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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 12

Edwards' Family Bible New TestamentFamily Bible NT

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Verse 1

Corn ; in the Scriptures this word means grain of any kind, especially wheat and barley, which were common grains of Palestine.

Pluck the ears ; picked off the heads, and rubbed them in their hands to separate the kernels from the ear. Luke 6:1 .

Verse 2

Not lawful ; not right; a violation of the fourth commandment.

Verse 3

David ; 1 Samuel 21:1-6 . The necessity of the case justified him.

Verse 5

Read in the law ; Numbers 28:9-10 .

Profane the Sabbath ; do what would have profaned it, had not the appropriate duties of the Sabbath required that labor. The Saviour refers to the killing and dressing of the animals for sacrifice, and other labors connected with the daily temple service.

In John 7:23 , he specifies circumcision as another work performed on the Sabbath.

Blameless ; without fault, because they did only what was proper on that day.

Verse 6

Greater than the temple ; the argument is, that if in the service of the temple the priests might profane the Sabbath according to the outward letter, much more might his disciples in his service; for he was Lord both of the temple and the Sabbath. Neither the temple nor the Sabbath, nor any place or time or form of religious worship, should ever, in our affections, rival him who is Lord of all, or lead us in any respect to contravene his will with regard to them.

Verse 7

Mercy , and not sacrifice ; see note on chap Matthew 9:13 . The fourth commandment always allowed men on the Sabbath-day to relieve the distressed, to feed the hungry, and to perform all those labors which public worship and the best discharge of the appropriate duties of holy time require.

Verse 8

Lord-of the Sabbath ; he who made it, and to whose worship it is devoted. If it was right for David to appease his hunger, and for the priests to do what was needful for the worship of God in the temple, much more was it right for the disciples, in attending upon the Lord of the Sabbath and of the temple, to appease their hunger as they did on the Sabbath-day.

Verse 9

Imitators of Christ will on the Sabbath attend public worship, for the purpose of thus honoring God and benefiting their fellow-men.

Verse 11

Men often condemn in others, things which they without scruple allow in themselves.

Verse 16

Not make him known ; he wished to be retired from public view, and do his works of love and mercy as the prophets had foretold that he would, Isaiah 42:2-3 ; and thus furnish new evidence that he was the Messiah.

Verse 18

Chosen ; to be the Messiah.

Show judgment ; make known the truth to the Gentiles, and thus bring them into obedience to himself and become their Lord and Judge. Compare Isaiah 2:2-4 ; Isaiah 11:10 ; Isaiah 62:2 ; Malachi 1:1 , etc.

Verse 19

Not strive , nor cry ; not come with outward show, as the Jews expected that he would. Human perfection, as exemplified in Christ, is compassionate, condescending, and kind; meek, lowly, and retiring. It does not unnecessarily awaken the opposition, or intrude upon the attention of others; while it is earnest and affectionate, active and perservering in doing good.

Verse 20

A bruised reed ; an emblem of persons who are feeble, and crushed with difficulties.

Not break ; not oppress or trample them down.

Smoking flax ; the wick of the ancient lamps.

Shall he not quench ; Christ would not quench, but cherish the feeblest beginnings of true grace.

Unto victory ; till his truth and mercy become triumphant.

Verse 24

Beelzebub ; this name, among the Jews was applied to the prince of unclean spirits. By applying it to Christ, they expressed the utmost contempt. The ascription to the devil of what is performed by the Holy Ghost, is a sin peculiarly offensive to God, and exceedingly dangerous to men.

Verse 26

Divided against himself ; had their representation been true, Satan would have made war upon himself, which was absurd.

Verse 27

Children ; disciples of the Pharisees, who laid claim to the power of casting out devils, and were reputed so to do.

Shall be your judges ; shall convict you of folly and wickedness, in ascribing to Satan in my case what you ascribe to God’s help in their case.

Verse 28

Kingdom of God ; the reign of the Messiah on earth.

Is come unto you ; has already come upon you.

Verse 29

How can one enter ; our Lord now gives the true explanation of his casting out devils. Satan, as a strong man armed, has taken possession of this world and of the souls of men. But Christ is stronger than he. He casts him out of individual hearts at his will, and will finally cast him out of the world. See Luke 11:21-22 ; Luke 10:18 ; Revelation 20:1-3 .

Verse 30

There are in our world no neutrals; all men are either for Christ or against him.

Verse 31

Be forgiven unto men ; if men repent of and forsake them, they are pardonable.

Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven ; it is unpardonable; it will never be repented of. The sin spoken of seems to have been that of malignantly ascribing to Satan what was known to be the work of the Spirit of God. Mark 3:30 .

Verse 33

Tree ; the heart.

Fruit ; conversation and conduct.

Is known ; there is a correspondence between men’s feelings and their actions, as there is between a tree and its fruits: the one is known by the other. These words have a double reference. First, to Christ: let the Pharisees show that his works are evil, or admit that he is good. Secondly, to his adversaries: they are evil, and can neither do nor speak good things, as he says in the next verse: "O generation of vipers," etc. The difference in the character and conduct of men is according to the difference of their hearts; their chief concern, therefore, should be with their thoughts and feelings, not merely with their outward actions.

Verse 36

Idle ; here a word wantonly and causelessly uttered, like the blasphemous charges brought by the Pharisees against our Lord.

Verse 37

Words ; since they flow from the heart, and indicate its character, verse Matthew 12:34 .

Justified ; shown to be righteous. Condemned ; shown to be wicked.

Verse 38

A sign ; some miraculous appearance from heaven. Compare chap Matthew 16:1 ; Mark 8:11 ; John 6:30 . Like all cavillers, they profess not to be satisfied with the proofs he had given them of his divine mission: they must have signs according to their own dictation. Men who disbelieve and reject the truth, often profess to do it for want of evidence; while the evidence which God has furnished, and which is abundantly sufficient, they overlook or withstand.

Verse 39

No sign ; no such sign as they desired. One would in due time be given, which would demonstrate his Messiahship; but it would not convince them.

Verse 40

In the whale’s belly ; in which he was a type of Christ’s burial.

Three days and three nights ; that is, parts of three days and nights. The burial of Christ took place on Friday. That was reckoned, according to Jewish custom, as one day. Saturday, through the whole of which Christ was in the tomb, called the heart of the earth, was another day; and the Christian Sabbath, on the morning of which he rose from the dead, was the third day; or according to their mode of speaking, three days and three nights.

Verse 41

Men of Nineveh ; John 3:5 .

Greater than Jonas ; the Messiah, the Son of God.

Verse 42

Queen of the south ; 1 Kings 10:1-9 .

Uttermost parts ; a very distant country.

Greater than Solomon ; though Solomon was the greatest of men as to wisdom, 1 Kings 3:13 , Jesus was greater than he, or any mere man.

Verse 43

Dry places ; barren and desolate regions, here considered as the haunts of evil spirits.

Verse 44

I will return into my house ; into the man in whom he had dwelt.

Empty ; not occupied by any other who would keep him out.

Verse 45

Seven ; a large or full number.

More wicked ; some totally wicked spirits are more wicked than others.

Worse than the first ; if men do not grow better under the means of grace, and permit the Holy Spirit to take possession of their hearts, they will grow worse.

This wicked generation ; the primary reference of this awful parable is to the Jews of our Lord’s day. Much culture had been bestowed by God upon their nation. Under the preaching of John they had recently given promising signs of repentance. But their hearts had remained, like an untenanted house, empty of God’s presence and grace; and now the unclean spirit is returning, with seven more wicked spirits, to hurry them on to ruin temporal and eternal. The parable is fulfilled also in all nations and individuals who imitate the conduct of that "wicked generation." A man’s heart, by withstanding conclusive evidence, is made harder, and his wickedness increased; so that his character by such a course grown constantly worse, and his last state will be worst of all.

Verse 48

Who is my mother? this question was designed to awaken attention, in order more usefully to communicate instruction.

Verse 50

Whosoever shall do the will of my Father-is my brother , and sister , and mother ; my most intimate and endeared relatives and friends. These words contain a silent but powerful rebuke of the idolatrous honor paid by many to the mother of our Lord. No affection which ever did or can exist between earthly friends, equals in tenderness and strength that which subsists between Christ and those who do the will of his Father.

Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Matthew 12". "Edwards' Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fam/matthew-12.html. American Tract Society. 1851.
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