Matthew 4:24
And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought to him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24) Throughout all Syria.—The word is probably used popularly, rather than with the definite significance of the Roman province with which St. Luke uses it in Luke 2:2. Our Lord’s ministry, with the one exception of the journey to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21), was confined to what is commonly known as Palestine. Traces of the wider fame are, however, found in the mention of hearers from Idumæa, and Tyre, and Sidon among the crowds that followed Him (Mark 3:8); in the faith of the Syro-Phœnician woman in His power to heal (Mark 7:26); perhaps in the existence of disciples at Damascus so soon after the Ascension (Acts 9:2); perhaps, also, in St. Peter’s appeal to the friends of Cornelius at Cæsarea, as knowing already the broad facts of our Lord’s ministry and miraculous working (Acts 10:37).

Possessed with devils. . . . lunatick.—The phenomena of what is called possession, and the theories to which the phenomena have been referred, will best be discussed in dealing with the great representative instance of the Gadarene demoniacs (Matthew 8:28). Here it will be enough to notice (1) that the word rendered “devil” is not the same as that used for the Tempter in 4:1, but “demon” in the sense of an evil spirit, (2) that the possessed with demons are at once grouped with the “lunaticks,” both exhibiting forms of mental disease, and distinguished from them. The latter term implies in the Greek, as in the Latin and our own, “moonstruck madness”—the belief that the moon exercised a disturbing influence on the brain (a coup de lune being dreaded by Eastern travellers almost as much as a coup de soleil), and that the intensity of the disturbance varied, when the disease had once set in, with the moon’s changes.

Those that had the palsy.—Here the word (literally, the paralytics) points, not to a view of the cause of the disease, but to its conspicuous phenomena—the want of muscular power to control motion, and the consequent “looseness,” in popular phraseology, of limbs or head.

Matthew 4:24. His fame went through all Syria — Of which the country of the Jews and Samaritans was but a small part. Pliny tells us, that Syria contained several provinces, Comagene to the north, Phœnicia to the west, Cœlosyria to the south, Palmyrene, and the province of Seleucia, in the middle part. If, by all Syria, the evangelist means all these different provinces of Syria, our Lord’s fame must at this time have been exceedingly great. Nor is there any thing incredible in the evangelist’s affirmation, taken in the largest sense. For considering the number and greatness of the miracles which he performed, it would not have been beyond belief, had the historian told us that the fame of them reached as far as the communication of the Jews with the rest of the world extended. And they brought unto him those that were possessed with devils, and those lunatic, and those that had the palsy — These are justly reckoned cases of as great misery, and of as little hope, as any to be found among men. The evangelist, therefore, properly instanced these. And he healed them, and thereby wonderfully displayed both his power and his love.4:23-25 Wherever Christ went, he confirmed his Divine mission by miracles, which were emblems of the healing power of his doctrine, and the influences of the Spirit which accompanied it. We do not now find the Saviour's miraculous healing power in our bodies; but if we are cured by medicine, the praise is equally his. Three general words are here used. He healed every sickness or disease; none was too bad; none too hard, for Christ to heal with a word. Three diseases are named; the palsy, which is the greatest weakness of the body; lunacy, which is the greatest malady of the mind; and possession of the devil, which is the greatest misery and calamity of both; yet Christ healed all, and by thus curing bodily diseases, showed that his great errand into the world was to cure spiritual maladies. Sin is the sickness, disease, and torment of the soul: Christ came to take away sin, and so to heal the soul.And his fame went throughout all Syria - It is not easy to fix the exact bounds of Syria in the time of our Saviour. It was, perhaps, the general name for the country lying between the Euphrates on the east, and the Mediterranean on the west; and between Mount Taurus on the north, and Arabia on the south. Through all this region his celebrity was spread by his power of working miracles; and, as might be expected, the sick from every quarter were brought to him, in the hope that he would give relief.

Those possessed with devils - Much difficulty exists, and much has been written respecting those in the New Testament said to be possessed with the devil. It has been maintained by many that the sacred writers only meant by this expression to denote those who were melancholy or epileptic, or afflicted with some other grievous disease. This opinion has been supported by arguments too long to be repeated here. On the other hand, it has been supposed that the persons so described were under the influence of evil spirits, who had complete possession of the faculties, and who produced many symptoms of disease not unlike melancholy, madness, and epilepsy. That such was the fact will appear from the following considerations:

1. Christ and the apostles spoke to them and of them as such; they addressed them, and managed them, precisely as if they were so possessed, leaving their hearers to infer beyond a doubt that such was their real opinion.

2. Those who were thus possessed spake, conversed, asked questions, gave answers, and expressed their knowledge of Christ, and their fear of him things that certainly could not be said of diseases, Matthew 8:28; Luke 8:27.

3. The devils, or evil spirits, are represented as going out of the persons possessed, and entering the bodies of others, Matthew 8:32.

4. Jesus spake to them, and asked their name, and they answered him. He threatened them, commanded them to be silent, to depart, and not to return, Mark 1:25; Mark 5:8; Mark 9:25.

5. Those possessed are said "to know Christ; to be acquainted with the Son of God," Luke 4:34; Mark 1:24. This could not be said of diseases.

6. The early fathers of the Church interpreted these passages in the same way. They derived their opinions probably from the apostles themselves, and their opinions are a fair interpretation of the apostles' sentiments.

7. If it is denied that Christ believed in such possessions, it does not appear why any other clearly-expressed sentiment of his may not in the same way be disputed. There is, perhaps, no subject on which he expressed himself more clearly, or acted more uniformly, or which he left more clearly impressed on the minds of his disciples.

Nor is there any absurdity in the opinion that those persons were really under the influence of devils. For:

1. It is no more absurd to suppose that an angel, or many angels, should have fallen and become wicked than that so many people should.

2. It is no more absurd that Satan should have possession of the human faculties, or inflict diseases, than that people should do it a thing which is done every day. What is more common than for a wicked man to corrupt the morals of others, or, by inducing them to become intemperate, to produce a state of body and mind quite as bad as to be possessed with the devil?

3. We still see a multitude of cases that no man can prove not to be produced by the presence of an evil spirit. Who would attempt to say that some evil being may not have much to do in the case of madmen?

4. It afforded an opportunity for Christ to show his power over the enemies of himself and of man, and thus to evince himself qualified to meet every enemy of the race, and triumphantly to redeem his people. He came to destroy the power of Satan, Acts 26:18; Romans 16:20-21.

continued...

24. And his fame went throughout all Syria—reaching first to the part of it adjacent to Galilee, called Syro-Phœnicia (Mr 7:26), and thence extending far and wide.

and they brought unto him all sick people—all that were ailing or unwell. Those

that were taken—for this is a distinct class, not an explanation of the "unwell" class, as our translators understood it.

with divers diseases and torments—that is, acute disorders.

and those which were possessed with devils—that were demonized or possessed with demons.

and those which were lunatic—moon-struck.

and those that had the palsy—paralytics, a word not naturalized when our version was made.

and he healed them—These healings were at once His credentials and illustrations of "the glad tidings" which He proclaimed. After reading this account of our Lord's first preaching tour, can we wonder at what follows?

Syria is said to be bounded on the north by Cilicia, by Egypt on the south, on the west with the sea, and on the east with Euphrates, and to comprehend within it all Judea, Bethany, Galilee, Decapolis, Samaria, Idumea, Palestina, Syrophoenicia, Syria of Damascus, and Syria of Antioch. Christ’s fame spread very far doubtless, because of the good he did, and the miracles he wrought, and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases: ‘all’ here again can signify no more than very many that were indisposed and ill affected as to their bodily health, those that were sick of, or detained in their beds or houses by, divers diseases. Though Christ showed his power in curing some diseases which physicians judge incurable, yet he showed his kindness also in relieving others not so fatally sick.

And torments; such as were troubled with great pains, as if they were upon racks, or in the hands of tormentors, that set themselves to torture them.

And those which were possessed with devils: of these sorts of persons we shall read often in the gospel: this is the first time we meet with the term. It is observed that in the Old Testament we read little of any such persons; (we read only of Saul’s being vexed with an evil spirit); we read much of them in the New Testament, and in ecclesiastical history for some years after Christ: they called them energumeni. Some think God, in those first times of the gospel, permitted the devil to this degree, that the power of our Saviour might be the more seen in casting them out, and in giving authority to his disciples to cast them out, which was a great demonstration of his Divinity. Others think that God did it for a demonstration of the error of the Sadducees, who held there were no spirits. The gospel seemeth to hint two sorts of these persons: some upon whom the devil had power no further than to rack and torture them, Mark 5:3-5 Luke 9:39; others in whom he dwelled bodily, and divined and prophesied in them, Acts 16:16.

And those which were lunatic; affected with such diseases as use to increase in some times of the moon, or at such times to seize persons: of this nature we know divers, more particularly the falling sickness and dropsy.

And those that had the palsy, a disease caused by the resolution of the nerves. Those diseases are mentioned which men account hardest to be cured, if capable of cure by men: Christ, to show his Divine power, healed them. Christ did not only cure these bodily distempers, but he also preached the gospel of the kingdom to heal their soul distempers. We read of many who came to him for bodily cure, but of none that said to him: What shall we do to be saved? How sensible are men and women of their bodily pains and diseases, more than of their soul’s wants! And his fame went throughout all Syria,.... For his ministry and miracles, especially the latter; wherefore

they brought to him, that is, out of Syria, the sick. Syria was in some respects reckoned as the land of Israel, though in others not.

"The (m) Rabbins teach, that in three respects Syria was like to the land of Israel, and in three to the countries with out the land: the dust defiled, as without the land; he that sold his servant to (one in) Syria, was as if he sold him to one without the land; and he that brought a bill of divorce from Syria, as if he brought it from without the land: and in three things it was like to the land of Israel; it was bound to tithes, and to the observance of the seventh year; and he that would go into it, might go into it with purity and he that purchased a field in Syria, was as if he had purchased one in the suburbs of Jerusalem.''

All sick people, that were taken with divers diseases and torments. This expresses in general, the grievous and tormenting diseases with which the persons were afflicted, who were brought to Christ for healing: some particular ones follow;

and those which were possessed with devils; in body as well as in mind; of which there were many instances, permitted by God on purpose, that Christ might have an opportunity of showing his power over those evil spirits.

And those which were lunatic; either melancholy persons, or mad and distracted men; that retired from the conversation of men, into fields or desert places: or such, whose disorders were influenced by the change of the moon; such as those who are troubled with the falling sickness; so the Greeks (n) call such persons the word here used by the Evangelist.

And those that had the palsy. These were each of them such disorders, as were incurable by the art of medicine; or for which rarely, and with great difficulty, any manner of relief could be obtained; and

he healed them; without any means, by a word speaking; which showed him more than a man, and truly and properly God.

(m) T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 8. 1. 2. vid. Maimon. Hileb. Tumath Meth. c. 11. sect. 6. (n) Vid. Fabricii Bibl. Graec. vol. 2. l. 3. c. 26. p. 656-658.

And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and {n} torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were {o} lunatick, and those that had the {p} palsy; and he healed them.

(n) The word signifies properly the stone with which gold is tried: and by a borrowed kind of speech, is applied to all kinds of examinations by torture, when as by rough dealing and torments, we draw out the truths from men who otherwise would not confess: in this place it is taken for those diseases, which put sick men to great woe.

(o) Who at every full moon or the change of the moon, are troubled and diseased.

(p) Weak and feeble men, who have the parts of their body loosed and so weakened, that they are neither able to gather them up together, nor do with them as they wish.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 4:24. Εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συρίαν] His reputation spread from Galilee into the whole province.

πάντας τοὺς κακῶς ἔχοντας] all the sufferers that there were. The following ποικίλ. νόσοις belongs not to κακῶς ἔχοντας (Syriac, Euth. Zigabenus), but to συνεχομένους.

νόσοις κ. βασάνοις] Sicknesses and torments.

The first is general, the last special.

καὶ δαιμον. καὶ σελην. κ. παραλυτ.] makes prominent three special kinds of what had previously been described in a general manner, so that the first καί is to be rendered: especially also, particularly also.

δαιμονιζομένους] according to the popular view, shared by the evangelist: possessed by demons (Matthew 9:34, Matthew 12:26), whose bodies had become the seat and organ of demoniacal working; δαιμόνιον is not a diminutive form, little devil (Ewald, Keim), but the neuter of δαιμόνιος as substantive. See Stallbaum, ad Plat. Ap. Socr. p. 27 f. They were real sick persons with diseases of a peculiar character (mania, epilepsy, delirium, hypochondria, paralytic condition, temporary dumbness), whose sufferings, being apparently inexplicable from physical causes, were believed to have their foundation not in an abnormal organization, or in natural disturbances of the physical condition, but in diabolical possession—that is, in the actual indwelling of demoniac personalities, very many of which might even be counted in one sick person (Mark 5:9; Mark 16:9).[394] This belief, which is conceivable from the decay of the old theocratic consciousness and of its moral strength, which referred all misfortune to God’s sending, is, however, a belief which rendered healing possible only through the acceptance of the existing view leaving the idea itself untouched, but made it all the more certain for the Messiah, who has power over the kingdom of devils, and who now, in the pure manifestation of Jesus, accompanied with miraculous working, stood victoriously opposed to all diabolic power. Comp. Ewald, Jahrb. VII. p. 54 ff., also Bleek, Neander, p. 237 ff. If we assume, however, that Jesus Himself shared the opinion of His age and nation regarding the reality of demoniacal possession of the sick (Strauss, Keim, Weiss), we find ourselves in the dilemma of either being obliged again to set up the old doctrine upon the authority of Jesus, or of attributing to the latter an erroneous belief not by any means remote from the religious sphere, and only of a physiological kind, but of an essentially religious character, and which would be irreconcilable with the pure height of the Lord’s divine knowledge.

καὶ σελην. κ. παραλυτ.] Epileptics, whose sufferings, it was observed, increased as the month advanced (Wetstein), and sufferers from nervous diseases (Richter, de paralysi, 1775). Epilepsy also might be of such a kind as to be regarded as demoniacal sickness (Matthew 17:15); here, however, is meant the form of sickness which is regarded as natural.

[394] After the old view of actual bodily possession of the sick had, after Balth. Becker (bezauberte Welt, iv. 5 ff.), Mead (medica sacra, ix.), Wetstein, been, especially by Semler (Comment. de daemoniacis, 1760, u. umständliche Untersuch. d. dämonischen Leute, 1762), successfully refuted, and had disappeared altogether (see also Timmermaim, de daemoniac. evangelior. 1786; Winzer, de daemonologia N. T., 1812, 1821), although attempts at its defence were not wanting (Storr, Opusc. I. p. 53 ff.; Eschenmayer, Mysticism, 1823; Jahn, Nachträge zu s. theol. Werken, 1821), the old view was again brought forward, partly before (v. Meyer, Bibeldut. p. 40 ff.; Olshausen on Matthew 8:28, and others), partly after, the assaults of Strauss (Krabbe, Hoffmann, Ebrard, Arnoldi, Hofmann, Steinmeyer), and supported with more or less acuteness, and with turns of a partly obscure and evasive character, especially by means of comparisons with magnetism. Delitzsch, bibl. Psychol. p. 293 ff.; Ebrard in Herzog’s Encykl. III. p. 240 ff. Not so, however, Lange, 11. 1, p. 285 ff., who, regarding the condition as a natural one, refers it to a nervous disease, having an elective affinity with demoniacal influences, which the patient as well as the people represented to himself as possession. By this the old view is not retained even in appearance. Against its tenability, however, irrespective of all objections of a physiological and medical kind, the following are decisive proofs: (1) The non-occurrence of demons in the O. T.; (2) the undisputed healing of the same by exorcists (Matthew 12:27; Mark 9:38; Josephus, Antt. viii. 2. 5; Justin, c. Tryph. 85; Lucian. Philopseud. 16); as well as (3) the non-occurrence of reliable instances in modern times (? Justinus Kerner, Gesch. Besessener neuerer Zeit., Carlsruhe 1834), although the same sicknesses, which were deemed to be demoniacal, are common; and (4) the complete silence of John, which (comp. especially Luke 9:49) is the more eloquent the more essentially he also regards miraculous healing as belonging to the work of the Messiah, and the conquest of the devil as the Messiah’s task. In John, moreover, diabolical possession is found mentioned (Matthew 13:27), but not as the effect of physical sickness, but of spiritual domination and obduracy, the so-called obsessio spiritualis. Comp. John 7:28; John 8:48; John 10:20. Definite references to the expulsion of demons from the sick are wanting also in Paul’s Epistles, although they might be included with others in 1 Corinthians 12:9. Observe, moreover, (5) the demoniacs were not at all filled with godless dispositions and anti-Christian wickedness, which, nevertheless, was necessarily to be expected as the result of the real indwelling of devils.24. throughout all Syria] The fame passes to the north and east, rather than to the south. Galilee is connected by trade and affinity with Damascus rather than with Jerusalem.

torments] The original Greek word signifies a “touch-stone,” then “torture,” the touch-stone of justice; then a disease that racks and agonizes the limbs like the torture which many a poor Galilean had experienced in the courts of law.

possessed with devils] The possession of the human soul by spiritual powers or beings is distinguished from ordinary diseases here, and also by St Luke, who, as a physician, is exact in his description of the various forms of disease. The distinguishing feature of such demoniacal possession may be described as the phenomenon of double consciousness. The occult spiritual power becomes, as it were, a second self, ruling and checking the better self. The Greek word in the text, lit. subject to a dæmon or dæmonion, has no precise English equivalent. The word “devil” should be confined to the translation of διάβολος, see note, ch. Matthew 4:1. It is most unhappily used as a rendering of δαιμόνια in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21. In classical Greek the word is used of the divine voice which warned Socrates, and of the divine power or force which Demosthenes sometimes fancied to be hurrying on the Hellenic race in a fatal course.

those which were lunatick] Lit. affected by the moon; the changes of the moon being thought to influence mad persons. The passage is important as distinguishing dæmoniacal possession from lunacy.

The only special instance of curing a lunatic is recorded in ch. Matthew 17:14-21 and in the parallel passages. The origin of mental disease may often be traced to licentious living. Observe the frequent instances of unclean spirits met with in these districts.

The Christian Church has followed her divine Founder’s example in this tendance of bodily ailment. The founding of hospitals and the care of the sick are distinguishing features of Christianity and among the most blessed fruits of it. A deeper respect for life and a deeper sense of purity have followed as necessary consequences.

It is contended by some that the “several house” of 2 Chronicles 26:21 was a hospital. Possibly this was so, but the spirit of Judaism in this respect was not the spirit of Christianity. It may readily be acknowledged, however, that the Jews of the present day are the foremost in works of charity and tender regard for the sick.Matthew 4:24. Ἀπῆλθεν, went out thence) sc. afar.—ἀκοὴ, fame) The LXX. frequently render שמעה[162] by ἀκοὴ.—Συρίαν, Syria) The province of which Palestine was considered a part.—ΠΡΟΣΉΝΕΓΚΑΝ ΑὐΤῷ, they brought unto Him) Even the Syrians did so.—τοὺς κακῶς ἔχοντας, those who were ill)[163] The miracles of Jesus Christ were performed for the good[164] of men.—See John 6:2; Matthew 11:5; Acts 10:38.—δαιμονιζομένους, possessed with devils) The sick and the possessed are frequently mentioned together.—See Acts 5:16.

[162] שְׁמוּעָה and שְׁמֻעָה prop. that which heard: hence (1) a message, tidings, whether joyful or sorrowful, especially a message sent from God: hence (2), i.q. instruction, teaching doctrine; (3), rumour.—GESENIUS.—(I. B.)

[163] “Male habentes.”—(I. B.)

[164] Salutem, health or salvation—i.e, they were [with rare exceptions] miracles of mercy, the effect of which was to improve the condition of those on whom they were performed.—(I. B.)Verse 24. - And his fame; Revised Version, and the report of him (ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ). Our use of the word "fame" implies reputation and honour, which are not included under ἀκοή. Went throughout all (ver. 23) Syria; Revised Version, went forth into; ἀπῆλθεν εἰς. The expression not merely means that the report spread far and wide, but that it went beyond the expected limits of the Holy Land into the whole of Syria, i.e., probably, the Roman province with which Palestine was in some degree (Schurer, 1:2:46) incorporated. All sick people that were taken with divers diseases; Revised Version, grammatically, all that were sick, holden with, etc. Possibly, "all that were sick" is the genus of which the following expressions represent species; but Matthew 8:16 and Mark 1:32-34 suggest that the words all to diseases refer to bodily diseases only. The arrangement would then be

(1) bodily diseases,

(a) ordinary (ποικίλαις νόσοις),

(b) violent and painful cases (βασάνοις);

(2) mental diseases,

(a) supernatural,

(b) natural;

(3) incurable, affecting the body also. And those which were possessed with devils. Weiss, 'Life,' 2. pp. 76-88 (especially against Meyer), points out that our Lord shared the belief in the reality of possession by evil spirits, and that therefore, though some of the current ideas may have been superstitious, there must have been a basis of truth in the belief. See by all means Trench on the healing of the Gadarene demoniacs (Matthew 8:28). And those which were lunatick; Revised Version, and epileptic . - "epilepsy being supposed to return and increase with the increase of the moon" (Thayer, s.v. σεληνιάζεσθαι which occurs in the New Testament only here and in Matthew 17:15).
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