Matthew 16:1
The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
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(1) The Pharisees also with the Sadducees.—The presence of members of the latter sect, who do not elsewhere appear in our Lord’s Galilean ministry, is noticeable. It is probably explained by St. Mark’s version of the warning in Matthew 16:6, where “the leaven of Herod” appears as equivalent to “the leaven of the Sadducees” in St. Matthew’s report. The Herodians were the Galilean Sadducees, and the union of the two hostile parties was the continuation of the alliance which had begun after our Lord’s protest against the false reverence for the Sabbath, which was common to both the parties (Mark 3:6).

That he would shew them a sign from heaven.—The signs and wonders that had been wrought on earth were not enough for the questioners. There might be collusion, or a power, like that implied in the charge of “casting out devils by Beelzebub,” preternatural, but not divine. What they asked was a sign like Samuel’s thunder from the clear blue sky (1Samuel 12:18), or Elijah’s fire from heaven (1Kings 18:38); or, possibly, following the train of thought suggested by the discourse at Capernaum, now definitely asking, what they hinted then (John 6:30-31), for bread, not multiplied on earth, but coming straight from heaven.

Matthew 16:1. The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came — Notwithstanding the difference of their principles, and the alienation of their affections from each other, they now agreed to join in an attempt upon Christ; his doctrine being equally opposed to the errors and vices of both these sects; see the note on Matthew 3:7 : tempting, or, trying him, as πειραζοντες properly signifies; (see note on Matthew 4:1,) that is, making trial, in a crafty and insnaring manner, whether he was able to do what they required: desired a sign from heaven — Such a sign as they insinuated Satan could not counterfeit. They pretended they were willing to be convinced that he was the Messiah, could they see sufficient proofs of it: whereas they had already resisted the clearest evidence of it, and now indeed came with no design or desire of being convinced of his divine mission, but in order that, failing in the proof which they required, he might expose himself to general censure and contempt.

16:1-4 The Pharisees and Sadducees were opposed to each other in principles and in conduct; yet they joined against Christ. But they desired a sign of their own choosing: they despised those signs which relieved the necessity of the sick and sorrowful, and called for something else which would gratify the curiosity of the proud. It is great hypocrisy, when we slight the signs of God's ordaining, to seek for signs of our own devising.See also Mark 8:11-12.

The Pharisees also, and the Sadducees - See the notes at Matthew 3:7.

Tempting - That is, trying him - feigning a desire to see evidence that he was the Messiah, but with a real desire to see him make the attempt to work a miracle and fail, so that they might betray him and ruin him.

A sign from heaven - Some miraculous appearance in the sky. Such appearances had been given by the prophets; and they supposed, if he was the Messiah, that his miracles would not all be confined to the earth, but that he was able to give some signal miracle from heaven. Samuel had caused it to thunder 1 Samuel 12:16-18; Isaiah had caused the shadow to go back ten degrees on the dial of Ahaz Isaiah 38:8; and Moses had sent manna from heaven, Exodus 16:4; John 6:31. It is proper to say, that though Christ did not choose then to show such wonders, yet far more stupendous signs from heaven than these were exhibited at his death.


Mt 16:1-12. A Sign from Heaven Sought and Refused—Caution against the Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

For the exposition, see on [1315]Mr 8:11-21.


Matthew 16:1-4 The Pharisees require a sign.

Matthew 16:5-12 Jesus warns his disciples against the leaven of the

Pharisees and Sadducees, and explains his meaning.

Matthew 16:13-20 The people’s opinion, and Peter’s confession, of Christ.

Matthew 16:21-23 Jesus foreshows his own death, and rebuketh Peter for

dissuading him from it.

Matthew 16:24-28 He showeth that his followers must deny themselves in

prospect of a future reward.

What these Pharisees and Sadducees were we have had an occasion to show before in our annotations on Matthew 3:7, See Poole on "Matthew 3:7". There was a great opposition between them, as we may learn from Acts 23:7,8. The Pharisees and scribes were great zealots for their traditions; the Sadducees valued them not. The Pharisees held the resurrection, angels, and spirits; the Sadducees denied all. But they were both enemies to Christ, and combine in their designs against him. They came to him

tempting, that is, desirous to make a trial of him; they desire

that he would show them a sign from heaven; such a one as Moses showed them, John 6:30,31 bringing down bread from heaven. They had seen our Saviour showing many signs, but they had taught the people that these things might be done by the power of the devil, or by the art of man; therefore they challenge our Saviour to show them another kind of sign, a sign from heaven, that they might know he was sent of God. See Mark 8:11.

The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, &c. Not from Jerusalem, as in Matthew 15:1 but from the neighbouring places: these were Galilean Sadducees and Pharisees, of whom mention is made in the Misna (w);

"says , "a Galilean Sadducee", (i.e. one that was of the land of Galilee, as Bartenora on the place observes,) I complain of you Pharisees, because ye write the name of a ruler with the name of Moses, in a divorce; say the Pharisees, we complain of you Galilean Sadducees, that you write the name of a ruler with the name of God, in the same leaf:''

but though these two sects could not agree in this, and in many other things, yet they could unite against Christ, to whom they bore an implacable hatred.

And tempting, desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven: they came with no sincere view to be taught by him, or learn anything from him; but if they could, to ensnare him, and get an opportunity of exposing him to the people; and therefore pretending dissatisfaction with the miracles he wrought on the earth, they ask of him to produce a sign from heaven, of his coming from thence, of his being the Son of God, and the true Messiah. They wanted some such sign, as the standing still of the sun and moon, in the times of Joshua; and as raining manna, in the times of Moses; or some such appearances of thunder and lightning, as at the giving of the law. The appearance of the rainbow, in a very extraordinary manner, is looked upon by the Jews as a sign of the Messiah's coming (x).

"Says a certain Jew, when my father departed out of the world, he said thus to me; do not look for the Messiah until thou seest the bow in the world, adorned with light colours, and the world enlightened by it; then look for the Messiah, as it is written, Genesis 9:16.''

Some very unusual and uncommon sight in the heavens, was what these men asked of Christ in proof of his mission from God.

(w) Yadaim, c. 4. sect. 8. (x) Zohar in Gen. fol. 53. 2.

The {1} Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and {a} tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.

(1) The wicked who otherwise disagree with one another, agree well together against Christ, but do what they can, Christ is victorious, and triumphs over them.

(a) To see whether he could do that which they desired, but their purpose was useless for they thought to find something in him by it, in which case they might have just occasion to reprehend him: or else distrust and curiosity moved them to do so, for by such means also is God said to be tempted, that is to say, provoked to anger, as though men would strive with him.

Matthew 16:1 ff. Comp. Mark 8:11 ff. Not a duplicate of the incident recorded in Matthew 12:38 (Strauss, de Wette, Bruno Bauer, Schneckenburger, Volkmar, Weizsäcker, Bleek, Scholten), but a second demand for a sign, and that from heaven, in which respect it is distinguished from the first. With regard to the alliance between Pharisees and Sadducees, supposed by some to be utterly improbable (de Wette, Strauss, Weiss, Scholten), it is sufficient to say, with Theophylact: κἂν τοῖς δόγμασι διίσταντο Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι, ἀλλά γε κατὰ Χριστοῦ συμπνέουσι· σημεῖον δὲ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ζητοῦσιν, ἐδόκουν γὰρ, ὅτι τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς σημεῖα ἀπὸ δαιμονικῆς δυνάμεως καὶ ἐν Βεελζεβοὺλ γίνονται. In the unbelieving hostility with which they are animated, they demand of Him the very highest sign which the Messiah would be expected to give (Matthew 24:29 f.; Joel 3:3 f.), intending thereby to have Him put to the test, but thinking, all the time, that it would be beyond His power to comply with their demand.

ἐπηρώτησαν] Their challenge was put in the form of inquiry.

The compound ἐπερωτᾶν never means: to request, to beg; see note on Matthew 15:23.

Their questions had reference to such a sign, by way of Messianic credential, as, coming from heaven, would be visible to their outward eye.

ἐπιδεῖξαι] spectandum praebere, John 2:18.

Matthew 16:1-12. Demand for a sign (Mark 8:11-21).

Matthew 16:1. The Pharisees also with the Sadducees] “The Pharisees” (Mark). The coalition between these opposing sects can only be accounted for by the uniting influence of a strong common hostility against Jesus.

a sign from heaven] They could not perceive the inner beauty of Christ’s teaching, but they would follow the rules of a Rabbi who, like one of the ancient prophets, should give an external sign—a darkening of the glowing sky—a flash of light—a peal of thunder. The answer of Christ teaches that the signs of the times, the events of the day, are the signs of God, the signs that Christ gives.

Matthew 16:1. Οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι, the Pharisees and Sadducees) The common people were mostly addicted to the Pharisees, men of rank to the Sadducees (see Acts 5:17; Acts 23:6); as at present the crowd is more inclined to superstition, the educated to atheism, the two opposite extremes. The Evangelists describe only two attempts of the Sadducees against our Lord (the first of which occurs in the present passage), for they cared less than the Pharisees about religion.—ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, from heaven) Miracles had been performed from heaven in the times of Moses, Joshua, and Elijah. The reason why the Pharisees were unwilling to accept as Divine the miracles hitherto performed by our Lord, seems to have been this: that since He had not yet produced any sign from heaven, they thought that the others might proceed even from Satan (cf. ch. Matthew 12:24; Matthew 12:38); and that they considered that a sign from heaven affecting the whole creation, would be greater than any signs performed on the microcosm[707] of man. [Perhaps, also, they were relying on the prophecy of Joel; see Acts 2:19.—V. g.] The Sadducees, who disbelieved the existence of any Spirit, and therefore of Satan himself, were of opinion that our Lord’s power extended only to hunger, and the diseases of the body, not to all greater matters. Both were influenced also by another motive, namely, the desire to witness a variety of miracles, considered merely as sights. Their lust[708] (libido) is indicated by the word θέλομεν, we wish, in ch. Matthew 12:38.

[707] “Signa in microcosmo,” signs performed in the little world, the limited horizon, of which man is the centre.—ED.

[708] The word is, of course, not to be taken in the literal force of its ordinary signification, but rather in the wider sense which it has in English writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (cf. 1 John 2:16, and Galatians 5:17), though there is a special allusion to the epithet adulterous in Matthew 12:38, and infra Matthew 16:5, and to the common source of the various manifestations of the φρόνημα σαρκὸς.—(I. B.)

Verses 1-4. - The Pharisees and Sadducees desire a sign. (Mark 8:11-13.) Verse 1. - The Pharisees also with the Saddueees; rather, and the Pharisees and Sadducees. The scribes and Pharisees are often mentioned together as watching or attacking Jesus; but this is the first time that we hear of Pharisees combining with Sadducees for this purpose. The two sects were directly opposed to each other, the traditional belief of the former being antagonistic to the scepticism and materialism of the latter. But both were hostile to Christ, whose teaching, on the one hand interfered with rabbinism, and on the other maintained the existence of the supernatural and the certainty of the resurrection. The Sadducees alone seem to have attacked Christ only on two occasions. They were probably Herodians (comp. Matthew 22:16), and on this account also disliked by the Pharisees; but they were powerful, and held most of the highest offices in the state, and their alliance was sought or allowed in order more effectually to compromise Jesus. Even theological hatred and political opposition sank into indifference in the face of what was regarded as a common danger. Strauss and his school regard this combination as so unnatural that they throw discredit on the whole account. This is shallow criticism. Nothing is more common than for persons opposed on all other subjects to coalesce for an unholy purpose in which they are jointly interested. The most violent political opponents will join forces in order to gain some desired point, and. when an attack on the Church is meditated, even unbelievers are gladly welcomed. Tertullian says forcibly, "Christ is always being crucified between two thieves." Tempting. Trying him with captious questions, to bring him into a difficulty, or to give them an opportunity of accusing him of heterodoxy, or disloyalty, or insubordination, and of discrediting him with the people. A sign from heaven. The rabbis held that demons and. false gods could perform certain miracles on earth, but God alone could give signs from heaven, such as, e.g., the manna of Moses' time, the staying of the sun and moon by Joshua, the lightning and thunder that came at Samuel's word, the stroke of death on the captains who tried to arrest Elijah. They had heard of the miraculous meal just before, and saw how deeply the people were moved by it, and they would imply that such a miracle was no proof of a Divine mission, as it might have been wrought by magical or Satanic agency. Let Christ give a sign from heaven, and they would acknowledge his claims. They knew what Christ's answer would be, as they had already attacked him with the same demand (Matthew 12:38); and they hoped that he would either refuse to gratify them, as before, or else make an attempt and fail. In either case they thought they might turn the circumstance to his disadvantage. The Sadducees joined in the request, because they disbelieved in all such occurrences, and were fully persuaded that they were impossible, and any one who attempted to produce them must prove himself a miserable impostor. The word translated desired. (ἐπηρώτησαν) is emphatic; the verb is used classically in the sense of "to put a question for decision;" so the interrogation here would signify that this was to be a final test of the claims of Christ; on his answer depended their adhesion or opposition (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:22). Matthew 16:1
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