But whereunto shall I liken this generation? - That is, the Jewish people - την γενεαν ταυτην, this race: and so the word γενεα is often to be understood in the evangelists.
In the markets - Or, places of concourse, αγοραις, from αγειρω, I gather together; not a market-place only, but any place of public resort: probably meaning here, places of public amusement.
Calling unto their fellows - Or, companions. Instead of εταιροις, companions, many of the best MSS. have ετεροις, others. The great similarity of the words might have easily produced this difference.
There are some to whom every thing is useful in leading them to God; others, to whom nothing is sufficient. Every thing is good to an upright mind, every thing bad to a vicious heart.
But whereunto shall I liken - Christ proceeds to reprove the inconsistency and fickleness of that age of people. He says they were like children - nothing pleased them. He refers here to the “plays” or “sports” of children. Instrumental music, or piping and dancing, were used in marriages and festivals as a sign of joy. See the notes at Isaiah 5:11-12. Compare Job 21:11; 2 Samuel 6:14; Judges 11:34; Luke 15:25. Children imitate their parents and others, and act over in play what they see done by others. Among their childish sports, therefore, was probably an imitation of a wedding or festal occasion. We have seen also (the notes at Matthew 9:23) that funerals were attended with mournful music, and lamentation, and howling. It is not improbable that children also, in play: imitated a mournful funeral procession. One part are represented as sullen and dissatisfied. They would not enter into the play: nothing pleased them. The others complained of it. We have, said they, taken all pains to please you. We have piped to you, have played lively tunes, and have engaged in cheerful sports, but you would not join with us; and then we have played different games, and imitated the mourning at funerals, and you are equally sullen; “you have not lamented;” you have not joked with us. Nothing pleases you. So, said Christ, is this generation of people. “John” came one way, “neither eating nor drinking,” abstaining as a Nazarite, and you were not pleased with him. I, the Son of man, have come in a different manner, “eating and drinking;” not practicing any austerity, but living like other people, and you are equally dissatisfied - nay, you are less pleased. You calumniate him, and abuse me for not doing the very thing which displeased you in John. Nothing pleases you. You are fickle, changeable, inconstant, and abusive.
Markets - Places to sell provisions; places of concourse, where also children flocked together for play.
We have piped - We have played on musical instruments. A “pipe” was a wind instrument of music often used by shepherds.
Neither eating nor drinking - That is, abstaining from some kinds of food and wine, as a Nazarite. It does not mean that he did not eat at all, but that he was remarkable for abstinence.
He hath a devil - He is actuated by a bad spirit. He is irregular, strange, and cannot be a good man.
The Son of man came eating and drinking - That is, living as others do; not practicing austerity; and they accuse him of being fond of excess, and seeking the society of the wicked.
Gluttonous - One given to excessive eating.
Wine-bibber - One who drinks much wine. Jesus undoubtedly lived according to the general customs of the people of his time. He did not affect singularity; he did not separate himself as a Nazarite; he did not practice severe austerities. He ate that which was common and drank that which was common. As wine was a common article of beverage among the people, he drank it. It was the pure juice of the grape, and for anything that can be proved, it was without fermentation. In regard to the kind of wine which was used, see the notes at John 2:10. No one should plead the example, at any rate, in favor of making use of the wines that are commonly used in this country - wines, many of which are manufactured here, and without a particle of the pure juice of the grape, and most of which are mixed with noxious drugs to give them color and flavor.
Wisdom is justified of her children - The children of wisdom are the wise - those who understand. The Saviour means that though that generation of Pharisees and fault-finders did not appreciate the conduct of John and himself, yet the “wise,” the candid - those who understood the reasons of their conduct - would approve of and do justice to it.
This chapter is based on Matthew 11:1-11; Matthew 14:1-11; Mark 6:17-28; Luke 7:19-28.
John the Baptist had been first in heralding Christ's kingdom, and he was first also in suffering. From the free air of the wilderness and the vast throngs that had hung upon his words, he was now shut in by the walls of a dungeon cell. He had become a prisoner in the fortress of Herod Antipas. In the territory east of Jordan, which was under the dominion of Antipas, much of John's ministry had been spent. Herod himself had listened to the preaching of the Baptist. The dissolute king had trembled under the call to repentance. “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy; ... and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” John dealt with him faithfully, denouncing his iniquitous alliance with Herodias, his brother's wife. For a time Herod feebly sought to break the chain of lust that bound him; but Herodias fastened him the more firmly in her toils, and found revenge upon the Baptist by inducing Herod to cast him into prison. DA 214.1Read in context »