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Song of Solomon
Matthew 22 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,
Parable of the marriage of the king's son.
(Peculiar to St. Matthew.)
answered and spake unto them.
After they had heard our Lord's words at the end of the last chapter, the Pharisees, according to St. Mark, "left him, and went their way," so that this parable was spoken in the audience of the disciples and the attendant multitude alone, without the former disturbing element. This fact may account for its exhibiting certain merciful and gracious features, setting forth the privilege rather than the duty of obeying the gospel call. The term "answered" often does not signify a reply given to some distinct question, but is equivalent to "took occasion to observe" (comp.
, etc.). Here the occasion was the insidious schemes of his enemies.
. With reference to the two parables in the preceding chapter.
. The plural denotes the class to which the discourse belongs; or it may refer to the many parabolic details contained herein. Only one parable follows. This bears great resemblance to the parable of the great supper (
.), which, however, was spoken at an earlier period, in another locality, and with a different object, and disagrees in many details, especially in the absence of the wedding garment. Christ, doubtless, often repeated his parables with variations in particulars to suit time, audiences, and circumstances.
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
The kingdom of heaven is like
. This parable supplements that of the wicked husbandmen. As that referred to Jewish times, so this refers to gospel times. The householder in the one becomes the king in the other; one demands work and duty, the other bestows gifts and blessings; one is angered at ingratitude for favours received, the other punishes for contempt of offered bounty.
A certain king;
a man a king
, even God the Father, the expression denoting "the Almighty's wonderful condescension, as assimilating himself to our infirmities in his dispensations towards us" (I. Williams).
Made a marriage;
; the plural perhaps denoting the days consumed in the celebration (see
; Tobit 8:19, 20). Morison compares our English word "nuptials." In the Old Testament, Jehovah is the Husband of his Church; in the New, Christ is represented as married to the spiritual Israel, which takes the place of the older dispensation.
For his son.
Jesus Christ, whose intimate union with his Church is often represented under the figure of a marriage (see
2 Corinthians 11:2
Ephesians 5:23, 32
And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
Sent forth his servants.
In the East, the original invitation to a solemn festivity is followed by reminders as the day approaches (comp.
). The servants here are John the Baptist, the twelve apostles, the seventy, who first preached the gospel to the Jewish people.
Them that were bidden.
The Jews had already been invited to come in; to them already belonged "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants... and the promises" (
). These early missionaries were sent to bring such things to their remembrance, and to bid them obey the call.
They would not
. Their reasons for refusal are not given here - a fact which differentiates this parable from that of the great supper. A general disinclination or aversion is denoted; no actual outrage is perpetrated as yet, but the invited guests are ripening for this stage, in that they despise the King's Son, and believe not in his Divine mission. This backwardness and obduracy recall Christ's lamentation, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" (
Luke 13:34, 35
Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and
killed, and all things
ready: come unto the marriage.
The apostles and their immediate followers after the death and resurrection of Christ, and the effusion of the Holy Ghost. A fresh call was mercifully given with new graces and new degrees of revelation.
). This is the lighter midday meal, which was the commencement of the festivities, and was followed by the supper (
) in the evening. Are
. The great Sacrifice has been offered, the Victim slain (
), the Holy Spirit has made all things ready. Here are grace, health, abundance, to be had for acceptance. We may compare the invitation of Wisdom in the Old Testament (
, etc.) with this of Christ. In Jewish minds the blessings of Messiah's kingdom are constantly connected with the idea of a sumptuous feast, as in
; and our Lord himself uses the same image (
But they made light of
, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
They made light of it, and went their ways.
They who refused the invitation are divided into two classes - the first mentioned in this verse, the second in the following. These are simply careless, indifferent scorners, who are too busy with their worldly concerns to attend to the claims of the gospel. So we read, "The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things; and they scoffed at him" (
Matthew 19:23, 24
τὸν ἴδιον ἀγρὸν
his own farm
, or estate. This is the landed proprietor, who goes to the selfish enjoyment of his possessions.
This is the busy trader, who is engrossed in the pursuit of wealth (compare the excuses in
Luke 14:18, 19
And the remnant took his servants, and entreated
spitefully, and slew
These form the second class of recalcitrant guests. They are actively hostile to the King and his messengers, rejecting them not merely for worldly or interested motives, but from intense hatred to the doctrines which they taught. Such were the scribes and Pharisees, who could not endure to see the Law superseded, and the Gentiles raised to their level; such were the Sadducees, who scoffed at a faith founded on the resurrection, and refused credit to the miraculous with which the gospel was interwoven.
Took his servants.
The narratives in the Acts give many instances of the seizure and imprisonment of apostles and believers (see
2 Corinthians 11:23-25
), James (
). All but one of the apostles died violent deaths at the hands of those who rejected the gospel; and there must have been numbers of martyrs of whom history has preserved no record, though their names are written in heaven, which is far better.
But when the king heard
, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
When the king heard
thereof. The text varies here. Some manuscripts have "that king," to whom the rejection of his messengers was a personal insult (comp.
2 Samuel 10:4
, etc.). The Sinaitic, Vatican, and other authorities omit
, "heard thereof," and it may well be a gloss from the human view that the king, not being personally present, must have been informed of the incidents. At the same time, the King, regarded as God, needs no report to acquaint him with what is going on.
He was wroth.
The injury was done to him, and he resents it (comp.
The Romans, under Vespasian and Titus, the unconscious instruments of his vengeance. So the Assyrians are called "the rod of God's anger" (
). Some regard the "armies" as angels, the ministers of God's punishment, especially in war, famine, and pestilence, the three scourges which accomplished the ruin of the Jews. Probably both angels and men are included in the term.
Destroyed... burned up their city.
No longer his city, but theirs, the murderers' city, Jerusalem. So a little later foretelling the same fate, Jesus speaks of "your house" (
). The Romans, in fact, some forty years after, put to the sword the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and burned the city to ashes.
Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
Then saith he.
This is supposed to take place after the destruction of the murderers and their city; and, indeed, the final rejection of the Jews and the substitution of the Gentiles were consummated by the overthrow of Jerusalem and the Hebrew polity.
The wedding is ready.
God's great design is not frustrated by the neglect of those first invited, only the guests are changed.
Their unworthiness was proved by their rejection of the gracious call, as the worthiness of those subsequently called consisted in their acceptance thereof. The passage is well illustrated by the language of Paul and Barnabas (
Acts 13:46, 47
Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
τὰς διεξόδους τῶν
outlets of the ways.
The places where roads meet, beyond the city bounds in the country, which would naturally be a centre of concourse. The city where the marriage feast was now held is not named, because it is no longer Jerusalem, but somewhere, anywhere, in the Gentile world; for the call of the Gentiles is here set forth.
As many as ye shall find.
The invitation is no longer confined to the Jews; the whole human race is called to the marriage of the Lamb, to participate in the fruits of the Incarnation. This general evangelization was begun in apostolic times (see
Acts 8:5, 38
Acts 10:28, 48
), and has been carried on ever since. The apostles' special ministrations to the Jews seemed to have ended at the martyrdom of St. James the Less, A.D. 62 (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 20:09, l).
So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
Not "the partings of the ways," whither they had been ordered to go. Some see here an intimation of the imperfection of the work of human agents; but it is very doubtful if any such allusion is intended. More probably
is only a synonym for
τὰς διεξόδους τῶν ὁδῶν
Both bad and good.
The visible Church contains a mixed company, as Christ indicated by more than one parable;
the draw net, the tares, etc. (ch. 13.). The bad are named first, in order to show the infinite graciousness of the king. In the earliest times converts were baptized with very little preparation and without any probation, as we see in the case of the eunuch, the jailor, and many more mentioned in the Acts; and doubtless many were insincere and soon lapsed. When we read of whole households being baptized, and in later times of whole nations receiving Christian initiation, there must have been little individual preparation of heart or cleansing of conscience, and the missioner had to take for granted much which more careful examination would have proved to be fallacious. The mention of this mixture of bad and good in the company introduces the final scene.
The Sinaitic, Vatican, and other manuscripts read "marriage chamber" (
). So Tischendorf and Westcott and Herr. But the received text is well founded, and seems more natural.
; so called from the customary attitude at meals.
And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
The king came in to see the guests,
who by this time had taken their appointed places at table. This second portion of the parable teaches that admission to the visible Church is not all that is required; there is also a scrutiny to be undergone and an award to be made. And that this investigation is keen and searching is denoted by the verb used,
, which means not merely, to see casually, but to gaze upon with the intent of seeing the real nature and character of an object. The king makes his appearance in the banqueting hall, not to feast with the guests, but to welcome them, and to examine if they are properly ordered, served, and fitted for the high honour accorded to them. How close and personal is this inquiry is shown by the immediate detection of one unseemly guest among the multitude. The time when he thus comes is, in one view, the day of judgment; but such visitation and scrutiny are always recurring, as at solemn seasons, in days of trial, sacred services, holy communion, when he searches men's hearts, and sees if they are prepared for his presence.
Which had not on a wedding garment;
ἐνδεδυμένον ἔνδυμα γάμου
not garbed in wedding garment
, the genitive expressing the peculiar character or quality of the garment. Wordsworth compares similar phrases:
2 Thessalonians 2:3, 9
2 Peter 2:1
, etc. It is said to have been an Oriental custom to present each guest invited to a royal feast with a festive robe to be worn on the occasion, as nowadays persons admitted to the royal presence are clothed with a caftan. Traces of the custom have been found in
2 Kings 5:22
2 Kings 10:22
; but they are not very convincing. The Romans seem to have had such a custom, the robes being called "cenatoria." Thus Martial, 10:87, 11, writes -
"Pugnorum reus ebriaeque noctis,
Cenatoria mittat advocato."
But the fact remains that this guest had not presented himself in attire befitting the solemnity; in his everyday garb, and with no proper preparation, he had dared to come to this great festival. What is the spiritual meaning of the wedding garment is much disputed. It is evidently some virtue, or quality, or mark which conditions admission to the enjoyment of the kingdom of God. On the one hand, it is said that both bad and good guests wear it, and its possession does not alter the character of the wearer. Dress is something external and visible, therefore the garment cannot represent an inward grace or feeling, but some outward token by which Christians are distinguished, such as open reception of baptism and sacraments, and public profession of the faith. On the other hand, it is contended that the whole matter is spiritual, though veiled in material forms, and is concerned with man's moral and spiritual nature. Hence it by no means follows that the wedding garment is not intended to have a spiritual signification. Ancient commentators universally look upon it in this light. Some regard it as an emblem of faith in Christ; others, of faith and love combined. "Habete fidem cum dilectione," writes St. Augustine, 'Serm.,' 90, "ista est vestis nuptialis." But it must be observed that faith of some sort was shown by accepting the invitation; so this could not be represented by the special garb which was absent. Others, again, see in it good works, or humility, or the purity effected by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Some moderns take it of "imputed," others of imparted, righteousness, bringing their controversies into the King's presence. chamber. The English Church, taking the marriage feast as a figure of the Holy Communion, applies the wedding garment to that cleansing of the conscience which enables persons to come holy and clean to that heavenly feast (see the first Exhortation to Holy Communion). This is legitimate, but too restricted in its reference. The feast denotes the present and future kingdom of God; the entrance to this is a matter of free grace; the garment is moral fitness, the life and conduct dependent on the due use of God's grace. This is in the power of all who have received the call; they have to act up to the high calling, to be wholly, heartily, really what they profess to be. The scrutiny, whether made in this life or in the life to come, shows how grace has been used, if we have put on Christ, if we have kept our soul pure and white, unsullied by sin, or washed clean by penitential tears and the blood of Christ (see
). The metaphor concerning this robe of righteousness is found in
, "He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with a garland, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." Commentators compare (but with doubtful appositeness)
Zephaniah 1:7, 8
And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
. It was thus that Christ addressed Judas in the garden (
). The term here has in it something of distrust and disapprobation.
How camest thou in hither?
The question may mean - How couldst thou presume to approach this solemn festival without the indispensable requisite? Or, how couldst thou elude the vigilance of the servants, and enter in this unseemly garb? The former is doubtless the signification of the inquiry. The contemptuous rejection of propriety is an outrage offered to the majesty of the king, and one worthy of severest punishment.
He was speechless;
he was muzzled
, tongue tied, as if his mouth were closed with a muzzle (comp. ver. 34; and
). He could make no reply; he had no excuse to offer. His silence condemned him. It is observed that gags were used for rebellious slaves or criminals on their way to execution (Webst. and Wilk.).
Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast
into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- not the same as the servants (
) who originally carried out the invitations. They are not preachers, but the guards of the throne, meaning probably the ministering angels who execute the King's commands (see ch. 13:41.49).
Bind him hand and foot.
By hand and foot men sin, by these they are punished. All hope of escape is thus removed. There is no trial; the offence is too gross and evident to need any further examination; the sentence is at once passed and carried out. He who Strives against God is helpless, and immediately condemned.
Take him away.
The offender is thus deprived of all good. This clause is omitted by most authorities, and has probably been introduced into the received text with the view of explaining the stages and progress of the ejectment. (The)
Far away from the glory and brightness of the banquet into the gloom and blackness of the outer world, which represents the misery of lost souls (see ch. 8:12, where the same expressions occur). "There are no longer feet to run to God's mercy or to flee from his justice; no longer hands to do good or make amends for evil; no longer saving light, whereby to know God or one's own duties. Nothing but darkness, pain, grief, tears, rage, fury, and despair, for him who is not in the wedding hall. This is the fruit of sin, and especially of the abuse of faith and grace" (Quesnel).
For many are called, but few
Many are called...chosen.
The rejected guest is a type of a numerous class (see
). All the Jews had first been called; then all the Gentiles; many were they who obeyed not the call; and of those who did come in, many were not of the inner election, of those, that is, whose life and character were worthy of the Christian name, showing the graces of faith, holiness, and love. Applying the parable generally, Origen (
I. Williams) says, "If any one will observe the populous congregations, and inquire how many there are who live a better kind of life, and are being transformed in the renewing of their mind; and how many who are careless in their conversation and conformed to this world, he will perceive the use of this voice of our Saviour's, 'Many are called, but few chosen;' and in another place it has been said, 'Many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able' (
); and, 'Strive earnestly to enter in by the narrow gate; for few there be that find it' (
Matthew 7:13, 14
Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in
Second attack: The question concerning the tribute to Caesar.
Then went the Pharisees.
After they had heard the parables, and were for the time silenced, they departed from the public courts of the temple, and betook themselves to the hall of the Sanhedrin, that they might plot some stratagem against Jesus.
How they might entangle
him in his talk.
The verb (not elsewhere found in the New Testament) means "to lay a snare for" an object. The Pharisees did not dare to use open violence, but they now endeavoured by insidious questions to make him compromise himself either with the Romans, their political masters, or with the national and patriotic party.
And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any
: for thou regardest not the person of men.
Men of their own party, or students in the rabbinical schools, like Paul, "brought up at the feet of Gamaliel" and such like teachers. They sent these unknown and apparently simpleminded persons, that they themselves, who were open and bitter enemies of Christ, might not appear in the matter.
With the Herodians.
The two bodies hated one another, but made now an unholy alliance for the purpose of attacking Jesus. Hatred, like poverty, makes men acquainted with strange companions. The Herodians were a political sect which supported the dynasty of Herod, and were more or less favourable to the dominion of Rome, as that which preserved their authority in the country. In religious opinions they were mostly Sadducees. The Pharisees, on the other hand, in their nominal zeal for God, were violently opposed to the claims of Rome, and ready to rebel at the first favourable opportunity. They regarded the Herodians as little better than the heathen whom they favoured, but sunk their differences in the face of a general peril. Between these antagonistic elements an impious league had been formed earlier in Christ's ministry (see
, equivalent to "Rabbi;" owning him for the nonce as one possessed of teaching authority, though they willed not to be his disciples.
; truthful. Thoroughly misapprehending the character of Jesus, they began by flattery. Nicodemus had spoken in sincerity when he said (
), "Rabbi, we know that thou art a Teacher come from God;" but these make the admission in hypocrisy; it was a
, prompted by the spirit of evil.
The way of God.
The precepts and rules which men must follow if they would please God. The phrase is common in the Old Testament (
Neither carest thou.
What men think or say of thee is no concern to thee. They cannot influence thy actions or disturb thy serenity.
The person of men.
Thou art thoroughly impartial; no considerations of rank, station, power, bias thy judgment, words, or actions. This is said with the view of encouraging him to answer without fear of offending the Roman authorities.
Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
Tell us therefore.
Because you are so truthful and impartial, give us your unprejudiced opinion about the following much-disputed question. These people assume to be simple-minded inquirers, who came to Jesus to have a perplexity resolved. St. Luke gives their real character, "They sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words."
Is it lawful
to give tribute
unto Caesar, or not?
The tribute is the poll tax levied by the Romans. Caesar at this time was Tiberius; the title was now applied to the emperors, though its subsequent use was different. By asking concerning the lawfulness of the payment, they do not inquire whether it was expedient or advisable to make it, but whether it was morally and religiously right, consistent with their obligation as subjects of the theocratic kingdom. Some, as Judas of Galilee (
; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 18:1: 1, 6), had resorted to violence in their opposition to the tax; and indeed, the question here put was much debated between opposite parties. The Pharisees were strongly opposed to foreign domination, and thought it derogatory and sacrilegious for the people of Jehovah to pay impost to a foreign and heathen authority. The Herodians, on the other hand, submitted without reserve to the supremacy of Rome, and, for political reasons, silenced all nationalist and ultra-patriotic feeling. By putting this question, the disputants thought to force Christ into a dilemma, where he must answer directly "Yes" or "No," and where, whichever reply he made, he would equally offend one or other of the parties into which the state was divided. If he affirmed the lawfulness of the tax, he would lose his popularity with the mass of the people, as one who disowned the sovereignty of Jehovah, and would give the death blow to his own claims as Messiah-King. If he garb a negative reply, he would be deemed an enemy of Rome and a promoter of seditious views, and be liable to be handed over to the civil power for the punishment of disaffection and treason (see
). They falsely brought this charge against him before Pilate (
But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me,
. The malice and hypocrisy which prompted the inquiry.
Why tempt ye me,
They were hypocrites because they falsely assumed the guise of conscientious men, who had no sinister motive, and desired merely to hear the decision of a much-esteemed Rabbi. Christ's words proved in a moment that he saw through them, understood the meaning of the temptation to which they had subjected him - how they were trying to involve him in a political difficulty, from which they deemed no escape was possible. The character which they had fiatteringly. given to Jesus (ver. 16) he here fully responds to.
Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
The tribute money;
the coin of the tribute
; that is, the coin in which the tribute was paid. The reply to the question was wholly unexpected. The Pharisaic "disciples" had hoped that Christ would have taken part against the Herodians; but he gives no decision about the matter in dispute, such as they desired. He virtually rebukes their dissimulation, and makes their own action supply the verdict which they demanded. Not seeing the drift of his request,
they brought unto him a penny;
(see on Matthew 18:28). This was the amount of the capitation tax, and it was paid in Roman, not Jewish, coinage. Just at this period the Jews had no mintage of their own, and were forced to use Roman coins, which might well be called "tribute money."
And he saith unto them, Whose
this image and superscription?
The figure and inscription on the denarius. Jesus takes the coin, and points to it as he speaks. It must have borne a likeness of the emperor, and,therefore, as Edersheim remarks, must have been either a foreign one (Roman) or possibly one of the Tetrareh Philip, who on some of his coins introduced the image of Tiberius. The coins struck by the Romans in or for Palestine had, in accommodation to Jewish prejudices, no representation of any personage upon them. The Roman denarius at this date had on the obverse side the head of Tiberius, crowned with laurel leaves, and bore the legend, "TI CAESAR DIVI AVG FAVGVSTVS," and on the reverse, a seated female figure, with the inscription, "PONTIF MAXIM."
They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
. They are constrained to answer that the coin bears the effigy of the Roman emperor.
, as a due)
therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's
). Rabbinism ruled that the right of coinage appertained to the ruler of a state, and was a proof of
government, which it was unlawful to resist. The current coin, which they used in their daily transactions, showed that the Jews were no longer independent, but set under and acquiescing in a foreign domination. Being subjects of Caesar, it was their duty to submit to his demands, and to pay the taxes which he had a right to levy. This was an answer to the insidious question propounded. Christ does not take either side in the controversy; he makes no question of the mutual rights of conquered and conquerors; he utters no aspiration for the recovery of independence; he uses facts as they are, and points to habitual practice as a sufficient solution of the difficulty. No reply could be wiser or simpler. Herein he gives a lesson for all time. No plea of religion can hold good against obedience to lawful authority. "Render to all their dues," says St. Paul (
): "tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."
The things that
τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ
. The things of God arc ourselves - our life, powers, faculties, means; to use these in God's service is our duty and our privilege. There need be no conflict between religion and politics, Church and state. Let a citizen do his duty to God, and he will find his obligations to the civil power are coincident and harmonious. Let the state respect the rights of God and of conscience, and there will he no collision between itself and the Church, but both will peaceably cooperate for the good of the community. Had the Jews rendered to God his dues, they would never have been reduced to their present state of subjection and debasement; would never have had to pay tribute to a foreign nation.
When they had heard
, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
Well might they marvel. Their carefully laid plot, which had seemed so irresistible, was utterly frustrated. The view of the relations of Church and state set forth by Christ was novel and incomprehensible. Hitherto the two provinces had been considered identical. The emperor, as we see impressed on his coins, was Pontifex Maximus; the Jewish priesthood had a political character, and the civil power was its instrument. In Christ's theory the spheres were distinct and not to be confounded. The state compelled obedience to its enactments; the Church left the conscience free, and obedience was voluntary and enforced by no external powers. The new society stood aloof from all political interests, and was responsible alone to God, while it performed its duties.
They had no answer to give. There was nothing in Christ's words that they could lay hold of; nothing treasonable, nothing unpatriotic. Baffled, though not convinced, the questioners sullenly withdrew; but they or their comrades afterwards had the effrontery to accuse Jesus of forbidding to pay tribute to Caesar (
The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,
The Sadducees and the resurrection.
This is still the Tuesday in the Holy Week.
There is no definite article here in the original.
. Many good manuscripts and some modern editors (Laehmann, Tregelles, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort) read
, "saying." The received reading historically describes the Sadducees' opinions; the other makes them come boldly stating their sentiments. Where authorities are pretty evenly balanced, we must decide the wording of a passage by other than literary considerations; and there can be no doubt that the reading which denotes the characteristic of the sect is more appropriate than that which represents them offensively parading their views as a preparation for the coming question. We have had notice of the Saddueees before (
). The popular account of their religious belief is given in
, "The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit." They were rationalists and sceptics, who denied many old-established truths, and scorned many prevalent observances. They acknowledged most of the Old Testament, though, curiously enough, they, like our modern neologians, stumbled at the supernatural upon which the Scriptures were built. Tradition and traditional interpretations found no favour with them. The future life of the soul they utterly repudiated, and the resurrection of the body, when it was brought before them, met with contemptuous ridicule. The claims and doctrine of Christ were, in their eyes, puerile and unworthy of philosophic consideration. At the same time, they recognized that the people were with him for the moment, and that it was expedient that his teaching, so utterly opposed to their own opinions, should be discredited and repressed. So they came forward asking an imaginary question, which, as they thought, would reduce to an absurdity the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the flesh. Doubtless they were members of the Sanhedrin, and it was at the instigation of this body that they proposed the presumed case of conscience.
Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
They quote the substance of the law of the levirate (
the brother-in-law) in
Deuteronomy 25:5, 6
, by which it was enacted that if a married man died without a son, his brother or the next of kin should marry the widow, and the firstborn son of this union should be regarded and registered as the son of the deceased. This was a law not peculiar to the Hebrews, but prevalent from immemorial times among many ancient peoples,
Persians, Egyptians, and found in force among some nations in modern times, as Arabians, Druses, Cireassians, etc. It seems not to have been enforced in any case, but to have been left to the good will of the survivor, who might escape the obligation by submitting to a certain social obloquy (
). The motive of the regulation was the maintenance of a family and the non-alienation of property. Many authorities assert that the law did not apply in the case of a man who left daughters (
), but only in that of a childless widow. Later rabbinism limited the obligation to a betrothed woman, not yet actually married. But whatever may have been the limitations allowed in these days, the question of the Sadducees took its stand on the old legal basis, and endeavoured to draw therefrom a ridiculous inference.
. The verb, found in the Septuagint, is used properly signifying "to take a woman to wife as the husband's kinsman" (
), and generally, "to contract affinity by marriage."
Raise up seed.
The firstborn son of such a marriage was the legal heir of the deceased brother, and bore his name. The natural and the legal paternities are seen in the genealogies of our Lord, and occasion some difficulties in adjustment.
Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
If the word "brethren" is to be taken in the strictest sense, and not as equivalent to "kinsmen," the case is indeed conceivable, though extremely improbable, especially as at this time the custom had fallen into abeyance, and its rigorous fulfilment was neither practised nor expected. There is a levity and a coarseness in the question which is simply revolting.
Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
Unto the seventh;
unto the seven
- to the end of the seven.
And last of all the woman died also.
The woman died also.
This last word is omitted by Alford, Tischendorf, and Westcott and Hort, and seemingly with good reason. Then, according to these Sadducees, arose the difficulty which they deemed insurmountable.
Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
In the resurrection;
in the life beyond the grave, to which the resurrection is supposed to lead.
Whose wife shall she be of the seven?
Of which of the seven shall she be wife
, without the article, predicate)? The evil question stands in its naked absurdity. Had the woman a son by either of the husbands, the difficulty would have been less pronounced. In their coarse materialism, these persons carry their conceptions of the present visible world into the future spiritual world; they confuse the conditions and relations of one with those of the other, and would argue that if such insoluble complications arise in the new life, the resurrection must be an unfounded figment.
All were lawfully married to her, and therefore all had equal rights. When a woman was twice married, the rabbinical gloss declared that in the other world she would belong to her first husband; but this opinion was not generally received, and the present supposititious case had never been contemplated and fell under no allowed rule.
Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
Ye do err.
Jesus does not condescend to answer directly to the contemptuous question proposed. He goes to the root of the matter, and shows the great error in which it originated. These disputants are treated with patience and calm argument, because they are not hypocrites like the Pharisees, but have the courage of their opinions, and do not seek to appear other than they are. They erred, said Christ, for two reasons: first,
not knowing the Scriptures.
Whatever might be the lax opinions which they held respecting the prophets, there was no dispute about the supreme authority of the Pentateuch, and these Scriptures (as Christ proceeded to prove) plainly implied the doctrine of the resurrection. Secondly, they ignored
the power of God,
to whom nothing is impossible, and who, in the resurrection, would perform a work very different from what they supposed - changing the natural into the spiritual, and transforming the characteristics of the life that now is into a different and higher sphere, yet preserving identity.
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
. The Lord proceeds first to show the power of God as displayed in the resurrection. The Sadducees would limit and control this power by conceiving that it could not change the qualities of the body or alter the conditions and relations of the human consciousness.
In the resurrection
(see on ver. 28).
; as men.
Are given in marriage;
as women. Marriage is an earthly relationship, and can have no place in a spiritual condition. All that is of the earth, all that is carnal and gross, all human passions, all that is connected with sin and corruption, shall pass away. The risen life is no mere reproduction of the present, but a regeneration, new life added to the old, with new powers, acting under new laws, ranged in a new community. On earth men are mortal, and marriage is necessary to perpetuate the race; no such necessity obtains in the other life, where men are immortal. As an old Father says, "Where the law of death is abolished, the cause of birth is abolished likewise."
Are as the angels of God in heaven;
as the angels who dwell in heaven. The words,
, are omitted by some manuscripts and editors. The Vulgate has,
angeli Dei in coelo.
Thus Christ, in opposition to the Saddueces' creed, admits the existence of angels. Glorified men are like the angels in these characteristics especially. They are immortal, no longer subject to human wants, passions, failings, or temptations; they serve God perfectly without weariness or distraction; they have no conflict between flesh and spirit, between the old nature and the new; their life is peaceful, harmonious, satisfying. Our Lord says nothing here concerning mutual recognition in the future state; nothing about the continuance of those tender relations which he sanctions and blesses on earth, and in the absence of which we cannot imagine perfect happiness existing. Analogy supplies some answer to such questions, but they are foreign to Christ's statement, and need not be here discussed.
But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
the resurrection of the dead.
Christ, in the second place, shows how these disputants were, ignorant of Scripture. They may have known the letter, they certainly knew nothing of the spirit of the Word of God, its depth and fulness. The key to the interpretation of the Scripture is faith. It is not enough to be acquainted with the literal signification; this is always inadequate, and denotes not the chief matter intended. To know the Scripture, in the sense of Christ, is to have a clear apprehension of its spiritual aspect, to feel and own the moral and mystical bearing of facts and statements, and to recognize that herein lies the real significance of the inspired record. The want of this discernment vitiated the Sadducees' treatment and reception of Holy Writ, and involved them in lamentable error. Christ proceeds to demonstrate how the very Pentateuch (reverenced unquestionably by their party), which they deemed to be entirely silent on the subject of the life of the soul, spoke plainly on this matter to all who had faith to understand and appreciate the words of Divine wisdom.
That which was spoken unto you by God.
To our minds Jesus might have adduced stronger arguments from other books of Scripture,
Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; but the Sadducees had drawn their objection from the Pentateuch, therefore from that section of the Bible he refutes them. To the books of Moses was always made the ultimate appeal in confirmation of doctrine; in the supreme authority of these writings all sects agreed. The utterances of the prophets were explained away as allegorical, poetical, and rhetorical; the plain, historical statements of the Law could not at that time be thus treated. Christ endorses unreservedly the Divine inspiration of the Pentateuch; he intimates that it was the voice of God to all time, and providentially directed to disperse such errors as those now produced.
I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
). The quotation is from
, where God gives himself this name, as the Eternal, Self-existent One.
The God of Abraham...Jacob.
These patriarchs had long been dead when this revelation was made; had they been annihilated, the Lord could not have called himself still their God. By this utterance he implied that he had still to do with them - had a blessing and a reward which they were to receive, and which they must be alive to enjoy. How can they who are his cease to exist? They who are in personal relation and covenant with God cannot perish. There were personal promises to Abraham, distinguished from those made to his seed (see
, etc.), which were never fulfilled during his earthly life, and await realization in a future existence. God was the patriarchs' Father, Saviour, Redeemer, Judge, Rewarder; he could not hold these relations to mere dust and ashes, but only to con-scions and responsible beings, existing, though in another condition, and in another portion of God's creation. Thus was proved the continued existence and personality of the soul; and the resurrection of the body follows consequentially from this. Man is a complex being; he has body and soul, neither of which is complete without the other. The soul is not perfect man without the body, which is its organ; the body is not perfect man without the soul, which animates it. In giving eternal life to man, God gives it to the creature as originally made, not to one portion only of his nature.
Of the living.
"For," as St. Luke adds, "all live unto him." The so called dead are alive in God's view; they have an abiding relation to him, live in his world, which comprises the seen and unseen, the present and the future. Titus St. Paul says (
Romans 14:8, 9
), "Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died and rose and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living."
And when the multitude heard
, they were astonished at his doctrine.
They were astonished at his doctrine.
The multitudes were amazed, not only at an interpretation which was entirely new to them, and which opened to them some of the depths of that Scripture of which they had been taught and knew only the letter; but because Christ showed that he looked into men's hearts, saw what was the motive and cause of their opinions, and, in explaining difficulties, unfolded eternal truths. The Sadducees, thus answered in the presence of the listening crowds, attempted no reply, slunk away confounded, utterly foiled in their hope of casting ridicule on the teaching of Christ. St. Luke notes that some scribes present, doubtless of the Pharisaic faction, were highly delighted with this public defeat of their adversaries, and cried, in enforced admiration, "Master, thou hast well said!"
But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
Fourth attack: The Pharisees
question concerning the great, commandment.
He had put the Sadducees to silence
, as ver. 12). The Pharisees were informed of, and some of them had witnessed, the discomfiture of the Sadducees (see
); hence they deemed it necessary again to attack Jesus by asking a question which specially appertained to their own teaching. They felt that, if they were ever to compass his overthrow, they must first lower his credit with the people, so that these might no longer care to support or defend him. To succeed in entangling Jesus in a difficulty would not only effect this, but would also gain them a triumph over their adversaries, who had been so completely defeated.
ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ
, Which may mean, "to the same place," as perhaps
; or "on the same ground, for the same purpose." The former is probably correct. The English versions omit the words (see the rendering of ver. 41, where
ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ
does not occur). They grouped themselves around Christ, or else gathered in a council chamber, taking combined action against him.
Then one of them,
a lawyer, asked
him a question
, tempting him, and saying,
, called by St. Mark "a scribe" - a term of wider signification, which would include "lawyers." Vulgate,
, which gives the right sense; for such were teachers and expounders of the Mosaic Law. This man was put forth by the Pharisees as an expert, who would not be so easily discomfited as the Sadducees had been.
Trying him (comp.
1 Kings 10:1
); putting him to the test, not altogether maliciously, but partly from curiosity, and partly from a desire to hear Christ's opinion on a much disputed point. It is evident, from St. Mark's account, that Christ was pleased with him personally, for he said to him, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." Those who put this lawyer forward had, of course, sinister motives, and hoped to make capital from Christ's answer; but the man himself seems to have been straightforward and honest. We have had the terra "tempting" used in a hostile sense (
), but there is no necessity for so taking it; and it seems to imply here merely the renewal of the attack on Christ.
the great commandment in the law?
Which is the great commandment in the Law?
Ποία ἐντολὴ μεγάλη ἐν
What sort of commandment is great in the Law?
According to rabbinical teaching, there were more than six hundred precepts in the Law; of this considerable number all could not be observed. Which were of absolute obligation? which were not? The schools made a distinction between heavy and light commandments, as though some were of less importance than others, and might be neglected with impunity; and some of such exceeding dignity that fulfilment of them would condone imperfect obedience in the case of others. Some taught that if a man rightly selected some great precept to observe, he might safely disregard the rest of the Law (see
, etc.). This was the kind of doctrine against which St. James (
) expostulates: "Whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all." The Pharisees may have desired to discover whether Jesus knew and sanctioned these rabbinical distinctions. He had proved himself intimately acquainted with the inner meaning of Scripture, and able to evolve doctrines and to trace analogies which their dull minds had never comprehended; the question now was whether he entered into their subtle divisions and could decide this dispute for them. Such is the view usually taken of the scribe's question; but it may well be doubted, if regard is had to the character of the man, whether he had any intention of entangling Christ in these subtleties, but rather asked for a solution of the general problem - Of what nature was the precept which should be regarded as "first" (Mark) in the Law? We may compare the somewhat similar question and answer in
. Lange's idea, that the scribe wished to force Christ to make some answer which, by implying his own claim to be Son of God, would trench upon the doctrine of monotheism, seems wholly unwarranted. This theory is based on the supposition that the Pharisee took it for granted that Jesus would answer, "Thou shalt love God above all," and intended to found upon that reply a condemnation for having made himself equal with God by his assertion of Sonship. But the text gives no countenance to such intention, and it has been suggested chiefly for the purpose of accounting for Christ's subsequent question (vers. 41-45), which, however, needs no such foundation, as we shall see.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God;
Κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου
, from the Septuagint, with some slight variation). Christ enunciates the two great moral precepts of God's Law, not, indeed, stated in these words in the Decalogue, but implied throughout, and forming the basis of true religion.
Heart... soul... mind.
The Septuagint has "mind, soul, strength." The expressions mean generally that God is to be loved with all our powers and faculties, and that nothing is to be preferred to him. It is difficult to define with any precision the signification of each term used, and much unprofitable labour has been expended in the endeavour to limit their exact sense. "Quum," as Grotius says, "vocum multarum cumulatio nihil quam intensius studium designet." It is usual to explain thus:
; which among the Hebrews was considered to be the seat of the understanding, is here considered as the home of the affections and the seat of the will.
; the living powers, the animal life.
, intellectual powers. These are to be the seat and abode of the love enjoined.
This is the first and great commandment.
The first and great commandment;
the great and first commandment
Hoc est maximum et primum mandatum.
Here was a plain answer to the question of the scribe, which no one could gainsay (comp.
). They who repeated daily in their devotions, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord" (see Mark), could not help acknowledging that love of him whom they thus confessed was the chief duty of man - one which was superior to every other obligation.
And the second
like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The scribe had not asked any question about a second commandment: but Christ is not satisfied with propounding an abstract proposition; he shows how this great precept is to be made practical, how one command involves and leads to the other.
Like unto it
: in nature and extent, of universal obligation, pure and unselfish.
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
. The verb, both here and ver. 37, is
, which implies, not mere animal or worldly affection (
), but love from the highest moral considerations, without self-interest, holy. The Latins indicated this difference by
Our "neighbour" is every one with whom we are concerned,
virtually all men. He is to be loved because he is God's image and likeness, heir of the same hope as we ourselves, and presented to us as the object on and by which we are to show the reality of our love to God. "This commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also" (
1 John 4:21
). And for the measure of our love to man, we have Christ's word in another place (
), "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Hang all the Law
and the prophets;
all Scripture, which is comprised in these terms (comp.
); in other words, all the revelations which God has made to man in every age. The clause is peculiar to St. Matthew. It signifies that on love of God and love of man depend all the moral and religious, ceremonial and judicial precepts contained in the Law, all the utterances of the prophets, all the voices of history. Scripture enunciates the duty to God and our neighbour, shows the right method of fulfilling it, warns against the breach of it, gives examples of punishment and reward consequent upon the way in which the obligation has been treated. Thus the unity and integrity of revelation is demonstrated. Its Author is one; its design is uniform; it teaches one path, leading to one great end.
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,
Christ's question to the Pharisees concerning the Messiah.
Jesus asked them.
He spake generally to the assembled crowd in the temple (Mark), addressing no one in particular. The questioned becomes the questioner, and this with a great purpose. He had silenced his opponents, and opened profundities in Scripture hitherto unfathomed; he would now raise them to a higher theology; he would place before them a truth concerning the nature of the Messiah, which, if they received it, would lead them to accept him. It was as it were a last hope. He and the Pharisees had some common ground, which was wanting in the case of the Sadducees and Herodians (comp
); he would use this to support a last appeal. Let us observe the Divine patience and tenderness of Christ. Not to gain a victory over inveterate enemies, not to expose the ignorance of scribe and Pharisee, not to exhibit his own profound knowledge of the inner harmonies of God's Word, does he now put this question. He desires to win acceptance of his claims by the unanswerable argument of the Scripture which they revered; let them consider the exact meaning of a text often quoted, let them weigh each word with reverent care, and they would see that the predicted Messiah was not merely Son of David according to earthly descent, but was Jehovah himself; and that when he claimed to be Son of God, when he asserted, "I and my Father are one," he was vindicating for himself only what the prophet had affirmed of the nature of the Christ. He had, so to speak, hope that some among his hearers would accept this teaching, and save themselves amid that untoward generation. It was when this last hope failed, when he saw nothing but hardened hearts and wilful prejudice, that he uttered the woes and predictions in the following chapter.
Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him,
What think ye of Christ?
, the Messiah. What is your belief? What do you, the teachers of the people and the careful interpreters of Scripture, opine concerning the Messiah?
Whose Son is he?
This was a question the full bearing of which they did not comprehend, thinking that it referred only to his earthly descent. In their partial knowledge, perhaps half contemptuously, as to an inquiry familiar to all,
they say unto him, The Son of David.
So all prophecy had said, as they very well knew (
He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,
They had answered glibly enough, not knowing what was to come of their natural admission; now Christ puts a difficulty before them which might have led them to pause and reflect upon what that assertion might connote.
; If Christ is David's Son, how is it then, in what sense can it be said, etc.?
Doth David in spirit can him Lord.
"In spirit" means speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - an argument surely for the Divine authority of the Old Testament, when "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (
2 Peter 1:21
). Christ proceeds to quote a passage from
, acknowledged by the Jews to be Davidic and Messianic. Both these positions have been called in question in modern days, and sceptical critics have hence presumed to infer ignorance or deceit on the part of Christ;
either that he did not know that the authorship was wrongly attributed to David, and that the psalm really referred to Maccabean times, or that, knowing these facts, he deliberately ignored them and endorsed a popular error in order to give colour to his argument. The statement of such a charge against our Lord is a sufficient refutation. Universal tradition, extending to this very time, which gave to the psalm a Messianic interpretation, is surely more worthy of credit than a theory elaborated in the present century, which in no respect regards the natural signification of the language, and can be made to support the novel idea only by forced and unreal accommodations. By speaking of David as having uttered the quoted words, Christ does not formally state that this king wrote the psalm; he merely gives the accepted view which classed it as Davidic. The authorship did not matter in his application; his argument was equally sound, whoever was the writer.
The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?
The Lord said unto my Lord
). The quotation is from the Septuagint. But neither this nor our English Version is an adequate rendering of the original, where the word translated "Lord" is not the same in both parts of the clause, More accurately, the solemn beginning of the psalm is thus given: "Utterance [or, 'oracle'] of Jehovah to my Lord (
)." The psalmist acknowledges the recipient of the utterance as his sovereign Lord; this could be no earthly potentate, for on earth he had no such superior; Jewish tradition always applied the term unto the Messiah, or the Word. The prediction repeats the promise made by Nathan to David (
2 Samuel 7:12
), which had no fulfilment in his natural progeny, and could be regarded as looking forward only to the Messiah.
Sit thou on my right
Thus Messiah is exalted to the highest dignity in heaven. Sitting at God's right hand does not necessarily imply complete Divine majesty (as Hengstenberg remarks), for the sons of Zebedee had asked for such a position in Messiah's earthly kingdom (
); but it denotes supreme honour, association in government, authority second only to that of Monarch. This is said of Christ in his human nature. He is "equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood." In his Divine nature he could receive nothing; in his human nature all "power was given unto him in heaven and earth" (
ἕως α}ν θῷ
enemies thy footstool;
ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν σου
. This is the Septuagint reading. Many manuscripts here give
ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν σου Τιλλ Ι πυτ τηινε ενεμιεσ υνδερνεατη τηψ φεετ.
Some few have both
Donec ponam inimicos tuos scabellum pedum tuorum.
The complete subjection of all adversaries is denoted (comp.
1 Corinthians 15:25-27
); and they are subjected not merely for punishment and destruction, but, it may be, for salvation and glory. The relative particle "till" must not be pressed, as if Christ's session was to cease when his victory was completed. We have before had occasion to observe that the phrase,
, asserts nothing of the future beyond the event specified. As St. Jerome says of such negative phrases, "Ita negant praeteritum ut non ponant futurum" (comp.
). Of Christ's kingdom there is no end.
If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
If David... Son?
The argument is this: David speaks with highest reverence of Messiah, calling him his Lord: how is this attitude consistent with the fact that Messiah is David's Son? How can Messiah be both Son and Lord of David? We, who have learned the truth concerning the two natures of Christ, can readily answer the question. He is both "the Root and the Offspring of David" (
). The Athanasian Creed offers the required solution of the seeming paradox: "God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of his mother, born in the world; perfect God, and perfect Man... who although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ." Here was an explanation (if the Pharisees took his words to heart) of much that had excited their indignation, and caused cavil and carping. He claimed to be the Messiah; and Messiah, as Scripture presented him, had a twofold nature. When, therefore, he asserted equality with the Father when he, "being man, made himself God" (
), he was vindicating that Divine nature which he as Messiah possessed. Jesus did not further elucidate this mystery. He had given food for reflection; he had unfolded the hidden meaning of Scripture; he had shown the shallowness of the popular exegesis; the knowledge was here; there was wanting only the will to raise the flower of faith in the heart of these obdurate hearers.
And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any
from that day forth ask him any more
No man was able to answer him a word.
They could not confute Christ's arguments; they would not receive and ponder them; so they held their peace. Had they had a real desire to be instructed, they would have profited by the present occasion; coming to the light with honest and good hearts, they would have been enlightened. But this was far from their wish, so they went away empty.
Neither durst any man.
They perceived that they could gain no advantage over Christ by such methods of attack. Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, had ignominiously succumbed; to make a fresh assault was to court a fresh defeat, Seeing this, they dared no longer tempt him in this way. Henceforward they would use other tactics. Treachery and violence must now play their part. These weapons would be more successful in compassing the destruction of the innocent Victim.
Courtesy of Open Bible
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