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the sea-coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Naphthali,
After the vision of Jesus in the wilderness, several events took place before John the Baptist was cast into prison, by Herod, which are here passed over by Mata thew, but which are recorded by the evangelist John.. Matthew begins the account of our Saviour's ministry from the time when he left Nazareth, where he was, probably, born, and which had been the ordinary place of his residence till then, to go to Capernaum, a considerable city, where he did many of his mighty works, and here said to be situated upon the sea-coast, that is near the lake of Gennesareth, which is sometimes called the sea of Galilee, and the sea of Tiberias; the Jews calling any considerable collection of waters a sea.This was of no great extent, being only forty furlongs in breadth and a hundred and forty in length. The river Jordan ran into it; and the country belonging to the two tribes of Zabulon and Naphthali was situated upon the north-western shore of the lake.
14. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, say
15. The land of Zabulon and the land of Naphthali, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, rather“ by the side of Jordan,” Galilee of the Gentiles*.
This country is called Galilee of the Gentiles because, in consequence of Solomon's having given twenty cities here to Hiram king of Tyre, of which you have an ac. count 1 Kings ix. 11. 13. it was filled with foreigners, and inhabited by a mixture of Phænicians, Egyptians
* The word here translated beyond, sometimes signifies by the side of, and must be so understood here, because these two tribes inhabited the western side of Jordan, which was the side lying nearest to Judæa and Galilee; and therefore not beyond Jordan.
and Arabians ; these, being heathens, were involved in great ignorance of religion, and therefore might justly be described, as they are in the next verse, as a people sitting, or dwelling, in darkness.
16. The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up.
The passage here quoted will be found in chap. ix. of the prophecy of Isaiah and the two first verses. The prophecy, in its original sense, relates to the deliverance. of the Jews, when the army of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was defeated, and Jerusalem delivered from a siege, of which you have an account in the second book of Kings, chap. xix. Matthew applies it to the spiritual deliverance which Christ brought to Galilee by his presence and preaching. While the inhabitants were involved in the grossest ignorance, Christ commu. nicated to them much knowledge, which is often represented in scripture by light.
17. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The Christian dispensation is here called the kingdom of heaven, in allusion to the words of the prophet Daniel, (ii. 44.) who says, “ the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed :" this kingdom was to be entirely of a spiritual nature; but the Jews understood it of a temporal monarchy. To enjoy the blessings of it, it was necessary to repent of their sins and reform their lives, this conveyed to them a sufficient intiination that it was to be spiritual.
18. And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon
called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea : (for they were fishers.)
Andrew was a disciple of John; and it is therefore probable that his brother was likewise: they had both been with Jesus before this time, when he gave to Simon his surname; as appears from John (i. 41, 42.) “ He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, we have found the Messias; (which is, being interpreted, the Christ) and he brought him to Jesus; and when Jesus beheld him he said, thou art Simon the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas (which is, being interpreted, a stone).” Peter signifies the same in the Greek language as Cephas does in the Syriac. After this time they both went home, and now received a second call.
19. And he saith unto them, follow me; and I will make you fishers of men;
That is, to draw men into the belief of the gospel by your preaching
20. And they strait-way left their nets, and followed him.
21. And, going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in a ship, with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.
This was James the elder, who was afterwards slain by Herod (Acts xii. 1, 2.): there was another James among the apostles, the son of Alpheus. John was the evangelist.
22. And they immediately left their ship and their father, and followed him.
23. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
The gospel is the good word, account or news, or, as it is elsewhere rendered, the glad tidings. (Luke viii. 1.) “He went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of heaven.” It is here called the gospel of the kingdom, that is, the good news of the kingdom of heaven, that kingdom of heaven which was now about to be established.
A synagogue signified, at first, an assembly of the people; but it came afterwards, like the English word church, to mean the building in which such assemblies were held. These were erected in every considerable town in Judæa, and even in foreign countries where there were many people of that nation. In these places the Jews assembled every sabbath day, to hear the law and the prophets read and explained: particular persons were appointed for this purpose, who were called scribes, and acted under the direction of certain officers, who were called rulers of the synagogue. We ought not be surprised that Christ was allowed to speak in their synagogues: for it appears that, after the ordinary business was finished, this was an honour usually offered by the rulers of the synagogues to any person of grave deportment and competent knowledge. (Acts xiii. 15.) When Paul and his company went on the sabbath day into the synagogue of Antioch, and sat down, after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, “ye men and brethren, il ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on."
24. And his fame went throughout all Syria; this was a province which lay adjacent to Galilee; and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and · those which were possessed with devils,
" possessed with deemons;" for the word “ devils” is not here used in the original, nor throughout the New Testament, when possessions are spoken of, but 66 dæmons," and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
In order to understand what is meant by the phrase, being possessed with demons, it is proper to observe that the heathens advanced human, spirits to the rank of Gods, whom they called dæmons: these they judged capable of entering the bodies of men for different purposes, according to their disposition; those of a wicked and malignant nature, to inflict diseases producing phrenzy and distraction; persons therefore who were, afflicted with those disorders were said to be possessed by a dæmon. We have the clearest evidence that the heathens attributed certain bodily disorders, in which the understanding was affected, to the influence of evil dæmons, who had in reality no existence or power, but were, like the rest of the heathen deities, imaginary beings. This absurd notion, however, was embraced by the Jews, as we learn from Josephus, who lived nearly in the same age with the apostles, and was well acquainted with the sentiment of his countrymen in respect to possessions: he expressly tells us that dæmons are the spirits of wicked men who enter the living*. The writers of the New Testament therefore, and even Christ himself, when speaking of these disorders, call them by the names given to them among.
* Joseph, Bell. Jud. L. vii. C. vi. $ 3.