And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)If thou be the Son of God.—In this case, as before, the temptation starts from the attestation of the character of Jesus as the Son of God. With this there is now joined an appeal to familiar and sacred words, and the subtlety of the Tempter lay in his perversion of their true meaning. Here, too, the words throw light on the previous spiritual life of the Son of Man. As in all analogous temptations (and the history would have but little significance or interest for us if it were not analogous to many human experiences) the words which were presented to the soul, with their true meaning obscured and perverted, must have been precisely those that had before been most precious. We can think of Him as having fed on those words, found in them the stay and comfort of His life, without ever dreaming (if one may venture so to speak) of putting them to the test by devices of His own imagining.
In their hands.—Better, on. The angelic hands are thought of as sustaining and up-bearing.
It is written - That is, there is a passage of Scripture which promises special protection in such a case, and on which you may rely. The argument was not, perhaps, that this applied exclusively to the Messiah, but that, if applicable in any case, it would be in this; if any one could plead this promise, assuredly he could who claimed to be the Son of God.
He shall give his angels charge concerning thee ... - That is, they shall protect thee.
And in their hands they shall bear thee up - They shall sustain thee, or hold thee up, so that thou shalt not be endangered by the fall.
Lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone - This would be especially appropriate in such a case. The promise, as Satan applied it, was that he should not be injured by the stones lying at the bottom of the wall or in the valley below. The case, therefore, seemed to be one that was especially contemplated by the promise.
cast thyself down—"from hence" (Lu 4:9).
for it is written—(Ps 91:11, 12). "But what is this I see?" exclaims stately Bishop Hall. "Satan himself with a Bible under his arm and a text in his mouth!" Doubtless the tempter, having felt the power of God's Word in the former temptation, was eager to try the effect of it from his own mouth (2Co 11:14).
He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands—rather, "on their hands."
they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone—The quotation is, precisely as it stands in the Hebrew and the Septuagint, save that after the first clause the words, "to keep thee in all thy ways," are here omitted. Not a few good expositors have thought that this omission was intentional, to conceal the fact that this would not have been one of "His ways," that is, of duty. But as our Lord's reply makes no allusion to this, but seizes on the great principle involved in the promise quoted, so when we look at the promise itself, it is plain that the sense of it is precisely the same whether the clause in question be inserted or not.the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, Ephesians 6:17, he here takes up the same weapon. The thing to which the tempter solicits our Saviour, was the throwing himself down from a precipice, a temptation, in effect, to destroy himself; which is one of those fiery darts which he commonly throws at the people of God in their hours of melancholy, or under great pressures of affliction; but the usual argument which he useth to them, is deliverance from their terrors, the preventing of want, or avoiding shame. The argument he useth to our Lord is quite of another nature, the special protection of God promised to God’s people, Psalm 91:11,12. Herein he transforms himself into an angel of light, according to 2 Corinthians 11:14, and lets us know that truth may be abused to the patronage of lies; and that there is no hook more dangerous to the members of Christ, than that which is baited with Scripture misinterpreted and misapplied, which holy writ always is when it is so interpreted or so applied as to be made an argument to sin. This portion of holy writ is both:
1. Falsely cited; and,
2. As ill applied.
a) In the quotation the tempter leaves out those words, in all thy ways. This was none of our Savour’s ways, he had no call, no warrant from God to decline the stairs by which he might have gone down, and to throw himself down. God had never promised, nor ever given, any the protection of angels in sinful and forbidden ways.
b) He misapplies this text, using it not to instruct, but to deceive; dividing between man’s duty and God’s providence; making this word a promise to be fulfilled upon Christ’s neglect of his duty; extending the promise of special providence as to dangers into which men voluntarily throw themselves; putting God upon working miracles to declare Christ to be his Son, where there was no need, and of which there was no use, mocking our Saviour’s true use of Scripture, with Scripture abused, and many other ways: but he had to do with one not ignorant of his devices.
thou art the Son of God, show thyself to be so; give proof of thy sonship before all the priests which are in and about the temple, and before all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
cast thyself down that is, from the pinnacle of the temple: for since thou art the Son of God, no hurt will come to thee; thou wilt be in the utmost safety; and this will at once be a full demonstration to all the people, that thou art the Son of God: for hither Satan brought him, hoping to have got an advantage of him publicly; otherwise, had his view only been to have got him to cast himself down from any place of eminence, and so to have destroyed himself, he might have set him upon any other precipice; but he chose to have it done in the sight of the people, and in the holy city, and holy place. Let it be observed, that Satan did not offer to cast him down himself; for this was not in his power, nor within his permission, which reached only to tempt; and besides, would not have answered his end; for that would have been his own sin, and not Christ's: accordingly, we may observe, that when he seeks the lives of men, he does not attempt to destroy them himself, but always puts them upon doing it. To proceed, Satan not only argues from his divine power, as the Son of God, that he would be safe in casting himself down; but observing the advantageous use Christ made of the scriptures, transforms himself into an angel of light, and cites scripture too, to encourage him to this action; assuring him of the protection of angels. The passage cited is Psalm 91:11 which expresses God's tender care and concern for his people, in charging the angels with the guardianship and preservation of them, in all their ways, that they might be secured from sin and danger. It does not appear that Satan was wrong in the application of this passage to Christ; for since it respects all the righteous in general, why not Christ as man? the head, as well as the members? And certain it is, that angels had the charge of him, did watch over him, and were a guard about him; the angels of God ascended, and descended on him; they were employed in preserving him from Herod's malice in his infancy; they ministered to him here in the wilderness, and attended him in his agony in the garden: but what Satan failed in, and that wilfully, and wickedly, was, in omitting that part of it,
to keep thee in all thy ways; which he saw was contrary to his purpose, and would have spoiled his design at once; and also in urging this passage, which only regards godly persons, in the way of their duty, to countenance actions which are out of the way of a man's calling, or which he is not called unto; and which are contrary to religion, and a tempting God. Satan before tempted Christ to distrust the providence of God, and now he tempts him to presume upon it: in like manner he deals with men, when he argues from the doctrines of predestination and providence to the disuse of means, for their good, either for this life, or that which is to come; and if he tempted the Son of God to destroy himself, it is no wonder that the saints should be sometimes harassed with this temptation.And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 4:6. In Psalm 91:11-12, according to the LXX., it is God’s providential care for the pious in general that is spoken of. Here the tempter, who now himself grasps the weapon of Scripture, which had just been used against him, cunningly applies the typical expressions in the Psalms (the figure is borrowed from maternal anxiety) strictly to the Messiah.
ὅτι], not the recitative, but a part of the passage.
The Son of God, in reliance on the divine protection, must undertake a daring miracle of display in order to win over the masses for Himself. For the multitudes, with a view to influencing whom this miracle is proposed, are understood to be, as a matter of course, on the temple area; and therefore we are not to assume, with Kohlschütter, Ullmann, Engelhardt, that it was only an exhibition of divine favour and protection, and no public spectacle, which was aimed at. On that view no sufficient reason is shown why Jesus is brought from the wilderness to the most populous centre of the metropolis. Euth. Zigabenus strikingly remarks: διὰ κενοδοξίας ἑλεῖν αὐτὸν ἐπιχειρεῖ.Matthew 4:6. βάλε σεαυτὸν κάτω: This suggestion strongly makes for the symbolic or parabolic nature of the whole representation. The mad proposal could hardly be a temptation to such an one as Jesus, or indeed to any man in his senses. The transit through the air from the desert to the winglet, like that of Ezekiel, carried by a lock of his hair from Babylon to Jerusalem, must have been “in the visions of God” (Ezekiel 8:3), and the suggestion to cast Himself down a parabolic hint at a class of temptations, as the excuses in the parable of the Supper (Luke 14:16) simply represent the category of preoccupation. What is the class represented? Not temptations through vanity or presumption, but rather to reckless escape from desperate situations. The second temptation, like the first, belongs to the category of need. The Satanic suggestion is that there can be no sonship where there are such inextricable situations, in proof of which the Psalter is quoted (Psalm 91:11-12).—γέγραπται, it stands written, not precisely as Satan quotes it, the clause τοῦ διαφυλάξαι σε ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς σου being omitted. On this account many commentators charge Satan with mutilating and falsifying Scripture.
Matthew 4:7. Jesus replies by another quotation from Deut. (Matthew 6:16).—πάλιν, on the other hand, not contradicting but qualifying: “Scriptura per scripturam interpretanda et concilianda,” Bengel. The reference is to the incident at Rephidim (Exodus 17:1-7), where the people virtually charged God with bringing them out of Egypt to perish with thirst, the scene of this petulant outburst receiving the commemorative name of Massah and Meribah because they tempted Jehovah, saying: “Is Jehovah among us or not?” An analogous situation in the life of Jesus may be found in Gethsemane, where He did not complain or tempt, but uttered the submissive, “If it be possible”. The leap down at that crisis would have consisted in seeking escape from the cross at the cost of duty. The physical fall from the pinnacle is an emblem of a moral fall. Before passing from this temptation I note that the hypothesis that it was an appeal, to vanity presupposes a crowd at the foot to witness the performance, of Which there is no mention.6. it is written] Psalm 91:11-12. The words “to keep thee in all thy ways” are omitted in the text. The omission distorts the meaning of the original, which is that God will keep the righteous on their journeys, and is no inducement to tempt God by rash venture or needless risk. The Psalmist himself probably quotes Proverbs 3:23. “Thus [i. e. by obedience: see preceding verses] shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.”Matthew 4:6. Γέγραπται, it is written) A most specious temptation, which appears to quote Scripture appositely. There is no doubt but that Satan must have often felt the force of this saying, from the protection which the angels extended to the godly against him.—ὅτι—περὶ σοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ, κ.τ.λ.) He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. The LXX. render Psalms 91(90):11, 12,—ὅτι—περὶ σοῦ, τοῦ διαφυλάξαί σε ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς σου ἐπὶ, κ.τ.λ., He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy way: they shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. The fraud of Satan consists rather in false application, than in omission.—ἐπὶ χειρῶν, in their hands) That is, they shall guard Thee with great circumspection.—λίθον, a stone) i.e., one of those of which the Temple was built. The tempter applies the psalm speciously.Verse 6. - If thou be the Son of God (ver. 3, note). For it is written. Psalm 91:11, 12, verbally from the LXX., but omitting the clause, "to keep thee in all thy ways." Luke omits only "in all thy ways." The clause, according to either record, was omitted possibly because the devil shrank from reminding Jesus of "ways" which he need not take; more probably because . ' ways" hardly fitted this case (cf. Weiss). Trench ('Studies,' p. 40), following St. Bernard, says that the omission of the clause alters the whole character of the quotation, considering that "ways" implies ways appointed by God. But this appears to be strained. The devil, appealing to Jesus' consciousness of abiding communion with God (Psalm 91:1), bids him enjoy to the full the promise of God's protection. There is no thought here of a "miracle of display" to the multitudes who were assembled, "as a matter of course," on the temple area (Meyer; cf. even Trench). Neither the devil's solicitation nor our Lord's reply hint at anything else than Divine protection. If it be urged that for this any one of the many precipices by the Dead Sea, e.g. those of the Quamntana (ver. 1, note) itself, would have been sufficient, the answer may be found in the fact that at the temple, the seat of God's special manifestation, God's special protection might be looked for. There is a slight doubt whether the ὅτι after γέγραπται is recitative (Westcott and Hort, and most) or part of the quotation (Rheims, Meyer, Weiss). In favour of the latter view is the fact that the recitative ὅτι is not used elsewhere in this section (vers. 4, 7, 10), but as in Luke 4:10 it can hardly be other than recitative (for another ὅτι is inserted before "on their hands"), the probability is that it was recitative in the oral source, and therefore recitative here. In their hands; Revised Version, on; ἐπὶ χειρῶν. The thought is not so much of surrounding care as of physical support through space. Lest at any time; Revised Version, lest haply; and so always, for "in the New Testament use of rids particle (μή ποτέ) the notion of time usual to ποτέ seems to recede before that of contingency" (Thayer).
On their hands (so Rev.) is more correct, and gives a different picture from the A. V. in: lifted on their hands, as on a litter or platform.
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