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Matthew 7:6

Written by David Steltz

Posted on February 8th, 2022

Last Edited on February 8th, 2022

The following is a compilation of scholarly resources, including commentaries and study bible notes, on an enigmatic verse in the sermon on the mount. This is for research and reference purposes, and the views represented are those of the original authors, not necessarily my own.

Matthew 7:6 (CSB)
6 Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces. 

7:6 dogs … pigs. These animals are ceremonially unclean (1 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 (10:14; 15:14). The book of Acts illustrates this principle in practice (Acts 13:44–51; 18:5, 6; 28:17–28).

what is holy. A reference to the gospel and evidences of the kingdom, such as healings and exorcisms.

Sproul, R. C., ed. (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1682). Reformation Trust.

7:6 do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls in front of pigs These images characterize God’s kingdom—and Jesus’ teaching about it—as something valuable that should not be discarded. Dogs were considered unclean according to the Jewish law (Lev 11:27), as were swine.

Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., Whitehead, M. M., Grigoni, M. R., & Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Mt 7:6). Lexham Press.

Furthermore when seeking to help another, one must exercise care to do what would be appreciated and beneficial. One should never entrust holy things (what is sacred) to unholy people (dogs; cf. “dogs” in Phil. 3:2) or throw … pearls to pigs. Dogs and pigs were despised in those days.

Barbieri, L. A., Jr. (1985). Matthew. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 33). Victor Books.

7:6 Dogs

    “Do not give dogs what is sacred.”

The word “dog” is often used to signify contempt or the inferiority of a person or item. To “go to the dogs” is to go to ruin; degenerate. Dogs were not generally domesticated in biblical times except for use as hunters. Prairie dogs, coyotes, hyenas, wolves, and others of the family Canidae, are carnivorous mammals and when not domesticated, will feed on carrion. See also Exodus 22:31; 1 Kings 21:23; Psalms 22:16; 22:20; 59:14; 68:23; Jeremiah 15:3; Matthew 15:26–27; Mark 7:27–28; Luke 16:21; Philippians 3:2; and Revelation 22:15.

7:6 “Do not cast your pearls before swine.”

    “Neither cast ye your pearls before swine” (KJV).

Generally, to cast pearls before swine is to share something of value (pearls) with those who will not appreciate it. Pigs, swine, or the wild boar, which is common among the marshes of the Jordan valley (Psalms 80:13), were regarded as the most unclean and the most abhorred of all animals (Leviticus 11:7; Isaiah 65:4; 66:3, 17; Luke 15:15, 16).

Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (p. 418). Bridge-Logos Publishers.

6. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs—savage or snarling haters of truth and righteousness.

neither cast ye your pearls before swine—the impure or coarse, who are incapable of appreciating the priceless jewels of Christianity. In the East, dogs are wilder and more gregarious, and, feeding on carrion and garbage, are coarser and fiercer than the same animals in the West. Dogs and swine, besides being ceremonially unclean, were peculiarly repulsive to the Jews, and indeed to the ancients generally.

lest they trample them under their feet—as swine do.

and turn again and rend you—as dogs do. Religion is brought into contempt, and its professors insulted, when it is forced upon those who cannot value it and will not have it. But while the indiscriminately zealous have need of this caution, let us be on our guard against too readily setting our neighbors down as dogs and swine, and excusing ourselves from endeavoring to do them good on this poor plea.

Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 29–30). Logos Research Systems, Inc.

6. This enigmatic saying stands alone, but comes appropriately here in that it qualifies the apparently absolute prohibition of ‘judgment’ in v. 1. What is holy refers probably to consecrated food, which was to be eaten only by the priests and their families (Exod. 29:33–34; Lev. 22:10–16; Num. 18:8–19); to give it to dogs, which were regarded as unclean animals to be fed with unclean food (Exod. 22:31), was unthinkable. It is equally unthinkable that something as valuable as pearls should be given to swine, another unclean animal (cf. 2 Pet. 2:22 for a similar contemptuous linking of dogs and pigs). The use of dogs in a racial context in 15:26, although the word is different, has been taken to suggest an overtone of Jewish exclusivism here, but the context does not indicate this. Holy and valuable things (the reference is primarily to teaching, probably) must be given only to those who are able to appreciate them. Cf. Paul’s emphasis that only the ‘spiritual’ can understand spiritual teaching (1 Cor. 2:13–16). God’s gifts are not to be laid open to abuse, or his truth to mockery. There is a right discrimination which is different from the censorious judging of vv. 1–2. The early Christian application of this saying to eucharistic discipline (Didache 9:5) is too narrow a definition of a general principle.

France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 147–148). InterVarsity Press.

Ver. 6. Give not that which is holy.—Maldonatus, de Wette, Tholuck, deny that there is any connection between this and the preceding context. Kuinoel, Neander, Bengel, and Olshausen maintain that vers. 6–11 are not in their proper place. Stier suggests that Christ now proceeds to censure the opposite extreme of excessive laxity. Erasmus and Meyer hold that the expression, διαβλέψεις, leads to the idea, that it must still be our endeavor to improve our neighbor, and not to give that which is holy to the dogs. But, as in former cases, the internal connection between this and the preceding passage is, evidently, that the extremes of excessive harshness and of moral laxity generally meet. The outward connection lies in the contrast between the brother whose benefit is apparently the object of the harsh judgments pronounced against him, and the dogs and swine, to whom that which is holy is at the same time prostituted. Indeed, such conduct falls under the injunction, μὴ κρίνετε, since the judgment of sinners is hastened and increased when what is holy is cast before, or even forced upon them (Matt. 13:10). Hence to withhold that which is holy from the dogs, and pearls from swine, is the opposite of judging them, and only what is right and proper in the circumstances.—That which is holy, τὸ ἃγιον.—Von der Hardt, Paulus, and Tholuck refer it to the sacrificial meat, or to the provision of the priests. Meyer controverts this view without adequate grounds. The difference between δὼτε and the βάλητε, which follows, deserves notice. The word διδόναι seems to imply—however horrible it may seem—that the dogs receive it. The expression is evidently symbolical not only of Gospel truth (the provision of the priests), but also of Christian fellowship, and the privileges of the Church, such as the sacraments. But if this διδόναι betokened a most iniquitous laxity, the βάλλειν of pearls before swine is the result of a laxity which almost amounts to madness. Such, then, is the upshot of Pharisaism—profanation of what is holy and good beyond rational belief.—The pearls, an image of what is most precious. According to Gesenius (in Rosenmüller’s Repertorium, i. 128), the figure is applied by the Arabs to well-chosen words or apt sayings. De Wette: A figure of pure conviction, and of the noblest disposition. But if by what is holy we understand the highest religious possessions, the term, pearls, may be applied to the highest moral possessions, which were specially prostituted by the Pharisees. It has been suggested, that the figure alludes to the resemblance of pearls with peas and acorns. Certain it is, that the swine touch with their snouts everything resembling food. As this casting of pearls before swine—however foolish—must have had some show of reason, it may perhaps represent an attempt to satisfy their cravings. And such indeed is the true character of laxity; it prostitutes what is highest and holiest, to satisfy the animal and the devilish propensities in man. Both dogs and swine were unclean animals, according to the law of Moses (see Sept. 1 Kings 21:19; 22:38; 2 Sam. 3:8; 9:8; 2 Kings 8:13; Matt. 15:26; Rev. 22:15, etc.); and, indeed, throughout antiquity generally (Horat. Epist. i. 2, 22: vixisset canis immundus vel amica luto sus). The expression refers to what is impure and wild in our nature; more particularly, the word dogs, alludes to that which is low, unclean, heretical; and swine, to the hostile element, and to stubborn resistance. Augustine regarded the dogs as oppugnatores, or hostile persecutors, and the swine as contemtores veritatis, or unholy persons who were incapable of being impressed by what was spiritual. But the context does not bear out this distinction, as the swine are represented as ultimately the oppugnatores. “St. Bernard was wont to quote this verse, in order to incite the Christian knights to the Crusades. Schröckh, Church Hist. xxv. 114.” Heubner.

Lest they trample them with their feet, etc.—Of course the pearls could not be broken, but only trampled in the mire.—As this refers only to the swine, Theophylact, Hammond, and others, apply the στραφέντες ῥήξωσιν to the dogs. But it applies likewise to the swine. Although nothing is said about the conduct of the dogs, the horrible sin of giving that which is holy to the dogs sufficiently condemns itself, even without mentioning ulterior consequences. Besides, the dogs ultimately become swine, just as that which is holy is further designated as pearls, and the iniquity of the first action passes into the madness of the second. At last the full consequences appear, when the swine turn from the gift to the giver, and rend the profane sinners. It is need less to inquire whether swine can literally rend; at all events, they may tear off the flesh. (Besides, the word ῥήξωσιν, like the dirumpere in the Vulgate, may allude to the disruption and destruction of the communion of the disciples.) Στραφέντες, turning [the again of the E. V. is superfluous], evidently denotes the enmity (Chrysostom) and the fury of the swine, on account of the deception practised upon them. Such, then, are the twofold consequences: that which is holy, with all its treasures, is lost in iniquity and mire; while its unfaithful and vile administrators also perish in their sin.


1. The passage is evidently intended to describe the judgment awaiting the false spiritualism of those worldly-minded Pharisees and scribes. Hence the passage contains no reference to the proper conduct of the disciples, in opposition to that of the synagogue. They are merely warned against imitating those sinners; the Lord in His mercy concealing under a simile the fearful judgment that awaits all who are guilty of such profanity.

2. It is a historical fact, meeting us both during the Old Testament dispensation (at the destruction of Jerusalem) and in the annals of the Church, that carnal zealots, while pronouncing harsh judgment against their brethren, gave that which is holy to the dogs. Fanaticism and indifferentism were combined in the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and we meet them but too frequently at later periods; as, for example, in the Inquisition and the traffic in indulgences, and under many other, though perhaps more subtle, forms.

3. We may connect with this passage the prophecy in Revelation, which represents the beast out of the sea as ultimately bearing rule over the external sanctuary (Rev. 13:14).

4. From this disclosure of the lowest depth to which the righteousness of the Pharisees descends, we may profitably look to the opposite path, by which the disciples of Jesus ascend into the kingdom of heaven. Theirs is a gradual progress through suffering to the glorious height of purity and of love, to fellowship with the prophets, and to that final reward which awaits them in the kingdom of God; while the Pharisees, with their spurious sanctimoniousness, are at last degraded to the level of those who are compared to impure beasts, and who become the instruments of judgment upon them.


“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” For, 1. with your own judgment (according to your own judicial procedure) shall ye be judged; 2. with your measure (of punishment) shall it be measured to you; 3. by your own judgment the beam will be found in your own eye—the greater guilt will attach to you.—By anticipating the judgment of God by our own judgment, we call down judgment upon ourselves. For, 1. we take the place of the Judge (anticipate Him); 2. of the last day (anticipate it); 3. of inexorable justice (anticipate it).—A tendency to judge others is legalism in its full development as hypocrisy.—To take pleasure in judging, is to take no pleasure in saving. Hence it is opposed, 1. to the Gospel; 2. to the Spirit of Christ; 3. to the mercy of God; 4. to our calling as Christians.—Difference between judgment in the way of duty, and in contravention of duty: 1. The former is done in the prosecution of our calling, and accompanied by pity; 2. the latter is done contrary to our calling as Christians, and accompanied by pleasure in condemning.—Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself, Rom. 2:1.—Needless judgment: 1. Its origin (self-righteousness and want of love, self-exaltation and pride, self-satisfaction and hypocrisy); 2. its various forms (speaking evil, casting suspicion, detracting, putting the worst construction upon matters, calumniating, accusing of heresy); 3. its poisonous fruit (injury of evangelical truth, injury to our neighbor whom we judge, injury to ourselves).—He who judges without mercy, converts both heaven and earth into a place of judgment. To look upon the world with the eye of a judge, is to see it enveloped in the flames of judgment. The consequence is, that we lose, 1. our faith; 2. our love; 3. our hope.—As we measure to our neighbor, we mete out to ourselves.—As we measure to our neighbor, it shall be measured to us, 1. by God; 2. by man.—When tempted to judge, let us remember that everything around may rise up in judgment against us.—The mote and the beam. The judgment about the mote, sinful, 1. because it is an assumption on the part of one who himself needs to be cured; 2. because it is a hypocritical offer of aid, on the part of one who is destitute of love; 3. because it is a lying pretence of ability to help, on the part of one who himself is helpless.—The hypocrite derives his own spiritual greatness from detraction of his brother. 1. His aggrandisement springs from the littleness of his brother; 2. his glory from tarnishing him; 3. his adorning from stripping him; 4. his vindication from condemning him.—If our justification flow from looking to Christ, we shall be owned and exalted; but if from an uncharitable and harsh estimate of our neighbor, we shall only descend lower and lower.—A Pharisee with the beam in his eye attempting to relieve the eye of his neighbor, the most ridiculous, were it not the saddest sight.—“He shall have judgment without mercy who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).—“Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine;” or, the sin of prostituting what is holy in faith and life: 1. How it is done; 2. how it brings its own condemnation.—Harsh judgment and sinful prostitution of what is holy springing from the same root: 1. as exemplified by the spirit of traditionalism; 3. from history (Pharisaism, Mediævalism, seventeenth century); 4. as apparent from the temptations of our inner life.—The end of false spirituality in profligacy.—The Pharisees at last the prey of dogs and swine.—The goal of the disciples of Jesus, and that of zealots for tradition.

Starke:—Judge not from partiality, James 2:1; nor from suspiciousness or want of love, 1 Cor. 13:7; nor from self-love or censoriousness, vers. 3, 4; nor from envy and malice, Job 31:29; Prov. 24:17; Sir. 8:6.—That ye be not judged, or incur Divine judgment, Rom. 14:10.—To judge is the prerogative of God. Hence, to assume this function without special authority, were to deprive God of His glory, or to have the beam in our own eye.—The Lord here warns young converts of a danger to which they are peculiarly liable: that of judging others, and forgetting themselves. Then He adverts to dangers to which His disciples generally are liable, Luke 9:48. Such passages as 2 Tim. 3:6–10; 1 Tim. 5:1, 13, 19; Gal. 6:1; Rom. 14:4, refer to this zeal without knowledge.—God has reserved to Himself alone to judge the human heart. Learn to know thyself, Gal. 6:1; Luke 18:11.—The best remedy against speaking evil of others, is to look attentively at our own heart and conduct before censuring others.—He who is unspiritual, being under the power of great sins, is incapable of showing to others their transgressions, Rom. 2:19; John 8:4–9.—He who only delights in self, and looks down upon others, is blinded and condemned.—Majus: Rom. 14:1; Prov. 5:21, 22.—Difficilius est, prœstare, quam exigere, melius exemplo docere, quam dictis. Hilarius in h. 1. Hab. 3:15.—Let our reformation commence within, Ps. 50:19.—Dogs, swine; Prov. 9:8; 1 Cor. 10:21; Phil 3:2. Sanctity of the Lord’s table, Rev. 22:15; 2 Pet. 2:20–22.

Gossner:—Self-love makes blind toward ourselves, and sharp-sighted toward the actions of our neighbor.

Gerlach:—The passage refers to the disposition to judge, and the assumption of superiority over our neighbor.

Lisco:—It is a fundamental principle of the kingdom of God, that no indulgence shall be shown to those who have shown no indulgence to others (ch. 18:23), but that strict retribution shall be awarded them.—Aspire not to be the spiritual adviser of another, if thine own conscience is not clear, Luke 6:41, 42.—But, on the other hand, prudence and a proper judgment of others are indispensable, if our spiritual welfare is not to be recklessly exposed to danger.—Beware of communicating the gracious experiences of your heart to daring, vicious, or hardened persons.—Brief notes: The word of God is the sanctuary by which all other things are hallowed. The dogs are those who persecute the word, upon whom we may not force what is holy; the swine, those who despise the word, having surrendered themselves to carnal lusts.

Heubner:—Our conduct toward others will be the measure by which God will judge us.—Cast out, or pull out; i. e., do not spare thyself, however painful it maybe; after that, see how thou canst take the mote, etc., i. e., deal gently and cautiously with thy neighbor.—It is a very difficult and delicate matter to improve others, and requires great carefulness.—You do not cast away your pearls to be trodden down by beasts; neither are you to prostitute to unholy persons that which is holy,—the glorious truths of Christianity, the sacraments, and your spiritual experiences.—This, however, does not imply that we are not to seek the spiritual good even of such unholy persons.—Christianity must remain a mystery from the profane world—and yet be publicly proclaimed.

Lange, J. P., & Schaff, P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew (pp. 138–140). Logos Bible Software.

 7:6. The second of Jesus’ four final exhortations is another warning. This warning balances the first (7:1–5), and attempts to head off another misconception Jesus’ listeners might have taken away from the sermon. At first glance, this verse is difficult to interpret because the terms what is sacred, pearls, dogs, and pigs are not explained. But the verse does guard against our tendency to oversimplify the do not judge (7:1) statement, instructing us to be discerning about the character of other people.

Dogs and pigs (wild and unclean) likely refer to people who are not only unbelievers but also active enemies of the gospel (15:14; Luke 23:8; 2 Cor. 6:14–18; 2 Pet. 2:22). The most likely interpretation is to take what is sacred and pearls to refer to the gospel or truth, and to take pigs and dogs to mean any person who persistently rejects the gospel or truth, whether Jew or Gentile. Jesus was teaching his people to use discernment when sharing the truth with others. To persist in sharing with a resistant person wastes time and energy. It can also destroy a relationship that might prove fruitful later. It could even (in the climate of growing persecution) result in harm to the believer; it could tear you to pieces.

Taking care with whom and how we share truth is an important principle for believers to grasp in their evangelistic efforts. When we share with our neighbors, we tend to feel we have failed if they do not accept the Lord on the spot. We need to be patient, giving our own lives a chance to speak as a testimony for Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to take his time to work the truth we have shared into the heart and conscience of the unbeliever (John 16:8–11). However, we should not be lazy or inattentive to signs that the unbeliever might be ready for more. There is an art to walking the line between pushiness and apathy.

Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, p. 97). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

6. That which is holy (τὸ ἅγιον). The holy thing, as of something commonly recognized as sacred. The reference is to the meat offered in sacrifice. The picture is that of a priest throwing a piece of flesh from the altar of burnt-offering to one of the numerous dogs which infest the streets of Eastern cities.

Pearls before swine (μαργαρίτας ἔμπροσθεν τῶν χοίρων). Another picture of a rich man wantonly throwing handfuls of small pearls to swine. Swine in Palestine were at best but half-tamed, the hog being an unclean animal. The wild boar haunts the Jordan valley to this day. Small pearls, called by jewellers seed-pearls, would resemble the pease or maize on which the swine feed. They would rush upon them when scattered, and, discovering the cheat, would trample upon them and turn their tusks upon the man who scattered them.

Turn (στραφέντες). The Rev. properly omits again. The word graphically pictures the quick, sharp turn of the boar.

Rend (ῥήξωσιν). Lit., break; and well chosen to express the peculiar character of the wound made by the boar’s tusk, which is not a cut, but a long tear or rip.

Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 1, pp. 49–50). Charles Scribner’s Sons.

That which is holy unto the dogs (το ἁγιον τοις κυσιν [to hagion tois kusin]). It is not clear to what “the holy” refers, to ear-rings or to amulets, but that would not appeal to dogs. Trench (Sermon on the Mount, p. 136) says that the reference is to meat offered in sacrifice that must not be flung to dogs: “It is not that the dogs would not eat it, for it would be welcome to them; but that it would be a profanation to give it to them, thus to make it a σκυβαλον [skubalon], Ex. 22:31.” The yelping dogs would jump at it. Dogs are kin to wolves and infest the streets of oriental cities. Your pearls before the swine (τους μαργαριτας ὑμων ἐμπροσθεν των χοιρων [tous margaritas hūmōn emprosthen tōn choirōn]). The word pearl we have in the name Margarita (Margaret). Pearls look a bit like peas or acorns and would deceive the hogs until they discovered the deception. The wild boars haunt the Jordan Valley still and are not far removed from bears as they trample with their feet and rend with their tusks those who have angered them.

Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mt 7:6). Broadman Press.

Pearls Before Pigs (7:6)

This paragraph consists of a single verse. It fits into the focus of this section of the sermon that was introduced in the transitional passage in 6:19–24. Like 6:19–24, this paragraph calls for undivided loyalty to God. The things of God (the holy) should not be given to anyone who is not holy, as it is unfitting and will be treated improperly. Like the warning of not storing treasures on earth because they are subject to theft and decay, unworthy replacements of God will destroy the holy things and will destroy believers.

Mangum, D., ed. (2020). Lexham Context Commentary: New Testament (Mt 7:6). Lexham Press.

It is not every one that is fit to be reproved; Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, v. 6. This may be considered, either, (1.) As a rule to the disciples in preaching the gospel; not that they must not preach it to any one who were wicked and profane (Christ himself preached to publicans and sinners), but the reference is to such as they found obstinate after the gospel was preached to them, such as blasphemed it, and persecuted the preachers of it; let them not spend much time among such, for it would be lost labour, but let them turn to others, Acts 13:41. So Dr. Whitby. Or, (2.) As a rule to all in giving reproof. Our zeal against sin must be guided by discretion, and we must not go about to give instructions, counsels, and rebukes, much less comforts, to hardened scorners, to whom it will certainly do no good, but who will be exasperated and enraged at us. Throw a pearl to a swine, and he will resent it, as if you threw a stone at him; reproofs will be called reproaches, as they were (Lu. 11:45; Jer. 6:10), therefore give not to dogs and swine (unclean creatures) holy things. Note, [1.] Good counsel and reproof are a holy thing, and a pearl: they are ordinances of God, they are precious; as an ear-ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is the wise reprover (Prov. 25:12), and a wise reproof is like an excellent oil (Ps. 141:5); it is a tree of life (Prov. 3:18). [2.] Among the generation of the wicked, there are some that have arrived at such a pitch of wickedness, that they are looked upon as dogs and swine; they are impudently and notoriously vile; they have so long walked in the way of sinners, that they have sat down in the seat of the scornful; they professedly hate and despise instruction, and set it at defiance, so that they are irrecoverably and irreclaimably wicked; they return with the dog to his vomit, and with the sow to her wallowing in the mire. [3.] Reproofs of instruction are ill bestowed upon such, and expose the reprover to all the contempt and mischief that may be expected from dogs and swine. One can expect no other than that they will trample the reproofs under their feet, in scorn of them, and rage against them; for they are impatient of control and contradiction; and they will turn again and rend the reprovers; rend their good names with their revilings, return them wounding words for their healing ones; rend them with persecution; Herod rent John Baptist for his faithfulness. See here what is the evidence of men’s being dogs and swine. Those are to be reckoned such, who hate reproofs and reprovers, and fly in the face of those who, in kindness to their souls, show them their sin and danger. These sin against the remedy; who shall heal and help those that will not be healed and helped? It is plain that God has determined to destroy such. 2 Chr. 25:16. The rule here given is applicable to the distinguishing, sealing ordinances of the gospel; which must not be prostituted to those who are openly wicked and profane, lest holy things be thereby rendered contemptible, and unholy persons be thereby hardened. It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to the dogs. Yet we must be very cautious whom we condemn as dogs and swine, and not do it till after trial, and upon full evidence. Many a patient is lost, by being thought to be so, who, if means had been used, might have been saved. As we must take heed of calling the good, bad, by judging all professors to be hypocrites; so we must take heed of calling the bad, desperate, by judging all the wicked to be dogs and swine. [4.] Our Lord Jesus is very tender of the safety of his people, and would not have them needlessly to expose themselves to the fury of those that will turn again and rend them. Let them not be righteous over much, so as to destroy themselves. Christ makes the law of self-preservation one of his own laws, and precious is the blood of his subjects to him.

Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 1643–1644). Hendrickson.

Holy and valuable things should be given only to those able to appreciate them. No specific application is indicated, but we may remember that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ec. 3:7). God’s truth must not be exposed unnecessarily to abuse and mockery.

France, R. T. (1994). Matthew. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 913). Inter-Varsity Press.

The reason we must judge (v. 6). As God’s people, we are privileged to handle the “holy things” of the Lord. He has entrusted to us the precious truths of the Word of God (2 Cor. 4:7), and we must regard them carefully. No dedicated priest would throw meat from the altar to a filthy dog, and only a fool would give pearls to a pig. While it is true that we must carry the Gospel “to every creature” (Mark 16:15), it is also true that we must not cheapen the Gospel by a ministry that lacks discernment. Even Jesus refused to talk to Herod (Luke 23:9), and Paul refused to argue with people who resisted the Word (Acts 13:44–49).

The reason for judgment, then, is not that we might condemn others, but that we might be able to minister to them. Notice that Jesus always dealt with individuals according to their needs and their spiritual condition. He did not have a memorized speech that He used with everybody. He discussed the new birth with Nicodemus, but He spoke of living water to the Samaritan woman. When the religious leaders tried to trap Him, He refused to answer their question (Matt. 21:23–27). It is a wise Christian who first assesses the condition of a person’s heart before sharing the precious pearls.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 30). Victor Books.

Once the judge is aware of his own sin (v. 5a) and of the judgment that awaits it (v. 2), he can understand his brother’s sin and help him deal with it (v. 5b). Despite the warnings of verses 1–5, there is a place for judging the spiritual condition of others (v. 6; cf. v. 15). The “dogs” and “pigs” are unbelievers who repeatedly hear Jesus’ teaching, yet persist in rejecting and attacking it.

Chamblin, J. K. (1995). Matthew. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 731). Baker Book House.

Or “otherwise the latter will trample them under their feet and the former will turn around and tear you to pieces.” This verse is sometimes understood as a chiasm of the pattern a-b-b-a, in which the first and last clauses belong together (“dogs … turn around and tear you to pieces”) and the second and third clauses belong together (“pigs … trample them under their feet”).

Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Mt 7:5–6). Biblical Studies Press.

7:6 Rabbis often referred to important ideas or Scripture verses as pearls. The mysteries of the Kingdom (13:11) are holy (see Exod 29:33; Lev 2:3; 22:10–16; Num 18:8–10). • Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy: Literally Don’t give the sacred to dogs. Jews often referred to Gentiles as dogs (see 15:26; see Ps 22:16, 20) or pigs because those animals were unclean (Lev 11). Some interpreters understand this statement as warning that the message of the Kingdom would not be well received by many Gentiles. Others see it as a warning about offering the message of the Kingdom to the resistant Jewish leaders (see 5:20; 10:11–14; see also Heb 10:29) or to unbelievers in general (see 18:17; see also 1 Cor 2:13–16; 2 Pet 2:21–22).

New Living Translation Study Bible (Mt 7:6). (2008). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

6. In this verse by ‘that which is holy,’ meat offered in sacrifice is probably meant. The meat of certain sacrifices was consumed by the priests (Ex 29:33, etc.), and to give it to dogs would be extreme desecration. Cf. the Christian liturgical formula, ‘Holy things for holy persons,’ and Didache, 9. The swine would be unable to appreciate pearls; and, not finding them eatable, they would trample them in their greedy search for food. The first parable presents only the danger of desecration (Holtzmann suggests ‘earrings’ instead of ‘holy.’ The word for ‘ear-rings,’ kadasha, is similar in sound to kadosh = holy: cf. Pr 11:22), while in the second both the possession and the possessor are endangered. What is holy is the precious possession of the sons of the Kingdom, to whom these words are addressed. They will come into contact both with those who will accept the Gospel without being able to appreciate its character, and with those who will despise both the gift and the profferer. They should avoid the danger of holy things being profaned, as well as the personal danger to themselves. In the teaching of the Lord faithfulness is one thing, and foolhardiness is another (cf. 10:16–18, 23).

Levertoff, P. P. (1942). Special Introduction. In C. Gore, H. L. Goudge, & A. Guillaume (Eds.), A New Commentary on Holy Scripture: Including the Apocrypha (Vol. 3, pp. 143–144). The Macmillan Company.


Matthew 7:6
‘Do not give that which is holy to the dogs, and do not cast your pearls before pigs, lest they trample upon them with their feet, and turn and rend you.’

THIS is a very difficult saying of Jesus, for, on the face of it, it seems to demand an exclusiveness which is the very reverse of the Christian message. It was, in fact, a saying which was used in two ways in the early Church.

(1) It was used by the Jews, who believed that God’s gifts and God’s grace were for Jews alone. It was used by those Jews who were the enemies of Paul, and who argued that a Gentile must become circumcised and accept the law and become a Jew before he could become a Christian. It was indeed a text which could be used—or misused—in the interests of Jewish exclusiveness.

(2) The early Church used this text in a special way. The early Church was under a double threat. It was under the threat which came from outside. The early Church was an island of Christian purity in a surrounding sea of Gentile immorality; and it was always supremely liable to be infected with the taint of the world. It was also under the threat which came from inside. In those early days, Christian men and women were thinking things out, and it was inevitable that there would be those whose speculations would wander into the pathways of heresy; there were those who tried to effect a compromise between Christian and pagan thought, and to arrive at some synthesis of belief which would satisfy both. If the Christian Church was to survive, it had to defend itself alike from the threat from outside and the threat from inside, or it would have become simply another of the many religions which competed within the Roman Empire.

In particular the early Church was very careful about whom it admitted to the Lord’s table, and this text became associated with the Lord’s table. The Lord’s Supper began with the announcement: ‘Holy things for holy people.’ The fifth-century church historian Theodoret quotes what he says is an unwritten saying of Jesus: ‘My mysteries are for myself and for my people.’ The Apostolic Constitutions lay it down that at the beginning of the Lord’s Supper the deacon shall say: ‘Let none of the catechumens [that is, those still under instruction], let none of the hearers [that is, those who had come to the service because they were interested in Christianity], let none of the unbelievers, let none of the heretics, stay here.’ There was a fencing of the table against all but pledged Christians. The Didachē, or, to give it its full name, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which dates back to AD 100 and which is the first service order book of the Christian Church, lays it down: ‘Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist except those baptized into the name of the Lord; for, as regards this, the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs.” ’ It is Tertullian’s complaint that the heretics allow all kinds of people, even the pagan, into the Lord’s Supper, and by so doing, ‘That which is holy they will cast to the dogs, and pearls (although, to be sure, they are not real ones) to swine’ (De Praescriptione, 41).

In all these instances, this text is used as a basis of exclusiveness. It was not that the Church was not missionary-minded; the Church in the early days was consumed with the desire to win everyone: but the Church was desperately aware of the utter necessity of maintaining the purity of the faith, lest Christianity should be gradually assimilated to, and ultimately swallowed up in, the surrounding sea of paganism.

It is easy to see the temporary meaning of this text; but we must try to see its permanent meaning as well.


Matthew 7:6 (contd)

IT is just possible that this saying of Jesus has become altered accidentally in its transmission. It is a good example of the Hebrew habit of parallelism, which we have already met (Matthew 6:10). Let us set it down in its parallel clauses:

      Do not give what is holy to dogs;

      And do not throw your pearls before swine.

With the exception of one word, the parallelism is complete. Give is paralleled by throw; dogs by swine; but holy is not really balanced by pearls. There the parallelism breaks down. It so happens that there are two Hebrew words which are very like each other, especially when we remember that Hebrew has no written vowels. The word for holy is kadosh (K D SH); and the Aramaic word for an earring is kadasha (K D SH). The consonants are exactly the same, and in primitive written Hebrew the words would look exactly the same. Still further, in the Talmud, ‘an earring in a swine’s snout’ is a proverbial phrase for something which is entirely incongruous and out of place. It is by no means impossible that the original phrase ran:

      Do not give an earring to dogs;

      And do not throw your pearls before swine,

in which case the parallelism would be perfect.

If that is the real meaning of the phrase, it would simply mean that there are certain people who are not fit, not able, to receive the message which the Church is so willing to give. It would not then be a statement of exclusiveness; it would be the statement of a practical difficulty of communication which meets the preacher in every age. It is quite true that there are certain people to whom it is impossible to impart truth. Something has to happen to them before they can be taught. There is actually a Rabbinic saying: ‘Even as a treasure must not be shown to everyone, so with the words of the law; one must not go deeply into them, except in the presence of suitable people.’

This is in fact a universal truth. It is not to everyone that we can talk of everything. Within a group of friends, we may sit and talk about our faith; we may allow our minds to question and adventure; we may talk about the things which puzzle and perplex; and we may allow our minds to go out on the roads of speculation. But if people with more orthodox views join the group, they might well brand us as a set of dangerous heretics; or if others joined who had a simple and unquestioning faith, that faith might well be disturbed and shaken. A medical film might well be to one person an eye-opening, valuable and salutary experience, while to another it might equally produce a reaction of offence or, worse still, of titillation.

So, there are some people who cannot receive Christian truth. It may be that their minds are shut; it may be that their minds are brutalized and that they see everything through a film of filth; it may be that they have lived a life which has obscured their ability to see the truth; it may be that it is in their nature to mock all things holy; it may be, as sometimes happens, that we and they have absolutely no common ground on which we can argue.

People can only understand what they are prepared to understand. It is not to everyone that we can lay bare the secrets of our hearts. There are always those to whom the preaching of Christ will be foolishness, and in whose minds the truth, when expressed in words, will meet an insuperable barrier.

What is to be done with these people? Are they to be abandoned as hopeless? Is the Christian message simply to be withdrawn from them? What Christian words cannot do, a Christian life can often do. People may be blind and impervious to any Christian argument in words; but they can have no answer to the demonstration of a Christian life.

Cecil Northcott in A Modern Epiphany tells of a discussion in a camp of young people where representatives of many nations were living together. ‘One wet night the campers were discussing various ways of telling people about Christ. They turned to the girl from Africa. “Maria,” they asked, “what do you do in your country?” “Oh,” said Maria, “we don’t have missions or give pamphlets away. We just send one or two Christian families to live and work in a village, and when people see what Christians are like, then they want to be Christians too.” ’ In the end, the only all-conquering argument is the argument of a Christian life.

It is often impossible to talk to some people about Jesus Christ. Their insensitiveness, their moral blindness, their intellectual pride, their cynical mockery and the distorted view make them impervious to words about Christ. But it is always possible to show Christ to others; and the weakness of the Church lies not in the lack of Christian arguments but in the lack of Christian lives.

Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (Third Ed., pp. 306–311). Saint Andrew Press.

In Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7), Jesus gave the following proverb: “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” (Matt 7:6 ESV). This proverb, which has clear similarities with synonymous parallelism in biblical Hebrew poetry (compare Prov 11:22), should probably be read chiastically with the pigs’ reaction being related to the trampling of the pearls and the dogs’ reaction being associated with their attacking those who foolishly gave them “what is holy.” As Carson points out, Jesus used the natural actions of unclean pigs and dogs in a metaphorical sense to temper the statement to “love your enemies” (Matt 5:43–47) by showing the foolishness of “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom (i.e., “what is holy”) to those designated as dogs and pigs.” In this regard, the parallel “pearls” should probably be understood as being trampled by the pigs, because they were not the food that the pigs had expected or wanted. Therefore, it seems that Jesus was deftly illustrating the foolishness of presenting the gospel to those who were unable to hear it (compare a similar line of thought, albeit with a different animal metaphor, in Matt 10:16). While wild dogs would have been a common aspect of life in ancient Jewish societies, it is unclear how much knowledge or interaction Jesus’ audience would have had with domesticated pigs (see above). Nevertheless, Jesus’ usage of pigs in this proverb (to a presumably majority Jewish audience) implies that domesticated pigs were widespread among the Gentile regions of the Decapolis and the nearby southern regions of Syria.

McKinny, C. (2016). Pig Husbandry in Israel during the New Testament. In B. J. Beitzel & K. A. Lyle (Eds.), Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels (p. 189). Lexham Press.

6. Give not that which is holy. It is unnecessary to repeat oftener, that Matthew gives us here detached sentences, which ought not to be viewed as a continued discourse. The present instruction is not at all connected with what came immediately before, but is entirely separate from it. Christ reminds the Apostles, and, through them, all the teachers of the Gospel, to reserve the treasure of heavenly wisdom for the children of God alone, and not to expose it to unworthy and profane despisers of his word.

But here a question arises: for he afterwards commanded to preach the Gospel to every creature, (Mark 16:15;) and Paul says, that the preaching of it is a deadly savour to wicked men, (2 Cor. 2:16;) and nothing is more certain than that it is every day held out to unbelievers, by the command of God, for a testimony, that they may be rendered the more inexcusable. I reply: As the ministers of the Gospel, and those who are called to the office of teaching, cannot distinguish between the children of God and swine, it is their duty to present the doctrine of salvation indiscriminately to all. Though many may appear to them, at first, to be hardened and unyielding, yet charity forbids that such persons should be immediately pronounced to be desperate. It ought to be understood, that dogs and swine are names given not to every kind of debauched men, or to those who are destitute of the fear of God and of true godliness, but to those who, by clear evidences, have manifested a hardened contempt of God, so that their disease appears to be incurable. In another passage, Christ places the dogs in contrast with the elect people of God and the household of faith, It is not proper to take the children’s bread, and give it to dogs, (Matth. 15:27.) But by dogs and swine he means here those who are so thoroughly imbued with a wicked contempt of God, that they refuse to accept any remedy.

Hence it is evident, how grievously the words of Christ are tortured by those who think that he limits the doctrine of the Gospel to those only who are teachable and well-prepared. For what will be the consequence, if nobody is invited by pious teachers, until by his obedience he has anticipated the grace of God? On the contrary, we are all by nature unholy, and prone to rebellion. The remedy of salvation must be refused to none, till they have rejected it so basely when offered to them, as to make it evident that they are reprobate and self-condemned, (αὐτοκατάκριτοι,) as Paul says of heretics, (Titus 3:11.)

There are two reasons, why Christ forbade that the Gospel should be offered to lost despisers. It is an open profanation of the mysteries of God to expose them to the taunts of wicked men. Another reason is, that Christ intended to comfort his disciples, that they might not cease to bestow their labours on the elect of God in teaching the Gospel, though they saw it wantonly rejected by wicked and ungodly men. His meaning is; lest this inestimable treasure should be held in little estimation, swine and dogs must not be permitted to approach it. There are two designations which Christ bestows on the doctrine of salvation: he calls it holy, and compares it to pearls. Hence we learn how highly we ought to esteem this doctrine.

Lest these trample them under their feet. Christ appears to distinguish between the swine and the dogs: attributing brutal stupidity to the swine, and rage to the dogs. And certainly, experience shows, that there are two such classes of despisers of God. Whatever is taught in Scripture, for instance, about the corrupt nature of man, free justification, and eternal election, is turned by many into an encouragement to sloth and to carnal indulgence. Such persons are fitly and justly pronounced to be swine. Others, again, tear the pure doctrine, and its ministers, with sacrilegious reproaches, as if they threw away all desire to do well, all fear of God, and all care for their salvation. Although he employs both names to describe the incurable opponents of the Word of God, yet, by a twofold comparison, he points out briefly in what respect the one differs from the other.

Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 1, pp. 349–351). Logos Bible Software.

7:6 What is holy probably refers to sacrificial meat. Dogs would devour it insensibly without appreciating its sacredness. In Jesus’s allegory, this sacrificial meat symbolizes his own sacred teachings. The dogs symbolize the wicked who disregard the value of his teachings. First-century teachers referred to pearls symbolically to speak of insightful and valuable teaching. Consequently, the pearls here symbolize Jesus’s teachings given by the disciples. Pigs were ritually unclean animals. They symbolize the wicked and unclean. Pigs eat spoiled food but have no appreciation for pearls, just as the wicked consume wicked pleasures but disregard the gospel. This contempt for the gospel is pictured by the pig trampling the pearls underfoot. That pigs may turn against the one offering the pearls shows that contempt for the gospel message can become contempt for the gospel messenger, as has often happened in history.

Stein, R. H. (2017). Differences in the Gospels. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1511). Holman Bible Publishers.

16. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.” Beware of thinking that any deserve this appellation till there is full and incontestable proof, such as you can no longer resist. But when it is clearly and indisputably proved that they are unholy and wicked men, not only strangers to, but enemies to God, to all righteousness and true holiness; “give not that which is holy,” to hagion,—“the holy thing,” emphatically so called, unto these. The holy, the peculiar doctrines of the gospel—such as were “hid from the ages and generations” of old, and are now made known to us only by the revelation of Jesus Christ and the inspiration of his Holy Spirit—are not to be prostituted unto these men, who know not if there be any Holy Ghost. Not indeed that the ambassadors of Christ can refrain from declaring them in the great congregation, wherein some of these may probably be; we must speak, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear; but this is not the case with private Christians. They do not bear that awful character; nor are they under any manner of obligation to force these great and glorious truths on them who contradict and blaspheme, who have a rooted enmity against them. Nay, they ought not so to do, but rather to lead them as they are able to bear. Do not begin a discourse with these upon remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost; but talk with them in their own manner, and upon their own principles. With the rational, honourable, and unjust Epicure, reason of “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” This is the most probable way to make Felix tremble. Reserve higher subjects for men of higher attainments.

17. “Neither cast ye your pearls before swine.” Be very unwilling to pass this judgment on any man. But if the fact be plain and undeniable, if it is clear beyond all dispute, if the swine do not endeavour to disguise themselves, but rather glory in their shame, making no pretence to purity either of heart or life, but working all uncleanness with greediness; then “cast” not ye your pearls before them. Talk not to them of the mysteries of the kingdom; of the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; which of consequence, as they have no other inlets of knowledge, no spiritual senses, it cannot enter into their hearts to conceive. Tell not them of the “exceeding great and precious promises” which God hath given us in the Son of his love. What conception can they have of being made partakers of the divine nature, who do not even desire to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust? Just as much knowledge as swine have of pearls, and as much relish as they have for them, so much relish have they for the deep things of God, so much knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel, who are immersed in the mire of this world, in worldly pleasures, desires, and cares. O cast not those pearls before these, “lest they trample them under their feet!”—lest they utterly despise what they cannot understand, and speak evil of the things which they know not. Nay, it is probable this would not be the only inconvenience which would follow. It would not be strange if they were, according to their nature, to “turn again, and rend you;” if they were to return you evil for good, cursing for blessing, and hatred for your goodwill. Such is the enmity of the carnal mind against God and all the things of God. Such is the treatment you are to expect from these, if you offer them the unpardonable affront of endeavouring to save their souls from death, to pluck them as brands out of the burning.

18. And yet you need not utterly despair even of these, who, for the present, “turn again and rend you.” For if all your arguments and persuasives fail, there is yet another remedy left; and one that is frequently found effectual when no other method avails; this is prayer. Therefore whatever you desire or want, either for others or for your own soul, “ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” The neglect of this is a Third grand hindrance of holiness. Still we “have not, because we ask not.” O how meek and gentle, how lowly in heart, how full of love both to God and men, might ye have been at this day, if you had only asked;—if you had continued instant in prayer! Therefore, now, at least, “ask, and it shall be given unto you.” Ask, that ye may throughly experience and perfectly practise the whole of that religion which our Lord has here so beautifully described. It shall then be given you, to be holy as he is holy, both in heart and in all manner of conversation. Seek, in the way he hath ordained, in searching the Scriptures, in hearing his word, in meditating thereon, in fasting, in partaking of the Supper of the Lord, and surely ye shall find: Ye shall find that pearl of great price, that faith which overcometh the world, that peace which the world cannot give, that love which is the earnest of your inheritance. Knock; continue in prayer, and in every other way of the Lord: Be not weary or faint in your mind. Press on to the mark: Take no denial: Let him not go until he bless you. And the door of mercy, of holiness, of heaven shall be opened unto you.

Wesley, J. (1999). Sermons, on several occasions. Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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Matthew 7:6