Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Matthew
"R. Tarphon said, 'I wonder whether there be any in this age that will receive
reproof: but if one saith to another, Cast out the mote out of thine eye, he will be ready
to answer, Cast out the beam out of thine own eye.'" Where the Gloss writes thus;
"Cast out the mote, that is, the small sin that is in thine hand; he may
answer, But cast you out the great sin that is in yours. So that they could not reprove,
because all were sinners."
2. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt,
thou canst make me clean.
[Thou canst make me clean.] The doctrine in the law concerning leprosy paints
out very well the doctrine of sin.
I. It teacheth, that no creature is so unclean by a touch as man. Yea, it may with good
reason be asked, whether any creature, while it lived, was unclean to the touch, beside
man? That is often repeated in the Talmudists, that "he that takes a worm in his
hand, all the waters of Jordan cannot wash him from his uncleanness"; that is, while
the worm is as yet in his hand; or the worm being cast away, not until the time appointed
for such purification be expired. But whether it is to be understood of a living or dead
worm, it is doubted, not without cause, since the law, treating of this matter, speaketh
only of those things that died of themselves. See Leviticus 11:31: "Whosoever shall
touch them when they be dead," &c.: and verse 32, "Upon whatsoever any of
them, when they are dead, shall fall," &c. But whether he speaks of a living
worm, or a dead, uncleanness followed by the touch of it for that day only: for "he
shall be unclean (saith the law) until the evening": but the carcase of a man being
touched, a week's uncleanness followed. See Numbers 19.
II. Among all the uncleannesses of men, leprosy was the greatest, inasmuch as other
uncleannesses separated the unclean person, or rendered him unclean, for a day, or a week,
or a month; but the leprosy, perhaps, for ever.
III. When the leper was purified, the leprosy was not healed: but the poison of the
disease being evaporated, and the danger of the contagion gone, the leper was restored to
the public congregation. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, was adjudged to perpetual leprosy;
and yet he was cleansed, and conversed with the king (2 Kings 8:5); cleanse, not healed.
Thus under justification and sanctification there remain still the seeds and filth of sin.
IV. He that was full of the leprosy was pronounced clean; he that was otherwise, was
not. Leviticus 13:12; "If the leprosy shall cover the whole body from head to foot,
thou shalt pronounce him clean," &c. A law certainly to be wondered at! Is he not
clean, till the whole body be infected and covered with the leprosy? Nor shalt thou, O
sinner, be made clean without the like condition. Either acknowledge thyself all over
leprous, or thou shalt not be cleansed.
3. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou
clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
[Jesus touched him.] It was indeed a wonder, that when the leprosy was a
creeping infection, the priest, when he judged of it, was not hurt with the infection. It
cannot be passed over without observation, that Aaron, being bound under the same guilt
with Miriam, bore not the same punishment: for she was touched with leprosy, he not,
Numbers 12. And also that Uzziah should be confuted concerning his encroaching upon the
priesthood no other way than by the plague of leprosy. In him God would magnify the
priesthood, that was to judge of the leprosy; and he would shew the other was no priest,
by his being touched with the leprosy. It can scarcely be denied, indeed, that the priests
sometimes might be touched with that plague; but certainly they catched not the contagion
while they were doing their office in judging of it. This is a noble doctrine of our High
Priest, the Judge and Physician of our leprosy, while he remains wholly untouched by it.
How much does he surpass that miracle of the Levitical priesthood! They were not touched
by the contagion when they touched the leprous person; he, by his touch, heals him that
hath the infection.
4. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, show thyself to
the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
[Go, shew thyself to the priest, &c.] I. Our Saviour would not have the
extraordinary manner whereby he was healed discovered to the priest, that he might pay the
ordinary duty of his cleansing. And surely it deserves no slight consideration, that he
sends him to the priest. However now the priesthood was too degenerate both from its
institution and its office, yet he would reserve to it its privileges, while he would
reserve the priesthood itself. Corruption, indeed, defiles a divine institution, but
extinguishes it not.
II. Those things which at that time were to be done in cleansing of the leprosy,
according to the Rubric, were these: "Let him bring three beasts: that is, a
sacrifice for sin, a sacrifice for transgression, and a burnt-offering. But a poor man
brought a sacrifice for sin of birds, and a burnt-offering of birds. He stands by the
sacrifice for transgression, and lays both his hands upon it, and slays it: and two
priests receive the blood; the one in a vessel, the other in his hand. He who receives the
blood in his hand goes to the leper in the chamber of the lepers": this was in the
corner of the Court of the Women, looking north-west. "He placeth him in the gate of
Nicanor," the east gate of the Court of Israel; "he stretcheth forth his head
within the court, and puts blood upon the lowest part of his ear: he stretcheth out his
hand also within the court, and he puts blood upon his thumb and his foot, and he puts
blood also upon his great toe, &c. And the other adds oil to the same members in the
same place," &c. The reason why, with his neck held out, he so thrust forth his
head and ears into the court, you may learn from the Glosser: "The gate of Nicanor
(saith he) was between the Court of the Women and the Court of Israel: but now it was not
lawful for any to enter into the Court of Israel for whom there was not a perfect
expiation: and, on the contrary, it was not lawful to carry the blood of the sacrifice for
transgression out of the court." Hence was that invention, that the leper that was to
be cleansed should stand without the court; and yet his ears, his thumbs, and his toes, to
which the blood was to be applied, were within the court. We omit saying more; it is
enough to have produced these things, whence it may be observed what things they were that
our Saviour sent back this healed person to do.
The cure was done in Galilee, and thence he is sent away to Jerusalem; silence and
sacrifice are enjoined him: See thou tell no man, &c.: and offer the gift,
&c. And why all these things?
First, Christ makes trial of the obedience and gratitude of him that was cured, laying
upon him the charge of a sacrifice and the labour of a journey.
Secondly, He would have him restored to the communion of the church (from which his
leprosy had separated him), after the wonted and instituted manner. He provides that he
himself give no scandal, and the person healed make no schism: and however both his words
and gestures sufficiently argue that he believed in Christ, yet Christ will by no means
draw him from the communion of the church, but restore him to it. Hence is that command of
his to him; "See thou tell no man, but offer a gift for a testimony to them":
that is, 'Do not boast the extraordinary manner of thy healing; think not thyself freed
from the bond of the law, in case of a leper, because of it; thrust not thyself into the
communion of the church before the rites of admission be duly performed: but, however you
have no business with the priest in reference to the purification and cleansing, go to the
priest nevertheless, and offer the gift that is due, for a testimony that you are again
restored into communion with them.' This caution of our Saviour hath the same tendency
with that, Matthew 17:27, "That we be not an offence to them," &c.
6. And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously
[Lieth] Laid forth. Thus, A dead man laid forth, in order to his
being carried out. The power and dominion of the disease is so expressed. The weak person
lieth so, that he is moved only by others; he cannot move himself, but is, as it were,
next door to carrying out. So, verse 14, of Peter's mother-in-law, was laid, and sick
of a fever.
16. When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with
devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:
[When the even was come.] Mark adds, when the sun was now set, and the
sabbath was now gone.
I. The sabbath was ended by the Jews at the supper, or the feast. In which they used a
candle (as they did upon the entrance of the sabbath), and wine, and spices; and the form
of a blessing over a cup of wine, and then over the candle, and then over the spices:
"Does the sabbath end when he is now in the middle of his feast? He puts an end to
his eating; washes his hands; and over a cup of wine he gives thanks for his food; and
afterward over that cup he useth the form of prayer in the separation of the sabbath from
a common day: if he be now drinking when the sabbath goes out, he ceaseth from drinking,
and recites the form of separation, and then returns to his drinking."
II. The proper limits of the sabbath were from sun-set to sun-set. This is sufficiently
intimated by St. Mark, when he saith, that when the sun was now set, they brought
the sick to be healed: which they held unlawful to do while the sun was yet going down,
and the sabbath yet present.
The Talmudic canons give a caution of some works, that they be not begun on the day
before the sabbath, if they may not be ended and finished, while it is yet day:
that is (as they explain it), while the sun is not yet set. He that lights a [sabbath]
candle, let him light it while it is yet day, before sun-set. "On the sabbath-eve
it is permitted to work until sun-set." The entrance of the sabbath was at sun-set,
and so was the end of it.
III. After the setting of sun, a certain space was called Bin Hashmashuth:
concerning which these things are disputed; "What is Bin Hashmashuth? R.
Tanchuma saith, It is like a drop of blood put upon the very edge of a sword, which
divides itself every where. What is Bin Hashmashuth? It is from that time when the
sun sets, whilst one may walk half a mile. R. Josi saith, Bin Hashmashuth is like a
wink of the eye," &c. Bin Hashmashuth properly signifies, between the
suns: and the manner of speech seems to be drawn thence, that there are said to be two
sun-sets. Concerning which, read the Glosser upon Maimonides. Where thus also
Maimonides himself: "From the time that the sun sets till the three middle stars
appear, it is called between the suns: and it is a doubt whether that time be part
of the day or of the night. However, they every where judge of it to render the office
heavy. Therefore, between that time they do not light the sabbatical candle: and
whosoever shall do any servile work on the sabbath-eve, and in the going out of the
sabbath, is bound to offer a sacrifice for sin." So also the Jerusalem Talmudists in
the place last cited: "Does one star appear? Certainly, as yet it is day. Do two? It
is doubted whether it be day. Do three? It is night without doubt." And a line after;
"On the sabbath-eve, if any work after one star seen, he is clear: if after two, he
is bound to a sacrifice for a transgression; if after three, he is bound to a sacrifice
for sin. Likewise, in the going out of the sabbath, if he do any work after one star is
seen, he is bound to a sacrifice for sin; if after two, to a sacrifice for transgression:
if after three, he is clear."
Hence you may see at what time they brought persons here to Christ to be healed,
namely, in the going out of the sabbath; if so be they took care of the canonical hour of
the nation, which is not to be doubted of.
17. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
[Himself took our infirmities.] Divers names of the Messias are produced by the
Talmudists, among others "The Rabbins say, His name is, 'The leper of the house of
Rabbi': as it is said, Certainly he bare our infirmities," &c. And a little
after, "Rabh saith, If Messias be among the living, Rabbenu Haccodesh is he."
The Gloss is, "If Messias be of them that are now alive, certainly our holy Rabbi is
he, as being one that carries infirmities," &c. R. Judah, whom they called 'the
Holy,' underwent very many sicknesses (of whom, and of his sicknesses, you have the story
in the Talmud, "thirteen years Rabbi laboured under the pain of the teeth,"
&c.); because of which there were some who were pleased to account him for the
Messias; because, according to the prophets, Messias should be 'a man of sorrows': and yet
they look for him coming in pomp.
This allegation of Matthew may seem somewhat unsuitable and different from the sense of
the prophet: for Isaiah speaks of the Messias carrying our infirmities in himself; but
Matthew speaks concerning him healing them in others: Isaiah of the diseases of the soul
(see 1 Peter 2:24); Matthew of the diseases of the body. But in this sense both agree very
well, that Christ's business was with our infirmities and sorrows, and he was able to
manage that business: his part was to carry and bear them, and in him was strength and
power to carry and bear them. In this sense, therefore, is Matthew to be understood; he
healed the demoniacs and all diseased persons with his word, that that of Isaiah might be
fulfilled, He it is who is able to bear and carry our sorrows and sicknesses. And so,
whether you apply the words to the diseases of the mind or the body, a plain sense by an
equal easiness does arise. The sense of Isaiah reacheth indeed further; namely, That
Messias himself shall be a man of sorrows, &c., but not excluding that which we have
mentioned, which Matthew very fitly retains, as excellently well suiting with his case.
28. And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there
met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no
man might pass by that way.
[Into the country of the Gergesenes.] In Mark and Luke it is, of the
Gadarenes, both very properly: for it was the city Gadara, whence the country had its
name: there was also Gergasa, a city or a town within that country; which whether it bare
its name from the ancient Canaanite stock of the Gergashites, or from the word Gargushta,
which signifies clay or dirt, we leave to the more learned to discuss. Lutetia,
[Paris], a word of such a nature, may be brought for an example.
[Two possessed with devils coming out of the tombs, &c.] "These are the
signs of a madman. He goes out in the night, and lodges among the sepulchres, and
teareth his garments, and tramples upon whatsoever is given him. R. Houna saith, But is he
only mad in whom all these signs are? I say, Not. He that goes out in the night is condriacus,
hypochondriacal. He that lodgeth a night among the tombs burns incense to devils.
He that tears his garments is melancholic. And he that tramples under his feet
whatsoever is given him is cardiacus, troubled in mind." And a little after,
"one while he is mad, another while he is well: while he is mad, he is to be
esteemed for a madman in respect of all his actions: while he is well, he is to be
esteemed for one that is his own man in all respects." See what we say at chapter
30. And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.
[A herd of many swine feeding.] Were these Gadarenes Jews, or heathens?
I. It was a matter of infamy for a Jew to keep swine: "R. Jonah had a very red
face, which a certain woman seeing said thus, Seignior, Seignior, either you are a
winebibber, or a usurer, or a keeper of hogs."
II. It was forbidden by the canon: "The wise men forbade to keep hogs anywhere,
and a dog, unless he were chained." Hogs upon a twofold account: 1. By reason of the
hurt and damage that they would bring to other men's fields. Generally, "the keeping
smaller cattle was forbid in the land of Israel"; among which you may very well
reckon hogs even in the first place: and the reason is given by the Gemarists, "That
they break not into other men's grounds." 2. The feeding of hogs is more particularly
forbidden for their uncleanness. It is forbidden to trade in any thing that is unclean.
III. Yea, it was forbid under a curse: "The wise men say, Cursed is he that keeps
dogs and swine; because from them ariseth much harm."
"Let no man keep hogs anywhere. The Rabbins deliver: When the Asmonean family were
in hostility among themselves, Hyrcanus was besieged within Jerusalem, and Aristobulus was
without. The besieged sent money in a box let down by a rope; and they which were without
bought with it the daily sacrifices, which were drawn up by those that were within. Among
the besiegers there was one skilled in the Greek learning, who said, 'As long as they thus
perform the service of the Temple, they will not be delivered into your hands.' The next
day, therefore, they let down their money, and these sent them back a hog. When the hog
was drawing up, and came to the middle of the wall, he fixed his hoofs to the wall, and
the land of Israel was shaken, &c. From that time they said, 'Cursed be he who keeps
hogs, and cursed be he who teacheth his son the wisdom of the Greeks.'" This story is
cited in Menachoth.
Therefore you will wonder, and not without cause, at that which is related in their
Talmud: "They said sometimes to Rabh Judah, There is a plague among the swine. He
therefore appointed a fast." What! is a Jew concerned for a plague among swine? But
the reason is added: "For Rabh Judah thought that a stroke laid upon one kind of
cattle would invade all."
You may not, therefore, improperly guess, that these hogs belonged not to the Jews, but
to the heathen dwelling among the Gadarene Jews; for such a mixture was very usual in the
cities and countries of the land of Israel. Which we observe elsewhere of the town Susitha
or Hippo, but some small distance from Gadara.
Or if you grant that they were Jews, their manners will make that opinion probable, as
being persons whose highest law the purse and profit was wont to be. Since brawn and
swine's flesh were of so great account with the Romans and other heathens, there is no
reason to believe that a Jew was held so straitly by his canons, as to value them before
his own profit, when there was hope of gain.
9. And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at
the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
[He saw a man sitting at the receipt of custom, called Matthew.] Five disciples
of Christ are mentioned by the Talmudists, among whom Matthew seems to be named: "The
Rabbins deliver, There were five disciples of Jesus, Mathai, Nakai, Nezer, and Boni,
and Thodah." These, they relate, were led out and killed. See the place. Perhaps five
are only mentioned by them, because five of the disciples were chiefly employed among the
Jews in Judea: namely, Matthew who wrote his Gospel there, Peter, James, John, and Judas.
Matthew seems to have sat in the custom-house of Capernaum near the sea, to gather some
certain toll or rate of those that sailed over. See Mark, chapter 2:13, 14.
"He that produceth paper [on the Sabbath] in which a publican's note is writ, and
he that produceth a publican's note, is guilty." The Gloss is, "When any pays
tribute to the lord of the river, or when he excuses him his tribute, he certifies the
publican by a note [or some bill of free commerce], that he hath remitted him his duty:
and it was customary in it to write two letters greater than ours." See also the
14. Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast
oft, but thy disciples fast not?
[We and the Pharisees fast oft.] Monsters, rather than stories, are related of
the Pharisees' fasts:--
I. It is known to all, from Luke 18:12, that they were wont to fast twice every week.
The rise of which custom you may fetch from this tradition: "Ezra decreed ten
decrees. He appointed the public reading of the law the second and fifth days of the week:
and again on the sabbath at the Mincha [or evening service]. He instituted
the session of the judges in cities on the second and fifth days of the week,"
&c. Of this matter discourse is had elsewhere: "If you ask the reason why the
decree was made concerning the second and fifth days, &c., we must answer, saith the
Gloss, from that which is said in Midras concerning Moses; namely, that he went up into
the mount to receive the second tables on the fifth day of the week, and came down, God
being now appeased, the second day. When, therefore, that ascent and descent was a time of
grace, they so determined of the second and fifth days. And therefore they were wont to
fast also on the second and fifth days."
II. It was not seldom that they enjoined themselves fasts, for this end, to have lucky
dreams; or to attain the interpretation of some dream; or to turn away the ill import of a
dream. Hence was that expression very usual, A fast for a dream; and it was a
common proverb, A fast is as fit for a dream, as fire is for flax. For this cause
it was allowed to fast on the sabbath, which otherwise was forbidden. See the Babylonian
Talmud, in the tract Schabbath: where also we meet with the story of R. Joshua Bar
Rabh Idai, who on the sabbath was splendidly received by R. Ishai, but would not eat
because he was under a fast for a dream.
III. They fasted often to obtain their desires: "R. Josi fasted eighty fasts, and
R. Simeon Ben Lachish three hundred for this end, that they might see R. Chaijah
Rubbah." And often to avert threatening evils; of which fasts the tract Taanith does
largely treat. Let one example be enough instead of many; and that is, of R. Zadok, who
for forty years, that is, from the time when the gates of the Temple opened of their own
accord (a sign of the destruction coming), did so mortify himself with fastings, that he
was commonly called Chalsha, that is, The weak. And when the city was now
destroyed, and he saw it was in vain to fast any longer, he used the physicians of Titus
to restore his health, which, through too much abstinence, had been wasted.
15. And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as
the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken
from them, and then shall they fast.
[The children of the bridechamber.] The sons of the bridechamber, an
ordinary phrase. There is no need to relate their mirth in the time of the nuptials: I
will relate that only, and it is enough, which is spoke by the Glosser, They were wont
to break glass vessels in weddings And that for this reason, that they might by this
action set bounds to their mirth, lest they should run out into too much excess. The
Gemara produceth one or two stories there: "Mar the son of Rabbena made wedding
feasts for his son, and invited the Rabbins: and when he saw that their mirth exceeded its
bounds, he brought forth a glass cup worth four hundred zuzees, and brake it before
them; whereupon they became sad." The like story is also related of Rabh Ishai. And
the reason of this action is given; Because it is forbidden a man to fill his mouth
with laughter in this world.
...the days of the bridechamber, to the sons of the bridechamber, that is, to
the friends and acquaintance, were seven: hence there is frequent mention of "the
seven days of the marriage-feast": but to the bride, the days of the bridechamber
were thirty. It is forbidden to eat, drink, wash or anoint oneself on the day of
Expiation: But it is allowed a king and a bride to wash their faces "For the
bride is to be made handsome (saith the Gloss upon the place), that she may be lovely to
her husband. And all the thirty days of her bridechamber she is called The Bride."
It is worth meditation, how the disciples, when Christ was with them, suffered no
persecution at all; but when he was absent, all manner of persecution overtook them.
18. While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and
worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her,
and she shall live.
[Behold, a ruler.] Distinction is made between the bishop of the congregation,
and the head of the congregation. For while the discourse is there of the high
priest reading a certain portion of the law on the day of Expiation agreeable to the day,
thus it is said, The bishop of the synagogue takes the book of the law, and gives it to
the ruler of the synagogue. Where the Gloss thus, "The synagogue was in
the mount of the Temple, near the court [which is worthy to be marked]: The Chazan
[or bishop, or overseer] of the synagogue is the minister: and the
ruler of the synagogue is he by whose command the affairs of the synagogue are appointed;
namely, who shall read the prophet, who shall recite the phylacteries, who shall pass
before the ark."
Of this order and function was Jairus, in the synagogue of Capernaum: so that the word ruler,
being understood in this sense, admits of little obscurity, although one, or a
certain, be not there: "he speaking these words, 'Behold, the ruler of that
20. And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years,
came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
[Diseased with an issue of blood.] Zeba, in Talmudic language. The
Talmudic tract may serve for a commentary here.
These things were acted in the streets of Capernaum: for there Matthew lived, and there
Jairus also: and in his passage from the house of the one to the house of the other, this
diseased woman met him. Weigh the story well, and you will easily judge what is to be
thought of that story concerning the statues of this woman and Christ, set up at Paneas,
or Caesarea Philippi: of which Eusebius speaks.
23. And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people
making a noise,
[Seeing the minstrels.] Dion Cassius concerning the funeral of Augustus:
"Tiberius, and Drusus his son,...sacrificed frankincense themselves; but they used
not a minstrel.
Even the poorest among the Israelites [his wife being dead], will afford her
not less than two pipes, and one woman to make lamentation.
"He that hireth an ass-keeper, or a waggoner, to bring pipes, either for a
bride, or for a dead person": that is, either for a wedding, or a funeral.
"The husband is bound to bury his dead wife, and to make lamentations and
mournings for her, according to the custom of all countries. And also the very poorest
among the Israelites will afford her not less than two pipes and one lamenting woman: but
if he be rich, let all things be done according to his quality."
"If an idolater bring pipes on the sabbath to the house where anyone is dead, an
Israelite shall not lament at those pipes."
This multitude was got together on a sudden: neighbours, for civility's sake; minstrels,
perhaps for the sake of gain; both the more officious in this business, as we may guess,
by how much the parents of the deceased maid were of more eminent quality. She died, when
Christ, together with Jairus, was going forward to the house (Mark 5:35); and yet, behold
what a solemn meeting and concourse there was to lament her. There were two things which,
in such cases, afforded an occasion to much company to assemble themselves to the house of
First, some, as it is very probable, resorted thither to eat and drink: for at such a
time some banqueting was used. "A tradition. They drink ten cups in the house of
mourning; two before meat, five while they are eating, and three after meat." And a
little after: "When Rabban Simeon Ben Gamaliel died, they added three more. But when
the Sanhedrim saw that hence they became drunk, they made a decree against this."
Secondly, others came to perform their duty of charity and neighbourhood: for they
accounted it the highest instance of respect to lament the dead, to prepare things for the
burial, to take care of the funeral, to put themselves under the bier, and to contribute
other things needful for that solemnity with all diligence. Hence they appropriated The
rendering [or bestowing] of mercies to this duty, in a peculiar sense,
above all other demonstrations of charity; "One of the disciples of the wise
men died, and mercy was not yielded him": that is, no care was taken of his
funeral. "But a certain publican died, and the whole city left off work to yield
Mourning for the dead is distinguished by the Jewish schools into Aninuth, and Ebluth.
Aninuth was on the day of the funeral only, or until the corpse was carried out;
and then began Ebluth, and lasted for thirty days. Of these mournings take these
few passages: "He that hath his dead laid out before him, and it is not in his power
to bury him, useth not Aninuth [that kind of mourning]. For example: If any
die in prison, and the magistrate [or governor of the place], permits not his burial, he
that is near of kin to him is not bound to that mourning which is called Aninuth,"
&c. And the reason is given a little after; namely, because he who hath his dead laid
out before him, or upon whom the care of his burial lies, is forbidden to eat flesh, to
drink wine, to eat with others, to eat in the same house (under which prohibition, thou,
Jairus, now art), and he was free from reciting his phylacteries, and from prayer, and
from all such-like precepts of the law. "But when the funeral is carried out of
the door of the house, then presently begins the mourning called Ebluth." From
thence he is free from the foregoing prohibitions, and now is subject to others. Hence,
1. The bending down of the beds; of which the Talmudists speak very much:
"From what time (say they) are the beds bended? from that time the dead body is
carried out of the gate of the court of the house; or, as R. Josua, From such time, as the
grave-stone is stopped up": for so it is commonly rendered; but the Gloss
somewhere, the cover, or the uppermost board of the bier. What this bending
of the beds should mean, you may observe from those things which are spoken in the
tract Beracoth: "Whence is the bending of the beds? R. Crispa, in the name of R.
Jochanan saith, From thence, because it is said, And they sat with him to the earth
(Job 2:13). It is not said, 'upon the earth,' but 'to the earth': it denotes
a thing not far from the earth. Hence it is that they sat upon beds bended down."
2. "He that laments all the thirty days is forbidden to do his work; and so
his sons, and his daughters, and servants, and maids, and cattle," &c.
These things concerned him to whom the dead person did belong. His friends and
neighbours did their parts also, both in mourning, and in care of the funeral, employing
themselves in that affair by an officious diligence, both out of duty and friendship.
"Whosoever sees a dead corpse (say they), and does not accommodate [or accompany]
him to his burial, is guilty of that which is said, 'He that mocketh the poor reproacheth
his Maker,' &c. But now (say they) no man is so poor as the dead man," &c.
24. He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they
laughed him to scorn.
[The maid is not dead, but sleepeth.] It was very ordinary among them to express
the death of any one by the word which properly signifies to sleep. When N.
slept; that is, when he died: a phrase to be met with hundreds of times in the
Talmudists. And this whole company would say, The daughter of Jairus sleeps; that
is, she is dead. Therefore it is worthy considering what form of speech Christ here
used. The Syriac hath, She is not dead, but asleep.
33. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled,
saying, It was never so seen in Israel.
[It was never so seen in Israel.] These words seem to refer, not to that
peculiar miracle only that was then done, but to all his miracles. Consider how many were
done in that one day, yea, in the afternoon. Christ dines at Capernaum with Matthew:
having dined, the importunity of Jairus calls him away: going with Jairus, the woman with
the issue of blood meets him, and is healed: coming to Jarius' house, he raiseth his dead
daughter: returning to his own house (for he had a dwelling at Capernaum), two blind men
meet him in the streets, cry out Messias after him, follow him home, and they are
cured. As they were going out of the house, a dumb demoniac enters, and is healed. The
multitude, therefore, could not but cry out, with very good reason, "Never had any
such thing appeared in Israel."
34. But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.
[Through the prince of the devils, &c.] See the notes at chapter 12:24.