Moreover when ye fast
This is to be understood, not so much of their public stated fasts, and which were by divine appointment, as of their private fasts; which, with the Jews, were very frequent and numerous, and particularly every Monday and Thursday; see ( Luke 18:12 ) in which they affected great severity, and is here condemned by Christ:
be not as the hypocrites,
the Scribes and Pharisees,
of a sad countenance;
who put on very mournful airs, and dismal looks; made wry faces, and distorted countenances; banished all pleasantry and cheerfulness from them, so that they looked quite like other men than they really were;
for they disfigure their faces;
not by covering them out of sight, by putting a veil over them, as some have thought; but they neglected to wash their faces, and make them clean, as at other times; and not only so, but put ashes upon their heads, and other methods they used: they discoloured their faces, or "made" them "black", as the Arabic version reads it; that they might look as if they became so through fasting: and such persons were in great esteem, and thought to be very religious. It is said F6, in commendation of R. Joshua ben Chanamah, that all his days (wynp wrxvwh) , "his face was black", through fastings; and this is said F7 to be the reason of Ashur's name, in ( 1 Chronicles 4:5 ) because "his face was black" with fasting: yea, they looked upon such a disfiguring of the face to be meritorious, and what would be rewarded hereafter.
``Whoever (say they F8) (wynp ryxvmh) , "makes his face black", on account of the law in this world, God will make his brightness to shine in the world to come.''Now these practices they used,
that they might appear unto men to fast:
so that either they did not really fast, when they pretended to it; only put on these outward appearances, that men might think they did; or, not content with real fasting, which they must be conscious of themselves, and God knew, they took such methods, that it might appear to men that they fasted, and that they might be taken notice of, and applauded by them: for their view in fasting was not to satisfy their own consciences, or please God, but that they might have glory of men. Hence, says Christ,
verily I say unto you, they have their reward;
they obtain what they seek for, honour from men, and that is all they will have.
F6 Juchasin, fol. 59. 1.
F7 T. Bab. Sota, fol. 12. 1.
F8 T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 100. 1.