What does Matthew 23:29 mean?
ESV: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,
NIV: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.
NASB: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,
CSB: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous,
NLT: What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed.
KJV: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
Verse Commentary:
Jesus delivers another resounding condemnation or "woe" against the Pharisees and scribes. For their hard-hearted rebellion against God, they become participants in the same crimes as their forefathers. Israel's religious leaders of old persecuted and killed the prophets sent by God with hard messages for the people of Israel (Acts 7:52; Matthew 23:27–28). Those prior generations openly rejected God's messengers.

The Pharisees and scribes of Jesus' generation are just as guilty, even though they build memorials and monuments to those same prophets tormented by their forefathers. Jesus is offering yet another example of hypocrisy: presenting one picture of themselves when the opposite was true. In this passage, Jesus has shown how these religious leaders focus on appearances, and legalism, while missing or contradicting the actual intent of God (Matthew 23:23–24).
Verse Context:
Matthew 23:13–36 contains seven layers of condemnation, from Jesus, towards the religious leaders of His era. Each of these is introduced with the word "woe," which is an exclamation like "oh!" or "alas!" Pronouncing God's judgment on these men, He repeatedly describes them as "blind" and "hypocrites." Convincing others of their views only adds victims to hell. They follow the letters of manmade law to the tiniest detail but miss the real meaning of Scripture: God's heart for justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Their outer appearance of righteousness hides inner lives full of greed, self-indulgence, hypocrisy, and lawlessness. Those in Jesus' generation will pay for many of the righteous people unjustly killed in the past.
Chapter Summary:
After thoroughly dismantling scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees in debate, Jesus even more thoroughly condemns these religious leaders for their religious hypocrisy. They do all their religious acts and works to be seen and approved of by other people. Jesus pronounces God's judgment on the scribes and Pharisees in a series of seven "woe to you" statements. He repeatedly calls them "blind" and "hypocrites." He concludes with a lament for Jerusalem and her children who rejected His protection. God's judgment is coming.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 23 concludes Matthew's multi-chapter account of all of Jesus' interactions in the temple during the last week before His arrest and crucifixion. After silencing the religious leaders with parables and brilliant responses (Matthew 21—22), He pronounces God's judgment on the scribes and Pharisees in a series of seven "woe to you" statements. Jesus mourns for the judgment that will come on Jerusalem for her rejection of God. This leads Jesus to leave the temple, sadly remarking on its impending destruction (Matthew 24:1–2). As the disciples ask about this, Jesus begins an extended teaching on the end times in chapter 24.
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 10:10:46 PM
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