Matthew 16:12
Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(12) The doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.—Better, teaching; not so much the formulated dogmas of the sect as its general drift and tendency. The leaven was (as expressly stated in Luke 12:1) “hypocrisy,” the unreality of a life respectable, rigid, outwardly religious, even earnest in its zeal, and yet wanting in the humility and love which are of the essence of true holiness. That of the Sadducees and of Herod, was, we may believe (it is not specially defined), the more open form of worldliness and self-indulgence which allied themselves with their denial of the resurrection and therefore of eternal life.

16:5-12 Christ speaks of spiritual things under a similitude, and the disciples misunderstand him of carnal things. He took it ill that they should think him as thoughtful about bread as they were; that they should be so little acquainted with his way of preaching. Then understood they what he meant. Christ teaches by the Spirit of wisdom in the heart, opening the understanding to the Spirit of revelation in the word.Then understood they ... - After this explanation they immediately saw that he referred to the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Erroneous doctrines are like leaven in the following respects:

1. They are at first slight and unimportant in appearance, just as leaven is small in quantity as compared with the mass that is to be leavened.

2. They are insinuated into the soul unawares and silently, and are difficult of detection.

3. They act gradually.

4. They act most certainly.

5. They will pervade all the soul, and bring all the faculties under their control.


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.

Ver. 8-12. Mark, giving us an account of this passage, Mark 8:17-19, useth some harsher expressions: And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your eyes yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear ye not? And do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand? Our Saviour here charges them with three things, ignorance, unbelief, forgetfulness.

1. Ignorance, in that they did not understand that his usual way was to discourse spiritual things to them under earthly similitudes, and so by leaven he must understand something else than leaven with which men use to leaven their bread.

2. Unbelief, that they having seen the power and goodness of the Lord and Master, to feed four thousand with seven loaves, and five thousand with five loaves, leaving a great remainder, and that he did this for a mixed multitude, out of a mere compassion to the wants and cravings of human nature, should not judge that he was able to provide for them, although they had brought no bread; or doubt whether he would do it or no for them, who were much dearer to him.

3. Forgetfulness, which is often in Scripture made the mother of unbelief and disobedience. Deu 4:9,23 25:19 Psalm 78:11.

There is nothing of difficulty in the terms, only from this history we may learn these things:

1. That God expects that we should not only hear and see, but understand.

2. That he looks we should not only hear for the present time, but for the time to come. Christ expected that his disciples should have learned from his doctrine about washing of hands, that he could not mean the leaven of bread, but something else, which might defile them.

3. That he is much displeased with his own people, when he discerns blindness and ignorance in them, after their more than ordinary means of knowledge.

4. That former experiences of God’s power and goodness manifested for us, or to us, ought to strengthen our faith in him when we come under the like circumstances; and a disputing or doubting after such experiences argues but a little and very weak faith, and a hardness of heart, that the mercies of God have not made a just impression on our souls.

Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Mark, instead of and of the Sadducees, hath, and of the leaven of Herod, which hath made some think that Herod was a Sadducee. The doctrine of the Pharisees is reducible to two heads:

1. Justification by the works of the law, and those works too according to that imperfect sense of the law they gave.

2. The obligation of the tradition of the elders; whose traditions were also (as we have heard) some of them of that nature, that they made the law of God of no effect.

The doctrine of the Sadducees we are in part told, Acts 23:8. They said there was no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit: these were principles excellently suited to men of atheistical hearts and lives, and it is more than probable that Herod and his courtiers, and some of his lords and great captains, had sucked in some of these principles, and these were the Herodians mentioned, Matthew 22:16 Mark 3:6.

These doctrines are by our Saviour compared to leaven, not only because of the sour nature of it, but also because heretics’ words (as the apostle saith) eat as doth a canker, and are of a contagious nature; as leaven doth diffuse its quality into the whole mass of meat. Our Saviour had upon this account compared the gospel to leaven, Matthew 13:33, because by his blessing upon it it should influence the world, as we heard, in Matthew 13:1-58.

Then understood they,.... Without any further explication of his sense and meaning,

how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread: which sense they first took him in; imagining, because the Pharisees were very particular and precise what sort of leaven they made use of (z), that Christ forbad them buying bread that was made with leaven according to their directions: and since their rules in everything prevailed much in all places, they were concerned what bread they must, or could buy; but now they perceived that he did not speak of this, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. It was very common with the Jews (a) to call the corruption and vitiosity of nature by the name of , "leaven in the lump": hence our Lord calls their doctrine so, because it proceeded from thence, and was agreeable thereunto; and uses the phrase on purpose to expose it, and bring it into neglect and contempt.

(z) Misn. Pesach, c. 2. sect. 2, 3. T. Hieros. Sabbat, fol. 3. 3. (a) T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 7. 4. T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 17. 1. Bereshit Rabba, fol. 29. 4. Caphtor, fol. 38. 2. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 73. 2.

Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Matthew 16:12. συνῆκαν, they now understood, at least to the extent of seeing that it was a question not of loaves but of something spiritual. One could wish that they had understood that from the first, and that they had asked their Master to explain more precisely the nature of the evil influences for their and our benefit. Thereby we might have had in a sentence a photograph of Sadducaism, e.g.διδαχῆς, “doctrine”; that was in a general way the import of the ζύμη. But if Jesus had explained Himself He would have had more to say. The dogmas and opinions of the two parties in question were not the worst of them, but the spirit of their life: their dislike of real godliness.

12. Then understood they] The Greek word and its derivative is used specially of spiritual intelligence.

Matthew 16:12. Συνῆκαν, they understood) Our Lord still left something to be understood by His disciples. He shows them what leaven did not mean in this passage; it was their part, when they heard what it was not, to gather what it must be. Thus also in ch. Matthew 17:13.—ἀπὸ τὴς διδακῆς, from that of the doctrine)[726] sc. from the leaven of the doctrine.[727] The word doctrine, in opposition to bread, is taken in a wide signification, so as to mean even hypocrisy. The leaven was this hypocritical doctrine.

[726] In E. V. the verse is rendered, “Then understood they how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”—(I. B.)

[727] Of which a specimen occurs in Matthew 16:1.—V. g.

Verse 12. - Then understood they. Jesus did not explain his meaning further; but his reproof roused their intellect, made them reflect, set them on the road to the truth. The doctrine. This was what Jesus meant by "the leaven." In a wider sense it might include practice as well as precept, manner of life as well as teaching. The same spirit permeated all. "See," says St. Chrysostom, "how much good his reproof wrought. For it both led them away from the Jewish observances, and, when they were remiss. made them more heedful, and delivered them from want of faith; so that they were not afraid nor in alarm, if at any time they seemed to have few loaves; nor were they careful about famine, but despised all these things." Matthew 16:12
Matthew 16:12 Interlinear
Matthew 16:12 Parallel Texts

Matthew 16:12 NIV
Matthew 16:12 NLT
Matthew 16:12 ESV
Matthew 16:12 NASB
Matthew 16:12 KJV

Matthew 16:12 Bible Apps
Matthew 16:12 Parallel
Matthew 16:12 Biblia Paralela
Matthew 16:12 Chinese Bible
Matthew 16:12 French Bible
Matthew 16:12 German Bible

Bible Hub

Matthew 16:11
Top of Page
Top of Page