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Bible Commentary / Bible Study of Mark 12: 38-44

From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891

38-40. Beware of the scribes. Mark gives in three verses his report of the wonderful discourse recorded in Matthew, chapter 23. These three verses are parallel to Matt. 23:5, 6, 14. See notes there. Compare Luke 20:45-47. Love to go in long clothing. Peculiar to Mark. Long, flowing robes, reaching to the feet, similar to those worn by Romish priests, and were worn by the scribes as a kind of professional attire, in order to attract attention. When Christ sent his apostles out to preach, he directed that they should be clothed as the common people (Mark 6:9; Matt. 10:10). The scribes, ancient and modern, love display, showing themselves off in the chief places of concourse. They love appellations of honor and respect, such as Rabbi, Father, Master, Teacher. Men often profess a desire to magnify their office, when in truth they want to magnify themselves. They love robes that advertise to every one that they are separate from the rest of the people.

41. He sat over against the treasury. This incident of the widow's mites is omitted by Matthew, but given in Luke 21:1-4. It is given as a contrast to the hypocrisy of the scribes. Treasury. A name given by the rabbins to thirteen chests, called trumpets, from their shape, which stood in the court of the women, at the entrance to the treasure-chamber. "Nine chests were for the appointed temple tribute, and for the sacrifice-tribute; that is, money-gifts instead of the sacrifices; four chests for free-will offerings, for wood, incense, temple decoration, and burnt offerings.--Lightfoot. Beheld how the people cast money. Jesus still takes note of our offerings. Before the passover, free-will offerings, in addition to the temple tax, were made. [205]

42. There came a certain poor widow. Here, as in other places in the Bible, we must remember the exceedingly depressed and dependent condition of a poor man's widow in the countries where our Lord was. The expression is almost proverbial for one very badly off, and most unlikely to contribute anything to a charitable purpose. Two mites. The smallest of Jewish coins, about the value of one-fifth of a cent. It took its name from its extreme smallness, being derived from an adjective signifying thin. A farthing. Mark (not Luke) adds for his Roman readers an explanation, using a Greek word (taken from the Latin), meaning the fourth part, as our word "farthing" does. The value is only of importance as showing upon how minute a gift our Lord pronounced this splendid panegyric, which might be envied by a Croesus or a Rothschild.

43. Cast more in than all. Note the word more--proportionately, to-wit, to her means, and thus more in the estimation of God, who measures quantity by quality.

44. For. The worth of a gift is to be determined, not by intrinsic value, but by what it costs the giver. The measure of that cost is what is left, not what is given. For the widow to give her mites was noble; for one well off to give "his mite" is contemptible. All that she had, all her living. Out of her want, out of her destitution, she has cast in all that (in cash) she possessed--her whole (present) means of subsistence. In love she devoted all of God, with strong faith in his providential care.

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