And after this
That is, after Jesus had given up the ghost, when it was a clear case that he was dead; as it was before the soldiers came to break the legs of the crucified, and before one of them pierced the side of Jesus with his spear, though that confirmed it: but it seems to be before these last things were done, and yet after the death of Christ, that Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate, and desired leave to take down the body of Jesus. This Joseph was a counsellor, one of the Jewish sanhedrim; though he did not give his consent to the counsel of the court concerning Jesus: he is here described by the place of his birth, Arimathea. This place has been generally thought to be the same with Ramah or Ramathaim Zophim, the birth place of Samuel the prophet; and so I have taken it to be in the note (See Gill on Matthew 27:57) but there seems to be some reason to doubt about it, since Ramathaim Zophim was in Mount Ephraim, or in the mountainous parts of that tribe, ( 1 Samuel 1:1 ) whereas Arimathea is called a city of the Jews, ( Luke 23:51 ) . But if it was in the tribe of Ephraim, it would rather, as Reland
F15 observes, be called a city of the Samaritans, to whom that part of the country belonged; besides, as the same learned writer shows from ( Judges 4:5 ) ( 2 Chronicles 19:4 ) the mountainous parts of Ephraim were about Bethel, to the north of Jerusalem; whereas Arimathea is mentioned along with Lydda, which lay to the west of it, as it is by Jerom, and others: that ancient writer says F16, that not far from Lydda, now called Diospolis, famous for the raising of Dorcas from the dead, and the healing of Aeneas, is Arimathia, the little village of Joseph, who buried the Lord; though he makes this elsewhere F17 to be the same with Ramathaim Zophim: his words are, Armatha Zophim, the city of Elkanah and Samuel, is in the region of Thamna by Diospolis, (or Lydda,) from whence was Joseph, who, in the Gospels, is said to be of Arimathia; and so in Josephus F18, and in the Apocrypha: ``Wherefore we have ratified unto them the borders of Judea, with the three governments of Apherema and Lydda and Ramathem, that are added unto Judea from the country of Samaria, and all things appertaining unto them, for all such as do sacrifice in Jerusalem, instead of the payments which the king received of them yearly aforetime out of the fruits of the earth and of trees.'' (1 Maccabees 11:34) Lydda and Ramatha, or, as in the latter, Ramathem, are mentioned together, as added unto Judea from the country of Samaria; which last clause, "from the country of Samaria", seems to bid fair for a reconciliation of this matter, that those two are one and the same place: and as the birth place of Samuel the prophet is called, by the Septuagint, Armathaim, as has been observed (See Gill on Matthew 27:57) so it is likewise called, (atmr) , "Ramatha", by the Targumist on ( Hosea 5:8 ) as it is also by Josephus F19. The city of this name, near Lydda, is now called Ramola, and is about thirty six or thirty seven miles from Jerusalem. The Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it, "who was of Rama". Some take this Joseph to be the same with Joseph ben Gorion, the brother of Nicodemus ben Gorion, and who is supposed to be the same Nicodemus mentioned in the next verse. The character the Jews F20 give of Joseph ben Gorion is, that he was a priest, and of the richest and most noble of the priests in Jerusalem; that he was a very wise, just, and upright man; and that three or four years before the destruction of Jerusalem, he was about sixty seven years of age. Being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews;
not one of the twelve, but a private hearer, who had sometimes secretly attended on the ministry of Christ, loved him, and believed in him as the Messiah, but had not courage enough to confess him, and declare for him, for fear of being put out of the synagogue and sanhedrim: but now being inspired with zeal and courage, "went in boldly", as Mark says,
and besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus:
from off the cross, that it might not be any more insulted by his enemies, and might not be thrown with the other bodies into the place where the bodies of malefactors were cast, but that it might be decently interred. This Pilate, the Roman governor, had the disposal of, and to him Joseph applies for it; which was a great instance of his affection for Christ, and was a declaring openly for him, and must unavoidably expose him to the malice and resentment of the Jews:
and Pilate gave him leave;
having first inquired of the centurion, whether he was dead; of which being satisfied, he readily granted it; not only in complaisance to Joseph, who was a man of note and figure, but on account of the innocence of Jesus, of which he was convinced, and therefore was very willing he should have an honourable burial:
he came therefore;
to the cross, with proper servants with him,
and took the body of Jesus;
down from the cross, and carried it away. The Alexandrian copy, different from all others, and in language uncommon, reads, "the body of God".
F15 Palestina Ilustrata, l. 3. p. 581.
F16 Epitaph Paulae, fol. 59. A.
F17 De locis Hebraicis, fol. 88. K.
F18 Antiqu. l. 13. c. 4. soot. 9.
F19 Ib. l. 5. c. 10. sect. 2.
F20 Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol 25. 1. & 27. 1.