Luke 21:11
And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
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(11) Famines and pestilences.—The mention of the latter is, as far as the best MSS. are concerned, a feature peculiar to St. Luke. Others, however, give the same combination in Matthew 24:7. The Greek nouns are all but identical in sound (limos = famine, and loimos = pestilence), and there is accordingly a kind of rhythmical emphasis of sound which cannot be reproduced in English.

Fearful sights.—The Greek word, literally things of terror, is peculiar to St. Luke. He omits here “the beginning of troubles.” or “travail-pangs,” which we find in St. Matthew and St. Mark.

Luke 21:11. Fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven — Of these, Josephus has given us a particular account, Bell., Luke 7:12. “There was a comet in the form of a fiery sword, which for a year together did hang over the city. Before the first revolt and war, the people being gathered together to the feast of unleavened bread, on the 8th of April, at the 9th hour of the night, there was as much light about the altar and temple as if it had been bright day. This remained half an hour. At the same festival, the inner gate of the temple on the east side, being of massy brass, which required at least twenty men to shut it, was seen at midnight to open of its own accord. Not long after the feast-days, on the 21st of May, before the sun set, were seen in the air chariots and armies in battle array, passing along in the clouds and investing the city. And upon the feast of pentecost, at night, the priests, going into the inner temple to attend their wonted service, said, they first felt the place to move and tremble: after that they heard a voice which said, Let us depart hence. But that which was most wonderful of all, one Jesus, the son of Ananus, of the common people, four years before the war began, when the city flourished in peace and riches, coming to the celebration of the feast of tabernacles at Jerusalem, suddenly began to cry out thus: A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the temple, a voice against men and women newly married, a voice against all this people. And thus crying, day and night, he went about all the streets of the city.” Josephus adds, “that he was scourged by some of the nobility, but, without speaking a word for himself, he persevered crying as before; that he was carried before Albinus, the Roman general, who caused him to be beaten till his bones appeared. But that he neither entreated nor wept, but, as well as he could, framing a weeping voice, he cried at every stroke, Wo, wo to Jerusalem:” that he went on thus crying, chiefly upon holydays, for the space of seven years and five months, till in the time of the siege, beholding what he had foretold, he ceased. And that then, once again going about the city, on the wall, “he cried with a loud voice, Wo, wo to the city, temple, and people; and lastly he said, Wo also to myself. Which words were no sooner uttered, than a stone thrown out of an engine smote him, and so he yielded up the ghost, lamenting them all.” See note on Isaiah 66:6.

21:5-28 With much curiosity those about Christ ask as to the time when the great desolation should be. He answers with clearness and fulness, as far as was necessary to teach them their duty; for all knowledge is desirable as far as it is in order to practice. Though spiritual judgements are the most common in gospel times, yet God makes use of temporal judgments also. Christ tells them what hard things they should suffer for his name's sake, and encourages them to bear up under their trials, and to go on in their work, notwithstanding the opposition they would meet with. God will stand by you, and own you, and assist you. This was remarkably fulfilled after the pouring out of the Spirit, by whom Christ gave his disciples wisdom and utterance. Though we may be losers for Christ, we shall not, we cannot be losers by him, in the end. It is our duty and interest at all times, especially in perilous, trying times, to secure the safety of our own souls. It is by Christian patience we keep possession of our own souls, and keep out all those impressions which would put us out of temper. We may view the prophecy before us much as those Old Testament prophecies, which, together with their great object, embrace, or glance at some nearer object of importance to the church. Having given an idea of the times for about thirty-eight years next to come, Christ shows what all those things would end in, namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the utter dispersion of the Jewish nation; which would be a type and figure of Christ's second coming. The scattered Jews around us preach the truth of Christianity; and prove, that though heaven and earth shall pass away, the words of Jesus shall not pass away. They also remind us to pray for those times when neither the real, nor the spiritual Jerusalem, shall any longer be trodden down by the Gentiles, and when both Jews and Gentiles shall be turned to the Lord. When Christ came to destroy the Jews, he came to redeem the Christians that were persecuted and oppressed by them; and then had the churches rest. When he comes to judge the world, he will redeem all that are his from their troubles. So fully did the Divine judgements come upon the Jews, that their city is set as an example before us, to show that sins will not pass unpunished; and that the terrors of the Lord, and his threatenings against impenitent sinners, will all come to pass, even as his word was true, and his wrath great upon Jerusalem.Fearful sights - See Matthew 24:7.10. Nation, &c.—Matthew and Mark (Mt 24:8; Mr 13:8) add, "All these are the beginning of sorrows," or travail pangs, to which heavy calamities are compared (Jer 4:31, &c.). See Poole on "Luke 21:9"

And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines and pestilences,.... See Gill on Matthew 24:7.

and fearful sights; or "terrible things"; whether heard, or seen, as dreadful thunderings, and lightnings; and a voice heard in the temple, saying, let us go hence; and an idiot that went about several years together, saying, woe to the people, woe to the city, &c. a flame was seen in the temple, and the doors of it opened of themselves:

and great signs shall there be from heaven; as comets and blazing stars, a flaming sword, or a comet like one, hanging over Jerusalem, and armies in the air engaged against each other (b). The Syriac version adds, "and great winters there shall be"; that is, very long and cold; and so the Persic version, "and winter, and cold, shall be protracted".

(b) Vid. Joseph. de Bello Jud, l. 6. c. 5.

And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
Luke 21:11. Ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ belongs not only to σημεῖα (B, Lachmann: ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ σημ.), but also to φόβητρα, because in the connection the latter needs some qualifying clause. μεγάλα belongs to both. Moreover, comp. with reference to this detail which Luke has here, 4 Esdr. Luke 5:4. On φόβητρα (terrific appearances), comp. Plat. Ax. p. 367 A; Lucian, Philop. 9; Isaiah 19:17. As to κατὰ τόπους, see on Matthew 24:7.

Luke 21:11. καὶ κατὰ τόπους: the καὶ thus placed ([172] [173] [174]) dissociates κ. τ. from σεισμοί and connects it with λοιμοὶ καὶ λιμοὶ: not earthquakes, but pestilences and famines here, there, everywhere. λ. καὶ λ., a baleful conjunction common in speech and in fact.—φόβητρα, terrifying phenomena, here only in N.T. (in Isaiah 19:17, Sept[175]). The τε connects the φόβητρα with the signs from heaven next mentioned. They are in fact the same thing (ἕν διὰ δυοῖν, Bengel).

[172] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[173] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[174] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

[175] Septuagint.

11. earthquakes] Tac. Hist. I. 2. For such physical portents at great crises see Thuc. i. 23; Tac. Ann. xii. 43, 64, Hist. i. 56; Liv. xliii. 13, &c.

famines] Acts 11:28. The original gives the common paronomasia (play on words) limoi kai loimoi.

pestilences] Josephus (B. J. vi. 9, § 3) mentions both pestilence and famine as the immediate preludes of the storming of Jerusalem. They were due, like the plague at Athens, to the vast masses of people— Passover pilgrims—who were at the time crowded in the city.

fearful sights] See Wis 17:1-21. The word phobetra, ‘terrors,’ occurs here alone. Among these would be the “Abomination of Desolation,” or “desolating wing of Abomination,” which seems best to correspond with the foul and murderous orgies of the Zealots which drove all worshippers in horror from the Temple (Jos. B. J. iv. 3, § 7, V. 6, § 1, &c.). Such too would be the rumour of monstrous births (id. vi. 5, § 3); the cry ‘woe, woe’ for seven and a half years of the peasant Jesus, son of Hanan; the voice and sound of departing guardian-angels (Tac. Hist. 13), and the sudden opening of the vast brazen Temple-gate which required twenty men to move it (Jos. ib.).

signs., from heaven] Josephus mentions a sword-shaped comet. Both Tacitus and Josephus mention the portent that

“Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds,

In rank, and squadron, and right form of war;”

and Tacitus tells us how the blind multitude of Jews interpreted these signs in their own favour (Hist. v. 13).

Luke 21:11. Φόβητρά τε καὶ σημεῖα, both fearful sights and signs) A Hendiadys.[222] These seem to have been in the lower region of the sky. Comp. with this, Luke 21:25, where greater signs are represented as about to follow. Not all prodigies are to be despised. See Josephus again.

[222] i.e. One idea expressed by two words; meaning fearful signs.—E. and T.

Verse 11. - Great earthquakes. These seem to have been very frequent during the period; we hear of them in Palestine, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Crete, Syria. Famines and pestilences. The Jewish and pagan historians of this time - Josephus, Suetonius, Taecitus, and others - enumerate several memorable instances of these scourges in this eventful time. Fearful sights and great signs. Among the former may be especially enumerated the foul and terrible scenes connected with the proceedings of the Zealots (see Josephus,, Bell. Jud.,' 4:03. § 7; v. 6. § 1, etc.). Among the great signs "would be the rumor of monstrous births; the cry, 'Woe! woe!' for seven and a half years of the peasant Jesus, son of Hanan; the voice and sound of departing guardian-angels; and the sudden opening of the vast brazen temple gate which required twenty men to move it" (Farrar). Luke 21:11Earthquakes

See on Mark 13:7.

Famines and pestilences (λιμοὶ καὶ λοιμοὶ)

Some texts reverse the order of the words. A paronomasia or combination of like-sounding words: limoi, loimoi. Especially common in Paul's epistles.

Fearful sights (φοβητρά)

Only here in New Testament, and rare in classical Greek. In Septuagint, Isaiah 19:17. Not confined to sights, but fearful things. Rev., better, terrors. Used in medical language by Hippocrates, of fearful objects imagined by the sick.

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