on Matthew 4 :24
Sick people - Τους, κακως εχοντας, those who felt ill - were afflicted with any species of malady.
And torments - βασανοις, from βασανιζω, to examine by torture, such as cholics, gouts, and rheumatisms, which racked every joint.
Possessed with devils - Daemoniacs. Persons possessed by evil spirits. This is certainly the plain obvious meaning of daemoniac in the Gospels.
Many eminent men think that the sacred writers accommodated themselves to the unfounded prejudices of the common people, in attributing certain diseases to the influence of evil spirits, which were merely the effects of natural causes: but that this explanation can never comport with the accounts given of these persons shall be proved as the places occur.
Our common version, which renders the word, those possessed by devils, is not strictly correct; as the word devil, διαβολος, is not found in the plural in any part of the Sacred Writings, when speaking of evil spirits: for though there are multitudes of daemons, Mark 5:9, yet it appears there is but one Devil, who seems to be supreme, or head, over all the rest. Διαβολος signifies an accuser or slanderer, 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3. Perhaps Satan was called so,
1st. because he accused or slandered God in paradise, as averse from the increase of man's knowledge and happiness, Genesis 3:5; John 8:44; and
2dly. because he is the accuser of men, Revelation 12:9, Revelation 12:10. See also Job 1:2.
The word comes from δια, through, and βαλλειν, to cast, or shoot, because of the influence of his evil suggestions; compared, Ephesians 6:16, to fiery darts; and thus it is nearly of the same meaning with ο πειραζων, he who pierces through. See on Matthew 4:3 (note).
Lunatic - Persons afflicted with epileptic or other disorders, which are always known to have a singular increase at the change and full of the moon. This undoubtedly proceeds from the superadded attractive influence of the sun and moon upon the earth's atmosphere, as, in the periods mentioned above, these two luminaries are both in conjunction; and their united attractive power being exerted on the earth at the same time, not only causes the flux and reflux of the ocean, but occasions a variety of important changes in the bodies of infirm persons, of animals in general, but more particularly in those who are more sensible of these variations. And is this any wonder, when it is well known, that a very slight alteration in the atmosphere causes the most uncomfortable sensations to a number of invalids! But sometimes even these diseases were caused by demons. See on Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:34 (note), and Matthew 17:15 (note).
Palsy - Palsy is defined, a sudden loss of tone and vital power in a certain part of the human body. This may affect a limb, the whole side, the tongue, or the whole body. This disorder is in general incurable, except by the miraculous power of God, unless in its slighter stages.
He healed them - Either with a word or a touch; and thus proved that all nature was under his control.
on Matthew 4 :24
And his fame went throughout all Syria - It is not easy to fix the exact bounds of Syria in the time of our Saviour. It was, perhaps, the general name for the country lying between the Euphrates on the east, and the Mediterranean on the west; and between Mount Taurus on the north, and Arabia on the south. Through all this region his celebrity was spread by his power of working miracles; and, as might be expected, the sick from every quarter were brought to him, in the hope that he would give relief.
Those possessed with devils - Much difficulty exists, and much has been written respecting those in the New Testament said to be possessed with the devil. It has been maintained by many that the sacred writers only meant by this expression to denote those who were melancholy or epileptic, or afflicted with some other grievous disease. This opinion has been supported by arguments too long to be repeated here. On the other hand, it has been supposed that the persons so described were under the influence of evil spirits, who had complete possession of the faculties, and who produced many symptoms of disease not unlike melancholy, madness, and epilepsy. That such was the fact will appear from the following considerations:
1. Christ and the apostles spoke to them and of them as such; they addressed them, and managed them, precisely as if they were so possessed, leaving their hearers to infer beyond a doubt that such was their real opinion.
2. Those who were thus possessed spake, conversed, asked questions, gave answers, and expressed their knowledge of Christ, and their fear of him things that certainly could not be said of diseases, Matthew 8:28; Luke 8:27.
3. The devils, or evil spirits, are represented as going out of the persons possessed, and entering the bodies of others, Matthew 8:32.
4. Jesus spake to them, and asked their name, and they answered him. He threatened them, commanded them to be silent, to depart, and not to return, Mark 1:25; Mark 5:8; Mark 9:25.
5. Those possessed are said "to know Christ; to be acquainted with the Son of God," Luke 4:34; Mark 1:24. This could not be said of diseases.
6. The early fathers of the Church interpreted these passages in the same way. They derived their opinions probably from the apostles themselves, and their opinions are a fair interpretation of the apostles' sentiments.
7. If it is denied that Christ believed in such possessions, it does not appear why any other clearly-expressed sentiment of his may not in the same way be disputed. There is, perhaps, no subject on which he expressed himself more clearly, or acted more uniformly, or which he left more clearly impressed on the minds of his disciples.
Nor is there any absurdity in the opinion that those persons were really under the influence of devils. For:
1. It is no more absurd to suppose that an angel, or many angels, should have fallen and become wicked than that so many people should.
2. It is no more absurd that Satan should have possession of the human faculties, or inflict diseases, than that people should do it a thing which is done every day. What is more common than for a wicked man to corrupt the morals of others, or, by inducing them to become intemperate, to produce a state of body and mind quite as bad as to be possessed with the devil?
3. We still see a multitude of cases that no man can prove not to be produced by the presence of an evil spirit. Who would attempt to say that some evil being may not have much to do in the case of madmen?
4. It afforded an opportunity for Christ to show his power over the enemies of himself and of man, and thus to evince himself qualified to meet every enemy of the race, and triumphantly to redeem his people. He came to destroy the power of Satan, Acts 26:18; Romans 16:20-21.
on Matthew 4 :24
4:24 Through all Syria - The whole province, of which the Jewish country was only a small part. And demoniacs - Men possessed with devils: and lunatics, and paralytics - Men ill of the palsy, whose cases were of all others most deplorable and most helpless.