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1: Then - Leaving all converse with his adversaries, whom
he now left to the hardness of their hearts.
2: The scribes sit in the chair of Moses - That is, read and
expound the law of Moses, and are their appointed teachers.
3: All things therefore - Which they read out of the law, and
4: (Lu 11:46).
5: Their phylacteries - The Jews, understanding those words
literally, It shall he as a token upon thy hand, and as
frontlets between thine eyes,(Ex 13:16).
And thou shalt bind these words for a sign upon thine hand, and
they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes,(De 6:8);
used to wear little scrolls of paper or parchment, bound on
their wrist and foreheads, on which several texts of Scripture
were writ. These they supposed, as a kind of charm, would
preserve them from danger. And hence they seem to have been
called phylacteries, or preservatives.
The fringes of their garments - Which God had enjoined them to
wear, to remind them of doing all the commandments, (Nu 15:38).
These, as well as their phylacteries, the Pharisees affected to
wear broader and larger than other men.(Mk 12:38).
8-10: The Jewish rabbis were also called father and master,
by their several disciples, whom they required,
Our Lord, therefore, by forbidding us either to give or receive
the title of rabbi, master, or father, forbids us either to
receive any such reverence, or to pay any such to any but God.
- To believe implicitly what they affirmed, without asking
any farther reason;
- To obey implicitly what they enjoined, without seeking
11: (Mt 20:26).
12: Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled, and he that
shall humble himself shall he exalted - It is observable that no
one sentence of our Lord's is so often repeated as this: it
occurs, with scarce any variation, at least ten times in the
evangelists. (Lu 14:11,18:14).
13: Wo to you - Our Lord pronounced eight blessings upon the mount:
he pronounces eight woes here; not as imprecations, but solemn,
compassionate declarations of the misery, which these stubborn
sinners were bringing upon themselves. Ye go not in - For ye are
not poor in spirit; and ye hinder those that would be so.
14: (Mk 12:40,Lu 20:47).
16: Wo to you, ye blind guides - Before he had styled them
hypocrites, from their personal character: now he gives them
another title, respecting their influence upon others. Both
these appellations are severely put together in the 23d and(Mt 23:23,25).
25th verses; and this severity rises to the height in the 33d
verse. The gold of the temple - The treasure kept there.
He is bound - To keep his oath.
20: He that sweareth by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all
things thereon - Not only by the gift, but by the holy fire, and
the sacrifice; and above all, by that God to whom they belong;
inasmuch as every oath by a creature is an implicit appeal to God.
23: Judgment - That is, justice: Faith - The word here means fidelity.
24: Ye blind guides, who teach others to do as you do yourselves,
to strain out a gnat - From the liquor they are going to drink! and
swallow a camel - It is strange, that glaring false print, strain
at a gnat, which quite alters the sense, should run through all
the editions of our English Bibles.
25: Full of rapine and intemperance - The censure is double (taking
intemperance in the vulgar sense.) These miserable men procured
unjustly what they used intemperately. No wonder tables so
furnished prove a snare, as many find by sad experience. Thus
luxury punishes fraud while it feeds disease with the fruits of
injustice. But intemperance in the full sense takes in not only
all kinds of outward intemperance, particularly in eating and
drinking, but all intemperate or immoderate desires, whether of
honour, gain, or sensual pleasure.
26: Ye build the tombs of the prophets - And that is all, for ye
neither observe their sayings, nor imitate their actions.
30: We would not have been partakers - So ye make fair professions,
as did your fathers.
31: Wherefore ye testify against yourselves - By your smooth words
as well as devilish actions: that ye are the genuine sons of them
who killed the prophets of their own times, while they professed
the utmost veneration for those of past ages.
From the 3d to the 30th verse (Mt 23:3-30) is exposed every
thing that commonly passes in the world for religion, whereby the
pretenders to it keep both themselves and others from entering
into the kingdom of God; from attaining, or even seeking after
those tempers, in which alone true Christianity consists. As,
- Punctuality in attending on public and private prayer,
ver. 4 - 14. (Mt 23:4-14)
- Zeal to make proselytes to our opinion or communion, though they
have less of the spirit of religion than before, ver. 15. (Mt 23:15)
- A superstitious reverence for consecrated places or things, without
any for Him to whom they are consecrated, ver. 16 - 22. (Mt 23:16-22)
- A scrupulous exactness in little observances, though with the
neglect of justice, mercy, and faith, ver. 23, 24. (Mt 23:23,24),
- A nice cautiousness to cleanse the outward behaviour, but
without any regard to inward purity, ver. 25, 26. (Mt 23:25,26)
- A specious face of virtue and piety, covering the
deepest hypocrisy and villany, ver. 27, 28. (Mt 23:27,28)
- A professed veneration for all good men, except those among
whom they live.
32: Fill ye up - A word of permission, not of command: as if he had
said, I contend with you no longer: I leave you to yourselves:
you have conquered: now ye may follow the devices of your own
hearts. The measure of your fathers - Wickedness: ye may now be
as wicked as they.
33: Ye serpents - Our Lord having now lost all hope of reclaiming
these, speaks so as to affright others from the like sins.
34: Wherefore - That it may appear you are the true children of
those murderers, and have a right to have their iniquities
visited on you: Behold, I send - Is not this speaking as one having
authority? Prophets - Men with supernatural credentials: Wise men
- Such as have both natural abilities and experience; and scribes
- Men of learning: but all will not avail.(Lu 11:49).
35: That upon you may come - The consequence of which will be, that
upon you will come the vengeance of all the righteous blood shed
on the earth - Zechariah the son of Barachiah - Termed Jehoiada,(2Ch 24:20), where the story is related:
Ye slew - Ye make that murder also of your fathers your own, by
imitating it: Between the temple - That is, the inner temple, and
the altar - Which stood in the outer court. Our Lord seems to
refer to this instance, rather than any other, because he was
the last of the prophets on record that were slain by the Jews
for reproving their wickedness: and because God's requiring this
blood as well as that of Abel, is particularly taken notice of
37: (Lu 13:34).
38: Behold your house - The temple, which is now your house, not
God's: Is left unto you - Our Lord spake this as he was going out
of it for the last time: Desolate - Forsaken of God and his Christ,
and sentenced to utter destruction.
39: Ye - Jews in general; men of Jerusalem in particular: shall
not see me from this time - Which includes the short space till
his death, till, after a long interval of desolation and misery,
ye say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord - Ye
receive me with joyful and thankful hearts. This also shall be
accomplished in its season.