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An evil and adulterous generation.' The relation of the Jews to God was often represented as a marriage contract; God as the husband, and the Jewish people as the wife. See Isa. lvii. 3. Hos. iii. 1. Ezek. xvi. 15. Hence their apostasy and idolatry are often represented as adultery. They were evil, and unfaithful to the covenant, or to the commandments of God-an apostate and corrupt people. There shall no sign be given to it,' &c. He would give no such miracle as they required. He would give one that ought to be as satisfactory evidence to them that he was from God, as the miraculous preservation of Jonah was to the Ninevites that he was divinely commissioned. As Jonah was preserved three days by miracle, and then miraculously restored alive, so he would be raised from the dead after three days. "The sign of the prophet Jonas,' means the sign or evidence which was given to the people of Nineveh that he was from God-to wit, that he had been miraculously preserved, and was therefore divinely commissioned. The word 'Jonas' is the Greek way of writing the Hebrew word Jonah, as Elias is for Elijah.
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 fish in
This event took place in the Mediterranean sea. the book of Jonah is described merely as a great fish, without specifying the kind. The Greek word translated whale, in the New Testament, may denote a large fish of any kind.
"Three days and three nights.' See Jonah i. 17. Christ was in the grave but two nights and a part of three days. See Matt. xxviii. 6. This computation is, however, strictly in accordance with the Jewish mode of reckoning, that a part of a day was to be received as a whole. Many instances of this kind occur in both sacred and common history. See 2 Chron. x. 5-12. Gen. xlii. 17, 18. Compare Esther iv. 16 with v. 1. 'In the heart of the earth.' The Jews used the word 'heart' to denote the interior of a thing. It means here, to be in the grave or sepulchre.
41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire. It was a city of vast extent. It contained in the time of Jonah, it is supposed, 600,000 inhabitants. The destruction of Nineveh, threatened by Jonah in forty days, was suspended, upon their repentance, 200 years. It was then overthrown by the Babylonians, about 600 years before Christ. 'Shall condemn it.' They, ignorant and wicked heathen, repented when threatened with temporal judg ment by a mere man, Jonah; you, Jews, professing to be en
lightened, and threatened for your great wickedness with eternal punishment by the Son of God, a far greater being than Jonah, repent not, and must therefore meet with a far heavier condemnation.
42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
'The queen of the south.' That is, the queen of Sheba, 1 Kings x. 1. Sheba was probably a city of Arabia, situated to the south of Judea. From the uttermost parts of the earth.' This means simply from the most distant parts of the habitable world then known. See a similar expression in Deut. xxviii. 49. She would condemn that generation, for she came a great distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and the Jews of that age would not listen to the wisdom of one much greater than Solomon, though present with them.
43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth
'When the unclean spirit,' &c. The Jews had asked a sign from heaven that should decisively prove that he was the Messiah, and satisfy their unbelief. He replies that though he should give them such a sign-a proof conclusive and satisfactory; and though for a time they should profess to believe, and apparently reform, yet such was the obstinacy of their unbelief and wickedness, that they would soon return to them, and become worse and worse. Infidelity and wickedness, like an evil spirit in a possessed man, were appropriately at home in them. If driven out, they would find no other place so fit, and comfortable, and undisturbed, as their bosoms. They would return therefore and dwell with them. He walketh through dry places.' That is, through deserts-regions of country unwatered, sandy, barren, desolate. Our Saviour here speaks according to the ancient opinions of the Jews, that evil spirits had their abodes in those desolate uninhabited regions. See Rev. xviii. 2. 'Seeking rest, and findeth none.' Those desolate and dry regions are represented as uncomfortable habitations: so much so, that the dissatisfied spirit, better pleased with a dwelling in the bosoms of men, as affording an opportunity of doing evil, seeks a return there.
44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
Then he saith, I will return into my house,' &c. The man is called his house, because he had been the place where the spirit had dwelt. 'He findeth it empty,' &c. By the absence of the evil spirit, the house is represented as unoccupied, or empty. Swept and garnished.' That is, while the evil spirit was away, the man was restored to his right mind, was freed from his wicked influence. 'Garnished.' Adorned, put in order, furnished. Applied to the man, it means that his mind was restored when the evil spirit was gone; or, he had a lucid interval.
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
'Then he goeth,' &c. Seeing the state of the man, envious of the happiness of the individual, and supremely bent on evil, he resolved to increase his malignant influences, and return. Seven was a favourite number with the Jews, and was used to denote completeness or perfection, or any finished or complete number. See Sam ii. 5. Here it means a sufficient number completely to occupy and harass the soul. 'Even so shall it be with this generation. This shows the scope and design of this illustration. The state of that man was a representation of that generation of men. Much might be done to cure their unbelief-much to reform them externally-but such was the firm hold which the principles of infidelity and wickedness had taken of their minds as their proper habitation, that they would return, after all the means used to reform them, and the people would be worse and worse. And this was literally accomplished. After all the instructions and miracles of the Saviour and his apostles; after all that had been done for them by holy men and prophets, and by the judgments and mercies of God; and after all their external temporary reformations, yet such was their love of wickedness, that the nation became worse and worse. They increased in crime, they rejected God's messengers, abused his mercies, crucified his Son, and God gave them, and their temple, and capital, and nation, into the hands of the Romans, and thousands of the people were destroyed.
46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
See also Mark iii. 31-35. Luke viii. 19-21. 'His brethren.' The children of Mary his mother. See also Mark vi. 3.
48 But he answered and said unto him that toid him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
'Who is my mother? &c. There was no want of affection or respect in Jesus towards his mother, as is proved by his whole life. See especially Luke ii. 51, and John xix. 25-27. This question was asked merely to fix the attention of the hearers, and to prepare them for the answer-that is, to show them who sustained towards him the nearest and most tender relation. Dear and tender as were the ties which bound him to his mother and brethren, yet those which bound him to his disciples were more tender and sacred. How great was his love! And what a bright illustration of his own doctrine, that we ought to forsake father, and mother, and friends, and houses, and lands, to be his followers! He will always love them. His heart is full of affection for them. And though poor, and despised, and unknown to the rich and mighty, yet to Jesus they are still dearer than mother, and sisters, and brothers.
1 THE same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the seaside. 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.
'The seaside.' This was the sea of Tiberias.
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
'In parables.' The word 'parable' is derived from a Greek word, signifying to compare together, and denotes a similitude taken from a natural object, to illustrate a spiritual or moral subject. It is a narrative of some fictitious or real event, in order to illustrate more clearly some truth that the speaker wished to communicate. Heathen writers often employed it. In the time of Christ it was in common use; the prophets had used it, and Christ employed it often in teaching his disciples. It is not necessary to suppose that the narratives were strictly true. The main thing-the inculcation of spiritual truth-was_gained equally, whether it was true, or only a supposed case. This was well understood. No person was deceived. The speaker was
not understood to affirm the thing literally narrated, but only to fix the attention more firmly on the moral truth that he presented.
Our Saviour's parables are distinguished above all others for clearness, purity, easiness to be understood, importance of instruction, and simplicity. They are taken mostly from the affairs of common life, and intelligible therefore to all men. They contain much of himself, his doctrine, life, design in coming, and claims, and are therefore of importance to all men; and they are told with simplicity intelligible to the child, yet instructive to men of every rank and age. In his parables, as in all his instructions, our Lord excelled all men in the purity, importance, and sublimity of his doctrine. Never man spake like him. A sower went forth to sow.' The image here is taken from an employment known to all men, and therefore understood by all. Nor can there be a more striking illustration of preaching the gospel than placing the seed in the ground to spring up hereafter, and bear fruit. 'Sower.' One who sows or scatters seed. It is not improbable that one was near the Saviour when he spoke this parable.
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
'Some seeds fell by the way side.' That is, the hard path which the plough had not touched, and where there was no opportunity for it to sink into the earth.
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root they withered away.
'Stony places.' Where there was little earth, but hard and rocky underneath; so that the roots could not strike down into the earth for sufficient moisture to support the plant. 'Forthwith.' Immediately. Not that they sprouted and grew any quicker or faster than the others, but they were not so long in reaching the surface. Having little root they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
'Among thorns.' That is, in a part of the field where the thorns and shrubs had been imperfectly cleared away, and not destroyed. They grew with the grain, crowded it, shaded it, exhausted the earth, and thus choked it.
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred fold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold.