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Matthew 12:23

King James Version (KJV)
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Is not this the son of David? - Is not this the true Messiah? Do not these miracles sufficiently prove it? See Isaiah 35:5.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 22-30

Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil - See the notes at Matthew 4:24. The same account, substantially, is found in Mark 3:22-27, and Luke 11:14-26.

Matthew 12:23

Is not this the Son of David? - That is, Is not this the promised “descendant” of David, the Messiah? They were acquainted with the prophecy in Isaiah 35:5, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped,” and they inferred that he must be the promised Messiah who was able to do this. This inference was drawn by the common people, and not by the proud and haughty Pharisees. It is not uncommon that people of plain common sense, though unlearned, see the true meaning of the Bible, while those who are filled with pride and science, falsely so called, are blinded.

Matthew 12:24

But when the Pharisees heard it … - It was necessary for the Pharisees, who had determined to reject Jesus of Nazareth, to account in “some” way for the miracles he had performed.

Here was a manifest miracle, an exertion of power unquestionably superior to what people could put forth. The common people were fast drawing the proper inference from it, and coming into the belief that this was the Messiah. The authority and power of the Pharisees were declining. Unless, therefore, some way should be devised of accounting for these facts, their influence would be at an end. Whatever way of accounting for them was adopted, it was necessary that they should acknowledge that there was “superhuman power.” The people were fully persuaded of this, and no man could deny it. They therefore ascribed it to the prince of the devils - to Beelzebub. In this they had two objects:

1.To concede to the people that here was a “miracle,” or a work above mere human power.

2.To throw all possible contempt on Jesus. Beelzebub, or Beelzebul, as it is in the Greek, and correctly rendered in the margin, was an opprobrious name given to the leader of the devils as an expression of supreme contempt. See the notes at Matthew 10:25.

Matthew 12:25, Matthew 12:26

And Jesus knew their thoughts … - To know the thoughts of the heart belongs only to God, Psalm 139:2; Jeremiah 17:10.

Every kingdom … - Their subtle and cunning device was completely foiled, and Jesus made their argument recoil on their own heads. A kingdom or a family can prosper only by living in harmony. The different parts and members must unite in promoting the same objects. If divided - if one part undoes what the other does - it must fall. So with the kingdom of Satan. It is your doctrine that Satan has “possessed” these whom I have cured. It is also your doctrine that he has helped me to cure them. If so, then he has helped me to undo what he had done. He has aided me to cast himself out - that is, to oppose and discomfit himself. At this rate, how can there be any stability in his kingdom? It must fall, and Satan must have less than human prudence.

Matthew 12:27

By whom do your children cast them out? - Your disciples; your followers.

See the notes at Matthew 1:1. Christ was not satisfied by showing them the intrinsic absurdity of their argument. He showed them that it might as well be applied to them as to him. your disciples, taught by you and encouraged by you, pretend to cast out devils. If your argument be true that a man who casts out devils must be in league with the devil, then “your disciples” have made a covenant with him also. You must therefore either give up this argument, or admit that the working of miracles is proof of the assistance of God.

Therefore they shall be your judges - They condemn you and your argument. They are conclusive witnesses against the force of your reasoning.

Matthew 12:28

But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God … - The Spirit of God, here, means the “power” of God - in Luke, by the “finger” of God.

Compare Exodus 8:19; Psalm 8:3. If this work is not by the aid of Satan, then it is by the aid of God. Then his kingdom, or “reign,” is come, Matthew 3:2. The reign of Satan over people, and the reign of God are in opposition. If God expels Satan from his dominion over people, then his reign has come.

Matthew 12:29

Or else … - The Saviour makes use of a new illustration to confute the Pharisees, drawn from breaking into a house.

A man could not break into the house of a strong man and take his property unless he had rendered the man himself helpless. If he had taken his goods, it would therefore be sufficient proof that he had bound the man. So I, says he, have taken this “property - this possessed person” - from the dominion of Satan. It is clear proof that I have subdued “Satan himself,” the “strong” being that had him in possession. The words “or else” mean “or how:” “How, or in what way, can one, etc.”

Spoil his goods - The word “spoil” commonly means, now, to corrupt, injure, or destroy. Here it means “to plunder,” to take with violence, as it commonly does in the Bible. See Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:15; Exodus 3:22.

Matthew 12:30

He that is not with me … - In addition to his other arguments, Jesus urges this general principle, that there can be but two parties in the universe.

If anyone did not act with him, he was against him. If he gathered not with him, he scattered. This is taken from the practice of persons in harvest. He that did not gather with him, or “aid” him, scattered abroad, or opposed him. The application of this was, “As I have not united with Satan, but opposed him, there can be no league between us.” The charge, therefore, is a false one.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
A soul under Satan's power, and led captive by him, is blind in the things of God, and dumb at the throne of grace; sees nothing, and says nothing to the purpose. Satan blinds the eyes by unbelief, and seals up the lips from prayer. The more people magnified Christ, the more desirous the Pharisees were to vilify him. It was evident that if Satan aided Jesus in casting out devils, the kingdom of hell was divided against itself; how then could it stand! And if they said that Jesus cast out devils by the prince of the devils, they could not prove that their children cast them out by any other power. There are two great interests in the world; and when unclean spirits are cast out by the Holy Spirit, in the conversion of sinners to a life of faith and obedience, the kingdom of God is come unto us. All who do not aid or rejoice in such a change are against Christ.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 78

The Lord has a controversy with all men who by their unbelief and doubt have been saying that He delays His coming, and who have been smiting their fellow servants, and eating and drinking with (working from the very same principle as) the drunken; they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. Satan has controlled their reason, and they know not at what they stumble. TM 78.1

Just as soon as a man separates from God so that his heart is not under the subduing power of the Holy Spirit, the attributes of Satan will be revealed, and he will begin to oppress his fellowmen. An influence goes forth from him that is contrary to truth and justice and righteousness. This disposition is manifested in our institutions, not only in the relation of the workers to one another, but in the desire shown by one institution to control all others. [See Appendix.] Men who are entrusted with weighty responsibilities, but who have no living connection with God, have been and are doing despite to His Holy Spirit. They are indulging the very same spirit as did Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and as did the Jews in the days of Christ. (See Matthew 12:22-29, 31-37.) Warnings have come from God again and again for these men, but they have cast them aside and ventured on in the same course. TM 78.2

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 321-7

The sons of Joseph were far from being in sympathy with Jesus in His work. The reports that reached them in regard to His life and labors filled them with astonishment and dismay. They heard that He devoted entire nights to prayer, that through the day He was thronged by great companies of people, and did not give Himself time so much as to eat. His friends felt that He was wearing Himself out by His incessant labor; they were unable to account for His attitude toward the Pharisees, and there were some who feared that His reason was becoming unsettled. DA 321.1

His brothers heard of this, and also of the charge brought by the Pharisees that He cast out devils through the power of Satan. They felt keenly the reproach that came upon them through their relation to Jesus. They knew what a tumult His words and works created, and were not only alarmed at His bold statements, but indignant at His denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees. They decided that He must be persuaded or constrained to cease this manner of labor, and they induced Mary to unite with them, thinking that through His love for her they might prevail upon Him to be more prudent. DA 321.2

It was just before this that Jesus had a second time performed the miracle of healing a man possessed, blind and dumb, and the Pharisees had reiterated the charge, “He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.” Matthew 9:34. Christ told them plainly that in attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan, they were cutting themselves off from the fountain of blessing. Those who had spoken against Jesus Himself, not discerning His divine character, might receive forgiveness; for through the Holy Spirit they might be brought to see their error and repent. Whatever the sin, if the soul repents and believes, the guilt is washed away in the blood of Christ; but he who rejects the work of the Holy Spirit is placing himself where repentance and faith cannot come to him. It is by the Spirit that God works upon the heart; when men willfully reject the Spirit, and declare It to be from Satan, they cut off the channel by which God can communicate with them. When the Spirit is finally rejected, there is no more that God can do for the soul. DA 321.3

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 608

The wisdom of Christ's answer had convicted the scribe. He knew that the Jewish religion consisted in outward ceremonies rather than inward piety. He had some sense of the worthlessness of mere ceremonial offerings, and the faithless shedding of blood for expiation of sin. Love and obedience to God, and unselfish regard for man, appeared to him of more value than all these rites. The readiness of this man to acknowledge the correctness of Christ's reasoning, and his decided and prompt response before the people, manifested a spirit entirely different from that of the priests and rulers. The heart of Jesus went out in pity to the honest scribe who had dared to face the frowns of the priests and the threats of the rulers to speak the convictions of his heart. “And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” DA 608.1

The scribe was near to the kingdom of God, in that he recognized deeds of righteousness as more acceptable to God than burnt offerings and sacrifices. But he needed to recognize the divine character of Christ, and through faith in Him receive power to do the works of righteousness. The ritual service was of no value, unless connected with Christ by living faith. Even the moral law fails of its purpose, unless it is understood in its relation to the Saviour. Christ had repeatedly shown that His Father's law contained something deeper than mere authoritative commands. In the law is embodied the same principle that is revealed in the gospel. The law points out man's duty and shows him his guilt. To Christ he must look for pardon and for power to do what the law enjoins. DA 608.2

The Pharisees had gathered close about Jesus as He answered the question of the scribe. Now turning He put a question to them: “What think ye of Christ? whose son is He?” This question was designed to test their belief concerning the Messiah,—to show whether they regarded Him simply as a man or as the Son of God. A chorus of voices answered, “The Son of David.” This was the title which prophecy had given to the Messiah. When Jesus revealed His divinity by His mighty miracles, when He healed the sick and raised the dead, the people had inquired among themselves, “Is not this the Son of David?” The Syrophoenician woman, blind Bartimaeus, and many others had cried to Him for help, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David.” Matthew 15:22. While riding into Jerusalem He had been hailed with the joyful shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 21:9. And the little children in the temple had that day echoed the glad ascription. But many who called Jesus the Son of David did not recognize His divinity. They did not understand that the Son of David was also the Son of God. DA 608.3

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