Matthew 23:37
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
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(37) Jerusalem, Jerusalem.—The lamentation had been uttered once before (Luke 13:34-35), and must, we may believe, have been present to our Lord’s mind when He “beheld the city and wept over it” (Luke 19:41), as He halted on the brow of Olivet.

It should be noted that the Hebrew form of Jerusalem (Ἱερουσαλὴμ instead of Ἱεροσόλυμα) occurs here only in St. Matthew, as though the very syllables had impressed themselves on the minds of men.

Thou that killest the prophets.—The words are in the present tense, as embracing the past and even the future. As with a sad prescience our Lord speaks of the sufferings which were in store for His messengers, and of which the deaths of Stephen (Acts 7:60) and of James (Acts 12:2) were representative instances. That the persecution in each case took a wider range, was in the nature of the case inevitable. It is distinctly stated, indeed, that it did so in both instances (Acts 8:1; Acts 12:1), and is implied in 1Thessalonians 2:14-15, where the “prophets” who suffered are clearly Christian prophets, and probably in James 5:10.

Even as a hen gathereth her chickens.—The words reproduce (if we follow the English version), under an image of singular tenderness, the similitude of Deuteronomy 32:11, the care of the hen for her chickens taking the place of that of the eagle for her nestlings. Possibly, however, the contrast between the two images lies in the English rather than the Greek, where we have the generic term, “as a bird gathereth her brood.” The words “how often” may be noted as implying (though they occur in the Gospels that confine themselves to our Lord’s Galilean ministry) a yearning pity for Jerusalem, such as we naturally associate with the thought of His ministry in that city.

Ye would not.—No words could more emphatically state man’s fatal gift of freedom, as shown in the power of his will to frustrate the love and pity, and therefore the will, even of the Almighty.

Matthew 23:37. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem — The Lord Jesus having thus laid before the Pharisees and the Jewish nation their heinous guilt and impending ruin, was exceedingly moved at the thought of the calamities coming upon them. A day or two before he had wept over Jerusalem; now he bewails it in the most mournful accents of pity and commisseration. Jerusalem, the vision of peace, as the word signifies, must now be made the seat of war and confusion: Jerusalem, that had been the joy of the whole earth, must now be a hissing, and an astonishment, and a by-word among all nations: Jerusalem, that had been a city compact together, was now to be shattered and ruined by its own intestine broils: Jerusalem, the place that God had chosen to put his name there, must now be abandoned to spoilers and robbers. For, 1st, As its inhabitants had their hands more deeply imbrued in the blood of the prophets than those of other places, they were to drink more deeply than others in the punishment of such crimes: Thou that killest the prophets, &c. And, 2d, Jerusalem especially had rejected, and would persist in rejecting the Lord’s Christ, and the offers of salvation made through him, and would persecute his servants divinely commissioned to make them these offers. The former was a sin without remedy; this a sin against the remedy. How often would I have gathered thy children, &c. — See the wonderful grace, condescension, and kindness of the Lord Jesus toward those who he foresaw would in two or three days maliciously and cruelly imbrue their hands in his blood! What a strong idea do these tender exclamations of our Lord, which can hardly be read without tears, give us of his unparalleled love to that ungrateful and impenitent nation! He would have taken the whole body of them, if they would have consented to be so taken, into his church, and have gathered them all, (as the Jews used to speak of proselytes,) under the wings of the divine majesty. The words, how often would I have gathered, &c.,mark his unwearied endeavours to protect and cherish them from the time they were first called to be his people, and the following words, declarative of the opposition between his will and theirs, but ye would not, very emphatically show their unconquerable obstinacy in resisting the most winning and most substantial expressions of the divine goodness. Thus does the Lord Jesus still call and invite perishing sinners. But alas! the obstinacy of their own perverse and rebellious wills too generally withstands all the overtures of his grace: so that eternal desolation becomes their portion, and they in vain wish for a repetition of those calls when it is for ever too late.

23:34-39 Our Lord declares the miseries the inhabitants of Jerusalem were about to bring upon themselves, but he does not notice the sufferings he was to undergo. A hen gathering her chickens under her wings, is an apt emblem of the Saviour's tender love to those who trust in him, and his faithful care of them. He calls sinners to take refuge under his tender protection, keeps them safe, and nourishes them to eternal life. The present dispersion and unbelief of the Jews, and their future conversion to Christ, were here foretold. Jerusalem and her children had a large share of guilt, and their punishment has been signal. But ere long, deserved vengeance will fall on every church which is Christian in name only. In the mean time the Saviour stands ready to receive all who come to him. There is nothing between sinners and eternal happiness, but their proud and unbelieving unwillingness.O Jerusalem ... - See the notes at Luke 19:41-42.

Would I have gathered - Would have protected and saved.

Thy children - Thy people.

37. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, &c.—How ineffably grand and melting is this apostrophe! It is the very heart of God pouring itself forth through human flesh and speech. It is this incarnation of the innermost life and love of Deity, pleading with men, bleeding for them, and ascending only to open His arms to them and win them back by the power of this story of matchless love, that has conquered the world, that will yet "draw all men unto Him," and beautify and ennoble Humanity itself! "Jerusalem" here does not mean the mere city or its inhabitants; nor is it to be viewed merely as the metropolis of the nation, but as the center of their religious life—"the city of their solemnities, whither the tribes went up, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord"; and at this moment it was full of them. It is the whole family of God, then, which is here apostrophized by a name dear to every Jew, recalling to him all that was distinctive and precious in his religion. The intense feeling that sought vent in this utterance comes out first in the redoubling of the opening word—"Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" but, next, in the picture of it which He draws—"that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee!"—not content with spurning God's messages of mercy, that canst not suffer even the messengers to live! When He adds, "How often would I have gathered thee!" He refers surely to something beyond the six or seven times that He visited and taught in Jerusalem while on earth. No doubt it points to "the prophets," whom they "killed," to "them that were sent unto her," whom they "stoned." But whom would He have gathered so often? "Thee," truth-hating, mercy-spurning, prophet-killing Jerusalem—how often would I have gathered thee! Compare with this that affecting clause in the great ministerial commission, "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem!" (Lu 24:47). What encouragement to the heartbroken at their own long-continued and obstinate rebellion! But we have not yet got at the whole heart of this outburst. I would have gathered thee, He says, "even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings." Was ever imagery so homely invested with such grace and such sublimity as this, at our Lord's touch? And yet how exquisite the figure itself—of protection, rest, warmth, and all manner of conscious well-being in those poor, defenseless, dependent little creatures, as they creep under and feel themselves overshadowed by the capacious and kindly wing of the mother bird! If, wandering beyond hearing of her peculiar call, they are overtaken by a storm or attacked by an enemy, what can they do but in the one case droop and die, and in the other submit to be torn in pieces? But if they can reach in time their place of safety, under the mother's wing, in vain will any enemy try to drag them thence. For rising into strength, kindling into fury, and forgetting herself entirely in her young, she will let the last drop of her blood be shed out and perish in defense of her precious charge, rather than yield them to an enemy's talons. How significant all this of what Jesus is and does for men! Under His great Mediatorial wing would He have "gathered" Israel. For the figure, see De 32:10-12; Ru 2:12; Ps 17:8; 36:7; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4; Isa 31:5; Mal 4:2. The ancient rabbins had a beautiful expression for proselytes from the heathen—that they had "come under the wings of the Shekinah." For this last word, see on [1352]Mt 23:38. But what was the result of all this tender and mighty love? The answer is, "And ye would not." O mysterious word! mysterious the resistance of such patient Love—mysterious the liberty of self-undoing! The awful dignity of the will, as here expressed, might make the ears to tingle. See Poole on "Matthew 23:39".

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,.... The metropolis of Judea, the seat of the kings of Judah, yea, the city of the great king; the place of divine worship, once the holy and faithful city, the joy of the whole earth; wherefore it was strange that the following things should be said of it. The word is repeated to show our Lord's affection and concern for that city, as well as to upbraid it with its name, dignity, and privileges; and designs not the building of the city, but the inhabitants of it; and these not all, but the rulers and governors of it, civil and ecclesiastical; especially the great sanhedrim, which were held in it, to whom best belong the descriptive characters of killing the prophets, and stoning them that were sent by God unto them; since it belonged to them to take cognizance of such who called themselves prophets, and to examine, and judge them, and, if false, to condemn them (h); hence that saying of Christ, Luke 13:33 which goes before the same words, as here, "it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem": and who are manifestly distinguished from their "children": it being usual to call such as were the heads of the people, either in a civil or ecclesiastic sense, "fathers", and their subjects and disciples, "children": besides, our Lord's discourse throughout the whole context is directed to the Scribes and Pharisees, the ecclesiastic guides of the people, and to whom the civil governors paid a special regard,

Thou that killest the prophets; that is, with the sword, with which the prophets in Elijah's time were slain by the children of Israel,

1 Kings 19:10 and which was one of the capital punishments inflicted by the Jewish sanhedrim (i); and also that which follows was another of them,

And stonest them which were sent unto thee; as particularly Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, before mentioned. The Jews themselves are obliged to own, that this character belongs to them: say (k) they,

"when the word of God shall come, who is his messenger, we will honour him. Says R. Saul, did not the prophets come,

"and we killed them", and shed their blood, and how shall we receive his word? or how shall we believe?

And a celebrated writer of their's, on those words (l), "but now murderers", has this note,

"they have killed Uriah, they have killed Zechariah.

How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Christ here speaks as a man, and the minister of the circumcision, and expresses an human affection for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and an human wish, and will for their temporal good; which he very aptly signifies by the hen, which is a very affectionate creature to its young, and which it endeavours to screen from danger, by covering with its wings. So the "Shekinah" with the Jews is called, , "the holy bird" (m); and that phrase, , "to betake one's self, or to come to trust under the wings of the Shekinah", is often used (n) for to become a proselyte to the true religion, and worship of God, as Jethro, and Ruth the Moabitess did. An expression much like to this here is used by an apocryphal writer of 2:Esdras:

"I gathered you together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings: but now, what shall I do unto you? I will cast you out from my face.'' (2 Esdras 1:30).

It seems to be a simile much in use with that people. Our Lord is to be understood not of his divine will, as God, to gather the people of the Jews internally, by his Spirit and grace, to himself; for all those whom Christ would gather, in this sense, were gathered, notwithstanding all the opposition made by the rulers of the people; but of his human affection and will, as a man, and a minister, to gather them to him externally, by, and under the ministry of his word, to hear him preach; so as that they might be brought to a conviction of, and an assent unto him as the Messiah; which, though it might fall short of faith in him, would have been sufficient to have preserved them from temporal ruin, threatened to their city and temple, in the following verse. Instances of the human affection, and will of Christ, may be observed in Mark 10:21 which will of his, though not contrary to the divine will, but subordinate to it, yet not always the same with it, nor always fulfilled: whereas his divine will, or his will as God, is, always fulfilled: "who hath resisted his will?" this cannot be hindered, and made void; he does whatsoever he pleases: and further, that this will of Christ to gather the Jews to himself, is to be understood of his human, and not divine will, is manifest from hence, that this will was in him, and expressed by him at certain several times, by intervals; and therefore he says, "how often would I have gathered", &c. whereas the divine will is one continued, invariable, and unchangeable will, is always the same, and never begins or ceases to be, and to which such an expression is inapplicable; and therefore these words do not contradict the absolute and sovereign will of God, in the distinguishing acts of it, respecting the choice of some persons, and the leaving of others. And it is to be observed, that the persons whom Christ would have gathered, are not represented as being unwilling to be gathered; but their rulers were not willing that they should, and be made proselytes to him, and come under his wings. It is not said, "how often would I have gathered you, and you would not!" nor, "I would have gathered Jerusalem, and she would not"; nor, "I would have gathered thy children, and they would not"; but, "how often would I have gathered thy children, and ye would not!" Which observation alone is sufficient to destroy the argument founded on this passage in favour of free will. Had Christ expressed his desire to have gathered the heads of the people to him, the members of the Jewish sanhedrim, the civil and ecclesiastical rulers of the Jews: or had he signified how much he wished, and earnestly sought after, and attempted to gather Jerusalem, the children, the inhabitants of it in common, and neither of them would not; it would have carried some appearance of the doctrine of free will, and have seemed to have countenanced it, and have imputed the non-gathering of them to their own will: though had it been said, "they would not", instead of, "ye would not", it would only have furnished out a most sad instance of the perverseness of the will of man, which often opposes his temporal, as well as his spiritual good; and would rather show it to be a slave to that which is evil, than free to that which is good; and would be a proof of this, not in a single person only, but in a body of men. The opposition and resistance to the will of Christ were not made by the people, but by their governors. The common people seemed inclined to attend his ministry, as appears from the vast crowds, which, at different times and places, followed him; but the chief priests, and rulers, did all they could to hinder the collection of them to him, and their belief in him as the Messiah; by traducing his character, miracles, and doctrines, and by menacing the people with curses, and excommunications, making a law, that whoever confessed him should be turned out of the synagogue. So that the plain meaning of the text is the same with that of Matthew 23:13 and consequently is no proof of men's resisting the operations of the Spirit and grace of God; but only shows what obstructions and discouragements were thrown in the way of attendance on the external ministry of the word. In order to set aside, and overthrow the doctrine of grace, in election, and particular redemption, and effectual calling, it should be proved that Christ, as God, would have gathered, not Jerusalem, and the inhabitants of it only, but all mankind, even such as are not eventually saved, and that in a spiritual, saving way and manner, to himself; of which there is not the least intimation in this text: and in order to establish the resistibility of the grace of God, by the perverse will of man, so as to become of no effect; it should be shown that Christ would have savingly converted persons, and they would not be converted; and that he bestowed the same grace upon them, he does bestow on others, who are converted: whereas the sum of this passage lies in these few words, that Christ, as man, out of a compassionate regard for the people of the Jews, to whom, he was sent as the minister of the circumcision, would have gathered them together under his ministry, and have instructed them in the knowledge of himself, as the Messiah; which if they had only notionally received, would have secured them, as chickens under the hen, from impending judgments, which afterwards fell upon them; but their governors, and not they, would not; that is, would not suffer them to receive him, and embrace him as the Messiah. So that from the whole it appears, that this passage of Scripture, so much talked of by the Arminians, and so often cited by them, has nothing to do with the controversy about the doctrines of election and reprobation, particular redemption, efficacious grace in conversion, and the power of man's free will. This observation alone is sufficient to destroy the argument founded on this passage, in favour of free will,

(h) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 5. (i) lb. c. 7. sect. 1.((k) R. Isaac Arama in Genesis 47.apud Galatin. Arcan. Cath. ver. l. 3. c. 5. (l) Jarchi in Isa. i. 21. (m) Zohar in Numb. fol. 106. 3. & Imre binah in ib. (n) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 77. 4. &. 115. 2. Vid. Targum in Ruth ii. 12. Zohar in Exod. fol. 28. 3. & 29. 2.

{12} O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have {z} gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

(12) Where the mercy of God was greatest, it was there that there was the greatest wickedness and rebellion, and at length the sharpest judgments of God. {z} He speaks of the outward ministry, and as he was promised for the saving of this people, he was making sure that it would happen, even from the time that the promise was made to Abraham.

Matthew 23:37 ff. After denouncing all those woes against the scribes and Pharisees, the departing Redeemer, looking with sad eye into the future, sets the holy city also—which He sees hastening to its destruction under the false guidance of those leaders—in a living connection with the tragic contents of Matthew 23:34 ff., but in such a way that his parting words are no longer denunciations of woe, but the deep wail of a heart wounded, because its love has been despised. Thus Matthew 23:37 ff. forms an appropriate conclusion to the whole drama of the discourse. Luke 13:34 introduces the words in a historical connection entirely different.

The repetition of the name of Jerusalem is here ἐμφαντικὸς ἐλέος, Euthymius Zigabenus.

ἀποκτείνουσα, κ.τ.λ.] The present participles denote the usual conduct: the murderess, the killer with stones.

πρὸς αὐτήν] to her; because the attributive participial clause from being in the nominative places the subject addressed under the point of view of the third person, and only then proceeds (ποσάκιςτέκνα σου) with the vocative of address in Ἱερουσαλήμ. Comp. Luke 1:45; Job 18:4; Isaiah 22:16. With Beza and Fritzsche, αὑτήν might be read and taken as equivalent to σεαυτήν; but αὐτήν is to be preferred, for this reason, that there is here no such special emphasis as to call for the use of the reflective pronoun (we should expect simply πρός σε in that case).

ποσάκις, κ.τ.λ.] The literal meaning of which is: “How often I have wished to take thy citizens under my loving protection as Messiah!” For the metaphor, comp. Eurip. Herc. Fur. 70 f., and the passages in Wetstein, Schoettgen, p. 208 (Rabbinical writers speak of the Shechinah as gathering the proselytes under its wings). Observe ἑαυτῆς: her own chickens. Such was the love that I felt toward you. On the form νοσς. for νεοσς., see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 206. οὐκ ἐθελήσατε] sc. ἐπισυναχθῆναι; they refused (Nägelsbach on Il. iii. 289; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 278), namely, to have faith in him as the Messiah, and consequently the blame rested with themselves. This refusal was their actual κρῖμα, John 9:39.

Matthew 23:37-39. Apostrophe to the Holy City (Luke 13:34).—Εἶτα πρὸς τὴν πόλιν ἀποστρέφει τὸν λόγον. Chrys., H. lxxiv.

33–39. The Fate of Jerusalem

37. Jerusalem, Jerusalem] From Luke 13:34, it appears that our Lord spoke these words in a different connection at an earlier period of His ministry. For the pathetic reiteration of the name, cp. ch. Matthew 27:46. The Aramaic form for Jerusalem in the text appears here only in Matthew; it is the usual form in Luke. Probably the very form—Aramaic, not Greek—employed by our Lord is retained.

killest … stonest] Recalling the precise expressions of ch. Matthew 21:35.

as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings] Schöttgen ad loc. observes that converts to Judaism were said to come “under the wings of the Shechinah.” That thought may be contained in the words of Christ. Many times by His prophets He called the children of Jerusalem to Himself—the true Shechinah—through whom the glory of the latter house was greater than that of the former.

ye would not] Note the change to the plural.

Matthew 23:37. Ἱερουσαλὴμ, Ἱερουσαλὴμ, Jerusalem, Jerusalem!) A most solemn repetition.[1018]—ἡ ἀποκτένουσα, thou that killest) The participle has the force of a noun.[1019]—λιθοβαλοῦσα, that stonest) Such was the fate of Christ’s protomartyr, Stephen, recorded in Acts 7:58-59.—τοὺς ἀπεσταλμένους, them that are sent) Although ambassadors are considered inviolable by the law of nations.—πρὸς αὐτὴν, to her) i.e. πρός σε, to thee. Cf. Luke 1:45; Isaiah 47:10.—ποσάκις, κ.τ.λ., how often, etc.) As often especially as Jesus entered Judea, Jerusalem, or the Temple. See my Harmony of the Four Evangelists, and Gnomon on ch. Matthew 21:1.—καὶ οὐκ ἠθελήσατε, and ye would not) although I was willing. Cf. Isaiah 30:15.

[1018] “Epizeuxis.” See Appendix.—ED.

[1019] i.e. “Thou that art the Murderess of.”—(I. B.)

Full of compassion and horror alike.—V. g.

Verse 37. - O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Pathetic iteration! As he approached the city on another occasion Christ had used the same words (Luke 13:34, 35); he repeats them now as he takes his final farewell He speaks with Divine tenderness, yet with poignant sorrow, knowing that this last appeal will be in vain. It has been remarked that, whereas St. Matthew elsewhere names the capital city, the theocratic centre, Hierosolyma, which is the Greek equivalent, he here calls it Hierousalem, which is Hebrew, as though, while recording the words used by Jesus, he desired to reproduce the actual sound of the Saviour's affecting address. Killest...stonest. Such is thy wont, thy evil practice. So Christ says elsewhere, "It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem" (Luke 13:33). "Stonest" was particularly appropriate after the reference to Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20). Sent unto thee. The received Greek is, sent unto it or her (πρὸς αὐτήν), though some manuscripts and the Vulgate give "thee." But the change of persons is not uncommon. Alford quotes Luke 1:45; Luke 13:34; Revelation 18:24. How often! Some would confine Christ's allusion to his own mission in Judaea, and the efforts made by him to win disciples; but it surely applies to all the doings and visitations of God towards Israel during the whole course of their history, which showed his gracious desire that all should be saved, if they only had willed with him. He hereby asserts himself as one with the God of the Old Testament. Christ's ministry in Jerusalem and Judaea is mentioned by St. John. Gathered... wings. A tender similitude, which is found in the Old Testament and in classic authors. It implies love, care, and protection. Thus the psalmist prays, "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings;" "In the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge, until these calamities be overpast" (Psalm 17:8; Psalm 57:1); comp. Deuteronomy 32:11; Isaiah 31:5, etc. So Euripides, 'Herc. Fur.,' 72 -

"The children whom I cherish 'neath my wings,
As a bird cowering o'er her youthful brood."
The metaphor is peculiarly appropriate at the time, when, as Lange puts it, the Roman eagles were hovering near, and there was no hope of safety but under the Lord's wings. And ye would not. Unmoved by warning and chastisement, impenetrable to long suffering love, ungrateful for mercies, the Jews repulsed all efforts for their amendment, and blindly pursued the course of ruin. It was always in their power to turn if they willed, but they wilfully resisted grace, and must suffer accordingly (comp. Isaiah 30:15). Matthew 23:37Hen (ὄρνις)

Generic: bird or fowl; but hen is used generically of the mother-bird of all species.

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