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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 18

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-14

Greatness through Humility in the Kingdom of Heaven - In Matthew 18:1-14 Jesus deals with the virtue of humility as a condition of greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus demonstrates true humility by calling a child to Himself (Matthew 18:1-5). He then warns that offences will surely come among the community of believers and that divine punishment is in store for such offenders (Matthew 18:6-9). Jesus next explains to His disciples how valuable each and every member of the Kingdom of Heaven is in the eyes of the Father through the Parable of the Lost Sheep in order to help them understand this spiritual truth by using an earthly illustration (Matthew 18:10-14).

Here is a proposed outline:

1. Jesus Describes Who is the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven Matthew 18:1-5

2. Jesus Explains that Offences Will Come Matthew 18:6-9

3. The Parable of the Lost Sheep Matthew 18:10-14

Matthew 18:1-5 Jesus Describes Who is the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 9:33-37 , Luke 9:46-48 ) Jesus opens His fourth major discourse in Matthew 18:1-5 by describing to His disciples who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. The theme of this teaching in Matthew 18:1-5 is about humility. He tells His disciples that they must become like little children (Matthew 18:3). He did not mean that they were to be like children physically, because their bodies are underdeveloped. He did not mean mentally, because children are underdeveloped mentally. However, He explains in the following verse that they must be like children from the aspect of their tender, humble hearts (Matthew 18:4). Jesus explains in this passage of Scripture that humility is the key to greatness in the kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Matthew 18:1 “At the same time” Comments The fourth discourse section begins with the phrase Ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ (in that hour). David Turner understands this hour to refer to the season of Jesus’ ministry when He began to reveal His passion and resurrection to His closest disciples. This “hour” seems to begin at the time Peter makes his confession of Jesus’ deity at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:16), at which time Jesus reveals these impending events (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22-23).

Matthew 18:1 “came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” - The parallel passages in the Gospels of Mark and Luke say the disciples had been disputing about who would be the greatest when Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of Heaven in Israel (Mark 9:34, Luke 9:46). While Mark and Luke limit Jesus’ response to a few statements, Matthew records the entire discourse on this topic.

Jesus has just been discussion one aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven with Peter, that of freedom from taxes for the children of the Kingdom. The Scriptures do not record the occasion for a dispute among the disciples regarding greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps Peter’s return with the coin to pay taxes from the preceding passage served as the occasion for the disciples to discuss the issue of leadership and greatness in the Kingdom. Perhaps Peter’s outspokenness and continual attention from Jesus recorded in the fourth narrative section stirred up jealously from some of the disciples. Perhaps Jesus had assembled His disciples in Peter’s house. In light of the freedom of the children of the Kingdom, how is greatness distributed to those children? Which ones will stand out above others? In other words, the question from the disciples seems to be one of inquiry regarding the structure of those members of the Kingdom of Heaven. This structure as it relates to the disciples would have been of great concern for the disciples since they had forsaken everything and followed Jesus. They would be expecting greater honor than less dedicated disciples.

Matthew 18:1 Comments (Literary Elements) Some scholars believe that Matthew’s account of Jesus being seated and His disciples (or crowds) coming to Him in the opening verses of three of the five major discourses was intentional, since it describes the traditional setting of the Jewish scribe being surrounded by his pupils (Matthew 5:1; Matthew 13:1-2; Matthew 24:3). [499] The second and fourth discourses begin with one aspect of this formula, either Jesus gathering His disciples (Matthew 10:1), or them coming to Him (Matthew 18:1). In addition, this rabbinic formula is found in the middle of the third discourse simply because Jesus changes locations before completing this discourse (Matthew 13:36).

[499] Christopher R. Smith, “Literary Evidences of a FiveFold Structure in the Gospel of Matthew,” in New Testament Studies 43 (1997): 542.

Matthew 5:1, “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:”

Matthew 10:1, “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.”

Matthew 13:1-2, “The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.”

Matthew 13:36, “Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.”

Matthew 18:1, “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Matthew 24:3, “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”

Matthew 18:2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

Matthew 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:3 Comments - Andreas J. Kösterberger notes that the rabbis of the first century often cited other rabbinical authorities in their teachings. [500] Thus, the rabbis considered those who taught without such rabbinical authorities to lack credibility. [501] They themselves referred back to a long history of traditional interpretation of the Mosaic Law as their authority. Jesus, however, offered Himself as the sole authority in His teachings on twenty-five occasions in John’s Gospel, saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” (John 1:51; John 3:3; John 3:5; John 3:11; John 5:19; John 5:24-25; John 6:26; John 6:32; John 6:47; John 6:53; John 8:34; John 8:51; John 8:58; John 10:1; John 10:7; John 12:24; John 13:16; John 13:20-21; John 13:38; John 14:12; John 16:20; John 16:23; John 21:18) Throughout the Synoptic Gospels Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you…” When pressed by the Jews for His source of authority, Jesus refers to His Father as the source of His doctrine (John 5:17-26; John 5:36-37; John 6:44-46; John 7:16; John 8:28; John 8:38; John 10:18; John 10:37-38; John 12:49-50; John 14:31; John 15:15). Jesus’ response of elevating Himself above rabbinic authority angered the Jewish leaders.

[500] Andreas J. Kösterberger, John, in Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004), 232-233.

[501] Scholars cite Sotah 22a from the Babylonian Talmud as an example of the negative rabbinical attitude towards those who do not appeal to other authorities in their teachings, which says, “It has been reported, If one has learnt Scripture and Mishnah but did not attend upon Rabbinical scholars, R. Eleazar says he is an 'Am ha-arez' [lit. a people of the land].” (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 22a) The rabbis equated such teachers to “people of the land,” meaning such teachers were like the common, uneducated person.

In Matthew 18:3 Jesus begins the fourth discourse with the phrase, “Verily, I say unto you…” He was about to teach a divine truth regarding the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven that even the Jewish rabbis could not explain. Thus, Jesus uses Himself as His authority.

Matthew 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

Matthew 18:6-9 Jesus Explains that Offences Will Come (Mark 9:42-48 , Luke 17:1-2 ) In Matthew 18:6-9 Jesus warns that offences will come in the Kingdom of Heaven and that divine punishment is in store for such offenders.

Matthew 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:6 Scripture References - Note:

Proverbs 18:19, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”

Matthew 18:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

Matthew 18:8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

Matthew 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

Matthew 18:10-14 Jesus Explains the Value of Each Member of the Kingdom of Heaven (The Parable of the Lost Sheep) (Luke 15:3-7 ) In Matthew 18:10-14 Jesus explains to His disciples how valuable each and every member of the Kingdom of Heaven is in the eyes of the Father. He tells them the Parable of the Lost Sheep to help them understand this spiritual truth by using an earthly illustration.

Matthew 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 18:10 “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones” - Comments Within the context of Jesus teaching on humility as the virtue of greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven, He warns against despising others. Pride is the opposite of humility, and it looks down upon others and despises them.

Matthew 18:10 “for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” - Comments A child’s prayer is unhindered before the Lord, unlike adults who are more responsible for their sinful behavior (Psalms 109:7, Proverbs 1:28-29; Proverbs 15:29; Proverbs 28:9, Isaiah 1:15, Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14, John 9:31, 1 Peter 3:7).

Psalms 109:7, “When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.”

Proverbs 1:28-29, “Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:”

Proverbs 15:29, “The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.”

Proverbs 28:9, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.”

Isaiah 1:15, “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”

Jeremiah 7:16, “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.”

Jeremiah 11:14, “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble.”

John 9:31, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”

1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Matthew 18:11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

Matthew 18:12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

Matthew 18:12 “How think ye” - Comments Jesus then says, “What do you think?” In other words, Jesus is asking them to imagine with Him an illustration of His main point in this teaching. In first-century Palestine, the people were familiar with the events Jesus is able to describe. Thus, Jesus gives them an illustration that was adapted to their environment.

Matthew 18:12 “if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray” - Comments Jesus says that the man leaves his ninety-nine sheep upon the mountain and he seeks the one that has gone astray. In hilly country, the fertile valleys were often used as farm land because the top soil washed down from the hillsides. The livestock were then taken to the hillsides where they grazed upon the grasses that easily grew upon these shallow soils. Thus, the man leaves his sheep on these hillsides to look for the one that is lost.

Matthew 18:13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

Matthew 18:14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:14 Comments - Though we love each of our children equally, we are grieved and hurt when one of them is sick or injured. So it is with the Father. He loves all of mankind, but He hurts when one of them is lost.

Verses 1-35

Handling Offences and Persecutions in the Kingdom of God Matthew 13:54 to Matthew 18:35 emphasizes the theme of how God’s children are to handle offences and persecutions over doctrinal issues within the Kingdom of Heaven. [468] The narrative passage of Matthew 13:54 to Matthew 17:27 emphasizes the many occasions when offences came into Jesus’ ministry from the Jewish leaders and shows us how Jesus responded to offences. This narrative material builds upon the theme of the previous narrative material found in Matthew 11:2 to Matthew 12:50 regarding man’s reactions to the King. [469] This is because persecutions will come from those who adhere to false doctrines when we preach the Gospel and we must learn how to handle these offences. In this fourth narrative section, Jesus also explains to His disciples the dangers of offending others. Thus, the fourth discourse (Matthew 18:1-35) teaches the disciples how to properly deal with these offences within the Church, which Jesus experiences in the preceding narrative passage.

[468] Benjamin Bacon identifies the theme of 13:54 to 18:35 as church government and the problems of church unity. He says, “Because of this unmistakable interest dominating the whole structure of Division B (Matthew 18:0) we naturally expect from previous experience of our evangelist's use of his material that Division A will lead up to this Discourse on church government with narrative selections of corresponding character. In reality such is the case…” See Benjamin W. Bacon, Studies in Matthew (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1930), 397, 410.

[469] Craig Blomberg says two major themes are carried over from the previous narrative material, which are the increased intensity of the rejection of Jesus Christ and His message, and the progressive, Christological revelation of His identity to the Twelve. He says the development of these two themes create “sharper lines of demarcation between insiders and outsiders.” See Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, in The New American Commentary, vol. 22 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 226. David Turner describes the two leading themes in the fourth narrative section as “increased oppition and conflict” and the works and teachings of Jesus intended to increase the faith of His disciples. See David L. Turner, Matthew, in Baker Evangelical Commentary on the New Testament, eds. Robert Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein (Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 358.

The one Old Testament prophecy of this division in Matthew’s Gospel is Matthew 15:7-9, which quotes Isaiah 29:13 and simply prophecies how God’s own people would rejected the Gospel, reflecting the theme of this division of Matthew on persecutions from within.

Matthew 15:7-9, “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Isaiah 29:13, “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:”

In the fourth major discourse (Matthew 18:1-35) that immediately follows the narrative material Jesus lays down principles for His disciples to follow when dealing with offences. He quotes Deuteronomy 19:15 as a guideline for His disciples to use when dealing with offences.

Deuteronomy 19:15, “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.”

We may compares this major division of material to the General Epistles of 2 Peter , 1, 2, 3 John and Jude in that they also emphasize persecutions that come from those who hold fast to false doctrines.

The section of Matthew emphasizing sanctification through perseverance from persecutions within (Matthew 13:54 to Matthew 18:35) closes with a transitional sentence that concludes each of the five discourses, telling us that Jesus had ended His teaching (Matthew 19:1).

Matthew 19:1, “And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;”

Literary Evidence of a Common Theme between the Fourth Narrative Section and the Discourse that Follows There is literary evidence that connects the third narrative-discourse section with the fourth narrative-discourse section. While these two macro structures share the same theme of perseverance in the faith for the child of God, there is literary evidence to confirm this connection. [470] For example, the fourth narrative section is related in retrospect to the third discourse in the fact that the Greek word συνίημι is used nine times in the Gospel of Matthew, with six uses in the third discourse (Matthew 13:13-15; Matthew 13:19; Matthew 13:23; Matthew 13:51) and three uses in the fourth narrative (Matthew 15:10; Matthew 16:12; Matthew 17:13). This literary evidence reflects the common theme of the servant of God’s need to persevere in the faith in the midst of offenses by hold fast to one’s understanding and confession of faith in God’s eternal Word. In addition, the fourth narrative section shares a common theme with the fourth discourse that follows in the use of the Greek words σκανδαλι ́ ζω and σκα ́ νδαλον , key words Jesus uses four times in the course of the fourth narrative (Matthew 13:57; Matthew 15:12; Matthew 16:23; Matthew 17:27), as well as six times during the fourth discourse (Matthew 18:6-7 [three], 8, 9). Note that this key word opens and closes the fourth narrative section (Matthew 13:57; Matthew 17:27).

[470] The thematic scheme of perseverance connects third and fourth narrative-discourse sections. Scholars acknowledge the connection of these sections. For example, A. G. van Aarde says, “ Matthew 13:53-27, the fourth micronarrative, in an associative manner relates retrospectively to the third discourse (13:1-52) and prospectively to the fourth discourse (18:1-35), while correlating concentrically with the corresponding third micronarrative (11:2-12:50).” He again says, “the “structural interrelatedness of chapters 13, 14-17 and 18 fits into the concentric and progressive structure of the Gospel of Matthew as a whole.” See A. G. van Aarde, “Matthew’s Portrayal of the Disciples and the Structure of Matthew 13:53-27,” Neotestamentica 16 (1982): 21, 22.

Sanctification: Perseverance - Numbers Versus Fourth Discourse which Deals with Persecutions from Within - We see in the book of Numbers the establishment of the journey of perseverance that the children of Israel endured during the forty-year wilderness journey. In a similar way the fourth discourse on church discipline establishes the perseverance of the Church that every believer must endure.

The narrative passage of Matthew 13:54 to Matthew 17:27 emphasizes the many occasions when offences came into Jesus’ ministry from the Jewish leaders. In this passage, Jesus explained to His disciples the dangers of offending others. Thus, the fourth discourse (Matthew 18:1-35) teaches the disciples how to properly deal with these offences within the Church, which Jesus experiences in the preceding narrative passage.

In summary, the fact that Matthew 11-18 deals with obstacles and persecutions along the journey as a servant of the Lord is a clear reminder of how the children of Israel wandered in the desert facing similar challenges in the book of Numbers.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Narrative: Examples of Offences Matthew 13:54 to Matthew 17:27

Verses 15-35

Discipline and Forgiveness in the Kingdom of Heaven - Matthew 18:15-35 focuses upon how to exercise discipline and forgiveness in the community of faith as a remedy to offenses. Jesus gives His disciples some guidelines on how to deal with offences within the Church (Matthew 18:15-20). Peter asks a practical question about the practice of forgiveness, and Jesus responds by teaching the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, explaining a spiritual truth by telling an earthly story; for this is the key to overcoming offences (Matthew 18:21-35).

Here is a proposed outline:

1. Dealing With Offences Within the Kingdom of Heaven Matthew 18:15-20

2. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Matthew 18:21-35

Matthew 18:15-20 Dealing With Offences Within the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 17:3 ) In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus gives His disciples some guidelines on how to deal with offences within the Church. This passage will be followed by Jesus teaching His disciples the importance of forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35).

Matthew 18:15-17 defines the role of the Church in bringing sin to judgment, while Matthew 18:18-20 defines the power of the New Testament church to bring sin unto judgment. Note that these verses are often used in regards to believers praying together. In this context, it specifically refers to dealing with sin in the church. These prayers for believers who come into agreement are to be used to judge the body of Christ.

Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Matthew 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

Matthew 18:16 Scripture Reference - Note:

Deuteronomy 19:15, “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.”

Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Matthew 18:17 Comments Matthew is the only Evangelist that uses the Greek word ε ̓ κκλησι ́ α (Matthew 16:18; Matthew 18:17). Many scholars view the use of ε ̓ κκλησι ́ α as Matthew’s efforts to write a practical document for ecclesiastical use as much as to record the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. [502]

[502] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, in The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 468.

Matthew 18:18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 18:18 Comments - In his book The Authority of the Believer Kenneth Hagin uses Matthew 18:18 to show how Jesus Christ was teaching His disciples about taking spiritual authority over the powers of darkness on this earth. [503] He quotes another translation by saying, “Whatsoever things you refuse to be permitted on earth will be refused to be permitted in heaven.” In other words, Jesus Christ delegated to the Church His name in Matthew 28:18-20 just before His Ascension so that the Church can continue His work of destroying the works of the devil on this earth.

[503] Kenneth Hagin, The Believer’s Authority (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1984, 1992), 48.

Matthew 18:19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 18:19 “if two of you shall agree” Comments - Note in verse 16 that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every work may be established. Therefore, it only takes two to agree in order to establish a request. Rod Parsley notes that we only want two individuals in the process of agreement, but rather, two or three is the least common denominator for this divine principle to work within the local congregation. [504]

[504] Rod Parsley, Breakthrough (Columbus, Ohio: Rod Parsley Ministries), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program.

Matthew 18:19 Comments - It is important to note that Matthew 18:19 says that when two people pray the prayer of agreement, their will is united in faith towards God. They must in agreement in prayer. Sometimes we have made the mistake of praying the prayer of agreement for God to change someone else’s will, such as agreeing for God to put two people back from a broken marriage. But when two people are asking for a third person’s will two come into agreement with their will, then it is not a prayer of agreement; for one party’s will is not in agreement. You cannot change a person’s will by praying the prayer of agreement; for God has given every human being the freedom of their will. However, we can pray for God to work in someone’s life by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit. But we cannot be certain of what someone else will decide to do.

Now, I have seen my mother stand in faith and prayer for the salvation of her brother for forty years and he come back to the Lord. She stood in faith for her son, my brother to return to the Lord after twenty-five years of being away from church. So, faith and persistence does work when another person’s will is involved.

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:20 “in my name, there am I” - Comments - Jesus' name being used by believers is equal to His presence being there. Note:

Matthew 28:20, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway , even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Matthew 18:20 Comments - Everett Harrison says that in the Pirke Aboth, or Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, there is a quote from the rabbis that says, “When ten men sit together and are occupied with the Torah, the Shekinah is among them.” [505] Harrison suggests that the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:20 may have been a reference to this quote. [506]

[505] The entire verse reads, “R. Chalaftha of Kaphar-Chananiah said, When ten sit and are occupied in words of Thorah the Shekinah is among them, for it is said, God standeth in the CONGREGATION of the mighty (Ps. Ixxxii. 1). And whence (is it proved of) even five? Because it is said, He judgeth among gods. And whence even three? Because it is said,...and hath founded his TROOP in the earth (Amos ix. 6). And whence even two? Because it is said, Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another (§ 3). And whence even one? Because it is said, In all places where I record my name I will come unto THEE, and I will bless thee (Ex. xx. 24).” ( Pirke Aboth 3.9) see Charles Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers Comprising Pirque Aboth in Hebrew and English with Notes and Excursuses (Cambridge: University Press, 1897), 46-48.

[506] Everett F. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, c1964, 1971), 172.

Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus Teaches on Forgiveness (The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant) In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus responds to Peter’s question by teaching on the importance of forgiving one another in the Kingdom of Heaven; for this is the key to overcoming offences. He explains this spiritual truth by telling an earthly story in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. This passage of Scripture well illustrated to Peter and the other disciples the value of forgiving offences.

Illustration - Regarding this parable the Lord once gave me a taste of how this unforgiving servant felt. In July 2000, I was managing Lighthouse Television in Kampala, Uganda. On Saturday, July 1, I had cut off a local preaching program without notice for non-payment of US$ 1,800 for the previous month. At this same time, the Minister of Information was trying to collect US$ 19,000 for arrears in tower rentals from my TV station. Our attorneys were protesting this payment and were not cooperating with this Ministry. The following day, Sunday, July 2, I was sitting at the kitchen table typing Bible notes, when this parable was quickened to me very strongly. Then, within an hour, our TV station was cut off due to non-payment. It took a payment of US$ 10,000 and two days of being off of the air in order to resolve this issue. What a lesson I learned in this parable. I quickly restarted this local minister's program that I had cut off, and handled this client with more patience, the kind of patience that I would have expected from someone.

Matthew 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Matthew 18:22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:22 Word Study on “seventy times seven” - In the Greek, this means seventy-seven (77) times, and not seventy multiplied by seventy.

Matthew 18:22 Comments - We find the numbers seventy and seventy seven used in one other verse in the Scriptures.

Genesis 4:24, “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”

Jesus was essentially saying that we must not live with unforgiveness in our hearts. We must turn wrongdoings over to the Lord and let him work them out without us holding anger and unforgiveness.

Matthew 18:21-22 Comments - The Significance of the Number Seven - Seven is a common number used for judgment in the Scriptures. Note:

Genesis 4:15, “And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold . And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.”

Leviticus 4:6, “And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the LORD , before the vail of the sanctuary.”

Leviticus 26:18, “And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins .”

Leviticus 26:21, “And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins .”

Leviticus 26:24, “Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins .”

Leviticus 26:28, “Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins .”

Deuteronomy 28:25, “The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them : and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.”

Psalms 79:12, “And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.”

Proverbs 6:31, “But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold ; he shall give all the substance of his house.”

Daniel 3:19, “Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated .”

Also, seven of Saul's sons died for the sins of one man:

2 Samuel 21:6, “ Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us , and we will hang them up unto the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD did choose. And the king said, I will give them.”

In the New Testament, Jesus said that a man who backslides will have seven more demons enter him after being delivered from one demon.

Matthew 12:45, “Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself , and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it e also unto this wicked generation.”

God uses seven years to judge nations and kings of major sins:

Genesis 41:30, “And there shall arise after them seven years of famine ; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land;”

2 Samuel 24:13, “So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land ? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.”

King Nebuchadnezzar was judged for seven years:

Daniel 4:16, “Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him .”

God uses seven days to judge individuals of minor sins and uncleanness in the Scriptures.

Leviticus 12:2, “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days ; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.”

Leviticus 15:24, “And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days ; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.”

God's judgment on the earth in the book of Revelation comes in sevens:

Revelation 15:8, “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled .”

Peter sought an answer from Jesus for forgiveness in the place of judgment. Peter suggested seven times because he knew from the Scriptures that God's judgment is sevenfold. Therefore, God's mercy must be sevenfold. But Jesus tells Peter that God's judgment may be sevenfold, but His mercy is without measure.

Matthew 18:35 Comments - When reading Matthew 18:35 we ask the question of how our Heavenly Father is going to turn over those who do not forgive to “the tormentors.” We find this mentioned in the New Testament Apocrypha writing The Revelation of Paul. In this ancient document it tells of a poor sinner who has died and is turned over to Tartarus to be tormented until the Day of Judgment.

“And I heard a voice of one saying: Let that soul be delivered into the hands of Tartarus, and led down into hell: he shall lead him into the lower prison and he shall be put in torments, and left there till the great day of judgment. And again I heard a thousand thousand angels saying hymns to the Lord, and crying: Thou art just, O Lord, and just are thy judgments.” ( The Revelation of Paul 17) ( ANF 8)

It tells of a church elder who did not perform his ministry well being turned over to be tormented.

“I further observed the fiery river and saw there a man being tortured by Tartaruchian angels having in their hands an iron with three hooks with which they pierced the bowels of that old man: and I asked the angel, and said: Sir, who is that old man on whom such torments are imposed? And the angel answered and said to me: He whom you see was a presbyter who did not perform well his ministry: when he had been eating and drinking and committing fornication he offered the host to the Lord at his holy altar.” ( The Revelation of Paul 34)

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Matthew 18". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/matthew-18.html. 2013.
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