What does Matthew 12:34 mean?
ESV: You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
NIV: You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
NASB: You offspring of vipers, how can you, being evil, express any good things? For the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart.
CSB: Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.
NLT: You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.
KJV: O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Verse Commentary:
Christ is thoroughly and righteously condemning the group of Pharisees. These legalistic religious leaders have accused Him of getting His power to cast out demons from Satan (Matthew 12:24). They are so committed to rejecting Jesus as the Messiah that they would rather glorify Satan's power than acknowledge that God is working through His Son! In the previous verse, Jesus compared the Pharisees to bad trees. This was proven by their bad "fruit:" rejecting and accusing Him.

Here, the criticism intensifies. Jesus repeats what John the Baptist called a group of Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 3:7. The word "brood" means offspring (John 8:42–44), so Jesus is calling the Pharisees children of snakes. This associates them with Satan, often pictured as a serpent in Scripture, beginning in Genesis 3. These critics have accused Christ of using Satan's power—but truth is they are the ones aligned with Satan and against Jesus.

The question asked here is rhetorical—it's making a point. In the same way that a bad tree is incapable of growing good fruit, a person committed to hate for Christ can't speak spiritual truth. Jesus bluntly calls these men evil. Good words cannot come out of evil hearts. The Pharisees words about Jesus and Satan showed to everyone their true, evil selves.

This Scripture reveals a blanket principle for all people: our words always eventually reveal what's going on inside of us. There's no such thing as an unimportant act, or an unimportant word (Matthew 12:36).
Verse Context:
Matthew 12:33–37 contains Jesus' harshest rebuke of the Pharisees in this chapter. The immediate context of this criticism is their blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: attributing a miracle of Christ to Satan. Here again, Jesus explains how actions demonstrate a person's inner heart. That includes speech, which is the natural overflow of our thoughts and attitudes. Like a diseased tree, the Pharisees produce bad fruit. They are compared to vipers, associating them the Devil and evil. Echoing His teaching on God's perfect righteousness (Matthew 6:1, 5, 16), Jesus declares we are accountable for every word we say.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew 12 features confrontations between the Pharisees and Jesus over several issues. Among these are working on the Sabbath, healing on the Sabbath, and the source of His power to cast out demons. Jesus counters each argument and rebukes the Pharisees sharply for their obstinate unbelief. He even notes that those who maliciously ascribe His miracles to demons are unforgivable. He warns them, and the rest of their current generation, about the judgment to come. Jesus calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers and rejects their demand for another miracle. All they'll be promised is the sign of Jonah. The Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days. Jesus also states that all who do His Father's will are His family.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 11 depicted Jesus preaching and teaching after sending out His chosen disciples in pairs in chapter 10. Chapter 12 immediately picks up with more confrontation with the Pharisees. Jesus responds to those criticisms and rebukes their evil hearts as the source of their evil words. In the following chapter, Matthew will shift His focus onto Jesus' parables.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
Accessed 4/17/2024 9:35:40 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com