A certain blind man
By the roadside,
Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ ἐγγίζειν αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱερειχὼ τυφλός τις ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἐπαιτῶν.
Luke indicated that as Jesus approached or was getting near to Jericho (Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ ἐγγίζειν αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱερειχὼ), a certain blind man was sitting (τυφλός τις ἐκάθητο) by the roadside (παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν), begging (ἐπαιτῶν). Jericho was about 16 miles northeast of Jerusalem and about 8 miles north of the Dead Sea. Jesus was getting closer to Jerusalem, but not quite there. Both Mark, chapter 10:46, and Matthew, chapter 20:29, have something similar, but with some differences. Luke has Jesus entering or approaching Jericho, not leaving it, as in Matthew and Mark, who said that Jesus had been in Jericho (Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰερειχώ). However, Jesus was leaving Jericho (Καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ Ἰερειχὼ) with his disciples (καὶ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ) and a large crowd (καὶ ὄχλου ἱκανοῦ), when this incident occurred. Mark is the only gospel writer that named this blind beggar Bartimaeus (Βαρτιμαῖος), the son of Timaeus, even with the name of his father (ὁ υἱὸς Τιμαίου). This Bartimaeus was a blind beggar (τυφλὸς προσαίτης), sitting by the way or the roadside (ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν). On the other hand, Luke only had an unnamed blind beggar, while Matthew had two unnamed blind beggars. Matthew also had Jesus and his apostles or disciples leaving Jericho (Καὶ ἐκπορευομένων αὐτῶν ἀπὸ Ἱερειχὼ). As usual a large crowd followed him (ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς). All indications are that they were on the way to Jerusalem. Have you ever seen a blind beggar?
“Now the woman
Was a gentile,
Of Syrophoenician origin.
She begged him
Out of her daughter.”
ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἦν Ἑλληνίς, Συροφοινίκισσα τῷ γένει· καὶ ἠρώτα αὐτὸν ἵνα τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐκβάλῃ ἐκ τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτῆς.
Matthew, chapter 15:22, has something similar. This woman was a gentile Canaanite woman (ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἦν Ἑλληνίς), of Syrophoenician origin (Συροφοινίκισσα τῷ γένει), that is in the area of Syria and Phoenicia. Matthew never mentioned the area she was from. The Canaanites, who worshiped Baal, were still the enemies of the Jewish people. This Canaanite woman kept begging Jesus (καὶ ἠρώτα αὐτὸν) to cast out the demon from her daughter (ἵνα τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐκβάλῃ ἐκ τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτῆς), since her daughter was possessed by an evil spirit.
Came to Jesus.
He said to Jesus.
‘If you choose,
You can make me
Καὶ ἔρχεται πρὸς αὐτὸν λεπρὸς παρακαλῶν αὐτὸν καὶ γονυπετῶν λέγων αὐτῷ ὅτι Ἐὰν θέλῃς δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι.
Luke, chapter 5:12, has something similar, but the man was covered with leprosy. However, the request was the same as here. Matthew, chapter 8:2, was closer to Mark here, almost word for word, indicating that Mark might be the source. However, Matthew had the leper call Jesus “Lord”. Mark, like Matthew said that a leper came to Jesus (Καὶ ἔρχεται πρὸς αὐτὸν λεπρὸς). Leprosy was some kind of skin disease that was usually found among poor people. Today, there are about 2,000,000 people with leprosy or Hansen’s disease, mostly in India, Indonesia, and Brazil. The Greek word “λεπρὸς” used here is a broader definition of leprosy than just Hansen’s disease. Leprosy was a religious problem also. What to do about it was clearly defined in Leviticus, chapters 13-14. Leprosy in the wide sense was considered unclean and had religious connotations, since only a Levitical priest could declare a person clean with a distinct ritual for cleansing the leper. As a leper, you were considered unclean and not fit to live in normal communal life. This leper was begging or imploring Jesus (παρακαλῶν αὐτὸν) as he knelt (καὶ γονυπετῶν) before him as to offer obedience to him. Then he said (λέγων αὐτῷ) that if Jesus wanted to (ὅτι Ἐὰν θέλῃς), he could make him clean (δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι). This leper was asking Jesus to make him clean, so that he could join normal Jewish society again.
Do not lead
The life of a beggar!
It is better to die
Than to beg.
When one looks
To the table of another,
One’s way of life
Cannot be considered a life.
One loses self-respect
With another person’s food.
One who is intelligent,
One who is well instructed
Guards against that.
In the mouth of the shameless
Begging is sweet.
But it kindles
a fire inside him.”
Sirach has a very strong condemnation of begging. He clearly says with very strong words that it is better to die than to beg. He did not want anyone to take up the life of a beggar. Yet he was very strong on almsgiving. If you have to continually eat at someone’s table, he does not consider that to be a worthwhile existence. You lose your self-respect, if you have to eat another person’s food. The intelligent and instructed ones guard against begging. Only the shameless think that begging is a sweet thing to do. However, their begging will lead to a kindling fire in their stomachs. Stay away from beggars. Usually the biblical writers talk about compassion for those in need, but not here.
“May his days be few!
May another seize his position!
May his children be orphans!
May his wife be a widow!
May his children wander about!
May his children beg!
May they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit!
May the creditor seize all that he has!
May strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
May there be no one to do him a kindness!
May there be no one to pity his orphaned children!
May his posterity be cut off!
May his name be blotted out in the second generation!
May the iniquity of his father be remembered before Yahweh!
May the sin of his mother not be blotted out!
May they be before Yahweh continually!
May his memory be cut off from the earth!”
The enemies of David issued a whole series of curses against him. They wanted his days to be few with an early death, so that his children would be orphans and his wife a widow. They wanted someone to take over his position or the crown. They wanted his children to wander about begging. They wanted them driven out of their ruined home. Creditors should seize all his things. Strangers should plunder his fields. No one should show him kindness. No one should worry about his orphaned children. His name should be wiped out in the 2nd generation. People should remember the iniquity and sin of his father and mother. There was to be no memory of him on earth. All of this should be brought to Yahweh so that he might punish David. Obviously, these curses did not come true for David.
“I have been young.
Now I am old.
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken.
I have not seen their children begging bread.
They are ever giving liberally and lending.
Their children become a blessing.”
This is the prayer of the old man. This is somewhat reminiscent of Job. All his life he had not seen the righteous deserted. Their children were not begging for bread. They were generous in giving and lending. Their children became a blessing to them.