1Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
1 CHAPTER XXIII.
NOTES ON CHAP. XXIII.
Verse 2. The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat]
εκαθισαν.-They sat there formerly by Divine appointment:
they sit there now by Divine permission. What our Lord says
here refers to their expounding the Scriptures, for it was the
custom of the Jewish doctors to sit while they expounded the law
and prophets, (Mt 5:1; Lu 4:20-22,)
and to stand up when they read them.
By the seat of Moses, we are to understand authority to teach
the law. Moses was the great teacher of the Jewish people; and
the scribes, &c., are here represented as his successors.
2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:
3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
3 Verse 3. All therefore whatsoever] That is, all those things
which they read out of the law and prophets, and all things which
they teach consistently with them. This must be our Lord's
meaning: he could not have desired them to do every thing, without
restriction, which the Jewish doctors taught; because himself
warns his disciples against their false teaching, and testifies
that they had made the word of God of none effect by their
traditions. See Mt 15:6, &c. Besides, as our Lord speaks here
in the past tense-whatsoever they HAVE commanded, οσαειπωσιν, he
may refer to the teaching of a former period, when they taught the
way of God in truth, or were much less corrupted than they were
4 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.
4 Verse 4. They bind heavy burdens] They are now so corrupt that
they have added to the ceremonies of the law others of their own
invention, which are not only burdensome and oppressive, but have
neither reason, expediency, nor revelation, to countenance them.
In a word, like all their successors in spirit to the present day,
they were severe to others, but very indulgent to themselves.
5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
5 Verse 5. All their works they do for to be seen of men] In
pointing out the corruptions of these men, our Lord gives us the
distinguishing characteristics of all false teachers, whether
Jewish or Christian.
1. They live not according to the truths they preach. They say,
and do not, Mt 23:3.
2. They are severe to others, point out the narrowest road to
heaven, and walk in the broad road themselves. They bind on
burdens, &c., Mt 23:4.
3. They affect to appear righteous, and are strict observers of
certain rites, &c., while destitute of the power of godliness.
They make broad their phylacteries, &c., Mt 23:5.
4. They love worldly entertainments, go to feast wherever they
are asked, and seek Church preferments. They love the chief
places at feasts, and chief seats in the synagogues, Mt 23:6.
5. They love and seek public respect and high titles, salutations
in the market-place, (for they are seldom in their studies,) and
to be called of men rabbi-eminent teacher, though they have no
title to it, either from the excellence or fruit of their
teaching. When these marks are found in a man who professes to be
a minister of Christ, charity itself will assert he is a thief and
a robber-he has climbed over the wall of the sheepfold, or broken
it down in order to get in.
Phylacteries] φυλακτηρια, from φυλασσω, to keep or
preserve. These were small slips of parchment or vellum, on which
certain portions of the law were written. The Jews tied these
about their foreheads and arms, for three different purposes.
1. To put them in mind of those precepts which they should
2. To procure them reverence and respect in the sight of the
3. To act as amulets or charms to drive away evil spirits.
The first use of these phylacteries is evident from their name.
The second use appears from what is said on the subject from the
Gemara, Beracoth, chap. 1., quoted by Kypke. "Whence is it proved
that phylacteries, (, tephilin,) are the strength of
Israel?-Ans. From what is written, De 28:10.
All the, people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the
name [of Jehovah]-and they shall be afraid of thee.
The third use of them appears from the Targum, on Cant.
His left hand is under my head, &c. "The congregation of Israel
hath said, I am elect above all people, because I bind my
phylacteries on my left hand, and on my head, and the scroll is
fixed to the right side of my gate, the third part of which looks
to my bed-chamber, that DAEMONS may not be permitted to INJURE me."
An original phylactery lies now before me. It is a piece of
fine vellum, about eighteen inches long, and an inch and quarter
broad. It is divided into four unequal compartments: in the first
is written, in a very fair character, with many apices, after the
mode of the German Jews, the first ten verses of Exod. 10,
(Ex 13:1-10); in the second compartment is written, from the
eleventh to the sixteenth verse of the same chapter (Ex 13:11-16),
inclusive in the third, from the fourth to the ninth verse
(De 6:4-9), inclusive, of Deut. 6., beginning with,
Hear, O Israel, &c.; in the fourth, from the thirteenth to the
twenty-first verse, inclusive, of Deut. 11 (De 11:13-21).
These passages seem to be chosen in vindication of the use of
the phylactery itself, as the reader will see on consulting them:
Bind them for a SIGN upon thy HAND-and for FRONTLETS between thy
EYES-write them upon the POSTS of thy HOUSE, and upon thy GATES;
all which commands the Jews took in the most literal sense.
Even the phylactery became an important appendage to a
Pharisee's character, insomuch that some of them wore them very
broad, either that they might have the more written on them, or
that, the characters being larger, they might be the more visible,
and that they might hereby acquire greater esteem among the common
people, as being more than ordinarily religious. For the same
reason, they wore the fringes of their garments of an unusual
length. Moses had commanded (Nu 15:38, 39) the children of
Israel to put fringes to the borders of their garments, that, when
they looked upon even these distinct threads, they might remember,
not only the law in general, but also the very minutiae, or
smaller parts of all the precepts, rites, and ceremonies,
belonging to it. As these hypocrites were destitute of all the
life and power of religion within, they endeavoured to supply its
place by phylacteries and fringes without.
See Clark's note on "Ex 13:9".
6And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
7 Verse 7. To be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.] , i.e.
My teacher! my teacher! The second rabbi is omitted by several
excellent MSS., by most of the ancient versions, and by some of
the fathers. Griesbach has left it in the text, with the note of
There are three words used among the Jews as titles of dignity,
which they apply to their doctors-Rabh, Rabbi, and Rabban; each of
these terms has its particular meaning: rabban implies much more
than rabbi, and rabbi much more than rabh.
They may be considered as three degrees of comparison: rabh
great, rabbi greater, and rabban greatest. These rabbins were
looked up to as infallible oracles in religious matters, and
usurped not only the place of the law, but of God himself.
8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
8 Verse 8. But be not ye called Rabbi] As our Lord probably
spoke in Hebrew, the latter word rabbi, in this verse, must have
been in the plural; but as the contracted form of the plural
sounds almost exactly like the singular, the Greek writer would
naturally express them both in the same letters.
None of the prophets had ever received this title, nor any of
the Jewish doctors before the time of Hillel and Shammai, which
was about the time of our Lord; and, as disputes on several
subjects had run high between these two schools, the people were
of course divided; some acknowledging Hillel as rabbi,-infallible
teacher, and others giving this title to Shammai. The Pharisees,
who always sought the honour that comes from men, assumed the
title, and got their followers to address them by it.
See on Mt 19:3.
One is your Master] Instead of καθηγητης, guide or leader,
(the common reading here, and which occurs in Mt 23:10,) the
famous Vatican MS., upwards of fifty others, and most of the
ancient versions, read διδασκαλος, master. The most eminent
critics approve of this reading and, independently of the very
respectable authority by which it is supported, it is evident that
this reading is more consistent with the context than the other,-
Be not ye called MASTERS, for one is your MASTER.
Even Christ] Griesbach has left this out of the text, because
it is wanting in many of the most excellent MSS., versions, and
fathers. Mill and Bengel approve of the omission. It might have
been brought into this verse from Mt 23:10. Our Lord probably
alludes to Isa 54:13,
All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.
Ye are brethren.] No one among you is higher than another, or
can possibly have from me any jurisdiction over the rest. Ye are,
in this respect, perfectly equal.
9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
9 Verse 9. Call no man your FATHER] Our Lord probably alludes to
the AB, or father of the Sanhedrin, who was the next after the
nasi, or president. See on Mt 20:21. By which he gives his
disciples to understand that he would have no SECOND, after
himself, established in his Church, of which he alone was the
head; and that perfect equality must subsist among them.
10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
10 Verse 10. Neither be ye called masters] καθηγηται, leaders.
God is in all these respects jealous of his honour. To him alone
it belongs to guide and lead his Church, as well as to govern and
defend it. Jesus is the sole teacher of righteousness. It is he
alone, (who is the word, light, and eternal truth,) that can
illuminate every created mind; and who, as Saviour and Redeemer,
speaks to every heart by his Spirit.
Though the title of Rabbi, mentioned above, was comparatively
recent in the time of our Lord, yet it was in great vogue, as were
the others-father and master, mentioned in this and the following
verse: some had all three titles, for thus in Bab. Maccoth, fol.
24. It is feigned," says Dr. Lightfoot, "that when King
Jehosaphat saw a disciple of the wise men, he rose up out of his
throne, and embraced him, and said, , Abbi,
Abbi! Rabbi, Rabbi! Mori, Mori!-Father, Father! Rabbi, Rabbi!
Master, Master!" Here then are the three titles which, in
Mt 23:7, 8, 10, our blessed Lord condemns; and these were titles
that the Jewish doctors greatly affected.
11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
12 Verse 12. Whosoever shall exalt himself, &c.] The way to
arrive at the highest degree of dignity, in the sight of God, is
by being willing to become the servant of all. Nothing is more
hateful in his sight than pride; to bring it into everlasting
contempt, God was manifest in the flesh. He who was in the
likeness of God took upon him the form of a servant, and was made
in the likeness of man, and humbled himself unto death. After
this, can God look upon any proud man without abasing him?
Spiritual lordship and domination, ecclesiastical luxury, pomp,
and pride, must be an abhorrence in the sight of that God who gave
the above advices to his followers.
Another lesson, which our blessed Lord teaches here, is, that no
man is implicitly to receive the sayings, doctrines, and decisions
of any man, or number of men, in the things which concern the
interests of his immortal soul. Christ, his Spirit, and his word,
are the only infallible teachers. Every man who wishes to save
his soul must search the Scriptures, by prayer and faith. Reader,
take counsel with the pious; hear the discourses of the wise and
holy: but let the book of God ultimately fix thy creed.
13 ¶ But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
13 Verse 13. - 14. Wo unto you, scribes] I think the fourteenth
and thirteenth verses should be transposed. This transposition is
authorized by some of the best MSS., versions, and fathers. The
fourteenth is wanting in the BDL., and in many others of inferior
note, as well as in several of the versions. Griesbach has left
it out of the text, in his first edition; I hesitated, and left it
in, thus transposed. I am happy to find that a more extensive
collation of MSS., &c., afforded proof to that eminent critic that
it should be restored to its place. In the second edition, he has
transposed the two, just as I had done. The fifteenth reads best
after the thirteenth.
-Verse 13. Ye shut up the kingdom] As a key by opening a lock
gives entrance into a house, &c., so knowledge of the sacred
testimonies, manifested in expounding them to the people, may be
said to open the way into the kingdom of heaven. But where men
who are termed teachers are destitute of this knowledge
themselves, they may be said to shut this kingdom; because they
occupy the place of those who should teach, and thus prevent the
people from acquiring heavenly knowledge.
In ancient times the rabbins carried a key, which was the symbol
or emblem of knowledge. Hence it is written in Semachoth, chap.
8.," When Rab. Samuel the little died, his key and his tablets
were hung on his tomb, because he died childless." See
The kingdom of heaven here means the Gospel of Christ; the
Pharisees would not receive it themselves, and hindered the common
people as far as they could.
14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
14 Verse 14. See Clarke on Mt 23:13.
-Verse 14. Ye devour widows' houses] On this subject I am in
possession of nothing better than the following note of Dr.
"This sect," says Josephus, (Ant. l. xvii. chap. 3,) "pretended
to a more exact knowledge of the law, on which account the women
were subject to them, as pretending to be dear to God. And when
Alexandra obtained the government, (Jewish War, b. I. ch. 4,) they
insinuated themselves into her favour, as being the exactest sect
of the Jews, and the most exact interpreters of the law, and,
abusing her simplicity, did as they listed, remove and dispose,
bind and loose, and even cut off men. They were in vogue for
their long prayers, which they continued sometimes three hours;
that perhaps they sold them, as do the Roman priests their masses,
or pretended others should be more acceptable to God for them; and
so might spoil devout widows by the gifts or salaries they
expected from them. Now this being only a hypocritical pretence
of piety, must be hateful to God, and so deserve a greater
Long prayer] For proofs of long prayers and vain repetitions
among Jews, Mohammedans, and heathens,
See Clarke on Mt 6:7.
15Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
15 Verse 15. Compass sea and land] A proverbial expression,
similar to ours, You leave no stone unturned; intimating that they
did all in their power to gain converts, not to God, but to their
sect. These we may suppose were principally sought for among the
Gentiles, for the bulk of the Jewish nation was already on the
side of the Pharisees.
Proselyte] προσηλυτος, a stranger, or foreigner; one who
is come from his own people and country, to sojourn with another.
See the different kinds of proselytes explained in
Clarke's note on "Ex 12:43".
The child of hell] A Hebraism for an excessively wicked person,
such as might claim hell for his mother, and the devil for his
Twofold-the child of] The Greek word διπλοτερον, which has
generally been translated twofold, KYPKE has demonstrated to mean
more deceitful. απλους is used by the best Greek writers for
simple, sincere, απλοτης for simplicity, sincerity; so
διπλους, deceitful, dissembling, and διπλοη, hypocrisy,
fraudulence, and διπλοτερον, more fraudulent, more deceitful,
more hypocritical. See also Suidas in διπλοη.
Dr. Lightfoot, and others, observe, that the proselytes were
considered by the Jewish nation as the scabs of the Church, and
hindered the coming of the Messiah; and Justin Martyr observes,
that "the proselytes did not only disbelieve Christ's doctrine,
but were abundantly more blasphemous against him than the Jews
themselves, endeavouring to torment and cut off the Christians
wherever they could; they being in this the instruments of the
scribes and Pharisees."
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 is a debtor!
16 Verse 16. Whosoever shall swear by the gold] The covetous man,
says one, still gives preference to the object of his lust; gold
has still the first place in his heart. A man is to be suspected
when he recommends those good works most from which he receives
Is bound thereby, i.e. to fulfil his oath.
17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?
20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.
20 Verse 20. Whoso-shall swear by the altar] As an oath always
supposes a person who witnesses it, and will punish perjury;
therefore, whether they swore by the temple or the gold,
or by the altar or the gift laid on it, (Mt 23:18,)
the oath necessarily supposes the God of the temple, of the altar,
and of the gifts, who witnessed the whole, and would, even in
their exempt cases, punish the perjury.
21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.
21 Verse 21. Whoso shall swear by the temple] Perhaps it is to
this custom of swearing by the temple, that Martial alludes, lib.
xi. epist. 95.
"Behold, thou deniest, and swearest to me by the temples of
Jupiter; I will not credit thee: swear, O Jew, by the temple of
Jehovah." This word probably comes from heical Yah, the
temple of Jehovah. This seems a better derivation than
im chai Elohim, as God liveth, though the sound of the
latter is nearer to the Latin.
By him that dwelleth therein.] The common reading is
κατοικουντι, dwelleth or INHABITETH, but κατοικησαντι, dwelt
or DID inhabit, is the reading of CDEFGHKLM, eighty-six others;
this reading has been adopted in the editions of Complutum,
Colineus, Bengel, and Griesbach. The importance of this reading
may be perceived by the following considerations. In the first
Jewish temple, God had graciously condescended to manifest
himself-he is constantly represented as dwelling between the
cherubim, the two figures that stood at each end of the ark of the
covenant; between whom, on the mercy seat, the lid of the ark, a
splendour of glory was exhibited, which was the symbol and proof
of the Divine presence. This the Jews called Shekinah, the
habitation of Jehovah. Now the Jews unanimously acknowledge that
five things were wanting in the second temple, which were found in
the first, viz., 1. The ark; 2. The holy spirit of prophecy;
3. The Urim and Thummim; 4. The sacred fire; and 5. The
Shekinah. As the Lord had long before this time abandoned the
Jewish temple, and had now made the human nature of Jesus the
Shekinah, (see Joh 1:14, the Logos was made flesh, εσκηνωσεν,
and made his tabernacle-made the Shekinah,-among us,) our Lord
could not, with any propriety, say that the supreme Being did now
inhabit the temple; and therefore used a word that hinted to them
that God had forsaken their temple, and consequently the whole of
that service which was performed in it, and had now opened the new
and living way to the holiest by the Messiah. But all this was
common swearing; and, whether the subject was true or false, the
oath was unlawful. A common swearer is worthy of no credit, when,
even in the most solemn manner he takes an oath before a
magistrate; he is so accustomed to stake his truth, perhaps even
his soul, to things whether true or false, that an oath cannot
bind him, and indeed is as little respected by himself as it is by
his neighbour. Common swearing, and the shocking frequency and
multiplication of oaths in civil cases, have destroyed all respect
for an oath; so that men seldom feel themselves bound by it; and
thus it is useless in many cases to require it as a confirmation,
in order to end strife or ascertain truth.
See Clarke on Mt 5:37.
22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
23 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 faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
23 Verse 23.. Ye pay tithe of mint, &c.] They were remarkably
scrupulous in the performance of all the rites and ceremonies of
religion, but totally neglected the soul, spirit, and practice of
Judgment] Acting according to justice and equity towards all
mankind. Mercy-to the distressed and miserable. And faith in God
as the fountain of all righteousness, mercy, and truth. The
scribes and Pharisees neither began nor ended their works in God,
nor had they any respect unto his name in doing them. They did
them to be seen of men, and they had their reward-human applause.
These ought ye to have done, &c.] Our Lord did not object to
their paying tithe even of common pot-herbs-this did not affect
the spirit of religion; but while they did this and such like, to
the utter neglect of justice, mercy, and faith, they showed that
they had no religion, and knew nothing of its nature.
24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
24 Verse 24. Blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a
camel.] This clause should be thus translated: Ye strain out the
gnat, but ye swallow down the camel. In the common translation,
Ye strain AT a gnat, conveys no sense. Indeed, it is likely to
have been at first an error of the press, AT for OUT, which, on
examination, I find escaped in the edition of 1611, and has been
regularly continued since. There is now before me, "The Newe
Testament, (both in Englyshe and in Laten,) of Mayster Erasmus
translacion, imprynted by Wyllyam Powell, dwellynge in Flete
strete: the yere of our Lorde M.CCCCC.XLVII. the fyrste yere of
the kynges (Edwd. VI.) moste gracious reygne." in which the verse
stands thus: "Ye blinde gides, which strayne out a gnat, and
swalowe a cammel." It is the same also in Edmund Becke's Bible,
printed in London 1549, and in several others.-Clensynge a gnatte.
-MS. Eng. Bib. So Wickliff. Similar to this is the following
Arabic proverb [Arabic]. He eats an elephant and is choked by a
25 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.
25 Verse 25. Ye make clean the outside] The Pharisees were
exceedingly exact in observing all the washings and purifications
prescribed by the law; but paid no attention to that inward purity
which was typified by them. A man may appear clean without, who
is unclean within; but outward purity will not avail in the sight
of God, where inward holiness is wanting.
Extortion and excess.] 'αρπαγηςκαιακρασιας, rapine and
intemperance; but instead of ακρασιας, intemperance, many of the
very best MSS., CEFGHKS, and more than a hundred others, the
Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, Slavonic, with Chrysostorn, Euthym., and
Theophylact, have αδικιας injustice, which Griesbach has admitted
into the text instead of ακρασιας. The latter Syriac has both.
Several MSS. and versions have ακαθαρσιας, uncleanness; others
have πλεονεξιας, covetousness; some have πονηριας, wickedness;
and two of the ancients have iniquitate, iniquity. Suppose we put
them all together, the character of the Pharisee will not be
overcharged. They were full of rapine and intemperance, injustice
and uncleanness, covetousness, wickedness, and iniquity.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
27 Verse 27. For ye are like] παρομοιαζετε, ye exactly
resemble-the parallel is complete.
Whited sepulchres] White-washed tombs. As the law considered
those unclean who had touched any thing belonging to the dead, the
Jews took care to have their tombs white-washed each year, that,
being easily discovered, they might be consequently avoided.
28Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
28 Verse 28. Even so ye also-appear righteous unto men] But what
will this appearance avail a man, when God sits in judgment upon
his soul? Will the fair reputation which he had acquired among
men, while his heart was the seat of unrighteousness, screen him
from the stroke of that justice which impartially sends all
impurity and unholiness into the pit of destruction? No. In the
sin that he hath sinned, and in which he hath died, and according
to that, shall he be judged and punished; and his profession of
holiness only tends to sink him deeper into the lake which burns
with unquenchable fire. Reader! see that thy heart be right with
29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
29 Verse 29. Ye build the tombs of the prophets] It appears that,
through respect to their memory, they often repaired, and
sometimes beautified, the tombs of the prophets. M. De la Valle,
in his Journey to the Holy Land, says, that when he visited the
cave of Machpelah, he saw some Jews honouring a sepulchre, for
which they have a great veneration, with lighting at it wax
candles and burning perfumes. See Harmer, vol. iii. p. 416. And
in ditto, p. 424, we are informed that building tombs over those
reputed saints, or beautifying those already built, is a frequent
custom among the Mohammedans.
30And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
30 Verse 30. We would not have been partakers] They imagined
themselves much better than their ancestors; but our Lord, who
knew what they would do, uncovers their hearts, and shows them
that they are about to be more abundantly vile than all who had
ever preceded them.
31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
31 Verse 31. Ye be witnesses] Ye acknowledge that ye are the
children of those murderers, and ye are about to give full proof
that ye are not degenerated.
There are many who think that, had they lived in the time of our
Lord, they would not have acted towards him as the Jews did. But
we can scarcely believe that they who reject his Gospel, trample
under foot his precepts, do despite to the Spirit of his grace,
love sin, and hate his followers, would have acted otherwise to
him than the murdering Jews, had they lived in the same times.
32Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
32 Verse 32. Fill ye up then] Notwithstanding the profession you
make, ye will fill up the measure of your fathers-will continue to
walk in their way, accomplish the fulness of every evil purpose by
murdering me; and then, when the measure of your iniquity is full,
vengeance shall come upon you to the uttermost, as it did on your
rebellious ancestors. The 31st verse should be read in a
parenthesis, and then the 32d will appear to be, what it is, an
Inference from the 30th.
Ye will fill up, or fill ye up-πληρωσατε but it is manifest
that the imperative is put here for the future, a thing quite
consistent with the Hebrew idiom, and frequent in the Scriptures.
So Joh 2:19,
Destroy this temple, &c., i.e. Ye will destroy or pull down this
temple, and I will rebuild it in three days-Ye will crucify me,
and I will rise again the third day. Two good MSS. have the word
in the future tense: and my old MS. Bible has it in the present-Ge
(ye) fulfillen the mesure of youre (your) fadris.
33Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
33 Verse 33. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers] What a
terrible stroke!-Ye are serpents, and the offspring of serpents.
This refers to Mt 23:31: they confessed that they were the
children of those who murdered the prophets; and they are now
going to murder Christ and his followers, to show that they have
not degenerated-an accursed seed, of an accursed breed. My old
MS. translates this passage oddly-Gee serpentis, fruytis of
burrownyngis of eddris that sleen her modris. There seems to be
here an allusion to a common opinion, that the young of the adder
or viper which are brought forth alive eat their way through the
womb of their mothers. Hence that ancient enigma attributed to
Every person must see with what propriety this was applied to
the Jews, who were about to murder the very person who gave them
their being and all their blessings.
34 ¶ 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:
34 Verse 34. Wherefore] To show how my prediction, Ye will fill
up the measure of your fathers, shall be verified, Behold, I send
(I am just going to commission them) prophets, &c. and some ye
will kill, (with legal process,) and some ye will crucify, pretend
to try and find guilty, and deliver them into the hands of the
Romans, who shall, through you, thus put them to death. See on
Lu 11:49. By prophets, wise men, and scribes, our Lord intends
the evangelists, apostles, deacons, &c., who should be employed in
proclaiming his Gospel: men who should equal the ancient prophets,
their wise men, and scribes, in all the gifts and graces of the
35 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 Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
35 Verse 35. Upon the earth] επιτηςγης, upon this land,
meaning probably the land of Judea; for thus the word is often to
be understood. The national punishment of all the innocent blood
which had been shed in the land, shall speedily come upon you,
from the blood of Abel the just, the first prophet and preacher of
righteousness, Heb 11:4; 2Pe 2:5,
to the blood of Zachariah, the son of Barachiah. It is likely
that our Lord refers to the murder of Zachariah, mentioned
who said to the people, Why transgress ye the commandments of God,
so that ye cannot prosper? Because ye have forsaken the Lord, he
hath forsaken you. And they conspired against him and stoned
him-at the commandment of the king, in the court of the house of
the Lord. And when he died, he said, The Lord look upon and
require it: 2Ch 24:21, 22.
But it is objected, that this Zachariah was called the son of
Jehoiada, and our Lord calls this one the son of Barachiah. Let
it be observed,
1. That double names were frequent among the Jews; and sometimes
the person was called by one, sometimes by the other. Compare
1Sa 9:1, with 1Ch 8:33, where it appears that the father of
Kish had two names, Abiel and Ner. So Matthew is called
Levi; compare Mt 9:9, with Mr 2:14. So
Peter was also called Simon, and Lebbeus was called Thaddeus.
Mt 10:2, 3.
2. That Jerome says that, in the Gospel of the Nazarenes, it was
Jehoiada, instead of Barachiah.
3. That Jehoiada and Barachiah have the very same meaning, the
praise or blessing of Jehovah.
4. That as the Lord required the blood of Zachariah so fully that
in a year all the princes of Judah and Jerusalem were destroyed by
the Syrians, and Joash, who commanded the murder, slain by his own
servants, 2Ch 24:23-25, and their state grew worse and worse,
till at last the temple was burned, and the people carried into
captivity by Nebuzaradan:-so it should also be with the present
race. The Lord would, after the crucifixion of Christ, visit upon
them the murder of all those righteous men, that their state
should grow worse and worse, till at last the temple should be
destroyed, and they finally ruined by the Romans. See this
prediction in the next chapter: and see Dr. Whitby concerning
Zachariah, the son of Barachiah.
Some think that our Lord refers, in the spirit of prophecy, to
the murder of Zacharias, son of Baruch, a rich Jew, who was
judged, condemned, and massacred in the temple by Idumean zealots,
because he was rich, a lover of liberty, and a hater of
wickedness. They gave him a mock trial; and, when no evidence
could be brought against him of his being guilty of the crime they
laid to his charge, viz. a design to betray the city to the
Romans, and his judges had pronounced him innocent, two of the
stoutest of the zealots fell upon him and slew him in the middle
of the temple. See Josephus, WAR, b. iv. chap. 5. s. 5. See
Crevier, vol. vi. p. 172, History of the Roman Emperors. Others
imagine that Zachariah, one of the minor prophets, is meant, who
might have been massacred by the Jews; for, though the account is
not come down to us, our Lord might have it from a well known
tradition in those times. But the former opinion is every way the
Between the temple and the altar.] That is, between the
sanctuary and the altar of burnt-offerings.
36Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
36 Verse 36. Shall come upon this generation] επιτηνγενεαν
ταυτην, upon this race of men, viz. the Jews. This phrase often
occurs in this sense in the evangelists.
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
37 Verse 37. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem] 1. It is evident that our
blessed Lord seriously and earnestly wished the salvation of the
Jews. 2. That he did every thing that could be done, consistently
with his own perfections, and the liberty of his creatures, to
effect this. 3. That his tears over the city, Lu 19:41,
sufficiently evince his sincerity. 4. That these persons
nevertheless perished. And 5. That the reason was, they would not
be gathered together under his protection: therefore wrath, i.e.
punishment, came upon them to the uttermost. From this it is
evident that there have been persons whom Christ wished to save,
and bled to save, who notwithstanding perished, because they would
not come unto him, Joh 5:40. The metaphor which our Lord uses
here is a very beautiful one. When the hen sees a beast of prey
coming, she makes a noise to assemble her chickens, that she may
cover them with her wings from the danger. The Roman eagle is
about to fall upon the Jewish state-nothing can prevent this but
their conversion to God through Christ-Jesus cries throughout the
land, publishing the Gospel of reconciliation-they would not
assemble, and the Roman eagle came and destroyed them. The hen's
affection to her brood is so very strong as to become proverbial.
The following beautiful Greek epigram, taken from the Anthologia,
affords a very fine illustration of this text.
This epigram contains a happy illustration, not only of our
Lord's simile, but also of his own conduct. How long had these
thankless and unholy people been the objects of his tenderest
cares! For more than 2000 years, they engrossed the most peculiar
regards of the most beneficent Providence; and during the three
years of our Lord's public ministry, his preaching and miracles
had but one object and aim, the instruction and salvation of this
thoughtless and disobedient people. For their sakes, he who was
rich became poor, that they through his poverty might be rich:-
for their sakes, he made himself of no reputation, and took upon
him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even
the death of the cross! HE died, that THEY might not perish, but
have everlasting life. Thus, to save their life, he freely
abandoned his own.
38Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
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 Lord.
39 Verse 39. Ye shall not see me] I will remove my Gospel from
you, and withdraw my protection.
Till ye shall say, Blessed] Till after the fulness of the
Gentiles is brought in, when the word of life shall again be sent
unto you; then will ye rejoice, and bless, and praise him that
cometh in the name of the Lord, with full and final salvation for
the lost sheep of the house of Israel. See Ro 11:26, 27.
Our Lord plainly foresaw that, in process of time, a spiritual
domination would arise in his Church; and, to prevent its evil
influence, he leaves the strong warnings against it which are
contained in the former part of this chapter. As the religion of
Christ is completely spiritual, and the influence by which it is
produced and maintained must come from heaven; therefore, there
could be no master or head but himself: for as the Church (the
assemblage of true believers) is his body, all its intelligence,
light, and life, must proceed from him alone. Our forefathers
noted this well; and this was one of the grand arguments by which
they overturned the papal pretensions to supremacy in this
country. In a note on Mt 23:9, in a Bible published by Edmund
Becke in 1549, the 2nd of Edward VI., we find the following
words:-Call no man your father upon the earth. Here is the
Bishoppe of Rome declared a plaine Antichrist, in that he woulde
be called the most holye father; and that all Christen men shoulde
acknowledge hym for no lesse then their spyritual father,
notwithstandinge these playne wordes of Christe. It is true,
nothing can be plainer; and yet, in the face of these commands,
the pope has claimed the honour; and millions of men have been so
stupid as to concede it. May those days of darkness, tyranny, and
disgrace, never return!
From the 13th to the 39th verse, our Lord pronounces eight woes,
or rather pathetic declarations, against the scribes and
Pharisees. 1. For their unwillingness to let the common people
enjoy the pure word of God, or its right explanation: Ye shut up
the kingdom, &c., Mt 23:13.
2. For their rapacity, and pretended sanctity in order to secure
their secular ends: Ye devour widows houses, &c., Mt 23:14.
3. For their pretended zeal to spread the kingdom of God by
making proselytes, when they had no other end in view than forming
instruments for the purposes of their oppression and cruelty: Ye
compass sea and land, &c., Mt 23:15.
4. For their bad doctrine and false interpretations of the
Scriptures, and their dispensing with the most solemn oaths and
vows at pleasure: Ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall
swear by the temple, it is nothing, &c., Mt 23:16-22.
5. For their superstition in scrupulously attending to little
things, and things not commanded, and omitting matters of great
importance, the practice of which God had especially enjoined: Ye
pay tithe of mint and cummin, &c., Mt 23:23, 24.
6. For their hypocrisy, pretended saintship, and endeavouring to
maintain decency in their outward conduct, while they had no other
object in view than to deceive the people, and make them acquiesce
in their oppressive measures: Ye make clean the outside of the
cup, Mt 23:25, 26.
7. For the depth of their inward depravity and abomination,
having nothing good, fair, or supportable, but the mere
outside.-Most hypocrites and wicked men have some good: but these
were radically and totally evil: Ye are like unto whited
sepulchres-within full-of all uncleanness, Mt 23:27, 28.
8. For their pretended concern for the holiness of the people,
which proceeded no farther than to keep them free from such
pollutions as they might accidentally and innocently contract, by
casually stepping on the place where a person had been buried: and
for their affected regret that their fathers had killed the
prophets, while themselves possessed and cultivated the same
murderous inclinations: Ye-garnish the sepulchres of the
righteous, and say, If we had been, &c., Mt 23:29, 30.
It is amazing with what power and authority our blessed Lord
reproves this bad people. This was the last discourse they ever
heard from him; and it is surprising, considering their
wickedness, that they waited even for a mock trial, and did not
rise up at once and destroy him. But the time was not yet come in
which he was to lay down his life, for no man could take it from
While he appears in this last discourse with all the authority
of a lawgiver and judge, he at the same time shows the tenderness
and compassion of a friend and a father: he beholds their awful
state-his eye affects his heart, and he weeps over them! Were not
the present hardness and final perdition of these ungodly men
entirely of themselves? Could Jesus, as the Supreme God, have
fixed their reprobation from all eternity by any necessitating
decree; and yet weep over the unavoidable consequences of his own
sovereign determinations? How absurd as well as shocking is the
thought! This is Jewish exclusion: Credat Judaeus Apella-non ego.