Page images
[blocks in formation]

whose children had been sacrificed to the cruel and cowardly jealousy of Herod. Because they are not. Because they are dead. This was a Jewish form of speech, adopted, perhaps, in consequence of their unwillingness to speak familiarly of death, or in conformity to their usual practice of employing figurative language to express their ideas. See Gen. xlii. 13, 36.

19. Herod was dead. See note on ver. 15. Notwithstanding he had slaughtered many of his children,-one of them only five days before his own death, yet three sons survived him, between whom the kingdom was divided. Judea, Samaria, and Idumea, were given to Archelaus; Batanea, Trachonitis, and Gaulonitis, to Philip; and Galilee and Perea, to Antipas. Each of these sons was also called Herod. This creates some confusion in the Scripture history; which is dissipated, however, by noticing the places in which each is represented as exercising authority.

20. The young child. See note on ver. 15. The residence in Egypt was not of very long continuance. They are dead. Some suppose that Herod alone is intended, the plural being used for the singular number, as in some other cases; others understand that Antipater is included with his father; which prince had manifested a savage and blood-thirsty disposition, and was nearly as much dreaded as his father, but who was slaughtered by command of his father only five days before his own death. This man, who had not hesitated to cause the death of two of his natural brethren to prepare a way to the throne, would naturally desire, as much as his father, to destroy this newborn rival.

21. Land of Israel. This sometimes means the whole possession of the Israelites, and sometimes the pos

the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee :

session of the ten tribes, to distinguish it from the kingdom of Judah. It seems here to be used in the former sense; for although Joseph actually went into Galilee, a portion of the inheritance of the ten tribes, he seems to have contemplated going rather into Judea, which was a part of the land of Israel in its larger sense.

22. Archelaus did reign. In the division of the kingdom, Judea was bestowed on Archelaus. See note on ver. 19. He was similar to his father in his disposition. Shortly after his accession to the throne, even before he was confirmed in his government by the Roman emperor, he caused three thousand Jews to be slain, at the feast of the Passover. His tyranny became so insupportable, that the Jews appealed to the emperor, who banished him, in the ninth year of his government, to Vienna, a city of Gaul, where he died.

Josephus. Joseph was unwilling to place himself and family under the jurisdiction of such a tyrant; and chose to seek a more secure residence. ¶ Galilee. This province was governed by Antipas, see note on ver. 19,-who was comparatively a just and equitable ruler. It is often mentioned in the Scriptures, and many of the events in our Lord's ministry occurred there. Its importance, in connection with those events, may justify the insertion of Calmet's description of it. "This province contained four tribes; Issachar, Zebulun, Naphtali and Asher; a part also of Dan; and part of Perea, beyond the river. Upper Galilee abounded in mountains, and was termed 'Galilee of the Gentiles,' as the mountainous nature of the country enabled those who possessed the fastnesses to maintain themselves against invaders. Strabo (lib. xvi.) enumerates among its inhabi tants Egyptians, Arabians, and Pho

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.



those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea,

have a convent and two churches; one of which is represented as very beautiful. By the prophets. The exact language, which is here apparently quoted, is not found in any one of the prophets; nor, indeed, any passage sufficiently similar to justify a belief that it was particularly referred to. Various methods have been proposed to remove the difficulty thus occasioned. That which seems best entitled to credit is the following: The prophets uniformly represented the Messiah as a meek, humble person, subject to reproach, ignominy, and shame, in the eyes of the multitude. See Isaiah liii., Psalms xxii., &c. Nazareth had, for some reason, obtained a bad name. Its inhabitants were despised, and the objects of contempt. It was even doubted by one of the most guileless of the Jews, whether any good thing could come out of this place. John i. 46. To say that a man was a Nazarene was, therefore, as much as to say that he was worthless and despicable. We may understand the evangelist to mean, that, as Jesus became an inhabitant of that city, and subject to the consequent derision and contempt of men, the predictions concerning the estimation in which he should be held were fully verified.

nicians. Lower Galilee, which con- and violence which he encountered pertained the tribes of Zebulun and Asher, petually, until he sealed his testimony was sometimes called the Great Field, with his own blood. Luke iv. 29. 'the champaign.' Deut. xi. 30. The Nazareth is now a small town in Galivalley was adjacent to the sea of Tibe- lee, situated partly on the declivity of a rias. Josephus describes Galilee as hill and partly in a valley at its base, being very populous, containing two and containing about three or four thouhundred and four cities and towns, the sand inhabitants, of whom the greater least of which contained fifteen thou-part profess to be Christians. They sand inhabitants. It was also very rich, and paid two hundred talents in tribute. The natives were brave, and made good soldiers; they were also seditious, and prone to insolence and rebellion. Their language and customs differed considerably from those of the Judeans. Mark xiv. 70. Josephus states that the Galileans were naturally good soldiers, bold and intrepid; that they bravely resisted the foreign nations around them; that their country was fruitful, and well cultivated; and the people laborious and industrious. The Galileans, according to Josephus, agreed in all things with the Pharisees, but were distinguished by an excessive love of liberty; being strongly prejudiced with the idea, that they ought to obey God alone as their prince. Perhaps there was some reference to this, in representing Jesus as a Galilean to Pilate. Luke xxiii. 2. His accusers, to render him suspected of this heresy, say they found him perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar. Our Saviour was surnamed Galilean, Matt. xxvi. 69, because he was brought up at Nazareth, a city of this province; and it deserves notice, that he was thus addressed by his bitter adversary the dying Julian:"Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!' His disciples, and Christians in general, were called Galileans after their master, or because several of his apostles belonged to that province. Acts ii. 7." 23. Nazareth. A city in Galilee. See the foregoing note. Here our Lord was "brought up," Luke iv. 16, and here he commenced his public ministry soon after his baptism. Here, also, at the commencement of his labors, he experienced an earnest of the opposition |


1. In those days. About the same time. This is not to be understood of the time immediately succeeding the events related in the former chapter; for John was only six months older than our Lord, and did not commence his ministry until he was about thirty years of age. It seems probable that Jesus resided with his reputed father at Nazareth, where they resorted to be

2 And saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.


here denote a place entirely uninhabited
or desolate; but merely a portion of
territory less cultivated than others,
especially if mountainous, rocky, or
abounding in trees. There were
eral deserts in the Holy Land; and
there was scarcely a town without one
belonging to it, i. e. uncultivated places,
for woods and pasture." Calmet. "Six
cities with their villages" are described
as being situated in one wilderness.
Josh. xv. 61, 62. It appears that this
particular wilderness was upon the
borders of the river Jordan, and that it
was populated to some considerable ex-
tent. Luke iii. 3. Among the people
dwelling in this region, John first pro-
claimed the approaching reign of

out of the reach of Archelaus, until near thus announced or preached by John, the commencement of his public labors. was embraced in few words, which Luke iv. 16. The meaning may be, in might be uttered in a single breath. those days, while Jesus continued to Wilderness. This word does not dwell at Nazareth. We must allow an interval of twenty-five years, or somewhat more, perhaps, between the journey to Nazareth and the public appearance of John in the wilderness. Some of the events, which occurred during this interval, are recorded, Luke ii. 40-52. ¶ John the Baptist. Or, John the Baptizer; so called, because baptism with water was a conspicuous feature in his ministry. The name is useful, also, to distinguish this individual from the apostle of the same name, now often called, for the sake of distinction, John the Evangelist. John was commissioned to prepare the people to listen to the instructions of Christ. He aroused them from their slumbers, reproved them for their sins, exhorted them to repentance or reformation, on the ground that the long-expected Messiah would soon appear; and to all who believed his testimony he administered baptism. This was not a new rite or ceremony; the Jews had long been familiar with it. "The institution of baptism, for an evangelical sacrament, was first in the hand of the Baptist, who, the word of the Lord coming to him,' Luke iii. 2, went forth, backed with the same authority as the chiefest prophets had in times past. But yet the first use of baptism was not exhibited at that time. For baptism, very many centuries of years backwards, had been both known and received in most frequent use among the Jews; and for the very same end, as it now obtains among Christians, namely, that by it proselytes might be admitted into the church; and hence it was called Baptism for proselytism,' and was distinct from Baptism (or washing) from uncleanness. See the Babylonian Talmud in Jevamoth."Lightfoot. ¶ Preaching. Proclaiming in the manner of a herald; so the word in the original is generally used. It does not indicate the utterance of a long-continued, methodical, carefully arranged, discourse, to which the term preaching is now generally applied; but rather the brief and energetic announcement or proclamation of an important fact or event. The great fact,

[ocr errors]

2. Repent. Reform; change your manner of life; such is the meaning of the word here used. There are two words translated repent; one, indicating a change of mind; the other, a change of feeling. "It has been observed by some, and, I think, with reason, that the former denotes, properly a change to the better; the latter, barely a change, whether it be to the better or to the worse; that the former marks a change of mind that is durable and productive of consequences; the latter expresses only a present uneasy feeling of regret or sorrow for what is done, without regard either to duration or to effects; in fine, that the first may properly be translated into English, I reform; the second, I repent, in the familiar acceptation of the word."Campbell. The first of these words is used in this verse. It evidently implies much more than regret for the past. In the parallel place, Luke iii. 3--14, some of the duties, comprehended in John's exhortation to repent, are specified; from which it is manifest that he aimed at a thorough reformation of conduct, or amendment of life. The Jews were proverbially a hard-hearted and stiffnecked people. And perhaps at no former period in their history can be found evidence of greater depravity of heart and conduct than existed at this very time. Lust of power and riches, hatred and cruelty towards others, for

3 For this is he that was spoken | of by the prophet Esaias, saying

mality and hypocrisy in their religious a new religious economy, instituted by services, were their distinguishing char- God, and by his special care established acteristics. They needed, therefore, and extended in the world, breaking not only a proper regret for their past down every opposing power, and assimiwickedness, but a thorough change in lating all things to its own peculiar their habits of thought and action. To character. This economy we now call, effect such a change from sinfulness to by a name rather vague, the gospel disholiness was one great object of Christ's pensation; but by the ancient Jews it mission. Acts iii. 26. With much would have been more properly denomipropriety, therefore, his herald, in an-nated the reign of the Messiah. Its nouncing his approach, called the attention of the people to this important subject. And let it not be forgotten, that, although the Jews were particularly addressed, yet it is as proper and necessary for us and all, as for them, to reform whatever is amiss in our hearts and lives; to forsake sin and practise righteousness. ¶ Kingdom of heaven. The phrases kingdom of heaven, kingdom of God, and the simple term kingdom, are used in the New Testament, to express the same idea. This is evident from the fact, that, in relating the same discourse, what one evangelist calls kingdom of heaven another calls kingdom of God. Compare Matt. v. 3; Luke vi. 20. For a like use of the word kingdom, alone, see Matt. iv. 17, 23. The kingdom of Christ, or of the Son of man, expresses the same idea. Matt. xvi. 28; Luke ix. 27. See, also, Matt. xiii. 41--43, where the kingdom of the Son and the kingdom of the Father, or of God, have the same meaning. It is worthy of observation, that Matthew is the only New Testament writer who uses the phrase kingdom of heaven; and that he uses this more frequently than any of the synonymous phrases. This peculiarity may be accounted for, by the fact that he wrote for the special information of the Jews, among whom it had long been customary to use the word heaven or heavens, instead of the more holy name of God; and by whom the phrase kingdom of heaven would be readily understood to mean the kingdom of God. Dan. iv. 26. The word kingdom does not, perhaps, express the idea so distinctly as might be desired. Campbell and others prefer the word reign. What then is denoted by the kingdom or reign of God, or of heaven, or of the Son of man? In defining this phrase, I adopt the language of Rev. H. Ballou, 2d. "It denoted, in general,

fundamental principle was pure religion, both theoretical and practical; and, accordingly, St. Paul says that the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;' and that it is not in word, but in power.' Rom. xiv. 17; 1 Cor. iv. 20. As might be expected, however, the phrase appears often to embrace, within its signification, not only this internal and pervading spirit, but also that external system of its administration, which God had organized, and committed, for the most part, into the hands of Jesus Christ to execute; consisting of divine revelation, the gift of prophecy, the working of miracles, the preaching of the word, and the institution of the church; to which we may add, the divine blessing on all these means, and the ever active cooperation of Providence. This is its most general or unrestrained sense; and with this latitude it is probably to be understood when used indefinitely; as when mention is made of 'the gospel of the kingdom,' or of 'preaching the kingdom of God.' Sometimes, too, it appears to relate solely to what we have called the external system of its administration, without including its spiritual principles. Thus, Christ tells the Jews, Therefore I say unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given unto a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof;' Matt. xxi. 43; meaning, evidently, that the opportunities of all kinds, which they then enjoyed for embracing true relígion, should be transferred from them to the Gentiles. Sometimes, again, it applies more especially to the body of people who lived under the operation of those means; as Christ says, 'The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things which offend, and them which do iniquity;' Matt. xiii. 41; in

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

other words, they shall gather out of the multitude which I have claimed for my subjects, all those who transgress my laws. Notwithstanding there seems considerable variety of signification in these several instances, the careful reader will readily perceive that it is but a modification of the general meaning, and that, in every case, the primary idea is still the same; that of a religious dominion exercised by Heaven over individuals or communities."-Univ. Expositor, I. 10, 11. See, also, "Selections," &c., sect. i. In the epistles, this phrase is sometimes used in a sense more extensive, and more directly referring to the future life. This variety of signification will be noticed in its proper place. At hand. Very near; about to commence. No time remained for delay. The king was approaching, and his reign would immediately begin. This declaration was verified within a few days.

4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his

Clarke has given from Diodorus, a good illustration of this passage, in a description of an expedition of Semiramis. "In her march to Ecbatana, she came to the Zarcean mountain, which, extending many furlongs, and being fuil of craggy precipices and deep hollows, could not be passed without making a great compass about; being therefore desirous of leaving an everlasting memorial of herself, as well as shortening the way, she ordered the precipices to be digged down, and the hollows to be filled up; and, at a great expense, she made a shorter and more expeditious road, which to this day is called, from her, the road of Semiramis." See the language of the prophet, as translated from the Hebrew, in the common version of the Bible. To cause such preparations to be made, heralds were sent forward to proclaim the approach of the important personage. Something slightly analo gous to this custom may be observed 3. This is he. It is generally sup- in our own age and country. John was posed that the prophet, in the place commissioned to announce the advent here quoted, had special reference to of a more illustrious and august monthe return of the Jews from Babylon; arch than had ever before appeared on and that his language is applied to the earth. Though he came in meekJohn only by accommodation. Doubt-ness and humility, yet Solomon in all less, this interpretation may be justified by the usage of similar phrases among the orientals. See note on Matt. ii. 15. But it appears more probable to me, that the prophet had direct reference to the coming of the Messiah, preceded by his herald. The predictions contained in the whole chapter seem more applicable to Jesus Christ than to any other, if indeed they can be regarded as applicable to any other; and if this be their proper application, of course the passage relative to the herald, or forerunner, must 4. Raiment. Clothing; dress.refer to John. Our Lord himself seems ¶ Camel's hair. Not the fine cloth, to confirm this interpretation, by apply-known by that name in the present ing to John the language of another day; but a coarse, cheap cloth, made prophet,-Mal. iii. 1; iv. 5,-which is of the shaggy hair of the camel. Such very similar to that which is here is still worn by the poor, in eastern quoted. See Matt. xi. 10, 14. Esaias. countries, and by some monks. It was The Greek form of the Hebrew Isaiah. a common dress of the prophets of old. The passage quoted is Isa. xl. 3. 2 Kings i. 8; Zech. xiii. 4. In the It seems to have been quoted from the latter place, the "rough garment" was Septuagint, with which it nearly agrees; probably composed of hair-cloth. John but it differs slightly from the He- differed from other heralds, in appearbrew. Prepare ye the way, &c. The ance, as his Master and ours differed imagery is drawn from eastern customs. from other princes. He was not

his glory was insignificant, in comparison with him, for true dignity and majesty. The preparation required was of a higher character, also, in this case; being of a spiritual instead of a physical nature. The people were to put away their pride, avarice, obstinacy, lusts, passions, indeed, everything which might be an obstacle to the progress and triumph of the great moral Governor, who was sent from heaven to rule, protect, and bless.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »