So the devils sought him, saying, If you cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)So the devils besought him.—As St. Mark gives the words, “that He should not send them out of the country,” or district, in which they were; as in St. Luke’s report, “that He would not command them to go out into the deep,” i.e., the abyss, the “bottomless pit” of Revelation 9:1-2; Revelation 9:11. The words of the man are as those of the demons with whom he identifies himself. He shrinks from the thought of wandering in dry places, “seeking rest, and finding none” (Matthew 12:43), or being compelled to flee, like Asmodeus, into “the utmost parts of Egypt” (Tobit 8:3), or, worst fate of all, to be sent into the “abyss,” which was the ultimate doom of evil. And so he, as one with them, suggests another alternative: “If Thou cast us out, send us into the herd of swine. If the power to terrify and disturb men is taken from us, let us, at least, retain the power to destroy brutes.”
The number that composed this "herd" was 2,000, Mark 5:13.
For the exposition, see on Mr 5:1-20.And He asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion; for we are many. Luke saith, And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. A Roman legion consisted of twelve thousand five hundred soldiers. Not that there were precisely so many evil spirits which had a power over this poor man, but many had. A certain number is named for one uncertain. Christ knew his case well enough, but probably asked him the question for the further glorifying of his Divine power in casting them out. Luke adds, Luke 8:31, And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. I cannot think that the meaning of that is, into the sea, for surely the devil did not fear drowning: the word is abusson, into the abyss, that is, into hell, into the bottomless pit, where he could do no more mischief. Mark says, Mark 5:10, the devil besought him that he would not send them out of the country. Still, upon the same grounds, the devil hath an insatiable thirst to do mischief, and would gladly be where he may do it. In the mean time he knoweth it is in the power of Christ to send him whither he pleaseth. Now comes in Matthew 8:30,31. They saw
an herd of many swine feeding. Mark saith, Mark 5:11, nigh unto the mountains. Luke saith, on the mountain. They beseech Christ to give them leave to enter into the swine, and the text saith, he suffered them. The devil cannot so much as trouble a swine without leave from God. The next verse tells us the consequent of it.
if thou cast us out of these men, or "from hence", as the Vulgate Latin, the Ethiopic, and Munster's Hebrew Gospel read, or "out of our place", as the Persic; since we must depart, and cannot be allowed to enter into other men,
suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. This request shows the weakness of the infernal spirits, they are not able to do anything without leave, and the superior power of Christ over them, and their acknowledgment of it; as well as the wretched malignity of their nature, who must be doing mischief, if not to the bodies and souls of men, yet to their property and goods; and if they cannot vent their malice on rational creatures, are desirous of doing it on irrational ones. Many reasons have been thought of, why the devils should desire to go into the herd of swine; as because of the filthiness of these creatures, these impure spirits delighting in what is impure; or out of pure hatred to the inhabitants of this country, who, because they could no longer hurt their persons, would destroy their goods; or that by so doing, they might set the people against Christ, and so prevent his usefulness among them; which last seems to be the truest reason, and which end was answered.So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 8:31. Εἰς … χοίρων] They mean: into the bodies of the swine that were feeding. To the unclean spirits in the possessed Jews, anticipating, as they certainly do, their inevitable expulsion, it appears desirable, as well as most easily attainable, that they should find an abode for themselves in impure animals. Eisenmenger, entdecktes Judenth. II. p. 447 f.
The request implies that the demoniacs considered themselves to be possessed by a multitude of evil spirits, a circumstance noticed in detail by Mark and Luke, from which, however, it may be inferred that the form of the tradition is not the same as the one made use of in our Gospel. The former is so peculiar, that, had Matthew only abridged it (Ewald), he would scarcely have omitted so entirely its characteristic features. On the contrary, he followed another version of the story which he happened to light upon, and which likewise mentioned two demoniacs instead of one; comp. on Matthew 8:28. Probably this is also the source to which we are to trace the expression δαίμονες, which does not occur anywhere else in Matthew, and which in Mark 5:12 is of doubtful critical authority.Matthew 8:31. οἱ δαίμονες: unusual designation, commonly δαιμόνια.—παρεκάλουν: the request was made by the possessed in the name of the demons.—ἀπόστειλον: the reading of the T. R. (ἐπίτρεψον ἀπελθεῖν) taken from Luke expresses, in a milder form, Christ’s share of responsibility in a transaction of supposed doubtful character. The demoniac would have no scruple on that score. His request was: it you are to cast us out, send us not to hell, but into the swine.31. devils] The Greek word here and in the parallel passages is a masculine and not a neuter form. The same word occurs in two other passages (Revelation 16:14; Revelation 18:2), and nowhere else in N. T.Matthew 8:31. Παρεκάλουν, besought) It is one thing to ask in an ordinary way (in which manner natural men, and even devils, have been ere now able to obtain something), and another thing to pray in faith. Even Satan himself sometimes obtains his request, as we learn from the first chapter of Job.—εἰ, κ.τ.λ., if, etc.) They perceived already that they must change their abode.—ἐπίτρεψον ἡμῖν, κ.τ.λ., suffer us, etc.) The mischief should be ascribed to the devils, not to the Lord; and who would compel Him to hinder the devils?
 Comp. Mark 5:10; Mark 5:12.—E. B.
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