Matthew 12:1 MEANING

Matthew 12:1

(1) At that time.--St. Luke (Luke 6:1) defines the time more specifically as "the second first sabbath." The question, what is meant by that term, will be discussed in the Notes on that passage. The facts of the case place it clearly between the Passover and the Feast of Pentecost, between the beginning of the barley and the end of the wheat harvest. The position which the narrative occupies in Mark 2:23, Luke 6:1, immediately after the feast in Matthew's house, differs so widely from St. Matthew's arrangement, that we are again at sea in attempting to construct a harmony, and can only regard the words "at that time" as belonging to the separate history in some other position than that in which he has placed it.

Began to pluck the ears of corn.--Note St. Mark's stronger phrase, "to make a path, plucking the ears," and St. Luke's description that they ate them, "rubbing them in their hands." The act was permitted by the Law as far as the rights of property were concerned (Deuteronomy 23:25), but it was against the Pharisees' interpretation of the law of the Sabbath. To pluck the ears was to reap, to rub the husks from the grain was to thresh; and the new Teacher was therefore, they thought, tacitly sanctioning a distinct breach of the holiness of the day of rest.

Verses 1-50. - The opposition that our Lord met with

(1) from his enemies (vers. 1-45);

(2) from his relations (vers. 46-50); and the manner in which he dealt with it. Verses 1-45. -

(1) Opposition from his enemies.

(a) Conscious and wilful opposition (vers. 1-37).

(α) As regards the sabbath (vers. 1-14).

(β) An interlude. The evangelist sees in our Lord's behaviour the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy (vers. 15-21).

(γ) The opposition carried to the extreme of accusing him of alliance with Beelzebub.

Christ shows the monstrous character of such an accusation, and the absence which it discloses of all spirituality of mind (vers. 22-37).

(b) Opposition due to lack of energy in spiritual things. Christ contrasts the behaviour of heathen mentioned in the Old Testament, and warns the Jews of the result of their present apathy (vers. 38-45). Verses 1-8. - The sabbath in relation to the preparation of food. Parallel passages: Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5. St. Matthew here returns to the Framework, which he left at Matthew 9:26 or Matthew 9:34. Verse 1. - At that time (Matthew 11:25, note) Jesus went (ἐπορεύθη). It has been suggested that he was now on his way to the synagogue spoken of in ver. 9 (but see note there). Wherever he was going, it must have been within about three quarters of a mile distance (two thousand cubits; see Dr. Lumby, on Acts 1:12, "a sabbath day's journey;" and Schurer, II. 2:102). On the sabbath day. Defined in the Received Text of Luke by the anomalous term "second-first," for the genesis of which see especially Westcott and Hort, 'App.' Through the corn; the corn-fields (Revised Version, as also Authorized Version in the parallel passages). If it was barley harvest, the time would be probably the beginning of May; if wheat harvest, as seems more likely, about the beginning of June. And his disciples were a hungred. So that it was not for his own sake that our Lord acted as he did. And began. They could therefore hardly have eaten much when the complaint was made. To pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. It was legal to pluck corn from a field through which one passed (Deuteronomy 23:25), and it is said to be allowed still; but as it was held by the scribes to be a form of reaping, and perhaps of threshing also, it was considered illegal on the sabbath (cf. Edersheim, 'Life,' 2:56).

12:1-8 Being in the corn-fields, the disciples began to pluck the ears of corn: the law of God allowed it, De 23:25. This was slender provision for Christ and his disciples; but they were content with it. The Pharisees did not quarrel with them for taking another man's corn, but for doing it on the sabbath day. Christ came to free his followers, not only from the corruptions of the Pharisees, but from their unscriptural rules, and justified what they did. The greatest shall not have their lusts indulged, but the meanest shall have their wants considered. Those labours are lawful on the sabbath day which are necessary, and sabbath rest is to froward, not to hinder sabbath worship. Needful provision for health and food is to be made; but when servants are kept at home, and families become a scene of hurry and confusion on the Lord's day, to furnish a feast for visitors, or for indulgence, the case is very different. Such things as these, and many others common among professors, are to be blamed. The resting on the sabbath was ordained for man's good, De 5:14. No law must be understood so as to contradict its own end. And as Christ is the Lord of the sabbath, it is fit the day and the work of it should be dedicated to him.At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn,.... That is, the corn fields, as the other evangelists express it. It being on a sabbath day, it is very probable, that Christ and his disciples were going to some public place of worship, the way to which lay through some fields of corn, which were now ripe: for Luke says, it was on the "second sabbath after the first", or rather "the first sabbath after the second"; that is, the first sabbath after the second day of the passover, when the sheaf of the first fruit was offered, and harvest was begun.

And his disciples were an hungered; it being in the morning before they had broke their fast; and this circumstance is mentioned to show the reason of the following action, and to excuse it: at which the Pharisees were so much offended, and of which they accused them, as having done what was very criminal:

and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat; Luke adds, "rubbing them in their hands"; and so here in the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, it is rendered, "they began to rub": as they passed along, they plucked off the ears of corn, either barley or wheat, and rubbed them in their hands, to get the grain clear of the husk, or beard, and eat them; contenting themselves with such mean and unprepared food, when the Jews on that day fed on the best of dainties (e).

(e) Vid. Maimon. Hilch. Sabbat, c. 30. sect. 7, 8, 9, 10.

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