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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 18

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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In this and the next two chapters the centre of interest is the spiritual condition of the Twelve, and the necessity thereby imposed on their Master to subject them to a stern moral discipline. The day of Caesarea had inaugurated a spiritual crisis in the disciple-circle, which searched them through and through, and revealed in them all in one form or another, and in a greater or less degree, moral weakness: disloyalty to the Master (Matthew 17:22 ), vain ambition, jealousy, party spirit. The disloyal disciple seems to have taken to heart more than the others the gloomy side of the Master’s predictions, the announcement of the Passion; his more honest-hearted companions let their minds rest on the more pleasing side of the prophetic picture, the near approach of the kingdom in power and glory, so that while remaining true to the Master their hearts became fired with ambitious passions.

Verse 1

Matthew 18:1 . ἐν ἐκ . τ . ὥρᾳ , in that hour; the expression connects what follows very closely with the tax incident, and shows that the two things were intimately associated in the mind of the evangelist. τίς ἄρα μείζων : who then is greater, etc.? The ἄρα may be taken as pointing back to the tax incident as suggesting the question, but not to it alone, rather to it as the last of a series of circumstances tending to force the question to the front: address to Peter at Caesarea Philippi; three disciples selected to be with the Master on the Hill of Transfiguration. From Mk. we learn that they had been discussing it on the way home. ἐν τ . βασ . τ . οὐρ ., in the Kingdom of Heaven; this is wanting in Mk., where the question is a purely personal one; who is the greater (among us, now, in your esteem)? In Mk. the question, though referring to the present, who is , etc., points to the future, and presents a more general aspect, but though it wears an abstract look it too is personal in reality = which of us now is the greater for you, and shall therefore have the higher place in the kingdom when it comes? It is not necessary to conceive every one of the Twelve fancying it possible he might be the first man. The question for the majority may have been one as to the respective claims of the more prominent men, Peter, James, John, each of whom may have had his partisans in the little band.

Verses 1-14

Matthew 18:1-14 . Ambition rebuked (Mark 9:33-50 ; Luke 9:46-50 ; Luke 15:3-7 ; Luke 17:1-4 ).

Verse 2

Matthew 18:2 . παιδίον : the task of Jesus is not merely to communicate instruction but to rebuke and exorcise an evil spirit, therefore He does not trust to words alone, but for the greater impressiveness uses a child who happens to be present as a vehicle of instruction. The legendary spirit which dearly loves certainty in detail identified the child with Ignatius, as if that would make the lesson any the more valuable!

Verse 3

Matthew 18:3 . ἐὰν μὴ στραφῆτε : unless ye turn round so as to go in an opposite direction. “Conversion” needed and demanded, even in the case of these men who have left all to follow Jesus! How many who pass for converted, regenerate persons have need to be converted over again, more radically! Chrys. remarks: “We are not able to reach even the faults of the Twelve; we ask not who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, but who is the greater in the Kingdom of Earth: the richer the more powerful” (Hom. lviii.). The remark is not true to the spirit of Christ. In His eyes vanity and ambition in the sphere of religion were graver offences than the sins of the worldly. His tone at this time is markedly severe, as much so as when He denounced the vices of the Pharisees. It was indeed Pharisaism in the bud He had to deal with. Resch suggests that στραφῆτε here simply represents the idea of becoming again children, corresponding to the Hebrew idiom which uses שׁוּב = πάλιν ( Aussercanonische Paralleltexte zu Mt. and Mk. , p. 213). ὡς τὰ παιδία , like the children, in unpretentiousness. A king’s child has no more thought of greatness than a beggar’s. οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε , ye shall not enter the kingdom, not to speak of being great there. Just what He said to the Pharisees ( vide on chap. Matthew 5:17-20 ).

Verse 4

Matthew 18:4 . ταπεινώσει ἑαυτὸν : the most difficult thing in the world for saint as for sinner. Raphel ( Annot. in S. S.) distinguishes three forms of self-humiliation: in mind (Philippians 2:3 ), by words, and by acts, giving classical examples of the latter two. It is easy to humble oneself by self-disparaging words, or by symbolic acts, as when the Egyptian monks wore hoods, like children’s caps (Elsner), but to be humble in spirit , and so child-like! ὁ μείζων . The really humble man is as great in the moral world as he is rare.

Verse 5

Matthew 18:5 . δέξηται : the discourse passes at this point from being child-like to gracious treatment of a child and what it represents. ἓν παιδίον τοιοῦτο : the real child present in the room passes into an ideal child, representing all that the spirit of ambition in its struggle for place and power is apt to trample under foot. So in effect the majority of commentators; a few, including Bengel, De Wette, Bleek, Weiss, hold that the reference is still to a real child. In favour of this view is Luke’s version: “Whoso receiveth this child ,” etc. (Luke 9:48 ). But the clause ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου raises the child into the ideal sphere. The reception required does not mean natural kindness to children (though that also Christ valued), but esteeming them as fellow-disciples in spite of their insignificance. A child may be such a disciple, but it may also represent such disciples, and it is its representative function that is to be emphasised.

Verses 5-7

Matthew 18:5-7 .

Verse 6

Matthew 18:6 . σκανδαλίσῃ : the opposite of receiving; treating harshly and contemptuously, so as to tempt to unbelief and apostasy. The pride and selfish ambition of those who pass for eminent Christians make many infidels. ἕνα τ . μ . τ .: one of the large class of little ones; not merely child believers surely, but all of whom a child is the emblem, as regards social or ecclesiastical importance. Those who are caused to stumble are always little ones: “majores enim scandala non recipiunt,” Jerome. One of them: “frequens unius in hoc capite mentio,” Bengel. This is the one text in which Jesus speaks of Himself as the object of faith ( vide The Kingdom of God , p. 263). συμφέρει … ἵνα : vide on Matthew 5:29 . Fritzsche finds here an instance of attraction similar to that in Matthew 10:25 καὶ ὁ δοῦλος , ὡς ὁ κ . α . Instead of saying συμφέρει α . κρεμασθῆναι … ἵνα καταποντισθῇ , the writer puts both verbs in the subjunctive after ἵνα . μύλος ὀνικὸς . The Greeks called the upper millstone ὄνος the ass ( ὁ ἀνῶτερος λίθος , Hesychius), but they did not use the adjective ὀνικὸς . The meaning therefore is a millstone driven by an ass, i.e. , a large one, as distinct from smaller-sized ones driven by the hand, commonly used in Hebrew houses in ancient times. “Let such a large stone be hung about the neck of the offender to make sure that he sink to the bottom to rise no more” such is the thought of Jesus; strong in conception and expression, revealing intense abhorrence. ἐν τῷ πελάγει τ . θ .: in the deep part of the sea. So Kypke, who gives examples; another significantly strong phrase. Both these expressions have been toned down by Luke. καταποντισθῇ : drowning was not a form of capital punishment in use among the Jews. The idea may have been suggested by the word denoting the offence, σκανδαλίσῃ . Bengel remarks: “apposita locutio in sermone de scandalo, nam ad lapidem offensio est” = “let the man who puts a stone in the path of a brother have a stone hung about his neck,” etc. Lightfoot suggests as the place of drowning the Dead Sea, in whose waters nothing would sink without a weight attached to it, and in which to be drowned was a mark of execration.

Verse 7

Matthew 18:7 . οὐαὶ τῶ κόσμῳ , woe to the world, an exclamation of pity at thought of the miseries that come upon mankind through ambitious passions. Some (Bleek, Weiss, etc.) take κόσμος in the sense of the ungodly world, as in later apostolic usage, and therefore as causing, not suffering from, the offences deplored. This interpretation is legitimate but not inevitable, and it seems better to take the word in the more general sense of humanity conceived of as grievously afflicted with “scandals” without reference to who is to blame. They are a great fact in the history of mankind, by whomsoever caused. ἀπὸ τ . σ .: by reason of; points to the ultimate source of the misery. τῶν σκανδάλων : the scandals; a general category, and a black one. ἀνάγκη γάρ : they are inevitable; a fatality as well as a fact, on the wide scale of the world; they cannot be prevented, only deplored. No shallow optimism in Christ’s view of life. πλὴν : adversative here, setting the woe that overtakes the cause of offences, over against that of those who suffer from them. Weiss contends that it is not adversative here any more than in Matthew 11:24 , but simply conducts from the general culpability of the world to the guilt of every one who is a cause of scandal, even when he does not belong to the world.

Verse 8

Matthew 18:8 . χείρ , πούς : mentioned together as instruments of violence. καλόν … ἢ : the positive for the comparative, or ἢ used in sense of magis quam . Raphel and Kypke cite instances of this use from classics. It may be an imitation of Hebrew usage, in which the comparative is expressed by the positive, followed by the preposition min . “A rare classical usage tends to become frequent in Hellenistic Greek if it be found to correspond to a common Hebrew idiom” (Carr, in Camb. N. T.). κυλλὸν : with reference to hand, mutilated; wanting one or both hands. χωλόν : in a similar condition regarding the feet ( cf. Matthew 11:5 ; Matthew 15:30 ).

Verses 8-9

Matthew 18:8-9 . These verses are one of Mt.’s dualities, being found with some variations in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 18:29-30 ). Repetition perhaps due to use of two sources, but in sympathy with the connection of thought in both places. Since the offender is the greater loser in the end, it is worth his while to take precautions against being an offender.

Verse 9

Matthew 18:9 . ὀφθαλμός , the eye, referred to as the means of expressing contempt ; in chap. Matthew 5:29 as inciting to lust . μονόφθαλμον , properly should mean having only one eye by nature, but here = wanting an eye, for which the more exact term is ἑτερόφθαλμος , vide Lobeck, Phryn., p. 136.

Verse 10

Matthew 18:10 . ὁρᾶτε μὴ καταφ .: μὴ with the subj. in an object clause after a verb meaning to take heed; common N. T. usage; vide Matthew 24:4 ; Acts 13:40 , etc. ἑνὸς , one , again. λέγω γὰρ : something solemn to be said. οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτῶν , etc. In general abstract language, the truth Jesus solemnly declares is that God, His Father, takes a special interest in the little ones in all senses of the word. This truth is expressed in terms of the current Jewish belief in guardian angels. In the later books of O. T. (Daniel), there are guardian angels of nations ; the extension of the privilege to individuals was a further development. Christ’s words are not to be taken as a dogmatic endorsement of this post-exilian belief exemplified in the story of Tobit (chap. 5). The same remark applies to the passages in which the law is spoken of as given through angelic mediation (Acts 7:53 ; Galatians 3:19 ; Hebrews 2:2 ). The λέγω γὰρ does not mean “this belief is true,” but “the idea it embodies, God’s special care for the little, is true”. This is an important text for Christ’s doctrine of the Fatherhood. It teaches that, contrary to the spirit of the world, which values only the great , the Father-God cares specially for that which is apt to be despised. βλέπουσι τ . πρ . In Eastern courts it is the confidential servants who see the face of the king. The figure is not to be pressed to the extent of making God like an Eastern despot.

Verses 10-14

Matthew 18:10-14 . Still the subject is the child as the ideal representative of the insignificant, apt to be despised by the ambitious. From this point onwards Mt. goes pretty much his own way, giving logia of Jesus in general sympathy with the preceding discourse, serving the purpose of moral discipline for disciples aspiring to places of distinction.

Verse 11

Matthew 18:11 an interpolation from Luke 19:10 .

Verse 12

Matthew 18:12 . τί ὑ . δοκεῖ as in Matthew 17:25 . ἐὰν γένηταί τ . ἀ . ἐ . πρόβατα : if a man happen to have as large a number, yet, etc. καὶ π . ἓν : only one wanderer, out of so many. πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ : does he not go and seek the one?

Verses 12-14

Matthew 18:12-14 . Parable of straying sheep (Luke 15:4-7 ); may seem less appropriate here than in Lk., but has even here a good setting, amounting to a climax = God cares not only for the lowly and little but even for the low the morally erring. In both places the parable teaches the precious characteristically Christian doctrine of the worth of the individual at the worst to God.

Verse 13

Matthew 18:13 . καὶ … αὐτό : if it happen that he finds it. In Lk. he searches till he finds it. ἀμὴν λέγω : specially solemn, with a view to the application to the moral sphere of what in the natural sphere is self-evident.

Verse 14

Matthew 18:14 , pplication of the parable less emphatic than in Lk. θέλημα , a will, for an object of will. ἔμπροσθεν τ . π . μ .: before the face of = for, etc.

Verse 15

Matthew 18:15 . ἁμαρτήσῃ : apart from the doubtful εἰς σὲ following, the reference appears to be to private personal offences, not to sin against the Christian name, which every brother in the community has a right to challenge, especially those closely connected with the offender. Yet perhaps we ought not too rigidly to draw a line between the two in an ideal community of love. μεταξὺ σ . κ . α . μ .: the phrase implies that some one has the right and duty of taking the initiative. So far it is a personal affair to begin with. The simpler and more classical expression would be μόνος μόνον . ἀκούσῃ , hear, in the sense of submitting to admonition. ἐκέρδησας : gained as a friend , as a fellow-member of the Kingdom of God, or as a man = saved him from moral ruin? All three alternatives find support. Is it necessary or possible to decide peremptorily between them?

Verses 15-17

Matthew 18:15-17 . How to deal with an erring brother . The transition here is easy from warning against giving, to counsel how to receive, offences. The terms are changed: μικρὸς becomes ἀδελφός , giving offence not suiting the idea of the former, and for σκανδαλίζειν we have the more general ἁμαρτάνειν .

Verse 16

Matthew 18:16 . ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀ . After a first failure try again, with added influence. παράλαβε … ἕνα ἢ δύο . This bears a juridical aspect (Schanz), but it does not really pass out of the moral sphere: ethical influence alone contemplated; consensus in moral judgment carries weight with the conscience. ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος , etc.: reference to the legal provision in Deuteronomy 19:15 in a literary rather than in a legal spirit.

Verses 16-17

Matthew 18:16-17 have something answering to them in Luke 17:3 , oming in there after the group of parables in chaps. 15 and 16, in which that of the Shepherd has its place; whence Wendt recognises these verses as an authentic logion probably closely connected with the parable in the common source. Matthew 18:17 he regards as an addition by the evangelist or a later hand. Holtzmann (H. C.) regards the whole section (Matthew 18:15-17 ) as a piece of Church order in the form of a logion of the Lord.

Verse 17

Matthew 18:17 . ἐὰν δὲ π . α . Try first a minimum of social pressure and publicity, and if that fail have recourse to the maximum. εἰπὲ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ : speak to the “Church” the brotherhood of believers in the Christ. This to be the widest limit for the ultimate sphere of moral influence, as ex hypothesi the judgment of this new community will count for more to its members than that of all the world beyond. ἔστω σοι , etc.: this failing, the offender puts himself outside the society, and there is nothing for it but to treat him as a heathen or a publican; which does not mean with indifference or abhorrence, but carefully avoiding fellowship with him in sin, and seeking his good only as one without. There is no reference in this passage to ecclesiastical discipline and Church censures. The older interpreters, in a theologico-polemical interest, were very anxious to find in it support for their developed ideas on these topics. The chief interest of historic exegesis is to divest it of an ecclesiastical aspect as much as possible, for only so can it suit the initial period, and be with any probability regarded as an utterance of Jesus. As such it may be accepted, when interpreted, as above. If, as we have tried to show, it was natural for Jesus to speak of a new community of faith at Caesarea, it was equally natural that He should return upon the idea in the Capernaum lesson on humility and kindred virtues, and refer to it as an instrument for promoting right feeling and conduct among professed disciples.

Verse 18

Matthew 18:18 . enewed promise of power to bind and loose, this time not to Peter alone, as in Matthew 16:19 , but to all the Twelve, not qua apostles, with ecclesiastical authority, but qua disciples, with the ethical power of morally disciplined men. The Twelve for the moment are for Jesus = the ecclesia : they were the nucleus of it. The binding and loosing generically = exercising judgment on conduct; here specifically = treating sin as pardonable or the reverse a particular exercise of the function of judging.

Verse 19

Matthew 18:19 . πάλιν ἀμὴν : a second amen , introducing a new thought of parallel importance to the former, in Matthew 18:18 . ἐὰν δύο : two; not the measure of Christ’s expectation of agreement among His disciples, but of the moral power that lies in the sincere consent of even two minds. It outweighs the nominal agreement of thousands who have no real bond of union. συμφωνήσωσιν : agree, about what? not necessarily only the matters referred to in previous context, but anything concerning the Kingdom of God. περὶ παντὸς πράγματος : concerning every or any matter, offences committed by brethren included of course. γενήσεται : it shall be; what absolute confidence in the laws of the moral world! παρὰ τ . π . μ .: from my Father. The Father-God of Jesus is here defined as a lover of peace and fraternal concord. In this verse we have a case of attraction, of the main subject into the conditional clause. Resolved, the sentence would run: πᾶν πρᾶγμα , ὃ ἐὰν αἰτήσωσιν , ἐὰν συμφωνήσουσιν περὶ αὐτοῦ , γενήσεται αὐτοῖς .

Verses 19-20

Matthew 18:19-20 . Promise of the power and presence of God to encourage concord .

Verse 20

Matthew 18:20 . δύο ἢ τρεῖς . Jesus deals in small numbers, not from modesty in His anticipations, but because they suit the present condition, and in jealousy for the moral quality of the new society. συνηγμένοι εἰς , etc., not gathered to confess or worship my name, but gathered as believers in me. It is a synonym for the new society. The ecclesia is a body of men gathered together by a common relation to the name of the Christ: a Christian synagogue as yet consisting of the Twelve, or as many of them as were really one in heart. ἐκεῖ εἰμὶ ἑν , etc.: there am I, now, with as many of you, my disciples, as are one in faith and brotherly love; not with any more even of you: far away from the man of ambitious, not to say traitorous, mind. There am I in reference to the future. His presence axiomatically certain, therefore expressed as a present fact, even with reference to a future time a promise natural from One looking forward to an early death. Similar in import to Matthew 28:20 . For similar sayings of the Rabbis concerning the presence of the Divine Majesty, or the Shechinah, among two or three sitting in judgment or studying the law, vide Lightfoot and Schöttgen.

Verse 21

Matthew 18:21 . ποσάκις , etc.: the question naturally arose out of the directions for dealing with an offending brother, which could only be carried out by one of placable disposition. Their presupposition is that a fault confessed is to be forgiven. But how far is this to go? In Luke 17:3 the case is put of seven offences in a day, each in turn repented of and confessed. Is there not reason for doubting the sincerity of repentance in such a case? Or is this not at least the extreme limit? Such is Peter’s feeling. ἁμαρτήσει , ἀφήσω : two futures instead of ποσ . ἁμαρτόντι ἀφήσω : Hebrew idiom instead of Greek. ἕως ἑπτάκις : Peter meant to be generous, and he went considerably beyond the Rabbinical measure, which was three times (Amos 1:6 ): “quicunque remissionem petit a proximo, ne ultra quam ter petat,” Schöttgen.

Verses 21-22

Matthew 18:21-22 . Peter’s question about forgiving . The second of two interpellations in the course of Christ’s discourse ( vide Mark 9:38-41 ; Luke 9:49-50 ). Such words touch sensitive consciences, and the interruptions would be welcomed by Jesus as proof that He had not spoken in vain.

Verse 22

Matthew 18:22 . οὐ : emphatic “no” to be connected with ἕως ἑπτάκις . Its force may be brought out by translating: no, I tell you, not till, etc. ἀλλὰ ἑ . ἑ . ἑ .: Christ’s reply lifts the subject out of the legal sphere, where even Peter’s suggestion left it (seven times and no more a hard rule), into the evangelic, and means: times without number , infinite placability. This alone decides between the two renderings of ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά : seventy-seven times and seventy times seven, in favour of the latter as giving a number (490) practically equal to infinitude. Bengel leans to the former, taking the termination - κις as covering the whole number seventy-seven, and referring to Genesis 4:24 as the probable source of the expression. Similarly some of the Fathers (Orig., Aug.), De Wette and Meyer. The majority adopt the opposite view, among whom may be named Grotius and Fritzsche, who cite the Syriac version in support. On either view there is inexactness in the expression. Seventy times seven requires the termination - κις at both words. Seventy-seven times requires the - κις at the end of the second word rather than at end of first: either ἑπτὰ καὶ ἑβδο … κις , or ἑβδομ … τα ἑπτάκις .

Verse 23

Matthew 18:23 . διὰ τοῦτο suggests that the aim of the parable is to justify the apparently unreasonable demand in Matthew 18:22 : unlimited forgiveness of injuries. After all, says Jesus, suppose ye comply with the demand, what do your remissions amount to compared to what has been remitted to you by God? ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ : a man, a king; king an afterthought demanded by the nature of the case. Only a great monarch can have such debtors, and opportunity to forgive such debts. συνᾶραι λόγον (found again in Matthew 25:19 ), to hold a reckoning. δούλων : all alike servants or slaves in relation to the king. So human distinctions are dwarfed into insignificance by the distance between all men and God.

Verses 23-35

Matthew 18:23-35 . Parable of unmerciful servant .

Verse 24

Matthew 18:24 . εἷς : one stood out above all the rest for the magnitude of his debt, who, therefore, becomes the subject of the story. ὀφειλέτης μ . τ .: a debtor of, or to the extent of, a thousand talents an immense sum, say millions sterling; payment hopeless; that the point; exact calculations idle or pedantic. It may seem to violate natural probability that time was allowed to incur such a debt, which speaks to malversation for years. But the indolence of an Eastern monarch must be taken into account, and the absence of system in the management of finance. As Koetsveld ( De Gelijk. , p. 286) remarks: “A regular control is not in the spirit of the Eastern. He trusts utterly when he does trust, and when he loses confidence it is for ever.”

Verse 25

Matthew 18:25 . πραθῆναι … ἔχει : the order is given that the debtor be sold, with all he has, including his wife and children ; hard lines, but according to ancient law, in the view of which wife and children were simply property . Think of their fate in those barbarous times! But parables are not scrupulous on the score of morality. καὶ ἀποδοθῆναι : the proceeds of sale to be applied in payment of the debt.

Verse 26

Matthew 18:26 . μακροθύμησον : a Hellenistic word, sometimes used in the sense of deferring anger (Proverbs 19:11 (Sept [106] ), the corresponding adjective in Psalms 86:15 ; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:14 ). That sense is suitable here, but the prominent idea is: give me time; wrath comes in at a later stage (Matthew 18:34 ). πάντα ἀποδώσω : easy to promise ; his plea: better wait and get all than take hasty measures and get only a part.

[106] Septuagint.

Verse 27

Matthew 18:27 . σπλαγχνισθεὶς : touched with pity, not unmixed perhaps with contempt, and associated possibly with rapid reflection as to the best course, the king decides on a magnanimous policy. ἀπέλυσεν , τὸ δάνειον ἀφῆκεν : two benefits conferred; set free from imprisonment, debt absolutely cancelled, not merely time given for payment. A third benefit implied, continuance in office. The policy adopted in hope that it will ensure good behaviour in time to come (Psalms 130:4 ); perfectly credible even in an Eastern monarch.

Verse 28

Matthew 18:28 . ἕνα τ . συνδούλων ἀ .: a fellow -slave though a humble one, which he should have remembered, but did not. ἑκατὸν δηνάρια : some fifty shillings; an utterly insignificant debt, which, coming out from the presence of a king, who had remitted so much to him, he should not even have remembered, far less been in the mood to exact. κρατήσας α . ἔπνιγε : seizing, he choked, throttled him, after the brutal manner allowed by ancient custom, and even by Roman law. The act foretokens merciless treatment: no remission of debt to be looked for in this quarter. ἀπόδος εἴ τι ὀφ . In the εἴ τι some ingenious commentators (Fritzsche, e.g. ) have discovered Greek urbanity! (“Non sine urbanitate Graeci a conditionis vinculo aptarunt, quod a nulla conditione suspensum sit.”) Weiss comes nearer the truth when he sees in it an expression of “merciless logic”. He will have payment of whatever is due, were it only a penny.

Verses 28-34

Matthew 18:28-34 . The other side of the picture .

Verse 29

Matthew 18:29 . μακροθύμησον , etc.: the identical words he used himself just a few minutes ago, reminding him surely of his position as a pardoned debtor, and moving him to like conduct.

Verse 30

Matthew 18:30 . οὐκ ἤθελεν : no pity awakened by the words which echoed his own petition. “He would not.” Is such conduct credible? Two remarks may be made on this. In parabolic narrations the improbable has sometimes to be resorted to, to illustrate the unnatural behaviour of men in the spiritual sphere, e.g. , in the parable of the feast (Luke 14:16-24 ) all refuse; how unlikely! But the action of the pardoned debtor is not so improbable as it seems. He acts on the instinct of a base nature, and also doubtless in accordance with long habits of harsh tyrannical behaviour towards men in his power. Every way a bad man: greedy, grasping in acquisition of wealth, prodigal in spending it, unscrupulous in using what is not his own.

Verse 31

Matthew 18:31 . ἰδόντες οἱ σ . ἐλυπήθησαν : the other fellow-servants were greatly vexed or grieved. At what? the fate of the poor debtor? Why then not pay the debt? (Koetsveld). Not sympathy so much as annoyance at the unbecoming conduct of the merciless one who had obtained mercy was the feeling. διεσάφησαν : reported the facts ( narraverunt , Vulg [107] ), and so threw light on the character of the man ( cf. Matthew 13:36 , W. and H [108] ). τῷ κ . ἑαυτῶν , to their own master, to whom therefore they might speak on a matter affecting his interest.

[107] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

[108] Westcott and Hort.

Verse 32

Matthew 18:32 . δ . πονηρέ : the king could understand and overlook dishonesty in money matters, but not such inhumanity and villainy. π . τ . ὀφειλὴν . ἐ .: huge, uncountable. ἐπεὶ παρεκάλεσάς με , when you entreated me. In point of fact he had not, at least in words, asked remission but only time to pay. Ungenerous himself, he was incapable of conceiving, and therefore of appreciating such magnificent generosity.

Verse 33

Matthew 18:33 . οὐκ ἔδει ; was it not your duty? an appeal to the sense of decency and gratitude. καὶ σὲ … ἠλέησα . There was condescension in putting the two cases together as parallel. Ten thousand acts of forgiveness such as the culprit was asked to perform would not have equalled in amount one act such as he had got the benefit of. The fact in the spiritual sphere corresponds to this.

Verse 34

Matthew 18:34 . ὀργισθεὶς : roused to just and extreme anger. βασανισταῖς : not merely to the gaolers, but to the tormentors, with instructions not merely to keep him safe in prison till the debt was paid, but still more to make the life of the wretch as miserable as possible, by place of imprisonment, position of body, diet, bed, etc., if not by instruments of pain. The word, chosen to suit the king’s mood, represents a subjective feeling rather than an objective fact.

Verse 35

Matthew 18:35 . Application . οὕτως : so, mutatis mutandis , for feelings, motives, methods rise in the moral scale when we pass to the spiritual sphere. So in general, not in all details, on the same principle; merciless to the merciless. ὁ πατήρ μ . ὁ οὐρ .: Jesus is not afraid to bring the Father in in such a connection. Rather He is here again defining the Father by discriminating use of the name, as One who above all things abhors mercilessness. μου : Christ is in full sympathy with the Father in this. ὑμῖν : to you , my own chosen disciples. ἕκαστος : every man of you. ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν : from your hearts, no sham or lip pardon; real, unreserved, thoroughgoing, and in consequence again and again, times without number, because the heart inclines that way.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 18". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/matthew-18.html. 1897-1910.
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