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1. And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
[Was led by the Spirit.] In St. Matthew it is, was led up of the Spirit. By which I would suppose our Saviour caught up by the Holy Spirit into the air, and so carried into the wilderness. The reasons of this conjecture are, I. Because we read of the like thing done to Philip, Acts 8:39,40. The same also is supposed concerning Elijah, 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16. II. It is probable the devil also might snatch Jesus up into the air, having this occasion to pretend himself no other than the Holy Ghost, who had caught him up and brought him already into the wilderness: and under this notion he might require that worship from him, as if he himself was indeed the Holy Ghost. III. We must not pass by the method which St. Luke takes in describing the order of the temptations, somewhat different from that of St. Matthew. The temptation upon the pinnacle of the Temple is mentioned by St. Matthew, and that most truly, the second in order: but in St. Luke it is reckoned the third; adding, that "when the devil had ended all his temptation, he departed from him for a season." But now, according to St. Luke, how did Christ get down from the pinnacle again? He tells us, that he was carried up thither by the devil, and there (according to his method in the story) the temptation was ended: how then did Christ get down again? Observe but what follows; Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and then join the stories as they are joined in St. Luke: the devil set him on the pinnacle of the Temple, and there urgeth him to cast himself down; but when he could not persuade him, he leaves him standing on the pinnacle, and all the temptation was ended; and Jesus, by the power of the Spirit returned into Galilee. May we not suppose that the evangelist would by this give us to understand, that Christ, after the temptation was ended, was carried through the air by the Holy Ghost into Galilee, as he had been caught up before by him, and been brought into the wilderness, yea, and under that pretence [or upon that occasion], had been snatched up by the devil himself to the pinnacle of the Temple, and to a very high mountain?
2. Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
[Forty days, &c.] Moses, in his dealings with God, fasted forty days three times, one after another. It was sufficient for Christ, having withal so great a conflict with the devil, to do it but once. Moses' first quadragesimal was Exodus 24:18: his second time was after he had destroyed the golden calf, Deuteronomy 10:10: the third was after the tables of the law had been made anew, Exodus 34:28. About that very time of the year wherein Moses ended his last forty days' fast, Christ began his; viz. about the middle of the month Tisri; and how long he continued it on in the month Marchesvan, it is not difficult to apprehend.
5. And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
[In a moment of time.] In momento. So the Vulgar. Now what quantity of time a moment contains, if it be worth the while to inquire, the doctors tell us:
How much is a moment? It is the fifty-eight thousand, eight hundred, eighty-eighth part of an hour. Very accurately calculated truly!
13. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
[He departed from him for a season.] The devil had now found by experience, how much in vain it was for him to tempt our Saviour by suggestions, or those kinds of allurements by which he inveigles mankind; and therefore he watches for an opportunity of trying his arts upon him some other way: which at last he doth, both by himself and by his instruments. And when that season drew near, and the devil returned to his proper business, we find there is mention made of Satan entering into Judas, and that "now the prince of this world cometh," John 14:30.
16. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
[He stood up to read.] That we may frame the better judgment of this action of our Saviour's, let us a little look into the customs of the synagogue:--
I. They read standing up. Piske: and Rabbenu Asher; "They do not read in the law otherwise than standing up. Nay, it is unlawful for him that readeth to lean upon any thing. Whence comes it that he that readeth in the law is bound to stand up? Rabh Abhu saith, Because the Scripture saith, Do thou stand by me. Nor ought any one to lean any way, as it is in the Jerusalem. R. Samuel Bar Isaac going into a synagogue found one expounding and leaning against a pillar. He saith to him, This is not lawful: for as the law was given with reverence, so are we to handle it with reverence too."
They preferred the Law before the Prophets, and the Law and the Prophets above the Hagiographa, or holy writings: and yet they yielded that honour to the Prophets, that even they should not be read but standing up. Whence that is particular which they say concerning the Book of Esther, "A man may read out of the Book of Esther, either standing or sitting. But not so out of the law." Christ in this followed the custom of the synagogue, in that while he read the Law he stood up, while he taught it he sat down.
II. He that read in the Prophets was called Maphtir; and was appointed to that office by the ruler of the synagogue.
"Rabh Bibai was a great man in taking care of the things of God. And Mar was a great man in taking care of the things of the town." The Gloss is: "Of the things of God, that is, about the collectors of the alms, and the distribution of it, and the ordering those that were to expound and read the Prophets."
It is probable that Christ did at this time offer himself as a Maphtir, or as one that would read in the Prophets, and preach upon what he read; not before hand appointed to it by the ruler of the synagogue, but rather approved of when he had offered himself. For those of Nazareth had heard of some miracles which he had wrought at Capernaum, verse 23: and therefore no wonder if they were very desirous to hear something from him answerable to those great things he had done.
III. Piske: "He that reads in the Prophets ought not to read less than one-and-twenty verses." Here our Saviour doth not seem to have observed the custom of the synagogue, for he read but two verses: and yet he did nothing but what was both allowable and usual. And that is worth our taking notice of which we meet with, "If there be an interpreter or preaching on the sabbath day, they read out of the prophets, three, or five, or seven verses, and are not so careful to read just one-and-twenty."
"If there be an interpreter [or interpretation] on the sabbath day": was there not always one on every sabbath day? So that neither Moses nor the Prophets might be read unless one stood by that could expound: as seems abundantly evident both from the traditions and the rules that concerned such a one.
These words, therefore I would understand in such a sense; 'If either the interpreter should in his exposition enlarge himself into a sermon, or any other should preach,' &c. For the interpreter did sometimes comment and preach upon what they read. And probably Christ did at this time both read and properly interpreted.
"Jose the Maonite expounded in the synagogue of Maon. 'Hear, O ye priests; hearken, O house of Israel; and give y ear, O house of the king,' Hosea 5. He said, The holy blessed God is about to snatch away the priests and set them in judgment, saying unto them, 'Why have ye not laboured in the law? Have you not had the use and enjoyment of four-and-twenty portions belonging to the priests?' They say unto him, 'They have not given us any thing.' 'Hearken, O ye house of Israel, why have you not given those four-and-twenty portions to the priests which I have commanded you in the law?' They answer him, 'Because of those who are of the house of the prince, who devour all themselves.' 'Give ear, O house of the king, for judgment is towards you; for to you I have said that this should be the rule concerning the priests: to you, therefore, and over you, is it turned a rule of judgment.' Rabbi [the prince] heard this, and was displeased with it."
"After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha."
"Rabh Joseph expounded it, After these things the king promoted Haman of Hammedatha the Agagite, the son of Cuza, the son of Aphlet, the son of Dio, the son of Diusot, the son of Paros, the son of Nidan, the son of Baalkan," &c. See the place, and compare it with the Targumist upon Esther, chapter 3:1.
"A reader in the Prophet enlargeth upon 'Shemaa'" [the manner and form of the thing we have in Massech. Soph. cap. 14]; "he passeth before the ark, and lifteth up his hands" (that is, in order to give him blessing); "but if he be a child, his father or his master doth these things in his stead," &c. But the Gloss tells us that these things are to be understood of an ordinary reader of the prophets. Now Christ was an extraordinary reader. However, he read here, which he did not do in any other synagogue; for this was the synagogue to which he belonged, and he read as a member of that synagogue.
17. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
[And there was delivered unto him the book of Esaias.] I. The minister of the church kept the sacred books in his custody, and brought them out to be read when they met together in the synagogue.
"The high priest came to read [on the day of expiation]; the minister of the synagogue takes the book of the law, and giveth it to the ruler of the synagogue," &c. Where the Gloss is, The 'chazan' of the synagogue, that is, the minister. From him did our Saviour receive the book, and to him he returned it again.
II. If it be asked whether he received the book of the Prophet Isaiah by itself or joined with the other prophets, it is not easy to determine it. We may gather something from what vulgarly obtained amongst them.
"The Rabbins deliver: 'Let a man frame the Law and the Prophets and the holy writings into one volume': they are the words of R. Meir. But R. Judah saith, 'Let the Law be apart by itself; the book of the Prophets by itself; and the book of the holy writings [Hagiographa] by itself.' And the wise men say, 'Every book by itself.'"
But we may ask if every prophet was by himself, Isaiah by himself, Jeremiah by himself, &c. It is probable they were: for so they sometimes divided the law into single quintanes [or fifth parts].
All know what title the books of the law do bear in the front of the Hebrew Bibles, viz. The five quintanes of the law. Genesis is the first quintane: Exodus is the second quintane: and so of the rest...
"They fold up the book of the Law in the cloth of the quintanes, and the quintanes in the cloth of the Prophets and Hagiographa: but they do not fold up the Prophets and Hagiographa in the cloth of the quintanes, nor the quintanes in the cloth of the Law." And a little after; "They lay the Law upon the quintanes, and the quintanes upon the Prophets and Hagiographa; but not the Prophets and Hagiographa upon the quintanes, nor the quintanes upon the Law": that is, not any one single quintane upon all the quintanes made up into one volume. So the Gloss hath it; "A quintane; that is, a book of the law, in which there is only one quintane."
Seeing, therefore, that the book of that Law was sometimes divided in this manner, into distinct books, we may judge as well that the greater prophets might be thus divided also, and the twelve lesser made up into one volume. Hence, perhaps, that passage: "The reader of the Prophet might skip from one text to another: but he might not skip from prophet to prophet: but in the twelve prophets it was lawful." For they were all made up in one volume ready to his hand; and so were not the greater prophets.
Give me leave, therefore, to conjecture that on that sabbath wherein these things were transacted in the synagogue at Nazareth, that section which was to be read in the Prophets was, according to the rubric, in the prophet Isaiah; and upon that account the minister of the synagogue delivered that book to our Saviour when he stood up to read.
[And when he had opened the book, he found the place, &c.] In the Talmudic language I would render it thus, unrolling the book...
The high priest after the reading of the law, rolling, or folding up the book, puts it into his bosom. And yet
It is said...which we must not render they do not fold up, but they do not unfold or unroll the book of the law in the synagogue.
They unroll a prophet in the congregation, but they do not unroll the law in he congregation. That is, as the Gloss hath it, They unroll from one place or passage to another passage in another place. So they were wont to do in the Prophets, but not in the Law. And upon this account was it permitted for the reader to skip in the prophet from one place to another, because it was permitted them to unroll the prophet, either a single prophet, or the twelve lesser in the synagogue; but as to the Law, it was not allowed them so to do.
And they put the question How far may he skip so that he that interprets do not break off? The Gloss is, "Let him not skip from the place he reads, unless that he may unroll the book, and be ready to read the place to which he skips, when the interpreter ceaseth."
And because it was not lawful for him so to unroll the law in the synagogue, "on the kalends of the month Tebeth, if it proved to be the sabbath day, they brought three books of the law and read in one of them the place for the sabbath, in another, that for the kalends, in the third, that for the feast of dedication."
The words therefore of our evangelist to me seem not barely to mean that he unfolded or opened the book; but that being opened, he unrolled it from folio to folio, till he had found the place he designed to read and expound. Which though it was not the section appointed by the rubric for the day, yet did not Christ much recede from the custom of the synagogue, which allowed the reader to skip from one place to another.
25. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
[When the heavens were shut up three years and six months.] This number of three years and six months is much used both in the Holy Scriptures and in Jewish writings; concerning which we have more largely discoursed in another place. And although both in the one and the other it is not seldom used allusively only, yet in this place I can see no reason why it should not be taken according to the letter in its proper number, however indeed there will be no small difficulty to reduce it to its just account. That there was no rain for three years together, is evident enough from 1 Kings 17, &c.: but whence comes this addition of six months?
"Elijah said to Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word; If there shall be these years." These words include three years at the least, because he saith, years in the plural, and not years in the dual.
And chapter 18, "The word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go shew thyself unto Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth." In the third year; where then shall we find the six months?
I. Doubtless both our Saviour and his apostle St. James, chapter 5 verse 17, in adding six months do speak according to the known and received opinion of that nation; which is also done elsewhere sometimes in historical matters in the New Testament.
St. Stephen tells us, Acts 7:16, that the bones of the twelve patriarchs were carried over from Egypt and buried in Sychem, when holy writ mentions only the bones and burial of Joseph: wherein he speaks according to the vulgar opinion of the nation.
Again, verse 30, he tells us that Moses was forty years old when he fled into the land of Midian, and that he tarried there forty years more, when Moses himself mentions nothing of the circumstance: this he speaks agreeably to the opinion of the people.
II. Neither our Saviour nor St. James says that Elijah shut up the heavens three years and six months; but Christ tells us, "That the heaven was shut up in the days of Elias three years and six months": and St. James, "That Elias prayed that it might not rain, and it rained not upon the earth by the space of three years and six months."
May I therefore have leave to distinguish in this manner? Elijah shut up the heaven for three years, that there might be no rain, as in the Book of Kings: and there was no rain for three years and a half, as our Saviour and St. James relate.
III. The words of Menander in Josephus may help a little towards the untying this knot: Menander also makes mention of this drought in the acts of Ithobalus, king of Tyre, saying, There was no rain from the month of October to the month of October the year following.
It is true he shortens the space of this drought by making it continue but one year; but however, having placed the beginning of it in the month of October, he gives us a key that opens us a way into things more inward and secret.
"The Rabbins deliver: the former is in the month Marchesvan; the latter in the month Nisan."
The Targumist in Joel 2:23: "Who hath given you the first rain in season and the latter in the month Nisan." See also our note upon chapter 2:8.
R. Solomon, upon Deuteronomy 11, differs a little; but we are not solicitous about the order, which should be the first, either that in the month Marchesvan, or that in the month Nisan: that which makes to our purpose is, that rains were at those stated times; and for the rest of the year generally there was no rain.
V. Those six months mentioned by our Saviour and St. James must be accounted before the beginning of the three years, and not tacked to the end of them, as is very evident from this, that it is said, "The third year Elijah shewed himself to Ahab," &c.
In the beginning therefore of those three years we believe Elijah shut up heaven upon the approach of that time wherein the rains were wont to fall in the month of Marchesvan, and opened heaven again the same month at the end of three years. Nor is it nothing that Menander speaks of the drought, taking its beginning in the month October, which in part answers to the Jews' Marchesvan: for consult that passage, chapter 18; "Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land unto all the fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive." No one will say this search was made in the winter, but in the summer: not before or in the month Nisan, wherein the rains were wont to fall; for what hay or grass could be expected at that time? But when the year grew on to the summer, then was it a seasonable time to inquire after hay and grass. Reckon therefore the time of Ahab's and Obadiah's progress in this search: the time wherein Elijah and Obadiah meeting together, Ahab fell in with them: the time wherein the Israelites and the prophets of Baal were gathered together at mount Carmel; when Elijah sacrificed there, and the followers of Baal were killed: and certainly it will be more probable that the unlocking of the heavens and the fall of the rains happened in that usual and ordinary season, the month Marchesvan, than any other part of the year. Three years agone, in that month when the rains were expected, according to the common season of the year, Elijah shut heaven up that it should not rain; and now at the close of three years, when the season for those rains recurred, he unlocks the heavens and the rains fall abundantly.
VI. Now, go back from Marchesvan, the month wherein the prophet locked up heaven, to the month Nisan preceding, and those six months between, they were also without rain, according to the ordinary course of the year and climate. In the month Nisan it rained; the rest of the year to Marchesvan it was fair and held up: when that month came the rains were expected; but Elijah had shut the heavens up, and they remained shut up for the space of three years ensuing. So that though he did not shut up heaven above the space of three years, yet there was no rain for three years and six months.
27. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
[Naaman the Syrian.] These instances galled those of Nazareth upon a twofold account:
I. That they looked upon themselves as vilified by these examples; especially if we consider the occasion upon which our Saviour brought them. 'Thou hast wrought miracles in Capernaum; do something also here in thine own city.' 'No, you are unworthy of it, as Israel of old was unworthy of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, who were therefore sent amongst the Gentiles.'
II. That by these instances he plainly intimated the calling of the Gentiles, than which nothing could be more grating in the ear of the Jews. Elijah was sent to a heathen woman, and a heathen man was sent to Elisha: and both of them were turned from heathenism to the true religion. Those words therefore of Naaman, 2 Kings 5:17,18, I would thus render; "Thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice to strange gods, but unto Jehovah. And concerning this thing the Lord pardon thy servant [viz. concerning my former idolatry], that when my master went into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and leaned upon my hand, I also bowed myself in the house of Rimmon; for that I bowed myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant concerning this thing."
29. And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
[That they might cast him down headlong.] By what authority, or by what legal process could those of Nazareth do this? There was, indeed, a court of judicature consisting of three men, because a synagogue was there; but it was not in the power of that court to decree any thing in capital matters. It may be asked, whether that license that was permitted the zealots extended thus far: "He that steals the consecrated dishes and curseth by a conjurer" (that is, curseth God in the name of an idol), "and goes in to a heathen woman (that is, openly, as Zimri, Num 25:6), the zealots slay him. And the priest that ministers in his uncleanness, his brethren the priests beat out his brains with clubs." But doth this license of the zealot belong to all persons upon all occasions? When Nathanael said, [John 1:46] "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" he does not seem there to reflect so much upon the smallness and insignificancy of the town, as the looseness and depravity of its manners.
33. And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
[Who had a spirit of an unclean devil.] An expression something unusual. Perhaps it points towards the pythonic or necromantic spirit: how these are distinguished amongst the doctors we may see in Ramban in Sanhedrin, cap. 7. hal. 4. Both of them (though in a different manner) invited and desired the inspirations of the devil. But of this thing I shall treat more largely at chapter 13:11.
1. And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
[To hear the word of God, he stood by the lake, &c.] For they were wont to teach also without the synagogue and Beth Midrash, in the highways and in the streets. "Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai taught in the street before the Mountain of the Temple the whole day." See the Gloss upon it: "Ben Azzai taught in the streets of Tiberias."
This custom R. Judah forbade in this canon: "Let not the doctors teach their disciples in the streets." And accordingly he severely rebuked R. Chaijam, because he taught his brothers' sons in the street.
And yet it is related of the same R. Judah, R. Judah sat labouring in the law [labouring in the word and doctrine, as the expression is 1 Timothy 5:17], "before the Babylonish synagogue in Zippor: there was a bullock passed by him to the slaughter, and it lowed." This bullock because he did not deliver from the slaughter, he was struck with the toothache for the space of thirteen years.
5. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
[We have toiled all night.] In the Talmud's way of expressing it laborious all night. Labouring all the day.
12. And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
[When he was in a certain city, behold, a man full of leprosy.] "The walled cities are more holy than the land of Israel in general, because they cast out the leprous from them." Which must be understood (if we allow of the Rabbins for interpreters) of cities that had been walled from the days of Joshua. If this city which the evangelist here mentions were of that number, no leper would have been suffered in it, unless absolved from his uncleanness by the priest. For the leprosy remained after that absolution; and the sick man was not healed but restored to the church. That the man is here said to be full of leprosy; the passage may not impertinently be compared with Leviticus 13:12,13.
Whether he had been purified by the priest before or no, however, Christ sends him to the priest, to offer what was required from the leper that was cleansed. The law of Moses hardly supposeth the leper healed when he was made clean. It is a question, indeed, whether the disease was ever curable but by a miracle. And therefore is this man sent to the Temple to shew himself to the priest, and offer for a testimony unto them, verse 14: that is, that he might bear witness, that the leprosy, an incurable disease, was now healed by miracle, as formerly it had been in Miriam and Naaman: and so there was now a great prophet arisen in Israel.
17. And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
[On a certain day.] In Talmudic writing it is on a certain time.
27. And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.
[At the receipt of custom.] The house of tribute. "This thing is like a king of flesh and blood passing by the house of tribute. He saith to his servants, Pay the tax to the publicans."
39. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
[The old is better.] Is not the old better? The Gloss is, Old wine: that is, of three years old.
Wine of three leaves. The Gloss is, "Of three years: because from the time that the vine had produced that wine, it had put forth its leaves three times."
1. And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.
[On the second sabbath after the first.] I have spoken to this already in notes upon Matthew 12: let me add a few things in this place.
It is a controversy amongst the Jewish doctors and the Baithuseans, about the exposition of those words that concern the offering of the sheaf of the first-fruits; On the morrow of the sabbath, Leviticus 23:10,11.
Gloss: "The Baithuseans desired that the first day of the Passover should be on the sabbath, that the offering of the sheaf might fall on the first day of the week: and that the feast of Pentecost might also fall on the first day of the week. For they interpreted those words, The priest shall wave the sheaf on the morrow of the sabbath, as if the sense of them were, On the morrow of the sabbath of the creation."
Against this the Rabbins dispute with one consent, and indeed truly enough, affirming, that by the morrow after the sabbath must be understood the morrow after a sabbatical day, or after the first day of the feast. So the Targumist, Siphra, Solomon, Menahem, &c. So also the Greek version. We may see their arguments in Siphra, and Pesikta, and Menacoth, fol. 65. 1. The principal argument is that of Rabban Jochanan disputing with a Baithusean in the place last quoted: "One scripture (saith he) saith, You shall number fifty days" (that is, from the day wherein you offer your sheaf unto Pentecost), Leviticus 23:16. "Another scripture saith, Ye shall count seven sabbaths, Leviticus 23:14; Deuteronomy 16:9. This, if the first day of the feast happen on the sabbath: that, if the first day of the feast happen in the middle of the week.
His meaning is this: If the first day of the seven-day's feast of the Passover happen on the sabbath, then the sheaf being offered the next day after, the feast of Pentecost will fall on the next day after the seventh sabbath. But if that first day happen in the middle of the week, then, from the offering of the sheaf the next day, we must not count seven sabbaths but fifty days.
For instance, suppose we the lamb eaten on the third day of the Jewish week, which with us is Tuesday, Wednesday was the first day of the feast; and on Thursday the sheaf was offered; then on Thursday again, accounting fifty days, is the feast of Pentecost. Here seven sabbaths come between, and four days after the last sabbath, before the Pentecost. Where numbering by sabbaths shortens the space of time; but numbering by fifty days fixes the matter beyond scruple. And at once it concludes these two things: I. That the offering of the sheaf was not restrained to the next day after the sabbath, but to the day after the sabbatical day, viz. the first day of the feast. II. That the day of Pentecost was not restrained to the first day of the week, as the Baithuseans would have it, but might fall on any day of the week.
What should be the Baithuseans' reason why they so earnestly contended to reduce the day of Pentecost always to the morrow after the sabbath, or the first day of the week, is not easy to comprehend. Perhaps he that disputes the matter with Rabban Jochanan gives some hint of it, when he tells us, "Our master Moses loved Israel, and knowing that the feast of Pentecost should be but for one day, did therefore appoint it on the morrow after the sabbath, that Israel might rejoice two days together."
Whatever the reason was, it is certain they misunderstood that phrase as to the offering the sheaf the morrow after the sabbath, when it was to be understood of the morrow after a sabbatical day. And so the Greek version, and he shall offer the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you, on the morrow after the first day of the feast.
Let us take an instance of this in the last Passover our Saviour kept.
The paschal lamb was eaten on the fifth day of the week, our Thursday; the first day of the feast was the sixth day of the week, our Friday, the day on which our Lord was crucified. The day declining towards night (about the time that our Lord was buried), they went out that were deputed by the Sanhedrim to reap the sheaf: and on the morrow, that was their sabbath, whiles our Saviour slept in the grave, they offered that sheaf. That day therefore was the second day, and from thence they counted the weeks to Pentecost. And the sabbaths that came between took their name from that second day. The first sabbath after that was the first sabbath after the second day; and the next sabbath after that was the second sabbath after the second day; and so of the rest.
"The first day of the Passover is called the sabbath; and they counted after that seven sabbaths that had relation to that." Note that, that had relation or alliance.
[For more info on Pentecost, please see "The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Chapter 13: The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Day of Pentecost" by Alfred Edersheim.]
12. And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
[In prayer to God: or In the prayer of God.] Compare this kind of phrase with what is said, Beracoth, fol. 7. 1: "R. Jochanan in the name of R. Jose saith, How doth it appear that the holy blessed God doth pray? From thence, that it is said, I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in the house of 'my' prayer. It is not said of their prayer, but of 'my' prayer. Whence it follows that the holy blessed God doth pray. But how doth he pray? saith Rabh Zutra Bar Tobijah; Rabh saith, Let it be my good pleasure that my mercy overcome my wrath."
"The holy blessed God made him a tabernacle and prayed in it: as it is said, His tabernacle is in Salem, and his dwellingplace in Zion. Now what doth he say when he prayeth? Let it be my good pleasure that I may see my dwellingplace built."
I cannot but laugh at their triflings, and yet withal observe the opinion that nation had, and compare it with this phrase, the prayer of God. They will have it that God prays, not by way of supplication, but authority: "So let it be." Thus our blessed Lord sometimes, Father, I will, John 17:24. Whether the phrase in this place should be thus interpreted, I do not determine.
38. Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
[Good measure, pressed down, &c.] I. Concerning measures heaped up and stricken off, see Menacoth, fol. 87: "R. Meir saith, It is said, a tenth, a tenth to every lamb. Whence is hinted, that there were decimaries [or tithing measures] in the Temple: one heaped up, the other stricken off. The heaped up was that by which they measured all their bread-corn for holy uses. That which was stricken off was that whereby they measured the cakes or the high priest's loaves." "All the measures in the Temple were heaped up, besides that of the high priests." Now the Gloss, giving the reason why this was not heaped up as well as the other, tells us, "It was because he was to divide the flour into two tenths; if therefore the measure was heaped up, some of the fine flour would spill upon the ground as he moved it this way and that way in dividing it."
"Rabh Papa asked, the filling of the priest's hand whereof we have mention, was it by the measure stricken off or heaped up? R. Aba saith to Rabh Ishai, The filling of the priest's hand, of which we have mention, was neither by the measures stricken off nor heaped up, but by measures floating over."
II. Every one may observe that our evangelist in his repetition of this sermon upon the mount doth omit many things that are set down in St. Matthew; those especially that have relation to the dictates and glosses of the scribes and Pharisees about manslaughter, oaths, divorces, &c.; or their customs in their prayers, fasts, and alms, &c. Writing for the service of the Gentiles, he passeth over what respecteth the Jews.
2. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
[Who was dear unto him.] So was Tabi to his master Rabban Gamaliel: of whom we meet with several things up and down, particularly that in Beracoth, fol. 16. 2: "When his servant Tabi was dead, he received consolations for him. His disciples say unto him, 'Master, thou hast taught us that they do not use to receive consolations for their servants.' He answered them saying, 'My servant Tabi was not as other servants, he was most upright.'"
5. For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
[He hath built us a synagogue.] I. It was no unusual thing for one single man to build a synagogue at his own charge: "If any man build a house, and afterward consecrated it to a synagogue, it is of the nature of a synagogue." Gloss: "Any one that builds a synagogue and gives it to his fellow citizens," &c.
And the doctors in that treatise dispute much upon this question, Whether it be lawful to sell a synagogue or to alienate it to any civil use: and amongst the rest, they suppose some one building a synagogue, but would at last reserve it to his own proper use.
II. They had no scruple as to a Gentile's building it, since the holiness of the place consisted not so much in the building as in its being set apart and dedicated to holy use; of which we have some instances in Herod's building the Temple. Such a one had this centurion approved himself towards the Jewish nation, that concerning his liberality and devotion in being at the charges of building, they found no reason to move any scruple.
12. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
[There was a dead man carried out.] Amongst the Talmudists, a dead corpse going out, is commonly a phrase which is first understood of carrying the corpse out of the court-gate.
"At what time do they take their beds lower? From the time that the person deceased is carried out of the court-gate of his own house."
Secondly, It is taken also for carrying the corpse out of the city: for the burying-places were not near the city.
"The infant dying before it be thirty days old, is carried out in the bosom: and is buried by one woman and two men."
"An infant of thirty days old is carried out in a little coffin. R. Judah saith, Not in a coffin that is carried on men's shoulders, but in their arms."
A child of three years old is carried out in a bed: and so onward from that age.
[Much people was with her.] R. Simeon Ben Eliezer saith, for the dead that is carried out on his bed there are many mourners: but if he be not carried out on his bed [but in a coffin], there are not many mourners.
If the deceased person be known to many, then many accompany him.
There were ordinarily at such funerals those that carried the bier, and some to take their turns, and some also to take their turns again. For as the Gloss hath it, every one desired that office.
There were also those that stood in order about the mourners to comfort them.
14. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
[Touched the bier.] In Syriac, he approached to the bier. The Talmudist would say, he came to the bed of the dead: which indeed is the same, 2 Samuel 3:31, David followed after the bed. The Targumist, after the bier.
"Jacob said to his sons, Beware ye, that no uncircumcised person touch my bed, lest he drive away thence the Divine presence."
37. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
[A woman which was a sinner.] I. Women of an ill name amongst the Jews were such as these:
"She who transgresseth the law of Moses, and the Jewish law." The Gloss is, "The Jewish law, that is, what the daughters of Israel follow, though it be not written."
"Who is she that transgresseth the law of Moses? She that gives her husband to eat of what is not yet tithed: she that suffers his embraces while her menstrua are upon her: she that doth not set apart a loaf of bread for herself: she that voweth and doth not perform her vow."
"How doth she transgress the Jewish law? If she appears abroad with her head uncovered: if she spin in the streets: if she talk with every one she meets. Abba Saul saith, If she curse her children. R. Tarphon saith, If she be loud and clamorous." The Gloss is, "If she desire coition with her husband within doors, so very loud that her neighbours may hear her."
Maimonides upon the place: "If when she is spinning in the street, she makes her arms so naked that men may see them: if she hang either roses or myrtle, or pomegranate, or any such thing either at her eyes or cheeks: if she play with young men: if she curse her husband's father in the presence of her husband," &c.
II. However, I presume the word sinner, sounds something worse than all this, which also is commonly conjectured of this woman; viz. that she was actually an adulteress, and every way a lewd woman. It is well known what the word sinners signifies in the Old Testament, and what sinners, in the New.
38. And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
[And stood at his feet behind him.] She washed his feet as they lay stretched out behind him: of which posture we treat more largely in our notes upon John 12.
47. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
[For she loved much.] If we consider these two or three things, we shall quickly understand the force and design of the word for, &c.
I. That this was not the first time when this woman betook herself to our Saviour; nor is this the first of her receiving remission of her sins. It is supposed, and that not without good reason, that this was Mary Magdalene. If so, then had her 'seven devils' been cast out of her before; and at that time her sins had been forgiven her, our Lord at once indulging to her the cure both of her body and her mind. She therefore, having been obliged by so great a mercy, now throws herself in gratitude and devotion at the feet of Christ. She had obtained remission of her sins before this action: and from thence came this action, not from this action her forgiveness.
II. Otherwise the similitude which our Saviour propounds about forgiving the debt, would not be to the purpose at all. The debt is not released because the debtor loves his creditor, but the debtor loves because his debt is forgiven him. Remission goes before, and love follows.
III. Christ doth not say, She hath washed my feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and anointed me with ointment, therefore her sins are forgiven; but for this cause I say unto thee, Her sins are forgiven her. He tells Simon this, that he might satisfy the murmuring Pharisee. "Perhaps, Simon, thou wonderest within thyself, that since this hath been so lewd a woman, I should so much as suffer her to touch me: but I must tell thee that it is very evident, even from this obsequiousness of hers, and the good offices she hath done to me, that her sins are forgiven her: she could never have given these testimonies and fruits of her gratitude and devotion, if she had still remained in her guilt, and not been loosed form her sins."
2. And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.
[Mary called Magdalene.] Whence should she have this name?
I. We have observed above, in our notes upon Matthew 27:56, that there is mention made in the Talmudic authors of Maria Magdila the daughter of Maria, a plaiter of women's hair; who they say was the wife of Papus Ben Juda, but an adulteress. They make this Papus contemporary with Rabban Gamaliel (of Jafneh) and R. Joshua, and with R. Akibah: who all lived both before and after the destruction of Jerusalem: so that the times do not very much disagree. And probable it is, that the Gemarists retained some memory of our Mary Magdalene, in the word Magdila.
II. We further observe in our notes upon John 12, that there was a certain town near Jerusalem called Magdala, of a very ill fame, which perhaps was Bethany itself; or be it some other, yet might our Mary (if she was the sister of Lazarus) not unfitly be called Magdalene, either as she might have lived there some time, being there married, or have imitated the whorish customs of that place. But I am apt to think that Bethany itself might go under the name of Magdala.
[Out of whom went seven devils.] As to the number seven, we contend not, when there is hardly any thing more useful than to put this certain number for an uncertain. Our difficulty is, whether these words are to be taken according to their letter, or according to the Jewish sense, who were wont to call vices by the name of devils: as "An evil affection is Satan": "Drunkenness by new wine is a devil." If this Mary be the same with the woman that was a sinner in the foregoing chapter, as is believed, then by devils seems to be understood the vices to which she was addicted: especially when both the Pharisee and evangelist call her a sinner, rather than demoniac. But this we leave at the choice of the reader.
3. And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
[The wife of Chusa.] We meet with such a name in Haman's genealogy: "The king promoted Haman the Hammedathite, the Agathite, the son of Cusa," &c. The Targumist, Esther 5, reckoning up the same genealogy, mentions not this name, and differs in others. Only this let us take notice of by the way, that Chusa is a name in the family of Haman the Edomite, and this Cusa here was in the family of Herod, who himself was of the blood of the Edomites.
18. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.
[For whosoever hath, to him shall be given.] God's measure is not like the measure of flesh and blood. The measure of flesh and blood is this: An empty vessel is receptive, but a full one can take in no more. But God's measure is this, The full vessel is receptive of more, but the empty vessel receives nothing; according as it is said, If hearing thou wilt hear; that is, If thou hearest thou shalt hear; if thou dost not hear, thou shalt not hear. The Gloss is, "If thou accustom thyself to hear, then thou shalt hear, and learn and add." That is not much unlike Beracoth, fol. 55. 1: "God doth not give wisdom but to him with whom is wisdom already."
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