The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire BibleMatthew 6:5
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites,
&c.] As the Scribes and Pharisees; whose posture in prayer, the
places they chose to pray in, and the view they had therein, are
particularly taken notice of:
for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners
of the streets, that they may be seen of men.
It was their usual
custom to pray "standing"; nay, it is established by their canons.
``There are eight things, (says Maimonides F21,) that a man
that prays ought to take heed to do; and the first he
mentions is "standing"; for, says he, no man may pray
(dmyem ala) , "but standing"; if he is sitting in a ship, or
in a cart, if he can stand, he must stand; if not, he may
sit in his place and pray.''
Several hints of this custom there are in the Misna F23.
``On their fast days they used to bring out the ark into the
streets-- (hlptb wdme) , "and they stood in prayer", or
praying; and caused an old man to go down before the ark,
who was used to recite prayers, and he said them.''
``whoever (hlptb dmwe) , "stood praying", and remembered
that any uncleanness attended him, he might not break off,
but he might shorten.''
Yea, standing itself is interpreted of praying; for it is said F25,
``and Abraham rose up early in the morning to the place, where
he stood, (hdymeb ala hlpt Nyaw) , "and there is no prayer
though sometimes they prayed sitting, as David did, (2 Samuel 7:18) so it
is said of R. Jose, and R. Eleazar, that (yluw wbty) , "they sat and
prayed", and afterwards rose up and went on their way F26. So it was
likewise customary to go to the synagogues, and there pray; and
indeed they were places built and appointed for this purpose.
``Wherever there were ten Israelites, a house ought to be
provided, in which they may go to prayer at every time of
prayer; and this place is called a synagogue F1.''
Hence some have thought, that not such places are here designed, but
any assembly, or concourse of people gathered together upon any
occasion; but such an interpretation will find no place, when the
following things are observed.
``For ever let a man go, morning and evening, to the
synagogue; for no prayer is heard at any time, but in the
synagogue; and everyone that hath a synagogue in his
city, and does not pray in it with the congregation, is
called a bad neighbour F2.''
``he that prays in the house of the Lord, is as if he
offered up a pure offering.''
Now, partly on account of the publicness of the place, and partly
because they thought their prayers were only heard there, therefore
they chose to pray in the synagogues; and also in
the corners of the streets,
where two streets met, and they might be
the more easily seen. This was also a common thing to pray in the
``says R. Jochanan, I saw R. Jannai stand and pray in the
streets of Tzippore F4.''
And a little after, it is said of another, that he stood and prayed
(ayjroab) , "in the streets"; though such places were not reckoned
holy, as the synagogues were.
``The street of a city, (says Maimonides F5,) although the
people pray in it at fasts and stations, because that there
is a great collection of people, and the synagogues cannot
hold them, has no holiness in it, because it is accidental,
and not appointed for prayer.''
Wherefore streets were only used in case of necessity, or by such of
the Pharisees, who chose to be seen of men. A reason is given for
this practice in another place F6, where it is asked,
``why do they go out to the streets, i.e. on their
fast days? to show that we are reckoned as if we were
carried captive before thee: says Joshua ben Levi, because
they prayed in "secret", and were not answered; therefore
they went without, (wmorptyw) , "that they might be made
Now let it be observed, that neither the posture, nor places of
prayer, are condemned by our Lord, but their view in all to
be seen of men;
and a considerable emphasis lies upon the word
"love"; they loved "standing" in prayer, rather than any other
posture, because they could be better seen; and they loved to be in
the synagogues and streets, rather than in their closets; they liked
public better than private prayer, because it gained them applause
Verily I say unto you, they have their reward;
they gain their
point; they have what they seek for; and this is all they will have.
F21 Hilch. Tephilla. c. 5. sect. 1, 2.
F23 Misn. Taanith, c. 2. sect. 1, 2.
F24 Misn. Beracot, c. 3. sect. 5.
F25 Zohar in Lev. fol. 47. 1. T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 26. 2.
F26 Zohar in Exod. fol. 4. 4.
F1 Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 11. 1.
F2 lb. c. 8. sect. 1. T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 8. 1. & Piske Tosephot
Beracot, c. 1. art. 7.
F3 T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 8. 4.
F4 Ib. fol. 8. 3. & 9. 1.
F5 Hilch. Tephilla, c. 11. sect. 21. Vid. Maimon. & Bartenora in
Misn. Megilla, c. 3. sect. 1.
F6 T. Hieros. Taaniot, fol. 65. 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.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 6:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=006&verse=005>. 1999.