|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
23:13-33 The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities. But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They were very busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to their worldly interests. They were very strict and precise in smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightier matters. It is not the scrupling a little sin that Christ here reproves; if it be a sin, though but a gnat, it must be strained out; but the doing that, and then swallowing a camel, or, committing a greater sin. While they would seem to be godly, they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new, there will be newness of life; here we must begin with ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was upon earth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as men then did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with God to give those up to their hearts' lusts, who obstinately persist in gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters.
Verse 32. - Fill ye up then; καὶ ὑμεῖς πληρώσατε: do ye also (as well as they) fill up. An imperative, expressive of Divine irony, containing virtually a prophecy. Complete your evil work, finish that which your fathers began (comp. John 13:27). The measure. There is a certain limit to iniquity; when this is reached, punishment falls. The metaphor is derived from a full cup, which a single drop more will make overflow. This added drop would be the death of Christ and the persecution of his followers. Then vengeance must follow (comp. Genesis 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:16).
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Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Of their sins; for there were bounds and limits set how far they should proceed, and no further; as yet they had not got to the end of their iniquity: their fathers had gone great lengths in sin, but their iniquity was not yet full, as is said of the Amorites, Genesis 15:16 these their sons were to fill it up. They had shed the blood of many of the prophets; and indeed there were none of them but they had persecuted and abused, in one shape or another: some they entreated shamefully, others they beat: some they stoned, and others they put to death with the sword, or otherwise; and now their children were about to fill the measure brimful, by crucifying the Son of God, which they were at this time meditating and contriving; and by persecuting and slaying his apostles, and so would bring upon them the vengeance of God. The Jews well enough understood these words, which were spoken to them in an ironical way, and expressing what they were about, and what they would hereafter do, and what would be the issue and consequence of it: they have a saying (o), that "the holy blessed God does not take vengeance on a man,
, "until his measure is filled up"; according to Job 20:22.
Which the Chaldee paraphrase renders,
"when his measure is filled up, then shall he take vengeance on him;
and that this is Christ's sense, appears from what follows,
(o) T. Bab. Sota, fol. 9. 1.
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