Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The conversion of Zaccheus, Luk 19:1-10. The parable of the nobleman, his ten servants, and the ten pounds, vv. 11-27. Christ sends his disciples for a colt on which he rides into Jerusalem, Luk 19:28-40. He weeps over the city, and foretells its destruction, Luk 19:41-44. Goes into the temple, and casts out the buyers and sellers, Luk 19:45, Luk 19:46. The chief priests and the scribes seek to destroy him, but are afraid of the people, who hear him attentively, Luk 19:47, Luk 19:48.
Entered and passed through - Was passing through. Our Lord had not as yet passed through Jericho - he was only passing through it; for the house of Zaccheus, in which he was to lodge, Luk 19:5, was in it.
Zaccheus - It is not unlikely that this person was a Jew by birth, see Luk 19:9; but because he had engaged in a business so infamous, in the eyes of the Jews, he was considered as a mere heathen, Luk 19:7.
Chief among the publicans - Either a farmer-general of the taxes, who had subordinate collectors under him: or else the most respectable and honorable man among that class at Jericho.
He was rich - And therefore the more unlikely to pay attention to an impoverished Messiah, preaching a doctrine of universal mortification and self-denial.
And he sought to see Jesus who he was - So the mere principle of curiosity in him led to his conversion and salvation, and to that of his whole family, Luk 19:9.
He ran before - The shortness of his stature was amply compensated by his agility and invention. Had he been as tall as the generality of the crowd, he might have been equally unnoticed with the rest. His getting into the tree made him conspicuous: had he not been so low of stature he would not have done so. Even the imperfections of our persons may become subservient to the grace of God in our eternal salvation. As the passover was at hand, the road was probably crowded with people going to Jerusalem; but the fame of the cure of the blind man was probably the cause of the concourse at this time.
Make haste, and come down - With this invitation, our blessed Lord conveyed heavenly influence to his heart; hence he was disposed to pay the most implicit and cheerful obedience to the call, and thus he received not the grace of God in vain.
Received him joyfully - He had now seen Who he was, and he wished to hear What he was; and therefore he rejoiced in the honor that God had now conferred upon him. How often does Christ make the proposal of lodging, not only in our house, but in our heart, without its being accepted! We lose much because we do not attend to the visitations of Christ: he passes by - he blesses our neighbors and our friends; but, often, neither curiosity nor any other motive is sufficient to induce us to go even to the house of God, to hear of the miracles of mercy which he works in behalf of those who seek him.
To be guest with a man that is a sinner - Meaning either that he was a heathen, or, though by birth a Jew, yet as bad as a heathen, because of his unholy and oppressive office. See the note on Luk 7:37.
The half of my goods I give to the poor - Probably he had already done so for some time past; though it is generally understood that the expressions only refer to what he now purposed to do.
If I have taken any thing - by false accusation - Εσυκοφαντησα, from συκον, a fig, and φαινω, I show or declare; for among the primitive Athenians, when the use of that fruit was first found out, or in the time of a dearth, when all sorts of provisions were exceedingly scarce, it was enacted that no figs should be exported from Attica; and this law (not being actually repealed, when a plentiful harvest had rendered it useless, by taking away the reason of it) gave occasion to ill-natured and malicious fellows to accuse all persons they found breaking the letter of it; and from them all busy informers have ever since been branded with the name of sycophants. Potter's Antiq. vol. i. c. 21, end.
I restore him fourfold - This restitution the Roman laws obliged the tax-gatherers to make, when it was proved they had abused their power by oppressing the people. But here was no such proof: the man, to show the sincerity of his conversion, does it of his own accord. He who has wronged his fellow must make restitution, if he have it in his power. He that does not do so cannot expect the mercy of God. See the observations at the end of Genesis 42 (note), and Num 5:7 (note).
Jesus said unto him - Bishop Pearce observes: "Probably Luke wrote αυτους, not αυτον, said unto them, i.e. to those who had before called Zaccheus a sinner; (Luk 19:7); for Jesus here speaks of Zaccheus in the third person, he also is a son of Abraham, and therefore he was not then speaking to him." This conjecture of this respectable prelate is supported by the margin of the later Syriac, and by every copy of the Itala but two.
To this house - Τῳ οικῳ τουτῳ, To this very house or family. As if he had said: "If he be a sinner, he stands in the greater need of salvation, and the Son of man is come to seek and save what was lost, Luk 19:10; and therefore to save this lost soul is a part of my errand into the world." See the sentiment contained in this verse explained on Mat 18:11 (note).
And as they heard these things - I believe the participle of the present tense, here, is used for the participle of the past, or rather that the participle of the present conveys sometimes the sense of the past; for this discourse appears to have taken place the next day after he had lodged at the house of Zaccheus; for the text says that he was then drawing nigh to Jerusalem, from which Jericho was distant nineteen miles. I have not ventured to translate it so, yet I think probably the text should be read thus: And after they had heard these things, he proceeded to speak a parable, because they were nigh to Jerusalem.
Immediately appear - Perhaps the generality of his followers thought that, on his arrival at Jerusalem, he would proclaim himself king.
A certain nobleman - In the following parable there are two distinct morals intended; let it be viewed in these two points of light. 1. The behavior of the citizens to the nobleman; and, 2. The behavior of his own servants to him.
1. By the behavior of the citizens, and their punishment, (Luk 19:14, Luk 19:27), we are taught that the Jews, who were the people of Christ, would reject him, and try to prevent his reigning over them in his spiritual kingdom, and would for that crime be severely punished by the destruction of their state. And this moral is all that answers to the introductory words, Luk 19:11. And they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
2. The other moral extends itself through the whole of the parable, viz. that the disciples of Christ, who are his servants; and who made a good improvement of the favors granted them by the Gospel, should be rewarded in proportion to the improvement made under the means of grace. This latter moral is all that is intended by Matthew in Mat 25:14, etc., who mentions this parable as spoken by Christ after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem; though Luke has here placed that event after the parable. See Bishop Pearce.
The meaning of the different parts of this parable appears to be as follows.
A certain nobleman - The Lord Jesus, who was shortly to be crucified by the Jews.
Went into a far country - Ascended to the right hand of the Divine Majesty.
To receive a kingdom - To take possession of the mediatorial kingdom, the right to which, as Messiah, he had acquired by his sufferings: see Phi 2:8, Phi 2:9; Heb 1:3, Heb 1:8, Heb 1:9. In these words there is an allusion to the custom of those days, when they who had kingdoms or governments given unto them went to Rome to receive that dignity from the emperors. Bishop Pearce. In proof of this, see Josephus, Ant. l. xiv. c. xiv., where we find Herod went to Rome to receive the sanction and authority of the Roman emperor. And, from lib. xvii. c. 3, we learn that his successors acted in the same way.
And to return - To judge and punish the rebellious Jews.
Ten servants - All those who professed to receive his doctrine. Ten was a kind of sacred number among the Hebrews, as well as seven. See Luk 14:31; Luk 15:8; Mat 15:1.
Ten pounds - Ten minas. The Septuagint use the original word μναα for the Hebrew מנה maneh, from which it is evidently derived; and it appears from Eze 45:12, to have been equal to sixty shekels in money. Now suppose we allow the shekel, with Dean Prideaux, to be 3s., then the mina or maneh was equal to 9 English money. The impropriety of rendering the original word pound, will easily be seen by the most superficial reader. We should therefore retain the original word for the same reason so often before assigned. Suidas says, "The talent was sixty minas, the mina one hundred drachms, the drachm six oboli, the obolus six chalci, the chalcus seven mites or lepta."
By the ten minas given to each, we may understand the Gospel of the kingdom given to every person who professes to believe in Christ, and which he is to improve to the salvation of his soul. The same word is given to all, that all may believe and be saved.
His citizens - Or countrymen - the Jewish people, who professed to be subjects of the kingdom of God.
Hated him - Despised him for the meanness of his birth, his crucifixion to the world, and for the holiness of his doctrine. Neither mortification nor holiness suits the dispositions of the carnal mind.
Sent a message after him - As, in Luk 19:12, there is an allusion to a person's going to Rome, when elected to be ruler of a province or kingdom, to receive that dignity from the hand of the emperor, so it is here intimated that, after the person went to receive this dignity, some of the discontented citizens took the opportunity to send an embassy to the emperor, to prevent him from establishing the object of their hatred in the government.
We will not have this man, etc. - The Jews rejected Jesus Christ, would not submit to his government, and, a short time after this, preferred even a murderer to him. Like cleaves to like. No wonder that those who murdered the Lord of glory should prefer a murderer, one of their own temper, to the Redeemer of their souls.
When he was returned - When he came to punish the disobedient Jews; and when he shall come to judge the world. See the parable of the talents, Mat 25:14 (note), etc.
Lord, thy pound hath gained ten - The principal difference between this parable and that of the talents above referred to is, that the mina given to each seems to point out the gift of the Gospel, which is the same to all who hear it; but the talents distributed in different proportions, according to each man's ability, seem to intimate that God has given different capacities and advantages to men, by which this one gift of the Gospel may be differently improved.
Over ten cities - This is to be understood as referring to the new kingdom which the nobleman had just received. His former trustiest and most faithful servants he now represents as being made governors, under him, over a number of cities, according to the capacity he found in each; which capacity was known by the improvement of the minas.
Lord, behold, here is thy pound - See Mat 25:18.
With usury? - Συν τοκῳ, With its produce, i.e. what the loan of the money is fairly worth, after paying the person sufficiently for using it: for, in lent money, both the lender and borrower are supposed to reap profit.
And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds - This whole verse is omitted by the Codex Bezae, a few others, and some copies of the Itala. It is probably an observation that some person made while our Lord was delivering the parable, with a design to correct him in the distribution: as if he had said, "Why give the mina to that person? he has got ten already; give it to one of those who has fewer."
And from him that hath not - See this particularly explained Mat 13:12 (note). Perhaps it would be well, with Bishop Pearce, to supply the word gained - give it to him who hath gained ten minas; for I say unto you, That unto every one who hath gained shall be given; and, from him who hath not gained, even that which he hath received, shall be taken away.
Those - enemies - bring hither - the Jews, whom I shall shortly slay by the sword of the Romans.
He went before - Joyfully to anticipate his death, say some. Perhaps it means that he walked at the head of his disciples; and that he and his disciples kept on the road before other companies who were then also on their way to Jerusalem, in order to be present at the feast.
See this triumphal entry into Jerusalem explained at large on Mat 21:1-11 (note), and Mar 11:1-10 (note).
Glory in the highest - Mayst thou receive the uttermost degrees of glory! See on Mat 21:9 (note).
If these should hold their peace, the stones would - cry out - Of such importance is my present conduct to you and to others, being expressly predicted by one of your own prophets, Zac 9:9, as pointing out the triumph of humility over pride, and of meekness over rage and malice, as signifying the salvation which I bring to the lost souls of men, that, if this multitude were silent, God would give even to the stones a voice, that the advent of the Messiah might be duly celebrated.
And wept over it - See Mat 23:37.
The things which belong unto thy peace! - It is very likely that our Lord here alludes to the meaning of the word Jerusalem, ירושלים from ירה yereh, he shall see, and שלום shalom, peace or prosperity. Now, because the inhabitants of it had not seen this peace and salvation, because they had refused to open their eyes, and behold this glorious light of heaven which shone among them, therefore he said, Now they are hidden from thine eyes, still alluding to the import of the name.
Cast a trench about thee - This was literally fulfilled when this city was besieged by Titus. Josephus gives a very particular account of the building of this wall, which he says was effected in three days, though it was not less than thirty-nine furlongs in circumference; and that, when this wall and trench were completed, the Jews were so enclosed on every side that no person could escape out of the city, and no provision could be brought in, so that they were reduced to the most terrible distress by the famine which ensued. The whole account is well worth the reader's attention. See Josephus, War, book v. chap. xxii. sec. 1, 2, 3.
The time of thy visitation - That is, the time of God's gracious offers of mercy to thee. This took in all the time which elapsed from the preaching of John the Baptist to the coming of the Roman armies, which included a period of above forty years.
Went into the temple - See all this transaction explained, Mat 21:12-16 (note).
And he taught daily in the temple - This he did for five or six days before his crucifixion. Some suppose that it was on Monday in the passion week that he thus entered into Jerusalem, and purified the temple; and on Thursday he was seized late at night: during these four days he taught in the temple, and lodged each night at Bethany. See the note on Mat 21:17.
Were very attentive to hear him - Or, They heard him with the utmost attention, εξεκρεματο αυτου ακουων, literally, They hung upon him, hearing. The same form of speech is used often by both Greek and Latin writers of the best repute. -
Ex vultu dicentis, pendet omnium vultus.
The face of every man hung on the face of the speaker.
- Pendetque iterum narrantis ab ore.
Virg. Aen. iv. 79
And she hung again on the lips of the narrator.
The words of the evangelist mark, not only the deepest attention because of the importance of the subject, but also the very high gratification which the hearers had from the discourse. Those who read or hear the words of Christ, in this way, must inevitably become wise to salvation.
The reader is requested to refer to Matthew 24 (note), and to Mat 25:14 (note), for more extensive information on the different subjects in this chapter, and to the other parallel places. The prophecy relative to the destruction of Jerusalem is one of the most circumstantial, and the most literally fulfilled, of any prediction ever delivered. See this particularly remarked at the conclusion of Matthew 24 (note), where the whole subject is amply reviewed.