Agree with thine adversary quickly
These words are not to be understood in an allegorical sense, as if "the adversary" was the justice of God, demanding payment of debts; "the way", this present life; "the judge", God himself; "the officer", the devil; "the prison", the pit of hell; and "the uttermost farthing", the least sin, which will never be remitted without satisfaction: but the design of them is to prevent lawsuits about debts, which may be in dispute; it being much better for debtor and creditor, especially the former, to compose such differences among themselves, than to litigate the matter in a court of judicature. By "the adversary" is meant not an enemy, one that bears hatred and ill will, but a brother that has ought against a man; a creditor, who demands and insists upon payment of what is owing to him; and for this purpose has taken methods towards bringing the debtor before a proper magistrate, in order to oblige him to payment: wherefore it is better for him to make up and agree the matter directly, as soon as possible,
whilst thou art in the way with him;
that is, whilst the creditor and debtor are going together to some inferior magistrate, or lesser court, as the sanhedrim, which consisted of three persons only, before whom such causes might be tried: for (hvwlvb twnwmm ynyd) , pecuniary causes, or causes relating to money matters, were tried "by the bench of three" F7: and the selfsame advice is given in the Talmud F8, as here, where it seems to be a common proverb; for it is said,
``there are men that say, or men usually say, (emtvya Kbbd) (lebl Kxrwa bga) , "whilst thou art in the way with thine adversary, be obedient".''Lest at any time the adversary should deliver thee to the judge,
a superior magistrate in a higher court; for if the creditor would, he could oblige the debtor to go with him to the supreme court of judicature, and try the cause there; for so say the Jewish F9; canons:
``if the creditor says we will go to the great sanhedrim, they compel the debtor, and he goes up with them, as it is said, "the borrower is servant to the lender",''where it might go harder with the poor debtor; and therefore it was advisable to prevent it by an agreement, lest
the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
``It was an affirmative command in the law, says Maimonides, to appoint "judges" and "officers" in every country and province, as it is said, ( Deuteronomy 16:18 ) . (Myjpwv) , "judges" they are the judges that are fixed in the sanhedrim, and such that engage in law suits come before them: (Myrjwv) , "officers"; these are the masters of the rod and scourge, i.e. who beat and scourge delinquents; and these stand before the judges--and all they do, is by the order of the judges.''Now it is one of these that is meant by "the officer"; in Munster's Hebrew Gospel, he is called (rjwv) ; who, when he had authority from the judge, could cast into prison, and that for debt; of which we have no account in the law of Moses.
F7 Misn. Sanhedrim, c. 1. sect. 1.
F8 T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 95. 2.
F9 Maimof. Hilch. Sanhedrim, c. 6. sect. 7.