Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Christ heals a man ill of the dropsy, on a Sabbath day, Luk 14:1-6. He inculcates humility by a parable, Luk 14:7-11. The poor to be fed, and not the rich, Luk 14:12-14. The parable of the great supper, Luk 14:15-24. How men must become disciples of Christ, Luk 14:25-27. The parable of the prudent builder, who estimates the cost before he commences his work, Luk 14:28-30. And of the provident king, Luk 14:31, Luk 14:32. The use of these parables, Luk 14:33. The utility of salt while in its strength and perfection; and its total uselessness when it has lost its savor; Luk 14:34, Luk 14:35.
Chief Pharisees - Or, one of the rulers of the Pharisees. A man who was of the sect of the Pharisees, and one of the rulers of the people.
To eat bread on the Sabbath day - But why is it that there should be an invitation or dinner given on the Sabbath day? Answer: The Jews purchased and prepared the best viands they could procure for the Sabbath day, in order to do it honor. See several proofs in Lightfoot. As the Sabbath is intended for the benefit both of the body and soul of man, it should not be a day of austerity or fasting, especially among the laboring poor. The most wholesome and nutritive food should be then procured if possible; that both body and soul may feel the influence of this Divine appointment, and give God the glory of his grace. On this blessed day, let every man eat his bread with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God. In doing this, surely there is no reason that a man should feed himself without fear. If the Sabbath be a festival, let it be observed unto the Lord; and let no unnecessary acts be done; and avoid that bane of religious solemnity, giving and receiving visits on the Lord's day.
They watched him - Or, were maliciously watching, παρατηρουμενοι - from παρα, intens. or denoting ill, and τηρεω, to observe, watch. Raphelius, on Mar 3:2, has proved from a variety of authorities that this is a frequent meaning of the word: - clam et insidiose observare, quid alter agat - to observe privately and insidiously what another does. The context plainly proves that this is the sense in which it is to be taken here. The conduct of this Pharisee was most execrable. Professing friendship and affection, he invited our blessed Lord to his table, merely that he might have a more favorable opportunity of watching his conduct, that he might accuse him, and take away his life. In eating and drinking, people feel generally less restraint than at other times, and are apt to converse more freely. The man who can take such an advantage over one of his own guests must have a baseness of soul, and a fellness of malice, of which, we would have thought, for the honor of human nature, that devils alone were capable. Among the Turks, if a man only taste salt with another, he holds himself bound, in the most solemn manner, never to do that person any injury. I shall make no apology for inserting the following anecdote.
A public robber in Persia, known by the name of Yacoub, ibn Leits Saffer, broke open the treasury of Dirhem, the governor of Sistan. Notwithstanding the obscurity of the place, he observed, in walking forward, something that sparkled a little: supposing it to be some precious stones, he put his hand on the place, and taking up something, touched it with his tongue, and found it to be salt. He immediately left the treasury, without taking the smallest article with him! The governor finding in the morning that the treasury had been broken open, and that nothing was carried off, ordered it to be published, that "Whoever the robber was who had broke open the treasury, if he declared himself, he should be freely pardoned, and that he should not only receive no injury, but should be received into the good graces of the governor." Confiding in the promise of Dirhem, Yacoub appeared. The governor asked; How it came to pass that, after having broken open the treasury, he took nothing away? Yacoub related the affair as it happened, and added, "I believed that I was become your Friend in eating of your Salt, and that the Laws of that friendship would not permit me to touch any thing that appertained to you." D'Herbelot. Bib. Orient. p. 415. How base must that man be, who professes Christianity, and yet makes his own table a snare for his friend!
The dropsy - Ὑδρωπικος, dropsical; from ὑδωρ, water, and ωψ, the countenance, because in this disorder the face of the patient is often very much bloated. Probably the insidious Pharisee had brought this dropsical man to the place, not doubting that our Lord's eye would affect his heart, and that he would instantly cure him; and then he could most plausibly accuse him for a breach of the Sabbath. If this were the case, and it is likely, how deep must have been the perfidy and malice of the Pharisee!
They held their peace - They could not answer the question but in the affirmative; and as they were determined to accuse him if he did heal the man, they could not give an answer but such as would condemn themselves, and therefore they were silent.
An ass or an ox - See on Luk 13:15 (note).
They chose out the chief rooms - When custom and law have regulated and settled places in public assemblies, a man who is obliged to attend may take the place which belongs to him, without injury to himself or to others: when nothing of this nature is settled, the law of humility, and the love of order, are the only judges of what is proper. To take the highest place when it is not our due is public vanity: obstinately to refuse it when offered is another instance of the same vice; though private and concealed. Humility takes as much care to avoid the ostentation of an affected refusal, as the open seeking of a superior place. See Quesnel. In this parable our Lord only repeats advices which the rabbins had given to their pupils, but were too proud to conform to themselves. Rabbi Akiba said, Go two or three seats lower than the place that belongs to thee, and sit there till they say unto thee, Go up higher; but do not take the uppermost seat, lest they say unto thee, Come down: for it is better that they should say unto thee, Go up, go up; than that they should say, Come down, come down. See Schoettgen.
For whosoever exalteth himself, etc. - This is the unchangeable conduct of God: he is ever abasing the proud, and giving grace, honor, and glory to the humble.
Call not thy friends, etc. - Our Lord certainly does not mean that a man should not entertain at particular times, his friends, etc.; but what he inculcates here is charity to the poor; and what he condemns is those entertainments which are given to the rich, either to flatter them, or to procure a similar return; because the money that is thus criminally laid out properly belongs to the poor.
For they cannot recompense thee - Because you have done it for God's sake only, and they cannot make you a recompense, therefore God will consider himself your debtor, and will recompense you in the resurrection of the righteous. There are many very excellent sayings among the rabbins on the excellence of charity. They produce both Job and Abraham as examples of a very merciful disposition. "Job, say they, had an open door on each of the four quarters of his house, that the poor, from whatever direction they might come, might find the door of hospitality open to receive them. But Abraham was more charitable than Job, for he traveled over the whole land in order to find out the poor, that he might conduct them to his house."
That shall eat bread in the kingdom of God - This is spoken in conformity to the general expectation of the Jews, who imagined that the kingdom of the Messiah should be wholly of a secular nature. Instead of αρτον, bread, EKMS-V, more than one hundred others, with some versions and fathers, read αριϚον, a dinner. This is probably the best reading, as it is likely it was a dinner at which they now sat; and it would be natural for the person to say, Happy is he who shall dine in the kingdom of God. It does not appear that there was any but this person present, who was capable of relishing the conversation of our Lord, or entering at all into its spiritual reference.
A certain man made a great supper, etc. - See a similar parable to this, though not spoken on the same occasion, explained, Mat 22:1-14 (note).
Sent his servant - Messengers are sent to invite the guests to a Hindoo feast; when not only relations, but all persons of the same division of caste in the neighborhood, are invited. A refusal to attend is considered as a great affront.
And yet there is room - On some occasions, so numerous are the guests that there is not room for them to sit in the court of the person who makes the feast, and a larger is therefore borrowed.
Compel them to come in - αναγκασον, Prevail on them by the most earnest entreaties. The word is used by Matthew, Mat 14:22, and by Mark, Mar 6:45; in both which places, when Christ is said, αναγκαζειν, to constrain his disciples to get into the vessel, nothing but his commanding or persuading them to do it can be reasonably understood. The Latins use cogo, and compello, in exactly the same sense, i.e. to prevail on by prayers, counsels, entreaties, etc. See several examples in Bishop Pearce, and in Kypke. No other kind of constraint is ever recommended in the Gospel of Christ; every other kind of compulsion is antichristian, can only be submitted to by cowards and knaves, and can produce nothing but hypocrites, See at the end of the chapter.
And hate not - Matthew, Mat 10:37, expresses the true meaning of this word, when he says, He who loveth his father and mother More than me. In Mat 6:24, he uses the word hate in the same sense. When we read, Rom 9:13, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated, the meaning is simply, I have loved Jacob - the Israelites, more than Esau - the Edomites; and that this is no arbitrary interpretation of the word hate, but one agreeable to the Hebrew idiom, appears from what is said on Gen 29:30, Gen 29:31, where Leah's being hated is explained by Rachel's being loved more than Leah. See also Deu 21:15-17; and Bishop Pearce on this place. See also the notes on Mat 10:37 (note).
Doth not bear his cross - See on Mat 10:38 (note); Mat 16:24 (note).
To build a tower - Probably this means no more than a dwelling house, on the top of which, according to the Asiatic manner, battlements were built, both to take the fresh air on, and to serve for refuge from and defense against an enemy. It was also used for prayer and meditation.
This parable represents the absurdity of those who undertook to be disciples of Christ, without considering what difficulties they were to meet with, and what strength they had to enable them to go through with the undertaking. He that will be a true disciple of Jesus Christ shall require no less than the mighty power of God to support him; as both hell and earth will unite to destroy him.
Whosoever he be of you - This seems to be addressed particularly to those who were then, and who were to be, preachers of his Gospel; and who were to travel over all countries, publishing salvation to a lost world.
Salt is good - See on Mat 5:13 (note), and Mar 9:50 (note).
On the subject referred to this place from Luk 14:23, Compel them to come in, which has been adduced to favor religious persecution, I find the following sensible and just observations in Dr. Dodd's notes.
"1st. Persecution for conscience' sake, that is, inflicting penalty upon men merely for their religious principles or worship, is plainly founded on a supposition that one man has a right to judge for another in matters of religion, which is manifestly absurd, and has been fully proved to be so by many excellent writers of our Church.
"2nd. Persecution is most evidently inconsistent with that fundamental principle of morality, that we should do to others as we could reasonably wish they should do to us; a rule which carries its own demonstration with it, and was intended to take off that bias of self-love which would divert us from the straight line of equity, and render us partial judges betwixt our neighbors and ourselves. I would ask the advocate of wholesome severities, how he would relish his own arguments if turned upon himself? What if he were to go abroad into the world among Papists, if he be a Protestant; among Mohammedans if he be a Christian? Supposing he were to behave like an honest man, a good neighbor, a peaceable subject, avoiding every injury, and taking all opportunities to serve and oblige those about him; would he think that, merely because he refused to follow his neighbors to their altars or their mosques, he should be seized and imprisoned, his goods confiscated, his person condemned to tortures or death? Undoubtedly he would complain of this as a very great hardship, and soon see the absurdity and injustice of such a treatment when it fell upon him, and when such measure as he would mete to others was measured to him again.
"3rd. Persecution is absurd, as being by no means calculated to answer the end which its patrons profess to intend by it; namely, the glory of God, and the salvation of men. Now, if it does any good to men at all, it must be by making them truly religious; but religion is not a mere name or a ceremony. True religion imports an entire change of the heart, and it must be founded in the inward conviction of the mind, or it is impossible it should be, what yet it must be, a reasonable service. Let it only be considered what violence and persecution can do towards producing such an inward conviction. A man might as reasonably expect to bind an immaterial spirit with a cord, or to beat down a wall with an argument, as to convince the understanding by threats and tortures. Persecution is much more likely to make men hypocrites than sincere converts. They may perhaps, if they have not a firm and heroic courage, change their profession while they retain their sentiments; and, supposing them before to be unwarily in the wrong, they may learn to add falsehood and villany to error. How glorious a prize! especially when one considers at what an expense it is gained. But,
"4th. Persecution tends to produce much mischief and confusion in the world. It is mischievous to those on whom it falls; and in its consequences so mischievous to others, that one would wonder any wise princes should ever have admitted it into their dominions, or that they should not have immediately banished it thence; for, even where it succeeds so far as to produce a change in men's forms of worship, it generally makes them no more than hypocritical professors of what they do not believe, which must undoubtedly debauch their characters; so that, having been villains in one respect, it is very probable that they will be so in another, and, having brought deceit and falsehood into their religion, that they will easily bring it into their conversation and commerce. This will be the effect of persecution where it is yielded to; and where it is opposed (as it must often be by upright and conscientious men, who have the greater claim upon the protection and favor of government) the mischievous consequences of its fury will be more flagrant and shocking. Nay, perhaps, where there is no true religion, a native sense of honor in a generous mind may stimulate it to endure some hardships for the cause of truth. 'Obstinacy,' as one well observes, 'may rise as the understanding is oppressed, and continue its opposition for a while, merely to avenge the cause of its injured liberty.'
"Nay, 5th. The cause of truth itself must, humanly speaking, be not only obstructed, but destroyed, should persecuting principles universally prevail. For, even upon the supposition that in some countries it might tend to promote and establish the purity of the Gospel, yet it must surely be a great impediment to its progress. What wise heathen or Mohammedan prince would ever admit Christian preachers into his dominions, if he knew it was a principle of their religion that as soon as the majority of the people were converted by arguments, the rest, and himself with them, if he continued obstinate, must be proselyted or extirpated by fire and sword? If it be, as the advocates for persecution have generally supposed, a dictate of the law of nature to propagate the true religion by the sword; then certainly a Mohammedan or an idolater, with the same notions, supposing him to have truth on his side, must think himself obliged in conscience to arm his powers for the extirpation of Christianity; and thus a holy war must cover the face of the whole earth, in which nothing but a miracle could render Christians successful against so vast a disproportion in numbers. Now, it seems hard to believe that to be a truth which would naturally lead to the extirpation of truth in the world; or that a Divine religion should carry in its own bowels the principle of its own destruction.
"But, 6th. This point is clearly determined by the lip of truth itself; and persecution is so far from being encouraged by the Gospel, that it is most directly contrary to many of its precepts, and indeed to its whole genius. It is condemned by the example of Christ, who went about doing good; who came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them; who waived the exercise of his miraculous power against his enemies, even when they most unjustly and cruelly assaulted him, and never exerted it to the corporal punishment, even of those who had most justly deserved it. And his doctrine also, as well as his example, has taught us to be harmless as doves; to love our enemies; to do good to them that hate us; and pray for them that despitefully use and persecute us."
From all this we may learn that the Church which tolerates, encourages, and practises persecution, under the pretense of concern for the purity of the faith, and zeal for God's glory, is not the Church of Christ; and that no man can be of such a Church without endangering his salvation. Let it ever be the glory of the Protestant Church, and especially of the Church of England, that it discountenances and abhors all persecution on a religious account; and that it has diffused the same benign temper through that State with which it is associated.