Matthew 12:44

44 it says, 'I'll go back to my old haunt.' On return it finds the person spotlessly clean, but vacant.

Matthew 12:44 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 12:44

Then he said, I will return into my house
Into the land of Judea, particularly into the Scribes and Pharisees, outward professors of religion; who, notwithstanding their outward reformation, and great pretensions to holiness, are Satan's house still: he has a property in them, a claim upon them; and though he says,

from whence I came out,
yet he never really and properly quitted it, only seemingly, and in appearance; and therefore his returning is only throwing off the guise, and reassuming his former character, as a vicious and unclean spirit.

And when he is come, he findeth it empty:
not empty of sin: this puts me in mind of a passage in the Misna F25, where it is said, that on a fast day,

``when they stand in prayer, they cause to descend, or go before the ark, an old man, who is used (to prayer,) whose children, (Mqyr wtybw) , "and his house, are empty", so that his heart is perfect in prayer,''

or entirely at leisure for it. The commentators F26 on that phrase, "his house is empty", note, that he was empty of sin, and free from it, and one concerning whom an evil report had not gone forth from his youth: but such was not this house; it was empty of God, of the true knowledge of him, of the fear of him, and love to him; of Christ, of faith in him, affection for him, and hope on him; of the Spirit of God, and of his graces, and of spiritual, internal religion, and powerful godliness.

not with the Spirit of grace convincing of sin, righteousness, and judgment; but with the besom of an outward reformation:

and garnished;
not with internal grace, which makes saints all glorious within; but with secret lusts and corruptions, which rendered it an agreeable habitation for this unclean spirit; and at most, with some show of morality, a little negative holiness, or abstinence from outward acts of sin, an observance of some external rites and ceremonies, and a few hypocritical performances of fasting and prayer; which Satan can very well bear with, so long as the heart is empty of spiritual grace, and till an opportunity offers of throwing off all appearance of good.


F25 Taanith, c. 2. sect. 2.
F26 Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.

Matthew 12:44 In-Context

42 On Judgment Day, the Queen of Sheba will come forward and bring evidence that will condemn this generation, because she traveled from a far corner of the earth to listen to wise Solomon. Wisdom far greater than Solomon's is right in front of you, and you quibble over 'evidence.'
43 "When a defiling evil spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can bedevil. When it doesn't find anyone,
44 it says, 'I'll go back to my old haunt.' On return it finds the person spotlessly clean, but vacant.
45 It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits more evil than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse off than if he'd never gotten cleaned up in the first place. "That's what this generation is like: You may think you have cleaned out the junk from your lives and gotten ready for God, but you weren't hospitable to my kingdom message, and now all the devils are moving back in."
46 While he was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers showed up. They were outside trying to get a message to him.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.