|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:12-17 It is just with God to take the gospel and the means of grace, from those that slight them and thrust them away. Christ will not stay long where he is not welcome. Those who are without Christ, are in the dark. They were sitting in this condition, a contented posture; they chose it rather than light; they were willingly ignorant. When the gospel comes, light comes; when it comes to any place, when it comes to any soul, it makes day there. Light discovers and directs; so does the gospel. The doctrine of repentance is right gospel doctrine. Not only the austere John Baptist, but the gracious Jesus, preached repentance. There is still the same reason to do so. The kingdom of heaven was not reckoned to be fully come, till the pouring out of the Holy Spirit after Christ's ascension.
Verses 12-16. - JESUS' WITHDRAWAL INTO GALILEE. (Parallel passages: Mark 1:14; Luke 4:14, 15.) According to some commentators, a new section begins here; but probably these verses are still preliminary. Our Lord's activity does not begin till ver. 17. But now he withdraws to Galilee, settling in Capernaum, thus fulfilling prophecy. Verse 12. - Now when Jesus had heard. If we had the synoptic Gospels alone, we should have supposed that the Baptist was imprisoned immediately after the end of our Lord's temptation (cf. this verse with Luke 4:14); but St. John (John 3:24) expressly states that he had not been cast into prison when the events recorded in John 1:43-3:23 took place. "For a time Christ and the Baptist worked side by side, preaching ' repentance' (Mark 1:15 [also Matthew 4:17]) and baptizing [John 3:22]. The Messiah took up the position of a prophet in Judaea, as afterwards in Galilee" (Bishop Westcott, on John 3:22-24). The events in Galilee related in John 2:1-12 were "preparatory to the manifestation at Jerusalem which was the real commencement of Christ's Messianic work. St. John records the course and issue of this manifestation: the other Evangelists start with the record of the Galilaean ministry, which dates from the imprisonment of the Baptist" (Bishop Westcott, on John 3:24). He adds, on John 4:43, "It seems probable that the earlier part of the synoptic narratives (Mark 1:14 - 2:14, and parallels) must be placed in the interval which extended from John 4:43-5:1." Matthew alone states directly that the news of the Baptist having been taken by Herod was the motive of our Lord's withdrawal into Galilee. He says nothing to show whether our Lord withdrew because he would avoid a like treatment himself, or, as is on the whole more likely, because he did not wish to be mixed up in the tumults to which John's capture appears to have given rise (cf. Matthew 14:5). Was cast into prison; "was delivered up" (Revised Version and Authorized Version margin); παρεδόθη, absolutely (cf. Mark 1:14; Romans 4:25; also infra, Matthew 10:19; 1 Corinthians 13:3). If the more proper meaning of the word may be insisted on, the thought is of the person to whom John was committed rather than of the place; John being delivered up, that is to say, by Herod to his officials. But in usage it appears rather to mean only compulsory removal, loss of liberty. Mark (Mark 6:19, 20) points out the temporary protection that the imprisonment gave to John against the resentment of Herodias. He departed; Revised Version, he withdrew; ἀνεχώρησεν,. A favourite word of St. Matthew's (ten times; Mark and John once each; Acts twice). It always implies some motive for the change of place, and is frequently used of departure directly consequent upon knowledge acquired. Hence it often implies a feeling of danger. Into Galilee; whence he had come (Matthew 3:13). Hence "returned" (Luke). In Galilee he would still be in Herod's dominions; but, as being in his own home, he would not attract so much attention. N.B. - Between vers. 12 and 13 some place the incident of his preaching at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30); but ver. 23 of that passage assumes much previous work at Capernaum, and can therefore hardly be as early as this.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now, when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison,.... John was cast into prison by Herod; the reason of it may be seen in Matthew 14:3. The prison into which he was cast, according to Josephus (s), was the castle of Machaeras: here he continued some time before he was put to death; for from hence he sent two disciples to Jesus, to know if he was the Messiah, Matthew 11:2. Now when Jesus heard of this his imprisonment,
he departed into Galilee; not so much on account of safety, or for fear of Herod, but to call his disciples, who lived in that country.
(s) Antiq. l. 18. c. 7.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Mt 4:12-25. Christ Begins His Galilean Ministry—Calling of Peter and Andrew, James and John—His First Galilean Circuit. ( = Mr 1:14-20, 35-39; Lu 4:14, 15).
There is here a notable gap in the history, which but for the fourth Gospel we should never have discovered. From the former Gospels we should have been apt to draw three inferences, which from the fourth one we know to be erroneous: First, that our Lord awaited the close of John's ministry, by his arrest and imprisonment, before beginning His own; next, that there was but a brief interval between the baptism of our Lord and the imprisonment of John; and further, that our Lord not only opened His work in Galilee, but never ministered out of it, and never visited Jerusalem at all nor kept a passover till He went thither to become "our Passover, sacrificed for us." The fourth Gospel alone gives the true succession of events; not only recording those important openings of our Lord's public work which preceded the Baptist's imprisonment—extending to the end of the third chapter—but so specifying the passover which occurred during our Lord's ministry as to enable us to line off, with a large measure of certainty, the events of the first three Gospels according to the successive passovers which they embraced. Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian, who, early in the fourth century, gave much attention to this subject, in noticing these features of the Evangelical Records, says [Ecclesiastical History, 3.24] that John wrote his Gospel at the entreaty of those who knew the important materials he possessed, and filled up what is wanting in the first three Gospels. Why it was reserved for the fourth Gospel, published at so late a period, to supply such important particulars in the life of Christ, it is not easy to conjecture with any probability. It may be, that though not unacquainted with the general facts, they were not furnished with reliable details. But one thing may be affirmed with tolerable certainty, that as our Lord's teaching at Jerusalem was of a depth and grandeur scarcely so well adapted to the prevailing character of the first three Gospels, but altogether congenial to the fourth; and as the bare mention of the successive passovers, without any account of the transactions and discourses they gave rise to, would have served little purpose in the first three Gospels, there may have been no way of preserving the unity and consistency of each Gospel, so as to furnish by means of them all the precious information we get from them, save by the plan on which they are actually constructed.
Entry into Galilee (Mt 4:12-17).
12. Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison—more simply, "was delivered up," as recorded in Mt 14:3-5; Mr 6:17-20; Lu 3:19, 20.
he departed—rather, "withdrew."
into Galilee—as recorded, in its proper place, in Joh 4:1-3.
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