Matthew 17:4
Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Lord, it is good for us to be here.—For “Lord” St. Luke has “Master;” St. Mark (giving. probably, as elsewhere, the very word uttered) “Rabbi.” It is not easy to trace the thoughts that passed rapidly through the soul of the disciple in that moment of amazement. Afterwards—if we may judge from St. Mark’s account (Mark 9:6), “he knew not what to answer, for they were sore afraid,” or St. Luke’s (Luke 9:33) “not knowing what he said”—he could hardly explain them himself. We may venture to see in the very naïveté of the words a touch of originality and unexpectedness which, as far as it goes, attests the truthfulness of the narrative. What the words seem to imply is:—(1) An abounding joy at being thus brought into a glory which fulfilled the Apostle’s brightest hopes. It was, indeed, good to be thus carried, as it were, into Paradise, or the third heaven, and to hear there words which human lips might not reproduce. (2) His thoughts travelled back to the records of the Exodus, when the Lord talked with Moses in the tabernacle (Exodus 33:7-10). What if like tabernacles could now be made for those three glorious forms, that all Israel might come and gaze, and hear and worship? Would not this be a better consummation than the shame and death at Jerusalem? Would it not meet the belief of the scribes and of the people that “Elias must first come”?

17:1-13 Now the disciples beheld somewhat of Christ's glory, as of the only begotten of the Father. It was intended to support their faith, when they would have to witness his crucifixion; and would give them an idea of the glory prepared for them, when changed by his power and made like him. The apostles were overcome by the glorious sight. Peter thought that it was most desirable to continue there, and to go no more down to meet the sufferings of which he was so unwilling to hear. In this he knew not what he said. We are wrong, if we look for a heaven here upon earth. Whatever tabernacles we propose to make for ourselves in this world, we must always remember to ask Christ's leave. That sacrifice was not yet offered, without which the souls of sinful men could not have been saved; and important services were to be done by Peter and his brethren. While Peter spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, an emblem of the Divine presence and glory. Ever since man sinned, and heard God's voice in the garden, unusual appearances of God have been terrible to man. They fell prostrate to the earth, till Jesus encouraged them; when looking round, they beheld only their Lord as they commonly saw him. We must pass through varied experiences in our way to glory; and when we return to the world after an ordinance, it must be our care to take Christ with us, and then it may be our comfort that he is with us.Let us make here three tabernacles - A tabernacle is a tent. It was made, commonly, by fixing posts into the ground, and stretching on them cloth fastened by cords. See the notes at Isaiah 33:20. In some instances they were made of branches of trees a temporary shelter from the sun and rain, not a permanent dwelling. Peter was rejoiced at the vision and desirous of continuing it. He proposed, therefore, that they should prolong this interview and dwell there. Mark adds, "For he wist not (that is, knew not) what to say, for they were sore afraid." They were frightened, amazed, and rejoiced; and, in the ecstasy of the moment, Peter proposed to remain there. CHAPTER 17

Mt 17:1-13. Jesus Is Transfigured—Conversation about Elias. ( = Mr 9:2-13; Lu 9:28-36).

For the exposition, see on [1321]Lu 9:28-36.

Ver. 3,4. Mark adds, Mark 9:6, For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. Luke addeth, Luke 9:31-33, who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here, &c.: not knowing what he said. So as the history seemeth to be thus: After six or eight days Christ took Peter, James, and John, and went up into a mountain, and prayed. While he prayeth his disciples fall asleep. Waking, they saw him with his face shining gloriously, like the sun, and his garments white as snow, and two men talking with him about his death and passion, whom they (by revelation) knew to be Moses and Elias. They were sore afraid, and Peter, not well knowing or considering what he said, saith to Christ,

Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. It is most likely that Moses and Elias appeared in their own bodies. As to Elias, there was no difficulty, for his body was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. For Moses, it is said the Lord buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day, Deu 34:6. The devil and the archangel had a dispute about his body, Judges 1:9. It is very probable God raised up the body of Moses for this transfiguration testimony, that by the law and the prophets, represented in Moses, the giver of the law, and Elias, one of the most famous of the prophets, the disciples might be confirmed in their faith concerning Christ as the true Messias, and also fortified against the scandal and temptation of that ignominious death which he was soon after to undergo; and that these three apostles, being the highest number of witnesses, by the law of Moses, to confirm a thing, might be judged competent witnesses of what they saw and heard. Do not think Peter’s saying, let us make here three tabernacles, &c., proceeded from any pleasure or satisfaction that he had from this glimpse he had of the Divine and excellent glory; for how could this consist with that fear with which Mark saith they were possessed? but that, as Mark saith, he wist not what to say, or, as Luke, not knowing what he said. Which I take to be, as a reasonable, so the best excuse can be made for the errors and weakness discovered in his speech, as if Moses and Elias, or Christ, could have dwelt there, &c.

Then answered Peter and said unto Jesus,.... Which was, as Luke informs us, after he, and James, and John, awoke out of sleep; for it being night when Christ was transfigured, and they weary, were overpressed, and fell asleep on the mount, as they afterwards did in the garden with him: but when they were awaked, either by the talk of the men with Christ, or by the rays of brightness and glory, which darted from them, and especially from Christ, to their great surprise; they saw the glory that was upon him, and observed the two men that were with him, who appeared also in glorious forms; whom either by revelation, or the sequel of their discourse, they knew to be Moses and Elias: and just as these were taking their leave of Christ, Peter, charmed with such objects, and with such delightful company, and pleasant conversation, he had the happiness of hearing part of, addresses himself to Christ and says,

Lord, it is good for us to be here; in this mountain, with thyself and such company; better than to be below among the throng and multitude, where nothing but misery and distress are to be seen, and noise and tumult heard; or it is better to be here, than to go to Jerusalem, and there suffer and die; the horror of which, is thought by some, still to abide on Peter's mind.

If thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles: tents, or booths, such as were made, at the feast of tabernacles, of boughs and branches of trees, to keep off heat, cold, and rains:

one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias; Luke adds, "not knowing what he said"; and Mark, "for he wist not what to say": the one representing him, as with the rapture and surprise, not himself; and the other, under the awe and dread of such majesty, as at the utmost loss what to say, agreeably to such a situation of things: not but that he knew what words he did deliver, and with what view; but he spake as a mistaken man, being ignorant of the design of this appearance; which was, not that this glory should continue, only that he should be an emblem and pledge of what was future; and besides, he was wrong in putting these two men upon an equal foot with Christ, each of them being to have a separate tabernacle as he; and he appeared to be quite out of the way, in proposing earthly tabernacles for glorified persons to dwell in, who had an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens: moreover, as to the mystical sense, Moses and Elias, the law and the prophets, were not to be considered as in distinct apartments, and separate from Christ, but as agreeing with him, and fulfilled and swallowed up in him; who only, according to the voice that followed, was to be heard and attended to, and not they, as distinct from him.

Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 17:4. Ἀποκριθ.] see note on Matthew 11:25. Taking occasion from what he now saw before him, he proceeded to say.

καλόν ἐστιν κ.τ.λ.] is usually interpreted thus: “Amoenus est, in quo commoremur, locus” (Fritzsche, Keim); or, what is much to the same effect, it is referred—particularly by Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus—to the security of the place, protected as it was by the two celestial visitants, in contrast to Jerusalem, where Jesus was destined to suffer. But, inasmuch as the terms used by Peter are ἡμᾶς (not ἡμῖν) and the simple εἶναι (not μένειν); further, inasmuch as what he says is occasioned by the presence of Moses and Elias, and has reference to them, as is likewise proved by the following εἰ θέλεις κ.τ.λ., which implies that he wishes to do something towards enabling Jesus to have a longer interview with them,—it is preferable, with Paulus, Baumgarten-Crusius, Klostermann, Weiss, Volkmar, to interpret as follows: It is highly opportune that we (disciples) happen to be here (in which case, therefore, the ἡμᾶς is emphatic); accordingly, I would like to erect (ποιήσω, see critical remarks) tabernacles (out of the brushwood growing around) for you here, with a view to a more prolonged stay. The transition to the singular is in keeping with Peter’s temperament; he would like to make the tabernacles.

Matthew 17:4. ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Π. Peter to the front again, but not greatly to his credit.—καλόν ἐστιν, etc., either it is good for us to be here = the place is pleasant—so usually; or it is well that we are here—we the disciples to serve you and your visitants—Weiss and Holtzmann (H. C). Pricaeus, in illustration of the former, cites Anacreon:

Παρὰ τὴν σκιὴν Βάθυλλε

Κάθισον· καλὸν τὸ δένδρον.

Τίς ἆν οὖν ὁρῶν παρέλθοι

Καταγώγιον τοιοῦτον.

—Ode 22.

This sense—amoenus est, in quo commoremur, locus, Fritzsche—is certainly the more poetical, but not necessarily on that account the truer to the thought of the speaker, in view of the remark of Lk. omitted in Mt., that Peter did not know what he was saying.—ποιήσω, deliberative substantive with θέλεις preceding and without ἴνα; the singular—shall I make?—suits the forwardness of the man; it is his idea, and he will carry it out himself.—τρεῖς σκηνάς: material at hand, branches of trees, shrubs, etc. Why three? One better for persons in converse. The whole scheme a stupidity. Peter imagined that Moses and Elias had come to stay. Chrys. suggests that Peter here indirectly renews the policy of resistance to going up to Jerusalem (Hom. lvi.).

4. let us make] Read, with the best MSS., “let me make.” The transition to the singular is in keeping with Peter’s temperament; he would like to make the tabernacles.—Meyer. By “tabernacles” are meant little huts made out of boughs of trees or shrubs.

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased] words that recall the baptism of Jesus; ch. Matthew 3:17.

Matthew 17:4. Καλὸν, good) the Hebrew טוב in the first chapter of Genesis.—εἶναι, to be) i.e. to remain. Nay, something very different—καλὸν ἦν, was good [“expedient for them”]; see John 16:7. There was no need of tabernacles for standing (see Luke 9:32), nor for a single night (see ibid. 37.)[782]—εἰ θέλεις, if Thou wilt) A good and necessary condition.—τρεῖς, three) not six. The apostles wished to be with Jesus.—Μωσῇ, κ.τ.λ., for Moses, etc.) Peter knew Moses and Elias in that light.

[782] Peter no longer now has the wish that he had continued on that mountain. It is now his privilege, by means of the Cross, to pass from that which is good to those things which are better.—V. g.

Verse 4. - Then answered Peter. According to St. Luke, it was when the two Divine prophets were disappearing, or were being withdrawn from sight, that Peter spoke. Bewildered, overcome with joy and astonishment, not knowing what to say (Mark), yet in his excitement and ardour unable to keep silence, he cries to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here; perhaps equivalent to to remain here. He includes Moses and Elias in his eager exclamation. Some commentators confine the reference to the three apostles, as if Peter meant that it was "good" that they were present in order to prepare the necessary habitations. This seems meagre and insufficient. Here were peace, seclusion, safety: might they not last? Was there any need to quit this hallowed spot at once, and lose the heavenly company with which it was blessed? If thou wilt. Even at this supreme moment, he will not set his will in opposition to his Master's. Let us make (I will make, Revised Version) here three tabernacles (σκηνάς). Booths, of branches and grass, such as were used by travellers camping out, or such as the people erected when celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles. He speaks of but three shelters, regarding only Jesus and the two prophets, and considering himself and his fellow disciples as mere servitors and attendants, for whom no such provision was needed. In his confusion he thinks that if these three remain, they must have some kind of habitation. Like a child, he would fain prolong indefinitely the joy of this great vision; and with a Jew's hankering for a conquering Messiah and the permanence of the old covenant, he desired that from that secure mountain top the laws of the kingdom might be issued, and all men might acknowledge the Christ attended and supported by the great lawgiver and prophet. Was there not also a latent hope that thus might be deferred or laid aside that departure to Jerusalem, with its calamitous consequences? But this was not to be. No answer was vouchsafed to Peter's thoughtless request. Matthew 17:4Let us make (ποιήσωμεν)

But the best texts read, ποιήσω, I will make, which is more characteristic of Peter. He would erect the booths himself.

Three tabernacles (σκηνάς)

Tents or booths, out o the brushwood lying near. Peter realized that it was night, and was for preparing shelters into which the heavenly visitants might retire after their interview.

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