Luke 10:31
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
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(31) By chance. . . .—The passage is the only one in the New Testament in which the phrase occurs. Our Lord seems to use it as with a touch of what we have elsewhere termed irony. It seemed so casual, as such opportunities always do to men who neglect them, and yet it was, in the purpose of God, the test-moment of each man’s character and life.

There came down.—Better, as before, there was going down.

A certain priest.—Jericho was at this time a priestly city, and so the journey of the priest from Jerusalem, as if returning from his week of sacerdotal offices there, has a touch of vivid naturalness. He, too, like the questioner, had been doing his duty to God, according to his measure of that duty.

Passed by on the other side.—The priest shrank, it might be, (1) from the trouble and peril of meddling with a man whom robbers had just attacked, and (2) from the fear of incurring a ceremonial defilement by coming into contact with what might possibly be a corpse before he reached it. He accordingly “passed by on the other side,” not of the road only, but of the ravine through which the road passed.

10:25-37 If we speak of eternal life, and the way to it, in a careless manner, we take the name of God in vain. No one will ever love God and his neighbour with any measure of pure, spiritual love, who is not made a partaker of converting grace. But the proud heart of man strives hard against these convictions. Christ gave an instance of a poor Jew in distress, relieved by a good Samaritan. This poor man fell among thieves, who left him about to die of his wounds. He was slighted by those who should have been his friends, and was cared for by a stranger, a Samaritan, of the nation which the Jews most despised and detested, and would have no dealings with. It is lamentable to observe how selfishness governs all ranks; how many excuses men will make to avoid trouble or expense in relieving others. But the true Christian has the law of love written in his heart. The Spirit of Christ dwells in him; Christ's image is renewed in his soul. The parable is a beautiful explanation of the law of loving our neighbour as ourselves, without regard to nation, party, or any other distinction. It also sets forth the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward sinful, miserable men. We were like this poor, distressed traveller. Satan, our enemy, has robbed us, and wounded us: such is the mischief sin has done us. The blessed Jesus had compassion on us. The believer considers that Jesus loved him, and gave his life for him, when an enemy and a rebel; and having shown him mercy, he bids him go and do likewise. It is the duty of us all , in our places, and according to our ability, to succour, help, and relieve all that are in distress and necessity.By chance - Accidentally, or as it happened. It means that he did not do it with a "design" to aid the man that was wounded.

A certain priest - It is said that not less than 12,000 priests and Levites dwelt at Jericho; and as their business was at Jerusalem, of course there would be many of them constantly traveling on that road.

When he saw him - He saw him lie, but came not near him.

Passed by on the other side - On the farther side of the way. Did not turn out of his course even to come and see him.

31, 32. came down a … priest … and a Levite—Jericho, the second city of Judea, was a city of the priests and Levites, and thousands of them lived there. The two here mentioned are supposed, apparently, to be returning from temple duties, but they had not learnt what that meaneth, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice' [Trench].

saw him—It was not inadvertently that he acted.

came and looked—a further aggravation.

passed by—although the law expressly required the opposite treatment even of the beast not only of their brethren, but of their enemy (De 22:4; Ex 23:4, 5; compare Isa 58:7).

See Poole on "Luke 10:30" And by chance there came down a certain priest that way,.... Who had been at Jerusalem, to take his turn in the courses, and was now returning to Jericho, where the stationary men were, to which he belonged: for it is said (t), that

"the former prophets appointed twenty and four courses; and for every course there was a station at Jerusalem, of priests, and of Levites, and of Israelites; and when the time of the course came to go up, the priests and Levites went up to Jerusalem. The Rabbins teach, that there were twenty four courses in the land of Israel, and there were twelve at Jericho.''

And which is elsewhere (u) related thus;

"the former prophets appointed four and twenty courses, and for every course there was a station at Jerusalem, of priests, of Levites, and of Israelites; the tradition is, that four and twenty thousand were the station from Jerusalem, and half a station from Jericho; though Jericho was able to furnish out a perfect station itself; but for the sake of dividing the glory to Jerusalem, it produced but half a station.''

So that it is no wonder to hear of priests and Levites passing to and fro in this road. Nor was this a chance matter with respect to God, by whose providence all things are ordered, directed, and governed; nor any wonderful thing with respect to men, which fell out in an uncommon way, beyond expectation; the phrase only signifies, that so it came to pass:

and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side: when he saw him naked, and in such a bloody condition, he might take him for one really dead, and therefore crossed the way on purpose, lest he should any ways touch him, and be defiled by him, and so break the law, and incur the penalty of it, mentioned in Numbers 19:16 or to shun so horrible a sight; or rather, through hardness of heart, and want of compassion.

(t) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 27. 1.((u) T. Hieros. Pesachim, fol. 30. 3. & Taanith, fol. 67. 4.

And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
Luke 10:31. κατὰ συγκυρίαν (συγκυρία, from συνκυρέω), rare, late Greek = κατὰ συντυχίαν (Hesychius, συγκυρία, συντυχία), by chance; the probabilities against succour being at hand just when sorely wanted; still more improbable that three possibilities of succour should meet just there and then. But the supposition, duly apologised for, is allowable, as the story must go on.—ἱερεύς: Schanz infers from κατὰ συγ. that Jericho was not a sacerdotal city, as, since Lightfoot, has been usually taken for granted. But the phrase has its full meaning independently of this inference, vide above.—ἀντιπαρῆλθεν, variously rendered either = passed by simply, or = passed the opposite way (going up), Grotius; or passed with the wounded man in full view, staring him in the face, a sight fit to awaken compassion in any one (Hahn); or passed by on the other side of the road.31. by chance] Rather, by coincidence, i.e. at the same time. The word ‘chance’ (τύχη) does not occur in Scripture. The nearest approach to it is the participle τυχὸν in 1 Corinthians 15:37 (if τυγχάνοντα be omitted in Luke 10:30). Chance, to the sacred writers, as to the most thoughtful of the Greeks, is ‘the daughter of Forethought;’ is “God’s unseen Providence, by men nicknamed Chance” (Fuller). “Many good opportunities work under things which seem fortuitous.” Bengel.

a certain priest] His official duties at Jerusalem were over, and he was on his way back to his home in the priestly city of Jericho. Perhaps the uselessness of his external service is implied. In superstitious attention to the letter, he was wholly blind to the spirit, Deuteronomy 22:1-4. See 1 John 3:17. He was selfishly afraid of risk, trouble, and ceremonial defilement, and, since no one was there to know of his conduct, he was thus led to neglect the traditional kindness of Jews towards their own countrymen (Tac. Hist. v. 5, Juv. xiv. 103, 104), as well as the positive rules of the Law (Deuteronomy 22:4) and the Prophets (Isaiah 58:7).

that way] Rather, on that road. It is emphatically mentioned, because there was another road to Jericho which was safe and therefore more frequently used.Luke 10:31. Κατὰ συγκυρίαν, by a contingency [chance]) Many good opportunities lie hid under those things which may seem to be matters of chance. Scripture describes nothing at random, as if a matter of chance: in this passage it is a suitable Syncategorema [accessory proposition added to the principal one] in relation to the parable; and it is opposed to that which is inevitable.—ἱερεὺς, a priest) There was many a journey of Priests and Levites wont to be taken on that road to the city and the temple.—ὁδῷ, way) Even on the way-side, in inns, Luke 10:34, in the middle of the intercourse of social life, piety and mutual love can be exercised or omitted: Exodus 23:4-5.—ἀντιπαρῆλθεν, he passed by on the other side) without showing any compassion, being in haste to go to Jerusalem.Verse 31. - There came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Both the priest and Levite were frequent travellers along this road between the capital and Jericho. Jericho was especially a city of priests, and when the allotted service or residence time at the temple was over, these would return naturally to their own homes. It has been remarked that the grave censure which this story levels at the everyday want of charity on the part of priests and Levites, fills up what would otherwise have been a blank in the Master's many-sided teaching. Nowhere else in the gospel narrative do we find our Lord taking up the attitude of censor of the priestly and Levitical orders. We have little difficulty in discovering reasons for this apparently strange reticence. They were still the official guardians and ministers of his Father's house. In his public teaching, as a rule, he would refrain from touching these or their hollow, pretentious lives. Once, and once only, in this one parable did he dwell - but even here with no severe denunciations, as in the case of scribes and Pharisees - on the shortcomings of the priestly caste. The bitter woe was fast coming on these degenerate children of Aaron. In less than half a century, that house, the glory and the joy of Israel, would be utterly destroyed, net to be raised again. No woe that the Christ could pronounce could be as crushing in its pitiless condemnation. The very reason for the existence of priest and Levite as priest and Levite would exist no longer. The selfish life of the doomed order, in which holiness seemed effectually to have been divorced from charity, is portrayed in the lifelike picture of the parable of the good Samaritan. By chance (κατὰ συγκυρίαν)

Only here in New Testament. The word means, literally, a coincidence. By coincidence of circumstances.

There came down

Imperfect, was going down, as Rev.


The Talmudists said that there were almost as many priests at Jericho as at Jerusalem.

Passed by on the other side (ἀντιπαρῆλθεν)

The verb occurs only here and Luke 10:32.

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