Jesus cries out laments against the Jewish cities most exposed to his miracles; none are known to have been particularly hostile to Jesus, but their reception was not close to commensurate with their opportunity. Following the ancient Near Eastern practice of judgment oracles against other nations, prophets like Isaiah (13-23), Jeremiah (46-51), Ezekiel (25-32) and Amos (1:3-2:3) denounced the sins of various nations in succession. Like the biblical prophets, however, Jesus also prophesies woes against those who claim to be God's people (as in Is 22; Jer 2-11; Ezek 24; Amos 2:4-3:8; Mic 1:9-15). Like the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:14-15, Capernaum thought highly of itself, but Jesus teaches that people's response to himself and his message will determine their standing at the coming judgment (Witherington 1990:167).
This narrative warns that God judges peoples according to the opportunities they have had to respond to his truth. This is not to say that anyone is without some light and therefore escapes punishment, but to say that those who know best-in our day perhaps those who grow up in loving Christian homes-yet reject the truth will be punished most severely (Lk 12:47-48; Rom 2:12-16; 12:19-20; Rev 9:20-21). Those who claim to be God's people are often the most hardhearted hearers of all (see comment on Mt 2:1-12). Tyre, Sidon and Sodom would have repented, but God's people took the signs for granted (compare 2:4-11).
God often judges corporately for corporate sin. Sometimes large groups of people lead others to starve or slaughter opponents in war; those who profit from or approve of the sins of their allies will suffer judgment along with the actual perpetrators of the acts. Sometimes entire cities or nations withhold God's truth from their children, perpetuating a hardness against God for generation after generation. In such cases, judgment may be God's primary means of gaining the people's attention (as in Ex 7:5, 17; 9:14; 10:2; Is 26:9-10; 28:9-13; 29:9-14).
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
Now that you've created a Bible Gateway account, upgrade to Bible Gateway Plus, the ultimate online Bible reading & study experience!
Bible Gateway Plus supercharges your account by greatly expanding your study library and reducing ads on Bible Gateway. It transforms Bible Gateway into your own personal Bible study toolkit! Try it free for 30 days to see how it transforms your Bible reading and understanding.