|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
12:38-45 Though Christ is always ready to hear and answer holy desires and prayers, yet those who ask amiss, ask and have not. Signs were granted to those who desired them to confirm their faith, as Abraham and Gideon; but denied to those who demanded them to excuse their unbelief. The resurrection of Christ from the dead by his own power, called here the sign of the prophet Jonah, was the great proof of Christ's being the Messiah. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale, and then came out again alive, thus Christ would be so long in the grave, and then rise again. The Ninevites would shame the Jews for not repenting; the queen of Sheba, for not believing in Christ. And we have no such cares to hinder us, we come not to Christ upon such uncertainties. This parable represents the case of the Jewish church and nation. It is also applicable to all those who hear the word of God, and are in part reformed, but not truly converted. The unclean spirit leaves for a time, but when he returns, he finds Christ is not there to shut him out; the heart is swept by outward reformation, but garnished by preparation to comply with evil suggestions, and the man becomes a more decided enemy of the truth. Every heart is the residence of unclean spirits, except those which are temples of the Holy Ghost, by faith in Christ.
Verse 39. - Of the passages mentioned in the introductory note on vers. 38-42, Matthew 16:4 is verbally identical with the answer of our present verse, except the omission of the words, "the prophet," which occur nowhere else but in this passage. But he answered and said to them, An evil (πονηρά, ch. 6:13, note) and adulterous generation. However frequent the sin of adultery may then have been, the common metaphorical sense of spiritual unfaithfulness to God and the practical worship of some other than Jehovah seems the more probable here (cf. James 4:4; Revelation 2:20-23). Seeketh after (ἐπιζητεῖ); Matthew 6:32. A sign; but there shall no sign be given to it. In Mark 8:12 our Lord's reply ends here. But the sign of the Prophet Jonas; Jonah the prophet (Revised Version). In Matthew 16:4 and Luke 11:29 "the prophet" has been added in the Received Text.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But he answered and said unto them,.... Not to the Pharisees, who were unworthy of an answer from him; having, in such an imperious manner, and with a sole view to tempt him, and after such miracles were wrought by him, required of him a sign from heaven; but to the multitude, the throng of people gathered thick together on this occasion, see Matthew 12:45 he turns himself from the Scribes and Pharisees, to the common people, and says to them concerning the former,
an evil and adulterous generation; not only in a spiritual sense, being degenerated from the faith, religion, and piety of their ancestors; but literally, which appeared not only in their polygamy, and frequent divorces on trivial occasions, but by criminal conversation with other women; see John 8:9 and this, with the Jews themselves, is a character of the generation in which the Messiah comes: for they say (h),
"that just when the Messiah comes, or in the age the son of David comes, "impudence shall be increased", corn and wine shall be dear, the government shall be heretics, , "and the synagogue shall become a brothel house".''
Their meaning is, that the chief magistrates should be Sadducees, and those that pretended to religion and holiness would be adulterers, which was now the case. Their writings (i) frequently speak of the increase and abounding of adulteries, under the second temple, and about this time; which obliged Jochanan ben Zaccai and the sanhedrim, to leave off the use of the bitter waters.
Seeketh after a sign; this is perfectly Talmudic language, the language of the Jews (k).
"The disciples of R. Jose ben Kismai, asked him, when the Son of David came? He replied, I am afraid, lest , "ye should seek of me a sign"; they say unto him, we will not "seek of thee a sign".''
This the Jews sought of Christ, time after time; not content with one, sought another, though such wonderful ones were wrought, which most fully demonstrated him to be the Messiah; and therefore he would not indulge this temper in them; but declared, that
there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. Not that no miracles should afterwards be wrought amongst them; for, after this, many wondrous works were done by Christ; but no such signs should be given they desired, not one from heaven; but one particularly should be given them, out of the earth, and should be, not for their conviction, but condemnation; and would seem very much like that which was done to the prophet Jonas, or Jonah; for so is his name in the Hebrew language, the other being the Greek termination of it.
(h) Misn. Sota c. 9. sect. 15. T. Bab. Sanhed. fol. 97. 1.((i) Misn. Sota, c. 9. sect. 9. & Maimon. Hilch. Sota, c. 3. sect. 19. (k) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 98. 1. so , "seeketh a sign", Shemot Rabba, Parash. 9. fol. 97. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
39. But he answered and said unto them—"when the people were gathered thick together" (Lu 11:29).
an evil and adulterous generation—This latter expression is best explained by Jer 3:20, "Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord." For this was the relationship in which He stood to the covenant-people—"I am married unto you" (Jer 3:14).
seeketh after a sign—In the eye of Jesus this class were but the spokesmen of their generation, the exponents of the reigning spirit of unbelief.
and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.
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