Matthew 24:28
For wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) Wheresoever the carcase is.—Two interpretations of this verse may, without much risk of error, be at once rejected:—(1) That which sees in the “eagles” the well-known symbols of the strength of the Roman legions, and in the “carcass” the decayed and corrupted Judaism which those legions came to destroy. This, true as far as it goes, is too narrow and localised in its range for so wide and far-reaching a comparison. (2) The strange fantastic imagination of many of the Fathers that the “carcass” is Christ Himself, as crucified and slain, and that the eagles are His true saints and servants who hasten to meet Him in His coming. Those who picture to themselves with what purpose and with what results the vultures of the East swoop down on the carrion which they scent far off upon the breeze, will surely find such an explanation at once revolting and irrational. What the enigmatic proverb (if indeed it be enigmatic) means, is that wherever life is gone, wherever a church or nation is decaying and putrescent, there to the end of time will God’s ministers of vengeance, the vultures that do their work of destruction, and so leave room for new forms of life by sweeping off that which was “ready to vanish away” (comp. Hebrews 8:13 for the phrase and thought), assuredly be found. What the disciples should witness in the fall of Jerusalem would repeat itself scores of times in the world’s history, and be fulfilled on the largest scale at the end of all things. The words of Isaiah (Isaiah 46:11) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:4), in which the “ravenous bird” is a symbol of the nations who do the work of destruction to which God sends them, illustrate the meaning of the generalised law which is here asserted.

24:4-28 The disciples had asked concerning the times, When these things should be? Christ gave them no answer to that; but they had also asked, What shall be the sign? This question he answers fully. The prophecy first respects events near at hand, the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the Jewish church and state, the calling of the Gentiles, and the setting up of Christ's kingdom in the world; but it also looks to the general judgment; and toward the close, points more particularly to the latter. What Christ here said to his disciples, tended more to promote caution than to satisfy their curiosity; more to prepare them for the events that should happen, than to give a distinct idea of the events. This is that good understanding of the times which all should covet, thence to infer what Israel ought to do. Our Saviour cautions his disciples to stand on their guard against false teachers. And he foretells wars and great commotions among nations. From the time that the Jews rejected Christ, and he left their house desolate, the sword never departed from them. See what comes of refusing the gospel. Those who will not hear the messengers of peace, shall be made to hear the messengers of war. But where the heart is fixed, trusting in God, it is kept in peace, and is not afraid. It is against the mind of Christ, that his people should have troubled hearts, even in troublous times. When we looked forward to the eternity of misery that is before the obstinate refusers of Christ and his gospel, we may truly say, The greatest earthly judgments are but the beginning of sorrows. It is comforting that some shall endure even to the end. Our Lord foretells the preaching of the gospel in all the world. The end of the world shall not be till the gospel has done its work. Christ foretells the ruin coming upon the people of the Jews; and what he said here, would be of use to his disciples, for their conduct and for their comfort. If God opens a door of escape, we ought to make our escape, otherwise we do not trust God, but tempt him. It becomes Christ's disciples, in times of public trouble, to be much in prayer: that is never out of season, but in a special manner seasonable when we are distressed on every side. Though we must take what God sends, yet we may pray against sufferings; and it is very trying to a good man, to be taken by any work of necessity from the solemn service and worship of God on the sabbath day. But here is one word of comfort, that for the elect's sake these days shall be made shorter than their enemies designed, who would have cut all off, if God, who used these foes to serve his own purpose, had not set bounds to their wrath. Christ foretells the rapid spreading of the gospel in the world. It is plainly seen as the lightning. Christ preached his gospel openly. The Romans were like an eagle, and the ensign of their armies was an eagle. When a people, by their sin, make themselves as loathsome carcasses, nothing can be expected but that God should send enemies to destroy them. It is very applicable to the day of judgment, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in that day, 2Th 2:1. Let us give diligence to make our calling and election sure; then may we know that no enemy or deceiver shall ever prevail against us.Wheresoever ... - The words in this verse are proverbial. Vultures and eagles easily ascertain where dead bodies are, and hasten to devour them. So with the Roman army. Jerusalem is like a dead and putrid corpse. Its life is gone, and it is ready to be devoured. The Roman armies will find it out, as the vultures do a dead carcass, and will come around it to devour it. This proverb also teaches a universal truth. Wherever wicked people are, there will be assembled the instruments of their chastisement. The providence of God will direct them there, as the vultures are directed to a dead carcass.

This verse is connected with the preceding by the word "for," implying that this is a reason for what is said there that the Son of man would certainly come to destroy the city, and that he would come suddenly. The meaning is that he would come, by means of the Roman armies, as "certainly;" as "suddenly," and as unexpectedly as whole flocks of vultures and eagles, though unseen before, see their prey at a great distance and suddenly gather in multitudes around it. Travelers in the deserts of Arabia tell us that they sometimes witness a speck in the distant sky which for a long time is scarcely visible. At length it grows larger, it comes nearer, and they at last find that it is a vulture that has from an immense distance seen a carcass lying on the sand. So keen is their vision as aptly to represent the Roman armies, though at an immense distance, spying, as it were, Jerusalem, a putrid carcass, and hastening in multitudes to destroy it.

CHAPTER 24

Mt 24:1-51. Christ's Prophecy of the Destruction of Jerusalem, and Warnings Suggested by It to Prepare for His Second Coming. ( = Mr 13:1-37; Lu 21:5-36).

For the exposition, see on [1355]Mr 13:1-37.

Ver. 27,28. Luke hath much the same, Luke 17:24,37. The disagreement of interpreters about the coming of the Son of man, here spoken of, makes a variety in their interpretation of these verses. Some think the coming of the Son of man here spoken of was his coming to destroy Jerusalem, which, he saith, will be sudden like the lightning, which though the thunder be taken notice of aforehand, as following the lightning, yet is not taken notice of. These interpreters make the carcass, mentioned Matthew 24:28, to be the body of the Jewish nation, designed to be destroyed; and the eagles to be the Roman armies. Job saith of the eagle, Job 39:30, where the slain are, there is she, Habakkuk 1:8, saith the same of the Chaldean armies; They shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat. Some understand by the coming of Christ here, his coming in his spiritual kingdom. The preaching of the gospel shall be like the lightning; you need not listen after those that say, Lo, here is Christ, or, Lo, he is there, for my gospel shall be preached every where; and where the carcass is, where my death and resurrection shall be preached, all the elect, my sheep that hear my voice and follow me, shall be gathered together. Others understand it of Christ’s coming to judgment, which is compared to lightning for the suddenness and universality of it. There, saith Christ, I shall be, and all my saints shall be gathered together. Luke seemeth to speak of this, Luke 17:24,37. That phrase, Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together, is a proverbial speech, signifying that it will need no great labour to bring things together which are naturally joined by an innate desire either of them to the other; so that it is applicable in more cases than one. And whether that discourse in Luke were at the same time when this was I cannot say; our Saviour’s discourse on this argument, Luke 21:1-38; hath not these verses, and is a part of a discourse which is said to have been begun, at least to the Pharisees, Luke 17:20. But I shall further consider what Luke saith when I shall come to that chapter in him. For wheresoever the carcass is,.... Not Christ, as he is held forth in the Gospel, crucified and slain, through whose death is the savour of life, and by whom salvation is, and to whom sensible sinners flock, encouraged by the ministry of the word; and much less Christ considered as risen, exalted, and coming in great glory to judgment, to whom the word "carcass" will by no means agree, and but very poorly under the former consideration: but the people of the Jews are designed by it, in their fallen, deplorable, miserable, and lifeless state, who were like to the body of a man, or any other creature, struck dead with lightning from heaven; being destroyed by the breath of the mouth, and brightness of the coming of the son of man, like lightning, just as antichrist will be at the last day:

there will the eagles be gathered together: not particular believers here, or all the saints at the day of judgment; though these may be, as they are, compared to eagles for many things; as their swiftness in flying to Christ, their sagacity and the sharpness of their spiritual sight, soaring on high, and renewing their spiritual strength and youth: but here the Roman armies are intended, whose ensigns were eagles; and the eagle still is, to this day, the ensign of the Roman empire: formerly other creatures, with the eagle, were used for ensigns; but C. Marius, in his second consulship, banished them, and appropriated the eagle only to the legions: nor was it a single eagle that was carried before the army, but every legion had an eagle went before it, made of gold or silver, and carried upon the top of a spear (z): and the sense of this passage is this, that wherever the Jews were, whether at Jerusalem, where the body and carcass of them was, in a most forlorn and desperate condition; or in any other parts of the country, the Roman eagles, or legions, would find them out, and make an utter destruction of them. The Persic version, contrary to others, and to all copies, renders it "vultures". Though this creature is of the same nature with the eagle, with respect to feeding on carcasses: hence the proverb,

"cujus vulturis hoe erit cadaver?''

"what vulture shall have this carcass?" It has a very sharp sight, and quick smell, and will, by both, discern carcasses at almost incredible distance: it will diligently watch a man that is near death; and will follow armies going to battle, as historians relate (a): and it is the eagle which is of the vulture kind, as Aristotle (b) observes, that takes up dead bodies, and carries them to its nest. And Pliny (c) says, it is that sort of eagles only which does so; and some have affirmed that eagles will by no means touch dead carcasses: but this is contrary not only to this passage of Scripture, but to others; particularly to Job 39:30 "her young ones also suck up blood, and where the slain are, there is she": an expression much the same with this in the text, and to which it seems to refer; see also Proverbs 30:17. Though Chrysostom (d) says, both the passage in Job, and this in Matthew, are to be understood of vultures; he doubtless means the eagles that are of the vulture kind, the Gypaeetos, or vulture eagle. There is one kind of eagles, naturalists say (e), will not feed on flesh, which is called the bird of Jupiter; but, in common, the eagle is represented as a very rapacious creature, seizing, and feeding upon the flesh of hares, fawns, geese, &c. and the rather this creature is designed here; since, of all birds, this is the only one that is not hurt with lightning (f), and so can immediately seize carcasses killed thereby; to which there seems to be an allusion here, by comparing it with the preceding verse: however, the Persic version, though it is literally a proper one, yet from the several things observed, it is not to be overlooked and slighted.

(z) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 4. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 4. c. 2.((a) Aelian. de Animal. Natura, l. 2. c. 46. (b) De Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 32. (c) Hist. Nat l. 10. c. 3.((d) In Matt. Homil. 49. (e) Aelian. de Animal. l. 9. c. 10. (f) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 2. c. 55.

{5} For wheresoever the {m} carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

(5) The only remedy against the furious rage of the world is that of being gathered and joined to Christ.

(m) Christ, who will come with speed; and his presence will be with a majesty to whom all will flock, just like Eagles.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 24:28. Confirmation of the truth that the advent will announce its presence everywhere, and that from the point of view of the retributive punishment which the coming One will be called upon everywhere to execute. The emphasis of this figurative adage is on ὅπου ἐὰν ᾖ and ἐκεῖ: “Wherever the carcase may happen to be, there will the eagles be gathered together,”—on no spot where there is a carcase will this gathering fail, so that, when the Messiah shall have come, He will reveal Himself everywhere in this aspect also (namely, as an avenger). Such is the sense in which this saying was evidently understood as early as the time of Luke 17:37. The carcase is a metaphorical expression denoting the spiritually dead (Matthew 8:22; Luke 16:24) who are doomed to the Messianic ἀπώλεια, while the words συναχθήσονται (namely, at the advent) οἱ ἀετοί convey the same idea as that expressed in Matthew 13:41, and which is as follows: the angels, who are sent forth by the Messiah for the purpose, συλλέξουσιν ἐκ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ πάντα τὰ σκάνδαλα, καὶ βαλοῦσιν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν κάμινον τοῦ πυρός, the only difference being, that in our passage the prophetic imagery depicting the mode of punishment is not that of consuming by fire, and that for the simple reason that the latter would not harmonize with the idea of the carcase and the eagles (Bleek, Luthardt, Auberlen). Others (Lightfoot, Hammond, Clericus, Wolf, Wetstein) have erroneously supposed that the carcase alludes to Jerusalem or the Jews, and that the eagles are intended to denote the Roman legions with their standards (Xen. Anab, i. 10. 12; Plut. Mar. 23). But it is the advent that is in question; while, according to Matthew 24:23-27, ὅπου ἐὰν ᾖ cannot be taken as referring to any one particular locality, so that Hoelemann is also in error, inasmuch as, though he interprets the eagles as representing the Messiah and His angel-hosts, he nevertheless understands the carcase to mean Jerusalem as intended to form the central scene of the advent. It is no less mistaken to explain the latter of “the corpses of Judaism” (Hilgenfeld), on the ground that, as Keim also supposes, Christ means to represent Himself “as Him who is to win the spoils amid the physical and moral ruins of Israel.” According to Cremer, the carcase denotes the anti-Messianic agitation previously described, which is destined to be suppressed and punished by the imperial power (the eagles). This view is erroneous; for, according to Matthew 24:27, the συναχθ. οἱ ἀετοί can only represent the παρουσία τ. υἱοῦ τ. ἀνθρ. Fritzsche and Fleck, p. 384: “ubi Messias, ibi homines, qui ejus potestatis futuri sint” (οἱ ἐκλεκτοί, Matthew 24:31). Similarly such early expositors as Chrysostom (who thinks the angels and martyrs are intended to be included), Jerome, Theophylact (ὥσπερ ἐπὶ νεκρὸν σῶμα συνάγονται ὀξέως οἱ ἀετοὶ, οὕτω καὶ ἔνθα ἂν εἴη ὁ Χριστός, ἐλεύσονται πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι), Euthymius Zigabenus, Münster, Luther, Erasmus (“non deerunt capiti sua membra”), Beza, Calvin, Clarius, Zeger, Calovius, Jansen. But how inappropriate and incongruous it would be to compare the Messiah (who is conceived of as τροφὴ πνευματική, Euthymius Zigabenus) to the carcase; which is all the more offensive when, with Jerome, πτῶμα is supposed to contain a reference to the death of Jesus—a view which Calvin rejected. Wittichen in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1862, p. 337, reverses the subjects of comparison, and takes the carcase as representing the Israelitish ἐκλεκτοί, and the eagles as representing the Messiah. But this interpretation is likewise forbidden by the incongruity that would result from the similitude of the carcase so suggestive of the domain of death, as well as by that universal character of the advent to which the context bears testimony. With astonishing disregard of the context, Kaeuffer observes: “μὴ πιστεύσητε, sc. illis, nam ubi materies ad praedandum, ibi praedatores avidi, h. e. nam in fraudem vestram erit.” On the question as to whether πτῶμα without a qualifying genitive be good Greek, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 375.

οἱ ἀετοί] are the carrion-kites (vultur percnopterus, Linnaeus) which the ancients regarded as belonging to the eagle species. See Plin. N. H. x. 3; Aristot. ix. 22. For the similitude, comp. Job 39:30; Hosea 8:1; Habakkuk 1:8; Proverbs 30:17; Ezekiel 39:17.Matthew 24:28. πτῶμα, carcase, as in Matthew 14:12, q.v.ἀετοί, eagles, doubtless the carrion vultures are meant. The reference of this proverbial saying, as old as the book of Job (Job 39:30), in this place is not clear. In the best text it comes in without connecting particle, the γὰρ of T. R. being wanting. If we connect it with Matthew 24:27 the idea will be that Messiah’s judicial function will be as universal as His appearance (Meyer and Weiss). But does not Matthew 24:28 as well as Matthew 24:27 refer to what is said about the false Christs, and mean: heed not these pretended Saviours; Israel cannot be saved: she is dead and must become the prey of the vultures? (So Lutteroth.) In this view the Jewish people are the carcase and the Roman army the eagles.28. wheresoever the carcase is] The spiritual perception will discern when the Lord comes and where, by a subtle sense like that by which the vulture is cognisant of his distant prey.

Another interpretation fixes upon the idea of corruption in the body, and taking the “eagles” to mean the eagles of the Roman standards reads the sense thus: “where the corrupt body of sin lies there will the eagles of vengeance be gathered.”

This view is excluded by the division of the prophecy adopted in these notes.Matthew 24:28. Ὅπου γὰρ κ.τ.λ., for where, etc.) This adage is combined here with the mention of the false teachers which occurs in Matthew 24:23; but in Luke 17:37; Luke 17:31-32, with that of sufferings caused by war. The carcase, therefore, must be carnal Judaism, devoid of that life by which the body of Christ is sustained, and yet boasting some appearance of a body, upon which, as upon a carcase left to them, the eagles will pounce greedily and in great numbers.—(συναχθήσονται, will be gathered together—the future tense.) Christ, however, who comes as the lightning, is not to be sought for at that carcase; Matthew 24:23; Matthew 24:27. All kinds of eagles are not carnivorous, but only some species;[1050] cf. Job 39:30. These eagles are partly the false Christs and false prophets, partly the Roman forces. The Romans bore an eagle on their standards, and were not the first nation who did so; and some are of opinion that the eagle in this passage, and the boar in Psalm 80:14 (13) allude to their military standards; cf. Hosea 8:1.

[1050] Bengel would seem to mean, they do not all feed on carrion, as vultures do. The Greek word comprehends both tribes, the latter of which are probably meant in the text.—(I. B.)Verse 28. - For. The particle seems to be spurious, and is omitted by late editors. Christ applies a proverbial saying in confirmation of the certainty and universality of is appearance. He had used the same under other circumstances (Luke 17:87); and analogous expressions are found in Job 39:30; Hosea 8:1; Habakkuk 1:8, etc. Wheresoever the carcase (ptw = ma) is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Eagles (ἀετοὶ) do not live on carrion, so that here probably vultures are meant. The Hebrew word nesher, translated "eagle" in our version, often signifies "the vulture," as in Micah 1:16. This bird's keenness of sight is almost incredible; it will discern a prey at an enormous distance, and its movements being watched by others, all eager to secure food, a carcase is very quickly surrounded by a multitude of these rapacious birds, flocking from all quarters. What our Lord meant by this proverb has occasioned great disputation. If Christ were referring primarily and chiefly to Jerusalem, it would be easy to explain "the carcase" to be the corrupt city, "the eagles" the ministers of God's vengeance, especially the Roman armies, whose standards bore the image of this bird of prey. Or if it were a mere general truth, and to be taken entirely in a spiritual sense, the gnome would imply that moral corruption calls for heavenly chastisement. But neither of these interpretations would satisfy the context, which speaks of Christ's second advent. Hence many regard the sentence as altogether parallel to the preceding verse, expressing in metaphor that which was there set forth in more direct terms, viz. that all men shall assemble to the place where Christ shall summon them to be judged, as vultures congregate round a carcase. In this case the carcase is Christ, the eagles or vultures are the men to be judged. This exposition has satisfied commentators of reputation, but it has its weak points. One fails to see the propriety of describing men coming to the great assize as vultures gathering to devour a dead body, or how in this case the body can be Christ or the place of his appearance. More probable is the interpretation which regards the carcase as antichrist or the world power, and the eagles as the saints and angels who shall attend Christ when he comes in judgment (Revelation 19:17, 18). Others expound the clause entirely in a mystical sense. The carcase is Christ, or the body of Christ; the eagles are the saints, or true Christians; these, whatever happens, will, with keen spiritual sight, always be able to discern Christ and his body, and to flock thereto. He calls himself πτῶμα, because he saves us by his death, and feeds us by his body, in his Church, Word, and sacraments (see Wordsworth, in loc.). Such is the interpretation of many of the Fathers, and it has many analogies in other places of Scripture. Far be it from us to restrict the sphere of Divine prediction, or to assert that any legitimate reference which we may discover was not in the Lord's mind when he spake the words. But it is more simple to regard the proverbial saying in itself, without looking for abstruse or mystical meanings. As a carcase, fall where it may, is immediately observed by the vultures and attracts them, so Christ's coming shall at once be discerned by all men and draw them into it. Carcase (πτῶμα)

From πίπτω, to fall. Originally a fall, and thence a fallen body; a corpse. Compare Lat. cadaver, from cado, to fall. See Mark 6:29; Revelation 11:8. On the saying itself, compare Job 39:30.

Eagles (ἀετιό)

Rev. puts vultures in margin. The griffon vulture is meant, which surpasses the eagle in size and power. Aristotle notes how this bird scents its prey from afar, and congregates in the wake of an army. In the Russian war vast numbers were collected in the Crimea, and remained until the end of the campaign in the neighborhood of the camp, although previously scarcely known in the country.

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