|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
10:16-42 Our Lord warned his disciples to prepare for persecution. They were to avoid all things which gave advantage to their enemies, all meddling with worldly or political concerns, all appearance of evil or selfishness, and all underhand measures. Christ foretold troubles, not only that the troubles might not be a surprise, but that they might confirm their faith. He tells them what they should suffer, and from whom. Thus Christ has dealt fairly and faithfully with us, in telling us the worst we can meet with in his service; and he would have us deal so with ourselves, in sitting down and counting the cost. Persecutors are worse than beasts, in that they prey upon those of their own kind. The strongest bonds of love and duty, have often been broken through from enmity against Christ. Sufferings from friends and relations are very grievous; nothing cuts more. It appears plainly, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution; and we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations. With these predictions of trouble, are counsels and comforts for a time of trial. The disciples of Christ are hated and persecuted as serpents, and their ruin is sought, and they need the serpent's wisdom. Be ye harmless as doves. Not only, do nobody any hurt, but bear nobody any ill-will. Prudent care there must be, but not an anxious, perplexing thought; let this care be cast upon God. The disciples of Christ must think more how to do well, than how to speak well. In case of great peril, the disciples of Christ may go out of the way of danger, though they must not go out of the way of duty. No sinful, unlawful means may be used to escape; for then it is not a door of God's opening. The fear of man brings a snare, a perplexing snare, that disturbs our peace; an entangling snare, by which we are drawn into sin; and, therefore, it must be striven and prayed against. Tribulation, distress, and persecution cannot take away God's love to them, or theirs to him. Fear Him, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. They must deliver their message publicly, for all are deeply concerned in the doctrine of the gospel. The whole counsel of God must be made known, Ac 20:27. Christ shows them why they should be of good cheer. Their sufferings witnessed against those who oppose his gospel. When God calls us to speak for him, we may depend on him to teach us what to say. A believing prospect of the end of our troubles, will be of great use to support us under them. They may be borne to the end, because the sufferers shall be borne up under them. The strength shall be according to the day. And it is great encouragement to those who are doing Christ's work, that it is a work which shall certainly be done. See how the care of Providence extends to all creatures, even to the sparrows. This should silence all the fears of God's people; Ye are of more value than many sparrows. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. This denotes the account God takes and keeps of his people. It is our duty, not only to believe in Christ, but to profess that faith, in suffering for him, when we are called to it, as well as in serving him. That denial of Christ only is here meant which is persisted in, and that confession only can have the blessed recompence here promised, which is the real and constant language of faith and love. Religion is worth every thing; all who believe the truth of it, will come up to the price, and make every thing else yield to it. Christ will lead us through sufferings, to glory with him. Those are best prepared for the life to come, that sit most loose to this present life. Though the kindness done to Christ's disciples be ever so small, yet if there be occasion for it, and ability to do no more, it shall be accepted. Christ does not say that they deserve a reward; for we cannot merit any thing from the hand of God; but they shall receive a reward from the free gift of God. Let us boldly confess Christ, and show love to him in all things.
Verse 17. - Vers. 17-22 are remarkable as being practically identical with Mark 13:9-13, to which the parallels are Luke 21:12-19 and Matthew 24:9-14. It is hard to resist the conclusion that St. Matthew
(1) has incorporated into the present address of our Lord's on missionary work warnings actually given in his great address at Jerusalem on the fall of the city and the end of the world; and
(2) to some extent repeats these warnings in their proper place. (For the further parallel of vers. 19, 20 to Luke 12:11, 12, vide in loc.; cf. also the note on "and they will scourge," in this verse.) But beware. Apparently in contrast to being only "dove-like"; but it is no wonder that the connexion with ver. 16 should be rather harsh if the passage be really taken from a later speech ("But take ye heed," etc., Mark 13:9). Of men. Generically (τῶν ἀνθρώπων), regarded as one hostile body (cf. Meyer). The culminating point of that opposition to God which is innate in fallen humanity is found in the deification of the Roman emperors (cf. Bishop Westcott's essay on the Two Empires, § 3, in his Epistles of St. John). For they will deliver you up to the (omit "the," with the Revised Version) councils (εἰς συνέδρια, Matthew 5:22, note); "Synedria, uhi proceres conveniunt; synagogae, ubi etiam populus" (Bengel). And they will scourge you in their synagogues (the order of the words is reversed in the Revised Version). With this compare Matthew 23:34, where our Lord says, "Therefore, behold, I send [ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω: cf. ver. 16, note] unto you prophets.., and some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and (cf. ver. 23, infra) persecute from city to city." Is our present passage a reminiscence of this also? For the fulfilment of this prophecy cf. Acts 22:19 (26:11). Farrar ('St. Paul,' 1. App. 11.) thus summarizes the enactments on Jewish scourging as recorded in the Mishna ('Makkoth'): "Even a single Jewish scourging might well entitle any man to be regarded as a martyr. Thirty-nine blows were inflicted, unless, indeed, it was found that the strength of the patient was too much exhausted to admit of his receiving the full number. Both of his bands were tied to what is sometimes called a column. but which was in reality a stake a cubit and a half high. The public officer then tore down his robe until his breast was laid bare. The executioner stood on a stone behind the criminal. The scourge consisted of two thongs, one of which was composed of four strands of calf's skin, and one or two strands of ass's skin, which passed through a hole in a handle. The executioner, who was ordinarily the Chazzan of the synagogue, could thus shorten or lengthen them at will, so as not to strike too low. The prisoner bent to receive the blows, which were inflicted with one hand, but with all the force of the striker, thirteen on the breast, thirteen on the right and thirteen on the left shoulder. While the punishment was going on, the chief judge read aloud Deuteronomy 28:58, 59, 'If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God; then the Lord will make thy plagues ["strokes"] wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed.' He then read Deuteronomy 29:9, 'Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all ye do;' and lastly, Psalm 78:38, 39, 'But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away. and did not stir up all his wrath.' If the punishment was not over by the time that these three passages were read, they were again repeated, and so timed as to end exactly with the punishment itself Meanwhile a second judge numbered the blows, and a third before each blow exclaimed, 'Hakkehu ('strike him') The severity of the pain may best be estimated by the brief addition, ' If the criminal die under the infliction, the executioner is not accounted guilty unless he gives by mistake a single blow too many, in which case he is banished.'"
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But beware of men,.... Of these men, comparable to wolves, before spoken of: the phrase is somewhat uncommon and emphatical, and designs not merely wicked men in common, the men of the world, and enemies of the Gospel; but chiefly such of them as were men of note and authority, ecclesiastical and civil governors of the people, the Scribes, Pharisees, elders, and chief priests, and other rulers; and the advice to the apostles is, to take care how they came into their company, and put themselves into their hands; who would seek all opportunities and occasions against them, and use their power and interest to do them hurt:
for they will deliver you up to the councils, or sanhedrim, of which there were three sorts; the greater, which consisted of seventy one persons, and was only held in Jerusalem; the lesser one, which was made up of twenty three members, and was kept in every place where there were an hundred and twenty Israelites; and the third, where there was not that number, and was a triumvirate, or a bench of three judges only (b).
And they will scourge you in their synagogues; where the triumvirate, or bench of three Judges kept their court; under whose cognizance were pecuniary judgments, and such as related to thefts, damages, restitutions, ravishing, and enticing of virgins, and defamation; also to plucking off of the shoe, and refusing a brother's wife, to the plant of the fourth year, second tithes whose price is unknown, holy things, and the estimations of goods; to these belonged also laying on of hands, the beheading of the heifer, and, among the rest, , "scourging was by the bench of three" (c). The manner of performing it was this (d):
"they bind both his hands to a pillar, here and there; and the minister of the synagogue takes hold of his clothes, and if they are rent, they are rent; and if they are ripped in the seam, they are ripped till his breast is uncovered; for he is not to beat him on his clothes, as it is said, "he shall beat him", but not his clothes: and a stone is placed behind him, on which the minister that scourges stands, and a white leather whip in his hand, doubled two and two with four, and two lashes of an ass's hide, going up and down: the breadth of the whip was an hand's breadth, and the length of it, so as to reach to the navel, and the handle of the whip, by which he took hold, was the length of an hand; and he lifts up the whip with both his hands, and strikes with one hand, with all his might; and gives him the third part of his stripes before, upon his breast, between his paps, and two thirds behind him; one third upon this shoulder, and the other upon the other shoulder. He that scourges neither stands, nor sits, but bows; as it is said, "the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face"; for the eyes of the judge shall be upon him, that he do not look upon anything else, and smite him from thence; for no two strokes are as one; the greatest of the judges reads all the time he is scourging, viz. these passages; "if thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law", &c. and "the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful", &c. and he intends to finish the verses with the stripes; but if he does not finish, he returns to the beginning of the Scripture, and reads, and returns, and reads until the whole scourging is over: and the second of the judges numbers the stripes; and the third says to the minister strike: every time he strikes, it is at his orders he strikes.''
Now, as this punishment was inflicted by the chazan, or minister of the synagogue, who was a sort of sexton, so it was done in the synagogue itself: and according to our Lord's predictions here, and in Matthew 23:34 as the former of these, delivering up to councils, had its accomplishment in part, in the apostles, Acts 4:1 so the latter, scourging in their synagogues, was fulfilled both by Paul, Acts 22:19 and upon him, 2 Corinthians 11:24. Epiphanius tells (e) us of one Joseph, a Jew, who was caught by the Jews reading the Gospels in his own house; upon which they dragged him away, and had him to the synagogue, and there "scourged" him. Now as these things did not befall the apostles till after the death of Christ, it is clear that the context refers not to their first, but to an after mission.
(b) Maimon. Hilch. Sanhedrim, c. 1. sect. 3, 4. (c) Misn. Sanhedrim, c. 1. sect. 1, 2, 3.((d) Maimon. Hilch. Sanhedrim, c. 16. sect. 8, 9, 10, 11. Misn. Maccot, c. 3. sect. 12, 13, 14. (e) Contra Haeres. 1. 1. Haeres. 30.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
17. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the councils—the local courts, used here for civil magistrates in general.
and they will scourge you in their synagogues—By this is meant persecution at the hands of the ecclesiastics.
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