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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Luke 19


Luke 19:1-10 Christ visiteth Zacchaeus the publican.

Luke 19:11-27 The parable of a nobleman who left money with his servants to trade with in his absence.

Luke 19:28-40 Christ rideth in triumph into Jerusalem.

Luke 19:41-44 He weepeth over the city,

Luke 19:45,Luke 19:46 driveth the buyers and sellers out of the temple,

Luke 19:47,Luke 19:48 teacheth daily therein: the rulers seek to destroy him.

Verse 1

Jericho was a very rich city, in the tribe of Benjamin, less than twenty miles distance from Jerusalem, (whither our Saviour was going), and less than eight miles distance from Jordan: See Poole on "Numbers 22:1". It was the first place which Joshua sent persons to spy out, before he had conducted the Israelites over Jordan, Joshua 2:1-24; he took it, Joshua 6:1-27, and cursed the man that should rebuild it, for he burned it, Joshua 6:24. He prophesied, that he who should go about to rebuild it, should lay the foundation of it in his first born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son; which accordingly fell out in Ahab’s time, to one Hiel, a Bethelite, 1 Kings 16:34. Through this town, or city, which now had been rebuilt many years, our Saviour passeth in his way to Jerusalem.

Verse 2

We have had frequent occasions to hint, that the publicans were the gatherers of the public revenue for the Romans. Amongst them there was an order of superior and inferior officers: Zacchaeus was the chief of them that were in that commission.

And he was rich; which is not to be wondered at, considering his employment; and is particularly mentioned doubtless to magnify the grace of God towards him, of which we shall by and by hear more; as well as to let us know, that though it be a hard thing for a rich man to be saved, yet with God it is possible, as we heard before, as, that though publicans were most of them rapacious and exceedingly given to extortion, and the love of money commonly increaseth with the increase of men’s estate, yet Christ can change the heart of such a man, and work it into a contempt of riches, and into a freedom to part with them at the command of Christ, or where they hinder the embraces of him.

Verses 3-4

All this was but curiosity; he saw a great crowd passing by, and asks what was the matter. The people tell him, that it was Jesus of Nazareth, that famous Prophet, whose fame had filled Judea as well as Galilee. He hath a great curiosity to see him, and runs before to find out a convenient station; but perceiving the crowd was great, and knowing that he was too low of stature to look over all their heads so well as to satisfy himself, he climbeth up upon a sycamore tree, by the way side in which he knew that he must pass.

Verse 5

I see no ground for their opinion who think that before this time Zacchaeus’s heart was touched with any love or affection to Christ. The evangelist seemeth to represent Zacchaeus before this as a mere stranger to Christ, he sought to see who he was. But Christ’s looks are healing looks, there went virtue along with them to convert Zacchaeus, though a publican, and to recover Peter, who had denied his Master; but they must be such looks as carried with them a design to do good to souls. Christ looked upon thousands to whom his looks conveyed no spiritual saving grace. He that could heal by the hem of his garment touched, could change a heart by his look. How good a thing it is to be near the place where Christ is, whatever principle brings men thither! Provided men come not as the Pharisees used to come, to execute their malice. Zacchaeus was brought to the bodily view of Christ out of mere curiosity, but being there he receiveth a saving look from him. How many have had their hearts changed by gospel sermons, who never went to hear the preachers with any such desire or design! Christ’s design may be executed in the conversion of sinners, though not ours. He is found of them that seek him not, and of those that inquire not after him. Preparatory dispositions in us are not necessary to the first grace. God can at the same time prepare and change the heart. Zacchaeus is the first man we read of to whose house Christ (not asked) invited himself, and in it did more for Zacchaeus than he expected. Oh the freeness and riches of Divine grace! Which seeketh not a worthy object, but makes the object worthy, and therefore loveth it. What a word was this,

Come down; for today I must abide at thy house!

Verse 6

Curiosity carried Zacchaeus up, but love to Christ bringeth him down; he therefore makes haste to come down, and he receiveth Christ joyfully, glad to entertain such a guest. When Christ cometh to any soul, he never brings any sorrow to it, nor any thing but glad tidings.

Verse 7

All here must not be taken for every individual person, that is not to be presumed either of all the inhabitants of Jericho, or, much less, of all that were in Christ’s company: amongst others Mary Magdalene was at this time in his company, who had no reason to murmur at that. But of what sort of people were these murmurers? The voice is the voice of Pharisees, who had often quarrelled at Christ for this, and of their disciples; for there were multitudes of the Jews that had drunk in the superstitions of that faction, and were more afraid of keeping company with sinners, than themselves being so; of having fellowship with their excommunicates in their houses, than of having fellowship with their, or greater, works of darkness. Our Saviour had before answered this cavil, he will now come to show them they were mistaken in the man; that he whom they counted a sinner, was a better man than themselves generally were.

Verse 8

See here the first effects of Christ’s saving looks upon any soul. The soul presently begins to cry out with the prophet, Isaiah 6:5, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Zacchaeus is now made sensible of his covetousness, and hardness of heart towards the poor, of his extortion and oppression, and resolves upon an effectual reformation. Christ never looks any soul in the face, but he looks his scandalous sinnings out of countenance. Acts of charity and justice are the first fruits of true repentance. The world, and the love of it, go out of the heart as soon as ever the true love of Christ comes into it; the soul knows that it cannot serve God and mammon. In case of wrong done to others, there can be no repentance, nor (consequently) any remission, without restitution and satisfaction, so far as we know it, and are able.

I restore, saith Zacchaeus. True love to Christ never giveth him bare measure. God had no where required the giving of half a man’s goods to the poor, nor the restoring of fourfold, except in case of theft, of which men were judicially convicted; in case of voluntary confession, the law was but for a fifth part, over and above the principal, its to which a person was wronged, Numbers 5:7. In case an ox were stolen, the thief was to restore fivefold, and in case of a sheep stolen four were to be restored, if the person had alienated it; if it were found alive in his hand, he was to restore double, Exodus 22:1,Exodus 22:4. In other cases he was to restore but double, if it came to the sentence of the judge, Exodus 22:9; but in case of a voluntary confession, He was only tied to a fifth part above the principal, and to bring a trespass offering to the Lord, Leviticus 6:1-6. This was the case of Zacchaeus; being touched with the sense of his sin, he voluntarily confesseth, and promises the highest degree of restitution. But a true love in the soul to Christ thinks nothing too much to do in the detestation of sin, or demonstration of itself in works which may be acceptable in the sight of God.

Verses 9-10

It is the opinion of some, that by house is here to be understood Zacchaeus and his whole family. Nor can it be denied, but that God, when he poureth out the oil of grace upon the head of a family, maketh some of it to run down to the skirts of his garments. God’s covenant was with Abraham and his seed. There is a blessing upon whole nations, and whole families, where the heads of them receive the gospel; but this is not to be extended beyond some gospel privileges, and the liberty of the means of grace. εωτηρια ἐγένετο (which we translate salvation is come) seemeth to signify much more than this. I had rather therefore interpret this house, the head of this house.

Forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Here again a question ariseth, in what sense these words are to be understood, whether that he were the son of Abraham, as Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation, or as he was the father of the faithful, viz. of all those who believed, or should believe, in Christ. Those who think he was a Jew, suppose that the Romans did employ some Jews in their service, to gather the public revenue, which is not improbable, being no more than is done by all conquerors: they have also to countenance them,

1. That Zacchaeus is a name of Hebrew extraction.

2. That his mention of a fourfold restitution seemeth to have reference to the law of fourfold restitution, in case of a sheep stolen, and alienated, Exodus 22:1.

3. That the Jews did not charge our Saviour for eating with a person uncircumcised, but a person that was a scandalous sinner.

These make these words to be a reason given by our Saviour why he was so kind to Zacchaeus, because he also was a son of Abraham, one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. If I could interpret σωτηρια, the means of salvation, I should incline to this sense also; but taking it to signify saving grace, which brings men to a certainty of salvation, remission of sins, and the justification of the soul of this publican, I cannot but think that by a son of Abraham in this text is meant a true believer, which he might be, and yet be a native Jew also. Though all Israel did not obtain, yet the election amongst them did obtain, Romans 11:7. All were not Israel who were of Israel. Neither, ( saith the apostle, Romans 9:7) because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children. Nor were they other than Jews to whom Christ said, John 8:39, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham; and, John 8:44, Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. Our Saviour therefore in saying, Forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham, intendeth much more than that he was a native Jew, (if indeed he were so, for that is not certain), viz. that he was a believer, a son of Abraham considered as the father of the faithful; a genuine son of Abraham, rejoicing with him at the sight of his day, and believing with him, so as it was imputed to him for righteousness; and salvation is already come in a sure title, though not in actual possession, to every soul that is such a one.

For the Son of man (saith he) is come to seek and to save that which was lost. We had the same, Matthew 18:11; See Poole on "Matthew 18:11".

Verse 11

We noted before, that Jericho was but a hundred and fifty furlongs from Jerusalem, (which were not twenty miles), and probably this discourse was upon the way when he was come nearer to it. But the principal occasion of the following parable was, his discerning of the opinion which possessed some of the company which went along with him, that the time was now at hand when the kingdom of God should appear; when Christ would put forth some eminent act of his power, in delivering them from the servitude they were in to the Romans, or in destroying the unbelieving Jews and Pharisees; or when his gospel should take a further place, and prevail in the world beyond what it yet had done. He therefore putteth forth a parable to them, wherein by a familiar similitude he lets them understand, that he was going away from them, but would come again, and then receive the kingdom: that in the mean time he would employ them, as his servants, with his goods, and when he came would take an account what use and improvement they had made of them, and then he would both reward his friends and be revenged on his enemies. The parable followeth.

Verses 12-27

The parable of the talents, which we had, Matthew 25:14-30, is of great cognation to this parable, and the doctrine of it in many things is the very same; but the circumstances of that and this relation are so differing, as I cannot think that both Matthew and Luke relate to the same time. I know nothing that hinders, but that our Saviour might twice repeat a parable which in substance is the same. Not to insist upon the examination of the words used in the Greek, (which is a work fit only for critical writers), for the right understanding of this parable we have three things to do:

1. To inquire what special instruction our Saviour did in this parable intend to those who heard him at that time.

2. Who the persons are, represented in it under the notion of a nobleman and servants; and what the things are, represented under the notion of going into a far country, to receive a kingdom, distributing his goods, &c.

3. What general instructions from it may be collected, which inform us as well as those to whom our Lord at that time spake. The special instructions which our Lord in this parable seemeth by it to have given his disciples were these:

a) That they were mistaken in their notions or apprehensions of the sudden coming of Christ’s kingdom in power and glory. He had first a great journey to go, and they had a great deal of work to do. Instead of reigning amongst them, and exalting them, he was going away from them for a long time.

b) That there would be such a manifestation of his kingdom in glory and power, when he should exalt and liberally reward his friends, and severely punish all such as should be his enemies. In order to these instructions, he taketh up this parable, or speaketh to them in the use of this similitude.

c) As to the aptness of it: The nobleman here mentioned was Christ, who shall hereafter be a King in the exercise of power and justice, and distribute eternal rewards and punishments; but in his state of humiliation in which he was when he thus spake to them, was but like a nobleman, a Son of man, though the chiefest of ten thousand.

His going

into afar country, signifieth his going from earth to heaven.

To receive a kingdom; a kingdom of glory, honour, and power at the right hand of the Father. His returning signifies his coming again to judge the world at the last day. His calling his servants, and delivering to them ten pounds, signifieth his giving gifts unto men, when he should ascend up on high; gifts of several natures, but all to be occupied, used in a spiritual trade, for the advantage of our common Lord. Not that he giveth to all alike, (which it is manifest he doth not), for every passage in a parable is not answered in the thing which it is brought to represent or express. The citizens hating him, and sending a message after him, &c., signifies that the generality of the world are haters of Christ, and demonstrate their hatred by their refusal of his spiritual government and jurisdiction. His returning, and calling his servants to an account, signifies, that when Christ at the last day shall come to judge the world, he will have an account of every individual person, how they have used the gifts with which he hath intrusted them, whether they be longer time of life, more health than others, riches, honours, or more spiritual gifts, such as knowledge, utterance, wit, &c., or any trusty places or offices they have been in. The different account the servants brought in, signifies that men do not equally use the gifts with which the Lord blesseth them; some use them well, some ill; some bring honour and glory to God by the use of them, and that some in one degree, and some in another. Some bring him no honour or glory at all. The master’s answer to them upon their accounts, lets us know that every man shall be rewarded according to his work. There will be degrees in glory, (though we cannot well open them), as well as of punishments. The unprofitable servant’s excuse for himself, signifies the great itch of proud human nature to excuse itself, and lay all the blame of its miscarriages on God, either his severity, or his not giving them enough, &c. The king’s answer, Luke 19:22,Luke 19:23, lets us know, that sinners will be found to be condemned out of their own mouths: at the last day, God will be found a righteous God, and man will be found to be the liar. What the Lord further adds, Luke 19:24,Luke 19:26, lets us know God’s liberality in rewarding his saints at last. What he saith Luke 19:27, concerning his enemies, assures us, that although God spareth men and women a long time, so long as while his Son is in the far country, while the heavens must contain him; yet in the day of judgment a most certain final ruin will be their portion. Hence we may easily gather what instructions are offered us in this parable.

1. That the state of Christ, when he shall come to judge the world, will be a far more glorious state than it was while he was here upon the earth. He was here in the appearance of a nobleman, but he shall then appear as a king.

2. That all the good things which we have in this life are our Lord’s goods, put in trust with us to be used for his honour and glory.

3. That it must be expected that in the world there should be a great many rebels against Christ and his kingdom, a great many that shall say, We will not have this man to rule over us.

4. That some make greater improvements than others of what God intrusts them with for his honour and glory, and some make no improvement at all of them.

5. That Christ, when he cometh to judge the world, will have a strict account how men have used his goods, their time of life, or health, their capacities, honours, riches, trusts, parts, &c.

6. That those shall have the highest reward in glory who have made the highest improvements; but those who have made improvements in any proportion shall have their reward.

7. That proud and wretched sinners will think in the day of judgment to wipe their own mouths, and lay all the blame of their miscarriages on God.

8. That this is their folly, God will condemn them from their own vain pleas.

9. That in the day of judgment unprofitable creatures will, besides the loss of those rewards which they might have received from God, have all their little satisfactions taken from them, in the enjoyments of which they dishonoured God.

10. That though proud sinners here oppose the law of God revealed to them, and will not suffer Christ to reign over them; yet his power they shall not be able to resist, they shall at the last day be slain before Christ’s face, and become his footstool. He shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel, Psalms 2:9; Psalms 110:1, and who shall then deliver them out of his hand?

Verse 28

Jerusalem (as we before noted) stood upon a hill; those that went to it therefore ascended. This going before the company was noted by Mark 10:32; here again Luke taketh notice of it; to let us know certainly with what alacrity our Saviour managed the business of man’s redemption. He knew that he was at this time to be the sufferer, and to die at Jerusalem; to show that he was freely willing, he leadeth the way.

Verses 29-34

See Poole on "Matthew 21:1", and following verses to Matthew 21:6. See Poole on "Mark 11:1", and following verses to Mark 11:6. We have discoursed there of Bethphage and Bethany, and whatever occurs in this history needing any explication.

Verses 35-38

See Poole on "Matthew 21:7" and following verses to Matthew 21:9. See Poole on "Mark 11:7" and following verses to Mark 11:10. Both which evangelists (Mark most fully) describe this great triumph.

Verses 39-40

How peevish were these wretched Pharisees, to envy our Saviour this little triumph, of coming into the city upon an ass’s colt, with garments under him instead of a saddle, or any stately furniture and trappings, and attended by a company of poor people throwing their garments and boughs of trees in the way! Yet these they would have silenced. Our Saviour’s reply,

If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out, seemeth to have been a proverbial speech used amongst them, to signify a thing which could not be. This day was accomplished God’s decree in that particular passage of providence, concerning our Saviour, which could not be defeated.

Verse 41

Those who of old blotted out this sentence, as thinking that weeping was not becoming Christ’s perfection, seem to have forgotten that he was perfect man, and a sharer in all the natural infirmities of human nature (if weeping upon the prospect of human miseries deserveth no better name than an infirmity, being an indication of love and compassion). Those who think that it was idle for him to weep for that which he might easily have helped, seem to oblige God to give out of his grace, whether men do what he hath commanded them, and is in their power to do, yea or no. Christ wept over Jerusalem as a man, having compassion for these poor Jews, with respect to the miseries he saw coming upon them; as a minister of the gospel, pitying the people to whom he was primarily sent.

Verse 42

Speeches which are the products of great passion, are usually abrupt and imperfect:

If thou hadst known, that is, Oh that thou hadst known, or, I wish that thou hadst known. We are said in Scripture not to know more than we believe, are affected with, and live up to the knowledge of. They had heard enough of the things which concerned their peace, Christ had told them to them, but they attended not to them, they believed them not, and so cared not to direct their lives according to any such notions.

At least in this thy day; the time in which I have been preaching the gospel to thee (for so I had rather interpret it, than of this last journey of our Saviour’s to Jerusalem). This was properly the Jews day, for the first preachers of the gospel spent all their time and pains amongst them.

The things which belong unto thy peace, that is, to thy happiness, for so the term often signifies, and it refers as well to the happiness of the outward as of their inward man.

But now they are hid from thine eyes: God will not suffer his Spirit always to strive with man, because he is but flesh, not fit to be always waited on by the great Majesty of heaven. First men shut their eyes against the things that do concern their peace, then God hideth them from them. No man hath more than his day, his time of grace: how long that is none can tell: if he sleepeth out that, his case is desperate, past remedy.

Verses 43-44

It is a plain prophecy of the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies, which came to pass within less than forty years after. The cause of that dreadful judgment is assigned,

because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. God’s visitations are either of wrath or mercy; of wrath, Exodus 32:34; Leviticus 26:16; Jeremiah 15:3; of mercy, Jeremiah 29:10. It is plain that our Saviour useth the term here in the latter, not the former sense; and that by God’s visitation of this people here, is meant his visiting them with his prophets, by John the Baptist, and by himself. Their not knowing of it (here intended) was their not making use of it, not receiving and embracing the gospel. The contempt of the gospel is the great, cause of all those miseries which come upon people in this life, or shall come upon them in that life which is to come.

Verses 45-46

We have met with this before more fully: See Poole on "Matthew 21:12-13". See Poole on "Mark 11:15", and following verses to Mark 11:17.

Verses 47-48

This our Saviour’s preaching daily must be understood of a very few days, for it appeareth from John 12:1, that he came to Bethany but six days before the passover; now upon the passover day he died; but for the intermediate time, it is plain from the other evangelists that he was wont to spend the day time at Jerusalem in the temple, and at night to return to Bethany.

The chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, only they stood in a little awe of the people, who were

very attentive to hear him.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 19". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.