And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Joined himself.—Literally clave to, or, attached himself to. The verb is the same as that used of the husband cleaving to his wife in Matthew 19:5, and thus expresses the absolute dependence of the famished man upon one who was ready to help him.
To a citizen.—Literally, to one of the citizens. In the outer story of the parable, this would emphasise the misery into which the man had fallen. The son of Abraham had to depend upon the bounty of an alien. In the two lines of interpretation, the “citizen” is one who all along has been of the world, worldly, living for no higher end than gain or pleasure. The prodigal is as one who, called to a higher life, has forfeited its blessedness, and now depends for such joy as he is capable of on those who are more completely identified with evil. It is, perhaps, natural that as we diverge more widely from the primary scope of the parable, its application in detail should become more difficult; and looking at the parable, as giving an outline of the history of the human race, one fails to see who answers to the “citizen.” Not the Tempter, the great author of the world’s evil, for the citizen is one of many. Nor is it the part of the citizen here to tempt to evil, but rather to be half-unconsciously God’s instrument in punishing it—half-unconsciously, again, the means of preserving the evil-doer from perishing, and so of making a subsequent deliverance possible. It is truer to facts, therefore, to see in the “citizen” the representative of the wisdom and knowledge, maxims of worldly prudence or principles of ethics without religion, which for a time sustain the soul, and “still the hungry edge of appetite,” and keep it from sinking utterly, while yet they leave it in its wretchedness and do not satisfy its cravings.
To feed swine.—We feel at once the shudder that would pass through the hearers of the parable as they listened to these words. Could there be for an Israelite a greater depth of debasement? In the inner teaching of the parable, this perhaps implies a state in which the man’s will and energies have but the one work of ministering to his baser appetites. Such, in the long-run, is the outcome of the wisdom described in the previous note as answering to the “citizen.”
A citizen - One of the inhabitants of one of the cities or towns of that region, probably a man of property.
Into the fields - Out of the city where the owner lived.
To feed swine - This was a very low employment, and particularly so to a "Jew." It was forbidden to the Jews to eat swine, and of course it was unlawful to keep them. To be compelled, therefore, to engage in such an employment was the deepest conceivable degradation. The "object" of this image, as used by the Saviour in the parable, is to show the loathsome employments and the deep degradation to which sin leads people, and no circumstance could possibly illustrate it in a more striking manner than he has done here. Sin and its results everywhere have the same relation to that which is noble and great, which the feeding of swine had, in the estimation of a Jew, to an honorable and dignified employment.
to feed swine—glad to keep life anyhow, behold the son sank into a swineherd—among the Jews, on account of the prohibition of swine's flesh, emphatically vile! "He who begins by using the world as a servant, to minister to his pleasure, ends by reversing the relationship" [Trench].See Poole on "Luke 15:11"
and he sent him into his field to feed swine; he did not give him the least bit of bread to satisfy his hunger; nor did he say one word to him of Christ, the bread of life; nor did he advise him to go to his father's house, where there was bread enough, and to spare: but he "sent him, into his fields"; to work, to cleanse his heart, to reform his life, to fulfil the law, to perform the conditions of the covenant, to make his peace with God, and get an interest in his love and favour; and go through a round of duties continually, and all would be well: he sent him to "feed swine" there; to converse with self-righteous persons, who may be compared to swine, because of their selfishness; doing all they do for themselves, and not for God and his glory; because they prefer dung before pearls, their own righteousness before Christ, the pearl of great price; and live upon the husks of their own duties and never look upwards to heaven, as this creature does not, but always downwards on the earth; and though they were outwardly reformed, yet inwardly filthy, and often return to wallowing in the mire again: he sent him there also to gratify the selfish principles of nature; to please himself with his wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and other excellencies he fancied he had attained unto. In short, the expression shows the base employment of a self-justitiary amidst all his pretensions to religion and virtue: for feeding of swine was very disagreeable to the Jews, and with them scandalous; to whom the eating of swine's flesh was forbidden by the law of God, and the breeding of swine by their traditions; and this is said to be done in a country, out of Judea.And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Luke 15:15. ἐκολλήθη, he attached himself (pass with mid. sense). The citizen of the far country did not want him, it is no time for employing super. fluous hands, but he suffered the wretch to have his way in good-natured pity.—βόσκειν χοίρους: the lowest occupation, a poor-paid pagan drudge; the position of the publicans glanced at.15. joined himself to a citizen of that country] Rather, one of the citizens. Even in its worst and most willing exile the soul cannot cease to be by right a citizen of God’s kingdom—a fellow-citizen with the saints, Ephesians 2:19. Its true citizenship (πολίτευμα) is still in heaven (Php 3:20). By ‘the citizen of the far country’ is indicated either men hopelessly corrupt and worldly; or perhaps the powers of evil. We observe that in this far-off land, the Prodigal, with all his banquets and his lavishness, has not gained a single friend. Sin never forms a real bond of pity and sympathy. The cry of tempters and accomplices ever is, “What is that to us? see thou to that.”
he sent him] ‘Freedom’ from righteousness is slavery to sin.
to feed swine] The intensity of this climax could only be duly felt by Jews, who had such a loathing and abhorrence for swine that they would not even name them, but spoke of a pig as dabhar acheer, ‘the other thing.’Luke 15:15. Τῶν πολιτῶν, of the citizens) although he did not himself become a citizen of that country. The man, whom a return to sound propriety of character is awaiting (is in store for), often, even in the midst of his wanderings (John 11:52, “The children of God—scattered abroad”), retains a something which distinguishes him from the ordinary (those who are distinctively and peculiarly) citizens of the world.—ἔπεμψεν, sent) A great indignity done to him.—χοίρους, swine) A mean condition of life, especially according to Jewish notions [of swine being ‘unclean’ animals].Verse 15. - And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country. "That citizen," says St. Bernard, quoted by Archbishop Trench, "I cannot understand as other than one of the malignant spirits, who in that they sin with an irremediable obstinacy, and have passed into a permanent disposition of malice and wickedness, are no longer guests and strangers, but citizens and abiders in the land of sin." This is a true picture of the state of such a lost soul, which in despair has yielded itself up to the evil one and his angels and their awful prompt-tugs and suggestions; but the heathen citizen is well represented by the ordinary sordid man of the world, who engages in any infamous calling, and in the carrying on of which he employs his poor degraded ruined brothers and sisters. To feed swine. What a shudder must have passed through the auditory when the Master reached this climax of the prodigal's degradation I For a young Israelite noble, delicately nurtured and trained in the worship of the chosen people, to be reduced to the position of a herdsman of those unclean creatures for which they entertained such a loathing and abhorrence that they would not even name them, but spoke of a pig as the other thing!
The verb means to glue or cement. Very expressive here, implying that he forced himself upon the citizen, who was unwilling to engage him, and who took him into service only upon persistent entreaty. "The unhappy wretch is a sort of appendage to a strange personality" (Godet). Compare Acts 9:26. Wyc., cleaved. See, also, on Acts 5:13.
To feed swine
As he had received him reluctantly, so he gave him the meanest possible employment. An ignominious occupation, especially in Jewish eyes. The keeping of swine was prohibited to Israelites under a curse.
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