Matthew 23

Listen to Matthew 23

Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees

1 Then Jesus 1said to the crowds and to his disciples,
2 2"The scribes and the Pharisees 3sit on Moses' seat,
3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you--4but not what they do. 5For they preach, but do not practice.
4 6They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.#rl
5 7They do all their deeds 8to be seen by others. For they make 9their phylacteries broad and 10their fringes long,
6 and they 11love the place of honor at feasts and 12the best seats in the synagogues
7 and 13greetings in 14the marketplaces and being called 15rabbi[b] by others.
8 16But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are 17all brothers.[c]
9 18And call no man your father on earth, for 19you have one Father, who is in heaven.
10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, 20the Christ.
11 21The greatest among you shall be your servant.
12 22Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
13 "But woe 23to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you 24shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you 25neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.[d]
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single 26proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a 27child of 28hell[e] as yourselves.
16 "Woe to 29you, 30blind guides, who say, 31'If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'
17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or 32the temple that has made the gold sacred?
18 And you say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by 33the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.'
19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or 34the altar that makes the gift sacred?
20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.
21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by 35him who dwells in it.#rl
22 And whoever swears by 36heaven swears by 37the throne of God and by 38him who sits upon it.
23 39"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For 40you tithe mint and dill and 41cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: 42justice and mercy and faithfulness. 43These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing 44a camel!
25 45"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For 46you clean the outside of 47the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of 48greed and self-indulgence.
26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of 49the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 50"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like 51whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and 52all uncleanness.
28 So you also 53outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of 54hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 55"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,
30 saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'
31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are 56sons of those who murdered the prophets.
32 57Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.
33 You serpents, 58you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to 59hell?
34 60Therefore 61I send you 62prophets and wise men and 63scribes, 64some of whom you will kill and crucify, and 65some you will 66flog in your synagogues and 67persecute from town to town,
35 so that on you may come all 68the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent 69Abel to the blood of 70Zechariah the son of Barachiah,[f] whom you murdered between 71the sanctuary and 72the altar.
36 Truly, I say to you, 73all these things will come upon this generation.#rl

Lament over Jerusalem

37 74"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that 75kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have 76gathered 77your children together 78as a hen gathers her brood 79under her wings, and 80you would not!
38 See, 81your house is left to you desolate.
39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 82'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

Matthew 23 Commentary

Chapter 23

Jesus reproves the scribes and Pharisees. (1-12) Crimes of the Pharisees. (13-33) The guilt of Jerusalem. (34-39)

Verses 1-12 The scribes and Pharisees explained the law of Moses, and enforced obedience to it. They are charged with hypocrisy in religion. We can only judge according to outward appearance; but God searches the heart. They made phylacteries. These were scrolls of paper or parchment, wherein were written four paragraphs of the law, to be worn on their foreheads and left arms, ( Exodus 13:2-10 , Exodus 13:11-16 , Deuteronomy 6:4-9 , Deuteronomy 11:13-21 ) . They made these phylacteries broad, that they might be thought more zealous for the law than others. God appointed the Jews to make fringes upon their garments, ( Numbers 15:38 ) , to remind them of their being a peculiar people; but the Pharisees made them larger than common, as if they were thereby more religious than others. Pride was the darling, reigning sin of the Pharisees, the sin that most easily beset them, and which our Lord Jesus takes all occasions to speak against. For him that is taught in the word to give respect to him that teaches, is commendable; but for him that teaches, to demand it, to be puffed up with it, is sinful. How much is all this against the spirit of Christianity! The consistent disciple of Christ is pained by being put into chief places. But who that looks around on the visible church, would think this was the spirit required? It is plain that some measure of this antichristian spirit prevails in every religious society, and in every one of our hearts.

Verses 13-33 The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities. But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They were very busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to their worldly interests. They were very strict and precise in smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightier matters. It is not the scrupling a little sin that Christ here reproves; if it be a sin, though but a gnat, it must be strained out; but the doing that, and then swallowing a camel, or, committing a greater sin. While they would seem to be godly, they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new, there will be newness of life; here we must begin with ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was upon earth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as men then did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with God to give those up to their hearts' lusts, who obstinately persist in gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters.

Verses 34-39 Our Lord declares the miseries the inhabitants of Jerusalem were about to bring upon themselves, but he does not notice the sufferings he was to undergo. A hen gathering her chickens under her wings, is an apt emblem of the Saviour's tender love to those who trust in him, and his faithful care of them. He calls sinners to take refuge under his tender protection, keeps them safe, and nourishes them to eternal life. The present dispersion and unbelief of the Jews, and their future conversion to Christ, were here foretold. Jerusalem and her children had a large share of guilt, and their punishment has been signal. But ere long, deserved vengeance will fall on every church which is Christian in name only. In the mean time the Saviour stands ready to receive all who come to him. There is nothing between sinners and eternal happiness, but their proud and unbelieving unwillingness.

Cross References 82

  • 1. For ver. 1, 2, 5-7, see Mark 12:38, 39; Luke 20:45, 46; [Luke 11:43]
  • 2. [Ezra 7:6, 10, 25; Nehemiah 8:4]
  • 3. [Deuteronomy 17:10, 11; John 9:28, 29]
  • 4. [Matthew 5:20; Matthew 15:3-13]
  • 5. Romans 2:17-23
  • 6. Luke 11:46; [Matthew 11:28-30; Acts 15:10]
  • 7. [See ver. 1 above]
  • 8. Matthew 6:1, 16; [John 5:44]
  • 9. Exodus 13:9; Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18
  • 10. See Matthew 9:20
  • 11. Luke 14:7, 8
  • 12. Luke 11:43
  • 13. [See ver. 6 above]
  • 14. Matthew 11:16; Matthew 20:3
  • 15. See John 1:38
  • 16. James 3:1
  • 17. Luke 22:32; John 21:23; See Philemon 16
  • 18. [1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:4]
  • 19. Matthew 6:9; Malachi 1:6; See Matthew 7:11
  • 20. See Matthew 1:17
  • 21. Matthew 20:26
  • 22. Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14; [Matthew 18:4; Proverbs 29:23; Ezekiel 21:26; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:5, 6]
  • 23. Luke 11:52
  • 24. [Matthew 16:19]
  • 25. [Matthew 5:20; Matthew 21:31; Luke 7:30]
  • 26. Acts 2:10; Acts 6:5; Acts 13:43
  • 27. [John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3]
  • 28. See Matthew 5:29
  • 29. See Matthew 15:14
  • 30. ver. 17, 19, 26; John 9:39-41; Romans 2:19; 2 Peter 1:9; Revelation 3:17
  • 31. [Matthew 5:33-35]
  • 32. Exodus 30:29
  • 33. Matthew 5:23
  • 34. Exodus 29:37
  • 35. 1 Kings 8:13; 2 Chronicles 6:2; Psalms 26:8; Psalms 132:14
  • 36. [Matthew 21:25]
  • 37. See Matthew 5:34
  • 38. See Revelation 4:2
  • 39. Luke 11:42
  • 40. Deuteronomy 14:22; [Luke 18:12]
  • 41. Isaiah 28:25, 27
  • 42. Psalms 33:5; Jeremiah 5:1; Micah 6:8; Zechariah 7:9
  • 43. [1 Samuel 15:22]
  • 44. Matthew 19:24
  • 45. For ver. 25-28, [Matthew 15:11-20]
  • 46. Luke 11:39, 40
  • 47. Mark 7:4
  • 48. Luke 16:14; Luke 20:47
  • 49. [See ver. 25 above]
  • 50. Luke 11:44
  • 51. [Acts 23:3]
  • 52. Ephesians 5:3; [Numbers 19:16; 2 Kings 23:16]
  • 53. ver. 5
  • 54. Luke 12:1
  • 55. Luke 11:47, 48
  • 56. Acts 7:51, 52
  • 57. Genesis 15:16; Daniel 8:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:15, 16
  • 58. Matthew 3:7; Matthew 12:34
  • 59. ver. 15
  • 60. For ver. 34-36, [Luke 11:49-51]
  • 61. Matthew 10:16
  • 62. See Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28
  • 63. Matthew 13:52
  • 64. See Matthew 21:35
  • 65. See Matthew 21:35
  • 66. Matthew 10:17; Mark 13:9; Luke 21:12; Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11; [Luke 12:11]
  • 67. Matthew 10:23
  • 68. Revelation 18:24
  • 69. Genesis 4:4, 8; Hebrews 11:4; 1 John 3:12
  • 70. [Zechariah 1:1]
  • 71. See Luke 1:9
  • 72. Exodus 40:6; 2 Kings 16:14; Ezekiel 40:47
  • 73. [Matthew 10:23; Matthew 16:28; Matthew 24:34]
  • 74. For ver. 37-39, see Luke 13:34, 35; [Luke 19:41-44]
  • 75. See Matthew 21:35
  • 76. [Psalms 147:2; Proverbs 1:24]
  • 77. Luke 23:28
  • 78. [Deuteronomy 32:11, 12]
  • 79. Ruth 2:12
  • 80. John 5:40
  • 81. [Isaiah 64:11; Jeremiah 12:7; Jeremiah 22:5]
  • 82. Matthew 21:9; Cited from Psalms 118:26

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. Some manuscripts omit hard to bear
  • [b]. Rabbi means my teacher, or my master; also verse 8
  • [c]. Or brothers and sisters
  • [d]. Some manuscripts add here (or after verse 12) verse 14: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation
  • [e]. Greek Gehenna; also verse 33
  • [f]. Some manuscripts omit the son of Barachiah

Matthew 23 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.