Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 10 November 2018; Revised 18 March 2021
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Scripture quotations may be taken from different versions. Click here for abbreviations of Bible versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online. Click here for DSS abbreviations.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Book of Matthew" because that is how Matthew introduces his story (Matt 1:1).
See the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Matthew and his book.
Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Matthew and his book.
Date: Nisan 12, A.D. 30 (Tuesday)
Chapter 23 continues the narrative of the last days of Yeshua prior to his crucifixion. See my article The Final Days of Yeshua for a chronology of Yeshua's last week. In this chapter Yeshua offers a serious critique and rebuke of the weaknesses and faults of Judean leaders identified as "scribes and Pharisees." NIBD titles this chapter in its outline of Matthew as "The King Rejects the Nation" (687), a complete misrepresentation of Yeshua's instruction. Yeshua never rejected Israel (cf. Rom 11:1-2). Christianity has nurtured this lie for centuries. However, like the Hebrew prophets of old Yeshua reveals the dark side of Phariseeism so that his disciples will understand the true way of pleasing God.
Deficiencies of Judean Leaders, 23:1-12
Eight Woes on Hypocrites, 23:13-33
Lament of Judgment, 23:34-39
Deficiencies of Judean Leaders, 23:1-12
1 Then Yeshua spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,
Then: Grk. tote, adv., temporal adv. that focuses on a time or circumstance that is closely associated with what precedes in the narrative; at that time, then, thereupon. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y'hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
spoke: Grk. laleō, aor., is used in the Besekh primarily to mean making an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter. to the crowds: pl. of Grk. ochlos, an aggregate of people or an assembled company of people; crowd, multitude, great number. In many passages the term is equivalent to the Heb. am ha–aretz ("people of the land") as contrasted with the ruling classes and religious elite who despised as ignorant masses accursed for not knowing and keeping Torah (John 7:49) (DNTT 2:800f). Rabbinic snobbery and discriminatory treatment of ordinary people may be seen in these Talmud passages.
"Our Rabbis taught: Who is an Am ha-arez? Whoever does not recite the Shema' morning and evening with its accompanying benedictions; such is the statement of R. Meir. The Sages say: Whoever does not put on the phylacteries. Ben Azzai says: Whoever has not the fringe upon his garment. R. Jonathan b. Joseph says: Whoever has sons and does not rear them to study Torah. Others say: Even if he learnt Scripture and Mishnah but did not attend upon Rabbinical scholars, he is an Am ha-arez. If he learnt Scripture but not Mishnah, he is a boor; if he learnt neither Scripture nor Mishnah, concerning him Scripture declares, I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast." (Sotah 22a)
"Our Rabbis taught: Let a man always sell all he has and marry the daughter of a scholar. … but let him not marry the daughter of an am ha-arez, because they are detestable and their wives are vermin, and of their daughters it is said, Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast. … R. Eleazar said: An am ha-arez, it is permitted to stab him [even] on the Day of Atonement which falls on the Sabbath. … R. Hiyya taught: Whoever studies the Torah in front of an am ha-arez, is as though he cohabited with his betrothed in his presence. … Our Rabbis taught: Six things were said of the amme ha-aretz: We do not commit testimony to them; we do not accept testimony from them; we do not reveal a secret to them; we do not appoint them as guardians for orphans; we do not appoint them stewards over charity funds; and we must not join their company on the road. Some say, We do not proclaim their losses too [i.e., return their lost property]." (Pesachim 49b)
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. to his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self; (2) he, she, it; or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here.
disciples: masc. pl. of Grk. mathētēs (from manthanō, to learn), one who learns through instruction from a teacher; adherent, learner, pupil, disciple. In the Besekh the noun occurs only in the apostolic narratives and corresponds to the Heb. talmid (SH-8527), a student of a Jewish Sage or Torah scholar (Heb. rabbi). The term is used especially of followers of Yeshua, those who not only believed in Yeshua but sought to obey his instructions (Matt 28:20). For more information about this important term see my article Disciples of Yeshua.
2 saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have sat down on the seat of Moses,
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, enjoin, order, say, speak, tell, told, refer to, talk about. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. The Greek verb "say" functions here as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. The rest of this verse through verse 39 below constitutes the content of what Yeshua said. This was not a conversation.
The scribes: pl. of Grk. grammateus refers to a specialist in legal matters. In the LXX grammateus renders two Hebrew words, shotêr and more frequently sophêr (DNTT 3:477f). The word shotêr (SH-7860, official; officer, BDB 1009) is initially used of men chosen to be part of the seventy elders (Num 11:16), and then later of other officials (Deut 20:5; 1Chr 23:4). The word sophêr (SH-5608, secretary, scribe, BDB 708) was used for the secretary to a ruler, a prophet or a military officer (2Sam 8:17; Jer 36:4, 18, 32; 37:15), as well as one skilled in Torah laws (Ezra 7:6; Neh 8:1). In the Besekh the term always has its Jewish meaning of one learned in Torah. Scribes were clearly influential. They were secretaries, teachers, lawyers, judges, priests and some were members of the Sanhedrin (Matt 16:21).
Josephus mentions Sadducees who were magistrates (Ant. XVIII, 1:4) and scribes were always preferred for appointment as judges due to their knowledge of the law (Jeremias 237). Some scribes belonged to the party of the Pharisees (Matt 22:34-35; Mark 2:16; Acts 5:34; 23:9) and some were "of the people" (Matt 2:4), suggesting no party affiliation. Jeremias says that the Pharisaic party in the Sanhedrin was composed entirely of scribes (cf. Matt 21:45; Luke 20:19) (236), but that would be expected for members of the Sanhedrin. For more information on the background of scribes in Jewish culture see my commentary on Matthew 2:4.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios, a rough transliteration of Heb. P'rushim, meaning "separatists." The title was born of the fact that they devoted themselves to study and observance of the Torah. The Pharisees traced their roots to the Hasidim ("pious ones") organized in the time of Ezra, but are known as an organized group from the 2nd c. BC (Jeremias 247). The first mention of the group is in the books of Maccabees where they are described as "a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, every one who offered himself willingly for the law (Torah)" (1Macc 2:42; cf. 1Macc 7:13; 2Macc 14:6). Josephus estimated that there were at least six thousand Pharisees in the Land (Ant. XVII, 2:4). There were several Pharisaic communities in Jerusalem at this time (Jeremias 252).
There were many aspects of Phariseeism with which Yeshua would have agreed. They held the biblical teachings of the Messiah, life after death, resurrection of the dead, immortality, and angels, all of which distinguished them from the Sadducees (Acts 23:8). The Pharisees resisted syncretism and regarded Greek ideas as abominations. The Torah, by Pharisee definition, included both the writings of Moses and the traditions of the Sages, commonly referred to as the Oral Law.
The Pharisees exerted considerable influence in Jewish culture. While the Sadducees controlled the Temple, the synagogue was the center of power for the Pharisees. Mansoor points out that with the Pharisee belief in an omnipresent God worship was not dependent on sacrifices alone and could take place in the synagogue as well as the Temple. They thus fostered the synagogue as a place of worship, study, and prayer, and raised it to a central and important place in the life of the Jewish people, rivaling the Temple. Yet even in the Temple the Pharisees were influential and the Sadducean priests performed the Divine worship, prayers, sacrifices, and various festival customs according to the direction of the Pharisees due to their popularity with the people (Ant. XIII, 10:6; XVIII, 1:3-4).
A casual reader might assume from Yeshua's sharp criticism of Pharisees in this chapter and elsewhere in this book that the Pharisees were all evil. Matthew certainly saw the bad side of Pharisees when he worked as a tax-collector before Yeshua met him. The Pharisees treated tax collectors as sinners (Matt 9:11). For the background of the Pharisaic treatment of tax collectors see my web article The Defamation Against Zacchaeus. Yeshua's social fellowship with tax collectors was one of the reasons that many Pharisees became adversaries. Unfortunately, we know far more about the Pharisee opponents of Yeshua than we do about his supporters among the Pharisees, like Nicodemus (John 3:1-2; 7:50-51), and the unnamed Pharisees who warned Yeshua of a plot by Herod to kill him (Luke 13:31). It was not Yeshua's intention in this discourse to impugn all Pharisees of that time with the same negative judgment.
(For more information on the distinctions between major Jewish parties in the first century see Josephus, Ant., XVIII, 1:1-6; Wars, II, 8:1-14. A lengthy treatment of the Pharisee party, their theology and practices, can be found in Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church; Lederer Books, 1996.)
Noteworthy is that the pairing of scribes and Pharisees occurs 19 times in the apostolic narratives (Matt 5:20; 12:38; 15:1; 23:2, 13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29; Mark 7:1, 5; Luke 5:21, 30; 6:7; 11:53; 15:2; John 8:3). The pairing suggests that the majority of the scribes were Sadducees or belonged to no party. Moreover, except in this verse all occurrences of "scribes and Pharisees" depict them as hostile toward Yeshua or recipients of Yeshua's criticism. A comparable pairing is "chief priests and Pharisees" (Matt 21:45; 27:62; John 7:32, 45; 11:47, 57; 18:3).
sit: Grk. kathizō, aor., 3p-pl., to sit, to take one's seat. Bible versions have a variety of translations ('are seated,' 'sit,' 'have sat down'), but all emphasize that the aorist tense points to the past as well as the present. (The action of the aorist tense can be depicted as <l>, l>¾ or ¾<l ). The NASB translates the verb as "they have seated themselves," which implies an arbitrary assumption of authority. However, in the Jewish culture of the time authority came by virtue of formal ordination. on: Grk. epi, prep. with the root meaning of "upon," used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'at, in, on, upon, over.' the seat: Grk. kathedra, a place for sitting, a chair or seat. The word occurs only three times in the Besekh; the other two mentions refer to the seats of the moneychangers at the Temple whom Yeshua confronted (Matt 21:12; Mark 11:15).
In the LXX kathedra is used for the seat of a king (1Sam 20:25; 1Kgs 10:19), a special chair in the temple (1Kgs 8:13; 2Kgs 16:18), and the seating of ruling elders (Ps 107:32). Stern associates this seat with a special chair set aside at the front of synagogues based on some late midrashic literature. A picture of the supposed "Moses Seat" may be seen here and here. Contrary to scholarly labeling, the synagogue seats discovered by archaeologists are not engraved with a sign saying "seat of Moses." Moreover, in reference to "scribes and Pharisees" Yeshua can not mean a synagogue seat of honor. A chair is designed for one person, not a group. Yeshua will address the matter of "chief seats" in the synagogue in verse 6 below.
of Moses: Grk. Mōusēs, transliterates Heb. Mosheh, the great Hebrew leader, prophet and lawgiver of Israel born about 1525 BC to Amram and Jochebed (Num 26:59). His life can be easily divided into three 40-year periods, the first being his birth and early life in Egypt, the second his years in Midian, and the third the wilderness period after the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Moses was the leader of the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness. At Mount Sinai Moses served as God's spokesman to facilitate the beginning of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Forty years later on the plains of Moab Moses renewed the covenant with Israel and made preparations for their entry into the promised land. Moses was a heroic leader of the people and a devout man of God.
Yet, due to an act of disobedience to God's instructions Moses was not permitted to enter the land of Canaan with the nation (Num 20:8-12). At the end of his life God allowed Moses to view the land from the top of Mt. Pisgah before his death and there he died at the age of 120. God buried him in the land of Moab (Deut 34:1-7). However, Moses' death was not the end of his importance or influence, because Scripture asserts that Moses compiled, wrote and/or edited the five books attributed to his name (Matt 22:24; Mark 12:19; Luke 16:29; 24:27, 44). Philo (20 BC-50 AD) was the first Jewish scholar to write a definitive biography of Moses (On the Life of Moses I, 4:13). Josephus also wrote much about Moses in his Antiquities of the Jews (Books II, III, and IV). See also my web article Moses and Yeshua.
The description of the scribes and Pharisees being seated in the chair of Moses most likely alludes to the Great Sanhedrin, consisting of seventy-one members derived the Torah narrative of Moses and the seventy elders (Ex 24:1; Num 11:24; Sanhedrin 1:1). The members sat on sat on throne-like chairs in the form of a semi-circle, so that they might see one another (Sanhedrin 4:2). This practice followed the example of Moses who sat to judge the people (Ex 18:13). As a judicial body the Great Sanhedrin originated in the Hasmonean period (c. 200 BC), and the Pharisees came into power during the reign of Queen Salome Alexandra (76 to 67 BC) (Josephus, Wars I, 5:1-2).
The Great Sanhedrin was located in Jerusalem and dealt with religious controversies, such as interpretation of Torah and Temple ritual, oversaw drawing up the calendar and preparation of Torah Scrolls for the king and the Temple. The Great Sanhedrin was the final authority on Jewish law. The Sanhedrin heard appeals from the lower courts and also judged accused lawbreakers. The Court of Seventy-One was the only court that could hear a case involving a tribe, a false prophet and a high priest. For more information on the Sanhedrin see my web article Jewish Jurisprudence.
3 Therefore do and observe all things, however much, they might say to you, but do not according to their works. For they speak, but do not practice.
Therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with the statement immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then.' do: Grk. poieō, aor. imp., 2p-pl., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition, to follow some method in expressing by deeds the feelings and thoughts of the mind; do, act, accomplish, carry-out, execute, perform, practice, work. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity.
and: Grk. kai, conj. observe: Grk. tēreō, pres. imp., 2p-pl., may mean (1) to maintain in a secure state with a focus on personal interest or obligation; keep; or (2) to be in compliance in regard to instruction; keep, observe. The second meaning applies here. The verb has a particular usage in reference to obeying commandments found in the Torah and those proclaimed by Yeshua (Matt 19:17; John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10, 20; Acts 15:5, 24; 1Tim 6:14; Jas 2:10; 1Jn 2:3; 3:22; 5:3; Rev 12:17). all things: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. however much: Grk. hosos, correlative pronoun denoting a temporal equation, here signifying maximum inclusion; as many as, how much, how great, how many.
they might say: Grk. legō, aor. subj., 3p-pl. The subjunctive mood, which looks toward what is conceivable or potential, adds a layer of tentativeness to the proposed scenario. Yeshua speaks of a hypothetical situation. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The pronoun refers back to the audience in verse 1, the crowd and the disciples. The authority of Levitical priests and judges specified in the Torah stands behind the instruction of Yeshua:
"According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left." (Deut 17:11 NASB)
Yeshua alludes to ordinary rulings of the Great Sanhedrin on religious matters. Given the long list of offenses which Yeshua goes on to charge against the "hypocrites" then the "doing" and "observing" would be in relation to those pronouncements that don't contradict the actual instruction given by Moses. Yeshua never objected to the routine business of the Great Sanhedrin in representing the Jewish people. Yeshua followed the calendar and the limits of a Sabbath journey established by the Sanhedrin. And, there were times when he directed people to conform their behavior to the expectations of authorities (Matt 8:4; 17:27).
Lightfoot in his comment on this verse makes a good point: "The scribes and Pharisees, the worst of men, have long usurped Moses' seat; nevertheless, we ought to obey them, because by the dispensation of the divine providence, they bear the chief magistracy" (2:290). This is similar to the attitude of David who would not harm King Saul even during his worst days because Saul was the "LORD's anointed" (cf. 1Sam 24:10; 26:11, 23; 2Sam 1:4). Thus, the scribes and Pharisees in their judicial capacity were to be respected. The apostles would never have said to the Judean authorities, "I don't have to follow such and such rule because Yeshua said so." Indeed, the apostles made similar exhortations to respect authority (cf. Rom 13:1; 1Pet 2:13).
but: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The first meaning applies here. do: Grk. poieō, pres. imp., 2p-pl. not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, subjective in nature, involving will and thought; not. according to: Grk. kata, prep., the root meaning is "down," but with the noun following being in the accusative case and the preposition denoting agreement or conformity to a standard, the resultant meaning is 'according to' (Thayer).
their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. works: pl. of Grk. ergon generally means a tangible deed, action or accomplishment that may be observed, whether of men or God. The plural form occurs often in the Besekh, sometimes of evil deeds (Luke 11:48; 1Jn 3:8; Rev 9:20) and sometimes good deeds (Matt 5:11; John 3:21; Jas 2:14). In reference to the scribes and Pharisees in this context "works" has a pejorative meaning, especially their sins and hypocrisies detailed in the rest of this chapter. Yeshua had rebuked the Judean authorities saying, "Has not Moses given you the Torah, and none of you keeps the Torah?" (John 7:19 mine). Yeshua also accused them of invalidating the word of God for the sake of their traditions (Matt 15:6).
For: Grk. gar, conj. a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. they speak: Grk. legō, pres. but: Grk. kai. do not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. practice: Grk. poieō, pres. In other words, they don't practice what they preach. Yeshua had condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees previously (Matt 5:20; 9:10-13; 12:1-7; 15:1-9; 19:3-9) and had warned his disciples to beware the "leaven of the Pharisees" (Matt 16:6, 12).
The opening clause of this verse might seem to give the scribes and Pharisees full authority in all they teach, including the oral tradition, even if they do not live up to it. Then Yeshua qualifies the general expectation of obedience. His direction "to do" but not "to do" might seem like a contradiction, but it reads like a play on words. The second part of the verse is entirely consistent with previous pronouncements of Yeshua in which he challenged the legalism of the Pharisees. He was not expecting unquestioning obedience to Pharisaic traditions. He even made exceptions to Pharisaic legalism for his disciples in variety of situations (Matt 12:1-12; 15:1-2; 19:1-9). In fact, Paul will later inform Messianic disciples not to let anyone "act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day" (Col 2:16 NASB).
It's important to note that Yeshua did not counsel rebellion against lawful authority, but he expected that the behavior of his disciples would be better than the Pharisees (Matt 5:20). Christian commentators interpret Yeshua's instruction as requiring obedience of the rulings of the scribes and Pharisees in so far as they agree with the written Torah. Such a conclusion implies that hearers have a responsibility to know the Torah in order to be able to evaluate whether the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees conforms to Moses (cf. 1Cor 14:29). Just as the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets (1Cor 14:32), so the spirits of Torah-teachers are subject to Moses, the supreme Torah communicator. The Torah of Moses remains the plumbline by which all definitions of normative behavior are to be measured.
We should also consider that there would be a limited duration for this compliance (cf. John 4:21). Eventually the Romans would end the legal status of the Great Sanhedrin as a judicial body.
4 Moreover, they bind heavy burdens, and hard to bear, and laid on the shoulders of men, but themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. they bind: Grk. desmeuō, pres., 3p-pl., to bind together, to fetter. The verb is used of binding in the sense of restraints, and bundles fastened together for transport, ordinarily by donkey. heavy: pl. of Grk. barus, adj., physically heavy in weight; or in a fig. sense burdensome, important, serious, significant, or weighty. burdens: pl. of Grk. phortion (from phortos, 'load, cargo'), something carried as a load, lit. of a ship's cargo. The noun is used in a non-literal sense of a burden which must be carried by the individual, i.e. as something personal and hence is not transferable, i.e. it cannot "be shifted" to someone else (HELPS).
and: Grk. kai, conj. hard to bear: Grk. dusbastaktos, adj., problematic, difficult, doubly heavy, describing what is difficult or oppressive to carry because of the weight (HELPS). and: Grk. kai. laid: Grk. epitithēmi, pres., to put, place or lay upon. on: Grk. epi, pres. the shoulders: pl. of ōmos, the anatomical part of the body in humans, at the top of the trunk, extending from each side of the base of the neck to the region where the arm articulates with the trunk; shoulder. of men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind.
In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam (Gen 1:26-27); (2) ish (Gen 2:23-24) and (3) enosh (Ps 8:4-5), which are generally used for an adult male, husband, a human in contrast to animals or mankind (DNTT 2:564). Bible versions are divided between translating the noun as "men" and "people." Pharisaic regulations impacted the entirety of Jewish culture.
God had intended Torah commandments to be a blessing, but the Pharisees had turned them into a burden. In contrast Yeshua said "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me … my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt 11:29-30). The yoke of Yeshua is a euphemism for the New Covenant, which promised divine empowerment to live by Torah expectations and freedom from religious oppression (Jer 31:31-34; cf. Acts 15:10; Gal 5:1; Heb 8:6-12; 9:15).
but: Grk. de. themselves: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Many versions translate the plural pronoun with the redundant "they themselves." are not: Grk. ou, adv. willing: Grk. thelō, pres., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to move: Grk. kineō, aor. inf., may mean (1) cause a change in position, move, remove; (2) cause to be in motion, shake; or (3) be in motion, move around. The first meaning applies here. them: pl. of Grk. autos. with their: pl. of Grk. autos. finger: Grk. daktulos, the anatomical extension of the hand.
For example, the Pharisees imposed strict rules for the Sabbath. The fourth commandment enjoined rest on the seventh day (Ex 20:8-11; Deut 5:12-15). In the context of those passages the rest was from work involved in one's livelihood (cf. Num 15:32-36; Neh 13:15-22; Jer 17:21-22). Pharisaic tradition, later represented in the requirements set forth in the Mishnah, prohibited thirty-nine categories of work on the Sabbath.
"The primary labors are forty less one, [viz.:] sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, bleaching, hackling, dyeing, spinning, stretching the threads, the making of two meshes, weaving two threads, dividing two threads, tying [knotting] and untying, sewing two stitches, tearing in order to sew two stitches, capturing a deer, slaughtering, or flaying, or salting it, curing its hide, scraping it [of its hair], cutting it up, writing two letters, erasing in order to write two letters [over the erasure], building, pulling down, extinguishing, kindling, striking with a hammer, [and] carrying out from one domain to another: these are the forty primary labors less one." (Shabbath 7:2)
The Pharisees were more focused on what one shouldn't do on the Sabbath, than what should be done (Matt 12:12). (See my article Remember the Sabbath.) So, when Yeshua healed on the Sabbath, the Pharisees labeled him a sinner (John 9:16). Pharisaic regulation clearly went far beyond what God must have intended. God himself works on the Sabbath to preserve all our lives and even the priests worked on the Sabbath without being condemned (Matt 12:5). Yeshua reminded the Pharisees that God established the Sabbath to benefit man (Mark 2:27). He shocked his adversaries by informing them that the "son of man" is lord of the Sabbath. People generally assume that Yeshua was speaking of himself, but "son of man" was a common idiom for "human being." Thus, Yeshua meant that the individual Jew is given authority by God to determine how to keep the Sabbath (cf. Matt 9:8; Col 2:16).
5 And they do all their works in order to be seen by men. For they widen their phylacteries and they enlarge their tassels.
And: Grk. de, conj. they do: Grk. poieō, pres., 3p-pl. See verse 3 above. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 3 above. in order: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" (DM 110), used here to express purpose. to be seen: Grk. theaomai, aor. pass. inf., to look upon with special interest; see, look at, behold, take notice of. The verb emphasizes a special perception or realization. The construction "in order to be seen" also occurs in Matthew 6:1. by men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See the previous verse. The Pharisees weren't concerned about impressing women.
For: Grk. gar, conj. they widen: Grk. platunō (from platus, "wide"), pres., to make large, broaden or widen. their: pl. of Grk. autos. phylacteries: pl. of Grk. phulaktērion (from phulassō, "to keep, preserve"), phylactery. In Greek culture phulaktērion originally meant (1) a guarded post, fort, castle, guardrooms, observatories; (2) safeguard, security, preservative, and a protecting charm or amulet; and (3) a guard or chain (LSJ). The Greek term does not occur in the LXX at all, but is found in Josephus in its regular use of a fortified place (Ant. XV, 7:8). Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MW, OJB and TLV) translate the Greek word as tefillin, which was originally adapted from an Aramaic word (Jastrow 1687). Ironically the word tefillin is not found anywhere in the Hebrew text of the Tanakh.
Tefillin are small, leather cases containing four compartments, each with a key passage of Scripture (Ex 13:1-10, 11-16; Deut 6:4-9, 13-21) (HELPS). See a picture here. Observant Jewish men past bar-mitzvah age (13) strap one on one arm and the other around the head during the morning weekday synagogue service (Stern). Phulaktērion does not translate tefillin, but it might be an attempt to transliterate Heb. t'philatekah the direct object form of tefillah (SH-8605, prayer, intercession, pleading), which occurs four times in the Tanakh (1Kgs 9:3; 2Kgs 20:5; 2Chr 7:12; and Isa 38:5). Since Matthew was originally written in Hebrew we may assume Yeshua used the word tefillin. Yeshua could also have used totaphoth, "frontlets," since that it is the term used in the Torah passages. The person who translated Matthew into Greek probably thought phulaktērion accurately represented Yeshua's description of the religious item and its purpose.
The earliest mention of tefillin is in Targum Onkelos (1st c. A.D.; Deuteronomy) and then Targum Jonathon (2nd c. A.D.; Exodus and Deuteronomy). Josephus does not use the word tefillin but he seems to allude to the practice by repeating the oral tradition of a supposed speech of Moses in which he enjoins the twice daily saying the Shema, inscribing God's blessings on doorposts and bearing upon their arms and foreheads remembrances of God's word (Ant. IV, 8:13). The tefillin were thought to have power, like amulets, to avert various evils and to drive away demons (Targum on Song of Solomon 8:3, dated 400–800 A.D.); hence, their Greek name (Thayer). Greenstone, a Jewish scholar, acknowledges that in their earliest form tefillin resembled amulets.
Phulaktērion does not occur in any rabbinical writings, as a substitute for tefillin, yet articles on tefillin on Jewish websites do use the word "phylactery" as a synonym. Rabbinic regulations concerning the wear of tefillin are found primarily in the tractate Menachot, but also Berachot. Tefillin capsules had to be quadrangular in shape; making the capsules round would expose the wearer to danger (Men. 35a). The Mishnah acknowledges that the regulations of the scribes are stricter than the Torah (Sanhedrin 10:5). The first use of tefillin as they are currently designed is not known with any certainty. The Bible contains no anecdotes of Israelites wearing tefillin. Greenstone says that use of tefillin developed from the custom of wearing protecting coverings on the head and hands. Saul's way of appearing in battle, with a crown on his head and wearing bracelets (2Sam 2:10), is connected with this idea.
Greenstone believes a figure of speech in the Proverbs of binding or tying the commandments about the neck, fingers and heart (Prov 1:9, 3:3, 6:21; 7:3) imply an actual custom of wearing some object, with or without inscription, around the neck or near the heart. These proverbs thus support taking the Torah injunctions literally. However, as with the Torah instructions the proverbial expressions pertain to being obedient to God's commandments. The use of tefillin among Jews was instituted based on an interpretation of Deuteronomy 6:8, "Bind them as a sign on your hand, they are to be as frontlets between your eyes between your eyes" (TLV). The word "frontlets" is Heb. totaphoth (SH-2903), which BDB defines as "bands," "frontlet-bands," and "between the eyes" (377).
The LXX translates this verse as "And you shall fasten them [God's words] for a sign upon your hand, and it shall be immoveable [Grk. asaleutos, adj., unshaken, immovable] before your eyes" (ABP). In context the expectation was in reference to the commandments a father taught his son. This expectation is expressed in the three other passages associated with tefillin. In Exodus 13:9 it relates to instruction by a father to a son explaining the origin of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In Exodus 13:16 it relates to obeying the regulation for consecrating the firstborn. In Deuteronomy 11:18 it relates to impressing God's words upon the heart. Likewise in those passages the LXX contains no hint of a practice of wearing a religious item resembling tefillin.
Moreover, none of the instructions have anything to do with prayer. In my view the supposed injunctions to wear tefillin in their original Hebrew were clearly metaphorical to remind the Israelites just how thorough the Torah was to impact their lives. Unlike the very explicit commands to write God's commandments on doorposts (Heb. mezuzah; Deut 6:9; 11:20) and affixing tzitziyot to the corners of garments (Num 15:38-39), the four commandments pertaining to the hands and forehead do not say to wrap bands around the arms and wear boxes containing tiny scrolls of Scripture on the forehead. Instead the instructions use comparative prepositions, "as" and "like," essentially meaning that God's word is to be a daily part of one's thinking and doing. In Scripture both righteous deeds and evil deeds are often associated with the hands and the mind (cf. Jas 4:8).
Kasdan suggests that Yeshua prayed with tefillin since he fulfilled all the commandments of the Torah as the sinless Messiah (263). Lightfoot says that it is not unlikely that Yeshua wore tefillin (2:292). Bivin also says Yeshua may have worn phylacteries (51). However, there is no evidence Yeshua used tefillin. The assumption that the sinless Messiah must have used tefillin to maintain his sinless state is faulty reasoning, since the Torah instructions are simply not explicit and the instructions have nothing to do with prayer. The Pharisees already considered Yeshua a sinner, so this "failure" wouldn't make him any more of one. If the wear of tefillin was expected, we would assume that the LXX, translated by Jewish scholars, would have given grammatical support to the idea. However, we should remember that Rabbinic Judaism rejected the LXX as authoritative Scripture.
Yeshua's criticism not only draws attention to the attention-seeking behavior of the Pharisees but their complete failure to fulfill what God actually commanded. Yeshua will go on to enumerate their sins, which no amount of invented religious exercise could atone. Yeshua specifically mentions the wearers of the phylacteries as scribes (=Sadducees) and Pharisees. It is not likely that other Jewish groups used tefillin based on a Talmudic restriction:
"A scroll of the Law, tefillin and mezuzoth written by a min [Yeshua-follower Jew], a Cuthean [Samaritan Jew], a gentile, a slave, a woman, a minor, or an apostate Jew [Hellenistic Jew; Qumran Jew], are invalid" (Menachot 42b).
In the time of Yeshua the wear of tefillin was a practice of the religious elite. Yeshua and his disciples, and certainly the crowds, did not satisfy the membership requirements.
CAVEAT: This analysis is not intended to impugn the Jewish practice of using tefillin, because, after all, it is not prohibited by Scripture. Yeshua only condemned the inordinate pride of the Pharisees, not the practice of tefillin itself. However, intent and motive still matter. If use of tefillin is just a legalistic practice, then it is of no value. Wearing tefillin does not make one righteous. For the observant Jew, including a Messianic Jew, the use of tefillin has value when motivated by a heart of love for God and a commitment to keep the commandments of Torah.
and: Grk. kai, conj. they lengthen: Grk. megalunō, pres., 3p-pl., may mean (1) enlarge, either in size or amount; or (2) cause to gain recognition, aggrandize, celebrate, glorify. The first meaning applies here with a hint of the second. Most versions interpret the increase in size to refer to length, although it might also refer to overall size, since the purpose of the action was to gain attention. their: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. tassels: pl. of Grk. kraspedon may refer either to a ritually designed edge (hem or border) of a garment or to a ritual tassel, which is the meaning here. Messianic Jewish versions translate the noun with tzitziyot (CJB, OJB, TLV), although MW has the singular tzitzit. This addition to a four-cornered garment was (and is) uniquely Jewish.
Christian versions are divided between translating the word as "borders" (KJV, NKJV), "fringes" (ESV, NRSV, RSV, TLB) or "tassels" (AMP, CSB, CEB, CEV, DRA, GW, NASB, NEB, NIV, NJB, NLT, and NOG). Of interest is that the Jewish Publication Society Bible (both 1917 and 1985 update) has "fringes," as does the English translation of Talmud passages. In Greek culture kraspedon could refer to the edge, border, or skirt, of cloth, or fig. of the skirts or edge of a country, a mountain or an army encampment (LSJ). The Jewish translators of the LXX chose kraspedon as the best possible word to translate Heb. tzitzit (SH-6734) in Numbers 15:38-39.
Unlike tefillin, the wear of tzitziyot is expressly commanded in the Torah.
37 And ADONAI spoke to Moses saying, 38 "Speak to the sons of Israel and bid them and they shall make for themselves a tzitzit on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and they shall put on the tzitzit of the corners a blue thread. 39 And it shall be to you a tzitzit, that you may look on it and remember all the commandments of ADONAI and do them and not be seeking after your own hearts and after your own eyes, which you go whoring after them." (Num 15:38-39 mine)
"You shall make gedilim [SH-1434] on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself" (Deut 22:12 mine) [A gedil means "twisted thread."]
The purpose of the tzitziyot was not ceremonial but practical. It would be a public testimony that the wearer lived by the commandments of Torah, and rejected the sinful desires of the flesh. There was no fixed length for the tzitzit in the Torah or rabbinic regulation, making it a very personal decision. To say that the scribes and Pharisees "lengthened" their tzitziyot meant longer than was commonly worn.
The tzitziyot ("fringes") are mentioned in Targum Onkelos (Num 15:38; Deut 22:12). Targum Jonathan also mentions the "fringes" along with more detailed instruction for creation: Numbers; Deuteronomy. As with tefillin rabbinic regulations for the "fringes" are found in tractate Menachot (39b–44a). Today Jewish men wear tzitziyot on a tallit gadol ("large tallit"), which is not an article of clothing but a ritual cloth donned primarily for synagogue worship, or on a tallit katan ("little tallit"), which is an undergarment especially designed with corners for the tzitziyot (Stern). According to the Torah instruction the tzitziyot have a unique appearance. Each tzitzit was to have one thread of blue (Heb. tekelet, SH-8504, "violet").
This blue color was also used in tabernacle curtains (Ex 25:4) and later in temple hangings (2Chr 2:6, 14). The Torah does not identify a source for the blue dye, but Rabbinic authorities identified the source as a particular snail native to Israel (Men. 4:1; 44a). The dye for the blue thread was rare and very expensive. Rabbinic regulation specified that tzitzit be tied by using 8 threads (including the blue thread), five double-knots and four windings between the knots. The five knots immediately signify to the Jewish mind the five books of Moses, the Torah. The four windings represent the four letters in the sacred name of God, YHVH, and His oneness (Pryor 35). See the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Fringes for more information.
Yeshua wore tzitziyot on his outer garment and a woman with a blood disorder was healed by grasping them (Matt 9:20; para. Luke 8:44). Other people were also healed in the same manner (Matt 14:36; para. Mark 6:56). The reason for this manner of healing may be found by comparing two verses of Scripture: Numbers 15:38 and Malachi 4:2. The Hebrew word in Numbers 15:38 for corner kanaph can also mean "wing." Malachi 4:2 uses this word, "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings [Heb. kanaph]." When anyone touched the tzitziyot of Yeshua's cloak, that person touched the Son of Righteousness. Taking hold of the tzitziyot was symbolic of taking hold of the God of Israel and, claiming the promise of Malachi.
Zechariah contains an important prophecy related to the tzitziyot:
"Thus says the ADONAI-Tzva'ot, 'In those days ten men from all languages of the nations will grasp the garment corner [Heb. kanaph] of him who is a Y'hudi, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that Elohim is with you" (Zech 8:23 mine).
David Baron, a Messianic Jewish scholar, in his commentary on Zechariah notes that "ten," which can symbolize an indefinite number, stands for a "great and complete multitude" (254). The prophecy echoes the promise of Isaiah 66:18 that all nations and tongues will come to Jerusalem and see God's glory. Taking hold of the "corner," which implies the tzitzit, represents an earnest determination of Gentile seekers, like Ruth, to align themselves with Israel's God and people. This prophecy has also been spiritually fulfilled in modern times by Christians worshipping with Messianic Jews and supporting Messianic Judaism, including its evangelistic outreach.
In my view the three practices of tefillin, tzitziyot and mezuzah could be added to the list of signs that designate Jews as a covenantal people. The requirements do not apply to Gentiles, although they are free to use them. Talmudic rules for these practices have gone far beyond the wording of the Torah instruction. The commandments for these practices leave a lot unsaid and therefore freedom in the manner of observance. The point was that obedience of God's commandments could be encouraged by having visual reminders. The Pharisees determined to make these commandments explicit in the most legalistic detail, so that anyone who did not conform to their interpretation would be deemed a sinner. It is no wonder that the Jewish population at large didn't bother with these practices given the elitist attitude of the Pharisees (John 7:49).
6 and they love the chief place at the banquets and the first seats in the synagogues,
Parallel Passage: Mark 12:39; Luke 11:43
and: Grk. de, conj. they love: Grk. phileō, pres., to manifest some act of kindness or affection toward someone, to love or regard with affection, to kiss, to like or be fond of, or to cherish inordinately. The verb conveys an emotional content. In the LXX phileō translates Heb. aheb only about 30 times out of the 209 times the noun occurs, but aheb is a far more comprehensive word than phileō (DNTT 2:547). the first place: Grk. prōtoklisia, a prominent reclining position at a dinner; place of honor. LSJ defines as "first place at table." At a dinner of a Sage and his disciples it was customary for the one next in rank to be on the Sage's left and the third in rank on his right (Berachot 46b). at: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position with the root meaning of "within," and may be rendered "in, on, at, among, or within" as appropriate to the context (DM 105).
the banquets: pl. of Grk. deipnon is used to mean (1) the daily main meal, generally in the evening (Luke 14:12; 1Cor 11:21; 4Macc 3:9), (2) a royal feast or formal banquet (Matt 23:6; Mark 6:21; 12:39; Luke 14:16-17; 20:46), (3) the Passover commemorative meal (John 13:2, 4; 21:20), (4) the Lord's Supper (1Cor 11:20), or (5) an eschatological meal (Rev 19:9, 17). The second meaning is intended here. In Greek literature the time of day varies for the deipnon, but generally it was associated with the evening. In the LXX deipnon occurs in Daniel for Heb. pathbag (SH-6598), portion of food, delicacies (Dan 1:16) and Aram. lechem (SH-3900), feast, (Dan 5:1) (DNTT 2:521). The term in this context may refer to festival meals or some other special feast.
Yeshua's criticism of the scribes and Pharisees was apparently lost on his disciples. On a previous occasion the disciples had argued among themselves as to who was the greatest (Mark 9:34), and Jacob and John had asked for the chief positions on either side of Yeshua in the Kingdom (Matt 20:20-21; Mark 10:35-37). Two days from now during Yeshua's last Passover, an acted out parable of the Kingdom, John will secure the position on Yeshua's right, which makes it possible for him to lean back on Yeshua's bosom (John 13:23) and Judas will gain the chief position on Yeshua's left, which enables him to receive the dipped matzah (John 13:26). The presumption of Judas in taking the coveted position no doubt restarts the dispute of greatness (Luke 22:24). On that occasion Yeshua will again rebuke his disciples for their attitude (Luke 22:25-27).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the first seats: pl. of prōtokathedria, a place of honor at a special event or gathering; best seat. LSJ has "the first seat in a public place." in: Grk. en. the synagogues: pl. of Grk. sunagōgē means a gathering-place or place of assembly and in the rest of the Greek apostolic writings refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning as well as the congregation that met (Acts 6:9; 9:2; Jas 2:2). The origin of sunagōgē dates back to the 5th century BC and in ancient times was used to refer to any collection of things or people. Sunagōgē had a particular usage by Gentile trade guilds to refer to both their business meetings and religious feasts. In the LXX sunagōgē occurs 225 times and is generally used to translate the Heb. words qahal (a summons to an assembly, Ex 16:3) and edah (the assembly or congregation of Israel, Ex 12:3) (DNTT 1:292ff).
The earliest archaeological evidence for the synagogue, found in Egypt, is dated to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC (OCB 722). The origin of the synagogue is not known for certain, but scholars generally date its beginning during the Babylonian exile. Pious Jews, far from their native land, without the ministry of the Temple, no doubt felt the necessity to gather on the Sabbath in order to listen to the word of God and engage in prayer (cf. Ps 137; Jer 29:7; Ezek 14:1; 20:1; Acts 16:13). Eventually meetings came also to be held on other days, and at the same hours as the morning and evening services in the Temple. According to the Jewish philosopher Philo (20 B.C. - A.D. 50) synagogues were houses of prayer and schools of wisdom (On the Life of Moses , 39).
By the first century, synagogues, especially in the Diaspora, emerged as the central institution of Jewish life as a place where study, worship, exhortation, celebration, and various other kinds of meetings take place. Ceremonies were conducted in full view of the participants, with the masses of people no longer being relegated to outer courtyards, as was the case in the Jerusalem Temple (OCB 722). In contrast to the Sadducees who exercised supervision over the temple, Pharisees supervised the learning of Torah in the synagogue.
Moseley, citing the Jerusalem Talmud (Meg. 3:1; Ket. 105a; Sot. 7:7, 8; Yom. 7:1) says there were between 394 and 400 synagogues in Jerusalem during the first century (8), although one might infer from the Babylonian Talmud that the number 394 was the sum total of synagogues, houses of study and schools in Jerusalem (Ket. 105a). There were certainly many synagogues, especially in each quarter of foreign Jews residing in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2:5, 9-11; 6:9) (Jeremias 62).
Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua, will later chastise members of the Messianic synagogue, for giving a place of honor to a wealthy person while treating the poor person with discrimination (Jas 2:3). Apparently the "chief seats" in the synagogue referred to the bench in front of the ark where the Scriptures were contained while facing the congregation. It was reserved for the officials and persons of high distinction (Rienecker 1:123). The hypocrites wanted to sit near those of high social distinction and in so doing be associated with them. It was a form of "networking."
7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by men.
Parallel Passage: Mark 12:38; Luke 20:46
and: Grk. kai, conj. greetings: pl. of Grk. aspasmos, a greeting or salutation, whether oral or written. The noun in this context implies being recognized. in: Grk. en, prep. the marketplaces: pl. of Grk. agora, a place for gathering, especially of a marketplace as the center of civic life. and: Grk. kai. to be called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass. inf., to identify by name or give a term to. The infinitive emphasizes being recognized as a present reality along with the greetings. rabbi: Grk. rhabbi, a transliteration of the Hebrew rabbi ("rah-bee", lit. "my lord, my master"), derived from Heb. rab (SH-7227, "great, lord, master") (BAG). Rhabbi or the Hebrew Rabbi does not occur in the Tanakh, LXX, or DSS. Rhabbi is found 15 times in the Besekh, all in the apostolic narratives. A derivative form rhabbouni occurs twice (Mark 10:51; John 20:16). All but two of these mentions are addressed to Yeshua.
In the first century Rhabbi was an honorific title of respect exclusively used for Torah scholars (Stern 68). "Rabbi" was not a job description. In The Talmud Rabbi is used only of Sages from the land of Israel and the phrase "our rabbis taught" is used frequently in the Talmud to introduce important sayings of these men. These Sages considered themselves authorities in their own right, having replaced the prophets (Baba Bathra 12a). Sages of later periods in Babylon are identified in the Talmud by Rab ("Rav") or Rabban. Gruber comments that Yochanan ben Zakkai (20 BC–80 AD) after the destruction of the temple is the first individual to be called Rabbi in the Talmud (54). But the Talmud does project the title back into earlier times as in this saying,
"Jehoshaphat king of Judah, who every time he beheld a scholar-disciple rose from his throne, and embraced and kissed him, calling him Father, Father; Rabbi, Rabbi; Mari, Mari!" (Makkot 24a; parallel sayings are found in Ketubot 103b and Taanith 20b)
The respect accorded to a rabbi is illustrated by the Talmud saying, "Whosoever has been present at the death of Rabbi is destined to enjoy the life of the world to come" (Ket. 103b). Ordinarily the title "Rabbi" was used of someone that had been ordained by a board of three elders established by the Sanhedrin through a ceremony of laying on of hands, called in Hebrew semikhah (DNTT 3:115). The practice hearkens back to the occasion when Moses "laid hands" on Joshua to appoint him as his successor to lead Israel after his death (Num 27:18, 23). An ordained rabbi had the right to judge and to decide points of halakhah or application of Torah. Notable rabbis had pupils or disciples who studied their expositions and were duty bound to obey their instructions. The title did not become associated with the congregational leader of a local synagogue until Medieval times ("Rabbi," JVL).
Clarke notes that Rabbi is one of three titles of dignity used among the Jews and applied to their doctors - Rab, Rabbi, and Rabban; each of these terms has its particular meaning: Rabban implies much more than Rabbi, and Rabbi much more than Rab. The Rabbans were looked up to as infallible oracles in religious matters, and in Rabbinic Judaism usurped not only the place of the Torah, but of God himself. (See Daniel Gruber, Rabbi Akiba's Messiah: The Origins of Rabbinic Authority, Elijah Publishing 1999; also the article "Rabbinic Judaism" at ElijahNet.net.)
by: Grk. hupo, prep. used as (1) a marker of agent or cause, "by;" or (2) a marker of a position that is relatively lower; "below, under." The first usage is intended here. men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 4 above. A number of versions have a gender neutral translation of "others" (ESV, NIV) or "people" (CSB, CEV, GW, NCV, NIRV, NJB, NOG, NRSV, TEV). There are only two genders and the Pharisees would not care what women thought. "Men" is the appropriate translation here (KJV, MW, NASB, NKJV, RSV, TLV).
Yeshua's criticism reminds me of a time when a seminary professor with a Ph.D. complained in class that his pastor had neglected to call him "Doctor" in a public presentation, while addressing a medical doctor in the same presentation with the title. Such inordinate pride is unbecoming a disciple of Yeshua.
But: Grk. de, conj. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The pronoun is more likely used of Yeshua's disciples as a group rather than the crowd. shall not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 3 above. be called: Grk. kaleō, aor. pass. subj. See the previous verse. The subjunctive mood is used to denote mild contingency or probability; it looks toward what is conceivable or potential. In this verse the subjunctive is used to prohibit a future action. Rabbi: Grk. rhabbi. See the previous verse. In other words, don't emulate the prideful actions of the Pharisees described in the previous verse. Yeshua set the example. Even though people addressed him as "Rabbi," he never sought such formal recognition.
Kasdan treats Rabbi as a community leadership position and comments that Yeshua did not issue an outright condemnation of the title, but warned against using the title in the arrogant, even hypocritical manner exemplified by some of the Pharisees (266). Stern notes that the Hebrew Christian scholar Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum holds that this passage prohibits Messianic Jewish congregations from calling their leaders "rabbis" ("The Quest for a Messianic Theology: Statement," in Mishkan #2, Winter 1985, pp. 1–19; cited by Stern). Stern interprets Yeshua as prohibiting believers from accepting unearned honors, rather than outlawing titles. He goes on to say,
"A leader is to be humble, a servant (Matt 20:25–28); if he is given any title at all, he is not to become puffed up. Others in the community are to guard against making invidious distinctions between "clergy" and "laity" by bestowing titles.
"My own objection to the use of the title 'rabbi' today is not theological but ideological and practical. What should a 'Messianic rabbi' be? A pastor under another name? I think the term 'rabbi' sets up Jewish expectations which ought to be fulfilled. A Messianic Jewish congregational leader who accepts the title 'rabbi' without having training adequate to qualify him as a rabbi in a non-Messianic Jewish setting is accepting honor which he has not earned and to which he is not entitled; and this does violate Yeshua's injunction.
"Should a Messianic rabbi have s'mikhah (ordination)? If so, should it be Messianic or non-Messianic? If Messianic, who is qualified to grant it? Messianic Judaism at present has very few ordained rabbis and no accrediting agency. At present, in order not to embarrass the Messianic Jewish movement, I urge leaders without rabbinic training to resist letting themselves be called rabbi." (Stern 68)
for: Grk. gar, conj. One: Grk. heis, the cardinal number one, an allusion to the Shema (Deut 6:4) and used here as a circumlocution for God. is: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). your: Grk. humeis. teacher: Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. In the LXX didaskalos only occurs in 2 Maccabees 1:10 to denote Aristobulus, the head of the Egyptian Jewish community, who, having dedicated an exposition of the Pentateuch to King Ptolemy Philometor, is called a teacher clearly for this reason.
Scholars speculate that the reason didaskalos does not occur in the LXX more often is that in Greek education teaching was concerned with imparting knowledge or technical skills, whereas Hebrew education is more concerned with ethical instruction and obedience. In the Qumran texts Heb. moreh, "teacher," occurs frequently, often with a qualifying phrase like "the righteous one," such as in the Damascus Document (CD 1:11; 20:32) and in the Commentary on Habakkuk (1QpHab 1:13; 2:2; 5:10; 7:4; 8:3; 9:9; 11:5), probably in reference to the founder of the sect (DNTT 3:767). Moreh is derived from the verb yarah, to throw or shoot and thus "one who throws out," "points out," or "instructs," (Prov 5:13; Isa 9:15). Elsewhere didaskalos is used interchangeably with Grk. rhabbi (Matt 23:8; John 1:38; 3:2).
Moreover: Grk. de. you: Grk. humeis. are: Grk. eimi, pres. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. In the LXX adelphos is used for the Heb. ach, meaning (1) brother, a male sibling born of the same mother and father (Gen 4:2); also half-siblings (Gen 20:5). Even though Peter, Jacob and John held some prominence among the Twelve, Yeshua emphasizes their equality. He did not want any of them to take a superior position over the others.
In my view the interpretations of Kasdan, Fruchtenbaum and Stern focus on issues not germane to the cultural context. In the first century "Rabbi" was not the title of a congregational shepherd, but denoted a notable Sage or Torah scholar of the era. The most noted Rabbi-teachers of the first century were Hillel and Shammai. The Judean authorities noted that Yeshua and his disciples had not been students at any of their academies (cf. John 7:15; 9:29; Acts 4:13). By this declaration Yeshua took issue with the whole system of Pharisee education in which learning was determined by the authority of the teacher and his interpretation of Torah, not by individual study of Scripture. Yeshua restored the paradigm of the Torah and the promise of the New Covenant in which God is the Master-Teacher and the people of God learn directly from Him (cf. Isa 8:16, 20; Jer 31:33-34; Ezek 11:19; 36:26-27).
Yeshua did not mean, of course, that his apostles would not function as teachers and leaders in the Body of Messiah (cf. Matt 28:19; John 21:16; Eph 4:11), but he meant what he said when he forbid them being called "Rabbi." And, in compliance with this instruction the Jewish apostles never referred to themselves or one another as "Rabbi" and no disciple ever addressed any of the apostles as "Rabbi." The apostles were not to supplant Yeshua by organizing disciples in their own names as the schools of Hillel and Shammai. Paul affirmed this principle when he rebuked the development of parties in Corinth that claimed allegiance to individual apostles (1Cor 1:11-15). Yet, the Orthodox Jewish Bible flagrantly violates Yeshua's instruction by identifying the apostle Paul as "Rav Sha'ul" 228 times, as well as "Rabbi" (2Tim 1:11; 3:14), and Apollos as "Rav" (Acts 18:25, 27-28; 19:1).
And: Grk. kai, conj. call: Grk. kaleō, aor. subj. See the previous verse. not: Grk. mē, negative particle. one on: Grk. epi, prep. the earth: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The last meaning is intended here. In the LXX gē translates Heb. erets (SH-776), first in Genesis 1:1 (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75). your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. father: Grk. patēr, used normally of a male biological parent or ancestor. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which generally occurs in the human sense (DNTT 1:616f).
for: Grk. gar, conj. one: Grk. heis, the cardinal number one. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See the previous verse. your: Grk. humeis. Father: Grk. patēr. Frequently patēr is used in reference to God, which emphasizes both his activity as creator and sustainer. In the Besekh the capitalized "Father" is a circumlocution for the God of Israel. While God gave physical life to mankind (cf. Acts 17:28), he is only Father in a spiritual and covenantal sense in relation to Israel. God's paternal relationship to Israel is affirmed many times in the Tanakh (e.g., Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Isa 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; 31:9; Hos 1:10: Mal 1:6; cf. 2Cor 6:18). the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Among Jews "The One" was a substitute expression for the sacred name of God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:15, 33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6).
in: Grk. en, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos refers to the area above the earth that encompasses the atmosphere, interstellar space and the transcendent dwelling-place of God. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim (lit. "the heavens") (DNTT 2:191). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to three different places (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere in which birds fly (Gen 1:20; Rev 19:17). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8; Matt 24:29) and the third heaven is the location of the throne of God and the home of angels (1Kgs 8:30; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2). The third heaven is in view here. In Scripture ouranos is always "up" as a direction from the surface of the earth.
In this context "rabbi" and "father" are synonyms. Yeshua is not referring to Catholic priests, since the Catholic Church had not been invented yet. In Scripture the "fathers" were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. However, in the first century the great Sages were known as "fathers," and their sayings are preserved in the Tractate Avot ("Fathers"). Their teachings were considered more important than one's biological father (cf. Deut 6:7), because while a biological father brought the disciple into the life of this world, the Torah-scholar brought him into the life of the world to come (Baba Metzia 2:13). Thus, a first century Rabbi was equivalent to a cult leader that exercised absolute authority over his students.
Clarke suggests that Yeshua alludes to the Ab, or father of the Sanhedrin, who was the next after the nasi, or president. Yeshua intends his disciples to understand that he would have no Second, after himself, established in the Body of Messiah, of which he alone is the head (Eph 1:22; 5:23; Col 2:19); and that equality must be the norm among his disciples.
10 Nor be called instructors, because one is your instructor, the Messiah.
Nor: Grk. mēde, conj., negative particle used in escalation of negation; not, nor. be called: Grk. kaleō, aor. pass. subj. See verse 8 above. The subjunctive of prohibition relates to seeking the honor mentioned. instructors: pl. of Grk. kathēgētēs, lead the way, then instruct. The noun refers to a leader; someone bringing others "down the road of learning" by giving needed instruction; a master-teacher (HELPS). Thayer defines the noun as guide, master or teacher. The noun is not found in the LXX or earlier Jewish literature and occurs in the Besekh only in this verse. Bible versions are divided between translating the noun as "instructors," "teachers" and "masters." We should consider that kathēgētēs is not equivalent to kurios ("lord") or despotēs ("master").
A kathēgētēs describes someone who has reached the pinnacle of education and is a teacher of teachers. In this context, kathēgētēs is a synonym of rhabbi in verse 8 and patēr in verse 9, i.e. an allusion to the Jewish Sages. The Mishnah has this office in mind in the admonition, "Appoint for yourself a teacher" (Avot 1:6). because: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb, 'that;' (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; 'for, because, inasmuch as.' The fourth usage applies here.
one: Grk. heis, the cardinal number one. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 8 above. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. instructor: Grk. kathēgētēs. the Messiah: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all (DNTT 2:334). Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), anointed, Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century.
Jews eagerly anticipated the coming of the Messiah to deliver them from their enemies and establish His kingdom on the earth (Luke 1:69-75). Thus, "Messiah" has a special meaning as the hope of Israel. For more information on the title of Messiah, see my article Who is Yeshua? Speaking of himself in the third person as the Messiah, Yeshua declares that he is the source of learning how to understand and apply Torah. He is the way, the truth and the light, one who illuminates every person (John 1:9). Moreover, he speaks to his disciples by his Spirit (Matt 10:20; John 16:13).
11 But the greatest of you will be your servant.
But: Grk. de, conj. the greatest: Grk. megas, adj. with the definite article, large or great in extent and used (1) of any extension in space in all directions; or (2) fig. of measure, whether of age, quantity, intensity, importance or social position (BAG). The adjective is used here to emphasize social status. of you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 8 above. your: Grk. humeis. servant: Grk. diakonos, one who renders service to another, such as in a domestic or government context, but especially of one in the service of God, the Messiah, the Messianic community and the good news.
Robertson suggests that diakonos may be derived from dia (through) and konis (dust), to raise a dust by one's hurry, and so to minister (note on Matt 20:26). A rabbinic saying from approximately a hundred years before Yeshua illustrates the devotion of a diakonos: "Let your home be a meeting-house for the sages, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily" (Avot 1:4; translation by Bivin 12). The term would eventually become a technical term denoting someone in a recognized office in the congregation and having the duty of caring for its practical affairs and charitable ministry (Acts 6:1-6; Php 1:1; 1Tim 3:1).
12 Moreover, whoever will exalt himself will be humbled, and whoever will humble himself will be exalted.
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. whoever: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb, 'anyone,' or 'whoever.' will exalt: Grk. hupsoō, fut., may mean (1) cause to move from a position to one that is higher, lift upward; or (2) cause to be higher in status, elevate, exalt. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX hupsoō occurs 150 times and stands for four different Hebrew words. In the great majority of instances hupsoō renders Heb. rum (SH-7311), to be high, exalted, to rise (DNTT 2:201). himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person to denote that the agent and the person acted on are the same. will be humbled: Grk. tapeinoō, fut. pass., lower or make low, lit. "be humbled." Since the verb is in the passive voice it could mean to accept the humbling caused by God.
Yeshua made this same observation on other occasions (Luke 14:11; 18:14). The choice of future tense for "exalt" in this verse in lieu of present tense (as in the Lukan parallels) hints at a change that will take place. The change in the expectation of people for reward and punishment is impacted by the arrival of the Messiah and the inauguration of the Kingdom of Heaven. The implicit warning in this declaration of reality is that the scribes and Pharisees whom Yeshua criticized had all the reward they could expect for their misdirected pride (Matt 6:5).
and: Grk. kai, conj. whoever: Gr. hostis. will humble: Grk. tapeinoō, fut. The Lukan parallels have this verb as present tense. himself: Grk. heautou. will be exalted: Grk. hupsoō, fut. pass. Yeshua does not offer a "health and wealth" guarantee for humility. In fact, the humble may suffer in this life. The second use of the verb really intends the first meaning listed above. The humble will be moved higher in favor with God to receive grace (cf. Jas 4:6; 1Pet 5:5) and eternal rewards (Matt 5:1, 12; 6:1, 4, 6). Gill notes that the same axiom may be found in the Talmud, "him who humbles himself, the Holy One, blessed be He, raises up, and him who exalts himself, the Holy One, blessed be He, humbles'' (Erubin 13b; Nedarim 55a.).
13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven in the face of men. For you are not entering nor allowing those entering to enter.
But: Grk. de, conj. woe: Grk. ouai, interjection, which may be used as (1) an interj. expressing sense of profound grief, especially in the face of impending disaster; woe, alas; or (2) a noun with focus on the certainty of assured disaster; woe. The first meaning is intended here. The word conveys the overwhelming emotional impact of catastrophe. In the LXX ouai renders six different Hebrew words (hoy, oy, ho, i, and hovah), which may express grief, despair, lamentation, dissatisfaction, pain, or a threat (DNTT 3:1051). The pronouncement of woe occurs especially in the Hebrew prophets in branding the consequences for sinful behavior in Israel and announcements of judgment on enemies of Israel.
to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. scribes: pl. of Grk. grammateus, vocative case (direct address). See verse 2 above. and Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios, voc. See verse 2 above. Yeshua obviously does not mean all scribes and Pharisees as the following denunciation demonstrates. hypocrites: pl. of Grk. hupocritēs, voc., one who assumes a role in a dramatic production, thus one who claims to be what one is not, pretender. Properly the noun means "a judging under," like a theater performer on a Greek stage acting under a mask; fig. a two-faced person; a "hypocrite," whose profession does not match their practice, i.e., someone who "says one thing but does another" (HELPS). In the LXX hupocritēs translates Heb. haner, someone estranged from God, and occurs only twice in the Tanakh (Job 34:30; 36:13) and refers to someone who is too proud to call for help when he needs it.
Yeshua addresses directly those whom he considers offenders of righteousness. He first used the term "hypocrite" in the Sermon on the Mount in describing the actions of certain Pharisees (Matt 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5) and later addresses his adversaries with the term (Matt 15:7; 22:18). Yeshua's adversaries were like those of whom Isaiah wrote that with their lips they honor God, but their heart is far from Him (Isa 29:13). The Jewish Sages identified seven classes of Pharisees, among whom five were "eccentric fools or hypocrites" (Kohler, Avot 5:9; Sotah 22b). Kohler lists the seven classes of Pharisees as follows:
(1) "the shoulder Pharisee," who wears, as it were, his good actions ostentatiously upon his shoulder and performed them to be seen of men;
(2) "the wait-a-little Pharisee," who ever says, "Wait a little, until I have performed the good act awaiting me"; (i.e., a procrastinator)
(3) "the bruised Pharisee," who in order to avoid looking at a woman runs against the wall so as to bruise himself and bleed;
(4) "the pestle Pharisee," who walks with head down like the pestle in the mortar;
(5) "the ever-reckoning Pharisee," who says, "Let me know what good I may do to counteract my neglect";
(6) "the God-fearing Pharisee," after the manner of Job; and
(7) "the God-loving Pharisee," after the manner of Abraham.
The Mishnah records a famous Sage at the beginning of the second century saying, "The plague of Pharisees bring destruction upon the world" (Sotah 3:4). Sotah 22b also reports that King Alexander Jannaeus, the Hasmonean ruler of Judea (103–76 BC), said to his wife (Salome), 'Fear not the Pharisees and the non-Pharisees but the hypocrites who ape the Pharisees; because their deeds are the deeds of Zimri (Num 25:14), but they expect a reward like Phinehas (Num 25:11-13)." Josephus' report of the King's advice to his wife describes both good and bad of the Pharisees (Ant. XIII, 15:5).
Regarding Yeshua's criticism of hypocritical leaders, Stern writes,
"Yeshua, like all the prophets, spoke the words of God without fear or favor. He comforted those who were open to him and made repeated invitation to those who opposed him; but when it had become evident that these particular Torah-teachers and P'rushim were hardhearted, closed-minded and interested only in confuting or trapping him, he seized the initiative, revealing his accusers for what they were. Was he 'unloving' toward them? Love must sometimes be tough. Even less was he antisemitic: his within-the-family correction was aimed at making these Jewish brothers of his live up to their high calling (and he partly succeeded; see Acts 15:5, 21:20, 23:6). If Yeshua was unloving or antisemitic, one must say the same of all the Jewish prophets from Moses to Malachi." (69)
because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 10 above. you shut: Grk. kleiō, pres., 2p-pl., closed to prevent entry; locked, shut. the kingdom: Grk. basileia is used to mean (1) an abstract 'act of ruling' and thus 'kingship, royal power, royal rule, or kingdom; (2) a territory ruled over by a king; kingdom; or (3) the royal reign of God or kingdom of God as a chiefly eschatological concept, appearing in the Hebrew prophets and Jewish apocalyptic literature. The term appears widely in Jewish literature of the time. In the LXX basileia renders Hebrew noun derivatives of the verb malak (SH-4427, become a king; reign), some 400 times (DNTT 2:373). The Hebrew words are used primarily for the reign of earthly rulers and only secondarily of God's kingship.
of heaven: pl. of Grk. ouranos, lit. "the heavens." See verse 9 above. The word "heaven" is used here as a circumlocution for "God." In the Tanakh the concept of God's kingly rule is presented in connection with the Israelite monarchy, particularly in relation to the promise made to David (2Sam 7:12-14). Even in the eschatological kingdom the ruler will be a Jewish descendant of David (Jer 23:5; 33:15; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hos 3:5; Zech 12:7-10). The hope that God would establish his reign as King over all the earth, with all idolatry banished, is expressed frequently in Scripture (e.g., Ex 15:18; Ps 22:28; 29:10; 93:1; 99:2; 103:19; 145:10-13; Isa 52:7; Dan 2:44; 4:3; 7:27; Micah 4:7; and Zech 14:9).
The angel Gabriel announced to Miriam that the promise made to David would be fulfilled in her son (Luke 1:30-33). Yochanan the Immerser then prepared the way for the Kingdom of God (cf. Matt 11:12; Luke 16:16). When Yeshua began his ministry he made the public announcement, "the kingdom of heaven has drawn near" (Matt 4:17 BR). When Yeshua commissioned his apostles for their first mission experience he instructed them to make the same announcement (Matt 10:7). The kingdom was manifest in the person of Yeshua, who is the king of Israel (John 1:49).
in the face of: Grk. emprosthen, prep., expresses position that is in front or ahead; before, in front of. men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 4 above. For: Grk. gar, conj. you: Grk. humeis. are not: Grk. ou, adv. entering: Grk. eiserchomai, pres. mid., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. nor: Grk. oude, conj. allowing: Grk. aphiēmi, pres., to release or let go with a range of meaning: (1) release from one's presence; (2) release from an obligation, cancel, forgive; (3) let remain behind; (4) leave standing or lying; and (5) permissive sense of let, let go, allow or tolerate. The fifth meaning applies here. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. entering: Grk. eiserchomai, pres. mid. part. to enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. inf.
Yeshua graphically depicts the hypocrisy of claiming to represent the kingdom while preventing people who really want to enter the true kingdom from entering. This is the first of eight hypocrisies Yeshua levels against his adversaries. He also spoke on previous occasions to name offenses of hypocrites that are not included here:
• Sounding a "trumpet" when giving to the poor (Matt 6:2).
• Praying vocally in public places to be seen by men (Matt 6:5).
• Neglecting appearance to emphasize the act of fasting (Matt 6:16).
• Caring more for animals than people (Luke 13:15).
14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour houses of widows, and pray long for appearance sake; because of this you will receive greater condemnation.
Parallel Passages: Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: See the previous verse. The lamentation is repeated verbatim. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 10 above. you devour: Grk. katesthiō, pres., 2p-pl., to devour, to eat up. houses: pl. of Grk. oikia (from oikeō, engage in housing) may mean either (1) a habitable structure; house, abode, private residence (Matt 2:11; John 11:31); (2) fig. of a group within a house; household or family (Matt 10:13; John 4:53); (3) fig. of goods, property or means (Matt 23:13); (4) fig. of a life built on certain values (Matt 7:24-27); or (5) fig. of the bodily abode of the soul (2Cor 5:1). The third meaning is in view here. In the LXX oikia translates Heb. bayit (SH-1004), house as a dwelling habitation, household, descendants; first in Genesis 17:12.
of widows: pl. of Grk. chēra, a woman bereft of her husband. The plural nouns indicate a major social injustice. Geldenhuys suggests that the offense of the scribes against the widows was living on their kindheartedness and constantly insisting that they should give large temple gifts and contributions for public worship, contributions too high for their limited means (518). Jeremias suggests Yeshua likely refers to the habit of scribes sponging on the hospitality of people of limited means (114). The practice of motivating generosity by guilt is despicable, especially given the wealth of the temple establishment. The story of the generous widow in Mark 12:41-44 powerfully illustrates the point. Kasdan suggests the injustice included defaulting on loans and endangering their housing (270). Like the prophets before him Yeshua was rightly concerned about the exploitation of the poor, particularly widows, who were the most defenseless.
and: Grk. kai, conj. pray: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. part., to petition deity for some personal desire. The verb is plural, which could imply either the united prayer of the group or the sum total of the hypocrites praying individually. In the LXX proseuchomai renders Heb. palal, to intervene or interpose, i.e., judge. The verb has a variety of meanings, including arbitrate, judge, intercede and pray. The context of prayer in the Tanakh is addressing the Sovereign Judge of all people and thus prayer by its nature requires self-examination. The verb refers to petitioning God for His help or answer with respect to an urgent need. The first mention of prayer in the Bible is of Abraham (Gen 20:7) and occurs on occasion for personal requests (e.g., Hezekiah, 2Chr 32:24).
There is no command to pray in the Torah. Prayer was generally accomplished by proxy, that is, the high priest did the interceding. Individuals did pray, of course, and most of the time God granted the person's desire. (God did occasionally say "no," 2Sam 7:1-5; 12:16-18.) In the Besekh prayer is treated as a divine expectation, if not an obligation of every disciple (Eph 6:18; Php 4:6; Col 4:2; 1Th 5:17; 1Tim 2:1; Jas 5:13-16; Jude 1:20). Devout Jews, living at Jerusalem, went to the temple to pray every day (Luke 18:10; Acts 3:1). Jews who lived at a distance too far for a daily journey went to a synagogue and faced Jerusalem. The Torah does not regulate prayer in any fashion but by the first century it was conducted three times each day, following the model of David (Ps 55:17) and Daniel (Dan 6:10).
The hours of prayer were known and religiously observed by devout Jews and conducted in connection with the temple ritual. The first period of prayer coincided with the morning sacrifice, at the third hour of the morning, about 9 A.M. (Acts 2:15). The second was at the sixth hour, or at noon, and may have coincided with the thanksgiving for the chief meal of the day (Matt 15:36; Acts 27:35). The third hour of prayer coincided with the evening sacrifice, at the ninth hour (about 3:00 P.M., Acts 3:1; 10:30).
long: Grk. makros, adj., long, used adverbially in the sense of goes on and on. Yeshua's criticism contrasts with the Talmudic exhortation, "A man's words should always be few in addressing the Holy One" (Berakoth 61a). for appearance sake: Grk. prophasis, appearance or show that hides or conceals; pretext. In the parallel passages of Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47 the CJB translates "pray long" with "making a show of davvening," a Yiddish term for prayer. Stern explains his usage of davvening:
"The term usually refers to praying the liturgical prayers of the synagogue. Today's traditional Jew davvens three times a day, adding extra prayers on Shabbat and yom tov (festivals). In the synagogue the chazan (cantor) chants the first few words of each prayer or blessing, and each person recites the prayer softly at his own speed, until the cantor signals the end of that prayer by chanting its last few words. One can call attention to oneself by reciting the prayer loudly or with florid chanting which gives an appearance of deep piety. Although the specifics of first-century davvening were different, Yeshua here inveighs against such religiosity." (40)
However, Yeshua spoke Hebrew, not Yiddish and "daven" and "pray" are not synonyms. Yeshua criticizes pray in public places to impress others. They really were not trying to communicate with God. Yeshua did not condemn long prayers per se, since there are a number of lengthy prayers recorded in Scripture. In essence these hypocrites were too much like pagans in that they believed they would be heard for their many words and meaningless repetitions (Matt 6:5-7). Examples of such "much speaking" may be noted in Scripture: In 1Kings 18:26 the prophets of Baal cried out, "O Baal answer us," from morning until noon. In Acts 19:34 the Ephesian mob kept shouting "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians" for two hours.
because of: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The second usage applies here. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pron. signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. you will receive: Grk. lambanō, fut. mid. The verb marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take or receive. greater: Grk. perissos, adv., extraordinary in number, size or quality; extraordinary, in surplus, in abundance. The word is used adverbially to makes a comparison indicating the possession of something extra, which in this context equals a disadvantage.
condemnation: Grk. krima may refer to a judicial decision, decree or verdict, or a sentence of condemnation and the subsequent punishment itself. The statement implies a contrast with the resulting question, "greater than who?" and "greater than what?" Just as there are proportional rewards (Matt 25:14-23), so there seems to be proportional punishments. Yeshua thus informed these hypocrites that their victims will receive the justice for which they appeal to the Judge in Heaven (cf. Luke 18:7).
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you traverse the sea and the land to make one proselyte, and when he has become one, you make him a son of Gehenna, a double of yourselves.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: See verse 13 above. The lamentation addressed directly to the offenders is repeated verbatim. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 10 above. you traverse: Grk. periagō, pres., to travel in an area, go around or about, traverse. the sea: Grk. thalassa is used of both oceanic bodies of salt water and inland bodies of water, whether salt or fresh. In the English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule. Thalassa simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. In the LXX thalassa renders Heb. yam (SH-3220), "sea," which is used for oceans and seas (Gen 1:10), an inland salt sea (Gen 14:3) and an inland fresh-water lake (Num 34:11).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the land: Grk. gē. See verse 9 above. to make: Grk. poieō, aor. inf. See verse 3 above. one: Grk. heis, the cardinal number one. proselyte: Grk. prosēlutos, originally meant "one that has arrived at a place, stranger, sojourner" and then one who has come over to Judaism, a convert, proselyte (LSJ). The Greek word prosēlutos is a technical term invented by the Jewish rabbis who translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. The term occurs nowhere in classical Greek literature (DNTT 1:360). Prosēlutos occurs only four times in the Besekh (also Acts 2:10; 6:5; 13:43). In the LXX prosēlutos occurs 83 times, 80 of which renders Heb. ger (SH-1616), a sojourner or temporary dweller with no inheritance rights, first in Exodus 12:48. This term is variously translated as "alien, foreigner, immigrant, sojourner or stranger" in English Bibles.
Assimilation of non-Israelites into the covenant people has a long history. The first converts properly date back to the sons of Jacob, some of whom took Canaanite wives (Gen 38:2; 46:10). Moses also married two non-Israelite women, a Midianite (Ex 2:21) and a Cushite (Num 12:1). Then the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt included many "strangers" of that land (Ex 12:38, 48). The next non-Israelite to join the covenant people was Rahab, a Canaanite who married Salmon (Josh 6:17-25; Matt 1:5; Heb 11:31). She was followed by Ruth, a Moabite who married Boaz (Ruth 4:10; Matt 1:5). David's elite warriors included Uriah the Hittite (2Sam 11:3; 23:39), and although there is no mention of his circumcision it was likely done because of their relationship.
In the time of Esther (4th cent. BC) when the decree went out allowing the Jews to take revenge for Haman's plot (Esth 8:11-13), many people in the provinces chose to become Jews to escape death (Esth 8:17; 9:27), which of necessity for males meant circumcision. In the late 2nd century BC John Hyrcanus (164-104 BC), a Hasmonean leader, subdued the cities of Idumea (the ancient Edomites), and permitted them to stay in that country if they would be circumcised and adopt Jewish customs, to which they agreed (cf. Ant. XIII, 9:1). Since the Pharisees date from the time of Hyrcanus this proselytizing of the Edomites may reflect their influence.
The term "proselyte" also appears in Philo (Special Laws I). Philo (c. 20 BC−AD 50) says that proselytes are so called from "the fact of their having come over to a new and God-fearing constitution, learning to disregard the fabulous inventions of other nations, and clinging to unalloyed truth" (51). He also says of them that they "have left their country, and their friends, and their relations for the sake of virtue and holiness" (52). The declaration of Ruth, "Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God" (Ruth 1:16) typified the sentiment of proselytes.
In the first century many Gentiles expressed a deep interest in learning about Judaism, which is remarkable considering that Jews were regarded everywhere with disfavor and Judaism was sneered at as a barbaric superstition (Schurer 2:291f, 312). Wherever there was a Jewish synagogue there was also a devoted body of Gentiles attached to it (Ibid. 308, 312). Josephus confirmed that a great number of Gentiles in various places of the Diaspora embraced the Jewish religion and lived by Jewish customs (Ant. XIV, 7:2; XVIII, 3:5; XX, 2:1, 4). However, many Gentiles went further to convert fully to Judaism, which was a testament to the effectiveness of Pharisaic missionary activity (cf. Matt 23:15).
The term "proselyte" as used in the Besekh is known in Rabbinic tradition as the righteous proselyte (Heb. ger tzedek) or proselyte of the covenant (Heb. ger ha-b'rit). The proselyte chose full identification with Israel (cf. 2Chr 2:17-18; Esth 8:17), and, if male, had to comply with a religious process that consisted of three requirements to complete conversion based on the assumption that proselyte and native Israelite should be treated alike (Num 15:14). The three requirements were (1) circumcision (Ex 12:48); (2) ritual ablution or immersion in a mikveh (Yeb. 46a); and (3) a sacrifice of atonement or burnt offering (Ker. 2:1; 8b, 9a). The preferred sacrifice was of cattle, but to lessen the hardship an offering of fowls was considered to be sufficient.
A righteous proselyte was considered as a "child newly born" (Yeb. 22a). A righteous proselyte was bound to all the doctrines and precepts of the Torah, and considered a full member of the Jewish people. A righteous proselyte could participate fully in all religious festivals and enjoyed all the legal rights and privileges accorded native Israelites. The proselyte was to be present at the reading of the Torah (Deut 31:12), demonstrating his willingness to be bound by its demands. In terms of piety a righteous proselyte lived as a traditional Jew in accordance with Pharisee traditions.
Stern notes that in the first century there was still active proselytizing by the Jewish community as Yeshua affirms here. However, no proselyte was ever called a Jew by Jews, probably because of the ethnic definition of the descendants of Jacob, the distinctive promise of the land of Israel to the Jews in perpetuity and the special relationship of the Jews to the Torah (cf. Gal. 5:3) (Stern 339). Proselytes had no inheritance rights in the Land promised to the Israelites. Only in the age to come will proselytes be granted land among the tribes of Israel (Ezek 47:22-23). God never required Gentiles to be circumcised to receive salvation and the issue would be confronted at a special meeting of the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15).
and: Grk. kai. when: Grk. hotan, conj., a temporal marker indicating 'when' or 'whenever.' he has become one: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. subj., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The third meaning applies here.
you make: Grk. poieō, pres. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. a son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben (SH-1121, "son," "son of"), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity; (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor; or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of. The third meaning applies here.
of Gehenna: Grk. Gehenna refers to a place of fiery judgment after death, commonly translated as "hell." Gehenna does not occur in the LXX or other early Jewish literature in Greek (DNTT 2:208), but is a transliteration of Heb. Gey ben Hinnom, the valley of the son of Hinnom, to the south of Jerusalem, where children were once sacrificed to Moloch (Josh 15:8; 2Kgs 23:10; Jer 2:23; 7:31-32; 19:6) and in the first century served as a refuse dump. Rubbish fires were always burning there; hence its use as a metaphor for hell.
Hell is a real place, a physical reality. It is not just a metaphor for a state of separation from God. Yeshua spoke of Hell more than anyone else in Scripture and declared that it was originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41). Hell is fueled with an unquenchable fire, fire that cannot be put out (Matt 18:8-9). The fire of hell will not degrade in intensity over the course of eternity and it cannot be extinguished by any force other than God's power. According to the Talmud, Gehenna was one of seven things created before the world (Ned. 39b; cf. Isa 30:33, where the Heb. Topheth is regarded as a synonym for Gehenna).
The KJV uses "hell" over 30 times in the Tanakh, but the word being translated is sheol, the underworld that receives all the dead. Sheol is translated in the LXX with hadēs, transliterated in English as Hades. In the Tanakh little is known of sheol, except that it is a place of darkness devoid of joy (Job 17:13; Ps 6:5). However, during the intertestamental period many Jews embraced the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and resurrection, which altered the concept of Hades. Reward and punishment would begin after death and the souls of the righteous would enter heavenly blessedness, while the souls of the ungodly are punished in Hades. This was the position of the Pharisees and the Essenes (Josephus, Wars, II, 8:11, 14). Thus Hades became a place where the unredeemed dead are kept in anticipation of the final judgment.
Hell and Hades should not be confused. As illustrated in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Hades is a destination immediately upon death (Luke 16:22-26). Hades is always described as being down, thus it is in a subterranean region of the earth (cf. Deut 32:22; Ezek 26:20; Matt 11:23; 12:40; Luke 10:15; Eph 4:9). Since the Bible does not admit to any belief in Purgatory, Hades is not a temporary abode where one's guilt is purged in order to qualify for the blessing of heaven. Hell should be associated with the lake of fire in Revelation 19:20, which is the place of final punishment after the white throne judgment (Rev 20:14-15). The lake of fire may be located in outer space across the galaxy since Hell is referred to as the "outer darkness" (cf. Matt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; Jude 13).
Since Jews used "heaven" as a circumlocution for God, so "hell" could stand for Satan. Thus, "son of Gehenna" would be equivalent to the charge found in John 8:44 where Yeshua says of his adversaries "you are of your father the devil." Hypocrites are thus destined for hell (Matt 24:51).
a double: Grk. diplous, adj., double, two-fold. Most versions translate the adjective as "twice as much." of yourselves: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The translation of most versions gives the impression that proselytes were far worse of character than the hypocrites that Yeshua was condemning. Such an interpretation is patently illogical. Otherwise, Yeshua would be pronouncing woes on proselytes. Rather, the charge is that the Gentiles embracing Judaism through the efforts of these hypocritical evangelists become clones of the hypocrites.
16 "Woe to you, blind guides, those saying, 'Whoever anyhow should swear by the sanctuary, it is nothing; but whoever anyhow should swear by the gold of the sanctuary is obligated.'
Woe: Grk. ouai, interjection. See verse 13 above. Yeshua pronounces the fourth lamentation, which extends through verse 22. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. blind: Grk. tuphlos, adj., inability to see; blind, used here in a fig. sense. guides: pl. of Grk. hodēgos, one who aids another in reaching a destination; guide. On a previous occasion Yeshua had warned his disciples against the "blind guides" among the Pharisees (Matt 15:14). The spiritual blindness of the Pharisees was also highlighted in the account of the healing of the man born blind (John 9:39-41; see my commentary there). The Pharisee leaders were blind because they regarded Yeshua as a sinner for healing on a sabbath (John 9:16) and therefore discounted the healing as a work of God.
those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 2 above. Whoever: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. anyhow: Grk. an, a disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might, in that case, anyhow. HELPS says the particle indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions. The particle is often not translated. should swear: Grk. omnuō, aor. subj., to take an oath affirming veracity of what one says; swear. The subjunctive mood is used to denote a hypothetical situation.
In the LXX omnuō renders Heb. shaba (SH-7650), to swear, take an oath, charge by an oath, first in Genesis 21:23. The Hebrew word for swear is derived from the feminine form of the word for "seven" (Heb. sheba) and there is evidence in ancient literature that it was not uncommon to seal an agreement by the number "seven." A relationship between the two words is suggested in the narrative of Genesis 21. Abraham sealed an oath to Abimelech by giving seven ewe lambs as a witness (Gen 21:22-34), and Abraham named the well where he and Abimelech met "Beersheba" or "Well-of-the-seven-oath" (Gen 21:31). Thus, the literal meaning of the Hebrew word "swear" is to "seven oneself, or bind oneself by seven things" (BDB 989).
Yeshua addressed matter of oaths in his Midrash on the Mount:
"33 Again, you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall carry out your oaths to ADONAI.' 34 But I tell you, do not swear at all—not by heaven, for it is the throne of God; 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 But let your word 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No,' 'No'—anything more than this is from the evil one." (Matt 5:33-37 TLV)
The Torah makes it clear that vows are not mandatory, but if made God expects vows to be fulfilled,
""Whenever a man makes a vow [Heb. neder] to ADONAI or swears an oath [Heb. shebuah] to obligate himself by a pledge, he is not to violate his word but do everything coming out of his mouth" (Num 30:2 TLV)
"When you make a vow to ADONAI your God, you are not to delay to make good on it—for ADONAI your God will certainly require it of you, and you would have sin on you. 23 But if you refrain from making a vow, you would not have sin on you." (Deut 23:22-23 TLV)
God himself swore on important occasions. "'I have sworn by myself,' says ADONAI" (Gen 22:16 BR). God swore to give the land of Canaan to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Gen 24:7; 26:3; Ex 6:8; 33:1; Deut 1:8; 6:10). God swore to multiply the seed of Abraham as the stars and the sand (Ex 32:13). God swore a perpetual covenant with Israel (Deut 4:31). God swore to establish his people as a holy people (Deut 28:9). God swore that his Messiah is high priest forever (Heb 7:21). We can be very sure that God will keep His promises.
Yeshua's words echo other writers. Solomon said, "It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay" (Eccl 5:5). Sirach 23:9, "Do not accustom your mouth to swearing oaths, and do not habitually use the name of the Holy One." Philo of Alexandria similarly recommended avoiding oaths entirely (Decalogue 84). Josephus says this virtue characterized the Essenes:
"They are eminent for fidelity, and are the ministers of peace; whatsoever they say also is firmer than an oath; but swearing is avoided by them, and they esteem it worse than perjury for they say that he who cannot be believed without [swearing by] God is already condemned." (Wars, II, 8:6)
However, Yeshua's prohibition of swearing is limited to particular types of oaths. Yeshua did not object to being putting under oath at his trial (Matt 26:63). The apostles employed oaths on various occasions (Acts 18:5; 21:23; 2Cor 1:23; Gal 1:20). In the Midrash on the Mount Yeshua lists four improper oaths (Matt 5:34-36; see my commentary there) and here he adds four more. However, Yeshua does not just condemn eight types of oaths, but the underlying motive, that an oath is necessary to add assurance to one's word. The Torah envisioned making oaths in the name of God or swearing to God. Such oaths are binding. However, the hypocrites wanted an escape mechanism. They assumed that if they based the oath on a substitute phrase, and NOT God's name, the oath would not be binding and the promised action could be easily canceled.
by: Grk. en, prep. the sanctuary: Grk. naos, a term that refers to the sanctuary proper, or the holy place, wherein God himself resides, in contrast to hieros, which denotes the entire temple complex. it is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 8 above. nothing: Grk. oudeis, adj., a marker used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one, none, nothing. The adjective admits no exceptions other than what is stated in the context. but: Grk. de, conj. whoever: Grk. hos. anyhow: Grk. an. should swear: Grk. omnuō, aor. subj. by: Grk. en. the gold: Grk. chrusos, the precious metal known as gold. of the sanctuary: Grk. naos. Josephus describes the impressive gold plating in the temple:
"As to the holy house itself, … Its front was covered with gold all over, and through it the first part of the house, that was more inward, did all of it appear; which, as it was very large, so did all the parts about the more inward gate appear to shine to those that saw them; but then, as the entire house was divided into two parts within, it was only the first part of it that was open to our view. Its height extended all along to ninety cubits in height, and its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty. But that gate which was at this end of the first part of the house was, as we have already observed, all over covered with gold, as was its whole wall about it; it had also golden vines above it, from which clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man's height. But then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of fifty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth." (Wars V, 5:3-7)
The glory of the golden vines was known even to Tacitus (AD 109) the Roman historian (The Histories 5.5). For more information on this topic see the article by Leen Ritmeyer, The Gold of the Jerusalem Temple, Ritmeyer.com, 2015. is obligated: Grk. opheilō, pres., to be under a prescribed obligation, to have a duty or to owe someone. In the LXX opheilō translates three different Hebrew words in connection with the idea of being indebted to God (Ex 16:3; Num 14:2; 20:3) and what is owed to men (Deut 15:2) (DNTT 2:666f).
17 "You foolish and you blind! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary having sanctified the gold?
Yeshua addresses the hypocrites with pejorative adjectives to introduce the deficient nature of their reasoning. You foolish: Grk. mōros, adj., voc., having little sense; foolish, stupid. HELPS has dull in understanding, nonsensical ("moronic"). and: Grk. kai, conj. you blind: Grk. tuphlos, adj. voc. See the previous verse. For: Grk. gar, conj. which: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 8 above. greater: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 11 above. the gold: Grk. chrusos. See the previous verse. or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote an alternative.
the sanctuary: Grk. naos. See the previous verse. having sanctified: Grk. hagiazō, aor. part. (derived from hagios, "holy"), to set apart into the realm of the sacred; set apart, dedicate, purify. BAG has when used of persons (1) to consecrate, dedicate, sanctify, (2) to treat as holy or to reverence or (3) purify. In the LXX the hagiazō renders Heb. qadash (SH-6942), to be set apart or consecrated. The Hebrew verb is used of (1) places, such as temple and houses; (2) calendar events, such as festivals and Shabbat; (3) persons, such as priests; and (4) objects, such as the sacred bread and vessels (BDB 872).
the gold: Since the gold plating had been applied in the process of the sanctuary construction then it was part of the building. The sanctuary had been set apart as holy for the worship of ADONAI. Moreover, the Jews believed that the Sh'kinah of God dwelled in the holy of holies. No part of the sanctuary could be any more holy than the rest.
18 "And 'whoever anyhow should swear by the altar, it is nothing, but whoever anyhow should swear by the gift upon it, is obligated.'
And: Grk. kai, conj. Many versions insert "you say" following the conjunction to make the point that the following statement is a quotation of certain hypocrites. whoever anyhow should swear by: This protasis clause repeats the syntax of the clause in verse 16 above verbatim. the altar: Grk. thusiastērion, an altar for sacrifice. Figuratively the altar is the meeting place between God and the true worshiper (HELPS). The noun (derived from thusiazō, to sacrifice) is found only in Jewish literature: Philo, On the Life of Moses II. §105; Josephus, Ant. VIII, 4:1; Letter of Aristeas 87; Testament of Levi 16:1; in the LXX numerous times for Heb. mizbeach (SH-4196), altar, first in Genesis 8:20. The term is used for the altar of burnt offering (Ex 30:28; Matt 5:23) and the altar of incense (Ex 30:1; Luke 1:11) in the temple.
it is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 8 above. nothing: Grk. oudeis, adj. See verse 16b above. but: Grk. de, conj. whoever should swear by: The protasis of the logic statement is repeated. the gift: Grk. dōron (derived from didōmi, to give) a gift, often used of a sacrificial donation. A few versions have "offering" (CJB, NASB, TLV). The noun probably refers to a personal sacrifice (cf. Lev 1:2; Matt 5:23-24; 8:4) rather than the daily required sacrifices performed by the priests. upon: Grk. epanō, adv., on the top, above, on. it: Grk. autos, neut. personal pronoun. is obligated: Grk. opheilō, pres. See verse 16 above. The hypocrites apparently made the strange claim that swearing by a sacrificial offering (why would anyone do this?) was more binding that merely swearing by the altar.
19 "You blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar sanctifying the gift?
You blind: pl. of Grk. tuphlos, adj., voc. See verse 16 above. Since the adjective is masculine some versions insert "men." Yeshua addresses the hypocrites again in a critical manner to call attention to the spiritual blindness. For which is greater: This clause is repeated verbatim from verse 17 above. the gift: Grk. dōron. See the previous verse. or: Grk. ē, conj. the altar: Grk. thusiastērion. See the previous verse. sanctifying: Grk. hagiazō, pres. part. See verse 17 above. the gift: The argument derives from the concept of "contact holiness." In the instructions for the furnishings and vessels in the original tent of meeting, God declared that whatever touched these anointed items became holy (Ex 29:37; 30:29). Yeshua argues that the sacredness of the offering is not greater than the altar upon which it rests.
20 Therefore the one having sworn by the altar swears by it and by all things upon it.
Yeshua presents the conclusion (through verse 22) to his logical argument that demolishes the presumption of the hypocrites. Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 3 above. the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. having sworn: Grk. omnuō, aor. part. See verse 16 above. by: Grk. en, prep. the altar: Grk. thusiastērion. See the verse 18 above. swears: Grk. omnuō, pres. by: Grk. en. it: Grk. autos, neut. personal pronoun. and: Grk. kai, conj. by: Grk. en. all things: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. upon: Grk. epanō, adv. See verse 18 above. it: Grk. autos.
21 And the one having sworn by the sanctuary swears by it and by the One inhabiting it.
And: Grk. kai, conj. the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. having sworn: Grk. omnuō, aor. part. See verse 16 above. by: Grk. en, prep. the sanctuary: Grk. naos. See verse 16 above. swears: Grk. omnuō, pres. by: Grk. en. it: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. and: Grk. kai. by: Grk. en. the One: Grk. ho, used here as a demonstrative pronoun and substitute reference for the sacred name of God. See verse 9 above. The second use of the definite article draws a sharp contrast between the swearing hypocrite and God.
inhabiting: Grk. katoikeō, pres. part., to make a specific locale or area of residence, thus to dwell, inhabit, live in or reside. it: Grk. autos. Yeshua affirms that at this time the Sh'kinah glory of God still occupied the holy of holies. Upon his death the Sh'kinah left, signaled by the tearing of the curtain in the holy place (Matt 27:51). The Talmud affirms that the departure of the Sh'kinah occurred forty years before the destruction of the Temple by the Romans (Yoma 39b).
22 And the one having sworn by heaven swears by the throne of God and by the One sitting upon it.
And: Grk. kai, conj. the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. having sworn: Grk. omnuō, aor. part. See verse 16 above. by: Grk. en, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 9 above. The noun is used in this verse of the third heaven. swears: Grk. omnuō, pres. by: Grk. en. the throne: Grk. thronos refers to a throne or chair upon which a king sits and in the Besekh is used for both a human seat of power (Matt 19:28) and God's seat of power (here). The throne was the official place from which the king exercised his power, authority and judgment. The term is often used figuratively in Scripture of sovereignty or dominion (DNTT 2:611-615). of God: Grk. theos, God or god, the former in this case. In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70).
Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth in six days ex nihilo, "out of nothing" (Gen 1:1-31; Ex 20:11; Ps 33:9; Heb 11:3) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination. Yeshua makes the point as he did in the Sermon on the Mount that heaven itself is the throne of God (Matt 5:34).
and: Grk. kai. by: Grk. en. the One: Grk. ho, used here as a demonstrative pronoun and a substitute expression for the sacred name of God. See verse 9 above. sitting: Grk. kathēmai, pres. mid. part., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or to take a seat. upon: Grk. epanō, adv. See verse 18 above. it: Grk. autos. In addition to heaven being the throne of God, or the seat of His government, there is an actual throne in heaven upon which God sits. The revelation that God sits on a throne was known from the time of David (Ps 11:4; 29:10; 47:8). However, it was the prophet Micaiah who gave the first eyewitness report of seeing God on His throne, "Hear, therefore, the word of ADONAI. I saw ADONAI sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left" (1Kgs 22:19 BR).
A century later Isaiah reported, "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw Adonai sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the skirt of His robe filled the temple" (Isa 6:1 BR). Human minds may not be able to understand how the omnipresent God can "sit" on a throne and regard the report as so much figurative language, but the united testimony of Scripture is that God does indeed sit on a throne.
Yeshua points out that swearing by heaven, from which God rules the universe, implies making God a party to the oath and therefore having His approval of the oath, a false assumption. This kind of oath is objectionable to God (cf. Matt 5:34). The corollary is swearing by the earth (Matt 5:35).
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, but you have neglected the weightier precepts of the Torah: judgment and mercy and faithfulness. Moreover, you were expected to do these, the others not to be neglected.
Parallel Passage: Luke 11:42
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: See verse 13 above. The lamentation addressed directly to the offenders is repeated verbatim. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 10 above. you pay tithes: Grk. apodekatoō (from apo, "from" and dekatoō, collect/receive tithes) pres., 2p-pl., to pay a tenth of anything. The verb occurs four times in the Besekh (also Luke 11:42; 18:12; Heb 7:5). The verb is unknown in Greek literature, so it was coined by the Jewish translators of the LXX. In the LXX apodekatoō renders Heb. asar (SH-6237), to take a tenth of, to tithe, first used in Genesis 28:22 of Jacob's promise to pay a tenth of his increase to ADONAI.
Israelites were commanded to bring a tithe (tenth) of all produce and herd animals to provide support for the priests and Levites who were prohibited from owning hereditary land (Lev 27:30–33, Num 18:21-24). In addition, the Levites were to give a tenth of the tithes they received to the high priest (Num 18:26-28). A second tithe was to be brought every year and consumed by the owner in Jerusalem (Deut 14:22–27). Then another tithe was to be brought every third year for the Levite, the alien, the orphan and the widow (Deut 14:28-29). The rabbinic elaboration of the law of tithes is found in the Talmud tractates Demai (Doubtful), Maaseroth (Tithes) and Ma'aser Sheni (Second Tithe).
of mint: Grk. hēduosmon, a sweet-smelling garden plant, mint. Gale notes that the tithing of mint is not mentioned in any Jewish source, but suggests that Yeshua was likely criticizing the Pharisees' attention to detail, at the expense of more important matters (43). The mention of mint in Scripture occurs only here and the parallel passage in Luke. The scarcity of the mention of mint and the tithing of it does not make Yeshua's observation any less historically accurate. He was an eyewitness to the practice. and: Grk. kai, conj. dill: Grk. anēthon, a garden plant (the anethum gravolense), used for seasoning; dill. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Tithing of dill is mentioned in Maaseroth 4:5.
and: Grk. kai. cumin: Grk. kuminon (for Heb. kammôn, Isa 28: 25, 27), a term of Phoenician origin that refers to the fruit or seed of the plant cuminum cymimum, a member of the parsley family used as a spice. Dill and cumin are mentioned in the Tanakh (Isa 28:25, 27). Tithing of cumin is mentioned in Demai 2:1. Since the hypocrites were not likely farmers, the mention of these plants may imply a home garden as the source. These plants had slight value, but the requirement to tithe them may be assumed from the Torah statute, "You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year" (Deut 14:22 NASB).
but: Grk. kai. you have neglected: Grk. aphiēmi, aor., 2p-pl. See verse 13 above. The verb is used here in the sense of omitting a duty. The plural verb implies application to all the hypocrites. the weightier precepts: Grk. barus, adj. See verse 4 above. The adjective is used here in a comparative sense to contrast especially important precepts or provisions. Many versions have "weightier matters." of the Torah: Grk. ho nomos (from nemō, distribute; 'that which is generally recognized as customary') may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. The second meaning applies here.
In the LXX nomos generally corresponds to Heb. torah (SH-8451), which means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" (BDB 435f), first in Genesis 26:5. In the Pentateuch torah refers primarily to commandments decreed by God to Israel. Torah sets forth the way to live in an ethical way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God. In normal Jewish usage in the time of Yeshua Torah had a variety of specific applications. Torah could mean:
● The commandments, ordinances and statutes given through Moses to the nation of Israel (Luke 2:22-27; Acts 7:53).
● The entire Pentateuch, especially when used in combination with "the Prophets" (Luke 16:16; Acts 13:15).
● Any portion of the Prophets and Writings (Matt 5:18; Luke 16:17). In this sense "Law" can be a synonym of "Scripture."
● Universal principles derived from Scripture (Matt 22:36-40; Rom 8:2).
● Laws and regulations enacted by Jewish authorities (John 7:51; Acts 18:15; 23:29).
● Instruction and traditions of the Sages which were regarded by the Pharisees as equivalent in authority as the written Torah (Acts 22:3).
Yeshua clearly affirms the authority of the Torah and his use of the phrase "weightier matters of the Torah" recalls his answer to the lawyer in the previous chapter who asked "what is the greatest commandment?" (22:36). This was a continuing matter of discussion for rabbis, as illustrated by this example from the Talmud:
"R. Simlai [3rd cent. A.D.] when preaching said: Six hundred and thirteen precepts were communicated to Moses, three hundred and sixty-five negative precepts, corresponding to the number of solar days [in the year], and two hundred and forty-eight positive precepts, corresponding to the number of the members of man's body. … David came and reduced them to eleven [Psalm 15] … Isaiah came and reduced them to six [Isaiah 33:15-16] … Micah came and reduced them to three [Micah 6:8] … Again Isaiah came and reduced them to two [Isaiah 66:1]. … Amos came and reduced them to one … [Amos 5:4] … But it is Habakkuk who came and based them all on one, as it is said, 'But the righteous shall live by his faith'" [Hab 2:4] (Makkot 23b-24a)
However reducing the Torah to a principle predated the quotation above and Yeshua. A famous Talmudic story contrasts Hillel (c. 110 BC - AD 10) and Shammai (50 BC - AD 30):
"It happened that a certain heathen came before Shammai and said to him, 'Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.' Thereupon he repulsed him with the builder's cubit which was in his hand. When he went before Hillel, he said to him, 'What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.'" (Shab. 31a)
In this setting Yeshua proceeds to the explain the "weightier matters" required by obedience to the two greatest commandments. judgment: Grk. krisis (derived from krínō, "to separate, distinguish, judge") is used primarily to mean scrutiny of conduct, either evaluation or procedure, mostly in a legal sense; judgment. Most versions render the noun as "justice," but the normal word for justice is dikaiosunē (e.g., Matt 5:20). The word krisis refers to the overall administration of justice, or jurisprudence, from which may come a positive verdict that vindicates the innocent, or more commonly, a negative verdict that condemns a breach of Torah and its perpetrator. Right judgment should result in justice.
In the LXX krisis renders primarily Heb. mishpat (SH-4941), judgment (e.g., Gen 18:19, 25; Ex 15:25; Lev 19:15; Num 35:12; Deut 1:17), which most often refers to the act of deciding a case, the decision itself, or the execution of the judgment, and in doing so providing justice (Heb. tzedaqah) to victims. See my article Biblical Justice for the principles that God intended to guide jurisprudence. Yeshua commented in other passages on various forms of injustice.
First, judging was based on appearance or outward factors rather than on righteousness (John 7:24). Second, some victims of wrongdoing were simply not given a hearing. Third, the judges neglected to follow the due process rules of the Torah (Deut 1:16; 16:18-20). Some cases illustrate the contemporary injustice.
• The widow who sought justice (Luke 18:3-7). The judge had no fear of God or man, which reflects the hubris of the hypocrites. It was only the persistent pestering of the widow that finally secured justice for her.
• The woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11; see my commentary there). The accusers did not follow the Torah statute for the alleged offense (Num 5:11-28), and they were ready to execute her without a proper trial. Yeshua challenged the accusers by saying, "He who is without sin among you let him throw the first stone at her" (John 8:7).
• Men were allowed to divorce their wives for petty reasons. (Mark 10:1-12. See my commentary there.)
• The blind man whom Yeshua healed was excommunicated because of his unwillingness to denounce Yeshua. (John 9:24-34; see my commentary there)
• Yeshua's adversaries twice attempted to stone him without a trial over objections to his teaching (John 8:59; 10:31).
and: Grk. kai. mercy: Grk. eleos, kindness expressed for one in need, compassion, mercy or pity. In the LXX eleos normally translates Heb. chesed (SH-2617), first in Genesis 24:12. BDB defines chesed as essentially goodness or kindness and is used of kindness of men towards men, whether in doing favors and benefits, or serving the lowly and needy. Chesed from God is manifest in a variety of forms: (1) in redemption from enemies and troubles (Ex 15:13); (2) in preservation of life from death (Ps 6:5), (3) in quickening of spiritual life (Ps 119:88, 149), (4) in redemption from sin (Ps 25:7; 51:3), and (5) in keeping the covenants with Abraham and Israel (Deut 7:9, 12; Mic 7:20) (BDB 338). All of these forms of divine chesed are conducted within the context of covenant loyalty (DNTT 2:594).
According to the prophet Micah justice and mercy are two of the three virtues that summarizes the Torah, "He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does ADONAI require of you but to do justice [Heb. mishpat], and to love mercy [Heb. chesed], and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8 BR). Yeshua no doubt alludes to the Micah passage in his rebuke here. In Hebraic thought man's duty of mercy is a covenant obligation based on the fact that God will show mercy only to the merciful (cf. Matt 6:14-15). Gamaliel III (3rd c.) is reported to have said, "Who is merciful to others, mercy is shown to him by Heaven, while he who is not merciful to others, mercy is not shown to him by Heaven" (Shabbath 151a).
For the hypocrites mercy in the form of acceptance and forgiveness was not to be extended to those they considered "sinners." A sinner was someone that habitually violated traditions the Pharisees held to be sacrosanct. There are a few examples of the lack of mercy shown by hypocrites:
• Pharisees shunned social contact with tax collectors and others they considered sinners and they rebuked Yeshua for eating with such persons (Matt 9:11; Luke 15:2). Yeshua countered by quoting Hosea 6:6, "For what I desire is mercy [Heb. chesed; LXX eleos]; not sacrifices" (Matt 9:13 CJB).
• In particular, Zacchaeus, the Jewish tax collector was unjustly labeled a sinner and barred from synagogue services (Luke 19:1-20). See my web article The Defamation Against Zacchaeus.
• A Pharisee invited Yeshua to dinner and during the meal a woman intruded, weeping, and anointed Yeshua's feet with perfume (Luke 7:36-39). The Pharisee was offended and described the woman as a sinner. Yeshua rebuked the Pharisee for his lack of mercy in providing customary hospitality to Yeshua (7:44), and informed the woman, "your sins have been forgiven" (7:48).
• In the story of the Good Samaritan (no doubt an actual event), Yeshua pointed out that a priest and Levite passed by an injured man and neglected to show mercy (Luke 10:30-37). Yeshua told the story in response to a question from a lawyer (scribe) about who was a neighbor.
and: Grk. kai. faithfulness: Grk. pistis incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Christian versions are divided in translating the noun as "faith" (e.g., CEB, KJV, NKJV, NLT, and NRSV) and "faithfulness" (e.g., CSB, ESV, NASB, and NIV). The use of pistis in the LXX provides important insight into the term. Pistis is used to render Heb. emun, 'faithfulness' (SH-529; BDB 53; Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17), and Heb. emunah, firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity (SH-530; BDB 53), mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4).
The LXX usage emphasizes that the intended meaning of pistis is faithfulness. (Contrary to common interpretation, Paul regularly used pistis to mean faithfulness; see my comment on Romans 1:17). The implied criticism is that the hypocrites were not faithful to covenant expectations (cf. John 8:39, 44).
• They violated the first commandment by giving more authority to traditions than the Torah (Matt 15:3; Mark 7:8-9, 13).
• They violated the third commandment by failing to produce spiritual fruit (Luke 3:8).
• They violated the fourth commandment by persecuting Yeshua for healing on the Sabbath (Matt 12:10-14; John 5:16; 9:16).
• They violated the fifth commandment by donating material goods to the temple that should have been reserved for the care of parents (Matt 15:1-7).
• They violated the seventh commandment by desiring other men's wives (Matt 5:27-28; 12:39; cf. Rom 7:7-8).
• They violated the eighth commandment by robbing widows (see verse 14 above).
• They violated the ninth commandment by misrepresenting God's nature and His covenantal expectations (cf. John 8:44, 55).
• They violated the tenth commandment by coveting wealth (Luke 16:14).
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. you were expected: Grk. dei, impf., impersonal verb from deō ('lack, stand in need of') and thus conveys the idea of something that's necessary, something that must or needs to happen. to do: Grk. poieō, aor. inf. See verse 3 above. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 14 above. The pronoun refers to the three precepts of justice, mercy and faithfulness. the others: pl. of Grk. kakeinos (from kai, "and" + ekeinos, "that one"), demonstrative pronoun used in reference to someone or something previously mentioned, here of paying tithes. not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 3 above. to be neglected: Grk. aphiēmi, pres. inf. Stern comments that Yeshua clearly upholds keeping even the minutiae of the Law. Those who encourage Messianic Jews to stop observing the Torah are ignoring his advice both here and in his Midrash on the Mountain (Matt 5:17–20).
Additional Note: Objection to Tithing
Some Christians object to tithing on the assumption that it is part of the law or Torah that Yeshua supposedly canceled. However, Yeshua did not cancel the Torah, as he plainly says (Matt 5:17-19)! Thus, the law of the tithe is still in force. One might object to tithing on the ground that it is required of Jews, but not Gentiles, but in the matter of money God makes no distinctions. An important distinguishing mark of a true disciple of Yeshua is surrender of the pocketbook (cf. Matt 19:21; Luke 12:33). Scripture teaches that those who provide ministry be supported by those who benefit from their ministry (Ex 20:15; 25:2; Jer 22:13; Matt 10:10; 1Cor 9:4-11; Gal 6:6). Indeed, early congregations were characterized by sacrificial giving (Acts 2:44-45; 1Cor 16:2; 2Cor 8:3; Php 4:14-18).
To object to tithing reflects a callow attitude that expects all the benefits of heaven with minimal commitment. Since Christians believe themselves to be "sons of Abraham" (Gal 3:7), then Abraham's example should be followed. He gave a tenth to Melchizedek, King of Salem and priest of El Elyon (Gen 14:20). Giving to Melchizedek was equivalent to giving to Yeshua (cf. Heb 6:20; 7:1-3). The action of Abraham demonstrates that tithing was practiced long before the commandments were given at Sinai, just as observing the Sabbath (Gen 2:2-3; Ex 16:23).
24 You blind guides, the ones straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel!
You blind: pl. of Grk. tuphlos, adj., voc. See verse 16 above. guides: pl. of Grk. hodēgos, voc. See verse 16 above. the ones: pl. of Grk. ho, voc., definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. straining out: Grk. diulizō, pres. part., eliminate from a liquid by an extraction process; strain out, filter out. The verb is used only here in the Besekh. a gnat: Grk. kōnōps, a tiny flying insect, species undetermined, perhaps a gnat. By the criteria of Leviticus 11:41-43 the gnat would be an unclean animal. The Talmud comments that "If one eats a flea or a gnat he is an apostate" (Avodah Zarah 26b; Horayoth 11a). In Classical Greek writers, the term was used of the wine-gnat or midge that bred in fermenting and evaporating wine (Thayer). Thus, wine would be poured through a strainer before consumption to eliminate any insects.
Yeshua's point seems to be that the hypocrites condemned fellow Israelites for the most picky reasons, even the most minute infractions involving their traditions. One only needs to consider the Pharisaic definition of work that violates the Sabbath (Shabbath 7:2) to understand the extent of their legalism. The man whom Yeshua instructed to pick up his mat and walk was accused by the Judean authorities of breaking the Sabbath (John 5:10). Yeshua was accused of breaking the Sabbath by healing on that day (Matt 12:10-14; John 5:16; 9:16).
but: Grk. de, conj. swallowing: Grk. katapinō (from kata, down, and pinō, to drink), pres. part., to gulp down or swallow. a camel: Grk. kamēlos, the camel, a familiar working animal in the Middle East. In the LXX kamēlos renders Heb. gamal (SH-1581), first in Genesis 12:16. By the criteria of Leviticus 11:4 the camel is an unclean animal. The descriptive word picture is intended to represent the casuistic reasoning of the hypocrites. The point is that the hypocrites endeavored by detailed regulations to avoid the unclean, but in their spiritual blindness they became unclean by major transgression of important Torah values. Gill comments appropriately,
"These men would not, on any consideration, be guilty of such a crime, as not to pay the tithe of mint, anise, and cummin, and such like herbs and seeds; and yet made no conscience of doing justice, and showing mercy to men, or of exercising faith in God, or love to him. Just as many hypocrites, like them, make a great stir, and would appear very conscientious and scrupulous, about some little trifling things, and yet stick not, at other times, to commit the grossest enormities, and most scandalous sins in life.
25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Parallel Passage: Luke 11:39
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: See verse 13 above. The lamentation addressed directly to the offenders is repeated verbatim. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 10 above. you clean: Grk. katharizō, pres., 2p-pl., to make clean, cleanse or purify (BAG). Danker's definition of "make ceremonially clean" diminishes the character of the word. In the LXX katharizō renders Heb. taher (SH-2891), to be clean or pure (first use in Gen 35:2). The verb has wide application and is used of physical, religious, ethical and moral cleansing. The verb is normally associated with removal of uncleanness that will enable an object or a person to have contact with God and/or other people.
the outside: Grk. exōthen, adv., from without, outside. The washing begins on the outside. of the cup: Grk. potērion (for Heb. kos), a domestic item used for drinking, cup, with both literal and figurative uses. and: Grk. kai, conj. of the plate: Grk. paropsis may mean (1) a dish of dainties or choice food suited not so much to satisfy as to gratify the appetite; a side-accompaniment of the more solid food, or (2) the dish itself in which the delicacies are served up (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. Mark describes the routine washing conducted by the Pharisees:
"For the P'rushim, and indeed all the Judeans, holding fast to the tradition of the Elders, do not eat unless they have given their hands a ceremonial washing. 4 Also, when they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they have rinsed their hands up to the wrist; and they adhere to many other traditions, such as washing cups, pots and bronze vessels." (Mark 7:3-4 CJB)
Yeshua does not criticize washing dishes, but like the tithing of dill, mint and cumin, the Pharisees gave the act greater importance than deserved. but: Grk. de, conj. inside: Grk. esōthen, adv., with focus on origin from within or inside, in this case a person. they are full: Grk. gemō, pres., 3p-pl., be full. HELPS adds "especially with the sense of fully occupied with or by, i.e. filled or loaded to capacity; laden with; totally characterized by in every sense." of: Grk. ek, prep. normally used to denote origin, lit. "out of, from among, from within," but used here of the cause by which the act expressed by the accompanying verb is aided, sustained, or effected (Thayer).
plunder: Grk. harpagē may mean (1) the product of plundering, plunder or (2) the act of plundering, seizure. The first meaning applies here. Many versions have "greed" (CSB, ESV, MSG, NIV, NRSV, TLB, TLV), some have "extortion" (KJV, NKJV, RSV) and a few have "robbery" (CJB NASB). and: Grk. kai. self-indulgence: Grk. akrasia, lack of self-control, but here with a stronger moral aspect of self-indulgence implied. Yeshua's criticism means, "they wash dishes, but they don't wash themselves of internal corruption."
26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may become clean.
You blind: Grk. tuphlos, adj., voc. See verse 16 above. Pharisee: Grk. Pharisaios, voc. See verse 2 above. The singular form of the noun is striking considering the previous use of the plural form above. Yeshua may have addressed a specific Pharisee standing in front of him. Bruce suggests that Yeshua alluded in a general way to the "bruised Pharisees" (verse 13 above) who wore special hoods to avoid seeing women, but ran into buildings (Bruce 2:283).
First: Grk prōton, adv., having to do with beforeness, with resultant meanings of (1) having a primary position in sequence and (2) standing out in significance or importance. Both meanings have application here. clean: Grk. katharizō, aor. imp., to make clean, cleanse or purify (BAG). In the LXX katharizō renders Heb. taher, to be clean or pure (first use in Gen 35:2). The verb has wide application and is used of physical, religious, ethical and moral cleansing. The verb is normally associated with removal of uncleanness that will enable a person to have contact with God and/or other people.
the inside: Grk. entos, adv., inside or within, used of a location. of the cup: Grk. potērion (for Heb. kos), a domestic item used for drinking, with both literal and figurative uses. Yeshua probably intends "cup" to be fig. of the heart. and: Grk. kai, conj. the plate: Grk. paropsis, properly a dainty side-dish, and by extension a plate, dish, or platter on which it is served. that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. the outside: Grk. ektos, adv. suggesting disconnectedness; used here to indicate a position locally as opposed to within. also: Grk. kai. may become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. subj. See verse 15 above.
clean: Grk. katharos, adj., may mean (1) free from contamination, clean, cleansed; or (2) free from guilt or blame or moral impurity. Either sense may be translated as 'clean.' The second meaning applies here. Heart cleansing is normally considered a work of God (Acts 10:15; 11:9; 15:9; Eph 5:26; Titus 2:14; Heb 9:14; 1Jn 1:7, 9), but Yeshua makes cleansing a matter of personal responsibility to examine oneself and change one's attitude (cf. 2Cor 7:1; Jas 4:8).
27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you resemble tombs having been whitewashed, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful, but inside are full of bones of the dead and all uncleanness.
Parallel Passage: Luke 11:44; cf. Acts 23:3
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: See verse 13 above. The lamentation addressed directly to the offenders is repeated verbatim. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 10 above. you resemble: Grk. paromoiazō, pres., 2p-pl., to be like, resemble. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. tombs: pl. of Grk. taphos, a burial-place, hence a grave, sepulcher, or tomb. having been whitewashed: Grk. koniaō, perf. pass. part., to cover with lime, plaster over, or whitewash. Before pilgrim festivals it was customary to whitewash graves or grave-sites with lime as a warning to pilgrims against accidental defilement from contact with corpses (Num 19:11-22).
The requirements are set forth in the Mishnah (Shekalim 1:1; Moed Katan 1:1; Masser Sheni 5:1). Such uncleanness would prevent participation in the festival (Kelim 1:4; cf. John 11:55; 18:28). Carson suggests that there may also be an allusion to the white linen clothes that some men, impressed with their own eminence, used to wear (Shabbath 25b; Nedarim 20b; Josephus, Wars II, 8:3). As an idiomatic insult "whitewashed" implies hypocrisy, as stated in the next verse.
which: Grk. hostis, used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb, whoever, which, what. outwardly: Grk. exōthen, adv. See verse 25 above. indeed: Grk. mén, a particle of affirmation; indeed, truly, verily. appear: Grk. phainō, pres. mid., may mean (1) function in a manner that makes observation possible; shine, appear, or (2) be in a state or condition of being visible or observed; appear. The second meaning applies here. beautiful: Grk. hōraios, adj., fair, blooming, beautiful. In the LXX hōraios renders several different words, all of which relate to physical appearance.
but: Grk. de, conj. inside: Grk. esōthen, adv. See verse 25 above. are full: Grk. gemō, pres. See verse 25 above. of bones: pl. of Grk. osteon, bone, as of the skeletal structure. of the dead: pl. of Grk. nekros, adj., without life in the physical sense. and: Grk. kai, conj. all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. uncleanness: Grk. akatharsia, impurity or dirt, a figurative term for immorality or viciousness (cf. 2Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19). In the LXX akatharsia translates Heb. tum'ah (SH-2932), uncleanness, whether ethical or religious impurity (Lev 5:3; 16:16) (BDB 380; DNTT 3:103). The various types of religious tum'ah are detailed in Leviticus 11─15, 22. Various types of moral uncleanness, represented by the related word tamē are given in Leviticus 18─20.
The chief danger in uncleanness is that it defiled people (Lev 18:20, 24; Num 5), the sanctuary (Lev 15:31), the camp (Num 5:3) and the land (Lev 18:25). The penalty for moral uncleanness was death (Lev 15:31). Religious uncleanness caused a person to be restricted in both access to worship (Lev 7:19-21) and relationships (Lev 15:19-28) until cleanness was restored. Worshipping while unclean, whether religious or moral, warranted being cut off from the community (Lev 7:21; Num 19:20). Yeshua no doubt uses "uncleanness" here in a moral sense.
28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
So: Grk. houtōs, adv., thus, so, in this manner. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. also: Grk. kai, conj. outwardly: Grk. exōthen, adv. See verse 25 above. appear: Grk. phainō, pres. mid., 2p-pl. See the previous verse. righteous: pl. of Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with God's standards expressed in Torah for acceptable behavior; upright or just, such as. In the LXX dikaios renders Heb. tsaddiq (SH-6682), 'just or righteous' (BDB 843). In Scripture a just man is one who is blameless or innocent of wrongdoing, one who follows the ethical demands of Torah. to men: pl. of Grk. ho anthrōpos. See verse 4 above. A number of versions make the noun gender-neutral with "people" or "others," but Pharisees would not be attempting to impress women. The presence of the definite article may hint at prominent men.
but: Grk. de, conj. within: Grk. esōthen, adv. See verse 25 above. you are: Grk. eimi, pres., 2p-pl. See verse 8 above. full: pl. of Grk. mestos, adj. used of objects filled with a physical substance. of hypocrisy: Grk. hupokrisis, playing a role as in a theatrical production and used as a figure of speech for pretense or duplicity. and: Grk. kai. lawlessness: Grk. anomia, absence of law, or more precisely absence of Torah. may refer either to (1) a state or condition of opposition to the plans and purposes of God or (2) action or product of a lawless mindset. In the LXX anomia occurs almost 190 times and is used to render 23 different Hebrew words (confirmed by collating ABP and BDB). The range of meaning that anomia represents in the LXX includes wickedness, treacherous acts, rebellion, transgression, injustice, violence, defection, unrighteousness and destruction.
Anomia is the same term used to describe the Anti-messiah at the end of the age (2Th 2:3). Even though Pharisees were upstanding citizens, their insistence of the authority of their traditions effectively nullified authority of the Torah. Stern observes that Yeshua's declaration is an especially cutting denunciation when aimed at those who considered themselves the authoritative expositors of the Law. Paul will later address the high priest Ananias as a "whitewashed wall" because in the process of conducting a trial of the apostle he ordered that Paul be struck in violation of Torah (Acts 23:3).
29 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
Parallel Passage: Luke 11:47-48
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: See verse 13 above. The lamentation addressed directly to the offenders is repeated verbatim. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 10 above. you build: Grk. oikodomeō, pres., 2p-pl., to erect a structure, which can be new construction, restoration of a structure or adding on to an existing structure. the tombs: pl. of Grk. ho taphos, a burial-place, sepulcher, or tomb. of the prophets: pl. of Grk. ho prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In the LXX prophētēs renders Heb. nabi (SH-5030), spokesman, speaker, or prophet; first in Genesis 20:7. In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling.
The Hebrew prophets were a diverse group with different personalities, vocations and manner of ministry, but they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). While the plural noun normally refers to the literary prophets, others would be included such as Abraham (Gen 20:7) and David (Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; 2:25; 4:25). The burial place of the patriarchs (Gen 49:29-33; 50:1-12; Acts 7:16) was well known, as was the tomb where David was buried (Acts 2:29). Josephus records that Herod engaged in building monuments at the tombs of David and Solomon to atone for his attempts to plunder them (Ant. XVI, 7:1). Other Jewish leaders also built memorial monuments (Ant. XVIII, 4:6; XX, 4:3). The erecting of commemorative monuments by religious leaders to honor heroes of the past was done strictly for appearance's sake (cf. Mark 12:40).
and: Grk. kai, conj. adorn: Grk. kosmeō, pres., 2p-pl., may mean (1) put in order, tidy, trim; or (2) effect a pleasant appearance, adorn, decorate. The second meaning applies here. The TLB inserts a modern practice in its interpretation of this verb with "you lay flowers." The verb may refer back to the mention of whitewashing in verse 27 above. the monuments: pl. of Grk. ho mnēmeion, a place for depositing remains of a deceased person held in memory, and the focus may be on either (1) celebrating a distinguished deceased person, monument, memorial; or (2) identifying a place of internment, burial place, grave or tomb. It stresses the remembrance of the dead. Bible versions are divided in translating the noun according to the two meanings with the translation of "monuments," "graves" or "tombs." of the righteous: pl. of Grk. ho dikaios, adj. See the previous verse.
In Bible times corpses were typically placed in natural caves (Gen 23:19; 49:30-31), other above-ground tombs cut into soft rock (Jdg 8:32; Matt 27:60; John 11:17; Acts 2:29), or in the ground (Gen 35:8, 19; 2Kgs 23:6; Jer 26:23; Matt 27:5-10). The burial places would be outside but near the town where the person lived. The rock tombs sometimes contained chambers or a single room with shelves on three sides of the chamber, the entrance being closed by a large flat stone rolled or pushed into position. As generations of the same family used the tomb, skeletons and grave goods might be heaped up along the sides or put into a side chamber to make room for new burials. Laws of burial and bereavement may be found in the Talmud Tractate Moed Katan.
30 and you say, 'If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the bloodshed of the prophets.'
and: Grk. kai, conj. you say: Grk. legō, pres., 2p-pl. See verse 2 above. Yeshua presents the following quotation as an actual claim of the Pharisees. If: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker, generally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. we had been: Grk. eimi, impf. mid. See verse 8 above. Many versions have "we had lived." in: Grk. en, prep. the days: pl. of Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The fourth meaning applies here. of our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person.
fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 9 above. The expression "our fathers" first refers to the patriarchs (Gen 46:34; Num 20:15; Luke 1:55; Acts 3:13; 7:11), but also the wilderness generation (John 6:31; Acts 7:39; 1Cor 10:1), Israelite leaders in the time of the divided kingdoms (2Kgs 22:13; 2Chr 29:6; 34:21; Ezra 5:12; 9:7; Neh 9:16, 34; Ps 106:6; Dan 9:8) and lastly the Pharisee Sages (Acts 22:3; 28:17). In this historical reference the "fathers" are those who lived in the times of the prophets. we would not: Grk. ou, adv. have been: Grk. eimi, impf. mid., 1p-pl. partakers: pl. of Grk. koinōnos, one in close association with; participant, partaker, sharer. with them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun.
in: Grk. en, prep. the bloodshed: Grk. haima, blood, whether human or animal, but here intended in the sense of bloodshed, that is, blood spilled in murderous action. of the prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See the previous verse. These hypocrites wanted to present themselves as morally superior to those who had persecuted the prophets. Carson comments that the hypocrites believed that they would not have joined their forebears in murdering the prophets, just as some Christians today naively think they would have responded better to Yeshua than the crowds that cried, "Crucify him!"
31 Thus you attest yourselves that you are sons of those having murdered the prophets.
Thus: Grk. hōste, conj. may be used to (1) introduce an independent clause that represents a consequence of the statement that precedes; for this reason, therefore, and so; or (2) introduces a dependent clause of an actual result; for the purpose of, with a view to, in order that. The first meaning applies here. you attest: Grk. martureō, pres., 2p-pl., to attest to a fact or truth, and may be used with the focus on (1) confirmation; attest, bear witness, testify, or (2) rendering approval, give a good report. The verb points not to relating opinion or hearsay, but what is objective truth. The first usage is in view here. Many versions translate the verb as "testify" with the added preposition "against," but this construction implies a courtroom setting. Yeshua does not refer to self-incrimination that occurs in the process of legal interrogation. A few versions are closer to the point with "give proof" (ERV, EXB, ICB, NCV) or "prove" (CEV, WE).
yourselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun. See verse 12 above. The pronoun alludes to the behavior of Yeshua's adversaries as proving the point. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 10 above. you are: Grk. eimi, pres., 2p-pl. See verse 8 above. sons: pl. of Grk. huios. See verse 15 above. The noun is not used of biological lineage but of having the characteristics of someone. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having murdered: Grk. phoneuō, aor. part., the unlawful taking of human life. Relevant to Yeshua's indictment here is that he equated inappropriately expressed anger toward a fellow Israelite with murder (Matt 5:21-22).
In the LXX phoneuō renders Heb. ratzach (SH-7523; BDB 953), to murder or slay with premeditation, first in Exodus 20:13. The verb is also used for assassination. These two verbs are not used for accidental killing, manslaughter, killing in war or court-ordered execution for a capital crime. Murder is a violation of the sixth commandment (Ex 20:13; Deut 5:17), although murder was known to be wrong long before Moses was born (Gen 4:11-12; 6:5-7; 9:3-6). God requires the death penalty for murder. See my article Biblical Basis for the Death Penalty.
the prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See the previous verse. A number of passages in the Tanakh point out the killing of the messengers of God or prophets by various leaders (1Sam 22:18; 1Kgs 18:4, 13; 19:10, 14; 1Chr 16:22; Neh 9:26; Lam 4:13; cf. Heb. 11:37). Stephen will later repeat this charge in his defense before the ruling council (Acts 7:52). According to Jewish traditions the martyred prophets would include Joel, Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Ezekiel (from Lives of the Prophets, an apocryphal work of Jewish origin, repeated in the medieval Nestorian book The Book of the Bee, Chap. XXXII). By saying that his adversaries were like those who murdered the prophets Yeshua states the reality that the scribes and Pharisees had a propensity to zealous violence.
The Talmud records an incident in which a priest who had performed his duties while unclean was taken out of the temple court by young priests who broke his skull with clubs instead of taking him before a Beth Din (Sanh. 82b). Early in Yeshua's ministry the Jewish leaders in Nazareth attempted to throw him down a cliff in response to his pronouncements in the synagogue (Luke 4:28-29). At least twice members of the Judean authorities attempted to stone Yeshua for something he said (John 8:59; 10:31). In John's narrative it's evident that the chief priests had wanted to kill Yeshua for over a year before they finally crucified him (John 5:18; 7:1, 19; 8:37; 11:53). Stephen will later accuse Jewish leaders of being murderers of Yeshua (Acts 7:52).
32 And you, fill up the measure of your fathers.
And: Grk. kai, conj. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person, used of the adversarial hypocrites of his audience. fill up: Grk. plēroō, aor. imp., may mean (1) cause to abound in content to a maximum, fill; or (2) to bring to fruition or completion, complete, fulfill, fill up, carry out. The first meaning applies here. The imperative mood is the mood of volition, and while normally used to indicate issuing a command, here it denotes a prophetic permission. Yeshua is not commanding his enemies to sin. Rather, he is saying that God will not prevent them from carrying out their malevolent plans.
the measure: Grk. ho metron, a device used to meet a standard for determination of amount or dimension, used here fig. of a measured extent or amount. of your: Grk. humeis. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 9 and 30 above. Gill comments that like the Amorites (Gen 15:16), the iniquity of those who murdered the prophets was not yet full. The murdered prophets had foretold the coming of the Messianic Prince who would bring judgment on the wicked. Now the Messiah has come and so his adversaries will complete the sinful work of their fathers.
33 Serpents! Offspring of vipers! How shall you escape from the judgment of hell?
Serpents: pl. of Grk. ophis, voc. pl., snake in the literal sense without specification of species, or having the habits or characteristics of a snake in reference to humans or other entities, especially of a demonic order (2Cor 11:3; Rev 12:9, 14-15; 20:2). In the LXX ophis renders the Heb. nachash, (SH-5175), serpent, occurring first of the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:1). Offspring: Grk. gennēma, voc. pl., may refer to (1) the fruits or products of agriculture; or (2) offspring and progeny of humans and animals. The second meaning applies here. of vipers: pl. of Grk. echidna, a poisonous snake, a viper or adder. In Greek literature the noun was a metaphor for a treacherous wife or friend (LSJ). The noun does not occur in the LXX, but is a loanword in rabbinic writings (BAG).
The phrase "offspring of vipers" is an idiomatic expression that occurs four times in the apostolic narratives, once by Yochanan the Immerser of Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt 3:7; Luke 3:7) and twice by Yeshua of his adversaries (Matt 12:34). On a prior occasion Yeshua accused them of being sons of the devil (John 8:44). Addressing his enemies with insulting epithets may seem shocking but they were not so different from his adversaries. It was common for the School of Hillel to refer to the School of Shammai as "the synagogue of Satan" (Moseley 96). Gruber notes the Talmudic anecdote of R. Dosa b. Harkinas of Beit Hillel, who called his younger brother of Beit Shammai, "the first-born of Satan" (Yebamot 16a) (158).
How: Grk. pōs, adv. introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way? shall you escape: Grk. pheugō, aor. subj., to make a decisive movement away to avoid a hazard, to flee or to escape. from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation, here denoting distance of a place; from, away from. the judgment: Grk. krisis. See verse 23 above. The noun is used here of sentence handed down by a judge, and in particular the Supreme Judge of the Universe. of hell: Grk. gehenna. See verse 15 above. Yeshua does not state categorically that his enemies would go to hell, but rather if they continue on their present course they will assuredly receive the harsh judgment of eternal separation from God.
Lament of Judgment, 23:34-39
34 Because of this, behold, I am sending to you prophets and wise men and scribes ─ from among them you will kill and you will destroy, and from among them you will flog in your synagogues and you will persecute from town to town,
Parallel passage: Luke 11:49
Because: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 15 above. of this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 15 above. In verse 15 the phrase "because of this introduces a judgment on those who devour widows' houses. Here, too, the phrase introduces further reason for the horrific judgment of the previous verse. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp., demonstrative interjection (derived from eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek verb, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG). The interjection is equivalent to "look at what's going to happen" as if he was showing them a vision of the future. Speaking prophetically in this closing section of the chapter reflects a heart of anguish and lament.
I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Yeshua emphasizes that he is personally responsible for the following action. am sending: Grk. apostellō, pres., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. Originally in Greek culture apostellō was used of sending an envoy to represent a king or a personal representative with legal powers. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). At this time the chief priests and the ruling council would send messengers on various official missions. Yeshua affirms that in this instance he will be exercising equivalent authority.
to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 5 above. The point of the preposition is to prophecy face to face confrontation. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The plural pronoun refers to the Judean authorities. prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See verse 30 above. Only a few men are identified by name as prophets in the Besekh: Agabus (Acts 11:27), and Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen and Saul (Acts 13:1). The apostles would be counted among the prophets since "the one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation" (1Cor 14:3 NASB). However, like the Hebrew prophets those representing Yeshua will call for repentance.
and: Grk. kai, conj. wise men: pl. of Grk. sophos, adj., having a high level of discernment, understanding and insight; thus, wise generally, shrewd, clever, learned or intelligent. In the LXX sophos stands generally for Heb. chakam, wise (DNTT 3:1027). Chakam occurs frequently in the Tanakh (first in Gen 41:8) and has a range of meaning, including (1) skilful in technical work, (2) wise in political administration, (3) learned in the heavenly signs, (4) wise ethically and religiously, and (5) one who fears God (BDB 314). The category could allude to the criteria for the first panel of deacons that they be full of the Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3). Stephen is especially credited with these virtues (Acts 6:10), as well as Paul (1Cor 3:10; Col 1:28; 2Pet 3:15). The prophecy might also hint that some of his future disciples (after Pentecost) will come from the ranks of Jewish teachers and leaders, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.
and: Grk. kai. scribes: pl. of Grk. grammateus. See verse 2 above. Yeshua probably means that some of his future disciples (after Pentecost) will come from the ranks of Jewish scribes. Even priests would become disciples (Acts 6:7). Luke's parallel of this verse has "apostles" instead of "wise men and scribes." from among: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 25 above. Many versions translate the preposition with "some of." them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 1 above. The plural pronoun refers back to the categories of men just mentioned.
you will kill: Grk. apokteinō, fut., 2p-pl., put an end by force to existence of someone; kill. The verb is also used of homicide (Matt 21:39), accidental killing (Luke 13:4) and divine judgment (Rev 6:8). In the LXX apokteinō renders Heb. harag (SH-2026; BDB 246), kill or slay, and used for homicide (Gen 4:8), mass revenge killing (Gen 34:25), penal execution (Ex 32:27), killing in war (Num 31:7), and planned massacre of Jews (Esth 3:13) (DNTT 1:429). The verb is used often in reference to the killing of prophets of God in the past (Matt 14:5; 23:37; Luke 11:47; Acts 7:52). The verb is then used of the martyrdom of Yeshua's followers (Matt 24:9; John 16:2; Rev 2:13; 6:11), in particular Stephen (Acts 7:59) and Jacob ("James," Act 12:1-2). Paul will later confirm that this prophecy was fulfilled (1Th 2:15).
and: Grk. kai. you will destroy: Grk. stauroō, fut., 2p-pl., cause to undergo physical crucifixion; crucify and fig. to destroy. In the LXX the verb occurs only in Esther 7:10 to render Heb. talah (SH-8518), to hang, used in reference to the execution of Haman. Josephus also used the verb to translate Heb. talah, for the hanging of the chief baker of Pharaoh (Ant. II, 5:4; Gen 40:22), and Haman (Ant. XI, 6:11). Bible versions translate the verb as "crucify," but crucifixion was not one of the means of capital punishment employed by Jewish authorities and there are no anecdotes from the apostolic era of Jews ever crucifying disciples of Yeshua. However, after the death of Stephen, Saul sought to destroy the Messianic congregation (Acts 8:1; 9:21; 26:9; Gal 1:13, 23), including voting with the temple authorities to put disciples to death (Act 22:4; 26:10).
and: Grk. kai. from among: Grk. ek. them: pl. of Grk. autos. Again, the plural pronoun refers back to the categories of men Yeshua just mentioned. you will flog: Grk. mastigoō, fut., 2p-pl., to administer a severe whipping, to scourge or flog. In the LXX mastigoō renders Heb. nakah (SH-5221), to smite, first in Exodus 5:14 of the beating of Israelites by Egyptians and then in the Torah legislation on punishment of law-breakers (Deut 25:2). Jewish law (Makkot 1:1) prescribed flogging for a zomem, an 'intriguer' or 'schemer,' a technical term for a type of false witness, and the prescribed punishment is by the law of retaliation (Deut 19:16-18). The Torah set the number of blows at forty (Deut 25:3).
in: Grk. en, prep. your: Grk. humeis. synagogues: pl. of Grk. ho sunagōgē. See verse 6 above. Yeshua had issued this warning to his disciples when he sent them on their first mission (Matt 10:17). Paul will later report the fulfillment of this prophecy, first by his own action when he persecuted disciples (Acts 22:19-24) and then later when he received this treatment himself (2Cor 11:24-25). and: Grk. kai. you will persecute: Grk. diōkō, fut., 2p-pl., may mean (1) to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away; (2) to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing, to run after; (3) in any way whatever to harass, trouble, molest one; to persecute; (4) without the idea of hostility, to run after, follow after: someone; or (5) metaphorically, to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire (Thayer). The third meaning primarily applies here.
from: Grk. apo, prep. See verse 33 above. town: Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. to: Grk. eis, prep., with the root meaning of "within" focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit; as far as, into, to, toward (DM 103). town: Grk. polis. The persecution instigated by Saul no doubt included villages in close proximity to Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). Then Saul on the authority of a chief priest extended his persecution of disciples of Yeshua to Damascus (Acts 9:1-2, 14).
35 so that on you should come all the righteous blood being shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous until the blood of Zechariah the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
Parallel passage: Luke 11:50-51
so that: Grk. hopōs, conj. used to indicate purpose, objective or an end in view; in order that, so that. on: Grk. epi, prep. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. should come: Grk. erchomai, aor. subj., to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. the righteous: Grk. dikaios. See verse 28 above. blood: Grk. haima. See verse 30 above. being shed: Grk. ekchunnomai, pres. part., cause to come out in a stream, pour out. The verb has a variety of literal applications. In the LXX ekchunnomai normally renders Heb. shaphak (SH-8210), an equally general word for pour, used in the physical sense of things, first in relation to shedding blood in murder (Gen 9:6; 37:22), as well as in relation to purification rites, particularly occasions of pouring out blood of sacrifices at the base of the altar (Ex 29:12; Lev 4:7).
on: Grk. epi. the earth: Grk. gē. See verse 9 above. Yeshua is not overturning Torah principles of justice that require offenders to be punished for their crimes, but that just as the villains in the Tanakh were punished for murder, so God will do justice for the victims of the Judean leaders in the first century. from: Grk. apo, prep. See verse 33 above. the blood: Grk. haima; i.e., bloodshed. of Abel: Grk. Abel, which transliterates Heb. Havel, the second son of Adam (Gen 4:2). the righteous: Grk. dikaios. Abel is considered righteous because he brought the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions to ADONAI and his offering was received with favor (Gen 4:4). The phrase "blood of Abel" refers to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain (Gen 4:8). The motive for the killing was jealousy over the fact that God regarded Abel's offering with greater favor than Cain. This was the first murder in recorded history.
until: Grk. heōs, prep., a marker of limit, here of time; till, until. the blood: Grk. haima; i.e., bloodshed. of Zechariah: Grk. Zacharias, which transliterates the Heb. Z'karyah ("Yah remembers"). There are thirty men identified in the Tanakh with the name Zechariah (Barker 361-362). Yeshua does not identify him as the prophet Zechariah (6th cent. BC), but as a man who lived in the time of King Joash (ca. 835 BC). Little biographical information exists concerning this Zechariah. the son: Grk. huios. See verse 15 above. of Berechiah: Grk. Barachias, which transliterates Heb. B'rekya or B'rekyahu ("Bless Yah" or "Yah blesses"). There are seven men in the Tanakh with the name Berechiah (Barker 62, 165). There is much debate among scholars concerning his identity. See the Textual Note below.
whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. you murdered: Grk. phoneuō, aor., 2p-pl. See verse 31 above. between: Grk. metaxu, prep., between, a marker noting a point at which one entity is separate from another, used here in a spatial sense. the sanctuary: Grk. naos, a term that refers to the sanctuary proper, or the holy place where priests offered sacrifices, in contrast to the complete temple complex. In the LXX naos renders Heb. hekhal (SH-1964), palace or temple, first in 1Sam 1:9. Yeshua refers here to the sanctuary built by King Solomon. The design of the grand was based on plans provided by his father David (1Kgs 6:38; 1Chr 28:11-18), who told Solomon that the plans came from ADONAI (1Chr 28:19). The construction of the temple is detailed in 1Kings 5—8. In that structure the hekhal (1Kgs 6:3, 5, 17, 33) incorporated the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the altar: Grk. thusiastērion, a structure used in worship as the place for presenting sacrifices to God. The term occurs 23 times in the Besekh, mostly in relation to the altar of burnt offering (Luke 11:51; 1Cor 9:13) and the altar of incense (Luke 1:11) in Herod's temple. In the LXX thusiastērion renders Heb. mizbeach (SH-4196), lit. "a place of slaughter," an altar, first in Genesis 8:30 (DNTT 3:418). Solomon's temple had the two altars prescribed in Exodus. The one for sacrificial offerings was outside the Holy Place (1Kgs 8:22, 64) and the one for burning incense was inside the Holy Place (1Kgs 9:25). The phrase "between the sanctuary and the altar" would probably locate the stoning of Zechariah on the ten steps leading up to the Holy Place.
Gill points out that the mention of the sanctuary and altar are evidence that Yeshua was not speaking of the prophet Zechariah, because the temple was under construction during his days and it's completely improbable that Israelites would commit this crime so soon after they had returned from captivity. Of the thirty men with the name Zechariah only one is identified as having been murdered. Ezra provides the report:
"20 And the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people and said to them, 'Thus says God, 'Why are you transgressing the commandments of ADONAI so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken ADONAI, He has also forsaken you.' 21 So they conspired against him, and they stoned him with stones by order of the king in the courtyard of the house of ADONAI. 22 Thus Joash the King did not remember the loyalty which his father Jehoiada had shown to him, but killed his son. And as he was dying, he said: 'ADONAI, see and avenge!'" (2Chr 24:20–21 BR)
Ezra's narrative of Zechariah's parentage appears to be at odds with Yeshua's statement. Jehoiada (Heb. Yehoyada, "Yah knows") was a strong spiritual leader who led the overthrow of the wicked queen Athaliah and instituted religious reforms to remove the worship of Baal (2Chr 23:1-21). He lived to be 130 (2Chr 24:15). Clarke, Gill and Stern note that double names were frequent among the Israelites; and sometimes the person was called by one, sometimes by the other (e.g. 1Sam 9:1; 2Chr 36:4). Only consider that Matthew is called Levi (cf. Matt 9:9; Mark 2:14), Simon is called Peter (Matt 10:2) and Bartholomew is called Nathaniel (Matt 10:3; John 1:45).
Yeshua's summation of history employs two murders as bookend events, the murder of Abel in the first book of the Tanakh and the murder of Zechariah in the last book of the Tanakh. In the three-part organization of the Tanakh, Chronicles is the last book in the third division (Ketuvim, "Writings"). Gale notes that the Talmud links the shedding of blood to divine judgment (43). "Through the crime of bloodshed the Temple was destroyed and the Shechinah departed from Israel" (Shabbath 33a). "Why was the first Sanctuary destroyed? Because of three [evil] things which prevailed there: idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed" (Yoma 9b). Bloodshed pollutes the land (Num 35:33; Ps 106:38). Moreover, at the time of the destruction of the first temple thousands of priests were killed by Nebuzaradan because of the blood of Zechariah (TB Sanhedrin 96b), fulfilling the request by Zechariah son of Jehoiada for vengeance.
36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Parallel passage: Luke 11:51
Truly: Grk. amēn ("ah–mayn") reflects a strong affirmation, meaning "so let it be" or "truly." In the LXX amēn transliterates the Heb. ’amen (ah–mayn, SH–543), which means "it is true, so be it, or may it become true." The Heb. root aman means "to confirm or support." The word amēn reflects an Hebraic conviction that God’s words were to be reverently received. In typical Jewish usage the singular amēn points to something previously said (Stern 26). I say: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 2 above. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. will come: Grk. hēkō, fut., have come, have arrived, be present, with the sense of the perfect tense. In other words, the prophecy is as good as accomplished.
upon: Grk. epi, prep. this: Grk. houtos. generation: Grk. genea means family or descent and can mean a clan, race, kind (Luke 16:8), or nation. The noun is also used to refer to an age, a span of generations (Gen 50:53; Ex 13:18; 20:5; Matt 1:17; Luke 1:48) or mean all the people alive at a given time. Dispensational speculation about a biblical generation being 40 years is no better than a guess and not relevant to Yeshua' teaching about the coming judgment on Jerusalem. As a population term a generation means the period of time from the birth of parents to the birth of their offspring and in biblical history this time period greatly varied from era to era. That being said, it is remarkable that Jerusalem was destroyed forty years after Yeshua made this prediction.
37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one killing the prophets and stoning those having been sent to her! How often was I willing to gather together your children in which way a hen gathers together her chicks under the wings, and you were not willing!
Parallel passage: Luke 13:34
Jerusalem, Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm, voc., given twice, a transliteration of Heb. Yerushalaim ("the dwelling of peace"). The city is situated some 2500 feet above sea level and eighteen miles west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, is renowned as the capital of all Israel. Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religion with its beautiful temple and jurisprudence with the presence of the Jewish supreme court. More importantly, Jerusalem is the city God favors above all other cities of the earth and the focus of His covenantal faithfulness (Ps 135:21; 147:2; Ezek 5:5; Zech 2:8). The city figured prominently in Messianic expectation (Isa 59:20; 62:11; Zech 9:9). The name of the city is treated as a personification of its rulers.
Gill says the name is doubled to denote affection and concern for that city, as well as to reprimand it. The double use of a person's name in direct address occurs six times in Scripture, all spoken by God or Yeshua: "Abraham, Abraham" (Gen 22:11); "Jacob, Jacob" (Gen 46:2); "Moses, Moses" (Ex 3:4); "Martha, Martha" (Luke 10:41); "Simon, Simon" (Luke 22:31); and "Saul, Saul" (Acts 9:4). In those instances the double address manifested genuine care, but also rebuke or warning. For all its history of accomplishment the city had a dark side and Yeshua's words in these closing verses of the chapter function as a lament.
the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. killing: Grk. apokteinō, pres. part. See verse 34 above. the prophets: pl. of Grk. ho prophētēs. See verse 30 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. stoning: Grk. lithoboleō, pres. part., throw stones at someone, here as a mode of killing. Stoning was one of the four methods of capital punishment prescribed under Jewish law (Sanhedrin 6:1), based on the Torah instruction in Deuteronomy 17:2-7. Stoning was to take place outside the city gates (Lev 24:14), in accordance with a prescribed procedure (Sanhedrin 6:2; 6:3; 6:4). In the early history of Israel stoning took place for blaspheming the name of God (Lev 24:11, 23), for violating the Sabbath (Num 15:36), and for theft of God's property (Josh 7:15, 25). However, stoning was carried out unlawfully against Adoram, an agent of King Rehoboam (1Kgs 12:18; 2Chr 10:18), Naboth falsely accused of blasphemy (1Kgs 21:13-14), and Zechariah (2Chr 24:21). According to Jewish tradition the prophets Habakkuk and Jeremiah died by stoning (The Book of the Bee, ed. Earnest A. Wallis Budge, 1886; Chap. XXXII; cf. Heb 11:37).
those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article. having been sent: Grk. apostellō, perf. pass. part. See verse 34 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. The preposition denotes face to face contact. her: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 1 above. The pronoun is in the feminine form is appropriate, since Zion is pictured in the Tanakh as the wife of God (Isa 54:1-8; 62:4f; Ezek 16:1-3). How often: Grk. posakis, interrogatory adv., how often, how many times. The adverb introduces a heartfelt and probing question that is not rhetorical. was I willing: Grk. thelō, aor. See verse 4 above. to gather together: Grk. episunagō, aor. inf., bring together as a group, gather together.
your: Grk. su, possessive pronoun of the second person. children: pl. of Grk. teknon normally refers to man or woman's immediate biological offspring, but may also refer to more distant relations such as grandchildren or descendants. When used of immediate offspring a teknon is older than an infant, but younger than bar/bat mitzvah age. The plural noun is used here to denote those associated with the city. in which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. way: Grk. tropos may mean (1) mode or procedure in which something takes place; way, manner; or (2) a person's manner of living; conduct, way of life. The first meaning applies here.
a hen: Grk. ornis, a bird or fowl. The feminine form of the noun indicates a hen. gathers together: Grk. episunagō, pres. her: Grk. autos, fem. chicks: pl. of Grk. nossion, the young of a bird, chick. under: Grk. hupo, prep. the wings: pl. of Grk. ho pterux, a wing or pinion, an appendage designed for flight. Chickens are capable of flying and will do so to escape predators. Stern notes that in the Talmud the expression of a hen gathering her brood is used as a metaphor for a proselyte being brought under the "wings of the Sh'khinah" (Shabbat 31a; Sotah 13b). An expression much like to this here is found in 2 Esdras:
"Thus says the Lord Almighty: Have I not entreated you as a father entreats his sons or a mother her daughters or a nurse her children, 29 that you should be my people and I should be your God, and that you should be my sons and I should be your father? 30 I gathered you as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. But now, what shall I do to you? I will cast you out from my presence.'' (2Esdras 1:28-30 RSV)
and: Grk. kai. you were not: Grk. ou, adv. willing: Grk. thelō, aor. Yeshua reminds his hearers of the frequent expressions of divine compassion in the history of Jerusalem, but many of her rulers after King Solomon turned away from God. Clarke observes that by this declaration (1) it is evident that the Lord seriously and earnestly wished the salvation of the Jews; (2) he did every thing that could be done to effect this; (3) his weeping over the city (Luke 19:41) demonstrated his sincerity; (4) these persons nevertheless perished, and (5) the reason was, they would not be gathered together under his protection. Therefore wrath, i.e. punishment, came upon them to the uttermost.
38 Behold, your house is left to you desolate.
Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 34 above. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. house: Grk. oikos, a structure for habitation; house, home and by extension the household of that dwelling. The term implies a fixed residence. In the LXX oikos translates Heb. bayit (SH-1004), house as a dwelling habitation, household, descendants. The noun probably refers to the temple complex in which there were apartments for visiting priests. is left: Grk. aphiēmi, pres. mid. See verse 13 above. to you: Grk. humeis. desolate: Grk. erēmos, adj., may refer to (1) an unpopulated area, such as a wilderness; (2) deserted place; or (3) a desolate place, a state of loneliness.
Stern suggests that Yeshua alludes to Jeremiah 22:5, but contends that he is not speaking here about the Temple, destroyed forty years later by Roman armies, but to the future generations of Israel, who will be desolate of salvation so long as they seek to achieve it by themselves ("abandoning your house to you") and do not welcome God's Messiah Yeshua. While there is truth in that statement the fact remains that the prophecy of Jeremiah 22:5 concerns the anticipated destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Yeshua clearly predicted the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Yeshua also hints at the fact that upon his death the Sh'kinah glory departed the Holy of Holies, leaving the physical house of God desolate of His presence.
39 For I say to you, you will not see me from now until you would say, 'Blessed is the One coming in the name of ADONAI.'"
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 3 above. I say: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 2 above. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. you will not: Grk. ou mē, the double negative denies absolutely. see: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. The phrase "see me" is equivalent to "see the kingdom." from: Grk. apo, prep. now: Grk. arti, adv. expressing concurrence of event with time viewed as present, (just) now. until: Grk. heōs, conj. See verse 35 above. you would: Grk. an, disjunctive particle. See verse 16 above. Bible versions leave the particle untranslated. say: Grk. legō, aor. subj. The subjunctive mood looks toward what is conceivable or potential, and combined with the particle an, the verb indicates what could occur under a certain condition.
Yeshua then quotes from Psalm 118:26, a Messianic psalm. Psalm 118 is traditionally associated by Jews with the inauguration of the Temple in the time of Ezra (Santala 133). Thus the psalm is used to conclude the Hallel (Ps 113−118), which is sung as part of Passover celebration (Pesach 5:5; 9:3; 10:5-6; cf. Mark 14:26), as well as other pilgrim festivals. Psalm 118 speaks of how the sons of Aaron, the priesthood, praise ADONAI for His covenant loyalty and salvation (1-4, 14). The Messianic interpretation is concerned primarily with verses 20-26. In this section are particular elements quoted in the apostolic narratives as proofs of Yeshua being the Messiah.
● The Messiah has become salvation: Ps 118:21 (Matt 1:21; Luke 2:30).
● Yet, he was rejected by the priests: Ps 118:22 (Matt 16:21; 21:42)
● The people pleaded for him to provide salvation: Ps 118:25 (Matt 21:9)
● He is blessed at the temple: Psalm 118:26 (Matt 21:15)
By quoting from Psalm 118 Yeshua affirms that these words apply to him as the Messianic King.
Blessed is: Grk. eulogeō, perf. mid. part., may mean (1) to invoke divine favor; or (2) to express high praise, to bless, to offer a blessing. The second meaning applies here. The corresponding Heb. verb is barakh, which lit. means to kneel or to bless (BDB 138). In the Tanakh barakh is an endowment of favor or beneficial power (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser, either from God to man, from man to man or parent to child. the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun for the Messianic King. coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part. See verse 35 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of attributes or authority. Thus, the One coming bears the following name and acts with the authority of the Blessed One.
of ADONAI: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times. In the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), it stands for the sacred name YHVH as it does here (DNTT 2:511). While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8). Using kurios for YHVH is not translation as it is for Heb. Adonai ('Lord'), but an interpretative substitution that encompassed all that the Hebrew text implied by use of the divine name. YHVH is the Creator and Lord of the heavens and the earth, Lord of life and death.
Above all YHVH is the God of Israel and His covenant people. By choosing kurios for YHVH the LXX also emphasized the idea of legal authority. Because YHVH delivered His people from Egypt and chose them as His possession, He is the legitimate Lord of Israel. The LXX strengthened the tendency to avoid the utterance of the name of God. The overwhelming use of kurios for the sacred name was not an immediate development. The oldest LXX MSS (fragments) have YHVH written in Hebrew characters in the Greek text. In the Tanakh YHVH, who is the Divine Logos (John 1:1), is the One who speaks for Elohim, the name of the triune Creator. Yeshua is YHVH (John 8:58). For more information on the history and usage of YHVH see my article The Blessed Name.
The closing declaration of Yeshua's lament presents a certain conundrum because taken at face value the Judean authorities would see him the next day. Of interest is that Yeshua's disciples and the people chanted these words as Yeshua approached Jerusalem just two days previous on Sunday (Matt 21:9; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13), but the Pharisees had asked Yeshua to rebuke his disciples for their declaration (Luke 19:39). The Pharisees knew that the words of David are prophetically linked to the coming of the King Messiah. Yeshua's declaration does not mean that David's words must be repeated verbatim as some kind of religious test, but that its truth must be embraced. In other words, "You won't participate in the Kingdom of God until you recognize me in your hearts as the Messiah" (cf. Luke 17:21).
Christian Commentators generally interpret the Messianic declaration as applicable to a time after the fullness of the Gentiles has occurred (Luke 21:24; Rom 11:25-26) and thus is associated with the Second Advent (e.g., Carson, Clarke, Gill). For Carson the eschatological parousia ("appearing") of Yeshua spells judgment, citing the Olivet Discourse and Revelation (Matt 24:30-31; Rev 1:7; see my commentary on those passages). However, Gill sees in the quoted words that all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26; see my comment) and Jews converted, by which he may mean converted to Christianity. Referring to the same Romans passage Clarke concurs in the corporate salvation when the word of life shall again be sent to Israel "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."
Stern, on the other hand, says, "Yeshua here gives the condition for the salvation of national Israel, as distinct from salvation of individual Jews and Gentiles. … The fact that Yeshua will not return until Israel receives national salvation is a powerful motivator for evangelizing Jewish people; in fact Jewish evangelism can hasten his coming." He cites for support 2Peter 3:12, "as you wait for the Day of God and work to hasten its coming" (CJB). However, the verb "hasten" also means "earnestly desire." See my comment on this passage. David Brickner of Jews for Jesus, disagrees with Stern on hastening the Second Coming and says, "we are not in any position to either move him [God] along any faster or delay his hand concerning the Messiah's return" (Future Hope, Purple Pomegranate Productions, 1999; p. 145).
Just to be clear Stern is not saying that every Jew must believe in order for Yeshua to return. Indeed the Jewish Sages affirmed, "All Israel has a portion in the world to come" (Sanhedrin 11:1), which is immediately followed by a list of Israelites who have no place in the world to come. Other leading Sages concurred saying, "when you behave as sons you are designated sons; if you do not behave as sons, you are not designated sons" (Kiddushin 36a). In the final judgment God will apply the same standard to Jew and Gentile.
"But the heretics and renegades and traitors and Epicureans, and those who denied the Law, or separated themselves from the ways of the congregation, or denied the resurrection of the dead, and all who sinned and caused the many to sin, like Jeroboam and Ahab, and who set their dead in the land of the living, and stretched out their hands against the Temple, Gehenna is shut up after them, and they are condemned in it for ever." (Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:4) (See Herbert Danby's translation of the Tosefta, pp. 122-124)
Yeshua illustrates the great division of his eschatological judgment in his parable of the sheep and goats (Matt 25:31-46). Since Yeshua directed his comment to the Judean authorities, then perhaps Yeshua means he must be accepted by Israel's leaders. At any rate, some redemptive change must occur in Israel, which may be precipitated by the ministry of the two witnesses of Revelation 11:1-13. There has already been a great turning of Jews to their Messiah, as prophesied by Hosea, "Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to his goodness in the last days" (Hos 3:5). Today Messianic Judaism is growing at an unprecedented rate and Hosea's prophecy will achieve its complete fulfillment in Israel.
The declaration of David represents spiritual readiness. Yeshua proclaimed that salvation is for those who are spiritually ready for his return, as in the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13), and judgment follows immediately upon his return for those who are not (cf. Matt 3:2; 24:37-42; 25:19, 31-33; Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31; 2Cor 6:2; 1Th 5:2-10; 2Th 1:6-8; 2Pet 3:9; Heb 2:3; 3:13-15; Rev 2:16, 22). The return of Yeshua is not a time of examination in which Jews (or anyone else) can take a wait and see attitude and subject Yeshua to proofs and then once satisfied repent. The time for believing after seeing ended with the first advent. Now we must believe before seeing (cf. John 20:29). Today is the day of salvation (2Cor 6:2; Heb 3:12-13).
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BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
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Baron: David Baron (1855–1926), Zechariah: A Commentary on His Visions and Prophecies (1918). Kregel Publications, 2001. Born a Russian Jew, he later embraced Yeshua and co-founded The Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel of London, England.
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DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
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Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
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Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
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Stern: David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 5th ed. Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1996.
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