And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with you, Jesus, you Son of God? are you come here to torment us before the time?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)They cried out, saying . . .—St. Mark adds that the demoniac, seeing Jesus from afar, ran and did homage (“worshipped” in the English version) to Him, and (with St. Luke) gives the fuller form of his cry, “What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God?” It is remarkable that this is the only instance in which that name is addressed to our Lord, though it is used of Him before His birth in Luke 1:32. A probable explanation is, that the name “the Most High God” was frequently used in the formulae of exorcism, and so had become familiar to the demoniacs. So, the damsel with a spirit of divination, in Acts 16:17, speaks of St. Paul and his companions as servants of the Most High God. The question meets us. Was the discernment that led to the confession altogether preternatural, or had the possessed man heard of the fame of Jesus? But if he had only heard, how came he to recognise the Prophet “a great way off?” Possibly the true explanation lies involved in the mystery of the psychological state into which the sufferer had passed under the frightful influences that were working in him.
To torment us before the time.—So the abode of Dives is “a place of torment” (Luke 16:28), and the ministers of judgment are the “tormentors” (Matthew 18:34). The man identifies himself with the demons; looks forward, when the hour of judgment shall come, to condemnation; and claims, in the meantime, to be let alone. Who that has been called to minister to the souls of men in their demoniac state has not often heard language all but identical? The words added by St. Mark are singularly characteristic: “I adjure thee by God.” It is as if the man had listened so often to the formulæ of exorcists that they had become, as it were, his natural speech, and he too will try their effect as an adjuration. The command given to the “unclean spirit” to “come out of the man” had, we find from St. Mark and St. Luke, been given previously, as the man drew near, and was the occasion of this frenzied cry.
At this stage, too, they add, our Lord asked the question, “What is thy name?” The most terrible phenomenon of possession, as of many forms of insanity, was the divided consciousness which appears in this case. Now the demon speaks, and now the man. The question would recall to the man’s mind that he once had a human name, with all its memories of human fellowship. It was a stage, even in spite of the paroxysm that followed, in the process of recovery, in so far as it helped to disentangle him from the confusion between himself and the demons which caused his misery. But, at first, the question seems only to increase the evil: “My name is Legion, for we are many.” The irresistible might, the full array of the Roman legion, with its six thousand soldiers, seemed to the demoniac the one adequate symbol of the wild, uncontrollable impulses of passion and of dread that were sweeping through his soul. It would hardly have seemed possible that the force of literalism could have led any interpreter to infer the actual presence of six thousand demons, each with a personality of His own, and to calculate accordingly the number that must have entered into each of the two thousand swine: and yet this has been done.2 Samuel 16:10; 2 Kings 9:18; Ezra 4:3.
Son of God - The title, "Son of God," is often given to Christ. People are sometimes called sons, or children of God, to denote their adoption into his family, 1 John 3:1. But the title given to Christ denotes his superiority to the prophets Hebrews 1:1; to Moses, the founder of the Jewish economy Hebrews 3:6; it denotes his unique and near relation to the Father, as evinced by his resurrection Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:33; it denotes his special relation to God from his miraculous conception Luke 1:35; and is equivalent to a declaration that he is divine, or equal to the Father. See the notes at John 10:36.
Art thou come hither to torment us? ... - By "the time" here mentioned is meant the day of judgment. The Bible reveals the doctrine that evil spirits are not now bound as they will be after that day; that they are permitted to tempt and afflict people, but that in the day of judgment they also will be condemned to everlasting punishment with all the wicked, 2 Peter 2:4; Jde 1:6. These spirits seemed to be apprised of that, and were alarmed lest the day that they feared had come. They besought him, therefore, not to send them out of that country, not to consign them then to hell, but to put off the day of their final punishment.
Mark and Luke say that Jesus inquired the name of the principal demoniac, and that he called his name "Legion, for they were many." The name legion was given to a division in the Roman army. It did not always denote the same number, but in the time of Christ it consisted of 6,000 to 3,000 foot soldiers and 3,000 horsemen. It came, therefore, to signify "a large number," without specifying the exact amount.
For the exposition, see on Mr 5:1-20.Mark 5:8, that Jesus first said to him, Come out of the man; and, Mark 5:6,7, when he saw Jesus afar off he ran and worshipped him, and cried with a loud voice, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee, that thou torment me not. Luke’s relation, Luke 8:28,29, is much the same with Mark’s. The devils possessing these poor creatures, hearing Christ, to whose power they knew they were subject, to command them out of this man, or these two men, said, What have we to do with, thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? The devils knew Christ to be the Son of God, though the Jews would not believe it; they say unto him,
What have we to do with thee? A usual phrase, made use of where men had no desire to be troubled with the company, converse, or importunity of others, Joshua 22:24 2 Samuel 16:10 2 Kings 9:18 2 Chronicles 35:21 Joel 3:4 John 2:4, when they came to them with some ungrateful motions, &c.
Art thou come hither to torment us before the time? Either they look upon their dispossession as a torment, for the devil is not at quiet but when he is doing evil; and as this is the temper of the old serpent, so we shall observe that he communicates it to his seed, Proverbs 4:16: or else the devil was afraid lest Christ should have commanded him to his chains before the day of judgment.
what have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? They had nothing indeed to do with him; they had no interest in his grace, blood, righteousness, and salvation; he was no Saviour for them: but he had to do with them, and that was what they dreaded; and therefore mean, that he would let them alone, in the quiet possession of these men, and not disturb and dislodge them; for they knew that he was Jesus, the Saviour of sinful men, though none of their's, the true Messiah; and that he was also "the Son of God", a divine person, possessed of almighty power, and so an overmatch for them; at whose presence they trembled, and whose all commanding voice they were obliged to obey, though sorely against their wills.
Art thou come hither to torment us before the time? This question implies the apprehension the devils had of Christ as a judge, and their sense of his authority, and power, to punish them; as also that they deserved it, and expected it, nor do they say anything against it; only imagine that the time of their full torment was not yet come; which is generally referred unto the day of judgment, to which they were reserved by the appointment of God; which they had some notion of, and as at a distance; and therefore complain of Christ's coming to them now, and expostulate with him about it: though it may be understood of the time they had proposed to themselves, to abide in the men they had possessed, and which they concluded they had a permission for; and nothing could give more torment, pain, and uneasiness, than to be turned out, and remanded to their prison, and restrained from doing more mischief to the bodies and souls of men. Or whether this may not have some respect to the time of the preaching of the Gospel, and setting up the kingdom of Christ among the Gentiles, the devils might have some hint of, as not yet to be, I leave to be considered, with this observation; that there seems to be a considerable "emphasis" on the word "hither", meaning the country of the Gergesenes, an Heathen country, at least where many Gentiles inhabited: and it is as if they had said, is it not enough, that thou turnest us out of the land of Judea, and hast dispossessed us out of the bodies of men dwelling there; but thou pursuest us hither also, and will not let us have any rest, even in this Heathenish land; though the time is not yet come, for the dissolution of our empire and government in the Gentile world?And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 8:29. Τί ἡμῖν κ. σοί] See on John 2:4. The demons according to their nature, already recognise in Jesus, the Messiah, their mighty and most dangerous enemy, and “cum terrore appellant filium Dei,” Bengel.
πρὸ καιροῦ] prematurely, i.e. before the Messianic judgment (Matthew 25:41).
βασανίσαι ἡμᾶς] to hurl us, as servants of Satan, down to the torments of Hades (Luke 16:23; Revelation 14:10; Revelation 20:10). The lunatics identify themselves with the demons by whom they are possessed. It is plain, however, from their very language that they were Jews, and not Gentiles (Casaubon, Neander).Matthew 8:29. ἰδοὺ ἔκραξαν: sudden, startling, unearthly cry, fitted to shock weak nerves. But not the cry of men about to make an assault. The madmen, whom all feared and shunned, were subdued by the aspect of the stranger who had arrived in the neighbourhood. To be taken as a fact, however strange and mysterious, partly explained by the fact that Jesus was not afraid of them any more than He had been of the storm. They felt His power in the very look of His eye. τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί: an appropriate speech even in the mouth of one demoniac, for he speaks in the name of the legion of devils (Mark 5:9) by which he conceives himself possessed. Identifying himself with the demons, he shrinks from the new comer with an instinctive feeling that He is a foe.—υἱὲ τοῦ θεοῦ: ὁ ἅγιος τ. θ. in the Capernaum synagogue case; strange, almost incredible divination. Yet “insanity is much nearer the kingdom of God than worldly-mindedness. There was, doubtless, something in the whole aspect and manner of Jesus which was fitted to produce almost instantaneously a deep, spiritual impression to which child-like, simple, ingenuous souls like the Galilean fishermen, sinful, yet honest-hearted men like those who met at Matthew’s feast, readily surrendered themselves. Men with shattered reason also felt the spell, while the wise and the strong-minded too often used their intellect, under the bias of passion or prejudice, to resist the force of truth. In this way we may account for the prompt recognition of Jesus by the Gadarene demoniac. All that is necessary to explain it is the Messianic hope prevalent in Gadara as elsewhere, and the sight of Jesus acting on an impressionable spirit” (Bruce, The Miraculous Element in the Gospels p. 187).—πρὸ καιροῦ: before the appointed time of judgment. The article wanting here before κ. as in other phrases in N. T., e.g., ἐν καιρῷ, Matthew 24:45.—βασανίσαι, to torment with pain in Hades, described as a place of torment in Luke 16:28, cf. Matthew 8:23.29. What have we to do with thee] Not “what is there in common between you and us?” but “what cause of war is there between us?” The same expression occurs in this sense 2 Chronicles 35:21.Matthew 8:29. Τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοὶ, what have we to do with Thee?) A formula of declining interference or intercourse. See S. V. 1 Kings 17:18; Jdg 11:12; 2 Kings 3:13. They confess in this address their despair and horrible expectation, and at the same time they seem to add, “we desire to have dealings, not with Thee, but with men liable to sin.”—Υἱὲ τοῦ Θεοῦ, Song of Solomon of God) Men seeking aid addressed Him with confidence as the Son of David; devils with terror, as the Son of God.—ὧδε, hither) The devils claimed, as it were, some right in that place, and especially over the swine in that place.—πρὸ καιροῦ, before the time) This may be construed either with ἦλθες, hast Thou come, or with βασανίσαι, to torment, or with both. Jesus came indeed when the world was ripe for His coming, and yet sooner than the enemy desired. Thus in Romans 5:6, we read Χριστὸς—κατὰ—καιρὸν—ἀπέθανε, IN DUE TIME Christ died.—βασανίσαι, to torment) It is torment for the devils to be without the bodies of man or beast, which they ardently desire to possess, that they may thereby, for the time being, extinguish that fire with which they are always burning. See Matthew 8:31. This was a prelude to their being hereafter placed in subjection under the feet of Jesus.Verse 29. - And, behold. This probably seemed to the evangelist not the least of the many strange things that he introduced by this phrase. They cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee? (Τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί; מה לנו ולד, frequent in the Old Testament, e.g. 2 Samuel 16:10). What community either of interest or of character? The deepest realization of personal sinfulness may coexist with absolute ignorance of the Divine love. Jesus. Omitted by the Revised Version here, yet genuine in the parallel passages, Matthew omitted from their utterance the name which (Matthew 1:21) indicated the bridging of the chasm between the sinner and God. Thou Son of God? Their sense of sin, their belief in a future torment, and their use of this phrase, alike point to their being Jews. Observe how great a contrast is implied by this term on the lips of demoniacs. As in 1 John 3:8 (cf. Bishop Westcott there), it brings out the nature of the conflict ("the spiritual adversary of man has a mightier spiritual antagonist"), so here. Art thou come hither - had they felt themselves safe in that distant spot and its gloomy surroundings, far away from all religious influence? - to torment us before the time? Their abject terror is still more evident in the parallel passages. Observe
(1) the words are not given as those of the demons, but as the men's own;
(2) a future torment is assumed;
(3) they have no doubt as to their own share in it.
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