Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Which devour widow’s houses.—Here the word has a special force as coming after the mention of the feasts. They seek the highest places at such banquets, our Lord seems to say, and when there, this is what they feast on. The special charge is not reported by St. Matthew in this connection, but occurs in Matthew 23:14, where see Note. The better MSS., indeed, omit it even there. The relative pronoun gives a wrong idea of the construction. We have really a new sentence. “They that devour . . . these shall receive . . .”
No wonder that our Saviour denounced them! If there is any sin of special enormity, it is that of taking advantage of the circumstances of the poor, the needy, and the helpless, to wrong them out of the pittance on which they depend for the support of their families; and as God is the friend of the widow and the fatherless, it may be expected that such will be visited with heavy condemnation.See Poole on "Mark 12:39" Matthew 23:14. Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Mark 12:40. οἱ κατεσθίοντες: this verse is probably still to be regarded as a continuation of the description of the scribes commencing with τῶν θελόντων, only the writer has lost the sense of the original construction, and instead of the genitive puts the nominative, so giving to what follows the force of an independent sentence (so Weiss). Grotius, Meyer, and Schanz take Mark 12:40 as a really independent sentence. Lk. set the precedent for this; for, apparently having Mk.’s text before him, he turns f1οἱ κατεσθίοντες into οἱ κατεσθίουσι. Holtzmann, H. C., is undecided between the two views. As to the sense, two facts are stated about the scribes: they devoured the houses, the property of widows, and they made long (μακρὰ, vide on Luke 20:47) prayers in the homes of, and presumably for, these widows.—προφάσει: the real aim to get money, the long seemingly fervent prayers a blind to hide this aim. It is not necessary to suppose that the money-getting and the praying were connected by regular contract (so apparently Fritzsche, and Weiss in Meyer). For πρόφασις cf. Php 1:18 and especially 1 Thessalonians 2:5.—οὗτοι λήψονται, etc.: this remark applies specially to the conduct just described: catching widows’ substance with the bait of prayer, which Jesus characteristically pronounces exceptionally damnable in view of its sleek hypocrisy and low greed. The appending of this reflection favours the view that Mark 12:40 is after all an independent sentence. In it and the two preceding we have a very slight yet vivid picture of Pharisaic piety in its vanity, avarice, and hypocrisy.40. devour widows’ houses] as guardians and administrators of their property
greater damnation] “pei taken longe dom,” Wyclif. The word denotes “judgment,” “punishment.” The verb from which it comes denotes “to judge,” pass sentence, condemn. In 1 Corinthians 11:29, the words rendered damnation, discerning, judged, and condemnation, are all, in the original, parts or derivations of one and the same word; and so Wyclif admirably rendered them into the language of his day by words connected with one and the same English verb; “He that etith and drinkith vnworthili, etith and drinkith doom to him, not wisely demyng the bodi of the Lord … and if we demyden wiseli us silf we schulden not be demyd, but while we be demyd of the lord we ben chastised, that we be not dampnyd with this world.” Compare also Chaucer, Monk’s Tale, 15091,
“Dampnyd was he to deye in that prison.”
Bible Word-Book, pp. 142, 143.Mark 12:40. Οἱ κατεσθίοντες, who devour) Construe with the following words.Verse 40. - There is a change in the construction here, which is not marked in the Authorized Version. The sentence in this fortieth verse should stand alone, and be read thus: They which devour (οἱ κατεσθίοντες) widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers; these shall receive greater condemnation. The sentence thus read is far more graphic. The statement thus becomes indeed more general, but the reference is still to the scribes who through their avarice swallowed up the property of helpless widows, and through their hypocrisy, in the hope of thus more effectually imposing upon their victims, lengthened out their prayers. Greater condemnation. The word in the Greek is κρίμα, that is, "judgment." A severer sentence would fall upon them in the day of judgment and a heavier condemnation, because, under the semblance of piety, they practiced iniquity, and indulged their avarice under the mask of religion.
People often left their whole fortune to the temple, and a good deal of the temple-money went, in the end, to the Scribes and Pharisees. The Scribes were universally employed in making wills and conveyances of property. They may have abused their influence with widows.
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