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Matthew 12:21

King James Version (KJV)
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And in his name shall the Gentiles trust - Ελπιουσι, they shall hope. Jesus Christ is the sole hope and trust of mankind; to trust and hope in his name, Jesus, is to expect salvation and all things necessary from him alone, to despise, comparatively, all earthly promises, to esteem, love, and desire heavenly things only, and to bear with patience and tranquillity all the losses and evils of this life, upon the prospect and hope of that felicity which he has purchased for us.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 14-21

This account is found also in Mark 3:6-12.

Matthew 12:14

The Pharisees … held a council … - Mark adds that the Herodians also took a part in this plot. They were probably a “political” party attached firmly to Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, tetrarch of Galilee. He was the same man who had imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist, and to whom the Saviour, when arraigned, was sent by Pilate. See the notes at Luke 3:1. He was under Roman authority, and was a strong advocate of Roman power. All the friends of the family of Herod were opposed to Christ, and ever ready to join any plot against his life. They remembered, doubtless, the attempts of Herod the Great against him when he was the babe of Bethlehem, and they were stung with the memory of the escape of Jesus from his bloody hands. The attempt against him now, on the part of the Pharisees, was the effect of “envy.” They hated his popularity, they were losing their influence, and they therefore resolved to take him out of the way.

Matthew 12:15

But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself … - He knew of the plot which they had formed against his life; but his hour was not yet come, and he therefore sought security.

By remaining, his presence would only have provoked them further and endangered his own life. He acted, therefore, the part of prudence and withdrew. Compare the notes at Matthew 10:23.

Mark adds that he withdrew “to the sea;” that is, to the Sea of Galilee. or Tiberias. He states also Matthew 3:7-8 that “a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard what great things he did, came unto him.” As some of these places were without the limits of Judea or inhabited by “Gentiles,” this statement of Mark throws light on the passage quoted by Matthew Matthew 12:21, “In his name shall the Gentiles trust.”

Pressed by the crowd Mark 3:9, Jesus went aboard a “small vessel,” or “boat,” called by Mark a “ship.” This he did for the convenience of being separated from them and more easily addressing them. We are to suppose the lake still and calm; the multitudes, most of whom were sick and diseased, on the shore and pressing to the water‘s edge; and Jesus thus healing their diseases, and preaching to them the good news of salvation. No scene could be more sublime than this.

Matthew 12:16

And he charged them … - He was “at this time” desirous of concealment.

He wished to avoid their plots and to save his life.

Matthew 12:17

That it might be fulfilled … - Matthew here quotes a passage from Isaiah 42:1-4, to show the “reason why he thus retired from his enemies and sought concealment.” The Jews, and the disciples also at first, expected that the Messiah would be a conqueror, and vindicate himself from all his enemies. When they saw him retiring before them, and, instead of subduing them by force, seeking a place of concealment, it was contrary to all their previous notions of the Messiah. Matthew by this quotation shows that “their” conceptions of him had been wrong. Instead of a warrior and an earthly conqueror, he was “predicted” under a totally different character. Instead of shouting for battle, lifting up his voice in the streets, oppressing the feeble - “breaking bruised reeds and quenching smoking flax, as a conqueror” - he would be peaceful, retiring; would strengthen the feeble, and would cherish the faintest desires of holiness. This appears to be the general meaning of this quotation here. Compare the notes at Isaiah 42:1-4.

Matthew 12:18

My servant - That is, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus; called a servant from his taking the “form” of a “servant,” or his being born in a humble condition Philemon 2:7, and from his obeying or “serving” God. See Hebrews 10:9.

Shall show judgment to the Gentiles - The word “judgment” means, in the Hebrew, law, “commands, etc.,” Psalm 19:9; Psalm 119:29-30. It means the “whole system of truth;” the law of God in general; the purpose, plan, or “judgment” of God about human duty and conduct. Here it means, evidently, the system of “gospel truth,” the Christian scheme.

Gentiles - All who were not Jews. This prophecy was fulfilled by the multitudes coming to him from Idumea and beyond Jordan, and from Tyre and Sidon, as recorded by Mark 3:7-8.

Matthew 12:19

He shall not strive … - He shall not shout as a warrior.

He shall be meek, retiring, and peaceful. Streets were places of concourse. The meaning is, that he should not seek publicity and popularity.

Matthew 12:20

A bruised reed … - The reed is an emblem of feebleness, as well as of fickleness or want of stability, Matthew 11:7. A bruised, broken reed is an emblem of the poor and oppressed. It means that he would not oppress the feeble and poor, as victorious warriors and conquerors did. It is also an expressive emblem of the soul broken and contrite on account of sin; weeping and mourning for transgression. He will not break it; that is, he will not be severe, unforgiving, and cruel. He will heal it, pardon it, and give it strength.

Smoking flax - This refers to the wick of a lamp when the oil is exhausted - the dying, flickering flame and smoke that hang over it. It is an emblem, also, of feebleness and infirmity. He would not further oppress those who had a little strength; he would not put out hope and life when it seemed to be almost extinct. He would not be like the Pharisees, proud and overbearing, and trampling down the poor. It is expressive, also, of the languishing graces of the people of God. He will not treat them harshly or unkindly, but will cherish the feeble flame, minister the “oil” of grace, and kindle it into a blaze.

Till he send forth judgment unto victory - “Judgment” here means truth - the truth of God, the gospel. It shall be victorious - it shall not be vanquished. Though the Messiah is not “such” a conqueror as the Jews expected, yet he “shall” conquer. Though mild and retiring, yet he will be victorious.

Matthew 12:21

And in his name … - The Hebrew in Isaiah is, “And the isles shall wait for his law.” The idea is, however, the same.

The “isles” denote the Gentiles, or a part of the Gentiles - those out of Judea. The meaning is, that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and that they should receive it. See the notes at Isaiah 41:1 for an explanation of the word “islands,” as it is used in the Bible.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The Pharisees took counsel to find some accusation, that Jesus might be condemned to death. Aware of their design, as his time was not come, he retired from that place. Face does not more exactly answer to face in water, than the character of Christ drawn by the prophet, to his temper and conduct as described by the evangelists. Let us with cheerful confidence commit our souls to so kind and faithful a Friend. Far from breaking, he will strengthen the bruised reed; far from quenching the smoking flax, or wick nearly out, he will rather blow it up into a flame. Let us lay aside contentious and angry debates; let us receive one another as Christ receives us. And while encouraged by the gracious kindness of our Lord, we should pray that his Spirit may rest upon us, and make us able to copy his example.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 127-8

Take up your appointed work. The Lord will fulfill the promise on His part. These inspired scriptures would never have been given to you if the Lord had not had confidence that you could do all that He has required. You can heed the invitation, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” TM 127.1

You may rise to the heights to which the Holy Spirit calls you. True religion means living the word in your practical life. Your profession is not of any value without the practical doing of the word. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” This is the condition of discipleship. “Behold My Servant, whom I have chosen; My Beloved, in whom My soul is well pleased: I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.” TM 127.2

Thank God that a work is being done outside of the church. The church has not been properly educated to work outside of their own people. Many souls out of the church might have been enlightened, and a great deal more light brought into the church, if every church member in every country, who claims to have the advanced light of truth, had worked with heart and soul and voice to win souls to the truth. Altogether too little work is being done by church members for those who need the light, those who are outside of the church of Seventh-day Adventists. The Lord declares: “A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.” Those who cooperate with Jesus Christ will realize that all these promises are fulfilled in their own experience. The Lord has pointed out the duty of every soul. In the judgment no one will have any excuse to present for not doing his duty. TM 127.3

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 489

In sending out the seventy, Jesus bade them, as He had bidden the twelve, not to urge their presence where they were unwelcome. “Into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not,” He said, “go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” They were not to do this from motives of resentment or through wounded dignity, but to show how grievous a thing it is to refuse the Lord's message or His messengers. To reject the Lord's servants is to reject Christ Himself. DA 489.1

“I say unto you,” Jesus added, “that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.” Then His mind reverted to the Galilean towns where so much of His ministry had been spent. In deeply sorrowful accents He exclaimed, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.” DA 489.2

To those busy towns about the Sea of Galilee, heaven's richest blessings had been freely offered. Day after day the Prince of life had gone in and out among them. The glory of God, which prophets and kings had longed to see, had shone upon the multitudes that thronged the Saviour's steps. Yet they had refused the heavenly Gift. DA 489.3

With a great show of prudence the rabbis had warned the people against receiving the new doctrines taught by this new teacher; for His theories and practices were contrary to the teachings of the fathers. The people gave credence to what the priests and Pharisees taught, in place of seeking to understand the word of God for themselves. They honored the priests and rulers instead of honoring God, and rejected the truth that they might keep their own traditions. Many had been impressed and almost persuaded; but they did not act upon their convictions, and were not reckoned on the side of Christ. Satan presented his temptations, until the light appeared as darkness. Thus many rejected the truth that would have proved the saving of the soul. DA 489.4

The True Witness says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.” Revelation 3:20. Every warning, reproof, and entreaty in the word of God or through His messengers is a knock at the door of the heart. It is the voice of Jesus asking for entrance. With every knock unheeded, the disposition to open becomes weaker. The impressions of the Holy Spirit if disregarded today, will not be as strong tomorrow. The heart becomes less impressible, and lapses into a perilous unconsciousness of the shortness of life, and of the great eternity beyond. Our condemnation in the judgment will not result from the fact that we have been in error, but from the fact that we have neglected heaven-sent opportunities for learning what is truth. DA 489.5

Read in context »
Jesus' Ministry in Galilee and Journey to Jerusalem