Matthew 12:5 New International Version

Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent?

New Living Translation

And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?

English Standard Version

Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?

What is profaning the Sabbath?

Berean Study Bible

Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are innocent?

What is the best translation?

3 Answers 3


The operative verb here is βεβηλόω (bebéloó), which according to BDAG has the following meaning:

to cause something highly revered to become identified with the commonplace, violate sanctity, desecrate, profane the Sabbath, (2 Esdr 23:17, Ezk 20:13, 1 Macc 1:43, 45 ...) Matt 12:5; the sanctuary (Ezk 28:18, 2 Macc 8:2) Acts 24:6; God's name (Lev 18:21, 21:6) Hs 8 6, 2 ...

The meaning is uncomplicated and uncontroversial. Jesus' statement in Matt 12:5 is simple - the priests do things on the Sabbath that for anyone else would profane the Sabbath, but things must be done in the temple and on Sabbath to fulfill the law and thus, the priests are guiltless.

The unstated truth is that such actions of the priests do not give license for non-priests to do the same.


βεβηλόω is only used twice in the New Testament (Matt. 12:5; Acts 24:6). Thus how it's used in the Septuagint (LXX) may give more insight.

Words βεβηλόω translates in the LXX.

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So, profane, desecrate, or defile is the meaning of βεβηλόω.

βεβηλόω 1 aor. ἐβεβήλωσα (Heliod. 2, 25; 10, 36; oft. LXX; Test. 12 Patr.; Hesychius; Suidas) desecrate, profane the Sabbath (2 Esdr 23 [Neh 13]: 17; Ezk 20:13; 1 Macc 1:43, 45 al. Opp. φυλάσσειν τ. σαββ. Is 56:2) Mt 12:5; the sanctuary (Ezk 28:18; 2 Macc 8:2) Ac 24:6; God’s name (Lev 18:21; 21:6 al.) Hs 8, 6, 2.*
-- Arndt, W., Gingrich, F. W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (1979). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature: a translation and adaption of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schrift en des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur (pp. 138–139). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


profane. Our Eng. word "profane" = far from the temple. The Greek word here = to trample down and thus treat as common. Compare Acts 24:6. (The Companion Bible E.W.Bullinger).

I think He is using the fact Priest on the sabbath day had to sacrifice for the people. They had duties that they had to fulfill even on the Sabbath Day. In that sense.

Matthew 12:3 "But He said unto them, "Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;"

Jesus is quoting I Samuel 21:6; comparing His disciples.

Matthew 12:4 "How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?"

In light of this there's work to be done by the priest on The Sabbath Day.

Matthew 12:6 "But I way unto you, That in this place is One greater than the temple."

The Pharisees are self-righteous hypocrites that really don't know Gods will or how or when Gods law applied in reality of lives lived. Before them stood one greater then the Temple. Emmanuel God with US.

Matthew 12:7 "But if ye had known what this meaneth, 'I will have mercy, and not sacrifice', ye would not have condemned the guiltless. (Hosea 6:6).

Truth removes lies, and Gods word handled as real life, dispels foolish conclusions. Christ's disciples are innocent of their accusations.

Matthew 12:8 "For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day."

Source: I use these commentaries to refresh my memory. They are relatively accurate.I like them. https://theseason.org/

  • This answer is good and correct but it could be improved by citing a lexicon or other authority for the asserted word meaning(s).
    – Dottard
    Sep 26, 2021 at 22:06
  • Ill admit i was a bit lazy with this post .Will consider what you said . Ill have to study this closer and follow up later.
    – W_R
    Sep 26, 2021 at 22:08

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