Matthew 12:43

ESV “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.
NIV When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.
NASB Now when the unclean spirit comes out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it.
CSB "When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it roams through waterless places looking for rest but doesn't find any.
NLT When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none.
KJV When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.

What does Matthew 12:43 mean?

Earlier in this chapter, Jesus freed a man from demonic possession (Matthew 12:22). Critics such as the Pharisees ignored that sign and instead claimed Jesus was using Satanic power (Matthew 12:24). After refuting that claim and rebuking the Pharisees for their stubbornness, Jesus shifts the topic back to that of demon possession.

Jesus now describes what happens to a demon who leaves a person without being sent to the inescapable "abyss" or "pit" to await God's judgment (Luke 8:31). Jesus has mentioned exorcisms performed—or at least claimed—by some Pharisees (Matthew 12:27). It could be those attempts were ineffective in sending the demon away for good. This verse doesn't say the demon is cast out, but that is the context of the chapter.

In either case, the demon, away from its victim, wandering and looking for somewhere to rest. Some commentators speculate that the reference to deserts implies places less touched by God's blessing, which therefore have less interference in the work of demons (Psalm 63:1). The other possibility is that the demon's eagerness to find a new host is compared to a thirsty person searching through a desert. In either case, the demon looks for rest by hunting for another human to occupy. In this case, the demon is unsuccessful, so it decides to return (Matthew 12:44).
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