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
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
7:11) and to oaths (Matthew
15:16-22). See Luke
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
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
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
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
And the chief seats in the synagogues. See Luke
11:43. On the synagogue, see Mark
23:7 and the
salutations in the marketplaces1, and
to be called of men, Rabbi2.
And the salutations in the marketplaces. See Luke
And to be called of men, Rabbi. The term "Rabbi" means
"master" or "teacher".
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
18:14. 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
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
For ye devour widows' houses, etc. See Mark
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
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 oath.
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
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
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., for insects.
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
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
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
serpents, ye offspring of vipers1, how shall ye escape the
judgment of hell?
Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, etc. See Luke
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.
In your synagogues. See Mark
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
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
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. See Luke
your house is left unto you desolate1.
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. See Luke
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