The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire BibleMatthew 23:4
For they bind heavy burdens…
Meaning not the rites and
ceremonies of the law of Moses, circumcision, and other rituals,
which obliged to the keeping of the whole law, which was a yoke men
were not able to bear; but the traditions of the elders, which the
Scribes and Pharisees were very tenacious of, and very severely
enjoined the observance of, and are called their "heavy" things F15.
``It is a tradition of R. Ishmael, there are in the words of
the law, that, which is bound or forbidden, and that which
is loose or free; and there are in them light things, and
there are in them heavy things; but the words of the
Scribes, (Nh Nyrwmx Nlwk) , "all of them are heavy".''
And a little after,
``the words of the elders, (Myrwmx) , "are heavier" than the
words of the prophets.''
Hence frequent mention is made of
``the light things of the school of Shammai, (yrmwxmw) , "and
of the heavy things of the school of Hillell" F16''
two famous doctors, heads of two universities, in being in Christ's
time: these are also called, (Nyvwrp twkm) , "the blows, or wounds of
the Pharisees" F17; not as Bartenora explains them, the wounds they
gave themselves, to show their humility; or which they received, by
beating their heads against the wall, walking with their eyes shut,
that they might not look upon women, under a pretence of great
chastity; but, as Maimonides says, these are their additions and
heavy things, which they add to the law. Now the binding of these
heavy things, means the imposing them on men, obliging them to
observe them very strictly, under great penalties, should they omit
them. The allusion is, to those frequent sayings in use among them,
such a thing is "bound", and such a thing is loosed; such a "Rabbi
binds", and such an one looses; that is, forbids, or allows of such
and such things; (See Gill on 16:19).
and grievous to be borne.
This clause is left out in the Syriac,
Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions; but is in all the Greek
copies, and serves to illustrate and aggravate the burdensome rites
and institutions of these people: and
lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them
with one of their fingers:
the sense is, not that they were so rigid
and hardhearted, that they would not move a finger to remove these
burdens from the shoulders of men, or ease them in the least degree,
or dispense with their performance of them in the least measure,
upon any consideration, though this also was true in many respects;
but that they were so slothful and indolent themselves, that though
they strictly enjoined the observance of their numerous and
unwritten traditions on the people, yet in many cases, where they
could without public notice, they neglected them themselves, or at
least, made them lighter and easier to them, as in their fastings,
&c. In the Misna F18, mention is made of "a crafty wicked man",
along with a woman Pharisee, and the blows of the Pharisees before
spoken of; and in the Gemara F19, is explained by R. Hona, of one,
``that makes things "light" for himself, and makes them
"heavy" for others.''
Such crafty wicked men were Scribes and Pharisees; though R. Meir
pretended that he made things "light" to others and "heavy" to
F15 T. Hieros. Peracot, fol. 3. 2.
F16 T. Hieros. Sota, fol. 19. 2. Yom Tob. fol. 60. 2. & Berncot, fol.
F17 Misn. Sota, c. 3. sect. 4.
F18 Ubi supra. (Misn. Sota, c. 3. sect. 4.)
F19 T. Bab. Sota, fol. 21. 2.
F20 T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 3. 1.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 23:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=023&verse=004>. 1999.