And he saith unto them
Either to the whole multitude, to all the assembly in the synagogue; and so the Persic version renders it, "again he said to the multitude"; or rather, to the Scribes and Pharisees, who were watching him, and had put a question to him, which he answers by another:
is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil, to
save life, or to kill?
The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions read, or "to destroy", as in ( Luke 6:9 ) , To do evil, kill, or destroy, are not lawful at any time; and to do good, and to save life, must be right at all times: our Lord has a particular view to the Scribes and Pharisees, and the question is put home to their own consciences; whose hearts and thoughts, designs and views, were all open to Christ; and who were now watching to do evil to him, and even to destroy and take away his life: for the violation of the sabbath was death by the law, and this was what they sought to accuse him of: now he puts the question to them, and makes them judges which must appear most right and just in the sight of God and men, for him to heal this poor man of his withered hand, though on the sabbath day; which would be doing a good and beneficent action to him, whereby his life would be saved, and preserved with comfort and usefulness, and he would be in a capacity of getting his livelihood; or for them to cherish an evil intention against him, to seek to bring mischief on him; and not only destroy his character and usefulness as much as in them lay, but even take away his very life also: he leaves it with them to consider of which was most agreeable to the law of God, the nature of a sabbath, and the good of mankind;
but they held their peace;
or "were silent", not being able to return an answer, but what must have been in his favour, and to their own confusion, and therefore chose to say nothing.