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Bible Commentaries

John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew
Matthew 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-12

Matthew 5:1-12.
The Beatitudes

Matthew 5:1. The multitudes—or, crowds—viz., the 'great crowds' spoken of in the preceding sentence (see on "Matthew 4:25".) The connection goes right on without any break, the paragraph of Matthew 4:23-25 forming a sort of introduction to the discourse. (For the general connection, see on "Matthew 4:12".) On some occasion, in the course of the labours just described, occurred that which Matthew proceeds to narrate. He went up. Was it to avoid the crowds, as some think, or was it not rather that the presence of such crowds made it proper to address them in an extended discourse, setting forth the nature of that Messianic kingdom, or reign, which he had been declaring to be at hand? Into a—the(1)— mountain. This more probably means the mountain-region, just as persons among us who live near such a region familiarly speak of it as "the mountain "— "He isn't at home, he's gone up in the mountain." The word 'mountain' is used for a mountain-region in Genesis 19:17, Genesis 19:19, Genesis 19:30, and elsewhere in O.T. The most common scene of all this part of our Lord's ministry was the lake-shore, and with this would easily contrast in the apostle's mind the adjacent mountain-region. So in Matthew 14:23, 'the mountain' is the mountain-region east of the lake, near where he had just fed the five thousand, and in Matthew 15:29, the same region further south. That such is tile meaning here becomes highly probable (if we hold Luke's discourse to be the same) from Mark 3:13, where the same expression 'he goes up into the mountain' occurs on the same occasion,—viz., the choice of the twelve, (Mark 3:13-19) which Luke (Luke 6:17) shows to have been immediately followed by the discourse—and the preceding connection (Mark 3:7-9) evidently makes it there mean that he goes up from the lake-shore into the mountain-region. This also best fits in Luke 6:12. The phrase 'the mountain,' might mean the particular mountain near them at the time (Meyer), or the well-known mountain (DeWette), as one or the other is probably meant in Luke 9:28, the Mount of the Transfiguration; though of this we know nothing. But the preponderance of usage and probability is for the other sense, the mountain-region. There is then nothing in the history to indicate what particular part of the adjacent mountain-region is meant. The connection in Mark, and the statement of Matthew (Matthew 8:5) and Luke (Luke 7:1) that he afterwards went to Capernaum, show that it was on the west side of the lake; but the latter statement does not, as so often urged, show that it was near Capernaum. There is no important objection to the tradition placing it at the double-top mountain now called "Horns of Hattin," which (Stanley) strikingly corresponds to the circumstances, since Jesus might well have spent the night on one of the two summits, and the next morning descended to the fiat space between the two, and there delivered the discourse. But the tradition is unknown to the Greek and Eastern writers, and among Latins first found in Brocardus, about A. D. 1283. (Robinson.) We can only say, therefore, that this may quite possibly have been the spot. When he was set, or, had sat down, sitting being among the Jews the customary posture for one engaged in teaching. Luke's expression (Luke 6:17) 'stood,' does not conflict with this, for that denotes simply the end of the descent, and not the posture in teaching. His disciples. The Greek word rendered 'disciple,' like the Latin discipulus, which we have borrowed, signifies a 'learner,' as opposed to a 'teacher,' and is used in that general sense in Matthew 10:24, literally, 'A learner is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.' The Greeks frequently applied it to the pupils of a philosopher, as denoting those who received his instructions and were supposed to adopt his opinions. In a like sense we read of the 'disciples of the Pharisees', (Matthew 22:16) and the 'disciples of John'; (Matthew 9:14, Matthew 11:2, Matthew 14:12; Mark 2:18, etc.) and similarly the 'disciples' of Jesus, in the present passage, and in general, are those who habitually heard his teachings, and were supposed to receive them as true. But the term, as there used, would have a more lax and a more strict application, sometimes denoting the whole crowd of those who followed him for a while, and apparently believed his teachings (e. g., John 6:66), but commonly used of those who really did believe, and submit themselves to his authority as a teacher. In some passages (as Matthew 14:15 ff.) the connection shows that it means 'the disciples' by excellence, viz., the Twelve. After our Lord's ascension the application of the term was very naturally widened to embrace all who received as true the teachings of the Christian religion, Christ being in reality still their teacher, though he taught through others. We cannot here understand the term as denoting all who were present and listened to his teachings, for it is nowhere used in so loose a way; it must mean his disciples, as distinguished from others who were not such. This would include the four mentioned in Matthew 4:18 ff., but would not be confined to them. Matthew has not previously had the word but he employs it in that general sense with which all had become familiar at the time when he wrote. From Luke 6:12-20 we learn that, before delivering the discourse Jesus had selected the Twelve who were to be his special attendants; but Luke also mentions, (Luke 6:17, literally) a 'crowd of his disciples' as present when it was spoken. Matthew does not refer to the Twelve as a body till he comes to speak of their being sent forth two and two, (Matthew 10:1 ff.) just as he gives an account of John's imprisonment only in connection with the story of his death (compare on Matthew 4:12, Matthew 14:3). Came unto him, drew near after he had thus assumed the posture of a teacher. Or, came near while the people at large stood farther off.

Matthew 5:2. This expanded statement is in accordance with that circumstantially in description which is characteristic of the Hebrew language and adds beauty to the Scripture narratives. It serves, in a case like this, to fix attention upon the important discourse which follows. (Compare Job 3:1; Acts 8:35, Acts 10:34) Taught is imperfect tense, and describes the teaching as in progress—you see it going on. The English 'was teaching' or 'went to teaching,' would here be too strong. Them refers especially to his disciples, who are especially distinguished in the preceding verse from the crowds, (compare Luke 6:20) and are especially addressed in such passages of the discourse as Matthew 5:11, Matthew 5:13-16, etc.; but that the crowds also heard would be naturally suggested by the connection, and is affirmed in Matthew 7:28 f.

Matthew 5:3. In Matthew 5:3-12 our Lord sets forth the characteristics and privileges of the subjects of the kingdom of heaven. These sentences are commonly called the "beatitudes," from beatus, 'blessed' or 'happy,' the word here employed in the Latin versions, and by some are called macarisms, from the Greek word. Some writers compare with these the benedictions of Deuteronomy 28; but the cases are not similar. Others mark out an elaborate parallel to the giving of the Ten Commandments; but this is highly artificial, and tends to divert attention from our Lord's real design. It would be more appropriate to compare such passages as Psalms 1:1, Psalms 31:1 f.; Psalms 144:15; Proverbs 3:13, Daniel 12:12, where a character is described as well as happiness declared. The Jews expected great felicity under the reign of Messiah; witness the saying of one of them (Luke 14:15. lit.), 'Happy he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.' Our Lord, by telling who are the happy in the Messianic kingdom, gives at once a very distinct glimpse into the nature and requirements of that kingdom. It is immediately seen to be quite the reverse of the carnal expectations cherished among the Jews. Not the rich, the rejoicing and proud, not conquering warriors nor popular favourites, are the happy under the Messianic reign, but these—the poor, the mourning and meek, the peacemakers, the persecuted. Most of these sayings are therefore striking paradoxes, and the whole forms a singularly felicitous introduction to his discourse, touching a chord that vibrates in all human hearts—happy, happy—instantly awakening the liveliest attention, and also conveying important instruction as to the great theme. Luther: "Now that's a fine, sweet, friendly beginning of his teaching and preaching. For he goes at it, not like Moses or a teacher of the law, with commands and threats, but in the very friendliest way, with nothing but attractions and allurements and lovely promises." It was also a beautifully natural introduction (Weiss), because he came to preach the 'good news' of the kingdom, (Matthew 4:23) the fulfilment of all the Messianic hopes and promises.

Blessed. Happy more nearly expresses the sense of the Greek word than 'blessed.' It is rendered 'happy' in the common version of John 13:17, Acts 26:2; Romans 14:22; 1 Corinthians 7:40; 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 4:14, and the corresponding verb in James 5:11; and this might be used almost everywhere, leaving 'blessed' to translate another term found in Matthew 21:9, Matthew 23:39, Matthew 25:34, etc., and a kindred word in Mark 14:61; Romans 9:5, etc. Our 'happy' could not, it is true, be applied to God, as in 1 Timothy 1:11, 1 Timothy 6:15 (Bib. Un. Ver. 'blissful'), where 'blessed,' though familiar to us, is really also inadequate. But more is gained than is lost by keeping the terms distinct, for the difference is often quite important. The shock which many persons feel at the introduction of 'happy' here, is partly a reproduction of the surprise felt by our Lord's first hearers—happy the poor, happy the mourners, etc.—the paradox is really part of the meaning.(1) The sense is quite similar (and the same Greek word is used) in Matthew 16:17; Romans 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 7:40; James 1:12; 1 Peter 3:14; Revelation 14:13. The original has in this case no verb—not 'happy are,' but simply 'happy the poor,' etc. So in the Greek of Psalms 1:1, etc. The poor. The Jews looked upon wealth, being one of the chief elements of worldly prosperity, as a sure proof that its possessor was the object of God's favour, an error which our Lord subsequently sought to correct in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. (Luke 16:19) In like manner they no doubt supposed that in Messiah's kingdom the rich, the "better class," would enjoy the highest privileges. In striking opposition to these expectations, he says, 'Happy the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' This is all that Luke (Luke 5:20, lit.) gives; and certainly the poor were more likely to share the privileges of the Messianic reign than the rich, because more likely to he humble and looking for Messiah's coming.(2) (Compare Matthew 11:5, Matthew 19:23, Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 66:2; James 2:5; and below on Matthew 5:4-5) But while men need not, they might misunderstand or misrepresent this general term (as well as 'hunger,' 'weep,' in Luke 6:21) Thus the Emperor Julian mockingly said he wished to confiscate the property of the Christians, in order that as poor men they might enter the kingdom of heaven. Now Matthew's account shows that our Lord took pains to define more precisely what he meant, by saying the poor in spirit. Poverty, want, sorrow, do not of themselves secure spiritual blessings; these are promised to such as have the corresponding state of thought and feeling. The grammatical construction 'poor in the spirit' is the same as in 'pure in the heart.' (Matthew 5:8) The meaning may be (Bleek) (a) 'poor in the (sphere of the) spirit,' in spiritual matters, or (b). 'poor in their spirit,' consciously poor. Probably the former is here meant by the phrase, while the latter thought is suggested by the connection. The poor, not outwardly only, but in the inner man; not in the temporal but the spiritual sphere; and it is involved, in the nature of the case, that they are conscious of their spiritual destitution (compare Isaiah 66:2, and contrast Revelation 3:17). Those who in the sphere of the spirit, in the spiritual life, are destitute, and feel their need. A good example is the publican of the parable. It is quite possible for a man rich in the temporal sphere to be at the same time poor in spirit.(3) Edersheim quotes from the Mishna, "Ever he more and more lowly in spirit, since the expectancy of man is to become the food of worms," and calls it the exact counterpart of this saying, "marking not the optimism, but the pessimism of life." For. It would be a little more exact to render 'because' in all the beatitudes (see on "Matthew 5:12"). Theirs has in the original an emphatic position; it is theirs, they are precisely the persons who possess and enjoy the riches, dignities, privileges of Messiah's reign (see on "Matthew 3:2"). Compare James 2:5 These privileges already belong to them, and shall henceforth be enjoyed by them—notice the future tense in the following sentences. How different is all this from worldly kingdoms. In Luke 6:24, is recorded the opposite of this first beatitude,"Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation," have all the consolation you will get.

Matthew 5:4. The regular gradation which some endeavour to point out in the several beatitudes is artificial, if not imaginary. They are simply grouped in a natural way, and the transition from the poor to the mourners is natural enough.(1) Observe (Tholuck) that the three first classes, poor, mourning, meek, are all in the prediction of Isaiah 61:1-3, to which our Lord repeatedly referred as fulfilled in his ministry. (Matthew 11:5, Luke 4:17-21)

Happy they that grieve, is a very striking paradox, suited to awaken attention and lead to reflection. They that mourn, over any of the distresses of life, temporal or spiritual; but with the implication that if over temporal distresses, they mourn in a religious spirit. Under the reign of Messiah they shall be comforted—the kind of comfort corresponding of course to the kind of distress, and suited to their highest good. The second part of Isaiah begins, (Isaiah 40:1) with 'comfort ye my people,' and is pervaded throughout by that idea, it being distinctly declared (Isaiah 61:2) that Messiah is to comfort all that mourn. The later Jews caught this conception, and in the Talmud the Messiah is sometimes called Menahem, 'comforter.' At the time of his birth some truly devout ones were 'waiting for the consolation of Israel.' (Luke 2:25) They is emphatic, and so in Isaiah 61:5-8. In Luke 6:25 is recorded the opposite of this beatitude.

Matthew 5:5. The sayings of this verse, and of Matthew 5:7-10, are wanting in Luke's briefer report. The expression here used is derived from Psalms 37:11. The Hebrew word for meek and that for 'poor' are from the same root, and certainly meekness is akin to poverty of spirit. Our Lord declares that not the ambitious and arrogant, the irascible and violent, such as usually become prominent in the outbreak of revolutions, are the happy under Messiah's reign, but the meek. The term 'meek' is hard to define, in Hebrew, Greek, or Eng., but it includes freedom from pretension, (1 Peter 3:4, 1 Peter 3:15) gentleness, (Matthew 11:29, James 3:13) and patient endurance of injury—where it is proper to endure. The Messianic king himself is meek, (Matthew 21:5) and the meek shall be his happy subjects. Shall inherit the earth, or, land.(1) It was promised to Abraham that he should 'inherit' the 'land' of Canaan. (Genesis 13:15, Genesis 15:7, etc.) This was partly realized by his descendants under Joshua. (Judges 2:6, in the Hebrew) Their possession of it was always imperfect and sometimes interrupted, but still they cherished the promise made to Abraham, and hoped for its complete fulfilment. The Psalmist distinguishes two classes in Israel, the wicked and the meek; those who amid all trials meekly trust and serve God, and declares (Psalms 37:9, Psalms 37:11, Psalms 37:22, Psalms 37:29) that these shall 'inherit the land.' Isaiah promises (Isaiah 57:13, Isaiah 60:21) that after the captivity those who trust in God shall 'inherit the land.' The apocryphal story of Tobit represents devout Jews during the captivity as cherishing the hope that the seed of the patriarchs shall 'inherit the land.' (Tobit 4:12.) And just as the 'kingdom of heaven' (Matthew 5:3) takes in our Lord's discourses a higher and more spiritual meaning, so with this phrase. The meek shall be full citizens in the Messianic kingdom (like those holding real estate), enjoying all rights and privileges. This would of course mean especially religious privileges (compare 'inherit the kingdom,' in its full and perfected state, Matthew 25:34, 1 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Corinthians 15:50, Galatians 5:21, Ephesians 5:5, etc.) The explanation that Christians shall have as much of the earth as is really desirable for them is superficial, and the other, that Christianity is finally to take possession of the whole earth, is artificial. The O. T. and the N. T. usage seems to leave no doubt as to the meaning. The poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, obviously represent kindred traits of character, and should not be conceived of as three entirely distinct classes of persons. So as to the other beatitudes.

Matthew 5:6. Hunger and thirst. A natural and strong expression for desire, common in all languages. Luke (Luke 6:21) gives only 'hunger,' the other term merely expanding the image; (compare Psalms 63:1) and does not say for what. (Compare above on Matthew 5:3) Righteousness here must not by any means be understood of imputed righteousness, but (as even Luther admits) of personal righteousness; the being and doing what is right, as in Matthew 3:15, Matthew 5:20; Luke 1:75, etc. The attempt (Schaff and others) to make it include both ideas, is futile. It is very doubtful whether the Pauline idea of imputed righteousness occurs anywhere in the Gospels, not even in John 16:10. Filled. The original word is of frequent occurrence, signifying to feed, to satisfy with food, originally used of feeding animals, in later Greek of feeding men. (Compare in Matthew 14:20, Luke 16:21; James 2:16; Philippians 4:12; Revelation 19:21) They who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall, under Messiah's reign, be fed full, completely satisfied. It of course does not mean satisfied once for all, so as to have no desire any more. That is here true which Wisdom says in Sirach (Ecclus.) Sirach 24:21, 'They that eat me shall still hunger, and they that drink me shall still thirst.' The Scriptures teach that this satisfaction will be progressive in the present life, and become perfect as we enter upon the perfect world.—Observe (Tholuck) that after righteousness there follow three elements of righteousness, viz., pity, purity, peace.

Matthew 5:7. Merciful. The original word includes also the idea of compassion, as in Hebrews 2:17; Proverbs 14:21, and implies a desire to remove the evils which excite compassion. It thus denotes not only mercy to the guilty, but pity for the suffering, and help to the needy. See Luke 3:11, Matthew 25:37-40, James 2:13. To be merciful is not the ground of receiving mercy from God, but an occasion and condition thereof. (Matthew 18:33 f.) Compare the relation between forgiving and being forgiven, as explained on Matthew 6:12. The Jerusalem Talmud gives as a saying of Gamaliel, "Whensoever thou hast mercy, God will have mercy upon thee; if thou hast not mercy, neither will God have mercy upon thee."

Matthew 5:8. Pure in heart, as contrasted with mere external, bodily purification, about which the Jews, and especially the Pharisees, were very scrupulous. (Matthew 23:25, Matthew 23:28) The phrase should not be limited to the absence of unchaste feelings, but includes freedom from all the defiling influences of sin upon the inner man. Origen: "Every sin stains the soul." The 'heart' in Scripture use is the seat of thought and will as well as of feeling. (Compare on Matthew 6:21) We must shun defiling thoughts, purposes, and feelings. Calvin here understands especially freedom from trickery and cunning. So James (James 4:8) says, 'Purify your hearts, ye double-minded.' A like breadth of meaning is implied in the connection of Psalms 24:4. Compare for various applications of the phrase, Psalms 51:10, Psalms 73:1; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22. The meaning is thus seen to be very comprehensive, as when we speak of a pure character, pure motives, etc. There is nothing here said as to the way in which this purity is to be obtained; that was afterwards fully revealed through the apostles. (Acts 15:9; 1 John 1:7, 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Corinthians 7:1) Shall see God. The expression is derived 'from the usages of Oriental courts, where kings live in great seclusion, and it is a rare and distinguished privilege to be admitted into the very presence of the monarch, and see him face to face. See 1 Kings 10:8; Esther 1:14, Hebrews 12:14; Revelation 22:4, and an equivalent expression in Matthew 18:10. With the whole verse here compare Psalms 24:3 f.: 'Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.'—It is a kindred, but quite distinct thought that we find in 1 John 3:2, that of the immediate perception and thorough knowledge of God in the future life, as tending to make us like him.

Matthew 5:9. Here the contrast to worldly kingdoms, which runs through the whole passage, is particularly great. In them the highest honour and esteem are given to warriors, but under the Messianic reign to peacemakers, those who bring about peace between enemies. It may be taken for granted that they will be peaceable in their own disposition and conduct, will strive to maintain peace as well as to restore it when disturbed; but that is not included in the meaning of the word. Morison: "This delightful beatitude must have sounded like a clap of thunder over the hearts of some of those who were revelling in the imagination that the time had arrived when war to the bitter end was to be proclaimed against the surrounding principalities of the Gentiles." It is difficult to determine whether they is here emphatic, as it is in Matthew 5:4-8.(1) The difference would here be slight. Called the children, or sons—of God, as being like him (Matthew 5:45), objects of his special affection, etc. They shall not only be sons of God, but shall be called such, recognized as such in his kingdom—not merely subjects of the kingdom, but sons of the king. We need not wonder at this exalted promise to peacemakers, for theirs is a very difficult and very noble achievement. They must often be content to bear bitter complaint from both sides, must exercise great self-control, unwearied patience, and loving tact, and must be manifestly impartial and unselfish. There is no more Godlike work to be done in this world than peacemaking.

Matthew 5:10. They which are—or, that have been—persecuted, the form of expression according with the fact that the chief rewards of such sufferers do not so much attend on the persecution as follow it. The expression obviously points forward to the persecution of his followers, but it is well to remember that at the probable time of his delivering this discourse, Jesus himself was already beginning to be bitterly hated and reviled, and his life sought. (Luke 6:7, Luke 6:11; Mark 3:6) Persecution usually involved taking away one's possessions, leaving him in poverty and want; and so theirs is the kingdom of heaven is here a manifestly appropriate form of blessing, as in Matthew 5:3. Compare Hebrews 10:34. Chrys.: "Although he gives different names to the rewards, yet nothing else but the kingdom does he shadow out by all these sayings." Alexander: "Thus, by a beautiful reiteration of his own expressions, he comes back to the point from which he started, in declaring for whose sake his kingdom was to be erected, or of whom it was to be composed. Not the rich, the gay, the fierce, the full, the cunning, the warlike, or the favourites of earthly rulers, were, as such, to be distinguished in his kingdom; but the poor, the sorrowful, the meek, the hungry, the sincere, the peaceful, and the persecuted, who endured all this for his sake, and who longed for spiritual no less than for secular relief." —An addition to the text, said by Clement of Alexandria to be made by some, suggests a pleasing thought: "Happy they that have been persecuted for my sake, for they shall have a place where they will not be persecuted." Hebrews 10:10 f. seem to be referred to in 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 4:14. Various sentiments of the Sermon on the Mount are apparently alluded to by James, Paul, and Peter.

Matthew 5:11. Here Luke (Luke 6:22) again comes in, having omitted what we have above in Matthew 5:5 and Matthew 5:7-10. Matthew 5:11 f. contain an elaboration and express application to Christ's disciples of the general declaration of Matthew 5:10. Here for the first time we have the second person. Blessed, or, happy, are ye. But 'ye' is not expressed by a separate Greek word, and so is not emphatic. In Luke (Luke 6:20 ff.) all the beatitudes given are in the second person. When would be more literally whenever, i. e., in all cases. They shall revile you, (no emphasis on 'they'), is an impersonal expression, like the Eng. 'they say,' or, 'they tell me.' And shall say all manner of evil against you,(1) same expression in Acts 28:21. Luke (Luke 6:26) strengthens the promise by pronouncing a woe upon them when universally well spoken of, Falsely is omitted from the text by some critics,(2) but on insufficient authority; and the idea it conveys would at any rate have to be supplied, from the very nature of the ease. (Compare 1 Peter 4:15 f.) For my sake. Reproaches and cruel treatment endured on some other account, however unmerited, are not here in question.

Matthew 5:12. Closely connected with the preceding Rejoice, and be exceeding glad. The first is the common word for 'rejoice'; the second a rarer word, denoting great delight and exultation, which is used several times by Luke, John, and Peter. Both words are combined, as here, in 1 Peter 4:13, Revelation 19:7, and together constitute a very strong expression. Luke has 'rejoice and leap (for joy).' There is a beautiful instance of the apostles rejoicing under persecution, in Acts 5:41. For great is your reward. The 'for' would be more exactly rendered 'because,' as in all the other beatitudes. In the next clause is the word properly rendered 'for.' The form of expression, 'your reward,' implies a definite reward (the Greek having an article), designed for them, and kept for them in heaven, literally, the heavens. (Compare Matthew 25:34; Colossians 1:15; 1 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 11:26) As to the plural, 'the heavens,' see on "Matthew 3:2" For so they persecuted they, impersonal, as in Matthew 5:11. Alford: "For instance, Jeremiah was scourged, Jeremiah 20:2; Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, was stoned, 2 Chronicles 24:21; Isaiah, according to Jewish tradition, was sawn asunder by Manasseh." Similar reference to persecutions is made in Nehemiah 9:26; Matthew 21:35, Matthew 23:32 ff.; Acts 7:52; 1 Thessalonians 2:15. The fact that the prophets were persecuted in like manner, furnishes a ground for assurance that the persons addressed will be rewarded. They are following the footsteps of the prophets, and shall, like them, have a great reward. (Compare Matthew 10:41, James 5:10) The reward is however not merited by the persecutions, but is a gift of God's grace.

Luke (Luke 6:24-26) here adds four woes, corresponding to the four beatitudes he has recorded. If it be thought that these would not enter naturally into Matthew's connection, we have to remember that each apparently gives only a sketch of what was said. (See "Matthew 5:1", Introd. to the discourse).

It will be observed that in Matthew the word 'happy' occurs nine times; but as Matthew 5:11 is substantially a repetition of Matthew 5:10, we see that there are eight beatitudes (or macarisms). Some exclude from the count that of Matthew 5:10 -as being different in tone from the others—in order to make just seven, the sacred number. But this is utterly arbitrary. In fact the eight, although following each other in a sufficiently natural order, have no stiffness of arrangement. Our Lord here, and often elsewhere, speaks with a certain rhythmical movement such as is natural to elevated sentiment; but still all is inartificial and simple.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 7:1. Sermon on the Mount: (1) The preacher. (2) The hearers. (3) The sermon—its leading thoughts. (4) The effect stated, Matthew 7:28.—Stier: "All apostolical preaching of the gospel must begin with the gracious commencement of this sermon, the conclusion of all apostolic preaching must coincide with its awful conclusion; but intermediate lies all that progressive teaching and exhortation, which through faith in its fulfiller establishes the law in the believer.—Moses, amid the awful splendours of Mount Sinai, gave a law which condemns; Christ, on the quiet mountain in Galilee, a gospel which saves." (Hebrews 2:3)

Matthew 7:2. Schaff: "When the Lord opens his mouth, we should open our ears and hearts."

Matthew 7:3. In general, the beatitudes teach that true happiness in life depends on character rather than circumstances.—Burns:

It's no' in titles nor in rank,

It's no' in wealth like Lon'on bank,

To purchase peace and rest.

If happiness has not her seat

And centre in the breast,

We may be wise, or rich, or great,

But never can be blest.—

A homiletical classification of the beatitudes (many might of course be given): (1) The poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek. (2) The hungering, etc., and the pure in heart. (3) The merciful, the peacemakers. (4) The reviled and persecuted.—Stier: "The eight Benedictions, with their conditions, are in a certain sense found united in every child of God, and no member of this wonderful series may be altogether wanting from the time that the first poverty of spirit has received the gift of grace; yet is there an actual and gradual growth of one out of the other. And here does the law apply in all its significance, that the gift received must be preserved, exercised, and increased; and that to him only who has, shall more be given in order to his having all."

corn. a lapide: "There are three sorts of poor: (1) those who are so actually, as beggars; (2) in spirit, but not actually—as Abraham, who was rich in fact, poor in spirit; (3) both in fact and in spirit." —Chrys.: "As pride is the fountain of all wickedness, so is humility the principle of all self-command.". —Stier: "Oh, that the richly endowed and worldly blessed of our day, to whom the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount must come with the full force of most direct contrast and contradiction, would only meekly hear it."

Matthew 7:4. Theophyl.: "Those who mourn-always, and not simply once " (as if it were mourned).

Matthew 7:5. Theophyl.: "The meek are not those who are never at all angry, for such are insensible, but those who feeling anger control it, and who are angry when they ought to be. Meekness excludes revenge, irritability, morbid sensitiveness, but not self-defense, or the quiet and steady maintenance of rights."The Christian inheritance in the Messianic kingdom, is, like that of Israel (according to the divine plan), a gift directly from God, (Genesis 17:8) and therefore (1) inalienable; (Leviticus 25:23) (2) imperishable. (1 Peter 1:4)

Matthew 7:7. Theophyl.: ":Not by means of money only are you to be merciful, but also by words; and even if you have nothing, by tears."—In this world of sin and sorrow, there is frequent, nay constant occasion for being merciful in one way or another. Henry: "A man may be truly merciful, who has not wherewithal to be bountiful or liberal." Chrys (condensed in Aq.): "The reward here seems at first to be only an equal return; but indeed it is much more; for human mercy and divine mercy are not to be put on an equality." Shak.:

Mercy..... is twice blessed;

It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes:

...And earthly power doth then show likest God's,

When mercy seasons justice.—

—But not mercy at the expense of justice, as too often in trial by jury.

Matthew 7:8. Not merely clean garments, clean person ("cleanliness is next to godliness "), hands clean from blood or pelf, but also cleanness of thought, motive, feeling.

Matthew 7:9. Peacemaking.

I. Difficulties which the task involves: (1) In our own defects, (2) in the faults of the parties at variance, (3) in the foolish or wicked interference of others.

II. Inducements to undertake the task. (1) Evils which flow from variance and strife. (2) Blessed effects of reconciliation. (3) The work is Godlike, and will have God's special aid and reward.—while not expressing, this passage naturally suggests the fact that God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself and 'making peace'; (Colossians 1:20, same word as here) and that we also ought to be busy in reconciling our fellow-men to God. shay: God's benison go with you, and with those That would make good of bad, and friends of foes. corn. a lapide: "Father Gaspar so excelled in peacemaking, that the lawyers said they should die of hunger."

Matthew 7:10. The same persons who are pure in heart and peacemakers may be reviled, and that for the sake of him who was perfectly pure and the greatest of peacemakers.

Matthew 7:11. Luther (in Lange): "What comfort that the Son of God himself calls us blessed, let whoever may speak ill of us." (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)—Henry: "There is no evil so black and horrid, which at one time or another has not been said, falsely, of Christ's disciples and followers." Stier: "The daring disregard of truth with which the world is wont audaciously to calumniate the children of God. the Satanic cunning with which its lies are woven, would he altogether incredible, if it were not matter of fact." Plumptre: "The witnesses for unwelcome truths have never had, anywhere or at any time, a light or easy task." Griffith: "Violent outbursts, indeed, of ill-will are now but rare. Culture has softened manners, and made ferocity ill-bred. But the native dislike of falsehood to truth, of worldliness to godliness, of evil to good, still dwells in the heart; it oozes out in bitter, though quiet drops; it leaps forth sometimes in words which, though smoother than oil, are very swords."

Matthew 7:12. It is often a melancholy consolation in time of sore trial or temptation to remember that no trial has taken you but such as is common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13)


Verses 1-20

Matthew 15:1-20.
Jesus Disregarding Tradition

This is found also in Mark 7:1-3. When the great miracle of feeding the five thousand was wrought, the Passover was near (see on "Matthew 14:19"); which, according to the view commonly held (see on "Matthew 12:1"), was the third Passover of our Lord's public ministry, and one year before its close. To this last year belong half the chapters and considerably more than half the pages of Matthew's Gospel and a still larger proportion of the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus failed to go to this Passover because the people in Judea were seeking to kill him (as mentioned afterwards, John 7:1), but continued his labours in Galilee, as described in general terms in Matthew 14:35 f. The particular incident here recorded would seem to have occurred some little time after the Passover, as it would not be natural for Pharisees to leave Jerusalem shortly before tile feast. The scene of this occurrence was somewhere in Galilee, apparently in the Plain of Gennesaret, (Matthew 14:34-36) and probably at Capernaum, his usual place of abode. The fault-finding inquiry by the Pharisees and Scribes (Matthew 14:1 f.) is severely retorted upon them, (Matthew 14:3-9) and then answered by a most important general principle, to which the special attention of all present is called, (Matthew 15:10 f.) and of which the disciples afterwards seek an explanation in private. (Matthew 14:12-20)

Matthew 15:1. Then (see on "Matthew 3:13") does not necessarily mean at the time just before mentioned, (Matthew 14:34-36) but is naturally so taken, unless there be proof to the contrary, which is not here the case. Scribes and Pharisees, the common order, was easily inserted by copyists in place of Pharisees and Scribes, the correct text. Come from Jerusalem, was, in like manner, changed to which were of Jerusalem by inserting an apparently needed article. Jerusalem was the seat of the great schools, as well as of the temple worship, and the most eminent men were congregated there; these persons were therefore regarded in Galilee with special reverence. Their object in coming may have been partly to satisfy curiosity about Jesus, excited by accounts given at the Passover, and partly to prevent him from gaining too much influence in Galilee. It is not unlikely that they were sent as a deputation to observe Jesus, as afterwards in Luke 11:54, and still later in Matthew 22:15; compare Matthew 12:24, (Mark 3:22) and the deputation sent to John the Baptist. (John 1:19, John 1:24) As to the Pharisees, see on "Matthew 3:7"; and as to the Scribes, on Matthew 2:3. They begin by censuring, not Jesus himself, but the disciples. (Compare on Matthew 9:14) On probably a later occasion Jesus himself excited the same complaint.

Matthew 15:2. The tradition of the elders. The word rendered 'tradition' signifies that which is passed along, or given from one to another. It is sometimes applied by Paul to teachings handed over by him to the churches for their observance. (2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 11:2) But here and in Galatians 1:14, Colossians 2:8, it denotes things handed down from generation to generation, which is what we mean by the similar Latin word tradition. It is a favourite evasion of Roman Catholic controversialists to confound these two senses of the term. The word 'elders' here means not officials, but the men of former times. (Hebrews 11:2, and compare Matthew 5:21) The immense mass of traditions which the later Jews so reverenced, were held by them to consist partly of oral laws given by Moses in addition to the written law—which they supposed to be referred to in Deuteronomy 4:14; partly of decisions made from time to time by the judges, (Deuteronomy 17:9 ff.) and which became precedent and authority; and partly of the explanations and opinions of eminent teachers, given individually or sometimes by the vote of assemblies. These oral traditions continued to accumulate after the time of Christ till they were written down in the Mishna and its commentaries. (See on "Matthew 3:7".) They were highly esteemed by all of the nation, except the Sadducees. Indeed some reckoned them more important than the written law. The Talmud of Jerusalem says, "The words of the Scribes are more lovely than the words of the law; for the words of the law are weighty and light, but the words of the Scribes are all weighty." And the Talmud somewhere declares that it is a greater crime to "transgress the words of the school of Hillel" than the law. So again: "My son, attend to the words of the scribes, more than to the words of the law." In this as in so many respects Judaism has coloured the Christianity of the Church of Rome, which teaches the observance of numerous traditions professedly coming from early times, and some of them from the apostles, though these often directly violate the spirit, and even the letter, of Scripture. Among Protestants also there is sometimes greater solicitude for the observance of custom than of Scripture; and more emphasis laid on "the rule of the church" than on the law of God. They wash not their hands. It is worth while to distinguish several Greek words which our English Versions render 'wash.' (1) Nipto, used only of washing some part of the body, as the face, hands, feet; found in Matthew 6:17, Matthew 15:2; (Mark 7:3) Matthew 27:24 (compound); John 9:7, John 9:15, John 13:5, John 13:14; 1 Timothy 5:10. (2) Brecho, to wet, moisten, sprinkle, and hence commonly to rain; found in Luke 7:38, Luke 7:44. (3)Pluno, used especially of washing clothes and the like; found in Luke 5:2, Revelation 7:14. (4) Lukevo, to bathe, or wash the whole body; found in John 13:10, "he that is bathed (lone), needeth not save to wash (nipto) his feet;" also in Acts 9:37, Acts 16:33, Acts 22:16 (compound); 1 Corinthians 6:11 (compound); Hebrews 10:22, 2 Peter 2:22, Revelation 1:5 , and a noun derived from it in Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5. (5) Baptizo, to immerse, dip (see on "Matthew 3:6") is rendered wash in, Mark 7:4, Luke 11:38, and a noun derived from it in Mark 7:4, Hebrews 9:10, in all which places the idea is that of immersion. Mark, who wrote especially for Gentile readers, here paused (Mark 7:3 f.) to give details about the scrupulous and elaborate purifications of the singular Jewish people.(1) This ceremonial hand-washing before eating, the Rabbis tried to support by Leviticus 15:11. It very naturally arose, along with the similar washing after the meal, from the fact that the ancients habitually ate with their fingers. At a later period a third washing was practised by some persons, in the course of the meal The Mishna (Berachoth 8, 1) mentions a difference between Hilleland Shammai as to whether one must wash the hands before or after filling the glasses. The Talmud shows that hand-washing was reckoned a matter of high importance. Some Rabbis declare the neglect of it to be as bad as licentiousness or other gross crimes. One said,"It is better to go four miles to water than to incur guilt by neglecting hand-washing"; and a story is told of the famous Rabbi Akiba that when imprisoned, and having his allowance of water reduced, he took what little there was to wash his hands before eating, instead of drinking it, saying that he had rather die than transgress the institutions of his ancestors.

Matthew 15:3-6. Before proceeding to the great principle (Matthew 15:11) involved in his justification of the disciples for neglect of the hand-washing, our Lord retorts upon the Pharisees and Scribes their charge of "transgression." (Compare the ad hominem argument in Matthew 12:27) Why do ye also transgress, and that not a mere tradition of men, but the commandment of God by (because of) your tradition? 'By your tradition' does not correctly render the Greek. They had said 'the tradition of the elders,' but he says simply your tradition; no matter what was its origin, they were now making it the occasion of transgressing the law of God. This charge he proves by an example, not connected with hand-washing or other purifications, but drawn from a most sacred duty, as acknowledged by mankind, and enjoined in a peculiarly solemn command (Ephesians 6:2) of God's law. Our Lord himself declared (Matthew 10:37, Luke 14:26) that his service is above filial duty; but (Plumptre) he claimed supernatural authority, which the Scribes did not claim. For God said, the true reading, was easily changed by copyists into for God commanded, saying, because 'the commandment' had just been mentioned. The first clause is quoted from Exodus 20:12, the second from Exodus 21:17, both taken from the Sept., and correctly translating the Hebrew, The second was introduced to show that this command which they practically annulled was one of the highest importance, since the penalty of its violation, among the Hebrews, was to be death without fail. Compare very strong language on the subject in Deuteronomy 27:16, Proverbs 20:20, Proverbs 30:17. He that curseth; speaketh evil of, or 'reviles,' is the exact rendering; 'curses' would be a different Greek word. The Hebrew means primarily 'belittle,' 'make light of,' and derivatively 'curse.' So the command is very broad. Let him die the death, or better, let him surely die (margin Rev. Ver.), the form of expression being much used in the Old Testament, and oftener denoting the certainty than the severity of the punishment. The connection here shows that we must honour parents not merely in our feelings but by our acts; see similar uses of "honour" in Proverbs 8:9; 1 Timothy 5:3. And the Jews recognized this duty. Sirach 8:8,"Honour thy father and mother both in word and deed"; Talm. Jerus.: "A son is bound to nourish his father, yea, to beg for him." The case here supposed is of a needy parent, requiring help from the son, which he refuses on grounds justified by tradition. But ye say, 'ye' being expressed in the original, and thus strongly emphatic. It is a bad position for men to occupy, when what they say is directly opposed to what God says. By whatsoever (or that wherewith) thou mightest be (have been) profited by me, is a general expression, covering all sorts of cases, and is often found in the Talmud (Lf., Edersheim) in connection with this same subject. Is a gift, or perhaps 'let it be a gift,' the Greek having no copula. 'A gift' evidently means a gift to God, and Mark (Mark 7:11) presents the Hebrew word Corban, which the Talmud shows they were accustomed to employ in such cases, denoting an offering, anything dedicated to God, or donated for the use of the temple. The Peshito has the same word in Matt., and it is used in Matthew 27:6 to denote the 'treasury,' the aggregate of all such offerings. If a man' s father or mother wanted any article from him—it might be food or clothing, or what not-be could just say, Corban, it is a gift, a thing consecrated to God, (compare Leviticus 27:9, Leviticus 27:16) and he was then, according to the traditional rules, not only at liberty to withhold it from his parent, but solemnly bound to do so. The Mishna ("Vows," 9, 1) tells of a former discussion as to whether a vow could be set aside through regard for parents, and all but one Rabbi declared in the negative. The Jews reached this conclusion by arguing that vows, as they had respect to God, were more important than things pertaining to men; and hence that devoting a thing to God was sufficient to set aside the highest obligation, even that to one's parents. Here was a correct principle, greatly abused in the application. We learn from the Talmud, which has copious directions on this subject, that a man was not bound, after saying Corban, actually to dedicate the article in the temple, but might keep it indefinitely for his own use, or might give it to some other person, only not to the one had in mind when he made the vow. Corban might therefore be said just for the nonce, as an excuse for withholding; and with people as 'money-loving' as the Pharisees, (Luke 16:14) the license thus offered would often be shamefully abused. Even more; it appears from the Talmud that a man might not merely say Corban with reference to any particular object, but might say it once for all, as applying to everything which he possessed, and that one word spoken in passion or greed, would make it impossible that he should ever do anything for the person in question, though it were his parent. We are told of a son in Bethhoron who had taken such a vow against his father, and afterwards wishing to supply the father's need, donated his own house and dinner to a friend on condition that his father should share the dinner; but the friend immediately declared the house and meal sacred to heaven, and so the scheme failed. Mishna ("Vows," 5, 6). The Talmud mentions various ingenious expedients for evading Corban and other vows, when one afterwards changed his mind. Several Fathers state that a Jewish creditor could constrain an ugly debtor by saying "what you owe me is Corban," and so it had to be paid, as a debt to God. From all this we see how monstrous were the practices to which our Lord was referring. It is lamentable to think that they have been rivalled by teachings of modern Jesuits.

There is some difficulty as to the Greek text and the meaning in the latter part of Matthew 27:5 and Matthew 27:6. The best supported text most naturally yields the meaning given by Rev. Ver., (see Moulton in Winer, p. 750); viz., you, according to your tradition, virtually say that when he has once for all made this vow he is not to honour his father.(1) The 'not' is a strong doubled negative. If 'and' be retained, then something must be silently supplied. But it cannot be as in Com. Ver., because 'honour' is certainly future. It must be somehow so: whoever says to his father or his mother, 'that wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is given to God,' is not bound by the law, but must observe his vow in preference; (compare Mark 7:12) what follows giving the consequence, 'and (thus) he will not honour his father,' as the law requires him to do. The general thought is the same upon both interpretations. Have ye made void God's authoritative word, and not merely transgressed it (Matthew 15:3).—A practice somewhat similar to this Corban vow of the Jews formerly existed in the Sandwich Islands. Barnes: "The chiefs and priests had the power of devoting anything to the service of the gods by saying that it was tabu, i.e., consecrated to the service of religion; and no matter who had been the owner, it could then be appropriated to no other use." From this Polynesian usage comes our word taboo, to forbid all intercourse with a certain person or use of a certain thing.

Matthew 15:7-9. Hypocrites, see on "Matthew 6:2". They made great pretence of devotion to God, and insisted strenuously on the externals of his service, while at heart they did not love him, and were even ready to set aside his express commands for the sake of their traditions. The persons particularly addressed were from Jerusalem, (Matthew 15:1) and an early Rabbi is related to have said that "there are ten parts of hypocrisy in the world, nine at Jerusalem, and one in the whole world." This seems to be the first instance of our Lord's openly denouncing the Pharisees, as we shall often find him doing hereafter. The strong denunciations of Luke 11-12, are much better placed at a later period, according to the harmonistic arrangement of Wieseler, followed by Tischendorf's "Synopsis" and Clark's "Harm." (Compare on Matthew 12:22) Well, i.e., finely, aptly, with admirable appropriateness, (compare Matthew 13:14) Yet our Lord does not simply say that he finds the words of Isaiah to his contemporaries exactly applicable to these persons, and himself makes the application, but he says, Well did Esaias (Isaiah) prophesy concerning you. Isaiah spoke directly to the men of his own time, but his words were also I designed by the Spirit of inspiration to refer to the contemporaries of Messiah. For 'Isaiah,' instead of the changed Greek form Esaias, see on "Matthew 1:2". The citation is from Isaiah 29:13. The words in common Greek text, draweth nigh unto me with their mouthy and are not genuine here, but were added from the Sept.(1) Matthew quotes from the Sept. as he oftenest does, and here in Isaiah 29:9 departs considerably from the Hebrew, which reads, "and their fear towards me is the commandment of men, (a thing) taught," i.e., their piety is merely a lesson they have learned from men, and not a thing learned from and conformed to the word of God. For this the Sept. has, "but in vain do they worship me, teaching precepts of men and teachings." (As to the difference between Hebrew and Septuagint, compare Toy.) Matthew and Mark (Mark 7:7) have slightly modified the Septuagint into 'teaching teachings (which are) precepts of men.' This not only improves the phraseology of the Sept., but brings out the prophet's thought mere clearly than would be done by a literal translation of the Hebrew, for Isaiah means to distinguish between a worship of God that is taught by men, and that which is according to the teaching of God's word. As to quoting Sept. instead of Hebrew, see on "Matthew 3:3"; and as to verbal changes to bring out the sense more plainly, compare on Matthew 2:6. For the different words rendered 'teaching,' see on "Matthew 7:28". Instead of commandments, Rev. Ver. here uses 'precepts' (as in Tyn., Cram, Gen.), because the Greek word is somewhat different from that of Matthew 7:3, though substantially equivalent. In vain, i.e., it is not acceptable to God, nor profitable for themselves. So at the present day many persons claim a divine authority for ideas and practices which are simply of human origin (compare on Matthew 15:2). We are not only under no obligation to conform to these, but it is our duty to oppose them wherever they tend to the violation or neglect of God's commandments. It must also be remembered that our common human nature is very prone to be intent upon the forms of religion and neglect its spirit; to honour God with the lips, while the heart is far from him.

Matthew 15:10 f. When he retorted their question upon themselves, (Matthew 15:3) it was not for the purpose of avoiding an answer, and he now publicly proclaims a principle which goes to the heart of the matter. Called (unto him) the multitude, or crowd, the mass of the people, as distinguished from the Pharisees and Scribes, who had pressed up around him. He wished all to hear what he was about to say; and in fact the crowd were more likely to receive it than the others, being less prejudiced and sophisticated. Hear, and understand. It was something important, and demanded attentive consideration. The disciples presently called it a 'parable', (Matthew 15:15) yet he was not now employing obscure expressions as a judgment, (Matthew 13:18) but with great desire that all (Mark 7:14) should understand. And they must not merely hear, but understand; for he will not recite decisions and opinions of the ancients, as the Scribes did, but will speak by his own authority, (Matthew 7:29) directly to the understanding and conscience of the people. Defileth a (the) man, i.e., the man concerned in any particular case. So in the second clause, and in Matthew 15:18, Matthew 15:20. Tyn., Cran, and Gen. give the article in Matthew 15:11 and Matthew 15:18, but not in Matthew 15:20; King James gives it only in Matthew 15:18. The word rendered 'defileth' is literally, makes common. Some kinds of food were specially set apart, as alone proper for God's chosen people, and were thus in a certain sense sacred, all other things being 'common'; (Acts 10:14) for an Israelite to partake of these forbidden things would destroy his exclusiveness, make him common. Hence 'to make common' came to mean to defile, pollute. This saying of Jesus was to the Jews in the highest degree surprising, paradoxical, revolutionary. (compare Matthew 12:8) They saw at once that it applied not merely to hand washing, but to the whole matter of clean and unclean food, and this seemed to them one of the most vital parts of the law. So they knew not what to make of the saying, "Not what goes into the mouth defiles the man, but what comes out of it." The Pharisees stumbled at such a saying, could not admit the divine mission of one who uttered it, (Matthew 15:12) and even the disciples failed to understand it. (Matthew 15:15 f.) Ceremonially, various things did defile by entering the mouth; but this was only designed to represent the idea of moral pollution, while the great mass of the Jews, however scrupulous about the representative purity, were careless of the inward purity. Our Lord therefore, by this saying directs attention to the internal and real impurity. Here, as with reference to the Sabbath, (Matthew 12:1 ff.) and to so many points in the Sermon on the Mount, he is leading the people to deeper and more spiritual views of the morality which the law designed to teach, and thus not abrogating or correcting, but 'completing' the law. (Matthew 5:17) His teachings did prepare the way for laying aside the ceremonies of the law, but this only by developing it into something higher. Accordingly, he does not abrogate the Mosaic directions about unclean food, but lays down a general principle applying to the point in hand, (Matthew 15:20) and really covering the whole matter, though not now further applied. Many things taught in principle by Jesus, were to be fully developed by his inspired followers, as men should become prepared to understand them. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:31, Romans 14:14 ff.; 1 Timothy 4:4, Titus 1:15. Besides educating the Israelites to the appreciation of moral purity, the law about clean and unclean food was also designed to keep the chosen people separate from other nations, and so Peter was taught to set it aside when the time came for preaching freely among the Gentiles. (Acts 10:9 ff.)

Matthew 15:12-14. This is found in Matthew only. It appears that the conversation occurred after Jesus and his immediate followers had retired from the crowd into a house. (Mark 7:17) There had thus been a little interval since the saying of Matthew 15:11 was uttered, and the disciples had heard how the Pharisees were talking about it. They felt that the opinions of these distinguished men from Jerusalem (Matthew 15:1) were very important. Knowest thou. It seemed likely that he did not, or he would be hastening to explain and thus recover the sympathy of such important hearers. Were offended (see on "Matthew 5:29"), made to stumble, finding an obstacle to their believing reception of Jesus' teachings (as in Matthew 11:6). When they heard this (the) saying, not that of Matthew 15:3-9 (Fritz. and others), but the great saying of Matthew 15:11, addressed to the crowd, but heard by the Pharisees also (Mey., Block, Weiss, and others). The Pharisees doubtless declared the saying to be in direct opposition to the law about clean and unclean food. The disciples themselves looked upon it as extremely obscure and strange, (Matthew 15:15) and sympathized not a little with the prejudices involved. Our Lord's reply is to the effect that it matters not what such men think, whose authority is merely human, and who are as blind as the multitude they lead. Every plant, etc. Every doctrine which did not come from God, which is of merely human origin, (Matthew 15:9) will lose its influence and cease to be believed. My heavenly Father, see on "Matthew 6:9". Let them alone, i.e., do not trouble yourselves about them, as to what they teach, or whether they approve my teaching. The Great Teacher did not expect, and did not try, to please all his hearers. Such as were blinded by prejudice, hardened in unbelief, or wilful in their opposition, could only be let alone. They be (are) blind leaders, guides (oldest Greek MSS. and some versions) was easily enlarged by adding of the blind from the immediately following expression. 'Guides' (Rheims) is a more exact translation than 'leaders' (Wyc., Tyn., and followers). If the blind lead (guide) the blind. Both Greek words are singular and indefinite, 'if a blind man guide a blind man,' but the definite form makes a smoother English expression. It seems likely from Romans 2:19, that guide of the blind was a common designation of the Rabbis. Both shall (will) fall late the ditch (a pit), the same word as in Matthew 12:11, and denoting (Liddell and Scott) a pit dug in the field to hold water, as was very common. The word is rendered 'pit' by Tyn., Cram, Gen., and Com. Ver., in Matthew 12:11, but here they all adopted 'ditch,' probably from supposing the image to be that of the ditch beside a road. But the word does not mean ditch, and the image is that of blind persons walking in the open field, and falling into a pit—a much more serious calamity. This saying has tile air of a proverb, such as our Lord repeatedly employed (see on "Matthew 7:5"), and it had already been used by him in the Sermon on the Mount. (Luke 6:39) Various similar sayings are found in classical writers. (Wet.)

Matthew 15:15. Then answered Peter, not a specific reply to what Jesus had just said, but in a general sense a response, keeping up the conversation. (See on "Matthew 11:25".) Peter's expression, declare unto us, shows by the plural that he speaks for all, and Jesus in reply says 'ye.' (Compare Mark 7:17) Peter is therefore spokesman for the Twelve, as he so often is. (See on "Matthew 16:18".) This (the) parable; here copyists readily changed 'the' into 'this.' The word here denotes an obscure expression. (See on "Matthew 13:13".) The reference is not to the figurative saying of Matthew 15:14, called in Luke 6:39 a parable, but to Matthew 15:11, already spoken of in Matthew 15:12 as 'the saying.' This is plain from our Lord's reply, and confirmed by the connection in Mark 7:15-17, who has not given the intermediate matter of Matthew 15:13 f., and with whom 'the parable' must necessarily refer to the great saying.

Matthew 15:16-20. And Jesus(strictly he) said, the copyists inserting 'Jesus,' as in Matthew 14:14 and often. Are ye also, as well as the masses and the Pharisees. Yet. The Greek has a strong word, not elsewhere used in the New Testament, but which in later Greek has even yet as a well-established meaning; 'even yet,' after all the instruction you have received, compare Matthew 16:9, Hebrews 5:12. He had not given any instruction that we know of on this particular subject, but his teachings in Matthew 5 and Matthew 13, and his general influence, ought to have prepared them to take spiritual views of things. In Matthew 15:17, do ye not yet understand (or perceive), was strengthened by copyists by introducing 'yet,' because of the expression in Matthew 15:16, and perhaps with a reminiscence of Matthew 16:9. 'Perceive' (Tyn., Gen.) is here better than 'understand' (Wyc., Cran., Rheims, Com. Ver.), in order to distinguish from the different Greek word used in Matthew 15:10 and Matthew 15:16. The Jews had come very largely to confound ceremonial with moral defilement. To correct this confusion of ideas, our Lord points out that articles of food cannot really pollute, because they pass through the body and out of it, and do not 'enter the heart', (Mark 7:19) cannot affect the spiritual nature; but the sinful things which are uttered through the mouth, and proceed from the heart, constitute a real pollution. Compare on Matthew 15:11. Into the belly. The Greek signifies the whole hollow, or internal cavity of the body, including stomach and other viscera; and the English word formerly had a similar latitude of meaning. Into the draught, (2 Kings 10:27) sink, or privy (Rheims), literally, place for sitting apart. Mark adds (Mark 7:19) that by this saying Jesus cleansed all articles of food, i.e., declared them to be clean. (Acts 10:15) With Matthew 15:18 compare on Matthew 12:34 f. In Matthew 15:19 our Lord does not confine himself absolutely to such things as are spoken, in order to keep up the contrasted image, but passes to the more general notion of whatever comes forth from the heart, has its origin from within us. There is, therefore, no occasion for inquiring, as some do, how speech has to do with all the forms of sin here mentioned. Mark (Mark 7:18-23) does not mention the mouth, but only the more general idea of entering and coming forth from the man, the heart. We have seen on Matthew 6:21 and elsewhere, that the heart was conceived of by the Hebrews, and is spoken of by the Bible, as the seat of thought and volition as well as of emotion. After the general phrase evil thoughts, our Lord speciates violations of the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth Commandments in order. Mark adds some other sins not mentioned by Matthew. The plural forms which Matthew has throughout (even 'false witnessings') remind us of the numerous instances and different varieties of these several sins. Blasphemies (see on "Matthew 9:3"); a literal translation of the Greek is in Rev. Ver. 'railings.' In English we confine it to railing against God. Philo Judaeus paraphrasing Plato, says that through the mouth "mortal things go in, but incorruptible things come out. For by it enter food and drink, the corruptible body's corruptible nourishment; but through the mouth words come forth, the immortal soul's immortal laws, through which the natural life is governed."

Matthew 15:20. This first sums up the previous discussion, and then connects it all with the starting point in Matthew 15:1. Our Lord has now not only denounced the Pharisees as hypocrites, (Matthew 15:7) but boldly antagonized their cardinal tenet of the authority of tradition. The conflict must inevitably wax fierce, and he soon begins to withdraw from their virulent opposition, and the fanaticism of his friends.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 15:3-6. Two oppositions. (1) Human tradition versus divine commandment. (a) Men are prone to make old religious usage an authority. It can claim respect, but not obedience. (b) Men often come to take more interest in long-established usage than in the express teaching of revelation—this through personal associations and through controversial heat. (c) Men sometimes practically alter a divine commandment to make it harmonize with established custom; the Saviour represents this as a grave sin. (Matthew 15:6.) (2) Ceremonial services versus moral duties. (a) Human nature naturally tends to be more interested in the external than in the moral and spiritual. Compare Matthew 23:23 ff.(b) To neglect a high moral duty for the sake of a mere religious usage, is to disgrace our religion.

Matthew 23:4. Honouring parents. (1) Honour them in your thoughts. (2) Honour them in your speech, Matthew 23:4. (latter part). (3) Honour them in your actions, Matthew 23:5 f. —Bengel: "Young people, notice." Henry: "That which men say, even great men, and learned men, and men in authority, must be examined by that which God saith."

Matthew 23:7-9. Hypocrisy, In the days of Isaiah, and of Jesus, and in our days. (1) Two forms of hypocrisy. (a) Religious talk without religious character. (Matthew 15:8.) (b) Human precepts put in place of divine commands. (Matthew 15:9.) (2) The successes of hypocrisy. (a) It may deceive men—other persons—even the hypocrite himself. (b) It never deceives God—it is "in vain," (Matthew 15:9).

Matthew 23:10 f. Preaching to the people. (1) The common people are often more ready to receive new religious ideas than the teaching class, Matthew 23:10; compare Matthew 15:12 ff. (2) The greatest of religious teachers had to ask special attention when giving strange and unpalatable instruction, Matthew 15:10. (3) Even he was imperfectly understood by some (Matthew 15:16), and found fault with by others. (Matthew 15:12.) (4) Yet the common people heard him gladly, (Mark 12:37) and all that the Father gave him came unto him. (John 6:37) Henry: "Not only scholars, but even the multitude, the ordinary people, must apply their minds to understand the words of Christ—There is need of a great intention of mind and clearness of understanding, to free men from those corrupt principles and practices which they have been bred up in and long accustomed to; for in that case the understanding is commonly bribed and biased by prejudice."

Matthew 15:11. Many sayings of Jesus that were revolutionary at the time are now Christian common places—this fact is a ground for rejoicing.

Matthew 15:11. Pollution. (1) Ceremonial defilement was but an object lesson, a symbol of polluted character; and so ceremonial purity of moral purity. (2) Evil thoughts and desires arise from a polluted nature, and their expression in speech or action pollutes the whole being, Matthew 15:18 f. (3) Evil environment endangers character, but pure character can conquer the worst environment.

Matthew 15:12-14. Blind guides. (1) Long-established religious teachers may meet new truth with blind prejudice, Matthew 15:12. (2) Highly popular religious teachings may have no divine approval or support, Matthew 15:13. (3) Greatly honoured religious instructors may be but the blind guiding the blind, Matthew 15:14. (4) Plausible objections from distinguished sources must sometimes be quite disregarded, Matthew 15:13. Chrys.: "It is a great evil merely to be blind, but for a man to be in such a case and have none to lead him, nay, to occupy the place of a guide, is a double and triple ground of censure. For if it be a dangerous thing for the blind man not to have a guide, much more so that he should even desire to be guide to another."

Matthew 15:16. Ignorance of Christian truth is blameworthy, (1) in any ono who has opportunity to know, (2) especially in a Christian, (3) most of all in one who has long been a Christian, and has had superior advantages for learning.

Matthew 15:20. Origen: "It is not eating with unwashed hands, but, if one may use so bold an expression, it is eating with an unwashed heart, that defiles a man." Chrys.: "Even in the church we see such a custom prevailing amongst the generality, and men giving diligence to come in clean garments, and to have their hands washed; but how to present a clean soul to God, they make no account."


Verses 1-29


Matthew 5-7. Sermon On The Mount.

General Introduction To The Sermon On The Mount

The discourse in Matthew 5-7 is well known by the traditional name of The Sermon on the Mount. Several general questions in regard to it require to be answered.

(1) Unity of the discourse. Some contend that we cannot, or need not, suppose Jesus to have spoken on a single occasion all that Matthew here gives, but that he has grouped together things said at different times, for the purpose of furnishing a comprehensive exhibition of our Saviour's teachings. This they argue partly from the fact that many things contained in the discourse as given by Matthew are recorded by Luke, and even by Matthew himself, as said on other occasions (see on Matthew 5:13, Matthew 5:15, Matthew 5:18, Matthew 5:25, Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:32, Matthew 6:9, Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:24-25, Matthew 7:2, Matthew 7:7, Matthew 7:17, Matthew 7:23), and partly from the manifest design on Matthew's part to compose not so much a chronological narrative as a historical argument, in which things are so arranged as to bring out the points he wishes to make prominent. But in grouping the miracles of Matthew 8-9, he does not at all say that they occurred in that order, nor that the discourse of Matthew 5-7 preceded them all; while he does distinctly say that this discourse was delivered on a single occasion (compare Matthew 5:1, and Matthew 8:1), and if the facts were otherwise his account of the matter would be definitely erroneous, which cannot be admitted until it is proven. And as to the occurrence of similar sayings elsewhere, why may we not suppose that our Lord would repeat substantially the same sayings? It would have been very unnatural had he not done that which is freely practised by all travelling teachers, and which, apart from any question as to the speaker's resources, is really demanded by the similarity in the condition and wants of different audiences. And we have abundant evidence, from passages having no connection with the Sermon on the Mount, that he frequently made such repetitions, with greater or less variation of statement, and particularly in the case of brief, pithy sayings, such as would naturally be introduced in different connections, and of very important doctrines and exhortations, such as various audiences would alike need. e. g.,"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9; "Except ye become as little children, "etc., Matthew 18:3; Matthew 19:14, and add the repeated inculcation of humility in other ways, Matthew 20:26, John 13:13 ff.; Luke 12:24 ff. (Compare also Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14.) "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed," etc., Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21; Luke 17:6. "Whosoever shall confess me," etc., Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8, Luke 9:26; . "The servant is not greater than his Lord," Matthew 10:24, Luke 6:40, John 18:16, John 15:20; in the last of which passages Jesus refers to his having told them the same thing before, as he does also in John 13:33. (Compare John 7:34, John 8:21) "He that finds his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it," Matthew 10:38-39, Matthew 16:24 f.; Luke 17:33; John 12:25. See also the image of taking up the cross and following him, in Matthew 10:38, Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:27; Mark 10:21. With such facts before us, it is manifest that the recurrence in other connections of particular ideas and expressions which appear in this discourse, is no proof that it was not all delivered on the occasion before us. Thus both the supposed reasons fail, and we have no ground for setting aside the view which an unprejudiced reader of Matthew would naturally adopt, that he has recorded what was actually spoken by Jesus as he sat on the Mount. It is not said that nothing else was spoken; and the supposition that Matthew's report is somewhat condensed (as often in the Gospels), will account for the apparent lack of connection in some places (see on Matthew 7:1-12), and for the rapid succession of separate points, which some have thought (Bleek) that a miscellaneous out-door audience could hardly follow or retain. Neander: "The discourse is made up of many sententious passages, calculated separately to impress the memory of the hearers, and remain as fruitful germs in their hearts; but, on the other hand, bound together as parts of an organic whole."

(2) Is this the same discourse as that given by Luke, in Luke 6:20-49? They are held to be different discourses by Augustine, after him by nearly all writers till the Reformation (Bleek), and by a few writers since, as Erasmus, Doddridge, Macknight, Alexander, Lange, G. W. Clark, Coleridge, Plumptre; some of these thinking the two were delivered on the same day, and others with a longer interval. They are taken as different reports of the same discourse by Origen and Chrys., by Calvin, and by almost all recent expositors. In favour of this view are the obvious facts that the two begin and end exactly alike, and nearly everything which Luke gives is also given by Matthew; and that both are immediately followed by the record of the same events, viz., the entrance into Capernaum and the healing of the centurion's servant. The objections (well stated in Clark's Harm.) rest on supposed differences of place, time, circumstances, and contents. (a) But Luke (Luke 6:17) does not say 'stood in the plain,' but 'stood on a level place,' which might very naturally be a bit of level ground, or a narrow plain in the mountain region, exactly what is found at the traditional place (see on Matthew 5:1).(1) (b) As to the time and circumstances, Luke's discourse follows the choice of the Twelve, and Matthew's seems to come earlier, soon after the beginning of the ministry in Galilee. But Matthew's arrangement in Matthew 8-13, is obviously topical rather than chronological, and so it is natural that without saying at what precise period of the ministry it was spoken, he should give at the outset this great discourse, which would set before his Jewish readers the relation of Jesus' teaching to the law of Moses, and the true nature of the Messianic reign. (See the connection traced on Matthew 4:12) And if the events preceding the discourse seem different in Matthew, it must be observed that he does not at all state just when the discourse was delivered. (e) As to contents, Luke omits the large portions (Matthew 5:17-37, and Matthew 6:1-18) which were specially important and interesting to Jews, but less so to the Gentile readers whom Luke had chiefly in view; and also omits some portions, probably because he gives substantially the same thing elsewhere, as said by our Lord on other occasions (e. g., Matthew 6:9-18, Luke 11:2-4, Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:22-31) We thus account for every omission of any great importance. There are various other instances also (as in Matthew 10, 11, 18, 25) in which Matthew has recorded an extensive discourse of which Mark or Luke gives only a part. Some conclude from these examples that Matthew was quite in the habit of collecting into one discourse many things said at different times; but the facts do not in any of the cases require this view, and therefore do not justify it, since we must take for granted, unless the contrary has been proven, the inspired apostles' accuracy. At the same time we may suppose that Matthew has here given, at least in some places, only a summary report of what was said, for he has several times omitted matters which Luke records (e. g., compare Matthew 5:12 with Luke 6:23-26; Matthew 5:47; with Luke 6:33-35, Luke 7:12 with Luke 6:31-40) In regard to the general fact that the Evangelists sometimes differ as to details in reporting the same saying, see on "Matthew 3:17".

(3) Design of the discourse. Our Lord had been proclaiming, (Matthew 4:17) as John had done before him, that the reign of heaven was near, and that therefore the people ought to repent. In this discourse he sets forth the characteristics of those who are to be subjects of this reign and share the privileges connected with it, and urges upon them various duties. In particular, he clearly exhibits the relation of his teachings to the moral law, in order to correct any notion that he proposed to set the law aside, or to relax its rigor, when, on the contrary he came to inculcate not merely an external but a deeply spiritual morality. It is a strange fancy of some that Jesus was a revolutionary reformer, overturning existing ideas and institutions to substitute his own, when he himself expressly declares the contrary (see on "Matthew 5:17"). Neander: "The connected system of truths unfolded in this discourse was intended to exhibit to the people the kingdom of God as the aim of the Old Dispensation; as the consummation for which that dispensation prepared the way. The Sermon on the Mount, therefore, forms the point of transition from the Law to the Gospel; Christianity is exhibited in it as Judaism spiritualized and transfigured." Regarded as addressed especially to the Twelve, it becomes the great opening lecture in a course of instruction by which they were to he fitted for their work as his witnesses and representatives; just as the farewell discourse of John 14-17 may be called (Bernard) the closing lecture. It is quite an error if men expect to find in the discourse an epitome either of Christian doctrine or of Christian ethics. Many of the distinguishing and fundamental doctrines of Christianity were never distinctly and fully taught by the Saviour himself, because men could not understand them till after the great facts on which they rest, his death, resurrection, and ascension, had taken place. And while he here teaches us many weighty and precious lessons for the proper conduct of life, they are by no means presented as a complete system of morals, but seem to be introduced chiefly as contributing to, or incidentally connected with, the discussion of his great theme, the nature and requirements of the Messianic reign. It is therefore very unwise and presumptuous to single out this one discourse and propose to live by it, in disregard of the further teachings of Christ and his apostles. True, he here gives a single precept, (Matthew 7:12) which he lays 'is the law and the prophets.' But that no more warrants the neglect of everything beyond this discourse, than the closing precept 'Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the all of man,' would warrant us m neglecting the Old Testament for the one Book of Ecclesiastes. He who spoke the Sermon on the Mount has also said, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,' and 'even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should riot perish, but have eternal life,' and he in departing promised his apostles the Holy Spirit to 'lead them into all the truth,' and set them before the world as authoritative teachers of Christian doctrine and duty. It is not honouring the Sermon on the Mount, or its Author, to represent this as all that met. need, seeing he has given us much more.

The unrivalled beauties of our Lord's thought and style, the lofty simplicity, the charming freshness and perfect naturalness, the familiar and vivid illustration, the pointed and sometimes paradoxical and startling statement, which even when imperfectly understood could never be forgotten, the sublime elevation of sentiment, and the inimitable tone which marks all his teachings, shine conspicuous in this address, which is sweet to the heart of a child, and before which the noblest intellects in every age have bowed in devout admiration. Well might Daniel Webster say, in the inscription he left for his tomb, "My heart has always assured and re-assured me, that the gospel of Jesus Christ must be a divine reality. The Sermon on the Mount cannot be a merely human production."(1)

(4) Analysis. The discourse, as given by Matthew, admits of being analyzed in various ways, the connection being less obvious in some places, and the arrangement of the whole being very simple and inartificial. The following analysis may be useful, though we must take care not to draw too broadly the lines of division between the different sections.

I. Characteristics and privileges of the subjects of the Messianic reign, Matthew 5:3-12.

II. Their influence and responsibility, Matthew 5:13-16.

III. Relation of Christ's mission to the Moral Law, Matthew 5:17-48.

1. This relation stated in general, Matthew 5:17-19.

2. Superiority of the morality he enjoined to that taught and practised by the Scribes and Pharisees, Matthew 5:20-48. Illustrated by reference to murder, etc. (Matthew 5:21-26), adultery and divorce (Matthew 5:27-32), oaths (Matthew 5:33-37), requital of injuries (Matthew 5:38-42), love of enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

IV. Good works to be performed out of regard to God's approval rather than man's, Matthew 6:1-18, e.g., alms-giving (Matthew 6:2-4), prayer (Matthew 6:5-15), fasting (Matthew 6:16-18.)

V. Single-hearted devotion to God, as opposed to worldly aims and anxieties, Matthew 6:19-34.

VI. Censoriousness must be avoided, Matthew 7:1-6.

VII. Encouragement to pray to God for strength to fulfill this and all the preceding requirements, Matthew 7:7-11.

VIII. General principle or rule, which sums up all the (moral) teachings of the discourse, and of the Old Testament, Matthew 7:12.

IX. Concluding exhortations to practice as well as hear and profess, Matthew 7:13-27.


Verses 13-16

Matthew 5:13-16.
Influence And Responsibility Of The Subjects Of Messiah's Reign

The influence and consequent responsibility of Christ's disciples (see Analysis in the Introduction to this discourse) are here exhibited by means of two figures, salt and light. The general thought is that they have a great work to do, and persecution (Matthew 5:10-12) must not cause them to neglect it. Several of the characteristics just ascribed to them, as meek, peacemakers, persecuted for righteousness' sake, pertain to their relation to others, and qualify for useful exertions and influence.

Matthew 5:13. As salt preserves things from corruption and decay, so it is the office of Christians to preserve the mass of mankind from utter moral corruption and ruin. Some bring in also the idea of salt as seasoning—that Christians are to save life from being stale and flat—but this seems strained, and little in harmony with the general tone of the discourse Others say (Grimm) that salt of the earth must mean some saline fertilizing material, but this is forbidden by the next clause.—There is no propriety in restricting the saying to ministers, as is done by some Fathers, by Romanists in general, and by Calvin, Gill, and others. Jesus meant the 'disciples' (Matthew 5:1) as distinguished from the world in general, but not particularly the Twelve; certainly Matthew cannot have so Understood, as he has not yet mentioned the Twelve; and nobody thinks the Beatitudes were addressed to the Twelve more than other disciples (notice the 'you' in Matthew 5:11, Matthew 5:12.). A minister's calling gives him special influence, but so will another disciple's wealth, social or official position, talents, attainments, etc.—Notice (Mey.) how the expressions used for mankind correspond to the images; the salt of the earth, the mass of mankind to be penetrated and preserved; the light of the world, the expanse over which it is to shine. Ye is expressed in the Greek and so is emphatic (in Matthew 5:14 also). You, the often poor, persecuted (Matthew 5:10-12), are of great importance to the world, end must fulfil your duty to it. Are. Already true of the disciples addressed, and a permanent fact as to Christ's disciples in general.

But this high office of Christians is by no means to become an occasion for spiritual pride; rather does our Lord proceed to show the evils of failing to exert the salutary influence in question. Have lost his—rather its—savour, become tasteless. For 'its' instead of the old neuter possessive 'his,' see on "Matthew 24:32". The same idea is expressed in Mark 9:50, by 'lost his saltness.'(1) Until lately there was hardly satisfactory evidence (Schottgen) that this ever actually happens, and commentators generally held the expression to be a mere supposition. But Maundrell's statement (about A. D. 1690) that he found south of the Dead Sea masses of salt that had become tasteless, is now supported by Thomson: "It is a well-known fact that the salt of this country [Palestine], when in contact with the ground, or exposed to rain and sun, does become insipid and useless. From the manner in which it is gathered, much earth and other impurities are necessarily collected with it. Not a little of it is so impure that it cannot be used at all; and such salt soon effloresces and turns to dust-not to fruitful soil, however. It is not only good for nothing itself, but it actually destroys all fertility wherever it is thrown; and this is the reason why it is cast into the street." "The sweeping out of the spoiled salt and casting it into the street, are actions familiar to all men." See more fully in vol. ii., p. 361-3. The case supposed is thus seen to be one of actual and frequent occurrence. The application is obvious. Christians must perform their function, must really serve as salt to mankind, or they will be worthless and contemptible, and that irrecoverably. Some, (Luther, etc.), understand wherewith(2) shall it be salted, impersonally, with what shall salting then be done; but this is unsuitable to the connection, for it would require the next words to declare that there is no substitute for salt. In the similar expression of Mark (Mark 9:50) it is clearly personal; 'wherewith will you season—or, salt—it?' Maldonatus: "There is no salt for salt." Luke (Luke 14:34) gives the same image as used in a different connection. Good for nothing, literally, has no force or efficacy. Those who employ our Lord's image here in support of the idea that the regenerate may wholly "lose their religion," ought to observe that it would also teach that they can never recover it. In this case, as in others, a view of the mournful effects which would follow utter apostasy, is employed as one means of preserving from it. Our Lord's design is not negative but positive, to arouse his disciples to watchful diligence and persevering devotion. Many of the Jews who professed to be very religious, were orthodox and scrupulous without real piety, and the subjects of the reign must not be so.

Matthew 5:14. The same idea is here presented by a second image, which has a natural relation to the former. Pliny (Wet.): "To all bodies there is nothing more useful than salt and sun." Ye, emphatic, as in Matthew 5:13. Jesus elsewhere declares that he himself is the Light of the world. (John 8:12, John 9:5, John 12:35, 1 John 1:7 ff.) We of course understand that the light which his people emit is really derived from him. (Ephesians 5:8) In Philippians 2:15 they are compared to the heavenly luminaries; in John 5:35 the Baptist is called, literally, the burning and shining lamp'—which Jesus had probably said before he spoke the Sermon on the Mount. Here Christians are the light of the world, the source of spiritual light to it, as the sun (John 11:9) is of natural light. They are the light by means of which the world, the mass of mankind, may see the things of religion, may see the truth about God and his service. Compare Wisdom 4:26. "The multitude of the wise is the salvation of the world." Ep. to Diognetus, 6, "What soul is in body, this are Christians in the world." —Anything that gives light will be observed, and Christians, as being the light of the world, cannot escape observation if they would. But this thought is presented more forcibly by changing the figure. A city that is set on a hill—or mountain—cannot be hid, being thus seen distinctly, on all sides, and from a distance. Cities thus situated were not uncommon in Galilee—as in most other hilly countries in ancient times—and Jesus may perhaps have pointed to one while speaking; but it is idle to conjecture which one. The houses were often built (as they are now) of a very white limestone, which would make the city more distinctly visible. The thought plainly is, that Christians occupy of necessity a conspicuous position, and must be seen. To make it mean "the church," on Mount Zion (Stier, Keil, etc.), is utterly unnatural. There is still probably some reference to the persecutions spoken of in Matthew 5:11 f., which might make the faint-hearted desire to withdraw from observation.

Matthew 5:15. And Christians should not wish to avoid being observed, even if they could. Such was not the divine design in making them sources of light. Neither do men—literally they, impersonal as in Matthew 5:11. A—the—bushel, i. e., the one kept in the house. The Greek word (borrowed from Latin, as it was natural that Roman measures should become common in the provinces) denotes a measure containing about a peck; but it is better for us to retain the familiar term, the exact dimensions being of no importance to the idea, which is simply that of concealment, and is elsewhere expressed by putting the lamp under the bed. (Mark 4:21) 'Candle 'and' candlestick' are misleading, the thing meant being a lamp and a lamp-stand. Giveth light—or shines. The Greek word is the same as in the succeeding verse. Here, as often, the common version has obscured the connection by unnecessarily varying the terms. The fault began here with Tyndale, and was adopted by all his early successors except Rheims.—In Luke 8:16 and Luke 11:33 we find the same saying (slightly varied) used on other occasions and with a different application.

Matthew 5:16.Let your light so shine. As the lamp which is not hidden but set on the stand shines for all that are in the house, so let your light shine before men, that (in order that)(1) they may see, etc. The position of the words in the Greek (in which 'so' is the first word), shows the emphasis to be on 'so' and 'shine,' and 'so' signifies in the way suggested by the image of the preceding sentence. The incorrect position of 'so' in Com. Ver. (from Tyndale) encourages the erroneous idea that it means in such a way that (as the result) men may see, etc. Before. Not simply 'for men,' for their benefit, as in the preceding clause, but 'before men,' in their presence. That they may see..... and glorify. There is no propriety in saying that this is merely equivalent to 'that seeing.... they may glorify.' The passage teaches us to desire and design that men may see, because thus the higher object will be secured, their glorifying God. (Compare on Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:3, Matthew 6:4.) Ostentation of good works, which Jesus afterwards (Matthew 6:1) so severely condemns, would be like flaunting the lamp at the door, instead of simply setting it on its appropriate stand. The shining of the light consists in good works. (Compare Titus 3:8) In order thus to shine, the works must not merely be morally good (agatha as Romans 13:3), but also morally beautiful, (kala here and in 1 Peter 2:12), attracting the admiring attention of others. (Achelis.) He does not say 'may glorify you,' for the good works of God's children are all due to him, and hence the beholders ought not to praise them, but, to glorify their Father. (Compare Matthew 9:8; 1 Peter 2:12) For the phrase Father... in heaven, see on "Matthew 6:9". Alexander. "Thus the Saviour winds up this division of his great discourse, by leading his disciples through the homeliest and most familiar every-day analogies of common life, to the sublime and final end of all existence."

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 5:13. Those whom "society" despises (Matthew 5:11) may yet be indispensable to its highest welfare. Contempt and reviling must not prevent them from striving to exert a wholesome religious influence. But if professed Christians be useless, then are they really despicable. Trampled on, (a) undeservedly, (Matthew 5:11) (b) deservedly.—Henry: (Matthew 5:13) "Let God be glorified in the shame and rejection of those by whom he has been reproached, and who have made themselves fit for nothing but to be trampled upon."

Matthew 5:14. Christians a light to the world.

I. What may they show? (1) That Christianity is true. (2) That Christian piety is practicable. (3) That a life of piety is desirable.

II. How may they show it? (1) By what they say—in public—private. (2) By what they do, good works. (Matthew 5:16.)

Matthew 5:14-16. Piety shining. (1) A Christian cannot escape observation if he would—a city on a hill. (2) A Christian should not wish to hide his piety—the lamp under the bushel. (3) A Christian should show piety in natural and appropriate ways—the lamp on the lamp-stand. Christian should let his piety shine with no selfish aim, but for the good of man and the glory of God.

Matthew 5:15. Chrys.: "Nothing makes a man so illustrious as the manifestation of virtue; for he shines as if clad with sunbeams." Clem. Alex. (Wet.) gives a tradition that Matthias the apostle used to say that if a pious man's neighbour sin, he himself has sinned; for if he had ordered his life aright the neighbour would have been restrained by his example.

Matthew 5:16. "Wrong and right ways of exhibiting good works."—Talmud Jer. (Wünsche): "It is not enough to be innocent before God, one must show his innocence before men also. "If Christians do evil works, men will be pretty sure to see them, and to speak against God and his cause. (Romans 2:24, Ezekiel 36:20) Rousseau (Griffith): "Ah! what an argument against the unbeliever is the life of the Christian! No, man is not thus of himself; something more than human is reigning here." Chrys.: "Or if there should eves be some who speak evil of thee, search into their conscience and thou shalt see them applauding and admiring thee." Stier: "The good word without the good walk is of no avail." —Men will not be saved by abstract truth, but by truth embodied, (1) in a personal Saviour; (2) in saved persons.

No Christian has a right to be regardless of his reputation, for not himself alone is concerned. He may imagine it matters little for him what men may think, since God knows his heart; but in so far as men do him injustice, they fail to render that glory to God which his good works ought to secure; and so, out of regard for the cause with which he is identified, he should not suffer himself to be misunderstood or misrepresented, where it can be avoided.—This passage, Matthew 5:13-16, should lead the Christian reader at once to tremble at his responsibility and to rejoice at his privilege. How much harm we do by our inconsistencies how much good we may do, the least influential among us, by simply being what we profess to be. Tyree ("The Living Epistle"): "Of all modes of inculcating Christianity, exemplifying it is the best. The best commentary on the Bible the world has ever seen is a holy life. The most eloquent sermon in behalf of the gospel that the world has ever heard is a uniform, active piety. The best version of the written truth that has ever been made is a consistent religious example. The Christian whose light thus shines not only correctly renders, but beautifies the sacred text..... While the truth is being read from the Bible, and proclaimed from the pulpit, let all the members of our churches second and enforce that truth by the silent eloquence of holy lives, and the world's conversion will move forward at home and abroad, with primitive speed."


Verses 17-26

Matthew 5:17-26.
Relation Of Christ's Mission To The Law

Here commences the main division of the discourse, in which our Lord shows the relation of his mission to the law of Moses; and asserts that, so far from proposing to relax its restraints or overthrow its authority, he came to complete it. This portion, which is not given by Luke, extends to Matthew 5:48 (see Analysis in Int. to Matthew 5). The relation to what precedes, though not distinctly indicated, is sufficiently plain. Having set forth certain characteristics of the subjects of the Messianic reign (Matthew 5:3-12), and their influence and responsibility (Matthew 5:13-16), he now proceeds to show that the Messianic reign will in important respects be different from what was popularly expected.

Matthew 5:17. Think not. (For the expression compare Matthew 10:34; Matthew 3:9) The Jews were very likely to think so. The introduction of Messiah's reign was in the view of many to be a great political revolution, such as is apt to be attended by a setting aside of many institutions and laws, and a diminished regard for the restraints of morality. And it appears from later Jewish writers that some of them did in fact expect that Messiah would abrogate the law, and supported the notion by their interpretation of Jeremiah 31:31. Many might also begin to think that Jesus cherished some such revolutionary design, from the fact that he had already (as we see from the order of Luke and Mark) called a publican to be one of his immediate followers, and eaten with publicans and sinners, (Luke 5:27-32) declared that he was introducing a new order of things, (Luke 5:36-39) and repeatedly disregarded the Jewish notions of the Sabbath. (Luke 6:1-11) These things appeared to them revolutionary, though we know they were not contrary to the real spirit and design of the Old Testament I am come, or, came, an expression frequently employed by Jesus, indicating that he had a mission, (compare Matthew 9:13, Matthew 10:34; 1 Timothy 1:15, etc.) and which naturally accords with the fact of his pre-existence; but it must not be relied on as a proof of his pre-existence, for the same expression is applied to John (see Matthew 11:18 f.) To destroy. In the physical sense, the word signifies to loose, dissolve, pull to pieces (as a bridge, wall, house), and is applied to the temple in Matthew 26:61 and Matthew 24:2 ('throw down'), to the body regarded as a house in 1 Corinthians 5:1, and is figuratively used in Romans 14:20 and Acts 5:38 f. ('come to nought' and 'overcome'). So in Galatians 2:18, Paul uses this word to describe Peter as having (so to speak) pulled down an old building as useless, and now gone to building it up again. In like manner here the image is most probably that of a building. There is no other example in N. T. of this precise use—pulling down, abrogating, a law—but it is found in 2 Maccabees 2:22, and in the classics (Grimm). A less intensive form of the same verb is employed in Matthew 5:19 ('break'), where it is contrasted with 'do,' and refers to the practical setting aside of the law in men's action, while here the reference is rather to the theoretical setting aside in our Lord's teaching.

The law or the prophets. This phrase was frequently employed to denote the entire Scriptures (i. e., the O. T.), the' law' being the five books of Moses, and 'the prophets' the remainder. (See, e. g., Matthew 7:12, Matthew 11:13, Matthew 22:40; Luke 16:16; John 1:45; Acts 13:15, Acts 28:23; Romans 3:21) In Luke 24:44 it is 'the law, and the prophets, and the psalms,' the last division probably including the other poetical books. In some other cases 'the law' denotes the whole (see John 10:34, John 12:34, John 15:25; 1 Corinthians 14:21) Observe it is 'the law or the prophets.' Not merely were the requirements of Moses to continue in force, (which some Jews regarded as more sacred than the rest of the O. T.), but also all that was taught by the other inspired writers, the prophets. No part of the existing Scriptures was to be set aside. And we know from Josephus and early Christian writers, that all Jews of our Lord's time would understand 'the Scriptures' or 'the law and the prophets' as meaning a well known and well defined collection of sacred books, the same as our Old Testament.

To fulfil. The word thus rendered has been explained on Matthew 1:22. It here signifies to 'make full,' 'complete.' Compare Matthew 23:32, 'fill up the measure of your fathers'; Philippians 2:2, 'complete my joy' (so in many places); Acts 18:25, 'was completing his course'; Colossians 2:10, 'ye are complete in him'; 1 Thessalonians 2:16, 'fill up their sins'; and so of completing a number, a time, etc. The idea seems to be that the law is regarded as previously incomplete, not fully developed into all the breadth and spiritual depth of its requirement; and Christ came to make it complete. The majority of expositors understand the word as denoting to fulfil by performing what the law required. (compare Matthew 3:15; Romans 13:8) But does this suit the connection? (1) There is a marked contrast to 'destroy,' which term pretty clearly refers to his teaching. (2) The instances which follow throughout the chapter to illustrate this saying, are expressly examples of his teaching and not of his action; and while that which here immediately follows relates to action, it is not his action, but that which his teachings require of others. The thought is, then, not to perform by his life, but to complete by his teaching. Luther: "He speaks of that fulfilling which is accomplished by teaching, just as by 'destroy' he does not mean acting contrary to the law, but breaking with it by his teaching," Calvin: "The question here is of fulfilling by teaching, not by his life." And it is interpreted in substantially the same way by Meyer, Olshausen, deWette, Ewald, Tholuck, Alford, and others. The Latin, Syriac, and Gothic versions, here use words as ambiguous as the Greek; but the Coptic word distinctly means to perfect, complete. Origen, in quoting this passage on Matthew 13:48, takes it to mean complete. Jerome doubts; Augustine, Theophyl., Euthym., understand it in both senses at the same time, in which they are followed by various modern writers (e. g., Gill, Plumptre), and some work out quite a number of distinct senses as included (e. g., Chrys., Bleek, Wordsw., Clark, Schaff.) But such interpretation enfeebles the Scripture.—It has been vainly attempted to bring this saying of Jesus in conflict with what Paul teaches concerning the law. The latter treats of the law not as a rule of life, but as a means of justification; and he declares, not only that the law cannot justify now that Christ is come, but that it never was able to justify, and hence the necessity for Christ's work." The law of the Lord is perfect," said the Psalmist, i. e., free from defect or blemish, and precisely adapted to the object for which it was given; while yet for a higher and more spiritual dispensation its principles might be developed into greater completeness. This as to moral precepts, the subject of which our Lord proceeds to speak (e. g., Matthew 5:31 f., and compare Matthew 19:8). As to types and predictions, his teachings and work completed them by presenting the full reality to which they referred; and so, as a whole, the previous revelation was 'completed' by the teachings of Christ and his apostles.—The idea still sometimes presented (mentioned as early as Calvin) that Jesus was a revolutionary reformer, setting aside the law of Moses as imperfect and effete, is contrary to the whole spirit of this. passage. (1) Jesus expressly states the contrary—he came not to destroy but to complete, and completing is very different from setting aside. (2) The examples which follow in this chapter are not examples of teaching contrary to the law of Moses, but of going further in the same direction. The only saying he condemns is 'and hate thine enemy', (Matthew 5:43) and this was not from the law, but a Rabbinical addition. In Matthew 19:8 is only an apparent exception (see note there). Chrys: "Let us now ask those who reject the law, Is 'be not angry' contrary to 'do not kill'? or is not the one the perfecting and filling out of the other? It is manifest that the one is a completion of the other, and is the greater for this reason. For he that is not carried away into anger, will much more abstain from murder."

Matthew 5:18. For, presenting what follows as a confirmation of what precedes. Verily is in the original'amen,' a Hebrew word signifying firm, faithful, reliable, (compare Revelation 3:14) often employed in O. T. as an adverb, 'surely,' 'truly,' and then usually placed at the end of a sentence, either as endorsing its assertion ('so it is'), or expressing the wish that it may prove true ('so be it'). When thus used at the end of a sentence, our Eng. versions both of O. T. and N. T. retain the Hebrew word Amen, and also in a few cases where with the same meaning it precedes the sentence. (Jeremiah 28:6, Revelation 7:12, Revelation 19:4, Revelation 22:20) Notice particularly the responsive use in 1 Corinthians 14:16, Revelation 5:14; compare Deuteronomy 27:15 ff. Our Lord frequently employs the term at the beginning of a sentence, in the literal sense of 'surely,' 'truly,' and in these cases Eng. versions translate it 'verily' (i. e., truly). In John it is always doubled, but single in the other Evangelists. Two modified forms of the Hebrew word are similarly employed in Joshua 7:20, Job 19:5. I say unto you, is a formula very often employed by our Lord, with or without 'verily' (e. g., Matthew 5:20, Matthew 5:26, Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:16, Matthew 6:29, Matthew 8:10-11, etc.), and serving to call attention to what follows, as being important and certainly true, somewhat as in colloquial English we say,"I tell you," "I assure you," etc. In these cases 'I' is not separately expressed in the Greek, and consequently is not emphatic; but it is separately expressed, and therefore emphatic in Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:28, Matthew 5:32, Matthew 5:34, Matthew 5:39, Matthew 5:44, where there is a contrast between his teachings and those of others.

Till heaven and earth pass away, is a proverbial expression which would popularly signify never, and is probably designed to be so understood here, the true limit of the law's continuance being given in the other clause, till all be fulfilled. In Matthew 24:35, the same idea is expressed only the more strongly by departing from the proverb—'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.' Compare also Luke 16:17. In like manner the Midrash on Genesis (Wet.) says, "Everything has its end, heaven and earth have their end, one thing being excepted which has no end, that is the law." Jot, in the Greek iota, signifies the Hebrew letter iod (pronounced yôd), corresponding to the Eng. i. It is much smaller than the other Hebrew letters, so that it is liable to be overlooked; and besides, in many words it can be either inserted or omitted without affecting the sound or the sense, somewhat like the u in favour or honour. The Midrash on Leviticus says (Edersheim) that the led which was taken from the name Sarai was prefixed to that of Hoshea, making Jehoshua, Joshua. No part of the law, not the most insignificant letter, was to be set aside. And this statement is further strengthened by adding tittle,—in the Greek 'horn,'—denoting a very slight projection at the corner of certain Hebrew letters, which distinguishes them from others that are rounded,(1) compare Luke 16:17. The word 'horn' in this sense would not be understood among us, and so 'tittle' (a very small object) was wisely used by Wyclif, and retained by all subsequent translators'. The whole expression has been aptly compared to our Eng. saying, "Not the dot of an i nor the cross of a t." We also frequently employ in the same way the Greek iota (same as iod), "Every iota of it." The Rabbis have similar expressions, but they quibble about the mere words, while our Lord refers to the meaning. In no wise, is, in the original, merely a doubled and thus strong negative, the same as in John 6:37. From the law. He does not add 'or from the prophets'; arid it is of the law that he proceeds to speak in Matthew 5:19 f., and in the examples which follow; yet he had in Matthew 5:17 equally affirmed the permanence of the prophets, and a reference to them seems to be suggested in the expression which here immediately follows. Till all be fulfilled—or, come to pass. This is not at all like the word rendered 'fulfil' in Matthew 5:17, but is the one rendered 'come to pass' in Matthew 24:6, (see on "Matthew 1:22"). Not the smallest part of the law shall pass away till everything (i. e., everything it contains) shall come to pass. The things predicted in the law must all occur; the entire substance foreshadowed by any ceremony or type must have come into existence; the civil regulations for the Jewish State, after lasting while it lasts, must continue to serve as the germ and basis of much Christian legislation; the moral (ethical) precepts must be obeyed by every new generation. Not till all this has taken place, shall the least particle of the law be annulled.

Matthew 5:19. Therefore. As all remains in undiminished force, it is a sin to violate, or to teach others to violate, one of its least commandments. Break. It is a compound of the word here used that is rendered 'destroy' in Matthew 5:17. This word signifies to 'loose,' and as applied to our action in regard to a law, it would mean to loose the obligation of the law, viz., by acting contrary to it, which we in English call breaking the law. In Matthew 5:17 it was to loose or pull down by teaching; but here the 'teach' is expressed separately, and spoken of as corresponding ('so') to the loosing. (Compare John 1:23, John 10:35) One of these least commandments. The Jews were much in the habit (see in Wet, etc.) of classifying the various commandments as greater and less, (Matthew 22:36) sometimes comparing those which they reckoned least to the smallest letters of the alphabet. Such a distinction was natural in regard to external rites, even as John (John 7:37) calls the last day the 'great' day of the Feast of Tabernacles. And although they made unwarranted and artificial distinctions even among moral duties, yet the Saviour does here clearly recognize some commandments as less important than others, while expressly declaring them to be not unimportant. So in Matthew 23:23 (see note there) he declares ethical duties to be 'weightier' than the duty of tithing herbs. And shall teach men so. It is bad to do wrong, but worse if in addition We teach others to do wrong. Called. Not only shall be such, but shall be so called, i. e. declared, recognized to be such. (Compare on Matthew 5:9) Least... great, shall have the lowest place, or a high place, in Christ's kingdom, in point of dignity and privilege. (Compare Matthew 11:11, Matthew 18:1, Matthew 18:5)

Matthew 5:20. For. This sentence gives a proof of the previous statement. You may readily see that he who transgresses one of these least commandments shall have a low place in the Messianic kingdom, for without a righteousness surpassing the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall have no place in it at all. Compare Matthew 18:4. I say unto you, see on "Matthew 5:18". Except. Unless (Davidson, Darby) is better in modern English. Righteousness. Not imputed, but personal righteousness, as in Matthew 5:6, Matthew 5:10; and it must surpass that(1) of the Scribes and Pharisees both in degree and in kind, must be a more spiritual and free, (James 1:25) and a more complete righteousness, as illustrated at length in the remainder of the chapter. The Jews looked upon the Scribes and Pharisees as being eminently righteous, and doubtless did not think it incumbent on ordinary people to be as good as they were; so much the more surprising must have been this declaration of Jesus. For the Scribes, see on "Matthew 2:4"; for the Pharisees, see on "Matthew 3:7". Some Greek Fathers and Roman Catholic writers, with Neander, Bleek, etc., hold that he means the righteousness required by the law of Moses (which law the Scribes and Pharisees kept), thus implying that the law did not require enough; but this is strained and unnatural. In no case. In the Greek simply a strong negative, as in Matthew 5:18. Enter into the kingdom of heaven is a phrase often employed by our Lord (e. g., Matthew 7:21, Matthew 18:3, Matthew 19:23; compare 'enter into life,' Matthew 18:8; 'enter into the joy of thy Lord,' Matthew 25:21), meaning to become subjects of tile Messianic reign and share its full benefits.

Matthew 5:21 ff. Our Lord now proceeds (see Anal. at the beginning of the chap.) to illustrate the general statements of Matthew 5:17-20, by instancing various commandments of the law, with the interpretations which the Jewish teachers were accustomed to put on them, and declaring in every case that he enjoined a still stricter and more inward and spiritual morality, not merely in condemning the prevalent errors, but in more fully carrying out the spirit of the commandments themselves than had been done by the law. This was completing the law (Matthew 5:17), giving it a deeper and more spiritual application. The revelation given through Moses and the prophets, though perfectly adapted to its objects, was in various respects rudimentary, and now God's Son (Hebrews 1:2) would develop the whole into completeness. All that he teaches as to moral duties was really involved in the law, but he brought it out, so as to give a more distinct and complete exhibition of its requirements. Of the six examples thus presented, the first is the law of murder. (Matthew 5:21-26.)

Ye have heard, especially when listening to the reading of the law in the synagogues, with the comments and explanations made by the teachers of former generations, which, as handed down by tradition, were there repeated in connection with the reading. (Compare John 12:34, Romans 2:13) That it was said by—rather to—them of old time, or the ancients. Every generation naturally regards its own as modern times, and looks back to long past generations as "the ancients." The rendering 'said by' which Com. Ver. and some able commentators adopt (as Fritz. Olsh., Ewald, Keim), is possible according to general Greek usage, but is altogether opposed to the actual N. T. use (presented by Conant) of the terms and constructions which the original here employs; and the great mass of recent expositors hold to the other sense, 'said to.'(1) This will then naturally mean, said by Moses in giving the law (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17) but may also include the old teachers in their interpretations; and a traditional addition being here given, it seems necessary to consider them included. Some of these traditional modifications (see another in "Matthew 5:43") had come down through several centuries, and might thus be said to have been spoken to the ancients. And our Lord takes his examples from the law as in his day habitually heard and understood. The traditional addition in this case, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment, was probably designed by specifying the proper tribunal to indicate the appropriate penalty. 'The judgment' is generally understood to mean a local Jewish court established in every important town, in accordance with the command of Deuteronomy 16:18. (2 Chronicles 19:5) It is said by Josephus ("Ant.," 4, 8, 15, compare"War," 2, 20, 5), to have consisted of seven persons, though the Rabbins say twenty-three. It inflicted punishment, for capital crimes, by the sword.

Matthew 5:22. But I say unto you. 'I' is here separately expressed in the Greek, and is therefore emphatic, contrasting his teachings with the law, and the traditional interpretations. The same contrast recurs in every instance. throughout the series, (Matthew 5:28, Matthew 5:32, Matthew 5:34, Matthew 5:39, Matthew 5:44, and compare on Matthew 5:18) He "taught them as one having authority." (Matthew 7:29) That whosoever—literally, every one that—is angry with his brother. The expression is somewhat different from that of the preceding verse and the two following clauses in this verse, translated 'whosoever,' and fixes attention upon the idea that the statement applies to every single individual. The term 'brother' is probably drawn from the familiar Jewish usage of calling each other by that name (e. g., in Tobit), but appears to be meant in a broader sense, as applying to any fellow-man, just as in Luke 10:20, the Jewish restriction of 'neighbour' is corrected. The fact that all men are brothers, aggravates the guilt of that anger which our Lord condemns. Without cause, is omitted by some of the oldest authorities for the text,(1) and by most of the recent critics. It was probably introduced by students and copyists from a feeling that the condemnation of anger was too sweeping. But killing too is sometimes necessary and lawful, yet the commandment does not say, Thou shalt not kill without cause. The exception is to be made, in both cases, as a matter of course. Raca is an Aramaic word, most probably signifying 'empty' (Jerome), as if one should call another 'empty head,' equivalent to our blockhead. Davidson and Noyes translate it 'simpleton.' It seems to have been a common expression of contempt among the Jews, being often so used in the Talmud. Fool, is thought by many (as Meyer, Grimm) to be here used, as in Psalms 14:1, and other passages of O. T., to denote a wicked man—which would make this a greater reproach than Raca. But there is no necessity for introducing that idea here; the same word occurs, in its common sense, in this discourse. (Matthew 7:26) "Fool" is used as an expression of contempt in all languages, "evincing pride of intellect to be a universal passion." (Alexander.) The word rendered council, signifies here, as commonly in N. T., the great Senate and Supreme Court of the nation, which the Jews (borrowing this Greek word) called Sanhedrin (see on "Matthew 26:59"); and Darby here renders it'Sanhedrim.' Before this highest tribunal Jesus was tried. Hell-fire, literally, the Gehenna of fire. Gehenna is from two Hebrew words, Gei Hinnom, signifying 'valley of Hinnom' or 'valley of lamentation,'. (in 2 Kings 23:10, 'valley of the children—sons—of Hinnom' or 'valley of the sons of lamentation') This name was applied to the valley lying immediately south of Jerusalem, employed by some of the later kings for the worship of the idol Moloch. (2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Chronicles 33:6, Jeremiah 7:31) Much obscurity still hangs over the character and worship of this horrid idol. Children were burned as sacrifices to him; (Psalms 106:38, Jeremiah 7:31) but it is not certain whether they were burned alive or were first slain, the latter seeming to be implied by Ezekiel 16:20, Ezekiel 23:37. Some late Rabbinical writers say that Moloch was made of brass and heated from beneath, and in its outstretched arms the infant was laid and burned to death; while drums were beaten to drown its cries, lest they should excite its father's compassion—and hence, they say, came the name Tophet (Jeremiah 7:31-32) applied to a place in this valley, the Hebrew Toph signifying a drum. But this story was very likely derived from a similar practice among the Carthaginians, as related by some of the later Greek historians—the improbable idea of the drum being added, merely to account for the name Tophet. Yet whether performed in this way or not, the burning of children as a sacrifice to Moloch—prohibited already in Leviticus 18:21, Leviticus 20:2 ff.—was a horrid abomination; and when Josiah abolished it he determined to defile the valley of Hinnom (or lamentation) which had been its scene, by making it the receptacle of the carcasses of criminals and other filth from the city; (2 Kings 23:10) and this practice continued till the time of our Lord. Kimchi, an eminent Jewish scholar of the thirteenth century, says in his Commentary on the Psalms that fire was kept constantly burning in Gehinnom to consume the filth and carcasses—a statement which accounts for the phrase 'Gehenna of fire.' From these repulsive associations, Gehenna was very naturally employed among the Jews as a designation of the place of future torment; being so used in Matthew 5:29-30, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 23:15, Matthew 23:33, Mark 9:43, Mark 9:45, Luke 12:5, James 3:6; and 'Gehenna of fire' in Matthew 18:9, Mark 9:47. The idea of fire is one naturally and frequently associated with future torment (compare on Matthew 25:41), and in this case may be regarded as suggested by the sacrificial fires in the worship of Moloch, if Kimchi's statement be considered too late to be reliable. 'Cast into Gehenna,' (Matthew 5:29. etc.), was a phrase naturally suggested by the practice of casting carcasses into the valley. The Greek is here literally 'liable into the Gehenna of fire,' i. e., liable to be cast into it. Winer, 213 (267).—Another word, Hades, which in Com. Ver. of N. T. is often translated 'hell,' will be explained on Matthew 11:23.

It has commonly been supposed that our Lord designed a climax in the three punishments-death by the sword, as inflicted by 'the judgment'; death by stoning, when condemned by the Sanhedrin; and 'the Gehenna of fire.' As to the latter, some have fancied an allusion to some peculiarly ignominious punishment inflicted in the valley of Hinnom, while others understand the punishment of hell, according to the general N. T. use of the term Gehenna. But it is quite difficult, indeed impossible, to make out any corresponding climax in the three offences, especially to show that calling a man 'fool' is immensely worse than calling him Raca ('simpleton'), as much worse as the difference between being stoned to death and suffering eternal perdition.(1) These difficulties are avoided by "discarding the idea of a climax altogether, and explaining the three clauses as substantially equivalent, though formally dissimilar expressions of the same idea, namely, that the law of God forbids not only murder but malignant anger, and its oral manifestations." (Alexander.) Our Lord is showing that he enjoins a more inward and spiritual morality than they were accustomed to; and he says that not merely is murder a crime, deserving the severe punishment which the local tribunals were wont to inflict, but that anger is a crime, and should be punished too; (compare 1 John 3:15) and that the use of words of contempt is an offence worthy to be punished by the highest tribunal, yea, worthy of eternal perdition. Edersh. represents the sages in the Talmud as declaring that to give an opprobrious by-name, or to put another openly to shame, was one of those things which deserved Gehenna. Of course all this supposes that the anger and the contemptuous expressions are unwarranted and involve malignant feelings. A man may be justified in being angry with another under certain circumstances, as, under certain circumstances, he may be justified in killing another. In Mark 3:5, Revised Version, Jesus is said to have looked round upon the people "with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their hearts."; (compare John 2:15) and the apostles tell us to "be angry and sin not" (Ephesians 4:26) and to be "slow to wrath." (James 1:19) Yell while feelings of indignation at wrong-doing are not necessarily sinful, they are very apt to become so, and. need the most careful guarding. Especially is anger likely to become sinful if not quickly repressed; and hence the injunction,"Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." (Ephesians 4:26) Compare Aristotle: "He that is angry for what he ought, and moreover as he ought, and when and as long as he ought, is commended."—And so as to using expressions of contempt. Our Lord calls the Scribes and Pharisees 'fools' in Matthew 23:17, and uses equivalent terms in Luke 12:20, Luke 24:25, one of which is also applied by Paul to the Galatians; (Galatians 3:1, Galatians 3:3) and the word rendered 'vain' in James 2:20 is literally 'empty,' and exactly corresponds to Raca. Jesus even used still more opprobrious terms, 'devil,' and 'Satan.' (Matthew 16:23, John 6:70) It follows that the use of such terms of reproach is not essentially and necessarily wrong, but it is very apt to spring from, or to lead to, wrong feelings, and may thus constitute a great sin; it should therefore be habitually avoided, and practised only where it is certainly deserved and would do good. On the other hand, we must remember that a man might scrupulously avoid the use of the particular terms 'simpleton' and 'fool,' and still be frequently violating the spirit of our Lord's teaching.—of course if such angry expressions as these are sinful, how much more sinful is all cursing, a thing wrong in itself, and for which men sometimes plead as an excuse, that they were uncontrollably angry—that is, the very sinful words are excusable because they proceed from a very sinful feeling.

Matthew 5:23. Having thus declared that according to his teachings, the principle of the law against murder applies to anger and insult, (compare 1 John 3:15) he adds the injunction to become reconciled to one with whom we are at variance. This should be done at once, even if it requires the interruption of a sacrifice; (Matthew 5:23) should be done while with a plaintiff on the way, before reaching the court. (Matthew 5:25 f.) Notice that here, (Matthew 5:23-26) the singular is used, 'thou,' whereas the plural had been employed before, and is afterwards resumed. He thus takes an individual case, as it were singling out one person and addressing him, and thereby gives greater point to the precept, just as is sometimes done by all public speakers, especially by preachers. A similar change to the singular may be seen in Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:36, Matthew 5:39, and compare on Matthew 6:5. Therefore if, presenting the injunction as an inference from, or result of, that which precedes. Since the prohibition just made extends not merely to outward acts, but to words and feelings of anger and contempt, it follows that one ought to seek reconciliation. Thou bring—or, art offering. This is the regular use of the term, as in Matthew 5:24. Com. Ver. here follows Geneva in rendering by 'bring,' but Tyndale, Cranmer, and Rheims, had 'offerest.' Gift, a general term, including all kinds of offerings. The altar, viz., the altar in the inner court of the temple (see on "Matthew 21:12"). And there rememberest, there, while engaged in the most solemn act of the Jewish worship. Brother, see on "Matthew 5:22", Aught—or, something—against thee. The expression is no doubt purposely made general, so as to cover all cases, even the slightest; he does not say, 'is at enmity with thee,' 'is angry with thee,' but 'has something against thee.' (Compare Mark 11:25) Darby, 'something,' Davidson, 'somewhat.' Men are more disposed to remember that they have something against their brother, than that he has something against them. The language implies that in the case supposed the person addressed is himself the offender. But the spirit of the precept applies just as well to cases in which we know we have done no wrong. Shall we merely be willing to be reconciled if we are approached, or are we not under obligation to go and ourselves attempt a reconciliation? A man must not sacrifice his dignity, neither must he neglect his duty.

Matthew 5:24. Leave there. Do not merely determine that you will go and be reconciled as soon as the gift has been offered. It is comfy to resolve upon performing a disagreeable duty before long; the point is to perform it at once. Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Or it may be, 'go first, be reconciled,' etc., as Meyer, Ewald, Bleek—the Greek being ambiguous, nut the meaning in either case substantially the same.) Alexander: "It is evident that this is not suggested as a case at all likely to occur in real life, or even as a formal rule to be observed if it shall occur, but rather it is a strong assurance that it would be right and proper thus to act, if there were no other means of accomplishing the end required." (Comp on Matthew 5:29) God wished his people to show mercy, rather than to offer sacrifice. Acts of worship are very important, but even an act of worship might properly be postponed that we may re-establish friendly relations with one who has a complaint against us. It is an utter misapprehension to take this precept as indicating that there is a special propriety in seeking reconciliation before partaking of the Lord's Supper, with the practical inference often drawn that there is no great harm in postponing reconciliation until that solemnity is approaching. For (1) the reference is to temple-worship, and the principle would apply just as truly to any other act of public or private devotion as to the Lord's Supper. And (2) the point here is not that even though we should delay to seek reconciliation at other times, we must be certain to seek it when engaging in solemn worship; but that so great is the importance of being reconciled at once, whenever the offence is committed or is recalled, that oven if one remembers the existence of such a personal difficulty when just engaging in worship, he would do well to suspend the most solemn service in order to go immediately and be reconciled. All the more, then, is it our duty to seek reconciliation at other times. Still, it is of course natural that we should be more likely to think of the need of forgiving and being reconciled when we engage in solemn worship, and so our Lord elsewhere says,: (Matthew 11:25, Rev. Ver.) 'And whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one.' We are not so much under greater obligation to forgive then than at other times, as more likely then to remember and realize the obligation.

Matthew 5:25-26. For the connection, see on "Matthew 5:23". Agree with. Literally, be well disposed to (Grimm, Davidson), which suggests that we must seek to secure good will by showing good will. Quickly, not after a while, some of these times, but quickly. Anger is wrong, and angry difficulties should be settled at once. The adversary at law, in the case here supposed, is a creditor, as shown by Matthew 5:26. While thou art in the way with him, viz., on the way to the judge. According to the Roman law, the plaintiff could carry the accused with him before the judge; the defendant might settle the matter on any terms while they were on the way, but after the tribunal was reached the thing must go according to law. Lest at any time. (Perhaps, or simply 'lest,' as Tyndale and Geneva, Noyes and Davidson.) You do not know but it will turn out as about to be described, and had better guard against such a result. Deliver thee, hand thee over. And the judge...(1) to the officer, the intermediate process of trial and conviction being omitted, as a thing naturally understood. And, in that case, thou be cast into prison, an easy change of construction (as in Luke 14:8 f., and often.) Verily I say unto thee, see on "Matthew 5:18". Thou shalt by no means, or, not, the same strong negation as in Matthew 5:18, Matthew 5:20. Farthing represents a small Roman coin of brass, equal in value to about two-fifths of a cent, and thus double the 'mite', (Mark 12:42) which Luke has in the other instance of our Lord's employing this image. (Luke 12:59) The Talmud refers to a similar counsel as proverbial: "There are men that say, while thou art in the way with thy adversary, be obedient."—Most commentators understand this language of our Lord as referring allegorically to the necessity of being reconciled to God, lest he cast us into the perpetual imprisonment of perdition; while Romanists make it a proof-text for purgatory, and some Universalists for final restoration (viz., when the debt has been paid); but the whole connection (see on "Matthew 5:23") seems clearly to require that we should take it in the simple, natural sense. (So Chrys., with Theophyl., and Euthym., Jerome, Zwingli, and Calvin, and even Gill, usually so given to allegorizing.) We might say that the passage affords a good illustration of the spiritual truth in question, but there is no sufficient indication that our Lord here meant to teach that truth. Certainly the duty of adjusting personal difficulties, for which specific directions are afterwards given, (Matthew 18:15 ff.) is one of such immense importance that we may well be content to regard that as all the Saviour is here teaching.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 5:17, Matthew 5:18. The Old Testament. (1) Its teachings still instructive, whether they be historical, preceptive, ceremonial, or predictive. (2) Its precepts still binding, with the necessary adaptations to a spiritual dispensation; and its moral requirements made more searching and spiritual by the N.T. Calvin: "It is of no little avail for strengthening faith in the gospel to be told that it is nothing else than a complement of the law." —The O. T. and the N. T. are necessary to each other, as parts of one whole. When men begin by disparaging the O. T., they will end with like views of the N. T. Theophyl.: "What the law sketched, Christ painted completely. The painter does not destroy the sketch, but rather fills it up." Augstine: "The New Testament lies hidden in the Old; the Old Testament lies unfolded in the New." Euthym.: "While the law forbids the ends of sins, Christ forbade also the beginnings. For murder is a fruit of sin; but the root of the sin is anger. And unless the root be removed, it will some time or other bear fruit." Dykes: "To the philosophic statesman, and to the religious reformer of every generation, the best recommendation of what is new will always be that it comes, not to destroy the old, but to fulfil it; to understand its spirit, to realize its purpose, to carry forward its work, and to make every change an unfolding into higher power." Henry: "Let not the pious fear, nor the profane hope, that Christianity will destroy the law."

Matthew 5:19. All should both do and teach. (1) The professed teacher must also be a doer. (2) The humblest private Christian must not be content with doing, but also teach. Chrys.: "For on this account he himself has set the doing before the teaching; to intimate that so most of all may one he able to teach."—Least commandments. (1) Moral precepts are more important than ceremonies. (Compare Matthew 7:12, Matthew 15:11) (2) Some ceremonies are more important than others. (3) Whatever God has commanded is important. P. Aboth: "Be attentive to a light precept as to a grave, for thou knowest not the assigned reward of precepts." (Compare Ephesians 6:2 f. with Deuteronomy 22:7) Henry: "It is a dangerous thing, in doctrine or practice, to disannul the least of God's commands; either to contract their extent, or to weaken the obligation of them.' '—Men sometimes say, as to one point or another, 'Oh, this is a very unimportant matter, after all.' " But is it a commandment of God's word? Then beware how you disregard it.

Matthew 5:20. The Scribes and Pharisees led externally a blameless life, corrupt as they were inwardly. We ought to cherish better principles and motives than they did, but surely we ought not to fall below them in outward conduct. Shall grateful love to our Saviour fail to make Christians as "careful to maintain good works", (Titus 3:8) as those Jews were through ostentation and self-righteousness? If content to let it be otherwise, have we reason to feel assured that we have entered into Messiah's kingdom, that we are Christ's people at all?—Our righteousness should include, not only outward acts, but also feelings. (See the examples which our Lord proceeds to give.)

Matthew 5:21. Henry: "The law was ancient, but not antiquated."—Killing. (1) When it is lawful, and no sin. (2) When it is sinful to some extent. (3) When it is one of the greatest possible sins.—The evil of carrying concealed weapons.—Dueling.

Matthew 5:22. Anger. (1) Even when justifiable and righteous, always very apt to become sinful. (2) Sometimes such in character and degree as to share the guilt of murder. (3) Contempt for others, a milder form of anger, is often highly sinful.—Talmud (Wün.): "Whenever a man is angry, if a wise man, wisdom leaves him; if a prophet, the prophetic gift leaves him."—Henry: "Anger is sinful. (1) When it is without any just provocation given; (2) When it is without any good end aimed at; (3) When it exceeds due bounds."

Matthew 5:21 f. The three great departments of sin—sinful actions, sinful words, sinful feelings.—The sin of calling "bad names"; e. g., rationalist, heretic, infidel; or bigot, persecutor, proselyter, sectarian, uncharitable, illiberal; or Pharisee, hypocrite, Jesuit. In all such cases, is the epithet justly applicable, and are we applying it with a right aim and in a right spirit? Otherwise we sin. Jesus called some men fools, hypocrites, serpents, devil, Satan, when such an epithet was known to him to be deserved, and when good would come from applying it.

Matthew 5:23 f. The high duty of seeking reconciliation; thinking not merely whether you have something against others, but especially when others have something against you. To seek reconciliation is a higher duty than the most solemn act of worship. Life is more important than external acts of worship, and a healthy life will make worship more acceptable and profitable. Yet he does not say, Go and be reconciled instead of offering thy gift, but then come and offer. Worship without charity, charity without worship, worship and charity; love God and thy neighbour. Griffith: "There is often as much mischief done to social harmony by a proud determination not to confess ourselves in the wrong, or not to make too easy, submissive reparation for wrong, as by the actual doing of wrong." Stier: "Be reconciled, forgive or obtain forgiveness, do at least thy best, that so nothing may be set against thy account by the great Judge." —Romans 12:18, "If it be possible, so far as in you lies, live peaceably with all men." If otherwise, let it proceed from the other side.

Matthew 5:25 f. Griffith: "There is a new case here. The first requirement (Matthew 5:23 f.) was, offer reparation spontaneously, before it is demanded of you. This second is, Yield reparation ungrudgingly, when it is demanded of you." —Strive to settle personal difficulties in private, without waiting for the intervention of legal processes. (1 Corinthians 6:6-8) In like manner it is best to settle difficulties without taking them before the church.—It (Matthew 18:15) is melancholy to see how many personal difficulties arise among men, and even among the professed followers of Christ, and how often both sides are proud and unbending, instead of acting as he here solemnly enjoins. Christian, stop a moment and think. Is there some one with whom you are at variance? Then cease reading at this line, and prayerfully consider whether you cannot do something towards reconciliation. Make an effort, even if you have before tried in vain, an honest and earnest effort, in the fear of God; and then return to read, with a meek and gentle spirit, these words of our Saviour.


Verses 21-28

Matthew 15:21-28.
Jesus Withdraws To Phoenicia

The story of the Syro-Phoenician woman is found also in Mark 7:24-30, in the same connection as here. Luke hastens through this part of the history, omitting various things, and stating others very briefly.

The jealousy of Herod Mark 14:1 f.), the hostility of the Pharisees (Matthew 12:14, Matthew 15:1, Matthew 15:12; also Matthew 4:12, John 4:1-3), and the fanatical notions of the masses, (John 6:15) still required that Jesus should withdraw from Galilee, as heretofore in Matthew 14:13 Thence, probably from Capernaum. He now set out in a different direction, towards the northwest, into Phoenicia, thus getting beyond the jurisdiction of Herod, as in Matthew 14:13, and hereafter in Matthew 15:29, and Matthew 16:5. Departed, withdrew, same word as in Matthew 2:12, Matthew 2:22, Matthew 4:12, Matthew 12:15, Matthew 14:13. Into the coasts (Rev. Ver. parts) of Tyre and Sidon, i.e., the parts of the country, the region, belonging to those cities; so the same word in Matthew 2:22, Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:10; Acts 2:10, Acts 19:1, Acts 20:2. 'Coasts,' i.e., borders (see on "Matthew 2:16"), is here an utterly erroneous translation of Wyc., Tyn., and followers, due to the generally received notion that our Lord never went beyond the bounds of Palestine; the word 'parts' never means 'borders.' Still, the term looks indefinite, and Mark 7:24 says' borders,' as Matthew also does in Matthew 15:22; so it might seem not certain that Jesus went farther than to the boundaries of Phoenicia. But while 'borders' often denotes the territory includes thereby, 'parts' cannot mean simply the boundary. And the question is settled by Mark 7:31 (correct text), 'And again he went out from the borders of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee.' (See below on "Matthew 15:29".) It is then certain that our Lord went into the heathen country of Phoenicia, the nearest part of which was about thirty miles from Capernaum. This does not conflict with the fact that his mission was exclusively to the Jews (Matthew 15:24, for he did not go there to exercise his ministry, (Mark 7:24) and as soon as he had been induced to work a miracle which would attract attention and gather crowds, he went away again. He entered into a house (Mark), and wished to stay there in seclusion, just as Elijah had done in the house of a widow at Zarephath, or Sarepta, in the same country of Phoenicia. (1 Kings 17:9 ff; Luke 4:25) He probably also desired bodily and mental rest for the disciples and himself, as on the first withdrawal not long before. (Mark 7:31) As to Tyre and Sidon, see on "Matthew 11:21". The two cities together denote the country of Phoenicia. He was probably at first in the southern part belonging to Tyre, and afterwards went northward through the Sidon district. (Mark 7:31) We learn from Mark 3:8, Luke 6:17, that multitudes from the region of Tyre and Sidon had attended on our Lord's ministry at an early period. It was a refreshing change for him and his disciples, in the hot weather of April or May, to leave the deep basin of the lake, so far below the level of the Mediterranean, and visit the mountain region of Phoenicia. (Compare on Matthew 14:13)

Matthew 15:22 f. And behold, calling attention to what follows as remarkable. A woman of Canaan. In the earliest times the people of Phoenicia are spoken of as Canaanites, (Judges 1:3 f.) i.e., as belonging to the great tribe which occupied all the low lands, and which afterwards gave its name of Canaan to the whole land. It is probable that the Jews continued to apply this name to all the inhabitants of Phoenicia, though many of the later inhabitants may have been of different origin. To Matthew's Jewish readers this word would show that she was a Gentile. Mark, having Gentile readers mainly in view, says (Mark 7:26) that she was a Greek, i.e., a Gentile, and also that she was a Syrophoenician by race, a term probably used by way of distinction from the Libyphoenicians or Carthaginians. Came out of the same coasts, i.e., that region or territory, as in Matthew 2:16, Matthew 4:13, Matthew 8:34.

This means that she came, not from Galilee, but from the country of Tyre, to the place where Jesus was. Many writers, even Weiss and Edersh., understand that she came out of Phoenicia into Galilee, which they suppose Jesus had not yet left; but this arises from the persistence of the old notion that he did not really enter Phoenicia. Edersheim imagines that Jesus kept the Passover here, consequently in a Jewish house; but his chronological scheme is at this and some other points quite forced. Cried unto him, saying, the correct text omits 'unto him.' The word denotes loud crying. Crieth after us, Matthew 15:23, i.e., behind us, implies that she was following them along as they walked. It is easy to suppose that while staying at the house, (Mark 7:24) Jesus and his disciples were one day taking a walk, and that she having heard about him, (Mark 7:25)

followed behind and cried aloud as they went on Tischendorf reads in Mark 'came in,' but it is evidently an "Alexandrian" alteration by some early critics who thought the scene of the interview was the house, not having duly considered Matthew. Have mercy on me, the word including also the idea of pity, which is here the prominent idea (see on "Matthew 9:27"). She makes her child's case her own. Lord see on "Matthew 8:2". It is not clear whether this was an expression of high respect, or possibly of worship. She believed him to be the Messiah, as shown by her calling him Son of David. (Compare on Matthew 9:27) Though a heathen, and living in a heathen country, she was yet near the land of Israel, familiar with the true religion, and like the woman of Zarephath, a worshipper of the true God. Perhaps she may have previously gone, among the many from Tyre and Sidon, (Mark 3:8) and attended the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 'Badly demonized' would be a literal rendering, though the Com. Ver. gives a more familiar English expression. 'Devil,' however, should be 'demon,' see on "Matthew 8:31": as to demoniacal possessions, see on "Matthew 8:28". Mark (Mark 7:25. Rev. Ver) uses a diminutive term, meaning 'little daughter,' which shows that she was a child.

Matthew 15:23 f. Here is a strong contrast; she cries aloud, he is absolutely silent. His reason for not answering appears below. The effect was to develop, strengthen, and manifest her faith (compare on Matthew 9:28). It is often so now; if with hearty confidence in the Lord's wisdom and mercy we continue to ask, we shall at last receive whatever he sees best for us, and besides may be improved in piety by the delay. The hearer of prayer is not less designing our good when he withholds or defers than when he "hears while we are yet speaking." His disciples, probably the Twelve, did not understand the wisdom and love of this apparent neglect. They were probably half touched and half annoyed by her loud and persistent cries, and perhaps also were uneasy lest she should draw attention to them, when they were wishing to remain in perfect retirement. So they came, lit., came near to Jesus and begged him to send her away, because she crieth after us. Some have thought they wished him simply to order her off, as troublesome and likely to attract to them the attention of others. But they had never seen him dismiss a suppliant in any other way than by doing what was asked; and that they desired him to grant her request is made plain by his answer, which is a reason why he should not grant it. Observe that this was an answer to the disciples, and not addressed to the woman. It is not clear that she heard it; for the statement in Matthew 15:25, 'came and worshipped him,' Implies that she had been following at some little distance, as does also the loud crying of Matthew 15:22 f. I am (or was) not sent (Rheims), like 'I came' in Matthew 5:17, referring indefinitely to the time when the Father sent him forth to his mission in the world; he had no commission to go to any others, even as he had given the disciples none. (Matthew 10:6) Jesus here and elsewhere speaks of himself as subordinate to the Father, with reference to his official position and work as the God-man, the Mediator (compare on Matthew 11:27); this does not conflict with the idea that as the Eternal Son he is very God, and equal with the Father. (John 1:1, Romans 9:5) But (or except) unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel, see on "Matthew 10:6". He doubtless healed Gentile sick when brought to him in the land of Israel (Matthew 4:24 f.; Matthew 15:30 f. certainly in Matthew 8:5 ff.); but now he had gone into a Gentile country, and must avoid entering upon a general ministry there. His ministry in Israel prepared the way for a blessing to the Gentiles. (Romans 15:8-10.) When his work was finished, then the apostles would be his "witnesses, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." (Acts 1:8) It would have conflicted with the nature and design of Christ's mission, had he anticipated this work of the apostles, though he alluded to it as a part of his own work. (John 10:16) The Jewish mind required slow preparation (as the history in Acts plainly shows) for the idea that Gentiles were to share freely the benefits of the Messianic reign; and the Jews would have been irritated and utterly repelled (Lutteroth), if their Messiah had at once begun a great work among the Gentiles. Jesus was induced to make an exception to the rule by this woman's great faith and humble importunity, as the prophets had sometimes done. (Luke 4:25-27) There is no objection to supposing him overcome by importunity. But, in fact, this was hardly an exception, for her great faith brought her in some sense within the limits of his mission. (Galatians 3:7) Notice that Matthew 15:23 f. is found in Matthew only, who wrote especially for Jews, and desired to show that Jesus was the Messiah. Mark's Gentile readers would not at first have understood such a saying as Matthew 15:24, and would have been repelled by it.

Matthew 15:25-27. The woman herself now comes. Worshipped him, bowing before him, probably prostrating herself, but not probably as to a Deity (compare on Matthew 2:2, Matthew 8:2). The Greek imperfect tense (correct text) not only states that she did this, but describes her as so doing. Jesus puts before her the same idea he had just stated to the disciples, that the Messianic benefits were designed for the Jews, and purposely employs harsh expressions which will develop her faith and humility. He had produced a similar effect in the centurion by an opposite course. (Matthew 8:7) The Jews looked upon themselves as God's 'children'; and spoke contemptuously of the Gentiles as 'dogs,' unclean and vile. (Compare on Matthew 7:6) The Gentiles around were accustomed to this, and therefore the expression here was not altogether so offensive and painful as it would seem to us. So the Mohammedans call Christians infidel dogs. It is not meet, or good, proper (kalon), pleasing to the sense of propriety. Wyc., Rheims, Tyn., Gen., say 'good'; Cran. gave 'mete.' The woman's reply not only shows a high degree of faith and humility, but also does credit to her shrewdness and prompt intelligence—perhaps stimulated by maternal affection and solicitude—for she gives the harshly expressed refusal an admirable turn in her favour. Truth (or yes) Lord, yet (for) the dogs eat of the crumbs. She does not present an idea opposed to what he had said, as the incorrect rendering of Com. Ver., 'yet,'(1) would indicate, but a confirmation of it. Yes, Lord, it is not proper to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs, for the dogs too eat of the crumbs that fall from their master's table; they also have their lowly place, 'under the table' (Mark), and their lowly portion. The Jewish people, she is aware, have a special mission in the world, and special privileges; and of these they need not be deprived by her request, for a despised Gentile also may have a humble share of Messianic blessing. He is not now healing any in Israel, and the chosen people will lose no Messianic good by this one act of pity for her. (Compare Mald., Weiss.) Luther: "Was not that a master stroke? She snares Christ in his own words." In Mark, what our Lord had said to her is introduced by the words, 'Let the children first be filled;' implying that afterwards the dogs might get something. This furnished all the more natural occasion for the turn she gave to her reply. The Greek term in Matthew 15:26 f. and Mark 7:27 f. is a diminutive, and leads us to think of smaller dogs, allowed to run freely about the house and under the table. The diminutive must have been intentionally used here, for it is found nowhere else in the Greek Bible, while the common word occurs five times in New Testament, and thirty-three times in Sept. Everywhere in the Bible dogs are spoken of as objects of dislike. In Tobit 5:16, a dog is a companion, a thing very rarely the case in the East, where dogs run wild. It is hardly proper to suppose that 'little dogs' is here a term of affection; and Weiss' notion of lap-dogs, the children's pets, is a strange anachronism.—This heroine of faith is an example to all persons who are spiritually seeking Christ. Some after awhile grow despondent, and even fretful, as if badly treated, in that they do not succeed as others do. Let them learn from her humble perseverance.

Matthew 15:28. O woman, more expressive than simply 'woman.' Great is thy faith. The world is ever admiring and lauding greatness, but it is great intellect or imagination, great ambition or force of character, beauty or amiability, great learning or discoveries, possessions or conquests; here is the noblest praise for the truest greatness. The centurion's faith likewise excited the wonder of Jesus (see on "Matthew 8:10"), and he too was a heathen. Be it unto thee, or let it come to pass for thee; the same phrase as in Matthew 8:18 and Matthew 6:10. The expression in Mark 7:29 may have immediately followed that given in Matthew As thou wilt, Trench: "He who at first seemed as though he would have denied her the smallest boon, now opens to her the full treasure-house of his grace, and bids her to help herself, to carry away what she will. He had shown to her for awhile, like Joseph to his brethren, the aspect of severity; but, like Joseph, he could not maintain it long—or rather he would not maintain it an instant longer than was needful, and after that word of hers, that mighty word of an undoubting faith, it was needful no more." Our Lord does not speak of her humility, though so remarkable, for that was a result of her faith. Perhaps the earliest offspring of unbelief is pride, (1 Timothy 3:6) while faith at once gives birth to humility; and in both cases, the progeny reinforces the parent. So, too, her faith had led to perseverance—a perseverance which may be compared with that of Jacob, in wrestling with the same Eternal Word,(Genesis 32:24) who was now permanently incarnate as Jesus. From that very hour, compare Matthew 8:13, Matthew 9:22.—The so-called Clementine homilies (end of second century), in telling this story, call the woman Justa, and her daughter Bernice, which names may have been either invented or traditional.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 15:21. Jesus withdrawing. (1) From what? (a) From the jealousy of Herod. (b) From the machinations of the Jewish rulers. (c) From the fanatical designs of some who counted themselves his followers. (2) In what spirit? Personal prudence. Patient forbearance. (3) Still everywhere doing good, Matthew 14:14, Matthew 15:28-30, Matthew 17:18. (4) At last, when his hour is come, he will withdraw no longer, John 12:23.

John 12:22-28. The Canaanitish woman. (1) Believes in the Jewish Messiah, John 12:22. (2) Humbly submits to be harshly spoken to by him, John 12:26. (3) Shrewdly converts refusal into a new plea, John 12:27. (4) Gains her cause, and wins the highest possible commendation. John 12:28.

John 12:28. Great faith. (1) Seen in a heathen; compare centurion. (Matthew 8:10) (2) Attended by great humility, (compare Luke 18:18) and producing great perseverance. (Compare Luke 18:7) (3) Recognized and rewarded by him who knows the heart. John 2:24 f.

Matthew 15:22. A mother making her child's case her own.

Matthew 15:23. Disciples seeming kinder than their Lord. Henry: "There may be love in Christ's heart while there are frowns in his face."

Matthew 15:24. Hall: "We need no other rule of life than the intention of our several stations; and if he that was God would take no further scope to himself than the limits of his commission, how much doth it concern us frail men to keep within compass."

Matthew 15:25. Chrys.: "She was the more instant. But it is not so with us; rather, when we fail to obtain, we desist; whereas it ought to make us the more urgent." Theophyl.: "Consider that even if holy men pray for us, as the apostles did for her, yet we ourselves, praying for ourselves, accomplish more."

Matthew 15:27. Maternal shrewdness turning the Saviour's argument against him. Henry: "Unbelief is apt to draw dismal conclusions even from comfortable premises; (Judges 13:22 f.) but faith can find encouragement even in that which is discouraging, and get nearer to God by taking hold on that hand which is stretched out to push it away."

Matthew 15:23-28. Jesus glad to be overcome, by intercession, by personal entreaty, by argument.


Verses 27-32

Matthew 5:27-32.
The Law Concerning Adultery And Divorce

By this second example (see on "Matthew 5:21") our Lord further illustrates and applies the statement of Matthew 5:17-20 that he does not propose to relax the requirements of the law, but enjoins a still stricter and more spiritual morality.

Matthew 5:27. Ye have heard that it was said. See on Matthew 5:21. By—to—them of old time, is here a spurious addition from Matthew 5:21.(1) It may be noticed (Stier) that a certain variety is observed in introducing this series of examples; the full phrase of Matthew 5:21 is shortened in Matthew 5:27 and still further in Matthew 5:31; and then in Matthew 5:33 the full phrase is resumed, to be again shortened in Matthew 5:38 and Matthew 5:43. Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18) This prohibition of a particular species of unchastity may be regarded as carrying with it in principle-like others of the ten commandments—the prohibition of unchastity in general. No addition to this commandment is said to have been made in the traditional teaching, as was done in the former case; (Matthew 5:21) but we know that the Jewish teachers were disposed to limit the commandment to actual adultery. Jesus extends it so as to forbid dallying with the corresponding desires. He thus 'completes' the law. (Matthew 5:17)

Matthew 5:28. But I say, The 'I' is emphatic; see on Matthew 5:22. To lust after her, i. e., with a view to lust after her, an intentional looking for the purpose of stimulating, and delighting in, impure desire. This, 'with a view to,' is the proper force of the Greek phrase, the same that is used in Matthew 6:1, Matthew 13:30, Matthew 23:5. The English word 'lust' originally signified desire of any kind, good or bad (as in German now). In the Scriptures it is used only for evil desires, and at the present day is confined to one particular class of evil desires. The Greek word here used signifies 'desire' in general, and is used in a good sense in Matthew 13:17, Luke 22:15, and some other passages. More frequently it has a bad sense, as in Mark 4:19, etc., denoting evil desires in general (human desires being so often evil). The specific sense of sexual desire is found (in the New Testament) only here and in Romans 1:24, though of course included, along with other desires, in most cases of the bad sense. Hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. The distinction between our Lord's teachings and what they were accustomed to, is essentially the same as in Romans 1:21 f. Jesus condemns, not merely the outward act of sin, but the cherishing of sinful desire. Stier: "He who experiences at a first glance this desire, and then instead of turning away and withdrawing from sin, (2 Peter 2:14) throws a second glance with lustful intent and in order to retain and increase that impulse, commits the sin." As in 1 John 3:15, 'whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer,' so here, every one that cherishes lust by a look is an adulterer. Compare Job 31:1; Proverbs 6:25; 2 Samuel 11:2, 2 Samuel 11:4; and 2 Peter 2:14, 'eyes full of adultery.' The Greek and Roman and the Jewish writers have also many sayings (see in Wet., Gill), as to the sinfulness of a lustful look.

Matthew 5:29 f. The vigorous self-restraint which is requisite in order to avoid the sin just forbidden, suggests the idea that all our propensities must be controlled, and that the greatest possible self-denial would be far better than that suffering in hell, which must be the reward of sinful gratifications. This corresponds to the application made in Matthew 5:23, and here again the address is to an individual, 'thou.'

Thy right eye, literally, thy eye, the right (eye); even an eye, even the best eye, must in such a case be given up. Compare Exodus 29:20; 1 Samuel 11:2; Zechariah 11:17. The 'eye' is doubtless selected because suggested by the preceding sentence, (Matthew 5:28) and also because of its general importance. Offend thee, or, causes thee to stumble, or 'to sin.' The Greek word is found in Sept., and quite often in N. T., though not found in profane Greek writers, and involves such difficulties as to justify a detailed explanation. Compare Conant. (1) The noun (skandalon), from which this verb is derived, denotes primarily the trapstick or trigger of a net or trap, against which the game strikes and causes the trap to fall; and derivatively, anything against which one strikes, whether a stumbling-block, as in Leviticus 19:14 : 'Thou shalt not put a stumbling block before the blind,' or more rarely, an obstacle set to hinder the progress of any one, as in the apocryphal book of Judith (Judith 5:1) it is said the Israelites had put walls on the mountain-tops, and 'obstacles' (or 'obstructions') in the plains, to resist the progress of the invaders. From these derivative senses come several figurative uses, as to moral and religious objects: (a) A stumbling-block, as causing one to fall into sin. (Matthew 13:41; Matthew 18:7; Luke 17:1; Romans 14:13, 1 John 2:10, Revelation 2:14) (b) An obstacle which men strike against and stop, an occasion of disbelief. (Romans 9:32 f..; Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Peter 2:8) (c) An object which one strikes against and is hurt or repelled, so as to be displeased with it, an "offence" in the present English sense of that word. (Matthew 16:23, Galatians 5:11) (By further derivation comes our English use of scandal, which word is borrowed from the Greek, but conveys a meaning no where found in Greek use.) In some cases two of these senses may be united, as the second and third in 1 Corinthians 1:23. (In Romans 11:9, the reference is probably not to a stumbling-block, but to the primary sense of a trap-stick or trigger, as a figure for a means of destruction) (2) In like manner the verb (skandalizo) is used figuratively in three corresponding senses: (a) To make one stumble and fall, to cause to sin. (Matthew 5:29 f,; Matthew 18:6-9, Luke 17:2; Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 8:13; 1 Corinthians 11:29) (b) To obstruct one's path or make him stop, to cause one to disbelieve and reject or forsake. (Matthew 11:6, Matthew 13:21, Matthew 13:57, Matthew 15:12, Matthew 24:10, Matthew 26:31, Matthew 26:33, John 16:1) (c) To pain or displease, to offend in our modern sense of the word, (Matthew 17:27; John 6:61) (And from this by further derivation comes our peculiar English use of the borrowed word "scandalize.") Here also, as with the noun, two or three senses may sometimes be found combined.(1)

Thus the idea is, if thy right eye causes thee to sin. The expression is obviously designed to teach a general lesson by "assuming an extreme case," a method quite "characteristic of our Lord's teachings," (see Alexander, and compare on Matthew 5:24 and Matthew 5:39). He is not presenting this as an actual case, or one likely to occur; but "if it should occur, if the only alternative presented to a man were habitual transgression or the loss of his most valuable members," then he ought to "choose mutilation rather than a life of sin; and that choice includes all minor cases, as the whole includes the part, and as the greater comprehends the less."

For it is profitable for thee. The appeal is to a man's own higher interest, which is really promoted by all the self-sacrifice and self-denial required by the word of God. That one of thy members should perish, or simply 'that one of thy members perish,' the old English subjunctive.(2) Be cast, same term as in the preceding clause. Hell, Gehenna, the place of torment. See on "Matthew 5:22".

Matthew 5:30. Another and entirely similar illustration of the principle in question. The repetition and reiteration of a thought, with only slight change of figure or phrase, is characteristic of the Scriptures; and it is not merely to be noted as a literary peculiarity, for the inspired writers, and the Great Teacher, employ this means of impressing upon men truths which are important and which they are unwilling to receive. So preachers are often compelled to do now; and though the fastidious may complain, as in the days of Isaiah, that they are treated too much like children, (Isaiah 28:10) yet others, and perhaps the complainers themselves, often need amplification and repetition—while of course these should not be used as an expedient to disguise poverty of thought, by hammering a very little gold into a very large surface. There is some. thing exceedingly solemn and stately in the repetition here; and in Matthew 18:8 f., where our Lord presents the same idea in a different connection, we find the foot also introduced, as a still further amplification (compare on Matthew 7:9-11); it may also be noticed that there the eye is mentioned last, (compare Mark 9:43 ff.) while here it comes first, because of Matthew 5:28. Be cast into hell, literally go off—or away into hell. This reading is required by the best authorities for the Greek text; it was changed so as to be like Matthew 5:29.

Matthew 5:31 f. The extreme facility of divorce which existed among the Jews of our Saviour's time, was the occasion, on a large scale, of the sin of adultery; (Matthew 5:32) and thus the transition is very natural from the topic of the preceding verses to this, which is not to be considered a new and distinct example (see on "Matthew 5:21"), but another department of the same subject. Accordingly it is introduced by a simpler form of expression than in the other cases; not 'Ye have heard that it was said,' but simply, 'And it hath been said.'

The law of Moses (Deuteronomy 24:1) required that if a man determined to put away his wife, he should give her a formal document to that effect. The Jews in the time of Christ were greatly at variance as to the proper cause of divorce, but most of them held that it was lawful for a man to dismiss his wife 'for every cause' (see on "Matthew 19:3"), and that there was no restriction at all except that he must give her the document. Accordingly, in this case also our Lord is not setting aside the law, (Matthew 5:17) nor at all conflicting with its true design. The Israelites, like other Oriental nations, had no doubt been inclined to great laxity in the matter of divorce, and Moses was not encouraging this, but to some extent restricting it (so also Henry, Achelis, Rüitschi in Herzog), by appointing that a man should not send off his wife with a mere oral dismissal, which he might do in a fit of passion, but should give her a regular writing. (Maimonides gives a form in use in his day, twelfth century, see in Lightfoot or Gill.) This, especially in the earliest period, when few could write, would require a Levite to prepare it, and thus give opportunity for reflection and advice, and would besides place the rejected wife in a better position for the future, by showing that she had been a lawful wife. The document, according to the intention of the law, implied that she was innocent of adultery; for if a wife was guilty of that crime the law required that she should be put to death, and there would in that case be no need of a divorce at all. Still, it was not considered obligatory to inflict this penalty. (Compare on Matthew 1:19) A further restriction upon the facility of divorce was made by the provision (Deuteronomy 24:2-4) that after the termination, by divorce or death, of another marriage on the part of the woman, the man who formerly divorced her could not then take her back, as this would shock the instinctive sense of propriety.—It thus appears that Jesus is here carrying out the design of the Mosaic enactment by a still further restriction in the same direction; is not abrogating the law, but completing it.—According (Matthew 5:17) to the terms of the law, and the common usage of the Jews, only the husband could divorce; and so our Lord speaks here only of what the husband may do. But on a later occasion, (Mark 10:12) he mentions also the case of a woman's putting away her husband. It is natural that Mark rather than Matthew should record this, as it was a case much more likely to occur among Gentiles than among Jews.

Matthew 5:32. In this verse, instead of whosoever, the correct text gives the slightly stronger expression, every one who, as in Rev. Ver., every single one, as in Matthew 5:28 (compare on Matthew 5:22).—But I say unto you. 'I' emphatic, see on "Matthew 5:22".—Jesus recognizes only one sufficient ground of divorce.(1) It is a part of the mystery of human nature that the connection between husband and wife produces a strange feeling of oneness. (Genesis 2:23 f.; Ephesians 5:28; especially 1 Corinthians 6:15 f.) And it is only when the sacred tie which thus bound them has been broken, that either of them may lawfully form a marriage union with another person. It is not said that in such a case the husband must put away the offending wife, but in saying that he must not except in that case, it is implied that then he may. Hovey: "This crime is one which inflicts so deep a wound on the innocent party, and violates so utterly and completely the substance of conjugal duty, that it is recognized by God as a valid ground for divorce, whenever this is sought by the unoffending husband or wife." But "there are many passages of the Old Testament in which God addresses his people as an adulterous wife, whom, however, he still recognizes as his own, and strives to recover from idolatry"; and the wronged husband or wife is at liberty to exercise like forbearance.—The same rule as here is laid down at greater length in Matthew 19:3-9 (see on "Matthew 19:3"), and repeated on a third occasion, Luke 16:18.—The directions given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 refer to a peculiar state of things, but are in accordance with our Lord's teachings, to which Paul expressly refers. Where only one of a heathen couple had become a Christian, the apostle says it was best for them to continue together, since that might result in the salvation of the one not yet converted; (1 Corinthians 7:10, 1 Corinthians 7:16) but if the unbeliever insists on a separation, the believer is not 'under bondage,' 'enslaved' in such cases (1 Corinthians 7:15), not compelled to live with the unbeliever, whether or no. (The word is not simply 'bound,' but 'enslaved,' and quite different from that rendered 'bound' in Romans 7:2 f., which refers to the bond of marriage.) Yet the parties thus separated, the apostle says, must remain unmarried, and the believer must seek reconciliation.—Putting (1 Corinthians 7:11) together that passage and our Lord's teachings, we learn that a husband and wife may for sufficient cause separate and live apart, but may not marry again unless the tie between them has been severed through the commission, by one or the other, of the crime our Lord mentions. If a man divorced his wife for any other cause, Jesus declares that he would be causing her to commit adultery, i.e., if she should be married to another; and whosoever should marry her when divorced (or, 'marry a divorced woman'; it may mean either, and there is no important difference)—unless, of course, the divorce were for the sufficient cause here mentioned—would be committing adultery, as she would still be, in the view of the divine law, the first husband's wife. (Compare Hovey on The Scriptural Law of Divorce, Am. Bapt. Pub. Soc.) It has been well remarked that as the only ground of divorce which our Lord admits is one pertaining to the essential nature of the marriage relation, no changes in the form of the outward union, or of the outward divorce, can make any difference in this respect.—It follows that all legislation which allows of divorce "from the bond of marriage," except for the cause here named, is contrary to Christ's teaching. It may be very well to legalize separation, with reference to questions of property, support, the control of children, etc., as is done in the so-called divorce "from bed and board"; and in cases where the civil law does not provide for this, but permits a complete legal divorce, it may be allowable to seek such divorce as an arrangement for separation; but still neither party has a moral right to re-marry, unless the religious union has been violated by the unchastity of one of them. In that case the innocent party has a right to full divorce and re-marriage; our Lord has said nothing as to the question whether the guilty party has a moral right to marry again. This could be true only after unquestionable repentance. Compare the case of a man who has killed his wife. But for civil government to refuse a legal divorce in cases where the Lord distinctly admits it, may be a grievous wrong to the innocent party, who is now absolved from all moral obligation to the other, and yet is not permitted by the civil enactments to marry again, if desired. The Greek and other Oriental Churches, and most Protestant Churches, have always held that in such a case re-marriage is allowable. The Church of Rome forbids it (save by special dispensation), maintaining the perpetual obligation of what it calls the "sacrament" of marriage. The German Protestant Churches are extremely lax as to divorce-starting from a wrong interpretation of Paul's teaching, so as to make "desertion" (1 Corinthians 7:15) a ground of divorce—and that fact has embarrassed many of the ablest German commentaries upon the present passage. In some of the United States there has also been a grievous facility of divorce, against which a healthy reaction is now in several quarters arising. The new law of England allows legalized separation for various causes, and divorce proper for adultery. The State of South Carolina has no provision for legal divorce. (On the history of divorce in ancient and modern times, see Woolsey on "Divorce," New York.)

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 5:28. Licentious looks. How much of grievous sin is committed in this respect before him who perfectly sees the heart, and to whom impurity in the heart is as real a sin as gross acts of unchastity. Many a one would boast, like the Pharisee in the parable, of being no adulterer (Luke 18:11), who yet has often committed adultery in the heart; and God has seen it. The principle of our Lord's teaching alike forbids anything else by which men encourage lustful feeling, as looking for that purpose at works of art, indecent dances, reading, speaking, or hearing obscene stories or obscene jests, filthy imaginations, etc.—Luther: "You can't prevent the devil from shooting arrows of evil thoughts into your heart; but take care that you do not let such arrows stick fast and grow there. Do as a good old man of past times has said: 'I can't prevent a bird from flying over my head, but I can prevent him from making a nest in my hair.' " —Remember that the great means of keeping improper thoughts out of our minds, is to keep them filled with good thoughts. (Galatians 5:16)

Matthew 5:29. Sins of the eye. How many forms of sin are indicated or excited by looking. The lustful eye, the jealous eye, the envious eye, the revengeful eye, the suspicious eye—the gambler's eye, the robber's eye, the flatterer's eye. Chrys: "For this were not to act as one hating tile eye, but as one loving the rest of the body."—Philo (in Griffith): "It seems to me that all who are not entirely uninstructed will rather blind themselves than gaze on things which are unseemly, and make themselves deaf than listen to hurtful words, and cut out their tongues than speak what ought not to be spoken."—Profitable for thee. Man has a complex nature, and the Bible, which is divinely adapted to human nature, appeals not only to conscience, the felt obligation to do right because it is right, but also to our interest in the true and high sense, our hopes and fears for time and for eternity. Scriptural self-denial is real self-interest.

Matthew 5:30. Seneca (in Griffith): "Whatever vices rend your heart, cast them from you; and if they could in no other way be extracted, the heart itself ought to be plucked out with them." Dykes: "The battle of conscience and reason and modesty against appetite, is to be fought within the heart of the tempted man, and for it help is to be found nowhere but on his knees."


Verses 33-37

Matthew 5:33-37.
Oaths

The third example (see on "Matthew 5:21"), by which our Lord illustrates the superiority of the morality he enjoins, is the subject of Oaths. (Matthew 5:33-37)

Matthew 5:33. Again. With this term of transition is resumed the full phrase of Matthew 5:21. By—or to—them of old time, or, the ancients. See on "Matthew 5:21-22". Forswear thyself, or perjure thyself. This refers immediately to Leviticus 19:12, 'Thou shalt not swear by my name falsely.' But the expression in the Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7, Deuteronomy 5:11) is substantially equivalent, viz., literally, 'Thou shalt not lift up (utter) the name of the Lord thy God unto vanity (for falsehood).' But shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. This is an addition which the Jewish teachers seem to have been accustomed to make to the commandment, corresponding to those in Matthew 5:21 and Matthew 5:43, and was probably derived by them from Deuteronomy 23:21, Numbers 30:8, where the reference is specially to vows. The verb here rendered 'perform' is translated by 'pay' in Matthew 5:26, and Matthew 18:25-34; 'recompense' in Matthew 6:4, Matthew 6:6, Matthew 6:18, Rev. Ver.; 'render' in Matthew 16:27, Rev. Ver.; Matthew 21:41, Matthew 22:21; and signifies to give back, or to give in full, and hence to repay or to pay off.(1) The idea here is that an oath becomes a debt to the Lord, and we must be sure to pay it. This conception is especially appropriate to a vow. (Same Greek term in Deuteronomy 23:21, Ecclesiastes 5:4 f.) Compare the representation of sin in general as a debt, in Matthew 6:12.—The Jewish teachers correctly interpreted the law as prohibiting false swearing. Every assertion accompanied by an oath must be true; every promise accompanied by an oath must be kept. But this cannot be if men use many oaths; and they sought to evade the difficulty in their usual fashion by a quibble of interpretation. The Third Commandment spoke of swearing in the name of Jehovah; and the law elsewhere (Deuteronomy 6:13) expressly required that they should "swear by his name," i. e., not by the name of any false deity. So the Rabbis held that the law made binding only those oaths which contained some name or peculiar attribute of God, or something else that was eminently sacred. (Matthew 20:16 ff.) Other oaths, not naming or directly suggesting God, they held to be not binding. The Talmud expressly declares that such oaths as 'by heaven,' 'by the earth,' do not bind at all. And though some teachers set themselves against this (see on next verse), they were borne down by the majority. Accordingly the Jews were remarkable for their frequent use of oaths in ordinary conversation, swearing by the temple, by the altar, by the lamb, by the dishes, by the law, by Moses, by the prophets, by the life of the Rabbis, as well as the oaths here mentioned and countless others, and reckoning such oaths to be 'nothing.' (See on "Matthew 23:16 ff.") So common was the practice, that even among those who became Christians it continued as a great evil; and James, writing to Jewish Christians, condemns it with special emphasis: "But above all things, my brethren, 'swear not.' " (James 5:12 ; compare, James 3:9 f.) Many of the same forms of oath are now used in Syria. (Thomson.)

Matthew 5:34. But I say unto you. 'I' emphatic, see on "Matthew 5:22". Swear not at all. The true way to avoid false swearing is not to swear at all; the Rabbinical distinction would not hold, for even oaths which did not contain the divine name involved some sort of reference to God which made them solemn and obligatory—otherwise they would not be used as oaths. Strike at the root of the matter; do not swear, and you will never swear falsely. In this, as in the previous examples, our Lord is enjoining, not merely an outward and literal obedience to the law, but that regard be had to the principle involved; and he will thus 'complete' the law. (Matthew 5:17) The command not to swear falsely was a great restriction upon the familiar use of oaths: Jesus does not abrogate that command, but goes farther in the same direction.—Yet as the prohibition of killing and of anger is not to be taken without any exception, it being lawful to kill and to be angry, upon sufficient occasion (see on "Matthew 5:22"), so, we might conclude by parity of reasoning, must be the case here. And accordingly we find our Lord himself consenting to speak when formally put upon oath before the supreme court (see on "Matthew 26:63"); and the Apostle Paul repeatedly using, where there was special occasion, such expressions as 'God is my witness,' 'I call God for a witness upon my soul,' 'Before God I lie not,' (Romans 1:9, 1 Corinthians 1:23; Rev. Ver., Galatians 1:20), which are strong oaths; and the angel in Revelation 10:6, swearing a very solemn oath. So in the O. T., men being accustomed to swear 'As Jehovah liveth,' God himself is said to swear, 'As I live'; (Ezekiel 33:11) and the Epistle to the Hebrews appeals to God's oath 'by myself', (Genesis 22:16) as given to strengthen our confidence in the faithfulness of his promise. (Hebrews 6:15 ff.) An oath, therefore, is not inherently and necessarily wrong, and there are occasions which justify its use, as in judicial proceedings (our Lord's example), and where some very solemn asseveration in speech or writing is required by the circumstances. (Paul's example.) But as anger, even when legitimate, is in great danger of becoming sinful (see on "Matthew 5:22"), so with oaths, which are often administered in courts of justice with such irreverence as to be highly sinful, and which in individual assertions or promises ought to be confined to very rare and solemn occasions, and to be used, as the apostle does, in the most reverential spirit.—The object of explaining that, in this and the other examples treated by our Lord, there may be exceptions to the absolute prohibition, is not to weaken those prohibitions, but partly to exhibit their accordance with other passages which might seem to be in conflict with them, and partly to show that these are no unpractical and impracticable theories, as so many superficially consider them, but when properly understood are rules for our actual guidance in life.—The utter condemnation of all oaths, which has been made by Waldensians, Anabaptists, Mennonists, Quakers, etc., is found already in Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Chrys., Jerome, and other Fathers; yet oaths were sometimes employed by the early Christians, and gradually became common, especially after the union of Church and State. (See Smith's "Dict. Christ. Antiq.")

Neither by heaven, etc. The Jews usually maintained, as above shown, that an oath was not binding unless it contained the name of God, or mention of one of his attributes. But anything used as an oath must have some sort of relation to God, and this makes it binding, and so it ought not to be used—i. e., used as if not really an oath. Compare Matthew 23:22. A few of the Jewish teachers took a similar view, one of them being recorded in the Talmud as saying, "If a person swears another by heaven and earth, does he not also swear him by him to whom heaven and earth belongs?"But most held otherwise, as shown by Philo, the Talmud, and Maimonides (Light., Wet.). Philo states that some were in the habit of saying simply "By the, "without adding anything, so as to avoid making it distinctly an oath; and he suggests that one might add, "not indeed the supreme and revered First Cause, but the earth, the sun, the stars, heaven, the universe." And Maimonides (twelfth cent.), commenting on the Talmud, goes still further: "If any one swears by heaven, by the earth, by the sun, etc., even though it be the intention of the swearer under these words to swear by him who created these things, yet this is not an oath." We see that here, as with reference to adultery and divorce, a few of the Jewish teachers were rigorous while most were lax, and that Jesus confirms the view of the rigorous few, and goes still farther. Some fancy that this is a reproach to our Lord, as detracting from his originality. But he did something better than to be original in ethics; for by authoritatively settling actual questions of truth and duty, he showed that the tendency of his teachings is thoroughly practical. (Compare on Matthew 7:3-5, and on Matthew 12:10)

Matthew 5:35 f. These are further specimens, similar to that just given, of oaths which the Jews were accustomed to use habitually as not binding, and which our Lord explains to have really a sacred element, so that such use of them is wrong. His footstool, or, the footstool of his feet.(1) This and the preceding expression are quoted from Isaiah 66:1. 'The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.' So in Psalms 48:2, Jerusalem is called 'the city of the great king.'(2) These objects would never have come to be employed in strengthening an affirmation, had they not been somehow regarded in their higher character, as related to God; and though a man swearing by them, particularly after the expression has become trite, might not have such an idea distinctly present to his mind, yet it is really and necessarily involved, when they are used in the way of an oath. Alexander: "He who swears by the earth either swears by God, or does not swear at all."

Matthew 5:36. Neither shalt thou swear. The form changing to the singular, as in Matthew 5:23, thus making the application more personal and pointed. By thy head. A very common oath among the Greeks and Romans, as well as the Jews; probably founded on the idea that a man would stake his head upon the assertion, would be willing to lose his head if it should not prove true. But his life belongs to God and not to himself, and he is not able to change the colour of a single hair of that head, which he so lightly engages to cast away. The reference is of course to the change of colour in growing old, which depends on the divinely directed course of nature (Weiss). Notice that the specimens mentioned descend gradually to the lower kinds of oath, heaven, earth, Jerusalem, the head. An expression often heard among us, "by my life," or "my life on it," is sinful on the same principle as "by my head."

Matthew 5:37. But let your communication—or- speech.(1) The term naturally suggests that he is now referring to the use of language in general, to ordinary conversation. The repetition, yea, yea; nay, nay, seems designed to indicate that the proper mode of strengthening an assertion is simply to repeat the affirmation or negation. Compare our Lord's 'verily, verily.' Paul's expression (2 Corinthians 1:17) has a different bearing. The Rabbis frequently doubled these panicles (Talmud), as we do. Edersheim. says that in the Midrash on Ruth it is mentioned as characteristic of the pious, that their yea is yea, and their nay., (James 5:12) though manifestly referring to our Lord's discourse, states the thing in a slightly different way. 'Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay'; let the simple affirmation or negation suffice, without needing to be strengthened by oaths. Maimonides, "Let the disciples of the wise be always truthful and trustworthy; saying simply, yes, yes, and no, no," may have really borrowed from the New Testament; for the Jewish writers adopted whatever they approved, from any source. Cometh of evil—or, is of the evil one. The Greek is ambiguous, as in Matthew 6:13, where see note. In this passage it is interpreted 'the evil one' by Chrys. (and his followers Theoph. and Euthym.), Zwingli, Beza, Wetstein, Fritzsche, Meyer, Keim, Grimm, Mansel, Plumptre; and 'evil' by Luther (though not in the first ed. of his trans.), Calvin, Bengel, Tholuck, De Wette, Ewald, Bleek, Stier, Weiss, Archelis, Keil. Taken in the former and somewhat more probable sense, the expression means, has its origin in Satan, as in Matthew 13:19, Matthew 13:38. Taken in the other sense it means, is of evil origin. The general thought is in either case the same. The necessity, real or supposed, for using oaths, originates in evil, or in Satan; for it is due to the fact that men do not always faithfully keep their simple word. And like all the consequences of sin, this practice reacts to strengthen its source; for not only do men thereby become less careful as to the truthfulness of assertions unattended by an oath, but even oaths tend gradually to lose their solemn force by frequent, and especially by heedless and irreverent repetition (compare on Matthew 23:16). And so the observance of our Lord's prohibition would give to oaths a much greater value in those cases in which they are really necessary and proper. Compare Hierocles (Platonist of the fifth cent.), "Reverence an oath, and be not swift to use it, that you may be accustomed to swear truly, from not being accustomed to swear." Add (Wet.) Philo: "Not to swear is highly becoming and advantageous, and is accordant with a rational nature, so instructed to speak truth on every occasion that words are reckoned oaths." Epictetus: "Avoid oaths, altogether if possible, but if not, as far as you can." Quintilian: "To swear at all, unless where it is necessary, is unbecoming a grave man."

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 5:33. Perjury—its nature, causes, evil consequences, remedies. Chrys.: "If to swear is of the evil one, how great the penalty which false swearing will bring."—Matthew 5:34. Profanity—different kinds, swearing, cursing, other kinds—evils of profanity, and of all irreverence.—Cursing is always and essentially wrong, since no one has a right to imprecate eternal ruin upon another, unless by explicit divine direction, like the prophets. There is much profane language which is neither cursing nor swearing, as when one speaks in any wise irreverently of God, his word, worship, or anything sacred. Preachers often speak of God too familiarly, in public discourse and conversation. And there are phrases in which the name of God is either omitted or disguised, so that persons fancy they are not wrong, which yet involve the essence of profanity."My gracious I" means "My gracious God." "Bless your soul," is "God bless your soul." "Zounds" is "God's wounds." One may plead that he does not mean this in using such phrases, but so could the Jews have said as to the expressions which Jesus condemns; nay, the excuse of "not meaning anything by it" is often given by persons who use profanely the most solemn oaths. Any one who observes for a little while the language of those about him, or his own language, will be apt to encounter many phrases which, though not distinctly so deranged, are yet in direct violation of what our Lord has here taught, and should therefore be carefully avoided. The charge of profanity also applies to all irreverent citations or ludicrous applications of the language of Scripture, a very common fault even in Christian society.(Compare on Matthew 12:36 f.)

Matthew 5:37. Self-respecting veracity will command respect from others. What a compliment when it is said: His word is as good as his bond. Æschylus: "Not oaths gain credence for the man, but the man for the oaths." Josephus ("War.," 2, 8, 6), says of the Essenes: "Every word they say is weightier than an oath, and swearing they shun, regarding it as worse than perjury." —Habitual accuracy of statement, as opposed to prevalent exaggerations. The positive degree may really signify more than the superlative.


Verses 38-48

Matthew 5:38-48.
Requital Of Injuries And Love Of Enemies

The fourth and fifth examples (see on "Matthew 5:21"), by which our Lord illustrates the superiority of his teachings, are the subjects of Requital of Injuries (Matthew 5:38-42), and Love of Enemies (Matthew 5:43-48.)

Matthew 5:38. Ye have heard that it hath been said. See on "Matthew 5:21". An eye for an eye, etc. See Exodus 21:24; Deuteronomy 19:21; Leviticus 24:20, in which passages these expressions are coupled with various similar ones, as 'life for life,' 'hand for hand,' 'foot for foot,' the general law being that of retaliation, or, "like for like"—which was also the law of Solon, and of the Roman Twelve Tables. This careful. enunciation by Moses of the law of retaliation, was doubtless designed partly to restrain men from going beyond retaliation, as passion often prompts one to inflict a far greater injury than he has received. The Jews held that this law justified personal retaliation of private wrongs, and in general justified revenge; though Moses expressly forbids revenge of private injuries in Leviticus 19:18 : "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." In a rude state of society, as in the early days of California, every man takes in his own hands the punishment of wrongs done to him; and in the most civilized Christian community we are apt to find some individuals who glory in the fact that they protect and avenge themselves. The Jews would defend such a procedure on their part by misapplying to private action what was given as public law. The teachings of our Lord on this subject are therefore not in antagonism to the law of Moses, but serve to carry out more fully its spirit and design, to 'complete' the law, (Matthew 5:17) as we have seen in all the previous instances.

Matthew 5:39. But I say unto you, see on "Matthew 5:22". That ye resist not evil (the evil man). The Greek is ambiguous (compare on Matthew 5:37, and Matthew 6:13). If understood as masculine (Wyclif) it would no here mean 'the evil (one),' Satan, as it would in Matthew 5:37 and Matthew 6:13—but 'the evil (man),' the bad man who harms you, as in the ways that follow. If understood as neuter (Tyndale and all other early Eng. versions), it would be evil in general. The resulting sense is substantially the same. The verb rendered 'resist' signifies to stand over against, withstand; and the idea seems to be to let evil have its course (or the evil man his course), and leave it for God to punish and control (see Romans 12:19 if.; 1 Thessalonians 5:15, 1 Peter 3:9). Our Lord says not merely that we must not revenge evil, but must not resist it. The explanation of his exact meaning can be better given after considering one of the examples he presents in illustration of this general principle. These examples are four, viz., personal violence, (Matthew 5:39) vexatious: litigation, (Matthew 5:40) public exactions, (Matthew 5:41) and troublesome begging and borrowing. (Matthew 5:42)

Shall smite, or, smites. Present tense in the better Greek text, which was readily changed by copyists to the easier future, found in Matthew 5:41. The Greek word means to smite with rods, and to smite with the palm of the hand, (compare Matthew 26:67) colloquial Eng. 'slap.' Luke (Luke 6:29) has the general term 'strikes.'—The change to the singular number, 'thee,' is the same that occurs in Matthew 5:23 (see note). It is here continued, as there, through the several particulars which follow, (Matthew 5:40-42) and the plural is resumed with the next subject. (Matthew 5:43) Smiting on the right cheek (literally jaw), is both an injury and an insult, (1 Corinthians 11:20) and yet to this the loving Redeemer was himself more than once subjected.—The (Matthew 26:67, John 19:3) curious have observed that one naturally smites another's left cheek first, while Jesus follows rather the general custom of speaking, by which members of the right side are first mentioned. (compare Matthew 5:29)

What are we to understand by the precept not to resist evil, or the evil man, with this and the following illustrations? There have always been some who maintained that these expressions are to be taken rigorously, as absolutely forbidding war, or any resistance to personal violence. In the early centuries some Christians positively refused to render military service, as being here forbidden. Many of the Anabaptists of Germany, in the age of the Reformation, condemned war, as did the Mennonists of Holland. In America the view is now held by the Quakers (or Friends), the Tunkers (or Dunkers or Dunkards), and the Mennonists.(1) Besides those persons who conscientiously strove to carry out the supposed teachings of the passage, there have always been others who interpreted it in the same way, and have then made it a ground either of attack upon the morality of the gospel as fanciful and unwise, or of assault upon the current Christianity as inconsistent and confessedly immoral, or else of excuse for the total failure to attempt obedience in any sense to commands which it seemed so impossible fully to carry out. On the other hand, most Christians have perceived that it could not be meant to condemn war under all circumstances, as various soldiers are referred to in the New Testament, without any hint of their being required to cease to be soldiers, and as war is sometimes an inevitable necessity, to prevent yet greater evils. They have also perceived that the direction to turn the left cheek, cannot have been designed as a rule for general observance, since it would often needlessly provoke greater wrong, and seeing that our Lord himself did not turn the other cheek when smitten, but mildly and yet firmly remonstrated, (John 18:22 f.) while Paul met the suggestion to insult him in this way with a severe rebuke—besides (Acts 23:3) the fact that Jesus repeatedly took great pains to avoid exposing himself to personal violence, by withdrawing from places at which it was threatened. (Luke 4:30, John 7:1, John 7:10, John 10:39, Mark 9:30, etc.)

How then are we to interpret the language here employed? It is not enough to say that our Lord cannot have meant this as an absolute and general rule, for while that is plain, the question recurs, what did he mean? It will not do to declare the language merely figurative, for we have no warrant whatever for calling plain statements figurative—a process by which the most vital doctrines and precepts of Scripture might be explained away. Two remarks will help to clear up the difficulty. (1) Our Saviour's teachings in general (as well as the teachings of his apostles), are not simply didactic, but polemical, aimed at existing errors and evils; and while intended to be universal in their application, they will be understood in their exact bearing only when viewed in contrast to the wrong opinion, feeling, or practice he was especially designing in each case to correct. Many passages of Scripture fail to be rightly interpreted because this principle is not apprehended or not borne in mind. In the present case, Jesus aims to correct the revengeful spirit and practice to which the Jews were greatly addicted, and which they justified by a loose application of the law of Moses. (2) Our Lord here, as we have observed in former instances (see on "Matthew 5:29", and compare the expressions in Matthew 6:3, Matthew 6:6), selects an extreme case, in order to exhibit more vividly the principle by which we should be guided. So far from vengeful resistance and retaliation being right, it would be better, if that were the alternative, voluntarily to submit ourselves to a yet greater wrong. Better to turn the other cheek, to give up the other garment, to double the impressing officer's requisition, than to permit ourselves to practice that passionate resistance and that revengeful retaliation to which we are all prone, and which the Jewish teachers defended. The case is an extreme one, and very unlikely to occur; but if even this would be right, rather than be revengeful, all the more is it our duty to do things less difficult, since the greater includes the less. Dykes : "Of course, when an instance is selected to illustrate a principle, the instance is usually an extreme or next to impossible one; both because a principle is best seen when pushed to its ultimate application, and also because there is less chance of people blindly copying the example when its extravagance drives them to search for some inner meaning in it." On Matthew 5:24 we saw that if prompt reconciliation is so important as to make it right to interrupt a sacrifice in order to settle a difficulty just then remembered, much more is it our duty, under all ordinary circumstances, to seek reconciliation without delay. And so here. If it would be proper, were that the alternative, even to expose ourselves voluntarily to the grossest additional insult and wrong, such as is here described, rather than be revengeful, then much more is it our duty to bear wrong and insult that have already been inflicted, rather than exercise a spirit of revenge. To resist, to resent, to punish, whether in national or individual affairs, is not necessarily and inherently sinful, but is useful, when properly regulated, to society, and even to the wrongdoer himself; and so it is sometimes a duty to punish, even when we should prefer to do otherwise. But to resist or resent in a passionate and revengeful spirit is deeply sinful, and a sin to which men are so strongly inclined that it ought to be guarded against with the utmost care. And yet many professing Christians not only act when excited, but deliberately and habitually avow their intention to act, in the way which is here so pointedly condemned—more sensitive as to what the world calls insult and dishonour, than to the teachings of infinite wisdom, the solemn commands of the Divine Redeemer. O, cowardly audacity! afraid to incur the world's petty frown, and not afraid to displease God.

Matthew 5:40. Sue thee at—or, go to—law. Some understand it to include private arbitration of difficulties, as well as suits at law—and certainly the same term does cover both in 1 Corinthians 6:1, 1 Corinthians 6:6—but the connection here seems to point directly and exclusively to a suit at law. We have already had a reference to legal processes in Matthew 5:25. There is a Latin proverb which resembles this saying, viz., "If one sues you for the egg, give him the hen also." Coat. The Greek denotes the inner garment worn by a Jew in those days, resembling what the Romans called 'tunic,' and corresponding most nearly to a long shirt, which usually reached somewhat below the knee, but in the more elegant article for dress occasions, reached almost to the ground. It was sometimes worn loose, but commonly confined around the waist with a girdle. (Matthew 3:4) In some cases two of these were worn (see on "Matthew 10:10"), but in general only one. It is this garment of our Saviour which is said to have been without seam. (John 19:28) The other Greek word, rendered cloak, is sometimes used to signify a garment in general, as in Matthew 9:16, Matthew 17:2, Matthew 24:18, Matthew 26:65, Matthew 27:31, Matthew 27:35. In other cases, as Matthew 9:20-21, Matthew 14:36, Matthew 21:7-8, it denotes the outer garment, which appears (for our knowledge of Hebrew dress is quite imperfect) to have been for some persons a loose robe, and with others a large square piece of cloth, resembling a large shawl, wrapped around the person with more or less of taste and comfort. In John 13:4, John 13:12, there appear to have been several garments; for Jesus would not lay aside the inmost garment. But the outer and inner garment here mentioned were commonly all, and the outer one was frequently used by the poor and travellers as a covering at night—just as shawls are used by travellers now. So the law of Moses provided (Exodus 22:26) that if it were taken in pawn, it should be returned before sunset. Such being the law, the Jewish tribunals would naturally allow the inner garment to betaken by judicial process rather than the outer one, and that will explain the order in which they are here mentioned. Luke (Luke 6:29) says nothing of a suit at law, but only speaks of taking away the garment, and hence mentions them in the order in which they would naturally be removed from the person, the outer garment first.—It is matter of common observation in all ages, that a man who is threatened with an unjust lawsuit will show a peculiar animosity, and if he thinks himself unjustly treated in the sentence, a peculiar rancour and revengefulness, declaring that he will yet make his adversary suffer for it. Rather than feel and act thus, our Lord says it would be better even voluntarily to give far more than the aggressor is awarded. (Compare 1 Corinthians 6:7) How evil then must be this rancorous spirit, and bow carefully should Christians avoid it.

Matthew 5:41. Shall compel thee to go—or, impress thee for—a mile. "A"—or One, is in the original emphatic by position. Impress, The Greek word was borrowed into Greek and Latin from tile Persian, to denote a Persian practice continued by the Greek and Roman rulers who succeeded them in Western Asia. It strictly signified to make one a public courier, (compare Esther 8:10, Esther 8:14) and hence to make one temporarily perform a courier's work, or help a courier on his way, with horses or personal labours, etc.; and finally it was applied to coercing or compelling any public service, as the Roman soldiers compelled or impressed Simon to carry the cross. (Matthew 27:32) Such impressments were all the more odious to the Jews as being a subjugated people, suffering this harsh treatment from foreign rulers. During the great Maccabean struggle, one of the rival Syrian kings sought to conciliate the Jews by promising many exemptions, including this: "And I order that the beasts of burden of the Jews be not impressed" (same Greek word, Josephus "Ant.," 18, 2, 3.) Impressment, like a lawsuit, is apt to produce very angry and revengeful feelings; and so this illustration is parallel to the foregoing.

Matthew 5:42. The word rendered borrow would in classical Greek naturally suggest interest, but the Jews were forbidden (Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:37, Deuteronomy 23:19) to charge interest against each other (see on "Matthew 25:27"). Readiness to lend was strongly urged in Deuteronomy 15:7-11, and the idea repeated by subsequent inspired writers, as in Psalms 37:26, Psalms 112:5. Henry: "Lending is sometimes as great a piece of charity as giving, as it not only relieves the present exigence, but obliges the borrower to providence, industry, and honesty. "We are here required to give, and to lend, not merely where it is pleasant to do so, but where it is unpleasant, the latter being the idea apparently suggested by the connection with what precedes. But that the injunction is not intended to be absolute and without exception, is shown by the case of God himself, who promises, in terms as unlimited as these, to give whatever we ask in the name of Jesus, and yet actually does give only when he sees it to be proper. To give to those who "ask amiss" (James 4:3) would be no real kindness to them—nor in us. As in Matthew 5:45 and elsewhere, God's example explains the meaning of his precepts.

Matthew 5:43. Here begins the fifth and last example (see on "Matthew 5:21"), viz., love of enemies. This is closely related to the preceding. (Matthew 5:38-42.) Stier : "As this is to close the distinctive reference to the commandments, it is not one of the individual commandments of the Decalogue which is introduced, as the first quotations had been; but the epitome of the whole second table, as Moses had already specified it, viz., the law of love, of that one central disposition of mind, which should evidence itself in every good word and work."

That it hath been said. See on "Matthew 5:21". Thou shalt love thy neighbour, is from Leviticus 19:18. But the Jewish teachers, with their customary efforts to explain away the rigorous requirements of the law (compare the case of oaths, Matthew 5:33 ff.), here insisted upon a strict and limited sense of the term 'neighbour.' The lawyer who came to Jesus, (Luke 10:25 ff.) made it all turn upon this: I am to love my neighbour, but who is my neighbour? Our Lord's answer there shows, as he teaches here, that in the sense of the law even an enemy is our neighbour. But the Jewish teachers held that an enemy was not a neighbour, and that the command to love the latter implied permission to withhold it from the former. So as they publicly repeated and expounded the law, they would make the addition, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour—and hate thine enemy." This they would perhaps seek to justify by pointing to the severe treatment of the Canaanites which God enjoined upon Israel; but that was an exceptional case. The commandment to love the neighbour was extended in Leviticus 19:33-34 to strangers, yet that meant strangers sojourning in Israel—With such teachings prevalent as Jesus here describes, we can understand how the Jews came to be charged by Tacitus with "hatred to the human race." (See further on "Matthew 22:39".)

Matthew 5:44. But I say. See on "Matthew 5:21". The clauses omitted from this verse in Rev. Ver. are wanting in the earliest manuscripts and versions, and were manifestly borrowed in later copies from Luke 6:27 ff. They are a real part of the discourse, but not of Matthew's report of it.—this injunction finds no real parallel among the teachings of heathen sages. Those alleged have been misunderstood or over-stated. The Emperor Julian (the "apostate"), while borrowing the idea from the gospel he rejected, felt that it would sound strange to his heathen readers, for he says in one of his writings: "I would affirm, even though it be a strange thing to say, that even to one's enemies it would be right to give clothing and food."—some urge that the Old and the New Testaments are in conflict on this point, appealing, for example, to the imprecations and expressions of hate which are found in the Psalms. But the example of God himself shows that an abhorrence of confirmed wickedness and a desire for its punishment may co-exist with pitying love and persevering kindness; and difficult as it may be for man to cherish both feelings at once, it is not more difficult than some other duties. And the Old Testament repeatedly teaches to show kindness to an enemy, as in Exodus 23:4 f.; Leviticus 19:18, Proverbs 24:17, Proverbs 24:29, Proverbs 25:21 f.; (compare Romans 12:20) Job 31:29; Psalms 7:4; 1 Samuel 24:5, while the New Testament has passages corresponding to the imprecations in the Psalms, as when Paul comforts the Thessalonians with the thought that God will terribly punish their persecutors, (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) or when the martyred souls under the altar cry, (Revelation 6:10. Rev. Ver.)" How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (See also 1 Corinthians 16:22; 2 Timothy 4:14; Luke 18:7) The difference is therefore of kind, and not of degree; the law speaks more of severity, the gospel more of kindness, though neither wholly lacks that which is most prominent in the other. (Compare on Matthew 5:4) Still. it is notably characteristic of the gospel that it enjoins not simply justice, but love.

Matthew 5:45. His sun, reminding us by the may that God possesses and controls the sun. We commonly say "it rains," etc., but Jesus here refers the agencies of nature directly to God.(1) Sendeth rain—literally—and rains. Sunshine and rain are naturally chosen as among the chief providential blessings.—(Compare Acts 14:17) One element and proof of sonship is resemblance, as it is said, (Ephesians 5:1) 'Be ye therefore followers (imitators) of God, as dear children,' and we are urged to love our enemies and treat them kindly, in order that we may be acting like our Heavenly Father, for he loves his enemies, and sends natural blessings upon them as well as upon his friends. Compare Luke 6:35, 'for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.'—The same idea is presented by Seneca: "If you imitate the gods, give benefits even to the ungrateful; for even to abandoned wretches the sun arises, and to pirates the seas lie open." Sirach: "Be to orphans as a father, and instead of a husband to their mother; and thou shalt be as a son of the Highest, and thy mother shall love thee more and more." The Talmud : "A thousand thousand, and myriads are bound to praise thy name for every drop of rain thou sendest down upon us, because thou renderest good to the wicked." —But the love of God to his enemies is not the same as to his friends, the one being a love of compassion and benevolence, the other a love of complacency; he bestows benefits upon the wicked, he delights in the good. And in like manner we are not bidden to take admiring delight in our enemies, but to cherish no revengeful and malignant feeling towards them, and to do anything we can for their welfare-that is, of course, when it would not aid in the accomplishment of their evil designs against us. This is not inconsistent with restraining and even punishing them; for God does so with his enemies.

Matthew 5:46. Two other reasons for loving our enemies. (1) Otherwise what reward have ye? It is implied that if we love our enemies, we have a religious reward (compare Matthew 5:12 and Matthew 6:1; and Luke 6:32, Luke 6:35). The Scriptures do not leave men to the mere unaided sense of duty as a motive to do right, but appeal also to their hopes and fears. Thus Moses, (Hebrews 11:26, Rev. Ver.) 'looked unto the recompense of reward,' and even Jesus, (Hebrews 12:2) 'for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.' (Compare on Matthew 5:29) To say that this "vitiates morality" is to propose a philosophy of human conduct at variance with human nature. (2) Even the publicans. It is important to understand the odium which attached among the Jews to the office of publican. The Romans farmed out the privilege of collecting taxes, as is now done in some Oriental countries. The right to collect a particular kind or kinds of revenue in a particular province was sold at Rome to some individual or joint-stock company of the better class of citizens (equites), who were hence called "publicans," or collectors of the public revenue. These parties sent out agents who employed as subordinates either Roman citizens of the lower class, or natives of the province. The subordinates were not in Roman usage called publicani, but portitores. Yet as the same Greek word is applied to both, the Latin versions called both classes publicans, and we do likewise. The tax-gatherers we meet in the Gospel history are doubtless all of the subordinate class, even Zaccheus being probably a chief of the portitores. (Luke 19:2) Tax-collectors are in all countries apt to be unpopular, and these men were especially so among the Jews. They constantly reminded the people of their subjugation to the Romans, and a proud people, whose history told of David and Solomon and the Maccabees, could never think of this without mortification. They often practised extortion, (Luke 3:13, Luke 19:8) encouraged thereto by the fact that their employers paid the government a fixed sum, and had all they could get. No native would take such an office if he cared much for public opinion, and those who did so were usually renegades, or very lax as to observance of the law. Accordingly, while the publicani at Rome, who really served the State, and sometimes advanced large sums to relieve the public finances, are highly commended by Cicero and others, we find that in all the provinces the subordinates were hated and shunned, and particularly in Palestine. The Jews classed them with heathen (Matthew 5:47 And Matthew 18:17) and with harlots, (Matthew 21:31) and one of the reproaches cast on Jesus was that he was a 'friend of publicans and sinners.' (Matthew 11:19) Matthew was himself a publican, (Matthew 9:9, Matthew 10:3) though he may have been a man of better character than was usual among them. Matthew heard this discourse, yet Jesus did not on that account use softened expressions about the class to which he had belonged. The later Jewish writers class them with robbers and murderers, and affirm that they were not allowed to give testimony, and were excluded from the synagogues.—Our Lord is thus declaring that to love those who love us proves no higher grade of morality than that occupied by the most despised, by publicans and by heathen. (Matthew 5:47) Luke (Luke 6:32 f.) uses the more general term, 'sinners.' In loving his friends a man may in a certain sense be loving only himself—a kind of expanded selfishness.

Matthew 5:47. This repeats, in another form, the thought of the preceding sentence, such amplification being common in Scripture (see on "Matthew 5:30"), and being very effective in popular discourse. Publicans—rather, Gentiles; the reading of the earliest Greek manuscripts and versions would easily be changed to 'publicans,' to correspond with Matthew 5:46. The Jews regarded other nations with dislike and contempt, and so 'the nations' would sometimes be a term of contempt, which in English we express by 'Gentiles.' When Christianity became prevalent in the Roman Empire, the old Roman religion still survived in many remote country districts (pagi, pagani), and so its supporters were called 'pagans,' or in English 'heathen' (living in the heath or uncultivated country). Accordingly the same Greek word is translated 'nations' in Matthew 21:43, Matthew 24:7, Matthew 24:9, Matthew 24:14, Matthew 25:32, Matthew 28:19; and 'Gentiles in Matthew 4:15, Matthew 5:47, Rev. Ver.; Matthew 6:32, Matthew 10:5, Matthew 10:18, Matthew 12:18, Matthew 12:21, Matthew 20:19, Matthew 20:25. A derivative was rendered in all the early English versions by 'heathen' in Matthew 6:7, Matthew 18:17, which gives the Christian point of view, but the Rev. Ver. restores the Jewish stand-point by rendering 'Gentiles.' (It does the same in Acts 4:25; 2 Corinthians 11:26; Galatians 1:16, Galatians 2:9, Galatians 3:8)—To salute a person is a stronger mark of kind feelings according to Oriental manners than among us, their salutations being usually elaborate, and therefore given only to express high respect. Jews did not generally salute Gentiles, and Mohammedans as a rule do not salute Christians; and the Apostle John (2 John 1:10 f.) forbids not only hospitality but 'greeting' (same word as in James 1:1, Acts 15:23) to teachers of those antichristian and grossly immoral notions which prevailed. To express the importance of 'salute' in this verse, Tyndale and Geneva give a sort of paraphrase, 'if ye be friendly to your brethren only,' and Great Bible, 'if ye make much of,' etc.—Luke here (Luke 6:34 f.) gives some other expressions which still further amplify the thoughts expressed in this and the two preceding verses. It is not difficult to understand that each Evangelist has given only a part of what was spoken.

Matthew 5:48. Be ye perfect. Ye shall be (so Tyndale, Great Bible, Geneva, and Rev. Ver.), is a literal translation of the Greek Future, which is in such a case substantially equivalent to an imperative. The form of expression may carry an allusion to Deuteronomy 18:13. Ye is emphatic, meaning Christ's disciples as contrasted with publicans and Gentiles. Therefore, presents this as a conclusion from what precedes: since you ought to be at a higher point of morality than publicans and Gentiles, and ought to be like your Father in heaven, (compare Matthew 5:45) therefore you shall be perfect, etc. Father which is in heaven. The reading Heavenly Father of many early manuscripts and versions, was easily changed to the more common 'Father which is in heaven' of Matthew 5:45, Matthew 6:9, Matthew 6:14. The term rendered perfect is used in a variety of connections, and its precise meaning must always be determined by the particular connection. Sometimes it is simply 'complete,' without any moral element, Hebrews 9:11, and perhaps James 1:17. In other cases it means complete in growth of body or mind, 'fullgrown.' (1 Corinthians 14:20, Ephesians 4:13, Hebrews 5:14, Hebrews 6:1; 1 Corinthians 2:6) In yet others, complete morally, as Matthew 19:21; Colossians 1:28, Colossians 4:12; James 1:4, James 1:25, James 3:2. And there are passages in which it seems to mean complete in both knowledge and moral excellence, as Philippians 3:15, and perhaps 1 Corinthians 13:10. Here, it is moral perfection in general, but with specific reference to love—i.e., not loving friends only, which would be an imperfect love, but loving enemies also, as our Heavenly Father does. Luke (Luke 6:36) gives only this specific thought, 'merciful.' But it does not seem proper to restrict Matthew's general term to this thought alone. In all things, love included, we ought to be perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is—to be like him, and so prove ourselves to be his children. Our own minds demand a perfect standard, such as the divine nature presents; and however far we may actually fall short of attaining it, yet he who is content with coming short gives no evidence that he is a child of God.

Thus ends the series of striking particulars (Matthew 5:21-48) in which our Lord compares his teachings with the law and the current explanations of it, so as to show that far from designing to relax the obligations of morality, his requirements were still more stringent, extending, not merely to the outward act, but to the motive and feeling; not merely to what the letter of the law required, but to all that it designed and involved. (See on "Matthew 5:17".) As this portion of the Sermon on the Mount has especial reference to Jewish ideas, Luke, who wrote not for Jews in particular (as Matthew did), but for general circulation, has given no report of it, except of what was said on the subject of love to enemies, and this he introduces as general instruction, without any allusion to the Jewish misinterpretations of the law and mistaken expectations, which with his design would have been out of place.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 5:38-41. Four kinds of Retaliation. (1) Natural passion says, Requite the like, and worse. (2) The law of Moses says, Let the judge requite precisely the like. (3) Christ says, Do not (revengefully) requite the like at all—better receive the like a second time. (4) The apostle Peter says, (1 Peter 3:9) "Not rendering evil for evil, but contrariwise blessing." This is the Christian retaliation. —Self-defense, and punishment in ways regulated by law, are not forbidden in forbidding hate and revenge. But do not "take the law in your own hands," and do not press the execution of the law in a revengeful spirit. Chrys.: "Nothing so restrains the wrong-doers, as when the injured bear what is done with gentleness. And it not only restrains them from rushing onward, but works upon them also to repent for what has gone before, and, in wonder at such forbearance, to draw back. And it makes them more our own, and causes them to be slaves—not merely friends—instead of haters and enemies. Even as avenging oneself does just the contrary; for it disgraces each of the two, and makes them worse, and their anger it brightens into a greater flame; yea, often no less than death itself is the end of it, going on from bad to worse." Stier: "That heathenish law of honour, which will not accept the very slightest indignity, but even in the midst of modern Christendom demands the duel itself. To this 'point of honour' stands opposed the patient acceptance and endurance of insult, as the genuine Christian courage and knightly honour. Offer him the other also—that is, in thy heart, and in the disposition of thy mind; calmly and patiently wait if he may strike thee another blow, and be ready to receive that also—so far let thy spirit be from opposing..... The actual turning of the other cheek might be no other than a challenge to continued sin, consequently itself sinful, and opposed to the love of our neighbour. There might even be a proud despite in it, or a mere hypocritical affectation." Dykes: "By general consent, a blow on the face is the extreme of personal insults..... But the spirit of our Lord's words is not open to the suspicion of being a craven spirit. It is this suspicion, more, I fancy, than any thing else, which is apt to discredit the teaching of this text with generous men. Yet here, as always, it is sin, not love, that is the real coward. He who best obeys the rule of Jesus will be the bravest man. To curb temper; to govern the spirit of revenge, even under insult; to place what is better than life, personal honour, under the control of a love which is patient and just because it is strong—stronger than passion: this is true valour and true honour."

Matthew 5:42. Our duty to Beggars.

I. Counsels. (1) We must not refuse all because many are impostors. (2) We should strive to ascertain who are really needy and deserving, and to inform others. (3) We must not turn beggars away simply because offensive or annoying-this would be a very petty selfishness. (4) Where there is public provision for beggars we should act in harmony with such arrangements, but cannot remit the matter wholly to them. (5) To open some means of supporting themselves is far better than to support them.

II. Motives. (1) Humanity-they have the same nature as ourselves, essentially the same sensitive feelings, pains and pleasures, memories and hopes and destiny. (2) Piety. Grateful love to God. We are beggars, to whom he gives liberally, and we must return to him by giving to our fellowmen.—Borrowing and Lending. It is more blessed to lend than to borrow. Cautions as to borrowing—encouragements to lend. Compare Luke 6:35.

Luke 6:44. Cyril: "Let us love our enemies, not as adulterers or murderers, but as men."—Chrys.: "Have you seen what steps he has ascended, and how he has placed us on the very summit of virtue? Look at the succession from the beginning. The first step is, not to begin injuring; the second, after injury has been begun, not to defend yourself against the injurer by like actions; the third, not to inflict on the wrong-doer that which one ha., buffered, but to keep quiet; the fourth, even ha yield oneself to suffer evil; the fifth, to yield even more than he who did the evil wishes; the sixth, not to hate him who does these things; the seventh, even to love him; the eighth, even to do him good; the ninth, even to pray to God for him. Have you seen the height of Christian philosophy?" —Love your enemies.

I. How? (1) Do not love what is wrong in them, but love them notwithstanding the wrong. (2) Love them in the same way that God loves his enemies.

II. Why? (1) Because fellow-men ('neighbours'), although enemies. (2) In order to be like God, his children. Jerome: "Many say that to love enemies is too much for human nature; but David did this to Saul and Absalom; Stephen prayed for the enemies that were stoning him; Jesus both taught and did it. 'Father, forgive them.' " —Henry: "It was said of Archbishop Cranmer, that the way to make him a friend was to do him an ill turn; so many did he serve who had disobliged him."

Luke 6:45. Natural blessings, as sunshine and rain. The modern phrase is that they are caused by the "laws of nature." They are caused by natural forces, which we perceive to act regularly, and these regular modes of acting we call laws. But who appointed the laws? Who created the forces, and made them such as to act in these regular ways? The Scriptures represent the Creator as working in the forces he has created and controls.—Sonship to God. (1) Shown by moral likeness to him. (2) In particular, by kindness to our fellow-men, even to enemies.

Luke 6:46 f. Natural kindness and Christian kindness. Christians ought assuredly to be better than men in general.

Luke 6:48. Imitating. (1) Do not imitate the publicans and the Gentiles. (2) Imitate your Heavenly Father.—Perfection. (1) We should wish to be perfect—and pained with our imperfections. (2) We should try to be perfect—not disheartened by past failures. (3) We may hope to be perfect—as we pass into the perfect world.

 


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Bibliography Information
Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:4". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbm/matthew-5.html. 1886.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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