through the grainfields: Perhaps by means of footpaths that separated one tract of land from another.
Sabbath: See Glossary.
what is not lawful: Jehovah had commanded that the Israelites do no work on the Sabbath. (Ex 20:8-10) Jewish religious leaders claimed the right to define exactly what constituted work. According to them, Jesus’ disciples were guilty of harvesting (plucking) and threshing (rubbing) grain. (Lu 6:1, 2) However, such a definition overstepped Jehovah’s command.
house of God: Here referring to the tabernacle. The account Jesus refers to (1Sa 21:
loaves of presentation: Or “showbread.” The Hebrew expression literally means “bread of the face.” The bread was figuratively before Jehovah as a constant offering to him.
violate the Sabbath: That is, to treat the Sabbath as any other day. They did so by carrying on butchering and other work in connection with the animal sacrifices.
means: The Greek word e·stinʹ (literally meaning “is”) here has the sense of “signifies; symbolizes; stands for; represents.” This meaning was evident to the apostles, since on this occasion Jesus’ perfect body was there in front of them and so was the unleavened bread that they were about to eat. Therefore, the bread could not have been his literal body. It is worth noting that the same Greek word is used at Mt 12:7, and many Bible translations render it “means.”
mercy, and not sacrifice: Jesus twice refers to these words from Ho 6:6 (here and at Mt 12:7). Matthew, a despised tax collector who became an intimate associate of Jesus, is the only Gospel writer to record this quote as well as the illustration of the unmerciful slave. (Mt 18:21-25) His Gospel highlights Jesus’ repeated insistence that mercy is required in addition to sacrifice.
what this means: Lit., “what is.” Here the Greek word e·stinʹ (literally meaning “is”) has the sense of “signifies; means.”
mercy and not sacrifice: See study note on Mt 9:13.
Son of man: Or “Son of a human.” This expression occurs about 80 times in the Gospels. Jesus used it to refer to himself, evidently emphasizing that he was truly human, born from a woman, and that he was a fitting human counterpart to Adam, having the power to redeem humankind from sin and death. (Ro 5:12, 14-15) The same expression also identified Jesus as the Messiah, or the Christ.
Lord of the Sabbath: Jesus applies this expression to himself (Mr 2:
hand: The Greek word rendered “hand” is broad in meaning and can refer to a person’s arm, hand, and fingers.
how much more so: Jesus often used this line of reasoning. First he presents an obvious fact or a familiar truth, and then he draws an even more convincing conclusion based on that fact, arguing from the lesser to the greater.
How much more: See study note on Mt 7:11.
to fulfill what was spoken by Jehovah through his prophet: This and similar expressions occur many times in Matthew’s Gospel, apparently to emphasize to the Jewish audience Jesus’ role as the promised Messiah.
to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: See study note on Mt 1:22.
whom I have approved: Or “with whom I am well-pleased; in whom I take great delight.” The same expression is used at Mt 12:18, which is a quotation from Isa 42:1 regarding the promised Messiah, or Christ. The outpouring of holy spirit and God’s declaration concerning his Son were a clear identification of Jesus as the promised Messiah.
Look!: The Greek word i·douʹ, here rendered “look!,” is often used to focus attention on what follows, encouraging the reader to visualize the scene or to take note of a detail in a narrative. It is also used to add emphasis or to introduce something new or surprising. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term occurs most frequently in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and in the book of Revelation. A corresponding expression is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures.
whom I have approved: Or “with whom I am well-pleased.”
smoldering wick: A common household lamp was a small earthenware vessel filled with olive oil. A flax wick drew the oil up to feed the flame. The Greek expression “smoldering wick” may refer to a wick that gives off smoke because an ember is still present but the flame is fading or is extinguished. The prophecy of Isa 42:3 foretold Jesus’ compassion; he would never extinguish the last spark of hope in humble and downtrodden people.
Beelzebub: Possibly an alteration of Baal-zebub, meaning “Owner (Lord) of the Flies,” the Baal worshipped by the Philistines at Ekron. (2Ki 1:3) Some Greek manuscripts use the alternate forms Beelzeboul or Beezeboul, possibly meaning “Owner (Lord) of the Lofty Abode (Habitation)” or if a play on the non-Biblical Hebrew word zeʹvel (dung), “Owner (Lord) of the Dung.” As shown at Mt 12:24, this is a designation applied to Satan
Beelzebub: A designation applied to Satan.
house: That is, a household. The original-language term for “house” could refer to an individual family or an extended household, including one associated with the palaces of kings. (Ac 7:
Satan: From the Hebrew word sa·tanʹ, meaning “resister.”
sons: Here used in the sense of “followers; disciples.”
they: That is, “your sons.”
be your judges: That is, what their sons did refuted the Pharisees’ argument.
blasphemy: Refers to defamatory, injurious, or abusive speech against God or against sacred things. Since holy spirit emanates from God himself, willfully opposing or denying its operation amounted to blasphemy against God. As shown at Mt 12:24, 28, Jewish religious leaders saw God’s spirit at work in Jesus as he performed miracles; yet, they attributed this power to Satan the Devil.
system of things: The Greek word ai·onʹ, having the basic meaning “age,” can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. Jesus is stating that blasphemy against the holy spirit will not be forgiven in the present ungodly system of things under Satan’s rule (2Co 4:4; Eph 2:2; Tit 2:12) nor in the coming system of things under God’s rule, in which “everlasting life” is promised (Lu 18:29, 30).
Serpents, offspring of vipers: Satan, “the original serpent” (Re 12:9), is in a spiritual sense the progenitor of opposers to true worship. Jesus, therefore, justly classified these religious leaders as “serpents, offspring of vipers.” (Joh 8:44; 1Jo 3:12) They caused deadly spiritual harm to those who were influenced by their wickedness. John the Baptist also used the expression “offspring of vipers.”
Offspring of vipers: See study note on Mt 23:33.
adulterous: Or “unfaithful.” In a spiritual sense, adultery denotes unfaithfulness to God on the part of those who are joined to him in a covenant. The false religious practices of natural Israel were a violation of the Law covenant, making the Israelites guilty of spiritual adultery. (Jer 3:
adulterous: Refers to spiritual adultery, or unfaithfulness to God.
sign of Jonah: Jonah compared his deliverance from the belly of the fish after about three days to being raised from the Grave. (Jon 1:17–2:2) Jesus’ resurrection from the literal grave was to be just as real as Jonah’s deliverance from the belly of the fish. However, even when Jesus was resurrected after being dead for parts of three days, his hardhearted critics did not exercise faith in him.
three days and three nights: Other Bible accounts show that this expression can mean parts of three days and that part of one day can be considered a whole day.
look!: The Greek word i·douʹ, here rendered “look!,” is often used to focus attention on what follows, encouraging the reader to visualize the scene or to take note of a detail in a narrative. It is also used to add emphasis or to introduce something new or surprising. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term occurs most frequently in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and in the book of Revelation. A corresponding expression is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures.
queen of the south: That is, the queen of Sheba. Her kingdom is thought to have been located in SW Arabia.
brothers: The Greek word a·del·phosʹ can refer to a spiritual relationship in the Bible, but here it is used of Jesus’ half brothers, the younger sons of Joseph and Mary. Some who believe that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus claim that here a·del·phosʹ refers to cousins. However, the Christian Greek Scriptures use a distinct term for “cousin” (Greek, a·ne·psi·osʹ at Col 4:10) and a different term for “the son of Paul’s sister” (Ac 23:16). Also, Lu 21:16 uses the plural forms of the Greek words a·del·phosʹ and syg·ge·nesʹ (rendered “brothers and relatives”). These examples show that the terms denoting familial relationships are not used loosely or indiscriminately in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
So someone . . . to you: This verse is omitted in some ancient manuscripts.
Look! My mother and my brothers!: Jesus here makes a distinction between his natural brothers, some of whom evidently lacked faith in him (Joh 7:5), and his spiritual brothers, his disciples. He shows that regardless of how precious the ties are that bind him to his relatives, his relationship with those who do “the will of [his] Father” is even more precious.
Jesus’ disciples may have plucked and eaten wheat kernels such as those pictured here.
This reconstruction, which incorporates some features of the first-century synagogue found at Gamla, located about 10 km (6 mi) northeast of the Sea of Galilee, gives an idea of what an ancient synagogue may have looked like.
Both John the Baptist and Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees “offspring of vipers” because they inflicted spiritual harm that was like deadly poison to unsuspecting people. (Mt 3:7; 12:34) Here pictured is the horned viper, distinguished by a small pointed horn above each eye. Other dangerous vipers native to Israel are the sand viper (Vipera ammodytes) of the Jordan Valley and the Palestine viper (Vipera palaestina).