Then; temporal. Mark, “and straightway.” Immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon him. Was led up . into the wilderness. Up (Matthew only); from the Jordan valley into the higher country round (cf. Jos_16:1), in this case into the desert (Mat_3:1). There is nothing told us by which we may identify the place, but as the scene of the temptation must have been near the scene of the baptism, namely, on the west side of Jordan (Mat_3:1, note), it may be presumed that the temptation was on the west side also. The sharp limestone peak (Godet) known since the Crusades as Quarantana, “from the quarantain, or forty days of fasting”, may, perhaps, have been the actual spot. The only important objection to this is that directly after the temptation (as seems most probable) he comes to John in “Bethany beyond Jordan,” Joh_1:28 (not necessarily to be identified with “Bethabara” of the Received Text; its locality is quite unknown). If he went east of Jordan after the temptation, he would still be on one of the great roads to Galilee (Luk_9:52, etc.). The conjecture that the fasting and temptation took place on Sinai is suggested by the analogy of Moses and Elijah, but by absolutely nothing in the Gospels. Led up of the Spirit into the wilderness; Mark, “the Spirit driveth him forth;” Luke, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led in the Spirit in the wilderness” (with a leading that lasted throughout the temptation, ἤγετο … ἐν… ἐν … πειραζόμενος). He was no doubt himself inclined to go apart into the desert that he might meditate uninterruptedly upon the assurance just given, and the momentous issues involved in his baptism; but the Holy Spirit had also his own purposes with him. The Holy Spirit cannot, indeed, tempt, but he can and does lead us into circumstances where temptation is permitted, that we may thereby be proved and disciplined for future work. In Christ’s case the temptation was an important part of that moral suffering by which he learned full obedience (Heb_5:8). Notice that even if the expression in Mat_3:16, “the Spirit of God descending,” does not in itself go beyond the expressions of Jewish teachers who deny his Personality, it would be hard to find so personal an action as is implied by the words, “Jesus was led up of the Spirit,” attributed to the Spirit in non-Christian writings. For Isa_63:10, Isa_63:11, Isa_63:14 is much less definite, and passages, e.g. in Eze_3:12-14, interpret themselves by Eze_1:21. To St. Matthew himself the Personality of the Holy Ghost must, in the light of Mat_28:19, have been an assured fact. To be tempted of the devil. So Luke; i.e. the great calumniator, him whose characteristic is false accusation; e.g. against men (Rev_12:10-12); against God (Gen_3:1-5). Here chiefly in the latter aspect. Each of the three temptations, and they are typical of all temptations; is primarily a calumniation of God and his methods. Mark has “of Satan,” a Hebrew word equivalent to “adversary,” which the LXX. nearly always renders by διαβάλλω, (compare also Num_22:22, Num_22:32). Probably by the time of the LXX. the idea of the evil spirit accusing as in a law-court, was more prominent than the earlier thought of him as an adversary. Spiritual resistance by the evil spirit to all good is a less-developed thought than his traducing God to man, and, after some success obtained, traducing man to God. Evil may resist good; it may also accuse both God and those made after the likeness of God.
The threefold temptation by Satan; the threefold victory over Satan. He who came ‘to destroy the works of the devil,’ triumphs over him in personal conflict. This was the Messiah’s trial and probation, as His baptism had been His inauguration. The second Adam, like the first, was tempted. Contrasts between the temptations: paradise, wilderness; fall, victory; disobedience and death, obedience and life.—The aim of Satan was to make of Jesus a pseudo-Messiah, abusing the Divine gifts for selfish ends by conforming to the carnal expectations of the Jews respecting the Messiah.—The three temptations: (1) to doubt the Word of God; (2) to presume upon the Word of God; (3) to reject the Word of God; or successive appeals to appetite, pride, ambition. On the analogy between the three temptations and the three Jewish parties, and the three great Messianic offices, see Lange, Matthew, p. 86.
Different views of the temptation:—
1. An external history, Satan appearing in person. Objections: ‘It involves something supernatural.’ But this might be expected in such circumstances. ‘Verse 8 cannot be taken literally.’ It may be in a qualified sense. The personality of Satan is implied, but this is no argument against this explanation. On the whole this is the most natural view.
2. An inner experience, a soul struggle with Satan. The detailed accounts, full of references to localities and actions, might be thus explained. But it is necessary to admit some external elements, and it is difficult to draw the line. Bengel, Lange, and others, combine explanations (1) and (2).
3. A vision, like that of Peter (Acts 10), and of Paul (2 Corinthians 12). It is difficult to account for the purely historical form of the accounts on this theory.
4. A parable clothed in narrative form.
5. A myth or religious poem, true in idea, but false in fact.
The last two are incompatible with the historical character of the Gospels.
Had fasted – Abstained from food.
Forty days and forty nights – It has been questioned by some whether Christ abstained wholly from food, or only from the food to which he was accustomed. Luke says Luk_4:2 that he ate nothing. This settles the question. Mark says Mar_1:13 that angels came and ministered unto him. At first view this would seem to imply that he did eat during that time. But Mark does not mention the time when the angels performed this office of kindness, and we are at liberty to suppose that he means to say that it was done at the close of the 40 days; and the rather as Matthew, after giving an account of the temptation, says the same thing Mat_4:2. There are other instances of persons fasting 40 days recorded in the Scriptures. Thus, Moses fasted 40 days, Exo_34:28. Elijah also fasted the same length of time, 1Ki_19:8. In these cases they were no doubt miraculously supported.
The Son of God
By its position in the sentence Son is emphatic. “If thou standest to God in the relation of Son.”
Lit., loaves or cakes. So Wyc., loaves. These stones were perhaps those “silicious accretions,” which assume the exact shape of little loaves of bread, and which were represented in legend as the petrified fruits of the cities of the plain. By a similar fancy certain crystallizations on Mount Carmel and near Bethlehem are called “Elijah’s melons,” and the “Virgin Mary’s peas;” and the black and white stones found along the shores of the Lake of Galilee have been transformed into traces of the tears of Jacob in search of Joseph. The very appearance of these stones, like the bread for which the faint body hungered, may have added force to the temptation. This resemblance may have been present to Christ’s mind in his words at Mat_7:9.
The tempter (1Th_3:5 only; cf. 2Co_11:3). Came; came up to him (προσελθών). The word expresses local nearness, and suggests, though we cannot affirm it as certain, that he appeared visibly. The thought of physical nearness is continued in “taketh him” (Mat_4:5, Mat_4:8), and “the devil leaveth him” and “angels came near” (Mat_4:11; cf. Mat_4:5, note). On the other hand, such expressions may be parabolic, and intended to express the closeness of the spiritual combat. To him; not after “came,” but after “said” (Revised Version, with manuscripts).
If thou be; art (Revised Version) (ει) … εἶ)—the “if” of assumption (cf. Col_3:1). The devil does not attempt to throw doubt on the truth of the utterance in Mat_3:17. His words rather mean, “Thou knowest what was said, thou bast been gradually realizing that assurance of Sonship; use, then, that privilege which thou undoubtedly hast” (comp. Mat_27:40, where, in mockery, the same truth is assumed). Wetstein, following Origen and pseudo-Ignatius,’ Philipp.,’ § 9, says that the tempter did not know, or at least doubted, whether Jesus was really God, for otherwise he would never have tempted him. This is, surely, to miss the meaning of the temptation for our Lord himself; for he was tempted as Man. Satan might well haw known that he was God incarnate, and yet not have known whether as Man he might not yield. Weiss (‘Life,’ 1:343) mistakenly thinks that the object of this first temptation was to insinuate doubt in the mind of Jesus as to his Messiahship.
“Command that these stones become bread, and if thou canst not do so, then thou art not the Son of God.” Command that; εἰπὸν ἵνα (cf. Mat_20:21, and Winer,§ 44:8). These stones, ie. lying about. Farrar suggests that there is a special reference to the “loaf-shaped fossils,” septaria, which are found in Palestine—as, indeed, in most other countries. But though these “flattened nodules of calcareous clay, ironstone, or other matter” often assume fantastic shapes, perhaps even distantly resembling either an English loaf or a fiat Jewish cake (vide infra) , it seems quite unnecessary to see any allusion to them here. (For the comparison of bread and a stone, cf. Mat_7:9.)
Be made; Revised Version, become; rightly, because there is no thought of the process of manufacture in γένωνται, Bread; Revised Version margin, “Greek, loaves” (ἄρτοι). “The Israelites made bread in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one’s thumb, and as large as a plate or Platter; hence it was not cut, but [e.g. Mat_1:1-25 Mat_4:19] broken” (Thayer). In Luke the devil points to one stone only, and tempts him to bid it become a loaf.
4.] Our Lord does not give way to the temptation, so as to meet him with an open declaration, ‘I am the Son of God:’ thus indeed He might have asserted his Lordship over him, but not have been his Conqueror for us. The first word which He uses against him, reaches far deeper: ‘Man shall not live, &c.’ “This, like the other text, is taken from the history of Israel’s temptation in the wilderness: for Israel represents, in a foreshadowing type, the Son of Man, the servant of God for Righteousness, the one ἐρχόμενος, in whom alone that nature which in all men has degenerated into sin, πληροῖ πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην. Adam stood not,—Israel according to the flesh stood not,—when the Lord their God tempted them: but rather, after Satan’s likeness, tempted their God: but now the second Adam is come, the true Israel, by whose obedience the way of life is again made known and opened—‘that man truly liveth on and in the eternal word of God.’ ” Stier’s Reden Jesu, vol. i. p. 16 (edn. 2). Observe also how our Lord resists Satan in His humanity; at once here numbering Himself with men, by adducing ὁ ἄνθρωπος as including His own case; and not only so, but thus speaking out the mystery of his humiliation, in which He had foregone his divine Power, of his own will. By ‘every word (or ‘thing,’ for ῥῆμα is not expressed in the original) that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,’ we must understand, every arrangement of the divine will; God, who ordinarily sustains by bread, can, if it please Him, sustain by any other means, as in the case alluded to. Compare Joh_4:32; Joh_4:34.
Then the devil taketh him up – This does not mean that he bore him through the air; or that he compelled him to go against his will, or that he performed a miracle in any way to place him there. There is no evidence that Satan had power to do any of these things, and the word translated taketh him Up does not imply any such thing. It means to conduct one; to lead one; to attend or accompany one; or to induce one to go. It is used in the following places in the same sense: Num_23:14; “And he (Balak) brought him (Balaam) into the field of Zophim,” etc. That is, he led him, or induced him to go there. Mat_17:1; “and after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James,” etc.; that is, led or conducted them – not by any means implying that he bore them by force. Mat_20:17; “Jesus, going to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples apart,” etc. See also Mat_26:37; Mat_27:27; Mar_5:40. From these passages, and many more, it appears that all that is meant here is, that Satan conducted Jesus, or accompanied him; but not that this was done against the will of Jesus.
The holy city – Jerusalem, called holy because the temple was there, and because it was the place of religious solemnities.
Setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple – It is not perfectly certain to what part of the temple the sacred writer here refers. It has been supposed by some that he means the roof. But Josephus says that the roof was covered by spikes of gold, to prevent its being polluted by birds; and such a place would have been very inconvenient to stand upon. Others suppose that it was the top of the porch or entrance to the temple. But it is more than probable that the porch leading to the temple was not as high as the main building. It is more probable that he refers to that part of the sacred edifice which was called Solomon’s Porch. The temple was built on the top of Mount Moriah. The temple itself, together with the courts and porches, occupied a large space of ground. See the notes at Mat_21:12. To secure a level spot sufficiently large, it was necessary to put up a high wall on the east. The temple was surrounded with porches or piazzas 50 feet broad and 75 feet high. The porch on the south side was, however, 67 feet broad and 150 high. From the top of this to the bottom of the valley below was more than 700 feet, and Josephus says that one could scarcely look down without dizziness. The word “pinnacle” does not quite express the force of the original. It is a word given usually to birds, and denotes wings, or anything in the form of wings, and was given to the roof of this porch because it resembled a bird dropping its wings. It was on this place, doubtless, that Christ was placed.
it is written] Psa_91:11-12. The words “to keep thee in all thy ways” are omitted in the text. The omission distorts the meaning of the original, which is that God will keep the righteous on their journeys, and is no inducement to tempt God by rash venture or needless risk. The Psalmist himself probably quotes Pro_3:23. “Thus [i. e. by obedience: see preceding verses] shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.”
Cast thyself down (bale seauton katō). The appeal to hurl himself down into the abyss below would intensify the nervous dread that most people feel at such a height. The devil urged presumptuous reliance on God and quotes Scripture to support his view (Psa_91:11.). So the devil quotes the Word of God, misinterprets it, omits a clause, and tries to trip the Son of God by the Word of God. It was a skilful thrust and would also be accepted by the populace as proof that Jesus was the Messiah if they should see him sailing down as if from heaven. This would be a sign from heaven in accord with popular Messianic expectation. The promise of the angels the devil thought would reassure Jesus. They would be a spiritual parachute for Christ.
Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God] Deu_6:16. The verse ends “as ye tempted him in Massah.” The reference to Massah (Num_20:7-12) shews the true meaning of the Saviour’s answer. Moses and Aaron displayed distrust in God when they tried to draw to themselves the glory of the miracle instead of “sanctifying the Lord.” Jesus will not glorify Himself in the eyes of the Jews by a conspicuous miracle. His work as the Son of Man is to glorify the Father’s name through obedience. Cp. Joh_12:28.
An exceeding high mountain – It is not known what mountain this was. It was probably some elevated place in the vicinity of Jerusalem, from the top of which could be seen no small part of the land of Palestine. The Abbe Mariti speaks of a mountain on which he was, which answers to the description here. “This part of the mountain,” says he, “overlooks the mountains of Arabia, the country of Gilead, the country of the Amorites, the plains of Moab, the plains of Jericho, the River Jordan, and the whole extent of the Dead Sea.” So Moses, before he died, went up into Mount Nebo, and from it God showed him “all the land of Gilead unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, and the city of palm-trees, unto Zoar,” Deu_34:1-3. This shows that there were mountains from which no small part of the land of Canaan could be seen; and we need not suppose that there was any miracle when they were shown to the Saviour.
All the kingdoms of the world – It is not probable that anything more is intended here than the kingdoms of Palestine, or of the land of Canaan, and those in the immediate vicinity. Judea was divided into three parts, and those parts were called kingdoms; and the sons of Herod, who presided over them, were called kings. The term “world” is often used in this limited sense to denote a part or a large part of the world, particularly the land of Canaan. See Rom_4:13, where it means the land of Judah; also Luk_2:1, and the note on the place.
The glory of them – The riches, splendor, towns, cities, mountains, etc., of this beautiful land,
And showeth him (kai deiknusin autōi). This wonderful panorama had to be partially mental and imaginative, since the devil caused to pass in review “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.” But this fact does not prove that all phases of the temptations were subjective without any objective presence of the devil. Both could be true. Here again we have the vivid historical present (deiknusin). The devil now has Christ upon a very high mountain whether the traditional Quarantania or not. It was from Nebo’s summit that Moses caught the vision of the land of Canaan (Deu_34:1-3). Luke (Luk_4:5) says that the whole panorama was “in a moment of time” and clearly psychological and instantaneous.
All these things will I give thee (tauta soi panta dōsō). The devil claims the rule of the world, not merely of Palestine or of the Roman Empire. “The kingdoms of the cosmos” (Mat_4:8) were under his sway. This word for world brings out the orderly arrangement of the universe while hē oikoumenē presents the inhabited earth. Jesus does not deny the grip of the devil on the world of men, but the condition (ean and aorist subjunctive, second class undetermined with likelihood of determination), was spurned by Jesus. As Matthew has it Jesus is plainly to “fall down and worship me” (pesōn prokunēsēis moi), while Luke (Luk_4:7) puts it, “worship before me” (enōpion emou), a less offensive demand, but one that really involved worship of the devil. The ambition of Jesus is thus appealed to at the price of recognition of the devil’s primacy in the world. It was compromise that involved surrender of the Son of God to the world ruler of this darkness. “The temptation was threefold: to gain a temporal, not a spiritual, dominion; to gain it at once; and to gain it by an act of homage to the ruler of this world, which would make the self-constituted Messiah the vice-regent of the devil and not of God” (McNeile).
All these things will I give thee (ταῦτά σοι πάντα δώσω). The devil puts “these things” and “thee” in the sharpest contrast. In Luke the devil says, “To thee will I give all this authority, and the glory of them: for it [i.e. the authority] hath been delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it;” i.e. there the devil speaks of giving, not actual possession of the things themselves (Matthew), but the authority that this implied, “and the glory of them.” According to St. Luke, he does not attempt to conceal the fact that he has not absolute possession, but he claims authority as delegated to him, and as capable of being delegated by him to another. His claim was false as absolutely stated, but is true relatively in so far that even his usurpation of power must have been permitted (of. our Lord’s term for him, “The prince of this world”).
If thou wilt fall down and worship me; i.e. prostrate thyself in obeisance before me—the Eastern method of acknowledging the superiority of a person (cf. Gen_23:7; 1Sa_20:41; 2Sa_1:2; 2Sa_9:6). The expression does not mean “worship me as God” (for this surely was far too coarse a temptation to overcome any even ordinarily pious Israelite; cf. Weiss), but “acknowledge my rights as over-lord.” It is not a question of apostasy (1Ki_18:21; cf. Jos_24:15), but of submission to the methods inculcated by Satan, which placed the immediate and the visible above the future and the unseen (Gen_3:5; Exo_32:4).
Get thee hence, Satan. “Avaunt, Satan” (Rheims). Christ does not address him.directly till this climax. The two previous temptations were, comparatively speaking, ordinary and limited. This temptation calls out a passionate utterance of a personality stirred, because touched, in its depths. Only once again do we find our Lord so moved, in Mat_16:23 (the “Western” and “Syrian” addition here of ὀπίσω μου from that passage emphasizes the feeling common to the two cases), when a similar representation is made to him that he ought to escape the troubles which his Messianic position, in fact, brought upon him. For it is written (Deu_6:13); from the LXX., which differs from the Hebrew by
(1) translating ארית, “fear,” by προσκυνήσεις (but B has φοβηθήσῃ); and
(2) the paraphrastic insertion of “only.” Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Worship; προσκυνέω) , as in Mat_16:9. Serve; λατρεύω, “in perfect subjection to a sovereign power” (Bishop Westcott on Heb_8:2, Add. Note).
Our Lord’s reply cuts up the devil’s solicitation by the root. “I do not enter,” he means, “into the question of thy authority over these things, and of thy power concerning them. I acknowledge thee not. The command which I willingly obey excludes all homage and service to any other over-lord than God alone. I accept not thy orders and thy methods. I take my commands direct from God.” Observe that our Lord does not say how he is to gain the kingdoms for his own; this would be the care of him whose command he follows. But before ascending, the Lord proclaimed (Mat_28:18) that he had received (i.e. gained through suffering, Heb_2:10 : Php_2:9) more than (note “in heaven”) what the devil would have given him as a reward of obedience to false principles.