“But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.”
King James Version (KJV)
Mt 12:2 But when the Pharisees saw [it]. See PNT "Mt 3:7". Some of the sect were in attendance on the watch for a ground of accusation. Not lawful to do upon the sabbath. They did not object to taking the ears of corn, but to gathering, rubbing out the grains of wheat in the hand, and eating them on the sabbath. To understand their position, it must be noticed that after the Law had said that the Jews were "to do no manner of work" on the Sabbath, the "Tradition of the Elders" had laid down thirty-nine principal prohibitions, which were ascribed to the authority of the Great Synagogue, and which were called "abhoth", "fathers", or chief rules. From these were deduced a vast multitude of "toldoth", "descendants", or derivative rules. Now, "reaping" and "threshing" on the Sabbath day were forbidden by "abhoth"; and by the "toldoth" it was asserted that plucking corn-ears was "a kind of" reaping, and rubbing them "a kind of" threshing. The vitality of these artificial notions among the Jews is extraordinary. Abarbanel relates that when, in 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain, and were forbidden to enter the city of Fez lest they should cause a famine, they lived on grass; yet even in this state ``religiously avoided the violation of their Sabbath by plucking the grass with their hands.'' To avoid this they took the much more laborious method of groveling on their knees, and cropping it with their teeth. We give one more example of their Sabbath requirements from "Milman's Jews" (Vol. 2, p. 480): ``If on the Sabbath a Jew put out a lamp from fear of the Gentiles, or robbers, or on account of an evil spirit, he was guiltless; if to save oil, he was guilty.''