Bible Commentaries
Matthew 4

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

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Verse 1

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Then, [ Tote (G5119)] - an indefinite note of sequence. But Mark's word (Mark 1:12) fixes what we should have presumed was meant, that it was "immediately" [ euthus (G2117)] after His baptism; and with this agrees the statement of Luke (Luke 4:1).

Was Jesus led up, [ aneechthee (G321)] - i:e., from the low Jordan valley to some more elevated spot.

Of the Spirit - that blessed Spirit immediately before spoken of as descending upon Him at His baptism, and abiding upon Him. Luke, connecting these two scenes, as if the one were but the sequel of the other, says, "Jesus, being full of the Holy Spirit, returned from Jordan, and was led," etc. Mark's expression has a startling sharpness about it - "Immediately the Spirit driveth Him" [ ekballei (G1544)], 'putteth,' or 'hurrieth, Him forth,' or 'impelleth Him.' (See the same word in Mark 1:43; Mark 5:40; Matthew 9:25; Matthew 13:52; John 10:4.) The thought thus strongly expressed is the mighty constraining impulse of the Spirit under which He went; while Matthew's more gentle expression, "was led up," intimates how purely voluntary on His own part this action was.

Into the wilderness - probably the wild Judean desert. The particular spot which tradition has fixed upon has Into the wilderness - probably the wild Judean desert. The particular spot which tradition has fixed upon has hence gotten the name of Quarantana or Quarantaria, from the 40 days-`an almost perpendicular wall of rock 1,200 or 1,500 feet above the plain.'-Robinson's Palestine. The supposition of those who incline to place the Temptation among the mountains of Moab is, we think, very improbable.

To be tempted, [ peirastheenai (G3985)]. The Greek word [ peirazein (G3985)] means simply to try or make proof of; and when ascribed to God in His dealings with men, it means, and can mean no more than this. Thus, Genesis 22:1, "It came to pass that God did tempt Abraham," or put his faith to a severe proof. (See Deuteronomy 8:2.) But for the most part in Scripture the word is used in a bad sense, and means to entice, solicit, or provoke to sin. Hence, the name here given to the wicked one - "the tempter" (Matthew 4:3). Accordingly, "to be tempted" here is to be understood both ways. The Spirit conducted Him into the wilderness simply to have His faith tried; but as the agent in this trial was to be the wicked one, whose whole object would be to seduce Him from His allegiance to God, it was a temptation in the bad sense of the term. The unworthy inference which some would draw from this is energetically repelled by an apostle (James 1:13-17).

Of the devil. The word [ diabolos (G1228)] signifies a slanderer-one who casts imputations upon another. Hence, that other name given him (Revelation 12:10), "The accuser of the brethren, who accuseth them before our God day and night." Mark 1:13 says, "He was forty days tempted of Satan" [ Satan (G4566)], a word signifying an adversary, one who lies in wait for, or sets himself in opposition to another. These and other names of the same fallen spirit point to different features in his character or operations. What was the high design of this? First, as we judge, to give our Lord a taste of what lay before Him in the work He had undertaken; next, to make trial of the glorious furniture for it which He had just received; further, to give Him encouragement, by the victory now to be won, to go forward spoiling principalities and powers, until at length He should make a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His Cross; that the tempter, too, might get a taste, at the very outset, of the new kind of material in Man which he would find he had here to deal with; finally, that He might acquire experimental ability "to succour them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18). The temptation evidently embraced two stages: the one continuing throughout the 40 days' fast; the other, at the conclusion of that period.


Verse 2

And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights. Luke says, "When they were quite ended [ suntelestheisoon (G4931)].

He was afterward, [ husteron (G5305 )] an hungered - evidently implying that the sensation of hunger was unfelt during all the 40 days; coming on only at their close. So it was apparently with Moses (Exodus 34:28) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:8) for the same period. (The husteron (G5305) in Luke 4:2 has scarcely sufficient authority, and was probably introduced from Matthew.) A supernatural power of endurance was of course imparted to the body; but this probably operated through a natural law-the absorption of the Redeemer's spirit in the dread conflict with the tempter. (See the note at Acts 9:9.) Had we only this Gospel, we should suppose the temptation did not begin until after this. But it is clear, from Mark's statement that "He was in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan," and Luke's "being forty days tempted of the devil," that there was a 40 days' temptation before the 3 specific temptations afterward recorded. And this is what we have called the First Stage. What the precise nature and object of the forty days' temptation was is not recorded. But two things seem plain enough. First, the tempter had utterly failed of his object, else it had not been renewed; and the terms in which he opens his second attack imply as much.

But further, the tempter's whole object during the 40 days evidently was to get Him to distrust the heavenly testimony borne to Him at His baptism as THE SON OF GOD-to persuade Him to regard it as but a splendid illusion-and, generally, to dislodge from His breast the consciousness of His Sonship. With what plausibility the events of His previous history from the beginning would be urged upon Him in support of this temptation it is easy to imagine. And it makes much in support of this view of the forty days' temptation, that the particulars of it are not recorded; for how the details of such a purely internal struggle could be recorded it is hard to see. If this be correct, how naturally does the SECOND STAGE of the temptation open! In Mark's brief notice of the temptation there is one expressive particular not given either by Matthew or by Luke-that "He was with the wild beasts," no doubt to add terror to solitude, and aggravate the horrors of the whole scene.

Verse 3

And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

And when the tempter came to him. Evidently we have here a new scene.

He said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread, [ artoi (G740)] - rather, 'loaves,' answering to "stones" in the plural; whereas Luke, having said, "Command this stone," in the singular, adds, "that it be made bread" [ artos (G740)] in the singular. The sensation of hunger, unfelt during all the 40 days, seems now to have come on in all its keenness-no doubt to open a door to the tempter, of which he is not slow to avail himself: q.d., 'Thou still clingest to that vainglorious confidence, that thou art the Son of God, carried away by those illusory scenes at the Jordan. Thou wast born in a stable-but thou art the Son of God! hurried off to Egypt for fear of Herod's wrath-but thou art the Son of God! a carpenter's roof supplied thee with a home, and in the obscurity of a despicable town of Galilee thou hast spent 30 years-yet still thou art the Son of God; and a voice from heaven, it seems, proclaimed it in thine ears at the Jordan! Be it so; But after that, surely thy days of obscurity and trial should have an end. Why linger for weeks in this desert, wandering among the wild beasts and craggy rocks, unhonoured, unattended, unpitied, ready to starve for want of the necessaries of life? Is this befitting "the Son of God?" At the bidding of "the Son of God" sure those stones shall all be turned into loaves, and in a moment present an abundant repast?'

Verse 4

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

But he answered and said, It is written (Deuteronomy 8:3 ), Man shall not live by bread alone - more emphatically, as in the Greek, 'Not by bread alone shall man live' --

But by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Of all passages in Old Testament scripture, none could have been pitched upon more apposite, perhaps not one so apposite, to our Lord's purpose. "The Lord led thee (said Moses to Israel, at the close of their journeyings) these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only," etc. 'Now, if Israel spent, not 40 days, but 40 years in a waste, howling wilderness, where there were no means of human subsistence, not starving, but divinely provided for, on purpose to prove to every age that human support depends not upon bread, but upon God's unfailing word of promise and pledge of all needful providential care, am I, distrusting this word of God, and despairing of relief, to take the law into my own hand? True, the Son of God is able enough to turn stones into bread: but what the Son of God is able to do is not the present question, but what is Man's duty under want of the necessaries of life. And as Israel's condition in the wilderness did not justify their unbelieving complainings and frequent desperation, so neither would mine warrant the exercise of the power of the Son of God in snatching despairingly at unwarranted relief. As man, therefore, I will await divine supply, nothing doubting that at the fitting time it will arrive.' The second temptation in this Gospel is in Luke's the third. That Matthew's order is the right one will appear, we think, pretty clearly in the sequel.

Verse 5

Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,

Then the devil taketh him up, [ paralambanei (G3880 ) - rather, 'conducteth him'] into the holy city - so called (as in Isaiah 48:2; Nehemiah 11:1) from its being "the city of the Great King," the seat of the temple, the metropolis of all Jewish worship.

And setteth him on a pinnacle, [ to (G3588 ) pterugion (G4419 ), rather, 'the pinnacle'] of the temple - a certain well-known projection. Whether this refer to the highest summit of the temple [the korufee], which bristled with golden spikes (Joseph. Ant. 5: 5, 6); or whether it refer to another peak, on Herod's royal portico, overhanging the ravine of Kedron, at the valley of Hinnom-an immense tower built on the very edge of this precipice, from the top of which dizzy height Josephus says one could not look to the bottom (Ant. 15: 11, 5) - is not certain; but the latter is probably meant.

Verse 6

And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God. As this temptation starts with the same point as the first-our Lord's determination not to be disputed out of His Sonship-it seems to us clear that the one came directly after the other; and as the remaining temptation shows that the hope of carrying that point was abandoned, and all was staked upon a desperate venture, we think that remaining temptation is thus shown to be the last; as will appear still more when we come to it.

Cast thyself down ("from hence," Luke 4:9 ): for it is written (Psalms 91:11-12). 'But what is this I see?' exclaims stately Dr. Hall, 'Satan himself with a Bible under his arm and a text in his mouth!' Doubtless the tempter, having felt the power of God's word in the former temptation, was eager to try the effect of it from his own mouth (2 Corinthians 11:14).

He shall give his angels charge concerning thee; and in, [rather, 'on' epi (G1909 )] - their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. The quotation is precisely as it stands in the Hebrew and Septuagint, except that after the first clause the words, "to keep thee in all thy ways," is here omitted. Not a few good expositors have thought that this omission was intentional, to conceal the fact that this would not have been one of "His ways," that is, of duty. But as our Lord's reply makes no allusion to this, but seizes on the great principle involved in the promise quoted; so when we look at the promise itself, it is plain that the sense of it is precisely the same whether the clause in question be inserted or not.

Verse 7

Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Jesus said unto him, It is written again (Deuteronomy 6:16) - q.d., 'True, it is so written, and on that promise I implicitly rely; but in using it there is another scripture which must not be forgotten,

Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Preservation in danger is divinely pledged: shall I then create danger, either to put the promised security sceptically to the proof, or wantonly to demand a display of it? That were to "tempt the Lord my God," which, being expressly forbidden, would forfeit the right to expect preservation.'

Verse 8

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

Again, the devil taketh him up [`conducteth him,' as before] into, [or 'unto,'] an exceeding high Again, the devil taketh him up [`conducteth him,' as before] into, [or 'unto,'] an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. Luke (Luke 4:5) adds the important clause, "in a moment of time;" a clause which seems to furnish a key to the true meaning. That a scene was presented to our Lord's natural eye seems plainly expressed. But to limit this to the most extensive scene which the natural eye could take in, is to give a sense to the expression, "all the kingdoms of the world," quite violent. It remains, then, to gather from the expression, "in a moment of time" - which manifestly is intended to intimate some supernatural operation-that it was permitted to the tempter to extend preternaturally for a moment our Lord's range of vision, and throw a "glory" or glitter over the scene of vision; a thing not inconsistent with the analogy of other scriptural statements regarding the permitted operations of the wicked one. In this case, the "exceeding height" of the "mountain" from which this sight was beheld would favour the effect intended to be produced.

Verse 9

And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee - "and the glory of them," adds Luke. But Matthew having already said that this was "showed Him," did not need to repeat it here. Luke (Luke 4:6) adds these other very important clauses, here omitted - "for that is," or 'has been,' "delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it." Was this wholly false? That were not like Satan's usual policy, which is to insinuate his lies under cover of some truth. What truth, then, is there here? We answer, Is not Satan thrice called by our Lord Himself, "the prince of this world?" (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11;) does not the apostle call him "the God of this world?" (2 Corinthians 4:4;) and still further, is it not said that Christ came to destroy by His death "him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil?" (Hebrews 2:14.) No doubt these passages only express men's voluntary subjection to the rule of the wicked one while they live, and his power to surround death to them, when it comes, with all the terrors of the wages of sin. But as this is a real and terrible sway, so all Scripture represents men as righteously sold under it. In this sense he speaks what is not devoid of truth, when he says, "All this is delivered unto me." But how does he deliver this "to whomsoever he will?" As employing whomsoever he pleases of his willing subjects in keeping men under his power. In this case his offer to our Lord was that of a deputed supremacy commensurate with his own, though as his gift and for his ends.

If thou wilt fall down and worship me. This was the sole, but monstrous condition. No Scripture, it will be observed, is quoted now, because none could be found to support so blasphemous a claim. In fact, he has ceased now to present his temptations under the mask of piety, and stands out unblushingly as the rival of God Himself in his claims on the homage of men. Despairing of success as an angle of light, he throws off all disguise, and with a splendid bride solicits divine honour. This again shows that we are now at the last of the temptations, and that Matthew's order is the true one.

Verse 10

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan. (The evidence for the insertion here of the words opisoo (G3694) mou (G3450) - 'behind me,'-and the omission of them in Luke 4:8, is nearly equal; but perhaps the received text in both places has slightly the better support.) Since the tempter has now thrown off the mask, and stands forth in his true character, our Lord no longer deals with him as a pretended friend and pious counselor, but calls him by his right name-His knowledge of which from the outset He had carefully concealed until now-and orders him off. This is the final and conclusive evidence, as we think, that Matthew's must be the right order of temptations. For who can well conceive of tempter's returning to the assault after this, in the pious character again, and hoping still to dislodge the consciousness of His Sonship; while our Lord must in that case be supposed to quote Scripture to one He had called the Devil to his face-thus throwing His pearls before worse than swine?

For it is written (Deuteronomy 6:13): Thus does our Lord part with Satan on the rock of Scripture, "Thou shalt worship." In the Hebrew and Septuagint it is, "Thou shalt fear;" but as the sense is the same, so "worship" is here used to show emphatically that what the tempter claimed was precisely what God had forbidden.

The Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. The word "serve" [ latreuseis (G3000)], in the second clause, is one never used by the Septuagint of any but religious service; and in this sense exclusively is it used in the New Testament, as we find it here. Once more the word "only," in the second clause-not expressed in the Hebrew and Septuagint-is here added to bring out emphatically the negative and prohibitory feature of the command. (See Galatians 3:10 for a similar supplement of the word "all," in a quotation from Deuteronomy 27:26).

Verse 11

Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

Then the devil leaveth him. Luke says, "And when the devil had exhausted" - or, 'quite ended' [ suntelesas (G4931)], as in Luke 4:2 - "every [mode of] temptation [ panta (G3956) peirasmon (G3986)], he departed from him until a season" [ achri (G891) kairou (G2540)]. The definite "season" here indicated is expressly referred to by our Lord in John 14:30, and Luke 22:52-53.

And, behold, angels came and ministered unto him - or supplied Him with food, as the same expression means in Mark 1:31, and Luke 8:3. Thus did angels to Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-8). Excellent critics think that they ministered, not food only, but supernatural support and cheer also. But this would be the natural effect rather than the direct object of the visit, which was plainly what we have expressed. And after having refused to claim the illegitimate ministration of angels in His behalf, O with what deep joy would He accept their services when sent, unasked, at the close of all this Temptation, direct from Him whom He had so gloriously honoured! What "angels' food" would this repast be to Him; and as He partook of it, might not a Voice from heaven be heard again, by any who could read the Father's mind, 'Said I not well, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!'


(1) After such an exalted scene as that of the Baptism, the Descent of the Spirit, and the Voice from heaven, and before entering on His public ministry, this long period of solitude would doubtless be to Jesus a precious interval for calmly pondering His whole past history, and deliberately weighing the momentous future that lay before Him. So would Moses feel his 40 years' seclusion in Midian, far from the glitter and pomp of an Egyptian court, and before entering on the eventful career which awaited him on his return. So would Elijah, after the grandeur of the Carmel scene, feel his 40 days' solitary journey to Horeb, the mount of God. So would the beloved disciple feel his Patmos exile, after a long apostolic life, short and uneventful though his after career was. So, doubtless, Luther felt his 10 months' retreat in the castle of Wartburg to be, after 4 years of exciting and incessant warfare with the Romish perverters of the Gospel, and before entering afresh on a career which has changed the whole face of European Christendom. And so will such periods, whether longer or shorter, ever be felt by God's faithful people, when in His providence they are called to pass through them.

(2) Sharp temptations, as they often follow seasons of high communion, so are they often preparatives for the highest work.

(3) What a contrast does Christ here present to Adam! Adam was tempted in a paradise, and yet fell: Christ was tempted in a wilderness, and yet stood. Adam, in a state of innocence, was surrounded by the beasts of the field, all tame and submissive to their lord: Christ, in a fallen world, had the wild beasts raging around him, and only supernaturally restrained. In Adam we see man easily quickly falling without a single incentive to evil except the tempter's insinuations: in Christ we see man standing encircled by all that is terrific, and harassed by long-continued, varied, and most subtle attacks from the tempter.

(4) Deep is the disquietude which many Christians suffer from themselves subject to internal temptations to sin, both continuous and vehement. It staggers them to find that, without any external solicitations, they are tempted so frequently, and at times so violently, that as by a tempest they are ready to be carried away, and in a moment make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience. Surely, they think, this can only be accounted for but by some depth and virulence of corruption never reached by the grace of God, and inconsistent with that delight in the law of God after the inward man which is characteristic of His children. But here we see, in the holy One of God, an example of solicitations to sin purely internal, for anything that we can perceive, continued throughout the long period of 40 days. The source of them, it is true, was all external to the Redeemer's soul-they were from the devil solely-but the sphere of them was wholly internal; and it is impossible to doubt that, in order to their being temptations at all, there must have been permitted a vivid presentation by the tempter, to the mind of Jesus, of all that was adverse to His claims-so vivid, indeed, as to make entire and continued resistance a fruit of pure faith. And though probably no temptation of any strength and duration passes over the spirit of a Christian without finding some echo, however faint, and leaving some stain, however slight, the Example here presented should satisfy us that it is neither the duration nor the violence of our temptations-though they come as "fiery darts" (Ephesians 6:16) thick as hail-that tells the state of the heart before God, but how they are met.

(5) It has long been a prevalent opinion that the 3 temptations here recorded were addressed to what the beloved disciple calls (1 John 2:16) "the lust of the flesh (the first one), the lust of the eyes (Luke's second one), and the pride of life" (Luke's third one). Others also, as Ellicott, think they were addressed respective to that three-fold division of our nature (1 Thessalonians 5:23) - the "body, soul, and spirit," in the same order. Whether this does not presuppose Luke's order of the temptations to be the right one, contrary to what we have endeavoured to show, we need not inquire. But too much should not be made of such things. One thing is certain, that after so long trying our Lord internally without success, and then proceeding to solicit Him from without, the tempter would leave no avenue to desire, either bodily or mental, unassailed; and so we may rest assured that He "was in all points tempted like as we are."

The first temptation was to distrust the providential care of God-on the double plea that 'it had not come to the rescue in time of need,' and that 'He had the remedy in His own hands, and so need not be at a moment's loss.' This is repelled, not by denying His power to relieve Himself, but by holding up the sinfulness of distrusting God, which that would imply, and the duty, even in the most straitened circumstances, of unshaken confidence in God's word of promise, which is man's true life. O what a word is this for the multitudes of God's children who at times are at their wit's end for the things that are needful for the body-things easily to be had, could they but dare to snatch at them unlawfully, but which seem divinely withheld from them at the very time when they appear most indispensable! The second temptation was to just the opposite of distrust (and this may further show that it was the second) - to presumption or a wanton appeal to promised safety, by creating the danger against which that safety is divinely pledged.

And O how many err here! adventuring themselves where they have no warrant to expect protection, and there, exercising a misplaced confidence, are left to suffer the consequences of their presumption. The last temptation is addressed to the principle of ambition, which makes us accessible to the lust of possessions, grandeur, and power. These, to a boundless extent, and in all their glitter, are held forth to Jesus as His own, on one single condition-that He will do homage for them to another than God; which was but another way of saying, 'if thou wilt transfer thine allegiance from God to the devil.' It is just the case, then, which our Lord Himself afterward put to His disciples, "What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" And how many are there, naming the name of Christ, who, when, not the whole world, but a very fractional part of it, lies open before them as even likely to become theirs, on the single condition of selling their conscience to what they know to be sinful, give way, and incur the dreadful penalty; instead of resolutely saying, with Joseph, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God," or, with a Greater than Joseph here, "Get thee behind me, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." We thus see, however, that within the limits of this temptation-scene-however it be arranged and viewed-all the forms of human temptation were, in principle, experienced by "the Man Christ Jesus," and accordingly that "He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin."

(6) That the second stage of the Temptation was purely internal as well as the first-which is the theory of some otherwise sound critics, especially of Germany-is at variance with the obvious meaning of the text; creates greater difficulties than those it is intended to remove; is suggested by a spirit of subjective criticism which would explain away other external facts of the Evangelical History as well as this; and is rejected by nearly all orthodox interpreters, as well as repudiated by the simple-minded reader of the narrative.

(7) What a testimony to the divine authority of the Old Testament have we here! Three quotations are made from it by our Lord-two of them from "the law," and one from "the Psalms" - all introduced by the simple formula, "It is written," as divinely settling the question of human duty in the cases referred to; while elsewhere, in quoting from the remaining division of the Old Testament - "the Prophets" - the same formula is employed by our Lord, "It is written," (Matthew 21:13, etc.) Nor will the theory of 'accommodation to the current views of the time'-as if that would justify an erroneous interpretation of the Old Testament to serve a present purpose-be of any service here. For here our Lord is not contending with the Jews, nor even in their presence, but with the foul tempter alone. Let anyone take the trouble to collect and arrange our Lord's quotations from the Old Testament, and indirect references to it, and he will be constrained to admit either that the Old Testament is of divine authority, as a record of truth and directory of duty, because the Faithful and True Witness so regarded it, or if it be not, that Christ Himself was not above the erroneous views of the time and the people to which He belonged, and in regard to the true character of the Old Testament was simply mistaken: a conclusion which some in our day who call themselves Christians have not shrunk from insinuating.

(8) See how one may most effectually resist the devil. "The whole armour of God" is indeed to be used; but particularly "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" - so called because it is the Spirit that gives that Word living power, as God's own testimony, in the heart. As His divine and authoritative directory in duty against all the assaults of the tempter, Jesus wielded that sword of the Spirit with resistless power. To this secret of successful resistance the beloved disciple alludes when he says, "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one" (1 John 2:14). But

(9) This presupposes, not only that the Scriptures are not impiously and cruelly withheld from the tempted children of God, but that they "search" them, and "meditate in them day and night." We have seen how remarkably apposite as well ready was our Lord's use of Scripture; but this must have arisen from His constant study of it and experimental application of it to His own uses, both in the daily occupations of His previous life, and in the view of all that lay before Him. Nor will the tempted children of God find the Scriptures to be the ready sword of the Spirit in the hour of assault otherwise than their Lord did; but thus "resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7): "Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1 Peter 5:9).

(10) Let not God's dear children suffer themselves to be despoiled, by the tempter, of the sense of that high relationship. It is their strength as well as joy, not less really, though on a vastly lower scale, than it was their Lord's.

(11) What can be more glorious, to those who see in Christ the only begotten of the Father, than the sense which Christ had, during all this temptation, of His standing, as Man, under the very same law of duty as His "brethren!" When tempted to supply His wants as man, by putting forth His power as the Son of God, He refused, because it was written that "MAN doth not live by bread only, but by every word of God," Again, when tempted to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, because the saints-even as many as "made the most High their habitation" - were under the charge of God's angles, He declined, because it was written, "Thou (meaning God's people, whether collectively or individually) shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." 'I therefore refuse to tempt the Lord my God.' Finally, when solicited, by a splendid bribe, to fall down and worship the tempter, He indignantly ordered him off with that scripture, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."

Evidently, Christ read that command as addressed to Himself as man; and on the rock of adoring subjection to the Lord as His God He is found standing at the close of this whole temptation scene. How identical with our entire tempted life does our Lord thus show His own to be! And what vividness and force does this give to the assurance that "in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able also to succour them that are tempted!" (Hebrews 2:18.) This way of viewing our Lord's victory over the tempter is far more natural and satisfactory than the quaint conceit of the Fathers, that our Lord, 'by His divinity, caught the tempter on the hook of His humanity.' Not but that there is a truth couched under it. But it is too much in the line of a vicious separation, in His actions, of the one nature from the other, in which they indulged, and is apt to make His human life and obedience appear fantastic and unreal. His personal divinity secured to Him that operation of the Spirit in virtue of which He was born the Holy Thing, and that continued action of the Spirit in virtue of which His holy humanity was gradually developed into the maturity and beauty of holy manhood; but when the Spirit descended upon Him at His baptism, it was for His whole official work; and in this, the very first scene of it, and one so precious, He overcame throughout as man, though the power of the Holy Spirit-His Godhead being the security that He should not and could not fail.

(12) Henceforth there is no mention of Satan making any formal assault upon our Lord until the night before He suffered. Nor did he come then, as he did now, to try directly to seduce Him from His fidelity to God; but in the way of compassing His death, and by the hands of those whose part it was, if He were the Son of God, to acknowledge His claims. Once before, indeed, He said to Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan" (Matthew 16:22-23) - as if He had descried the tempter again stealthily approaching Him in the person of Peter, to make Him shrink from dying. And again, when the Greeks expressed their wish to see Him, He spoke mysteriously of His hour having come, and had a kind of agony by anticipation; but after it was over, He exclaimed, "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (John 12:20-31) - as if, in the momentary struggle with the horrors of His final "hour," He had descried the tempter holding up this as his master-stroke for at length accomplishing His overthrow, but at the same time got a glimpse of the glorious victory over Satan which this final stroke of his policy was to prove.

These, however, were but tentative approaches of the adversary. After the last supper, and before they had risen from the table, our Lord said, "Henceforth [ epi (G1909)] I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 14:30); as if the moment of his "coming" were just at hand. At length, when in the garden they drew near to take Him, He said "When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:52-53). The tempter had "departed from Him until a season," and this at length is it. Not but that he was in everything that tried our Lord's stedfastness from first to last. But his formal and outstanding efforts against our Lord were at the outset and at the close of His career, and, as we have seen, of a very different nature the one from the other. Blessed Saviour, look upon our tempted condition here below; and what time the enemy cometh in upon us like a flood, by Thy good Spirit help us to tread in Thy footsteps: so shall we be more than conquerors through Him that loved us!

There is here a notable gap in the History, which but for the fourth Gospel we should never have discovered. From the former Gospels we should have been apt to draw three inferences, which from the fourth one we know to be erroneous: First, that our Lord awaited the close of John's ministry, by his arrest and imprisonment, before beginning His own; next, that them was but a brief interval between the baptism of our Lord and the imprisonment of John; and further, that our Lord not only opened His work in Galilee, but never ministered out of it, and never visited Jerusalem at all nor kept a Passover until He went there to become "our Passover, sacrificed for us." The fourth Gospel alone gives the true succession of events; not only recording those important openings of our Lord' public work which preceded the Baptist's imprisonment-extending to the end of the third chapter-but so specifying the Passovers which occurred during our Lord's ministry as to enable us to line off, with a large measure of certainty, the events of the first three Gospels according to the successive Passovers which they embraced.

Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian, who, early in the fourth century, gave much attention to this subject, in noticing these features of the Evangelical Records, says (3: 24) that John wrote his Gospel at the entreaty of those who knew the important materials he possessed, and filled up what is wanting in the first three Gospels. Why it was reserved for the fourth Gospel, published at so late a period, to supply such important particulars in the Life of Christ, it is not easy to conjecture with any probability. It may be, that though not unacquainted with the general facts, they were not furnished with reliable details. But one thing may be affirmed with tolerable certainty, that as our Lord's teaching at Jerusalem was of a depth and grandeur scarcely so well adapted to the prevailing character of the first three Gospels, but altogether congenial to the fourth; and as the bare mention of the successive Passovers, without any account of the transactions and discourses they gave rise to, would have served little purpose in the first three Gospels, there may have been no way of preserving the unity and consistency of each Gospel, so as to furnish by means of them all the precious information we get from them, except by the plan on which they are actually constructed.

Verse 12

Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;

Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, [ paredothee (G3860)] - more simply, 'was delivered up;' as recorded in Matthew 14:3-5; Mark 6:17-20; Luke 3:19-20 --

He departed - rather, 'withdrew' [ anechooreesen (G402)] - into Galilee - as recorded, in its proper place, in John 4:1-3.

Verse 13

And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:

And leaving [ katalipoon (G2641 )] Nazareth. The prevalent opinion is, that this refers to a first visit to Nazareth after His baptism, whose details are given by Luke (Luke 4:16, etc.); a second visit being that detailed by our Evangelist (Matthew 13:54-58), and by Mark (Matthew 6:1-6). But to us there seem all but insuperable difficulties in the supposition of two visits to Nazareth after His baptism; and on the grounds stated on Luke 4:16, etc., we think that the one only visit to Nazareth is that recorded by Matthew (Matthew 13:1-58), Mark (Mark 6:1-56), and Luke (Luke 4:1-44.) But how, in that case, are we to take the word "leaving Nazareth" here? We answer, just as the same word is used in Acts 21:3, "Now when we had sighted [ anafanantes (G398)] Cyprus, and left it [ katalipontes (G2641)] on the left, we sailed unto Syria," etc.-that is, without entering Cyprus at all, but merely 'sighting' it, as the nautical phrase is, they steered southeast of it, leaving it on the northwest. So here, what we understand the Evangelist to say is, that Jesus, on His return to Galilee, did not, as might have been expected, make Nazareth the place of His stated residence, but "leaving (or passing by) Nazareth,"

He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, [ Kafarnaoum (G2746a) teen (G3588) parathalassian (G3864)] - 'maritime Capernaum,' on the northwest shore of the sea of Galilee; but the precise spot is unknown. (See the note at Matthew 11:23.) Our Lord seems to have chosen it for several reasons. Four or five of the Twelve lived there; it had a considerable and mixed population, securing some freedom from that intense bigotry which even to this day characterizes all places where Jews in large numbers dwell nearly alone; it was centrical, so that not only on the approach of the annual festivals did large numbers pass through it or near it, but on any occasion multitudes could easily be collected about it; and for crossing and recrossing the lake, which our Lord had so often occasion do, no place could be more convenient. But one other high reason for the choice of Capernaum remains to be mentioned, the only one specified by our Evangelist.

In the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim - the one lying to the west of the sea of Galilee, the other to the north of it; but the precise boundaries cannot now be traced out.

Verse 14

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet (Matthew 9:1-2, or, as in Heb. 8:23 , and Hebrews 9:1), "saying,"

Verse 15

The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;

The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, [by] the way of the sea - the coast skirting the sea of Galilee westward --

Beyond Jordan - a phrase commonly meaning eastward of Jordan; but here and in several places it means westward of the Jordan. The word [ peran (G4008)] seems to have gotten the general meaning of 'the other side;' the nature of the case determining which side that was.

Galilee of the Gentiles - so called from its position, which made it 'the frontier' between the Holy Land and the external world. While Ephraim and Judah, as Stanley says, were separated from the world by the Jordan valley on one side and the hostile Philistines on another, the northern tribes were in the direct highway of all the invaders from the north, in unbroken communication with the promiscuous races who have always occupied the heights of Lebanon, and in close and peaceful alliance with the most commercial nation of the ancient world-the Phoenicians. Twenty of the cities of Galilee were actually annexed by Solomon to the adjacent kingdom of Tyre, and formed, with their territory, the "boundary" or "offscouring" ("Gebul" or "Cabul") of the two dominions-at a later time still known by the general name of "the boundaries ("coasts" or "borders") of Tyre and Sidon." In the first great transportation of the Jewish population, Naphthali and Galilee suffered the same fate as the trans-Jordanic tribe before Ephraim or Judah had been molested (2 Kings 15:29). In the time of the Christian era this original disadvantage of their position was still felt; the speech of the Galileans "bewrayed them" by its uncouth pronunciation (Matthew 26:73); and their distance from the seats of government and civilization at Jerusalem and Caesarea gave them their character for turbulence or independence, according as it was viewed by their friends or their enemies.

Verse 16

The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. [This is rendered pretty closely from the Hebrew-not at all from the Septuagint, as usual, which here goes quite aside from the original.] The prophetic strain to which these words belong commences with Isaiah 7:1-25, to which Matthew 6:1-34 is introductory, and goes down to the end of Matthew 12:1-50, which hymns the spirit of that whole strain of prophecy. It belongs to the reign of Ahaz, and turns upon the combined efforts of the two neighbouring kingdoms of Syria and Israel to crush Judah. In these critical circumstances Judah and her king were, by their ungodliness, provoking the Lord to sell them into the hands of their enemies. What, then, is the burden of this prophetic strain, on to the passage here quoted? First, Judah shall not, cannot perish, because IMMANUEL, the Virgin's Son, is to come forth from his loins.

Next, One of the invaders shall soon perish, and the kingdom of neither be enlarged. Further, While the Lord will be the Sanctuary of such as confide in these promises and await their fulfillment, He will drive to confusion, darkness, and despair the vast multitude of the nation who despised His oracles, and, in their anxiety and distress, betook themselves to the lying oracles of the pagan. This carries us down to the end of the eighth chapter. At the opening of the ninth chapter a sudden light is seen breaking in upon one particular part of the country, the part which was to suffer most in these wars and devastations - "the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles." The rest of the prophecy stretches over both the Assyrian and the Chaldean captivities, and terminates in the glorious Messianic prophecy of Matthew 11:1-30, and the choral hymn of Matthew 12:1-50. Well, this is the point seized on by our Evangelist. By Messiah's taking up His abode in those very regions of Galilee, and shedding His glorious light upon them, this prediction, he says, of the evangelical prophet was now fulfilled; and if it was not thus fulfilled, we may confidently affirm it was not fulfilled in any age of the Jewish economy, and has received no fulfillment at all. Even the most rationalistic critics have difficulty in explaining it in any other way.

Verse 17

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Thus did our Lord not only take up the strain, but give forth the identical summons of His honoured forerunner. Our Lord sometimes speaks of the new kingdom as already come-in His own Person and ministry; but the economy of it was only "at hand," [ eengiken (G1448)] until the blood of the cross was shed, and the Spirit on the day of Pentecost opened the fountain for sin and for uncleanness to the world at large.

Verse 18

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

And Jesus, walking. (The word "Jesus" here appears not to belong to the text, but to have been introduced from those portions of it which were transcribed to be used as Church Lessons; where it was naturally introduced as a connecting word at the commencement of a Lesson.)

By the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter (for the reason mentioned in Matthew 16:18 ) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

Verse 19

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

And he saith unto them, Follow me - rather, as the same expression is rendered in Mark, "Come ye after me" [ Deute (G1205) opisoo (G3694) mou (G3450)] - and I will make you fishers of men - raising them from a lower to a higher fishing, as David was from a lower to a higher feeding (Psalms 78:70-72).

Verse 20

And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

Verse 21

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship, [ en (G1722) too (G3588) ploioo (G4143)] - rather, 'in the ship,' their fishing boat - "with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them."

Verse 22

And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

And they immediately left the ship and their father. Mark adds an important clause: "They left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants;" showing that the family were in easy circumstances.

And followed him. Two harmonistic questions here arise. First, Was this the same calling with that recorded in John 1:35-42? Clearly not. For, (1) That call was given while Jesus was yet in Judea: this, after His return to Galilee.

(2) Here, Christ calls Andrew: there, Andrew solicits an interview with Christ.

(3) Here, Andrew and Peter are called together: there, Andrew having been called, with an unnamed disciple, who was clearly the beloved disciple (see the note at John 1:40), goes and fetches Peter his brother to Christ, who then calls him.

(4) Here, John is called long with James his brother: there, John is called along with Andrew, after having at their own request had an interview with Jesus; no mention being made of James, whose call, if it then took place, would not likely have been passed over by his own brother.

Thus far nearly all are agreed. But on the next question opinion is divided-Was this the same calling as that recorded in Luke 5:1-11? Many able critics think so. But the following considerations are to us decisive against it. First, Here, the four are called separately, in pairs: in Luke, all together. Next, In Luke, after a glorious miracle: here, the one pair are casting their net, the other are mending theirs. Further, Here, our Lord had made no public appearance in Galilee, and so had gathered none around Him; He is walking solitarily by the shores of the lake when He accosts the two pairs of fishermen: in Luke, "the multitude [ ton (G3588) ochlon (G3793)] are lying upon Him [ epikeisthai (G1945) autoo (G846)], and hearing the word of God as He stands by the Lake of Gennesaret" - a state of thinks implying a somewhat advanced stage of His early ministry, and some popular enthusiasm. Regarding these successive callings, see the note at Luke 5:1.

Verse 23

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. These were houses of local worship. It cannot be proved that they existed before the Babylonian captivity; but as they began to be erected soon after it, probably the idea was suggested by the religious inconveniences to which the captives had been subjected. In our Lord's time, the rule was to have one wherever ten learned men, or professed students of the law, resided; and they extended to Syria, Asia Minor, Greece and most places of the dispersion. The larger towns had several, and in Jerusalem the number approached 500. In point of officers and mode of worship, the Christian congregations were modelled after the synagogue.

And preaching the gospel - `proclaiming the glad tidings'

Of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, [ pasan (G3956) noson (G3554)] - 'every disease' --

And all manner, of disease, [ pasan (G3956) malakian (G3119)] - 'every complaint.' The word means any incipient malady causing 'softness.'

Ahl Among the people.

Verse 24

And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.

And his fame went throughout all Syria - reaching first to that part of it adjacent to Galilee, called Syrophenicia (Mark 7:26), and thence extending far and wide.

And they brought unto him all sick people, [ tous (G3588) kakoos (G2560) echontas (G2192)] - 'all that were ailing' or 'unwell.'

[Those] that were taken - for this is a distinct class, not an explanation of the "unwell" class, as our translators understood it:

With divers diseases and torments - that is, acute disorders.

And those which were possessed with devils, [ daimonizomenous (G1139)] - 'that were demonized' or 'possessed with demons.' On this subject, see Remark 4 below.

And those which were lunatic, [ seleeniazomenous (G4583)] - 'moon-struck' --

And those, that had the palsy, [ paralutikous (G3885)] - 'paralytics,' a word not naturalized when our version was made --

And he healed them. These healings were at once credentials and illustrations of "the glad tidings" which He proclaimed. After reading this account of our Lord's first preaching tour, can we wonder at what follows?

Verse 25

And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.

And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis - a region lying to the east of the Jordan, so called as containing ten cities, founded and chiefly inhabited by Greek settlers.

And from Jerusalem and from beyond Jordan - meaning from Perea. Thus not only was all Palestine upheaved, but all the adjacent regions. But the more immediate object for which this is here mentioned is, to give the reader some idea both of the vast concourse and of the varied complexion of eager attendants upon the great Preacher, to whom the astonishing Discourse of the next three chapters was addressed. On the importance which our Lord Himself attached to this first preaching circuit, and the preparation which He made for it, see the note at Mark 1:35-39.


(1) When, in the prophetic strain regarding Emmanuel, we read that a great light was to irradiate certain specified parts of Palestine-the most disturbed and devastated in the early wars of the Jews, and in after times the most mixed and the least esteemed-and when, in the Gospel History, we find our Lord taking up His stated abode in those very regions, as every way the most suited to His purposes, while at the same time it furnished the bright fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy-can we refrain from exclaiming, "This also must have come forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working"?

(2) What marvelous power over the hearts of men must Jesus have possessed, when, on the utterance of those few now familiar words, "Follow Me" - "Come ye after Me," men instantly obeyed, leaving all behind them! But is His power to captivate men's hearts, with a word or two from the lips of His servants, less now that He "has ascended on high, and led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, yea for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them"?

(3) Did the Prince of preachers not only "teach in the synagogues," the regular places of public worship, but under the open canopy of heaven proclaim the glad tidings to the crowds that gathered around Him, whom no synagogue would have held, and not a few of whom would probably never have heard Him in a synagogue? And shall those who profess to be the followers of Christ account all open-air preaching disorderly and fanatical, or at least regard it as irregular, unnecessary, and inexpedient in a Christian country and a settled state of the Church? When the apostle says to Timothy, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season" [ eukairoos (G2122), akairoos (G171), 2 Timothy 4:2 ], does he not enjoin it at what are called canonical hours and at uncanonical too? And is not the same principle applicable to what may he called canonical places? These are good, but every other place where crowds can be collected to hear the glad tidings is good also; especially if such would not likely be reached in any other way, and if the uncanonical, abnormal way of it should be fitted, at any particular period, to arrest the attention of those who, in the regular places of worship, have become listless and indifferent to eternal things.

(4) It is remarkable, as Campbell observes in an acute Dissertation, 6: 1, that in the New Testament men are never said to be possessed with the devil or with devils [ diabolos (G1228)], but always with a demon or demons [ daimoon (G1142), but much more frequently daimonion (G1140)], or to be demonized [ daimonizesthai (G1139)]. On the other hand, the ordinary operations of the wicked one-even in their most extreme and malignant forms-are invariably ascribed to the "devil" himself or to "Satan."

Thus, Satan "filled the heart" of Ananias (Acts 5:3); men are said to be "taken captive by the devil [ diabolou (G1228)] at his will" (2 Timothy 2:26); unregenerate men are the children of the devil (1 John 3:10); Satan entered into Judas (John 13:27); and he is called by our Lord Himself (John 6:70) "a devil" [ diabolos (G1228)]. It is impossible that a distinction so invariably observed throughout the New Testament should be without a meaning; but, whatever it be, it is lost to the English reader, as our translators have in both cases used the term "devil." It is true that we have our Lord's own authority for viewing this whole mysterious agency of demons as belonging to the kingdom of Satan (Matthew 12:24-29), and set in motion, as truly as his own more immediate operations on the souls of men, for his destructive ends. But some notable features in his general policy are undoubtedly intended by the marked distinction of terms observed in the New Testament. One thing comes out of it clearly enough-that these possessions were something totally different from the ordinary operations of the devil on the souls of men; otherwise the distinction would be unintelligible.

And that they are not to be confounded with any mere bodily disease-as lunacy or epilepsy-is evident, both from their being expressly distinguished from all such in this very passage, and from the personal intelligence, intentions, and actions ascribed to them in the New Testament. Deeply mysterious is such agency; and one cannot but inquire what may have been the reason why such amazing activity and virulence were allowed it during our Lord's sojourn upon earth. The answer to this, at least, is not difficult. For if all his miracles were designed to illustrate the character of His mission; and if "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8), there can be no doubt that it was to make this destruction all the more manifest and illustrious that the enemy was allowed such terrific swing at that period. And thus might we imagine it said to the great Enemy from above, with respect to that mighty power allowed him at this time - "Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth" (Romans 9:17). On the impurity so often ascribed to evil spirits in the Gospels, it is impossible to enter here; but perhaps it may be intended to express, not so much anything in human sensuality peculiarly diabolical, as the general vileness or loathsomeness of the character in which these evil spirits revel. But the whole subject is one of difficulty.

(5) But the illustrative design of our Lord's miracles takes wider range than this. His miraculous cures were all of a purely beneficent nature, rolling away one or other of the varied evils brought in by the fall, and in no instance inflicting any. And when we find Himself saying, "The Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:56), does He not teach us to behold in all His miraculous cures a faint manifestation of THE HEALING SAVIOUR, in the highest sense of that office? [Compare Exodus 15:26, "Yahweh that healeth thee" - Yahweh (H3068) ropÂȘ'ekaa (H7495).]

(6) Lange justly notices here an important difference between the ministry of John and that of our Lord; the one being stationary, the other moving from place to place-the diffusive character of the Gospel thus peering forth at the very outset in the movements of the Great Preacher. And we may add, that the glorious ordinance of preaching could not have been more illustriously inaugurated.

Matthew 5:1-48 ; Matthew 6:1-34 ; Matthew 7:1-29 -THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

When surrounded by multitudes of eager listeners, of every class and from all quarters, and solemnly seated on a mountain on purpose to teach them for the first time the great leading principles of His kingdom, why, it may be asked, did our Lord not discourse to them in such strains as these: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life;" "Come unto me, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," etc.? While the absence of such savings from this His first great Discourse startles some to whom they are all-precious it emboldens others to think that evangelical Christians make too much of them, if not entirely misconceive them. But since the Jewish mind had been long systematically perverted on the subject of human duty and consequently of sin by the breach of it, and under such teaching had grown obtuse, unspiritual, and self-satisfied, it was the dictate of wisdom first to lay broad and deep the foundations of all revealed truth and duty, and hold forth the great principles of true and acceptable righteousness, in sharp contrast with the false teaching to which the people were in bondage. At the same time this Discourse is by no means so exclusively ethical as many suppose. On the contrary, though avoiding all evangelical details, at so early a stage of His public teaching our Lord holds forth, from beginning to end of this Discourse, the great principles of evangelical and spiritual religion; and it will be found to breathe a spirit entirely in harmony with the subsequent portions of the New Testament.

That this is the same Discourse with that in Luke 6:17-49 - only reported more fully by Matthew, and less fully, as well as with considerable variation, by Luke-is the opinion of many very able critics (of the Greek commentators; of Calvin, Grotius, Maldonatus-who stands almost alone among Romish commentators; and of most moderns, as Tholuck, Meyer, De Wette, Tischendorf, Stier, Wieseler, Robinson). The prevailing opinion of these critics is, that Luke's is the original form of the Discourse, to which Matthew has added a number of sayings, uttered on other occasions, in order to give at one view the great outlines of our Lord's ethical teaching. But that they are two distinct discourses-the one delivered about the close of His first missionary tour, and the other after a second such tour and the solemn choice of the Twelve-is the judgment of others who have given much attention to such matters (of most Romish commentators, including Erasmus; and among the moderns, of Lange, Greswell, Birks, Webster and Wilkinson. The question is left undecided by Alford). Augustine's opinion-that they were both delivered on one occasion, Matthew's on the mountain, and to the disciples; Luke's in the plain, and to the promiscuous multitude-is so clumsy and artificial as hardly to deserve notice.

To us the weight of argument appears to lie with these who think them two separate Discourses. It seems hard to conceive that Matthew should have put this Discourse before his own calling, if it was not uttered until long after, and was spoken in his own hearing as one of the newly-chosen Twelve. Add to this, that Matthew introduces his Discourse amidst very definite markings of time, which fix it to our Lord's first preaching tour; while that of Luke, which is expressly said to have been delivered immediately after the choice of the Twelve, could not have been spoken until long after the time noted by Matthew. It is hard, too, to see how either Discourse can well be regarded as the expansion or contraction of the other. And as it is beyond dispute that our Lord repeated some of His weightier sayings in different forms, and with varied applications, it ought not to surprise us that, after the lapse of perhaps a year-when, having spent a whole night on the hill in prayer to Cod, and set the Twelve apart, He found Himself surrounded by crowds of people, few of whom probably had heard the Sermon on the Mount, and fewer still remembered much of it-He should go over again its principal points, with just as much sameness as to show their enduring gravity, but at the same time with that difference which shows His exhaustless fertility as the great Prophet of the Church.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.