John 8:43
Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
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(43) Why do ye not understand my speech, . . . my word.—The distinction between “speech” (the form) and “word” (the matter which was spoken) is rightly preserved. Comp. John 12:48, “the word that I have spoken.” A good instance of the meaning of “speech is found in Matthew 26:73, “thy speech betrayeth thee.” From John 8:33 onwards, they had constantly misunderstood His expressions. The reason is that the subject-matter of His discourse is altogether above them. He is speaking of spiritual things, which are spiritually discerned. They, if children of the Father whom they claimed, would recognise these spiritual truths and know the language of home.

Ye cannot hear.—Comp. Note on John 6:60. The sense is, “Ye cannot hear, so as to receive and obey.” He supplies the answer to His own question. In the following verses (44-47), He expresses this answer more fully.

8:41-47 Satan prompts men to excesses by which they murder themselves and others, while what he puts into the mind tends to ruin men's souls. He is the great promoter of falsehood of every kind. He is a liar, all his temptations are carried on by his calling evil good, and good evil, and promising freedom in sin. He is the author of all lies; whom liars resemble and obey, with whom all liars shall have their portion for ever. The special lusts of the devil are spiritual wickedness, the lusts of the mind, and corrupt reasonings, pride and envy, wrath and malice, enmity to good, and enticing others to evil. By the truth, here understand the revealed will of God as to the salvation of men by Jesus Christ, the truth Christ was now preaching, and which the Jews opposed.Why do ye not ... - My meaning is clear, if you were disposed to understand me.

Even because ye cannot hear my word - The word "hear" in this place is to be understood in the sense of bear or tolerate, as in John 6:60. His doctrine was offensive to them. They hated it, and hence they perverted his meaning, and were resolved not to understand him. Their pride, vanity, and wickedness opposed it. The reason why sinners do not understand the Bible and its doctrines is because they cannot bear them. They hate them, and their hatred produces want of candor, a disposition to cavil and to pervert the truth, and an obstinate purpose that it shall not be applied to their case. Hence, they embrace every form of false doctrine, and choose error rather than truth, and darkness rather than light. A disposition to believe God is one of the best helps for understanding the Bible.

42, 43. If God were your Father, ye would love me—"If ye had anything of His moral image, as children have their father's likeness, ye would love Me, for I am immediately of Him and directly from Him." But "My speech" (meaning His peculiar style of expressing Himself on these subjects) is unintelligible to you because ye cannot take in the truth which it conveys. It is manifest all along this discourse, that Christ spake riddles to the Jews, and that they understood not the import and sense of his discourse: Now (saith our Saviour) the reason is,

because ye cannot hear, that is, believe, my word: they could and did hear it with their ears; they heard the sound of it, but they could not discern the spiritual sense and meaning of it: it was not given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, Matthew 13:11. And the reason was, because they suffered themselves to be blinded by prejudice, and by their own lusts and corrupt affections, till God gave them up to a judicial blindness, that hearing they heard, and did not understand; and seeing they saw, and did not perceive.

Why do ye not understand my speech?.... Language, idiom, dialect, and form of speaking, in a figurative way; for they did not know what he meant by liberty, and bondage, and by having another father than Abraham, or by his own procession and coming forth from God:

even because ye cannot hear my word; as they had no spiritual discerning and understanding of the doctrine of Christ, which showed them to be carnal, and natural men, and not regenerate ones, and the children of God; so they had an aversion to it, and could not bear to hear it.

Why do ye not understand my {k} speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

(k) Or, language: as though he said, You do not understand what I say any more than if I spoke in a strange and unknown language to you.

43. my speech … my word] ‘Speech’ is the outward expression, the language used; ‘thy speech bewrayeth thee’ (Matthew 26:73; comp. Mark 14:70). Besides these two passages the word for ‘speech’ is used only John 4:42, where it is rendered ‘saying,’ and here. ‘Word’ is the meaning of the expression, the teaching conveyed in the language used. They perpetually misunderstand His language, because they cannot appreciate His meaning. They are ‘from beneath’ (John 8:23), and He is speaking of ‘things above’ (Colossians 3:1); they are ‘of this world,’ and He is telling of ‘heavenly things’ (John 3:12); they are ‘natural,’ and He is teaching ‘spiritual things’ (1 Corinthians 2:14; see note there). They ‘cannot hear;’ it is amoral impossibility: they have their whole character to change before they can understand spiritual truths.

John 8:43. Διατί, why is it that) To this particle by and by answers John 8:44, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye do].—ὅτι, because) By this clause the one immediately preceding is explained. Comp. ὅτι, ch. John 11:47, “What do we? for this man doeth many miracles;” John 9:17, “What sayest thou of Him, (seeing) that He hath opened thine eyes].—τὴν λαλιὰν τὴν ἐμήν) my speech, which is most true.—οὐ δύνασθε ἀκούειν, ye cannot hear by reason of the hatred which is innate in you. A similar epitasis [an emphatic explanation of a proposition already stated, appended to it] occurs, 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God—neither can he know them, for,” etc.

Verse 43. - Why do ye not understand - come to appreciate and penetrate the significance of - my speech? There is delicate subtle distinction between λαλιά and λόγος, corresponding to that between λαλέω and λέγω. The former word connotes the form, manner, and tone of utterance, and the latter its inner substance and power. Λαλιά is a, word used for any manifestation of sound, a voice, the babble of children, the cries and songs of beasts or birds, for which purpose λὲγω and λόγος are not used (Trench, 'Syn. of N.T.'). Peter's λαλιά betrayed him to the Jerusalem crowd (Matthew 26:73). Λόγος is the substance of the message, the burden of the revelation. The speech (λαλιά) of Christ refers to the appropriate and significant clothing which he gave to his word (λόγος). He mournfully asks why they had failed to get to understand the method of his converse; why they perpetually failed to appreciate his discourse; why they persistently put wrong constructions upon his phrase, and imagined him to be speaking of earthly things when he was discoursing to them of heavenly ones. Why? Because ye cannot hear my word - the Divine communication I have made to you. They were morally so far from him that they could not listen so as to receive his revelation. The inward organ of receptivity was lacking, and "so the spiritual idiom in which he spake was not spiritually understood" (Alford). The Divine significance of the whole word of Christ, the new and strange doctrines of Messiah, of redemption, of the Father, of a sacrifice and death on the part of the Son of man for the salvation of the world excited their animosity and bitter antipathies. They were not conscious of any of the need he came to satisfy, and so they failed to apprehend the entire manner of his revelation. They were from beneath (ver. 23). He is disclosing heavenly things. "Their ears have they closed, lest they should hear." John 8:43Speech - word (λαλιὰν - λόγον)

The former word refers to the form, the latter to the substance of discourse. So Matthew 26:73, of Peter, "thy speech (λαλιά) bewrayeth thee;" thy mode of speaking. If they had understood the substance, they would have understood the form.


See on John 7:7.

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