Mark 2 Bible Commentary

John Lightfoot’s Bible Commentary

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(Read all of Mark 2)
4. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.

[They uncovered the roof, &c.] Here I recollect that phrase the way of the roof: "When Rabh Houna was dead, his bier could not be carried out through the door," the door being too strait; "therefore they thought good to draw it out and let it down through the roof, or through the way of the roof. But Rabh Chasda said to them, 'Behold, we have learned from him that it redounds to the honour of a wise man to be carried out by the door.'"

"It is written, 'And they shall eat within thy gates' (Deut 26:12); that is, when the entrance into the house is by the gate, to except the way through the roof." "Does he enter into the house, using the way through the gate, or using the way through the roof?" The place treats of a house, in the lower part of which the owner dwells; but the upper part, is let out to another. It is asked, what way he must enter who dwells in an upper room, whether by the door and the lower parts, where the owner dwells; or whether he must climb up to the roof by the way to the roof: that is, as the Gloss hath it, "That he ascend without the house by a ladder set against it for entrance into the upper room, and so go into the upper room."

By ladders set up, or perhaps fastened there before, they first draw up the paralytic upon the roof, Luke 5:19. Then seeing there was a door in every roof through which they went up from the lower parts of the house into the roof, and this being too narrow to let down the bed and the sick man in it, they widen that space by pulling off the tiles that lay about it.

Well, having made a hole through the roof, the paralytic is let down into the upper chamber. There Christ sits, and the Pharisees and the doctors of the law with him, and not in the lower parts of the house. For it was customary for them, when they discoursed of the law or religion, to go up into the upper chamber.

"These are the traditions which they taught in the upper chamber of Hananiah, Ben Hezekiah, Ben Garon." "The elders went up into an upper chamber in Jericho. They went up also into an upper chamber in Jabneh." "Rabh Jochanan and his disciples went up to an upper chamber, and read and expounded." Compare Mark 14:15; Acts 1:13, 20:8.

7. Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?

[Who can forgive sins?] "A certain heretic said to Rabh Idith, It is written, 'And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord,' Exodus 24:1. It should rather have been said, 'Come up to me.' He answereth, This is Mitatron, whose name is like the name of his Lord, as it is written, 'My name is in him,' Exodus 23:21. If it be so, then said the other, he is to be worshipped. To whom Idith replied, It is written properly, Do not embitter or provoke him; but they illy and perversely read, Do not change for him, do not exchange me for him. If that be the sense, said the other, what is the meaning of that, 'He will not forgive your sins?' He answered, True indeed, for we received him not so much as for a messenger." The Gloss is, "'He will not forgive your sins'; that is, He cannot pardon your sins; and then, what advantage is there from him? For he had not the power of pardoning our sins; we therefore rejected him," &c. Ye rejected him, indeed, in whom was the name of Jehovah; but alas! how much to your own mischief!

9. Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?

[Whether is it easier to say, &c.] He that observes the use of the word it is easy and it is hard, in the Jewish schools (and the schoolmen were now with Christ), cannot think it improper that is it easier should be of the same import with it is easy, which word denotes the thing or the sense plain, smooth, and without scruple; it is hard, denotes the contrary. As if our Saviour had said, "Were not the sense plainer, and more suited to the present business to have said, 'Arise and take up thy bed,' than to say, 'Thy sins are forgiven thee?' But I say thus, that ye may know that the Son of man hath power," &c. He does not speak of the easiness of the pronunciation of the words, but of the easiness of the sense. And I should thus render the words, "It is easier to say to the paralytic, Thy sins are forgiven thee, than to say," &c. 'Whether to say,' as it is vulgarly rendered, hath a sense not to be disapproved of; but, 'than to say,' hath a sense more emphatical. Is not the sense easier as to the present business to say, 'Thy sins are forgiven,' than to say, 'Rise up and walk?'

12. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

[He went out before them all.] It is very well rendered, "before them all": and it might truly be rendered "against them all," according to another signification of the word. That is, when the multitude was so crowded that there was no way of going out through it, he, being not only made whole, but strong and lusty, pressed through the press of the multitude, and stoutly made his way with his bed upon his shoulders.

16. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?

[And sinners.] Who were they? "Dicers, usurers, plunderers, publicans, shepherds of lesser cattle, those that sell the fruit of the seventh year," &c.

26. How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

[In the days of Abiathar the high priest.] It is well enough known what is here said in defence of the purity of the text; namely, that Ahimelech the father was called Abiathar, and Abiathar the son was called also Ahimelech. But I suppose that something more was propounded by our Saviour in these words. For it was common to the Jews under Abiathar to understand the Urim and Thummim. Nor without good reason, when it appears, that under the father and the son, both of that name, the mention of inquiring by Urim and Thummim is more frequent than it is ever anywhere else; and, after Abiathar the son, there is scarcely mention of it at all. Christ therefore very properly adds, in the days of Abiathar the high priest, therein speaking according to a very received opinion in the nation: as though he had said, "David ate the shewbread given him by the high priest, who had the oracle by Urim and thummim present with him, and who acted by the divine direction."

"Ahitophel, that is, a counsellor, Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, that is, the Sanhedrim; Abiathar, that is, Urim and Thummim."