glorified saints. But they are as free from corporeal propensities as the angels. Birth and death, food and digestion: planting and harvesting, belong not to that state.


Verse 32

32. I am the God — That is, the eternal God. Not a temporal nor a mortal God, but an eternal and an immortal. Of Abraham — An eternal God, standing in the relation of God to Abraham. And if Abraham’s be an eternal God, Abraham must be henceforth eternal. For if one party to the relation be eternal, and the relation itself be eternal, the other party must be eternal.

This meaning would naturally if not necessarily arise from the mere words, but it was surely the true meaning to the inspired mind of Moses, as it is the true meaning of God himself in speaking these words to Moses. Hence our Lord, with divine emphasis, raised, for a few moments, even the gross minds of these Sadducees to the elevated standpoint of Moses himself. For Moses did not conceive that God was the God of Abraham, as he might be the God of a perishing animal, or a bubble. The being who is elevated enough to have a true immortal God to be his God, must himself be neither the creature of time nor annihilation. The God of the dead — Of those now dead, or whoever will be dead. Our Lord here uses the word dead in the sense of these Sadducees with whom he is conversing, to signify extinct. God is not the God of the extinct or even of the extinguishable or transitory, but of the living. And Luke adds, “For they all live unto him:” they live by their relation to him who is their God.


Verse 33

33. They were astonished at his doctrine — Our Lord reanimated the dead-letter of the Old Testament in such a way as to astonish their minds and elevate their hearts. He poured the sense of immortality upon their spirit, from the pages that had by the lifeless teachings of their masters contained the sentence of death.


Verse 34

QUESTION WITH THE LAWYER, Matthew 22:34-40.

34. Put the Sadducees to silence — He had first silenced the Pharisees, then the Herodians, and last of all the Sadducees. See note preceding Matthew 22:15. A candid lawyer from their own company now ventures to question him, with the purpose, indeed, to tempt, that is, to try him, but also with the purpose of yielding, where truth required. They were gathered together — They collect into a consulting group.


Verse 35

35. One of them — Who seems to have been of their party, and knew too their plots and plans. He will try Jesus with a profound question, and fairly see what is his depth. A lawyer — One who was professedly well read in the law of Moses.


Verse 36

36. Great commandment — The Jewish Talmud reckons the positive laws of Moses at 248, and the negative at 365, the sum being 613. To keep so many laws, said the Jews, is an angel’s work, and so they had much question which was the great commandment, so that they might keep that in lieu of keeping the whole.


Verse 37

37. Jesus said — Jesus gave him not only that which is greatest, but that which, if properly kept, will indeed keep the whole. Heart… soul… mind — All the affections and powers of the man.


Verse 39

39. Second is like unto it — Like in being founded in love; like in being in fact included in the first. For, if we love God completely, we shall perform all our duties to his creatures. As thyself — So that we may love ourselves. The Scriptures teach self-denial, but they do not teach self-annihilation. They forbid selfishness, but they do not forbid self-love. The love of our neighbor may not be of the same kind with the love of ourself. It may have more of a moral and less of an instinctive nature. Thus the love we have for our neighbour is different from the love we have for our nearest connections. The parental and conjugal relations require of us peculiar duties and peculiar feelings.

If I would love my neighbour as myself, I must not require him to do for me or my family the duties I do to myself or my family; since I do not desire to do such duties for him or his family. If I love my neighbour as myself, I shall be willing to do all my duties in my own proper place, and allow him to do the duties and reap the enjoyments of his proper place.

This law is therefore the same as the golden rule, the former being stated as the law of the inner man, the latter his rule of external action.

The observance of this law would put an end to all injustice, violence, oppression, and war.


Verse 40

40. On these two… hang — They are the statement of that temper of heart from which we all acknowledge that the keeping of all the law and prophets would arise. Law and the prophets — The law given by God, with the prophets to enforce and predict the consequences of obedience or infringement.


Verse 41

THE LORD’S QUESTION TOUCHING THE CHRIST, Matthew 22:41-46.

41. Jesus asked them — The Lord has answered all their questions one by one as the opposers brought them forth. He will now turn the tables upon them to try them with a most deep and all-important question.


Verse 42

42. What think ye of Christ? — They have had plenty of law questions; they will now have a Gospel question. So wisely and so skillfully did he select this last question, as at once to point their minds to the great source of salvation, and yet leave them in defeat and dismay, simply because they close their minds against the truth. Christ — As we have before said, (Matthew 1:1,) Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew Messiah. The Lord therefore asks, What think ye of the Messiah as predicted in the Old Testament?


Verse 43

43. In spirit — That this signifies under divine inspiration is clear from Mark, who expresses it, “For David himself by the Holy Ghost said.” Our Lord decides that David was the author of the Psalm, and that he wrote under divine inspiration.


Verse 44

44. The Lord said unto my Lord — Our Lord quotes from Psalms 110. In this Psalm, (which has been applied by both the Jewish and Christian Church to the Messiah) David describes the Messiah as his own Lord sitting at the right hand of God, who subdues all his enemies beneath his feet. On my right hand — The place of honour. The heir or highest dignitary customarily sat at the royal right hand nearest the king, the next in dignity on the king’s left. Till — Sit until then; but the words do not imply that his royal state shall then cease. Thy footstool — An allusion to the mode of ancient conquerors, who put their foot upon the heads of subjugated foes in token of their own supremacy.


Verse 45

45. If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? — Here was a point for them to explain. Nor can they admit it without acknowledging that while he is human as descended from David, so he is divine as the right hand assessor of the Almighty. It shows that his royalty is not on earth but in heaven. He sits at the right hand of God as King, while his enemies on earth are being subdued before him. On the Jewish view, our Lord was to be a conquering descendant of David on the Jewish throne. The relation therefore between the lordship and sonship of Christ, they are unable to explain.


Verse 46

46. Ask him any more questions — This closes his debate with them, and closes all earthly debate with these his enemies forever. Next he is brought before their judgment seat; and last they are to be brought before his judgment bar. So men gainsay him here to meet their doom hereafter.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 22:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/matthew-22.html. 1874-1909.

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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