Matthew 8:28

28 When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way.

Matthew 8:28 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 8:28

And when he was come to the other side
Of the lake, or sea of Tiberias, right over against Galilee,

into the country of Gergesenes,
the same with the Girgashites, ( Genesis 15:21 ) ( Deuteronomy 7:1 ) ( Joshua 3:10 ) whom Joshua drove out of the land of Canaan; and who, as a Jewish writer F12 says, left their country to the Israelites, and went to a country, which is called to this day, (Najoygrwg) , "Gurgestan", of which these people were some remains: both in ( Mark 5:1 ) ( Luke 8:26 ) it is called "the country of the Gadarenes"; and so the Syriac and Persic versions read it here; which is easily reconciled by observing, not that Gergesa and Gadara were one and the same city, called by different names; but that these two cities were near each other, in the same country, which was sometimes denominated from the one, and sometimes from the other. Origen F13 has a remarkable passage, showing the different situations of Gadara and Gergesa; and that the latter cannot be Gerasa in Arabia; and also the signification of the name, for the sake of which, I shall transcribe it.

``Gerasa (says he) is a city of Arabia, having neither sea nor lake near it; wherefore the evangelists, who well knew the countries about Judea, would never have said so manifest an untruth: and as to what we find in some few copies, "into the country of the Gadarenes", it must be said, that Gadara indeed was a city of Judea, about which were many famous baths; but there was no lake, or sea in it, adjacent with precipices; but Gergesa, from whence were the Gergasenes, is an ancient city about the lake; now called Tiberias; about which is a precipice adjacent to the lake, from whence is shown, that the swine were cast down by the devils. Gergesa is interpreted, (paroikia) (ekbeblhkotwn) , "the habitation of those that cast out"; being called so perhaps prophetically, for what the inhabitants of those places did to the Saviour, beseeching him to depart out of their coasts.''

Dr. Lightfoot suggests, that this place might be so called, from (atvgrg) , which signifies "clay" or "dirt", and mentions Lutetia for an example. But to pass this, as soon as Christ was got out of the ship, and come to land in this country,

there met him two possessed with devils.
Both Mark and Luke mention but one, which is no contradiction to Matthew; for they do not say that there was only one; and perhaps the reason why they only take notice of him is, because he was the fiercest, had a legion of devils in him, and was the principal one, that spake to Christ, and with whom he was chiefly concerned. This is to be understood, not of any natural disease of body, but of real possession by Satan. These possessed men met him, not purposely, or with design, but accidentally to them, and unawares to Satan too; for though he knows much, he is not omniscient: had he been aware of Christ's coming that way, and what he was about to do, he would have took care to have had the possessed out of the way; but so it was ordered by providence, that just as Christ landed, these should be

coming out of the tombs.
Their coemeteria, or burying places, were at some distance from towns or cities; wherefore Luke says, the possessed met him "out of the city", a good way off from it; for the Jews F14 say, (ryel Nykwmo twrbqh ytb wyh alv) , "that the sepulchres were not near a city"; see ( Luke 7:12 ) and these tombs were built so large, that persons might go into them, and sit and dwell in them, as these "demoniacs" did, and therefore are said to come out of them. The rules for making them are F15 these;

``He that sells ground to his neighbour to make a burying place, or that receives of his neighbour, to make him a burying place, must make the inside of the cave four cubits by six, and open in it eight graves; three here and three there, and two over against them; and the graves must be four cubits long, and seven high, and six broad. R. Simeon says, he must make the inside of the cave six cubits by eight, and open within thirteen graves, four here, and four there, and three over against them; and one on the right hand of the door, and one on the left: and he must make (rux) , "a court", at the mouth of the cave, six by six, according to the measure of the bier, and those that bury; and he must open in it two caves, one here and another there: R. Simeon says, four at the four sides. R. Simeon ben Gamaliel says, all is according to the nature of the rock.''

Now in the court, at the mouth, or entrance of the cave, which was made for the bearers to put down the bier or coffin upon, before the interment, there was room for persons to enter and lodge, as these possessed with devils did: which places were chosen by the devils, either because of the solitude, gloominess, and filthiness of them; or as some think, to confirm that persuasion some men had, that the souls of men after death, are changed into devils; or rather, to establish a notion which prevailed among the Jews, that the souls of the deceased continue for a while to be about their bodies; which drew persons to necromancy, or consulting with the dead. It is a notion that obtains among the Jews F16, that the soul for twelve months after its separation from the body, is more or less with it, hovering about it; and hence, some have been induced to go and dwell among the tombs, and inquire of spirits: they tell us F17,

``it happened to a certain holy man, that he gave a penny to a poor man, on the "eve" of the new year; and his wife provoked him, and he went (twrbqh tybb Nlw) , "and lodged among the tombs", and heard two spirits talking with one another.''

Or the devil chose these places, to render the persons possessed the more uncomfortable and distressed; to make them wilder and fiercer, by living in such desolate places, and so do more mischief to others: which was the case of these, who were

exceeding fierce,
wicked, malignant, mischievous, and troublesome, through the influence of the devils in them;

so that no man might pass that way,
without being insulted or hurt by them.


F12 Juchasin, fol. 135. 2.
F13 Comment. in Joannem, T. 2. p. 131. Ed. Huet.
F14 T. Bab. Kiddushin. fol. 80. 2. Gloss.
F15 Misn. Bava Bathra, c. 6. sect. 8.
F16 Nishmat Chayim, par. 2. c. 22. p. 81. 2. c. 24. p. 85. 1. & c. 29. p. 93. 1. p. 94. 1, 2.
F17 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 18. 2.

Matthew 8:28 In-Context

26 And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, you of little faith?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.
27 They were amazed, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?"
28 When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way.
29 Suddenly they shouted, "What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?"
30 Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them.

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Other ancient authorities read [Gergesenes]+!; others, [Gerasenes]
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.