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EPHESIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 8

Verse 8. Wherefore he saith. The word "he" is not in the original; and it may mean "the Scripture saith," or "God saith." The point of the argument here is, that Christ, when he ascended to heaven, obtained certain gifts for men, and that those gifts are bestowed upon his people in accordance with this. To prove that, he adduces this passage from Ps 68:18. Much perplexity has been felt in regard to the principle on which Paul quotes this Psalm, and applies it to the ascension of the Redeemer. The Psalm seems to have been composed on the occasion of removing the ark of the covenant from Kirjath-jearim to Mount Zion, 2 Sa 6:1, seq. It is a song of triumph, celebrating the victories of, JEHOVAH, and particularly the victories which had been achieved when the ark was at the head of the army. It appears to have no relation to the Messiah; nor would it probably occur to any one, on reading it, that it referred to his ascension, unless it had been so quoted by the apostle. Great difficulty has been felt, therefore, in determining on what principle Paul applied it to the ascension of the Redeemer. Some have supposed that the Psalm had a primary reference to the Messiah; some that it referred to him in only a secondary sense; some that it is applied to him by way of "accommodation;" and some that he merely uses the words as adapted to express him idea, as a man adopts words which are familiar to him, and which will express his thoughts, though not meaning to say that the words had any such reference originally. Storr supposes that the words were used by the Ephesian Christians in their hymns, and that Paul quoted them as containing a sentiment which was admitted among them. This is possible; but it is mere conjecture. It has been also supposed that the tabernacle was a type of Christ; and that the whole Psalm, therefore, having original reference to the tabernacle, might be applied to Christ as the antitype. But this both conjectural and fanciful. On the various modes adopted to account for the difficulty, the reader may consult Rosenmuller, in loc. To me it seems plain that the Psalm had original reference to the bringing up the ark to Mount Zion, and is a triumphal song. In the song or psalm, the poet shows why God was to be praised—on account of his greatness, and his benignity to men, Eph 4:1-6. He then recounts the doings of God in former times—particularly his conducting his people through the wilderness, and the fact that his enemies were discomfited before him, Eph 4:7-12. All this refers to the God, the symbols of whose presence were on the tabernacle, and accompanying the ark. He then speaks of the various fortunes that had befallen the ark of the covenant. It had lain among the pots, Eph 4:13, yet it had formerly been white as snow when God scattered kings by it, Eph 4:14. He then speaks of the hill of God—the Mount Zion to which the ark was about to be removed, and says that it is an "high hill"—" high as the hills of Bashan," the hill where God desired to dwell for ever, Eph 4:16. God is then introduced as ascending that hill, encompassed with thousands of angels, as in Mount Sinai; and the poet says that, in doing it, he had triumphed over his enemies, and had led captivity captive, Eph 4:18. The fact that the ark of God thus ascended the hill of Zion, the place of rest; that it was to remain there as its permanent abode, no more to be carried about at the head of armies, was the proof of its triumph. It had made everything captive; it had subdued every foe; and its ascent there would be the means of obtaining invaluable gifts for men. Mercy and truth would go forth from that mountain; and the true religion would spread abroad, even to the rebellious, as the results of the triumph of God, whose symbol was over the tabernacle and the ark. The placing the ark there was the proof of permanent victory, and would be connected with most important benefits to men. The "ascending on high," therefore, in the Psalm, refers, as it seems to me, to the ascent of the symbol of the Divine Presence accompanying the ark on Mount Zion, or to the placing it "on high" above all its foes. The remainder of the Psalm corresponds with this view. This ascent of the ark on Mount Zion; this evidence of its triumph over all the foes of God; this permanent residence of the ark there; and this fact that its being established there would be followed with the bestowment of invaluable gifts to men, might be regarded as a BEAUTIFUL EMBLEM Of the ascension of the Redeemer to heaven. There were strong points of resemblance. He also ascended on high. His ascent was the proof of victory over his foes. He went there for a permanent abode. And his ascension was connected with the bestowment of important blessings to men. It is as such emblematic language, I suppose, that the apostle makes the quotation. It did not originally refer to this; but the events were so similar in many points that the one would suggest the other, and the same language would describe both. It was language familiar to the apostle; language that would aptly express his thoughts, and language that was not improbably applied to the ascension of the Redeemer by Christians at that time. The phrase, therefore, "he saith"—legei-or "it saith," or "the Scripture saith," means, "it is said;" or, "this language will properly express the fact under consideration, to wit, that there is grace given to each one of us, or that the means are furnished by the Redeemer for us to lead holy lives."

When he ascended up on high. To heaven. The Psalm is, "Thou hast ascended on high." Comp. Eph 1:20,21.

He led captivity captive. The meaning of this in the Psalm is, that he triumphed over his foes. The margin is, "a multitude of captives." But this, I think, is not quite the idea. It is language derived from a conqueror, who not only makes captives, but who makes captives of those who were then prisoners, and who conducts them as a part of his triumphal procession. He not only subdues his enemy, but he leads his captives in triumph. The allusion is to the public triumphs of conquerors, especially as celebrated among the Romans, in which captives were led in chains, (Tacitus, Ann. xii. 38,) and to the custom in such triumphs of distributing presents among the soldiers. Comp. also Jud 5:30, where it appears that this was also an early custom in other nations. Burder, in Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc. When Christ ascended to heaven, he triumphed over all his foes. It was a complete victory over the malice of the great enemy of God, and over those who had sought his life. But he did more. He rescued those who were the captives of Satan, and led them in triumph. Man was held by Satan as a prisoner. His chains were around him. Christ rescued the captive prisoner, and designed to make him a part of his triumphal procession into heaven, that thus the victory might be complete—triumphing not only over the great foe himself, but swelling his procession with the attending hosts of those who had been the captives of Satan, now rescued and redeemed.

And gave gifts unto men. Such as he specifies in Eph 4:11.

{a} "When he ascended" Ps 68:18 {1} "captivity captive" "a multitude of captives"

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