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Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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Verse 1. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 2. Scribes and Pharisees. See Barnes "Matthew 3:7".

Moses' seat, Moses was a legislator of the Jews. By him the law was given; and the office of explaining that law devolved on the scribes and Pharisees. In the synagogues they sat while expounding the law, and rose when they read it. By sitting in the seat of Moses we are to understand authority to teach the law. Or, as he taught the nation by giving the law, so they taught it by explaining it.

{r} "The Scribes" Malachi 2:7

Verse 3. All therefore whatsoever, etc, That is, all that they teach consistent with the law of Moses; all the commands of Moses which they read to you and properly explain. The word all could not be taken without such a restriction, for Christ himself accuses them of teaching many things contrary to that law, and of making it void by traditions, Matthew 15:1-6.

They say, and do not. The interpretation they give to the law is in the main correct, but their lives do not correspond with their teaching. It is not the duty of men to imitate their teachers unless their lives are pure; but they are rather to obey the law of God than to frame their lives by the example of evil men.

{s} "for they say" Romans 2:21-23

Verse 4. They bind heavy burdens, etc. This phrase is derived from the custom of loading animals. The load or burden is bound up, and then laid on the beast. So the Pharisees appoint weighty burdens, or grievous and heavy precepts, and insist that the people should obey them, though they lent no assistance. The heavy burdens refer not here to the traditions and foolish customs of the Pharisees, for Jesus would not command the people to observe them; but they clearly mean the ceremonies and rites appointed by Moses, which Peter says "neither our fathers nor we were able to bear," Acts 15:10. Those rites were numerous, expensive, requiring much tune, much property, and laborious. The Pharisees were rigid in requiring that all the people should pay the taxes, give of their property, comply with every part of the law with the utmost rigour, yet indulged themselves, and bore as little of the expense and trouble as possible; so that, where they could avoid it, they would not lend the least aid to the people in the toils and expense of their religious rites.

With one of their fingers. In the least degree, They will not render the least aid.

{t} "burdens" Acts 15:10

Verse 5. Their phylacteries. The word phylactery comes from a word signifying to keep, preserve, or guard. The name was given because phylacteries were worn as amulets or charms, and were supposed to defend them from evil. They were small slips of parchment or vellum, on which were written certain portions of the Old Testament. The practice of using phylacteries was founded on a literal interpretation of that passage where God commands the Hebrews to have the law as a sign on their foreheads, and as frontlets between their eyes, Exodus 13:16; Proverbs 3:1,3 Proverbs 6:21. One kind or phylactery was called a "frontlet," and was composed of four pieces of parchment; on the first of which was written, Exodus 12:2-10; on the second, Exodus 12:11-21; on the third, Deuteronomy 6:4-9; and on the fourth, Deuteronomy 11:18-21. These pieces of parchment, thus inscribed, they enclosed in a piece of tough skin, making a square, on one side of which is placed the Hebrew \~W\~ letter shin --and bound them round their foreheads with a thong or riband, when they went to the synagogue. Some wore them evening and morning; and others only at the morning prayer.

As the token upon the hand was required, as well as the frontlets between the eyes, the Jews made two rolls of parchment, written in square letters, with an ink made on purpose, and with much care. They were rolled up to a point, and enclosed in a sort of case of black calfskin. They were put upon a square bit of the same leather, whence hung a thong of the same, of about a finger in breadth, and about two feet long. These rolls were placed at the bending of the left arm, and after one end of the thong had been made into a little knot in the form of the Hebrew letter \~?\~ yod--it was wound about the arm in a spiral line, which ended at the top of the middle finger. The Pharisees enlarged them, or made them wider than other people, either that they might make the letters larger, or write more on them--to show, as they supposed, that they had peculiar reverence for the law.

Enlarge the borders of their garments. This refers to the loose threads which were attached to the borders of the outer garment as a fringe. This fringe was commanded in order to distinguish them from other nations, and that they might remember to keep the commandments of God, Numbers 15:38-40; Deuteronomy 22:12. They made them broader than other people wore them, to show that they had peculiar respect for the law.

{u} "but all their works" Matthew 6:1-16
{v} "phylacteries" Numbers 15:38

Verse 6. The uppermost rooms at feasts. The word rooms, here, by no means expresses the meaning of the original. It would be correctly rendered the uppermost places or couches at feasts. To understand this it is necessary to remark, that the custom among the Jews was not to eat sitting, as we do, but reclining on couches. The table was made by three tables, raised like ours, and placed so as to form a square, with a clear space in the midst, and one end quite open. On the sides; of them were placed cushions, capable of containing three or-more persons, On these the guests reclined, leaning on their left side with their feet extended from the table, and so lying that the head of one naturally reclined on the bosom of another. To recline near to one in this manner denoted intimacy, and was what was meant by lying in the bosom of another, John 13:23; Luke 16:22,23. As the feet were extended from the table, and as they reclined instead of sitting, it was easy to approach the feet behind, and even unperceived. Thus in Luke 7:37,38 while Jesus reclined in this manner, a woman that had been a sinner came to his feet behind him, and washed them with her tears, and wiped with the hairs of her head. She stood on the outside of the couches. So our Saviour washed the feet of his disciples as they reclined on a couch in this manner, John 13:4-12. Whenever we read in the New Testament of sitting at meals, it always means reclining in this manner, and never sitting as we do. The chief seat, or the uppermost one, was the middle couch at the upper end of the table. This the Pharisees loved, as a post of honour or distinction. The annexed cut will fully illustrate the custom.

Chief seats in the synagogues. The seats usually occupied by the elders of the synagogue, near the pulpit. They love a place of distinction. See Barnes "Matthew 4:23".

{w} "And love" Mark 12:36; Luke 11:43

Verse 7. Greetings in the markets. Marks of particular respect shown to them in public places. Markets were places where multitudes of people were assembled together. They were pleased with particular attention among the multitude, and desired that all should show them particular respect.

Greetings. Salutations. See Barnes "Luke 10:4".

To be called--Rabbi, Rabbi. This word literally signifies great. It was a title given to eminent teachers of the law among the Jews; a title of honour and dignity, denoting their authority and ability to teach. They were gratified with such titles, and wished it given to themselves as denoting superiority. Every time it was given to them it implied their superiority to the persons who used it; and they were fond, therefore, of hearing it often applied to them. There were three titles in use among the Jews--Rab, Rabbi, and Rabban--denoting different degrees of learning and ability, as literary degrees do among us.

Verse 8. Be not ye, etc. Jesus forbade his disciples to seek such titles of distinction. The reason he gave was, that he was himself their Master and Teacher. They were on a level; they were to be equal in authority; they were brethren; and they should neither covet nor receive a title which implied either an elevation of one above another, or which appeared to infringe on the absolute right of the Saviour to be their only Teacher and Master. The command here is an express command to his disciples not to receive such a title of distinction. They were not to covet it; they were not to seek it; they were not to do anything that implied a wish or a willingness that it should be appended to their names. Everything which would tend to make a distinction among them, or destroy their parity; everything which would lead the world to suppose that there were ranks and grades among them as ministers, they were to avoid. It is to be observed that the command is, that they were not to receive the title. "Be not ye called Rabbi." The Saviour did not forbid them giving the title to others when it was customary or not regarded as improper, (comp. Acts 26:25;) but they were not to receive it. It was to be unknown among them. This title corresponds with the title "Doctor of Divinity," as applied to ministers of the gospel; and so far as I can see, the spirit of the Saviour's command is violated by the reception of such a title, as it would have been by their being called Rabbi. It is a literary distinction. It does not appropriately pertain to office. It makes a distinction among ministers. It tends to engender pride, and a sense of superiority in those who obtain it, and envy and a sense of inferiority in those who do not; and the whole spirit and tendency of it is contrary to the "simplicity that is in Christ"

{x} "But be not" James 3:1

Verse 9. And call no man your father, etc. This does not of course forbid us to apply the term to our real father. Religion requires all proper honour to be shown to him, Exodus 20:12; Matthew 15:4; Ephesians 6:1-3. But the word father also denotes authority, eminence, superiority, a right to command, and a claim to particular respect. In this sense it is used here. In this sense it belongs eminently to God, and it is not right to give it to men. Christian brethren are equal. God only has supreme authority. He only has a right to give laws, to declare doctrines to bind the conscience, to punish disobedience. The Jewish teachers affected that title because they seem to have supposed that a teacher formed the man, or gave him real life, and sought therefore to be called father. Christ taught them that the source of all life and truth was God; and they ought not to seek or receive a title which properly belongs to him.

{y} "your Father" Matthew 6:9

Verse 10. Neither--masters. Leaders. Those who go before others; who claim, therefore, the right to direct and control others. This was also a title conferred on Jewish teachers.

Neither of these commands forbid us to give proper titles of civil office to men, or to render them the honour belonging to their station, Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17. They forbid the disciples of Jesus to seek or receive mere empty titles, producing distinctions among themselves, implying authority to control the opinions and conduct of others, and claiming that others should acknowledge them to be superior to them.

Verses 11,12. See Barnes "Matthew 20:26". He that shall humble himself, etc. God will exalt or honour him that is humble, and that seeks a lowly place among men. That is true religion, and God will and God will reward it.

{y} "But he" Matthew 20:26,27

Verse 12. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 23:11"

{a} "And whosoever" Proverbs 15:33; James 4:6

Verse 13. Woe unto you. You are guilty, and punishment will come unto you. tie proceeds to state wherein they were guilty. This most eloquent, most appalling, and most terrible of all discourses ever delivered to mortals, was pronounced hi the temple, in the presence of multitudes. Never was there more faithful dealing, more terrible reproof, more profound knowledge of the workings of hypocrisy, or more skillful in detecting the concealments of sin. This was the last of his public.discourses; and it is a most impressive summary of all he ever had said, or had to say, of a wicked and hypocritical generation.

Scribes and Pharisees. See Barnes "Matthew 3:7".

Hypocrites. See Barnes "Matthew 6:2".

Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven. See Barnes "Matthew 3:2". They shut it up by their doctrines. By teaching false doctrines respecting the Messiah; by binding the people to an observance of their traditions; by opposing Jesus, and attempting to convince the people that he was an impostor, they prevented many from becoming his followers. Many were ready to embrace Jesus as the Messiah, and were about entering into the kingdom of heaven--i.e. the church--but they prevented it. Luke says Luke 11:52 they had taken away the key of knowledge, and thus prevented their entering in. That is, they had taken away the right interpretation of the ancient prophecies respecting the Messiah, and thus had done all they could to prevent the people from receiving Jesus as the Redeemer.

Verse 14. Devour widows' houses. The word houses is here used to denote property or possessions of any kind. You take away, or get possession of, by improper arts and pretences. This was done in two ways:

(1.) They pretended to a very exact knowledge of the law, and to the poor a perfect observance of it. They pretended to extraordinary justice to the poor, friendship for the distressed, and willingness to aid those who were in embarrassed circumstances. They thus induced widows and poor people to commit the management of their property to them, as guardians and executors, and then took advantage of them, and defrauded them.

(2.) By their long prayers they put on the appearance of great sanctity, and induced many weak women to give them much, under pretence of devoting it to religious purposes.

Long prayer. Their prayers are said to have been often three hours in length. One rule among them, says Lightfoot, was to meditate an hour, then pray an hour, and then meditate another hour--all of which was included in their long prayers or devotions.

Damnation. Condemnation. The word here probably refers to future punishment. It does not always, however. It means, frequently, no more than condemnation, or the Divine disapprobation of a certain course of conduct, as in 1 Corinthians 11:29: "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself." That is, he that eateth and drinketh in an unworthy manner--disorderly, not with reverence--is guilty, and his conduct will be disapproved or condemned by God: referring solely to the impropriety of the manner of partaking of the Lord's Supper, and not at all to the worthiness or unworthiness of the person. See Barnes "1 Corinthians 11:29". Comp. Romans 14:23.

For a pretence. For appearance or show; in order that they might the better defraud poor people. They would not be condemned for making long prayers, but because they did it with an evil design. Public prayers should, however, be short, and always to the point. A man praying in a Sunday-school should pray for the school, and usually not for everything else.

{b} "widow's houses" 2 Timothy 3:6; Titus 1:11

Verse 15. Ye compass sea and land. Ye take every means--spare no pains to gain proselytes.

Proselyte. One that comes over from a foreign nation, religion, or sect, to us; a convert. Among the Jews there were two kinds of proselytes:

(1.) Proselytes of righteousness, or those who wholly and fully embraced the Jewish religion, were baptized, circumcised, and who conformed to all the rites of the Mosaic institutions.

(2.) Proselytes of the gate, or those who approved of the Jewish religion, renounced the pagan superstitions, and conformed to some of the rites of the Jews, but were not circumcised or baptized.

Twofold more the child of hell. That is, twice as bad. To be a child of hell was a Hebrew phrase, signifying to be deserving of hell, to be awfully wicked. The Jewish writers themselves say that the proselytes were "scabs of Israel," and "hindered the coming of the Messiah" by their great wickedness. The Pharisees gained them either to swell their numbers, or to make gain by extorting their money under various pretences; and when they had accomplished that, they took no pains to instruct them, or to restrain them. They had renounced their superstitions, which had before somewhat restrained them. The Pharisees had given them no religion in its place to restrain them, and they were consequently left to the full indulgence of their vices.

{c} "child of hell" John 8:44; Acts 13:10; Ephesians 2:3

Verse 16. Whosoever shall swear, etc. See Barnes "Matthew 5:33-37".

The temple. See Barnes "Matthew 21:12".

It is nothing. It amounts to nothing. It is not binding.

The gold of the temple. Either the golden vessels in the temple, the candlestick, etc., or the gold with which the doors and other parts of the temple were covered; or the gold in the treasury. This, it seems, they considered far more sacred than any other part of the temple, but it is not known why.

He is a debtor. He is bound to keep his oath. He is guilty if he violates it.

{d} "ye blind guides" Matthew 15:14

Verse 17. The temple that sanctifieth the gold. To sanctify is to make holy. The gold had no holiness but what it derived from the temple. If in any other place, it would be no more holy than any other gold. It was foolish, then, to suppose that that was more holy than the temple from which it received all the sanctity which it possessed.

{e} "ye fools and blind" Psalms 94:8

Verse 18. The altar. The altar of burnt-offerings, in the court of the priests. See Barnes "Matthew 21:12". It was made of brass, about thirty feet in length and breadth, and fifteen feet in height, 2 Chronicles 4:1. On this altar were offered all the beasts and bloody oblations of the temple.

The gift that is upon it. The gift or offering made to God, so called because it was devoted or given to him. The gift upon this altar was always beasts and birds.

{1} "is guilty" or, "debtor", or "bound"

Verse 19. The altar that sanctifieth the gift. The altar, dedicated to God, gave all the value or holiness to the offering, and must therefore be the greatest, or of the most importance. If, therefore, either bound to the fulfillment of an oath, it must be the altar.

{f} "sanctifieth the gift" Exodus 29:37; 30:29

Verse 20. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 21. Him that dwelleth therein. That is, God. The temple was his house, his dwelling. In the first, or Solomon's temple, he dwelt between the cherubims, in the most holy place. He manifested himself there by a visible symbol, in the form of a cloud resting on the mercy-seat, 1 Kings 8:10,13; Psalms 80:1.

{g} "him that dwelleth" 2 Chronicles 6:2; Psalms 26:8

Verse 22. The throne of God. Heaven is his throne, Matthew 5:34. It is so called as being the place where he sits in glory. Jesus says, here, that all who swear at all, do in fact swear by God, or the oath is good for nothing. To swear by an altar, a gift, or a temple, is of no force, unless it be meant to appeal to God himself. The essential thing in an oath is calling God to witness our sincerity. If a real oath is taken, therefore, God is appealed to. If not, it is foolish and wicked to swear by anything else.

{h} "throne of God" Psalms 11:4; Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:34

Verse 23. Ye pay tithe. A tenth part. The law required the Jews to devote a tenth part of all their property to the support of the Levites, Numbers 18:20-24. Another tenth part they paid for the service of the sanctuary, commonly in cattle or grain; but where they lived far from the place of worship, they changed it to money; Deuteronomy 14:22-24 Besides these, there was to be every third year a tenth part given to the poor, to be eaten at their own dwellings, Deuteronomy 14:28,29. So that nearly one-third of the property of the Jews was devoted to religious services by law. This was beside the voluntary offerings which they made. How much more mild and gentle are the laws of Christianity under which we live!

Mint. A garden herb, in the original so called from its agreeable flavour. It was used to sprinkle the floors of their houses and synagogues, to produce a pleasant fragrance.

Anise. Known commonly among us as dill. It has a fine aromatic smell, and is used by confectioners and perfumers.

Cummin. A plant of the same genus, like fennel, and used for similar purposes. These were all herbs of little value. The law of Moses said that they should pay tithes of the fruits of the earth, Deuteronomy 14:22. It said nothing, however, about herbs. It was a question whether these should be tithed. The Pharisees maintained, in their extraordinary strictness, that they ought. Our Saviour says that they were precise in doing small matters, which the law had not expressly commanded, while they omitted the greater things which it had enjoined.

Judgment. Justice to others, as magistrates, neighbours, citizens. Giving to all their just dues.

Mercy. Compassion and kindness to the poor and miserable.

Faith. Piety towards God; confidence in him. Faith in God here means that we are to give to him what is his due; as mercy and justice mean to do to MEN, in all circumstances, what is right toward them.

These ought ye to have done. Attention to even the smallest points of the law of God is proper, but it should not interfere with the higher and more important parts of that law.

{i} "you pay tithe" Luke 11:42
{1} "anise" or, "dill"
{k} "weightier matters" 1 Samuel 15:22; Jeremiah 22:15,16; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8
Matthew 9:13

Verse 24. Which strain at a gnat, etc. This is a proverb. There is, however, a mistranslation or misprint here, which makes the verse unmeaning. To strain AT a gnat conveys no sense. It should have been, to strain OUT a gnat; and so it is printed in some of the earlier versions; and so it was undoubtedly rendered by the translators. The common reading is a misprint, and should be corrected. The Greek means, to strain out by a cloth or sieve.

A gnat. The gnat has its origin in the water, not in great rivers, but in pools and marshes. In the stagnant waters they appear in the form of small grubs, or larvae. These larvae retain their form about three weeks, after which they turn to chrysalids; and after three or four days they pass to the form of gnats. They are then distinguished by their well-known sharp sting. It is probable that the Saviour here refers to the insect as it exists in its grub or larva form, before it appears in the form of a gnat. Water is then its element, and those who were nice in their drink would take pains to strain it out. Hence the proverb. See Calmet's Dict., Art. Gnat. It is here used to denote a very small matter, as a camel is to denote a large object. "You, Jews, take great pains to avoid offence in very small matters, superstitiously observing the smallest points of the law, like a man carefully straining out the animalculae from his wine; while you are at no pains to avoid great sins--hypocrisy, deceit, oppression, and lust--like a man who should swallow a camel." The Arabians have a similar proverb: "He eats an elephant, and is suffocated with a gnat." He is troubled with little things, but pays no attention to great matters.

Verse 25. The cup and the platter. The drinking cup, and the dish containing food. The Pharisees were diligent in observing all the washings and oblations required by their traditions.

Full of extortion and excess. The outside appeared well. The inside was filled with the fruit of extortion, oppression, and wickedness. The meaning is, that though they took much pains to appear well, yet they obtained a living by extortion and crime. Their cups, neat as they appeared outward, were filled not with the fruits of honest industry, but were extorted from the poor by wicked arts. Instead of excess, many manuscripts and editions of the Greek Testament read wickedness.

{l} "for ye make" Mark 7:4

Verse 26. Cleanse first, etc. Let them be filled with the fruits of honest industry, and then the outside and the inside will be really clean. By this allusion to the cup and platter, he taught them that it was necessary to cleanse the heart first, that the external conduct might be really pure and holy.

Verse 27. Like unto whited sepulchres. For the construction of sepulchres, See Barnes "Matthew 8:28". Those tombs were annually white- washed, to prevent the people from accidentally coming in contact with them as they went up to Jerusalem, The law considered those persons unclean who had touched anything belonging to the dead, Numbers 19:16. Sepulchres were therefore often whitewashed, that they might be distinctly seen. Thus "whited," they appeared beautiful; but within they contained the bones and corrupting bodies of the dead. So the Pharisees. Their outward conduct appeared well; but their hearts were full of hypocrisy, envy, pride, lust, and malice--fitly represented by the corruption within a whited tomb.

{m} "whited sepulchres" Luke 11:44; Acts 23:3

Verse 28. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 29. Ye build the tombs of the prophets. That is, ye build sepulchres or tombs over the prophets that have been slain. This they did professedly from veneration, and respect for their character. This is often done in the East at the present day, and indeed elsewhere. Among the Mohammedans it is a common way of showing respect for any distinguished man to build a tomb for him. By doing this they profess respect for his character, and veneration for his memory. So the Pharisees, by building tombs in this manner, professedly approved of the character and conduct of the prophets, and disapproved of the conduct of their fathers in killing them.

And garnish, etc. That is, adorn or ornament. This was done by rebuilding them with more taste, decorating them, and keeping them neat and clean. The original word means, also, to show any proper honour to the memory of the dead; as by speaking well of them, praying near them, or rearing synagogues near to them, in honour of their memory.

Verse 30. And say, etc. This they professed to say by rebuilding their tombs. They also, probably, publicly expressed their disapprobation of the conduct of their fathers. All this, in building and ornamenting tombs, was a profession of extraordinary piety. Our Lord showed them it was a mere pretence.

Verse 31. Ye be witnesses unto yourselves. The emphasis, here, lies in the words "unto yourselves." It was an appeal to their conscience. It was not by their building the tombs that they were witnesses that they were the children of those who slew the prophets; but in spite of all this pretence to piety--under cloak of all this profession--they knew in their consciences, and were witnesses to themselves, that it was mere hypocrisy, and that they really approved the conduct of those who slew the prophets.

Children of them, etc. Resembling them; approving their conduct; inheriting their feelings. They not only showed that they were descended from them, but that they possessed their spirit, and in similar circumstances would have done as they did.

{n} "which killed" Acts 7:52; 1 Thessalonians 2:15

Verse 32. Fill ye up then, etc. This is a prediction of what they were about to do. He would have them to act out their true spirit, and show what they were, and evince to all that they had the spirit of their fathers. This was done by putting him to death, and persecuting the apostles.

The measure. The full amount, so as to make it complete. By your slaying me, fill up what is lacking of the iniquity of your fathers till the measure is full, the national iniquity is complete, as much has been committed as God can possibly bear, and then shall come upon you all this blood, and you shall be destroyed, Matthew 23:34,35.

{o} "Fill ye up" Genesis 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:16

Verse 33. Ye serpents. This name is given to them on account of their pretending to be pious, and very much devoted to God, but being secretly evil. At the heart, with all their pretensions, they were filled with evil designs, as the serpent was, Genesis 3:1-5.

Generation of vipers. See Barnes "Matthew 12:34".

Damnation of hell. This refers, beyond all question, to future punishment. So great was their wickedness and hypocrisy, that if they persevered in this course, it was impossible to escape the damnation that should come on the guilty. This is the sternest language that Jesus ever used to wicked men. But it by no means authorizes ministers to use such language to sinners now. Christ knew that this was true of them. He had an authority which none now have. It is not the province of ministers to denounce judgment, or to use severe names; least of all to do it on pretence of imitating Christ. He knew the hearts of men; we know them not. He had authority to declare certainly that those whom he addressed would be lost; we have no such authority. He addressed persons; we address characters.

{p} "generation of vipers" Matthew 3:7

Verse 34. I send unto you prophets, etc. He doubtless refers here to the apostles, and other teachers of religion. Prophets, wise men, and scribes, were the names by which the teachers of religion were known among the Jews; and he, therefore, used the same terms when speaking of the messengers which he would send. I send has the force of the future, I will send.

Some of them ye shall kill. As in the case of Stephen, Acts 7:59, and James, Acts 12:1,2.

Crucify. Punish with death on the cross. There are no cases of this mentioned; but few historical records of this age have come down to us. The Jews had not the power of crucifying, but they gave them into the hands of the Romans to do it.

Shall scourge. See Barnes "Matthew 10:17". This was done, Acts 22:19-24; 2 Corinthians 11:24,25.

Persecute, etc. See Barnes "Matthew 5:10". This was fulfilled it the case of nearly all the apostles.

{q} "shall kill" Acts 7:59
{r} "ye scourge" Acts 5:40; 2 Corinthians 11:24,25
{s} "city to city" Hebrews 11:37

Verse 35. That upon you may come, etc. That is, the nation is guilty Your fathers were guilty. You have shown yourselves to be like them. You are about, by slaying the Messiah and his messengers, to fill up the iniquity of the land. The patience of God is exhausted; and the nation is about to be visited with signal vengeance. These national crimes deserve national judgments; and the proper judgments for all these crimes are about to come upon you in the destruction of your temple and city.

All the righteous blood. That is, all the judgments due for shedding that blood. God did not hold them guilty for what their fathers did; but temporal judgments descend on children in consequence of the wickedness of parents--as in the case of drunken and profligate parents. A drunken father wastes the property that his children might have possessed. A gambler reduces his children to poverty and want. An imprudent and foolish parent is the occasion of leading his sons into places of poverty, ignorance, and crime, materially affecting their character and destiny. See Barnes "Romans 5:12", also Romans 5:13-19. So of the Jews. The appropriate effects of their fathers' crimes were coming on the nation, and they would suffer.

Upon the earth. Upon the land of Judea. The word is often used with this limitation. See Matthew 4:8.

Righteous Abel. Slain by Cain, his brother, Genesis 4:8,9. Zacharias son of Barschias. It is not certainly known who this was. Some have thought it was the Zechariah whose death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20,21. He is there called the son of Jehoiada; but it is known that it was common among the Jews to have two names, as Matthew is called Levi; Lebbeus, Thaddeus; and Simon, Cephas. Others have thought he referred to Zechariah the prophet, who might have been massacred by the Jews, though no account of his death is recorded. It might have been known by tradition.

Whom ye slew. Whom you, Jews, slew. Whom your nation killed.

Between the temple and the altar. Between the temple, properly so called, the sanctuary, and the altar of burnt-offering in the court of the priests. See the plan of the temple, Matthew 21:12.

{u} "Abel" Genesis 4:8
{v} "Zacharias" 2 Chronicles 24:20,21

Verse 36. Upon this generation. The destruction of Jerusalem took place about forty years after this was spoken. See the next chapter.

Verse 37. O Jerusalem, etc. See Barnes " :".

Would have gathered. Would have protected and saved.

Thy children. Thy people.

{x} "gathered thy children" Deuteronomy 32:11.12; Psalms 91:4

Verse 38. Your house. The temple. The house of worship of the Jews. The chief ornament of Jerusalem.

Desolate. About to be desolate, or destroyed. To be forsaken as a place of worship, and delivered into the hands of the Romans, and destroyed. See Barnes "Matthew 24:1" and following.

{y} "desolate" Zechariah 6:6

Verse 39. Ye shall not see me, etc. The day of your mercy is gone by. I have offered you protection and salvation, and you have rejected it. You are about to crucify me, and your temple to be destroyed; and you, as a nation, be given up to long and dreadful suffering. You will not see me as a merciful Saviour, offering you redemption any more, till you have borne these heavy judgments. They must come upon you, and be borne, until you would be glad to hail a deliverer, and say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Blessed be he that comes as the Messiah, to bring deliverance. This has not been yet accomplished; but the days will come when the Jews, long cast out and rejected, will hail Jesus as the Messiah, and receive him whom their fathers slew, as the merciful Saviour, Romans 11:25-32.

{z} "shall say" Psalms 118:26; Matthew 21:9


(1.) Proper respect should always be shown to teachers and rulers, Matthew 23:3.

(2.) We are not to copy the example of wicked men, Matthew 23:3. We are to frame our conduct by the law of God, and not by the example of men.

(3.) Men are often very rigid in exacting of others what they fail altogether of performing themselves, Matthew 23:4.

(4.) We are to obey God rather than man; not to seek human honours, Matthew 23:8, nor to give flattering titles to others, nor to allow others to give them to us, Matthew 28:9. Our highest honour is in humility; and he is most exalted who is most lowly, Matthew 23:11,12.

(5.) In the descriptions of the Scribes and Pharisees in this chapter, we have a full-length portrait of the hypocrite.

1st. They shut up the kingdom of heaven against others, Matthew 23:13. They made great pretensions to knowledge, but they neither entered in themselves nor suffered others.

2nd. They committed the grossest iniquity under a cloak of religion, Matthew 23:14. They cheated widows out of their property, and made long prayers to hide their villany.

3rd. They showed great zeal in making proselytes; yet did it only for gain, and made them more wicked, Matthew 23:15.

4th. They taught false doctrine--artful contrivances to destroy the force of oaths, and shut out the Creator from their view, Matthew 23:16-22.

5th. They were superstitious, Matthew 23:23. Small matters they were exact in; matters of real importance they cared little about.

6th. They were openly hypocritical. They took great pains to appear well, while they themselves knew that it was all deceit and falsehood, Matthew 23:25-28.

7th. They professed great veneration for the memory of the pious dead, while at the same time they were conscious that they really approved the conduct of those who killed them, Matthew 23:29-31. Never, perhaps, was there a combination of more wicked feelings and hypocritical actions, than among them; and never was there more profound knowledge of the human heart, and more faithfulness, than in him who tore off the mask, and showed them what they were.

(6.) It is amazing with what power and authority our blessed Lord reproves this wicked people. It is wonderful that they ever waited for a mock trial, and did not kill him at once. But his time was not come; and they were restrained, and not suffered to act out the fury of their mad passions.

(7.) Jesus pities dying sinners, Matthew 23:37. He seeks their salvation. He pleads with them to be saved. He would gather them to him, if they would come. The most hardened, even like the sinners of Jerusalem, he would save if they would come to him. But they not; they turn from him, and tread the road to death.

(8.) The reason why the wicked are not saved is in their obstinacy. They choose not to be saved, and they die. If they will not come to Christ, it is right that they should die. If they do not come, they must die.

(9.) The sinner shall be destroyed, Matthew 23:38. The day will come when the mercy of God will be clean gone for ever, and the forbearance of God exhausted; and then the sinner must perish. When once God has given him over, he must die. No man, no parent, minister, or friend, no angel or archangel, can then save. Salvation is lost, for ever lost. Oh, how amazing is the folly of the wicked, that they weary out the forbearance of God, and perish in their sins!

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 23". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <>.  


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