Matthew 12


Jesus and his disciples go through the cornfields on the

Sabbath, and the latter pluck and eat some of the ears, at

which the Pharisees take offence, 1, 2.

Our Lord vindicates them, 3-8.

The man with the withered hand cured, 9-13.

The Pharisees seek his destruction, 14.

He heals the multitudes, and fulfils certain prophecies, 15-21.

Heals the blind and dumb demoniac, 22, 23.

The malice of the Pharisees reproved by our Lord, 24-30.

The sin against the Holy Ghost, 31, 32.

Good and bad trees known by their fruits-evil and good men by

their conduct, 33-37.

Jonah, a sign of Christ's death and resurrection, 38-40.

The men of Nineveh and the queen of the south shall rise up in

the judgment against the Jews, 41, 42.

Of the unclean spirit, 43-45.

Christ's mother and brethren seek him, 46-50.


Verse 1. At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath-day through

the corn] "The time is determined by Luke in these words, εν

σαββατωδευτεροπρωτω, that is, on the Sabbath from the


"1. Provision was made by the Divine law that the sheaf of

first-fruits should be offered on the second day of the pass-over

week, Le 23:10, 11.

On the morrow after the Sabbath, the priest shall shake (or wave)

it. Not on the morrow after the ordinary Sabbath of the week,

but the morrow after the first of the pass-over week, which was a

Sabbatic day, Ex 12:16; Le 23:7.

Hence the seventy, επαυριοντηςπρωτης, the morrow of the first

day; the Chaldee, the morrow after the holy day. The rabbins,

Solomon and Menachen, have it, On the morrow after the first day

of the pass-over feast; of which mention had been made in the

verses foregoing.

"But now, from the second day of the pass-over solemnity,

wherein the sheaf was offered, were numbered seven weeks to

pentecost: for the day of the sheaf, and the day of pentecost did

mutually respect each other; for on this second day of the

pass-over, the offering of the sheaf was supplicatory, and by way

of prayer, beseeching a blessing upon the new corn, and leave to

eat it, and to pot in the sickle into the standing corn. Now, the

offering of the first-fruit loaves on the day of pentecost,

(Le 23:15-17,) did respect the giving of thanks for the

finishing and housing of the barley-harvest. Therefore, in regard

of this relation, these two solemnities were linked together, that

both might respect the harvest; that, the harvest beginning; this,

the harvest ended: this depended on that, and was numbered seven

weeks after it. Therefore, the computation of the time coming

between could not but carry with it the memory of that second day

of the pass-over week; and hence pentecost is called the feast of

weeks, De 16:10. The true calculation of the time between

could not otherwise be retained, as to Sabbaths, but by numbering

thus: this is σαββατωνδευτεροπρωτον, the first Sabbath after

the second day of the pass-over. This is δευτεροδευρερον, the

second Sabbath after that second day. And so of the rest. In the

Jerusalem Talmud, the word shebeth protogamiya,

the Sabbath, προτογαμιας, of the first marriage, is a

composition not very unlike." Lightfoot.

His disciples were an hungered] Were hungry. The former is a

mode of expression totally obsolete. How near does the

translation of this verse come to our ancient mother-tongue, the

Anglo-Saxon!-[Anglo-Saxon]-The Healer went on rest-day over acres:

truly his learning knights hungred, and they began to pluck the

ear and eaten. We may well wonder at the extreme poverty of

Christ and his disciples. He was himself present with them, and

yet permitted them to lack bread! A man, therefore, is not

forsaken of God because he is in want. It is more honourable to

suffer the want of all temporal things in fellowship with Christ

and his followers, than to have all things in abundance in

connection with the world.

Verse 2. Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do] The

Jews were so superstitious, concerning the observance of the

Sabbath, that in their wars with Antiochus Epiphanes, and the

Romans, they thought it a crime even to attempt to defend

themselves on the Sabbath: when their enemies observed this, they

deterred their operations to that day. It was through this, that

Pompey was enabled to take Jerusalem. Dion. Cass. lib. xxxvi.

Those who know not the spirit and design of the divine law are

often superstitious to inhumanity, and indulgent to impiety.

An intolerant and censorious spirit in religion is one of the

greatest curses a man can well fall under.

Verse 3. - 4. Have ye not read what David did] The original

history is in 1Sa 21:1-6.

When he was an hungered] Here hearken to Kimchi, producing the

opinion of the ancients concerning this story in these words: "Our

rabbins of blessed memory say, that he gave him the shew-bread,

&c. The interpretation also of the clause, Yea, though it were

sanctified this day in the vessel, is this: It is a small thing to

say, that it is lawful for us to eat THESE LOAVES, taken from

before the Lord, when we are hungry; for it would be lawful to eat

this very loaf which is now set on, which is also sanctified in

the vessel, (for the table sanctifieth,) it would be lawful to eat

even this, when another loaf is not present with you to give us,

and we are so hunger-bitten. And a little after, There is nothing

which may hinder taking care of life, beside idolatry, adultery,

and murder. That is, a man, according to them, should do any

thing but these in order to preserve life." See Lightfoot.

He entered into the house of God] Viz. the house of Ahimelech

the priest, who dwelt at Nob, with whom the tabernacle then was,

in which the Divine presence was manifested.

And did eat the shew-bread] τουςαρτουςτνςπροθεσεως-in

Hebrew, lechem panim-bread of the presence, or faces,

because this bread was to be set continually, lipney

Yehovah, before the face of Jehovah.

See the notes on Ex 25:23, 30.

"Since part of the frankincense put in the bread was to be burnt

on the altar for a memorial, Le 24:7, and since Aaron and his

sons were to eat it in the holy place, it is evident that this

bread typified Christ, first presented as a sacrifice to, or in

the presence of, Jehovah, and then becoming spiritual food to such

as, in and through him, are spiritual priests to God.

See Re 1:6; 5:10; 20:6; also 1Pe 2:5."


Verse 4. See Clarke on Mt 12:3.

Verse 5. The priests-profane the Sabbath] Profane, i.e. put

it to what might be called a common use, by slaying and offering

up sacrifices, and by doing the services of the temple, as on

common days, Ex 29:38; Nu 28:9.

Verse 6. In this place is one greater than the temple.] Does

not our Lord refer here to Mal 3:1? Compare this with Heb 3:3.

The Jews esteemed nothing greater than the temple, except that God

who was worshipped in it. Christ, by asserting he was greater

than the temple, asserts that he was God; and this he does, in

still more direct terms, Mt 12:8,

The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath-is Institutor and Governor

of it. Compare this with Ge 2:3, and see the notes there.

Verse 7. I will have mercy, &c.] See this explained, Mt 9:13.

There are four ways in which positive laws may cease to oblige.

First, by the natural law of necessity.

Secondly, by a particular law, which is superior.

Thirdly, by the law of charity and mercy.

Fourthly, by the dispensation and authority of the Lawgiver.

These cases are all exemplified from Mt 12:4-8.

Verse 8. The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath-day.] The

change of the Jewish into the Christian Sabbath, called the Lord's

day, Re 1:10,

shows that Christ is not only the Lord, but also the truth and

completion of it. For it seems to have been by an especial

providence that this change has been made and acknowledged all

over the Christian world.

Verse 10. A man which had his hand withered.] Probably through

a partial paralysis. The man's hand was withered; but God's mercy

had still preserved to him the use of his feet: He uses them to

bring him to the public worship of God, and Jesus meets and heals

him there. How true is the proverb-It is never so ill with us,

but it might be much worse!

Verse 11. If it fall into a pit on the Sabbath-day, &c.] It

was a canon among the Jews: "We must take a tender care of the

goods of an Israelite." Hence:-

"If a beast fall into a ditch, or into a pool of water, let (the

owner) bring him food in that place if he can; but, if he cannot,

let him bring clothes and litter, and bear up the beast; whence,

if he can come up, let him come up, &c."

"If a beast or its foal fall into a ditch on a holy day, R.

Lazar saith, Let him lift up the former to kill him, and let him

kill him; but let him give fodder to the other, lest he die in

that place. R. Joshua saith, Let him lift up the former with the

intention of killing him, although he kill him not; let him lift

up the other also, although it be not in his mind to kill him."

To these canons our Lord seems here very properly to appeal, in

vindication of his intention to heal the distressed man. See


Self-interest is a very decisive casuist, and removes abundance

of scruples in a moment. It is always the first consulted, and

the must readily obeyed. It is not sinful to hearken to it, but

it must not govern nor determine by itself.

Verse 12. How much then is a man better than a sheep?] Our

Lord's argument is what is called argumentum ad hominem; they are

taken on their own ground, and confuted on their own maxims and

conduct. There are many persons who call themselves Christians,

who do more for a beast of burden or pleasure than they do for a

man for whom Christ died! Many spend that on coursers, spaniels,

and hounds, of which multitudes of the followers of Christ are

destitute:-but this also shall come to judgment.

Wherefore, it is lawful to do well, &c.] This was allowed by a

multitude of Jewish canons. See Schoettgen.

Verse 13. Stretch forth thine hand.] The bare command of God

is a sufficient reason of obedience. This man might have reasoned

thus: "Lord, my hand is withered; how then can I stretch it out?

Make it whole first, and afterwards I will do as thou commandest."

This may appear reasonable, but in his case it would have been

foolishness. At the command of the Lord he made the effort, and

in making it the cure was effected! Faith disregards apparent

impossibilities, where there is a command and promise of God. The

effort to believe is, often, that faith by which the soul is


A little before (Mt 12:6, 8)

Jesus Christ had asserted his Godhead, in this verse he proves it.

What but the omnipotence of the living God could have, in a

moment, restored this withered hand? There could be no collusion

here; the man who had a real disease was instantaneously and

therefore miraculously cured; and the mercy and power of God were

both amply manifested in this business.

It is worthy of remark, that as the man was healed with a word,

without even a touch, the Sabbath was unbroken, even according to

their most rigid interpretation of the letter of the law.

Verse 14. Held a council against him] Nothing sooner leads to

utter blindness, and hardness of heart, than envy. There are many

who abandon themselves to pleasure-taking and debauchery on the

Sabbath, who condemn a poor man whom necessity obliges to work on

what is termed a holiday, or a national fast.

Verse 15. Jesus-withdrew himself from thence] It is the part

of prudence and Christian charity not to provoke, if possible, the

blind and the hardened; and to take from them the occasion of sin.

A man of God is not afraid of persecution; but, as his aim is only

to do good, by proclaiming every where the grace of the Lord

Jesus, he departs from any place when he finds the obstacles to

the accomplishment of his end are, humanly speaking, invincible,

and that he can not do good without being the means of much evil.

Yield to the stream when you cannot stem it.

Great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all] The

rejection of the Gospel in one place has often been the means of

sending it to and establishing it in another. Jesus healed all

that followed him, i.e. all who had need of healing, and who

desired to be healed; for thus the passage must be understood:-

and is he not still the same? No soul shall ever implore his

healing power in vain; but let it be remembered, that only those

who follow Christ, and apply to him, are healed of their spiritual


Verse 16. Charged them that they should not make him known]

See Mt 8:4. Jesus Christ, as GOD, could have easily concealed

himself, but he chooses to do it as man, and to use no other than

human means, as these were quite sufficient for the purpose, to

teach us not to neglect them in our necessity. Indeed, he always

used his power less on his own account, than on that of men.

Verse 18. Behold my servant] This title was given to our

blessed Lord in several prophecies. See Isa 42:1; 53:2. Christ

assumes it, Ps 40:7-9. Compare these with Joh 17:4, and

Php 2:7.

God required an acceptable and perfect service from man; but man,

being sinful, could not perform it. Jesus, taking upon him the

nature of man, fully performed the whole will of God, and

communicates grace to all his followers, to enable them perfectly

to love and worthily to magnify their Maker.

And he shall show judgment to the Gentiles.] That is, He will

publish the Gospel to the heathens; for the word κρισιν here

answers to the word mishpat of the prophet, and it is used

among the Hebrews to signify laws, precepts, and a whole system or

body of doctrine. See Ps 19:9; 119:30, 39; Isa 58:2.

Verse 19. He shall not strive, nor cry] The spirit of Christ

is not a spirit of contention, murmuring, clamour, or

litigiousness. He who loves these does not belong to him. Christ

therefore fulfilled a prophecy by withdrawing from this place, on

account of the rage of the Pharisees.

Verse 20. A bruised reed shall he not break] A reed is, in

Scripture, the emblem of weakness, Eze 29:6;

and a bruised reed must signify that state of weakness that

borders on dissolution and death.

And smoking flax shall he not quench] λινοντυφομενονλινος

means the wick of a lamp, and τυφομενον is intended to point out

its expiring state, when the oil has been all burnt away from it,

and nothing is left but a mere snuff, emitting smoke. Some

suppose the Jewish state, as to ecclesiastical matters, is here

intended, the prophecy declaring that Christ would not destroy it,

but leave it to expire of itself, as it already contained the

principles of its own destruction. Others have considered it as

implying that great tenderness with which the blessed Jesus should

treat the weak and the ignorant, whose good desires must not be

stifled, but encouraged. The bruised reed may recover itself, if

permitted to vegetate under the genial influences of heaven; and

the life and light of the expiring lamp may be supported by the

addition of fresh oil. Jesus therefore quenches not faint desires

after salvation, even in the worst and most undeserving of men;

for even such desires may lead to the fulness of the blessing of

the Gospel of peace.

Judgment unto victory.] See Mt 12:18.

By judgment, understand the Gospel, and by victory its complete

triumph over Jewish opposition, and Gentile impiety. He will

continue by these mild and gentle means to work till the whole

world is Christianized, and the universe filled with his glory.

Verse 21. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.] ελπιουσι,

they shall hope. Jesus Christ is the sole hope and trust of

mankind; to trust and hope in his name, JESUS, is to expect

salvation and all things necessary from him alone, to despise,

comparatively, all earthly promises, to esteem, love, and desire

heavenly things only, and to bear with patience and tranquillity

all the losses and evils of this life, upon the prospect and hope

of that felicity which he has purchased for us.

Verse 22. One possessed with a devil, blind and dumb] A person

from whom the indwelling demon took away both sight and hearing.

Satan makes himself master of the heart, the eyes, and the tongue

of the sinner. His heart he fills with the love of sin; his eyes

he blinds that he may not see his guilt, and the perdition which

awaits him; and his tongue he hinders from prayer and

supplication, though he gives it increasing liberty in

blasphemies, lies, slanders, &c. None but Jesus can redeem from

this threefold captivity.

Verse 23. Is not this the son of David?] Is not this the true

Messiah? Do not these miracles sufficiently prove it?

See Isa 35:5.

Verse 24. Beelzebub] See Mt 10:25.

Verse 25. Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to

desolation] Our Lord's argument was thus:-"The welfare of any

kingdom, city, or family, depends on its concord and unanimity;

Satan, like every other potentate, must wish to rule his empire in

peace and security; how then can he be in league with me, who

oppose his authority, and am destroying his kingdom?"

The reasoning of the Pharisees, Mt 12:24,

was not expressed, and Jesus, knowing their thoughts, gave them

ample proof or his omniscience. This, with our Lord's masterly

confutation of their reasonings, by a conclusion drawn from their

own premises, one would have supposed might have humbled and

convinced these men; but the most conclusive reasoning, and the

most astonishing miracles, were lost upon a people who were

obstinately determined to disbelieve every thing good, relative to

Christ. How true the saying-He came unto his own, and his own

received him not!

Verse 26. If Satan cast out Satan] A good cause will produce a

good effect, and an evil cause an evil effect. Were I on Satan's

side, I would act for his interest and confirm his influence among

you; but I oppose his maxims by my doctrine, and his influence by

my power.

Verse 27. By whom do your children cast them out?] Children,

or sons of the prophets, means the disciples of the prophets; and

children or sons of the Pharisees, disciples of the Pharisees.

From Ac 19:13, 14,

it is evident there were exorcists among the Jews, and, from our

Lord's saying here, it is also evident that the disciples of the

Pharisees did cast out demons, or, at least, those who educated

them wished to have it believed that they had such a power. Our

Lord's argument here is extremely conclusive: If the man who casts

out demons proves himself thereby to be in league with and

influenced by Satan, then your disciples, and you who taught them,

are all of you in league with the devil: ye must either give up

your assertion, that I cast out demons by Beelzebul, or else admit

this conclusion, in its fullest force and latitude, that ye are

all children of the devil, and leagued with him against God.

Envy causes persons often to condemn in one, what they approve

in another.

Verse 28. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God]

Perhaps the Spirit of God is here mentioned by way of opposition

to the magical incantations of the Jews; for it is well known that

by fumigations and magical washings, they professed to cast out

devils. See a case mentioned by Schoettgen on this verse.

Then the kingdom of God] For the destruction of the kingdom of

Satan plainly implies the setting up of the kingdom of God.

Is come unto you.] Is come unexpectedly upon you. εφθασεν,

from φθανω, to appear suddenly-unexpectedly.

They pretended to be in expectation of the kingdom of God, and

consequently of the destruction of the kingdom of Satan. But, by

being not prepared to receive Christ in these proofs of his Divine

mission, they showed that their expectation was but pretended.

They were too carnal to mind spiritual things.

Verse 29. Else how can one enter into a strong man's house]

Men, through sin, are become the very house and dwelling place of

Satan, having of their own accord surrendered themselves to this

unjust possessor; for whoever gives up his soul to sin gives it up

to the devil. It is Jesus, and Jesus alone, who can deliver from

the power of this bondage. When Satan is cast out, Jesus purifies

and dwells in the heart.

Verse 30. He that is not with me is against me] In vain do men

seek for methods to reconcile God and mammon. There is no medium

between loving the Lord and being his enemy-between belonging to

Christ or to Satan. If we be on the side of the devil, we must

expect to go to the devil's hell; if we be on the side of Christ,

we may expect to go to his heaven. When Christ, his truth, and

his servants are assaulted, he who does not espouse their cause is

not on Christ's side, but incurs the guilt of deserting and

betraying him. There are many, (it is to be feared,) in the world

who are really against Christ, and scatter abroad, who flatter

themselves that they are workers together with him, and of the

number of his friends!

Scattereth abroad.] This seems to have been a proverbial form

of speech, and may be a metaphor taken from shepherds. He who

does not help the true shepherd to gather his flock into the fold

is, most likely, one who wishes to scatter them, that he may have

the opportunity of stealing and destroying them. I do not find

any parallel to this proverbial mode of speech in the Jewish

rabbins, if it be one, nor have I met with it among the Greek or

Roman writers.

Verse 31. All manner of sin and blasphemy] βλασφημια,

injurious or impious speaking. [Anglo-Saxon], mocking and

deriding speech, Anglo-Saxon. See Mt 9:3.

But the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost] Even personal

reproaches, revilings, persecutions against Christ, were

remissible; but blasphemy, or impious speaking against the Holy

Spirit was to have no forgiveness: i.e. when the person

obstinately attributed those works to the devil, which he had the

fullest evidence could be wrought only by the Spirit of God. That

this, and nothing else, is the sin against the Holy Spirit, is

evident from the connection in this place, and more particularly

from Mr 3:28-30. "All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of

men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme; but he

that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never

forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation; BECAUSE they

said, He hath an unclean spirit."

Here the matter is made clear beyond the smallest doubt-the

unpardonable sin, as some term it, is neither less nor more than

ascribing the miracles Christ wrought, by the power of God, to the

spirit of the devil. Many sincere people have been grievously

troubled with apprehensions that they had committed the

unpardonable sin; but let it be observed that no man who believes

the Divine mission of Jesus Christ, ever can commit this sin:

therefore let no man's heart fail because of it, from henceforth

and for ever, Amen. See below.

Verse 32. Neither in this world, neither in the world to come.]

Though I follow the common translation, yet I am fully satisfied

the meaning of the words is, neither in this dispensation, (viz.

the Jewish,) nor in that which is to come, viz. the Christian.

olam ha-bo, the world to come, is a constant phrase for

the times of the Messiah in the Jewish writers. See below. The

sin here spoken of by our Lord ranks high in the catalogue of

presumptuous sins, for which there was no forgiveness under the

Mosaic dispensation. See Nu 15:30, 31; 35:31; Le 20:10;

1Sa 2:25. When our Lord says that such a sin hath no

forgiveness, is he not to be understood as meaning that the crime

shall be punished under the Christian dispensation as it was under

the Jewish, viz. by the destruction of the body? And is not this

the same mentioned 1Jo 1:7,

called there the sin unto death; i.e. a sin that was to be

punished by the death of the body, while mercy might be extended

to the soul? The punishment for presumptuous sins, under the

Jewish law, to which our Lord evidently alludes, certainly did not

extend to the damnation of the soul, though the body was

destroyed: therefore I think that, though there was no such

forgiveness to be extended to this crime as to absolve the man

from the punishment of temporal death, yet, on repentance, mercy

might be extended to the soul; and every sin may be repented of

under the Gospel dispensation.

Dr. Lightfoot has sufficiently vindicated this passage from all

false interpretation. "They that endeavour hence to prove the

remission of some sins after death, seem little to understand to

what Christ had respect when he spake these words. Weigh well

this common and, most known doctrine of the Jewish schools, and


"He that transgresses an affirmative precept, if he presently

repent, is not moved until the Lord pardon him; and of such it is

said, Be ye converted, O back sliding children! and I will heal

your backslidings. He that transgresses a negative precept, and

repents, his repentance suspends judgment, and the day of

expiation expiates him; as it is said, This day shall all your

uncleannesses be expiated to you. He that transgresses to cutting

off (by the stroke of God) or to death by the Sanhedrin, and

repents, repentance and the day of expiation do suspend judgment,

and the strokes that are laid upon him wipe off sin, as it is

said, And I will visit their transgression with a rod, and their

iniquity with scourges. But he by whom the name of God is

profaned (or blasphemed) repentance is of no avail to him to

suspend judgment, nor the day of expiation to expiate it, nor

scourges (or corrections inflicted) to wipe it off, but all

suspend judgment, and death wipes it off. Thus the Babylonian

Gemara writes; but the Jerusalem thus: Repentance and the day of

expiation expiate as to the third part, and corrections as to the

third part, and death wipes it off, as it is said, And your

iniquities shall not be expiated to you until ye die: behold, we

learn that death wipes off. Note this, which Christ contradicts,

concerning blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. It shall not be

forgiven, saith he, neither in this world, nor in the world to

come; that is, neither before death, nor, as you dream, by death.

Jerus. Sanhed. fol. 37. and Bab. Yoma, fol. 86.

"In the world to come.-I. Some phrases were received into common

use, by which, in common speech, they opposed the heresy of the

Sadducces, who denied immortality, Of that sort were

olam ha-ba, αιωνομελλων, The world to come. gan

aden, παραδεισος, paradise: gei hinnom,

γεεννα, hell, &c.

"At the end of all the prayers in the temple (as we observed

before) they said ad olam, for ever. But when the

heretics (i.e. the Sadducees) brake in, and said there was NO AGE

but one, then it was appointed to be said for ever and ever.

min ha-olam, vead ha-olam. Bab. Beracoth,

fol. 54. This distinction of olam hazeh, this world, and

of olam ha-ba, the world to come, you may find almost in

every page of the rabbins.

"The Lord recompense thee a good reward for this thy good work

in this world, and let thy reward be perfected in the world to

come. Targum on Ruth.

"It (that is, the history of the creation and of the Bible)

therefore begins with the letter beth, (in the word

bereshith,) because two worlds were created, this world and a

world to come. Baal Turim.

"The world to come hints two things especially, (of which see

Rambam, in Sanhed. cap. ii. Chelek.) I. The times of the Messiah:

'Be mindful of the day wherein thou camest out of Egypt, all the

days of thy life: the wise men say, by the days of thy life is

intimated this world: by all the days of thy life, the days of the

Messiah are superinduced.' In this sense the apostle seems to

speak, Heb 2:5; 6:5. II. The state after death: thus Rab.

Tancum, The world to come, is when a man has departed out of this


Verse 33. Either make the tree good] That is, the effect will

be always similar to the cause; a bad tree will produce bad fruit,

and a good tree, good fruit.

The works will resemble the heart: nothing good can proceed from

an evil spirit; no good fruit can proceed from a corrupt heart.

Before the heart of man can produce any good, it must be renewed

and influenced by the Spirit of God.

Verse 34. O generation of vipers] These are apparently severe

words; but they were extremely proper in reference to that

execrable people to whom they were addressed: the whole verse is

an inference from what was spoken before.

Out of the abundance (περισσευματος, the overflowings) of the

heart] Wicked words and sinful actions may be considered as the

overflowings of a heart that is more than full of the spirit of

wickedness; and holy words and righteous deeds may be considered

as the overflowings of a heart that is filled with the Holy

Spirit, and running over with love to God and man.

Verse 35. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart]

τηςκαρδιας, of the heart, is omitted by upwards of one hundred

MSS., many of them of the greatest antiquity and authority; by all

the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic; by the Slavonic, Saxon, Vulgate,

and Itala, (except four,) and by several of the primitive

fathers. It seems to have been added here by some copyist, merely

to explain. The good heart is the good treasury, and the treasure

that is in it is the love of God, and of all mankind. The bad

heart is the bad treasury, and its treasure is the carnal mind,

which is enmity against God, and ill-will to man.

Verse 36. Every idle word] ρημααργον, a word that does

nothing, that neither ministers grace nor instruction to them who

hear it. The word αργον corresponds to the Hebrew shave,

which signifies not only vain or empty, but also wicked and

injurious, such as a false testimony against a neighbour, compare

De 5:11, 20. Add to this, that Symmachus translates

piggul, polluted, Le 19:7, by the very Greek word in the text.

It was to explain this ambiguous meaning of the word, that ten

MSS. have changed αργον Into πονηρον, evil. Our Lord must be

understood here as condemning all false and injurious words: the

scope of the place necessarily requires this meaning.

Verse 37. By thy words thou shalt be justified] That is, the

whole tenor of thy conversation will be an evidence for or against

thee, in the great day. How many are there who count words for

nothing! and yet eternity often depends on them. Lord, put a

watch before the door of my lips! is a prayer proper for all men.

Verse 38. We would see a sign from thee.] That is, we wish now

to see thee work a miracle. Pride, vain curiosity, and

incredulity, have never proof sufficient of the truth: for they

will not be satisfied.

Verse 39. An evil and adulterous generation] Or, race of

people; for so γενεα should be translated here, and in most other

places in the Gospels; for our Lord, in general, uses it to point

out the Jewish people. This translation is a key to unlock some

very obscure passages in the evangelists.

Seeketh after a sign] Or, seeketh another sign, (επιζητει,) so

I think this word should be translated. Our Lord had already

given the Jews several signs; and here they desire sign upon sign.

Our Lord terms the Jews an adulterous race. Under the old

covenant, the Jewish nation was represented as in a marriage

contract with the Lord of hosts; as believers, in the new

covenant, are represented as the spouse of Christ. All

unfaithfulness and disobedience was considered as a breach of this

marriage contract; hence the persons who were thus guilty are

denominated adulterers and adulteresses. But, independently of

this, there is the utmost proof, from their own writings, that in

the time of our Lord they were most literally an adulterous race

of people: for, at this very time, R. Jochanan ben Zacchai

abrogated the trial by the bitter waters of jealousy, because so

many were found to be thus criminal. See on Joh 8:3.

Verse 40. Three days and three nights] Our Lord rose from the

grave on the day but one after his crucifixion: so that, in the

computation in this verse, the part of the day on which he was

crucified, and the part of that on which he rose again, are

severally estimated as an entire day; and this, no doubt, exactly

corresponded to the time in which Jonah was in the belly of the

fish. Our Lord says, As Jonah was, so shall the Son of man be,

&c. Evening and morning, or night and day, is the Hebrew phrase

for a natural day, which the Greeks termed νυξθημερον,

nuchthemeron. The very same quantity of time which is here termed

three days and three nights, and which, in reality, was only one

whole day, a part of two others, and two whole nights, is

termed three days and three nights, in the book of Esther: Go;

neither eat nor drink THREE DAYS, NIGHT or DAY, and so I will go

in unto the king: Es 4:16. Afterwards it follows, Es 5:1.

On the THIRD DAY, Esther stood in the inner court of the king's

house. Many examples might be produced, from both the sacred and

profane writers, in vindication of the propriety of the expression

in the text. For farther satisfaction, the reader, if he please,

may consult Whitby and Wakefield, and take the following from


"I. The Jewish writers extend that memorable station of the

unmoving sun, at Joshua's prayer, to six and thirty hours; for so

Kimchi upon that place: 'According to more exact interpretation,

the sun and moon stood still for six and thirty hours: for when

the fight was on the eve of the Sabbath, Joshua feared lest the

Israelites might break the Sabbath; therefore he spread abroad his

hands, that the sun might stand still on the sixth day, according

to the measure of the day of the Sabbath, and the moon according

to the measure of the night of the Sabbath, and of the going out

of the Sabbath, which amounts to six and thirty hours.'

"II. If you number the hours that pass from our Saviour's giving

up the ghost upon the cross to his resurrection, you shall find

almost the same number of hours; and yet that space is called by

him three days and three nights, whereas two nights only came

between, and one complete day. Nevertheless, while he speaks

these words, he is not without the consent both of the Jewish

schools and their computation. Weigh well that which is disputed

in the tract Scabbath, concerning the separation of a woman for

three days; where many things are discussed by the Gemarists,

concerning the computation of this space of three days. Among

other things these words occur: R. Ismael saith, Sometimes it

contains four onoth, sometimes five, sometimes six. But how

much is the space of an onah? R. Jochanan saith, Either a

day or a night. And so also the Jerusalem Talmud: 'R. Akiba fixed

a DAY for an onah, and a NIGHT for an onah.' But the tradition

is, that R. Eliazar ben Azariah said, A day and a night make an

onah: and a PART of an onah is as the WHOLE. And a little after,

R. Ismael computed a part of the onah for the whole." Thus, then,

three days and three nights, according to this Jewish method of

reckoning, included any part of the first day; the whole of the

following night; the next day and its night; and any part of the

succeeding or third day.

In the whale's belly] That a fish of the shark kind, and not a

whale, is here meant, Bochart has abundantly proved, vol. iii.

col. 742, &c., edit. Leyd. 1692. It is well known that the throat

of a whale is capable of admitting little more than the arm of an

ordinary man; but many of the shark species can swallow a man

whole, and men have been found whole in the stomachs of several.

Every natural history abounds with facts of this kind. Besides,

the shark is a native of the Mediterranean Sea, in which Jonah was

sailing when swallowed by what the Hebrew terms dag gadol,

a great fish; but every body knows that whales are no produce of

the Mediterranean Sea, thought some have been by accident found

there, as in most other parts of the maritime world: but, let them

be found where they may, there is none of them capable of

swallowing a man. Instead of either whale or shark, some have

translated dag gadol, Jon 1:17, by a fishing cove, or

something of this nature; but this is merely to get rid of the

miracle: for, according to some, the whole of Divine revelation is

a forgery-or it is a system of metaphor or allegory, that has no

miraculous interferences in it. But, independently of all this,

the criticism is contemptible. Others say, that the great fish

means a vessel so called, into which Jonah went, and into the hold

of which he was thrown, where he continued three days and three

nights. In short, it must be any thing but a real miracle, the

existence of which the wise men, so called, of the present day,

cannot admit. Perhaps these very men are not aware that they have

scarcely any belief even in the existence of God himself!

Verse 41. The men of Nineveh shell rise in judgment] The voice

of God, threatening temporal judgments, caused a whole people to

repent, who had neither Moses nor Christ, neither the law nor the

prophets; and who perhaps never had but this one preacher among

them. What judgment may not we expect, if we continue impenitent,

after all that God has bestowed upon us?

A greater than Jonas is here.] πλειον, for τιπλειον,

something more. The evidence offered by Jonah sufficed to

convince and lead the Ninevites to repentance; but here was more

evidence, and a greater person; and yet so obstinate are the Jews

that all is ineffectual. 1. Christ, who preached to the Jews, was

infinitely greater than Jonah, in his nature, person, and mission.

2. Jonah preached repentance in Nineveh only forty days, and

Christ preached among the Jews for several years. 3. Jonah

wrought no miracles to authorize his preaching; but Christ wrought

miracles every day, in every place where he went, and of every

kind. And 4. Notwithstanding all this, the people of Judea did

not repent, though the people of Nineveh did.

Verse 42. The queen of the south] In 1Ki 10:1, this queen is

said to be of Saba, which was a city and province of Arabia Felix,

to the south, or south-east, of Judea.

Uttermost parts of the earth] περατωντηςγης-a form of speech

which merely signifies, a great distance. See De 28:49.

Verse 43. When the unclean spirit] If there had been no

reality in demoniacal possessions, our Lord would have scarcely

appealed to a case of this kind here, to point out the real state

of the Jewish people, and the desolation which was coming upon

them. Had this been only a vulgar error, of the nonsense of which

the learned scribes and the wise Pharisees must have been

convinced, the case not being one in point, because not true, must

have been treated by that very people with contempt for whose

conviction it was alone designed.

He walketh through dry places] διανυδρωντοπων. There seems

to be a reference here to the Orphic demonology, in which evil

spirits were divided into various classes, according to the

different regions of their abode, or places in which they

delighted. These classes were five: 1. δαιμονεςουρανιοι,

Celestial demons. 2. δαιμονεςηεριοι, Aerial. 3. δαιμονες

ενυδριοι, Aquatic. 4. δαιμονεςχθονιοι, Terrestrial.

5. καιδαιμονεςυποχθονιοι, And subterranean demons. See Orph.

ad Mus. ap. Schott. The Platonists, the followers of Zoroaster,

and the primitive Jews, made nearly the same distinctions.

Seeking rest] Or refreshment. Strange! a fallen corrupt spirit

can have no rest but in the polluted human heart: the corruption

of the one is suited to the pollution of the other, and thus like

cleaves to like.

Verse 44. Into my house] The soul of that person from whom he

had been expelled by the power of Christ, and out of which he was

to have been kept by continual prayer, faith, and watchfulness.

He findeth it empty] Unoccupied, σχολαζοντα, empty of

the former inhabitant, and ready to receive a new one: denoting a

soul that has lost the life and power of godliness, and the

testimony of the Holy Spirit.

Swept and garnished.] As σχολαζω signifies to be idle, or

unemployed, it may refer here to the person, as well as to his

state. His affections and desires are no longer busied with the

things of God, but gad about, like an idle person, among the

vanities of a perishing world. Swept, from love, meekness, and

all the fruits of the Spirit; and garnished, or adorned,

κεκοσμημενον, decorated, with the vain showy trifles of folly

and fashion. This may comprise also smart speeches, cunning

repartees, &c., for which many who have lost the life of God are

very remarkable.

Verse 45. Seven other spirits more wicked] Seven was a

favourite number with the Jews, implying frequently, with them,

something perfect, completed, filled up, for such is the proper

import of the Hebrew word sheva or shevang: nearly allied in

sound to our seven. And perhaps this meaning of it refers to the

seventh day, when God rested from his work, having filled up, or

completed the whole of his creative design. Seven demons-as many

as could occupy his soul, harassing it with pride, anger,

self-will, lust, &c., and torturing the body with disease.

The last state of that man is worse than the first.] His soul,

before influenced by the Spirit of God, dilated and expanded under

its heavenly influences, becomes more capable of refinement in

iniquity, as its powers are more capacious than formerly. Evil

habits are formed and strengthened by relapses; and relapses are

multiplied, and become more incurable, through new habits.

So shall it be also unto this wicked generation.] And so it

was: for they grew worse and worse, as if totally abandoned to

diabolic influence; till at last the besom of destruction swept

them and their privileges, national and religious, utterly away.

What a terrible description of a state of apostasy is contained in

these verses! May he who readeth understand!

Verse 46. His mother and his brethren] These are supposed to

have been the cousins of our Lord, as the word brother is

frequently used among the Hebrews in this sense. But there are

others who believe Mary had other children beside our Lord and

that these were literally his brothers, who are spoken of here.

And, although it be possible that these were the sons of Mary, the

wife of Cleopas or Alpheus, his mother's sister, called his

relations, Mr 3:31; yet it is as likely that they were the

children of Joseph and Mary, and brethren of our Lord, in the

strictest sense of the word. See on Mt 13:55.

Verse 48. Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?] The

reason of this seeming disregard of his relatives was this: they

came to seize upon him, for they thought he was distracted. See

Mr 3:33.

Verse 50. Whosoever shall do the will of my Father, &c.] Those

are the best acknowledged relatives of Christ who are united to

him by spiritual ties, and who are become one with him by the

indwelling of his Spirit. We generally suppose that Christ's

relatives must have shared much of his affectionate attention; and

doubtless they did: but here we find that whosoever does the will

of God is equally esteemed by Christ, as his brother, sister, or

even his virgin mother. What an encouragement for fervent

attachment to God!

1. From various facts related in this chapter, we see the nature

and design of the revelation of God, and of all the ordinances and

precepts contained in it-they are all calculated to do man good:

to improve his understanding, to soften and change his nature,

that he may love his neighbour as himself. That religion that

does not inculcate and produce humanity never came from heaven.

2. We have already seen what the sin against the Holy Ghost is:

no soul that fears God can commit it: perhaps it would be

impossible for any but Jews to be guilty of it, and they only in

the circumstances mentioned in the text; and in such

circumstances, it is impossible that any person should now be


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