Matthew 11:20-24. Then began he to upbraid the cities Which he had often blessed with his presence, and in which he had preached many awakening sermons, and performed many astonishing miracles. It is observable, he had never upbraided them before. Indeed, at first they had received him with all gladness, Capernaum in particular. Wo unto thee, Chorazin, &c. That is, miserable art thou. For these are not curses or imprecations, as has been commonly supposed; but a solemn, compassionate declaration of the misery they were bringing on themselves. Chorazin and Bethsaida were cities of Galilee, standing by the lake of Gennesareth, in which and the neighbouring places Jesus spent a great part of his public life. See notes on chap. Matthew 4:13-16. If the mighty works The great miracles, which were done in you, had been done [of old] in Tyre and Sidon Though cities inhabited by heathen, and remarkable for their luxury, pride, and contempt of religion, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes That is, they would have exercised the deepest repentance, for sackcloth and ashes were used by the Jews in token of the bitterest grief. But I say unto you Besides this general denunciation of wo to those stubborn unbelievers, I declare particularly that the degree of their misery will be greater than even that of Tyre and Sidon, yea, of Sodom. And thou, Capernaum, &c. He mentions Capernaum separately by itself, and last of all, because, being the place of his ordinary residence, it had been blessed with more of his sermons and miracles than any other town. Nevertheless it abounded with wickedness of all kinds, and therefore he compared it to that city which, on account of the greatness of its crimes, had been the most terrible example of the divine displeasure that ever the world had beheld. It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, &c. That is, the condition of the inhabitants even of the land of Sodom, in the day of the final judgment, shall be more tolerable than thy condition. For thy condemnation shall rise in proportion to thy more aggravated guilt, and to those more valuable mercies and privileges which thou hast abused. Dr. Hammond understands this passage as referring to the temporal calamities to come on those places by the Romans; who did indeed shortly after overrun the whole country, and made dreadful ravages in some of those cities. But, as Doddridge justly observes, “There is no evidence that the destruction of those cities was more dreadful than that of Tyre and Sidon, and it was certainly less so than that of Sodom and Gomorrah: besides, our Lord plainly speaks of a judgment that was yet to come on all these places that he mentions.” From this passage, therefore, we learn “two important particulars: 1st, That the punishments to be inflicted upon wicked men in the life to come shall not be all equal, but in exact proportion to the demerit of the sins of each. 2d, That great and signal punishments, befalling sinners in this life, will not screen them from the wrath of God in the life to come; for Jesus Christ, the judge, here declares that Sodom, though burned by fire and brimstone from heaven, shall suffer such dreadful things, that, in speaking of the pains of the damned, he mentions this city as an example of very great punishment.” Macknight.
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