Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 32: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
31. The same day some of the Pharisees came, saying to him, Depart, and go hence: for Herod intends to kill thee. 32. And he said to them, Go, tell that fox, Lo, I cast out devils, and I perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am completed. 280 33. But yet I must walk today and tomorrow, and the following day; for it is not a usual occurrence that a prophet perish anywhere else than in Jerusalem. 281
It deserves our attention, that Christ gives the designation, daughter of Abraham, to one whose body had been enslaved by Satan during eighteen years. She was so called, not only in reference to her lineage, as all the Jews without exception gloried in this title, but because she was one of the true and actual members of the Church. Here we perceive also what Paul tells us, that some are
delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus,
And the length of time points out to us that, though the Lord does not immediately relieve our distresses, yet we ought not to despair.
It is difficult to ascertain the precise time when this happened, farther than that Christ was at that time residing in Galilee, as during the whole period of his public calling he remained longer there than in any other place. Certain persons, wishing to be considered as his friends, advise him that, if he wishes to be in safety, he should go beyond the boundaries of Herod’s jurisdiction. In what manner those who gave that advice were affected towards him we have no means of knowing; but I am strongly inclined to conjecture, that they attempted to drive him to some other place, because they saw that the greater part of the people in that place were attached to Christ, so that the Gospel was generally received. We must observe who those advisers were. Luke says that they were some of the Pharisees Now we know that that sect was not so favorable to Christ as to make it probable that those men were anxious about his life. What then? Their design was, to awaken in him such fears as would drive him to some place of concealment; for they expected that, in a short time, his authority would decline, and that his whole doctrine would vanish away. But we must also direct our attention to the first originator and contriver of this scheme, Satan; for, as he endeavored at that time to interrupt the progress of the Gospel, by terrifying the Son of God, so he constantly invents and hatches up new grounds of alarm, to strike the ministers of Christ with dismay, and to constrain them to turn aside.
32. Go, tell that fox It is certain, that the person here spoken of is Herod Antipas. Though he had throughout the character of a fox, and was as remarkable for servility as for cunning, I do not think that the term, fox, is intended to refer generally to the cunning of his whole life, but rather to the insidious methods by which he labored to undermine the doctrine of the Gospel, when he did not venture to attack it openly. Christ tells him that, with all his craftiness, he will gain nothing by his schemes. “Whatever artifices he may devise,” says Christ, “today and tomorrow I will discharge the office which God has enjoined upon me; and when I shall have reached the end of my course, I shall then be offered in sacrifice.” That we may perceive more clearly the meaning of the words, Christ acknowledges, in the former part of his message, that on the third day—that is, within a very short time—he must die; and in this way shows, that he could not be deterred from his duty by any fear of death, to which he advanced boldly, with fixed purpose of mind.
33. It does not usually happen, etc. He next adds, that it is an idle bugbear, which is held out by false and hypocritical advisers; because there is no danger of death anywhere else than at Jerusalem. In this second clause he sharply attacks the Pharisees. “Is it you, who — I foresee — will be my executioners, that advise me to beware of Herod?” The reproof extends, indeed, much farther; for he says, not only that preparations had been made for his own death in Jerusalem, but that it might be said to have been, for a long period, a den of robbers, in which almost all the prophets had been murdered. Many had, no doubt, been slain in other places, and particularly at the time when that cruel fury, 282 Jezebel, (1Ki 19:2,) raged against them; but because in no other place had the prophets, at any time, been fiercely tormented, Christ justly brings this reproach against the ungodly inhabitants of the holy city.
It usually happened that the prophets were slain there; because not only was it the source of all the ungodliness which spread over the whole of Judea, but it was also the field on which God trained his prophets. 283 We know that the more brightly the light of doctrine shines, so as to press more closely on wicked men, they are driven to a greater pitch of madness. What a dreadful example was it, that a place which had been chosen to be the sanctuary of divine worship, and the residence of the Law and of heavenly wisdom, should be polluted not by one or another murder,, but by a regular butchery of the prophets! It undoubtedly shows how obstinate is the rebellion of the world in rejecting sound doctrine.
The exclamation which immediately follows in Luke, (Lu 13:34,) appears to be connected in such a manner, as if Christ had taken occasion from the present occurrence to inveigh, at this time, against Jerusalem But for my own part, I rather think, that Luke, having said that Jerusalem had been formerly stained by the blood of the prophets, nay, had been, through an uninterrupted succession of many ages, the slaughter-place, where the prophets were cruelly and wickedly put to death, immediately inserts, according to his custom, a statement which harmonized with that discourse. We have seen, on former occasions, that it is by no means unusual with him to introduce into one place a collection of Christ’s sayings, which were uttered at various times.
“Et au troisieme iour ie pren fin;” — “and on the third day I conclude.”
“Car il n’advient point qu’aucun Prophete meure hors de Ierusalem;” — “for it does not happen that any Prophet dies out of Jerusalem.”
“Cette cruelle diablesse;” — “that cruel female devil.”
“Auquel Dieu a voulu que ses Prophetes ayent soustenu de grans combats et rudes alarmes;” — “on which God determined that his Prophets should sustain powerful combats and fierce alarms.”