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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 12

 

 

Introduction

Matthew 12. Mt. here picks up the Marcan thread dropped at Matthew 9:17. He uses the Sabbath question as part of a group of material dealing with Pharisaic hostility to Jesus.


Verses 1-8

Matthew 12:1-8. Sabbath Observance (Mark 2:23-28*, Luke 6:1-5).—The incident shows that the disciples were learning their Master's teaching. Deuteronomy 23:25 allowed the practice, but the Rabbinical objection to it on the Sabbath was that it was reaping. The variations from Mk. are not important, except the omission of the mistaken reference to Abiathar, and the addition of Matthew 12:5-7 as a further and stronger historic exception. Various kinds of Sabbath work were not only permitted but commanded to the priests. Matthew 12:6 f. perhaps belonged originally to another occasion. It reminds us of John 7:23, and here prepares the way for Mt.'s Messianic use of "Son of Man" in Matthew 12:8, a use which does away with Mark 2:27.


Verses 9-14

Matthew 12:9-14. The Sabbath Healing which Determined Pharisaic Hostility (Mark 3:1-6*, Luke 6:6-11).—Mt. makes the Pharisees utter their question, and Jesus to reply, in words found in another connexion in Lk. (Luke 14:5). Matthew 12:12 a is peculiar to Matthew 12:12 b elevates and broadens the Pharisees' question in Matthew 12:10. We may note that the Rabbis allowed that "every case where life is in jeopardy supersedes the Sabbath," and that under certain conditions animals might be rescued on the Sabbath and on festivals.


Verses 15-21

Matthew 12:15-21. Miracles of Healing (Mark 3:7-12*, Luke 6:17-19).—Mt. first condenses five verses of Mk. into one (the compression makes Jesus heal all who followed Him), and, fixing attention on Jesus' avoidance of publicity (Matthew 8:4*), expands one verse of Mk. into six by a quotation (Isaiah 42:1-4) from his handbook of Messianic testimonies (Matthew 1:22*). This identification of the Servant of Yahweh with the Messiah (as portrayed e.g. in Isaiah 11) is found in the Targum. The preaching of "judgment" (Matthew 12:18) and "hope" (Matthew 12:21) to the Gentiles was not part of Jesus' work as He conceived it (cf. Matthew 15:24, Matthew 28:19). Matthew 12:19 is the link with the narrative—Jesus avoids strife with the Pharisees by going away, and advertisement by His prohibition. With Matthew 12:20; cf. Matthew 11:30; "the crushed reed and the smouldering wick are those who are morally all but powerless."—unto victory: Habakkuk 1:4 (mg.) has here influenced Mt.'s quotation; it is essential for him to predict the triumph of the Messianic characteristics he has ascribed to Jesus.


Verses 22-45

Matthew 12:22-45. Jesus' Answer to the Verdict of the Jerusalem Scribes, and the Intervention of His Family (Mark 3:20-35*, Luke 11:14-23; Luke 11:29-32; Luke 12:10; Luke 8:19-21).—For the painful statement in Mark 3:20 f. Mt. (like Lk.) substitutes the healing of a blind and dumb man probably a second (compressed) use of Matthew 9:27-31 and Matthew 9:32-34. The word for "were amazed" is an adaptation of the word for "is beside himself" in Mk. To Mk.'s account of Satan "divided against Satan" Mt. adds Matthew 12:27 f., probably from Q, which Lk. also draws on at this point. The verses form an additional line of defence—"if your own exorcists are not assisted by Beelzebub, they condemn your condemnation of me." The only alternative is that (they—and) I work by the finger (Mt., in view of Matthew 12:31, "spirit") of God, His power is besting that of Satan, and His Kingdom is at hand. Or perhaps Matthew 12:27 and Matthew 12:28 are independent of each other, and were already interpolated in Q when Mt. and Lk. used it. Mt. (like Lk.) also adds Matthew 12:30—neutrality towards Jesus is impossible (cf. Luke 2:34 f.). This is a test for men to use upon themselves. For the inverted form of the saying see Mark 9:40 =Luke 9:50 (addressed to disciples about outsiders). In Matthew 12:31 f. Mt. abbreviates and duplicates Mk.'s single statement; Lk. (Luke 12:10) takes Mt.'s second half. "Son of man" in Matthew 12:32 probably means "man." Of the four forms in which we have the saying that in Lk. seems most trustworthy. The contrast is between slandering men and slandering the Spirit of God. Jesus is speaking as a Jew to Jews in language based on OT (Numbers 15:30 f., 1 Samuel 31:3 mg., Isaiah 22:14), and current in His day; He simply means that blasphemy against the Divine Spirit, by whose power He worked, was an infinitely more serious matter than slandering one's fellow-men, bad though that be. Then follow some sayings on the importance of words (cf. Luke 6:43-45). Matthew 9:33 is a less original form of Matthew 7:16 a, Matthew 7:17 f.* Between "fruit" and "good" we should supply "will be"; similarly between "fruit" and ‘corrupt." Matthew 12:34 brings Jesus close to the severity of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7); cf. also James 3:11 f. Not only "evil" words but "idle" words, words that are not meant to effect anything, will come up for judgment. Matthew 12:37 was perhaps a current proverb.

Matthew 12:25. Kingdom—city—house: Mt. alone gives this triad. "House" in all three evangelists may have its Aramaic meaning of a province or district.

Matthew 12:28. kingdom of God: cf. Matthew 21:31; Matthew 21:43*. Perhaps Mt. only used his usual "kingdom of heaven," where the sense is clearly eschatological.

Matthew 12:29. the strong man: Satan.—his goods: the men in his power who are "spoiled" or carried off by the stronger than the strong.


Verses 38-42

Matthew 12:38-42. The Request for a Sign Refused (Luke 11:29-32. From Q. Cf. Mark 8:11 f.*=Matthew 16:1-2 a, Matthew 16:4).—Mt. uses the incident here as an additional illustration of the hostility between the Pharisees and Jesus. They ask for some more authentic and unique attestation of His claim than a miracle of healing or an everyday exorcism. But to a people that has been God's unfaithful bride no sign shall be given but that of Jonah. As he, coming from a foreign land, appeared in Nineveh preaching doom, so has the Son of Man arrived in Israel proclaiming judgment. Luke 11:30 is much to be preferred to Matthew 12:40, which is an obvious gloss (cf. its omission in Matthew 16:4), and one that enshrines an inaccurate prediction. "The heart of the earth" is Hades. In Matthew 12:41 f. read "shall stand up in judgment" (omitting "the"), i.e. "shall accuse." Jonah was a prophet, Jesus the consummation of prophecy; Solomon a wise man, Jesus Wisdom itself (Matthew 11:19 b, Matthew 11:27).


Verses 43-50

Matthew 12:43-50. The connexion of Matthew 12:43 is with Matthew 12:30, as is shown by Lk.; neutrality in the spiritual life cannot last. The point of the illustration is that the Jews had felt the influence of John and Jesus, but were in danger of relapsing into a worse state than ever, if they did not submit themselves entirely to that coming of the Holy Spirit which was the proper continuation of the work begun by the two preachers.

Matthew 12:44. empty: i.e. free from lumber and rubbish; garnished: either furnished or beautified.

Matthew 12:46-50 : cf. Mark 3:31-35* For the "brethren of Jesus" cf. Matthew 1:25*. By changing Mk.'s "God" into "my Father which is in heaven," Mt. rather pointedly limits Jesus' earthly spiritual relation to brothers, sisters, and mothers. Matthew 12:47 is not found in the best texts. Lk. (Luke 8:19-21) puts the incident after the Parable of the Sower.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Matthew 12:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/matthew-12.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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