|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:31-45 The remainder of this prophecy is very difficult, and commentators differ much respecting it. From Antiochus the account seems to pass to antichrist. Reference seems to be made to the Roman empire, the fourth monarchy, in its pagan, early Christian, and papal states. The end of the Lord's anger against his people approaches, as well as the end of his patience towards his enemies. If we would escape the ruin of the infidel, the idolater, the superstitious and cruel persecutor, as well as that of the profane, let us make the oracles of God our standard of truth and of duty, the foundation of our hope, and the light of our paths through this dark world, to the glorious inheritance above.
Verse 33. - And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet, they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. The LXX. rendering is, "The prudent of the people shall understand in multitudes (εἰς πολλούς), and they shall push against them with the sword, and shall grow old with it (παλαιωθήσονται ἐν αὐτῇ)." We should feel inclined to read ἐπάλαισαν, had Paulus Tellensis not read as the text, "And by bondage and by plunder of days they shall be disgraced." The mysterious clause, "shall grow old with it," is due to the translation of שְׁבִי (shevee), "captivity," as if it had been שִׂיבָה (seebah),"oldage." Theodotion is obscure also, "The understanding of the people shall understand in regard to many things, and they shall suffer (ἀσθενήσουσιν) by the sword, and with fire, and by captivity, and in plunder of days." The Peshitta renders, "The dispersed of the people shall instruct many, and they shall fall by the sword, and by fire, by captivity, and by spoil, a thousand days." The Vulgate does not supply any point worthy of remark. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many. In 1 Macc. 2:27 we have an account of a multitude instructed in the Law and determined to keep it, who, with their wives, children, and cattle, retired into the desert. Yet they shall fall by the sword, etc. After the multitude pursued the army of King Antiochus, which was at Jerusalem, and overtook them, the fugitives would not submit to sacrifice to idols. The army assailed them on the sabbath day; from a superstitious reverence for the clay of rest, they did not even defend themselves, and therefore fell an easy prey to their enemies (1 Macc. 2:38, "They slew them with their wives, and children, and their cattle to the number of a thousand people"). While we would not be held as regarding as literally historical the sufferings of Eleazar and the seven brethren and their mother, as related in 2 Marc. 6. and 7, and more fully in 4 Maccabees, yet it can only have been an exaggeration of what must have actually occurred.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they that understand among the people shall instruct many,.... Such as had a better understanding of divine things than others, had more light and knowledge in the sacred Scriptures, in the law of God, and in his mind and will, and were capable of teaching others; and such as these the Lord raises up among his people in the worst of times, in the times of the greatest apostasy and declension; and these are enabled to perform their duty, to instruct the people in theirs, teach them what they should do, and how they should behave; exhort them to retain the doctrines and ordinances of their holy religion, and not embrace the doctrines and inventions of men, will worship, superstition, and idolatry; and so they instructed the ignorant, strengthened the weak, and established the wavering; such were Mattathias the priest of Modin, and Eleazar, one of the chief scribes, in the Apocrypha:
"In those days arose Mattathias the son of John, the son of Simeon, a priest of the sons of Joarib, from Jerusalem, and dwelt in Modin.'' (1 Maccabees 2:1)
"Eleazar, one of the principal scribes, an aged man, and of a well favoured countenance, was constrained to open his mouth, and to eat swine's flesh.'' (2 Maccabees 6:18)
Auk applies this to the times of the apostles, who he thinks are here meant; so Sir Isaac Newton:
yet they shall fall by the sword; by the sword of Antiochus and his soldiers; as multitudes of the Jews did, even both the instructors and the instructed, who would not comply with his orders:
and by flame; some were burnt alive in caves, where they fled for shelter; and others as the mother and her seven sons, were cast into heated caldrons of brass; in the Apocrypha:
"And others, that had run together into caves near by, to keep the sabbath day secretly, being discovered by Philip, were all burnt together, because they made a conscience to help themselves for the honour of the most sacred day.'' (2 Maccabees 6:11)
"3 Then the king, being in a rage, commanded pans and caldrons to be made hot: 4 Which forthwith being heated, he commanded to cut out the tongue of him that spake first, and to cut off the utmost parts of his body, the rest of his brethren and his mother looking on. 5 Now when he was thus maimed in all his members, he commanded him being yet alive to be brought to the fire, and to be fried in the pan: and as the vapour of the pan was for a good space dispersed, they exhorted one another with the mother to die manfully, saying thus,'' (2 Maccabees 7)
by captivity; so it is expressly said of Antiochus, that he carried captive women and children and at another time ordered the women and children to be sold for slaves, in the Apocrypha:
"Insomuch that the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them: whereupon the city was made an habitation of strangers, and became strange to those that were born in her; and her own children left her.'' (1 Maccabees 1:38)
"He sent also that detestable ringleader Apollonius with an army of two and twenty thousand, commanding him to slay all those that were in their best age, and to sell the women and the younger sort:'' (2 Maccabees 5:24)
and by spoil many days; being plundered of their substance, their houses rifled, and their goods carried away; and this distress lasted "days", a short time only; Josephus (k) reckons it at three years and a half. All this Cocceius interprets of the persecutions of the Christians by the Romans; and likewise Sir Isaac Newton.
(k) De Bello Jud. l. 1. c. 1. sect. 7.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
33. they that understand—who know and keep the truth of God (Isa 11:2).
instruct many—in their duty to God and the law, not to apostatize.
yet they shall fall—as Eleazar (2 Maccabees 6:18, &c.). They shall be sorely persecuted, even to death (Heb 11:35, 36, 37; 2 Maccabees 6, 7). Their enemies took advantage of the Sabbath to slay them on the day when they would not fight. Tregelles thinks, from comparison with Da 11:35, it is the people who "fall," not those of understanding. But Da 11:35 makes the latter "fall," not an unmeaning repetition; in Da 11:33 they fall (die) by persecution; in Da 11:35 they fall (spiritually) for a time by their own weakness.
flame—in caves, whither they had retired to keep the Sabbath. Antiochus caused some to be roasted alive (2 Maccabees 7:3-5).
many days—rather, "certain days," as in Da 8:27. Josephus [Antiquities, 12:7.6,7] tells us the persecution lasted for three years (1 Maccabees 1:59; 4:54; 2 Maccabees 10:1-7).
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