Matthew 17:5
While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
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(5) A bright cloud overshadowed themi.e., our Lord, Moses, and Elias. To the disciples this would, we cannot doubt, recall the “cloudy pillar” which had descended on the first tabernacle (Exodus 33:9), the “cloud that filled the house of the Lord on the dedication of the Temple” (1Kings 8:10). It was, in later Jewish language, the Shechinah, or abiding presence of Jehovah—the very form of the word connects it with both the Hebrew (mishkan) and the Greek (skené) words for tabernacle—which was the symbol that He was with His people. The Targums, or Paraphrases, of the Law and Prophets which were then current, had used the word as a synonym for the divine name. Where the Hebrew text had had “I will dwell in thee,” the Targum of Jonathan had “I will make my Shechinah to dwell” (Zechariah 2:10; Zechariah 8:3). Its appearance at this moment, followed by the voice out or the cloud, was a witness that no tabernacle made with hands was now needed, that the humanity of Christ was the true tabernacle of God (comp. Note on John 1:14), and that it was in this sense true that “the tabernacle of God was with men” (Revelation 21:3), and that He would dwell with them.

This is my beloved Son.—The words were in substance the same as those heard at the baptism of our Lord (see Note on Matthew 3:17), but the difference in their form is suggestive. Then they were addressed to the human consciousness of the Son of Man, as declaring to Him the greatness of His being. Now they come addressed as to the disciples, and in close connection with the “decease” which was to be accomplished at Jerusalem. It was, if we may so speak, because the Son of Man became obedient unto death that He was showing Himself worthy of the Father’s love. In the hour of darkness and seeming failure, and agony and death, He was “satisfying” His Father’s “good pleasure,” and accepted by Him as the one perfect sacrifice. And so the command, “Hear ye Him,” gained a new significance. Not the traditions of the elders, or the doctrines of the scribes and Pharisees, not even the teaching of Moses and Elias, of the Law and of the Prophets, but the words of the Son of Man, were henceforth to command their allegiance, and to be the guide of their faith and of their lives, for of them only it was true that the Father was revealed fully in them (Hebrews 1:1-2), and that they should never pass away (Matthew 24:35).

Matthew 17:5-8. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them — Such, probably, as took possession first of the tabernacle, and afterward of Solomon’s temple, when those holy places were consecrated. See Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10-11; where we are told that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister, because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. This, it is well known, used to be termed the shechinah, or visible symbol of the divine presence. A similar cloud, it seems, now overshadowed Jesus and his two glorified attendants, and therefore is termed by Peter, 2d 2 Peter 1:17, the excellent glory. And behold a voice out of the cloud — Namely, the voice of God himself; This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased — The same testimony which the Father bore to Jesus at his baptism, as recorded Matthew 3:17, where see the note. Thus, for the full confirmation of the disciples’ faith in Jesus, Moses, the giver of the law, Elijah, the most zealous of all the prophets, and God speaking from heaven, all bore witness to him. Hear ye him — As superior even to Moses and the prophets. This command of the Father plainly alluded to Deuteronomy 18:15, and signified that Jesus was the prophet of whom Moses spake in that passage, and concerning whom he enjoined, Unto him shall ye hearken. Luke informs us that the three disciples feared as they (namely, as Moses and Elias) entered into the cloud; but now, at the very moment when they heard the voice coming from the cloud, probably as loud as thunder, (see John 12:29,) and full of divine majesty, such as mortal ears were unaccustomed to hear, they fell flat to the ground on their faces, being sore afraid; an effect which visions of this kind commonly had on the prophets and other holy men to whom they were given. See Genesis 15:12; Isaiah 6:5; Ezekiel 2:1; Daniel 10:8; Revelation 1:17. It seems human nature could not of itself support such manifestations of the divine presence. In this condition the three disciples continued till Jesus came and touched them, and, raising them up, dispelled their fears. And when they had lifted up their eyes (Mark says, When they had looked round about) they saw no man — Saw no man any more, says Mark, save Jesus only with themselves. In Luke we read, When the voice was passed, Jesus was found alone.

This transfiguration of our Lord was doubtless intended for the following, among several other very important purposes: 1st, To prevent his disciples from being offended at the depth of affliction into which they were soon to see him plunged. For their beholding him clothed with such glory would tend to establish them in the belief of his being the Messiah, notwithstanding the sufferings which he was to pass through; and the conference which he had with Moses and Elias concerning those sufferings, and the death in which they were to terminate, might make them sensible how agreeable it was to the doctrine of Moses and the prophets that the Messiah should be evil-entreated and die before he entered into his glory. 2d, To arm them for, and encourage them under, their own sufferings, by a demonstration of a future state, and a display of the felicity of that state. Here they see Moses, who had died in the land of Moab, and was buried in a valley in that land. Deuteronomy 34:5, alive in a state of glory. This then was a demonstration to them of the immortality of the soul, for Moses, it is certain, had not been raised from the dead with regard to his body, Christ being the first-fruits from the grave, or the first whose body rose to immortal life, as is evident from 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23; Acts 26:23; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5. Here they also see Elijah, who indeed had not died, but had been translated, that is, as the apostle expresses it, had not been unclothed of the body, but clothed upon with an immortal body, or whose mortality had been swallowed up of life, 2 Corinthians 5:4. He was therefore in that state of glory in which the saints will be after the resurrection and the general judgment. The disciples, therefore, had thus full proof, even of a two-fold state of future felicity awaiting the righteous, first, in their souls, immediately after death; and secondly, in both their bodies and souls after the resurrection. And it is remarkable that St. Paul particularly distinguishes these states, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, speaking of being caught up both unto paradise, the state and place of holy souls after death; and also into the third heaven, the state and place of the faithful after the resurrection. This discovery, made to the disciples, was of great importance, and very necessary in those times when the opinions of the Sadducees were so prevalent; and it appears from all the epistles in the New Testament, that the apostles derived great support under their sufferings from the prospect of the future glory that awaited them, in their hopes of which this vision must have greatly confirmed them. 3d, To show them the superiority of Christ as a teacher, lawgiver, and mediator, to Moses and Elias, who, though both eminent in their stations, were only servants, whereas this was God’s beloved Son; and, of consequence, that he was to be preferred to all that had preceded him, whether patriarchs or prophets, and therefore that the gospel was more excellent than the law, the Christian than the Jewish dispensation. For when Moses and Elias (representing the law and the prophets) were present, the Father from heaven commanded that his Son should be heard in preference to them. 4th, That the preceding dispensations of the law and the prophets were in perfect harmony with Christ and his dispensation, were introductory thereto, and to terminate therein; for when Moses and Elias had disappeared, Jesus remained as the sole teacher of his disciples, and of consequence of his church and people.

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.A bright cloud overshadowed them - The word "overshadow" here means, rather, to "be diffused" or "spread" over them. It does not mean that it made a shade. A cloud was the symbol of the divine presence. Thus, God went before the Israelites in a cloudy pillar - dark by day and bright by night Exodus 14:19-20; he appeared on Mount Sinai in a cloud bright by fire Exodus 24:15-17; and a cloud, the symbol of the divine presence - called the Shechinah - dwelt continually in the most holy place in the temple, 1 Kings 8:10-11; Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 10:4. When, therefore, the disciples saw this cloud, they were prepared to hear the word of the Lord.

This is my beloved Son - This was the voice of God. This was the second time that, in a remarkable manner, God had declared this. See Matthew 3:17. This was spoken to confirm the disciples; to make known to them that it was their duty to hear Christ rather than any other, and to honor him more than Moses and Elijah; and to strengthen their faith in him when they should go forth to preach the gospel after he was shamefully put to death. After this, it was impossible for them to doubt that he was truly the Son of God. See 2 Peter 1:17-18.


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.

Mark and Luke relate the same without any considerable variation, only Luke saith, they feared as they entered into the cloud. It seemeth that the cloud did encompass them, so as they seemed all as if they had been within the cloud. This still increased their fear. It is observable, that God did very often make his appearances to people in a cloud, making the clouds his chariots, Exodus 16:10 40:34 Numbers 11:25 Psalm 104:3 to teach us humility, not to pry too much into his secrets, who covereth himself with thick darkness, and likewise to consult our weakness, who are not able to behold him as he is. This is said to be a bright cloud, so differing from the cloud in which he appeared under the law, but without doubt it had something of a shadow in it, and was chosen of God for some abatement of the brightness of his glory. This cloud encompasses Christ, Moses, and Elias, and also Peter, James, and John.

And behold a voice out of the cloud: they saw no visible shape, no more did the Jews, Deu 4:15, only, as St. Peter (who saw it) expresses it, 2 Peter 1:17, there came such a voice from the excellent glory. He speaks of this very time, as may appear from 1 Peter 1:18. The voice is the same which was heard upon the baptism of Christ, Matthew 3:17; only there is added to it, hear ye him: you need no Elias to instruct you, hear him. Thus Moses saw what he had before prophesied of, Deu 18:15,18, fulfilled: he in this ministry as a servant in the house of God had prophesied, that the Lord would raise up a prophet from amongst their brethren like unto him, and put his words into his mouth and he should speak unto them all that God should command him, Deu 18:18; and, Deu 18:15, unto him ye shall hearken. God had now fulfilled that word, and he declares that this prophet was his Son, his beloved Son, and commands them to hear him. Which words establish Christ as the only Doctor and Teacher of his church, the only one whom he had entrusted to deliver his truths and will to his people, the only one to whom Christians are to hearken: nor doth this destroy the ministers of the word, who are no more than the interpreters of what he hath said, and are no more to be regarded than as by them we hear Christ speaking more plainly and frequently unto us. This appearance of God from time to time in a cloud, and that not in any visible shape, but in an excellent glory, causing a voice to be heard, lets us see the audaciousness of those who by any pictures or images pretend to make any representation of any person in the Trinity. And this command from God to us to hear Christ, lets us also see the audacity of those who take upon them to impose upon Christians what Christ never spake.

While he yet spake,.... That is, while Peter was proposing the above to Christ, before an answer could be given by him, and which was unworthy of one, another scene of things presents, and a full answer is returned him by a voice from the Father; directing him and his fellow disciples, to attend to Jesus only, and not to Moses and Elias;

and behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; that is, Jesus, Moses, and Elias; the two last of which were seen no more; and which cloud covered them, as the cloud of glory covered the Israelites in the wilderness: and which, as it ceased at the death of Moses, the first prophet; one like unto it appeared at the declaration of Christ, as the greater prophet, spoken of, and typified by Moses. The disciples at its first appearance were not under it, and overshadowed by it; for Luke adds, "and they feared as they entered into the cloud"; there was such a solemnity and glory in it, as struck their minds with awe and fear, as they gradually came into it, and under it. This cloud, which is said to be a "bright" one, was a symbol of the divine presence, and a token of the love, grace, and favour of God; and expressive of the brightness and clearness of the Gospel dispensation, in distinction from the obscurity of the legal one, signified by the thick, dark, and black cloud, God descended in on Mount Sinai, when he gave the law;

and behold, a voice out of the cloud. The word "behold", is prefixed both to the cloud and to the voice out of it, which were both wonderful and surprising; and which voice came from heaven, and from the excellent glory, from God the Father in heaven: as says Peter, who was now present, 2 Peter 1:17. Which said,

this is my beloved Son; not a servant, as Moses, Elias, and the rest of the prophets were: though as Mediator, and as considered in his office capacity, he was a servant; but in this clause, he is considered in his personal character and relation to the Father, as a divine person, who was the Son of God: not by creation, as angels and men are the sons of God; nor by adoption, as saints are; or on account of his miraculous incarnation, and resurrection from the dead; whereby indeed, he was manifested and declared to be the Son of God, which he was before; but on account of his natural relation to God, as his Father; he being the eternal, essential, and only begotten Son of God, in a way of filiation no creature is, and which, is ineffable by us. And as such he is dearly beloved of God his Father, being his image and the brightness of his glory; of the same nature and perfections with him, and equal to him. So he ever was, and will be, and that even in the meanest form and lowest condition, in which he has appeared: he was his beloved Son, when he was made flesh and dwelt among men, while submitting to ordinances, as to baptism, and obeying his Father's will, when covered with reproach, and full of sorrows; when he hung upon the cross, and laid down his life for his people; which he showed, by concealing nothing from him; by putting all things into his hands, and by appointing him the head of the church, the Saviour of the body, and the judge of quick and dead.

In whom I am well pleased: Mark and Luke have not this clause, but Peter, who was present, and heard the words spoken, mentions it, 2 Peter 1:17 which confirms Matthew's relation. This regards, not so much the well pleasedness of God with the person of Christ, which is expressed in the former clause; but signifies that he was in him, as Mediator, well pleased with all his people; he was well pleased with his righteousness he was working out, whereby the law was magnified, and made honourable; and with the sacrifice he was about to offer up, which would be of a sweet smelling savour to him, his justice being entirely satisfied with it; and with all he did and suffered in human nature; which were things that always pleased the Father, being according to his will, his counsel and covenant: and so he graciously accepted of, and was infinitely well pleased with all his elect, as considered in him, and represented by him, on account of his righteousness, sacrifice, and satisfaction:

hear ye him; as the former clause chiefly respects that part of his mediatorial office, the priestly, this regards his prophetic office principally, and also his kingly office; so that in this divine testimony, first his sonship is bore witness to, and then his several offices; which his sonship is the foundation of, and qualifies him to bear and execute. This clause has the very words which Moses delivered, when he spoke of the Messiah, the great prophet like unto himself, that should be raised up among the Jews; saying, "unto him ye shall hearken", Deuteronomy 18:15. So that these words, "hear ye him", most clearly point to Christ, as being this prophet, who is to be heard, and he only; not Moses, but he, the prophet Moses prophesied of; nor Elias, or any of the other prophets, but one greater than them all: hear and believe his prophecies, concerning his sufferings, death, and resurrection, lately delivered by him; listen to, and embrace his doctrines, as coming from God, and as having a divine impress upon them, and being confirmed by miraculous works; submit to his ordinances, and obey his commands, as king of saints; hear him always, and in all things.

While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is {c} my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

(c) The word my distinguishes Christ from other children. For he is God's natural son, we by adoption; therefore he is called the first begotten among the brethren, because although he is by right the only son, yet he is chief among many, in that he is the source and head of the adoption.

Matthew 17:5 ff. Ἰδοὺ καὶἰδού] lively way of introducing the various points of importance.

νεφέλη φωτεινή] a luminous, clear, bright cloud, represented in Matthew as, without doubt, a marvellous phenomenon, not in itself certainly, but in connection with the incident which it accompanies.

ἐπεσκίασεν] A luminous cloud overshadows them, casts a kind of light and shade over their forms, so that they are rendered less clear than they were before the cloud intervened. Olshausen unwarrantably fancies that ἐπεσκ. has been employed in consequence of the light having been so strong as to dazzle the eyes and affect the sight.

αὐτούς] viz. Jesus, Moses, and Elias (Matthew 17:4). The disciples hear the voice from out the cloud (Matthew 17:5-6), are therefore not to be regarded as being within it, as is likewise manifest a priori from the fact that the cloud, as was so frequently the case in the Old Testament, is here the sacred symbol of the divine presence (Wetstein on this passage, comp. Fea, ad Hor. Od. i. 2. 31), and therefore accompanies those three divine personages as a σημεῖον for the disciples, on whose account likewise the voice sounds from the cloud. This in answer to Olearius, Wolf, Bengel, Baumgarten-Crusius, who refer αὐτούς to the disciples; and to Clericus, who refers it to all who were present.

φωνὴ κ.τ.λ.] no less the voice of God than that in Matthew 3:17.

ἀκούετε αὐτοῦ (see critical remarks) is the divine ratification of the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15, according to their Messianic import. However, the hearing (i.e. faith and obedience) is the point on which stress is to be laid, as is evident from its being put first. This command is now in order (not so, as yet, in Matthew 3:17), coming as it does at a time when Jesus had attained to the full dignity of His prophetic office, but when, at the same time, the prospect of what awaited Him was calculated to put the ἀκούειν of the disciples to the severest test.

Matthew 17:6-7 occur only in Matthew. Comp. Daniel 10:9 f.; Revelation 1:17.

ἥψατο] “Tactus familiaris et efficax,” Bengel.

Matthew 17:5-8. νεφέλη φωτεινὴ, a luminous cloud, still a cloud capable of casting a shadow, though a faint one (“non admodum atram,” Fritzsche). Some, thinking a shadow incompatible with the light, render ἐπεσκίασεν tegebat, circumdabat. Loesner cites passages from Philo in support of this meaning.—αὐτούς. Whom? the disciples? Jesus, Moses, and Elias? all the six? or the two celestial visitants alone? All these views have been held. The second the more probable, but impossible to be certain.—καὶ ἰδού, again introducing a main feature: first the visitants, now the voice from heaven. Relation of the ear to the voice the same as that of the eye to the visitants.—οὖτος: the voice spoken this time about Jesus; at the baptism to Him (Mark 1:11), meant for the ear of the three disciples. The voice to be taken in connection with the announcement of the coming passion. Jesus God’s well-beloved as self-sacrificing.—ἀκούετε αὐτοῦ: to be taken in the same connection = hear Him when He speaks to you of the cross. Hunc audite, nempe solum, plena fide, perfectissimo obsequio, universi apostoli et pastores praesertim, Elsner.

Matthew 17:5. Ἔτι, yet) with but little delay.—λαλοῦντος, speaking) His speech had clearly not been suitable.—ἰδοὺἰδοὺ, behold! behold!) Matters of great moment, one of the greatest revelations.—νεφέλη, a cloud) Human nature cannot bear the glory of God without admixture or interposition. Strong medicine is diluted with fluid. Sleep must be added; see Luke 9:32. Moses and Elias, however, were permitted to enter the cloud (ibid. 34): a great admission! The Divine majesty is frequently conspicuous in clouds.—αὐτοὺς, them) sc. the disciples; see Luke 9:34.—φωνὴ, a voice) A voice came from heaven, firstly, ch. Matthew 3:17; secondly, at this central period; thirdly, and lastly, a little before our Lord’s Passion, John 12:28. After each of these voices from heaven, fresh virtue shone forth in Jesus, fresh ardour and fresh sweetness in His discourses and actions, fresh progress.—οὗτός ἐστιν, κ.τ.λ., This is, etc.) This speech has three divisions, which regard the Psalms, the Prophets, and Moses, from which they are derived[783].—Αὐτοῦ, Him) In contradistinction to Moses and Elias. This command, hear Him, was not uttered at His baptism; see Matthew 3:17.—ἀκούετε, hear) It is the business of wayfarers rather to hear and publish what they have heard, than to see as Peter wished to do. The Father sanctioned all things which the Son had said of Himself as the Son of God; and what He was about to say even more fully, especially concerning the Cross. For the Father on this occasion bore witness Himself expressly concerning Him as His Son: concerning the Cross, His Son was to be heard more and more.

[783] Viz., “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee.” Psalm 2:7. “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles,” Isaiah 42:1. “The LOUD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken,” Deuteronomy 18:15.—(I. B.)

And not long before his decease, Peter, in his Second Epistle, appealed to this very testimony which declared Jesus’ glory.—V. g.

Verse 5. - A bright cloud overshadowed them. The cloud spread over and around, not Jesus only and the other two, but in some degree over the apostles also, as St. Luke adds, "They feared as they entered into the cloud." It was the Shechinah, the token of the presence of the Most High, who dwelleth in the unapproachable light. It enshrouded Jesus and his two companions, so that mortal eye could not pierce it or even look upon it; but the apostles, who were outside its immediate contact, were in some sort included in its influence, so that it could be said to overshadow them. St. Peter calls it "the excellent glory (τῆς μεγαλοπρεποῦς δόξης)" (2 Peter 1:17). The cloud from which on Sinai the old Law was given, was dark and threatening (Exodus 19:18; Exodus 20:21); this was bright, coming not to terrify, but to teach and to bless. Here is seen the contrast between the two dispensations, the Law and the gospel (comp. Hebrews 12:18-24). A voice out of the cloud. It was the voice of God the Father, for he called Jesus, My beloved Son. The same voice, saying the same words, had been heard over the waters of Jordan when Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:17); it spake once again just before his Passion (John 12:28); at all times witnessing the Father's love and the perfect Divinity of Christ. Now, as before, the Holy Trinity was revealed, the Father speaking with audible voice, the Son standing in radiant light, the Holy Spirit present with the intense brightness of the enveloping cloud. The words heard are fontal in the earlier Scriptures. Thus in Isaiah 42:1 we read, "Behold my Servant, whom I uphold, my Chosen in whom my soul delighteth;" and in Psalm 2:7, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." Hear ye him. Not Moses and Elias, but Jesus, the Mediator of a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6). "This voice," St. Peter testifies, "we ourselves heard come out of heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount" (2 Peter 1:18). As Edersheim remarks, even if this Epistle is not St. Peter's, it still would represent the most ancient tradition. "God, having of old spoken unto the fathers in the prophets, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son" (Hebrews 1:1). The command to hear him recalls the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), that in good time God would raise up from Israel a Prophet like unto himself, and that unto him they shall hearken. Matthew 17:5
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