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A Commentary on the New Testament
from the Talmud and Hebraica
Exercitations upon the Evangelist St. Luke
2. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast
into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
[That a millstone were hanged about his neck.] There is mention among the
Talmudic authors, concerning an ass-mill, and it is distinguished from a hand-mill.
"Whoso hireth a house of his neighbour, he may build an ass-mill, but not a
To have a millstone hanged about his neck was a common proverb. "Samuel
saith, It is a tradition, that a man may marry, and after that apply himself to the study
of the law. But R. Jochanan saith, No. Shall he addict himself to the study of the law
with a millstone about his neck?"
Suidas tells us, When they drowned any in the sea, they hung stones about their
necks. And quotes that of Aristophanes:
Lifting him up, I'll plunge him to the deep,
A stone hung at his neck.
3. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if
he repent, forgive him.
[Rebuke him.] The Rabbins are not sparing in granting the lawfulness of
repeating rebuke upon rebuke, but they are most sparing about forgiveness where any hath
given an offence. They allow, from Leviticus 19:17, that a man may rebuke a hundred times
if there be any need for it; nay, that it is the duty of a disciple to rebuke his master
if occasion be. But as to forgiving him that offends, they abuse the words of the prophet,
Amos 1:2, "for three transgressions"; and that of Job 33:29, "Lo, God
worketh all these things three times with man"; and teach that a man is not bound to
forgive a fourth trespass.
6. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto
this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it
should obey you.
[As a grain of mustard seed.] A phrase greatly in use. Sometimes we have it like
a seed of mustard. Sometimes, like a grain of mustard seed. Sometimes, like
a drop of mustard.
When our Lord had been teaching his disciples concerning charity towards their
offending brother, they beg of him increase our faith. Which words (saving that I
would not wrong the faith of the apostles, as if they begged of their Master an increase
of it) I would inquire whether they might not be put into some such sense as this:
"Lay down or add something concerning the measure of our faith, as thou hast done
concerning the measure of our charity": which, therefore, he doth in his following
7. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him
by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
[Will say unto him by and by, Go and sit down to meat?] Some there were of old
that were wont to do thus. "The wise men of old were used to give their servant
something of every thing that they ate themselves." This was indeed kindly done, and
but what they ought; but then it follows, they made their beasts and their servants
take their meals before themselves. This was supererogation.
11. And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst
of Samaria and Galilee.
[He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.] If it had been said through
the midst of Galilee and Samaria, there had been no difficulty; but being said through
the midst of Samaria and Galilee, it raiseth that doubt to which I have formerly
spoken, viz. whether through 'Galilee,' in this place, ought not to be understood through
'Perea.' The Syriac and Arabic seem to have been aware of this difficulty; and
therefore, to accommodate the matter, have rendered through the midst, by between.
So that the sense they seem to make of it is this: that Jesus in his journey to Jerusalem
took his way in the very extreme borders of Galilee and Samaria, i.e. that he went
between the confines, and, as it were, upon the very brink of each country for a good
way together. He did, indeed, go to the Scythopolitan bridge, by which he passed over into
Perea: but whether through the midst will allow of such a rendering, let the more
12. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were
lepers, which stood afar off:
[Ten men that were lepers.] I. It is provided by a law, in Leviticus 13:46, that
"he that is a leper shall dwell alone, and without the camp." How then came
these ten to converse thus together? as also those four together, 2 Kings 7:3?
Other unclean persons must not live with him: i.e. those that are unclean by
other kind of defilements: which also is intimated by the Gemarists in these words:
"Shall those that have their issues, and those that are defiled by the dead, be sent
out into one and the same place? The text saith, 'They shall not defile their camps,'
Numbers 5:3; to assign one camp for these, and another for them."
The lepers might be conversant with lepers, and those that had issues
with those that had issues; but those that were under different defilements might not
converse promiscuously. Which confirms what I have conceived concerning the five porches
at the pool of Bethesda; viz., that they were so framed and distinguished at first, that
there might be a different reception for those that had contracted different kinds of
defilements, and were there waiting to be cleansed in that pool.
That there were certain places where they that were unclean by that disease of the leprosy
were secluded, reason might persuade us: for it were an inhuman thing to cast the leprous
out of the city without any provision of a dwelling for them, but that they should always
lie in the open air. Whether there was any such thing in this place, I will not
determine. It seems as if these ten lepers, having heard of our Saviour's coming that way,
were got but lately together to attend him there. For when the seventy disciples had
beforehand openly proclaimed, in all the places where he was to come, that he would come
thither, it is easy to conceive in what infinite throngs the sick, and all that were
affected with any kind of distemper, would be crowding thither for a cure.
II. "The leper that transgresseth his bounds, let him receive forty stripes.
Those that have their issues, men or women, if they transgress their limits, let them also
receive forty stripes." Where the Gloss is, "The limits for those that have
their issues are the Mountain of the House, or the Court of the Gentiles: for they are
forbid to enter into the camp of the Levites. The unclean are not excluded but from the
Court: excepting those that have their issues and a gonorrhea upon them; they are excluded
even from the Mountain of the House; and the leper, who is excluded from the camp
of Israel, that is, from the city."
Now the camp of Israel, out of which the leper was to be excluded, they
interpreted to be every city that had been walled from the days of Joshua: "For (say
they) Joshua sanctified the walled cities with the holiness that was ascribed to the
camp of Israel; but he did not so to the rest of the land, nor the cities that had no
walls." This was a village, and not such a city, where these ten lepers meet
our Saviour; and if they were within this village, it was neither beyond the custom nor
the rule, provided that they kept but their distance.
"A leper enters into the synagogue: they make him some grates, or bounds,
ten hands high and four cubits broad: he enters the first, and goes out the last."
The Gloss is, "Lest they should be defiled that stand in the synagogue," &c.
20. And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come,
he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
[The kingdom of god cometh not with observation.] The kingdom of God, or of
heaven, hath especially a twofold distinct sense in the Holy Scriptures. In some
places it signifies the propagation of the gospel by the Messias and his followers, and
that especially amongst the Gentiles: in other places it denotes the Messiah's victory and
vengeance upon the Jews, the enemies of this gospel; but in the Jewish schools this was
their conceit of him: that when he came he should cut off all those nations that obeyed
not his, i.e., the Jewish law; redeeming Israel from the Gentile yoke; establishing a
kingdom and age amongst them that should be crowned with all kind of delights whatever. In
this they were miserably deceived, that they thought the Gentiles were first to be
destroyed by him, and then that he himself would reign amongst the Israelites. Which, in
truth, fell out just contrary; he was first to overthrow Israel, and then to reign amongst
It is easy to conceive in what sense the Pharisees propounded that question, When
the kingdom of God should come? that is, when all those glorious things should be
accomplished which they expected from the Messias? and, consequently, we may as well
conceive, from the contexture of his discourse, in what sense our Saviour made his reply:
"You inquire when the Messias will come: His coming will be as in the days of Noah,
and as in the days of Lot. For as when Noah entered the ark the world perished by a
deluge, and as when Lot went out of Sodom those five cities were overthrown, 'so shall it
be in the day when the Son of Man shall be revealed.'" So that it is evident he
speaks of the kingdom of God in that sense, as it signifies that dreadful revenge he would
ere long take of that provoking nation and city of the Jews. The kingdom of God will come
when Jerusalem shall be made like Sodom, verse 29, when it shall be made a carcase,
It is plain to every eye, that the cutting-off of that place and nation is emphatically
called his kingdom, and his coming in glory. Nor indeed without reason: for
before he wasted the city and subverted that nation, he had subdued all nations under the
empire and obedience of the gospel; according to what he foretold, "That the gospel
of the kingdom should be preached in all the world, and then should the end [of
Jerusalem] come." And when he had obtained his dominion amongst the Gentiles,
what then remained towards the consummation of his kingdom and victories, but to
cut off his enemies the Jews, who would not that he should rule over them? Of this kingdom
of God he speaks in this place, not answering according to that vain apprehension the
Pharisee had when he propounded the question, but according to the thing itself and the
truth of it. There are two things he saith of this kingdom:
1. That it comes not with observation. Not but that it might be seen and
conspicuous, but that they would not see and observe it. Which security and supineness of
theirs he both foretells and taxeth in other places once and again.
2. He further tells them, this kingdom of God is within you: you are the scene
of these triumphs. And whereas your expectancies are of that kind, that you say, Behold
here a token of the Messias in the subduing of such a nation, and, Behold there in the
subduing of another; they will be all in vain, for it is within you; within, and
upon your own nation, that these things must be done. I would lay the emphasis in the word
you, when commonly it is laid in within.
Besides, those things which follow, verse 22, do very much confirm it, that Christ
speaks of the kingdom of God in that sense wherein we have supposed it: they are
spoken to his disciples "that the days will come, wherein they shall desire to see
one of the days of the Son of man, but shall not see it." The days of the Son of
man, in the Jewish style, are the days of the Messias: days, wherein they
promise themselves nothing but pleasing, prosperous, and gay enjoyments: and,
questionless, the Pharisees put this question under this notion only. But our Saviour so
applies the terms of the question to the truth, and to his own purpose, that they signify
little else but vengeance and wrath and affliction. And it was so far from it, that the
Jews should see their expected pleasures, that the disciples themselves should see nothing
but affliction, though under another notion.
1. And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to
pray, and not to faint;
[And not to faint.] The discourse is continued still; and this parable hath its
connexion with chapter 17, concerning Christ's coming to avenge himself upon Jerusalem;
which if we keep our eye upon, it may help us to an easier understanding of some more
obscure passages that occur in the application of this parable. And to this doth the
expression not to faint, seem to have relation; viz. that they might not suffer
their hopes and courage to languish and droop, upon the prospect of some afflictions they
were likely to grapple with, but that they would give themselves to continual prayer.
2. Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
[There was a certain judge, &c.] If the scene of this parabolical history
must be supposed to have been amongst the Jews, then there would some questions arise upon
it: 1. Whether this judge were any way distinguished from an elder or presbyter:
for the doctors are forced to such a distinction from those words in Deuteronomy 21:2, thy
elders and thy judges: if a judge, be the same with an elder, which the
Babylonian Sotah approve of, then might it be inquired, whether it was lawful for
one elder to sit in judgment; which the Sanhedrim deny. But I let these things pass.
The parable propounded is of that rank or order that commonly amongst the Jews is
argued from the less to the greater: "If that judge, the wickedest of men,
being overcome by the endless importunity of the widow, judged her cause, will not a just,
merciful, and good God appear for his own much more, who continually solicit him?"
[Who feared not God, &c.] How widely distant is this wretch from the
character of a just judge! "Although in the triumviral court all things are not
expected there which are requisite in the Sanhedrim, yet is it necessary, that in every
one of that court there should be this sevenfold qualification; prudence, gentleness,
piety, hatred of mammon, love of truth, that they be beloved themselves, and of good
7. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though
he bear long with them?
[Though he bear long with them.] So 2 Peter 3:9, is longsuffering to us-ward.
In both places the discourse is concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, and the times
immediately preceding it; in which the Lord exercised infinite patience towards his elect.
For in that slippery and unsteady state of theirs, when apostasy prevailed beyond measure,
and it was a hard thing to abandon Judaism, people were very difficultly gained over to
the faith, and as difficultly retained in it, when they had once embraced it. And yet,
after all this longsuffering and patience, shall he find faith on earth?
12. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
[I fast twice in the week.] I. There were fasts of the congregation, and fasts
of this or that single person. And both principally upon the account of afflictions
or straits. "These are the calamities of the congregation for which they fast.
Being besieged by enemies, the sword, pestilence, a hurtful beast, locusts, the
caterpillar, mildew, blasting, abortions, diseases, scarcity of bread, drought."
"As the congregation fasts upon the occasion of general calamities, so does
this or that person for his particular afflictions. If any that belong to him be sick, or
lost in the wilderness, or kept in prison, he is bound to fast in his behalf,"
II. "The fasts appointed by the congregation by reason of general
calamities, are not from day to day, because there are few that could hold out in such a fast,
but on the second and fifth days of the week." On those days they assembled in
their synagogues to public prayers: and to this I would refer that of Acts 13:2, as
they ministered before the Lord and fasted; much rather than to the celebration of the
mass, which some would be wresting it to.
III. It was very usual for the single person, to devote himself to stated and
repeated fasts for religion's sake, even when there was no affliction or calamity
of life to urge them to it. And those that did so chose to themselves those very days
which the congregation was wont to do; viz. the second and the fifth days of
the week. The single person that taketh upon him to fast on the second and fifth days,
and the second day throughout the whole year, &c.
Let me add this one thing further about these fasts: "R. Chasda saith, The fast
upon which the sun sets is not to be called a fast." And yet they take very
good care that they be not starved by fasting, for they are allowed to eat and
drink the whole night before the fast. "It is a tradition. Rabbi saith, It is
lawful to eat till day-light."
[I give tithes of all that I possess.] This Pharisee in the profession he maketh
of himself, imitates the profession which he was to make that offered the firstfruits:
"I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house and given them to the
Levite and to the stranger, to the fatherless and to the widow," &c.
But tell me, O thou Pharisee, dost thou thus strictly give tithes of all things out of
an honest mind and pure justice, viz., that the priest and Levite and poor may have every
one their own? and not rather out of mere fear and dread, because of that rule, "He
that eateth of things that are not tithed is worthy of death?"
13. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his
eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
[And the publican, standing afar off, &c.] I. That the Israelites, when they
went into the Temple to put up their own private prayers, went beyond the outward court,
or the Court of the Gentiles, into the Court of the Women; this, amongst other things,
makes it evident, viz., that in that court were placed thirteen eleemosynary chests,
into which they threw in their voluntary oblations: which was done by the widow with her
two mites in that place.
II. It is a question whether any person for his private praying might come as far as
the gate of Nicanor, or the Court of Israel; much less into the Court of the Priests,
unless the priests only. We read of our Saviour's being in the Court of the Gentiles,
viz., in Solomon's Porch, and that he was in the treasury, or the Court of the Women; but
you will hardly find him at any time in the Court of Israel. And the negative upon their
entrance into that court is confirmed, at least if that rule avail any thing which we meet
with in Hieros. Beracoth: "R. Joshua Ben Levi saith, 'He that stands to pray,
it is necessary that he first sit down, because it is said, Blessed are they that
"sit" in thy house.'" Now it was lawful for no person to sit down in
that court but the king only.
III. That therefore this publican stood so much further off while he prayed than
the Pharisee, was probably more from his humility than any necessity that lay upon him so
to do. For though the heathen and publican go together in those words of our Saviour,
"Let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican," yet it is a question
whether the publicans, if they were Jews, were bounded to the outward court only, as the
[He would not lift so much as his eyes unto heaven.] What needed this to have
been added, when this was the very rule of praying, "Let him that prayeth cover his
head and look downward." "The disciple of the wise men, when he stands praying,
let him look downward." But were those of the laity or of the common people to do
thus? If not, our question is answered, that this man (otherwise than the vulgar was wont)
in deep humility and a conscience of his own vileness, would not lift up his eyes. But if
this was the usage of all in common, that whilst they were actually praying they must look
downward; yet probably in the time that they were composing themselves to prayer, they
might be a little lifting up their eyes towards heaven. "If they pray in the Temple,
they turn their faces towards the holy of holies; if elsewhere, then towards
Jerusalem." And it would be a strange thing if they were not to have their eyes
towards heaven at all: indeed, when they began to pray, then they looked downward.
[For more info, please see A Discourse upon the Pharisee and
Publican by John Bunyan (341k).]
15. And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his
disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
[But when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.] "Wicked Israelites'
little ones shall not come into the world to come: wicked heathen's little ones all men
confess they shall not come into the world to come. From what time is a little child
capable of the world to come? R. Chaijah and R. Simeon Bar Rabbi; one of them saith, From
the time wherein he is born. The other saith, From the time that he can speak.
Rabbona saith, From the time it is begot. Rabh Nachman Bar Isaac saith, From the
time he is circumcised: R. Meir saith, From the time that he can answer, Amen."
Whether this question was handled in the schools or no in the times of the apostles, it
is very probable they took this bringing of little children to Christ ill, because (if
they might be judges) they were not capable of the kingdom of heaven. And indeed our
Saviour's answer to them seems to favour this conjecture of ours: "Is it so indeed,
that you suppose such as these unfit and incapable? I tell you, that of such is the
kingdom of God."
19. And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save
one, that is, God.
[Why callest thou me good?] I. For the better understanding our Saviour's sense
and meaning in these and the following words, I would affirm, (and who can argue it to the
contrary?) that this man acknowledged Jesus for the true Messiah.
1. This several others did also, who, as yet, were not his disciples; so those blind
men, when they call him 'the Son of David,' Matthew 20:30: not to mention others. And what
reason can there be for the negative upon this man? Especially when he appears to be a
person of more than ordinary parts and accomplishments, not only from what he tells us of
himself, but from that kind and affectionate reception he met with from Christ.
2. This was no vulgar or ordinary question he put here, "What shall I do, that I
may inherit eternal life?" For it seems plain that he was not satisfied in the
doctrine of their schools, about the merit of good works, and justification by the law:
but he thinks there is something more requisite towards the obtaining salvation, because,
after he had (as he tells us) performed this law from his youth up, he yet inquireth
further, "What shall I do," &c.; in which that he was in earnest, our
Saviour's behaviour towards him sufficiently testified; as also that he came to Jesus, as
to no ordinary teacher, to be instructed in this affair.
3. It was very unusual to salute the Rabbins of that nation with this title. For
however they were wont to adorn (not to say load) either the dead or absent
with very splendid epithets, yet if they spoke to them while present, they gave them no
other title than either Rabbi, or Mar, or Mari. If you turn over both
the Talmuds, I am deceived if you once find either Good Rabbi, or Good Mar.
II. So far, therefore, is our Lord in these words from denying his Godhead, that he
rather doth, as it were, draw this person in to own and acknowledge it: "Thou seemest
in thy very address to me, and the compellation thou gavest me, to own me for the Messias:
and dost thou take me for God too as well as man, when thou callest me good, seeing
there is none good but God only?" Certainly he saw something that was not ordinary in
this man, when it is said of him that he loved him, Mark 10:21: i.e. he spoke
kindly to him, and exhorted him, &c. See 2 Chronicles 18:2; Psalm 78:36: they
flattered him with their mouth. Nor is it an ordinary affection this young man seemed
to have for the blessed Jesus, in that he departs sorrowful from the counsel that
had been given him; and that he had the person that had counselled him in very high
esteem, appears in that he could not without infinite grief reject the counsel he gave
31. Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to
Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall
[He took unto him the twelve.] This falls in with that of John 11:7, "Let
us go into Judea." What! say they, into Judea again, where thou wast lately in so
much danger? However, he comes out and goes on, his disciples following him wondering, and
fearing the effects of it, Mark 10:32. He mentioned only at present his journey into
Judea, to see Lazarus: but, as they were going, he foretells his progress to Jerusalem,
and what was to be done with him there. It is probable he was at Bethabarah when the
message came to him that Lazarus was sick; and from thence, his way lying conveniently
over the Scythopolitan bridge, and so through part of Samaria, he chooseth the
transjordanine way to the fords of Jericho.
2. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among
the publicans, and he was rich.
[Zacchaeus.] there is mention of one of the same name, Zacchai, a father
of a famous family, Ezra 2:9: and about the time wherein our Zacchaeus lived, there
was one Zacchai, the father of Rabban Jochanan; than whom there was hardly a more
noted Rabban in the whole catalogue. This man brought up his son Jochanan in merchandise,
wherein he had employed himself for forty years, before he gave himself either to letters
or religion. From whence there might arise some conjecture, as if that Zacchai was
this Zacchaeus here mentioned, but that these two things make against it:
I. Because he was a Rabbin, or preferred to be one of the elders, as the author of Juchasin
doth, not without reason, conjecture. Now whereas the very employment of publicans lay
under so ill a name universally in that nation, it is hardly credible that that should
consist with the degree of Rabbin. To which I may add, that that Zacchai was of a
priestly descent: and what a monster would that seem amongst them, a priest and a
II. We may judge from the character of that Zacchai, whether he did not live and
die a Jew as to his religion, in every punctilio of it. "R. Zacchai's disciples asked
him" (where note, he bears the title of Rabbi), "How dost thou attain to
old age? He answered them, 'I did never in my whole life make water within four cubits of
the place of prayer: I never miscalled my neighbour: I never let slip the consecration
of a day. My mother was a very old woman, who once sold her hair-lace, and bought wine
with it, for me to consecrate a day with.' There is a tradition. When she died, she
bequeathed to him three hundred hogsheads of wine: and when he died, he bequeathed three
thousand hogsheads to his sons." The Gloss is: He that is constant in the
consecration of a day, by the merit of that obtains wine.
[Chief among the publicans.] A few things concerning the degree of publicans:
I. The lexicographer tells us, that they called those the greater publicans who
redeemed at a certain fixed price the tax and other revenues of the Romans: these were
commonly called the Daciarii.
II. "These are persons not capable of giving any public testimony, shepherds,
exactors, and publicans." Upon which words R. Gaon hath this passage: "The
Rabbins do not exclude the publicans upon the account that they exact more than is
appointed to them; for then they would be the same with exactors. But when the king
lays a tax upon the Jews, to be required of every one according to the proportion of their
estates, these publicans, in whose power it is to value every one's estate, will favour
some in the mitigation of their tax, and burden others beyond all measure."
III. There were publicans (to omit those who collected the taxes in every town)
who stood at gates and bridges, requiring tribute of all passengers, concerning whom we
meet with something in Schabbath. Where there is also mention of the greater and
the lesser publican. Concerning whom the Gloss speaks thus; "Sometimes there is a
greater publican, to whom it is very grievous to stand at the bridge all the day long:
he therefore substitutes an inferior or lesser publican." Let us take this
story out of this same tract.
"R. Judah, R. Joseph, R. Simeon, and R. Judah Ben Garis sitting together, R. Judah
began and said, 'O how great are the works of this (Roman) nation: they build
streets and bridges and bagnios.' R. Jose held his tongue, and said nothing: but R. Simeon
Ben Jochai answered and said, 'Whatsoever they have built, they have built it for their
own advantage. They have built bridges that they might gain a toll by them.' R. Judah Ben
Garis went and told this to the Roman empire, who thus decreed: 'Let R. Judah, who hath
magnified the empire, be promoted: Jose that held his tongue [which, I imagine, ought to
be rendered] let him be banished to Cyprus; and for Simeon that reproached it, let
him be killed.'" Simeon hearing these things, betook himself into a cave; and there
lay hid with his son for the space of thirteen years.
Now as to what order or degree amongst the publicans our Zacchaeus held, it is
neither easy nor tanti to determine it. The title of chief among the publicans,
will hardly bear it, that he was one of those that received toll or custom at bridges;
though even amongst those there were some who had the title of the greater publicans.
He may rather be esteemed either of the first or the second class of those I have already
named. In either of those it was easier for him to raise false accusation against any
(which he chargeth himself with) than at the bridge or so.
8. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I
give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I
restore him fourfold.
[The half of my goods I give to the poor.] I. A distribution amongst the poor
of these goods that had been ill got was necessary. In Sanhedrim there is a
discourse of restitution, and distribution of dishonest gains, especially what wealth had
been got by merchandise of fruits of the seventh year, which are forbidden. And this is
the form of restitution: "I, N., the son of N., scraped up such a sum by the fruits
of the seventh year; and behold, I bestow it all upon the poor."
II. Alms were to be given to the poor out of wealth honestly acquired: but
according to the rules and precepts of the Rabbins, they were not bound to bestow above
one fifth part. "As to what help is to be afforded by mammon, there is a
stated measure; a fifth part of his mammon. No one is bound to give more than one
fifth." And they say, "That it is decreed in Usha, that a man should set apart the
fifth part of his estate according to the command."
The fifth part was so stated and decreed, that, 1., so far they ought to go upon the
account of a command. 2. No man is bound by the law to go further. But, 3., he may do
more, if he please, on his own accord. Which this Zacchaeus did in a large and generous
measure. The restitution of fourfold for his sycophancy agreed with the law about theft.
9. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as
he also is a son of Abraham.
[This day is salvation come to this house.] It is said, verse 7, "That they
all murmured that Christ was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner." What then
did they think of the house itself that belonged to this sinner? Do we think they would
enter in, when they despised any thing that belonged to publicans? Perhaps that expression
Zacchaeus stood and said, may seem to hint that he came forth, and stood talking
with those that were without doors, and would not enter. However, if we well consider how
meanly they accounted of the house of a publican, we may the more easily understand what
the meaning of that expression is, This day is salvation come to this house.
[Forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.] That is, say most, the son of
Abraham by faith; which indeed is most true. But I doubt, however, that this is not
directly the sense of these words. For I question whether the Jews knew of any kind of
relation to Abraham but that which was according to the flesh, and by way of stock and
offspring. The son of Abraham by faith was a notion unknown; and I scarce believe
our Saviour would speak to them in an unintelligible dialect...
11. And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was
nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately
[And because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.] The
time draweth nigh that the kingdom of heaven shall be revealed. We have observed
elsewhere, that it was the nation's universal opinion, that that very time wherein Christ
did appear was the time wherein they expected the coming of Messiah, being so taught by
the prophecy of Daniel. Which however the more modern Jews would now endeavour to evade,
as also other more illustrious predictions that concern our Jesus, yet were those times
then more truly and more sincerely interpreted. Hence that conflux of Jews from all
nations to Jerusalem, Acts 2:5. And to this doth that in some measure attest which the
Talmudists relate concerning the paraphrast of the prophets, that when he went about to
paraphrase also the Hagiographa, or holy writings, he was forbidden by Bath
Kol, saying, That he must abstain from that; for in those books was the end of the
Messiah, viz. Daniel 9:26.
13. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto
them, Occupy till I come.
[And delivered them ten pounds.] This parable of the pounds hath for the
general the very same scope with that of the talents, Matthew 25. That nobleman or
king that went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom is Christ in his
gospel, going forth to call in the Gentiles to his obedience: returning, he cuts off the
nation of the Jews that would not have him to reign over them, verse 27: and while they
were now in expectation of the immediate revelation of the kingdom of heaven, and were
dreaming many vain and senseless things concerning it, our Saviour, by this parable, warns
and admonisheth them, that he must not look for any advantage by that kingdom who
cannot give a good account of those talents which God had committed to his trust and
A talent is the value of sixty pounds. A pound is a hundred drachms. A drachm is six
oboli. An obolus is six pieces of brass coin. A brass piece of coin is seven mites.
44. And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they
shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy
[Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.] The Masters dispute the
reason of the laying-waste of Jerusalem.
"Abai saith, Jerusalem was not destroyed for any thing but the profanation of the
sabbath. R. Abba saith, It was not destroyed for any thing but their neglect in reciting
their phylacteries morning and evening. Rabh Menona saith, It was not destroyed for any
thing but their not minding the bringing up of their children in the school. Ulla saith,
Jerusalem had not been destroyed but for their immodesty one towards another. R. Isaac
saith, It had not been destroyed, but that they equalled the inferior with the superior.
R. Chainah saith, It had not been destroyed, but that they did not rebuke one another. R.
Judah saith, It had not been destroyed, but that they condemned the disciples of the wise
men," &c. But Wisdom saith, Jerusalem was destroyed, because she knew not the
time of her visitation.
All those great good things that were promised to mankind were promised as what should
happen in the last days, i.e. in the last days of Jerusalem. Then was the Messiah
to be revealed: then was the Holy Ghost to be poured out: then was the mountain of the
Lord to be exalted, and the nations should flow in to it: in a word, then were to be
fulfilled all those great things which the prophets had foretold about the coming of the
Messiah and the bringing in of the gospel. These were the times of Jerusalem's visitation,
if she could have known it. But so far was she from that knowledge, that nothing was more
odious, nothing more contemptible, than when indeed all these ineffable benefits were
dispensed in the midst of her. Nor indeed were those times described beforehand with more
remarkable characters as to what God would do, than they were with black and dreadful
indications as to the perverseness and obstinacy of that people. They were the best of
times, and the worst generation lived in them. In those last days of that city were
'perilous times,' 2 Timothy 3:1: 'departing from the faith,' 1 Timothy 4:1: 'Scoffers' of
religion, 2 Peter 3:3: in a word, 'many antichrists,' 1 John 2:18. So far was Jerusalem
and the nation of the Jews from knowing and acknowledging the things that belonged unto
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