Matthew 27:66
So they went, and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(66) Sealing the stone.—The opening of the tomb had been already closed by the stone which had been rolled so as to fill, or nearly fill, it. The sealing was probably effected by drawing one or more ropes across the stone and fastening either end to the rock with wax or cement of some kind.

And setting a watch.—Better, with the guard. What is meant is that the priests were not content to leave the work to the soldiers, but actually took part in it themselves.

27:62-66 On the Jewish sabbath, the chief priests and Pharisees, when they should have been at their devotions, were dealing with Pilate about securing the sepulchre. This was permitted that there might be certain proof of our Lord's resurrection. Pilate told them that they might secure the sepulchre as carefully as they could. They sealed the stone, and set a guard, and were satisfied that all needful care was taken. But to guard the sepulchre against the poor weak disciples was folly, because needless; while to think to guard it against the power of God, was folly, because fruitless, and to no purpose; yet they thought they dealt wisely. But the Lord took the wise in their own craftiness. Thus shall all the rage and the plans of Christ's enemies be made to promote his glory.Sealing the stone - The sepulchre was made sure by affixing the large stone to the entrance in such a way that it could not be removed without detection. It was sealed. In what way this was done cannot now be certainly told. The cave in which Daniel was cast was fastened in the same manner, and sealed with the king's signet Daniel 6:17, perhaps by fastening the stone in its place with cords, and bringing them together and uniting them with wax, and impressing on that the seal of the king. In this way, letters and books were anciently sealed. Possibly on the sepulchre of Jesus was impressed in this manner the seal of Pilate - the seal of office - making it doubly sure; or it may be that the stone was fitted into the tomb with clay or cement, and on that was impressed the seal of Pilate.

Setting a watch - That is, as large a number of soldiers as they judged necessary to secure the tomb.

We cannot but be struck with the wisdom of God in ordering the circumstances of the Saviour's burial in such a manner as to avoid the possibility of deception. Had all this been done by his "friends," it might have been said that they only pretended to secure the tomb, and only pretended that he was dead. But he was adjudged to be dead "by the Jews themselves;" Pilate was satisfied that that was the fact; they had their own way about his burial; he was buried alone; the place of his sepulchre was made sure, "expressly to prevent his being removed;" and they placed around him a guard, in their own judgment large enough to prevent his being taken away by force or strength. His very enemies, therefore, took every possible precaution to place his resurrection beyond the possibility of suspicion of fraud and imposture, and those precautions were the very means of furnishing the most striking proof that his death, burial, and resurrection were not impositions, but most affecting, awful, and yet cheering realities.

66. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone—which Mark (Mr 16:4) says was "very great."

and setting a watch—to guard it. What more could man do? But while they are trying to prevent the resurrection of the Prince of Life, God makes use of their precautions for His own ends. Their stone-covered, seal-secured sepulchre shall preserve the sleeping dust of the Son of God free from all indignities, in undisturbed, sublime repose; while their watch shall be His guard of honor until the angels shall come to take their place.

Ver. 62-66. This part of the history is recorded by no other evangelist: the recording it by Matthew contributes yet further to evidence the truth of Christ’s resurrection; for here was all imaginable care taken to prevent a cheat in the case.

The next day, that followed the day of the preparation, must be the sabbath day, Mark 15:42. These superstitious hypocrites, that quarrelled with our Saviour for his disciples (being hungry) plucking ears of corn on the sabbath day, and for his healing him that had a withered hand, Matthew 12:13, can now themselves go to Pilate, to set him on work to command that the sepulchre should be made fast to the third day. They allege that Christ, whom they impiously call that deceiver, said, while he was alive, that he would rise again the third day, to answer the type of the prophet Jonas, Matthew 12:39,40. They were doubtless jealous that there was more truth in those words than they were willing to believe. They pretend also a fear lest his disciples should come privately by night, and steal his body away, and then say he was risen. But was this a probable thing, that a government should be afraid of a few poor, unarmed men? They were doubtless convicted in their own consciences that he would rise again from the dead, and to prevent his coming out of the sepulchre, they would have Pilate command that the sepulchre should be made sure. Pilate tells them, that they had a watch, a band of soldiers, which he had commanded at this time to attend them, either for the guard of the temple, or other things about which they would employ them; they might make the sepulchre as sure as they could.

So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. Vain men! As if the same power that was necessary to raise and quicken the dead could not also remove the stone, and break through the watch which they had set. But by this their excessive care and diligence, instead of preventing Christ’s resurrection, as they intended, they have confirmed the truth and belief of it to all the world. So doth God take the wise in their own craftiness, and turn their wisdom into foolishness, that he may set his King upon his holy hill of Zion. So they went,.... From Pilate's palace, to the garden of Joseph, and to the sepulchre there; which whether more than a sabbath day's journey, or two thousand cubits, may be inquired; and if so, then they broke one of their own traditions, which allowed a person to go no further on a sabbath day; See Gill on Acts 1:12.

And made the sepulchre sure; in the following manner,

sealing the stone; that was rolled to the door of it, it may be with some public seal, with Pilate's, or with the sanhedrim's; as the stone at the mouth of the lions' den, in which Daniel was put, was sealed with the king's signet, and with the signet of his lords, Daniel 6:17, that there might be no change of the sentence upon him, and by which it appeared, that his deliverance was by no human assistance: so the stone at Christ's sepulchre was sealed, that it could not be removed without breaking it; which would show, whether any fraudulent methods were taken to remove the body:

and setting a watch; a guard of soldiers, to observe and prevent any person coming near it; or "with the watch": they made sure the sepulchre with the watch; or sealed the stone, the watch being present; all which was overruled by the providence of God, for the greater confirmation of the truth of Christ's resurrection: by the methods taken, it clearly appears, there could be no fraud in the case; the body was laid in a tomb, where no corpse had ever been before; in a tomb hewed out of a rock, to which there was no access, but at the door; where a great stone was rolled; and this had a seal upon it, and a guard of soldiers about it; and hereby there were more witnesses of Christ's resurrection, than otherwise would have been; as the soldiers, though they were afterwards bribed to tell another story; and even the chief priests and Pharisees were convicted that he was risen, or they would never have taken such a method with the soldiers, as they did.

So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 27:66. ἠσφαλίσαντο is to be taken with the last clause—μετὰ τῆς κουστωδίας, which points to the main means of securing the tomb against plunder. The participial clause—σφραγίσαντες τὸν λίθον—is a parenthesis pointing to an additional precaution, sealing the stone, with a thread over it and sealed to the tomb at either end. The worthy men did their best to prevent theft, and—the resurrection!Matthew 27:66. Ἠσφαλίσαντο, they secured) This is the whole: the parts were the seal, and the watch.Verse 66. - So they (οἱ δὲ, and they) went. They left the procurator's presence, relieved at having gained their request and precluded all fear of collusion. Sealing the stone, and setting a watch (μετὰ τῆς κουστωδίας, with the watch; cum custodibus). The last words are variously rendered. Thus: "scaled the stone by means of the watch" (Alford); "scaling the stone, the guard being with them" (Revised Version); "as well as having the watch" (Webster and Wilkinson); "in concert with the guard" (Morison). This last expositor has best seized the complex notion contained in the evangelist's language: "They made the sepulchre sure by sealing the stone in concert with the guard (and thereafter leaving the guard to keep watch)." The stone was sealed probably in this manner: a cord was passed round the stone that closed the mouth of the sepulchre to the two sides of the entrance; this was scaled with wax or prepared clay in the centre and at the ends, so that the stone could not be removed without breaking the seals or the cord (comp. Daniel 6:17). Thus carefully did Christ's enemies obviate the possibility of any fraud or collusion; thus did they themselves prove unanswerably the truth and reality of the resurrection of that same Jesus whoso dead body they so carefully guarded. "Everywhere deceit recoils upon itself, and. against its will supports the truth. It was necessary for it to be believed that he died, and that he rose again, and that he was buried, and all these things are brought to pass by his enemies .... The proof of his resurrection has become incontrovertible by what ye [his enemies] have put forward. For because it was sealed, there was no unfair dealing. But if there was no unfair dealing, and the sepulchre was found empty, it is manifest that he is risen, plainly and incontrovertibly. Seest thou how even against their will they contend for the proof of the truth?" (St. Chrysostom, in loc.).



Sealing the stone and setting a watch (σφραγίσαντες τὸν λίθον, μετὰ τῆς κουστωδίας)

Lit., having sealed the stone with the watch. Rev., Sealing the stone, the guard being with them. This is rather awkward, but the rendering rightly corrects the A. V. The idea is that they sealed the stone in the presence of the guard, and then left them to keep watch. It would be important that the guard should witness the sealing. The sealing was performed by stretching a cord across the stone and fastening it to the rock at either end by means of sealing clay. Or, if the stone at the door happened to be fastened with a cross beam, this latter was sealed to the rock.

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