Matthew 5

That this is the same Discourse as that in Luke 6:17-49 --only reported more fully by Matthew, and less fully, as well as with considerable variation, by Luke--is the opinion of many very able critics (of the Greek commentators; of CALVIN, GROTIUS, MALDONATUS--Who stands almost alone among Romish commentators; and of most moderns, as THOLUCK, MEYER, DE WETTE, TISCHENDORF, STIER, WIESELER, ROBINSON). The prevailing opinion of these critics is that Luke's is the original form of the discourse, to which Matthew has added a number of sayings, uttered on other occasions, in order to give at one view the great outlines of our Lord's ethical teaching. But that they are two distinct discourses--the one delivered about the close of His first missionary tour, and the other after a second such tour and the solemn choice of the Twelve--is the judgment of others who have given much attention to such matters (of most Romish commentators, including ERASMUS; and among the moderns, of LANGE, GRESWELL, BIRKS, WEBSTER and WILKINSON. The question is left undecided by ALFORD). AUGUSTINE'S opinion--that they were both delivered on one occasion, Matthew's on the mountain, and to the disciples; Luke's in the plain, and to the promiscuous multitude--is so clumsy and artificial as hardly to deserve notice. To us the weight of argument appears to lie with those who think them two separate discourses. It seems hard to conceive that Matthew should have put this discourse before his own calling, if it was not uttered till long after, and was spoken in his own hearing as one of the newly chosen Twelve. Add to this, that Matthew introduces his discourse amidst very definite markings of time, which fix it to our Lord's first preaching tour; while that of Luke, which is expressly said to have been delivered immediately after the choice of the Twelve, could not have been spoken till long after the time noted by Matthew. It is hard, too, to see how either discourse can well be regarded as the expansion or contraction of the other. And as it is beyond dispute that our Lord repeated some of His weightier sayings in different forms, and with varied applications, it ought not to surprise us that, after the lapse of perhaps a year--when, having spent a whole night on the hill in prayer to God, and set the Twelve apart, He found Himself surrounded by crowds of people, few of whom probably had heard the Sermon on the Mount, and fewer still remembered much of it--He should go over its principal points again, with just as much sameness as to show their enduring gravity, but at the same time with that difference which shows His exhaustless fertility as the great Prophet of the Church.

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

25. Agree with thine adversary--thine opponent in a matter cognizable by law.
quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him--"to the magistrate," as in Luke 12:58 .
lest at any time--here, rather, "lest at all," or simply "lest."
the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge--having pronounced thee in the wrong.
deliver thee to the officer--the official whose business it is to see the sentence carried into effect.

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

The Same Subject Illustrated from the Seventh Commandment ( Matthew 5:27-32 ).

27. Ye have heard that it was said--The words "by," or "to them of old time," in this verse are insufficiently supported, and probably were not in the original text.
Thou shall not commit adultery--Interpreting this seventh, as they did the sixth commandment, the traditional perverters of the law restricted the breach of it to acts of criminal intercourse between, or with, married persons exclusively. Our Lord now dissipates such delusions.

28. But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her--with the intent to do so, as the same expression is used in Matthew 6:1 ; or, with the full consent of his will, to feed thereby his unholy desires.
hath committed adultery with her already in his heart--We are not to suppose, from the word here used--"adultery"--that our Lord means to restrict the breach of this commandment to married persons, or to criminal intercourse with such. The expressions, "whosoever looketh," and "looketh upon a woman," seem clearly to extend the range of this commandment to all forms of impurity, and the counsels which follow--as they most certainly were intended for all, whether married or unmarried--seem to confirm this. As in dealing with the sixth commandment our Lord first expounds it, and then in the four following verses applies His exposition ( Matthew 5:21-25 ), so here He first expounds the seventh commandment, and then in the four following verses applies His exposition ( Matthew 5:28-32 ).

29. And if thy right eye--the readier and the dearer of the two.
offend thee--be a "trap spring," or as in the New Testament, be "an occasion of stumbling" to thee.
pluck it out and cast it from thee--implying a certain indignant promptitude, heedless of whatever cost to feeling the act may involve. Of course, it is not the eye simply of which our Lord speaks--as if execution were to be done upon the bodily organ--though there have been fanatical ascetics who have both advocated and practiced this, showing a very low apprehension of spiritual things--but the offending eye, or the eye considered as the occasion of sin; and consequently, only the sinful exercise of the organ which is meant. For as one might put out his eyes without in the least quenching the lust to which they ministered, so, "if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light," and, when directed by a holy mind, becomes an "instrument of righteousness unto God." At the same time, just as by cutting off a hand, or plucking out an eye, the power of acting and of seeing would be destroyed, our Lord certainly means that we are to strike at the root of such unholy dispositions, as well as cut off the occasions which tend to stimulate them.
for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell--He who despises the warning to cast from him, with indignant promptitude, an offending member, will find his whole body "cast," with a retributive promptitude of indignation, "into hell." Sharp language, this, from the lips of Love incarnate!

30. And if thy right hand--the organ of action, to which the eye excites.
offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable, such stern truths and awful lessons seems characteristic of our Lord's manner of teaching. Compare Mark 9:43-48 .

31. It hath been said--This shortened form was perhaps intentional, to mark a transition from the commandments of the Decalogue to a civil enactment on the subject of divorce, quoted from Deuteronomy 24:1 . The law of divorce--according to its strictness or laxity--has so intimate a bearing upon purity in the married life, that nothing could be more natural than to pass from the seventh commandment to the loose views on that subject then current.
Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement--a legal check upon reckless and tyrannical separation. The one legitimate ground of divorce allowed by the enactment just quoted was "some uncleanness"--in other words, conjugal infidelity. But while one school of interpreters (that of Shammai) explained this quite correctly, as prohibiting divorce in every case save that of adultery, another school (that of HILLEL) stretched the expression so far as to include everything in the wife offensive or disagreeable to the husband--a view of the law too well fitted to minister to caprice and depraved inclination not to find extensive favor. And, indeed, to this day the Jews allow divorces on the most frivolous pretexts. It was to meet this that our Lord uttered what follows:

32. But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery--that is, drives her into it in case she marries again.
and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced--for anything short of conjugal infidelity.
committeth adultery--for if the commandment is broken by the one party, it must be by the other also. But innocent party, after a just divorce, may lawfully marry again, is not treated of here. The Church of Rome says, No; but the Greek and Protestant Churches allow it.

Same Subject Illustrated from the Third Commandment ( Matthew 5:33-37 ).

33. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself--These are not the precise words of Exodus 20:7 ; but they express all that it was currently understood to condemn, namely, false swearing ( Leviticus 19:12 , &c.). This is plain from what follows.
But I say unto you, Swear not at all--That this was meant to condemn swearing of every kind and on every occasion--as the Society of Friends and some other ultra-moralists allege--is not for a moment to be thought. For even Jehovah is said once and again to have sworn by Himself; and our Lord certainly answered upon oath to a question put to Him by the high priest; and the apostle several times, and in the most solemn language, takes God to witness that he spoke and wrote the truth; and it is inconceivable that our Lord should here have quoted the precept about not forswearing ourselves, but performing to the Lord our oaths, only to give a precept of His own directly in the teeth of it. Evidently, it is swearing in common intercourse and on frivolous occasions that is here meant. Frivolous oaths were indeed severely condemned in the teaching of the times. But so narrow was the circle of them that a man might swear, says LIGHTFOOT, a hundred thousand times and yet not be guilty of vain swearing. Hardly anything was regarded as an oath if only the name of God were not in it; just as among ourselves, as TRENCH well remarks, a certain lingering reverence for the name of God leads to cutting off portions of His name, or uttering sounds nearly resembling it, or substituting the name of some heathen deity, in profane exclamations or asseverations. Against all this our Lord now speaks decisively; teaching His audience that every oath carries an appeal to God, whether named or not.
neither by heaven; for it is God's throne--(quoting Isaiah 66:1 );

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

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

37. But let your communication--"your word," in ordinary intercourse, be,
Yea, yea; Nay, nay--Let a simple Yes and No suffice in affirming the truth or the untruth of anything. (See 5:12 , 2 Corinthians 1:17 2 Corinthians 1:18 ).
for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil--not "of the evil one"; though an equally correct rendering of the words, and one which some expositors prefer. It is true that all evil in our world is originally of the devil, that it forms a kingdom at the head of which he sits, and that, in every manifestation of it he has an active part. But any reference to this here seems unnatural, and the allusion to this passage in the Epistle of James ( James 5:12 ) seems to show that this is not the sense of it: "Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." The untruthfulness of our corrupt nature shows itself not only in the tendency to deviate from the strict truth, but in the disposition to suspect others of doing the same; and as this is not diminished, but rather aggravated, by the habit of confirming what we say by an oath, we thus run the risk of having all reverence for God's holy name, and even for strict truth, destroyed in our hearts, and so "fall into condemnation." The practice of going beyond Yes and No in affirmations and denials--as if our word for it were not enough, and we expected others to question it--springs from that vicious root of untruthfulness which is only aggravated by the very effort to clear ourselves of the suspicion of it. And just as swearing to the truth of what we say begets the disposition it is designed to remove, so the love and reign of truth in the breasts of Christ's disciples reveals itself so plainly even to those who themselves cannot be trusted, that their simple Yes and No come soon to be more relied on than the most solemn asseverations of others. Thus does the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, like a tree cast into the bitter waters of human corruption, heal and sweeten them.

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

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

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

40. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take way thy coat--the inner garment; in pledge for a debt ( Exodus 22:26 Exodus 22:27 ).
let him have thy cloak also--the outer and more costly garment. This overcoat was not allowed to be retained over night as a pledge from the poor because they used it for a bed covering.

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

42. Give to him that asketh thee--The sense of unreasonable asking is here implied (compare Luke 6:30 ).
and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away--Though the word signifies classically "to have money lent to one on security," or "with interest," yet as this was not the original sense of the word, and as usury was forbidden among the Jews ( Exodus 22:25 , &c.), it is doubtless simple borrowing which our Lord here means, as indeed the whole strain of the exhortation implies. This shows that such counsels as "Owe no man anything" ( Romans 13:8 ), are not to be taken absolutely; else the Scripture commendations of the righteous for "lending" to his necessitous brother ( Psalms 37:36 , 112:5 , Luke 6:37 ) would have no application.
turn not thou away--a graphic expression of unfeeling refusal to relieve a brother in extremity.

Same Subject--Love to Enemies ( Matthew 5:43-48 ).

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

44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies--The word here used denotes moral love, as distinguished from the other word, which expresses personal affection. Usually, the former denotes "complacency in the character" of the person loved; but here it denotes the benignant, compassionate outgoings of desire for another's good.
bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you--The best commentary on these matchless counsels is the bright example of Him who gave them. (See 1 Peter 2:21-24 ; and compare Romans 12:20 Romans 12:21 , 1 Corinthians 4:12 , 1 Peter 3:9 ). But though such precepts were never before expressed--perhaps not even conceived--with such breadth, precision, and sharpness as here, our Lord is here only the incomparable Interpreter of the law in force from the beginning; and this is the only satisfactory view of the entire strain of this discourse.

45. That ye may be the children--sons.
of your Father which is in heaven--The meaning is, "that ye may show yourselves to be such by resembling Him" (compare Matthew 5:9 , Ephesians 5:1 ).
for he maketh his sun--"your Father's sun." Well might BENGEL exclaim, "Magnificent appellation!"
to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust--rather, (without the article) "on evil and good, and on just and unjust." When we find God's own procedure held up for imitation in the law, and much more in the prophets ( Leviticus 19:2 , 20:26 ; and compare 1 Peter 1:15 1 Peter 1:16 ), we may see that the principle of this surprising verse was nothing new: but the form of it certainly is that of One who spake as never man spake.

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

47. And if ye salute your brethren only--of the same nation and religion with yourselves.
what do ye more than others?--what do ye uncommon or extraordinary? that is, wherein do ye excel?
do not even the publicans so?--The true reading here appears to be, "Do not even the heathens the same?" Compare Matthew 18:17 , where the excommunicated person is said to be "as an heathen man and a publican."

48. Be ye therefore--rather, "Ye shall therefore be," or "Ye are therefore to be," as My disciples and in My kingdom.
perfect--or complete. Manifestly, our Lord here speaks, not of degrees of excellence, but of the kind of excellence which was to distinguish His disciples and characterize His kingdom. When therefore He adds,
even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect--He refers to that fullorbed glorious completeness which is in the great Divine Model, "their Father which is in heaven."

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