“You blind men!
Which is greater?
Or the altar
The gift sacred?”
τυφλοί, τί γὰρ μεῖζον, τὸ δῶρον ἢ τὸ θυσιαστήριον τὸ ἁγιάζον τὸ δῶρον;
Jesus, via Matthew, poses almost the same question as verse 17. He called these Pharisees and the Scribes blind (τυφλοί), but not fools. He wanted to know which was greater (τίς γὰρ μείζων ἐστίν)? Was the gift by itself (τὸ δῶρον) holier than the altar that made the gift sacred (ἢ τὸ θυσιαστήριον τὸ ἁγιάζον τὸ δῶρον). The gift became sacred or holy by being on the altar, much more than a plain gift not on the altar. The altar was clearly greater than the gift that was made sacred by being on the altar.
“You blind fools!
Which is greater?
Or the Temple
That has made
The gold sacred?”
μωροὶ καὶ τυφλοί, τίς γὰρ μείζων ἐστίν, ὁ χρυσὸς ἢ ὁ ναὸς ὁ ἁγιάσας τὸν χρυσόν;
Matthew alone has Jesus pose this question directly to the Pharisees and Scribes. He called them both blind and fools (μωροὶ καὶ τυφλοί). He wanted to know which was greater (τίς γὰρ μείζων ἐστίν)? Was gold by itself holier than the Temple that made the gold sacred (ὁ χρυσὸς ἢ ὁ ναὸς ὁ ἁγιάσας τὸν χρυσόν). This was based on Exodus, chapter 30:22-33, where the holy oil of the Temple sanctuary made things holy. Gold could become sacred or holy by being in the Temple, much more than plain gold outside the Temple. The Temple was clearly greater than the gold that was made sacred in the Temple.
“However they soon forgot his works.
They did not wait for his counsel.
But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness.
They put God to the test in the desert.
He gave them what they asked.
But he sent a wasting disease among them.
They were jealous of Moses in the camp.
They were jealous of Aaron,
The holy one of Yahweh.
The earth opened.
It swallowed up Dathan.
It covered the faction of Abiram.
Fire also broke out in their company.
The flame burned up the wicked.”
This psalmist points out that they soon forgot about Yahweh’s works in Egypt and the Red Sea. They did not wait for his counsel. Instead they had a wanton carving while in the wilderness. They put God to the test. Nevertheless, he gave them what they asked for, food and drink. However, after the revolt against Moses and Aaron, he also sent a disease among them. This story and the one about Dathan and Abiram can be found in Numbers, chapter 16. They were jealous of Moses and Aaron who believed that they were becoming holier than the others. They had a test with censors that favored Moses and Aaron. The punishment for the 250 rebellious men was death. The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan. Then a fire burned the people with Abiram. This ended this unhappy tale of the revolt in the desert.