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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary
Matthew 23

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-39

129. More about scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-39; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47)

Instead of teaching only the law of Moses, the scribes and Pharisees added countless laws of their own. Instead of making the people's load lighter, they made it heavier. People could profit from listening to the scribes' teaching of Moses' law, but they were not to copy the scribes' behaviour (Matthew 23:1-4).

Jesus gave two specific reasons for his condemnation of the scribes. First, they wanted to make a display of their religious devotion so that they might win praise from others. Second, they paid strict attention to small details of law-keeping but they ignored the law's real meaning. Jesus gave a list of examples.

Phylacteries were small leather boxes containing finely written portions of the law that people strapped on their foreheads and arms. Tassels were decorations sewn on the fringes of their clothes to remind them to keep God's law. The scribes made their phylacteries and tassels extra large to impress people with their devotion to the law (Matthew 23:5; cf. Numbers 15:38-39; Deuteronomy 11:18).

In public meetings the scribes tried to get the most important seats, and they loved the feeling of status when their students greeted them respectfully in public. Jesus rebuked them with the reminder that the only true teacher, father and master was God, and he would humble those who tried to make themselves great (Matthew 23:6-12; Mark 12:38-39). They made themselves appear religious with their long prayers, yet they heartlessly took advantage of the poor (Mark 12:40).

Besides not believing in Jesus themselves, the scribes stopped others from believing. If they succeeded in converting a Gentile to Judaism, they usually turned the person into such an extremist that he was more worthy of God's punishment than they were (Matthew 23:13-15).

Jews were careful in swearing oaths, so that they could have an excuse if they broke their oath. If they swore by certain things they felt obliged to keep their oath, but if they swore by others they felt no guilt if they ignored their oath. Jesus repeated teaching given earlier that all oaths were binding, no matter what people swore by, and God the supreme judge would hold them responsible (Matthew 23:16-22; see notes on Matthew 5:33-37).

Jesus also repeated some of the accusations he had made elsewhere against the Pharisees and scribes. They concentrated on minor details of their own law but ignored the important teachings of God's law. Their efforts to appear religious were an attempt to hide their inner corruption (Matthew 23:23-28; see notes on Luke 11:37-44). Like their ancestors, they would not be satisfied until they had killed all God's messengers. They would even kill the Messiah himself. Therefore, all God's judgment against his murderous people, including that which he had withheld from former generations, would fall on them. They would live to see their city destroyed and their national life brought to an end (Matthew 23:29-36; see notes on Luke 11:47-51).

In rejecting the Messiah who had come among them, the Jews were rejecting their only hope. They would not experience God's blessing till they turned and welcomed Jesus as their Messiah and Saviour (Matthew 23:37-39; see notes on Luke 13:31-35).

 


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Bibliography Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 23:4". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/matthew-23.html. 2005.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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