Matthew 12

Lord of the Sabbath

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on a Sabbath. His
Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
disciples were hungry, and they began to pick heads of wheat
Or “heads of grain.” While the generic term στάχυς (stacus) can refer to the cluster of seeds at the top of grain such as barley or wheat, in the NT the term is restricted to wheat (L&N 3.40; BDAG 941 s.v. 1).
and eat them.
But when the Pharisees
See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
saw this they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is against the law to do on the Sabbath.”
Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry –
how he entered the house of God and they ate
The Greek verb ἔφαγεν (efagen, “he ate”) is found in a majority of witnesses (Ƥ70 C D L W Θ f1, 13 33 Maj. latt sy co) in place of ἔφαγον (efagon, “they ate”), the wording found in א B pc. ἔφαγεν is most likely motivated by the parallels in Mark and Luke (both of which have the singular).
the sacred bread,
Grk “the bread of presentation.”
The sacred bread refers to the “bread of presentation,” “showbread,” or “bread of the Presence,” twelve loaves prepared weekly for the tabernacle and later, the temple. See Exod 25:30; 35:13; 39:36; Lev 24:5–9. Each loaf was made from 3 quarts (3.5 liters; Heb “two tenths of an ephah”) of fine flour. The loaves were placed on a table in the holy place of the tabernacle, on the north side opposite the lampstand (Exod 26:35). It was the duty of the priest each Sabbath to place fresh bread on the table; the loaves from the previous week were then given to Aaron and his descendants, who ate them in the holy place, because they were considered sacred (Lev 24:9). See also Mark 2:23–28, Luke 6:1–5.
which was against the law
Jesus’ response to the charge that what his disciples were doing was against the law is one of analogy: “If David did it for his troops in a time of need, then so can I with my disciples.” Jesus is clear that on the surface there was a violation here. What is not as clear is whether he is arguing a “greater need” makes this permissible or that this was within the intention of the law all along.
for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests?
Or have you not read in the law that the priests in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are not guilty? I
Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
tell you that something greater than the temple is here.
Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
you had known what this means: ‘ I want mercy and not sacrifice ,’
A quotation from Hos 6:6 (see also Matt 9:13).
you would not have condemned the innocent.
For the Son of Man is lord
The term “lord” is in emphatic position in the Greek text.
A second point in Jesus’ defense of his disciples’ actions was that his authority as Son of Man also allowed it, since as Son of Man he was lord of the Sabbath.
of the Sabbath.”

Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
left that place and entered their synagogue.
See the note on synagogues in 4:23.
10 A
Grk “And behold.” The Greek word ἰδού (idou) has not been translated because it has no exact English equivalent here, but adds interest and emphasis (BDAG 468 s.v. 1).
man was there who had a withered
Withered means the man’s hand was shrunken and paralyzed.
hand. And they asked Jesus,
Grk “and they asked him, saying.” The participle λέγοντες (legontes) is redundant and has not been translated. The referent of the pronoun (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
The background for this is the view that only if life was endangered should one attempt to heal on the Sabbath (see the Mishnah, m. Shabbat 6.3; 12.1; 18.3; 19.2; m. Yoma 8.6).
so that they could accuse him.
11 He said to them, “Would not any one of you, if he had one sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and it was restored,
The passive was restored points to healing by God. Now the question became: Would God exercise his power through Jesus, if what Jesus was doing were wrong? Note also Jesus’ “labor.” He simply spoke and it was so.
as healthy as the other.
14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted against him, as to how they could assassinate
Grk “destroy.”

God’s Special Servant

15  Now when Jesus learned of this, he went away from there. Great
Here καί (kai) has not been translated.
א B pc lat read only πολλοί (polloi, “many”) here, the first hand of N reads ὄχλοι (ocloi, “crowds”), while virtually all the rest of the witnesses have ὄχλοι πολλοί (ocloi polloi, “great crowds”). In spite of the good quality of both א and B (especially in combination), and the testimony of the Latin witnesses, the longer reading is most likely correct; the shorter readings were probably due to homoioteleuton.
followed him, and he healed them all.
16 But he sternly warned them not to make him known. 17 This fulfilled what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet:
Grk “so that what was said by Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled, saying.” This final clause, however, is part of one sentence in Greek (vv. 15b–17) and is thus not related only to v. 16. The participle λέγοντος (legontos) is redundant and has not been translated.

18 Here is
Grk “Behold my servant.”
my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I take great delight.
Grk “in whom my soul is well pleased.”

I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
20 He will not break a bruised reed or extinguish a smoldering wick,
until he brings justice to victory.
21 And in his name the Gentiles
Or “the nations” (the same Greek word may be translated “Gentiles” or “nations”).
will hope.
Verses 18–21 are a quotation from Isa 42:1–4.

Jesus and Beelzebul

22  Then they brought to him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. Jesus
Grk “And he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
healed him so that he could speak and see.
Grk “demoniac, and he healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw.”
23 All the crowds were amazed and said, “Could this one be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees
See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
heard this they said, “He does not cast out demons except by the power of Beelzebul,
Grk “except by Beelzebul.”
Beelzebul is another name for Satan. So some people recognized Jesus’ work as supernatural, but called it diabolical.
the ruler
Or “prince.”
of demons!”
25 Now when Jesus
The majority of mss read ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς (ho Iēsous, “Jesus”), which clarifies who is the subject of the sentence. Although the shorter text is attested in far fewer witnesses (Ƥ21 א B D 892* sys,c sa bo), both the pedigree of the mss and the strong internal evidence (viz., scribes were not prone to intentionally delete the name of Jesus) argue for the omission of Jesus’ name. The name has been included in the translation, however, for clarity.
realized what they were thinking, he said to them,
Jesus here demonstrated the absurdity of the thinking of the religious leaders who maintained that he was in league with Satan and that he actually derived his power from the devil. He first teaches (vv. 25–28) that if he casts out demons by the ruler of the demons, then in reality Satan is fighting against himself, with the result that his kingdom has come to an end. He then teaches (v. 29) about tying up the strong man to prove that he does not need to align himself with the devil because he is more powerful. Jesus defeated Satan at his temptation (4:1–11) and by his exorcisms he clearly demonstrated himself to be stronger than the devil. The passage reveals the desperate condition of the religious leaders, who in their hatred for Jesus end up attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan (a position for which they will be held accountable, 12:31–32).
“Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed,
Or “is left in ruins.”
and no town or house divided against itself will stand.
26 So if
This first class condition, the first of three “if” clauses in the following verses, presents the example vividly as if it were so. In fact, all three conditions in these verses are first class. The examples are made totally parallel. The expected answer is that Satan’s kingdom will not stand, so the suggestion makes no sense. Satan would not seek to heal.
Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?
27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons
Most read your sons as a reference to Jewish exorcists (cf. “your followers,” L&N 9.4), but more likely this is a reference to the disciples of Jesus themselves, who are also Jewish and have been healing as well (R. J. Shirock, “Whose Exorcists are they? The Referents of οἱ υἱοὶ ὑμῶν at Matthew 12:27/Luke 11:19, ” JSNT 46 [1992]: 41-51). If this is a reference to the disciples, then Jesus’ point is that it is not only him, but those associated with him whose power the hearers must assess. The following reference to judging also favors this reading.
cast them
The pronoun “them” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects were frequently omitted in Greek when clear from the context.
out? For this reason they will be your judges.
28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God
The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus. It is a realm in which Jesus rules and to which those who trust him belong.
has already overtaken
The phrase ἔφθασεν ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς (efqasen ef’ humas) is quite important. Does it mean merely “approach” (which would be reflected in a translation like “has come near to you”) or actually “come upon” (as in the translation given above, “has already overtaken you,” which has the added connotation of suddenness)? Is the arrival of the kingdom merely anticipated or already in process? Two factors favor arrival over anticipation here. First, the prepositional phrase ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς (ef humas, “upon you”) in the Greek text suggests arrival (Dan 4:24, 28 Theodotion). Second, the following illustration in v. 29 looks at the healing as portraying Satan being overrun. So the presence of God’s authority has arrived. See also L&N 13.123 for the translation of φθάνω (fqanō) as “to happen to already, to come upon, to come upon already.”
29 How
Grk “Or how can.”
else can someone enter a strong man’s
The strong man here pictures Satan.
house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can thoroughly plunder the house.
Some see the imagery here as similar to Eph 4:7–10, although no opponents are explicitly named in that passage. Jesus has the victory over Satan. Jesus’ acts of healing mean that the war is being won and the kingdom is coming.
30 Whoever is not with me is against me,
Whoever is not with me is against me. The call here is to join the victor. Failure to do so means that one is being destructive. Responding to Jesus is the issue.
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
For the image of scattering, see Pss. Sol. 17:18.
31 For this reason I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy,
Grk “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men.”
but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven.
Grk “it will be forgiven him.”
But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven,
Grk “it will not be forgiven him.”
Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. This passage has troubled many people, who have wondered whether or not they have committed this sin. Three things must be kept in mind: (1) the nature of the sin is to ascribe what is the obvious work of the Holy Spirit (e.g., releasing people from Satan’s power) to Satan himself; (2) it is not simply a momentary doubt or sinful attitude, but is indeed a settled condition which opposes the Spirit’s work, as typified by the religious leaders who opposed Jesus; and (3) a person who is concerned about it has probably never committed this sin, for those who commit it here (i.e., the religious leaders) are not in the least concerned about Jesus’ warning.
either in this age or in the age to come.

Trees and Their Fruit

33  “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad
Grk “rotten.” The word σαπρός, modifying both “tree” and “fruit,” can also mean “diseased” (L&N 65.28).
and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is known by its fruit.
34 Offspring of vipers! How are you able to say anything good, since you are evil? For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart. 35 The good person
The Greek text reads here ἄνθρωπος (anqrōpos). The term is generic referring to any person.
brings good things out of his
Grk “the”; the Greek article has been translated here and in the following clause (“his evil treasury”) as a possessive pronoun (ExSyn 215).
good treasury,
The treasury here is a metaphorical reference to a person’s heart (cf. BDAG 456 s.v. θησαυρός 1.b and the parallel passage in Luke 6:45).
and the evil person brings evil things out of his evil treasury.
36 I
Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak.
37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Sign of Jonah

38  Then some of the experts in the law
Or “Then some of the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
along with some Pharisees
Grk “and Pharisees.” The word “some” before “Pharisees” has been supplied for clarification.
See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
answered him,
Grk “answered him, saying.” The participle λέγοντες (legontes) is redundant, but the syntax of the sentence was changed to conform to English style.
“Teacher, we want to see a sign
What exactly this sign would have been, given what Jesus was already doing, is not clear. But here is where the fence-sitters reside, refusing to commit to him.
from you.”
39 But he answered them,
Grk “But answering, he said to them.” This construction is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation.
“An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish
Grk “large sea creature.”
for three days and three nights ,
A quotation from Jonah 1:17.
so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
41 The people
Grk “men”; the word here (ἀνήρ, anēr) usually indicates males or husbands, but occasionally is used in a generic sense of people in general, as here (cf. BDAG 79 s.v. 1.a, 2).
of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them
Grk “at the preaching of Jonah.”
– and now,
Grk “behold.”
something greater than Jonah is here!
42 The queen of the South
On the queen of the South see 1 Kgs 10:1–3 and 2 Chr 9:1–12, as well as Josephus, Ant. 8.6.5–6 (8.165-175). The South most likely refers to modern southwest Arabia, possibly the eastern part of modern Yemen, although there is an ancient tradition reflected in Josephus which identifies this geo-political entity as Ethiopia.
will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon – and now,
Grk “behold.”
something greater than Solomon is here!

The Return of the Unclean Spirit

43  “When
Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
an unclean spirit
Unclean spirit refers to an evil spirit.
goes out of a person,
Grk “man.” This is a generic use of ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos), referring to both males and females. This same use occurs in v. 45.
it passes through waterless places
The background for the reference to waterless places is not entirely clear, though some Jewish texts suggest spirits must have a place to dwell, but not with water (Luke 8:29–31; Tob 8:3). Some suggest that the image of the desert or deserted cities as the places demons dwell is where this idea started (Isa 13:21; 34:14).
looking for rest but
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.
does not find it.
44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the home I left.’
Grk “I will return to my house from which I came.”
When it returns,
Grk “comes.”
it finds the house
The words “the house” are not in Greek but are implied.
empty, swept clean, and put in order.
The image of the house empty, swept clean, and put in order refers to the life of the person from whom the demon departed. The key to the example appears to be that no one else has been invited in to dwell. If an exorcism occurs and there is no response to God, then the way is free for the demon to return. Some see the reference to exorcism as more symbolic; thus the story’s only point is about responding to Jesus. This is possible and certainly is an application of the passage.
45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, so
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the concluding point of the story.
the last state of that person is worse than the first. It will be that way for this evil generation as well!”

Jesus’ True Family

46  While Jesus
Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
was still speaking to the crowds,
Grk “crowds, behold, his mother.” The Greek word ἰδού (idou) has not been translated because it has no exact English equivalent here, but adds interest and emphasis (BDAG 468 s.v. 1).
his mother and brothers
The issue of whether Jesus had brothers (siblings) has had a long history in the church. Epiphanius, in the 4th century, argued that Mary was a perpetual virgin and had no offspring other than Jesus. Others argued that these brothers were really cousins. Nothing in the text suggests any of this. See also John 7:3.
came and
“His mother and brothers came and” is a translation of “behold, his mother and brothers came.”
stood outside, asking
Grk “seeking.”
to speak to him.
A few ancient mss and versions lack this verse (א* B L Γ pc ff1 k sys,c sa). The witness of א and B is especially strong, but internal considerations override this external evidence. Both v. 46 and 47 end with the word λαλῆσαι (“to speak”), so early scribes probably omitted the verse through homoioteleuton. The following verses make little sense without v. 47; its omission is too hard a reading. Thus v. 47 was most likely part of the original text.
Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside wanting
Grk “seeking.”
to speak to you.”
48 To the one who had said this, Jesus
Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
Grk “And answering, he said to the one who had said this.” This construction is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation. Here δέ (de) at the beginning of the clause has not been translated.
“Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”
49 And pointing
Grk “extending his hand.”
toward his disciples he said, “Here
Grk “Behold my mother and my brothers.”
are my mother and my brothers!
50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is
The pleonastic pronoun αὐτός (autos, “he”) which precedes this verb has not been translated.
my brother and sister and mother.”

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