Plucking the Ears of Corn

During this sojourn in Capernaum, the Lord with His Matt. xii. 1-8. disciples walked through the fields upon a Sabbath and Mark ii. 23-28. plucked and ate the ears of corn. This was observed by Luke vi. 1-5. some of the Pharisees who were watching Him, and who complained of it to Him as a violation of the Sabbath. He answers them by referring to what David did, and asserts His power as Son of man over the Sabbath. Upon an- Luke vi. 6-11. other Sabbath He heals a man with a withered hand, Matt. xii. 9-14. which leads the Pharisees to conspire with the Herodians Mark iii. 1-6* to destroy Him.

Both the time and place of this event have been much disputed. It is mentioned by all the Synoptists, by Matthew in one connection, by Mark and Luke in another; but by none in such a way as to determine its chronological succession. All agree that it took place upon a Sabbath, and Luke (vi. 1) defines this Sabbath by the epithet "second Sabbath after the first," or " second first"—cv aa/3j3aT<o SeuTepo-TTpcoTw.1 But what wTas this second first Sabbath ?

1 The right rendering is " first after the second." So Campbell, Norton, Robinson, Greswell. For other renderings see Meyer in loco.

No certain answer can be given. Many doubt the correctness of the reading.1 If, however, we receive it as the right reading, we have no positive key to its meaning, as the word, so far as is known, is used by no other writer than Luke. A great number of different interpretations have been suggested.* That of Scaliger has found many advocates.3 We give it as stated by Lightfoot on Matt. xii. 1. Provision was made by the Law that the sheaf of firstfruits should be offered on the second day of Passover week, (Levit. xxiii. 10, 11,) not on the morrow after an ordinary Sabbath, but the morning after the first day of Passover week, which was a Sabbatic day. Prom the second day were numbered seven weeks to Pentecost—for the day of the sheaf and the day of Pentecost did mutually respect each other. The offering of the sheaf was supplicatory, beseeching a blessing on the new corn, and leave to eat and to put in the sickle into the standing corn. Some weeks intervened, and the calculation of the Sabbaths was by numbering them; aa/3j3aTov Sevrepo-Trpcorov, the first Sabbath after the second day of Passover ; the second Sabbath after the second day; the third Sabbath after the second day, and the like. Lightfoot therefore concludes that this was the Sabbath mentioned John v. 9, or that next after it.

Wieseler (231) defends the view that the Jewish years were reckoned by a series, or cycle of sevens, and the first Sabbath of the second year of one of these cycles is meant, or the first Sabbath in Nisan.4

1 So Alford, who says: "It is not altogether clear that the word ought to be here at all." Meyer rejects it, and Lichtenstein, Browne, Bleek; Teschendorf rejected it at first, but restored it in his Synopsis, 1854. Winer defends it.

» See Meyer in loco.

« So A. Clarke, Bloomfield, Robinson, De Wette.

* With Wieseler, Tischendorf, Oosterzee, Ellicott j contra, Winer, ii. 348.

Others have understood a Sabbath of the second rank, or a feast day immediately following a Sabbath; others a Sabbath preceded by a feast day; others the first week Sabbath in a Passover week; others the first Sabbath of the second month; others the first week Sabbath after the great feasts. The last viewl makes the first week Sabbath after Passover to be the firstfirst ; the first after Pentecost to be the second-first; the first after Tabernacles the third-first. In like manner, we have now in common use the designations, first Sunday after Epiphany, the first after Easter, the first after Trinity. Browne (657) remarks : "Of all the explanations known to me this seems the best, indeed the only likely one." Clinton calls it " equally probable " as that first mentioned.*

In this chaos of interpretations, the mention of this Sabbath as the second-first gives us no chronological aid. The circumstance, however, that the disciples plucked the ears of corn and did eat, defines the season of the year as that when the corn wras ripe. The kind of grain is not mentioned, whether barley, which was earliest, or wheat, which was later. Barley harvest was regarded as beginning from the second day of the Passover, and hence it has been inferred that this incident was after this, as no one was permitted to gather any corn till the sheaf of first-fruits had been waved. The wheat harvest was ripe and gathered in May or June. Robinson speaks of seeing the wheat ripening upon the 9th May; and he also speaks of the people near Tiberias as engaged in gathering the wheat harvest upon the 19th June. We have, then, April, May, and June, in either of which months this plucking and eating of the corn may have taken place. It is erroneously said by A. Clarke that it cannot " be laid after Pentecost, because then the harvest was fully in." Thomson states that the Syrian harvest extends through several months, and " the wheat is suffered to become dead ripe, and as dry as tinder before it is cut*" Even if the harvest generally was reaped, particular fields may still have been ungatbered, or this been that which was left for gleaners.

1 Grotius, Hammond, Norton.

3 For a brief statement of opinions, see Winer, ii. 348; also Gresweil, ii. 300.

Without attaching any importance to a conclusion, confessedly so dubious, we are inclined to regard this secondfirst Sabbath, as the first after Pentecost, which was this year the 19th May. If this be correct, the ministry of the Lord in Galilee had now continued about two months.

Where did this event take place ? It is narrated by all the Synoptists as occuring just before the healing of the man with the withered hand, and this healing was in the synagogue at Capernaum. "And He entered again into the synagogue," (Mark iii. 1,) that is, the synagogue already mentioned.1 This appears also from the mention of His withdrawal to the sea after the healing, (Mark iii. 7; see also Luke vi. 6.) That the field where the ears were plucked was not far distant from Capernaum, appears from Matthew xii. 9, for the Pharisees who had blamed the disciples for that act, are spoken of as members of that synagogue. " He went into their synagogue."' They were, therefore, the Pharisees of Capernaum, and the field of corn was in the neighborhood of that city, and within the limits of a Sabbath day's journey.

We may, then, give the following order of events as one intrinsically probable. The Lord, after His return from His first circuit, remained some days, or weeks, at Capernaum, and upon a Sabbath walked out with His disciples through the fields in the vicinity of the city. As He had already, in the opinion of the Pharisees, broken the sanctity of the Sabbath by healing upon it, (Mark i. 23 and 30,) they followed Him to watch Him, perhaps to note whether His walk upon that day was longer than the law permitted, (Acts i. 12.)

Alexander, Meyer. 2 Meyer, Norton.

Seeing His disciples plucking ancl rubbing the ears of corn in their hands, they fancied the act a violation of the law. It has sometimes been said that the Pharisees did not think it sinful to pull and eat the grain, but it was so to rub it in their hands, all preparation of food being forbidden. This is doubtful. Lightfoot says: " The plucking of ears of corn on the Sabbath was forbidden by their canons, verbatim: 4 He that reapeth corn on the Sabbath, to the quantity of a fig, is guilty. And plucking corn is as reaping.'"1 If done presumptuously, or without necessity, the punishment was death by stoning, and hence the Lord's defence of the disciples. His answer to their complaints could only have angered them still more, and when, therefore, He entered the following Sabbath into the synagogue, (Luke vi. 6,) it was to be expected that they would carefully watch* all that He did to find some sufficient ground of accusation against Him. His renewed violation of the Sabbath by healing the man with a withered hand, added to their indignation, and they now began to plot how they might destroy Him.

Luke (vi. 6) defines the time of this work of healing as " on another Sabbath." Whether this was the Sabbath immediately following that on which He walked through the corn-field, is not said, though it is probable.2 The alliance of the Plerodians with the Pharisees, does not imply that Herod himself had at this time any knowledge of Jesus, or took any steps against Him. The Herodians were those among the people who, though hating the Roman rule, favored the pretensions of Herod's family to kingly power. In case of national independence this family should reign rather than the house of the Maccabees, or any other claimants.

1 See also Meyer on Matt. xii. 1.

2 Wieseler (237) conjectures that it was a feast Sabbath and the day following that mentioned in verse 1st. This seems to have little or no basis. Meyer's assertion, that Matthew (xii. 9) puts the two events on the same Sab» bath in opposition to Luke, is wholly baseless.

They were never numerous, for the great body of the nation looked upon that family as foreigners and usurpers. " Why the Pharisees and Herodians," says Alford, " should now combine, is not apparent." The Herodians would, however, be naturally jealous and watchful of any one whom they supposed to be a claimant of the throne in opposition to the house of Herod ; and the Pharisees, being angry at Jesus on religious grounds, a union of the two for His destruction was very easily made. We need not suppose that this conspiracy against Him as yet included others than the Pharisees and Herodians of Capernaum and its immediate vicinity, (see Matt. xii. 14 ; Mark iii. 6.) Doubtless, very soon after this, His enemies here took counsel with His enemies at Jerusalem, and the conspiracy against Him became general.

It appears from these narratives that, almost from the very beginning of His Galilean wrork, the Lord encountered the active hostility of the Pharisees of that province. At the feast (John v. 1) He had aroused the anger of the Pharisees at Jerusalem by healing the impotent man on the Sabbath, (verses 16 and 18 ;) and at Capernaum He continued again and again to heal upon that day, and in the synagogue itself. Their fanatical zeal could not allow such violations of the law to pass unnoticed, and as Jesus defended them on the ground of His divine right to work, even on the Sabbath, He seemed to them not only a Sabbath breaker, but also a blasphemer. At first they plotted secretly against Him, the people at large being friendly to Him. Whilst in the full flush of His popularity they dared take no steps openly against Him, but waited till some imprudence, or error, or folly on His part, or the fickleness of the multitude, should put Him in their power. There was early an active and constant correspondence between the scribes and Pharisees in Galilee and those in Jerusalem; and

at intervals deputations from the latter came down to consult with the former, and to devise means to hinder Him in His work, and to bring Him to punishment. As yet the fact that He had broken the Sabbath by healing upon it, does not seem to have turned the popular feeling at all against Him, nor even the assertion of His power to forgive sins.