Jesus Casts out a Mute Spirit – Matthew 9:32-34

Matthew 9:32-34 briefly narrates a second miracle, Jesus helps a demon oppressed man (9:32). Davies and Allison call this an “exceedingly concise and comparatively unremarkable pronouncement story” (Matthew, 2:138). The miracle is not point of this short paragraph, but the contrasting reaction to Jesus by the crowd and the Pharisees.

Jesus drives out demons

In fact, there is not much to the story and the substance of the story is repeated in 12:22-23. When Jesus heals a demon oppressed deaf-mute, the people are amazed and wonder if Jesus is the son of David. The importance is in the parallel with the two blind men in the previous story. The blind and the deaf will see and hear in the coming eschatological age. Deafness and the inability to speak is associated with demonic oppression. Jesus does not cure the deafness but casts out the demon which is preventing the man from hearing and speaking.

More important than the miracle itself is the reactions to Jesus set up the conflict stories in Matthew 11-12. The crowds marveled, nothing like this has ever happened in Israel.

Since this is a summary statement, the reaction of the people refers to all of the miracles collected in these two chapters, just as they were amazed at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Because Jesus taught with authority the people were amazed (7:28-29). Now Jesus has demonstrated his authority of creation, sickness, sin, demons and even death, so the people once again react with amazement.

Matthew’s point is  the miracles Jesus did go beyond the miracles of Elijah or Elisha because he is the expected, messianic Son of David. In fact, all of the stories collected in Matthew 8-9 support this claim.

The Pharisees disagree: Jesus is casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons. Just as the reaction of the crowd sums up chapters 8-9, the reaction of the Pharisees anticipates much of what will happen in chapters 10-12. In 10:25 Jesus says “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

In Second Temple Judaism, Beelzebul was the prince or ruler of demons, see Testament of Solomon 3:1-6.

T. Solomon 3:6 Then I interrogated him and said, “Tell me, who are you?” The demon said, “I am Beelzeboul, the ruler of the demons.” I demanded that without interruption he sit next to me and explain the manifestations of the demons. Then he promised to bring to me all the unclean spirits bound. Again, I glorified the God of heaven and earth, continually giving thanks to him.

In 2 Kings 1:2 Baal-zebub (Beelzebul in the LXX) is the god of Ekron. Baal means lord, zebub may mean “flies,” so the name may refer to the “Lord of the Flies.” It is possible the name means “lord of dung), zebel can mean dung, as in the re-spelling of the name Jezebel (Albright says this is rejected by any competent scholar). Others suggest zbl is a prince, so the name would mean “baal the prince” (Theodore J. Lewis, “Beelzebul,” ABD:1:639). In any case, the name refers to a powerful enemy of God and is more or less equivalent to Satan.

This line is a summary of the response to Jesus Matthew will develop over the next three chapters, leading to the decisive break between Jesus and the Pharisees and the beginning of the use of parables in Matthew 13.

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