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Matthew 12:1-14 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 12

Picking Grain on the Sabbath. [a]At that time Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads[b] of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them,[c] “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat? [d]Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. [e]If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. [f]For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

The Man with a Withered Hand. Moving on from there, he went into their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man there who had a withered hand. They questioned him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?”[g] so that they might accuse him. 11 [h]He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep that falls into a pit on the sabbath will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable a person is than a sheep. So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees[i] went out and took counsel against him to put him to death.

The Chosen Servant.[j]


  1. 12:1–14 Matthew here returns to the Marcan order that he left in Mt 9:18. The two stories depend on Mk 2:23–28; 3:1–6, respectively, and are the only places in either gospel that deal explicitly with Jesus’ attitude toward sabbath observance.
  2. 12:1–2 The picking of the heads of grain is here equated with reaping, which was forbidden on the sabbath (Ex 34:21).
  3. 12:3–4 See 1 Sm 21:2–7. In the Marcan parallel (Mk 2:25–26) the high priest is called Abiathar, although in 1 Samuel this action is attributed to Ahimelech. The Old Testament story is not about a violation of the sabbath rest; its pertinence to this dispute is that a violation of the law was permissible because of David’s men being without food.
  4. 12:5–6 This and the following argument (Mt 12:7) are peculiar to Matthew. The temple service seems to be the changing of the showbread on the sabbath (Lv 24:8) and the doubling on the sabbath of the usual daily holocausts (Nm 28:9–10). The argument is that the law itself requires work that breaks the sabbath rest, because of the higher duty of temple service. If temple duties outweigh the sabbath law, how much more does the presence of Jesus, with his proclamation of the kingdom (something greater than the temple), justify the conduct of his disciples.
  5. 12:7 See note on Mt 9:13.
  6. 12:8 The ultimate justification for the disciples’ violation of the sabbath rest is that Jesus, the Son of Man, has supreme authority over the law.
  7. 12:10 Rabbinic tradition later than the gospels allowed relief to be given to a sufferer on the sabbath if life was in danger. This may also have been the view of Jesus’ Pharisaic contemporaries. But the case here is not about one in danger of death.
  8. 12:11 Matthew omits the question posed by Jesus in Mk 3:4 and substitutes one about rescuing a sheep on the sabbath, similar to that in Lk 14:5.
  9. 12:14 See Mk 3:6. Here the plan to bring about Jesus’ death is attributed to the Pharisees only. This is probably due to the situation of Matthew’s church, when the sole opponents were the Pharisees.
  10. 12:15–21 Matthew follows Mk 3:7–12 but summarizes his source in two verses (Mt 12:15, 16) that pick up the withdrawal, the healings, and the command for silence. To this he adds a fulfillment citation from the first Servant Song (Is 42:1–4) that does not correspond exactly to either the Hebrew or the LXX of that passage. It is the longest Old Testament citation in this gospel, emphasizing the meekness of Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, and foretelling the extension of his mission to the Gentiles.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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