|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
16:1-4 The Pharisees and Sadducees were opposed to each other in principles and in conduct; yet they joined against Christ. But they desired a sign of their own choosing: they despised those signs which relieved the necessity of the sick and sorrowful, and called for something else which would gratify the curiosity of the proud. It is great hypocrisy, when we slight the signs of God's ordaining, to seek for signs of our own devising.
Verses 1-4. - The Pharisees and Sadducees desire a sign. (Mark 8:11-13.) Verse 1. - The Pharisees also with the Saddueees; rather, and the Pharisees and Sadducees. The scribes and Pharisees are often mentioned together as watching or attacking Jesus; but this is the first time that we hear of Pharisees combining with Sadducees for this purpose. The two sects were directly opposed to each other, the traditional belief of the former being antagonistic to the scepticism and materialism of the latter. But both were hostile to Christ, whose teaching, on the one hand interfered with rabbinism, and on the other maintained the existence of the supernatural and the certainty of the resurrection. The Sadducees alone seem to have attacked Christ only on two occasions. They were probably Herodians (comp. Matthew 22:16), and on this account also disliked by the Pharisees; but they were powerful, and held most of the highest offices in the state, and their alliance was sought or allowed in order more effectually to compromise Jesus. Even theological hatred and political opposition sank into indifference in the face of what was regarded as a common danger. Strauss and his school regard this combination as so unnatural that they throw discredit on the whole account. This is shallow criticism. Nothing is more common than for persons opposed on all other subjects to coalesce for an unholy purpose in which they are jointly interested. The most violent political opponents will join forces in order to gain some desired point, and. when an attack on the Church is meditated, even unbelievers are gladly welcomed. Tertullian says forcibly, "Christ is always being crucified between two thieves." Tempting. Trying him with captious questions, to bring him into a difficulty, or to give them an opportunity of accusing him of heterodoxy, or disloyalty, or insubordination, and of discrediting him with the people. A sign from heaven. The rabbis held that demons and. false gods could perform certain miracles on earth, but God alone could give signs from heaven, such as, e.g., the manna of Moses' time, the staying of the sun and moon by Joshua, the lightning and thunder that came at Samuel's word, the stroke of death on the captains who tried to arrest Elijah. They had heard of the miraculous meal just before, and saw how deeply the people were moved by it, and they would imply that such a miracle was no proof of a Divine mission, as it might have been wrought by magical or Satanic agency. Let Christ give a sign from heaven, and they would acknowledge his claims. They knew what Christ's answer would be, as they had already attacked him with the same demand (Matthew 12:38); and they hoped that he would either refuse to gratify them, as before, or else make an attempt and fail. In either case they thought they might turn the circumstance to his disadvantage. The Sadducees joined in the request, because they disbelieved in all such occurrences, and were fully persuaded that they were impossible, and any one who attempted to produce them must prove himself a miserable impostor. The word translated desired. (ἐπηρώτησαν) is emphatic; the verb is used classically in the sense of "to put a question for decision;" so the interrogation here would signify that this was to be a final test of the claims of Christ; on his answer depended their adhesion or opposition (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:22).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, &c. Not from Jerusalem, as in Matthew 15:1 but from the neighbouring places: these were Galilean Sadducees and Pharisees, of whom mention is made in the Misna (w);
"says , "a Galilean Sadducee", (i.e. one that was of the land of Galilee, as Bartenora on the place observes,) I complain of you Pharisees, because ye write the name of a ruler with the name of Moses, in a divorce; say the Pharisees, we complain of you Galilean Sadducees, that you write the name of a ruler with the name of God, in the same leaf:''
but though these two sects could not agree in this, and in many other things, yet they could unite against Christ, to whom they bore an implacable hatred.
And tempting, desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven: they came with no sincere view to be taught by him, or learn anything from him; but if they could, to ensnare him, and get an opportunity of exposing him to the people; and therefore pretending dissatisfaction with the miracles he wrought on the earth, they ask of him to produce a sign from heaven, of his coming from thence, of his being the Son of God, and the true Messiah. They wanted some such sign, as the standing still of the sun and moon, in the times of Joshua; and as raining manna, in the times of Moses; or some such appearances of thunder and lightning, as at the giving of the law. The appearance of the rainbow, in a very extraordinary manner, is looked upon by the Jews as a sign of the Messiah's coming (x).
"Says a certain Jew, when my father departed out of the world, he said thus to me; do not look for the Messiah until thou seest the bow in the world, adorned with light colours, and the world enlightened by it; then look for the Messiah, as it is written, Genesis 9:16.''
Some very unusual and uncommon sight in the heavens, was what these men asked of Christ in proof of his mission from God.
(w) Yadaim, c. 4. sect. 8. (x) Zohar in Gen. fol. 53. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Mt 16:1-12. A Sign from Heaven Sought and Refused—Caution against the Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
For the exposition, see on Mr 8:11-21.
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