While he spake these things unto them
To the Scribes and Pharisees, and to John's disciples, concerning, and in vindication of his, and his disciples, eating and drinking with publicans and sinners, and their not fasting as others did; and while he spake these parables, to expose the folly of self-righteous persons, and justify his own conduct, in calling sinners to repentance,
behold, there came a certain ruler and worshipped him.
This man, as both Mark and Luke say, was named Jairus; and was a ruler, not of the sanhedrim, or lesser consistory, but of the synagogue that was at Capernaum; and whom the Jews call, (tonkh var) , "the head of the synagogue". Mark says, he was "one of the rulers": not that there were more rulers than one, in one synagogue F17: but as in great cities, so it is likely in Capernaum there were more synagogues than one, of which he was one of the rulers: so we read of (twyonk yvar) F18, "heads", or "rulers of synagogues". As this is one mistake, so it is another to say, that Dr. Lightfoot speaks of this ruler, as the same with the "minister" of the congregation; when both here, and in the place referred to, he manifestly distinguishes them; as do the Jews: for, by this ruler, as their commentators F19 say,
``the necessary affairs of the synagogue were determined, as who should dismiss with a prophet, who should divide the "shema", and who should go before the ark.''Whereas the business of (txnkh Nzx) , "the minister of the synagogue", was to bring in and out the ark, or chest, in which was the book of the law; and particularly, when the high priest read, or pronounced the blessings, "he" took the book, and gave it to "the ruler of the synagogue"; and the ruler of the synagogue gave it to the "sagan", and the "sagan" to the high priest F20. The doctor makes indeed (rwbuh xylv) , "the messenger of the congregation", to be the same with "the minister of the synagogue", and which is his mistake; for these were two different officers F21: the former was the lecturer, or preacher; and the latter, a sort of a sexton to keep the synagogue clean, open and shut the doors, and do other things before mentioned. This Jairus was a man of great power and significance; who in such a very humble manner prostrated himself at the feet of Jesus, and expressed such strong faith in him:
saying, my daughter is even now dead, but come and lay thine hand
upon her, and she shall live.
Luke says, she was "his only daughter": and Mark calls her his "little daughter": though both he and Luke say, she was about "twelve" years of age, and that with strict propriety, according to the Jewish canons, which F23 say; that
``a daughter, from the day of her birth until she is twelve years complete, is called (hnjq) , "a little one" and when she is twelve years of age, and one day and upwards, she is called (hren) , "a young woman".''Her case seems to be differently represented; Mark says, she was "at the point of death", or "in the last extremity"; and Luke, that she "lay dying": but Matthew here says, that she was "even now dead", which may be easily reconciled: for not to observe, that (arti) signifies "near", and the phrase may be rendered, "she is near dead", or just expiring, the case was this; when Jairus left his house, his daughter was in the agony of death, just ready to give up the ghost; so, that he concluded, by the time he was with Jesus, she had made her exit; as it appears she had, by a messenger, who brought the account of her death, before they could get to the house. The ruler's address to Christ on this occasion, is a very considerable, though not so great an instance of faith as some others; that he, who was a ruler of a synagogue, should apply to Christ, which sort of men were generally most averse to him; that he should fall down and worship him, if not as God, since as yet he might be ignorant of his deity, yet behaved with the profoundest respect to him, as a great man, and a prophet; that he should come to him when his child was past all hope of recovery; yea, when he had reason to believe she was actually dead, as she was; that even then, he should believe in hope against hope; he affirms, that he really believed, that if Christ would but come to his house, and lay his hand upon her, an action often used in grave and serious matters, as in blessing persons, in prayer, and in healing diseases, she would certainly be restored to life again.