Ver. 1-3. Our Lord having now done with the Pharisees, turneth his discourse to the more docible people, who (as we heard before) heard him attentively and gladly, Mar_12:37Luk_19:48. Our Saviour foresaw that some unwary hearers might make two ill uses of what he had spoke against the scribes and Pharisees.
1. Some might report him an enemy to the law, the interpreters of which the Pharisees were.
2. Others might contemn the authority of the law, because he had represented these men, in whose hand the interpretation of it at present was, so truly contemptible.
Whereas, on the other side, many might run into errors of practice, from the example of the scribes and Pharisees, their magistrates and teachers. Against all these mistakes he cautions them in this chapter, showing that he did not undervalue the law of Moses, nor would have his reflections on the Pharisees prejudice any thing which they taught them of it, and according to it; neither would he have his people take the copy of the law from their actions.
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’s seat: these men were the ordinary readers and interpreters of the law of God. Moses is here put for the law, as Luk_16:31, If they hear not Moses and the prophets; and so Mat_23:29, They have Moses and the prophets. Moses’s seat signifieth the seat appointed for those that gave the sense of the law, or judgment upon it; thus, Moses of old time hath in every city those that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day, Act_15:212Co_3:15. Their way was, while they read the Scriptures they stood up: (paying a particular reverence to the pure word of God), Luk_4:16; when they had done reading, they sat down and opened it. Their sitting in the seat of Moses did not signify a succession to Moses, for he had no successor, being the Mediator of the Old Testament; but the delivering and interpreting the doctrine and law of Moses. Dr. Lightfoot thinks it is rather to be understood of the chair of magistracy than the doctrinal chair. The Pharisees being exercised in that, it may be understood of both, for the reading and interpreting the law chiefly belonged to the scribes.
All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; that is, whatsoever is in Moses which they bid you observe and do. The term all is to be understood restrainedly, with respect to the subject matter or persons spoken of, in multitudes of scriptures. Our Saviour’s cautioning his disciples so often against the leaven of these men, and their traditions, plainly showeth us that must be here the sense of it: Let not the law of God lose his authority with you because of those wicked men. He doth not command them to hear none but them, for then to what purpose did he himself preach, or send out the twelve, if none might hear them? All that can be concluded from this text is that the law of God, or word of God, is not to be despised, whoever reads or delivereth it. He goeth on,
But do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. We are naturally more led by example than by precept. Men had therefore need be cautioned against ill living teachers. Odi philosophum qui non sapit sibi. A man had need very well know the medicine which he taketh from a physician he seeth sick of the same disease, when he himself refuseth and abominates it. He that says and does not, may be heard, but not imitated. There may be a time when men can ordinarily hear no others, which was the present case.