Matthew 12:3

New Testament

1 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pick heads of wheat and eat them. 2 But when the Pharisees saw this they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is against the law to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry— 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the sacred bread, which was against the law for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that the priests in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are not guilty? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what this means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.

Shabbat 132b

Babylonian Talmud

and the Temple service overrides Shabbat, as Shabbat offerings are sacrificed at their appointed time, and nevertheless circumcision overrides leprosy, i.e., if there were symptoms of leprosy on the foreskin of the baby, one circumcises the child even though he thereby violates the prohibition to cut off symptoms of leprosy; therefore, with regard to Shabbat, which is overridden by the Temple service, is it not logical that circumcision, which is so stringent that it overrides leprosy, overrides Shabbat as well? This was the tanna’s reasoning at the outset.

 Notes and References

"... the logic of the passage in Matthew is predicated upon seeing Jesus as that which is something greater than the temple and the temple in turn being greater than the Sabbath. The issue is whether his disciples—for which he is responsible—are acting unlawfully in eating grain on the Sabbath (12:2). Jesus gives two replies in the form of confrontational questions, both of which concern the temple. On one hand, David himself broke the law in eating the shewbread in the “house of God” (12:3–4; later Jewish tradition does place the event on a Sabbath [b. Menahot 95b; Yalqut, on 1 Samuel 21:5]). On the other hand, Jesus describes as a Sabbath profanation the priests’ required Sabbath sacrifices in the temple as outlined in Numbers 28:9–10. Then Jesus informs the Pharisees that “something greater than the temple is here” (12:6). As the ripostes are parallel (οὐκ ἀνέγνωτε in both 12:3 and 12:5) and as each concerns the temple, 12:6 covers both. The import is that Jesus’ disciples can indeed “break” the Sabbath rules not merely because of the principle of mercy or even Jesus’ lordship over the Sabbath as Son of Man but because Jesus himself is the “something greater” than the temple, which, in any instance, permitted the “profanation” of the Sabbath for temple concerns. If the Sabbath is broken for the sake of the temple, how much more for Jesus, who is greater than the temple? (See b. Shabbat 132b) ..."

Huizenga, Leroy A. The New Isaac: Tradition and Intertextuality in the Gospel of Matthew (p. 286) Brill, 2009

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