Matthew 12:1
At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
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(1) At that time.—St. Luke (Luke 6:1) defines the time more specifically as “the second first sabbath.” The question, what is meant by that term, will be discussed in the Notes on that passage. The facts of the case place it clearly between the Passover and the Feast of Pentecost, between the beginning of the barley and the end of the wheat harvest. The position which the narrative occupies in Mark 2:23, Luke 6:1, immediately after the feast in Matthew’s house, differs so widely from St. Matthew’s arrangement, that we are again at sea in attempting to construct a harmony, and can only regard the words “at that time” as belonging to the separate history in some other position than that in which he has placed it.

Began to pluck the ears of corn.—Note St. Mark’s stronger phrase, “to make a path, plucking the ears,” and St. Luke’s description that they ate them, “rubbing them in their hands.” The act was permitted by the Law as far as the rights of property were concerned (Deuteronomy 23:25), but it was against the Pharisees’ interpretation of the law of the Sabbath. To pluck the ears was to reap, to rub the husks from the grain was to thresh; and the new Teacher was therefore, they thought, tacitly sanctioning a distinct breach of the holiness of the day of rest.

Matthew 12:1. Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn — The cornfields near Jerusalem, attended by his disciples and some of the Pharisees, whose curiosity, it is probable, prompted them to mix with the crowd on this occasion, in expectation of seeing more miracles. His disciples began to pluck [and rub in their hands, Luke 6:1] the ears of corn, and to eat — Just what sufficed for present necessity. The word σταχυας, here used, may indifferently signify ears of any kind of grain; but probably barley is here intended, that being first ripe in those parts. Dried corn was a common food among the Jews.

12:1-8 Being in the corn-fields, the disciples began to pluck the ears of corn: the law of God allowed it, De 23:25. This was slender provision for Christ and his disciples; but they were content with it. The Pharisees did not quarrel with them for taking another man's corn, but for doing it on the sabbath day. Christ came to free his followers, not only from the corruptions of the Pharisees, but from their unscriptural rules, and justified what they did. The greatest shall not have their lusts indulged, but the meanest shall have their wants considered. Those labours are lawful on the sabbath day which are necessary, and sabbath rest is to froward, not to hinder sabbath worship. Needful provision for health and food is to be made; but when servants are kept at home, and families become a scene of hurry and confusion on the Lord's day, to furnish a feast for visitors, or for indulgence, the case is very different. Such things as these, and many others common among professors, are to be blamed. The resting on the sabbath was ordained for man's good, De 5:14. No law must be understood so as to contradict its own end. And as Christ is the Lord of the sabbath, it is fit the day and the work of it should be dedicated to him.Matthew 12:1-8. The account contained in these verses is also recorded in Mark 2:23-28, and Luke 6:1-5.

At that time - Luke Luk 6:1 fixes the time more particularly. He says that it was "the second Sabbath after the first." To understand this, it is proper to remark that the "Passover" was observed during the month "Abib," or Nisan, answering to the latter part of March and the first of April. The feast was held seven days, commencing on the fourteenth day of the month Exodus 12:1-28; Exodus 23:15, on the "second" day of the paschal week. The law required that a sheaf of "barley" should be offered up as the first-fruits of the harvest, Leviticus 23:10-11. From this day was reckoned seven weeks to the feast of "Pentecost" Leviticus 23:15-16, called also the feast of weeks Deuteronomy 16:10, and the feast of the harvest, Exodus 23:16. This second day in the feast of the Passover, or of unleavened bread, was the beginning, therefore, from which they reckoned toward the Pentecost. The Sabbath in the week following would be the "second Sabbath" after this first one in the reckoning, and this was doubtless the time mentioned when Christ went through the fields. It should be further mentioned, that in Judea the barley harvest commences about the beginning of May, and both that and the wheat harvest are over by the twentieth. Barley is in full ear in the beginning of April. There is no improbability, therefore, in this narrative on account of the season of the year. This feast was always held at Jerusalem.

Through the corn - Through the "barley," or "wheat." The word "corn," as used in our translation of the Bible, has no reference to "maize," or "Indian corn," as it has with us. Indian corn was unknown until the discovery of America, and it is scarcely probable that the translators knew anything about it. The word "corn" was applied, as it is still in England, to wheat, rye, oats, and barley. This explains the circumstance that they "rubbed it in their hands" Luke 6:1 to separate the grain from the chaff.


Mt 12:1-8. Plucking Corn Ears on the Sabbath Day. ( = Mr 2:23-28; Lu 6:1-5).

The season of the year when this occurred is determined by the event itself. Ripe corn ears are found in the fields only just before harvest. The barley harvest seems clearly intended here, at the close of our March and beginning of our April. It coincided with the Passover season, as the wheat harvest with Pentecost. But in Luke (Lu 6:1) we have a still more definite note of time, if we could be certain of the meaning of the peculiar term which he employs to express it. "It came to pass (he says) on the sabbath, which was the first-second," for that is the proper rendering of the word, and not "the second sabbath after the first," as in our version. Of the various conjectures what this may mean, that of Scaliger is the most approved, and, as we think, the freest from difficulty, namely, the first sabbath after the second day of the Passover; that is, the first of the seven sabbaths which were to be reckoned from the second day of the Passover, which was itself a sabbath, until the next feast, the feast of Pentecost (Le 23:15, 16; De 16:9, 10) In this case, the day meant by the Evangelist is the first of those seven sabbaths intervening between Passover and Pentecost. And if we are right in regarding the "feast" mentioned in Joh 5:1 as a Passover, and consequently the second during our Lord's public ministry (see on [1268]Joh 5:1), this plucking of the ears of corn must have occurred immediately after the scene and the discourse recorded in Joh 5:19-47, which, doubtless, would induce our Lord to hasten His departure for the north, to avoid the wrath of the Pharisees, which He had kindled at Jerusalem. Here, accordingly, we find Him in the fields—on His way probably to Galilee.

1. At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn—"the cornfields" (Mr 2:23; Lu 6:1).

and his disciples were an hungered—not as one may be before his regular meals; but evidently from shortness of provisions: for Jesus defends their plucking the corn-ears and eating them on the plea of necessity.

and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat—"rubbing them in their hands" (Lu 6:1).Matthew 12:1-8 Christ alleges scripture in excuse of his disciples,

whom the Pharisees charged with breaking the sabbath

in plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath day.

Matthew 12:9-13 He appeals to reason, and healeth the withered hand

on the sabbath day.

Matthew 12:14-21 The Pharisees seek to destroy him: a prophecy of

Esaias fulfilled in him.

Matthew 12:22,23 He healeth one possessed of a devil, who was blind

and dumb,

Matthew 12:24-37 and confuting the absurd charge of his casting out

devils by Beelzebub, he showeth that blasphemy

against the Holy Ghost is an unpardonable sin, and

that every idle word must be accounted for.

Matthew 12:38-45 He rebuketh those that sought of him a sign,

Matthew 12:46-50 and showeth whom he regardeth as his nearest relations.

Mark relating this story, Mark 2:23, varies little. Luke relating it, Luke 6:1, saith it was on the second sabbath after the first, and his disciples did eat, rubbing them. God in his law, Deu 23:25, had said, When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand, but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour’s standing corn. To take for our need so much of our neighbour’s goods as we may reasonably think that, if he were present, and knew our circumstances, he would give us, is no theft. The Pharisees therefore do not accuse them of theft, but of violation of the sabbath. Luke saith this happened upon the second sabbath after the first. Whether that was the sabbath next following the feast of unleavened bread, (which was about the time of our Easter), the first and last days of which were sabbaths in the Jewish sense, or the feast of tabernacles, or any other, is not much material for us to know. But on a sabbath day it was that our Saviour

went through the corn, and his disciples were an hungred: this may teach us their low estate and condition in the world. He could quickly have supplied their hunger, but he chose to leave them to relieve themselves with plucking, rubbing, and eating of the corn, that he might have an opportunity to instruct them and the Pharisees in the true doctrine of the sabbath.

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn,.... That is, the corn fields, as the other evangelists express it. It being on a sabbath day, it is very probable, that Christ and his disciples were going to some public place of worship, the way to which lay through some fields of corn, which were now ripe: for Luke says, it was on the "second sabbath after the first", or rather "the first sabbath after the second"; that is, the first sabbath after the second day of the passover, when the sheaf of the first fruit was offered, and harvest was begun.

And his disciples were an hungered; it being in the morning before they had broke their fast; and this circumstance is mentioned to show the reason of the following action, and to excuse it: at which the Pharisees were so much offended, and of which they accused them, as having done what was very criminal:

and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat; Luke adds, "rubbing them in their hands"; and so here in the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, it is rendered, "they began to rub": as they passed along, they plucked off the ears of corn, either barley or wheat, and rubbed them in their hands, to get the grain clear of the husk, or beard, and eat them; contenting themselves with such mean and unprepared food, when the Jews on that day fed on the best of dainties (e).

(e) Vid. Maimon. Hilch. Sabbat, c. 30. sect. 7, 8, 9, 10.

At {1} that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.

(1) Of the true sanctifying of the sabbath, and the breaking of it.

Matthew 12:1 ff. Comp. Mark 2:23 ff.; Luke 6:1 ff. Any one was allowed to pluck (τίλλειν, Blomfield, ad Aesch. Pers. Gloss. 214) ears of corn in another man’s field till he was satisfied. Deuteronomy 23:25. It is customary and allowable even, at the present day. Robinson, II. p. 419. But according to Exodus 16:22 ff., it might seem as if it were unlawful on the Sabbath, and it appears from tradition (Schabb. c. 8; Lightfoot and Schoettgen on this passage) that it was actually so regarded. That the disciples did not hold themselves bound by this view, is an evidence of their more liberal spirit. Comp. Weizsäcker, p. 390.

ἤρξαντο] After this plucking had begun, there came the remonstrance on the part of the Pharisees, Matthew 12:2.

Luke, in accordance with the historical arrangement which he observes, places this incident somewhat earlier; Mark and Luke introduce it after the question about fasting. Both of them, however, mention only the first of the two proof-texts quoted by Jesus. Matthew, following a tradition that is more original as far as this matter is concerned, supplements the account in Mark, from whom, however, he essentially differs in regard to the object in plucking the corn (see on Mark, and Holtzmann, p. 73).

Matthew 12:1-8. Plucking ears of corn on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5). Sabbath observance was one of the leading causes of conflict between Jesus and the guardians of religion and morality. This is the first of several encounters reported by the evangelist. According to Weiss he follows Mark, but with sayings taken directly from the Apostolic Source.

1. began to pluck the ears of corn] The Pharisees, who seem to have been watching their opportunity, make the objection as soon as the disciples began what by Pharisaic rules was an unlawful act.

Ch. Matthew 12:1-13. The Observance of the Sabbath

1. The disciples pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath. 2. A man with a withered hand cured on the Sabbath.

St Mark 2:23-28; Mark 3:1-5; St Luke 6:1-11.

Matthew 12:1. Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῲ καιρῷ, at that time) The Pharisees interrupted Him even at that most unseasonable[548] time.—ἤρξαντο τίλλειν, began to pluck) The Pharisees interrupted Him immediately. It required some labour to shake out a sufficient number of grains from the ears to appease their hunger.

[548] “Alienissimo,” i.e. most foreign to the subject.—(I. B.)

Verses 1-50. - The opposition that our Lord met with

(1) from his enemies (vers. 1-45);

(2) from his relations (vers. 46-50); and the manner in which he dealt with it. Verses 1-45. -

(1) Opposition from his enemies.

(a) Conscious and wilful opposition (vers. 1-37).

(α) As regards the sabbath (vers. 1-14).

(β) An interlude. The evangelist sees in our Lord's behaviour the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy (vers. 15-21).

(γ) The opposition carried to the extreme of accusing him of alliance with Beelzebub.

Christ shows the monstrous character of such an accusation, and the absence which it discloses of all spirituality of mind (vers. 22-37).

(b) Opposition due to lack of energy in spiritual things. Christ contrasts the behaviour of heathen mentioned in the Old Testament, and warns the Jews of the result of their present apathy (vers. 38-45). Verses 1-8. - The sabbath in relation to the preparation of food. Parallel passages: Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5. St. Matthew here returns to the Framework, which he left at Matthew 9:26 or Matthew 9:34. Verse 1. - At that time (Matthew 11:25, note) Jesus went (ἐπορεύθη). It has been suggested that he was now on his way to the synagogue spoken of in ver. 9 (but see note there). Wherever he was going, it must have been within about three quarters of a mile distance (two thousand cubits; see Dr. Lumby, on Acts 1:12, "a sabbath day's journey;" and Schurer, II. 2:102). On the sabbath day. Defined in the Received Text of Luke by the anomalous term "second-first," for the genesis of which see especially Westcott and Hort, 'App.' Through the corn; the corn-fields (Revised Version, as also Authorized Version in the parallel passages). If it was barley harvest, the time would be probably the beginning of May; if wheat harvest, as seems more likely, about the beginning of June. And his disciples were a hungred. So that it was not for his own sake that our Lord acted as he did. And began. They could therefore hardly have eaten much when the complaint was made. To pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. It was legal to pluck corn from a field through which one passed (Deuteronomy 23:25), and it is said to be allowed still; but as it was held by the scribes to be a form of reaping, and perhaps of threshing also, it was considered illegal on the sabbath (cf. Edersheim, 'Life,' 2:56). Matthew 12:1Time (καιπῷ)

Rev., season. The word implies particular time; as related to some event, a convenient, appropriate time; absolutely, a particular point of time, or a particular season, like spring or winter.

Corn (σπορίμων)

From σπείρω, to sow. Properly, as Rev., corn-fields.

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