And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money to the soldiers,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)When they were assembled.—Obviously the chief priests to whom the soldiers had told their tale.
And had taken counsel.—Better, as before in Matthew 27:1; Matthew 27:7, having held a council. It was a formal, though probably, as before, a packed, meeting of the Sanhedrin. They decided on the ready expedients of bribery and falsehood. The fact that the chief priests were Sadducees, and therefore specially interested in guarding against what would appear as a contradiction of their main dogma, must not be forgotten, as in part determining their action. (Comp. Acts 4:42.)Matthew 28:12-14. And when they were assembled, &c. — The chief priests, having received this report, called the whole senate together, and they consulted among themselves what they should do in this perplexing emergency: and in particular, as may be reasonably supposed, whether they should dismiss the guards with a charge to conceal the story they had told them, or should accuse them to the governor, and attempt to get them punished for neglect of duty. But, considering the manner in which the governor had appeared to be affected toward Jesus, and the many prodigies which had attended his death, and also knowing they had no positive proof of any negligence or treachery in the soldiers; they resolved to decline commencing a prosecution against them, and even to pass the affair over without any complaint; but, apprehending that the most effectual method they could take would be to endeavour to pervert the evidence of these soldiers, they gave them large money, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night and stole him away while we slept — To prevail with them to propagate this lie, they would doubtless urge, that in whatever way this strange occurrence which they reported might be accounted for, whether by supposing some diabolical operation in the case, or an illusion of their senses, it was necessary for the public safety that it should be concealed, because that otherwise the whole nation would be deluded and undone. The priests certainly could not but foresee what judgment any reasonable persons would form of such a report. At best, it could only be considered as the conjecture of the soldiers, who, by their own confession, being asleep when the supposed fact was said to take place, could tell no more of it than other people; or, if they pretended to say more, it was absurd, for how could they know what was doing, and by whom, while they were asleep? or, knowing it, why did they not prevent it? But this lie implies divers other absurdities: 1st, It was not probable that a Roman guard should be off their watch at all, much less that they should be asleep, since for such a neglect of duty, according to the Roman military laws, if discovered, they would have been liable to be punished with death. 2d, If even some of them had slept, it was not credible that they all should, especially in the open air, and at one time. 3d, If so improbable a thing as that had happened, it was still more incredible that they should all fall into such a sound sleep that not one of them should be awaked by the noise which must necessarily have been made by removing so large a stone, and carrying away the body; neither of which things could possibly have been done silently, or by men walking on tiptoes, to prevent discovery. 4th, It was equally incredible that our Lord’s disciples, or any persons, should have had time to come to the sepulchre to do all this, and return, carrying away the body, without being perceived by any one, and that during the time of the passover, when it was full moon, and when Jerusalem was very full of people, great numbers of whom would doubtless be walking in the suburbs and environs of the city, at all hours of the night.
The absurdity of the tale, that the disciples took away the body, will still further and more clearly appear if we attend to their temper, and some other circumstances of the case. “Far from entertaining any expectation of their Master’s rising again from the dead, they understood none of the predictions which he uttered concerning it. And when they were informed of it by the women, their words appeared to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. Nay, when Jesus himself came and stood in the midst of them, they were terrified, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. In this temper, is it probable that they would form the design of imposing upon the world the belief of their Master’s resurrection; an event which they had not the least expectation of themselves? Further, when Jesus was apprehended, his disciples were so full of fears for their own safety, that they all forsook him and fled. One of the most courageous of them, who followed him into the high-priest’s house, being asked if he was one of his disciples, was so terrified, that he denied three times, and with oaths, his having any knowledge of him. The rest, during his punishment, skulked among the crowd, except John, who ventured to appear among the women at his cross. In the whole, they were only eleven; a handful of men who had not been trained to arms. To suppose that a company of this sort either formed or executed the project of stealing away their Master’s body, from a sepulchre hewn out of a rock, to which there was only one entry, and that guarded by a numerous band of armed soldiers, is altogether improbable. Again, the stealing away of the body by the disciples is absurd for this reason likewise, that though they had, contrary to all probability, been successful in their design, it would have answered no purpose in the world. The disciples had all along considered the Messiah as a great temporal prince; and they had followed their Master in hopes that he would become this great prince, and raise them to the first posts in his kingdom. Accordingly, when they saw him expire on the cross, their hopes were all blasted at once. This they themselves honestly confessed; We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel. Wherefore, to have stolen away the dead body of their Master, could have served none of the views by which they were now actuated, even though thereby they could have imposed the belief of his resurrection upon the world. It did not raise him to universal dominion; it did not put them in possession of riches or power. And with respect to the use which they made afterward of their Master’s resurrection, in converting the world, they had not the most distant conception of it at the time they fixed for his resurrection. Upon the whole, the stealing away of the body by the disciples while the guards slept, is, in all the lights wherein it can be viewed, the most idle, inconsistent, and improbable story imaginable.” — Macknight.
and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers—It would need a good deal; but the whole case of the Jewish authorities was now at stake. With what contempt must these soldiers have regarded the Jewish ecclesiastics!See Poole on "Matthew 28:15".
and had taken counsel among themselves what steps to take to stifle this matter, that it might not spread and be believed by the people; they agreed upon this, as the best expedient, to bribe the soldiers to give a false account of it, as they did:
they gave large money unto the soldiers, or "sufficient money"; they gave large sums of money, as were enough to satisfy the soldiers; they gave them whatever they would have; for though these men were very covetous, yet upon this occasion gave liberally; and that perhaps which were for the sacrifices, or for the repair of the temple, or for the supply of the poor.And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 28:12 ff. Συναχθέντες] Change of subject. Winer, p. 586 [E. T. 787].
συμβούλ. τε λαβόντες] after consulting together, as in Matthew 12:14, Matthew 22:15, Matthew 27:1; Matthew 27:7. The conjunctive particle τε has the same force as in Matthew 27:48, and occurs nowhere else in Matthew; found so much the more frequently in Luke’s writings, especially in the Acts.
ἀργύρια] as in Matthew 26:15, Matthew 27:3; Matthew 27:5; Matthew 27:9. Silver pieces, a sufficient number of shekels.
εἴπατε, κ.τ.λ.] an infelix astutia (Augustine), seeing that they could not possibly know what had taken place while they were sleeping.
Matthew 28:14. ἐπὶ τοῦ ἡγεμόνος] coram procuratore. ἀκούειν is not to be understood, with the majority of expositors, merely in the sense of: to come to the ears of, which is inadmissible on account of ἐπί (for in that case Matthew would have simply written: καὶ ἐὰν ἀκούσῃ τοῦτο ὁ ἡγ, or used the passive with the dative), but in the judicial sense (John 7:51; Xen. Cyrop. i. 2. 14, and frequently): if this comes to be inquired into, if an investigation into this matter should take place before the procurator. Erasmus: “si res apud illum judicem agatur.” Comp. Vatablus and Bleek.
ἡμεῖς] with a self-important emphasis. Comp. ὑμᾶς in the next clause.
πείσομεν αὐτόν] we will persuade him, i.e. satisfy, appease him (see on Galatians 1:10), in order, that is, that he may not punish you; see what follows.
ἀμερίμνους] free from all concern (1 Corinthians 7:32), and, in the present instance, in the objective sense: free from danger and all unpleasant consequences (Herodian, ii. 4. 3).
Matthew 28:15. ὡς ἐδιδάχθ.] as they had been instructed, Herod. iii. 134.
ὁ λόγος οὗτος] not: “the whole narrative” (Paulus), but, as the context requires (Matthew 28:13), this story of the alleged stealing of the body. The industrious circulation of this falsehood is also mentioned by Justin, c. Tr. xvii. 108. For an abominable expansion of it, as quoted from the Toledoth Jeschu, see Eisenmenger’s entdeckt. Judenth. I. p. 190 ff. For ἡ σήμερον ἡμέρα, see Lobeck, Paral. p. 534.Matthew 28:12. ἀργύρια; the holy men thoroughly understand the power of money; silver pieces, shekels are meant.—ἱκανὰ probably means here a considerable number, not a number sufficient to bribe the soldiers (Meyer and Weiss). They gave with a free hand. This sense of ἱκανός is frequent in the N. T. Vide, e.g., Mark 10:46, of the crowd following Jesus at Jericho, and Acts 27:9 (of time).Matthew 28:12. Ἀργύρια ἱκανὰ, money sufficient) i.e., to corrupt the Roman soldiers, and induce them to lie contrary to the truth, at their own great peril.
 The greed of gold has more power with them than their fear spoken of in Matthew 28:4.—V. g.Verse 12. - When they (i.e. the chief priests) were assembled with the elders. On hearing the report of the soldiers, the Sanhedrists held a hurried and informal meeting, to consult about this alarming matter. It would be fatal to their policy to let the real truth get wind. Such testimony from unprejudiced heathens would infallibly convince the people of the validity of Christ's claims, and produce the very effect which their unusual precautions had been intended to obviate. One course alone remained, and that was to prepare a circumstantial lie concerning one part of the story, and to deny or ignore utterly the supernatural details. The plainest evidence will not persuade against wilful blindness. These rulers acted according to Christ's sad foreboding on another occasion, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31). They gave large money (money enough) unto the soldiers. They bribed the soldiers with a sum of money sufficient to satisfy their cupidity. This they did personally, or more probably through some trusty agent. They never doubted the facts to which the guards bore witness; they never attempted to discredit their story by suggestion of error or superstitious invention. They accepted the tale, and took most dishonourable means to make it innocuous. They had bought the aid of the traitor Judas; they now buy the silence of these soldiers. It. is suggested by St. Jerome that in both cases they made use of the temple funds, thus employing against the cause of God that which was devoted to his service.
Lit., sufficient money. Enough to bribe them to invent a lie.
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