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Verses 5-6

Matthew 12:5-6. Have ye not read in the law, &c. He does not mean that the words following were to be found in the law, but only that they might read in the law, how the priests were obliged, on the sabbath days, to perform such servile work in the temple as, considered separately from the end of it, would have been a profanation of the sabbath, but really was not so, because it was necessary to the public worship of God, on account of which the sabbath was instituted. If it be asked what servile work the priests performed on the sabbath, the answer is obvious. On that day, as well as on other days, they made up the fires, killed, flayed, and dressed the sacrifices, and performed other pieces of manual labour necessary to the religious service which God had established among them. Nay, besides the continual burnt offering, the priests were obliged, on the sabbaths, to sacrifice two lambs extraordinary, by which their servile work was that day double of what it was on the other days of the week. See Numbers 28:9. But in this place is one greater than the temple As if he had said, “If you reply that the priests were not culpable in those actions, because they were undertaken for the temple service, I acknowledge it; but at the same time I must observe, that if the temple, with its service, is of such importance as to merit a particular dispensation from the law of the sabbath, I and my disciples, whose business of promoting the salvation of men is a matter of more importance, may, on that account, with more reason take the same liberty in a case of the like necessity. According to this interpretation, the reading μειζον , a greater work, instead of μειζων , a greater person, which is authorized by many manuscripts, will have a peculiar elegance. Then the sense will be, ‘There is here a much more noble work carrying on than the temple service.’” Macknight.

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