Matthew 23:20
Whoever therefore shall swear by the altar, swears by it, and by all things thereon.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
23:13-33 The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities. But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They were very busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to their worldly interests. They were very strict and precise in smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightier matters. It is not the scrupling a little sin that Christ here reproves; if it be a sin, though but a gnat, it must be strained out; but the doing that, and then swallowing a camel, or, committing a greater sin. While they would seem to be godly, they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new, there will be newness of life; here we must begin with ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was upon earth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as men then did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with God to give those up to their hearts' lusts, who obstinately persist in gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters.The altar that sanctifieth the gift - The altar, dedicated to God, gave all the value or holiness to the offering, and must therefore be the greatest or of the most importance. If, therefore, either bound to the fulfillment of an oath, it must be the altar. 20-22. Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, &c.—See on [1349]Mt 5:33-37. See Poole on "Matthew 23:22". Whosoever therefore shall swear by the altar,.... Not that Christ allowed of swearing by the altar, or by the temple, or by heaven, or by any creature, animate or inanimate; for such swearing is elsewhere disapproved of by him, and forbid, but if a man did swear by the altar, he ought to know, and consider that he not only

sweareth by it, but by all the gifts, and offerings that are brought, and laid upon it,

and by all things thereon; whatever gifts and sacrifices are offered upon it; which, by being put there, become holy, as the altar itself: so that he that swears by the altar, swears also by the gifts of the altar; and consequently, according to their own traditions, such oaths must be binding.

Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 23:20-22. Οὖν] inference from Matthew 23:19; because the greater, from which the less (the accessorium), as being bound up with it, derives its sanctity, necessarily includes that less.

ὁ ὀμοσαςὀμνύει] The aorist participle represents the thing as already in the course of being done (Kühner, II. 1, p. 134, ad Xen. Mem. i. 1. 18): he who has proceeded to swear by the altar, swears (present), according to the point of view indicated by οὖν, not merely by the altar, but at the same time by all that is upon it as well.

Matthew 23:21. No longer dependent on οὖν; but two other examples of swearing are adduced independently of the former, in each of which even the highest of all, God Himself, is understood to be included. Accordingly we find the objects presented in a different relation to one another. Formerly the greater included the less, now the converse is the case. But though differing in this respect, there is in both instances a perfect agreement as to the sacred and binding character of the oaths.

κατοικήσαντι] who made it his dwelling-place, took up his abode in it (after it was built). Comp. Jam 4:5; Luke 2:49.

Matthew 23:22[10]]. Comp. on Matthew 5:34.

[10] The opposite of ver. 22 occurs in Schevuoth, f. xxxv. 2 : “Quia praeter Deum, coeli et terrae creatorem, datur etiam ipsum coelum et terra, indubium esse debet, quod is, qui per coelum et terram jurat non per eum juret, qui illa creavit, sed per illas ipsas creaturas.”Matthew 23:20. Ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ, by all things thereon) As in Matthew 23:21 the gold of the temple is not again mentioned, but He is mentioned who dwelleth therein; so in this verse the expression, all things which are upon the altar, signifies something much greater than the gift on the altar, nay, something in contrast with that gift, sc. the sacred fire and the whole divinely appointed ministry of the priests, who stood and walked, not only beside, but upon the altar.Verse 20. - Sweareth by it, etc. One can see what an inveterate evil our Lord was denouncing, when he takes such pains to point out its absurdities, which seem to us self-evident. The oath by the altar involves the notion of the victim as well as the altar; one cannot be separated from the other; and, of course, implies him to whom the offering is made.
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