|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
12:1-8 Being in the corn-fields, the disciples began to pluck the ears of corn: the law of God allowed it, De 23:25. This was slender provision for Christ and his disciples; but they were content with it. The Pharisees did not quarrel with them for taking another man's corn, but for doing it on the sabbath day. Christ came to free his followers, not only from the corruptions of the Pharisees, but from their unscriptural rules, and justified what they did. The greatest shall not have their lusts indulged, but the meanest shall have their wants considered. Those labours are lawful on the sabbath day which are necessary, and sabbath rest is to froward, not to hinder sabbath worship. Needful provision for health and food is to be made; but when servants are kept at home, and families become a scene of hurry and confusion on the Lord's day, to furnish a feast for visitors, or for indulgence, the case is very different. Such things as these, and many others common among professors, are to be blamed. The resting on the sabbath was ordained for man's good, De 5:14. No law must be understood so as to contradict its own end. And as Christ is the Lord of the sabbath, it is fit the day and the work of it should be dedicated to him.
Verses 1-50. - The opposition that our Lord met with
(1) from his enemies (vers. 1-45);
(2) from his relations (vers. 46-50); and the manner in which he dealt with it. Verses 1-45. -
(1) Opposition from his enemies.
(a) Conscious and wilful opposition (vers. 1-37).
(α) As regards the sabbath (vers. 1-14).
(β) An interlude. The evangelist sees in our Lord's behaviour the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy (vers. 15-21).
(γ) The opposition carried to the extreme of accusing him of alliance with Beelzebub.
Christ shows the monstrous character of such an accusation, and the absence which it discloses of all spirituality of mind (vers. 22-37).
(b) Opposition due to lack of energy in spiritual things. Christ contrasts the behaviour of heathen mentioned in the Old Testament, and warns the Jews of the result of their present apathy (vers. 38-45). Verses 1-8. - The sabbath in relation to the preparation of food. Parallel passages: Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5. St. Matthew here returns to the Framework, which he left at Matthew 9:26 or Matthew 9:34. Verse 1. - At that time (Matthew 11:25, note) Jesus went (ἐπορεύθη). It has been suggested that he was now on his way to the synagogue spoken of in ver. 9 (but see note there). Wherever he was going, it must have been within about three quarters of a mile distance (two thousand cubits; see Dr. Lumby, on Acts 1:12, "a sabbath day's journey;" and Schurer, II. 2:102). On the sabbath day. Defined in the Received Text of Luke by the anomalous term "second-first," for the genesis of which see especially Westcott and Hort, 'App.' Through the corn; the corn-fields (Revised Version, as also Authorized Version in the parallel passages). If it was barley harvest, the time would be probably the beginning of May; if wheat harvest, as seems more likely, about the beginning of June. And his disciples were a hungred. So that it was not for his own sake that our Lord acted as he did. And began. They could therefore hardly have eaten much when the complaint was made. To pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. It was legal to pluck corn from a field through which one passed (Deuteronomy 23:25), and it is said to be allowed still; but as it was held by the scribes to be a form of reaping, and perhaps of threshing also, it was considered illegal on the sabbath (cf. Edersheim, 'Life,' 2:56).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn,.... That is, the corn fields, as the other evangelists express it. It being on a sabbath day, it is very probable, that Christ and his disciples were going to some public place of worship, the way to which lay through some fields of corn, which were now ripe: for Luke says, it was on the "second sabbath after the first", or rather "the first sabbath after the second"; that is, the first sabbath after the second day of the passover, when the sheaf of the first fruit was offered, and harvest was begun.
And his disciples were an hungered; it being in the morning before they had broke their fast; and this circumstance is mentioned to show the reason of the following action, and to excuse it: at which the Pharisees were so much offended, and of which they accused them, as having done what was very criminal:
and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat; Luke adds, "rubbing them in their hands"; and so here in the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, it is rendered, "they began to rub": as they passed along, they plucked off the ears of corn, either barley or wheat, and rubbed them in their hands, to get the grain clear of the husk, or beard, and eat them; contenting themselves with such mean and unprepared food, when the Jews on that day fed on the best of dainties (e).
(e) Vid. Maimon. Hilch. Sabbat, c. 30. sect. 7, 8, 9, 10.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Mt 12:1-8. Plucking Corn Ears on the Sabbath Day. ( = Mr 2:23-28; Lu 6:1-5).
The season of the year when this occurred is determined by the event itself. Ripe corn ears are found in the fields only just before harvest. The barley harvest seems clearly intended here, at the close of our March and beginning of our April. It coincided with the Passover season, as the wheat harvest with Pentecost. But in Luke (Lu 6:1) we have a still more definite note of time, if we could be certain of the meaning of the peculiar term which he employs to express it. "It came to pass (he says) on the sabbath, which was the first-second," for that is the proper rendering of the word, and not "the second sabbath after the first," as in our version. Of the various conjectures what this may mean, that of Scaliger is the most approved, and, as we think, the freest from difficulty, namely, the first sabbath after the second day of the Passover; that is, the first of the seven sabbaths which were to be reckoned from the second day of the Passover, which was itself a sabbath, until the next feast, the feast of Pentecost (Le 23:15, 16; De 16:9, 10) In this case, the day meant by the Evangelist is the first of those seven sabbaths intervening between Passover and Pentecost. And if we are right in regarding the "feast" mentioned in Joh 5:1 as a Passover, and consequently the second during our Lord's public ministry (see on Joh 5:1), this plucking of the ears of corn must have occurred immediately after the scene and the discourse recorded in Joh 5:19-47, which, doubtless, would induce our Lord to hasten His departure for the north, to avoid the wrath of the Pharisees, which He had kindled at Jerusalem. Here, accordingly, we find Him in the fields—on His way probably to Galilee.
1. At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn—"the cornfields" (Mr 2:23; Lu 6:1).
and his disciples were an hungered—not as one may be before his regular meals; but evidently from shortness of provisions: for Jesus defends their plucking the corn-ears and eating them on the plea of necessity.
and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat—"rubbing them in their hands" (Lu 6:1).
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