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All the publicans and sinners (παντες ο τελωνα κα ο αμαρτωλο). The two articles separate the two classes (all the publicans and the sinners). They are sometimes grouped together (Luke 5:30; Matthew 9:11), but not here. The publicans are put on the same level with the outcasts or sinners. So in verse Luke 15:2 the repeated article separates Pharisees and scribes as not quite one. The use of "all" here may be hyperbole for very many or the reference may be to these two classes in the particular place where Jesus was from time to time.
Were drawing near unto him (ησαν αυτω εγγιζοντες). Periphrastic imperfect of εγγιζω, from εγγυς (near), late verb.
For to hear (ακουειν). Just the present active infinitive of purpose.
Both ... and (τε ... κα). United in the complaint.
Murmured (διεγογγυζον). Imperfect active of διαγογγυζω, late Greek compound in the LXX and Byzantine writers. In the N.T. only here and Luke 19:7. The force of δια here is probably between or among themselves. It spread (imperfect tense) whenever these two classes came in contact with Jesus. As the publicans and the sinners were drawing near to Jesus just in that proportion the Pharisees and the scribes increased their murmurings. The social breach is here an open yawning chasm.
This man (ουτος). A contemptuous sneer in the use of the pronoun. They spoke out openly and probably pointed at Jesus.
Receiveth (προσδεχετα). Present middle indicative of the common verb προσδεχομα. In Luke 12:36 we had it for expecting, here it is to give access to oneself, to welcome like υπεδεξατο of Martha's welcome to Jesus (Luke 10:38). The charge here is that this is the habit of Jesus. He shows no sense of social superiority to these outcasts (like the Hindu "untouchables" in India).
And eateth with them (κα συνεσθιε αυτοις). Associative instrumental case (αυτοις) after συν- in composition. This is an old charge (Luke 5:30) and a much more serious breach from the standpoint of the Pharisees. The implication is that Jesus prefers these outcasts to the respectable classes (the Pharisees and the scribes) because he is like them in character and tastes, even with the harlots. There was a sting in the charge that he was the "friend" (φιλος) of publicans and sinners (Luke 7:34).
This parable (την παραβολην ταυτην). The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7). This is Christ's way of answering the cavilling of these chronic complainers. Jesus gave this same parable for another purpose in another connection (Matthew 18:12-14). The figure of the Good Shepherd appears also in John 10:1-18. "No simile has taken more hold upon the mind of Christendom" (Plummer). Jesus champions the lost and accepts the challenge and justifies his conduct by these superb stories. "The three Episodes form a climax: The Pasture--the House--the Home; the Herdsman--the Housewife--the Father; the Sheep--the Treasure--the Beloved Son" (Ragg).
In the wilderness (εν τη ερημω). Their usual pasturage, not a place of danger or peril. It is the owner of the hundred sheep who cares so much for the one that is lost. He knows each one of the sheep and loves each one.
Go after that which is lost (πορευετα επ το απολωλος). The one lost sheep (απολωλος, second perfect active participle of απολλυμ, to destroy, but intransitive, to be lost). There is nothing more helpless than a lost sheep except a lost sinner. The sheep went off by its own ignorance and folly. The use of επ for the goal occurs also in Matthew 22:9; Acts 8:26; Acts 9:11.
Until he find it (εως ευρη αυτο). Second aorist active subjunctive of ευρισκω, common verb, with εως, common Greek idiom. He keeps on going (πορευετα, linear present middle indicative) until success comes (effective aorist, ευρη).
On his shoulders (επ τους ωμους αυτου). He does it himself in exuberant affection and of necessity as the poor lost sheep is helpless. Note the plural shoulders showing that the sheep was just back of the shepherd's neck and drawn around by both hands. The word for shoulder (ωμος) is old and common, but in the N.T. only here and Matthew 23:4.
Rejoicing (χαιρων). "There is no upbraiding of the wandering sheep, nor murmuring at the trouble" (Plummer).
Rejoice with me (συνχαρητε μο). Second aorist passive of συνχαιρω, an old and common verb for mutual joy as in Philippians 2:17. Joy demands fellowship. Same form in verse Luke 15:9. So the shepherd
calls together (συνκαλε, note συν again) both his friends and his neighbours. This picture of the Good Shepherd has captured the eye of many artists through the ages.
Over one sinner that repenteth (επ εν αμαρτωλω μετανοουντ). The word sinner points to verse Luke 15:1. Repenting is what these sinners were doing, these lost sheep brought to the fold. The joy in heaven is in contrast with the grumbling Pharisees and scribes.
More than over (η επ). There is no comparative in the Greek. It is only implied by a common idiom like our "rather than."
Which need no repentance (οιτινες ου χρειαν εχουσιν μετανοιας). Jesus does not mean to say that the Pharisees and the scribes do not need repentance or are perfect. He for the sake of argument accepts their claims about themselves and by their own words condemns them for their criticism of his efforts to save the lost sheep. It is the same point that he made against them when they criticized Jesus and the disciples for being at Levi's feast (Luke 5:31). They posed as "righteous." Very well, then. That shuts their mouths on the point of Christ's saving the publicans and sinners.
Ten pieces of silver (δραχμας δεκα). The only instance in the N.T. of this old word for a coin of 65.5 grains about the value of the common δηναριυς (about eighteen cents), a quarter of a Jewish shekel. The double drachma (διδραχμον) occurs in the N.T. only in Matthew 17:24. The root is from δρασσομα, to grasp with the hand (1 Corinthians 3:19), and so a handful of coin. Ten drachmas would be equal to nearly two dollars, but in purchasing power much more.
Sweep (σαρο). A late colloquial verb σαροω for the earlier σαιρω, to clear by sweeping. Three times in the N.T. (Luke 11:25; Luke 15:8; Matthew 12:44). The house was probably with out windows (only the door for light and hence the lamp lit) and probably also a dirt floor. Hence Bengel says: non sine pulvere. This parable is peculiar to Luke.
Her friends and neighbours (τας φιλας κα γειτονας). Note single article and female friends (feminine article and φιλας). Hεως ου ευρη here as in verse Luke 15:4, only ου added after εως (until which time) as often.
Which I lost (ην απωλεσα). First aorist active indicative of απολλυμ. She lost the coin (note article). The shepherd did not lose the one sheep.
There is joy (γινετα χαρα). More exactly, joy arises. Futuristic present of γινομα (cf. εστα in verse Luke 15:7).
In the presence of the angels of God (ενωπιον των αγγελων του θεου). That is to say, the joy of God himself. The angels are in a sense the neighbours of God.
Had (ειχεν). Imperfect active. Note εχων (verse Luke 15:4), εχουσα (verse Luke 15:8), and now ειχεν. The self-sacrificing care is that of the owner in each case. Here (verses Luke 15:11-32) we have the most famous of all the parables of Jesus, the Prodigal Son, which is in Luke alone. We have had the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and now the Lost Son. Bruce notes that in the moral sphere there must be self-recovery to give ethical value to the rescue of the son who wandered away. That comes out beautifully in this allegory.
The portion (το μερος). The Jewish law alloted one-half as much to the younger son as to the elder, that is to say one-third of the estate (Deuteronomy 21:17) at the death of the father. The father did not have to abdicate in favour of the sons, but "this very human parable here depicts the impatience of home restraints and the optimistic ambition of youth" (Ragg).
And he divided (ο δε διειλεν). The second aorist active indicative of διαιρεω, an old and common verb to part in two, cut asunder, divide, but in the N.T. only here and 1 Corinthians 12:11. The elder son got his share also of the "substance" or property or estate (της ουσιας), "the living" (τον βιον) as in Mark 12:44, not "life" as in Luke 8:14.
Not many days after (μετ' ου πολλας ημερας). Literally, after not many days. Luke is fond of this idiom (Luke 7:6; Acts 1:5).
Took his journey (απεδημησεν). First aorist active indicative of αποδημεω (from αποδημος, away from home). Common verb. In the N.T. here and Matthew 21:33; Matthew 25:14; Mark 12:1; Luke 20:9. He burned all his bridges behind him, gathering together all that he had.
Wasted (διεσκορπισεν). First aorist active indicative of διασκορπιζω, a somewhat rare verb, the very opposite of "gathered together" (συναγογων). More exactly he scattered his property. It is the word used of winnowing grain (Matthew 25:24).
With riotous living (ζων ασωτως). Living dissolutely or profligately. The late adverb ασωτως (only here in the N.T.) from the common adjective ασωτος (α privative and σωζω), one that cannot be saved, one who does not save, a spendthrift, an abandoned man, a profligate, a prodigal. He went the limit of sinful excesses. It makes sense taken actively or passively (prodigus or perditus), active probably here.
When he had spent (δαπανησαντος αυτου). Genitive absolute. The verb is here used in a bad sense as in James 4:3. See on δαπανη Luke 14:28.
He (αυτος). Emphasis.
To be in want (υστερεισθα). The verb is from υστερος, behind or later (comparative). We use "fall behind" (Vincent) of one in straitened circumstances. Plummer notes the coincidences of Providence. The very land was in a famine when the boy had spent all.
Joined himself (εκολληθη). First aorist passive of κολλαω, an old verb to glue together, to cleave to. In the N.T. only the passive occurs. He was glued to, was joined to. It is not necessary to take this passive in the middle reflexive sense.
The citizens (των πολιτων). Curiously enough this common word citizen (πολιτης from πολις, city) is found in the N.T. only in Luke's writings (Luke 15:15; Luke 19:14; Acts 21:39) except in Hebrews 8:11 where it is quoted from Jeremiah 38:34.
To feed swine (βοσκειν χοιρους). A most degrading occupation for anyone and for a Jew an unspeakable degradation.
He would fain have been filled (επεθυμε χορτασθηνα). Literally, he was desiring (longing) to be filled. Imperfect indicative and first aorist passive infinitive. Χορτασθηνα is from χορταζω and that from χορτος (grass), and so to feed with grass or with anything. Westcott and Hort put γεμισα την κοιλιαν αυτου in the margin (the Textus Receptus).
With the husks (εκ των κερατιων). The word occurs here alone in the N.T. and is a diminutive of κερας (horn) and so means little horn. It is used in various senses, but here refers to the pods of the carob tree or locust tree still common in Palestine and around the Mediterannean, so called from the shape of the pods like little horns, Bockshornbaum in German or goat's-horn tree. The gelatinous substance inside has a sweetish taste and is used for feeding swine and even for food by the lower classes. It is sometimes called Saint John's Bread from the notion that the Baptist ate it in the wilderness.
No man gave unto him (ουδεις εδιδου αυτω). Imperfect active. Continued refusal of anyone to allow him even the food of the hogs.
But when he came to himself (εις εαυτον δε ελθων). As if he had been far from himself as he was from home. As a matter of fact he had been away, out of his head, and now began to see things as they really were. Plato is quoted by Ackerman (Christian Element in Plato) as thinking of redemption as coming to oneself.
Hired servants (μισθιο). A late word from μισθος (hire). In the N.T. only in this chapter. The use of "many" here suggests a wealthy and luxurious home.
Have bread enough and to spare (περισσευοντα αρτων). Old verb from περισσος and that from περ (around). Present passive here, "are surrounded by loaves" like a flood.
I perish (εγω δε λιμω ωδε απολλυμα). Every word here counts: While I on the other hand am here perishing with hunger. It is the linear present middle of απολλυμ. Note εγω expressed and δε of contrast.
I will arise and go (αναστας προρευσομα). This determination is the act of the will after he comes to himself and sees his real condition.
I did sin (ημαρτον). That is the hard word to say and he will say it first. The word means to miss the mark. I shot my bolt and I missed my aim (compare the high-handed demand in verse Luke 15:12).
No longer worthy (ουκετ αξιος). Confession of the facts. He sees his own pitiful plight and is humble.
As one (ως ενα). The hired servants in his father's house are high above him now.
To his father (προς τον πατερα εαυτου). Literally, to his own father. He acted at once on his decision.
Yet afar off (ετ αυτου μακραν απεχοντος). Genitive absolute. Μακραν agrees with οδον understood: While he was yet holding off a distant way. This shows that the father had been looking for him to come back and was even looking at this very moment as he came in sight.
Ran (δραμων). Second aorist active participle of the defective verb τρεχω. The eager look and longing of the father.
Kissed (κατεφιλησεν). Note perfective use of κατα kissed him much, kissed him again and again. The verb occurs so in the older Greek.
The son made his speech of confession as planned, but it is not certain that he was able to finish as a number of early manuscripts do not have "Make me as one of the hired servants," though Aleph B D do have them. It is probable that the father interrupted him at this point before he could finish.
The best robe (στολην την πρωτην). Στολη is an old word for a fine stately garment that comes down to the feet (from στελλο, to prepare, equip), the kind worn by kings (Mark 16:5; Luke 22:46). Literally, "a robe the first." But not the first that you find, but the first in rank and value, the finest in the house. This in contrast with his shabby clothes.
A ring (δακτυλιον). Common in classical writers and the LXX, but here only in the N.T. From δακτυλος, finger. See χρυσοδακτυλιος in James 2:2.
Shoes (υποδηματα). Sandals, "bound under." Both sandals and ring are marks of the freeman as slaves were barefooted.
The fatted calf (τον μοσχον τον σιτευτον). The calf the fatted one. Σιτευτον is the verbal adjective of σιλευω, to feed with wheat (σιτος). The calf was kept fat for festive occasions, possibly in the hope of the son's return.
Kill (θυσατε). Not as a sacrifice, but for the feast.
Make merry (ευφρανθωμεν). First aorist passive subjunctive (volitive). From ευφραινω, an old verb from ευ (well) and φρην (mind).
And is alive (κα ανεζησεν). First aorist active indicative of αναζαω, to live again. Literally, he was dead and he came back to life.
He was lost (ην απολωλως, periphrastic past perfect active of απολλυμ and intransitive, in a lost state) and he was found (ευρεθη). He was found, we have to say, but this aorist passive is really timeless, he is found after long waiting (effective aorist) The artists have vied with each other in picturing various items connected with this wonderful parable.
As he came and drew nigh (ως ερχομενος ηγγισεν). More exactly, "As, coming, he drew nigh," for ερχομενος is present middle participle and ηγγισεν is aorist active indicative.
Music (συμφωνιας). Our word "symphony." An old Greek word from συμφωνος (συν, together, and φωνη, voice or sound),
harmony, concord , by a band of musicians. Here alone in the N.T.
And dancing (κα χορων). An old word again, but here alone in the N.T. Origin uncertain, possibly from ορχος by metathesis (ορχεομα, to dance). A circular dance on the green.
Servants (παιδων). Not δουλο (bondslaves) as in verse Luke 15:22. The Greeks often used παις for servant like the Latin puer. It could be either a hired servant (μισθιος, verse Luke 15:17) or slave (δουλος).
He inquired (επυνθανετο). Imperfect middle, inquired repeatedly and eagerly.
What these things might be (τ αν ειη ταυτα). Not "poor" Greek as Easton holds, but simply the form of the direct question retained in the indirect. See the direct form as the apodosis of a condition of the fourth class in Acts 17:18. In Acts 10:17 we have the construction with αν ειη of the direct retained in the indirect question. So also in Luke 1:62: See Robertson, Grammar, p. 1044.
Is come (ηκε). Present indicative active, but a stem with perfect sense, old verb ηκω retaining this use after perfect tenses came into use (Robertson, Grammar, p. 893).
Hath killed (εθυσεν). Aorist active indicative and literally means,
did kill . Difficult to handle in English for our tenses do not correspond with the Greek.
Hath received (απελαβεν). Second aorist active indicative with similar difficulty of translation. Note απο in compositions, like re- in "receive," hath gotten him back (απ-).
Safe and sound (υγιαινοντα). Present active participle of υγιαινω from υγιης, to be in good health. In spite of all that he has gone through and in spite of the father's fears.
But he was angry (ωργισθη). First aorist (ingressive) passive indicative. But he became angry, he flew into a rage (οργη). This was the explosion as the result of long resentment towards the wayward brother and suspicion of the father's partiality for the erring son.
Would not go in (ουκ ηθελεν εισελθειν). Imperfect tense (was not willing, refused) and aorist active (ingressive) infinitive.
Entreated (παρεκαλε). Imperfect tense, he kept on beseeching him.
Do I serve thee (δουλευω σο). Progressive present tense of this old verb from δουλος (slave) which the elder son uses to picture his virtual slavery in staying at home and perhaps with longings to follow the younger son (Robertson, Grammar, p. 879).
Transgressed (παρηλθον). Second aorist active indicative of παρερχομα, to pass by. Not even once (aorist) in contrast with so many years of service (linear present).
A kid (εριφον). Some MSS. have εριφιον, diminutive, a little kid. So margin of Westcott and Hort. B has it also in Matthew 25:32, the only other N.T. passage where the word occurs.
That I might make merry (ινα ευφρανθω). Final clause, first aorist passive subjunctive of the same verb used in verses Luke 15:23; Luke 15:25.
This thy son (ο υιος σου ουτος). Contempt and sarcasm. He does not say: "This my brother."
Came (ηλθεν). He does not even say, came back or came home.
Devoured (καταφαγων). We say, "eaten up," but the Greek has, "eaten down" (perfective use of κατα-). Suggested by the feasting going on.
With harlots (μετα πορνων). This may be true (verse Luke 15:13), but the elder son did not know it to be true. He may reflect what he would have done in like case.
Son (Τεκνον). Child.
Thou (συ). Expressed and in emphatic position in the sentence. He had not appreciated his privileges at home with his father.
It was meet (εδε). Imperfect tense. It expressed a necessity in the father's heart and in the joy of the return that justifies the feasting. Ευφρανθηνα is used again (first aorist passive infinitive) and χαρηνα (second aorist passive infinitive) is more than mere hilarity, deep-seated joy. The father repeats to the elder son the language of his heart used in verse Luke 15:24 to his servants. A real father could do no less. One can well imagine how completely the Pharisees and scribes (verse Luke 15:2) were put to silence by these three marvellous parables. The third does it with a graphic picture of their own attitude in the case of the surly elder brother. Luke was called a painter by the ancients. Certainly he has produced a graphic pen picture here of God's love for the lost that justifies forever the coming of Christ to the world to seek and to save the lost. It glorifies also soul-saving on the part of his followers who are willing to go with Jesus after the lost in city and country, in every land and of every race.
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Luke 15". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25