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A Commentary on the New Testament
from the Talmud and Hebraica
Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Matthew
Chapters 12, 13
1. At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples
were a hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
[At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn.] The time is
determined by Luke in these words, on the sabbath from the second-first.
I. Provision was made by the divine law, that the sheaf of firstfruits should be
offered on the second day of the Passover-week, Leviticus 23:10,11: On the morrow after
the sabbath the priest shall shake [orwave] it. Not on the morrow after
the ordinary sabbath of the week, but the morrow after the first day of the Passover week,
which was a sabbatic day, Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7. Hence the Seventy, the morrow
of the first day; the Chaldee, after the holy-day. The Rabbins Solomon and
Menachem, on the morrow after the first day of the Passover-feast: of which mention
had been made in the verses foregoing.
II. But now, from that second day of the Passover-solemnity, wherein the sheaf was
offered, were numbered seven weeks to Pentecost. For the day of the sheaf and the day of
Pentecost did mutually respect each other. For on this second day of the Passover, the
offering of the sheaf was supplicatory, and by way of prayer, beseeching a blessing upon
the new corn, and leave to eat it, and to put in the sickle into the standing corn. Now
the offering of the first fruit loaves on the day of Pentecost (Lev 23:15-17) did respect
the giving of thanks for the finishing and inning of barley harvest. Therefore, in regard
of this relation, these two solemnities were linked together, that both might respect the
harvest: that, the harvest beginning; this, the harvest ended: this depended on that, and
was numbered seven weeks after it. Therefore, the computation of the time coming between
could not but carry with it the memory of that second day of the Passover-week; and hence
Pentecost is called the 'Feast of weeks' (Deut 16:10). The true calculation of the time
between could not otherwise be retained as to sabbaths, but by numbering thus: This is the
first sabbath after the second day of the Passover. This is the second sabbath
after that second day. And so of the rest. In the Jerusalem Talmud, the word the
sabbath of the first marriage, is a composition not very unlike.
When they numbered by days, and not by weeks, the calculation began on the day of the
sheaf: "A great number of certain scholars died between the Passover and Pentecost,
by reason of mutual respect not given to one another. There is a place where it is said
that they died fifteen days before Pentecost, that is, thirty-three days after the
At the end of the Midrash of Samuel which I have, it is thus concluded; "This work
was finished the three-and-thirtieth day after the sheaf."
III. Therefore by this word the second-first, added by St. Luke, is shown,
first, that this first sabbath was after the second day of the Passover; and
so, according to the order of evangelic history, either that very sabbath wherein the
paralytic man was healed at the pool of Bethesda, John 5, or the sabbath next after it.
Secondly, that these ears of corn plucked by the disciples were of barley: how far, alas!
from those dainties wherewith the Jews are wont to junket, not out of custom only, but out
of religion also! Hear their Gloss, savouring of the kitchen and the dish, upon that of
the prophet Isaiah, chapter 58:13: "'Thou shalt call the sabbath a delight':--It is
forbidden," say they, "to fast on the sabbath; but, on the contrary, men are
bound to delight themselves with meat and drink. For we must live more delicately on the
sabbath than on other days: and he is highly to be commended who provides the most
delicious junkets against that day. We must eat thrice on the sabbath, and all men are to
be admonished of it. And even the poor themselves who live on alms, let them eat thrice on
the sabbath. For he that feasts thrice on the sabbath shall be delivered from the
calamities of the Messias, from the judgment of hell, and from the war of Gog and
Magog." 'Whose god is their belly,' Philippians 3:19.
IV. But was the standing corn ripe at the feast of the Passover? I answer,
I. The seed-time of barley was presently after the middle of the month Marchesvan; that
is, about the beginning of our November: "He heard that the seed sown at the first
rain was destroyed by hail; he went and sowed at the second rain, &c.: and when the
seed of all others perished with the hail, his seed perished not." Upon which words
the Gloss writes thus; "The first rain was the seventeenth day of the month
Marchesvan; the second rain, the three-and-twentieth day of the same month; and the third
was in the beginning of the month Chisleu. When, therefore, the rain came down, that which
was sown at the first rain was now become somewhat stiff, and so it was broken by the
hail; but that which was sown at the second rain, by reason of its tenderness, was not
broken, &c. Therefore the barley was sown at the coming in of the winter, and growing
by the mildness of the weather, in winter, when the Passover came in, it became ripe: so
that from that time (the sheaf being then offered) barley-harvest took its beginning.
2. But if, when the just time of the Passover was come, the barley were not ripe, the
intercalary month was added to that year, and they waited until it ripened: "For, for
three things they intercalated the year; for the equinox, for the new corn, and for the
fruit of the trees. For the elders of the Sanhedrim do compute and observe if the vernal
equinox will fall out on the sixteenth day of the month Nisan, or beyond that; then they
intercalate that year, and they make that Nisan the second Adar; so that the Passover
might happen at the time of new corn. Or if they observe that there is no new corn, and
that the trees sprouted not when they were wont to sprout, then they intercalate the
You have an example of this thing: "Rabban Gamaliel to the elders of the great
Sanhedrim, our brethren in Judea and Galilee, &c.; health. Be it known unto you, that
since the lambs are too young, and the doves are not fledged, and there is no young corn,
we have thought good to add thirty days to this year," &c.
[And his disciples were an hungered.] The custom of the nation, as yet, had held
them fasting; which suffered none, unless he were sick, to taste any thing on the sabbath
before the morning prayers of the synagogue were done. And on common days also, and that
in the afternoon, provision was made by the canons, "That none, returning home from
his work in the evening, either eat, or drink, or sleep, before he had said his prayers in
Of the public or private ways that lay by the corn-fields, let him that is at leisure
read Peah, chapter 2.
2. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples
do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
[They do that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath day.] They do not contend
about the thing itself, because it was lawful, Deuteronomy 23:25; but about the thing done
on the sabbath. Concerning which the Fathers of the Traditions write thus; "He that
reaps on the sabbath, though never so little, is guilty. And to pluck the ears of corn is
a kind of reaping; and whosoever plucks any thing from the springing of his own fruit is
guilty, under the name of a reaper." But under what guilt were they held? He had said
this before, at the beginning of chapter 7, in these words: "The works whereby a man
is guilty of stoning and cutting off, if he do them presumptuously; but if ignorantly, he
is bound to bring a sacrifice for sin, are either primitive or derivative" Of
'primitive,' or of the general kinds of works, are nine-and-thirty reckoned; "To
plough, to sow, to reap, to gather the sheaves, to thrash, to sift, to grind, to bake,
&c.; to shear sheep, to dye wool," &c. The derivative works, or the
particulars of those generals, are such as are of the same rank and likeness with them.
For example, digging is of the same kind with ploughing; chopping of herbs is of the same
rank with grinding; and plucking the ears of corn is of the same nature with reaping. Our
Saviour, therefore, pleaded the cause of the disciples so much the more eagerly, because
now their lives were in danger; for the canons of the scribes adjudged them to stoning for
what they had done, if so be it could be proved that they had done it presumptuously. From
hence, therefore, he begins their defence, that this was done by the disciples out of
necessity, hunger compelling them, not out of any contempt of the laws.
3. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was a hungered,
and they that were with him;
[David, and those that were with him.] For those words of Ahimelech are to be
understood comparatively, "Wherefore art thou alone, and no man with thee?" (1
Sam 21:1) that is, comparatively to that noble train wherewith thou wast wont to go
attended, and which becomes the captain-general of Israel. David came to Nob, not as one
that fled, but as one that came to inquire at the oracle concerning the event of war, unto
which he pretended to come by the king's command. Dissembling, therefore, that he hastened
to the war, or to expedite some warlike design, he dissembles likewise that he sent his
army to a certain place; and that he had turned aside thither to worship God, and to
inquire of the vent; that he had brought but a very few of his most trusty servants along
with him, for whom, being an hungered, he asketh a few loaves.
[When he was an hungered.] Here hearken to Kimchi, producing the opinion of the
ancients concerning this story in these words: "Our Rabbins, of blessed memory, say,
that he gave him the show-bread, &c. The interpretation also of the clause, yea,
though it were sanctified this day in the vessel [v 6] is this; It is a small thing to
say, that it is lawful for us to eat these loaves taken from before the Lord when we are
hungry; for it would be lawful to eat this very loaf which is now set on, which is also
sanctified in the vessel (for the table sanctifieth); it would be lawful to eat even this,
when another loaf is not present with you to give us, and we are so hunger-bitten."
And a little after; "There is nothing which may hinder taking care of life, beside
idolatry, adultery, and murder."
These words do excellently agree with the force of our Saviour's arguments; but with
the genuine sense of that clause, methinks they do not well agree. I should, under
correction, render it otherwise, only prefacing this beforehand, that it is no improbable
conjecture that David came to Nob either on the sabbath itself, or when the sabbath was
but newly gone. "For the show-bread was not to be eaten unless for one day and one
night; that is, on the sabbath and the going-out of the sabbath; David, therefore, came
thither in the going-out of the sabbath." And now I render David's words thus;
"Women have been kept from us these three days," [so that there is no
uncleanness with us from the touch of a menstruous woman], "and the vessels of the
young men were holy, even in the common way," [that is, while we travelled in the
common manner and journey]; "therefore, much more are they holy as to their vessels
this [sabbath] day." And to this sense perhaps does that come: "But there was
there one of the servants of Saul detained that day before the Lord," [v 8].
The reverence of the sabbath had brought him to worship, and as yet had detained him
5. Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the
temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
[The priests in the Temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless.] "The
servile work which is done in the holy things is not servile. The same works which
were done in the Temple on the other days were done also on the sabbath." And There
is no sabbatism at all in the Temple.
8. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
[For the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.] I. He opposed this very
argument against their cavils before the Sanhedrim, John 5. When he was summoned into the
court concerning his healing the paralytic man on this very sabbath, or on the sabbath
next before, he shews his dominion over the sabbath from this very thing, that he, the
Son, was invested and honoured with the same authority, power, and dignity, in respect of
the administration of the New Testament, as the Father was in regard of the Old.
II. The care of the sabbath lay upon the first Adam under a double law, according to
his double condition: 1. Before his fall, under the law of nature written in his heart:
under which he had kept the sabbath, if he had remained innocent. And here it is not
unworthy to be observed, that although the seventh day was not come before his fall, yet
the institution of the sabbath is mentioned before the history of his fall. 2. After his
fall, under a positive law. For when he had sinned on the sixth day, and the seventh came,
he was not now bound under the bare law of nature to celebrate it; but according as the
condition of Adam was changed, and as the condition of the sabbath was not a little
changed also, a new and positive law concerning the keeping the sabbath was superinduced
upon him. It will not be unpleasant to produce a few passages from the Jewish masters of
that first sabbath:--
"Circumcision," saith R. Judah, "and the sabbath, were before the
law." But how much backward before the law? Hear Baal Turim: "The Israelites
were redeemed (saith he) out of Egypt, because they observed circumcision and the
sabbath-day." Yea, and further backward still: "The inheritance of Jacob is
promised to those that sanctify the sabbath, because he sanctified the sabbath
himself." Yea, and more backwards yet, even to the beginning of the world: "The
first psalm in the world was, when Adam's sin was forgiven: and when the sabbath entered,
he opened his mouth and uttered the psalm of the sabbath." So also the Targum upon
the title of Psalm 92: "The psalm or song which Adam composed concerning the
sabbath-day." Upon which psalm, among other things, thus Midrash Tillin: "What
did God create the first day? Heaven and earth. What the second? The firmament, &c.
What the seventh? The sabbath. And since God had not created the sabbath for servile
works, for which he had created the other days of the week, therefore it is not said of
that as of the other days, 'And the evening and the morning was the seventh day.'"
And a little after, "Adam was created on the eve of the sabbath: the sabbath entered
when he had now sinned, and was his advocate with God," &c.
"Adam was created on the sabbath-eve, that he might immediately be put under the
III. Since, therefore, the sabbath was so instituted after the fall, and that by a law
and condition which had a regard to Christ now promised, and to the fall of man, the
sabbath could not but come under the power and dominion of the Son of man, that is,
of the promised seed, to be ordered and disposed by him as he thought good, and as he
should make provision, for his own honour and the benefit of man.
10. And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked
him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.
[Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?] These are not so much the words of
inquirers, as deniers. For these were their decisions in that case; "Let not those
that are in health use physic on the sabbath day. Let not him that labours under a pain in
his loins, anoint the place affected with oil and vinegar; but with oil he may, so it be
not oil of roses, &c. He that hath the toothache, let him not swallow vinegar to spit
it out again; but he may swallow it, so he swallow it down. He that hath a sore throat,
let him not gargle it with oil: but he may swallow down the oil, whence if he receive a
cure it is well. Let no man chew mastich, or rub his teeth with spice for a cure; but if
he do this to make his mouth sweet, it is allowed. They do not put wine into a sore eye.
They do not apply fomentations or oils to the place affected," &c. All which
things, however they were not applicable to the cure wrought by Christ (with a word only),
yet they afforded them an occasion of cavilling: who, indeed, were sworn together thus to
quarrel him; that canon affording them a further pretence, "This certainly obtains,
that whatsoever was possible to be done on the sabbath eve driveth not away the
sabbath." To which sense he speaks, Luke 13:14.
Let the reader see, if he be at leisure, what diseases they judge dangerous, and what
physic is to be used on the sabbath.
11. And he saith unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one
sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it
[If a sheep fall into a ditch on the sabbath days, &c.] It was a canon, We
must take a tender care of the goods of an Israelite. Hence,
"If a beast fall into a ditch, or into a pool of waters, let [the owner]
bring him food in that place if he can; but if he cannot, let him bring clothes and
litter, and bear up the beast; whence, if he can come up, let him come up," &c.
"If a beast, or his foal, fall into a ditch on a holy-day, R. Lazar saith, 'Let
him lift up the former to kill him, and let him kill him: but let him give fodder to the
other, lest he die in that place.' R. Joshua saith, 'Let him lift up the former, with the
intention of killing him, although he kill him not: let him lift up the other also,
although it be not in his mind to kill him.'"
16. And charged them that they should not make him known:
[That they should not make him known.] But this, not that he refused to heal the
sick, nor only to shun popular applause; but because he would keep himself hid from those
who would not acknowledge him. This prohibition tends the same way as his preaching by
parables did, Matthew 13:13; "I speak to them by parables, because seeing they see
not." He would not be known by them who would not know him.
20. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he
send forth judgment unto victory.
[A bruised reed shall he not break.] These words are to be applied, as appears
by those that went before, to our Saviour's silent transaction of his own affairs, without
hunting after applause, the noise of boasting, or the loud reports of fame. He shall not
make so great a noise as is made from the breaking of a reed now already bruised and half
broken, or from the hissing of smoking flax only when water is thrown upon it. How far
different is the Messias thus described, from the Messias of the expectation of the Jews!
And yet it appears sufficiently that Isaiah, from whom these words are taken, spake of the
Messias, and the Jews confess it.
[Till he send forth judgment unto victory.] The Hebrew and LXX in Isaiah read it
thus, "He shall bring forth judgment unto truth." The words in both places mean
thus much, That Christ should make no sound in the world, or noise of pomp, or applause,
or state, but should manage his affairs in humility, silence, poverty, and patience, both
while he himself was on earth, and by his apostles, after his ascension, labouring under
contempt, poverty, and persecution; but at last "he should bring forth judgment to
victory"; that is, that he should break forth and show himself a judge, avenger, and
conqueror, against that most wicked nation of the Jews, from whom both he and his suffered
such things: and then, also, "he sent forth judgment unto truth," and asserted
himself the true Messias, and the Son of God, before the eyes of all; and confirmed the
truth of the gospel, by avenging his cause upon his enemies, in a manner so conspicuous
and so dreadful. And hence it is, that that sending forth and execution of judgment
against that nation is almost always called in the New Testament "his coming in
glory." When Christ and his kingdom had so long laid hid under the veil of humility,
and the cloud of persecution, at last he brake forth a revenger, and cut off that
persecuting nation, and shewed himself a conqueror before the eyes of all, both Jews and
Gentiles. Let it be observed in the text before us, how, after the mention of that
judgment and victory (against the Jews), presently follows, "and in his name shall
the Gentiles trust."
24. But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not
cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
[By Beelzebub; the prince of the devils.] For the searching out the sense of
this horrid blasphemy, these things are worthy observing:
I. Among the Jews it was held, in a manner, for a matter of religion, to reproach
idols, and to give them odious names.
"R. Akibah saith, Idolatry pollutes, as a menstruous woman pollutes: as it is
said, 'Thou shalt cast away the [idol] as something that is menstruous, and thou
shalt say to it, Get thee hence' (Isa 30:22). R. Lazar saith, Thou shalt say to it, Get
thee hence: that which they call the face of God, let them call the face of a dog:
that which they call the fountain of a cup, let them call the fountain of toil
[or of flails]: that which they call fortune, let them call a stink,
&c. That town which sometimes was called Beth-el, was afterward called Beth-aven."
See also the tract Schabbath, where these same words are.
All jeering is forbidden, except the jeering of idolatry. This also is repeated
in the tract Megillah: where this is added, "It is lawful for a Jew to say to
a Cuthite, Take your idol, and put it under your buttocks."
II. Among the ignominious names bestowed upon idols, the general and common one was Zebul,
dung, or a dunghill. "Even to them who have stretched out their hands in
a dunghill [that is, in an idol-temple, or in idolatry], there is hope. Thou canst not
bring them [into the church], because they have stretched forth their hands in a
dunghill: but yet you cannot reject them, because they have repented." And a
little after, "He that sees them 'dunging' [that is, 'sacrificing'] to
an idol, let him say, Cursed be he that sacrifices to a strange god."
Let them therefore, who dare, form this word in Matthew into Beelzebub. I am so
far from doubting that the Pharisees pronounced the word Beelzebul, and that
Matthew so wrote it, that I doubt not but the sense fails if it be writ otherwise.
III. Very many names of evil spirits or devils occur in the Talmudists, which it is
needless here to mention. Among all the devils, they esteemed that devil the worst, the
foulest, and, as it were, the prince of the rest, who ruled over the idols, and by whom
oracles and miracles were given forth among the heathens and idolaters. And they were of
this opinion for this reason, because they held idolatry above all other things chiefly
wicked and abominable, and to be the prince and head of evil. This demon they called Baal-zebul,
not so much by a proper name, as by one more general and common; as much as to say, the lord
of idolatry: the worst devil, and the worst thing: and they called him the
"prince of devils," because idolatry is the prince (or chief) of wickedness.
We meet with a story, where mention is made of the prince of spirits. Whether it
be in this sense, let the reader consult and judge. Also in the Aruch we meet with these
words, the demon Asmodeus, the prince of spirits.
IV. The Talmudists, being taught by these their fathers, do give out, horribly
blaspheming, that Jesus of Nazareth our Lord was a magician, a broacher of strange and
wicked worship; and one that did miracles by the power of the devil, to beget his worship
the greater belief and honour.
"Ben Satda brought magic out of Egypt, by cuttings which he had made in his
flesh." By Ben Satda, they understand Jesus of Nazareth, as we have said
before; whom they dishonour by that name, that they might, by one word and in one breath,
reproach him and his mother together. For Satda, or Stada, sounds as much as
an adulterous wife, which the Gemara shews after a few lines, She went aside
from her husband. They feign that Jesus travelled with Joshua Ben Perachiah into
Egypt, when the said Joshua fled from the anger and sword of Janneus the king, which we
have mentioned at the second chapter; and that he brought thence magical witchcrafts with
him, but under the cutting of his flesh, that he might not be taken by the Egyptian
magicians, who strictly examined all that went out of that land, that none should
transport their magic art into another land. And in that place they add these horrid
words, Jesus practised magic, and deceived, and drove Israel to idolatry. Those
whelps bark, as they were taught by these dogs.
To this, therefore, does this blasphemy of the Pharisees come; as if they should say,
"He casts out devils indeed; but he doth this by the help of the devil, the lord of
idols, that dwells in him; by him, that is the worst of all devils, who favours him and
helps him, because it is his ambition to drive the people from the worship of the true God
to strange worship."
25. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against
itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not
[But Jesus knowing their thoughts.] Behold, O Pharisee, a sign of the true
Messias, for a sign you would have: he smells out a wicked man.
"It is written of Messias, The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, and
shall make him smell in the fear of the Lord. Rabba said, he shall smell and judge; as
it is said, he shall not judge by the sight of his eyes, &c. Ben Cozba reigned two
years and a half, and said to the Rabbins, I am the Messias: they said to him, It is
written of Messias that he shall smell and judge (the Gloss is, he shall smell out the
man, and shall judge and know whether he be guilty). Let us see whether thou canst smell
and judge. And when they saw that he could not smell and judge, they slew him."
27. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them
out? therefore they shall be your judges.
[ By whom do your children cast them out?] By your children, Christ seems
to understand some disciples of the Pharisees; that is, some of the Jews, who using
exorcisms seemed to cast out devils such as they, Acts 19:13; and yet they said not to
them, "Ye cast out devils by Beelzebul." It is worthy marking, that Christ
presently saith, "If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then the kingdom of God
is come among you." For what else does this speak, than that Christ was the first who
should cast out devils? which was an undoubted sign to them that the kingdom of heaven was
now come. But that which was performed by them by exorcisms was not so much a casting out
of devils, as a delusion of the people; since Satan would not cast out Satan, but by
compact with himself and with his company he seemed to be cast out, that he might the more
The sense, therefore, of Christ's words comes to this: "That your disciples cast
out devils, ye attribute not to Beelzebul, no nor to magic; but ye applaud the work when
it is done by them: they, therefore, may in this matter be your judges, that you pronounce
these words of my actions out of the rankness and venom of your minds."
In the Gloss mention is made of a devil cast out by a Jew at Rome.
32. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him:
but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in
this world, neither in the world to come.
[It shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come.]
They that endeavour hence to prove the remission of some sins after death, seem little to
understand to what Christ had respect when he spake these words. Weigh well this common
and most known doctrine of the Jewish schools, and judge:
"He that transgresses an affirmative precept, if he presently repent, is not moved
until the Lord pardon him. And of such it is said, 'Be ye converted, O backsliding
children, and I will heal your backslidings.' He that transgresses a negative precept and
repents, his repentance suspends judgment, and the day of expiation expiates him; as it is
said, 'This day shall all your uncleannesses be expiated to you.' He that transgressed to
cutting off [by the stroke of God,] or to death by the Sanhedrim, and repents,
repentance, and the day of expiation do suspend judgment, and the strokes that are laid
upon him wipe off sin; as it is said, 'And I will visit their transgression with a rod,
and their iniquity with scourges.' But he by whom the name of God is profaned [or
blasphemed], repentance is of no avail to him to suspend judgment, nor the day of
expiation to expiate it, nor scourges [or corrections inflicted] to wipe it off, but all
suspend judgment, and death wipes it off." Thus the Babylonian Gemara writes: but the
Jerusalem thus; "Repentance and the day of expiation expiate as to the third part,
and corrections as to the third part, and death wipes it off: as it is said, and your
iniquities shall not be expiated to you until ye die. Behold, we learn that death wipes
off." Note this, which Christ contradicts, concerning blasphemy against the Holy
Ghost; "It shall not be forgiven, (saith he,) neither in this world, nor in the world
to come"; that is, neither before death, nor, as you dream, by death.
[In the world to come.] I. Some phrases were received into common use, by which
in common speech they opposed the heresy of the Sadducees, who denied immortality. Of that
sort were the world to come: paradise: hell, &c.
"At the end of all the prayers in the Temple" (as we observed before)
"they said for ever. But when the heretics brake in and said, 'There was no
age but one,' it was appointed to be said, for ever and ever."
This distinction of this world, and of the world to come, you may find
almost in every page of the Rabbins.
"The Lord recompense thee a good reward for this thy good word in this world,
and let thy reward be perfected in the world to come."
"It [that is, the history of the creation and of the Bible] begins therefore with
the letter Beth [in the word Bereshith], because two worlds were created,
this world and a world to come."
II. The world to come, hints two things especially (of which see Rambam): 1. The
times of the Messias: "Be mindful of the day wherein thou camest out of Egypt, all
the days of thy life. The wise men say, By 'the days of thy life,' is intimated 'this
world': by 'all the days of thy life,' the days of the Messias are superinduced." In
sense the apostle seems to speak, Hebrews 2:5 and 6:5. 2. The state after death, The
world to come is, when a man is departed out of this world.
39. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh
after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
[An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.] I. Their schools also
confessed, that signs and miracles were not to be expected but by a fit generation.
"The elders being once assembled at Jericho, the Bath Kol went forth and said,
There is one among you who is fit to have the Holy Ghost dwell upon him, but that [this]
generation is not fit. They fix their eyes upon Hillel the Elder. The elders being
assembled again in an upper room in Jabneh, Bath Kol came forth and said,
There is one among you who is fit to have the Holy Spirit dwell upon him, but that the
generation is not fit. They cast their eyes upon Samuel the Little."
II. That generation by which and in which the Lord of life was crucified lay,
and that deservedly, under an ill report for their great wickedness above all other, from
the beginning of the world until that day. Whence that of the prophet, "Who shall
declare his generation?" Isaiah 53:2; that is, his generation (viz.
that generation in which he should live) should proceed to that degree of impiety
and wickedness, that it should surpass all expression and history. We have observed
before, how the Talmudists themselves confess, that that generation in which the
Messias should come should exceed all other ages in all kinds of amazing wickedness.
III. That nation and generation might be called adulterous literally; for
what else, I beseech you, was their irreligious polygamy than continual adultery? And what
else was their ordinary practice of divorcing their wives, no less irreligious, according
to every man's foolish or naughty will?
[But the sign of Jonah the prophet.] Here and elsewhere, while he gives them the
sign of Jonah, he does not barely speak of the miracle done upon him which was to be
equalled in the Son of man, but girds them with a silent check; instructing them thus
much, that the Gentiles were to be converted by him, after his return out of the bowels of
the earth, as heathen Nineveh was converted, after Jonah was restored out of the belly of
the whale. Than which doctrine scarce anything bit that nation more sharply.
40. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the
Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
[The Son of man shall be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.]
1. The Jewish writers extend that memorable station of the unmoving sun at Joshua's prayer
to six-and-thirty hours; for so Kimchi upon that place: "According to more exact
interpretation, the sun and moon stood still for six-and-thirty hours: for when the fight
was on the eve of the sabbath, Joshua feared lest the Israelites might break the sabbath:
therefore he spread abroad his hands, that the sun might stand still on the sixth day,
according to the measure of the day of the sabbath, and the moon, according to the measure
of the night of the sabbath, and of the going-out of the sabbath; which amounts to
II. If you number the hours that passed from our Saviour's giving up the ghost upon the
cross to his resurrection, you shall find almost the same number of hours; and yet that
space is called by him "three days and three nights," when as two nights only
came between, and only one complete day. Nevertheless, while he speaks these words, he is
not without the consent both of the Jewish schools, and their computation. Weigh well that
which is disputed in the tract Schabbath, concerning the uncleanness of a woman for
three days; where many things are discussed by the Gemarists concerning the computation of
this space of three days. Among other things these words occur; "R. Ismael saith, Sometimes
it contains four Onoth sometimes five, sometimes six. But how much is the space of an
Onah? R. Jochanan saith either a day or a night." And so also the Jerusalem
Talmud; "R. Akiba fixed a day for an Onah, and a night for an Onah: but
the tradition is, that R. Eliezar Ben Azariah said, A day and a night make an Onah, and
a part of an Onah is as the whole." And a little after, R. Ismael computeth a
part of the Onah for the whole.
It is not easy to translate the word Onah into good Latin: for to some it is the
same with the half of a natural day; to some it is all one with a whole natural day.
According to the first sense we may observe, from the words of R. Ismael, that sometimes
four Onoth, or halves of a natural day, may be accounted for three days: and that
they also are so numbered that one part or the other of those halves may be accounted for
a whole. Compare the latter sense with the words of our Saviour, which are now before us:
"A day and a night (saith the tradition) make an Onah, and a part of an Onah
is as the whole." Therefore Christ may truly be said to have been in his grave three Onoth,
or three natural days (when yet the greatest part of the first day was wanting, and
the night altogether, and the greatest part by far of the third day also), the consent of
the schools and dialect of the nation agreeing thereunto. For, "the least part of the
Onah concluded the whole." So that according to this idiom, that diminutive
part of the third day upon which Christ arose may be computed for the whole day, and the
night following it.
45. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than
himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse
than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
[So shall it be to this evil generation.] These words foretell a dreadful
apostasy in that nation and generation.
I. It is something difficult so to suit all things in the parable aforegoing, that they
may agree with one another: 1. You can hardly understand it of unclean spirits cast out of
men by Christ; when through the whole evangelic history there is not the least shadow of
probability that any devil cast out by him did return again into him out of whom he had
been cast. 2. Therefore our Saviour seems to allude to the casting out of devils by
exorcisms: which art, as the Jews were well instructed in, so in practising it there was
need of dexterous deceits and collusions. 3. For it is scarcely credible that the devil in
truth finds less rest in dry places than in wet: but it is credible that those diabolical
artists have found out such kind of figments for the honour and fame of their art. For, 4.
It would be ridiculous to think that they could by their exorcisms cast a devil out of a
man into whom he had been sent by God. They might, indeed, with a compact with the devil,
procure some lucid intervals to the possessed; so that the inhabiting demon might deal
gently with him for some time, and not disturb the man: but the demoniacal heats came back
again at last, and the former outrages returned. Therefore, here there was need of deceits
well put together, that so provision might the better be made for the honour of the
exorcistical art; as, that the devil, being sent away into dry and waste places, could not
find any rest; that he could not, that he would not always wander about here and there,
alone by himself, without rest; that he therefore returned into his old mansion, which he
had formerly found so well fitted and prepared for him, &c.
Therefore these words seem to have been spoken by our Saviour according to the capacity
of the common people, or rather, according to the deceit put upon them, more than
according to the reality or truth of the thing itself; taking a parable from something
commonly believed and entertained, that he might express the thing which he propounded
more plainly and familiarly.
II. But however it was, whether those things were true indeed, or only believed and
conceived so, by a most apt and open comparison is shown that the devil was first cast out
of the Jewish nation by the gospel; and then, seeking for a seat and rest among the
Gentiles, and not finding it, the gospel everywhere vexing him, came back into the Jewish
nation again, fixed his seat there, and possessed it much more than he had done before.
The truth of this thing appears in that fearful apostasy of an infinite multitude of Jews,
who received the gospel, and most wickedly revolted from it afterward; concerning which
the New Testament speaks in abundance of places.
2. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a
ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
[So that he sat, and the whole multitude stood.] So was the manner of the
nation, that the masters when they read their lectures sat, and the scholars stood:
which honorary custom continued to the death of Gamaliel the Elder; and then so far
ceased, that the scholars sat when their masters sat. Hence is that passage:
"From that time that old Rabban Gamaliel died, the honour of the law perished, and
purity and Pharisaism died." Where the Gloss, from Megillah, writes us;
"Before his death health was in the world, and they learned the law standing;
but when he was dead sickness came down into the world, and they were compelled to learn
the law sitting."
3. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went
forth to sow.
[In parables.] I. No figure of Jewish rhetoric was more familiarly used than
that of parables: which perhaps, creeping in from thence, among the heathen ended
in fables. It is said, in the place of the Talmud just now cited, From the time that R.
Meir died, those that spake in parables ceased: not that that figure of rhetoric
perished in the nation from that time, but because he surpassed all others in these
flowers; as the Gloss there from the tract Sanhedrim speaks; A third part
[of his discourses or sermons] was tradition, a third part allegory, and a third part
parable. The Jewish books abound everywhere with these figures, the nation inclining
by a kind of natural genius to this kind of rhetoric. One might not amiss call their
religion Parabolical, folded up within the coverings of ceremonies; and their
oratory in their sermons was like to it. But it is a wonder indeed, that they who were so
given to and delighted in parables, and so dextrous in unfolding them, should stick
in the outward shell of ceremonies, and should not have fetched out the parabolical and
spiritual sense of them; neither should he be able to fetch them out.
II. Our Saviour (who always and everywhere spake with the vulgar) useth the same kind
of speech, and very often the same preface, as they did in their parables. To what is
it likened, &c. But in him, thus speaking, one may both acknowledge the Divine
justice, who speaks darkly to them that despise the light; and his Divine wisdom likewise,
who so speaks to them that see, and yet see not, that they may see the shell and not see
4. And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and
devoured them up:
[Some fell by the way side, &c.] Concerning the husbandry of the Jews, and
their manner of sowing, we meet with various passages in the tracts Peah, Demai,
Kilaim, Sheviith: we shall only touch upon those things which the words of the text
under our hands do readily remind us of.
There were ways and paths as well common as more private along the sown fields; see
chapter 12:1. Hence in the tract Peah, where they dispute what those things are
which divide a field so that it owes a double corner to the poor; thus it is determined,
"These things divide: a river, an aqueduct, a private way, a common way, a common
path, and a private path," &c. See the place and the Gloss.
5. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they
sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
[Some fell among stony places.] Discourse is had concerning some laws of the Kilaim
(or, of the seeds of different kinds), and of the seventh year: where, among other
things, we meet with these words; "R. Simeon Ben Lachish saith that he is freed [from
those laws] who sows his seed by the sea, upon rocks, shelves, and rocky places."
These words are spoken according to the reason and nature of the land of Israel, which was
very rocky; and yet those places that were so were not altogether unfit for tillage.
7. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
[Others fell among thorns.] Here the distinction comes into my mind of a
white field, that is, which is all sown; and of a woody field, that is, in
which trees and bushes grow here and there: concerning which see the tract Sheviith.
So there is very frequent mention in the Talmudists of beds, in fields and
vineyards, which speaks the same thing. And of baldness in a field: that is, when
some places are left not sown, and some places lying between are.
8. But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold,
some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
[And brought forth fruit, some a hundred, &c.] These words are spoken
according to the fruitfulness of the land of Israel; concerning which the Talmudists speak
much, and hyperbolically enough: which nevertheless they confess to be turned long since
into miserable barrenness; but are dim-sighted as to the true cause of it.
They treat of this matter, and various stories are produced, which you may see: we will
only mention these two:--
"R. Jochanan said, The worst fruit which we eat in our youth excelled the best
which we now eat in our old age: for in his days the world was changed."
"R. Chaijah Bar Ba said The Arbelite bushel formerly yielded a bushel of
flour, a bushel of meal, a bushel of bran, and a bushel of coarse bran, and a bushel of
coarser bran yet, and a bushel of the coarsest bran also: but now one bushel scarcely
comes from one bushel."
13. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing
they hear not, neither do they understand.
[They seeing see not.] Here you may observe this people to have been given up to
a reprobate mind, and a spirit of deep sleep, now a great while before the death of
Christ. Which being observed, the sense of the apostle will more easily appear, Romans
11:8; where these very words are repeated. If you there state aright the rejection of that
people, you will understand more clearly the apostle concerning their call, which is there
handled. Pharisaism and the sottishness of traditions had, now a good while ago, thrown
them into blindness, stupidity, and hardness of heart; and that for some ages before
Christ was born: but when the gospel came, the Lord had his gleanings among them, and
there were some that believed, and unto whom the participation of the promises was
granted: concerning them the apostle speaks in that chapter: see verse 5. At this
present time there is a remnant according to election," &c., which we have
observed before at chapter 3:7.
25. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went
[Tares.] Zunin, in Talmudic language. Wheat and 'Zunin' are not seeds
of different kinds. Where the Gloss is this; "Is a kind of wheat, which is
changed in the earth, both as to its form, and to its nature." By the best
Lexicographers it is rendered zizania, in Latin.
So that that field, in this parable, was sown by the lord with good wheat; by the
enemy, with bad and degenerate wheat; but all of it was sown with wheat, one or the other.
These words do not so barely mean good and bad men, as good and bad Christians; both
distinguished from other men, namely, from heathens, as wheat is distinguished from other
seeds: but they are distinguished also among themselves, as good wheat is distinguished
from that which is degenerate. So chapter 25, all those ten women, expecting the
bridegroom, are virgins; but are distinguished into wise and foolish.
32. Which indeed is the least of all seeds [mustard]: but when it is grown, it is
the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge
in the branches thereof.
[Which, indeed, is the least of all seeds, &c.] Hence it is passed into a
common proverb, According to the quantity of a grain of mustard: and According
to the quantity of a little drop of mustard, very frequently used by the Rabbins, when
they would express the smallest thing, or the most diminutive quantity.
[Is the greatest among herbs.] "There was a stalk of mustard in
Sichin, from which sprang out three boughs: of which, one was broke off, and covered the
tent of a potter, and produced three cabes of mustard. R. Simeon Ben Chalaphta said, A
stalk of mustard was in my field, into which I was wont to climb, as men are wont
to climb into a fig-tree."
33. Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven,
which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
[In three (sata) measures of meal] That is, in an ephah of meal. Exodus
16:36; "Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah." The Chaldee reads, The
tenth part of three sata. The LXX reads, The tenth part of three measures. And
Ruth 2:17, "It was as an ephah of barley." Where the Targum reads, As
it were three sata of barley.
"A seah contains a double hin, six cabes, twenty-four login, a
hundred and forty-four eggs."
52. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto
the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth
forth out of his treasure things new and old.
[Bringeth forth out of his treasury things new and old.] These words are spoken
according to the dialect of the schools, where the question was not seldom started, What
wine, what corn, or fruits were to be used in the holy things, and in some rites, new or
more old; namely, of the present year, or the years past. But now, a thrifty man,
provident of his own affairs, was stored both with the one and the other, prepared for
either, which should be required. So it becomes a scribe of the gospel to have all things
in readiness, to bring forth according to the condition and nature of the thing, of the
place, and of the hearers. "Do ye understand all these things (saith Christ), both
the things which I have said, and why I have said them? So a scribe of the gospel ought to
bring forth," &c.
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