Matthew 21:16
And said to him, Hear you what these say? And Jesus said to them, Yes; have you never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Hearest thou what these say?—The priests and scribes had probably remained in the Temple, and had not heard the Hosannas which were raised on the Mount of Olives. The shouts of the children were therefore a surprise to them, and they turned to the Teacher and asked whether He accepted them in the sense in which they were addressed to Him. Had He really entered the Temple claiming to be the expected Christ? Did He approve this interruption of the order and quiet of its courts?

Have ye never read?—Better, did ye never read? The question was one which our Lord frequently asked in reasoning with the scribes who opposed Him (Matthew 12:3; Matthew 12:5; Matthew 19:4; Matthew 21:42; Matthew 22:31). It expressed very forcibly the estimate which He formed of their character as interpreters. They spent their lives in the study of the Law, and yet they perverted its meaning, and could not see its bearing on the events that passed around them. In this instance He cites the words of Psalm 8:2, the primary meaning of which appears to be that the child’s wonder at the marvels of Creation is the truest worship. As applied by our Lord their lesson was the same. The cries of the children were the utterance of a truth which the priests and scribes rejected. To Him, to whom the innocent brightness of childhood was a delight, they were more acceptable than the half-hearted, self-seeking homage of older worshippers. The words are quoted from the LXX. translation.

21:12-17 Christ found some of the courts of the temple turned into a market for cattle and things used in the sacrifices, and partly occupied by the money-changers. Our Lord drove them from the place, as he had done at his entering upon his ministry, Joh 2:13-17. His works testified of him more than the hosannas; and his healing in the temple was the fulfilling the promise, that the glory of the latter house should be greater than the glory of the former. If Christ came now into many parts of his visible church, how many secret evils he would discover and cleanse! And how many things daily practised under the cloak of religion, would he show to be more suitable to a den of thieves than to a house of prayer!When the chief priests ... - The chief men of the nation were envious of his popularity.

They could not prevent it; but, being determined to find fault, they took occasion to do so from the shouts of the children. People often are offended that "children" have anything to do with religion, and deem it very improper that "they" should rejoice that the Saviour has come. Our Lord Jesus viewed this subject differently. He saw that it was proper that they should rejoice. they are interested in the concerns of religion, and before evil principles get fast hold of their minds is a proper time for them to love and obey him. The Lord Jesus silenced those who made the objection by appealing to a text of their own Scriptures. This text is found in Psalm 8:2. The quotation is not made directly from the Hebrew. but from the Greek translation. This, however, should create no difficulty. The point of the quotation was to prove that "children" might offer praise to God. This is expressed in both the Hebrew and the Greek.

Mt 21:10-22. Stir about Him in the City—Second Cleansing of the Temple, and Miracles There—Glorious Vindication of the Children's Testimony—The Barren Fig Tree Cursed, with Lessons from It. ( = Mr 11:11-26; Lu 19:45-48).

For the exposition, see on [1334]Lu 19:45-48; and [1335]Mr 11:12-26.

Ver. 15,16. The other evangelists say nothing of this part of this history. The wonderful things here mentioned, are his healing the blind and lame, of which we read Matthew 21:14. The cry of the children doubtless more displeased them; it was of the same nature with that of the multitude in the way, and in the streets, when our Lord came into Jerusalem; they owned Christ as the Messiah, and gave him praise, and wished all manner of felicity to him. The Pharisees showing a displeasure at the acclamation, Christ refers them to what was written, Psalm 8:2: there it is, thou hast founded, or ordained, strength, that is, a solid and firm praise; a prediction that from the testimony of such weak persons, the glorious power of Christ should be proclaimed, and from such mean and despicable beginnings great and glorious things should come to pass. And said unto him, hearest thou what these say?.... Suggesting, that if he did, he ought to reprove them, or else he would be a very vain, as well as a weak man, to take such things to himself, which did not belong to him, and that from such poor, little, silly creatures, so void of knowledge and understanding:

and Jesus said unto them, yea: signifying he did hear, and well approved of what they said, and was ready to vindicate it; and did, by putting the following question to them,

have ye never read; that passage of Scripture in Psalm 8:2

out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? in the original text it is, "thou hast ordained", or "founded strength"; and which is rendered by the Septuagint, as it is by Matthew here; and glory and strength are mentioned together, as being to be given to God, Psalm 29:1 and so "strength" and "praise" by the Targumist in Isaiah 13:3 by which is meant strong glory, or glory and praise expressed with a strong voice, or in a very vehement manner, as it was by these babes and sucklings; and this owing to God's disposing them hereunto, putting it into their mouths, and strengthening them to declare it in a very strong and powerful manner; so that his strength was made perfect in their weakness, and his praise the more glorious. In the Psalm it is added, "because of thine enemies, that thou might still the enemy, and the avenger": by whom are meant the high priests, the Scribes and Pharisees, the mortal enemies of Christ, who were full of enmity against him, and wanted to revenge themselves on him for spoiling their market at this time; but were stilled by the "Hosannas" of the children, and Christ's defence of them. The Jews themselves seem to be conscious, that these words relate to the Messiah; for they say (l), that

"babes and sucklings, , shall give strength to the king Messiah''

manifestly referring to this passage.

(l) Zohar in Exod. fol. 4. 2.

And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast {h} perfected praise?

(h) You have made most perfect. We read in David, Thou hast established or grounded, and if the matter is considered well, the evangelist says here the same thing, for that which is most perfect is stable and sure.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 21:16. ἀκούεις, etc.: the holy men attack the least objectionable phenomenon because they could do so safely; not the enthusiasm of the crowd, the Messianic homage, the act of zeal, all deeply offensive to them, but the innocent shouts of children echoing the cry of seniors. They were forsooth unseemly in such a place! Hypocrites and cowards! No fault found with the desecration of the sacred precincts by an unhallowed traffic.—ναί, yes, of course: cheery, hearty, yea, not without enjoyment of the ridiculous distress of the sanctimonious guardians of the temple.—οὐδ. ἀνέγνωτε as in Matthew 19:4 : felicitous citation from Psalm 8:3, not to be prosaically interpreted as if children in arms three or four years old, still being suckled according to the custom of Hebrew mothers, were among the shouting juniors. These prompt happy citations show how familiar Jesus was with the O. T.16. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise] Rather, out of (or by) the mouths of children and sucklings hast thou founded strength. Psalm 8:2. The ruling thought of the opening verses is the glory of God set forth in His works. The “scarcely articulate” cry of an infant proves, like the heaven and the stars, the power and providence of God. On all these God builds a stronghold against His adversaries, i. e. convinces them of His might. So also the children in the temple attest the truth of God. See Canon Perowne and Speaker’s Commentary on the passage quoted.Matthew 21:16. Ἀκούεις, κ.τ.λ., dost Thou hear? etc.) Every thing which is not commonplace and traditional, is too much for hypocrites.[920]—ΘΗΛΑΖΌΝΤΩΝ, sucklings) who might be as much as three years old.[921] See 2Ma 7:27.

[920] νηπίων) They who to the world seem still infants, may notwithstanding have their mouths opened to utterance by Divine power. We may suppose that the little children in this instance caught up the words of those of riper age (with which view, comp. Matthew 21:9): and yet that circumstance was not without being valued in the sight of God. Only let one not be wanting to his fellow in setting a good example: the Lord will take care of the rest, nay, indeed He will take care of all things.—V. g.

[921] The passage in Maccabees runs thus:—“O my son, have pity upon me that bare thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee suck three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age.” The same practice still prevails in the East. In Persia, male children are often kept at the breast till three years of age, and are never taken from it till two years and two months. In India the period is precisely three years. In 2 Chronicles 31:16, no provision is assigned for the children of Priests and Levites until after three years of age, which gives additional weight to the supposition that they were not weaned till that time. Amongst the ancient Greeks, also, it appears that mothers suckled their children till a comparatively late period.—(I. B.)Verse 16. - Hearest thou what these say? They profess a great zeal for God's honour. They recognize that these cries implied high homage, if not actual worship, and appeal to Jesus to put a stop to such unseemly behaviour, approaching, as they would pretend, to formal blasphemy. Yea. Jesus replies that he hears what the children say, but sees no reason for silencing them; rather he proves that they were only fulfilling an old prophecy, originally, indeed, applied to Jehovah, but one which he claims as addressed to himself. Have ye never read? (Matthew 12:5). The quotation is from the confessedly Messianic psalm (Psalm 8.), a psalm very often quoted in the New Testament, and as speaking of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 1:27; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22; Hebrews 2:6, etc.). Sucklings. This term was applied to children up to the age of three years (see 2 Macc. 7:27), but might be used metaphorically of those of tender age, though long weaned. Thou hast perfected praise. The words are from the Septuagint, which seems to have preserved the original reading. The present Hebrew text gives, "Thou hast ordained strength," or "established a power." In the Lord's mouth the citation signifies that God is praised acceptably by the weak and ignorant when, following the impulse of their simple nature, they do him homage. Some expositors combine the force of the Hebrew and Greek by explaining that "the strength of the weak is praise, and that worship of Christ is strength" (Wordsworth). It is more simple to say, with Nosgen, that for the Hebrew "strength," "praise" is substituted, in order to give the idea that the children's acclamation was that which would still the enemy, as it certainly put to shame the captious objections of the Pharisees. Say (λέγουσιν)

The Rev. is more graphic, are saying. While the songs and shouts are rising, the priests turn angrily to Christ with the question, "Hearest thou what these are saying?"

Thou hast perfected (θκατηρτίσω)

The same word as at Matthew 4:21, where it is used of adjusting or mending nets. Its secondary meaning is to furnish completely, equip; hence to perfect. Thou hast provided the perfection of praise. The quotation from Psalm 8:2, follows the Septuagint, and not the Hebrew, which is, "Thou hast founded strength."

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