on Matthew 12 :45
Seven other spirits more wicked - Seven was a favourite number with the Jews, implying frequently, with them, something perfect, completed, filled up, for such is the proper import of the Hebrew word שוע sheva or shevang: nearly allied in sound to our seven. And perhaps this meaning of it refers to the seventh day, when God rested from his work, having filled up, or completed the whole of his creative design. Seven demons - as many as could occupy his soul, harassing it with pride, anger, self-will, lust, etc., and torturing the body with disease.
The last state of that man is worse than the first - His soul, before influenced by the Spirit of God, dilated and expanded under its heavenly influences, becomes more capable of refinement in iniquity, as its powers are more capacious than formerly. Evil habits are formed and strengthened by relapses; and relapses are multiplied, and become more incurable, through new habits.
So shall it be also unto this wicked generation - And so it was: for they grew worse and worse, as if totally abandoned to diabolic influence; till at last the besom of destruction swept them and their privileges, national and religious, utterly away. What a terrible description of a state of apostasy is contained in these verses! May he who readeth understand!
on Matthew 12 :45
Then goeth he ... - Seeing the state of the man; dissatisfied with a lonely dwelling in the desert where he could do no evil; envious of the happiness of the individual, and supremely bent on wickedness, he resolved to increase his power of malignant influences and to return.
He is therefore represented as taking seven other spirits still worse than himself, and returning to his former habitation. Seven denotes a large but indefinite number. It was a favorite number with the Jews, and was used to denote "completeness" or "perfection," or any "finished" or "complete" number. See 1 Samuel 2:5. Compare Revelation 1:4. Here it means a sufficient number completely to occupy and harass his soul.
Even so shall it be with this generations - This shows the scope and design of this illustration. The state of that man was a representation of that generation of people. Much might be done to cure their unbelief, much to reform them externally; but such was the firm hold which the principles of infidelity and wickedness had taken of their minds "as their proper habitation," that they would return, after all the means used to reform them, and they would be worse and worse. And this was literally accomplished. After all the instructions and miracles of the Saviour and his apostles; after all that had been done for them by holy people and prophets, and by the judgments and mercies of God; and after all their external temporary reformations - like the temporary departure of an evil spirit from a man possessed - yet such was their love of wickedness that the nation became worse and worse. They increased in crime, like the seven-fold misery and wretchedness of the man into whose bosom the seven additional evil spirits came. They rejected God's messengers, abused his mercies, crucified his Son, and God gave their temple, and capital, and nation into the hands of the Romans. and thousands of the people to destruction.
It is not "proved" by this passage that evil spirits actually "dwell" in deserts It is proved only that such was the opinion of the Jews; that that opinion was drawn from some expressions in the Bible; and that "such expressions were sufficiently clear to justify the Saviour in drawing an argument from them to confound those who firmly believed that such was the case." Nor is there any absurdity in the opinion; for,
1. There are evil spirits. See the notes at Matthew 8:33.
2. They must exist in "some place."
3. There is as much propriety that they should be located about our earth as anywhere.
4. The clear doctrine of the Bible is, that many of them have much to do with our world.
5. It is as reasonable that they should dwell commonly in desolate and uninhabited regions as anywhere else.
on Matthew 12 :45
12:45 Seven other spirits - That is, a great many; a certain number being put for an uncertain: More wicked than himself - Whence it appears, that there are degrees of wickedness among the devils themselves: They enter in and dwell - For ever in him who is forsaken of God. So shall it be to this wicked generation - Yea, and to apostates in all ages.