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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Matthew 12

Verse 1

12:1 At that time is a phrase that does not have any specific meaning as to date. On the same event Mar 2:23 and Luk 6:1 word the thought "it came to pass." It is the writer's way of introducing another subject, and if the particular date is important in determining the meaning it must be learned by the context. Corn in the Bible means small grain such as wheat or barley, and ears of corn means the heads. Deu 23:25 gives the public the right to make a personal use of this grain while in the field, but it was not permitted to cut any of the straw with a sickle.

Verse 2

12:2 The Pharisees knew about this law and hence could not accuse them of trespass. They were so eager to find fault, however, that they charged them with breaking the law of the sabbath.

Verse 3

12:3 Two wrongs never make one right, but these Pharisees pretended to have so much respect for David and other of the fathers or ancestors, that it was fair to refer to him in this manner to expose their hypocrisy.

Verse 4

12:4 The incident is recorded in 1 Samuel 21 when David was fleeing from Saul. He did not eat of the bread that was then on the table, but that which had been put back for the use of the priests after the table had been supplied with new loaves. While it was intended only for the priests, yet an emergency existed which allowed David and his men to eat. Likewise, the disciples were out from home with Jesus and were in need of food, and that justified them in eating in this way because the necessities of life do not constitute a violation of the sabbath law.

Verse 5

12:5 To profane means to make a secular use of a thing. Num 28:9-10 shows the priests performing the manual labor of handling an animal in the sacrifice. Joh 7:22-23 tells of a child being circumcised even on the sabbath day. The surgical act of performing circumcision was a manual one and hence technically violated the sabbath law. But it was understood that if an emergency or positive commandment called for some physical act even on the sabbath day, then the regular law as to its observance did not apply or bind the parties to its usual observance.

Verse 6

12:6 The temple was holy and it was the place where these manual performances were done. In this place means the case of Jesus and his disciples, and that it was of more importance at that time than the sanctity of the sabbath day.

Verse 7

12:7 This subject is explained at Mat 9:13.

Verse 8

12:8 The title Son of man is used only by Jesus himself, and it applies especially to him because he was born of a member of mankind, as well as having been begotten of God. Lord of the sabbath does not imply that he would belittle the law of the holy days. He was with his Father in all of the works of creation, also in the issuing of laws and dispensations for the conduct of human beings. Any lawmaking power has the right to alter its own edicts if and when it sees fit to meet an emergency, hence Jesus was within his rights in the above conduct.

Verse 9

12:9 The use of the synagogues is explained at Chapter 4:23. Jesus entered into such a place and there met another opportunity of performing a good work, also of exposing the hypocrisy of the Jews who were present.

Verse 10

2:10 Jesus was not long in meeting such an opportunity as referred to in the preceding verse. A hand withered means one that had been cut off from obtaining its normal share of moisture and nourishment from the circulation. The condition would be caused by some permanent obstruction that could not be cured by natural means. The account here says they asked him, while the accounts of the same event in both Mar 3:2 and Luk 6:7 say they watohed him. There is no contradiction for the last two passages explains the first to mean that they were asking that question in their minds. This conclusion is borne out by the 8th verse of Luke 6 which says, "But he knew their thoughts." The idea is that they had an accusing suspicion of him in their minds that Jesus would probably heal the man, then they could charge him with breaking the sabbath.

Verse 11

2:11 But, knowing their thoughts Jesus anticipated their verbal question and asked one himself. The manual labor necessary to lift a sheep out of a pit would be far greater than what is required to heal an afflicted man. Yet these critics would not hesitate performing that kind of deed even on the sabbath day.

Verse 12

2:12 The contrast between the value of a man and a sheep is so evident that they could not give Jesus any answer to his question. Lawful to do well was putting the case in an unexpected form. It ignored the technical fact of a physical action on the sabbath day and expressed the more important and unanswerable idea of doing well. They could not deny that it would be doing well to relieve a man of an affliction, neither would they presume to say that any time existed when it would be wrong to do well.

Verse 13

2:13 The hand only was afflicted, hence the man could use his arm to extend the hand toward Jesus. We have no doubht that Jesus could have healed the man without any ac tion on his part, but it has always been a feature of the Lord's dealings to require man to cooperate with Him. This was exhibited as an act of faith on the part of the afflicted man when he reached out his hand and so he received the favor of a cure.

Verse 14

2:14 The Pharisees displayed the very depths of wickedness in wanting to destroy Jesus. They could not deny the good done to the afflicted man, neither could they answer the reasoning that Jesus put to them, so the next resort was to destroy him. Council is from SUMBOULION and does not mean the sanhedrin, but a meeting especially called in the form of a consultation.

Verse 15

2:15 Jesus always knew what was going on and prevented the wicked designs of the Pharisees by leaving the scene. He was not intimidated from continuing his good works, for when the multitudes followed him he healed all that were afflicted.

Verse 16

2:16 Not make him known. See the comments at Mat 9:30.

Verse 17

2:17 That it might be fulfilled is explained at Mat 4:14.

Verse 18

2:18 The quotation is from Isa 42:1-3 which is the Old Testament form of Esaias. The pronouns of the first person refer to God. Gentiles means the nations in general. The favor of Christ's work was finally to be given the people of the world.

Verse 19

2:19 Strive is from ERIZO which Thayer defines, "To wrangle, engage in strife." Cry is from KRAUGAZO and defined, "To cry out, cry aloud." It means that Jesus was not to be a noisy, loud-mouthed person. His voice was not to be heard in the streets; he was not to be an ordinary "street preacher."

Verse 20

2:20 The figures in this verse are used for the same purpose as the preceding verse, to illustrate the gentleness and quietness with which Jesus was to go about his work. A reed in normal condition is not very resistant, much less if it has been bruised. Jesus would not use enough violence even to break such an article. Smoking flax denotes the wick in a candlestick that is being used as a light. Jesus would not use enough violence even to snuff out that imperfect light. He was to maintain that spirit until he had completed his work and was ready to sit upon his throne.

Verse 21

2:21 The word Gentile comes from different Greek words and they also are rendered by different words them as unworthy of respect as they in the Authorized Version. The gen- were trying to place Jesus. The general meaning of the word is that it refers to the people of the world who are not Jews. The Mosaic system was for the Jews only while that given by Christ was for universal benefit.

Verse 22

2:22 Being possessed with a devil is explained at chapter 8:28. It was the man who was rendered blind and dumb, for when the devil was cast out the man spoke.

Verse 23

2:23 It was known by many tbat David was to have a descendant who would be a wonderful man in many respects. When they saw these mighty works being performed by Jeeus, they concluded that he was that ODe predicted by the prophets.

Verse 24

2:24 The Pharisees could not deny the fact of the casting out of the devil, for the people were there and saw the evidence of it. They thought of robbing Jesus of his proper credit by reflecting against the power by which he did it. It was known that Beelzebub (Satan) had displayed supernatural power, hence it seemed convenient to reason that he could be working through Jesus, little realizing how their inconsistency would soon be exposed and turned against them.

Verse 25

2:25 Jesus knew their thoughts. The Pharisees did not always express themselves directly to Jesus because they were too cowardly to do so, but they would make their remarks to the multitude. But they could not escape exposure in that way because the Lord always knows what people are thinking. He therefore made this argument based on the unreasonableness of their statement. For Beelzebub to assist Jesus in casting out the devils, beings in the same wicked moral class as Satan himself, would be like a kingdom engaging in conflict with itself which would certainly bring it to ruin.

Verse 26

2:26 Satan is one of the names of Beelzebub and he would be interested in the same conditions that would be favorable to the other devils, and surely would not cooperate with Jesus or any other person in opposing their interests. these persons really did cast out devils, they just made that claim such as the case in Act 19:13. But their position on the subject gave Christ another basis for exposing their inconsistency. They would not admit that their children did their work by the help of Beelzebub, for that would be classing

Verse 27

2:27 Jesus did not admit that these persons really did cast out devils, they just made that claim such as the case in Act 19:13. But their position on the subject gave Christ another basis for exposing their inconsistency. They would not admit that their children did their work by the help of Beelzebub, for that would be classing

Verse 28

2:28 Taking for granted, then, that Christ was doing his work by the Spirit of God, it would prove his claim that he was the one to bring the kingdom of God to them.

Verse 29

2:29. This verse is another argument against the accusation of the Pharisees. Whoever can enter forcefully into a man's house and plunder him must be stronger than Verse 23. It was known by many he. Likewise, to overcome Satan and that David was to have a descendant cast him out of his lodgings, one who would be a wonderful man in would have to be stronger than he. many respects. When they saw these Therefore, it could not be Satan doing mighty works being performed by this for that would be making him Jesus, they concluded that he was that stronger than himself. one predicted by the prophets.

Verse 30

2:30 This verse is a conclusive statement of principle on which Jesus regards all intelligent creatures. There is no neutrality between the kingdom of Christ and that of Satan. A man may refuse to be outwardly an advocate of the kingdom of Christ but still wish to profess being in favor of it. But in that case he will be regarded as an active worker in the kingdom of Satan and against that of Christ.

Verse 31

2:31 All manner of sin. This phrase is so direct and complete that it will not admit a single exception but the one that Jesus makes. (More on this thought in the next verse.) The original word for blasphemy is defined by Thayer as follows: "Universally, slander, detraction, speech injurious to another's good name." forgiven. Neither in this world, neither in the world to come. The original word for world is AION and one meaning of it is "age." When Jesus spoke this passage the Jewish age was in force, and the Christian age was to come. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven under

Verse 32

2:32 Sometimes persons will attempt to formulate a description of some very wicked actions. They may think they have an unanswerable argument when they tell of the vicious things that have been said about Christ, and state that such conduct as that must be the "unpardonable sin" if there ever was any. Yet our present verse is directly against that because it specifically says that speaking against the Son of man "shall be forgiven." It should be noted that the Scriptures in no place calls this the "unpardonable" sin. We do not know that it would be impossible for God to pardon this sin, but we are told plainly in these two verses that it shall not be forgiven. Neither in this world, neither in the world to come. The original word for world is AION and one meaning of it is “age.” When Jesus spoke this passage the Jewish age was in force, and the Christian age was to come. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven under either dispensation. This sin will be described in detail at Mar 3:30. To say that the world to come means the life in heaven would im0ly that some sins will be forgiven at that time which we know is not true. All sin, whether “pardonable” or not will have o have been forgiven before the judgment day for any person to enter into that life. At that time the status of every intelligent being will be as described in Rev 22:11.

Verse 33

2:33 Make is said in the sense of describe or consider or classify. The clause means that as a bad tree cannot produce good fruit, so the good work of casting out a devil could not be done by a wicked character like Satan.

Verse 34

2:34 Generation of vipers is defined by Thayer, "Offspring of vipers," and the same author explains his definition thus: "Addressed to cunning, malignant, wicked men." On the principle that a corrupt tree cannot produce good fruit, these wicked Pharisees are unable to bring forth good fruit in the way of righteous words or deeds. It is under that rule of reasoning that Jesus accuses them of having an evil heart, because the words of their mouth were evil against the Holy Spirit.

Verse 35

2:35 See the preceding verse for the explanation of this.

Verse 36

2:36 The original for idle is ARGOS, and its proper or literal meaning is to be worthless or meaningless. Such a word not only cannot convey any good impression to the hearer, but it might be mistaken for something the speaker never intended. To make that use of language would therefore be wrong and will have to be accounted for.

Verse 37

2:37 See the comments at Mat 11:19 on the word justified, to learn in what sense a man may be justified by his words. It should be noted that the text does not say a man will be justified by his words only.

Verse 38

2:38 The word sign is from SEMEION which has been rendered in the Authorized Version by miracle 22 times, sign 51, token 1, wonder 3. Jesus worked miracles for a testimony to those who were honestly disposed toward information, but there is no case on record where he did it to gratify mere curiosity. These Jews had just witnessed the casting out of the devil, and that should have convinced them that Jesus was a good man to say the least. This present re quest was in the nature of a challenge, and it also was in line with the leading characteristic of their race (1Co 1:22).

Verse 39

2:39 For the reasons expressed in the preceding paragraph, Jesus called them an evil generation and refused to perform any miracle at that time. However, he was willing to stake his reputation as a prophet on an event yet to come.

Verse 40

2:40 Just as certainly as Jonas spent three days and three nights within the whale, so the Son of man will spend that much time in the heart or inner part of the earth. The subject has two significant parts as it pertains to the test that Jesus proposed. If he spends a stipulated time only in the earth, then he must come forth unharmed as Jonas did from the whale, which would prove him to be a man under the care of God. Likewise, if and when that occurs it will prove Jesus to have been a true prophet at the time he spoke this to the Jews.

Verse 41

2:41 We know that Christ will be the only one to sit on the throne of judgment at the last day, hence all apparent statements to the contrary are to be understood in some accommodative sense. The word condemn is from KATAKRINO which Thayer defines, "b. by one's good example to render another's wickedness the more evident and censurable." If the men of Nineveh were willing to repent at the preaching of a man like Jonas, there will be no excuse for people who have had that of the Son of man given them.

Verse 42

2:42 The lesson of responsibility based upon opportunity is that in the preceding verse and is the same in this. If as notable a person as a queen would come so far to hear the wisdom of a man, surely the people should show greater interest in the wisdom of such a person as Jesus. This woman is called the queen of the south because the country of Sheba was a great distance from Judea and was south as to direction and in such a trip signified that a great territory was represented.

Verse 43

2:43 Jesus made some arguments based on the practices and beliefs of the people without necessarily endorsing those beliefs. (See comments at verse 27). The Jews believed that the devils haunted the deserts, but made raids into the places of civilization to torment human beings. One of those devils was cast out of a man and it went back to its regular dwelling place (according to the Jewish notion) but could not find a satisfactory spot to rest.

Verse 44

4-45 A man's body is likened to a house and hence the clearing out of the demon is called the sweeping and cleaning of a house. The demon saw the place he had just been occupying in such an inviting condition that he wanted to share it with his special friends and took them with him. Logically, then, that man was in worse condition than he was the first time. Let the reader remember that Jesus is only using this notion of the Jews for an illustration, not that he endorses it, and it serves as a likening of what was to come to their race. The things used for the story existed only in the belief of the Jews, but the thing it was used to illustrate was to come as an actual experience upon the nation. The Jews at first accepted the Gospel and furnished many recruits, but the nation as a whole turned against it and became unbelievers. Their city was finally destroyed and they became the object of scorn in the eyes of the peoples of the world.

Verse 46

2:46 Brethren is from ADELPHOS which Thayer defines as follows: "1. A brother (whether born of the same two parents, or only of the same father or the same mother): Mat 1:2; Mat 4:18 and often. That 'the brethren of Jesus,' Mat 12:46-47; Mat 13:55; Mar 6:3 (in the last two passages also sisters); Luk 8:19; Joh 2:12; Joh 7:3; Act 1:14; Gal 1:19; 1Co 9:5, are neither sons of Joseph by a wife before Mary (which is the account in the Apocryphal Gospels), nor cousins, the children of Alphaeus or Cleophas (i. e., Clopas) and Mary, a sister of the mother of Jesus (the current opinion among the doctors of the church since Jerome and Augustine), according to that use of language by which ADELPHOS like the Hebrew . . . denotes any blood-relation or kinsman, but own brothers, born after Jesus, is clear principally from Mat 1:25; Luk 2:7 . . . where, had Mary borne no other children after Jesus, instead of HUION PROTOTOKON, the expression HUION MONOGENE would have been used, as well as from Act 1:14; Joh 7:5, where the Lord's brethren are distinguished from the apostles." For the convenience of the reader and to save him from confusion, I will state that this quotation from the lexicon shows that Jesus had fleshly brothers who were the children of Joseph and Mary, and that Mary did not remain a virgin after the birth of Jesus as the Romanists teach.

Verse 47

2:47 Jesus never disrespected his mother but treated her as any man should the woman who had given him birth, but the people needed the lesson that is set down here, and it was for their benefit that he spoke.

Verse 48

2:48 The question does not indicate that Jesus intended to ignore his family relations, or that he did not recognize them; it was not asked for that purpose.

Verse 49

2:49 After the aforesaid remark, Jesus pointed toward his disciples as an answer to his own question. Since the persons included in the gesture were men and women, while he named three relationships regarding family ties, we know he had some figurative sense in mind for the terms.

Verse 50

2:50 The only proper relationship that can be produced by obedience to the will of God is that of brethren. Thus the conclusion is necessary that no earthly relative should be regarded as near to one as our fellowship with Christ.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 12". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/matthew-12.html. 1952.