Matthew 15:9
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.—Neither word is quite adequately rendered. The “doctrines” are not articles of faith, propositions to be believed, but precepts which were taught as binding. The “commandments” are single, special rules as contrasted with the divine “commandment,” which was exceedingly broad.

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.In vain do they worship me - That is, their attempts to worship are "vain," or are not real worship - they are mere "forms."

Teaching for doctrines ... - The word "doctrines," here, means the requirements of religion - things to be believed and practiced in religion.

God only has a right to declare what shall be done in his service; but they held their traditions to be superior to the written word of God, and taught them as doctrines binding the conscience. See the notes at Isaiah 29:13.

8. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, &c.—By putting the commandments of men on a level with the divine requirements, their whole worship was rendered vain—a principle of deep moment in the service of God. "For," it is added in Mr 7:8, "laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups; and many other such like things ye do." The drivelling nature of their multitudinous observances is here pointedly exposed, in contrast with the manly observance of "the commandment of God"; and when our Lord says, "Many other such like things ye do," it is implied that He had but given a specimen of the hideous treatment which the divine law received, and the grasping disposition which, under the mask of piety, was manifested by the ecclesiastics of that day.Ver. 7-9. The Greek is, didaskontev didaskaliav, teaching doctrines, the commandments of men.

Ye hypocrites, who put on an outward vizard or appearance of holiness, but have nothing in your hearts of true and severe piety,

well did Isaiah prophesy of you: Isaiah spake to the Jews that were then in being, but what he then said of your forefathers that lived in his age, is true of you who are their children.

Saying, This people, &c. The evangelist doth not quote the words of the prophet exactly, but his sense, and teacheth us this lesson, That whatsoever outward show and profession of religion be in and upon men, if their hearts be not right with God, and what they outwardly do proceed not from an inward principle of faith, love, and obedience in and to God, they are but hypocrites.

In vain do they worship me, &c.; that is, idly, and unprofitably, and to no purpose: I will not account what they do.

Teaching doctrines, the commandments of men: he means in the worship of God, for other commandments of men are not the preacher’s texts, nor doth he here mean by

commandments of men such as backed the commandments of God, and only served to enforce them, but such as he had been speaking of, human traditions, of which God had said nothing, as washing of hands; or such traditions as enervated the commandments of God; such were the last mentioned. But in vain do they worship me,.... In the Hebrew text it is, "their fear towards me": which is rightly expressed here by "worship"; for the fear of God often intends the whole worship of God, both external and internal: here it only signifies external worship, which these men only attended to. They prayed in the synagogues, read, and, in their way, expounded the books of Moses, and the prophets, to the people, diligently observed the rituals of the ceremonial law, brought their offerings and sacrifices to the temple, and neglected nothing appertaining to the outward service of it; and yet it was all "in vain", and to no purpose; since the heart was wanting, no grace there, they acted from wrong principles, and with wrong views; their worship was merely outward, formal, and customary; and besides, they added doctrines and traditions of their own inventing and devising. The phrase, "in vain", is not in the text in Isaiah: some have thought that it was not originally in Matthew, but inserted by some other hand, to make the sense more complete. Grotius thinks there was a various reading, which is followed by the Septuagint, and the evangelist; and that instead of "and is", it was the same with "in vain": but there is no need to suppose either of these: Christ, who made this citation, either added it himself for the clearer illustration of the passage, and as being entirely agreeable to the sense of it, and which it required, for the true understanding of it; or he might have in his view another passage of the same prophet, speaking of the same people, and upon the same subject, Isaiah 1:11 and from thence take the phrase, and, for explanation sake, join it to the passage here. It follows,

teaching for doctrines the commandments of men; that is, teaching the people to observe the traditions of the elders, the decrees and determinations of the doctors, as if they were doctrines delivered by God himself; or, instead of the doctrines contained in the Bible, which lay neglected by them, they obtruded on them the orders, and injunctions of men. In the text in Isaiah, are only these words, "taught by the precept of men": and which relate to their fear and worship of God; and which is here interpreted of their teachers teaching them it, and that explained of the commandments of men; as if, instead of "taught", it had been read, "teaching". The Jews have no reason to quarrel with this construction and sense, since their Targum paraphrases it thus; "and their fear before me is, , according to the commandment of men that teach": and a noted commentator (c) of their's has this remark on the text, "their fear towards me is" not with a perfect heart, but "by the commandment , of the men that teach them".

(c) R. Sol. Jarchi in Isaiah 29.13.

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 15:9. Μάτην, in vain) How much vanity has there been in the greatest part of religions throughout so many ages and climates!—σέβονται, they worship) They paid little regard to the commandments of God, and that little they defiled by observing the commandments of men.—διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας, teaching doctrines) laboriously, constantly, in great numbers, cf. Mark 7:13.—ἐντάλματα, precepts) In apposition with διδασκαλίας, doctrines: these ἐντάλματα, precepts, were unworthy to be called ἐντολαὶ, commandments. Precepts are adorned and seasoned by doctrines.—ἀνθρώπων, of men) although they be ancients (Matthew 15:2); who have no authority in religion.Verse 9. - But in vain, etc. The Hebrew gives, "And their fear of me is a commandment of men which hath been taught them," or "learned by rote" (Revised Version). Septuagint, "In vain do they worship me, teaching men's commandments and doctrines." Their worship is vitiated at its very root. Commandments of men. This is Christ's designation of rabbinical traditions (comp. Colossians 2:22).
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