on Matthew 12 :43
When the unclean spirit - If there had been no reality in demoniacal possessions, our Lord would have scarcely appealed to a case of this kind here, to point out the real state of the Jewish people, and the desolation which was coming upon them. Had this been only a vulgar error, of the nonsense of which the learned scribes and the wise Pharisees must have been convinced, the case not being one in point, because not true, must have been treated by that very people with contempt for whose conviction it was alone designed.
He walketh through dry places - Δι' ανυδρων τοπων. There seems to be a reference here to the Orphic demonology, in which evil spirits were divided into various classes, according to the different regions of their abode, or places in which they delighted. These classes were five:
1. Δαιμονες ουρανιοι, Celestial demons.
2. Δαιμονες ηεριοι, Aerial.
3. Δαιμονες ενυδριοι, Aquatic.
4. Δαιμονες χθονιοι, Terrestrial.
5. Και δαιμονες υποχθονιοι, And subterranean demons.
See Orph. ad Mus. ap. Schott. The Platonists, the followers of Zoroaster, and the primitive Jews, made nearly the same distinctions.
Seeking rest - Or refreshment. Strange! a fallen corrupt spirit can have no rest but in the polluted human heart: the corruption of the one is suited to the pollution of the other, and thus like cleaves to like.
on Matthew 12 :43
When the unclean spirit ... - The "general sentiment" which our Saviour here teaches is much more easily understood than the illustration which he uses. The Jews had asked a sign from heaven that should decisively prove that he was the Messiah, and satisfy their unbelief. He replies that, though he should give them such a sign a proof conclusive and satisfactory, and though for a time they should profess to believe and apparently reform, yet such was the obstinacy of their unbelief and wickedness, that they would soon return to their former course. and become worse and worse. Infidelity and wickedness, like an evil spirit in a possessed man, were appropriately at "home" in them. If driven out, they would find no other place so comfortable and undisturbed as their bosoms. Everywhere they would be, comparatively, like an evil spirit going through deserts and lonely places, and finding no place of rest. They would return, therefore, and dwell with them.
He walketh through dry places - That is, through deserts - regions of country unwatered, sandy, barren, desolate. That our Saviour here speaks according to the ancient belief of the Jews that evil spirits had their abodes in those desolate, uninhabited regions, there can be no doubt; nor can there be any doubt that the Bible gives countenance to the opinion. Thus Revelation 18:2; "Babylon - is become the habitation of "devils" and the hold of "every foul spirit;" that is, has become "desolate - a place where evil spirits appropriately dwell. So Isaiah 13:21; "And satyrs shall dance there:" "i. e." according to the ancient Greek translation, "devils or demons shall dance there." See also Jeremiah 50:39. Compare the Isaiah 34:4 note; Deuteronomy 32:17 note.
Seeking rest, and findeth none - These desolate and dry regions are represented as uncomfortable habitations; so much so, that the dissatisfied spirit, better pleased with a dwelling in the bosoms of people, as affording an opportunity of doing evil, seeks a return there.
on Matthew 12 :43
12:43 But how dreadful will be the consequence of their rejecting me? When the unclean spirit goeth out - Not willingly, but being compelled by one that is stronger than he. He walketh - Wanders up and down; through dry places - Barren, dreary, desolate; or places not yet watered with the Gospel: Seeking rest, and findeth none - How can he, while he carries with him his own hell? And is it not the case of his children too? Reader, is it thy case? Luke 11:24.