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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 10: Matthew 15, by Kevin M. Williams

By answering the Pharisees’ question with a question, it forced them to think. The Redeemer was less concerned with answering their question as he was with opening their eyes to double-minded dogma.

And He answered and said to them, “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? “For God said, ‘honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’ “But you say, ‘Whoever shall say to his father or mother, “Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition  (Matthew 15:3-6).

As Yeshua exemplifies time and again, the Tanakh, the Old Testament, is an excellent tool for combating spiritual delusion. He also demonstrates that he not only has mastery of Scripture, but of the oral law as well.

Again we turn to the Talmud and its commentary on “vows concerning dedicated property” to get a better understanding of the context of our passage.

If a man was forbidden by vow to have any benefit from his fellow, and he had naught to eat, his fellow may give (the food) to another as a gift, and the first is permitted to use it. It once happened that a man at Beth Horon, whose father was forbidden by vow to have any benefit from him, was giving his son in marriage, and he said to his fellow “The courtyard and the banquet are given to thee as a gift, but they are thine only that my father may come and eat with us at the banquet.” His fellow said, “If they are mine, they are dedicated to heaven.” His fellow said, “Thou didst give me what is thine only that thou and thy father might eat and drink and be reconciled one with the other, and that the sin should rest on his head!” When the case came before the Sages, they said: “Any gift which, if a man would dedicate it, is not accounted dedicated, is not a (valid) gift” (Mishanah Nedarim 5:6).

Yeshua’s answer to their question really demonstrates some of the shallowness of the “tradition of the elders.” We may rightly ask, “What kind of vow would prohibit a father from taking food from his own son?” In a rational world, nothing ought to cause such a prohibition. However, this is rarely a rational world. People can say all variety of hurtful things and make all kinds of unfortunate vows in the heat of the moment. For instance, a father-son argument may have taken place in which the son makes an off-handed comment about “not wanting anything from you!” In the presence of witnesses, such a statement is considered a vow, and even though a casual covenant, nonetheless it was considered legally binding.

There is a great deal we could say about such casual covenants, and much that should be said. In our society we comment on all variety of things which in the biblical era would have gotten us into trouble: “Let’s do lunch,” or “I’ll give you a call,” or the like are—after the ancient form—vows. Those may seem rather innocuous, but even our Messiah said “let your yes be yes and your no be no, anything beyond is evil (Matthew 5:37). Given the other things we say in our society such as, “I’m never going to speak to you again,” or “That’s the last time I’m ever setting foot in that house,” and we begin to see how common vows have become—even if we don’t realize we have invoked one.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2003

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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