Matthew 27

1. When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:
[When the morning was come, &c.] Let us trace a little the proceedings of this council:–
I. They spend the night in judging on a capital cause, which is expressly forbid by their own canon: They handle capital causes in the day time, and finish them by day. Money matters indeed that were begun by day might be ended in the night, which is asserted in that place; but capital causes were only to be handled by day: but here, in sitting upon the life and death of our Saviour, there is need of night and darkness. This judgment is begun in the night, and carried on all the night through in a manner.
II. This night was the evening of a feast day, namely, of the first day of the paschal week, at what time they were also forbid to sit in judgment: “They do not judge on a feast day.” How the lawyers are divided on this point, I will not trouble you now with recounting. This very canon is sufficient ground for scruple, which we leave to them to clear, who, through rancour and hatred towards Christ, seem to slight and trample under feet their own canons.
III. When it was morning. This was the time of saying their phylacteries, namely, from the first daylight to the third hour…Another business that you had in hand (effectually to destroy Jesus), either robbed you of your prayers, or robbed your prayers of charity.
IV. Now appears, the first feast day of the Passover, when they used to present themselves in the Temple and offer their gifts, Exodus 23:15. But when and how was this performed by them today? They take heed of going into the judgment (or Praetor’s) hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat theChagigah, or Passover: but you will scarce find what time they allowed today for that purpose; nor indeed was it lawful for them to eat any thing on that day; it being provided by a canon, “That when the council shall have adjudged any one to die, let them not taste any thing that day.”
[Took counsel to put him to death.] Let that be considered; “Cases of money are heard in the daytime, and may be determined in the night. Capital causes are tried in the day, and finished in the day. Judgment in cases of money is passed the same day, whether it be for fining or acquitting. Judgment in capital causes is passed the same day, if it be for acquitting: but if it be for condemning, it is passed the day after.” The reason of this difference is given by the Gemarists; whom see. The reason of the latter is thus expressed:Blessed is the judge who leaveneth his judgment: that is, as the Gloss, “who delays his judgment, and lets it rest all night, that he may sift out the truth.”
The difference between hear and determine is greater than the reader may perhaps think at first sight. By the word hear they signify the whole process of the trial, the examining of the plaintiff and defendant, and of the witnesses, the taking the votes of the council, and the entering of them by the scribes: determinesignifies only the passing of judgment, or giving a definitive sentence. You may better perceive the difference from the Glossary on Babyl. Sanhedrin: in the text this is decried, Let them not judge on the eve of the sabbath, nor on the eve of a feast day; which is also repeated in other places. The reason of the prohibition is this, namely, that the trials which were begun on the eve of the sabbath, or a feast day, should not be finished on the sabbath or feast day. “Which indeed (saith the Gloss), is observed in pecuniary trials, and care is taken that there be no writing” (for it is forbid to write so much as a letter on the sabbath): “but in capital causes it takes not place upon that account; for the votes of those that acquitted or condemned were written the day before.”
You see in the history of the gospel, 1. The trial concerning our Saviour’s life, was not despatched at one and the same sitting. 2. And that too on a feast-day.
5. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
[Hanged himself.Strangulatus est, was strangled: namely, by the devil, who had now been in him three days together. The words of Peter, Acts 1:18, do not suffer me to understand this of hanging himself.Falling headlong he burst asunder in the midst. Interpreters take a great deal of pains to make these words agree with his hanging himself; but indeed all will not do. I know the word is commonly applied to a man’s hanging himself, but not to exclude some other way of strangling. And I cannot but take the story (with good leave of antiquity) in this sense: After Judas had thrown down the money, the price of his treason, in the Temple, and was now returning again to his mates, the devil, who dwelt in him, caught him up on high, strangled him, and threw him down headlong; so that dashing upon the ground, he burst in the midst, and his guts issued out, and the devil went out in so horrid an exit. This certainly agrees very well with the words of Peter now mentioned, and also with those that follow, “This was known to all that dwelt at Jerusalem.” It agrees also very well with the deserts of the wicked wretch, and with the title of Iscariot. The wickedness he had committed was above all example, and the punishment he suffered was beyond all precedent. There had been many instances of persons who had hanged themselves; this would not so much have stirred up the people of Jerusalem to take notice of it, as such a strangling and throwing down headlong, which we suppose horrible above measure, and singular beyond example. See what we have said at the tenth chapter concerning the word Iscariot.
9. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;
[That which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet.] How much this place hath troubled interpreters, let the famous Beza, instead of many others, declare: “This knot hath hampered all the most ancient interpreters, in that the testimony here is taken out of Zechariah, and not from Jeremiah; so that it seem plainly to have been a failing of memory, as Augustine supposes in his third book, ‘De consensu evagelistarum,’ chapter the seventh; as also Eusebius in the twentieth book of demonstration. But if any one had rather impute this error to the transcribers, or (as I rather suppose) to the unskillfulness of some person, who put in the name of Jeremiah, when the evangelist had writ only, as he often doth in other places, by the prophet, yet we must confess that this error hath long since crept into the Holy Scriptures, as Jerome expressly affirms,” &c.
But (with the leave of so great men) I do not only deny that so much as one letter is spurious, or crept in without the knowledge of the evangelist, but I do confidently assert that Matthew wrote Jeremy, as we read it, and that it was very readily understood and received by his countrymen. We will transcribe the following monument of antiquity out of the Talmudists, and then let the reader judge: “A tradition of the Rabbins. This is the order of the prophets. The Book of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the twelve.” And a little after: “But since Isaiah was before both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, he ought to have been set before them: but since the Book of Kings ends with destruction, and all Jeremiah is about destruction, and since Ezekiel begins with destruction and ends with comfort; and all Isaiah is about comfort, they joined destruction with destruction, and comfort with comfort“: that is, they placed these books together which treat of destruction, and those together which treat of comfort.
You have this tradition quoted by David Kimchi in his preface to Jeremiah. Whence it is very plain that Jeremiah of old had the first place among the prophets: and hereby he comes to be mentioned above all the rest, Matthew 16:14, because he stood first in the volume of the prophets, therefore he is first named. When, therefore, Matthew produceth a text of Zechariah under the name of Jeremy, he only cites the words of the volume of the prophets under his name who stood first in the volume of the prophets. Of which sort is that also of our Saviour, Luke 24:44; “All things must be fulfilled, which are written of me in the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms.” “In the Psalms”; that is, in the Book of Hagiographa, in which the Psalms were placed first.
16. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
[Barabbas.] Bar Abba, a very usual name in the Talmudists: “R. Samuel Barabba, and R. Nathan Barabba.”Abba Bar Abba, In the Jerusalem dialect it is very often uttered Bar Ba: “Simeon Bar Ba.” “R. Chaijah Bar Ba.” This brings to my mind what Josephus relates to have been done in the besieging of the city, When huge stones were thrown against the city by the Roman slings, some persons sitting in the towers gave the citizens warning by a sign to take heed, crying out in the vulgar dialect, ‘The Son cometh,’ that is, Bar Ba. The Son of man indeed then came in the glory of his justice and his vengeance, as he had often foretold, to destroy that most wicked and profligate nation.
19. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
[Have thou nothing to do with that just man.] “When king Sapores went about to afflict Rabbah, his mother sent to him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that Jew,” &c.
26. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
[When he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.] Such was the custom of the Romans towards those that were to be crucified: Whom after he had beaten with whips, he crucified. And a little after, To be whipped before the judgment seat, and to be nailed to the cross.
29. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
[A reed in his right hand.] See those fictions in Tanchum [fol. 59. 4.], concerning an angel that appeared in the shape of Solomon: In whose hand there was a reed: and whom they struck with a reed.
31. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
[Led him away to crucify him.] These things are delivered in Sanhedrim, of one that is guilty of stoning: “If there be no defence found for him, they lead him out to be stoned, and a crier went before, saying aloud thus, ‘N. the son of N. comes out to be stoned, because he hath done so and so. The witnesses against him are N. and N.: whosoever can bring any thing in his defence, let him come forth and produce it.'” On which thus the Gemara of Babylon: “The tradition is, that on the evening of the Passover Jesus was hanged, and that a crier went before him for forty days making this proclamation, ‘This man comes forth to be stoned, because he dealt in sorceries, and persuaded and seduced Israel; whosoever knows of any defence for him, let him come forth and produce it’: but no defence could be found, therefore they hanged him on the evening of the Passover. Ulla saith, His case seemed not to admit of any defence, since he was a seducer, and of such God hath said, ‘Thou shalt not spare him, neither shalt thou conceal him,'” Deuteronomy 13:8.
They led him that was to be stoned out of the city, Acts 7:58: so also him that was to be crucified: “The place of stoning was without the three camps; for at Jerusalem there were three camps,” (namely, God’s, the Levites’, and the people’s, as it was in the encamping in the wilderness:) “and in every city also where there was a council,” (namely, of twenty-three,) “the place of stoning was without the city. For all cities that have walls bear a resemblance to the camp of Israel.”
Because Jesus was judged at a heathen tribunal, therefore a death is inflicted on him not usual with the Jewish council, namely, crucifixion. In several things the circumstances and actions belonging to his death differed from the custom of the Jews in putting persons to death.
1. They never judge two on the same day. But here, besides Christ, are two thieves judged.
2. They never carried one that was to be hanged to hanging till near sunset: They stay till near sunset, and then they pass sentence, and execute him. And the reason is given by the Glosser; “They do not perfect his judgment, nor hang him in the morning, lest they should neglect his burial, and happen to forget themselves,” and the malefactor should hang till after sunset; “but near sunsetting, so that they may bury him out of hand.” But Christ was sentenced to death before noon; and at noon was nailed to the cross. For,
3. They first put the condemned person to death, and then hanged him upon a tree: but the custom of the (Roman) empire is first to hang them, and then to put them to death.
4. They did not openly lament for those that were led forth to be put to death; but for Jesus they did, Luke 23:27,28. The reason of this difference is not to be sought from the kind of the death, but from the persons: They did not bewail for a person led out to execution, but they lamented inwardly in their hearts. You will wonder at the reason which the Gloss thus gives you: “They did not openly bewail him, upon this account, that his being vilified” [when nobody openly lamented him] “might help to atone for him; but they sorrowed for him in their hearts; for this did not tend to his honour, nor lessen the atonement.” Those were better instructed, who lamented for Christ both as to the thing and person.
33. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
[Golgotha.] Beza pretends that this is written amiss for Golgoltha, when yet it is found thus written in all copies. But the good man censures amiss; since such a leaving out of letters in many Syriac words is very usual: you have this word thus written without the second [l], by the Samaritan interpreter, in the first chapter of Numbers.
34. They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
[They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall.] “To those that were to be executed they gave a grain ofmyrrh infused in wine to drink, that their understanding might be disturbed,” (that is, that they might lose their senses); “as it is said, ‘Give strong drink to them that are ready to die, and wine to those that are of a sorrowful heart,’ &c. And the tradition is, That some women of quality in Jerusalem allowed this freely of their own cost,” &c.
But it makes a scruple that in Matthew it is vinegar with gall; in Mark wine mingled with myrrh. If wine, why is it called vinegar? If wine mingled with myrrh, why gall? Ans. The words of Mark seem to relate to the custom of the nation; those of Matthew, to the thing as it was really acted. I understand Mark thus, They gave him, according to the custom of the nation, that cup which used to be given to those that were led to execution; but (as Matthew has it) not the usual mixture; namely, wine and frankincense, or myrrh; but for the greater mockery, and out of more bitter rancour, vinegar and gall. So that we may suppose this cup not to have been prepared by those honourable women, compassionating those that were to die, but on purpose by the scribes, and the other persecutors of Christ, studying to heap upon him all kind of ignominy and vexation. In this cup they afterward dipped a sponge, as may be supposed: see the 48th verse.
35. And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
[Parted my garments.] Of stoning, we have this account; “When he is now four cubits from the place of stoning, they strip him of his clothes; and if it be a man, they hang a cloth before him; if a woman, both before and behind. These are the words of R. Juda: but the wise say, A man is stoned naked, a woman not naked.” So that it is plain enough he was crucified naked.
38. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
[Two thieves.] See, in Josephus, who they were that, at that time, were called thieves, and how much trouble and pains the governors of Judea were at to restrain and root out this cursed sort of men: “One Simon, straggling about with the robbers with whom he associated, burnt the palaces in Jericho.” “[Felix] having caught the chief robber Eleazar, who for twenty years had wasted the country with fire and sword, sent him to Rome, and many others with him.” “Another kind of robbers sprang up in Jerusalem, called sicarii, who slew men in the day time, and in the midst of the city,” &c.
There is a rule set down, and the art shewed, of discovering and apprehending robbers: “Go to the victualling-houses at the fourth hour” (the Gloss, “That was the hour of eating, and they went all to the victualling-houses to eat”); “and if you see there a man drinking wine, and holding the cup in his hand, and sleeping, &c., he is a thief; lay hold on him,” &c.
Among the monsters of the Jewish routs, preceding the destruction of the city, the multitude of robbers, and the horrible slaughters committed by them, deservedly claim the first consideration; which, next to the just vengeance of God against that most wicked nation, you may justly ascribe to divers originals.
1. It is no wonder, if that nation abounded beyond measure with a vagabond, dissolute, and lewd sort of young men; since, by means of polygamy, and the divorces of their wives at pleasure, and the nation’s unspeakable addictedness to lasciviousness and whoredoms, there could not but continually spring up bastards, and an offspring born only to beggary or rapine, as wanting both sustenance and ingenuous education.
2. The foolish and sinful indulgence of the council could not but nurse up all kind of broods of wicked men, while they scarce ever put any one to death, though never so wicked, as being an Israelite; who must not by any means be touched.
3. The opposition of the Zealots to the Roman yoke made them study only to mischief the Romans, and do all the mischief they could to those Jews that submitted to them.
4. The governors of Judea did often, out of policy, indulge a licentiousness to such kind of rapines, that they might humble that people they so much hated, and which was continually subject to insurrections, by beating them, as it were, with their own clubs; and sometimes getting a share in the booty. Thus Josephus concerning Florus: “He spoiled all the people, and he did in effect proclaim, that all might go out in the country to rob, that he might receive a share in the spoils.” And thus a sword, that first came out of their own bowels, was sheathed in them.
39. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
[Wagging their heads.] To shake the head, with the Rabbins, signifies irreverence and lightness.
46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
[Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.] I. All the rout indeed and force of hell was let loose at that time against Christ, without either bridle or chain: he calls it himself, the power of darkness, Luke 22:53. God who had foretold of old, that the serpent should bruise the heel of the promised seed, and now that time is come, had slackened the devil’s chain, which, in regard of men, the Divine Providence used to hold in his hand; so that all the power and all the rancour of hell might, freely and without restraint, assault Christ; and that all that malice that was in the devil against the whole elect of God, summed up and gathered together into one head, might at one stroke and onset be brandished against Christ without measure.
II. Our most blessed Saviour, therefore, feeling such torments as either hell itself, or the instruments of hell, men conspiring together in villainy and cruelty, could pour out upon him, cries out, under the sharpness of the present providence, “My God! my God! why hast thou delivered me up and left me to such assaults, such bitternesses, and such merciless hands?” The Talmudists bring in Esther using such an ejaculation, which is also cited in the Gloss on Joma: “Esther stood in the inner court of the palace. R. Levi saith, When she was now just come up to the idol-temple, the divine glory departed from her: therefore she said, Eli, Eli, lamma azabhtani.”
47,49. Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
[This man calleth for Elias. Let us see whether Elias will come to save him.] That Christ here used the Syriac dialect, is plain from the word sabachthani: but the word Eli, Eli, is not so properly Syriac: and hence arose the error and misconstruction of the standers by. In Syriac he should have said, Mari, Mari: but Eli was strange to a Syrian ear: this deceived the standers-by, who, having heard more than enough of the apparitions of Elias from the Jewish fables, and being deceived by the double meaning of the word, supposed that Christ was tainted with the same folly and mistake, and called out to Elias for help; which it was no strange thing for that deluded people to expect.
51. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
[The veil of the Temple was rent in twain, &c.] Let us hear what the Fathers of the Traditions say concerning this catapetasm or veil: “The wall of the pronaon was five cubits, the pronaon itself eleven. The wall of the Temple was six, the Temple forty. The taraxis one cubit, and the entrance, twenty.” Whattaraxis means, Maimonides will tell you; “In the first Temple there was a wall one cubit thick, separating the Holy from the Holy of Holies; but when they built the second Temple, it was doubted whether the thickness of that wall should be accounted to belong to the measure of the Holy, or to the measure of the Holy of Holies. Wherefore they made the Holy of Holies twenty cubits complete, and the Holy forty cubits complete; and they left a void cubit between the Holy and the Holy of Holies, but they did not build any wall there in the second Temple: only they made two hangings, one contiguous to the Holy of Holies, and the other to the Holy; between which there was a void cubit, according to the thickness of the wall that was in the first Temple; in which there was but one catapetasm [or veil] only.”
“The high priest [on the day of atonement] goes forward in the Temple, till he comes to the two hangings that divide the Holy from the Holy of Holies, between which there was a cubit. R. Josi saith, There was but one hanging there; as it is said, ‘And the hanging shall separate [to, or] between the Holy and the Holy of Holies.'” On which words thus the Gemara of Babylon: “R. Josi saith rightly to the Rabbins, and the Rabbins to thee: for he speaks of the tabernacle, and they, of the second Temple; in which since there was not a partition-wall, as there was in the first Temple, there was some doubt made of its holiness, namely, whether it should belong to the outward part of the Temple or to the inward; whereupon they made two hangings.”
While, therefore, their minds were troubled about this affair, not knowing whether they should hang the veil at the Temple, or at the inmost recess of it, and whether the void space between of a cubit thick should belong to this or that; they called the place itself by the Greek word taraxis, that is, trouble, as Aruch plainly affirms, and they hung up two veils, that they might be sure to offend neither against this part nor that.
You will wonder, therefore, that Matthew doth not say veils, in the plural; or perhaps you will think that only one of these two veils was rent, not both. But it was enough for the evangelists Matthew and Mark, who speak of this miracle, to have shewed that that fence between, which hindered seeing into the Holy of Holies, and going into it, was cleft and broken. This is it they mean, not being solicitous in explaining particulars, but contented to have declared the thing itself. Perhaps the priest, who offered the incense that evening, was in the Temple at the very moment when this miracle happened: and when he went out amazed to the people, and should tell them, The veil of the Temple is rent it would easily be understood of a passage broken into the Holy of Holies by some astonishing and miraculous rending of the hangings. Compare Hebrews 10:19,20.
When the high priest went into the inmost recess of the Temple on the day of atonement, he went in by the south side of the outward hanging, and the north side of the inner. But now both are rent in the very middle, and that from the top to the bottom.
52. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
[And many bodies of saints which slept arose.] You can hardly impute the rending of the hangings to the earthquake, but it must be ascribed rather to another peculiar miracle; since it is more proper for an earthquake to break hard things than soft, and to rend rocks rather than curtains. Rocks were rent by it in those places where sepulchres had been built, so that now the gates of the resurrection were thrown open, the bonds of the grave were unloosed, and the bodies of dead men were made ready, as it were, for their rising again when Christ, the firstfruits, was raised. The Jews had a fancy that the kingdom of the Messias would begin with the resurrection of the dead, as we have noted before; vainly indeed, as to their sense of it; but not without some truth, as to the thing itself: for from the resurrection of Christ the glorious epoch of the kingdom of God took its beginning, as we said before (which he himself also signifieth in those words Matthew 26:29); and when he arose, not a few others arose with him. What they thought of the resurrection that was to be in the days of Messias, besides those things which we have already mentioned, you may see and smile at in this one example: “R. Jeremiah commanded, ‘When you bury me, put shoes on my feet, and give me a staff in my hand, and lay me on one side; that when the Messias comes I may be ready.'”
54. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
[Truly this was the Son of God.] That is, “This was indeed the Messias.” Howsoever the Jews deny the Son of God in that sense in which we own it, that is, as the second Person in the Holy Trinity, yet they acknowledge the Messias for the Son of God (not indeed by nature, but by adoption and deputation; see Matthew 26:63), from those places, 1 Chronicles 17:13; Psalm 2:12, 89:26,27, and such-like. The centurion had learned this from the people by conversing among them, and, seeing the miracles which accompanied the death of Christ, acknowledged him to be the Messias of whom he had heard so many and great things spoken by the Jews. In Luke we have these words spoken by him, “Certainly this was a righteous man”: which, I suppose, were not the same with these words before us; but that both they and these were spoken by him, “Certainly this was a righteous man: truly this was the Messias, the Son of God.” Such are the words of Nathanael, John 1:49, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Peter, when he declared that “Christ was the Son of the living God,” Matthew 16:16, spoke this in a more sublime sense than the Jews either owned or knew; as we have said at that place.
56. Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.
[Mary Magdalene.] That Magdalene was the same with Mary the sister of Lazarus Baronius proves at large; whom see. It is confirmed enough from this very place; for if Mary Magdalene was not the same with Mary the sister of Lazarus, then either Mary the sister of Lazarus was not present at the crucifixion of Christ, and at his burial, or else she is passed over in silence by the evangelists; both which are improbable. Whence she was called Magdalene, doth not so plainly appear; whether from Magdala, a town on the lake of Gennesaret, or from the word which signifies a plaiting or curling of the hair, a thing usual with harlots. Let us see what is spoken by the Talmudists concerning Mary Magdala, who, they say, was mother of Ben Satda:
“They stoned the son of Satda in Lydda, and they hanged him up on the evening of the Passover. Now this son of Satda was son of Pandira. Indeed, Rabh Chasda said, ‘The husband [of his mother] was Satda; her husband was Pandira; her husband was Papus the son of Juda: but yet I say his mother was Satda, namely, Mary, the plaiter of women’s hair; as they say in Pombeditha, she departed from her husband.'” These words are also repeated in Schabath: “Rabh Bibai, at a time when the angel of death was with him, said to his officer, Go, bring me Mary the plaiter of women’s hair. He went and brought to him Mary, the plaiter of young men’s hair,” &c. The Gloss; “The angel of death reckoned up to him what he had done before: for this story of Mary, the plaiter of women’s hair, was under the second Temple, for she was the mother of N., as it is said in Schabath.” See the Gloss there at the place before quoted.
“There are some who find a fly in their cup, and take it out and will not drink; such was Papus Ben Judas, who locked the door upon his wife, and went out.” Where the Glosser says thus; “Papus Ben Juda was the husband of Mary, the plaiter of women’s hair; and when he went out of his house into the street, he locked his door upon his wife, that she might not speak with anybody; which, indeed, he ought not to have done: and hence sprang a difference between them, and she broke out into adulteries.”
I pronounce ‘Ben Satda,’ not that I am ignorant that it is called ‘Ben Stada’ by very learned men. The reason of our thus pronouncing it we fetch from hence, that we find he was called Ben Sutdah by the Jerusalem Talmudists; to which the word Satda more agrees than Stada. By the like agreement of sounds they call the same town both Magdala, and Mugdala, as we have observed elsewhere.
As they contumeliously reflect upon the Lord Jesus under the name of Ben Satda, so there is a shrewd suspicion that, under the name of Mary Magdala, they also cast reproach upon Mary Magdalene. The title which they gave their Mary is so like this of ours, that you may with good reason doubt whether she was called Magdalene from the town Magdala, or from that word of the Talmudists, a plaiter of hair. We leave it to the learned to decide.
[Joses.] Josi; a very usual name in the Talmudists: “Five were called Be R. Josi, Ismael, Lazar, Menahem, Chelpatha, Abdimus.” Also, “R. Jose Ben R. Chaninah,” &c. One may well inquire why this Mary is called the mother of ‘James and Joses,’ and not also of ‘Judas and Simon,’ as Mark 6:3.
58. He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.
[Begged the body of Jesus.] It was not lawful to suffer a man to hang all night upon a tree, Deuteronomy 21:23: nay, nor to lie all night unburied: “Whosoever suffers a dead body to lie all night unburied violates a negative precept. But they that were put to death by the council were not to be buried in the sepulchres of their fathers; but two burying-places were appointed by the council, one for those that were slain by the sword and strangled, the other for those that were stoned [who also were hanged] and burnt.” There, according to the custom, Jesus should have been buried, had not Joseph, with a pious boldness, begged of Pilate that he might be more honourably interred: which the fathers of the council, out of spite to him, would hardly have permitted, if they had been asked; and yet they did not use to deny the honour of a funeral to those whom they had put to death, if the meanness of the common burial would have been a disgrace to their family. As to the dead person himself, they thought it would be better for him to be treated dishonourably after death, and to be neither lamented nor buried; for this vilifying of him they fancied amounted to some atonement for him; as we have seen before. And yet, to avoid the disgrace of his family, they used, at the request of it, to allow the honour of a funeral.

Matthew 26

Of the present Authority of the Council, and of its Place.
3. Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas.
[Assembled together unto the palace of the high priest.] Those ominous prodigies are very memorable, which are related by the Talmudists to have happened forty years before the destruction of the Temple.
“A tradition. Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, the western candle” (that is, the middlemost in the holy candlestick) “was put out. And the crimson tongue” (that was fastened to the horns of the scapegoat, or the doors of the Temple) “kept its redness. And the lot of the Lord” (for the goat that was to be offered up on the day of Expiation) “came out on the left hand. And the gates of the Temple, which were shut over night, were found open in the morning. Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai said, ‘Therefore, O Temple, wherefore dost thou trouble us? we know thy fate; namely, that thou art to be destroyed: for it is said, Open, O Lebanon, thy gates, that the flame may consume thy cedars.'” “A tradition. Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, judgment in capital causes was taken away from Israel.” “Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, the council removed and sat in the sheds.”
With these two last traditions lies our present business. What the Jews said, John 18:31, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death, signifies the same thing with the tradition before us, “Judgments in capital causes are taken away from Israel.” When were they first taken away? “Forty years before the destruction of the Temple,” say the Talmudists: no doubt before the death of Christ; the words of the Jews imply so much. But how were they taken away? It is generally received by all that the Romans did so far divest the council of its authority, that it was not allowed by them to punish any with death; and this is gathered from those words of the Jews, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.”
But if this, indeed, be true, 1. What do then those words of our Saviour mean, they will deliver you up to the councils? 2. How did they put Stephen to death? 3. Why was Paul so much afraid to commit himself to the council, that he chose rather to appeal to Caesar?
The Talmudists excellently well clear the matter: “What signifieth that tradition (say they) of the removal of the council forty years before the ruin of the Temple? Rabh Isaac Bar Abdimi saith, ‘It signifieth thus much, that they did not judge of fines.'” And a little after; “But R. Nachman Bar Isaac saith, ‘Do not say that it did not judge of fines, but that it did not judge in capital causes.’ And the reason was this, because they saw murderers so much increase that they could not judge them. They said therefore, ‘It is fit that we should remove from place to place, that so we may avoid the guilt.'” That is, the number and boldness of thieves and murderers growing so great that, by reason thereof, the authority of the council grew weak, and neither could nor dared put them to death. “It is better (say they) for us to remove from hence, out of this chamber Gazith, where, by the quality of the place, we are obliged to judge them, than that, by sitting still here, and not judging them, we should render ourselves guilty.” Hence it is that neither in the highest nor in the inferior councils any one was punished with death. (“For they did not judge of capital matters in the inferior councils in any city, but only when the great council sat in the chamber Gazith,” saith the Gloss.) The authority of them was not taken away by the Romans, but rather relinquished by themselves. The slothfulness of the council destroyed its own authority. Hear it justly upbraided in this matter: “The council which puts but one to death in seven years is called Destruction. R. Lazar Ben Azariah said, ‘Which puts one to death in seventy years.’ R. Tarphon and R. Akiba said, ‘If we had been in the council’ (when it judged of capital matters), ‘there had none ever been put to death by it.’ R. Simeon Ben Gamaliel said, ‘These men have increased the number of murderers in Israel.'” Most certainly true, O Simeon! for by this means the power of the council came to be weakened in capital matters, because they, either by mere slothfulness, or by a foolish tenderness, or, as indeed the truth was, by a most fond estimation of an Israelite as an Israelite, they so far neglected to punish bloodshed and murder, and other crimes, till wickedness grew so untractable that the authority of the council trembled for fear of it, and dared not kill the killers. In this sense their saying must be understood, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: their authority of judging not being taken from them by the Romans, but lost by themselves, and despised by their people.
Notwithstanding it was not so lost, but that sometimes they exercised it; namely, when they observed they might do it safely and without danger. “Dat veniam corvis,” &c spares crows, but vexeth pigeons. Thieves, murderers, and wicked men armed with force, they dared not call into their judgment; they were afraid of so desperate a crew: but to judge, condemn, torture, and put to death poor men and Christians, from whom they feared no such danger, they dreaded it not, they did not avoid it. They had been ready enough at condemning our Saviour himself to death if they had not feared the people, and if Providence had not otherwise determined of his death.
We may also, by the way, add that also which follows after the place above cited, In the day of Simeon Ben Jochai, judgments of pecuniary matters were taken away from Israel. In the same tract this is said to have been in “the days of Simeon Ben Shetah,” long before Christ was born: but this is an error of the transcribers.
But now, if the Jewish council lost their power of judging in pecuniary causes by the same means as they lost it in capital, it must needs be that deceits, oppressions, and mutual injuries were grown so common and daring that they were let alone, as being above all punishment. The Babylonian Gemarists allege another reason; but whether it be only in favour of their nation, this is no fit place to examine.
That we may yet further confirm our opinion, that the authority of that council in capital matters was not taken away by the Romans, we will produce two stories, as clear examples of the thing we assert: one is this; “R. Lazar son of R. Zadok said, ‘When I was a little boy, sitting on my father’s shoulders, I saw a priest’s daughter that had played the harlot compassed round with fagots and burnt.'” The council no doubt judging and condemning her, and this after Judea had then groaned many years under the Roman yoke; for that same R. Lazar saw the destruction of the city.
The other you have in the same tract, where they are speaking of the manner of pumping out evidence against a heretic and seducer of the people: “They place (say they) two witnesses in ambush, in the inner part of the house, and him in the outward, with a candle burning by him that they may see and hear him. Thus they dealt with Ben Satda in Lydda. They placed two disciples of the wise in ambush for him, and they brought him before the council, and stoned him.” The Jews openly profess that this was done to him in the days of R. Akiba, long after the destruction of the city; and yet then, as you see, the council still retained its authority in judging of capital causes. They might do it for all the Romans, if they dared do it to the criminals.
But so much thus far concerning its authority: let us now speak of its present seat. “The council removed from the chamber Gazith to the sheds, from the sheds into Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Jafne, from Jafne to Osha, from Osha to Shepharaama, from Shepharaama to Bethshaarim, from Bethshaarim to Tsippor, from Tsippor to Tiberias,” &c. We conjecture that the great bench was driven from its seat, the chamber Gazith, half a year, or thereabout, before the death of Christ; but whether they sat then in the sheds [a place in the Court of the Gentiles] or in the city, when they debated about the death of Christ, does not clearly appear, since no authors make mention how long it sat either here or there. Those things that are mentioned in chapter 27:4-6, seem to argue that they sat in the Temple; these before us, that they sat in the city. Perhaps in both places; for it was not unusual with them to return thither, as occasion served, from whence they came; only to the chamber Gazith they never went back. Whence the Gloss upon the place lately cited, “They sat in Jafne in the days of Rabban Jochanan; in Osha, in the days of Rabban Gamaliel; for they returned from Osha to Jafne,” &c. Thus the council, which was removed from Jerusalem to Jafne before the destruction of the city, returned thither at the feast, and sat as before. Hence Paul is brought before the council at Jerusalem when Jafne at that time was its proper seat. And hence Rabban Simeon, president of the council, was taken and killed in the siege of the city; and Rabban Jochanan his vice-president was very near it, both of them being drawn from Jafne to the city, with the rest of the bench, for observation of the Passover.
Whether the hall of the high priest were the ordinary receptacle for the council, or only in the present occasion, we do not here inquire. It is more material to inquire concerning the bench itself, and who sat president in judging. The president of the council at this time was Rabban Gamaliel, (Paul’s master,) and the vice-president, Rabban Simeon his son, or Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai (which we do not dispute now). Whence therefore had the chief priest, here and in other places, the precedence and the chief voice in judging? For thus in Stephen’s case the high priest is the chief of the inquisition, Acts 7:1; also in Paul’s case, Acts 23:2, see also Acts 9:1. Had the priests a council and judgment seat of their own? or might they in the chief council, when the president was absent, hear causes of life and death? To this long question, and that enough perplexed, we reply these few things:
I. We confess, indeed, that the priests had a bench and council of their own, yet denying that there was a double council, one for ecclesiastical, the other for civil affairs, as some would have it.
We meet often with mention of the chamber of the counsellors, next the court…Concerning which thus the Babyl. Joma: “The tradition of R. Juda. What, was it the chamber of? Was it not the chamber of the counsellors? At first it was called the chamber of the counsellors: but when the high priesthood came to be bought with money, and changed yearly as the king’s presidents are changed every year, from that time forward it was called the chamber of the presidents.”
Hear the Glosser on this place: “The high priests were wicked, and did not fulfil their whole year; and he that succeeded the other changed this building and adorned it, that it might be called by his own name.” Hear also the Gemara: “The first Temple stood four hundred and ten years, and there were not above eighteen priests under it. The second stood four hundred and twenty years, and there were more than three hundred under it. Take out forty years of Simeon the Just, eighty of Jochanan, ten of Ismael Ben Phabi, and eleven of Eleazar Ben Harsum, and there doth not remain one whole year to each of the rest.”
Behold the chamber of the counsellors, properly so called, because the priests did meet and sit there not to judge, but to consult; and that only of things belonging to the Temple! Here they consulted, and took care that all persons and things belonging and necessary to the worship of God should be in readiness; that the buildings of the Temple and the courts should be kept in repair; and that the public Liturgy should be duly performed: but in the meantime they wanted all power of judging and punishing; they had not authority to fine, scourge, or put to death, yea, and in a word, to exercise any judgment; for by their own examination and authority they could not admit a candidate into the priesthood, but he was admitted by the authority of the council: “In the chamber Gazith sat the council of Israel, and held the examinations of priests: whosoever was not found fit was sent away in black clothes, and a black veil; whosoever was found fit was clothed in white, and had a white veil, and entered and ministered with his brethren the priests.”
2. We meet also with mention of the council house of the priests. “The high priests made a decree, and did not permit an Israelite to carry the scapegoat into the wilderness.” But in the Gloss, The council of the priests did not permit this. “The council of the priests exacted for the portion of a virgin four hundred zuzees, and the wise men did not hinder it.”
First, This was that council of which we spoke before in the chamber of the counsellors. Secondly, That which was decreed by them concerning the carrying away of the scapegoat belonged merely to the service of the Temple, as being a caution about the right performance of the office in the day of atonement. Thirdly, and that about the portion of a virgin was nothing else but what any Israelite might do: and so the Gemarists confess; “If any noble family in Israel (say they) would do what the priests do, they may.” The priests set a price upon their virgins, and decreed by common consent, that not less than such a portion should be required for them; which was lawful for all the Israelites to do for their virgins if they pleased.
3. There is an example brought of “Tobias a physician, who saw the new moon at Jerusalem, he and his son, and his servant whom he had freed. The priests admitted him and his son for witnesses, his servant they rejected: but when they came before the bench, they admitted him and his servant, and rejected his son.” Observe, 1. That the council is here opposed to the priests. 2. That it belonged to the council to determine of the new moon, because on that depended the set times of the feasts: this is plain enough in the chapter cited. 3. That what the priests did was matter of examination only, not decree.
4. “The elders of the city (Deut 22:18) are the triumvirate bench”: ‘at the gate’ (v 24) means the bench of the chief priest. The matter there in debate is about a married woman, who is found by her husband to have lost her virginity, and is therefore to be put to death: Deuteronomy 22:13, &c. In that passage, among other things, you may find these words, verse 18: “And the elders of that city shall lay hold of that man and scourge him.” The Gemarists take occasion from thence to define what the phrase there and in other places means, “The elders of the city”: and what is the meaning of the word gate, when it relates to the bench: “That (say they) signifies the triumvirate bench: this the bench or council of the high priest”: that is, unless I be very much mistaken, every council of twenty-three; which is clear enough both from the place mentioned and from reason itself:
1. The words of the place quoted are these: “R. Bon Bar Chaija inquired before R. Zeira, What if the father [of the virgin] should produce witnesses which invalidate the testimony of the husband’s witnesses? if the father’s witnesses are proved false, he must be whipped, and pay a hundred selaim in the triumvirate court; but the witnesses are to be stoned by the bench of the twenty-three, &c. R. Zeira thought that this was a double judgment: but R. Jeremias, in the name of R. Abhu, that it was but a single one: but the tradition contradicts R. Abhu; for To the elders of the city, verse 5, is, To the triumvirate-bench, but at the gate, means the bench of the high priest.” It is plain, that the bench of the high priest is put in opposition to the triumvirate bench; and, by consequence, that it is either the chief council, or the council of the twenty-three, or some other council of the priests, distinct from all these. But it cannot be this third, because the place cited in the Talmudists, and the place in the law cited by the Talmudists, plainly speak of such a council, which had power of judging in capital causes. But they that suppose the ecclesiastical council among the Jews to have been distinct from the civil, scarce suppose that that council sat on capital causes, or passed sentence of death; much less is it to be thought that that council sat only on life and death; which certainly ought to be supposed from the place quoted, if the council of the high priestdid strictly signify such a council of priests. Let us illustrate the Talmudical words with a paraphrase: R. Zeira thought, that that cause of a husband accusing his wife for the loss of her virginity belonged to the judgment of two benches; namely, of the triumvirate, which inflicted whipping and pecuniary mulcts; and of the ‘twenty-three,’ which adjudged to death; but Rabbi Abhu thinks it is to be referred to the judgment of one bench only. But you are mistaken, good Rabbi Abhu; and the very phrase made use of in this case refutes you; for the expression which is brought in, “To the elders of the city,” signifies the triumviral bench; and the phrase, “at the gate,” signifies the bench of twenty-three; for the chief council never at in the gate.
2. Now the council of twenty-three is called by the Talmudists the bench, or the council of the chief priest, alluding to the words of the lawgiver, Deuteronomy 17:9, where the word priests denotes the inferior councils, and judge the chief council.
II. In the chief council, the president sat in the highest seat, (being at this time, when Christ was under examination, Rabban Gamaliel, as we said); but the high priest excelled him in dignity everywhere: for the president of the council was chosen not so much for his quality, as for his learning and skill in traditions. He was (a phrase very much used by the author of Juchasin, applied to presidents), that is, keeper, father, and deliver of traditions; and he was chosen to this office, who was fittest for these things. Memorable is the story of Hillel’s coming to the presidentship, being preferred to the chair for this only thing, because he solved some doubts about the Passover, having learned it, as he saith himself, from Shemaiah and Abtalion. We will not think it much to transcribe the story: “The sons of Betira once forgot a tradition: for when the fourteenth day [on which the Passover was to be celebrated] fell out on the sabbath, they could not tell whether the Passover should take place of the sabbath or no. But they said, There is here a certain Babylonian, Hillel by name, who was brought up under Shemaiah and Abtalion; he can resolve us whether the Passover should take place of the sabbath or no. They sent therefore for him, and said to him, ‘Have you ever heard in your life, [that is, have you received any tradition,] whether, when the fourteenth day falls on the sabbath, the Passover should take place of the sabbath or no?’ He answered, ‘Have we but one Passover that takes place of the sabbath yearly? or are there not many Passovers that put by the sabbath yearly? namely, the continual sacrifice.’ He proved this by arguments a pari, from the equality of it, from the less to the greater, &c. But they did not admit of this from him, till he said, ‘May it thus and thus happen to me, if I did not hear this of Shemaiah and Abtalion.’ When they hear this they immediately submitted, and promoted him to the presidentship,” &c.
It belonged to the president chiefly to sum up the votes of the elders, to determine of a tradition, to preserve it, and transmit it to posterity; and, these things excepted, you will scarce observe any thing peculiar to him in judging which was not common to all the rest. Nothing therefore hindered but that the high priest and the other priests (while he excelled in quality, and they in number) might promote acts in the council above the rest, and pursue them with the greatest vigour; but especially when the business before them was about the sum of religion, as it was here, and in the examples alleged of Paul and Stephen. It was lawful for them, to whose office it peculiarly belonged to take care of scared things, to show more officious diligence in matters where these were concerned than other men, that they might provide for their fame among men, and the good of their places. The council, indeed, might consist of Israelites only, without either Levites or priests, in case such could not be found fit: “Thus it is commanded that in the great council there should be Levites and priests; but if such are not to be found, and the council consists of other Israelites only, it is lawful.” But such a scarcity of priests and Levites is only supposed, was never found; they were always a great part, if not the greatest, of the council. Rabban Jochanan Ben Zacchai, the priest, was either now vice-president of the council, or next to him. Priests were everywhere in such esteem with the people and with the council, and the dignity and veneration of the high priest was so great, that it is no wonder if you find him and them always the chief actors, and the principal part in that great assembly.
6. Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper.
[Now when Jesus was in Bethany, &c.] That this supper in Bethany was the same with that mentioned John 13, I dare venture to affirm; however that be taken by very many for the paschal supper. Let us examine the matter a little home:
I. This supper was before the Passover; so was that: that this was, none need doubt; no more may they of the other, if we consider these things:
1. It is said by John in express words, before the feast of the Passover, verse 1, Passover, indeed, not seldom signifies the lamb itself; sometimes the very time of eating the lamb; sometimes the sacrifice of the day following, as John 18:28. But the feast of the Passover, alway signifies the whole seven days’ paschal feast, both in the language of the Scripture and of the Talmudists: a Jew would laugh at one that should interpret it otherways.
2. When Christ said to Judas going out, “What thou doest, do quickly,” some thought he meant this, “Buy those things that we have need of against the feast,” at the twenty-ninth verse. For what feast, I pray? for the paschal supper? That, according to the interpreters which we here oppose, was just past. For the remaining part of the feast of that solemnity? Alas, how unseasonable! Where were those things, I pray, then to be bought, if this were the very night on which they had just eaten the lamb? The night of a feast day was festival: where were there any such markets to be found then? It was an unusual thing indeed, and unheard of, to rise from the paschal supper to go to market: a market on a festival-night was unusual and unheard of. It would argue some negligence, and a little good husbandry, if those things that were necessary for the feast were not yet provided; but that they must be to run, now late at night, to buy those things they knew not where, they knew not how. It is certainly very harsh, and contrary to reason, to understand these things thus, when, from the first verse, the sense is very plain, before the feast of the Passover. The Passover was not yet come, but was near at hand: the disciples, therefore, thought that our Saviour had given order to Judas to provide all those things that were necessary to the paschal solemnity against it came.
3. Observe that also of Luke 22:3, &c.: “Satan entered into Judas, and he went his way, and communed with the chief priests,” &c. And after, in the seventh verse, “Then came the day of unleavened bread.” Hence I inquire, Is the method of Luke direct or no? If not, let there be some reason given of the transposition; if it be direct, then it is plain that the devil entered into Judas before the Passover: but he entered into him at that supper in John 13:27; therefore that supper was before the Passover. For,
4. Let them who take that supper in John 13 for the paschal supper, tell me how this is possible, that Judas after the paschal supper (at which they do not deny that he was present with the rest of the disciples) could make his agreement with the priests, and get his blades together ready to apprehend our Saviour, and assemble all the council, verse 57. The evangelists say that he made an agreement with the chief priests, Matthew 26:14, and with the captains, Luke 22:4, and “with all the council,” Mark 14:10,11. But now, which way was it possible that he could bargain with all these in so small a space as there was between the going out of Judas from supper and the betraying of our Lord in the garden? What! were these all together at supper that night? This is a matter to be laughed at rather than credited. Did he visit all these from door to door? And this is as little to be thought, since he had scarce time to discourse with any one of them. Every one supped this night at home, the master of a family with his family. It would be ridiculous to suppose that these chief priests supped together, while, in the mean time, their families sat down at home without their head. It is required by the law that every master of a family should be with his family that night, instructing them, and performing sacred rites with and for them. These were, therefore, to be sought from house to house by Judas, if that were the first time of his treating with them about this matter: and let reason answer whether that little time he had were sufficient for this? We affirm, therefore, with the authority of the evangelists, that that supper, John 13, was before the Passover; at which, Satan entering into Judas, he bargained with the priests before the Passover, he appointed the time and place of his betraying our Saviour, and all things were by them made ready for this wicked deed before the Passover came. Observe the method and order of the story in the evangelists, Matthew 26:14-17; Mark 14:10-12: “Then went Judas to the priests, and said, ‘What will ye give me,’ &c. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. Now, the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the disciples came,” &c. When was it that Judas came to the priests to treat about betraying Christ? surely before the first day of unleavened bread. Luke also, whom we quoted before, proceeds in the very same method: “From that time (say they), he sought for an opportunity to betray him.” If then first he went to and agreed with the priests when he rose up from the paschal supper, as many suppose, he did not then seek for an opportunity, but had found one. The manner of speaking used by the evangelists most plainly intimates some space of deliberation, not sudden execution.
5. Let those words of John be considered, chapter 14:31, Arise, let us go hence, and compared with the words, chapter 18:1, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron.” Do not these speak of two plainly different departures? Did not Christ rise up and depart when he said, “Arise, let us go hence?” Those words are brought in by the evangelist without any end or design, if we are not to understand by them that Christ immediately changed his place: and certainly this change of place is different from that which followed the paschal supper, John 18:1.
6. In that thirteenth chapter of John there is not the least mention nor syllable of the paschal supper. There is, indeed, plain mention of a supper before the feast of the Passover, that is, before the festival day; but of a paschal supper there is not one syllable. I profess seriously, I cannot wonder enough how interpreters could apply that chapter to the paschal supper, when there is not only no mention at all in it of the paschal supper, but the evangelist hath also pronounced, in most express words, and than which nothing can be more plain, that that supper of which he speaks was not on the feast of the Passover, butbefore the feast.
7. If those things which we meet with, John 13, of the sop given to Judas, &c. were acted in the paschal supper, then how, I pray, was it possible for the disciples to mistake the meaning of those words, “What thou doest, do quickly?” In the paschal supper he said, “He that dips with me in the dish is he”; and the hand of Judas, as some think, was at that very moment in the dish. To Judas asking, “Is it I?” he plainly answered, “Thou hast said”: and besides, he gave him a sop for a token, as they say who maintain that opinion: then with what reason, or with what ignorance, after so clear a discovery of the thing and person, could the disciples imagine that Christ said, “Buy quickly those things that are necessary, or give something to the poor?”
8. And to what poor, I pray? It was unseasonable, truly, late at night, to go to seek for poor people here and there, who were now dispersed all about in several families eating the passover: for the poorest Israelite was obliged to that duty as well as the richest. They who supposed that Christ commanded him to give something to the poor, could not but understand it of a thing that was presently to be done. For it had been ridiculous to conceive, that Christ sent him so hastily away form supper to give something to the poor tomorrow. But, if it be granted that the matter was transacted at Bethany, and that two days before the Passover, which we assert, then it is neither necessary you should suppose that supper to have been so late at night; nor were poor people, then and there, to be far sought for, since so great a multitude of men followed Christ everywhere.
II. This supper was at Bethany, two days before the Passover: the same we conclude of that supper, John 13, both as to the place and time; and that, partly, by the carrying on of the story to that time, partly, by observing the sequel of that supper. Six days before the Passover Christ sups at Bethany, John 12:1.
The next day (five days before the Passover) he came to Jerusalem riding on an ass, John 12:12: and in the evening he returned to Bethany, Matthew 21:17; Mark 11:11.
The day following (four days before the Passover) he went to Jerusalem, Mark 11:11,15, &c.; and at evening he returned the same way to Bethany, Mark 11:19.
The day after (three days before the Passover), he goes again to Jerusalem, Mark 11:27. In the evening, he went out to the mount of Olives, Matthew 24:1,3; Mark 13:1,3; Luke 21:37. Now where did he sup this night? at Bethany. For so Matthew and Mark, “After two days was the Passover,” &c. “Now when Jesus was in Bethany.” And from this time forward there is no account either of his supping or going to Jerusalem till the evening of the Passover.
From that supper both the evangelists begin their story of Judas’ contriving to betray our Lord; Matthew 26:14; Mark 14:10: and very fitly; for at that supper the devil had entered into him, and hurried him forward to accomplish his villainy.
We therefore thus draw up the series of the history out of the holy writers: Before the feast of the Passover (John 13:1), namely, two days (Matt 26:2,6), as Jesus was supping in Bethany, a woman anoints his head: and some of the disciples murmur at it. Our Saviour himself becomes both her advocate and encomiast. Before supper was done Christ riseth from the table, and washeth his disciples’ feet; and, sitting down again, acquaints them with the betrayer. John asking privately about him, he privately also gives him a token by a sop, and gives a sop to Judas. With this the devil entered into him, and now he grows ripe for his wickedness: “The devil had before put it into his heart to betray him,” verse 2; now he is impatient till he hath done it. He riseth up immediately after he had the sop, and goes out. As he was going out, Jesus said to him, “What thou doest, do quickly”: which some understood of buying necessaries for the feast, that was now two days off. It was natural and easy for them to suppose, that he, out of his diligence (having the purse, and the care of providing things that were necessary), was now gone to Jerusalem, though it were night, there being a great deal to be done, to get all things ready against the feast. He goes away; comes to Jerusalem; and the next day treats with the priests about betraying our Lord, and concludes a bargain with them. They were afraid for themselves, lest they should be either hindered by the people, or suffer some violence from them on the feast day. He frees them from this fear, provided they would let him have soldiers and company ready at the time appointed. Our Saviour lodges at Bethany that night, and spends the next day and the night after there too: and, being now ready to take his leave of his disciples, he teaches, instructs, and comforts them at large. Judas, having craftily laid the design of his treachery, and set his nets in readiness, returns, as is probable, to Bethany; and is supposed by the disciples, who were ignorant of the matter, to have performed his office exceeding diligently, in providing necessaries for the approaching feast. On the day itself of the Passover, Jesus removes from Bethany with his disciples: “Arise (saith he), let us go hence,” John 14:31, and comes to Jerusalem.
7. There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
[Poured it upon his head, as he sat at meat.] Therefore, it was not the same supper with that in John 12:1; for then our Saviour’s feet were anointed, now his head. I admire that any one should be able to confound these two stories. Oil, perfumed with spices, was very usual in feasts, especially sacred; and it was wont to be poured upon the head of some one present.
“The school of Shammai saith, He holds sweet oil in his right hand, and a cup of wine in his left. He says grace first over the oil, and then over the wine. The school of Hillel saith, Oil in his right hand, and wine in his left. He blesseth the sweet oil, and anoints the head of him that serves: but if the waiter be a disciple of the wise, he anoints the wall; for it is a shame for a disciple of the wise to smell of perfumes.” Here the waiter anoints the head of him that sits down.
8. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
[To what purpose is this waste?] It was not without cause that it was called “precious ointment,” verse 7, and “very costly,” John 12:3: to shew that it was not of those common sorts of ointments used in feasts, which they thought it no waste to pour upon the waiter’s head, or to daub upon the wall. But this ointment was of much more value, and thence arose the cavil.
9. For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
[And be given to the poor.] That it was Judas especially who cavilled at this, we have reason to believe from what is said of him in another supper, John 12:4. Compare this with those words, John 13:29. When Jesus said to Judas, “What thou doest, do quickly,” some thought he had meant, “Give something to the poor.” That supper, I presume, was the same with this: and see, how these things agree! When a complaint arose of that prodigal waste of the ointment here, and before in John 12, and that it seemed unfit to some that that should be spent so unadvisedly upon our Lord which might have been bestowed much better, and more fitly, upon the poor, how easily might the others think that Christ had spoken to him about giving somewhat to the poor, that he might show his care of the poor, notwithstanding what he had before said concerning them, and the waste of the ointment.
12. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
[She did it for my burial.] She had anointed his feet, John 12:3, out of love, duty, and honour to him; but this (which is added over and above to them) is upon account of his burial; and that not only in the interpretation of Christ, but in the design of the woman. She, and she first, believes that Christ should die; and, under that notion, she pours the ointment upon his head, as if she were now taking care of his body, and anointing it for burial: and it is as if Christ had said to those that took exceptions and complained, “You account her too officious and diligent for her doing this; and wasteful rather than prudent, in the immoderate profession of her friendship and respect; but a great and weighty reason moves her to it. She knows I shall die, and now takes care of my burial: what you approve of towards the dead, she hath done to one ready to die. Hence her fame shall be celebrated, in all ages, for this her faith, and this expression of it.”
15. And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
[Thirty pieces of silver.] The price of a slave, Exodus 21:32. Maimon. “The price of a slave, whether great or little, he or she, is thirty selaim of pure silver: if the slave be worth a hundred pounds, or worth only one penny.” Now a selaa, in his weight, weighed three hundred and eighty-four barleycorns.
17. Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?
[Where wilt thou that we prepare, &c.] For they might anywhere; since the houses at Jerusalem were not to be hired, as we have noted elsewhere, but during the time of the feast they were of common right.
19. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.
[Please see “The Temple: Its Ministry and Services” by Alfred Edersheim, “The Passover” for information on the workings of the Temple during this feast.]
[They made ready the Passover.] Peter and John were sent for this purpose, Luke 22:8: and perhaps they moved the question, where wilt thou, &c. They only knew that Judas was about another business, while the rest supposed he was preparing necessaries for the Passover.
This Peter and John were to do, after having spoken with the landlord, whom our Saviour pointed out to them by a sign, to prepare and fit the room.
I. A lamb was to be bought, approved, and fit for the Passover.
II. This lamb was to be brought by them into the court where the altar was.
“The Passover was to be killed only in the court where the other sacrifices were slain: and it was to be killed on the fourteenth day after noon, after the daily sacrifice, after the offering of the incense,” &c. The manner of bringing the Passover into the court, and of killing it, you have in Pesachin, in these words: “The Passover is killed in three companies; according as it is said, [Exodus 12:6,] and all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it (the Passover); assembly, congregation, and Israel. The first company enters and fills the whole court: they lock the doors of the court: the trumpets sound: the priests stand in order, having golden and silver vials in their hands: one row silver, and the other gold; and they are not intermingled: the vials had no brims, lest the blood should stay upon them, and be congealed or thickened: an Israelite kills it, and a priest receives the blood, and gives it to him that stands next, and he to the next, who, taking the vial that was full, gives him an empty one. The priest who stands next to the altar sprinkles the blood at one sprinkling against the bottom of the altar: that company goes out, and the second comes in,” &c. Let them tell me now, who suppose that Christ ate his Passover one day sooner than the Jews did theirs, how these things could be performed by him or his disciples in the Temple, since it was looked upon as a heinous offence among the people not to kill or eat the Passover in the due time. They commonly carried the lambs into the court upon their shoulders: this is called its carrying, inPesachin: where the Gloss, “The carrying of it upon a man’s shoulders, to bring it into the court, as into a public place.”
III. It was to be presented in the court under the name of the Paschal lamb, and to be killed for the company mentioned. See what the Gemarists say of this thing in Pesachin: “If they kill it for such as are not to eat, or as are not numbered, for such as are not circumcised or unclean, it is profane: if for those that are to eat, and not to eat, numbered and not numbered, for circumcised and not circumcised, clean and unclean, it is right”: that is, for those that are numbered, that atonement may be made for the not numbered; for the circumcised, that atonement may be made for the uncircumcised, &c. So the Gemarists and the Glosses.
IV. The blood being sprinkled at the foot of the altar, the lamb flayed, his belly cut up, the fat taken out and thrown into the fire upon the altar, the body is carried back to the place where they sup: the flesh is roasted, and the skin given to the landlord.
V. Other things were also provided. Bread according to God’s appointment, wine, some usual meats, and the same called Charoseth: of which commentators speak everywhere.
20. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
[He sat down with the twelve.]
I. The schools of the Rabbins distinguish between sitting at the table, and lying at the table: “If they sit to eat, every one says grace for himself; if they lie, one says grace for all.” But now “that lying,” as the Gloss on the place saith, “was when they leaned on their left side upon couches, and ate and drank as they thus leaned.” And the same Gloss in another place; “They used to eat lying along upon their left side, their feet being on the ground, every one on a single couch”: Babyl. Berac. As also the Gemara; to lie on one’s back is not called lying down; and to lie on one’s right side is not called lying down.
II. The Israelites accounted such lying down in eating a very fit posture requisite in sacred feasts, and highly requisite and most necessary in the Paschal supper: “We do not use lying down but only to a morsel,” &c. “And indeed to those that did eat leaning, leaning was necessary. But now our sitting is a kind of leaning along. They were used to lean along every one on his own couch, and to eat his meat on his own table: but we eat all together at one table.”
Even the poorest Israelite must not eat till he lies down. The canon is speaking about the Paschal supper; on which thus the Babylonians: “It is said that the feast of unleavened bread requires leaning or lying down, but the bitter herbs not: concerning wine, it is said in the name of Rabh Nachman that it hath need of lying down: and it is said in the name of Rabh Nachman, that it hath not need of lying down: and yet these do not contradict one another; for that is said of the two first cups, this of the two last.” They lie down on the left side, not on the right, “because they must necessarily use their right hand in eating.” So the Gloss there.
III. They used and were fond of that custom of lying down, even to superstition, because it carried with it a token and signification of liberty: “R. Levi saith, It is the manner of slaves to eat standing: but now let them eat lying along, that it may be known that they are gone out of bondage to liberty. R. Simon in the name of R. Joshua Ben Levi, Let that which a man eats at the Passover, and does his duty, though it be but as big as an olive, let it be eaten lying along.” “They eat the unleavened bread the first night lying down, because it is a commemoration of deliverance. The bitter herbs have no need of lying down, because they are in memory of bondage. Although it be the bread of affliction, yet it is to be eaten after the manner of liberty.” See more there. “We are obliged to lie down when we eat, that we may eat after the manner of kings and nobles.”
IV. “When there were two beds, the worthiest person lay uppermost; the second to him, next above him. But when there were three beds, the worthiest person lay in the middle, the second above him, the third below him.” On which thus the Gloss: “When there were two, the principal person lay on the first couch, and the next to him lay above him, that is, on a couch placed at the pillow of the more worthy person. If there were three, the worthiest lay in the middle, the next above him, and the third below him; that is, at the coverlids of his feet. If the principal person desires to speak with the second, he must necessarily raise himself so as to sit upright; for as long as he sits bending he cannot speak to him; for the second sat behind the head of the first, and the face of the first was turned another away: and it would be better with the second [in respect of discourse] if he sat below him; for then he might hear his words, even as he lay along.” This affords some light to that story, John 13:23,24; where Peter, as seems likely, lying behind our Saviour’s head in the first place next after him, could not discourse with him, nor ask about the betrayer: therefore looking over Christ’s head upon John, he gave him a sign to inquire. He sitting in the second place from Christ with his face towards him, asketh him,
22. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
[Lord, is it I?] The very occasion, namely, eating together and fellowship, partly renews the mention of the betrayer at the Paschal supper; as if he had said, “We are eating here friendly together, and yet there is one in this number who will betray me”: partly, that the disciples might be more fully acquainted with the matter itself: for at the supper in John 13, he had privately discovered the person to John only; unless perhaps Peter understood it also, who knew of John’s question to Christ, having at first put him upon it by his beckoning. The disciples ask, Is it I? partly through ignorance of the thing, partly out of a sincere and assured profession of the contrary.
24. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
[It had been good for him if he had not been born] It were better for him that he were not created. A very usual way of speaking in the Talmudists.
26. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
[Jesus took bread, &c.] Bread at supper, the cup after supper: “After supper he took the cup,” saith Luke 22:20; and Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:25; but not so of the bread.
That we may more clearly perceive the history of this supper in the evangelists, it may not be amiss to transcribe the rubric of the paschal supper, with what brevity we can, out of the Talmudists; that we may compare the things here related with the custom of the nation.
I. The paschal supper began with a cup of wine: “They mingle the first cup for him. The school of Shammai saith, He gives thanks, first for the day, and then for the wine: but the school of Hillel saith, He first gives thanks for the wine, and then for the day.” The Shammeans confirm their opinion, Because the day is the cause of their having wine: that is, as the Gloss explains it, that they have it before meat. “They first mingle a cup for every one, and [the master of the family] blesseth it; ‘Blessed be he that created the fruit of the vine’: and then he repeats the consecration of the day, [that is, he gives thanks in the plural number for all the company, saying, ‘Let us give thanks,’] and drinks up the cup. And afterward he blesseth concerning the washing of hands, and washeth.” Compare this cup with that, Luke 22:17.
II. Then the bitter herbs are set on: “They bring in a table ready covered, upon which there is sour sauce and other herbs.” Let the Glossers give the interpretation: “They do not set the table till after the consecration of the day: and upon the table they set lettuce. After he hath blessed over the wine, they set herbs, and he eats lettuce dipped, but not in the sour sauce, for that is not yet brought: and this is not meant simply of lettuce, unless when there be other herbs.” His meaning is this, before he comes to those bitter herbs which he eats after the unleavened bread, when he also gives thanks for the eating of the bitter herbs, “as it is written,” Ye shall eat (it) with unleavened bread and bitter herbs: “First unleavened bread, and then bitter herbs. And this first dipping is used only for that reason, that children may observe and inquire; for it is unusual for men to eat herbs before meat.”
III. “Afterward there is set on unleavened bread, and the sauce…and the lamb, and the flesh also of theChagigah of the fourteenth day.” Maimonides doth not take notice of any interposition between the setting on the bitter herbs, and the setting on the unleavened bread: but the Talmudic Misna notes it in these words; They set unleavened bread before him. Where the Gloss, “This is said, because they have moved the table from before him who performed the duty of the Passover: now that removal of the table was for this end, that the son might ask the father, and the father answered him, ‘Let them bring the table again, that we may make the second dipping’; then the son would ask, ‘Why do we dip twice?’ Therefore they bring back the table with unleavened bread upon it, and bitter herbs,” &c.
IV. He begins, and blesseth, “‘Blessed be He that created the fruits of the earth’: and he takes the herbs and dips them in the sauce Charoseth, and eats as much as an olive, he, and all that lie down with him; but less than the quantity of an olive he must not eat: then they remove the table from before the master of the family.” Whether this removal of the table be the same with the former is not much worth our inquiry.
V. “Now they mingle the second cup for him: and the son asks the father; or if the son doth not ask him, he tells him himself, how much this night differs from all other nights. ‘On other nights (saith he) we dip but once, but this night twice. On other nights we eat either leavened or unleavened bread; on this, only unleavened, &c. On other nights we eat either sitting or lying; on this, all lying.'”
VI. “The table is set before them again; and then he saith, ‘This is the passover, which we therefore eat, because God passed over the houses of our fathers in Egypt.’ Then he lifts up the bitter herbs in his hand and saith, ‘We therefore eat these bitter herbs, because the Egyptians made the lives of our fathers bitter in Egypt.’ He takes up the unleavened bread in his hand, and saith, ‘We eat this unleavened bread, because our fathers had not time to sprinkle their meal to be leavened before God revealed himself and redeemed them. We ought therefore to praise, celebrate, honour, magnify, &c. him, who wrought all these wonderful things for our fathers and for us, and brought us out of bondage into liberty, out of sorrow into joy, out of darkness into great light; let us therefore say, Hallelujah: Praise the Lord, praise him, O ye servants of the Lord, &c. to, And the flint-stone into foundations of waters’ [that is, from the beginning of Psalm 113 to the end of Psalm 114]. And he concludes, ‘Blessed be thou, O Lord God, our King eternal, redeeming us, and redeeming our fathers out of Egypt, and bringing us to this night; that we may eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs’: and then he drinks off the second cup.”
VII. “Then washing his hands, and taking two loaves, he breaks one, and lays the broken upon the whole one, and blesseth it; ‘Blessed be he who causeth bread to grow out of the earth’: and putting some bread and bitter herbs together, he dips them in the sauce Charoseth,–and blessing, ‘Blessed be thou, O Lord God, our eternal King, he who hath sanctified us by his precepts, and hath commanded us to eat,’ he eats the unleavened bread and bitter herbs together; but if he eats the unleavened bread and bitter herbs by themselves, he gives thanks severally for each. And afterward, giving thanks after the same manner over the flesh of the Chagigah of the fourteenth day, he eats also of it, and in like manner giving thanks over the lamb, he eats of it.”
VIII. “From thenceforward he lengthens out the supper, eating this or that as he hath a mind, and last of all he eats of the flesh of the passover, at least as much as an olive; but after this he tastes not at all of any food.” Thus far Maimonides in the place quoted, as also the Talmudists in several places in the last chapter in the tract Pesachin.
And now was the time when Christ, taking bread, instituted the eucharist: but whether was it after the eating of those farewell morsels, as I may call them, of the lamb, or instead of them? It seems to be in their stead, because it is said by our evangelist and Mark, As they were eating, Jesus took bread. Now, without doubt, they speak according to the known and common custom of that supper, that they might be understood by their own people. But all Jews know well enough, that after the eating of those morsels of the lamb it cannot be said, As they were eating; for the eating was ended with those morsels. It seems therefore more likely that Christ, when they were now ready to take those morsels, changed the custom, and gave about morsels of bread in their stead, and instituted the sacrament. Some are of opinion, that it was the custom to taste the unleavened bread last of all, and to close up the supper with it; of which opinion, I confess, I also sometimes was. And it is so much the more easy to fall into this opinion, because there is such a thing mentioned in some of the rubrics about the passover; and with good reason, because they took up this custom after the destruction of the Temple.
[Blessed and brake it.] First he blessed, then he brake it. Thus it always used to be done, except in the paschal bread. One of the two loaves was first divided into two parts, or, perhaps, into more, before it was blessed. One of them is divided: they are the words of Maimonides, who also adds, “But why doth he not bless both the loaves after the same manner as in other feasts? Because this is called the bread of poverty. Now poor people deal in morsels, and here likewise are morsels.”
Let not him that is to break the bread, break it before Amen be pronounced from the mouths of the answerers.
[This is my body.] These words, being applied to the Passover now newly eaten, will be more clear: “Thisnow is my body, in that sense, in which the paschal lamb hath been my body hitherto.” And in the twenty-eighth verse, “This is my blood of the new testament, in the same sense, as the blood of bulls and goats hath been my blood under the Old.” Exodus 24, Hebrews 9.
27. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
[The cup.] Bread was to be here at this supper by divine institution: but how came the wine to be here? and how much? and of what sort?
I. “A tradition. It is necessary that a man should cheer up his wife and his children for the feast. But how doth he cheer them up? With wine.” The same things are cited in the Babylonian Talmud: “The Rabbins deliver,” say they, “that a man is obliged to cheer up his wife and his domestics in the feast; as it is said, ‘And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast.’ (Deut 16:14). But how are they cheered up? With wine. R. Judah saith, ‘Men are cheered up with something agreeable to them; women, with that which is agreeable to them.’ That which is agreeable to men to rejoice them is wine. But what is that which is agreeable to women to cheer them? Rabh Joseph saith, ‘Dyed garments in Babylon, and linen garments in the land of Israel.'”
II. Four cups of wine were to be drunk up by every one: “All are obliged to four cups, men, women, and children: R. Judah saith, ‘But what have children to do with wine?’ But they give them wheat and nuts,” &c.
The Jerusalem Talmudists give the reason of the number, in the place before quoted, at full. Some, according to the number of the four words made use of in the history of the redemption of Israel out of Egypt, And I will bring forth, and I will deliver, and I will redeem, and I will take: some, according to the number of the repetition of the word cup, in Genesis 40:11,13, which is four times; some, according to the number of the four monarchies; some, according to the number of the four cups of vengeance which God shall give to the nations to drink, Jeremiah 25:15, 51:7; Psalm 11:6, 75:8. And according to the number of the four cups which God shall give Israel to drink, Psalm 23:5, 16:5, 116:13. The cup of two salvations.
III. The measure of these cups is thus determined: “Rabbi Chaia saith, ‘Four cups contain an Italian quart of wine.'” And more exactly in the same place: “How much is the measure of a cup? Two fingers square, and one finger and a half, and a third part of a finger deep.” The same words you have in the Babylonian Talmud at the place before quoted, only with this difference, that instead of the third part of a finger, there is the fifth part of a finger.
IV. It is commanded, that he should perform this office with red wine. So the Babylonian, “It is necessary that it should taste, and look like wine.” The Gloss, that it should be red.
V. If he drinks wine pure, and not mingled with water, he hath performed his duty; but commonly they mingled water with it: hence, when there is mention of wine in the rubric of the feasts, they always use the word they mingle him a cup. Concerning that mingling, both Talmudists dispute in the forecited chapter of the Passover: which see. “The Rabbins have a tradition. Over wine which hath not water mingled with it they do not say that blessing, ‘Blessed be He that created the fruit of the vine’; but, ‘Blessed be he that created the fruit of the tree.'” The Gloss, “Their wine was very strong, and not fit to be drunk without water,” &c. The Gemarists a little after: “The wise agree with R. Eleazar, ‘That one ought not to bless over the cup of blessing till water be mingled with it.'” The mingling of water with every cup was requisite for health, and the avoiding of drunkenness. We have before taken notice of a story of Rabban Gamaliel, who found and confessed some disorder of mind, and unfitness for serious business, by having drunk off an Italian quart of wine. These things being thus premised, concerning the paschal wine, we now return to observe this cup of our Saviour.
After those things which used to be performed in the paschal supper, as is before related, these are moreover added by Maimonides: “Then he washeth his hands, and blesseth the blessing of the meat” [that is, gives thanks after meat], “over the third cup of wine, and drinks it up.” That cup was commonly called the cup of blessing; in the Talmudic dialect. The cup of blessing is when they give thanks after supper, saith the Gloss on Babyl. Berac. Where also in the text many thinkings are mentioned of this cup: “Ten things are spoken of the cup of blessing. Washing and cleansing“: [that is, to wash the inside and outside, namely, that nothing should remain of the wine of the former cups]. “Let pure wine” be poured into the cup, and water mingled with it there. “Let it be full: the crowning“; that is, as the Gemara, “by the disciples.” While he is doing this, let the disciples stand about him in a crown or ring. The veiling; that is, “as Rabh Papa, he veils himself and sits down; as R. Issai, he spreads a handkerchief on his head. He takes up the cup in both hands, but puts it into his right hand; he lifts it from the table, fixeth his eyes upon it, &c. Some say he imparts it (as a gift) to his family.”
Which of these rites our Savior made use of, we do not inquire; the cup certainly was the same with the “cup of blessing”: namely, when, according to the custom, after having eaten the farewell morsel of the lamb, there was now an end of supper, and thanks were to be given over the third cup after meat, he takes that cup, and after having returned thanks, as is probable, for the meat, both according to the custom, and his office, he instituted this for a cup of eucharist or thanksgiving; The cup of blessing which we bless, 1 Corinthians 10:16. Hence it is that Luke and Paul say that he took the cup “after supper”; that is, that cup which closed up the supper.
It must not be passed by, that when he instituted the eucharistical cup, he said, “This is my blood of the new testament,” as Matthew and Mark: nay, as Luke and Paul, “This cup is the new testament in my blood.” Not only the seal of the covenant, but the sanction of the new covenant: the end of the Mosaical economy, and the confirming of a new one. The confirmation of the old covenant was by the blood of bulls and goats, Exodus 24, Hebrews 9, because blood was still to be shed: the confirmation of the new was by a cup of wine; because, under the new testament, there was no further shedding of blood. As it is here said of the cup, “This cup is the new testament in my blood,” so it might be said of the cup of blood (Exo 24:8), “That cup was the old testament in the blood of Christ.” There, all the articles of that covenant being read over, Moses sprinkled all the people with blood, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which God hath made with you”: and thus that old covenant or testimony was confirmed. In like manner, Christ having published all the articles of the new covenant, he takes the cup of wine, and gives them to drink, and saith, “This is the new testament in my blood”: and thus the new covenant is established.
There was, besides, a fourth cup, of which our author speaks also; “Then he mingled a fourth cup, and over it he finished the Hallel; and adds, moreover, the blessing of the hymn, which is, ‘Let all thy works praise thee, O Lord,’ &c.; and saith, ‘Blessed is He that created the fruit of the vine’; and afterward he tastes of nothing more that night,” &c. ‘Finisheth the Hallel‘; that is, he begins there where he left off before, to wit, at the beginning of Psalm 115, and goes on to the end of Psalm 118.
Whether Christ made use of this cup also, we do not dispute; it is certain he used the hymn, as the evangelist tells us, when they had sung a hymn, at the thirtieth verse. We meet with the very same word inMidras Tillim.
And now looking back on this paschal supper, let me ask those who suppose the supper in John 13 to be the same with this, What part of this time they do allot to the washing of the disciples’ feet? what part to Judas’ going out? and what part to his discoursing with the priests, and getting ready his accomplices for their wicked exploit?
I. It seems strange, indeed, that Christ should put off the washing of the disciples’ feet to the paschal supper, when, 1. That kind of action was not only unusual and unheard of at that supper, but in nowise necessary or fitting: for 2. How much more conveniently might that have been performed at a common supper before the Passover, as we suppose, when he was not straitened by the time, than at the paschal supper, when there were many things to be done which required despatch!
II. The office of the paschal supper did not admit of such interruption, nor was it lawful for others so to decline from the fixed rule as to introduce such a foreign matter: and why should Christ so swerve from it, when in other things he conformed himself to the custom of the nation, and when he had before a much more fit occasion for this action than when he was thus pressed and straitened by the time?
III. Judas sat at super with the rest, and was there when he did eat, Matthew 26:20,21; Mark 14:18: and, alas! how unusual was it for any to depart, in that manner, from that supper before it was done! It is enough doubted by the Jewish canons whether it were lawful; and how far any one, who had joined himself to this or that family, might leave it to go to another, and take one part of the supper here, and another part there: but for a person to leave the supper and go about another business, is a thing they never in the least dreamed of; they would not, they could not, suppose it. You see how light a matter Judas’ going away to buy necessaries, as the disciples interpreted it, seemed to them, because he went away from a common supper: but if they had seen him thus dismissed, and sent away from the paschal supper, it would have seemed a monstrous and wonderful thing. What! to leave the paschal supper, now begun, to go to market! To go from a common supper at Bethany, to buy necessaries for the Passover, against the time of the Passover, this was nothing strange or unusual: but to go from the paschal supper, before it was done, to a market or fair, was more unusual and strange than that it should be so lightly passed over by the disciples.
We, therefore, do not at all doubt that Judas was present both at the Passover and the eucharist; which Luke affirms in direct words, 22:20,21: nor do we doubt much of his being present at the hymn, and that he went not away before all was done: but when they all rose up from the table, and prepared for their journey to mount Olivet (in order to lie at Bethany, as the disciples supposed), the villainous traitor stole away, and went to the company [cohortes], that he had appointed the priests two days before to make ready for him at such a time and place. Methinks I hear the words and consultations of this bloody wretch: “Tomorrow (saith he) will be the Passover, and I know my Master will come to it: I know he will not lie at Jerusalem, but will go back to Bethany, however late at night, where he is used to lie. Make ready, therefore, for me armed men, and let them come to a place appointed immediately after the paschal supper; and I will steal out privately to them while my Master makes himself ready for his journey; and I will conduct them to seize upon him in the gardens without the city, where, by reason of the solitariness of the place and the silence of the night, we shall be secure enough from the multitude. Do ye make haste to despatch your passovers, that you may meet together at the council after supper, to examine and judge him, when we shall bring him to you; while the silence of the night favours you also, and protects you from the multitude.” Thus, all things are provided against the place and time appointed; and the thief, stealing away from the company of the disciples as they were going out towards the mount of Olives and hastening to his armed confederates without delay, brings them prepared along with him, and sets upon his Master now in the garden.
34. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
[Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.] The same also he had said, John 13:38, “The cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice.” Therefore some say, that that was the same supper with this of the Passover. Very right indeed, if [it] ought to be rendered, the cock shall not crow once, or the cock shall not crow at all. But it is not so; but it amounts to this sense, “Within the time of cockcrowing” thou shalt deny me thrice; for Peter had denied him but once before the first crowing of the cock, and thrice before the second, Mark 14:68,72. From hence, therefore, we may easily observe in what sense those words are to be understood, which were spoken to Peter two days before the Passover, John 13:38, “The cock shall not crow,” &c.: not that the cock should not crow at all between that time and Peter’s denying; but as if our Saviour had said, “Are you so secure of yourself, O Peter? Verily, I say unto you, the time shall be, and that shortly, when you shall deny me thrice within the time of cockcrowing.” At cockcrowing, Mark 13:35. At the Paschal supper it is said, “This night, before the cock crow,” &c. Matt 26:34; Mark 14:30; Luke 22:34. But there is nothing of this said in that supper, John 13.
Concerning the cockcrowing, thus the masters: “R. Shilla saith, Whosoever begins his journey before cockcrowing, his blood be upon his head. R. Josia saith, If before the second crowing: but some say, Before the third. But of what kind of cock is this spoken?” Of a middling cock; that is, as the Gloss explains it, “a cock that doth not crow too soon nor too late.” The Misna on which this Gloss is hath these words; “Every day they remove the ashes from the altar about cockcrowing; but on the day of atonement at midnight,” &c.
You may wonder that a dunghill cock should be found at Jerusalem, when it is forbid by the canons that any cocks should be kept there: “They do not keep cocks at Jerusalem, upon account of the holy things; nor do the priests keep them throughout all the land of Israel.” The Gloss gives the reason; “Even Israelites are forbid to keep cocks at Jerusalem, because of the holy things: for Israelites have eaten there peace offerings and thank offerings: but now it is the custom of dunghill cocks to turn over dunghills, where perhaps they might find creeping things that might pollute those holy things that are to be eaten.” By what means, and under what pretence, the canon was dispensed with, we do not dispute. It is certain there were cocks at Jerusalem, as well as at other places. And memorable is the story of a cock which was stoned by the sentence of the council for having killed a little child.
36. Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
[Gethsemane.] The place of the olive presses, at the foot of mount Olivet. In John, it is “a garden beyond Cedron.” “They do not make gardens or paradises in Jerusalem, because of the stink. The Gloss, “Because of the stink that riseth from the weeds which are thrown out: besides, it is the custom to dung gardens; and thence comes a stink.” Upon this account there were no gardens in the city, (some few gardens of roses excepted, which had been so from the days of the prophets,) but all were without the walls, especially at the foot of Olivet.
49. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
[Kissed him.] It was not unusual for a master to kiss his disciple; but for a disciple to kiss his master was more rare. Whether therefore Judas did this under pretence of respect, or out of open contempt and derision, let it be inquired.
60. But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses.
[Many false witnesses came.] …
65. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard this blasphemy.
[Then the high priest rent his clothes.] “When witnesses speak out the blasphemy which they heard, then all, hearing the blasphemy, are bound to rend their clothes.” “They that judge a blasphemer, first ask the witnesses, and bid him speak out plainly what he hath heard; and when he speaks it, the judges standing on their feet rend their garments, and do not sew them up again,” &c. See there the Babylonian Gemara discoursing at large why they stand upon their feet, why they rend their garments, and why they may not be sewed up again [Sanhedr. cap. 7. hal. 10].

Mathew 25

1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

[Ten virgins.] The nation of the Jews delighted mightily in the number ten, both in sacred and civil matters: A synagogue consisted not but of ten at the least: which we have observed before, when we spoke about synagogues. This also was current among them, An order or ring of men consisted not but of ten at the least. The text is speaking of a company to comfort mourners: which the Gloss thus describes, “When the company was returned from burying a dead body, they set themselves in order about the mourners, and comforted them: but now such an order or ring consisted of ten at the least.” To this commonly received number there seems to be an alluding in this place: not but that they very frequently exceeded that number of virgins in weddings of greater note, but rarely came short of it.

[To meet the bridegroom.] To go to a wedding was reckoned among the works of mercy.

“The shewing of mercy implies two things: 1. That one should assist an Israelite with one’s wealth, namely, by alms and redeeming of captives. 2. That one should assist him in one’s own person; to wit, by comforting the mourners, by attending the dead to burial, and by being present at the chambers of bridegrooms.” The presence of virgins also adorned the pomp and festivity of the thing. Marriages are called by the Rabbins receivings, &c. The introducing of the bride, namely, into the house of her husband. There were no marriages but of such as had been before betrothed; and, after the betrothing, the bridegroom might not lie with the bride in his father-in-law’s house before he had brought her to his own. That ‘bringing’ of her was the consummation of the marriage. This parable supposeth that the bride was thus fetched to the house of her husband, and that the virgins were ready against her coming; who yet, being either fetched a great way, or some accident happening to delay her, did not come till midnight.

[Took lamps.] The form of lamps is described by Rambam and R. Solomon, whom see. These things are also mentioned by R. Solomon: “It is the fashion in the country of the Ismaelites to carry the bride from the house of her father to the house of the bridegroom before she is put to bed; and to carry before her about ten wooden staves, having each of them on the top a vessel like a dish, in which there is a piece of cloth with oil and pitch: these, being lighted, they carry before her for torches.”

2. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

[Five wise; Five foolish.] A parable, not unlike this, is produced by Kimchi: “Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai saith (as he hath it), This thing is like a king, who invited his servants, but did not appoint them any set time. Those of them that were wise adorned themselves, and sat at the gate of the palace; those that were foolish were about their own business. The king on a sudden called for his servants: those went in adorned; these, undressed. The king was pleased with the wise, and angry at the foolish.”

5. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

[They all slumbered and slept.] “If some sleep” [while they celebrate the paschal supper], “let them eat; if all, let them not eat. R. Josi saith, Do they slumber? let them eat. Do they sleep? let them not eat.” The Gemarists inquire, “Whence a man is to be reputed as a slumberer? R. Ishi saith, He sleeps and doth not sleep, he wakes and is not awake. If you call him, he answers; but he cannot answer to the purpose.” The Gloss, “If you speak to him, he will answer yes, or no; but if you ask any thing that hath need of thinking; as, for instance, where such a vessel is laid up? he cannot answer you.”

15. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

[And unto one he gave five talents, &c.] You have a like and almost the same parable, Luke 19; yet, indeed, not the very same; for, besides that there is mention there of pounds being given, here of talents,–that parable was spoken by Christ, going up from Jericho to Jerusalem, before the raising up of Lazarus; this, as he was sitting on Mount Olivet, three days before the Passover. That, upon this account, “because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear,” Luke 19:11, and that he might shew that it would not be long before Jerusalem should be called to an account for all the privileges and benefits conferred upon it by God (see verses the fourteenth and seventeenth); but this, that he might warn all to be watchful, and provide with their utmost care concerning giving up their accounts at the last judgment.

27. Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

[Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, &c.] The lord did not deliver the talents to his servants with that intent, that they should receive the increase and profit of them by usury; but that, by merchandise and some honest way of trade, they should increase them. He only returns this answer to the slothful servant, as fitted to what he had alleged; “You take me for a covetous, griping, and sordid man: why then did you not make use of a manner of gain agreeable to these qualities, namely, interest or usury (since you would not apply yourself to any honest traffic), that you might have returned me some increase of my money, rather than nothing at all?” So that our Lord, in these words, doth not so much approve of usury, as upbraid the folly and sloth of his servant.

Exchangers, answering to the word trapezita very usual among the Talmudists: “An exchanger (trapezita) sells money; and because a table is always before him, upon which he buys and sells, therefore he is called mensarius,” one that stands at a table.

Of the same employment was the shopkeeper of whom is as frequent mention among them. He exercised the employment of a usurer in buying and changing of fruits, as the other in money: for in these two especially consisted usury: of which you may see, if you please, the tract Bava Mezia.

Matthew 24

1. And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple.
[To shew him the buildings of the Temple.] “He that never saw the Temple of Herod never saw a fine building. What was it built of? Rabba saith, Of white and green marble. But some say, Of white, green, and spotted marble. He made the laver to sink and to rise” (that is, the walls were built winding in and out, or indented after the manner of waves), “being thus fitted to receive the plaster, which he intended to lay on; but the Rabbins said to him, ‘O let it continue, for it is very beautiful to behold: for it is like the waves of the sea’: and Bava Ben Buta made it so,” &c. See there the story of Bava Ben Buta and Herod consulting about the rebuilding of the temple.
2. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
[There shall not be left one stone upon another.] The Talmudic Chronicles bear witness also to this saying, “On the ninth day of the month Ab the city of Jerusalem was ploughed up”; which Maimonides delivereth more at large: “On that ninth day of the month Ab, fatal for vengeance, the wicked Turnus Rufus, of the children of Edom, ploughed up the Temple, and the places about it, that that saying might be fulfilled, ‘Sion shall be ploughed as a field.'” This Turnus Rufus, of great fame and infamy among the Jewish writers, without doubt is the same with Terentius Rufus, of whom Josephus speaks, Rufus was left general of the army by Titus; with commission, as it is probable, and as the Jews suppose, to destroy the city and Temple. Concerning which matter, thus again Josephus in the place before quoted, The emperor commanded them to dig up the whole city and the Temple. And a little after, “Thus those that digged it up laid all level, that it should never be inhabited, to be a witness to such as should come thither.”
3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
[And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?] What the apostles intended by these words is more clearly conceived by considering the opinion of that people concerning the times of the Messias. We will pick out this in a few words from BabylonianSanhedrin.
“The tradition of the school of Elias: The righteous, whom the Holy Blessed God will raise up from the dead, shall not return again to their dust; as it is said, ‘Whosoever shall be left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem shall be called holy, every one being written in the book of life.’ As the Holy (God) liveth for ever, so they also shall live for ever. But if it be objected, What shall the righteous do in those years in which the Holy God will renew his world, as it is said, ‘The Lord only shall be exalted in that day?’ the answer is, That God will give them wings like an eagle, and they shall swim (or float) upon the face of the waters.” Where the Gloss says thus; “The righteous, whom the Lord shall raise from the dead in the days of the Messiah, when they are restored to life, shall not again return to their dust, neither in the days of the Messiah, nor in the following age: but their flesh shall remain upon them till they return and live to eternity. And in those years, when God shall renew his world (or age), this world shall be wasted for a thousand years; were, then, shall those righteous men be in those years, when they shall not be buried in the earth?” To this you may also lay that very common phrase, the world to come; whereby is signified the days of the Messiah: of which we spoke a little at the thirty-second verse of the twelfth chapter: “If he shall obtain (the favour) to see the world to come, that is, the exaltation of Israel,” namely, in the days of Messiah. “The Holy Blessed God saith to Israel, In this world you are afraid of transgressions; but in the world to come, when there shall be no evil affection, you shall be concerned only for the good which is laid up for you; as it is said, ‘After this the children of Israel shall return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king,'” &c.; which clearly relate to the time of the Messiah. Again, “Saith the Holy Blessed God to Israel, ‘In this world, because my messengers (sent to spy out the land) were flesh and blood, I decreed that they should not enter into the land: but in the world to come, I suddenly send to you my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before my face.'”
See here the doctrine of the Jews concerning the coming of the Messiah:
1. That at that time there shall be a resurrection of the just: The Messias shall raise up those that sleep in the dust.
2. Then shall follow the desolation of this world: This world shall be wasted a thousand years. Not that they imagined that a chaos, or confusion of all things, should last the thousand years; but that this world should end and a new one be introduced in that thousand years.
3. After which eternity should succeed.
From hence we easily understand the meaning of this question of the disciples:–
1. They know and own the present Messiah; and yet they ask, what shall be the signs of his coming?
2. But they do not ask the signs of his coming (as we believe of it) at the last day, to judge both the quick and the dead: but,
3. When he will come in the evidence and demonstration of the Messiah, raising up the dead, and ending this world, and introducing a new; as they had been taught in their schools concerning his coming.
7. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
[Nation shall rise against nation.] Besides the seditions of the Jews, made horridly bloody with their mutual slaughter, and other storms of war in the Roman empire from strangers, the commotions of Otho and Vitellius are particularly memorable, and those of Vitellius and Vespasian, whereby not only the whole empire was shaken, and the fortune of the empire changed with the change of the whole world, (they are the words of Tacitus), but Rome itself being made the scene of battle, and the prey of the soldiers, and the Capitol itself being reduced to ashes. Such throes the empire suffered, now bringing forth Vespasian to the throne, the scourge and vengeance of God upon the Jews.
9. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
[Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted.] To this relate those words of 1 Peter 4:17, “The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God”; that is, the time foretold by our Saviour is now at hand, in which we are to be delivered up to persecution, &c. These words denote that persecution which the Jews, now near their ruin, stirred up almost everywhere against the professors of the gospel. They had indeed oppressed them hitherto on all sides, as far as they could, with slanders, rapines, whippings, stripes, &c. which these and such like places testify; 1 Thessalonians 2:14,15; Hebrews 10:33, &c. But there was something that put a rub in their way, that, as yet, they could not proceed to the utmost cruelty; “And now ye know what withholdeth”; which, I suppose, is to be understood of Claudius enraged at and curbing in the Jews. Who being taken out of the way, and Nero, after his first five years, suffering all things to be turned topsy turvy, the Jews now breathing their last (and Satan therefore breathing his last effects in them, because their time was short), they broke out into slaughter beyond measure, and into a most bloody persecution: which I wonder is not set in the front of the ten persecutions by ecclesiastical writers. This is called by Peter (who himself also at last suffered in it) a fiery trial; by Christ, dictating the epistles to the seven churches, tribulation for ten days; and the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world of Christians. And this is “the revelation of that wicked one” St. Paul speaks of, now in lively, that is, in bloody colours, openly declaring himself Antichrist, the enemy of Christ. In that persecution James suffered at Jerusalem, Peter in Babylon, and Antipas at Pergamus, and others, as it is probable, in not a few other places. Hence, Revelation 6:11,12 (where the state of the Jewish nation is delivered under the type of six seals), they are slain, who were to be slain for the testimony of the gospel under the fifth seal; and immediately under the sixth followed the ruin of the nation.
12. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
[The love of many shall wax cold.] These words relate to that horrid apostasy which prevailed everywhere in the Jewish churches that had received the gospel. See 2 Thessalonians 2:3, &c.; Galatians 3:1; 1 Timothy 1:15, &c.
14. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
[And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world.] Jerusalem was not to be destroyed before the gospel was spread over all the world: God so ordering and designing it that the world, being first a catechumen in the doctrine of Christ, might have at length an eminent and undeniable testimony of Christ presented to it; when all men, as many as ever heard the history of Christ, should understand that dreadful wrath and severe vengeance which was poured out upon that city and nation by which he was crucified.
15. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand):
[The abomination of desolation.] These words relate to that passage of Daniel (chapter 9:27) which I would render thus; “In the middle of that week,” namely, the last of the seventy, “he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease, even until the wing or army of abomination shall make desolate,” &c.; or, even by the wing of abominations making desolate….
[Let him that readeth understand.] This is not spoken so much for the obscurity as for the certainty of the prophecy: as if he should say, “He that reads those words in Daniel, let him mind well that when the army of the prince which is to come, that army of abominations, shall compass round Jerusalem with a siege, then most certain destruction hangs over it; for, saith Daniel, ‘the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city, and the sanctuary,’ &c., verse 26. ‘And the army of abominations shall make desolate even until the consummation, and that which is determined shall be poured out upon the desolate.’ Flatter not yourselves, therefore, with vain hopes, either of future victory, or of the retreating of that army, but provide for yourselves; and he that is in Judea, let him fly to the hills and places of most difficult access, not into the city.” See how Luke clearly speaks out this sense in the twentieth verse of the one-and-twentieth chapter.
20. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
[That your flight be not in the winter.] R. Tanchum observes a favour of God in the destruction of the first Temple, that it happened in the summer, not in winter. For thus he: “God vouch-safed a great favour to Israel; for they ought to have gone out of the land on the tenth day of the month Tebeth, as he saith, ‘Son of man, mark this day; for on this very day,’ &c. What then did the Lord, holy and blessed? ‘If they shall now go out in the winter,’ saith he, ‘they will all die’: therefore he prolonged the time to them, and carried them away in summer.”
22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
[Those days shall be shortened.] God lengthened the time for the sake of the elect, before the destruction of the city; and in the destruction, for their sakes he shortened it. Compare with these words before us 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise,” &c. It was certainly very hard with the elect that were inhabitants of the city, who underwent all kinds of misery with the besieged, where the plague and sword raged so violently that there were not living enough to bury the dead; and the famine was so great, that a mother ate her son (perhaps the wife of Doeg Ben Joseph, of whom see such a story in Babyl. Joma). And it was also hard enough with those elect who fled to the mountains, being driven out of house, living in the open air, and wanting necessaries for food: their merciful God and Father, therefore, took care of them, shortening the time of their misery, and cutting off the reprobates with a speedier destruction; lest, if their stroke had been longer continued, the elect should too far have partaken of their misery.
The Rabbins dream that God shortened the day on which wicked king Ahab died, and that ten hours; lest he should have been honoured with mourning.
24. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
[Shall shew great signs and wonders.] It is a disputable case, whether the Jewish nation were more mad with superstition in matters of religion, or with superstition in curious arts.
I. There was not a people upon earth that studied or attributed more to dreams than they. Hence
1. They often imposed fastings upon themselves to this end, that they might obtain happy dreams; or to get the interpretation of a dream; or to divert the ill omen of a dream: which we have observed at the fourteenth verse of the ninth chapter.
2. Hence their nice rules for handling of dreams; such as these, and the like: Let one observe a good dream two-and-twenty years, after the example of Joseph: “If you go to bed merry, you shall have good dreams,” &c.
3. Hence many took upon them the public profession of interpreting dreams; and this was reckoned among the nobler arts. A certain old man (Babyl. Beracoth) relates this story; “There were four-and-twenty interpreters of dreams in Jerusalem: and I, having dreamed a dream, went to them all: every one gave a different interpretation, and yet they all came to pass,” &c. You have R. Joses Ben Chelpatha, R. Ismael Ben R. Joses, R. Lazar, and R. Akiba interpreting divers dreams, and many coming to them for interpretation of their dreams. Nay, you see there the disciples of R. Lazar in his absence practising this art. See there also many stories about this business, which it would be too much here to transcribe.
II. There were hardly any people in the whole world that more used, or were more fond of, amulets, charms, mutterings, exorcisms, and all kinds of enchantments. We might here produce innumerable examples; a handful shall serve us out of the harvest: “Let not any one go abroad with his amulet on the sabbath day, unless that amulet be prescribed by an approved physician” (or, “unless it be an approved amulet”; see the Gemara). Now these amulets were either little roots hung about the necks of sick persons, or, what was more common, bits of paper with words written on them whereby they supposed that diseases were either driven away or cured: which they wore all the week, but were forbid to wear on the sabbath, unless with a caution: “They do not say a charm over a wound on the sabbath, that also which is said over a mandrake is forbid” on the sabbath. “If any one say, Come and say this versicle over my son, or lay the book” of the law “upon him, to make him sleep; it is forbid”: that is, on the sabbath, but on other days is usual.
They used to say the psalm of meetings (that is, against unlucky meetingsat Jerusalem. R. Judah saith, Sometimes after such a meeting, and sometimes when no such meeting had happened. But what is the Psalm of Meetings? The third psalm, ‘Lord, how are my foes increased!’ even all the psalm: and the ninety-first psalm, ‘He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High,’ to the ninth verse.” There is a discourse of many things, which they used to carry about with them, as remedies against certain ailments; and of mutterings over wounds: and there you may see, that while they avoid the enchantments of the Amorites, they have and allow their own. You have, Bab. Joma, fol, 84.1, the form of an enchantment against a mad dog. And,Avodah Zarah, fol. 12.2, the form of enchantment against the devil of blindness. You have,Hieros. Schab. fol 13.4, and Avod. Zarah, fol. 40.4, mutterings and enchantments, even in the name of Jesus. See also the Babyl. Sanhedr. fol. 101.1, concerning these kind of mutterings.
III. So skilful were they in conjurings, enchantments, and sorceries, that they wrought great signs, many villanies, and more wonders. We pass by those things which the sacred story relates of Simon Magus, Elymas, the sons of Sceva, &c., and Josephus, of others; we will only produce examples out of the Talmud, a few out of many.
You will wonder, in the entrance, at these two things, in order to the speaking of their magical exploits; and thence you will conjecture at the very common practice of these evil arts among that people: 1. That “the senior who is chosen into the council ought to be skilled in the arts of astrologers, jugglers, diviners, sorcerers, &c., that he may be able to judge of those who are guilty of the same.” 2. The Masters tell us, that a certain chamber was built by a magician in the temple itself: “The chamber of Happarva was built by a certain magician, whose name was Parvah, by art-magic.” “Four-and-twenty of the school Rabbi, intercalating the year at Lydda, were killed by an evil eye”: that is, with sorceries. R. Joshua outdoes a magician in magic, and drowns him in the sea. In Babyl. Taanith, several miracles are related that the Rabbins had wrought. Elsewhere, there is a story told of eighty women-sorceresses at Ascalon, who were hanged in one day by Simeon Ben Shetah: “and the women of Israel (saith the gloss) had generally fallen to the practice of sorceries”: as we have mentioned before. It is related of abundance of Rabbis, that they were skilful in working miracles: thus Abba Chelchia, and Chanin, and R. Chanina Ben Dusa; of which R. Chanina Ben Dusa there is almost an infinite number of stories concerning the miracles he wrought, which savour enough and too much of magic.
And, that we may not be tedious in producing examples, what can we say of the fasting Rabbis causing it to rain in effect when they pleased? of which there are abundance of stories in Taanith. What can we say of the Bath Kol very frequently applauding the Rabbins out of heaven? of which we have spoken before. What can we say of the death or plagues foretold by the Rabbins to befall this or that man? which came to pass just according as they were foretold. I rather suspect some magic art in most of these, than fiction in all.
IV. False Christs broke out, and appeared in public with their witchcrafts, so much the frequenter and more impudent, as the city and people drew nearer to its ruin; because the people believed the Messias should be manifested before the destruction of the city; and each of them pretended to be the Messias by these signs. From the words of Isaiah, “Before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child,” the doctors concluded, “that the Messias should be manifested before the destruction of the city.” Thus the Chaldee paraphrast upon the place; “She shall be saved before her utmost extremity, and her king shall be revealed before her pains of childbirth.” Mark that also; “The Son of David will not come, till the wicked empire [of the Romans] shall have spread itself over all the world nine months; as it is said, ‘Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth.'”
27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
[For as the lightning, &c.] To discover clearly the sense of this and the following clauses, those two things must be observed which we have formerly given notice of:–
1. That the destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture as if it were the destruction of the whole world, Deuteronomy 32:22; “A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell” (the discourse there is about the wrath of God consuming that people; see verses 20,21), “and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” Jeremiah 4:23; “I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light,” &c. The discourse there also is concerning the destruction of that nation, Isaiah 65:17; “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered,” &c. And more passages of this sort among the prophets. According to this sense, Christ speaks in this place; and Peter speaks in his Second Epistle, third chapter; and John, in the sixth of the Revelation; and Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:17, &c.
2. That Christ’s taking vengeance of that exceeding wicked nation is called Christ’s “coming in glory,” and his “coming in the clouds,” Daniel 7. It is also called, “the day of the Lord.” See Psalm 1:4; Malachi 3:1,2, &c.; Joel 2:31; Matthew 16:28; Revelation 1:7, &c. See what we have said on chapter 12:20; 19:28.
The meaning, therefore, of the words before us is this: “While they shall falsely say, that Christ is to be seen here or there: ‘Behold, he is in the desert,’ one shall say; another, ‘Behold, he is in the secret chambers’: he himself shall come, like lightning, with sudden and altogether unexpected vengeance: they shall meet him whom they could not find; they shall find him whom they sought, but quite another than what they looked for.”
28. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
[For wheresoever the carcase is, &c.] I wonder any can understand these words of pious men flying to Christ, when the discourse here is of quite a different thing: they are thus connected to the foregoing: Christ shall be revealed with a sudden vengeance; for when God shall cast off the city and people, grown ripe for destruction, like a carcase thrown out, the Roman soldiers, like eagles, shall straight fly to it with their eagles (ensigns) to tear and devour it. And to this also agrees the answer of Christ, Luke 17:37; when, after the same words that are spoke here in this chapter, it was inquired, “Where, Lord?” he answered, “Wheresoever the body is,” &c.; silently hinting thus much, that Jerusalem, and that wicked nation which he described through the whole chapter, would be the carcase, to which the greedy and devouring eagles would fly to prey upon it.
29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
[The sun shall be darkened, &c.] That is, the Jewish heaven shall perish, and the sun and moon of its glory and happiness shall be darkened, and brought to nothing. The sun is the religion of the church; the moon is the government of the state; and the stars are the judges and doctors of both. Compare Isaiah 13:10, and Ezekiel 32:7,8, &c.
30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
[And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man.] Then shall the Son of man give a proof of himself, whom they would not before acknowledge: as proof, indeed, not in any visible figure, but in vengeance and judgment so visible, that all the tribes of the earth shall be forced to acknowledge him the avenger. The Jews would not know him: now they shall now him, whether they will or no, Isaiah 26:11. Many times they asked of him a sign: now a sign shall appear, that he is the true Messias, whom they despised, derided, and crucified, namely, his signal vengeance and fury, such as never any nation felt from the first foundations of the world.
31. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
[And he shall send his angels, &c.] When Jerusalem shall be reduced to ashes, and that wicked nation cut off and rejected, then shall the Son of man send his ministers with the trumpet of the gospel, and they shall gather together his elect of the several nations from the four corners of heaven: so that God shall not want a church…
34. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
[This generation shall not pass, &c.] Hence it appears plain enough, that the foregoing verses are not to be understood of the last judgment, but, as we said, of the destruction of Jerusalem. There were some among the disciples (particularly John), who lived to see these things come to pass. With Matthew 16:28, compare John 21:22. And there were some Rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these things, that lived till the city was destroyed, viz. Rabban Simeon, who perished with the city, R. Jochanan Ben Zaccai, who outlived it, R. Zadoch, R. Ismael, and others.
36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
[No man knoweth, no, not the angels.] This is taken from Deuteronomy 32:34: “Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?”
37. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
[But as the days of Noe were, &c.] Thus Peter placeth as parallels, the ruin of the old world, and the ruin of Jerusalem, 1 Peter 3:19-21; and by such a comparison his words will be best understood. For, see how he skips from the mention of the death of Christ to the times before the flood, in the eighteenth and nineteenth verses, passing over all the time between. Did not the Spirit of Christ preach all along in the times under the law? Why then doth he take an example only from the times before the flood? that he might fit the matter to his case, and shew that the present state of the Jews was like theirs in the times of Noah, and that their ruin should be like also. So, also, in his Second Epistle, chapter 3:6,7.
The age or generation of the flood hath no portion in the world to come: thus Peter saith, that “they were shut up in prison”: and here our Saviour intimates that “they were buried in security,” and so were surprised by the flood.

Parashat Ki Tavo / פרשת כי־תבוא

Next read in the Diaspora on 05 September 2015. Parashat Ki Tavo is the 50th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.

Torah Reading: KI TAVO, Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8.
Haftara: Isaiah 60:1-22.
Our parshah, KI TAVO, puts the seal on Moses’ detailed exposition of the commandments in the Mishneh Torah (=Deuteronomy) — the “Second” or repeated Torah — and recounts the Covenant that G-d struck with Israel in the plains of Moab prior to their entry into the Land. KI TAVO thus brings us into the closing sections of the Five Books of Moses, the very climax of the Torah. This is fitting reading as we approach the coming Day of Judgment — Rosh Hashanah — and the Days of Awe.
The commandments contained in our parshah are almost the last commandments written in the Torah — except for the two commandments contained in next week’s reading, the double parshah of NITZAVIM-VAYELECH. (Those relate to the teaching of the Torah — its public reading at the HAKHEL assembly in the Temple following the Sabbatical year — and to the accurate transmission of the Torah through writing a Torah scroll).
The commandments contained in our present parshah, KI TAVO, relate to the longed-for, glorious future: “And it shall be when you come to the Land.”. The opening Hebrew word of the parshah is a permutation of the holy Name of HaShem. This seals His eternal promise that the time will indeed arrive when YOU WILL COME TO THE LAND. The time will come when you will be able to present your first fruits with gratitude in the Holy Temple, separate your priestly tithes and other gifts, and eat the fruits of your labor within the walls of the Holy City.
The opening section of KI TAVO gives the commandment to present the first fruits in a basket by the altar in the Temple as a gift for the Cohen-priest, including the declaration of thanks made on presentation of the fruits. The text of this declaration, “The Aramite (=Laban) tried to destroy my father (Jacob).” (Deut. 26:5-9), is so fundamental to the identity of Israel that it forms the basis of the Pesach Haggadah with which we retell our national story every year on the night celebrating the birth of the nation through the Exodus. The main body of the Haggadah consists of a word-by-word homiletic commentary on these verses.
The mitzvah of the first fruits is immediately followed by the commandments relating to tithes, which also involve a declaration. Periodically all accumulated gifts of agricultural produce to the Levite and poor etc. that have not yet been distributed must be cleared out of the house. This is done after the end of the first three years of the Sabbatical cycle, on the eve of Pesach of the fourth year. Following the distribution of the remaining gifts, the householder declares that he has fulfilled each one of the various commandments relating to agricultural produce in their proper order — therefore, “Look down from the dwelling place of Your holiness from the heavens and bless Your people.” (Deut. 26:13-15). This is known as VIDUI MAASROS, the “confession” over the tithes. This declaration is the opposite of a confession of sin. It is an enumeration of the merits gained by faithful adherence to the commandments of the Torah, like a laborer listing what he has done for his master before inviting his blessing.
With the mitzvah of the first fruits and the commandments relating to the tithes, gifts and consumption of the produce of the Land, the Torah has come the full circle. At the beginning of Genesis, we learned of man’s basic sin, which was bound up with the eating of fruit: the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man took without asking — he stole, with all the consequences. The serpent tricked Adam into taking the fruit, and thereby brought death upon him and robbed him of his blessings. Jacob had to use trickery against Esau and Laban to retrieve the blessings back from the serpent. Jacob’s children had to go down into Egypt in order to rectify all that fell through the eating of the forbidden fruit. They had to endure slavery in order to learn the meaning of freedom and its obligations. Only after much toil and tribulation did they come to the Land, wrest it from and cleanse it of the accursed Canaanites, seed of the serpent, till it, plant and tend it until they saw their first-fruits.
A person inspecting the long-awaited luscious fruits gradually ripening on his tree of figs or pomegranates would tie a thread to mark out the choicest first fruits. Instead of marking them out for his own self-gratification, he would set them aside to present as a gift to the priest at the side of the Temple altar. The first fruits — BIKURIM — relate to the BECHORA, the birth-right, which alludes to CHOCHMAH, “wisdom”. It was wisdom that Adam defiled in taking the forbidden fruit. Esau, embodiment of the serpent, rejected the birth-right of wisdom, but Jacob took it back — and vowed at the site of Adam’s creation to dedicate the choice first tithe to G-d.
The rectification of the trickery of the serpent, which tempts man to make self-gratification his only altar, is through the steady application of the Torah commandments that regulate how and what we take from the world around us, including the very food we put into our mouths. Before we enjoy the fruits of our labors, we must think of the priest, the Levite and the poor, and separate all the obligatory gifts and tithes. The fulfillment of all the relevant commandments elevates and puts blessing into the fruits that remain for our own enjoyment.
In the declarations over the presentation of the first fruits in the Temple and over the separation of gifts and tithes, man uses the unique faculty G-d has given him — speech — as a means of deepening his connection with G-d through heightened consciousness of his identity as an Israelite and as G-d’s servant fulfilling His commandments. Saying “Thank You” to G-d out loud is very important.
Presentation of the first fruits in the Temple is the very first of the agricultural commandments fulfilled by the farmer: he thinks about it while the fruit is still ripening on the tree, before he even begins harvesting. The declaration about tithes comes after an entire cycle of three years of harvests and steady fulfillment of all the intricate details of the commandments applying to the fruits in different years. First comes Terumah, the gift to the priest, and then the First Tithe (Maaser) for the Levite. In the first and second years, the Second Tithe (Maaser Sheni) is to be eaten in purity in Jerusalem by its owner, but in the third year, the owner cannot eat the Second Tithe himself. He must give it to the poor (Maaser Oni). If a person has fulfilled all these commandments in all their details, he is entitled to stand up after all this work and list what he has accomplished.
There is a practical lesson for us here as we stand now in the middle of the month of Elul, the period of TESHUVAH, repentance, self-examination and inner work. Teshuvah is not only a matter of confessing sins. We have all sinned, but we have all done a lot of good too. In looking at ourselves and weighing our lives and behavior, we must give due consideration to all the good things that we do. When we weigh their true worth and importance as acts of loving obedience to the King, it will inspire us to go forward with greater confidence, in the knowledge that if we strive to do His will, He will surely bless us.
* * *
The last commandment contained in KI TAVO, based on the words “and to go in His ways” (Deut. 26:17) is to model our personal traits on the traits and attributes of G-d. “Just as He is merciful and gracious, so you should be merciful and gracious…” The refinement of our traits is the inner work in the heart that G-d asks of the Israelites, an essential part of the spiritual work of the month of Elul. The repetition of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy in the Selichos (penitential prayers) recited in this season comes to arouse us to follow these attributes in our daily lives.
It is indeed the traits of kindness and compassion that are the marks of the true Israelite and the distinctive attributes of AM SEGULAH, the “treasured nation” (Deut. 26:18) whom G-d has chosen to observe His Torah and enjoy its blessings. The very exaltedness of this calling gives Israel a weighty responsibility. Thus the Covenant entails not only privileges and blessings but also heavy sanctions for its infringement. Our parshah impresses upon us the seriousness of the Covenant with its account of the solemn ceremony that was to accompany the people’s entry into the Land. The Torah was to be written on stone, and the twelve tribes were to stand on two mountains adjacent to Shechem, six on each mountain, while the priests and Levites standing in the middle recited a litany of blessings and curses.
The first reference to this ceremony was made at the beginning of parshas RE’EH, which we read four weeks ago, before Moses entered into the details of the law code of the Covenant in the trilogy of RE’EH, SHOFTIM and KI SEITZEI. Now, in KI TAVO, after completion of the law code, the Torah depicts this striking ceremony to impress upon us that Israel’s presence in the Land is not for the sake of having mere territory. The Land is given as the place in which to fulfill the Torah. It is when Israel dwells in the land in order to observe the commandments that they are “for praise and for a name and for glory. a holy nation” (Deut. 26:19).
On entry into the land, they were to set up great stones washed with lime and write the Torah on them “with clear explanation” (Deut. 27:8) — “in the seventy languages” (Rashi ad loc.). The fact that the Torah had to be written in all the languages of the world shows that the presence of Israel in the land is not merely of particular interest to Israel alone but of universal significance for the whole of mankind.
For this reason, the present series of commentaries is entitled UNIVERSAL TORAH even though many sections of the Torah deal with commandments that apply exclusively to Israel and not to the other Children of Noah. Nevertheless, numerous commandments and teachings in the Torah apply to all humanity. Moreover, Israel’s observance of the Torah and their possession of the Land of Israel as the place designed for this are in the interests of the whole of humanity. As expressed in the words of the rabbis, “If the nations understood the value to them of the Holy Temple, they would have surrounded it with armed guards”. All those whose actions and policies obstruct the building of the Temple are doing a terrible disservice to the entire world.
Israel and its people and Jews everywhere are the focus of interest for everyone in the world precisely because of our exalted mission as the Treasured Nation. The history of Israel and the Jews, with its great heights and terrible lows and degradation, is a lesson writ large for all humanity on the righteousness of G-d. He gave a Covenant with blessings and curses, and the infringement of the Covenant has brought all the curses listed in the parshah in all their terrible details.
If so, fulfillment of the Covenant will certainly bring all the amazing blessings listed in our parshah. Our obligation in this generation is to return to the Covenant with all our hearts so that we will rapidly witness the complete redemption, peace for Israel and the spread of the light of the Torah from Zion to the whole world.
Shabbat Shalom!
Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

Mitzvah of Cancellation

The Mitzvah of Cancellation of Debts at the Conclusion of Shevi’it as it Applies to Women

In the previous Halachot we have explained the basic laws of cancellation of debts by Shevi’it in that any debt one is owed and has been incurred by another as a loan and whose time for repayment has already arrived is cancelled once the Shemitta year passes (this year, 5775, is the Shemitta year and this coming Rosh Hashanah of 5776 marks the conclusion of the Shemitta year). In such a case, the lender may no longer claim repayment for such debts since these debts have already been cancelled on the night of Rosh Hashanah 5776. We have discussed several detailed laws related to this.

We have likewise mentioned that if a woman lends her neighbor bread or milk and the like, since the woman does not expect the neighbor to return those same loaves of bread or cartons of milk, rather, she expects the neighbor to purchase new ones and repay her with those, it turns out that the loaves of bread were not merely “lent” to the neighbor (as one would lent a tool or other object); rather, these loaves were, in essence “loaned” to the neighbor (as one would loan money). Thus, the woman who has lent these loaves of bread must take care not to request repayment for them since the conclusion of Shevi’it cancels such debts and the neighbor is not obligated to return the bread or milk to the neighbor who lent them to her in the first place.

This law is based on the words of Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l of Baghdad in his epic work, Ben Ish Hai (end of Parashat Ki Tavo). We can imply from his words that women are also obligated in the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts by Shevi’it, for the example he brings is one woman lending bread to another woman. Indeed, the Sefer Ha’Chinuch (end of Mitzvah 477) states explicitly that the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts by Shevi’it applies equally to both men and women.

It seems, however, that this should not be the case since we have a rule that women are exempt from all positive, time-bound Mitzvot (such as Shofar, Sukkah, Lulav which are all bound by specific times; this is unlike all negative Mitzvot, such as Shabbat and Yom Kippur where everyone is forbidden to perform work) and the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts by Shevi’it is likewise a positive commandment to release all debts owed to her (regarding the negative commandment of “He shall not exact it from his friend” which refers to the prohibition of claiming such a debt after Shevi’it, although this is a negative commandment which women are likewise obligated to abide by, nevertheless, in our scenario, the woman’s friend is coming of her own accord to return the loaves of bread to her neighbor and thus, the woman who lent them is not exacting them from her friend and is merely silently accepting what her friend owes her). If so, it would seem that women should not be obligated in this Mitzvah of cancellation of debts.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l deals with this issue at length in his work (Chazon Ovadia-Prozbul, page 38) and discusses several reasons to obligate women in the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts by Shevi’it. One of them is based on the words of Rabbeinu David Abudirhem (page 10b), the Orchot Chaim (Volume 2, beginning of Hilchot Milah), the Kol Bo quoting Mahari Anatoly in his Sefer Melamed Ha’Talmidim, and many others who write that the reason why women are exempt from positive, time-bound Mitzvot is because they are usually in the home more taking care of the children and the other household chores and the Torah therefore did not obligate her to perform such Mitzvot, for if women would indeed be obligated to perform such Mitzvot, it would be quite difficult for them to endure so many pressures and responsibilities. Thus, regarding positive, time-bound Mitzvot which are performed in a passive manner, such as the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts following Shevi’it which does not require the woman to actively do anything in order to release debts owed to her, there is no reason to exempt women from such a Mitzvah since its performance does not cause them any bother or burden whatsoever. The great Penei Yehoshua and others rule accordingly. Other reasons and clear proofs which obligate women in this Mitzvah of cancellation of debts are discussed as well.

Summary: Women are obligated, without a shadow of a doubt, in the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts following Shevi’it. Thus, if a woman lends her friend some loaves of bread or an amount of money and the Shemitta year has passed over such debts, the woman may no longer claim repayment of such debts from her friend. (Even if the friend comes of her own volition to repay the debt, the woman must tell her that according to Halacha, she is not required to repay this debt since it has already been cancelled by the conclusion of Shevi’it; only if the friend wishes to return it as a gift may the woman accept it.) Nevertheless, all of this applies if the woman has not written a Prozbul. However, if the woman has written a Prozbul, all debts owed to her are not cancelled, as we shall discuss in the following Halacha.

Torah Reading: KI SEITZEI

Torah Reading: KI SEITZEI
Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19.
Haftara: Isaiah 54:1-10.
The opening mitzvah of the parshah, that of the beautiful captive, takes us directly inside the home, which is where the captive is taken to “grow her hair and nails”. Life in the home and in the family is a central theme throughout the parshah. Immediately following the law of the beautiful captive comes a hint of marital discord (the hated wife), followed by the Torah law of family inheritance and the birthright. This is followed by the law of the gluttonous son, whose penalty is to be stoned to death. The requisite amounts of meat and wine the gluttonous son would have to imbibe were so gigantic that in practice no one would ever fulfill all the conditions that would make them liable to the death penalty. The Torah does not want to kill the son, but rather to teach the essence of good parenting, from childhood onwards and especially during puberty and adolescence. Children need not be given everything they want. They must be taught to listen to the voice of mother and father, wisdom and understanding.
The education of girls for the life of Torah and the holiness of Israel is no less important than that of boys. The stoning of the girl whose new husband found her to have been unfaithful after their betrothal is not only a terrible punishment for the girl. It is a bitter lesson for her father, outside whose house the execution takes place. “See the offspring you have raised” (Rashi on Deut. 22:21). The holiness of the Israelite home and family is based upon KIDDUSHIN, the act of betrothal whereby husband and wife sanctify and dedicate themselves to one another. In bringing up a new generation, the parental duty is to ensure that girls understand the holiness and seriousness of marriage and of marital fidelity. They must understand what is happening to their pubescent bodies and the attendant dangers in the outside world and from the lurking Evil Urge. This education is particularly important today, when the world is flooded with a culture that encourages teenagers to think of nothing but sexual attraction and romance all day every day. The laws of rape and seduction in our parshah underline how carefully parents must protect their daughters (and sons). Protection must start by lovingly teaching our children about the uniqueness and holiness of Israel and the special level of conduct required of BNEY MELACHIM, children of kings — “for your are children of HaShem”.
Our parshah contains the laws of marriage and divorce that make up most of SEDER NASHIM, the Order of the Mishneh relating to these areas. These include the laws of YIBUM, the Levirate marriage, and CHALITZA, the ceremony for nullifying it, with all their many secrets. Many of the basic laws of KIDDUSHIN and NISU’IM, betrothal and marriage, are learned from verses in our parshah, as are the laws of the GET, “bill of divorce”. The prohibition against a divorced woman who married another man from subsequently remarrying her first husband sets Israel apart from the alien culture that licenses switching back and forth from one partner to another. The holiness of the bond between husband and wife is founded on its exclusiveness. In the realities of life in the world we live in, divorce is sometimes necessary and must be carried out with the proper procedure. However, there is no doubt that the Torah prefers not to license divorce (which “makes the altar-stones weep”) but rather that man and wife should joyously build their home together to fulfil “and your camp shall be holy” (Deut. 23:15) for many long, good years. The first year of marriage sets the foundation for all that follows. In that year the groom is commanded that “he make joyous his wife that he took” (Deut. 24:5). The surest foundation for joy in the home is the study and practice of the Torah.
Bound up with the laws of marriage are the laws relating to personal status and those entitled to enter the community of Israel. The community excludes male Ammonites and Moabites (though King David himself was descended from a Moabitess), and Egyptians and Edomites to the third generation. A different status is that of the MAMZER, who as the child of an incestuous relationship of Israelites is also inherently flawed and may not marry into the community. The purpose of these laws is to protect the purity of the Israelite family.
The home is a private domain — so much so that even a creditor may not enter to take a pledge but must wait outside for the debtor to bring it out. But while the home is private, it must be a place of dignity so that G-d’s holy Presence may dwell there. Dignity begins with personal hygiene and cleanliness, which is why the Torah commands us to attend to our physical needs “outside the camp” and properly cover the waste. Within our homes, we are free to do all that the Torah permits, but we must keep our eyes open and take precautions against potential dangers. “Make a parapet for your roof”. The law to make a parapet to prevent someone falling off the roof is the foundation of the general Torah law that potential hazards of all kinds should be removed (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat #427). Not only does the Torah govern how we build our homes. It even governs the clothes we wear: we may not wear mixtures of wool and linen, and men must wear Tzitztis. The Tzitzis are the first line of defense against immorality (which is why the commandment of wearning Tzitzis immediately precedes the laws of the betrothed maiden). A man must not wear women’s clothes or ornaments and vice versa.
Commandments relating to making a living — from plowing the land to loans and the money economy — also take up major parts of parshas KI SEITZEI. Just as the separation between Israel and the nations is part of G-d’s order, so is the separation between different species of animals and vegetables. One must not drive the plow with an ox and a donkey together. One may not plant one field with diverse species. What distinguishes Israel is the trait of kindness and compassion, which must be carefully cultivated. When harvesting the crops, gifts must be left for the unfortunate and the needy: the proselyte, the widow, the orphan and the poor. The farmer must even be sensitive to the feelings of his ox: while threshing, he may not muzzle the ox to prevent it munching on some of the produce while at work.
Relevant to all are the laws governing the respective rights and obligations of employers and employees. The employee must work industriously and may not abuse the privileges the Torah gives him. Having completed his work, he is entitled to prompt payment: now the mitzvah is on the employer. The laws in our parshah relating to the money economy include those of giving interest-free loans to fellow Israelites and the strict prohibition of taking interest (RIBIS). Business activity is to be governed by the laws of fair weights and measures.
Not only are we bound to conduct our business dealings with integrity. We are responsible for the property of others if they loose it — our parshah contains the laws of lost property. And if our friend gets into trouble — if his donkey can’t carry the load — we must help him rearrange the load.
* * *
The detailed laws in our parshah culminate in what on one level is a business law — the prohibition of keeping a big and a small weight: a big weight to use in weighing what one buys, and a small weight in weighing what one sells. We are to use one standard in our business dealings, and likewise, one standard in all of our judgments and evaluations: the Torah standard. We may not judge ourselves and those we like favorably while judging those outside our preferred circle unfavorably. We are to examine ourselves and others and everything in our lives with sobriety, carefully examining to see how things measure up according to the Torah standard. It is this that protects us from Amalek.
From the proximity of the prohibition of double standards to the law of remembering and wiping out Amalek, we learn that having double standards is what brings the scourge of Amalek. The war against Amalek is a theme during this month of Elul, just as it is in the month of Adar, which is six months earlier and diagonally opposite/facing Elul in the circle of the months. Just as fighting Amalek is necessary in Adar in preparation for Nissan, the month of redemption, so it is necessary as part of the Teshuvah process during Elul as we approach Rosh HaShanah and the Days of Awe.
Amalek “encountered you [KORCHO] on the way” (Deut. 25:18). The Rabbis stated that Amalek “cooled [KAR] you” — When the Israelites were flushed with joy and innocent fervor immediately after the Exodus, Amalek attacked with demoralization and despair. Amalek attacked with MIKREH, “chance” — the philosophy that there is no order in the universe and that therefore everything is permitted. Amalek attacked with KERI, the wasteful emission of seed through sexual permissiveness and immorality. These are the very opposite of the holiness that is the foundation of Israel.
The alien culture around us is now reaching its climax in the espousal of the unholy. The Torah states that a man shall not wear the clothes and ornaments of a woman, and vice verse. Yet the alien culture is obsessed with gender and cross gender issues, and has legitimized homosexual relationships — an abomination in the eyes of the Torah — to the point that the countries which consider themselves most advanced are those that have legislated to give homosexual couples the same rights and benefits as husbands and wives. The Midrash clearly states that giving sanction to homosexual marriages brings ANDROLOMUSIA — chaos in which the innocent suffer with the guilty. We can see with our own eyes how the very world that has sanctioned this mockery of marriage is reeling from the fires of war and terror, crime, violence, economic recession, disease…
The foundation of the holiness of Israel has nothing to do with this mockery of marriage, this vain emission of seed. The foundation of the holiness of Israel is KIDDUSHIN, the sacred bond of marriage and fidelity between man and his wife. This is the foundation of family, continuity, the education of children, refinement, modesty, compassion and all other good traits.
Shabbat Shalom!
Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum