Luke 11:44
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(44) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!—The better MSS. give simply, Woe unto you, Pharisees, (See Note on Matthew 23:27.)

Ye are as graves which appear not.—The comparison, though drawn from the same object, presents a different phase of it. In St. Matthew the contrast is between the whitened surface and the decaying bones within. Here the whitewash is worn out, and there is nothing to distinguish the graves, and men walk over them without knowing what lies below the surface.

11:37-54 We should all look to our hearts, that they may be cleansed and new-created; and while we attend to the great things of the law and of the gospel, we must not neglect the smallest matter God has appointed. When any wait to catch something out of our mouths, that they may insnare us, O Lord, give us thy prudence and thy patience, and disappoint their evil purposes. Furnish us with such meekness and patience that we may glory in reproaches, for Christ's sake, and that thy Holy Spirit may rest upon us.See Matthew 23:6, Matthew 23:27. 44. appear not, &c.—As one might unconsciously walk over a grave concealed from view, and thus contract ceremonial defilement, so the plausible exterior of the Pharisees kept people from perceiving the pollution they contracted from coming in contact with such corrupt characters. (See Ps 5:9; Ro 3:13; a different illustration from Mt 23:27). See Poole on "Matthew 23:27", where our Saviour compares the Pharisees to whited sepulchres: here he compares them to sepulchres, but not as there to denote their hypocrisy, appearing white, but having nothing within but rottenness; but upon the account of the contagion of them, and their pollution of others that were not aware of them. To understand our Saviour, we must consider the Levitical law, Numbers 19:16; where we shall find that not only he that touched a dead body, but he that touched a grave, was legally unclean for seven days. Christ here alludes to that, though he be speaking not of legal, but moral uncleanness. By reason of the law afore mentioned, the Jews took care to whiten their graves, that people might see them, and avoid that danger. To such whited sepulchres Christ compares the Pharisees, Matthew 23:27. But some graves might not be whited, or the colour washed off, so as they did not appear, and men could not be aware of them, but ran into a pollution by them. To such graves he in this place compares them. They were men that externally appeared not to be what they were. The Jews took the Pharisees’ for great saints, (the strictest sect of their religion), so strict they were in their duties to their traditions, &c.; which external severity and formal behaviour covered their extortion, and covetousness, and malice, and erroneous opinions, so as people did not suspect them of any such guilt. Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,.... As they are all along called by Matthew; though only here by Luke. The Vulgate Latin only reads, "woe unto you", leaving out all the rest: but the whole is retained in all the Oriental versions;

for ye are as graves which appear not; being covered with grass; "or which were not marked", as the Ethiopic version renders it; that is, were not whited or covered with lime, as some were, that they might be seen at a distance, and be known what they were; that so men might avoid going near them, and prevent their being defiled with them; See Gill on Matthew 23:27.

and the men that walk over them

are not aware of them; and so are defiled by them. Christ compares the Pharisees, because of their hypocrisy, and secret iniquity, both to whited sepulchres, and to those that were not: to those that were, because, like them, they looked beautiful without, and righteous in the sight of men, and yet were inwardly full of all manner of pollution and sin; and to those that were not, because they did not appear to be what they were, and men were deceived by them; and under specious pretences to religion and holiness, were by their corrupt doctrines and practices unawares drawn into the commission of sin. Regard may not only be had to graves covered with grass, or not marked with lime, by which they might be known; but also to what the Jews call, , "the grave of the abyss" (z); a grave that is not known no more than if it was in the bottomless pit: so uncleanness by touching a dead body, which a man is not conscious of, is called the uncleanness of the abyss, or an unknown one (a).

(z) Misn Parah. c. 3. sect. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Parah. c. 3. sect. (a) Maimon. in Misn. Nazir, c. 9. sect. 2. & Pesach. c. 7. sect. 7.

{13} Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.

(13) Hypocrites deceive men with an outward show.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 11:44. See on Matthew 23:27. Yet here the comparison is different.

τὰ ἄδηλα] the undiscernible, which are not noticeable as graves in consequence of whitewash (Matt. l.c.) or otherwise.

καί] simplicity of style; the periodic structure would have linked on the clause by means of a relative, but this loose construction adds the point more independently and more emphatically.

περιπατοῦντες] without an article (see the critical remarks): while they walk.

οὐκ οἴδασιν] know it not, that they are walking on graves.Luke 11:44. This “woe” is evidently adapted for Gentile use. In Mt. the sepulchres are made conspicuous by white-washing to warn passers-by, and the point is the contrast between the fair exterior and the inner foulness. Here the graves become invisible (ἄδηλα, in this sense here only in N.T.; cf. 1 Corinthians 14:8) and the risk is that of being in the presence of what is offensive without knowing. Farrar (C. G. T.) suggests that the reference may be to Tiberias, which was built on the site of an old cemetery.44. hypocrites] The first meaning of the word is ‘actors.’

as graves which appear not] Any contact with sepulchres involved Levitical uncleanness. Hence graves and tombs were whitewashed that none might touch them unawares. Perhaps our Lord was alluding to Tiberias, which when it was being built was discovered to be partly on the site of an old unsuspected cemetery; so that every true Jew regarded it as pollution to live there, and Herod could only get it inhabited partly by bribes, partly by threats. In St Matthew—several of whose particulars are differently applied—they are called ‘whited sepulchres, fair outside, polluted within. Here they are unsuspected graves.Luke 11:44. Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι, κ.τ.λ.) Here the Lord does not add τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, as He had added the words in Luke 11:42. Moreover it seems that, together with His discourse, the countenance (look) also of the Lord was turned towards the lawyers, as we may infer from Luke 11:45, where a certain lawyer feels that the Lord’s saying was spoken to him. The words, γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι, ὑποκριταὶ, were introduced here from Matthew [Luke 23:27] by some transcribers.[113]—ἄδηλα, hidden [which appear not]) not whitened over [as was the custom in order to warn against defilement].—οὐκ οἴδασιν, they know not) and therefore become defiled.

[113] And through the Harmonies. ADb Lucif. 133 and Rec. Text support the words; except that D and Lucif. omit ὑποκριταί. BCLac Vulg. Memph. omit the words. Tisch. therefore omits them; Lachm. brackets them.—ED. and TRANSL.Verse 44. - Ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. Here and in St. Matthew the same imagery was present in the great Teacher's mind - the whitewashed tombs of a cemetery. But in the report of St. Matthew the Master's picture drew a sharp contrast between the fair outward appearance of the clean white tomb, and the decaying, loathsome mass of what represented poor humanity within! When Jesus spoke the saying related by St. Luke here, the imagery was still drawn from the graves in a cemetery; but now he compared his hosts and their school of thought to graves, from the wood and stones of which the whitewash was worn off, and passers-by would walk over them, thus touching them and contracting ceremonial defilement, without being conscious what they were walking over and touching. All contact with sepulchres involved ceremonial defilement; hence the fact of their being constantly whitewashed in order to warn passers-by of their presence. This silent warning of the graves has been compared to the leper's cry, "Unclean, unclean!" with which he warned passers-by of his sad defiling presence. These tombs were whitewashed usually yearly on the fifteenth day of the month Adar (about the beginning of March). Tiberius on the lake was built partly on the site of an old unsuspected cemetery; no true Jew would reside there in consequence. Tombs which appear not (τὰ μνημεῖα τὰ ἄδηλα)

Lit., the tombs, the unseen ones. The word ἄδηλος, unapparent, occurs only here and 1 Corinthians 14:8, of the trumpet giving an uncertain sound.

That walk over (περιπατοῦντες)

The participle, and without the article; and therefore better, as they walk; walk about (περί) on their daily business. In Matthew the sepulchres are whitened, that men may see them and avoid ceremonial defilement. Here they are not seen, and men walking on them are unconsciously defiled. See on Matthew 23:27.

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