Matthew 7:6
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
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(6) That which is holy.—The words point to the flesh which has been offered for sacrifice, the “holy thing” of Leviticus 22:6-7; Leviticus 22:10; Leviticus 22:16, of which no un clean person or stranger, and à fortiori no unclean beast, was to eat. To give that holy flesh to dogs would have seemed to the devout Israelite the greatest of all profanations. Our Lord teaches us that there is a like risk of desecration in dealing with the yet holier treasure of divine truth. Another aspect of the same warning is brought out in the second clause. The fashion of the time had made pearls the costliest of all jewels, as in the parable of Matthew 13:45 (comp. also 1Timothy 2:9), and so they too became symbols of the preciousness of truth. The “dogs” and the “swine,” in their turn, represent distinct forms of evil, the former being here, as in Philippians 3:2, Revelation 22:15, the type of impurity, the latter (as in Psalm 80:13) of ferocity. The second comparison may possibly imply, as in a condensed fable, the disappointment and consequent rage of the swine at finding that what they took for grain was only pearls. We are to beware lest we so present the truth, either in direct teaching or by an undiscerning disclosure of the deeper religious emotions of the soul, to men, that we make them worse and not better than before.

We are met by the questions, Are we, then, to class our fellow-men under these heads, and to think of them as dogs and swine? Is not this to forget the previous teaching, and to judge with the harshest judgment? The answer to these questions must be found, we may believe, in thinking of the dogs and swine as representing not men and women as such, but the passions of this kind or that which make them brutish. So long as they identify themselves with those passions, we must deal cautiously and wisely with them. St. Paul did not preach the gospel to the howling mob at Ephesus, or to the “lewd fellows of the baser sort” at Thessalonica, and yet at another time he would have told any member of those crowds that he too had been redeemed, and might claim an inheritance among those who had been sanctified. We need, it might be added, to be on our guard against the brute element in ourselves not less than in others. There, too, we may desecrate the holiest truths by dealing with them in the spirit of irreverence, or passion, or may cynically jest with our own truest and noblest impulses.

Matthew 7:6. Give not, &c. — Even when the beam is cast out of thine own eye. Give not that which is holy unto dogs — That is, talk not of the deep things of God to those whom you know to be wallowing in sin; neither declare the great things God hath done for your soul, to the profane, furious, persecuting wretches. Talk not of high degrees of holiness, for instance, to the former; nor of your own experience to the latter. But our Lord does in no wise forbid us to reprove, as occasion is, both the one and the other. There is a transposition in the latter clauses of this verse, where, of the two things proposed, the latter is first treated of. The sense is, Give not — to dogs — lest, turning, they rend you. Cast not — to swine, lest they trample them under their feet.

7:1-6 We must judge ourselves, and judge of our own acts, but not make our word a law to everybody. We must not judge rashly, nor pass judgment upon our brother without any ground. We must not make the worst of people. Here is a just reproof to those who quarrel with their brethren for small faults, while they allow themselves in greater ones. Some sins are as motes, while others are as beams; some as a gnat, others as a camel. Not that there is any sin little; if it be a mote, or splinter, it is in the eye; if a gnat, it is in the throat; both are painful and dangerous, and we cannot be easy or well till they are got out. That which charity teaches us to call but a splinter in our brother's eye, true repentance and godly sorrow will teach us to call a beam in our own. It is as strange that a man can be in a sinful, miserable condition, and not be aware of it, as that a man should have a beam in his eye, and not consider it; but the god of this world blinds their minds. Here is a good rule for reprovers; first reform thyself.Give not that which is holy ... - By some the word "holy" has been supposed to mean "flesh offered in sacrifice," made holy, or separated to a sacred use; but it probably means here "anything connected with religion" - admonition, precept, or doctrine. Pearls are precious stones found in shell-fish, chiefly in India, in the waters that surround Ceylon. They are used to denote anything especially precious, Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:12-16; Matthew 13:45. In this place they are used to denote the doctrines of the gospel. "Dogs" signify people who spurn, oppose, and abuse that doctrine; people of special sourness and malignity of temper, who meet it like growling and quarrelsome curs, Philippians 3:2; 2 Peter 2:22; Revelation 22:15. "Swine" denote those who would trample the precepts underfoot; people of impurity of life; those who are corrupt, polluted, profane, obscene, and sensual; those who would not know the value of the gospel, and who would tread it down as swine would pearls, 2 Peter 2:22; Proverbs 11:22. The meaning of this proverb, then, is, do not offer your doctrine to those violent and abusive people who would growl and curse you; nor to those especially debased and profligate who would not perceive its value, would trample it down, and would abuse you. This verse furnishes a beautiful instance of what has been called the "introverted parallelism." The usual mode of poetry among the Hebrews, and a common mode of expression in proverbs and apothegms, was by the parallelism, where one member of a sentence answered to another, or expressed substantially the same sense with some addition or modification. See the Introduction to the Book of Job. Sometimes this was alternate, and sometimes it was introverted - where the first and fourth lines would correspond, and the second and third. This is the case here. The dogs would tear, and not the swine; the swine would trample the pearls under their feet, and not the dogs. It may be thus expressed:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,

Neither cast ye your pearls before swine,

Lest they (that is, the swine) trample them under their feet,

And turn again (that is, the dogs) and rend you.

6. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs—savage or snarling haters of truth and righteousness.

neither cast ye your pearls before swine—the impure or coarse, who are incapable of appreciating the priceless jewels of Christianity. In the East, dogs are wilder and more gregarious, and, feeding on carrion and garbage, are coarser and fiercer than the same animals in the West. Dogs and swine, besides being ceremonially unclean, were peculiarly repulsive to the Jews, and indeed to the ancients generally.

lest they trample them under their feet—as swine do.

and turn again and rend you—as dogs do. Religion is brought into contempt, and its professors insulted, when it is forced upon those who cannot value it and will not have it. But while the indiscriminately zealous have need of this caution, let us be on our guard against too readily setting our neighbors down as dogs and swine, and excusing ourselves from endeavoring to do them good on this poor plea.

Prayer (Mt 7:7-11). Enough, one might think, had been said on this subject in Mt 6:5-15. But the difficulty of the foregoing duties seems to have recalled the subject, and this gives it quite a new turn. "How shall we ever be able to carry out such precepts as these, of tender, holy, yet discriminating love?" might the humble disciple inquire. "Go to God with it," is our Lord's reply; but He expresses this with a fulness which leaves nothing to be desired, urging now not only confidence, but importunity in prayer.

By swine and dogs, our Saviour doubtless understandeth wicked men of several sorts, either such as are more tame sinners, trampling upon holy things, and with swine wallowing in the mire of lusts and corruptions, Proverbs 26:11 2 Peter 2:22; or, by dogs, more malicious, revengeful, boisterous sinners may be meant, whose consciences will serve them to bark and grin at the word of God, to mock at holy things, to persecute those that bring them the gospel, and are their open enemies, because they tell them the truth. The gospel is to be preached to every creature, Mark 16:15. But when the Jews were hardened, and spake evil of that way before the multitude, & c., Acts 19:9, the apostles left preaching to them. The precept doubtless is general, directing the ministers of Christ to administer the holy things, with which they are intrusted, only to such as have a right to them, and under prudent circumstances, so as the holy name of God may not be profaned, nor they run into needless danger.

Give not that which is holy to the dogs,.... Dogs were unclean creatures by the law; the price of one might not be brought into the house of the Lord, for a vow, Deuteronomy 23:18 yea, these creatures were not admitted into several temples of the Heathens (h). Things profane and unclean, as flesh torn by beasts, were ordered to be given to them, Exodus 22:31 but nothing that was holy was to be given them, as holy flesh, or the holy oblations, or anything that was consecrated to holy uses; to which is the allusion here. It is a common maxim (i) with the Jews,

, "that they do not redeem holy things, to give to the dogs to eat".''

Here the phrase is used in a metaphorical sense; and is generally understood of not delivering or communicating the holy word of God, and the truths of the Gospel, comparable to pearls, or the ordinances of it, to persons notoriously vile and sinful: to men, who being violent and furious persecutors, and impudent blasphemers, are compared to "dogs"; or to such, who are scandalously vile, impure in their lives and conversations, and are therefore compared to swine;

neither cast ye your pearls before swine. But since the subject Christ is upon is reproof, it seems rather to be the design of these expressions, that men should be cautious, and prudent, in rebuking and admonishing such persons for their sins, in whom there is no appearance or hope of success; yea, where there is danger of sustaining loss;

lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you: that is, despise the admonitions and reproofs given, and hurt the persons who give them, either by words or deeds; see Proverbs 9:7. The Jews have some sayings much like these, and will serve to illustrate them (k);

, "do not cast pearls before swine", nor deliver wisdom to him, who knows not the excellency of it; for wisdom is better than pearls, and he that does not seek after it, is worse than a swine.''

(h) Vid. Alex. ab. Alex. Gaeial. Dier. l. 2. c. 14. (i) T. Bab. Temura, fol. 17. 1. & 31. 1. & 33. 2. Becorot, fol. 15. 1. Hieros. Pesachim, fol. 27. 4. & Maaser Sheni, fol. 53. 3.((k) Mischar Happeninim apud Buxtorf. Florileg. Heb. p. 306.

{2} Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your {a} pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

(2) The stiff-necked and stubborn enemies of the gospel are unworthy to have it preached unto them.

(a) A pearl is known among the Greeks for its oriental brightness: and a pearl was in ancient times greatly valued by the Latins: for a pearl that Cleopatra had was valued at two hundred and fifty thousand crowns: and the word is now borrowed from that, to signify the most precious heavenly doctrine.

Matthew 7:6. The endeavour to correct the faults of others must be confined within its proper limits, and not allowed to become a casting of holy things to the dogs. As is usual, however, in the case of apophthegms, this progress in the thought is not expressed by a particle (ἀλλά). To abandon the idea of connection (Maldonatus, de Wette, Tholuck), or to suppose (Kuinoel, Neander, Bleek; Weiss doubtful) that Matthew 7:6-11, at least Matthew 7:6, do not belong to this passage, is scarcely warranted.

τὸ ἅγιον] the holy, not the holy flesh, בְּשַׂר קֹדֶשׁ, Jeremiah 11:15, Haggai 2:12, the flesh of sacrifices (v. d. Hardt, Paulus, Tholuck), which, besides, would require to be more precisely designated, otherwise there would be just as much reason to suppose that the holy bread, לחם קדש (1 Samuel 21:5), or any other meat-offering (Leviticus 22:2), was meant. Christ has in view the holy in general, figuratively designating in the first clause only the persons, and then, in the second, the holy thing. What is meant by this, as also by τοὺς μαργαρίτας immediately after, is the holy, because divine evangelic, truth by which men are converted, and which, by τοὺς μαργαρ. ὑμῶν, is described as something of the highest value, as the precious jewel which is entrusted to the disciples as its possessors. For Arabian applications of this simile, comp. Gesenius in Rosenm. Rep. I. p. 128.

Dogs and swine, these impure and thoroughly despised animals, represent those men who are hardened and altogether incapable of receiving evangelic truth, and to whom the holy is utterly foreign and distasteful. The parallelism ought to have precluded the explanation that by both animals two different classes of men are intended (the snappish, as in Acts 13:46; the filthy livers, Grotius).

μήποτε καταπ., κ.τ.λ., καὶ στραφέντες, κ.τ.λ.] applies to the swine, who are to be conceived of as wild animals, as may be seen from αὐτούς and the whole similitude, so that, as the warning proceeds, the figure of the dogs passes out of view, though, as matter of course, it admits of a corresponding application (Pricaeus, Maldonatus, Tholuck). But this is no reason why the words should be referred to both classes of animals, nor why the trampling should be assigned to the swine and στράφ. ῥήξ. to the dogs (Theophylact, Hammond, Calovius, Wolf, Kuinoel). For the future καταπ. (see the critical remarks), comp. note on Mark 14:2; Matthew 13:15.

ἐν τοῖς ποσὶν αὐτ.] instrumental.

στραφέντες] not: having changed to an attitude of open hostility (Chrysostom, Euth. Zigabenus), or to savagery (Loesner), but manifestly, having turned round upon you from the pearls, which they have mistaken for food, and which, in their rage, they have trampled under their feet; the meaning of which is, lest such men profane divine truth (by blasphemy, mockery, calumny), and vent upon you their malicious feeling toward the gospel. In how many ways must the apostles have experienced this in their own case; for, their preaching being addressed to all, they would naturally, as a rule, have to see its effect on those who heard it before they could know who were “dogs and swine,” so as then to entice them no further with the offer of what is holy, but to shake off the dust, and so on. But the men here in view were to be found among Jews and Gentiles. It is foreign to the present passage (not so Matthew 15:26) to suppose that only the Gentiles as such are referred to (Köstlin, Hilgenfeld).

Matthew 7:6. A complementary counsel. No connecting word introduces this sentence. Indeed the absence of connecting particles is noticeable throughout the chapter: Matthew 7:1; Matthew 7:6-7; Matthew 7:13; Matthew 7:15. It is a collection of ethical pearls strung loosely together. Yet it is not difficult to suggest a connecting link, thus: I have said, “Judge not,” yet you must know people, else you will make great mistakes, such as, etc. Moral criticism is inevitable. Jesus Himself practised it. He judged the Pharisees, but in the interest of humanity, guided by the law of love. He judged the proud, pretentious, and cruel, in behalf of the weak and despised. All depends on what we judge and why. The Pharisaic motive was egotism; the right motive is defence of the downtrodden or, in certain cases, self-defence. So here.—καταπατήσουσι: future well attested, vide critical note, with subjunctive, ῥήξωσι, in last clause; unusual combination, but not impossible. On the use of the future after μήποτε and other final particles, vide Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in N. T. Greek, § 199.—τὸ ἅγιον, τοὺς μαργαρίτας: what is the holy thing, and what are the pearls? In a moral aphorism special indications are not to be expected, and we are left to our own conjectures. The “holy” and the “pearls” must define themselves for each individual in his own experience. They are the things which are sacred and precious for a man or woman, and which natural feeling teaches us to be careful not to waste or expose to desecration. For this purpose knowledge of the world, discrimination, is necessary. We must not treat all people alike, and show our valuables, religious experiences, best thoughts, tenderest sentiments, to the first comer. Shyness, reserve, goes along with sincerity, depth, refinement. In all shyness there is implicit judgment of the legitimate kind. A modest woman shrinks from a man whom her instinct discerns to be impure; a child from all hard-natured people. Who blames woman or child? It is but the instinct of self-preservation.—κυσίν, χοίρων. The people to be feared and shunned are those represented by dogs and swine, regarded by Jews as shameless and unclean animals. There are such people, unhappily, even in the judgment of charity, and the shrewd know them and fight shy of them; for no good can come of comradeship with them. Discussions as to whether the dogs and the swine represent two classes of men, or only one, are pedantic. If not the same they are at least similar; one in this, that they are to be avoided. And it is gratuitous to limit the scope of the gnome to the apostles and their work in preaching the gospel. It applies to all citizens of the kingdom, to all who have a treasure to guard, a holy of holies to protect from profane intrusion.—μήποτε, lest perchance. What is to be feared?—καταπατήσουσιν, ῥήξωσιν: treading under foot (ἐν τ. π., instrumental, with, de Wette; among, Weiss) your pearls (αὐτους), rending yourselves. Here again there is trouble for the commentators as to the distribution of the trampling and rending between dogs and swine. Do both do both, or the swine both, or the swine the trampling and the dogs the rending? The latter is the view of Theophylact, and it has been followed by some moderns, including Achelis. On this view the structure of the sentence presents an example of ἐπάνοδος or ὑστέρησις, the first verb referring to the second subject and the second verb to the first subject. The dogs—street dogs, without master, living on offal—rend, because what you have thrown to them, perhaps to propitiate them, being of uncertain temper at the best, is not to their liking; the swine trample under foot what looked like peas or acorns, but turns out to be uneatable.

Before passing from these verses (Matthew 7:1-6) two curious opinions may be noted. (1) That ἅγιον represents an Aramaic word meaning ear-ornaments, answering to pearls. This view, once favoured by Michaelis, Bolten, Kuinoel, etc., and thereafter discredited, has been revived by Holtzmann (H. C.). (2) That ὀφθαλμός (Matthew 7:3; Matthew 7:5) means, not the eye, but a village well. So Furrer. Strange, he says, that a man should need to be told by a neighbour that he has a mote in his eye, or that it should be a fault to propose to take it out! And what sense in the idea of a beam in the eye? But translate the Aramaic word used by Jesus, well, and all is clear and natural. A neighbour given to fault-finding sees a small impurity in a villager’s well and tauntingly offers to remove it. Meantime his own boys, in his absence, throw a beam into his own well (Zeitsch. für M. und R. vide also Wanderungen, p. 222).

(b) The Father’s love for the children of the Kingdom shewn by answering prayer, 7–11.

6. The connection between this verse and the preceding section is not quite obvious. It seems to be this. Although evil and censorious judgment is to be avoided, discrimination is needful. The Christian must be judicious, not judicial.

that which is holy] i. e. “spiritual truths.” Some have seen in the expression a reference to the holy flesh of the offering (Haggai 2:12). But this allusion is very doubtful; see Meyer on this passage.

dogs … swine] Unclean animals; see the proverb quoted 2 Peter 2:22; cp. Php 3:2, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers;” also Hor. Ep. i. 2. 25, “vel canis immundus vel amica luto sus.” See note on ch. Matthew 15:26.

pearls] The only gems mentioned in the Gospels, twice named by Jesus: here, where they signify the deepest spiritual thoughts of God and heaven, and ch. Matthew 13:46, where “the pearl of great price” is the kingdom of heaven itself. The general sense is “use discrimination, discern between holy and unholy, between those who are receptive of these high truths and those who are not.” The profane will despise the gift and put the giver to shame. Want of common sense does great harm to religion.

Matthew 7:6. Μὴ δῶτε, give not) Here we meet with the other extreme; for the two extremes are, to judge those who ought not to be judged, and to give holy things to the dogs. Too much severity and too much laxity.[303]—κυσὶ, χοίρων, dogs, swine) Dogs feed on their own filth, swine on that of others. See Gnomon on 2 Peter 2:22; Php 3:2. The holy and dogs are put in opposition to each other in Exodus 22:30;[304] a dog is not a wild beast, but yet it is an unclean animal.—ὑμῶν, your) An implied antitheton.[305] That which is holy is the property of GOD; pearls are the secret treasures of the faithful, intrusted to them by GOD.—ῥήξωσιν, rend) This also appears to refer to the swine.[306]—ὑμᾶς, you) From whom they expected something else, husks, etc.

[303] This admonition especially has regard to our daily conversation. When such things are set before them in public, such persons lightly pass over them.—V. g.

[304] This is the Hebrew notation. In the Septuagint, Vulgate, and English Version it is reckoned as the thirtieth. It runs thus—“And ye shall be HOLY men unto me; neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field: ye shall cast it to the DOGS.”—(I. B.)

[305] Sc. between you and swine.—(I. B.)

[306] Swine attack the pearls with their feet, the saints with their tusk. A well-disposed man is more than once apt to suppose, that what seems sacred and precious to him, ought to seem so to others also, until he learns, by experience of the contrary, to act with more caution.—V. g.

Verse 6. - Matthew only. Give not that which is holy, etc. While you are not to be censorious towards brethren (vers. 1-5), you must recognize the great and fundamental differences that there are between men. You must not treat those who are mere dogs and swine as if they were able to appreciate either the holiness or the beauty and wealth of spiritual truth. Give Observe that "give," "cast," are naturally used of feeding dogs and swine respectively. That which is holy (τὸ ἅγιον). The metaphor is taken from the law that the things offered in sacrifice were no longer to be treated as common food (Leviticus 22:1-16, especially ver. 14, τὸ ἅγιον). Unto the dogs. The scavengers of Eastern cities, which by nature and habit love and greedily devour the most unholy of things (cf. Exodus 22:31). Neither cast ye your pearls, Pearls. Only here and Matthew 13:45, 46 in the Gospels. In form not so very unlike swine's food of beans or nuts, they here represent the beauty and precious wealth of the various parts of the Gospel, in which Christ's disciples are accustomed to delight (ὑμῶν). Ignatius ('Ephesians,' § 11) calls his bonds his "spiritual pearls." Before swine; before the swine (Revised Version). Probably in both cases the article is used with the object of bringing the particular dogs and swine to whom these are given more vividly before us. Swine. Which have no care for such things, but rather wallow in filth (2 Peter 2:22). Dogs... swine. The terms seem to so far indicate different classes of men, or more truly different characters in men, as that the one term points to the greedy participation of the wicked in open profanation, the ether to the sottish indifference of sinners to that which is most attractive. Lest they; i.e. the swine. Dogs, even though wild in the East, would not "tread down" the food. Trample them under their feet (Matthew 5:13). In ignorance of their real worth and in disappointment that they do not afford them satisfaction (For the future, καταπατήσουσιν, cf. Matthew 5:25, note.) It here expresses the greater certainty of the trampling than of the rending (aorist subjective). And turn again - Revised Version omits "again" - and rend you. In rage at the disappointment experienced. The clause expresses the personal enmity which those who wilfully reject the gospel often feel towards those that have offered it to them. It might be thought difficult to carry out this command, as it is evident that we cannot know beforehand who will accept the gospel or not. But in cases where the character of the person is not known (e.g. as when St. Paul preached at Athens, etc.), the command does not apply. Our Lord supposes the case where the character is apparent (cf. 1 Timothy 5:24). Theodoret (vide Resch, 'Agrapha,' pp. 103, 168), in quoting this verse, adds, "My mysteries are tot me and mine," which, clearly an adaptation of Symmachus and Theodotion's rendering of Isaiah 24:16, רזי לי (cf. also Targ. Jon.), seems to have become almost an authorized, and certainly a true, interpretation of our verse. Matthew 7:6That which is holy (τὸ ἅγιον)

The holy thing, as of something commonly recognized as sacred. The reference is to the meat offered in sacrifice. The picture is that of a priest throwing a piece of flesh from the altar of burnt-offering to one of the numerous dogs which infest the streets of Eastern cities.

Pearls before swine (μαργαρίτας ἔμπροσθεν τῶν χοίρων)

Another picture of a rich man wantonly throwing handfuls of small pearls to swine. Swine in Palestine were at best but half-tamed, the hog being an unclean animal. The wild boar haunts the Jordan valley to this day. Small pearls, called by jewellers seed-pearls, would resemble the pease or maize on which the swine feed. They would rush upon them when scattered, and, discovering the cheat, would trample upon them and turn their tusks upon the man who scattered them.

Turn (στραφέντες)

The Rev. properly omits again. The word graphically pictures the quick, sharp turn of the boar.

Rend (ῥήξωσιν)

Lit., break; and well chosen to express the peculiar character of the wound made by the boar's tusk, which is not a cut, but a long tear or rip.

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