Luke 17

2. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

[That a millstone were hanged about his neck.] There is mention among the Talmudic authors, concerning an ass-mill, and it is distinguished from a hand-mill. "Whoso hireth a house of his neighbour, he may build an ass-mill, but not a hand-mill."

To have a millstone hanged about his neck was a common proverb. "Samuel saith, It is a tradition, that a man may marry, and after that apply himself to the study of the law. But R. Jochanan saith, No. Shall he addict himself to the study of the law with a millstone about his neck?"

Suidas tells us, When they drowned any in the sea, they hung stones about their necks. And quotes that of Aristophanes:

Lifting him up, I'll plunge him to the deep,
A stone hung at his neck.

3. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

[Rebuke him.] The Rabbins are not sparing in granting the lawfulness of repeating rebuke upon rebuke, but they are most sparing about forgiveness where any hath given an offence. They allow, from Leviticus 19:17, that a man may rebuke a hundred times if there be any need for it; nay, that it is the duty of a disciple to rebuke his master if occasion be. But as to forgiving him that offends, they abuse the words of the prophet, Amos 1:2, "for three transgressions"; and that of Job 33:29, "Lo, God worketh all these things three times with man"; and teach that a man is not bound to forgive a fourth trespass.

6. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

[As a grain of mustard seed.] A phrase greatly in use. Sometimes we have it like a seed of mustard. Sometimes, like a grain of mustard seed. Sometimes, like a drop of mustard.

When our Lord had been teaching his disciples concerning charity towards their offending brother, they beg of him increase our faith. Which words (saving that I would not wrong the faith of the apostles, as if they begged of their Master an increase of it) I would inquire whether they might not be put into some such sense as this: "Lay down or add something concerning the measure of our faith, as thou hast done concerning the measure of our charity": which, therefore, he doth in his following discourse.

7. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?

[Will say unto him by and by, Go and sit down to meat?] Some there were of old that were wont to do thus. "The wise men of old were used to give their servant something of every thing that they ate themselves." This was indeed kindly done, and but what they ought; but then it follows, they made their beasts and their servants take their meals before themselves. This was supererogation.

11. And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

[He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.] If it had been said through the midst of Galilee and Samaria, there had been no difficulty; but being said through the midst of Samaria and Galilee, it raiseth that doubt to which I have formerly spoken, viz. whether through 'Galilee,' in this place, ought not to be understood through 'Perea.' The Syriac and Arabic seem to have been aware of this difficulty; and therefore, to accommodate the matter, have rendered through the midst, by between. So that the sense they seem to make of it is this: that Jesus in his journey to Jerusalem took his way in the very extreme borders of Galilee and Samaria, i.e. that he went between the confines, and, as it were, upon the very brink of each country for a good way together. He did, indeed, go to the Scythopolitan bridge, by which he passed over into Perea: but whether through the midst will allow of such a rendering, let the more skillful judge.

12. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:

[Ten men that were lepers.] I. It is provided by a law, in Leviticus 13:46, that "he that is a leper shall dwell alone, and without the camp." How then came these ten to converse thus together? as also those four together, 2 Kings 7:3?

Other unclean persons must not live with him: i.e. those that are unclean by other kind of defilements: which also is intimated by the Gemarists in these words: "Shall those that have their issues, and those that are defiled by the dead, be sent out into one and the same place? The text saith, 'They shall not defile their camps,' Numbers 5:3; to assign one camp for these, and another for them."

The lepers might be conversant with lepers, and those that had issues with those that had issues; but those that were under different defilements might not converse promiscuously. Which confirms what I have conceived concerning the five porches at the pool of Bethesda; viz., that they were so framed and distinguished at first, that there might be a different reception for those that had contracted different kinds of defilements, and were there waiting to be cleansed in that pool.

That there were certain places where they that were unclean by that disease of the leprosy were secluded, reason might persuade us: for it were an inhuman thing to cast the leprous out of the city without any provision of a dwelling for them, but that they should always lie in the open air. Whether there was any such thing in this place, I will not determine. It seems as if these ten lepers, having heard of our Saviour's coming that way, were got but lately together to attend him there. For when the seventy disciples had beforehand openly proclaimed, in all the places where he was to come, that he would come thither, it is easy to conceive in what infinite throngs the sick, and all that were affected with any kind of distemper, would be crowding thither for a cure.

II. "The leper that transgresseth his bounds, let him receive forty stripes. Those that have their issues, men or women, if they transgress their limits, let them also receive forty stripes." Where the Gloss is, "The limits for those that have their issues are the Mountain of the House, or the Court of the Gentiles: for they are forbid to enter into the camp of the Levites. The unclean are not excluded but from the Court: excepting those that have their issues and a gonorrhea upon them; they are excluded even from the Mountain of the House; and the leper, who is excluded from the camp of Israel, that is, from the city."

Now the camp of Israel, out of which the leper was to be excluded, they interpreted to be every city that had been walled from the days of Joshua: "For (say they) Joshua sanctified the walled cities with the holiness that was ascribed to the camp of Israel; but he did not so to the rest of the land, nor the cities that had no walls." This was a village, and not such a city, where these ten lepers meet our Saviour; and if they were within this village, it was neither beyond the custom nor the rule, provided that they kept but their distance.

"A leper enters into the synagogue: they make him some grates, or bounds, ten hands high and four cubits broad: he enters the first, and goes out the last." The Gloss is, "Lest they should be defiled that stand in the synagogue," &c.

20. And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

[The kingdom of god cometh not with observation.] The kingdom of God, or of heaven, hath especially a twofold distinct sense in the Holy Scriptures. In some places it signifies the propagation of the gospel by the Messias and his followers, and that especially amongst the Gentiles: in other places it denotes the Messiah's victory and vengeance upon the Jews, the enemies of this gospel; but in the Jewish schools this was their conceit of him: that when he came he should cut off all those nations that obeyed not his, i.e., the Jewish law; redeeming Israel from the Gentile yoke; establishing a kingdom and age amongst them that should be crowned with all kind of delights whatever. In this they were miserably deceived, that they thought the Gentiles were first to be destroyed by him, and then that he himself would reign amongst the Israelites. Which, in truth, fell out just contrary; he was first to overthrow Israel, and then to reign amongst the Gentiles.

It is easy to conceive in what sense the Pharisees propounded that question, When the kingdom of God should come? that is, when all those glorious things should be accomplished which they expected from the Messias? and, consequently, we may as well conceive, from the contexture of his discourse, in what sense our Saviour made his reply: "You inquire when the Messias will come: His coming will be as in the days of Noah, and as in the days of Lot. For as when Noah entered the ark the world perished by a deluge, and as when Lot went out of Sodom those five cities were overthrown, 'so shall it be in the day when the Son of Man shall be revealed.'" So that it is evident he speaks of the kingdom of God in that sense, as it signifies that dreadful revenge he would ere long take of that provoking nation and city of the Jews. The kingdom of God will come when Jerusalem shall be made like Sodom, verse 29, when it shall be made a carcase, verse 37.

It is plain to every eye, that the cutting-off of that place and nation is emphatically called his kingdom, and his coming in glory. Nor indeed without reason: for before he wasted the city and subverted that nation, he had subdued all nations under the empire and obedience of the gospel; according to what he foretold, "That the gospel of the kingdom should be preached in all the world, and then should the end [of Jerusalem] come." And when he had obtained his dominion amongst the Gentiles, what then remained towards the consummation of his kingdom and victories, but to cut off his enemies the Jews, who would not that he should rule over them? Of this kingdom of God he speaks in this place, not answering according to that vain apprehension the Pharisee had when he propounded the question, but according to the thing itself and the truth of it. There are two things he saith of this kingdom:

1. That it comes not with observation. Not but that it might be seen and conspicuous, but that they would not see and observe it. Which security and supineness of theirs he both foretells and taxeth in other places once and again.

2. He further tells them, this kingdom of God is within you: you are the scene of these triumphs. And whereas your expectancies are of that kind, that you say, Behold here a token of the Messias in the subduing of such a nation, and, Behold there in the subduing of another; they will be all in vain, for it is within you; within, and upon your own nation, that these things must be done. I would lay the emphasis in the word you, when commonly it is laid in within.

Besides, those things which follow, verse 22, do very much confirm it, that Christ speaks of the kingdom of God in that sense wherein we have supposed it: they are spoken to his disciples "that the days will come, wherein they shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, but shall not see it." The days of the Son of man, in the Jewish style, are the days of the Messias: days, wherein they promise themselves nothing but pleasing, prosperous, and gay enjoyments: and, questionless, the Pharisees put this question under this notion only. But our Saviour so applies the terms of the question to the truth, and to his own purpose, that they signify little else but vengeance and wrath and affliction. And it was so far from it, that the Jews should see their expected pleasures, that the disciples themselves should see nothing but affliction, though under another notion.

Read Luke 17