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Ch. 11:1 13. The Lord’s Prayer. Persistence in Prayer
1 . And it came to pass that, as he was praying in a certain place ] The better order is ‘as he was in a certain place, praying.’ The extreme vagueness of these expressions shews that St Luke did not possess a more definite note of place or of time; but if we carefully compare the parallel passages of Matthew 12:22-50 , 15:Matthew 12:1-20 ; Mark 3:22-35 , it becomes probable that this and the next chapter are entirely occupied with the incidents and teachings of one great day of open and decisive rupture with the Pharisees shortly before our Lord ceased to work in Galilee, and that they do not belong to the period of the journey through Peraea. This great day of conflict was marked (1) by the prayer of Jesus and His teaching the disciples what and how to pray; (2) by the healing of the dumb demoniac; (3) by the invitation to the Pharisee’s house, the deadly dispute which the Pharisees there originated, and the terrible denunciation consequently evoked; (4) by the sudden gathering of a multitude, and the discourses and incidents of chapter 12. For further details and elucidations I must refer to the Life of Christ .
praying ] Probably at early dawn, and in the standing attitude adopted by Orientals.
as John also taught his disciples ] The form of prayer taught by St John has perished. Terrena caelestibus cedunt , Tert.; John 3:30 . It was common for Jewish Rabbis to deliver such forms to their disciples, and a comparison of them (e. g. of “the 18 Benedictions”) with the Lord’s Prayer is deeply instructive.
2 . When ye pray, say, Our Father ] ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ had already been enshrined in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:9-13 ), but it was now more formally delivered as a model. Various parallels for the different petitions of the Lord’s Prayer have been adduced from the Talmud, nor would there be anything strange in our Lord thus stamping with His sanction whatever was holiest in the petitions which His countrymen had learnt from the Spirit of God. But note that (1) the parallels are only to some of the clauses (e. g. not to the fourth and fifth); (2) they are mostly distant and imperfect; (3) there can be no certainty as to their priority, since even the earliest portion of the Talmud (the Mishna) was not committed to writing till the second century after Christ; (4) they are nowhere blended into one incomparable petition. The transcendent beauty and value of the lessons in the Lord’s Prayer arise from (i) the tone of holy confidence : it teaches us to approach God as our Father (Romans 8:15 ), in love as well as holy fear; (ii) its absolute unselfishness: it is offered in the plural , not for ourselves only, but for all the brotherhood of man; (iii) its entire spirituality : of its seven petitions, one only is for any earthly boon, and that only for the simplest; (iv) its brevity and absence of all vain repetitions (Ecclesiastes 5:2 ); (v) its simplicity , which requires not learning, but only holiness and sincerity for its universal comprehension. For these reasons the Fathers called it ‘the Epitome of the Gospel’ and ‘the pearl of prayers.’
which art in heaven ] Psalms 11:4 . This clause, as well as “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so also upon the earth,” and “but deliver us from the evil,” are wanting in some MSS., and may be additions from the text of St Matthew. If so, the prayer would stand thus: O Father! Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation .
Hallowed be thy name ] i. e. sanctified, treated as holy. “ Holy, Holy, Holy ” is the worship of the Seraphim (Isaiah 6:3 ). The ‘ name ’ of God is used for all the attributes of His Being.
Thy kingdom come ] There seems to have been an early gloss, or reading, “Thy Holy Spirit come upon us, and purify us” (mentioned by St Gregory of Nazianzus).
Thy will be done ] This was the one rule of the life of Christ, John 5:30 , John 6:38 .
as in heaven ] “Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word,” Psalms 103:20 .
3 . Give us day by day our daily bread ] The prayer (i) acknowledges that we are indebted to God for our simplest boons; (ii) asks them for all ; (iii) asks them only day by day; and (iv) asks for no more, Proverbs 30:8 ; John 6:27 . St Luke’s version brings out the continuity of the gift (Be giving day by day); St Matthew’s its immediate need (Give to-day). The word rendered ‘daily’ is epiousion , of which the meaning is much disputed. For a brief discussion of its meaning, see Excursus IV.; but that this prayer is primarily a prayer for needful earthly sustenance has been rightly understood by the heart of mankind.
our sins ] ‘Trespasses’ is not in our Bible, but comes, as Dr Plumptre notices, from Tyndale’s version. St Matthew uses the word ‘debts,’ which is implied in the following words of St Luke: “For indeed we ourselves remit to every one who oweth to us.” Unforgiving, unforgiven, Matthew 18:34 , Matthew 18:35 ; Ephesians 4:32 ; Colossians 3:13 . The absence of any mention here of the Atonement or of Justification is, as Godet observes, a striking proof of the authenticity of the prayer. The variations are, further, a striking proof that the Gospels are entirely independent of each other.
lead us not into temptation ] God permits us to be tempted (John 17:15 ; Revelation 3:10 ), but we only yield to our temptations when we are “drawn away of our own lust and enticed” (James 1:14 ). But the temptations which God permits us are only human ( ἀνθρώπινος ), not abnormal or irresistible temptations, and with each temptation He makes also the way to escape ( καὶ τὴν ἔκβασιν , 1 Corinthians 10:13 ). We pray, therefore, that we may not be tried above what we are able, and this is defined by the following words: Our prayer is, Let not the tempting opportunity meet the too susceptible disposition. If the temptation comes, quench the desire; if the desire, spare us the temptation. See on 4:2.
but deliver us from evil ] Rather, from the Evil One . The article, it is true, would not necessitate this translation, but it seems to be rendered probable by the analogy of similar prayers among the Jews. The last three clauses for daily bread, forgiveness, and deliverance, cover the past, present, and future. “All the tones of the human breast which go from earth to heaven, sound here in their key-notes” (Stier). There is no doxology added. Even in St Matthew it is (almost certainly) a liturgical addition, and no real part of the Lord’s Prayer.
5 . shall go unto him at midnight ] Orientals often travel at night to avoid the heat. Although idle repetitions in prayer are forbidden, persistency and importunity in prayer wrestling with God, and not letting Him go until He has blessed us are here distinctly taught (see 18:1 8), as they also were in the acted parable of our Lord’s apparent repulse of the Syro-Phoenician woman, Matthew 15:27 , Matthew 15:28 .
6 . I have nothing to set before him ] Even the deepest poverty was not held to excuse any lack of the primary Eastern virtue of hospitality. Allegorically we may see here the unsatisfied hunger of the soul, which wakens in the midnight of a sinful life.
7 . Trouble me not ] The answer is rough and discouraging. He does not say ‘friend.’ His phrase implies irritation. The details are of course not to be pressed. The parable is merely an illustration à fortiori .
is now shut ] Literally, “ has been already shut ” with the implication ‘shut for the night, and I do not mean to open it.’
I cannot ] Only a modified form for ‘I will not.’
8 . yet because of his importunity ] Literally, “ shamelessness ” (Vulg. improbitas ), ‘impudence,’ i. e. unblushing persistence, which is not however selfish , but that he may do his duty towards another. Isaiah 62:6 , “Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, &c.” Abraham furnishes a grand example of this fearless persistence (Genesis 18:23-33 ). Archbishop Trench quotes the beautiful passage in Dante’s Paradiso :
“Regnum caelorum violenzia pate
Da caldo amore e da viva speranza, &c.”
he will rise ] not merely half raise himself, or get out of bed, as in vs. 7 ( anastas ), but ‘ thoroughly aroused and getting up’ ( egertheis ).
as many as he needeth ] More than the three which he had asked for the bare supply of his wants.
9 . Ask, and it shall be given you ] Matthew 7:7-11 , Matthew 7:21 :22; Mark 11:24 ; John 16:23 . Doubtless these teachings were repeated more than once to different listeners. God’s unwillingness to grant is never more than in semblance, and for our good (Matthew 15:28 ; Genesis 32:28 ).
13 . give the Holy Spirit ] St Matthew has the much more general expression “good things” (7:11). The Good Father will give to His children neither what is deadly, nor what is unfit for food.
14 26. The dumb Devil. Blasphemy of the Pharisees
14 . it was dumb ] i. e., of course, the possession by the spirit caused dumbness in the man. If this incident be the same as in Matthew 12:22 , the wretched sufferer seems to have been both dumb, and blind, and mad.
the people wondered ] Exorcisms, and attempted exorcisms (Acts 19:14 ), were indeed common among the Jews (see on 9:49. Gfrörer, Jahrh. d. Heils , i. 413), but apparently only in the simplest cases, and never when the possession was complicated with blindness and dumbness.
15 . some of them said ] We learn from St Matthew (12:24) that this notable suggestion emanated from “the Pharisees” and, as St Mark (3:20) adds, from “the scribes which came from Jerusalem,” i. e. the spies who had been expressly sent down by the ruling hierarchs to dog the footsteps of Jesus, and counteract His influence. The explanation was too ingeniously wicked and cleverly plausible to come from the more unsophisticated Pharisees of Galilee.
Beelzebub ] The name and reading are involved in obscurity. In 2 Kings 1:3 we are told that Beelzebub was god of Ekron; and the LXX. and Josephus ( Antt. ix. 2, § 1) understood the name to mean ‘lord of flies .’ He may have been a god worshipped to avert the plagues of flies on the low sea-coast like Zeus Apomuios (Averter of flies) and Apollo Ipuktonos (Slayer of vermin). But others interpret the name to mean ‘lord of dung,’ and regard it as one of the insulting nick-names which the Jews from a literal rendering of Exodus 23:13 felt bound to apply to heathen deities. In this place perhaps Beelzebub is the true reading, and that means ‘lord of the (celestial) habitation,’ i. e. prince of the air, Ephesians 2:3 . Possibly the οἰκοδεσπότης of Matthew 10:25 is an allusion to this meaning. In any case the charge was the same as that in the Talmud that Jesus wrought His miracles (which the Jews did not pretend to deny) by magic .
16 . tempting him ] i. e. wanting to try Him, to put Him to the test. The temptation was precisely analogous to that in the wilderness a temptation to put forth a self-willed or arbitrary exertion of power for personal ends, see 4:3, 12.
a sign from heaven ] They persuaded the people that His miracles were wrought by unhallowed arts, and that such arts would be impossible in a sign from heaven like the Pillar of Cloud, the Fire of Elijah, &c. But our Lord refused their demand. Miracles were not to be granted to insolent unbelief; nor were they of the nature of mere prodigies. Besides it was His will to win conviction, not to enforce acceptance. This seems therefore to have been the one weapon of attack which the Pharisees found most effective against Him, the one which most deeply wounded His spirit and finally drove Him away from the plain of Gennesareth (Mark 8:11 , Mark 8:12 ).
17 . their thoughts ] Rather, their machinations .
Every kingdom divided against itself , &c.] More briefly and graphically in St Mark “How can Satan cast out Satan?”
and a house divided against a house falleth ] The words may also be rendered ‘and (in that case) house falleth against house.’
19 . by whom do your sons cast them out ?] The “pupils of the wise” might be called the ‘sons of the Pharisees’ just as the youths in the Prophetic schools were called ‘sons of the Prophets.’ The reality of the Jewish exorcisms is not here necessarily admitted (Acts 19:13 ). It was enough that the admitted pretensions to such powers among the Pharisees justified this incontrovertible argumentum ad hominem .
20 . with the finger of God ] “Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God ,” Exodus 8:19 .
is come upon you ] The word and tense imply suddenness and surprise.
21 . When a strong man armed keepeth his palace ] The same metaphor is used of the Christian opposing Satan, as here of Satan opposing Christ, Ephesians 6:13 . The world is here Satan’s palace (John 12:31 , John 16:11 ) and men his possessions (2 Timothy 2:26 ).
22 . a stronger than he ] Christ, “having spoiled principalities and powers, made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in His Cross,” Colossians 2:15 .
his spoils ] The spoils which Satan had won from the race of man. Bengel.
23 . He that is not with me is against me ] Neutrality is sometimes opposition, see on 9:51 (where we have the complementary truth).
24 . he walketh through dry places ] The unclean spirits were thought to frequent ruins ( Berachôth , f. 3 a ) and the waterless desert, Tobit 8:3; see on 4:1.
seeking rest ] Not to be in possession of some human soul, is (for them) to be in torment.
25 . swept and garnished ] The mischief and danger of the emancipated soul is that it is not occupied by a New Indweller. It has not tested the expulsive power of holy affections. It is ‘lying idle’ ( σχολάζοντα , Matthew 12:44 ), i. e. ‘to let.’
26 . seven other spirits ] Compare 8:2, 30. The number is figurative of complete wickedness and (in this case) final possession.
the last state of that man is worse than the first ] The most striking comment on the verse is furnished by Hebrews 6:4-6 , Hebrews 10:26-29 , and especially 2 Peter 2:20 , 2 Peter 2:21 . “Sin no more,” said our Lord to the Impotent Man, “ lest a worse thing come unto thee,” John 5:14 . The Parable was an allegory, not only of the awful peril of relapse after partial conversion, but also of the History of the Jews. The demon of idolatry had been expelled by the Exile; ‘but had returned in the sevenfold virulence of letter-worship, formalism, exclusiveness, ambition, greed, hypocrisy and hate;’ and on the testimony of Josephus himself the Jews of that age were so bad that their destruction seemed an inevitable retribution.
27 32. The Womanly Exclamation. The Peril of Privileges abused
27 . Blessed is the womb that bare thee ] See 1:28, 48. “How many women have blessed the Holy Virgin, and desired to be such a mother as she was! What hinders them? Christ has made for us a wide way to this happiness, and not only women, but men may tread it the way of obedience; this it is which makes such a mother, and not the throes of parturition.” St Chrysostom. It is a curious undesigned coincidence that (as we see from Matthew 12:46 ) the Virgin had just arrived upon the scene.
28 . Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it ] See 8:21. Our Lord invariably and systematically discouraged all attempt to exalt the merely human relationship or intercourse with Him, and taught that the Presence of His Spirit was to be a nearer and more blessed thing than knowledge of Him “after the flesh” (John 14:16 ; 2 Corinthians 5:16 ).
and keep it ] Hearing without obedience was more than valueless, Matthew 7:21 , Matthew 7:12 :50; Romans 2:13 .
29 . were gathered ] Rather, were densely gathering .
30 . a sign unto the Ninevites ] Jonah 1:17 .
31 . The queen of the south ] The queen of Sheba (1 K. 10:1 13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12 ). The visit of this queen of Yemen made a deep impression on Oriental imagination, and is found in the Koran (xxvii., &c.) “dilated with nonsense and encumbered with fables.”
to hear the wisdom of Solomon ] and also “to prove him with hard questions,” 1 Kings 10:1 .
a greater ] Rather, something more .
32 . they repented at the preaching of Jonas ] “The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them,” Jonah 3:5 .
33 36. The Inward Light
33 . in a secret place ] Rather, in a crypt or cellar .
under a bushel ] Rather, ‘under the bushel’; i. e. the one in use in the house; and similarly ‘the candlestick,’ or rather, ‘lamp-stand.’
that they which come in may see the light ] The comparison is the same as in Matthew 5:14 , Mark 4:21 ; but the application in the next verse is different. The light is here used for inward enlightenment, not to be seen afar.
34 . The light of the body is the eye ] Rather, The eye is the candle of the body , since the word is the same as in the last verse.
therefore when thine eye is single ] The eye in this clause is the ‘inward eye’ of conscience; the ‘illuminated eye of the heart,’ Ephesians 1:17 , Ephesians 1:18 . ‘Single,’ i. e. unsophisticated; in its normal condition.
when thine eye is evil ] The ‘evil eye’ is especially one of hate , Romans 12:8 ; Ecclus. 14:8 10. The inward eye should be spiritual ; when it becomes carnal the man can no longer see that which is only spiritually discerned, and he takes God’s wisdom for foolishness, 1 Corinthians 2:14 , 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 .
35 . that the light which is in thee be not darkness ] It becomes so when we are ‘wise in our own conceit’ (Proverbs 16:12 ) which makes us think a way right when it is the way of death (Proverbs 16:25 ), and makes us call evil good, and good evil, put darkness for light, and light for darkness, Isaiah 5:20 , Isaiah 5:21 .
36 . doth give thee light ] The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord. “God will light my candle,” Psalms 18:28 . “Thy word is a lantern unto my feet.” In these words we catch an echo of those thoughts on the diffusiveness and divineness of light which are so fully developed in St John’s Gospel (8:12).
“Wär nicht das Auge sonnenhaft,
Wie könnten wir das Licht erblicken?”
37 54. The Invitation of the Pharisee and the open Rupture
37 . besought ] Rather, asked .
to dine with him ] The meal was not dinner ( deipnon ), but an earlier, lighter, and more informal meal ( ariston ).
he went in, and sat down to meat ] The words imply that immediately He entered He sat down to table. The meal was merely some slight refreshment in the middle of the day, and probably our Lord was both suffering from hunger after His long hours of teaching, and was also anxious to save time.
38 . he marvelled that he had not first washed ] Literally, “ bathed .” No washing was necessary to eat a few dates or figs. At the chief meal of the day, where all dipped their hands into a common dish, it was a matter of cleanliness. But the duty of cleanliness had been turned by the Oral Law into a rigorous set of cumbersome and needless ablutions, each performed with certain elaborate methods and gesticulations (Mark 7:2 , Mark 7:3 ) which had nothing to do with religion or even with the Levitical Law, but only with Pharisaic tradition and the Oral Law. In the Shulchan Aruk , a book of Jewish Ritual, no less than twenty-six prayers are given with which their washings are accompanied. But all this was not only devoid of divine sanction, but had become superstitious, tyrannous, and futile. The Pharisee ‘marvelled’ because he and his party tried to enforce the Oral Law on the people as even more sacred than the Written Law. The subject of ablutions was one which caused several of these disputes with Christ, Matthew 15:19 , Matthew 15:20 . The Rabbi Akhibha would have preferred to die of thirst rather than neglect his ablutions, and the Talmud thought that a demon called Schibta sat on unwashen hands. Our Lord astonished the conventionalism of these religious teachers and their followers by shewing that what truly defiles a man is that which cometh from within from the heart.
39 . Now do ye Pharisees ] Doubtless other circumstances besides the mere supercilious astonishment of the Pharisee led to the vehement rebuke. The eightfold woe in Matthew 23:0 is fuller than here. Jesus denounces their frivolous scrupulosity (39), combined with gross insincerity (42), their pride (43), and their corruption (44).
make clean the outside of the cup and the platter ] Mark 7:4 , “washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.” On one occasion the Sadducees seeing them busied in washing the great Golden Candelabrum sneeringly observed that they would wash the Sun itself if they could get the opportunity.
your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness ] i. e. of greed , and of the depravity which causes it. A slightly different turn of expression is given in Matthew 23:25 , Matthew 23:26 . See Excursus VI. on Sects of the Jews; and compare these denunciations with those delivered in the Temple on the last day (Tuesday in Passion Week) of the Lord’s public ministry, Matthew 23:25-28 . The early Christian heretics reflected the character of these Pharisees in their mixture of elaborate profession with real godlessness, Titus 1:15 , Titus 1:16 .
40 . that which is within also ] See Mark 7:18 , Mark 7:19 , which contains our Lord’s distinctest utterance in abrogation of the Levitic Law “This He said … making all meats clean .”
41 . give alms ] See 12:33, 16:14; Matthew 6:3 . Almsgiving is only mentioned as one typical form of Charity, which was in that state of society preeminently necessary. Indeed ‘alms’ is the same word as eleemosunē , which involves the idea of Mercy. The general lesson that God does not care for ceremonies, in themselves, and only cares for them at all when they are accompanied by sincere goodness is again and again taught in Scripture. 1 Samuel 15:22 ; Isaiah 58:6-8 ; Micah 6:8 ; Daniel 4:27 ; James 4:8 .
of such things as you have ] Perhaps, “ as for that which is within you, give alms .” But the entire meaning of the clause is much disputed. Some explain it, Give as alms ‘ the contents ’ of cup and platter, and then they will be all clean without washing. ‘It is Love which purifies, not lustrations.’
42 . ye tithe mint and rue ] Deuteronomy 14:22 . In the Talmud there are elaborate discussions whether in tithing the seeds of potherbs one ought also to tithe the stalk, &c.
pass over judgment and the love of God ] Because the love of God is best shewn by love to men, and the Pharisees were filled with immoral contempt for those whom they regarded as less learned or less attentive to scrupulosities than themselves. The Pharisees still exist as a party among Eastern Jews, and are called Perushim . So bad is their character that the bitterest term of reproach in Jerusalem is ‘You are a Porish !’ How little they have changed from their character, as Christ depicted it, may be seen from the testimony of a Jewish writer. “They proudly separate themselves from the rest of their co-religionists … Fanatical, bigoted, intolerant, quarrelsome, and in truth irreligious , with them the outward observance of the ceremonial law is everything; the moral law little binding, morality itself of no importance ” (See Frankl., Jews in the East , ii. 27).
43 . uppermost seats ] These were places in the synagogue in a conspicuous semicircle facing the congregation, and round the bema of the reader, 14:7 11; Matthew 23:6 .
greetings in the markets ] in which they addressed one another by extravagant titles, and required from their followers an exaggerated reverence.
44 . hypocrites ] The first meaning of the word is ‘actors.’
as graves which appear not ] Any contact with sepulchres involved Levitical uncleanness. Hence graves and tombs were whitewashed that none might touch them unawares. Perhaps our Lord was alluding to Tiberias, which when it was being built was discovered to be partly on the site of an old unsuspected cemetery; so that every true Jew regarded it as pollution to live there, and Herod could only get it inhabited partly by bribes, partly by threats. In St Matthew several of whose particulars are differently applied they are called ‘ whited sepulchres ’, fair outside, polluted within. Here they are unsuspected graves .
45 . one of the lawyers ] See on 7:30, 10:25. This Scribe thought that Jesus could not possibly mean to reflect on the honoured class who copied and expounded the Law.
reproachest ] literally, “ insultest .” There was a difference between Pharisees and lawyers; the position of the latter involved more culture and distinction. They were the ‘divines,’ the ‘theologians’ of that day. Hence the man’s reproach. ‘Lawyer’ and ‘Scribe’ seem to be more or less convertible terms (vs. 52, 53; Matthew 23:13 ). Jesus here charges them with tyrannical insincerity (46), persecuting rancour (47 51), and theological arrogance and exclusiveness (52).
46 . burdens grievous to be borne ] These burdens of the Oral Law became yearly more and more grievous, till they were enshrined in the boundless pedantry of ceremonialism which fills the Talmud. But even at this period they were an intolerable yoke (Acts 15:10 ), and the lawyers had deserved the Woe pronounced by Isaiah on them “that decree unrighteous decrees, and write grievousness which they have prescribed,” Isaiah 10:1 . “Gradus: digito uno attingere, digitis tangere, digito movere, manu tollere, humero imponere. Hoc cogebant populum; illud ipsi refugiebant.” Bengel.
47 . your fathers killed them ] This is holy sarcasm. They boasted that they would not have done as their fathers had done to the Prophets (Matthew 23:30 ), yet they rejected John, the greatest of the Prophets, and crucified the Just One, Acts 7:51 , Acts 7:52 .
48 . bear witness … allow ] We find the same two words used of St Paul in Acts 7:58 , Acts 8:1 . Allow means ‘approve after trial,’ and is derived from allaudare . “The Lord alloweth the righteous,” Psalms 11:6 (Prayer-Book Version).
49 . the wisdom of God ] There is an allusion to 2 Chronicles 24:20-22 (comp. 36:14 21), but as the exact passage nowhere occurs in the O. T. some suppose that our Lord quotes (1) from a lost book called ‘The Wisdom of God’ (Ewald, Bleek, &c.); or (2) from previous words of His own; or (3) from the Gospel of St Matthew (see Matthew 23:34 ); or (4) from the Book of Proverbs (1:20 31). It is a general paraphrase of the tenor of several O. T. passages.
some of them they shall slay and persecute ] See on 6:23.
51 . unto the blood of Zacharias ] His murder by Joash is described in 2 Chronicles 24:20 , 2 Chronicles 24:21 , and also filled a large place in Jewish legends. The words “the son of Barachiah,” in Matthew 23:35 , are probably an erroneous gloss which has crept from the margin into the text. The murdered Zacharias was the son of the High Priest Jehoiada; the Prophet Zechariah was a son of Barachiah, but died, so far as we know, a natural death; and the Zechariah son of Barachiah, who was murdered by the Zealots, did not die till forty years later than this time. The allusions are all the more striking from the direct references to retribution in these two instances, and from the fact that they are drawn from the first and last historical books of the O. T. (Genesis 4:10 ; 2 Chronicles 24:22 ).
52 . ye have taken away the key of knowledge ] A key was the regular symbol of the function of a scribe (Matthew 13:52 , Matthew 16:19 ), which was to open the meaning of the Holy Books. The crime charged against them here is their selfish exclusiveness. They declared that only rich and well-born people could be scribes; and while they refused to teach the mass of the people, they at the same time called them ‘accursed’ for not knowing the law, and spoke about them in terms of the bitterest scorn and detestation. “Ye have caused many to stumble at the law,” Malachi 2:8 .
53 . And as he said these things ] Rather (with א , B, C, L), when He had gone forth from thence . The Pharisees in their anger followed Him.
to urge him vehemently ] It is clear from this and the following verse that the Pharisee’s feast had been a base plot to entrap Jesus. None of His disciples seem to have been with Him, nor any of the people; and after these stern rebukes the Pharisees surrounded Him in a most threatening and irritating manner, in a scene of violence perhaps unique in the Life of Jesus.
to provoke him to speak of many things ] Perhaps “to cross-question Him,” or to catch words from His month about very many things . The classical sense of the verb apostomatizein is ‘to dictate.’
54 . to catch ] Literally, “ to hunt .” They were members of a body of a sort of ‘commission of enquiry’ which had been sent from Jerusalem for this express purpose, Mark 12:13 .
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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12