09.01.06 Mt. 12:43-45; Lk. 11:27-28
NEED FOR MORAL REFORM
Mt. 43 “When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it roams through waterless places looking for rest but doesn’t find any. 44 Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to my house that I came from.’ And returning, it finds the house vacant, swept, and put in order. 45 Then off it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that man’s last condition is worse than the first. That’s how it will also be with this evil generation.”
Lk. 27 As He was saying these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “The womb that bore You and the one who nursed You are blessed!”
28 He said, “Even more, those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed!”
In this narrative Jesus spoke with dual imagery. While a literal reading of “a man” is correct, there is also the national imagery where the “house” is Israel. The Jewish people were removed from their land because they had failed to observe the Sabbath (2 Chron. 36:21), which is why the religious leaders were so incredibly adamant about observing the Sabbath. They did not want to be removed from their land again. Many scholars have also noted that when they returned from Babylon, there were no idols among them. The exile experience not only removed their interest in idols, but they also observed the Sabbaths.
However, with the advent of the Greeks and advancing Hellenism, paganism without idols entered the land. This was especially true under the reign of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Idols and all other evidence of idolatries were removed from the Holy City after the Maccabean Revolt, but the countryside was not cleansed very well. And while Jerusalem itself remained free of spiritual pollution, even from the time of Jesus, archaeologists have uncovered various idols outside the city walls, such as a statue of Asclepius found by the Pool of Bethesda (see 07.01.04). Many commentators have said that when the Jews returned from Babylon, they no longer served idols. That is true for orthodox Jews, but there were many aristocrats and Hellenized Jews who enjoyed the Greek culture. Herod the Great promoted his statues of the Roman gods and all forms of Hellenism. Add to the spiritual mix, the legalism of the religious leaders, and one can recognize the theological chaos that existed. A growing number of scholars now believe that Gentiles, living in and around Jerusalem, had idols in their homes. This would be expected since Jerusalem was a cosmopolitan city where many foreign merchants and businessmen resided.
“Seven other spirits.” In all probability Jesus did not mean seven literal spirits. The number seven had a meaning of “perfection” and “completeness” in issues that related to both God and Satan throughout all ancient Near Eastern cultures. God gives perfect and complete peace, comfort, and joy while Satan gives perfect and complete deception and death. Those involved in demonic worship also use the phrase. For example, in Calcutta, India, is the statue of Kali that depicts the goddess of death who has seven arms and with each hand she is holding a human head. Worshipers of this goddess beg with utter fear for mercy from death. Jesus probably referred to seven spirits because of the complete control they had over this man, which would have been a worse situation than he previously had experienced.
“This evil generation.” The generation that rejected Jesus was given forty years to repent. They not only refused, but instead, they persecuted the church. Consequently, forty years later Jerusalem, the Sadducees, and the temple were destroyed.
. Idols are not mentioned in the gospels because these statues to pagan deities were not permitted within Jewish communities. They were, however, prominent in Gentile communities within the Jewish regions and are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. Vine, “Idols.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:317.
. See 03.04.17-21.