The Meaning of Matthew 12:41 Explained

Matthew 12:41

KJV: The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

YLT: 'Men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, for they reformed at the proclamation of Jonah, and lo, a greater than Jonah here!

Darby: Ninevites shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, more than Jonas is here.

ASV: The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here.

What does Matthew 12:41 Mean?

Study Notes

The men of Nineveh
Again the rejected King announces judgment (cf) Matthew 11:20-24 Israel, in the midst of the Pharisaic revival of outward religious strictness, was like a man out of whom a demon had "gone," i.e, of his own volition. He would come back and find an empty house, etc. The personal application is to a mere self-cleansed moralist.
Nineveh vs. Jonah 3:5-9 ; Luke 11:32 .
Nineveh
Nineveh stands in Scripture as the representative of apostate religious Gentiledom, as Babylon represents the confusion into which the Gentile political world-system has fallen Daniel 2:41-43 , (See Scofield " Isaiah 13:1 ") , Under the preaching of Jonah, B.C. 862, the city and king had turned to God (Elohim), Jonah 3:3-10 But in the time of Nahum, more than a century later, the city had wholly apostatized from God. It is this which distinguishes Nineveh from all the other ancient Gentile cities, and which makes her the suited symbol of the present religious Gentile world-system in the last day. Morally, Nineveh is described in Romans 1:21-23 . The chief deity of apostate Nineveh was the bull-god, with the face of a man and the wings of a bird: "an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts."
The message of Nahum, uttered about one hundred years before the destruction of Nineveh, is, therefore, not a call to repentance, but an unrelieved warning of judgment: "He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time." Nahum 1:9 ; see, also, Nahum 3:10 . For there is no remedy for apostasy but utter judgment, and a new beginning. Cf.; Isaiah 1:4 ; Isaiah 1:5 ; Isaiah 1:24-28 ; Hebrews 6:4-8 ; Proverbs 29:1 .
It is the way of God; apostasy is punished by catastrophic destruction. Of this the flood and the destruction of Nineveh are witnesses. The coming destruction of apostate Christendom is foreshadowed by these. (Cf) Daniel 2:34 ; Daniel 2:35 ; Luke 17:26 ; Luke 17:27 ; Revelation 19:17-21 .
burden See note 1, (See Scofield " Isaiah 13:1 ")

Verse Meaning

The Pharisees believed correctly that judgment followed resurrection. [1] Jesus followed His comments about resurrection in Matthew 12:40 with instruction about judgment in Matthew 12:41.
His critics" condemnation would be greater than that of the Ninevites because the Ninevites repented at Jonah"s preaching, but the scribes and Pharisees would not repent at Jesus" preaching. Jesus did not mean that the believing Ninevites and the unbelieving Jews of Jesus" day would appear before God at the same time. That is clear because the Ninevites would not condemn the Jews, but God would. Jesus meant that the believing Ninevites could testify against the unbelieving Jews when each group appeared before God for judgment.
The something greater than Jonah was again the authority of Messiah. The sign Jesus promised did not meet His critics" demand since they did not need weak faith strengthened. It was a sign that He provided for His own disciples. By refusing to respond to Jesus" message the scribes and Pharisees showed themselves to be worse sinners than the Gentile Ninevites.
"Jesus is greater than Jonah in many ways. He is greater in His person, for Jonah was a mere man. He was greater in His obedience, for Jonah disobeyed God and was chastened. Jesus actually died, while Jonah"s "grave" was in the belly of the great fish. Jesus arose from the dead under His own power. Jonah ministered only to one city [2], while Jesus gave His life for the whole world. Certainly Jesus was greater in His love, for Jonah did not love the people of Nineveh-he wanted them to die. Jonah"s message saved Nineveh from judgment; he was a messenger of the wrath of God. Jesus" message was that of grace and salvation." [3]

Context Summary

Matthew 12:38-50 - Opposing Or Doing God's Will
It was an evil and adulterous age. It had no spiritual appreciation, and was intent on getting an outward and sensible sign. Nineveh itself would have condemned it. The queen of Sheba, without the advantage attaching to the Hebrew race, appreciated Solomon; but the people of this generation had no appreciation of the Christ. They were nearing the last days of corruption and reprobation. They were a deserted palace given over to demons. Seven demons possessed them and urged them, as they did the swine in Matthew 8:31, to destruction.
But amid the general apostasy, there were faithful souls who recognized Jesus as the Son of God and drew near to hear His words. They recognized His kinship to the Father and revealed their kinship to Him. Let us not look back to Nazareth and Bethany with longing eyes. See Solomon's Song of Solomon 8:1-2. We are privileged to occupy a closer relationship than that of natural birth. See John 1:12-13; Galatians 4:1-6; Romans 8:16. O Brother Christ, make us more like thee! [source]

Chapter Summary: Matthew 12

1  Jesus reproves the blindness of the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath,
3  by scripture,
9  by reason,
13  and by a miracle
22  He heals a man possessed that was blind and mute;
24  and confronting the absurd charge of casting out demons by Beelzebub,
32  he shows that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven
36  Account shall be made of idle words
38  He rebukes the unfaithful, who seek after a sign,
46  and shows who is his brother, sister, and mother

Greek Commentary for Matthew 12:41

In the judgment [εν τηι κρισει]
Except here and in the next verse Matthew has “day of judgment” Note this use of εις — eis just like εν — en Note also πλειον — pleion (neuter), not πλειων — pleiōn (masc.). See the same idiom in Matthew 12:6 and Matthew 12:48. Jesus is something greater than the temple, than Jonah, than Solomon. “You will continue to disbelieve in spite of all I can say or do, and at last you will put me to death. But I will rise again, a sign for your confusion, if not for your conversion” (Bruce). [source]
Shall rise up [ἀναστήσονται]
Rev., stand up. Come forward as witnesses. Compare Mark 14:57. There is no reference to rising from the dead. Similarlyshall rise up, Matthew 12:42. Compare Matthew 11:11; Matthew 24:11. [source]
A greater [πλεῖον]
Lit., something more. See on Matthew 12:6. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Matthew 12:41

Matthew 12:6 One greater [μείζων]
The correct reading makes the adjective neuter, so that the right rendering is something greater (Rev., in margin). The reference is, of course, to Christ himself (compare Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42, where the neuter πλεῖον , more (so Rev., in margin), is used in the same way). Compare, also, John 2:19, where Christ speaks of his own body as a temple. The indefiniteness of the neuter gives a more solemn and impressive sense. [source]
Matthew 10:41 In the name of a prophet [εις ονομα προπητου]
“Because he is a prophet” (Moffatt). In an Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 37 (a.d. 49) we find ονοματι ελευτερου — onomati eleutherou in virtue of being free-born. “He that receiveth a prophet from no ulterior motive, but simply qua prophet (ut prophetam, Jer.) would receive a reward in the coming age equal to that of his guest” (McNeile). The use of εις — eis here is to be noted. In reality εις — eis is simply εν — en with the same meaning. It is not proper to say that εις — eis has always to be translated “into.” Besides these examples of εις ονομα — eis onoma in Matthew 10:41 and Matthew 10:42 see note on Matthew 12:41 εις το κηρυγμα Ιωνα — eis to kērugma Iōnā (see Robertson‘s Grammar, p. 593). [source]
Matthew 28:19 All the nations [παντα τα ετνη]
Not just the Jews scattered among the Gentiles, but the Gentiles themselves in every land. And not by making Jews of them, though this point is not made plain here. It will take time for the disciples to grow into this Magna Charta of the missionary propaganda. But here is the world program of the Risen Christ and it should not be forgotten by those who seek to foreshorten it all by saying that Jesus expected his second coming to be very soon, even within the lifetime of those who heard. He did promise to come, but he has never named the date. Meanwhile we are to be ready for his coming at any time and to look for it joyfully. But we are to leave that to the Father and push on the campaign for world conquest. This program includes making disciples or learners (ματητευσατε — mathēteusate) such as they were themselves. That means evangelism in the fullest sense and not merely revival meetings. Baptism in (εις — eis not into) the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in the name of the Trinity. Objection is raised to this language in the mouth of Jesus as too theological and as not a genuine part of the Gospel of Matthew for the same reason. See note on Matthew 11:27, where Jesus speaks of the Father and the Son as here. But it is all to no purpose. There is a chapter devoted to this subject in my The Christ of the Logia in which the genuineness of these words is proven. The name of Jesus is the essential part of it as is shown in the Acts. Trine immersion is not taught as the Greek Church holds and practices, baptism in the name of the Father, then of the Son, then of the Holy Spirit. The use of name (ονομα — onoma) here is a common one in the Septuagint and the papyri for power or authority. For the use of εις — eis with ονομα — onoma in the sense here employed, not meaning into, See note on Matthew 10:41. (cf. also Matthew 12:41). [source]
Mark 1:4 Preached the baptism of repentance [κηρυσσων βαπτισμα μετανοιας]
Heralded a repentance kind of baptism (genitive case, genus case), a baptism marked by repentance. See note on Matthew 3:2 for discussion of repent, an exceedingly poor rendering of John‘s great word metanoias He called upon the Jews to change their minds and to turn from their sins, “confessing their sins” See note on Matthew 3:6. The public confessions produced a profound impression as they would now.Unto remission of sins (μετανοιας — eis aphesin hamartiōn). This is a difficult phrase to translate accurately. Certainly John did not mean that the baptism was the means of obtaining the forgiveness of their sins or necessary to the remission of sins. The trouble lies in the use of εχομολογουμενοι τας αμαρτιας αυτων — eis which sometimes is used when purpose is expressed, but sometimes when there is no such idea as in Matthew 10:41 and Matthew 12:41. Probably “with reference to” is as good a translation here as is possible. The baptism was on the basis of the repentance and confession of sin and, as Paul later explained (Romans 6:4), was a picture of the death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ. This symbol was already in use by the Jews for proselytes who became Jews. John is treating the Jewish nation as pagans who need to repent, to confess their sins, and to come back to the kingdom of God. The baptism in the Jordan was the objective challenge to the people. [source]
Mark 1:4 Unto remission of sins [μετανοιας]
This is a difficult phrase to translate accurately. Certainly John did not mean that the baptism was the means of obtaining the forgiveness of their sins or necessary to the remission of sins. The trouble lies in the use of εχομολογουμενοι τας αμαρτιας αυτων — eis which sometimes is used when purpose is expressed, but sometimes when there is no such idea as in Matthew 10:41 and Matthew 12:41. Probably “with reference to” is as good a translation here as is possible. The baptism was on the basis of the repentance and confession of sin and, as Paul later explained (Romans 6:4), was a picture of the death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ. This symbol was already in use by the Jews for proselytes who became Jews. John is treating the Jewish nation as pagans who need to repent, to confess their sins, and to come back to the kingdom of God. The baptism in the Jordan was the objective challenge to the people. [source]
Luke 11:32 Shall rise up [ἀναστήσονται]
This verb is also used of rising from the dead, and that is implied here; but the meaning is, shall appear as witness. Hence Rev., stand up. See on Matthew 12:41. [source]
Luke 11:29 But the sign of Jonah [ει μη το σημειον Ιωνα]
Luke does not give here the burial and resurrection of Jesus of which Jonah‘s experience in the big fish was a type (Matthew 12:39), but that is really implied (Plummer argues) by the use here of “shall be given” (δοτησεται — dothēsetai) and “shall be” (εσται — estai), for the resurrection of Jesus is still future. The preaching of Jesus ought to have been sign enough as in the case of Jonah, but the resurrection will be given. Luke‘s report is much briefer and omits what is in Matthew 12:41. [source]
Luke 11:32 At the preaching of Jonah [εις το κηρυγμα Ιωνα]
Note this use of εις — eis as in Matthew 10:41; Matthew 12:41. Luke inserts the words about the Queen of the South (Luke 11:31) in between the discussion of Jonah (Luke 11:29., Luke 11:32). Both Σολομωνος — Solomōnos (Luke 11:31) and Ιωνα — Iōnā (Luke 11:32) are in the ablative case after the comparative πλειον — pleion (more, something more). [source]
Acts 2:38 And be baptized every one of you [και βαπτιστητω εκαστος μων]
Rather, “And let each one of you be baptized.” Change of number from plural to singular and of person from second to third. This change marks a break in the thought here that the English translation does not preserve. The first thing to do is make a radical and complete change of heart and life. Then let each one be baptized after this change has taken place, and the act of baptism be performed “in the name of Jesus Christ” In accordance with the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 No distinction is to be insisted on between εις το ονομα — eis to onoma and εν τωι ονοματι — en tōi onomati with βαπτιζω — baptizō since εις — eis and εν — en are really the same word in origin. In Acts 10:48 εν τωι ονοματι Ιησου Χριστου — en tōi onomati Iēsou Christou occurs, but εις — eis to ονομα — onoma in Acts 8:16; Acts 19:5. The use of ονομα — onoma means in the name or with the authority of one as εις ονομα προπητου — eis onoma prophētou (Matthew 10:41) as a prophet, in the name of a prophet. In the Acts the full name of the Trinity does not occur in baptism as in Matthew 28:19, but this does not show that it was not used. The name of Jesus Christ is the distinctive one in Christian baptism and really involves the Father and the Spirit. See note on Matthew 28:19 for discussion of this point. “Luke does not give the form of words used in baptism by the Apostles, but merely states the fact that they baptized those who acknowledged Jesus as Messiah or as Lord” (Page). Unto the remission of your sins (eis aphesin tōn hamartiōn hūmōn). This phrase is the subject of endless controversy as men look at it from the standpoint of sacramental or of evangelical theology. In themselves the words can express aim or purpose for that use of eis does exist as in 1 Corinthians 2:7 εις απεσιν των αμαρτιων μων — eis doxan hēmōn (for our glory). But then another usage exists which is just as good Greek as the use of εις — eis for aim or purpose. It is seen in Matthew 10:41 in three examples εις δοχαν ημων — eis onoma prophētouεις — dikaiouεις ονομα προπητου δικαιου ματητου — mathētou where it cannot be purpose or aim, but rather the basis or ground, on the basis of the name of prophet, righteous man, disciple, because one is, etc. It is seen again in Matthew 12:41 about the preaching of Jonah (εις το κηρυγμα Ιωνα — eis to kērugma Iōna). They repented because of (or at) the preaching of Jonah. The illustrations of both usages are numerous in the N.T. and the Koiné{[28928]}š generally (Robertson, Grammar, p. 592). One will decide the use here according as he believes that baptism is essential to the remission of sins or not. My view is decidedly against the idea that Peter, Paul, or any one in the New Testament taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins or the means of securing such remission. So I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received. The gift of the Holy Ghost The gift consists (Acts 8:17) in the Holy Spirit (genitive of identification). [source]
Acts 7:53 As it was ordained by angels [εις διαταγας αγγελων]
About angels, see note on Acts 7:38. Διαταγη — Diatagē (from διατασσω — diatassō to arrange, appoint) occurs in late Greek, lxx, inscriptions, papyri, Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 89ff., and in N.T. only here and Romans 13:2. At (or as) the appointment of angels (cf. Matthew 10:41; Matthew 12:41 for this use of εις — eis). And kept it not (και ουκ επυλαχατε — kai ouk ephulaxate). Like a whipcracker these words cut to the quick. They gloried in possessing the law and openly violated it (Romans 2:23). [source]
Acts 2:38 Unto the remission of your sins [eis aphesin tōn hamartiōn hūmōn)]
This phrase is the subject of endless controversy as men look at it from the standpoint of sacramental or of evangelical theology. In themselves the words can express aim or purpose for that use of eis does exist as in 1 Corinthians 2:7 εις απεσιν των αμαρτιων μων — eis doxan hēmōn (for our glory). But then another usage exists which is just as good Greek as the use of εις — eis for aim or purpose. It is seen in Matthew 10:41 in three examples εις δοχαν ημων — eis onoma prophētouεις — dikaiouεις ονομα προπητου δικαιου ματητου — mathētou where it cannot be purpose or aim, but rather the basis or ground, on the basis of the name of prophet, righteous man, disciple, because one is, etc. It is seen again in Matthew 12:41 about the preaching of Jonah They repented because of (or at) the preaching of Jonah. The illustrations of both usages are numerous in the N.T. and the Koiné{[28928]}š generally (Robertson, Grammar, p. 592). One will decide the use here according as he believes that baptism is essential to the remission of sins or not. My view is decidedly against the idea that Peter, Paul, or any one in the New Testament taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins or the means of securing such remission. So I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received. [source]
Hebrews 11:7 He condemned the world [κατέκρινεν τὸν κόσμον]
His faith was exhibited in building the ark on the mere strength of God's declaration, while as yet there were no signs of the flood. By his faith thus manifested he announced the condemnation of the world to destruction. World is to be taken as in 2 Peter 2:5. It is not used in Hebrews in the ethical sense so common in John and Paul - the world as alien from God. The meaning of the statement is not that Noah condemned the conduct of his contemporaries by the contrast presented by his own faith, after the analogy of Matthew 12:41; Romans 2:27. [source]
1 John 4:17 The day of judgment [τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως]
Lit., the day of judgment. The exact phrase occurs here only. Ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως dayof judgment, without the articles, is found Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:22, Matthew 11:24; Matthew 12:36; 2 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:7. The day is called the great day of their wrath (Revelation 6:17); the day of wrath and of revelation of the righteous judgement of God (Romans 2:5); the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12); the last day (John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54); that day (Matthew 7:22; Luke 6:23; Luke 10:12). The judgment is found Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42; Luke 10:14; Luke 11:31, Luke 11:32. [source]

What do the individual words in Matthew 12:41 mean?

The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with the generation this and will condemn it for they repented at the preaching of Jonah behold greater than Jonah here
Ἄνδρες Νινευῖται ἀναστήσονται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτήν ὅτι μετενόησαν εἰς τὸ κήρυγμα Ἰωνᾶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Ἰωνᾶ ὧδε

Ἄνδρες  The  men 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: ἀνήρ  
Sense: with reference to sex.
Νινευῖται  of  Nineveh 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: Νινευίτης  
Sense: a Ninevite, an inhabitant of Nineveh.
ἀναστήσονται  will  stand  up 
Parse: Verb, Future Indicative Middle, 3rd Person Plural
Root: ἀναπηδάω 
Sense: to cause to rise up, raise up.
κρίσει  judgment 
Parse: Noun, Dative Feminine Singular
Root: κρίσις  
Sense: a separating, sundering, separation.
γενεᾶς  generation 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Feminine Singular
Root: γενεά  
Sense: fathered, birth, nativity.
ταύτης  this 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Genitive Feminine Singular
Root: οὗτος  
Sense: this.
κατακρινοῦσιν  will  condemn 
Parse: Verb, Future Indicative Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: κατακρίνω  
Sense: to give judgment against, to judge worthy of punishment.
μετενόησαν  they  repented 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: μετανοέω  
Sense: to change one’s mind, i.
εἰς  at 
Parse: Preposition
Root: εἰς  
Sense: into, unto, to, towards, for, among.
κήρυγμα  preaching 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root: κήρυγμα  
Sense: that which is proclaimed by a herald or public crier, a proclamation by herald.
Ἰωνᾶ  of  Jonah 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰωνᾶς  
Sense: the fifth minor prophet, the son of Amittai, and a native of Gath-hepher and lived during the reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel.
ἰδοὺ  behold 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Imperative Active, 2nd Person Singular
Root: ἰδού  
Sense: behold, see, lo.
πλεῖον  greater 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Neuter Singular, Comparative
Root: πολύς  
Sense: greater in quantity.
Ἰωνᾶ  than  Jonah 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰωνᾶς  
Sense: the fifth minor prophet, the son of Amittai, and a native of Gath-hepher and lived during the reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel.
ὧδε  here 
Parse: Adverb
Root: ὧδε  
Sense: here, to this place, etc.