And he said to them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Will he not lay hold on it?—As the reasoning takes the form of an argumentum ad hominem, it is clear that the act was regarded as a lawful one, even by the more rigid scribes. The Talmud discusses the question, but does not decide it. Some casuists solved the problem by a compromise. The sheep was not to be pulled out of the pit till the Sabbath was over, but in the meantime it was lawful to supply it with fodder. In St. Mark and St. Luke the question is given in another form, and without the illustration, which we find in St. Luke, in another connection, in Luke 14:5. Jesus bids the man with the withered hand stand up in the midst, and then puts the question, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” The alternative thus presented as a dilemma was a practical answer to their casuistry. They would have said, “Leave the man as he is till the Sabbath is over;” and our Lord’s answer is that in that case good would have been left undone, and that not to do good when it lies in our power is practically to do evil.Matthew 12:11-13. And he said — That he might show their unreasonableness, and confute them by their own practice: What man — that shall have —
Or, Who, if he have but one sheep, that on the sabbath day shall fall into a pit, and it be in danger of perishing there, will not lay hold on it, &c. —
The stress of the question does not lie on supposing a man to have only one sheep, but on one only falling into a pit; and yet, for the comparatively small value of that one, his not scrupling to undertake the labour of helping it out on the sabbath day. How much then is a man better than a sheep? As if he had said, If the regard you have for the life of your cattle leads you to do servile work on the sabbath, for the preservation of a single sheep, charity should much rather induce you to labour for the preservation of a fellow-creature, though the good office is to be done on the sabbath day. Wherefore it is lawful to do well — To save a beast, much more a man, or to perform any of the lovely acts of mercy and charity on the sabbath day. Our Lord, having spoken as above, according to St. Mark 3:5, looked round about upon them with anger, with a holy indignation at their wickedness, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, for their stupidity and impenitence, and for that condemnation and ruin which he knew they were thus bringing on themselves, as well as for the pernicious effect which their conduct would have on others. But at the same time that he testified his displeasure at the Pharisees, he relieved and comforted the infirm man, saying to him, Stretch forth thy hand, and, a divine power accompanying the word, he immediately stretched it out, and, in an instant, it was made sound as the other. The evangelists say no more; but leave their readers to imagine the wonder and astonishment of the numerous spectators, and the joy of the man who had recovered the use of so necessary a member.See Poole on "Matthew 12:12".
what man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? Christ appeals to them in a case which was usually done among them, and which, without delay, no man would scruple to do; though their present rule of direction, in such a case, is this (f):
"if a beast fall into a ditch, or a pool of water, if food can be given it, where it is, they feed it till the going out of the sabbath; but if not, bolsters and pillows may be brought, and put under it, and if it can come out: it may come out:''
and which is elsewhere (g) a little differently expressed;
"if a beast fall into a ditch, or pool of water, it is forbidden a man to bring it out with his hand; but if he can give it food where it is, it may be fed till the going out of the sabbath:''
which seems to have been made since the times of Christ, and in opposition to this observation of his.And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 12:11. The construction, like that of Matthew 7:9, is a case of anacoluthon.
The futures indicate the supposed possible case; see Kühner, II. 1, p. 147: what man may there be from among you, and so on.
πρόβατον ἕν] one, which on that account is all the dearer to him.
καὶ ἐὰν ἐμπέσῃ, κ.τ.λ.] There must have been no doubt as to whether such a thing was allowable, for Jesus argues ex concesso. The Talmud (Gemara) contains no such concession, but answers the question partly in a negative way, and partly by making casuistical stipulations. See the passages in Othonis, Lex Rabb. p. 527; Wetstein, and Buxtorf, Synag. c. 16.
κρατήσει αὐτὸ κ. ἐγερεῖ] descriptive. He lays hold of the sheep that has fallen into a ditch (βόθυνον, Xen. Oec. xix. 3, not exclusively a well, but any kind of hole, like βόθρος), and, lifting out the animal lying bruised in the pit, he sets it upon its feet.Matthew 12:11-12. Christ’s reply, by two home-thrusting questions and an irresistible conclusion.—τίς … ἄνθρωπος. One is tempted here, as in Matthew 7:9, to put emphasis on ἄνθρωπος: who of you not dead to the feelings of a man? Such questions as this and that in Luke 15:4 go to the root of the matter. Humanity was what was lacking in the Pharisaic character.—πρόβατον ἕν: one sheep answering to the one working hand, whence perhaps Luke’s ἡ δεξιὰ (Matthew 6:6).—ἐὰν ἐμπέσῃ. The case supposed might quite well happen; hence in the protasis ἐὰν with subjunctive, and in the apodosis the future (Burton, N. T. Moods and Tenses, § 250). A solitary sheep might fall into a ditch on a Sabbath; and that is what its owner would do if he were an ordinary average human being, viz., lift it out at once. What would the Pharisee do? It is easy to see what he would be tempted to do if the one sheep were his own. But would he have allowed such action as a general rule? One would infer so from the fact that Jesus argued on such questions ex concesso. In that case the theory and practice of contemporary Pharisees must have been milder than in the Talmudic period, when the rule was: if there be no danger, leave the animal in the ditch till the morrow (vide Buxtorf, Syn. Jud., c. xvi.). Grotius suggests that later Jewish law was made stricter out of hatred to Christians.11. In the other Synoptic Gospels the argument is different. “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life or to kill? St Matthew states the argument that bears specially on the Jewish Law. St Luke, however, mentions the application of the same argument by our Lord on a different occasion, ch. Matthew 14:5. Our Lord’s answer is thrown into the form of a syllogism, the minor premiss and conclusion of which are left to be inferred in St Luke loc. cit.Matthew 12:11. Πρόβατον ἓν, one sheep) The loss of which was not great.—οὐχὶ κρατήσει, will he not take hold of) A verb also suited to the healing of the hand. In our Saviour’s time this was permitted, since then it has been forbidden by the Jews.Verse 11. - Matthew alone on this occasion, but comp. Luke 14:5. And he said unto them. Christ's answer appeals from intellectual and theoretical difficulties to the practical common sense of ordinary morality (cf. Romans 3:5-7). Their own feelings would guide them to help a brute, much more a man. According to the parallel passages, our Lord first set the man in the midst of them, wishing, perhaps, to draw out their sympathy, and only afterwards spoke this verse of censure (see Chrysostom). What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep. One only, and therefore so much the dearer (Meyer). He would feel an interest in it as an animal that he had learned to love; and he would care for it as his property. In Christ's case also there was the love of man as man, and of man as belonging to him (John 10:14; John 1:11). In Luke 14:5 ("a son or an ox") the double thought is distributed over two objects; the man Would love his son, and care for his property in the ox. And if it (this, Revised Version) fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.') confirms this from the Jerusalem Talmud and Maimonides.
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