Or have ye not read in the law
( Numbers 28:9 ) by which law the priests were obliged, every sabbath day, to offer up two lambs for a burnt offering; to which were annexed many servile works, as killing the sacrifice, flaying it, cutting it in pieces, and laying it on the altar, cutting of wood, and putting that in order, and kindling the fire: from all which, it might be observed,
how that on the sabbath days, the priests in the temple profane the
sabbath, and are blameless.
There were many things, which, according to the Jewish canons, the priests might do on the sabbath day; particularly they might slay the sacrifice: it was a rule with them, (tbv ta hjwxv htxd) , "that slaying drives away the sabbath" F21. They might also knead, make, and bake the showbread on the sabbath day: their general rule was, as R. Akiba says, that what was possible to be done on the evening of the sabbath, did not drive away the sabbath; but what was not possible to be done on the sabbath eve, did drive away the sabbath F23: so they might kill the passover, sprinkle its blood, wipe its inwards, and burn the fat on the sabbath day F24, with many other things. What exculpated these men was, that what they did was done in the temple, and for the service of it, upon which an emphasis is put; and agrees with their canons, which say, that there is no prohibition in the sanctuary; (awh rth) (vdqmb twbv rwoya) , "that which is forbidden to be done on the sabbath, is lawful to be done in the sanctuary" F25: and whereas, it might be objected to the disciples of Christ, that they were not priests; and what they did was not in the temple, but in the fields; to this it is replied, in the following words:
F21 T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 72. 2.
F23 Misn. Menachot, c. 11. sect. 3.
F24 Misn. Pesachim, c. 6. sect. 1. Maimon. Pesach. c. 1. sect. 18.
F25 lb. sect. 16. & Hilchot Sabbat, c. 21. sect. 27.