|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:37-54 We should all look to our hearts, that they may be cleansed and new-created; and while we attend to the great things of the law and of the gospel, we must not neglect the smallest matter God has appointed. When any wait to catch something out of our mouths, that they may insnare us, O Lord, give us thy prudence and thy patience, and disappoint their evil purposes. Furnish us with such meekness and patience that we may glory in reproaches, for Christ's sake, and that thy Holy Spirit may rest upon us.
Verse 44. - Ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. Here and in St. Matthew the same imagery was present in the great Teacher's mind - the whitewashed tombs of a cemetery. But in the report of St. Matthew the Master's picture drew a sharp contrast between the fair outward appearance of the clean white tomb, and the decaying, loathsome mass of what represented poor humanity within! When Jesus spoke the saying related by St. Luke here, the imagery was still drawn from the graves in a cemetery; but now he compared his hosts and their school of thought to graves, from the wood and stones of which the whitewash was worn off, and passers-by would walk over them, thus touching them and contracting ceremonial defilement, without being conscious what they were walking over and touching. All contact with sepulchres involved ceremonial defilement; hence the fact of their being constantly whitewashed in order to warn passers-by of their presence. This silent warning of the graves has been compared to the leper's cry, "Unclean, unclean!" with which he warned passers-by of his sad defiling presence. These tombs were whitewashed usually yearly on the fifteenth day of the month Adar (about the beginning of March). Tiberius on the lake was built partly on the site of an old unsuspected cemetery; no true Jew would reside there in consequence.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,.... As they are all along called by Matthew; though only here by Luke. The Vulgate Latin only reads, "woe unto you", leaving out all the rest: but the whole is retained in all the Oriental versions;
for ye are as graves which appear not; being covered with grass; "or which were not marked", as the Ethiopic version renders it; that is, were not whited or covered with lime, as some were, that they might be seen at a distance, and be known what they were; that so men might avoid going near them, and prevent their being defiled with them; See Gill on Matthew 23:27.
and the men that walk over them
are not aware of them; and so are defiled by them. Christ compares the Pharisees, because of their hypocrisy, and secret iniquity, both to whited sepulchres, and to those that were not: to those that were, because, like them, they looked beautiful without, and righteous in the sight of men, and yet were inwardly full of all manner of pollution and sin; and to those that were not, because they did not appear to be what they were, and men were deceived by them; and under specious pretences to religion and holiness, were by their corrupt doctrines and practices unawares drawn into the commission of sin. Regard may not only be had to graves covered with grass, or not marked with lime, by which they might be known; but also to what the Jews call, , "the grave of the abyss" (z); a grave that is not known no more than if it was in the bottomless pit: so uncleanness by touching a dead body, which a man is not conscious of, is called the uncleanness of the abyss, or an unknown one (a).
(z) Misn Parah. c. 3. sect. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Parah. c. 3. sect. (a) Maimon. in Misn. Nazir, c. 9. sect. 2. & Pesach. c. 7. sect. 7.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
44. appear not, &c.—As one might unconsciously walk over a grave concealed from view, and thus contract ceremonial defilement, so the plausible exterior of the Pharisees kept people from perceiving the pollution they contracted from coming in contact with such corrupt characters. (See Ps 5:9; Ro 3:13; a different illustration from Mt 23:27).
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