Chapter 21 | Table
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The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE DESCENT: FROM THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
INTO THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH.
ON THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
DEPARTURE FROM EPHRAIM BY WAY OF SAMARIA AND GALILEE
HEALING OF TEN LEPERS
PROPHETIC DISCOURSE OF THE COMING KINGDOM
ON DIVORCE: JEWISH VIEWS OF IT
THE BLESSING TO LITTLE CHILDREN
(St. Matthew 19:1,2; St. Mark 10:1; St. Luke
17:11; St. Luke 17:12-19; St. Matthew 19:3-12; St. Mark
10:2-12; St. Matthew 19:13-15; St. Mark 10:13-16; St. Luke
The brief time of rest and quiet converse with His disciples in
the retirement of Ephraim was past, and the Saviour of men prepared for His
last journey to Jerusalem. All the three Synoptic Gospels mark this, although
with varying details.1
From the mention of Galilee by St. Matthew, and by St. Luke of Samaria and
Galilee - or more correctly, 'between (along the frontiers of) Samaria and
Galilee,' we may conjecture that, on leaving Ephraim, Christ made a very brief
detour along the northern frontier to some place at the southern border of
Galilee - perhaps to meet at a certain point those who were to accompany him on
his final journey to Jerusalem. This suggestion, for it is no more, is in
itself not improbable, since some of Christ's immediate followers might
naturally wish to pay a brief visit to their friends in Galilee before going up
to Jerusalem. And it is further confirmed by the notice of St. Mark,2
that among those who had followed Christ there were 'many women which came up
with Him unto Jerusalem.' For, we can scarcely suppose that these 'many women'
had gone with Him in the previous autumn from Galilee to the Feast of
Tabernacles, nor that they were with Him at the Feast of the Dedication, or had
during the winter followed Him through Perĉa, nor yet that they had been at
Bethany.3 All these
difficulties are obviated if, as suggested, we suppose that Christ had passed
from Ephraim along the border of Samaria to a place in Galilee, there to meet
such of His disciples as would go up with Him to Jerusalem. The whole company
would then form one of those festive bands which travelled to the Paschal
Feast, nor would there be anything strange or unusual in the appearance of such
a band, in this instance under the leadership of Jesus.
Matt. xix. 1, 2; St. Mark x. 1; St. Luke xvii. 11.
Mark xv. 40, 41.
any lengthened journeying, and for an indefinite purpose, would have been quite
contrary to Jewish manners. Not so, of course, the travelling in the festive
band up to the Paschal Feast.
Another and deeply important notice, furnished by SS. Matthew
and Mark, is, that during this journey through Perĉa, 'great multitudes'
resorted to, and followed Him, and that 'He healed'4
and 'taught them.'5
This will account for the incidents and Discourses by the way, and also how,
from among many deeds, the Evangelists may have selected for record what to
them seemed the most important or novel, or else best accorded with the plans
of their respective narratives.6
will more fully appear when we study the history of Zacchĉus and the cure of
the blind man in Jericho.
Thus, to begin with, St. Luke alone relates the very first
incident by the way,7
and the first Discourse.8
Nor is it difficult to understand the reason of this. To one who, like St.
Matthew, had followed Christ in His Galilean Ministry, or, like St. Mark, had
been the penman of St. Peter, there would be nothing so peculiar or novel in
the healing of lepers as to introduce this on the overcrowded canvas of the
last days. Indeed, they had both already recorded what may be designated as a typical
healing of lepers.9
But St. Luke had not recorded such healing before; and the restoration of ten
at the same time would seem to the 'beloved physician' matter, not only new in
his narrative, but of the deepest importance. Besides, we have already seen,
that the record of the whole of this East-Jordan Ministry is peculiar to St.
Luke; and we can scarcely doubt that it was the result of personal inquiries
made by the Evangelist on the spot, in order to supplement what might have
seemed to him a gap in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark. This would
explain his fulness of detail as regards incidents, and, for example, the
introduction of the history of Zacchĉus, which to St. Mark, or rather to St.
Peter, but especially to St. Matthew (himself once a publican), might appear so
like that which they had so often witnessed and related, as scarcely to require
special narration. On the same ground we account for the record by St. Luke of
Christ's Discourse predictive of the Advent of the Messianic Kingdom.10
This Discourse is evidently in its place at the beginning of Christ's last
journey to Jerusalem. But the other two Evangelists merge it in the account of
the fuller teaching on the same subject during the last days of Christ's
sojourn on earth.11
Luke xvii. 12-19.
Matt. viii. 2-4; St. Mark i. 40-45.
Luke xvii. 20-37.
Matt. xxiv.; St. Mark xiii.
It is a further confirmation of our suggestion as to the road
taken by Jesus, that of the ten lepers whom, at the outset of His journey, He
met when entering into a village, one was a Samaritan. It may have been that
the district was infested with leprosy; or these lepers may, on tidings of
Christ's approach, have hastily gathered there. It was, as fully explained in
in strict accordance with Jewish Law, that these lepers remained both outside
the village and far from Him to Whom they now cried for mercy. And, without
either touch or even command of healing, Christ bade them go and show
themselves as healed to the priests. For this it was, as will be remembered,
not necessary to repair to Jerusalem. Any priest might declare 'unclean' or
'clean' provided the applicants presented themselves singly, and not in
company,13 for his
And they went at Christ's bidding, even before they had actually experienced
the healing! So great was their faith, and, may we not almost infer, the
general belief throughout the district, in the power of 'the Master.' And as
they went, the new life coursed in their veins. Restored health began to be
felt, just as it ever is, not before, nor yet after believing, but in the act
of obedience of a faith that has not yet experienced the blessing.
Book III. chap. xv.
we note, in St. Luke xvii. 14, the direction to show themselves 'to the
priests' (in the plural), this forms another point of undesigned evidence of
the authenticity of the narrative.
But now the characteristic difference between these men
appeared. Of the ten, equally recipients of the benefit, the nine Jews
continued their way - presumably to the priests - while the one Samaritan in
the number at once turned back, with a loud voice glorifying God. The whole
event may not have occupied many minutes, and Jesus with his followers may
still have stood on the same spot whence He bade the ten lepers go show
themselves to the priests. He may have followed them with his eyes, as, but a
few steps on their road of faith, health overtook them, and the grateful
Samaritan, with voice of loud thanksgiving, hastened back to his Healer. No
longer now did he remain afar off, but in humblest reverence fell on his face
at the Feet of Him to Whom he gave thanks. This Samaritan15
had received more than new bodily life and health: he had found spiritual life
have seen in the reference by St. Luke here, and in the Parable of the Good
Samaritan, a peculiarly Pauline trait. But we remember St. John's reference to
the Samaritans (iv.), and such sentiments in regard to the Gentiles as St.
Matt. viii. 11, 12.
But why did the nine Jews not return? Assuredly, they must have
had some faith when first seeking help from Christ, and still more when setting
out for the priests before they had experienced the healing. But perhaps,
regarding it from our own standpoint, we may overestimate the faith of these
men. Bearing in mind the views of the Jews at the time, and what constant
succession of miraculous cures - without a single failure - had been witnessed
these years, it cannot seem strange that lepers should apply to Jesus. Not yet
perhaps did it, in the circumstances, involve very much greater faith to go to
the priests at His bidding - implying, of course, that they were or would be
healed. But it was far different to turn back and to fall down at His feet in
lowly worship and thanksgiving. That made a man a disciple.
Many questions here suggest themselves: Did these nine Jews
separate from the one Samaritan when they felt healed, common misfortune having
made them companions and brethren, while the bond was snapped so soon as they
felt themselves free of their common sorrow? The History of the Church and of
individual Christians furnishes, alas! not a few analogous instances. Or did
these nine Jews, in their legalism and obedience to the letter, go on to the
priests, forgetful that, in obeying the letter, they violated the spirit of
Christ's command? Of this also there are, alas! only too many parallel cases
which will occur to the mind. Or was it Jewish pride, which felt it had a right
to the blessings, and attributed them, not to the mercy of Christ, but to God;
or, rather, to their own relation as Israel to God? Or, what seems to us the
most probable, was it simply Jewish ingratitude and neglect of the blessed
opportunity now within their reach - a state of mind too characteristic of
those who know not 'the time of their visitation' - and which led up to the
neglect, rejection, and final loss of the Christ? Certain it is, that the Lord
emphasised the terrible contrast in this between the children of the household
and 'this stranger.'16
And here another important lesson is implied in regard to the miraculous in the
Gospels. The history shows how little spiritual value or efficacy they attach
to miracles, and how essentially different in this respect their tendency is
from all legendary stories. The lesson conveyed in this case is, that we may
expect, and even experience, miracles, without any real faith in the Christ;
with belief, indeed, in His Power, but without surrender to His Rule. According
to the Gospels, a man might either seek benefit from Christ, or else receive
Christ through such benefit. In the one case, the benefit sought was the
object, in the other, the means; in the one, it was the goal, in the other, the
road to it; in the one, it gave healing, in the other, brought salvation; in
the one, it ultimately led away from, in the other, it led to Christ and to
discipleship. And so Christ now spake it to this Samaritan: 'Arise, go thy way;
thy faith has made thee whole.' But to all time there are here to the Church
lessons of most important distinction.
equivalent for this would be yrik:naf. This, as may be shown from very many
passages, means not so much a stranger as a non-Jew. Thus, the expression Nokhri
and Yisrael are constantly contrasted as non-Jews and Jews. At the same
time it must be admitted that in Demai iii. 4, the Nokhri is also
distinguished from the Cuthean, or Samaritan. But see the explanatory
note of Maimonides referred to by Surenhusius vol. i. p. 87.
2. The Discourse concerning the Coming of the Kingdom, which is
reported by St. Luke immediately after the healing of the ten lepers,17
will be more conveniently considered in connection with the fuller statement of
the same truths at the close of our Lord's Ministry.18
It was probably delivered a day or so after the healing of the lepers, and
marks a farther stage in the Perĉan journey towards Jerusalem. For, here we
meet once more the Pharisees as questioners.19
This circumstance, as will presently appear, is of great importance, as
carrying us back to the last mention of an interpellation by the Pharisees.20
Luke xvii. 20-37.
Luke xvii. 20.
St. Luke xvi. 14.
3. This brings us to what we regard as, in point of time, the
next Discourse of Christ on this journey, recorded both by St. Matthew, and, in
briefer form, by St. Mark.21
These Evangelist place it immediately after their notice of the commencement of
For reasons previously indicated, St. Luke inserts the healing of the lepers
and the prophetic Discourse, while the other two Evangelists omit them. On the
other hand, St. Luke omits the Discourse here reported by St. Matthew and St.
Mark, because, as we can readily see, its subject-matter would, from the
standpoint of his Gospel, not appear of such supreme importance as to demand
insertion in a narrative of selected events.
Matt. xix. 3-12; St. Mark x. 2-12.
Matt. xix. 1, 2; St. Mark x. 1.
The subject-matter of that Discourse is, in answer to Pharisaic
'tempting,' and exposition of Christ's teaching in regard to the Jewish law and
practice of divorce. The introduction of this subject in the narratives of St.
Matthew and St. Mark seems, to say the least, abrupt. But the difficulty is
entirely removed, or, rather, changed into undesigned evidence, when we fit it
into the general history. Christ had advanced farther on His journey, and now
once more encountered the hostile Pharisees. It will be remembered that He had
met them before in the same part of the country,23
and answered their taunts and objections, among other things, by charging them
with breaking in spirit that Law of which they professed to be the exponents
and representatives. And this He had proved by reference to their views and
teaching on the subject of divorce.25
This seems to have rankled in their minds. Probably they also imagined, it
would be easy to show on this point a marked difference between the teaching of
Jesus and that of Moses and the Rabbis, and to enlist popular feeling against
Him. Accordingly, when these Pharisees again encountered Jesus, now on his
journey to Judĉa, they resumed the subject precisely where it had been broken
off when they had last met Him, only now with the object of 'tempting Him.'
Perhaps it may also have been in the hope that, by getting Christ to commit
Himself against divorce in Perĉa - the territory of Herod - they might enlist
against Him, as formerly against the Baptist, the implacable hatred of
Luke xvi. 14.
chap. xviii. of this Book.
Luke xvi. 17, 18.
according to many commentators. See Meyer, ad loc.
But their main object evidently was to involve Christ in
controversy with some of the Rabbinic Schools. This appears from the form in
which they put the question, whether it was lawful to put away a wife 'for
St. Mark, who gives only a very condensed account, omits this clause; but in
Jewish circles the whole controversy between different teachers turned upon
this point. All held that divorce was lawful, the only question being as to its
grounds. We will not here enter on the unsavoury question of 'Divorce' among
the Jews,28 to which
the Talmud devotes a special tractate.29
There can, however, be no question that the practice was discouraged by many of
the better Rabbis, alike in word30
and by their example;31
nor yet, that the Jewish Law took the most watchful care of the interests of
the woman. In fact, if any doubt were raised as to the legal validity of the
letter of divorce, the Law always pronounced against the divorce. At the same
time, in popular practice, divorce must have been very frequent; while the
principles underlying Jewish legislation on the subject are most objectionable.32
These were in turn due to a comparatively lower estimate of woman, and to an
unspiritual view of the marriage-relation. Christianity has first raised woman
to her proper position, not by giving her a new one, but by restoring and fully
developing that assigned to her in the Old Testament. Similarly, as regards
marriage, the New Testament - which would have us to be, in one sense, 'eunuchs
for the Kingdom of God,' has also fully restored and finally developed what the
Old Testament had already implied. And this is part of the lesson taught in
this Discourse, both to the Pharisees and to the disciples.
Matt xix. 3.
the general subject I would refer to 'Sketches of Jewish Social Life,' pp. 142,
the Talmudic tractate on 'Divorce,' while insisting on its duty in case of sin,
closes with the words: 'He who divorces his first wife, the very altar sheds
tears over him' (Gitt. 90 b, last lines; comp. Mal. ii. 13-16.)
instance of refusing to be divorced, even from a very disagreeable and
quarrelsome wife, is that of R. Chiya, mentioned in Yebam. 63 a, towards
disgusting instances of Rabbis making proclamation of their wish to be married
for a day (in a strange place, and then divorced), are mentioned in Yoma 18 b.
To begin with, divorce (in the legal sense) was regarded as a
privilege accorded only to Israel, not to the Gentiles.33
On the question: what constituted lawful grounds of divorce, the Schools were
divided. Taking their departure from the sole ground of divorce mentioned in
Deut. xxiv. 1: 'a matter of shame [literally, nakedness],' the School of
Shammai applied the expression only to moral transgressions,35
and, indeed, exclusively to unchastity.36
It was declared that, if a woman were as mischievous as the wife of Ahab, or
[according to tradition] as the wife of Korah, it were well that her husband
should not divorce her, except it be on the ground of adultery.37
At the same time this must not be regarded as a fixed legal principle, but
rather as an opinion and good counsel for conduct. The very passages, from
which the above quotations are made, also afford only too painful evidence of
the laxity of views and practices current. And the Jewish Law unquestionably
allowed divorce on almost any grounds; the difference being, not as to what was
lawful, but on what grounds a man should set the Law in motion, and make use of
the absolute liberty which it accorded him. Hence, it is a serious mistake on
the part of Commentators to set the teaching of Christ on this subject by the
side of that of Shammai.
Kidd. 58 c; Ber.R. 18.
by a very profane application to this point of the expression 'God of Israel,'
in Mal. ii. 16.
R. 9, ed. Warsh. p. 29 b, about the middle.
90 a; Sanh. 22 a and b.
But the School of Hillel proceeded on different principles. It
took the words, 'matter of shame' in the widest possible sense, and declared it
sufficient ground for divorce if a woman had spoiled her husband's dinner.38
Rabbi Akiba thought, that the words,40
'if she find no favour in his eyes,' implied that it was sufficient if a man
had found another woman more attractive than his wife. All agreed that moral
blame made divorce a duty,41
and that in such cases a woman should not be taken back.42
According to the Mishnah,43
if they transgressed against the Law of Moses or of Israel. The former is
explained as implying a breach of the laws of tithing, of setting apart the
first of the dough, and of purification. The latter is explained as referring
to such offences as that of going in public with uncovered head, of spinning in
the public streets, or entering into talk with men, to which others add, that
of brawling, or of disrespectfully speaking of her husband's parents in his presence.
or quarrelsome wife might certainly be sent away;45
and ill repute, or childlessness (during ten years) were also regarded as valid
grounds of divorce.46
extraordinary attempt has been made to explain the expression (hxydqh wly#bt, 'burns
his mess') as meaning 'brings dishonour upon him.' But (1) in the two passages
quoted as bearing out this meaning (Ber. 17 b, Sanh. 103 a,
second line from bottom), the expression is not the precise equivalent
for 'bringing dishonour,' while in both cases the addition of the words 'in
public' (Mybrb) marks its figurative use. The real meaning of the expression
in the two passages referred to is: One who brings into disrepute (destroys)
that which has been taught and learned. But (2) in Gitt. ix. 10; 90 a;
Bemidb. R. 9 there is no indication of any figurative use of the expression,
and the commentators explain it, as burning the dish, 'either by fire or by
salt;' while (3), the expression is followed by an anti-climax giving
permission of divorce if another woman more pleasing were found.
63 b; Gitt. 90 a, b.
iv. 7, 8.
Incomparably as these principles differ from the teaching of
Christ, it must again be repeated, that no real comparison is possible between
Christ and even the strictest of the Rabbis, since none of them actually prohibited
divorce, except in case of adultery, nor yet laid down those high eternal
principles which Jesus enunciated. But we can understand how, from the Jewish
point of view, 'tempting Him,' they would put the question, whether it was
lawful to divorce a wife 'for every cause.'47
Avoiding their cavils, the Lord appealed straight to the highest authority -
God's institution of marriage. He, Who at the beginning48
[from the first, originally, )#yrm]49 had made them male and female, had in
the marriage-relation 'joined them together,' to the breaking of every other,
even the nearest, relationship, to be 'one flesh' - that is, to a union which
was unity. Such was the fact of God's ordering. It followed, that they were
one - and what God had willed to be one, man might not put asunder. Then
followed the natural Rabbinic objection, why, in such case, Moses had commanded
a bill of divorcement. Our Lord replied by pointing out that Moses had not
commanded divorce, only tolerated it on account of their hardness of heart, and
in such case commanded to give a bill of divorce for the protection of the
wife. And this argument would appeal the more forcibly to them, that the Rabbis
themselves taught that a somewhat similar concession had been made50
by Moses in regard to female captives of war, as the Talmud has it, 'on account
of the evil impulse.'51
But such a separation, our Lord continued, had not been provided for in the
original institution, which was a union to unity. Only one thing could put an
end to that unity - its absolute breach. Hence, to divorce one's wife (or
husband) while this unity lasted, and to marry another, was adultery, because,
as the divorce was null before God, the original marriage still subsisted -
and, in that case, the Rabbinic Law would also have forbidden it. The next part
of the Lord's inference, that 'whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit
adultery,' is more difficult of interpretation. Generally, it is understood as
implying that a woman divorced for adultery might not be married. But it has
that, as the literal rendering is, 'whoso marrieth her when put away,' it
applies to the woman whose divorce had just before been prohibited, and not, as
is sometimes thought, to 'a woman divorced [under any circumstances].' Be this
as it may, the Jewish Law, which regarded marriage with a woman divorced under
any circumstances as unadvisable,53
absolutely forbade that of the adulterer with the adulteress.54
words are omitted by St. Mark in his condensed account. But so far from
regarding, with Meyer, the briefer account of St. Mark as the original one, we
look on that of St. Matthew as more fully reproducing what had taken place.
clause, St. Matt. xix. 4, should, I think, be thus pointed: 'He Who made them,
at the beginning made them, &c.'
in the same sense, for example, Baba B. 8 b.
Cook argues this with great ingenuity.
Whatever, therefore, may be pleaded, on account of 'the
hardness of heart' in modern society, in favour of the lawfulness of relaxing
Christ's law of divorce, which confines dissolution of marriage to the one
ground (of adultery), because then the unity of God's making has been broken by
sin - such a retrocession was at least not in the mind of Christ, nor can it be
considered lawful, either by the Church or for individual disciples. But, that
the Pharisees had rightly judged, when 'tempting Him,' what the popular feeling
on the subject would be, appears even from what 'His disciples' [not
necessarily the Apostles] afterwards said to Him. They waited to express their
dissent till they were alone with Him 'in the house,'55
and then urged that, if it were as Christ had taught, it would be better not to
marry at all. To which the Lord replied,56
that 'this saying' of the disciples,57
'it is not good to marry,' could not be received by all men, but only by those
to whom it was 'given.' For, there were three cases in which abstinence from
marriage might lawfully be contemplated. In two of these it was, of course,
natural; and, where it was not so, a man might, 'for the Kingdom of Heaven's
sake' - that is, in the service of God and of Christ - have all his thoughts,
feelings, and impulses so engaged that others were no longer existent. For, we
must here beware of a twofold misunderstanding. It is not bare abstinence from
marriage, together, perhaps, with what the German Reformers called immunda
continentia (unchaste continency), which is here commended, but such inward
preoccupation with the Kingdom of God as would remove all other thoughts and
desires.58 It is
this which requires to be 'given' of God; and which 'he that is able to receive
it' - who has the moral capacity for it - is called upon to receive. Again, it
must not be imagined that this involves any command of celibacy: it only speaks
of such who in the active service of the Kingdom feel, that their every thought
is so engrossed in the work, that wishes and impulses to marriage are no longer
existent in them.59
Mark x. 10.
Matt. xix. 10-12.
is the view commonly taken. But 'the saying' may, without much difficulty, be
also applied to that of Christ.
it is not merely to practise outward continence, but to become in mind and
heart a eunuch.
1 Cor. vii. 1, 25-40.
mistaken literalism of application on the part of Origen is well known.
Such practice must have been not unfrequent among Jewish Christians, for,
curiously enough, the Talmud refers to it, reporting a conversation between a
Rabbi and such a Jewish Christian eunuch ()z)wg yqwdc), Shabb. 152 a. The
same story is related, with slight alterations, in the Midrash on Eccles. x. 7,
ed. Warsh. p. 102 a, last four lines. Any practice of this kind would
have been quite contrary to Jewish law (Pes. 112 b; Shabb. 110 b).
4. The next incident is recorded by the three Evangelists.61
It probably occurred in the same house where the disciples had questioned
Christ about His teaching on the Divinely sacred relationship of marriage. And
the account of His blessing of 'infants' and 'little children' most aptly
follows on the former teaching. It is a scene of unspeakable sweetness and
tenderness, where all is in character - alas! even the conduct of the
'disciples' as we remember their late inability to sympathise with the teaching
of the Master. And it is all so utterly unlike what Jewish legend would have
invented for its Messiah. We can understand how, when One Who so spake and
wrought, rested in the house, Jewish mothers should have brought their 'little
children,' and some their 'infants,' to Him, that He might 'touch,' 'put His
Hands on them, and pray.' What power and holiness must these mothers have
believed to be in His touch and prayer; what life to be in, and to come from
Him; and what gentleness and tenderness must His have been, when they dared so
to bring these little ones! For, how utterly contrary it was to all Jewish
notions, and how incompatible with the supposed dignity of a Rabbi, appears
from the rebuke of the disciples. It was an occasion and an act when, as the
fuller and more pictorial account of St. Mark inform us, Jesus 'was much
displeased' - the only time this strong word is used of our Lord62
- and said unto them: 'Suffer the little children to come to Me,63
hinder them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God.' Then He gently reminded
His own disciples of their grave error, by repeating what they had apparently
forgotten,64 that, in
order to enter the Kingdom of God, it must be received as by a little child -
that here there could be no question of intellectual qualification, nor of
distinction due to a great Rabbi, but only of humility, receptiveness,
meekness, and a simple application to, and trust in, the Christ. And so He
folded these little ones in His Arms, put His Hands upon them, and blessed
them,65 and thus
for ever consecrated that child-life, which a parent's love and faith brought
to Him; blessed it also by the laying-on of His Hands - as it were, 'ordained
it,' as we fully believe to all time, 'strength because of His enemies.'
Matt. xix. 13-15 St. Mark x. 13-16; St. Luke xviii. 15-17.
other places in which the verb occurs are: St. Matt. xx. 24; xxi. 15; xxvi.
8; St. Mark x. 41; xiv. 4; St. Luke xiii. 14; the substantive in 2 Cor. vii.
'and' before 'hinder' should be omitted according to the best MSS.
Matt. xviii. 3.
Mr. Brown McClellan notes, in his learned work on the New Testament, the
word is an 'intensitive compound form of blessing, especially of dearest
friends and relations at meeting and parting.'
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