And again I say unto you
After the apostles had discovered their astonishment at the above expression, about the difficulty of a rich man entering into the kingdom of heaven; when they expected that, in a short time, all the rich and great men of the nation would espouse the interest of the Messiah, and acknowledge him as a temporal king, and add to the grandeur of his state and kingdom; and after he had in a mild and gentle manner, calling them "children", explained himself of such, that trusted in uncertain riches, served mammon, made these their gods, and placed their hope and happiness in them; in order to strengthen and confirm what he had before asserted, and to assure, in the strongest manner, the very great difficulty, and seeming impossibility, of rich men becoming followers of Christ here, or companions with him hereafter, he expresses himself in this proverbial way:
it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than
for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God:
thus, when the Jews would express anything that was rare and unusual, difficult and impossible, they used a like saying with this. So speaking of showing persons the interpretation of their dreams F7;
``Says Rabba, you know they do not show to a man a golden palm tree i.e. the interpretation of a dream about one, which, as the gloss says, is a thing he is not used to see, and of which he never thought, (ajxmd apwqb lyyed) (alyp alw) , "nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle".''Again, to one that had delivered something as was thought very absurd, it is said F8;
``perhaps thou art one of Pombeditha (a school of the Jews in Babylon) (ajxmd apwqb alyp Nylyyemd) , "who make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle".''That is, who teach such things as are equally as monstrous and absurd, and difficult of belief. So the authors of an edition of the book of Zohar, to set forth the difficulty of the work they engaged in, express themselves in this manner F9:
``In the name of our God, we have seen fit, (ajxmd apwqb) (alyp oynkhl) , "to bring an elephant through the eye of a needle".''And not only among the Jews, but in other eastern nations, this proverbial way of speaking was used, to signify difficulties or impossibilities. Mahomet has it in his Alcoran F11;
``Verily, says he, they who shall charge our signs with falsehood, and shall proudly reject them, the gates of heaven shall not be opened to them, neither shall they enter into paradise, "until a camel pass through the eye of a needle".''All which show, that there is no need to suppose, that by a camel is meant, not the creature so called, but a cable rope, as some have thought; since these common proverbs manifestly make it appear, that a creature is intended, and which aggravates the difficulty: the reason why instead of an elephant, as used in most of the above sayings, Christ makes mention of a camel, may be, because that might be more known in Judea, than the other; and because the hump on its back would serve to make the thing still more impracticable.
F7 T. Bab. Beracot fol. 55. 2.
F8 T. Bab Bava Metzia, fol. 38. 2.
F9 Prefat. ad Zohar, Ed. Sultzbach.
F11 Chap. 7. p. 120. Ed. Sale.