Matthew 9:9
And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
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(9) As Jesus passed forth from thence.—All three Gospels agree, as has been noticed, in the sequence of the two events. And the sequence was probably, in part at least, one of cause and effect. The sympathy and power shown in healing the paralytic impressed itself on the mind of one who, as a publican, felt that he too had sins that needed to be forgiven.

A man, named Matthew.—St. Mark and St. Luke give the name as Levi, the former adds that he was the “son of Alphæus.” The difference may be explained by assuming that in his case, as in that of “Simon who is called (or named) Peter” (Matthew 10:2), a new name was given that practically superseded the old. The meaning of Matthew—which, like Theodore, Dorotheus, and the like, means “the gift of God,” or, more strictly, “the gift of Jehovah”—makes a change of this kind in itself probable. If he were the son of Alphæus, he would be (assuming identity of person and of name) the brother of the James whose name appears with his own in the second group of four in the lists of the Twelve Apostles.

Sitting at the receipt of custom.—Literally, at the custom-house, the douane of the lake. The customs levied there were probably of the nature of an octroi on the fish, fruit, and other produce that made up the exports and imports of Capernaum.

And he saith unto him, Follow me.—St. Mark (Mark 2:13) makes the call follow close upon an unrecorded discourse addressed to the whole multitude of Capernaum. In the nature of the case it was probable that there had been, as in the analogous call of the sons of Jona and Zebedee, a preparation of some kind. A brother had been converted, his own heart had been touched, he had felt (see Note on Matthew 4:13) the presence of the new Teacher as light in the shadow of death.

He arose, and followed him.—St. Luke adds, “he left all.” There was not much to leave—his desk at the custom, his stipend or his percentage; but it was his all, and no man can leave more than that.

Matthew 9:9. And as Jesus passed from thence — That is, from the house in which the paralytic had been cured, he saw a man named Matthew — Modestly so called by himself: the other evangelists call him by his more honourable name, Levi; setting at the receipt of custom — In the very height of his business. The expression επι το τελωνιον, here rendered the receipt of custom, seems properly to mean the place where custom was received. Some late translators render it, the custom-house; “but have we any reason,” says Campbell: “to say it was a house?” The Syriac name is no evidence that it was; for, like the Hebrew, they use the word beth [house] with great latitude of signification. Most probably it was a temporary stall which could easily be erected in any place where occasion required. The word office, (signifying a place where any particular business is transacted, whether within doors or without,) seems an unexceptionable name for the place. And he saith unto him, Follow me — A word which was immediately attended with a secret power, so that he arose and followed him — He immediately obeyed the call, consigning, doubtless, his books and cash to some more careful hand. “Porphyry and Julian, two noted ancient enemies of Christianity, have blamed Matthew for thus rashly, as they are pleased to call it, following one of whom he had so little knowledge. But as it is evident that this publican lived in Capernaum, or near it, he must have often heard our Lord preach, (for it was the town where he ordinarily resided,) and may probably have been witness to a number of his miracles. Wherefore, the opposers of our religion must forgive us, if we affirm that there was neither rashness nor imprudence in the readiness which Matthew showed to follow Jesus when called. He may have been his disciple long before this, and only waited for permission to attend him.” — Macknight.

9:9 Matthew was in his calling, as the rest of those whom Christ called. As Satan comes with his temptations to the idle, so Christ comes with his calls to those who are employed. We are all naturally averse from thee, O God; do thou bid us to follow thee; draw us by thy powerful word, and we shall run after thee. Speak by the word of the Spirit to our hearts, the world cannot hold us down, Satan cannot stop our way, we shall arise and follow thee. A saving change is wrought in the soul, by Christ as the author, and his word as the means. Neither Matthew's place, nor his gains by it, could detain him, when Christ called him. He left it, and though we find the disciples, who were fishers, occasionally fishing again afterwards, we never more find Matthew at his sinful gain.He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom - That is, at the place where "custom," or "tribute," was received; or, in other words, he was a "publican" or tax-gatherer. See the notes at Matthew 5:47. This man was the writer of this gospel. The same account is found in Mark 2:14, and Luke 5:27-28. Both those evangelists call him "Levi." That it was the same man is known by the circumstances in which he was called being the same in all the evangelists, and by their all concurring in the statement that the Saviour was present at a feast soon after he called him, and by the fact that "Levi" is not mentioned in the catalogue of the apostles. The Jews were in the habit of giving several names to the same person. Thus Peter was also called Simon and Cephas. It is worthy of remark that Luke has mentioned a circumstance favorable to Matthew, which Matthew himself has omitted. Luke says "he left all." Had Matthew said this, it would have been a commendation of himself utterly unlike the evangelists. No men were ever further from "praising themselves" than they were. Mt 9:9-13. Matthew's Call and Feast. ( = Mr 2:14-17; Lu 5:27-32).

The Call of Matthew (Mt 9:9).

9. And as Jesus passed forth from thence—that is, from the scene of the paralytic's cure in Capernaum, towards the shore of the Sea of Galilee, on which that town lay. Mark, as usual, pictures the scene more in detail, thus (Mr 2:13): "And He went forth again by the seaside; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught them"—or, "kept teaching them." "And as He passed by"

he saw a man, named Matthew—the writer of this precious Gospel, who here, with singular modesty and brevity, relates the story of his own calling. In Mark and Luke he is called Levi, which seems to have been his family name. In their lists of the twelve apostles, however, Mark and Luke give him the name of Matthew, which seems to have been the name by which he was known as a disciple. While he himself sinks his family name, he is careful not to sink his occupation, the obnoxious associations with which he would place over against the grace that called him from it, and made him an apostle. (See on [1240]Mt 10:3). Mark alone tells us (Mr 2:14) that he was "the son of Alphæus"—the same, probably, with the father of James the Less. From this and other considerations it is pretty certain that he must at least have heard of our Lord before this meeting. Unnecessary doubts, even from an early period, have been raised about the identity of Levi and Matthew. No capable jury, with the evidence before them which we have in the Gospels, would hesitate in giving a unanimous verdict of identity.

sitting at the receipt of custom—as a publican, which Luke (Lu 5:27) calls him. It means the place of receipt, the toll house or booth in which the collector sat. Being in this case by the seaside, it might be the ferry tax for the transit of persons and goods across the lake, which he collected. (See on [1241]Mt 5:46).

and he saith unto him, Follow me—Witching words these, from the lips of Him who never employed them without giving them resistless efficacy in the hearts of those they were spoken to.

And he—"left all" (Lu 5:28), "arose and followed him."

The Feast (Mt 9:10-13).

Mark hath the same story, Mark 2:14, only he calleth him Levi, and tells us he was the Song of Solomon of Alphaeus. Luke also mentions it, Luke 5:27,28, and calls him Levi, adding that he was a publican, and saith that he left all, rose up, and followed him. This Matthew might have also the name of Levi; all interpreters agree he was the same man. All three evangelists say, that when Christ called him, he was sitting in the custom house

at the receipt of custom. This Matthew was one of the twelve apostles, Matthew 10:3, and the penman of this Gospel. His father Alphaeus was honoured to have four of his sons apostles, James the less, and Thaddaeus, (called Lebbeus), Simon the Canaanite, and Matthew. He was a publican, an officer under the Romans to gather the public revenue; it was an odious name amongst the Jews, but Matthew, to magnify the grace of Christ in calling him, is not ashamed thus to describe himself, both here and Matthew 10:3.

He saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. His word carried a secret power with it, which Matthew obeyed by leaving his employment and going after Christ.

And as Jesus passed forth from thence,.... That is, from Capernaum to the sea side; where, as Mark says, the multitude resorted, and he taught them;

he saw a man named Matthew; the writer of this Gospel. The other evangelists call him Levi, who was the son of Alphaeus: he went by two names; Mark and Luke call him by the name, which perhaps was the more honourable, or the least known, on purpose to conceal the former life of the apostle, which might expose him to the contempt of some; but he himself chooses to mention the name by which he was most known, as an apostle, and that the grace of God might appear the more illustrious in his calling and conversion. The Jews say (h), that one of Christ's disciples was called Matthew, which, as Levi, is an Hebrew name; for though he was a publican, yet a Jew; for it was common with the Jews either to be employed by the Roman officers in collecting the toll or tribute, or to farm it of them.

Sitting at the receipt of custom, or "at the custom house", or "toll booth"; which both the Syriac version, and Munster's Hebrew Gospel, call or , the "publican's house". In the (i) Talmud mention is made of it, in the following parable, upon citing

"it is like, (say the doctors,) to a king of flesh and blood, who passing by , "the toll booth", or "publican's house", says to his servants, give "toll to the publicans": they reply to him, is not all the toll thine? he says to them, all that pass by the ways will learn of me, and will not avoid the toll; so says the holy blessed God, &c.''

The publicans had houses, or booths built for them, at the foot of bridges, at the mouth of rivers, and by the sea shore, where they took toll of passengers that went to and fro: hence we read (k) of bridges being made to take toll at, and of publicans being at the water side (l), and of (m), "the tickets", or "seals of the publicans"; which, when a man had paid toll on one side of a river, were given him by the publican, to show to him that sat on the other side, that it might appear he had paid: in which were written two great letters, bigger than those in common use (n). Thus Matthew was sitting in a toll booth, near the seashore, to receive the toll of passengers that came, or went in ships or boats.

And he saith unto him, follow me; notwithstanding the infamous employment he was in, as accounted by the Jews: this was no bar in the way of his call to be a disciple of Christ; and shows, that there was no merit and motive in him, which was the reason of this high honour bestowed upon him; but was entirely owing to the free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace of Christ, and which was powerful and efficacious: for without telling him what work he must do, or how he must live, and without his consulting with flesh and blood, at once, immediately

he arose, and followed him: such a power went along with the call, that he directly left his employment, how profitable soever it might be to him, and became a disciple of Christ.

(h) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 43. 1.((i) T. Bab. Succa, fol. 30. 1.((k) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 33. 2.((l) Jarchi in Jud. v. 10. (m) Misn. Sabbat, c. 8. sect. 2. T. Hieros. Sabbat, fol. 11. 2. T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 78. 2. & Bechorot, fol. 30. 2. & Avoda Zara, fol. 39. 1.((n) Jarchi, Maimonides, & Bartenora in Misn. Sabbat, c. 8. sect. 2. & Gloss. in T. Bab. Bechorot, fol. 30. 2.

{2} And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the {d} receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.

(2) Christ calls the humble sinners unto him, but he condemns the proud hypocrites.

(d) At the table where the tax was received.

Matthew 9:9-10. Comp. Mark 2:13 ff. (whom Matthew follows) and Luke 5:27 ff.

Καὶ παράγων] not: as He went farther (as is commonly supposed), but (Matthew 20:30; Mark 1:16; Mark 15:21; John 9:1; 1 Corinthians 7:31): as He went away from where (He had cured the paralytic), and was passing by (3Ma 6:16; Polyb. v. 18. 4), the place, that is, where Matthew was. Exactly as in Mark 2:14, and in Matthew 9:27 below.

Ματθ. λεγόμ.] Named Matthew (Matthew 2:23, Matthew 26:36, Matthew 27:33), anticipation of the apostolic name.

τὸ τελώνιον] the custom-house of the place (Poll. ix. 28). On Matthew himself and his identity with Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27), further confirmed in Constitt. Ap. viii. 22. 1, see introduction, § 1. Considering the locality, it may be assumed that Matthew already knew something of Jesus, the extraordinary Rabbi and worker of miracles in that district, and that he does not now for the first time and all of a sudden make up his mind to join the company of His disciples (ἀκολουθεῖν). What is here recorded is the moment of the decision (in answer to Strauss, B. Bauer). This in opposition to Paulus, who interprets thus: “Go with me into thy house!” See Strauss, II. p. 570, who, however, sweeps away everything in the shape of a historical substratum, save the fact that Jesus really had publicans among His disciples, and that probably Matthew had likewise been one of this class;—“that these men had, of course, left the seat at the custom-house to follow Jesus, yet only in the figurative sense peculiar to such modes of expression, and not literally, as the legend depicts it.”

Matthew 9:9-13. The publican feast (Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32). The point of interest for the evangelist in this narrative is not the call of the publican disciple, but the feast which followed, a feast of publicans and “sinners” at which Jesus was present proclaiming by action what He formerly proclaimed by word: a sinful past no doom. The story, though not a miracle-history, finds a place here because it follows the last in Mark, in whose Gospel the incident of the palsied man forms the first of a group serving one aim—to show the beginnings of the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders. The same remark applies to the next section.

9. The Call of St Matthew. Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27-28St Mark has “Levi, the son of Alphæus,” St Luke “a publican named Levi.” The identification of Matthew with Levi can scarcely be seriously disputed. The circumstances of the call are precisely similar as narrated by the Synoptists; and it was too usual for a Jew to have more than one name for this difference to be a difficulty. Probably the name Matthew, “Gift of God,” was adopted by the Apostle when he became a follower of Jesus.

the receipt of custom] Rather, the toll- or custom-house. For a longer notice of the call of St Matthew, see Introduction.

Matthew 9:9. Ματθαῖον, Matthew) A Hebrew by nation, and yet a publican. In St Mark and St Luke, he is called Levi.[402] It is possible that Matthew did not like the name which he had borne as a publican.—καθἡμενον, sitting) actually employed in the business of his calling. And yet Matthew followed. A great miracle and example of the power of Jesus. A noble instance of obedience[403] [productive of eternal joy.—V. g.]

[402] J. D. Michaelis, Einleitung T. ii. p. m. 932, etc., conjectures that Levi was the chief of the publicans, and Matthew his subordinate assistant. But it is not likely that either Matthew, consistently with his modesty, would have omitted to record the obedience of Levi to the Lord’s call—Levi being, by the hypothesis, Matthew’s principal and also host at the large entertainment given on the occasion—or that Mark and Luke should have omitted the call of Matthew, who was more distinguished than Levi on account of his apostleship. It is no objection, that Matthew is not mentioned by the men of Nazareth. Matthew 13:55. among the four sons, i.e. sister’s sons of Mary: for not even Levi (who in Mark 2:14 is explicitly made the son of Alpheus) is reckoned among those four. What suppose we say that Levi, or Matthew, was the son of Alpheus though not by Mary, but by a different wife, and so connected with the Saviour by no tie of blood. At all events, the very etymological root of the names seems to establish the identity of the persons. For לוי (Levi) is from לוה adhered, attached to, and מַתָּיַ or מַתַּתָּי (Matthew) is from the Arab word מהת, he formed a tie of connection or propinquity. Moreover: in the same way as Saul, from that period of time in which, after being solemnly set apart to the work of preaching, he gained over Sergius Paulus as the first-fruits of his mission, and so became superior to Barnabas, was distinguished by the name of Paul, even by Luke himself (Acts 13:2; Acts 13:9): so also Levi (Luke 5:27), from the moment in which by solemn election he was enrolled among the Apostles, obtained the name of Matthew even in Luke (c. Luke 6:15). These considerations will enable the reader to decide the question.—E. B.

[403] This may be supposed to have been the series of the events: Matthew a short while before went to Jesus as a publican, and even then, at that early time, beyond all that he could have conceived, was called to the apostolic office, Matthew 5:1, Luke 6:15 (comp. Numbers 11:26): whereby is evinced the extraordinary clemency of the Saviour towards this publican, thus selected out from the rest of his fellows. He was present, as an apostle freshly-appointed, at the Sermon on the Mount: where there is no doubt but that the words, Do not even the publicans the same? recorded by Matthew himself. ch. Matthew 5:46. made the deepest impression on his mind. He did not, however, on that very day commence following the Lord daily, but had still some occupation in levying taxes, therein without doubt being observant of that righteousness which is commanded in Luke 3:13. There was, on the part of the Jews, a great abhorrence of publicans, even though they were themselves Jews; and it is to this abhorrence that the Saviour adapted His language. Matthew 18:17. However, the publicans were not altogether excluded from the temple, whether they had the same degree of access to it open to them as the Pharisees had, or an access more remote: Luke 18:13. John admitted the publicans to baptism, on condition that, in the discharge of their office, they would allow themselves to be stirred up to the duty of justice: nay more, not even did the Saviour command them altogether to leave their employment, but to “make to themselves friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness.” Luke 15:1; Luke 16:1; Luke 16:9. Neither Christ nor His fore-runner were bound by the Jewish traditions, which excluded publicans from church-communion. And besides, it is probable that the Jews, from malice against Christ, subsequently established more severe enactments as to publicans. Accordingly Matthew, being called to the apostleship, and not as yet at that time ordered to leave the receipt of customs, may have discharged this duty up to the time that he was called to follow Jesus. But if Matthew did the same as Zaccheus, before his conversion, he was in duty bound to make amends to those whom he had defrauded on the same principle as Zaccheus, or even to compare and make up ail accounts whatever with the other publicans. Jesus, therefore, when he saw him sitting at the receipt of custom, saith. Follow Me. And he arose and followed Him. Independently of the general crowd of hearers and disciples, coming to Him and going away from time to time, Jesus admitted certain followers to daily intimacy (Luke 9:59; Luke 18:22; Acts 1:21), and twelve apostles, i.e. extraordinary messengers of the kingdom of heaven. Peter and Andrew, James also, with John, were made followers before that they were made apostles: Matthew was called to the apostolic dignity sooner than he was admitted to the intimacy of daily following the Lord, although not even this could have been put off for long, and in matter of fact was not delayed for more than a few days. At all events, he was not present in the journey to the country of the Gergesenes, who perhaps knew him well as a publican; but he may have been a spectator of the other acts of the Lord at Capernaum previous and subsequent to that journey. Even though he were ever so much behind the other apostles in following Christ: yet he followed soon enough for attaining the object proposed, as an apostle, Acts 1:21.—Harm. 281, etc.


(1) The call of a publican to be a personal follower (ver. 9).

(2) His kindly treatment of publicans and sinners, and his apology for showing it (vers. 10-13).

(3) His care for the freedom of his disciples from ceremonial bondage (vers. 14-17). Observe in this section the signs of opposition

(1) from the high-Judaic party, on a question of moral defilement (ver. 11);

(2) from those who were professedly waiting for Messiah, on a question of ceremonial observance (ver. 14). Verse 9. - The call of Matthew. Parallel passages: Mark 2:13, 14; Luke 5:27, 28. All three evangelists connect this with the preceding miracle, but in the parallel passages the name is given as" Levi," St. Mark adding, "the son of Alphaeus." If the First Gospel were not written, in either Greek or Aramaic, by St. Matthew himself, but by a catechist of the Matthean cycle (vide Introduction, pp. 6, 17.), it is possible that "Levi," as found in the source, may have seemed to the catechist disrespectful, and that he altered it to the title by which he had been accustomed to hear his master called. If, on the other hand, and as seems more probable, this Gospel was written by St. Matthew, his preference for "Matthew" rather than "Levi" may be due to its meaning (vide Introduction, p. 21.). And as Jesus passed forth (Revised Version, by) from thence. Mark 2:13 says that our Lord went out along the seaside, where "the receipt of custom" (vide infra) would naturally be. He saw a man, named (Revised Version, called) Matthew (vide Introduction, p. 20.). In the Greek "a man" is closely joined to "sitting at the receipt of custom," the words Μαθθαῖον λεγόμενον appearing to be almost an afterthought. Not the name, but the man's occupation, was the important thing. Sitting. Still plying his irreligious trade. At the receipt of custom; at the place of toll (Revised Version). Perhaps a mere booth by the roadside for collecting the octroi-duty on food, etc., carried past. At the present day in Palestine" a booth of branches, or a more substantial hut, is erected at every entrance into the city or village, and there, both day and night, sits a man at ' the receipt of custom.' He taxes all the produce, piercing with a long, sharp iron rod the large camel-bags of wheat or cotton, in order to discover concealed copper wire, or other contraband" (Van Lennep, in Exell, in lot.). Schurer (1. 2. p, 67) shows that the customs raised at Capernaum in the time of Christ undoubtedly went, not into the imperial fiscus, but into the treasury of Herod Antipas. On the other band, in Judaea at that time the customs were raised in the interests of the imperial fiscus. (On "publicans" generally, see ch. 5:46, note; and for further details, Edersheim, 'Life,' 1. 515.) And he saith unto him, Follow me. No promise is given corresponding to that in ch. 4:19. And he arose, and followed him. Perhaps the day's work was just over, or he may have left some assistant there. Matthew 9:9Receipt of custom (τελώνιον)

Rev., place of toll. Wyc., tolbooth, toll-booth, or toll-cabin, which is an excellent word, though obsolete. Sitting at, is, literally, sitting on: the elevated platform or bench which was the principal feature of the toll-office, as in modern custom-bazaars, being put for the whole establishment. This customs-office was at Capernaum, the land-rag-place for the many ships which traversed the lake or coasted from town to town; and this not only for those who had business in Capernaum, but for those who would there strike the great road of eastern commerce from Damascus to the harbors of the West. Cicero, in his oration on the Consular Provinces, accuses Gabinius, the pro-consul of Syria, of relieving the Syrians and Jews of some of their legitimate taxes, and of ordering the small buildings to be taken down, which the publicans had erected at the approaches to bridges, or at the termination of roads, or in the harbors, for the convenience of their slaves and collectors.

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