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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
Matthew 12



Verse 1

Time ( καιπῷ )

Rev., season. The word implies particular time; as related to some event, a convenient, appropriate time; absolutely, a particular point of time, or a particular season, like spring or winter.

Corn ( σπορίμων )

From σπείρω , to sow. Properly, as Rev., corn-fields.

Verse 2

What is not lawful

“On any ordinary day this would have been lawful; but on the Sabbath it involved, according to the Rabbinic statutes, at least two sins, viz., plucking the ears, which was reaping, and rubbing them in their hands (Luke 6:1), which was sifting, grinding, or fanning. The Talmud says: 'In case a woman rolls wheat to remove the husks, it is considered as sifting; if she rubs the heads of wheat, it is regarded as threshing; if she cleans off the side-adherencies, it is sifting out fruit; if she bruises the ears, it is grinding; if she throws them up in her hand, it is winnowing'” (Edersheim, “Life and Times of Jesus”).

Verse 6

One greater ( μείζων )

The correct reading makes the adjective neuter, so that the right rendering is something greater (Rev., in margin). The reference is, of course, to Christ himself (compare Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42, where the neuter πλεῖον , more (so Rev., in margin), is used in the same way). Compare, also, John 2:19, where Christ speaks of his own body as a temple. The indefiniteness of the neuter gives a more solemn and impressive sense.

Verse 10

Is it lawful ( εἰ ἔξεστιν )

The εἰ can hardly be rendered into English. It gives an indeterminate, hesitating character to the question: I would like to know if, etc.

Verse 13

Stretch forth thy hand

The arm was not withered.

Verse 20


The Hebrew is, literally, a dimly burning wick he shall not quench (Isaiah 42:3). The quotation stops at the end of the third verse in the prophecy; but the succeeding verse is beautifully suggestive as describing the Servant of Jehovah by the same figures in which he pictures his suffering ones - a wick and a reed. “He shall not burn dimly, neither shall his spirit be crushed.” He himself, partaking of the nature of our frail humanity, is both a lamp and a reed, humble, but not to be broken, and the “light of the world.” Compare the beautiful passage in Dante, where Cato directs Virgil to wash away the stains of the nether world from Dante's face, and to prepare him for the ascent of the purgatorial mount by girding him with a rush, the emblem of humility:

“Go, then, and see thou gird this one about

With a smooth rush, and that thou wash his face,

So that thou cleanse away all stain therefrom.

For 'twere not fitting that the eye o'ercast

By any mist should go before the first

Angel, who is of those of Paradise.

This little island, round about its base,

Below there, yonder, where the billow beats it,

Doth rushes bear upon its washy ooze.

No other plant that putteth forth the leaf,

Or that doth indurate, can there have life,

Because it yieldeth not unto the shocks.

he begirt me as the other pleased;

O marvellous I for even as he culled

The humble plant, such it sprang up again

Suddenly there where he uprooted it.”

Purg., i., 94-105,138-187.

Verse 26

He is divided ( ἐμερίσθη )

Lit., “he was divided. If he is casting himself out, there must have been a previous division.

Verse 28

Is come unto you ( ἔφθασεν ἐφ ' ὑμᾶς )

The verb is used in the simple sense to arrive at (2 Corinthians 10:14; Philemon 3:16), and sometimes to anticipate (1 Thessalonians 4:15). Here with a suggestion of the latter sense, which is also conveyed by the Rev., “comeupon. It has come upon you before you expected it.

Verse 29

Of a strong man ( τοῦ ἰσχυροῦ )

Rev. rightly gives the force of the article, the strong man. Christ is not citing a general illustration, but is pointing to a specific enemy - Satan. How can I despoil Satan without first having conquered him?

Goods ( σκεύη )

The word originally means a vessel, and so mostly in the New Testament. See Mark 11:16; John 19:29. But also the entire equipment of a house, collectively: chattels, house-gear. Also the baggage of an army. Here in the sense of house-gear. Compare Luke 17:31; Acts 27:17, of the gear or tackling of the ship. Rev., lowered the gear.

Verse 32

The Holy Spirit ( τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου )

The Spirit - the holy. These words define more clearly the blasphemy against the Spirit, Matthew 12:31.

Verse 35

Bringeth forth ( ἐκβάλλει )

But the translation is feeble. The word means to throw or fling out. The good or evil things come forth out of the treasure of the heart (Matthew 12:34). “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The issues of the heart are thrown out, as if under pressure of the abundance within.

Verse 36

Idle ( ἀργὸν )

A good rendering. The word is compounded of ἀ , not, and ἔργον , work. An idle word is a non -working word; an inoperative word. It has no legitimate work, no officeno business, but is morally useless and unprofitable.

Verse 39

Adulterous ( μοιχαλὶς )

A very strong and graphic expression, founded upon the familiar Hebrew representation of the relation of God's people to him under the figure of marriage. See Psalm 73:27; Isaiah 57:3 sqq.; Isaiah 62:5; Ezekiel 23:27. Hence idolatry and intercourse with Gentiles were described as adultery; and so here, of moral unfaithfulness to God. Compare James 4:4:; Revelation 2:20 sqq. Thus Dante:

“Where Michael wrought

Vengeance upon the proud adultery.”

Inf., vii., 12.

Verse 40

The whale ( τοῦ κήτους )

A general term for a sea-monster.

Verse 41

Shall rise up ( ἀναστήσονται )

Rev., stand up. Come forward as witnesses. Compare Mark 14:57. There is no reference to rising from the dead. Similarlyshall rise up, Matthew 12:42. Compare Matthew 11:11; Matthew 24:11.

A greater ( πλεῖον )

Lit., something more. See on Matthew 12:6.

Verse 49

Disciples ( μαθητὰς )

Not the apostles only, but all who followed him in the character of learners. The Anglo-Saxon renders learning knights.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 12:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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