Take my yoke upon you
The phrase is Rabbinical. The Jewish doctors often speak F1 of (Mymv twklm lwe) , "the yoke of the kingdom of heaven", and of persons taking it upon them; and which they exhort to, and express in much such language as here F2; (avydq) (atwklm lwe wkyyle wlybq) , "take upon you the yoke of the holy kingdom", every day. They distinguish this from the yoke of the law, and say F3
``a man must first take upon him the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and after that take upon him the "yoke" of the commandment.''Their sense I take to be this, that a man must first make a profession of his faith in the God of Israel, and then live conformably to his law: agreeably to this, Christ exhorts such persons who come to him for rest and happiness, to profess their faith in him, to embrace the doctrines of the Gospel, to submit to his ordinances, and to walk according to those laws, commands, and orders, which he, as king of saints, has made, and requires obedience to: so those who come to him for life, and believe in him, as the Saviour of their souls, though they are not to trust in, and depend upon any duties performed by them; yet they are not to sit still, or lay aside the performance of good works, or live a licentious course of life, but are always to be doing the will and work of their Lord. And this he calls "his yoke", in distinction from the yoke of the law of Moses, and of the traditions of the elders.
And learn of me, for I am meek, and lowly in heart:
respect seems to be had to ( Zechariah 9:9 ) where such characters as these are given of the Messiah. The meekness, humility, and lowliness of Christ appear in his assumption of human nature; in his subjection to his Father; in the whole of his deportment and conversation among men; in his submission to the ordinance of baptism; in the whole course of his obedience to God, and in his sufferings and death: and he is to be imitated herein, by all his followers, who may learn many excellent things from his example, as well as from his doctrine; and particularly, that whereas, though he was so great a person, yet condescended to perform every duty with readiness and cheerfulness, his disciples should not think it below them to conform to every ordinance of his, to every branch of his will; for he has set them an example, that they should tread in his steps, and walk even as he has walked. There never was such an instance of humility, and lowliness of mind, as Christ; nor is there any example so worthy of our imitation as his. The Jews have a saying F4,
``for ever let a man (llyhk Ntwwne) , "be meek as Hillell", and let him not be wrathful as "Shammai":''which two men were presidents of their universities about the times of Christ. But our Lord says, "learn of me", not of "Hillell", or any of your doctors,
and ye shall find rest unto your souls;
referring to ( Jeremiah 6:16 ) and which shows the rest he speaks of in the preceding verse, to be not a corporal, but a spiritual one; and which is to be enjoyed "in", though not "for" the observance of Christ's commands; whose "ways are ways of pleasantness, and all" whose "paths are peace".
F1 T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 4. 1. Bab. Beracot, fol. 61. 2. Zohar in Lev. fol. 46. 4. Caphtor, fol. 44. 2. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 2. 2.
F2 Zohar in Num. fol. 51. 2. Caphtor, fol. 48. 2.
F3 Misn. Beracot, c. 2. sect. 2. T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 4. 2.
F4 T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 30. 2.