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Bible Commentaries
Luke 16

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Luke 16:0


The Parable of the Dishonest StewardThe Parable of the Unjust StewardThe Dishonest ManagerThe Shrewd ManagerThe Crafty Steward
Luke 16:1-13Luke 16:1-13Luke 16:1-13Luke 16:1-8Luke 16:1-4
Luke 16:5-7
Luke 16:8
The Right Use of Money
Luke 16:9-12Luke 16:9-12
Luke 16:13Luke 16:13
The Law and the Kingdom of GodThe Law, the Prophets, and the Kingdom of GodTeaching About the LawSome Sayings of JesusAgainst the Pharisees and Their Love of Money
Luke 16:14-18Luke 16:14-18Luke 16:14-15Luke 16:14-15Luke 16:14-15
The Kingdom Stormed
Luke 16:16-17Luke 16:16-17Luke 16:16
The Law Remains
Luke 16:17
Marriage Indissoluble
Luke 16:18Luke 16:18Luke 16:18
The Rich Man and LazarusThe Rich Man and LazarusThe Rich Man and LazarusThe Rich Man and LazarusThe Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
Luke 16:19-31Luke 16:19-31Luke 16:19-31Luke 16:19-31Luke 16:19-22
Luke 16:27-31

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Luke 16:0 is related contextually to Luke 15:0:

1. Both were addressed to Pharisees, Luke 15:2-3; Luke 16:14;

2. The additional audience was the disciples, Luke 14:33; Luke 16:1;

3. The parables of these two chapters were designed to rebuke the attitudes of the religious leaders and to reveal to the disciples God's redemptive and seeking heart;

4. The unifying issue of Luke 15:0 was God's love for lost sinners, while Luke 16:0 focuses on the Pharisees' love for money, Luke 16:14-15. (Luke 16:0 is unified by a rabbinical play on "mammon" or money.)

B. The parable (Luke 16:1-13) has caused much controversy in interpretation, for it seems to praise fraud. However, it must be understood that this is a certain type of parable (i.e., a contrasting story) which illustrates a positive truth by a negative example (cf. Luke 18:1-8).

1. The keys to a proper interpretation of the parable

a. who is speaking in Luke 16:8a, Jesus or the landowner of the parable?

b. verses Luke 16:8-13

(1) Jesus' comments on the problem of the love of money

(2) the early churches' comments (the author of the gospel)

(3) a separate literary unit?

2. Do not read too much into the details of the parable. Look for the central truth(s).

3. There are similarities between the Prodigal Son and the Unjust Steward:

a. a merciful father/landowner

b. in one, a son is unfaithful; in the other, a well paid steward is unfaithful;

c. in both, neither offers excuses for his sins but throws himself on the mercy of the father/debtors

C. This chapter does not have an obvious unifying theme. It is often hard to see the literary units. Is Luke 16:13 an independent saying? How are Luke 16:16-17 and 18 related to the larger context?

Luke seems to have combined several unrelated sayings of Jesus, but why and how remains uncertain. The overarching theme is the inappropriate priority of self, wealth, and this world order.

D. The account of Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 is the fifth parable in a series (Luke 15-16). It seems to have been designed illustrate the truths of Luke 16:8-13 and 14. The improper love of money is the issue in Luke 16:0.

The Pharisees whom Jesus was addressing were like Lazarus' brothers (Luke 16:29). They had the Law and the Prophets, but they chose not to respond in the appropriate way! They believed in a future physical life with God, but they missed the fact that faith in Jesus is the key to this future life. There is a surprise reversal awaiting the religious leaders of Jesus' day.

E. Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes, is a thought-provoking and helpful structural and cultural approach to interpreting the parables in Luke.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How do each the paragraph divisions of the chapter relate to the theme of the use of money? (1-8a; 8b-13; 14-18; 19-31)

2. Why is wealth dangerous?

3. What is the central truth of the parable (Luke 16:1-8a) and (9-31)?

4. Who is speaking and to whom are they speaking in Luke 16:8a and 8b?

5. Are verses Luke 16:19-31 a parable or a historical account? Why?

6. Can we base our theology of the intermediate state on the details of this passage? (Luke 16:19-31)

Verses 1-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 16:1-9 1Now He was also saying to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. 2And he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' 3The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.' 5And he summoned each one of his master's debtors, and he began saying to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 6And he said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' 7Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' And he said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' 8And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. 9And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings."

Luke 16:1 "disciples" The term mathçtçs meant "learners." The NT does not focus on decisions, but on disciples (cf. Matthew 28:19). Christianity is an initial decision of faith and repentance (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21) followed by a lifestyle of faith and repentance.

Jesus is warning the disciples about the attitudes and actions (i.e., "Leaven of the Pharisees," cf. Luke 12:1) of the religious leaders.

NASB, NRSV, NJB"There was a" NKJV"There was a certain" TEV"There was once a"

The Greek term tis or ti often introduces parables in Luke (cf. Luke 7:41; Luke 10:30; Luke 14:16; Luke 15:11; Luke 16:1, Luke 16:19; Luke 19:12; Luke 20:9 [MS A]). Notice that in this series of five parables in Luke 15-16, tis introduces three of them.

NASB, NRSV, NJB"manager" NKJV"steward" TEV"a servant who managed"

The Greek term oikonomos could refer to

1. a person hired to manage an estate (cf. Luke 12:42; Luke 16:1, Luke 16:3, Luke 16:8)

2. an administrator or steward (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10)

3. a city treasurer (cf. Romans 16:23)

This may have been an educated slave or a hired freed person.

NASB"reported" NKJV"an accusation" NRSV"charges" TEV"was told" NJB"was denounced"

This term is from the same root as "devil" [diabolos, dia plus bollos], which literally meant "to throw across" or metaphorically "to accuse."

"squandering" This same word (diaskorpizô) was used of the Prodigal Son (cf. Luke 15:13).

"possessions" This same word is used in Luke 14:33.

Luke 16:2 "Give an account of your stewardship" This is an aorist active imperative. From the context the steward was possibly guilty of loaning money or property (usury, cf. Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36; Deuteronomy 23:19). The Talmud assigned an amount to be legally charged by a loaner in Baba Bathra Luke 10:4. This steward exceeded this amount, possibly even by the amount to which he later reduced the bill.

"you are no longer a steward" Notice that the man was not jailed or whipped, but dismissed! This would have been surprising to the original hearers. It would have said something significant about the merciful character of the landlord.

Luke 16:3-4 The man reviewed his employment options to himself.

Luke 16:4

NASB, TEV"I know what I shall do" NKJV"I have resolved what to do" NRSV"I have decided what to do" NJB"Ah, I know what I will do"

This phrase was an idiom for sudden insight! He, like the prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:17), came to himself and chose to act decisively.

"they" This refers to the master's debtors (cf. Luke 16:4), for whom he has reduced their contractual obligations to the landlord.

Luke 16:6

NASB, NKJV, NJB"a hundred measures of oil" NRSV"a hundred jugs of olive oil" TEV"a thousand barrels of olive oil"

This was literally "100 bath," which was a Hebrew liquid measure. The amount is uncertain but one bath equaled approximately 8 to 9 gallons. Apparently there were differing standards of the measure in Palestine in Jesus' day. Besides, Jesus often used exaggerated numbers (hyperbole) in His parables for emphasis or shock value.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Ancient near Eastern Weights and Volumes (Metrology)

Luke 16:7

NASB, NKJV, NJB"a hundred measures of wheat" NRSV"a hundred containers of wheat" TEV"a thousand bushels of wheat"

This was literally "100 kor," which was a Hebrew dry measure. The amount is uncertain but one kor equaled approximately ten to twelve bushels.

Luke 16:8

NASB, NRSV"his master" NKJV, TEV, NJB"the master"

The Greek text does not have "his," but "the." The antecedent of this title has caused great discussion among commentators. It is either (1) Jesus referred to as "Lord" or (2) the landowner of the parable referred to as "lord." In context it is the landowner (cf. Luke 16:3, Luke 16:5). It depends on where the parable stops.

"He had acted shrewdly" This phrase is the interpretive crux of the parable. The man's decisive action in the face of impending crisis is extolled, not the manner of his actions.

The same landowner who dismissed the steward in Luke 16:2 praised him in Luke 16:8. This is the twist (main point) of the parable. Presumably the village tenant farmers were praising the landowner for his generosity and he, in turn, commented about the actions of the steward.

The steward was praised because he recognized the coming disaster and his guiltiness. He acted swiftly, gambling on the mercy of (1) the debtors (cf. Luke 16:4-5) or (2) the landlord. This reflects sinners who recognize their guilt and coming judgment and quickly respond to Jesus' offer of forgiveness and mercy (cf. Luke 16:16).

"The sons of this age. . .the sons of light" This was a Hebrew idiom. Hebrew, being an ancient language, had few adjectives and, therefore, used "son of. . ." as an adjectival idiom.

The Jews saw two ages (cf. Matthew 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 20:34-35), the current evil age (cf. Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2) and the age to come (cf. Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 1:3; 1 John 2:15-17). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THIS AGE AND THE AGE TO COME at Luke 9:2. Believers live in the tension-filled time in which these ages have been overlapped (the two comings of Christ). Believers live in the "already and not yet" tension of the Kingdom of God and often they do not handle it well.

NASB"more shrewd in relation to their own kind" NKJV"more shrewd in their generation" NRSV"more shrewd in dealing with their own generation" TEV"much more shrewd in handling their affairs" NJB"more astute in dealing with their own kind" PESHITTA"wiser in their generation"

This verse is contrasting how unbelievers act in a crisis situation and how believers should act (cf. Luke 16:1). However, the interpretive issue is how does this relate to Luke 16:9? What exactly is Jesus saying? See comments at Luke 16:9.

Luke 16:8 Jesus wants His followers to live wisely (cf. Matthew 10:16), but often they are foolish!

Luke 16:9 This verse is ironic sarcasm.

1. make friends by means of the wealth of unrighteousness

2. when it fails (Vulgate and NKJV have "when you fail")

3. they (cf. Luke 16:4) will receive you into the eternal dwellings

a. temporal setting people of this world, "their homes" (cf. Luke 16:4)

b. eschatological setting, (1) people of God; (2) angels; or (3) God Himself, "eternal dwelling"

The point is, "Act now"!

NASB"make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness," NKJV"make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon" NRSV"make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth" TEV"make friends for yourselves with worldly wealth" NJB"use money, tainted as it is, to win friends"

This is an aorist active imperative, which denotes urgency. "Mammon" was an Aramaic word for "riches," which was personified as a god in the Babylonian Talmud and in the nation of Syria. The word originally meant "to entrust something to someone." This is a summary of what the unjust steward did.

This may be sarcastic because of Luke 16:13. The contrast was between evil stewards who prepared for a physical future and kingdom people who did not prepare for the spiritual future.

"they will receive you into the eternal dwellings" The Jews (Pharisees) believed in an afterlife of physical bliss (cf. Job 14:14-15; Job 19:25-27; Psalms 11:7; Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 140:13; Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2).

Verses 10-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 16:10-13 10"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? 12And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

Luke 16:10 "a very little thing" This referred to earthly wealth or stewardship. Humans reveal their character in their daily choices and actions.

"in much" This is uses twice in this verse. It refers to heavenly wealth (cf. Matthew 6:19-34).

Luke 16:11 "if" This is a first class conditional which was assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Believers must use the things of this world to (1) help people come to know Christ and (2) to help believers.

"entrust" There is a word play between "faithful" (pistos, Luke 16:10, Luke 16:11, Luke 16:12) and "entrust" (pisteuô, Future active indicative). Believers are stewards (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10). The question is what kind of stewards (cf. Matthew 5:13-15).

The rhetorical question of Luke 16:11 expects a negative answer (as does Luke 16:12). People who do not know God cannot be faithful even in small things. An unstated contrast is the point of the parable. Smart people can get other people whom they have bribed to help them in this life (cf. Luke 16:4), but they have no resources for the next life ("eternal dwellings").

Luke 16:12 "if" This also is a first class conditional sentence. This rhetorical question is negated. Unbelievers are unfaithful in all things.

"that which is another's" Many interpreters see this as a reference to God's ownership of all things. Believers are stewards of everything and owners of nothing. This is true of the gospel and worldly resources.

"that which is your own" There is a Greek manuscript variant involving the pronoun. UBS4 text says "you" (humeteron) an "A" rating (certain, cf. MSS P75, א, A, D, W, and the Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenean versions).

But, other modern, eclectic Greek texts such as Nestles' 21st Edition have "our" (hçmeteron, i.e., the Father's and the Son's, cf. MSS B and L). The effect on meaning is negligible, but it gives the opportunity to discuss how the NT was copied and why variants like this occurred. Often one person read a Greek text while several others wrote down what he read. Therefore, words that sound alike were often confused. The pronunciation of these two pronouns was very similar, thus the variant! See Appendix Two.

Luke 16:13 "no servant can serve two masters" One cannot have two priorities (i.e., self and God). One must choose between this world's goods or spiritual treasures (cf. Matthew 6:19-34; Matthew 10:34-39; 1 John 2:15-17). "You cannot serve God and wealth."

"hate . . . love" This was a Hebrew idiom of comparison (cf. Genesis 29:31; Deuteronomy 21:15; Malachi 1:2-3; Luke 14:26; Luke 16:13; John 12:25; Romans 9:13). God and His kingdom must be priority.

Verses 14-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 16:14-15 14Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. 15And He said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.’"

Luke 16:14-18 This may be a separate unit of thought inserted by Luke from Jesus' teachings at another time. It is related to the parable in Luke 16:1-13 and 19-31. The central issue is worldly wealth and the priority of self. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH at Luke 12:21.

Luke 16:14 "Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money" This is a unifying theme of Luke 16:0. It shows that although the disciples were addressed in Luke 16:1, the Pharisees were equally a target for this truth (cf. Luke 15:2) and the next parable (Luke 16:19-31).

NASB"and were scoffing at Him" NKJV"and they derided Him" NRSV"and they ridiculed him" TEV"they made fun of Jesus" NJB"and jeered at him"

This is an Imperfect active indicative, implying (1) a repeated action or (2) the beginning of an action in past time. It is a compound idiom "to turn up the nose" (cf. Luke 23:35). This same term is used in the Septuagint in Psalms 2:4; Psalms 21:8; Psalms 34:16. This set the stage for the parable of Luke 16:19-31. The Pharisees heard and understood His teachings about money, but rejected them in light of their traditional understanding of money as a sign of divine blessing (cf. Deuteronomy 28:0).

Luke 16:15 "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men" This could refer to either public, weekly almsgiving or ostentatious giving in the temple (cf. Mark 12:41-44). Luke often records Jesus' teachings about this kind of self righteousness (cf. Luke 10:29; Luke 16:15; Luke 18:9, Luke 18:14). This was the problem of the Pharisees!

"God knows your hearts" We must remember that God knows the motives of the human heart, which determine the appropriateness or inappropriateness of every action (cf. 1 Samuel 2:7; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 6:30; Psalms 7:9; Psalms 44:21; Psalms 139:1-4; Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 21:2; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Jeremiah 20:12; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; Acts 15:8; Romans 8:27).

"for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God" Here is the surprising role reversal theme again. The Pharisees were thought of as the best of the best, but God judges by a different standard (cf. Matthew 5:20, Matthew 5:48). God Himself is the standard and all fall short (cf. Romans 3:23). Salvation must be a grace gift because fallen humanity cannot obtain it by merit (cf. Romans 3:21-31; Galatians 3:0). God provided a way through His Messiah; all are welcomed through Him, but they would not come!

NASB"detestable" NKJV, NRSV"abomination" TEV"worth nothing" NJB"loathsome"

In the Septuagint this term (in its various forms) relates to

1. idolatry (idol and its worship)

2. eschatological event or person (Daniel)

Here it is an idiom of that which pulls fallen humanity away from YHWH. It is worldliness versus spirituality. It is the priority of the immediate versus the eternal. It is humans' desire for independence from God.

Verses 16-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 16:16-17 16"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 17But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail."

Luke 16:16-18 As a commentator I feel so unsure about the meaning of these verses. They seem so unrelated and out of place. I am sure they are sayings of Jesus, but why Luke chose to put them into this context remains a mystery to me. Here is a good place to remind interpreters that clear texts must interpret difficult texts. It would be inappropriate to use these verses, or for that matter Luke 16:0, as the only biblical support for any doctrine or application. The overall meaning of Luke 15-16 is clear, but we must not push the details into doctrine.

Luke 16:16 "The Law and the Prophets" These were two of the three sections of the Hebrew Canon. Therefore, this phrase refers to the entire OT being in effect (cf. Luke 16:29; Luke 24:44; Matthew 5:17; Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:40; Acts 13:15; Acts 28:23).


"until John" John the Baptist was the last OT prophet and the first preacher of the New Age (cf. Matthew 11:13). He was the theological and temporal watershed between the Old Covenant in Moses and the New Covenant in Christ.

"the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached" The NASB, NRSV, and TEV include the term "gospel" or "Good News" in their translations, but this is not in the Greek text. It comes by implication from the verb "to preach" (euangelizô), which means "to proclaim good news" (cf. Luke 4:18; Luke 9:6).

For "the kingdom of God" see Special Topic at Luke 4:21.

NASB, NJB"everyone is forcing his way into it" NKJV"everyone is pressing into it" NRSV"everyone tries to enter it by force" TEV"everyone forces their way in"

"Everyone" is a hyperbole but it refers to those who hear the gospel.

This refers to the enthusiasm of the religious outcasts (i.e., the verb is a present middle [deponent] indicative) in accepting the teachings of Jesus versus the stand-offishness and rejection of the religious leaders. This saying of Jesus is used in a very different sense in Matthew 11:12.

It is possible that the verb is not middle but passive, denoting that those who hear the gospel preached are urged (by the Spirit) to respond in repentance and faith (NET Bible, p. 1856).

The Septuagint uses this same verb in a passive sense in Genesis 33:11 and Judges 19:7. It may be used in a passive sense in Matthew 11:12.

Luke 16:17 Jesus, though asserting a new day had come with the proclamation of His gospel, nevertheless affirmed the stability and eternality of the OT (cf. Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus rejected the Oral Tradition of the Jews and its interpretations (cf. Matthew 5:21-48) and even changed some OT requirements (cf. Mark 7:19, food laws; Matthew 19:7-8, divorce and remarriage), thereby showing His superiority, even over Scripture!

NASB, NRSV"one stroke of a letter" NKJV"one tittle" TEV"the smallest detail" NJB"one little stroke"

The word kepaia literally means "a horn," which in this context, refers to the small points or lines that distinguished one Hebrew letter from another (cf. Matthew 5:18). Therefore, the TEV expresses the meaning well. However, remember how Jesus commonly used hyperbole. This probably means the OT is God's revelation and it remains so. It is a permanent reflection of God's character and purpose. It surely does not mean that detailed observance of all OT ceremonial and cultic requirements is God's will for all humans. Verse Luke 16:16 has asserted that a new day of openness and availability has arrived in Christ. Acts 15:0 clearly shows that Gentiles (Luke's audience) do not have to become practicing Jews to become Christians. See Paul's discussion of the purpose of the OT in Galatians 3:0 (www.freebiblecommentary.org).

Verse 18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 16:18 18"Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery."

Luke 16:18 "everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery" This must be understood in the light of the context, as one example of the Jewish leaders trying to circumvent the obvious purpose of the Mosaic Law (cf. Luke 16:16-17 and the passage in Deuteronomy 24:1-4), with the interpretations of their Talmudic, rabbinical traditions (Hillel, very liberal and Shammai, very conservative).

"commits adultery" Does remarriage mean that one commits adultery? Was Jesus discussing Moses' statements found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4? Moses wrote this to protect the rejected women of his day, who were so vulnerable to abuse. The only appropriate reason given for the dissolution of a marriage was sexually inappropriate behavior (Shammai, cf. Matthew 5:32). If a woman was put away the community assumed she was dismissed for sexual infidelity (she was stigmatized as an adulteress). This interpretation is confirmed by the passive voice verbals ("causes her to commit adultery) of Luke 16:2 and 19:9.

For more information on divorce go to www.freebiblecommentary.org and click on "Controversial and Difficult Texts," then click on the "Christian Home" (audio lessons).

Verses 19-31

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 16:19-31 19"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' 25But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.' 27And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house28for I have five brothersin order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' 29But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' 31But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’"

Luke 16:19-31 "there was a rich man" This is the fifth in a series of parables in Luke 15:0 and 16. It is a highly unusual parable because

1. it has no introduction

2. it has no explicit application

3. a person is specifically named.

However, the context demands that it be interpreted in light of Luke 16:8-13. It is a parable. One cannot force the details to give believers theological answers in the area of the intermediate, disembodied state of the dead or a description of hell (because the text has hades, not Gehenna).

Luke often introduces parables by tis ("a certain _____," cf. Luke 15:11; Luke 16:1, Luke 16:19). See note at Luke 16:1.

"rich man" The Latin tradition called him Dives which is the Latin term for "rich." There are several other names given to this rich man found in different geographical areas and periods (cf. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger, pp. 165-166).

"he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen;" Purple was a very expensive dye derived from shellfish. This was an extravagantly rich man with beautiful outer garments and soft undergarments. He dressed in this type of clothing often (imperfect middle indicative).

Luke 16:20 "Lazarus" This was the Hebrew name "Eleazar" (BDB 46), which meant "God is my help." This is a purposeful word play on the name. Nobody helps this poor man but God! This is part of the literary plot not an actual person.

"was laid" This is a pluperfect passive indicative, which denotes regular begging. Poor and sick people always begged in rich neighborhoods or public places (cf. Acts 3:2).

"covered with sores" This is a perfect passive participle of helkos (cf. LXX Exodus 9:9, Exodus 9:10, Exodus 9:11; Leviticus 13:18). Luke would have noticed this detail in Jesus' parable.

Luke 16:21 "longing to be fed" This is the same word used of the Prodigal Son with the pigs in Luke 15:16. There is similarity between these two parables (cf. Contextual Insights, B. 3.).

"with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table" All people in this culture ate with their hands. The very wealthy used white bread to wipe their hands and then threw it on the floor (cf. Matthew 15:27).

The word "crumbs" is in italics, which denotes it is not in the Greek text but is implied by the context. The word does appear in the parallel from Matthew 15:27 and is included in MSS אcf8 i2, A, D, W. However, it is missing in MSS P75, א*, B, L. The UBS4 gives it exclusion a "B" rating (almost certain).

"even the dogs were coming and licking his sores" This showed that Lazarus was too weak to fend off these scavenging animals. Dogs were not house pets in this time and culture, but street mongrels.

Luke 16:22 Notice the contrasts in this verse:

1. one apparently unburied (by implication), one properly buried

2. one carried by the angels, one's transportation unmentioned

3. one with Abraham in paradise, one in torment apart from Abraham

Notice the commonalities.

1. both die

2. both are conscious

It is not stated why the poor one is accepted and the wealthy rejected, but in the larger context it is related to how they used their wealth (or lack of it). Their spiritual lives were not revealed by the physical circumstances (cf. Deuteronomy 28:0 vs. Job and Psalms 73:0). The rich man's lack of concern for the poor illustrated his selfish, earthly priorities.

One can learn the priorities of modern, western people by their checkbooks and calendars!

NASB, NKJV"Abraham's bosom" NRSV"to be with Abraham" TEV"to sit beside Abraham at the feast in heaven" NJB"into Abraham's embrace"

This is a parable, not a teaching passage on heaven or how one gets there! This parable has nothing to say about heaven or hell. It uses the OT concept of sheol (BDB 982) or hades (the holding place of the dead which the rabbis said was divided into a righteous section called "paradise" and a wicked section called tartarus).

Abraham's bosom was an idiom for eating next to Abraham at a feast. This would be a reference to a welcoming meal for Jews into the righteous side of hades (paradise, cf. Luke 23:43).

Luke 16:23 "In Hades" Hades was equivalent to the OT Sheol which referred to the realm of the dead. It was distinct from Gehenna, which was the term Jesus used to describe "eternal punishment." Gehenna was from two Hebrew words, "ge valley" and "henna" a contraction of "sons of Hinnom" (cf. 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31). This was the valley south of Jerusalem where the Phoenician fire god (Molech, BDB 574) was worshiped by child sacrifice. The Jews turned it into a garbage dump. It was distinct from Hades. This term is only used one time outside the words of Jesus (cf. James 3:6).

See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Luke 3:17.

"He lifted up his eyes" The OT described reality in the language of description, using the five senses. This type of phenomenological language was based on God being "up" and the dead being in the ground (where they were buried). This is not anti-scientific, but pre-scientific. I Enoch 22-23 and IV Ezra 7:75-78 are Jewish inter-testamental documentation of the belief in a division of Sheol before Judgment Day.

"being in torment" Many have used this passage to assert that there is suffering for the wicked now (cf. Luke 16:25, Luke 16:28), even before Judgment Day (cf. Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:4-15). There are some OT passages of fire being related to Sheol, but remember that this is a parable. The details are not always meant to convey doctrinal truth. It is best to seek a central truth unless Jesus interprets the parable at a typological level (cf. Parable of the Soils or Wicked Tenants). There is no other NT text which teaches this truth.

Luke 16:24 "Father Abraham, have mercy on me" In a sense this was an attempt to use his Jewishness for favors. Rabbinical theology often asserted the merits of being Abraham's descendants. He was said to guard the realm of punishment lest any Jew be led there.

"send Lazarus" The rich man still thought of Lazarus as a slave to do his bidding.

Luke 16:25 Again an unexpected role reversal! The rich man's wealth was supposed to be a sign of God's love (cf. Deuteronomy 28:0).

Luke 16:26 This verse expresses the pain and surprise that many will feel when they discover who is with God and who is not! It also denotes the permanency of the division at death ("fixed," perfect passive [implication by God] indicative). There are no second chances. Jesus is surely addressing this to Pharisees who trusted so confidently in their supposed religious standing with God.

NASV, NRSV"a great chasm" NKJV, NJB"a great gulf" TEV"a deep pit"

This term chasma is used in the Septuagint for a deep pit or hole (cf. 2 Samuel 18:17, where Absalom was buried).

Luke 16:27-29 "they have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them" Notice that these brothers were not damned because of their wealth, but because of their rejection of biblical revelation and its claims on their daily lives (i.e., "Let them hear them," aorist active imperative). Humans are spiritually responsible for the light they have from natural revelation (cf. Psalms 19:0; Romans 1-2) and special revelation (cf. Psalms 19:7-13; Psalms 119:0; Matthew 5:17-18; Luke 12:48; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Luke 16:28

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB"warn" NKJV"testify"

This is the compound term dia plus marturomai, which denotes an earnest warning or solemn testimony (cf. LXX Exodus 19:10; Deuteronomy 4:26; Zechariah 3:7). This very term is used only here in the Gospels, but often by Luke to describe Christian witness in Acts (cf. Acts 2:40; Acts 8:25; Acts 10:42; Acts 18:5; Acts 20:21, Acts 20:23, Acts 20:24; Acts 23:11; Acts 28:23).

"this place of torment" In context this place refers to hades, not Gehenna. It is current, not future. This is the only place in the NT that speaks of the torment of the unbelieving dead before Judgment Day. Since the details of parables are often just part of the story, one cannot use parables as the only source for a biblical doctrine.

The term "torture" is a metaphor from metallurgy. Harold K. Moulton, Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, has an interesting note as to the source of this metaphor:

"Noun, lapis Lydius, a species of stone from Lydia, which being applied to metals was thought to indicate any alloy which might be mixed with them, and therefore used in the trial of metals; hence, examination of a person, especially by torture; in N.T. torture, torment, severe pain, Matthew 4:24; Luke 16:23, Luke 16:28.

Verb, to apply the lapis Lydius or touchstone; met. to examine, scrutinise, try, either by words or torture; in N.T. to afflict, torment; pass. to be afflicted, tormented, pained, by diseases, Matthew 8:6, Matthew 8:29, et al.; to be tossed, agitated, as by the waves, Matthew 14:24" (pp. 66-67).

Luke 16:29 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which denotes potential action.

Luke 16:30 "repent" The Hebrew term for repentance meant a change of action. The Greek term meant a change of mind. Repentance is a willingness to change. It does not mean a total cessation of sin, but a desire for its end. As fallen humanity we live for ourselves, but as believers we live for God! Repentance and faith are God's requirements of the New Covenant for salvation (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21). Jesus said "unless you repent, you will all perish" (cf. Luke 13:3, Luke 13:5). Repentance is God's will for fallen humanity (cf. Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:30, Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Peter 3:9). See SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT at Luke 3:3.

The mystery of the sovereignty of God and human free will can be clearly demonstrated by repentance as a requirement for salvation. However, it is also a gift of God (cf. Acts 5:31; Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). There is always a tension in the biblical presentation of God's initiating grace and mankind's needed response. The new covenant, like the old covenant, has an "if then" structure. There are several terms used in the NT which relate to the concept of repentance. The classical text is 2 Corinthians 7:8-11. The terms are:

1. "sorrow," [lupe] Luke 16:9, Luke 16:10, Luke 16:11, which was morally neutral

2. "regret," [metamelomai] Luke 16:8, Luke 16:10, which meant "sorrow over past acts." It was used of Judas (cf. Matthew 27:3) and Esau, (cf. Hebrews 12:16-18)

3. "repentance," [metanoeô] Luke 16:9, Luke 16:10, Luke 16:11, which meant a change of mind, a new character, a new direction of life.

It is not sorrow that characterized repentance, but a willingness to change to conform to God's will.

Luke 6:31 There are two conditional sentences in this verse.

1. The first one is First class, denoting that Moses and the Prophets are speaking.

2. The second is third class, denoting that these brothers should have listened to God's revelation. This is exactly the point of the parable of the unjust steward. These brothers did not understand the need for decisive action immediately! They are really the focus of the parable.

Lazarus' being raised from the dead did not convince the hard-hearted religious leaders in Jerusalem. It only forced them to plan Jesus' death (cf. John 11:46; John 12:9-11). A miracle is not automatically the answer to mankind's spiritual need (cf. Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Revelation 13:13-14).

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Luke 16". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/luke-16.html. 2021.
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