Mark 8:15 (AV)
And he¹ charged² them³, saying,
beware⁵ of the leaven⁶ of the Pharisees,
and of the leaven of Herod.
²) To admonish, to order, to command, to charge.
³) The disciples.
⁴) To see with the mind, to perceive, pay heed to.
⁵) To see, discern, perceive by the use of the eyes, to know by experience; Metaphorically: to see with the mind’s eye, to have understanding, to weigh carefully, to examine.
⁶) Metaphorically: of inveterate mental and moral corruption, viewed in its tendency to infect others.
And Jesus [repeatedly and expressly] charged and admonished them, saying, Look out; keep on your guard and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod and the Herodians. [AMP] And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." [ESV] Jesus warned, "Be very careful. Keep a sharp eye out for the contaminating yeast of Pharisees and the followers of Herod." [MSB] And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. [KJV] "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." [NIV] As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod." [NLT] Then He charged them, saying, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." [NKJV]
Some further information
Beware of false doctrines of the Pharisees and of Herod (Matthew 16:12)
Holding the mind towards, pay attention to; or to be cautious about
10 things to beware of:
- Forgetting God (Deuteronomy 6:12, 8:11)
- Provoking God (Exodus 23:21)
- Forgetting the poor (Deuteronomy 15:9)
- False doctrines (Matthew 16:6-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1)
- False prophets (Matthew 7:15; Philippians 3:2; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15)
- Covetousness (Luke 12:15)
- Wicked men (Matthew 10:17)
- Scribes (Mark 12:38; Luke 20:46)
- Rejecting supernatural signs (Acts 13:40-41)
- Backsliding (2 Peter 3:17; Colossians 2:8)
The leaven of the Pharisees, and … of Herod.
The Pharisees and the Herodians were allied against the Christ ( Mark 3:6).
The leaven of the Pharisees
“and of the Sadducees” ( Matthew 16:6 ).
The leaven of the Pharisees included both their false teaching (Matthew 16:12) and their hypocritical behavior (Luke 12:1);
The leaven of Herod
The teaching or “doctrine” ( Matthew 16:12 ) of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees was quite different, but both were equally pernicious.
And the Herodians, though rather a political party, were equally envenomed against our Lord’s spiritual teaching.
The leaven of Herod Antipas was his immoral, corrupt conduct (cf. Mark 6:17-29).
Leaven is applied to that which, though small in quantity, yet by its influence thoroughly pervades a thing; either in a good sense as in the parable (Matthew 13:33); or in a bad sense, of a pernicious influence, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”
Leaven in the New Testament illustrates influence, and most often symbolizes the evil influence of sin.
A sect that seems to have started after the Jewish exile.
In addition to the Old Testament books, the Pharisees recognised in oral tradition, a standard of belief and life. They sought for distinction and praise by outward observance of external rites and by outward forms of piety, and such as ceremonial washings, fastings, prayers, and alms giving.
And, comparatively negligent of genuine piety, they prided themselves on their fancied good works.
They held strenuously to a belief in the existence of good and evil angels, and to the expectation of a Messiah; and they cherished the hope that the dead, after a preliminary experience either of reward or of penalty in Hades, would be recalled to life by him, and be requited each according to his individual deeds.
In opposition to the usurped dominion of the Herods and the rule of the Romans, they stoutly upheld the theocracy and their country’s cause, and possessed great influence with the common people.
According to Josephus they numbered more than 6000. They were bitter enemies of Jesus and his cause; and were in turn severely rebuked by him for their avarice, ambition, hollow reliance on outward works, and affection of piety in order to gain popularity.
The origin of this Jewish sect cannot definitely be traced. It was probably the outcome of the influence of Grecian customs and philosophy during the period of Greek domination.
▪︎ The first time they are met with is in connection with John the Baptist’s ministry. They came out to him when on the banks of the Jordan, and he said to them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7)
▪︎ The next time they are spoken of, they are represented as coming to our Lord tempting him. He calls them “hypocrites” and “a wicked and adulterous generation” (Matthew 16:1–4, 22:23)
▪︎ The only reference to them in the Gospels of Mark (Mark 12:18–27) and Luke (Luke 20:27–38) is their attempting to ridicule the doctrine of the resurrection, which they denied, as they also denied the existence of angels.
▪︎ They are never mentioned in John’s Gospel.
There were many Sadducees among the “elders” of the Sanhedrin.
▪︎ They seem, indeed, to have been as numerous as the Pharisees (Acts 23:6)
▪︎ They showed their hatred of Jesus in taking part in his condemnation (Matthew 16:21, 26:1–3,59; Mark 8:31, 15:1; Luke 9:22, 22:66)
▪︎ They endeavoured to prohibit the apostles from preaching the resurrection of the Christ (Acts 2:24,31,32, 4:1,2, 5:17,24–28)
▪︎ They were the deists or sceptics of that age.
▪︎ They do not appear as a separate sect after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Seven reasons why the Bible is not understood:
- Reasoning, implying doubt and unbelief (Mark 8:17)
- Lackofperception, implying dullness (Mark 8:17)
- Ignorance, implying lack of interest and study (Mark 8:17)
- Hardness of heart, implying stubborness and rebellion (Mark 8:17)
- Dull eyes, implying willful blindness to the truth (Mark 8:18; Matthew 13:14-15)
- Dull ears, implying willful rejection of the truth (Mark 8:18)
- Dull memory, implying willful forgetfulness (Mark 8:18; 4:12)
Note that all these reasons are willful.
People do not have to reason, doubt, question, harden themselves, be dull of seeing and hearing, or be forgetful.
There was no excuse for the disciples to be like this because they had seen food multiplied and thousands fed, healed, and delivered from every kind of destruction and curse.
They should have had faith enough in Christ by now to meet every problem.
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While the disciples were concerned about the small amount of provisions, the Lord Jesus emphasized their attention to their spiritual well-being.
He strongly urged them to be careful with the leaven of the Pharisees and that of Herod (cf. Matthew 16:6 for that of the Pharisees and Sadducees).
By “leaven” Jesus here referred to the adverse influence that the Pharisees and Herod exerted on others through their thinking (cf. Luke 12: 1) and their “teaching” (Matthew 16:12).
As yeast permeates the dough, so their teachings could influence other people. The disciples had to wait for that.
Now it is noticeable that Jesus repeated the word “leaven” in this connection.
So it may be that He did not have a common danger in mind.
The Pharisees and King Herod Antipas were almost spiritual opposites (cf. Mark 6:14ff.).
▪︎ As for the Pharisees, the Lord Jesus possibly thought of their ‘piety’, which focused only on their own salvation.
▪︎ And with regard to Herod to his lust for power, that he even went over corpses to achieve his goal.
Now let us reflect on this
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the leaven of Herod!
This warning is addressed to the disciples, but we all can take it to heart.
The Lord Jesus speaks this warning in connection with the miraculous feeding of four thousand people. The Lord Jesus broke the little bread and there was enough.
But the Pharisees don’t want to recognize Him, and don’t want to accept Him as sent from the Father. And now they desire a sign from Him (Please note that they asked this, just after He fed 4,000 people! – Mark 8:1-9).
But He goes away from them with His disciples, and then the Savior gives that warning. But the disciples are still so far from where they should be.
It is still so difficult for them to deny themselves and take up their cross.
Certainly, if everything goes well
▪︎ then Herod still wants to hear a serious word from John
▪︎ then the Pharisees also want to see signs
▪︎ and then the disciples want to recognize the Lord Jesus as the Messiah.
But when it comes down to it
▪︎ then the frightened Herod mocks King Jesus,
▪︎ then the Pharisees let Him be nailed to the cross
▪︎ and then all the disciples leave Him.
Let this be a warning to us!
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