Matthew 27:15

15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted.

Matthew 27:15 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 27:15

Now at [that] feast
The Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions read, "at every feast": which looks as if the authors of these versions thought the sense was, that the following custom was used at each feast in the year, at the feasts of pentecost, and tabernacles, and passover; whereas it was only at the feast of the passover; and which is meant by the feast here, as is clear from ( John 18:39 ) . It was but once a year that this was done; at every returning passover; and so the Persic version renders it, "every year on the day of the feast"; that is, of the passover, and which was frequently called by way of emphasis, (gx) , "the feast":

the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom
they would.
It was not a law, but a custom; it was not enjoined by the law of Moses; for they that sinned against that; died without mercy: nor is it agreeable to strict justice, that there should be such a release of criminals; nor was it a Jewish custom, as an emblem of their deliverance out of Egyptian bondage. I have not met with the least trace of any such custom of theirs at the time of the pass over in any of their writings; but it seems to be a Roman one: and from all the accounts of the evangelist, it appears to be peculiar to the Roman governor, who, either by the order of Caesar, or of himself, introduced such a custom to get the favour of the people; for it was to them the release was made, and the person, whom they pleased; and this being repeated annually for some time, was expected by them, and at last became necessary.

Matthew 27:15 In-Context

13 Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?"
14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted.
16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas.
17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?"

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New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.