6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (Matthew 7:6 (ESV)
6 “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6 (KJV 1900)
It is important when interpreting a text of Scripture to understand not only the historical context, but also the grammatical and cultural context. In other words, students need to understand not only what a biblical text says, but to also peel away the outer layers to understand what the text means. Such is the cast with any biblical text. Such is the case with today’s text.
Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is holy.” Dogs (κύων; kyon) in this context did not mean a beloved family pet. Rather, it referred to a wild or street dog capable of violence and filthy habits (Luke 16:21; 2 Peter 2:22). It also was a euphemism for a morally bad and perverted person (Phil. 3:1-2). Holy (ἅγιος; hagios) means to be set apart from sin. It is also that which is consecrated for sacred use and is pure.
Jesus also said, “Do not throw your pearls before pigs,” Pearls (μαργαρίτης; margaritis) are valued gems. Pigs (χοῖρος; choiros) is a swine that is filthy and disgusting.
“Pigs and dogs were considered unclean animals (Prov. 26:11; 2 Pet 2:22), which had no appreciation for valuable things (Prov. 11:22). Pigs typically ate the vilest foods, and dogs were scavengers, consuming even human blood. Stray dogs were known to growl at those who tossed them food as well as those who ignored them. The image would thus be forceful and beyond dispute for ancient hearers,” states commentator Craig Keener.
“The question is what the verse means in the context. Perhaps it means not correcting (cf. Matt. 7:1–5) those who would not listen (cf. Prov. 23:9). Perhaps it means giving only to those who want what one offers, as God does (Matt. 7:7–11); in this case the text returns to the idea of giving and of reciprocity in verse 12.”
“These animals are ceremonially unclean (I Sam. 17:43; Prov. 26:11; Lev. 11:7). They symbolize people who respond to the priceless message of God’s kingdom (Matt. 13:45-46) with adamant unbelief. Jesus’ messengers must discern when their gospel message meets obstinate resistance (Matt. 10:14; 15:14). The Book of Acts illustrates this principle in practice (Acts 11:44-51; 18:1-6; 28:17-28),” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.
“Perhaps the meaning is a paradox; we who must not judge must yet judge who will hear our judgments. Jesus proposes another reason to shun judgment; it is futile to try to correct people who will not, in any event receive it,” states commentator Daniel M. Doriani.
“We should not try to force our message on those who show no inclination to accept it. Should we offer God’s truth to those who have demonstrated their contempt for God’s truth,” asks John Calvin?
Jesus’ answer is no. May the Lord gives each of us the discernment in this area of judging. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!