[On the second sabbath after the first.] I have spoken to this already in notes upon Matthew 12: let me add a few things in this place.
It is a controversy amongst the Jewish doctors and the Baithuseans, about the exposition of those words that concern the offering of the sheaf of the first-fruits; On the morrow of the sabbath, Leviticus 23:10,11.
Gloss: "The Baithuseans desired that the first day of the Passover should be on the sabbath, that the offering of the sheaf might fall on the first day of the week: and that the feast of Pentecost might also fall on the first day of the week. For they interpreted those words, The priest shall wave the sheaf on the morrow of the sabbath, as if the sense of them were, On the morrow of the sabbath of the creation."
Against this the Rabbins dispute with one consent, and indeed truly enough, affirming, that by the morrow after the sabbath must be understood the morrow after a sabbatical day, or after the first day of the feast. So the Targumist, Siphra, Solomon, Menahem, &c. So also the Greek version. We may see their arguments in Siphra, and Pesikta, and Menacoth, fol. 65. 1. The principal argument is that of Rabban Jochanan disputing with a Baithusean in the place last quoted: "One scripture (saith he) saith, You shall number fifty days" (that is, from the day wherein you offer your sheaf unto Pentecost), Leviticus 23:16. "Another scripture saith, Ye shall count seven sabbaths, Leviticus 23:14; Deuteronomy 16:9. This, if the first day of the feast happen on the sabbath: that, if the first day of the feast happen in the middle of the week.
His meaning is this: If the first day of the seven-day's feast of the Passover happen on the sabbath, then the sheaf being offered the next day after, the feast of Pentecost will fall on the next day after the seventh sabbath. But if that first day happen in the middle of the week, then, from the offering of the sheaf the next day, we must not count seven sabbaths but fifty days.
For instance, suppose we the lamb eaten on the third day of the Jewish week, which with us is Tuesday, Wednesday was the first day of the feast; and on Thursday the sheaf was offered; then on Thursday again, accounting fifty days, is the feast of Pentecost. Here seven sabbaths come between, and four days after the last sabbath, before the Pentecost. Where numbering by sabbaths shortens the space of time; but numbering by fifty days fixes the matter beyond scruple. And at once it concludes these two things: I. That the offering of the sheaf was not restrained to the next day after the sabbath, but to the day after the sabbatical day, viz. the first day of the feast. II. That the day of Pentecost was not restrained to the first day of the week, as the Baithuseans would have it, but might fall on any day of the week.
What should be the Baithuseans' reason why they so earnestly contended to reduce the day of Pentecost always to the morrow after the sabbath, or the first day of the week, is not easy to comprehend. Perhaps he that disputes the matter with Rabban Jochanan gives some hint of it, when he tells us, "Our master Moses loved Israel, and knowing that the feast of Pentecost should be but for one day, did therefore appoint it on the morrow after the sabbath, that Israel might rejoice two days together."
Whatever the reason was, it is certain they misunderstood that phrase as to the offering the sheaf the morrow after the sabbath, when it was to be understood of the morrow after a sabbatical day. And so the Greek version, and he shall offer the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you, on the morrow after the first day of the feast.
Let us take an instance of this in the last Passover our Saviour kept.
The paschal lamb was eaten on the fifth day of the week, our Thursday; the first day of the feast was the sixth day of the week, our Friday, the day on which our Lord was crucified. The day declining towards night (about the time that our Lord was buried), they went out that were deputed by the Sanhedrim to reap the sheaf: and on the morrow, that was their sabbath, whiles our Saviour slept in the grave, they offered that sheaf. That day therefore was the second day, and from thence they counted the weeks to Pentecost. And the sabbaths that came between took their name from that second day. The first sabbath after that was the first sabbath after the second day; and the next sabbath after that was the second sabbath after the second day; and so of the rest.
"The first day of the Passover is called the sabbath; and they counted after that seven sabbaths that had relation to that." Note that, that had relation or alliance.
[For more info on Pentecost, please see "The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Chapter 13: The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Day of Pentecost" by Alfred Edersheim.]
[In prayer to God: or In the prayer of God.] Compare this kind of phrase with what is said, Beracoth, fol. 7. 1: "R. Jochanan in the name of R. Jose saith, How doth it appear that the holy blessed God doth pray? From thence, that it is said, I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in the house of 'my' prayer. It is not said of their prayer, but of 'my' prayer. Whence it follows that the holy blessed God doth pray. But how doth he pray? saith Rabh Zutra Bar Tobijah; Rabh saith, Let it be my good pleasure that my mercy overcome my wrath."
"The holy blessed God made him a tabernacle and prayed in it: as it is said, His tabernacle is in Salem, and his dwellingplace in Zion. Now what doth he say when he prayeth? Let it be my good pleasure that I may see my dwellingplace built."
I cannot but laugh at their triflings, and yet withal observe the opinion that nation had, and compare it with this phrase, the prayer of God. They will have it that God prays, not by way of supplication, but authority: "So let it be." Thus our blessed Lord sometimes, Father, I will, John 17:24. Whether the phrase in this place should be thus interpreted, I do not determine.
[Good measure, pressed down, &c.] I. Concerning measures heaped up and stricken off, see Menacoth, fol. 87: "R. Meir saith, It is said, a tenth, a tenth to every lamb. Whence is hinted, that there were decimaries [or tithing measures] in the Temple: one heaped up, the other stricken off. The heaped up was that by which they measured all their bread-corn for holy uses. That which was stricken off was that whereby they measured the cakes or the high priest's loaves." "All the measures in the Temple were heaped up, besides that of the high priests." Now the Gloss, giving the reason why this was not heaped up as well as the other, tells us, "It was because he was to divide the flour into two tenths; if therefore the measure was heaped up, some of the fine flour would spill upon the ground as he moved it this way and that way in dividing it."
"Rabh Papa asked, the filling of the priest's hand whereof we have mention, was it by the measure stricken off or heaped up? R. Aba saith to Rabh Ishai, The filling of the priest's hand, of which we have mention, was neither by the measures stricken off nor heaped up, but by measures floating over."
II. Every one may observe that our evangelist in his repetition of this sermon upon the mount doth omit many things that are set down in St. Matthew; those especially that have relation to the dictates and glosses of the scribes and Pharisees about manslaughter, oaths, divorces, &c.; or their customs in their prayers, fasts, and alms, &c. Writing for the service of the Gentiles, he passeth over what respecteth the Jews.
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