on Matthew 8 :33
And they that kept them fled - Terrified at what had happened to the swine.
on Matthew 8 :33
They that kept them fled - These swine were doubtless owned by the inhabitants of the country.
Whether they were Jews or Gentiles is not certainly known. It was not properly in the territory of Judea; but, as it was on its borders, it is probable that the inhabitants were a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. Swine were to Jews unclean animals, and it was unlawful for Jews to eat them, Leviticus 11:7. They were forbidden by their own laws to keep them, even for the purpose of traffic. Either, therefore, they had expressly violated the law, or these swine were owned by the Gentiles.
The keepers fled in consternation. They were amazed at the power of Jesus. Perhaps they feared a further destruction of property; or, more likely they were acquainted with the laws of the Jews, and regarded this as a judgment of heaven for keeping forbidden animals, and for tempting the Jews to violate the commands of God.
This is the only one of our Saviour's miracles, except the case of the fig-tree that he cursed Matthew 21:18-20, in which he caused any destruction of property. It is a striking proof of his benevolence, that his miracles tended directly to the comfort of mankind. It was a proof of goodness added to the direct purpose for which his miracles were performed. That purpose was to confirm his divine mission; and it might have been as fully done by splitting rocks, or removing mountains, or causing water to run up steep hills, as by any other display of power. He chose to exhibit the proof of his divine power, however, in such a way as to benefit mankind.
Infidels have objected to this whole narrative. They have said that this was a wanton and unauthorized violation of private rights in the destruction of property. They have said, also, that the account of devils going into swine, and destroying them, was ridiculous. In regard to these objections the narrative is easily vindicated.
1. If Christ, as the Bible declares, is divine as well as human - God as well as man - then he had an original right to that and all other property, and might dispose of it as he pleased, Psalm 50:10-12. If God had destroyed the herd of swine by pestilence or by lightning, by an inundation or by an earthquake, neither the owners or anyone else would have had reason to complain. No one now feels that he has a right to complain if God destroys a thousand times the amount of this property by overturning a city by an earthquake. Why, then, should complaints be brought against him if he should do the same thing in another way?
2. If this property was held "by the Jews," it was a violation of their law, and it was right that they should suffer the loss; if "by the Gentiles," it was known also to be a violation of the law of the people among whom they lived; a temptation and a snare to them; an abomination in their sight; and it was proper that the nuisance should be removed.
3. The cure of two men, one of whom was probably a man of distinction and property, was of far more consequence than the amount of property destroyed. To restore a "deranged" man now would be an act for which "property" could not compensate, and which could not be measured in value by any pecuniary consideration. But,
4. Jesus was not at all answerable for this destruction of property. He did not "command," he only "suffered" or "permitted" the devils to go into the swine. He commanded them merely to "come out of the magi." They originated the purpose of destroying the property, doubtless for the sake of doing as much mischief as possible, and of destroying the effect of the miracle of Christ. In this they seem to have had most disastrous success, and they only are responsible.
5. If it should be said that Christ permitted this, when he might have prevented it, it may be replied that the difficulty does not stop there. He permits all the evil that exists, when he might prevent it. He permits men to do much evil, when he might prevent it. He permits one bad man to injure the person and property of another bad man. He permits the bad to injure the good. He often permits a wicked man to fire a city, or to plunder a dwelling, or to rob a traveler, destroying property of many times the amount that was lost on this occasion. Why is it any more absurd to suffer a wicked spirit to do injury than a wicked man? or to suffer a "legion of devils" to destroy a herd of swine, than for "legions of men" to desolate nations, and cover fields and towns with ruin and slaughter.
on Matthew 8 :33