Pristine Grace

Mt 23:6, (GILL), And love the uppermost rooms at feasts,.... Or the first and chief places to sit, or lie down on, at ordinary meals, and especially at large entertainments, where the great ones sat, as in 1Sa 9:22 where Jarchi on the place observes, that by the manner of their sitting, it was known who was the greatest; and this the Scribes and Pharisees affected. With the Romans, the most honourable place was at the upper end of the table: some think it was more honourable to sit in the middle, but the master of the feast sat at the lower end; and to senior men, and who were venerable with age, or excelled in prudence and authority, the first sitting down, and the more honourable place, were given; and when the table was taken away, they used to rise first [a]: the middle place was the more honourable with the Numidians [b], and so it seems to be with the Romans [c], and also with the Jews; and this the Scribes and Pharisees loved, desired, sought for, and were pleased if they had not it. It is said [d] of Simeon ben Shetach, a noted Pharisee, about, or rather before the time of Christ, that having fled upon a certain account from king Jannai, he sent for him, and when he came,

"he sat himself between the king and the queen: the king said to him, why dost thou mock me? he replied to him, I do not mock thee, thou hast riches and I have learning, as it is written, "Wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence", Ec 7:12. He said to him, but why dost thou "sit between the king and queen?" He replied, in the book of Ben Sira, it is written, "Exalt her and she shall promote thee, and cause thee to sit among princes." He ordered to give him a cup, that he might ask a blessing; he took the cup and said, blessed be the food that Jannai and his friends eat.''

Thus on account of their wisdom and learning, they thought they had a right to take the upper hand of kings themselves:

and the chief seats in the synagogues; for these were different; the seats of the senior men were turned towards the people, and the backs of them were towards the ark or chest, in which the holy books were put; and these seem to be what the Scribes and Pharisees coveted, that they might be in the full view of the people. And so says Maimonides [e], "How do the people sit in the synagogues?"

"The elders sit, i.e. first, and their faces are towards the people, and their backs are to the temple, or holy place; and all the people sit in rows, and the faces of one row are to the backs of the row that is before them; so that the faces of all the people are to the holy place, and to the elders, and to the ark.''

[a] Alex. ab Alex. Genial Dier. l. 5. c. 21. [b] Sallust. Bell. Jugurth. p. 45. [c] Vid. Alstorph. de lect. vet. p. 117. Minut. Felix, p. 3, 4. [d] T. Hieros. Betacot, fol. 11. 2. Beresh. Rabba, sect. 91. fol. 78. 4. [e] Hilchot Tephilla, c. 11. sect. 4.

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