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Bible Commentaries
Mark 12

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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Mark 12:1-12 In the parable of the vineyard let out to wicked husbandmen Christ foretells the reprobation of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles.

Mark 12:13-17 His reply to the insidious question concerning paying tribute to Caesar.

Mark 12:18-27 He confutes the Sadducees who questioned him concerning the resurrection.

Mark 12:28-34 He shows which are the two great commandments of the law.

Mark 12:35-37 He proposes a difficulty to the scribes concerning the character of Christ.

Mark 12:38-40 He cautions the people against their ambition and hypocrisy,

Mark 12:41-44 and values the poor widow’s two mites above all the gifts of the rich.

Verses 1-12

This parable is related by Matthew, and by Luke also: See Poole on "Matthew 21:33", and following verses to Matthew 21:46. Matthew 21:12 tells us, that the rulers of the Jewish church knew that he had spoken this parable against them, and they needs must know it, considering what Matthew adds to this parable, (which Mark and Luke have not), that he also told them, Matthew 21:43, Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. By the man planting a vineyard, is to be understood God, who, Psalms 80:8-11, brought a vine out of Egypt, and cast out the heathen, and planted it in the land of Canaan, and prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. It was a noble vine, a right seed, Jeremiah 2:21. God planted it in a fruitful hill; he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, Isaiah 5:1,Isaiah 5:2. The church of the Jews then was this vineyard, which God hedged by his providence, and gave them all means necessary for the production of fruit. The servants sent to receive the fruit, so abused by the husbandmen, (as Mark 12:2-5,) were the prophets. 2 Chronicles 36:16 is a compendious exposition of these verses.

They mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words and misused his prophets. The son mentioned as sent at last was Christ, and the latter part of the parable is prophetical, foretelling what they should do unto him, and also of the ruin of the Jewish nation and church, and the passing of the gospel to the Gentiles, who should more freely believe in Christ, and embrace and receive the gospel: so as they should not obtain their end; but Christ, though rejected by them, should yet be the Head of a far larger and more glorious church, according to a prophecy owned by themselves as a piece of holy writ, Psalms 118:22. See Poole on "Matthew 21:33", &c.

Verses 13-18

See Poole on "Matthew 22:15", and following verses to Matthew 22:22. The Sadducees most probably derived their name from one Sadoc, scholar to Antigonus Sochaeus. It is said that the occasion of their heresy was their master’s teaching them, that they must not serve God as servants for rewards. Upon which they builded their notion, that there is no resurrection, no rewards nor punishments in another life. They denied the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body, and angels, and spirits, Acts 23:8; attributed all to free will, denying fate and destiny; they rejected traditions, and owned no Scriptures but the five books of Moses. They seemed to be a kind of rational divines, that would own and believe nothing but what they could fathom by their reason, or was obvious to their sense; and their doctrine was excellently suited to men’s lusts, who desire not to be troubled with any thoughts of a world to come. Nothing more shows the degeneracy and debauchery of human nature than this, that to gratify their sensual appetites more freely in the things of this life, they will be content to think of annihilation, (which nature not debauched abhors), and of quitting all hopes of eternal life and happiness, that they may have a principle to warrant their living like beasts. They come to our Saviour, thinking to flout him and his hearers out of the doctrine of the resurrection, as having insuperable difficulties to clog it. But he that takes the wise in their own craftiness, shows these wise men, that all their wisdom was but folly, and their argument wholly proceeded ex ignoratione elenchi, from their not understanding the thing they would philosophize about.

Verses 19-27

The true question about the resurrection was: Whether the bodies of the dead shall rise or not? Not whether they shall arise with the same qualities, affections, powers, &c. They are sown natural, but they shall rise spiritual, bodies, without affections and qualities disposing them to actions only necessary for the supporting the natural life, such as hunger and thirst, &c.; or for the upholding the world, that while one generation passeth it might be supplied by another, such as an appetite to marriage, &c.: what needs this when all generations shall be determined in the everlasting world? So as in truth these learned men showed themselves dunces, wholly ignorant of what they came to argue upon. They should first have proved that there would be any need of wives, or any such thing as marriage, after the world should have an end. In the mean time our Saviour proveth the resurrection out of the writings of Moses, owned by themselves for holy writ. Without a resurrection Abraham would not be Abraham, nor Isaac Isaac, nor Jacob Jacob. See the notes on this part of the history: See Poole on "Matthew 22:24", and following verses to Matthew 22:32.

Verses 28-34

See the notes on "Matthew 22:35", and following verses to Matthew 22:40, where whatsoever Mark here hath is opened.

Verses 35-37

See Poole on "Matthew 22:41", and following verses to Matthew 22:46. Matthew saith that Christ spake this to the Pharisees, who were very far from acknowledging Christ God man, or indeed expecting a Messiah that should be so. Had they owned Christ, and the hypostatical union of the two natures in him, the answer had been easy.

Verses 38-40

See Poole on "Matthew 23:5", and following verses to Matthew 23:7, See Poole on "Matthew 23:14". The more men and women want of real worth and value, the more they seek themselves a reputation from their habits, either the gravity, or the riches and gaudery, of them; and the more they court titles of honour and dignity, and affect external respect. Whereas nobler souls despise these things, being like pictures well drawn, which need no superscription to tell men what or whose they are. Good men are satisfied from themselves, and as not careless of their reputation, so neither careful who men say that they are. But these verses are more fully discoursed on Matthew twenty-three, to which I refer the reader for satisfaction.

Verses 41-44

This is the only piece of history in this chapter which we did not before meet with in Matthew. Luke hath this, Luke 21:1-4. For the understanding of this history, both as to the letter and profitable instruction arising from it, we must know, that in the temple (where our Saviour now was) there was a treasury, or rather treasuries. And famous Dr. Lightfoot said, there were treasure chambers, called Lesacoth, and thirteen treasure chests, called Shopheroth, all called by the general name of Corban or Corbonah. Two of these chests were for the half shekel, which every Israelite was to pay according to the law, Exodus 30:12,Exodus 30:13. There were eleven more, the inscription upon which showed what money should be put there.

1. For the price of the two turtle doves, or two young pigeons.

2. For the burnt offering of birds.

3. For the money offered to buy wood for the altar.

4. For those who gave money to buy frankincense.

5. For those who offered gold for the mercy seat.

6. For the residue of the money for the sin offering.

7. For the residue of the money for a trespass offering.

8. For the residue of an offering of birds.

9. For the surplus of a Nazarite’s offering.

10. For the residue of a leper’s trespass offering.

11. For whosoever would offer an offering of the herd.

The Israelites, tied to their several offerings, were not tied to

provide them themselves, but they might bring sums of money, with which the priests provided them, and if there were a surpulsage, it was put into one or other of these chests. These chests were placed in that part of the temple which was called the court of the women, not because none but women might come there, but because women might go no further, as the court of the Gentiles (into which Jews came) was so called because the Gentiles might go no further. Our Lord so sat, as he observed men come and put their offerings into one of these chests. He saw many Jews that were rich casting in much money of silver, or gold, or brass, though brass money was most in use. Amongst others a poor widow came;

she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. As to the value of what she threw in, let us hear the learned Dr. Lightfoot in his Temple Service, chapter 19.

“The weight of the piece of silver mentioned in the law, was three hundred and twenty barley corns. The wise men added to it, and made it four hundred and eighty-four middle barley corns. This made four Denarii; each Denarius made six Meahs, which in Moses’s time was called a Gerah. The Meah made two Pondions; the Pondion made two Issarines or Assariusses. The Assarius, or Issarine, was the weight of four barley corns, the weight of a mite was half a barley corn.”

According to this rate, the widows’s two mites made in silver the weight of a middle barley corn. This our Saviour calls all that she had, and all her living. The Greek is all her life, that is, all that she had to sustain her life. Arias Montanus thinks that that which is meant is, all that she had to uphold her life for one day. For it is said, that this quantity was usually reckoned the livelihood, or a sufficiency, for a poor man for a day. Christ said, she had cast in more than any of the rest; not more strictly, but pro rata, comparing what they were able to do with what she was able to do. The two great instructions which this history affords us are:

1. That the poorer sort of people are not excused from good works, 2 Corinthians 8:2,2 Corinthians 8:3.

2. That God in his acceptation of our good works looks at the heart, the will, and affections, not at the quantum of what we do: If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not, 2 Corinthians 8:12. It is the obedience and love which God accepteth, not the quantum of the gift.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Mark 12". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/mark-12.html. 1685.
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