Luke 15:25
Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
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(25) He heard musick and dancing.—This brings in a new feature. The father, like the chief actors in the other parables, had called together his “friends and neighbours,” and they were rejoicing after the manner of the East. There was “musick,” literally, a symphony, or concert, implying voices as well as instruments. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but it is found in the LXX. version of Daniel 3:5; Daniel 3:10, Where indeed the Hebrew, or rather the Aramaic, word is but the Greek transliterated. The word for “dancing,” also, is found here only in the New Testament, and is the same as that used, in classical Greek, for the chorus of the Greek drama, and from which we get our English “choir.” It probably implied, i.e., song as well as dancing. Spiritually, these outward signs of gladness answer to the overflowing demonstrative joy which thrills through the hearts of those whose sympathies with God’s work in the souls of men are keen and strong, and to which those who live only in the colder religionism of outward service are so insensible that they cannot understand it. They ask now, as the elder son asked, as the Pharisees were in their hearts asking, what it means? Why this departure from the even tenor of men’s wonted life?

Luke 15:25-28. Now his older son was in the field — The older son seems to represent the Pharisees and scribes mentioned Luke 15:2. And now while every one in the family heartily joined in expressing their joy on account of the safe return of the second son, the older brother, happening to come from the field, heard the noise of singing and dancing within; wherefore, calling out one of the servants, he asked what these things meant. The servant replied, that his brother was unexpectedly come, and that his father, being very glad to see him, had killed the fatted calf, and was making a feast, because he had received him safe and sound. The servant probably mentions the killing of the fatted calf rather than the robe or ring, as having a nearer connection with the music and dancing. When the older brother heard this, he fell into a violent passion, and would not go in; the servant therefore came and told his father of it. The father rising up, went out and with incomparable goodness, entreated his son to come and partake in the general joy in the family on account of his brother’s return. This act of condescension gives a great heightening to the character of the father, and adds an inexpressible beauty and elegance to the parable; and when we consider it as referring to the love and condescension of our Almighty Father, it must certainly be very consolatory to our souls.

15:25-32 In the latter part of this parable we have the character of the Pharisees, though not of them alone. It sets forth the kindness of the Lord, and the proud manner in which his gracious kindness is often received. The Jews, in general, showed the same spirit towards the converted Gentiles; and numbers in every age object to the gospel and its preachers, on the same ground. What must that temper be, which stirs up a man to despise and abhor those for whom the Saviour shed his precious blood, who are objects of the Father's choice, and temples of the Holy Ghost! This springs from pride, self-preference, and ignorance of a man's own heart. The mercy and grace of our God in Christ, shine almost as bright in his tender and gentle bearing with peevish saints, as his receiving prodigal sinners upon their repentance. It is the unspeakable happiness of all the children of God, who keep close to their Father's house, that they are, and shall be ever with him. Happy will it be for those who thankfully accept Christ's invitation.In the field - At work. This eldest son is designed to represent the Pharisees who had found fault with the Saviour. Their conduct is likened to that of this envious and unnatural brother.

Music and dancing - Dancing was not uncommon among the Hebrews, and was used on various occasions. Thus Miriam celebrated the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt in dances as well as songs, Exodus 15:20. David danced before the ark, 2 Samuel 6:14. It was common at Jewish feasts Judges 21:19-21 and in public triumphs Judges 11:34, and at all seasons of mirth and rejoicings, Psalm 30:11; Jeremiah 31:4, Jeremiah 31:13. It was also used in religious services by the idolaters Exodus 32:19, and also by the Jews, at times, in their religious services, Psalm 149:3; Psalm 150:4. In this case it was an expression of rejoicing. Our Lord expresses no opinion about its "propriety." He simply states "the fact," nor was there occasion for comment on it. His "mentioning it" cannot be pleaded for its lawfulness or propriety, any more than his mentioning the vice of the younger son, or the wickedness of the Pharisees, can be pleaded to justify their conduct. It is an expressive image, used in accordance with the known customs of the country, to express joy. It is farther to be remarked, that if the example of persons in Scripture be pleaded for dancing, it can be "only for just such dances as they practiced" - for sacred or triumphal occasions.

25. in the field—engaged in his father's business: compare Lu 15:29, "These many years do I serve thee."Ver. 25-32. This last part of the parable is not so exactly applicable to that which it is brought to represent as the former parts are, but it serveth excellently to show us that envy which is found in our hearts by nature to the spiritual good and advantage of others. Two things are observable in it:

1. Man’s peevishness and envy.

2. God’s meekness towards us under our frowardness.

By the elder son some think the Jews are represented, whose peevishness to the Gentiles, and the offer of the grace of the gospel to them, is made appear to us from many places of holy writ. Others think that by the elder son are represented hypocrites, who swelling in all opinion of themselves, and their own righteousness, have no patience to hear that any others should be preferred in the favour of God before them. Why may we not say that all are understood by it, even the best of God’s people, who, if they narrowly search their own hearts, will find something of pride and envy remaining in the best of them? And as the former prompts them to judge themselves as much deserving the favour of God, even in special particular dispensations, as any others; so the latter inclineth them to repine at such dispensations of Divine grace as others receive, and they want: two corruptions which we are as much concerned to keep watch upon, or against, as any other; speaking both a peevishness to the honour and glory of God, a dissatisfaction in his dispensations, and an offer at the control of his wisdom and justice, and also a great degree of uncharitableness, our eye being evil because the Lord is good. Besides that it seemeth to put in a claim of merit; and the soul that indulges itself in such thoughts seems to say that it hath deserved more than it doth receive; for without such a supposition, it is the most unreasonable thing imaginable, that any person should be displeased that another should have a greater share in the favour of God than he, while he himself receives more than he can lay a claim unto, and God may do with his own what he pleaseth. The meekness of God in dealing with us under our frowardness is as much remarkable.

Son, ( saith this father in the parable), thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found. This must be understood of God anyrwpopaywv as spoken after the manner of men, who show greater passions upon the receiving of a good that is new to them, and possibly surprising, than they ordinarily show upon the view of a good of which they have had longer fruition; so it confirms what was before said in Luke 15:7,10. We must take heed of thinking that any thing can make a change or alteration in God, but must look upon it only as an expression of God’s high satisfaction and well pleasedness in a sinner’s conversion, and turning unto him; so as if it were possible any good should more than other affect the Divine Being, it would be this. So as this whole parable is of excellent use, not only to instruct sinners in their miserable state, till they be reconciled to God, but to deliver them from all temptations to fear that, heartily returning, they shall not be accepted.

Now his elder son was in the field,.... By "the elder son" is meant, not angels, as has been observed on Luke 15:11 nor truly converted persons, of some standing in the church; for though these may be said to be elder than young converts, and are more solid and settled, yet they are not ignorant of spiritual mirth; nor of the Gospel sound; nor are they angry at the conversion of sinners; nor will they ever speak in such commendation of themselves; or say that they never had a kid, much less a fatted calf, as this elder brother does: nor the Jews in general, in distinction from the Gentiles, as has been remarked in the above place: the Scribes and Pharisees in particular are meant, in opposition to the publicans and sinners: now these are said to be "in the field"; in the world, which is comparable to an uncultivated field; being overrun with the briers and thorns of sin, and sinful men; where beasts of prey inhabit, and who are fitly signified by lions, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword; and out of which the garden of the church is taken and separated, and fenced by distinguishing grace: now this elder brother, the Scribe and Pharisee, notwithstanding all his sobriety and morality, was in a state of nature and unregeneracy, in the same condition he came into the world; and was under the influence of the god of the world; and was taken up with the things of the world, the honours, riches, and profits of it; and though he was in the Jewish church state, yet was in the field of the world; the ceremonies of that state, were the rudiments of the world; and the sanctuary in it, was a worldly sanctuary; and the chief men in it, were the princes of the world: and this elder son was in the field at work, working for life: to work is right, when men work from a principle of grace, in the name, faith, and strength of Christ, to the glory of God and religion, and their own and others good; and ascribe all they do to the grace of God, and acknowledge their own unworthiness; but to work, in order to obtain righteousness, life, and salvation, proceeds from wretched ignorance, and is an instance of the pride and vanity of human nature; and is not only a vain and fruitless attempt, but a piece of wickedness, it being a denial of Christ, as God's salvation: now while the younger son, the publicans and sinners, were received and entertained in the house and kingdom of God their Father, the elder son, the Scribe and Pharisee, were without in the field, labouring to obtain life by doing;

and as he came and drew nigh to the house. The Ethiopic version reads, "to the border of the city": he "came" out of the field, the world; not that he was come out from the world, and had left the company of the men of it, or parted with the sins and lusts of it; but he came from his labour, having done his day's work, and the task of duty he had set himself; and was now going for his hire, for what he imagined he had merited: and

drew nigh to the house; for he did not go in, Luke 15:28 he only made some advances to it, and took some steps towards entrance into it; namely, into a visible church; he came to hear the word, as the Scribes and Pharisees did; and to attend on ordinances, particularly at the administration of the ordinance of baptism, and seemed desirous of submitting to it in John's time; but never came to Christ in a spiritual way; nor entered into the kingdom of heaven, the Gospel dispensation; and did all that could be, to hinder others, especially publicans and sinners;

he heard music and dancing. The Syriac; Persic, and Ethiopic versions, leave out "dancing": the former only reads, "the voice of the singing of many", and the next, "the voice of singing"; and the last, "pipes and songs"; by "music" is meant not the instrumental music used in the Old Testament church; nor vocal singing in the new; but the preaching of the Gospel by the ministers of it, the servants, in Luke 15:22 setting forth the love of God, the righteousness of Christ, peace, pardon, and salvation by him; in which, as in music, there is a distinction of sounds, the voice of Christ in the Gospel, and the several doctrines of it, are distinctly pronounced, discerned, and understood: and there is also, as in music, an harmony and agreement; the Gospel does not give an uncertain sound, nor contradict itself; it is not yea and nay: and, like music, it is delightful and charming; it is a sound of love in all the three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit; of free grace, and rich mercy; of liberty, reconciliation, forgiveness, righteousness, and eternal life: and as music, has a powerful and attractive virtue in it; so the Gospel is mighty and efficacious in the hand of the Spirit of God to quicken even dead sinners, to draw them to Christ, to allure, charm, and comfort them: "dancing" may design those expressions of joy, which are delivered by young converts at hearing the Gospel, as by the three thousand, in Acts 2:41 by the inhabitants of Samaria, Acts 8:6 and by the jailor and his household, Acts 16:34 and by many others: now all this the elder brother, the Scribes and Pharisees, "heard"; not so as to know the true meaning of it, as appears from the following verse; nor as to approve of it; or so as to feel the power, and enjoy the sweetness of it; nor as to practise what was heard; only externally hearing, they heard, but understood not, their eyes were blinded, and their hearts were hardened.

{5} Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

(5) Those who truly fear God desire to have all men join them in fearing him.

Luke 15:25-32. The legally righteous one. Instead of sharing the divine joy over the converted sinner, he is envious, regards himself—in respect of his legality, according to which he has been on his guard against momentary transgression—as neglected, and judges unlovingly about his brother, and discontentedly about God. A striking commentary on Luke 15:7; and how fitted to put to the blush the murmuring Pharisees and scribes, Luke 15:2!

συμφων. κ. χορῶν] not: the singing and the dancing (Luther), but, without the article: concert and choral dance, מָחוֹל, מְחוֹלָה. Music and dancing (commonly given by hired people) belonged to the entertainments of solemn festivals. See Matthew 14:6; Rosenmüller, Morgenl. in loc.; Wetstein.

Luke 15:26. τί εἴη ταῦτα] what this would be likely to signify. Comp. Acts 10:17. See Matthiae, § 488. 7; Krüger, ad Xen. Anab. i. 10. 14.

Luke 15:27. The slave mentions only the fatted calf, because this happened to be most closely associated with the festival of music and dancing.

ὑγιαίνοντα] not: morally safe and sound (ἀποβαλόντα τὴν νόσον διὰ τῆς μετανοίας, Euthymius Zigabenus, Kypke, Kuinoel, and many more), but, as is only fitting in the mouth of the slave (comp. on Luke 15:24), bodily safe and sound.

Luke 15:28. οὖν] in consequence of this refusal of the son. Yet, as with Lachmann and Tischendorf, the more strongly attested δέ is to be read.

παρεκάλει] he exhorted him to come in,—he spoke him fair; see on 1 Corinthians 4:13.

Luke 15:29. καὶ ἐμοί] The ἐμοί placed first has the emphasis of wounded selfish feeling. Contrast Luke 15:30.

ἔριφον] a young kid, of far less value than the fatted calf! Still more significant is the reading ἐρίφιον in B, Sahid. (a young kidling), which Ewald approves, and the delicacy of which the transcribers might easily have passed over. Comp. Matthew 25:33; Tob 2:11.

Luke 15:30. ὁ υἱός σου οὗτος] this son of thine, in the highest degree contemptuous. He was not going to call him his brother. On the other hand, the father, Luke 15:32 : ὁ ἀδελφός σου οὗτος. How bitter, moreover, is: “who has devoured for thee thy living,” and μετὰ πορνῶν, as contrasted with μετὰ τῶν φιλῶν μου!

Luke 15:31. τέκνον] full of love.

σὺ πάντοτε κ.τ.λ.] represents to the heart of the jealous brother the two great prerogatives that he had above his brother (hence the emphatic σύ). Thy constant association with me (while, on the other hand, thy brother was separated far and long from me), and the circumstance that my whole possessions belong to thee (as to the future heir of all, Luke 15:12), ought to raise thee far above such envious dispositions and judgments!

Luke 15:32. εὐφρανθῆναι] stands first with the emphasis of contrast, in opposition to such ill-humour.

ἔδει] not to be supplemented by σέ, but generally it was fitting or necessary,—a justification of the prearranged joy of the house, which, under the circumstances, was a moral necessity.

ἔζησεν] (see the critical remarks) was dead, and has become alive, Matthew 9:18; John 5:25; Romans 14:9.

REMARK.—(1) The exclusive title to the κληρονομία, which, according to Luke 15:31, is adjudged to those who are legally upright, has its justification in principle; οἱ ποιηταὶ νόμου δικαιωθήσονται, Romans 2:13.—(2) For the adoption of sinners into this prerogative, which belongs in principle to the legally righteous, the parable indicates the method of self-knowledge, of repentance, and of confidence in the grace of God (faith). But the interposition of this grace through the death of reconciliation, and consequently the more specific definition of that confidence, Jesus leaves unnoticed, leaving these particulars to the further development of faith and doctrine after the atoning death had taken place; just as, moreover, He in general, according to the synoptic Gospels, limits Himself only to single hints of the doctrine of reconciliation as seed-corn for the future (Matthew 20:28; Matthew 26:28; otherwise in John).—(3) As the reality does not correspond to the idea of legal righteousness, He points to the example of the son who has continued in outward conformity to the law, but therewith is proud of his virtue, unbrotherly and unfilial, and consequently holds up to the Pharisees a mirror for self-contemplation, the picture in which must tell them how very much they also needed repentance (in order to see the title in principle to legal righteousness realized in themselves), instead of censuring the fellowship of Jesus with publicans and sinners (Luke 15:7; Luke 15:1-2).

Luke 15:25-32. The elder son, who plays the ignoble part of wet blanket on this glad day, and represents the Pharisees in their chilling attitude towards the mission in behalf of the publicans and sinners.

25. Now his elder son was in the field] Many have felt a wish that the parable had ended with the moving and exquisite scene called up by the last words; or have regarded the remaining verses as practically a separate parable. Such a judgment—not to speak of its presumption—shews a narrow spirit. We must not forget that the Jews, however guilty, were God’s children no less than the Gentiles, and Pharisees no less than publicans from the moment that Pharisees had learnt that they too had need of repentance. The elder son is still a son, nor are his faults intrinsically more heinous,—though more perilous because more likely to lead to self-deception—than those of the younger. Self-righteousness is sin as well as unrighteousness, and may be even a worse sin, Matthew 21:31-32; but God has provided for both sins a full Sacrifice and a free forgiveness.

musick and dancing] Literally, “a symphony and chorus.”

Luke 15:25. Ἐν ἀγρῷ, in the field) as one serving [in the slave-like spirit] his Father: see Luke 15:29.—χορῶν, bands [of dancers]) joyously dancing [or exulting].

Verse 25. - Now his elder son was in the field. The broad universal interest of the parable here ceases. Whereas the story of the sin and the punishment, the repentance and the restoration, of the prodigal belongs to the Church of the wide world, and has its special message of warning and comfort for thousands and thousands of world. workers in every age, this division of the story, which tells of the sour discontent of the prodigal's elder brother, was spoken especially to the Pharisees and rulers of the Jews, who were bitterly incensed with Jesus being the Friend of publicans and sinners. They could not bear the thought of sharing the joys of the world to come with men whom they had despised as hopeless sinners here. This second chapter of the great parable has its practical lessons for every day common life; but its chief interest lay in the striking picture which it drew of that powerful class to whom the teaching of Jesus, in its broad and massive character, was utterly repulsive. Now, while the events just related were taking place, and the lost younger son was being received again into his father's heart and home, the elder, a hard and selfish man, stern, and yet careful of his duties as far as his narrow mind grasped them, was in the field at his work. The rejoicing in the house over the prodigal's return evidently took him by surprise. If he ever thought of that poor wandering brother of his at all, he pictured him to himself as a hopelessly lost and ruined soul. The Pharisees and rulers could not fail at once to catch the drift of the Master's parable. They too, when the Lord came and gathered in that great harvest of sinners, those firstfruits of his mighty work - they too were "in the field" at work with their tithings and observances, making hedge after hedge round the old sacred Hebrew Law, uselessly fretting their lives away in a dull round of meaningless ritual observances. They - the Pharisee party - when they became aware of the great crowds of men, whom they looked on as lost sinners, listening to the new famous Teacher, who was showing them how men who had lived their lives too could win eternal life - they, the Pharisees, flamed out with bitter wrath against the bold and daring Preacher of glad tidings to such a worthless crew. In the vivid parable-story these indignant Pharisees and rulers saw themselves clearly imaged. Luke 15:25Music (συμφωνίας)

A symphony: concerted music.

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