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ceremonial and traditional law. See Matt. xxiji. 13–33. The righteousness that Jesus required in his kingdom was purity, peace, chastity, honesty, temperance, the fear of God, and the love of man. It is pure, internal, reaching the motives, and making the life holy.
21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment:
"Ye have heard.' Or, this is the common interpretation among the Jews. Jesus proceeds here to comment on some prevailing opinions among the Jews; to show that the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees was defective; and that men needed a better righteousness, or they could not be saved. 'By them of old time.' Jesus here refers to the interpreters of the law and the prophets. Jesus did not set himself against the law of Moses, but against the false and pernicious interpretations of his law prevalent in his time. "Thou shalt not kill. See Ex. xx. 13. This literally denotes taking the life of another, with malice, with intention to murder him. The Jews understood it as meaning no more. The comment of our Saviour shows that it was spiritual, and was designed to extend to the thoughts and feelings, as well as the external act. Shall be in danger of.'. Shall be held guilty, and be punished by. The law of Moses declared that the murderer should be put to death, Lev. xxiv. 21. Num. xxxv. 16.
The judgment.' This was the tribunal that had cognizance of cases of murder, &c. It was a court that sat in each city or town, and consisted commonly of seven menibers.
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council : but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire.
But I say unto you. Jesus being God as well as man, John i. 1, and, therefore, being the original giver of the law, had a right to expound it, or change it as he pleased. He therefore spoke here and elsewhere as having authority, and not as the scribes. He did it as having a right to do it; and he that has a right to ordain and change laws in the government of God must be himself Divine. 'Is angry-without a cause.' Anger is a natural feeling, given to us : 1. As an expression of our disapprobation of a course of evil conduct; and, 2. That we may defend ourselves when we are suddenly attacked. When excited against sin it is lawful. See Mark iii. 5. Eph. iv. 26. This anger. or indignation againsi sin, is not what our Saviour speaks of here. That is anger without a cause; that is, upjustly, rashly,
hastily, where no offence had been given or intended. In that case it is evil; and it is a violation of the sixth commandment, because he that hateth his brother is a murderer, 1 John iii. 15. He has a feeling which would lead him to commit murder if it were fully acted out. His brother.' As all men are descended from one Father, and are all the creatures of the same God, so they are all brethren; and so every man should be regarded and treated as a brother._ 'Raca.'. This is a Syriac word, expressive of great contempt. It comes from a verb signifying to be empty, vain; and hence, as a word of contempt, denotes senseless, stupid. Jesus teaches us here that to use such words is a violation of the sixth commandment. It is a violation of the spirit of that commandment, and, if indulged, may lead to more open and dreadful infractions of that law. Children should learn that to use such words is highly offensive to God, for we must give an account of every idle word which we speak in the day of judgment. 'In danger of the council. The word translated council, is in the original Sanhedrim, and there can be no doubt that Christ refers to the Jewish tribunal of that name. This was instituted in the time of the Maccabees, probably about 200 years before Christ. It was composed of seventy-two judges; the high-priest was the president of this tribunal. The seventy-two members were made up of the chief priests and elders of the people, and the scribes. This tribunal had cognizance of the great affairs of the nation. Till the time when Judea was subjected to the Romans, it had the power of life and death. Thou fool.' This term expressed more than want of wisdom. It was expressive of the highest guilt. It had been commonly used to denote those who were idolaters, or were guilty of great crímes, Josh. vii. 15. Psa. xiv. 1. 'Hell-fire. The original of this is
the Gehenna of fire. The word 'gehenna,' commonly translated hell, is made up of two Hebrew words, and signifies the valley of Hinnom.' "It was formerly a pleasant valley, near to Jerusalem on the east. This valley the idolatrous Israelites devoted to the horrid worship of Moloch, 2 Kings xvi. 3. 2 Chron. xxviii. 3. There they offered children to Moloch.
After the return of the Jews from captivity, this was made the place where to throw all the dead carcases and filth of the city; and was not unfrequently, the place of executions. It became, therefore, extremely offensive; the air was polluted; and to preserve it in any manner pure, it was necessary to keep fires continually burning there. The extreme loathsomeness of the place, the corruption of the atmosphere, and the lurid fires blazing by day and by night, made it one of the most appalling and terrific objects with which a Jew was acquainted. It was called the Gehenna of fire;' and was the image which our Saviour often employed to denote the future punishment of the wicked. I
In this verse it denotes a degree of suffering higher than the
punishment inflicted by the court of seventy, or the sanhedrim. And the whole verse may therefore mean; He that hates his brother without a cause is guilty of a violation of the sixth commandment, and shall be punished with a severity similar to that inflicted by the court of judgment. He that shall suffer his passions to transport him to still greater extravagances, and shall make him an object of derision and contempt, shall be exposed to still severer punishment, corresponding to that which the sanhedrim, or council, inflicts. But he who shall load his brother with odious appellations, and abusive language, shall incur the severest degree of punishment, represented by being burnt alive in the horrid and awful valley of Hinnom.
Not only murder shall be punished by God, but anger and contempt shall be regarded by him as a violation of the law, and punished according to the offence. As these offences were not actually cognizable before the Jewish tribunals, he must mean that they will be punished hereafter. And all these expressions relate to degrees of punishment proportionate to crime, in the future world, the world of justice and of woe.
23 Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
“Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar,' &c. The pharisees were intent only on the external act in worship. If a man conformed to the external rites of religion, however much envy, and malice, and secret hatred, he might have, they thought he was doing well. Our Saviour taught a different doctrine. It was of more consequence to have the heart right, than to perform the outward act. If therefore, says he, a man has gone so far as to bring his gift to the very altar, and should remember that any one had any thing against him, it was his duty there to leave his offering, and go and be reconciled. While a difference of this nature existed, his offering could not be acceptable. To obey is better than sacrifice. He that comes to worship his Maker filled with malice, and hatred, and envy, and at war with his brethren, is a hypocritical worshipper, and must meet with God's displeasure. God is not deceived; and he will not be mocked. Thy gift.' Thy sacrifice. What thou art about to devote to God as an offering. "To the altar.' The altar was placed in front of the temple, and was the place on which sacrifices were made. See note on Matt. xxi. 12. To bring a gift to the altar, was expressive of worshipping God, for this is the way in which he was formerly worshipped. * Thy brother. Any man especially any fellow-worshipper. 'Hath aughi.' Hath
any thing. Is offended, or thinks he has been injured by you in any manner.
First be reconciled. This means to settle the difficulty; to make proper acknowledgment, or satisfaction, for the injury. If you have wronged him, make restitution. If you owe him a debt which ought to be paid, pay it. If you have injured his character, confess it, and seek pardon. If he is under an erroneous impression, if your conduct has been such as to lead him to suspect that you have injured him, make an expla. nation. Do all in your power, and all you ought to do, to have the matter settled. From this we learn the reason why God often does not accept our offerings; and we go empty away from our devotions. We do not do what we ought to others; we cherish improper feelings, or refuse to make proper acknowledgments, and God will not accept such attempts to worship him.
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. 26 Verily, I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Agree with thine adversary quickly. This is still an illustration of the sixth commandment. To be in hostility, to go to law, to be litigious, is a violation always, on one side or the other, of the law requiring us to love our neighbour; and our Saviour regards it as a violation of the sixth commandment. While you are in the way with him, says he, that is, while you are going to the court, before the trial, it is your duty, if possible, to come to an agreement. See 1 Cor. vi. 6, 7. The consequence of not being reconciled, he expresses in the language of courts. He did not mean to say, that this would be literally the way with God; but that His dealings with those who harboured these feelings, and would not be reconciled with their brethren, were represented by the punishment inflicted by human tribunals. *Thine adversary. A man that is opposed to us in law. It here means a creditor; a man who has a just claim on us. 'In the way with him. While you are going before the court. Before the trial comes on. 'The officer.' The executioner; as we should say, the sheriff. “The uttermost farthing. The last farthing. All that is due. The farthing was a small coin used in Judea, equal to two mites. It was equal to about three halfpence of our money.
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery : 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. 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. 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.
The pharisees had explained the seventh commandment as they had the sixth, as extending only to the external act. Our Saviour assures them that it did not regard the external act merely, but the secrets of the heart, and the movements of the eye; that they who indulged a wanton desire, have already, in the sight of God, violated the commandment. Such was the guilt of David, whose deep and awful crime fully shows the danger of indulging in evil desires, and in the rovings of a wanton eye, See 2 Sam. xi. Ps, li. So exceeding strict and broad is the law of God! And so heinous in his sight are thoughts and feelings, which may be for ever concealed from the world!
“Thy right eye.' The Hebrews, like others, were accustomed to represent the affections of the mind by the members or parts of the body, Rom. vii. 23; vi. 13. Thus the bowels denoted compassion ; the heart, affection, feeling, &c.; the reins, understanding, secret purpose. An evil eye denotes sometimes envy, Matt. xx. 15; sometimes an evil passion, or sin in general, Mark vii. 21, 22. In this place, as in 2 Pet. ii. 14, it is used to denote unlawful desire, and inclination. 'Shall offend thee. The noun from which the verb 'offend,' in the original, is derived, commonly means a stumbling-block, or a stone, placed in the way over which one might fall. It also means a net, or a certain part of a net, against which, if a bird strikes, it springs the net, and is taken. st comes to signify, therefore, any thing by which we fall, or are ensnared; and applied to morals, the verb means to cause to fall, or to allure, into sin. Pluck it out,' &c. Christ intended to teach that the dearest objects, if they caused us to sin, were to be abandoned ; that by sacrifices and self-denials, we must overcome the evil propensities of our natures, and resist our wanton imaginations. Our Saviour several times repeated this sentiment. See Matt. xviii. 9. Mark ix. 43–47. See also Col. iii. 5. One of thy members perish. It is better to deny yourself the gratification of an evil passion here, however much it may cost you, than to go down to hell for ever.
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32