There was a certain rich man
In Beza's most ancient copy, and in another manuscript of his it is read by way of preface, "he said also another parable": which shows, that this is not a history of matter of fact, or an historical account of two such persons, as the "rich" man and the beggar, who had lately lived at Jerusalem; though the Papists pretend, to this day, to point out the very spot of ground in Jerusalem, where this rich man's house stood: nor is it to be understood parabolically of any particular rich man, or prince; as Saul the first king of Israel; or Herod, who now was reigning, and was clothed in purple, and lived in a sumptuous manner: nor of rich men in general, though it greatly describes the characters of such, at least of many of them; who only take care of their bodies, and neglect their souls; adorn and pamper them, live in pleasure, and grow wanton, and have no regard to the poor saints; and when they die go to hell; for their riches will not profit them in a day of wrath, nor deliver from it, or be regarded by the Judge, any more than hills and mountains will hide them from his face: but by the rich man are meant, the Jews in general; for that this man is represented, and to be considered as a Jew, is evident from Abraham being his father, and his calling him so, and Abraham again calling him his son, ( Luke 16:24 Luke 16:25 ) of which relation the Jews much boasted and gloried in; and from his brethren having Moses and the prophets, ( Luke 16:29 ) which were peculiar to the Jewish people; and from that invincible and incurable infidelity in them, that they would not believe, though one rose from the dead, ( Luke 16:31 ) as the Jews would not believe in Christ though he himself rose from the dead, which was the sign he gave them of his being the Messiah: and the general design of the parable, is to expose the wickedness and unbelief of the Jews, and to show their danger and misery, for their contempt and rejection of the Messiah; and particularly the Pharisees are designed, who being covetous, had derided Christ for what he had before said; and, who though high in the esteem of men, were an abomination to God, ( Luke 16:14 Luke 16:15 ) . These more especially boasted of Abraham being their father; and of their being the disciples of Moses, and trusted in him, and in his law; and thought they should have eternal life through having and reading the books of Moses and the prophets: these may be called "a man", because this was the name by which the Jews style themselves, in distinction from the Gentiles, whom they compare to beasts; (See Gill on Matthew 15:26) and this they ground on a passage in ( Ezekiel 34:31 ) "and ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men": upon which their note is F5,
``ye are called, (Mda) , "men", but the nations of the earth are not called men.''And they may be called a "certain" man, a famous man, a man of note, as the Jews, and especially the Pharisees, thought themselves to be; and therefore coveted the chief places in the synagogues, and at feasts, and loved salutations and greetings in market places, and to be called of men Rabbi, and master: as also a "rich man"; for the Jews in general were a wealthy people, lived in a very fruitful country, and were greatly indulged with the riches of providential goodness; and particularly the Pharisees, many of whom were of the great sanhedrim, and rulers of synagogues, and elders of the people; and who by various methods, amassed to themselves great riches, and even devoured widows' houses; see ( Luke 6:24 ) ( Luke 18:18 Luke 18:23 ) ( 20:47 ) and they were also rich in outward means and ordinances, having the oracles of God, his word, worship, and service; and as to their spiritual and eternal estate, in their own esteem; though they were not truly rich in grace, not in faith, nor in spiritual knowledge, nor even in good works, of which they so much boasted; but in appearance, and in their own conceit, they were rich in the knowledge of the law, and in righteousness, which they imagined was perfect, and so stood in need of nothing; no, not of repentance, and especially of Christ, or of any thing from him:
which was clothed in purple and fine linen;
or "byssus", which is said to F6 grow on a tree, in height equal to a poplar, and in leaves like a willow, and was brought out of India into Egypt, and much used there, as it also was among the Jews: hence we often read
and fared sumptuously every day.
The Jews in common lived well, being in a land that flowed with milk and honey; see ( Ezekiel 16:13 ) and especially the priests, who offered up lambs every day, besides other offerings, of which they had their part; as also the Pharisees, who were often at feasts, where they loved the chief places: and this may signify the easy and jocund life they lived; knowing no sorrow upon spiritual accounts, having no sense of sin, nor sight of the spirituality of the law, nor view of danger; but at perfect ease, and not emptied from vessel to vessel.
F5 T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 114. 2. & Kimchi in loc.
F6 Philostrat. Vit. Appollon. l. 2. c. 9.
F7 Targum in Gen. xli. 42. in 2 Chron. v. 12. & in Ezek. xliv. 17.