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The Swept House

By Richard Gunther


Mat. 12:43-45

As the words of our Lord were allegorical and illustrative, they must not be pressed too closely to fit any preconceived notions we may have. There is enough clear teaching about the activities of demons, without need to draw too much from this story.

One of the best rules of interpretation (and adhered to strictly by the Church of England) is to "never try to build doctrine from a parable".

However, some interesting insights can be drawn from this story which throw light on the national aspect of Israel and the Jews. That this is the correct application can be inferred from v.45 "so shall it be also to this wicked generation."

The Jewish nation, dominated as it was by the religious teaching and guidance of the Sadducees and Pharisees, scribes and rabbis, was outwardly swept and cleaned. The huge mass of Talmudic writings made sure that every aspect of Jewish life had some instructions to keep it, as the rabbis thought, in line with God's will.

The great sin, as they saw it, was idolatry. The Jews considered the heathen deity "Beelzebub" (Or: Beelzebul) to be the top evil spirit. His name means 'Lord of the fly'. Another name for him was Beelzebel = the dung god, alluding to the idea that he produced flies. He was worshipped by the heathen nations, and many offerings were made to him.

But the Jews thought that they had cleansed their house thoroughly. Instead, their house (nation) was full of self-righteous Pharisaism. When Satan took up residence in Jerusalem he found the City a very suitable habitation, because it had all the outward reputation for holiness and righteousness, so his presence there as the arch demon was not suspected.

Satan came with seven other spirits, possibly named Pride, Self-righteousness, Unbelief, Tradition, Religion and the like, the number 7 being symbolic for ‘complete range’, and thus the last state of the 'house' was worse than the first. The Jewish nation was full of gross idolatry, yet it was also garnished and decorated with synagogues and Temples and special robes and phylacteries and rabbis, and the 'holy' writings of the Talmud. The Pharisees were devoted to the study and practice of the Law, yet when the Messiah came, many of them missed the event, because of their traditional teachings, which had been added to the Scriptures.

(We have exactly the same thing happening today, in many areas of Christendom. The Church does not have a Talmud, but it DOES have massive amounts of commentary. Christians are raised on Bible teaching which is NOT always from the Bible. Christians hold beliefs which they think are right but they are NOT always in line with what the Bible says. Where would you or I stand when Jesus returns? Would he find us walking in the~ light - or walking in the dark, yet believing we were walking in the light, as were the Jews?)

Some of the above was drawn from : 'The Life and Times of Jesus', vol. 2, Page 201, by the Rev, A. Eidersheim.

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