Matthew 23:16 NIV

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.

Could the blind guides have been referring to the golden vessels in the temple or the gold offered by the congregation

Which gold were they referring to?

3 Answers 3


The short answer to the question is: we are not told. However, it is possible to make some reasonable estimates of what was intended. Ellicott suggests:

(16) Whosoever shall swear by the temple.—On the general teaching of the Pharisees as to oaths, see Notes on Matthew 5:33-37. It is not easy to trace the currents of thought that run through a corrupt casuistry, but probably the line of reasoning that led to this distinction was that the “gold of the Temple”—not the gold used in its structural ornamentation, but that which in coin or bullion was part of the Corban, or sacred treasure (Matthew 15:5)—had received a more special consecration than the fabric, and involved, therefore, a higher obligation, when used as a formula jurandi, than the Temple or the altar.

Similar Benson opines:

But whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple — That is, by the treasure kept there, he is a debtor — Gr. οφειλει, he oweth, that is, is obliged to perform his oath. “It seems,” says Dr. Doddridge, “the Pharisees taught, that oaths by the creatures might be used on trifling occasions, and violated without any great guilt. But they excepted oaths by the corban, (the gift,) and by sacrifices; in which it is plain that, without any regard to common sense or decency, they were influenced merely by a view to their own interest; and therefore represented these to the people as things of more eminent sanctity than even the temple or altar itself.”

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary reaches the same conclusion:

but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple—meaning not the gold that adorned the temple itself, but the Corban, set apart for sacred uses (see on [1348]Mt 15:5).

he is a debtor!—that is, it is no longer his own, even though the necessities of the parent might require it. We know who the successors of these men are.

Bengel and Pulpit commentary reach the same conclusion - the gold associated with the Corban excuse (gold gifts) by which the temple official enriched themselves.


Matthew 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?

If you consider the context, there are actually two meanings for the word "gold" here, one meant by the Pharisees et al and one meant by Jesus. The Pharisees was talking about the Corban treasury gold while Jesus was talking about the golden vessels in the temple, the candlestick and the gold with which the doors and other parts of the temple were covered, etc. Jesus' point was not to focus on the Corban gold, or even the adornment gold, but on the temple itself which is most important.


Just as with the gold on the temple, these hypocrites put more emphasis on the material gift than the spiritual altar that sanctified the gift. Jesus revealed that the motives behind the gift are more important than the gift itself (Luke 21:1-4 and 1 Corinthians 13:3). An inferior material gift given with the proper motives is recognized by God as superior to a larger material gift given with the wrong motives.

Rather, this verse is all about ‘oaths’ - in particular the basis of, or what was used to ‘bind’ the oath. In this case, the difference between using the ‘temple’ - a spiritual value that they didn’t understand, therefore because they had no understanding of this, i.e. therefore this would have meant nothing, so this made it worthless as a ‘anchor’ for the oath.

Where as they did understand gold - a material value - therefore this made or would have given the ‘oath’ a meaningful foundation.

In the Hebrew way of thinking, an oath was a solemn appeal to the truth of an affirmation or promise. The Law of Moses established guidance concerning oaths in several situations: the loss of one’s personal property (Exodus 22:10-11), the finding of lost possessions (Leviticus 6:3), when a woman was suspected of unfaithfulness to her husband (Numbers 5:11-31), and the misuse of swearing and concealing the truth (Leviticus 5:1). All of these were ‘real’ (non spiritual)

The Old Testament also cautioned against swearing lightly with the solemn warning of Ecclesiastes 5:5, “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” Gold therefore having ‘real’ value, it’s ‘loss’ would have an impact - makes the ‘oath’ valid.

Where as the temple would have had no such ‘bind’ on the oath.

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