Matthew 23:13-26

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

SIX OF EIGHT WOES ON THE PHARISEES

INTRODUCTION:

 

The narrative about Jesus in chapter 23 includes His comments regarding the marks of a Pharisee (23:1-12), His pronouncing of eight woes upon the Pharisees (23:13-36), and His lament over Jerusalem (23:37-39).

We see –

    I.     THE FIRST WOE – 23:13

 

Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

 

But transitions from Jesus’ statements about the practice of the scribes and Pharisees seeking to be prominent to pronouncing a series of woes upon them.

 

Woe is understood in the sense of alas and denotes Jesus’ displeasure.

 

But woe unto you scribes and Pharisees suggests but alas to you scribes and Pharisees to whom Jesus is addressing his comments in verses 13-36.

 

Scribes were specialists in the law of Moses, experts in the law, or scholars versed in the law.

 

Pharisees were members of the conservative religious party who adhered strictly to the law as taught by the scribes. They followed the law strictly.

 

Jesus also addresses them as hypocrites, i.e. as those who pretended to be something they were not. They were pretenders.

 

For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men is because you (scribes and Pharisees) are shutting the kingdom of heaven before (or in the sight of) people.

 

The kingdom of heaven is the realm of profession of salvation.

 

Their purpose in shutting the kingdom of heaven was to prevent people from entering it. They did not want any even to profess to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and they themselves were certainly not about to believe in Jesus.

 

For ye neither go in yourselves is for you scribes and Pharisees are not entering the kingdom of heaven.

 

Neither suffer ye is nor are you permitting (or allowing).

 

Them that are entering is the ones who are entering.

 

To go in is to enter and implies to enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

The scribes and Pharisees are pictured as doing everything they can to keep people from entering the kingdom of heaven and to hinder those who were entering. Thus, they were in direct opposition to Christ and His ministry.

We also see –

  II.     THE SECOND WOE – 23:14

 

Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

 

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! is repeated from verse 13. It again indicates Jesus’ displeasure with them.

 

For ye devour widows’ houses is because you (scribes and Pharisees) are eating up widows’ houses, which implies that they were acquiring the houses of widows in inappropriate ways by taking advantage of these widows.

 

And for a pretence make long prayer suggests and for a pretext (or for appearance sake) (are) praying long (prayers). They are putting on a pious show while wrongly acquiring the homes of widows.

 

Therefore is because of this (i.e. because of their devouring widows’ houses while making long prayers).

 

Ye shall receive the greater damnation is you scribes and Pharisees will receive greater judgment (i.e. condemnation or punishment).

Next, we see –

 III.     THE THIRD WOE – 23:15

 

Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

 

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! is repeated from verses 13 and 14.

 

For ye compass sea and land is because you (scribes and Pharisees) are going (or traveling) around the sea and the land.

 

Their purpose is to make one proselyte.

 

They will go to a great deal of effort to make one proselyte, i.e. someone who has come over from a Gentile religion to Judaism.

 

And when he is made is and whenever he is produced or and whenever it happens, takes place, or comes about.

 

Ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves suggests you scribes and Pharisees make him a son of Gehenna twice as bad as you are.

In addition, we see –

 IV.     THE FOURTH WOE – 23:16-22

 

Matthew 23:16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

 

Woe unto you is alas to you and refers to the scribes and Pharisees to whom Jesus is addressing His comments in verses 13-36. It indicates Jesus’ displeasure with them.

 

This time Jesus addresses the scribes and Pharisees as ye blind guides, i.e. you blind leaders. They are spiritually blind rather than physically blind, and they are leading spiritually blind people.

 

Which say is who are saying.

 

Whosoever shall swear is whoever swears or whoever takes an oath.

 

By the temple indicates the thing or basis by which this person swears an oath. The temple is referring to the temple in Jerusalem.

 

Whosoever shall swear by the temple is equivalent to if someone swears (or takes an oath) by the temple.

 

It is nothing implies that it is meaningless or it is not binding. It means that it is of no consequence and does not matter if he keeps his oath. It’s like making a promise and keeping your fingers crossed.

 

But whosoever shall swear is but whoever swears (or takes an oath).

 

By the gold of the temple indicates the thing or basis by which this person swears his oath.

 

Whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple is equivalent to the condition if someone swears (or takes an oath) by the gold of the temple.

 

He is a debtor means that he is obligated (or bound) to keep his oath.

 

Matthew 23:17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

 

Ye fools is (you) foolish ones.

 

Fools is a term of contempt and implies that they have no use for God.

 

Blind means that they are spiritually blind rather than physically blind. They are incapable of perceiving the truth about God and their own spiritual condition.

 

For whether is greater? is for which is greater?

 

Is it the gold, or is it the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

 

The implication is that the temple is greater than the gold because the temple is where God dwells and the gold is merely part of the temple.

 

What gives this gold significance is its attachment to the temple. Therefore, for someone to believe that he is not obligated to keep oaths he has sworn by the temple but is obligated to keep oaths sworn by the gold of the temple is nonsense.

 

Matthew 23:18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.

 

And whosoever shall swear by the altar is and whoever swears (or takes an oath) by the altar.

 

The altar is the altar on which burnt offerings were offered in the forefront of the courtyard of the temple at Jerusalem.

 

It is nothing implies that it is meaningless or it is not binding. It is of no consequence and does not matter if he keeps his oath.

 

But whosoever shall swear is but whoever swears (or takes an oath).

 

By the gift that is upon it is by the gift, the one upon the altar.

 

He is guilty means that he is obligated (or bound) to keep his oath. It is the translation of the same word which is translated he is debtor in verse 16.

 

Matthew 23:19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?

 

Ye fools is you foolish ones.

 

Fools is a term of contempt and implies that they have no use for God.

 

Blind means that they are spiritually blind rather than physically blind. They are incapable of perceiving the truth about God and their spiritual condition.

 

For whether is greater? is for which is greater?

 

Is it the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift that is greater?

 

The gift is the sacrificial gift or the offering.

 

The altar is the structure on which the burnt offering is offered.

 

That sanctifieth the gift is the one which sanctifies (i.e. which consecrates or which makes sacred) the sacrificial gift (or the offering).

 

Matthew 23:20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.

 

Whoso . . . shall swear is the one who swears or the one who takes an oath.

 

Therefore introduces an inference drawn from the question in verse 19 and is understood in the sense of consequently or accordingly.

 

By the altar is by (or on the basis of) the structure on which the sacrificial gift or offering is offered.

 

He is affirming the veracity of his statement by invoking the altar.

 

Sweareth by it means swears (or takes an oath) by the altar, and by all things thereon means and by all the things on the altar.

 

Matthew 23:21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.

 

And whoso shall swear is the one who swears or the one who takes an oath.

 

By the temple suggests that he affirms the veracity of his statement by invoking the temple.

 

Sweareth means is swearing or is taking an oath.

 

By it means by the temple, and by him that dwelleth therein means and by God, the One Who is dwelling in the temple.

 

Matthew 23:22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

 

And he that shall swear is the one who swears or the one who takes an oath.

 

By heaven suggests that he affirms the veracity of his statement by invoking heaven.

 

Sweareth means is swearing or is taking an oath.

 

By the throne of God means by the throne on which God is seated, and by him that sitteth thereon means by God, the One Who is sitting on it, i.e. on the throne.

Next, we see –

   V.     THE FIFTH WOE – 23:23-24

 

Matthew 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.

 

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! is repeated from verses 13, 14, and 15.

 

For ye pay tithe of is because you (plural) are tithing.

 

Mint is a perennial herb.

 

Anise is dill, a plant used for seasoning.

 

Cummin is an annual herb.

 

The tiny seeds of these plants would have been worth very little; yet, the scribes and Pharisees were meticulously tithing them.

 

And have omitted the weightier matters of the law suggests and you neglected the more important (things or matters) of the law.

 

More specifically, what they had neglected were judgment, mercy, and faith.

 

Judgment is justice, right, or righteousness.

 

Mercy is compassion or pity; and faith is faithfulness, reliability, or commitment.

 

These ought ye to have done refers to judgment, mercy, and faith and means that it was necessary that these things be done.

 

And not to leave the other undone refers to the tithing of mint, anise or dill, and cummin and means and (or but) those things not to neglect, i.e. not to neglect (or omit) the tithing of mint, anise, and cummin.

 

Matthew 23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

 

Ye blind guides is you blind leaders. They are spiritually blind rather than physically blind, and they are leading spiritually blind people.

 

Which strain at a gnat is who are filtering out (or straining out) the gnat (or the mosquito), which is a small insect.

 

And swallow a camel is and (or but) are swallowing the camel, a large animal.

We continue with –

    I.     THE SIXTH WOE – 23:25-26

 

Matthew 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

 

The scribes and Pharisees are meticulous in cleaning the outside of the dishes they use in eating but within themselves their hearts are filled with greed and self-indulgence. They are more concerned with how they look that with what they are.

 

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! is repeated from verses 13, 14, 15, and 23.

 

For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter is because you (plural) are cleansing (or are making clean) the outside of the cup and of the dish (or plate).

 

But within they are full of extortion and excess suggests but inside the scribes and Pharisees are full of things that have been stolen and of lack of self-control (or of self-indulgence).

 

Matthew 23:26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

 

Thou blind Pharisee is singular; whereas, previous references to Pharisees in this chapter have been plural. It individualizes the group of Pharisees by addressing each one individually.

 

Blind refers to spiritual blindness rather than to physical blindness.

 

Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter suggests to begin with cleanse (or make clean) the inside of the cup and of the dish (or plate).

 

That which is within the cup and platter is the inside of the cup and of the dish (or plate).

 

The outside of them refers to the outside of the cup and of the dish (or plate).

 

May be clean also implies may be clean in addition to the inside of the cup and dish or plate) being clean.

 

It indicates that when the inside of an individual’s life is clean, the outside will likewise be clean. The individual will be genuine rather than a pretender.

 

The way for the scribes and Pharisees to clean themselves on the inside is to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. The change in their lives brought about by salvation will affect the things they say and do.

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