Luke 4:25
But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Luke 4:25-27. Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, &c. — “By putting them thus in mind of Elijah’s miracle in behalf of the widow of Sarepta, a heathen inhabitant of a heathen city, in a time of famine, while many widows of Israel were suffered to starve; and of Elisha’s miracle on Naaman the Syrian leper, while many lepers in Israel remained uncleansed, he showed them both the sin and punishment of their ancestors, and left it to themselves to make the application.” When the heaven was shut up, &c. — Such a proof had they that God had sent him. Three years and six months — In 1 Kings 18:1, it is said, The word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year: namely, reckoning, not from the beginning of the drought, but from the time when he began to sojourn with the widow of Sarepta. A year of drought had preceded this, while he dwelt at the brook Cherith. So that the whole time of the drought was (as St. James likewise observes) three years and six months.4:14-30 Christ taught in their synagogues, their places of public worship, where they met to read, expound, and apply the word, to pray and praise. All the gifts and graces of the Spirit were upon him and on him, without measure. By Christ, sinners may be loosed from the bonds of guilt, and by his Spirit and grace from the bondage of corruption. He came by the word of his gospel, to bring light to those that sat in the dark, and by the power of his grace, to give sight to those that were blind. And he preached the acceptable year of the Lord. Let sinners attend to the Saviour's invitation when liberty is thus proclaimed. Christ's name was Wonderful; in nothing was he more so than in the word of his grace, and the power that went along with it. We may well wonder that he should speak such words of grace to such graceless wretches as mankind. Some prejudice often furnishes an objection against the humbling doctrine of the cross; and while it is the word of God that stirs up men's enmity, they will blame the conduct or manner of the speaker. The doctrine of God's sovereignty, his right to do his will, provokes proud men. They will not seek his favour in his own way; and are angry when others have the favours they neglect. Still is Jesus rejected by multitudes who hear the same message from his words. While they crucify him afresh by their sins, may we honour him as the Son of God, the Saviour of men, and seek to show we do so by our obedience.Of a truth - Truly, and therefore worthy of your credit. He calls attention to two cases where "acknowledged" prophets had so little honor in their own nation that they bestowed their favors on foreigners. So, says he, such is the want of faith in my own country, that I shall work no miracles here, but shall give the evidence of my divine mission to others.

In Israel - In the land of Israel, or Judea. It was therefore the more remarkable, since there were so many in his own country whom he might have helped, that the prophet should have gone to a pagan city and aided a poor widow there.

The days of Elias - The days of Elijah. See the account of this in 1 Kings 17:8-24.

Three years and six months - From 1 Kings 18:1, 1 Kings 18:45, it would seem that the rain fell on the "third year" - that is, at the "end" of the third year after the rain had ceased to fall at the usual time. There were two seasons of the year when rains fell in Judea - in October and April, called the "early" and "latter" rain; consequently there was an interval between them of six months. To the three years, therefore, when rain was withheld "at the usual times," are to be added the previous six months, when no rain fell as a matter of course, and consequently three years "and six months" elapsed without rain.

A great famine - A great want of food, from long continued and distressing drought.

25-27. But I tell you, &c.—falling back for support on the well-known examples of Elijah and Elisha (Eliseus), whose miraculous power, passing by those who were near, expended itself on those at a distance, yea on heathens, "the two great prophets who stand at the commencement of prophetic antiquity, and whose miracles strikingly prefigured those of our Lord. As He intended like them to feed the poor and cleanse the lepers, He points to these miracles of mercy, and not to the fire from heaven and the bears that tore the mockers" [Stier].

three years and six months—So Jas 5:17, including perhaps the six months after the last fall of rain, when there would be little or none at any rate; whereas in 1Ki 18:1, which says the rain returned "in the third year," that period is probably not reckoned.

Ver. 25-27. The two stories to which our Saviour refers are those 1 Kings 17:9 2 Kings 5:14. But the question is what our Saviour intended to teach them by these stories, which made them so exceeding angry, as we shall find by and by. I answer, several things, none of which pleased them.

1. The freeness of God’s distinguishing grace. That God was not bound to give to all the same aid, and means of grace, that he gave some. This is a doctrine the world was never patient to hear. That God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. We would fain make God a debtor to us. Those of Nazareth think they had as good, if not a better, right to Christ’s miracles than those of Capernaum. I tell you, saith Christ, God is a Sovereign in his acts of grace, and acts freely, and I can do no miracles but where he will have them done.

2. That it is through the fault of men, it they receive not the benefits of Divine grace. If the Israelites would have entertained Elijah, he might have been sent to them, as well as to Sarepta. If the lepers in Israel would have sought out and come to Elisha they might have been healed. If you would have received me, and believed in me, you might have seen what those of Capernaum did; it is because of your contempt and unbelief that I can show you no miracles. If any say, If God had put it into the hearts of the widows in Israel, or the lepers there, they would also have entertained Elijah, and have sought out and came to Elisha: why did not God put it into their hearts? To this the answer is ready: Who art thou that disputest with God? Why doth the clay reply upon the potter? Even so, O Father, for so it pleaseth thee. However, the failures of the lepers in Israel, and the widows there, and of those in Nazareth, was in a great measure in their duty, as to things within their power to do by virtue of that common grace which God denieth to none: he might justly deny his special influences, while they neglected to make use of his more common influences.

3. That in every nation he that feared God, and wrought righteousness, was ever accepted of him. God had no respect to this country, or that country; he sent Elijah to do good to a Sidonian, and Elisha to do good to a Syrian, while he neglected the ungrateful and disobedient Israelites. Thus he also not obscurely hints, that for their unbelief, and rejection of, and disobedience to him, God would send his gospel to the Gentiles, and reject them, which came to pass within a few years after. None of all these were grateful sounds in the ears of the men of Nazareth. You ask me (saith our Saviour) why I do not such things here at Nazareth as I did at Capernaum. I was not sent to you. No; but were not they some of the lost sheep of Israel? Ah! but Christ was no more sent to all Israel, than Elias was sent to all the widows in Israel. He was sent to preach to them all, but for any special, signal favours, he was sent but to some, and those some were such as did not proudly reject and contemn him, but receive him. But I tell you of a truth,.... Or in truth: it answers to a phrase often used by the Jewish writers (o); and, which, they say (p), wherever, and of whatsoever it is spoken, it signifies a tradition of Moses from Mount Sinai, and so that which is most true, sure, and firm, and to be depended on; and such is what our Lord hereafter delivers; yea, the word, "truth", or "of a truth", and which is the same as "in truth", is used by the Jews (q), as , "the form of an oath": so that these words of Christ are a strong asseveration, and amount to a solemn oath with respect to what follows:

many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias; or Elijah, the prophet; that is, there were many that were not only widows, but poor widows, and in very famishing circumstances in the land of Israel, when Elijah was the prophet of the Lord to that people:

and when the heaven was shut up three years and six months; so that no rain descended all that time: the same is observed by James 5:17 and though the space of time, in which there was no rain, is not so clear from the history of it in the book of Kings; yet, as this is fixed by Christ, and his apostle, and there is nothing in the history that contradicts it, it is to be received without scruple:

when great famine was throughout all the land of Israel; and which so long a drought must needs bring.

(o) Misn. Sabbat, c. 1. sect. 3. Trumot, c. 2. sect. 1.((p) T. Hieros. Sabbat, fol. 3. 2. & 12. 1. Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Trumot, c. 3. sect. 1.((q) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 55. 1. & Gloss. in ib.

But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the {h} land;

(h) Land of Israel; see Geneva (C) Mr 15:33.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 4:25-26. In order, however, to quote to you historical examples, in which the miraculous power of the prophets was put forth, not for countrymen, but for strangers, nay, for Gentiles, I assure you, etc. Jesus knew that here this sternness and open decisiveness on His part were not at all out of place, and that He need not hope to win His hearers; this is only confirmed by the later similar incident in Matthew 13:54 ff.

ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία κ. μῆνας ἕξ] so also Jam 5:17. But according to 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:1, the rain returned in the third year. Jesus, as also James (see Huther in loc.), follows, according to Luke, the Jewish tradition (Jalkut Schimoni on 1 Kings 16 in Surenhusius, καταλλ. p. 681), in which in general the number 3½ (= ½ of 7) in the measurement of time (especially a time of misfortune, according to Daniel 12:7) had become time-honoured (Lightfoot, p. 756, 950; Otto, Spicileg. p. 142). It was arbitrary and unsatisfactory to reckon (before 1 Kings 17:1), in addition to the three years, the naturally rainless six months preceding the rainy season (Benson on Jam 5:17; Wetstein, Wiesinger, and others; comp. also Lange, II. p. 547 f.), or to date the third year (Beza, Olshausen, Schegg) from the flight of Elias to Sarepta (1 Kings 17:9).

πᾶσαν τ. γῆν] not the whole region (Beza), but the whole earth; popularly hyperbolical.

On Sarepta, situated between Tyre and Sidon, and belonging to the territory of the latter, now the village of Surafend, see Robinson, Palestine, III. p. 690 ff.

Σιδῶνος] the name of the town of Sidon, as that in whose territory Sarepta lay.

μέγας] in Luke 15:14 λιμός is feminine, as it passed over from the Doric into the κοινή (Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 188). But in this place the reading μεγάλη, approved by Valckenaer, is so weakly attested that it cannot be thought of.

εἰ μή] not sed (Beza, Kuinoel), but nisi; see on Matthew 12:4Luke 4:25. This verse begins, like Luke 4:24, with a solemn asseveration. It contains the proper answer to Luke 4:23. It has been suggested (J. Weiss) that Luke 4:22; Luke 4:24 have been interpolated from Mark 6:1-6 in the source Lk. here used.—ἔτη τρία κ. μ. ἕξ, three years and six months. The reference is to 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:1, where three years are mentioned. The recurrence of the same number, three and a half years, in Jam 5:17 seems to point to a traditional estimate of the period of drought, three and a half, the half of seven, the number symbolic of misfortune (Daniel 12:7).25. many widows were in Israel] So far from trying to flatter them, He tells them that His work is not to be for their special benefit or glorification, but that He had now passed far beyond the limitations of earthly relationships.

three years and six months] Such was the Jewish tradition, as we see also in James 5:17 (comp. Daniel 12:7; Revelation 11:2-3; Revelation 13:5). The book of Kings only mentions three years (1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 17:8-9; 1 Kings 18:1-2), but in the “many days” it seems to imply more.Luke 4:25. Λέγω ὑμῖν, I tell you) The Lord declares this testimony by the light of His omniscience: for Elijah and Elisha might have rendered aid to more widows and lepers, even though Holy Scripture did not record it [were it not that Jesus, by His omniscience, informs us here, that they did not do so].—ἐκλείσθη, was shut up) As in Bible history, so in all other histories the notice taken of public punishments inflicted by God, famine, etc., forms a considerable part.—ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία καὶ μῆνας ἕξ, for three years and six months) 1 Kings 17:1, etc., Luke 18:1.Verses 25-27. - But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. In support of these assertions, Jesus proceeds to quote two well known incidents in the story of Israel. They must remember God's mercies in past times were not confined to Israel. There were many starving widows among the chosen people, not a few childless, desolate hearths; but their own great Elijah was sent to none of these, but to a despised Phoenician woman in Sarepta, hard by Sidon. Elisha, that loved man of God, who passed by the homes of the people continually, performed his famous miracle of healing on no child of Israel, though many a leper mourned his sad lot among the chosen people; but the one on whom Elisha worked his mighty miracle of mercy was the Syrian leper Naaman, the great foe of Israel. A great famine was throughout all the land (ἐγένετο λιμὸς μέγας ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν)

More literally and correctly, as Rev., there came (or arose) a great famine over all the land.

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