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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

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Commentary on Matthew

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Text Commentary side-by-side

Jesus Introduced ( 1:1–4:17 )

( 1:1 )

The second word of this verse (genesis) may be translated ‘genealogy’ and so made the heading for 1:2–17 . But the word can also mean ‘birth’ (as in 1:18 ), ‘origin’, or ‘beginning’ and be taken as the introduction to 1:2–25 or 1:2–2:23 or 1:2–4:16 . Yet another suggestion is that 1:1 is Matthew's title: ‘Book of the New Creation wrought by Jesus Christ’. In accord with this last option, Matthew's very first word, biblos (NRSV ‘account’) literally means ‘book’, and Matthew's opening phrase, biblos geneseōs, is not a usual title for genealogies. Moreover, in Gen 2:4 and 5:1 , the only two places in the LXX to use Matthew's expression, it is associated with more than genealogical materials. Finally, other Jewish books open with an independent titular sentence announcing the content of the whole (e.g. Nah 1:1; Tob 1:1; Bar 1:1 ; T. Job 1:1 ; Apoc. Abr. title; 2 Esdr 1:1–3 ). Whatever the reach of 1:1 , the first book of the Bible was already known by the title ‘Genesis’ before Matthew's time, so to open a book with biblos geneseōs would inevitably have recalled the first book of Moses. John's prologue, which introduces Jesus by recalling the creation story (‘in the beginning’), supplies a parallel.

‘Jesus Christ’ combines a personal name (one quite popular among Jews before 70 CE) with a title (cf. 2:4; 16:16 , etc.). ‘Son of David’ prepares for the following genealogy, in which David is the key figure. It also explicates ‘Christ’: the anointed one fulfils the promises made to David (2 Sam 7:12–16; Isa 11:10; Zech 3:8 ; etc.). Jesus himself later acknowledges that he is ‘the Christ’ ( 16:13–20 ), and the title plays an important part in his trial ( 26:57–68 ).

‘Son of Abraham’ was not a messianic title but rather an expression used to refer either to a descendant of the patriarch or one worthy of him. Here both meanings may be present. Further, the phrase probably foreshadows the salvation Jesus brings to Gentiles. For Abraham was himself a Gentile by birth, and Gen 17:5 promises that all the nations will be blessed in him. It is fitting that soon after his birth Jesus is honoured by Gentile representatives, the magi ( 2:1–12 ).

The three personal names of 1:1 reappear in reverse order in 1:2–16 : Jesus Christ—David—Abraham ǁ Abraham ( 1:2 )—David ( 1:6 )—Jesus Christ ( 1:16 ). So Matthew opens with a triad (one of his favourite literary devices) and a chiasmus.

( 1:2–17 )

The genealogy first offers evidence for the title: it shows that Jesus is indeed a descendant of the royal Davidic line. Secondly, it makes Israel's history culminate in Jesus Christ: the Messiah is the goal of the biblical story. Thirdly, the genealogy helps to give the church its identity: the community, by virtue of its union with Jesus, shares his heritage.

The outstanding formal feature of this passage is its triadic structure: there are fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the captivity, and fourteen from the captivity to Jesus (v. 17 ). The scheme is artificial. Not only have several names been omitted from the monarchial period, but there are only thirteen generations in the third series. (But cf. v.l. at v. II.) Probably the key to understanding the composition is the device known as gematria, by which names are given numerical value (cf. Rev 13:18 ). In Hebrew David's name has three consonants, the numerical value of which amounts to fourteen: d + w + d = 4 + 6 + 4. When it is added that David's name is fourteenth on the list, that he is given the title, ‘king’, and that ‘David’ occurs both before and after the genealogy, we may infer that ‘David’ is the structural key to vv. 2–17 .

Women are not usually named in Jewish genealogies, so the mention of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah must betray a special interest. Some have suggested that the reader should remember that the women were sinners, or that their marital unions were irregular, the lesson being either that God saves his people from their sins, or that providence can turn scandal into blessing (as in Matthew's story of Mary). But the best guess is that the four women are named because they were Gentiles: their presence in vv. 2–17 foreshadows the inclusion of non-Jews in the people of God.

( 1:18–25 )

The story of Jesus' miraculous conception, like 1:1 and 1:2–17 , continues to clarify Jesus' identity. He is conceived of the Holy Spirit. He will save his people from their sins. And he fulfils biblical prophecy (Isa 7:14 ). The passage also tells how Jesus can be a descendant of David and yet have a supernatural origin: although not literally Jesus' father, Joseph makes Jesus legally a Davidid by acknowledging him as his own. This passage (like the stories in Lk 1 ) is modelled upon older birth stories and so adds a hallowed cast to the narrative. Gen 16 (Ishmael) and Judg 13 (Samson), for example, also recount (1) introductory circumstances; (2) the appearance of the angel of the Lord; (3) an angelic prophecy of birth, including the child's future deeds; and (4) the issue of things. But Matthew's paragraph also resembles 2:13–15 and 19–21 , the other two angelic appearances to Joseph. All three have this outline: (1) note of circumstance; (2) appearance of the angel of the Lord in a dream; (3) command of angel to Joseph; (4) explanation of command; (5) Joseph rises and obediently responds.

The story opens with Mary betrothed to Joseph; they do not yet live together as man and wife. But Mary is with child ‘of the Holy Spirit’. One might think of a new creation (cf. MT 1:1 ), for creation was the work of the Spirit (Gen 1:2 ), or perhaps of the traditional link between the Spirit and messianic times (e.g. Isa 44:3–4 ). But the main point is that Jesus has his origin in God, in fulfilment of a prophecy, Isa 7:14 . It is true that the Hebrew text says only that a ‘young girl’ will conceive, and that the LXX, which does indeed use ‘virgin’, seems only to mean that one who is now a virgin will later give birth; no miracle is envisaged. In Matthew, however, the text has been interpreted in the light of the story of the virgin birth, and it refers to the supernatural conception of Jesus.

Isa 7:14 speaks not only of a virgin birth but of ‘Emmanuel’, which means ‘with us is God’. This does not entail that Jesus is God in the sense proclaimed at Nicea; Matthew's Christology is not that elevated. The idea here is rather that Jesus is the one through whom divine favour and blessing show themselves. At the same time, in 18:20; 25:31–46 ; and 28:20 (which makes an inclusio with v. 23 ) the presence of Jesus with his people is more than that: the divine presence is (as in Paul) conceived of as the presence of Christ.

When Joseph learns of his wife's state, he resolves, in accord with Jewish law, and because he thinks her guilty of adultery, to divorce her. This action is introduced with the observation that Joseph is ‘just’. This matters for the interpretation of 5:31–2 and 19:3–12 , where Jesus prohibits divorce except on the ground of porneia. There has been much debate over the Greek word, but if it does not mean unchastity within marriage, then the narrator would not be able to call Joseph ‘just’ for the course he purposes.

( 2:1–12 )

The story of the mysterious magi, which overturns the traditional motif of the superiority of Jewish hero to foreign wise man, continues the theme of Davidic kingship. Jesus is born in Bethlehem, where David was brought up and anointed, and Mic 5:1, 3 , which is here quoted as fulfilled in Jesus, is, in its original context, about a promised Davidic king. The central theme, however, is the homage of Gentiles. The magi, whose country of origin is unspecified—Persia, Babylon, and Arabia are the usual guesses—represent the best wisdom of the Gentile world, its spiritual élite. Perhaps Isa 60:3–6 is in the background. Num 23:7 LXX, according to which Balaam is ‘from the east’, almost certainly is. Jewish tradition made Balaam a magus and the father of magi; and, according to the OT, when the evil king Balak tried to enlist Balaam in the cause against Israel, the seer instead prophesied the nation's future greatness and the coming of a great ruler. This is close to Matthew, where the cruel Herod, attempting to destroy Israel's king, employs foreign magi who in the event bring only honour to the king's rival. Matthew's magi are Balaam's successors.

The ‘star’ goes before the magi and comes to rest ‘over the place where the child’ is. This is no ordinary star, and attempts to identify it with a planetary conjunction, comet, or supernova are futile. The Protevangelium of James ( 21:3 ), Ephrem the Syrian in his commentary on the Diatessaron, and Chrysostom in his commentary on Matthew all rightly recognize that the so-called star does not stay on high but moves as a guide and indeed comes to rest very near the infant Jesus. Matters become clear when we recall that the ancients generally believed stars to be animate beings, and Jews in particular identified them with angels (cf. Job 38:7 ). The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, 7, and Theophylact must be right in identifying the magi's star with an angel, and one may compare the angelic guide of the Exodus (Ex 23:20, 23; 32:34 ).

Justin Martyr, Dial. 106, and other commentators have found the scriptural key to v. 2 in Num 24:17 , where Balaam prophesies that a star will come out of Jacob, and a sceptre will rise out of Israel. This text was given messianic sense by ancient Jews (as in the targums); sometimes they identified the star with a messianic figure (CD 7:18–26 ), sometimes with a star heralding the Messiah (T. Levi 18:3 ). Matthew recounts the fulfilment of Balaam's prophecy.

The passage contains several elements which anticipate the story's end. Here as there the issue is Jesus' status as ‘king of the Jews’ (v. 2; 27:11, 29, 37 ). Here as there the Jewish leaders gather against him (vv. 3–4; 26:3–4, 57 ). Here as there plans are laid in secret (v. 7; 26:4–5 ). And here as there Jesus' death is sought (vv. 13, 16; 26:4 ). So the end is foreshadowed in the beginning. But there are also artistic contrasts. Here a light in the night sky proclaims the Messiah's advent; there darkness during the day announces his death (v. 2; 27:45 ). Here Jesus is worshipped; there he is mocked ( 26:67–8; 27:27–31, 39–44 ). Here it is prophesied that Jesus will shepherd his people Israel; there it is foretold that Jesus the shepherd will be struck and his sheep scattered ( 26:31 ). Here there is great rejoicing; there we find mourning and grief ( 26:75; 27:46 ).

( 2:13–23 )

With 2:1–12 we move from a scene of gift-giving to one of murder and flight. The extremes of response to Jesus are here writ large. The quotation of Hos 11:1 in v. 15 evokes thought of the Exodus, for in its original context ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son’ concerns Israel. Our text accordingly offers a typological interpretation of Jesus' story. By going down to Egypt and then returning to the land of Israel Jesus recapitulates the experience of Israel. But there is, more particularly, a Moses typology here. vv. 19–21 borrows the language of Ex 4:19–20 : just as Moses, after being told to go back to Egypt because all those seeking his life have died, takes his wife and children and returns to the land of his birth, so too with Jesus: Joseph, after being told to go back to Israel because all those seeking the life of his son have died, takes his wife and child and returns to the land of his son's birth.

A Moses typology in fact runs throughout Matthew's infancy narrative. Joseph's contemplation of what to do about Mary and the angel which bids him not to fear and then prophesies his son's future greatness recalls the story of Amram in Josephus, Ant. 2.210–16. In Josephus Moses' father, ill at ease over what to do about his wife's pregnancy, has a dream in which God exhorts him not to despair and prophesies his son's future greatness. ‘You are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ ( 1:21 ) reminds one of Moses' status as saviour of his people (Jos. Ant. 2.228; b. Sot.a 12b). Herod's order to do away with the male infants of Bethlehem (vv. 16–18 ) is like Pharaoh's order to do away with every male Hebrew child (Ex 1 ). And if Herod orders the slaughter of infants because he has learned of the birth of Israel's liberator ( 2:2–18 ), in Jewish tradition Pharaoh slaughters the children because he has learned of the birth of Israel's liberator (Jos. Ant. 2.205–9; Tg. Ps.-J. on Ex 1:15 ). Further, whereas Herod learns of the coming liberator from chief priests, scribes, and magi ( 2:1–12 ), Josephus, Ant. 2.205, 234, has Pharaoh learn of Moses from scribes, and the Jerusalem Targum on Ex 1:15 says that Pharaoh's chief magicians (Jannes and Jambres, the sons of Balaam) were the sources of his information. For further parallels see Allison (1993: 137–65), where the possibility of a tradition about Moses' virgin birth is raised.

The most difficult verse in the passage is the very last, v. 23 . ‘He will be called a Nazorean’ does not appear in the OT. Yet Matthew refers to ‘the prophets’ being fulfilled. Many explanations have been put forward—the biblical text is Isa 11:1 (the branch [nēṣer] from Jesse) or 42:6 or 49:6 or Jer 31:6–7 or Gen 49:26 , or we should think of Nazareth as a humble place and so connect it with the contempt for Isaiah's suffering servant. It is more likely, however, that Matthew contains an involved wordplay. The LXX interchanges ‘holy one of God’—an early Christian title for Jesus (Mk 1:24; Lk 4:34; Jn 6:69 )—and ‘nazarite’ (cf. Judg 13:7; 16:17 ). This matters because if we make that substitution in Isa 4:3 MT (‘will be called holy’), the result is very near v. 23 . Further, in Acts 24:5 Christians are ‘the sect of the Nazarenes’ (an appellation also attested in Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 4.8), and in rabbinic writings Christians are nôṣrîm. Given the striking links between Matthean Christianity and Nazorean Christianity as known through the fathers, as well as the fact that Syrian Christians called themselves nāṣrāyā, it is likely that members of the Matthean community referred to themselves not as ‘Christians’ (a term missing from this gospel) but as ‘Nazoreans’. Certainly that would have given v. 23 an even greater impact: Jesus' followers bear the name that he bore.

( 3:1–6 )

Matthew passes from its hero's infancy to his adulthood and so jumps over many years (cf. Ex 2:11 ). The intervening period does not even merit allusion; and when readers move from Nazareth to the Jordan and far forward in time, they first meet not Jesus but John the Baptist. Throughout Matthew John has two distinguishing characteristics. First, he prepares Israel for Jesus' coming; that is, he is the eschatological Elijah ( 11:14; 17:11–13 ; here in v. 4 John even dresses like Elijah; see 2 Kings 1:8 LXX). He baptizes and preaches repentance in order to make the people ready to receive the person and work of Jesus. Secondly, John is Jesus' typological forerunner: his life parallels and so foreshadows that of Jesus. Both say similar things (cf. 3:2, 7, 10; 4:17; 7:19; 12:34; 23:33 ). Both attack the Sadducees and Pharisees ( 3:7–10; 12:1–14, 34 ; etc.). Both appeal to the same generation to repent ( 11:16–19 ). Both act by the same authority ( 21:23–32 ). Both are thought of as prophets ( 11:9; 14:5; 21:11, 26, 46 ) and feared by their enemies because of the people ( 14:5; 21:46 ). Both are seized and bound ( 14:3; 21:46; 27:1 ). Both are sentenced by reluctant authorities ( 14:6–11; 27:11–26 ). Both are executed as criminals ( 14:1–12; 26–7 ). And both are buried by their own disciples ( 14:12; 27:57–61 ).

John's ministry is the fulfilment of Isa 40:3 LXX, cited in v. 3 . In the OT the prophecy is comfort for the exiles in Babylon: a new exodus and return to the land lie ahead. In Matthew the words no longer have to do with a literal restoration to Palestine. But the theme of new exodus remains in so far as the story of Jesus, who is so much like Moses, is a sort of replay of Israel's formative history. After the story of the birth of Israel's saviour and the wicked king's slaughter of innocent Jewish children Jesus passes through the waters of baptism—other texts compare baptism with passing through the Red Sea (1 Cor 10:1–5 ; Sipre Num. §108)—and then enters the desert, where he faces the temptations once faced by Israel and then goes up a mountain to give his commandments. The new Moses recapitulates Israel's Exodus.

( 3:7–12 )

John preaches to the Pharisees and Sadducees. The two groups also appear together in 16:1–12 . The former are Jesus' chief opponents and, with the scribes, come under withering attack in ch. 23 . Matthew evinces a special, lively preoccupation with the Pharisees, and one infers that his own Jewish opponents considered themselves heirs of the Pharisees.

The Baptist divides his hearers into two categories—the fruitful and unfruitful, the wheat and the chaff. This sort of dualism runs throughout Matthew: things are usually black and white. There are those who do Jesus' words and those who do not ( 7:24–7 ); there are good and bad fish ( 13:47–50 ), sheep and goats ( 25:31–46 ). This division of humanity, which also characterizes the Dead Sea scrolls and Jewish apocalyptic literature, reflects the nearness of the eschatological judgement, at which only two sentences—salvation and damnation—will be passed.

John threatens that God can raise up or cause to be born children to Abraham from ‘these stones’. As Chrysostom has observed, Isa 51:1–2 (where Abraham is the rock from which Israel was hewn) is in the background. If God once brought forth from the lifeless Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven, so can he raise up a new people. The threat is aimed at what has been called ‘covenantal nomism’. Many Jews no doubt assumed that to be a descendant of Abraham meant, if one did not commit apostasy, having a place in the world to come (cf. m. Sanh. 10.1). But in Matthew salvation is linked solely to Christology: one's decision for or against Jesus decides one's fate (cf. 10:32–3 ). This is why John denies the efficacy of Abrahamic descent and instead prophesies the coming one.

The prophecy of baptism in Holy Spirit and fire has traditionally been taken in two ways: either fire means the same thing as Spirit (cf. Acts 2 ), in which case there is only one baptism, or it refers to eschatological judgement, in which case there are two baptisms, one in the present and one in the future. Because Matthew elsewhere associates fire not with the Spirit but with judgement, the second interpretation is to be preferred.

( 3:13–17 )

Matthew focuses not upon the baptism itself but a prefatory episode—John's protest of Jesus' desire for baptism—and subsequent events. Although Jesus' sinlessness is not taught in Matthew, it is probably assumed (cf. Jn 8:46; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26 ). And because John's baptism involves the confession of sins ( 3:6 ), Jesus' submission to it is awkward. But Matthew's Jesus declares that the act fulfils all righteousness. Here fulfilment is probably, as elsewhere, a reference to biblical prophecy. In line with this, v. 17 draws upon both Ps 2:7 and Isa 42:1 . Jesus, knowing the messianic prophecies, obediently fulfils them and thereby fulfils all righteousness. Because prophecy declares God's will, to fulfil prophecy is to fulfil righteousness.

The appearance of the symbolic dove has occasioned much speculation. Since Tertullian it has often been connected with Noah's dove: the former dove announced deliverance from the flood, the latter dove deliverance from sins (cf. Theophylact and 1 Pet 3:20–1 ). It is also possible to associate the dove with the new-exodus motif, for in the Mekilta the Holy Spirit rests upon Israel as she crosses the Red Sea and the people are compared to a dove (cf. Ps.-Philo, LAB 21:6 ) and granted a vision. But the best guess relates the text to Gen 1:2 , which involves the Spirit of God, water, and the imagery of a bird hovering. Further, in b. Ḥag. 15a the hovering of the Spirit over the face of the waters is represented more precisely as the hovering of a dove. The meaning is then once again that the last things are as the first: Jesus inaugurates a new creation. The correctness of this interpretation is confirmed by a Dead Sea scroll fragment, 4Q521. In line 6 (‘his Spirit will hover over the poor’) the language of Gen 1:2 characterizes the eschatological redemption: just as the Spirit once hovered over the face of the waters, so too, at the end, will the Spirit hover over the saints and strengthen them. This pre-Christian application of Gen 1:2 to the eschatological future has the Spirit hovering over human beings as opposed to lifeless material. The striking parallel with Matthew evidences a similar creative application of Gen 1:2 .

The divine voice of v. 17 , which anticipates 17:5 , conflates two scriptural texts, Ps 2:7 and Isa 42:1 (which is formally quoted in 12:8 ). The result is that Jesus is revealed to the Baptist and to those standing by as the Son of God (cf. Ps 2:7 ) and the suffering servant of Isaiah (Isa 42:1; cf. 8:17; 12:18–21; 20:28; 26:28 ). Here ‘Son of God’ refers first to Jesus' special relationship to God the Father (cf. 11:25–30 ). But one cannot give a simple or single definition to the title; its connotations vary. In 4:1–11 , as in 2:15 , it is associated with an Israel typology; and in 16:13–20 and 26:59–68 it is linked with Jesus' status as Davidic Messiah (cf. 2 Sam 7:14 ; perhaps this is so also in 3:17 , for Ps 2 is a royal psalm).

( 4:1–11 )

This pericope has most commonly been given either a paraenetic interpretation according to which Jesus is the model disciple or a Christological interpretation according to which Jesus rejects a false understanding of political messiahship. Neither interpretation can be discounted; but Jesus' obedience as Son of God in the face of temptation is first of all a statement about salvation history: the Son of God now recapitulates the experience of Israel in the desert (cf. esp. Deut 8:2–3 ); the end resembles the beginning. Like Israel Jesus is tempted by hunger (Ex 16:2–8 ), tempted to put God to the test (Ex 17:1–4; cf. Deut 6:16 ), and tempted to idolatry (Ex 32 ). On each occasion he quotes from Deuteronomy—from Deut 8:3 in v. 4 , from Deut 6:16 in v. 7 , and from Deut 6:13 in v. 10 . Unlike Israel, Jesus neither murmurs nor gives in to temptation.

Although the forty days of temptation are the typological equivalent of Israel's forty years of wandering, they also have rightly reminded Irenaeus, Augustine, Calvin, and many others of Moses' fast of forty days and forty nights (Ex 24:18 ). As in Mt 2 , so also here: the Israel typology exists beside the Moses typology. In line with this, when the devil takes Jesus to a very high mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the world (v. 8 ), one may think of Moses on the top of Pisgah, for, among other things, not only does v. 8 use the language of Deut 34:1, 4 LXX, but Jewish tradition expands Moses' vision so that it is of all the world. See further Allison (1993: 165–72).

The three temptations contain a spatial progression: we move from a low place in the desert to a pinnacle in the temple to a mountain from which all the world can be seen. This progression corresponds to the dramatic tension which comes to a climax in the third temptation. The mountain here forms an inclusio with the mountain of 28:16–20 . On the first mountain the devil offers to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory on the condition that he worship him. On the last mountain, where Jesus is worshipped by others, Jesus declares that he has been given all authority in heaven and earth. The two texts mark the beginning and end of Jesus' labours: he rejects the devil's temptations, choosing instead to travel the hard road of obedient sonship which in the end brings exaltation.

The devil is the same as Satan (v. 10; 12:26; 16:23 ) and Beelzebul ( 10:25; 12:24, 27 ). He is ‘the enemy’ ( 13:39 ) who, in tempting Jesus, only acts as he does towards all (cf. 6:13; 26:41 ). But throughout Matthew he and his evil underlings ( 4:23; 8:16, 28; 9:32; 12:22; 23:39; 15:22; 17:18 ) always wear faces of defeat. The devil's failure with Jesus in the temptation narrative is paradigmatic: he nowhere wins. Jesus, for instance, easily casts out demons. So there is in Matthew a recognition of the limitations of the powers of iniquity. These are strictly circumscribed.

( 4:12–17 )

On the literary level these verses signal the beginning of the public ministry, move Jesus from Nazareth to Capernaum, and introduce in summary fashion the content of Jesus' proclamation. On the theological level, they underline three recurring themes—the fulfilment of Scripture (vv. 14–16 ), the salvation of the Gentiles (v. 15 ), and the announcement of the kingdom of God (v. 17 ). This last calls the most attention to itself; for it not only repeats words of the Baptist ( 3:2 ), but the ingressive aorist (ērxato) connotes repetition: Jesus evidently utters the words again and again. So just as 1:1 stands over the whole gospel, so does v. 17 stand over the entire public ministry.

Jesus, like the Baptist, proclaims the nearness of the kingdom of God (or heaven; the expressions are, pace some scholars, equivalent). In Matthew this kingdom is God's eschatological rule which is even now establishing itself. In fact, it is entering the world through a complex of events, some of which have taken place (e.g. the Messiah's first advent; cf. 11:12 : 12:28 ), some of which are taking place (e.g. 10:16–23 ), and some of which will take place in the near future (e.g. much of chs. 24, 25 ).

( 4:18–22 )

The structure of the two short passages in this paragraph—(1) appearance of Jesus; (2) disciples at work; (3) call to discipleship; (4) obedient response—reappears in 9:9 . The source of the common arrangement is 1 Kings 19:19–21 , Elijah's call of Elisha. There Elijah appears and finds Elisha at work, after which the former puts his mantle upon the latter, that is, calls him to share his prophetic office. The story ends with Elisha following Elijah. The difference between Kings and the NT accounts is that whereas Elisha asks if he may first kiss his parents and perform a sacrifice and then is (in the LXX and Josephus' retelling) given permission so to act, in the NT Jesus permits no tarrying. His radical demand leaves no time even for saying farewell (cf. 8:21–2; 10:35–7 ). See further Hengel (1981 ). Within their broader context, vv. 18–22 illustrate the nature of Christian discipleship. They offer an example of wholehearted obedience to the call of Christ, an obedience which is expected of all, even to the point of great personal sacrifice. (Cf. further FGS F.)

( 4:23–5:2 )

This is the first of many editorial summaries (of which there at least two between each major discourse). They do not just summarize what comes before or after, but also supply narrative continuity, lengthen narrative time, expand the geographical range, create a picture of movement (Jesus goes from here to there), highlight central themes, and tell us that Matthew's material is only a selection: Jesus did much more.

Between 4:23 and 9:35 , which together create an inclusio, Jesus first teaches (the Sermon on the Mount—hereafter SM) and then secondly acts (chs. 8–9 ). Afterwards, in ch. 10 , where he instructs and sends out the disciples for mission, he tells them to do and say what he has said and done. This circumstance means that Jesus is the model missionary, and it explains the parallelism not only between 4:23 and 9:35 but also between 4:17 and 10:6 and 4:24 and 10:1 .

It is common to view the mountain of 5:1 as a counterpart to Sinai. As Matthew Henry had it, ‘Christ preached this sermon, which is an exposition of the law, upon a mountain, because upon a mountain the law was given.’ Matthew's Greek (anebē eis to oros: he went up the mountain) does recall pentateuchal passages having to do with Moses (e.g. Ex 19:3, 12, 13 ). And Jewish tradition spoke of Moses sitting on Sinai (so already the Exagogue of Ezekiel; cf. b. Meg. 21a). Furthermore, other Moses typologies from antiquity have their Mosaic heroes sitting on a mountain (e.g. 2 Esdras 14 ); Mekilta on Ex 19:11 and 29:18 and other sources claim that Israel was healed at the foot of Sinai (cf. 4:23 ); and 8:1 , the conclusion of the SM, is identical with Ex 34:29 LXX A, which recounts Moses' descent from Sinai.

In its entirety, this passage, which gives us a brief overview of Jesus' ministry to Israel, introduces the SM. It makes the crowds as well as the disciples hear Jesus, who heals them. So before the demands there is healing. The crowds, having done nothing, are benefited. Grace comes before task.

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