Matthew 24:7
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
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(7) Nation shall rise against nation.—Some of the more memorable of these are recorded by Josephus: one at Seleucia, in which 50,000 Jews are said to have perished (Ant. xviii. 9, §§ 8, 9); others at Cæsarea, Scythopolis, Joppa, Ascalon, and Tyre (Wars 2:18); and the memorable conflict between Jews and Greeks at Alexandria, under Caligula, A.D. 38, of which we learn from Philo. The whole period was, indeed, marked by tumults of this kind.

Famines.—Of these we know that of which Agabus prophesied (Acts 11:28), and which was felt severely, in the ninth year of Claudius, not only in Syria, but in Rome (Jos. Ant. xx. 2). Suetonius (Claud. c. 18) speaks of the reign of that emperor as marked by “continual scarcity.”

Pestilences.—The word is not found in the best MSS., and has probably been inserted from the parallel passage in Luke 21:11. It was, however, the inevitable attendant on famine, and the Greek words for the two (λιμὸς, and λοιμὸς, limos and loimos) were so like each other that the omission may possibly have been an error of transcription. A pestilence is recorded as sweeping off 30,000 persons at Rome (Sueton. Nero, 39; Tacitus, Ann. xvi. 13).

Earthquakes, in divers places.—Perhaps no period in the world’s history has ever been so marked by these convulsions as that which intervenes between the Crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem. Josephus records one in Judæa (Wars, iv. 4, § 5); Tacitus tells of them in Crete, Rome, Apamea, Phrygia, Campania (Ann. xii. 58; xiv. 27; xv. 22); Seneca (Ep. 91), in A.D. 58, speaks of them as extending their devastations over Asia (the proconsular province, not the continent), Achaia, Syria, and Macedonia.

24:4-28 The disciples had asked concerning the times, When these things should be? Christ gave them no answer to that; but they had also asked, What shall be the sign? This question he answers fully. The prophecy first respects events near at hand, the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the Jewish church and state, the calling of the Gentiles, and the setting up of Christ's kingdom in the world; but it also looks to the general judgment; and toward the close, points more particularly to the latter. What Christ here said to his disciples, tended more to promote caution than to satisfy their curiosity; more to prepare them for the events that should happen, than to give a distinct idea of the events. This is that good understanding of the times which all should covet, thence to infer what Israel ought to do. Our Saviour cautions his disciples to stand on their guard against false teachers. And he foretells wars and great commotions among nations. From the time that the Jews rejected Christ, and he left their house desolate, the sword never departed from them. See what comes of refusing the gospel. Those who will not hear the messengers of peace, shall be made to hear the messengers of war. But where the heart is fixed, trusting in God, it is kept in peace, and is not afraid. It is against the mind of Christ, that his people should have troubled hearts, even in troublous times. When we looked forward to the eternity of misery that is before the obstinate refusers of Christ and his gospel, we may truly say, The greatest earthly judgments are but the beginning of sorrows. It is comforting that some shall endure even to the end. Our Lord foretells the preaching of the gospel in all the world. The end of the world shall not be till the gospel has done its work. Christ foretells the ruin coming upon the people of the Jews; and what he said here, would be of use to his disciples, for their conduct and for their comfort. If God opens a door of escape, we ought to make our escape, otherwise we do not trust God, but tempt him. It becomes Christ's disciples, in times of public trouble, to be much in prayer: that is never out of season, but in a special manner seasonable when we are distressed on every side. Though we must take what God sends, yet we may pray against sufferings; and it is very trying to a good man, to be taken by any work of necessity from the solemn service and worship of God on the sabbath day. But here is one word of comfort, that for the elect's sake these days shall be made shorter than their enemies designed, who would have cut all off, if God, who used these foes to serve his own purpose, had not set bounds to their wrath. Christ foretells the rapid spreading of the gospel in the world. It is plainly seen as the lightning. Christ preached his gospel openly. The Romans were like an eagle, and the ensign of their armies was an eagle. When a people, by their sin, make themselves as loathsome carcasses, nothing can be expected but that God should send enemies to destroy them. It is very applicable to the day of judgment, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in that day, 2Th 2:1. Let us give diligence to make our calling and election sure; then may we know that no enemy or deceiver shall ever prevail against us.Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom - At Caesarea the Jews and Syrians contended about the right to the city, and twenty thousand of the Jews were slain. At this blow the whole nation of the Jews was exasperated, and carried war and desolation through the Syrian cities and villages. Sedition and civil war spread throughout Judea; Italy was also thrown into civil war by the contests between Otho and Vitellius for the crown.

And there shall be famines - There was a famine foretold by Agabus Acts 11:28, which is mentioned by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Eusebius, and which was so severe in Jerusalem, Josephus says, that many people perished for want of food, Antiq. xx. 2. Four times in the reign of Claudius (41-54 a.d.) famine prevailed in Rome, Palestine, and Greece.

Pestilences - Raging epidemic diseases; the plague, sweeping off multitudes of people at once. It is commonly the attendant of famine, and often produced by it. A pestilence is recorded as raging in Babylonia, 40 a.d. (Josephus, Antiq. xviii. 9. 8); in Italy, 66 a.d. (Tacitus 16. 13). Both of these took place before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Earthquakes - In prophetic language, earthquakes sometimes mean political commotions. Literally, they are tremors or shakings of the earth, often shaking cities and towns to ruin. The earth opens, and houses and people sink indiscriminately to destruction. Many of these are mentioned as preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. Tacitus mentions one in the reign of Claudius, at Rome, and says that in the reign of Nero the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse were overthrown, and the celebrated Pompeii was overwhelmed and almost destroyed by an earthquake, Annales, 15. 22. Others are mentioned as occurring at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, and Samos. Luke adds, "And fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven," Luke 21:11. Josephus, who had probably never heard of this prophecy, and who certainly would have done nothing designedly to show its fulfillment, records the prodigies and signs which He says preceded the destruction of the city.

A star, says he, resembling a sword, stood over the city, and a comet that continued a whole year. At the feast of unleavened bread, during the night, a bright light shone round the altar and the temple, so that it seemed to be bright day, for half an hour. The eastern gate of the temple, of solid brass, fastened with strong bolts and bars, and which had been shut with difficulty by twenty men, opened in the night of its own accord. A few days after that feast, He says, "Before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities." A great noise, as of the sound of a multitude, was heard in the temple, saying, "Let us remove hence." Four years before the war began, Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, came to the feast of the tabernacles when the city was in peace and prosperity, and began to cry aloud, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegroom and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!" He was scourged, and at every stroke of the whip He cried, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" This cry, Josephus says, was continued every day for more than seven years, until He was killed in the siege of the city, exclaiming, "Woe, woe to myself also!" - Jewish Wars, b. 6 chapter 9, section 3.


Mt 24:1-51. Christ's Prophecy of the Destruction of Jerusalem, and Warnings Suggested by It to Prepare for His Second Coming. ( = Mr 13:1-37; Lu 21:5-36).

For the exposition, see on [1355]Mr 13:1-37.

See Poole on "Matthew 24:8".

This seems to be a distinct and third sign, foreboding the general calamity of the Jews; that there should be not only seditions and intestine wars, in the midst of their country, but there should be wars in other nations, one with another; and with the Jews, and the Jews with them: and this also is made a sign of the Messiah's coming by them, for so they say (k);

"when thou seest, , "kingdoms stirred up one against another", look for the feet of the Messiah: know thou that so it shall be; for so it was in the days of Abraham: by the means of kingdoms stirred up one against another, redemption came to Abraham.''

Poor blinded creatures! when these very things were the forerunners of their destruction. And so it was, the Jewish nation rose up against others, the Samaritans, Syrians, and Romans: there were great commotions in the Roman empire, between Otho and Vitellius, and Vitellius and Vespasian; and at length the Romans rose up against the Jews, under the latter, and entirely destroyed them; compare the writings in 2:Esdras:

"And one shall undertake to fight against another, one city against another, one place against another, one people against another, and one realm against another.'' (2 Esdras 13:31)

"the beginning of sorrows and great mournings; the beginning of famine and great death; the beginning of wars, and the powers shall stand in fear; the beginning of evils! what shall I do when these evils shall come?'' (2 Esdras 16:18)

"Therefore when there shall be seen earthquakes and uproars of the people in the world:'' (2 Esdras 9:3)

And there shall be famines: a fourth sign of the desolation of the city and temple, and which the Jews also say, shall go before the coming of the Messiah:

"in the second year (of the week of years) in which the son of David comes, they say (l), there will be "arrows of famine" sent forth; and in the third year, , "a great famine": and men, women, and children, and holy men, and men of business, shall die.''

But these have been already; they followed the Messiah, and preceded their destruction: one of these famines was in Claudius Caesar's time, was foretold by Agabus, and is mentioned in Acts 11:28 and most dreadful ones there were, whilst Jerusalem was besieged, and before its utter ruin, related by Josephus.

And pestilences: a pestilence is described by the Jews after this manner (m):

"a city that produces a thousand and five hundred footmen, as Cephar Aco, and nine dead men are carried out of it in three days, one after another, lo! , "this is a pestilence"; but if in one day, or in four days, it is no pestilence; and a city that produces five hundred footmen, as Cephar Amiko, and three dead men are carried out of it in three days, one after another, lo! this is a pestilence.''

These commonly attend famines, and are therefore mentioned together; and when the one was, the other may be supposed sooner or later to be:

and earthquakes in divers places of the world; as, at Crete (n), and in divers cities in Asia (o), in the times of Nero: particularly the three cities of Phrygia, Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse; which were near to each other, and are all said to perish this way, in his reign (p);

"and Rome itself felt a tremor, in the reign of Galba (q).''


For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in {b} divers places.

(b) Everywhere.

Matthew 24:7. Γάρ] it is not quite the end as yet; for the situation will become still more turbulent and distressing: nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, etc. We have here depicted in colours borrowed from ancient prophecy (Isaiah 19:2), not only those risings, becoming more and more frequent, which, after a long ferment, culminated in the closing scene of the Jewish war and led to the destruction of Jerusalem, but also those convulsions in nature by which they were accompanied. That this prediction was fulfilled in its general aspects is amply confirmed, above all, by the well-known accounts of Josephus; but we are forbidden by the very nature of genuine prophecy, which cannot and is not meant to be restricted to isolated points, either to assume or try to prove that such and such historical events are special literal fulfilments in concrete of the individual features in the prophetic outlook before us,—although this has been attempted very recently, by Köstlin in particular. As for the Parthian wars and the risings that took place some ten years after in Gaul and Spain, they had no connection whatever with Jerusalem or Judaea. There is as little reason to refer (Wetstein) the πολέμους of Matthew 24:6 to the war waged by Asinaeus and Alinaeus against the Parthians (Joseph. Antt. xviii. 9. 1), and the ἀκοὰς πολέμων to the Parthian declaration of war against King Izates of Adiabene (Joseph. Antt. xx. 3. 3), or to explain the latter (ἀκοὰς πολέμων) of the struggles for the imperial throne that had broken out after the death of Nero (Hilgenfeld). Jesus, who sees rising before Him the horrors of war and other calamities connected, Matthew 24:15, with the coming destruction of Jerusalem, presents a picture of them to the view of His hearers. Comp. 4 Esdr. Matthew 13:21; Sohar Chadasch, f. viii. 4 : “Illo tempore bella in mundo excitabuntur; gens erit contra gentem, et urbs contra urbem: angustiae multae contra hostes Israelitarum innovabuntur.” Beresch. Rabba, 42 f., 41. 1 : “Si videris regna contra se invicem insurgentia tunc attende, et adspice pedem Messiae.”

λιμοὶ κ. σεισμοί] see critical notes. Nor, again, is this feature in the prediction to be restricted to some such special famine as that which occurred during the reign of Claudius (Acts 11:28), too early a date for our passage, and to one or two particular cases of earthquake which happened in remote countries, and with which history has made us familiar (such as that in the neighbourhood of Colossae, Oros. Hist. vii. 7, Tacit. Ann. xiv. 27, and that at Pompeii).

κατὰ τόπους] which is applicable only to σεισμοί, as in Mark 13:8, is to be taken distributively (Bernhardy, p. 240; Kühner, II. 1, p. 414): locatim, travelling from one district to another. The equally grammatical interpretation: in various localities here and there (Grotius, Wetstein, Raphel, Kypke, Baumgarten-Crusius, Köstlin, Bleek), is rather too feeble to suit the extraordinary character of the events referred to. In Matthew 24:6-7, Dorner finds merely an embodiment of the thought: “evangelium gladii instar dissecabit male conjuncta, ut vere jungat; naturae autem phaenomena concomitantia quasi depingent motus et turbines in spiritualibus orbibus orturos.”

Matthew 24:7. urther development of the war-portent, possibly here the prophetic range of vision widens beyond the bounds of Palestine, yet not necessarily. In support of limiting the reference to Palestine Kypke quotes from Josephus words describing the zealots as causing strife between people and people, city and city, and involving the nation in civil war (B. J., iv., 6).—λιμοὶ καὶ λοιμοί, famines and pestilences, the usual accompaniments of war, every way likely to be named together as in T. R.—καὶ σεισμοὶ, and earthquakes, representing all sorts of unusual physical phenomena having no necessary connection with the political, but appealing to the imagination at such times, so heightening the gloom. Several such specified in commentaries (vide, e.g., Speaker’s C., and Alford, from whom the particulars are quoted), but no stress should be laid on them.—κατὰ τόπους: most take this as meaning not earthquakes passing from place to place (Meyer) but here and there, passim. vide Elsner and Raphel, who cite classic examples. Grotius enumerates the places where they occurred.

7. famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes] The commentators enumerate instances of all these calamities recorded by the contemporary historians.

Matthew 24:7. Ἐγερθήσεται, shall be roused) sc. after a period of greater peace.—ἔθνος, κ.τ.λ., nation, etc.) even beyond the limits of Judea.—λιμαὶ, καὶ λοιμοὶ, καὶ σεισμοὶ, famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes) Almost all matters treated of in the Novellæ, may be referred to one or the other of these classes, though historians frequently regard such things less than the deeds of men.—κατὰ τόπος, in divers places) There always have been pestilences, etc., but not of such frequent occurrence.

Verse 7. - Nation shall rise against nation, etc. This part of the prediction is inapplicable to the era preceding the ruin of Jerusalem, the disturbances that occurred then (e.g. at Alexandria, Seleucia, Jamnia, and other localities mentioned by Josephus, 'Ant.,' 18:09. 8, 9; 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:17. 10; 18:1-8; 4:3. 2; and by Philo, 'Legat. ad Caium,' § 30) could hardly have been indicated in such grand terms. More to the purpose is the sketch of the period given by Tacitus, at the opening of his history, though it embraces also details belonging to a somewhat later age: "I enter upon a work fertile in vicissitudes, stained with the blood of battles, embroiled with dissensions, horrible even in the intervals of peace. Four princes slain by the sword; three civil wars, more with foreign enemies, and sometimes both at once; prosperity in the East, disasters in the West; Illyricum disturbed; the Gauls ready to revolt; Britain conquered, and again lost; Sarmatians end Suevians conspiring against us; the Dacians renowned for defeats given and sustained; the Parthians almost aroused to arms by a counterfeit Nero. Italy afflicted with calamities unheard of, or recurring only after a long interval; cities overwhelmed or swallowed up in the fertile region of Campania; Rome itself laid waste by fire, the most ancient temples destroyed, the very capitol burned by its own citizens," etc. ('Hist.,' I. 2). But the Lord's words seem to refer to times when Rome's dominion had ceased, and nation warred against nation, as in later and modern days in Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa So again the prediction must be extended far beyond events in the Jewish cycle. Famines. Besides the famine mentioned in Acts 11:28, there were others in Jerusalem and Judaea (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 3:15. 3; 20:2.6; 4. 2; 'Bell. Jud.,' yd. 3. 3). Suetonius ('Claud.,' 18) speaks of "assiduas sterilitates;" and Tacitus ('Ann.,' 12:43) records as happening at the same period, "frugum egestas, et orta ex eo fames." And pestilences; as consequent on famine. Hence the Greek paronomasia, λιμοὶ καὶ λαμοί, in our text. But many editors expunge λιμοί, considering it, with some reason, to have been introduced from the parallel passage in St. Luke, where it is certainly genuine. Of pestilences we have notice in Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 4:06, 1), in Tacitus ('Ann.,' 14:16), and Suetonius ('Nero,' 39), where we read that at Rome in a single autumn thirty thousand persons perished. Wordsworth refers to Tertullian ('Apol.,' 20.), Who sees in these predictions infallible proof of the inspiration of Scripture. "Hence it is that we come to be so certain of many things not yet come to pass, from the experience we have of those that are; because those were presignified by the same Spirit with these which we see fulfilling every day" (Reeve). Earthquakes. Commentators relate the occurrence of such commotions at Rome, in Crete, Laodicea, Campania, etc., and at Jerusalem (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 4:04. 5; Tacitus, 'Ann.,' 12:43, 58; 14:27; 15:22; Seneca, 'Ep.,' 91. 9; Philostraius, 'Vit. Apollon.,' 4:34; Zonaras, 'Ann.,' 11:10). Nosgen takes the term "earthquakes" in a metaphorical sense as equivalent to ταραχαί, and implying mental perturbations; but it seems incongruous to admit a metaphysical prognostication in the midst of a notice of a series of material phenomena. In divers places; κατὰ τόπους: per loca (Vulgate). Some render the words, "in all places," ubivis locorum, as in Luke 2:41, κατ ἔτος, "every year." But it is better to take the preposition distributively, "place by place," like κατ ἄνδρα: so equivalent to "here and there." Matthew 24:7
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