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now a large village, with a convent and two churches. One of the churches, called the Church of the Annunciation, is the finest in the Holy Land, except that of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem.
A modern traveller describes Nazareth as situated upon the declivity of a hill, the vale which spreads out before it resembling a circular basin, encompassed by mountains. Fifteen mountains appear to meet to form an enclosure for this beautiful spot-around which they rise like the edge of a shell, to guard it against intrusion. It is a rich and beautiful field in the midst of barren mountains. Another traveller speaks of the streets as narrow and steep; the houses, which are flat-roofed, are about 250 in number; and the inhabitants he estimates at 2000. The population of the place is variously stated, though the average estimate is 3000; of whom about 500 are Turks, and the residue nominal Christians.
As all testimony to the truth and fidelity of the sacred narrative is important, we have thought ourselves justified in connecting with this article a passage from the Journal of Mr Jowett, an intelligent modern traveller; especially, as it is so full an illustration of the passage of Luke already cited :
“ Nazareth is situated on the side, and extends to nearly the foot, of a hill, which, though not very high, is rather steep and overhanging. The eye naturally wanders over its summit, in quest of some point from which it might probably be that the men of this place endeavoured to cast our Saviour down (Luke iv. 29), but in vain ; no rock adapted to such an object appears here. At the foot of the hill is a modest, simple plain, surrounded by low hills, reaching in length nearly á mile; in breadth, near the city, 150 yards; but farther south, about 400 yards. On this plain there are a few olive and fig trees-sufficient, or rather scarcely sufficient, to make the spot picturesque. Then follows a ravine, which gradually grows deeper and narrower towards the south ; till, after walking about another mile, you find yourself in an immense chasm, with steep rocks on either side, from whence you behold, as it were beneath your feet, and before you, the noble plain of Esdraelon. Nothing can be finer than the apparently immeasurable prospect of this plain, bounded on the south by the mountains of Samaria. The elevation of the hills on which the spectator stands in this ravine is very great; and the whole scene, when we saw it, was clothed in the most rich mountain-blue colour that can be conceived. At this spot, on the right hand of the ravine, is shown the rock to which the men of Nazareth are supposed to have conducted our Lord, for the purpose of throwing him down. With the Testament in our hands, we endeavoured to examine the probabilities of the spot; and I confess there is nothing in it which excites a scruple of incredulity in my mind. The rock here is perpendicular for about 50 feet,—down which space it would be easy to hurl a person who should be unawares brought to the summit; and his perishing would be a very certain consequence. That the spot might be at a considerable distance from the city, is an idea not inconsistent with Luke's account; for the expression, thrusting Jesus out of the city, and leading him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built
, gives fair scope for imagining, that in their rage and debate, the Nazarenes might, without originally intending his murder, press upon him for a considerable distance after they had quitted the synagogue. The distance, as already noticed, from modern Nazareth to the spot, is scarcely two miles,-a space which, in the fury of persecution, might soon be passed over : or, should this appear too considerable, it is by no means certain but that Nazareth may at that time have extended through the principal part of the plain, which I have described as lying before the modern town. In this case, the distance passed over might not exceed a mile. I can see, therefore, no reason for thinking otherwise than that this may be the real scene where our divine Prophet Jesus received so great a dishonour from the men of his own country and of his own kindred.”
Mr Fisk, an American missionary, was at Nazareth in the autumn of 1823. His description corresponds generally with that of Mr Jowett. He estimates the population to be from 3000 to 5000, viz., Greeks, 300 or 400 families; Turks, 200; Catholics, 100; Greek Catholics, 40 or 50 ; Maronites, 20 or 30; say, in all, 700 houses. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, &c. The words here are not found in any of the books of the Old Testament; and there has been much difficulty in ascertaining the meaning of this passage. Some have supposed that Matthew meant to refer to Judges xiii. 5, to Samson as a type of Christ; others, that he refers to Isa. xi. 1, where the descendant of Jesse is called “a Branch,"—in the Hebrew, Netzer ; some have supposed that Matthew refers to some prophecy which was not recorded, but handed down by tradition. But these suppositions are not satisfactory. It is a great deal more probable that Matthew refers not to any particular place, but to the leading characteristics of the prophecies respecting him. The following remarks may make this clear :-1. He does not say, “by the prophet," as in chap. i. 22, ii. 5, 15, but," by the prophets,"—meaning no one particularly, but the general character of the prophecies. 2. The leading and most prominent prophecies respecting him were that he was to be of humble life,-to be despised and rejected. See Isa. liii. 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 12; Pš. xxii. 3. The phrase " he shall be called,” means the same as he shall be. 4. The character of the people of Nazareth was such that they were proverbially despised and contemned. John i. 46, vii. 52. To come from Nazareth, therefore, or to be a Nazarene, was the same as to be despised, and esteemed of low birth—to be a root out of dry ground, having no form or comeliness. And this was this same as had been predicted by the prophets. When Matthew says, therefore, that the prophecies were fulfilled, it means, that the predictions of the prophets that he should be of humble life, and rejected, were fully accomplished in his being an inhabitant of Nazareth, and despised as such.
ADDITIONAL REMARKS. 1. The name “Wonderful,” is one of those given to our Lord in prophecy. Isa. ix. 6. In his birth and infancy, we see how well that name suited him. He who in his own person combined, and continues to combine, the two distinct natures of God and man, was born in a stable, and laid in a manger; and so stooped to an amazing depth of humiliation. But even in this his low estate, a gleam of dignity breaks out-a star is appointed to conduct the wise men to the place of his birth. No sooner is his birth announced, than his troubles begin. Herod secks his life, and adopts measures for his destruction. This again speaks to his humility; but again bis greatness becomes conspicuous—for an angel is sent to command Joseph to carry him into Egypt. No such ministers wait upon earthly princes. In the infancy of Christ we have a good representation of the lives of Christ's people. Continually assailed and persecuted by the enemy, they are as constantly cared for and upheld by their heavenly Father. The world covers them with a cloud, but God relieves them with the sunshine of his presence. They are in the case of Paul,—“as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed ; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” 2 Cor. vi. 8-10.
2. Not only was Herod troubled when Christ's birth was announced, but, as it is added, “all Jerusalem with him.” The Jews were expecting the Messiah ; yet were they troubled when he came. They thought, perhaps, that in the setting up of his kingdom, (which they expected to be a worldly one,) they would have much to suffer, -bloodshed, it may be, and death. To the setting up of Christ's kingdom in their souls, men have a violent dislike. The birth of Christ in the soul, as an old commentator remarks, "is, as it were, a tumult of Herod and the Jews. They that are without, viz., carnal friends, are all in a rage at it. What! turn a melancholy, precise fool !-go mad! And within, all the lusts of the heart are clamouring for their interest ; noising to it, that it will suffer much in this change-that all wonted delights will be cut off—that there will arise much war and trouble by this new kingdom.” Mind not this outcry and riot of Satan's company,
all depends upon having this kingdom set up in your heart. "Christ will claim no soul as his on the day of judgment, he will admit no soul into glory, which was not upon earth a citizen of his kingdom of grace. And,
3. Be not contented with a formal knowledge of Christ. The chief priests, and leading men among the Jews, knew much concerning the Messiah. They knew he was to be born in Bethlehem, and the time, also, when that event was to happen ;—that he, when he came, was to do great things. When the wise men came, asking, “ Where is he that is born King of the Jews ?" they were no wise astonished-as knowing that he would certainly be born. But we read not of their accompanying the wise men, or so much as sending any one along with them, to ascertain the fact. So may we know much about Christ,-as, that he is the Saviour of sinners, and shall certainly bestow eternal life upon all who believe in his name,--and yet remain as indifferent about him as these priests and chief men. It shall profit a man nothing to speak of Christ, and hear of him, and know about him, unless he make trial of a saving interest in him, and become united to him, through faith, by as close a connection as that which exists between the vine and its branches—the members of the body and the head the body and the soul that animates it.
CHAPTER III. 1 John preacheth: his office : life, and baptism. 7 He reprehendeth the Pharisees, 13 and
baptizeth Christ in Jordan.
IN || those days came "John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of
Ver. 1. In those days. The days here referred to cannot be those mentioned in the preceding chapter, for John was but six months older than Christ. Perhaps Matthew intended to extend his narrative to the whole time that Jesus dwelt at Nazareth ; and the meaning is, in those days while Jesus still dwelt at Nazareth, John began to preach. It is not probable that John began to baptize or preach long before the Saviour entered on his ministry; and, consequently, from the time that is mentioned at the close of the second chapter, to that mentioned in the beginning of the third, an interval of 25 or more years elapsed. I John the Baptist, or, John the baptizer. So called from his principal office—that of baptizing. Baptism, or the application of water, was a rite well known to the Jews, and practised when they admitted proselytes to their religion from heathenism.—LightFOOT. 1 Preaching. The word rendered to preach, means, to proclaim in the manner of a public crier; to make proclamation. The discourses recorded in the New Testament are mostly briefsometimes a single sentence. They were public proclamations of some great truth. Such appear to have been the discourses of John, calling men to repentance. I In the wilderness of Judea. This country was situated along the Jordan and the Dead Sea, to the east of Jerusalem. The word translated wilderness, does not denote, as with us, a place of boundless forests, entirely destitute of inhabitants; but a mountainous, rough, and thinly settled country, covered, to some considerable extent, with forests and rocks, and better fitted for pasture than for tilling. There were inhabitants in those places, and even villages, but they were the comparatively unsettled portions of the country. 1 Sam. xxv. 1, 2. In the time of Joshua there were six cities in what was then called a wilderness. Josh. xv. 61, 62.
2 And saying, Repent ye: for othe kingdom of heaven is at hand.
c Dan. ii. 44.
2. Repent ye. Repentance implies sorrow for past offences, (2 Cor. vii. 10 ;) a deep sense of the evil of sin, as committed against God, (Ps. li. 4 ;) and a full purpose to turn from transgression, and to live a holy life. A true penitent has sorrow for sin, not only because it is ruinous to his soul, but chiefly because it is an offence against God, and is that abominable thing which he hates. Jer. xliv. 4. It is produced by seeing the great danger and misery to which it exposes us; by seeing the justness and holiness of God, (Job xlii. 6 ;) and by seeing that our sins have been committed against Christ, and were the cause of his death. Zech. xii. 10 ; Luke xxii. 61, 62. There are two words in the New Testament translated repentance ; one of which denotes a change of mind, or a reformation of life; and the other, sorrow or regret that sin has been committed. The word used here is the former; calling the Jews to a change of life, or a reformation of conduct. In the time of John, the nation had become extremely wicked and corrupt-perhaps more so than at any preceding period. Hence both he and Christ began their ministry by calling to repentance. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. The phrases, kingdom of heaven, kingdom of Christ, and kingdom of God, are of freque occurrence in the Bible. They all refer to the same thing. The expectation of such a kingdom was taken from the Old Testament, and especially from Dan. vii. 13, 14. The prophets had told of a successor to David, that should sit on his throne. 1 Kings ii
. 4, viii. 25; Jer. xxxiii. 17. The Jews expected a great national deliverer. They supposed that when the Messiah should appear, all the dead should be raised, that the judgment would take place, and that the enemies of the Jews would be destroyed, and themselves advanced to great national dignity and honour. The language in which they were accustomed to describe this event was retained by our Saviour and his apostles : yet they early attempted to correct the common notions respecting his reign. This was one design, doubtless, of John in preaching repentance. Instead of summoning them to military exercises, and collecting an army,—which would have been in accordance with their expectations,—he called them to a change of life—to the doctrine of repentance; a state of things far more accordant with the approach of a kingdom of purity.
The phrases,“ kingdom of God” and “ kingdom of heaven," have been supposed to have a considerable variety of meanings. Some have thought that they refer to the state of things in heaven; others, to the personal reign of Christ on earth; others, that they mean the Church, or the reign of Christ in the hearts of his people. There can be no doubt that there is reference in the words to the condition of things in heaven, after this life; but the Church of God is a preparatory state to that beyond the grave—a state in which Christ pre-eminently rules and reigns; and there is no doubt that it sometimes refers to the state of things in the Church : and it means, therefore, the state of things which the Messiah was to set up—his spiritual reign, begun in the church on earth, and completed in heaven.
The phrase would be best translated, “ the reign of God draws nigh.” We do not say commonly of a kingdom that it is moveable, or that it approaches. A reign may be said to be at hand; or the time when Christ would reign was at hand. In this sense, it is meant that the time when Christ should reign, or set up his kingdom, or begin his dominion on earth, under the Christian economy, was about to commence. The phrase, then, should not be confined to any period of that reign, but includes his whole dominion over his people, on earth and in heaven.
In the passage here it clearly means, that the coming of the Messiah was near; or that the time of the reign of God, which the Jews had expected, was coming.
The word heaven, or heavens, as it is in the original, means sometimes the place so called ; and sometimes is, by a figure of speech, put for the great Being whose residence is there; as in Dan. iv. 26, “ The Heavens do rule.” See also Mark xi. 30 ; Luke xv. 18. As that kingdom was one of purity, it was proper that the people should prepare themselves for it by turning from their sins, and directing their minds to a suitable fitness for his reign. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, "The voice
of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
d Isa. xl. 3; Mark i. 3; Luke iii. 4; John i. 23. 3. The prophet Esaias. The prophet Isaiah. Esaias is the Greek mode of writing the name. This
passage is taken from Isa. xl. 3. It is here said to have been spoken in reference to John, the forerunner of Christ. The language is such as was familiar to the Jews, and such as they would understand. It was spoken at first with reference to the return from the captivity at Babylon. Anciently it was customary in the march of armies to send messengers, or pioneers, before them, to proclaim their approach—to provide for them to remove obstructions—to make roads, level hills, fill up valleys, &c. Isaiah, describing the return from Babylon, uses language taken from that custom. A crier, or herald, is introduced. In the vast deserts that lay between Babylon and Judea, he is represented as lifting up his voice, and, with authority, commanding a public road to be made for the return of the captive Jews, with the Lord as their deliverer.
As applied to John, the grand subject of the prophecy, it means, that he was sent to remove obstructions, and to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah ; like a herald going before an army on the march, to make preparations for their coming. 4 And 'the same John Shad his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle
about his loins; and his meat was "locusts and 'wild honey.
e Luke i. 76.
4. His raiment of camel's hair. His clothing. This is not the fine hair of the camel from which our elegant cloth is made, called camlet ; nor the more elegant stuff, brought from the East Indies, under the name of camel's bair; but the long, shaggy hair of camel, from which a coarse, cheap cloth is made, still worn by the poorer classes in the East, and by monks. This dress of the camel's hair, and a leathern girdle, it seems, was the common dress of the prophets. 2 Kings i. 8; Zech. xiii. 4. 9 His meat was locusts. Ilis food. These constituted the food of the common people. Among the Greeks, the vilest of the people used to eat them; and the fact that John made his food of them is significant of his great poverty and humble life. The Jews were allowed to eat them. Lev. xi. 22. Locusts are flying insects, and are of various kinds. The green locusts are about two inches in length, and about the thickness of a man's finger. The common brown locust is about three inches long. The general form and appearance of the locust is not unlike the grasshopper. They were one of the plagues of Egypt. Exod. x. In Eastern countries they are very numerous. They appear in such quantities as to darken the sky, and devour in a short time every green thing. The whole earth is sometimes covered with them for many leagues. Joel i. 4 ; Isa. xxxiii. 4, 5. “Some species of the locust are eaten at this day in Eastern countries ; and are even esteemed a delicacy, when properly cooked. After tearing off the legs and wings, and taking out the entrails, they stick them in long rows upon wooden spits, roast them at the fire, and then proceed to devour them with great zest. There are also other ways of preparing them. For example : they cook them and dress them in oil; or, having dried them, they pulverise them, and, when other food is scarce, make bread of the meal. The Bedouins pack them with salt, in close masses, which they carry in their leathern sacks. From these they cut slices as they may need them. It is singular that even learned men have suffered themselves to hesitate about understanding these passages of the literal locust, when the fact that these are eaten by the Orientals is so abundantly proved by the concurrent testimo of travellers. One of them says, they are brought to market on strings in all the cities of Arabia, and that he saw an Arab on Mount Sumara, who had collected a sack full of them, They are prepared in different ways. An Arab in Egypt, of whom he requested that he would immediately eat locusts in his presence, threw them upon the glowing coals; and after he supposed they were roasted enough, he took them by the legs and head, and devoured the remainder at one mouthful. When the Arabs have them in quantities, they roast or dry them in an oven, or boil them, and eat them with salt. The Arabs in the kingdom of Morocco boil the locusts; and the Bedouins eat locusts, which are collected in great quantities in the beginning of April, when they are easily caught. After having been roasted a little upon the iron plate on which bread is baked, they are dried in the sun, and then put into large sacks, with the mixture of a little salt. They are never served up as a dish, but every one takes a handful of them when hungry.”—Un. Bib. Dic. 9 Wild honey. This was probably the honey that he found in the rocks of the wilderness. Palestine was often called the land flowing with milk and honey. Exod. iii. 8, 17, xiii. 5. Bees were kept with great care; and great numbers of them abounded in the fissures of trees, and the clefts of rocks. There is also a species of honey called wild-honey, or wood-honey, (1 Sam. xiv. 27, margin,) or honey-dew, produced by certain little insects, and deposited on the leaves of trees, and flowing from them in great quantities to the ground. See 1 Sam. xiv. 24-27. This is said to be produced still in Arabia ; and perhaps it was this which John lived upon.
5 k Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round
k Mark i. 5; Luke il. 7.
5. Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem. 1 All Judea. Many people fromi Judea. It does not mean that literally all the people went, but that great multitudes went—it was general. Jerusalem was in the part of the country called Judea. Judea was situated on the west side of the Jordan. See Note, Matt. i. 22. Region about Jordan. On the east and west side of the river. Near to Jordan.
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
6. Were baptized. The word baptize signifies originally to tinge, to dye, to stain, as those who dye clothes. It here means to cleanse or wash any thing by the application of water. (See Note, Mark i. 22.) Washing, or ablution, was much in use among the Jews, as one of the'rites of their religion. Num. xix. 7; Heb. ix. 10. It was not customary, however, among them to baptize those who were converted to the Jewish religion until after the Babylonish captivity. At the time of John, and for some time previous, they had been accustomed to administer a rite of baptism, or washing, to those who became proselytes to their religion ; that is, who were converted from being Gentiles. This was done to signify that they renounced the errors and worship of the Pagans, and as significant of their becoming pure by embracing a new religion. It was a solemn rite of washing, significant of cleansing from their former sins, and purifying them for the peculiar service of Jehovah. John found this custom in use; and as he was calling the Jews to a new dispensation, to a change in their form of religion, he administered this rite of baptism, or washing, to signify the cleansing from their sins, and adopting the new dispensation, or the fitness for the pure reign of the Messiah. They applied an old ordinance to a new purpose. As it was used by John, it was a significant rite, or ceremony, intended to denote the putting away of impurity, and a purpose to be pure in heart and life. The Hebrew word (tabal) which is rendered by the word baptize, occurs in the Old Testament in the following places, viz., Lev. iv. 6, xiv. 6, 51; Num. xix. 18; Ruth ii. 14; Exod. xii. 22; Deut. xxxiii. 24 ; Ezek. xxiii. 15; Job ix. 31 ; Lev. ix. 9; 1 Sam. xiv. 27; 2 Kings v. 14, viii. 15; Gen. xxxvii. 31; Josh. ii. 15. It occurs in no other places; and from a careful examination of these passages, its meaning among the Jews is to be derived. From these passages it will be seen, that its radical meaning is not to sprinkle, or to immerse. It is to dip, commonly for the purpose
of sprinkling, or for some other purpose. Thus, to dip the finger (i. e, a part of the finger) in blood
- enough to sprinkle with. Lev. iv. 6. To dip a living bird, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop, in the blood of the bird that was killed, for the purpose of sprinkling; where it could not be that all these should be immersed in the blood of a single bird. To dip hyssop in the water, to sprinkle with. Num. xix. 18. To dip a portion of bread in vinegar. Ruth ii. 14. To dip the feet in oil—an emblem of plenty. Deut. xxxiii. 24. To dye or stain. Ezek. xxiii. 15. To plunge into a ditch, so as to defile the clothes. Job ix. 31. To dip the end of a staff in honey. 1 Sam. xiv. 27. To dip in Jordan; a declaration respecting Naaman the Syrian. 2 Kings v. 14. The direction of the prophet was, to wash himself. Ver. 10. This shows that he understood washing and baptizing to name the same thing. To dip a towel or quilt, so as to spread it on the face of a man, to smother him. 2 Kings viü. 15. In none of these cases can it be shown that the meaning of the word is to