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Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels Lightfoot's Commentary
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Matthew 23". "John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ jlc/ matthew-23.html. 1675.
Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Matthew 23". "John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/
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Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
[In Moses’ seat, etc.] This is to be understood rather of the legislative seat (or chair), than of the merely doctrinal; and Christ here asserts the authority of the magistrate, and persuadeth to obey him in lawful things.
Concerning the chairs of the Sanhedrim there is mention made in Babylonian Succah; "There were at Alexandria seventy-one golden chairs, according to the number of the seventy-one elders of the great council." Concerning the authority of Moses and his vicegerent in the council, there is also mention in Sanhedrim; "The great council consisted of seventy-one elders. But whence was this number derived? From that place where it is said, ’Choose me out seventy men of the elders of Israel: and Moses was president over them.’ Behold seventy-one!"
What is here observed by Galatinus from the signification of the aorist sat is too light and airy: "He saith, They sat and not, They sit; that he might plainly demonstrate, that their power was then ceased." But if we would be so curious to gather any thing from this aorist, we might very well transfer it to this sense rather: "The scribes and Pharisees, the worst of men, have long usurped Moses’ seat; nevertheless, we ought to obey them, because, by the dispensation of the divine providence, they bear the chief magistracy."
Concerning their authority, thus Maimonides: "The great council of Jerusalem was the ground (the pillar and ground) of the traditional law, and the pillar of doctrine: whence proceeded statutes and judgments for all Israel. And concerning them the law asserts this very thing, saying, ’According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee.’ Whosoever, therefore, believes Moses our master and his law, is bound to rely upon them for the things of the law."
Christ teacheth, that they were not to be esteemed as oracles, but as magistrates.
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers
[Heavy burdens.]...a heavy prohibition; Let him follow him that imposeth heavy things. There are reckoned up four-and-twenty things of the weighty things of the school of Hillel, and the light things of that of Shammai. "R. Joshua saith, A foolish religious man, a crafty wicked man; a she-pharisee, and the voluntary dashing of the Pharisees, destroy the world." It is disputed by the Gemarists, who is that crafty wicked man; and it is answered by some, "He that prescribes light things to himself, and heavy to others."
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.
[They make broad their phylacteries.] These four places of the law, Exodus 13:3-10; Exodus 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:5-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; being writ upon two parchment labels (which they called tephillin), were carried about with them constantly with great devotion, being fastened to their forehead and their left arm. To the forehead, in that place where the pulse of an infant’s brain is. This of the forehead was most conspicuous, and made broad; hence came that, "Let nobody pass by the synagogue while prayers are saying there. -- But if he hath phylacteries upon his head, he may pass by, because they show that he is studious of the law." -- "It is not lawful to walk through burying-places with phylacteries on one’s head, and the book of the law hanging at one’s arm."
They are called in Greek phylacteries; that is, observatories; because they were to put them in mind of the law; and perhaps they were also called preservatories; because they were supposed to have some virtue in them to drive away devils: "It is necessary that the phylacteries should be repeated at home a-nights, to drive away devils."
Concerning the curious writing of the phylacteries; see Maimonides on Tephellin. Concerning their strings, marked with certain small letters, see Tosaphoth on Megillah. Concerning the repeating of them, see both the Talmuds in Beracoth. How the Jews did swear touching their phylacteries; see Maimonides in Shevuoth; and how God is brought in swearing by the phylacteries; see Tanchum.
Our Saviour does not so much condemn the bare wearing of them, as the doing it out of pride and hypocrisy. It is not unlikely that he wore them himself, according to the custom of the country: for the children of the Jews were to be brought up from their infancy in saying the phylacteries; that is, as soon as they were capable of being catechised. The scribes and Pharisees made theirs very broad and visible, that they might obtain a proportional fame and esteem for their devotion with the people; these things being looked upon as arguments of the study of the law, and signs of devotion.
[Enlarge the borders of their garments.] See Numbers 15:38; Deuteronomy 22:12 -- "He that takes care of the candle of the sabbath, his children shall be the disciples of wise men. He that takes care to stick up labels against the posts shall obtain a glorious house; and he that takes care of making borders to his garment, shall obtain a good coat."
And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
[And to be called Rabbi, Rabbi.] I. Concerning the original of this title, see Aruch; "The elder times, which were more worthy, had not need of the title either of Rabban; or Rabbi; or Rabh; to adorn either the wise men of Babylon or the wise men of the land of Israel: for, behold, Hillel comes up out of Babylon, and the title of Rabbi is not added to his name: and thus it was with those who were noble among the prophets; for he saith, Haggai the prophet
[not Rabbi Haggai]. Ezra did not come up out of Babylon, etc. [not Rabbi Ezra]; whom they did not honour with the titles of Rabbi when they spoke their names. And we have heard that this had its beginning only in the presidents [of the council] from Rabban Gamaliel the old man, and Rabban Simeon his son, who perished in the destruction of the second Temple: and from Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai, who were all presidents. And the title also of Rabbi began from those that were promoted [to be elders] from that time, Rabbi Zadok, and R. Eliezer Ben Jacob: and the thing went forth from the disciples of Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai, and onwards. Now the order, as all men use it, is this: Rabbi is greater than Rabh; and Rabban is greater than Rabbi; and he is greater who is called by his own (single) name, than he who is called Rabban."
That this haughty title of Rabbi was not in use before the times of Hillel sufficiently appears from thence, that the doctors before that were called by their plain names, and knew nothing of this title. Antigonus Socheus, Shemaiah and Abtalion, Gebihah Ben Pesisa, Calba Savua, Admon and Hanan, Hillel and Shammai, and many others, whose names we meet with in the Jewish story. Yet you shall find these, that were more ancient, sometimes officiously honoured by the writers of their nation with this title, which they themselves were strangers to. They feign that king Jehoshaphat thus called the learned men: "When he saw (say they) a disciple of the wise men, he rose up out of his throne and embraced him, and kissed him, and called him O Father, Father, Rabbi, Rabbi, Lord, Lord." And Joshua Ben Perachia is called Rabbi Joshua...
II. It was customary, and they loved it, to be saluted with this honourable title, notwithstanding the dissembled axiom among them, Love the work, but hate the title.
1. Disciples were thus taught to salute their masters: "R. Eliezer saith, he that prayeth behind the back of his master, and he that salutes his master, -- or returns a salute to his master; -- and he that makes himself a separatist from the school of his master, -- and he that teaches any thing, which he hath not heard from his master, -- he provokes the Divine Majesty to depart from Israel." The Glossers on these words, ’He that salutes, or returns a salute to his master,’ thus comment; "he that salutes his master in the same form of words that he salutes other men, and doth not say to him, God save you, Rabbi." It is reported also, that the council excommunicated certain persons four and twenty times, for the honour of master; that is, for not having given due honour to the Rabbins.
2. The masters saluted one another so. "R. Akibah said to R. Eleazar, Rabbi, Rabbi." -- "R. Eleazar Ben Simeon, of Magdal Gedor, came from the house of his master, sitting upon an ass: he went forward along the bank of the river rejoicing greatly, and being very much pleased with himself, because he had learned so much of the law. There meets him a very deformed man, and said Save you, Rabbi; he did not salute him again, but on the contrary said thus, ’Raca, how deformed is that man! perhaps all your townsmen are as deformed as you.’ He answered, ’I know nothing of that, but go you to the workman that made me, and tell him, how deformed is this vessel which thou hast made!’ " etc. And a little after, "when that deformed man was come to his own town, his fellow citizens came out to meet him and said, Save you, O Rabbi, Rabbi, master, master. He
[R. Eleazar] saith to them, ’To whom do you say Rabbi, Rabbi?’ They answer, ’To him that followeth thee.’ He replied, ’If this be a Rabbi; let there not be many such in Israel.’ "
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
[Ye devour widows’ houses.] The scribes and Pharisees were ingenious enough for their own advantage. Hear one argument among many, forged upon the anvil of their covetousness, a little rudely drawn, but gainful enough: "The Lord saith, ’Make me an ark of shittim wood.’ Hence it is decided (say they) in behalf of a disciple of the wise men, that his fellow citizens are bound to perform his servile work for him." -- O money, thou mistress of art and mother of wit! So he that was preferred to be president of the council, was to be maintained and enriched by the council! See the Gloss on Babylonian Taanith.
They angled with a double hook among the people for respect, and by respect for gain.
I. As doctors of the law: where they, first and above all things, instilled into their disciples and the common people, that a wise man, or a master, was to be respected above all mortal men whatsoever. Behold the rank and order of benches according to these judges! "A wise man is to take place of a king; a king of a high priest; a high priest of a prophet; a prophet of one anointed for war; one anointed for war of a president of the courses; a president of the courses of the head of a family; the head of a family of a counsellor; a counsellor of a treasurer; a treasurer of a private priest; a private priest of a Levite; a Levite of an Israelite; an Israelite of a bastard; a bastard of a Nethinim; a Nethinim of a proselyte; a proselyte of a freed slave. But when is this to be? Namely, when they are alike as to other things: but, indeed, if a bastard be a disciple, or a wise man, and the high priest be unlearned, the bastard is to take place of him. A wise man is to be preferred before a king: for if a wise man die, he hath not left his equal; but if a king die, any Israelite is fit for a kingdom."
This last brings to my mind those words of Ignatius the martyr, if indeed they are his, in his tenth epistle: My son, saith he, honour God and the king: but I say, ’Honour God as the cause and Lord of all: the bishop as the chief priest, bearing the image of God; in respect of his rule bearing God’s image, in respect of his priestly office, Christ’s; and, after him, we ought to honour the king also.’
II. Under a pretence of mighty devotion, but especially under the goodly show of long prayers, they so drew over the minds of devout persons to them, especially of women, and among them of the richer widows, that by subtle attractives they either drew out or wrested away their goods and estates. Nor did they want nets of counterfeit authority, when from the chair they pronounced, according to their pleasures, of the dowry and estate befalling a widow, and assumed to themselves the power of determining concerning those things. Of which matter, as it is perplexed with infinite difficulties and quirks, you may read, if you have leisure, the treatises Jevamoth, Chetuboth; and Gittin.
Concerning the length of their prayers, it may suffice to produce the words of the Babylon Gemara in Beracoth; "The religious anciently used to tarry an hour
[meditating before they began their prayers]: whence was this? R. Joshua Ben Levi saith, ’It was because the Scripture saith, Blessed are they who sit in thy house.’ R. Joshua Ben Levi saith also, ’He that prays ought to tarry an hour after prayers: as it is said, The just shall praise thy name, the upright shall sit before thy face ’: it is necessary, therefore, that he should stay [meditating] an hour before prayers, and an hour after; and the religious anciently used to stay an hour before prayers, an hour they prayed, and an hour they stayed after prayers. Since, therefore, they spent nine hours eery day about their prayers, how did they perform the rest of the law? and how did they take care of their worldly affairs? Why herein, in being religious, both the law was performed, and their own business well provided for." And in the same place, "Long prayers make a long life."
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
[To make one proselyte.] The Talmudists truly speak very ill of proselytes: "Our Rabbins teach, that proselytes and Sodomites hinder the coming of the Messias. Proselytes are as a scab to Israel." The Gloss; "For this reason, that they were not skilled in the commandments, that they brought in revenge, and moreover, that the Israelites perchance may imitate their works," etc.
Yet in making of these they used their utmost endeavours for the sake of their own gain, that they might some way or other drain their purses, after they had drawn them in under the show of religion, or make some use or benefit to themselves by them. The same covetousness, therefore, under a veil of hypocrisy, in devouring widows’ houses, which our Saviour had condemned in the former clause, he here also condemns in hunting after proselytes; which the scribes and Pharisees were at all kind of pains to bring over to them. Not that they cared for proselytes; whom they accounted as "a scab and plague"; but that the more they could draw over to their religion, the greater draught they should have for gain, and the more purses to fish in. These, therefore, being so proselyted, "they made doubly more the children of hell than themselves." For when they had drawn them into their net, having got their prey, they were no further concerned what became of them, so they got some benefit by them. They might perish in ignorance, superstition, atheism, and all kind of wickedness: this was no matter of concern to the scribes and Pharisees; only let them remain in Judaism, that they might lord it over their consciences and purses.
Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple; he is a debtor!
[Whosoever shall swear by the gold of the Temple, he is a debtor.] These words agree in the same sense with those of the Corban; Matthew 15:5. We must not understand the gold of the Temple here, of that gold which shined all about in the walls and ceilings; but the gold here meant is that which was offered up in the Corban. It was a common thing with them, and esteemed as nothing, to swear by the Temple; and by the altar; which we have observed at the 31st verse of the fifth chapter Matthew 5:31; and therefore they thought themselves not much obliged by it; but if they swore Corban; they supposed they were bound by an indispensable tie. For example: if any one should swear thus, ’By the Temple, or, By the altar, my money, my cattle, my goods shall not profit you’; it was lawful, nevertheless, for the swearer, if he pleased, to suffer them to be profited by these: but if he should swear thus, ’Corban; my gold is for the Temple, Corban; my cattle are for the altar,’ this could noways be dispensed with.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
[Ye pay tithe of mint.] I. "This is the general rule about tithes; whatsoever serves for food, whatsoever is kept
[that is, which is not of common right], and whatsoever grows out of the earth, shall be tithed."
II. According to the law, cattle, corn, and fruit were to be tithed: the way and measure of which, as the scribes teach, was this: "Of bread-corn that is thrashed and winnowed, 1. A fifth part is taken out for the priest; this was called the great offering. 2. A tenth part of the remainer belong to the Levite; this was called the first tenth; or tithe. 3. A tenth part again was to be taken out of the remainder, and was to be eaten at Jerusalem, or else redeemed; this was called the second tithe. 4. The Levite gives a tenth part out of his to the priest; this was called the tithe of the tithe." These are handled at large in Peah, Demai, Maaseroth; etc.
III. The tithing of herbs is from the Rabbins. This tithing was added by the scribes, and yet approved of by our Saviour, when he saith, "Ye ought not to have left these undone." Hear this, O thou who opposest tithes. The tithing of herbs was only of ecclesiastical institution, and yet it hath the authority of our Saviour to confirm it, "Ye ought not to have left these things undone": and that partly on account of the justice of the thing itself, and the agreeableness of it to law and reason, partly that it was commanded by the council sitting in Moses’ chair, as it is, Matthew 23:2.
IV. [Mint.]...is reckoned among those things which come under the law of the seventh year. Where Rambam saith, "In the Aruch it is minta." It is called sometimes mintha; where R. Solomon writes, "In the Aruch it is minta in the mother tongue, and it hath a sweet smell; therefore they strew it in synagogues for the sake of its scent."
[Anise.]...R. Solomon, "anise is a kind of herb, and is tithed, both as to the seed and herb itself." Rambam writes thus: "It is eaten raw after meat, and is not to be boiled; while, therefore, it is not boiled, it comes under the law of tithing." The Gloss "in the Roman language is anethum
[anise], and is tithed, whether it be gathered green or ripe."
[Cummin.]...It is reckoned among things that are to be tithed.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
[Ye are like whited sepulchres.] Sepulchres are distinguished by the masters of the Jews into a deep sepulchre; which cannot be known to be a sepulchre; graves that appear not [Luke 11:44]; and a painted sepulchre; such as were all those that were known, and to be seen. Our Saviour compares the Scribes and Pharisees to both; to those, in the place of Luke last mentioned; to these, in the place before us, each upon a different reason.
Concerning the whiting of sepulchres; there are these traditions: "In the fifteenth day of the month Adar they mend the ways, and the streets, and the common sewers, and perform those things that concern the public, and they paint (or mark) the sepulchres." The manner is described in Maasar Sheni; They paint the sepulchres with chalk, tempered and infused in water. The Jerusalem Gemarists give the reason of it in abundance of places: "Do they not mark the sepulchres (say they) before the month Adar? Yes, but it is supposed that the colours are wiped off. For what cause do they paint them so? That this matter may be like the case of the leper. The leprous man crieth out, ’Unclean, unclean’; and here, in like manner, uncleanness cries out to you and saith, ’Come not near.’ " R. Illa, in the name of R. Samuel Bar Nachman, allegeth that of Ezekiel; "If one passing through the land seeth a man’s bone, he shall set up a burial sign by it."
The Glossers deliver both the reason and the manner of it thus: "From the fifteenth day of the month Adar they began their search; and wheresoever they found a sepulchre whose whiting was washed off with the rain, they renewed it, that the unclean place might be discerned, and the priests who were to eat the Trumah might avoid it." Gloss on Shekalim; and again on Maasar Sheni; "They marked the sepulchres with chalk in the likeness of bones; and mixing it with water, they washed the sepulchre all about with it, that thereby all might know that the place was unclean, and therefore to be avoided." Concerning this matter also, the Gloss speaks; "They made marks like bones on the sepulchres with white chalk," etc. See the place.
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
[Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men.] Such kind of hypocrites are called distained; or coloured. Jannai the king, when he was dying, warned his wife that she should take heed of painted men, pretending to be Pharisees, whose works are as the works of Zimri, and yet they expect the reward of Phineas. The Gloss is "Those painted men are those whose outward show doth not answer to their nature; they are coloured without, but their inward part doth not answer to their outward; and their works are evil, like the works of Zimri; but they require the reward of Phineas, saying to men, That they should honour them as much as Phineas." They had forgotten their own axiom, A disciple of the wise, who is not the same within that he is without, is not a disciple of the wise.
[But within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.] The masters themselves acknowledged this to their own shame. They inquire, what were those sins under the first Temple for which it was destroyed; and it is answered, "Idolatry, fornication, and bloodshed." They inquire, what were the sins under the second; and answer, "Hate without cause, and secret iniquity"; and add these words, "To those that were under the first Temple their end was revealed, because their iniquity was revealed: but to those that were under the second their end was not revealed, because their iniquity was not revealed." The Gloss, "They that were under the first Temple did not hide their iniquity; therefore their end was revealed to them: as it is said, ’After seventy years I will visit you in Babylon’: but their iniquity under the second Temple was not revealed: those under the second Temple were secretly wicked."
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
[Ye garnish the sepulchres of the righteous.] Let them raise some pillar upon his sepulchre. The Glossers are divided about the rendering of the word pillar. Some understand it of a kind of building or pillar; some of the whiting or marking of a sepulchre above spoken of. The place referred to speaks concerning the remains of the didrachms paid for the redemption of the soul: and the question is, if there be any thing of them due, or remaining from the man now dead, what shall be done with it; the answer is, "Let it be laid up till Elias come: but R. Nathan saith, Let them raise some pillar
[or building] upon his sepulchre." Which that it was done for the sake of adorning the sepulchres is proved from the words of the Jerusalem Gemara upon the place; They do not adorn the sepulchres of the righteous, for their own sayings are their memorial. Whence those buildings or ornaments that were set on their sepulchres seem to have been sacred to their memory, and thence called as much as souls; because they preserved the life and soul of their memory.
These things being considered, the sense of the words before us doth more clearly appear. Doth it deserve so severe a curse, to adorn the sepulchres of the prophets and righteous men? Was not this rather an act of piety than a crime? But according to their own doctrine, O ye scribes and Pharisees, their own acts and sayings are a sufficient memorial for them. Why do ye not respect, follow, and imitate these? But neglecting and trampling upon these, you persuade yourselves that you have performed piety enough to them, if you bestow some cost in adorning their sepulchres, whose words indeed you despise.
Ye serpents, ye of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
[The damnation of hell.] The judgment of Gehenna. See the Chaldee paraphrast on Ruth 2:12; Baal Turim on Genesis 1:1; and Midras Tillin.
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
[Wise men and scribes.] Let them observe this, who do not allow the ministers of the word to have a distinct calling. The Jews knew not any that was called a wise man; or a scribe; but who was both learned, and separated from the common people by a distinct order and office.
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
[Unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias.] That the discourse here is concerning Zacharias the son of Jehoiada, killed by king Joash, we make appear by these arguments:
I. Because no other Zacharias is said to have been slain before these words were spoken by Christ. Those things that are spoke of Zacharias, the father of the Baptist, are dreams; and those of Zacharias, one of the twelve prophets, are not much better. The killing of our Zacharias in the Temple is related in express words: and why, neglecting this, should we seek for another, which in truth we shall nowhere find in any author of good credit?
II. The Jews observe, that the death of this Zacharias, the son of Jehoiada, was made memorable by a signal character
[nota] and revenge: of the martyrdom of the other Zacharias they say nothing at all.
Hear both the Talmuds: "R. Jochanan said, Eighty thousand priests were killed for the blood of Zacharias. R. Judah asked R. Acha, ’Whereabouts they killed Zacharias, whether in the Court of the Women, or in the Court of Israel?’ He answered, ’Neither in the Court of Israel nor in the Court of the women, but in the Court of the Priests.’ And that was not done to his blood which useth to be done to the blood of a ram or a kid. Concerning these it is written, ’And he shall pour out his blood, and cover it with dust.’ But here it is written, ’Her blood is in the midst of her; she set it upon the top of a rock, she poured it not upon the ground.’ And why this? ’That it might cause fury to come up to take vengeance. I have set her blood upon a rock, that it should not be covered.’ They committed seven wickednesses in that day. They killed a priest, a prophet, and a judge: they shed the blood of an innocent man: they polluted the court: and that day was the sabbath day, and the day of Expiation. When therefore Nebuzar-adan went up thither, he saw the blood bubbling: so he said to them, ’What meaneth this?’ ’It is the blood,’ say they, ’of calves, lambs, and rams, which we have offered on the altar.’ ’Bring then,’ said he, ’calves, lambs, and rams, that I may try whether this be their blood.’ They brought them and slew them, and that blood still bubbled, but their blood did not bubble. ’Discover the matter to me,’ said he, ’or I will tear your flesh with iron rakes.’ Then they said to him, ’This was a priest, a prophet, and a judge, who foretold to Israel all these evils which we have suffered from you, and we rose up against him, and slew him.’ ’But I,’ saith he, ’will appease him.’ He brought the Rabbins, and slew them upon that blood; and yet it was not pacified: he brought the children out of the school, and slew them upon it, and yet it was not quiet: he brought the young priests, and slew them upon it, and yet it was not quiet. So that he slew upon it ninety-four thousand, and yet it was not quiet. He drew near to it himself, and said, ’O Zacharias, Zacharias! Thou hast destroyed the best of thy people’
[that is, they have been killed for your sake]; ’would you have me destroy all?’ Then it was quiet, and did not bubble any more," etc.
The truth of this story we leave to the relators: that which makes to our present purpose we observe: that it was very improbable, nay, next to impossible, that those that heard the words of Christ (concerning Zacharias slain before the Temple and the altar) could understand it of any other but of this, concerning whom and whose blood they had such famous and signal memory; and of any other Zacharias slain in the Temple there was a profound silence. In Josephus, indeed, we meet with the mention of one Zacharias, the son of Baruch, (which is the same thing with Barachias,) killed in the Temple, not long before the destruction of it: whom some conjecture to be prophetically marked out here by our Saviour: but this is somewhat hard, when Christ expressly speaks of time past, ye slew; and when, by no art nor arguments, it can be proved that this Zacharias ought to be reckoned into the number of prophets and martyrs.
There are two things here that stick with interpreters, so that they cannot so freely subscribe to our Zacharias: 1. That he lived and died long before the first Temple was destroyed; when the example would have seemed more home and proper to be taken under the second Temple, and that now near expiring. 2. That he was plainly and notoriously the son of Jehoiada; but this is called by Christ "the son of Barachias."
To which we, after others who have discoursed at large upon this matter, return only thus much:
I. That Christ plainly intended to bring examples out of the Old Testament; and he brought two, which how much the further off they seemed to be from deriving any guilt to this generation, so much heavier the guilt is if they do derive it. For a Jew would argue, "What hath a Jew to do with the blood of Abel; killed almost two thousand years before Abraham the father of the Jews was born? And what hath this generation to do with the blood of Zacharias; which was expiated by cruel plagues and calamities many ages since?" Nay, saith Christ, this generation hath arrived to that degree of impiety, wickedness, and guilt, that even these remote examples of guilt relate, and are to be applied to it: and while you think that the blood of Abel; and the following martyrs doth nothing concern you, and believe that the blood of Zacharias hath been long ago expiated with a signal punishment; I say unto you, that the blood both of the one and the other, and of all the righteous men killed in the interval of time between them, shall be required of this generation; 1. Because you kill him who is of more value than they all. 2. Because by your wickedness you so much kindle the anger of God, that he is driven to cut off his old church; namely, the people that hath been of a long time in covenant with him. For when Christ saith, That on you may come all the righteous blood; etc.; it is not so much to be understood of their personal guilt as to that blood, as of their guilt for the killing of Christ, in whose death, the guilt of the murder of all those his types and members is in some measure included: and it is to be understood of the horrible destruction of that generation, than which no former ages have ever seen any more woeful or amazing, nor shall any future, before the funeral of the world itself. As if all the guilt of the blood of righteous men, that had been shed from the beginning of the world, had flowed together upon that generation.
II. To the second, which has more difficulty, namely, that Zacharias is here called the son of Barachias; when he was the son of Jehoiada; we will observe, by the way, these two things out of the writings of the Jews, before we come to determine the thing itself:
1. That that very Zacharias of whom we speak is by the Chaldee paraphrast called the son of Iddo. For thus saith he on Lamentations 3:20; "’Is it fit that the daughters of Israel should eat the fruit of their womb?’ etc. The rule of justice answered and said, ’Is it also fit that they should slay a priest and prophet in the Temple of the Lord, as ye slew Zacharias and the son of Iddo; the high priest and faithful prophet, in the house of the Sanctuary, on the day of Expiation?’ " etc.
2. In the place of Isaiah, concerning Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, the Jews have these things: "It is written, ’I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Barachiah,’ Isaiah 8:1. But what is the reason that Uriah is joined with Zechariah? For Uriah was under the first Temple; Zechariah under the second: but the Scripture joineth the prophecy of Zechariah to the prophecy of Uriah. By Urias it is written, ’For your sakes Sion shall be ploughed as a field.’ By Zechariah it is written, ’As yet old men and ancient women shall sit in the streets of Jerusalem.’ When the prophecy of Uriah is fulfilled, the prophecy of Zechariah shall also be fulfilled." To the same sense also speaks the Chaldee paraphrast upon the place: "’And I took unto me faithful witnesses.’ The curses which I foretold I would bring, in the prophecy of Uriah the priest, behold they are come to pass: likewise all the blessings which I foretold I would bring, in the prophecy of Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, I will bring to pass." See also there RR. Jarchi and Kimchi.
From both these we observe two things: 1. If Iddo did not signify the same thing with Jehoiada to the Jewish nation, why might not our Saviour have the same liberty to call Barachias the father of Zacharias, as the Chaldee paraphrast had to call him Iddo? 2. It is plain that the Jews looked upon those words of Isaiah as the words of God speaking to Isaiah, not of Isaiah relating a matter of fact historically...
For if it had been to be construed in the preter tense, it should have been pointed by Kamets, And I caused to witness. Which being well observed, (as I confess it hath not been by me heretofore,) the difficulty under our hand is resolved, as I imagine, very clearly: and I suppose that Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah in Isaiah is the very same with our Zacharias the son of Jehoiada; and that the sense of Isaiah comes to this: in that and the foregoing chapter there is a discourse of the future destruction of Damascus, Samaria, and Judea. For a confirmation of the truth of this prophecy, God makes use of a double testimony: first, he commands the prophet Isaiah to write, over and over again, in a great volume, from the beginning to the end, "To hasten the spoil, he hastened the prey": and this volume should be an undoubted testimony to them, that God would certainly bring on and hasten the forementioned spoiling and destruction. "And moreover (saith God), I will raise up to myself two faithful martyrs," (or witnesses,) who shall testify and seal the same thing with their words and with their blood, namely, Uriah the priest, who shall hereafter be crowned with martyrdom for this very thing, Jeremiah 26:20; Jeremiah 26:23; and Zechariah the son of Barachiah, or Jehoiada, who is lately already crowned: he; the first martyr under the first Temple; this; the last. Hear, thou Jew, who taxest Matthew in this place: your own authors assert, that Uriah the priest is to be understood by that Uriah who was killed by Jehoiakim; and that truly. We also assert, that Zechariah the son of Jehoiadah is to be understood by Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah; and that Matthew and Christ do not at all innovate in this name of Barachias, but did only pronounce the same things concerning the father of the martyr Zacharias, which God himself had pronounced before them by the prophet Isaiah.
Objection. But since our Saviour took examples from the Old Testament, why did he not rather say, "from the blood of Abel to the blood of Uriah the priest?" that is, from the beginning of the world to the end of the first Temple? I answer,
1. The killing of Zechariah was more horrible, as he was more high in dignity; and as the place wherein he was killed was more holy.
2. The consent of the whole people as more universal to his death.
3. He was a more proper and apparent type of Christ.
4. The requiring of vengeance is mentioned only concerning Abel and Zechariah: "Behold, the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me." And, "Let the Lord look upon it, and require it."
5. In this the death of Christ agrees exactly with the death of Zechariah; that, although the city and nation of the Jews did not perish till about forty years after the death of Christ, yet they gave themselves their death’s wound in wounding Christ. So it was also in the case of Zechariah: Jerusalem and the people of the Jews stood indeed many years after the death of Zechariah, but from that time began to sink, and draw towards ruin. Consult the story narrowly, and you will plainly find, that all the affairs of the Jews began to decline and grow worse and worse, from that time when "blood touched blood," (the blood of the sacrificer mingled with the blood of the sacrifice), and when "the people became contentious and rebellious against the priest."
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
[Jerusalem, that killest the prophets.] R. Solomon on those words, "But now murderers": "They have killed (saith he) Uriah, they have killed Zechariah." Also on these words, "Your sword hath devoured your prophets"; "Ye have slain (saith he) Zechariah and Isaiah." "Simeon Ben Azzai said, ’I have found a book of genealogies at Jerusalem, in which it was written, Manasseh slew Isaiah,’ " etc.