23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitudes and to his disciples1,
JESUS' LAST DISCOURSE. DENUNCIATION OF SCRIBES AND PHARISEES.
(In the court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A.D. 30.)
Matthew 23:1-39; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47
- Then spake Jesus to the multitudes and to his disciples. He spoke in the most public manner.
23:2 saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat1:
- The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat. As teachers of the law of Moses the scribes and Pharisees were the only religious guides
whom the people had, so they were obliged to follow them as expounders
of that law, but they were no means to look to them as living
exemplification of that law.
23:4 Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne1, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.
- Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, etc. The law itself was a heavy yoke (Acts 15:10), but these teachers added to the
burden of it a vast volume of traditions, but they themselves did not
keep these traditions, excusing themselves by inventing subtle
distinctions like those in reference to the Corban (Mark 7:11) and
to oaths (Matthew 15:16-22).
See Luke 11:46.
23:5 But all their works they do to be seen of men1: for they make broad their phylacteries2, and enlarge the borders [of their garments]3,
- All their works they do to be seen of men. What laws and traditions they did keep were not kept privately and sincerely, but publicly that
they might secure to themselves a reputation for sanctity.
- For they make broad their phylacteries. Literally, "preservatives" or "remembrances". They were probably so called because they were designed
to aid the wearer in remembering his obligations to the law. They were
strips of parchment on which were written four passages of the law,
viz.: Exodus 13:3-10; Exodus 11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21. These were enclosed in a
leather case and were fastened to the forehead and left arm. The
authority for wearing them was purely traditional, and the practice
seems to have arisen from a literal interpretation of Exodus 13:9,16
Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18. The Pharisees made the leather case large, that their
righteousness might be more conspicuous.
- And enlarge the borders [of their garments]. These were the fringes mentioned in Numbers 15:38,39. But the Pharisees offended again, even in
their obedience, by wearing broader fringes than other people, that
they might appear more religious.
23:6 and love the chief place at feasts1, and the chief seats in the synagogues2,
- And love the chief place at feasts. See Luke 14:7.
- And the chief seats in the synagogues. See Luke 11:43. On the synagogue, see Mark 1:39.
23:7 and the salutations in the marketplaces1, and to be called of men, Rabbi2.
- And the salutations in the marketplaces. See Luke 11:43.
- And to be called of men, Rabbi. The term "Rabbi" means "master" or "teacher".
23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled1; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.
- And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled. See notes at Matthew 18:4; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14. Thus Jesus reproves those who make religion
a matter of praise-seeking ostentation, whether they do so by seeking
position, or by peculiarity of dress, or by assuming or accepting
titles of honor or distinction. This sin of ostentation was the first
enumerated sin of the Pharisees.
23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men1: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter.
- Because ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men, etc. Our Lord's language is figurative and presents the kingdom of God as a house
around the door of which the Pharisees have gathered, not entering in
themselves, and blocking the way against those who would enter. This
they did by their opposition to Jesus. For a similar charge, see
23:14 [Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses1, even while for a pretence ye make long prayers: therefore ye shall receive greater condemnation.]
- For ye devour widows' houses, etc. See Mark 12:40.
23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte1; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves.
- For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, etc. Proselytes here meant are not those converted from heathenism to worship God, but
Jews converted to Pharisaism. These become worse than their
instructors, because each generation drifted farther from the law and
became more zealously and completely devoted to the traditions.
23:16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides1, that say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing2; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor3.
- Woe unto you, ye blind guides. Jesus above denounced them for their hypocrisy, but this woe is pronounced upon them for their ignorance and
folly. See Matthew 15:14.
- Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing. The Pharisees graduated oaths according to their own foolish conceptions of the
sanctity of the object invoked, so that if the object by which a man
swore was not sacred enough, he was not forsworn if he did not keep his
- Whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor. The word "debtor" is here meant to describe one who owes it to himself
and to God to keep his oath. Esteeming the gold of the temple more
sacred than the temple itself, they held that an oath by the former was
binding while an oath by the latter was not. The gold meant is probably
the golden ornaments on the temple.
23:22 And he that sweareth by the heaven1, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
- And he that sweareth by the heaven, etc. Our Lord designed to teach that all oaths were binding. See Matthew 5:37.
23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye tithe mint and anise2 and cummin31, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone.
- For ye tithe mint and anise and cummin, etc. See Luke 11:42.
- Anise was used for medical purposes and also for culinary seasoning, so that Pliny says "the kitchen cannot be without it".
- Cummin also was a condiment and a medicine, the bruised seed mixed with wine being used as a styptic, especially after circumcision. It
was also used as an ingredient for salves and plasters such as were
applied to the ulcers of cattle produced from the bites, grubs, etc.,
23:24 Ye blind guides, that strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel1!
- Strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel! A proverbial expression, indicating care for little faults and a corresponding
unconcern for big ones.
23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter1, but within they are full from extortion and excess.
- For ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, etc. Jesus here compares the Pharisees to a woman who washes the outside of
her dishes and leaves the inside unclean. But in describing that inner
uncleanness he passes from the figure to the reality, and specifies
that it consists of extortion and self-indulgence. They made their
outside clean by traditionary ablutions. See Mark 7:3.
23:26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter1, that the outside thereof may become clean also.
- Cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter. Here again the literal peeps through the figurative--a pure inner life makes clean
23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres1, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
- For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, etc. Luke records Jesus as having taught this lesson by an exactly opposite figure.
See Luke 11:44. There men were contaminated by the touch of a
grave because there was nothing outside to notify them of its presence.
Here mean are contaminated by the same thing because the outside is
rendered so white and beautiful that men are deceived into thinking
that the inside is harmless.
23:29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets1, and garnish the tombs of the righteous,
- For ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, etc. See notes at Luke 11:47,48.
23:33 Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers1, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell?
- Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, etc. See Luke 3:7.
23:34 Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes1: some of them shall ye kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues2, and persecute from city to city:
- Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes. See Luke 11:49.
- In your synagogues. See Mark 1:39.
23:35 that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah1 son of Barachiah, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar.
- From the blood of Abel the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah, etc. See Luke 11:51.
23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem1, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
- O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. See Luke 13:34.
23:38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate1.
- Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. See Luke 13:35.
23:39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord1.
- Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord. See Luke 13:35.