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Lord of the Sabbath

12 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on a Sabbath. His[a] disciples were hungry, and they began to pick heads of wheat[b] and eat them. But when the Pharisees[c] saw this they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is against the law to do on the Sabbath.” He[d] said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry— how he entered the house of God and ate[e] the sacred bread,[f] which was against the law[g] for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests?[h] Or have you not read in the law that the priests in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are not guilty? I[i] tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If[j] you had known what this means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’[k] you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is lord[l] of the Sabbath.”

Then[m] Jesus[n] left that place and entered their synagogue.[o] 10 A[p] man was there who had a withered[q] hand. And they asked Jesus,[r] “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”[s] so that they could accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Would not any one of you, if he had one sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person 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,[t] as healthy as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted against him, as to how they could assassinate[u] him.

God’s Special Servant

15 Now when Jesus learned of this, he went away from there. Great[v] crowds[w] followed him, and he healed them all. 16 But he sternly warned them not to make him known. 17 This fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:[x]

18 Here is[y] my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I take great delight.[z]
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
20 He will not break a bruised reed or extinguish a smoldering wick,
until he brings justice to victory.
21 And in his name the Gentiles[aa] will hope.”[ab]

Jesus and Beelzebul

22 Then they brought to him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. Jesus[ac] healed him so that he could speak and see.[ad] 23 All the crowds were amazed and said, “Could this one be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees[ae] heard this they said, “He does not cast out demons except by the power of Beelzebul,[af] the ruler[ag] of demons!” 25 Now when Jesus[ah] realized what they were thinking, he said to them,[ai] “Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed,[aj] and no town or house divided against itself will stand. 26 So if[ak] Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons[al] cast them[am] out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God[an] has already overtaken[ao] you. 29 How[ap] else can someone enter a strong man’s[aq] house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can thoroughly plunder the house.[ar] 30 Whoever is not with me is against me,[as] and whoever does not gather with me scatters.[at] 31 For this reason I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy,[au] but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven.[av] But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven,[aw] either in this age or in the age to come.

Trees and Their Fruit

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad[ax] and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Offspring of vipers! How are you able to say anything good, since you are evil? For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart. 35 The good person[ay] brings good things out of his[az] good treasury,[ba] and the evil person brings evil things out of his evil treasury. 36 I[bb] tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the experts in the law[bc] along with some Pharisees[bd] answered him,[be] “Teacher, we want to see a sign[bf] from you.” 39 But he answered them,[bg] “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish[bh] for three days and three nights,[bi] so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people[bj] of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them[bk]—and now,[bl] something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The queen of the South[bm] will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon—and now,[bn] something greater than Solomon is here!

The Return of the Unclean Spirit

43 “When[bo] an unclean spirit[bp] goes out of a person,[bq] it passes through waterless places[br] looking for rest but[bs] does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the home I left.’[bt] When it returns,[bu] it finds the house[bv] empty, swept clean, and put in order.[bw] 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, so[bx] the last state of that person is worse than the first. It will be that way for this evil generation as well!”

Jesus’ True Family

46 While Jesus[by] was still speaking to the crowds,[bz] his mother and brothers[ca] came and stood outside, asking[cb] to speak to him. 47 [cc] Someone[cd] told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside wanting[ce] to speak to you.” 48 To the one who had said this, Jesus[cf] replied,[cg] “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” 49 And pointing[ch] toward his disciples he said, “Here[ci] are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is[cj] my brother and sister and mother.”


  1. Matthew 12:1 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  2. Matthew 12:1 tn Or “heads of grain.” While the generic term στάχυς (stachus) can refer to the cluster of seeds at the top of grain such as barley or wheat, in the NT the term is restricted to wheat (L&N 3.40; BDAG 941 s.v. 1). KJV “corn” is the result of British English, in which “corn” refers to the main cereal crop of a district, wheat in England and oats in Scotland (British English uses “maize” to refer to American corn).
  3. Matthew 12:2 sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
  4. Matthew 12:3 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  5. Matthew 12:4 tc ‡ The Greek verb ἔφαγεν (ephagen, “he ate”) is found in a majority of witnesses across a broad geogrphical area (P70 C D L N W Γ Δ Θ ƒ1, 13 33 565 579 700 1424 M latt sy co; SBL). NA28 has the plural ἔφαγον (ephagon, “they ate”), the wording found in א B 481. Although it is quite possible that ἔφαγεν was motivated by the parallels in Mark and Luke, both of which have the singular, the minimal—though early and significant—attestation for the plural, coupled with the singular being a more difficult reading (since the context implies that David’s companions also ate), gives the edge to ἔφαγεν as the likely autographic wording.
  6. Matthew 12:4 tn Grk “the bread of presentation.” sn The sacred bread refers to the “bread of presentation,” “showbread,” or “bread of the Presence,” twelve loaves prepared weekly for the tabernacle and later, the temple. See Exod 25:30; 35:13; 39:36; Lev 24:5-9. Each loaf was made from 3 quarts (3.5 liters; Heb “two-tenths of an ephah”) of fine flour. The loaves were placed on a table in the holy place of the tabernacle, on the north side opposite the lampstand (Exod 26:35). It was the duty of the priest each Sabbath to place fresh bread on the table; the loaves from the previous week were then given to Aaron and his descendants, who ate them in the holy place, because they were considered sacred (Lev 24:9). See also Mark 2:23-28, Luke 6:1-5.
  7. Matthew 12:4 sn Jesus’ response to the charge that what his disciples were doing was against the law is one of analogy: “If David did it for his troops in a time of need, then so can I with my disciples.” Jesus is clear that on the surface there was a violation here. What is not as clear is whether he is arguing a “greater need” makes this permissible or that this was within the intention of the law all along.
  8. Matthew 12:4 sn See 1 Sam 21:1-6.
  9. Matthew 12:6 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  10. Matthew 12:7 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  11. Matthew 12:7 sn A quotation from Hos 6:6 (see also Matt 9:13).
  12. Matthew 12:8 tn The term “lord” is in emphatic position in the Greek A second point in Jesus’ defense of his disciples’ actions was that his authority as Son of Man also allowed it, since as Son of Man he was lord of the Sabbath.
  13. Matthew 12:9 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
  14. Matthew 12:9 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  15. Matthew 12:9 sn See the note on synagogues in 4:23.
  16. Matthew 12:10 tn Grk “And behold.” The Greek word ἰδού (idou) has not been translated because it has no exact English equivalent here, but adds interest and emphasis (BDAG 468 s.v. 1).
  17. Matthew 12:10 sn Withered means the man’s hand was shrunken and paralyzed.
  18. Matthew 12:10 tn Grk “and they asked him, saying.” The participle λέγοντες (legontes) is redundant and has not been translated. The referent of the pronoun (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  19. Matthew 12:10 sn The background for this is the view that only if life was endangered should one attempt to heal on the Sabbath (see the Mishnah, m. Shabbat 6.3; 12.1; 18.3; 19.2; m. Yoma 8.6).
  20. Matthew 12:13 sn The passive was restored points to healing by God. Now the question became: Would God exercise his power through Jesus, if what Jesus was doing were wrong? Note also Jesus’ “labor.” He simply spoke and it was so.
  21. Matthew 12:14 tn Grk “destroy.”
  22. Matthew 12:15 tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated.
  23. Matthew 12:15 tc א B lat read only πολλοί (polloi, “many”) here, the first hand of N reads ὄχλοι (ochloi, “crowds”), while virtually all the rest of the witnesses have ὄχλοι πολλοί (ochloi polloi, “great crowds”). In spite of the good quality of both א and B (especially in combination), and the testimony of the Latin witnesses, the longer reading is most likely correct; the shorter readings were likely due to homoioteleuton. NA28 puts ὄχλοι in brackets, indicating the difficulty in choosing on reading over the other.
  24. Matthew 12:17 tn Grk “so that what was said by Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled, saying.” This final clause, however, is part of one sentence in Greek (vv. 15b-17) and is thus not related only to v. 16. The participle λέγοντος (legontos) is redundant and has not been translated.
  25. Matthew 12:18 tn Grk “Behold my servant.”
  26. Matthew 12:18 tn Grk “in whom my soul is well pleased.”
  27. Matthew 12:21 tn Or “the nations” (the same Greek word may be translated “Gentiles” or “nations”).
  28. Matthew 12:21 sn Verses 18-21 are a quotation from Isa 42:1-4.
  29. Matthew 12:22 tn Grk “And he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  30. Matthew 12:22 tn Grk “so that the mute man spoke and saw.”
  31. Matthew 12:24 sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
  32. Matthew 12:24 tn Grk “except by Beelzebul.”sn Beelzebul is another name for Satan. So some people recognized Jesus’ work as supernatural, but called it diabolical.
  33. Matthew 12:24 tn Or “prince.”
  34. Matthew 12:25 tc The majority of mss read ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς (ho Iēsous, “Jesus”), which clarifies who is the subject of the sentence. Although the shorter text is attested in far fewer witnesses (P21 א B D 892* sys,c sa bo), both the pedigree of the mss and the strong internal evidence (viz., scribes were not prone to intentionally delete the name of Jesus) argue for the omission of Jesus’ name. The name has been included in the translation, however, for clarity.
  35. Matthew 12:25 sn Jesus here demonstrated the absurdity of the thinking of the religious leaders who maintained that he was in league with Satan and that he actually derived his power from the devil. He first teaches (vv. 25-28) that if he casts out demons by the ruler of the demons, then in reality Satan is fighting against himself, with the result that his kingdom has come to an end. He then teaches (v. 29) about tying up the strong man to prove that he does not need to align himself with the devil because he is more powerful. Jesus defeated Satan at his temptation (4:1-11) and by his exorcisms he clearly demonstrated himself to be stronger than the devil. The passage reveals the desperate condition of the religious leaders, who in their hatred for Jesus end up attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan (a position for which they will be held accountable, 12:31-32).
  36. Matthew 12:25 tn Or “is left in ruins.”
  37. Matthew 12:26 tn This first class condition, the first of three “if” clauses in the following verses, presents the example vividly as if it were so. In fact, all three conditions in these verses are first class. The examples are made totally parallel. The expected answer is that Satan’s kingdom will not stand, so the suggestion makes no sense. Satan would not seek to heal.
  38. Matthew 12:27 sn Most read your sons as a reference to Jewish exorcists (cf. “your followers,” L&N 9.4), but more likely this is a reference to the disciples of Jesus themselves, who are also Jewish and have been healing as well (R. J. Shirock, “Whose Exorcists are they? The Referents of οἱ υἱοὶ ὑμῶν at Matthew 12:27/Luke 11:19, ” JSNT 46 [1992]: 41-51). If this is a reference to the disciples, then Jesus’ point is that it is not only him, but those associated with him whose power the hearers must assess. The following reference to judging also favors this reading.
  39. Matthew 12:27 tn The pronoun “them” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects were frequently omitted in Greek when clear from the context.
  40. Matthew 12:28 sn God’s kingdom is a major theme of Jesus’ teaching. The nature of the kingdom of God in the NT and in Jesus’ teaching has long been debated by interpreters and scholars, with discussion primarily centering around the nature of the kingdom (earthly, heavenly, or both) and the kingdom’s arrival (present, future, or both). An additional major issue concerns the relationship between the kingdom of God and the person and work of Jesus himself.
  41. Matthew 12:28 tn The phrase ἔφθασεν ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς (ephthasen ephhumas) is quite important. Does it mean merely “approach” (which would be reflected in a translation like “has come near to you”) or actually “come upon” (as in the translation given above, “has already overtaken you,” which has the added connotation of suddenness)? Is the arrival of the kingdom merely anticipated or already in process? Two factors favor arrival over anticipation here. First, the accusative case prepositional phrase ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς (ephhumas, “upon you”) in the Greek text in combination with this verb suggests arrival (Dan 4:24, 28 Theodotion). Second, the following illustration in v. 29 looks at the healing as portraying Satan being overrun. So the presence of God’s authority has arrived. See also L&N 13.123 for the translation of φθάνω (phthanō) as “to happen to already, to come upon, to come upon already.”
  42. Matthew 12:29 tn Grk “Or how can.”
  43. Matthew 12:29 sn The strong man here pictures Satan.
  44. Matthew 12:29 sn Some see the imagery here as similar to Eph 4:7-10, although no opponents are explicitly named in that passage. Jesus has the victory over Satan. Jesus’ acts of healing mean that the war is being won and the kingdom is coming.
  45. Matthew 12:30 sn Whoever is not with me is against me. The call here is to join the victor. Failure to do so means that one is being destructive. Responding to Jesus is the issue.
  46. Matthew 12:30 sn For the image of scattering, see Pss. Sol. 17:18.
  47. Matthew 12:31 tn Grk “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men.”
  48. Matthew 12:32 tn Grk “it will be forgiven him.”
  49. Matthew 12:32 tn Grk “it will not be forgiven him.”sn Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. This passage has troubled many people, who have wondered whether or not they have committed this sin. Three things must be kept in mind: (1) the nature of the sin is to ascribe what is the obvious work of the Holy Spirit (e.g., releasing people from Satan’s power) to Satan himself; (2) it is not simply a momentary doubt or sinful attitude, but is indeed a settled condition which opposes the Spirit’s work, as typified by the religious leaders who opposed Jesus; and (3) a person who is concerned about it has probably never committed this sin, for those who commit it here (i.e., the religious leaders) are not in the least concerned about Jesus’ warning.
  50. Matthew 12:33 tn Grk “rotten.” The word σαπρός, modifying both “tree” and “fruit,” can also mean “diseased” (L&N 65.28).
  51. Matthew 12:35 tn The Greek text reads here ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos). The term is generic referring to any person.
  52. Matthew 12:35 tn Grk “the”; the Greek article has been translated here and in the following clause (“his evil treasury”) as a possessive pronoun (ExSyn 215).
  53. Matthew 12:35 sn The treasury here is a metaphorical reference to a person’s heart (cf. BDAG 456 s.v. θησαυρός 1.b and the parallel passage in Luke 6:45).
  54. Matthew 12:36 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  55. Matthew 12:38 tn Or “Then some of the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
  56. Matthew 12:38 tn Grk “and Pharisees.” The word “some” before “Pharisees” has been supplied for See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
  57. Matthew 12:38 tn Grk “answered him, saying.” The participle λέγοντες (legontes) is redundant, but the syntax of the sentence was changed to conform to English style.
  58. Matthew 12:38 sn What exactly this sign would have been, given what Jesus was already doing, is not clear. But here is where the fence-sitters reside, refusing to commit to him.
  59. Matthew 12:39 tn Grk “But answering, he said to them.” This construction is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation.
  60. Matthew 12:40 tn Grk “large sea creature.”
  61. Matthew 12:40 sn A quotation from Jonah 1:17.
  62. Matthew 12:41 tn Grk “men”; the word here (ἀνήρ, anēr) usually indicates males or husbands, but occasionally is used in a generic sense of people in general, as here (cf. BDAG 79 s.v. 1.a, 2).
  63. Matthew 12:41 tn Grk “at the preaching of Jonah.”
  64. Matthew 12:41 tn Grk “behold.”
  65. Matthew 12:42 sn On the queen of the South see 1 Kgs 10:1-3 and 2 Chr 9:1-12, as well as Josephus, Ant. 8.6.5-6 (8.165-175). The South most likely refers to modern southwest Arabia, possibly the eastern part of modern Yemen, although there is an ancient tradition reflected in Josephus which identifies this geo-political entity as Ethiopia.
  66. Matthew 12:42 tn Grk “behold.”
  67. Matthew 12:43 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  68. Matthew 12:43 sn Unclean spirit refers to an evil spirit.
  69. Matthew 12:43 tn Grk “man.” This is a generic use of ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos), referring to both males and females. This same use occurs in v. 45.
  70. Matthew 12:43 sn The background for the reference to waterless places is not entirely clear, though some Jewish texts suggest spirits must have a place to dwell, but not with water (Luke 8:29-31; Tob 8:3). Some suggest that the image of the desert or deserted cities as the places demons dwell is where this idea started (Isa 13:21; 34:14).
  71. Matthew 12:43 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.
  72. Matthew 12:44 tn Grk “I will return to my house from which I came.”
  73. Matthew 12:44 tn Grk “comes.”
  74. Matthew 12:44 tn The words “the house” are not in Greek but are implied.
  75. Matthew 12:44 sn The image of the house empty, swept clean, and put in order refers to the life of the person from whom the demon departed. The key to the example appears to be that no one else has been invited in to dwell. If an exorcism occurs and there is no response to God, then the way is free for the demon to return. Some see the reference to exorcism as more symbolic; thus the story’s only point is about responding to Jesus. This is possible and certainly is an application of the passage.
  76. Matthew 12:45 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the concluding point of the story.
  77. Matthew 12:46 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  78. Matthew 12:46 tn Grk “crowds, behold, his mother.” The Greek word ἰδού (idou) has not been translated because it has no exact English equivalent here, but adds interest and emphasis (BDAG 468 s.v. 1).
  79. Matthew 12:46 sn The issue of whether Jesus had brothers (siblings) has had a long history in the church. Epiphanius, in the 4th century, argued that Mary was a perpetual virgin and had no offspring other than Jesus. Others argued that these brothers were really cousins. Nothing in the text suggests any of this. See also John 7:3.
  80. Matthew 12:46 tn Grk “seeking.”
  81. Matthew 12:47 tc A few ancient mss and versions lack this verse (א* B L Γ ff1 k sys,c sa), while almost all the rest have it. The witness of א and B is especially strong, but internal considerations override this external evidence. Both v. 46 and v. 47 end with the word λαλῆσαι (“to speak”), so early scribes probably omitted the verse through homoioteleuton. Without v. 47 the passage is nonsensical: v. 46 says Jesus’ family members wanted to speak to him, and v. 48 begins with “to the one who said this.” The antecedent of “the one who said this” must surely be “someone” in v. 47. Thus, the omission of v. 47 is too hard a reading. This verse therefore should be regarded as part of the Ausgangstext.
  82. Matthew 12:47 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  83. Matthew 12:47 tn Grk “seeking.”
  84. Matthew 12:48 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  85. Matthew 12:48 tn Grk “And answering, he said to the one who had said this.” This construction is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation. Here δέ (de) at the beginning of the clause has not been translated.
  86. Matthew 12:49 tn Grk “extending his hand.”
  87. Matthew 12:49 tn Grk “Behold my mother and my brothers.”
  88. Matthew 12:50 tn The pleonastic pronoun αὐτός (autos, “he”) which precedes this verb has not been translated.