Matthew 19:24
And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24) It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.—Two explanations have been given of the apparent hyperbole of the words. (1.) It has been conjectured that the Evangelists wrote not κάμηλος (a camel), but κάμιλος (a cable). Not a single MS., however, gives that reading, and the latter word, which is not found in any classical Greek author, is supposed by the best scholars (e.g., Liddell and Scott) to have been invented for the sake of explaining this passage. (2.) The fact that in some modern Syrian cities the narrow gate for foot-passengers, at the side of the larger gate, by which wagons, camels, and other beasts of burden enter the city, is known as the “needle’s eye,” has been assumed to have come down from a remote antiquity, and our Lord’s words are explained as alluding to it. The fact—to which attention was first called in Lord Nugent’s Lands, Classical and Sacred—is certainly interesting, and could the earlier use of the term in this sense be proved, would give a certain vividness to our Lord’s imagery. It is not, however, necessary. The Talmud gives the parallel phrase of an elephant passing through a needle’s eye. The Koran reproduces the very words of the Gospel. There is no reason to think that the comparison, even if it was not already proverbial, would present the slightest difficulty to the minds of the disciples. Like all such comparisons, it states a general fact, the hindrance which wealth presents to the higher growths of holiness, in the boldest possible form, in order to emphasise its force, and leaves out of sight the limits and modifications with which it has to be received, and which in this instance (according to the text on which the English version is based) were supplied immediately by our Lord Himself (Mark 10:24).

19:23-30 Though Christ spoke so strongly, few that have riches do not trust in them. How few that are poor are not tempted to envy! But men's earnestness in this matter is like their toiling to build a high wall to shut themselves and their children out of heaven. It should be satisfaction to those who are in a low condition, that they are not exposed to the temptations of a high and prosperous condition. If they live more hardly in this world than the rich, yet, if they get more easily to a better world, they have no reason to complain. Christ's words show that it is hard for a rich man to be a good Christian, and to be saved. The way to heaven is a narrow way to all, and the gate that leads into it, a strait gate; particularly so to rich people. More duties are expected from them than from others, and more sins easily beset them. It is hard not to be charmed with a smiling world. Rich people have a great account to make up for their opportunities above others. It is utterly impossible for a man that sets his heart upon his riches, to get to heaven. Christ used an expression, denoting a difficulty altogether unconquerable by the power of man. Nothing less than the almighty grace of God will enable a rich man to get over this difficulty. Who then can be saved? If riches hinder rich people, are not pride and sinful lusts found in those not rich, and as dangerous to them? Who can be saved? say the disciples. None, saith Christ, by any created power. The beginning, progress, and perfecting the work of salvation, depend wholly on the almighty power of God, to which all things are possible. Not that rich people can be saved in their worldliness, but that they should be saved from it. Peter said, We have forsaken all. Alas! it was but a poor all, only a few boats and nets; yet observe how Peter speaks, as if it had been some mighty thing. We are too apt to make the most of our services and sufferings, our expenses and losses, for Christ. However, Christ does not upbraid them; though it was but little that they had forsaken, yet it was their all, and as dear to them as if it had been more. Christ took it kindly that they left it to follow him; he accepts according to what a man hath. Our Lord's promise to the apostles is, that when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, he will make all things new, and they shall sit with him in judgement on those who will be judged according to their doctrine. This sets forth the honour, dignity, and authority of their office and ministry. Our Lord added, that every one who had forsaken possessions or comforts, for his sake and the gospel, would be recompensed at last. May God give us faith to rest our hope on this his promise; then we shall be ready for every service or sacrifice. Our Saviour, in the last verse, does away a mistake of some. The heavenly inheritance is not given as earthly ones are, but according to God's pleasure. Let us not trust in promising appearances or outward profession. Others may, for aught we know, become eminent in faith and holiness.It is easier for a camel ... - This was a proverb in common use among the Jews, and is still common among the Arabians.

To denote that a thing was impossible or exceedingly difficult, they said that a camel or an elephant might as soon walk through a needle's eye. In the use of such proverbs it is not necessary to understand them literally. They merely denote the extreme difficulty of the case.

A camel - A beast of burden much used in Eastern countries. It is about the size of the largest ox, with one or two bunches on his back, with long neck and legs, no horns, and with feet adapted to the hot and dry sand. They are capable of carrying heavy burdens, will travel sometimes faster than the fleetest horse, and are provided with a stomach which they fill with water, by means of which I they can live four or five days without drink. They are very mild and tame, and kneel down to receive and unload their burden. They are chiefly used in deserts and hot climates, where other beasts of burden are with difficulty kept alive.

A rich man - This rather means one who loves his riches and makes an idol of them, or one who supremely desires to be rich. Mark says Mark 10:24 "How hard is it for them that trust in riches." While a man has this feeling - relying on his wealth alone - it is literally impossible that he should be a Christian; for religion is a love of God rather than the world - the love of Jesus and his cause more than gold. Still a man may have much property, and not have this feeling. He may have great wealth, and love God more; as a poor man may have little, and love that little more than God. The difficulties in the way of the salvation of a rich man are:

1. that riches engross the affections.

2. that people consider wealth as the chief good, and when this is obtained they think they have gained all.

3. that they are proud of their wealth, and unwilling to be numbered with the poor and despised followers of Jesus.

4. that riches engross the time, and fill the mind with cares and anxieties, and leave little for God.

5. that they often produce luxury, dissipation, and vice. that it is difficult to obtain wealth without sin, without avarice, without covetousness, fraud, and oppression, 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 6:17; James 5:1-5; Luke 12:16-21; Luke 16:19-31.

Still, Jesus says Matthew 19:26, all these may be overcome. God can give grace to do it. Though to people it may appear impossible, yet it is easy for God.

Mt 19:16-30. The Rich Young Ruler. ( = Mr 10:17-31; Lu 18:18-30).

For the exposition, see on [1330]Lu 18:18-30.

Ver. 23,24. Mark saith, Mark 10:23-25, And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Luke saith, Luke 18:24,25, And when Jesus saw that he was sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Our Lord, seeing the young man that came to him so briskly, with such a zeal for his soul, and appearing warmth of desire to be instructed in the right way to heaven, and asking for a task to be set him; first, what good thing he should do in order to that end, then calling for more; when our Saviour had reckoned up some commandments to be observed, What lack I yet? saith he; go away quite damped and sorrowful when our Saviour said not to him, Give thy body to be burned; no, nor yet, Cut off a right hand or foot, or pluck out a right eye; only part with some of thy circumstances, Sell that thou hast and give to the poor; a thing he might have done, and have been a man still perfect, both as to his essential and integral parts: he hence takes occasion to discourse with his disciples the danger of riches, and the ill influence they have upon men’s souls, with relation to their eternal welfare. Luke and Mark say he spake it by way of question, How hardly? Matthew delivereth it as spoken positively,

A rich man shall hardly enter, & c. The sense is the same, only the interrogation seems to aggravate the difficulty, and to fortify, the affirmation, as much as to say, A rich man shall very hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The disciples were astonished at this, (saith Mark), which made our Saviour say it over again, with a little exposition, How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! Which exposition is so far from a correction or abatement of the severity of his former speech, that some judge it rather a confirmation of it, for he goes on with saying,

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. But why should this astonish the disciples, who had no reason upon this account to fear for themselves, who had forsaken all to follow Christ? Possibly, because it was so contrary to the common opinion of the world, who did not only, as in Malachi’s time, call the proud happy, but thought God had scarce any favour for any but the rich; in opposition to which Christ, Luke 6:20,24, blesseth the poor, and pronounces woes to the rich, as having received their consolation. As to the words themselves, the design of our Saviour in them was not to condemn riches, as in themselves damnable; nor yet to deny salvation to all rich persons: our Lord knew that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, were all rich persons, and yet in heaven; so was David and Solomon, &c. He also knew that riches are the gifts of God, good things, not in themselves pernicious. His design was only to show that they are dangerous temptations, soliciting and enticing our hearts into so great a love of them, and affection to them, as is not consistent with our duty with reference to God; and giving the heart of man such advantages for the lusts of pride, covetousness, ambition, oppression, luxury, (some or other of which are predominant in all souls), that it is very hard for a rich man so far to deny himself, as to do what he must do if ever he will be saved. For those words in Mark, them that trust in riches, I take them rather to give the reason of the difficulty, than to be an abatement of what he had before said; for to trust in riches, is to place a happiness in them, to promise ourselves a security from them, so as to be careless of a further happiness, Psalm 49:6 52:7 1 Timothy 6:17. That which makes it so hard for a rich man to be saved, is the difficulty of having riches and not placing our felicity in them, being secure because of them, and having our hearts cleave unto them, so as we cannot deny ourselves in them to obey any command of God; and the suffering them to be temptations to us to pride, luxury ambition, oppression, contempt and despising of others, covetousness, &c. Upon these accounts our Saviour goeth on and saith, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Which doubtless was a proverbial expression, in use then amongst the Jews, to signify a thing of great difficulty, by terms importing impossibility: or else the phrase may signify an impossibility without the extraordinary influence of Divine grace, as our Saviour seemeth to expound it in the next verses. And again I say unto you,.... After the apostles had discovered their astonishment at the above expression, about the difficulty of a rich man entering into the kingdom of heaven; when they expected that, in a short time, all the rich and great men of the nation would espouse the interest of the Messiah, and acknowledge him as a temporal king, and add to the grandeur of his state and kingdom; and after he had in a mild and gentle manner, calling them "children", explained himself of such, that trusted in uncertain riches, served mammon, made these their gods, and placed their hope and happiness in them; in order to strengthen and confirm what he had before asserted, and to assure, in the strongest manner, the very great difficulty, and seeming impossibility, of rich men becoming followers of Christ here, or companions with him hereafter, he expresses himself in this proverbial way:

it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God: thus, when the Jews would express anything that was rare and unusual, difficult and impossible, they used a like saying with this. So speaking of showing persons the interpretation of their dreams (g);

"Says Rabba, you know they do not show to a man a golden palm tree i.e. the interpretation of a dream about one, which, as the gloss says, is a thing he is not used to see, and of which he never thought, , "nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle".''

Again, to one that had delivered something as was thought very absurd, it is said (h);

"perhaps thou art one of Pombeditha (a school of the Jews in Babylon) , "who make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle".''

That is, who teach such things as are equally as monstrous and absurd, and difficult of belief. So the authors of an edition of the book of Zohar, to set forth the difficulty of the work they engaged in, express themselves in this manner (i):

"In the name of our God, we have seen fit, , "to bring an elephant through the eye of a needle".''

And not only among the Jews, but in other eastern nations, this proverbial way of speaking was used, to signify difficulties or impossibilities. Mahomet has it in his Alcoran (k);

"Verily, says he, they who shall charge our signs with falsehood, and shall proudly reject them, the gates of heaven shall not be opened to them, neither shall they enter into paradise, "until a camel pass through the eye of a needle".''

All which show, that there is no need to suppose, that by a camel is meant, not the creature so called, but a cable rope, as some have thought; since these common proverbs manifestly make it appear, that a creature is intended, and which aggravates the difficulty: the reason why instead of an elephant, as used in most of the above sayings, Christ makes mention of a camel, may be, because that might be more known in Judea, than the other; and because the hump on its back would serve to make the thing still more impracticable.

(g) T. Bab. Beracot fol. 55. 2.((h) T. Bab Bava Metzia, fol. 38. 2.((i) Prefat. ad Zohar, Ed. Sultzbach. (k) Chap. 7. p. 120. Ed. Sale.

And again I say unto you, It is {o} easier for a {p} camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

(o) Literally, it is of less labour.

(p) Theophylact notes, that by this word is meant a cable rope, but Caninius alleges out of the Talmuds that it is a proverb, and the word Camel signifies the beast itself.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 19:24. “Difficultatem exaggerat,” Melanchthon. For πάλιν, comp. Matthew 18:19. The point of the comparison is simply the fact of the impossibility. A similar way of proverbially expressing the utmost difficulty occurs in the Talmud with reference to an elephant[4] See Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 1722, and Wetstein. To understand the expression in the text, not in the sense of a camel, but of a cable (Castalio, Calvin, Huet, Drusius, Ewald), and, in order to this, either supposing κάμιλον to be the correct reading (as in several cursive manuscripts), or ascribing this meaning to κάμηλος (τινές in Theophylact and Euthymius Zigabenus), is all the more inadmissible that κάμηλος never has any other meaning than that of a camel, while the form κάμιλος can only be found in Suidas and the Scholiast on Arist. Vesp. 1030, and is to be regarded as proceeding from a misunderstanding of the present passage. Further, the proverbial expression regarding the camel likewise occurs in Matthew 23:24, and the Rabbinical similitude of the elephant is quite analogous.

εἰσελθεῖν after ῥαφ. is universally interpreted: to enter in (to any place). On the question as to whether ῥαφίς is to be recognised as classical, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 90. To render this word by a narrow gate, a narrow mountain-pass (so Furer in Schenkel’s Lex. III. p. 476), or anything but a needle, is simply inadmissible.

The danger to salvation connected with the possession of riches does not lie in these considered in themselves, but in the difficulty experienced by sinful man in subordinating them to the will of God. So Clemens Alexandrinus: τίς ὁ σωζόμενος πλούσιος. Hermas, Pastor, i. 3. 6.

[4] The passage in the Koran, Sur. vii. 38: “Non ingredientur paradisum, donec transeat camelus foramen acus,” is to be traced to an acquaintance with our present saying; but for an analogous proverb concerning the camel which. “saltat in cabo,” see Jevamoth f. 45, 1.Matthew 19:24. πάλιν δὲ λέγω: reiteration with greater emphasis. The strong language of Jesus here reveals a keen sense of disappointment at the loss of so promising a man to the ranks of disciplehood. He sees so clearly what he might be, were it not for that miserable money.—εὐκοπώτερον, etc.: a comparison to express the idea of the impossible. The figure of a camel going through a needle-eye savours of Eastern exaggeration. It has been remarked that the variation in the parallel accounts in respect to the words for a needle and its eye shows that no corresponding proverb existed in the Greek tongue (Camb. G. T.). The figure is to be taken as it stands, and not to be “civilised” (vide H. C.) by taking κάμηλος (or κάμιλος, Suidas) = a cable, or the wicket of an Oriental house. It may be more legitimate to try to explain how so grotesque a figure could become current even in Palestine. Furrer suggests a camel driver leaning against his camel and trying to put a coarse thread through the eye of a needle with which he sews his sacks, and, failing, saying with comical exaggeration: I might put the camel through the eye easier than this thread (Tscht., für M. und R.).—τρήματος from τιτράω, to pierce.—ῥαφίδος, a word disapproved by Phryn., who gives βελόνη as the correct term. But vide Lobeck’s note, p. 90. It is noticeable that Christ’s tone is much more severe in reference to wealth than to wedlock. Eunuchism for the kingdom is optional; possession of wealth on the other hand seems to be viewed as all but incompatible with citizenship in the kingdom.24. easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle] An expression familiar to Jews of our Lord’s time. The exaggeration is quite in the Eastern style. It is unnecessary to give other explanations, as that camel is a Greek word meaning “a rope,” or that “the eye of a needle” is a gate so called.Matthew 19:24. Κάμηλον, a camel) i.e. the animal of that name; cf. ch. Matthew 23:24. It is not a rope[875] that is compared to a thread, but the eye of a needle to a gate.

[875] Bengel alludes to a reading which is evidently corrupt, and an interpretation which is manifestly erroneous. “Some ancient and modern commentators,” says Bloomfield, “would read κάμιλον, a cable, rope; or take κάμηλον in that sense. But for the former there is little or no manuscript authority, and for the latter, no support from the usus loquendi.” For interesting illustrations of the subject, too long to insert, see Kitto, and Wordsworth, in loc.—(I. B.)Verse 24. - Again I say unto you. The disciples, St. Mark notes, "were astonished at his words," so he proceeds to state the startling proposition more unreservedly and energetically. It is easier for a camel, etc. This is a proverbial expression for an impossibility. A similar proverb is found in many countries, only substituting another great animal instead of the camel, e.g., the elephant. From taking a too literal view of the passage, some commentators have invented a gate at Jerusalem, low and narrow, designed only for foot passengers, which was called "the needle's eye." Others have remedied the supposed absurdity by reading κάμιλος (if, indeed, there is such a word) "rope," for κάμηλος, as if we were to say cable instead of camel. But there is no difficulty in the expression. Such hyperboles and paradoxes are common in all languages (comp. Matthew 23:24). The impossibility, indeed (as ver. 26 shows), is relative, but the warning is none the less real and terrible. The Lord says that the possession of riches prevents the owner from following him, and endangers his eternal salvation; for that is what it comes to. In St. Mark (whether the words are genuine or not is uncertain) we find a limitation introduced: "How hard it is for them that trust in riches!" Now, this is the effect of riches; men learn to trust in them, to deem that their earthly state is secure, that change and chance will not affect them, that they are, so to speak, independent of Providence; they love the world which is so good to them and so pleasant in their eyes, and they have no earnest longing for a better home. Such is the natural consequence of the possession of wealth, and that which makes the impossibility of entrance into the kingdom. Camel - through a needle's eye (κάμηλον διά τρύπηματος ῥαφίδος)

See on Mark 10:25; and Luke 18:25. Compare the Jewish proverb, that a man did not even in his dreams see an elephant pass through the eye of a needle. The reason why the camel was substituted for the elephant was because the proverb was from the Babylonian Talmud, and in Babylon the elephant was common, while in Palestine it was unknown. The Koran has the same figure: "The impious shall find the gates of heaven shut; nor shall he enter there till a camel shall pass through the eye of a needle." Bo-chart, in his history of the animals of scripture, cites a Talmudic passage: "A needle's eye is not too narrow for two friends, nor is the world wide enough for two enemies." The allusion is not to be explained by reference to a narrow gate called a needle's eye.

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