They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
16:14-18 The evidences of the truth of the gospel are so full, that those who receive it not, may justly be upbraided with their unbelief. Our blessed Lord renewed his choice of the eleven as his apostles, and commissioned them to go into all the world, to preach his gospel to every creature. Only he that is a true Christian shall be saved through Christ. Simon Magus professed to believe, and was baptized, yet he was declared to be in the bonds of iniquity: see his history in Ac 8:13-25. Doubtless this is a solemn declaration of that true faith which receives Christ in all his characters and offices, and for all the purposes of salvation, and which produces its right effect on the heart and life; not a mere assent, which is a dead faith, and cannot profit. The commission of Christ's ministers extends to every creature throughout the world, and the declarations of the gospel contain not only truths, encouragements, and precepts, but also most awful warnings. Observe what power the apostles should be endued with, for confirming the doctrine they were to preach. These were miracles to confirm the truth of the gospel, and means of spreading the gospel among nations that had not heard it.
They shall take up serpents - When it is necessary for the sake of establishing religion, they shall handle poisonous reptiles without injury, thus showing that God was with them to keep them from harm. This was literally fulfilled when Paul shook the viper from his hand. See Acts 28:5-6
Any deadly thing - Any poison usually causing death.
Shall not hurt them - There is a similar promise in Isaiah 43:2.
They shall lay hands on the sick ... - See instances of this in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 3:6-7; Acts 5:15, etc.
They shall take up serpents,.... The Arabic version adds, "in their own hands"; and in an ancient manuscript of Beza's it is read, "in the hands"; so the Apostle Paul had a viper, which fastened and hung on his hand, which he shook off, without receiving any harm from it, Acts 28:3
And if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; not that they were hereby warranted to drink poison, to show what power they had; but should they accidentally drink it, or rather should they be forced to it by their enemies in order to destroy them, they should find no hurt by it: and Papias (x) reports of Barsabas, surnamed Justus, who was put up with Matthias for the apostleship, Acts 1:23, that he drank a poisonous draught, and by the grace of the Lord, received no hurt: and the Jews themselves report (y), that
"a son of R. Joshua ben Levi, swallowed something hurtful; and one came and whispered to him in the name of Jesus, the son of Pandira (so they call our Lord), and he did well.''
and they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover; as the Apostle Paul did on the father of Publius, who was thereby healed of a fever, and a bloody flux, and also others, Acts 28:8; nay, some were healed by the shadow of Peter, Acts 5:15, and others, by handkerchiefs and aprons taken from the body of Paul, Acts 19:12. The Persic version adds, without any authority, "whatsoever ye ask in my name, shall be given unto you".
(x) Apud Euseb. Hist. Eccl. l. 3. c. 39. (y) T. Hieros. Sabbat, fol. 14. 4. & Avoda Zara, fol. 40. 4. & Midrash Kobelet, fol. 81. 1.They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
The sick (ἀρρώστους)
See on Mark 6:5.
17, 18. And these signs shall follow them that believe … They shall take up serpents—These two verses also are peculiar to Mark.
The Ascension and Triumphant Proclamation of the Gospel Thereafter (Mr 16:19, 20).
Take up serpents - Several MSS. add εν ταις χερσιν, in their hands - shall be enabled to give, when such a proof may be serviceable to the cause of truth, this evidence of their being continually under the power and protection of God, and that all nature is subject to him. This also was literally fulfilled in the case of Paul, Acts 28:5
If they drink any deadly thing - Θανασιμον (φαρμακον) being understood - if they should through mistake, or accident, drink any poisonous matter, their constant preserver will take care that it shall not injure them. See a similar promise, Isaiah 43:2.
They shall lay hands on the sick - And I will convey a healing power by their hands, so that the sick shall recover, and men shall see that these are sent and acknowledged by the Most High. Several instances of this kind are found in the Acts of the Apostles.
That the apostles of our Lord should not lose their lives by poison is most fully asserted in this verse, and there is neither record nor tradition to disprove this. But it is worthy of remark, that Mohammed, who styled himself The Apostle Of God, lost his life by poison; and had he been a true apostle of God, he could not have fallen by it. Al Kodai, Abul Feda, and Al Janabi, give the following account.
When Mohammed, in the seventh year of the Hejra, a.d. 628, had taken the city of Kheebar, from the Arab Jews, he took up his lodgings at the house of Hareth, the father of Marhab the Jewish general, who had been slain at the taking of the city by Alee, the son-in-law of Mohammed. Zeenab the daughter of Hareth, who was appointed to dress the prophet's dinner, to avenge the fall of her people, and the death of her brother, put poison in a roasted lamb which was provided for the occasion. Bashar, one of his companions, falling on too hastily, fell dead on the spot. Mohammed had only chewed one mouthful, but had not swallowed it: though, on perceiving that it was poisoned, he immediately spat it out, yet he had swallowed a sufficiency of the juice to lay the foundation of his death; though this did not take place till about three years after: but that it was the cause of his death then, his dying words related by Al Janabi, and others, sufficiently testify. When the mother of Bashar came to see him in his dying agonies, he thus addressed her: "O mother of Bashar, I now feel the veins of my heart bursting through the poison of that morsel which I ate with thy son at Kheebar."
Abul Feda, Ebnol Athir, and Ebn Phares say, that the prophet acknowledged on his death-bed, that the poison which he had taken at Kheebar had tormented him from that time until then, notwithstanding blisters were applied to his shoulders, and every thing done in the beginning to prevent its effects. Al Kodai and Al Janabi relate, that when Zeenab was questioned why she did this, she answered to this effect: "I said in my heart, If he be a king, we shall hereby be freed from his tyranny; and if he be a prophet, he will easily perceive it, and consequently receive no injury." To support his credit, he pretended that the lamb spoke to him, and said that it was infected with poison! See Elmakin, p. 8. It was therefore policy in him not to put Zeenab to death. It has pleased God that this fact should be acknowledged by the dying breath of this scourge of the earth; and that several of even the most partial Mohammedan historians should relate it! And, thus attested, it stands for the complete and everlasting refutation of his pretensions to the prophetic spirit and mission. Vide Specimen Hist. Arabum, a Pocockio, p. 189, 190. Le Coran traduit par Savary, vol. i; p. 135, and 212. See also, The Life of Mohammed by Prideaux, 93, 101.
16:18 If they drink any deadly thing - But not by their own choice. God never calls us to try any such experiments.