Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Luke 16

Verse 1

Unto the disciples (και προς τους ματηταςkai pros tous mathētas). The three preceding parables in chapter 15 exposed the special faults of the Pharisees, “their hard exclusiveness, self-righteousness, and contempt for others” (Plummer). This parable is given by Luke alone. The καιkai (also) is not translated in the Revised Version. It seems to mean that at this same time, after speaking to the Pharisees (chapter 15), Jesus proceeds to speak a parable to the disciples (Luke 16:1-13), the parable of the Unjust Steward. It is a hard parable to explain, but Jesus opens the door by the key in Luke 16:9.

Which had a steward (ος ηιχεν οικονομονhos ēichen oikonomon). Imperfect active, continued to have. Steward is house-manager or overseer of an estate as already seen in Luke 12:42.

Was accused (διεβλητηdieblēthē). First aorist indicative passive, of διαβαλλωdiaballō an old verb, but here only in the N.T. It means to throw across or back and forth, rocks or words and so to slander by gossip. The word implies malice even if the thing said is true. The word διαβολοςdiabolos (slanderer) is this same root and it is used even of women, she-devils (1 Timothy 3:11).

That he was wasting (ως διασκορπιζωνhōs diaskorpizōn). For the verb, see note on Luke 15:13. The use of ωςhōs with the participle is a fine Greek idiom for giving the alleged ground of a charge against one.

His goods (τα υπαρχοντα αυτουta huparchonta autou). “His belongings,” a Lukan idiom.

Verse 2

What is this that I hear? (τι τουτο ακουωti touto akouō̱). There are several ways of understanding this terse Greek idiom. The Revised Version (above) takes τιti to be equal to τι εστιν τουτο ο ακουωti estin touto ho akouō That is a possible use of the predicate τουτοtouto Another way is to take τιti to be exclamatory, which is less likely. Still another view is that τιti is “Why”: “Why do I hear this about thee?” See Acts 14:15 where that is the idiom employed.

Render (αποδοςapodos). Second aorist active imperative of αποδιδωμιapodidōmi Give back (and at once).

The account (τον λογονton logon). The reckoning or report. Common use of λογοςlogos (οικονομιαςoikonomias). Same root as οικονομοςoikonomos (steward). This demand does not necessarily mean dismissal if investigation proved him innocent of the charges. But the reason given implies that he is to be dismissed:

Thou canst no longer (ου γαρ δυνηιou gar dunēi).


Verse 3

Within himself (εν εαυτωιen heautōi). As soon as he had time to think the thing over carefully. He knew that he was guilty of embezzlement of the Master‘s funds.

Taketh away (απαιρειταιaphaireitai). Present (linear) middle indicative of απαιρεωaphaireō old verb to take away. Here the middle present means, He is taking away for himself.

To beg I am not ashamed (επαιτειν αισχυνομαιepaitein aischunomai). The infinitive with αισχυνομαιaischunomai means ashamed to begin to beg. The participle, επαιτων αισχυνομαιepaitōn aischunomai would mean, ashamed while begging, ashamed of begging while doing it.

Verse 4

I am resolved (εγνωνegnōn). Second aorist active indicative of γινωσκωginōskō A difficult tense to reproduce in English. I knew, I know, I have known, all miss it a bit. It is a burst of daylight to the puzzled, darkened man: I‘ve got it, I see into it now, a sudden solution.

What to do (τι ποιησωti poiēsō). Either deliberative first aorist active subjunctive or deliberative future active indicative.

When I am put out (οταν μεταστατωhotan metastathō). First aorist passive subjunctive of μετιστημιmethistēmi (μετα ιστημιmeta δεχωνταιhistēmi), old verb, to transpose, transfer, remove. He is expecting to be put out.

They may receive me (δεχομαιdexōntai). First aorist middle subjunctive of ιναdechomai common verb. Subjunctive with final particle των χρεοπιλετωνhina He wishes to put the debtors under obligation to himself.

Debtors (χρεοςtōn chreophiletōn). A late word. In the N.T. only here and Luke 7:41 from οπειλετηςchreos loan, and opheiletēs debtor. It is probable that he dealt with “each one” separately.

Verse 6

Measures (βατουςbatous). Transliterated word for Hebrew βατοςbath between eight and nine gallons. Here alone in the N.T. Not the same word as σου τα γραμματαbatos (bush) in Luke 6:44.

Thy bond (ταχεωςsou ta grammata). Thy writings, thy contracts, thy note.

Quickly (tacheōs). It was a secret arrangement and speed was essential.

Verse 7

Measures (κορουςkorous). Another Hebrew word for dry measure. The Hebrew cor was about ten bushels. Data are not clear about the Hebrew measures whether liquid (bath) or dry (cor).

Verse 8

His lord commended (επηινεσεν ο κυριοςepēinesen ho kurios). The steward‘s lord praised him though he himself had been wronged again (see Luke 16:1 “wasting his goods”).

The unrighteous steward (τον οικονομον της αδικιαςton oikonomon tēs adikias). Literally, the steward of unrighteousness. The genitive is the case of genus, species, the steward distinguished by unrighteousness as his characteristic. See “the mammon of unrighteousness” in Luke 16:9. See “the forgetful hearer” in James 1:25. It is a vernacular idiom common to Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Koiné.

Wisely (προνιμωςphronimōs). An old adverb, though here alone in the N.T. But the adjective προνιμοςphronimos from which it comes occurs a dozen times as in Matthew 10:16. It is from προνεωphroneō and that from πρηνphrēn the mind (1 Corinthians 14:20), the discerning intellect. Perhaps “shrewdly” or “discreetly” is better here than “wisely.” The lord does not absolve the steward from guilt and he was apparently dismissed from his service. His shrewdness consisted in finding a place to go by his shrewdness. He remained the steward of unrighteousness even though his shrewdness was commended.

For (οτιhoti). Probably by this second οτιhoti Jesus means to say that he cites this example of shrewdness because it illustrates the point. “This is the moral of the whole parable. Men of the world in their dealings with men like themselves are more prudent than the children of light in their intercourse with one another” (Plummer). We all know how stupid Christians can be in their co-operative work in the kingdom of God, to go no further.

Wiser than (προνιμωτεροι υπερphronimōteroi huper). Shrewder beyond, a common Greek idiom.

Verse 9

By the mammon of unrighteousness (εκ του μαμωνα της αδικιαςek tou mamōnā tēs adikias). By the use of what is so often evil (money). In Matthew 6:24 mammon is set over against God as in Luke 16:13 below. Jesus knows the evil power in money, but servants of God have to use it for the kingdom of God. They should use it discreetly and it is proper to make friends by the use of it.

When it shall fail (οταν εκλιπηιhotan eklipēi). Second aorist active subjunctive with οτανhotan future time. The mammon is sure to fail.

That they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles (ινα δεχωνται υμας εις τας αιωνιους σκηναςhina dexōntai humas eis tas aiōnious skēnas). This is the purpose of Christ in giving the advice about their making friends by the use of money. The purpose is that those who have been blessed and helped by the money may give a welcome to their benefactors when they reach heaven. There is no thought here of purchasing an entrance into heaven by the use of money. That idea is wholly foreign to the context. These friends will give a hearty welcome when one gives him mammon here. The wise way to lay up treasure in heaven is to use one‘s money for God here on earth. That will give a cash account there of joyful welcome, not of purchased entrance.

Verse 10

Faithful in a very little (πιστος εν ελαχιστωιpistos en elachistōi). Elative superlative. One of the profoundest sayings of Christ. We see it in business life. The man who can be trusted in a very small thing will be promoted to large responsibilities. That is the way men climb to the top. Men who embezzle in large sums began with small sums. Luke 16:10-13 here explain the point of the preceding parables.

Verse 11

Faithful in the unrighteous mammon (εν τωι αδικωι μαμωναιen tōi adikōi mamōnāi). In the use of what is considered “unrighteous” as it so often is. Condition of the first class, “if ye did not prove to be” (ει ουκ εγενεστεei ouk egenesthe). Failure here forfeits confidence in “the true riches” (το αλητινονto alēthinon). There is no sadder story than to see a preacher go down by the wrong use of money, caught in this snare of the devil.

Verse 12

That which is your own (το μετερονto hūmeteron). But Westcott and Hort read το ημετερονto hēmeteron (our own) because of B L Origen. The difference is due to itacism in the pronunciation of hū - and ηhē alike (long i). But the point in the passage calls for “yours” as correct. Earthly wealth is ours as a loan, a trust, withdrawn at any moment. It belongs to another (ιen tōi allotriōi). If you did not prove faithful in this, who will give you what is really yours forever? Compare “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

Verse 13

Servant (οικετηςoiketēs). Household (οικοςoikos) servant. This is the only addition to Matthew 6:24 where otherwise the language is precisely the same, which see note. Either Matthew or Luke has put the λογιονlogion in the wrong place or Jesus spoke it twice. It suits perfectly each context. There is no real reason for objecting to repetition of favourite sayings by Jesus.

Verse 14

Who were lovers of money (πιλαργυροι υπαρχοντεςphilarguroi huparchontes). Literally, being lovers of money. ΠιλαργυροιPhilarguroi is an old word, but in the N.T. only here and 2 Timothy 3:2. It is from πιλοςphilos and αργυροςarguros (ηκουονēkouon). Imperfect active, were listening (all the while Jesus was talking to the disciples (Luke 16:1-13).

And they scoffed at him (και εχεμυκτηριζονkai exemuktērizon). Imperfect active again of εκμυκτηριζωekmuktērizō lxx where late writers use simple verb. In the N.T. only here and Luke 23:35. It means to turn out or up the nose at one, to sneer, to scoff. The Romans had a phrase, naso adunco suspendere, to hang on the hooked nose (the subject of ridicule). These money-loving Pharisees were quick to see that the words of Jesus about the wise use of money applied to them. They had stood without comment the three parables aimed directly at them (the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son). But now they do not remain quiet while they hear the fourth parable spoken to the disciples. No words were apparently spoken, but their eyes, noses, faces were eloquent with a fine disdain.

Verse 15

That justify yourselves (οι δικαιουντες εαυτουςhoi dikaiountes heautous). They were past-masters at that and were doing it now by upturned noses.

An abomination in the sight of God (βδελυγμα ενωπιον του τεουbdelugma enōpion tou theou). See note on Matthew 24:15 and note on Mark 13:14 for this lxx word for a detestable thing as when Antiochus Epiphanes set up an altar to Zeus in place of that to Jehovah. There is withering scorn in the use of this phrase by Jesus to these pious pretenders.

Verse 16

Entereth violently into it (εις αυτην βιαζεταιeis autēn biazetai). A corresponding saying occurs in Matthew 11:12 in a very different context. In both the verb βιαζεταιbiazetai occurs also, but nowhere else in the N.T. It is present middle here and can be middle or passive in Matthew, which see note. It is rare in late prose. Deissmann (Bible Studies, p. 258) cites an inscription where βιαζομαιbiazomai is reflexive middle and used absolutely. Here the meaning clearly is that everyone forces his way into the kingdom of God, a plea for moral enthusiasm and spiritual passion and energy that some today affect to despise.

Verse 17

One tittle (μιαν κερεανmian kerean). See note on Matthew 5:18.

Verse 18

Committeth adultery (μοιχευειmoicheuei). Another repeated saying of Christ (Matthew 5:32; Mark 10:11.; Matthew 19:9.). Adultery remains adultery, divorce or no divorce, remarriage or no marriage.

Verse 19

He was clothed (ενεδιδυσκετοenedidusketo). Imperfect middle of ενδιδυσκωendiduskō a late intensive form of ενδυωenduō He clothed himself in or with. It was his habit.

Purple (πορπυρανporphuran). This purple dye was obtained from the purple fish, a species of mussel or μυρεχmurex (1 Maccabees 4:23). It was very costly and was used for the upper garment by the wealthy and princes (royal purple). They had three shades of purple (deep violet, deep scarlet or crimson, deep blue). See also Mark 15:17, Mark 15:20; Revelation 18:12.

Fine linen (βυσσονbusson).

Byssus or Egyptian flax (India and Achaia also). It is a yellowed flax from which fine linen was made for undergarments. It was used for wrapping mummies. “Some of the Egyptian linen was so fine that it was called woven air” (Vincent). Here only in the N.T. for the adjective βυσσινοςbussinos occurs in Revelation 18:12; Revelation 19:8, Revelation 19:14.

Faring sumptuously (ευπραινομενος λαμπρωςeuphrainomenos lamprōs).

Making merry brilliantly. The verb ευπραινομαιeuphrainomai we have already had in Luke 12:19; Luke 15:23, Luke 15:25, Luke 15:32. ΛαμπρωςLamprōs is an old adverb from λαμπροςlampros brilliant, shining, splendid, magnificent. It occurs here only in the N.T. This parable apparently was meant for the Pharisees (Luke 16:14) who were lovers of money. It shows the wrong use of money and opportunity.

Verse 20

Beggar (πτωχοςptōchos). Original meaning of this old word. See note on Matthew 5:3. The name Lazarus is from Eleazaros “God a help,” and was a common one.

Lazar in English means one afflicted with a pestilential disease.

Was laid (ebeblēto). Past perfect passive of the common verb Ελεαζαροςballō He had been flung there and was still there, “as if contemptuous roughness is implied” (Plummer).

At his gate (εβεβλητοpros ton pulōna autou). Right in front of the large portico or gateway, not necessarily a part of the grand house, porch in Matthew 26:71.

Full of sores (βαλλωheilkōmenos). Perfect passive participle of προς τον πυλωνα αυτουhelkoō to make sore, to ulcerate, from ειλκωμενοςhelkos ulcer (Latin ulcus). See use of ελκοωhelkos in Luke 16:21. Common in Hippocrates and other medical writers. Here only in the N.T.

Verse 21

With the crumbs that fell (απο των πιπτοντωνapo tōn piptontōn). From the things that fell from time to time. The language reminds one of Luke 15:16 (the prodigal son) and the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:28). Only it does not follow that this beggar did not get the scraps from the rich man‘s table. Probably he did, though nothing more. Even the wild street dogs would get them also.

Yea, even the dogs (αλλα και οι κυνεςalla kai hoi kunes). For αλλα καιalla kai see also Luke 12:7; Luke 24:22. ΑλλαAlla can mean “yea,” though it often means “but.” Here it depends on how one construes Luke‘s meaning. If he means that he was dependent on casual scraps and it was so bad that even the wild dogs moreover were his companions in misery, the climax came that he was able to drive away the dogs. The other view is that his hunger was unsatisfied, but even the dogs increased his misery.

Licked his sores (επελειχον τα ελκη αυτουepeleichon ta helkē autou). Imperfect active of επιλειχωepileichō a late vernacular Koiné verb, to lick over the surface. It is not clear whether the licking of the sores by the dogs added to the misery of Lazarus or gave a measure of comfort, as he lay in his helpless condition. “Furrer speaks of witnessing dogs and lepers waiting together for the refuse” (Bruce). It was a scramble between the dogs and Lazarus.

Verse 22

Was borne (απενεχτηναιapenechthēnai). First aorist passive infinitive from αποπερωapopherō a common compound defective verb. The accusative case of general reference (αυτονauton) is common with the infinitive in such clauses after εγενετοegeneto like indirect discourse. It is his soul, of course, that was so borne by the angels, not his body.

Into Abraham‘s bosom (εις τον ολπον Αβρααμeis ton holpon Abraam). To be in Abraham‘s bosom is to the Jew to be in Paradise. In John 1:18 the Logos is in the bosom of the Father. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are in heaven and welcome those who come (Matthew 8:11; 4 Maccabees 14:17). The beloved disciple reclined on the bosom of Jesus at the last passover (John 13:23) and this fact indicates special favour. So the welcome to Lazarus was unusual.

Was buried (εταπηetaphē). Second aorist (effective) passive of the common verb ταπτωthaptō Apparently in contrast with the angelic visitation to the beggar.

Verse 23

In Hades (εν τωι αιδηιen tōi Hāidēi). See note on Matthew 16:18 for discussion of this word. Lazarus was in Hades also for both Paradise (Abraham‘s bosom) and Gehenna are in the unseen world beyond the grave.

In torments (en basanois). The touchstone by which gold and other metals were tested, then the rack for torturing people. Old word, but in the N.T. only here, Luke 16:28; Matthew 4:24.

Sees (εν βασανοιςhorāi). Dramatic present indicative. The Jews believed that Gehenna and Paradise were close together. This detail in the parable does not demand that we believe it. The picture calls for it.

From afar (οραιapo makrothen). Pleonastic use of απο μακροτενapo as αποmakrothen means from afar.

Verse 24

That he may dip (ινα βαπσηιhina bapsēi). First aorist active subjunctive of βαπτωbaptō common verb, to dip.

In water (υδατοςhudatos). Genitive, the specifying case, water and not something else.

Cool (καταπσυχηιkatapsuxēi). First aorist active subjunctive of καταπσυχωkatapsuchō a late Greek compound, to cool off, to make cool. Only here in the N.T. but common in medical books. Note perfective use of καταkata - (down). A small service that will be welcome.

For I am in anguish (οτι οδυνωμαιhoti odunōmai). The active has a causative sense to cause intense pain, the middle to torment oneself (Luke 2:48; Acts 20:38), the passive to be translated as here. Common verb, but no other examples in the N.T.

Verse 25

Receivedst (απελαβεςapelabes). Second aorist indicative of απολαμβανωapolambanō old verb to get back what is promised and in full. See also Luke 6:34; Luke 18:30; Luke 23:41.

Evil things (τα κακαta kaka). Not “his,” but “the evil things” that came upon him.

Thou art in anguish (οδυνασαιodunāsai). Like καυχασαιkauchāsai in Romans 2:17. They contracted -αεσαιaesai without the loss of s. Common in the Koiné.

Verse 26

Beside all this (εν πασι τουτοιςen pāsi toutois).

In all these things (or regions).

Gulf (χασμαchasma). An old word from χαινωchainō to yawn, our chasm, a gaping opening. Only here in the N.T.

Is fixed (εστηρικταιestēriktai). Perfect passive indicative of στηριζωstērizō old verb (See note on Luke 9:51). Permanent chasm.

May not be able (μη δυνωνταιmē dunōntai). Present middle subjunctive of δυναμαιdunamai The chasm is there on purpose (that not, οπως μηhopōs mē) to prevent communication.

Verse 27

That you send him (ινα πεμπσηις αυτονhina pempsēis auton). As if he had not had a fair warning and opportunity. The Roman Catholics probably justify prayer to saints from this petition from the Rich Man to Abraham, but both are in Hades (the other world). It is to be observed besides, that Abraham makes no effort to communicate with the five brothers. But heavenly recognition is clearly assumed. Dante has a famous description of his visit to the damned (Purg. iii, 114).

Verse 28

That he may testify (οπως διαμαρτυρηταιhopōs diamarturētai). An old verb for solemn and thorough (διαdia -) witness. The Rich Man labours under the delusion that his five brothers will believe the testimony of Lazarus as a man from the dead.

Verse 29

Let them hear them (ακουσατωσαν αυτωνakousatōsan autōn). Even the heathen have the evidence of nature to show the existence of God as Paul argues in Romans so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20.).

Verse 30

They will repent (μετανοησουσινmetanoēsousin). The Rich Man had failed to do this and he now sees that it is the one thing lacking. It is not wealth, not poverty, not alms, not influence, but repentance that is needed. He had thought repentance was for others, not for all.

Verse 31

Neither will they be persuaded (ουδ πειστησονταιoud' peisthēsontai). First future passive of πειτωpeithō Gressmann calls attention to the fact that Jesus is saying this in the conclusion of the parable. It is a sharp discouragement against efforts today to communicate with the dead. “Saul was not led to repentance when he saw Samuel at Endor nor were the Pharisees when they saw Lazarus come forth from the tomb. The Pharisees tried to put Lazarus to death and to explain away the resurrection of Jesus” (Plummer). Alford comments on the curious fact that Lazarus was the name of the one who did rise from the dead but whose return from the dead “was the immediate exciting cause of their (Pharisees) crowning act of unbelief.”

Copyright Statement
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)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Luke 16". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.