on Ephesians 4 :8
Wherefore he saith - The reference seems to be to Psalm 68:18, which, however it may speak of the removal of the tabernacle, appears to have been intended to point out the glorious ascension of Christ after his resurrection from the dead. The expositions of various commentators have made the place extremely difficult. I shall not trouble my reader with them; they may be seen in Rosenmuller.
When he ascended up on high - The whole of this verse, as it stands in the psalm, seems to refer to a military triumph. Take the following paraphrase: Thou hast ascended on high: the conqueror was placed in a very elevated chariot. Thou hast led captivity captive: the conquered kings and generals were usually bound behind the chariot of the conqueror, to grace the triumph. Thou host received gifts for (Paul, given gifts unto) men: at such times the conqueror was wont to throw money among the crowd. Even to the rebellious: those who had fought against him now submit unto him, and share his munificence; for it is the property of a hero to be generous. That the Lord God might dwell among them: the conqueror being now come to fix his abode in the conquered provinces, and subdue the people to his laws.
All this the apostle applies to the resurrection, ascension, and glory of Christ; though it has been doubted by some learned men whether the psalmist had this in view. I shall not dispute about this; it is enough for me that the apostle, under the inspiration of God, applied the verse in this way; and whatever David might intend, and of whatever event he might have written, we see plainly that the sense in which the apostle uses it was the sense of the Spirit of God; for the Spirit in the Old and New Testaments is the same. I may venture a short criticism on a few words in the original: Thou hast received gifts for men, לקחת מתנות באדם lakachta mattanoth baadam, thou hast taken gifts in man, in Adam. The gifts which Jesus Christ distributes to man he has received in man, in and by virtue of his incarnation; and it is in consequence of his being made man that it may be said, The Lord God dwells among them; for Jesus was called Immanuel, God with us, in consequence of his incarnation. This view of the subject is consistent with the whole economy of grace, and suits well with the apostle's application of the words of the psalmist in this place.
on Ephesians 4 :8
Wherefore he saith - The word "he" is not in the original; and it may mean "the Scripture saith," or "God saith." The "point" of the argument here is, that Christ, when he ascended to heaven, obtained certain "gifts" for people, and that those gifts are bestowed upon his people in accordance with this. To "prove" that, he adduces this passage from Psalm 68:18. Much perplexity has been felt in regard to the "principle" on which Paul quotes this Psalm, and applies it to the ascension of the Redeemer. The Psalm seems to have been composed on the occasion of removing the ark of the covenant from Kirjath-jearim to Mount Zion; 2 Samuel 6:1 ff it is a song of triumph, celebrating the victories of Yahweh, and particularly the victories which had been achieved when the ark was at the head of the army. It "appears" to have no relation to the Messiah; nor would it probably occur to anyone upon reading it, that it referred to his ascension, unless it had been so quoted by the apostle.
Great difficulty has been felt, therefore, in determining on what principle Paul applied it to the ascension of the Redeemer. Some have supposed that the Psalm had a primary reference to the Messiah; some that it referred to him in only a secondary sense; some that it is applied to him by way of "accommodation;" and some that he merely uses the words as adapted to express his idea, as a man adopts words which are familiar to him, and which will express his thoughts, though not meaning to say that the words had any such reference originally. Storr supposes that the words were used by the Ephesian Christians in their "hymns," and that Paul quoted them as containing a sentiment which was admitted among them. This is "possible;" but it is mere conjecture. It has been also supposed that the tabernacle was a type of Christ; and that the whole Psalm, therefore, having original reference to the tabernacle, might be applied to Christ as the antitype.
But this is both conjectural and fanciful. On the various modes adopted to account for the difficulty, the reader may consult Rosenmuller in loc. To me it seems plain that the Psalm had original reference to the bringing up the ark to Mount Zion, and is a triumphal song. In the song or Psalm, the poet shows why God was to be praised - on account of his greatness and his benignity to people; Ephesians 4:1-6. He then recounts the doings of God in former times - particularly his conducting his people through the wilderness, and the fact that his enemies were discomfited before him; Ephesians 4:7-12. All this refers to the God, the symbols of whose presence were on the tabernacle, and accompanying the ark. He then speaks of the various fortunes that had befallen the ark of the covenant. It had lain among the pots, Ephesians 4:13, yet it had formerly been white as snow when God scattered kings by it; Ephesians 4:14.
He then speaks of the hill of God - the Mount Zion to which the ark was about to be removed, and says that it is an "high hill" - "high as the hills of Bashan," the hill where God desired to dwell forever; Ephesians 4:16. God is then introduced as ascending that hill, encompassed with thousands of angels, as in Mount Sinai; and the poet says that, in doing it, he had triumphed over his enemies, and had led captivity captive; Ephesians 4:18. The fact that the ark of God thus ascended the hill of Zion, the place of rest; that it was to remain there as its permanent abode, no more to be carried about at the head of armies; was the proof of its triumph. It had made everything captive. It had subdued every foe; and its ascent there would be the means of obtaining invaluable gifts for people; Mercy and truth would go forth from that mountain; and the true religion would spread abroad, even to the rebellious, as the results of the triumph of God, whose symbol was over the tabernacle and the ark.
The placing the ark there was the proof of permanent victory, and would he connected with most important benefits to people. The "ascending on high," therefore, in the Psalm, refers, as it seems to me, to the ascent of the symbol of the Divine Presence accompanying the ark on Mount Zion, or to the placing it "on high" above all its foes. The remainder of the Psalm corresponds with this view. This ascent of the ark on Mount Zion; this evidence of its triumph over all the foes of God; this permanent residence of the ark there; and this fact, that its being established there would be followed with the bestowment of invaluable gifts to people, might be regarded as a beautiful emblem of the ascension of the Redeemer to heaven. There were strong points of resemblance. He also ascended on high. His ascent was the proof of victory over his foes. He went there for a permanent abode. And his ascension was connected with the bestowmerit of important blessings to people.
It is as such emblematic language, I suppose, that the apostle makes the quotation. It did not originally refer to this; but the events were so similar in many points, that the one would suggest the other, and the same language would describe both. It was language familiar to the apostle; language that would aptly express his thoughts, and language that was not improbably applied to the ascension of the Redeemer by Christians at that time. The phrase, therefore, "he saith " - λέγει legei - or "it saith," or "the Scripture saith," means, "it is said;" or, "this language will properly express the fact under consideration, to wit, that there is grace given to each one of us, or that the means are furnished by the Redeemer for us to lead holy lives."
(For remarks on the subject of accommodation. in connection with quotations from the Old Testament into the New Testament, see the supplementary notes, Hebrews 1:5, and Hebrews 2:6, note. The principle of accommodation, if admitted at all, should be used with great caution. Doubtless it is sanctioned by great names both in Europe and America. Yet it must be allowed, that the apostles understood the mind of the Spirit, in the Old Testament, that their inspiration preserved them from every error. When, therefore, they tell us that certain passages have an ultimate reference to the Messiah and his times, through we should never have discovered such reference without their aid, nothing of the kind, it may be, "appearing" in the original places, yet we ate bound to receive it "on their testimony." It is alleged, indeed, that the apostles sometimes use the ordinary forms of quotation, without intending to intimate thereby any prophetic reference in the passages titus introduced, nay, when such reference is obviously inadmissible. This, in the opinion of many, is a very hazardous statement, and introduces into the apostolic writings, and especially into the argumentative part of them, where so great use is made of the Old Testament, no small measure of uncertainty. Let the reader examine the passages in question, keeping in view. at the same time, the typical nature of the ancient economy, and he will have little difficulty in admitting the prophetic reference in most, if not in all of them. See Haldane on Romans 1:17, for a very masterly view of this subject, with remarks on Matthew 2:16, and other passages supposed to demand the accommodation theory.
"Nothing can be more dishonorable," says that prince of English commentators, on the Epistle to the Romans, "to the character of divine revelation, and injurious to the edification of believers, than this method of explaining the quotations in the New Testament from the Old, not as predictions or interpretations, but as mere illustrations, by way of accommodation. In this way, many of the prophecies referred to in the Epistles are set aside from their proper application, and Christians are taught that they do not prove what the apostles adduced them to establish." In reference to the quotation in this place, there seems little difficulty in connection with the view, that though the primary reference be to the bringing up of the ark to Mount Zion, the ultimate one is to the glorious ascension of Jesus into the highest heavens. The Jews rightly interpret part of this psalm Ps. 68 of the Messiah. Nor is it to he believed that the apostle would have applied it to the ascension of Christ unless that application had been admitted by the Jews in his time, and unless himself were persuaded of its propriety.
When he ascended up on high - To heaven. The Psalm is, "Thou hast ascended on high;" compare Ephesians 1:22-23.
He led captivity captive - The meaning of this in the Psalm is, that he triumphed over his foes. The margin is, "a multitude of captives." But this, I think, is not quite the idea. It is language derived from a conqueror, who not only makes captives, but who makes captives of those who were then prisoners, and who conducts them as a part of his triumphal procession. He not only subdues his enemy, but he leads his captives in triumph. The allusion is to the public triumphs of conquerors, especially as celebrated among the Romans, in which captives were led in chains (Tacitus, Ann. xii. 38), and to the custom in such triumphs of distributing presents among the soldiers; compare also Judges 5:30, where it appears that this was also an early custom in other nations. Burder, in Res. Alt u. neu Morgenland, in loc. When Christ ascended to heaven, he triumphed ever all his foes. It was a complete victory over the malice of the great enemy of God, and over those who had sought his life. But he did more. He rescued those who were the captives of Satan, and led them in triumph. Man was held by Satan as a prisoner. His chains were around him. Christ rescued the captive prisoner, and designed to make him a part of his triumphal procession into heaven, that thus the victory might be complete - triumphing not only over the great foe himself, but swelling his procession with the attending hosts of those who "had been" the captives of Satan, now rescued and redeemed.
And gave gifts unto men - Such as he specifies in Ephesians 4:11.
on Ephesians 4 :8
4:8 Wherefore he saith - That is, in reference to which God saith by David, Having ascended on high, he led captivity captive - He triumphed over all his enemies, Satan, sin, and death, which had before enslaved all the world: alluding to the custom of ancient conquerors, who led those they had conquered in chains after them. And, as they also used to give donatives to the people, at their return from victory, so he gave gifts to men - Both the ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. Psa 68:18.