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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 18

Verse 1

Matthew 18:1. ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ, in that hour) when they had heard of the freedom of the children, declared in ch. Matthew 17:26 (which accounts for the use of ἄρα, then, in this passage); and when they had seen that Peter, James, and John (ch. John 17:1), had been all summoned to the Mount.— τίς ἄρα, κ. τ. λ., who then, etc.) They put the question indefinitely in words, but in their own hearts they think of themselves.(803)ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν, in the kingdom of heaven) See that thou enter there: do not enquire beforehand what are the several portions allotted to each therein.

Verse 2

Matthew 18:2. παιδίον, a little child) A diminutive, to rebuke the disciples who sought great things. It is said to have been Ignatius— θεοφόρος.(804) Without doubt it must have been a child of excellent disposition and sweetest appearance who was then present by Divine appointment.— ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν, in the midst of them) see Gnomon on Mark 9:36.

Verse 3

Matthew 18:3. καὶ εἶπεν, and said) By asking who is the greatest? each of the disciples might offend himself, his fellow-disciples, and the child in question. The Saviour’s words (Matthew 18:3-20) meet all these offences, and declare His own and His Father’s anxiety for the salvation of souls. We perceive hence the connection between the different portions of His speech.— ὡς τὰ παιδία, as little children) They must possess a wonderful degree of humility, simplicity, and faith to be proposed as an example to adults. Scripture exhibits everywhere favour towards little children.— οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε, ye shall not enter) So far from being the greatest, ye shall not even enter therein. He does not say, “ye shall not remain,” but, “ye shall not enter,” so as to repress their arrogance the more.

Verse 4

Matthew 18:4. ὅστις, whosoever) No answer is given concerning the individual whom they inquired about.— οὗτος, this man) sc. he, I tell you.

Verse 5

Matthew 18:5. δέξηται, shall receive) sc. humbly, lovingly, to the profit of his soul, as appears from the contrast in the next verse.— τοιοῦτον, such) For little children also are sometimes corrupt.(805)—The same termination occurs in Acts 21:25.(806)ἑν, one) God’s providence is exercised also on individuals; see the next verse. One is frequently mentioned in this chapter. ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί ΄ου, in My name) Not from natural or political causes.— ὀνόματι, name) see Matthew 18:20.— ἐμὲ, Me) sc. who am in the little ones which believe on Me, as the Father is in Me. In like manner it may be said that, in Justification, when God receives a believer, He receives Christ.

Verse 6

Matthew 18:6. σκανδαλίση, shall offend) sc. by putting a stumbling block in the way of either his faith or practice, by provoking to pride or strife, by calling him away from the virtues of that early age. The greatest reverence is due to a child, if you are employed in anything which is wrong.(807) Children are more easily impressible; therefore they are more easily injured.— τῶν πιστευόντων, who believe) Jesus paid great attention to little children, and endued them with faith; see ch. Matthew 14:21, Matthew 19:13-14, and Matthew 21:15-16.— συμφέρει αὐτῷ, it is expedient for him) i.e., it is his interest—it were better for him; for drowning is far less horrible than the fire spoken of in Matthew 18:8, or the lake of fire mentioned in Revelation 19:20.— μύλος ὀνικὸς, a millstone)(808) An appropriate phrase in a discourse concerning offence, for stumbling is produced by stones.— καταποντισθῇ, be drowned) A frequent and horrible punishment.(809)πελάγει, the sea) sc. the deep; see Gnomon on Acts 27:5.— τῆς θαλάσσης, of the sea) which was near at hand; see ch. Matthew 17:27.

“Maxima debetur puero reverentia, si quid

Turpe paras.”—ED.

Verse 7

Matthew 18:7. τῷ κόσμῳ, to the world) offences spread far and wide,— τῶν σκανδάλων, of THE offences) τὰ σκάνδαλα, THE offences.— τὸ σκάνδαλον, THE offence) The article is emphatic.— ἀνάγκη(810) γάρ ἐστιν ἐλθεῖν τὰ σκάνδαλα, for it must needs be that offences come) especially in the age blessed by the presence of the Messiah; just as insects abound in summer. The disciples were near offence: how much nearer must others have been!— πλὴν, but) used emphatically.(811) Woe to the world which is injured by offences: but woe indeed to the man who injures it by offence.

Verse 8

Matthew 18:8. εἰ δὲ, κ. τ. λ., but if, etc.) He who is not careful to avoid offence to himself, will cause offence to others, and vice versa.— χεὶρ, ποὺς, hand—foot) In the impulse of sinning, acting ill, going where we ought not, the hands or other members are urged on by the animal spirits rushing together into them: and there is great propriety in the expressions employed by our Lord: for the imperative ἔκκοψον (cut off), holds good with regard to the hand, in as far as it is thus affected, and so on with the rest.— ζωὴν, life) opposed to eternal fire.— κωλὸν, κ. τ. λ., lame, etc.) The godly, forsooth, in this world are lame, deaf, dumb, etc., both to themselves and others;(812) see Psalms 38:14. This must be taken of the time of mortification, not that of glorification; for those members which have been most mortified will shine the most in glory; see Galatians 6:17.— αἰώνιον, eternal) The word, eternal, signifies sometimes in the Old Testament a finite eternity more clearly than it does in the New.

Verse 9

Matthew 18:9. ὀφθαλμὸς, eye) The eye offends by pride, as in this place; by envy, as in Mark 7:22; by wantonness [as in Matthew 5:28-29.] There is a gradation here; for the eye is dearer than the hand or foot. Frequently, when the offence of one member has been conquered, offence ensues from another.— μονόφθαλμον, with one eye) μονόφθαλμος, has the same force in Matthew and Mark as ἑτερόφθαλμος has in Ammonius.— τὴν γέενναν, hell) eternal fire: see the preceding verses.

Verse 10

Matthew 18:10. ΄ὴ καταφρονήσατε do not despise) They appear to have done so from Matthew 18:1-2. The adult frequently exhibit pride towards “little ones” by whose appearance they are reminded of their origin: whence it comes to pass, that they hold them of no account, and pay them no reverence.(813) He despises them who corrupts or neglects to edify them.— οἱ ἄγγελοι, the angels) whom you ought not to offend, but imitate, in this very care for the “little ones.”— αὐτῶν, of them) The angels take care of the “little ones,” both in body and soul; and so much the more, the less that they are able to protect themselves. Grown-up men have also their guardian angels. but vet they are in some sort left more to themselves.— βλέπουσι, see) as attendants. And this concerns not only the dignity, but also the safety of the “little ones.” Their function is twofold; see Hebrews 1:14.— τὸ πρόσωπον, the face) See Exodus 33:14-20, and Numbers 6:25-26.

Verse 11

Matthew 18:11. γὰρ, κ. τ. λ., for, etc.) Infants are objects of Divine care, not because they have not been under the curse like others, but because they have been rescued from it.— τὸ ἀπολωλὸς, that which was lost) The human race was one mass of perdition, in which infants, even those of better disposition, are also included, on account of original sin, but the whole of it has been redeemed. If a king were to say that he would rebuild a city which had been consumed by fire, he would not wish his words to be understood of a single street. The loss of a sinner is, in the sight of God, something as it were contingent. Therefore foreknowledge does not imply necessity.

Verse 12

Matthew 18:12. τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ, κ. τ. λ., what think ye? etc.) A gracious instance of Communicatio.(814)ἑκατὸν, an hundred) Otherwise the loss of one out of so great a number would be easier.(815)ἕν, one) The roundness of the number would be broken, and the exact hundred diminished, by the loss even of one.— ἀφεὶς, leaving) It is the business of shepherds to give their first care to wandering sheep, as distinguished from those which are in the right way.— ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη, into the mountains) even with great toil, into solitary places. The discourse appears to have been delivered on the shore of the lake of Gennesareth.(816)

Verse 13

Matthew 18:13. ἐὰν γένηται εὑρεῖν, if it happen that he find it) The finding of the sinner, therefore, is, in the sight of God, a something as it were contingent—IF IT HAPPEN that he find it: cf. on the loss of a sinner, Matthew 18:11, and Gnomon in loc. Therefore grace is not irresistible; cf. Luke 15:6; Luke 15:9; Luke 15:24; Luke 17:18.— ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, verily I say unto you) This formula refers to the Apodosis,(817) as in Luke 11:8, and John 12:24; cf. the Divine adjuration in Ezekiel 33:11.

Verse 14

Matthew 18:14. οὐκ ἔστι θέλημα, it is not a wish)(818) or anything to be desired (cf. Ezekiel 18:23). The article is not added in the present passage; cf. θεληματα, wishes, in Acts 13:22.(819) We ought to subserve the Divine will in caring for the salvation of all.— ἔμπροσθεν,(820) in the presence of)(821) The Divine intellect is intimated as discerning what things please His will.(822)ἵνα, κ. τ. λ., that, etc.) i.e. He wishes most earnestly that all should be saved.— εἷς, one) The disciples had asked in the comparative;(823) our Lord answers specially in the positive degree.

Verse 15

Matthew 18:15. ἐὰν δὲ, κ. τ. λ., but if, etc.) The sum of this chapter is as follows: Every one is under an obligation, not to place obstacles before himself and others, but to aid both on the way of salvation Also: we ought to respond to the Divine will, expressed in Matthew 18:14. Also: do not offend thy brother; cure thy brother’s offence.— ἁμαρτήσῃ εἰς σὲ, sin against thee) sc. by giving offence; see 1 Corinthians 8:12.— ὕπαγε, go) (cf. πορευθεὶς, having gone, in Matthew 18:12). That will be derogatory to no one. Even Christ came to us and sought us.— ἔλεγξον αὐτὸν, reprove him)(824) Afterwards our Lord speaks of witnesses. In the present instance, the matter takes place in the presence of only two [sc. the parties themselves]; in the latter, of more.— αὐτὸν, him) sc. thy brother. He is reproved and forgiven because he is a brother.— μόνου, alone) Solitary reproof is gracious.— ἐκέρδησας, thou hast gained) Therefore thy brother had previously been lost through his sin. A gain, and a blessed one. The body of the sick man does not become the property of the physician who cured it; the burning house does not become the property of him who extinguished the fire: that is, they are not gained. But the man whom I have gained becomes in some sort my own, as amongst the Romans a conquered people became bound, by the ties of clientship, to the general who had conquered them; cf. Luke 19:24; Luke 19:17; Philemon 1:19, and Gnomon on 1 Corinthians 9:19.

The margin of both Editions observes that this verb is brought into prominence by the absence of the copula between it and ὕπαγε, “Go, tell him his fault.” This has not been noticed in the Vers. Germ.—E. B.

Rec. Text has καὶ, with abc Vulg. Hilary, and Lucifer. But BD Orig. omit καὶ.—ED.

Verse 16

Matthew 18:16. ἕνα δύο, one or two) so that, reckoning thyself the complainant, there may be two or three witnesses. The evidence of the complainant is of greater weight.— ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος, κ. τ. λ., that in the mouth, etc.) referring to Deuteronomy 19:15, the latter part of which the LXX. render: ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων καὶ ἐπὶ στοματος τριῶν μαρτύρων σταθήσεται πᾶν ῥῆμαat the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, every word shall be established.— σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα, every word may be established) sc. both against the sinner and afterwards to the Church. This passage is one of those which prove that the principles and rules of the forensic law of Moses are not entirely excluded from the polity of the Church of Christ.

Verse 17

Matthew 18:17. παρακούση, do not obey) disregarding the reproof.— τῇ ἐκκλησια, the church) i.e., which is in that place where thou and thy brother dwell. The church is opposed to two or three in about the same proportion as two or three are to one. Amongst the Jews, ten men are considered to constitute עדה, a church,(825) or public assembly for the decision of private disputes. See Rhenferd Opera philologica,(826) p. 729; Buxtorf,(827) Synagoga Judaica, ch. 25, where the same things are prescribed to the offender which our Lord prescribes here to the injured party.— ἔστω, κ. τ. λ., let him be, etc.) Cf. Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 Timothy 2:21; Titus 3:10; 2 John Matthew 18:10.— σοὶ, to thee) Although, perhaps, not to the witnesses and the church. Therefore no one should be considered as a stranger before he has been reproved, and disregarded the reproof.— ἐθνικὸς, THE heathen) (sing.) We take this opportunity of making some observations on the Greek Article.(828) B. Stolberg rightly remarks, in his manuscript collection on the particles, that “there is scarcely an instance in the Scriptures where the article is redundant.” It is nowhere clearly useless: it is never added without an object, although philologists frequently attribute to it a wrong force and meaning. It is equivalent to the German der (the), and denotes less than he (this), more than quidam (some, a certain one, or thing). It has, therefore, a determinating value; and it determines either (1) the universality and totality of the subject, as in Matthew 6:22, λύχνος, κ. τ. λ., THE light, etc., q.d. the body has no light except the eye; or (2) the whole species, as in Matthew 15:11, TO εἰσερχόμενον, that which entereth—TO ἐκπορευόμενον, that which cometh out—and in Romans 1:17, δὲ δίκαιος, but THE just, i.e. he that is, or every one that is, just; or (3) the singularity and oneness [i.e. the definite and exclusive individuality] of the subject, as in Matthew 1:23, παρθένος, THE virgin—in John 1:21, χριστός, THE Christ, προφήτης, THE prophet—in John 13:13, διδάσκαλος, καὶ κύριος, THE Teacher, and THE Lord; or (4) the restriction of the whole genus to a particular species, as in Acts 19:17, τοισ καταικοῦσι, who dwelt at. In logic, however, universal and singular propositions are equivalent; whence (5) it has frequently a relative force, and that even in partition,(829) as in Luke 18:10, εἷς φαρισαῖος καὶ ἕτερος τελώνης, THE one a Pharisee and THE other a publican—and in Revelation 17:10, εἷς ἐστιν, ἀλλος οὔπω ἠλθε, THE one is, THE other has not yet come; or (6) it expresses a certain peculiar degree of a thing (rei exquisitam quandam rationem), as in Matthew 8:12, κλαυθμὸς, THE(830) weeping, sc. weeping, compared with which earthly weeping is not weeping. It is, in fact, a subject which deserves to be more carefully examined by Philologists.(831) In this passage, ἐθνικὸς signifies the whole race of Heathens, and any one thereto belonging. Thus, in the S. V. of Deuteronomy 28:29, we have τυφλὸς,, THE blind.— καὶ τελώνης, and the publican) It was easy for the Jews to consider any one in the light of a heathen, therefore this clause is added to increase the force of the language; for the publicans dwelt amongst the Jews, but were shunned by them.

He is not here speaking of the Catholic or universal Church.—V. g.

Verse 18

Matthew 18:18. ὅσα ἐὰν, whatsoever) i.e. all things with regard to which the power of binding and loosing holds good, especially offences.(832)δήσητε, ye shall bind) see the end of Matthew 18:17.— λύσητε, ye shall loose) see the end of Matthew 18:15. There is an intimate connection between the retention of a private(833) and that of a public offence, and so also in the case of remission. See Matthew 18:15-35. Our Lord teaches that His disciples can bind and loose the sins of their neighbours in His name; see Matthew 18:20. Neither is it totally void of effect when they, even for their own sake, through anger, bind and hold the offences of their brethren.

Verse 19

Matthew 18:19. πάλιν, again) The same thing is repeated in somewhat different language. The particle πάλιν is used epitatically,(834) as in ch. Matthew 19:24, and Galatians 5:3. In this place, our Lord speaks of His disciples as acting together; in Matthew 18:18, in their individual. capacity. Cf. ch. Matthew 16:19.— δύο, two) sc. two, if not more, contrasted with all; cf. Matthew 18:18 : two, e.g. husband and wife. Great is the virtue of united faith. That which may hinder the prayers of one man, from his own weakness, is made up by the fellowship (societas) of even one brother.— ἐπὶ τῆς γῆςἐν οὐρανοῖς, on earth—in heaven) The same antithesis occurs in Matthew 18:18.— αἰτήσωνται shall ask) sc. with regard to binding or loosing.

Verse 20

Matthew 18:20. οὗ γὰρ, κ. τ. λ., for where, etc.) The name of Jesus gives power to prayer.— δύο τρεῖς, two or three) see Ecclesiastes 4:12 and the preceding verses. Three is a number which can be procured even in a barren age of the Church: a greater number is not so easily obtained, and is accompanied by the danger that a hypocrite may be present; yet where many sincere professors are together, how great will be the power of their prayers.— εἰς τὸ ἐμον ὄνομα, in My name, lit. into My name(835)) sc. with the object of worshipping it. All prayers that are offered in the name of Jesus Christ are accepted by the Father; see Matthew 18:19.— ἐκεῖ εἰ΄ὶ, there am I) and all grace with Me; see ch. Matthew 28:20; Acts 18:10; 2 Timothy 4:17. Where the Son is, there is the Father: what the Son wishes, the Father wishes.

Verse 21

Matthew 18:21. ποσάκις, how often?) in one day, or my whole life. Cf. Luke 17:4. [This question arose from some sense of super abounding Divine grace, which had been so much dwelt upon and magnified in the preceding discourses.—V. g.— ἁμαρτήσει, shall my brother sin?) These words are to be understood, not of some slight offence, which excites a sudden burst of indignation, though this also is indeed sinful, yet ready to forgive of its own accord, but of some more heavy offence or injury.—V. g.]

Verse 22

Matthew 18:22. ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτὰ, seventy-seven(836)) The termination κις makes the whole number seventy-seven. Thus the LXX., in Genesis 4:24, use the same phrase regarding Lamech.(837)

“If Cain be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold;” not “seventy times seven;” LXX. ἑπτακοντάκις ἕπτα.—ED.

Verse 23

Matthew 18:23. διὰ τουτο, therefore) understand, “I say.”— ἠθελησε, willed, determined) of His own free will, by His supreme authority.

Verse 24

Matthew 18:24. ἀρξαμένου, when He had begun) Before the servant knew what was the condition(838) of his fellow-servants.— εἶς προσηνέχθη αὐτῷ, there was brought unto Him) though against his will.— εἶς, one) sc. a servant, who owed, etc. How great must be the debts of all, if that of one is so great! Every one ought to consider himself as that one; cf. Matthew 18:35; Matthew 18:12, ch. Matthew 20:13; for the condition(839) of all is equal.— μυρίων ταλάντων, of ten thousand talents(840)) The Greek language cannot express by two words, as a distinct and continuous quantity, a larger sum than this. If we ought to remit an hundred denarii to our brother, i.e. forgive him seventy-seven times, what a vast amount of sins does the Lord forgive us in remitting ten thousand talents! A talent contains about six thousand denarii; therefore a thousand talents contain sixty million denarii, of which how small a part are one hundred denarii! For six denarii make a florin, and nine denarii an imperial dollar, or not much more; one Hebrew talent, or two Attic ones, are two thousand two hundred and fifty florins.(841)

Verse 25

Matthew 18:25. ἐκέλευσεν, κ. τ. λ., he commanded, etc.) The Lord shows His right, but does not use it: the servant, however, abuses whatever right he possesses.— ὅσα εἶχε, all that he had) The peculium,(842) which, indeed, itself belonged to the Lord.

Verse 26

Matthew 18:26. ΄ακροθύμησον, have patience) Do not act hastily towards me.— πάντα, all) The servant could not procure so large a sum in the whole period of the world’s existence; he merely exhibits, therefore, his contrition.

Verse 27

Matthew 18:27. (843) ἀπέλυσεν, loosed) as the servant had besought him to do. ἀφῆκε, forgave) which the servant had not dared to ask. He had prayed for one kindness; and he obtained two.

Verse 28

Matthew 18:28. ἐξελθὼν, having gone forth) being now released from his difficulties. Before the accounts had been examined, he treated his fellow-servant more tenderly; the very joy of recovered liberty, or restored health, etc., is accompanied by a greater danger of sin:(844) see John 5:14; 2 Kings 20:13.(845)ἑκατὸν δηνάρια, a hundred denarii)(846) The names of coins are neuter in Greek. This was a sufficiently large debt for a fellow-servant: but nothing in comparison with even a single talent, and ten thousand is a hundred times a hundred.— ἀπόδος, κ. τ. λ., pay, etc.) An importunate demand.— εἰ, if)(847) a particle of some force for since.

BCD Orig. 3,622a read εἴ τι. But abc Vulg. Lucifer support the τι of Rec. Text.—ED.

εὗρεν, he found) After you have experienced the divine free favour, soon the opportunity will present itself to thee of adopting either a similar, or else a different mode of action.—V. g.

ἕνα, one) It sometimes happens that one wishes well to all (other) men, and yet remains inimical and hostile at least to one particular person.—V. g.

Verse 29

Matthew 18:29. παρεκάλει, besought) In Matthew 18:26, the word used is προσεκὑνει, worshipped.— λέγων, saying) sc. in the same words which are found in Matthew 18:26.

Verse 30

Matthew 18:30. οὐκ ἤθελεν, would not) opposed to σπλαγχνισθεὶς, being moved with compassion, in Matthew 18:27.(848)ἀπελθὼν, having departed) sc. to the officer.— ἔβαλεν, κ. τ. λ., east, etc.) By which act he invaded the right of his Lord.

Verse 31

Matthew 18:31. ἐλυπήθησαν σφόδρα, καὶ ἐλθόντες διεσάφησαν, κ. τ. λ., they were very sorry, and came and told, etc.) Their sorrow and their information were righteous.— λύπη, sorrow, frequently includes the idea of indignation.

Verse 32

Matthew 18:32. αὐτὸν, him) singly; for in Matthew 18:24, he had been cited in company with the rest.— δοῦλε πονηρὲ, thou wicked servant) He had not been called thus on account of his debt. Woe to him whom the Lord upbraids; see ch. Matthew 25:26. Mercilessness is peculiarly wickedness.— ἐκείνην, that [debt]) This word refers with peculiar emphasis to the former occurrence.

Verse 33

Matthew 18:33. οὐκ ἔδει; did it not behove?) It did, indeed, by the highest rule of equity.(849)τὸν σύνδουλόν σου, thy fellow-servant) whom thou oughtest to have pitied; My servant, by injuring whom thou hast injured Me.

Verse 34

Matthew 18:34. ὀργισθεὶς, wroth) He had not been wroth before, cf. Luke 14:21. Those who have experienced the mercy of God, ought to be very careful of exciting His anger.— τοῖς βασανισταῖς, the tormentors) not merely jailors (custodibus).— ἓως οὗ, until) Such is the enduring character of guilt, founded on the inexhaustible claim of God over His servants.(850)

Verse 35

Matthew 18:35. ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν ὑμῶν, from your hearts) A wrong is recalled to the mind: it must be dismissed from the mind and from the heart. Things which are thus done, are done with unwearied frequency [But if not, whenever the debtor unexpectedly meets us, our indignation is liable to revive.—V. g.]; cf. σπλαγχνισθεὶς, (being moved with compassion) in Matthew 18:27.

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Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 18". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.