Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!—It is singular enough that no miracles are recorded in the Gospels as wrought at either of these cities. The latter was indeed nigh unto the scene of the feeding of the five thousand, but that comes later on in the Gospel narrative. The former is only known to us through this passage and the parallel words of Luke 10:12-16. We may at least infer from the absence of any such record the genuineness of the words reported and the truthful aim of the Evangelists. The words were not an after-thought dove-tailed into the narrative. The narrative was not expanded or modified in order to explain the words. In St. Luke the “woes” are connected with the mission of the Seventy. They may well have been uttered, as has been said above, more than once.
The position of Chorazin is described by Jerome as being on the shore of the lake, about two miles from Capernaum.
The Bethsaida here spoken of was probably that on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The name in Aramaic signifies “House of Fish;” and it was therefore, we may believe, on the shore, and not far from the two cities with which it is here grouped.
Tyre and Sidon.—The two cities are chosen as being, next to Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15, and Matthew 11:24), the great representative instances of the evil of the heathen world, and of the utter overthrow to which that evil was destined (Ezekiel 27, 28). Over and above their immediate import the words are full of meaning as throwing light on the ultimate law of God’s dealings with the heathen world. Men are judged not only according to what they have done, but according to what they might or would have done under other circumstances and conditions of life. In other words, they are judged according to their opportunities. The whole teaching of St. Paul in Romans 2, all the wider hopes of later times as to the future of mankind, are but the development of the truth partly declared and partly suggested here.John 1:44. It was enlarged by Philip the Tetrarch, and called "Julia," after the emperor's daughter.
Tyre and Sidon - These were cities of Phoenicia, formerly very opulent, and distinguished for merchandise. They were situated on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and were in the western part of Judea. They were therefore well known to the Jews. Tyre is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament as being the place through which Solomon derived many of the materials for building the temple, 2 Chronicles 2:11-16. It was also a place against which one of the most important and pointed prophecies of Isaiah was directed. See the notes at Isaiah 23. Compare Ezekiel 26:4-14. Both these cities were very ancient. Sidon was situated within the bounds of the tribe of Asher Joshua 19:28, but this tribe could never get possession of it, Judges 1:31. It was famous for its great trade and navigation. Its inhabitants were the first remarkable merchants in the world, and were much celebrated for their luxury. In the time of our Saviour it was probably a city of much splendor and extensive commerce. It is now called Seide, or Saide, and is far less populous and splendid than it was in the time of Christ. It was subdued successively by the Babylonians, Egyptians, and Romans, the latter of whom deprived it of its freedom.
Messrs. Fisk and King, American missionaries, passed through Sidon in the summer of 1823, and estimated the population, as others have estimated it, at 8,000 or 10,000; but Mr. Goodell, another American missionary, took up his residence there in June, 1824, for the purpose of studying the Armenian language with a bishop of the Armenian Church who lives there, and of course had far better opportunities to know the statistics of the place. He tells us there are six Muslim mosques, a Jewish synagogue, a Maronite, Latin, and Greek church. Dr. Thomson ("The Land and the Book," vol. i. p. 164) supposes that the population may now be about 10,000 - about 6,800 Moslems, 850 Greek Catholics, 750 Maronites, 150 Greeks, and 300 Jews. It exports tobacco, oil, fruit, and silk, but the amount of exports is small.
Tyre was situated about 20 miles south of Sidon. It was built partly on a small island about 70 paces from the shore, and partly on the mainland. It was a city of great extent and splendor, and extensive commerce. It abounded in luxury and wickedness. It was often besieged. It held out against Shalmaneser five years, and was taken by Nebuchadnezzar after a siege of "thirteen" years. It was afterward rebuilt, and was at length taken by Alexander the Great, after a most obstinate siege of five months. There are no signs now of the ancient city. It is the residence only of a few miserable fishermen, and contains, amid the ruins of its former magnificence, only a few huts. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Ezekiel: "Thou shalt be built no more; though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again" Ezekiel 26:21. For a description of Tyre as it was formerly and as it is now, see the notes at Isaiah 23.
In sackcloth and ashes - Sackcloth was a coarse cloth, like canvas, used for the dress of the poor, and for the more common articles of domestic economy. It was worn also as a sign of mourning. The Jews also frequently threw ashes on their heads as expressive of grief, Job 1:21; Job 2:12; Jeremiah 6:26. The meaning is, that they would have repented with "expressions of deep sorrow." Like Nineveh, they would have seen their guilt and danger, and would have turned from their iniquities. "Heathen" cities would have received him better than the cities of the Jews, his native land,
woe unto thee, Bethsaida—"fishing-house," a fishing station—on the western side of the Sea of Galilee, and to the north of Capernaum; the birthplace of three of the apostles—the brothers Andrew and Peter, and Philip. These two cities appear to be singled out to denote the whole region in which they lay—a region favored with the Redeemer's presence, teaching, and works above every other.
for if the mighty works—the miracles
which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon—ancient and celebrated commercial cities, on the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, lying north of Palestine, and the latter the northernmost. As their wealth and prosperity engendered luxury and its concomitant evils—irreligion and moral degeneracy—their overthrow was repeatedly foretold in ancient prophecy, and once and again fulfilled by victorious enemies. Yet they were rebuilt, and at this time were in a flourishing condition.
they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes—remarkable language, showing that they had done less violence to conscience, and so, in God's sight, were less criminal than the region here spoken of.See Poole on "Matthew 11:22".
woe unto thee, Bethsaida! This was the city of Andrew and Peter; see Gill on John 1:44; so that as bad as it was, some persons were called out of it by the grace of God, and to the high office of apostleship; and which makes that grace in such the more distinguishing:
for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. These words are to be understood in a popular sense, as Grotius observes, and express what was probable, according to an human judgment of things; and the meaning is, that if the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon had had the advantages of Christ's ministry, and of seeing his miracles, as the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida had, it looks very likely, or one would be ready to conclude, especially from many coming out of these parts, to attend on Christ's ministry, Mark 3:8 and from the conversion of some of them in after times, Acts 21:3 they would have repented of their sins; at least, in an external way, signified by sackcloth and ashes, which were outward signs of repentance; see Isaiah 58:5. And which, if it had been only performed in such a manner by the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida, would have saved them from temporal judgments, which their sins now called for. The words are an hyperbolical exaggeration of the wickedness of those cities, like to Ezekiel 3:5 showing, that they were worse than the Tyrians and Sidonians; an Heathenish and idolatrous people, who lived very profligate and dissolute lives, in all intemperance, luxury, and impiety; and therefore would be punished in a severer way: neither this passage, nor what follows, can be any proof of God's giving sufficient grace to all men alike, which in some is effectual to conversion, and in others not, but of the contrary; since the men of Tyre and Sidon had not the same means, or the same grace, as the inhabitants of the other cities, if the mighty works done among them are to be called so; or that man has a power to repent of himself, in a spiritual and evangelical way; or that outward means, as doctrines and miracles, are sufficient to produce such a repentance, without efficacious and unfrustrable grace; since only an outward repentance is here supposed, such as that of Ahab, and of the Ninevites.Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 11:21. Χοραζίν, Βηθσαϊδάν: the former not again mentioned in Gospels, the latter seldom (vide Mark 6:45; Mark 8:22; Luke 9:10), yet scenes of important evangelic incidents, probably connected with the synagogue ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:23). The Gospels are brief records of a ministry crowded with events. These two towns may be named along with Capernaum because all three were in view where Christ stood when He uttered the reproachful words, say on the top of the hill above Capernaum: Bethsaida on the eastern shore or Jordan, just above where it falls into the lake; Chorazin on the western side on the road to Tyre from Capernaum (Furrer, Wanderungen, p. 370). They may also have been prosperous business centres selected to represent the commercial side of Jewish national life. Hence the reference to Tyre and Sidon, often the subject of prophetic animadversion, yet not so blameworthy in their impenitence as the cities which had seen Christ’s works.—ἐν σάκκῳ καὶ σποδῷ: in black sackcloth, and with ashes on the head, or sitting in ashes like Job (Matthew 2:8).21. Chorazin] is identified with Kerazeh, two and a half miles N. of Tell Hum. The ruins here are extensive and interesting; among them a synagogue built of hard black basalt and houses with walls still six feet high. Recovery of Jerusalem, p. 347.
Bethsaida] (House of Fish) called Julias in honour of Julia daughter of Augustus, was rebuilt and beautified by Herod Philip, in whose dominions the town was situated.Matthew 11:21. Οὐαὶ, woe) This interjection is not imprecatory, but enunciatory. See ch. Matthew 24:17. Its opposite is blessed. This should be observed everywhere.Verse 21. - Woe unto thee, Chorazin. The modern Kerazeh, two miles from the northwest bank of the sea of Galilee. Among its ruins are the remains of a synagogue. The corn of both it and Kephar Ahim (probably Capernaum)was so excellent as to make R. Jose say that, had they been nearer Jerusalem, it would have been used for the temple offerings (Talm. Bab.,' Menachoth,' 85a; see Neubauer, 'Geogr.,' p. 220. There appears, however, to be a slight doubt about the reading of both names, see Rab-binoviez, 'Var. Lect.,' in loc.). Woe unto thee, Bethsaida. Schurer (I. 2:14; compare, however, II. 1:136) thinks that this is probably not identical with the large town Bethsaida Julias on the east bank of the Jordan as it enters the sea of Galilee. It is, perhaps, Khan Minyeh (Nosgen), and if so was a little south-west of Capernaum. For if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon. The transposition of parts of these clauses in the Revised Version approaches more closely the order of the Greek, and better Dreserves the double emphasis there given. Tyro and Sidon (Ezekiel 28.). They would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Jonah 3:6; Daniel 9:3; Esther 4:1; comp. also Job 2:8; 2 Samuel 3:31; and Ezekiel's description of the effect of Tyre's punishment upon her princes, 26:16).
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