Matthew 10
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chap. 10. The Mission of the Twelve Matthew 10:1-4, and the Charge to them, Matthew 10:5-42. Mark 3:14-19; Mark 6:7-13. Luke 6:12-16; Luke 9:1-6
And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
1. his twelve disciples] The first passages in St Mark and St Luke record the choice or calling of the Twelve, this chapter and Mark 6 and Luke 9 narrate the mission or a mission of the disciples. Possibly they were sent forth more than once.

sickness … disease] See note ch. Matthew 4:23, and Matthew 9:35.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;
2. apostles] the only passage in this Gospel where the word occurs. The Greek word lit. = “sent forth,” “envoys.” This sense, though scarcely recognised by classical authors, was not new. It seems to have been a “title borne by those who were despatched from the mother city by the rulers of the race on any foreign mission, especially such as were charged with collecting the tribute paid to the temple service.” (Lightfoot, Gal. p. 90). The title of “apostles” was given in a special sense to the Twelve, but was not confined to them. Matthias was added to the number of the twelve, Paul was “called to be an apostle,” James the Lord’s brother, and Barnabas, are designated by the same title. It had even a wider signification: cp. among other passages Romans 16:7. The name is applied to Jesus Christ, Hebrews 3:1, “The Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” He came to do the will of Him that sent Him.

There are four lists of the Apostles recorded, one by each of the Synoptic Evangelists, one in the Acts of the Apostles. No two of these lists perfectly coincide. This will be seen from the tabular view below.


Matthew 10:3.

  Mark 3:16.  Luke 6:14.  Act 1:13.

1.  Simon Peter.

  Simon Peter.

  Simon Peter.



2.  Andrew.

  James the son of Zebedee.




3.  James the son of Zebedee.

  John the brother of James.




4.  John his brother.





5.  Philip.





6.  Bartholomew.





7.  Thomas.





8.  Matthew the Publican.





9.  James the son of Alphæus.

  James son of Alphæus.

  James the son of Alphæus.

  James son of Alphæus.


10.  Lebbæus sur-named Thaddæus.


  Simon Zelotes.

  Simon Zelotes.


11.  Simon the Cananite.

  Simon the Cananite.

  Judas (son) of James.

  Judas (son) of James.


12.  Judas Iscariot.

  Judas Iscariot.

  Judas Iscariot.



It will be observed from a comparison of these lists that the twelve names fall into three divisions, each containing four names which remain in their respective divisions in all the lists. Within these divisions however, the order varies. But Simon Peter is placed first, and Judas Iscariot last, in all. Again, Philip invariably heads the second, and James the son of Alphæus the third division.

Andrew, a Greek name; see John 12:21-22, where the Greeks in the temple address themselves to Philip, “Philip cometh and telleth Andrew and Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.” An incident that points to some Greek connection besides the mere name.

Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;
3. Philip, also a Greek name prevalent at the time, partly through the influence of the Macedonian monarchy, whose real founder was Philip, father of Alexander the Great.

Lebbæus, Thaddæus, Jude the [son] of James, are all names of one and the same person. He was the son in all probability of a James or Jacob, not, as usually translated, brother of James. The name “Lebbæus” = “courageous” from a Hebrew word signifying “heart.”

This Jude or Judas must not be confused with Jude or Judas the “brother” of our Lord; nor must James the son of Alphæus be confused with James the brother of our Lord. The “brethren of the Lord” believed not on Him, and could not have been among His apostles. James and Judas were both common names, and the variety of names seems to have been small at this epoch. According to this theory there are four persons named James—(1) the son of Zebedee, (2) the son of Alphæus, (3) the father of Jude, (4) “The less” or rather “the little,” the brother of the Lord: and three named Judas—(1) the brother of the Lord, (2) the apostle, son of James, (3) Iscariot.

Matthew or Levi also was son of an Alphæus, but there is no evidence or hint that he was connected with James son of Alphæus.

Bartholomew = son of Tolmai, probably to be identified with Nathanael. (1) St John, who twice mentions the name of Nathanael, never mentions that of Bartholomew; (2) the three Synoptists mention Bartholomew but not Nathanael. (3) Philip is closely connected with Nathanael and also with Bartholomew. (4) Lastly, Nathanael is mentioned with six other disciples as if like them he belonged to the Twelve.

Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
4. Simon the Cananæan (not Canaanite), or Zelotes, equivalent terms. The fierce party of the Zealots professed a rigid attachment to the Mosaic law; they acknowledged no king save God. Under Judas the Gaulonite they rose in rebellion at the time of the census.

We hear of a Theudas (which is another form of Thaddæus) who rose in rebellion (Acts 5:36). Is it not possible that this Lebbæus or Jude may owe his third name to this patriot, as a Galilæan might regard him? It may be observed that Simon (Joseph. Ant. xvii. 10, 5) and Judas (Ant. XVIII. 1, 1) were also names of zealous patriots who rose against the Roman government.

Iscariot] Man of Kerioth, in the tribe of Judah; accordingly (if this be the case) the only non-Galilæan among the Apostles. For other accounts of the name see Dict. of Bible.

The choice of the disciples is an instance of the winnowing of Christ, the sifting of the wheat from the chaff. In these men the new life had manifested itself. Their faith, or at least their capacity for faith, was intense, and sufficient to bear them through the dangers that confronted them by their Master’s side. [Editor’s notes on Greek text of St Luke’s Gospel.]

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
5. Go not into the way of the Gentiles] For the expression “way of the Gentiles” cp. ch. Matthew 4:15, “the way of the sea.”

This prohibition is not laid on the Seventy (St Luke 10:1-16), they are expressly commissioned to carry tidings of the gospel to cities and places which our Lord Himself proposed to visit.

any city of the Samaritans] The Samaritans were foreigners descended from the alien population introduced by the Assyrian king (probably Sargon), 2 Kings 17:24, to supply the place of the exiled Israelites. In Luke 17:18, our Lord calls a Samaritan “this stranger,” i. e. this man of alien or foreign race. The bitterest hostility existed between Jew and Samaritan, which has not died out to this day. The origin of this international ill-feeling is related Ezra 4:2-3. Their religion was a corrupt form of Judaism. For being plagued with lions, the Samaritans summoned a priest to instruct them in the religion of the Jews. Soon, however, they lapsed from a pure worship, and in consequence of their hatred to the Jews, purposely introduced certain innovations. Their rival temple on Mount Gerizim was destroyed by John Hyrcanus about 129 b. c. See Nutt’s “Sketch of the Samaritans,” p. 19.

About twenty years previous to our Lord’s ministry the Samaritans had intensified the national antipathy by a gross act of profanation. During the celebration of the Passover they stole into the Temple Courts when the doors were opened after midnight and strewed the sacred enclosure with dead men’s bones (Jos. Ant. XVIII. 2, 2). Even after the siege of Jerusalem, when the relations between Jews and Samaritans were a little less hostile, the latter were still designated by the Jews as the “Proselytes of the lions,” from the circumstance mentioned above.

5–42. Christ’s Charge to the Apostles

This discourse falls naturally into two divisions; of which the first (Matthew 10:5-15) has reference to the immediate present, the second relates rather to the church of the future. The subdivisions of the first part are: (1) Their mission field, 5, 6. (2) Their words and works, 7, 8. (3) Their equipment, 9, 10. (4) Their approach to cities and houses, 11–15.

But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
8. cleanse the lepers] Leprosy is not classed with the other diseases. As especially symbolical of a sin-stricken man, the leper requires cleansing or purification.

raise the dead] These words are omitted in a large number of important MSS. but not in the two most ancient Codices.

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,
9. Provide neither gold, &c.] The disciples must not furnish themselves with the ordinary equipment of an Eastern traveller.

gold … silver … brass] Of the three metals named the brass or copper represents the native currency. The coinage of Herod the Great was copper only. But Greek and Roman money was also current. The Roman Denarius, a silver coin, is frequently mentioned (ch. Matthew 18:28, Matthew 20:2). The farthing, Matthew 10:29, is the Roman as the 16th part of a denarius; the Greek drachma of nearly the same value as a denarius, and the stater (ch. Matthew 17:27) were also in circulation. See Student’s O. T. History, p. 596.

in] Rather, for.

purses] Literally, girdles or money-belts, cp. “Ibit eo quo vis qui zonam perdidit,” Hor. Ep. ii. 2.40. Sometimes a fold of the tunic held up by the girdle served for a purse, “quando " major avaritiæ patuit sinus?” Juv. Sat. I. 88.

Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.
10. scrip] A wallet such as David wore when he went to meet Goliath. It was fastened to the girdle. Cp.

“Though not with bag and baggage, yet with scrip and scrippage.” Shakspeare.

“And in requital ope his leathern scrip.” Milton.

two coats]=two tunics. See ch. Matthew 5:40. In like manner the philosopher Socrates wore one tunic only, went without sandals, and lived on the barest necessaries of life. Xen. Mem. i. 6. 2.

shoes] Rather, sandals.

And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.
And when ye come into an house, salute it.
12. when ye come into a house] Translate, when ye are entering into the house, i. e. the house of him who is indicated as “worthy.” The injunction to remain in the same house was, perhaps, partly to avoid feasting from house to house, partly for the sake of secrecy—a necessary precaution in after times. Such “worthy” hosts of the Church afterwards were Lydia at Philippi (“If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there.” Acts 16:15), Jason at Thessalonica, Gaius perhaps at Derbe, see Romans 16:23. This kind of general hospitality is still recognised as a duty in the East, where indeed it may be regarded as a necessity.

salute it] Saying “Peace be unto you,” (shalom l’cha,) the usual salutation at this day.

And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
14. shake off the dust of your feet] as St Paul did at Antioch in Pisidia, Acts 13:51. The cities of Israel that rejected the Gospel should be regarded as heathen. The very dust of them was a defilement as the dust of a heathen land. See Lightfoot, ad loc.

Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
15. Comp. ch. Matthew 11:24.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
16. as sheep in the midst of wolves] Clemens Rom., who quotes these words, adds to them: “Then Peter answered and said, If then the wolves rend the sheep? but Jesus said to Peter, Let not the sheep fear the wolves after death.”

wise as serpents, and harmless as doves] The qualities required for the safety of the unarmed traveller. Prudence and harmlessness are the defence of the weak. Wise = “prudent,” full of precaution, possessing such “practical wisdom” as Paul had when he claimed the rights of Roman citizenship at Philippi. The wisdom of a serpent is to escape notice.

The expression in Romans 16:19, which this passage recalls, is not quite parallel. St Paul is there speaking of the Christian character; our Lord is giving instructions for a special occasion. The word translated wise in Romans is not the same Greek word which is here rendered wise.

16–42. The Church of the Future

(1) The Apostolic character, 16. (2) Persecution, 17–25. (3) Consolation—the care of the Father, 26–31. (4) The reward, 32. (5) The Christian choice, 33–39. (6) The hosts of the Church, 40–42.

But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
17. beware of men] Perhaps with a reference to the serpents and the doves, which shun the approach of men; but comp. ch. Matthew 17:22, “The Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men.”

councils] i. e. provincial synagogue-tribunals. See note, ch. Matthew 4:23.

And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
18. governors] Such as Felix and Festus at Cæsarea, the Prætors or Duumviri at Philippi (Acts 16:20), the Politarchs at Thessalonica (Acts 17:6).

kings] As Herod Agrippa or the Roman Emperor.

But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
19. take no thought how or what ye shall speak] Curiously enough this has been quoted as if it justified want of preparation for sermons or addresses to a Christian congregation. The direction points definitely to the Christian ‘apologies,’ of which specimens have come down to us.

For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
20. the Spirit of your Father] The Christian “apologist” shall not stand alone. The same Spirit instructs him which inspires the universal Church. St Paul experienced this consolation: “At my first answer no man stood with me.… notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” 2 Timothy 4:16-17.

And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
21. the father the child] The history of persecutions for religion affords many instances of this. It is true even of civil disputes. Thucydides, describing the horrors of the Corcyrean sedition, says (3:82), “The ties of relationship became weaker than those of party.”

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
22. he that endureth to the end shall be saved] The parallel expression in Luke 21:18 is made clear by this verse; “by your patience win for yourselves your souls,” i. e. win your true life by enduring to the end. Comp. Romans 5:4-5, “we glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope.”

But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
23. when they persecute you] Such words indicate that these “instructions” have a far wider range than the immediate mission of the Apostles. They are prophetic, bringing both warning and consolation to all ages of the Church.

till the Son of man be come] The passage in Luke 21, which is to a great extent parallel to this, treats of the destruction of Jerusalem; and no one who carefully weighs our Lord’s words can fail to see that in a real sense He came in the destruction of Jerusalem. That event was in truth the judgment of Christ falling on the unrepentant nation. In this sense the Gospel had not been preached to all the cities of Israel before Christ came. But all these words point to a more distant future. The work of Christian missions is going on, and will still continue until Christ comes again to a final judgment.

The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.
24. The disciple is not above his master] The disciples of Jesus can expect no other treatment than that which befell their Master Christ. The same proverb occurs in a different connection Luke 6:40, where Christ is speaking of the responsibility of the Apostles as teachers; “as they are, their disciples shall be.”

It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?
25. Beelzebub] The MSS. vary between Beelzebul and Beelzebub.

Beelzebub, or Baal Zebub= “Lord of flies,” i. e. “averter of flies,” a serious plague in hot countries. By a slight change of letter the Jews threw contempt on their enemies’ god, calling him Baal Zebel—“Lord of mire”—and lastly identified him with Satan. The changes from Bethel (“House of God”) to Bethaven (“House of naught or evil”), (Hosea 4:15), from Nahash (“serpent”) to Nehushtan (2 Kings 18:4), and from the name Barcochab (“Son of a star”), assumed by a false Messiah, to Barcozab (“Son of a lie”), are instances of the same quaint humour.

Another derivation of Beelzebul makes it equivalent to “Lord of the dwelling,” i. e. of the abode of evil spirits. This meaning would be very appropriate in relation to “the master of the house;” and the form Baalzebul is a nearer approach to the Greek word in the text than Baalzebel.

Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
26. for there is nothing covered, &c.] Two reasons against fear are implied: (1) If you fear, a day will come which will reveal your disloyalty; (2) Fear not, for one day the unreality of the things that terrify you will be made manifest.

What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
27. what ye hear in the ear] Lightfoot (Hor. Heb.) refers this to a custom in the “Divinity School” of the synagogue (see ch. Matthew 4:23), where the master whispered into the ear of the interpreter, who repeated in a loud voice what he had heard.

upon the housetops] Travellers relate that in the village districts of Syria proclamations are frequently made from the housetops at the present day.

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
28. him which is able to destroy] Either (1) God, whose power extends beyond this life. Clemens Rom. (Ep. II. 4) with a probable reference to this passage says, “We ought not to fear man but God.” Or (2) Satan, into whose power the wicked surrender themselves.

in hell] Literally, in Gehenna. See note, ch. Matthew 5:22.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
29. one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father] Two deductions may be drawn—(1) That human life is more precious in God’s sight than the life of the lower animals (Matthew 10:31); (2) That kindness to animals is part of God’s law.

The word translated sparrow means any kind of small bird.

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
32. shall confess me] Literally, confess in me: make me the central point and object of his confession.

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
34. not to send peace, but a sword] The contrast is rather between union and division than between peace and war. The “sifting” of Christ causes division or perplexity, and conflict of opinion, both in the thoughts of the individual and between man and man. The same idea is illustrated by the husbandman’s fan, the refiner’s fire, and the shepherd’s separation of his flocks. History shews that religion has been the great separating influence in the world.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
35. to set … at variance] The Greek word occurs here only in the New Testament, and is rare elsewhere. The root is the same as that of the word translated to “cut asunder.” The word is used by Plato of a scientific distinction. Here the thought of the dividing sword is carried on. Comp. Micah 7:6, where see Dr Pusey’s note, who quotes Tertullian to shew how true Christ’s words proved in the second century.

And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
37. The connection is this: there will be divisions in families; My disciples must not hesitate to side with Me rather than with father or mother, or son or daughter. The new life changes the old relationships: everything is viewed now in reference to Christ, to whom His followers are related as mother and sisters and brethren.

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
38. he that taketh not his cross] A further advance in the devotion and self-abandonment required in the disciples of Jesus. These are deeply interesting and solemn words. The cross is named for the first time by the Saviour. The expression recurs ch. Matthew 16:24, following upon the announcement of the Passion to the disciples. By the Roman custom criminals were compelled to bear the cross to the place of execution. The Galilæans would know too well what was meant by “taking the cross.” Many hundreds had paid that forfeiture for rebellion that had not prospered under Judas the Gaulonite and others. (See Introduction, Chapter 4.)

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
39. He that findeth his life shall lose it] The Greek word for life (ψυχή) embraces every form of life from mere vegetative existence to the highest spiritual life of the soul. Sometimes this variety of meaning is found within the limits of a single sentence—“He that findeth the life of external comfort and pleasure, shall lose the eternal life of spiritual joy.”

He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
40–42. The Reception of the Apostles and Ministers of Jesus Christ

40. receiveth] In the sense of receiving as a teacher, and of welcoming as a guest, see Matthew 10:14. Whoever welcomes the Apostles and listens to them, listens to the voice of Jesus Christ and of God the Father Himself, and They “will make their abode with him,” John 14:23.

He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward.
41. in the name of]=for the sake of, out of regard to the prophet’s character.

a prophet’s reward] Such reward as a prophet or preacher of the gospel hath.

righteous] Those who fulfil the requirements of the Christian law (comp. ch. Matthew 1:19), true members of the Christian Church—the saints.

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
42. one of these little ones] The reference may be to the disciples. But there appears to be a gradation in the lowest step of which are “these little ones.” Possibly some children standing near were then addressed, or, perhaps, some converts less instructed than the Apostles had gathered round. “The little ones” then would mean the young disciples, who are babes in Christ. The lowest in the scale—apostles—prophets—the saints—the young disciples. The simplest act of kindness done to one of Christ’s little ones as such shall have its reward.

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