|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-5 People will turn away from the truth, they will grow weary of the plain gospel of Christ, they will be greedy of fables, and take pleasure in them. People do so when they will not endure that preaching which is searching, plain, and to the purpose. Those who love souls must be ever watchful, must venture and bear all the painful effects of their faithfulness, and take all opportunities of making known the pure gospel.
Verse 3. - The sound for sound, A.V.; having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts for after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, A.V. The sound (τῆς ὑγιαινούσης). Nothing is gained by the addition of the article in English. The phrase, ἡ ὑγιαίνουσα διδασκαλία, is characteristic of the pastoral Epistles, having arisen, no doubt, from the growth of heresy (see 1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:3. 2 Timothy 1:13; Titus 1:9, 13; Titus 2:1; also Titus 2:8). In classical Greek, ὑγιής is frequently applied to words, sentiments, advice, etc., in the sense of "sound," "wise;" and ὑγιαίειν is also applied to the mind and character. Endure (ἀνέξονται); usually, as Bishop Ellicott observes, applied by St. Paul to persons as the object, as elsewhere in the New Testament (Matthew 17:17; Acts 18:14; Ephesians 4:2, etc.); but not invariably (see 2 Thessalonians 1:4; so too Hebrews 13:22). In classical Greek, ἀνέχεσθαι, followed by persons or things, usually governs an accusative case, if any, but a genitive frequently in Plato. Having itching ears (κνηθόμενοι τὴν ἀκοήν); only here in the New Testament. The phrase, κνησέως ὤτων, is ascribed by Plutarch to Plato (Alford), "scratching the (itching) ear;" κνᾶσθαι τὰ ῶτα, "to tickle the ears" (Lucian); ἀποκναίουσιν ἡμῶν τὰ ᾤτα (Philo, ap. Ellicott). The verb κνήθω (i.q. κνάω) means "to scratch;" "to tickle," and in the passive "to itch." Will heap to themselves (ἐπισωρεύσουσι); a contemptuous word (found only here in the New Testament, and nowhere in early classical Greek), implying the indiscriminate multiplication of teachers (compare our use of "exaggerate"). The simple σωρεύειν occurs in ch. 3:6. After their own lusts. The measure of the number or the quality of their self-chosen teachers will be their own insatiable and ever-varying fancies and mental appetites, not the desire to be taught God's truth by teachers sent from God. Compare Jeroboam's conduct in ordaining a feast "in the mouth which he had devised of his own heart" (1 Kings 12:33).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For the time will come,.... This is a reason of the solemn charge above given: the time referred to was future, when the apostle wrote, but quickly came on; and the characters of it have appeared more or less in all ages since; and in none more than in ours:
when they will not endure sound doctrine; the Gospel which contains the wholesome words of Christ, and is sound itself, having no corruption in it, and salutary in its effects to the souls of men; and yet such is the depravity of some men, both in principles and practice, that they cannot receive it, nor bear to hear it, turn their backs on it, express their indignation at it, and treat it not only with neglect, but with ridicule and contempt:
but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers; not being content with the ministry of one man only, or of a few, though of their own sort; but must follow many, and have heaps of them; which seems to express not only the number of false teachers which they accumulate to themselves, but the confused and indiscreet choice they make of them; and that after their own lusts; choosing to hear such as either indulge them in their sinful lusts and pleasures; or are agreeable to their private corrupt sentiments, in opposition to the generally received doctrine of faith. It is a blessing to have pastors and teachers after God's heart, and who preach according to the word of God; these feed men with knowledge and understanding, Jeremiah 3:15 but it is a curse upon a people, when they are left to choose teachers after their hearts' lusts:
having itching ears; always desirous of new things, as the Athenians of old; or loving to have their ears scratched and tickled with smooth things; that are pleasing and agreeable to natural men, and carnal minds; as the purity of human nature, the power of man's free will, the excellency of his righteousness, and the merit of his works, and the like; see Isaiah 30:9. Now, this being the case, should not discourage, but rather animate the ministers of the Gospel to preach it; for should they desist, in all likelihood the Gospel would soon be gone.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. they—professing Christians.
sound doctrine—Greek, "the sound (see on 1Ti 1:10) doctrine (didascalias)" or "teaching," namely, of the Gospel. Presently follows the concrete, "teachers."
after their own lusts—Instead of regarding the will of God they dislike being interrupted in their lusts by true teachers.
heap—one on another: an indiscriminate mass of false teachers. Variety delights itching ears. "He who despises sound teaching, leaves sound teachers; they seek instructors like themselves" [Bengel]. It is the corruption of the people in the first instance, that creates priestcraft (Ex 32:1).
to themselves—such as will suit their depraved tastes; populus vult decipi, et decipiatur—"the people wish to be deceived, so let them be deceived." "Like priest, like people" (1Ki 12:31; Ho 4:9).
itching—like to hear teachers who give them mere pleasure (Ac 17:19-21), and do not offend by truths grating to their ears. They, as it were, tickle with pleasure the levity of the multitude [Cicero], who come as to a theater to hear what will delight their ears, not to learn [Seneca, Epistles, 10.8] what will do them good. "Itch in the ear is as bad in any other part of the body, and perhaps worse" [South].
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