on Matthew 23 :5
All their works they do for to be seen of men - In pointing out the corruptions of these men, our Lord gives us the distinguishing characteristics of all false teachers, whether Jewish or Christian.
1. They live not according to the truths they preach. They say, and do not, Matthew 23:3.
2. They are severe to others, point out the narrowest road to heaven, and walk in the broad road themselves. They bind on burdens, etc., Matthew 23:4.
3. They affect to appear righteous, and are strict observers of certain rites, etc., while destitute of the power of godliness. They make broad their phylacteries, etc., Matthew 23:5.
4. They love worldly entertainments, go to feast wherever they are asked, and seek Church preferments. They love the chief places at feasts, and chief seats in the synagogues, Matthew 23:6.
5. They love and seek public respect and high titles, salutations in the market-place, (for they are seldom in their studies), and to be called of men rabbi - eminent teacher, though they have no title to it, either from the excellence or fruit of their teaching. When these marks are found in a man who professes to be a minister of Christ, charity itself will assert he is a thief and a robber - he has climbed over the wall of the sheepfold, or broken it down in order to get in.
Phylacteries - φυλακτηρια, from φυλασσω, to keep or preserve. These were small slips of parchment or vellum, on which certain portions of the law were written. The Jews tied these about their foreheads and arms, for three different purposes.
1. To put them in mind of those precepts which they should constantly observe.
2. To procure them reverence and respect in the sight of the heathen. And
3. To act as amulets or charms to drive away evil spirits.
The first use of these phylacteries is evident from their name.
The second use appears from what is said on the subject from the Gemara, Beracoth, chap. 1., quoted by Kypke. "Whence is it proved that phylacteries, (תפילין, tephilin), are the strength of Israel? - Ans. From what is written, Deuteronomy 28:10. All the, people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name [of יהוה Jehovah] - and they shall be afraid of thee.
The third use of them appears from the Targum, on Sol 8:3:: His left hand is under my head, etc. "The congregation of Israel hath said, I am elect above all people, because I bind my phylacteries on my left hand, and on my head, and the scroll is fixed to the right side of my gate, the third part of which looks to my bed-chamber, that Daemons may not be permitted to Injure me."
An original phylactery lies now before me. It is a piece of fine vellum, about eighteen inches long, and an inch and quarter broad. It is divided into four unequal compartments: in the first is written, in a very fair character, with many apices, after the mode of the German Jews, the first ten verses of Exodus 13; in the second compartment is written, from the eleventh to the sixteenth verse of the same chapter, inclusive in the third, from the fourth to the ninth verse, inclusive, of Deuteronomy 6., beginning with, Hear, O Israel, etc.; in the fourth, from the thirteenth to the twenty-first verse, inclusive, of Deuteronomy 11.
on Matthew 23 :5
Their phylacteries - The word "phylactery" comes from a word signifying to keep, preserve, or guard. The name was given because phylacteries were worn as amulets or charms, and were supposed to defend or preserve those who wore them from evil. They were small slips of parchment or vellum, on which were written certain portions of the Old Testament. The practice of using phylacteries was founded on a literal interpretation of that passage where God commands the Hebrews to have the law as a sign on their foreheads, and as frontlets between their eyes, Exodus 13:16; compare Proverbs 3:1, Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 6:21. One kind of phylactery was called a "frontlet," and was composed of four pieces of parchment, on the first of which was written Exodus 12:2-10; on the second, Exodus 13:11-21; on the third, Deuteronomy 6:4-9; and on the fourth, Deuteronomy 11:18-21. These pieces of parchment, thus inscribed, they enclosed in a piece of tough skin, making a square, on one side of which is placed the Hebrew letter shin (שׁ sh) and bound them round their foreheads with a thong or ribbon when they went to the synagogue. Some wore them evening and morning; others only at the morning prayer.
As the token upon the hand was required, as well as the frontlets between the eyes Exodus 13:16, the Jews made two rolls of parchment, written in square letters, with an ink made on purpose, and with much care. They were rolled up to a point, and enclosed in a sort of case of black calf-skin. They were put upon a square bit of the same leather, whence hung a thong of the same, of about a finger in breadth, and about 2 feet long. These rolls were placed at the bending of the left arm, and after one end of the thong had been made into a little knot in the form of the Hebrew letter yod (י y), it was wound about the arm in a spiral line, which ended at the top of the middle finger. The Pharisees enlarged them, or made them wider than other people, either that they might make the letters larger or write more on them, to show, as they supposed, that they had special reverence for the law.
Enlarge the borders of their garments - This refers to the loose threads which were attached to the borders of the outer garment as a fringe. This fringe was commanded in order to distinguish them from ether nations, and that they might remember to keep the commandments of God, Numbers 15:38-40; Deuteronomy 22:12. The Pharisees made them broader than other people wore them, to show that they had special respect for the law.
on Matthew 23 :5
23:5 Their phylacteries - The Jews, understanding those words literally, It shall he as a token upon thy hand, and as frontlets between thine eyes, Exod 13:16. And thou shalt bind these words for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes, Deut 6:8; used to wear little scrolls of paper or parchment, bound on their wrist and foreheads, on which several texts of Scripture were writ. These they supposed, as a kind of charm, would preserve them from danger. And hence they seem to have been called phylacteries, or preservatives. The fringes of their garments - Which God had enjoined them to wear, to remind them of doing all the commandments, Num 15:38. These, as well as their phylacteries, the Pharisees affected to wear broader and larger than other men. Mark 12:38.