And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)By whom do your children cast them out?—The “children” of the Pharisees are their disciples, and in this case, such as practised exorcism, like the sons of Sceva in Acts 19:13. The belief in demoniacal possession had as its natural accompaniment the claim on the part of those who could control the disordered reason of the possessed person of power to cast out the demon. We need not assume that such power was always a pretence, or rested only on spells and incantations. Earnestness, prayer, fasting, faith—these are always mighty in intensifying the power of will, before which the frenzied soul bows in submission or yields in confidence, and these may well have been found among the better and truer Pharisees. Our Lord’s question, indeed, requires for its logical validity the admission that the “children” of the accusers did really cast out demons, and that not by Beelzebub.Matthew 12:27-28. And if I by Beelzebub, &c. — This is the second argument made use of by Jesus for confuting the calumny of the Pharisees; by whom do your children cast them out? — As if he had said, “For the same reason that you attribute my miracles to the devil, you may attribute all the miracles that ever were wrought in the world to the devil, and particularly the miracles of your own prophets which, nevertheless, you acknowledge to be divine.” To this purpose Dr. Chandler paraphrases the verse, “Ye do not impute the miracles of your prophets to Beelzebub, but on the evidence of these miracles ye receive them as the messengers of God. Nevertheless, ye reject me, who work greater and more numerous miracles than they, and impute them to the power of evil spirits. Is this conduct of a piece? Wherefore these prophets shall be your judges; they shall condemn you.” It seems, however, more probable that, by your children, is meant your disciples, or your countrymen in general, for “that many of the Jews did, at this time, attempt to cast out devils, is plain from Mark 9:38; Luke 9:49; Acts 19:13; Josephus, Antiq., Matthew 8:2. Calvin thinks that God conferred power of this kind on some particular persons among the Jews anciently, that by thus proving his presence among them he might retain the nation in the faith of his covenant; and that the people, having experienced God’s power in those instances, came foolishly to institute for themselves the office of an exorcist. Agreeably to this it may be observed, that our Lord’s argument does not require that the demons were actually expelled by these exorcists. It is sufficient that the Jews thought they were expelled, and did not find fault with those pretended miracles, as they did with Christ’s real ones.” Therefore they shall be your judges — Ask them, if Satan will cast out Satan; let even them be judges in this matter. And they shall convict you of obstinacy and partiality, who impute that in me to Beelzebub, which in them you impute to God. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God — As it is evident, and you cannot reasonably deny that I do; then the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you — The time is certainly come which God has appointed for taking the power out of the hands of the devil, in order that he may himself rule, both in the bodies and souls of men. The word εφθασεν, rendered is come, implies, is come unawares; before you expected it. In other words, the Messiah’s kingdom is come, and you ought with joy to enter it.
See the notes at Matthew 1:1. Christ was not satisfied by showing them the intrinsic absurdity of their argument. He showed them that it might as well be applied to them as to him. your disciples, taught by you and encouraged by you, pretend to cast out devils. If your argument be true that a man who casts out devils must be in league with the devil, then "your disciples" have made a covenant with him also. You must therefore either give up this argument, or admit that the working of miracles is proof of the assistance of God.children. Some think that he meaneth his own apostles, who were all of them Jews, and to whom they might be more favourable than to him, because of their relation to them. Others think that he means some exorcists amongst the Jews; such they had, Acts 19:13. But concerning these there is a double opinion. Some think that they were such as themselves, acted by compact of the devil. Others think that they invocating the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God might honour them so far, as upon that invocation to command the devil out of persons. Origen and Justin Martyr both tell us, that there were some that used that form with such success. But so they might do, and yet not obtain their effect from a Divine influence, nor so much cast as flatter out devils, upon a homage first paid to the devil. I find some difficulty to persuade myself that in those times, especially when God by this miraculous effect was demonstrating the Messias, God should so far concur with any but him, and those that did it by his express name and authority; and I observe, that when the seven sons of Sceva attempted such a thing, Acts 19:13, they called over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus, whom Paul preacheth, ( which they, being the sons of the chief of the priests, would not have done if the more grateful form of, The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would have done it), yet could they not prevail, as you read there, Acts 19:14-16. Our Saviour’s meaning therefore must certainly be either,
1. You do not say so of your children, my apostles, who do, and profess to do, what they do by a power derived from me; why do you say this of me, not of them? Or,
2. There are some of you who seem to cast out devils, whereas the devil only plays with them, and yields to their magical arts for his own advantage, and abates some more external effects on people’s bodies, upon the surrender of their souls to him, by believing he is able to cure them, and imploring his help; yet you think these men endowed with the power of God: why are you so unequal to me?
I observe, though we read of exorcists amongst the Jews, Acts 19:13, yet they are called periercomenoi, vagrants. They were an idle, vagabond sort of persons, (such probably as we call gypsies), with whom, or by whom; it is not probable God would work such effects, especially at such a time, though they used the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Nay, it is plain from the story of the Acts, that though they used the name Jesus, God would not work by them; Matthew 12:16, the demoniac leaped on them, overcame them, prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
by whom do your children cast them out? meaning not the apostles and disciples of Christ, the children of the Jews, to whom Christ gave power of casting out devils, and who had exercised it in his name; and therefore argues, if they in his name cast out devils, why could he not do it himself, without the help of Satan? wherefore these would be judges against them: but, no doubt, the Pharisees had no better opinion of the disciples, and of their ejection of devils, than of Christ; wherefore, it is not likely, that our Lord should argue with them from hence: but rather, he means, some among themselves, who pretended to have a power of exorcising and ejecting of devils, either in the name of Jesus, as some of them did, Mark 9:38 or in the name of their kings, righteous men, prophets and patriarchs, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (w); and which practice, perhaps, they took up and made pretensions to, in imitation of Christ and his apostles; so as Christ healed men possessed of devils, they also affected to do the same. A story is reported (x),
"concerning Ben Talmion, that a miracle was wrought by R. Eleazar bar Jose, who healed a king's daughter at Rome, in whose body the devil entered, whose name was Ben Talmion; and they brought him (the Jew) to the king's treasury, to take what he would, but he would take nothing from thence, but letters, in which were written the decrees they had decreed against Israel; and when he found them, he tore them to pieces, and there he saw the vessels of the house of the sanctuary, in the treasury.''
Now since the Jews pretended to do these things, Christ asks them, by whom they cast out devils? Whether by the Spirit of God, or by Beelzebub? They would doubtless say by the former, and not the latter, which would show their great partiality; for admitting that the like actions were done by them, as by him, why not by the same power? Why should their ejection of devils be ascribed to God, and his to Beelzebub?
Therefore they shall be your judges; who will rise up against you, and condemn you one day, for this unequal judgment you now pass; and which was just the reverse of the true state of the case: for he cast out devils by the Spirit of God, which they imputed to the assistance of Beelzebub; their children cast out devils, or pretended to do so, and it was by the help of Satan; and yet they ascribed it to a divine power, even though they made use of the name of Satan, under that of Beelzebub, or Asmodeus, their exorcising, of which take the following form (y).
"By the authority of the glorious and fearful name, I adjure thee Asmodeus, "king of the devils", and all thy company, &c. that ye hurt not, nor put in fear, nor trouble such an one, the son of such an one, but that ye help him, and sustain him (or deliver him) out of every distress and anguish, and from every evil thing, and from all diseases, that enter into the two hundred and forty eight members, &c.''And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 12:27. A second way of rebutting the charge.
Notice the emphatic antithesis: ἐγώ and οἱ υἱοὶ ὑμῶν. The latter (people of your own school; see, in general, note on Matthew 8:12) are exorcists who have even pretended actually to cast out demons (Acts 19:13; Josephus, Antt. viii. 2. 5, Bell. vii. 6. 3; Justin, c. Tryph. p. 311), who have emanated from the schools of the Pharisees, not the disciples of Jesus, as the majority of the Fathers have supposed. “Quod discipuli vestri daemonia ejiciunt, vos Beelzebuli non attribuitis; illi ergo possunt hac in re judices vestri esse, vos ex virulentia haec de actionibus meis pronuntiare,” Lightfoot. Jesus reasons ex concessis.
αὐτοὶ (ipsi) ὑμῶν are placed together for sake of emphasis.27. by whom do your children cast them out?] The children are the disciples of the Pharisees, who either really possessed the power of casting out evil spirits, or pretended to have that power. In either case the argument of Jesus was unanswerable.Matthew 12:27. Οἱ υἱοὶ ὑμῶν, your sons) whom you cannot but accuse, says Jesus, if you calumniate Me. See also Mark 9:38, and cf. Acts 19:13.—ὑμῶν, your) whom you do not harass in this manner, since they are of your own race and discipline.—ἐκβάλλουσι, cast out) See ch. Matthew 8:22, and Mark 9:38.—ΑὐΤΟῚ, they) emphatically.
 In My name.—V. g.Verses 27, 28. - Parallel passage: Luke 11:19, 20, almost verbally identical. Verse 27. - And (καί). Another stage in his argument. There is a further reason why they should hesitate before making such an accusation; their own disciples claimed to be able to cast out devils. If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children; sons (Revised Version); i.e. your pupils, who will carry on your work (cf. "sons of the prophets"). Cast them out? (cf. Matthew 4:24, note). For examples of such cases by others than professed followers of Christ, see Luke 9:49; Acts 19:13. Josephus also mentions some, but they are mere impostures; he says ('Ant.,' 08:02.5), "Solomon left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return, and this method of cure is of great force unto this day; for I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian, and his sons, and his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the sure was this: he put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed" (cf. also Dr. Cheatham's article on "Exorcism," in 'Dict. of Christian Antiq.'). Therefore they. Emphatic (αὐτοί), and hence, presumably, the transposition in the Revised Version, shall they. Shall be your judges. Our Lord asks the preceding question, neither denying nor affirming for himself the fact that their disciples cast out devils, but only by way of argument. He implies, "You will answer that they do so by God's help. If so, then your sons shall be your judges, convicting you of insincerity. You acknowledge that they work miracles by God's help, and you do not acknowledge that I do. But you cannot stop short there. You must acknowledge that I also cast out devils by God's help."
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