Matthew 4:16. The people who sat in darkness They whose predecessors were afflicted by the Assyrians, and who, before Christ visited them, were captives of Satan, and had lived in gross ignorance of God and religion, being far from Jerusalem, the place of worship, and intermixed with the Tyrians, Sidonians, and other wicked heathen: saw a great light This is spoken by Isaiah in the prophetic style, which represents things future as already accomplished, because certainly to be accomplished. This whole country had been overspread with spiritual darkness, but, by the example and preaching of Christ, the day-spring from on high visited it, diffusing among its inhabitants knowledge and holiness, and guiding their feet into the way of peace. “There were several reasons,” says Dr. Macknight, “which might determine Jesus to be so much about the sea of Galilee. 1st, The countries which surrounded this sea were large, fertile, and populous, especially the two Galilees. For, according to Josephus, Bell., Matthew 3:2, they alone had many towns, and a multitude of villages, the least of which contained above 15,000 souls. On the east side of the lake were Chorazin, Gadara, and Hippon; on the west, Capernaum, Tiberias, Bethsaida, and Tarrichea, with other places of inferior note. Wherefore, as it was agreeable to the end of Christ’s coming that his doctrine should be spread extensively, and his miracles wrought publicly, no country could be a fitter scene for his ministry than this. Besides its numerous inhabitants, there were at all times many strangers resorting to the trading towns on the lake, who, after hearing Jesus preach, could carry home with them the glad tidings of salvation which were the subjects of his sermons. Capernaum, chosen by Christ as the place of his residence, was a town of this kind, and much frequented. 2d, The countries round the lake were remote from Jerusalem, the seat of the scribes and Pharisees, who would not have borne with patience the presence of a teacher held in such estimation as Jesus deservedly was. We know this by what happened in the beginning of his ministry, when he made and baptized many disciples in Judea. They took such offence at it, that he was obliged to leave the country. Wherefore, as it was necessary that he should spend a considerable time in preaching and working miracles, both for the confirmation of his mission, and for the instruction of his disciples in the doctrines they were afterward to preach, these countries were, of all others, the most proper for him to reside in, or rather, they were the only places where he could be with safety for any time.”
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