|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.
Verse 2. - But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him. The Revised Version (but the Pharisees, when they saw it, said unto him) retains the simple order of the Greek, which more vividly represents the Pharisees as a party opposed to him. Behold. They suggest that he had not noticed it. Were the disciples behind him (cf. Matthew 8:23)? Thy disciples. Notice that all the accusations brought against the disciples in this Gospel concern food: Matthew 9:14, as regards abstaining from it upon fixed days; Matthew 15:2, as regards eating it without taking extreme precautions against ceremonial pollution; in the present passage, as regards avoiding any profanation of the sabbath for its sake. Do. At this moment. That which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day (ver. 1, note).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But when the Pharisees saw it,.... Who went along with him, or followed him, being employed to make observation on his words and actions,
they said unto him; Luke says, "unto them", the disciples: it seems, they took notice of this action both to Christ and his disciples, and first spoke of it to the one, and then to the other, or to both together:
behold thy disciples do that which it is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day! they mention it with astonishment, and indignation. What they refer to, is not their walking on the sabbath day: this they might do, according to their canons, provided they did not exceed two thousand cubits, which were a sabbath day's journey (f) nor was it their passing through the corn fields; though, according to them (g),
"it was not lawful for a man to visit his gardens, "or his fields", on the sabbath day, to see what they want, or how the fruits grow; for such walking is to do his own pleasure.''
But this they knew was not the case of Christ, and his disciples, who were not proprietors of these fields: nor was it merely their plucking the ears of corn, and rubbing and eating them, which were not their own, but another man's; for this, according to the law, in Deuteronomy 23:25 was lawful to be done: but what offended the Pharisees was, that it was done on a sabbath day, it being, as they interpret it, a servile work, and all one as reaping; though, in the law just mentioned, it is manifestly distinguished from it. Their rule is (h).
"he that reaps (on the sabbath day) ever so little, is guilty (of stoning), , and "plucking of ears of corn is a derivative of reaping";''
and is all one as its primitive, and punishable with the same kind of death, if done presumptuously: so Philo the Jew observes (i), that the rest of the sabbath not only reached to men, bond and free, and to beasts, but even to trees, and plants; and that ' , "it was not lawful to cut a plant, or branch, or so much as a leaf", on a sabbath day: and it may be what might make this offence of the disciples the more heinous was, that they plucked these ears, and ate them, and so broke their fast before morning prayer; for a man might not eat any thing on a sabbath day until morning prayers were ended in the synagogue, nor indeed on any other day; for they used not to eat bread till after they had offered the daily sacrifice, which was about the third hour of the day, or nine o'clock in the morning; nor did they eat till the fourth hour, or ten o'clock (k).
(f) Ib. c. 27. sect. 1.((g) R. Moses Kotzensis Mitzvot Tora prec. neg. 65. (h) Maimon. Hilch. Sabbat, c. 8. sect. 3. & 7. 1.((i) De Vita Mosis, 1. 2. p. 657. (k) Vid. Targum in Eccl. x. 17. Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 6. sect. 4.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day—The act itself was expressly permitted (De 23:25). But as being "servile work," which was prohibited on the sabbath day, it was regarded as sinful.
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