I am the God of Abraham - Let it be observed, that Abraham was dead upwards of 300 years before these words were spoken to Moses: yet still God calls himself the God of Abraham, etc. Now Christ properly observes that God is not the God of the dead, (that word being equal, in the sense of the Sadducees, to an eternal annihilation), but of the living; it therefore follows that, if he be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, these are not dead, but alive; alive with God, though they had ceased, for some hundreds of years, to exist among mortals. We may see, from this, that our Lord combats and confutes another opinion of the Sadducees, viz. that there is neither angel nor spirit; by showing that the soul is not only immortal, but lives with God, even while the body is detained in the dust of the earth, which body is afterwards to be raised to life, and united with its soul by the miraculous power of God, of which power they showed themselves to be ignorant when they denied the possibility of a resurrection.
The same day came the Sadducees - For an account of the Sadducees, see the notes at Matthew 3:7.
No resurrection - The word “resurrection” usually means the raising up the “body” to life after it is dead, John 11:24; John 5:29; 1 Corinthians 15:22. But the Sadducees not only denied this, but also a future state, and the separate existence of the soul after death altogether, as well as the existence of angels and spirits, Acts 23:8. Both these doctrines have commonly stood or fallen together, and the answer of our Saviour respects both, though it more distinctly refers “to the separate existence of the soul, and to a future state of rewards and punishments,” than to the resurrection of the body.
Saying, Master, Moses said - Deuteronomy 25:5-6. This law was given by Moses in order to keep the families and tribes of the Israelites distinct, and to perpetuate them.
Raise up seed unto his brother - That is, the children shall be reckoned in the genealogy of the deceased brother; or, to all civil purposes, shall be considered as his.
There were with us seven brethren - It is probable that they stated a case as difficult as possible; and though no such case might have occurred, yet it was supposable, and in their view it presented a real difficulty.
The difficulty arose from the fact, that they supposed that, substantially, the same state of things must take place in the other world as here; that if there is such a world, husbands and wives must be there reunited; and they professed not to be able to see how one woman could be the wife of seven men.
Ye do err, not knowing - They had taken a wrong view of the doctrine of the resurrection.
It was not taught that people would marry there. The “Scriptures,” here, mean the books of the Old Testament. By appealing to them, Jesus showed that the doctrine of the future state was there, and that the Sadducees should have believed it as it was, and not have added the absurd doctrine to it that people must live there as they do here. The way in which the enemies of the truth often attempt to make a doctrine of the Bible ridiculous is by adding to it, and then calling it absurd. The reason why the Saviour produced a passage from the books of Moses Matthew 22:32 was that they had also appealed to his writings, Matthew 22:24. Other places of the Old Testament, in fact, asserted the doctrine more clearly Daniel 12:2; Isaiah 26:19, but he wished to meet them on their own ground. None of those scriptures asserted that people would live there as they do here, and therefore their reasoning was false.
Nor the power of God - They probably denied, as many have done since, that God could gather the scattered dust of the dead and remould it into a body. On this ground they affirmed that the doctrine could not be true - opposing reason to revelation, and supposing that infinite power could not reorganize a body that it had at first organized, and raise a body from its own dust which it had at first raised from nothing.
Neither marry - This was a full answer to the objections of the Sadducees.
But are as the angels of God - That is, in the manner of their conversation; in regard to marriage and the mode of their existence.
Luke adds that they shall be “equal with the angels.” That is, they shall be elevated above the circumstances of mortality, and live in a manner and in a kind of conversation similar to that of the angels. It does not imply that they shall be equal in intellect, but only “in the circumstances of their existence,” as that is distinguished from the way in which mortals live. He also adds, “Neither do they die any more, but are the children of God; being the children of the resurrection,” or being accounted worthy to be raised up to life, and therefore “sons of God raised up to him.”
Matthew 22:31, Matthew 22:32
As touching - That is, in proof that the dead are raised.
The passage which he quotes is recorded in Exodus 3:6, Exodus 3:15, This was at the burning bush (Mark and Luke). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for a long time when Moses spoke this - Abraham for 329 years, Isaac for 224 years, and Jacob for 198 years - yet God spake then as being still “their God.” They must, therefore, be still somewhere living, for God is not the God of the dead; that is, it is absurd to say that God rules over those who are “extinct or annihilated,” but he is the God only of those who have an existence. Luke adds, “all live unto him.” That is, all the righteous dead, all of whom he can be properly called their God, live unto his glory. This passage does not prove directly that the dead “body” would be raised, but only by consequence. It proves that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had an existence then, or that their souls were alive. This the Sadducees denied Acts 23:8, and this was the main point in dispute. If this was admitted - if there was a state of rewards and punishments - then it would easily follow that the bodies of the dead would be raised.
No sooner were the Pharisees silenced than the Sadducees came forward with their artful questions. The two parties stood in bitter opposition to each other. The Pharisees were rigid adherents to tradition. They were exact in outward ceremonies, diligent in washings, fastings, and long prayers, and ostentatious in almsgiving. But Christ declared that they made void the law of God by teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. As a class they were bigoted and hypocritical; yet among them were persons of genuine piety, who accepted Christ's teachings and became His disciples. The Sadducees rejected the traditions of the Pharisees. They professed to believe the greater portion of the Scriptures, and to regard them as the rule of action; but practically they were skeptics and materialists. DA 603.1
The Sadducees denied the existence of angels, the resurrection of the dead, and the doctrine of a future life, with its rewards and punishments. On all these points they differed with the Pharisees. Between the two parties the resurrection was especially a subject of controversy. The Pharisees had been firm believers in the resurrection, but in these discussions their views in regard to the future state became confused. Death became to them an inexplicable mystery. Their inability to meet the arguments of the Sadducees gave rise to continual irritation. The discussions between the two parties usually resulted in angry disputes, leaving them farther apart than before. DA 603.2
In numbers the Sadducees fell far below their opponents, and they had not so strong a hold upon the common people; but many of them were wealthy, and they had the influence which wealth imparts. In their ranks were included most of the priests, and from among them the high priest was usually chosen. This was, however, with the express stipulation that their skeptical opinions should not be made prominent. On account of the numbers and popularity of the Pharisees, it was necessary for the Sadducees to concede outwardly to their doctrines when holding any priestly office; but the very fact that they were eligible to such office gave influence to their errors. DA 604.1Read in context »