The Pharisee stood,.... Standing was a praying posture; See Gill on Matthew 6:5 nor is this observed, as if it was something amiss: but the sense is, either that he stood in some place of eminence, that he might be seen of others; or he stood in a set, fixed posture, in a very grave and solemn manner, showing great devotion and seriousness; or he stood with great boldness and confidence:
and prayed thus with himself; the phrase, "with himself", may be read either with the word "stood", as it is in the Syriac version; and then the sense is that he stood alone, apart from the publican, at a distance from him, as despising him; and lest he should be polluted by him; see Isaiah 65:4 or with the word "prayed", and does not design internal prayer, which was what the Pharisees did not use; for all they did was to be seen, and heard of men: but the meaning is, that he prayed only with respect to himself; he was wholly intent upon himself; his own self, and the commendation of himself, were the subject of his prayer: his whole dependence in it was on himself; and he was only seeking by it his own glory: he had no regard to the people of God, to aid the saints, nor did he put up one petition for them; nor had he any respect to Christ, the mediator, through whom access is had to God, and acceptance with him; nor to the Holy Spirit for his assistance; and though he addressed himself to God, yet in praise of himself, saying,
God I thank thee: there is no petition in this prayer of his for pardoning grace and mercy; nor larger measures of grace; nor for strength to perform duties, and to hold on to the end; nor for any favour whatever; nor is there any confession of sin in it. So that it scarce deserves the name of a prayer, for in it is only a thanksgiving: indeed, thanksgiving in prayer is right; and had he been a man that had received the grace of God, it would have been right in him to have given thanks to God for it, by which he was made to differ from others: nor would he have been blameworthy, had he thanked God for the good things which he had received from him, or which by his assistance he had done; but nothing of this kind is said by him: he thanks God, in order to exalt himself, and places his righteousness in his own works, and treats all other men in a censorious and disdainful manner; thanking God, or rather blessing himself, saying,
that I am not as other men are; and yet he was as other men, and no better: he was a sinner in Adam, as other men; and a sinner by nature, as others are; and had the same iniquities and corruptions in his heart, as others; and had no more goodness in him than other men, and as far from true real righteousness. Perhaps he means the Gentiles, whom the Jews looked upon as sinners, and the worst of men; and yet they were in no wise better than the Gentiles, as to their state and condition by nature: it was usual to call the Gentiles אחרים, "other men"; which phrase is sometimes explained by "the nations of the world"F1Gloss. in T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 111. 2. ; and sometimes by the "Cuthites", or "Samaritans"F2Gloss. in T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 52. 2. ; See Gill on Luke 5:29. ---He goes on,
extortioners, unjust, adulterers; and yet all these characters belonged to the men of sect: the Pharisees were oppressors of the poor, devoured widows' houses, and extorted money from them, under a pretence of long prayers: they are aptly represented by the unjust steward, in Luke 16:1 and they were au unclean, unchaste, and an adulterous generation of men, Matthew 12:39
or even as this publican; pointing to him at some distance, with great scorn and disdain. This was his prayer, or thanksgiving. It may gratify the curiosity of some to have some other prayers of the Pharisees; and it may be worth while to compare them with this, between which there will appear a pretty deal of likeness.
"R. Nechunia ben Hakkana used to pray, when he went into the school, and when he came out, a short prayer: they said unto him, what is the goodness (or the excellency) of this prayer? he replied to them, when I go in, I pray, that no offence might come by means of me; and when I go out, "I give thanks" for my portion: when I go in, this is what I say, let it be thy good pleasure before thee, O Lord, my God, the God of my fathers, that I may not be angry with my colleagues, nor my colleagues be angry with me; that I may not pronounce that which is pure defiled, and that which is defiled, pure; that I may not forbid that which is lawful, nor pronounce lawful that which is forbidden; and that I may not be found ashamed in this world, and in the world to come: and when I come out, this is what I say; I confess before thee, (or I thank thee) O Lord God, and the God of my fathers, that thou hast given me my portion among those that sit in the schools, and synagogues, and hast not given me my portion in the theatres and shows: for I labour, and they labour; I watch, and they watch; I labour to inherit paradise, and they labour for the pit of corruptionF3T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 7. 4. Vid. Misna Beracot, c. 4. sect. 2. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. .'
And these two prayers the Jews were obliged to recite at their going in, and coming out of the synagogue.
"It is a tradition of R. Juda, saying, three things a man ought to say every day; blessed be thou, שלא עשני גוי, "that thou hast not made me a Gentile"; blessed art thou, that thou hast not made me an unlearned man (or one that is vain and foolish, uncivil and uncultivated); blessed art thou, that hast not made me a womanF4T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 13. 2. .'
In their prayer booksF5Seder Tephillot, ed. Basil. fol. 2. 2. ed. Amst. fol. 4. 1. , these thanksgivings stand thus:
"blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, that thou hast made me an Israelite; (in some books it is, as before, that thou hast not made me a Gentile;) blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, that thou hast not made me a servant; blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, that thou hast not made me a woman:'
when the women, instead of this last, say:
"blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, who has made me as he pleases.'
And very agreeable to one of these benedictions does the Ethiopic version render the prayer of the Pharisee here; "I thank thee, O Lord that thou hast not made me as other men".