Matthew 12 Study Notes


12:1-2 Work was prohibited on the Sabbath. First-century rabbis divided work into thirty-nine categories, each having many subcategories. Three prohibited categories were picking, threshing, and winnowing. The disciples picked grain and rubbed it between their hands to remove the husks and thus broke the highly restrictive rabbinic law on three different counts. Handpicking grain from a neighbor’s field was not considered stealing (Dt 23:25).

12:3-7 Jesus taught that Sabbath law was overridden by priorities such as (1) genuine human need (1Sm 21:1-6); (2) worship (Nm 28:9-10); and (3) acts of kindness (Hs 6:6).

12:8 Son of Man was Jesus’s favorite self-designation. Lord of the Sabbath refers to God since he instituted the Sabbath (Gn 2:1-3), commanded the Sabbath (Ex 20:10), and was the Lord for whom the Sabbath was observed (Lv 23:3). By calling himself “Lord of the Sabbath,” Jesus clearly meant to identify himself as God Almighty.

12:9-10 Many rabbis permitted healing on the Sabbath only when a life was at risk (m. Yoma 8:6). Otherwise, it was illegal to tie a bandage, set a broken bone, or administer medicine. Some rabbis even banned prayer for the sick on the Sabbath.

12:11-12 With the exception of the Essenes (CD 11.13-14), most Jews believed it was permissible to rescue a beast of burden (e.g., a donkey) on the Sabbath. It was inconsistent to refuse the same privilege to humans since God values people more than animals. The Sabbath was to be kept holy (Ex 20:8-11), but a ban on good deeds is unholy and dishonors God.

12:13 The man’s paralyzed hand had wasted away from disuse. Jesus restored the hand’s function and also renewed the wasted muscle. Thus this miracle was an act of creation. Since the Creator God had instituted the Sabbath (Gn 2:1-3), the miracle confirmed Jesus’s self-confessed identity as Lord of the Sabbath.

12:14 The plotting continued. See Mt 26:4; 27:1.

12:15-21 Matthew recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of Is 42:1-4. This implies: (1) he is God’s Son/servant; (2) he is chosen and loved by God; (3) he pleases God with his obedience; (4) he bears God’s Spirit; (5) he will rule over a universal kingdom that includes all nations; (6) he is humble and nonviolent; and (7) he will include Gentiles in his redemptive plan. Matthew’s identification of Jesus as “servant” is closely connected to his interpretation of Is 53 (see note at 8:17).

12:22-23 On Son of David, see note at 1:1.

12:24 Beelzebul was probably an ancient name for Baal, a Canaanite storm/fertility god. Worship of Baal competed with worship of the Lord in the OT. Although gods were nonexistent, demonic spirits were at work in the pagan religions (Ps 106:28,36-39; 1Co 10:19-20). Satan himself was deemed to be the spirit at work in Baal worship. Consequently, Beelzebul became an alternate name for Satan.

12:25-27 Jesus argued that Satan is too smart to undermine his own kingdom. Also, the objection of the Pharisees (v. 24) indicted their own disciples, for they too claimed to cast out demons.

12:28-29 Jesus’s power to cast out demons proved that the kingdom of God was overthrowing Satan’s kingdom. Jesus was tying up the strong man (Satan) so he could plunder his house, or claim Satan’s captives as citizens of his own kingdom.

12:30 See Lk 11:23. The demands of Jesus and the world are so opposite that one cannot be neutral.

12:31-32 Jesus claimed to cast out demons “by the Spirit of God” (v. 28). By refuting this and attributing his exorcisms to Satan’s power instead, Jesus’s opponents were guilty of blasphemy against the Spirit in whose power Jesus worked the miracles. Their attempt to dismiss Jesus’s supernatural power would not be forgiven because it expressed a resolute, permanent rejection of Jesus.

12:33-37 The evil words spoken by the Pharisees divulged the true nature of their hearts.

12:38 The Jewish leaders had already witnessed several of Jesus’s miracles (vv. 9-14; 9:1-8).


Greek pronunciation [blahss fay MEE uh]
CSB translation blasphemy
Uses in Matthew 4 (Mk, 3; Lk, 1; Jn, 1)
Uses in the NT 18
Focus passage Matthew 12:31

The Greek noun blasphÄ“mia comes from a compound verb (blasphÄ“meo) meaning to speak evil against (blas-evil; phÄ“mi-to speak), slander, or revile. In the NT, blasphemy is an extremely serious offense and primarily directed against God (Mt 9:3; 26:65), Christ (Lk 22:65), or anything related to either person (1Tm 6:1; Ti 2:5; Jms 2:7). Blasphemy can also be directed against angels (2Pt 2:10; Jd 8) and human beings (Rm 3:8; 1Co 4:13; 10:30; Ti 3:2). Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders that the most grievous sin, one that cannot be forgiven, is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:31-32). Apparently, they were in danger of committing this sin, or perhaps already had, for Jesus’s warning was in response to their claim that he cast out demons through the power of Satan (Mt 12:24) and that Jesus himself was demon-possessed (Mk 3:30).

12:39-40 The word adulterous refers to the scribes’ and Pharisees’ spiritual adultery exhibited by their rejection of Jesus. Mention of the sign of . . . Jonah is Jesus’s first reference to his death in Matthew. Jonah was as good as dead for three days and three nights (Jnh 1:17). His prayer compared his experience to being in the grave. Thus Jonah’s experience was analogous to Jesus’s experience of being interred for three days. Since Jesus’s resurrection occurred on Sunday, some have argued that the reference to three days and three nights requires a Thursday or Wednesday crucifixion. However, 1Sm 30:12-13 suggests that “three days and three nights” could be idiomatic for a span of time that covered all of one day and parts of two others. Thus Jesus’s interment late on Friday and his resurrection early Sunday counts as three days.

12:41-42 Ninevites and the queen of Sheba (queen of the south) were pagan Gentiles who repented and sought the truth. Jesus is greater than Jonah and Solomon, whom these pagans heard and obeyed.

12:43-45 The words that’s how it will also be with this evil generation show that this discussion functioned like a parable. Jesus cast evil spirits out of afflicted people, but the Jewish leaders discouraged them from accepting God’s help and rule through the person of Jesus. This left them empty and vulnerable to even greater evil.

12:46-50 On the response of Jesus’s family members to him, see notes on Mk 3:20-21, 31-35 and Jn 7:3-5. Jesus valued his spiritual relationship with his disciples above his physical relationship with his family. Later, once faith had dawned in their hearts, his family members understood and adopted this value system (Jms 1:1; Jd 1). His brothers are named in 13:55.