At that time Jesus was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb. And when He had cast out the devil, the dumb spoke, and the multitudes were in admiration at it. But some of them said: He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. And others, tempting, asked of Him a sign from heaven. But He, seeing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, and house upon house shall fall. And if Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because you say that through Beelzebub I cast out devils. Now if I cast out devils by Beelzebub, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore, they shall be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out devils: doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth. But if a stronger than he come upon him and overcome him, he will take away all his armour wherein he trusted, and will distribute his spoils. He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest: and not finding, he saith: I will return into my house whence I came out. And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there. And the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. And it came to pass, as He spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to Him: Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck. But He said: Yea, rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.
Verse 14. This possessed person is said in S. Matthew to have been also blind. Upon him, therefore, were wrought three wonders: the blind saw, the dumb spoke, the possessed was delivered; which daily takes place in the persons of such as are converted to the number of true believers: the devil is expelled, and they both receive the light of faith beaming upon their eyes, and having the strings of their silent organs loosed to sound forth the praises of God. Ven. Bede. — And the multitude, &c. The multitude, though devoid of learning, were constant admirers of the actions of our Lord, whilst the Scribes and Pharisees either denied them, or by a sinister interpretation, ascribed them to the power of the unclean spirit. Ven. Bede.
Verse 17. And house upon house shall fall. He speaks of a house or family divided, which thereby shall fall to ruin. Wi.
Verse 19. Your judges. They will condemn you of injustice, envy, and hatred against me, and blasphemy against God; because when they perform any exorcisms, though they appear but little more than human in their actions, yet you ascribe them to the virtue of God; but when I perform any miracle, though there always appear most evident signs of the power and virtue of God, you ascribe all to the hand and machinations of the devil. Tirinus.
Verse 24. Man, &c. By this one man is meant the whole Jewish people, out of whom the unclean spirit had been driven by the law. S. Ambrose. — For as long as they were in Egypt, they lived after the manners of the Egyptians, and were the habitation of the unclean spirit; but it was expelled from them, when they slew the paschal lamb in figure of Christ, and escaped destruction by sprinkling themselves with its blood. S. Cyril ex Divo Thoma. — But the evil spirit returned to his former habitation, the Jews, because he saw them devoid of virtue, barren, and open for his reception. And their latter state is worse than their former; for more wicked demons possessed the breasts of the Jews than before. Then they raged against the prophets only; but now they persecute the Lord himself of the prophets: therefore have they suffered much greater extremities from Vespasian and Titus, than from Egypt and Babylon; for besides being deprived of the merciful protection of Providence, which before watched over them, they are destitute of all grace, and delivered up to a more poignant misery, and a more cruel tyranny of the devil. S. Chrys. hom. xliv. on S. Matt.
Verse 26. The last state, &c. But these words are also addressed to us Christians, who may often, and with reason, fear lest the vice we think extinguished in us, again return and seize on our slothful and careless souls, finding them cleansed indeed from the filth of sin by the grace of baptism, but destitute of every ornamental and protective virtue. It brings with it seven other evil spirits, by which we must understand every vicious inclination. V. Bede. — The latter state of these souls is worse than the former; because having been delivered from all former sins, and adorned with grace, if they again return to their iniquities a much more grievous punishment will be due for every subsequent crime. S. Chrys. hom. xliv. on S. Matt.
Verse 28. Menounge, imo vero, yes indeed. Our Saviour does not here wish to deny what the woman had said, but rather to confirm it: indeed how could he deny, as Calvin impiously maintained, that his mother was blessed? By these words, he only wishes to tell his auditors what great advantage they might obtain by attending to his words. For the blessed Virgin, as S. Augustine says, was more happy in having our Saviour in her heart and affections, than in having conceived him in her womb. Tirinus.
14. And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spoke; and the people wondered. 15. But some of them said, He casts out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. 16. And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.
GLOSS. The Lord had promised that the Holy Spirit should be given to those that asked for it; the blessed effects whereof He indeed clearly shows in the following miracle. Hence it follows, And Jesus was casting out a devil, and it was dumb.
THEOPHYL. Now he is called as commonly meaning one who does not speak. It is also used for one who does not hear, but more properly who neither hears nor speaks. But he who has not heard from his birth necessarily cannot speak. For we speak those things which we are taught to speak by hearing. If however one has lost his hearing from a disease that has come upon him, there is nothing to hinder him from speaking. But He who was brought before the Lord was both dumb in speech, and deaf in hearing.
TITUS BOST. Now He calls the devil deaf or dumb, as being the cause of this calamity, that the Divine word should not be heard. For the devil, by taking away the quickness of human feeling, blunts the hearing of our soul. Christ therefore comes that He might cast out the devil, and that we might hear the word of truth. For He healed one that He might create a universal foretaste of man’s salvation. Hence it follows, And when he: he had cast out the devil, the dumb spoke.
BEDE: But that demoniac is related by Matthew to have been not only dumb, but blind. Three miracles then were performed at the same time on one man. The blind see, the dumb speaks, and he that was possessed by a devil is set free. The like is daily accomplished in the conversion of believers, so that the devil being first cast out, they see the light, and then those mouths which were before silent are loosened to speak the praises of God.
CYRIL; Now when the miracle was performed, the multitude extolled Him with loud praises, and the glory which was due to God. As it follows, And the people wondered.
BEDE; But since the multitudes who were thought ignorant always marveled at our Lord’s actions, the Scribes and Pharisees took pains to deny them, or to pervert them by an artful interpretation, as though they were not the work of a Divine power, but of an unclean spirit. Hence it follows, But some of them said, He casts out devils through Beelzebub the prince of the devils. Beelzebub was the God Accaron. For Beel is indeed Baal himself. But Zebub means a fly. Now he is called Beelzebub as the man of flies, from whose most foul practices the chief of the devils was so named.
CYRIL; But others by similar darts of envy sought from Him a sign from heaven. As it follows, And others tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. As if they said, “Although you have cast out a devil from the man, this is no proof however of Divine power. For we have not yet seen any thing like to the miracles of former times. Moses led the people through the midst of the sea, and Joshua his successor stayed the sun in Gibeon. But you have shown us none of these things.” For to seek signs from heaven showed that the speaker was at that time influenced by some feeling of this kind towards Christ.
17. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falls. 18. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because you say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. 19. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out, therefore shall they be your judges. 20. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
CHRYS. The suspicion of the Pharisees being utterly without reason, they dared not divulge it for fear of the multitude, but pondered it in their minds. Hence it is said, But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself will be brought to desolation.
BEDE; He answered not their words but their thoughts, that so at least they might be compelled to believe in His power, who saw into the secrets of the heart.
CHRYS. He did not answer them from the Scriptures, since they gave no heed to them, explaining them away falsely; but he answers them from things of every day occurrence. For a house and a city if it be divided is quickly scattered to nothing; and likewise a kingdom, than which nothing is stronger. For the harmony of the inhabitants maintains houses and kingdoms. If then, says He, I cast out devils by means of a devil, there is dissension among them, and their power perishes. Hence He adds, But if Satan be divided against himself, how shall he stand? For Satan resists not himself, nor hurts his soldiers, but rather strengthens his kingdom. It is then by Divine power alone that I crush Satan under my feet.
AMBROSE; Herein also He shows His own kingdom to be undivided and everlasting. Those then who possess no hope in Christ, but think that He casts out devils through the chief of the devils, their kingdom, He says, is not everlasting. This also has reference to the Jewish people. For how can the kingdom of the Jews be everlasting, when by the people of the law Jesus is denied, who is promised by the law? Thus in part does the faith of the Jewish people impugn itself; the glory of the wicked is divided, by division is destroyed. And therefore the kingdom of the Church shall remain for ever, because its faith is undivided in one body.
BEDE; The kingdom also of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is not divided, because it is sealed with an eternal stability. Let then the Arians cease to say that the Son is inferior to the Father, but the Holy Spirit inferior to the Son, since whose kingdom is one, their power is one also.
CHRYS. This then is the first answer; the second which relates to His disciples He gives as follows, And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? He says not, “My disciples,” but your sons, wishing to soothe their wrath.
CYRIL; For the disciples of Christ were Jews, and sprung from Jews according to the flesh, and they had obtained from Christ power over unclean spirits, and delivered those who were oppressed by them in Christ’s name. Seeing then that your sons subdue Satan in My name, is it not very madness to say that I have My power from Beelzebub? you are then condemned by the faith of your children. Hence He adds, Therefore shall they be your judges.
CHRYS. For since they who come forth from you are obedient to Me, it is plain that they will condemn those who do the contrary.
BEDE; Or else, By the sons of the Jews He means the exorcists of that nation, who cast out devils by the invocation of God. As if He says, If the casting out of devils by your sons is ascribed to God, not to devils, why in My case has not the same work the same cause? Therefore shall they be your judges, not in authority to exercise judgment, but in act, since they assign to God the casting out of devils, you to Beelzebub, the chief of the devils.
CYRIL; Since then what you say bears upon it the mark of calumny, it is plain that by the Spirit of God I cast out devils. Hence He adds, But if I by the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
AUG. That Luke speaks of the finger of God, where Matthew has said, the Spirit, does not take away from their agreement in sense, but it rather teaches us a lesson, that we may know what meaning to give to the finger of God, whenever we read it in the Scriptures.
AUG. Now the Holy Spirit is called the finger of God, because of the distribution of gifts which are given through Him, to every one his own gift, whether he be of men or angels. For in none of our members is division more apparent than in our fingers.
CYRIL; Or the Holy Spirit is called the finger of God for this reason. The Son was said to be the hand and arm of the Father, for the Father works all things by Him. As then the finger is not separate from the hard, but by nature a part of it; so the Holy Spirit is consubstantially united to the Son, and through Him the Son does all things.
AMBROSE; Nor would you think in the compacting together of our limbs any division of power to be made, for there can be no division in an undivided thing. And therefore the appellation of finger must be referred to the form of unity, not to the distinction of power.
ATHAN. But at this time our Lord does not hesitate because of His humanity to speak of Himself as inferior to the Holy Spirit, saying, that He cast out devils by Him, as though the human nature was not sufficient for the casting out of devils without the power of the Holy Spirit.
CYRIL; And therefore it is justly said, The kingdom of God is come upon you, that is, “If I as a man cast out devils by the Spirit of God, human nature is enriched through Me, and the kingdom of God is come.”
CHRYS. But it is said, upon you, that He might draw them to Him; as if He said, If prosperity comes to you, why do you despise your good things?
AMBROSE; At the same time He shows that it is a regal power which the Holy Spirit possesses, in whom is the kingdom of God, and that we in whom the Spirit dwells are a royal house.
TITUS BOST. Or He says, The kingdom of God is come upon you, signifying, “is come against you, not for you.” For dreadful is the second coming of Christ to faithless Christians.
21. When a strong man armed keeps his palace, his goods are in peace: 22. But when a stronger than he shall come upon him and overcome him, he takes from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divides his spoils. 23. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathers not with me scatters.
CYRIL; As it was necessary for many reasons to refute the cavils of His opponents, our Lord now makes use of a very plain example, by which He proves to those who will consider it that He overcomes the power of the world, by a power inherent in Himself, saying, When a strong man armed keeps his palace.
CHRYS. He calls the devil a strong man, not because he is naturally so, but referring to his ancient dominion, of which our weakness was the cause.
CYRIL; For he used before the coming of the Savior to seize with great violence upon the flocks of another, that is, God, and carry them as it were to his own fold.
THEOPHYL. The Devil’s arms are all kinds of sins, trusting in which he prevailed against men.
BEDE; But the world he calls his palace, which lies in wickedness, wherein up to our Savior’s coming he enjoys supreme power, because he rested in the hearts of unbelievers without any opposition. But with a stronger and mightier power Christ has conquered, and by delivering all men has cast him out. Hence it is added, But if a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome, &c,
CYRIL; For as soon as the Word of the Most High God, the Giver of all strength, and the Lord of Hosts, was made man, He attacked him, and took away his arms.
BEDE; His arms then are the craft and the wiles of spiritual wickedness, but his spoils are the men themselves, who have been deceived by him.
CYRIL; For the Jews who had been a long time entrapped by him into ignorance of God and sin, have been called out by the holy Apostles to the knowledge of the truth, and presented to God the Father, through faith in the Son.
BASIL; Christ also divides the spoil, showing the faithful watch etch which angels keep over the salvation of men.
BEDE; As conqueror too Christ divides the spoils, which is a sign of triumph, for leading captivity captive He gave gifts to men, ordaining some Apostles, some Evangelists, some Prophets, and some Pastors and Teachers.
CHRYS. Next we have the fourth answer, where it is added, He who is not with me is against me; as if He says, I wish to present men to God, but Satan the contrary. How then would he who does not work with Me, but scatters what is Mine, become so united with Me, as with Me to cast out devils? It follows, And he who gathers not with me, scatters.
CYRIL; As if He said, I came to gather together the sons of God whom he has scattered. And Satan himself as he is not with Me, tries to scatter those which I have gathered and saved. How then does he whom I use all My efforts to resist, supply Me with power?
CHRYS. But if he who does not work with Me is My adversary, how much more he who opposes Me? It seems however to me that he here under a figure refers to the Jews, ranging them with the devil. For they also acted against, and scattered those whom He gathered together.
24. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walks through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he said, I will return to my house whence I came out. 25. And when he comes, he finds it swept and garnished. 26. Then goes he, and takes to him seven, other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, an dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
CYRIL; After what had gone before, our Lord proceeds to show how it was that the Jewish people had sum; to these opinions concerning Christ, saying, When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, &c. For that this example relates to the Jews, Matthew has explained when he says, Even so shall it be also to this wicked generation. For all the time that they were living in Egypt in the practice of the Egyptians, there dwelt in them an evil spirit, which was drawn out of them when they sacrificed the lamb as a type of Christ, and were sprinkled with its blood, and so escaped the destroyer.
AMBROSE; The comparison then is between one man and the whole Jewish people, from whom through the Law the unclean spirit had been cast out. But because in the Gentiles, whose hearts were first barren, but afterwards arcs in baptism moistened with the dew of the Spirit, the devil could find no rest because of their faith in Christ, (for to the unclean spirits Christ is a flaming fire,) he then returned to the Jewish people. Hence it follows, And finding none, he said, I will return to my house whence I came.
ORIGEN; That is, to those who are of Israel, whom he saw possessing nothing divine in them, but desolate, and vacant for him to take up his abode there; and so it follows, And when he came, he finds it swept and garnished.
AMBROSE; For Israel being adorned with a mere outward and superficial beauty, remains inwardly the more polluted in her heart. For she never quenched or allayed her fires in the water of the sacred fountain, and rightly did the unclean spirit return to her, bringing with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself. Hence it follows, And he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there. Seeing that in truth she has sacrilegiously profaned the seven weeks of the Law, (i.e. from Easter to Pentecost,) and the mystery of the eighth day. Therefore as upon us is multiplied the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit, so upon them falls the whole accumulated attack of the unclean spirits. For the number seven is frequently taken to mean the whole.
CHRYS. Now the evil spirits who dwell in the souls of the Jews, are worse than those in former times. For then the Jews raged against the Prophets, now they lift up their hands against the Lord of the Prophets; and therefore suffered worse things from Vespasian and Titus than in Egypt and Babylon. Hence it follows, And the last state of that man is worse than the former. Then too they had with them the Providence of God, and the grace of the Holy Spirit; but now they are deprived even of this protection, so that there is now a greater lack of virtue, and their sorrows are more intense, and the tyranny of the evil spirits more terrible.
CYRIL; The last state also is worse than the first, according to the words of the Apostle, It were better not to have known the way of truth, than after they have known it to turn back from it.
BEDE; This may also be taken to refer to certain heretics or schismatics, or even to a bad Catholic, from whom at the time of his baptism the evil spirit had gone out. And he wanders about in dry places, that is, his crafty device is to try the hearts of the faithful, which have been purged of all unstable and transient knowledge if he can plant in them any where the footsteps of his iniquity. But he says, I will return to my house whence I came out. And here we must beware lest the sin which we supposed extinguished in us, by our neglect overcome us unawares. But he finds his house swept and garnished, that is, purified by the grace of baptism from the stain of sin, yet replenished with no diligence in good works. By the seven evil spirits which he takes to himself, he signifies all the vices. And they are called more wicked, because he will have not only those vices which are opposed to the seven spiritual virtues, but also by his hypocrisy he will pretend to have the virtues themselves.
CHRYS. Let us receive the words which follow, as said not only to them, but also to ourselves, And the last state of that man shall be worse than the first; for if enlightened and released from our former sins we again return to tile same course of wickedness, a heavier punishment will await our latter sins.
BEDE; It may also be simply understood, that our Lord added these words to show the distinction between the works of Satan and His own, that in truth He is ever hastening to cleanse what has been defiled, Satan to defile with still greater pollution what has been cleansed.
27. And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said to him, Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the paps which you have sucked. 28. But he said, Yes rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
BEDE; While the Scribes and Pharisees were tempting our Lord, and uttering blasphemies against Him, a certain woman with great boldness confessed His incarnation, as it follows, And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said to him, Blessed is the womb that bore you, &c. by which she refutes both the calumnies of the rulers present, and the unbelief of future heretics. For as then by blaspheming the works of the Holy Spirit, the Jews denied the true Son of God, so in after times the heretics, by denying that the Ever virgin Mary, by the cooperating power of the Holy Spirit, ministered of the substance of her flesh to the birth of the only-begotten Son, have said, that we ought not to confess Him who was the Son of man to be truly of the same substance with the Father. But if the flesh of the Word of God, who was born according to the flesh, is declared alien to the flesh of His Virgin Mother, what cause is there why the womb which bore Him and the paps which gave Him suck are pronounced blessed? By what reasoning do they suppose Him to be nourished by her milk, from whose seed they deny Him to be conceived? Whereas according to the physicians, from one and the same fountain both streams are proved to flow. But the woman pronounces blessed not only her who was thought worthy to give birth from her body to the Word of God, but those also who have desired by the hearing of faith spiritually to conceive the same Word, and by diligence in good works, either in their own or the hearts of their neighbors, to bring it forth and nourish it; for it follows, But he said, Yes rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
CHRYS. In this answer He sought not to disown His mother, but to show that His birth would have profited her nothing, had she not been really fruitful in works and faith. But if it Met profited Mary nothing that Christ derived His birth from her, without the inward virtue of her heart, much less will it avail us to have a virtuous father, brother, or son, while we ourselves are strangers to virtue.
BEDE; But she was the mother of God, and therefore indeed blessed, in that she was made the temporal minister of the Word becoming incarnate; yet therefore much more blessed that she remained the eternal keeper of the same ever to be beloved Word. But this expression startles the wise men of the Jews, who sought not to hear and keep the word of God, but to deny and blaspheme it.