Ephesians 4:8
Why he said, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.
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(8) Wherefore he saith.—The reference is to Psalms 68—a psalm which (as the quotation from Numbers 10:35, in the first verse, shows) is a psalm celebrating some moving of the ark, traditionally (and most probably) connected with David’s bringing up of the ark (2 Samuel 6) to Mount Zion. The very change from the second person to the third person shows it to be a free quotation; and this is made far more evident by the remarkable variation from the text of the original, which runs, Thou receivedst gifts in mani.e., probably, “among men;” and adds, “even the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them”—a clause which (from Ephesians 4:29-31) we may suppose to refer to the homage of the heathen to the Lord Jehovah. Now, it has been noted that the word “received” is used constantly for “receiving,” or “fetching,” for another (Genesis 15:9; Genesis 18:5; Genesis 27:13, et al.); and it appears that the Chaldee Targum actually has here, as a gloss: “Thou hast given gifts to the sons of men,” interpreting the words, curiously enough, of Moses as a mediator between God and man. The psalm also was recognised as a Messianic psalm, foreshadowing the dwelling of “God with us” in the universal kingdom of the true Mediator. St. Paul accordingly uses it with a bold variation suiting his context. The key to this use is found in the truth enunciated of our Lord in Acts 2:33, that “being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath shed forth this.” Our Lord, as the Head of humanity, receives only in order to give. From the means, therefore, the Apostle passes to the end.

He led captivity captive.—The modern use of these words as describing our Lord’s triumph over the power of evil, hitherto triumphant over man, and so giving freedom by leading captive the power of captivity, although in itself profoundly true, is not supported by the original, in which it is simply used for “a body of captives.” St. Paul’s use of it here is probably best interpreted by Colossians 2:15, where it is said of the “principalities and powers”—the powers of sin and death—that “He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in the cross.” (See Note on this passage.)

4:7-16 Unto every believer is given some gift of grace, for their mutual help. All is given as seems best to Christ to bestow upon every one. He received for them, that he might give to them, a large measure of gifts and graces; particularly the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not a mere head knowledge, or bare acknowledging Christ to be the Son of God, but such as brings trust and obedience. There is a fulness in Christ, and a measure of that fulness given in the counsel of God to every believer; but we never come to the perfect measure till we come to heaven. God's children are growing, as long as they are in this world; and the Christian's growth tends to the glory of Christ. The more a man finds himself drawn out to improve in his station, and according to his measure, all that he has received, to the spiritual good of others, he may the more certainly believe that he has the grace of sincere love and charity rooted in his heart.Wherefore he saith - The word "he" is not in the original; and it may mean "the Scripture saith," or "God saith." The "point" of the argument here is, that Christ, when he ascended to heaven, obtained certain "gifts" for people, and that those gifts are bestowed upon his people in accordance with this. To "prove" that, he adduces this passage from Psalm 68:18. Much perplexity has been felt in regard to the "principle" on which Paul quotes this Psalm, and applies it to the ascension of the Redeemer. The Psalm seems to have been composed on the occasion of removing the ark of the covenant from Kirjath-jearim to Mount Zion; 2 Samuel 6:1 ff it is a song of triumph, celebrating the victories of Yahweh, and particularly the victories which had been achieved when the ark was at the head of the army. It "appears" to have no relation to the Messiah; nor would it probably occur to anyone upon reading it, that it referred to his ascension, unless it had been so quoted by the apostle.

Great difficulty has been felt, therefore, in determining on what principle Paul applied it to the ascension of the Redeemer. Some have supposed that the Psalm had a primary reference to the Messiah; some that it referred to him in only a secondary sense; some that it is applied to him by way of "accommodation;" and some that he merely uses the words as adapted to express his idea, as a man adopts words which are familiar to him, and which will express his thoughts, though not meaning to say that the words had any such reference originally. Storr supposes that the words were used by the Ephesian Christians in their "hymns," and that Paul quoted them as containing a sentiment which was admitted among them. This is "possible;" but it is mere conjecture. It has been also supposed that the tabernacle was a type of Christ; and that the whole Psalm, therefore, having original reference to the tabernacle, might be applied to Christ as the antitype.

But this is both conjectural and fanciful. On the various modes adopted to account for the difficulty, the reader may consult Rosenmuller in loc. To me it seems plain that the Psalm had original reference to the bringing up the ark to Mount Zion, and is a triumphal song. In the song or Psalm, the poet shows why God was to be praised - on account of his greatness and his benignity to people; Ephesians 4:1-6. He then recounts the doings of God in former times - particularly his conducting his people through the wilderness, and the fact that his enemies were discomfited before him; Ephesians 4:7-12. All this refers to the God, the symbols of whose presence were on the tabernacle, and accompanying the ark. He then speaks of the various fortunes that had befallen the ark of the covenant. It had lain among the pots, Ephesians 4:13, yet it had formerly been white as snow when God scattered kings by it; Ephesians 4:14.

He then speaks of the hill of God - the Mount Zion to which the ark was about to be removed, and says that it is an "high hill" - "high as the hills of Bashan," the hill where God desired to dwell forever; Ephesians 4:16. God is then introduced as ascending that hill, encompassed with thousands of angels, as in Mount Sinai; and the poet says that, in doing it, he had triumphed over his enemies, and had led captivity captive; Ephesians 4:18. The fact that the ark of God thus ascended the hill of Zion, the place of rest; that it was to remain there as its permanent abode, no more to be carried about at the head of armies; was the proof of its triumph. It had made everything captive. It had subdued every foe; and its ascent there would be the means of obtaining invaluable gifts for people; Mercy and truth would go forth from that mountain; and the true religion would spread abroad, even to the rebellious, as the results of the triumph of God, whose symbol was over the tabernacle and the ark.

The placing the ark there was the proof of permanent victory, and would he connected with most important benefits to people. The "ascending on high," therefore, in the Psalm, refers, as it seems to me, to the ascent of the symbol of the Divine Presence accompanying the ark on Mount Zion, or to the placing it "on high" above all its foes. The remainder of the Psalm corresponds with this view. This ascent of the ark on Mount Zion; this evidence of its triumph over all the foes of God; this permanent residence of the ark there; and this fact, that its being established there would be followed with the bestowment of invaluable gifts to people, might be regarded as a beautiful emblem of the ascension of the Redeemer to heaven. There were strong points of resemblance. He also ascended on high. His ascent was the proof of victory over his foes. He went there for a permanent abode. And his ascension was connected with the bestowmerit of important blessings to people.

It is as such emblematic language, I suppose, that the apostle makes the quotation. It did not originally refer to this; but the events were so similar in many points, that the one would suggest the other, and the same language would describe both. It was language familiar to the apostle; language that would aptly express his thoughts, and language that was not improbably applied to the ascension of the Redeemer by Christians at that time. The phrase, therefore, "he saith " - λέγει legei - or "it saith," or "the Scripture saith," means, "it is said;" or, "this language will properly express the fact under consideration, to wit, that there is grace given to each one of us, or that the means are furnished by the Redeemer for us to lead holy lives."

(For remarks on the subject of accommodation. in connection with quotations from the Old Testament into the New Testament, see the supplementary notes, Hebrews 1:5, and Hebrews 2:6, note. The principle of accommodation, if admitted at all, should be used with great caution. Doubtless it is sanctioned by great names both in Europe and America. Yet it must be allowed, that the apostles understood the mind of the Spirit, in the Old Testament, that their inspiration preserved them from every error. When, therefore, they tell us that certain passages have an ultimate reference to the Messiah and his times, through we should never have discovered such reference without their aid, nothing of the kind, it may be, "appearing" in the original places, yet we ate bound to receive it "on their testimony." It is alleged, indeed, that the apostles sometimes use the ordinary forms of quotation, without intending to intimate thereby any prophetic reference in the passages titus introduced, nay, when such reference is obviously inadmissible. This, in the opinion of many, is a very hazardous statement, and introduces into the apostolic writings, and especially into the argumentative part of them, where so great use is made of the Old Testament, no small measure of uncertainty. Let the reader examine the passages in question, keeping in view. at the same time, the typical nature of the ancient economy, and he will have little difficulty in admitting the prophetic reference in most, if not in all of them. See Haldane on Romans 1:17, for a very masterly view of this subject, with remarks on Matthew 2:16, and other passages supposed to demand the accommodation theory.

"Nothing can be more dishonorable," says that prince of English commentators, on the Epistle to the Romans, "to the character of divine revelation, and injurious to the edification of believers, than this method of explaining the quotations in the New Testament from the Old, not as predictions or interpretations, but as mere illustrations, by way of accommodation. In this way, many of the prophecies referred to in the Epistles are set aside from their proper application, and Christians are taught that they do not prove what the apostles adduced them to establish." In reference to the quotation in this place, there seems little difficulty in connection with the view, that though the primary reference be to the bringing up of the ark to Mount Zion, the ultimate one is to the glorious ascension of Jesus into the highest heavens. The Jews rightly interpret part of this psalm Ps. 68 of the Messiah. Nor is it to he believed that the apostle would have applied it to the ascension of Christ unless that application had been admitted by the Jews in his time, and unless himself were persuaded of its propriety.

When he ascended up on high - To heaven. The Psalm is, "Thou hast ascended on high;" compare Ephesians 1:22-23.

He led captivity captive - The meaning of this in the Psalm is, that he triumphed over his foes. The margin is, "a multitude of captives." But this, I think, is not quite the idea. It is language derived from a conqueror, who not only makes captives, but who makes captives of those who were then prisoners, and who conducts them as a part of his triumphal procession. He not only subdues his enemy, but he leads his captives in triumph. The allusion is to the public triumphs of conquerors, especially as celebrated among the Romans, in which captives were led in chains (Tacitus, Ann. xii. 38), and to the custom in such triumphs of distributing presents among the soldiers; compare also Judges 5:30, where it appears that this was also an early custom in other nations. Burder, in Res. Alt u. neu Morgenland, in loc. When Christ ascended to heaven, he triumphed ever all his foes. It was a complete victory over the malice of the great enemy of God, and over those who had sought his life. But he did more. He rescued those who were the captives of Satan, and led them in triumph. Man was held by Satan as a prisoner. His chains were around him. Christ rescued the captive prisoner, and designed to make him a part of his triumphal procession into heaven, that thus the victory might be complete - triumphing not only over the great foe himself, but swelling his procession with the attending hosts of those who "had been" the captives of Satan, now rescued and redeemed.

And gave gifts unto men - Such as he specifies in Ephesians 4:11.

8. Wherefore—"For which reason," namely, in order to intimate that Christ, the Head of the Church, is the author of all these different gifts, and that giving of them is an act of His "grace" [Estius].

he saith—God, whose word the Scripture is (Ps 68:18).

When he ascended—God is meant in the Psalm, represented by the ark, which was being brought up to Zion in triumph by David, after that "the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies" (2Sa 6:1-7:1; 1Ch 15:1-29). Paul quotes it of Christ ascending to heaven, who is therefore God.

captivity—that is, a band of captives. In the Psalm, the captive foes of David. In the antitypical meaning, the foes of Christ the Son of David, the devil, death, the curse, and sin (Col 2:15; 2Pe 2:4), led as it were in triumphal procession as a sign of the destruction of the foe.

gave gifts unto men—in the Psalm, "received gifts for men," Hebrew, "among men," that is, "thou hast received gifts" to distribute among men. As a conqueror distributes in token of his triumph the spoils of foes as gifts among his people. The impartation of the gifts and graces of the Spirit depended on Christ's ascension (Joh 7:39; 14:12). Paul stops short in the middle of the verse, and does not quote "that the Lord God might dwell among them." This, it is true, is partly fulfilled in Christians being an "habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph 2:22). But the Psalm (Ps 68:16) refers to "the Lord dwelling in Zion for ever"; the ascension amidst attendant angels, having as its counterpart the second advent amidst "thousands of angels" (Ps 68:17), accompanied by the restoration of Israel (Ps 68:22), the destruction of God's enemies and the resurrection (Ps 68:20, 21, 23), the conversion of the kingdoms of the world to the Lord at Jerusalem (Ps 68:29-34).

Wherefore he saith; the psalmist.

When he; Christ, God manifested in the flesh: and then what was spoken by the psalmist prophetically in the second person, is spoken by the apostle historically in the third.

Ascended up on high; Christ ascended up on high after his death, both as to place, in his human nature, into heaven; and chiefly as to his state, in his being glorified.

He led captivity captive; either led those captive who had taken us captive, or rather led them captive whom he had taken captive;

captivity being here put for captives, as elsewhere poverty for poor, 2 Kings 24:14. This Christ did when, having conquered sin, death, Satan, he triumphed gloriously over them in his ascension, Colossians 2:15. It is spoken with allusion to conquering princes or generals, who in their triumphs had their captives attending upon their chariots.

And gave gifts unto men; he alludes in this likewise to the custom of conquerors casting money among the people that were the spectators of their triumphs, or giving largesses to their soldiers. Christ upon his ascension sent the Holy Ghost on the disciples, Acts 2:1-47, and continues ever since to furnish his church with gifts and graces: see on Psalm 68:18. Wherefore he saith,.... God in the Scripture, Psalm 68:18

when he ascended up on high; which is not to be understood of Moses's ascending up to the firmament at the giving of the law, as some Jewish writers (q) interpret it; for though Moses ascended to the top of Mount Sinai, yet it is never said that he went up to the firmament of heaven; nor of David's going up to the high fortresses of his enemies, as another of those writers (r) would have it; nor of God's ascent from Mount Sinai, when he gave the law, of which there is no mention in Scripture; but of the Messiah's ascension to heaven, which may very well be signified by this phrase, "on high"; see Psalm 102:19, and which ascension is to be taken not in a figurative, but literal sense, and as real, local, and visible, as Christ's ascension to heaven was; being from Mount Olivet, attended by angels, in the sight of his apostles, after he had conversed with them from the time of his resurrection forty days; and which ascension of his was in order to fulfil the type of the high priest entering into the most holy place; and to make intercession for his people, and to send down the Spirit with his gifts and graces to them, and to make way and prepare mansions of glory for them, and receive the glory promised and due to him: in the Hebrew text it is, "thou hast ascended"; there the psalmist speaks to the Messiah, here the apostle speaks of him; though the Arabic and Ethiopic read there, "he ascended", as here:

he led captivity captive; which is expressive of Christ's conquests and triumph over sin, Satan, the world, death, and the grave; and indeed, every spiritual enemy of his and his people, especially the devil, who leads men captive at his will, and is therefore called captivity, and his principalities and powers, whom Christ has spoiled and triumphed over; the allusion is to the public triumphs of the Romans, in which captives were led in chains, and exposed to open view (s):

and gave gifts unto men; meaning the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and particularly such as qualify men for the work of the ministry; these he received "in man"; in human nature, in that nature in which he ascended to heaven; , "in the man that is known above" (t), as say the Jews; and these he bestows on men, even rebellious ones, that the Lord God might dwell among them, and make them useful to others: wherefore the Jews have no reason to quarrel with the version of the apostle as they do (u); who, instead of "received gifts for" men, renders it, "gave gifts to men"; since the Messiah received in order to give, and gives in consequence of his having received them; and so Jarchi interprets the words, "to give them" to the children of men; and besides, as a learned man has observed (w), one and the same Hebrew word signifies to give and to receive; to which may be added that their own Targum renders it "and hast given gifts to the children of men"; and in like manner the Syriac and Arabic versions of Psalm 68:18 render the words; very likely the apostle might use the Syriac version, which is a very ancient one: it was customary at triumphs to give gifts to the soldiers (x), to which there is an allusion here.

(q) Targum & Jarchi in Psal. lxviii 18. (r) Aben Ezra in loc. (s) Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 6. c. 6. (t) Zohar in Numb. fol. 61. 4. (u) R. Isaac. Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 91. (w) Pocock. not. Misc. p. 24. (x) Alex. ab. Alex. ib. ut supra. (Genial. Dier. l. 6. c. 6.)

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led {g} captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

(g) A multitude of captives.

Ephesians 4:8. If it had just been said that by Christ the endowment of grace was distributed in varied measure to each individual, this is now confirmed by a testimony of the Scripture. Nothing is to be treated as a parenthesis, inasmuch as neither course of thought nor construction is interrupted.

διὸ λέγει] wherefore, because the case stands, as has been said, Ephesians 4:7, He saith. Who says it (comp. Ephesians 5:14), is obvious of itself, namely, God, whose word the Scripture is. See on 1 Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 3:16; the supplying ἡ γραφή or τὸ πνεῦμα must have been suggested by the context (Romans 15:10). The manner of citation with the simple λέγει, obviously meant of God, has as its necessary presupposition, in the mind of the writer and readers, the Theopneustia of the O. T. The citation that follows is not “ex carmine, quod ab Ephesiis cantitari sciret,” and in which Psalm 68:18 had partly furnished the words (Storr, Opusc. III. p. 309; Flatt),—which is quite an arbitrary way of avoiding the difficulty, and at variance with the divine λέγει,—but is the passage of Scripture Psalm 68:18 itself according to the LXX. with free alteration. This psalm, in its historical sense a song of triumph upon the solemn entry of God into Zion,[204] is here understood according to its Messianic significance—an understanding, which has its warrant, not indeed in the much too general and vague proposition, that one and the same God is the Revealer of the Old and of the New Covenant (Harless), but in the circumstance that the triumphal procession of Jehovah, celebrated in the psalm, represents the victory of the Theocracy; and that, as every victory of the Theocracy is of a typical and in so far prophetic Messianic character, the return of Christ into heaven appears as the Messianic actual consummation of the divine triumph. The free deviation from the original text and the LXX. consists partly in the immaterial circumstance that Paul transfers into the third person that which is said in the second, and adds to ἀνθρώποις the article wanting in the LXX.; partly in the essential point, that instead of the original sense: “Thou receivedst gifts (namely, gifts of homage) among[205] men” (לָקַחְתָּ מַתָּנוֹת בָּאָדָם, LXX.: ἔλαβες δόματα ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ, or according to another reading: ἐν ἀνθρώποις), he expresses the sense: He gave gifts to men, נָתַן מַתָּנוֹת לַאֲנָשִׁים, while in other respects reproducing the transition of the LXX. Consequently Paul has, as regards the ἔδωκε, given a sense opposite to the original one—a degree of variation such as, with all freedom in the employment of Old Testament passages, is nowhere else met with in the writings of the apostle, on which account the book Chissuk Emuna accused him of falsifying the words of the psalm, while Whiston looked upon the Hebrew text and the LXX. in Psalm 68:18 as corrupt. This difference is not to be explained, with Rückert, by lightly asserting: “Paul did not even perhaps know exactly how the words ran,” etc.; for in this way he would be chargeable with a shallow caprice, for which there is no warrant; moreover, the agreement, in other respects, of the citation with the original text and the LXX. leads us to infer too exact an acquaintance with the passage adduced, to allow us to assume that Paul adduced the words in the full belief that נתן was read in the Hebrew, and ἜΔΩΚΕ in the LXX. Rather must he have in reality understood the passage of the psalm, as to its main substance, just as he gives it. Inasmuch, namely, as he had recognised the words in their bearing upon the antitypical Messianic fulfilment, and that as a confirmation of what had been said of Christ in Ephesians 4:7, this latter special application must either have been suggested to him by another reading, which he followed (נתת instead of לקחת), or else—with the freedom of a Messianic interpretation of the words—by an exposition of the Hebrew words, which yielded essentially the sense expressed by him. If the latter is the case (for in favour of the former there is no trace of critical support), he took לקחת, etc., in the sense: thou didst take away gifts, to distribute them among men (on the בְּ, see Ewald, Ausführl. Lehrb. der Heb. Spr. § 217 f. 1), and translated this in an explanatory way: ἔδωκε δόματα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις; in connection with which the transposing into the third person is to be regarded as an unintentional variation in citing from memory. לקח, namely, has often the proleptic sense to fetch [Germ. holen], i.e. to take anything for a person and to give it to him. See Genesis 18:5; Genesis 27:13; Genesis 42:16; Genesis 48:9; Job 38:20 (and Hirzel in loc.); 2 Samuel 4:6, al.; see Gesen. Thes. II. p. 760, and Hoelemann, p. 97 f. Comp. Bengel: “accepit dona, quae statim daret.” The utterance, however, as thus understood,[206] Paul has reproduced, interpreting it as he has done, in order to place beyond doubt the sense which he attached to it, for the reader who might have otherwise understood the words of the LXX. The Chaldee Paraphrast likewise understood לקח in such wise, that, while interpreting the passage of Moses, he could expound: לְהוֹן מַתְנָן לִבְנֵי נָשָּׁא, dedisti dona filiis hominum. It is evident from this, since there is good reason for presupposing in the Targum—the more so, as in our passage the Peshito agrees therewith (which likewise, Psalms 68 l.c., has dedisti dona filiis hominum)—older exegetical traditions, that Paul himself may have followed such a tradition (Holzhausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, Credner, Beiträge, II. p. 121 f.). To assume that he actually did so, is in itself, and in reference to the previous Rabbinical training of the apostle, free from objection, and has sufficient warrant in that old and peculiar agreement, even though we should explain the agreement between the same citation in Justin, c. Tryph. 39, 87, and the quotation of the apostle, by a dependence upon the latter (Credner, Beitr. II. p. 120). On the other hand, it is not to be said, with Beza, Calovius, and most older expositors,[207] that the explanation given by Paul really corresponds with the historic sense of the passage in the Psalm (see especially, Geier, ad Ps. l.c. p. 1181; comp. also Hoelemann, p. 98 f.), which, judging by the context, is decidedly incorrect3. Even Calvin says: “nonnihil a genuino sensu hoc testimonium detorsit Paulus;” and already Theodore of Mopsuestia aptly remarks: ὑπαλλάξας δὲ τὸ ἔλαβε δόματα οὕτως ἐν τῷ ψαλμῷ κείμενον, ἔδωκε δόματα εἶπε, τῇ ὑπαλλαγῇ περὶ τὴν οἰκείαν χρησάμενος ἀκολουθίαν· ἐκεῖ μὲν γὰρ (in the psalm) πρὸς τὴν ὑπόθεσιν τὸ ἔλαβεν ἥρμοττεν, ἐνταῦθα δὲ (in our passage) τῷ προκειμένῳ τὸ ἔδωκεν ἀκόλουθον ἦν. The deviation from the historic sense cannot be set aside with fairness and without arbitrary presuppositions. This holds not only of the opinions of Jerome and Erasmus (that in the psalm לקח is used, because the giving has not yet taken place, but is promised as future) and of Calvin (“quum de Christi exaltatione pauca verba Psalmi citasset, de suo adjecit, eum dedisse dona, ut sit minoris et majoris comparatio, qua ostendere vult Paulus, quanto praestantior sit ista Dei ascensio in Christi persona, quam fuerit in veteribus ecclesiae triumphis”), but also of the expedients to which Harless and Olshausen have recourse. According to Harless, namely, Paul wishes to express the identity of God, whose deeds at that time the word of Scripture represents in a form which, as identical with the form of Christ’s action, makes us recognise the word of the O. T. as pointing forward. to what was to come, and the Christ of the N.T. as the God who already revealed Himself under the O. T.; in the words of the psalm the captives themselves are described as sacrificial gifts, which the victor as God takes to Himself among men; the apostle changes merely the form of the words, so far as the context makes it necessary, inasmuch as he wishes to make out that those vanquished ones—who have not made themselves what they are, but have been made so of God—are those, of whom he had said that on every one according to the measure of the gift of Christ the grace had been bestowed which was already pointed to in the psalm. “There is no other there,” says the apostle, “than He who had descended to earth, to gain for Himself His own; not that they would have presented themselves to Him, but He takes them as it pleases Him, and makes them what it pleases Him.” But (1) Paul does not wish to express the identity of God, etc., but to show that what is said of Christ in Ephesians 4:7 was also already prophesied Psalm 68:18; it was a question of the identity of the thing, as to which it was self-evident that the triumph celebrated in Psalms 68 is in the N.T. fulfilment celebrated by Christ, who had come in the name of the Lord. (2) In the Ps. l.c., לקחת מתנות applies to the gifts of homage which the triumphing Jehovah has received among (from) men. Certainly, according to another explanation (see above, Ewald’s view, and comp. also Bleek), the men themselves, namely, the vanquished, may be regarded as the gifts or offerings which God has received; but who could withal read between the lines in the apostle’s citation what, according to Harless, one ought to read between them, in order in the end to find only the form of the words changed? Olshausen, who, we may mention, quite erroneously (see Ephesians 4:9-10) specifies ΤΟῖς ἈΝΘΡΏΠΟΙς as the point of the citation,[208] agrees with Harless in so far as he is of opinion that the thought of the psalmist: “Thou hast taken to Thyself gifts among men,” affirms nothing else than: “Thou hast chosen to Thyself the redeemed as offerings;” but further adds: “But the man whom God chooses as an offering for Himself, i.e. as an instrument for His aims, He furnishes with the gifts necessary to the attainment of the same; and this side (?) the apostle, in accordance with his tendency, here brings into special prominence.” Similarly also Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 484 f., who is of opinion that here, in the N.T. application of the passage from the psalm, it is one and the same thing whether one say: that Christ has, for the accomplishment of the work of His honour, caused to be given to Himself by His vanquished that which they possessed, or: that He has given them gifts to this end; “for He takes that which is theirs into His service, when He gives to them what is His, to make them capable of service.” Essentially so also Delitzsch on the Psalm, l.c. Such subtleties, by means of which any quid pro quo at pleasure may easily enough be got out of the alleged light and significance of the “history of the fulfilment” (Delitzsch), may be conveniently foisted upon the words of the apostle, but with what right?

ἈΝΑΒᾺς ΕἸς ὝΨΟς] Whether we understand the עָלִיתָ לַמָּרוֹם in the original text of the ascending of the victorious God into heaven (Hengstenberg, Lengerke, Hitzig, Harless, Hoelemann, and others) or to Zion (Ewald, Bleek), or leave it without more precise definition of place (Hofmann); according to the Messianic accomplishment of the divine triumphal procession, which takes place through Christ, the words apply to Christ ascended (comp. ὙΨΩΘΕΊς, Acts 2:33) to heaven (Psalm 102:20, al.; Sir 13:8; Luke 1:78), who has brought in as captives enemies that have been vanquished by Him upon this triumphal march.

αἰχμαλωσία, namely, is the abstract collective for αἰχμάλωτοι (Jdt 2:9; Ezra 6:5; Revelation 13:10; Diod. Sic. xvii. 70), like ξυμμαχία for ξύμμαχοι, etc. See on Ephesians 2:2. On the connection with the kindred verb (to take captive, to lead, to bring in as such), comp. 2 Chronicles 28:5; 1Ma 9:72; and see, in general, Winer, p. 201 [E. T. 282]; Lobeck, Paral. p. 501. The character ΑἸΧΜΑΛΩΤΕΎΩ of as Greek is even worse than that of ΑἸΧΜΑΛΩΤΊΖΩ. See Lobeck, ad Phryn p. 442. But what subjects are meant by ΑἸΧΜΑΛΩΣΊΑ? Not the redeemed, as already Justin, c. Tryph. 36; further, Theodoret (Οὐ ΓᾺΡ ἘΛΕΥΘΈΡΟΥς ὌΝΤΑς ἩΜᾶς ᾘΧΜΑΛΏΤΕΥΣΕΝ, ἈΛΛʼ ὙΠῸ ΤΟῦ ΔΙΑΒΌΛΟΥ ΓΕΓΕΝΗΜΈΝΟΥς ἈΝΤῌΧΜΑΛΏΤΕΥΣΕ, ΚΑῚ ΤῊΝ ἘΛΕΥΘΕΡΊΑΝ ἩΜῖΝ ἘΔΩΡΉΣΑΤΟ), Oecumenius, Thomas, Erasmus (“captivorum gregem e peccati diabolique tyrannide liberatum”), and others, including Meier, Harless, Olshausen (“men upon earth, so far as they are held captive by sin and in the ultimate ground by the prince of this world, and among these, in particular, the Gentile world”), Baumgarten-Crusius (“those gained for the kingdom of Christ”), have interpreted it; seeing that the captives, both according to the original text and according to our citation, are different from the ἀνθρώποι who are subsequently mentioned, namely, such vanquished ones as are visited by the victor with the hard penal fate of captives in war. Hence also it cannot be the souls delivered by Christ from Hades (Lyra, Estius, and many Catholic expositors; König, von Christi Hbllenfahrt, p. 26; Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 414; and Baur) that are spoken of. It is the enemies of Christ and His kingdom, the antichristian powers, including those of hell (but not these alone); their power is broken by the completed redeeming work of the Lord. By His resurrection and exaltation they have been rendered powerless, and subjected to His victorious might; consequently they appear, in accordance with the poetical mould of our passage, as those whom He has vanquished and carries with Him on His procession from Hades into heaven (see Ephesians 4:9), so that He, having gone up on high, brings them in as prisoners of war. Not as if He has really brought them in captivity to heaven, but under the figure of the triumphator, as which the ascended Christ appears in accordance with the prophetic view given in Psalms 68, the matter thus presents itself, namely, the overcoming of His foes displaying itself through His ascension. This vanquishing, we may add, in its actual execution still continues even after the entering upon the kingly office which took place with the exaltation of Christ; δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρις οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ, 1 Corinthians 15:25. Not the final overcoming of the foes of Christ is thus meant, but the actual αἰχμαλωτεύειν αἰχμαλ. ofttimes recurs until the final consummation, until at length ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος, 1 Corinthians 15:26, namely, at the resurrection on the last day. In this case, however, there is the more reason for leaving the matter without more precise definition of the hostile powers vanquished (Satanic and human), as the context suggests nothing more special, and as, speaking generally, the ᾐχμαλώτ. αἰχμαλ. does not form for the aim and connection of our passage the essential point of the psalmist’s saying, but the latter would have been quite as fully in its place here, even though that ᾘΧΜΑΛΏΤ. ΑἸΧΜ. had not been inserted, since the element confirmatory of Ephesians 4:7 lies simply in the ἈΝΑΒᾺς ΕἸς ὝΨΟς ἜΔΩΚΕ ΔΌΜΑΤΑ ΤΟῖς ἈΝΘΡΏΠΟΙς.[209] Yet we have not, with Morus (comp. flatt), to rationalize the conception of the apostle: “removit omnia, quae religionis suae propagationi et felicitati hominum obstarent impedimenta,” by which the sense is altered, and vanquished foes become obstacles taken out of the way.

δόματα] according to Paul, gifts in which ἘΔΌΘΗ Ἡ ΧΆΡΙς 7, thus equivalent to ΧΑΡΊΣΜΑΤΑ. An appropriate commentary on the sense in which Paul has taken the citation, is Acts 2:33. But to look upon the interpretation of the ἜΛΑΒΕ ΔΌΜΑΤΑ of the Ps. l.c., in the sense of gifts of the Spirit as current among the disciples of the apostles (de Wette), is the more arbitrary, inasmuch as de Wette himself finds it probable that some apostle has allegorized the passage of the psalm.

[204] On what particular historic occasion this highly poetic song was composed, is for our passage a matter of indifference. According to the traditional view, it was composed by David on the occasion of the removal of the ark of the covenant from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:12 ff.; 1 Chronicles 15 f.); according to Ewald, for the consecration of the new temple after the captivity; according to Hupfeld, upon the return from the captivity and the restoration of the kingdom; according to Hitzig, in celebration of the victory after the war of Jehoram and Jehoshaphat against the Moabites (2 Kings 3). Others explain it otherwise. See the different views and explanations in Keuss, d. acht u. sechzigste Psalm, tin Denkmal exeget. Noth u. Kunst, 1851, who, however, himself very inappropriately (without “exegetical exigency and art”) places the Psalm in the late period between Alexander and the Maccabees, when the wish for the reunion of the scattered Israelites in Palestine is supposed to be expressed in it; while Justus Olshausen even interprets it of the victories of the Maccabees under Jonathan or Simon. See Ewald, Jahrb. IV. p. 55 f. Certainly the psalm is neither Davidic nor of the Maccabaean age, but belongs to the restoration of the Theocracy after the captivity.

[205] Yet באדם might also denote that men themselves are the gifts. So Ewald takes it, l.c. (and comp. his Ausführl. Lehrb. der Hebr. Sprache, § 287 h), referring it specially to the humbler servants of the temple, whom David and Solomon, e.g., gathered from among the subjugated peoples and settled around the temple, whom thus God, as if in a triumphal procession from Sinai to Zion, Himself brought in as captives, and then caused to be devoted by men to Him as offerings, in order that they, who were once so turbulent, might dwell peacefully in His service (“even rebellious ones must dwell with Jah God,” as Ewald renders the closing words of the passage). The sense: “through men,” which Hoelemann, on account of ver. 11, finds as a “secondary” meaning in באדם, is not to be thought of, not even according to the apostle, who has expressed his view with such simple definiteness by ἔδωκε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις.

[206] The phrase formerly so often compared, לָקַח אִשָׁה לִבְנוֹ (Exodus 21:10; Exodus 34:16), is not in place here, since לָקַח, in that phrase, signifies nothing else than the simple take.

[207] Chrysostom, without, however, entering into any particulars, says merely: the prophet says thou hast received, but Paul: he has given; and the two are one and the same. Theodoret more precisely explains himself: ἀμφότερα δὲ (the taking and giving) γεγένηναι· λαμβάνων γὰρ τὴν πίστιν ἀποδίδωσι τὴν χάριν. Comp. Oecumenius.

[208] “Paul does not wish by the quotation primarily to represent Christ as the dispenser of the gifts, but to prove from the O. T. itself the universality of the gifts of Christ, consequently the equal title of the Gentiles; He has by His redemption conferred gifts not merely on this one or that one, not upon the Jews alone, but upon men as such, upon mankind.” What Olshausen has further advanced respecting the dative expression with the article (instead of which the Hebrew text has among men, while no article is used in the LXX.)—to wit, that by ἔδ. δόμ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, which applies to all men, it is not intended to say: all men must be redeemed, and as redeemed receive gifts; but: all men may be redeemed, and as redeemed obtain gifts of grace; and in so far this deviation from the original was altogether immaterial—is pure invention. The difference certainly does not lie in the fact that בָּאָדָם points only to some, and the expression of Paul to all men, as Olshausen supposes, but solely in the לקחת of the original text and the ἔδωκε of Paul. As well באדם as τοῖς ἀνθρώποις designates men according to the category; but according to the original text it is men who are the givers, so that the Triumphator takes them; whereas, according to Paul, the men are the recipients, to whom He gives.

[209] Chrysostom, Theophylact, Beza, Calovius, and many others understood specially the devil and those things connected with him, death, condemnation, and sin. Comp. Luther’s gloss: “that is sin, death, and conscience, that they may not seize or keep us.” Grotius rationalizes: “per apostolorum doctrinam vicit et velut captivam egit idololatriam et vitia alia.” Most comprehensively, but with an admixture of heterogeneous elements, Calvin says: “Neque enim Satanam modo et peecatum et mortem totosque inferos prostravit, sed ex rebellibus quotidie facit sibi obsequentem populum, quum verbo suo carnis nostrae lasciviam domat; rursus hostes suos, i.e. impios omnes quasi ferreis catenis continet constrictos, dum illorum furorem cohibet sua virtute, ne plus valeant, quam illis concedit.”Ephesians 4:8. διὸ λέγει: wherefore He saith, when He ascended on high. The διό introduces the words which follow as a confirmation of what has just been said; and these words are not a parenthesis, but part of a direct and continuous statement; = “the fact that it is thus with Christ and His gift, and that the grace which we possess is bestowed by Him on each of us in varying measures as He distributes it, has the witness of God Himself in OT Scripture”. The quotation which follows is obviously taken from Psalm 68:18, and in the main in the form in which it is given in the LXX. There are difficulties in the rendering which Paul uses and in the application he makes of it. But they are not such as to justify the assertion that the passage is a quotation from some Christian hymn, and not from Scripture. There is nothing in the verse or in the context to suggest anything else than the Psalm. The question is raised whether the introductory λέγει is personal or impersonal; and whether, if personal, ὁ Θεός, or ἡ γραφή, or τὸ πνεῦμα is to be understood. OT quotations are usually introduced by the personal term in such forms as ὁ προφήτης λέγει (Acts 2:17), ἡ γραφὴ λέγει (Romans 10:17), Ἡσαΐας λέγει (Romans 10:16; Romans 10:20), Μωυσῆς λέγει (Romans 10:19), Δαβὶδ λέγει (Romans 4:6), ἡ δὲ ἐκ πίστεως δικαιοσύνη λέγει (Romans 10:6). Sometimes, again, passive forms are used, γέγραπται (Romans 10:15), μαρτυρεῖται (Hebrews 7:17), etc. In other cases the simple φησί (1 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 8:5), εἴρηκε (Hebrews 4:4), or λέγει (Galatians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 5:14) is used; and in one case the λέγει is introduced as continuing γέγραπται (Romans 15:10). Some, therefore, hold that, in cases like the present, λέγει is impersonal, = “it is said,” as φησί is used impersonally in Attic (Abb.; cf. Light, on Galatians 3:16). As the NT, however, makes a very limited use of impersonal verbs of any kind, most take these undefined verbs by which quotations are introduced as personal, and so it is with λέγει here. The subject to be supplied must be the one most readily suggested by the context; and here, as in most cases, that will be neither ἡ γραφή nor τὸ Πνεῦμα, but ὁ Θεός. The full formula λέγει ὁ Θεός occurs in Acts 2:17, and is implied in the πάλιν τινὰ ὁρίζει ἡμέραν, “Σήμερον,” ἐν Δαυεὶδ λέγων of Hebrews 4:7. It is also confirmed in some degree by the analogous mention of the Holy Ghost in Hebrews 10:15 (cf. Win.-Moult., p. 656; Blass, Gram. of N. T. Greek, p. 75).—Ἀναβὰς εἰς ὕψος: when He ascended on high. In the Psalm the victorious Subject is addressed in the second person; here the “Thou” becomes “He”. In the Psalm the ascent expressed by עָלִיתָ לַמָּרו̇ם (= “Thou hast gone up to the height”) is the triumphant ascent of the God of Israel to Zion, the place of His earthly rest, or (better) to heaven His proper habitation, after the victory He achieved for His people. Here it is the ascension of Christ to the right hand of God (cf. Acts 2:33). The aor. part. has its most proper temporal force, denoting something that preceded the main event in view. It means here, therefore, that Christ’s ascension had taken place before He distributed the gifts of grace.—ᾐχμάλωτευσεν αἰχμαλωσίαν: He led captivity captive. In the original שָׁבִיתָ שֶׁבִי, the abstract αἰχμαλωσίαν (= “a body of captives”) chosen according to a familiar usage (cf. Numbers 31:12; 2 Chronicles 28:11; see Win.-Moult., p. 282), instead of the concrete αἰχμαλώτους (“captives”), adds to the force of the sentence. The verb αἰχμαλωτεύω belongs to late Greek; it is pretty freely used in the LXX and the Apocrypha. The phrase is a general one, meaning nothing more than that He made captives (cf. Jdg 5:12), and suggesting nothing as to who these captives were. Neither in the Psalm nor in Paul’s use of it here is there anything to warrant the idea that the captives are the redeemed (Theod.), or men in the bonds of sin on earth (Harl.), or souls detained in Hades (Est., König, Delit., etc.). The most that the words themselves, or passages more or less analogous (1 Corinthians 15:25-26) warrant us to say is that the captives are the enemies of Christ; just as in the Psalm they are the enemies of Israel and Israel’s God. But these are left quite undefined, and the whole idea of the clause is subordinate to that next expressed, viz., the giving of the gifts.—καὶ ἔδωκε δόματα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις: and gave gifts unto men. The καί of the TR is found in [377] [378] [379]3[380]3 [381] [382], etc.; but is omitted in [383] [384] [385] [386]2[387]*[388], 17, etc. It is put in brackets by WH, and omitted by LT, but retained (on the whole rightly) by RV. Here the quotation diverges widely, both from the original Hebrew, which has בָּאָדָם לָקַחְתָּ מַתָּכוֹת (= “Thou hast received gifts among men”); and from the LXX which renders it ἔλαβες δόματα ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ (or ἀνθρώποις). The idea in the Psalm is that of Jehovah, the Conqueror, receiving gifts, that is to say, gifts of homage; or, possibly, receiving the captured men themselves regarded as gifts or offerings, the בָּאָדָם being capable of that sense (cf. Ewald, Aus. Lehrb. d. Hebr. Sprache, § 287 h). The idea expressed here is that of the ascended Christ giving gifts to men; ἔδωκε being substituted for ἔλαβες, and τοῖς ἀνθρώποις for the generic ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ (or ἐν ἀνθρώποις).—Thus in order to suit the purpose of a testimony to the statement made regarding Christ and the gift of grace, the OT passage is materially changed. OT quotations introduced in the NT are given without much regard to the literal faithfulness with which quotations are expected to be made in modern times; and in other passages made use of by Paul (e.g., Romans 10:6-10) we discover a remarkable liberty both in reproduction and in application. But in none is the change so great as in the present case. There is first the departure from the historical meaning of the Psalm; in which, however, this passage stands by no means alone. The Psalm in which this magnificent description of the victorious march of Israel’s God occurs, celebrates the establishment of Jehovah’s kingdom in the past and proclaims the certainty of its triumph over all enemies and in all nations in the future. It does this in connection with some great event in the history of Israel. All possible opinions have been expressed as to the particular occasion of the Psalm. It has been identified with the removal of the Ark to Zion in David’s time (2 Samuel 6:12, etc.; 1 Chronicles 15); with some unnamed victory of David or with David’s victories generally; with the placing of the Ark in Solomon’s Temple; with the victory of Jehoshaphat and Jehoram over Moab (2 Kings 3; Hitzig); with the check given to the Assyrians in Hezekiah’s time; with the consecration of the Temple of the Restoration (Ewald); with the return from the captivity (Hupfeld); with the struggle between Egypt and Syria for the possession of the Holy Land towards the close of the third century B.C.; with the victories of Jonathan or Simon in the Maccabean wars (Olsh.); with the struggle between Ptolemy Philometor and Alexander Balas (1 Maccabees 14), etc. But all this uncertainty as to the particular date and occasion does not affect the fact that what is dealt with is some great passage in the history of the Jewish nation. The probabilities are that the Psalm belongs to the latter part of the Babylonian exile; but Paul passes by the actual historical intention of the words and puts on them a quite different sense. There is, secondly, the notable change from Jehovah receiving gifts to Christ giving gifts. Some have explained this by supposing that Paul followed a Hebrew text which read נתת, or some such form, instead of לקחת; but of this there is no evidence. It is possible, indeed, that the Apostle adopted a traditional version or interpretation of the passage which was familiar, and of which some indication is found in the Peshitta Syriac and the Chaldee Paraphrase (both having a rendering = “Thou didst give gifts to the children of men”). Something also may be said in support of the explanation that the לָקַח of the original, which is used elsewhere in the sense of fetching or taking in order to give (Genesis 18:5; Genesis 27:13; Genesis 42:16; Genesis 48:9, etc.), has that meaning here. But after all such explanations the fact remains that both the terms and the idea are changed. There is thirdly the Messianic interpretation. It is here that the justification of the change is found. The Psalm, there is good reason to believe, had been regarded as a Messianic Psalm; and the use made of it by Paul was in all probability in accordance with views of Messianic prophecy which had become current, and with a method of dealing with the OT which was generally understood. But in any case it is an application rather than an interpretation in the strict sense of the word that we have here. And the justification of such an application lies in the fact that the unknown event celebrated in the Psalm was a victory of the Theocratic King, and in that sense a part of that triumph of the Kingdom of God which was to be carried to its consummation by the Messiah.

[377] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[378] Codex Ephraemi (sæc. v.), the Paris palimpsest, edited by Tischendorf in 1843.

[379] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[380] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[381] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.

[382] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[383] Autograph of the original scribe of א.

[384] Autograph of the original scribe of א.

[385] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[386] Codex Ephraemi (sæc. v.), the Paris palimpsest, edited by Tischendorf in 1843.

[387] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[388] Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.8. Wherefore he saith] Or it, i.e. the Scripture, saith. St Paul’s usage in quotation leaves the subject of the verb undetermined here and in similar cases (see e.g. ch. Ephesians 5:14). For him, the word of the Scripture and the word of its Author are convertible terms.—“Wherefore:—as if to say, “the Scripture statement of course answers to the spiritual fact just given.”

When he ascended, &c.] Psalms 68 (LXX. 67) 18. The Heb. there is lit., “Thou didst ascend on high; Thou didst lead captive a captivity (a band of captives); Thou didst take gifts amongst men,” or more lit., “in man.” The LXX. renders, “When Thou didst ascend on high, Thou didst lead captive a captivity; Thou didst take gifts in man.” The Targum, or Chaldee paraphrase, which is little likely to have been influenced by this passage, renders, “Thou hast given to them gifts, even to the sons of men.”

On this quotation, we first examine the discrepancy between “take gifts” and “give gifts,” and between “among men” and “for” or “to men,” and then briefly remark on the use made of the Psalmist’s words by the Apostle.

α. The first discrepancy is not to be reconciled by an attempt to make the Heb. verb mean both “give” and “take.” But what if the “taking” was for the purpose of “giving”? The Conqueror, Divine or human, in Psalms 68 may well be conceived as receiving grants for distribution among his vassals. If so, the Targum (see above) and the Apostle rightly convey the intention of the Psalmist.

Among men”; “for men.” The great compression of Hebrew poetical diction makes it quite possible to explain, “so as to be among men.” Thus again “to,” or “for,” will rightly convey the intention of the Psalmist, whatever were his precise and conscious thought in depicting the Conqueror as making gifts and grants to “man.”

β. The “first reference” of Psalms 68 is a large and difficult question. See Dean Perowne’s full statement of problems and theories in his Commentary on the Psalms; see too Dr Kay’s notes. It is enough here to say that the Psalm celebrates, apparently, some great sacred triumph, or triumphs, at the Sanctuary of Zion; an occasion on which the supreme Conqueror, Jehovah, is represented as “ascending” after battle to His throne. One type of criticism will see in this nothing beyond a national Ode of Victory, and will regard the Apostle’s quotation as an “unscientific” accommodation. For ourselves, believing that our Lord taught a very different view of the Ancient Scriptures, we feel free to recognize any “first reference” fairly provable, but also bound to believe that the Divine Author worked through the human author, so as to convey eternal and permanent truth through his imagery and words, and so as to make the whole terminate on Christ, whether or no the human author was aware of it. And we believe that the same Divine Author worked here through the memory and thought of the Apostle, so as to secure, in his quotation and exposition, the true development of the Divine intention of the earlier passage.

We thus accept the present verse as reciting a true testimony of the Spirit of Prophecy to the foreseen facts of the Ascension of the Divine Messiah after conflict and conquest, and the distribution of blessings consequent upon it. The “captivity” will denote whatever persons or powers are in any way His conquest; whether as “enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25, &c.), or self-surrendered rebels reconciled to His will (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, &c.).—For the thought, “He received gifts (to distribute) amongst men,” cp. Acts 2:33.Ephesians 4:8. Λεγει, he says) David, nay, rather God Himself, Psalms 68 :(19) 20, ἀνέβης εἰς ὓψος, ἠχμαλώτευσας αἰχμαλωσίαν· ἔλαβες δόματα ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ. Some also in the LXX. read ἀναβάς. But in the version of the LXX. that reading is generally inferior, which too closely agrees with the text of the New Testament, because it has been (probably) made to be in conformity to it.—ὕψος, on high) So the heavens are called in Hebrew poetry; likewise in Isaiah 32:15.—ἠχμαλώτευσε αἰχμαλωσίαν, led captivity captive) A frequent repetition; for example, 2 Chronicles 28:5. Here the forces of hell are denoted, 2 Peter 2:4, that are opposed to men. Christ, at His ascension, led them captive; nor, however, does it fare the better for that reason with the malefactor, who is to be tried for his life, when he is led from prison to the forum or court of justice. This leading captive did not interfere with their condition in hell; [it gave them no respite from torment.] If ever there had been for them any hope of escape, that would have been the time; comp. ch. Ephesians 6:12, and Colossians 2:15. Nor does every ascension, but only the ascension which has captivity taken captive joined with it, presuppose and infer a descent into the lower parts of the earth.—ἔδωκε δόματα, He gave gifts) To this expression may be referred He gave, Ephesians 4:11, and is given, and of the gift, Ephesians 4:7. In Hebrew, לקחת is an abbreviated expression; to wit, Christ received gifts, which He might immediately give. Comp. לקח, Genesis 15:9 [“Take me an heifer,” abbreviated for, Take and sacrifice to me]; 2 Kings 2:20; where sudden action is denoted by a concise expression; so λαβέτωσάν σοι, Exodus 27:20; Leviticus 24:2.—τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, for men) The dative of advantage for באדם. Gifts are of advantage, not only to those who receive them, but to all.Verse 8. - Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high he led captivity captive, and received gifts for men. The speaker is God, the author of Scripture, and the place is the sixty-eighth psalm. That psalm is a psalm of triumph, where the placing of the ark on Zion is celebrated as if it had been a great victory. As this quotation shows, the psalm in its deepest sense is Messianic, celebrating the victory of Christ. The substance rather than the words of the passage are given, for the second person ("thou hast ascended," etc.) is changed into the third; and whereas in the psalm it is said, "gave gifts to men," as modified by the apostle it is said, "received gifts for men." As in a literal triumph, the chiefs of the enemy's army are led captive, so the powers of darkness were led captive by Christ (captivity, αἰχμαλωσία, denotes prisoners); and as on occasion of a triumph the spoils of the enemy are made over to the conqueror, who again gives them away among the soldiers and people, so gifts were given to Christ after his triumph to be given by him to his Church. We must not force the analogy too far: the point is simply this - as a conqueror at a triumph gets gifts to distribute, so Christ, on his resurrection and ascension, got the Holy Spirit to bestow on his Church (comp. Ephesians 1:22). Wherefore

Confirming by Scripture what has just been said.

When He ascended, etc.

Quoted from Psalm 68:19 (Sept. 67:18). The Hebrew reads: "Ascending to the height thou didst lead captive captivity, and received gifts in man." So Sept. Paul changes thou didst lead, didst receive, into he lead and he gave. The Psalm is Messianic, a hymn of victory in which God is praised for victory and deliverance. It is freely adapted by Paul, who regards its substance rather than its letter, and uses it as an expression of the divine triumph as fulfilled in Christ's victory over death and sin.


The ascent of Jehovah is realized in Christ's ascent into heaven.


Abstract for the body of captives. See on Luke 4:18. The captives are not the redeemed, but the enemies of Christ's kingdom, Satan, Sin, and Death. Compare on Colossians 2:15, and 2 Corinthians 2:14.


In the Hebrew and Septuagint, received or took; but with the sense received in order to distribute among men. Compare Genesis 15:9, take for me: Genesis 18:5, I will fetch for you: Exodus 27:20, bring thee, i.e., take and present to thee: Acts 2:33, "Having received of the Father, etc., He hath shed forth." Thus Paul interprets the received of the Old Testament. His point is the distribution of grace by Christ in varied measure to individuals. He confirms this by Scripture, seeing in the Jehovah of this Old-Testament passage the Christ of the New Testament - one Redeemer under both covenants - and applying the Psalmist's address to Christ who distributes the results of His victory among His loyal subjects. These results are enumerated in Ephesians 4:11 sqq.

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