Matthew 4:15
The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
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(15-16) The citation is remarkable as the only reference in the New Testament to what seems to us the most wonderful and majestic of all Messianic prophecies; and still more remarkable as dwelling, not on the words so familiar to us, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . ,” but on the merely local imagery which is a prelude to that great utterance, and on that, in a version which is neither a true rendering of the Hebrew, nor a correct citation from the received Greek version. We have to recognise the fact that the Evangelist did not study prophecy as we study it. Books were scarce, and the publican of Capernaum, though his occupation implied some clerkly knowledge, probably had few, and heard rather than read the Scriptures which he quotes. What strikes a man who learns in this way is the coincidence of single words and phrases with familiar facts. He speaks not of what has been written, but of what has been spoken. He is not careful about the context. When St. Matthew looked back on the change that had come over Capernaum in the arrival of the prophet of Nazareth—a change extending to his own life—these words seemed the only adequate description of it. Here was the very scene of which Isaiah had spoken, the old border country of Zebulon and of Naphthali. To him and to others who had been in the darkness of spiritual ignorance, neglected and uncared for, as sheep gone astray in the dark valley of death, there had sprung up a marvellous Light. Unconsciously he adds his testimony to that of St. John, that the presence of Jesus was felt to be that of the “true Light” that “lighteth every man” (John 1:9).

4:12-17 It is just with God to take the gospel and the means of grace, from those that slight them and thrust them away. Christ will not stay long where he is not welcome. Those who are without Christ, are in the dark. They were sitting in this condition, a contented posture; they chose it rather than light; they were willingly ignorant. When the gospel comes, light comes; when it comes to any place, when it comes to any soul, it makes day there. Light discovers and directs; so does the gospel. The doctrine of repentance is right gospel doctrine. Not only the austere John Baptist, but the gracious Jesus, preached repentance. There is still the same reason to do so. The kingdom of heaven was not reckoned to be fully come, till the pouring out of the Holy Spirit after Christ's ascension.That it might be fulfilled ... - This place is recorded in Isaiah 9:1-2. Matthew has given the sense, but not the very words of the prophet. For the meaning of the passage as employed by Isaiah, see the notes at Isaiah 9:1-2.

By the way of the sea - Which is near to the sea, or in the vicinity of the sea.

Beyond Jordan - This does not mean to the east of Jordan, as the phrase sometimes denotes, but rather in the vicinity of the Jordan, or perhaps in the vicinity of the sources of the Jordan. See Deuteronomy 1:1; Deuteronomy 4:49.

Galilee of the Gentiles - Galilee was divided into upper and lower Galilee. Upper Galilee was called Galilee of the Gentiles, because it was occupied chiefly by Gentiles. It was in the neighborhood of Tyre, Sidon, etc. The word "Gentiles" includes in the Scriptures all who are not Jews. It means the same as nations, or, as we should say, the pagan nations.

15. The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea—the coast skirting the Sea of Galilee westward—beyond Jordan—a phrase commonly meaning eastward of Jordan; but here and in several places it means westward of the Jordan. The word seems to have got the general meaning of "the other side"; the nature of the case determining which side that was.

Galilee of the Gentiles—so called from its position, which made it the frontier between the Holy Land and the external world. While Ephraim and Judah, as Stanley says, were separated from the world by the Jordan valley on one side and the hostile Philistines on another, the northern tribes were in the direct highway of all the invaders from the north, in unbroken communication with the promiscuous races who have always occupied the heights of Lebanon, and in close and peaceful alliance with the most commercial nation of the ancient world, the Phœnicians. Twenty of the cities of Galilee were actually annexed by Solomon to the adjacent kingdom of Tyre, and formed, with their territory, the "boundary" or "offscouring" (Gebul or Cabul) of the two dominions—at a later time still known by the general name of "the boundaries (coasts or borders) of Tyre and Sidon." In the first great transportation of the Jewish population, Naphtali and Galilee suffered the same fate as the trans-jordanic tribes before Ephraim or Judah had been molested (2Ki 15:29). In the time of the Christian era this original disadvantage of their position was still felt; the speech of the Galileans "bewrayed them" by its uncouth pronunciation (Mt 26:73); and their distance from the seats of government and civilization at Jerusalem and Cæsarea gave them their character for turbulence or independence, according as it was viewed by their friends or their enemies.

See Poole on "Matthew 4:16". That it might be fulfilled which was spoken,.... Christ's dwelling in Capernaum accomplished a prophecy of the prophet Isaiah 9:1 and he went and dwelt there, that it might be fulfilled which he had spoken: the meaning of which prophecy is (x), that as those parts of the land of Israel, there mentioned, had suffered much by Tiglathpileser, who had carried them captive, 2 Kings 15:29 and is "the vexation" referred to; so they should be honoured, and made very glorious, by the presence and conversation of the Messiah among them, and which now had its literal fulfilment: for Christ now came and dwelt in Capernaum, which lay between the lands and upon the borders both of Zabulon and Nephthalim; was situated by the sea of Tiberias, beyond Jordan, and in, "Galilee of the nations"; the upper Galilee, which had in it people of other nations besides Jews. The ancient Jews expected the Messiah to make his first appearance in Galilee; which expectation must be grounded on this prophecy; for so they say (y) expressly,

"the king Messiah shall be revealed , "in the land of Galilee."''

And in another place (z) explaining Isaiah 2:19 they paraphrase it thus,

""for fear of the Lord"; this is the indignation of the whole world: and for the "glory of his majesty"; this is the Messiah; when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth, when he shall arise and be revealed , "in the land of Galilee": because that this is the first place to be destroyed in the holy land; therefore he shall be revealed there the first of all places.''

Here Jesus, the true Messiah, made his first appearance publicly; here he called his disciples, and began his ministry.

(x) See my treatise upon the "Prophecies of the Messiah", &c. p. 147, &c. (y) Zohar in Gen. fol. 74. 3.((z) Ib. in Exod. fol. 3. 3. & 88. 3.

The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the {e} sea, beyond Jordan, {f} Galilee of the Gentiles;

(e) Of Tiberias, or because that country went toward Tyre, which borders the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

(f) So called because it bordered upon Tyre and Sidon, and because Solomon gave the king of Tyre twenty cities in that quarter; 1Ki 9:11.

Matthew 4:15-16. As the evangelist, Matthew 2:23, found a prophecy in support of the settlement at Nazareth, so also now for the removal to Capernaum, viz. Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 9:1 (quoted from memory, but adhering to the LXX.): The land of Zdbulon and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people which sat in darkness, and so on.

γῆ is not the vocative, but the nominative, corresponding to ὁ λαός, etc., Matthew 4:16. The article was not required; see Winer, p. 114 f. [E. T. 22]. As, by the ὁδὸν θαλάσσης, the τὴν παραθαλασσίαν expressed of Capernaum in Matthew 4:13 is prophetically established, so must θαλάσσης, in the sense of the evangelist, refer to the Sea of Galilee, the Lake of Gennesareth. These words, namely, determine the situation of γῆ Ζαβ. and γῆ Νεφθ., and are to be translated seawards. The absolute accusat. ὁδόν is quite Hebraistic, like רֶּרֶךְ in the sense of versus (Ezekiel 8:5; Ezekiel 40:20; Ezekiel 41:11 f., Ezekiel 42:1 ff.; 1 Kings 8:48; 2 Chronicles 6:38; Deuteronomy 1:2; Deuteronomy 1:19),—a usage which is partly retained in the LXX. 1 Kings 8:48, ὁδὸν γῆς αὐτων, in the direction of their land; exactly so in 2 Chronicles 6:38, and most probably also in Deuteronomy 1:19. In this sense has the evangelist also understood רֶּרֶךְ הַיָם in the original text of the passage before us; so also Aquila and Theodotion, not the LXX., according to B (in A, by an interpolation). No completely corresponding and purely Greek usage is found, as the accusatives of direction, in Bernhardy, p. 144 f., comp. Kühner, II. 1, p. 268 f., do not stand independent of a verb. πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδ. is not, like ὁδὸν θαλ, a determination of the position of γῆ Ζαβ. and γῆ Νεφθ., as these tribes were situated on this side the Jordan, while πέραν (in answer to Bengel, Kuinoel, Linder in the Stud. u. Krit. 1862, p. 553) can never signify on this side (Crome, Beitr. p. 83 ff.); but it designates, after these two lands, a new land as the theatre of the working of Jesus, viz. Peraea (comp. on Matthew 4:25), whose customary designation was עבר הירדן, πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου—that is, the land east of Jordan. The evangelist includes this land as well as Γαλιλ. τ. ἐθνῶν, because it stands in the prophetic passage along with the others (not with reference to the Peraean ministry of Jesus, de Wette, Bleek, which has no place here), leaving it, besides, to the reader to decide that it was only in γῆ Ζαβουλὼνθαλάσσης that the specific element of locality which was to be demonstrated from the prophecies was contained. The citation, moreover, which specially sets forth that Jesus; after He had quitted Nazareth, settled at Capernaum, on the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali, in their telic connection with a divine prediction (ἵνα of the divine determination), shows in this very circumstance the Messianic fulfilment of the historical relation of the prophetic declaration, according to which there was announced to northern Galilee safety and salvation from the oppression of the Assyrians, and consequently theocratical, political salvation.

Γαλ. τ. ἐθνῶν] נְּלִיל הַנּוֹיִם (district of the heathen), that is, in keeping with the originally appellative term גליל, which had become a proper name, Upper Galilee, in the neighbourhood of Phoenicia, inhabited by a mixed population of heathens (Strabo, xvi. p. 760) and Jews. 1Ma 5:15 : Γαλιλ. ἀλλοφύλων. Its geographical limits are defined by Joseph. Bell. iii. 3. 1.15. Galilee of the Gentiles] See above, Matthew 4:12.Matthew 4:15-16. Γῆ Ζαβουλὼν καὶ γῆ Νεφθαλεὶμ, ὁδὸν θαλάσσης πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν, ὁ λαὸς ὁ πορευόμενος[148] ἘΝ ΣΚΌΤΕΙ ΕἾΔΕ Φῶς ΜΈΓΑ, ΚΑῚ ΤΟῖς ΚΑΘΗΜΈΝΟΙς ἘΝ ΧΏΡᾼ ΚΑῚ ΣΚΙᾷ ΘΑΝΆΤΟΥ, Φῶς ἈΝΈΤΕΙΛΕΝ ΑὐΤΟῖς, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which walketh in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up) The LXX. thus render the passage in Isa. 8:23 and Isaiah 9:1 :[149] ΧΏΡΑ ΖΑΒΟΥΛῺΝ, Ἡ Γῆ ΝΕΦΘΑΛΕῚΜ, ΚΑῚ ΟἹ ΛΟΙΠΟῚ ΟἹ ΤῊΝ ΠΑΡΑΛΊΑΝ, ΚΑῚ ΠΈΡΑΝ ΤΟῦ ἸΟΡΔΆΝΟΥ ΓΑΛΙΛΑΊΑ ΤῶΝ ἘΘΝῶΝ. Ὁ ΛΑῸς Ὁ ΠΟΡΕΥΌΜΕΝΟς ἘΝ ΣΚΌΤΕΙ, ἼΔΕΤΕ Φῶς ΜΈΓΑ· ΟἹ ΚΑΤΟΙΚΟῦΝΤΕς ἘΝ ΧΏΡᾼ ΚΑῚ ΣΚΙᾷ ΘΑΝΆΤΟΥ Φῶς ΛΆΜΨΕΙ ἘΦʼ ὙΜᾶς,—Country of Zabulon, the land of Nephthalim, and ye the rest who inhabit the region situated by the sea, and bounded by[150] the Jordan, thou Galilee of the Gentiles! Thou people which walketh in darkness, behold ye a great light: ye who dwell in the country and shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you. The two verses are in Isaiah most closely connected together, on which ground the Evangelist takes part of the topography from the former [to explain the application of the latter]. Many of the apostles were from this region. See Psalm 68:28; Acts 1:11; Acts 2:7.—Γῆ, land, and λαὸς, people, are placed in opposition.—ὉΔῸΝ, the way) The LXX. render דרך (way) by ὉΔῸΝ (way). We must here understand κατά, by. The exactness of the prophetical topography is marvellous, minutely accurate both in latitude and longitude.—ΘΑΛΆΣΣΗς, of the sea[151]) See Matthew 4:18.—πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, beyond the Jordan) The Hebrew עבר,[152] rendered in the present passage by the Greek πέραν (beyond), is used with reference to a boundary considered in reference to, not only the farther side, but the hither side also.—Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν, Galilee of the Gentiles) Galilee, though inhabited by Israelites, was conterminous to the Gentiles, especially as far as the tribes of Zabulon and Naphthali were concerned.—See Hiller’s Onomata Sacra, p. 816. Galilee, previously to the time under consideration, was behind Judaea in the cultivation of sacred learning: the citadel of the Levitical worship was at Jerusalem: the Jews therefore ought to have acknowledged our Lord more readily than the Galilaeans, to whom a compensation is now made for their previous disadvantages.

[148] E. M. καθήμενος.—(I. B.)

[149] This is the Hebrew notation. In the LXX., the Vulgate, and the English Version, the extract is contained in Isaiah 9:1-2.—(I. B.)

[150] I have rendered πέραν bounded by, instead of beyond, in accordance with the remarks which immediately follow on the עבר of the original Hebrew. I may add in illustration, that Liddell and Scott say of πέρα and πέραν, “They are, no doubt, the dative and accusative of an old substantive—ἡ κἐρα = πεῖραρ, πεῖρας, πέρας, end, boundary.”—(I. B.)

[151] Sc. of Galilee.—(I. B)

[152] Commonly, The region beyond.—(I. B)Verse 15. - The land of Zabulon, etc. From Isaiah 9:1, 2, spoiled in the Authorized Version, but rendered correctly in the Revised Version. Isaiah says that those parts of the land which had borne the first brunt of the Assyrian invasions under Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29; el. Zechariah 10:10), shall be proportionately glorified by the advent of Messiah. Wetstein gives a tradition from the 'Pesikt. Zut.,' of Messiah ben Joseph first appearing in Galilee; but the whole passage (quoted in Dalman's 'Der Leidende und der Sterbende Messias,' pp. 10-13) clearly points to a knowledge of the New Testament. As to the form of the quotation, observe:

(1) Matthew disregards the Hebrew construction, and gives merely the general sense.

(2) He takes it from the Hebrew, not the LXX.

(3) This last point is doubtless to be connected with the fact that the quotation does not occur in the other Gospels, i.e. that it did not belong to the Petrine cycle of teaching, and if it did belong to the "Matthean" cycle, not to that form which was current among Gentile Christians (cf. A. Wright, 'Composition of the Four Gospels.' p. 104). Zabulon and... Nephthalim, equivalent to the later Upper and Lower Galilee. By the way of the sea; toward the sea (Revised Version); cf. Jeremiah 2:18; "i.e. the district on the W. of the Sea of Galilee, as opposed to 'the other side of Jordan,' and 'the circle of the nations,' i.e. the frontier districts nearest to Phoenicia, including 'the land of Cabul' (1 Kings 9:11-13), which formed part of the later Upper Galilee. Via Marls, M. Renan observes, was the name of the high road from Acre to Damascus, as late as the Crusades. 'Way,' however, here means 'region' (cf. Isaiah 58:12; Job 24:4)" (Cheyne, on Isaiah 9:1). Yet hardly so; ὁδόν, is adverbial, 1 Kings 8:48 (equivalent to 2 Chronicles 6:38), and designates the stretching of the districts of Zebulun and Naphtali towards the sea. The sea is the Sea of Galilee. The close union of this clause in the Authorized Version with the following words, "beyond Jordan," misses its true meaning as explanatory of the position of Zebulun and Naphtali, and rather takes it as describing some special locality east of Jordan. Beyond Jordan; i.e. the eastern side, mentioned in 2 Kings 15:29 as having suffered with Naphtali under the Assyrian invasion; see further ver. 25. Galilee of the Gentiles (vide supra, "by the way of the sea").
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