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And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. Bible

“Beelzebul.” See commentary on Matt 12:24.

“sons.” Here “sons” refers to disciples, not literal children. The Greek word is huios (#5207 υἱός), and means “son,” but the key to understanding what the verse is saying is recognizing that “son” was used in many ways in Semitic languages, just as we use it in several ways in English. In this case, the “sons” are the students, or disciples, of the Pharisees, in the same way that in the Old Testament, the disciples of the prophets were called “the sons of the prophets” (1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7, 15; 4:1, 38; 5:22; 6:1, etc.).

Other meanings of the word “son” include: someone who was a person’s immediate child (John 9:19); a grandchild or descendant, such as a “son of David” (Matt. 1:20); a male heir that is adopted or taken into the family (Exod. 2:10); and a younger person for whom you have taken on a fatherly role or the role of a mentor/teacher and have special affection for (2 Chron. 29:11; 1 Pet. 5:13). The word “son” also refers to a person who is closely related or associated, especially in a group; thus all mankind is referred to as the “sons of men,” and Jesus referred to himself as “the son of man” which confused the religious leaders, because it could have been a simple way of saying “a man,” but was also a Messianic title due to Daniel 7:13. “Son” also was used to refer to a person who has the character, and even follows in the footsteps, of another (Acts 13:10 “son of the Devil”). Also, a person who has a certain specific characteristic is called a “son” of that characteristic (e.g., “sons of disobedience” are disobedient people, Eph. 2:2).

Just as someone’s disciples were called “sons,” a person who was a father figure, mentor, and guide, was called a “father.” Thus, Joseph said he had become a “father” to Pharaoh (Gen. 45:8). In the book of Judges, first Micah of Ephraim, and then people of the tribe of Dan, asked a Levite to be a “father” to them, that is, be their spiritual guide (Judg. 17:10; 18:19). The prophet Elisha referred to the elder prophet Elijah as his “father” (2 Kings 2:12), and the servants of the Syrian commander, Naaman, referred to him as “father” because he was a mentor and guide (2 Kings 5:13). The king of Israel referred to the prophet Elisha as his “father,” his spiritual mentor and guide (2 Kings 6:21). Job was wealthy, and he said he had been a “father” to the poor (Job 29:16). [For more on “father” see commentary on Genesis 4:20].

Since the disciples of a Rabbi were called his “sons,” and the Rabbi was called their “father,” in the Jewish culture of biblical times if a Rabbi died or left the area, his disciples were then referred to as “orphans,” and this terminology shows up a couple times in the New Testament (John 14:18; 1 Thess. 2:17. See commentary on John 14:18, “orphans”).

In this verse, the “sons” of the Pharisees were the disciples of the Pharisees. This same use of “sons” or “children” can be found in Revelation 2:23, where the “children” of Jezebel were those people who were following in her footsteps and acting like she did.

“cast them out.” See commentary on Luke 11:19.


Commentary for: Matthew 12:27