Luke 6:4
How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?
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6:1-5 Christ justifies his disciples in a work of necessity for themselves on the sabbath day, and that was plucking the ears of corn when they were hungry. But we must take heed that we mistake not this liberty for leave to commit sin. Christ will have us to know and remember that it is his day, therefore to be spent in his service, and to his honour.Second sabbath after the first - See the notes at 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 [1578]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 6:1"

And Jesus answering them, said,.... For they brought the charge against the disciples to him, being desirous to know what he would say, and that they might have something to accuse him of; and who, at once, took up the cause of his disciples, and vindicated them, by observing what David did, when he, and his men were an hungry; how that he went into the tabernacle, and took the showbread, and ate of it, and gave it to his men, who also ate of it; which, according to the law, was only allowed to priests; and by taking notice of another instance, which this evangelist does not relate; namely, how on the sabbath days the priests, by doing various servile works, profaned the sabbath day, and yet were not charged with any blame; See Gill on Matthew 12:3. See Gill on Matthew 12:4. See Gill on Matthew 12:5. How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?
Luke 6:4. Lk. contents himself with the essential fact: hunger, overruling a positive law concerning the shewbread. No reference to the high priest, as in Mk., and no additional instance of the Sabbath law superseded by higher interests, as in Mt. (Matthew 12:5). The controversy no longer lives for him, and his accounts are apt to be colourless and secondary.

4. did take and eat] St Mark says that this was “in the days of Abiathar the high priest.” The priest who actually gave the bread to David was Ahimelech, the father of Abiathar.

the shewbread] Literally, ‘loaves of setting forth;’ “continual bread,” Numbers 4:7. “Bread of the Face,” i.e. set before the Presence of God, Leviticus 24:6-7. Comp. “Angel of the Face” Leviticus 24:6-8; Exodus 25:30; Exodus 29:33. They were twelve unleavened, loaves sprinkled with frankincense set on a little golden table.

which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone] “It shall be Aaron’s and his sons: and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him,” Leviticus 24:9. Thus David, their favourite saint and hero, had openly and fearlessly violated the letter of the Law with the full sanction of the High Priest, on the plea of necessity,—in other words because mercy is better than sacrifice; and because the higher law of moral obligation must always supersede the lower law of ceremonial. This was a proof by way of fact from the Kethubim or sacred books (Hagiographa); in St Matthew our Lord adds a still more striking argument by way of principle from the Law itself. By its own provisions the Priests in the laborious work of offering sacrifices violated the Sabbath and yet were blameless. Hence the later Jews deduced the remarkable rule that “there is no sabbatism in the Temple,” (Numbers 28:9). And Jesus added “But I say to you there is something greater (μεῖζον) than the Temple here.” The appeal to their own practice is given in Luke 14:5.

Luke 6:4Did take

Peculiar to Luke.

The shew-bread

See on Mark 2:26.

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