|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
23:1-12 The scribes and Pharisees explained the law of Moses, and enforced obedience to it. They are charged with hypocrisy in religion. We can only judge according to outward appearance; but God searches the heart. They made phylacteries. These were scrolls of paper or parchment, wherein were written four paragraphs of the law, to be worn on their foreheads and left arms, Ex 13:2-10; 13:11-16; De 6:4-9; 11:13-21. They made these phylacteries broad, that they might be thought more zealous for the law than others. God appointed the Jews to make fringes upon their garments, Nu 15:38, to remind them of their being a peculiar people; but the Pharisees made them larger than common, as if they were thereby more religious than others. Pride was the darling, reigning sin of the Pharisees, the sin that most easily beset them, and which our Lord Jesus takes all occasions to speak against. For him that is taught in the word to give respect to him that teaches, is commendable; but for him that teaches, to demand it, to be puffed up with it, is sinful. How much is all this against the spirit of Christianity! The consistent disciple of Christ is pained by being put into chief places. But who that looks around on the visible church, would think this was the spirit required? It is plain that some measure of this antichristian spirit prevails in every religious society, and in every one of our hearts.
Verse 12. - Whosever shall exalt himself shall be abased (ταπεινωθήσεται, shall be humbled); and he that shall humble (ταπεινώσει) himself shall be exalted. It is not clear why the rendering of the verb is not uniform in this verse. The antithesis certainly requires it. The gnome, so often repeated (see references), seems to be, as it has been called, "an axiom in the kingdom of God." It is indeed a universal law in God's dealings with men. Olshausen quotes a saying! of Hillel to the same purport, "My humility is my exaltation, and my exaltation is my humility." The first clause was prophetic of the speedy overthrow of the haughty Pharisees; the second is grandly illustrated in the example of Christ, who humbled himself to the death of the cross, and is now highly exalted; who "for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). St. Peter draws the lesson, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" (1 Peter 5:5, 6).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And whosoever shall exalt himself,.... Above his fellow Christians, or fellow ministers, by entertaining too high an opinion of himself, by boasting of his gifts, as preferable to others, and as if he had not received them; by assuming, or eagerly coveting titles of honour among men, or by affecting honour that do not belong to him, or, abusing what he has: "shall be abased"; or humbled by God, or men, or both; such shall lose the honour they have, and come greatly short of what they are ambitious of; they shall fall into disgrace with men, and are abominable in the sight of God: "and he that shall humble himself"; by entertaining low thoughts, and a mean opinion of himself, behaving modestly among men; not being elated with his gifts, but acknowledging that they are owing to the grace and goodness of God; and using them in an humble manner, for, the advantage of others; not coveting honour from men, nor lifted up with what is conferred on him: "shall be exalted"; by God, or men, or both; if not in this world, yet in the world to come: and indeed, generally speaking, such modest, humble, persons, are most esteemed among men; and God gives more grace unto them, and will at last give them glory. This is a saying, often used by our Lord on different accounts, both with respect to his disciples, for their instruction, and with regard to the scribes and Pharisees, for their mortification; see Luke 14:11. It seems to be a proverbial expression, and much in use among the Jews: it is said in so many words in the Talmud (u), as here;
"whosoever shall humble himself, the holy blessed God shall exalt him; and whosoever shall exalt himself, the holy blessed God shall humble him.''
(u) T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 13. 2. & 54. 1. & Nedarim, fol. 55. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
12. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased—See on Lu 18:14. What follows was addressed more immediately to the scribes and Pharisees.
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