The Demon and the Pigs (Matthew 8:28-34

I have a couple of questions about the well-known story of when Jesus cast the demons out of two men and sent them into the pigs. This happening is found in Matthew 8:28-34. It says:

"28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region."

My first question is about verse 29 when they ask Jesus, “What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before our appointed time?” There are two questions here. Why would the demons ask Jesus what he wants of them? What do they mean about torturing them before their appointed time?

And then in verse 31 they ask him to send them into herds of pigs instead of simply casting them out. Why? Why do they expect Jesus to show them mercy? I mean, he does, but why? And what was the horrible thing about being cast out with no body to go to? Why does Jesus show them mercy in the end? I know these are a lot of questions, but I hope to find some answers…

God bless,
-Tirz

Hi, @Tirz :wave:

I’m not an expert on this subject. But allow me to share my thoughts on this.

First, this story has parallel, complimentary event in Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39

This shows that Christ is known to them and that they are subject to His authority despite of their rebellion.

Luke 8:31 has a reference for the abyss, or the bottomless pit, which elsewhere in the New Testament refers to the holding place of the most destructive of demons (Rev.9:1-11) probably tormenting even their own kind.

I think the answer to this is to magnify Jesus in this unbelieving city. Not that it was orchestrated, but that the city needs some remarkable events to aide their unbelief. For all we know, Legion (Mark 5:9) might have been thinking to cause trouble by that request. But God’s sovereignty turned that chaos into a great testimony for that day’s event. Mark 5:15-20 relays how the combined events of that day caused the men of the city to marvel at what has been done, especially coming from the city’s infamous demoniac which now has been turned into a preacher they are now listening to.

I think the demon’s plea against untimely banishment is a plausible appeal for the time being. Jude 1:6 seem to imply that the fallen angels who left their spiritual bodies for some malevolent intention are the ones immediately sent to the bottomless pit at once. This same fate is the one Legion is pleading Christ not to be prematurely sent to.

Good questions, @Tirz - and good responses from @DCGotiza.

I think the reason they asked Jesus what He wanted with them and if He was going to cast them out before the time is because they were terrified of Him. James 2:19 says that God makes devils tremble - and they knew Who Jesus really was. In fact, anytime we see Jesus confronting demons in the Gospels, they are highly agitated by His presence. They always want to know what He’s going to do to them.

Because Jesus has the power to send them to hell before the time. This seems to be the main point of their terror. Revelation 20:1-3 shows that at the end of the Tribulation, just before the 1000 reign of Christ, Satan will be cast into the Pit for the duration of the Millennium - and it is generally assumed that every fallen angel beneath him will be included.

As for why they wanted to enter the pigs, demons are spirits who have no physical bodies to interact with the physical world. A disembodied imp cannot cause evil in a material creation. They need a material body to work through. The only way they can get one is by possessing the spirit of some creature already in a physical body - and the more sentient the creature, the better. So they can do the most evil by possessing an intelligent human, less by possessing pigs - but none without possessing some sentient body.

Which, by the way, brings up an important issue. Can demons possess rocks and make inanimate objects float the way some Hollywood horror movies portray? Can they make idols speak? Or send out evil vapors that make uncanny things happen? This idea is very popular in certain parts of our culture.

But consider this passage from Psalm 115:4-7. The psalmist describes the idols of the heathen (which Paul describes as demonic cults in I Corinthians 10:20), and he says these inanimate “gods” cannot see, hear, walk or speak. Jeremiah 10:5 also concurs. I know of no passage in the Bible that shows demons doing things through inanimate objects such as some sensational stories describe. Even the image of the beast that speaks in Revelation 13:15 is more likely a trick of technology or an illusion.

I think that is why the Legion is so desperate to be allowed to possess some animate body - any animate body!

Why are they begging Jesus for mercy? I’m not sure it’s through any actual expectation of mercy - it’s very possibly just desperation on their part. But you’re right - He does give them what they ask for. Why? My best guess would be to display His power! Two thousand pigs suddenly possessed and fleeing like lemmings over the edge of a cliff showed an impressive scope of this Legion’s destructive capabilities! Mark 5:20 says that all who heard of it marveled.

Perhaps this will help make some sense out of the things you were wondering about.

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What are the things we can learn from Matthew 8:28-34?

First, Matthew mentioned two persons possessed by evil demons. Mark and Luke mention only one demoniac. They probably concentrated on the fiercest of the two demonaics.

Second, the demoniacs had their dwellings in places of desolation and ruins. The evil spirits which were in them were delighting in driving them to such place. They love to harm and see us suffer in their diabolical schemes.

Third, the evil spirits know who Jesus Christ was and they exceedingly feared his power.

Fourth, they said Jesus should not meddle with them before the appointed time. We know and these evil spirits know that a greater degree of punishment awaited them at the appointed time. On the Day of Judgement the Divine Judge will sent them to greater eternal torment in the fiery pit.

Fifth, these swines were Jewish property, kept and used in express violation of the law of God.

Sixth, the destruction of the swines was the manifestation of the justice of God. The evil spirits asked Jesus to send them into the herd of pigs. This expressed more fully the absolute power Jesus Christ had over them. Not just the permission but the power to decide where they were to go away, must come from Christ himself. The whole herd of pigs ran violently down a steep place and drowned in the water.

Sixth, we see the justice of God upon the owners of the pigs. The owners of the pigs lost their property and were not happy. Jesus caused the destruction out of justice. It is only fair to punish those who acquired wealth either by covetousness or injustice.

Seventh, the whole town came out to meet Jesus and pleaded with him to leave. They have lost their pigs and who knows what other things they may lose as long as Jesus Christ was around.

How sad! Many rather chose to lose Jesus Christ than those temporal goods by which they gratify their passions at the expense of their souls. They love even their pigs better than their salvation.

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