[Seventy.] Why the Vulgar should have seventy-and-two, they themselves, I suppose, are able to give no very good reason: much less the interpreter of Titus Bostrensis, when in the Greek copy before him he saw only seventy, why he should render it seventy-two.
Aben Ezra upon the story of Eldad and Medad hath this passage: "The wise men say, That Moses took six out of every tribe, and the whole number amounted to seventy-and-two: but whereas the Lord had commanded only seventy, the odd two were laid aside." Now if God laid aside two of those who had been enrolled, and endowed with the Holy Spirit, that so there might be the just number of seventy only, we can hardly imagine why our Saviour should add two, to make it seventy-two and not seventy. "It was said to Moses at Mount Sinai, Go up, thou and Aaron, and Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: so will the holy blessed God ordain to himself in the world to come a council of elders of his own people." Now the number of this consistory, the doctors determine to be no other than seventy. A council of seventy-two was never heard of amongst the Jews, but once only at Jabneh.
"R. Simeon Ben Azzai saith, I received it from the mouths of the seventy-two elders, on the day when they made R. Eliezer Ben Azariah one of the Sanhedrim." Nor did they then remove Rabban Gamaliel, although he had displeased them.
[As lambs among wolves.] It is added in another evangelist, "Be ye wise as serpents," &c.: with which we may compare that in Midrash Schir; "The holy blessed God saith concerning Israel those that belong to me are simple as doves, but amongst the nations of the world, they are subtle as serpents."
[Salute no man by the way.] I. We have a passage something like this elsewhere; "If thou meet any man, salute him not"; that is (as is commonly expounded), do not hinder thy journey by discoursing with any in the way. But the same reason doth not hold in this place; the business of these disciples not requiring such mighty expedition. They were commanded out two by two, to this or the other place or city where Christ himself was to come in person; nor was it necessary they should run in so great haste, that they should make no stay in the way. Only having appointed them to such and such places, their business indeed lay nowhere but in those very places to which they had been particularly sent, to proclaim the coming of Christ there, and not to be telling it in the way. The twelve apostles that were sent, their business was to declare the coming of the 'kingdom of heaven'; these the coming of the 'King himself.' No wonder, therefore, if the apostles were not forbidden to salute any in the way; for their province was, wherever they came, to tell the world that the kingdom of heaven was come: but these were only to give notice that the Messiah was coming: and that in those places only to which he was to come, and not to any whom they should meet cursorily in the way.
II. It was a very usual thing in that nation, upon some accounts, not to salute any in the way, no, not any person at all. "He that is mourning for the dead, let him not salute any person for the first seven days of his mourning." If thirteen fasts had been celebrated by order of the Sanhedrim for the imploring of rain, and yet no rain had fallen, then they "diminish from their business, and from building, and from planting, and from espousals and marriage, and from saluting each other as men under the rebukes of Heaven": that is, they abstained from all these things. "The religious do not use to salute one another; but if any of the common people do at any time salute them, they return it in a very low voice with all gravity, veiling themselves, and sitting in the posture of mourners or excommunicate persons."
Whether that of the apostle, "Salute one another with a holy kiss," might not have some reference to this usage, might be a matter for our inquiry, if there were place for it; but I forbear.
What therefore doth our Saviour intend by this prohibition, Salute no man by the way? would he imitate this Jewish custom, that he would have them taken for mourners everywhere?
I. He would have all that belonged to him conformable to himself, that every one from the quality of the messengers might, in some measure, judge what he was that sent them; as we have already hinted concerning the twelve apostles, He himself was "a man of sorrows"; and if his messengers do represent some such thing, either in their looks or behaviour, the people might the more easily guess what kind of person he was that commissioned them.
II. Christ had a twofold end in designing them to the places to which he in his own person had determined to come; namely, that thither all persons should assemble themselves to his doctrine for the healing of their souls: and that those that were diseased might be gathered thither in order to a cure. Now it was very fit and convenient that the behaviour of those that were to assemble the people to these ends should be mournful and solemn, to testify the fellow-feeling they had with the afflicted and miserable.
[Eat such things as are set before you.] The traditional canons were so very precise and curious about not eating unless what were clean, what had been duly tithed, and from which the Trumah had been duly separated, that it might be almost a wonder the strict traditionists should not be famished if they lived and fed only by canon. "Let not the religious serve at the table of a laic, unless all things be rightly prepared and decimated."
From the irksomeness and perplexity of this niceness doth our Saviour acquit and absolve his followers; partly that he might introduce the gospel liberty; partly also consulting the necessity of his disciples, who if they had been bound up to that strictness in meats, what could they do when their converse was to lie chiefly amongst persons perfectly unknown to them?
[I beheld Satan, &c.] "Lucifer falling from heaven," Isaiah 14:12, is the king of Babylon divested of his throne and dominion. So is Satan in this place. The word I beheld, I would refer to this very time: "When I sent you forth I saw Satan's fall at hand, that he should be immediately despoiled of his power and tyranny." For when the Messiah had determined to exhibit himself, and, in order thereunto, to send out so numerous a multitude of persons that should publish his appearance, it was absolutely necessary, and it could not otherwise be, but that the power of Satan should sink, and his government be shaken.
It is probable these seventy disciples were sent out upon the approach of the feast of Tabernacles, and when there now remained about half a year to the death of Christ. In which interval of time Christ shewed himself more openly, both by the preaching of these persons, and also in his own personal exhibition of himself, than before he had done. All which things determining in his death, whose death was also the death of Satan, might give him a very just occasion of saying, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven, thrown out of his throne and kingdom. Compare Revelation 12:8, where 'heaven' is to be interpreted 'the church.'
[Behold, a certain lawyer stood up.]
Some few Notes concerning the Jewish Doctors.
The word lawyer we meet with in Matthew 22:35, where the Syriac hath it a scribe. So Luke 7:30; as also in this place, and chapter 11:45. Nor without reason, when he in St. Matthew, one of them which was a lawyer, is said to be, Mark 12:28, one of the scribes.
However there seems some difficulty from a passage in our evangelist, where woe unto you scribes, and Then answered one of the lawyers, seems to make some distinction betwixt them. As to this, we shall make some remarks in its proper place. In the mean time let it not seem tedious to the reader, if we discourse some things concerning the doctors of the law, with the various classes and orders of them, that we may the better judge of that sort of men of which we have so frequent mention in the holy Scriptures. And,
I. It is not unknown how the name scribe was a general title given to all the learned part of that nation, as it is opposed to the rude and illiterate person. "If two persons eat together, and are both scribes, they each of them say grace singly for themselves: but if one of them be a scribe, and the other an illiterate person, the scribe saith grace, and it sufficeth for the other that is unlearned."
Indeed, the first original of the word scribes did more peculiarly signify the numberers. "The ancients were called numberers, because they numbered all the letters of the law..." The Gloss gives another reason out of the Jerusalem Talmud; namely, "because they numbered all the points and contents of the law, as the forty principal servile works save one," &c.
Should we indeed grant that the first original of the word had such narrow bounds as this, yet does not this hinder but that it afterward enlarged itself so far as to denote any person learned in the law, and every doctor of it; nay, that it extended itself even to the schoolmasters that taught children: if not to the very libellarii, those whose business it was to write out bills of divorce and forms of contracts, &c. Of which two there is mention made amongst the ten sorts, whereof if none should happen to be in a city, it was not fit for any disciple of the wise to abide in it.
II. That the fathers of the Sanhedrim were more emphatically called the scribes is so well known that it needs no confirmation. That passage in the evangelist sufficiently shews it; "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat": that is, on the legislative bench, or in the Sanhedrim: where also the Sadducees that were of that council are called scribes: and the scribes are distinguished there from the Pharisees, not that they were not scribes, but because all the scribes there were not Pharisees.
III. There was a certain degree of doctors or scribes that were in the Sanhedrim, but were not members of it: these are commonly called those who gave judgment in the presence of the wise men, fit for the office of legislators, but not yet admitted. Such were Simeon Ben Azzai, and Simeon Ben Zumah. Such also was Simeon the Temanite, of whom we have made mention elsewhere, (out of Sanhedrin, fol. 17. 2) He judged in the presence of the Sanhderim, sitting upon the ground. He did not sit on the bench with the fathers, as not being one of their number, but on the seats below, nearer the ground: him the fathers consulted in difficult matters. A shadow of which we have in England of the judges, men learned in the laws, who have their seats in our house of lords.
Whether he that was particularly called the wise man was of the number of the fathers, or only of this kind of judges, I shall not at present dispute, but leave the reader to judge from this story: "Rabban Simeon Ben Gamliel was the president of the Sanhedrim: R. Meir was chacam, or the wise man; and R. Nathan, the vice-governor." Now when Rabban Simeon had decreed something that disparaged R. Meir and R. Nathan, "Saith R. Meir to R. Nathan, I am the chacam [or the wise man], and thou art the vice-president. Let us remove Rabban Simeon from the presidency, then thou wilt be the president, and I the vice-president."
There is nothing more common, and yet nothing more difficult than that saying, "The school of Hillel saith so and so, and the school of Shammai so: but the wise men say otherwise." It is very obscure who these wise men should be. If we should say the Sanhedrim, it is plain that one part of it consisted of the Shammaeans, and another part of the Hillelites. If so, then it should seem that these wise men are those judges of whom we have spoken: unless you will assign a third part to the Sadducees, to whom you will hardly attribute the determination of the thing, and much less the emphatical title of the wise men. But this we leave undecided.
IV. Let us a little inquire out of the Sanhedrim; we shall find variety of scribes and doctors of the law, according to the variety of the law itself, and the variety of teaching it. Hence those various treatises amongst the Rabbins; the Micra, Misna, Midras, Talmud, Agadah, &c.
1. Micra, is the text of the Bible itself: its reading and literal explication.
2. Misna, the doctrine of traditions and their explication.
3. Midras, the mystic and allegorical doctrine and exposition of the Scriptures: "For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day." Now these were the ways and methods of preaching him:
I. As to the written law (for every one knows they had a twofold law, written and oral, as they call it), they had a twofold way of declaring it, viz., explaining and applying it according to the literal sense of it, for edification, exhortation, and comfort, as the apostle hath it; or else by drawing allegories, mysteries, and far-fetched notions out of it. As to the former way, the rulers of the synagogue seem to have respect to it in what they said to Paul and Barnabas: If ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. As to the latter, the instances are endless in the Jewish writings every where; so far, that they have even melted down the whole volume of the Scriptures into tradition and allegory.
It is not easily determined whether those preachers were so of a different order, that one should wholly addict himself to the plain and literal exposition and application of the Scriptures, the other only to the mystical and more abstruse way of teaching. There is no question but both these did frequently meet both in one preacher, and that in one and the same sermon: and indeed I cannot tell but that the word Agadah may sometimes denote both these ways of expounding and interpreting the law. When a certain person, being interrogated about certain traditions, could give no answer, the standers by said, Perhaps he is not skilled in the [traditional] doctrine: but he may be able to expound. And so they propound to him Daniel 10:21 to explain. To which that also agrees well enough, "The masters of the Agada or expositions, because they are 'Darshanin' [or profound searchers of the Scriptures], are honoured of all men, for they draw away the hearts of their auditors." Nor does that sound very differently as to the thing itself: On the sabbath day they discussed discussions [i.e. in the Scriptures, searching the Scriptures] "to the masters of families, who had been employed in their occasions all the week; and while they were expounding, they taught them the articles about things forbidden and things permitted them," &c.
To these kind of mystic and allegorical expositions of Scripture (if at least it be proper to call them expositions) they were so strangely bewitched, that they valued nothing more than a skill in tickling or rubbing the itching ears of their auditors with such trifles. Hence that passage, "R. Joshua said to R. Jochanan Ben Bruchah, and to R. Eleazar the blind, What new thing have you met with today in 'Beth Midras'? They answered and said, 'We are all thy disciples, and drink wholly at thy waters.' To whom he; 'It is impossible but you should meet with something novel every day in Beth Midras.'"
II. As to the oral law, there was also a twofold way of explaining it, as they had for the written law:
1. The former way we have intimated to us in these words: "The book of the Law, when it grows old, they lay up with one of the disciples of the wise men, even although he teach the traditions." The passage seems very obscure, but it is thus explained by the Gloss: "Albeit it doth not any way help the disciples of the wise men in Talmud and Gemara, but in Misnaioth and Beriathoth," that is, he that would only read the body of the traditional law, and render the literal sense of it,--and not he that would dispute scholastically, and comment upon it. For,
2. There were doctors that would inquire more deeply into the traditions, would give some accounts (such as they were), of them, would discuss difficulties, solve doubts, &c.; a specimen of which is the Talmudic Gemara throughout.
Lastly, amongst the learned, and doctors of that nation, there were the Agadici, who would expound the written law in a more profound way than ordinary, even to what was cabalistical. These were more rare, and (as it should seem) not so acceptable amongst the people. Whether these are concerned in what follows, let the reader judge: "R. Joshua Ben Levi saith, So and so let it happen to me, if in all my life I ever saw the book Agada above once; and then I found a hundred seventy-and-five sections of the law, where it is written, 'The Lord hath said, hath spoken, hath commanded.' They are according to the number of the years of our father Abraham, as it is said, To receive gifts for men, &c. A hundred forty-and-seven Psalms, which are in the Book of Psalms [mark the number] are according to the number of the years of our father Jacob; as it is written, 'Thou art holy, and inhabitest the praises of Israel.' A hundred twenty-and-three turns, wherein Israel answereth Hallelujah [to him that repeats the Hallel], are according to the number of the years of Aaron," &c. And as a coronis, let me add that passage in Sanhedrim, "If they be masters of the textual reading, they shall be conversant in the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa. If they be masters of the Misna, they shall be conversant in Misna Halacoth and Haggadoth. And if they be masters of the Talmud, they shall be conversant in the traditions of the Passover, in the Passover: in the traditions of Pentecost, in Pentecost: in the traditions of the feast of Tabernacles, in the feast of Tabernacles."
These all, whom we have mentioned, were scribes and doctors and expounders of the law; but which of these may properly and peculiarly challenge to themselves the title of lawyers, whether all, or any particular class of them? The latter is most probable: but then, what class will you choose? or will you distinguish betwixt the lawyer and the teacher of the law? I had rather the reader would frame his own judgment here. And yet, that I might not dismiss this question wholly untouched, and at the same time not weary the reader with too long a digression, I have referred what is to be alleged in this matter to my notes upon chapter 11:45.
[How readest thou?] An expression very common in the schools, What readest thou? when any person brought a text of Scripture for the proof of any thing. The Rabbins have a tradition, that the disease of the squinancy came into the world upon the account of tithes. (The Gloss hath it: "For eating of fruits that had not been tithed.") "R. Eliezer Ben R. Jose saith, 'It was for an evil tongue.' Rabba saith, and it is the saying also of R. Joshua Ben Levi, What readest thou? The king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by himself shall glory: for the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped." And a little after, upon another subject: "R. Simeon Ben Gezirah saith, What or how readest thou? If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock": Canticles 1:8.
We will not be very curious in inquiring whether our Saviour used the very same form of speech, or any other. In this only he departs from their common use of speech, in that he calls to another to allege some text of Scripture; whereas it was usual in the schools that he that spoke that would allege some place himself.
[And with all thy mind.] In this answer of the man there are these two things observable:
I. That our Saviour brings in this clause, which in so many terms is not in Moses, where the rest are: where the Greek both of the Roman and Alexandrian edition render with all thy might. But wherein is mind? I pass by other copies, wherein though there is some varying, yet there is not this which is now before us.
Our Saviour hath the same clause elsewhere, but not in the same order; with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: here it is, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind. What shall we say therefore? shall we suppose it writ to this sense in the Hebrew in their phylacteries? This we can hardly think. Was it added by the Greek interpreters, and so the evangelists take it from thence? we see it is not so. What then? doth might signify both strength and mind? Here, indeed, the hinge of the question turns. That it denotes strength, no one doubts; yea, and the Rabbins suppose it denotes Mammon too, with whom the Syriac and Targumist agree: but still, where doth it signify the mind?
1. Take such a Gloss as is frequently in use amongst the allegorizing doctors: With what measure he shall mete to thee, do thou praise him exceedingly. Where we see they play with the sound of words, which is a very common thing with them to do...
2. To this we may add, if we think fit, what they commonly require in all religious services; viz. the preparation and the intention of the mind...Moses' words, therefore, are rendered by the evangelists not strictly and according to the letter, as they are in him, or were in the parchments in the phylacteries; but both according to their full sense and tenour, as also according to the common and received interpretation of that nation.
"R. Levi Bar Chajothah went to Caesarea, and heard them reciting their 'Shemaa' [or their phylacteries] Hellenistically [i.e. in Greek]" &c. Now, whether the clause we are now handling was inserted there, it would be in vain to inquire, because not possible to find...
The second thing observable in this man's answer, is, that he adds, "And thy neighbour as thyself": which indeed was not written in the schedules of their phylacteries: otherwise I should have thought the man had understood those words of our Saviour, How readest thou? as if he had said, "How dost thou repeat the sentences of the phylacteries?" for he reciteth the sentence as it was in their phylacteries, only adding this clause, "And thy neighbour," &c. Now the usual expression for the recitation of their phylacteries was They read the 'Shemaa'; which also is so rendered by some when indeed they commonly repeat them without book. He that read the Book [of Esther] orally: i.e. as the Gemara explains it, "Without book," or "by heart." It is queried, "Why they repeat those two sections every day? R. Levi saith, Because the ten commandments [of the decalogue] are comprehended therein." And he shews further how they are comprehended, saving only (which is very observable) the second commandment. Afterward indeed they confess, "It was very fitting they should every day repeat the very decalogue itself; but they did not repeat it, lest the heretics should say, that only those commandments were given to Moses on Mount Sinai." However, they did repeat those passages wherein they supposed the decalogue was summed up.
Whether, therefore, this lawyer of ours understood the words of our Saviour as having respect to that usage of repeating their phylacteries; or whether he of his own accord, and according to his own opinion, would be giving the whole sum of the decalogue, he shews himself rather a textual than a traditional doctor, although the word lawyer, seems to point out the latter rather.
[And who is my neighbour?] This doubt and form of questioning he had learned out of the common school, where it is thus taught in Aruch. He excepts all Gentiles when he saith, His neighbour.
"An Israelite killing a stranger inhabitant, he doth not die for it by the Sanhedrim; because it is said, If any one lift up himself against his neighbour. And it is not necessary to say, He does not die upon the account of a Gentile: for they are not esteemed by them for their neighbour."
"The Gentiles, amongst whom and us there is no war, and so those that are keepers of sheep amongst the Israelites, and the like, we are not to contrive their death: but if they be in any danger of death, we are not bound to deliver them: e.g. If any of them fall into the sea, you shall not need to take him out: for it is said, Thou shalt not rise up against the blood of thy neighbour; but such a one is not thy neighbour."
[A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.] This was the most beaten and frequented road in the whole land of Israel, and that, not only as it led to Perea, but also upon the account of that great traffic that was between these two cities, especially because of the courses that were as well in Jericho as Jerusalem. Of which we have discoursed elsewhere. To which I shall superadd this passage out of Jerusalem Taanith: "The former prophets instituted four-and-twenty courses, and for every course there was a stationary class of priests, Levites, and Israelites in Jerusalem. It is a tradition: Four-and-twenty thousand was the stationary number out of Jerusalem, and half that station out of Jericho. Jericho could indeed have produced an entire station; but that it would give the preference to Jerusalem; and therefore it produced but half."
Here, therefore, you may see in this historical parable why there is such particular mention made of a priest and Levite travelling that way, because there was very frequent intercourse of this sort of men between these towns; and that upon the account of the stations above mentioned.
[He fell among thieves.] It is with great confidence I see, but upon what foundation I cannot see, that the commentators generally make Adummim the scene of this robbery above all other places. It is true, the road betwixt Jerusalem and Jericho was dangerous enough; and for that reason (as is commonly believed) there was placed a band of soldiers "betwixt Aelia and Jericho," for the safeguard of passengers: but whereas it is said that the place is called Adummim, i.e. a place of redness, from the blood that was spilt by robbers there, this seems to have very little force in it: because the place had that name of Adummim even in Joshua's days, when we can hardly suppose the times to have been so pestered with robberies as they were when our Saviour uttered this parable: see Joshua 15:7, where if we consider the situation of 'the going up to Adummim,' it will appear it was not very distant from Jericho.
[Half dead.] The Rabbins term it next to death; beyond which condition, on this side death, was only one just expiring.
[When he saw him, he passed by on the other side.] And why, I pray, priest and Levite, do ye thus pass by a man in such a miserable condition? Was he not an Israelite? It is true, ye had learned out of your own schools not to succour a Gentile, no, nor a keeper of sheep, though he was an Israelite: now was this wounded man such a one? or did ye think ye should have contracted some pollution by touching one half dead? The word passed by on the other side, seems to hint as if they passed by him, keeping their distance from him: let them tell the reason themselves. For my part, I would impute it wholly to the mere want of charity.
[But a certain Samaritan.] The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans: that is, so as to be obliged by them for any courtesy done to them. But would this Jew, half dead, reject the kindness of the Samaritan at this time? This person being of a nation than which the Jews hated nothing more, is brought in shewing this kindness to the Jew, on purpose to give the plainer instance, who is our neighbour. It might seem more proper to have said, that the Samaritan acknowledged the wounded man for his neighbour in being so kind to him: but our Saviour intimates that he was the wounded man's neighbour; thereby teaching us that even a stranger, yea, an enemy (against the doctrine of their own schools), is no other than our neighbour.
[Pouring in oil and wine.] It is a tradition. "They spread a plaster for the sick on the sabbath day: that is, upon condition they had mingled it with wine and oil on the evening of the sabbath. But if they have not mixed it on the sabbath, it is forbidden. A tradition. R. Simeon Ben Eliezer saith, That it is allowed by R. Meir, both to mingle the oil and the wine, and also to anoint the sick on the sabbath day."
[He took out two pence.] Aruch: "A shekel of the law is selaa, and is of the value of four pence." So that the half shekel is two pence: a price that was to be paid yearly by every one as a ransom for his soul or life. Whence, not unfitly, we see two pence are paid down for the recovery of this man's life that had been wounded and half dead.
[And gave them to the host.] The Rabbins retain this Greek word, however the author of Aruch calls it Ismaelitic, or Arabic. A tavern or inn (saith he), in the Ismaelitish language, is called 'pondak.' It is true, indeed, the Arabic version useth this word in this place; but it is well known whence it takes its original. "Two men went into an inn; one a just, the other a wicked man. They sat down apart. The wicked man saith to the host, 'Let me have one pheasant, and let me have conditum or hippocras.' The just man said to the host, 'Let me have a piece of bread and a dish of lentils.' The wicked man laughed the just man to scorn, 'See how this fool calls for lentils when he may have dainties.' On the contrary, the just man, 'See how this fool eateth, when his teeth are to be immediately dashed out.' The just man saith to the host, 'Give me two cups of wine, that I may bless them': he gave them him, and he blessed them, and rising up gave to the host a piece of money for the portion that he had eaten, and departed in peace. But there was a falling out betwixt the wicked man and his host about the reckoning, and the host dashed out his teeth."
[Martha received him, &c.] Our Saviour is now at the feast of Tabernacles: and visits Bethany, where there had grown a friendship betwixt himself and Lazarus' family, upon his having cast out so many devils out of Mary his sister. For it is no foreign thing to suppose she was that Mary that was called Magdalene, because Bethany itself was called Magdala. As to the name Martha, see notes upon John 11: and as to the name Magdala, see notes upon John 12.
Welcome to STEP Bible
From Tyndale House, Cambridge UK
Use the search box to find Bibles, commentaries, passages, search terms, etc. Here are some examples: