Matthew 16:6
Then Jesus said to them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
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(6) Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.—The form of the warning was obviously determined by the fact just narrated. The Master saw the perplexed looks and heard the self reproaching or mutually accusing whispers of the disciples, and made them the text of a proverb which was a concentrated parable. As St. Mark gives the words, they stand, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod,” and this, if we have to make our choice, we may believe to have been the form in which they were actually spoken; St. Matthew, or the report which he followed, substituting for the less known Herodians the better known Sadducees. The language of the tetrarch, as has been shown (see Note on Matthew 14:2), implies that Sadduceeism had been the prevailing belief of his life, and the current of Jewish political, not to say religious, sympathies, naturally led the Sadducean priests, courting (as Caiaphas did) the favour of the Roman rulers, to fraternise with the scribes who attached themselves to the party of the tetrarch. (Comp. Acts 5:17.)

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.Take heed ... - That is, be cautious, be on your guard.

The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees - Leaven is used in making bread.

It passes secretly, silently, but certainly through the mass of dough. See the notes at Matthew 13:33. "None can see its progress." So it was with the doctrines of the Pharisees. They were insinuating, artful, plausible. They concealed the real tendency of their doctrines; they instilled them secretly into the mind, until they pervaded all the faculties like leaven.

They reasoned ... - The disciples did not understand him as referring to the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees, because the word "leaven" was not often used among the Jews to denote doctrines, no other instance of this use of the word occurring in the Scriptures. Besides, the Jews had many particular rules about the leaven (yeast) which might be used in making bread. Many held that it was not lawful to eat bread made by the Gentiles; and the disciples, perhaps, supposed that he was cautioning them not to procure a supply from the Pharisees and Sadducees.

O ye of little faith! - Jesus, in reply, said that they should not be so anxious about the supply of their temporal wants. They should not have supposed, after the miracles that he had performed in feeding so many, that he would caution them to be anxious about procuring bread for their necessities. It was improper, then, for them to reason about a thing like that, but they should have supposed that he referred to something more important. The miracles had been full proof that he could supply all their wants without such anxiety.


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.

See Poole on "Matthew 16:7". Then Jesus said unto them,.... Either taking occasion from the disciples observing that they had forgot to take bread with them, or on account of what passed between him and the Pharisees and Sadducees, he gave the following advice to his disciples;

take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Mark, instead "of the leaven of the Sadducees", says, "the leaven of Herod"; either because Christ might caution against all three; or because the Sadducees were generally Herodians, taking Herod to be the Messiah; or were on his party, or for his government, which the Pharisees disliked; and the Herodians were generally Sadducees. By "the leaven" of these is meant their doctrine, as appears from Matthew 16:12. The doctrines the Pharisees taught were the commandments and inventions of men, the traditions of the elders, free will, and justification by the works of the law: the doctrine of the Sadducees was, that there was no resurrection of the dead, nor angels, nor spirits: now because they sought secretly and artfully to infuse their notions into the minds of men; and which, when imbibed, spread their infection, and made men sour, morose, rigid, and ill natured, and swelled and puffed them up with pride and vanity, Christ compares them to leaven; and advises his disciples to look about them, to watch, and be on their guard, lest they should be infected with them.

Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Matthew 16:6. The craft and malice of the Pharisees and Sadducees were still fresh in His memory, Matthew 16:1-4.

ζύμην τὴν διδαχήν] ἐκάλεσεν, ὡς ὀξώδη καὶ σαπράν (Euth. Zigabenus); see Matthew 16:12. The allusion is to their peculiar sectarian views, in so far as they deviated from the law. The expression is explained differently in Luke 12:1. Comp. note on Galatians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:6. For the figurative use of שְׂאֹר by the Rabbis (as denoting the infecting influence of any one who is bad), see Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 2303. Lightfoot on this passage. Used differently again in Matthew 13:33.Matthew 16:6. ὁρᾶτε καὶ προσέχετε: an abrupt, urgent admonition to look out for, in order to take heed of, a phenomenon of very sinister import; in Scottish idiom “see and beware of”. More impressive still in Mk.: ὁρᾶτε, βλέπετε, a duality giving emphasis to the command (ἀναδίπλωσις, ἐμφαίνουσα ἐπίτασιν τῆς παραγγελίας, Euthy.).—ζύμης, leaven, here conceived as an evil influence, working, however, after the same manner as the leaven in the parable (Matthew 13:33). It Is a spirit, a zeitgeist, insinuating itself everywhere, and spreading more and more in society, which Jesus instinctively shrank from in horror, and from which He wished to guard His disciples.—τῶν φαρ. καὶ Σαδ: one leaven, of two parties viewed as one, hence no article before Σαδ. Two leavens separately named in Mk., but even there juxtaposition in the warning implies affinity. The leaven of Pharisaism is made thoroughly known to us in the Gospels by detailed characterisation. Sadducaism very seldom appears on the stage, and few words of Jesus concerning it are recorded; yet enough to indicate its character as secular or “worldly”. The two classes, antagonistic at many points of belief and practice, would be at one in dislike of single-hearted devotion to truth and righteousness, whether in the Baptist (Matthew 3:7) or in Jesus. This common action in reference to either might not be a matter of arrangement, and each might come with its own characteristic mood: the Pharisee with bitter animosity, the Sadducee with good-natured scepticism and in quest of amusement, as when they propounded the riddle about the woman married to seven brothers. Both moods revealed utter lack of appreciation, no friendship to be looked for in either quarter, both to be dreaded.Matthew 16:6. Ὁρᾶτε, take heed) It is necessary to be careful of the purity of doctrine.—ζύμης, leaven) The language is metaphorical, and therefore enigmatical; and by it our Lord tries the progress of the disciples, who had already been long His hearers. The metaphor, however, alludes to the thoughts with which the mind of the disciples was then overflowing; q. d., “Do not care about the want of earthly bread, but about the perilous aliments which the hypocrites offer to your souls.” It is probable that the disciples had forgotten the loaves, because the controversy raised by the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:1) had put them into a state of anxiety and temptation. The Pharisees and Sadducees were elsewhere strongly opposed to each other, but yet on this occasion they conspire together against Jesus (see Matthew 16:1); therefore He included both of them under the one title of hypocrites (Matthew 16:3), and guards His disciples at once against both in this passage. And their hypocrisy itself was this leaven (Luke 12:1), induced by which, they did not acknowledge the very sufficient signs of the present time, but, on the contrary, demanded the signs of another time; whence the plural καιρῶν, times, is used in Matthew 16:3.[718] The believer both believes and speaks; he who separates either of these from the other is an unbeliever, is a hypocrite; see Gnomon on ch. Matthew 24:51. Neither therefore is he free from hypocrisy who has little faith; see Matthew 16:8. The disciples are most opportunely admonished to beware of this leaven, as they did not yet understand it from the present signs; see Matthew 16:11.[719]

[718] Nay more, every error of all sects is the one leaven, which the old man cherishes.—V. g.

[719] There is also in this a suitableness of words [His mode of address], inasmuch as the disciples, who had been present, and themselves taken a part in the proceedings, on the occasion of the divine miracles which had been twice performed in the case of bread a short time before, were feeling the need of bread, now that a sudden want of it had arisen. For that reason, they might have the more deeply been mindful of spiritual bread, and have seen clearly the need of sound doctrine.—V. g.Verse 6. - The leaven. Christ's thoughts were still fixed on the late disputants, whose powerful influence on popular opinion called for forcible warning. By "leaven" he does not here refer specially to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees, as in Luke 12:1, but to the evil influence which they exercised, which was diffused far and wide, and penetrated to all ranks and classes. Their unsound opinions, their inability or disinclination to enter into the spiritual sense of Scripture, vitiated their whole system, and made them dangerous teachers directly they attempted to explain or amplify the letter of Holy Writ. It was this same perverse blindness that led them to refuse to accept Jesus as Messiah in spite of all the proofs which had been brought before them. That leaven, in one aspect, was regarded as a sign of impurity and corruption, we learn from the strict rules which banished it from Divine service, and especially during the Passover season. Says St. Paul, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Galatians 5:9); and, "Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Elsewhere Christ makes a distinction between what these teachers taught ex cathedra, and what they put forth on their own authority or what they practised themselves (Matthew 23:2, 3, where see note).
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