Matthew 23 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of Matthew 23)
23:2 1 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees a sit in Moses' seat:

(1) We ought to listen to whatever we are truly taught from the word of God, even by wicked teachers, but in a way so that we abstain from their evil behaviour.
(a) Because God appointed the order, the Lord would therefore have his word to be heard even from the mouth of hypocrites and hirelings.

23:3 b All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

(b) Provided always that they deliver the doctrine of Moses which they profess, which thing the metaphor of the seat shows, which they occupied as teachers of Moses' teaching.

23:4 2 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay [them] on men's shoulders; but they [themselves] will not move them with one of their fingers.

(2) For the most part hypocrites most severely exact those things which they themselves chiefly neglect.

23:5 3 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their c phylacteries, and enlarge d the borders of their garments,

(3) Hypocrites are ambitious.
(c) It was a thread or ribband of blue silk in the fringe of a corner, the beholding of which made them remember the laws and ordinances of God: and therefore it was called a phylactery, or as you would say, a container. See (Numbers 15:38; Deuteronomy 6:8), a commandment which the Jews abused afterwards, as those do today who hang the gospel of John around their necks, which was condemned many years ago in the Council of Antioch.
(d) Literally, "Twisted tassels of thread which hung at the outermost hems of their garments."

23:6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the e synagogues,

(e) When assemblies and councils are gathered together.

23:7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, f Rabbi.

(f) This word "Rabbi" signifies one that is above his fellows, and is as good as any of them: and we may see by the repeating of it how proud a title it was. Now they were called Rabbi who, by the laying on of hands, were uttered and declared to the world to be wise men.

23:8 4 But be not ye g called Rabbi: for h one is your Master, [even] Christ; and all ye are brethren.

(4) Modesty is a singular ornament of God's minsters.
(g) Seek not ambitiously after it: for our Lord does not forbid us to give the magistrate and our masters the honour that is due to them; Augustine in a sermon on the words of God from (Matthew 11:1-30).
(h) He seems to allude to references in (Isaiah 54:13) and (Jeremiah 31:34).

23:9 And call no [man] your i father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

(i) He attacks a custom of the Jews, for they called the rabbis "our fathers".

23:10 Neither be ye called k masters: for one is your Master, [even] Christ.

(k) It seems that the scribes hunted very greatly after such titles, these scribes being the ones whom he called blind guides in (Matthew 23:16).

23:12 And whosoever l shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

(l) He seems to allude to the position of the rabbis, for rabbi signifies one that is in a high position.

23:13 5 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, m hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in [yourselves], neither suffer ye them that are n entering to go in.

(5) Hypocrites cannot endure others to be better than themselves.
(m) Christ, when he reproves any man sharply, uses this word to show us that there is nothing more detestable than hypocrisy and falsehood in religion.
(n) Who are even at the door.

23:14 6 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and o for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

(6) It is a common thing among hypocrites to abuse the pretence of zeal when in reality they are exercising covetousness and extortion.
(o) Literally, "under a colour of long praying"; and the word "and" signifies a double wickedness in them: the one, that they devoured widows goods: the other that they did it under a pretence of godliness.

23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and p land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

(p) The dry part: now that part of the earth is called dry which the Lord has given to us to live upon.

23:16 Woe unto you, [ye] blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he q is a debtor!

(q) Is a debtor. In the Syrian language, sins are called "Debts", and it is certain that Christ spoke in Syrian.

23:17 [Ye] fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that r sanctifieth the gold?

(r) Causes the gold which is dedicated to a holy use to be considered holy.

23:22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the s throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

(s) If heaven is God's throne, than he is without doubt above this entire world.

23:23 7 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier [matters] of the law, judgment, mercy, and t faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

(7) Hypocrites take special care in small matters, and neglect the things which matter the very most.
(t) Faithfulness in the keeping of promises.

23:25 8 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

(8) Hypocrites pay too much attention to outward things, and the inward things they utterly condemn.

23:29 9 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,

(9) Hypocrites, when they try the most to cover up their wickedness, it is then by the just judgment of God that they shame themselves.

23:32 u Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

(u) A proverb used by the Jews, which has this meaning: You go on also, and follow your ancestors, that at length your wickedness may come to its fulness.

23:34 10 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and [some] of them ye shall kill and crucify; and [some] of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute [them] from city to city:

(10) Hypocrites are cruel.

23:35 11 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of y Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

(11) The punishment of those who persecute the gospel, under the pretence of zeal.
(y) Of Joiada, who was also called Barach-jah, that is, blessed of the Lord.

23:37 12 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have z gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not!

(12) Where the mercy of God was greatest, it was there that there was the greatest wickedness and rebellion, and at length the sharpest judgments of God. z He speaks of the outward ministry, and as he was promised for the saving of this people, he was making sure that it would happen, even from the time that the promise was made to Abraham.