Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
See this explained in Mat 12:9-13.
Or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? - It seems to have been a maxim with the Jews that not to do good when we have an opportunity is to do evil; not to save life is to kill or to be guilty of murder. If a man has an opportunity of saving a man's life when he is in danger, and does not do it, he is evidently guilty of his death. On this principle our Saviour puts this question to the Jews - whether it was better for him, having the power to heal this man, to do it, or to suffer him to remain in this suffering condition; and he illustrates it by an example, showing that in a manner of much less importance - that respecting their cattle - they would do on the Sabbath just as "he" would if he should heal this man. The same remark may apply to all opportunities of doing good. "The ability to do good imposes an obligation to do it" (Cotton Mather) He that has the means of feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, and instructing the ignorant, and sending the gospel to the destitute, and that does it not, is guilty, for he is practically doing evil; he is suffering evils to exist which he might remove. So the wicked will be condemned in the day of judgment because "they did it not," Mat 25:45. If this is true, what an obligation rests upon the rich to do good!
With anger - With a severe and stern countenance; with indignation at their hypocrisy and hardness of heart. This was not, however, a spiteful or revengeful passion; it was caused by excessive "grief" at their state: "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." It was not hatred of the "men" whose hearts were so hard; it was hatred of the sin which they exhibited, joined with the extreme grief that neither his teaching nor the law of God, nor any means which could be used, overcame their confirmed wickedness. Such anger is not unlawful, Eph 4:26. However, in this instance, our Lord has taught us that anger is never lawful except when it is tempered with grief or compassion for those who have offended.
Hardness of their hearts - The heart, figuratively the seat of feeling or affection, is said to be tender when it is easily affected by the sufferings of others - by our own sin and danger - by the love and commands of God; when we are easily made to feel on the great subjects pertaining to our interest, Eze 11:19-20. It is hard when nothing moves it; when a man is alike insensible to the sufferings of others, to the dangers of his own condition, and to the commands, the love, and the threatenings of God. It is most tender in youth, or when we have committed fewest crimes. It is made hard by indulgence in sin, by long resisting the offers of salvation, or by opposing any great and affecting appeals which God may make to us by his Spirit or providence, by affliction, or by a revival of religion. Hence, it is that the most favorable period for securing an interest in Christ, or for becoming a Christian, is in youth the first, the tenderest, and the best days of life. Nay, in the days of childhood, in the Sabbath-school, God may be found, and the soul prepared to die.
Straightway - Immediately, or as soon as possible.
Took counsel - Laid a plan. Consulted with them. Literally, "made a consultation."
The Harridans - See the notes at Mat 22:16.
How they might destroy him - They hated him, he was so holy; because he reproved them; because he laid open their hypocrisy; and because he won the hearts of the people and lessened their influence. They therefore determined to remove him, if possible, and thus avoid his reproofs. Sinners would often rather put to death the man that reproves them than forsake their sins. The Pharisees had rather commit any crime, even to the murder of the Messiah, than forsake the sins for which he rebuked them.
To the sea - The Sea of Galilee, or to the lonely regions which surrounded the sea, where he might be in obscurity, and avoid their designs against his life. His time had not yet come, and he prudently took care of his life, thus showing that we are not needlessly to throw ourselves into danger.
Galilee - See the notes at Mat 2:22.
Judea - The southern division of the land of Palestine.
Jerusalem - Jerusalem was "in" Judea. It is mentioned particularly to show that not only the people of the surrounding country came, but also many from the capital, the place of wealth, and honor, and power.
Idumea - The country formerly inhabited by the "Edomites." In the time of the Saviour it was embraced in the country belonging to the Jews. It was south of Judea proper. The word "Idumea" is a Greek word made from the Hebrew "Edom." It signifies the land of Edom, a name given to Esau, one of the sons of Isaac, Gen 25:30. The word signifies "red," and the name was given to him because he sought of Jacob red pottage as the price of his birthright. He settled in Mount Seir Deu 2:5, on the south of the land of Canaan, and the country of Idumea was bounded by Palestine on the north. During the Babylonian captivity the Edomites spread themselves into the country of Judea, and occupied a considerable part of the south of Palestine. They had, however, submitted to the rite of circumcision, and were incorporated with the Jews. From them sprang Herod the Great.
From beyond Jordan - From the region lying east of the river Jordan. The sacred writers lived on the west side of Jordan, and by the country "beyond Jordan" they meant that on the east side.
Tyre and Sidon - See the notes at Mat 11:21.
A small ship - Rather a "boat." There were properly speaking, no "ships" on the Sea of Tiberias. This was probably a small boat that belonged to the disciples, in which he could draw off from the shore, and teach the people without being pressed by them.
Lest they should throng him - They pressed upon him in great numbers. He had healed many, and those who were still diseased pressed or crowded on him, so that his labors were interrupted and embarrassed. He therefore withdrew from the multitude, and sought a situation where he might address them to greater advantage.
As many as had plagues - As many as had diseases or maladies of body or mind. The word plague, now confined to the pestilence, does not express the meaning of the original, and tends to mislead.
Unclean spirits - Persons who were possessed of evil spirits.
Thou art the Son of God - The Son of God, by way of eminence. In this place it is equivalent to the Messiah, who was, among the Jews, called the Son of God. Hence, they were charged not to make him known, because he was not desirous that it should be blazoned abroad that he claimed to be the Messiah. He had not yet done what he wished in order to establish his claims to the Messiahship. He was poor and unhonored, and the claim would be treated as that of an impostor. "For the present," therefore, he did not wish that it should be proclaimed abroad that he was the Messiah. The circumstance here referred to demonstrates the existence of evil spirits. If these were merely diseased or deranged persons, then it is strange that they should be endowed with knowledge so much superior to those in health. If they were under the influence of an order of spirits superior to man - whose appropriate habitation was in another world - then it is not strange that they should know him, even in the midst of his poverty, to be the Messiah, the Son of God.
For an account of the appointment of the apostles, see the notes at Mat 10:1-4.
And calleth unto him whom he would - Those whom he chose; whom he was about to appoint to the apostleship. See the notes at Joh 15:16.
He ordained twelve - The word rendered "ordained" here does not express our notion of ordination to the ministry. It means, literally, "he made" - that is, he "appointed" twelve to be with him.
Twelve - The reason why "twelve" were chosen was, probably, that such a number would be deemed competent witnesses of what they saw; that they could not be easily charged with being excited by sympathy, or being deluded, as a multitude might; and that, being destined to go into all the world, a considerable number seemed indispensable. Perhaps, also, there was some reference to the fact that "twelve" was the number of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Boanerges - This word is made up of two Hebrew words signifying "sons of thunder," meaning that they, on some accounts, "resembled" thunder. See the notes at Mat 1:1. It is not known why this name was given to James and John. They are nowhere else called by it. Some suppose it was because they wished to call down fire from heaven and consume a certain village of the Samaritans, Luk 9:54. It is, however, more probable that it was on account of something fervid, and glowing, and powerful in their genius and eloquence.
They could not so much as eat bread - Their time and attention were so occupied that they were obliged to forego their regular meals. The affairs of religion may so occupy the attention of ministers and others as to prevent their engaging in their customary pursuits. Religion is all-important - far more important than the ordinary business of this life; and there is nothing unreasonable if our temporal affairs sometimes give way to the higher interests of our own souls and the souls of others. At the same time, it is true that religion is ordinarily consistent with a close attention to worldly business. It promotes industry, economy, order, neatness, and punctuality - all indispensable to worldly prosperity. Of these there has been no more illustrious example than that of our Saviour himself.
When his friends - Greek, "they who were of him." Not the apostles, but his relatives, his friends, who were in the place of his nativity.
Heard of it - Heard of his conduct: his preaching; his appointing the apostles; his drawing such a multitude to his preaching. This shows that by "his friends" were not meant the apostles, but his neighbors and others who "heard" of his conduct.
They went out to lay hold on him - To take him away from the multitude, and to remove him to his home, that he might be treated as a maniac, so that, by absence from the "causes" of excitement, he might be restored to his right mind.
They said - That is, common report said; or his friends and relatives said, for they did not believe on him, Joh 7:5. Probably the enemies of Jesus raised the report, and his relatives were persuaded to believe it to be true.
He is beside himself - He is delirious or deranged. The reason why this report gained any belief was, probably, that he had lived among them as a carpenter; that he was poor and unknown; and that now, at 30 years of age, he broke off from his occupations, abandoned his common employment, spent much time in the deserts, denied himself the common comforts of life, and set up his claims to be the Messiah who was expected by all the people to come with great pomp and splendor. The charge of "derangement" on account of attention to religion has not been confined to the Saviour. Let a man be made deeply sensible of his sins, and spend much of his time in prayer, and have no relish for the ordinary amusements or business of life; or let a Christian be much impressed with his obligation to devote himself to God, and "act" as if he believed there was an "eternity," and warn his neighbors of their danger; or let a minister show uncommon zeal and spend his strength in the service of his Master, and the world is not slow to call it derangement. And none will be more ready to originate or believe the charge than an ungodly and infidel parent or brother, a self-righteous Pharisee or professor in the church. At the same time, men may endanger themselves on the bosom of the deep or in the bowels of the earth for wealth; or may plunge into the vortex of fashion, folly, and vice, and break in upon the hours of repose, and neglect their duties to their family and the demands of business, and in the view of the world it is wisdom and proof of a sane mind! Such is the consistency of boasted reason; such the wisdom and prudence of worldly men!
And the scribes ... - See the notes at Mat 12:24-32. The occasion of their saying this was, that he had healed a man possessed with a devil. The scribes, who came from Jerusalem to watch his conduct, charged him with having made a compact or agreement with the prince of the devils.
See the notes at Mat 12:46-50.