[At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn.] The time is determined by Luke in these words, on the sabbath from the second-first.
I. Provision was made by the divine law, that the sheaf of firstfruits should be offered on the second day of the Passover-week, Leviticus 23:10,11: On the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall shake [orwave] it. Not on the morrow after the ordinary sabbath of the week, but the morrow after the first day of the Passover week, which was a sabbatic day, Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7. Hence the Seventy, the morrow of the first day; the Chaldee, after the holy-day. The Rabbins Solomon and Menachem, on the morrow after the first day of the Passover-feast: of which mention had been made in the verses foregoing.
II. But now, from that second day of the Passover-solemnity, wherein the sheaf was offered, were numbered seven weeks to Pentecost. For the day of the sheaf and the day of Pentecost did mutually respect each other. For on this second day of the Passover, the offering of the sheaf was supplicatory, and by way of prayer, beseeching a blessing upon the new corn, and leave to eat it, and to put in the sickle into the standing corn. Now the offering of the first fruit loaves on the day of Pentecost (Lev 23:15-17) did respect the giving of thanks for the finishing and inning of barley harvest. Therefore, in regard of this relation, these two solemnities were linked together, that both might respect the harvest: that, the harvest beginning; this, the harvest ended: this depended on that, and was numbered seven weeks after it. Therefore, the computation of the time coming between could not but carry with it the memory of that second day of the Passover-week; and hence Pentecost is called the 'Feast of weeks' (Deut 16:10). The true calculation of the time between could not otherwise be retained as to sabbaths, but by numbering thus: This is the first sabbath after the second day of the Passover. This is the second sabbath after that second day. And so of the rest. In the Jerusalem Talmud, the word the sabbath of the first marriage, is a composition not very unlike.
When they numbered by days, and not by weeks, the calculation began on the day of the sheaf: "A great number of certain scholars died between the Passover and Pentecost, by reason of mutual respect not given to one another. There is a place where it is said that they died fifteen days before Pentecost, that is, thirty-three days after the sheaf."
At the end of the Midrash of Samuel which I have, it is thus concluded; "This work was finished the three-and-thirtieth day after the sheaf."
III. Therefore by this word the second-first, added by St. Luke, is shown, first, that this first sabbath was after the second day of the Passover; and so, according to the order of evangelic history, either that very sabbath wherein the paralytic man was healed at the pool of Bethesda, John 5, or the sabbath next after it. Secondly, that these ears of corn plucked by the disciples were of barley: how far, alas! from those dainties wherewith the Jews are wont to junket, not out of custom only, but out of religion also! Hear their Gloss, savouring of the kitchen and the dish, upon that of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 58:13: "'Thou shalt call the sabbath a delight':--It is forbidden," say they, "to fast on the sabbath; but, on the contrary, men are bound to delight themselves with meat and drink. For we must live more delicately on the sabbath than on other days: and he is highly to be commended who provides the most delicious junkets against that day. We must eat thrice on the sabbath, and all men are to be admonished of it. And even the poor themselves who live on alms, let them eat thrice on the sabbath. For he that feasts thrice on the sabbath shall be delivered from the calamities of the Messias, from the judgment of hell, and from the war of Gog and Magog." 'Whose god is their belly,' Philippians 3:19.
IV. But was the standing corn ripe at the feast of the Passover? I answer,
I. The seed-time of barley was presently after the middle of the month Marchesvan; that is, about the beginning of our November: "He heard that the seed sown at the first rain was destroyed by hail; he went and sowed at the second rain, &c.: and when the seed of all others perished with the hail, his seed perished not." Upon which words the Gloss writes thus; "The first rain was the seventeenth day of the month Marchesvan; the second rain, the three-and-twentieth day of the same month; and the third was in the beginning of the month Chisleu. When, therefore, the rain came down, that which was sown at the first rain was now become somewhat stiff, and so it was broken by the hail; but that which was sown at the second rain, by reason of its tenderness, was not broken, &c. Therefore the barley was sown at the coming in of the winter, and growing by the mildness of the weather, in winter, when the Passover came in, it became ripe: so that from that time (the sheaf being then offered) barley-harvest took its beginning.
2. But if, when the just time of the Passover was come, the barley were not ripe, the intercalary month was added to that year, and they waited until it ripened: "For, for three things they intercalated the year; for the equinox, for the new corn, and for the fruit of the trees. For the elders of the Sanhedrim do compute and observe if the vernal equinox will fall out on the sixteenth day of the month Nisan, or beyond that; then they intercalate that year, and they make that Nisan the second Adar; so that the Passover might happen at the time of new corn. Or if they observe that there is no new corn, and that the trees sprouted not when they were wont to sprout, then they intercalate the year," &c.
You have an example of this thing: "Rabban Gamaliel to the elders of the great Sanhedrim, our brethren in Judea and Galilee, &c.; health. Be it known unto you, that since the lambs are too young, and the doves are not fledged, and there is no young corn, we have thought good to add thirty days to this year," &c.
[And his disciples were an hungered.] The custom of the nation, as yet, had held them fasting; which suffered none, unless he were sick, to taste any thing on the sabbath before the morning prayers of the synagogue were done. And on common days also, and that in the afternoon, provision was made by the canons, "That none, returning home from his work in the evening, either eat, or drink, or sleep, before he had said his prayers in the synagogue."
Of the public or private ways that lay by the corn-fields, let him that is at leisure read Peah, chapter 2.
2. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
[They do that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath day.] They do not contend about the thing itself, because it was lawful, Deuteronomy 23:25; but about the thing done on the sabbath. Concerning which the Fathers of the Traditions write thus; "He that reaps on the sabbath, though never so little, is guilty. And to pluck the ears of corn is a kind of reaping; and whosoever plucks any thing from the springing of his own fruit is guilty, under the name of a reaper." But under what guilt were they held? He had said this before, at the beginning of chapter 7, in these words: "The works whereby a man is guilty of stoning and cutting off, if he do them presumptuously; but if ignorantly, he is bound to bring a sacrifice for sin, are either primitive or derivative" Of 'primitive,' or of the general kinds of works, are nine-and-thirty reckoned; "To plough, to sow, to reap, to gather the sheaves, to thrash, to sift, to grind, to bake, &c.; to shear sheep, to dye wool," &c. The derivative works, or the particulars of those generals, are such as are of the same rank and likeness with them. For example, digging is of the same kind with ploughing; chopping of herbs is of the same rank with grinding; and plucking the ears of corn is of the same nature with reaping. Our Saviour, therefore, pleaded the cause of the disciples so much the more eagerly, because now their lives were in danger; for the canons of the scribes adjudged them to stoning for what they had done, if so be it could be proved that they had done it presumptuously. From hence, therefore, he begins their defence, that this was done by the disciples out of necessity, hunger compelling them, not out of any contempt of the laws.
3. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was a hungered, and they that were with him;
[David, and those that were with him.] For those words of Ahimelech are to be understood comparatively, "Wherefore art thou alone, and no man with thee?" (1 Sam 21:1) that is, comparatively to that noble train wherewith thou wast wont to go attended, and which becomes the captain-general of Israel. David came to Nob, not as one that fled, but as one that came to inquire at the oracle concerning the event of war, unto which he pretended to come by the king's command. Dissembling, therefore, that he hastened to the war, or to expedite some warlike design, he dissembles likewise that he sent his army to a certain place; and that he had turned aside thither to worship God, and to inquire of the vent; that he had brought but a very few of his most trusty servants along with him, for whom, being an hungered, he asketh a few loaves.
[When he was an hungered.] Here hearken to Kimchi, producing the opinion of the ancients concerning this story in these words: "Our Rabbins, of blessed memory, say, that he gave him the show-bread, &c. The interpretation also of the clause, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel [v 6] is this; It is a small thing to say, that it is lawful for us to eat these loaves taken from before the Lord when we are hungry; for it would be lawful to eat this very loaf which is now set on, which is also sanctified in the vessel (for the table sanctifieth); it would be lawful to eat even this, when another loaf is not present with you to give us, and we are so hunger-bitten." And a little after; "There is nothing which may hinder taking care of life, beside idolatry, adultery, and murder."
These words do excellently agree with the force of our Saviour's arguments; but with the genuine sense of that clause, methinks they do not well agree. I should, under correction, render it otherwise, only prefacing this beforehand, that it is no improbable conjecture that David came to Nob either on the sabbath itself, or when the sabbath was but newly gone. "For the show-bread was not to be eaten unless for one day and one night; that is, on the sabbath and the going-out of the sabbath; David, therefore, came thither in the going-out of the sabbath." And now I render David's words thus; "Women have been kept from us these three days," [so that there is no uncleanness with us from the touch of a menstruous woman], "and the vessels of the young men were holy, even in the common way," [that is, while we travelled in the common manner and journey]; "therefore, much more are they holy as to their vessels this [sabbath] day." And to this sense perhaps does that come: "But there was there one of the servants of Saul detained that day before the Lord," [v 8]. The reverence of the sabbath had brought him to worship, and as yet had detained him there.
5. Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
[The priests in the Temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless.] "The servile work which is done in the holy things is not servile. The same works which were done in the Temple on the other days were done also on the sabbath." And There is no sabbatism at all in the Temple.
8. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
[For the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.] I. He opposed this very argument against their cavils before the Sanhedrim, John 5. When he was summoned into the court concerning his healing the paralytic man on this very sabbath, or on the sabbath next before, he shews his dominion over the sabbath from this very thing, that he, the Son, was invested and honoured with the same authority, power, and dignity, in respect of the administration of the New Testament, as the Father was in regard of the Old.
II. The care of the sabbath lay upon the first Adam under a double law, according to his double condition: 1. Before his fall, under the law of nature written in his heart: under which he had kept the sabbath, if he had remained innocent. And here it is not unworthy to be observed, that although the seventh day was not come before his fall, yet the institution of the sabbath is mentioned before the history of his fall. 2. After his fall, under a positive law. For when he had sinned on the sixth day, and the seventh came, he was not now bound under the bare law of nature to celebrate it; but according as the condition of Adam was changed, and as the condition of the sabbath was not a little changed also, a new and positive law concerning the keeping the sabbath was superinduced upon him. It will not be unpleasant to produce a few passages from the Jewish masters of that first sabbath:--
"Circumcision," saith R. Judah, "and the sabbath, were before the law." But how much backward before the law? Hear Baal Turim: "The Israelites were redeemed (saith he) out of Egypt, because they observed circumcision and the sabbath-day." Yea, and further backward still: "The inheritance of Jacob is promised to those that sanctify the sabbath, because he sanctified the sabbath himself." Yea, and more backwards yet, even to the beginning of the world: "The first psalm in the world was, when Adam's sin was forgiven: and when the sabbath entered, he opened his mouth and uttered the psalm of the sabbath." So also the Targum upon the title of Psalm 92: "The psalm or song which Adam composed concerning the sabbath-day." Upon which psalm, among other things, thus Midrash Tillin: "What did God create the first day? Heaven and earth. What the second? The firmament, &c. What the seventh? The sabbath. And since God had not created the sabbath for servile works, for which he had created the other days of the week, therefore it is not said of that as of the other days, 'And the evening and the morning was the seventh day.'" And a little after, "Adam was created on the eve of the sabbath: the sabbath entered when he had now sinned, and was his advocate with God," &c.
"Adam was created on the sabbath-eve, that he might immediately be put under the command."
III. Since, therefore, the sabbath was so instituted after the fall, and that by a law and condition which had a regard to Christ now promised, and to the fall of man, the sabbath could not but come under the power and dominion of the Son of man, that is, of the promised seed, to be ordered and disposed by him as he thought good, and as he should make provision, for his own honour and the benefit of man.
10. And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.
[Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?] These are not so much the words of inquirers, as deniers. For these were their decisions in that case; "Let not those that are in health use physic on the sabbath day. Let not him that labours under a pain in his loins, anoint the place affected with oil and vinegar; but with oil he may, so it be not oil of roses, &c. He that hath the toothache, let him not swallow vinegar to spit it out again; but he may swallow it, so he swallow it down. He that hath a sore throat, let him not gargle it with oil: but he may swallow down the oil, whence if he receive a cure it is well. Let no man chew mastich, or rub his teeth with spice for a cure; but if he do this to make his mouth sweet, it is allowed. They do not put wine into a sore eye. They do not apply fomentations or oils to the place affected," &c. All which things, however they were not applicable to the cure wrought by Christ (with a word only), yet they afforded them an occasion of cavilling: who, indeed, were sworn together thus to quarrel him; that canon affording them a further pretence, "This certainly obtains, that whatsoever was possible to be done on the sabbath eve driveth not away the sabbath." To which sense he speaks, Luke 13:14.
Let the reader see, if he be at leisure, what diseases they judge dangerous, and what physic is to be used on the sabbath.
11. And he saith unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
[If a sheep fall into a ditch on the sabbath days, &c.] It was a canon, We must take a tender care of the goods of an Israelite. Hence,
"If a beast fall into a ditch, or into a pool of waters, let [the owner] bring him food in that place if he can; but if he cannot, let him bring clothes and litter, and bear up the beast; whence, if he can come up, let him come up," &c.
"If a beast, or his foal, fall into a ditch on a holy-day, R. Lazar saith, 'Let him lift up the former to kill him, and let him kill him: but let him give fodder to the other, lest he die in that place.' R. Joshua saith, 'Let him lift up the former, with the intention of killing him, although he kill him not: let him lift up the other also, although it be not in his mind to kill him.'"
16. And charged them that they should not make him known:
[That they should not make him known.] But this, not that he refused to heal the sick, nor only to shun popular applause; but because he would keep himself hid from those who would not acknowledge him. This prohibition tends the same way as his preaching by parables did, Matthew 13:13; "I speak to them by parables, because seeing they see not." He would not be known by them who would not know him.
20. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.
[A bruised reed shall he not break.] These words are to be applied, as appears by those that went before, to our Saviour's silent transaction of his own affairs, without hunting after applause, the noise of boasting, or the loud reports of fame. He shall not make so great a noise as is made from the breaking of a reed now already bruised and half broken, or from the hissing of smoking flax only when water is thrown upon it. How far different is the Messias thus described, from the Messias of the expectation of the Jews! And yet it appears sufficiently that Isaiah, from whom these words are taken, spake of the Messias, and the Jews confess it.
[Till he send forth judgment unto victory.] The Hebrew and LXX in Isaiah read it thus, "He shall bring forth judgment unto truth." The words in both places mean thus much, That Christ should make no sound in the world, or noise of pomp, or applause, or state, but should manage his affairs in humility, silence, poverty, and patience, both while he himself was on earth, and by his apostles, after his ascension, labouring under contempt, poverty, and persecution; but at last "he should bring forth judgment to victory"; that is, that he should break forth and show himself a judge, avenger, and conqueror, against that most wicked nation of the Jews, from whom both he and his suffered such things: and then, also, "he sent forth judgment unto truth," and asserted himself the true Messias, and the Son of God, before the eyes of all; and confirmed the truth of the gospel, by avenging his cause upon his enemies, in a manner so conspicuous and so dreadful. And hence it is, that that sending forth and execution of judgment against that nation is almost always called in the New Testament "his coming in glory." When Christ and his kingdom had so long laid hid under the veil of humility, and the cloud of persecution, at last he brake forth a revenger, and cut off that persecuting nation, and shewed himself a conqueror before the eyes of all, both Jews and Gentiles. Let it be observed in the text before us, how, after the mention of that judgment and victory (against the Jews), presently follows, "and in his name shall the Gentiles trust."
24. But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
[By Beelzebub; the prince of the devils.] For the searching out the sense of this horrid blasphemy, these things are worthy observing:
I. Among the Jews it was held, in a manner, for a matter of religion, to reproach idols, and to give them odious names.
"R. Akibah saith, Idolatry pollutes, as a menstruous woman pollutes: as it is said, 'Thou shalt cast away the [idol] as something that is menstruous, and thou shalt say to it, Get thee hence' (Isa 30:22). R. Lazar saith, Thou shalt say to it, Get thee hence: that which they call the face of God, let them call the face of a dog: that which they call the fountain of a cup, let them call the fountain of toil [or of flails]: that which they call fortune, let them call a stink, &c. That town which sometimes was called Beth-el, was afterward called Beth-aven." See also the tract Schabbath, where these same words are.
All jeering is forbidden, except the jeering of idolatry. This also is repeated in the tract Megillah: where this is added, "It is lawful for a Jew to say to a Cuthite, Take your idol, and put it under your buttocks."
II. Among the ignominious names bestowed upon idols, the general and common one was Zebul, dung, or a dunghill. "Even to them who have stretched out their hands in a dunghill [that is, in an idol-temple, or in idolatry], there is hope. Thou canst not bring them [into the church], because they have stretched forth their hands in a dunghill: but yet you cannot reject them, because they have repented." And a little after, "He that sees them 'dunging' [that is, 'sacrificing'] to an idol, let him say, Cursed be he that sacrifices to a strange god."
Let them therefore, who dare, form this word in Matthew into Beelzebub. I am so far from doubting that the Pharisees pronounced the word Beelzebul, and that Matthew so wrote it, that I doubt not but the sense fails if it be writ otherwise.
III. Very many names of evil spirits or devils occur in the Talmudists, which it is needless here to mention. Among all the devils, they esteemed that devil the worst, the foulest, and, as it were, the prince of the rest, who ruled over the idols, and by whom oracles and miracles were given forth among the heathens and idolaters. And they were of this opinion for this reason, because they held idolatry above all other things chiefly wicked and abominable, and to be the prince and head of evil. This demon they called Baal-zebul, not so much by a proper name, as by one more general and common; as much as to say, the lord of idolatry: the worst devil, and the worst thing: and they called him the "prince of devils," because idolatry is the prince (or chief) of wickedness.
We meet with a story, where mention is made of the prince of spirits. Whether it be in this sense, let the reader consult and judge. Also in the Aruch we meet with these words, the demon Asmodeus, the prince of spirits.
IV. The Talmudists, being taught by these their fathers, do give out, horribly blaspheming, that Jesus of Nazareth our Lord was a magician, a broacher of strange and wicked worship; and one that did miracles by the power of the devil, to beget his worship the greater belief and honour.
"Ben Satda brought magic out of Egypt, by cuttings which he had made in his flesh." By Ben Satda, they understand Jesus of Nazareth, as we have said before; whom they dishonour by that name, that they might, by one word and in one breath, reproach him and his mother together. For Satda, or Stada, sounds as much as an adulterous wife, which the Gemara shews after a few lines, She went aside from her husband. They feign that Jesus travelled with Joshua Ben Perachiah into Egypt, when the said Joshua fled from the anger and sword of Janneus the king, which we have mentioned at the second chapter; and that he brought thence magical witchcrafts with him, but under the cutting of his flesh, that he might not be taken by the Egyptian magicians, who strictly examined all that went out of that land, that none should transport their magic art into another land. And in that place they add these horrid words, Jesus practised magic, and deceived, and drove Israel to idolatry. Those whelps bark, as they were taught by these dogs.
To this, therefore, does this blasphemy of the Pharisees come; as if they should say, "He casts out devils indeed; but he doth this by the help of the devil, the lord of idols, that dwells in him; by him, that is the worst of all devils, who favours him and helps him, because it is his ambition to drive the people from the worship of the true God to strange worship."
25. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:
[But Jesus knowing their thoughts.] Behold, O Pharisee, a sign of the true Messias, for a sign you would have: he smells out a wicked man.
"It is written of Messias, The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, and shall make him smell in the fear of the Lord. Rabba said, he shall smell and judge; as it is said, he shall not judge by the sight of his eyes, &c. Ben Cozba reigned two years and a half, and said to the Rabbins, I am the Messias: they said to him, It is written of Messias that he shall smell and judge (the Gloss is, he shall smell out the man, and shall judge and know whether he be guilty). Let us see whether thou canst smell and judge. And when they saw that he could not smell and judge, they slew him."
27. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
[ By whom do your children cast them out?] By your children, Christ seems to understand some disciples of the Pharisees; that is, some of the Jews, who using exorcisms seemed to cast out devils such as they, Acts 19:13; and yet they said not to them, "Ye cast out devils by Beelzebul." It is worthy marking, that Christ presently saith, "If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then the kingdom of God is come among you." For what else does this speak, than that Christ was the first who should cast out devils? which was an undoubted sign to them that the kingdom of heaven was now come. But that which was performed by them by exorcisms was not so much a casting out of devils, as a delusion of the people; since Satan would not cast out Satan, but by compact with himself and with his company he seemed to be cast out, that he might the more deceive.
The sense, therefore, of Christ's words comes to this: "That your disciples cast out devils, ye attribute not to Beelzebul, no nor to magic; but ye applaud the work when it is done by them: they, therefore, may in this matter be your judges, that you pronounce these words of my actions out of the rankness and venom of your minds."
In the Gloss mention is made of a devil cast out by a Jew at Rome.
32. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
[It shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come.] They that endeavour hence to prove the remission of some sins after death, seem little to understand to what Christ had respect when he spake these words. Weigh well this common and most known doctrine of the Jewish schools, and judge:
"He that transgresses an affirmative precept, if he presently repent, is not moved until the Lord pardon him. And of such it is said, 'Be ye converted, O backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.' He that transgresses a negative precept and repents, his repentance suspends judgment, and the day of expiation expiates him; as it is said, 'This day shall all your uncleannesses be expiated to you.' He that transgressed to cutting off [by the stroke of God,] or to death by the Sanhedrim, and repents, repentance, and the day of expiation do suspend judgment, and the strokes that are laid upon him wipe off sin; as it is said, 'And I will visit their transgression with a rod, and their iniquity with scourges.' But he by whom the name of God is profaned [or blasphemed], repentance is of no avail to him to suspend judgment, nor the day of expiation to expiate it, nor scourges [or corrections inflicted] to wipe it off, but all suspend judgment, and death wipes it off." Thus the Babylonian Gemara writes: but the Jerusalem thus; "Repentance and the day of expiation expiate as to the third part, and corrections as to the third part, and death wipes it off: as it is said, and your iniquities shall not be expiated to you until ye die. Behold, we learn that death wipes off." Note this, which Christ contradicts, concerning blasphemy against the Holy Ghost; "It shall not be forgiven, (saith he,) neither in this world, nor in the world to come"; that is, neither before death, nor, as you dream, by death.
[In the world to come.] I. Some phrases were received into common use, by which in common speech they opposed the heresy of the Sadducees, who denied immortality. Of that sort were the world to come: paradise: hell, &c.
"At the end of all the prayers in the Temple" (as we observed before) "they said for ever. But when the heretics brake in and said, 'There was no age but one,' it was appointed to be said, for ever and ever."
This distinction of this world, and of the world to come, you may find almost in every page of the Rabbins.
"The Lord recompense thee a good reward for this thy good word in this world, and let thy reward be perfected in the world to come."
"It [that is, the history of the creation and of the Bible] begins therefore with the letter Beth [in the word Bereshith], because two worlds were created, this world and a world to come."
II. The world to come, hints two things especially (of which see Rambam): 1. The times of the Messias: "Be mindful of the day wherein thou camest out of Egypt, all the days of thy life. The wise men say, By 'the days of thy life,' is intimated 'this world': by 'all the days of thy life,' the days of the Messias are superinduced." In sense the apostle seems to speak, Hebrews 2:5 and 6:5. 2. The state after death, The world to come is, when a man is departed out of this world.
39. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
[An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.] I. Their schools also confessed, that signs and miracles were not to be expected but by a fit generation.
"The elders being once assembled at Jericho, the Bath Kol went forth and said, There is one among you who is fit to have the Holy Ghost dwell upon him, but that [this] generation is not fit. They fix their eyes upon Hillel the Elder. The elders being assembled again in an upper room in Jabneh, Bath Kol came forth and said, There is one among you who is fit to have the Holy Spirit dwell upon him, but that the generation is not fit. They cast their eyes upon Samuel the Little."
II. That generation by which and in which the Lord of life was crucified lay, and that deservedly, under an ill report for their great wickedness above all other, from the beginning of the world until that day. Whence that of the prophet, "Who shall declare his generation?" Isaiah 53:2; that is, his generation (viz. that generation in which he should live) should proceed to that degree of impiety and wickedness, that it should surpass all expression and history. We have observed before, how the Talmudists themselves confess, that that generation in which the Messias should come should exceed all other ages in all kinds of amazing wickedness.
III. That nation and generation might be called adulterous literally; for what else, I beseech you, was their irreligious polygamy than continual adultery? And what else was their ordinary practice of divorcing their wives, no less irreligious, according to every man's foolish or naughty will?
[But the sign of Jonah the prophet.] Here and elsewhere, while he gives them the sign of Jonah, he does not barely speak of the miracle done upon him which was to be equalled in the Son of man, but girds them with a silent check; instructing them thus much, that the Gentiles were to be converted by him, after his return out of the bowels of the earth, as heathen Nineveh was converted, after Jonah was restored out of the belly of the whale. Than which doctrine scarce anything bit that nation more sharply.
40. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
[The Son of man shall be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.] 1. The Jewish writers extend that memorable station of the unmoving sun at Joshua's prayer to six-and-thirty hours; for so Kimchi upon that place: "According to more exact interpretation, the sun and moon stood still for six-and-thirty hours: for when the fight was on the eve of the sabbath, Joshua feared lest the Israelites might break the sabbath: therefore he spread abroad his hands, that the sun might stand still on the sixth day, according to the measure of the day of the sabbath, and the moon, according to the measure of the night of the sabbath, and of the going-out of the sabbath; which amounts to six-and-thirty hours."
II. If you number the hours that passed from our Saviour's giving up the ghost upon the cross to his resurrection, you shall find almost the same number of hours; and yet that space is called by him "three days and three nights," when as two nights only came between, and only one complete day. Nevertheless, while he speaks these words, he is not without the consent both of the Jewish schools, and their computation. Weigh well that which is disputed in the tract Schabbath, concerning the uncleanness of a woman for three days; where many things are discussed by the Gemarists concerning the computation of this space of three days. Among other things these words occur; "R. Ismael saith, Sometimes it contains four Onoth sometimes five, sometimes six. But how much is the space of an Onah? R. Jochanan saith either a day or a night." And so also the Jerusalem Talmud; "R. Akiba fixed a day for an Onah, and a night for an Onah: but the tradition is, that R. Eliezar Ben Azariah said, A day and a night make an Onah, and a part of an Onah is as the whole." And a little after, R. Ismael computeth a part of the Onah for the whole.
It is not easy to translate the word Onah into good Latin: for to some it is the same with the half of a natural day; to some it is all one with a whole natural day. According to the first sense we may observe, from the words of R. Ismael, that sometimes four Onoth, or halves of a natural day, may be accounted for three days: and that they also are so numbered that one part or the other of those halves may be accounted for a whole. Compare the latter sense with the words of our Saviour, which are now before us: "A day and a night (saith the tradition) make an Onah, and a part of an Onah is as the whole." Therefore Christ may truly be said to have been in his grave three Onoth, or three natural days (when yet the greatest part of the first day was wanting, and the night altogether, and the greatest part by far of the third day also), the consent of the schools and dialect of the nation agreeing thereunto. For, "the least part of the Onah concluded the whole." So that according to this idiom, that diminutive part of the third day upon which Christ arose may be computed for the whole day, and the night following it.
45. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
[So shall it be to this evil generation.] These words foretell a dreadful apostasy in that nation and generation.
I. It is something difficult so to suit all things in the parable aforegoing, that they may agree with one another: 1. You can hardly understand it of unclean spirits cast out of men by Christ; when through the whole evangelic history there is not the least shadow of probability that any devil cast out by him did return again into him out of whom he had been cast. 2. Therefore our Saviour seems to allude to the casting out of devils by exorcisms: which art, as the Jews were well instructed in, so in practising it there was need of dexterous deceits and collusions. 3. For it is scarcely credible that the devil in truth finds less rest in dry places than in wet: but it is credible that those diabolical artists have found out such kind of figments for the honour and fame of their art. For, 4. It would be ridiculous to think that they could by their exorcisms cast a devil out of a man into whom he had been sent by God. They might, indeed, with a compact with the devil, procure some lucid intervals to the possessed; so that the inhabiting demon might deal gently with him for some time, and not disturb the man: but the demoniacal heats came back again at last, and the former outrages returned. Therefore, here there was need of deceits well put together, that so provision might the better be made for the honour of the exorcistical art; as, that the devil, being sent away into dry and waste places, could not find any rest; that he could not, that he would not always wander about here and there, alone by himself, without rest; that he therefore returned into his old mansion, which he had formerly found so well fitted and prepared for him, &c.
Therefore these words seem to have been spoken by our Saviour according to the capacity of the common people, or rather, according to the deceit put upon them, more than according to the reality or truth of the thing itself; taking a parable from something commonly believed and entertained, that he might express the thing which he propounded more plainly and familiarly.
II. But however it was, whether those things were true indeed, or only believed and conceived so, by a most apt and open comparison is shown that the devil was first cast out of the Jewish nation by the gospel; and then, seeking for a seat and rest among the Gentiles, and not finding it, the gospel everywhere vexing him, came back into the Jewish nation again, fixed his seat there, and possessed it much more than he had done before. The truth of this thing appears in that fearful apostasy of an infinite multitude of Jews, who received the gospel, and most wickedly revolted from it afterward; concerning which the New Testament speaks in abundance of places.