And saying, we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced,
&c.] The allusion is to Jewish children, who having seen their parents and friends at their festivals and weddings, some play upon the pipe, and others dance to them, mimicked the same in their diversions; and also having observed, at funerals, the mourning women, making their doleful ditties, and others answering to them, acted the part of these persons, expecting their fellows would make their responses, but did not: hence the complaint,
we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
The different characters of John and Christ, are here set forth, by "piping" and "mourning". The character and ministry of Christ and his disciples, by "piping"; by which is meant, the clear, comfortable, and joyful ministry of the Gospel; which is delightful music to a sensible sinner; and may be compared to it, for distinction of sounds, harmony, and agreement, being charming and delightful; its notes are all grace, mercy, love, liberty, peace, pardon, righteousness, and free salvation; and it is very powerful and engaging, it quickens and animates, attracts, allures and charms. The character and ministry of John, is signified by "mourning": his life was a very austere one; he and his disciples fasted oft; he appeared in a very coarse habit; his speech was rough, his voice thundering: his doctrine was the doctrine of repentance, and he used very severe threatenings, in case of impenitence: on the other hand, by the "fellows" to whom they piped, or ministered, in their different ministrations, are meant, the Scribes and Pharisees; who were neither affected to, nor with, either of them: as for John, he was too austere for them; they did not like his garb, nor his diet; nor did his doctrine, or baptism please them; nor were they wrought upon, or brought to repentance by his ministry; they did not lament, weep, or shed one tear, but sat unmoved, like stocks and stones, under those awful striking discourses, on mournful subjects, delivered by him: nor were they pleased with the free conduct, and pleasant conversation of Christ; nor did they dance, or rejoice, at the good news and glad tidings of grace, and salvation, which were brought by him: of such froward, peevish spirits they were, that neither John, nor Christ, could please them: they were a true picture and emblem of many persons, who like neither law nor Gospel, but are morose, sullen, and quarrelsome, let them hear what they will; as Solomon says,
"If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest", ( Proverbs 29:9 ) . Upon which the Talmudists F9 comment, and illustrate it in this manner, and produce a proverbial saying, much like this in the text.
``Says God, I was angry with Ahaz, and I delivered him into the hands of the kings of Damascus; he sacrificed and burnt incense to their gods, ( 2 Chronicles 28:22 2 Chronicles 28:23 ) . I played with Amaziah, and I gave the king of Edom into his hands; he brought their gods and worshipped them, ( 2 Chronicles 25:14 ) . Says R. Papa, this is what men say, or it is a common proverb, (edy ald rml hyl ykyyx edy ald rml hyl yykb) , "they weep to a man who takes no notice of it, they laugh to a man who does not observe it"; woe to that man, who knows not the difference between good and evil.''
F9 T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 103. 1.