And certain of the Pharisees said to them, Why do you that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Matthew 12:1. This phrase has given great perplexity to commentators. A "literal" translation would be, "on the Sabbath called "second first,"" or second first Sabbath. The word occurs nowhere else. It is therefore exceedingly difficult of interpretation. The most natural and easy explanation is that proposed by Scaliger. The "second day" of the Passover was a great festival, on which the wave-sheaf was offered, Leviticus 23:11. From "that day" they reckoned "seven weeks," or seven "Sabbaths," to the day of Pentecost. The "first" Sabbath after that "second day" was called the "second first," or the first from the second day of the feast. The "second" Sabbath was called the "second second," or the second Sabbath from the second day of the feast; the third the "third second," etc. This day, therefore, on which the Saviour went through the fields, was the first Sabbath that occurred after the second day of the feast.
Rubbing them in their hands - The word "corn" here means wheat or barley, and not maize, as in America. They rubbed it in their hands to separate the grain from the chaff. This was common and allowable. Dr. Thomson ("The Land and the Book," vol. ii. p. 510, 511) says: "I have often seen my muleteers, as we passed along the wheat fields, pluck off ears, rub them in their hands, and eat the grains, unroasted, just as the apostles are said to have done. This also is allowable. The Pharisees did not object to the thing itself, only to the time when it was done. They said it was not lawful to do this on the Sabbath-day. It was work forbidden by those who, through their traditions, had made man for the Sabbath, not the Sabbath for man." So Professor Hackett ("Illustrations of Scripture," p. 176, 177) says: "The incident of plucking the ears of wheat, rubbing out the kernels in their hands, and eating them Luke 6:1, is one which the traveler sees often at present who is in Palestine at the time of the gathering of the harvest. Dr. Robinson relates the following case: 'Our Arabs were an hungered, and, going into the fields, they plucked the ears of grain and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. On being questioned, they said this was an old custom, and no one would speak against it; they were supposed to be hungry, and it was allowed as a charity.' The Pharisees complained of the disciples for violating the Sabbath, and not any rights of property."
Lu 6:1-5. Plucking Corn-ears on the Sabbath.
(See on Mt 12:1-8 and Mr 2:23-28.)
1. second sabbath after the first—an obscure expression, occurring here only, generally understood to mean, the first sabbath after the second day of unleavened bread. The reasons cannot be stated here, nor is the opinion itself quite free from difficulty.See Poole on "Luke 6:2"
why do ye that which is not lawful on the sabbath day? as to pluck ears of corn, and rub them, and eat them; See Gill on Matthew 12:2And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Luke 6:2. τινὲς: more exact than Mt. and Mk., who say the Pharisees generally, but not necessary to make their meaning clear. Of course it was only some of the class.2. certain of the Pharisees] On the Jewish sects see Excursus VI. As the chronological sequence of the incident is uncertain, these may be some of the spy-Pharisees who as His ministry advanced dogged His steps (Matthew 15:1; Mark 3:22; Mark 7:1), in the base and demoralising desire to convict Him of heresy or violation of the Law. Perhaps they wished to see whether he would exceed the regulated Sabbath day’s journey of 2000 cubits (Exodus 16:29). We have already met with some of the carping criticisms dictated by their secret hate, Luke 5:14; Luke 5:21; Luke 5:30.
Why do ye] In St Mark the question is scornfully addressed to Jesus. “See why do they do on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?”
that which is not lawful to do] The point was this. Since the Law had said that the Jews were “to do no manner of work” on the Sabbath, the Oral Law had laid down thirty-nine principal prohibitions which were assigned to the authority of the Great Synagogue and which were called abhoth ‘fathers’ or chief rules. From these were deduced a vast multitude of toldoth ‘descendants’ or derivative rules. Now ‘reaping’ and ‘threshing’ on the sabbath day were forbidden by the abhoth; and by the toldoth it was asserted that plucking corn-ears was a kind of reaping, and rubbing them a kind of threshing. But while they paid servile attention to these trivialities the Pharisees “omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith,” Matthew 22:23). The vitality of these artificial notions among the Jews is extraordinary. Abarbanel relates that when in 1492 the Jews were expelled from Spain, and were forbidden to enter the city of Fez lest they should cause a famine, they lived on grass; yet even in this state ‘religiously avoided the violation of their sabbath by plucking the grass with their hands., To avoid this they took the much more laborious method of grovelling on their knees, and cropping it with their teeth!Verse 2. - And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days? It would seem that these Pharisees came from Jerusalem, and were no doubt privately commissioned to watch narrowly the acts of the new Teacher who was beginning to attract such general attention, and who already was openly setting at nought the numberless additions which the Jewish schools had added to the Law. Round the original "sabbath law" of Moses thirty-nine prohibitions had been laid down in the oral law; round these "thirty-nine" a vast number of smaller rules had grouped themselves. Amongst these greater and lesser sabbath restrictions were prohibitions against "reaping and threshing." Now, plucking ears of corn was defined to be a kind of "reaping," and rubbing the ears in the hands a kind of "threshing." "See," cried some of these spying Pharisees, "do thy disciples publicly break the sabbath, and dost thou not rebuke them?" The Lord's reply does not attempt to discuss what was and what was not lawful on the sabbath, but in broad terms he expounds the great doctrine respecting the significance, limits, and purpose of every law relating to outward acts, even in the event of that law having been given by God, which was not the case in the present alleged transgression. How rigidly the stricter Jews some fourteen or fifteen centuries later still kept these strained and exaggerated traditional sabbath-day restrictions, is shown in a curious anecdote of the famous Abarbanel, "when, in 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain, and were forbidden to enter the city of Fez, lest they should cause a famine, they lived on grass; yet even in this state 'religiously avoided the violation of their sabbath by plucking the grass with their hands. To avoid this they took the much more laborious method of grovelling on their knees, and cropping it with their teeth!"
See on Matthew 12:2.
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