Devotional Readings

Luke 20 – Selected verses and observations from related text and John Gill commentary

At Rick of being exceedingly wordy, I post this sketch of a verse study of Luke 20. You will see this is just raw text, I have not attempted to over lay any of my own commentary, except in the selection of the text and observations to highlight.

First here is the whole chapter:

The Authority of Jesus Challenged

Luk 20:1  And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,

Luk 20:2  And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?

Luk 20:3  And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me:

Luk 20:4  The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?

Luk 20:5  And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not?

Luk 20:6  But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.

Luk 20:7  And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.

Luk 20:8  And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Luk 20:9  Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.

Luk 20:10  And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.

Luk 20:11  And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty.

Luk 20:12  And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.

Luk 20:13  Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him.

Luk 20:14  But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.

Luk 20:15  So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?

Luk 20:16  He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.

Luk 20:17  And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?

Luk 20:18  Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

Paying Taxes to Caesar

Luk 20:19  And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.

Luk 20:20  And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.

Luk 20:21  And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly:

Luk 20:22  Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?

Luk 20:23  But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?

Luk 20:24  Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s.

Luk 20:25  And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.

Luk 20:26  And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.

Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

Luk 20:27  Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,

Luk 20:28  Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

Luk 20:29  There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children.

Luk 20:30  And the second took her to wife, and he died childless.

Luk 20:31  And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died.

Luk 20:32  Last of all the woman died also.

Luk 20:33  Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.

Luk 20:34  And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:

Luk 20:35  But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:

Luk 20:36  Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

Luk 20:37  Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

Luk 20:38  For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.

Luk 20:39  Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said.

Luk 20:40  And after that they durst not ask him any question at all.

Whose Son Is the Christ?

Luk 20:41  And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David’s son?

Luk 20:42  And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,

Luk 20:43  Till I make thine enemies thy footstool.

Luk 20:44  David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?

Beware of the Scribes

Luk 20:45  Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples,

Luk 20:46  Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;

Luk 20:47  Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.

Here are selected verses….
Luk 20:1  And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,
Rom 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Rom 1:17  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Mat 17:9  And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
Mat 17:10  And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
Mat 17:11  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
Mat 17:12  But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
Mat 17:13  Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
Luk 20:2  And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?
Luk 20:8  And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
Mat 4:8  Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
Mat 4:9  And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
Mat 4:10  Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Mat 28:18  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Mat 28:19  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mat 28:20  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Luk 20:17  And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?
the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? The passage is in Psa 118:22. See Gill on Mat 21:42.
Psa 118:22  The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
Mat 21:42  Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
Matthew 21:42
Jesus saith unto them, did ye never read the Scriptures,…. The passage which stands in Psa 118:22.
The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. Very appropriately is this Scripture cited, and applied to the present case; which expresses the rejection of the Messiah by the Jewish builders, priests, and scribes: the whole Psalm may be understood of the Messiah. R. David Kimchi owns (z), that there is a division among their Rabbins about it: some say that the Psalm is spoken of David, and others, that it is spoken of the days of the Messiah; and these are certainly in the right; and as for this particular passage, it is applied by some of them to the Messiah: so on mentioning Hos 3:5 they (a) say,
“David was king in this world, and David shall be king in the time to come: wherefore it is said, the stone which the builders refused, &c.
And one of their noted commentators (b) on those words, “though thou be little among the thousands of Judah”, has this note:
“It is fit thou shouldest be little among the families of Judah, because of the impurity of Ruth the Moabitess, which is in thee: out of thee shall come forth unto me, Messiah, the son of David; for so he saith, “the stone which the builders refused”, &c.
Christ is often in Scripture compared to a stone, and is called the stone of Israel; is said to be a stone of stumbling to some, and a precious tried stone to others: is represented as a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and on which are seven eyes: and is fitly compared to one, for his usefulness in the spiritual building the church, where he is as both the foundation and corner stone, and for his strength and duration. Christ is the sure, firm, and everlasting foundation, which God has laid in Zion, and the only one of any avail; nor can any other be laid to any purpose; and if he is neglected, and laid aside, in the ministration of the word, the building which men endeavour to rear, or exhort unto, will come to nothing. Whoever build on him are safe, and on nothing else: Christ is the foundation, on which the church, and every believer, are built, and therefore will abide; for the gates of hell cannot prevail against them: the covenant of grace is immoveable, being established in him; its mercies are sure, and its promises yea and amen: the salvation of immortal souls is certain, resting upon him; the faith and hope of the saints fail not, being directed to, and settled on him: the house not made with hands, which is in heaven, is an eternal one; and the city, which has foundations, is a continuing one, because of the concern that Christ has in it; and though he is of such eminent use and importance in the building, yet, as such, the “builders rejected” him: by the builders are meant, the Jewish rulers, both political and ecclesiastical, especially the latter, who pretended to instruct, and build up the people in knowledge and understanding; but in a very bad way did they do it, and upon a very sandy foundation, upon their fleshly privileges, their moral righteousness, and the observance of the ceremonial law, and the traditions of the elders. The Jews used to call their doctors and their scholars “builders” (c): says R. Jochanan,
“the disciples of the wise men are called בנאין, “builders”, because they study in the building of the world all their days, which is the law.
These rejected the Messiah, refused to receive, and acknowledge him as such: they disallowed and disapproved of him, as base and vile, and the most contemptible of mortals, and set him at nought, and had him in the utmost scorn and derision. And so he is rejected by some who bear the characters of builders among Christians: as when his proper deity, and eternal sonship are denied, and he is treated as a mere creature; when his satisfaction and atoning sacrifice are either wholly rejected, or little regarded, lessened, and depreciated, and repentance and good works are put in the room of them; when his imputed righteousness is opposed, and laid aside, and the righteousness of men preferred unto it, and cried up as the matter of justification in the sight of God; when his efficacious grace is represented as unnecessary to regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, and to the performance of good works; and when he is left out of public ministrations, as the way of life and salvation, as the fountain of all grace, and foundation of all happiness, and human power, free will, and moral righteousness are put in his room. But notwithstanding the former and present rejection, and ill treatment of him, he is
become the head of the corner: he is the corner stone in the building which knits and cements it together, angels and men, Jews and Gentiles; Old and New Testament saints; saints above, and saints below, and in all ages and places, all meet, and are united together in this corner stone; which also strengthens and supports the building, and holds it together, and is the ornament and beauty of it: he is the chief corner stone; he is higher than the kings of the earth; he is superior to angels, and the chiefest among ten thousands of his saints; he is exalted above all creatures, angels, and men, who, by the Jewish builders, was despised and rejected, and scarce allowed to be worthy the name of a man:
this is the Lord’s doing; this stone is laid in the building by him: the rejection of him is according to his determinate counsel and foreknowledge; and the exaltation of him, above every name, is owing to him, and he is by, and at his own right hand: and
is marvellous in our eyes; in the eyes of all the saints; there being in all this such, a wonderful display of the wisdom, grace, mercy, power, and faithfulness of God,
(z) In Psal. cxviii. 1. (a) Zohar in Exod. fol. 93. 3. (b) Jarchi in Mic. v. 2. (c) T. Bab. Subbut, fol. 114. 1. Vid. En Israel, fol. 64. 3. & Juchasin, fol. 80. 2. & 81. 1.
Mat 16:13  When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
Mat 16:14  And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
Mat 16:15  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
Mat 16:16  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Mat 16:17  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 16:18  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Mat 16:19  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Mat 16:20  Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
Luk 20:20  And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.
Seven Chosen to Serve
Act 6:1  And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
Act 6:2  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
Act 6:3  Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
Act 6:4  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
Act 6:5  And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
Act 6:6  Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
Act 6:7  And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Stephen Is Seized
Act 6:8  And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
Act 6:9  Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.
Act 6:10  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
Act 6:11  Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.
Act 6:12  And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,
Act 6:13  And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
Act 6:14  For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
Act 6:15  And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
Mat 4:1  Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Luk 20:27  Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,
Act 23:6  But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
Act 23:7  And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.
Act 23:8  For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
Act 23:9  And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.
Luk 20:37  Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
Mat 17:1  And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
Mat 17:2  And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
Mat 17:3  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
Mat 17:4  Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
Mat 17:5  While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
Luk 20:42  And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
Luke 20:42
And David himself saith in the book Psalms,…. In Psa 110:1
the Lord said to my Lord, sit thou on my right hand; which words were delivered by David, as inspired by the Spirit of God; and contain a speech of God the Father to his son Jesus Christ, upon his ascension to heaven, after his sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead; when he was bid to sit down in human nature, at the right hand of God, in token of having done his work on earth to full satisfaction; and in the relation of which David calls Christ his Lord; and is the reason of their being mentioned.
Psa 110:1  A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Psalms 110:1
The Lord said unto my Lord,…. The Targum is,
“the Lord said in his Word.”
Galatinus (q) says the true Targum of Jonathan has it,
“the Lord said to his Word;”
and produces an authority for it. These are the words of Jehovah the Father to his Son the Messiah; the “Adon”, or Lord, spoken of in Isa 6:1, the one Lord Jesus, and only Potentate; the Lord of all, the Lord of David, and of every believer; not by right of creation only, as of all mankind; but by redemption, having bought them; and by right of marriage, having espoused them; and by their own consent, they owning him to be their Lord. The words said to him by Jehovah, as follow, were said in his mind, in his eternal purpose and decree; which he, lying in his bosom, was privy, when he foreordained him to be the Redeemer; and in the council and covenant of peace, when he promised him this glory as the reward of his sufferings; and in the prophecies of the Old Testament, which speak as of the sufferings of Christ, so of the glory that should follow; and when the fact was done, when, after his death, resurrection, ascension, and entrance into heaven, he was placed, as follows:
Sit thou at my right hand; of power and majesty; expressive of the honour done to Christ, and the glory put on him in the human nature, such as angels nor any creature ever had, Heb 1:13, it being always accounted honourable to sit at the right hand of great personages, 1Ki 2:19, and also of rule, and power, and authority; being upon the same throne with his Father, exercising the same government over angels and men; “sitting” is explained by “reigning” in 1Co 15:25. It also denotes having done his work, and to satisfaction; and therefore is set down, being entered into his rest, and having ceased from his work and labour, enjoying the presence of his divine Father; in which is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore: and it also signifies the continuance of regal honour and power; he sits and continues a King as well as a Priest for ever.
Until I make thine enemies thy footstool; Christ has his enemies; all the enemies of his people are his; some are overcome already by him, as sin, Satan, and the world; and the Jews, his enemies, who would not have him to reign over them, have been destroyed: but as yet all things are not put under his feet, which will be; as antichrist, and the kings of the earth that are with him, who will be overcome by him; the beast and false prophet will be taken and cast into the lake of fire; where also the old serpent, the devil, after he has been bound and loosed, wall be cast likewise; and when the last enemy, death, shall be destroyed; till that time comes, Christ reigns and will reign, and afterwards too, even to all eternity. The allusion is to the custom of conquerors treading upon the necks of the conquered; see Jos 10:24.
(m) Adv. Marcion. l. 5. c. 9. (n) In Midrash Tillim apud Yalkut in loc. (o) R. Moses Haddarsan & Arama in Galatiu. de Cath. Arean. Ver. l. 3. c. 17. & l. 8. c. 24. (p) Saadiah Gaon in Dan vii. 13. Nachman. Disput. cum Fratre Paulo, p. 36, 55. Abkath Rochel, p. 80. (q) De Cathol. Arean. Ver. l. 3. c. 5. & l. 8. c. 24.
Luk 20:45  Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples,
Luk 20:46  Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;
Luk 20:47  Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.
Luke 20:46
Beware of the Scribes,…. And also of the Pharisees; for they are joined together in Matthew:
which desire to walk in long robes: the rule for the length of a scholar’s garment was this (a);
“his flesh must not appear under his garments, as the light linen garments, and the like, they make in Egypt; nor must his garments be drawn upon the ground, as the garments of proud men, but must reach to his heel, and his glove must reach the top of his fingers.”
According to this rule, the garments of the doctors were to be so long as to cover the whole body, even down to their heels, but were not to be any longer; and by this it appears their garments were very long; but they did not always go by this rule; some had their garments so long as to have a train after them; See Gill on Mat 23:5.
and love greetings in the markets; or in courts of judicature; they loved to be saluted with the titles of Rabbi, Master, and the like:
and the highest seats in the synagogues; which were next to the place where the book of the law was read and expounded, and where they might be seen by the people:
and the chief rooms at feasts; the uppermost; See Gill on Mat 23:6 and See Gill on Mat 23:7.
(a) Maimon Hilch. Dayot, c. 5. sect. 9. Vid. T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 57. 2. & Gloss. in ib.
Luke 20:47
Which devour widows’ houses,…. As the characters of them, in the preceding verse, expose their pride, this shows their avarice; they were very voracious and cruel; they did not spare widows, but devoured their substance:
and for a show make long prayers; to cover their wickedness, pretending great devotion and religion;
the same shall receive greater damnation: than openly profane sinners; doing such wickedness under a cloak of religion, will aggravate their condemnation; See Gill on Mat 23:14.
Mat 23:23  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.
Mat 23:5  But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
Mat 23:6  And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
Mat 23:7  And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
Matthew 23:5
But all their works they do for to be seen of men,…. All their prayers, alms deeds, and fastings, were all done in a public manner, that men might behold them, and they might have applause and glory from them: they sought neither the glory of God, nor the good of their fellow creatures, nor any spiritual advantage and pleasure to themselves, in their performances; they neither attended to moral duties, nor ceremonious rites, nor the traditions of their fathers, any further than they could be seen by men in them, and keep up their credit and esteem among them. Hence,
they make broad their phylacteries: these were four sections of the law, wrote on parchments, folded up in the skin of a clean beast, and tied to the head and hand. The four sections were these following, viz. the “first”, was Exo 13:2 the “second”, was Exo 13:11 the “third”, was Deu 6:4 the “fourth”, was Deu 11:13. Those that were for the head, were written and rolled up separately, and put in four distinct places, in one skin, which was fastened with strings to the crown of the head, towards the face, about the place where the hair ends, and where an infant’s brain is tender; and they took care to place them in the middle, that so they might be between the eyes. Those that were for the hand, were written in four columns, on one parchment, which being rolled up, was fastened to the inside of the left arm, where it is fleshy, between the shoulder and the elbow, that so it might be over against the heart (u). These, they imagined, were commanded them by God, in Exo 13:16 whereas the sense of these passages only is, that the goodness of God in delivering them out of Egypt, and the words of the law, should be continually before them, in their minds and memories, as if they had tokens on their hands, and frontlets between their eyes; but they understood them literally, and observed them in the above manner. These the Jews call “Tephillin”, because they use them in time of prayer, and look upon them as useful, to put them in mind of that duty: they are here called “phylacteries”, because they thought they kept them in the fear of God, preserved in them the memory of the law, and them from sin; yea, from evil spirits, and diseases of the body. They imagined there was a great deal of holiness in, and valued themselves much upon the use of them (w); and the Pharisees, because they would be thought to be more holy and religious, and more observant of the law than others, wore these things broader than the rest of the people;
and enlarge the borders of their garments. These were the fringes which they put upon the borders of their garments, and on them a ribbon of blue, to put them in mind of the commandments, to obey them, Num 15:38. The observance of this law is of so much consequence with the Jews, that they make all the commandments to depend on it (x); and say, that it is equal to them all, and that he that is guilty of the breach of it, is worthy of death (y): they ascribe the like virtue to these fringes, as to their phylacteries, and think themselves much the better for the wearing them; and the Pharisees, because they would appear with a greater air of sanctity and devotion than others, made their’s larger. We (z) read of one Ben Tzitzith Hacceseth, a man of this complexion, who was so called, because his Tzitzith, or fringes, were drawn upon, a pillow; and there are some that say, that the pillow was bore between the great men of Rome: it was drawn after him, not upon the ground, but upon a cloth or tapestry, and the train supported by noblemen, as is pretended. This was one of those, that enlarged the Tzitzith, or fringes, beyond the ordinary size; hence Mark calls it, “long clothing.”
(u) Targ. Jon. Jarchi, & Baal Hatturim in Exod. xiii. 16. & Deut. vi. 8. Maimon. Hilch. Tephillin, c. 1. sect. 1. & c. 2. sect. 2. & c. 3. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. & c. 4. sect. 1, 2. (w) Maimon. ib. c. 4. sect. 25, 26. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. affirm. 3. 23. Targ. in Cant. viii. 3. (x) Maimon. Hilch. Tzitzith, c. 3. sect. 12. (y) T. Bab. Nedarim, fol. 25, 1. Shebuot, fol. 29. 1. & Menachot, fol. 43. 2. (z) T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 56. 1.
Matthew 23:6
And love the uppermost rooms at feasts,…. Or the first and chief places to sit, or lie down on, at ordinary meals, and especially at large entertainments, where the great ones sat, as in 1Sa 9:22 where Jarchi on the place observes, that by the manner of their sitting, it was known who was the greatest; and this the Scribes and Pharisees affected. With the Romans, the most honourable place was at the upper end of the table: some think it was more honourable to sit in the middle, but the master of the feast sat at the lower end; and to senior men, and who were venerable with age, or excelled in prudence and authority, the first sitting down, and the more honourable place, were given; and when the table was taken away, they used to rise first (a): the middle place was the more honourable with the Numidians (b), and so it seems to be with the Romans (c), and also with the Jews; and this the Scribes and Pharisees loved, desired, sought for, and were pleased if they had not it. It is said (d) of Simeon ben Shetach, a noted Pharisee, about, or rather before the time of Christ, that having fled upon a certain account from king Jannai, he sent for him, and when he came,
“he sat himself between the king and the queen: the king said to him, why dost thou mock me? he replied to him, I do not mock thee, thou hast riches and I have learning, as it is written, “Wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence”, Ecc 7:12. He said to him, but why dost thou “sit between the king and queen?” He replied, in the book of Ben Sira, it is written, “Exalt her and she shall promote thee, and cause thee to sit among princes.” He ordered to give him a cup, that he might ask a blessing; he took the cup and said, blessed be the food that Jannai and his friends eat.”
Thus on account of their wisdom and learning, they thought they had a right to take the upper hand of kings themselves:
and the chief seats in the synagogues; for these were different; the seats of the senior men were turned towards the people, and the backs of them were towards the ark or chest, in which the holy books were put; and these seem to be what the Scribes and Pharisees coveted, that they might be in the full view of the people. And so says Maimonides (e), “How do the people sit in the synagogues?”
“The elders sit, i.e. first, and their faces are towards the people, and their backs are to the temple, or holy place; and all the people sit in rows, and the faces of one row are to the backs of the row that is before them; so that the faces of all the people are to the holy place, and to the elders, and to the ark.”
(a) Alex. ab Alex. Genial Dier. l. 5. c. 21. (b) Sallust. Bell. Jugurth. p. 45. (c) Vid. Alstorph. de lect. vet. p. 117. Minut. Felix, p. 3, 4. (d) T. Hieros. Betacot, fol. 11. 2. Beresh. Rabba, sect. 91. fol. 78. 4. (e) Hilchot Tephilla, c. 11. sect. 4.
Matthew 23:7
And greetings in the markets,…. They used to stroll about the markets, being public places, where there was a great concourse of people, on purpose to be taken notice of before multitudes, with singular marks of respect; as stretching out the hand, uncovering the head, and bowing the knee:
and to be called of men Rabbi, Rabbi; because of their great authority, and largeness of their knowledge: the repetition of the word Rabbi, is not made in the Vulgate Latin, nor in the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions, nor in Munster’s Hebrew Gospel, but is in all the Greek copies, and very justly; since it was usual in the salutations of them, to double the word. It is reported (f) of R. Eleazar ben Simeon, of Migdal Gedur, that having reproached a deformed man he met in the road; when he came to the city where the man lived,
“the citizens came out to meet him, and said to him, peace be upon thee, רבי רבי מורי מורי, “Rabbi, Rabbi, Master, Master”; he (Eleazar) said to them, who do you call “Rabbi, Rabbi?” They replied to him, he who followed thee: he said unto them, if this be a Rabbi, let there not be many such in Israel.”
The Jews pretend, that king Jehoshaphat used to salute the doctors with these titles; though they forget that they were not in use in his time, as will be hereafter observed: they say (g),
“whenever he saw a disciple of the wise men, he rose from his throne, and embraced and kissed him, and called him, אבי אבי רבי רבי מרי מרי, “Father, Father, Rabbi, Rabbi, Master, Master”.”
Where you have the three different words used by our Lord in this and the following verses, by which these men loved to be called, and he inveighed against; nay, they not only suggest, that kings gave them these honourable titles, and they expected them from them, but even they liked to be called kings themselves. It is said (h) of R. Hona arid R. Chasda, that as they were sitting together, one passed by them,
“and said to them, “peace be to you kings”, עליכו מלכי שלמא, “peace be to you kings”: they said to him, from whence does it appear to thee, that the Rabbins are called kings? He replied to them, from what is written, “by me kings reign”, &c. They said to him, from whence hast thou it, that we are to double or repeat peace, or salutation to kings? He answered them, that R. Judah said, that Rab said from hence, 1Ch 12:18. “Then the spirit came upon Amasai”, &c.”
This title began but to be in use in the time of our Lord, or a very little while before: none of the prophets had it, nor Ezra the Scribe, nor the men of the great synagogue, nor Simeon the Just, the last of them; nor Antigonus, a man of Socho, a disciple of his: and it is observed by the Jews themselves (i), that
“the five couple are never called by the name of Rabban, nor by the name of Rabbi, only by their own name.”
By whom are meant, Joseph ben Joezer, and Joseph ben Jochanan; Joshua ben Perachia, said to be the master of Jesus of Nazareth, and Nittai the Arbelite; Judah ben Tabai, and Simeon ben Shetach; Shemaiah and Abtalion; Hillell and Shammai. The sons, or disciples of the two last, first took these titles. Rabban Simeon, the son of Hillell, thought by some to be the same Simeon that had Christ in his arms, is (k) said to be the first that was called by this name; and it is also observed by them (l), that Rabban was a name of greater honour than Rabbi, or Rab, and that Rabbi was more honourable than Rab; and to be called by a man’s own name, was more honourable than any of them. The Karaite Jews make much the same complaint, and give much the same account of the pride and vanity of the Rabbinical doctors, as Christ here does; for so one of them says (m);
“The Karaites do not use to act according to the custom of the wise men among the Rabbans, to make to themselves gods of silver, and guides of gold, with this view, להקרא רב, “to be called Rab”; and also to gather wealth and food to fulness, &c.”
(f) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 20. 2. (g) T. Bab. Maccot, fol. 24. 1. & Cetubot, fol. 103. 2. (h) T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 62. 1. (i) Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 21. 1. (k) Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 1. (l) lb. (m) Eliahu Adderet, c. 6. apud Trigland. de. Sect. Kar. c. 10. p. 164.

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