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Matthew 8:28

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The country of the Gergesenes - This word is variously written in the MSS, and versions; Gergasenes, Gerasenes, Gadarenes, Gergesions, and Gersedonians, The three first are supported by the greater authorities. They might have all been names of the same place or district; but, if we depend on what Origen says, the people mentioned here could not have been the inhabitants of Gerasa, which, says he, is a city of Arabia, ουτε θαλασσαν, ουτε λιμνην πλησιον εχοντα, which has neither sea nor lake nigh to it. "Gadara was, according to Josephus, the metropolis of Perea, or the region beyond Jordan: both the city and villages belonging to it lay in the country of the Gergasenes; whence Christ going into the country of the Gadarenes, Mark 5:1, is said to go into the region of the Gergasenes, Matthew 8:28." Whitby.

Two possessed with devils - Persons possessed by evil demons. Mark and Luke mention only one demoniac, probably the fiercer of the two.

Coming out of the tombs - It is pretty evident that cupolas were generally builded over the graves among the Jews, and that these demoniacs had their dwellings under such: the evil spirits which were in them delighting more in these abodes of desolation and ruin, as being more congenial to their fierce and diabolic nature, and therefore would drive the possessed into them.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 28-34

The same account of the demoniacs substantially is found in Luke 8:26-38.

Matthew 8:28

The other side - The other side of the Sea of Tiberias.

Country of the Gergesenes - Mark Mark 5:1 says that he came into the country of the “Gadarenes.” This difference is only apparent.

“Gadara” was a city not far from the Lake Gennesareth, one of the ten cities that were called “Decapolis.” See the notes at Matthew 4:25. “Gergesa” was a city about 12 miles to the southeast of Gadara, and about 20 miles to the east of the Jordan. There is no contradiction, therefore, in the evangelists. He came into the region in which the two cities were situated, and one evangelist mentioned one, and the other another. It shows that the writers had not agreed to impose on the world; for if they had, they would have mentioned the same city; and it shows. also, they were familiar with the country. No men would have written in this manner but those who were acquainted with the facts. Impostors do not mention places or homes if they can avoid it.

There met him two - Mark and Luke speak of only one that met him. “There met him out of the tombs a man,” Mark 5:2. “There met him out of the tombs a certain man,” Luke 8:27. This difference of statement has given rise to considerable difficulty. It is to be observed, however, that neither Mark nor Luke say that there was no more than one. For particular reasons, they might have been led to fix their attention on the one that was more notorious, and furious, and difficult to be managed. Had they denied plainly that there was more than one, and had Matthew affirmed that there were two, there would have been an irreconcilable contradiction. As it is, they relate the affair as other people would. It shows that they were honest witnesses. Had they been impostors; had Matthew and Luke agreed to write books to deceive the world, they would have agreed exactly in a case so easy as this. They would have told the story with the same circumstances. Witnesses in courts of law often differ in unimportant matters; and, provided the main narrative coincides, their testimony is thought to be more valuable.

Luke has given us a hint why he recorded only the cure of one of them. He says there met him “out of the city, a man, etc.; or, as it should be rendered, “a man of the city” a citizen. Yet the man did not dwell in the city, for he adds in the same verse, “neither abode he in any house, but in the tombs.” The truth of the case was, that he was born and educated in the city. He had probably been a man of wealth and eminence; he was well known, and the people felt a deep interest in the case. Luke was therefore particularly struck with his case; and as his cure fully established the power of Jesus, he recorded it. The other person that Matthew mentions was probably a stranger, or one less notorious as a maniac, and he felt less interest in the cure. Let two persons go into a lunatic asylum and meet two insane persons, one of whom should be exceedingly fierce and ungovernable, and well known as having been a man of worth and standing; let them converse with them, and let the more violent one attract the principal attention, and they would very likely give the same account that Matthew and Luke do, and no one would doubt the statement was correct.

Possessed with devils - See the notes at Matthew 4:24.

Coming out of the tombs - Mark and Luke say that they lived among the tombs. The sepulchres of the Jews were frequently caves beyond the walls of the cities in which they dwelt, or excavations made in the sides of hills, or sometimes in solid rocks. These caves or excavations were sometimes of great extent. They descended to them by flights of steps. These graves were not in the midst of cities, but in groves, and mountains, and solitudes. They afforded, therefore, to insane persons and demoniacs a place of retreat and shelter. They delighted in these gloomy and melancholy recesses, as being congenial to the wretched state of their minds. Josephus also states that these sepulchres were the haunts and lurking-places of those desperate bands of robbers that infested Judea. For further illustration of this subject see my notes at Isaiah 14:9; Isaiah 22:16; Isaiah 65:4. The ancient Gadara is commonly supposed to be the present Umkeis. “Near there Burckhardt reports that he found many sepulchres in the rocks, showing how naturally the conditions of the narrative respecting the demoniacs could have been fulfilled in that region. Reliable writers state that they have seen lunatics occupying such abodes of corruption and death.” - Hackett‘s “Illustrations of Scripture,” p. 109.

Dr. Thomson, however (“The Land and the Book,” vol. ii. pp. 34-37), maintains that Gadara could not have been the place of the miracle, since that place is about “three hours” (some 10 or 12 miles) to the south of the extreme shore of the lake in that direction. He supposes that the miracle occurred at a place now called “Kerza” or “Gersa.” which he supposes was the ancient “Gergesa.” Of this place he says: “In this Gersa or Chersa we have a position which fulfills every requirement of the narratives, and with a name so near that in Matthew as to be in itself a strong corroboration of the truth of this identification. It is, within a few rods of the shore, and an immense mountain rises directly above it, in which are ancient tombs, out of some of which the two men possessed of the devils may have issued to meet Jesus. The lake is so near the base of the mountain that the swine, rushing madly down it, could not stop, but would be hurried on into the water and drowned. The place is one which our Lord would be likely to visit, having Capernaum in full view to the north, and Galilee ‹over against it,‘ as Luke says it was. The name, however, pronounced by Bedouin Arabs is so similar to Gergesa, that, to all my inquiries for this place, they invariably said it was at Chersa, and they insisted that they were identical, and I agree with them in this opinion.”

Matthew 8:29

What have we to do with thee? - This might have been translated with great propriety, What hast thou to do with us? The meaning is “Why dost thou trouble or disturb us?” See 2 Samuel 16:10; 2 Kings 9:18; Ezra 4:3.

Son of God - The title, “Son of God,” is often given to Christ. People are sometimes called sons, or children of God, to denote their adoption into his family, 1 John 3:1. But the title given to Christ denotes his superiority to the prophets Hebrews 1:1; to Moses, the founder of the Jewish economy Hebrews 3:6; it denotes his unique and near relation to the Father, as evinced by his resurrection Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:33; it denotes his special relation to God from his miraculous conception Luke 1:35; and is equivalent to a declaration that he is divine, or equal to the Father. See the notes at John 10:36.

Art thou come hither to torment us? … - By “the time” here mentioned is meant the day of judgment. The Bible reveals the doctrine that evil spirits are not now bound as they will be after that day; that they are permitted to tempt and afflict people, but that in the day of judgment they also will be condemned to everlasting punishment with all the wicked, 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6. These spirits seemed to be apprised of that, and were alarmed lest the day that they feared had come. They besought him, therefore, not to send them out of that country, not to consign them then to hell, but to put off the day of their final punishment.

Mark and Luke say that Jesus inquired the name of the principal demoniac, and that he called his name “Legion, for they were many.” The name legion was given to a division in the Roman army. It did not always denote the same number, but in the time of Christ it consisted of 6,000 to 3,000 foot soldiers and 3,000 horsemen. It came, therefore, to signify “a large number,” without specifying the exact amount.

Matthew 8:30

A herd of many swine - The word “herd,” here applied to swine, is now commonly given to “cattle.” Formerly, it signified any collection of beasts, or even of people.

The number that composed this “herd” was 2,000, Mark 5:13.

Matthew 8:33

They that kept them fled - These swine were doubtless owned by the inhabitants of the country.

Whether they were Jews or Gentiles is not certainly known. It was not properly in the territory of Judea; but, as it was on its borders, it is probable that the inhabitants were a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. Swine were to Jews unclean animals, and it was unlawful for Jews to eat them, Leviticus 11:7. They were forbidden by their own laws to keep them, even for the purpose of traffic. Either, therefore, they had expressly violated the law, or these swine were owned by the Gentiles.

The keepers fled in consternation. They were amazed at the power of Jesus. Perhaps they feared a further destruction of property; or, more likely they were acquainted with the laws of the Jews, and regarded this as a judgment of heaven for keeping forbidden animals, and for tempting the Jews to violate the commands of God.

This is the only one of our Saviour‘s miracles, except the case of the fig-tree that he cursed Matthew 21:18-20, in which he caused any destruction of property. It is a striking proof of his benevolence, that his miracles tended directly to the comfort of mankind. It was a proof of goodness added to the direct purpose for which his miracles were performed. That purpose was to confirm his divine mission; and it might have been as fully done by splitting rocks, or removing mountains, or causing water to run up steep hills, as by any other display of power. He chose to exhibit the proof of his divine power, however, in such a way as to benefit mankind.

Infidels have objected to this whole narrative. They have said that this was a wanton and unauthorized violation of private rights in the destruction of property. They have said, also, that the account of devils going into swine, and destroying them, was ridiculous. In regard to these objections the narrative is easily vindicated.

1. If Christ, as the Bible declares, is divine as well as human - God as well as man - then he had an original right to that and all other property, and might dispose of it as he pleased, Psalm 50:10-12. If God had destroyed the herd of swine by pestilence or by lightning, by an inundation or by an earthquake, neither the owners or anyone else would have had reason to complain. No one now feels that he has a right to complain if God destroys a thousand times the amount of this property by overturning a city by an earthquake. Why, then, should complaints be brought against him if he should do the same thing in another way?

2. If this property was held “by the Jews,” it was a violation of their law, and it was right that they should suffer the loss; if “by the Gentiles,” it was known also to be a violation of the law of the people among whom they lived; a temptation and a snare to them; an abomination in their sight; and it was proper that the nuisance should be removed.

3. The cure of two men, one of whom was probably a man of distinction and property, was of far more consequence than the amount of property destroyed. To restore a “deranged” man now would be an act for which “property” could not compensate, and which could not be measured in value by any pecuniary consideration. But,

4. Jesus was not at all answerable for this destruction of property. He did not “command,” he only “suffered” or “permitted” the devils to go into the swine. He commanded them merely to “come out of the magi.” They originated the purpose of destroying the property, doubtless for the sake of doing as much mischief as possible, and of destroying the effect of the miracle of Christ. In this they seem to have had most disastrous success, and they only are responsible.

5. If it should be said that Christ permitted this, when he might have prevented it, it may be replied that the difficulty does not stop there. He permits all the evil that exists, when he might prevent it. He permits men to do much evil, when he might prevent it. He permits one bad man to injure the person and property of another bad man. He permits the bad to injure the good. He often permits a wicked man to fire a city, or to plunder a dwelling, or to rob a traveler, destroying property of many times the amount that was lost on this occasion. Why is it any more absurd to suffer a wicked spirit to do injury than a wicked man? or to suffer a “legion of devils” to destroy a herd of swine, than for “legions of men” to desolate nations, and cover fields and towns with ruin and slaughter.

Matthew 8:34

The whole city came out - The people of the city probably came with a view of arresting him for the injury done to the property; but, seeing him, and being awed by his presence, they only besought him to leave them.

Out of their coasts - Out of their country.

This shows:

1.That the design of Satan is to prejudice people against the Saviour, and even to make what Christ does an occasion why they should desire him t leave them.

2.The power of avarice. These people preferred their property to the Saviour. They loved it so much that they were blind to the evidence of the miracle, and to the good he had done to the miserable people whom he had healed.

It is no uncommon thing for people to love the world so much; to love property - even like that owned by the people of Gadara so much as to see no beauty in religion and no excellence in the Saviour; and, rather than part with it, to beseech Jesus to withdraw from them. The most grovelling employment, the most abandoned sins, the most loathsome vices, are often loved more than the presence of Jesus, and more than all the blessings of his salvation.

Remarks On Matthew 8:5-10. He sustained a fair character, and had done much for the Jews. Yet he had no exalted conception of himself. Compared with the Saviour, he felt that he was unworthy that he should come to his dwelling. So feels every humble soul. “Humility is an estimate of ourselves as we are.” It is a willingness to be known, and talked of, and treated just according to truth. It is a view of ourselves as lost, poor, and wandering creatures. Compared with other people with angels, with Jesus, and with God - it is a feeling by which we regard ourselves as unworthy of notice. It is a readiness to occupy our appropriate station in the universe, and to put on humbleness of mind as our proper array, 1 Peter 5:5.

3. We have in the case of the centurion an equally beautiful exhibition of “faith.” He had unwavering confidence in the power of Jesus. He did not doubt at all that he was able to do for him just what he “needed, and what he wished him to do.” This is faith; and every man who has this “trust” or confidence in Christ for salvation, has “saving faith.”

4. Humility and faith are always connected. The one prepares the mind for the other. Having a deep sense of our weakness and unworthiness, we are prepared to look to Him who has strength. Faith also produces humility. Jesus was humble; and believing on him, we catch his spirit and learn of him, Matthew 11:28-30. Compared with him, we see our unworthiness. Seeing his “strength,” we see our “feebleness;” seeing “his” strength exerted to save creatures impure and ungrateful as we are, we sink away into an increased sense of our unfitness for his favor.

5. We see the compassion and kindness of Jesus, Matthew 8:16-17. He has borne “our” heavy griefs. He provides comfort for us in sickness and sustains us in dying. But for his merciful arm, we should sink; and dying, we should die without hope. But:

“Jesus can make a dying bed

Feel soft as downy pillows are;

While on his breast we lean our head,

And breathe our life out sweetly there.”

6. We are forcibly struck with his condescension, Matthew 8:19-20. People of wickedness and crime dwell in splendid mansions, and stretch themselves on couches of ease; when afflicted, they recline on beds of down; but Jesus had no home and no pillow. The birds that fill the air with music and warble in the groves, nay, the very foxes, have homes and a shelter from the storms and elements; but He that made them, clothed in human flesh, was a wanderer, and had nowhere to lay his head. His sorrows he bore alone; his dwelling was in the mountains. In the palaces of the people for whom he toiled, and for whom he was about to bleed on a cross, he found no home and no sympathy. Surely this was compassion worthy of a God.

7. It is no disgrace to be poor. The Son of God was poor, and it is no dishonor to be like him. If our Maker, then, has cast our lot in poverty; if he takes away by sickness or calamity the fruits of our toils; if he clothes us in homely and coarse apparel; if he bids the winds of heaven to howl around our open and lonely dwellings, let us remember that the Redeemer of mankind trod the same humble path, and that it can be no dishonor to be likened to him who was the beloved Son of God.

8. We should be willing to embrace the gospel without hope of earthly reward, Matthew 8:19-23. Religion promises no earthly honors or wealth. It bids its disciples to look beyond the grave for its highest rewards. It requires people to love religion “for its own sake;” to love the Saviour, even when poor, and cast out, and suffering, “because he is worthy of love;” and to be willing to forsake all the allurements which the world holds out to us for the sake of the purity and peace of the gospel.

9. We learn the necessity of forsaking all for the sake of the gospel. Our first duty is to God, our Creator and Saviour; our second, to friends, to our relations, and to our country, Matthew 8:22. When God commands we must follow him, nor should any consideration of ease, or safety, or imaginary duty deter us. To us it is of no consequence what people say or think of us. Let the will of God be prayerfully ascertained, and then let it be done though it carry us through ridicule and flames.

10. Jesus can preserve us in the time of danger, Matthew 8:23-27. He hushed the storm and his disciples were safe. His life was also in danger with theirs. Had the ship sunk, without a miracle he would have perished with them. So in every storm of trial or persecution, in every heaving sea of calamity, he is united to his followers. His interest and theirs is the same. He feels for them, he is touched with their infirmities, and he will sustain them. Because I live, says he, ye shall live also. Never, never, then, shall man or devil pluck one of his faithful followers from his hand, John 10:27-28.

11. All that can disturb or injure us is under the control of the Christian‘s Friend, Matthew 8:28-32. The very inhabitants of hell are bound, and beyond his permission they can never injure us. In spite, then, of all the malice of malignant beings, the friends of Jesus are safe.

12. It is no uncommon thing for people to desire Jesus to depart from them, Matthew 8:34. Though he is ready to confer on them important favors, yet they hold His favors to be of far less consequence than some unimportant earthly possession. Sinners never love him, and always wish him away from their dwellings.

13. It is no uncommon thing for Jesus to take people at their word, and leave them. He gives them over to worldly thoughts and pursuits; he suffers them to sink into crime, and they perish forever. Alas, how many are there, like the dwellers in the country of the Gergesenes, that ask him to depart; that see him go without a sigh; and that never, never again behold him coming to bless them with salvation!

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The devils have nothing to do with Christ as a Saviour; they neither have, nor hope for any benefit from him. Oh the depth of this mystery of Divine love; that fallen man has so much to do with Christ, when fallen angels have nothing to do with him! Heb 2:16. Surely here was torment, to be forced to own the excellence that is in Christ, and yet they had no part in him. The devils desire not to have any thing to do with Christ as a Ruler. See whose language those speak, who will have nothing to do with the gospel of Christ. But it is not true that the devils have nothing to do with Christ as a Judge; for they have, and they know it, and thus it is with all the children of men. Satan and his instruments can go no further than he permits; they must quit possession when he commands. They cannot break his hedge of protection about his people; they cannot enter even a swine without his leave. They had leave. God often, for wise and holy ends, permits the efforts of Satan's rage. Thus the devil hurries people to sin; hurries them to what they have resolved against, which they know will be shame and grief to them: miserable is the condition of those who are led captive by him at his will. There are a great many who prefer their swine before the Saviour, and so come short of Christ and salvation by him. They desire Christ to depart out of their hearts, and will not suffer his word to have place in them, because he and his word would destroy their brutish lusts, those swine which they give themselves up to feed. And justly will Christ forsake all that are weary of him; and say hereafter, Depart, ye cursed, to those who now say to the Almighty, Depart from us.
Ellen G. White
Lift Him Up, 84.1

And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce. Matthew 8:28. LHU 84.1

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Ellen G. White
The Ministry of Healing, 95-6

It is morning on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and His disciples have come to shore after a tempestuous night on the water, and the light of the rising sun touches sea and land as with the benediction of peace. But as they step upon the beach they are greeted with a sight more terrible than the storm-tossed sea. From some hiding place among the tombs two madmen rush upon them as if to tear them in pieces. Hanging about these men are parts of chains which they have broken in escaping from confinement. Their flesh is torn and bleeding, their eyes glare out from their long and matted hair, the very likeness of humanity seems to have been blotted out. They look more like wild beasts than like men. MH 95.1

The disciples and their companions flee in terror; but presently they notice that Jesus is not with them, and they turn to look for Him. He is standing where they left Him. He who stilled the tempest, who has before met Satan and conquered him, does not flee before these demons. When the men, gnashing their teeth and foaming at the mouth, approach Him, Jesus raises that hand which has beckoned the waves to rest, and the men can come no nearer. They stand before Him, raging but helpless. MH 95.2

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 514-5

The fact that men have been possessed with demons, is clearly stated in the New Testament. The persons thus afflicted were not merely suffering with disease from natural causes. Christ had perfect understanding of that with which He was dealing, and He recognized the direct presence and agency of evil spirits. GC 514.1

A striking example of their number, power, and malignity, and also of the power and mercy of Christ, is given in the Scripture account of the healing of the demoniacs at Gadara. Those wretched maniacs, spurning all restraint, writhing, foaming, raging, were filling the air with their cries, doing violence to themselves, and endangering all who should approach them. Their bleeding and disfigured bodies and distracted minds presented a spectacle well pleasing to the prince of darkness. One of the demons controlling the sufferers declared: “My name is Legion: for we are many.” Mark 5:9. In the Roman army a legion consisted of from three to five thousand men. Satan's hosts also are marshaled in companies, and the single company to which these demons belonged numbered no less than a legion. GC 514.2

At the command of Jesus the evil spirits departed from their victims, leaving them calmly sitting at the Saviour's feet, subdued, intelligent, and gentle. But the demons were permitted to sweep a herd of swine into the sea; and to the dwellers of Gadara the loss of these outweighed the blessings which Christ had bestowed, and the divine Healer was entreated to depart. This was the result which Satan designed to secure. By casting the blame of their loss upon Jesus, he aroused the selfish fears of the people and prevented them from listening to His words. Satan is constantly accusing Christians as the cause of loss, misfortune, and suffering, instead of allowing the reproach to fall where it belongs—upon himself and his agents. GC 514.3

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 404

This chapter is based on Matthew 15:29-39; Matthew 16:1-12; Mark 7:31-37; Mark 8:1-21.

“Again He went out from the borders of Tyre, and came through Sidon unto the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis.” Mark 7:31, R. V. DA 404.1

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