But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

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Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) It is written.—The words of all the three answers to the Tempter come from two chapters of Deuteronomy, one of which (Deuteronomy 6) supplied one of the passages (6:4-9) for the phylacteries or frontlets worn by devout Jews. The fact is every way suggestive. A prominence was thus given to that portion of the book, which made it an essential part of the education of every Israelite. The words which our Lord now uses had, we must believe, been familiar to Him from His childhood, and He had read their meaning rightly. With them He may have sustained the faith of others in the struggles of the Nazareth home with poverty and want. And now He finds in them a truth which belongs to His high calling as well as to His life of lowliness. “Not by bread only doth man live, but by the word, i.e., the will, of God.” He can leave His life and all that belongs to it in His Father’s hands. In so losing His life, if that should be the issue, He is certain that He shall save it. If His Father has given Him a work to do, He will enable Him to fulfil it. As this act of faith throws us back on the training of the childhood, so we trace its echoes in the after-teaching of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-32), of Matthew 10:39, yet more in that of John 6. The experience of the wilderness clothed the history of the bread from heaven with a new significance.

Benson Commentary

Matthew 4:4. It is written — There is no better way of answering the tempter, than by opposing the word of God to his temptations. This is that sword of the Spirit that must put him to flight. The Church of Rome, therefore, by taking from the people the word of God, disarm them as to the spiritual combat. Man shall not live by bread alone — These words are quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3, and signify that bread, or ordinary sustenance, is not necessary to support the life of man; that God can feed and sustain him by other means: but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live — That is, by whatsoever he shall appoint for his sustenance; or even by his bare word. Therefore, it is not needful that I should work a miracle to procure bread, without any intimation of my Father’s will. He can support me without bread, as he fed the Israelites in the wilderness; and, on the other hand, even bread itself, if these stones were turned into it, could not nourish me without his blessing; which I could not expect, were I to attempt a miracle of this kind merely in compliance with thy suggestions. Here we are taught, in imitation of Christ, always to maintain such an humble dependance on the divine blessing, as never to venture out of the way of it, be our necessity ever so urgent.

4:1-11 Concerning Christ's temptation, observe, that directly after he was declared to be the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, he was tempted; great privileges, and special tokens of Divine favour, will not secure any from being tempted. But if the Holy Spirit witness to our being adopted as children of God, that will answer all the suggestions of the evil spirit. Christ was directed to the combat. If we presume upon our own strength, and tempt the devil to tempt us, we provoke God to leave us to ourselves. Others are tempted, when drawn aside of their own lust, and enticed, Jas 1:14; but our Lord Jesus had no corrupt nature, therefore he was tempted only by the devil. In the temptation of Christ it appears that our enemy is subtle, spiteful, and very daring; but he can be resisted. It is a comfort to us that Christ suffered, being tempted; for thus it appears that our temptations, if not yielded to, are not sins, they are afflictions only. Satan aimed in all his temptations, to bring Christ to sin against God. 1. He tempted him to despair of his Father's goodness, and to distrust his Father's care concerning him. It is one of the wiles of Satan to take advantage of our outward condition; and those who are brought into straits have need to double their guard. Christ answered all the temptations of Satan with It is written; to set us an example, he appealed to what was written in the Scriptures. This method we must take, when at any time we are tempted to sin. Let us learn not to take any wrong courses for our supply, when our wants are ever so pressing: in some way or other the Lord will provide. 2. Satan tempted Christ to presume upon his Father's power and protection, in a point of safety. Nor are any extremes more dangerous than despair and presumption, especially in the affairs of our souls. Satan has no objection to holy places as the scene of his assaults. Let us not, in any place, be off our watch. The holy city is the place, where he does, with the greatest advantage, tempt men to pride and presumption. All high places are slippery places; advancements in the world makes a man a mark for Satan to shoot his fiery darts at. Is Satan so well versed in Scripture as to be able to quote it readily? He is so. It is possible for a man to have his head full of Scripture notions, and his mouth full of Scripture expressions, while his heart is full of bitter enmity to God and to all goodness. Satan misquoted the words. If we go out of our way, out of the way of our duty, we forfeit the promise, and put ourselves out of God's protection. This passage, De 8:3, made against the tempter, therefore he left out part. This promise is firm and stands good. But shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? No. 3. Satan tempted Christ to idolatry with the offer of the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. The glory of the world is the most charming temptation to the unthinking and unwary; by that men are most easily imposed upon. Christ was tempted to worship Satan. He rejected the proposal with abhorrence. Get thee hence, Satan! Some temptations are openly wicked; and they are not merely to be opposed, but rejected at once. It is good to be quick and firm in resisting temptation. If we resist the devil he will flee from us. But the soul that deliberates is almost overcome. We find but few who can decidedly reject such baits as Satan offers; yet what is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Christ was succoured after the temptation, for his encouragement to go on in his undertaking, and for our encouragement to trust in him; for as he knew, by experience, what it was to suffer, being tempted, so he knew what it was to be succoured, being tempted; therefore we may expect, not only that he will feel for his tempted people, but that he will come to them with seasonable relief.

Barnes' Notes on the Bible

But he answered and said ... - In reply to this artful temptation Christ answered by a quotation from the Old Testament. The passage is found in Deuteronomy 8:3. In that place the discourse is respecting manna. Moses says that the Lord humbled the people, and fed them with manna, an unusual kind of food, that they might learn that man did not live by bread only, but that there were other things to support life, and that everything which God had commanded was proper for this. The term "word," used in this place, means very often, in Hebrew, thing, and clearly in this place has that meaning. Neither Moses nor our Saviour had any reference to spiritual food, or to the doctrines necessary to support the faith of believers; but they simply meant that God could support life by other things than bread; that man was to live, not by that only, but by every other thing which proceeded out of his mouth; that is, which he chose to command people to eat. The substance of his answer, then, is: "It is not so imperiously necessary that I should have bread as to make a miracle proper to procure it. Life depends on the will of God. He can support it in other ways as well as by bread. He has created other things to be eaten, and man may live by everything that his Maker has commanded." And from this temptation we may learn:

1. That Satan often takes advantage of our circ*mstances and wants to tempt us. The poor, the hungry, and the naked he often tempts to repine and complain, and to be dishonest in order to supply their necessities.

2. Satan's temptations are often the strongest immediately after we have been remarkably favored. Jesus had just been called the Son of God, and Satan took this opportunity to try him. He often attempts to fill us with pride and vain self-conceit when we have been favored with any peace of mind, or any new view of God, and endeavors to urge us to do something which may bring us low and lead us to sin.

3. His temptations are plausible. They often seem to be only urging us to do what is good and proper. They seem even to urge us to promote the glory of God, and to honor him. We are not to think, therefore, that because a thing may seem to be good in itself, that therefore it is to be done. Some of the most powerful temptations of Satan occur when he seems to be urging us to do what shall be for the glory of God.

4. We are to meet the temptations of Satan, as the Saviour did, with the plain and positive declarations of Scripture. We are to inquire whether the thing is commanded, and whether, therefore, it is right to do it, and not trust to our own feelings, or even our wishes, in the matter.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

4. But he answered and said, It is written—(De 8:3).

Man shall not live by bread alone—more emphatically, as in the Greek, "Not by bread alone shall man live."

but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God—Of all passages in Old Testament Scripture, none could have been pitched upon more apposite, perhaps not one so apposite, to our Lord's purpose. "The Lord … led thee (said Moses to Israel, at the close of their journeyings) these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no. And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only," &c., "Now, if Israel spent, not forty days, but forty years in a waste, howling wilderness, where there were no means of human subsistence, not starving, but divinely provided for, on purpose to prove to every age that human support depends not upon bread, but upon God's unfailing word of promise and pledge of all needful providential care, am I, distrusting this word of God, and despairing of relief, to take the law into My own hand? True, the Son of God is able enough to turn stones into bread: but what the Son of God is able to do is not the present question, but what is man's duty under want of the necessaries of life. And as Israel's condition in the wilderness did not justify their unbelieving murmurings and frequent desperation, so neither would Mine warrant the exercise of the power of the Son of God in snatching despairingly at unwarranted relief. As man, therefore, I will await divine supply, nothing doubting that at the fitting time it will arrive." The second temptation in this Gospel is in Luke's the third. That Matthew's order is the right one will appear, we think, quite clearly in the sequel.

So also Luke 4:4. There is no better answering the tempter than by opposing the precepts of holy writ to his motions to sin. The word is called the sword of the Spirit, Ephesians 6:17. The papists, therefore, denying people the use of the word, disarm them as to the spiritual combat. It is written Deu 8:3. Though man ordinarily liveth by common bread, such food as men usually eat, yet God’s power is not restrained, he can uphold the life of man when that is wanting, as he supported the Israelites by manna (to which that text relates); nor is God obliged to create any extraordinary means, for his power, which is seen in creating such means, can produce the same effect without such means if it pleaseth him. His power must be seen in creating the means, and in upholding the proper power and faculty of the means, in order to their end; why cannot he by the same power produce the effect without any such means?

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

But he answered and said, it is written,.... The passage referred to, and cited, is in Deuteronomy 8:3 the manner of citing it is what was common and usual with the Jews; and is often to be met with in the Talmudic writings; who, when they produce any passage of scripture, say "as it is written". The meaning of this scripture is; not that as the body lives by bread, so the soul lives by the word of God, and doctrines of the Gospel; though this is a certain truth: or that man lives by obedience to the commands of God, as was promised to the Israelites in the wilderness, and in the land of Canaan; but that God, in satisfying man's hunger, and in supporting and preserving his life, is not tied to bread only, but can make use of other means, and order whatever he pleases to answer these ends; as, by raining manna from heaven, which is mentioned in the passage cited; and therefore there was no occasion to change the nature of things, to turn stones into bread; since that was not so absolutely necessary to the sustenance of life, as that it could not be maintained without it. Our Lord hereby expresses his strong faith and confidence in God, that he was able to support him, and would do it, though in a wilderness, and destitute of supply; whereby he overcame this temptation of Satan. Christ, in this, and some following citations, bears a testimony to, and establishes the authority of the sacred writings; and though he was full of the Holy Ghost, makes them the rule of his conduct; which ought to be observed against those, who, under a pretence of the Spirit, deny the scriptures to be the only rule of faith and practice and at the same time points out to us the safest and best method of opposing Satan's temptations; namely, by applying to, and making use of the word of God.

Geneva Study Bible

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.


Meyer's NT Commentary

Matthew 4:4. Deuteronomy 8:3, after the LXX., contains the words of Moses addressed to the Israelites, which have reference to the divinely-supplied manna. Note how Jesus repels each one of the three temptations, simply with the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).ἐπʼ ἄρτῳ] the preservation of life does not depend upon bread alone. Examples of ζῆν ἐπί in Kypke, Obss. I. p. 14 f.; Markland, ad Max. Tyr. Diss. Matthew 27:6; Bergler, ad Alciphr. p. 294, This construction is a common one in classical writers with ἐκ, ἀπό, or the simple dative.ζήσεται] The future tense designates in Deuteronomy 1:1, and in LXX. as well as here, simply the future, that which will happen, the case which will occur under given circ*mstances. So also in classical writers in general sentences. Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 369.ὁ ἄνθρωπος] universal: Man. So in the original text and in the LXX.; there is the less reason to depart from this, and to explain it: de insigni illo homine, that is, Messiah (Fritzsche), as the application of the universal statement to Himself on the part of Jesus was a matter of course.ῥήματι Word, in its proper sense. By every statement which proceeds from the mouth of God, that is, through every command which is uttered by God, by which the preservation of life is effected in an extraordinary, supernatural manner (without ἄρτος).[388] Comp. Wis 16:26. ῥῆμα is not res (רָּבָר), not even in Matthew 18:16, Luke 2:15, Acts 5:32, 1Ma 5:37, since ἘΚΠΟΡ. ΔΙᾺ ΣΤΟΜ. ΘΕΟῦ necessarily points to the meaning of word, declaration, which, however, is not to be explained, with Fritzscbe (comp. Usteri and Ullmann): omni mandato divino peragendo.[388] Amongst the Israelites it was effected by means of the manna; therefore we must not say with Euth. Zigabenus: πᾶν ῥῆμα ἐκπορευόμενον διὰ στόματος θεοῦ ἐπὶ τὸν πεινῶντα δίκην τροφῆς συνέχει τὴν ζωὴν αὐτοῦ. Comp. Chrysostom: δύναται ὁ θεὸς καὶ ῥήματι θρέψαι τὸν πεινῶντα, Pfleiderer also refers it to the power of spiritual nourishment contained in the divine word; as also Calovius, who says: “Revocat a verbo potentiae, quo lapides erant in panem convertendi, ad verbum gratiae, cui adhaerentes vivent, etiamsi pane careant.”

Expositor's Greek Testament

Matthew 4:4. ὁ δὲ ἀποκ. εἶπεν: Christ’s reply in this case as in the others is taken from Deuteronomy (Matthew 8:3, Sept[14]), which seems to have been one of His favourite books. Its humane spirit, with laws even for protecting the animals, would commend it to His mind. The word quoted means, man is to live a life of faith in and dependence on God. Bread is a mere detail in that life, not necessary though usually given, and sure to be supplied somehow, as long as it is desirable. Ζῆν ἐπὶ is unusual, but good Greek (De Wette).[14] Septuagint.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

4. Jesus answers by a quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3. The chapter sets forth the teaching of the wilderness. The forty years were to the Jews what the forty days are to Jesus. The Lord God proved Israel “to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna … that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every [word, omitted in Hebr.] that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”Christ’s test of sonship is obedience and entire trust in God who alone is the giver of every good gift. The devil’s test of sonship is supply of bodily wants, external prosperity, &c.

Bengel's Gnomen

Matthew 4:4. Γέγραπται, it is written) Jesus does not appeal to the Voice from heaven: He does not reply to the arguments of the Tempter: against those arguments He employs the Scripture alone, and simply cites its assertions. He declines to state whether He be the Son of God or not. When addressing mankind, our Lord seldom quoted Scripture, but said, “I say unto you.” He says that only in answer to Satan, “It is written;” i.e., “Whoever I am, I assuredly keep to that which is written.” All the statements winch He thus advanced were in themselves indisputable: and yet He keeps to that, “it is written.” By doing which, He declares that He is the Destined One who should fulfil Scripture; and at the same time shows the high authority of Scripture itself, irrefragable even to Satan.—οὐκ ἐπʼ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ἄνθρωτος, αλλʼ ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι ἐκπορευομένῳ διὰ στόματος Θεοῦ, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God) The LXX. (Deuteronomy 8:3) prefix the definite article to ἄνθρωπος (man), and repeat after Θεου (of God) ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος (shall man live). Even in the wilderness, the Israelites had felt the force of these words. The sixth chapter of the same book is cited in Matthew 4:7; Matthew 4:10 : so that the two paraschae,[135] ואתחנן and עקב, contain the three sayings propounded to the Israelites in the wilderness, and in the wilderness employed by Christ as a sword against the tempter. At the same season of the year[136] at which Moses had uttered them, Jesus employed these sayings against the tempter.—ζήσεται, shall live, etc.) Jesus had experienced this during these forty days. It is equally easy to live without bread, or to make bread out of stone. This is truly αὐτάρκεια,[137] constant tranquillity of mind (prœsens animi quies), to require nothing besides life. Jesus knew that He should live.—ἄνθρωπος, man. He does not reply to the tempter with reference to the appellation, “Son of God,” but speaks as if one of many, who were bound to the Written Word. And already in the time of Moses, Divine Wisdom had expressed all this testimony in those words with which the Saviour was to smite the tempter. Jerome says, “Propositum erat Domino humilitate Diabolum vincere, non potentiâ,”—“The Lord had determined to overcome the Devil, not by power, but by humility.”—ἐτὶ παντὶ ῥήματι ἐκπορευομὲνῳ διὰ στόματος Θεοῦ, by every word that proceedeth out through the mouth of God) Thus in Psalms 89(88):34, the LXX. have, concerning a Divine promise, τὰ ἐκπορευόμενα διὰ τῶν χειλέων Μουthe things which proceed out through My lips. Cf. concerning vows: S. V. of Numbers 30:13, and Deuteronomy 23:23 : Cf. also Jeremiah 17:16, and Numbers 32:24.—That which goeth forth out of the mouth (exitus oris), is put by Metonomy for that which is uttered by the mouth.—διὰ στόματος, through the mouth) and, therefore, from the heart.[135] The Pentateuch is divided into 50 or 54 Paraschioth, or larger sections, according as the Jewish lunar year is simple or intercalary; one of which sections was read in the synagogue every Sabbath-day. This division many of the Jews suppose to have been appointed by Moses; but it is by others attributed, and with greater probability, to Ezra. These paraschioth were, as in the instances referred to by Bengel, called by the Hebrew words with which they happened to begin; they were further subdivided into smaller sections, termed Siderim, or orders.—(I. B.)[136] GRESWELL gives, as the date of our Lord’s being led up into the wilderness (v. 1), Sebat 28, Jan. 24, Fer. 1 (i.e. Sunday); and of Satan’s coming to Him (v. 3), Veader 9, Martii 5, Fer. 6 (i.e. Friday).—See his Harmonia Evangelica.—(I. B.)[137] Literally, self-sufficingness—a word which sometimes signifies independence, at other times has the force of entire contentedness.—(I. B.)

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 4. - It is written. Our Lord's three quotations are from Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 6:16, 13. Some portion of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21, because included in the Sh'ma) was the first part of Scripture taught a Jewish child. Possibly, though there is no evidence upon the subject, the neighbouring portions were often added. If they had been in our Lord's case, such a recurrence of them to his mind in his present state of exhaustion is in complete accord with psychological probability. Man... God (Deuteronomy 8:3, LXX.). As we could not accept Weiss's interpretation of the object of the devil's temptation, so neither can we accept his interpretation of our Lord's reply, that it is equivalent to "Not by means either natural or supernatural, is man's life really sustained, but by exact obedience to God's command." Our Lord quotes the passage in its primary meaning, which was fully applicable to the present occasion. It is equivalent to "Man lives, not necessarily by natural means, but by even supernatural means, if God so wishes." "The creative word, the ῤῆμα Θεοῦ, which alone imparts to the bread its sustaining power, can sustain, even as he is confident that in the present need it will sustain, apart from the bread" (Trench, 'Studies,' p. 35). The words of Deuteronomy are paraphrased in Wisd. 16:26, where the author, in a thoroughly Jewish exposition, enumerates the lessons taught by the giving of the manna. "It was altered... that thy children, O Lord, whom thou lovest, might know that it is not the growing of fruits that nourisheth man; but that it is thy Word, which preserveth them that put their trust in thee." By every word. Ἐπί (Textus Receptus; Westcott and Hort) is doubtless right. The alteration to ἐν (Lath-mann, Tregelles) is probably due to a tendency towards the simple expression of means, but perhaps to the feeling that life, especially spiritual life, is maintained rather in a sphere than on a basis (cf. Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12). Matthew 4:4

Vincent's Word Studies

It is written (γέγραπται)

The perfect tense. "It has been written, and stands written." The first recorded words of Jesus after this entrance upon his ministry are an assertion of the authority of scripture, and that though he had the fulness of the Spirit. When addressing man, our Lord seldom quoted scripture, but said, I say unto you. In answer to Satan he says, It is written.


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