Matthew 12:41
The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(41) The men of Nineveh shall rise . . .—The reasoning is parallel with that of the references to Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah in Matthew 11:21-24, but with this difference, that there the reference was to what might have been, here to what actually had been. The repentance of the heathen, and their search after wisdom, with far poorer opportunities, would put to shame the slowness and unbelief of Israel. The word “rise” is used not of the mere fact of resurrection but of standing up as witnesses. (Comp. John 16:8.)

A greater than Jonas.—No chapter contains more marvellous assertions of our Lord’s superhuman majesty. Greater than the Temple (Matthew 12:6), greater than Jonas, greater than Solomon: could this be rightly claimed by any man for himself who was not more than man?



Matthew 12:41

There never was any man in his right mind, still more of influence on his fellows, who made such claims as to himself in such unmistakable language as Jesus Christ does. To say such things of oneself as come from His lips is a sign of a weak, foolish nature. It is fatal to all influence, to all beauty of character. It is not only that He claims official attributes as a fanatical or dishonest pretender to inspiration may do. He does that, but He does more-He declares Himself possessed of virtues which, if a man said he had them, it would be the best proof that he did not possess them and did not know himself. ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’ ‘I am the light of the world’-a ‘greater than the temple,’ a greater than Jonah, a ‘greater than Solomon,’ and then withal ‘I am meek and lowly of heart.’ And the world believes Him, and says, Yes! it is true.

These three comparisons of Jesus with Temple, Jonas, and Solomon, carry great claims and great lessons. By the first Jesus asserts that He is in reality all that the Temple was in shadowy symbol, and sets Himself above ritual, sacrifices, and priests. By the second he asserts His superiority not only to one prophet but to them all. By the third He asserts His superiority to Solomon, whom the Jews reverenced as the bright, consummate flower of kinghood.

Now we may take this comparison as giving us positive thoughts about our Lord. The points of comparison may be taken to be three, with Jonah as one of an order, with Jonah in his personal character as a servant of God, with Jonah as a prophet charged with a special work.

I. The prophets and the Son.

The whole prophetic order may fairly be taken as included here. And over against all these august and venerable names, the teachers of wisdom, the speakers of the oracles of God, this Nazarene peasant stands there before Pharisees and Scribes, and asserts His superiority. It is either the most insane arrogance of self-assertion, or it is a sober truth. If it be true that self-consciousness is ever the disease of the soul, and that the religious teacher who begins to think of himself is lost, how marvellous is this assertion!

Compare it with Paul’s, ‘Unto me who am less than the least of all saints’-’I am not a whit behind the chief of the Apostles’-’though I be nothing’-’Not I, but Christ in me.’ And yet this is meekness, for it is infinite condescension in Him to compare Himself with any son of man.

{a} The contrast is suggested between the prophets and the theme of the prophets.

‘The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ Though undoubtedly the prophet order had other work than prediction to do, yet the soul of their whole work was the announcement of the Messiah.

In testimony whereof, Elijah, who was traditionally the chief of the prophets, stood beside Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, and passed away as lost in His light.

{b} The contrast is suggested between the recipients of the word of God and the Word of God.

The relation of the prophets to their message is contrasted with His who was the Truth, who not merely received, but was, the Word of God.

There is nothing in Christ’s teaching to show that He was conscious of standing in a human relation to the truths which He spoke. His own personality is ever present in His teaching instead of being suppressed-as in all the prophets. His own personality is His teaching, for His revelation is by being as much as by saying. Similarly, His miracles are done by His own power.

{c} The contrast is suggested between the partial teacher of God’s Name and the complete revealer of it.

The foundation was laid by the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone {Hebrews 1:1}.

II. The disobedient prophet and the perfect Son.

Jonah stands as the great example of human weakness in the chosen instruments of God’s hand.

Take the story-his shrinking from the message given him. We know not why; but perhaps from faint-hearted fear, or from a sense of his unworthiness and unfitness for the task. His own words about God as long-suffering seem to suggest another reason, that he feared to go with a message of judgment which seemed to him so unlikely to be executed by the long-suffering God. If so, then what made him recreant was not so much fear from personal motives as intellectual perplexity and imperfect comprehension of the ways of God. Then we hear of his pitiable flight with its absurdity and its wickedness. Then comes the prayer which shows him to have been right and true at bottom, and teaches us that what makes a good man is not the absence of faults, but the presence of love and longing after God. Then we see the boldness of his mission. Then follows the reaction from that lofty height, the petulance or whatever else it was with which he sees the city spared. Even the mildest interpretation cannot acquit him of much disregard for the poor souls whom he had brought to repentance, and of dreadful carelessness for the life and happiness of his fellows.

Now Jonah’s behaviour is but a specimen of the vacillations, the alternations of feeling which beset every man; the loftiest, the truest, the best. Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, John the Baptist, Peter, Luther, Cranmer. And it is full of instruction for us.

Then we turn to the contrast in Christ’s perfect obedience and faithfulness in His prophetic office. In Him is no trace of shrinking even when the grimness of the Cross weighed most on His heart. No confusion of mind as to the Father’s will, or as to the union in Him of perfect righteousness and infinite mercy, ever darkened His clear utterances or cast a shadow over his own soul. He was never weakened by the collapse that follows on great effort or strong emotion. He never failed in his mission through lack of pity.

But there is no need to draw out the comparison. We look on all God’s instruments, and see them all full of faults and flaws. Here is one stainless name, one life in which is no blot, one heart in which are no envy, no failings-one obedience which never varied. He says of Himself, ‘I do always those things which please Him,’ and we, thinking of all the noblest examples of virtue that the world has ever seen, and seeing in them all some speck, turn to this whole and perfect chrysolite and say, Yes! ‘a greater than they!’

III. The bearer of a transitory message of repentance to one Gentile people, and the bearer of an eternal message of grace and love to the whole earth.

Jonah is remarkable as having had the sphere of his activity wholly outside Israel.

The nature of his message; a preaching of punishment; a call to repentance.

The sphere of it-one Gentile city. The effect of it-transitory. We know what Nineveh became.

Jesus is greater than Jonah or any prophet in this respect, that His message is to the world, and in this, that what He preaches and brings far transcends even the loftiest and most spiritual words of any of them.

His voice is sweetest, tenderest, clearest and fullest of all that have ever sounded in men’s ears. And just because it is so, the hearing of it brings the most solemn responsibility that was ever laid on men, and to us still more gravely and truly may it be said than to those who heard Jesus speak on earth, ‘The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation and condemn it.’

Matthew 12:41. The men of Nineveh, &c. — “The Ninevites being judged at the same time with the men of that generation, and their behaviour being compared with theirs, should make their guilt appear in its true colour and condemn them. For though they were idolaters, they repented at the preaching of Jonah, a stranger, a poor person, one that continued among them only three days, and wrought no miracle to make them believe him. But the men of that generation, though worshippers of the true God by profession, could every day hear unmoved the much more powerful preaching of a prophet infinitely greater than Jonah, even the preaching of the eternal Son of God, who confirmed his doctrine by the most astonishing miracles.” — Macknight. Of the reasons which might induce the Ninevites to repent, see note on Jonah 3:5-6.

12:38-45 Though Christ is always ready to hear and answer holy desires and prayers, yet those who ask amiss, ask and have not. Signs were granted to those who desired them to confirm their faith, as Abraham and Gideon; but denied to those who demanded them to excuse their unbelief. The resurrection of Christ from the dead by his own power, called here the sign of the prophet Jonah, was the great proof of Christ's being the Messiah. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale, and then came out again alive, thus Christ would be so long in the grave, and then rise again. The Ninevites would shame the Jews for not repenting; the queen of Sheba, for not believing in Christ. And we have no such cares to hinder us, we come not to Christ upon such uncertainties. This parable represents the case of the Jewish church and nation. It is also applicable to all those who hear the word of God, and are in part reformed, but not truly converted. The unclean spirit leaves for a time, but when he returns, he finds Christ is not there to shut him out; the heart is swept by outward reformation, but garnished by preparation to comply with evil suggestions, and the man becomes a more decided enemy of the truth. Every heart is the residence of unclean spirits, except those which are temples of the Holy Ghost, by faith in Christ.The men of Nineveh - Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire.

It was founded by Asshur, Genesis 10:11. It was situated on the banks of the River Tigris, to the northeast of Babylon. It was a city of vast extent, and of corresponding wickedness. It was 48 miles in circuit; its walls were 100 feet high and 10 thick, and were defended by fifteen hundred towers, each 200 feet in height. It contained in the time of Jonah, it is supposed, six hundred thousand inhabitants. The destruction of Nineveh, threatened by Jonah in forty days, was suspended, by their repentance, two hundred years. It was then overthrown by the Babylonians about six hundred years before Christ. During the siege a mighty inundation of the river Tigris took place, which threw down a part of the walls, through which the enemy entered, and sacked and destroyed the city. This destruction had been foretold one hundred and fifteen years before by Nahum Nah 1:8; "But with an overwhelming flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof:" and Nahum 2:6; "The gates of the river shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved." Its ruins have been lately discovered by Layard, and have contributed much to the establishment of the truth of Scripture history. Those remains are on the east side of the river Tigris, nearly opposite to the city of Mosul.

Shall condemn it - That is, their conduct, in repenting under the preaching of Jonah, shall condemn this generation. They, ignorant and wicked pagan, repented when threatened with "temporal" judgment by a mere man - Jonah; you, Jews, professing to be enlightened, though threatened for your great wickedness with eternal punishment "by the Son of God" - a far greater being than Jonah - repent not, and must therefore meet with a far heavier condemnation.

41. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, &c.—The Ninevites, though heathens, repented at a man's preaching; while they, God's covenant-people, repented not at the preaching of the Son of God—whose supreme dignity is rather implied here than expressed. The story of the men of Nineveh we have in Jonah 3:1-10. Luke repeateth the same passage, Luke 11:32.

The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment, that is, shall at the general resurrection rise, and stand up in judgment as witnesses against the scribes and Pharisees, and the other unbelieving Jews of this age, and shall be instruments as to that condemnation which God shall that day pronounce against them. Why?

Because they repented at the preaching of Jonas and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. Jonas was a stranger to them, he wrought no miracles amongst them to confirm that he was sent of God, he only came and cried, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed; yet they repented, if not truly and sincerely, yet in appearance; they showed themselves to be affected with what Jonah said, his words made some impressions upon them, as that the king arose from his throne, laid his robe from him, covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes, called a fast, as Jonah 3:5-8. But, saith our Saviour, I am greater than Jonah: I was long since prophesied of, and foretold to this people, to come; I am come; I have preached amongst them, and not only preached, but wrought many wonderful works amongst them, yet they are not so much affected as to show the least signs of repentance.

The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment,.... Alluding either to the custom and practice of witnesses, who rise up from their seats, and stand, when they give in their testimonies in a court of judicature; or else, referring to the time of the general resurrection from the dead, at the last day, when these men shall rise from the dead, and stand in judgment

with this generation; shall rise when they do, and stand before the judgment seat together, and be against them,

and shall condemn them; not as judges of them, but by their example and practices, which will be brought above board, and observed as an aggravation of the guilt and condemnation of the Jews: so the lives and conversations of the saints condemn the wicked now, and will do hereafter: in this sense the word is used in the Talmud (o); where having related how Hillell, though a poor man, and R. Eleazar, though a rich man, studied in the law, and Joseph, though youthful, gay, and beautiful, withstood the importunities of his mistress, it is observed, that Hillell "condemned" the poor; and R. Eleazar ben Harsum condemned the rich; and Joseph condemned the wicked: in like manner, the Ninevites will condemn the Jews,

because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; a mere man, a single prophet, a stranger to these men, who only preached, and wrought no miracle among them, and his stay with them was very short; whereas the men of this generation had the Son of God "sent" to them, had the ministry of his apostles, and of John the Baptist, and a variety of miracles wrought among them; and all this for a series and course of years, and yet remained impenitent: the chief aggravation of their impenitence, and what made it the more astonishing was, that so great a person was in the midst of them;

and behold, a greater than Jonas is here; meaning himself, who was greater in person, office, doctrine, miracles, life, obedience, sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead. The Ninevites, though a Heathenish people, having but forty days allowed them to repent in, upon Jonas's preaching, repented immediately; whereas the Jews, though God's: professing people, and having forty years, from Christ's resurrection, allowed them to repent in, yet did not at all; and though the repentance of the Ninevites was but an external one, in dust and ashes, yet it was what secured them from temporal ruin; as the Jews would have been saved from the destruction that came upon their temple, city, and nation, had they repented but as they did.

(o) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 35. 2.

{9} The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

(9) Christ teaches, by the sorrowful example of the Jews, that there are none more miserable than they who put out the light of the gospel which was kindled in them.

Matthew 12:41 f. Ἀναστήσονται] Men of Nineveh will come forward, that is to say, as witnesses. Similarly קוּם, Job 16:8; Mark 14:57; Plat. Legg. xi. p. 937 A; Plut. Marcell. 27. Precisely similar is the use of ἐγερθήσεται below (comp. Matthew 11:11, Matthew 24:11). Others (Augustine, Beza, Elsner, Fritzsche) interpret: in vitam redibunt. This is flat and insipid, and inconsistent with ἐν τῇ κρίσει.

μετά] with, not: against. Both parties are supposed to be standing alongside of each other, or opposite each other, in the judgment.

κατακρ.] by their conduct, ὅτι μετενόησαν, etc. “Ex ipsorum comparatione isti merito damnabuntur,” Augustine. Comp. Romans 2:27.

ὧδε] like Matthew 12:6, refers to the person of Jesus, which is a grander phenomenon than Jonah. For πλεῖον, comp. Matthew 12:6.

βασίλισσα νότου] a queen from the South, i.e. from Sheba in Southern Arabia, 1 Kings 10:1 ff.; 2 Chronicles 9:1 ff.

Matthew 12:41. pplication of the reference in Matthew 12:39. The men of Nineveh are cited in condemnation of the Jewish contemporaries of Jesus. Cf. similar use of historic parallels in Matthew 11:20-24.—πλεῖον Ἰωνᾶ, more than Jonah, cf. Matthew 12:6; refers either to Jesus personally as compared with Jonah, or to His ministry as compared with Jonah’s. In the latter case the meaning is: there is far more in what is now going on around you to shut you up to repentance than in anything Jonah said to the men of Nineveh (so Grotius).

41. in judgment with] More exactly, stand up in the judgment, i. e. in the day of judgment, beside. When on the day of judgment the Ninevites stand side by side with the men of that generation, they will by their penitence condemn the impenitent Jews.

Matthew 12:41. Ἄνδερες Νινευῖται, men of Nineveh) whose example was followed by their wives and children. In the following verse, the example of one woman is added, who heard a wise man, though it might seem more natural for the weaker sex to seek prophecy than wisdom.—ἀναστήσονται, shall rise) In the next verse, we find ἐγερθήσεται, shall he raised up; cf. in Luke 11:32; Luke 11:31; shall rise of their own accord, shall be raised up by the Divine volition. The force of each word is contained in the other.—μετὰ, withκατακρινοῦσιν, shall condemn) Cf. Romans 2:27. Therefore, at the Last Judgment, those whose conduct is similar or opposite,[585] will be pitted in turn against each other.—ΕἸς, at) The faith of the Ninevites is hereby[586] asserted (proprie dicitur).—See Jonah 3:5. Cf. the use of εἰς, in Romans 4:20.—κήρυγμα, preaching) without miracles.[587]—Ἰωνᾶ, of Jonah) who was mentioned also in Matthew 12:39. The messengers of salvation are prophets, wise men, and scribes; see ch. Matthew 23:34. It did not become the Lord to act the Scribe; see John 7:15, and cf. Gnomon on Luke 4:16 : but He, the greatest Prophet, from the race of prophets selects him who best suited this occasion, namely Jonah; and, being wisdom itself, He, from the race of wise men, selects that distinguished wise man, Solomon; and declares that Something Greater than either of them was then present. Both of them had been believed without signs.—Πλεῖον, Something Greater) He who is rather to be heard.[588]—ὧδε, here) close at hand, cf. in the following verse.—ἐκ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς, from the uttermost parts of the earth.

[585] “Quorum par aut opposita est ratio,”—who stand on a like, or a contrasted and opposite footing, in relation to the judgment.—ED.

[586] The εἰς implies the faith whereby they turned to, and believed in, the preaching of Jonah.—ED.

[587] As in the case of Solomon, Matthew 12:42.—V. g.

[588] Who is Himself about to be the Judge.—V. g.

Verse 41. - Verbally identical with Luke 11:32. The men of Nineveh (ἄνδρες Νινευῖται). No article, because the evangelist desired to call attention to the character of the Ninevites. The men of Nineveh, heathen though they were, shall do this. Ἄνδρες (not ἄνθρωποι); hardly because of the approaching mention of a woman (cf. Luke 11:31), but because the men in the city would naturally take the lead, and not the women. So also in the LXX. of Jonah 3:5 (contrast ver. 7, of the population generally). Shall rise in judgment; shall stand up in the judgment (Revised Version); i.e. shall stand up as witnesses (Job 16:8; Mark 14:57) in the final judgment (Luke 10:14). With this generation; i.e. present before the judgment-seat with them, for what purpose is shown by the following words (cf. Winer, § 47, h). And shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas (Jonah 3:5, sqq.). Observe that this was without miracles or signs being wrought. At (εἰς). Marking the direction of their faith (Romans 4:20). And, behold, a greater than - "Gr. more than" (Revised Version margin) - Jonas is here (ver 6, note). Matthew 12:41Shall rise up (ἀναστήσονται)

Rev., stand up. Come forward as witnesses. Compare Job 16:9, Sept.; Mark 14:57. There is no reference to rising from the dead. Similarly shall rise up, Matthew 12:42. Compare Matthew 11:11; Matthew 24:11.

A greater (πλεῖον)

Lit., something more. See on Matthew 12:6.

Matthew 12:41 Interlinear
Matthew 12:41 Parallel Texts

Matthew 12:41 NIV
Matthew 12:41 NLT
Matthew 12:41 ESV
Matthew 12:41 NASB
Matthew 12:41 KJV

Matthew 12:41 Bible Apps
Matthew 12:41 Parallel
Matthew 12:41 Biblia Paralela
Matthew 12:41 Chinese Bible
Matthew 12:41 French Bible
Matthew 12:41 German Bible

Bible Hub

Matthew 12:40
Top of Page
Top of Page