Matthew 15:5
But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) It is a gift.—St. Mark (Mark 7:11) gives the Hebrew term, Corban, which was literally applied to that which had been consecrated—theoretically to God, practically to the service or ornamentation of the Temple. In Matthew 27:6, the treasury of the Temple is itself called the Corban. The casuistry of the scribes in this matter seems at first so monstrous that it would be hard to understand how it could have approved itself to any intelligent interpreters of the Law, were it not that the teaching of scholastic and Jesuit moralists presents instances, not less striking, of perverted ingenuity. The train of thought which led them to so startling a conclusion would seem to have been this: to divert to lower human uses that which has been consecrated to God is sacrilege, and therefore a man who turned all his property into a Corban was bound not to expend it on the support even of his nearest relations. But the time of fulfilling the vow of consecration was left to his own discretion, and no one had a right to call him to account for delay. With this loophole, the Corban practice became an easy method of evading natural obligations. It might be pleaded in bar of the claims of nearest relationship, and yet all the while the man might retain the usufruct of his property, and defer the fulfilment of his vow to the last hour of life. It would seem, indeed, that this casuistry went still further, and that the consecration might be only relative, as stopping the claims of this or that person, and expiring when they passed away.

15:1-9 Additions to God's laws reflect upon his wisdom, as if he had left out something which was needed, and which man could supply; in one way or other they always lead men to disobey God. How thankful ought we to be for the written word of God! Never let us think that the religion of the Bible can be improved by any human addition, either in doctrine or practice. Our blessed Lord spoke of their traditions as inventions of their own, and pointed out one instance in which this was very clear, that of their transgressing the fifth commandment. When a parent's wants called for assistance, they pleaded, that they had devoted to the temple all they could spare, even though they did not part with it, and therefore their parents must expect nothing from them. This was making the command of God of no effect. The doom of hypocrites is put in a little compass; In vain do they worship me. It will neither please God, nor profit themselves; they trust in vanity, and vanity will be their recompence.It is a gift - In Mark it is "corban." The word "corban" is a Hebrew word denoting a gift.

Here it means a thing dedicated to the service of God, and therefore not to be appropriated to any other use. The Jews were in the habit of making such dedications. They devoted their property to God for sacred uses, as they pleased. In doing this they used the word קרבן qaarbaan or κορβᾶν korban, or some similar word, saying, this thing is "corban," i. e., it is a gift to God, or is sacred to him. The law required that when a dedication of this kind was made it should be fulfilled. "Vow and pay unto the Lord your God," Psalm 76:11. See Deuteronomy 23:21. The law of God required that a son should honor his parent; i. e., among other things, that he should provide for his needs when he was old and in distress. Yet the Jewish teachers said that it was more important for a man to dedicate his property to God than to provide for the needs of his parent.

If he had once devoted his property once said it was "corban," or a gift to God - it could not be appropriated even to the support of a parent. If a parent was needy and poor, and if he should apply to a son for assistance, and the son should reply, though in anger, "It is devoted to God; this property which you need, and by which you might be profited by me, is "corban" - I have given it to God;" the Jews said the property could not be recalled, and the son was not under obligation to aid a parent with it. He had done a more important thing in giving it to God. The son was free. He could not be required to do anything for his father after that. Thus, he might, in a moment, free himself from the obligation to obey his father or mother. In a sense somewhat similar to this, the chiefs and priests of the Sandwich Islands had the power of devoting anything to the service of the gods by saying that it was "taboo," or "tabooed;" that is, it became consecrated to the service of religion; and, no matter who had been the owner, it could then be appropriated for no other use. In this way they had complete power over all the possessions of the people, and could appropriate them for their own use under the pretence of devoting them to religion. Thus, they deprived the people of their property under the plea that it was consecrated to the gods. The Jewish son deprived his parents of a support under the plea that the property was devoted to the service of religion. The principle was the same, and both systems were equally a violation of the rights of others.

Besides, the law said that a man should die who cursed his father, i. e., that refused to obey him, or to provide for him, or spoke in anger to him. Yet the Jews said that, though in anger, and in real spite and hatred, a son said to his father, "All that I have which could profit you I have given to God," he should be free from blame. Thus, the whole law was made void, or of no use, by what appeared to have the appearance of piety. "No man, according to their views, was bound to obey the fifth commandment and support an aged and needy parent, if, either from superstition or spite, he chose to give his property to God, that is, to devote it to some religious use."

Our Saviour did not mean to condemn the practice of giving to God, or to religious and charitable objects. The law and the gospel equally required this. Jesus commended even a poor widow that gave all her living, Mark 12:44, but he condemned the practice of giving to God where it interfered with our duty to parents and relations; where it was done to get rid of the duty of aiding them; and where it was done out of a malignant and rebellious spirit, with the semblance of piety, to get clear of doing to earthly parents what God required.

5. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift—or simply, "A gift!" In Mark (Mr 7:11), it is, "Corban!" that is, "An oblation!" meaning, any unbloody offering or gift dedicated to sacred uses.

by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;

See Poole on "Matthew 15:6". But ye say, whosoever shall say to his father or mother,.... That is, it was a tradition of their's, that if a man should say to his father and mother, when poor and in distress, and made application to him for sustenance,

it is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, and honour not his father, or his mother, he shall be free: or, as Mark expresses it, "it is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, he shall be free, and ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or mother". For the understanding of this tradition, let it be observed, that the word "Corban" signifies a gift, or offering, which was devoted to sacred use; and was unalienable, and could not be converted to any other use; and that this word was used among the Jews, from hence, as the form of an oath, or vow; and therefore, when anyone said "Corban", it was all one, as if he swore by "Corban"; or as if he had said, let it be as "Corban", as unalienable as "Corban": by which oath, or vow, the use of that which was spoken of, whether it respected a man's self, or others, was restrained and prohibited: the rule was (r) this , "if a man said Corban, it was as if he said as Corban, and it was forbidden": and if he used the words "Conem", "Conach", and "Conas", which they call (s) the surnames of Corban, and were no other than corruptions of it, it was all one as if he had said "Corban" itself. There are many instances of this kind of vows, and the form of them in their oral law (t), or book of traditions;

"If anyone should say, , "Conem (or "Corban") whatsoever I might be profited by the" sons of Noah, it is free of an Israelite, and forbidden of a Gentile; if he should say, "whatsoever I might be profited" by the seed of Abraham, it is forbidden of an Israelite, and is free of a Gentile--if anyone should say, , "Conem (or "Corban") whatsoever I might be profited by the uncircumcised", it is free of the uncircumcised of Israel, and forbidden of the circumcised of the Gentiles; if he says "Conem (or "Corban") whatsoever I might be profited by the circumcised", it is forbidden of the circumcised of Israel, and free of the circumcised, of the Gentiles.''

Again (u),

"if anyone says to his friend, , "Conem (or "Corban") whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me", &c.''

which is exactly the same form as here, unless it should be rather rendered, "whatsoever I might be profited by thee": once more (w),

"if a married woman should say to her husband, "Conem (or Corban) whatsoever I might be profited by my father, or thy father, &c".''

Let these instances suffice: the plain and evident sense of the tradition before us, is this; that when, upon application being made to a man by his parents, for support and sustenance, he makes a vow in such form as this, "Corban, whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me"; that is, whatsoever profit or advantage thou mightest have, or expect to have from me, let it be as "Corban", as a gift devoted to God, that can never be revoked and converted to another use; or, in other words, I vow and protest thou shalt never have any profit from me, not a penny, nor a pennyworth of mine. Now, when a man had made such an impious vow as this, according to this tradition, it was to stand firm and good, and he was not to honour his father or mother, or do anything for them, by way of relief: so that our Lord might justly observe upon it as he does;

thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect, by your tradition: for if such a vow was valid, and a man was obliged to abide by it, according to the tradition of the elders, and not honour his father and mother, as the law of God requires; it is a plain case, that the command of God was made void by this tradition: nay they expressly say (x) that , "vows fall upon things of a (divine) commandment", as well as upon things in a man's power, and that he is bound by them; so that without sin he cannot do what the law commands; insomuch, that if a man vows a vow, and that it may be ratified, a command must be made void, his vow must stand, and the command be abrogated. So truly and justly does Christ charge them with making the command of God of none effect, by their tradition. It is indeed disputed by the doctors, and at last allowed, that such a vow might be dissolved by a wise man, for the honour of parents (y).

"R. Eliezer says, they open to a man, (i.e. the door of repentance, and dissolve his vow,) for the honour of his father and his mother, but the wise men forbid "it". Says R. Tzadok, if they open to him for the honour of his father and mother, they will open to him for the honour of God, and if so, there will be no vows: however, the wise men agreed with R. Eliezer in the affair between a man and his parents, that they should open to him for the honour of them.''

And this could be done only by a wise man; and very probably this last decree was made on account of this just reproof of Christ's, being ashamed any longer to countenance so vile a practice; and even, according to this determination, the vow stood firm till dissolved by of their doctors: so that notwithstanding, Christ's argument is good, and the instance full to prove that for which he brought it: for the above reason it may be, it is, that this tradition Christ refers to is not now extant; but that there was such an one in Christ's time, is certain; he would never have asserted it else; and had it not been true, the Pharisees would have been able to have retired him, and forward enough to have done it: and that such vows were sometimes made, and which were not to be rescinded, is clear from the following fact (z).

"It happened to one in Bethhoron, "whose father was excluded, by a vow, from receiving any profit from him": and he married his son, and said to his friend, a court and a dinner are given to thee by gift; but they are not to be made use of by thee, but with this condition, that my father may come and eat with us at dinner;''

which was a device to have his father at dinner, and yet secure his vow. Upon the whole, the sense of this passage is, not that a man excused himself to his parents, according to this tradition, by saying, that his substance, either in whole, or in part, was "Corban", or devoted to the service of God, and therefore they could expect no profit, or relief, from him; but that he vowed that what he had should be as "Corban", and they should be never the better for it: so that a man so vowing might give nothing to the service of God, but keep his whole substance to himself; which he might make use of for his own benefit, and for the benefit of others, but not for his father and mother; who, after such a vow made, were to receive no benefit by it, unless rescinded by a wise man; and which seems to be an explanation of it, made after the times of Christ.

(r) T. Hieros. Nedarim, fol. 37. 1. Misn. Nedarim, c. 1. sect. 4. Maimon. Hilch. Nedarim, c. 1. sect. 7. (s) Misn. Nedarim, c. 1. sect. 1, 2. Maimon. Hilch. Nedarim, c. 1. sect. 16. (t) Misn. Nedarim, c. 3. sect. 11. (u) lb. c. 8. sect. 7. Vid. c. 11. sect 3, 4. (w) lb. c. 11. sect. 11. (x) Maimon. Hilch. Nedarim, c. 3. sect. 1. 6, 7. 9. (y) Misn. Nedarim, c. 9. sect. 1.((z) lb. c. 5. sect. 6.

But ye say, {c} Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;

(c) The meaning is this: whatever I bestow upon the temple, is to your profit, for it is as good as if I gave it to you, for (as the Pharisees of our time say) it will be meritorious for you: for under this form of religion, they gathered all to themselves, as though he that had given anything to the temple, had done the duty of a child.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 15:5 f. Δῶρον] sc. ἐστι, קָרְבָּן, a gift, κατʼ ἐξοχήν, namely, to God, i.e. to the temple. See Lightfoot and, in general, Ewald, Alterth. p. 81 ff. Vulgate, Erasmus, Castalio, Maldonatus connect δῶρον with ὠφεληθῇς: a temple-offering, which will be given by me, will bring a blessing to thee. The conjunctive, however, is clearly independent of ἐάν. Chrysostom observes correctly: δῶρόν ἐστι τοῦτο τῷ θεῷ, ὃ θέλεις ἐξ ἐμοῦ ὠφεληθῆναι καὶ οὐ δύνασαι λαβεῖν.

There is an aposiopesis after ὠφεληθῇς, whereupon Jesus proceeds in His discourse with καὶ οὐ μὴ τιμής. But your teaching is: “Whoever will have said to his father: It is given to the temple, whatever thou wouldest have got from me by way of helping thee” (the Jews, of course, understood the apodosis to be this: he is not bound by that commandment, but the obligation is transferred to his Corban). And (in consequence of this vow) he will certainly not be honouring. Comp. Käuffer, de ζωῆς αἰων. notione, p. 32 f., and Beza, de Wette, Keim. Some, however, postpone the aposiopesis till the close, and understand καὶ οὐ μὴ τιμής. as forming part of what is supposed to be spoken by the Pharisees in their teaching: But whosoever says … and does not honour … (he is not liable to punishment). So Fritzsche. But this is not in keeping with usage as regards οὐ μή; nor is it in itself a probable thing that the Pharisees should have said quite so plainly that the honouring of parents might be dispensed with. Others, again, reject the aposiopesis, and regard καὶ οὐ μὴ τιμ. etc. as an apodosis, taking the words, like the expositors just referred to, as forming part of what is understood to be spoken by the Pharisees: “whoever says … he is not called upon, in such cases, to honour his parents as well.” Such, after Grotius, is the interpretation of Bengel, Olshausen, Bleek; comp. Winer, p. 558 [E. T. 750, note]. According to this view, καί would be that of the apodosis (Klotz, ad Devar. p. 636) in a relative construction (Baeumlein, Partik. p. 146). But οὐ μὴ τιμ. does not mean: he need not honour, but: he assuredly will not honour; or, as Ewald and Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 391, explain it, he shall not honour,—which direct prohibition from the lips of such wily hypocrites as those Pharisees, is far less conceivable than the prudent aposiopesis above referred to.

For ὠφελεῖσθαί τι ἔκ τινος, comp. Thuc. vi. 12. 2 : ὠφεληθῇ τι ἐκ τῆς ἀρχῆς, Lys. xxi. 18, xxvii. 2; Aesch. Prom. 222; Soph. Aj. 533. More frequently with ὑπό, παρά, ἀπό. The opposite of it is: ζημιοῦσθαί τι ἔκ τινος, Dem. lii. 11. For the passive with accusative of the thing, see Kühner, II. 1, p. 279 f.

καὶ ἠκυρώσατε] and you have thereby deprived of its authority. ἠκυρ. is placed first for sake of emphasis, and is stronger than παραβαίνετε in Matthew 15:3. That such vows, leading to a repudiation of the fifth commandment, were actually made and held as binding, is evident from Tr. Nedarim v. 6, ix. 1. Joseph, c. Ap. i. 22.

Matthew 15:6 is a confirmation, and not a mere echo, of what is said in Matthew 15:3.Matthew 15:5 shows how that great law is compromised.—ὑμεῖς δὲ λέγ.: the emphatic antithesis of ὑμεῖς to θεὸς a pointed rebuke of their presumption. he scribes rivals to the Almighty in legislation. “Ye say”: the words following give not the ipsissima verba of scribe-teaching or what they would acknowledge to be the drift of their teaching, but that drift as Jesus Himself understood it = “This is what it comes to.”—“Δῶρον” = let it be a gift or offering devoted to God, to the temple, to religious purposes, i.e., a Corban (Mark 7:11); magic word releasing from obligation to show honour to parents in the practical way of contributing to their support. Of evil omen even when the “gift” was bonâ fide, as involving an artificial divorce between religion and morality; easily sliding into disingenuous pretexts of vows to evade filial responsibilities; reaching the lowest depth of immorality when lawmakers and unfilial sons were in league for common pecuniary profit from the nefarious transaction. Were the faultfinders in this case chargeable with receiving a commission for trafficking in iniquitous legislation, letting sons off for a percentage on what they would have to give their parents? Origen, Jerome, Theophy., Lutteroth favour this view, but there is nothing in the text to justify it. Christ’s charge is based on the practice specified even at its best: honest pleading of previous obligation to God as a ground for neglecting duty to parents. Lightfoot (Hor. Heb.) understands the law as meaning that the word Corban, even though profanely and heartlessly spoken, bound not to help parents, but did not bind really to give the property to sacred uses. “Addicanda sua in sacros usus per haec verba nullatenus tenebatur, ad non juvandum patrem tenebatur inviolabiliter.”—οὐ μὴ τιμήσει, he shall not honour = he is exempt from obligation to: such the rule in effect, if not in words, of the scribes in the case. The future here has the force of the imperative as often in the Sept[89] (vide Burton, M. and T., § 67). If the imperative meaning be denied, then οὐ μὴ τ. must be taken as a comment of Christ’s. Ye say, “whosoever,” etc.; in these circumstances of course he will not, etc. As the passage stands in T.R. the clause καὶ οὐ μὴ τιμήσῃ, etc., belongs to the protasis, and the apodosis remains unexpressed = he shall be free, or guiltless, as in A. V[90]

[89] Septuagint.

[90] Authorised Version.5. It is a gift] Rather, Let it be a gift, or “devoted to sacred uses,” which the Jews expressed by the word corban, found in Mark 7:11. The scribes held that these words, even when pronounced in spite and anger against parents who needed succour, excused the son from his natural duty; and, on the other hand, did not oblige him really to devote the sum to the service of God or of the temple.Matthew 15:5. Ὑμεῖς δὲ, but you) What God commands are the offices of love; human traditions lead into all other things.[682]—δῶρον, a gift) i.e. it is a gift. Whatsoever, etc., is Corban. The formula was קרבן שאני נהנה לך, Let all that by which I might be serviceable to thee in any way whatsoever, be to me Corban; i.e. Let it be as much forbidden to me to benefit thee in anything, as it is unlawful for me to touch the Corban. See L. Capellus[683] on the Corban. Or else, to avoid the appearance of avarice, they actually offered to the Corban what was due to their parents; as many persons give to the poor or to orphans those things which they grudge to others, which they extort from them, or deny them.—ὁ ἐὰν, κ.τ.λ., whatsoever thou mightest be profited by meὠφεληθῆς, thou mightest be profited) The priests used to say, יהנה לך, It be useful to thee,[684] when the people offered anything.—καὶ, and) This particle denotes the commencement of the apodosis.[685]—Οὐ ΜῊ ΤΙΜΉΣῌ, shall not honour) The decree of the Pharisees was, such an one shall be free from all obligation towards father and mother. Our Lord, however, expresses this in words which bring out more clearly the unrighteousness of the Pharisees in opposition to the commandment of God.

[682] In the original, “in alia omnia eunt,” i.e. into all things which are of a different, nay, a contrary character.

[683] LUDOVICUS CAPELLUS was born at Sedan in 1586. He became a theologian and philologist of Saumur, was a first-rate Hebrew scholar, and deeply versed in Rabbinical learning. His writings are very numerous. He died in 1658.—(I. B.)

[684] Sc. “It (i.e. the offering) be profitable to thee.” A form of benediction.—(I. B.)

[685] By a Hebraism, which however is also found in Greek, ex. gr. Demosthenes de Cor., “Whosoever (when any one soever) shall say, etc.—then (καὶ) he shall not (need not) honour,” etc.—ED.

Compare a similar construction occurring Revelation 2:24.—E. B.Verse 5. - But ye say. In direct contradiction to what "God commanded" It is a gift, etc. This is better rendered, That wherewith, thou mightest have been benefited by me is Corban; i.e. is given, dedicated to God. The vow to consecrate his savings, even at death, to the temple absolved a man from the duty of succouring his parents. It was further ruled that if a son, from any motive whatever, pronounced any aid to his parents to be corban, he was thenceforward precluded from affording them help, the claims of the commandment and of natural affection and charity being superseded by the vow. He seems to have been allowed to expend the money thus saved on himself or any other object except his father and mother. So gross an evasion of a common duty could not be placed in the same category as the omission of unnecessary washings. It is a gift (δῶρον)

Rev., given to God. The picture is that of a churlish son evading the duty of assisting his needy parents by uttering the formula, Corban, it is a gift to God. "Whatever that may be by which you might be helped by me, is not mine to give. It is vowed to God." The man, however, was not bound in that case to give his gift to the temple-treasury, while he was bound not to help his parent; because the phrase did not necessarily dedicate the gift to the temple. By a quibble it was regarded as something like Corban, as if it were laid on the altar and put entirely out of reach. It was expressly stated that such a vow was binding, even if what was vowed involved a breach of the law.

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