Some things we cannot say about this passage from the Gospel according to Matthew.
- We cannot say that Jesus and his disciples, walking through grainfields, was in any way wrong, like they should have taken the road and not disturbed the crops. In Palestine, in Jesus’ day, fields of corn and grain were sowed in long narrow strips, and the land between these rows was always a right-of-way for persons on foot.
- There’s no question whether Jesus’ disciples were stealing. The Jewish Law, in the Book of Deuteronomy, explicitly said that a hungry traveler had the right to do exactly what the disciples were doing: to pluck ears of grain by hand.
- Nor is there no precedence for what Jesus’ disciples are doing on the sabbath. There’s probably endless precedence; however Jesus recalls here how David and his hungry companions had done something parallel on the sabbath.
- Nor can we say that the disciples’ action on the sabbath would have been universally condemned by their fellow Jews. Quite to the contrary, the Mishnah, a collection of Jewish authoritative commentary published about 200 c.e., does not list such “plucking” as unlawful on the sabbath. Jewish opinion, even in Jesus’ own day, would have been quite mixed about the rightness or wrongness of what the disciples did on the sabbath.