Matthew 23


The character of the scribes and Pharisees, and directions to

the people and the disciples to receive the law from them, but

not to follow their bad example, 1-7.

The disciples exhorted to humility, 8-12.

Different woes pronounced against the scribes and Pharisees

for their intolerance, 13;

rapacity, 14;

false zeal, 15;

superstition in oaths and tithes, 16-23;

hypocrisy, 24-28.

Their cruelty, 29-32.

Their persecution of the apostles, &c. Their destruction

foretold, 33-36.

Christ's lamentation over Jerusalem, 37-39.


Verse 2. The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat]

εκαθισαν.-They sat there formerly by Divine appointment:

they sit there now by Divine permission. What our Lord says

here refers to their expounding the Scriptures, for it was the

custom of the Jewish doctors to sit while they expounded the law

and prophets, (Mt 5:1; Lu 4:20-22,)

and to stand up when they read them.

By the seat of Moses, we are to understand authority to teach

the law. Moses was the great teacher of the Jewish people; and

the scribes, &c., are here represented as his successors.

Verse 3. All therefore whatsoever] That is, all those things

which they read out of the law and prophets, and all things which

they teach consistently with them. This must be our Lord's

meaning: he could not have desired them to do every thing, without

restriction, which the Jewish doctors taught; because himself

warns his disciples against their false teaching, and testifies

that they had made the word of God of none effect by their

traditions. See Mt 15:6, &c. Besides, as our Lord speaks here

in the past tense-whatsoever they HAVE commanded, οσαειπωσιν, he

may refer to the teaching of a former period, when they taught the

way of God in truth, or were much less corrupted than they were


Verse 4. They bind heavy burdens] They are now so corrupt that

they have added to the ceremonies of the law others of their own

invention, which are not only burdensome and oppressive, but have

neither reason, expediency, nor revelation, to countenance them.

In a word, like all their successors in spirit to the present day,

they were severe to others, but very indulgent to themselves.

Verse 5. All their works they do for to be seen of men] In

pointing out the corruptions of these men, our Lord gives us the

distinguishing characteristics of all false teachers, whether

Jewish or Christian.

1. They live not according to the truths they preach. They say,

and do not, Mt 23:3.

2. They are severe to others, point out the narrowest road to

heaven, and walk in the broad road themselves. They bind on

burdens, &c., Mt 23:4.

3. They affect to appear righteous, and are strict observers of

certain rites, &c., while destitute of the power of godliness.

They make broad their phylacteries, &c., Mt 23:5.

4. They love worldly entertainments, go to feast wherever they

are asked, and seek Church preferments. They love the chief

places at feasts, and chief seats in the synagogues, Mt 23:6.

5. They love and seek public respect and high titles, salutations

in the market-place, (for they are seldom in their studies,) and

to be called of men rabbi-eminent teacher, though they have no

title to it, either from the excellence or fruit of their

teaching. When these marks are found in a man who professes to be

a minister of Christ, charity itself will assert he is a thief and

a robber-he has climbed over the wall of the sheepfold, or broken

it down in order to get in.

Phylacteries] φυλακτηρια, from φυλασσω, to keep or

preserve. These were small slips of parchment or vellum, on which

certain portions of the law were written. The Jews tied these

about their foreheads and arms, for three different purposes.

1. To put them in mind of those precepts which they should

constantly observe.

2. To procure them reverence and respect in the sight of the

heathen. And

3. To act as amulets or charms to drive away evil spirits.

The first use of these phylacteries is evident from their name.

The second use appears from what is said on the subject from the

Gemara, Beracoth, chap. 1., quoted by Kypke. "Whence is it proved

that phylacteries, (, tephilin,) are the strength of

Israel?-Ans. From what is written, De 28:10.

All the, people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the

name [of Jehovah]-and they shall be afraid of thee.

The third use of them appears from the Targum, on Cant.

So 8:3.

His left hand is under my head, &c. "The congregation of Israel

hath said, I am elect above all people, because I bind my

phylacteries on my left hand, and on my head, and the scroll is

fixed to the right side of my gate, the third part of which looks

to my bed-chamber, that DAEMONS may not be permitted to INJURE me."

An original phylactery lies now before me. It is a piece of

fine vellum, about eighteen inches long, and an inch and quarter

broad. It is divided into four unequal compartments: in the first

is written, in a very fair character, with many apices, after the

mode of the German Jews, the first ten verses of Exod. 10,

(Ex 13:1-10); in the second compartment is written, from the

eleventh to the sixteenth verse of the same chapter (Ex 13:11-16),

inclusive in the third, from the fourth to the ninth verse

(De 6:4-9), inclusive, of Deut. 6., beginning with,

Hear, O Israel, &c.; in the fourth, from the thirteenth to the

twenty-first verse, inclusive, of Deut. 11 (De 11:13-21).

These passages seem to be chosen in vindication of the use of

the phylactery itself, as the reader will see on consulting them:

Bind them for a SIGN upon thy HAND-and for FRONTLETS between thy

EYES-write them upon the POSTS of thy HOUSE, and upon thy GATES;

all which commands the Jews took in the most literal sense.

Even the phylactery became an important appendage to a

Pharisee's character, insomuch that some of them wore them very

broad, either that they might have the more written on them, or

that, the characters being larger, they might be the more visible,

and that they might hereby acquire greater esteem among the common

people, as being more than ordinarily religious. For the same

reason, they wore the fringes of their garments of an unusual

length. Moses had commanded (Nu 15:38, 39) the children of

Israel to put fringes to the borders of their garments, that, when

they looked upon even these distinct threads, they might remember,

not only the law in general, but also the very minutiae, or

smaller parts of all the precepts, rites, and ceremonies,

belonging to it. As these hypocrites were destitute of all the

life and power of religion within, they endeavoured to supply its

place by phylacteries and fringes without.

See Clark's note on "Ex 13:9".

Verse 7. To be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.] , i.e.

My teacher! my teacher! The second rabbi is omitted by several

excellent MSS., by most of the ancient versions, and by some of

the fathers. Griesbach has left it in the text, with the note of


There are three words used among the Jews as titles of dignity,

which they apply to their doctors-Rabh, Rabbi, and Rabban; each of

these terms has its particular meaning: rabban implies much more

than rabbi, and rabbi much more than rabh.

They may be considered as three degrees of comparison: rabh

great, rabbi greater, and rabban greatest. These rabbins were

looked up to as infallible oracles in religious matters, and

usurped not only the place of the law, but of God himself.

Verse 8. But be not ye called Rabbi] As our Lord probably

spoke in Hebrew, the latter word rabbi, in this verse, must have

been in the plural; but as the contracted form of the plural

sounds almost exactly like the singular, the Greek writer would

naturally express them both in the same letters.

None of the prophets had ever received this title, nor any of

the Jewish doctors before the time of Hillel and Shammai, which

was about the time of our Lord; and, as disputes on several

subjects had run high between these two schools, the people were

of course divided; some acknowledging Hillel as rabbi,-infallible

teacher, and others giving this title to Shammai. The Pharisees,

who always sought the honour that comes from men, assumed the

title, and got their followers to address them by it.

See on Mt 19:3.

One is your Master] Instead of καθηγητης, guide or leader,

(the common reading here, and which occurs in Mt 23:10,) the

famous Vatican MS., upwards of fifty others, and most of the

ancient versions, read διδασκαλος, master. The most eminent

critics approve of this reading and, independently of the very

respectable authority by which it is supported, it is evident that

this reading is more consistent with the context than the other,-

Be not ye called MASTERS, for one is your MASTER.

Even Christ] Griesbach has left this out of the text, because

it is wanting in many of the most excellent MSS., versions, and

fathers. Mill and Bengel approve of the omission. It might have

been brought into this verse from Mt 23:10. Our Lord probably

alludes to Isa 54:13,

All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.

Ye are brethren.] No one among you is higher than another, or

can possibly have from me any jurisdiction over the rest. Ye are,

in this respect, perfectly equal.

Verse 9. Call no man your FATHER] Our Lord probably alludes to

the AB, or father of the Sanhedrin, who was the next after the

nasi, or president. See on Mt 20:21. By which he gives his

disciples to understand that he would have no SECOND, after

himself, established in his Church, of which he alone was the

head; and that perfect equality must subsist among them.

Verse 10. Neither be ye called masters] καθηγηται, leaders.

God is in all these respects jealous of his honour. To him alone

it belongs to guide and lead his Church, as well as to govern and

defend it. Jesus is the sole teacher of righteousness. It is he

alone, (who is the word, light, and eternal truth,) that can

illuminate every created mind; and who, as Saviour and Redeemer,

speaks to every heart by his Spirit.

Though the title of Rabbi, mentioned above, was comparatively

recent in the time of our Lord, yet it was in great vogue, as were

the others-father and master, mentioned in this and the following

verse: some had all three titles, for thus in Bab. Maccoth, fol.

24. It is feigned," says Dr. Lightfoot, "that when King

Jehosaphat saw a disciple of the wise men, he rose up out of his

throne, and embraced him, and said, , Abbi,

Abbi! Rabbi, Rabbi! Mori, Mori!-Father, Father! Rabbi, Rabbi!

Master, Master!" Here then are the three titles which, in

Mt 23:7, 8, 10, our blessed Lord condemns; and these were titles

that the Jewish doctors greatly affected.

Verse 11. Your servant.] διακονος, deacon.

See on Mt 20:26.

Verse 12. Whosoever shall exalt himself, &c.] The way to

arrive at the highest degree of dignity, in the sight of God, is

by being willing to become the servant of all. Nothing is more

hateful in his sight than pride; to bring it into everlasting

contempt, God was manifest in the flesh. He who was in the

likeness of God took upon him the form of a servant, and was made

in the likeness of man, and humbled himself unto death. After

this, can God look upon any proud man without abasing him?

Spiritual lordship and domination, ecclesiastical luxury, pomp,

and pride, must be an abhorrence in the sight of that God who gave

the above advices to his followers.

Another lesson, which our blessed Lord teaches here, is, that no

man is implicitly to receive the sayings, doctrines, and decisions

of any man, or number of men, in the things which concern the

interests of his immortal soul. Christ, his Spirit, and his word,

are the only infallible teachers. Every man who wishes to save

his soul must search the Scriptures, by prayer and faith. Reader,

take counsel with the pious; hear the discourses of the wise and

holy: but let the book of God ultimately fix thy creed.

Verse 13. - 14. Wo unto you, scribes] I think the fourteenth

and thirteenth verses should be transposed. This transposition is

authorized by some of the best MSS., versions, and fathers. The

fourteenth is wanting in the BDL., and in many others of inferior

note, as well as in several of the versions. Griesbach has left

it out of the text, in his first edition; I hesitated, and left it

in, thus transposed. I am happy to find that a more extensive

collation of MSS., &c., afforded proof to that eminent critic that

it should be restored to its place. In the second edition, he has

transposed the two, just as I had done. The fifteenth reads best

after the thirteenth.

-Verse 13. Ye shut up the kingdom] As a key by opening a lock

gives entrance into a house, &c., so knowledge of the sacred

testimonies, manifested in expounding them to the people, may be

said to open the way into the kingdom of heaven. But where men

who are termed teachers are destitute of this knowledge

themselves, they may be said to shut this kingdom; because they

occupy the place of those who should teach, and thus prevent the

people from acquiring heavenly knowledge.

In ancient times the rabbins carried a key, which was the symbol

or emblem of knowledge. Hence it is written in Semachoth, chap.

8.," When Rab. Samuel the little died, his key and his tablets

were hung on his tomb, because he died childless." See


The kingdom of heaven here means the Gospel of Christ; the

Pharisees would not receive it themselves, and hindered the common

people as far as they could.

Verse 14. See Clarke on Mt 23:13.

-Verse 14. Ye devour widows' houses] On this subject I am in

possession of nothing better than the following note of Dr.


"This sect," says Josephus, (Ant. l. xvii. chap. 3,) "pretended

to a more exact knowledge of the law, on which account the women

were subject to them, as pretending to be dear to God. And when

Alexandra obtained the government, (Jewish War, b. I. ch. 4,) they

insinuated themselves into her favour, as being the exactest sect

of the Jews, and the most exact interpreters of the law, and,

abusing her simplicity, did as they listed, remove and dispose,

bind and loose, and even cut off men. They were in vogue for

their long prayers, which they continued sometimes three hours;

that perhaps they sold them, as do the Roman priests their masses,

or pretended others should be more acceptable to God for them; and

so might spoil devout widows by the gifts or salaries they

expected from them. Now this being only a hypocritical pretence

of piety, must be hateful to God, and so deserve a greater


Long prayer] For proofs of long prayers and vain repetitions

among Jews, Mohammedans, and heathens,

See Clarke on Mt 6:7.

Verse 15. Compass sea and land] A proverbial expression,

similar to ours, You leave no stone unturned; intimating that they

did all in their power to gain converts, not to God, but to their

sect. These we may suppose were principally sought for among the

Gentiles, for the bulk of the Jewish nation was already on the

side of the Pharisees.

Proselyte] προσηλυτος, a stranger, or foreigner; one who

is come from his own people and country, to sojourn with another.

See the different kinds of proselytes explained in

Clarke's note on "Ex 12:43".

The child of hell] A Hebraism for an excessively wicked person,

such as might claim hell for his mother, and the devil for his


Twofold-the child of] The Greek word διπλοτερον, which has

generally been translated twofold, KYPKE has demonstrated to mean

more deceitful. απλους is used by the best Greek writers for

simple, sincere, απλοτης for simplicity, sincerity; so

διπλους, deceitful, dissembling, and διπλοη, hypocrisy,

fraudulence, and διπλοτερον, more fraudulent, more deceitful,

more hypocritical. See also Suidas in διπλοη.

Dr. Lightfoot, and others, observe, that the proselytes were

considered by the Jewish nation as the scabs of the Church, and

hindered the coming of the Messiah; and Justin Martyr observes,

that "the proselytes did not only disbelieve Christ's doctrine,

but were abundantly more blasphemous against him than the Jews

themselves, endeavouring to torment and cut off the Christians

wherever they could; they being in this the instruments of the

scribes and Pharisees."

Verse 16. Whosoever shall swear by the gold] The covetous man,

says one, still gives preference to the object of his lust; gold

has still the first place in his heart. A man is to be suspected

when he recommends those good works most from which he receives

most advantage.

Is bound thereby, i.e. to fulfil his oath.

Verse 20. Whoso-shall swear by the altar] As an oath always

supposes a person who witnesses it, and will punish perjury;

therefore, whether they swore by the temple or the gold,

(Mt 23:16,)

or by the altar or the gift laid on it, (Mt 23:18,)

the oath necessarily supposes the God of the temple, of the altar,

and of the gifts, who witnessed the whole, and would, even in

their exempt cases, punish the perjury.

Verse 21. Whoso shall swear by the temple] Perhaps it is to

this custom of swearing by the temple, that Martial alludes, lib.

xi. epist. 95.

Ecce negas, jurasque mihi per templa Tonantis;

Non credo; jura, Verpe, per Anchialum.

"Behold, thou deniest, and swearest to me by the temples of

Jupiter; I will not credit thee: swear, O Jew, by the temple of

Jehovah." This word probably comes from heical Yah, the

temple of Jehovah. This seems a better derivation than

im chai Elohim, as God liveth, though the sound of the

latter is nearer to the Latin.

By him that dwelleth therein.] The common reading is

κατοικουντι, dwelleth or INHABITETH, but κατοικησαντι, dwelt

or DID inhabit, is the reading of CDEFGHKLM, eighty-six others;

this reading has been adopted in the editions of Complutum,

Colineus, Bengel, and Griesbach. The importance of this reading

may be perceived by the following considerations. In the first

Jewish temple, God had graciously condescended to manifest

himself-he is constantly represented as dwelling between the

cherubim, the two figures that stood at each end of the ark of the

covenant; between whom, on the mercy seat, the lid of the ark, a

splendour of glory was exhibited, which was the symbol and proof

of the Divine presence. This the Jews called Shekinah, the

habitation of Jehovah. Now the Jews unanimously acknowledge that

five things were wanting in the second temple, which were found in

the first, viz., 1. The ark; 2. The holy spirit of prophecy;

3. The Urim and Thummim; 4. The sacred fire; and 5. The

Shekinah. As the Lord had long before this time abandoned the

Jewish temple, and had now made the human nature of Jesus the

Shekinah, (see Joh 1:14, the Logos was made flesh, εσκηνωσεν,

and made his tabernacle-made the Shekinah,-among us,) our Lord

could not, with any propriety, say that the supreme Being did now

inhabit the temple; and therefore used a word that hinted to them

that God had forsaken their temple, and consequently the whole of

that service which was performed in it, and had now opened the new

and living way to the holiest by the Messiah. But all this was

common swearing; and, whether the subject was true or false, the

oath was unlawful. A common swearer is worthy of no credit, when,

even in the most solemn manner he takes an oath before a

magistrate; he is so accustomed to stake his truth, perhaps even

his soul, to things whether true or false, that an oath cannot

bind him, and indeed is as little respected by himself as it is by

his neighbour. Common swearing, and the shocking frequency and

multiplication of oaths in civil cases, have destroyed all respect

for an oath; so that men seldom feel themselves bound by it; and

thus it is useless in many cases to require it as a confirmation,

in order to end strife or ascertain truth.

See Clarke on Mt 5:37.

Verse 23.. Ye pay tithe of mint, &c.] They were remarkably

scrupulous in the performance of all the rites and ceremonies of

religion, but totally neglected the soul, spirit, and practice of


Judgment] Acting according to justice and equity towards all

mankind. Mercy-to the distressed and miserable. And faith in God

as the fountain of all righteousness, mercy, and truth. The

scribes and Pharisees neither began nor ended their works in God,

nor had they any respect unto his name in doing them. They did

them to be seen of men, and they had their reward-human applause.

These ought ye to have done, &c.] Our Lord did not object to

their paying tithe even of common pot-herbs-this did not affect

the spirit of religion; but while they did this and such like, to

the utter neglect of justice, mercy, and faith, they showed that

they had no religion, and knew nothing of its nature.

Verse 24. Blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a

camel.] This clause should be thus translated: Ye strain out the

gnat, but ye swallow down the camel. In the common translation,

Ye strain AT a gnat, conveys no sense. Indeed, it is likely to

have been at first an error of the press, AT for OUT, which, on

examination, I find escaped in the edition of 1611, and has been

regularly continued since. There is now before me, "The Newe

Testament, (both in Englyshe and in Laten,) of Mayster Erasmus

translacion, imprynted by Wyllyam Powell, dwellynge in Flete

strete: the yere of our Lorde M.CCCCC.XLVII. the fyrste yere of

the kynges (Edwd. VI.) moste gracious reygne." in which the verse

stands thus: "Ye blinde gides, which strayne out a gnat, and

swalowe a cammel." It is the same also in Edmund Becke's Bible,

printed in London 1549, and in several others.-Clensynge a gnatte.

-MS. Eng. Bib. So Wickliff. Similar to this is the following

Arabic proverb [Arabic]. He eats an elephant and is choked by a


Verse 25. Ye make clean the outside] The Pharisees were

exceedingly exact in observing all the washings and purifications

prescribed by the law; but paid no attention to that inward purity

which was typified by them. A man may appear clean without, who

is unclean within; but outward purity will not avail in the sight

of God, where inward holiness is wanting.

Extortion and excess.] 'αρπαγηςκαιακρασιας, rapine and

intemperance; but instead of ακρασιας, intemperance, many of the

very best MSS., CEFGHKS, and more than a hundred others, the

Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, Slavonic, with Chrysostorn, Euthym., and

Theophylact, have αδικιας injustice, which Griesbach has admitted

into the text instead of ακρασιας. The latter Syriac has both.

Several MSS. and versions have ακαθαρσιας, uncleanness; others

have πλεονεξιας, covetousness; some have πονηριας, wickedness;

and two of the ancients have iniquitate, iniquity. Suppose we put

them all together, the character of the Pharisee will not be

overcharged. They were full of rapine and intemperance, injustice

and uncleanness, covetousness, wickedness, and iniquity.

Verse 27. For ye are like] παρομοιαζετε, ye exactly

resemble-the parallel is complete.

Whited sepulchres] White-washed tombs. As the law considered

those unclean who had touched any thing belonging to the dead, the

Jews took care to have their tombs white-washed each year, that,

being easily discovered, they might be consequently avoided.

Verse 28. Even so ye also-appear righteous unto men] But what

will this appearance avail a man, when God sits in judgment upon

his soul? Will the fair reputation which he had acquired among

men, while his heart was the seat of unrighteousness, screen him

from the stroke of that justice which impartially sends all

impurity and unholiness into the pit of destruction? No. In the

sin that he hath sinned, and in which he hath died, and according

to that, shall he be judged and punished; and his profession of

holiness only tends to sink him deeper into the lake which burns

with unquenchable fire. Reader! see that thy heart be right with


Verse 29. Ye build the tombs of the prophets] It appears that,

through respect to their memory, they often repaired, and

sometimes beautified, the tombs of the prophets. M. De la Valle,

in his Journey to the Holy Land, says, that when he visited the

cave of Machpelah, he saw some Jews honouring a sepulchre, for

which they have a great veneration, with lighting at it wax

candles and burning perfumes. See Harmer, vol. iii. p. 416. And

in ditto, p. 424, we are informed that building tombs over those

reputed saints, or beautifying those already built, is a frequent

custom among the Mohammedans.

Verse 30. We would not have been partakers] They imagined

themselves much better than their ancestors; but our Lord, who

knew what they would do, uncovers their hearts, and shows them

that they are about to be more abundantly vile than all who had

ever preceded them.

Verse 31. Ye be witnesses] Ye acknowledge that ye are the

children of those murderers, and ye are about to give full proof

that ye are not degenerated.

There are many who think that, had they lived in the time of our

Lord, they would not have acted towards him as the Jews did. But

we can scarcely believe that they who reject his Gospel, trample

under foot his precepts, do despite to the Spirit of his grace,

love sin, and hate his followers, would have acted otherwise to

him than the murdering Jews, had they lived in the same times.

Verse 32. Fill ye up then] Notwithstanding the profession you

make, ye will fill up the measure of your fathers-will continue to

walk in their way, accomplish the fulness of every evil purpose by

murdering me; and then, when the measure of your iniquity is full,

vengeance shall come upon you to the uttermost, as it did on your

rebellious ancestors. The 31st verse should be read in a

parenthesis, and then the 32d will appear to be, what it is, an

Inference from the 30th.

Ye will fill up, or fill ye up-πληρωσατε but it is manifest

that the imperative is put here for the future, a thing quite

consistent with the Hebrew idiom, and frequent in the Scriptures.

So Joh 2:19,

Destroy this temple, &c., i.e. Ye will destroy or pull down this

temple, and I will rebuild it in three days-Ye will crucify me,

and I will rise again the third day. Two good MSS. have the word

in the future tense: and my old MS. Bible has it in the present-Ge

(ye) fulfillen the mesure of youre (your) fadris.

Verse 33. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers] What a

terrible stroke!-Ye are serpents, and the offspring of serpents.

This refers to Mt 23:31: they confessed that they were the

children of those who murdered the prophets; and they are now

going to murder Christ and his followers, to show that they have

not degenerated-an accursed seed, of an accursed breed. My old

MS. translates this passage oddly-Gee serpentis, fruytis of

burrownyngis of eddris that sleen her modris. There seems to be

here an allusion to a common opinion, that the young of the adder

or viper which are brought forth alive eat their way through the

womb of their mothers. Hence that ancient enigma attributed to


Non possum nasci, si non occidero matrem.

Occidi matrem: sed me manet exitus idem.

Id mea mors faciet, quod jam mea fecit origo.

Cael. Firm. Symposium, N. xv.

I never can be born, nor see the day,

Till through my parent's womb I eat my way.

Her I have slain; like her must yield my breath;

For that which gave me life, shall cause my death.

Every person must see with what propriety this was applied to

the Jews, who were about to murder the very person who gave them

their being and all their blessings.

Verse 34. Wherefore] To show how my prediction, Ye will fill

up the measure of your fathers, shall be verified, Behold, I send

(I am just going to commission them) prophets, &c. and some ye

will kill, (with legal process,) and some ye will crucify, pretend

to try and find guilty, and deliver them into the hands of the

Romans, who shall, through you, thus put them to death. See on

Lu 11:49. By prophets, wise men, and scribes, our Lord intends

the evangelists, apostles, deacons, &c., who should be employed in

proclaiming his Gospel: men who should equal the ancient prophets,

their wise men, and scribes, in all the gifts and graces of the

Holy Spirit.

Verse 35. Upon the earth] επιτηςγης, upon this land,

meaning probably the land of Judea; for thus the word is often to

be understood. The national punishment of all the innocent blood

which had been shed in the land, shall speedily come upon you,

from the blood of Abel the just, the first prophet and preacher of

righteousness, Heb 11:4; 2Pe 2:5,

to the blood of Zachariah, the son of Barachiah. It is likely

that our Lord refers to the murder of Zachariah, mentioned

2Ch 24:20,

who said to the people, Why transgress ye the commandments of God,

so that ye cannot prosper? Because ye have forsaken the Lord, he

hath forsaken you. And they conspired against him and stoned

him-at the commandment of the king, in the court of the house of

the Lord. And when he died, he said, The Lord look upon and

require it: 2Ch 24:21, 22.

But it is objected, that this Zachariah was called the son of

Jehoiada, and our Lord calls this one the son of Barachiah. Let

it be observed,

1. That double names were frequent among the Jews; and sometimes

the person was called by one, sometimes by the other. Compare

1Sa 9:1, with 1Ch 8:33, where it appears that the father of

Kish had two names, Abiel and Ner. So Matthew is called

Levi; compare Mt 9:9, with Mr 2:14. So

Peter was also called Simon, and Lebbeus was called Thaddeus.

Mt 10:2, 3.

2. That Jerome says that, in the Gospel of the Nazarenes, it was

Jehoiada, instead of Barachiah.

3. That Jehoiada and Barachiah have the very same meaning, the

praise or blessing of Jehovah.

4. That as the Lord required the blood of Zachariah so fully that

in a year all the princes of Judah and Jerusalem were destroyed by

the Syrians, and Joash, who commanded the murder, slain by his own

servants, 2Ch 24:23-25, and their state grew worse and worse,

till at last the temple was burned, and the people carried into

captivity by Nebuzaradan:-so it should also be with the present

race. The Lord would, after the crucifixion of Christ, visit upon

them the murder of all those righteous men, that their state

should grow worse and worse, till at last the temple should be

destroyed, and they finally ruined by the Romans. See this

prediction in the next chapter: and see Dr. Whitby concerning

Zachariah, the son of Barachiah.

Some think that our Lord refers, in the spirit of prophecy, to

the murder of Zacharias, son of Baruch, a rich Jew, who was

judged, condemned, and massacred in the temple by Idumean zealots,

because he was rich, a lover of liberty, and a hater of

wickedness. They gave him a mock trial; and, when no evidence

could be brought against him of his being guilty of the crime they

laid to his charge, viz. a design to betray the city to the

Romans, and his judges had pronounced him innocent, two of the

stoutest of the zealots fell upon him and slew him in the middle

of the temple. See Josephus, WAR, b. iv. chap. 5. s. 5. See

Crevier, vol. vi. p. 172, History of the Roman Emperors. Others

imagine that Zachariah, one of the minor prophets, is meant, who

might have been massacred by the Jews; for, though the account is

not come down to us, our Lord might have it from a well known

tradition in those times. But the former opinion is every way the

most probable.

Between the temple and the altar.] That is, between the

sanctuary and the altar of burnt-offerings.

Verse 36. Shall come upon this generation] επιτηνγενεαν

ταυτην, upon this race of men, viz. the Jews. This phrase often

occurs in this sense in the evangelists.

Verse 37. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem] 1. It is evident that our

blessed Lord seriously and earnestly wished the salvation of the

Jews. 2. That he did every thing that could be done, consistently

with his own perfections, and the liberty of his creatures, to

effect this. 3. That his tears over the city, Lu 19:41,

sufficiently evince his sincerity. 4. That these persons

nevertheless perished. And 5. That the reason was, they would not

be gathered together under his protection: therefore wrath, i.e.

punishment, came upon them to the uttermost. From this it is

evident that there have been persons whom Christ wished to save,

and bled to save, who notwithstanding perished, because they would

not come unto him, Joh 5:40. The metaphor which our Lord uses

here is a very beautiful one. When the hen sees a beast of prey

coming, she makes a noise to assemble her chickens, that she may

cover them with her wings from the danger. The Roman eagle is

about to fall upon the Jewish state-nothing can prevent this but

their conversion to God through Christ-Jesus cries throughout the

land, publishing the Gospel of reconciliation-they would not

assemble, and the Roman eagle came and destroyed them. The hen's

affection to her brood is so very strong as to become proverbial.

The following beautiful Greek epigram, taken from the Anthologia,

affords a very fine illustration of this text.







Anthol. lib. i. Tit. 87: edit. Bosch. p. 344.

Beneath her fostering wing the HEN defends

Her darling offspring, while the snow descends;

Throughout the winter's day unmoved defies

The chilling fleeces and inclement skies;

Till, vanquish'd by the cold and piercing blast,

True to her charge, she perishes at last!

O Fame! to hell this fowl's affection bear;

Tell it to Progne and Medea there:-

To mothers such as those the tale unfold,

And let them blush to hear the story told!-T. G.

This epigram contains a happy illustration, not only of our

Lord's simile, but also of his own conduct. How long had these

thankless and unholy people been the objects of his tenderest

cares! For more than 2000 years, they engrossed the most peculiar

regards of the most beneficent Providence; and during the three

years of our Lord's public ministry, his preaching and miracles

had but one object and aim, the instruction and salvation of this

thoughtless and disobedient people. For their sakes, he who was

rich became poor, that they through his poverty might be rich:-

for their sakes, he made himself of no reputation, and took upon

him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even

the death of the cross! HE died, that THEY might not perish, but

have everlasting life. Thus, to save their life, he freely

abandoned his own.

Verse 38. Behold, your house] οοικος, the temple:-this is

certainly what is meant. It was once the Lord's temple, God's OWN

house; but now he says, YOUR temple or house-to intimate that God

had abandoned it. See Clarke on Mt 23:21;

see also Clarke on "Lu 13:35".

Verse 39. Ye shall not see me] I will remove my Gospel from

you, and withdraw my protection.

Till ye shall say, Blessed] Till after the fulness of the

Gentiles is brought in, when the word of life shall again be sent

unto you; then will ye rejoice, and bless, and praise him that

cometh in the name of the Lord, with full and final salvation for

the lost sheep of the house of Israel. See Ro 11:26, 27.

Our Lord plainly foresaw that, in process of time, a spiritual

domination would arise in his Church; and, to prevent its evil

influence, he leaves the strong warnings against it which are

contained in the former part of this chapter. As the religion of

Christ is completely spiritual, and the influence by which it is

produced and maintained must come from heaven; therefore, there

could be no master or head but himself: for as the Church (the

assemblage of true believers) is his body, all its intelligence,

light, and life, must proceed from him alone. Our forefathers

noted this well; and this was one of the grand arguments by which

they overturned the papal pretensions to supremacy in this

country. In a note on Mt 23:9, in a Bible published by Edmund

Becke in 1549, the 2nd of Edward VI., we find the following

words:-Call no man your father upon the earth. Here is the

Bishoppe of Rome declared a plaine Antichrist, in that he woulde

be called the most holye father; and that all Christen men shoulde

acknowledge hym for no lesse then their spyritual father,

notwithstandinge these playne wordes of Christe. It is true,

nothing can be plainer; and yet, in the face of these commands,

the pope has claimed the honour; and millions of men have been so

stupid as to concede it. May those days of darkness, tyranny, and

disgrace, never return!

From the 13th to the 39th verse, our Lord pronounces eight woes,

or rather pathetic declarations, against the scribes and

Pharisees. 1. For their unwillingness to let the common people

enjoy the pure word of God, or its right explanation: Ye shut up

the kingdom, &c., Mt 23:13.

2. For their rapacity, and pretended sanctity in order to secure

their secular ends: Ye devour widows houses, &c., Mt 23:14.

3. For their pretended zeal to spread the kingdom of God by

making proselytes, when they had no other end in view than forming

instruments for the purposes of their oppression and cruelty: Ye

compass sea and land, &c., Mt 23:15.

4. For their bad doctrine and false interpretations of the

Scriptures, and their dispensing with the most solemn oaths and

vows at pleasure: Ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall

swear by the temple, it is nothing, &c., Mt 23:16-22.

5. For their superstition in scrupulously attending to little

things, and things not commanded, and omitting matters of great

importance, the practice of which God had especially enjoined: Ye

pay tithe of mint and cummin, &c., Mt 23:23, 24.

6. For their hypocrisy, pretended saintship, and endeavouring to

maintain decency in their outward conduct, while they had no other

object in view than to deceive the people, and make them acquiesce

in their oppressive measures: Ye make clean the outside of the

cup, Mt 23:25, 26.

7. For the depth of their inward depravity and abomination,

having nothing good, fair, or supportable, but the mere

outside.-Most hypocrites and wicked men have some good: but these

were radically and totally evil: Ye are like unto whited

sepulchres-within full-of all uncleanness, Mt 23:27, 28.

8. For their pretended concern for the holiness of the people,

which proceeded no farther than to keep them free from such

pollutions as they might accidentally and innocently contract, by

casually stepping on the place where a person had been buried: and

for their affected regret that their fathers had killed the

prophets, while themselves possessed and cultivated the same

murderous inclinations: Ye-garnish the sepulchres of the

righteous, and say, If we had been, &c., Mt 23:29, 30.

It is amazing with what power and authority our blessed Lord

reproves this bad people. This was the last discourse they ever

heard from him; and it is surprising, considering their

wickedness, that they waited even for a mock trial, and did not

rise up at once and destroy him. But the time was not yet come in

which he was to lay down his life, for no man could take it from


While he appears in this last discourse with all the authority

of a lawgiver and judge, he at the same time shows the tenderness

and compassion of a friend and a father: he beholds their awful

state-his eye affects his heart, and he weeps over them! Were not

the present hardness and final perdition of these ungodly men

entirely of themselves? Could Jesus, as the Supreme God, have

fixed their reprobation from all eternity by any necessitating

decree; and yet weep over the unavoidable consequences of his own

sovereign determinations? How absurd as well as shocking is the

thought! This is Jewish exclusion: Credat Judaeus Apella-non ego.

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