|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:9-14 This parable was to convince some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. God sees with what disposition and design we come to him in holy ordinances. What the Pharisee said, shows that he trusted to himself that he was righteous. We may suppose he was free from gross and scandalous sins. All this was very well and commendable. Miserable is the condition of those who come short of the righteousness of this Pharisee, yet he was not accepted; and why not? He went up to the temple to pray, but was full of himself and his own goodness; the favour and grace of God he did not think worth asking. Let us beware of presenting proud devotions to the Lord, and of despising others. The publican's address to God was full of humility, and of repentance for sin, and desire toward God. His prayer was short, but to the purpose; God be merciful to me a sinner. Blessed be God, that we have this short prayer upon record, as an answered prayer; and that we are sure that he who prayed it, went to his house justified; for so shall we be, if we pray it, as he did, through Jesus Christ. He owned himself a sinner by nature, by practice, guilty before God. He had no dependence but upon the mercy of God; upon that alone he relied. And God's glory is to resist the proud, and give grace to the humble. Justification is of God in Christ; therefore the self-condemned, and not the self-righteous, are justified before God.
Verse 12 - I fast twice in the week. There was no such precept in the Law of Moses. There only a single fast-day in the year was enjoined, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). By the time of Zechariah the prophet (Zechariah 8:19) the one fast-day had grown into four. But this fasting twice every week was a burthensome observance imposed in the later oral Law. Thursday and Monday were the appointed fasting-days, because tradition related how, on those days, Moses ascended and descended from Sinai. Compare the Talmud (treatise 'Bava Khama,' fol. 82. 1). I give tithes of all that I possess. Here, again, the Mosaic ordinance only enjoined tithes of corn, wine, oil, and cattle. The later rabbinic schools directed that everything should be tithed, down to the mint and anise and cummin. And so this poor deluded Pharisee dreamed he had earned his eternal salvation, forgetting that the tithes he so prided himself on paying were merely tithes of goods of which he was steward for a little time, tithes, too, given back to their real Owner - God. Could this be counted a claim upon God? He boasted, too, that he was no extortioner: did he forget how often he had coveted? He was no adulterer: what of those wicked thoughts which so often found a home in his heart? He rejoiced that he was not like the publican and others of that same class: did he think of the sore temptations to which these and the like were exposed, and from which he was free? He gloried in his miserable tithes and offerings: did he remember how really mean and selfish he was? did he think of his luxury and abundance, and of the want and misery of thousands round him? did his poor pitiful generosity constitute a claim to salvation? All this and more is shrined in the exquisite story of Jesus, who shows men that salvation - if it be given to men at all - must be given entirely as a free gift of God.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I fast twice in the week,.... Not "on the sabbath", as the words may be literally rendered, and as they are in the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions; for the sabbath was not a fasting, but a feasting day with the Jews; for they were obliged to eat three meals, or feasts, on a sabbath day, one in the morning, another at evening, and another at the time of the meat offering: even the poorest man in Israel, who was maintained by alms, was obliged to keep these three feasts (f). It was forbidden a man to fast, until the sixth hour, on a sabbath day; that is, till noon (g): wherefore, it is a great mistake in Justin (h) and Suetonius (i), that the sabbath was kept by the Jews as a fast. But the word is rightly rendered, "in the week"; the whole seven days, or week, were by the Jews commonly called the sabbath; hence, , "the first of the sabbath", and the second of the sabbath, and the third of the sabbath (k); that is, the first, second, and third days of the week. Now the two days in the week on which they fasted were Monday and Thursday, the second and fifth days; on which days the law of Moses, and the book of Esther were read, by the order of Ezra (l); and fasts for the congregation were appointed on those days (m); and so a private person, or a single man, as in this instance, took upon him, or chose to fast on the same (n): the reason of this is, by some, said to be, because Moses went up to Mount Sinai on a Thursday, and came down on a Monday (o). But though these men fasted so often, they took care not to hurt themselves; for they allowed themselves to eat in the night till break of day. It is asked (p),
"how long may a man eat and drink, i.e. on a fast day? until the pillar of the morning ascends (day breaks); these are the words of Rabbi (Judah): R. Eliezer ben Simeon says, until cock crowing.''
So that they had not so much reason to boast of these performances: he adds,
I give tithes of all that I possess; not only of what was tithable by the law of Moses, as the produce of his ground; and by the traditions of the elders, as the herbs in his garden, Matthew 23:23 but of every thing he had, which was not required by either of them; upon which he thought himself a very righteous person, and more than a common man: it is asked (q),
"who is a plebeian? (one of the people of the earth, or the common people) whoever does not eat his common food with purity with hands washed; these are the words of R. Meir; but the wise men say, whoever does not tithe his fruit.''
This man would not be thought to be such an one.
(f) Maimon. Hilch. Sabbat, c. 30. sect. 9. (g) T. Hieros. Nedarim, fol. 40. 4. (h) L. 36. c. 2.((i) Octav. Aug. c. 76. (k) Maimon. Hilch. Mechosre Caphara, c. 2. sect, 8. (l) T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol. 82. 1. Megilla, 31. 1, 2.((m) Maimon. Hilchot Taaniot, c. 1. sect. 5. (n) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 12. 1.((o) Godwin Moses & Aaron, l. 1. c. 10. Vid. T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 88. 1.((p) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 12. 1.((q) T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 61. 1.
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