Luke 14:5

ESV And he said to them, "Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?"
NIV Then he asked them, "If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?"
NASB And He said to them, 'Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?'
CSB And to them, he said, "Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?"
NLT Then he turned to them and said, 'Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?'
KJV And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
NKJV Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”

What does Luke 14:5 mean?

Jesus has asked His dinner host—a leader of the Pharisees—if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. The leader and the other religious authorities refuse to answer. If they say, "No," they contradict the purpose of God's day of rest. If they say, "Yes," they admit that their vendetta against Jesus is hypocritical (Luke 14:1–4).

Jesus' argument relates to His previous healing of a woman bent over due to demon oppression. The healing occurred in the synagogue on the Sabbath. When the synagogue ruler objected Jesus responded, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?" (Luke 13:15).

This question about treating diseases, injuries, and other conditions was common enough that the discussion was included in the Babylonian Talmud. Pharisees followed the Oral Law, which scribes developed over the few hundred years before Jesus to try to keep the people from breaking the Mosaic law. The scribes—lawyers—claimed that God gave Moses the Oral Law but that Moses didn't write it down. That left a lot of opportunity for scholars to debate over the content and meaning. After Rome destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70 and the scholars were scattered, scribes wrote down the Oral Law and the arguments surrounding it. The Babylonian Talmud, which was completed in AD 500, is the most comprehensive version. The Talmud includes the Mishnah—the Oral Law—and the Gemara—the debate about the interpretation of the law.

Shabbat 128b.4–6 includes an involved discussion about if an animal falls into a pit on the Sabbath: Is it okay to throw blankets and cushions into the pit in hopes the animal can climb back out? Or does the fact that the blankets and cushions then become unusable for the Sabbath break the law? The final answer seems to be that it is the rabbinical law—the Oral Law—that prohibits soiling the bedding, but the Mosaic law, which says not to let an animal suffer, supersedes the rabbinical law. Other discussions, especially in more modern times, affirm it is okay to save a life on the Sabbath.

Despite the Pharisees' continued attempts to manipulate Jesus so they can justify killing Him, He continues to call them back to love.
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