Notes on Matthew

Version Date: July 13, 2024. (Date of First Version: February 24, 2023.)

Mt 1:5 The following remarks could be made to show that Rahab in this verse is the same person as Rahab of Jos 2:1, Heb 11:31, and Jms 2:25. Considering the fact the name Rahab is spelled ραχαβ in this verse but ρααβ in LXX, Heb 11:31, and Jms 2:25, there is evidence that ραχαβ is simply an inflected form of ρααβ. First, note that ραχαβ in Mt 1:5 is in the genitive case, ρααβ in Heb 11:31 and Jms 2:25 is in the nominative case, and ρααβ never appears in the genitive case in LXX. Thus, the possibility that ραχαβ is an inflected form does not conflict with the passages in which the word ρααβ appears. Second, the word ρααβ corresponds to the Hebrew word רחב. An example of another Hebrew name involving the letter ח that has an added χ in its Greek genitive form appears in ιωα ο του ζεμμαθ και ιωδαν ο του ιωαχα, which translates יואח בן זמה ועדן בן יואח of 2Ch 29:12. Note that this phrase has both ιωα, the Greek nominative form of יואח, and ιωαχα, the Greek genitive form of the same יואח. Additionally, the Greek nominative form of יואח appears also as ιωαα in 1Ch 26:4. This proves that ραχαβ of Mt 1:5 can be associated with ρααβ of LXX. Since the context of Mt 1:5 has no indication that the text does not refer to the well-known ρααβ "Rahab" of Jos 2:1, it follows that the text does indeed refer to her.

Mt 1:8 See the note on Mt 1:17.

Mt 1:11 See the note on Mt 1:17.

Mt 1:17 "So all the generations are: from Abraham to David, fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ, fourteen generations." There are various examples in Scripture, including this verse, that show that the word πας "all" admits exceptions and indicates that in some respect something is excluded. For example, see 1Co 15:27. If the text meant that no generation was omitted, it would have αι ουν γενεαι "so the generations" instead of πασαι ουν αι γενεαι "so all the generations." The reason the list of generations omits some names could be inferred by examining who was omitted. As will be shown below, four well-known kings were omitted. All of them rejected the Lord. Apparently, they died in their sin. The fact that the Lord did not want them to be mentioned in Mt 1:2-16 could remind men that he does erase names from the book of life (Ps 69:28 (29)) and that people who die in their sin will be as if they have never been, that is, they will be as insignificant as if they have never existed (see the note on Ob 1:16.)

There are four kings that the Lord did not want to list in Mt 1:2-16. Three of them, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah were not included in between Joram and Uzziah in Mt 1:8. Then, in Mt 1:11, Jehoiakim is not listed in between Josiah and Jehoiachin. Note that Ahaziah was a pagan king, and Joash and Amaziah committed apostasy (2Ch 24:17-22, 25:14-16). Jehoiakim rejected the Lord, and the Lord condemned him with many words in the book of Jeremiah. Now it may seem surprising that Joram, Ahaz, and Amon were included in the list of generations. However, God knows perfectly the heart of every man. The following observations could be made about these three men. Joram had a faithful father. It may be that Joram considered the true God in his painful and lengthy disease that preceded his death. Ahaz became a worshiper of the Lord (Is 7:10-12). His faith, however, was very immature. As for Amon, his sinful ways kept him from humbling himself before the Lord (2Ch 33:23).

When taken by itself, the passage of Mt 1:2-16 would allow for the possibility that more men were omitted from the list of generations because of their ungodliness. However, there is no compelling piece of evidence from Scripture that more men were omitted. In that culture, children were born not only to young fathers but also to men who were rather old. Rich men were more likely to practice polygamy and get children in their old age. Additionally, the Scripture indicates plainly that in ancient times people aged much slower. In view of these things, the fact that the fourteen generations from Abraham to David covers a period of about one thousand years does not imply that more people are omitted from the list. In the case of some of the men on the list, it can be easily seen from the Scripture that they were born to rather old fathers. Indeed, all of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were old when children were born to them. Perez was born one generation after his older brothers. The difference in age between Boaz and Ruth was of one generation or more (Ru 3:9-10). David was the youngest son of his father and had many siblings. Now it is especially unlikely that men are missing in the list of generations from Abraham to David because David is a forefather of Christ via Nathan, the son of David (see the genealogy of Mary in Lk 3:23-38.) If men were omitted on the list of generations from Abraham to David, the implication would be that they were omitted because of their ungodliness. However, it seems quite unlikely that God would grant very ungodly persons the privilege of becoming forefathers of Christ. In support of this remark, note that Solomon was given the conditional promise that his throne would endure forever (which implied that he would become a forefather of Christ) only if he kept walking before the Lord (1Ki 9:4-5). Since Solomon's heart turned from the Lord (1Ki 11:9-12), he did not become a forefather of Christ. In conclusion, the list of generations from Abraham to David in Mt 1:2-6 as well as the entire list of Lk 3:23-38 must be complete.

The generations listed in Mt 1:2-16 are as follows. From Abraham to David are fourteen generations, including Abraham and David. From the deportation to Babylon until Christ are fourteen generations, including Jehoiachin and Christ. From David to the deportation to Babylon are fourteen generations, including David but excluding Jehoiachin. The reason Jehoiachin was excluded could be explained as follows. In the third year of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem (Dan 1:1), captured Jehoiakim (Dan 1:2), and deported some people to Babylon (Dan 1:3-4). Apparently, this is when Jehoiachin became king, when his father was arrested. However, since Nebuchadnezzar allowed Jehoiakim to continue to reign, Jehoiachin's reign was brief. Jehoiachin reigned again ten years later, after his father died. He began to reign when he was eight-years old (2Ch 36:9), at the time when his father was arrested, and reigned again when he was eighteen-years old (2Ki 24:8), when his father died. Thus, 2Ch 36:9 gives his total reign time, while 2Ki 24:8 gives the length of his second reign. The fact that he was only eight-years old when deportations began explains why he was not included in the generations from David to the Babylonian exile.

Excluding the few individuals that God considered unworthy to be listed, there were forty generations after God's covenant with Abraham until Christ, that is, Christ was in the fortieth generation after Abraham. The number forty appears in Scripture in various contexts. Thus, it is plain that when God planned the events mentioned in Scripture, he often used the number forty. In particular, there were forty years from the covenant at mount Sinai to the time Israel entered the promised land. Considering also the number of generations from Abraham to Christ via Mary in Lk 3:23-38, this number is considerably larger than forty. Thus, the point is not that on every genealogical path from Abraham to the time of Christ there are forty generations, but that forty generations after Abraham, God began to fulfill his promise that in Abraham's seed (that is, in Christ) all nations will be blessed (Ge 22:18).

Mt 1:23 The manner in which Is 7:14 is quoted in this verse could be explained as follows. As Isaiah was speaking to king Ahaz, he said, שמעו נא בית דוד המעט מכם הלאות אנשים כי תלאו גם את אלהי לכן יתן אדני הוא לכם אות הנה העלמה הרה וילדת בן וקראת שמו עמנו אל "Hear, O house of David. Is it a small thing for you that you weary men that you weary my God also? For this reason the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and thou wilt call his name Emmanuel" (Is 7:13-14). See the next paragraphs for an explanation of this translation. Note that since Mt 1:23 is not spoken to Ahaz, it has καλεσουσιν το ονομα αυτου "they will call his name" instead of "thou wilt call his name" in Is 7:14. The words of Isaiah addressed the future. Thus, the statement that "thou wilt call his name" predicted that after the fulfillment of the sign, Ahaz would have descendants calling the one born of the virgin, Emmanuel. The fulfillment of the statement that "thou wilt call his name Emmanuel" is mentioned in the Scripture. Since Joseph was a descendant of Ahaz (Mt 1:9, 16), the brothers of Jesus were also descendants of Ahaz. As mentioned in Ac 1:14, the brothers of Jesus became believers. Thus, they realized that Jesus was God with them, that is, Emmanuel.

The Lord had a reason when he asked Isaiah to take his son with him to Ahaz (Is 7:3). The Lord said nothing about Isaiah taking his wife with him, and his wife is never mentioned in the passage. Thus, Isaiah's son had something to do with the prophecy, but not Isaiah's wife. The opinion that עלמה in Is 7:14 does not mean "virgin" but "young woman" and that it refers to Isaiah's wife has several issues. First, the wife of Isaiah is not mentioned in the passage. Second, the Lord was speaking about a sign. It was something to be expected, not a sign, that the wife of Isaiah would bear more children and that some of them would be sons. However, a virgin becoming pregnant and bearing a son, that was a clearly a sign from God.

An examination of the passage in Isaiah shows that Is 7:15-16 referred to the time of Ahaz, not to the sign mentioned in Is 7:14. First, it is clear that Is 7:15 and Is 7:16 speak about the same boy, for Is 7:16 begins with כי "for." Moreover, הנער "the boy" in Is 7:16 cannot be redundant. If Is 7:15-16 spoke about the one whose birth was predicted in Is 7:14, then הנער "the boy" would seem redundant. Therefore, הנער "the boy" must refer to Isaiah's son that was with him. Thus, Is 7:15-16 refers to that son of Isaiah, not to Jesus.

In Is 7:14, the form קראת "thou wilt call" has also been interpreted "she will call." However, Ahaz was told that the sign was to the house of David, so for multiple people, not just for one. Since the words were spoken to Ahaz, they had something to do with him also. In the interpretation "she will call," the passage does not say anything about what the sign had to do with Ahaz or the house of David. It does not say whether the house of David would notice it, or how they would respond to it. In the translation "thou wilt call his name Emmanuel," the passage states that the sign would be observed by descendants of Ahaz and that they would acknowledge that God is with them. The issue of Ahaz and of the other important men from the the house of David was that they would not trust God (Is 7:4, 9). They were not trusting that God was with them. Ahaz was offered a sign of his choice that he should trust God (Is 7:11), but he declined the offer (Is 7:12). Then Isaiah mentioned a sign that was to take place anyways, a sign that would convince descendants of Ahaz that God was with them (Is 7:14).

Notable in Is 7:14 is the article of העלמה "the virgin." The article indicates that the virgin had been mentioned somehow before. Most likely, the Lord meant here that he was not speaking for the first time about the virgin, but that he had mentioned her in previous messages. A well-known passage that makes a reference to Mary is Ge 3:15.

The view that the word עלמה does not mean "virgin" but "young woman" cannot be proven from Scripture. Even when Son 6:8 is interpreted as referring to Solomon's harem, the word עלמות still denotes virgins. Indeed, note that the harem of a king is described in the book of Esther. It had two sections, one for women who had been with the king, and another for those who had never been to the king, that is, for the virgins (Est 2:13-14). Now Son 6:8 mentions מלכות "queens," that is wives, פילגשים "concubines," and then עלמות. If Son 6:8 does refer to a harem, the only possibility is that עלמות means "virgins," for what else besides wives and concubines could have been in a harem?

Another interesting observation is that the word of Is 7:14 that is translated "virgin" is עלמה, not בתולה. The word used in Is 7:14 is clearly referring to a woman of marriageable age in Ge 24:43 and Pr 30:19. Additionally, in Ge 24:43, since Abraham's servant was looking for an appropriate wife for Isaac, the word must have implied a virgin. The other word, בתולה, though commonly understood with the meaning "virgin," has not always been used for a virgin. Indeed, note that בתולה by itself is insufficient to indicate virginity, for all of Ge 24:16, Lev 21:3, Jdg 21:12 use the word בתולה with additional words that indicate explicitly virginity. Moreover, this word refers to a young widow in Joel 1:8. In the context of De 22:13, it refers to a married woman that had known her husband (De 22:19). So בתולה appears to refer not only to virgins but also to women who look like virgins in the sense that they have not known man for much time (cf. Eze 23:8). To imply a marriageable age, the word בתולה has been used within the phrase נערה בתולה (Jdg 21:12, Est 2:3). Since Biblical Hebrew must have a word implying virginity and בתולה does not imply it, עלמה must be the word implying virginity. This word that implies virginity is used in Is 7:14. In conclusion, the fact that Is 7:14 has עלמה instead of בתולה emphasizes virginity and a marriageable age.

Mt 2:1 In the original language, the word μαγος "magus" has been used for certain Babylonian officials. It can be associated with the Hebrew word מג of Jer 39:3, 13, where it refers to a high official of Babylon. Now the LXX does not translate Jer 39:13 and transliterates the phrase רב מג of Jer 39:3 as ραβαμαγ. In LXX, μαγος "magus" translates the word אשף in Dan 1:20, 2:2, 10, 27, 4:7 (4), 5:7, 11, 15, where the word אשף is used for certain officials from among the Babylonian wise men.

Since Daniel's wisdom was greatly appreciated in Babylon (Dan 5:10-12), his teachings must have been preserved among Babylonian scholars. The magi who came to Jesus must have been learned men who recognized the signs of the birth of the Messiah based on Old Testament Scriptures and Daniel's interpretation of their content.

Mt 2:11 The reason Joseph is not mentioned could be that he went to greet the magi and invited them in. Thus, Joseph was with the magi when they saw the child and Mary.

Mt 2:15 The statement that εξ αιγυπτου εκαλεσα τον υιον μου "out of Egypt I called my son" refers to the fact that God spoke to Jesus while he was in Egypt. This statement is not about God calling Jesus to leave Egypt, for Mt 2:15 is not in the context of the departure from Egypt. Note that the departure from Egypt is mentioned later, in Mt 2:19-20. Understanding that Jesus was about two-years old when he and his family went to Egypt and that he was born sometime in the interval 10 BC to 8 BC (see the event sequence,) it follows that he spent several years there until the death of Herod. Mt 2:15 mentions that God called Jesus while he was in Egypt. God called Jesus also earlier, even from his mother's womb (Is 49:1).

The verse quoted in Mt 2:15 is Hos 11:1. In the book of Hosea, the Lord responds to the ungodly attitude of the Israelites who generation after generation committed great sins and would not repent. So the Lord was bringing judgments on them to move them to repentance. In the passage of Hos 11:1, after stating several final judgments on the Israelites, the Lord said, בשחר נדמה נדמה מלך ישראל כי נער ישראל ואהבהו וממצרים קראתי לבני "At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off. When Israel was young, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son" (Hos 10:15-11:1). The statement of Hos 10:15 that "at dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off" is the last of the judgments listed in Hos 10:14-15, and so it could be applied to the last king of the northern kingdom of Israel. However, a full interpretation of Hos 10:15 must take in account that the text does not state plainly what king of the northern kingdom is meant, which is quite unusual for an Old Testament passage. It should be noted here that God's response to sin did not consist exclusively in judgments on sinners, but also, most importantly, in the fact that he provided the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. In the context of God saying how he planned to respond to the sin of the people, a reference to the sacrifice for sins would fit perfectly. Since God cannot lose sight of anything, it is impossible to assume that he lost sight of the death of the Messiah, the king of Israel, when he spoke Hos 10:15. The judgment on sin that caused the king of the northern kingdom to die, was incomparably less significant than the judgment on the sin of the world that caused the Messiah to die. Thus, the second part of Hos 10:15 must be primarily about the Messiah. In response to the sin of the Israelites and the sin of the rest of the world, God was bringing about the suffering and death of the Messiah. Note that the Messiah died after three hours of darkness (Mt 27:45, Mk 15:33, Lk 23:44); in this sense, his death was at dawn, as mentioned in Hos 10:15. As for the last king of the northern kingdom of Israel, his name was Hoshea. His Hebrew name was הושע, which is the same as that of the prophet Hosea. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew names translated "Hoshea" and "Jesus" are related. Note that the name "Jesus" translates the same Hebrew name as "Joshua." Now the original name of Joshua was Hoshea. However, Moses changed slightly Joshua's name from הושע "Hoshea" to יהושע "Joshua" (Nu 13:16). The Scripture mentions that king Hoshea did not do as much evil as the kings who reigned before him (2Ki 17:2). Thus, his death was due mainly to God's judgment on the sins of his nation. In this, there is some similarity between Hoshea, a king of Israel, and Jesus, the king of Israel, for Jesus, being without sin, suffered death because of God's judgment on the sins of the world.

In Hos 11:1, the phrase כי נער ישראל "when Israel was young" makes it is difficult to interpret Israel as referring to the nation of Israel because the nation had persons of every age, both young and old. For the same reason, "Israel" cannot refer either to the Israelite believers. However, the phrase כי נער ישראל "when Israel was young" fits the Messiah, for he is called Israel in Is 49:3. Having concluded above that the statement of Hos 10:15 that "the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off" is primarily about the Messiah, it becomes apparent that Hos 11:1 does not change the subject but continues to speak about the Messiah. The statement that "when Israel was young I loved him," indicates that the Messiah responded faithfully when God called him in Egypt. In Hos 11:2, his faithful response is contrasted to the faithless response of those who did not turn to God when they were called but turned to false gods. God spoke from Egypt not only to the Messiah but also to the people of Israel by means of Moses and Aaron. However, the Israelites did not have much faith and that generation perished in the desert. They did not listen to God but listened to those calling them to the worship of pagan gods (Nu 25:1-3, 31:16). The generation that came out of Egypt was under God's wrath (Nu 14:21-23, 27-30, Ps 95:10-11). So the Lord was not speaking about that generation when he said, ואמרת אל פרעה כה אמר יהוה בני בכרי ישראל ואמר אליך שלח את בני ויעבדני "and thou shalt say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to thee, let my son go, and he will serve me'" (Ex 4:22-23). The Lord knew that the generation that came out of Egypt would reject him and that they would not serve him. When he referred to Israel as his firstborn son, he did not mean that the unbelieving generation was his firstborn son but that his firstborn would be from the descendants of that generation and that the firstborn would represent Israel. Though there were many faithful people who lived before the Messiah, their sin separated them from God until the Messiah came and redeemed them. Their adoption as sons did not become effective while they were separated from God. So the Messiah is the firstborn son.

Mt 2:18 The passage indicates that Herod's decree was not limited to Bethlehem but was applied also in Ramah. It is notable that children were killed also in Ramah, since it was not very close to Bethlehem. A possible explanation is as follows. Ge 35:16-20 mentions that when Jacob departed from Bethel and went south on the way to Ephrathah (Bethlehem), Rachel died and Jacob buried her on the way to Ephrathah. The tomb of Rachel was relatively close to Ramah, for Saul met two men near Rachel's tomb, within the territory of Benjamin, after departing from Ramah (1Sa 10:2). That Saul departed from Ramah can be seen in 1Sa 9:6, indicating that he had gone to the city of the prophet. Since Rachel's tomb was on the way to Bethlehem, it follows that Ramah was on that way or close to it. Now 2Ch 16:1 indicates that Ramah controlled the access to the kingdom of Judah from the north. Therefore, it must be that one coming from the north would normally go through Ramah when traveling to Bethlehem. Since Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem from the north, they went through Ramah. When they returned to Nazareth, they must have traveled again through Ramah. Possible reasons for applying Herod's decree in Ramah could have been that Joseph and Mary were seen there, or that people from Bethlehem were there.

The statement that Rachel was weeping for her children could be explained as follows. Ramah was in the territory of Benjamin (Jos 18:25), and its inhabitants returned after the Babylonian exile (Ezr 2:26, Ne 7:30). Since the descendants of Benjamin were also descendants of Rachel, the women who were mourning their loss were associated with Rachel. Just as Jacob sometimes denotes descendants of Jacob (such as in Nu 23:7, De 32:9), so also Rachel denotes here female descendants of Rachel.

Mt 3:16 The text states that the Spirit descended in a manner similar to that of a descending dove, not that the Spirit resembled a dove. In view of Ac 2:3, the Spirit must have resembled fire, not a dove. The phrase καταβαινον ωσει περιστεραν "descending like a dove" appears in both Mt 3:16 and Jn 1:32. Moreover, it appears as ωσει περιστεραν καταβαινον "like a dove descending" in Mk 1:10, and as καταβηναι ... ωσει περιστεραν "descended ... like a dove" in Lk 3:22. In each case, since ωσει "like" is an adverb, it modifies the verb καταβαινω "to descend." Thus, the Spirit was not likened to a dove but the manner in which the Spirit descended was likened to the way a dove would descend.

Mt 5:13 The phrase εις ουδεν ισχυει "it is not good for anything" resembles לא יצלח לכל in Jer 13:7, 10.

Mt 6:25 " ... Is not the soul more valuable than food, and the body than clothing?" Since this is how God regards the soul and the body, one should expect that the Lord will provide that which is less valuable in order to preserve that which is more valuable. Now the passage is addressed to believers (Mt 5:1-2). There are various Scripture passages showing examples in which God has used times of difficulty to bring judgment on sin and to lead people to repentance. Note that in Mt 6:26, 28-30, the Lord makes the point that he provides for parts of his creation that are not nearly as valuable as mankind. Considering this fact, the word πλειον "more" in Mt 6:25 was interpreted as "more valuable."

Mt 8:11-12 Considering the phrase οι υιοι της βασιλειας "the sons of the kingdom," some other related instances in which the word "sons" is used figuratively are as follows. In Mt 9:15 and Mk 2:19, οι υιοι του νυμφωνος "the sons of the bridal room" has been interpreted as referring to friends of the bridegroom. In Mt 12:27 and Lk 11:19, οι υιοι υμων "your sons" has been understood as referring to disciples of the Pharisees. So also the sons of the kingdom must be people who have learned about the kingdom and are more or less friendly towards it. That the sons of the kingdom have heard God's word can be seen in Mt 13:38. However, not everyone who hears God's word responds with saving faith, as illustrated by the parable of the sower (Mt 13:18-23), and as could be seen also in Mt 8:10-12. While every believer has been at some point a son of the kingdom, after he believed with saving faith he became a citizen of the kingdom (cf. Php 3:20). Thus, Mt 8:12 is about the sons of the kingdom that never become citizens of the kingdom; they will be in hell.

Mt 8:21-22 That the word "dead" is used figuratively in Mt 8:22 can be seen from the fact that a dead man cannot bury anyone. The reply of the Lord in Mt 8:22 indicates that the disciple was not one of the "dead," though some of his family, including his father, was in that category. Various passages could be used to determine the figurative meaning of the word "dead." As could be inferred from Jn 10:10, those who do not receive the life that Jesus offers are "dead." In view of Eph 2:1, 5, Col 2:13, people are spiritually "dead" before they believe. Moreover, in view of Jn 5:25, those who believe are no longer "dead," for God changes them inwardly. The new birth mentioned in Jn 3:3-5 refers to this inward change.

In Mt 8:21, the disciple was asking to be released until the death of his father. The answer of the Lord indicates that the disciple had family members (likely sisters and brothers) who were not believers and who were going to take care of the needs of his father. In view of passages such as Mk 7:10-13 and 1Ti 5:7-8, he was still supposed to honor his father, though not in a manner that prevented him from following the Lord.

Mt 9:13 The focus of the Pharisees was on the means by which the law taught, such as on sacrifices, not on what the law taught, such as mercy. By reaching out to those known to be sinners, the Lord was showing love and mercy towards his neighbor. See also the note below on Mt 12:7.

Mt 11:12 "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens has been advancing, and persevering persons have laid hold of it." The words chosen by the Lord in this verse speak of conflict and opposition, just as many other verses of Scripture. The form βιαζεται, translated here "has been advancing," is from the verb βιαζω, which describes one forcing his way, insisting so as to accomplish something. So also the kingdom was penetrating the realm of darkness (Mt 4:16) through the preaching of the good news. The word βιασται, translated here "persevering persons," does not appear elsewhere in the Scripture. However, its meaning could be derived from the verb βιαζω as referring to one forcing his way and insisting. Those who were coming to faith were persevering in spite of the opposition of the darkness. Those who have come to the faith are more than conquerors (Ro 8:37) and have overcome the world (1Jn 5:4). They are strong and have overcome the evil one (1Jn 2:13-14); see also Lk 10:19, Ro 16:20, Eph 6:10-20.

For the translation above, the form βιαζεται was parsed as having the middle voice. Note that βιαζεται can have either the middle voice or the passive voice. Elsewhere in the Scripture, the verb βιαζω is always used at the middle voice, with few exceptions. As shown in the article βιαζω, the form βιαζεται is at the middle voice also in Mt 11:12.

Mt 11:14 This verse provides an example in which the verb ειμι "to be" is used with the meaning "to represent, stand for." Since John and Elijah were two different persons, an explicit translation of the verse is: "and if ye are willing to receive it, he represents Elijah, who is to come." In other words, John the Baptist, who prepared the way of the Lord at his first coming, is a sign that Elijah will prepare the way of the Lord before his second coming.

Mt 12:7 The quoted passage is from Hos 6:6. In its context, Hos 6:6 refers to people without a serious commitment to God, their sacrifices providing merely an appearance of godliness. Such were the Pharisees. Mt 12:7 indicates that the Pharisees did not understand the Scripture, and that their ignorance was making them think that the disciples were breaking the law. Parts of the law teach God's ways directly, by stating plainly what is right and what is wrong. Other parts, however, prescribe sacrifices, rituals, and customs by which people were supposed to learn God's ways. Practicing these commandments without learning their meaning did not please God, for he said "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." Moreover, the commandments were applied correctly when it was understood what they taught. The focus of the Pharisees was not on what was taught (such as mercy) but on the means by which things were taught (such as on sacrifices.) Due to their misplaced focus, they were heeding rules that the law did not state and were rebuking the disciples for not keeping them.

Mt 12:11 The Lord mentioned in various occasions that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath, just as he stated plainly in Mt 12:12. If they believed that it was right to save a sheep on the Sabbath, so as to avoid material loss, they could see that it was right also to save something far more precious than a sheep on the Sabbath. What he said in Mt 12:11 could have reminded the hearers about Is 42:22-24, which speaks about the snares in which people get caught; see also 2Ti 2:25-26. It is interesting to note that the text quotes from the same chapter of Isaiah later, in Mt 12:18-21. By preaching God's word and by demonstrating God's power, the Lord Jesus was using the Sabbath rightly, for he was setting people free from their spiritual bondage and giving them true rest.

Mt 12:21 This verse appears in the context of a quotation from Is 42:1-4. Thus, και εν τω ονοματι αυτου εθνη ελπιουσιν "and in his name peoples will hope" (Mt 12:21) corresponds to ולתורתו איים ייחילו "and for his teaching peoples will hope" (Is 42:4). Here, איים was translated "peoples," which is its meaning in passages such as Is 41:1, 49:1, 51:5. The meaning "peoples" can be derived from the meaning "islands" (Est 10:1) as follows. Inhabited regions of land are "islands" of people, and thus the inhabitants of these regions are denoted by איים, which is the word for "islands" (see איי הגוים in Ge 10:5.) Now תורתו "his law, teaching" in Is 42:4 corresponds to τω ονοματι αυτου "his name" in Mt 12:21. To hope in his name is to hope in the Word of God, for the name of Jesus is the Word of God (Rev 19:13). To hope in the Word of God is to hope that what he has said will be fulfilled, that is, to hope for his teaching. So to hope for his teaching is not to hope that his teaching will come, for the Scriptures have been given, but to expect that what he said will be fulfilled. Note that by using τω ονοματι αυτου "his name" for תורתו "his law, teaching," Mt 12:21 emphasizes that Jesus is the Word of God. The context of Is 42:1-4 is the Lord stating that he would not give his glory to another (Is 42:8) and the fact that idols are nothing (Is 41:29). By refusing to submit to Sabbath traditions, the Lord was showing his unwillingness to give the glory of God's word to traditions. Elevating traditions to the level of God's word is a form of idolatry. Those who opposed Jesus because he healed people on the Sabbath (Mt 12:9-14) were basing their position on traditions.

Mt 12:25 In this passage, the Lord showed his opponents how absurd was their claim that he would cast out Satan by the power of Satan (Mt 12:25-27). In fact, he was demonstrating a power that was incomparably greater than Satan's power (Mt 12:28-29). Those who understood the words of the Lord were urged to get on his side (Mt 12:30) and stop blaspheming (Mt 12:31-32). Those who realized that the Holy Spirit worked through Jesus would have been guilty of the blasphemy of the Spirit if they persisted in speaking evil things about his ministry. Those who blasphemed out of ignorance were not guilty of the blasphemy of the Spirit (1Ti 1:13). The fact that they were speaking evil things was consistent with the corruption of their inner being (Mt 12:33-35). They were warned about judgment in Mt 12:36-37. Apparently, some of them did realize that God could have been involved in the ministry of Jesus, but they did not seem convinced and asked for more signs (Mt 12:38). Sin kept them from seeing more clearly (Mt 12:39, 41-42). In Mt 12:45, the Lord warned that things would get worse for those who did not repent. They were granted temporary relief in order to hear the words of the Lord. By refusing to respond to the message, their spiritual condition was about to become worse than at first.

Mt 12:37 Related is Ro 2:15-16.

Mt 13:24 Since the sower stands for the Lord (Mt 13:37) and the Lord likened the kingdom to the sower, it is plain that the citizens of the kingdom resemble the Lord Jesus (1Jn 4:17).

Mt 13:32 When Jesus came into the world, he brought God's kingdom near. Through his sacrificial death, it became possible for people to become citizens of the kingdom. The first ones to experience this reality were the redeemed of all times that had died before Christ died, who were taken to heaven when he ascended on high (Eph 4:8). Nonetheless, at the time when the parable was spoken, the kingdom had only one human citizen: Jesus. Later, by means of his sacrifice, many became citizens of the kingdom. Thus, just as there is a striking contrast between the smallness of the mustard seed and the size of the mustard tree, so also there is a very sharp contrast between the number of human citizens of the kingdom before and after the coming of the Lord Jesus. So the seed stands for Jesus, and the tree for the citizens of the kingdom. Since the parable states that the kingdom is like the seed, it is plain that the citizens of the kingdom are like Jesus. This parable is related to the words of the Lord in Jn 12:24; because Jesus, the seed, died for the sins of the people, he did not remain alone, that is, he did not remain the only human of the kingdom, but a huge number of people have joined him in heaven.

In the original languages, the word for "every, all" admits minor exceptions. For example, note that in each of Mt 12:31, Mk 3:28-29, 1Co 6:18, and 1Co 15:27, a statement made with "every," "any," or "all" is followed by an exception. Since many hearers of an English translation of Mt 12:32 think that "all" means "absolutely all, with no exceptions," a precise English translation of the verse would be, "That which is smaller than virtually all seeds, when it is grown, is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and dwell in its branches." Similarly, the related statement of the Lord in Mk 4:31 could be translated, "It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than virtually all seeds on the ground." Note that the Greek adjective μικροτερος of Mt 13:32 and Mk 4:31 is a comparative form, not a superlative form, and so it does not have to be translated "smallest" but can be literally translated as "smaller."

Mt 13:33 Related to this verse are the Scripture passages in which the word φυραμα "lump" is used. This word denotes a lump of clay in Ro 9:21, and a lump of dough in Ro 11:16, 1Co 5:6-7, Ga 5:9. In each instance, the word refers figuratively to people. Just as yeast affects the entire batch of dough, so also the Lord impacts and changes every person that is his. Thus, in Mt 13:33, the yeast stands for the Lord, and the dough for the people of the kingdom. Since the parable likens the kingdom to the yeast, it is plain that the people of the kingdom have been changed so as to be like the Lord.

Though the number of believers in a particular country on earth can grow or decrease, the population of God's kingdom is continually increasing; every generation brings more people to heaven. However, since there is a time when the entire batch of dough is leavened, it follows that there is also a time when the kingdom will reach its full number of people. So the population of the kingdom will not grow forever. Now, it should be emphasized that the Lord will wait for those that he knows will become willing to enter the kingdom; he is unwilling that any of them should perish (2Pt 3:9).

Mt 13:38 It is notable that the Lord described the good seed as denoting οι υιοι της βασιλειας "the sons of the kingdom," not the citizens of the kingdom; see the note on Mt 8:11-12 for remarks about the sons of the kingdom. When God's word is sown, the man receiving it is not like a plant growing in a beautiful field but as a plant growing among weeds. This is because he is in the world, and the world is a place where one can easily get among people that oppose God's word and provide opportunities to sin. One can find such people even in the most unexpected places, even among those who are reputed to be religious. Now some of the people who oppose the Lord do repent, while some who hear God's word never come to saving faith. Thus, some "tares" become "wheat" and some "wheat" turns into "tares." However, it seems plain that this is not something that the Lord wished to illustrate through this parable. Rather, he illustrated that the world is not a friendly place for those who turn to him. He also made the point that immature wheat resembles immature tares (Mt 13:26). Now the wheat that matures is very different from the tares that mature. Considering also the parable of the sower, the wheat that matures stands for the sons of the kingdom that come to saving faith and become citizens of the kingdom. Finally, it could be noted that in the parable the weeds were not removed until the harvest (Mt 13:28-30). By this, the Lord indicated that the world will continue to have stumbling blocks and workers of iniquity until he returns (Mt 13:40-42).

Mt 13:44-46 The parable of Mt 13:44 is different from the parable of Mt 13:45-46 in that the former likens the kingdom to a treasure and the latter to a man looking for fine pearls. The kingdom is the kind of treasure that is worth everything that one has, as could be seen in Mt 13:44. Thus, as illustrated in Mt 13:45-46, the citizens of the kingdom are people who have realized the surpassing value of the kingdom, who in order to have it, have placed themselves and all their possessions under the lordship of Jesus Christ. The Lord had a plan from the beginning for his kingdom, and he has been carrying out his plan. Thus, he himself is not like the one who finds the treasure hidden in the field, or like the man who finds a pearl of great value. Rather, the people of the kingdom are those who by God's grace have found the kingdom and realized its surpassing value. Now Mt 13:44 illustrates the value of the kingdom in terms of material possessions, and states that nothing that one may have compares to it. The Lord did not commend the man who purchased the field, for that man sought possessions rather than God's righteousness (note that he made no effort to find out whether somebody else was more entitled to the treasure than himself.)

Mt 13:55-56 The brothers and sisters of the Lord are mentioned also in Mk 6:3. Note that the New Testament Greek has words meaning "cousin" (see ανεψιος in Col 4:10) and "relative" (see συγγενης in Mk 6:4, Lk 1:36, etc.) Since this passage has the Greek words for "brother" and "sister" instead of words denoting cousins or relatives, it follows that the text must refer to literal brothers and sisters of Jesus. Note also that Lk 2:7 states that Jesus was the firstborn son of Mary. (The same is stated in the Byzantine text of Mt 1:25.) Since the word πρωτοτοκος "firstborn" is used instead of μονογενης "only," as for an only child, it follows that Mary had at least one more child after she gave birth to Jesus. Since the plain meaning of Mt 13:55-56 and Mk 6:3 is that literal brothers and sisters of Jesus are meant, and since the Scripture has no passage implying that they were not literal brothers and sisters, it can be concluded that after the virgin birth of Jesus, Mary had children with Joseph, and that she had four more sons and several daughters. See also the note on Jn 19:27. Now the Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would have brothers, for Ps 69:8(9) states, "I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mother's sons." Interesting here is that the brothers are described as "my mother's sons." This is a perfect description of the brothers of the Lord, for they were related to him only through Mary, since Jesus did not have a biological father.

Mt 17:24 The word διδραχμα "two-drachma" translates שקל "shekel", such as in Ex 30:13 and Ne 10:32 (10:33). At the time of Ex 30:13, 38:26, every man that was counted was asked to give half of a shekel for an offering to the Lord. Moreover, at the time of Ne 10, there was a commitment that everyone should give one third of a shekel per year for the service of the house of God (Ne 10:32 (19:33)). It is clear that Mt 17:24 does not mention a Roman tax, for the Lord's answer in Mt 17:25-26 shows that the tax was meant for sacred purposes. Thus, it may be that the tax of Ne 10:32 (10:33) is the tax referred to in Mt 17:24. The difficult economic situation of the people (Ne 5:1-5, 18, 9:36-37) might be why the tax was only one third of a shekel at the time of Ne 10:32 (10:33), three times less than in Mt 17:24-26.

Mt 18:22 It is argued here that εβδομηκοντακις επτα means "77 times," not "70 times 7." By using the number 77, the Lord made a parallel to Ge 4:24, indicating that he was teaching the opposite of Lamech's words. It is not just that the believer must not avenge himself, but also that he should have the same eagerness to forgive as some have to avenge themselves. Note that Ge 4:24 has, כי שבעתים יקם קין ולמך שבעים ושבעה, which is translated, οτι επτακις εκδεδικηται εκ καιν εκ δε λαμεχ εβδομηκοντακις επτα. The phrase εβδομηκοντακις επτα, translating שבעים ושבעה "seventy-seven," appears in exactly the same form in Mt 18:22.

Mt 21:16 In this verse, when Ps 8:2 (8:3) is quoted, the word עז is translated with αινος "praise" and not ισχυς "strength." As can be seen in the following examples, the word עז can also be translated "praise." Moreover, the meaning "praise" fits perfectly Ps 8:2 (8:3), while the meaning "strength" does not fit equally well. Though the word עז commonly means "strength," it can also refer to praise, just as the word כבוד "weight" can mean "glory." The following examples illustrate this point. In 2Ch 30:21, in the context of worship, כלי עז cannot be translated "musical instruments of strength," but should be translated "musical instruments of praise." Considering הבו ליהוה כבוד ועז in 1Ch 16:28, Ps 29:1, 96:7, since עז is parallel to כבוד, a translation "ascribe to the LORD glory and strength" would not fit as well as "give to the LORD glory and praise." Similarly, considering יתר שאת ויתר עז in Ge 49:3, since עז parallels שאת, the interpretation "excellency of exaltation, excellency of strength" does not fit as well as "excellency of exaltation, excellency of praise." The same comment could be made about מטה עז מקל תפארה in Jer 48:17, in which עז parallels תפארה, and the interpretation "the strong staff, the beautiful rod" does not fit as well as "the praised staff, the beautiful rod." Considering also על ישראל גאותו ועזו בשחקים in Ps 68:34 (68:35), note that a translation "his majesty is over Israel and his praise in the heavens" fits perfectly; while his strength is everywhere, both in heavens and on earth, his praise on earth is incomparably smaller than in heaven.

Considering Ps 8:2 (8:3), the enemies of the Lord are primarily fallen angels. Though men too oppose the Lord, they are not even by far comparable in power with fallen angels. An interpretation in which עז means "strength" in Ps 8:2 (8:3) leads to the conclusion that the verse speaks about the proclamation of God's word, for that has power. However, the Scripture has power with men, convicting them and changing them; fallen angels are aware of Scripture and misuse it to promote false teachings. Now an interpretation in which עז means "praise" fits perfectly. For example, Job 1:11 and Job 2:3-5 show that an attitude of praise would have silenced the enemy. Indeed, Job was restored after his confession in Job 42:1-6.

Mt 21:31 The chief priests and the elders were like the son who said that he would do the work, while the big sinners that had repented were like the son who refused the father. The former indicated their intent to be in God's kingdom, but did not do God's will. The latter were already on their way to God's kingdom. By examining the verses in which the verb προαγω "to go before" is used, it is clear that the verb implies that if a person goes before another to a certain destination, then the latter is either going also or will depart later to that destination. It can be inferred, therefore, that some of those who heard Jesus ended up into God's kingdom, though at that time they were either behind the sinners that had repented or had not even started moving towards the kingdom; see also Ac 6:7, 15:5. Others, however, did not end up believing, for the Lord told them that the kingdom of God is taken away from them (Mt 21:43).

This verse does not state that the sinners who had responded and repented were already in God's kingdom, or that they entered the kingdom before those to whom the Lord was speaking. This can be seen by considering the verb προαγω "to go before" which appears at the present tense in οι τελωναι και αι πορναι προαγουσιν υμας εις την βασιλειαν του θεου "the tax collectors and the prostitutes go before you to the kingdom of God." This verb does not imply that those who go before have already reached their destination or that they will reach it before those who are behind. This can be seen in Mt 14:22 and Mk 6:45. When the Lord made the disciples προαγειν αυτον εις το περαν "to go before him to the other side" (Mt 14:22), he did not mean that they were to reach the destination before him, for he departed later (Mt 14:23-25, Mk 6:46-48), came to them while they were still in the boat (Mt 14:26-32, Mk 6:48-51), and arrived together with them to their destination (Mt 14:34, Mk 6:53).

Mt 25:1 It is interesting to notice that this verse compares the kingdom of God to all ten virgins, not just to the five who were prepared. Notable is also the fact that this parable does not have anything similar to "Depart from me" in Lk 13:27, or like "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" in Lk 13:28 and Mt 24:51, 25:30. The parable is in the context of the rapture (Mt 24:40-41). The five prepared virgins are like those who will be taken, and the five unprepared virgins like those who will be left. It indicates how large is the number of those who will be left, for the parable speaks of a 50% proportion, just like Mt 24:40-41. Those who will be left will have some time to repent and become ready for Jesus. Thus, all ten virgins appear to stand for heirs of the kingdom. Half of the virgins stand for those who will know the Lord when he comes to take his church, and half for other people associated with the church who will come to know him later.

Mt 26:12 This anointing of the Lord is mentioned also in Mk 14:8. The Lord Jesus was anointed also a few days earlier, in Jn 12:3. Moreover, Jn 19:39-40 mentions what was used for the anointing of the body of the Lord at his burial. There was also an anointing earlier in the ministry of the Lord that is mentioned in Lk 7:38. The two occasions mentioned in Mt 26:7, Mk 14:8, and Jn 12:3 took place only a few days before the Lord was sacrificed for our sins. His anointing in these occasions had a special significance, for the Lord stated that the anointing was προς το ενταφιασαι με "pointing to my burial" (Mt 26:12). He also said in Mk 14:8 about the woman that anointed him that προελαβεν μυρισαι μου το σωμα εις τον ενταφιασμον "she received in advance the task to anoint my body for my burial," that is, God put it into her heart (she received it from God) to anoint him. Additionally, following the Byzantine text, when the Lord spoke about the perfumed oil in Jn 12:7, he said that εις την ημεραν του ενταφιασμου μου τετηρηκεν αυτο "she has kept it for the day of my burial." This is not understood here as stating that she kept it to be used on the day of burial, but that God arranged that she should keep it and use it in a manner that pointed to the day of burial. Similarly, εις τον ενταφιασμον "for the burial" in Mk 14:8 is understood here to refer to something done so as to point to the burial of Jesus. The possibility that Jesus was prepared for burial when he was anointed in Mt 26:7, Mk 14:8, and Jn 12:3, seems unlikely because the verb ενταφιαζω "to prepare for burial" and the noun ενταφιασμος "preparation for burial" appear to imply a dead body.

The verb ενταφιαζω of Mt 26:12 can be derived from εν "in" and ταφος "tomb" and translates חנט "to embalm" in Ge 50:2. However, closely related to this verb is the adjective ενταφιος, which the Liddell-Scott lexicon defines with the meaning "of or used in burial." Thus, the general meaning of the verb is "to prepare for burial." Closely related to this verb is the noun ενταφιαστης, which in Ge 50:2 refers to the persons who did the embalming. Closely related is also the noun ενταφιασμος referring to the preparation for burial; it appears in Mk 14:8 and Jn 12:7. The preparation for burial was applied to a dead body, and in the case of Jesus is mentioned in Jn 19:39-40, Mt 27:59, Mk 15:46, Lk 23:53.

As Jesus approached the time of his suffering and death, he was anointed twice, first in Jn 12:3 and then in Mt 26:7 and Mk 14:8. After he died, his body was wrapped in linen with the mixture of myrrh and aloes that Nicodemus brought (Jn 19:39-40); the mixture had no less than 100 Roman pounds! All these facts highlight that the sacrifice of the Lord truly was like a pleasing fragrance to God the Father (Eph 5:2). The phrase ריח ניחח "pleasing fragrance" appears often in the Old Testament in the context of sacrifices that are pleasing to God. It corresponds to οσμην ευωδιας "pleasing fragrance" in the New Testament (Eph 5:2, Php 4:18). There is a parallel between the Old Testament sacrifices and the sacrifice of Jesus. In the Old Testament, as a sacrifice was burnt on the altar, there was the pleasing aroma. As the sacrifice was burnt, it was consumed and it went out of sight. In the case of the sacrifice of Jesus, his body went out of sight when it was buried. As his body was buried, there was the pleasing fragrance of the myrrh and aloes used for his burial. It pointed to the fact that God the Father was well pleased with the sacrifice of his son.

Mt 26:28 Considering the verb εκχεω "to pour out" of Mt 26:28 and Mk 14:24, this verb has been used in reference to the pouring out of innocent blood in Mt 23:35, Lk 11:50, Ac 22:20, Ro 3:15, Rev 16:6. However, it has also been used for the pouring out of the Spirit in Ac 2:17, 18, 33, 10:45, Tit 3:6. The fact that the disciples would drink from the same cup fits 1Co 12:13, which states that we all were given to drink for one Spirit. Just as at the Last Supper the disciples drank from the same cup, so also believers drink the same spiritual drink (cf. 1Co 10:4).

Mt 27:46 In this verse, the transliteration of אלי "my God" from Ps 22:1 (22:2) is ηλι "Eli." This transliteration has the benefit that it is consistent with ηλιας, the Greek version of the Hebrew name אליהו "Elijah." Just as in Hebrew אלי "my God" is a prefix of אליהו "Elijah," so also in Greek ηλι "Eli" is a prefix of ηλιας "Elijah." In this way, one could see why some people thought that Jesus was calling Elijah (Mt 27:47, 49). Now the transliteration ελωι of אלי "my God" in Mk 15:34 shows how the Hebrew word was actually pronounced.