Page images
PDF
EPUB

Mat.xxi.18.

SECTION VIII.

Monday-Fourth Day before the Passover-Christ enter-
ing Jerusalem, again curses the barren Fig Tree".
MATT. xxi. 18, 19. MARK Xi. 12-14.

Now,

Mark xi. 12. on the morrow,

7 All commentators are agreed in considering this miracle as typical of the destruction of the Jewish nation; and they have endeavoured, in various ways, to reconcile the curse pronounced upon the fig tree with that expression in the parable, "the time of figs was not yet." But if we regard this fig tree as a mere emblem, or type, we shall find a beautiful and perfect harmony throughout the whole. The religion of the Jews had now become merely external, it flourished only in appearance; it possessed the leaves, but not the fruits of holiness. The fig-tree, therefore, became the most apt representation of the state of the Jews at that time, and of their consequent destruction, or withering away. Had it been the season of figs, and the fruit already gathered, the tree would not have been so appropriately the object of a curse, or so expressively a type of the Jewish nation. In this, as in many other instances, our Saviour predicted the future by a significant action, or sign, before he judged it expedient to declare it publicly. The parable of the fruitless fig tree (Luke xiii. 7.) bears the same signification.

Another illustration is given of this parable, in reference to the first establishment of the Levitical Priesthood. When an opposition was made to the divine ordination of Aaron, the Levitical Priesthood was ratified and confirmed by the miracle of a dry rod, which in one night budded, blossomed, and brought forth fruits. Now, when it was about to be removed, because it had ceased to flourish, or to yield its appointed produce, its fate was prefigured by a contrary miracle; by an ap. parently flourishing tree reduced as it were, in one night, to a dry rod, for ever barren.

Witsius has discussed the subject of the curse of our Lord upon the fig tree at great length. He supposes that the leaves were emblematical of the vain boastings of the Jewish law-of their temple ceremonies and worship, &c.-that the fruits which it failed in were those of faith, repentance, and holiness.

In answer to the question, how it was that our Lord could be hungry, he justly replies, that his hunger was as natural as his sleep in the ship, or his thirst upon the cross. Witsius, with many others, supposes that the words of St. Mark, & yàp v Kaipos ouкwv, the time of figs was not yet, signify, that our Lord came to the tree intentionally, for the sole purpose of performing this significant action. He considers it more probable that our Lord was ignorant of the barrenness of the tree (a); but he observes, as a tree could not offend, the act must have been symbolical. Daniel Heinsius reads yàp v, kaιòg σúkwv, “where he now was, it was the time of figs."

Michaelis, who is of the same opinion, has shewn at great
length that the accents, breathings, stops, &c. of the Greek
Testament, are of no authority; neither did the ancients re-
gard them. This reading of the passage can be supported on
no other grounds, and in the absence of other evidence cannot
be received (b).

Hammond interprets the expression καιρὸς as χρόνος, or ἑνιαυτὸν
Evka pov, not a good year for figs.

Jerusalem.

Mat. xxi.18. in the morning,

Mark xi. 12. when they were come from Bethany.

Lightfoot's opinion is, that Christ expected figs which had stood the winter. Various kinds of this fruit being ripe once in two or three years.

Chrysostom (ap Wits. p. 297.) observes, in reference to the question why the fig-tree was cursed, that Christ wished to shew that a punishment would overtake those who crucified Him; but selected a tree, rather than a man, as the object on which to display his power, because His was the dispensation of mercy.

The choice of this tree, as an emblem, corresponds with other parts of Scripture, Jer. xxiv. 2. Luke xiii. 6. Micah vii. 1. Cant. xi. 11–13.

The Palestine fig tree, according to Dr. Hales, regularly bears two crops a year, and occasionally a third; the boccore, or early fig, (noticed by Isaiah xxviii. 4.) which comes to perfection in the middle or end of June; then the kermez, or summer fig, begins to be formed, though it rarely ripens before August. About the beginning of autumn the same tree not seldom throws out a third crop, of a longer shape, and darker complexion than the kermez, called the winter fig, which hangs upon the tree after the leaves are shed, and ripens, provided the winter proves mild; and is gathered as a delicious morsel in spring. The natural history of the fig tree in Judea, taken from the accurate Shaw's Travels, p. 370. happily removes the ambiguity in our English Bible, of the parable of the fig tree, by the parenthesis judiciously introduced by Archbishop New. come. Jesus being hungry, and seeing leaves thereon, which shewed that the tree was alive, though it was not a regular fig season, either for early or for summer figs; yet went to it in a reasonable expectation of finding, perhaps, some winter fruit thereon; but when he came he was disappointed, for he found nothing thereon but leaves. Whereupon he doomed it to perpetual barrenness, in the hearing of his disciples. This curse instantly took place; for when they passed by again on Wednesday morning, they saw the fig tree not only stript of its leaves, "but withered from the roots? (c).”

Schoetgen professes himself unable to reconcile the accounts respecting the fig-tree, by St. Matthew and St. Mark. He observes, with an admirable honesty, which is well worthy of imitation by all who would venture to explain the apparent difficulties of Scripture, and are unwilling to confess their ignorance-Quod vero Marcus dicit, non fuisse tunc tempus ficuum, illud hactenus interpretari aut conciliare non possum. Malo enim hic ignorantium profiteri, quam nugas effutiendo me aliis deridiculum exhibere (d).

(a) Quatenus est Mediator, Deitas ipsius, humanitate arctissimo nexu juncta, earum rerum omnium scientiam humanæ etiam naturæ impertiit, quarum cognitio ad tam eximii muneris functionem requirebatur. Atque huc pertinet abundantia illa sapientiæ, intelligentiæ, ac prudentiæ, quam ex unctione Spiritus Sancti consecutus est; adeo que et illa in dignoscendis mentium humanarum arcanis cogitationibus perspicacia, quam ex Deitatis suæ revelatione habebat. Cæterum ad eam elassem referendæ non sunt omnes vitæ hujus animalis res, quarum usus Christo ut homini duntaxat fuit. In iis aliquid ignorare, neque Mediatori nocet, et humanæ naturæ, nobis in omnibus, demto peccato, similis, argumentum est.-Witsii Melet. Leiden, Dissert. de ficu Maledicta, sect. iv. p. 294. (b) Novam autem lectionem pro arbitrio sibi fingere, quantumvis plausibili pretextu, ab hominis theologi modestia alienum esse arbitror.-Witsii Meletem. Leidens. p. 295. See also Elsley in loc. (c) Analysis of Chronology, vol. ii. part ii. p. 835. (d) Schoetgen. Hor. Hebraica, vol. i. p. 171.

Jerusalem.

Mat, xxi.18. as he returned into the city, he hungered.

19.

And when he saw a fig-tree in the way,

Mark xi. 13. afar off, having leaves,

Mat. xxi.19. he came to it,

Mark xi. 13. if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he

came to it,

Mat. xxi.19. and found nothing thereon, but leaves only,

Mark xi. 13. for the time of figs was not yet,

14.

Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter,

Mat. xxi.19. and he said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee hencefor

wards for ever.

Mark xi. 14. And his disciples heard it.

Mat. xxi.19. And presently the fig tree withered away.

Mark xi. 15.

MARK Xi. part of ver. 12, 13, 14.

12 And-he was hungry:

13 And seeing a fig tree-he came-he found nothing but leaves

14 And-for ever-disciples heard it.

SECTION IX.

Christ again casts the Buyers and Sellers out of the

Temple.
MARK Xi. 15-17.

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought

8 Dr. Hales having taken for granted that the temple was cleansed on the Tuesday, and not on the Monday, has preferred the order of St. Mark, and made some minor alterations in the position of these events. The foundation of his reason. ing is removed by the arguments of Pilkington, which are inserted in the note to section 3. p. 389.

In Matt. xxi. 13. when our Saviour drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple, he said to them, "It is written, my house shall be called an house (not the house) of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves ;" or, if it be read with an interrogation, And have ye made it a den of thieves? 'Yuels dè αὐτὸν ἐποιήσατε ΣΠΗΛΑΙΟΝ ΛΗΣΤΩΝ, then the indignation will be increased, from the opposition between God and ye. The same is related by Mark xi. 17. with the same two words, orýλalov dysмv, and so by Luke xix. 46. It may be asked, why the temple should be said by our Saviour to be made σrýλalov λyswv, a cave of robbers; was it because there were some who bought and sold in it? or because the moneychangers, or those who sold doves, sat there? None of these persons could be called Aysai, latrones, or public robbers: nor did their business lie in onλaia, speluncæ, dens or caves, so as to cause the temple, in which they were, to be called σýλaιov. St. John, however, in his account of this matter, mentions a circumstance, without the knowledge of which, the reason of this expression, σπήλαιον λητῶν, in the other three Evangelists, and in Jer. vii. 11. whence it is taken, could not have been understood, and very probably that

Jerusalem.

Mark xi. 15. in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money- Jerusalem. changers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

16.

17.

Lu. xix. 47.

Mark xi. 18.

And would not suffer that any man should carry any
vessel through the temple.

And he taught them, saying unto them, Is it not writ-
ten, My house shall be called of all nations the house of
prayer? but ye
have made it a den of thieves.

SECTION X.

The Scribes and Chief Priests seek to destroy Jesus.
MARK XI. 18. LUKE xix. 47, 48.

And he taught daily in the temple.

And the Scribes and the Chief Priests,

Lu. xix. 47. and the chief of the people,

Mark xi. 18. heard it, and sought how they might destroy him:

Lu. xix. 48.

And could not find what they might do:

Mark xi. 18. for they feared him, because all the people were astonish

ed at his doctrine.

Lu. xix. 48. and were very attentive to hear him.

LUKE Xix. part of ver. 47.

47 But the chief priests and the scribes-sought to destroy
him ;-

is the reason why it is mentioned by him, chap. xi. 14, 15. and
(Jesus) found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep,
BOAΣ kai ПIРOBATA, and doves, &c. and when he had made a
scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple,
and the sheep, and the oxen. Now it is well known, to those
who are moderately versed in antiquity, that the Agorai were
were wont to bring into their ownλaia, or caves in the rocks,
the oxen and sheep which they had stolen. Such an one was
Cacus in Virgil, Eneid. viii. 193. who stole Hercules's oxen,
Hic spelunca fuit vasto submota recessu, &c.

who is called by Propertius, iv. 10. metuendo Raptor ab antro,
i. e. λητὴς ἀπὸ σπηλαιε. Hence σπήλαιον λῃςρικὸν in Heliodorus
Eethiopic. v. 2. See Plutarch in Sertor, p. 576. D. Josephus
often in Bello Judaico. and in Antiq. xiv. xv. p. 631. ed Huds.
where he makes mention of λητῶν τινῶν ἐν σπήλαιοις κατοικ-

Twv. So that our Saviour had just reason to resent their
profanation of his Father's house; as if he had said, God hath
declared in the Scriptures, my temple shall be a place of prayer,
have ye (supposing it to be read with an interrogation,) the
boldness to convert it to the use which robbers make of
their caves, and to turn it into a receptacle and stall for oxen
and sheep? But nobody, I imagine, could have known the
meaning and propriety of the words σπήλαιον and λήτων, if St.
John had not informed us that oxen and sheep were brought
into the temple to be sold; whereby the prophecy of Jer. vii.
11. Μή σπήλαιον λήτῶν ὁ οἶκος με, (to which our Saviour al-
ludes) was fulfilled; for the temple could not have been called
orýλatov λysŵv, had not oxen and sheep been brought into it.
-See Bowyer.

Mark xi. 19.

Mark xi. 20.

Mat.xxi.20.

Mark xi. 21.

22.

23.

SECTION XI.

Christ retires in the evening from the City.

MARK Xi. 19.

And when the even was come, he went out of the city.

SECTION XII.

Tuesday-Third Day before the Passover. The Fig Tree
is now withered.

[blocks in formation]

And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the
fig-tree dried up from the roots.

And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying,
How soon is the fig-tree withered away!

And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him,
Master, behold, the fig-tree which thou cursedst, is
withered away!

And Jesus answering, saith unto them, Have faith in
God.

For verily I say unto you.

Mat.xxi.21. that if ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this, which is done to the fig-tree, but also

Mark xi. 23. That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass;

Mat. xxi.21. it shall be done.

Mark xi. 23. he shall have whatsoever he saith.

Mat. xxi.22.

Mark xi. 24.

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive.

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

Jerusalem.

was the epithet attached by the Jews to any הוא עוקר הרים 9

of their learned or eminent men, who excelled in explaining
the difficulties of Scripture (a).

Peter was told, if he had faith he should be able to remove
mountains, &c. &c. It is difficult to perceive the immediate
connection between the surprize of Peter, and the exhortation
of our Lord. It may possibly refer to the power which was
afterwards given to the Apostles to interpret the Scriptures in
their spiritual sense, and to change the religion of the world.
Such is the supposition of Witsius, that St. Peter understood
that Christ, by the withering away of the fig-tree, intended to
signify the destruction of the Jewish Church; and that Christ
alluded, in Mark xi. 23. to that Apostle becoming the means of
throwing the mountain (the temple,) into the sea (the world:)
that is, that St. Peter should be chosen to open the doors of the
Church to the Gentile world (b).

(a) See Lightfoot, 8vo. edit. vol. iii. p. 135. Mr. Pitman has conferred a great service upon the public by his accurate edition of Lightfoot. (b) Witsii Melet. Leidens. de ficu Maled. sect. xv.

« PreviousContinue »