is like a man that without a foundation built upon the earth: that is, without digging for a foundation, built his house upon the surface of the earth; "upon the dust of it", as the Syriac version renders it; or, "upon the sand", as Matthew says: "against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great"; See Gill on Matthew 7:26. See Gill on Matthew 7:27.
in the audience of the people; of the common people, the multitude besides the disciples; and that openly, and publicly, and with a loud and clear voice, that all might hear:
he entered into Capernaum; Jesus entered, as the Syriac version reads, into his own city, and where he had been before, and wrought miracles.
who was dear unto him; to the centurion, being an honest, upright, faithful, and obliging servant; as Tabi was to Rabban Gamaliel, of whom his master said (l),
"Tabi my servant, is not as other servants, , "he is upright".''
was sick: of a palsy; see Matthew 8:6,
and ready to die; in all appearance his case was desperate, and there was no help for him by any human means, which makes the following cure, the more remarkable.
(l) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 16. 2.
he sent unto him the elders of the Jews: in whom he had an interest, judging himself, being a Gentile, very unworthy and unfit to go himself, and ask a favour of so great a person as Christ was, such was his modesty and humility. These elders he sent, were not the more ancient inhabitants of the city, called , "the elders of, or among the common people", as distinguished from , "the elders of the law", or those that were old in knowledge; of both which it is said by R. Simeon ben Achasia (m), that
"the elders of the common people, when they grow old, their knowledge fails in them, as it is said, John 12:20 but so it is not with the "elders of the law"; but when they grow old, their knowledge rests in them, as it is said, Job 12:12.''
But these were either some principal officers of the city, called the elders of the people elsewhere; particularly, who were members of the sanhedrim; for as elders, when they design the elders in Jerusalem, mean the great sanhedrim (n) there; so elders, in other places, intend the sanhedrim, consisting of twenty one persons, or the bench of three; and such were these, the centurion sent to Christ:
beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant: he besought him most earnestly by these messengers, that he would come to his house, and cure his servant of the palsy, by laying his hands on him, or commanding the distemper off, by a word speaking; or in what way he should think fit, for he made no doubt that he was able to heal him.
(m) Misn. Kenim, c. 3. sect. 6. (n) T. Hieros. Sota, fol. 23. 3.
they besought him instantly; or with great vehemence and importunity; very studiously and carefully they urged the case, and pressed him much to it:
saying, he was worthy for whom he should do this; or, "for whom thou shouldst do this", as the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions read, and some copies; and which reading connects the words best. This speech of theirs savours of their "pharisaic" tenet and notion of merit, and is very different from the sense the poor centurion had of himself.
and he hath built us a synagogue; at his own private charge, and by the assistance of his soldiers under him, whom he might employ in this work: sometimes a single person built a synagogue at his own expense, and gave it to the citizens; of which the Jews say, (o).
"if a man builds an house, and afterwards devotes it to a synagogue, it is as a synagogue.''
(o) Piske Harosh Megilia, c. 4. art. 1.
and when he was now not far from the house; of the centurion, where his servant lay sick; he having some notice of his coming, and of his being near his house, in his great humility, and being conscious to himself of his unworthiness to have such a person under his roof, sent messengers to prevent him:
the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself; or do not fatigue thyself by coming to the house, stop, go no further;
for I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: he might know full well the law of the Jews, that it was not lawful for a Jew to go into the house of an uncircumcised Gentile; and though he might be a proselyte of righteousness, and so his house was free of entrance; yet considering his own meanness, and the greatness of Christ, who was become so famous for his doctrines and miracles, he thought it too great a stoop for Christ to come into his house, and too high a favour for him to enjoy.
but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed; speak but the word only, rebuke the distemper, command it off, and it will be gone; so great was his faith in the power of Christ.
having under me soldiers; an hundred, or more:
and I say unto one, go, and he goeth, and to another, come, and he cometh, and to my servant, do this, and he doth it; as this his servant used to do, and whom he may intend, who now lay sick, and therefore was dear unto him. His meaning is, that Christ could as easily command, and call off a distemper, add it would obey him, as he could command obedience from his soldiers and servant, and have it, and more so.
he marvelled at him; at his great humility and modesty, and the strength of his faith, and his manner of reasoning:
and turned him about; from him, and his friends:
and said unto the people that followed him; from the mount to Capernaum, and as he was passing along the streets:
I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel; or "among the Israelites", as the Syriac; or "among the children of Israel", as the Persic; or "in all Israel", as the Arabic version reads, as he did in this single Gentile; See Gill on Matthew 8:10.
returning to the house; of the centurion, where his servant lay, and from whence they came:
found the servant whole that had been sick; for he was healed directly, as soon as the centurion had expressed his faith, and Christ had declared that it should be according to it, Matthew 8:13.
that he went into a city called Naim; which Jerom (p) places near Mount Tabor, and the river Kison. The (q) Jews speak of a Naim in, the tribe of Issachar, so called from its pleasantness, and which seems to be the same place with this. The Persic version reads it, "Nabetis", or "Neapolis", the same With Sychem in Samaria, but without reason:
and many of his disciples went with him; not only the twelve, but many others:
and much people; from Capernaum, and other parts, that followed him to see his miracles, or for one end or another, though, they did not believe in him; at least these were only hearers, and had, not entered themselves among the disciples,
(p) Tom. 1. ad Marcellum, fol. 44. B. & Epitaph. Paulae. fol. 60. A. (q) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 98. fol. 86. 1.
behold: there was a dead man carried out; of the city; for they, used not to bury in cities, but in places without, and at some distance: the burying places of the Jews were not near, their cities (r); and they had different ways of carrying them out to be buried, according to their different ages: a child under a month old was carried out in the bosom of a person; if a full month old, in a little coffin, which they carried in their arms; one of a twelve month old was carried in a little coffin on the shoulder; and one of three years old on a bier or bed, (s) and so upwards; and in this manner was this corpse carried out: who was
the only son of his mother; hence the sorrow and mourning were the greater; see Zechariah 12:10
and she was a widow; and if she had been supported by her son, her loss was very considerable; and having neither husband, nor son, to do for her, her case was very affecting:
and much people of the city was with her; according to the age of persons was the company that attended them to the grave: if it was an infant, not a month old, it was buried by one woman, and two men, but not by one man, and two women; if a month old, by men and women; and whoever was carried out on a bier or bed, many mourned for him; and whoever was known to many, many accompanied him (t); and which was the case this dead man: he seems to have been well known and respected by the company that attended him to his grave; of these some were bearers, and these had their deputies, and these again theirs; for as they carried their dead a great way, they were obliged often to change their bearers; and of the company, some went before the bier, and others went after it (u): besides, what served to increase company at a funeral was, that it was looked upon as an act of kindness and mercy to follow a corpse to the grave (w); to which may be added, and what must always tend to increase the number at such a time, that, according to the Jewish canons (x).
"it was forbidden to do any work at the time a dead man was buried, even one of the common people.''
(r) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 80. 2. Gloss. (s) T. Moed Katon, fol. 24. 1, 2. & Kiddashin, fol. 80. 2. Massech. Semachot, c. 3. sect. 2, 3. Maimon. Hilch. Ebel, c. 12. sect. 10, 11. (t) Ut in locis supra citatis. (u) Vid Misn. Beracot, c. 3. sect. 1.((w) Maimon. in Misn. Peah, c. 1. sect. 1.((x) Piske Tosaphot Megilla, art. 106. T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 27. 2.
and said unto her, weep not; signifying, that he would help her, which he did without being asked to do it, as usual in other cases.
"formerly the rich carried out (their dead) upon a bed called Dargash, (which is said (a) to be a bed that was not platted with ropes, and is called a bed of fortune (b),) and the poor carried out (their dead) upon one that was called Celicah, (or Celibah, as sometimes read; and this was made in the form of an iron horn, on which they bound the corpse, that it might not fall; and it was called so, because it was made like a coup of birds (c) as the word is used in Jeremiah 5:27) and the poor, were made ashamed; and therefore they ordered that all should carry out (their dead) on a Celicah, for the honour of the poor.''
To this Christ came near and touched: not that by his touching of that, the dead should be raised; but this he did as a signal, that the bearers should stop. The Jews (d) say, one of the charges that Jacob gave to his sons before his death, was, to:
"take care (says he) that no uncircumcised person, touch my bed, or "bier", lest the Shekinah remove from me; but, according to this order, do unto me, carry me, three on the north, three on the south, three on the east, and three on the west, &c.''
From whence it should seem, that a circumcised person, as Christ was, might touch a bier without offence, or hurt, and without contracting any ceremonial pollution: to touch a dead body, or the bone of man, or a grave, was forbidden by the law, Numbers 19:16 and so, according to the traditions of the elders (e), the stone that was rolled at the mouth of the sepulchre, and the, side of the sepulchre, defiled by touching; but I do not find that touching a bier was ever forbidden.
And they that bare him stood still: these are they that are called "the bearers of the bed", or "bier": and Maimonides (f) says,
"they carry the dead upon their shoulders to the grave; and the bearers of the bier are forbidden to put on their sandals, lest the latchet of any one of them should fail, and should be found to hinder him doing his duty.''
And elsewhere it is said (g),
"the bearers of the bed, or bier, and their deputies, and their deputies' deputies, both before the bier and after it, find whoever the bier stood in need of, were free;''
i.e. from reading the Shema, or, "hear, O Israel", &c. and from prayer: the reason of their having so many bearers was, because they carried the dead a great way to be buried. King Herod was carried after this manner two hundred furlongs from Jerusalem, to the castle of Herodion (h):
and he said, young man, I say unto thee, arise. The Ethiopic version adds, "and he arose": Christ spoke as one that had the keys of death and the grave; and divine power went along with his words, which raised the dead man to life; and full proof this is of the true and proper deity of Christ.
(y) De Bello Jud. l. 1. c. 33. sect. 11. (z) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 27. 1, 2.((a) T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 5. 4. (b) T. Bab. Nedarim, fol. 56. 2.((c) R. Sampson & Bartenora in Misn. Para, c. 12. sect. 9. (d) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 100. fol. 87. 4. (e) Misn. Oholot, c. 2. sect. 4. (f) Hilchot. Ebel, c. 4. sect. 2. 3. (g) Misn. Beracot, c. 3. sect. 1.((h) Josephus, ut supra. (De Bello Jud. l. 1. c. 33. sect. 11.)
sat up; upon the bed, or bier: and began to speak; both which, his sitting up and speaking, were plain proofs of his being brought to life:
and he delivered him to his mother; for whose sake he raised him from the dead, commiserating her case: wherefore, as Christ showed his power in raising the dead man, he discovered great humanity, kindness, and tenderness, in delivering him alive to his mother; which might be done after he came off of the bier, by taking him by the hand, and leading him to his mother, and giving him up into her arms: think what affecting scene this must be!
and they glorified God; they praised him, and gave thanks to him, ascribing this amazing action to divine power, and gave God the glory of it; and blessed him for the Messiah, who was sent unto them, as they concluded Jesus to be, from this wonderful instance:
saying, that a great prophet is risen up among us; even that great prophet Moses wrote of, and said should be raised up from among the children of Israel, Deuteronomy 18:15 and that God hath visited his people. The Arabic version adds, "for good". For God sometimes visits for evil, in a wave of wrath and sore displeasure; but this was a visitation for good: they concluded that God had looked upon them with a look of love, and had a gracious regard to them, and had sent them the Messiah, who, they hoped, would deliver them from the Roman yoke; as he had formerly looked upon, and visited their fathers, and sent a redeemer to them, to deliver them from Egyptian bondage. The Ethiopic version renders it, "and God hath mercy on his people"; and the Persic version, "God hath looked upon his people, and hath taken care of them."
went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about; not only Judea, and the several cities, towns, and villages in it, but all the country round about it, especially Galilee. The Persic version reads, "all countries which are round about Jordan"; see Matthew 3:5.
Sent them unto Jesus, saying, art thou he that should come, or look we for another? not that he doubted that Jesus was the Messiah; nor was it for his own satisfaction so much that he sent these disciples of his with this question, but for theirs; and to remove all doubt and hesitation from them about Christ.
they said, John the Baptist; so well known by his being the administrator of the ordinance of baptism:
hath sent us unto thee, saying, art thou he that should come, or look we for another? See Gill on Matthew 11:3.
he, Jesus, as the Persic version expresses it,
cured many of their infirmities; bodily weaknesses and disorders: and plagues; which were inflicted on them as scourges and corrections for sin, very severe diseases, as epilepsies, leprosies, palsies, &c. and of evil spirits; or devils, which he dispossessed and commanded out of the bodies of men; though sometimes evil spirits, with the Jews, signify some kinds of bodily diseases: as when it is said (i).
"whoever puts out a lamp because he is afraid of Gentiles, or of thieves, or of , "an evil spirit", or because of a sick man that is asleep, he is free.''
Upon which Maimonides observes,
"an evil spirit they call all kinds of diseases, which, in the Arabic language, go by the name of "melancholy"; for it is one kind of the diseases mentioned, which makes a sick man to fly, and separate himself from mankind, as if he was afraid of the light, or of coming into the company of men:''
and unto many that were blind he gave sight; freely, as an act of grace and kindness, as the word signifies, without any merit, or motive, in them.
(i) Misn. Sabbat, c. 2. sect. 5. Vid Maimon. Hilchot Gerushin, c. 2. sect. 14.
go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard. They had just seen many cured of infirmities, plagues, and evil spirits, and they had heard the doctrines of the Gospel preached by him; and the former were in confirmation of the latter, and both were proofs of his being the Messiah: the particulars of which follow,
how that the blind see; that is, they that had been blind, and some that were born blind received their sight, which was what was never heard of before, from the beginning of the world; and which, as it is an instance of Christ's almighty power, showing him to be God; so it was a fulfilment of a prophecy concerning him as the Messiah, who, when he came, was to open the eyes of the blind, Isaiah 35:5 and this was true, not only in a corporeal, but in a spiritual sense: and generally so it was, that when the blind received their bodily sight, they also received their spiritual sight; and both were evidences of the true Messiahship of our Lord Jesus.
The lame walk; these were among those who were cured of their infirmities; and this also was prophesied of the Messiah, and was now accomplished by Jesus, that "the lame man" should "leap as an hart", Isaiah 35:6 and so was to be considered by John, and his disciples, as another proof of his being the true Messiah:
the lepers are cleansed; of this sort were they who were cured of their plagues: the leprosy was called a plague; hence the treatise of leprosy, in the Misna, is, by the Jews, called Negaim, or "plagues".
The deaf hear; so in the above prophecy in Isaiah, it is predicted, that "the ears of the deaf should be unstopped" in the days of the Messiah; and which therefore must be considered as a further confirmation of Jesus being he that was to come, and that another was not to be looked for.
The dead are raised: whether there were any raised at this time, or no, is not certain; but certain it is, that there had been one raised from the dead, if not in the presence of these disciples, yet just before they came to Christ, of which John had been informed by some of his disciples, if not these; and of which an account is given before in this chapter, and which is what none but the mighty God can do.
To the poor the Gospel is preached: it was preached both by the poor, the disciples of Christ, and to the poor, mean, base, and illiterate among the Jews; and also to the poor, meek, and lowly in heart, as was prophesied should be, by the Messiah, Isaiah 61:1 so that put all together, here were undoubted proofs, and a full demonstration, that Jesus was the Messiah; See Gill on Matthew 11:4. See Gill on Matthew 11:5.
he, "Jesus", as the Persic version expresses it,
began to speak unto the people concerning John; not caring to say any thing about him to the messengers, or whilst they were present, lest he should be charged with flattery; See Gill on Matthew 11:7.
What went ye into the wilderness for to see? a reed shaken with the wind? an inconsistent, wavering, and unstable man? if so, they were greatly mistaken; or the motions and gesture of the man? See Gill on Matthew 11:7.
a man clothed in soft raiment? If this was the case, their labour was in vain, and they had their walk for nothing; for John was clothed with camels' hair, rough and undressed, and was girt with a leathern girdle; there was nothing in his person, mien, and garb, that was attractive:
they which are gorgeously, apparelled; or richly clothed, as John was not:
and live delicately; in the most elegant manner, and on the richest dainties, as John did not, his food being locusts and wild honey:
are in kings' courts; and not in a wilderness, where John; came preaching.
a prophet? which was the case; for John was a prophet, and was known to be one; and the fame of him, as such, drew vast numbers to see and hear him, there not having been a prophet among the Jews, for some hundreds of years:
yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet; not that he was the prophet Moses did say should come; nor was he the priest that should arise with the "Urim" and "Thummim", that the "Tirshatha", Nehemiah spoke of; nor was he the king Messiah; but he was his forerunner, he saw him and baptized him, and so was greater than any of the prophets that went before him.
and the publicans justified God; even those wicked men, who were before profligate and abandoned sinners, when they came under John's ministry, were so wrought upon by the power and grace of God through it, that they approved of, and applauded the wisdom, goodness, and grace of God, in sending such a prophet as John; in qualifying him in the manner he did, and giving in him a commission to preach such doctrines, and administer such an ordinance as he did: and this their approbation of the divine conduct, and their thankfulness for the same, they testified by their
being baptized with the baptism of John; they expressed their sentiments by their obedience; they declared it was right in God to institute such an ordinance, and for John to administer it; and that it became them to submit to it, as a part of righteousness to be fulfilled; they hereby signified, that they thought that it was agreeable to the nature of God, who is holy, just, and good, suitable to the Gospel dispensation, and very fit and proper for them.
they despised the command of God: that is, the ordinance of baptism, which was of God, and the produce of his counsel and wisdom, as the whole scheme, and all the ordinances of the Gospel are, and not the invention of men: or they rejected this "in themselves", as it may be rendered, and is by the Syriac and Persic versions; not openly and publicly, for they were afraid of the people, but inwardly and privately, and which their actions and conduct declared:
being not baptized of him; of John: by their neglect of this ordinance, they testified their aversion to it, and rejection of it.
whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation; or "to what men shall I liken them", as the Persic version: the phrase "men of this generation", is Rabbinical; so , the men of that "generation", are more beautiful in work than these, says the Targumist on Ecclesiastes 7:11. "And to what are they like?" To that which follows.
sitting in the market place; where children were wont to be, there being a variety of persons and things to be seen; and which may design the temple, or the synagogues, or any place of concourse, where the Pharisees met, with John, Christ, and their disciples:
and calling one to another, and saying; they that were good natured, and more disposed to mirth and innocent diversions:
we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept: they imitated the pipers at weddings, expecting their companions would have danced, as was usually done by the others, when the pipe was played upon; and they mimicked the mourning women at funerals, expecting their fellows would have made as though they had wept; whereas they would do neither, showing a dislike both to the one and to the other. The children that imitated the pipers, represent Christ and his disciples, who delivered the joyful sound of the Gospel; and the children that acted the part of the mourners, signify John the Baptist, and his disciples, who preached the doctrine of repentance; and the children that would not join with, nor make any answer to the one, or the other, intend the Scribes and Pharisees, who were not pleased with either of them, as the following words show; See Gill on Matthew 11:16. See Gill on Matthew 11:17.
came neither eating bread, nor drinking wine; which were the common food and drink of men, but his diet were locusts and wild honey, and from this he often abstained; nor would he attend festivals and entertainments, or be free and sociable with men: "bread" and "wine" are here mentioned, which are not in Matthew:
and ye say, he hath a devil; is mad, or melancholy; for madness and melancholy, or the hypochondriac disorder, was by them sometimes imputed to a diabolical possession, and influence, as the cause of it; and though these men pretended to great austerity of life, and frequent fastings, yet John was too abstemious for them, and they could not agree with his doctrine nor method of living; See Gill on Matthew 12:18.
and ye say, behold a gluttonous man and a wine bibber; an epicurian, a drunkard, a mere sot, one that gives up himself to sensual pleasures:
a friend of publicans and sinners; a good fellow, a boon companion, that sits with them, and encourages them in their revellings and drunkenness: such an ill use did the Jews make of our Lord's free, harmless, and innocent conversation with men; and in such a horrid manner did they traduce and vilify him, who was holy in his nature, harmless in his life, separate from sinners, knew no sin, nor ever committed any.
Desired that he would eat with him; take a meal with him, either a dinner or a supper: this he did under a disguise of respect, and show of affection to him; though very likely with a design upon him to ensnare him, or take some advantage against him if he could; for it is certain, that he did not treat him with those civilities and ceremonies commonly used to guests; see Luke 7:44.
And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat: he made no hesitation about it, but at once accepted of his invitation, though he knew both the man and his intentions; having nothing to fear from him, and being willing to carry it courteously to all men, and give proof of what he had just now said of himself, Luke 7:34.
which was a sinner; a notorious sinner, one that was known by all to have been a person of a wicked, life and conversation; a lewd woman, a vile prostitute, an harlot, commonly reputed so: the Arabic word here used, signifies both a sinner and a whore (k); and so the word, sinners, seems to be used elsewhere by Luke; see Luke 15:1 compared with Matthew 21:31. Some think she was a Gentile, Gentiles being reckoned by the Jews sinners, and the worst of sinners; but this does not appear:
when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house; having observed it herself, that he was invited by him, and went with him, or being informed of it by others,
brought an alabaster box of ointment: ointment was used to be put in vessels made of "alabaster", which kept it pure and incorrupt; and this stone was found about Damascus, (l) so that there might be plenty of it in Judea; at least it might be easily had, and such boxes might be common; and as this woman appears to have been a lewd person, she might have this box of ointment by her to anoint herself with, that she might recommend herself to her gallants. The historian (m) reports, that
"Venus gave to Phaon an alabaster box with ointment, with which Phaon, being anointed, became the most beautiful of men, and the women of Mitylene were taken with the love of him.''
If this box had been provided with such a view; it was now used to another and different purpose.
(k) Vid. Castell. Lex. Heptaglott. col. 1195. (l) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 36. c. 8. (m) Aelian. var. Hist. l. 12. c. 8.
and began to wash his feet with tears: which fell from her eyes in such abundance upon his feet, as she stood by him that they were like a shower of rain, as the word signifies, with which his feet were as it were bathed and washed; his shoes or sandals being off, as was the custom at eating so to do, lest they should daub the couch or bed, on which they lay (o). Her tears she used instead of water; for it was the custom first to wash the feet before they were anointed with oil, which she intended to do; and for which purpose she had brought with her an alabaster box of ointment: it is said (p) of one,
"when he came home, that his maid brought him a pot of hot water, and he washed his hands and his feet in it; then she brought him a golden basin full of oil, and he dipped his hands and his feet in it, to fulfil what is said, Deuteronomy 33:24 and after they had eaten and drank, he measured out oil, &c.''
And it is: a general rule with the Jews (q),
"that whoever anoints his feet, is obliged to washing or dipping.''
And did wipe them with the hairs of her head; which were long, and hung loose about her shoulders, it being usual and comely for women to wear long hair, 1 Corinthians 11:15. That which was her ornament and pride, and which she took great care of to nourish and put in proper form, to, render her desirable, she uses instead of a towel to wipe her Lord's feet, and her tears off of them. A like phrase is used of one by Apuleius,
"his verbis & amplexibus mollibus decantatus maritus, lachrymasque ejus suis crinibus detergens, &c. (r):''
"and kissed his feet". This was no unusual practice with the Jews; we often read of it (s):
"R. Jonathan and R. Jannai were sitting together, there came a certain man, , "and kissed the feet" of R. Jonathan.''
"R. Meir stood up, and Bar Chama, , "kissed his knees", or "feet".''
This custom was also used by the Greeks and Romans among their civilities, and in their salutations (u):
and anointed them with the ointment; which she brought with her.
(n) Vid Alstorphium de lectis veterum, p. 106, 107. (o) Ib. p. 123, 124. (p) T. Bab. Meuachot, fol. 85. 2.((q) T. Bab. Zebachim, fol. 26. 2. Maimon. Hilchot Biath Harnikdash, c. 5. sect. 5. (r) Metamorph. l. 5. (s) T. Hieros. Peah, fol. 15. 4. & Kiddushin, fol. 61. 3. T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 49. 2. Vid. ib. fol. 63. 1.((t) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol 27. 2.((u) Vid. Aristophanem in vespis, p. 473. Arvian Epictet. l. 3. c. 26. & Alex. ab. Alex. Gen. Dier. l. 2. c. 19.
he spoke within himself; not openly and publicly, being in good manners, though not in real respect to Christ, unwilling to affront his guest; but turned these things over in his mind, and reasoned upon them within himself:
saying, this man, if he were a prophet; as he was said, and believed to be by many, but questioned by this Pharisee:
would have known who and what manner of woman this is, that toucheth him; he took it for granted that Christ did not know this woman personally, that she was one of the city; nor her character, or "what" was "her fame", as the Syriac version renders it, which was very ill; or "her condition", as the Arabic version, she being not a religious person, but a notorious lewd one: this he concluded, from his admitting her to such nearness to him, and familiarity with him; and from hence argues within himself, that he could not be a prophet; since, according to his notion of a prophet, he must know persons and their characters; though this was not always requisite in a prophet, nor did the prophetic gift at all times show itself in this way: however, this man reasoned upon the commonly received notions of the Pharisees, both of the Messiah, the prophet that Moses said should come, and of their own conduct, and of all religious men: their notion with respect to the Messiah was, that he should be of so quick an understanding, or smell, as in Isaiah 11:3 that he should know at once who was a wicked person, and who not.
"Bar Coziba (they say (w)) reigned two years and a half; he said to, the Rabbans, I am the Messiah; they replied to him, it is written of the Messiah, Isaiah 11:3 that he smells, or is of quick understanding and judges (the gloss on it is, he smells on a man, and judges and knows, , "who is a wicked man"): let us see whether he smells and judges; and when they saw that he did not smell and judge, they killed him.''
But Jesus, the true Messiah, could do so; he knew who were sinners, he knew this woman to be one, as the following account shows: and their notion with respect to the conduct of religious persons towards the common people, and those of a bad character, and which the Pharisee here suggests, was, that the touch of such persons was defiling, and therefore to be avoided: for they say (x), that
"the Pharisees, if they touched the garments of the common people, they were defiled.''
And therefore when they walked in the streets,
"they walked in the sides (of the ways), that they might not be defiled, "by the touch" of the common people (y)''
For she is a sinner; a notorious one; or "that she is a sinner"; and the sense is, Christ, had he been a prophet, the Pharisee intimates, would have known that this woman was a vile creature; and he would have shown it; by his abhorrence and rejection of her; or as the Persic version adds, "would have declared her sins".
(w) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 9. (x) Maimon. in Misn. Chagiga, c. 2. sect. 7. (y) Ib. Hilchot Abot Hatumaot, c. 13. sect. 8.
Simon, I have somewhat to say to thee; this could not be Simon Peter, Christ spoke to, as some have suggested; for the answer is made unto the Pharisee, and he is the person addressed by the name of Simon; even he, into whose house Christ entered, and now was, as appears from Luke 7:44.
And he saith, Master; or teacher, or doctor; or as the Syriac version, "Rabbi"; which was the common salutation of doctors:
say on. This was a way of speaking in use with the Jews, giving leave to proceed in a discourse; and as Christ was now a guest in this man's house, he asks leave of him, and he grants him it: so we read of R. Simeon ben Gamaliel (z) that he said to R. Ishmael ben Elishah,
"is it thy pleasure that I should say before thee one thing? he said unto him, "say on".''
Again, R. Jochanan ben Zaccai said (a) to a certain governor,
"suffer me to say one thing to thee: he replied to him, "say on".''
(z) Abot R. Nathan, c. 38. fol. 9. 2.((a) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 4. fol. 183. 1.
which had two debtors, the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty; these were, as the word shows, Roman "denarii" or "pence"; the former of these sums, reckoning a Roman penny at seven pence halfpenny of our money, amounted to fifteen pounds and twelve shillings and six pence; and the latter, to one pound eleven shillings and three pence; the one of these sums was ten times larger, than the other. This is a parable: by "the creditor", God is meant, to whom men owe their beings, and the preservation of them, and all the mercies of life; and are under obligation to obedience and thankfulness: hence: no man can merit any thing of God, or pay off any old debt, by a new act of obedience, since all is due to him: by the "two debtors" are meant, greater and lesser sinners: all sins are debts, and all sinners are debtors; not debtors to sin, for then it would not be criminal, but lawful to commit sin, and God must be pleased with it, which he is not, and men might promise themselves impunity, which they cannot; but they are debtors to fulfil the law, and in case of failure, are bound to the debt of punishment: and of these debtors and debts, some are greater, and others less; not but that they, are all equally sinners in Adam, and equally guilty and corrupted by his transgression; and the same seeds of sin are in the hearts of all men, and all sin is committed against God, and is a breach of his law, and is mortal, or deserving of death, even death eternal; but then as some commands are greater, and others less, so must their transgressions be: sin more immediately committed against God, is greater than that which is committed against our neighbour; and besides, the circumstances of persons and things differ, which more or less aggravate the offence.
he frankly forgave them both: their whole debts, without regard to any merits of theirs, which they could not have, or any motives in them, or any conditions to be performed by them, but purely of his sovereign will, free grace, and rich mercy, though not without regard to the satisfaction of his Son; which by no means hinders the frankness of the pardon, or obscures the grace of it, but increases and illustrates it; seeing this satisfaction is of God's own finding out, providing, and accepting; and is at his own expense, and without money and price, to the debtors:
tell me therefore, which of them will love him most; or "ought to love him most", as the Ethiopic version. The Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, leave out the first part of this clause, "tell me".
I suppose, that he to whom he forgave most; it was his opinion, and to him a plain case, that he that owed the largest debt, and that being forgiven him fully, and freely, as he was under the greatest obligation, so as he ought, he would show the greatest love and affection to his kind and gracious creditor:
and he said unto him; that is, Jesus said, as the Syriac and Persic versions express it:
thou hast rightly judged; this is a right and true judgment of the case; it is according to the nature and truth of things, and what is obvious and clear at first sight, and which every one must agree to.
and said to Simon, seest thou this woman? and what she has done? pointing to her, and comparing him, and her, and their actions together, whereby he might judge of the preceding parable, and how fitly it might be applied to the present case:
I entered into thine house; not of his own accord, but by the invitation of Simon, and therefore might have expected the usual civilities:
thou gavest me no water for my feet: to wash them with, no, not so much as water; a civility very common in those hot countries, where walking without stockings, and only with sandals, they needed often washing; and which was very refreshing, and was not only used to travellers and strangers, but to guests, and was usually done by the servants of the house; See Gill on Luke 7:38.
but she hath washed my feet with tears. The Persic version reads, "with the tears of her eyes"; which made a bath for his feet;
and wiped them with the hairs of her head. The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions read only, "with her hair", which she used instead of a towel, when Simon neither gave him water to wash with, nor a towel to wipe with.
"all kisses are foolish, excepting three; the kiss of grandeur or dignity, as in 1 Samuel 10:1 and the kiss at parting, as in Ruth 1:14 and the kiss at meeting, as in Exodus 4:27 (of which sort this kiss may be thought to be), to which some add the kiss of consanguinity (or that used by relations to one another), as in Genesis 29:11'
but this woman, since the time I came in. The Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions read, "since she came in"; and so two of Stephens's copies; which seems to be the more agreeable reading, seeing Christ was in Simon's house before this woman came; for she knowing that he was there, came thither after him:
hath not ceased to kiss my feet; which shows, that this action was repeated by her times without number, even ever since she came into the house.
(b) Shemot Rabba, sect. 6. fol. 91. 3, 4.
but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment; even "with ointment" "of spices", as the Syriac version renders it. There is, throughout the whole account, an opposition between the conduct of Simon, and this woman: he gave him no common water to wash his feet with, she shed floods of tears, and with them bathed his feet, and then wiped them clean with the hairs of her head; he gave him not the usual salutation by kissing his head or lips, but she kissed his feet, and that over and over again; he did not so much as anoint his head with common oil, when she anointed his feet with costly ointment brought in an alabaster box. These several ceremonies to guests were used by their hosts, in other nations, such as washing, anointing, and kissing (c).
(c) Vid. Apuleii Metamorph. i. 1. prope finem.
her sins, which are many, are forgiven; though she was like the largest debtor in the parable, which owed five hundred pence, yet the whole score was cleared; though her sins were numerous, and attended with very aggravating circumstances, which denominated her a sinner in a very emphatic sense, a notorious one, yet they were all fully, and freely forgiven:
for she loved much; or "therefore she loved much": her great love was not the cause of the remission of her sins, but the full and free remission of her many sins, which had been, manifested to her, was the cause of her great love, and of her showing it in the manner she had done: that this is the sense of the words, is clear from the parable, and the accommodation of it to the present case, otherwise there would be no agreement. Upon relating the parable of the two debtors, Christ puts the question to Simon, which of the two it was most reasonable to think would love most? his answer is and which Christ approved of, he to whom most was forgiven; where, it is plain, that according to our Lord's sense, and even Simon's opinion of the case, that forgiveness is the cause, and love the effect; and that according as the forgiveness is of more or less, love is proportionate; and which is applied to the case in hand: this poor woman had been a great sinner; her many sins were pardoned; and therefore she expressed much love to him, from whom she had received her pardon by the above actions, and much more than Simon had done:
but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little; this is an accommodation of the other part of the parable, and has a very special respect to Simon, the Pharisee, whose debts, in his own opinion, were few or none, at least ten times less than this woman's; and he had little or no sense of the forgiveness of them, or of any obligation to Christ on that account; and therefore was very sparing of his love and respect, and even of common civilities to him.
thy sins are forgiven; which was said, partly on account of the Pharisee, to let him see, that he knew this woman, what she was, and had been; that she had been a sinner, a great sinner, one that owed five hundred pence, but was now forgiven, washed, cleansed, sanctified, and justified, and therefore not to be shunned and avoided; and partly on the woman's account, that she might have a fresh discovery of the forgiveness of her sins, for her comfort under the severe censure of the Pharisee, and that her faith in it might be strengthened; as also on his own account, to show that he was not only a prophet that had extraordinary knowledge of persons, and their characters, but that he was the most high God, to whom belonged the prerogative of pardoning sin.
began to say within themselves; that is, either thought and reasoned in their own minds, or whispered among themselves:
who is this that forgiveth sins also? who not content to transgress the traditions of the elders, by admitting a sinful woman to touch him, but assumes that to himself which is peculiar to God, to forgive sin: this they said, not as wondering at him, what manner of person he must be, that with such authority pronounced the forgiveness of sin, as Grotius thinks; but rather as offended with him, and filled with indignation against him, and so censuring and reproaching him for wickedness and blasphemy.