1And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
1 CHAPTER V.
NOTES ON CHAP. V
Verse 1. And seeing the multitudes] τουςοχλους, these
multitudes, viz. those mentioned in the preceding verse, which
should make the first verse of this chapter.
He went up into a mountain] That he might have the greater
advantage of speaking, so as to be heard by that great concourse
of people which followed him. It is very probable that nothing
more is meant here than a small hill or eminence. Had he been on
a high mountain they could not have heard; and, had he been at a
great distance, he would not have sat down.
And when he was set] The usual posture of public teachers among
the Jews, and among many other people. Hence sitting was a
synonymous term for teaching among the rabbins.
His disciples] The word μαθητης signifies literally a scholar.
Those who originally followed Christ, considered him in the light
of a Divine teacher; and conscious of their ignorance, and the
importance of his teaching, they put themselves under his tuition,
that they might be instructed in heavenly things. Having been
taught the mysteries of the kingdom of God, they became closely
attached to their Divine Master, imitating his life and manners;
and recommending his salvation to all the circle of their
acquaintance. This is still the characteristic of a genuine
disciple of Christ.
2And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
3 Verse 3. Blessed are the poor in spirit, &c.] Or, happy,
μακαριοι from μα or μη, not, and κηρ, fate, or
death: intimating, that such persons were endued with immortality,
and consequently were not liable to the caprices of fate. Homer,
Iliad i, 330, calls the supreme gods, θεωνμακαρων, the ever happy
and IMMORTAL gods, and opposes them to θνητωνανθρωπων, mortal
"Be ye witnesses before the immortal gods, and before mortal
men." From this definition we may learn, that the person whom
Christ terms happy is one who is not under the influence of fate
or chance, but is governed by an all-wise providence, having every
step directed to the attainment of immortal glory, being
transformed by the power into the likeness of the ever-blessed
God. Though some of the persons, whose states are mentioned in
these verses, cannot be said to be as yet blessed or happy, in
being made partakers of the Divine nature; yet they are termed
happy by our Lord, because they are on the straight way to this
Taken in this light the meaning is similar to that expressed by
the poet when describing a happy man.
Which may be thus paraphrased:-
"Happy is he who gains the knowledge of the first cause of all
things; who can trample on every fear, and the doctrine of
inexorable FATE; and who is not terrified by death, nor by the
threatened torments of the invisible world!"
Poor in spirit] One who is deeply sensible of his spiritual
poverty and wretchedness. πτωχος, a poor man, comes from πτωσσω,
to tremble, or shrink with fear. Being destitute of the true
riches, he is tremblingly alive to the necessities of his soul,
shrinking with fear lest he should perish without the salvation of
God. Such Christ pronounces happy, because there is but a step
between them and that kingdom which is here promised. Some
contend, that μακαριοι should be referred to, πνευματι, and the
verse translated thus: Happy, or blessed in spirit, are the poor.
But our Lord seems to have the humiliation of the spirit
particularly in view.
Kingdom of heaven.] Or, τωνουρανων, of the heavens. A
participation of all the blessings of the new covenant here, and
the blessings of glory above.
See this phrase explained, Clarke's notes "Mt 3:2".
Blessed are the poor! this is God's word; but who believes it?
Do we not say, Yea, rather, Blessed is the rich?
The Jewish rabbins have many good sayings relative to that
poverty and humility of spirit which Christ recommends in this
verse. In the treatise called Bammidbar Rabbi, s. 20, we have
these words: There were three (evils) in Balaam: the evil eye,
(envy,) the towering spirit, (pride,) and the extensive mind
Tanchum, fol. 84. The law does not abide with those who have
the extensive mind, (avarice,) but with him only who has a
Rabbi Chanina said, "Why are the words of the law compared to
water? Because as waters flow from heights, and settle in low
places, so the words of the law rest only with him who is of an
humble heart." See Schoettgen.
4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
4 Verse 4. Blessed are they that mourn] That is, those who,
feeling their spiritual poverty, mourn after God, lamenting the
iniquity that separated them from the fountain of blessedness.
Every one flies from sorrow, and seeks after joy, and yet true joy
must necessarily be the fruit of sorrow. The whole need not (do
not feel the need of) the physician, but they that are sick do;
i.e. they who are sensible of their disease. Only such persons
as are deeply convinced of the sinfulness of sin, feel tho plague
of their own heart, and turn with disgust from all worldly
consolations, because of their insufficiency to render them happy,
have God's promise of solid comfort. They SHALL BE comforted,
says Christ, παρακληθησονται, from παρα, near, and καλεω, I
call. He will call them to himself, and speak the words of
pardon, peace, and life eternal, to their hearts. See this notion
of the word expressed fully by our Lord, , COME UNTO ME
all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
5 Verse 5. Blessed are the meek] Happy, οιπραεις, from ραος,
easy, those who are of a quiet, gentle spirit, in opposition to
the proud and supercilious Scribes and Pharisees and their
disciples. We have a compound word in English, which once fully
expressed the meaning of the original, viz. gentleman; but it has
now almost wholly lost its original signification. Our word meek
comes from the old Anglo-saxon meca, or meccea, a companion or
equal, because he who is of a meek or gentle spirit, is ever
ready to associate with the meanest of those who fear God, feeling
himself superior to none; and well knowing that he has nothing of
spiritual or temporal good but what he has received from the mere
bounty of God, having never deserved any favour from his hand.
For they shall inherit the earth.] Or, τηνγην, the land.
Under this expression, which was commonly used by the prophets to
signify the land of Canaan, in which all temporal good abounded,
, Jesus Christ points out that abundance of
spiritual good, which was provided for men in the Gospel.
Besides, Canaan was a type of the kingdom of God; and who is so
likely to inherit glory as the man in whom the meekness and
gentleness of Jesus dwell? In some good MSS. and several ancient
versions, the fourth and fifth verses are transposed: see the
authorities in the various readings in Professor Griesbach's
edition. The present arrangement certainly is most natural: 1.
Poverty, to which the promise of the kingdom is made. 2. Mourning
or distress, on account of this impoverished state, to which
consolation is promised. And 3. Meekness established in the heart
by the consolations received.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
6 Verse 6. They which do hunger and thirst] As the body has its
natural appetites of hunger and thirst for the food and drink
suited to its nourishment, so has the soul. No being is
indestructible or unfailing in its nature but GOD; no being is
independent but him: as the body depends for its nourishment,
health, and strength upon the earth, so does the soul upon heaven.
Heavenly things cannot support the body; they are not suited to
its nature: earthly things cannot support the soul, for the same
reason. When the uneasy sensation termed hunger takes place in
the stomach, we know we must get food or perish. When the soul is
awakened to a tense of its wants, and begins to hunger and thirst
after righteousness or holiness, which is its proper food, we know
that it must be purified by the Holy Spirit, and be made a
partaker of that living bread, , or perish everlastingly.
Now, as God never inspires a prayer but with a design to answer
it, he who hungers and thirsts after the full salvation of God,
may depend on being speedily and effectually blessed or satisfied,
well-fed, as the word χορτασθησονται implies. Strong and intense
desire after any object has been, both by poets and orators,
represented metaphorically by hunger and thirst. See the
well-known words of Virgil, AEneid iii. 55.
"O cursed hunger after gold! what canst thou not influence the
hearts of men to perpetrate?" How frequently do we find,
inexplebilis honorum FAMES-SITIENS virtutis-famae SITUS, the
insatiable hunger after honour, a thirst for virtue, thirst after
fame, and such like! Righteousness here is taken for all the
blessings of the new covenant-all the graces of the Messiah's
kingdom-a full restoration to the image of God!
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
7 Verse 7. The merciful] The word mercy, among the Jews,
signified two things: the pardon of injuries, and almsgiving. Our
Lord undoubtedly takes it in its fullest latitude here. To know
the nature of mercy, we have only to consult the grammatical
meaning of the Latin word misericordia, from which ours is
derived. It is composed of two words: miserans, pitying, and cor,
the heart; or miseria cordis, pain of heart. Mercy supposes two
things: 1. A distressed object: and, 2. A disposition of the
heart, through which it is affected at the sight of such an
object. This virtue, therefore, is no other than a lively emotion
of the heart, which is excited by the discovery of any creature's
misery; and such an emotion as manifests itself outwardly, by
effects suited to its nature. The merciful man is here termed by
our Lord ελεημων, from ελεος, which is generally derived from the
Hebrew chil, to be in pain, as a woman in travail: or from
galal, to cry, or lament grievously; because a merciful man enters
into the miseries of his neighbour, feels for and mourns with him.
They shall obtain mercy.] Mercy is not purchased but at the
price of mercy itself; and even this price is a gift of the mercy
of God. What mercy can those vindictive persons expect, who
forgive nothing, and are always ready to improve every advantage
they have of avenging themselves? Whatever mercy a man shows to
another, God will take care to show the same to him. The
following elegant and nervous saying of one of our best poets is
worthy of the reader's most serious attention:-
In the tract Shabbath, fol. 151, there is a saying very like
this of our Lord. "He who shows mercy to men, God will show mercy
to him: but to him who shows no mercy to man, God will show no
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
8 Verse 8. Pure in heart] In opposition to the Pharisees, who
affected outward purity, while their hearts were full of
corruption and defilement. A principal part of the Jewish
religion consisted in outward washings and cleansings: on this
ground they expected to see God, to enjoy eternal glory: but
Christ here shows that a purification of the heart, from all vile
affections and desires, is essentially requisite in order to enter
into the kingdom of God. He whose soul is not delivered from all
sin, through the blood of the covenant, can have no Scriptural
hope of ever being with God. There is a remarkable illustration
of this passage, quoted by Mr. Wakefield from Origen, Contra Cels.
lib. vi. "God has no body, and therefore is invisible: but men of
contemplation can discern him with the heart and understanding.
But A DEFILED HEART CANNOT SEE GOD: but HE MUST BE PURE WHO WISHES
TO ENJOY A PROPER VIEW OF A PURE BEING."
Shall see God.] This is a Hebraism, which signifies, possess
God, enjoy his felicity: as seeing a thing, was used among the
Hebrews for possessing it. See .
Thou wilt not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption, i.e. he
shall not be corrupted. So :
Except a man be born again, he cannot SEE the kingdom of God,
i.e. he cannot enjoy it. So .
He that believeth not the Son, shall not SEE life, i. e shall not
be put in possession of eternal glory. The Hindoo idolaters
vainly boast of what the genuine followers of Christ actually
enjoy-having the Divine favour witnessed to their souls by the
Holy Spirit. The Hindoos pretend that some of their sages have
been favoured with a sight of their guardian deity.-See WARD'S
Probably our Lord alludes to the advantages those had, who were
legally pure, of entering into the sanctuary, into the presence of
God, while those who had contracted any legal defilement were
excluded from it. This also was obviously typical.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
9 Verse 9. The peace-makers] ειρηνη, peace, is compounded of
ειρειν (εις) εν, connecting into one: for as WAR distracts
and divides nations, families, and individuals, from each other,
inducing them to pursue different objects and different interests,
so PEACE restores them to a state of unity, giving them one
object, and one interest. A peace-maker is a man who, being
endowed with a generous public spirit, labours for the public
good, and feels his own interest promoted in promoting that of
others: therefore, instead of fanning the fire of strife, he uses
his influence and wisdom to reconcile the contending parties,
adjust their differences, and restore them to a state of unity.
As all men are represented to be in a state of hostility to God
and each other, the Gospel is called the Gospel of peace, because
it tends to reconcile men to God and to each other. Hence our
Lord here terms peace-makers the children of God: for as he is the
Father of peace, those who promote it are reputed his children.
But whose children are they who foment divisions in the Church,
the state, or among families? Surely they are not of that GOD,
who is the Father of peace, and lover of concord; of that CHRIST,
who is the sacrifice and mediator of it; of that SPIRIT, who is
the nourisher and bond of peace; nor of that CHURCH of the Most
High, which is the kingdom and family of peace.
St. Clement, Strom. lib. iv. s. 6, in fin. says, that "Some who
transpose the Gospels add this verse: Happy they who are
persecuted by justice, for they shall be perfect: happy they who
are persecuted on my account, for they shall have a place where
they shall not be persecuted."
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
10 Verse 10. They which are persecuted] δεδιωγμενοι, they who are
hard pressed upon and pursued with repeated acts of enmity.
Parkhurst. They are happy who suffer, seems a strange saying: and
that the righteous should suffer, merely because they are such,
seems as strange. But such is the enmity of the human heart to
every thing of God and goodness, that all those who live godly in
Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution in one form or other. As
the religion of Christ gives no quarter to vice, so the vicious
will give no quarter to this religion, or to its professors.
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.] That spiritual kingdom,
explained , and that kingdom of glory which is its
counterpart and consequence.
11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
11 Verse 11. When men shall revile you, and persecute] The
persecution mentioned in the preceding verse comprehends all
outward acts of violence-all that the hand can do. This
comprehends all calumny, slander, &c., all that the tongue can
effect. But as διωκειν, which we render to persecute, is a
forensic term, and signifies legal persecutions and public
accusations, which, though totally unsubstantiated, were the means
of destroying multitudes of the primitive Christians, our Lord
probably refers to such. No Protestant can think, without horror,
of the great numbers burnt alive in this country, on such
accusations, under the popish reign of her who is emphatically
called Bloody Queen Mary.
12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
12 Verse 12. Rejoice] In the testimony of a good conscience; for,
without this, suffering has nothing but misery in it.
Be exceeding glad] αγαλλιασθε, leap for joy. There are
several cases on record, where this was literally done by the
martyrs, in Queen Mary's days.
Great is your reward in heaven] In the Talmudical tract Pirkey
Aboth, are these words: "Rabbi Tarpon said, The day is short: the
work is great: the labourers are slow: the REWARD IS GREAT: and
the father of the family is urgent."
The followers of Christ are encouraged to suffer joyfully on two
considerations. 1. They are thereby conformed to the prophets who
went before. 2. Their reward in heaven is a great one. God gives
the grace to suffer, and then crowns that grace with glory; hence
it is plain, the reward is not of debt, but of grace: .
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.
13 Verse 13. Ye are the salt of the earth] Our Lord shows here
what the preachers of the Gospel, and what all who profess to
follow him, should be; the salt of the earth, to preserve the
world from putrefaction and destruction.
But if the salt have lost his savour] That this is possible in
the land of Judea, we have proof from Mr. Maundrell, who,
describing the Valley of Salt, speaks thus: "Along, on one side of
the valley, toward Gibul, there is a small precipice about two
men's lengths, occasioned by the continual taking away of the
salt; and, in this, you may see how the veins of it lie. I broke
a piece of it, of which that part that was exposed to the rain,
sun, and air, though it had the sparks and particles of salt, YET
IT HAD PERFECTLY LOST ITS SAVOUR: the inner part, which was
connected to the rock, retained its savour, as I found by proof."
See his Trav., 5th edit., last page. A preacher, or private
Christian, who has lost the life of Christ, and the witness of his
Spirit, out of his soul, may be likened to this salt. He may have
the sparks and glittering particles of true wisdom, but without
its unction or comfort. Only that which is connected with the
rock, the soul that is in union with Christ Jesus by the Holy
Spirit, can preserve its savour, and be instrumental of good to
To be trodden underfoot] There was a species of salt in Judea,
which was generated at the lake Asphaltites, and hence called
bituminous salt, easily rendered vapid, and of no other use but to
be spread in a part of the temple, to prevent slipping in wet
weather. This is probably what our Lord alludes to in this place.
The existence of such a salt, and its application to such a use,
Schoettgenius has largely proved in his Horae Hebraicae, vol. i.
p. 18, &c.
14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
14 Verse 14. Ye are the light of the world] That is, the
instruments which God chooses to make use of to illuminate the
minds of men; as he uses the sun (to which probably he pointed) to
enlighten the world. Light of the world, ner olam, was a
title applied to the most eminent rabbins. Christ transfers the
title from these, and gives it to his own disciples, who, by the
doctrines that he taught them, were to be the means of diffusing
the light of life throughout the universe.
A city that is set on a hill] This place may receive light from
the following passage in Maundrell's Travels. "A few points
toward the north (of Tabor) appears that which they call the Mount
of Beatitudes, a small rising, from which our blessed Saviour
delivered his sermon in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of
Matthew. (.) Not far from this little
hill is the city Saphet, supposed to be the ancient Bethulia. It
stands upon a very eminent and conspicuous mountain, and is SEEN
FAR and NEAR. May we not suppose that Christ alludes to this
city, in these words of his, A city set on a hill cannot be hid?"
p. 115. Quesnell remarks here: "The Christian life is something
very high and sublime, to which we cannot arrive without pains:
while it withdraws us from the earth, and carries us nearer
heaven, it places us in view, and as a mark, to the malice of
15Neither 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.
15 Verse 15. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a
bushel] A bushel μοδιος:-a measure both among the Greeks and
Romans, containing a little more than a peck English. From some
ancient writers we learn, that only those who had bad designs hid
a candle under a bushel; that, in the dead of the night, when all
were asleep, they might rise up, and have light at hand to help
them to effect their horrid purposes of murder, &c. See Wetstein,
Kypke, Wolf, &c.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
16 Verse 16. Let your light so shine] Or more literally, Thus let
your light shine, ουτωλαμψατωτοφως. As the sun is lighted up
in the firmament of heaven to diffuse its light and heat freely to
every inhabitant of the earth; and as the lamp is not set under
the bushel, but placed upon the lamp-stand that it may give light
to all in the house; THUS let every follower of Christ, and
especially every preacher of the Gospel, diffuse the light of
heavenly knowledge, and the warmth of Divine love through the
whole circle of their acquaintance.
That they may see your good works] It is not sufficient to have
light-we must walk in the light, and by the light. Our whole
conduct should be a perpetual comment on the doctrine we have
received, and a constant exemplification of its power and truth.
And glorify your Father] The following curious saying is found
in Bammidbar Rabba, s. 15. "The Israelites said to the holy
blessed God, Thou commandest us to light lamps to thee; and yet
thou art the, Light of the world, and with thee the light
dwelleth. The holy blessed God answered, I do not command this
because I need light; but that you may reflect light upon me, as
I have illuminated you:-that the people may say, Behold, how the
Israelites illustrate him, who illuminates them in the sight of
the whole earth." See more in Schoettgen. Real Christians are
the children of God-they are partakers of his holy and happy
nature: they should ever be concerned for their Father's honour,
and endeavour so to recommend him, and his salvation, that others
may be prevailed on to come to the light, and walk in it. Then
God is said to be glorified, when the glorious power of his grace
is manifested in the salvation of men.
17 ¶ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
17 Verse 17. Think not that I am come to destroy the law] Do not
imagine that I am come to violate the law καταλυσαι, from κατα,
and λυω, I loose, violate, or dissolve-I am not come to make the
law of none effect-to dissolve the connection which subsists
between its several parts, or the obligation men are under to have
their lives regulated by its moral precepts; nor am I come to
dissolve the connecting reference it has to the good things
promised. But I am come, πληρωσαι, to complete-to perfect its
connection and reference, to accomplish every thing shadowed forth
in the Mosaic ritual, to fill up its great design; and to give
grace to all my followers, πληρωσαι, to fill up, or complete,
every moral duty. In a word, Christ completed the law: 1st. In
itself, it was only the shadow, the typical representation, of
good things to come; and he added to it that which was necessary
to make it perfect, HIS OWN SACRIFICE, without which it could
neither satisfy God, nor sanctify men. 2dly. He completed it in
himself by submitting to its types with an exact obedience, and
verifying them by his death upon the cross. 3dly. He completes
this law, and the sayings of his prophets, in his members, by
giving them grace to love the Lord with all their heart, soul,
mind, and strength, and their neighbour as themselves; for this is
all the law and the prophets.
It is worthy of observation, that the word gamar, among the
rabbins, signifies not only to fulfil, but also to teach; and,
consequently, we may infer that our Lord intimated, that the law
and the prophets were still to be taught or inculcated by him and
his disciples; and this he and they have done in the most pointed
manner. See the Gospels and epistles; and see especially this
sermon on the mount, the Epistle of James, and the Epistle to the
Hebrews. And this meaning of the word gives the clear sense of
the apostle's words, .
Whereof I am made a minister, πληρωσαιτοςλογοντουθεου, to
fulfil the word of God, i.e. to teach the doctrine of God.
18For 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.
18 Verse 18. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven] In the very
commencement of his ministry, Jesus Christ teaches the instability
of all visible things. "The heaven which you see, and which is so
glorious, and the earth which you inhabit and love, shall pass
away; for the things which are seen are temporal, προσκαιρα, are
for a time; but the things which are not seen are eternal αιωνια,
ever-during," . And the WORD of the Lord endureth for
One jot or one tittle] One yod, (,) the smallest letter in the
Hebrew alphabet. One tittle or point, κεραια, either meaning
those points which serve for vowels in this language, if they then
existed; or the seraphs, or points of certain letters, such as
resh, or daleth, he, or cheth (as the
change of any of these into the other would make a most essential
alteration in the sense, or, as the rabbins say, destroy the
world.) Or our Lord may refer to the little ornaments which
certain letters assume on their tops, which cause them to appear
like small branches. The following letters only can assume
coronal apices, tsaddi- gimel- zain-
nun- teth- ayin- shin. These, with the
coronal apices, often appear in MSS.
That this saying, one jot or one tittle, is a proverbial mode of
expression among the Jews, and that it expressed the meaning given
to it above, is amply proved by the extracts in Lightfoot and
Schoettgen. The reader will not be displeased to find a few of
them here, if he can bear with the allegorical and strongly
figurative language of the rabbins.
"The book of Deuteronomy came and prostrated itself before the
Lord, and said: 'O Lord of the world, thou hast written in me thy
law; but now, a Testament defective in some parts is defective in
all. Behold, Solomon endeavours to root the letter yod out of
me.' (In this text, .
lo yirbeh, nashim, he shall not multiply wives.)
The holy blessed God answered, 'Solomon and a thousand such as he
shall perish, but the least word shall not perish out of thee.'"
In Shir Hashirim Rabba, are these words: "Should all the
inhabitants of the earth gather together, in order to whiten one
feather of a crow, they could not succeed: so, if all the
inhabitants of the earth should unite to abolish one yod, which
is the smallest letter in the whole law, they should not be able
to effect it."
In Vayikra Rabba, s. 19, it is said: "Should any person in the
words of ,
Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is achad, ONE Lord,
change the daleth into a resh, he would ruin the world."
[Because, in that case, the word achar, would signify a
strange or false God.]
"Should any one, in the words of ,
Thou shalt worship no OTHER, achar, God, change resh
into daleth, he would ruin the world." [Because the command
would then run, Thou shalt not worship the ONLY or true God.]
"Should any one in the words of ,
Neither shall ye PROFANE techelelu, my holy name, change
cheth into he, he would ruin the world." [Because the
sense of the commandment would then be, Neither shall ye PRAISE my
"Should any one, in the words of ,
Let every thing that hath breath PRAISE, tehalel, the Lord,
change he into cheth, he would ruin the world." [Because
the command would then run, Let every thing that hath breath
PROFANE the Lord.]
"Should any one, in the words of ,
They lied AGAINST the Lord, beihovah, change
beth into caph, he would ruin the world." [For then the
words would run, They lied LIKE the Lord.]
"Should any one, in the words of Hosea, ,
They have dealt treacherously, beihovah, AGAINST the
Lord, change beth into caph, he would ruin the
world." [For then the words would run, They have dealt
treacherously LIKE the Lord.]
"Should any one, in the words of ,
There is none holy AS the Lord, change caph into
beth, he would ruin the world." [For then the words would mean,
There is no holiness IN the Lord.]
These examples fully prove that the μιακεραια of our Lord,
refers to the apices, points, or corners, that distinguish
beth from caph; cheth from he; and
resh from daleth. For the reader will at once perceive, how
easily a caph may be turned into a beth; a he
into a cheth; and a resh into a daleth: and he
will also see of what infinite consequence it is to write and print
such letters correctly.
Till all be fulfilled.] Or, accomplished. Though all earth and
hell should join together to hinder the accomplishment of the
great designs of the Most High, yet it shall all be in vain-even
the sense of a single letter shall not be lost. The words of God,
which point out his designs, are as unchangeable as his nature
itself. Every sinner, who perseveres in his iniquity, shall
surely be punished with separation from God and the glory of his
power; and every soul that turns to God, through Christ, shall as
surely be saved, as that Jesus himself hath died.
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.
19 Verse 19. Whosoever-shall break one of these least
commandments] The Pharisees were remarkable for making a
distinction between weightier and lighter matters in the law, and
between what has been called, in a corrupt part of the Christian
Church, mortal and venial sins. .
Whosoever shall break. What an awful consideration is this! He
who, by his mode of acting, speaking, or explaining the words of
God, sets the holy precept aside, or explains away its force and
meaning, shall be called least-shall have no place in the kingdom
of Christ here, nor in the kingdom of glory above. That this is
the meaning of these words is evident enough from the following
20For 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.
20 Verse 20. Except your righteousness shall exceed] περισσευση,
Unless your righteousness abound more-unless it take in, not only
the letter, but the spirit and design of the moral and
ritual precept; the one directing you how to walk so as to please
God; the other pointing out Christ, the great Atonement, through
and by which a sinner is enabled to do so-more than that of the
scribes and Pharisees, who only attend to the letter of the law,
and had indeed made even that of no effect by their traditions-ye
shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This fully explains
the meaning of the preceding verse. The old English word is
[Anglo-Saxon], right-wiseness, i.e. complete, thorough, excellent
WISDOM. For a full explanation of this verse, see , &c.
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:
21 Verse 21. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time]
τοιςαρχαιοις, to or by the ancients. By the ancients, we
may understand those who lived before the law, and those who lived
under it; for murder was, in the most solemn manner, forbidden
before, as well as under, the law, .
But it is very likely that our Lord refers here merely to
traditions and glosses relative to the ancient Mosaic ordinance;
and such as, by their operation, rendered the primitive command of
little or no effect. Murder from the beginning has been punished
with death; and it is, probably, the only crime that should be
punished with death. There is much reason to doubt, whether the
punishment of death, inflicted for any other crime, is not in
itself murder, whatever the authority may be that has instituted
it. GOD, and the greatest legislators that have ever been in the
universe, are of the same opinion. See Montesquieu, Blackstone,
and the Marquis Beccaria, and the arguments and testimonies lately
produced by Sir Samuel Romilly, in his motion for the amendment of
the criminal laws of this kingdom. It is very remarkable, that
the criminal code published by Joseph II., late emperor of
Germany, though it consists of seventy-one capital crimes, has not
death attached to any of them. Even murder, with all intention to
rob, is punished only with "imprisonment for thirty years, to lie
on the floor, to have no nourishment but bread and water, to be
closely chained, and to be publicly whipped once a year, with less
than one hundred lashes." See Colquhoun on the Police of the
City of London, p. 272.
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.
22 Verse 22. Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause]
οοργιζομενοςεικη, who is vainly incensed. "This translation
is literal; and the very objectionable phrase, without a cause, is
left out, εικη being more properly translated by that above."
What our Lord seems here to prohibit, is not merely that miserable
facility which some have of being angry at every trifle,
continually taking offence against their best friends; but that
anger which leads a man to commit outrages against another,
thereby subjecting himself to that punishment which was to be
inflicted on those who break the peace. εικη, vainly, or, as in
the common translation, without a cause, is wanting in the famous
Vatican MS. and two others, the Ethiopic, latter Arabic, Saxon,
Vulgate, two copies of the old Itala, J. Martyr, Ptolomeus,
Origen, Tertullian, and by all the ancient copies quoted by St.
Jerome. It was probably a marginal gloss originally, which in
process of time crept into the text.
Shall be in danger of the judgment] ενοχοςεσται, shall be
liable to the judgment. That is, to have the matter brought
before a senate, composed of twenty-three magistrates, whose
business it was to judge in cases of murder and other capital
crimes. It punished criminals by strangling or beheading; but Dr.
Lightfoot supposes the judgment of God to be intended. See at the
end of this chapter.
Raca] from the Hebrew rak, to be empty. It
signifies a vain, empty, worthless fellow, shallow brains, a term
of great contempt. Such expressions were punished among the
Gentoos by a heavy fine. See all the cases, Code of Gentoo Laws,
chap. 15: sec. 2.
The council] συνεδριον, the famous council, known among the
Jews by the name of Sanhedrin. It was composed of seventy-two
elders, six chosen out of each tribe. This grand Sanhedrin not
only received appeals from the inferior Sanhedrins, or court of
twenty-three mentioned above; but could alone take cognizance, in
the first instance, of the highest crimes, and alone inflict the
punishment of stoning.
Thou fool] Moreh, probably from marah, to rebel, a
rebel against God, apostate from all good. This term implied,
among the Jews, the highest enormity, and most aggravated guilt.
Among the Gentoos, such an expression was punished by cutting out
the tongue, and thrusting a hot iron, of ten fingers breadth, into
the mouth of the person who used it. Code of Gentoo Laws, chap.
15: sec. 2. p. 212.
Shall be in danger of hell fire.] ενοχοςεσταιειςτηνγεενναν
τουπυρος, shall be liable to the hell of fire. Our Lord here
alludes to the valley of the son of Hinnom, Ghi hinom.
This place was near Jerusalem, and had been formerly used for
those abominable sacrifices, in which the idolatrous Jews had
caused their children to pass through the fire to Molech. A
particular place in this valley was called Tophet, from
tophet, the fire stove, in which some supposed they burnt their
children alive to the above idol. See ; ;
. From the circumstances of this valley having been the
scene of those infernal sacrifices, the Jews, in our Saviour's
time, used the word for hell, the place of the damned. See the
word applied in this sense by the Targum, on ; ;
. It is very probable that our Lord means no more
here than this: if a man charge another with apostasy from the
Jewish religion, or rebellion against God, and cannot prove his
charge, then he is exposed to that punishment (burning alive)
which the other must have suffered, if the charge had been
substantiated. There are three kinds of offences here, which
exceed each other in their degrees of guilt. 1st. Anger against
a man, accompanied with some injurious act. 2dly. Contempt,
expressed by the opprobrious epithet raka, or shallow brains.
3dly. Hatred and mortal enmity, expressed by the term moreh, or
apostate, where such apostasy could not be proved. Now,
proportioned to these three offences were three different degrees
of punishment, each exceeding the other in its severity, as the
offenses exceeded each other in their different degrees of guilt.
1st. The judgment, the council of twenty-three, which could
inflict the punishment of strangling. 2dly. The Sanhedrin, or
great council, which could inflict the punishment of stoning. And
3dly. The being burnt alive in the valley of the son of Hinnom.
This appears to be the meaning of our Lord.
Now, if the above offences were to be so severely punished,
which did not immediately affect the life of another, how much
sorer must the punishment of murder be! . And as there
could not be a greater punishment inflicted than death, in the
above terrific forms, and this was to be inflicted for minor
crimes; then the punishment of murder must not only have death
here, but a hell of fire in the eternal world, attached to it. It
seems that these different degrees of guilt, and the punishment
attached to each, had not been properly distinguished among the
Jews. Our Lord here calls their attention back to them, and gives
then to understand, that in the coming world there are different
degrees of punishment prepared for different degrees of vice; and
that not only the outward act of iniquity should be judged and
punished by the Lord, but that injurious words, and evil passions,
should all meet their just recompense and reward. Murder is the
most punishable of all crimes, according to the written law, in
respect both of our neighbours and civil society. But he who sees
the heart, and judges it by the eternal law, punishes as much a
word or a desire, if the hatred whence they proceed be complete
and perfected. Dr. Lightfoot has some curious observations on
this passage in the preface to his Harmony of the Evangelists.
See his works, vol. ii., and the conclusion of this chapter.
23Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
23 Verse 23. Therefore if thou bring thy gift] Evil must be
nipped in the bud. An unkind thought of another may be the
foundation of that which leads to actual murder. A Christian,
properly speaking, cannot be an enemy to any man; nor is he to
consider any man his enemy, without the fullest evidence: for
surmises to the prejudice of another can never rest in the bosom
of him who has the love of God in his heart, for to him all men
are brethren. He sees all men as children of God, and members of
Christ, or at least capable of becoming such. If a tender
forgiving spirit was required, even in a Jew, when he approached
God's altar with a bullock or a lamb, how much more necessary is
this in a man who professes to be a follower of the Lamb of God;
especially when he receives the symbols of that Sacrifice which
was offered for the life of the world, in what is commonly called
the sacrament of the Lord's supper!
24Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
24 Verse 24. Leave there thy gift before the altar] This is as
much as to say, "Do not attempt to bring any offering to God while
thou art in a spirit of enmity against any person; or hast any
difference with thy neighbour, which thou hast not used thy
diligence to get adjusted." It is our duty and interest, both to
bring our gift, and offer it too; but God will not accept of any
act of religious worship from us, while any enmity subsists in our
hearts towards any soul of man; or while any subsists in our
neighbour's heart towards us, which we have not used the proper
means to remove. A religion, the very essence of which is love,
cannot suffer at its altars a heart that is revengeful and
uncharitable, or which does not use its utmost endeavours to
revive love in the heart of another. The original word, δωρον,
which we translate gift, is used by the rabbins in Hebrew letters
doron, which signifies not only a gift, but a sacrifice
offered to God. See several proofs in Schoettgen.
Then come and offer thy gift.] Then, when either thy brother is
reconciled to thee, or thou hast done all in thy power to effect
this reconciliation. My own obstinacy and uncharitableness must
render me utterly unfit to receive any good from God's hands, or
to worship him in an acceptable manner; bat the wickedness of
another can be no hinderance to me, when I have endeavoured
earnestly to get it removed, though without effect.
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.
25 Verse 25. Agree with thine adversary quickly] Adversary,
αντιδικος, properly a plaintiff in law-a perfect law term. Our
Lord enforces the exhortation given in the preceding verses, from
the consideration of what was deemed prudent in ordinary
law-suits. In such cases, men should make up matters with the
utmost speed, as running through the whole course of a law-suit
must not only be vexatious, but be attended with great expense;
and in the end, though the loser may be ruined, yet the gainer has
nothing. A good use of this very prudential advice of our Lord is
this: Thou art a sinner; God hath a controversy with thee. There
is but a step between thee and death. Now is the accepted time.
Thou art invited to return to God by Christ Jesus. Come
immediately at his call, and he will save thy soul. Delay not!
Eternity is at hand; and if thou die in thy sins, where God is
thou shalt never come.
Those who make the adversary, God; the judge, Christ; the
officer, Death; and the prison, Hell, abuse the passage, and
highly dishonour God.
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
26 Verse 26. The uttermost farthing.] . The rabbins
have this Greek word corrupted into kordiontes, and
, kontrik, and say, that two prutoth make a
kontarik, which is exactly the same with those words in ,
λεπταδυοοεστικοδραντης, two mites, which are one farthing.
Hence it appears that the λεπτον lepton was the same as the
prutah. The weight of the prutah was half a barley-corn, and it
was the smallest coin among the Jews, as the kodrantes, or
farthing, was the smallest coin among the Romans. If the matter
issue in law, strict justice will be done, and your creditor be
allowed the fulness of his just claim; but if; while you are on
the way, going to the magistrate, you come to a friendly agreement
with him, he will relax in his claims, take a part for the whole,
and the composition be, in the end, both to his and your profit.
This text has been considered a proper foundation on which to
build not only the doctrine of a purgatory, but also that of
universal restoration. But the most unwarrantable violence must
be used before it can be pressed into the service of either of the
above antiscriptural doctrines. At the most, the text can only be
considered as a metaphorical representation of the procedure of
the great Judge; and let it ever be remembered, that by the
general consent of all (except the basely interested) no metaphor
is ever to be produced in proof of any doctrine. In the things
that concern our eternal salvation, we need the most pointed and
express evidence on which to establish the faith of our souls.
27 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
27 Verse 27. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old] By
the ancients, τοιςαρχαιοις, is omitted by nearly a hundred MSS.,
and some of them of the very greatest antiquity and authority;
also by the Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Gothic, and Sclavonian
versions; by four copies of the old Itala; and by Origen, Cyril,
Theophylact, Euthymius, and Hilary. On this authority Wetstein
and Griesbach have left it out of the text.
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.
28 Verse 28. Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her]
επιθυμσαιαυτην, earnestly to covet her. The verb, επιθυμεω, is
undoubtedly used here by our Lord, in the sense of coveting
through the influence of impure desire. The word is used in
precisely the same sense, on the same subject, by Herodotus, book
the first, near the end. I will give the passage, but I dare not
translate it. To the learned reader it will justify my
translation, and the unlearned must take my word. τηςεπιθυμησει
γυναικοςμασσαγετηςανηρμισγεταιαδεως, Raphelius, on this
verse, says, επιθυμειν hoc loco, est turpi cupiditate mulieris
potiundae flagrare. In all these eases, our blessed Lord points
out the spirituality of the law; which was a matter to which the
Jews paid very little attention. Indeed it is the property of a
Pharisee to abstain only from the outward crime. Men are very
often less inquisitive to know how far the will of God extends,
that they may please him in performing it, than they are to know
how far they may satisfy their lusts without destroying their
bodies and souls, utterly, by an open violation of his law.
Hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.] It is
the earnest wish or desire of the soul, which, in a variety of
cases, constitutes the good or evil of an act. If a man
earnestly wish to commit an evil, but cannot, because God puts
time, place, and opportunity out of his power, he is fully
chargeable with the iniquity of the act, by that God who searches
and judges the heart. So, if a man earnestly wish to do some
kindness, which it is out of his power to perform, the act is
considered as his; because God, in this case, as in that above,
takes the will for the deed. If voluntary and deliberate looks
and desires make adulterers and adulteresses, how many persons
are there whose whole life is one continued crime! whose eyes
being full of adultery, they cannot cease from sin, .
Many would abhor to commit one external act before the eyes of
men, in a temple of stone; and yet they are not afraid to commit a
multitude of such acts in the temple of their hearts, and in the
sight of God!
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.
29 Verse 29. - 30. Pluck it out-cut it off] We must shut our
senses against dangerous objects, to avoid the occasions of sin,
and deprive ourselves of all that is most dear and profitable to
us, in order to save our souls, when we find that these dear and
profitable things, however innocent in themselves, cause us to sin
It is profitable for thee that one of thy members] Men often
part with some members of the body, at the discretion of a
surgeon, that they may preserve the trunk, and die a little later;
and yet they will not deprive themselves of a look, a touch, a
small pleasure, which endanger the eternal death of the soul. It
is not enough to shut the eye, or stop the hand; the one must be
plucked out, and the other cut off. Neither is this enough, we
must cast them both from us. Not one moment's truce with an evil
passion, or a sinful appetite. If you indulge them, they will
gain strength, and you shall be ruined. The rabbins have a saying
similar to this: "It is better for thee to be scorched with a
little fire in this world, than to be burned with a devouring fire
in the world to come."
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.
31It hath been said , Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
31 Verse 31. Whosoever shall put away his wife] The Jewish
doctors gave great license in the matter of divorce. Among them,
a man might divorce his wife if she displeased him even in the
dressing of his victuals!
Rabbi Akiba said, "If any man saw a woman handsomer than his own
wife, he might put his wife away; because it is said in the law,
If she find not favour in his eyes." .
Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, in his Life, tells
us, with the utmost coolness and indifference, "About this time I
put away my wife, who had borne me three children, not being
pleased with her manners."
These two cases are sufficient to show to what a scandalous and
criminal excess this matter was carried among the Jews. However,
it was allowed by the school of Shammai, that no man was to put
away his wife unless for adultery. The school of Hillel gave much
A writing of divorcement] The following is the common form of
such a writing. See Maimonides and Lightfoot.
"On the day of the week A. in the month B. in the year C. from
the beginning of the world, according to the common computation in
the province of D., I, N. the son of N. by whatever name I am
called, of the city E. with entire consent of mind, and without
any compulsion, have divorced, dismissed, and expelled thee-thee,
I say, M. the daughter of M. by whatever name thou art called, of
the city E. who wast heretofore my wife: but now I have dismissed
thee-thee, I say, M. the daughter of M. by whatever name thou art
called, of the city E. so as to be free, and at thine own
disposal, to marry whomsoever thou pleasest, without hinderance
from any one, from this day for ever. Thou art therefore free for
any man. Let this be thy bill of divorce from me, a writing of
separation and expulsion, according to the law of Moses and
REUBEN, son of Jacob, Witness.
ELIEZAR, son of Gilead, Witness."
God permitted this evil to prevent a greater; and, perhaps, to
typify his repudiating the Jews, who were his first spouse.
32But 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.
32 Verse 32. Saving for the cause of fornication] λογουπορνειας,
on account of whoredom. As fornication signifies no more than the
unlawful connection of unmarried persons, it cannot be used here
with propriety, when speaking of those who are married. I have
therefore translated λογουπορνειας, on account of whoredom. It
does not appear that there is any other case in which Jesus Christ
admits of divorce. A real Christian ought rather to beg of God
the grace to bear patiently and quietly the imperfections of his
wife, than to think of the means of being parted from her. "But
divorce was allowed by Moses;" yes, for the hardness of their
hearts it was permitted: but what was permitted to an
uncircumcised heart among the Jews, should not serve for a rule to
a heart in which the love of God has been shed abroad by the Holy
Spirit. Those who form a matrimonial connection in the fear and
love of God, and under his direction, will never need a divorce.
But those who marry as passion or money lead the way, may be
justly considered adulterers and adulteresses as long as they
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:
33 Verse 33. Thou shalt not forswear thyself] They dishonour the
great God, and break this commandment, who use frequent oaths and
imprecations, even in reference to things that are true; and those
who make vows and promises, which they either cannot perform, or
do not design to fulfil, are not less criminal. Swearing in civil
matters is become so frequent, that the dread and obligation of an
oath are utterly lost in it. In certain places, where oaths are
frequently administered, people have been known to kiss their
thumb or pen, instead of the book, thinking thereby to avoid the
sin of perjury; but this is a shocking imposition on their own
souls. ; "De 6:13".
Perform unto the Lord thine oaths] The morality of the Jews on
this point was truly execrable: they maintained, that a man might
swear with his lips, and annul it in the same moment in his heart.
Rab. Akiba is quoted as an example of this kind of swearing. See
34But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
34 Verse 34. - 35. Neither by heaven, &c.] It was a custom among
the Scythians, when they wished to bind themselves in the most
solemn manner, to swear by the king's throne; and if the king was
at any time sick, they believed it was occasioned by some one's
having taken the oath falsely. Herod. l. iv.
Who is there among the traders and people of this world who obey
this law? A common swearer is constantly perjuring himself: such
a person should never be trusted. When we make any promise
contrary to the command of God, taking, as a pledge of our
sincerity, either GOD, or something belonging to him, we engage
that which is not ours, without the Master's consent. God
manifests his glory in heaven, as upon his throne; he imprints the
footsteps of his perfections upon the earth, his footstool; and
shows that his holiness and his grace reign in his temple as the
place of his residence. Let it be our constant care to seek and
honour God in all his works.
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
36 Verse 36. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head] For these
plain reasons: 1st. God commands thee not to do it. 2dly. Thou
hast nothing which is thy own, and thou shouldst not pledge
another's property. 3dly. It never did, and never can, answer any
good purpose. And 4thly. Being a breach of the law of God, it is
the way to everlasting misery.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
37 Verse 37. Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay] That
is, a positive affirmation, or negation, according to your
knowledge of the matter concerning which you are called to
testify. Do not equivocate; mean what you assert, and adhere to
your assertion. Hear what a heathen says on this subject:-
"He whose words agree not with his private thoughts is as
detestable to me as the gates of hell." See on Jos 2: at the end.
See the subject of swearing particularly considered in the note
at the conclusion of De 6.
Whatsoever is more than these] That is, more than a bare
affirmation or negation, according to the requirements of Eternal
Truth, cometh of evil; or, is of the wicked one-εκτουπονηρου
εστιν, i.e. the devil, the father of superfluities and lies. One
of Selden's MSS. and Gregory Nyssen, a commentator of the fourth
century, have εκτουδιαβολουεστιν, is of the devil.
That the Jews were notoriously guilty of common swearing, for
which our Lord particularly reprehends them, and warns his
disciples against, and that they swore by heaven, by earth, by
Jerusalem, by their head, &c., the following extracts, made by Dr.
Lightfoot from their own writings, amply testify:-
"It was customary and usual among them to swear by the
creatures. 'If any swear by heaven, by earth, by the sun, &c.,
although the mind of the swearer be, under these words, to swear
by HIM who created them, yet this is not an oath. Or, if any
swear by some of the prophets, or by some of the books of the
Scripture, although the sense of the swearer be to swear by HIM
that sent that prophet, or that gave that book, nevertheless, this
is not an oath. MAIMONIDES.'
"If any adjure another by heaven or earth, he is not guilty.
"They swore by HEAVEN, hashsha mayim, ken hu, 'By
heaven, so it is.' BAB. BERAC.
"They swore by the TEMPLE. 'When turtles and young pigeons were
sometimes sold at Jerusalem for a penny of gold, Rabban Simeon ben
Gamaliel said, By this habitation (that is, by this
TEMPLE) I will not rest this night, unless they be sold for a
penny of silver.' CHERITUTH, cap. i.
"R. Zechariah ben Ketsab said, 'By this TEMPLE, the
hand of the woman departed not out of my hand.'-R. Jochanan said,
'By the TEMPLE, it is in our hand, &c.' KETUBOTH and BAB.
"Bava ben Buta swore by the TEMPLE in the end of the tract
Cherithuth, and Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel in the beginning,
-And so was the custom in Israel.-Note this, so
was the custom. JUCAS. fol. 56.
"They swore by the city Jerusalem. R. Judah saith, 'He that
saith, By JERUSALEM, saith nothing, unless with an intent purpose
he shall vow towards Jerusalem.' Where also, after two lines
coming between those forms of swearing and vowing, are added,
Jerusalem, By Jerusalem.-The Temple, For the temple, By the
temple.-The Altar, For the altar, By the altar.-The Lamb, For the
Lamb, By the Lamb.-The Chambers of the Temple, For the chambers
of the temple, By the chambers of the temple.-The Word, For the
Word, By the Word.-The Sacrifices on Fire, For the sacrifices on
fire, By the sacrifices on fire.-The Dishes, For the dishes, By
the dishes.-By all these things, that I will do this to you.'
TOSAPHT. ad. NEDARIM.
"They swore by their own HEADS. 'One is bound to swear to his
neighbour, and he saith, Vow (or swear) to
me by the life of thy head, &c. SANHEDR. cap. 3.
"One of the holiest of their precepts relative to swearing was
this: 'Be not much in oaths, although one should swear concerning
things that are true; for in much swearing it is impossible not to
profane.' Tract. DEMAI."-See Lightfoot's Works, vol. ii. p. 149.
They did not pretend to forbid ALL common swearing, but only
what they term MUCH. A Jew might swear, but he must not be too
abundant in the practice. Against such permission, our Lord
opposes his Swear NOT AT ALL! He who uses any oath, except what
he is solemnly called by the magistrate to make, so far from being
a Christian, he does not deserve the reputation, either of decency
or common sense. In some of our old elementary books for
children, we have this good maxim: "Never swear: for he that
swears will lie; and he that lies will steal; and, if so,
what bad things will he not do!" READING MADE EASY.
38 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
38 Verse 38. An eye for an eye] Our Lord refers here to the law
of retaliation mentioned , (see the note there,
which obliged the offender to suffer the same injury he had
committed. The Greeks and Romans had the same law. So strictly
was it attended to at Athens, that if a man put out the eye of
another who had but one, the offender was condemned to lose both
his eyes, as the loss of one would not be an equivalent misfortune.
It seems that the Jews had made this law (the execution of which
belonged to the civil magistrate) a ground for authorizing private
resentments, and all the excesses committed by a vindictive spirit.
Revenge was often carried to the utmost extremity, and more evil
returned than what had been received. This is often the case among
those who are called Christians.
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.
39 Verse 39. Resist not evil] Or, the evil person. So, I am
fully persuaded, τωπονηρω ought to be translated. Our Lord's
meaning is, "Do not repel one outrage by another." He that does
so makes himself precisely what the other is, a wicked person.
Turn to him the other also] That is, rather than avenge
thyself, be ready to suffer patiently a repetition of the same
injury. But these exhortations belong to those principally who
are persecuted for righteousness' sake. Let such leave the
judgment of their cause to Him for whose sake they suffer. The
Jews always thought that every outrage should be resented; and
thus the spirit of hatred and strife was fostered.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
40 Verse 40. And if any man will sue thee at the law] Every where
our blessed Lord shows the utmost disapprobation of such
litigations as tended to destroy brotherly kindness and charity.
It is evident he would have his followers to suffer rather the
loss of all their property than to have recourse to such modes of
redress, at so great a risk. Having the mind averse from
contentions, and preferring peace and concord to temporal
advantages, is most solemnly recommended to all Christians. We
are great gainers when we lose only our money, or other property,
and risk not the loss of our souls, by losing the love of God and
Coat] χιτωνα, upper garment.-Cloke, ιματιον, under
garment. What we call strait coat, and great coat.-See on
41And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
41 Verse 41. Shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.]
αγγαρευσει. This word is said to be derived from the Persians,
among whom the king's messengers, or posts, were called αγγαποι,
or angari. This definition is given both by Hesychius and Suidas.
The Persian messengers had the royal authority for pressing
horses, ships, and even men, to assist them in the business on
which they were employed. These angari are now termed chappars,
and serve to carry despatches between the court and the provinces.
When a chappar sets out, the master of the horse furnishes him
with a single horse; and, when that is weary, he dismounts the
first man he meets, and takes his horse. There is no pardon for a
traveller that refuses to let a chappar have his horse, nor for
any other who should deny him the best horse in his stable. See
Sir J. Chardin's and Hanway's Travels. For pressing post horses,
&c., the Persian term is [Persian] Sukhreh geriften. I find no
Persian word exactly of the sound and signification of αγγαρος;
but the Arabic [Arabic] agharet signifies spurring a horse,
attacking, plundering, &c. The Greek word itself is preserved
among the rabbins in Hebrew characters, angaria, and it has
precisely the same meaning: viz. to be compelled by violence to do
any particular service, especially of the public kind, by the
king's authority. Lightfoot gives several instances of this in
his Horae Talmudicae.
We are here exhorted to patience and forgiveness:
First, When we receive in our persons all sorts of insults and
Secondly, When we are despoiled of our goods, .
Thirdly, When our bodies are forced to undergo all kinds of
toils, vexations, and torments, . The way to improve the
injustice of man to our own advantage, is to exercise under it
meekness, gentleness, and long-suffering, without which
disposition of mind, no man can either be happy here or hereafter;
for he that avenges himself must lose the mind of Christ, and thus
suffer an injury ten thousand times greater than he can ever
receive from man. Revenge, at such an expense, is dear indeed.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
42 Verse 42. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would
borrow] To give and lend freely to all who are in need, is a
general precept from which we are only excused by our inability to
perform it. Men are more or less obliged to it as they are more
or less able, as the want is more or less pressing, as they are
more or less burthened with common poor, or with necessitous
relatives. In all these matters, both prudence and charity must
be consulted. That God, who makes use of the beggar's hand to ask
our charity, is the same from whom we ourselves beg our daily
bread: and dare we refuse HIM! Let us show at least mildness and
compassion, when we can do no more; and if we cannot or will not
relieve a poor man, let us never give him an ill word nor an ill
look. If we do not relieve him, we have no right to insult him.
To give and to lend, are two duties of charity which Christ
joins together, and which he sets on equal footing. A rich man is
one of God's stewards: God has given him money for the poor, and
he cannot deny it without an act of injustice. But no man, from
what is called a principle of charity or generosity, should give
that in alms which belongs to his creditors. Generosity is
godlike; but justice has ever, both in law and Gospel, the
A loan is often more beneficial than an absolute gift: first,
because it flatters less the vanity of him who lends; secondly, it
spares more the shame of him who is in real want; and, thirdly, it
gives less encouragement to the idleness of him who may not be
very honest. However, no advantage should be taken of the
necessities of the borrower: he who does so is, at least, half a
murderer. The lending which our Lord here inculcates is that
which requires no more than the restoration of the principal in a
convenient time: otherwise to live upon trust is the sure way to
43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
43 Verse 43. Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.]
Instead of πλησιαν neighbour, the Codex Graevii, a MS. of the
eleventh century, reads φιλον friend. Thou shalt love thy friend,
and hate thine enemy. This was certainly the meaning which the
Jews put on it: for neighbour, with them, implied those of the
Jewish race, and all others were, considered by them as natural
enemies. Besides, it is evident that πλησιον, among the
Hellenistic Jews, meant friend merely: Christ uses it precisely in
this sense in , in answer to the question asked by a
certain lawyer, . Who of the three was neighbour (πλησιον
friend) to him who fell among the thieves? He who showed him
mercy; i.e. he who acted the friendly part. In Hebrew, rea,
signifies friend, which word is translated πλησιον by the LXX. in
more than one hundred places. Among the Greeks it was a very
comprehensive term, and signified every man, not even an enemy
excepted, as Raphelius, on this verse, has shown from Polybius.
The Jews thought themselves authorized to kill any Jew who
apostatized; and, though they could not do injury to the Gentiles,
in whose country they sojourned, yet they were bound to suffer
them to perish, if they saw them in danger of death. Hear their
own words: "A Jew sees a Gentile fall into the sea, let him by no
means lift him out; for it is written, Thou shalt not rise up
against the blood of thy neighbour:-but this is not thy
neighbour." Maimon. This shows that by neighbour they understood
a Jew; one who was of the same blood and religion with themselves.
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;
44 Verse 44. Love your enemies] This is the most sublime piece of
morality ever given to man. Has it appeared unreasonable and
absurd to some? It has. And why? Because it is natural to man
to avenge himself, and plague those who plague him; and he will
ever find abundant excuse for his conduct, in the repeated evils
he receives from others; for men are naturally hostile to each
other. Jesus Christ design's to make men happy. Now he is
necessarily miserable who hates another. Our Lord prohibits that
only which, from its nature, is opposed to man's happiness. This
is therefore one of the most reasonable precepts in the universe.
But who can obey it? None but he who has the mind of Christ. But
I have it not. Seek it from God; it is that kingdom of heaven
which Christ came to establish upon earth. See on . This
one precept is a sufficient proof of the holiness of the Gospel,
and of the truth of the Christian religion. Every false religion
flatters man, and accommodates itself to his pride and his
passions. None but God could have imposed a yoke so contrary to
self-love; and nothing but the supreme eternal love can enable men
to practise a precept so insupportable to corrupt nature.
Sentiments like this are found among Asiatic writers, and in
select cases were strongly applied; but as a general command this
was never given by them, or any other people. It is not an
absolute command in any of the books which they consider to be
Divinely inspired. Sir William Jones lays by far too much stress
on the casual introduction of such sentiments as this in the
Asiatic writers. See his WORKS, vol. i. p. 168, where the
sentiment is connected with circumstances both extravagant and
unnatural; and thus it is nullified by the pretended
Bless them that curse you] ευλογειτε, give them good words for
their bad words. .
Do good to them that hate you] Give your enemy every proof that
you love him. We must not love in tongue, but in deed and in
Pray for them which despitefully use you] επηρεαζοντων from επι
against, and αρης Mars, the heathen god of war. Those who are
making continual war upon you, and constantly harassing and
calumniating you. Pray for them-This is another exquisitely
reasonable precept. I cannot change that wicked man's heart; and
while it is unchanged he will continue to harass me: God alone can
change it: then I must implore him to do that which will at once
secure the poor man's salvation, and contribute so much to my own
And persecute you] διωκοντων, those who press hard on and
pursue you with hatred and malice accompanied with repeated acts
In this verse our Lord shows us that a man may be our enemy in
three different ways.
First, in his heart, by hatred.
Secondly, in his words by cursing or using direful imprecations
(καταρωμενους) against us.
Thirdly, in his actions, by continually harassing and abusing
He shows us also how we are to behave to those.
The hatred of the first we are to meet with love.
The cursings or evil words of the second, we are to meet with
good words and blessings.
And the repeated injurious acts of the third, we are to meet
with continual prayer to God for the man's salvation.
45That 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.
45 Verse 45. That ye may be the children of your Father] Instead
of υιοι children, some MSS., the latter Persic version, and
several of the primitive fathers, read ομοιοι, that ye may be like
to, or resemble, your Father who is in heaven. This is certainly
our Lord's meaning. As a man's child is called his, because a
partaker of his own nature, so a holy person is said to be a child
of God, because he is a partaker of the Divine nature.
He maketh his sun to rise on the evil] "There is nothing
greater than to imitate God in doing good to our enemies. All the
creatures of God pronounce the sentence of condemnation on the
revengeful: and this sentence is written by the rays of the sun,
and with the drops of rain, and indeed by all the natural good
things, the use of which God freely gives to his enemies." If God
had not loved us while we were his enemies, we could never have
become his children: and we shall cease to be such, as soon as we
cease to imitate him.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
46 Verse 46. For if ye love them which love you] He who loves
only his friends, does nothing for God's sake. He who loves for
the sake of pleasure or interest, pays himself. God has no enemy
which he hates but sin; we should have no other.
The publicans] That is, tax-gatherers, τελωναι, from τελος
a tax, and ωνεομαι I buy or farm. A farmer or
collector of the taxes or public revenues. Of these there were
two classes; the superior, who were Romans of the equestrian
order; and the inferior, those mentioned in the Gospels, who it
appears were mostly Jews.
This class of men was detestable among the Romans, the Greeks,
and the Jews, for their intolerable rapacity and avarice. They
were abhorred in an especial manner by the Jews, to whom the Roman
government was odious: these, assisting in collecting the Roman
tribute, were considered as betrayers of the liberties of their
country, and abettors of those who enslaved it. They were
something like the tythe-farmers of certain college-livings in
some counties of England, as Lancashire, &c.-a principal cause of
the public burthens and discontent. One quotation, of the many
produced by Kypke, will amply show in what detestation they were
held among the Greeks. Theocritus being asked, Which of the wild
beasts were the most cruel? answered, ενμεντοιςορεσιναπκτοι
καιλεοντες. ενδεταιςπολεσιντελωναικαισυκοφανται. Bears
and lions, in the mountains; and TAX-GATHERERS and calumniators,
47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
47 Verse 47. And if ye salute your brethren only] Instead of
αδελφους brethren, upwards of one hundred MSS., and several of
them of great authority and antiquity, have φιλους friends. The
Armenian Slavonic, and Gothic versions, with the later Syriac,
and some of the primitive fathers, agree in this reading. I
scarcely know which to prefer; as brother is more conformable to
the Jewish mode of address, it should be retained in the text: the
other reading, however, tends to confirm that of the Codex Graevii
On the subject of giving and receiving salutations in Asiatic
countries, Mr. Harmer, Observat. vol. ii. p. 327, &c., edit. 1808,
has collected much valuable information: the following extract
will be sufficient to elucidate our Lord's meaning.
"Dr. Doddridge supposes that the salutation our Lord refers to,
If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do
not even the publicans so? means embracing, though it is a
different word. I would observe, that it is made use of in the
Septuagint to express that action of endearment; and which is
made use of by an apocryphal writer, (Ecclus. 30:19,) whereas, the
word we translate salute is of a much more general nature: this, I
apprehend, arose from his being struck with the thought, that it
could never be necessary to caution his disciples, not to restrain
the civilities of a common salutation to those of their own
religious party. Juvenal, when he satirizes the Jews of the
apostolic age for their religious opinions, and represents them as
unfriendly, and even malevolent, to other people, Sat. xiv., and
when he mentions their refusing to show travellers the way, Non
monstrare vias, &c., or to point out to them where they might find
water to drink when thirsty with journeying, takes no notice of
their not saluting those of another nation; yet there is no reason
to believe, from these words of CHRIST, that many of them at least
would not, and that even a Jewish public an received no
salutations from one of his own nation, excepting brother
"Nor shall we wonder at this, or think it requisite to suppose
the word we translate salute (ασπαζομαι) and which certainly,
sometimes at least, signifies nothing more than making use of some
friendly words upon meeting with people, must here signify
something more particular, since we find some of the present
inhabitants of the east seem to want this admonition of our Lord.
'When the Arabs salute one another,' according to Niebuhr, 'it is
generally in these terms, Salam aleikum, Peace be with you; in
speaking which words they lay the right hand on the heart. The
answer is, Aleikum essalam, With you be peace. Aged people are
inclined to add to these words, And the mercy and blessing of God.
The Mohammedans of Egypt and Syria never salute a Christian in
this manner; they content themselves with saying to them, Good day
to you; or, Friend, how do you do? The Arabs of Yemen, who seldom
see any Christians, are not so zealous but that sometimes they
will give them the Salam aleikum.'
"Presently after he says: 'For a long time I thought the
Mohammedan custom, of saluting Christians in a different manner
from that made use of to those of their own profession, was an
effect of their pride and religious bigotry. I saluted them
sometimes with the Salam aleikum, and I had often only the common
answer. At length I observed in Natolia, that the Christians
themselves might probably be the cause that Mohammedans did not
make the same return to their civilities that they did to those of
their own religion. For the Greek merchants, with whom I
travelled in that country, did not seem pleased with my saluting
Mohammedans in the Mohammedan manner. And when they were not
known to be Christians, by those Turks whom they met with in their
journeying, (it being allowed Christian travellers in these
provinces to wear a white turban, Christians in common being
obliged to wear the sash of their turbans white striped with blue,
that banditti might take them at a distance for Turks, and people
of courage,) they never answered those that addressed them with
the compliment of Salam aleikum. One would not, perhaps, suspect
that similar customs obtain in our times, among Europeans: but I
find that the Roman Catholics of some provinces of Germany never
address the Protestants that live among them with the compliment
JESUS CHRIST be praised; and, when such a thing happens by
mistake, the Protestants do not return it after the manner in use
among Catholics, For ever and ever. Amen!'
"After this, the words of our Lord in the close of the fifth of
Matthew want no farther commentary. The Jews would not address
the usual compliment of Peace be to you, to either heathens or
publicans; the publicans of the Jewish nation would use it to
their countrymen that were publicans, but not to heathens; though
the more rigid Jews would not do it to them, any more than to
heathens: our Lord required his disciples to lay aside the
moroseness of Jews, and express more extensive benevolence in
their salutations. There seems to be nothing of embracing thought
of in this case, though that, doubtless, was practised anciently
among relations, and intimate friends, as it is among modern
If not to salute be a heathenish indifference, to hide hatred
under outward civilities is a diabolic treachery. To pretend much
love and affection for those for whom we have neither-to use
towards them complimentary phrases, to which we affix no meaning,
but that they mean, nothing, is highly offensive in the sight of
that God by whom actions are weighed and words judged.
Do not-the publicans] τελωναι,-but εθνικοι heathens, is
adopted by Griesbach, instead of τελωναι, on the authority of
Codd. Vatican. & Bezae, and several others; together with the
Coptic, Syriac later, and Syriac Jerusalem; two Arabic, Persic,
Slavonic; all the Itala but one; Vulgate, Saxon, and several of
the primitive fathers.
48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
48 Verse 48. Be ye therefore perfect-as your Father] God himself
is the grand law, sole giver, and only pattern of the perfection
which he recommends to his children. The words are very emphatic,
εσεσθεουνυμειςτελειοι, Ye shall be therefore perfect-ye shall
be filled with the spirit of that God whose name is Mercy, and
whose nature is love. God has many imitators of his power,
independence, justice, &c., but few of his love, condescension,
and kindness. He calls himself LOVE, to teach us that in this
consists that perfection, the attainment of which he has made both
our duty and privilege: for these words of our Lord include both a
command and a promise.
"Can we be fully saved from sin in this world?" is an important
question, to which this text gives a satisfactory answer: "Ye
shall be perfect, as your Father, who is in heaven, is perfect."-As
in his infinite nature there is no sin, nothing but goodness and
love, so in your finite nature there shall dwell no sin, for the
law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus shall make you free from
the law of sin and death, . God shall live in, fill, and
rule your hearts; and, in what He fills and influences, neither
Satan nor sin can have any part. If men, slighting their own
mercies, cry out, This is impossible!-whom does this arguing
reprove-God, who, on this ground, has given a command, the
fulfilment of which is impossible. "But who can bring a clean out
of an unclean thing?" God Almighty-and, however inveterate the
disease of sin may be, the grace of the Lord Jesus can fully cure
it; and who will say, that he who laid down his life for our souls
will not use his power completely to effect that salvation which
he has died to procure. "But where is the person thus saved?"
Wherever he is found who loves God with all his heart, soul, mind,
and strength, and his neighbour as himself; and, for the honour of
Christianity and its AUTHOR, may we not hope there are many such
in the Church of God, not known indeed by any profession of this
kind which they make, but by a surer testimony, that of uniformly
holy tempers, piety to God, and beneficence to man?
Dr. Lightfoot is not perfectly satisfied with the usual mode of
interpreting the 22nd verse of this chapter. I subjoin the
substance of what he says. Having given a general exposition of
the word brother, which the Jews understood as signifying none but
an Israelite-ενοχος, which we translate is in danger of, and which
he shows the Jews used to signify, is exposed to, merits, or is
guilty of-and the word gehenna, hell-fire, which he explains as
I have done above, he comes to the three offences, and their
The FIRST is causeless anger, which he thinks too plain to
require explanation; but into the two following he enters in
"The SECOND. Whosoever shall say to his brother, 'Racha,' a
nickname, or scornful title usual, which they disdainfully put one
upon another, and very commonly; and therefore our Saviour has
mentioned this word, the rather because it was of so common use
among them. Take these few examples:-
"A certain man sought to betake himself to repentance (and
restitution.) His wife said to him, 'Rekah, if thou make
restitution, even thy girdle about thee is not thine own, &c.'
Tanchum, fol. 5.
"Rabbi Jochanan was teaching concerning the building of
Jerusalem with sapphires and diamonds, &c. One of his scholars
laughed him to scorn. But afterwards, being convinced of the
truth of the thing, he saith to him, 'Rabbi, do thou expound, for
it is fit for thee to expound: as thou saidst, so have I seen it.'
he saith to him, 'Rekah, hadst thou not seen, thou wouldst not
have believed, &c.' Midras Tillin, fol. 38, col. 4.
"To what is the thing like? To a king of flesh and blood, who
took to wife a king's daughter: he saith to her, 'Wait and fill me
a cup;' but she would not: whereupon he was angry, and put her
away; she went, and was married to a sordid fellow; and he saith
to her, 'Wait, and fill me a cup;' she said unto him, 'Rekah, I am
a king's daughter, &c.' Idem in Psalm 137.
"A Gentile saith to an Israelite, 'I have a choice dish for thee
to eat of.' He saith, 'What is it ?' He answers, 'Swine's
flesh.' he saith to him, 'Rekah, even what you kill of clean
beasts is forbidden us, much more this.' Tanchum, fol. 18, col. 4.
"The THIRD offence is to say to a brother, 'Thou fool,' which,
how to distinguish from racha, which signifies an empty fellow,
were some difficulty, but that Solomon is a good dictionary here
for us, who takes the term continually here for a wicked wretch
and reprobate, and in opposition to spiritual wisdom: so that in
the first clause is condemned causeless anger; in the second,
scornful taunting and reproaching of a brother; and, in the last,
calling him a reprobate and wicked, or uncharitably censuring his
spiritual and eternal estate. And this last does more especially
hit the scribes and Pharisees, who arrogated to themselves only to
be called chocamim, wise men, but of all others they had
this scornful and uncharitable opinion, 'This people, that knoweth
not the law, is cursed,' .
"And now for the penalties denounced upon these offences, let us
look upon them, taking notice of these two traditions of the Jews,
which our Saviour seems to face, and to contradict.
"1st. That they accounted the command, Thou shalt not kill, to
aim only at actual murder. So that in their collecting the six
hundred and thirteen precepts out of the law, they understand that
command to mean but this: 'That one should not kill an Israelite,'
and accordingly they allotted this only violation of it to
judgments; against this wild gloss and practice, he speaks in the
first clause: Ye have heard it said, Thou shalt not kill, and he
that killeth, or committeth actual murder, is liable to judgment,
and ye extend the violation of that command no farther; but I say
to you, that causeless anger against thy brother is a violation of
that command, and even that maketh a man liable to judgment.
2nd. They allotted that murder only to be judged by the council,
or Sanhedrin, that was committed by a man in propria persona: let
them speak their own sense, &c. Talm. in Sanhedrin, per. 9.
"'Any one that kills his neighbour with his hand, as if he
strike him with a sword, or with a stone that kills him, or
strangle him till he die, or burn him in the fire, seeing that he
kills him any how in his own person, lo! such a one must be put to
death by the Sanhedrin; but he that hires another to kill his
neighbour, or that sends his servants, and they kill him, or that
violently thrusts him before a lion, or the like, and the beast
kills him-any one of these is a shedder of blood, and the guilt of
shedding of blood is upon him, and he is liable to death by the
hand of Heaven, but he is not to be put to death by the Sanhedrin.
And whence is the proof that it must be thus! Because it is
said, He that sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be
shed. This is he that slays a man himself, and not by the hand of
another. Your blood of your lives will I require. This is he
that slays himself. At the hand of every beast will I require it.
This is he that delivers up his neighbour before a beast to be
rent in pieces. At the hand of man, even at the hand of every
man's brother, will I require the life of man. This is he that
hires others to kill his neighbour: In this interpretation,
requiring is spoken of all the three; behold, their judgment is
delivered over to Heaven (or God.) And all these man-slayers and
the like, who are not liable to death by the Sanhedrin, if the
king of Israel will slay them by the judgment of the kingdom, and
the law of nations, he may, &c.' Maym. ubi supr. per. 2.
"You may observe in these wretched traditions a twofold killing,
and a twofold judgment: a man's killing another in his own person,
and with his own hand, and such a one liable to the judgment of
the Sanhedrin, to be put to death by them, as a murderer; and a
man that killed another by proxy, not with his own hand, not
hiring another to kill him, or turning a beast or serpent upon him
to kill him. This man is not to be judged and executed by the
Sanhedrin, but, referred and reserved only to the judgment of God.
So that we see plainly, from hence, in what sense the word
judgment is used in the latter end of the preceding verse, and the
first clause of this, namely, not for the judgment of any one of
the Sanhedrins, as it is commonly understood, but for the judgment
of God. In the former verse, Christ speaks their sense, and in
the first clause of this, his own, in application to it. Ye have
heard it said, that any man that kills is liable to the judgment
of God; but I say unto you, that he that is but angry with his
brother without a cause is liable to the judgment of God. You
have heard it said, that he only that commits murder with his own
hand is liable to the council, or Sanhedrin, as a murderer; but I
say unto you, that he that but calls his brother racha, as common
a word as ye make it, and a thing of nothing, he is liable to be
judged by the Sanhedrin.
"Lastly, he that saith to his brother, Thou fool, wicked one, or
cast-away, shall be in danger of hell-fire, ενοχοςειςθεεςςας
πυρος. There are two observable things in the words. The first
is the change of case from what was before; there it was said τη
κρισειτωσυνεδριω, but here, ειςγεενναν. It is but an
emphatical raising of the sense, to make it the more feeling and
to speak home. He that saith to his brother, Raka, shall be in
danger of the council; but he that says, Thou fool, shall be in
danger of a penalty even to hell-fire. And thus our Saviour
equals the sin and penalty in a very just parable. In just anger,
with God's just anger and judgment; public reproach, with public
correction by the council; and censuring for a child of hell, to
the fire of hell.
"2nd. It is not said ειςπυργεεννης, To the fire of hell, but
ειςγεενναςπυρος, To a hell of fire; in which expression he
sets the emphasis still higher. And, besides the reference to the
valley of Hinnom, he seems to refer to that penalty used by the
Sanhedrin of burning-the most bitter death that they used to put
men to; the manner of which was thus: They set the malefactor in a
dunghill up to the knees; and they put a towel about his neck, and
one pulled one way, and another the opposite, till, by thus
strangling him, they forced him to open his mouth. Then they
poured boiling lead into his mouth, which went down into his
belly, and so burnt his bowels. Talm. in Sanhedrin. per. 7.
"Now, having spoken in the clause before, of being judged by the
Sanhedrin, whose most terrible penalty was this burning, he doth
in this clause raise the penalty higher; namely, of burning in
hell; not with a little scalding lead, but even with a hell of
fire." It is possible that our Lord might have reference to such
customs as these.