Bible Commentaries
Matthew 11

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his (rather, 'the') twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. This was scarcely a fourth circuit-if we may judge from the less formal way in which it is expressed-but, perhaps, a set of visits paid to certain places, either not reached at all, or too rapidly passed through before, in order to fill up the time until the return of the Twelve. As to their labours, nothing is said of them by our Evangelist. But Luke (Luke 9:6) says, "They departed, and went through the towns" [ koomas (G2968)], or 'villages,' "preaching the Gospel, and healing everywhere." Mark (Mark 6:12-13), as usual, is more explicit: "And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils (or 'demons'), and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." Though this "anointing with oil" was not mentioned in our Lord's instructions-at least in any of the records of them-we know it to have been practiced long after this in the apostolic Church (see James 5:14, and compare Mark 6:12-13) - not medicinally, but as a sign of the healing virtue which was communicated by their hands, and a symbol of something still more precious. It was unction, indeed, but, as Bengel remarks, it was something very different from what Romanists call extreme unction. He adds, what is very probable, that they do not appear to have carried the oil about with them, but, as the Jews used oil as a medicine, to have employed it just as they found it with the sick, in their own higher way.

Verse 2

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,

Now when John had heard in the prison. For the account of this imprisonment, see the notes at Mark 6:17-20.

The works of Christ, he sent ... On the whole passage, see the notes at Luke 7:18-35.

The connection of this with what goes before it, and the similarity of its tone, makes it evident, we think, that it was delivered on the same occasion, and that it is but a new and more comprehensive series of reflections in the same strain.

Verses 3-19

And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 20

Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

Verse 21

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! - not elsewhere mentioned, but it must have lain near Capernaum.

Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! [ bayit (H1004) and tseeydaah (H6720), 'hunting' or 'fishing-house'-`a fishing station'] - on the western side of the sea of Galilee, and to the north of Capernaum; the birth-place of three of the apostles-the brothers Andrew and Peter, and Philip. These two cities appear to be singled out to denote the whole region in which they lay-a region favoured with the Redeemer's presence, teaching, and works above every other.

For if the mighty works, [ hai (G3588 ) dunameis (G1411 ) - 'the miracles'] which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon - ancient and celebrated commercial cities, on the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean sea, lying north of Palestine, and the latter the northern-most. Since their wealth and prosperity engendered luxury and its concomitant evils-irreligion and moral degeneracy-their overthrow was repeatedly foretold in ancient prophecy, and once and again fulfilled by victorious enemies. Yet they were rebuilt, and at this time were in a flourishing condition.

They would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Remarkable language, showing that they had done less violence to conscience, and so, in God's sight, were less criminal than the region here spoken of.

Verse 22

But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable (more 'endurable,') for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

Verse 23

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

And thou, Capernaum (see the note at Matthew 4:13)

Which art exalted unto heaven. Not even of Chorazin and Bethsaida is this said. For since at Capernaum Jesus had His stated abode during the whole period of His public life which He spent in Galilee, it was the most favoured spot upon earth, the most exalted in privilege.

Shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom - destroyed for its pollutions,

It would have remained until this day - having done no such violence to conscience, and so incurred unspeakably less guilt.

Verse 24

But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. 'It has been indeed,' says Dr. Stanley, 'more tolerable, in one sense, in the day of its earthly judgment, for the land of Sodom than for Capernaum: for the name, and perhaps even the remains, of Sodom are still to be found on the shores of the Dead Sea: while that of Capernaum has, on the Lake of Gennesareth, been utterly lost.' But the judgment of which our Lord here speaks is still future; a judgment not on material cities, but their responsible inhabitants-a judgment final and irretrievable.

Verse 25

At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

At that time Jesus answered and said. We are not to understand by this, that the previous discourse had been concluded; and that this is a record only of something said about the same period. For the connection is most close, and the word "answered" - which, when there is no one to answer, refers to something just before said, or rising in the mind of the speaker in consequence of something said-confirms this. What Jesus here "answered" evidently was the melancholy results of His ministry, lamented over in the foregoing verses. It is as if He had said, 'Yes; but there is a brighter side of the picture: even in those who have rejected the message of eternal life, it is the pride of their own hearts only which has blinded them, and the glory of the truth does but the more appear in their inability to receive it: Nor have all rejected it even here; souls thirsting for salvation have drawn water with joy from the wells of salvation; the weary have found rest; the hungry have been filled with good things, while the rich have been sent empty away.'

I thank thee, [ Exomologoumai (G1843) soi (G4671)] - rather, 'I assent to thee.' But this is not strong enough. The idea of 'full' or 'cordial' concurrence is conveyed by the preposition [ Ex (G1537)]. The thing expressed is adoring acquiescence, holy satisfaction with that law of the divine procedure about to be mentioned. And as, when He afterward uttered the same words, He "exulted in Spirit" (see the note at Luke 10:21), probably He did the same now, though not recorded.

O Father, Lord of heaven and earth. He so styles His Father here, to signify that from Him of right emanate all such high arrangements.

Because thou hast hid these things (the knowledge of these saving truths) from the wise and prudent, [ sofoon (G4680) kai (G2532) sunetoon (G4908)]. The former of these terms points to the men who pride themselves upon their speculative or philosophical attainments; the latter to the men of worldly shrewdness-the clever, the sharp-witted, the men of affairs. The distinction is a natural one, and was well understood. (See 1 Corinthians 1:19; etc.) But why had the Father hid from such the things that belonged to their peace, and why did Jesus so emphatically set His seal to this arrangement! Because it is not for the offending and revolted to speak or to speculate, but to listen to Him from whom we have broken loose, that we may learn whether there be any recovery for us at all; and if there be, on what principles-of what nature-to what ends. To bring our own "wisdom and prudence" to such questions is impertinent and presumptuous; and if the truth regarding them, or the glory of it, be "hid" from us, it is but a fitting retribution, to which all the right-minded will set their seal along with Jesus.

Hast revealed them unto babes - But Thou hast revealed them unto babes-to babe-like men; men of unassuming docility, men who, conscious that they know nothing, and have no right to sit in judgment on the things that belong to their peace, determine simply to "hear what God the Lord will speak." Such are well called "babes." (See Hebrews 5:13; 1 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Corinthians 14:20; etc.)

Verse 26

Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

Even so, Father; for so it seemed good, [ eudokia (G2107)] - the emphatic and chosen term for expressing any object of divine complacency; whether Christ Himself (see the note at Matthew 3:17) or God's gracious eternal arrangements (see the note at Philippians 2:13) --

In thy sight. This is just a sublime echo of the foregoing words; as if Jesus, when He uttered them, had paused to reflect on it, and as if the glory of it-not so much in the light of its own reasonableness as of God's absolute will that so it should be-had filled His soul.

Verse 27

All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

All things are delivered unto me of my Father. He does not say, They are revealed-as to one who know them not, and was an entire stranger to them except as they were discovered to him-but, They are 'delivered over' [ paredothee (G3860)], or 'committed,' to me of my Father; meaning the whole administration of the kingdom of grace. So in John 3:35, "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand" (see on that verse). But though the "all things" in both these passages refer properly to the kingdom of grace, they of course include all things necessary to the full execution of that trust-that is, unlimited power. (So Matthew 28:18; John 17:2; Ephesians 1:22.)

And no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will [or 'willeth' bouleetai (G1011 )] to reveal him. What a saying is this, that 'the Father and the Son are mutually and exclusively known to each other!' A higher claim to equality with the Father cannot be conceived. Either, then, we have here one of the most revolting assumptions ever uttered, or the proper Divinity of Christ should to Christians be beyond dispute. 'But alas for me!' may some burdened soul, sighing for relief, here exclaim. If it be thus with us, what can any poor creature do but lie down in passive despair, unless he could dare to hope that he may be one of the favoured class 'to whom the Son is willing to reveal the Father'? But nay. This testimony to the sovereignty of that gracious "will," on which alone men's salvation depends, is designed but to reveal the source and enhance the glory of it when once imparted-not to paralyze or shut the soul up in despair. Hear, accordingly, what follows:

Verse 28

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Incomparable, ravishing sounds these-if ever such were heard in this weary, groaning world! What gentleness, what sweetness is there in the very style of the invitation-`Hither to Me' [ Deute (G1205) pros (G4314) Me (G3165)]: and in the words, 'All ye that toil and are burdened' [ hoi (G3588) kopioontes (G2872) kai (G2532) pefortismenoi (G5412)], the universal wretchedness of man is depicted, on both its sides-the active and the passive forms of it.

Verse 29

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Take my yoke upon you [the yoke of subjection to Jesus] and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. As Christ's willingness to empty Himself to the uttermost of His Father's requirements was the spring of ineffable repose to His own spirit, so in the same track does He invite all to follow Him, with the assurance of the same experience.

Verse 30

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matchless paradox, even among the paradoxically couched maxims in which our Lord delights! That rest which the soul experiences when once safe under Christ's wing, makes all yokes easy, all burdens light.


(1) Perhaps in no section of this wonderful History is the veil so fully lifted from the Redeemer's soul, and His inmost thoughts and deepest emotions more affectingly disclosed, than here. When we think how much more profound and acute must have been His sensibilities than say other's-from the unsullied purity of His nature and the vast reach of His perceptions-we may understand, in some degree, what "a Man of sorrows" He must have been, and how "acquainted with grief" - to see His Person slighted, His errand misapprehended, and His message rejected, in the very region on which He bestowed the most of His presence and the richest of His labours. Even in ancient prophecy we find Him exclaiming, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent My strength for nought and in vain;" and falling back upon this affecting consolation, that there was One that knew Him, and was the Judge of His doings: "Yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God" (Isaiah 49:4). But, as we turn to the bright side of the picture, who can fathom the depth of that exultant complacency with which His eye rested upon those "babes" into whose souls streamed the light of God's salvation, and with which He set His seal to that law of the divine procedure in virtue of which this was done, while from the self-sufficient it was hidden! And after thus seeming to wrap Himself and His Father up from all human penetration, except of some favoured class, what ineffable joy must it have been to His heart to disabuse the anxious of such a thought, by giving forth that most wonderful of all invitations, "Come unto Me!" etc. These are some of the lights and shadows of the Redeemer's life on earth; and what a reality do they impart to the Evangelical Narrative-what resistless attraction, what heavenly sanctity!

(2) Let those who, under the richest ministrations of the word of life, "repent not," but live on unrenewed in the spirit of their minds, remember the doom of the cities of Galilee-executed in part, but in its most dread elements yet to come-and rest assured that at the judgment-day the degree of guilt will be estimated, not by the flagrancy of outward transgression, but by the degree of violence habitually offered to the voice of conscience-the extent to which light is quenched and conviction stifled. (See the notes at Luke 12:47-48.) Ah! blighted Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum-who, and more particularly what pastor, can wander over that region somewhere in which ye once basked in the very sunshine of Heaven's light, as no other spots on earth ever did, and not enter thrillingly into the poet's soliloquy --

"These days are past-Bethsaida, where? Chorazin, where art thou? His tent the wild Arab pitches there,

The wild reed shades thy brow.

"Tell me, ye mouldering fragments, tell, Was the Saviour's city here? Lifted to heaven, has it sunk to hell,

With none to shed a tear?

"Ah! would my flock from thee might learn How days of grace will flee; How all an offered Christ who spurn Shall mourn at last like thee." (-McCHEYNE.)

(3) If it be true that "no man knoweth the Son but the Father," how unreasonable is it to measure the statements of Scripture regarding the Person and work of Christ by the limited standard of human apprehension-rejecting, modifying, or explaining away whatever we are unable fully to comprehend, even though clearly expressed in the oracles of God! Nay, in the light of what our Lord here says of it, are not the difficulties just what might have been expected?

(4) Let those who set the sovereignty of divine grace in opposition to the freedom and responsibility of the human will-rejecting now the one and now the other, as if they were irreconcileable-take the rebuke which our Lord here gives them. For while nowhere is there a more explicit declaration than here of the one doctrine-That the saving knowledge of the Father depends absolutely on the sovereign "will" of the Son to impart it; yet nowhere is there a brighter utterance of the other also-That this knowledge, and the rest it brings, is open to all who will come to Christ for it, and that all who sigh for rest unto their souls are freely invited, and will be cordially welcomed, under Christ's wing.

(5) But Whose voice do I hear in this incomparable Invitation? Moses was the divinely commissioned lawgiver of Israel, but I do not find him speaking so; nor did the chiefest of the apostles presume to speak so. But that is saying little. For no human lips ever ventured to come within any measurable approach to such language. We could fancy one saying-We might say it and have said it ourselves-`Come, and I will show you where rest is to be found.' But here the words are, "COME UNTO ME, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST." To give repose even to one weary, burdened soul-much more to all of every age and every land-what mortal ever undertook this? what creature is able to do it? But here is One who undertakes it, and is conscious that He has power to do it. It is the voice of my Beloved. It is not the syren voice of the Tempter, coming to steal away our hearts from the living God-it would be that, if the spokesman were a creature-but it is the Only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; and in calling so lovingly, "Come hither to ME," He is but wooing us back to that blessed Bosom of the Father, that original and proper home of the heart, from which it is our misery that we were ever estranged.

(6) As the source of all unrest is estrangement from God, so the secret of true and abiding repose is that of the prodigal, who, when at length he came to say, "I will arise and go to my Father," straightway "arose and went." But as Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life of this return, so in subjection to Jesus-as Himself was in absolute subjection to His Father-is the heart's true rest. When "the love of Christ constrains us to live not unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us, and rose again;" when we enter into His meekness and lowliness of heart who "made Himself of no reputation," and "pleased not Himself" in anything, but His Father in everything-then, and only then, shall we find rest unto our souls. Whereas those who chafe with restless discontent and ambition and self-seeking are "like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt."

(7) Although the Fathers of the Church were not wrong in calling the Fourth Gospel, 'the spiritual Gospel [ to (G3588) pneumatikon (G4152)], in contradistinction to the First Three Gospels, which they called 'the corporeal' ones [ ta (G3588) soomatika (G4984)] - striving thus to express the immensely higher platform of vision to which the Fourth Gospels lifts us-yet is it the same glorious Object who is held in all the Four; and while the Fourth Gospel enshrines some of its most divine and spiritual teachings in a framework of exquisitely concrete historical fact, the First Three Gospels rise at times-as Matthew here, and Luke in the corresponding passage (Luke 10:21-22) - into a region of pure Johanine thought; insomuch that on reading the last six verses of this section, we seem to be reading out of the 'spiritual' Gospel. In fact, it is all corporeal and all spiritual; only, the one side was committed peculiarly to the First Three Evangelists, "by the same Spirit;" the other, to the Fourth Evangelist, "by the same Spirit" - "but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will."

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.