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1. And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
[To eat bread on the sabbath day.] The Jews' tables were generally better spread on that day than on any others: and that, as they themselves reckoned, upon the account of religion and piety. I have spoken to this elsewhere: take here a demonstration. "Rabba Bar Rabh Houna went to the house of Rabba Bar Rabh Nachman. He set before him three measures of rich cake: to whom he, 'How did you know of my coming?' The other answered, 'Is there any thing more valuable to us than the sabbath?'" The Gloss is; 'We do by no means prefer thee before the sabbath: we got these things ready in honour of the sabbath, not knowing any thing of thy coming.'
"Rabba Abba bought flesh of thirteen butchers for thirteen staters, and paid them at the very hinge of the door." The Gloss tells us, 'That he bought of thirteen butchers, that he might be sure to taste the best: and before they could come that should bring the flesh, he had gotten his money ready for them, and paid them at the very gate, that he might hasten dinner: and all this in honour of the sabbath-day.'
R. Abhu sat upon an ivory throne, and yet blew the fire: that was towards the cooking of his dinner in honour of the sabbath. It ought not to be passed by without observation, that Christ was at such a dinner, and that in the house of a Pharisee, who doubtless was observant enough of all ceremonies of this kind.
3. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
[Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?] A Jew will be ready to cavil against the truth of the evangelists upon the occasion of this and such like questions they report from our Saviour. What need had he (will such a one say) to ask this question, when he could not but know that, in danger of life, it was permitted them to do any thing towards the preservation of it. Nay, where there was no imminent danger, they were allowed to apply medicines, plasters, &c.; especially, which I must not omit, to apply leaven even in the time of Passover to a 'Gumretha,' some very burning distemper.
This is all true indeed; and this no doubt our Saviour understood well enough: but withal he could not but observe with how ill an eye they looked at him, and would not allow that in him which was lawful in another man. He was always accused for healing on the sabbath day, which whiles he did with a word speaking, he could not violate the sabbath so much as even their own canons permitted him: and wherefore then should they accuse him? In mere hatred to his person and actions. There are two little stories we meet with in places quoted before, which perhaps may serve in some measure to illustrate this matter.
"The grandchild of R. Joshua Ben Levi had some disease in his throat, There came one and mumbled to him in the name of Jesus the son of Pandira, and he was restored." Here we see the virtue and operation of Jesus not so utterly exploded, but they did allow of it.
"When R. Eliezer Ben Damah had been bitten with a serpent, and Jacobus Capharsamensis came in the name of Jesus the son of Pandira to heal him, R. Ismael forbade it." And so the sick man died.
5. And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
[Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, &c.] It being an undoubted maxim, "That they must deal mercifully with an Israelite's goods," the doctors in many things dispensed with the sabbath for the preservation of a beast. "They do not play the midwives with a beast that is bringing forth its young on a feast day, but they help it. How do they help it? They bear up the young one, that it doth not fall upon the ground: they bring wine, spirt it into the nostrils: they rub the paunch of the dam, so that it will suckle its young."
"A firstling if it fall into a ditch [on a fast day, or the sabbath], let the Mumcheh look into it; and if there be any blemish in it, let him take it out and kill it: if not, let him not kill it." He draws it out however, that it might not be lost. And so they deal with other beasts; only the Mumcheh is not made use of.
8. When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;
[Sit not down in the highest room.] They were ambitious of the 'highest room' in honour of their wisdom. "There were three persons invited to a feast, a prince, a wise man, and an ordinary person: the wise man sat next to the prince. Being asked by the king why he did so; he answered, 'Because I am a wise man.'" "Janneus the king sitting at table with some of the nobles of Persia, Simeon Ben Shetah, that had been invited, placed himself betwixt the king and queen. Being asked, why so; he answered, 'In the book of Ben Sirah it was written, Exalt Wisdom, and she shall exalt thee, and make thee to sit among princes.'"
It is much such advice as this of our Saviour's that is given us in Proverbs 25:7: upon which place we have this passage: "R. Aquila, in the name of R. Simeon Ben Azzai, thus expounds it: 'Go back from thy place two or three seats, and there sit, that they may say unto thee, Go up higher,'" &c.
18. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs to and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
[With one consent to make excuse.] A very ridiculous, as well as clownish and unmannerly excuse this, if it grew towards night; for it was supper-time. A very unseasonable time to go and see a piece of ground new bought, or to try a yoke of oxen. The substantive, therefore, that should answer to the adjective, I would not seek any otherwhere than as it is included in the word make excuse; so that the sense of it may be they began all for one cause to make excuse, i.e. for one and the same aversation they had to it.
23. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
[Go out into the highways and hedges.] Into the highways, that he might bring in the travellers: but who were those that were among the hedges? We have a parallel place, 1 Chronicles 4:23: "These were the potters," in Greek, Those that dwell in Ataim and Gadir. But the Vulgar, dwelling in plantations and hedges. To the same purpose R. Solomon and Kimchi; "They employed themselves in making pots, in planting, in setting hedges, and making mud walls." The Targumist here is very extravagant: "These are those disciples of the law, for whose sake the world was made; who sit in judgment and stablish the world; and their daughters build up the waste places of the house of Israel with the presence of the Eternal King, in the service of the law, and the intercalation of months," &c.
34. Salt is good;: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?
[But if the salt have lost his savour.] This hath a very good connection with what went before. Our Saviour had before taught how necessary it was for him that would apply himself to Christ and his religion, to weigh and consider things beforehand, how great and difficult things he must undergo, lest when he hath begun in the undertaking he faint and go back; he apostatize, and become unsavoury salt.
Savour suits very well with the Hebrew word which both signifies unsavoury and a fool; Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? Thy prophets have seen for thee vanity and that which is unsavoury. [Vain and foolish things, AV] The Greek, vain things and folly. He gave not that which is unsavoury to God. The Greek, he did not give folly to God, [nor charged God foolishly, AV].
4. What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
[Ninety-and-nine.] This was a very familiar way of numbering and dividing amongst the Jews, viz. betwixt one and ninety. I have given instances elsewhere, let me in this place add one more: "Of those hundred cries that a woman in travail uttereth, ninety-and-nine of them are to death, and only one of them to life."
7. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
[Which need no repentance.] Here we are to consider the distinction commonly used in the Jewish schools:--
I. All the good, and those that were to be saved at last, they called just persons. [It is opposed to the word wicked persons, as we may observe more than once in the first Psalm.] Hence this and the like passage very frequently, Paradise is for the just: good things laid up for the just.
Let us by the way play a little with the Gemarists, as they themselves also play with the letters of the alphabet, and amongst the rest especially the letter Tsadi, there is Tsadi that begins a word [or the crooked Tsadi] and Tsadi that ends a word [or the straight Tsadi]. What follows from hence? There is the just person that is crooked [or bowed down], and there is the just person that is erect or straight. Where the Gloss hath it, "It is necessary that the man that is right and straight should be bowed or humble, and he shall be erect in the world to come." Aruch acknowledgeth the same Gloss; but he also brings another which seems of his own making; That "there is a just person who is mild or humble; but there is also a just person who is not so." Let him tell, if he can, what kind of just person that should be that is not mild or humble. But to return to our business.
II. They divide the just into those that are just and no more: and those that are perfectly just. Under the first rank they place those that were not always upright; but having lived a wicked and irreligious life, have at length betaken themselves to repentance and reformation. These they call penitents. Under the latter rank are they placed who have been always upright and never declined from the right way: these they call perfectly just, and just from their first original: as also, holy or good men, and men of good works. Such a one did he account himself, and probably was so esteemed by others, that saith, "All these have I kept from my youth." And such a one might that holy man be thought, who never committed one trespass all the days of his life: excepting this one misfortune that befel him, that once he put on the phylacteries for his forehead before the phylacteries for his arms. A wondrous fault indeed! And what pity is it that for this one trespass of his life he should lose the title of one perfectly holy. Yet for this dreadful crime is the poor wretch deprived of a solemn interment, and by this was his atonement made.
We meet with this distinction of just persons in Beracoth: "R. Abhu saith, In the place where stand the penitents, there do not stand the perfectly just." This distinction also appeared both in the tongues and persons of those that were dancing in the Temple at the feast of Tabernacles. "Some of them said, 'Blessed be our youth that have not made our old men ashamed.' These were the holy and men of good works. Others said, 'Blessed be our old men who have expiated for our youth.' These were they who became penitents."
This phrase of perfectly just persons, puts me in mind of that of the apostle, the spirits of just men made perfect. Where (if I understand aright the scope of the apostle in the argument he is upon) he speaks of just men who are still in this life, and shews that the souls and spirits of believers are made perfectly righteous by faith, contrary to what the Jews held, that men were complete in their righteousness by works, even bodily works.
Seeing those whom they accounted perfectly just are termed men of works; so that perfectly just and men of works were convertible terms, it may not be improbable that the Essenes or Essaei may have their name from of works; so that they might be called workers, and by that be distinguished from the penitents. But of that matter I will raise no dispute.
III. Now which of these had the preference, whether perfect righteousness to repentance, or repentance to perfect righteousness, it is not easy to discern at first view, because even amongst themselves there are different opinions about it. We have a disputation in Beracoth, in the place newly cited, in these words: "R. Chaiah Bar Abba saith, R. Jochanan saith, All the prophets did not prophesy, unless for those that repent. As for those that are perfectly just, eye hath not seen besides thee, O God. But R. Abhu contradicts this: for R. Abhu saith, The penitent do not stand in the place where the perfectly just stand; as it is said, Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near. He names him that is far off first, and then him that is nigh. But R. Jochanan, Who is he that is far off? He that was far off from transgressing from his first original. And who is he that is nigh? He that was next to transgression, but now is afar off from it."
These passages of the Talmud are quoted by Kimchi upon Isaiah 57:19; and, out of him, by Drusius upon this place; but as far as I can perceive, very far wide from the mind of Kimchi. For thus Drusius hath it; R. David Isaiah 57:19, Hoc in loco, &c. In this place the penitent is said to be far off, and the just to be nigh, according to the ancients: but he that is far off is preferred; whence they say, The penitents are better than the perfectly just. As if this obtained amongst them all as a rule or maxim; when indeed the words of Kimchi are these: "He that is far off, that is, he that is far off from Jerusalem, and he that is near, that is, he that is near to Jerusalem. But there is a dispute in the words of our Rabbins about this matter. And some of them interpret it otherwise; for they expound him that is afar off, as to be understood of the penitent, and him that is near, as meaning the just: from whence they teach and say, That the penitent are better than those that are perfectly just."
Some, indeed, that do so expound it, say, that those that are penitent are to be preferred before those that are the perfectly just, but this was not the common and received opinion of all. Nay, the more general opinion gave so great a preference to perfect righteousness, that repentance was not to be compared with it. Hence that of R. Jochanan, approved of by R. Chaijah the great Rabbin, that those good and comfortable things concerning which the prophets do mention in their prophecies, belong only to those who were sometimes wicked men but afterward came unto repentance; but they were far greater things that were laid up for perfectly just persons,--things which had never been revealed to the prophets, nor no prophetic eye ever saw, but God only; things which were indeed of a higher nature than that they could be made known to men; for so the Gloss explaineth those words of theirs.
In this, indeed, they attribute some peculiar excellency to the penitent; in that, although they had tasted the sweets of sin, yet they had abandoned it, and got out of the snare: which it might have been a question whether those that are perfectly just would have done if they had tasted and experienced the same. But still they esteemed it much nobler never to have been stained with the pollutions of sin, always to have been just, and never otherwise than good. Nor is it seldom that we meet with some in the Talmudists making their own perfection the subject of their boast, glorying that they have never done any enormous thing throughout their whole life; placing those whom they called holy or good men, who were also the same with perfectly just, placing them (I say) in the highest form of just persons.
IV. After all this, therefore, judge whether Christ spoke simply or directly of any such persons (as if there were really any such) that could need no repentance; or rather, whether he did not at that time utter himself according to the common conceptions that nation had about some perfectly just persons, which he himself opposed. And this seems so much the more likely by how much he saith, "I say unto you," as if he set himself against that common conceit of theirs: and that example he brings of a certain person that needed no repentance, viz., the prodigal's brother, savours rather of the Jewish doctrine than that he supposed any one in this world perfectly just.
8. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
[A woman lighteth a candle.] There is a parable not much unlike this in Midras Schir, "R. Phineas Ben Jair expoundeth. If thou seek wisdom as silver, that is, if thou seek the things of the law as hidden treasures--A parable. It is like a man who if he lose a shekel or ornament in his house, he lighteth some candles, some torches, till he find it. If it be thus for the things of this world, how much more may it be for the things of the world to come!"
11. And he said, A certain man had two sons:
[A certain man had two sons.] It is no new thing so to apply this parable, as if the elder son denoted the Jew, and the younger the Gentile. And, indeed, the elder son doth suit well enough with the Jew in this, that he boasts so much of his obedience, "I have not transgressed at any time thy commandment": as also, that he is so much against the entertainment of his brother, now a penitent. Nothing can be more grievous to the Jews than the reception of the Gentiles.
13. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
[He wasted his substance with riotous living.] Ought not this prodigal to be looked upon as that stubborn and rebellious son mentioned Deuteronomy 21:18? By no means, if we take the judgment of the Sanhedrim itself. For, according to the character that is given of a stubborn and rebellious son in Sanhedrim, cap. 8, where there is a set discourse upon that subject, there can hardly be such a one found in nature as he is there described. Unless he steal from his father and his mother, he is not such a son; unless he eat half a pound of flesh, and drink half a log of wine, he is not such a son. If his father or mother be lame or blind, he is not such a son, &c. Half a pound of flesh! It is told of Maximin, that "he drank frequently in one day a Capitoline bottle of wine, and ate forty pounds of flesh; or, as Cordus saith, threescore."
1. And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
[Which had a steward.] This parable seems to have relation to the custom of letting out grounds, which we find discoursed of, Demai, cap. 6, where it is supposed a ground is let by its owner to some tenant upon this condition, that he pay half, or one third or fourth part of the products of the ground, according as is agreed betwixt them as to the proportion and quantity. So, also, he supposes an olive-yard let out upon such kind of conditions. And there it is disputed about the payment of the tithes, in what manner it should be compounded between the owner and him that occupies the ground.
Steward with Kimchi is pakidh, where he hath a parable not much unlike this: "The world (saith he) is like unto a house built; the heaven is the covering of the house; the stars are the candles in the house; the fruits of the earth are like a table spread in the house; the owner of the house, and he indeed that built it, is the holy blessed God. Man in the world is as it were the steward of the house, into whose hands his lord hath delivered all his riches, if he behave himself well, he will find favour in the eyes of his lord; if ill, he will remove him from his stewardship."
3. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
[I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed.] Is there not some third thing betwixt digging and begging? The distinction betwixt artificers and labourers, mentioned in Bava Mezia, hath place here. This steward, having conversed only with husbandmen, must be supposed skilled in no other handicraft; but that if he should be forced to seek a livelihood, he must be necessitated to apply himself to digging in the vineyards, or fields, or olive-yards.
6. And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
[Take thy bill, &c.] That is, "Take from me the scroll of thy contract, which thou deliveredst to me; and make a new one, of fifty measures only, that are owing by thee." But it seems a great inequality, that he should abate one fifty in a hundred measures of oil, and the other but twenty out of a hundred measures of wheat; unless the measures of wheat exceeded the measure of oil ten times: so that when there were twenty cori of wheat abated the debtor, there were abated to him two hundred baths or ephahs.
9. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
[Of the mammon of unrighteousness.] I. Were I very well assured that our Saviour in this passage meant riches well gotten, and alms to be bestowed thence, I would not render it mammon of unrighteousness, but hurtful mammon. For hurt signifies as well to deal unjustly. Vulg. hurt not the earth. And so riches, even well got, may be said to be hurtful mammon; because it frequently proves noxious to the owner. It is the lawyers' term, the damage of mammon (Maimonides hath a treatise with that title), that is, when any person doth any way hurt or damnify another's estate. And in reality, and on the contrary, hurtful mammon, i.e. when riches turn to the hurt and mischief of the owner...
II. Or perhaps he might call it mammon of unrighteousness in opposition to mammon of righteousness, i.e. of mercy, or almsgiving: for by that word righteousness, the Jews usually expressed charity or almsgiving, as every one that hath dipped into that language knows very well. And then his meaning might be, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, i.e. of those riches which you have not yet laid out in righteousness, or almsgiving...
III. I see no reason, therefore, why we may not, nay, why, indeed, it is not necessary to, understand the words precisely of riches ill gotten. For,
1. So the application of the parable falls in directly with the parable itself: "That steward gained to himself friends by ill-gotten goods; so do ye: make to yourselves friends of the wealth you have not well got."
Object. But far be it from our Saviour to exhort or encourage any to get riches unjustly, or to stir them up to give alms out of what they have dishonestly acquired. Saith Heinsius; "No man but will confess our Lord meant nothing less than that any one should make friends to himself of riches unjustly gained." Yet, for all this, I must acknowledge myself not so very well satisfied in this matter.
2. Let us but a little consider by what words in the Syriac our Saviour might express mammon of unrighteousness, especially if he spoke in the vulgar language. It was a common phrase, mammon of falsity, or false mammon; at least if the Targumists speak in the vulgar idiom of that nation, which none will deny. It is said of Samuel's sons, that "they did not walk in his ways but turned after 'false mammon.'" "He destroys his own house, whoso heaps up to himself the 'mammon of falsehood.'" "Whoever walks in justice, and speaketh right things, and separates himself from 'the mammon of iniquity.'" "To shed blood and to destroy souls, that they may gain 'mammon of falsehood.'"
There needs no commentator to shew what the Targumists mean by mammon of falsehood, or mammon of unrighteousness. They themselves explain it, when they render it sometimes by mammon of violence; sometimes by mammon of wickedness. Kimchi, by mammon of rapine, upon Isaiah 33.
By the way, I cannot but observe, that that expression, Hosea 5:11, after the commandment, i.e. of Jeroboam or Omri, is rendered by the Targumists after the mammon of falsehood. Where also see the Greek and Vulgar.
Seeing it appears before that mammon of unrighteousness, is the same in the Greek with mammon of falsity or false mammon in the Targumists, who speak in the common language of that nation, there is no reason why it should not be taken here in the very same sense. Think but what word our Saviour would use to express unrighteousness by, and then think, if there can be any word more probable than that which was so well known, and so commonly in use in that nation. Indeed the word unrighteousness, in this place, is softened by some, that it should denote no further than false, as not true and substantial: so that the mammon of unrighteousness should signify deceitful mammon, not opposing riches well got to those that are ill got, but opposing earthly riches to spiritual: which rendering of the word took its rise from hence especially, that it looked ill and unseemly, that Christ should persuade any to make to themselves friends by giving alms out of an ill-gotten estate: not to mention that, verse 11, unrighteous mammon, is opposed to true riches.
III. It is not to be doubted but that the disciples of Christ did sufficiently abhor the acquiring of riches by fraud and rapine: but can we absolve all of them from the guilt of it before their conversion? particularly Matthew the publican? And is it so very unseemly for our Saviour to admonish them to make themselves friends by restitution, and a pious distribution of those goods they may have unjustly gathered before their conversion? The discourse is about restitution, and not giving of alms.
IV. It is a continued discourse in this place with that in the foregoing chapter, only that he does more particularly apply himself to his disciples, verse 1, He said unto his disciples; where the particle and joins what is discoursed here with what went before. Now who were his disciples? not the twelve apostles only, nor the seventy disciples only: but, chapter 15:1, all the publicans and sinners that came to hear him. For we needs must suppose them in the number of disciples, if we consider the distinction of the congregation then present, being made between scribes and Pharisees, and those that came to him with a good mind to hear: besides that we may observe how Christ entertains them, converseth with them, and pleads for them in the parable of the foregoing chapter. Which plea and apology for them against the scribes and Pharisees being finished, he turns his discourse to them themselves, and under the parable of an Unjust Steward, instructs them how they may make to themselves friends of the wealth they had unjustly gained, as he had done. And, indeed, what could have been more seasonably urged before the unjust and covetous Pharisees, than to stir up his followers, that, if they had acquired any unrighteous gains before their conversion, they would now honestly restore them, piously distribute them, that so they may make themselves friends of them, as the Unjust Steward had done?
And for a comment upon this doctrine, let us take the instance of Zacchaeus, chapter 19. If Christ, while entertained in his house, had said to him what he said to his disciples here, Zacchaeus, make to thyself friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; would Zacchaeus himself, or those that stood by, have understood him any otherwise, than that he should make friends to himself of that wealth he had gotten dishonestly? And why they may not be so understood here, I profess I know not; especially when he discourses amongst those disciples that had been publicans and sinners; and scarce any of them, for aught we know, but before his conversion had been unjust and unrighteous enough.
[Make to yourselves friends.] Were it so, that, by the mammon of unrighteousness could be understood an estate honestly got, and the discourse were about giving of alms, yet would I hardly suppose the poor to be those friends here mentioned, but Got and Christ. For who else were capable of receiving them into everlasting habitations? As for the poor (upon whom these alms are bestowed) doing this, as some have imagined, is mere dream, and deserves to be laughed at rather than discussed.
In Bava Kama we have a discourse about restitution of goods ill gotten; and amongst other things there is this passage: "The Rabbins deliver; those that live upon violence (or thieves), and usurers, if they make restitution, their restitution is not received." And a little after, for shepherds, exactors, and publicans, restitution is difficult. (The Gloss is, Because they have wronged so many, that they know not to whom to restore their own.) But they do make restitution to those who know their own goods, that were purloined from them. They say true, They do make restitution: but others do not receive it of them. To what end then do they make restitution? That they may perform their duty towards God.
Upon what nicety it was that they would not allow those to restitution, from whom the goods had been purloined, I will not stand to inquire. It was necessary, however, that restitution should be made; that that which was due and owing to God might be performed; that is, they might not retain in their hands any ill-gotten goods, but devote them to some good use; and, accordingly, those things that were restored, (if the owners could not know them again) were dedicated to public use, viz. to the use of the synagogue: and so they made God their friend, of the goods that they had gained by dishonesty and unrighteousness.
11. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
[If ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, &c.] The Vulgar, If ye have not been faithful in the unjust mammon: it is not ill rendered. But can any one be faithful in the unrighteous mammon? As to that, let us judge from the example of Zaccaeus: although he was not faithful in scraping together any thing unjustly, yet was he eminently faithful in so piously distributing it.
12. And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
[If ye have not been faithful in that which was another man's, &c.] To apply another man's to that wealth which is given us by God, is something harsh and obscure; but to apply it to the riches of other men, makes the sense a little more easy: "If ye have been unjust in purloining the goods of other men, and will still as unjustly keep them back, what reason have you to think that others will not deal as unjustly with you, and keep back even what is yours?"
16. The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
[And every one presseth into it.] These words may be varied into a sense plainly contrary; so far that they may either denote the entertainment or the persecution of the gospel. Saith Beza: Every one breaketh into it by force; which points at the former sense of these words. Vulgar: Every one commits violence upon it: which points to the latter. I have admitted of the former, as that which is the most received sense of that passage in Matthew 11:12: but the latter seems more agreeable in this place, if you will suppose a continued discourse in our Saviour from verse 15, and that one verse depends upon another. They do indeed seem independent, and incoherent one with another; and yet there is no reason why we may not suppose a connexion, though at the first view it is not so perspicuous. We may observe the manner of the schools in this very difficulty. In both the Talmuds, what frequent transitions are there infinitely obscure and inextricable at first sight, and seemingly of no kind of coherence; which yet the expositors have made very plain and perspicuous, very coherent with one another.
I would therefore join and continue the discourse in some such way as this: "You laugh me to scorn, and have my doctrine in derision, boasting yourselves above the sphere of it, as if nothing I said belonged at all to you. Nor do I wonder at it; for whereas the Law and the Prophets were until John, yet did you deal no otherwise with them, but changed and wrested them at your pleasure by your traditions and the false glosses ye have put upon them. And when with John Baptist the kingdom of heaven arose and made its entry among you, every one useth violence and hostility against it, by contradiction, persecution, and laughing it to scorn. And yet, though you by your foolish traditions have made even the whole law void and of none effect, it is easier certainly for heaven and earth to pass away, than that one tittle of the law should fail. Take but an instance in the first and most ancient precept of the law, 'The man shall cleave unto his wife'; which you, by your traditions and arbitrary divorces, have reduced to nothing; but that still remains, and will remain for ever, in its full force and virtue; and he that puts away his wife (according to the licentiousness of your divorces) and marrieth another, committeth adultery."
19. There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
[There was a certain rich man.] Whoever believes this not to be a parable, but a true story, let him believe also those little friars, whose trade it is to shew the monuments at Jerusalem to pilgrims, and point exactly to the place where the house of the 'rich glutton' stood. Most accurate keepers of antiquity indeed! who, after so many hundreds of years, such overthrows of Jerusalem, such devastations and changes, can rake out of the rubbish the place of so private a house, and such a one too as never had any being, but merely in parable. And that it was a parable, not only the consent of all expositors may assure us, but the thing itself speaks it.
The main scope and design of it seems this, to hint the destruction of the unbelieving Jews, who, though they had Moses and the Prophets, did not believe them, nay, would not believe, though one (even Jesus) arose from the dead. For that conclusion of the parable abundantly evidenceth what it aimed at: "If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."
20. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
[Lazarus.] I. We shew in our notes upon St. John 11:1, in several instances, that the word Lazar is by contraction used by the Talmudists for Eleazar. The author of Juchasin attests it: in the Jerusalem Talmud every R. Eleazar is written without an Aleph, R. Lazar.
II. In Midras Coheleth there is a certain beggar called Diglus Patragus or Petargus: poor, infirm, naked, and famished. But there could hardly be invented a more convenient name for a poor beggar than Lazar, which signifies the help of God, when he stands in so much need of the help of men.
But perhaps there may be something more aimed at in the name: for since the discourse is concerning Abraham and Lazarus, who would not call to mind Abraham and Eliezer his servant, one born at Damascus, a Gentile by birth, and sometime in posse the heir of Abraham; but shut out of the inheritance by the birth of Isaac, yet restored here into Abraham's bosom? Which I leave to the judgment of the reader, whether it might not hint the calling of the Gentiles into the faith of Abraham.
The Gemarists make Eliezer to accompany his master even in the cave of Machpelah: "R. Baanah painted the sepulchres: when he came to Abraham's cave, he found Eliezer standing at the mouth of it. He saith unto him, 'What is Abraham doing?' To whom he, He lieth in the embraces of Sarah. Then said Baanah, 'Go and tell him that Baanah is at the door,'" &c.
[Full of sores.] In the Hebrew language, stricken with ulcers. Sometimes his body full of ulcers, as in this story: "They tell of Nahum Gamzu, that he was blind, lame of both hands and of both feet, and in all his body full of sores. He was thrown into a ruinous house, the feet of his bed being put into basins full of water, that the ants might not creep upon him. His disciples ask him, 'Rabbi, how hath this mischief befallen thee, when as thou art a just man?'" He gives the reason himself; viz. Because he deferred to give something to a poor man that begged of him. We have the same story in Hieros Peah, where it were worth the while to take notice how they vary in the telling it.
22. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
[He was carried by the angels.] The Rabbins have an invention that there are three bands of angels attend the death of wicked men, proclaiming, "There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked." But what conceptions they have of angels being present at the death of good men, let us judge from this following passage:
"The men of Tsippor said, 'Whoever tells us that Rabbi [Judah] is dead, we will kill him.' Bar Kaphra, looking upon them with his head veiled with a hood, said unto them, 'Holy men, and angels took hold of the tables of the covenant, and the hand of the angels prevailed; so that they took away the tables.' They said unto him, 'Is Rabbi dead then?'" The meaning of this parabolizer was this; Holy men would fain have detained R. Judah still in the land of the living, but the angels took him away.
[Into Abraham's bosom.] ...The Jewish schools dispose of the souls of Jews under a threefold phrase, I can hardly say under a threefold state:--
I. In the garden of Eden, or Paradise. Amongst those many instances that might be alleged, even to nauseousness, let us take one wherein this very Abraham is named:
"'He shall be as a tree planted by the rivers of waters.' This is Abraham, whom God took and planted in the land of Israel; or, whom God took and planted in Paradise." Take one instance more of one of equal fame and piety, and that was Moses: "When our master Moses departed into Paradise, he said unto Joshua, 'If thou hast any doubt upon thee about any thing, inquire now of me concerning it.'"
II. Under the throne of glory. We have a long story in Avoth R. Nathan of the angel of death being sent by God to take away the soul of Moses; which when he could not do, "God taketh hold of him himself, and treasureth him up under the throne of glory." And a little after; "Nor is Moses' soul only placed under the throne of glory; but the souls of other just persons also are reposited under the throne of glory."
Moses, in the words quoted before, is in Paradise; in these words, he is under the throne of glory. In another place, "he is in heaven ministering before God." So that under different phrases is the same thing expressed; and this, however, is made evident, that there the garden of Eden was not to be understood of an earthly, but a heavenly paradise. That in Revelation 6:9, of 'souls crying under the altar,' comes pretty near this phrase, of being placed under the throne of glory. For the Jews conceived of the altar as the throne of the Divine Majesty; and for that reason the court of the Sanhedrim was placed so near the altar, that they might be filled with the reverence of the Divine Majesty so near them, while they were giving judgment. Only, whereas there is mention of the souls of the martyrs that had poured out their blood for God, it is an allusion to the blood of the sacrifices that were wont to be poured out at the foot of the altar.
III. In Abraham's bosom: which if you would know what it is, you need seek no further than the Rhemists, our countrymen (with grief be it spoken), if you will believe them; for they upon this place have this passage: "The bosom of Abraham is the resting-place of all them that died in perfect state of grace before Christ's time; heaven, before, being shut from men. It is called in Zachary a lake without water, and sometimes a prison, but most commonly of the divines Limbus patrum; for that it is thought to have been the higher part or brim of hell," &c.
If our Saviour had been the first author of this phrase, then might it have been tolerable to have looked for the meaning of it amongst Christian expositors; but seeing it is a scheme of speech so familiar amongst the Jews, and our Saviour spoke no other than in the known and vulgar dialect of that nation, the meaning must be fetched thence, not from any Greek or Roman lexicon. That which we are to inquire after is, how it was understood by the auditory then present: and I may lay any wager that the Jews, when they heard Abraham's bosom mentioned, did think of nothing less than that kind of limbo which we have here described. What! Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, &c., in a lake without water, in prison, on the very brim of hell! Is this to be in paradise? is this to be under the throne of glory? And was Lazarus carried thither by angels when he was carried into Abraham's bosom?
We meet with a phrase amongst the Talmudists; Kiddushin, fol. 72: it is quoted also from Juchasin, fol. 75. 2. Let us borrow a little patience of the reader, to transcribe the whole passage:
"Rabbi [Judah] saith to Levi, Represent the Persians to me by some similitude. He saith, They are like to the host of the house of David. Represent to me the Iberians. They are like to the angels of destruction. Represent to me the Ismaelites. They are like the devils of the stinking pit. Represent to me the disciples of the wise, that are in Babylon. they are like to ministering angels. When R. [Judah] died, he said, Hoemnia is in Babylon, and consists of Ammonites wholly. Mesgaria is in Babylon, and wholly consists of spurious people. Birkah is in Babylon, where two men interchange their wives. Birtha Sataia is in Babylon, and at this day they depart from God. Acra of Agma is in Babylon. Ada Bar Ahava is there. This day he sits in Abraham's bosom. This day is Rabh Judah born in Babylon."
Expositors are not well agreed, neither by whom, nor indeed concerning whom, those words are spoken, This day he sits 'in the bosom of Abraham.' And for that reason have I transcribed the whole period, that the reader may spend his judgment amongst them. The author of Juchasin thinks they may be the words of Adah Bar Ahavah spoken concerning Rabbi Judah. Another Gloss saith, They are spoken of Adah Bar Ahavah himself. Let us hear them both: "The day that Rabbi died, Rabh Adah Bar Ahavah said, by way of prophecy, This day doth he sit in Abraham's bosom." "There are those indeed that expound, This day doth he sit in Abraham's bosom, thus; that is, This day he died. Which if it be to be understood of Adah Bar Ahavah, the times do not suit. It seems to be understood therefore, This day he sits in Abraham's bosom: that is, This day is Adah Bar Ahavah circumcised, and entered into the covenant of Abraham."
But the reader may plainly see, having read out the whole period, that these words were spoken neither by Adah nor of him, but by Levi, of whom we have some mention in the beginning of this passage, and spoken concerning Rabbi Judah that was now dead. It is Levi also that saith, that in his room, on that very selfsame day, was Rabh Judah born in Babylon, according to the common adage of their schools, which immediately follows; "A just man never dies, till there be born in his room one like him." So saith R. Meir; "When R. Akibah died, Rabbi [Judah] was born: when Rabbi Judah died, Rabh Judah was born: when Rabh Judah died, Rabba was born: when Rabba died, Rabh Isai was born."
We have here, therefore, if we will make up the story out of both Talmuds, another not very unlike this of ours. In the Jerusalem Talmud, Rabbi Judah is conveyed by angels; in the Babylonian, he is placed in Abraham's bosom: neither would the Glosser have doubted in the least either of the thing, or of the way of expressing it, so as to have fled to any new exposition, had he not mistook the person concerning whom these words were uttered. He supposeth them spoken of Adah Bar Ahavah (wherein he is deceived): and because the times do not fall in right, if they were to be understood of his death, he therefore frames a new interpretation of his own, whiles, in the mean time, he acknowledgeth that others expound it otherwise.
We may find out, therefore, the meaning of the phrase according to the common interpretation, by observing, first, that it was universally believed amongst the Jews, that pure and holy souls, when they left this body, went into happiness, to Abraham. Our Saviour speaks according to the received opinion of that nation in this affair, when he saith, "Many shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham."
Give me leave to transcribe a story a little more largely than usual: "There was a woman the mother of seven martyrs (so we find it also 2 Maccabees 7)." When six of her sons were slain, and the youngest brought out in order to it, though but a child of two years and a half old, "the mother saith to Caesar, 'by the life of thy head, I beseech thee, O Caesar, let me embrace and kiss my child.' This being permitted her, she plucked out her breasts and gave it suck. The she; 'By the life of thy head, I entreat thee, O Caesar, that thou wouldest first kill me and then the child.' Caesar answered, 'I will not yield to thee in this matter, for it is written in your own law, The heifer or sheep, with its young one, thou shalt not kill on the same day.' To whom she; 'O thou foolishest of all mortals, hast thou performed all the commands, that this only is wanting?' He forthwith commands that the child should be killed. The mother running into the embraces of her little son, kissed him and said, 'Go thou, O my son, to Abraham thy father, and tell him, Thus saith my mother, Do not thou boast, saying, I built an altar, and offered my son Isaac: for my mother hath built seven altars, and offered seven sons in one day,'" &c.
This woman, questionless, did not doubt of the innocence and purity of the soul of this child, nor of its future happiness, (for we will suppose the truth of the story) which happiness she expresseth sufficiently by this, that her son was going to his father Abraham. There are several other things to the same purpose and of the same mould, that might be produced, but let this suffice in this place: however, see notes upon verse 24.
Now what this being in Abraham's bosom may signify amongst the Jews, we may gather from what is spoken of the manners and the death of this R. Judah; concerning whom it is said, This day he sits in Abraham's bosom. "Rabbi Judah had the toothache thirteen years; and in all that time there was not an abortive woman throughout the whole land of Israel." For to him it is that they apply those words of the prophet, "He was a man of sorrows, and hath borne our griefs." And for these very pains of his, some had almost persuaded themselves that he was the Messiah. At length this toothache was relieved by Elias, appearing in the likeness of R. Chaijah Rubbah, who, by touching his tooth, cured him. When he died, and was to be buried on the evening of the sabbath, there were eighteen synagogues accompanied him to his grave. "Miracles were done; the day did not decline, till every one was got home before the entrance of the sabbath." Bath Kol pronounced happiness for all those that wept for him, excepting one by name; which one when he knew himself excepted, threw himself headlong from the roof of the house, and so died, &c. But to add no more, for his incomparable learning and piety he was called R. Judah the holy. And whither would the Jew think such a one would go when he went out of this world? Who amongst them, when it was said of him that was in Abraham's bosom, would not without all scruple and hesitancy understand it, that he was in the very embraces of Abraham, (as they were wont at table one to lie in the other's bosom) in the exquisite delights and perfect felicities of paradise? not in 'a lake without water,' 'a prison,' 'the very brink of hell.'
23. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
[He seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus.] Instead of commentary, take another parable: "There are wicked men that are coupled together in this world. But one of them repents before death; the other doth not: so the one is found standing in the assembly of the just; the other in the assembly of the wicked. The one seeth the other, [this agrees with the passage now before us] and saith, 'Woe! and alas! here is accepting of persons in this thing: he and I robbed together, committed murder together; and now he stands in the congregation of the just, and I in the congregation of the wicked.' They answer him, 'O thou most foolish amongst mortals that are in the world! Thou wert abominable, and cast forth for three days after thy death, and they did not lay thee in the grave: the worm was under thee, and the worm covered thee: which when this companion of thine came to understand, he became a penitent. It was in thy power also to have repented, but thou didst not.' He saith unto them, 'Let me go now and become a penitent,' But they say, 'O thou foolishest of men, dost thou not know that this world in which thou art is like the sabbath, and the world out of which thou camest is like the evening of the sabbath? If thou dost not provide something on the evening of the sabbath, what wilt thou eat on the sabbath day? Dost thou not know that the world out of which thou camest is like the land, and the world in which thou now art is like the sea? If a man make no provision on land for what he should eat at sea, what will he have to eat?' He gnashed his teeth and gnawed his own flesh."
24. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
[And he cried and said.] We have mention of the dead discoursing one amongst another, and also with those that are alive. "R. Samuel Bar Nachman saith, R. Jonathan saith, How doth it appear that the dead have any discourse amongst themselves? It appears from what is said, And the Lord said unto him, This is the land, concerning which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and Jacob saying: What is the meaning of saying? The Holy Blessed God saith unto Moses, Go thou and say to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, The oath which I sware unto you, I have performed unto your children." Note that: "Go thou and say to Abraham," &c. "There is a story of a certain pious man, that went and lodged in a burying-place, and heard two souls discoursing amongst themselves. Said the one unto the other, 'Come, my companion, and let us wander about the world, and listen behind the veil, what kind of plagues are coming upon the world.' To which the other replied, 'O my companion, I cannot; for I am buried in a cane mat: but do thou go, and whatsoever thou hearest, do thou come and tell me.' The soul went, and wandered about the world," &c.
"The year following he went again, and lodging in a place of burial, he heard two souls discoursing between themselves. Saith the one unto the other, 'O my companion, come, let us wander about the world, and hearken behind the veil, what kind of plagues are coming upon the world.' To which the other, 'O my companion, let me alone; for the words that formerly passed between thee and me were heard amongst the living.' 'Whence could they know?' 'Perhaps some other person that is dead went and told them.'"
"There was a certain person deposited some zuzees with a certain hostess till he should return; and went to the house of Rabh. When he returned she was dead. He went after her to the place of burial, and said unto her, 'Where are my zuzees?' She saith unto him, 'Go, take it from under the hinge of the door, in a certain place there: and speak to my mother to send me my black lead, and the reed of paint by the woman N., who is coming hither tomorrow.' But whence do they know that such a one shall die? Dumah [that is, the angel who is appointed over the dead] comes before, and proclaims it to them."
"The zuzees that belonged to orphans were deposited with the father of Samuel [the Rabbin]. He died, Samuel being absent. He went after him to the place of burial, and said unto them [i.e. to the dead], I look for Abba. They say unto him, Abba the good is here. 'I look for Abba Bar Abba.' They say unto him, 'Abba Bar Abba the good is here.' He saith unto them, 'I look for Abba Bar Abba the father of Samuel; where is he?' They say unto him, He is gone up to the academy of the firmament. Then he saw Levi [his colleague] sitting without." (The Gloss hath it, The dead appeared as without their graves, sitting in a circle, but Levi sat without the circle.) "He saith unto him, 'Why dost thou sit without? why dost thou not ascend?' He answered him, 'They say unto me, Because there want those years wherein thou didst not go into the academy of the Rabbi.' When his father came, he saw him weep. He saith unto him, 'Why dost thou weep?' He saith unto him, 'Where is the orphans' money?' He saith unto him, 'Go, and take it out of the mill-house,'" &c. But I fear, the reader will frown at this huge length of trifles.
[And cool my tongue.] There was a good man and a wicked man that died. As for the good man, he had no funeral rites solemnized, but the wicked man had. Afterward, there was one saw in his dream the good man walking in gardens, and hard by pleasant springs: but the wicked man with his tongue trickling drop by drop at the bank of a river, endeavouring to touch the water, but he could not.
26. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
[A great gulf fixed.] It is well known from the poets, that inferi among the Latins comprehend the seat both of the blessed and the damned, denoting in general the state of the dead, be they according to the quality of their persons allotted either to joys or punishments. On this hand, Elysium for the good; on that hand, Tartarus for the wicked; the river Cocytus, or Acheron, or some such great gulf fixed betwixt them. The Jews seem not to have been very distant from this apprehension of things. "God hath set the one against the other, that is, hell and paradise. How far are they distant? A handbreadth. R. Jochanan saith, A wall is between." But the Rabbins say, They are so even with one another, that you may see out of one into the other.
That of seeing out of the one into the other agrees with the passage before us; nor is it very dissonant that it is said, They are so even with one another; that is, they are so even, that they have a plain view one from the other, nothing being interposed to hinder it, and yet so great a gulf between, that it is impossible to pass the one to the other. That is worth noting, Revelation 14:10, "Shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb."
29. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
[They have Moses and the prophets.] The historical books also are comprehended under the title of the Prophets, according to the common acceptation of the Jews, and the reading in their synagogues: "All the books of the Prophets are eight; Joshua, Judges, Samuel, the Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the twelve." So the Gemara also reckons them. So we find the Octateuch of the Prophets, as well as the Pentateuch of Moses, in Photius; of which we have spoken elsewhere.
But are the Hagiographa excluded, when mention is made only of the law and the prophets? Our Saviour speaks after the usual manner of their reading Moses and the Prophets in their synagogues; where every ordinary person, even the most rude and illiterate, met with them, though he had neither Moses nor the prophets nor the Hagiographa at his own house. Indeed, the holy writings, were not read in the synagogues (for what reason I will not dispute in this place), but they were, however, far from being rejected by the people, but accounted for divine writings, which may be evinced, besides other things, even from the very name. Our Saviour therefore makes no mention of them, not because he lightly esteems them, but because Moses and the prophets were heard by every one every sabbath day; and so were not the Hagiographa.
31. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
[Neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.] Any one may see how Christ points at the infidelity of the Jews, even after that himself shall have risen again. From whence it is easy to judge what was the design and intention of this parable.
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