Matthew 10 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Matthew 10)

Mt 10:1-5. MISSION OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES. ( = Mr 6:7-13; Lu 9:1-6).

The last three verses of the ninth chapter form the proper introduction to the Mission of the Twelve, as is evident from the remarkable fact that the Mission of the Seventy was prefaced by the very same words. (See on Lu 10:2).

1. And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power--The word signifies both "power," and "authority" or "right." Even if it were not evident that here both ideas are included, we find both words expressly used in the parallel passage of Luke (Lu 9:1) --"He gave them power and authority"--in other words, He both qualified and authorized them.
against--or "over."

2. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these--The other Evangelists enumerate the twelve in immediate connection with their appointment (Mr 3:13-19; Lu 6:13-16). But our Evangelist, not intending to record the appointment, but only the Mission of the Twelve, gives their names here. And as in the Acts (Ac 1:13) we have a list of the Eleven who met daily in the upper room with the other disciples after their Master's ascension until the day of Pentecost, we have four catalogues in all for comparison.
The first, Simon, who is called Peter--(See on Joh 1:42).
and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother--named after James, as the younger of the two.

3. Philip and Bartholomew--That this person is the same with "Nathanael of Cana in Galilee" is justly concluded for the three following reasons: First, because Bartholomew is not so properly an individual's name as a family surname; next, because not only in this list, but in Mark's and Luke's (Mr 3:18; Lu 6:14), he follows the name of "Philip," who was the instrument of bringing Nathanael first to Jesus (Joh 1:45); and again, when our Lord, after His resurrection, appeared at the Sea of Tiberias, "Nathanael of Cana in Galilee" is mentioned along with six others, all of them apostles, as being present (Joh 21:2).
Matthew the publican--In none of the four lists of the Twelve is this apostle so branded but in his own, as if he would have all to know how deep a debtor he had been to his Lord. (See on Mt 1:3; Mt 9:9).
James the son of Alphaeus--the same person apparently who is called Cleopas or Clopas (Lu 24:18; Joh 19:25); and, as he was the husband of Mary, sister to the Virgin, James the Less must have been our Lord's cousin.
and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus--the same, without doubt, as "Judas the brother of James," mentioned in both the lists of Luke (Lu 6:16; Ac 1:13), while no one of the name of Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus is so. It is he who in John (Joh 14:22) is sweetly called "Judas, not Iscariot." That he was the author of the Catholic Epistle of "Jude," and not "the Lord's brother" (Mt 13:55), unless these be the same, is most likely.

4. Simon the Canaanite--rather "Kananite," but better still, "the Zealot," as he is called in Lu 6:15, where the original term should not have been retained as in our version ("Simon, called Zelotes"), but rendered "Simon, called the Zealot." The word "Kananite" is just the Aramaic, or Syro-Chaldaic, term for "Zealot." Probably before his acquaintance with Jesus, he belonged to the sect of the Zealots, who bound themselves, as a sort of voluntary ecclesiastical police, to see that the law was not broken with impunity.
and Judas Iscariot--that is, Judas of Kerioth, a town of Judah (Jos 15:25); so called to distinguish him from "Judas the brother of James" (Lu 6:16).
who also betrayed him--a note of infamy attached to his name in all the catalogues of the Twelve.


This directory divides itself into three distinct parts. The first part (Mt 10:5-15) contains directions for the brief and temporary mission on which they were now going forth, with respect to the places they were to go to, the works they were to do, the message they were to bear, and the manner in which they were to conduct themselves. The second part (Mt 10:16-23) contains directions of no such limited and temporary nature, but opens out into the permanent exercise of the Gospel ministry. The third part (Mt 10:24-42) is of wider application still, reaching not only to the ministry of the Gospel in every age, but to the service of Christ in the widest sense. It is a strong confirmation of this threefold division, that each part closes with the words, "VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU" (Mt 10:15, 23, 42).

Directions for the Present Mission (Mt 10:5-15).

5. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not--The Samaritans were Gentiles by blood; but being the descendants of those whom the king of Assyria had transported from the East to supply the place of the ten tribes carried captive, they had adopted the religion of the Jews, though with admixtures of their own: and, as the nearest neighbors of the Jews, they occupied a place intermediate between them and the Gentiles. Accordingly, when this prohibition was to be taken off, on the effusion of the Spirit at Pentecost, the apostles were told that they should be Christ's witnesses first "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea," then "in Samaria," and lastly, "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Ac 1:8).

6. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel--Until Christ's death, which broke down the middle wall of Partition (Eph 2:14), the Gospel commission was to the Jews only, who, though the visible people of God, were "lost sheep," not merely in the sense which all sinners are (Isa 53:6; 1Pe 2:25; compare with Lu 19:10), but as abandoned and left to wander from the right way by faithless shepherds (Jer 50:6, 17; Eze 34:2-6, &c.).

7. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand--(See on Mt 3:2).

8. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils--(The italicizedd clause--"raise the dead"--is wanting in many manuscripts). Here we have the first communication of supernatural power by Christ Himself to His followers--thus anticipating the gifts of Pentecost. And right royally does He dispense it.
freely ye have received, freely give--Divine saying, divinely said! (Compare De 15:10, 11; Ac 3:6) --an apple of gold in a setting of silver (Pr 25:11). It reminds us of that other golden saying of our Lord, rescued from oblivion by Paul, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac 20:35). Who can estimate what the world owes to such sayings, and with what beautiful foliage and rich fruit such seeds have covered, and will yet cover, this earth!

9. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses--"for" your purses; literally, "your belts," in which they kept their money.

10. Nor scrip for your journey--the bag used by travellers for holding provisions.
neither two coats--or tunics, worn next the skin. The meaning is, Take no change of dress, no additional articles.
neither shoes--that is change of them.
nor yet staves--The received text here has "a staff," but our version follows another reading, "staves," which is found in the received text of Luke (Lu 9:3). The true reading, however, evidently is "a staff"--meaning, that they were not to procure even that much expressly for this missionary journey, but to go with what they had. No doubt it was the misunderstanding of this that gave rise to the reading "staves" in so many manuscripts Even if this reading were genuine, it could not mean "more than one"; for who, as ALFORD well asks, would think of taking a spare staff?
for the workman is worthy of his meat--his "food" or "maintenance"; a principle which, being universally recognized in secular affairs, is here authoritatively applied to the services of the Lord's workmen, and by Paul repeatedly and touchingly employed in his appeals to the churches (Ro 15:27; 1Co 9:11; Ga 6:6), and once as "scripture" (1Ti 5:18).

11. And into whatsoever city or town--town or village.
ye shall enter inquire--carefully.
who in it is worthy--or "meet" to entertain such messengers; not in point of rank, of course, but of congenial disposition.
and there abide till ye go thence--not shifting about, as if discontented, but returning the welcome given with a courteous, contented, accommodating disposition.

12. And when ye come into an house--or "the house," but it means not the worthy house, but the house ye first enter, to try if it be worthy.
salute it--show it the usual civilities.

13. And if the house be worthy--showing this by giving you a welcome.
let your peace come upon it--This is best explained by the injunction to the Seventy, "And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house" (Lu 10:5). This was the ancient salutation of the East, and it prevails to this day. But from the lips of Christ and His messengers, it means something far higher, both in the gift and the giving of it, than in the current salutation. (See on Joh 14:27).
but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you--If your peace finds a shut, instead of an open, door in the heart of any household, take it back to yourselves, who know how to value it; and it will taste the sweeter to you for having been offered, even though rejected.

14. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city--for possibly a whole town might not furnish one "worthy."
shake off the dust of your feet--"for a testimony against them," as Mark and Luke add (Mr 6:11; Lu 10:11). By this symbolical action they vividly shook themselves from all connection with such, and all responsibility for the guilt of rejecting them and their message. Such symbolical actions were common in ancient times, even among others than the Jews, as strikingly appears in Pilate (Mt 27:24). And even to this day it prevails in the East.

15. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable--more bearable.
for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city--Those Cities of the Plain, which were given to the flames for their loathsome impurities, shall be treated as less criminal, we are here taught, than those places which, though morally respectable, reject the Gospel message and affront those that bear it.

Directions for the Future and Permanent Exercise of the Christian Ministry (Mt 10:16-23).

16. Behold, I send you forth--The "I" here is emphatic, holding up Himself as the Fountain of the Gospel ministry, as He is also the Great Burden of it.
as sheep--defenseless.
in the midst of wolves--ready to make a prey of you (Joh 10:12). To be left exposed, as sheep to wolves, would have been startling enough; but that the sheep should be sent among the wolves would sound strange indeed. No wonder this announcement begins with the exclamation, "Behold."
be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves--Wonderful combination this! Alone, the wisdom of the serpent is mere cunning, and the harmlessness of the dove little better than weakness: but in combination, the wisdom of the serpent would save them from unnecessary exposure to danger; the harmlessness of the dove, from sinful expedients to escape it. In the apostolic age of Christianity, how harmoniously were these qualities displayed! Instead of the fanatical thirst for martyrdom, to which a later age gave birth, there was a manly combination of unflinching zeal and calm discretion, before which nothing was able to stand.

17. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the councils--the local courts, used here for civil magistrates in general.
and they will scourge you in their synagogues--By this is meant persecution at the hands of the ecclesiastics.

18. And ye shall be brought before governors--provincial rulers.
and kings--the highest tribunals.
for my sake, for a testimony against them--rather, "to them," in order to bear testimony to the truth and its glorious effects.
and the Gentiles--"to the Gentiles"; a hint that their message would not long be confined to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The Acts of the Apostles are the best commentary on these warnings.

19. But when they deliver you up, take no thought--be not solicitous or anxious. (See on Mt 6:25).
how or what ye shall speak--that is, either in what manner ye shall make your defense, or of what matter it shall consist.
for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak--(See Ex 4:12; Jer 1:7).

20. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you--How remarkably this has been verified, the whole history of persecution thrillingly proclaims--from the Acts of the Apostles to the latest martyrology.

21. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death--for example, by lodging information against them with the authorities. The deep and virulent hostility of the old nature and life to the new--as of Belial to Christ--was to issue in awful wrenches of the dearest ties; and the disciples, in the prospect of their cause and themselves being launched upon society, are here prepared for the worst.

22. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake--The universality of this hatred would make it evident to them, that since it would not be owing to any temporary excitement, local virulence, or personal prejudice, on the part of their enemies, so no amount of discretion on their part, consistent with entire fidelity to the truth, would avail to stifle that enmity--though it might soften its violence, and in some cases avert the outward manifestations of it.
but he that endureth to the end shall be saved--a great saying, repeated, in connection with similar warnings, in the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem (Mt 24:13); and often reiterated by the apostle as a warning against "drawing back unto perdition" (Heb 3:6, 13; 6:4-6; 10:23, 26-29, 38, 39, &c.). As "drawing back unto perdition" is merely the palpable evidence of the want of "root" from the first in the Christian profession (Lu 8:13), so "enduring to the end" is just the proper evidence of its reality and solidity.

23. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another--"into the other." This, though applicable to all time, and exemplified by our Lord Himself once and again, had special reference to the brief opportunities which Israel was to have of "knowing the time of His visitations."
for verily I say unto you--what will startle you, but at the same time show you the solemnity of your mission, and the need of economizing the time for it.
Ye shall not have gone over--Ye shall in nowise have completed.
the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come--To understand this--as LANGE and others do--in the first instance, of Christ's own peregrinations, as if He had said, "Waste not your time upon hostile places, for I Myself will be after you ere your work be over"--seems almost trifling. "The coming of the Son of man" has a fixed doctrinal sense, here referring immediately to the crisis of Israel's history as the visible kingdom of God, when Christ was to come and judge it; when "the wrath would come upon it to the uttermost"; and when, on the ruins of Jerusalem and the old economy, He would establish His own kingdom. This, in the uniform language of Scripture, is more immediately "the coming of the Son of man," "the day of vengeance of our God" (Mt 16:28; 24:27, 34; compare with Heb 10:25; Jas 5:7-9) --but only as being such a lively anticipation of His second coming for vengeance and deliverance. So understood, it is parallel with Mt 24:14 (on which see).

Directions for the Service of Christ in Its Widest Sense (Mt 10:24-42).

24. The disciple is not above his master--teacher.
nor the servant above his lord--another maxim which our Lord repeats in various connections (Lu 6:40; Joh 13:16; 15:20).

25. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub--All the Greek manuscripts, write "Beelzebul," which undoubtedly is the right form of this word. The other reading came in no doubt from the Old Testament "Baalzebub," the god of Ekron (2Ki 1:2), which it was designed to express. As all idolatry was regarded as devil worship (Le 17:7; De 32:17; Ps 106:37; 1Co 10:20), so there seems to have been something peculiarly satanic about the worship of this hateful god, which caused his name to be a synonym of Satan. Though we nowhere read that our Lord was actually called "Beelzebul," He was charged with being in league with Satan under that hateful name (Mt 12:24, 26), and more than once Himself was charged with "having a devil" or "demon" (Mr 3:30; Joh 7:20; 8:48). Here it is used to denote the most opprobrious language which could be applied by one to another.
how much more shall they call them of his household--"the inmates." Three relations in which Christ stands to His people are here mentioned: He is their Teacher--they His disciples; He is their Lord--they His servants; He is the Master of the household--they its inmates. In all these relations, He says here, He and they are so bound up together that they cannot look to fare better than He, and should think it enough if they fare no worse.

26. Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known--that is, There is no use, and no need, of concealing anything; right and wrong, truth and error, are about to come into open and deadly collision; and the day is coming when all hidden things shall be disclosed, everything seen as it is, and every one have his due (1Co 4:5).

27. What I tell you in darkness--in the privacy of a teaching for which men are not yet ripe.
that speak ye in the light--for when ye go forth all will be ready.
and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops--Give free and fearless utterance to all that I have taught you while yet with you. Objection: But this may cost us our life? Answer: It may, but there their power ends:

28. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul--In Lu 12:4, "and after that have no more that they can do."
but rather fear him--In Luke (Lu 12:5) this is peculiarly solemn, "I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear," even Him
which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell--A decisive proof this that there is a hell for the body as well as the soul in the eternal world; in other words, that the torment that awaits the lost will have elements of suffering adapted to the material as well as the spiritual part of our nature, both of which, we are assured, will exist for ever. In the corresponding warning contained in Luke (Lu 12:4), Jesus calls His disciples "My friends," as if He had felt that such sufferings constituted a bond of peculiar tenderness between Him and them.

29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?--In Luke (Lu 12:6) it is "five sparrows for two farthings"; so that, if the purchaser took two farthings' worth, he got one in addition--of such small value were they.
and one of them shall not fall on the ground--exhausted or killed
without your Father--"Not one of them is forgotten before God," as it is in Luke (Lu 12:6).

30. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered--See Lu 21:18 (and compare for the language 1Sa 14:45; Ac 27:34).

31. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows--Was ever language of such simplicity felt to carry such weight as this does? But here lies much of the charm and power of our Lord's teaching.

32. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men--despising the shame.
him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven--I will not be ashamed of him, but will own him before the most august of all assemblies.

33. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven--before that same assembly: "He shall have from Me his own treatment of Me on the earth." (But see on Mt 16:27).

34. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword--strife, discord, conflict; deadly opposition between eternally hostile principles, penetrating into and rending asunder the dearest ties.

35. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--(See on Lu 12:51).

36. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household--This saying, which is quoted, as is the whole verse, from Mic 7:6, is but an extension of the Psalmist's complaint (Ps 41:9; 55:12-14), which had its most affecting illustration in the treason of Judas against our Lord Himself (Joh 13:18; Mt 26:48-50). Hence would arise the necessity of a choice between Christ and the nearest relations, which would put them to the severest test.

37. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me--(Compare De 33:9). As the preference of the one would, in the case supposed, necessitate the abandonment of the other, our Lord here, with a sublime, yet awful self-respect, asserts His own claims to supreme affection.

38. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me--a saying which our Lord once and again emphatically reiterates (Mt 16:24; Lu 9:23; 14:27). We have become so accustomed to this expression--"taking up one's cross"--in the sense of "being prepared for trials in general for Christ's sake," that we are apt to lose sight of its primary and proper sense here--"a preparedness to go forth even to crucifixion," as when our Lord had to bear His own cross on His way to Calvary--a saying the more remarkable as our Lord had not as yet given a hint that He would die this death, nor was crucifixion a Jewish mode of capital punishment.

39. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it--another of those pregnant sayings which our Lord so often reiterates (Mt 16:25; Lu 17:33; Joh 12:25). The pith of such paradoxical maxims depends on the double sense attached to the word "life"--a lower and a higher, the natural and the spiritual, the temporal and eternal. An entire sacrifice of the lower, with all its relationships and interests--or, a willingness to make it which is the same thing--is indispensable to the preservation of the higher life; and he who cannot bring himself to surrender the one for the sake of the other shall eventually lose both.

40. He that receiveth you--entertaineth you,
receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me--As the treatment which an ambassador receives is understood and regarded as expressing the light in which he that sends him is viewed, so, says our Lord here, "Your authority is Mine, as Mine is My Father's."

41. He that receiveth a prophet--one divinely commissioned to deliver a message from heaven. Predicting future events was no necessary part of a prophet's office, especially as the word is used in the New Testament.
in the name of a prophet--for his office's sake and love to his master. (See 2Ki 4:9 and see on 2Ki 4:10).
shall receive a prophet's reward--What an encouragement to those who are not prophets! (See Joh 3:5-8).
and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man--from sympathy with his character and esteem for himself as such
shall receive a righteous man's reward--for he must himself have the seed of righteousness who has any real sympathy with it and complacency in him who possesses it.

42. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones--Beautiful epithet! Originally taken from Zec 13:7. The reference is to their lowliness in spirit, their littleness in the eyes of an undiscerning world, while high in Heaven's esteem.
a cup of cold water only--meaning, the smallest service.
in the name of a disciple--or, as it is in Mark (Mr 9:41), because ye are Christ's: from love to Me, and to him from his connection with Me.
verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward--There is here a descending climax--"a prophet," "a righteous man," "a little one"; signifying that however low we come down in our services to those that are Christ's, all that is done for His sake, and that bears the stamp of love to His blessed name, shall be divinely appreciated and owned and rewarded.