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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Matthew 5

 

 


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Verse 1

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

And seeing the multitudes [those mentioned in Matthew 4:25] he went up into a mountain , [ eis (Greek #1519) to (Greek #3588) oros (Greek #3735)] - one of the dozen mountains which Robinson says there are in the vicinity of the sea of Galilee, any one of them answering about equally well to the occasion. So charming is the whole landscape that the descriptions of it, from Josephus downward (Jewish Wars, 4: 10, 8), are apt to be thought a little coloured.

And when he was set - `had sat' or 'seated Himself' [ kathisantos (Greek #2523) autou (Greek #846)] --

His disciples came unto him - already a large circle, more or less attracted and subdued by His preaching and miracles, in addition to the smaller band of devoted adherents. Though the latter only answered to the subjects of His kingdom, described in this Discourse, there were drawn from time to time into this inner circle souls from the outer one, who, by the power of His matchless word, were constrained to forsake their all for the Lord Jesus.


Verse 2

And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

And he opened his mouth - a solemn way of arousing the reader's attention, and preparing him for something weighty (Job 3:1; Acts 8:35; Acts 10:34) - "and taught them, saying,"


Verse 3

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed ... Of the two words which our translators render "blessed," the one here used [ makarioi (Greek #3107)] points more to what is inward, and so might be rendered "happy," in a lofty sense; while the other [ eulogeemenoi (Greek #2127)] denotes rather what comes to us from without (as Matthew 25:34). But the distinction is not always nicely carried out. One Hebrew word [ '


Verse 4

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. [Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles place this verse after Matthew 5:5, but on evidence decidedly inferior, in our judgment, to that for the received order. And certainly the order of the ideas is in favour of the common arrangement; while in Isaiah 61:1, and Luke 4:18, the "mourners" come immediately after the "poor."] This "mourning" must not be taken loosely for that feeling which is wrung from men under pressure of the ills of life, nor yet strictly far sorrow on account of committed sins. Evidently it is that entire feeling which the sense of our spiritual poverty begets; and so the second beatitude is but the complement of the first. The one is the intellectual, the other the emotional aspect of the same thing. It is poverty of spirit that says, "I am undone;" and it is the mourning which this causes that makes it break forth in the form of a lamentation - "Woe is me, for I am undone." Hence, this class are termed "mourners in Zion," or, as we might express it, religious mourners, in sharp contrast with all other sorts (Isaiah 61:1-3; Isaiah 66:2). Religion, according to the Bible, is neither a set of intellectual convictions nor a bundle of emotional feelings, but a compound of both, the former giving birth to the latter. Thus closely do the first two beatitudes cohere. The mourners shall be "comforted." Even now they get beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Sowing in tears, they reap even here in joy. Still all present comfort, even the best, is partial, interrupted, short-lived. But the days of our mourning shall soon be ended, and then God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. Then, in the fullest sense, shall the mourners be "comforted."


Verse 5

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. This promise to the meek is but a repetition of Psalms 37:11; only the word which our Evangelist renders "the meek," [ hoi (Greek #3588) praeis (Greek #4239)] after the Septuagint is the same which we have found so often translated "the poor" [ `


Verse 6

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, [ teen (G3588) dikaiosuneen (G1343) = ts


Verse 7

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the merciful, [ eleeemones (G1655) = ch


Verse 8

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the pure in heart [ hoi (G3588) katharoi (G2513) tee (G3588) kardia (G2588) = baariym (H1305) leebaab (H3824), Psalms 24:4; Psalms 73:1]: for they shall see God. Here, too, we are on Old Testament ground. There the difference between outward and inward purity, and the acceptableness of the latter only in the sight of God, is everywhere taught. Nor is the 'vision of God' strange to the Old Testament; and though it was an understood thing that this was not possible in the present life (Exodus 33:20; and cf. Job 19:26-27; Isaiah 6:5), yet spiritually it was known and felt to be the privilege of the saints even here, (Genesis 5:24; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 17:1; Genesis 48:15; Psalms 27:4; Psalms 36:9; Psalms 63:2; Isaiah 38:3; Isaiah 38:11, etc.) But O, with what grand simplicity; brevity, and power is this great fundamental truth here expressed! And in what striking contrast would such teaching appear to that which was then current, in which exclusive attention was paid to ceremonial purification and external morality? This heart-purity begins in a "heart sprinkled from an evil conscience," or a "conscience purged from dead works" (Hebrews 10:22; Hebrews 9:14; and see Acts 15:9); and this also is taught in the Old Testament (Psalms 32:1-2 : cf. Romans 4:5-8; and Isaiah 6:5-8). The conscience thus purged-the heart thus springled-there is light within where-with to see God. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, have fellowship one with the other" [ met' (Greek #3326) alleeloon (Greek #240)] - He with us and we with Him - "and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us" - us who have this fellowship, and who, without such continual cleansing, would soon lose it again - "from all sin" (1 John 1:6-7). "Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him" (1 John 3:6); "He that doeth evil hath not seen God" (3 John 1:11).

The inward vision thus clarified, and the whole inner man in sympathy with God, each looks upon the other with complacency and joy, and we are "changed into the same image from glory to glory." But the full and beatific vision of God is reserved for that time to which the Psalmist stretches his views - "As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness" (Psalms 17:15). Then shall His servants serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads (Revelation 22:3-4). They shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). But, says the apostle, expressing the converse of this beatitude - "Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).


Verse 9

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are the peacemakers , [ eireenopoioi (Greek #1518) = yow`


Verse 10

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake ... How entirely this final beatitude has its ground in the Old Testament, is evident from the concluding words, where the encouragement held out to endure such persecutions consists in its being but a continuation of what was experienced by the Old Testament servants of God. But how, it may be asked, could such beautiful features of character provoke persecution? To this the following answers should suffice: "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." "The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil." "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." "There is yet one man (said wicked Ahab to good Jehoshaphat), by whom we may inquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil" (John 3:20; John 7:7; John 15:19; 2 Chronicles 18:7).

But more particularly the seven characters here described are all in the teeth of the spirit of the world But more particularly, the seven characters here described are all in the teeth of the spirit of the world, insomuch that such hearers of this Discourse as breathed that spirit must have been startled, and had their whole system of thought and action rudely dashed. Poverty of spirit runs counter to the pride of men's heart; a pensive disposition, in the view of one's universal deficiences Before God, is ill relished by the callous, indifferent, laughing, self-satisfied world; a meek and quiet spirit, taking wrong, is regarded as pusillanimous, and rasps against the proud, resentful spirit of the world; that craving after spiritual blessings rebukes but too unpleasantly the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; so does a merciful spirit the hardheartedness of the world; purity of heart contrasts painfully with painted hypocrisy; and the peacemaker cannot easily be endured by the contentious, quarrelsome world. Thus does "righteousness" come to be "persecuted." But blessed are they who, in spite of this, dare to be righteous.

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Since this was the reward promised to the poor in spirit-the leading one of these seven beatitudes-of course it is the proper portion of such as are persecuted for exemplifying them.


Verse 11

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Blessed are ye when men shall revile you - or abuse you to your face, in opposition to backbiting. (See Mark 15:32.)

And persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely , [Tischendorf-on quite insufficient evidence, we think-omits this last word pseudomenoi (Greek #5574): Tregelles, however, retains it. Even though it had not been expressed, it would of course have been implied.]

For my sake. Observe this. He had before said, "for righteousness' sake." Here He identifies Himself and His cause with that of righteousness, binding up the cause of righteousness in the world with the reception of Himself. Would Moses, or David, or Isaiah, or Paul have so expressed themselves? Never. Doubtless they suffered for righteousness' sake. But to have called this "their sake," would, as everyone feels, have been very unbecoming. Whereas He that speaks, being Righteousness incarnate (see Mark 1:24; Acts 3:14; Revelation 3:7), when He so speaks, speaks only like Himself.


Verse 12

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad - `exult' [ agalliasthe (Greek #21)]. In the corresponding passage of Luke (Luke 6:22-23), where every indignity trying to flesh and blood is held forth as the probable lot of such as were faithful to Him, the word is even stronger than here, "leap" [ skirteesate (Greek #4640)], as if He would have their inward transport to overpower and absorb the sense of all these affronts and sufferings; nor will anything else do it.

For great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you: - q.d., 'You do but serve yourselves heirs to their character and sufferings, and the reward will be common.'

Matthew 5:13-16. We have here the practical application of the foregoing principles to those disciples who sat listening to them, and to their successors in all time. Our Lord, though he began by pronouncing certain characters to be blessed-without express reference to any of His hearers-does not close the beatitudes without intimating that such characters were in existence, and that already they were before Him. Accordingly, from characters He comes to persons possessing them, saying, "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you," etc. And now, continuing this mode of direct personal address, He startles those humble, unknown men by pronouncing them the exalted benefactors of their whole species.


Verse 13

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Ye are the salt of the earth - to preserve it from corruption, to season its insipidity, to freshen and sweeten it. The value of salt for these purposes is abundantly referred to by classical writers as well as in Scripture; and hence, its symbolical significance in the religious offerings as well of those without as of those within the pale of revealed religion. In Scripture, mankind, under the unrestrained workings of their own evil nature, are represented as entirely corrupt. Thus, before the flood (Genesis 6:11-12); after the flood (Genesis 8:21); in the days of David (Psalms 14:2-3); in the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:5-6); and in the days of Paul (Ephesians 2:1-3; see also Job 14:4; Job 15:15-16; John 3:6; compared with Romans 8:8; Titus 3:2-3). The remedy for this, says our Lord here, is the active presence of His disciples among their fellows. The character and principles of Christians, brought into close contact with it, are designed to arrest the festering corruption of humanity and season its insipidity. But how, it may be asked, are Christians to do this office for their fellow-men, if their righteousness only exasperate them, and recoil, in every form of persecution, upon themselves? The answer is, That is but the first and partial effect of their Christianity upon the world: though the great proportion would dislike and reject the truth, a small but noble band would receive and hold it fast; and in the struggle that would ensue, one and another even of the opposing party would come over to His ranks, and at length the Gospel would carry all before it.

But if the salt have lost his savour , [ mooranthee (Greek #3471)] - 'become unsavoury' or 'insipid;' losing its saline or salting property. The meaning is, If that Christianity on which the health of the world depends, does in any age, region, or individual, exist only in name, or if it contain not those saving elements for want of which the world languishes.

Wherewith shall it be salted? - how shall the salting qualities be restored to it? (Compare Mark 9:50.) Whether salt ever does lose its saline property-about which there is a difference of opinion-is a question of no moment here. The point of the case lies in the supposition-that if it should lose it, the consequence would be as here described. So with Christians. The question is not, Can, or do, the saints ever totally lose that grace which makes them a blessing to their fellow-men? But, What is to be the issue of that Christianity which is found wanting in those elements which can alone stay the corruption and season the tastelessness of an all-pervading carnality? The restoration or non-restoration of grace, or true living Christianity, to those who have lost it, has, in our judgment, nothing at all to do here. The question is not, If a man lose his grace, how shall that grace be restored to him? but, Since living Christianity is the only "salt of the earth," if men lose that, what else can supply its place? What follows is the appalling answer to this question.

It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out - a figurative expression of indignant exclusion from the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 8:12; Matthew 22:13; John 6:37; John 9:34).

And to be trodden under foot of men - expressive of contempt and scorn. It is not the mere want of a certain character, but the want of it in those whose profession and appearance were fitted to beget expectation of finding it.


Verse 14

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Ye are the light of the world , [ to (Greek #3588) foos (Greek #5457) tou (Greek #3588) kosmou (Greek #2889)]. This being the distinctive title which our Lord appropriates to Himself (John 8:12; John 9:5; and see John 1:4; John 1:9; John 3:19; John 12:35-36) - a title expressly said to be unsuitable even to the highest of all the prophets (John 1:8) - it must be applied here by our Lord to His disciples only as they shine with His light upon the world, in virtue of His Spirit dwelling in them, and the same mind being in them which was also in Christ Jesus. Nor are Christians anywhere else so called. Nay, as if to avoid the august title which the Master has appropriated to Himself, Christians are said to "shine" - not as "lights," as our translators render it, but - "as luminaries [ foosteeres (Greek #5458)] in the world" (Philippians 2:15); and the Baptist is said to have been "the burning and shining" - not "light," as in our translation, but - "lamp" [ luchnos (Greek #3088)] of his day (John 5:35).

Let it be observed, too, that while the two figures of salt and sunlight both express the same function of Christians-their blessed influence on their fellow-men-they each, set this forth under a different aspect. Salt operates internally, in the mass with which it comes in contact; the sunlight operates externally, irradiating all that it reaches. Hence, Christians are warily called "the salt of the earth" - with reference to the masses of mankind with whom they are expected to mix; but "the light of the world." - with reference to the vast and variegated surface which feels its fructifying and gladdening radiance. The same distinction is observable in the second pair of those seven parables which our Lord spoke from the Galilean lake-that of the "mustard seed," which grew to be a great over-shadowing tree, answering to the sunlight which invests the world, and that of the "leaven," which a woman took and, like the salt, hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened (Matthew 13:31-33).

A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid - nor can it be supposed to have been so built except to be seen by many eyes.


Verse 15

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Neither do men light a candle (or 'lamp') [ luchnon (G3088)], and put it under a bushel (a dry measure), but on a candlestick - rather, 'under the bushel, but on the lamp-stand' [ hupo (Greek #5259) ton (Greek #3588) modion (Greek #3426) all' (Greek #235) epi (Greek #1909) teen (Greek #3588) luchnian (Greek #3087)]. The article is inserted in both cases to express the familiarity of everyone with those household utensils.

And it giveth light, [ lampei (G2989), shineth] unto all that are in the house.


Verse 16

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. As nobody lights a lamp only to cover it up, but places it so conspicuously as to give light to all who need light, so Christians, being the light of the world, instead of hiding their light, are so to hold it forth before men that they may see what a life the disciples of Christ lead, and seeing this, may glorify their Father for so redeeming, transforming, and ennobling earth's sinful children, and opening to themselves the way to like redemption and transformation.

Remarks:

(1) All-precious though the doctrines of the Gospel be, since the proper appreciation and cordial reception of them depends upon a previous, preparation of the heart-especially, on the soul's being thoroughly emptied of its own fancied excellences, and made painfully alive to its spiritual necessities-it will be the wisdom of all Christian preachers to imitate the Great Preacher here, in laying first the foundation of this frame.

(2) The theology of the Old Testament, when stripped of its accidents and reduced to its essence, is one with that of the New Testament-it is spiritual; it is evangelical.

(3) The earthly and the heavenly stages of the kingdom of God are essentially one; the former preparing the way for the latter, and opening naturally into it, as the commencing and consummating stages of the same condition. Thus the connection between them far from being arbitrary, is inherent.

(4) How entirely contrary to the spirit and design of Christianity is that monkish seclusion from society and ascetic solitude which, attractive though it be to a morbid spirituality, is just to do the very thing which our Lord here represents us against the nature of the Christian calling, and rendering observance of His injunctions here impossible. If even a lamp is not lighted to be put under a bushel, but placed conspicuously for the very purpose of giving light to all within reach of its rays, how much less is the sun placed in the heavens in order that men on the earth may walk in darkness? Even so, says our Lord, instead of hiding the light of your Christianity from the dark world around you, bring it out into the view of men, on purpose to let them see it. Much more plainly does this come out in the other figure. As salt must come into actual contact with what is to be seasoned by it, so must Christians, instead of standing at a distance from their fellows, come into contact with them, on purpose to communicate to them their own qualities. Nor does our Lord think it necessary to guard against confounding this with the spirit of religious ostentation, of which He treats sufficiently in the following chapter; because what follows is quite enough to prevent any such perversion of His language: "that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" - not 'see how much superior you are to them,' but 'see what an astonishing change He can Work by the Gospel upon men of every class.' Thus, God is deprived of the testimony He expects from His redeemed and transformed people, when, instead of manifesting before their fellows what He has done for their souls, they shut themselves up-whether systematically or otherwise-or habitually retire within themselves. But:

(5) Not by the preaching or publication of mere truths, are Christians to bear down the opposition and effect the conversion of their fellow-men. Not thus is their light to "shine before men." But it is so to shine that men "may see their good works, and (so) glorify their Father which is in heaven." In order words, Father while it is Christianity which is to carry all before it, it is not the Christianity of books, nor even of mere preaching-much less of an empty profession-but the Christianity of life. "YE (whom I have been pronouncing blessed, as possessors of a blessed character) are the light of the world." Yes: It is humility, not as preached, but as practiced; it is contrition, not us depicted, not as inculcated, but as exemplified; it is meekness manifested; it is spiritual aspiration, not as enjoined, but as beheld in men on whose whole carriage may be seen written Excelsior; it is mercy embodied; it is heart-purity in flesh and blood; it is peace incarnate. This many-sided manifestation of a divine life in men, mixing with their fellows, and of like passions with their fellows, is the divinely ordained specific for arresting the progress of human corruption, diffusing health and sweetness through it, and irradiating it with the fructifying and gladdening beams of heavenly light.


Verse 17

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

(Think not that I am come - `that I came' [ eelthon (Greek #2064)]

To destroy the Law, or the Prophets - that is, 'the authority and principles of the Old Testament.' (On the phrase, see Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:40; Luke 16:16; Acts 13:15.) This general way of taking the phrase is much better than understanding "the Law" and "the Prophets" separately, and inquiring, as many good critics do, in what sense our Lord could be supposed to meditate the subversion of each. To the various classes of His hearers, who might view such supposed abrogation of the Law and the Prophets with very different feelings, our Lord's announcement would, in effect, be such as this-`Ye who "tremble at the word of the Lord," fear not that I am going to sweep the foundations from under your feet: Ye restless and revolutionary spirits, hope not that I am going to head any revolutionary movement: And ye who hypocritically affect great reverence for the Law and the Prophets, pretend not to find anything in my teaching derogatory to God's living oracles.'

I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 'Not to subvert, abrogate, or annul, but to establish the Law and the Prophets-to unfold them, to embody them in living form, and to enshrine them in the reverence, affection, and character of men, am I come.'


Verse 18

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

For verily I say unto you , [ Ameen (Greek #281) = 'aameen (Hebrew #543) legoo (Greek #3004) humin (Greek #5213)]. Here, for the first time, does that august expression occur in our Lord's recorded teaching, with which we have grown so familiar as hardly to reflect on its full import. It is the expression, manifestly, of supreme legislative authority; and as the subject in connection with which it is uttered is the Moral Law, no higher claim to an authority strictly divine could be advanced. For when we observe how jealously Yahweh asserts it as His exclusive prerogative to give law to men (Leviticus 18:1-5; Leviticus 19:37; Leviticus 26:1-4; Leviticus 26:13-16, etc.), such language as this of our Lord will appear totally unsuitable, and indeed abhorrent, from any creature-lips. When the Baptist's words - "I say unto you" (Matthew 3:9) - are compared with these of his Master here, the difference of the two cases will be at once apparent.

Till heaven and earth pass. Though even the Old Testament announce the ultimate "perdition of the heavens and the earth," in contrast with the mutability of Yahweh (Psalms 102:24-27), the prevalent representation of the heavens and the earth in Scripture, when employed as a popular figure, is that of their stability (Psalms 119:89-91; Ecclesiastes 1:4; Jeremiah 33:25-26). It is the enduring stability, then, of the great truths and principles, moral and spiritual, of the Old Testament Revelation which our Lord thus expresses.

One jot, [ ioota (G2503), the smallest of the Hebrew letters, yod (y)] or one tittle: keraia (G2762) of these little strokes by which alone some of the Hebrew letters are distinguished from others like them --

Shall in no wise pass from the law, until all be fulfilled. The meaning is, that 'not so much as the smallest loss of authority or vitality shall ever come over the law.' The expression, "until all be fulfilled," is much the same in meaning as 'it shall be had in undiminished and enduring honour, from its greatest to its least requirements.' Again, this general way of viewing our Lord's words here seems far preferable to that doctrinal understanding of them which would require us to determine the different kinds of "fulfillment" which the moral and the ceremonial parts of it were to have.


Verse 19

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Whosoever therefore shall break , [ lusee (Greek #3089)] - rather, 'dissolve,' 'annul,' or 'make invalid,' --

One of these least commandments - an expression equivalent to 'one of the least of these commandments' --

And shall teach men so - referring to the Pharisees and their teaching, as is plan from the next verse, but of And shall teach men so - referring to the Pharisees and their teaching, as is plan from the next verse, but of course embracing all similar schools and teaching in the Christian Church --

He shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. As the thing spoken of is not the practical breaking, or disobeying, of the law, but annulling, or enervating its obligation by a vicious system of interpretation, and teaching others to do the same; so the thing threatened is not exclusion from heaven, and still less the lowest place in it, but a degraded and contemptuous position in the present stage of the kingdom of God. In other words, 'they shall be reduced, by the retributive providence that overtakes them, to the same condition of dishonour to which, by their system and their teaching, they have brought down those eternal principles of God's law.'

But whosoever shall do and teach them - whose principles and teaching go to exalt the authority and honour of God's law, in its lowest as well highest requirements --

The same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven - `shall, by that providence which watches over the honour of God's moral administration, be raised to the same position of authority and honour to which they exalt the law.'


Verse 20

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. For the characteristics of the Pharisaic school, see the notes at Matthew 3:1-12, Remark 2. But the superiority to the Pharisaic righteousness here required is plainly in kind, not degree; because all Scripture teaches that entrance into God's kingdom, whether in its present or future stage, depends, not on the degree of our excellence in anything, but solely on our having the character itself which God demands. Our righteousness, then-if it is to contrast with the outward and formal righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees-must be inward, vital, spiritual. Some, indeed, of the scribes and Pharisees themselves might have the very righteousness here demanded; but our Lord is speaking, not of persons, but of the system they represented and taught.

Ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. If this refer, as in the preceding verse, rather to the earthly stage of this kingdom, the meaning is, that without a righteousness exceeding that of the Pharisees, we cannot be members of it at all, except in name. This was no new doctrine (Romans 2:28-29; Romans 9:6; Philippians 3:3). But our Lord's teaching here stretches beyond the present scene, to that everlasting stage of the kingdom, where without "purity of heart" none "shall see God."

The spirituality of the true righteousness, in contrast with that of the Scribes and Pharisees, illustrated from the Sixth Commandment (Matthew 5:21-26).


Verse 21

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time , [erreethee-a better authorized form than errethee (Greek #2046) - tois (Greek #3588) archaiois (Greek #744)] - or as in the margin, to 'them of old time.' Which of these translations is the right one has been much controverted. Either of them is grammatically defensible, though the latter - "to the ancients" - is more consistent with New Testament usage (see the Greek of Romans 9:12; Romans 9:26; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 9:4); and most critics decide in favour of it. But it is not a question of Greek only. Nearly all who would translate "to the ancients" take the speaker of the words quoted to be Moses in the law; "the ancients" to be the people to whom Moses gave the law; and the intention of our Lord here to be to contrast His own teaching, more or less, with that of Moses; either as opposed to it-as some go the length of affirming-or at least as modifying, enlarging, elevating it. But who can reasonably imagine such a thing, just after the most solemn and emphatic proclamation of the perpetuity of the law, and the honour and glory in which it was to be held under the new economy? To us it seems as plain as possible that our Lord's one object is to contrast the traditional perversions of the law with the true sense of it as expounded by Himself. A few of those who assent to this still think that "to the ancients" is the only legitimate translation of the words; understanding that our Lord is reporting what had been said to the ancients, not by Moses, but by the perverters of his law. We do not object to this; but we incline to think (with Beza, and after him with Fritzsche, Olshausen, Stier, and Bloomfield) that "by the ancients" must have been what our Lord meant here, referring to the corrupt teachers rather than the perverted people.

Thou shalt not kill: - q. d., 'This being all that the law requires, whosoever has imbrued his hands in his brother's blood, but he only, is guilty of a breach of this commandment.'

And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of [`liable to' enochos (G1777)] the judgment - that is, of the sentence of those inferior courts of judicature which were established in all the principal towns, in compliance with Deuteronomy 16:16. Thus was this commandment reduced, from a holy law of the heart-searching God, to a mere criminal statute, taking cognizance only of outward actions, such as that which we read in Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 24:17.


Verse 22

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

But I say unto you. Mark the authoritative tone in which-as Himself the Lawgiver and Judge-Christ now gives the true sense, and explains the deep reach, of the commandment.

That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause , [ eikee (Greek #1500). Most recent critical editors either wholly exclude, or place within brackets, as of doubtful authority, the word eikee (Greek #1500). External authority, however, preponderates in its favour. On the internal evidence opinions differ; some thinking it got in to soften the apparent harshness of the precept, while others think it was left out of some manuscripts and early versions from jealousy at anything which looked like an attempt to dilute the strength of our Lord's teaching. But however we decide as to the text, we must restrict our interpretation to 'causeless anger.']

Shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca! , [ Raka (Greek #4469) = reeqaa', 'brainless']

Shall be in danger of the council, [ too (G3588) sunedrioo (G4892)]: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool! [ Moore (G3474) = naabaal (H5036)] shall be in danger of hell fire , [ eis (Greek #1519) teen (Greek #3588) geennan (Greek #1067) - a word formed from geey (Hebrew #1516) Hinom (Hebrew #2011), or 'valley of Hinnom']. It is unreasonable to deny, as Alexander does, that three degrees of punishment are here meant to be expressed, and to say that it is but a threefold expression of one and the same thing. But Romish expositors greatly err in taking the first two - "the judgment" and "the council" - to refer to degrees of temporal punishment with which lesser sins were to be visited under the Gospel, and only the last - "hell fire" - to refer to the future life. All three clearly refer to divine retribution, and that alone, for breaches of this commandment; though this is expressed by an allusion to Jewish tribunals.

The "judgment," as already explained, was the lowest of these; the "council," or 'Sanhedrim'--- which sat at Jerusalem-was the highest; while the word used for "hell fire" contains an allusion to the "valley of the son of Hinnom" (Joshua 18:16). In this valley the Jews, when steeped in idolatry, went the length of burning their children to Moloch "on the high places of Tophet" [ topet (Hebrew #8611), Jeremiah 7:31] - in consequence of which good Josiah defiled it, to prevent the repetition of such abominations (2 Kings 23:10); and from that time forward, if we my believe the Jewish writers, a fire was kept burning in it to consume the carrion, and all kinds of impurities, that collected about the capital. Certain it is, that while the final punishment of the wicked is described in the Old Testament by allusions to this valley of Tophet or Hinnom (Isaiah 30:33; Isaiah 66:24), our Lord Himself describes the same by merely quoting these terrific descriptions of the evangelical prophet (Mark 9:43-48).

What precise degrees of unholy feeling toward our brother are indicated by the words "Raca" and "fool" it would be as useless as it is vain to inquire. Every age and every country has its modes of expressing such things; and, no doubt, our Lord seized on the then current phraseology of unholy disrespect and contempt, merely to express and condemn the different degrees of such feeling when brought out in words, as He had immediately before condemned the feeling itself. In fact, so little are we to make of mere words, apart from the feeling which they express, that as anger is expressly said to have been borne by our Lord toward His enemies, though mixed with "grief for the hardness of their hearts" (Mark 3:5), and as the apostle teaches us that there is an anger which is not sinful (Ephesians 4:26); so in the Epistle of James (James 2:20) we find the words, "O vain" or 'empty' man [ oo (Greek #5599) anthroope (Greek #444) kene (Greek #2756)]; and our Lord Himself applies the very word "fools" [ mooroi (Greek #3474)] twice in one breath to the blind guides of the people (Matthew 23:17; Matthew 23:19) - although, in both cases, it is to false reasoners rather than persons that such words are applied.

The spirit, then, of the whole statement may be thus given-`For ages ye have been taught that the sixth commandment, for example, is broken only by the murderer, to pass sentence upon whom is the proper business of the recognized tribunals: but I say unto you that it broken even by causeless anger, which is but hatred in the bud, as hatred is incipient murder (1 John 3:15); and if by the feelings, much more by those words in which all ill feeling, from the slightest to the most envenomed, are wont to be cast upon a brother: and just as there are gradations in human courts of judicature, and in the sentences which they pronounce according to the degrees of criminality, so will the judicial treatment of all the breakers of this commandment at the divine tribunal be according to their real criminality before the heart-searching Judge.' O what holy teaching is this!


Verse 23

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

Therefore - to apply the foregoing, and show its paramount importance --

If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught - of just complaint against thee.


Verse 24

Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother , [ diallageethi (Greek #1259) too (Greek #3588) adelfoo (Greek #80)]. The meaning evidently is-not, 'dismiss from thine own breast all ill-feeling,' but, 'get thy brother to dismiss from his mind all grudge against thee.'

And then come and offer thy gift. 'The picture,' says Tholuck, 'is drawn from life. It transports us to the moment when the Israelite, having brought his sacrifice to the court of the Israelites, awaited the instant when the priest would approach to receive it at his hands. He waits with his gift at the rails which separate the place where he stands from the court of the priests, into which his offering will presently be taken, there to be slain by the priest, and by him presented upon the altar of sacrifice.' It is at this solemn moment, when about to cast himself upon divine mercy, and seek in his offering a seal of divine forgiveness, that the offerer is supposed, all at once, to remember that some brother has a just cause of complaint against him through breach of this commandment in one or other of the ways just indicated. What then? Is he to say, As soon as I have offered this gift I will go straight to my brother, and make it up with him? Nay; but before another step is taken-even before the offering is presented-this reconciliation is to be sought, though the gift have to be left unoffered before the altar. The converse of the truth here taught is very strikingly expressed in Mark 11:25-26. "And when ye stand praying (in the very act), forgive, if ye have anything (of just complaint) against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive you." Hence, the beautiful practice of the early Church, to see that all differences among brethren and sisters in Christ were made up, in the spirit of love, before going to the Holy Communion; and the Church of England has a rubrical direction to this effect in her Communion service. Certainly, if this be the highest act of worship on earth, such reconciliation-though obligatory on all other occasions of worship-must be peculiarly so then.


Verse 25

Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

Agree with thine adversary, [ antidikoo (G476) - thine opponent in a matter cognizable by law], quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him - "to the magistrate," as in Luke 12:58;

Lest at any time , [ meepote (Greek #3379)] - here, rather, 'lest at all,' or simply 'lest'

The adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge [having pronounced thee in the wrong], deliver thee to the officer - the official whose business it is to see the sentence carried into-effect, "and thou be cast into prison."


Verse 26

Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing , [ kodranteen (Greek #2835) = quadrantem]; a fractional Roman coin, to which our "farthing" answers sufficiently well. That our Lord meant here merely to gave a piece of prudential advice to his hearers to keep out of the hands of the law and its officials by settling all disputes with one another privately, is not for a moment to be supposed, though there are critics of a school low enough to suggest this. The concluding words - "Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out," etc.-manifestly show that though the language is drawn from human disputes and legal procedure, He is dealing with a higher than any human quarrel, a higher than any human tribunal, a higher than any human and temporal sentence. In this view of the words-in which nearly all critics worthy of the name agree-the spirit of them may be thus expressed: 'In expounding the sixth commandment, I have spoken of offences between man and man; reminding you that the offender has another party to deal with besides him whom he has wronged on earth, and assuring you that all worship offered to the Searcher of hearts by one who knows that a brother has just cause of complaint against him, and yet takes no steps to remove it, is vain: But I cannot pass from this subject without reminding you of One whose cause of complaint against you is far more deadly than any that man can have against man; and since with that Adversary. you are already on the way to judgment, it will be your wisdom to make up the quarrel without delay, lest sentence of condemnation be pronounced upon you, and then will execution straightway follow, from the effects of which you shall never escape as long us any remnant of the offence remains unexpiated.' It will be observed that as the principle on, which we are to "agree" with this "Adversary" is not here specified, and the precise nature of the retribution that is to light upon the despisers of this warning is not to be gathered from the mere use of the word "prison;" so, the remedilessness of the punishment is not in so many words expressed, and still less is its actual cessation taught. The language on all these points is designedly general; but it may safely be said that the unending duration of future punishment-elsewhere so clearly and awfully expressed by our Lord Himself, as in Matthew 5:29-30, and Mark 9:43; Mark 9:48 - is the only doctrine with which His language here quite naturally and fully accords. (Compare Matthew 18:30; Matthew 18:34.)


Verse 27

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

Ye have heard that it was said. The words [ tois (Greek #3588) archaiois (Greek #744)] "by," or "to them of old time," in this verse are insufficiently supported, and probably were not in the original text.

Thou shalt not commit adultery. Interpreting this seventh commandment, as they did the sixth commandment the traditional perverters of the law restricted the breech of it to acts of criminal sexual intercourse between, or with, married persons exclusively. Our Lord now dissipates such delusions.


Verse 28

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a women to lust after her , [ pros (Greek #4314) to (Greek #3588)] - with the intent to do so, as the same expression is used in Matthew 6:1; or, with the full consent of his will, to feed thereby his unholy desires.

Hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. We are not to suppose, from the word here used - "adultery" - that our Lord means to restrict the breach of this commandment to married persons, or to criminal sexual intercourse with such. The expressions, "whosoever looketh," and "looketh upon a woman," seem clearly to extend the range of this commandment to all forms of impurity, and the counsels which follow-as they most certainly were intended for all, whether married or unmarried-seem to confirm this. As in dealing with the sixth commandment our Lord first expounds it, and then in the four following verses applies His exposition, so here, He first expounds the seventh commandment, and then in the four following verses applies His exposition.


Verse 29

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

And if thy right eye [the readier and the dearer of the two], offend thee , [ skandalizei (Greek #4624) se (Greek #4571)] - be [a skandaleethron (Greek #4625)] a 'trap-spring,' or, as in the New Testament, be 'an occasion of stumbling' to thee,

Pluck it out, and cast it from thee - implying a certain indignant promptitude, heedless of whatever cost to feeling the act may involve. Of course, it is not the eye simply of which our Lord speaks-as if execution were to be done upon the bodily organ-though there have been fanatical ascetics who have both advocated and practiced this, showing a very low apprehension of spiritual things-but the offending eye, or the eye considered as the occasion of sin; and consequently, only the sinful exercise of the organ which is meant. For as one might put out his eyes without in the least quenching the lust to which they ministered, so, "if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light," and, when directed by a holy mind, becomes an "instrument of righteousness unto God." At the same time, just as by cutting off a hand, or plucking out an eye, the power of acting and of seeing would be destroyed, our Lord certainly means that we are to strike at the root of such unholy dispositions, as well as cut off the occasions which tend to stimulate them.

For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. He who despises the warning to "cast from him," with indignant promptitude, an offending member, will find his whole body "cast," with a retributive promptitude of indignation, "into hell." Sharp language this from the lips of Love incarnate!


Verse 30

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

And if thy right hand - the organ of action to which the eye excites,

Offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable ... See the note at Matthew 5:29. The repetition, in identical terms, of such stern truths, and awful lessons seems characteristic of our Lord's manner of teaching. Compare Mark 9:43-48.


Verse 31

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

It hath been said. This shortened form was perhaps intentional, to mark a transition from the commandments of the Decalogue to a civil enactment on the subject of Divorce, quoted from Deuteronomy 24:1. The law of Divorce-according to its strictness or laxity-has so intimate a bearing upon purity in the married life, that nothing could be more natural than to pass from the seventh commandment to the loose views on that subject then current.

Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement - a legal check upon reckless and tyrannical separation. The one legitimate ground of divorce allowed by the enactment just quoted was "some uncleanness" [Hebrew: 'ebrat daabaar; Greek: ascheemon pragma] - in other words, conjugal infidelity. But while one school of interpreters (that of Shammai) explained this quite correctly, as prohibiting divorce in every case except that of adultery, another school (that of Hillel) stretched the expression so far as to include everything in the wife offensive or disagreeable to the husband-a view of the law too well fitted to minister to caprice and depraved inclination not to find extensive favour. And, indeed, to this day the Jews allow divorces on the most frivolous pretexts. It waste meet this that our Lord uttered what follows:


Verse 32

But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery - that is, drives her into it, in case she marries again.

And whosoever shall marry her that is divorced [for anything short of conjugal infidelity], committeth adultery - for if the commandment is broken by the one party, it must be by the other also. But see the notes at Matthew 19:4-9. Whether the innocent party, after a just divorce, may lawfully marry again, is not treated of here. The Church of Rome says, No; but the Greek and Protestant Churches allow it.


Verse 33

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself. These are not the precise words of Exodus 20:7; but they express all that it was currently understood to condemn, namely, false swearing (Leviticus 19:12, etc.) This is plain from what follows.

But I say unto you, Swear not at all. That this was meant to condemn swearing of every kind and on every occasion-as the Society of Friends and some other ultra-moralists allege-is not for a moment to be thought. For even Yahweh is said once and again to have sworn by Himself; and our Lord certainly answered upon oath to a question put to Him by the high priest; and the apostle several times, and in the most solemn language, takes God to witness that He spoke and wrote the truth; and it is inconceivable that our Lord should here have quoted the precept about not forswearing ourselves but performing to the Lord our oaths, only to give a precept of His own directly in the teeth of it. Evidently, it is 'swearing in common conversation and on frivolous occasions' that is here meant. Frivolous oaths were indeed severely condemned in the teaching the times. But so narrow was the circle of them that a man might swear, says Lightfoot, and a hundred thousand times and yet not be guilty of vain swearing. Hardly anything was regarded as an oath if only the name of God were not in it; just as among ourselves, as Trench well remarks, a certain lingering reverence for the name of God leads to cutting off portions of His name, or uttering sounds nearly resembling it, or substituting the name of some pagan deity, in profane exclamations or asseverations. Against all this our Lord now speaks decisively; teaching His audience that every oath carries an appeal to God, whether named or not.

Neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:


Verse 34

But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 35

Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool (quoting Isaiah 66:1): neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King} (quoting Psalms 48:2).


Verse 36

Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. In the other oaths specified, God's name was profaned quite as really as if His name had been uttered, because it, was instantly suggested by the mention of His "throne." His "footstool," His "city." But in swearing by our own head and the like, the objection lies in their being 'beyond our control,' and therefore profanely assumed to have a stability which they have not.


Verse 37

But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

But let your communication - `your word' [ logos (Greek #3056)], in ordinary conversation,

Be, Yea yea; Nay, nay: - `Let a simple Yes and No suffice, in affirming the truth or the untruth of anything. (See James 5:12, and 2 Corinthians 1:17-18.)

For whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil , [ ek (Greek #1537) tou (Greek #3588) poneerou (Greek #4190)] - not 'of the evil One;' though an equally correct rendering of the words, and one which some expositors prefer. It is true that all evil in our world is originally of the devil, that it forms a kingdom at the head of which he sits, and that, in every manifestation of it he has an active part. But any reference to this here seems unnatural [cf. [ too (Greek #3588) poneeroo (Greek #4190) Matthew 5:39], and the allusion to this passage in the Epistle of James (Matthew 5:12) seems to show that this is not the sense of it - "Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation" The untruthfulness of our corrupt nature shows itself not only in the tendency to deviate from the strict truth, but in the disposition to suspect others of doing the same; and as this is not diminished, but rather aggravated, by the habit of confirming what we say by an oath, we thus run the risk of having all reverence for God's holy name, and even for strict truth, destroyed in our hearts, and so "fall into condemnation." The practice of going beyond Yes and No, in affirmation and denials-as if our word for it were not enough, and we expected others to question it-springs from that vicious root of untruthfulness which is only aggravated by the very effort to clear ourselves of the suspicion of it. And just as swearing to the truth of what we say begets the disposition it is designed to remove, so the love and reign of truth in the breasts of Christ's disciples reveals itself so plainly even to these who themselves cannot be trusted. that their simple Yes and No come soon to be more relied on than the most solemn asseverations of others. Thus does the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, like a tree cast into the bitter waters of human corruption, heal and sweeten them.

Same Subject-Retaliation (Matthew 5:38-42). We have here the converse of the preceding lessons. They were negative: these are positive.


Verse 38

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

Ye have heard that it hath been said (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21), An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth - that is, whatever penalty was regarded as a proper equivalent for these. This law of retribution-designed to take vengeance out of the hands of private persons and commit it to the magistrate-was abused in the opposite way to the commandments of the Decalogue. While they were reduced to the level of civil enactments, this judicial regulation was held to be a warrant for taking redress into their own hands, contrary to the injunctions of the Old Testament itself (Proverbs 20:22; Proverbs 24:29).


Verse 39

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Our Lord's own meek, yet dignified bearing, when smitten rudely on the cheek (John 18:22-23), and not literally presenting the other, is the best comment on these words. It is the preparedness, after one indignity, not to invite but to submit meekly to another, without retaliation, which this strong language is meant to convey.


Verse 40

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat , [ chitoona (Greek #5509)] - the inner garment; in pledge for a debt (Exodus 22:26-27) --

Let him have thy cloak also , [ himation (Greek #2440)] - the outer and more costly garment. This overcoat was not allowed to be retained overnight as a pledge from the poor, because they used it for a bed-covering.


Verse 41

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain - an allusion, probably, to the practice of the Romans and some eastern nations, who, when Government-despatches had to be forwarded, obliged the people not only to furnish horses and carriages, but to give personal attendance, often at great inconvenience, when required. But the thing here demanded is a readiness to submit to unreasonable demands of whatever kind, rather than raise quarrels, with all the evils resulting from them. What follows is a beautiful extension of this precept.


Verse 42

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Give to him that asketh thee. The sense of unreasonable asking here implied (cf. Luke 6:30).

And from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Though the word [ daneizomai (Greek #1155) in Med.] signifies classically 'to have money lent to one on security,' or 'with interest,' yet as this was not the original sense of the word, and as usury was forbidden among the Jews (Exodus 22:25 etc.), it is doubtless simple borrowing which our Lord here means, as indeed the whole strain of the exhortation implies. This shows that such counsels as "Owe no man anything" (Romans 13:8) are not to be taken absolutely; else the Scripture commendations of the righteous for "lending" to his necessitous brother (Psalms 37:26; Psalms 112:5; Luke 6:37) would have no application.

Turn not thou away - a graphic expression of unfeeling refusal to relieve a brother in extremity.


Verse 43

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

Ye have heard that it hath been said (Leviticus 19:18), Thou shalt love thy neighbour. [To this the corrupt teachers added], and hate thine enemy - as if the one were a legitimate inference from the other, instead of being a detestable gloss, as Bengel indignantly calls it. Lightfoot quotes some of the cursed maxims inculcated by those traditionists regarding the proper treatment of all Gentiles. No wonder that the Romans charged the Jews with hatred of the human race.


Verse 44

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

But I say unto you, Love your enemies. The word [ agapan (Greek #25)] here used denotes moral love, as distinguished from the other word [ filein (Greek #5368)], which expresses personal affection. Usually, the former denotes 'complacency in the character' of the person loved; but here it denotes the benignant, compassionate outgoing of desire for another's good.

[Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you], and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. [The two bracketed clauses are omitted here by recent editors, who think them borrowed from Luke 6:27-28; but the evidence on both sides is pretty equally balanced.] The best commentary on these matchless counsels is the bright example of Him who gave them. (See 1 Peter 2:21-24; and cf. Romans 12:20-21; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Peter 3:9.) But though such precepts were never before expressed-perhaps not oven conceived-with such breadth, precision, and sharpness as here, our Lord is here only the incomparable Interpreter of a law in force from the beginning; and this is the only satisfactory view only the incomparable Interpreter of a law in force from the beginning; and this is the only satisfactory view of the entire strain of this Discourse.


Verse 45

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

That ye may be the children - `that ye may be sons' [ huioi (Greek #5207)] --

Of your Father which is in heaven. The meaning is, 'that ye may show yourselves to be such by resembling Him (cf. Matthew 5:9 and Ephesians 5:1).

For he maketh his sun - `your Father's sun.' Well might Bengel exclaim 'Magnificent appellation!' --

To rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust - rather [without the article], 'on evil and good, and on just and unjust.' When we find God's own procedure held up for imitation in the law, and much more in the prophets (Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:26; and cf. 1 Peter 1:15-16), we may see that the principle of this surprising verse was nothing new: hut the form of it certainly is that of One who spake as never men spake.


Verse 46

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? [ to (Greek #3588) auto (Greek #846). The reading houtoos (Greek #3779) has perhaps slightly the better support.] The publicans, as collectors of taxes due to the Roman government, were even on this account obnoxious to the Jews, who sat uneasy under a foreign yoke, and disliked whatever brought this unpleasantly before them. But the extortion practiced by this class made them hateful to the community, who in their current speech ranked them with "harlots." Nor does our Lord scruple to speak of them as others did, which we may be sure He never would if it had been calumnious. The meaning, then, is, 'In loving those who love you, there is no evidence of superior principle: the worst of men will do this: even a publican will go that length.'


Verse 47

And if ye salute your brethren only what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

And if ye salute your brethren only - of the same nation and religion with yourselves --

What do ye more [than others]? [ ti (Greek #5100) perisson (Greek #4053)] - what do ye uncommon' or 'extraordinary?' that is, wherein do ye excel?

Do not even the publicans so? The true reading here appears to be, 'Do not even the pagans the same?' [ ethnikoi (Greek #1482).] Compare Matthew 18:17, where the excommunicated person is said to be "as an pagan man and a publican."


Verse 48

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Be ye therefore , [ Esesthe (Greek #2071) oun (Greek #3767)] - rather, 'Ye shall therefore be,' or 'Ye are therefore to be,' as My disciples and in My kingdom --

Perfect , [ teleioi (Greek #5046)], or 'complete,' Manifestly. our Lord here speaks, not of degrees of excellence, but of the kind of excellence which was to distinguish His disciples and characterize His kingdom. When therefore He adds:

Even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect, He refers to that full-orbed glorious completeness which is in the great Divine Model, "their Father which is in heaven." [`Your heavenly Father' - ouranios (Greek #3770) - is here the preferable reading.]

Remarks:

(1) In the light of this Section what shall we think of those low views of the Old Testament which have long been current in Germany, even among the most distinguished theologians and critics, and which from them have passed over to this country and across the Atlantic; poisoning some otherwise well affected to evangelical truth, and introducing a principle of laxity into their whole Biblical system? Not to speak of our Lord's solemn asseverations of the enduring authority of "the Law and the Prophets," and the honour in which they were to lie held in His kingdom: who can read with intelligence, impartiality, and reverential docility, the illustrations which our Lord here gives of the spirituality and breadth of the ancient law, in opposition to the detestable perversions of it under which His hearers had grown up, without perceiving that instead of supplanting or even modifying it-which some excellent critics have too hastily conceded-the highest position toward the ancient law which our Lord hers assumes, is that of its supreme and authoritative Interpreter? It is only the glorious comprehensiveness, the pure spirituality, the self-evidencing truth, and the heavenly radiance of His interpretations of the law-transcending, it is true, everything which we read in the Old Testament-that has deceived many into the notion that we have here a more or less new code of morals; a thing as contrary to a sound exposition of this section as derogatory to the honour of God's ancient law. And if this is not to be endured, much less the Romish notion that all our Lord's teachings here are but 'evangelical counsels' (consilia evangelica), or counsels of perfection-not obligatory upon any, but the more meritorious in counsels' (consilia evangelica), or counsels of perfection-not obligatory upon any, but the more meritorious in those who can work themselves up to them.

(2) After reading such spiritual and searching expositions of the law, with what force is the apostolic inference borne in upon the awakened conscience, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin"! (Romans 3:20.) The whole doctrinal system, indeed, of the Epistle to the Romans is seminally contained in the Gospels; but this truth in particular is written here as with a sunbeam. And yet, there are those who take refuge, from the pretended severity of the Pauline doctrine, in the Sermon on the Mount-as if it were of a milder type. We have ourselves heard the Jews chanting in the synagogue the praises of the law, while rejecting Him who alone can deliver them from the curse of it; but what better are those called Christians who turn away from the Pauline doctrine of Justification to that teaching from the Mount which, but for this Pauline doctrine the awakened conscience cannot abide-a teaching which, but for salvation by free grace, makes us feel ourselves standing under a very different Mount from that of the Beatitudes, beneath whose thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and voices the people exclaimed, "Let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Exodus 20:19). Now this, without doubt, was what our Lord in the first instance sought to produce by so constructing His Sermon on the Mount. Accordingly,

(3) Who that weighs the faint exposition we have given of the holy teaching of this Section, can fail to see the wisdom with which our Lord selected this line of thought for the first formal proclamation of the principles of His kingdom, rather than anything more definite, regarding the Lamb of God" which was to take away the sin of the world"? While this would have been of little avail to such a motley assemblage, "alive without the law" and "at ease in Zion," nothing could be better fitted to dash vain expectations from Him of support to the reigning ideas; to rouse to anxious thought as many as were prepared to give Him even a respectful hearing; and to humble to the dust the thoroughly awakened, and create in them longings after further light and solid rest to their troubled souls.

(4) When will Christians strive in earnest, as one man, to carry out the law of love, in respect of 'causeless anger,' here laid down? That little of it is to be seen at present is but too manifest; but that, if resolutely and habitually exemplified, it would astonish and impress the world around them more than all other arguments in favour of Christianity, who can doubt? O brother-sister-in Christ, blush, first of all, that thy Lord hath spoken to thee from the Mount so much in vain, and hath hitherto gotten so little testimony from thee. Then, on thy knees, pledge thyself to Him anew, and in strength divine make it thy daily business, whether in the quiet walks of domestic conversation, or in the busy haunts of a more public calling, to exemplify the law of love here expounded. Nor, if thou hast broken it, despair or rest contented; but quickly repair, at any cost to feeling, the wrong thou hast hastily done to a brother, whether by unwarrantable anger in thy heart, or by unmerited and unbecoming rudeness of speech. Failing this, every act of worship offered to the Searcher of hearts will be vain (Psalms 66:18), and should rather be interrupted until thou hast come to one with thy brother, than performed with a guilty conscience. (See Job 42:8.)

(5) In vain do Romanists plead for the sacrifice of the mass, and some Protestants for "altars" in the Christian Church, from the "gifts brought to the altar," to which our Lord alludes in this Section. Spoken to Jews while the temple service was in full force, such language was altogether natural; it was most intelligible; it was life-like. But how far such things would or would not remain under an economy which was to supersede the Jewish, must be decided, not by such phraseology occurring here, but by other considerations altogether.

(6) When we see how naturally our Lord rose, in His teaching, from disputes between man and man to the great controversy between man and God (Matthew 5:25-26), it should be our study to imitate such spirituality-even in ordinary conversation, but much more in teaching-and to make the immediate settlement of the great question of peace with God the paramount subject of all we say and teach on eternal things. (7) The sense in which our Lord here uses the phrase "be reconciled" [ diallageethi (Greek #1259) Matthew 5:24], is to be carefully noted, as the expression has been laid hold of to subvert the proper doctrine of the Atonement. It has been confidently affirmed that God is nowhere said to be reconciled to us-as if any change were needed, or possible, in the Unchangeable One toward men-but always we are said to be reconciled to God. In proof of this we are referred to 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 - "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself ... Now then ... we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." But since our Lord, in this Sermon on the Mount, when He requires the offending party to 'be reconciled to his offended brother,' plainly means-not that the offender is to get rid of the cause of offence in him own breast, or to banish all doubts of his brother's willingness to forgive him-but that he is to take steps toward obtaining his brother's forgiveness, or getting his brother's just displeasure against himself removed; so in the words quoted from the Epistle to the Corinthians, the world's reconciliation to God by Jesus Christ, as a thing already accomplished-which is the great fact that the Gospel ministry is appointed to publish-cannot possibly mean any change which has come over the world's views of God: it can only mean the altered view of the world which God takes in consequence of Christ's death; or, to speak more properly, a new relation in which He stands to it as reconciled through that death; and it is when we "set to our seal that this is true," that we "are reconciled to God," for it must take effect on both sides.

(8) If we would avoid sin we must cut off the occasions of it. This obvious rule solves a great many casuistical questions, as to how far Christians may warrantably go to this place and that, or join in this amusement and that. It is not enough to show that there is no express divine prohibition of them. If what the eyes see, and the hands handle, is found to suck one into the vortex of sin, it is no more to be indulged at such expense than if we should pluck them out, and cut them off, and cast them from us. A hard saying this, some will say. But a harder still, our Lord would answer, if I tell you these eyes and hands will otherwise drag you down to hell. No soft, silken teaching is this; and yet it is the teaching of Him to whom some affect to retreat as that of 'the meek and lowly Jesus,' from what they deem the harsh notes of the apostle of the Gentiles. To such one would be disposed to say, "Jesus I how, and Paul I know, but who are ye?" (Acts 19:15).

(9) What sanctity is stamped upon the married life by our Lord's teaching here, especially when taken in connection with His teaching on the subject of purity in general! (Matthew 5:28-32).

(10) By cutting off all swearing in ordinary conversation, with what sacredness is lawful swear ing invested; especially when the presence of God, as the Avenger of falsehood, is seen to be invoked even when not expressly named!

(11) Were simple truth to be so reverend in the eye, and dear to the heart of every genuine disciple of Christ, that all around them were constrained to regard their "Yes" and "No" as far more be trusted than the most solemn asseverations of others, what a testimony would thus be borne to Him to whom they owe their all! And why should it not be universally so? But,

(12) What shall we say to the concluding expositions of this section? To what a God-like height-not only of forbearance with those who wrong us, and submission to unreasonable demands, but of well-doing to the uttermost in return for ill-doing of the worst-does Jesus teach His disciples to rise! They are not to deem it enough to be as good as others, or, up to the current standard, or 'neighbour-like.' As "the light of the world" and "the salt of the earth," their walk is to be a model for others, as their Heavenly Father Himself is to be their Model. (See Colossians 3:14; 1 John 4:16.) Does any ingenuous disciple ask, But how is this to be attained and carried out? Let him hear the answer from the same blessed lips, "I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for if ye, being evil, know how give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit we them that ask Him?" (Luke 11:9; Luke 11:13). And if we do but think; that it was when we were enemies that we ourselves were reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Romans 5:10), can we choose but extend that love to any enemies, even the greatest, that we may have among our fellow-men?

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 5:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-5.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 23rd, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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