Moses therefore gave to you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and you on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision.—Some MSS., and many editors, place the “therefore,” or, on this account, at the close of the last verse, reading, “Ye all marvel on this account,” and then the present verse, “Moses gave unto you circumcision . . .” The reading of our version is, however, better supported, and agrees better with the writer’s style. “On this account hath Moses given you circumcision, not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers.” The argument is, “Ye circumcise on the Sabbath day because circumcision is part of the Mosaic law; but Moses gave you circumcision because he had an anterior and higher authority for it, and in practice you recognise this and make it override the Sabbath. But if circumcision is allowed, why not a deed of mercy? This is the practice and precept of your rulers. But if a patriarchal rite is greater than the Mosaic Sabbath, because the fathers were anterior to Moses, how much more an act of love, which is anterior to all time.”
A man.—Used here, and in the next verse, as equivalent to a male child, as in John 16:21.Leviticus 12:3. The word "therefore" in this place - literally "on account of this" - means, "Moses on this account gave you circumcision, not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;" that is, the reason was not that he himself appointed it as a new institution, but he found it already in existence, and incorporated it in his institutions and laws.
Not because ... - Not that it is of Moses. Though Jesus spoke in accordance with the custom of the Jews, who ascribed the appointment of circumcision to Moses, yet he is careful to remind them that it was in observance long before Moses. So, also, the Sabbath was kept before Moses, and alike in the one case and the other they ought to keep in mind the design of the appointment.
Of the fathers - Of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Genesis 17:10.
Ye on the sabbath-day ... - The law required that the child should be circumcised on the eighth day. If that day happened to be the Sabbath, yet they held that he was to be circumcised, as there was a positive law to that effect; and as this was commanded, they did not consider it a breach of the Sabbath.
A man - Not an adult man, but a man-child. See John 16:21; "She remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world."therefore, or, for this, dia touto, maketh in this verse a great difficulty, what the meaning of it should be. The most probable account of it is, that it belongeth to the former verse, which should end thus, and ye all marvel for this. This indeed maketh all plain; otherwise it is very hard to give an account what force it can have, if we consider it as a note of a cause.
Moses gave you circumcision, that is, a law about circumcision; yet that law had not its rise from Moses: the law was given to your father Abraham, Genesis 17:10, long before Moses’s time. In obedience to that law, you circumcise a male child, or a proselyte, that is, a man grown, on the sabbath day. Leviticus 12:3;
(not because, or that it is of Moses; originally, or that he was the first giver of it, for it was enjoined before his time; this is a correction of what is before said, giving a more accurate account of the rise of circumcision:
but of the fathers); Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom it was enjoined by God, and who practised it before the times of Moses; so that this command was in force before him, and obligatory upon the descendants of Abraham, before he delivered it; and would have been, if he had never mentioned it; though the Jews say (r),
"we do not circumcise because Abraham our father, on whom be peace, circumcised himself and his household, but because the holy blessed God commanded us by Moses, that we should be circumcised, as Abraham our father was circumcised.''
But no doubt it would have been binding on them, if Moses had said nothing about it; the command to Abraham is so express, for the circumcision of his male offspring, Genesis 17:10; however, it being both of Moses and of the fathers, laid a very great obligation on the Jews to observe it:
and ye on the sabbath day, circumcise a man; a male child, as they did, when the eighth day fell on a sabbath day; for the law of circumcision was before the law of the sabbath, and therefore was not to be made void by it, nor was it made void by it; and so much is intimated by our Lord's observing, that it was not of Moses, but of the fathers; and this is the reason which the Karaite Jews give for circumcision on the sabbath day: for (s).
"say they, because it is a former command, from the time of Abraham our father, on whom be peace, before the giving of the law of the sabbath, , "they circumcise on the sabbath day", and when the command of the sabbath afterwards took place, it was not possible it should disannul circumcision on the sabbath day; and for the same reason, they also allow the sacrifice of the passover to be done on the sabbath day, because it is a command which went before the command of the sabbath.''
And this was also the sense and practice of the other Jews: thus citing the law of Moses in Leviticus 12:3. "And in the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised", by way of gloss upon it add, , "and even on the sabbath day" (t); and on the same text another writer observes (u), that by Gematry, every day is fit for circumcision. R. Jose says (w),
"they do all things necessary to circumcision, on the sabbath day.''
R. Abika says (x),
"all work that can be done on the evening of the sabbath, does not drive away the sabbath; but circumcision, which cannot be done on the evening of the sabbath, drives away the sabbath: they do all things necessary to circumcision; they circumcise, and make bare, and suck, and put (on the wound) a plaster and cummin; and which, if not bruised on the evening of the sabbath, they may chew with their teeth.''
Also it is allowed of (y), to
"wash the infant on the third day of circumcision, which happens to be on the sabbath.''
Moreover, a case is put after this manner (z);Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)22. Moses therefore gave] Better, For this cause (John 12:18; John 12:27) Moses hath given. Comp. John 8:47.
of Moses … of the fathers] ‘Originating with Moses … originating with the fathers.’ Circumcision originated with the Patriarchs, and was a more ancient institution than the Sabbath. When, therefore, the two ordinances clashed, the younger had to give place; it was more fit that the Sabbath should be broken, than that circumcision should be administered on the wrong day. If then the Sabbath could give way to a mere ceremonial observance, how much more might it give way to a work of mercy? The law of charity is older and higher than any ceremonial law.
on the sabbath] Rather, on a Sabbath; so also in John 7:23.John 7:22. Διὰ τοῦτο, on this account) This is presently after explained by the οὐχ ὀτι, to wit, not because: Comp. ch. John 8:47 [Ye therefore hear not—God’s words—because ye are not of God; διὰ τοῦτο—ὅτι]; John 10:17, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because.” A similar expression occurs, Mark 12:24, “Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures,” when the force of the particle ὅτι is hidden in the participle [μὴ εἰδότες].—δέδωκεν, gave) Genesis 17:10; circumcision given as seal of the covenant between God and Abraham]. Exodus 12:44, “Every man’s servant—when thou hast circumcised him, shall eat of the passover. Leviticus 12:3, “In the eighth day the flesh of the foreskin—of every man-child, shall be circumcised].—οὐχ ὅτί, not because) By this clause the dignity of circumcision is exalted, in respect to the Sabbath, than which it is older and therefore entitled to take the precedence.
 i.e. Than the Jewish Sabbath; but the primitive Sabbath was instituted in Paradise, and is therefore ages older than circumcision.—E. and T.Verse 22. - Moses on this account (for this cause) hath given (assigned) you the circumcision (not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers). If we accept the text as above, the question arises - Does it refer to the parenthetical clause or to the principal verb? Meyer renders as follows: "Therefore Moses gave you circumcision, not because it originated with Moses, but (because it originated) with the fathers, and so ye circumcise," etc., making the precedence of the law of circumcision to the sabbatic law part of the very purport of his appointment. But many others, "For this cause" - to teach this lesson - Moses, who gave the ten commandments, one of which involved the sabbatic rest, took up into the Law which he gave you the still older law of the Abrahamic covenant, and laid down the stringent rule that the rite must be performed on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:3) - a principle which was seen to involve the infringement of the sabbath law. This is, in substance, the view of Moulton, Lange, Westcott, and others. To expound the διὰ τούτο by the οὐχ ὅτι is (Westcott) contrary to the usage of 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Philippians 4:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; but it is still more against the argument. Moses did not give circumcision because it was of the fathers, - at least that is not the point; but Jesus argues that he gave circumcision as a mode of legislation which will involve a modification of his own sabbatic regimen. Stringent as was the law of the sabbath, it would have, on occasion, to yield to the more searching and stringent rule of admission into the covenant of grace. "If the sabbath could give way to a mere ceremonial law, how much more to a work of mercy, which is older and higher than any ritual!" 'Mish. Sabb.,' 19:1, fol. 128, b, "Everything required for circumcision may be completed on the sabbath;" and so 19:2. The reason is given: 'Midrash Tanchuma,' fol. 9, b, "The healing of a sick man dangerously ill, and circumcision, break through the sabbath sanctity."
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