Matthew 12
Gospel of Matthew 12:24–26 on Papyrus 21, from 3rd century
BookGospel of Matthew
Christian Bible partNew Testament
Order in the Christian part1

Matthew 12 is the twelfth chapter in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament section of the Christian Bible. It continues the narrative about Jesus' ministry in Galilee and introduces controversy over the observance of the Sabbath for the first time.


The original text was written in Koine Greek. This chapter is divided into 50 verses.

Textual witnesses

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter are:


This chapter can be grouped (with cross references to other biblical passages):

Verse 1

See also: Matthew 12:1

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.[1]

German Protestant theologian Heinrich Meyer notes that there was no accusation of trespass or theft here: "any one was allowed to pluck ... ears of corn in another man’s field till he was satisfied" in accordance with Deuteronomy 23:25:

If you go into your neighbour’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbour’s standing grain.

The Mosaic law left it unclear whether such licence was authorised on the Sabbath. Both Mark and Luke raise the controversy about the sabbath earlier in their respective gospels (Mark 2:23–27 and Luke 6:1–11).[2]

Fulfillment of the Servant Song of Isaiah

Matthew states that Jesus' withdrawal from the cities of Galilee and his request that the crowds not make him known[3] is a fulfillment of the first Servant Song of the prophet Isaiah. The verses quoted from Isaiah are from the Septuagint version of Isaiah 42:1–4.[4] One difference from the Hebrew version is found in verse 21 (Isaiah 42:4).

In translation from the Hebrew version, this reads:

and the coastlands shall wait for His law

In the Septuagint and in Matthew's Gospel this reads:

and in his name shall the Gentiles trust.

Verses 17–21

17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
18 "Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen,
My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased!
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel nor cry out,
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench,
Till He sends forth justice to victory;
21 And in His name Gentiles will trust."[5]

Careless or idle words

Dale Allison associates the references to "idle" words in verses 36 and 37 with the earlier references to blasphemy in verse 31, and sees Jesus as refuting the suggestion that blasphemy "cannot really have eternal consequence because it consists of nothing but words".[6]

Verse 36

But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.[7]

Theologian Albert Barnes describes an "idle word" as literally "a vain, thoughtless, useless word; a word that accomplishes no good", but states that in the context the meaning is "wicked, injurious, false [or] malicious" words.[8] The Greek reveals a contrast between ρημα αργον, rhēma argon, idle words or sounds, and the consequential need to ἀποδώσουσιν περὶ αὐτοῦ λόγον, apodōsousin peri autou logon, to provide a reasoned account on the day of judgment.

Verse 37

For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.[9]

Arthur Carr, in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, notes the connection between words and character.[10] W. R. Nicoll contrasts this verse with Matthew 25:31–46, where justification turns on actions: for I was hungry and you gave Me food ...[11] He sees chapter 3 of James's epistle as an extension of this verse.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Matthew 12:1
  2. ^ Meyer, H. A. W., Meyer's NT Commentary on Matthew 12, accessed 7 September 2019
  3. ^ Matthew 12:16
  4. ^ Note [b] on Matthew 12:21 in NET Bible
  5. ^ Matthew 12:17–21 NKJV
  6. ^ Allison, D., 56. Matthew, in Barton, J. and Muddiman, J. (2001), The Oxford Bible Commentary, p. 861
  7. ^ Matthew 12:36
  8. ^ Barnes, A., Barnes' Notes on the Bible on Matthew 12:36, accessed 11 January 2017
  9. ^ Matthew 12:37
  10. ^ Carr, A. (1893), Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Matthew 12, accessed 24 February 2021
  11. ^ a b Nicoll, W. R. (1897ff), The Expositor's Greek Testament on Matthew 12, accessed 24 February 2021
Preceded by
Matthew 11
Chapters of the New Testament
Gospel of Matthew
Succeeded by
Matthew 13