|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:54-59 Christ and all that are his, depend upon God for honour. Men may be able to dispute about God, yet may not know him. Such as know not God, and obey not the gospel of Christ, are put together, 2Th 1:8. All who rightly know anything of Christ, earnestly desire to know more of him. Those who discern the dawn of the light of the Sun of Righteousness, wish to see his rising. Before Abraham was, I AM. This speaks Abraham a creature, and our Lord the Creator; well, therefore, might he make himself greater than Abraham. I AM, is the name of God, Ex 3:14; it speaks his self-existence; he is the First and the Last, ever the same, Re 1:8. Thus he was not only before Abraham, but before all worlds, Pr 8:23; Joh 1:1. As Mediator, he was the appointed Messiah, long before Abraham; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Re 13:8. The Lord Jesus was made of God Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption, to Adam, and Abel, and all that lived and died by faith in him, before Abraham. The Jews were about to stone Jesus for blasphemy, but he withdrew; by his miraculous power he passed through them unhurt. Let us stedfastly profess what we know and believe concerning God; and if heirs of Abraham's faith, we shall rejoice in looking forward to that day when the Saviour shall appear in glory, to the confusion of his enemies, and to complete the salvation of all who believe in him.
Verse 56. - Christ then proceeds to the allegation that he was greater than Abraham, and exclaims, Abraham, your father, exulted (a word is used of tumultuous joy, Luke 1:47) - triumphantly rejoiced that he should see my day (so Revised Version, margin). Winer translates the ἵνα ἴδῃ in the same way, though that translation really means "exulted in the knowledge that he should see." The "rejoiced to see," of the Authorized Version and Revised Version, implies that, when he thus exulted, he had seen, which is not exactly compatible or consistent with the following clause. If Canon Evans's theory of the use of ἵνα in the New Testament in the sense of "the contemplated result" be sound, we have a sufficient translation in "exulted that he would or should see" my day. In Luke 17:22 we hear of "one of the days of the Son of man." All those days seem gathered together in the expression, "my day," and can only mean the whole day of his manifestation as the incarnate Word - the day in which, through himself, God had visited his people. When did Abraham exult with so lofty an expectation and desire? Many times in solemn vision and by heavenly voice and holy promise Abraham was led to believe that in himself and in his seed all the nations of the world would be blessed (Genesis 15:4; Genesis 17:17; Genesis 18:10; Genesis 22:18). This promise made him young again. He staggered not at the promise of God. His faith was counted for righteousness. He believed that God could and would do what seemed impossible. That which he rejoiced that he should see was the day of Christ, the revelation of the Father, and the way of life proffered to all nations. He anticipated a fulfilment of the promises to such an extent that he rejoiced in hope of the glory of God. So far thee is little difficulty. Our imagination easily pictures Abraham in the sacred tumult of a blessed hope concerning that which was eventually realized in the Messianic glory of the Lord Jesus. But our Lord added, He saw it, and was glad. And the interpretations of this clause are very conflicting. Calvin asks whether this does not contradict Luke 10:24, "Many kings and prophets desired to see the things which ye see, and yet did not see them." And he adds, "Faith has its degrees in beholding Christ. The ancient prophets beheld Christ at a distance, but not as present with them." We are reminded by others of Hebrews 11:13, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen and greeted them from afar." Consequently, the only vision of the day of Christ vouchsafed to Abraham was the far off prophetic glance. This interpretation ignores the difference of two clauses, "exulted that he would see," and "saw it, and was glad." This second clause is supposed by Hengstenberg and others to refer to the vision of the angel of the Lord, the Logos (Genesis 18.), or to the revelation of the vicarious death and resurrection of Messiah in the sacrifice of Isaac (so Chrysostom and Erasmus). Others, again, have laid emphasis on the "birth of Isaac" as the fulfilment of promises previously made to his faith. Isaac was regarded as "heir of the world," and the embodiment of the Messianic hope. He was the child of promise, of the Spirit rather than of the flesh. This view has been urged by Hofmann, Wordsworth, Westcott. The proper sense was, doubtless, that, since the Lord became incarnate, Abraham's exulting hope has been realized; that which he desired and rejoiced in anticipation to see has now dawned upon him. This becomes an emphatic revelation by our Lord in one palmary case, and therefore presumably in other instances as well, of the relation and communion between the glorified life of the saints, and the events and progress of the kingdom of God upon earth. A great consensus of commentators confirms this in terpretation - Origen, Lampe, Lucke, De Wette, Godet, Meyer, Stier, Alford, Lange, Watkins, Thoma. It is objected that this kind of information about the invisible world is contrary to the manner of Christ, and would stand alone. This objection, however, ignores, and especially in the case of Abraham, other references by our Lord to the same idea and fact. The parable, so called, of the rich man and Lazarus, introduces Abraham as having been acquainted, during their lifetime, with the condition of the two dead men (see Luke 16:22-25). And when our Lord, in conflict with the Sadducees, would prove from Scripture and the language of Jehovah in the "passage concerning the bush" that the dead rise, he said, "Since God called himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he was not the God of the dead, but of the living;" therefore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were living, and not dead (Luke 20:36-38). In like manner, Moses and Elijah are represented as conversing with Jesus concerning the decease (ἔξοδον) he was about to accomplish (Luke 9:30, 31). St. Peter (1 Peter 1:12) declares that the angels desire to look into the mysteries of human redemption. St. Paul tells us that the principalities and powers in heavenly places receive fresh illustration of the manifold wisdom of God by and from the Church on earth (Ephesians 3:10). So that the idea is one in harmony with many other lines of Divine revelation. Abraham rejoiced at the advent of Christ. He has seen it, and been gladdened. The angels sang their praises at the birth of Christ, and rejoiced over one penitent sinner (Luke 15.). The patriarchs also rejoice that the promises which they handed down to the generations that would follow them have been fulfilled. The 'Midrash' declares, says Wunsche, that Abrabam saw the Law giving on Sinai, and rejoiced at it. Westcott says the "tense" is decisive against this joy of Abraham in Paradise. But the aorist simply calls attention to the effect at once produced upon the consciousness of Abraham as soon as he became aware of the day of the Son of man. Rabbinical ideas of the knowledge communicated to Abraham concerning the career of his descendants, confirm and illustrate this interpretation; while the light thus cast upon the darkness of the grave expounds the great statement, "He that continueth in [keepeth] my word shall not see death."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day,.... Or "he was desirous to see my day", as the Syriac and Arabic versions rightly render the word; or "very desirous", as the Persic version: and indeed, this was what many kings and prophets, and righteous men, were desirous of, even of seeing the Messiah and his day: we often read of , "the days of the Messiah": and the Jews, in their Talmud (y), dispute much about them, how long they will be; one says forty years, another seventy, another three ages: it is the opinion of some, that they shall be according to the number of the days of the year, three hundred and sixty five years; some say seven thousand years, and others as many as have been from the beginning of the world; and others, as many as from Noah; but we know the day of Christ better, and how long he was here on earth; and whose whole time here is called his day; this Abraham had a very great desire to see:
and he saw it and was glad; he saw it with an eye of faith, he saw it in the promise, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed; and when it was promised him he should have a son, which was the beginning of the fulfilment of the other, he laughed, and therefore his son was called Isaac, to which some reference is here made; he saw him in the birth of his son Isaac and rejoiced, and therefore called his name Isaac, that is, "laughter": he saw also Christ and his day, his sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead, in a figure; in the binding of Isaac, in the sacrifice of the ram, and in the receiving of Isaac, as from the dead; and he not only saw the Messiah in his type Melchizedek, and who some think was the Son of God himself, but he saw the second person, the promised Messiah, in an human form, Genesis 18:2; and all this was matter of joy and gladness to him. This brings to mind what the Jews say at the rejoicing at the law, when the book of the law is brought out (z).
"Abraham rejoiced with the rejoicing of the law, he that cometh shall come, the branch with the joy of the law; Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, rejoiced with the joy of the law; he that cometh shall come, the branch with the joy of the law.''
(y) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 99. 1.((z) Seder Tephillot, fol. 309. 1. Ed. Basil.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
56. Abraham rejoiced to see my day, &c.—exulted, or exceedingly rejoiced that he should see, he exulted to see it, that is, by anticipation. Nay,
he saw it, and was glad—he actually beheld it, to his joy. If this mean no more than that he had a prophetic foresight of the gospel-day—the second clause just repeating the first—how could the Jews understand our Lord to mean that He "had seen Abraham?" And if it mean that Abraham was then beholding, in his disembodied spirit, the incarnate Messiah [Stier, Alford, &c.], the words seem very unsuitable to express it. It expresses something past—"he saw My day, and was glad," that is, surely while he lived. He seems to refer to the familiar intercourse which Abraham had with God, who is once and again in the history called "the Angel of the Lord," and whom Christ here identifies with Himself. On those occasions, Abraham "saw ME" (Olshausen, though he thinks the reference is to some unrecorded scene). If this be the meaning, all that follows is quite natural.
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