The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire BibleMatthew 23:6
And love the uppermost rooms at feasts…
Or the first
and chief places to sit, or lie down on, at ordinary meals, and
especially at large entertainments, where the great ones sat, as in
(1 Samuel 9:22) where Jarchi on the place observes, that by the manner of
their sitting, it was known who was the greatest; and this the
Scribes and Pharisees affected. With the Romans, the most honourable
place was at the upper end of the table: some think it was more
honourable to sit in the middle, but the master of the feast sat at
the lower end; and to senior men, and who were venerable with age,
or excelled in prudence and authority, the first sitting down, and
the more honourable place, were given; and when the table was taken
away, they used to rise first F1: the middle place was the more
honourable with the Numidians F2, and so it seems to be with the
Romans F3, and also with the Jews; and this the Scribes and
Pharisees loved, desired, sought for, and were pleased if they had
not it. It is said F4 of Simeon ben Shetach, a noted Pharisee,
about, or rather before the time of Christ, that having fled upon a
certain account from king Jannai, he sent for him, and when he came,
``he sat himself between the king and the queen: the king
said to him, why dost thou mock me? he replied to him, I
do not mock thee, thou hast riches and I have learning, as
it is written, "Wisdom is a defence, and money is a
defence", (Ecclesiastes 7:12) . He said to him, but why dost thou "sit
between the king and queen?" He replied, in the book of
Ben Sira, it is written, "Exalt her and she shall promote
thee, and cause thee to sit among princes." He ordered to
give him a cup, that he might ask a blessing; he took the
cup and said, blessed be the food that Jannai and his
Thus on account of their wisdom and learning, they thought they had
a right to take the upper hand of kings themselves:
and the chief seats in the synagogues;
for these were different;
the seats of the senior men were turned towards the people, and the
backs of them were towards the ark or chest, in which the holy books
were put; and these seem to be what the Scribes and Pharisees
coveted, that they might be in the full view of the people. And so
says Maimonides F5, "How do the people sit in the synagogues?"
``The elders sit, i.e. first, and their faces are towards
the people, and their backs are to the temple, or holy
place; and all the people sit in rows, and the faces of
one row are to the backs of the row that is before them;
so that the faces of all the people are to the holy place,
and to the elders, and to the ark.''
F1 Alex. ab Alex. Genial Dier. l. 5. c. 21.
F2 Sallust. Bell. Jugurth. p. 45.
F3 Vid. Alstorph. de lect. vet. p. 117. Minut. Felix, p. 3, 4.
F4 T. Hieros. Betacot, fol. 11. 2. Beresh. Rabba, sect. 91. fol. 78. 4.
F5 Hilchot Tephilla, c. 11. sect. 4.
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 23:6". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=023&verse=006>. 1999.