Matthew 12:3 MEANING

Matthew 12:3
(3) Have ye not read . . .?--The question was an appeal to the Pharisees on the ground where they thought themselves strongest. For them it was an argument a fortiori. Would they accuse David of sacrilege and Sabbath-breaking because he, in a case of urgent need, set at nought the two-fold law of ordinances? If they shrank from that, was it not inconsistent to condemn the disciples of Jesus for a far lighter transgression?

Verse 3. - But he said unto them, Have ye not read. Our Lord answers them by showing that the principle of the action of his disciples was sanctioned in the Scriptures to which they implicitly appealed. He calls their attention first (more Rabbinico; cf. on ver. 5) to the Prophets (i.e. the former prophets, according to the Hebrew division), as teaching by example that holy things are of secondary importance compared with the benefit of God's people; and afterwards to the Law, which implies that the sabbath itself is of secondary importance compared with work necessary for the sanctuary. He then affirms that in the present case there is One present who is even greater than the sanctuary. He goes on to say that their complaint, however, was really due to the lack, not so much of intellectual as of spiritual knowledge; they had no rapprochement with the God of love, or they would not have condemned those who, both because they were men and because they were disciples of the Son of man, stood above the sabbath. What David did, when he was a hungred, and they that were with him (1 Samuel 21:1-7).

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.But he said unto them, have ye not read,.... If they had not read the Scriptures, they were very unfit persons either to be teachers, or censurers of others, and must have been very slothful and negligent; and if they had, they could not but have observed the case of David, which Christ produces in vindication of his disciples:

what David did when he was an hungred; which was the case of the disciples, and is therefore mentioned; it being also the circumstance which could, and did excuse what was done by David and his men: and the Jews themselves own, that in case of hunger the showbread might be eaten, by those that were not priests; not only that which was removed from the table, but that which was upon it; yea, even when there was none to put in its room (l); and that David was in the utmost distress, and therefore desired it, and it was granted him on that account. They represent him as thus saying to the priest (m),

"when he found there was none but showbread, give it me, that we may not die with hunger; , "for danger of life drives away the sabbath";''

which perfectly agrees with our Lord's argument, and justifies the apostles conduct: and this was not a single fact of David's, but of others also;

and they that were with him; for though in 1 Samuel 21:1 he is said to be "alone, and no man with him"; yet this must be understood either comparatively, having but very few with him, and which were as none, considering his dignity; or thus, though none came with him to Ahimelech, pretending to the priest he had a secret affair of the king's to transact; and therefore had left his servants in a certain place, and desires bread for himself and them; concerning whom the priest and he discourses, as may be seen in the place referred to: so that though no man was with him at the priest's house, yet there were some with him, and who partook with him in eating of the showbread.

(l) R. David Kimchi in 1 Samuel 21.5. (m) Laniado Cli Jaker, fol. 227. 2.

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