Mk 3:23-37


"Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divivided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.”

This parable makes good sense until he talks about the strong man. Who do you think he is referring to when he speaks of this plunderer? Is God the plunderer and Satan the strong man who is tied up?


I’ve read this verse and the one similar that is in Matthew many times and I’ve never figured it out. I’m interested to see what people have to say.


My take is that God is the strong man who can tied up Satan and “plunder” his house i.e. cast out his demons. Though I am not sure the word “plunder” is the appropriate translation as “plunder” has a connotation of stealing/robbing. There is nothing of Satan that God needs. The ASV translate it as “spoil” his goods.


I took it a different way, with any one of us being the strong man, and Satan the plunderer. You have to allow Satan to have control over your life. If you reject him and cast him out, he won’t have power.


Jesus is the “strong man” in this text.

This section in Mark concludes with Jesus warning about blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. Jesus was referring to how his critics were saying that he was driving out spirits because he, Jesus, had an evil spirit, namely Beelzebul. (See Mark 1:22.)

Jesus answered his critics with two lines of reasoning:

*]That their logic was faulty because if he indeed had the spirit of Beelzebul (another name for Satan), then what they were accusing him of was tantamount to saying that Satan was expelling himself and his own cohorts from others. This would mean that Satan was working against himself which was illogical.

*]The fact that Jesus could expel wicked spirits was proof that someone stronger than Satan had arrived on the scene. Since the home of a strong man could not be robbed unless someone stronger came along and subdued him, then what Jesus was doing should have been seen as a sign to others that God was at work.

Since God was working through Jesus by means of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s critics were blaspheming against the Spirit because they were in effect calling the Spirit evil.

So to conclude, Jesus is the “strong man” who could subdue Satan, but some failed to grasp it and in the process sinned against the Holy Spirit by calling the Spirit the Prince of the Demons, Beelzebul.


By the way, the plunder being taken by Jesus from Satan were the people who were being possessed and harassed by the evil one.


I’m beginning to think that the strongman illustaration is hypothetical and demonstrates Jesus’s adversarial relationship with Satan. The house represents an individual person, and the contested property within represents that person’s soul. The strong man guarding the property refers to the power who currently holds posession of that soul, and could either be Jesus or Satan depending on the case. Because the one afflicted by the demon in Mark is under the posession of Satan, Jesus would then take the role of plunderer. The brief illustaration simplifies exorcism to an issue of property, and defeats the argument that Jesus could exorcise demons in the name of Satan.


In reference to what Jesus said about Satan was in answer to the Pharasees. They said that Jesus had a devil to discredit Him. Satan can not enter , or prevent Jesus from establishing His Kingdom unless Satan can bind the strong man (Jesus) The house of the strong man (Jesus) is His kingdom. By discrediting Jesus, people would then be inclined not to believe Him. Jesus sought this belief in Him, this is the way into His Kingdom. To plunder is to rob or despoil a person or place by force I also agree with Delson Jacobs I can also agree with others


It actually seems like we are mostly on the same page here:

I might be splitting hairs by saying this, but whatever: There seems to be some confusion here. In this parable there are in fact two characters, the “strong man” who is guarding the house, and the “plunderer”, who is attacking. As Delson described it, he has the “strong man” plundering the house, but this is incorrect because the strong man is the guard.


I don’t think that those possessed by Satan were in the house of the strongman (Jesus) This was His mission to get them back to His house (His kingdom)But I can understand how one can interpret that Jesus plunder (robs souls out of the hand of Satan, despoiling his kingdom.The situation is such that there can be a certain amount of ambiguity, a certain uncertainty. The best I think we can do is to relate it to the whole situation between Jesus and the Pharasees, his opponents. They said he had a devil, and what reasons did they have for saying it, iif not to prevent people from believing in Him. He said He was God (you say that I am) and they didn,t accept Him, in spite of the miracles He performed. If you don’t believe me, believe my works. Satan was at work in the Pharasees, Jesus came to destroy Satans works (St.Peter)


“No one is able to enter into the vessel of the strong one, into the house of him to plunder [it], without first binding the strong one and then plundering the house of him.”

The above is from looking at the Interlinear Greek. According to Gesenius, there are other options for ‘gear, property’ - and, to me, ‘vessel’ better applies to the parable. Satan isn’t interested in plundering my material things - but in binding my soul to him in this life so that I’ll be his in the next life as well.

It is sin that binds a person. Once I’m firmlly bound by one, Satan has the run of the place.

I’ve thought on this verse before but not until today did I go digging. Came across something interesting in the commentaries, although the connection I see may seem a bit ‘out there’ to others.

Pulpit Commentary on Deut. 20:5-7

“And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it.”

“The officers; the shoterim, the keepers of the genealogical tables (Deuteronomy 16:18). It belonged to them to appoint the men who were to serve, and to release those who had been summoned to the war, but whose domestic relations were such as to entitle them to exemption. If there was one who had built a house, but had not dedicated it, i.e. by taking possession of it and dwelling in it; or if there was one who had planted a vineyard and had not eaten of the fruit thereof; or if there was one who had betrothed a wife, but had not yet married her; - such were to be allowed to return home, lest they should die in battle, and it be left to others to consummate what they had begun. According to Josephus, this exemption was for a year, according to the analogy of Deuteronomy 24:5.”

((Perhaps the thought was that when a man takes a new, ‘empty’ wife, he ‘dedicates her to himself’ by impregnation, lest someone else claim the barren field, so to speak. And they give him a year to accomplish the mission.))

Matt. 12:43-45

43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.

44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.

45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

When Jesus frees me of a demon/forgives sin and if I don’t fill up that emptied space with Bible study, renewed focus on Jesus, etc. then the devil will return and find, once again, a habitable space – but a larger one, because when Jesus clears things out, He is generous.

I think it often happens that people are forgiven of sin but then fail to ‘dedicate the space’ with ‘Godly things’. So when the devil roams around a bit and returns, he finds he has room not only to re-enter but to bring friends.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit