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Demons and other kinds of evil spirits in the Gospel of Mathew

Demons and other kinds of evil spirits in the Gospel of Mathew [Updated ed.]

By John Chopores


Matthew 4: 23 ¶ And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.

  24  Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.

The Greek word use here for “healed” is “therapeuo”, it means: “to serve, do service” and also 

 to heal, cure, restore to health”.  So, we see that Jesus sometimes needed to cast out a demon, to heal them.

daimonizomai” is the Greek word use here for “demon-possessed”, it means: “to be under the power of a demon”.



Comments by others:

it has been supposed that the persons so described were under the influence of evil spirits, who had complete possession of the faculties, and who produced many symptoms of disease not unlike melancholy, madness, and epilepsy. That such was the fact will appear from the following considerations:

1. Christ and the apostles spoke to them and of them as such; they addressed them, and managed them, precisely as if they were so possessed, leaving their hearers to infer beyond a doubt that such was their real


2. Those who were thus possessed spake, conversed, asked questions, gave answers, and expressed their knowledge of Christ, and their fear of him things that certainly could not be said of diseases, Matthew 8:28;

Luke 8:27.

3. The devils, or evil spirits, are represented as going out of the persons possessed, and entering the bodies of others, Matthew 8:32.

4. Jesus spake to them, and asked their name, and they answered him. He threatened them, commanded them to be silent, to depart, and not to return, Mark 1:25; 5:8; 9:25.

5. Those possessed are said “to know Christ; to be acquainted with the Son of God,” Luke 4:34; Mark 1:24. This could not be said of diseases.

6. The early fathers of the Church interpreted these passages in the same way. They derived their opinions probably from the apostles themselves, and their opinions are a fair interpretation of the apostles’ sentiments..

7. If it is denied that Christ believed in such possessions, it does not appear why any other clearly-expressed sentiment of his may not in the same way be disputed. There is, perhaps, no subject on which he expressed himself more clearly, or acted more uniformly, or which he left more clearly impressed on the minds of his disciples.

Nor is there any absurdity in the opinion that those persons were really under the influence of devils. For:

1. It is no more absurd to suppose that an angel, or many angels, should have fallen and become wicked than that so many people should.

2. It is no more absurd that Satan should have possession of the human faculties, or inflict diseases, than that people should do it a thing which is done every day. What is more common than for a wicked man to corrupt the morals of others, or, by inducing them to become intemperate, to produce a state of body and mind quite as bad as to be possessed with the devil?

3. We still see a multitude of cases that no man can prove not to be produced by the presence of an evil spirit. Who would attempt to say that some evil being may not have much to do in the case of madmen?

4. It afforded an opportunity for Christ to show his power over the enemies of himself and of man, and thus to evince himself qualified to meet every enemy of the race, and triumphantly to redeem his people. He came to destroy the power of Satan, Acts 26:18; Romans 16:20,21.” [BARNES].


Matthew 8:16  When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 

Jesus does not seem to be having long conversations here, with the evil spirits, which He is casting out!

And why would He? Demons are evil and would not want to tell the truth. There are some people today, who seem to like having long conversations with demons, before casting them out, but that does not seem to be the way that Jesus did it!     

Yes, at times, Jesus did speak to the demon that He was about to cast out. But, it seems to have been very short conversations.  


Comments by others:

“He drove out the spirits...and healed all the sick. Matthew makes a distinction between those from whom spirits have been expelled and other sick people, who were healed. That possessed men are specially brought to Jesus is possibly connected to the fact of the deliverance of a possessed man earlier in the day, in the synagogue in Capernaum (Mark  1:23-27). According to modern science, miracles are extraordinary and unnatural, even impossible, but Jesus regards a miracle as completely ordinary and natural. It is emphasised that He cured them all.” [BRINK].

“And he cast out the spirits with his word; only by speaking to them; who were obliged,  at his command,  and by his orders,  to quit their tenements,  though unwillingly enough.” [JOHN GILL].

“16. This miracle became noised abroad, and only deepened the impression produced by the casting out of the unclean spirit that same day in the synagogue. {#Mr 1:21-28} So that all the people became anxious to bring their demoniac or diseased friends to seek like miraculous relief. But the Jews were too scrupulous to do this on the Sabbath day. When the even was come. {comp. #Mt 14:15} Luke yet more definitely, ‘when the sun was setting.’ The Jewish day was reckoned as beginning and ending at sunset; so they came the moment the Sabbath was past. Matthew says nothing to show why they waited till evening; he is simply throwing together a number of miracles without giving all the circumstances of their occurrence. It is not to be inferred that Jesus himself shared these scruples about healing on the Sabbath, a thing which he had just done (Mark and Luke), and repeatedly did afterwards. Possessed with devils, much better, demoniacs (as in margin Rev. Ver.), see on #Mt 8:28 and see on "Mt 4:24". The Evangelist has already mentioned in general {#Mt 4:2} that Jesus healed all the demoniacs that were brought to him during this circuit of Galilee. With his (a) word, just as he had ‘with a word’ healed the centurion’s slave. {#Mt 8:8} All that were sick, a general expression embracing every class of diseases, as in #Mt 4:24. Kitto: "The sun which had set upon an expectant crowd of miserable creatures, arose next morning upon a city from which disease had fled." Our Lord’s miracles were very numerous. Those particularly described by the Evangelists are only specimens, and we are repeatedly told in passing, of his healing very many persons and of many diseases. Simply to read the statements in #Mt 4:24 9:35 Mt 11:4 f; #Mt 12:15 14:35 15:30 19:2, would be apt greatly to enlarge one’s idea of the extent of his labour of beneficence in this respect.” [Broadus].




Matthew 8:28 ¶ When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way.

We see here that demons bring out the worst, not the best in the person that they possess. The possessed men were “exceedingly fierce” not just a little.


Comments by others:

“The possessed men lived in graves. As servants of the Great Destroyer, demons love the dead. These graves consisted of caves or holes hewn out of solid rock and so lent themselves excellently as dwellings.  [BRINK].

Coming out of the tombs Mark and Luke say that they lived among the tombs. The sepulchres of the Jews were frequently caves beyond the walls of the cities in which they dwelt, or excavations made in the sides of hills, or sometimes in solid rocks. These caves or excavations were sometimes of great extent. They descended to them by flights of steps. These graves were not in the midst of cities, but in groves, and mountains, and solitudes.

They afforded, therefore, to …demoniacs a place of retreat and shelter. They delighted in these gloomy and melancholy recesses, as being congenial to the wretched state of their minds. Josephus also states that these sepulchres were the haunts and lurking-places of those desperate bands of robbers that infested Judea.”  [BARNES].

“28. Healing of the two demoniacs. {#Mt 8:28-9:1} Comp. #Mr 5:1-21 Lu 8:26-40. If the preceding miracle shows our Lord’s command of the forces of nature, that which follows exhibits his power over evil spirits. Trench: "And Christ will do here a yet mightier work than that which he accomplished there; he will prove himself here I also the Prince of peace, the bringer back of the lost harmony; he will speak, and at his potent word this madder strife, this blinder rage which is in the heart of men, will allay itself; and here also there shall be a great calm." Theophyl.: "While the men in the boat are doubting what manner of man this is, that even the winds and the sea obey him, the demons come to tell them."” [Broadus].



29  And suddenly they cried out, saying, "What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?"

  The Greek word for “cried out”, is the word “krazo”, one of its meanings is: “the cry of a raven”.


Comments by others:

“#28-34 The devils have nothing to do with Christ as a Saviour; they neither have,  nor hope for any benefit from him. Oh the depth of this mystery of Divine love; that fallen man has so much to do with Christ,  when fallen angels have nothing to do with him! #Heb 2:16. Surely here was torment,  to be forced to own the excellence that is in Christ,  and yet they had no part in him. The devils desire not to have any thing to do with Christ as a Ruler. See whose language those speak,  who will have nothing to do with the gospel of Christ. But it is not true that the devils have nothing to do with Christ as a Judge; for they have,  and they know it,  and thus it is with all the children of men. Satan and his instruments can go no further than he permits; they must quit possession when he commands. They cannot break his hedge of protection about his people; they cannot enter even a swine without his leave.” [MATTHEW HENRY]. 

“What have we to do with thee, literally, ‘What (is there) to us and thee,’ ...which obviously means, what have we in common, what have we to do with each other? It would express a severe rebuke, {#2Sa 16:10 Ezr 4:8} or a mild repulse, {#Joh 2:4} according to the circumstances, the relation of the parties, and the manner of utterance.

... To torment us before the time. The word rendered ‘time’ means ‘occasion,’ ‘season,’ etc. (See on Mt 11:25.) The evil spirits were persuaded that a worse torment than they had ever endured awaited them at some future period, and they shrank from the thought that the Son of God might be about to inflict such aggravated torment by anticipation. We are told in #Jude 1:6 that this future occasion is "the judgment of the great day," after which time Satan and his agents "shall be tormented day and night forever and ever."—There {#Re 20:10} are striking contradictions in the conduct of the demoniacs; they came forth fiercely to meet Jesus and his followers; as they drew near they ‘ran and worshipped him’; {#Mr 5:6} and now they speak words of dread and dislike. Such self-contradictions, such sudden changes of feeling, would seem perfectly natural for one possessed by an evil spirit; at one moment he expresses his own feeling of distress and need, at another he speaks for the dreadful being who occupies and controls him.”[Broadus].

Art thou come hither to torment us? ... By “the time” here mentioned is meant the day of judgment. The Bible reveals the doctrine that evil spirits are not now bound as they will be after that day; that they are permitted to tempt and afflict people, but that in the day of judgment they also will be condemned to everlasting punishment with all the wicked, 2 Peter 2:4: Jude 1:6. These spirits seemed to be apprised of that, and were alarmed lest the day that they feared had come. They besought him, therefore, not to send them out of that country, not to consign them then to hell, but to put off the day of their final punishment.

Mark and Luke say that Jesus inquired the name of the principal demoniac, and that he called his name “Legion, for they were many.” The name legion was given to a division in the Roman army. It did not always denote the same number, but in the time of Christ it consisted of 6,000 to 3,000 foot soldiers and 3,000 horsemen. It came, therefore, to signify “a large number,” without specifying the exact amount.” [BARNES].


30  Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding.

“Matthew apparently wished to show that the herd was too far off to be frightened by the demoniacs.” [Broadus].


31  So the demons begged Him, saying, "If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine."

The demons said: “if you cast us out” They seem to have some hope that Jesus would not cast them out.


Comments by others:

“31-32. Send us into the herd of pigs. When their attempt at distraction and conjuration (cf. Mark 5:7) has shown them their utter powerlessness towards the Son of God, the demons begin to beg. They beg Jesus to be allowed to enter the pigs, and for the present to be saved from the torments of eternal judgement in the pit (Luke 8:31). This was allowed. It is not only remarkable that the unclean spirits wanted to enter the unclean swine, it is extremely remarkable that they were permitted to do so. We see here clearly that evil spirits have no power to do what they want in the presence of the Son of God. Demons must give way before the power of God, the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:28). The reason that Jesus permitted the demons to enter the pigs may be that its effect on the two men, who were deeply under possession, would serve as a proof of the genuineness of their freedom.” [BRINK].  

“"the herd of swine." The owners, if Jews, drove an illegal trade; if heathens, they insulted the national religion: in either case the permission was just.” [JFB NT.70].

“Permit us to depart into the herd of swine. Some conjecture that they wished to attack the swine, because they are filled with enmity to all God’s creatures. I do admit it to be true, that they are entirely bent on confounding and overthrowing the whole order of nature which God has appointed. But it is certain that they had a more remote object in view, to excite the inhabitants of that country to curse God on account of the loss of the swine. When the devil thunders against Job’s house, he does so not from any hatred he bears to timber or stones, but in order that the good man, through impatience at suffering loss, may break out against God. Again, when Christ consents, he does not listen to their prayers, but chooses to try in this manner what sort of people the Gadarenes are. Perhaps, too, it is to punish their crimes that he grants to the devils so much power over their swine.” [Calvin].



32  And He said to them, "Go." So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water.

Comments by others:

“And he said unto them,  go,  &c]. He gave them leave,  as God did to Satan,  in the case of Job; for without divine permission, these evil spirits cannot do anything to the bodies,  souls,  or estates of men: they could not enter into the swine without leave, and much less do things of greater moment and consequence; and therefore are not to be feared,  or dreaded by men,  especially by the people of God. It may be asked,  why did Christ suffer the devils to enter the herd of swine,  and destroy them,  which was a considerable loss to the proprietors? To which may be answered,  that if the owners were Jews,  and these creatures were brought up by them for food,  it was a just punishment of their breach of the law of God; or if to be sold to others,  for gain and filthy lucre's sake,  it was a proper rebuke,  both of the avarice and the contempt of the laws of their own country,  which were made to be a hedge or fence for the law of God: or if they were Gentiles,  this was suffered to show the malice of the evil spirits,  under whose influence they were,  and who would,  if they had but leave,  serve them as they did the swine; and to display the power of Christ over the devils,  and his sovereign right to,  and disposal of the goods and properties of men; and to evince the truth of the dispossession,  and the greatness of the mercy the dispossessed shared in; and to spread the fame of the miracle the more.” [JOHN GILL].



33  Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men.

34  And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.

 Here was Jesus Himself, Who could have helped this entire people greatly, being asked to leave! 


Comments by others:

“Besought him that he would depart; probably from fear lest his miraculous power should work them still greater worldly losses. Men who are not literally "possessed of devils, "may still be influenced by evil spirits; and when so influenced,  they are opposed to Christ,  and wish him to depart from them. Covetousness leads men to act in the same way; and so debases them,  that they prefer any thing by which they can make money,  to the presence and glory of the Saviour.” [FAMILY].     



Matthew 12:22 ¶ Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw.

 A demon can make a human sick.  Please notice that Jesus healed all the man’s sickness! Which in this cast needed and included the casting out of a demon.


Comments by others:

and he healed him,  insomuch that the blind and dumb,  both spake and saw. This he did,  not by making use of medicines,  but by a word speaking,  dispossessing Satan; so that the cause of blindness and dumbness being removed,  the effects ceased,  and the man was restored to his sight,  and speech,  as before. He had his sight to behold his Saviour,  and a tongue to praise his name:” [JOHN GILL].



23  And all the multitudes were amazed and said, "Could this be the Son of David?"

24  Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons."


Comments by others:

the prince of the devils--Two things are here implied--first,  that the bitterest enemies of our Lord were unable to deny the reality of His miracles; and next,  that they believed in an organized internal kingdom of evil, under one chief. This belief would be of small consequence,  had not our Lord set His seal to it; but this He immediately does. Stung by the unsophisticated testimony of "all the people, "they had no way of holding out against His claims but the desperate shift of ascribing His miracles to Satan.



25  But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

26  "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?

The Greek word used here for “kingdom”, is “basileia”, it means: “the royal dominion, including the power and form of government, with the territory and the kingdom” [BULLINGER].

So, we see that Satan does have a form of government over his demons!



27  "And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.

Comments by others:

“Condescending, as he did with reference to the Sabbath, {#Mt 12:3 f.} to present the argument in a variety of ways, our Lord here gives it a new and startling turn, being what logicians call argumentum ad hominem, an appeal to their own case. Your children (sons) means those who had been instructed by the Pharisees, like "sons of the prophets" in #2Ki 2:3; comp. the use of ‘father’ for revered teacher in #Mt 23:9 1Co 4:15, and ‘disciples’ of the Pharisees in #Mt 22:16. Exorcists would naturally belong to the Pharisee party, for no Sadducee would profess the expulsion of demons, since that party did not believe in spirits, evil or good.” [Broadus].



Matthew 12:28  "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 

We can see by this verse, that the power to cast out demons is part of the “kingdom of God”.  Is not the Church also, a part of the “kingdom of God”? Then, should not all born-again Christians be taught how to cast-out demons? [That is one of the reasons, for my web pages about “demons”. To help all Christians to know how to deal with demons!].


Matthew 12:43  "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.

There is no “rest” for the evil! Cf. Revelation 14:11  "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."

We also know that Satan himself, is busy working against God! Cf. Job 1:7  And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it."

 1 Peter 5:8 ¶ Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.


Comments by others:

“An evil spirit...goes through arid places seeking rest. Demons love death (cf. 8:28) and therefore inhabit dry chaotic regions where death reigns and where no man can live (Isa 13:21; 34:12-14; Rev 18:2). But because there are no people there in which the unclean spirit can dwell, he finds no peace there.” [BRINK].

Seeking rest, and findeth none These desolate and dry regions are represented as uncomfortable habitations; so much so, that the dissatisfied spirit, better pleased with a dwelling in the bosoms of people, as affording an opportunity of doing evil, seeks a return there.” [BARNES].

Seeking rest— Or refreshment. Strange! a fallen corrupt spirit can have no rest but in the polluted human heart: the corruption of the one is suited to the pollution of the other, and thus like cleaves to like.” [ADAM CLAKE].



44  "Then he says, `I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.

We see here, that the man, who the “evil spirit” left, has put some of his life “in order”! But the man has not filled his life with God, and so his life is “empty”. Because the mans life is “empty” of God the Holy Spirit, this man’s life has room for the evil to come back!

If this man had let God into his life, the “evil spirit” that left him could not come back! Cf. Rom.8: 38  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,

39  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This man is either someone who was never born-again, or a former born-again Christian  has fallen from grace and has loss his salvation.  


Comments by others:

“I will return to the house I left. Then he will return to his old dwelling and he finds this empty, clean and in order, i.e., ready for the festive reception of a guest. And because the Spirit of God has not yet indwelt this man the evil spirit comes back with reinforcements (v. 45).” [BRINK].  

“{Into my house} (eiv ton oikon mou). So the demon describes the man in whom he had dwelt. "The demon is ironically represented as implying that he left his victim voluntarily,  as a man leaves his house to go for a walk" (McNeile). "Worse than the first" is a proverb.” [RWP].  

He findeth it empty ... There is here a continuance of the reference to the dwelling of the spirit in people. The man was called his “house.” By the absence of the evil spirit the house is represented as unoccupied, or

empty, swept,” and “garnished;” that is, while the evil spirit was away, the man was restored to his right mind, or was freed from the influence of the evil spirit.

Garnished Adorned, put in order, furnished. Applied to the “man,” it means that his mind was sane and regular when the evil spirit was gone, or he had a “lucid interval.”” [BARNES].            

Swept and garnished.— As scolazw signifies to be idle, or unemployed, it may refer here to the person, as well as to his state. His affections and desires are no longer busied with the things of God, but gad about, like an idle person, among the vanities of a perishing world. Swept, from love, meekness, and all the fruits of the Spirit; and garnished, or adorned, kekosmhmenon, decorated, with the vain showy trifles of folly and

fashion. This may comprise also smart speeches, cunning repartees, etc., for which many who have lost the life of God are very remarkable. [ADAM CLARKE].     
We see here that Mr. Clarke’s view is different from that of Mr. Barnes.



45  "Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation."

Of course the evil spirit brings others like himself with him!


Comments by others:

“To run less risk of being expelled again, he will summon seven other spirits worse than himself. And so the man's last situation will be worse than the first.” [BRINK].

“Seven; a large or full number. More wicked; some totally wicked spirits are more wicked than others. Worse than the first; if men do not grow better under the means of grace,  and permit the Holy Spirit to take possession of their hearts,  they will grow worse.” [FAMILY].

“Then goeth he,  and taketh with himself seven other spirits, &c.] This is said in allusion to,  and in imitation of the seven spirits before the throne; or may denote a large number of devils, seven being a number of perfection;” [JOHN GILL].      

 Then goeth he ... Seeing the state of the man; dissatisfied with a lonely dwelling in the desert where he could do no evil; envious of the happiness of the individual, and supremely bent on wickedness, he resolved to increase his power of malignant influences and to return. He is therefore represented as taking seven other spirits still worse than himself, and returning to his former habitation. Seven denotes a

large but indefinite number. It was a favorite number with the Jews, and was used to denote “completeness” or “perfection,” or any “finished” or “complete” number. See 1 Samuel 2:5. Compare Revelation 1:4.

Here it means a sufficient number completely to occupy and harass his soul.” [BARNES].




Matthew 17:18  And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. 

The Greek word use here, for, “rebuked”, is “epitimao”, it can mean: “to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely”.  From the Greek, it seems that Jesus “rebuked” the demon only one time here, not many times!


The Greek word use here, for “hour”, is “hora”, it can mean:  “any definite time, point of time, moment”. 


Comments by others:

And Jesus rebuked the devil The word “rebuke” has the combined force of reproving and commanding. He reproved him for having afflicted the child, and he commanded him to come out of him.

Mark ( Mark 9:25) has recorded the words which he used words implying reproof and command: “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee come out of him, and enter no more into him.” And the spirit cried, and

with a mighty convulsion came out, leaving the child apparently dead.

Jesus lifted him up by the hand (Mark), and gave him to his father (Luke).” [BARNES].

Seven other spirits more wicked— Seven was a favourite number with the Jews, implying frequently, with them, something perfect, completed, filled up, for such is the proper import of the Hebrew word

[wsheva or shevang: nearly allied in sound to our seven. And perhaps this meaning of it refers to the seventh day, when God rested from his work, having filled up, or completed the whole of his creative design. Seven demons-as many as could occupy his soul, harassing it with pride anger, self-will, lust, etc., and torturing the body with disease.

The last state of that man is worse than the first.— His soul, before influenced by the Spirit of God, dilated and expanded under its heavenly influences, becomes more capable of refinement in iniquity, as its powers are more capacious than formerly. Evil habits are formed and strengthened by relapses; and relapses are multiplied, and become more incurable, through new habits.” [ADAM CLARKE].


[The Bible text use here, unless otherwise stated, is the New King James.].