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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 23

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This is one of the great discourses peculiar to the first Gospel. That some such words were spoken by Jesus in Jerusalem in the Passion week may be inferred from Mark 12:38-40 , Luke 20:45-47 . The few sentences there reported look like a fragment, just enough to show that there must have been more too meagre ( gar zu dürftig. , De W.) to have been all that Jesus said on such a large topic at such a solemn time. A weighty, deliberate, full, final statement, in the form of a dying testimony, was to be expected from One who had so often criticised the prevailing religious system in an occasional manner in His Galilean ministry a summing up in the head-quarters of scribism of past prophetic censures uttered in the provinces. In such a final protest repetitions might be looked for (Nösgen). In any case, whether all the words here brought together were spoken at this time or not, the evangelist did well to collect them into one body, and he could not have introduced the collection at a more appropriate place.

Verse 1

Matthew 23:1 . τοῖς ὄχλοις καὶ τ . μαθηταῖς : the discourse is about scribes and Pharisees, but the audience is conceived to consist of the disciples and the people. Meyer describes the situation thus: in the foreground Jesus and His disciples; a little further off the ὄχλος ; in the background the Pharisees.

Verses 1-12

Matthew 23:1-12 . Introduction to the discourse .

Verse 2

Matthew 23:2 . ἐπὶ τ . Μ . καθέδρας , on the seat of Moses, short for, on the seat of a teacher whose function it was to interpret the Mosaic Law. The Jews spoke of the teacher’s seat as we speak of a professor’s chair. ἐκάθισαν , in effect, a gnomic aorist = solent sedere (Fritzsche), not a case of the aorist used as a perfect = have taken and now occupy, etc. (Erasmus). Burton (Syntax) sees in this and other aorists in N. T. a tendency towards use of aorist for perfect not yet realised: “rhetorical figure on the way to become grammatical idiom, but not yet become such,” § 55. οἱ φαρ . Wendt ( L. J. , i., 186) thinks this an addition by the evangelist, the statement strictly applying only to the scribes.

Verse 3

Matthew 23:3 . εἴπωσιν , say, in the sense of enjoining; no need therefore of τηρεῖν as in T. R. ποιήσατε καὶ τηρεῖτε : The natural order if the previous τηρεῖν be omitted. The diverse tenses are significant, the former pointing to detailed performance, the latter to habitual observance. Christ here recognises the legitimacy of the scribal function of interpretation in a broad way, which may appear too unqualified and incompatible with His teaching at other times (Matthew 15:1-20 ) (so Holtz., H. C.). Allowance must be made for Christ’s habit of unqualified statement, especially here when He is going to attack in an uncompromising manner the conduct of the Jewish doctors. He means: as teachers they have their place, but beware of following their example.

Verse 4

Matthew 23:4 illustrates the previous statement. δεσμεύουσι , tc., they bind together, like sheaves, heavy backloads of rules. Think, e.g. , of the innumerable rules for Sabbath observance similar to that prohibiting rubbing ears of corn as work threshing. δυσβάστακτα may be a spurious reading imported from Luke 11:46 , but it states a fact, and was doubtless used by Jesus on some occasion. It shows by the way that He had no thought of unqualified approval of the teaching of the scribes. ἐπὶ τ . ὤμους , on the shoulders, that they may feel the full weight, demanding punctual compliance. αὐτοὶ δὲ τ . δακτύλῳ , etc., they are not willing to move or touch them with a finger; proverbial (Elsner) for “will not take the smallest trouble to keep their own rules”. A strong statement pointing to the subtle ways of evading strict rules invented by the scribes. “The picture is of the merciless camel or ass driver who makes up burdens not only heavy, but unwieldy and so difficult to carry, and then placing them on the animal’s shoulders, stands by indifferent, raising no finger to lighten or even adjust the burden” (Carr, C. G. T.).

Verse 5

Matthew 23:5 . πάντα δὲ , etc., in so far as they comply with their rules they act with a view to be seen of men. This is a repetition of an old charge (Matthew 6:0 ). πλατύνουσι γὰρ , etc.: illustrative instances drawn from the phylacteries and the tassels attached to the upper garment, the former being broadened, the latter lengthened to attract notice. The phylacteries ( φυλακτήρια ) were an admirable symbol at once of Pharisaic ostentation and Pharisaic make-believe. They were little boxes attached to the forehead and the left arm near the heart, containing pieces of parchment with certain texts written on them (Exodus 13:1-16 ; Deuteronomy 6:4-10 ; Deuteronomy 11:13-22 ) containing figurative injunctions to keep in memory God’s laws and dealings, afterwards mechanically interpreted, whence these visible symbols of obedience on forehead and arm. The size of the phylacteries indexed the measure of zeal, and the wearing of large ones was apt to take the place of obedience. It was with the Pharisees as with Carlyle’s advertising hatter, who sent a cart through the street with a huge hat in it instead of making good hats. For details on phylacteries and fringes consult works on Jewish antiquities. Lund, Jüdiscken Heiligthümer (1701), has a chapter (p. 796) on the dress of the Pharisees with pictorial illustrations. It has been discussed whether the name φυλ . points to the keeping of the law or to the use of these things as amulets to ward off harm. The former was doubtless originally in view, but the superstitious abuse would soon creep in. The word is the equivalent in Hellenistic Greek for the Chaldee תפלין , prayers.

Verses 5-7

Matthew 23:5-7 . The foregoing statement is of course to be taken cum grano . Teachers who absolutely disregarded their own laws would soon forfeit all respect. In point of fact they made a great show of zeal in doing. Jesus therefore goes on to tax them with acting from low motives.

Verse 6

Matthew 23:6 . πρωτοκλισίαν : with religious ostentation goes social vanity, love of the first place at feasts, and first seats ( πρωτοκαθεδρίας ) in synagogues; an insatiable hunger for prominence.

Verse 7

Matthew 23:7 . τοὺς ἀσπασμοὺς , the (usual) salutations, in themselves innocent courtesies, but coveted because offered in public places, and as demonstrations of respect. ῥαββί , literally, my great one, like the French monsieur ; in Christ’s time a new title of honour for the Jewish doctors ( vide Lightfoot, Ewald. Gesch. Christi , p. 305; Schürer, ii., p. 315, who says the title came into use after the time of Christ).

Verse 8

Matthew 23:8 . ὑμεῖς , you , emphatic: the Twelve, an earnest aside to them in especial (an interpolation by the evangelist, Weiss-Meyer), be not ye called Rabbi. μὴ κληθῆτε , “Do not seek to be called, if others call you this it will not be your fault”. Euthy. Zig.

Verse 9

Matthew 23:9 . πατέρα = abba, another title of honour for the Rabbis (Schöttgen). The clause is to be translated: a father of you call not upon earth = do not pronounce this sacred name with reference to men. Vide Winer, § 64, 4, and cf. Hebrews 3:13 .

Verse 10

Matthew 23:10 . καθηγηταί , kindred with ὁδηγοὶ (Matthew 23:16 ), guides, leaders in thought, desiring abject discipleship from followers. Gradatio: Rabbi, pater, ductor , Beng. The threefold counsel shows the intensely anti-prelatic spirit of Jesus. In spite of this earnest warning the love of pre-eminence and leadership has prevailed in the Church to the detriment of independence, the sense of responsibility, and loyalty to God. ὁ Χριστός : in this place though not in Matthew 23:8 a part of the true text, but possibly an addition by the evangelist (“a proof that Matthew here speaks, not Jesus,” H. C.).

Verses 11-12

Matthew 23:11-12 , epeat in substance the teaching of Matthew 20:26 : Matthew 18:4 ; worth repeating and by no means out of place here.

Verses 13-31

Matthew 23:13-31 . The seven woes . There are eight, if we count that in Matthew 23:13 of T. R., but as this ver. is omitted in the best MSS. and appears to be a gloss from Mk. and Lk. I do not count it. Vide notes on Mark 12:40 . These woes seem to be spoken directly to the scribes and Pharisees. Weiss regards this as a rhetorical apostrophe, the disciples being the real audience throughout.

Verse 14

Matthew 23:14 . ὑποκριταί . Vide at Matthew 6:2 . This epithet is applied to the scribes and Pharisees in each of the woes with terrific iteration. κλείετε , ye shut the gates or the doors of the Kingdom of God, conceived as a city or palace. This the real effect of their action, not the ostensible. They claimed to be opening the Kingdom while really shutting it, and therein lay their hypocrisy. ἔμπροσθεν τ . ἀ .: as it were in men’s faces, when they are in the act of entering. ὑμεῖς γὰρ , etc. Cf. Matthew 5:20 . They thought themselves certainly within, but in the judgment of Jesus, with all their parade of piety, they were without. τ . εἰσερχομένους , those in the mood to enter, in the act of entering; the reference is to sincere seekers after God, and the statement is that the scribes were the worst advisers such persons could go to: the effect of their teaching would be to keep them out. This is the position implied throughout the Sermon on the Mount and in Matthew 11:28-30 .

Verse 15

Matthew 23:15 . he second woe is the complement of the first: it represents the false guides, as, while utterly incompetent for the function, extremely eager to exercise it. περιάγετε , ye move about, intransitive, the accusative following being governed by περὶ . τ . ξηρὰν , the dry (land), sometimes ὑγρὰ is similarly used for the sea (examples in Elsner). Cf. ψυχρόν for cold water in Matthew 10:42 . To compass sea and land is proverbial for doing anything with great zeal. π . ἕνα προσήλυτον , to make a single proselyte. The zeal here ascribed to the Pharisees seems in one sense alien to their character as described in Luke 18:11 . One would expect them rather to be pleased to be a select few superior to all others than to be animated with a burning desire to gain recruits whether from Jews or from Gentiles. For an elaborate discussion of the question as to the existence of the proselytising spirit among the Jews vide Danz’s treatise in Meuschen, Nov. Test. ex Tal. illustratum , p. 649. Vide also Wetstein, ad loc. Wünsche ( Beiträge , p. 285) cites passages from the Talmud to prove that the Pharisees, far from being addicted to proselytising, were rather reserved in this respect. He concludes that Matthew 23:15 must refer not to making proselytes to Judaism from Gentiles, but to making additions to their sect from among Jews ( Sectirerei ). This, however, is against the meaning of προσήλυτος . Assuming the fact to have been as stated, the point to be noted is that the Pharisees and scribes aimed chiefly, not at bringing men into the Kingdom of God, but into their own coterie. διπλότερον ὑ ., twofold more, duplo quam , Vulgate. Kypke, while aware that the comparative of διπλοῦς ( διπλότερος ) does not occur in profane writers, thinks it is used here in the sense of deceitful, and renders, ye make him a son of gehenna , more fraudulent, more hypocritical than yourselves. Briefly the idea is: the more converted the more perverted, “je bekehrter desto verkehrter” (Holtz., H. C.).

Verse 16

Matthew 23:16 . ὁδηγ . τυφλοί , blind guides, not only deceivers but deceived themselves, lacking spiritual insight even in the simplest matters. Three instances of their blindness in reference to oaths are directly or indirectly indicated: oaths by the temple and the gold of the temple, by the altar and the offerings on it, by heaven and the throne of God therein. The principle underlying Rabbinical judgments as to the relative value of oaths seems to have been: the special form more binding than the general; therefore gold of the temple more than the temple, sacrifice on altar more than altar, throne of God in heaven more than heaven. Specialising indicated greater earnestness. Whether these forms of oath were actually used or current, and what precisely they meant, e.g. , gold of the temple: was it ornament, utensil, or treasure? is immaterial. They may have been only hypothetical forms devised to illustrate an argument in the schools. οὐδέν ἐστι , ὀφείλει : the formulae for non-binding and binding oaths; it is nothing (the oath, viz. ); he is indebted, bound to performance = חיוב .

Verses 16-22

Matthew 23:16-22 . The third woe refers to the Jesuitry of the scribes in the matter of oaths; the point emphasised, however, is their stupidity in this part of their teaching ( cf. Matthew 5:33 f.), where Christ’s teaching is directed against the use of oaths at all.

Verse 17

Matthew 23:17 . τίς γὰρ μείζων : Jesus answers this question by asserting the opposite principle to that laid down by the Rabbis: the general includes and is more important than the particular, which He applies to all the three cases (Matthew 23:17 ; Matthew 23:19 ; Matthew 23:22 ). This is the more logical position, but the main point of difference is moral . The tendency of the Rabbis was to enlarge the sphere of insincere, idle, meaningless speech. Christ’s aim was to inculcate absolute sincerity = always mean what you say; let none of your utterances be merely conventional generalities. Be as much in earnest when you say “by the temple” as when you say “by the gold of the temple”; rather be so truthful that you shall not need to say either.

Verses 23-24

Matthew 23:23-24 . The fourth woe refers to tithe-paying (Luke 11:42 ). ἀποδεκατοῦτε : a Hellenistic word = ye pay tithes, as in Genesis 28:22 ; to take tithes from in Hebrews 7:5-6 . ἡδύοσμον , ἄνηθον , κύμινον : garden herbs mint (literally, sweet smelling), dill, also aromatic, cumin ( Kümmel , German) with aromatic seeds. All marketable commodities, used as condiments, or for medicinal purposes, presumably all tithable, the point being not that the Pharisees were wilful in tithe-paying, but that they were extremely scrupulous. Vide articles in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible . The Talmud itself, however, in a sentence quoted by Lightfoot (“decimatio oleorum est a Rabbinis”) represents tithing of herbs as a refinement of the Rabbis. τὰ βαρύτερα : either, the weightier, in the sense of Matthew 22:36 (Meyer), or the more difficult to do, in the sense of Matthew 23:4 (Weiss after Fritzsche). The idea seems to be: they made a great show of zeal in doing what was easy, and shirked the serious and more arduous requirements of duty. τ . κρίσιν , righteous judgment, implying and = the love of righteousness, a passion for justice. τὸ ἔλεος , neuter, after the fashion of later Greek, not τὸν ἔλεον , as in T. R.: mercy; sadly neglected by Pharisees, much insisted on by Jesus. τ . πίστιν , faith, in the sense of fidelity, true-heartedness. As a curiosity in the history of exegesis may be cited the use of this text by Schortinghuis, a Dutch pietist of the eighteenth century, in support of the duty of judging the spiritual state of others ( κρίσιν )! vide Ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus , i., 329. ταῦτα the greater things last mentioned. ἔδει , it was your duty to do. κἀκεῖνα , and those things, the tithings, etc.: this the secondary duty; its subordinate place might be brought out by rendering: “while not neglecting to pay tithes as scrupulously as you please”. Bengel thinks ταῦτα and ἐκεῖνα here refer not to the order of the words but to the relative importance of the things (“non pro serie verborum, sed pro ratione rerum”). On this view “these” means tithe-paying.

Verse 24

Matthew 23:24 . διϋλίζοντες ( διὰ and ὕλη , Passow), a little used word, for which Hesychius gives as a synonym, διηθέω , to strain through. τὸν κώνωπα , τὴν κάμηλον , the gnat, the camel: article as usual in proverbial sayings. The proper object of the former part is οἶνον : straining the wine so as to remove the unclean midge. Swallowing the camel is a monstrous supposition, but relevant, the camel being unclean, chewing the cud but not parting the hoof (Leviticus 11:4 ). The proverb clinches the lesson of the previous verse.

Verses 25-26

Matthew 23:25-26 . Fifth woe , directed against externalism (Luke 11:39-41 ). τῆς παροψίδος , the dish, on which viands were served. In classics it meant the meat, not the dish ( τὸ ὄψον οὐχὶ δὲ τὸ ἀγγεῖον , Phryn., p. 176). Rutherford (New Phryn., p. 265) remarks that our word “dish” has the same ambiguity. ἔσωθεν δὲ γέμουσιν ἐξ : within both cup and plate are full of, or from. ἐκ is either redundant or it points to the fulness as resulting from the things following: filled with wine and meat purchased by the wages of unrighteousness: luxuries acquired by plunder and licence. The verb γέμουσι occurs again in Matthew 23:27 without ἐκ , and this is in favour of the second view. But on the other hand in Matthew 23:26 the vessels are conceived of as defiled by ἁρπαγή and ἀκρασία , therefore presumably as filled with them. Here as in Matthew 6:22-23 , the physical and ethical are mixed in the figure.

Verse 26

Matthew 23:26 . φαρισαῖε τυφλέ : change from plural to singular with increased earnestness, and a certain friendliness of tone, as of one who would gladly induce the person addressed to mend his ways. καθάρισον : if ἐξ , Matthew 23:25 , is taken = by, then this verb will mean: see that the wine in the cup be no more the product of robbery and unbridled desire for other people’s property (Weiss and Meyer). On the other view, that the cup is filled with these vices, the meaning will be, get rid of them. ἵνα γένηται , etc., in order that the outside may become clean. The ethical cleanness is conceived of as ensuring the ceremonial. Or, in other words, ethical purity gives all the cleanness you need (“all things are clean unto you,” Luke 11:41 ). Practically this amounts to treating ceremonial cleanness as of little account. Christ’s way of thinking and the Pharisaic were really incompatible.

Verse 27

Matthew 23:27 . παρομοιάζετε , in [128] ὁμοιάζετε , under either form an hapaxleg. κεκονιαμένοις (from κονία , dust, slaked lime), whitewashed, referring to the practice of whitewashing the sepulchres in the month Adar, before passover time, to make them conspicuous, inadvertent approach involving uncleanness. They would be wearing their fresh coat just then, so that the comparison was seasonable ( vide Wetstein, ad loc. ). ἔξωθεν , ἔσωθεν , again a contrast between without and within, which may have suggested the comparison. ὡραῖοι , fair, without; the result but not the intention in the natural sphere, the aim in the spiritual, the Pharisee being concerned about appearance (chap. 6). ὀστέων , etc., revolting contrast: without, quite an attractive feature in the landscape; within, only death-fraught loathsomeness.

[128] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

Verses 27-28

Matthew 23:27-28 . Sixth woe , referring to no special Pharisaic vice, but giving a graphic picture of their hypocrisy in general ( cf. Luke 11:44 ).

Verse 28

Matthew 23:28 . οὕτω , etc.: the figure apposite on both sides; the Pharisaic character apparently saintly; really inwardly, full of godlessness and immorality ( ἀνομίας ), the result being gross systematic hypocrisy.

Verse 29

Matthew 23:29 . οἰκοδομεῖτε , may point to repair or extension of old buildings, or to new edifices, like some modern monuments, the outcome of dilettante hero-worship. τάφους , μνημεῖα , probably synonyms, though there may have been monuments to the dead apart from burying places, to which the former word points. προφητῶν and δικαίων are also practically synonymous, though the latter is a wider category. κοσμεῖτε points to decoration as distinct from building operations. Fürrer ( Wanderungen , p. 77) suggests that Jesus had in view the tomb of Zechariah, the prophet named in the sequel, in the valley of Jehoshaphat, which he describes as a lovely little temple with ornamental half and quarter pillars of the Ionic order.

Verses 29-33

Matthew 23:29-33 . Final woe (Luke 11:47-48 ), dealing with yet another phase of hypocrisy and a new form of the contrast between without and within; apparent zeal for the honour of deceased prophets, real affinity with their murderers.

Verse 30

Matthew 23:30 . λέγετε : they not merely thought, or said by deed, but actually so pointed the moral of their action, not trusting to others to draw the inference. ἤμεθα , not in classics, ἤμην the usual form of sing. in N. T. being also rare; the imperfect, but must be translated in our tongue, “if we had been”. For the imperfect, used when we should use a pluperfect, vide Matthew 14:4 , and consult Burton, § 29. οὐκ ἄν ἤμεθα , the indicative with ἂν , as usual in suppositions contrary to fact, vide Burton, § 248.

Verse 31

Matthew 23:31 . ὥστε , with indicative expressing result = therefore. ἑαυτοῖς , to and against yourselves. Jesus reads more meaning into their words than they intended: “our fathers”; yes! they are your fathers, in spirit as well as in blood.

Verse 32

Matthew 23:32 . καὶ , and, as ye have called yourselves their sons, so show yourselves to be such indeed (Weiss). πληρώσατε . The reading πληρώσετε is due to shrinking from the idea conveyed by the imperative. To the same cause is due the permissive (Grotius al. ) or ironical (De W.) senses put upon the imperative. Christ means what He says: “Fill up the measure of your fathers; crown their misdeeds by killing the prophet God has sent to you . Do at last what has long been in your hearts. The hour is come.”

Verse 33

Matthew 23:33 . wful ending to a terrific charge, indicating that the men who are predestined to superlative wickedness are appropriately doomed to the uttermost penalty. ὄφεις , γεν . ἐχιδνῶν ; already stigmatised as false, fools, blind, they are now described as venomous, murderous in thought and deed. Cf. Matthew 3:7 . πῶς φύγητε , the deliberative subjunctive. “The verb of a deliberative question is most frequently in the first person, but occasionally in the second or third. Matthew 23:33 , Romans 10:14 .” Burton, § 170.

Verse 34

Matthew 23:34 . διὰ τοῦτο . The sense requires that this be connected with both Matthew 23:32-33 . The idea is that all God’s dealings with Israel have been arranged from the first so as to ensure that the generation addressed shall fill up the measure of Israel’s guilt and penalty. The reference of ἀποστέλλω is not confined to what had been done for that generation. It covers all the generations from Abel downwards. The form in which the thought is expressed at first creates a contrary impression: Ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω . But either the ἐγὼ is used in a supra-historical sense, or it must be regarded as a somewhat unsuitable word, and the correct expression of the source found in Luke’s ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ εἶπεν , what follows becoming thus a quotation, either in reality from some unknown writing, as many think, or in the conception of the speaker. I see no insuperable difficulty in taking Mt.’s form as the original. Olshausen conceives of Jesus as speaking, not as a personality involved in the limits of temporal life, but as the Son of God, as the essential wisdom of God. The ἐγὼ might be justified without this high reference to the Divinity of Jesus, as proceeding from His prophetic consciousness in an exalted state of mind. The prophet habitually spoke in the name of God. Jesus also at such a great moment might speak, as it were impersonally, in the name of God, or of wisdom. Resch, Agrapha , p. 274 ff., endeavours to show that “the wisdom of God” was, like “the Son of Man,” one of the self-designations of Jesus. Whether that be so or not, I think it is clear from this passage, and also from Matthew 11:28-30 ( vide remarks there), that He did sometimes, as it were, personate wisdom. The present ἀποστέλλω , regards the history of Israel sub specie aeternitatis , for which the distinction of present and past does not exist. προφήτας , etc.: these names for the Sent clearly show that past and present are both in view. It is not merely the apostles , γραμματεῖς ( cf. Matthew 13:52 ) = ἀποστόλους , Luke 11:49 , that are in view. σταυρώσετε , a hint at the impending tragic event, the Speaker one of the Sent. καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν , etc.: a glance at the fortunes of the Twelve. Cf. chap. Matthew 10:16-23 .

Verses 34-36

Matthew 23:34-36 . Peroration (Luke 11:49-51 ).

Verse 35

Matthew 23:35 . ὅπως ἔλθῃ : divine intention read in the light of result. God sent messengers that they might be killed, and that Israel by killing them might deserve to suffer in the final generation wrath to the uttermost. Vide on Matthew 22:7 . αἴμα , thrice named: “ter hoc dicitur uno hoc versu magna vi,” Bengel. ἀπὸ τ . ἁ ., etc., from the blood of Abel, the first martyr, mentioned in the first book of the Hebrew Bible, to the blood of Zechariah, the prophet named in the last book (2 Chronicles 24:20-22 ). υἱοῦ Βαραχίου , the designation of the last but one of the minor prophets, applied here to the other Zechariah, by inadvertence either of the evangelist or of an early copyist. ὃν ἐφονεύσατε , whom ye (through your spiritual ancestors) slew; fact as stated in 2 Chronicles 24:21 .

Verse 36

Matthew 23:36 . ἀμὴν : solemn introduction of a statement terrible to think of: sins of countless generations accumulating for ages, and punished in a final representative generation; true, however terrible.

Verse 37

Matthew 23:37 . Ἱερουσαλήμ , the Hebrew form of the name, exceptional in Mt., very appropriate to the solemn situation. Twice spoken; why? “It is the fashion of one pitying, bewailing, and greatly loving,” Chrys. ἀποκτείνουσα , λιθοβολοῦσα : present participles, denoting habit and repute, now and always behaving so killing, stoning. πρὸς αὐτήν , to her , not to thee , because the participles are in the nominative, while Ἱερουσαλήμ is vocative: “exemplum compellationis per vocativum ad quam deinceps non amplius spectatur” (Fritzsche). Grotius regards the transition from second to third person as an Orientalism. ποσάκις , how often; on this word has been based the inference of frequent visits to Jerusalem not mentioned in the Synoptics. But the allusion may be to the whole history of Israel (so Orig., Hil., Jer.,) and to the whole people, as the children of the metropolis, the Speaker still continuing to speak in the name of God, as in Matthew 23:34 , and including Himself among God’s agents. ὄρνις , a bird or fowl; after Plato, a hen; so here, the emblem of anxious love. θερμὸν τὸ ζῶον περὶ τὰ ἔκγονα , Chrys. She gathers her chickens under her wings for protection against impending danger. This Jesus and all the prophets desired to do; a truth to be set over against the statement in Matthew 23:34-35 , which seems to suggest that God’s aim was Israel’s damnation. τὰ νοσσία (Attic, νεοσσία : form disapproved by Phryn., p. 206), her brood of young birds. Cf. Psalms 84:4 , where, as here, a pathetic use is made of the emblem. οὐκ ἠθελήσατε , ye would not, though I would ( ἠθέλησα ). Man’s consent necessary.

Verses 37-39

Matthew 23:37-39 . Apostrophe to the Holy City (Luke 13:34 ). Εἶτα πρὸς τὴν πόλιν ἀποστρέφει τὸν λόγον . Chrys., H. lxxiv.

Verse 38

Matthew 23:38 . ἰδοὺ , etc., solemn, sorrowful abandonment of the city to its fate. ἀφίεται ὑμῖν , spoken to the inhabitants of Israel. ὁ οἶκος ὑ ., your house, i.e. , the city, not the temple; the people are conceived of as one family. ἔρημος , wanting in [129] [130] , and omitted by W.H [131] , is not necessary to the sense. The sentence is, indeed, more impressive without it: “Behold your house is abandoned to your care: those who would have saved you giving up further effort”. What will happen left to be imagined; just what ἔρημος expresses desolation.

[129] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[130] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

[131] Westcott and Hort.

Verse 39

Matthew 23:39 . ἀπʼ ἄρτι , from this moment, Christ’s prophetic work done now: it remains only to die. ἕως ἂν εἴπητε : a future contingency on which it depends whether they shall ever see Him again (Weiss in Meyer). He will not trouble them any more till their mood change and they be ready to receive Him with a Messianic salutation.

The exquisite finish of this discourse, in the case of ordinary orators, would suggest premeditation and even writing. We have no means of knowing to what extent Jesus had considered beforehand what He was to say on this momentous occasion. The references to the whited sepulchres and the tombs of the prophets show that the speech was in part at least an extempore utterance.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 23". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/matthew-23.html. 1897-1910.
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