Matthew 21:1
And when they drew near to Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, to the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXI.

(1) And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem.—Here again we have, as far as we can, to fill up a gap in St. Matthew’s Gospel. We have to think of the journey up the narrow valley that leads from Jericho to Jerusalem. Our Lord, as before, was followed by the disciples, and they in their turn were followed by the crowds of pilgrims who were drawn to the Holy City either by the coming Passover or by wonder and curiosity to see what part the Prophet of Nazareth would take. Throughout the multitude, including the disciples, there was a feverish expectation that He would at last announce Himself as the Christ, and claim His kingdom (Luke 19:11). They reach Bethany “six days before the Passover,” probably, i.e., on the Friday afternoon (John 12:1). They remain there for the Sabbath, probably in the house of Lazarus or Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6; John 12:2; and in that of the latter we have the history of the anointing, which St. Matthew relates, out of its chronological order, in Matthew 26:6-13). The point of time with which the narrative, which now becomes more continuous, opens, may be fixed at the dawn of the first day of the week, the daybreak of Palm Sunday.

Bethphage.—The village is named in Luke 19:29, and in many MSS. of Mark 11:1, in conjunction with Bethany, and before it, and from this it would seem probable that it lay on the road from Jericho, and was therefore to the east of Bethany. The traditional site, however, followed in most maps, makes it to the west of Bethany, and nearer the summit of the hill. The name signified “the house of unripe figs,” as Bethany did “the house of dates,” and Gethsemane “the oil-press,” the three obviously indicating local features giving distinctness to the three sites. All three were on the Mount of Olives. Bethany is identified with the modern El-’Azariyeh, or Lazarieh (the name attaching to its connection with the history of Lazarus), which lies about a mile below the summit on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, in a woody hollow planted with olives, almonds, pomegranates, and figs. The palms implied in the name of Bethany and in the history of the entry into Jerusalem (John 12:13) have disappeared.

Two disciples.—The messengers are not named in any of the Gospels. The fact that Peter and John were sent on a like errand in Luke 22:8 makes it, perhaps, probable that they were employed in this instance.

Matthew 21:1-3. And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem — Namely, on the first day of the week, five days before his death, for the passover was kept on the fourteenth day of the month, and this was the tenth; on which day the law appointed that the paschal-lamb should be taken up, Exodus 12:3, and set apart for that service: on that day therefore Christ our passover, who was to be sacrificed for us, was publicly shown. So that this was the prologue to his passion. And were come to Bethphage — Mark says, and Bethany. Then sent Jesus two disciples, saying, Go into the village over against you — This, as the Arabian geographer informs us, was a little village two miles distant from the mount of Olives, toward the south. And straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her — As Mark and Luke say that the colt was tied, the words of Matthew contain an ellipsis, which must be supplied thus, and a colt bound with her. It must be observed, also, that the other evangelists make mention only of the colt, because our Lord sat on him only. See note on Matthew 21:7. Here we have “a wonderful instance of Christ’s prescience in very minute matters. He says, 1, You shall find a colt: 2, On which no man ever sat: 3, Bound with his mother: 4, In a place where two ways meet, Mark 11:4 : 5, As you enter into the village: 6, The owners of which shall at first seem unwilling that you should unbind him: 7, But when they hear the Lord hath need of him, they will let him go.” — Whitby.21:1-11 This coming of Christ was described by the prophet Zechariah, Zec 9:9. When Christ would appear in his glory, it is in his meekness, not in his majesty, in mercy to work salvation. As meekness and outward poverty were fully seen in Zion's King, and marked his triumphal entrance to Jerusalem, how wrong covetousness, ambition, and the pride of life must be in Zion's citizens! They brought the ass, but Jesus did not use it without the owner's consent. The trappings were such as came to hand. We must not think the clothes on our backs too dear to part with for the service of Christ. The chief priests and the elders afterwards joined with the multitude that abused him upon the cross; but none of them joined the multitude that did him honour. Those that take Christ for their King, must lay their all under his feet. Hosanna signifies, Save now, we beseech thee! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! But of how little value is the applause of the people! The changing multitude join the cry of the day, whether it be Hosanna, or Crucify him. Multitudes often seem to approve the gospel, but few become consistent disciples. When Jesus was come into Jerusalem all the city was moved; some perhaps were moved with joy, who waited for the Consolation of Israel; others, of the Pharisees, were moved with envy. So various are the motions in the minds of men upon the approach of Christ's kingdom.And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem - They were going up now from Jericho.

Matthew 20:29. The distance was about 19 miles. The most of the way was a desert, or filled with caves, and rocks, and woods - a suitable place for robbers. See Luke 10:30. The Mount of Olives, or "Olivet," is on the east of Jerusalem. Between this and Jerusalem there runs a small stream called the brook Kidron, or Cedron. It is dry in the hot seasons of the year, but swells to a considerable size in time of heavy rains. See the notes at John 18:1. The Mount of Olives was so called from its producing in abundance the olive. It was from Jerusalem about a Sabbath-day's journey. See the notes at Acts 1:12. On the west side of the mountain was the garden of Gethsemane, Luke 22:39; Mark 14:32. On the eastern declivity of the mountain were the villages of Bethphage and Bethany. Mark and Luke say that he came near to both those places.

He appears to have come first to Bethany, where he passed the night John 12:1, John 12:9-11, and in the morning sent over to the adjacent village Bethphage. Bethany was the place where Lazarus lived, whom he raised from the dead John 11; where Martha and Mary lived; and where Mary anointed him with ointment against the day of his burying, John 12:1-7. The Mount of Olives is about a mile in length and about 700 feet in height, and overlooks Jerusalem, so that from its summit almost every part of the city can be seen. The mountain is composed of three peaks or summits. The "olive" is a fruit well known among us as an article of commerce. The tree blooms in June, and bears white flowers. The fruit is small. It is first green, then whitish, and, when fully ripe, black. It encloses a hard stone in which are the seeds. The "wild olive" was common, and differed from the other only in being of a smaller size. There are two roads from Jerusalem to Bethany; one around the southern end of the Mount of Olives, and the other across the summit. The latter is considerably shorter, but more difficult, and it was probably along this road that the Saviour went.

CHAPTER 21

Mt 21:1-9. Christ's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on the First Day of the Week. ( = Mr 11:1-11; Lu 19:29-40; Joh 12:12-19).

For the exposition of this majestic scene—recorded, as will be seen, by all the Evangelists—see on [1333]Lu 19:29-40.Matthew 21:1-11 Christ rideth into Jerusalem upon an ass amidst the

acclamations of the multitude.

Matthew 21:12-14 He driveth the buyers and sellers out of the temple,

and healeth the diseased there.

Matthew 21:15-16 His reply to the priests and scribes who took offence

at the hosannas of the people.

Matthew 21:17-22 He curseth the barren fig tree, which presently withereth.

Matthew 21:23-27 He silences the priests and elders who questioned his

authority.

Matthew 21:28-32 The parable of the two sons whom their father sent to

work in his vineyard.

Matthew 21:33-46 The parable of the vineyard let out to wicked husbandmen.

See Poole on "Matthew 21:3".

And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem,.... The Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions read, "when he drew nigh, or was near"; but not alone, his disciples were with him, and a multitude of people also; as is evident from the following account. They might well be said to be near to Jerusalem, since it is added,

and were come to Bethphage; which the Jews say (n) was within the walls of the city of Jerusalem, and was in all respects as the city itself, and was the outermost part of it (o); and that all within the outward circumference of the city of Jerusalem was called Bethphage (p): it seems to me to be part of it within the city, and part of it without, in the suburbs of it, which reached to Bethany, and that to the Mount of Olives. Various are the derivations and etymologies of this place: some say it signifies "the house", or "place of a fountain", from a fountain that was in it; as if it was a compound of "Beth", an house, and "pege", a fountain: others, "the house of the mouth of a valley"; as if it was made up of those three words, , because the outward boundary of it was at the foot of the Mount of Olives, at the entrance of the valley of Jehoshaphat: others say, that the ancient reading was "Bethphage, the house of slaughter"; and Jerom says (q), it was a village of the priests, and he renders it, "the house of jaw bones": here indeed they might bake the showbread, and eat the holy things, as in Jerusalem (r); but the true reading and signification of it is, "the house of figs"; so called from the fig trees which grew in the outward limits of it, near Bethany, and the Mount of Olives; hence we read of (s) , "the figs of Bethany"; which place is mentioned along with, Bethphage, both by Mark and Luke, where Christ, and those with him, were now come: the latter says, they were come nigh to these places, for they were come

to the Mount of Olives; near to which were the furthermost limits of Bethany, and Bethphage, from Jerusalem. This mount was so called from the abundance of olive trees which grew upon it, and was on the east side of Jerusalem (t); and it was distant from it a sabbath day's journey, Acts 1:12 which was two, thousand cubits, or eight furlongs, and which made one mile:

then sent Jesus two disciples; who they were is not certain, perhaps Peter and John, who were afterwards sent by him to prepare the passover, Luke 22:8.

(n) Gloss. in T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 14. 2. & Pesach. fol. 91. 1.((o) Gloss. in T. Bab. Pesach. fol. 63. 2. & 91. 1.((p) Gloss. in T. Bab. Sota, fol. 45. 1. & Bava Metzia fol. 90. 1.((q) In loc. & ad Eustoch, fol. 59. 3. Tom. 1.((r) Misn. Menachot, c. 11. sect. 2. T. Bab. Menachot fol. 63. 1. & 78. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Pesul. Hamukdash, c. 12. sect. 16. Gloss. in Pesach. fol. 63. 2.((s) T. Bab. Pesach. fol. 53. 1. & Erubin, fol. 28. 2.((t) Zechariah 14 4. Targum in Ezek. xi. 23. & Bartenora in Misn. Mid. dot. c. 1. sect. 3.

And {1} when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,

(1) Christ by his humility, triumphing over the pride of this world, ascends to true glory by the shame of the cross.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 21:1. Comp. Mark 11:1 ff.; Luke 19:29 ff. Καὶ ἦλθον εἰς Βμθφαγῆ] by way of giving greater precision to the foregoing ἤγγισαν εἰς Ἱερος. They had come towards Bethphage; that is, as the connection shows (Matthew 21:2), they had not actually entered the village, but were close upon it, so that it lay right before them; comp. on John 4:5. Hard by them (“in latere montis Oliveti,” Jerome) was the neighbouring village of Bethany (Matthew 21:17), about which, however, and its position with reference to Bethphage (Robinson, Pal. II. p. 312), nothing more precise can now be said. Consequently there is no divergence from Mark and Luke, so that it is unnecessary to understand εἰς, versus, after ἦλθον (Fritzsche), which is distinct from, and more definite than, ἤγγισαν.

Of Bethphage, בֵּית פַּאנֵי, house of figs, no trace remains (Robinson, as above). It is not once mentioned in the Old Testament, though frequently in the Talmud. Buxtorf, p. 1691; Hug, Einl. I. p. 18.

τότε] an important juncture. “Non prius; vectura mysterii plena,” Bengel. To any one travelling from Jericho, the holy city would be in full view at Bethphage (not at Bethany). And Jesus makes due arrangements for the entry; it is not something done simply to gratify the enthusiastic wishes of those about Him (Neander, de Wette, Weizsäcker); comp. Keim, III. p. 85 f.

REMARK.

The stay of Jesus at Bethany, recorded by John (Matthew 12:1 ff.), does not admit of being inserted into the account given by the Synoptists (in answer to Ebrard, Wichelh. Komment. über d. Leidensgesch. p. 149; Lichtenstein); we should rather say that these latter expressly forbid the view that the night had been passed at Bethany, all the more that they introduce the anointing (Matthew 26:6 ff.; Mark 14:3 ff.), and consequently the stay of Jesus at this village after the triumphal entry, and that not merely in the order of their narrative, but also in the order of events (Matthew 26:2; Mark 14:1). This likewise in answer to Wieseler, p. 391 f.

The tradition, to the effect that the triumphal entry took place on the Sunday (Palmarum), is in no way inconsistent with the synoptic narrative itself, and agrees at the same time with John 12:1; John 12:12, inasmuch as it would appear from this evangelist that the day on which Jesus arrived at Bethany was most probably the 8th of Nisan, which, however, according to John’s representation, must have been Saturday (see note on John 12:1). Still, as regards the dates of the passion week, there remains this fundamental divergence, that, according to the Synoptists, the Friday on which Jesus died was the 15th, while according to John (see note on John 18:28) it was the 14th of Nisan; and further, that John 12:12 represents Jesus as having passed the night at Bethany previous to His triumphal entry, while according to the synoptical account He appears to have gone at once from Jericho to Jerusalem. In any case, the most authentic view of this matter is that of John, on whose authority, therefore, must rest the tradition that Sunday was the day on which Christ rode into the city.Matthew 21:1-11. The entry (Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:29-44).1. were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives] “Unto Bethphage and Bethany at the mount of Olives” (Mark). “Nigh to Bethphage and Bethany at the mount called the mount of Olives” (Luke). Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem, at the S.E. base of the mount of Olives. Of Bethphage (“place of green or winter figs”) no remains have been discovered, and its exact position is unknown. It was probably west of Bethany, and so near to Jerusalem as to be reckoned part of the Holy City. See Godet on St Luke 19:28. Some have inferred from the order in which Bethphage and Bethany are named that Bethphage was east of Bethany.

Nisan 9 (Palm Sunday).

Ch. Matthew 21:1-10. The Royal Entry into Jerusalem

Mark 11:1-11. Luke 19:29-40. John 12:12-19. St Luke alone places here the incident of Christ weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:40-44).Matthew 21:1. Καὶ ὅτε, κ.τ.λ., and when, etc.) From this point forward, the actions and contests of our Lord are described by the several Evangelists with great fulness and agreement.—εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, to Jerusalem) which they were about to enter.—τότε, κ.τ.λ., then, etc.) not before. It is clearly intimated, that the event[899] about to be described was full of mystery. Often had Jesus entered Jerusalem;[900] now, in this His last journey, and at the conclusion of it, He rides for the only time, solemnly taking possession of the Royal City (see ch. Matthew 5:5), not only for a few days, but on account of that kingdom (see Mark 11:33.) which He was just about to institute; see Luke 24:47; Luke 1:33, and the conclusion of Zechariah 9:10, with the whole context.

[899] In the original, “Vectura (a being carried or borne, a riding) mysterii plena innuitur.” See Matthew 21:2-9.—(I. B.)

[900] “The Saviour had come to Jerusalem—(1), in infancy (Luke 2:22, seqq.); (2), in childhood (Luke 2:42, seqq.); (3), in His temptation (chap. Matthew 4:5); (4), at the Passover (John 2:23.); (5), at the Day of Pentecost (John 5:1); (6), during the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:10); and now, for the seventh time, to His Passion. After the entrance (Einritte) [described in the following verses], He went daily to and from Jerusalem, until, at the commencement of the Friday, [for the Jewish days began at six o’clock in the evening,] He was carried in bound, and taken forth in the morning to Golgotha.”—B. H. E.Verses 1-11. - Triumphal entry into Jerusalem. (Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19.) Verse 1. - We have come to the last week of our Lord's earthly life, when he made his appearance in Jerusalem as Messiah, and suffered the penalty of death. If, as is believed, his crucifixion took place on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, the triumphal entry must be assigned to the ninth, which day was reckoned to commence at one sunset and to continue till the follow-lug evening. This is regarded as the first day of the Holy Week, and is called by Christians from very early times Palm Sunday (see on ver. 10). He had probably gone straight from Jericho to Bethany. and spent the sabbath there with his friends (Matthew 26:6; John 12:1). Bethphage. The name means House of figs, and was appropriate to a locality where such trees grew luxuriantly. The village has not been identified with certainty, though it is considered with great probability to be represented by Kefr-et-Tur, on a summit of Olivet, within the bounds of Jerusalem, i.e. two thousand cubits' distance from the city walls. Bethany is below the summit, in a nook on the western slope and somewhat further from the city. The Mount of Olives is separated from Jerusalem by the valley of the Kedron, and has three summits, the centre one being the highest; but though it is of no great elevation in itself, it stands nearly four thousand feet above the Dead Sea, from which it is distant some thirteen miles. Then sent Jesus two disciples. Their names are not given, and it is useless to conjecture who they were, though probably Peter was one of them. Alford suggests that the triumphal entry in Mark 11. is related a day too soon, and that our Lord made two entries into Jerusalem - the first a private one (Mark 11:11), and the second, public, on the morrow But there is no sufficient reason to discredit the common tradition, and St. Mark's language can be otherwise explained. The deliberate preparation for t. he procession, and the intentional publicity, so contrary to Christ's usual habits, are very remarkable, and can be explained only by the fact that he was now assuming the character and claims of Messiah, and putting himself forward in his true dignity and office as "King of the Jews." By this display he made manifest that in him prophecy was fulfilled, and that the seeing eye and the believing heart might now find all that righteous men had long and wearily desired. This was the great opportunity which his mercy offered to Jerusalem, if only she would accept it and turn it to account. In fact, she acknowledged him as King one day, and then rejected and crucified him. Bethphage

House of figs.

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