Luke 8Observe, here, the great work and business, which not only the apostles, but Christ himself was engaged in, and employed about, namely, preaching the gospel, those glad tidings of salvation to a lost world.
Where note, that Christ himself labored in this work of public preaching; he did not send forth his apostles as his curates to work and sweat in the vineyard, while he himself took his ease at home; but he accompanies them himself, yea, he goes before them himself in this great and excellent work: Jesus went preaching the glad tidings of the gospel, and the twelve were with him.
Learn thence, that preaching of the gospel is a great and necessary work, incumbent upon all the ministers of Christ, let their dignity and pre-eminence in the church be what it will. Surely none of the servants are above their Lord and Master! Did he labor in the word and doctrine?
Observe, 2. The places where Christ and his apostles preached, not only in the populous cities, but in the poor country villages: They went through every city and village preaching the gospel. Some will preach the gospel, provided they may preach at court, or in the capital cities of the nation; but the poor country villages are overlooked by them.
Our Saviour and his apostles were not of this mind: 'tis true, they were itinerary preachers, we are settled; but be the place never so mean and obscure, and the people never so rude and barbarous, we must not think it beneath the greatest of us to exercise our ministry there, if God calls us thither: Christ went through the villages, as well as cities, preaching.
Amongst the number of those that did accompany our Saviour and his apostles, mention is here made of a certain woman, who had been healed by Christ of evil spirits and infirmities; that is, of spiritual and corporeal diseases, for the Jews were wont to call vices and evil habits by the name of devils, as the devil of pride, the devil of malice, etc.
Now as concerning these women's following of Christ, and administering to him, several circumstances are observable; as,
1. That women did make up a considerable number of Christ's followers, yes, and of his apostles' followers too: The devout women not a few. Acts 17:4
And verily it is no disgrace or shame, but matter of glory, and cause of thankfulness, if our ministry be attended by, and blest unto, the weaker sex. I believe in many of our congregations, and at most of our communions, are found two women for one man; God grant them knowledge answerable to their zeal, and obedience proportionable to their devotion.
Observe, 2. One of these women that followed Christ was Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward. What! One of Herod's family transplanted into Christ's household!
Oh the freeness of the grace of God! Even in the worst societies and places God has a number to stand up for his name, and bear witness to his truth: we read of a Joseph in Pharaoh's court; of an Obadiah in Ahab's court; of a Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar's court; of a church in Nero's house; and of a Joanna here in bloody Herod's family, who had put John the Baptist to death.
Observe, 3. The holy courage and resolution of our Saviour's female followers. No doubt they met with taunts and jeers, with scoffs and scorns enough, and perhaps from their husbands too, of following the carpenter's son, and a few fishermen: but this does not damp but inflame, their zeal.
The Holy Ghost acquaints us with several instances of masculine courage and manly resolution in the women that followed Christ as his female disciples. At our Saviour's trail, the women clave to him, when his disciples fed from him; they accompanied him to his cross, they assisted at his funeral, they attended his hearse to the grave, they watched his sepulchre, fearing neither the darkness of the night nor the rudeness of the soldiers. These feeble women had more courage than all the apostles.
Learn, that courage is the special and peculiar gift of God; and where he gives courage, it s not in man to make afraid.
Observe, 4. The pious and charitable care of these holy women, to supply the wants and outward necessities of our Saviour: They ministered unto him of their substance.
Where note, 1. The great poverty of Christ: he lived upon the basket, he would not honor the world so far as to have any part of it in his own hand, but was beholden to others for what he ate and drank; yet must we not suppose that either Christ or his apostles were common beggars, but it is probable there was a bag or common purse amongst them, which upon occasion supplied their necessities; and there were certain sisters, or Christian women as the learned Dr. Hammond observes, who accompanied Christ and his apostles in their travels, and provided necessaries for them, when they went up and down, preaching the gospel.
Note also, 2. The condescending grace and humility of Christ; he was not ashamed either of these women's following of him, or administering to him, because of their former vicious course of life; it is not what we formerly were, but what we now are, that Christ considers; it is a glory to him, to have great and notorious sinners brought to a closure and compliance with him. The reproach is not that they have been sinners, for Christ did not give himself for a people that were pure and holy, without spot or wrinkle, but to make them so by his word and Spirit, Eph 5:26 Christ is only ashamed of those that eat of his bread, and lift up the heel against him.
The design and scope of this parable is to show, what are the causes of men's improving or not improving under the hearing of the word, and to let us know that there are three sorts of bad hearers, and but one good one.
The careless and inconsiderate hearer, is like the highway ground, where the seed is trodden down and trampled upon.
Hard-hearted sinners, whom the mollifying word does not soften; these are like stony ground, where the seed takes no root, the word makes no impression.
Those whose heads and hearts are stuffed with the cares of the world, are like the thorny ground, in which the seed is choked, which would fructify to an holy immortality: this is the scope of the parable.
Now for the subject matter of it, learn, 1. That by the sower you are to understand Christ and his apostles, and their successors, the ministers of the gospel. Christ the principal Sower, they the subordinate seedsmen. Christ sows his own field, they sow his field; he sows his own seed, they his seed. Woe unto us if we sow our own seed, and not Christ's.
Learn, 2. The seed sown is the word of God: fabulous legends and unwritten traditions, which the seedsmen of the church of Rome sow, are not seed, but chaff; or if seed, (for they fructify too fast in the minds of their people) their own, not Christ's. Our Lord's fields must be all sown with his own seed, with no mixed grain.
Learn thence, that the word preached is like the seed sown in the furrows of the field. Seed is of a fructifying, growing, and increasing nature, has in it an active principle, and will spring up, if not killed by accidental injuries; such a quickening power has the word of God to regenerate and make alive dead souls, if we suffer it to take rooting in our hearts: yet is not this seed alike fruitful in every soil: all ground is not alike, neither does the word fructify alike in the souls of men, there is a difference both from the nature of the soil, and the influence of the Spirit; for though no ground is naturally good, yet some is worse than others: no, even the best ground does not bring forth increase alike; some good ground brings forth an hundred-fold, others but sixty, and some but thirty.
In like manner a Christian may be a profitable hearer of the word, although he does not bring forth so great a proportion of fruit as others, provided he bring forth as much as he can.
Here we have the disciples' question, and our Saviour's reply: their inquiry is concerning the sense and signification of the parable, they own their ignorance, and desire better information. It is no shame for the best of ministers, yes, for the best of men, to acknowledge their own ignorance of the mysteries of religion; and to attend upon the means of instruction, in order to their farther information. In our Saviour's answer, To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, etc.
Observe, 1. That the doctrines of the gospel are great mysteries.
2. That it is an invaluable privilege rightly to understand and know gospel mysteries.
3. That this privilege all are not sharers in, and partakers of, but only those to whom it is given.
4. That it is a righteous thing with God to give such persons over to farther blindness and ignorance in spiritual things, who willfully reject the truth, and shut their eyes against the evidence of it.
The Pharisees had all along shut their eyes, and said, they would not see; and now Christ closes their eyes judicially, and says they shall not see.
Here the Saviour applies himself to interpret and explain the foregoing parable to his disciples; he tells them, The seed is the word; the sower is the preacher; the soil or ground, is the heart and soul of man: some hearers he compares to the highway ground, in which the seed lies uncovered for want of the harrow of meditation; others to stony ground, in which the word has no root; no root in their understanding, no root in their memeories, in their wills, or in their affections, but they are instantly offended, either at the depth and profoundness of the word, or at the sancitity and strictness of the word, or else at the plainness and simplicity of it.
Again, some hearers our Lord compares to thorny ground. Worldly desires and inordinate cares for the things of this life choke the word, as thorns overshadow the corn, draw away the heart of the earth from it, hinder the influence of the sun from cherishing it; the like ill effects have worldy affections and desires in the soul of man, rendering the seed of the word unfruitful.
But the good Christian hears the word attentively, keeps it retentively, believes it stedfastly, applies it particularly, practises it universally, and brings forth fruit perseveringly.
Learn hence, 1. That no hearers are in Christ's account good hearers of the word, but such as bring forth fruit answerable to their hearing.
2. That a person may be a good hearer of the word in Christ's account, if he brings forth the best fruit he can, though not in so great a proportion as others do; as some ground brings forth thirty, some sixty, some an hundredfold: in like manner do all the sincere hearers of the word; they all bring forth fruit, though not all alike; all in sincerity, though not all equally, and none to perfection.
Learn, 3. That it is not sufficient that we do at present believe, approve and practise the truth delivered to us, or that we are afffected with the word, and receive it with some kind of joy, delight, and pleasure; unless we persist and persevere in obedience to all its precepts, and continue to bring forth fruit with patience.
In these words Christ declares his end and design in revealing unto his disciples the foregoing parable, and why he communicated to them the light of scripture knowledge and gospel mysteries, namely, that they may communicate it to others; and not keep it close unto themselves; even as the candle in a house diffuses and disperses its light to all that come within the reach of it. Such as are enlightened by God in any measure, with the knowledge and understanding of his word, ought not to conceal and hide this knowledge within themselves, but communicate it to others, and improve it for the good and benefit of others.
Observe also, the argument which our Saviour makes use of to quicken his disciples to communicate their knowledge, and improve the grace they had received for the good and advantage of others. To him that hath shall be given, that is, such as improve their spiritual gifts, shall have them increased; such as improve them not shall have them blasted.
Learn hence, that there is no such way to thrive in grace, and increase in gifts, as to exercise and improve them; he that hides his talent, forfeits it, is in danger of losing it, and also of being punished for not improving it.
Observe, lastly, how our Lord shuts up this parable of the sower and the seed, with a cautionary direction to all his auditors, to take heed how they hear the word: Take heed therefore how ye hear. Such as would profit by hearing the word must diligently attend to the matter of the doctrine which they hear, and also to the manner how they hear.
Such is the majesty and authority of the person who speaks to us in the word, such is the sublimity and spirituality of the matter, and so great is our danger if we miscarry under the word, that it nearly concerns us to take heed both what we hear, whom we hear, and how we hear.
Two things are here observable, 1. The truth and verity of Christ's human nature: he had affinity and consanguinity with men, persons near in blood to him, by the mother's side, called here his kinsmen.
Observe, 2. That Christ's spiritual kindred were much dearer to him than his natural.
Alliance by faith is more valued by Christ, than alliance by blood: to bear Christ in the heart is greater honor than to carry him in the womb. Blessed be God, this great and gracious privilege is not denied us even now.
Although we cannot see Christ, yet love him we may, his bodily presence cannot be enjoyed by us, but his spiritual presence is not denied to us. Though Christ be not ours in house, in arms, in affinity, and consanguinity, yet in heart, in faith, in love, and service, he is or may be ours.
Verily spiritual regeneration brings men into a more honorable relation to Christ than natural generation ever did. O how dear are obedient Christians to Christ! He prefers them in esteem before those of his own flesh and blood. My brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
Here observe, 1. Our Saviour and his disciples no sooner put forth to sea, but difficulties attend them, and danger overtakes them; a tempest arose, and that ship was covered with waves that Christ himself was in with his disciples.
Learn hence, that the presence of Christ itself does not exempt his disciples and followers from trouble and danger. Here was a great tempest about the disciples' ears, though Christ himself was in their company.
Observe, 2. The posture our Saviour was in when this tempest arose: being wearied with the labors of the day, he was laid down to sleep; thereby showing himself to be truly and really man; and that he not only took upon him the human nature, but the infirmities of that nature also; he was subject to pain and weariness, to hunger and thirst.
Observe, 3. The disciples' application made to Christ: they awoke him with a sad outcry, Master, master, we perish; here was faith mixed with human frailty. They believed that he could save them, but being asleep, they concluded he must be awaken before he could save them; whereas, though his human nature was asleep, yet his divine nature neither slumbered nor slept.
Learn hence, that the prevalency of fear in a time of great and imminent danger, though it may evidence weakness of faith, yet it is no evidence of a total want of faith; in the midst of the disciples' fear, they believed Christ's power and ability to save them: Master, save us, we perish.
Observe, 4. A double rebuke given by our Saviour, 1. To the winds. 2. To the fears of his disciples.
Christ rebuked the winds, and instantly they were calm: when the sea was as furious as a mad-man, Christ with a single word calms it.
Learn thence, that the most raging winds and outrageous seas, cannot stand before the rebukes of Christ; Christ as God lays a law upon the most lawless creatures, even when they seem to act most lawlessly.
Observe farther, Christ rebukes his disciples' fears, and their want of faith: Why are ye fearfull? Where is your faith? No sooner was the storm up, but their fears were up, and their faith was down. They forgot that the lord-high-admiral of the ocean was now on board their ship, and were as much overset with their boisterous passions, as the ship was with tempestous winds; and accordingly, Christ rebukes the tempest within, before he calms the storm without; first he quickens their faith, then he quiets the seas.
Note from hence, that great faith in the habit may appear but little in act and exercise. The disciples' faith, in forsaking all and following Christ, was great faith; but in this present act their faith was weak through the prevalency of their fears.
Oh the imperfect composition of the best of saints! Faith and fear will take their turns, and act their several parts while we are here: before long our fears will be vanquished, and our faith swallowed up in vision, our hopes in fruition. Then shall we obey with vigor, praise with cheerfulness, love without measure, fear without torment, trust without despondency. Lord, strengthen our faith in the belief of this desirable happiness, and set our souls a longing for the full fruition and final enjoyment of it.
This piece of history gives us a very sad relation of a person that was possessed of a legion of devils; we read of few, if any, in the Old Testament, that were thus possessed, but of many in the New. Our Saviour came into the world to destroy the works of the devil; therefore he suffered Satan to enter some human bodies, to show his divine power in casting him out.
Observe here, 1. That the evil angels by their fall lost their purity, but not their power; for with God's permission they have power not only to enter men's bodies, and to possess them, but also to distemper their minds, and to drive them to frenzy and madness; such was the deplorable case here.
Note, 2. That the reason why the evil angels do not oftener exert their power in doing mischief to the bodies and lives of men, is from the restraining power of God: the devil cannot do all the mischief he would, and he shall not do all he can.
Observe, 3. The place where these evil spirits delighted to make their abode: amongst the tombs or graves, places desolate, forlorn, and solitary, which are apt to breed horror of mind, and to give advantage to temptation.
From whence I gather, that it is very dangerous and unsafe for persons, especially in whom melancholy prevails, to give themselves too much to solitariness, to frequent desolate places, and to affect being much alone; for it gives advantage to Satan to set upon them with powerful temptations. It is much better to frequent human society especially to delight in the communion of the saints, by means whereof we may be more and more strengthened against Satan's temptations.
Observe 4. How the devils own Christ to be the Son of God, and pay unwilling worship and homage to him, yielding subjection to him as his slaves and vassels, not a free and voluntary service: They cried out, and fell down before him, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Where, by calling him Jesus, they owned him to be a Saviour, but none of their Saviour: What have we to do with thee, Jesus?
Oh! What an uncomfortable expression is this, to own Christ to be a Saviour, and at the same time to know and declare that he is none of our Saviour? "What is God, if he be not my God?" What comfort in a Saviour, if he be not my Saviour?
Observe, 5. What a multitude of evil spirits do enter into one man. Oh, the extreme malice and enmity of the devil against mankind, in that so many evil spirits should at once afflict and torment a single person, even a legion, many thousands of them!
Note likewise, the unity and agreement which is amongst these evil spirits in doing mischief; though there was a multitude of them in this one person, yet they have all but one name. We see the very devils have a sort of unity amongst themselves, and in their malicious and mischievous designs against mankind they are as one. Oh how happy were it, if good men were as united in their designs and endeavors for the glory of God, and the good of one another, as devils conspire and contrive against them!
Observe, 6. The request which the devils make to Christ: We beseech thee, torment us not.
From whence we may gather,
1. That there are torments appointed to the spiritual nature of evil angels.
2. That the evil angels, or devils are not so full of torment as they shall be, although they are as full of sin and discontent as they can be; there will be a time when their torments shall be increased; therefore they pray, Torment us not before the time; that is, do not increase our torments before the appointed time of their increase.
Observe, 7. The devil's request for permission and leave to go into the herd of swine.
1. The devil's malice: he will hurt the poor beasts, rather than not hurt at all.
2. His powerful restraint: he cannot hurt a poor pig without a permission: Suffer us to enter. Satan's malice indeed is infinite, but his power is bounded: it is a power under a power; if he could not hurt the swine, much less can he afflict the children of men without leave.
Observe 8. How Satan's request is yielded to by our Saviour: he suffered them to go into the swine, not to gratify their desire in doing mischief; but, first, hereby Christ showed his power over the devils, that they could not act without his permission and leave; next, to show how great the malice and power of the devil is, if not restrained; and lastly, that the miracle of casting out so many devils might appear to be the greater.
Learn hence, that sometimes Almighty God, for wise ends and just causes, does suffer the devil to enjoy his desire, in doing mischief unto the creatures: Jesus said unto them, Go.
Observe, 9. What a bad effect this miracle had upon the minds of the Gadarenes; instead of believing and owning Christ's divine power, the loss of their swine enrages them, and makes them desire Christ's departure from them.
Learn, that carnal hearts prefer their swine before their Saviour, and would rather lose Christ's presence than their worldy profit: They besought him to depart from them. Sad is the condition of those from whom Christ departs; more sad the condition of such who say unto Christ "depart"; but most sad the condition of them who beseech and entreat Christ to depart from them: thus did the Gadarenes here, and we do not read that ever Christ returned more to them.
Observe, 10. How desirous the possessed man was to continue with Christ after he was come to himself: He prayed that he might be with him. This he might desire, partly to testify his thankfulness to Christ, partly out of fear of being re-possessed again by Satan, or perhaps to have the opportunity of hearing Christ's doctrine, and seeing his miracles: for such as have once tasted that the Lord is gracious, and experienced the pleasure and profit of Christ's company, are very desirous of the continuance of it and exceeding loth to part with it.
However, our Saviour at this time did not think fit to suffer him, knowing that more glory would redound to God by publishing this miracle to his friends. Christ expects, after eminent deliverances wrought for us, that we should be the publishers of his praises, and declare to all, far and near, the great and wonderful things which he has done for us.
Observe lastly, how Christ ascribes that power to God, by which he had wrought this miracle of healing: Shew how great things God has done for thee.
From whence the Socinians infer, that had he been God most high, and the author of that power by which he wrought this miracle, he would have ascribed it to himself. Answer, Christ does this, as not seeking his own glory, but the glory of him that sent him; that is, as executing his prophetic office in his Father's name, and casting out devils by that Spirit which he had received from his Father.
Observe here, 1. The person described who came to Christ on behalf of his sick daughter: by his name Jairus; by his office, a ruler of the synagogue; by his gesture, he fell down at Jesus' feet: this gesture of his was not only a sign of tender affection in him towards his daughter, but also an evidence of his faith in our blessed Saviour; he believed him either to be God, or an extraordinary man, who had a miraculous power of healing.
Observe, 2. How readily Christ complies with Jairus's' request: Jesus went with him. Although his faith was but weak, yet our Saviour does not reject him, or deny his suit.
Oh how ready should we be to go to Christ in all our distresses, who is so ready to hear, and so forward to help us, if we seek him in sincerity, though our faith be weak and feeble!
Observe, 3. The great humility of our blessed Saviour in suffering himself to be thronged with poor people; much people followed him and thronged him.
Oh humble and lowly Saviour! How free was thy conversation from pride and haughtiness! How willing to converse with the meanest of the people for their advantage! Christ did not only suffer them to come near him, but even to throng him.
Let not then the greatest persons upon earth despise or disdain the poorest of the people; but look upon some with an eye of favor, upon others with an eye of pity, upon none with an eye of contempt.
As our Saviour was on his way to Jairus's house, a diseased woman comes behind him, touches his clothes, and is presently healed. The virtue lay not in her finger, but in her faith; or rather in Christ, which her faith instrumentally drew forth.
Observe, 1. The diseased woman, one with a bloody flux: let women here take notice of the miseries which the sin of the first woman brought upon all women; amongst, which this is one, that it has made their bodies subject to preternatural issues and fluxes of blood.
Observe, 2. The long continuance of this disease, twelve years; it pleases God to lay long and tedious afflictions upon some of his children in this life, and particularly to keep some of them a very long time under bodily weakness, to manifest his power in supporting them, and to magnify his mercy in delivering them.
Observe, 3. This poor woman was found in the use of means: she sought to physicians for help, and is not blamed for so doing, although she spent all she had upon them.
The use and help of physicians is by no means to be neglected by us in times of sickness, especially in dangerous diseases of the body: to trust to means is to neglect God; and to neglect the means is to contemn God. The health of our body ought to be dear unto us, and all lawful means used both to preserve it, to recover it, and to confirm, it.
Observe, 4. The actings of this poor woman's faith: her disease was unclean by the ceremonial law, and she is to be separated from society: accordingly she is ashamed to appear before Christ, but comes behind him to touch his clothes; being firmly persuaded that Christ had a power communicated to him miraculously to cure incurable diseases; and how our Saviour encouraged her faith, he said, Thy faith hath made thee whole.
Learn hence, that faith often times meets with a better welcome from Christ, than it did or could expect; this poor women came to Christ trembling, but went away triumphing.
Observe, 5. Christ would have this miracle discovered; he therefore says, Who touched me? For I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. Christ says this, first, in reference to himself, to manifest his divine power, that by the touch of his clothes he could cure such an incurable disease.
Secondly, in elation to the woman, that she might have opportunity to give God the praise and glory for the cure.
And, thirdly, with respect to Jairus, that his faith might be strengthened in belief of Christ's power to raise his daughter.
Observe here, 1. The doleful news brought to Jairus's ears: Thy daughter is dead. The Lord does sometimes suffer the faith and patience of his children to be greatly exercised and tried. The loss of dear relations, particularly of children, especially of an only child, is one of the greatest sorrows of human life; a trial which has often shocked an ordinary patience and constancy of mind.
Observe, 2. Our Saviour's seasonable word of advice and comfort: Fear not, only believe. Christ stands ready to comfort believers in the hour of their greatest trials and temptations.
Observe, 3. Christ's application of himself in order to the raising to life Jairus's dead daughter.
And here, 1. He goes into the house only with three of his disciples, and the father and the mother of the maid, which was sufficient to bear witness of the truth of the miracle. Our Saviour, to avoid all show of vain glory, would not work this miracle publicly before all the people.
2. Our Saviour rebukes them for the show they made of immoderate grief and sorrow for the dead damsel: they wept and wailed greatly, with minstrels making a noise, say the other evangelists, according to the custom of the Heathens, who, by a mournful sort of music, did seek to stir up the passion of grief at their funerals. To mourn immoderately for the dead is an heathenish custom and practice; it is hurtful to the living, it is dishonorable to the dead; nor is it an argument of more love, but an evidence of less grace.
3. Christ adds a reason for this rebuke given by him: For the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth; "She is dead to you, but asleep to me;" not so dead as to be beyond my power to raise her to life.
Souls departed are under the guard of angels, near her dead body, waiting the pleasure of God, in order to its disposal, either to restore it again to its body or to translate it to its eternal mansion.
Observe, farther, the nature of death in general, and of the saints' death in particular; 'tis a sleep. Sleep is a state of rest; sleep is a sudden surprisal; in sleep there is an insensible passage of our time; the person sleeping shall certainly awake. Oh how much it is our wisdom to prepare for the bed of the grave; and so to live, that when we lie down in it, there may be nothing to disturb our rest!
Observe farther, with what facility and ease our Saviour raises the dead damsel with a word speaking, and St. Mark tells us what the words were Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. Mr 5:41, Syriac words, to show the truth of the miracle; not like a conjuror muttering a charm in an unknown tongue. The miracles which Christ wrought were real miracles, and carried their own evidence along with them.
Observe lastly, the charge given by our Saviour not to publish this miracle; he charged them to tell no man what was done, that is, divulge it not imprudently to such of the scribes and Pharisees, as would not be convinced by it, but only cavil at it, and be the more enraged against him for it, and seek his death before his appointed time was come.
Again, tell it no man unseasonably, and all at once, but gradually and by degrees: for it was the will of God, that the divine glory of Christ should not be manifested to the world all at once, and on the sudden, but by little and little, during his state of humiliation; for his resurrection was the time appointed by God for the full manifestation of Christ's Godhead, Declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead. Rom 1:4
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