Matthew 23:28
Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) Even so ye also . . .—A like image meets us in the words in which one of the Maccabean princes, Alexander Jannæus, warned his wife on his death-bed to beware of “men who were painted Pharisees, expecting the reward of Phinehas, while their works were the works of Zimri.”

Iniquity.—Better, lawlessness—a reckless disregard of the very Law of which they professed to be the interpreters.

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.Like unto whited sepulchres - For the construction of sepulchres, see the notes at Matthew 8:28. Those tombs were annually whitewashed to prevent the people from accidentally coming in contact with them as they went up to Jerusalem. This custom is still continued. Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, vol. i. p. 148) says, "I have been in places where this is repeated very often. The graves are kept clean and white as snow, a very striking emblem of those painted hypocrites, the Pharisees, beautiful without, but full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness within." The law considered those persons unclean who had touched anything belonging to the dead, Numbers 19:16. Sepulchres were therefore often whitewashed, that they might be distinctly seen. Thus "whited," they appeared beautiful; but within they contained the bones and corrupting bodies of the dead. So the Pharisees. Their outward conduct appeared well, but their hearts were full of hypocrisy, envy, pride, lust, and malice - suitably represented by the corruption within a whited tomb. 27. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like whited sepulchres—or, whitewashed sepulchres. (Compare Ac 23:3). The process of whitewashing the sepulchres, as Lightfoot says, was performed on a certain day every year, not for ceremonial cleansing, but, as the following words seem rather to imply, to beautify them.

which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness—What a powerful way of conveying the charge, that with all their fair show their hearts were full of corruption! (Compare Ps 5:9; Ro 3:13). But our Lord, stripping off the figure, next holds up their iniquity in naked colors.

Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets—that is, "ye be witnesses that ye have inherited, and voluntarily served yourselves heirs to, the truth-hating, prophet-killing, spirit of your fathers." Out of pretended respect and honor, they repaired and beautified the sepulchres of the prophets, and with whining hypocrisy said, "If we had been in their days, how differently should we have treated these prophets?" While all the time they were witnesses to themselves that they were the children of them that killed the prophets, convicting themselves daily of as exact a resemblance in spirit and character to the very classes over whose deeds they pretended to mourn, as child to parent. In Lu 11:44 our Lord gives another turn to this figure of a grave: "Ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them." As one might unconsciously walk over a grave concealed from view, and thus contract ceremonial defilement, so the plausible exterior of the Pharisees kept people from perceiving the pollution they contracted from coming in contact with such corrupt characters.

Ver. 27,28. The similitude is of the same import with the other, to show that the Pharisees had only a vizard of strictness and holiness, when in the mean time their hearts were full of lusts, hypocrisy, and iniquity. The Jews had two sorts of graves; some for ordinary persons, which appeared not (to which our Saviour likened the Pharisees, Luke 11:44); others that were covered with tombs, which were wont to be kept whited, so as they looked very fair outwardly, but had within nothing but rottenness and putrefaction. To these he compares them in this place. They were men that made a great show, but had nothing of any inward purity or cleanness, but were full of iniquity. Thus Paul called Ananias a whited wall; and, Psalm 5:9, the psalmist saith of the throat of the wicked that it is an open sepulchre. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous,.... By making broad their phylacteries, enlarging the borders of their garments, praying long prayers, compassing sea and land to make one proselyte, paying tithes of all manner of herbs, and cleansing the outside of the cup and platter, and doing all their works, prayers, fastings, and alms deeds, to be seen of men. This is the accommodation of the above simile; by reason of these things they looked like whited sepulchres, outwardly beautiful: so these appeared outwardly righteous, they looked like righteous persons, and were not; they were what Hagar, as the Jews say, charged her mistress with being; for so they interpret these words, "her mistress was despised in her eyes", Genesis 16:4 (b),

"She said, this Sarah is not secretly, what she is openly; she appears , "as if she was righteous" and she is not righteous.

The same they say of (c) Leah. This was a misrepresentation; but the representation Christ gives of these men, is right; they were of that sort of the Pharisees, which they call "the dyed", or "coloured" ones: it is said of Jannai the king, that he should say to those of his family (d),

"Do not be afraid of them that are Pharisees, (that are truly so,) nor of them that are not Pharisees; but of them that are, "dyed", for they are like to Pharisees; for their works are as the works of Zimri, (adulterers, as these were,) and they expect the reward as Phinehas.

The gloss upon it is,

"the Pharisees hated him, because he had slain many of their wise men, and was turned Sadducee; and when he was dying, his wife was afraid of them, lest they should take away the kingdom from her sons, and she desired him to seek their favour for her; but he said unto her, do not be afraid of the Pharisees, for they are "righteous", and will not render evil to thee, nor to thy sons; for they have not sinned against them; nor of them that are not Pharisees, for they are their friends; but of "the dyed ones": as if he had said, their appearance is not according to their nature, but they are dyed without,

, "and their inside is not as their outside": for their works are as the work of Zimri, for they are ungodly; and they expect the reward as Phinehas, saying to men, to honour them as Phinehas.

But this outward show and appearance of righteousness, was only "unto men", not unto God: they did not appear so to him, who is the searcher of hearts, and knows what is in man, and knew all the secret wickedness that was in them; for though they imposed upon, and deceived men, they could not deceive God; nor was their iniquity hid from Christ, who adds, "but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity": and which was evident from their ambition and vain glory, in desiring the uppermost rooms at feasts, the chief places in the synagogue, greetings in the markets, and titles of honour and grandeur; from their avarice and cruel oppression of the widows, and fatherless, under a pretence of long prayers; from their neglecting the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith, and practising extortion and excess: that saying of their's (e), may be applied to themselves,

"every disciple of a wise man, , "whose inside is not as his outside", is no disciple of a wise man.

And it is expressly ascribed by some of their writers to one sort of the Pharisees, of whom they say (f),

"they are desirous to appear to men to be holy, but their inside is not as their outside;

which is much the same Christ here says of them. What our Lord charges these men with, is owned by their own doctors; they say (g), that "the iniquity of those that were under the first temple, was open and manifest, but the iniquity of those that were under the second temple, was not open.

But as the gloss says,

"the children of the second temple, , "were secretly wicked".

continued...

Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 23:28. οὕτω, etc.: the figure apposite on both sides; the Pharisaic character apparently saintly; really inwardly, full of godlessness and immorality (ἀνομίας), the result being gross systematic hypocrisy.Matthew 23:28. Ἀνομίας, unrighteousness) This is strictly opposed to righteousness.
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