Matthew 23:16

16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’

Matthew 23:16 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 23:16

Woe unto you, you blind guides
Meaning the same persons, the Scribes and Pharisees, as before, though not named, who pretended to be "guides of the blind", ( Romans 2:19 ) but were them selves blind, and so very unfit to be guides of others; they were as they were born, ignorant of divine things, of God in Christ, of the true Messiah, of the true meaning of the Scriptures, of the spirituality of the law, and of the Gospel of Christ; and the way of salvation by him; and their minds were blinded by the God of this world, and with a greedy, and insatiable covetousness after the things of it, of which Christ here gives an instance:

which say, whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing;
meaning either that it was no sin to use such an oath, or it was not binding upon a man: he might choose whether he would abide by what he swore by the temple he would do; and thus they ignorantly, and wickedly encouraged vain swearing and perjury. It was usual with them to swear by the temple: take an instance or two.

``Says R. Jochanan F16, (alkyh) , "by the temple", it is in our hands; but what shall I do?''

The gloss upon it is;

``it is an oath by the temple of God, that it is in our power to reveal the illegitimacy of the families of the land of Israel.''

``Says R. Zechariah ben Hakatzab F17, (hzh Nwemh) , "by this habitation" (meaning the temple), her hand was not removed from my hand from the time the Gentiles entered into Jerusalem, to the time they went out.''

Jarchi and Bartenora's note on it is, this is an oath. Again,

``says R. Simeon ben Gamaliel F18, (hzh Nwemh) , "by this habitation"; I will not rest this night until they (doves) are sold for pence apiece.''

The gloss on it is, "he swore by the sanctuary."

But whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is guilty;
or is bound, or is a debtor, to make good his oath; he cannot be excused, but must be obliged to fulfil it; or if he does not, he is guilty of perjury. This is to be understood not of the gold that covered any part of the temple; nor of the golden vessels in it; but of the gold, or money, or gifts which were offered for the service of the temple: and the sense is, that whosoever swore by "Korban", and that this, or that should be as "Korban", he should not go back from it; he was obliged to give it. This showed the covetous disposition of these men, who made nothing of oaths that were swore by the temple; but those that were made by the "Korban", or the gifts of it, were binding, because their interest was in it; it was for their gain.


F16 T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 71. 1.
F17 Misn. Cetubot, c. 2. sect. 9. Juchasin, fol. 56. 1.
F18 T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol 166. 1. Misn. Ceritot, c. 1. sect. 7. Vid. c. 6. sect. 3.

Matthew 23:16 In-Context

15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!
16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’
17 Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred?
18 And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding.