Bible Commentaries
Matthew 9

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Verse 1

And he entered into a ship ... - Jesus acceded to the request of the people of Gadara Matthew 8:34, recrossed the Lake of Gennesareth, and returned to his own city. By “his own city” is meant Capernaum Mark 2:1, the city which was at that time his home, or where he had his dwelling. See the notes at Matthew 4:13. This same account, with some additional circumstances, is contained in Mark 2:3-12, and Luke 5:18-26.

Verse 2

A man sick of the palsy - See the notes at Matthew 4:24.

Lying on a bed - This was probably a mattress, or perhaps a mere blanket spread to lie on, so as to be easily borne. Being light, Jesus might with propriety command him to take it up and walk, Matthew 9:6.

Mark says “they uncovered the roof,” Mark 2:4. Luke says “they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling,” Luke 5:19. To us it would appear that much injury must have been done to the house where Jesus was, and that they must be much incommoded by the removal of tiles and rafters, etc. An acquaintance, however, with the mode of building in the East removes every difficulty of this nature. Houses in Eastern countries are commonly square in their form, and of a single story. On approaching them from the street a single door is seen in the center, and usually, directly above it, a single latticed window. This destitution of doors and lights from the streets, though it gives their dwellings a sombre appearance, is yet adapted to the habits of retirement and secrecy among the people of the East, where they are desirous of keeping their “females” from observation. See the notes at Matthew 6:6. On entering the only door in front, the first room is a small square room, surrounded with benches, called the “porch.” In this room the master of the family commonly transacts business, and on private occasions receives visits. Passing through the porch, you enter a large square room directly in the center of the building, called the court. Luke says that the “paralytic” was let down “into the midst;” not in the midst of the “people,” but of the “building” - the “middle place” of the house. This “court” is paved commonly with marble; and, if possible, a fountain of water is formed in the center, to give it beauty, and to diffuse a grateful coolness. This room is surrounded by a gallery or covered walk on every side. From that covered walk doors open into the other apartments of the house.

This center room, or court, is commonly uncovered or open above. In wet weather, however, and in times of great heat of the sun, it is covered with an awning or canvas, stretched on cords and capable of being easily removed or rolled up. This is what Mark means when he says “they uncovered the roof.” They “rolled up” or removed this awning.

From the court to the roof the ascent is by flights of stairs, either in the covered walk or gallery or in the porch. The roof is nearly flat. It is made of earth; or, in houses of the rich, is a firmly; constructed flooring, made of coals, chalk, gypsum, and ashes, made hard by repeated blows. On those roofs spears of grass. wheat, or barley sometimes spring up; but these are soon withered by the sun, Psalms 129:6-8. The roof is a favourite place for walking, for repose in the cool of the day, for conversation, and for devotion. See the notes at Matthew 6:6. On such a roof Rahab concealed the spies Joshua 2:6, Samuel talked with Saul 1 Samuel 9:25, David walked at eventide 2 Samuel 11:2), and Peter went up to pray Acts 10:9. This roof was surrounded with a “balustrade,” or railing, breast-high, on the sides; but where a house was contiguous to another, and of the same height, the railing was lower, so as to walk from one roof to another. In cities where the houses were constructed in this manner, it was possible to walk through a considerable part of the city on the roofs. A breastwork or railing was of course built in the same manner around the “open space” in the center, to prevent persons from falling into the court below. This railing, or breastwork, is what Luke Luke 5:19 says they let him down through. They removed it, probably, so that the couch could be conveniently let down with cords; and, standing on the roof “over” the Saviour, they let the man down directly before him. The perseverance they had manifested was the evidence of their faith or confidence in his power to heal the sick man.

Be of good cheer: thy sins be forgiven thee - It may seem remarkable, since the man came only to be “healed,” that Jesus should have first declared his sins forgiven. For this the following reasons may be suggested:

1. The man might have brought on this disease of the palsy by a long course of vicious indulgence. Conscious of guilt, he may have feared that he was so great a sinner that Christ would not regard him. He therefore assured him that his offences were pardoned, and that he might lay aside his fears.

2. Jesus might be willing to show his power to forgive sins. Had he stated it without any miracle, the Jews would not have believed it, and even his disciples might have been staggered. In proof of it, he worked a miracle; and no one, therefore, could doubt that he had the power. The miracle was performed in “express attestation” of the assertion that he had power to forgive sins. As God would not work a miracle to confirm a falsehood or to deceive people, the miracle was a solemn confirmation, on the part of God, that Jesus had the power to forgive sins.

3. The Jews regarded disease as the effect of sin, John 9:2; James 5:14-15. There is a “real” connection between sin and suffering, as in the case of gluttony, intemperate drinking, lewdness, debauchery. Jesus might be willing to direct the minds of the spectators “to this fact;” and, by pointing them to a manifest instance of the effect of sin, to lead them to hate and forsake it. Diseases are sometimes the direct judgment of God for sin, 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 2 Samuel 24:10-14. This truth, also, Christ might have been desirous of impressing on the people.

Verse 3

This man blasphemeth - The word “blaspheme” originally means to speak evil of anyone; to injure by words; to blame unjustly. When applied to God, it means to speak of him unjustly; to ascribe to him acts and attributes which he does not possess; or to speak impiously or profanely. It also means to say or do anything by which his name or honor is insulted, or which conveys an “impression” unfavourable to God. It means. also, to attempt to do, or say a thing, which belongs to him alone, or which he only can do. This is its meaning here. Christ was charged “with saying a thing in his own name, or attempting to do a thing, which properly belonged to God;” thus assuming the place of God, and doing him injury, as the scribes supposed, by an invasion of his prerogatives. “None,” said they (see Mark and Luke), “can forgive sins but God only.” In this they reasoned correctly. See Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22. None of the prophets had this power; and by saying that “he forgave sins,” Jesus was understood to affirm that he was divine; and as he proved this by working a miracle expressly to confirm the claim, it follows that he is divine, or equal with the Father.

Verse 4

Jesus, knowing their thoughts - Mark says, “Jesus perceived “in his spirit” that they so reasoned.” The power of searching the heart, and of knowing the thoughts of people, belongs only to God, 1 Chronicles 28:9; Romans 8:27; Revelation 2:23; Jeremiah 17:10. In claiming this, as Jesus did here, and often elsewhere, he gave clear proofs of his omniscience, John 2:24-25.

Verse 5

For whether is easier to say - Thy “sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and walk?” The one involves divine “power,” the other divine “authority,” and neither can be done but by God. One is as easy as the other; and to be able to do the one, involves the right and the power to do the other.

Verse 6

But that ye may know ... - That you may have full proof on that point; that you may see that I have power to forgive sin, I will perform an act which all must perceive and admit to require the power of God.

Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine own house - The fact that the paralytic man could do this would prove that a miracle was performed. He was healed by a word; it was done instantaneously; it was done in the most public manner. The fact that a man, just before perfectly helpless, could now take up and carry his own bed or couch, proved that a divine “power” had been exerted; and that fact proved that he who had performed the miracle must also have the “power” and the “authority” to forgive sin. It is proper to add, in illustrating this, that in the East a “bed” is often nothing more than a bolster and a blanket spread on the floor. “The bed provided for me,” says Professor Hackett (“Illustrations of Scripture,” p. 112) “consisted merely of a bolster and a blanket spread on the floor. The latter could be drawn partially over the body if any one wished, though the expectation seemed to be that we should sleep in our ordinary dress, without any additional covering. Such a bed is obviously a portable one; it is easy to take it up, fold it together, and carry it from place to place, as convenience may require.”

Verse 8

They glorified God - See the notes at Matthew 5:16. To “glorify” God, here, means to “praise him,” or to acknowledge his power. The expression, “which had given such power to people,” was a part of “their” praise. It expresses no sentiment of the evangelist about the nature of Christ, but is a record of their feelings and their praise.

Verse 9

He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom - That is, at the place where “custom,” or “tribute,” was received; or, in other words, he was a “publican” or tax-gatherer. See the notes at Matthew 5:47. This man was the writer of this gospel. The same account is found in Mark 2:14, and Luke 5:27-28. Both those evangelists call him “Levi.” That it was the same man is known by the circumstances in which he was called being the same in all the evangelists, and by their all concurring in the statement that the Saviour was present at a feast soon after he called him, and by the fact that “Levi” is not mentioned in the catalogue of the apostles. The Jews were in the habit of giving several names to the same person. Thus Peter was also called Simon and Cephas. It is worthy of remark that Luke has mentioned a circumstance favorable to Matthew, which Matthew himself has omitted. Luke says “he left all.” Had Matthew said this, it would have been a commendation of himself utterly unlike the evangelists. No men were ever further from “praising themselves” than they were.

Verse 10

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house - This was at a feast given to him by “Levi” or “Matthew,” Luke 5:29. This is another circumstance favorable to Matthew, but omitted by him, and recorded by Luke; showing also that the apostles were averse to praising themselves. To receive Christ hospitably and kindly was a commendable act, and it strongly evinces Matthew’s freedom from ostentation that he has not himself mentioned the fact. It thus illustrates the command of the Saviour, as recorded by himself, Matthew 6:1-4.

At meat - At the table; at supper.

Many publicans and sinners came - Probably the old friends of Matthew who had been invited by him. The character of a “publican,” or tax-gatherer, among the Jews was commonly not very respectable (see notes at Matthew 5:47; Matthew 18:17), and there is no improbability in supposing that Matthew, before his conversion, had sustained the general character of such people, and that his associations and friendships had been among those who were not remarkable for their morality.

Verse 11

Why eateth and drinketh ... - To eat and drink with others denotes intimacy and familiarity. The Pharisees, by asking this question, accused him of seeking the society of such people, and of being the companion of the wicked. The inference which they would draw was, that he could not be himself righteous, since he delighted in the company of abandoned people.

Verse 12

They that be whole ... - Jesus, in reply, said that the whole needed not a physician. Sick persons only needed his aid. A physician would not commonly be found with those that were in health. His proper place was among the sick. So, says he, “If you Pharisees are such as you think yourselves - already pure and holy - you do not need my aid. It would be of no use to you, and you would not thank me for it. With those persons who feel that they are sinners I may be useful, and there is my proper place.” Or the expression may mean, “I came on purpose to save sinners: my business is with them. There are none righteous; and as a physician is in his proper place with the “sick,” so am I with guilty and miserable sinners.”

Verse 13

But go ye and learn ... - To reprove them, and to vindicate his own conduct, he appealed to a passage of Scripture with which they ought to have been acquainted: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,” Hosea 6:6. This is not a declaration on the part of God that he was opposed to “sacrifices” or “offerings for sin;” for he had appointed and commanded many, and had therefore expressed his approbation of them. It is a Hebrew mode of speaking, and means, “I prefer mercy to sacrifice;” or, “I am more pleased with acts of benevolence and kindness than with a mere external compliance with the duties of religion.” Mercy here means benevolence or kindness toward others. “Sacrifices” were offerings made to God on account of sin, or as an expression of thanksgiving. They were commonly bloody offerings, or animals slain; signifying that the sinner offering them deserved to die himself, and pointing to the great sacrifice or offering which Christ was to make for the sins of the world. “Sacrifices” were the principal part of the worship of the Jews, and hence came to signify “external worship in general.” This is the meaning of the word here. The sense in which our Saviour applies it is this: “You Pharisees are exceedingly tenacious of the “external” duties of religion; but God has declared that he prefers benevolence or mercy to those external duties. It is proper, therefore, that I should associate with sinners for the purpose of doing them good.”

I came not to call the righteous ... - No human beings are by nature righteous, Psalms 14:3; Romans 1:18-32; Romans 3:10-18. The Pharisees, however, “pretended” to be righteous. Christ might have meant by this answer that it was not the design of his coming to cal such persons to repentance, knowing that they would spurn his efforts, and that to a great extent they would be vain; or, more probably, he meant to affirm that his proper and only business was to call to repentance such people as he was now with. He came to seek and save such, and it was his “proper business,” therefore, to associate with them.

Repentance - See the notes at Matthew 3:2.

Verses 14-17

Neither do men put new wine ... - The third illustration was taken from wine put into bottles.

Bottles, in Eastern nations, were made, and are still made, of skins of beasts. Generally the skin was taken entire from a sheep or a goat, and, properly prepared, was filled with wine or water. Such bottles are still used, because, in crossing deserts of sand, they have no other conveyances but camels, or other beasts of burden. It would be difficult for them to carry glass bottles or kegs on them. They therefore fill two skins, and fasten them together and lay them across the back of a camel, and thus carry wine or water to a great distance. These bottles were, of course, of different sizes, as the skins of kids, goats, or oxen might be used. Bruce describes particularly a bottle which he saw in Arabia, made in this manner of an ox-skin, which would hold 60 gallons, and two of which were a lead for a camel. By long usage, however, bottles of skins became tender and would be easily ruptured. New wine put into them would ferment, and swell and burst them open. New skins or bottles would yield to the fermenting wine, and be strong enough to hold it from bursting. So, says Christ, there is “fitness” or propriety of things. It is not “fit” that my doctrine should be attached to or connected with the old and corrupt doctrines of the Pharisees. New things should be put together, and made to match.

This account of Eastern bottles may illustrate the following passages in the Bible: The Gibeonites took “wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up,” Joshua 9:4. “My belly is ready to burst, like new bottles,” Job 32:19. “I am become like a bottle in the smoke,” Psalms 119:83; i. e., like a bottle of skin hung up in a tent filled with smoke.

Verses 18-26

He went in - With the father, and mother, and three disciples, Mark 5:37-40.

The maid arose - She returned to life.

There could be no deception here. “Parents” could not be imposed on in such a case, nor could such a multitude be deceived. The power of Jesus was undoubtedly shown to be sufficient to raise the dead.

Verse 27

And when Jesus departed thence - The scene of this miracle was near Capernaum. The blind men probably followed him with their cry for aid immediately on his leaving the house of Jairus.

Thou Son of David - By the Son of David the Jews meant the Messiah. He was the descendant or Son of David by way of eminence, Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:32; Revelation 22:16. See the notes at Matthew 1:1. This was therefore a profession of belief, on the part of these blind men, of the Messiahship of Jesus, and, at the same time, the expression of a belief that, being the Messiah, he could heal them.

Have mercy on us - That is, show compassion toward us in our affliction, and restore to us the blessing of sight.

Verse 28

And when he was come into the house - That is, either into the house which he usually occupied in Capernaum, or the house of some friend. They had followed him, but thus far he had not seemed to heed their cries, and he entered the house as if he did not intend to regard them - probably for the trial of their faith.

The blind men came to him - That is, they followed him into the house. They showed a determination to persevere until they obtained what they asked.

Believe ye that I am able to do this? - To work such a miracle. Though they had followed him and cried after him, yet he required of them an open profession of their faith in regard to his power.

They said unto him, Yea, Lord - We have no doubt of this. We came with that assurance: we have followed thee with that belief. It was on this simple profession of their faith that the miracle was performed, as it is on the simple profession of our faith that our souls will be saved.

Verse 29

Then touched he their eyes - Simply to indicate that the power proceeded from him. Compare Matthew 8:3.

According to your faith ... - That is, you have “believed” that you could be healed, be healed accordingly. Your faith covered the whole extent of the work respecting my power and the absolute restoration to sight, and that power is exerted accordingly, and your sight is restored. So with the sinner. If he has faith in the Son of God; if he believes that he is able and willing to save him: and if he earnestly desires to be saved, the power of Jesus will be put forth to the full extent of his faith.

Verse 30

And their eyes were opened - Immediately. That is, their sight was restored: “And Jesus straitly charged them.” He enjoined it on them in the most earnest and solemn manner.

See that no man know it - That is, do not make proclamation of this; do not make it your business to tell every man of it; do not go forth as if I wished that you should proclaim this abroad. The injunction could not mean that they should screen the fact that no one “should” know it, for there were witnesses of it, and it would be made known; but they were not to make it a point to proclaim to the world what was done to them. This was in accordance with the usual habit of the Saviour Matthew 8:4; Matthew 12:16, and also with his own precepts to others Matthew 6:1-4.

Verse 31

But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame - The report of what he had done. This was not unnatural for them. They were so filled with joy that they could not repress their feelings. In this, however, they violated the express command of the Saviour; but he was not responsible for that.

Verse 32

And as they went out, behold, they brought unto him - That is, the friends of the dumb man brought him. This seems to have occurred as soon as the blind men which had been healed left him. Possibly it was from what they had observed of his power in healing them.

A dumb man possessed with a devil - That is, the effect of the “possession,” in his case, was to deprive him of speech. Those “possessed with devils” were affected in different ways (see the notes at Matthew 4:24), and there is no improbability in supposing that if other forms of disease occurred under demoniacal possessions, this form might occur also.

Verse 33

And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake - The miracle is narrated in the briefest terms; but the effect was immediate and the restoration was complete.

It was never so seen in Israel - Never was there in our land - among the Jews - such a succession of wonders, so striking, so marvelous, so full of the power of God. This was literally true.

Verse 34

But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils - That is, Beelzebub. See the notes at Matthew 12:24. They did not deny the reality of the miracle or the facts in the case, but they ascribed what was done to the power of the great leader of the fallen host, as if Jesus were in league with him. For the manner in which the Saviour met that reasoning, see the notes at Matthew 12:25-28.

Verse 35

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages ... - That is, in all parts of Galilee, for his labors were, as yet, confined to that part of Palestine. Compare the notes at Matthew 4:24-25.

Verse 36

But when he saw the multitudes - That followed him from place to place. When he saw their anxiety to be instructed and saved.

He was moved with compassion on them - He pitied them.

Because they fainted - The word used here refers to the weariness and fatigue which results from labor and being burdened. He saw the people burdened with the rites of religion and the doctrines of the Pharisees; sinking down under their ignorance and the weight of their traditions; neglected by those who ought to have been enlightened teachers; and scattered and driven out without care and attention. With great beauty he compares them to sheep wandering without a shepherd. Judea was a land of flocks and herds. The faithful shepherd, by day and night, was with his flock. He defended it, made it to lie down in green pastures, and led it beside the still waters, Psalms 23:2. Without his care the sheep would stray away. They were in danger of wild beasts. They panted in the summer sun, and they did not know where the cooling shade and stream was. So, said the Saviour, is it with this people. No wonder that the compassionate Redeemer was moved with pity.

Verse 37

1. We are presented with an instance of proper perseverance in coming to Christ, Matthew 9:1-2. Nothing was suffered to prevent the purpose of presenting the helpless paralytic to the Saviour. So the poor helpless sinner should come. No obstacle should prevent him. He should lay himself at his feet, and feel that Jesus holds over him the power of life and death, and that no other being can save.

2. Jesus has the power to forgive sins, Matthew 9:6. He claimed it, and worked a miracle to prove it. If he had it then, he has it still. To him, then, the lost sinner may come with the assurance that as he freely “then” exerted that power, so he is ever the same, and will do it now.

3. Jesus Christ is divine. Nothing could prove it more clearly than the power to pardon sinners. Only God can pronounce what shall be done with transgressors of His law, Isaiah 43:25. He that claims this right must be either an impostor or God. But no impostor ever yet worked a real miracle. Jesus was therefore divine. He can save to the uttermost all who come to God through him.

4. We see here the proper rule to be observed in mingling with the wicked, Matthew 9:10-13. It should not be of choice or for pleasure. We should not enter into their follies or vices. We should not seek enjoyment in their society. We should mingle with them simply to transact necessary business and to do them good, and no further, Psalms 1:1.

5. In the case of the ruler and the woman that was diseased, we have a strong instance of the nature of faith. They came not doubting the power of Jesus - fully assured that he was able to heal. So all genuine believers come to him. They do not doubt his power or willingness to save them. Poor, and lost, and ruined by sin, and in danger of eternal death, they come. His heart is open. He puts forth his power, and the soul is healed, and the sin and danger gone.

6. The young must die, and may die in early life, Matthew 9:18. Very short graves are in every burying-ground. Thousands and millions, not more than twelve years of age, have died. Thousands and millions, not more than twelve years of age, are yet to die. Many of these may be taken from Sunday schools. Their class, their teacher - their parents, sisters, brothers - must be left, and the child be carried to the grave. Many children of that age that have been in Sunday schools have died happy. They loved the Saviour, and they were ready to go to him. Jesus was near to them when they died, and they are now in heaven. Of every child we may ask, Are you ready also to go when God shall call you? Do you love the Lord Jesus, so as to be willing to leave all your friends here and go to him?

7. Jesus can raise up the dead, and he will raise up all that love him, Matthew 9:25. Many little children will be raised up to meet him in the last great day. He shall come in the clouds. The angel shall sound a trumpet, and all the dead shall hear. All shall be raised up and go to meet him. All that loved him here will go to heaven. All who were wicked, and did not love him here, will go to everlasting suffering.

8. We see the duty of praying for the conversion of the world, Matthew 9:37-38. The harvest is as plenteous as it was in the time of Christ. More than 600 million are still without the gospel, and there are not still many laborers to go into the harvest. The world is full of wickedness, and only God can qualify those who shall go and preach the gospel to the dark nations of the earth. Without ceasing we ought to entreat of God to pity the nations, and to send to them faithful people who shall tell them of a dying Saviour.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.