Matthew 11:22
But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
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11:16-24 Christ reflects on the scribes and Pharisees, who had a proud conceit of themselves. He likens their behaviour to children's play, who being out of temper without reason, quarrel with all the attempts of their fellows to please them, or to get them to join in the plays for which they used to assemble. The cavils of worldly men are often very trifling and show great malice. Something they have to urge against every one, however excellent and holy. Christ, who was undefiled, and separate from sinners, is here represented as in league with them, and polluted by them. The most unspotted innocence will not always be a defence against reproach. Christ knew that the hearts of the Jews were more bitter and hardened against his miracles and doctrines, than those of Tyre and Sidon would have been; therefore their condemnation would be the greater. The Lord exercises his almighty power, yet he punishes none more than they deserve, and never withholds the knowledge of the truth from those who long after it.Chorazin and Bethsaida - These were towns not far from Capernaum, but the precise situation is unknown. See "The Land and the Book" (Thomson), vol. ii. pp. 8, 9. Bethsaida means literally a "house of hunting" or "a house of game," and it was probably situated on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, and supported itself by hunting or fishing. It was the residence of Philip, Andrew, and Peter, 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,

22. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you—more endurable.Ver. 21,22. Luke hath the same, Luke 10:13,14. Chorazin (and) Bethsaida were two cities of Galilee not far from one another, only the lake of Gennesaret was between them. Capernaum (by and by spoken of) was between them both, on the same side of the lake as Bethsaida, which was the city of Philip, Andrew, and Peter, John 1:44. In these towns Christ had often preached, so probably had the apostles, and Christ had done many great works in them.

Tyre and Sidon were habitations of heathens, their country joined to Galilee. They were places of great traffic, inhabited with Canaanitish idolaters, and exceedingly wicked; threatened by the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 23:1-18, and by the prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 26:1-28:26, and by Amos, Amos 1:9,10; a people odious to the Jews upon many accounts. To these our Lord here compares the Galileans, telling them that they were worse than that pagan people, who were so contemptible in their eyes, and that their plagues in the day of judgment would be greater.

For (saith he)

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. Some think this a strong proof, that where the gospel is preached God gives a sufficiency of grace; so as if men will but use that power which they have in their own wills, they may, with the assistance only of that grace, truly repent and be saved. I shall not meddle with that dispute, but cannot see how that notion can derive any proof from this text;

1. Because the text only mentions Christ’s miracles, not his preaching.

2. The text doth not say, they would long ago have repented unto life, but they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes, they would have been more affected than these Galileans were, who showed no sense at all of their sins. The king of Nineveh and his people repented, Jonah 3:7,8; so did Ahab, 1 Kings 21:27; yet none will say they repented unto life. None ever denied a power in man’s will (his understanding being by the gospel enlightened to his duty) to perform acts of moral discipline.

3. Our Saviour might here speak after the manner of men, according to rational conjectures and probabilities. The scope of our Saviour in these words is to be attended, which was only to show, that the men of Chorazin and Bethsaida, showing no signs of remorse for sin, or conviction of the Messias upon the sight of his miracles, confirming his doctrine to be from heaven, had showed a greater stubbornness and hardness of heart than these heathens, who, though they were bad enough, yet had not had such means to reform and to convince them. Therefore he tells them their place in hell would be more dreadful than the place of the men of Tyre and Sidon. And so we are by this text taught, that as the sins of men who have the light of the gospel are much greater than the sins of the worst of men who have it not, so their condemnation in the day of judgment will be much heavier, John 3:19. But I say unto you,.... What may be depended upon as true, and which shall certainly come to pass, however the inhabitants of these cities might flatter themselves; or in whatsoever light they might look upon their neighbours, the Tyrians and Sidonians; and fancy themselves to be the favourites of heaven, and these as the most execrable of creatures;

it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day off judgment, than for you. Their punishment in another world will be more mild and moderate; they will not have such severe stings of conscience, nor have reason to make such bitter reflections on themselves, as those will who have had the advantages of a Gospel revelation: all sins are not alike, nor will the punishment of them be the same; there will be degrees of torments in hell, and which the justice of God requires. These words suppose, that the men of Tyre and Sidon will be punished for their many abominable sins, committed against the law and light of nature; but that the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida, having rejected the Messiah, and the doctrines of the Gospel, against all the evidence of miracles, and convictions of their own minds, and probably sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost; as their sins are aggravated, their condemnation will be the greater, and their punishment the more intolerable.

But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
Matthew 11:22. πλὴν: contracted from πλέον = moreover, for the rest, to put the matter shortly; not adversative here, though sometimes so used.Matthew 11:22. Ἀνεκτότερον, more tolerable) Because they were less impenitent, and would have repented, and have already been punished.—κρίσεως, judgment) The Judge will be the very same in whom they were then offended.Verse 22. - But; πλήν: howbeit (Revised Version). Setting this aside (comp. Bishop Lightfoot, on Philippians 3:16); whatever might have been does not matter; this shall be. I say unto yon, It shall be more tolerable for Tyro and Sidon at the day of judgment (Matthew 10:15, note) than for you. "Pessimis pejores event et insanabiliores" (Wetstein). But (πλὴν)

Better Rev., howbeit, or as Wyc., nevertheless. Chorazin and Bethsaida did not repent; therefore a woe lies against them; nevertheless they shall be more excusable than you who have seen the mighty works which were not done among them.

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