Matthew 12:39

39 But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Matthew 12:39 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 12:39

But he answered and said unto them
Not to the Pharisees, who were unworthy of an answer from him; having, in such an imperious manner, and with a sole view to tempt him, and after such miracles were wrought by him, required of him a sign from heaven; but to the multitude, the throng of people gathered thick together on this occasion, see ( Matthew 12:45 ) ( Luke 11:29 ) he turns himself from the Scribes and Pharisees, to the common people, and says to them concerning the former,

an evil and adulterous generation;
not only in a spiritual sense, being degenerated from the faith, religion, and piety of their ancestors; but literally, which appeared not only in their polygamy, and frequent divorces on trivial occasions, but by criminal conversation with other women; see ( John 8:9 ) and this, with the Jews themselves, is a character of the generation in which the Messiah comes: for they say F8,

``that just when the Messiah comes, or in the age the son of David comes, "impudence shall be increased", corn and wine shall be dear, the government shall be heretics, (twnzl) (hyhy deww tyb) , "and the synagogue shall become a brothel house".''

Their meaning is, that the chief magistrates should be Sadducees, and those that pretended to religion and holiness would be adulterers, which was now the case. Their writings F9 frequently speak of the increase and abounding of adulteries, under the second temple, and about this time; which obliged Jochanan ben Zaccai and the sanhedrim, to leave off the use of the bitter waters.

Seeketh after a sign;
this is perfectly Talmudic language, the language of the Jews F11.

``The disciples of R. Jose ben Kismai, asked him, when the Son of David came? He replied, I am afraid, lest (twa ynmm) (wvqbt) , "ye should seek of me a sign"; they say unto him, we will not "seek of thee a sign".''

This the Jews sought of Christ, time after time; not content with one, sought another, though such wonderful ones were wrought, which most fully demonstrated him to be the Messiah; and therefore he would not indulge this temper in them; but declared, that

there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet
Not that no miracles should afterwards be wrought amongst them; for, after this, many wondrous works were done by Christ; but no such signs should be given they desired, not one from heaven; but one particularly should be given them, out of the earth, and should be, not for their conviction, but condemnation; and would seem very much like that which was done to the prophet Jonas, or Jonah; for so is his name in the Hebrew language, the other being the Greek termination of it.


F8 Misn. Sota c. 9. sect. 15. T. Bab. Sanhed. fol. 97. 1.
F9 Misn. Sota, c. 9. sect. 9. & Maimon. Hilch. Sota, c. 3. sect. 19.
F11 T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 98. 1. so (Nmyo vqbm) , "seeketh a sign", Shemot Rabba, Parash. 9. fol. 97. 2.

Matthew 12:39 In-Context

37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”
38 One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”
39 But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
41 “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.
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