Luke 16:21
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
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(21) And desiring to be fed with the crumbs.—The habits of the East, the absence of knives and forks and the like, made the amount of waste of this kind larger than do the habits of modern Europe. (Comp. the language of the Syro-Phœnician woman, in Mark 7:28.) Here the picture is heightened by two touches. The dogs are there, and get the crumbs, which the man fails to get, and then they come and lick the open sores. The question has been raised whether this touch is meant to intensify the sufferings of the beggar, or to contrast the almost human sympathy of the brute with the brutal apathy of the man. In a European apologue the latter might, perhaps, be a legitimate explanation of the fact thus stated; but with the Eastern feelings, that see in the dog an unclean beast, the scavenger of the streets, we cannot doubt that the beggar would have shrunk from their licking, even assuming, which is doubtful, that it brought with it some relief from merely physical pain. It may be noted, too, that the word for “dogs” is not the diminutive form used in Matthew 15:27, and Mark 7:28 (where see Note), which implied tameness, but that which is always associated with the idea of abhorrence (Matthew 7:6; Philippians 3:2; 2Peter 2:22; Revelation 22:15).

16:19-31 Here the spiritual things are represented, in a description of the different state of good and bad, in this world and in the other. We are not told that the rich man got his estate by fraud, or oppression; but Christ shows, that a man may have a great deal of the wealth, pomp, and pleasure of this world, yet perish for ever under God's wrath and curse. The sin of this rich man was his providing for himself only. Here is a godly man, and one that will hereafter be happy for ever, in the depth of adversity and distress. It is often the lot of some of the dearest of God's saints and servants to be greatly afflicted in this world. We are not told that the rich man did him any harm, but we do not find that he had any care for him. Here is the different condition of this godly poor man, and this wicked rich man, at and after death. The rich man in hell lifted up his eyes, being in torment. It is not probable that there are discourses between glorified saints and damned sinners, but this dialogue shows the hopeless misery and fruitless desires, to which condemned spirits are brought. There is a day coming, when those who now hate and despise the people of God, would gladly receive kindness from them. But the damned in hell shall not have the least abatement of their torment. Sinners are now called upon to remember; but they do not, they will not, they find ways to avoid it. As wicked people have good things only in this life, and at death are for ever separated from all good, so godly people have evil things only in this life, and at death they are for ever put from them. In this world, blessed be God, there is no gulf between a state of nature and grace, we may pass from sin to God; but if we die in our sins, there is no coming out. The rich man had five brethren, and would have them stopped in their sinful course; their coming to that place of torment, would make his misery the worse, who had helped to show them the way thither. How many would now desire to recall or to undo what they have written or done! Those who would make the rich man's praying to Abraham justify praying to saints departed, go far to seek for proofs, when the mistake of a damned sinner is all they can find for an example. And surely there is no encouragement to follow the example, when all his prayers were made in vain. A messenger from the dead could say no more than what is said in the Scriptures. The same strength of corruption that breaks through the convictions of the written word, would triumph over a witness from the dead. Let us seek to the law and to the testimony, Isa 8:19,20, for that is the sure word of prophecy, upon which we may rest, 2Pe 1:19. Circumstances in every age show that no terrors, or arguments, can give true repentance without the special grace of God renewing the sinner's heart.Beggar - Poor man. The original word does not mean "beggar," but simply that he was "poor." It should have been so translated to keep up the contrast with the "rich man."

Named Lazarus - The word Lazarus is Hebrew, and means a man destitute of help, a needy, poor man. It is a name given, therefore, to denote his needy condition.

Laid at his gate - At the door of the rich man, in order that he might obtain aid.

Full of sores - Covered with ulcers; afflicted not only with poverty, but with loathsome and offensive ulcers, such as often are the accompaniments of poverty and want. These circumstances are designed to show how different was his condition from that of the rich man. "He" was clothed in purple; the poor man was covered with sores; "he" fared sumptuously; the poor man was dependent even for the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table.

The dogs came - Such was his miserable condition that even the dogs, as if moved by pity, came and licked his sores in kindness to him. These circumstances of his misery are very touching, and his condition, contrasted with that of the rich man, is very striking. It is not affirmed that the rich man was unkind to him, or drove him away, or refused to aid him. The narrative is designed simply to show that the possession of wealth, and all the blessings of this life, could not exempt from death and misery, and that the lowest condition among mortals may be connected with life and happiness beyond the grave. There was no provision made for the helpless poor in those days, and consequently they were often laid at the gates of the rich, and in places of public resort, for charity. See Acts 3:2. The gospel has been the means of all the public charity now made for the needy, as it has of providing hospitals for those who are sick and afflicted. No pagan nation ever had a hospital or an almshouse for the needy, the aged, the blind, the insane. Many heathen nations, as the Hindoos and the Sandwich Islanders, destroyed their aged people; and "all" left their poor to the miseries of public begging, and their sick to the care of their friends or to private charity.

21. desiring to be fed with—but was not [Grotius, Bengel, Meyer, Trench, &c.]. The words may mean indeed "was fain to feed on," or "gladly fed on," as in Lu 15:16 [Alford, Webster and Wilkinson, &c.]. But the context rather favors the former.

licked, &c.—a touching act of brute pity, in the absence of human relief. It is a case of heartless indifference, amidst luxuries of every kind, to one of God's poorest and most afflicted ones, presented daily before the eye.

See Poole on "Luke 16:19"

And desiring to be fed with the crumbs,.... The offal food, broken bread, fragments of meat: that food which falls from the knife, or plate, in eating, and from thence on the ground; and literally understood, may express the low condition Christ was in, in his human nature: he assumed a true body, like to ours, and partook of the same flesh and blood with us, and was liable to the same infirmities as ours, which are sinless; and among the rest, was subject to hunger and thirst, and was obliged to the ministration of others for a subsistence: and it may also express his contentment in such a condition; he never murmured at the providence of God, but was entirely, resigned to his will; he did not desire to live in fulness and affluence, but avoided and shunned every step that led unto it; nor did he envy the plenty of others, and was fully satisfied with his meanness; nor did he ever work a miracle for the sake of feeding himself. Moreover, the words being understood mystically, may design the elect of God among the Jews, who, like crumbs, were few in number, a seed, a remnant, according to the election of grace; there were but few among them that were chosen of God, and effectually called by his grace; and but a little flock to whom he gave the kingdom; and a small number, who entered in at the strait gate, and were saved; and these few were very mean and despicable for their outward poverty; for the poor had the Gospel preached to them, and they received it, when the rich, and the rulers of the people, rejected it: and they were like crumbs their small degree of worldly wisdom and knowledge, being babes, simple, and foolish, who followed Christ, while the learned, wise, and prudent despised him; and for their sinfulness and vileness, being, generally speaking, notorious sinners, publicans and harlots; and of these it may be said what follows,

which fell from the rich man's table; being originally of the Jews, but separated from them by the grace of God, and rejected by them with scorn and contempt. These Christ "desired"; see Sol 7:10 his desire was towards them from everlasting, when he asked them of his Father, and they were given to him; and it was not only after their persons, but after their salvation, and that both in eternity and in time; and which he signified by various words and actions; and it is towards them, while in a state of unregeneracy, that they may be converted, and believe in him; and when they are called, he delights in the grace he puts in them, and in the righteousness he puts upon them; he takes pleasure in their company; he desires them for his habitation; he stands at the door and knocks for admission to them; and nothing is he more earnestly solicitous for, and eager after, than their being with him in glory to all eternity; and his end in all, "is to be fed" or "satisfied with them"; see Isaiah 53:11 he came into the world to gather these scattered crumbs and fragments together; it was his meat and drink, to work out their salvation; and it will be his highest joy and pleasure to present them to his Father, and himself, complete and perfect, and introduce them into his kingdom and glory: he will be fully satisfied in them, and they in him, when they shall awake in his likeness. Then will all Christ's desires, prayers, and intercessions, have their full accomplishment. The Vulgate Latin adds, "and no man gave to him"; which seems to be transcribed from Luke 15:16 and is not supported by any copy or version.

Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores: by the dogs are meant not the Jews, though they are sometimes so called, and especially the Scribes and Pharisees, Psalm 22:16 for these made his sores and wounds, or were the authors of his sorrows and sufferings; but rather the Gentiles, who were so called by the Jews; See Gill on Matthew 15:26 because these creatures were unclean by the law, and had in the greatest contempt by the Jews; and for their barbarity, malice, and cruelty, Deuteronomy 23:18 as the Gentiles were by the Jews esteemed unclean and unfit, either for civil or religious conversation; and were treated as aliens by them; and were indeed in their Heathenish state, barbarous and inhuman, and lived in malice, hateful, and hating one another: these, some of them came to Christ in person, as the centurion, and Syrophenician woman, many of the Samaritans, who, with the Jews, were all one as Heathens, and several Grecians at the feast; and many of them also came to him by faith, through the ministry of his servants, under the influence of divine grace, and that according to various prophecies in the Old Testament, concerning the calling and gathering of the Gentiles to him: these embraced a crucified Christ; and fed upon the slain Lamb of God; eat his flesh, and drank his blood; stretched forth the hand of faith, and thrust it into his bleeding wounds; and lived by faith on him, who was wounded and bruised for their sins, and whose blood was shed for the remission of them.

And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
Luke 16:21. ἐπιθυμῶν, desiring, perhaps not intended to suggest that his desire was not gratified. Suppose morsels did come to him from the rich man’s table, not meant for him specially, but for the hungry without, including the wild street dogs, would that exhaust the duty of Dives to his poor brother? But the trait is introduced to depict the poor man’s extreme misery rather than the rich man’s sin.—ἀλλὰ καὶ: no ellipse implied such as that supplied by the Vulgate: et nemo illi dabat. Bornemann supplies: “not only was he filled with the crumbs,” etc., but also, etc. (οὐ μόνον ἐχορτάσθη ἀπὸ τῶν ψιχίωνπλουσίου, ἀλλὰ, etc.).—ἀλλὰ simply introduces a new feature, and heightens the picture of misery (so Schanz) = he was dependent on casual scraps for his food, and moreover, etc.—ἐπέλειχον, licked (here only in N.T.); was this an aggravation or a mitigation? Opinion is much divided. Or is the point that dogs were his companions, now licking his sores (whether a benefit or otherwise), now scrambling with him for the morsels thrown out? The scramble was as much a fact as the licking. Furrer speaks of witnessing dogs and lepers waiting together for the refuse (Wanderungen, p. 40).

21. with the crumbs] The same word as in Matthew 15:27. It is not said that such fragments were refused him.

the dogs] The only dogs in the East are the wild and neglected Pariah dogs, which run about masterless and are the common scavengers.

came and licked his sores] The incident is only added to give in one touch the abjectness of his misery, and therefore to enhance the rich man’s neglect. The fault of Dives was callous selfishness.

Luke 16:21. Ἐπιθυμῶν, desiring) So far was he from having in his spirit aught that was lofty [τὸ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ὑψηλόν], Luke 16:15.—[ἀπὸ τῶν ψιχίων, of the crumbs) The freedom (immunity) which Lazarus enjoyed from every worldly desire is hereby indicated.—V. g.]—ἀλλὰ καὶ) nay (but) even. This particle, the words, not only so, having to be supplied in the former member, usually intensifies the force of the words which follow.—οἱ κύνες) the dogs, strictly so called [not figuratively]. The utter desertion of the naked and outcast Lazarus is herein denoted. The words, the angels, in Luke 16:22, form a powerful antithesis to the dogs here.—ἑρχόμενοι, coming) not for Lazarus’ sake, but for their own; as if he were a corpse [a carcase for them to prey upon].—ἀπέλειχον, began to lick off) The structure of the dog’s tongue and its saliva impart relief to a body that is not much diseased; but these exasperate the pain of a body covered over with ulcers (‘sores’).—ἓλκη) sores, full of matter.

Luke 16:21Desiring (ἐπιθυμῶν)

Eagerly, and not receiving what he desired. The same thing is implied in the story of the prodigal, where the same word is used, "he would fain have been filled" (Luke 15:16), but the pods did not satisfy his hunger.

The crumbs that fell (τῶν πιπτόντων)

Lit., the things falling. The best texts omit ψιχίων, crumbs.

Moreover (ἀλλὰ καὶ)

Lit., but even. "But (instead of finding compassion), even the dogs," etc.

Licked (ἐπέλειχον)

Only here in New Testament. Cyril, cited by Hobart, says: "The only attention, and, so to speak, medical dressing, which his sores received, was from the dogs who came and licked them."

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