And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)When the tempter came.—Nothing in the narrative suggests the idea of a bodily presence visible to the eye of sense, and all attempts so to realise it, whether as Milton has done in Paradise Regained, or as by rationalistic commentators, who held that the Tempter was, or assumed the shape of, a scribe or priest, are unauthorised, and diminish our sense of the reality and mystery of the Temptation. The narrative is not the less real and true because it lies altogether in the spiritual region of man’s life.
If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.—“These stones,” as if in union with glance and gesture, pointing to the loaf-like flints of the Jordan desert. The nature of the temptation, so far as we can gauge its mysterious depth, was probably complex. Something there may have been, suggested from without, like that which uttered itself in Esau’s cry, “What profit shall this birthright do to me?” (Genesis 25:32). Hungry, exhausted, as if life were ebbing away in the terrible loneliness of the desert, the “wild beasts” around him, as if waiting for their victim, what would it avail to have been marked out as the Son of God, the long-expected Christ? With this another thought was blended. If He were the Son of God, did not that name involve a lordship over nature? Could He not satisfy His hunger and sustain His life? Would He not in so exercising the power of which now, for the first time it may be, He was the conscious possessor, be establishing his status as the Christ in the eyes of others? That thought presented itself to His mind, but it was rejected as coming from the Enemy. It would have been an act of self-assertion and distrust, and therefore would have involved not the affirmation, but the denial of the Sonship which had so recently been attested.Matthew 4:3. And when the tempter came to him — In a visible shape and appearance, to tempt him outwardly, as he had done inwardly before. For it appears from the account which Mark and Luke have given us of this matter, that our Lord had been tempted by the devil invisibly during the whole of the above-mentioned forty days — but now, it seems, he came to him in a visible form, probably in the human, as one that desired to inquire further into the evidences of his mission. Accordingly he said, If thou be the Son of God — In such an extraordinary sense as thou hast been declared to be, and if thou art indeed the promised Messiah, expected under that character, command that these stones be made bread — To relieve thy hunger, for in such circumstances it will undoubtedly be done. Thus Satan took advantage of our Lord’s distress to tempt him to doubt his being the Son of God in the sense in which he had just been declared to be so; and it seems the object of this first temptation was, to excite in his mind a distrust of the care and kindness of his heavenly Father, and to induce him to use unwarranted means to relieve his hunger. But it is objected here, If Christ were God, why should he be tempted? Was it to show that God was able to overcome the temptations of the devil? Could there be any doubt of this? We answer, he was man, very man, as well as God, “of a reasonable soul, and human flesh subsisting,” and it was only as man that he was tempted. If it be replied, that seeing his human nature was personally united to the divine, it must still be superfluous to show that even his human nature, thus influenced, should be able to baffle the assaults of Satan: Irenæus, an eminent father of the second century, answering this very objection, then made by the Ebionites, (the elder brethren of the Photinians and Socinians,) observes that, as he was man, that he might be tempted, so he was the Word, that he might be glorified; the Word, (or Godhead,) being quiescent in his temptation, crucifixion, and death. These words being preserved and cited, says Dr. Whitby, by Theodoret, show that the latter fathers approved of this solution of this difficulty. Among the reasons assigned of our Lord’s temptation, one is, the consolation of his members conflicting with the adversary of their souls. For, in that he suffered, being tempted, he can sympathize with, and succour those that are tempted; affording them the same Spirit that was in him, that they may resist the devil with the same weapons, and overcome him with the same assistance, by which he, in his human nature, combated and conquered. Now this ground of comfort would be wholly taken from us, if Christ overcame Satan merely by virtue of that nature, by which he was απειραστος κακων, James 1:13, incapable of being overcome by temptation. But if, with Irenæus, we affirm that the divinity was then quiescent in him, and that he overcame Satan by virtue of the Spirit given to him, we, who have the same unction from the Holy One, may also hope to do it by his aid. Matthew 4:1.
If thou be the Son of God - If thou art God's own Son, then thou hast power to work a miracle, and here is a suitable opportunity to try thy power, and show that thou art sent from God.
Command that these stones ... - The stones that were lying around him in the wilderness. No temptation could have been more plausible, or more likely to succeed, than this. He had just been declared to be the Son of God Matthew 3:17, and here was an opportunity to show that he was really so. The circumstances were such as to make it appear plausible and proper to work this miracle. "Here you are," was the language of Satan, "hungry, cast out, alone, needy, poor, and yet the Son of God! If you have this power, how easy could you satisfy your wants! How foolish is it, then, for the Son of God, having all power, to be starving in this manner, when by a word he could show his power and relieve his wants, and when in the thing itself there could be nothing wrong!"
he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread—rather, "loaves," answering to "stones" in the plural; whereas Luke, having said, "Command this stone," in the singular, adds, "that it be made bread," in the singular (Lu 4:3). The sensation of hunger, unfelt during all the forty days, seems now to have come on in all its keenness—no doubt to open a door to the tempter, of which he is not slow to avail himself; "Thou still clingest to that vainglorious confidence that Thou art the Son of God, carried away by those illusory scenes at the Jordan. Thou wast born in a stable; but Thou art the Son of God! hurried off to Egypt for fear of Herod's wrath; but Thou art the Son of God! a carpenter's roof supplied Thee with a home, and in the obscurity of a despicable town of Galilee Thou hast spent thirty years, yet still Thou art the Son of God! and a voice from heaven, it seems, proclaimed it in Thine ears at the Jordan! Be it so; but after that, surely Thy days of obscurity and trial should have an end. Why linger for weeks in this desert, wandering among the wild beasts and craggy rocks, unhonored, unattended, unpitied, ready to starve for want of the necessaries of life? Is this befitting "the Son of God?" At the bidding of "the Son of God" surely those stones shall all be turned into loaves, and in a moment present an abundant repast."And when the tempter, viz. Satan, the devil, as he is called, came unto him, probably in some visible shape, he, forming an audible voice of the air, said,
If thou be the Son of God, ( not that he doubted it, which showed his horrible impudence),
command that these stones, (this stone, saith Luke, Luke 4:3) be made bread. The temptation plainly was to the use of means which God did not allow him, to relieve him in his distress of hunger, to distrust the providence of God in supporting of him. A temptation common to those who are the members of Christ, and enough to instruct us, that we ought to look upon all thoughts and motions to the use of means not allowed by God, in order to a lawful end, as temptations vel a carne, vel hoste, either from our own flesh, for every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed, Jam 1:14, or from our grand adversary the devil. It is not much material for us to know from which, they being both what we ought to resist, though those from Satan are usually more violent and impetuous. 1 Thessalonians 3:5 so called, because it is his principal work and business, in which he employs himself, to solicit men to sin; and tempt them either to deny, or call in question the being of God, arraign his perfections, murmur at his providences, and disbelieve his promises. When he is here said to come to Christ at the end of forty days and nights, we are not to suppose, that he now first began to tempt him; for the other Evangelists expressly say, that he was tempted of him forty days, Mark 1:13 but he now appeared openly, and in a visible shape: all the forty days and nights before, he had been tempting him secretly and inwardly; suggesting things suitable to, and taking the advantage of the solitary and desolate condition he was in. But finding these suggestions and temptations unsuccessful, and observing him to be an hungered, he puts on a visible form, and with an articulate, audible voice, he said,
if thou be the Son of God; either doubting of his divine sonship, calling it in question, and putting him upon doing so too; wherefore it is no wonder that the children of God should be assaulted with the like temptation: or else arguing from it, "if", or "seeing thou art the Son of God"; for he must know that he was, by the voice which came from heaven, and declared it: and certain it is, that the devils both knew, and were obliged to confess that Jesus was the Son of God, Luke 4:41 by which is meant, not a good, or righteous man, or one dear to God, and in an office; but a divine person, one possessed of almighty power; and therefore, as a proof and demonstration of it, be urges him to
command that these stones be made bread, pointing to some which lay hard by; "say" but the word, and it will be done. He did not doubt but he was able to do it, by a word speaking; but he would have had him to have done it at his motion, which would have been enough for his purpose; who wanted to have him obedient to him: and he might hope the rather to succeed in this temptation, because Christ was now an hungry; and because he had carried his point with our first parents, by tempting them to eat of the forbidden fruit.And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 4:3. Ὁ πειράζων Part, present taken substantively. See on Matthew 2:20. Here: the devil. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:5.
εἰ] does not indicate that Satan had doubts of Jesus being the Son of God (Origen, Wolf, Bengel), or was not aware of it (Ignat. Phil. interpol. 9), comp. Matthew 28:20; but the problematical expression was to incite Jesus to enter upon the unreasonable demand, and to prove Himself the Son of God. Euth. Zigabenus: ᾤετο, ὅτι παρακνισθήσεται τῷ λόγῳ, καθάπερ ὀνειδισθεὶς ἐπὶ τῷ μὴ εἶναι υἱὸς θεοῦ.
υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ] See Matthew 3:17. The devil makes use of this designation of the Messiah, not because he deemed Jesus to be only a man, who υἱοθετήθη τῷ θεῷ διὰ τὰς ἀρετὰς αὐτοῦ (Euth. Zigabenus), or because he had become doubtful, owing to the hungering of Jesus, of His divinity, which had been attested at His baptism (Chrysostom); but because Jesus’ supernatural relation to God is well known to him, whilst he himself, as the principle opposed to God, has to combat the manifestation and activity of the divine. Observe that by the position of the words the emphasis lies on υἱός: if Thou standest to God in the relation of Son.
εἰπὲ, ἵνα] ἵνα after verbs of commanding, entreaty, and desire, and the like, does not stand in the sense of the infinitive, as is commonly assumed (Winer, de Wette, Bleek), in opposition to the necessary conception of the words, but is, as it always is, an expression of the purpose, in order that, the mistaking of which proceeds from this, that it is not usual in the German language to express the object, of the command, and so on, in the form of a purpose. Here: speak (utter a command) in order that these stones, and so on. Comp. Matthew 20:21. The oldest examples from Greek writers after ἐθέλειν, ὄφρα, in Hom. Il. i. 133 (see Nägelsbach thereon), occur in Herodotus and Demosthenes. See Schaefer, ad Dem. 279. 8 : ἀξιοῦν, ἵνα βοηθήσῃ; Kühner, II. 2, p. 519.
οἱ λίθοι οὗτοι] comp. Matthew 3:9.
ἄρτος] Bread, in the proper sense; not, like לֶחֶם, food in general. Comp. Matthew 7:9.
The Son of God must free Himself from the state of hunger, which is unbecoming His dignity, by an act similar to the divine creation, and thus employ His divine power for His own advantage. The tempter introduces his lever into the immediate situation of the moment.Matthew 4:3-4. First temptation, through hunger. 3. that these stones be made bread] The temptation is addressed to the appetite, Use thy divine power to satisfy the lusts of the flesh.Matthew 4:3. προδελθών Αὐτῷ, having come to Him) sc. in a visible form. The Tempter watched his time.—ὁ πειράζων, the tempter) who did not wish it to be known that he was Satan: yet Christ at the conclusion of the interview, and not till then, calls him, in Matthew 4:10, Satan, after that Satan had plainly betrayed his satanity, i.e., pride, his peculiar characteristic. Thus, by Divine skill, He defeated his infernal skill. The tempter seems to have appeared under the form of a γραμματύς, scribe, since our Lord thrice replies to him by the word, γέγραπται, “It is written.”—εἰ, if) Thus also, in Matthew 4:6, Satan both doubts himself, and endeavours to produce doubt, to take away that which is true, to teach that which is false. He solicits our Lord, stating that hypothetically, which had been (Matthew 3:17) declared categorically from heaven.—εἰπέ, κ.τ.λ., command, etc.) The tempter acknowledges that He who is the Son of God must be Almighty.—οἰ, κ.τ.λ., these, etc.) i.e., that some one of these stones become bread [or a loaf]: see Luke 4:3, [where it is, “Command this stone (sing.) that it be made bread.”]—λίθοι, stones) q. d., “You are in the wilderness, which has hard stones, but no bread.” Nay, on very different grounds shalt thou become convinced, O Tempter, that this is the Son of God. Soon will He commence the work of thy destruction. See Luke 4:34; Luke 4:41.
 Our Lord spent that season of the year in the wilderness, in which the nights are longer, the wild beasts more ravenous, the weather more inclement, and when there was no means of obtaining food either from trees or herbs.—See Harm. Evang. 149.Verse 3. - The tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5 only; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3). Came; came up to him (προσελθών). The word expresses local nearness, and suggests, though we cannot affirm it as certain, that he appeared visibly. The thought of physical nearness is continued in "taketh him" (vers. 5, 8), and "the devil leaveth him" and "angels came near" (ver. 11; cf. ver. 5, note). On the other hand, such expressions may be parabolic, and intended to express the closeness of the spiritual combat. To him; not after "came," but after "said" (Revised Version, with manuscripts). If thou be; art (Revised Version) (εἰ... εϊ) - the "if" of assumption (cf. Colossians 3:1). The devil does not attempt to throw doubt on the truth of the utterance in Matthew 3:17. His words rather mean, "Thou knowest what was said, thou bast been gradually realizing that assurance of Sonship; use, then, that privilege which thou undoubtedly hast" (comp. Matthew 27:40, where, in mockery, the same truth is assumed). Wetstein, following Origen and pseudo-Ignatius,' Philipp.,' § 9, says that the tempter did not know, or at least doubted, whether Jesus was really God, for otherwise he would never have tempted him. This is, surely, to miss the meaning of the temptation for our Lord himself; for he was tempted as Man. Satan might well haw known that he was God incarnate, and yet not have known whether as Man he might not yield. Weiss ('Life,' 1:343) mistakenly thinks that the object of this first temptation was to insinuate doubt in the mind of Jesus as to his Messiahship. "Command that these stones become bread, and if thou canst not do so, then thou art not the Son of God." Command that; εἰπὸν (cf. Westcott and Hort, 2. App., p. 164) ἵνα (cf. Matthew 20:21, and Winer,§ 44:8). These stones, ie. lying about. Farrar (on Luke 4:3; and especially in 'Life of Christ,' illustrated edit., pp. 99, 100) suggests that there is a special reference to the "loaf-shaped fossils," septaria, which are found in Palestine - as, indeed, in most other countries. But though these "flattened nodules of calcareous clay, ironstone, or other matter" (Page, ' Handbook of Geolog. Terms,' etc., 1859, p. 327) often assume fantastic shapes, perhaps even distantly resembling either an English loaf or a fiat Jewish cake (vide infra) , it seems quite unnecessary to see any allusion to them here. (For the comparison of bread and a stone, cf. Matthew 7:9.) Be made; Revised Version, become; rightly, because there is no thought of the process of manufacture in γένωνται, Bread; Revised Version margin, "Greek, loaves" (ἄρτοι). "The Israelites made bread in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one's thumb, and as large as a plate or Platter; hence it was not cut, but [e.g. Matthew 14:19] broken" (Thayer). In Luke the devil points to one stone only, and tempts him to bid it become a loaf.
By its position in the sentence Son is emphatic. "If thou standest to God in the relation of Son."
Lit., loaves or cakes. So Wyc., loaves. These stones were perhaps those "silicious accretions," which assume the exact shape of little loaves of bread, and which were represented in legend as the petrified fruits of the cities of the plain. By a similar fancy certain crystallizations on Mount Carmel and near Bethlehem are called "Elijah's melons," and the "Virgin Mary's peas;" and the black and white stones found along the shores of the Lake of Galilee have been transformed into traces of the tears of Jacob in search of Joseph. The very appearance of these stones, like the bread for which the faint body hungered, may have added force to the temptation. This resemblance may have been present to Christ's mind in his words at Matthew 7:9.
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