Matthew 8:30
And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.
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(30) An herd of many swine.—We are surprised at first to find swine kept in a country where their flesh could not be an article of food. But though the Jews did not eat pork, Roman soldiers did, and the swine may have been kept to supply the wants of the legion with which the man was familiar. The pun of Augustus as to Herod’s swine and son (see Note on Matthew 2:16) seems to imply that the king kept them on his estates for some such purpose.

Matthew 8:30-32. And there was a good way off from them — That is, at a considerable distance, although, it seems, within their view; a herd of many swine — Which it was not lawful for the Jews to keeps much less to eat: yet great numbers of them were bred up in that extreme part of the country, out of regard to the gain of such merchandise, for they sold them to the Roman soldiers, and other Gentiles, who were very numerous in these parts. So the devils besought him — For they were entirely in his power, and under his control; saying, if thou castest us out — Which they suspected he would do; suffer us to go into the herd of swine — By making this request the devils acknowledged that it was not in the power even of a legion of them to do any mischief to so contemptible a creature as a swine without Christ’s permission, far less could they destroy the man in whom they lodged. Indeed the whole of this history teaches us to rely on the providence of God, and not to live in fear of evil spirits. They are under the strictest restraint, and cannot hurt us without the divine permission. Mark says that they first besought him much, that he would not send them out of the country; and Luke, that he would not command them to go into the deep, εις αβυσσον, into the abyss, meaning, doubtless, the place where wicked spirits are punished. By requesting to be permitted to enter into the swine, “they doubtless proposed to prevent any good effect which the miracle of delivering the men from their power might have had on the Gadarenes, and to render Christ odious to that wicked people.” Their design could not be hid from Jesus, nevertheless he granted their request, “not only because he knew it would render the miracle more public, but because it would prove the reality of the possession, and make men understand both how great the power of evil spirits is, and how terrible the effects of their malice would be, if they were not restrained. For no sooner was the permission granted, than the keepers, who were with the swine, and the disciples, who were at a distance, beheld, to their great astonishment, the whole herd running furiously down the mountains, and leaping from the tops of the rocks into the sea, where they were drowned, to the number of two thousand; while the possessed furious madmen became all of a sudden meek and composed, having recovered the entire use of their reason, the first exercise of which doubtless would lead them to a high admiration of his goodness, who had delivered them from the oppression of the devil. Jesus might permit the devils thus to fall on the herd as a punishment also to the Gadarenes for keeping swine, which were a snare to the Jews, and to make trial of their disposition, whether they would be more affected with the loss of their cattle, than with the recovery of the men, and the doctrine of the kingdom. Whatever were the reasons, it is certain that, though he might rightfully have used all men’s properties as he pleased, yet this, and the withering of the barren fig-tree, are the only instances wherein man suffered the least damage by any thing our Lord ever did. However, neither the owners of the herd nor of the fig-tree could justly complain of their loss, since the good of mankind, not in that period and corner only, but in every succeeding age, through all countries, has been so highly promoted at such a trifling expense to them.” “No miracles are more suspicious than pretended dispossessions, as there is so much room for collusion in them; but it was self-evident that a herd of swine could not be confederates in any fraud: their death, therefore, in this instructive and convincing circumstance, was ten thousand times a greater blessing to mankind than if they had been slain for food, as was intended.” — See Macknight and Doddridge.

8:28-34 The devils have nothing to do with Christ as a Saviour; they neither have, nor hope for any benefit from him. Oh the depth of this mystery of Divine love; that fallen man has so much to do with Christ, when fallen angels have nothing to do with him! Heb 2:16. Surely here was torment, to be forced to own the excellence that is in Christ, and yet they had no part in him. The devils desire not to have any thing to do with Christ as a Ruler. See whose language those speak, who will have nothing to do with the gospel of Christ. But it is not true that the devils have nothing to do with Christ as a Judge; for they have, and they know it, and thus it is with all the children of men. Satan and his instruments can go no further than he permits; they must quit possession when he commands. They cannot break his hedge of protection about his people; they cannot enter even a swine without his leave. They had leave. God often, for wise and holy ends, permits the efforts of Satan's rage. Thus the devil hurries people to sin; hurries them to what they have resolved against, which they know will be shame and grief to them: miserable is the condition of those who are led captive by him at his will. There are a great many who prefer their swine before the Saviour, and so come short of Christ and salvation by him. They desire Christ to depart out of their hearts, and will not suffer his word to have place in them, because he and his word would destroy their brutish lusts, those swine which they give themselves up to feed. And justly will Christ forsake all that are weary of him; and say hereafter, Depart, ye cursed, to those who now say to the Almighty, Depart from us.A herd of many swine - The word "herd," here applied to swine, is now commonly given to "cattle." Formerly, it signified any collection of beasts, or even of people.

The number that composed this "herd" was 2,000, Mark 5:13.

Mt 8:28-34. Jesus Heals the Gergesene Demoniacs. ( = Mr 5:1-20; Lu 8:26-39).

For the exposition, see on [1238]Mr 5:1-20.

See Poole on "Matthew 8:31".

And there was a good way off from them,.... "Nigh unto the mountains", as Mark says, or "on the mountain", as Luke, bordering on the sea shore; so that though it was at some distance, yet within sight. The Vulgate Latin, and the Hebrew edition of Munster read, "not far off"; and the Persic version, "near them": which agree with the accounts of Mark and Luke, who say, that there were "there", or hard by, "an herd of many swine feeding". Since swine's flesh was forbidden the Jews to eat, Leviticus 11:7 it may be asked, how came it to pass, that there should be any number of these creatures, or that such a herd of them should be kept in the land of Israel? To which may be replied, that though the Jews might not eat swine's flesh, they were not forbid to bring them up; which they might do, in order to sell to the Gentiles, who dwelt among them; and particularly to the Romans, under whose government they now were, and with whom swine's flesh was in great esteem: but still a difficulty remains; for it was not only forbidden by the law of God to eat swine's flesh, but, by the Jewish canons, to bring them up, and make any advantage of them in any shape: their law was this, , "an Israelite might not bring up hogs in any place" (r): the reasons of this canon were many, partly because of the uncleanness of these creatures; hence one of their writers (s) observing, that next to those words, they "are unclean unto you", are, "and the swine", says, that this is to teach us, that "it is forbidden to bring up hogs"; and partly, because of the damage which these creatures do to other men's fields: hence (t).

"the wise men say, cursed is he that brings up dogs and hogs, , "because they do much hurt".''

But the chief reason given by the Gemafists (u) for this prohibition, was the fact following:

"When the Hasmonean family, or Maccabees, were at war with one another, Hyrcanus was within (Jerusalem), and Aristobulus without, and every day they let down to them money in a box; and they sent up to them the daily sacrifices: there was one old man who understood the wisdom of the Greeks, and he said unto them, as long as they employ themselves in the service (of God), they will not be delivered into your hands: on the morrow they let down their money, and they sent them up a hog; and when it came to the middle of the wall, he fixed his hoofs in the wall, and the land of Israel shook, &c. at that time they said, cursed be the man , "that breeds hogs"; and cursed is the man that teaches his son the learning of the Grecians.''

Before this time, it seems to have been lawful to bring them up, and trade with them: but now it was forbid, not only to breed them, but to receive any gain or profit by them; for this is another of their rules (w).

"It is forbidden to bring up a hog, in order to get any profit by his skin, or by his lard, or fat, to anoint with, or to light (lamps) with; yea, though it may fall to him by inheritance.''

And nothing was more infamous and reproachful among them, than a keeper of these creatures: when therefore they had a mind to cast contempt upon a man, they would call him (x), "a breeder of hogs", or (y), "a hog herd". But after all, it was only an Israelite that was forbid this; a stranger might bring them up, for this is one of their canons (z).

"A man may sell fetches to give to a stranger that breeds hogs, but to an Israelite it is forbidden to breed them.''

Yea, they say (a),

"If others breed them to anoint skins with their lard, or to sell them to an Israelite to anoint with them, it was lawful: all fat may be sold, which is not for eating.''

And so some cities are supposed to have hogs in them, concerning which they observe (b), that

"a city that has hogs in it, is free from the "mezuzah";''

the schedules which were fastened to the posts of doors and gates: but now supposing this herd of swine belonged to Jews in these parts, it may easily be accounted for; for since they lived among Heathens, they might not have so great a regard to the directions of their Rabbins; and especially, since it was so much for their profit and advantage, they might make no scruple to break through these ordinances. Though this herd of swine may well enough be thought to belong to the Gentiles, that dwelt in this country; since Gadara was a Grecian city, and then inhabited more by Syrians, than by Jews, as Josephus relates (c).

(r) Misn. Bava Kama, c. 7. sect. 7. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 77. 2.((s) Baal Hatturim, in Deuteronomy 14.7, 8. (t) Maimon. Nezike Mammon, c. 5. sect. 9. (u) T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol. 82. 2. Menachot, fol. 64. 2. Sota, fol. 49. 2.((w) Tosaphot in Pesach, art. 62. (x) T. Hieros. Shekalim, fol. 47. 3.((y) lb. Trumot, fol. 46. 3.((z) Piske Tosaphot in Sabbat, art. 317. (a) Yom. Tob. & Ez. Chayim, in Misn. Bava Kama, c. 7. sect. 7. (b) Ib. art. 130. (c) De Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 33.

And there was {f} a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.

(f) On a hill, as Mark and Luke witness: Now Gederah, as Josephus records, book seventeen chapter thirteen, lived after the order of the Greeks and therefore we must not be surprised if there were swine there.

Matthew 8:30. Μακράν] relative idea, therefore not incompatible with ἐκεῖ in Mark 5:11; Luke 8:32 (Wilke, Holtzmann).

Seeing the Jews were forbidden (Lightfoot) to keep swine, as being unclean animals, the herd must either have been the property of Gentile owners, or been the subject of Jewish trade.

βοσκομένη] not to be connected with ἦν, but with ἀγέλη.

Matthew 8:30. μακρὰν: the Vulgate renders non longe, as if οὐ had stood in the Greek before μακ. But there are no variants here. Mark and Luke have ἐκεῖ, which gives rise to an apparent discrepancy. Only apparent, many contend, because both expressions are relative and elastic: at a distance, yet within view; there, in that neighbourhood, but not quite at hand. Elsner refers to Luke 15:20 : μακρὰν, “et tamen in conspectu, ut, Luke 15:20 : Ἔτι δὲ αὐτοῦ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος, εἶδεν αὐτὸν ὁ πατήρ”. On ἐκεῖ he remarks: “docet in ea regione et vicinia fuisse, nec distantiam describit”. Weiss against Meyer denies the relativity of μακρὰν, and takes it as meaning “a long way off,” while visible.—βοσκομένη: far removed from ἦν, and not to be joined with it as if the feeding were the main point, and not rather the existence of the herd there. The ill attested reading βοσκομένων brings out the meaning better: a herd of swine which were feeding in the hill pastures. The swine, doubtless, belonged to Gentiles, who abounded in Peræa.

Matthew 8:30. Χοίρων, of swine) The owners of the swine were either heathens dwelling among the Jews, or Jews greedy of gain.

Verses 30, 31. - And there was a good way off from them a herd of many swine feeding. So (and, Revised Version) the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out (Matthew only), suffer us to go away (send us away, Revised Version). This is distinguished from ver. 29 as expressly the utterance of the evil spirits. In the true text there is no thought of permission, but only of command (ἀπόστειλον). They recognize his mastery. Into the herd of swine; and not into the place of torment - "the abyss" of the parallel passage, Luke 8:31. If he did not send them there, they might hope for a long respite, and one perhaps spent in various tenements. Further notice:

(1) The unclean chose the unclean

(2) Though we cannot attribute to the evil spirits absolute foreknowledge of what would happen in this case, their past experience may have enabled them to feel sure that they would have their love of destroying fully gratified.

(3) it is also not impossible that they may have considered that their entering the swine would be likely to prejudice the Gerasenes against Jesus. Matthew 8:30
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