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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Luke 19

Verses 1-99

Ch. 19:1 10. Zacchaeus the Tax-gatherer

1 . entered and passed through ] Literally, “ having entered Jericho was passing through it .”

Jericho ] Jericho (the City of Palm trees, Deuteronomy 34:3 ; Judges 1:16 ) is about 6 miles from the Jordan, and 15 from Jerusalem. It was from a point opposite to it that Moses had viewed Canaan, Deuteronomy 34:1 . When taken by Joshua the site had been cursed (Joshua 6:26 ): but, in the reign of Ahab, Hiel of Bethel defied and underwent the curse (1 Kings 16:34 ). In later times Jericho became a great and wealthy town, being fertilised by its abundant spring (2 K. 2:21) and enriched by its palms and balsams, Jos. Antt. iv. 6; B. J. iv. 8; Ecclus. 24:14, “I was exalted like a palm tree in Engaddi and like a rose plant in Jericho .” The plant however usually called the rose of Jericho is the Anastatica Hierochuntia of Linnaeus. A mediaeval Itinerary says that the site on which now stands the miserable and degraded village of Riha was ‘most rich in flowers and odoriferous shrubs.’

2 . behold ] The style of this chapter shews that St Luke is using a document of Aramaic origin.

a man named Zaccheus ] Zakkai means ‘pure.’ Ezra 2:9 ; Nehemiah 7:14 ; Jos. Vit. 46. There is a Zakkai in the Talmud, father of the famous Rabbi Jochanan, and he also lived at Jericho.

the chief among the publicans ] Rather, a chief tax-gatherer . He may even have risen as some Jews did, from the subordinate rank of the portitores to that of publicanus (Jos. B. J. ii. 14, § 9). Priests (see on 10:31) and publicans the latter employed to regulate the balsam-duties, and the exports and imports between the domains of the Romans and of Antipas were the chief classes at Jericho (Jos. Antt. xiv. 4, § 1, xv. 4, § 2; Justin Hist. vi. 3).

3 . he sought to see Jesus ] Doubtless his riches increased the odium of his position, and being accustomed to contempt and hatred, he wished to see One who was not only a great prophet, but also kind to tax-gatherers and sinners.

4 . into a sycomore tree ] Not the same as the sycamine ( mulberry ) of 17:6, or with our sycamore (or pseudo-platanus) but the Egyptian fig, of which the low spreading branches are very easy to climb.

5 . Zaccheus, make haste ] Zacchaeus was so prominent a person in Jericho that we can see no difficulty in his being known to Jesus by name.

6 . joyfully ] This public honour done by the Messiah to one so despised by all classes of his countrymen, ennobled him with a new feeling of happiness and self-respect.

7 . they all murmured ] Rather, they all began to murmur aloud . The ‘ all ’ is very significant as shewing how deep-seated was the national feeling which, because it was unworthy, our Lord at the very zenith of His earthly popularity thus unflinchingly braved. Many of them may not have heard His previous vindication of His object (Matthew 9:11-13 ).

to be guest ] Literally, “ to put up ” as though at a guest-chamber ( kataluma ), 2:7; Mark 14:14 .

8 . stood ] The word means ‘taking his position’ in sight of all the crowd; see 18:11.

unto the Lord ] Not to the crowd who had nothing but contempt and hatred for him, but to Him who loved the nobler self which He saw in him, and of whose notice he desired to be more worthy.

the half of my goods ] A vast sacrifice for one whose very position shewed that he had not been indifferent to wealth.

I give ] i. e. I now propose to give; a purpose not a past habit .

by false accusation ] On the word esukophantēsa , see 3:14.

fourfold ] far more therefore than was required by the Mosaic Law, which only demanded the restitution of fifth part beyond the principal, Numbers 5:7 . The words neither deny nor affirm that any part of his wealth had been thus dishonestly gained.

9 . a son of Abraham ] Used here in the high spiritual sense (Romans 4:11 , Romans 4:12 , Romans 4:16 ; Galatians 3:7 ) though also true (as the name shews) in the literal sense. See 1:55, 3:8.

10 . that which was lost ] See 15:1 32; Matthew 18:11 ; 1 Timothy 1:15 ; Ezekiel 34:11-16 .

11 27. The Parable of the Pounds

11 . because he was nigh to Jerusalem ] Probably therefore the parable was spoken on the journey.

should immediately appear ] Literally, “ be manifested to view .” The disciples had the same excited anticipation after the Resurrection, Acts 1:6 , Acts 1:7 . Our Lord was always careful to lead them away from false material hopes. The lessons of the parable are patient waiting and active work.

12 . A certain nobleman , &c.] This would seem a most unintelligible incident if we did not know what suggested it. The Evangelists throw no gleam of light upon it, and the fact that we can from contemporary secular history not only explain it, but even trace (without the slightest aid from any of the Gospels) the exact circumstances which suggested it at this very place and time , is one of the many invaluable independent circumstances which enable us to prove from history the absolute truthfulness of these records. Two ‘nobles’ Herod the Great and his son Archelaus had actually gone from Jericho to a far country, even to Rome, for the express purpose of ‘receiving a kingdom’ from the all-powerful Caesar (Jos. Antt. xiv. 14, xvii. 9, § 4: comp. 1 Macc. 8:13), and the same thing was subsequently done by Antipas (id. Antt. xviii. 5, § 1). It is deeply interesting to see how Jesus thus utilises any incident social or political as a vehicle for spiritual instruction. Probably if we knew the events of His day more minutely, we should see the origin of many others of the parables. The facts here alluded to would naturally be brought both to His mind, and to those of the Galilaeans, by the sight of the magnificent palace at Jericho which Archelaus had rebuilt. (Jos. Antt. xvii. 13, § 1.) How little the incidental machinery of parables should be theologically pressed, we may see from the fact that here our Lord takes the movements and the actions of a cruel and bad prince like Archelaus, to shadow forth certain truths of His own ministry (compare the Parables of the Unjust Steward and the Unjust Judge).

13 . his ten servants ] Rather, ten servants of his own ; for such a noble would count his servants by hundreds.

ten pounds ] The mina was 100 drachmas (15:8), and was worth £ 3. 6 s . 8 d . in nominal value. The word is a corruption of the Hebrew maneh . (2 Chronicles 9:16 .) A comparison of this parable with that of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30 ) will shew the wide diversities between the two. Archelaus did actually leave money in the charge of some of his servants, especially entrusting Philippus to look after his pecuniary interests in his absence.

Occupy ] Rather, Trade , negotiamini . Psalms 107:23 , “that … occupy their business in great waters” (Prayer-Book). For the command see 1 Peter 4:10 .

till I come ] Another reading ( ἐν ᾦ , א , A, B, D, &c.) would mean ‘while I am on my journey,’ but would involve a very dubious sense of erchomai .

14 . hated him ] And this was not strange, seeing that the very beginning of his reign had been signalised by a hideous massacre of his subjects. (Jos. Antt . xvii. 9, § 3.)

and sent a message after him ] Rather, an embassy to follow him (14:32). Here again the incident would be entirely obscure, if we did not know from Josephus that the Jews did send an embassy of 50 to Augustus who were met on their arrival at Rome by 8000 Jews to recount the cruelties of Archelaus, and plead for deliverance from him and the Herods generally. (Jos. Antt . xvii. 11, § 1, &c.) Although not immediately successful, the embassy was one of the circumstances which led to his ultimate deposition.

this man ] The ‘this’ is supremely contemptuous. For the fact shadowed forth see John 15:18 , John 15:19 :14, John 15:15 , John 15:21 .

15 . having received the kingdom ] Not however the coveted title of king, which was refused him.

had gained by trading ] diepragmateusato , a compound form of the pragmateuesthai in vs. 13. The calling of the servants corresponds to the “Give an account of thy stewardship” of 16:2.

16 . thy pound hath gained ] Literally, “ earned in addition .” As though there were no merit of his own in the matter.

17 . in a very little ] See 12:48, 16:10.

have thou authority over ten cities ] Another strange touch explained by the history of the times. Archelaus had actually assigned the government of cities to his adherents who had proved faithful, and this was not an uncommon plan among the Herodian princes. “We shall also reign with Him,” 2 Timothy 2:12 .

21 . I feared thee ] A sure sign that he did not love him, 1 John 4:18 .

takest up that thou layedst not down ] A typical description of injustice forbidden alike by Jewish and Greek laws (Jos. c. Ap. ii. 130).

22 . Out of thine own mouth ] “A powerful instance of the argumentum ex concessis .” Lange.

23 . into the bank ] Rather, into a bank . The Greek word for ‘bank’ is trapeza (‘a table’); hence a banker is trapezites . This touch contains the germ of the unrecorded saying ( agraphon dogma ) of our Lord, which is one of the most certainly genuine of those which are preserved by tradition “Shew yourselves approved money-changers” ( γίνεσθε τραπεζῖται δόκιμοι ).

I might have required mine own with usury ] Rather, I might have exacted it with interest (on epraxa , see 3:13).

24 . Take from him the pound ] Here our Lord leaves the historical groundwork. Compare Matthew 21:43 , “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” 8:18.

25 . they said unto him ] Perhaps the officials round the king; but as this verse is purely parenthetical, it may not impossibly be an interpellation of the crowd, expressive of their vivid interest in the narrative.

26 . even that he hath ] Comp. 8:18, “even that which he seemeth to have .”

27 . mine enemies ] They had once been ‘citizens,’ vs. 14.

slay them before me ] Archelaus had similarly put some of his political opponents to death. This, too, corresponds to ulterior truths the ruin and massacre of the unbelieving Jews. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:25 .

28 . he went before ] Literally, “ he began to journey in front of them ;” as though, for the delivery of the parable, He had paused to let the crowd gather round Him.

ascending ] The road from Jericho to Jerusalem is a continual ascent See 10:30, 31.

29 40. The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

29 . Bethphage ] The site is not identified, but it seems to have been regarded as a suburb of Jerusalem. The name means House of ( unripe ) Figs .

and Bethany ] Perhaps the House of Dates , but this is very uncertain. The mention of Bethany after Bethphage is surprising. Here, however, St Luke omits the supper in the house of ‘Simon the leper’ (Matthew 26:6-13 ; Mark 14:3-9 ; John 12:1-19 ) and the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany. Jesus arrived at Bethany before sunset on Friday, Nisan 8 (March 31, a. d. 30), and therefore before the Sabbath began. Here the throng of Galilaean pilgrims would leave Him to go to their friends in Jerusalem, or to make booths for themselves in the valley of the Kidron and on the slopes of Olivet. The Sabbath was spent in quiet. The supper was in the evening, otherwise the Jews could not have come from Jerusalem, as the distance exceeded a Sabbath day’s journey. It was on the next morning (Palm Sunday) that our Lord started for Jerusalem. His stay at Bethany may have been due to friendship, or may have been dictated by prudence. It was the brooding over the imagined loss of the value of the precious ointment an assault of Satan at the weakest point which first drove Judas to his secret interview with the Sadducean priests.

two of his disciples ] The minute touch of description in Mark 11:4 has led to the conjecture that Peter was one of these two.

30 . a colt tied ] St Luke is here less circumstantial than the other Evangelists, and does not refer to the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 .

whereon yet never man sat ] and therefore adapted for a sacred use. See Numbers 19:2 ; Deuteronomy 21:3 ; 1 Samuel 6:7 .

35 . cast their garments upon the colt ] to do Jesus royal honour. Comp. 2 K. 9:13.

they set Jesus thereon ] It is clear that He rode upon the unused foal, which was probably led by the bridle, while it is possible that the mother went by its side. St Matthew, however, alone (apparently) mentions two animals (21:2, 7), and possibly this may have been due to some confusion arising out of the Hebrew parallelism (Zechariah 9:9 , “riding upon an ass, even upon a colt, son of she-asses”) in the translation into Greek from an Aramaic document. The ass in the East is not a despised animal (Genesis 49:14 , Genesis 49:22 :3; Judges 5:10 ), and it is only because it was despised by Gentiles that Josephus substitutes for it ‘horse’ or ‘beast of burden,’ and the Seventy (LXX.) soften it down into ‘foal,’ &c. The Gentile world abounded in sneers against this narrative, and had all sorts of absurd stories about the Jews and the ass, or ass’s head, which they were supposed to worship (Jos. c. Ap. ii. 10; Tac. Hist. v. 3. 4). The Christians were also called ass-worshippers (Tert. Revelation 16:0; Revelation 16:0 ; Minuc. Fel. Oct. 9), and this calumny is alluded to in one of the hideously blasphemous wall caricatures ( Graffiti ). (See however King’s Gnostics , p. 90; Lundy, Monumental Christianity , p. 60.)

36 . spread their clothes in the way ] as well as leaves of trees and branches of the palms, which they tore off and kept strewing as they went along (Matthew 21:8 ), as in the reception of Mordecai (Targum on Esther x. 15) and of the Maccabees (2 Macc. 10:7). The very same mode of shewing honour was adopted when Mr Farran, the consul at Damascus, visited Jerusalem in 1834, at a time of great distress.

37 . even now at the descent of the mount of Olives ] at the spot where the main road from Bethany sweeps round the shoulder of the hill, and the city first bursts full on the view. At this point the palm-bearing procession from the city seems to have met the rejoicing crowd of the Galilaean pilgrims who had started with Jesus from Bethany.

38 . Blessed be the King ] The various cries recorded by the three Evangelists all come from the Great Hallel (Pss. 113 118). St John alone (12:17 reading ὄτι ) points out that the Messianic enthusiasm had been mainly kindled by the raising of Lazarus.

39 . Mastery rebuke thy disciples ] St Matthew puts into the mouth of “the Chief Priests and scribes” the ruder interpellation, “Hearest thou what these say?”

40 . the stones would immediately cry out ] There seems to be an allusion to the passage “For the stone shall cry out of the wall,” which occurs amid denunciations of destruction on covetousness and cruelty in Habakkuk 2:11 .

41 44. Jesus weeping over Jerusalem

41 . he beheld the city ] The Temple was at that time magnificent with gilding and white marble, which flashed resplendently in the spring sunlight (Jos. B. J. v. 5, § 6), and the city was very unlike the crumbling and squalid city of to-day. But that “mass of gold and snow” woke no pride in the Saviour’s heart. Few scenes are more striking than this burst of anguish in the very midst of the exulting procession.

wept over it ] Not merely edakrusen ‘shed silent tears’ as at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35 ) but eklausen ‘wept aloud;’ and that although not all the agonies and insults of four days later could wring from Him one tear or sigh.

42 . at least in this thy day ] Isaiah 55:6 ; 2 Corinthians 6:2 .

which belong unto thy peace ] Perhaps with a paronomasia on the name of Salem or ‘Peace,’ and on the sound though not the derivation of Jerusalem ( Yeroo Shalom ‘they shall see peace,’ comp. Psalms 122:6 , Psalms 122:7 ). Such plays on words often spring from deep emotion. (See my Chapters on Language , pp. 269 276.) Isaiah 48:18 , “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river.”

43 . the days ] often used of troublous times, like the Latin tempora .

shall cast a trench about thee ] Rather, shall surround thee with a palisade , Isaiah 29:3 , Isaiah 29:4 , 37:33, LXX. Literally fulfilled forty years afterwards at the siege of Jerusalem, when Titus surrounded the city first with a palisaded mound ( vallum and agger ), and then with a wall of masonry.

keep thee in on every side ] The blockade established was so terribly rigid that myriads of the Jews perished of starvation.

44 . shall lay thee even with the ground ] Titus, if we may trust Josephus, accomplished this prophecy wholly against his will, being driven to the utter subversion and destruction of the city, by the desperate obstinacy of the Jews. Sulpicius Severus ( Hist. ii.), who is supposed to be here incorporating a fragment of Tacitus, says, “alii et Titus ipse evertendum templum in prim is censebant quo plenius Judaeorum et Christianorum religio tolleretur.” Josephus says that it was so frightfully desolated by the siege, that any Jew coming suddenly upon it would have asked what place it was (Jos. B. J. vi. 1, § 1). It was again laid waste in the rebellion under Barcochba.

and thy children within thee ] The siege began at the Passover, and hence it is said that nearly 3,000,000 Jews were crowded into the city.

shall not leave in thee one stone upon another ] The subsequent attempt of the Jews to rebuild the Temple was frustrated by the outburst of subterranean fires. See Gibbon, ch. xxiii. ii. 309 (ed. Milman). Comp. Micah 3:12 .

of thy visitation ] See Isaiah 29:2-4 ; Hosea 10:14 , Hosea 10:15 . For the word ‘visitation’ see 1 Peter 2:12 ; Ecclus. 18:20. The ‘visitation’ which they had neglected was one of mercy, 1:68.

45, 46. Final Cleansing of the Temple

45 . he went into the temple ] The procession of Galilaean pilgrims would leave Jesus at the foot of Mount Moriah (the ‘Mountain of the House,’ Isaiah 2:2 ), beyond which none might advance with dusty feet or stained by travel. Jesus would enter by the Shushan gate.

began to cast out , &c.] As He had also done at the beginning of His ministry, John 2:15 . The needs of the pilgrims the money which had to be changed the purchase of cattle for sacrifice, &c. had made the cloisters, precincts, and even the outer court of the Temple a scene of noisy and greedy barter, as the nave of St Paul’s used to be a few generations ago. For further details, see Matthew 21:12 , Matthew 21:13 ; Mark 11:15-17 .

46 . My house is the house of prayer ] Isaiah 56:7 . See on 1:10, 18:10.

a den of thieves ] Rather, a brigands’ cave . Our Lord had seen many of these brigands’ caves on the steep rocky sides of the Wady Hamâm and elsewhere. Comp. Jeremiah 7:11 , “Is this house which is called by my name become a den of robbers in your eyes?” It became still more a murderers’ cave when the sicarii made its pavement swim with blood (Jos. B. J. iv. 3, §§ 7, 10).

47, 48. Eagerness of the People to hear

48 . were very attentive to hear him ] Literally, “ were hanging from him ,” i. e. hung on His lips; “ pendebat ab ore ,” Verg. Aen . iv. 79.

“On thee the loyal-hearted hung .”


“Hanged on him, as the bee doth on the flower, the babe on the breast, the little bird on the bill of her dam. Christ drew the people after Him by the golden chain of His heavenly eloquence.” J. Trapp.

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"Commentary on Luke 19". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.