At first sight Jesus discusses the poor condition of the cosmic kingdom of Satan, using imagery that comprises society from the highest public (‘kingdom’) to the lowest private (‘household’) level. IMO however, Luke is conveying specific political information in these verses.
Here is my analysis.
a) In the NT βασιλεία is traditionally translated as ‘kingdom’, but in the specific situation of Roman occupation of Palestina (and Luke’s political awareness), the ‘empire’ translation seems to be preferable here.
b) The phrase καὶ οἶκος ἐπὶ οἶκον πίπτει is translated as ‘and a divided household falls’ (Nestle-Aland above) or ‘and house falls on house’ (NRSV). In the Roman imperial context, considering the negative effect (‘falling’) of οἶκος ἐπὶ οἶκον, and translating ἐπὶ as ‘against’ in this context of division, we see a situation of families (and their clients) fighting each other, maybe aristocratic families that claim supreme power over the empire. In short: οἶκος ἐπὶ οἶκον may describe a situation of civil war, more specifically the civil war of the four emperor year 69 CE.
c) In a previous contribution (Jesus’ visit to Rome - viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4444) I discussed the use of ὁ σατανᾶς as an encrypted term for the Roman emperor, more specifically the emperor Nero. Maybe this is also the case here.
d) The Greek verb διαμερίζω is used twice in these verses, and it is consistently translated as ‘to divide’. In the first use, with βασιλεία, this translation seems correct, but in the second ‘Satan’ instance, knowing that
- the basic meaning of διαμερίζω is ‘to cleave asunder, cut in pieces’
- this ‘cutting in pieces’ is directed ‘against himself’ (ἐφ ҆ἑαυτὸν)
- Nero committed suicide with a knife
In this analysis verse 17 describes the civil war in Rome after Nero’s suicide, and verse 18a the provoking event itself, the suicide of the emperor. The gospels are encrypted narratives of the struggle for world dominion between the Jews and the Romans. Luke 11:17-18a is a fine illustration. This short fragment describes the weakness of the Roman empire worded by one of the leaders of the Jewish rebellion against the Romans. Jesus depicts the Roman empire as divided and in a state of civil war after the suicide of its emperor Nero. This has brought the opposing power at the brink of collapse. Jesus’ analysis of the adverse internal affairs of Rome and the resulting weakness of the enemy must have been a good motivator for the Jewish revolutionary forces.