Matthew 11:23 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 11:23, NIV: And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.

Matthew 11:23, ESV: And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Matthew 11:23, KJV: And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Matthew 11:23, NASB: And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! For if themiracles that occurred in you had occurred in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.

Matthew 11:23, NLT: 'And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today.

Matthew 11:23, CSB: And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until today.

What does Matthew 11:23 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jesus is speaking of judgment to come on some of the cities of Israel, specifically in the region of Galilee where He has performed many powerful miracles of healing and casting out demons. These people should have responded to Jesus in repentance; instead, they've chosen rejection. To this, Christ declared that if the same evidence had been given to idol-worshippers like those in the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon (Joel 3:4; Ezekiel 27:1–9; 28:21–23), the pagans would have repented (Matthew 11:22). This demonstrates that God's omniscience includes all possible outcomes from all possible situations.

Now Jesus condemns Capernaum, His own adopted hometown on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:12–13). He immediately answers His own rhetorical question, saying that the city will be brought down to Hades. Many of Jesus' Jewish audience would have been reminded of Isaiah's condemnation of Babylon in Isaiah 14:15: "But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit." Babylon may have been the definition of an evil city, and here Jesus is describing Capernaum as sharing the same fate.

If the comparison to Baal worshippers was offensive, what Jesus says next would have been outright shocking. Sodom was a city destroyed by God for the arrogance and sinfulness of the people (Genesis 19). Every Jewish person listening to Christ in this moment would have known the story of God raining down fire to annihilate that debauched city from the land. Sodom is used throughout the Old Testament as a symbol of depravity, evil, and corruption (Genesis 13:13).

What is it that could possibly make Capernaum so evil in the eyes of God? Jesus says that if the same powerful miracles performed by Jesus in Capernaum had been done for the people of Sodom, God never would have destroyed it. The people would have repented from their sin. For a people often raised—incorrectly—to believe they were uniquely moral (Matthew 3:9), this would have been a cutting remark.

Capernaum was given the unimaginable privilege of being known as the adopted hometown of the Son of God on earth. Jesus chose to settle there and performed mighty miracles: healing and casting out demons and even raising the dead. Still most of the people there did not repent from sin and believe that He was the Messiah.