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".