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Bible Commentaries
Luke 15

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Publicans and sinners. See the notes on Mat 9:10; Mat 21:28.

Verse 2

2 Pharisees and scribes, as well as the publicans and sinners, were all Jews but in different classifications according to the social castes devised by the self-righteous Jewish leaders. On the significance of eating with others, see the quotation from the works of reference at Mat 9:11.

Verse 3

3 This parable and the others in this chapter were occasioned by the complaint of the Pharisees and scribes in verse 2. The reader should bear in mind as he studies these three parables, that the lesson pertains to the two classes of Jews designated above, and not to the Jews and Gentiles. All have the same lesson, that of the Father's love for his wayward or otherwise unfortunate creatures. It is the same subject as that shown by the physician and the sick in Mat 9:12. However, since the stories needed to be told to make the point of application clear, I shall comment upon the verses in their order.

Verse 4

4 The 99 sheep, like the Pharisees and scribes (according to their pretentions), were not needing any special attention because they were within the care of the shepherd. The one that was lost (as the Pharisees considered the publicans and sinners), was the one that needed and received the attention of the shepherd.

Verse 5

5 Layeth it on his shoulders indicates a tender regard for the wandering sheep, also a willingness to help it get back to the flock.

Verse 6

6 It is natural for one to wish others to share with him in the event of good fortune. Paul tells Christians to "rejoice with them that do rejoice" (Rom 12:15).

Verse 7

7 Joy does not mean love or esteem. God and the angels will always love the righteous with a divine affection. Joy denotes a spirit of active gratitude for some satisfactory event or truth, such as the recovery of an article of value that was lost.

Verse 8

0 Substitute a lost sheep for the piece of silver, and this parable is identical in thought with the preceding one.

Verse 11

1 The remainder of this chapter, beginning with this verse, was spoken for the same purpose as the two preceding parables, and none of the details were intended to teach any special lesson besides. Yet it will be necessary to consider the parts of the story, especially since so much speculative use has been made of it. It is commonly called "the parable of the prodigal son," but it is not so named in the text. The word "prodigal" means extravagant or wasteful, and that characteristic is given to this younger son in verse 13.

Verse 12

2 The younger son did not want to wait until the usual time for settling up of the estate of his father, for he did not intend to remain at home that long.

Verse 13

3 True to the indicated plans, the son left home with all of his part of the estate. Riotous is from ASOTOS and this is the only place in the New Testament where the word occurs. Thayer defines it, "dissolutely, profligately," which has the same meaning as "wastefully."

Verse 14

4 The famine came just after he had spent all his money.

Verse 15

5 Employment became scarce as it commonly does in hard times. This young man accepted a very humble job, that of a swineherd.

Verse 16

6 His wages evidently proved insufficient for he became hungry in spite of his job. Husks is described by both Thayer and Smith's Bible Dictionary as the podded fruit of a locust tree. They also say this product was used for fattening swine, and for food among the poor people. This "prodigal son" was so hungry he would gladly have supplemented his own scanty diet with this article, but due to the famine it was denied him because the owner reserved it for his swine.

Verse 17

7 Came to himself is rendered "came to his senses" in Moffatt's translation. The meaning is that he was made to realize his true condition. He recalled that even the servants at home had plenty of the good things of life.

Verse 18

8 He knew he could not justly request more of his father's estate for he had already received his full share. He would have to return and throw himself upon the mercy of his father. Sinned against heaven. When anyone does wrong, the sin is an offense against the Lord regardless of who may be affected among men.

Verse 19

9 This is an expression of one who realizes his unworthiness of favors.

Verse 20

0 The father observed his son at a great distance before he arrived at the home and ran to meet him. This detail truly represents God's attitude toward sinners. He is always casting a loving glance toward them. Fell on his neck is an expression that denotes affectionate feelings for another, instead of the formal kiss upon the mouth merely as a salutation that was the custom in old times.

Verse 21

1 This act of affection encouraged the repentant son to go on with the confession he had decided upon when he came to himself.

Verse 22

2 The father did not assign him to the low position he so humbly suggested. Penitence brings forth forgiveness instead of strict justice from the offended parent. The robe and other articles to be worn would not satisfy the hunger of the famished son, but it indicated the fullness of the father's forgiveness. The hunger will be cared for in another way.

Verse 23

3 It was usual for families to keep a fattened animal in readiness for any occasion of a feast that might arise, and the arrival of the "lost" son furnished one.

Verse 24

4 These words may have been used figuratively only, and yet this son had been dead to his father's home, since death means "separation."

Verse 25

5 The elder son represents the Pharisees and scribes in verse 2, and their envious attitude toward the younger son who represents the publicans and sinners of the same verse. As the elder son was coming in from his work he heard the music and dancing. Some have tried to see a significance in the mention of dancing. It has no moral application in the least since that is not the subject of the parable. It is put into the story only because it indicates the condition of joy being felt in the household.

Verse 26

6 When the elder son went to work, the return of the "prodigal" had not occurred, hence he did not understand the cause of the merriment.

Verse 27

8 This elder son (the Pharisees and scribes) began to pout and refused to go into the house. That was not because he objected to the things being done as though they were wrong, but because of his jealousy against his brother. Ordinary human nature would have prompted the father to be "independent" and just ignore his son's action. But since this father represents the Father of mercies, the parable shows him manifesting his love for the son by making a move toward pacifying him.

Verse 29

0. The elder son had no just ground of complaint. His brother had done wrong, but it was against his father and God only. This son was not being deprived of anything that was due him, so his attitude could be explained only on the basis of jealousy. He made two comparisons in his protest; they were between the conduct of himself and that of his brother, and between what his father had done for each son. He had always been at home and faithful, while his brother had been away living a life like that of a spendthrift. Also, his father had never as much as given him a kid (a rather inferior animal), but had given this wasteful son the choice of food animals.

Verse 31

1 The favors being shown the returned son did not deprive the elder one of a single possession, hence his objections were the result of his jealousy only.

Verse 32

2 It was meet or fitting for the father and his household to be glad. But it was not on the ground of the worthiness of the younger son for he had no just claim to the favors being accorded him. The reason assigned by the father was that a son that was lost had been found. Likewise, the Father in heaven is concerned about the spiritual safety of the lowest of human beings and is always ready to receive them as soon as they repent.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Luke 15". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/luke-15.html. 1952.
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