|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.
Verses 2-12. - The moral character of the scribes and Pharisees, and warning to Christ's disciples. Verse 2. - The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. In the seat of the great judge and lawgiver. This is stated as an undoubted fact (ἐκάθισαν), with no idea of blame attached. Literally, sat on the seat of Moses from time immemorial. These (meaning not individuals, but the collective body) are the authorized expounders and teachers of the Law; their position is assured; they are not to be displaced. The scribes were the party chiefly denoted; they were of the Pharisaical sect; hence the addition, "and the Pharisees," by which is intimated, not that these latter, qua Pharisees, had any teaching office, but that the former shared their religious opinions. The Sadducees seem to have had no popular influence, and were never recognized as leaders. The Levitical priests never appear in the Gospels as teachers or expositors of the Mosaic system; this function of theirs had devolved upon scribes and lawyers.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Saying, the Scribes and Pharisees,.... The Persic version adds, the priests: but Christ does not here speak of the sanhedrim, or grand council of the nation, and of their legislative power; but of those that were the teachers of the people, and the interpreters of the law; and of those, who, though they corrupted the word with their glosses and traditions, yet retained some truth, and at least came nearer truth, than the Sadducees; who therefore are omitted, and only Scribes and Pharisees mentioned, who gave the literal and traditional sense of the Scriptures; of whom he says, they
sit in Moses's seat: not that they were his successors in his office as a legislator and mediator; though the Persic version reads it, "sit in the place and chair of Moses"; but they read his law, and explained it to the people: this post and place, as yet, they kept in the office they were, and were to continue; and the people were to regard them so far as they spoke consistent with the law, until it had its full accomplishment in Christ. The allusion is not to the chairs in which the sanhedrim sat in trying and determining causes, but to those in which the doctors sat when they expounded the law; for though they stood up when they read the law, or the prophets, they sat down when they preached out of them: this custom of the synagogue was observed by our Lord; see Luke 4:16.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit—The Jewish teachers stood to read, but sat to expound the Scriptures, as will be seen by comparing Lu 4:16 with Lu 4:20.
in Moses' seat—that is, as interpreters of the law given by Moses.
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