Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of Matthew/Chapter 4

Overview of Matthew 4Edit

Matthew 4 has four main sections: the temptation of Christ, the beginning of Christ’s ministry, calling the disciples, and healing and teaching.

  • The temptation of Christ is important to the Gospels because it that Jesus is the Son of God (Hagner 61). He went through the temptations and passed the test. Unlike Israel, before him, who proved to be an unworthy "son of God," he succeeded by resisting the temptation to be unfaithful (Hagner 62). There are three parts to the first section, one for each of the three different temptations. Each temptation calls forth a biblical quotation as the response of Jesus (Luz 147).
  • The second section is the beginning of Christ’s ministry. The fact that John is now arrested is a signal flag that all preparations have been made and now it is time for Jesus to start his ministry to the gentiles in Galilee (Hagner 61).
  • Section three of Matthew 4 reports the calling of the first four disciples of Jesus. This is the first statement of any type of ministry for Jesus. He calls two sets of brothers (Hagner 75).
  • Finally, in section four, Jesus begins to go around and teach and heal. There is an emphasis on teaching here and throughout Matthew (Hagner 79). This section of Matthew is a mixture of haggadah, which is mainly parables and stories, and midrash, which is more legal material (Hagner 63).

Source AnalysisEdit

The majority of Matthew 4 was taken from Q [??], which is a document that has never been identified from biblical times. There are some variations from this document, however. We can tell this from the Gospel of Luke, which also seems to have been written using this source (Luz 148).

The order of the temptations is different in the Gospel of Luke and Matthew. It is most likely that Matthew has preserved in the original order. Luke rearranged the sequence to locate the final temptation in Jerusalem (Luz 148). Matthew 4 has no direct dependence on Mark, although there are many similarities. This is not an attempt at a picture of the time or a historical view (Luz 148).[1]

  1. The meaning of this last sentence is not very clear. Based on my reading of Luz's commentary, which you cite as the basis for your claim, his point seems to be that the narrative is probably theologically motivated rather than a historical account. It tells us what early Christians believed about Jesus' divine sonship.




  • Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness
    • Jesus Fasts for 40 days and Nights
    • He then was Hungry

Temptation Number 1Edit


  • Devil Tempts Jesus to turn a rock into bread
    • Devil commands Jessus
      • Jesus replies from Deuteronomy
      • Jesus denies the Devil's demand

Temptation Number 2Edit


  • The devil commands Jesus
  • Temptation to Jump from the highest point of the Temple
    • Devil quotes the Psalms
    • Jesus Replies from Deuteronomy
    • Jesus denies the devil

Temptation Number 3Edit


  • The Devil attempts to make a deal
    • Promise to give Jesus all the kingdoms of earth
    • Jesus must worship the Devil
      • Jesus replies once more from Deuteronomy
      • Jesus Rebukes the Devil

Conclusion of TemptationsEdit


  • The devil left him
  • Angels came and attended to Jesus

Beginning of MinistryEdit


  • John is arrested
  • Jesus returns to Galilee
    • Jesus fulfills the prophecy in Isaiah
    • Jesus begins to Proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven is near
      • This is the beginning of his ministry

Calling of the DisciplesEdit

  • Jesus calls Simon and Andrew
    • Calls them to leave everything
    • Calls them to be fishers of men
  • Jesus calls James and John
    • They immediately leave everything

Teaching and HealingEdit

  • Jesus begins to Teach
  • Jesus begins to Heal
    • Jesus moves from small afflictions to more specific ones

Verse AnalysisEdit

Verse 1Edit

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."
The beginning of this narrative of temptation is a continuation of the narrative of the Jesus' baptism (Hagner 61). The leading by the Holy Spirit of Jesus into the wilderness is an example of Jesus being full of the Spirit as he is led into to the wilderness. Also, this is significant, as Jesus had to be tested by the father before the devil and now after passing that test has the Father on his side (Turner 126). God’s testing is always for testing to prove loyalty or disloyalty. To bring to light the stance of the one being tested never is it to bring one into evil (Buttrick 568).[1] Whereas in this verse “…the devil tempts Jesus to achieve messianic status by using his prerogatives selfishly in disobedience to the Son-securing paradigm.” (Turner 126) The wilderness which Jesus is being led to is probably the desert West of the Jordan and Dead Sea which is a previous place of John’s ministry (Hagner 63; Turner 126). There is also a great relationship between this story and the time that Israel spent in the wilderness for forty years (Hagner 64).

Verse 2Edit

"And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry."
The number forty is a rounded number usually and represents trials and tribulations in the lives of characters in the Bible (Turner 127). Both Moses and Elijah fasted for 40 days and Moses fasted in Deuteronomy Chapter 9, which is the setting for the narrative of the testing of Israel (Hagner 64). We can assume that Jesus was hungry long before the end of the forty days and nights it is just a statement before the temptation of his current state.

Verse 3Edit

"And the tempter came and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'"
There is significance in that the devil or the tempter came to Jesus and shows himself for the first time here. The emphasis for this pericope is on the sonship of Jesus Christ. The devil calls into question this fact in his first statement.(Hagner 64) There is some dispute over whether the translation is “since” or “if” these commentaries believe that it the correct translation is “since” (Blomberg 1992a: 84; Carson 1984: 112; W. Davies and Allison 1988: 361) (Turner 127) The point of this temptation had the intent of gaining knowledge of the stance which Jesus had on his Father’s will. There is nothing immediately wrong with turning stones into bread. There is something wrong with using his messianic powers for his personal betterment. The will of the Father was for the son to be hungry from the fasting and if the Son was to go against this will it would be a denouncing of the sonship and all the purposes, which the Father had intended. Once more there is a relationship between the story of Israel and the temptation of Jesus as the first temptation is for a miracle of bread one that the Lord provided for the Israelites. This relationship is weaker than the prior example while the feeding of the five thousand in Mark 8 is a much closer relationship where there is an example of multiplying bread for the betterment of the Kingdom of Heaven instead of a miracle for strict personal gain with no spectators. (Hagner 65)

Verse 4Edit

Jesus replies to the statement from the tempter or devil with a quotation from the Torah. The reply was preceded by “It is written” as to emphasize the following pericope from Deuteronomy 8:3.The context of this quote is from the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, and there was a need for food. (Hagner 64)There is an insinuation from the passage that it is the will of God to survive on bread alone as it is in John 4:34. There is a connection between the Shema and the temptations of Christ the first temptation is paired with loving God with all your heart. By fully submitting himself to the Father’s will he loved the Lord with his whole heart. Here Jesus makes the choice to be fully human.(Hagner 65) There is also the simple meaning of his hunger does not need to be addressed because the Lord “has written” that man needs more than bread.

Verse 5Edit

"Then the devil took Him into (G)the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,"
The movement during the temptation was probably subjective even though this does not detract from the experience at all. There is no mountain from which you can see all the kingdoms of the earth; also the likely hood of the teleportation of Jesus is not very high.(Hagner 63) The point of the temple that it may be referring to is the Southeastern corner overlooking the Kidron Valley. (Turner 129) When Jesus returns to the Temple he will be preparing for the cross in verse 21:1-17. (Luz 152)

Verse 6Edit

"and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,'HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU';and'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'"
Once again the devil is testing the sonship of Jesus and his will to fulfill the wishes of the Father. This time the devil attempts to outwit Christ by using scripture from Psalm 91. This is a paradoxical use of Psalm 91. By not choosing to jump once again Jesus proves his sonship by fully committing himself to the will of the Father and to the trials of being human also loving God with all of his soul by choosing not to test the Lord. (Hagner 67) When Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane in chapter 26:53-54 he will not call for the angels to help. (Luz 153)

Verse 7Edit

"Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"
Jesus replies to the temptation by stressing scripture once and replying to the command from the tempter by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16. He states that he will never test the Lord. Jesus uses scripture from the context of the Israel story in the wilderness. Jesus is the perfect son as he was not going to fail the test from the devil whereas Israel was the nation of imperfect children, as they did not comply with the will of the Lord. (Hagner 67)

Verse 8Edit

"Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;"
The Tempter moves Jesus once again and transports him possibly another subjective instance. The “very high mountain” is probably not literal. Moses was also commanded to go to the top of a very high mountain, Mount Pigsah or Mount Nebo to look upon the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 34:1-4. Moses warns to not be steered off course by the wealth of Canaan. (Hagner 68) This may also be parallel to God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 13:14-15. (Turner 129)

Verse 9Edit

"and he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.'"
The third temptation is no longer a command as the previous two were it is a promise. The condition of being bowing down must be met to fully receive all the kingdoms of the earth. The Lord has already promised the Son of man all the kingdoms of earth so there is a parody here, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalms 2:8, Psalms 72:8, Revelation 11:15) This is parallels all the way back to the first temptation of Eve as that was lost and thus giving Satan the power to offer this temptations to Christ. Here is the final piece of the Shema as Jesus loves God with all his might by refusing all the kingdoms of earth. (Hagner 68) There also is a possible parallel to Abraham and Isaac where Jesus is both the father and son in Genesis 22:1. (Hare 23)

Verse 10Edit

"Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'"
Jesus now responds to this temptation with a command, forces Satan to leave by doing this he claims victory and asserts his sonship. Jesus responds with his third and final quote from Deuteronomy 6:13. (Hagner 69) Peter is later rejected with the same words in chapter 16:23. Jesus later claims his power over all the Kingdoms of the earth in chapter 28:16-18. (Luz 153) Deuteronomy chapter 6 is arguably the best chapter in the Torah stating the greatness of the Lord. It also shows what Jesus could withstand by not falling into worship of Satan where Israel fell into worship of the golden calf. (Turner 136)

Verse 11Edit

"Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him."
Here after the tempter left the angels attend to the needs of Christ but also stay to rejoice with the savior.(Hagner 69) Luke in Chapter 4:13 states that “he left him until the next opportunity came.”

Verse 12Edit

"Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;"
There is no explanation to John’s arrest and there is no clear link between the ending of His ministry and the beginning of Jesus’. There is no competition between the ministry of Jesus and John. (Hagner 72) The arrest of John though will probably lead to his execution. “Returned” is often used in this manner to mean withdrawing from a place of danger. Jesus returned to Galilee with an intent of preaching more than just returning home.(Turner 132)

Verse 13Edit

"and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali."
Immediately Jesus leaves Nazareth with no explanation to the reader. In the Gospel of Luke at this point it states that Jesus is rejected by the people of his hometown which does not take place until later in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus returned here to do the work of his Father. The reasoning for choosing Capernaum is unknown there is speculation as to it is because of the heightened possibility of success away from the stronghold of the Pharisees or because it was the home to many of the disciples.(Hagner 72) Capernaum at least in the Gospel of Matthew is being portrayed as a place of darkness that is about to be baptized with the light. (Turner 133)

Verse 14Edit

"This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:"
This quote is the fifth fulfillment quotation in Matthew of the total ten quotes throughout the Gospel. This is a reiteration of the divine foreordainment that his ministry has, once again using Isaiah to further his point. (Hagner 73)

Verse 15Edit

There are five different Geographical locations mentioned between verse 14 and verse 16 as the name Galilee of the Gentiles is a very ambiguous term. There is a presumed Transjordanian perspective that the reader must assume here. (Luz 158) Matthew chooses to leave out “and the others who inhabit the seacoast” This was to place all the emphasis on the Jewish message that Matthew is writing for. It also works to convince reader of the fulfilling of all the Isaiah prophecy. The Zebulon and Naphtali is to emphasize whatever tie is available to the Jewish community as Jesus began his ministry in a gentile oriented venue. (Hagner 73)

Verse 16Edit

Matthew continually addresses the political darkness that is surrounding the timeperiod. He also stresses the community between the sinners and the Gentiles for example in Matthew (1:3,5; 2:1;5:47; 6:32; 15:28; 22:9) or by the obvious teaching of Christ (8:10-12; 21:43; 24:14; 28:19) (Turner 133). It is important to the Gospel of Matthew to prove that salvation for gentiles is a biblical perception as it is written to a Jewish audience. (Luz 158) Matthew substitutes the word “sat” instead of “walked” or “dwelt” this is evocative of Isaiah 9:2 and 42:6-7 where the Servant of verse 42:1 the “light of the Gentiles” ministers to “those who sit in darkness.” (Hare 29)

Verse 17Edit

"From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
This proclamation uses verbatim the message from John in verse 3:2. (Turner 134) The statement of “from that time on” indicates the change of direction in the narrative. Jesus continues the same message that John was preaching. The two of them were heralds signaling the coming of the Kingdom. This is a sign that the forerunner of Jesus, John is finished with his work.(Hagner 74) The Reign of Heaven is an obviously futuristic view in the Gospel of Matthew. During this Jesus is preaching for repentance and the necessity of an obvious change to follow the Christian way of life. (Luz 160)

Verse 18Edit

"Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen."
The walking by the side of the Sea of Galilee is a fulfillment of Isaiah 8:23-9:1. This is the only place in the Gospels where the word “fishermen” is used. (Hagner 76) Fishing was a way of life for the Israelites seeing as they fished and sold the fish. There is a large amount of work to keep all the items necessary to fish up to par as needed. (Buttrick 274) The Net that was probably being used was circular and had stones around the edge and when pulled up tightened around the fish. (Turner 136)

Verse 19Edit

"And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'"
Jesus had chosen these specific disciples which was uncommon for the day the traditional way is that the student would approach the Rabbi and ask to study under them in this instance Jesus very intentionally approaches and calls these men. Jesus accompanies this call with the condition that there will be teaching and equipment for ministry supplied. (Hagner 76)

Verse 20Edit

"Immediately they left their nets and followed Him."
This is an immediate response to the call that Jesus has placed on their lives and they left all behind which is a great example for the life that we are intended to live. (Hagner 77) These are the first disciples that are called.

Verse 21Edit

"Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them."
Jesus now sees a second pair of brothers that he calls. There is a focus in this verse and the next on the act of leaving all behind and how there is sacrifice in the life that Jesus calls to live by following him. (Hare 162) Matthew radicalized the call of the brothers to the discipleship.(Hare 163) “I will make you fishers of Human beings” is not reiterated for the calling of the second set of brothers but it is implied. (Hagner 77)

Verse 22Edit

"Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him."
This verse is very similar to verse 20 as the brothers leave what they have immediately. There is an emphasis here once again on the sacrifice to better the community as a whole and preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven may require leaving loved ones. (Hagner 78)

Verse 23Edit

"Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people."
This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and he goes about it in a trilateral approach through synagogue teaching, public preaching, and powerful healing.(Turner 138) Jesus focused not only on the physical or spiritual he focused on the whole person. Jesus also countered all accusations of working with the devil with exorcisms.(Turner 139) Matthew stresses the teaching of Jesus and even before the “preaching the good news of the Kingdom” happens. (Hagner 80)

Verse 24Edit

"The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them."
The news of Jesus is spreading through Syria, which is significant because it is a very roman province. This verse emphasizes the healing portion of Jesus’ ministry and begins with the more general afflictions and moves to the more serious ones. (Hagner 80) There are three foreshadowing statements of the Sermon on the Mount; they are demon possessed, epileptics, and paralytics. (Luz 166)

Verse 25Edit

"Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan."
The large crowds that were following Jesus were those who followed Jesus throughout his ministry and many were true disciples outside of the twelve that are widely known. (Hagner 80) For Matthew the teaching is more important than the Healing and these crowds are there mainly for the teaching. (Hare 31)


Inductive QuestioningEdit

Why was Jesus led into the desert?
Who is the Devil?
Why did the Devil Test him?
What is the significance of 40 days and 40 nights?
Where is the Wilderness?
Where did he come from?
Why was he called into the wilderness right now?
What followed this experience?
How old was Jesus at this point?
Where were the disciples?
What is the significance of The stone?
What is the significance of the bread?
What does Jesus mean by living on the word of God?
Why does Jesus use this reply?
Where is Jesus' reply to this found?
What is the highest point of the Holy city?
What is the significance of jumping from the tallest building?
Where is Jesus' reply to this found?
What is the theological significance of worshiping the devil?
Where is Jesus' reply to this found?
How did the angels attend to him?
Why is John arrested?
Where is John Kept?
How long is John Kept?
Why does Jesus return to Nazareth?
Are the disciples with Jesus on his return to Nazareth?
How far of a Journey is it to Nazareth?
What is the Prophecy in Isaiah?
How does the Prophecy complement this story?
What is the context of the prophecy?
Where did Jesus preach first?
What did Jesus preach first?
Why did Jesus begin preaching now?
What was the context of Jesus' first message?
Who was the audience?
Why did Jesus call Simon and Andrew first?
In what context did he call them?
Why did Jesus call James and John second?
Why did Jesus call brothers?
What is the context of the second calling to the disciples?
Why did Jesus heal?
Where was this at?


Parallels Between the Gospels

Word StudyEdit


While most instances in the Bible were from a view point of the Israelites so fishing was a a means of survival and income, the Kings of Egypt often took part in fishing purely for the sport of the activity. It was not until after the exile in Babylon that Israel took to fishing. Tyrians and Philistines also were heavy into fishing. (Buttrick 273) Fishermen often worked nights and it was a very tough profession as there are many items to keep in good repair for fishing to go smoothly such as the nets for catching and the baskets for transportation and sale. There is some suggestion that the original fishing hooks were made from thorns such as the ones used in this passage. Bone fishhooks have also been found in some settlements.(Buttrick 274)


The temptation is used as a testing to prove that something is worthy. In the Old Testament many things were put to the test, such as a sword(I Samuel 17:39) a reputation( I Kings 10:1; II Chronicles 9:1) or convictions (Daniel 1:12,14). Most of the uses of testing is God testing man or vice versa. "God's testing is always for the good end exposing loyalty and disloyalty, faith and unbelief, for what they are; it is never an enticement to evil. Jesus was also tempted in every sense of the word just as man was.(Hebrew 4:15)


Testing of JesusEdit

1 Jesus felt called by the spirit that was living in him to go into the desert for a time of testing by the devil. 2 Jesus then fasted for forty days and nights. 3 The devil then came to him with the first test “If God is your father, then turn these stones to bread and quench your hunger.”4 Jesus replied “It has been written: ‘Man lives on more than bread, he lives on the word from the mouth of God’” 5Then the devil and Jesus went to Jerusalem and stood atop the highest point of the temple. 6The devil said, “If you are the Son of God, then jump and the angels will save you. For it is written: ‘He will have his angels attend to you, and you will not strike your foot on anything.’” 7 Jesus said in reply, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord.’” 8 Jesus and the devil went then to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms and their greatness.9 “all you may have, if you bow and worship him.” 10 Jesus said, “leave me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord and only serve him. 11Then the devil left, and angels came and attended to him.

Beginning of the Ministry of JesusEdit

12 Jesus then heard that John was incarcerated he returned to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth, lived in Capernaum, which was close to Zebulun and Naphtali14 this fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah said: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles- 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”17 Jesus began preaching at this point, saying, “ Repent, the kingdom of heaven is coming.”

Calling of the DisciplesEdit

18 Jesus was walking by the sea of Galilee, saw Simon Peter and Andrew. 19They were fisherman on the lake and Jesus called them from their fishing to follow him. Saying “ I will make you fishers of men. 20 They then came and followed him. 21Continuing on he saw two more brothers James and John. They were preparing their nets with their father, Jesus called to them and they came and followed him.

Healing and TeachingEdit

23 Jesus went on teaching in synagogues and to the masses about the good news, healing diseases and sicknesses throughout Galilee. 24 News spread through all of Syria and the people came bringing their sick and possessed, and Jesus healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the other side of the Jordan joined his following.


Buttrick, George A. "Fishing." The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Volume 2. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1962. Print.
Freedman, David N. "Temptation of Jesus." The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Volume 6. New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1992. Print.
Hagner, Donald A. "Matthew 4." Word Biblical Commentary. Volume 33a. Dallas, TX: Word Books, Publisher, 1995. Print.
Hare, Douglas "Matthew 4." Interpretation . Volume 28. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1990. Print.
Luz, Ulrich. "Matthew 4." Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007. Print.
Turner, David L. "Matthew 4." Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Volume 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008. Print.
  1. You need to cite the author, etc., not the editor of the series only.