Matthew 8:4 MEANING

Matthew 8:4
(4) See thou tell no man.--St. Mark adds, with his usual vividness, "straitly charged," or vehemently urged him, and "forthwith sent him away." The reasons of the command are not given, but are not far to seek. (1.) The offering of the gift was an act of obedience to the Law (Leviticus 14:10; Leviticus 14:21-22), and was therefore the right thing for the man to do. In this way also our Lord showed that He had not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfil. (2.) It was the appointed test of the reality and completeness of the cleansing work. (3.) It was better for the man's own spiritual life to cherish his gratitude than to waste it in many words.

So much lies on the surface. But as the treatment of leprosy in the Mosaic code was clearly symbolical rather than sanitary, and dealt with the disease as the special type of sin in its most malignant form, so in the healing of the leper we may fairly see the symbol of our Lord's power to purify and save from sin, and in His touching the leper, the close fellowship into which He entered with our unclean nature, that through His touch it might be made clean. The miracle, like most other miracles, was also a parable in act.

Verse 4. - And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; i.e. of those who were not present (Bengel). The command may have been given

(1) to save the man from temptation to self-importance; or

(2) to prevent any rumour of the miracle coming to the ears of the recognized authorities, and thus prejudicing them in their verdict upon his case; or, and more probably,

(3) for the Lord's sake, for this seems to be the reason for the command in all the other occasions when it is given (Matthew 9:30; Matthew 12:16; Matthew 17:9; Mark 5:43; Mark 7:36; Mark 8:26; cf. Mark 1:34; Mark 3:12). The Lord did not desire to be thronged with multitudes who came only to see his miracles; he would work in quiet (cf. the quotation from Isaiah in Matthew 12:18-21). But go thy way, show thyself to the priest. The latter clause belongs verbally to Leviticus 13:49, but the thought is that of Leviticus 14:2, sqq. Without the official verdict, the man could not be restored to communal privileges (so also Luke 17:14). And offer the gift that Moses commanded. Including

(1) "two living clean birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop" (Leviticus 14:4);

(2) "two he-lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth parts of an epbah of fine flour for a meal offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil" (Leviticus 14:10), unless he he poor, in which case lesser sacrifices may be substituted (vers. 21, 22; cf. Keil, 'Arch.,' § 59; and for details of the traditional ceremonial, Edersheim, 'Temple,' pp. 315-318). For a testimony unto them (εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς). Although a fair sense might be extracted by connecting this clause with. the words, "Moses commanded," it would, especially in the parallel passages, be a very awkward addition to them. Rather it must represent the man's "offering" in its ultimate purpose, and this not necessarily in the man's own mind. So more clearly the "Western" reading in the parallel passage in Luke, ἵνα εἰς μαρτύριον η΅ ὑμῖν τοῦτο. Whether "them" refers to the priests or to the nation generally is not of grave importance, for the priests themselves, in act and feeling, represented the nation (cf. Matthew 7:29, note). Of more interest is the question - What is that which is here testified of?

(1) Prima facie the man's own state. The performance of the rites would be legal evidence that he was clean.

(2) Yet this interpretation is hardly borne out by the usage of the phrase. Αἰς μαρτύριον in the LXX. (never closely with the dative as here) seems to always refer to that which is both permanent and important (cf. Genesis 21:30; Genesis 31:44; Deuteronomy 31:26; Joshua 24:27; Hosea 2:12). And in the New Testament with the dative it elsewhere refers either to work for the Lord (Matthew 10:18; Matthew 24:14; Mark 6:11) or to a solemn judgment (James 5:3). So probably here. The man's offering is to be a permanent testimony to the nation of our Lord's relation to the Law. His miracles confirmed his profession (Matthew 5:17).

(3) Some, however, accepting the above view in the main, translate, "for a testimony against them" (as Mark 6:11; cf. Luke 9:5, and as perhaps James 5:3, but vide Plumptre there); but it is unlikely that so harsh a thought towards the nation would be expressed by our Lord at this early stage of his ministry. In Mark 6:11 there is a definite reason for its use.

8:2-4 In these verses we have an account of Christ's cleansing a leper, who came and worshipped him, as one clothed with Divine power. This cleansing directs us, not only to apply to Christ, who has power over bodily diseases, for the cure of them, but it also teaches us in what manner to apply to him. When we cannot be sure of God's will, we may be sure of his wisdom and mercy. No guilt is so great, but there is that in Christ's blood which atones for it; no corruption so strong, but there is that in his grace which can subdue it. To be made clean we must commend ourselves to his pity; we cannot demand it as a debt, but we must humbly request it as a favour. Those who by faith apply to Christ for mercy and grace, may be sure that he is freely willing to give them the mercy and grace they thus seek. And those afflictions are blessed that bring us to know Christ, and cause us to seek help and salvation from him. Let those who are cleansed from their spiritual leprosy, go to Christ's ministers and open their case, that they may advise, comfort, and pray for them.And Jesus saith unto him, see thou tell no man, &c. Not that this fact could be concealed, if it was done publicly, before the multitude; nor was it Christ's design that it should be; only it was his counsel to this man, that whilst he was on the road to Jerusalem, and when he was come there, that he would speak of it to no man, before he came to the priest, or priests: lest out of ill will to Christ, they should refuse to pronounce him clean:

but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. The man was now in one of the cities of Galilee; from hence Christ orders him to make the best of his way, directly to Jerusalem; and present himself to one of the priests, by him to be examined, whether he was free of his leprosy; and then offer what was ordered by the law of Moses in such cases: for as yet the ceremonial law was not abolished: and therefore, as Christ was subject to it himself, so he enjoins others the observance of it. There was a two fold offering, according to the law of Moses, on account of the cleansing of the leper; Leviticus 14:1 the one was on the first day of his cleansing, when he first showed himself to the priest, and consisted of two birds, alive and clean, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop; the other, and which was properly the offering on the eighth day, was, if the man was able, two he lambs and one ewe lamb, with a meat offering; but if poor, one lamb, with a meat offering, and two turtle doves, or two young pigeons. The Jewish canons, concerning this matter, are as follow (f):

"when a leper is healed of his leprosy, after they have cleansed him with cedarwood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and the two birds, and have shaved all his flesh, and bathed him; after all this he enters into Jerusalem, and numbers seven days; and on the seventh day he shaves a second time, as he shaved at first, and bathes--and on the morrow, or eighth day, he bathes a second time, and after that they offer his offerings--he bathes on the eighth day in the court of the women, in the chamber of the lepers, which is there--if it is delayed, and he shaves not on the seventh day, but he shaves on the eighth, or some days after, on the day that he shaves, he bathes, and his sun sets; and on the morrow he brings his offerings, after he hath bathed a second time, as we have declared: how do they do unto him? The leper stands without the court of Israel, over against the eastern gate, in the gate of Nicanor and his face to the west: and there stand all they that want atonement; and there they give the bitter waters to the suspected women: and the priest takes the leper's trespass offering, while it is alive, and waves it with the log of oil, towards the east, according to the way of all wave offerings; and if he waves this by itself, and this by itself, it is right: after that he brings the leper's trespass offering to the door, and he brings it in both his hands into the court, and layeth them upon it; they slay it immediately, and two priests receive its blood: the one receives it in a vessel, and sprinkles it upon the top of the altar; and the other, in his right hand, and pours it into his left hand, and sprinkles with his finger the right hand; and if he repeats it, and receives it in his left hand first, it is unlawful. The priest that receives some of the blood in a vessel, carries it, and sprinkles it upon the altar first; and after that comes the priest, who receives the blood in the palm of his hand, to the leper, the priest being within, and the leper without; and the leper puts in his head, and the priest puts of the blood that is in the palm of his hand, upon the tip of his right ear; after that he puts in his right hand, and he puts of it on the thumb of his hand; and after that he putteth in his right foot, and he puts of it upon the toe of his foot, and if he puts of it upon the left, it is not right; and after that he offers his sin offering, and his burnt offering: and after that he hath put the blood upon his thumb and toe, the priest takes of the log of oil, and pours it into the left hand of his fellow priest; and if he pours it into his own hand, it will do: and he dips the finger of his right hand into the oil, which is in his hand, and sprinkles it seven times towards the most holy place: at every sprinkling there is a dipping of the finger in the oil; and if he sprinkles, and does not intend it, over against the holy place, it is right; and after that, he comes to the leper, and puts of the oil upon the place of the blood of the trespass offering, on the tip of the ear, and on the thumb of his hand, and toe of his foot; and that which is left of the oil, that is in his hand, he puts it on the head of him that is to be cleansed; and if he puts it not, atonement is not made; and the rest of the log is divided among the priests; and what remains of the log is not eaten, but in the Court, by the males of the priests, as the rest of the holy things; and it is forbidden to eat of the log of oil, until he has sprinkled it seven times, and has put of it upon the thumb and toe; and if he eats, he is to be beaten, as he that eats holy things before sprinkling.''

Now these were the things which, as the other evangelists say, this leper was ordered to offer for his cleansing, "for a testimony unto them"; meaning either to the priests; for the Syriac and Persic versions read the former clause, "show thyself to the priests", in Luke 17:14 that they being satisfied of the healing and cleansing of this man, and accordingly pronouncing him clean, and accepting his offerings, this might be either a convincing testimony to them, that Jesus was the Son of God, and true Messiah, and that he did not deny or oppose the law given by Moses; or might be a standing testimony against them, should they continue in unbelief; or else to the Jews, who saw the miracle, and heard the orders Christ gave to the man after he had healed him; or to the lepers that they were cleansed; or this law of Moses was for a testimony or statute to be always observed by them in such cases.

(f) Maimon. Hilchot Mechosre Capporah, c. 14. per totum.

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