|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
7:1-13 One great design of Christ's coming was, to set aside the ceremonial law; and to make way for this, he rejects the ceremonies men added to the law of God's making. Those clean hands and that pure heart which Christ bestows on his disciples, and requires of them, are very different from the outward and superstitious forms of Pharisees of every age. Jesus reproves them for rejecting the commandment of God. It is clear that it is the duty of children, if their parents are poor, to relieve them as far as they are able; and if children deserve to die that curse their parents, much more those that starve them. But if a man conformed to the traditions of the Pharisees, they found a device to free him from the claim of this duty.
Verse 3. - Except they wash their hands oft. The Greek word here rendered "oft" is πυγμῇ: literally, with the fist, i.e. with the closed hand, rubbing one against the other. This word has caused a vast amount of criticism; and the difficulty of explaining it seems to have led to the adoption of a conjectural reading (πυκνῷς or πυκνῇ) rendered "oft;" crebro in the Vulgate. But the Syriac Peshito Version renders the Greek word by a word which means "diligently," and it is interesting and helpful, as a matter of exegesis, to know that it also renders the Greek word (ἐπιμελῶς) in Luke 15:8 by the same Syriac synonym, "diligently." The "clenched fist" implies vigor and resolution, and points to "diligence," and there are very high authorities in favor of this rendering, as, Epiphanius, Isaac Casaubon, and Cornelius a Lapide, to say nothing of our best modern expositors. It is also adopted in the Revised Version. Holding the tradition of the elders. The Pharisees pretended that this tradition had been orally delivered by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, and then transmitted orally down to their time. These oral precepts were afterwards embodied in the Talmud.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For the Pharisees, and all the Jews,.... The far greater part of them; all, excepting the Sadducees; and especially the Pharisees, were very tenacious of this tradition of washing hands before eating: hence Pharisees are described as such, , "that eat their common food with cleanness" (n), i.e. of hands: these,
except they wash their hands oft, eat not; or except they wash very cautiously, with great care, diligence, and exactness, as the Syriac version suggests; and about which there are various rules given, to be observed with great strictness (o). Some render the words, "they wash their hands to the elbow"; and this is a rule with the Jews, which is closely to be abode by, that the washing of hands is to be, , "to the joint", which joins the hand and arm together (p): particularly it is observed (q), that
"washing of the hands for the eating of the offering, is unto the elbow, and for common food, to the joints of the fingers: he that eats with an ancient man, and does not wash his hands to the elbow, he may not eat with him.''
Well may it be added,
holding the tradition of the elders; nor do the Jews pretend the authority of the Scriptures as obliging them to such rules; for, they say, the command concerning washing of hands is, , "from the words of the Scribes" (r); and is , "a command of the wise men" (s). The tradition is this:
"they wash hands for common food, but for the tithe, and for the first offering, and for that which is holy, they dip them, and for the sin offering; for if the hands are defiled; the body is defiled (t).''
And this tradition of the elders, the Scribes, and Pharisees, strictly observed.
(n) Gloss in T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 18. 2. Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Chagiga, c. 2. sect. 7. (o) Vid. Maimon. Hilch. Bcracot, c. 6. (p) T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 106. 1, 2. Maimon. Hilch. Beracot, c. 6. 4. Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Eracin, c. 5. sect. 1. Zohar in Deut. fol. 115. 2.((q) T. Hieros. Betacot, fol. 12. 1.((r) Maimon. Hilch. Mikvaot, c. 11. sect. 1.((s) Ib. Beracot, c. 6. sect. 2.((t) Misn. Chagiga, c. 2. sect. 5.
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