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Jehovah’s Witnesses

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)

Matthew 12:1-50

12  At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples got hungry and started to pluck heads of grain and to eat.+  At seeing this, the Pharisees said to him: “Look! Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”+  He said to them: “Have you not read what David did when he and the men with him were hungry?+  How he entered into the house of God and they ate the loaves of presentation,+ something that it was not lawful for him or those with him to eat, but for the priests only?+  Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbaths the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath and continue guiltless?+  But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.+  However, if you had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy+ and not sacrifice,’+ you would not have condemned the guiltless ones.  For the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.”+  After departing from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10  and look! there was a man with a withered* hand!+ So they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?” so that they might accuse him.+ 11  He said to them: “If you have one sheep and that sheep falls into a pit on the Sabbath, is there a man among you who will not grab hold of it and lift it out?+ 12  How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do a fine thing on the Sabbath.” 13  Then he said to the man: “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored sound like the other hand. 14  But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him to kill him. 15  Having come to know this, Jesus departed from there. Many also followed him,+ and he cured them all, 16  but he sternly ordered them not to make him known,+ 17  in order to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, who said: 18  “Look! My servant+ whom I chose, my beloved, whom I have approved!+ I will put my spirit upon him,+ and what justice is he will make clear to the nations. 19  He will not quarrel+ nor cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the main streets. 20  No bruised reed will he crush, and no smoldering wick will he extinguish,+ until he brings justice with success. 21  Indeed, in his name nations will hope.”+ 22  Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and speechless, and he cured him, so that the speechless man could speak and see. 23  Well, all the crowds were astounded and began to say: “May this not perhaps be the Son of David?” 24  At hearing this, the Pharisees said: “This fellow does not expel the demons except by means of Be·elʹze·bub, the ruler of the demons.”+ 25  Knowing their thoughts, he said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself comes to ruin, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26  In the same way, if Satan expels Satan, he has become divided against himself; how, then, will his kingdom stand? 27  Moreover, if I expel the demons by means of Be·elʹze·bub, by whom do your sons expel them? This is why they will be your judges. 28  But if it is by means of God’s spirit that I expel the demons, the Kingdom of God has really overtaken you.*+ 29  Or how can anyone invade the house of a strong man and seize his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Only then can he plunder his house. 30  Whoever is not on my side is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.+ 31  “For this reason I say to you, every sort of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven.+ 32  For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him;+ but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things nor in that to come.+ 33  “Either you make the tree fine and its fruit fine or make the tree rotten and its fruit rotten, for by its fruit the tree is known.+ 34  Offspring of vipers,+ how can you speak good things when you are wicked? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.+ 35  The good man out of his good treasure sends out good things, whereas the wicked man out of his wicked treasure sends out wicked things.+ 36  I tell you that men will render an account+ on Judgment Day for every unprofitable* saying that they speak; 37  for by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.” 38  Then as an answer to him, some of the scribes and the Pharisees said: “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”+ 39  In reply he said to them: “A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking a sign,* but no sign will be given it except the sign of Joʹnah the prophet.+ 40  For just as Joʹnah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights,+ so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.+ 41  Men of Ninʹe·veh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, because they repented at what Joʹnah preached.+ But look! something more than Joʹnah is here.+ 42  The queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solʹo·mon.+ But look! something more than Solʹo·mon is here.+ 43  “When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through waterless places in search of a resting-place and finds none.+ 44  Then it says, ‘I will go back to my house from which I moved,’ and on arriving, it finds the house unoccupied but swept clean and adorned. 45  Then it goes and takes along with it seven different* spirits more wicked than itself, and after getting inside, they dwell there; and the final circumstances of that man become worse than the first.+ That is how it will be also with this wicked generation.” 46  While he was yet speaking to the crowds, his mother and brothers+ were standing outside, seeking to speak to him.+ 47  So someone said to him: “Look! Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak to you.” 48  In reply he said to the one who spoke to him: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49  And extending his hand toward his disciples, he said: “Look! My mother and my brothers!+ 50  For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, that one is my brother and sister and mother.”+


Or “paralyzed.”
Or “has already come to you; has caught you unawares.”
Or “worthless.”
Or “miraculous proof.”
Or “other.”

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 21:1-6) occurred when the tabernacle was located at Nob, a town evidently in the territory of Benjamin and close to Jerusalem.—See App. B7 (inset).

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.Ex 25:30; see Glossary and App. B5.

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.Nu 28:9, 10.

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.”—See study note on Mt 26:26.

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.Da 7:13, 14; see Glossary.

Lord of the Sabbath: Jesus applies this expression to himself (Mr 2:28; Lu 6:5), indicating that the Sabbath was at his disposal for doing the work commanded by his heavenly Father. (Compare Joh 5:19; 10:37, 38.) On the Sabbath, Jesus performed some of his most outstanding miracles, which included healing the sick. (Lu 13:10-13; Joh 5:5-9; 9:1-14) This evidently foreshadowed the kind of relief he will bring during his Kingdom rule, which will be like a sabbath rest.Heb 10:1.

hand: The Greek word rendered “hand” is broad in meaning and can refer to a person’s arm, hand, and fingers.—See also Mt 12:13.

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.Mt 10:25; 12:12; Lu 11:13; 12:28.

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.Mt 2:15, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:56; 27:9.

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.—See study note on Mt 12:18.

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.

I have: Or “my soul has.” In this quote from Isa 42:1, the Greek word psy·kheʹ is used to render the Hebrew word neʹphesh, both traditionally rendered “soul.”—See Glossary, “Soul.”

whom I have approved: Or “with whom I am well-pleased.”—See study note on Mt 3:17.

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.

with success: Or “to victory.” The Greek word niʹkos is rendered “victory” at 1Co 15:55, 57.

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—the prince, or ruler, of the demons.

Beelzebub: A designation applied to Satan.—See study note on Mt 10:25.

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 7:10; Php 4:22) The term was used of ruling dynasties, such as those of the Herods and the Caesars, where internal dissension was common and destructive. Here in Matthew’s account, the term “house” is used in parallel with city.

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).—See Glossary.

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.”Mt 3:7.

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 3:8, 9; 5:7, 8; 9:2; 13:27; 23:10; Ho 7:4) For similar reasons, Jesus denounced as adulterous the generation of Jews in his day. (Mt 12:39; 16:4) If Christians who are in the new covenant defile themselves with the present system of things, they commit spiritual adultery. In principle, this would be true of all those who are dedicated to Jehovah.Jas 4:4.

adulterous: Refers to spiritual adultery, or unfaithfulness to God.—See study note on Mr 8:38.

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.Ge 42:17, 18; 1Ki 12:5, 12; Mt 27:62-66; 28:1-6.

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.1Ki 10:1.

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.

brothers: That is, Jesus’ half brothers. Their names are mentioned at Mt 13:55 and Mr 6:3.—See study note on Mt 13:55 regarding the meaning of the term “brother.”

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.Mt 12:50.


Kernels of Grain
Kernels of Grain

Jesus’ disciples may have plucked and eaten wheat kernels such as those pictured here.

First-Century Synagogue
First-Century Synagogue

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.

Horned Viper
Horned Viper

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).