|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
19:1-10 Those who sincerely desire a sight of Christ, like Zaccheus, will break through opposition, and take pains to see him. Christ invited himself to Zaccheus' house. Wherever Christ comes he opens the heart, and inclines it to receive him. He that has a mind to know Christ, shall be known of him. Those whom Christ calls, must humble themselves, and come down. We may well receive him joyfully, who brings all good with him. Zaccheus gave proofs publicly that he was become a true convert. He does not look to be justified by his works, as the Pharisee; but by his good works he will, through the grace of God, show the sincerity of his faith and repentance. Zaccheus is declared to be a happy man, now he is turned from sin to God. Now that he is saved from his sins, from the guilt of them, from the power of them, all the benefits of salvation are his. Christ is come to his house, and where Christ comes he brings salvation with him. He came into this lost world to seek and to save it. His design was to save, when there was no salvation in any other. He seeks those that sought him not, and asked not for him.
Verse 4. - Into a sycomore tree. Floss sycomorus, the fig-mulberry, is here meant. It grew in the Jordan valley to a considerable height; the low, spreading branches were easy to climb. "We can picture the scene to our mind's eye. The eager, wistful, supplicating face looking down from the fresh green foliage - it was early spring - and meeting the gaze of Jesus as he passed" (Dean Plumptre).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And he ran before,.... Jesus, and the company that was with him; so very desirous was he of seeing him:
and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: which sort of trees were very common about Jericho: hence we read of, , "beams of sycamore" in Jericho, which those that were strong took up in their arms, and the owners stood and devoted them to God (g); and among the things which the men of Jericho did, this was one, that they permitted the branches of trees devoted to sacred uses, and of the "charub" tree, and of the "sycamore", to be cut down and used (h). This sort of trees used to grow in plains and valleys, as appears from some passages of Scripture, 1 Kings 10:27 and from Jewish writings (i); and certain it is, that Jericho was in such a situation. Josephus (k) says, it was seated in a plain; and Strabo says (l), that Jericho is a plain surrounded with mountains; to which agrees the account that (m) Justin gives of it. There is a valley, which is enclosed by mountains on all sides, as with a wall, like a castle; the space of the place is two hundred acres, and it is called Jericho. Hence we read of the plains and valley of Jericho in Scripture, Deuteronomy 34:3 so that it is very probable sycamore trees grew there in great plenty; though the place was more famous for palm trees: hence it is called the city of the palm trees, Deuteronomy 24:3 which the Targumist, in both places, interprets, the city of Jericho: to which agree the accounts given of it by Pliny (n), Strabo (o), and Justin (p), who all affirm, that it abounded with palm trees; and the latter says also with balsam trees, from the sweet smell of which it might have its name: so the Jews say (q), the ointment of balsam is called the ointment of our land, because it grows in Jericho, and because of the smell of it, it is called Jericho; though some think it has its name from the plain, being in the form of a half moon; the moon, in the Hebrew language, being called (r). This tree seems to have been without the city: and indeed, according to the Jewish canon, it ought to be, which runs thus (s);
"they set a tree at a distance from a city, twenty and five cubits, but a "charub tree", and "sycamore", fifty cubits.''
The reason of the greater distance of the latter is, as one of their commentators says (t), because their branches were large; and this is the reason why Zacchaeus went up into one of these trees, because it was large and able to bear him, and tall, from whence he could have a full view of Christ:
for he was to pass that way; or rather, "pass by that"; for the word "way" is not in the text; and the sense is, he was to pass by that tree; or "under" it, as the Arabic version renders it. The tree stood by the road side, in which Jesus came, for which reason Zacchaeus made choice of it, as fit for his purpose.
(g) T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 57. 1. & Juchashin, fol. 69. 1.((h) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 71. 1. & Pesachim, fol. 56. 1.((i) Misn. Sheviith, c. 9. sect. 2.((k) De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 27. (l) Geograph. l. 16. (m) Hist. l. 36. c. 3.((n) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 14. (o) Ut supra. (Geograph. l. 16.) (p) Ib. (q) Gloss. in T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 43. 1.((r) Vid. Masium in Josh. c. 2. p. 37. (s) Misna Bava Bathra, c. 2. sect. 7. (t) Bartenora in ib.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. sycamore—the Egyptian fig, with leaves like the mulberry.
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