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LUKE XIII. 1-5.
"There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2. And Jesus, answering, said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3. I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5. I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
THERE is no passage parallel to this in any of the other three evangelists; nor is there any more full account of the circumstances here related to be found in any other writer, sacred or profane. Some, indeed, think, and they may be right in the opinion, that the Galileans mentioned in the first verse, were some of the followers of Judas Gaulonites, as Josephus calls him,* or Judas of Galilee, to whom Gamaliel thus briefly refers, in Acts v. 37: "After this man [Theudas] rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him; he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed." may have been, that the resistance of these Galileans to the Roman taxing and authority, suggested to Pilate the idea of availing himself of the opportunity to destroy, in this cruel and impious manner, some of them who had come up to worship at Jerusalem, and who were altogether unsuspicious of such an attack, and altogether unprovided against it. And, as the Galileans were Herod's subjects, it may have been, as some conjecture, that this horrible deed was either the cause, or the consequence, of the disagreement which existed between Pilate and Herod. "The same day,” says Luket afterwards, and in reference to a subsequent time," Pilate and Herod were made friends together; for before, they were at enmity between themselves." At all events, we are here told that Pilate had fallen treacherously * Antiquities, xviii. 1. Luke xxiii, 12. ·
on certain Galileans, and cut them off, while they were engaged in the solemn act of offering sacrifice; so that their own blood was mingled with that of the victims they were offering. Very similar in its circumstances was the atrocious murder of Zacharias, the son of Barachias, called also Jehoiadah, whom the Jews, at the instigation of king Joash, "slew between the temple and the altar”*—" in the court of the house of the Lord."
The cruel and profane deed here described appears to have been committed by Pilate but a short time before the period of the sacred history here referred to; that is, before our Lord had delivered the instructions after dining in the house of the Pharisee, as related in the preceding chapter; for "there were present, at that season, some who told Christ" of it, while yet it seemed to have been only partially known. These persons may have mentioned it as a confirmation of the doctrine he had just been teaching with regard to the danger of continuing exposed to the divine displeasure, and the necessity of coming to an agreement with God quickly. Or, they may have done so, with the view of dissuading him from going up to Jerusalem at that time, and thus exposing himself to similar violence. Or, they may have mentioned the circumstance with the design of entangling him in his talk, that they might get an advantage against him. Or, without any particular design, either good or bad, they may have spoken of it merely as a piece of news. However this may have been, one very erroneous idea, at least, pervaded their minds, with regard to the event; and our Lord, according to his usual wise and gracious custom, turned it to good account, by founding on it very important spiritual instruction and warning.
"And Jesus, answering, said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay." In this, our Lord, who knew what was in man, and needed not that any should testify to him, intimated that those who reported this fact to him, looked on the destruction of these Galileans in such a way, as a proof of God's peculiar displeasure because
* Matt. xxiii. 35; 2 Chron. xxiv. 20. Josephus says that Archelaus sent soldiers into the temple, and slew three thousand men, while they were offering sacrifices at the feast of the passover.- Wars, ii. 1. In Lucius Florus, iii. 18, there is an account of a frustrated design to kill the two consuls of Rome, at the time of a solemn festival, Inter sacras et aras-at the foot of the altar, and in the very midst of the sacred rites.
of their being more than ordinarily wicked persons. Now, this is a very common error; and as so many are prone to fall into it, there must be some appearance of foundation for it-something, in fact, which renders it plausible. There are, indeed, several circumstances which, by being overstretched, are made to support this idea. For example, it is true, that suffering, in any way, and in any degree, is a proof of sin; for, "who ever suffered being innocent, and when," or where, were the" absolutely "righteous cut off?" And it is true that the heaviest judgments that befall any of the children of men here, are less than their iniquities deserve, and that it is of God's mercies that we are not all utterly consumed, and because his compassions fail not. It is true, also, that the providence of God is more or less immediately concerned in all such dispensations: "Shall there be evil," that is, calamity, or temporal evil, "in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?" Nay, it is even true that God does sometimes let fall his heavy judgments on ungodly persons, as an obvious and intentional expression of his righteous displeasure with them because of their more than usually daring wickedness. As examples of this, may be mentioned the death of Nadab and Abihu, of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, of Herod, and of Ananias and Sapphira. In such cases as these, the inference of the sin from the punishment is surely just. At the same time, it is dangerous, uncharitable, and erroneous, to lay it down as a general rule to judge of men's state and character from their outward lot in this life. It is to be remembered that extraordinary interpositions of Providence, for the vindication of God's justice in this life on individual transgressors, are but rare. Many of them escape every thing of that kind. Judgment, in that way, is God's "strange work." The general course of Providence is stated in such passages as these of Solomon: "For all this I considered in my heart, even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love, or hatred, by all that is before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good, and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all.”—“ I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither
yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill: but time and chance happen to them all. For, man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.” Hence, great caution is necessary in interpreting providences, and our general rule ought to be that they are not to be viewed as indications of the comparative excellence, or sinfulness, of men, or of the peculiar complacency, or displeasure, of the Almighty. It is plain that such marks are often completely misapplied. Our Lord found it necessary to correct the judgment of his own disciples, in the case of the man who was born blind:* " Master," said they, "who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents"—that is, it was not because either of the parties was guilty of extraordinary sin-" but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." How egregiously did the inhabitants of Melita, too, err in the hasty opinion they at first formed, on a similar principle, of the apostle Paul! When they saw the venomous beast, the viper, come out of the bundle of sticks which was laid on the fire, and fasten and hang on that holy man's hand, "they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live." It has been often observed, in like manner, that the judgment of Job's miserable comforters was quite erroneous, in supposing that his accumulated afflictions were indications of his hypocrisy, and general wickedness. "Is not thy wickedness great," said Eliphaz," and are not thine iniquities infinite?". Therefore, snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee." In the case before us, the hard judgment of these people was very rash. The Galileans might, indeed, have been notorious transgressors; but, for aught that appeared, they might have suffered even as martyrs suffer in the service of God. Our Lord, indeed, though he did not pronounce farther on their character, said expressly that they were not transgressors beyond others: "Suppose ye that these were sinners above all the Galileans?"- "I tell you, Nay."
Not content with this declaration, he immediately added, "But, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." In these words, he turned their thoughts inward on themselves, * John ix. 2.
reminded them of their own exposed situation, as unpardoned and impenitent sinners, warned them of the calamities which were coming on the nation, and directed forward their attention, beyond all earthly events, to the coming wrath of God, which, whether it overtook the impenitent in this world or not, would certainly overtake them at the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men; and, not content even with this, he brought forward a similar catastrophe himself, and drew the same inference from it: "Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners* above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay." Siloam was a fountain without the walls of Jerusalem, from which a fine and quiet stream ran into the city; and its water is believed to have been received into a basin called the pool of Siloam, and also the pool of Bethesda. The Jews, of old, were blamed by the Lord, through Isaiah, for "refusing the waters of Shiloah that go," or flow, "softly;" that is, for undervaluing the gentle government and great privileges of which these soft-flowing waters were poetically used as an emblem.† The basin, or pool, was near the temple, and much frequented for ceremonial purification. Somewhere near, but how situated is not exactly known, stood a tower. This tower, we are told, had suddenly fallen, and killed eighteen persons. Of this awful event we know nothing beyond what is thus very briefly mentioned; but it appears to have been well known at the time referred to. Such an event as this might, even more readily than the other, have been interpreted as a proof of the extraordinary wickedness of the sufferers, inasmuch as it was without human interference, and came immediately from God's providence. Still, however, Jesus taught that such an interpretation of it would have been rash and erroneous. When Job's sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon them, and killed them. That was an event somewhat like this mentioned by Christ; but it would be most unreasonable to look on it as a proof that Job's piously educated family were all more than ordinarily great sinners. Our Lord, then, repeats the same lesson and warning as before, saying, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye * Οφείλεται, debtors.
+ 2 Kings xx. 20; Neh. iii. 15; Isa. viii. 6; John v. 2, ix. 7.