Matthew 16:11
How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
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(11) How is it that ye do not understand?—True to His method of education our Lord does not Himself interpret the parable, but is, as it were, content to suggest the train of thought which led to the interpretation. And the disciples, slow of heart as they were, followed the clue thus given. “Then understood they.” Memory did at last quicken faith, and faith imparted the imaginative insight which sees its way through parables and dark sayings.

16:5-12 Christ speaks of spiritual things under a similitude, and the disciples misunderstand him of carnal things. He took it ill that they should think him as thoughtful about bread as they were; that they should be so little acquainted with his way of preaching. Then understood they what he meant. Christ teaches by the Spirit of wisdom in the heart, opening the understanding to the Spirit of revelation in the word.Take heed ... - That is, be cautious, be on your guard.

The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees - Leaven is used in making bread.

It passes secretly, silently, but certainly through the mass of dough. See the notes at Matthew 13:33. "None can see its progress." So it was with the doctrines of the Pharisees. They were insinuating, artful, plausible. They concealed the real tendency of their doctrines; they instilled them secretly into the mind, until they pervaded all the faculties like leaven.

They reasoned ... - The disciples did not understand him as referring to the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees, because the word "leaven" was not often used among the Jews to denote doctrines, no other instance of this use of the word occurring in the Scriptures. Besides, the Jews had many particular rules about the leaven (yeast) which might be used in making bread. Many held that it was not lawful to eat bread made by the Gentiles; and the disciples, perhaps, supposed that he was cautioning them not to procure a supply from the Pharisees and Sadducees.

O ye of little faith! - Jesus, in reply, said that they should not be so anxious about the supply of their temporal wants. They should not have supposed, after the miracles that he had performed in feeding so many, that he would caution them to be anxious about procuring bread for their necessities. It was improper, then, for them to reason about a thing like that, but they should have supposed that he referred to something more important. The miracles had been full proof that he could supply all their wants without such anxiety.


Mt 16:1-12. A Sign from Heaven Sought and Refused—Caution against the Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

For the exposition, see on [1315]Mr 8:11-21.

See Poole on "Matthew 16:12".

How is it that ye do not understand,.... That you should be so senseless and void of thought, after such instances, as to imagine, that I concerned myself about what bread you brought with you; one would think you could not but know,

that I spake it not to you concerning bread, taken in a literal sense; but must be thought to speak figuratively and mystically, and to have an higher sense and meaning, when I said to you,

that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the Sadducees; how could you think that I had any regard to the leaven taken in a literal sense, the Pharisees and Sadducees approve or disapprove of?

How is it that ye do not {f} understand that I {g} spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?

(f) A demand or question joined with wonder.

(g) Spake for commanded.

Matthew 16:11. Πῶς] how is it possible! Astonishment in which a certain amount of censure is expressed.

προσέχετε δέ] see critical notes. It is not necessary to supply εἶπον (Paulus, Fritzsche), but we are rather to understand that after the question ending with εἶπον ὑμῖν, Jesus repeats, and with a view to its being yet more deeply pondered, the warning given in Matthew 16:6, in which case δέ is simply continuative (autem): But (let me say again) beware, and so on.

Matthew 16:11. προσέχετε, etc.: warning repeated without further explanation, as the meaning would now be self-evident.

Matthew 16:11. Πῶς, how) A particle expressing astonishment.—Cf. Gnomon on ch. Matthew 8:10.—οὐ περὶ ἄρτου, not concerning bread) The literal meaning is frequently more true and more sublime than the meaning of the letter; and where the latter treats of things natural, the former leads to things spiritual. In things spiritual, heavenly words ought to be taken more closely.

Verse 11. - That I spake it not to you, etc. The Revised Version, following many modern editors, divides the clause into two, thus: that I spake not to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven, etc. This is the second ground for the Lord's reproof administered to the apostles. They had taken in a carnal, literal sense a word which he had used in a symbolical or mystical meaning. It is the want of spiritual discernment which he censures. They had had frequent opportunities of hearing and appreciating his mode of teaching: miracles, parables, discourses, had an inner signification, which it was their duty to apprehend. The want of understanding was a moral fault for which they were answerable. We may say it would have been easier for our Lord to have spoken of doctrine without using the misunderstood figure of leaven. But it is in the way of his providence to speak words which need thought and grace to make them fully comprehended. They are thus more impressed upon the heart and memory, and bring forth better fruit. A well instructed Hebrew ought to have no difficulty in understanding metaphorical allusions. His Scriptures were full of them, and could not be intelligently read without the light thus cast upon them. Matthew 16:11
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