12:1 At that season1 Jesus went on the sabbath day through the grainfields; and his disciples were hungry and began to pluck ears and to eat. JESUS DEFENDS DISCIPLES WHO PLUCK GRAIN ON THE SABBATH. (Probably while on the way from Jerusalem to Galilee.) Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5
At that season, etc. See Mark
12:2 But the Pharisees, when they saw it,
said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which it
is not lawful to do upon the sabbath1.
Thy disciples do that which it is not lawful to do upon the sabbath.
12:3 But he said
unto them, Have ye not read1 what David did, when he was
hungry, and they that were with him;
But he said unto them, Have ye not read. See Mark
12:4 how he
entered into the house of God1, and ate the showbread,
which it was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them that were with him, but
only for the priests?
How he entered into the house of God, etc. See Mark
12:5 Or have ye
not read in the law1, that on the
sabbath day the priests in the temple profane the sabbath2,
and are guiltless3?
Or have ye not read in the law? Having cited a passage from the
prophets, Jesus now turns to the law--the final authority. He also turns
from a parallel argument concerning sacred food to a direct argument
concerning the sacred day. The Sabbath was the busiest day in the week for
That on the sabbath day the priests in the temple profane the sabbath.
That is, degrade and put to common use. They baked and changed the
showbread; they performed sabbatical sacrifices (Numbers
28:9), and two lambs were killed on the sabbath in addition to the daily
sacrifice. This involved the killing, skinning, and cleaning of the animals,
and the building of the fire to consume the sacrifice. They also trimmed the
gold lamps, burned incense, and performed various other duties. The
profanation of the Sabbath, however, was not real, but merely apparent.
Jesus cites this priestly work to prove that the Sabbath prohibition was not
universal, and hence might not include what the disciples had done.
And are guiltless. The fourth commandment did not forbid work
absolutely, but labor for worldly gain. Activity in the work of God was both
allowed and commanded.
12:6 But I say
unto you1, that one greater than
the temple is here2.
But I say unto you. Asserting his own authority.
That one greater than the temple is here. The word
"greater" is in the neuter gender, and the literal meaning is
therefore "a greater thing than the temple". The contrast may be
between the service of the temple and the service of Christ, or it may be a
contrast between the divinity, sacredness, or divine atmosphere which
hallowed the temple, and the divinity or Godhead of Christ. But however we
take it, the meaning is ultimately a contrast between Christ and the temple,
similar to the contrast between himself and Jonah, himself and Solomon, etc.
12:41,42). It was a startling saying as it fell on Jewish ears, for to
them the temple at Jerusalem was the place honored by the very Shekinah of
the unseen God, and the only place of effective worship and atonement. If
the temple service justified the priests in working upon the Sabbath day,
much more did the service of Jesus, who was not only God of the temple, but
was himself the true temple, of which the other was merely the symbol,
justify these disciples in doing that which was not legally, but merely
traditionally, unlawful. Jesus here indirectly anticipates the priesthood of
his disciples (1 Peter
12:7 But if ye had known what this meaneth,
I desire mercy, and not sacrifice2,
ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
But if ye had known what this meaneth, . . . ye would not have
condemned the guiltless. This passage is quoted from Hosea
6:6, and is reiterated in Matthew
9:13.It is an assertion of the superiority of inward life over outward
form, for the form is nothing if the heart is wrong. The saying is first
suggested by David himself (Psalms
51:16,17), after which it is stated by Hosea and amplified by Paul (1 Corinthians
I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. The quotation has a double
reference both to David and the disciples as above indicated. Having given
the incident in the life of David, Jesus passes on from it without comment,
that he may lay down by another example the principle which justified it.
This principle we have just treated, and we may state it thus: A higher law,
where it conflicts with a lower one, suspends or limits the lower one at
that point of conflict. Thus the higher laws of worship in the temple
suspended the lower law of sabbath observance, and thus also the higher law
of mercy suspended the lower law as to the showbread when David took it and
mercifully gave it to his hungry followers, and when God in mercy permitted
this to be done. And thus, had they done what was otherwise unlawful, the
disciples would have been justified in eating by the highest law of Christ.
And thus also would Christ have been justified in permitting them to eat by
the law of mercy, which was superior to that which rendered the seventh day
to God as a sacrifice.
12:8 For the Son
of man is lord of the sabbath1.
For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath. See Mark
12:9 And he
departed thence1, and went into
JESUS DEFENDS HEALING A WITHERED HAND ON THE SABBATH. (Probably Galilee.) Matthew
And he departed thence. The word "departed" here points
to a journey as in Matthew
15:29, which are the only places where Matthew uses this expression.
Greswell may be right in thinking that it indicates the return back to
Galilee from the Passover, since a cognate expression used by John expresses
such a journey from Galilee to Judea. See John
And went into their synagogue. See Mark
3:1. The use of the pronoun "their" indicates that the
synagogue in question was under the control of the same Pharisee who had
caviled about plucking grain on the Sabbath (Matthew
12:10 and behold, a
man having a withered hand1. And
they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day2?
that they might accuse him3.
A man having a withered hand. See Mark
And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
They were afraid that Jesus might not notice the man, so they spoke about
him. But, taught by their experience in the grainfield, they changed their
bold assertion, "It is not lawful" (Matthew
12:2), and approached the subject with a guarded question, hoping to get
an answer that could be used as a ground for accusation.
That they might accuse him. See Mark
12:12 How much
then is a man of more value than a sheep1! Wherefore it
is lawful to do good on the sabbath day2.
How much then is a man of more value than a sheep! A man who had
but one sheep would set a high value upon it (Matthew
12:11). But the most valuable sheep is not to be weighed in the balance
against a man. The fact that Jesus used this illustration shows clearly that
such an action was allowed at that time, though the rabbins forbade it
It is lawful to do good on the sabbath day. See Mark
12:13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch
forth thy hand1. And he stretched it forth; and it was
restored whole, as the other.
Stretch forth thy hand. See Mark
12:14 But the
Pharisees went out1, and took counsel against him, how
they might destroy him.
But the Pharisees went out. See Mark
12:15 And Jesus
perceiving [it] withdrew from thence1: and many followed
him; and he healed them all,
JESUS HEALS MULTITUDES BESIDE THE SEA OF GALILEE. Matthew
Jesus perceiving [it] withdrew from thence. See Mark
12:16 and charged
them1 that they should not make him known:
And charged them. See Mark
12:17 that it
might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet1,
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet.
42:1-4. Partly taken from the Septuagint, and partly an original
12:18 Behold, my servant whom I have
chosen; My beloved in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon
him, And he shall declare judgment to the Gentiles2.
Behold my servant. The Greek word "pais", translated
"servant", means also "son", but it is rightly
translated "servant" here, for the Father uses another Greek word,
"huios", when he would designate Jesus as specifically his Son (Matthew
17:5). Jesus was a servant in form (Philippians
2:7) and in obedience (Hebrews
And he shall declare judgment to the Gentiles. The word
"judgment" ("mishpat" in Hebrew), as used in the Old
Testament, from which it here translated, means rule, doctrine, truth. It is
usually here understood as meaning that Jesus would reveal the gospel or the
full truth of the new dispensation of the Gentiles.
12:19 He shall
not strive, nor cry aloud1; Neither shall any one hear his
voice in the streets.
He shall not strive, nor cry aloud, etc. These two verses find
their fulfillment in the events of this paragraph. Jesus did not strive nor
quarrel with the Pharisees, but having victoriously put them to silence, he
meekly and quietly withdrew from their presence.
12:20 A bruised
reed shall he not break2, And
smoking flax shall he not quench3, Till he send forth
judgment unto victory.
A bruised reed . . . and smoking flax. The healing of the
multitudes which followed him as aptly fulfilled the prediction about the
reed and the flax, for these two words, symbolic of weakness (Isaiah
36:6) and patience-trying annoyance (Proverbs
10:26), fitly represented the sick and lame and blind--sinners who, by
affliction, had been made contrite and poor in spirit, remorseful and
repentant, and who were brought to Jesus to be healed.
A bruised reed shall he not break. If the hollow cylinder of the
reed is bruised, its strength is gone, and it is no longer able to stand
And smoking flax shall he not quench. Flax was then used where we
now use cotton, as wicking for lamps. Imperfection in the fiber of it would
cause it to smoke. A violent man, irritated by the fumes of the smoking
wick, would put it out, and cast it from him. But the Lord's servant would
patiently fan it to flames.
Till he shall send forth justice to victory. The statement that he
would not break these bruised reeds, nor quench this smoking flax, was an
emphatic declaration, by contrast, that he would heal their bruises and fan
their dying energies and resolutions into a flame, until he sent forth
judgment into victory; that is, until the gospel--the authoritative
announcement of the divine purpose or will--shall be sent forth and advanced
to its final triumph. Christ shall show patient mercy and forbearance until
the gospel shall practically exclude the need of it, by triumphing over
Jewish opposition and Gentile impiety so as to bring about universal
12:21 And in his
name shall the Gentiles hope1.
And in his name shall the Gentiles hope. This verse sets forth the
breadth of Christ's conquest over all nations. It reaches beyond our times
into a future which is yet to be. But it was partially fulfilled by the
presence of Idumeans and citizens of Tyre and Sidon in the multitudes which
Jesus healed--unless we say that only Jews from these quarters are meant,
which is not likely.
12:22 Then was
brought unto him one possessed with a demon, blind and dumb1:
and he healed him, insomuch that the dumb man spake and saw.
BLASPHEMOUS ACCUSATIONS OF THE JEWS. (Galilee.) Matthew
Then was brought unto him one possessed with a demon, blind and dumb.
The man was brought because he could not come alone. While Luke does not
mention the blindness, the similarity of the narratives makes it most likely
that he is describing the same circumstances as Matthew and Mark. See Mark
12:23 And all the
multitudes were amazed1, and
said, Can this be the son of David2?
And all the multitudes were amazed. It was a time for amazement,
for Jesus had performed a triple if not a quadruple miracle, restoring
liberty, hearing and sight, and granting the power of speech. It wakened the
hope that Jesus might be the Messiah, the son of David.
And said, Can this be the son of David? But their hope is expressed
in the most cautious manner, not only being stated as a question, but as a
question which expects a negative answer. The question, however, was well
calculated to arouse the envious opposition of the Pharisees.
12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it,
they said, This man doth not cast out demons, but by Beelzebub
the prince of the demons1.
Beelzebub the prince of the demons. See Mark
12:25 And knowing
their thoughts he said unto them1, Every kingdom divided
against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against
itself shall not stand:
And knowing their thoughts he said unto them, etc. See Mark
12:26 and if
Satan casteth out Satan1, he is divided against himself;
how then shall his kingdom stand?
If Satan casteth out Satan, etc. See Mark
12:27 And if I by
Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out1?
therefore shall they be your judges2.
If I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out?
The second argument. The sons of the Pharisees were not their children, but
their disciples (2 Kings
19:13,14). Josephus mentions these exorcists (Ant. 8:2,5 and Wars
7:6,3), and there is abundant mention of them in later rabbinical books. Our
Lord's reference to them was merely for the purpose of presenting an
argumentum ad hominem, and in no way implies that they exercised any
"real" power over the demons; nor could they have done so in any
marked degree, else the similar work of Christ would not have created such
an astonishment. The argument therefore is this, I have already shown you
that it is against "reason" that Satan cast out Satan; I now show
you that it is against "experience". The only instances of
dispossession which you can cite are those of your own disciples.
Therefore shall they be your judges. Do they act by the power of
Satan? They therefore shall be your judges as to whether you have spoken
rightly in saying that Satan casts out Satan.
12:28 But if I by
the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you1.
But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of
God come upon you. The third argument. Jesus exercised this power in
unison with the Spirit of God. Jesus here draws a conclusion from the two
arguments presented. Since he does not cast out by Satan, he must cast out
by the power of God, and therefore his actions demonstrated the potential
arrival of the kingdom of God. The occasional accidental deliverance of
exorcists might be evidence of the flow and ebb of a spiritual battle, but
the steady, daily conquests of Christ over the powers of evil presented to
the people the triumphant progress of an invading kingdom. It is an argument
against the idea that there was a collusion between Christ and Satan.
12:29 Or how can one enter into the house
of the strong [man,] and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong [man]?
and then he will spoil his house.
Or how can one enter into the house of the strong [man], etc. See Mark
12:30 He that is
not with me is against me1, and he
that gathereth not with me scattereth2.
He that is not with me is against me. Jesus here addresses the
bystanders. In the spiritual conflict between Jesus and Satan, neutrality is
impossible. There are only two kingdoms, and every soul is either in one or
the other, for there is no third. Hence one who fought Satan in the name of
Christ was for Christ (Luke
9:50). The converse of this statement is found at Mark
He that gathereth not with me scattereth. In the figure of
gathering and scattering, the people are compared to a flock of sheep which
Jesus would gather into the fold, but which Satan and all who aid him (such
as the Pharisees) would scatter and destroy?
12:31 Therefore I say unto you, Every
sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men1; but the
blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.
Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men. See Mark
whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him1;
but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit2,
it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to
And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be
forgiven him. Blasphemy against the Son may be a temporary sin, for the
one who commits it may be subsequently convinced of his error by the
testimony of the Holy Spirit and become a believer (1 Timothy
But whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, etc. See notes
12:33 Either make
the tree good, and its fruit good1; or make the tree
corrupt, and its fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by its fruit.
Either make the tree good, and its fruit good, etc. The meaning and
connection are, as Carr paraphrases,
"Be honest for once; represent the tree as good, and its fruit is
good, or the tree as evil, and its fruit as evil; either say that I am evil,
and that my works are evil, or, if you admit that my works are good, admit
that I am good also and not in league with Beelzebub."
offspring of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things1?
for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Ye offspring of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?
Realizing the hopelessness of this attempt to get an honest judgment out of
dishonest hearts, Jesus plainly informs them as to the condition of their
hearts. Their very souls were full of poison like vipers. Their sin lay not
in their words, but in a condition of heart which made such words possible.
The heart being as it was, the words could not be otherwise. Trapps says,
"What is the well will be in the bucket."
12:35 The good man out of his good
treasure bringeth forth good things: and the evil man out of his evil treasure
bringeth forth evil things.
The good man . . . and the evil man. We have here a summary of the
contrast given in the two preceding verses. The good heart of Jesus brought
forth its goodness, as the evil hearts of the Pharisees brought forth their
12:36 And I say unto you, that
every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day
That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account
thereof in the day of judgment. It may have seemed to some that Jesus
denounced too severely a saying which the Pharisees had hastily and lightly
uttered. But it is the word inconsiderately spoken which betrays the true
state of the heart. The hypocrite can talk like an angel if he be put on
notice that his words are heard.
12:37 For by thy
words thou shalt be justified1, and by thy words thou
shalt be condemned.
For by thy words thou shalt be justified, etc. Jesus here makes
"words" the basis of the judgment of God. Elsewhere we find it is
2:6; 2 Corinthians
5:10), and again we find it is "faith" (Romans
3:28). There is no confusion here. The judgment in its finality must be
based upon our character. Our faith forms our character, and our words and
works are indices by which we may determine what manner of character it is.
12:38 Then certain of the scribes and
Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a
sign from thee1.
SIGN SEEKERS, AND THE ENTHUSIAST REPROVED. (Galilee on the same day as the
last section.) Matthew
Teacher, we would see a sign from thee. Having been severely
rebuked by Jesus, it is likely that the scribes and Pharisees asked for a
sign that they might appear to the multitude more fair-minded and open to
conviction that Jesus had represented them to be. Jesus had just wrought a
miracle, so that their request shows that they wanted something different.
We learn from Mark that they wanted a sign, not coming from him, but from
8:11), such a sign as other prophets and leaders had given (Exodus
10:12; 1 Samuel
7:9,10 1 Samuel
12:16-18; 1 Kings
18:36-38; 2 Kings
38:8). Alford says,
"In Jewish superstition it was held that demons and false gods could
give signs "on earth", but only the true God "from
The request was the renewal of the one which had assailed him at the
beginning of his ministry (John
2:18), and re-echoed the wilderness temptation to advance himself by
vulgar display rather than by the power of a life of divine holiness.
12:39 But he answered and said unto them, An
evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign1; and there
shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet2:
An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign. While the
Jews of that generation could well be accused literally of adultery, Jesus
here evidently uses it in its symbolic sense as used by the prophets. They
represented Israel as being married to God and as being untrue to him (Exodus
There shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.
They did not accept miracles of healing as a sign, and only one other kind
of sign was given; namely, that of Jonah. Jonah was shown to be a true
prophet of God, and Nineveh received him as such because he was rescued from
the fish's belly, and Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by the
resurrection from the dead (Romans
1:4). Also see Matthew
12:40 for as
Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale1;
so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights2
in the heart of the earth3.
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale.
The Greek word "ketos", here translated "whale", is
"sea monster". It is called in Jonah "a great fish" (Jonah
1:17). Because of the supposed smallness of the whale's throat, many
think that it was the white shark, which is still plentiful in the
Mediterranean, and which sometimes measures sixty feet in length, and is
large enough to swallow a man whole. But it is now a well-established fact
that whales can swallow a man, and there are many instances of such
swallowings on record.
So shall the Son of man be three days and three nights. Jesus was
one full day, two full nights, and parts of two other days in the grave.
But, as the Jews reckoned a part of a day as a whole day when it occurred at
the beginning or end of a series, he was correctly spoken of as being three
days in the grave. The Jews had three phrase, viz.: "on the third
day", "after three days", and "three days and three
nights," which all meant the same thing; that is, three days, two of
which might be fractional days. With them three full days and nights would
be counted as four days unless the count began at sundown, the exact
beginning of a day (Acts
10:1-30). For instances of Jewish computation of days, see Genesis
42:17,18; 1 Kings
In the heart of the earth. This expression does not mean its
center. The Jews used the word "heart" to denote the interior of
28:2). The phrase is here used as one which would emphatically indicate
the actual burial of Christ.
12:41 The men of
Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment1 with this
generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at
the preaching of Jonah2; and
behold, a greater than Jonah is here3.
The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment, etc. The idea
here is that the Ninevites, having improved the lesser advantage or
privilege, would condemn the Jews for having neglected the greater.
Nineveh's privilege may be counted thus: a sign-accredited prophet preaching
without accompanying miracles, and a forty-day period of repentance. On
Nineveh, see Luke
For they repented at the preaching of Jonah. Literally, repented
into the teaching of Jonah. The meaning is that they repented so that they
followed the course of life which the preaching prescribed.
And behold, a greater than Jonah is here. The Jewish privileges ran
thus: the sign-accredited Son of God preaching, accompanied by miracles, in
which many apostles and evangelists participated, a forty-year period in
which to repent.
12:42 The queen
of the south1 shall rise up in
the judgment2 with this generation, and shall condemn it: for
she came from the ends of the earth3 to
hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here4.
The queen of the south. The queen of Sheba is supposed to have been
queen of Sabaea, or Arabia Felix, which lies in the southern part of the
peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persia Gulf. But Josephus says she was
from Ethiopia in Africa.
Shall rise up in the judgment. This phrase refers to the Jewish and
Roman custom which required the witness to stand up while testifying in a
For she came from the ends of the earth. A Hebraism, indicating a
To hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is
here. Her testimony will be based on the compared privileges, which
stand thus: notwithstanding the dangers and inconveniences, she came a great
distance to be taught of Solomon, but the Jews rejected the teaching of the
Son of God, though he brought it to them. The teaching of Solomon related
largely to this world, but Christ taught as to the world to come.
12:43 But the unclean spirit, when he is
gone out of the man, passeth through waterless places, seeking
rest, and findeth it not2.
The unclean spirit . . . passeth through waterless places. Places
which are as cheerless to him as deserts are to man. On unclean spirits, see
Seeking rest, and findeth it not. Rest is the desire of every
creature. Jesus here gives us a graphic description of utter wretchedness.
12:44 Then he
saith, I will return into my house1 whence I came out; and
when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and
Then he saith, I will return into my house. The unclean spirit
still claimed it as his property.
When he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. It was
empty, having no indwelling Spirit, swept of all righteous impressions and
good influences, and garnished with things inviting to an evil spirit.
goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits2
more evil than himself3, and
they enter in and dwell there4: and the last state of that
man becometh worse than the first. Even so shall it be
also unto this evil generation5.
Then. Seeing this inviting condition.
Goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits. To reinforce
and entrench himself.
More evil than himself. While all demons are wicked they are not
And they enter in and dwell there. Take up their permanent abode
Even so shall it be also unto this evil generation. In the
application of this parable, we should bear in mind that it tells of
"two" states or conditions experienced by ONE man, and the
comparison is between these two states or conditions and not between the
condition of the man and other men. Such being the parable, the application
is plain, for Jesus says, "Even so shall it be also to this wicked
generation". We are not, therefore, to compare that generation with any
previous one, as many do; for such would be contrary to the terms of the
parable. It is simply an assertion that the last state of that generation
would be worse than the first. The reference is to the continually
increasing wickedness of the Jews, which culminated in the dreadful scenes
which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. They were now like a man with
one evil spirit; they would then be like a man with seven more demons added,
each of which was worse than the original occupant.
12:46 While he was yet speaking to the
multitudes, behold, his mother and his brethren stood
without1, seeking to speak to him.
CHRIST'S TEACHING AS TO HIS MOTHER AND BRETHREN. (Galilee, same day as the
last lesson.) Matthew
His mother and his brethren stood without. See Mark
12:47 And one said unto him, Behold,
thy mother and thy brethren stand without1, seeking
to speak to thee2.
Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, etc. See Mark
Seeking to speak to thee. This message was at once an interruption
and an interference. It assumed that their business with him was more urgent
than his business with the people. It merited our Lord's rebuke, even if it
had not behind it the even greater presumption of an attempt to lay hold on
12:48 But he answered and said unto him
that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? See Mark
12:49 And he stretched forth his hand
towards his disciples, and said, Behold, my mother and my brethren!
Behold my mother and my brethren! See Mark
12:50 For whosoever shall do the will of
my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, etc.