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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Luke 16

Verse 1

Steward [οικονομον] . From oikov, a house, and nemw, to distribute or dispense. Hence, one who assigns to the members of the household their several duties, and pays to each his wages. The paymaster. He kept the household stores under lock and seal, giving out what was required; and for this purpose received a signet - ring from his master. Wyc., fermour, or farmer. Here probably the land - steward.

Was accused [διεβληθη] . Only here in New Testament. From dia, over, across, and ballw, to throw. To carry across, and hence to carry reports, etc., from one to another; to carry false reports, and so to calumniate or slander. See on devil, Matthew 4:1. The word implies malice, but not necessarily falsehood. Compare Latin traducere (trans, over, ducere, to lead), whence traduce.

Had wasted [ως διασκορπιζων] . Lit., as wasting. Rev., was wasting; not merely a past offense, but something going on at the time of the accusation. See ch. Luke 14:13.

Verse 2

How is it that I hear this [τι τουτο ακουω] ? Better as Rev., What is this that I hear?

Give an account [αποδος τον λογον] . Lit., "give back" [απο] . Rev., render. The [τον] account which is due. Aristophanes has a striking parallel : "And now give back my signet; for thou shalt no longer be my steward" (" Knights, " 947).

Thou mayest [δυνηση] . More strictly, as Rev., thou canst.

Verse 3

Taketh away. Or is taking away. He was not yet dispossessed, as is shown by what follows.

I cannot [ουκ ισχυω] . See on ch. Luke 14:30. "I have not strength." His luxurious life had unfitted him for hard labor. In Aristophanes (" Birds, "1431), a sycophant is asked :" Tell me, being a young man, do you lodge informations against strangers ? "He replies :" Yes; why should I suffer, for I know not how to dig ? " To beg [επαιτειν] . See on besought, Matthew 14:23.

Verse 4

They may receive. The debtors of his master (ver. 5).

Verse 5

He called. Alford and Trench think that the debtors were together; but the words seem to me to indicate that he dealt with them separately. He called to him each one, and said unto the first; after that [επειτα] another.

Verse 6

Measures [βατους] . Lit., baths. The bath was a Hebrew measure, but the amount is uncertain, since, according to Edersheim, there were three kinds of measurement in use in Palestine : the original Mosaic, corresponding with the Roman; that of Jerusalem, which was a fifth larger; and the common Galilaen measurement, which was more than a fifth larger than the Jerusalem. Assuming the first standard, the bath would be about fifty - six pints, and the debt, therefore, a large one.

Take thy bill [δεξαι σου τα γραμματα] . Lit., take back thy writings. Rev., bond. Wyc., obligation; and in ver. 7, letters. The plural is used for a single document. The bill is the bond which the buyer has give, and which is in the steward 's keeping. He gives it back to the debtor for him to alter the figures.

Sit down quickly. It was a secret transaction, to be hurried through.

Verse 7

To another [ετερω] . A different one with a different debt, and his circumstances demanding a different rate of discount.

Measures [κορους] . Cors. A cor was ten baths; the dry and the fluid measures being the same.

Verse 8

The Lord. Of the steward. Rev., properly, "his Lord."

Commended. Admiring his shrewdness, though he himself was defrauded.

Unjust steward. Lit., steward of injustice. See on forgetful hearer, James 1:25; and compare words of grace, Luke 4:22; unjust judge, Luke 18:6; son of his love, Colossians 1:13; lust of uncleanness, 2 Peter 2:10. The idiom is a Hebrew one. The phrase expresses Jesus ' judgment on what the steward 's master praised.

Wisely [φρονιμως] . See on Matthew 10:16. Wyc., prudently. I would suggest shrewdly, though in the modern sense of sagaciously, since the earlier sense of shrewd was malicious, or wicked. Plato says : "All knowledge separated from righteousness and other virtue appears to be cunning and not wisdom." In Matthew 7:24-26, it is applied to the sagacious man who built his house on the rock, opposed to the foolish [μωρος] man who built on the sand. "It is a middle term, not bringing out prominently the moral characteristics, either good or evil, of the action to which it is applied, but recognizing in it a skilful adaption of the means to the end - affirming nothing in the way of moral approbation or disapprobation, either of means or end, but leaving their worth to be determined by other considerations" (Trench, " Parables ").

In their generation [εις την γενεαν την εαυτων] . The A. V. misses the point, following Wyc. Lit., in reference to their own generation; i e., the body of the children of this world to which they belong, and are kindred. They are shrewd in dealing with their own kind; since, as is shown in the parable, where the debtors were accomplices of the steward they are all alike unscrupulous. Tynd., in their kind.

Than the children of light. Lit., sons of the light. The men of the world make their intercourse with one another more profitable than the sons of light do their intercourse with their own kind. The latter "forget to use God 's goods to form bonds of love to the comtemporaries who share their character" (Godet); forget to "make friends of the mammon," etc.

Verse 9

Make to yourselves friends. Compare Virgil, "Aeneid," 6, 664.

Among the tenants of Elysium he sees "those who, by good desert, made others mindful of them."

Of the mammon of unrighteousness [εκ του μαμωνα της αδικιας] .

The same idiom as in ver. 8, steward of injustice. Compare unrighteous mammon, ver. 11. Mammon should be spelt with one m. It is a Chaldee word, meaning riches. It occurs only in this chapter and at Matthew 6:24. "Of the mammon" is, literally, by means of. In the phrase of unrighteousness, there is implied no condemnation of property as such; but it is styled unrighteous, or belonging to unrighteousness, because it is the characteristic and representative object and delight and desire of the selfish and unrighteous world : their love of it being a root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Wyc., the riches of wickedness.

Ye fail [εκλιπητε] . But all the best texts read ejkliph, "When it (the mammon) fails."

They may receive. The friends.

Habitations [σκηνας] . Lit., tents or tabernacles.

Verse 10

That which is least. A general proposition, yet with a reference to mammon as the least of things. See next verse.

Verse 11

Faithful. Fidelity is, therefore, possible toward the unrighteous mammon.

Verse 12

That which is another's. God 's. Riches are not ours, but given us in trust.

Your own. Equivalent to the true riches. That which forms part of our eternal being - the redeemed self. Compare the parable of the Rich Fool (ch. 12 20), where the life or soul is distinguished from the possessions. "Thy soul shall be required; whose shall the wealth be?" Compare, also, rich toward God (ch. 12 21). Chrysostom, cited by Trench, says of Abraham and Job, "They did not serve mammon, but possessed and ruled themselves, and were masters, and not servants."

Verse 13

Servant [οικετης] . Properly, household servant.

Serve. See on minister, Matthew 20:26.

The other. See on Matthew 6:24.

Hold to. See on Matthew 6:24.

Verse 14

Covetous [φιλαργυροι] . Rev. renders literally, according to the composition of the word, lovers of money. Only here and 2 Timothy 3:2. Compare the kindred noun, 1 Timothy 6:10. The usual word for covetous is pleonekthv (1 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:10).

Derided [εξεμυκτηριξον] . Only here and ch. 23 35. Lit., to turn up the nose at. The Romans had a corresponding phrase, naso adunco suspendere, to hang on the hooked nose : i e., to turn up the nose and make a hook of it, on which (figuratively) to hang the subject of ridicule. Thus Horace, in one of his satires, giving an account of a pretentious banquet at the house of a rich miser, describes on of the guests as hanging everything to his nose; i e., making a joke of everything that occurred. The simple verb occurs at Galatians 6:7, of mocking God.

Verse 15

Abomination. See on Matthew 24:15.

Verse 16

Presseth. Rev., entereth violently. See on Matthew 11:12. Wyc., maketh violence into it. Tynd., striveth to go in.

Verse 17

Tittle. See on Matthew 5:18.


Peculiar to Luke. 19 - 31.

Verse 19

Was clothed. Imperfect, and frequentative; denoting his habitual attire.

Purple (porfuran). Originally the purple fish from which the color was obtained, and thence applied to the color itself. Several kinds of these were found in the Mediterranean. The color was contained in a vein about the neck. Under the term purple the ancients included three distinct colors :

Luke 16:0:1A deep violet, with a black or dusky tinge; the color meant by Homer in describing an ocean wave : "As when the great sea grows purple with dumb swell" (" Iliad, : 14, 16).

Luke 16:0:2Deep scarlet or crimson - the Tyrian purple.

Luke 16:0:3The deep blue of the Mediterranean. The dye was permanent.

Alexander is said by Plutarch to have found in the royal palace at Susa garments which preserved their freshness of color though they had been laid up for nearly two hundred years; and Mr. St. John (" Manner and Customs of Ancient Greece ") relates that a small pot of the dye was discovered at Pompeii which had preserved the tone and richness attributed to the Tyrian purple. This fixedness of color is alluded to in Isa 1:18 - though your sins were as scarlet, the term being rendered in the Septuagint foinikoun, which, with its kindred words, denoted darker shades of red. A full and interesting description of the purple may be found in J. A. St. John's "Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece," 3, 224 sq.

Fine linen [βυσσον] . Byssus. A yellowish flax, and the linen made from it. Herodotus says it was used for enveloping mummies (ii. 86), a statement confirmed by microscopic examinations. He also speaks of it as a bandage for a wound (vii. 181). It is the word used by the Septuagint for linen (Exodus 25:4; Exodus 28:5; Exodus 35:6, etc.). Some of the Egyptian linen was so fine that it was called woven air. Sir Gardner Wilkinson says that some in his possession was, to the touch, comparable to silk, and not inferior in texture to the finest cambric. It was often as transparent as lawn, a fact illustrated by the painted sculptures, where the entire form is often made distinctly visible through the outer garment. Later Greek writers used the word for cotton and silk. See Wilkinson's "Ancient Egyptians," first series, 3, 114 sq., and Rawlinson's "History of Ancient Egypt," 1, 487, 512. A yellow byssus was used by the Greeks, the material for which grew around Elis, and which was enormously costly. See Aeschylus, "Persae," 127.

Fared sumptuously [ευφραινομενος λαμπρως] . Lit., making merry in splendor. Compare ch. 14 23, 24, 29, 32. Wyc., he ate, each day, shiningly.

Verse 20

Beggar. See on poor, Matthew 5:3.

Lazarus. Abbreviated from 'Eleazarov, Eleazar, and meaning God a help. "It is a striking evidence of the deep impression which this parable has made on the mind of Christendom, that the term lazar should have passed into so many languages as it has, losing altogether its signification as a proper name" (Trench).

Was laid [εβεβλητο] . Lit., was thrown : cast carelessly down by his bearers and left there.

Gate [πυλωνα] . The gateway, often separated from the house or temple. In Matthew 26:71, it is rendered porch.

Full of sores [ειλκωμενος] . Only here in New Testament. The regular medical term for to be ulcerated. John uses the kindred noun elkov, an ulcer (Revelation 16:2). See next verse.

Verse 21

Desiring [επιθυμων] . Eagerly, and not receiving what he desired. The same thing is implied in the story of the prodigal, where the same word is used, "he would fain have been filled" (ch. 14 16), but the pods did not satisfy his hunger.

The crumbs that fell [των πιπτοντων] . Lit., the things falling. The best texts omit yiciwn, crumbs.

Moreover [αλλα και] . Lit., but even. "But (instead of finding compassion), even the dogs," etc.

Licked [επελειχον] . Only here in New Testament. Cyril, cited by Hobart, says : "The only attention, and, so to speak, medical dressing, which his sores received, was from the dogs who came and licked them."

Verse 22

Abraham 's bosom. A Rabbinical phrase, equivalent to being with Abraham in Paradise. "To the Israelite Abraham seems the personal center and meeting - point of Paradise" (Goebel).

Verse 23

Hell. Rev., Hades. Where Lazarus also was, but in a different region. See on Matthew 16:18.

Verse 24

Cool [καταψυχειν] . Only here in New Testament. Common in medical language. See on ch. Luke 21:26. Compare the exquisite passage in Dante, where Messer Adamo, the false coiner, horribly mutilated, and in the lowest circle of Malebolge, says :

" I had, while living, much of what I wished; And now, alas! a drop of water crave.

The rivulets that from the verdant hills Of Cassentin descend down into Arno, Making their channels to be soft and cold, Ever before me stand, and not in vain : For far more doth their image dry me up Than the disease which strips my face of flesh. " Inferno, 30, 65 sq.

Tormented [οδυνωμαι] . Used by Luke only. Tormented is too strong.

The word is used of the sorrow of Joseph and Mary when the child Jesus was missing (ch. 2 48); and of the grief of the Ephesian elders on parting with Paul (Acts 20:38). Rev., I am in anguish.

Verse 25

Son [τεκνον] . Lit., child.

Receivedst [απελαβες] . Received back [απο] as a reward or quittance. Compare ch. Luke 6:34; Luke 18:30; Luke 23:41.

Gulf [χασμα] . From caskw, to yawn. Transcribed into the English chasm. In medical language, of the cavities in a wound or ulcer.

Is fixed [εστηρικται] . Compare ch. 22 32; and see on 1 Peter 5:10.

Verse 27

Send him to my father 's house. Compare Dante, where Ciacco, the glutton, says to Dante :

"But when thou art again in the sweet world, I pray thee to the mind of others bring me." Inferno, 6, 88.

Verse 31

Be persuaded. Dives had said, "they will repent." Abraham replies, "they will not be even persuaded."

Though one rose. Dives had said, "if one went."

From the dead [εκ νεκρων] . Dives had said from the dead, but using a different preposition [απο] . It is wellnigh impossible to give the English reader this nice play of prepositions. The general distinction is ajpo, from the outside; ejk, from within. Thus Luke 2:4, Joseph went up from [απο] Galilee, the province, out of [εκ] the city of Nazareth. Abraham 's preposition (ejk, out of) implies a more complete identification with the dead than Dives' ajpo, from. A rising from among the dead was more than a messenger going from the dead. "We can hardly pass over the identity of the name Lazarus with that of him who actually was recalled from the dead; but whose return, far from persuading the Pharisees, was the immediate exciting cause of their crowning act of unbelief" (Alford).

Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Luke 16". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.