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The Transfiguration. Concerning Elijah.

-. THIRD WITHDRAWAL FROM HEROD'S TERRITORY.Subdivision D.
THE TRANSFIGURATION. CONCERNING ELIJAH.

(A Spur of Hermon, near Cæsarea Philippi.)
a MATT. 17:1-13; b MARK 9:2-13; c LUKE 9:28-36.

      c 28 And it came to pass about eight days {a six days} c after these sayings [Mark agrees with Matthew in saying six days. Luke qualifies his estimate by saying "about." But if we regard him as including the day of the "sayings" and also the day of the transfiguration, and the other two as excluding these days, then the three statements tally exactly. The "sayings" referred to were the words of Jesus with regard to his suffering at Jerusalem], that a Jesus taketh {c took} a with him Peter, and James, and John his brother [These three, as leaders among the apostles, needed the special encouragement which was about to be given. For further comment, see Section 58], and bringeth them {c went} a up into a {c the} b high mountain apart by themselves: c to pray. [A tradition dating from the fourth century fixes upon Mt. Tabor as the site of the transfiguration, but this is unquestionably a mistake. Mt. Tabor is in Galilee, while Jesus was still in the region of Cæsarea Philippi ( Mark 9:30 ). Moreover there is little doubt that at that time and for centuries previous there was an inhabited fortress upon Mt. Tabor ( Joshua 19:12 ; Jos. B. J. i. 8, 7; Vit. 37). Moreover, Mt. Tabor is not a high mountain, its elevation above the sea being but 1,748 feet. Hermon, on the contrary, is the highest mountain in Palestine, its elevation, according to Reclus, being 9,400 feet. It was Jesus' custom to withdraw for prayer by night ( Matthew 14:23 Matthew 14:24 ; Luke 6:12 ; 21:37 ; 22:39 ) and the transfiguration took place at night.]

  29 And as he was praying, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and dazzling.

  a 2 and he was transfigured [i. e., transformed; the description shows to what extent] them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

b glistering, exceeding white; so as no fuller on earth can whiten them. [We may conceive of the body of Jesus becoming luminous and imparting its light to his garments. The Christian looks forward to beholding such a transfiguration and also to participating in it-- 1 John 3:2 .]

  a 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them c two men, who were Moses and {b with} c Elijah; b and they were talking with Jesus. [The three apostles could identify Moses and Elijah by the course of this conversation, though it is possible that miraculous knowledge may have accompanied miraculous sight.]   c 31 who [i. e., Moses and Elijah]

who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. [The word for decease is "exodus," an unusual word for death. It means a departure and is, as Bengel says, a very weighty word, since it includes the passion, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.]

  32 Now Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep [it being night]; but when they were fully awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.

  33 And it came to pass, as they were departing from him,

a Peter answered and said {b answereth and saith} a unto Jesus, b Rabbi, c Master, a Lord, it is good for us to be here: b and let us make three tabernacles; a if thou wilt, I will make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. c not knowing what he said.

  b 6 For he knew not what to answer; for they became sore afraid. [Peter's fears overcame his discretion, but did not silence his tongue. Though he trembled at the fellowship of Moses and Elijah, he also realized the blessedness of it and could not let them depart without an effort to detain them, though the best inducement that he could offer was to build three booths, or arbors, made of the branches of trees, for their and Christ's accommodation. By and Elijah--all three being worthy of a booth.]

  c 34 And while he said these things,

  a 5 While he yet speaking, behold, b there came a a bright cloud b overshadowing them: {c and overshadowed them:} and they feared as they entered into the cloud. [Clouds often roll against the sides of Mt. Hermon, but the brightness of this cloud and the fear which it produced suggests that it was the Shekinah, or cloud of glory, which was the symbol of God's peculiar presence-- Exodus 13:21 Exodus 13:22 ; Exodus 19:9 Exodus 19:18 ; 24:16 ; Exodus 40:34 Exodus 40:35 ; 1 Kings 8:10 .]

a and behold, b there came a voice out of the cloud, a saying, This is my beloved Son, c my chosen: a in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. [This command contains the chief significance of the entire scene. Spoken in the presence of Moses and Elijah, it gave Jesus that pre-eminence which a son has over servants. He is to be heard. His words have pre-eminence over those of the lawgiver and the prophet ( Hebrews 1:1 Hebrews 1:2 ). Peter recognized Jesus as thus honored by this voice-- 2 Peter 1:16-18 .]

  6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. [As every man is who hears the voice of God.]

  7 And Jesus came and touched them and said, Arise, and be not afraid. [As mediator between man and God, Jesus removes fear.]

  b 8 And suddenly looking round about,

  a 8 And lifting up their eyes, b they saw no one any more, save Jesus only with themselves.

  c 36 And when the voice came, Jesus was found alone. [Leaders and prophets depart, but Christ abides-- Hebrews 3:5 Hebrews 3:6 .]

  b 9 And as they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them, that they should tell no man what things they had seen, save when the Son of man should have risen again from the dead.

a 9 And Jesus commanded them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead. [The people were not ready for the publication of such an event. To have told it now would only have been to raise doubts as to their veracity.]

questioning among themselves what the rising from the dead should mean. [Jesus spake so often in parables and made so frequent use of metaphors that the apostles did not take his words concerning the resurrection in a literal sense. They regarded his language as figurative, and sought to interpret the figure.] c And they held their peace, and told no man in those days any of the things which they had seen.

  a 10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come? b How is it that the scribes say that Elijah must first come? [They were puzzled by the disappearance of Elijah. They looked upon him as having come to fulfill the prophecy of Malachi ( Malachi 4:5 Malachi 4:6 ), but they marveled that, having come, he should so soon withdraw, and that they should be forbidden to tell that they had seen him, since the sight of him would be some sign of Jesus' Messiahship.]

  a 11 And he answered and b said unto them, Elijah indeed cometh first, and restoreth {a shall restore} all things [this sentence leads some to think that Elijah will appear again before the second coming of our Lord, but the words are to be interpreted in connection with the rest of the passage]: b and how it is written of the Son of man, that he should suffer many things, and be set at naught? [If the writings concerning Elijah perplexed the apostles, those concerning the Messiah perplexed them also. From one set of prophecies they might learn something about the other. Elijah came, but the Scriptures concerning him were so little understood that he was put to death. The Messiah also came, and the prophecies concerning him were so little understood that he, too, would be set at naught.]

  13 But I say unto you, that Elijah is come, a already, and they knew him not, but did {b and they have also done} unto him whatsoever they would. Even as it is written of him. a Even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them.

  13 Then understood the disciples that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. [Malachi used the name of See Section 20, Section 45. That there shall be a second coming of Elijah in fulfillment of this prophecy is hardly possible, for the office of Elijah is prophetically outlined as that of the restorer. But Elijah could not restore Judaism, for that dispensation had been done away with in Christ. He could hardly have chosen to restore Christianity, for even if it should need such a restoration, a Jewish prophet would be ill-suited to such an office. One of the apostles would be vastly preferable.]