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Chapter 21

21:1 Unto Bethphage [eis Bethphagē]. An indeclinable Aramaic name here only in O.T. or N.T. (Mr 11:1; Lu 19:29). It means “house of unripe young figs.” It apparently lay on the eastern slope of Olivet or at the foot of the mountain, a little further from Jerusalem than Bethany. Both Mark and Luke speak of Christ’s coming “unto Bethphage and Bethany” as if Bethphage was reached first. It is apparently larger than Bethany. Unto the Mount of Olives [eis to oros tōn Elaiōn]. Matthew has thus three instances of [eis] with Jerusalem, Mount of Olives. Mark and Luke use [pros] with Mount of Olives, the Mount of Olive trees [elaiōn] from [elaia], olive tree), the mountain covered with olive trees.

21:2 Into the village that is over against you [eis tēn kōmēn tēn katenanti h–mōn]. Another use of [eis]. If it means “into” as translated, it could be Bethany right across the valley and this is probably the idea. And a colt with her [kai pōlon met’ autēs]. The young of any animal. Here to come with the mother and the more readily so.

21:3 The Lord [ho kurios]. It is not clear how the word would be understood here by those who heard the message though it is plain that Jesus applies it to himself. The word is from [kuros], power or authority. In the LXX it is common in a variety of uses which appear in the N.T. as master of the slave (Mt 10:24), of the harvest (9:38), of the vineyard (20:8), of the emperor (Ac 13:27), of God (Mt 11:20; 11:25), and often of Jesus as the Messiah (Ac 10:36). Note Mt 8:25. This is the only time in Matthew where the words [ho kurios] are applied to Jesus except the doubtful passage in 28:6. A similar usage is shown by Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary and Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient East. Particularly in Egypt it was applied to “the Lord Serapis” and Ptolemy and Cleopatra are called “the lords, the most great gods” [hoi kurioi theoi megistoi]. Even Herod the Great and Herod Agrippa I are addressed as “Lord King.” In the west the Roman emperors are not so termed till the time of Domitian. But the Christians boldly claimed the word for Christ as Jesus is here represented as using it with reference to himself. It seems as if already the disciples were calling Jesus “Lord” and that he accepted the appellative and used it as here.

21:4 By the prophet [dia tou prophētou]. The first line is from Isa 62:11, the rest from Zec 9:9. John (Joh 12:14f.) makes it clear that Jesus did not quote the passage himself. In Matthew it is not so plain, but probably it is his own comment about the incident. It is not Christ’s intention to fulfil the prophecy, simply that his conduct did fulfil it.

21:5 The daughter of Zion [tēi thugatri Siōn]. Jerusalem as in Isa 22:4 (daughter of my people). So Babylon (Isa 47:1), daughter of Tyre for Tyre (Ps 45:12). Riding [epibebēkōs]. Perfect active participle of [epibainō], “having gone upon.” And upon a colt the foal of an ass [kai epi pōlon huion hupozugiou]. These words give trouble if [kai] is here taken to mean “and.” Fritzsche argues that Jesus rode alternately upon each animal, a possible, but needless interpretation. In the Hebrew it means by common Hebrew parallelism “upon an ass, even upon a colt.” That is obviously the meaning here in Matthew. The use of [hupozugiou] (a beast of burden, under a yoke) for ass is common in the LXX and in the papyri (Deissmann, Bible Studies p. 161).

21:7 And he sat thereon [kai epekathisen epanō autōn], Mark (Mr 11:7) and Luke (Lu 19:35) show that Jesus rode the colt. Matthew does not contradict that, referring to the garments [ta himatia] put on the colt by “them” [autōn]. not to the two asses. The construction is somewhat loose, but intelligible. The garments thrown on the animals were the outer garments [himatia], Jesus “took his seat” [epekathisen], ingressive aorist active) upon the garments.

21:8 The most part of the multitude [ho pleistos ochlos]. See 11:20 for this same idiom, article with superlative, a true superlative (Robertson, Grammar, p. 670). In the way [en tēi hodōi]. This the most of the crowd did. The disciples put their garments on the asses. Note change of tenses (constative aorist [estrōsan], descriptive imperfects [ekopton kai estrōnnuon] showing the growing enthusiasm of the crowd). When the colt had passed over their garments, they would pick the garments up and spread them again before.

21:9 That went before him and that followed [hoi proagontes auton kai hoi akolouthountes]. Note the two groups with two articles and the present tense (linear action) and the imperfect [ekrazon] “were crying” as they went. Hosanna to the Son of David [Hosanna tōi huiōi Daueid]. They were now proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah and he let them do it. “Hosanna” means “Save, we pray thee.” They repeat words from the Hallel (Ps 148:1) and one recalls the song of the angelic host when Jesus was born (Lu 2:14). “Hosanna in the highest” (heaven) as well as here on earth.

21:10 Was stirred [eseisthē]. Shaken as by an earthquake. “Even Jerusalem frozen with religious formalism and socially undemonstrative, was stirred with popular enthusiasm as by a mighty wind or by an earthquake” (Bruce).

21:12 Cast out [exebalen]. Drove out, assumed authority over “the temple of God” (probably correct text with [tou theou], though only example of the phrase). John (Joh 2:14) has a similar incident at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. It is not impossible that he should repeat it at the close after three years with the same abuses in existence again. It is amazing how short a time the work of reformers lasts. The traffic went on in the court of the Gentiles and to a certain extent was necessary. Here the tables of the money-changers [tōn kollubistōn], from [kollubos], a small coin) were overturned. See on 17:24 for the need of the change for the temple tax. The doves were the poor man’s offering.

21:13 A den of robbers [spēlaion lēistōn]. By charging exorbitant prices.

21:15 The children [tous paidas]. Masculine and probably boys who had caught the enthusiasm of the crowd.

21:16 Hearest thou [akoueis]. In a rage at the desecration of the temple by the shouts of the boys they try to shame Jesus, as responsible for it.

Thou hast perfected [katērtisō]. The quotation is from Ps 8:3 (LXX text). See 4:21 where the same verb is used for mending nets. Here it is the timeless aorist middle indicative with the perfective use of [kata-]. It was a stinging rebuke.

21:17 To Bethany [eis Bēthanian]. House of depression or misery, the Hebrew means. But the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus there was a house of solace and comfort to Jesus during this week of destiny. He lodged there [ēulisthē ekei] whether at the Bethany home or out in the open air. It was a time of crisis for all.

21:18 He hungered [epeinasen]. Ingressive aorist indicative, became hungry, felt hungry (Moffatt). Possibly Jesus spent the night out of doors and so had no breakfast.

21:19 A fig tree [sukēn mian]. “A single fig tree” (Margin of Rev. Version). But [heis] was often used = [tis] or like our indefinite article. See Mt 8:10; 26:69. The Greek has strictly no indefinite article as the Latin has no definite article. Let there be no fruit from thee henceforward for ever [ou mēketi sou karpos genētai eis ton aiōna]. Strictly speaking this is a prediction, not a prohibition or wish as in Mr 11:14 (optative [phagoi]. “On you no fruit shall ever grow again” (Weymouth). The double negative [ou mē] with the aorist subjunctive (or future indicative) is the strongest kind of negative prediction. It sometimes amounts to a prohibition like [ou] and the future indicative (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 926f.). The early figs start in spring before the leaves and develop after the leaves. The main fig crop was early autumn (Mr 11:14). There should have been figs on the tree with the crop of leaves. It was a vivid object lesson. Matthew does not distinguish between the two mornings as Mark does (Mr 11:13,20), but says “immediately” [parachrēma] twice (21:19, 20). This word is really [para to chrēma] like our “on the spot” (Thayer). It occurs in the papyri in monetary transactions for immediate cash payment.

21:21 Doubt not [mē diakrithēte]. First aorist passive subjunctive, second-class condition. To be divided in mind, to waver, to doubt, the opposite of “faith” [pistin], trust, confidence. What is done to the fig tree [to tēs sukēs]. The Greek means “the matter of the fig tree,” as if a slight matter in comparison with this mountain [tōi orei toutōi]. Removing a mountain is a bigger task than blighting a fig tree. “The cursing of the fig-tree has always been regarded as of symbolic import, the tree being in Christ’s mind an emblem of the Jewish people, with a great show of religion and no fruit of real godliness. This hypothesis is very credible” (Bruce). Plummer follows Zahn in referring it to the Holy City. Certainly “this mountain” is a parable and one already reported in Mt 17:20 (cf. sycamine tree in Lk 17:6). Cf. Zec 17:4.

21:22 Believing [pisteuontes]. This is the point of the parable of the mountain, “faith in the efficacy of prayer” (Plummer).

21:24 One question [logon hena]. Literally “one word” or “a word.” The answer to Christ’s word will give the answer to their query. The only human ecclesiastical authority that Jesus had came from John.

21:25 The baptism of John [to baptisma to Iōanou]. This represents his relation to Jesus who was baptized by him. At once the ecclesiastical leaders find themselves in a dilemma created by their challenge of Christ. They reasoned with themselves [dielogizonto]. Picturesque imperfect tense describing their hopeless quandary.

21:29 I will not [ou thelō]. So many old manuscripts, though the Vatican manuscript (B) has the order of the two sons reversed. Logically the “I, sir” [egō, kurie] suits better for the second son (verse 30) with a reference to the blunt refusal of the first. So also the manuscripts differ in verse 31 between the first [ho prōtos] and the last [ho husteros] or [eschatos]. But the one who actually did the will of the father is the one who repented and went [metamelētheis apēlthen]. This word really means “repent,” to be sorry afterwards, and must be sharply distinguished from the word [metanoeō] used 34 times in the N.T. as in Mt 3:2 and [metanoia] used 24 times as in Mt 3:8. The verb [metamelomai] occurs in the N.T. only five times (Mt 21:29,32; 27:3; 2Co 7:8; Heb 7:21 from Ps 109:4). Paul distinguishes sharply between mere sorrow and the act “repentance” which he calls [metanoian] (2Co 7:9). In the case of Judas (Mt 27:3) it was mere remorse. Here the boy got sorry for his stubborn refusal to obey his father and went and obeyed. Godly sorrow leads to repentance [metanoian], but mere sorrow is not repentance.

21:31 Go before you [proagousin]. “In front of you” (Weymouth). The publicans and harlots march ahead of the ecclesiastics into the kingdom of heaven. It is a powerful indictment of the complacency of the Jewish theological leaders.

21:32 In the way of righteousness [en hodōi dikaiosunēs]. In the path of righteousness. Compare the two ways in Mt 7:13,14 and “the way of God” (22:16).

21:33 A hedge [phragmon]. Or fence as a protection against wild beasts. Digged a winepress [ōruxen lēnon]. Out of the solid rock to hold the grapes and wine as they were crushed. Such wine-vats are to be seen today in Palestine. Built a tower [ōikodomēsen purgon]. This for the vinedressers and watchmen (2Ch 26:10). Utmost care was thus taken. Note “a booth in a vineyard” (Isa 1:8). See also Isa 24:20; Job 27:18. Let it out [exedeto, exedoto] the usual form). For hire, the terms not being given. The lease allowed three forms, money-rent, a proportion of the crop, or a definite amount of the produce whether it was a good or bad year. Probably the last form is that contemplated here.

21:34 His servants [tous doulous autou]. These slaves are distinguished from the husbandmen [geōrgoi], workers of the soil) or workers of the vineyard who had leased it from the householder before he went away. The conduct of the husbandmen towards the householder’s slaves portrays the behaviour of the Jewish people and the religious leaders in particular towards the prophets and now towards Christ. The treatment of God’s prophets by the Jews pointedly illustrates this parable.

21:35 They will reverence my son [entrapēsontai ton huion mou]. Second future passive from [entrepō], to turn at, but used transitively here as though active or middle. It is the picture of turning with respect when one worthy of it appears.

21:38 Take his inheritance [schōmen tēn klēronomian autou]. Ingressive aorist active subjunctive (hortatory, volitive) of [echō]. Let us get his inheritance.

21:41 He will miserably destroy those miserable men [kakous kakōs apolesei autous]. The paronomasia or assonance is very clear. A common idiom in literary Greek. “He will put the wretches to a wretched death” (Weymouth). Which [hoitines]. Who, which very ones of a different character.

21:42 The stone which [lithon hon]. Inverse attraction of the antecedent into the case of the relative. The builders rejected [apedokimasan hoi oikodomountes]. From Ps 118:22. A most telling quotation. These experts in building God’s temple had rejected the corner-stone chosen by God for his own house. But God has the last word and sets aside the building experts and puts his Son as the Head of the corner. It was a withering indictment.

21:43 Shall be taken away from you [arthēsetai aph’ h–mōn]. Future passive indicative of [airō]. It was the death-knell of the Jewish nation with their hopes of political and religious world leadership.

21:44 Shall be broken to pieces [sunthlasthēsetai]. Some ancient manuscripts do not have this verse. But it graphically pictures the fate of the man who rejects Christ. The verb means to shatter. We are familiar with an automobile that dashes against a stone wall, a tree, or a train and the ruin that follows. Will scatter him as dust [likmēsei]. The verb was used of winnowing out the chaff and then of grinding to powder. This is the fate of him on whom this Rejected Stone falls.

21:45 Perceived [egnōsan]. Ingressive second aorist active of [ginōskō]. There was no mistaking the meaning of these parables. The dullest could see the point.

21:46 Took him [eichon]. Descriptive imperfect of [echō], to hold. This fear of the people was all that stayed the hands of the rabbis on this occasion. Murderous rage was in their hearts towards Jesus. People do not always grasp the application of sermons to themselves.

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