Matthew 4:11
Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
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(11) Angels came and ministered unto him.—The tenses of the two verbs differ, the latter implying continued or repeated ministrations. Here also we are in the region of the spiritual life, and must be content to leave the nature of the ministration undefined, instead of sensualising it as poets and artists have done. What is instructive is, that the help of their service, the contrast between the calm and beauty of their presence and that of the wild beasts and of the Tempter, comes as the reward of the abnegation which refused to make their ministry the subject of an experimental test. In this case, also, we find strange coincidences. The fact recorded by St. Matthew explains the words recorded by St. John (John 1:51) as uttered but a few days later, and which speak of “the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” The words with which St. Luke ends his record of the Temptation may well be noticed here: “And having finished every temptation, the devil departed from him for a season” (literally, till a season). The conflict was not yet ended, and was from time to time renewed—now in the passionate prayer of the disciple (Matthew 16:22), now in the open enmity of the prince of this world (John 12:31; John 14:30).

Matthew 4:11. Then the devil — Being so baffled and confounded as not to be able to present any other temptation which seemed more likely to prevail, leaveth him — Namely, for a season, as Luke observes meditating no doubt some future assault, and especially designing, by and by, to use all stratagems to take away his life. And, behold, angels came and ministered unto him — Not only furnishing him with proper supplies for his hunger, but also congratulating him on so illustrious a victory over the prince of darkness; and doing him honour by the appearance of a number of them, (for one of them would nave sufficed to bring him food,) after this horrible combat with Satan, to which, for wise and gracious reasons, he was pleased to condescend. And it may encourage us in all our temptations to remember, that if our conflict be thus maintained, the struggle will, ere long, be over; and angels, who are now spectators of the combat, will at length congratulate our victory. God teaches us, by all this, that our lives are to have their vicissitudes of temptation and consolation, and that our temptation shall have a happy issue, and that when ordinary means fail we may expect extraordinary helps.

4:1-11 Concerning Christ's temptation, observe, that directly after he was declared to be the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, he was tempted; great privileges, and special tokens of Divine favour, will not secure any from being tempted. But if the Holy Spirit witness to our being adopted as children of God, that will answer all the suggestions of the evil spirit. Christ was directed to the combat. If we presume upon our own strength, and tempt the devil to tempt us, we provoke God to leave us to ourselves. Others are tempted, when drawn aside of their own lust, and enticed, Jas 1:14; but our Lord Jesus had no corrupt nature, therefore he was tempted only by the devil. In the temptation of Christ it appears that our enemy is subtle, spiteful, and very daring; but he can be resisted. It is a comfort to us that Christ suffered, being tempted; for thus it appears that our temptations, if not yielded to, are not sins, they are afflictions only. Satan aimed in all his temptations, to bring Christ to sin against God. 1. He tempted him to despair of his Father's goodness, and to distrust his Father's care concerning him. It is one of the wiles of Satan to take advantage of our outward condition; and those who are brought into straits have need to double their guard. Christ answered all the temptations of Satan with It is written; to set us an example, he appealed to what was written in the Scriptures. This method we must take, when at any time we are tempted to sin. Let us learn not to take any wrong courses for our supply, when our wants are ever so pressing: in some way or other the Lord will provide. 2. Satan tempted Christ to presume upon his Father's power and protection, in a point of safety. Nor are any extremes more dangerous than despair and presumption, especially in the affairs of our souls. Satan has no objection to holy places as the scene of his assaults. Let us not, in any place, be off our watch. The holy city is the place, where he does, with the greatest advantage, tempt men to pride and presumption. All high places are slippery places; advancements in the world makes a man a mark for Satan to shoot his fiery darts at. Is Satan so well versed in Scripture as to be able to quote it readily? He is so. It is possible for a man to have his head full of Scripture notions, and his mouth full of Scripture expressions, while his heart is full of bitter enmity to God and to all goodness. Satan misquoted the words. If we go out of our way, out of the way of our duty, we forfeit the promise, and put ourselves out of God's protection. This passage, De 8:3, made against the tempter, therefore he left out part. This promise is firm and stands good. But shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? No. 3. Satan tempted Christ to idolatry with the offer of the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. The glory of the world is the most charming temptation to the unthinking and unwary; by that men are most easily imposed upon. Christ was tempted to worship Satan. He rejected the proposal with abhorrence. Get thee hence, Satan! Some temptations are openly wicked; and they are not merely to be opposed, but rejected at once. It is good to be quick and firm in resisting temptation. If we resist the devil he will flee from us. But the soul that deliberates is almost overcome. We find but few who can decidedly reject such baits as Satan offers; yet what is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Christ was succoured after the temptation, for his encouragement to go on in his undertaking, and for our encouragement to trust in him; for as he knew, by experience, what it was to suffer, being tempted, so he knew what it was to be succoured, being tempted; therefore we may expect, not only that he will feel for his tempted people, but that he will come to them with seasonable relief.Then the devil leaveth him - He left him for a time, Luke 4:13. He intended to return again to the temptation, and, if possible, to seduce him yet from God. Compare John 14:30; Luke 22:53. See the notes at Hebrews 12:4.

The angels came and ministered - See the notes at Matthew 1:20. They came and supplied his wants and comforted him. From this narrative we may learn:

(a) That no one is so holy as to be free from temptation, for even the Son of God was sorely tempted.

(b) That when God permits a temptation or trial to come upon us, he will, if we look to him, give us grace to resist and overcome it, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

(c) We see the art of the tempter. His temptations are adapted to times and circumstances. They are plausible. What could have been mere plausible than his suggestions to Christ? They were applicable to his circumstances. They had the appearance of much piety. They were backed by passages of Scripture misapplied, but still most artfully presented. Satan never comes boldly and tempts people to sin, telling them that they are committing sin. Such a mode would defeat his design. It would put people on their guard. He commences, therefore, artfully and plausibly, and the real purpose does not appear until he has prepared the mind for it. This is the way with all temptation. No wicked person would at once tempt another to be profane, to be drunk, to be an infidel, or to commit adultery. The principles are first corrupted. The confidence is secured. The affections are won. And then the allurement is little by little presented, until the victim falls. How everyone should be on his guard at the very first appearance of evil, at the first suggestion that may possibly lead to sin!

(d) One of the best ways of meeting temptation is by applying Scripture. So our Saviour did, and they will always best succeed who best wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, Ephesians 6:17.

11. Then the devil leaveth him—Luke says, "And when the devil had exhausted"—or "quite ended," as in Lu 4:2—"every (mode of) temptation, he departed from him till a season." The definite "season" here indicated is expressly referred to by our Lord in Joh 14:30 and Lu 22:52, 53.

and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him—or supplied Him with food, as the same expression means in Mr 1:31 and Lu 8:3. Thus did angels to Elijah (1Ki 19:5-8). Excellent critics think that they ministered, not food only, but supernatural support and cheer also. But this would be the natural effect rather than the direct object of the visit, which was plainly what we have expressed. And after having refused to claim the illegitimate ministration of angels in His behalf, oh, with what deep joy would He accept their services when sent, unasked, at the close of all this temptation, direct from Him whom He had so gloriously honored! What "angels' food" would this repast be to Him! and as He partook of it, might not a Voice from heaven be heard again, by any who could read the Father's mind, "Said I not well, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?"

Resist the devil, saith James, Jam 4:7, and he shall flee from you. Thus he did from the Head, thus he shall do from the members: but as he did not flee from Christ till commanded away, so neither till commanded off by God doth he leave the people of God; but upon our resistance God will command him off, that we may not be tempted above our strength. The evil angels leaving him, the good

angels came and ministered unto him, whether by bringing him food, or bringing him off the mount, or otherwise executing his commands, is not expressed, and it is too much curiosity to inquire. God by this teacheth us, that our lives are to have their vicissitudes of temptations and consolations, and that our temptations shall have a happy issue, and that when ordinary means fail we may expect extraordinary influences and assistances. Luke saith, he departed from him for a season, to let us know, that though there was an end of his more eminent temptations, yet he was not afterward without Satan’s assaults.

Then the devil leaveth him,.... In Luke 4:13 it says,

when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season, or until a season. That is, having tempted him with all sorts of temptations, and tried him every way to no purpose; having gone through, and finished the whole scheme and course of temptations he had devised, without success; and having orders from Christ to depart, which he was obliged to obey, leaves him for a while, till another opportunity of tempting him in some other way should offer; or till the time came, when he should be so far able to get the advantage of him, as to bruise his heel, or bring him to the dust of death; see John 14:30 and when he was gone, better company came in his room;

behold, angels came and ministered to him. They came to him in a visible, human form, as they were used to do under the Old Testament dispensation, and that after the temptation was over; after Satan was foiled, and was gone; that it might appear that Christ alone had got the victory over him, without any help or assistance from them. When they were come, they "ministered to him"; that is, they brought him food of their own preparing and dressing, as they formerly did to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:5 to satisfy his hunger, and refresh his animal spirits; which had underwent a very great fatigue during this length of time, in which he fasted, and was tempted by Satan. Thus, as the angels are ministring spirits to the heirs of salvation, both in a temporal and in a spiritual sense, Hebrews 1:14 so they were to Christ. Nothing is more frequent with the Jews than to call the angels "ministring angels": it would be needless and endless to refer to particular places.

Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Matthew 4:11. Ἄγγελοι] Angels, without the article.

διηκόνουν] ministered to Him. The remark of Bengel is correct: “sine dubio pro eo, ac tum opus erat, sc. allato cibo.” So Luther, Piscator, Jansen, Wolf, Hammond, Michaelis, Paulus, Fritzsche, Strauss, de Wette, Ewald, Bleek, Nebe, Keim. Concerning the use of διακονεῖν in this sense, see Wetstein, and Matthiae, ad Soph. Phil. 284; and how pragmatically does this appearance of angels, after a series of temptations that have been victoriously withstood, correspond to the appearance of Satan in Matthew 4:3! Comp. 1 Kings 19:5. Others, not referring it to food, say that extraordinary divine support (John 1:51) is intended (Calvin, Maldonatus, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Kuhn, Ammon, Ebrard), on which view the angels themselves are partly left out, partly effaced from the narrative; whilst Chrysostom (who compares the carrying of Lazarus by angels into Abraham’s bosom), Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Grotius, do not enter into any more minute exposition of the διακονεῖν. But considering the appropriateness of the above definite explanation, it is not right to be satisfied with one that is indefinite and wavering.


According to the representation of the evangelists, the temptation of Jesus by the devil appears in the connection of the history as a real external marvellous occurrence. See Ch. F. Fritzsche in Fritzschior. Opusc. p. 122 ff. To abide by this view (Michaelis, Storr, Ebrard, P. Ewald, Graul, Könemann, Arnoldi, Schegg, Delitzsch, Nebe, Engelhardt, Hofmann, Riggenbach, Baumgarten) is a necessary consequence of the denial of any legendary elements in the canonical Gospels, and is equally justifiable with this denial in general. The evangelists were aware that they were relating a real external history in time and space (in answer to Kuhn, Lichtenstein), and the choice only remains between adopting either this view or assuming that of an ideal history in the garb of legend, gradually brought into shape by the power of the idea. All attempts at explaining away the devil and his external appearance are arbitrary contradictions or critical carpings, opposed to the design and representations of the evangelists, more or less of a rationalistic character. This holds good, not merely of the absurd, and, in relation to the third act, even monstrous view of those who, instead of the devil, introduce one or even various individuals, perhaps a member of the Sanhedrim or high priest, who wished to examine Jesus and to win Him over, or destroy Him (Herm. v. d. Hardt, Exegesis he. difficilior. quat. ev. p. 470 ff.; Basedow, Venturini, Möller, neue Ansichten, p. 20 ff.; Rosenmüller, Kuinoel, Feilmoser in the Tüb. Quartalschr. 1828, 1, 2), but also of the view which regards the event as a vision, whether this was brought about by the devil (Origen? Pseudo-Cyprian, Theodore of Mopsuestia), or by God (Farmer, Inquiry into the Nature and Design of Christ’s Temptation, London, 1761; comp. also Calvin on Matthew 4:5), or by natural means (Balth. Becker, Scultetus, Clericus, Wetstein, Bolten, Bertholdt, Jahn, Gabler, Paulus, Gratz, Pfieiderer), or of those who view it as a significant morning dream (Meyer in the Stud. u. Kritik. 1831, p. 319 ff.),—which interpretations, moreover, are in contradiction with the clear repose and moral definiteness of the divine-human consciousness of Jesus, in virtue of which there never occurs in His life any condition of ecstasy, or a trace of any special manifestations in dreams. Akin to this, but equally offensive to the gospel history, and besides by no means leaving unaffected the moral character of the development of Jesus Himself, if we look to Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15, is the view which transforms the occurrence into an internal history, which took place in the thoughts and fancy of Jesus (Döderlein, Eichhorn, allg. Bibl. III. p. 283 ff.; Thaddaeus d. i. Dereser, d. Versuch. Christi, Bonn 1794; Hezel, Augusti, Bretschneider, Weisse, Kritik d. ev. Gesch. II. p. 12; Hocheisen in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1833, 2; Kohlschütter, Pfeiffer, Rink, Ammon, Laufs, Schenkel, Held). On this view the devil has again been recently brought forward, on grounds exegetically justifiable, as the operating principle (Krabbe, Hoffmann, Schmid, bibl. Theol. I. p. 65; and very indirectly also by Ullmann); while, in a more arbitrary manner, it has been attributed to the disciples that they apprehended in an objective form the inner fact related to them by Jesus, that He had rejected the false idea of the Messiah; whilst Neander, L. J. p. 120 ff., substantially giving up the reality of the history of the temptation (“a fragmentary symbolical setting forth of the facts of His inner life,” where the manner of the devil’s co-operation is left undetermined), holds hesitatingly by its truth; and Kuhn, moreover, is divided between the historical and unhistorical view of the manner of its occurrence. To those who transfer the history into the inner life of Jesus’ spirit, belong also Hase and Olshausen, the former of whom recognises in it the whole history of His mental growth, probably externalized by Himself, with reference to Exodus 16, Deuteronomy 8:2, Psalm 91:11 f, into an individual fact, but in the tradition assumed to be actual history, and who volatilizes the devil into the spirit of the world; while Olshausen, notwithstanding the ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος in Matthew 4:1, finds the reality of the. occurrence in this, that the soul of Jesus was exposed to the full operations of the kingdom of darkness; while Lange regards the internal temptation of Jesus as caused by the devil, but brought about by human means—that is, as an assault of the sympathetic in working of the national and world spirit upon His soul, and as the tentative representatives of this spirit, drags in, by an invention that is his own, the deputation of the Sanhedrim, which had been despatched to John (John 1:19), as they were on their way back to Jerusalem. With more caution and with profounder historical insight, Keim (comp. Weizsäcker, p. 239 ff.) regards the history of the temptation in the light of the victorious beginning of the struggle with Satan, Matthew 12:25 ff., where the historical kernel is the heavy weight of questions and doubts which were imposed on the soul of Jesus whilst He was calmly meditating upon the obligation and the manner of His vocation to the Messiahship, and on His decision to enter upon it, which had so powerfully taken hold of Him on the banks of the Jordan; on this initial victory Jesus could not have left His disciples without some information. But however we may apprehend the narrative as an historical occurrence in the mind of Jesus, the monstrous nature of the external formation of the history remains the more inexplicable the more directly its origin is brought into connection with Jesus Himself and His circle of disciples, especially as the threefold details of the temptation were still unknown to Mark. To view the event as a parable, is in contradiction to the narrative, arbitrary in itself, and alien to the style of parabolic address employed by Jesus elsewhere. So, after older writers, who, however, endanger the sinless character of Jesus, it has been viewed as a symbolical address of Jesus or of one of His disciples directed against false Messianic hopes. See Schleiermacher, Schr. d. Lukas, 54f., and L. J. p. 157 ff.; B. Crusius, bibl. Theol. p. 303, and on Matthew, p. 82; Usteri in the Stud. u. Krit. 1829, p. 455 ff., who at a later time recanted this opinion, and regarded the narrative as a myth (1832, p. 768); Richter, formam narrat. Matthew 4:1-11, parabolicam ex Judaeor. opinione de duplici Adamo esse repetend., Viteb. 1824; Schweizer, Bleek; coinp. Theile, z. Biogr. J. p. 49: “a warning directed by some adherent or another in support of the spiritually moral view, in opposition to the chief elements of the earthly Messianic hope.” Against the parabolic character, see Hasert in the Stud. u. Krit. 1830, p. 74 f.; Strauss, L. J. I. p. 444 f.; Schmid, bibl. Theol. I. p. 60; Engelhardt, Nebe.

As now, however, the history of the temptation in the first and third evangelists, viewed as an actual external occurrence, contains not merely a legendary magical scenery which is still foreign to the oldest Gospel, but also absolute impossibilities and contradictions with the moral character of Jesus as filled with the Spirit, who does not at once get rid of Satan, but allows him to proceed to the utmost extreme; as, moreover, this occurrence on the other side stands in contradiction with the devil’s cunning and craftiness (Paulus, exeget. Handb. I. p. 376), whose assaults as proceeding from the devil against the Son of man would be planned with as much clumsiness as pointlessness,—there thus remains nothing else than to explain the narrative which in Mark still exhibits its first undeveloped beginnings, the first crystallisations of its ideal contents, the subject of which the narrators deemed to be true history, and repeated as such, as a legend, the contents of which, regarded as thought, possessed historical truth, and which arose among Jewish Christians,[391] being derived from the idea of the Messiah as opposed to the devil, and the necessity and complete realization of which was exhibited in the whole life and work of Christ, placed, like a compendious programme, an “epitome omnium tentationum” (Bengel), at the beginning of the Messianic career, which commenced at the baptism. Not as if there had not been on the part of Jesus after His baptism, and before His entrance on His work, the most serious preparation and most intense concentration of thought in still retirement, in which the whole opposition of the devil, as well as the manner of His own struggles and conquests which had been peculiarly determined by God, must have presented themselves vividly before His eyes; although this alone could not have given rise to the history of the temptation. For that purpose it was necessary that His holy life, that actual victory over Satan, should first be completed. That narrative might now first have arisen in the living history-moulding power of the ideas which prevails generally throughout the preliminary history, first of all in the form in which it appears in Mark, but soon after gradually expanded into detail, yet again silently excluded by John, considering the impossibility of assigning a place to it in connection with his history. Its expanded form, however, as it lies before us in Matthew and Luke, corresponds with the highest internal truth to the main relations of the opposition directed by the power of the devil against the second Adam and His kingdom,—an opposition which is decidedly to be recognised from the very beginning onwards to the end, and victory over which was the condition of His whole work. In this way the contents of the narrative, the psychological factors of which are quite as much the temptability as the sinlessness of the Lord, certainly belong to the history, but not as a concrete occurrence with its three individual acts, but as a summary reflection of the work of Jesus in His vocation in relation to the demoniacal kingdom, without, however, our being obliged to assume as an historical foundation any internal temptation taking place in thought, and any originally symbolic representation of the same, which was transformed into actual history in the course of tradition (de Wette). This foundation is rather the complete victory of our Lord over the craft and power of the devil, as the whole course of His Messianic life is a series of temptations by the devil, with the result of the latter being conquered both in detail and in the main (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15); comp. John 14:30. With profound meaning and truth (for from the very beginning must Jesus make experience of the enemy of His kingdom, begin the struggle with him, and become certain of the right victory) has the synoptic tradition unanimously assigned to the narrative the early place which it occupies; and the attempt cannot be successful to maintain a later special situation as the historical seat of its origin, as Pfleiderer does, who transposes the vision which he assumes into the time of ch. 15 16, making use, moreover, of John 6:26 for the first act of the temptation. That the history of the temptation in Matthew is even a later insertion derived from oral tradition (Köstlin), is a very arbitrary inference, from the circumstance that Matthew 4:12 does not make any reference to the history of the temptations; Matthew follows Mark, and quotes his short notice from a special source.

The existence of Satan, as well as his personality, is attested throughout the whole of the New Testament, and is altogether independent of the view which may be taken of this individual narrative; see in answer to Hofmann, Schriftbew., Philippi, Dogm. III. p. 332 ff. ed. 2.

[391] Various conceptions from the legendary or mythical point of view, see in Theiss, Löffler, kl. Schr. II. p. 185 ff.; Fritzscho, Usteri in the Stud. ú. Krit. 1832, p. 768 ff.; Strauss, I. p. 479 f.; de Wette, Gfrörer, Gesch. d. Urchr. I. 1, p. 379 ff.; Ewald.—The locality of the temptation, the wilderness, was at once suggested as the idea gradually assumed bodily form from the sojourn of Jesus with the Baptist, and from the popular belief that demons had their dwellings in the wilderness; the forty days, however, found their venerable point of connection in the types of Moses and Elias (hardly of the forty years’ duration of the wanderings of the people in the wilderness, which Delitzsch, Baumgarten, and others drag in here as a type). They are also not excluded by the statement of Justin, c. Tr. 103, that, according to the ἀπομνημον. τ. ἀποστ, the devil came to Jesus ἅμα τῷ ἀναβῆναι αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ ποταμοῦ τοῦ Ἰορδάνου; but this statement agrees with Mark 1:12 f. As regards the individual temptations, the first was thus connected with the forty days’ fast of Moses, Deuteronomy 9:9; Deuteronomy 9:18; the second, with the necessity which existed in the case of the Messiah of His being accredited by miracles; the third, with the certainty of the Messiah’s rule over the world, by means of which the government of the devil must come to an end.

Matthew 4:11. τότε ἀφίησιν: then, when the peremptory ὕπαγε had been spoken. Nothing was to be made of one who would not do evil that good might come.—καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄγγελοι. The angels were ministering to Him, with food, presumably, in the view of the evangelist. It might be taken in a wider sense, as signifying that angels ministered constantly to one who had decidedly chosen the path of obedience in preference to that of self-pleasing.

Matthew 4:11. Ἄγγελοι, angels) Who had probably witnessed the contest. Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Timothy 3:16.—διηκόνουν, ministered) Undoubtedly, by doing that which was then necessary, sc. bringing Him food.—Cf. 1 Kings 19:5-6.

Verse 11. - The devil leaveth him; Luke, "departed from him for a season." For though there are crises of temptation, the devil never finally gives up his attack while the object of it is still on earth. May not even direct assaults be included in the remarkable epitome of Messianic life found in Luke 22:28? And, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. Kept back before both by the presence of the evil one, and by the need for the God-Man to contend alone, they now came up to him and ministered to him so long as they could be helpful (for the change of tenses, cf. Matthew 8:15). Mark however (Mark 1:13) implies that they had been present at other times than after this last crisis. Ministered; possibly supplying his bodily need (cf. Matthew 8:15; Luke 10:40); but as, after all, bodily sustenance is but secondary to spiritual, the latter must at least be included (cf. Hebrews 1:14). In Luke 22:43 the "strengthening" would appear to be of his whole nature within and without, through the medium of his spirit. Matthew 4:11
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