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Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary
A Syriac word, signifying somewhat very opprobious, such as sorry fellow, villain, and the like; so that it is a term of the utmost contempt, and seldom used unless accompanied with spitting. See Spitting. Our blessed Lord hath defined three several degrees of guilt in the use of improper anger and names. (Matthew 5:22) "I say unto you (saith Jesus) 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." It was a law of the Sanhedrim, founded upon the law of God, that no one should cherish anger against another, much less bring a railing accusation. He that did so was justly exposed to the judgment of God; but if he went farther than mental anger, and called his brother Raca, should be brought before the council, that judgment might be speedily obtained. But, if still prosecuting his malignity, and said, Thou fool, that is, thou child of hell, and this to a brother who is a child of God, Such an one was in danger of hell fire. The Jews had three different sorts of punishment. Beheading was commanded by judgment; stoning by the order of the Sanhedrim, or council; and burning in Gehenna, the valley of the son of Hinnom. (See Jeremiah 7:31-32) Joshiah, the good king, in order to pollute this place, and render it everlastingly, hateful to Israel, commanded all the filth he could rake together, and dead men's bones, to be thrown into it. (2 Kings 23:1-37) There is somewhat of difficulty at first view in this passage of our Lord. To say to another Raca, subjects the offender to the curse and condemnation of the council; but to say thou fool, makes the offender in danger of hell-fire. Whereas we find the apostle, Paul using the very phrase in his discourse on the resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:36) And our blessed Lord him self, when reproving the dullness of his disciples, said, "O fools, and slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets have spoken." (Luke 24:26) But the difficulty vanisheth when the passages are compared together. In the instance of the apostle, and his master, the term fool is but a gentle reproof, and meant in a tender way to correct a dullness of understanding. In the case to which Jesus refers, the utmost anger and malice is supposed; so that when the offender calls his brother, fool, he means one that is a child of hell, and under the curse of God. Oh, for grace to be kept from sins of such heinousness and malignity!
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Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Raca'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/pmd/r/raca.html. London. 1828.