Helpmewithbiblestudy.org

Seven Woes of the Pharisees (Matt 23:13-32)

Matthew 23:13-32 is known as the Seven Woes of the Pharisees. Jesus is condemning the Pharisees for teaching their version of the Mosaic Law - the Law of Moses plus their oral traditions.

There are two observations to make of this passage:

1. With literary beauty, Jesus presents His woes in a structured chiasm with its apex emphasizing the main reason for the Pharisees' failure as teachers.

2. Did you notice that this passage is missing Matthew 23:14? Because the best and earliest manuscripts do not have Matthew 23:14, many Bible translations omit it. Translations using later manuscripts containing Matthew 23:14 will present eight woes.

A chiasm is a Hebrew literary device that presents ideas or clauses that mirror each other in a pattern that places a focus on the apex of the literary structure. As you learn more about how to study the Bible, you too will be able to identify these devices and enable a greater understanding of God's word. Here the chiasm of Matthew 23:13-32 (ESV) can be observed with an x marking the apex:

A: 13) "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.

B: 15) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

C: 16) "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' 17) You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18) And you say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.' 19) You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20) So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21) And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22) And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

X: 23) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24) You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

C': 25) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26) You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

B': 27) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28) So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

A': 29) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30) saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31) Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32) Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. (Matt 23:13-32, ESV)

A good way of studying a chiasm is to make a table pairing the first half of the chiasm with its corresponding parallel of the second half. This makes it easier to observe and understand the chiasm.


A: 13) "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.

A': 29) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30) saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31) Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32) Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.

Observations:




B: 15) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

B': 27) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28) So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Observations:




C: 16) "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' 17) You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18) And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.' 19) You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20) Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21) And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22) And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

C': 25) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26) You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

Observations:




Inflection Point:


X: 23) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24) You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

Observations:







Copyright © 2023 Helpmewithbiblestudy.org. All rights to this material are reserved. We encourage you to print the material for personal and non-profit use or link to this site. If you find this article to be a blessing, please share the link so that it may rise in search engine rankings.