Matthew 18:6
But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
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Whoso shall offend - That is, cause to fall, or to sin; or who should place anything in their way to hinder their piety or happiness. See notes at Matthew 5:29.

These little ones - That is, Christians manifesting the spirit of little children, 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:28.

It were better for him that a millstone ... - Mills, anciently, were either turned by hand (see the notes at Matthew 24:41), or by beasts, chiefly by mules. These last were of the larger kind, and the original words denote that it was this kind that was intended. This was one mode of capital punishment practiced by the Greeks, Syrians, Romans, and by some other nations. The meaning is, it would be better for him to have died before he had committed the sin. To injure, or to cause to sin, the feeblest Christian, will be regarded by Christ as a most serious offence, and will be punished accordingly.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones - But, on the contrary, whosoever shall cause one of the least of those who believe in me to be stumbled - to go into the spirit of the world, or give way to sin - such a one shall meet with the most exemplary punishment.

Let those who act the part of the devil, in tempting others to sin, hear this declaration of our Lord, and tremble.

A millstone - Μυλος ονικος, an ass's millstone, because in ancient times, before the invention of wind and water mills, the stones were turned sometimes by slaves, but commonly by asses or mules. The most ancient kind of mills among the inhabitants of the northern nations, was the quern, or hand-mill. In some places in Ireland, Scotland, and the Zetland Isles, these still exist.

Drowned in the depth of the sea - It is supposed that in Syria, as well as in Greece, this mode of punishing criminals was practised; especially in cases of parricide; and when a person was devoted to destruction for the public safety, as in cases of plague, famine, etc. That this was the custom in Greece, we learn from the Scholiast on the Equites of Aristophanes, Οταν γαρ κατεποντουν τινας, βαρος απο των τραχηλων εκρεμων. When a person was drowned, they hung a weight, (υπερβολον λιθον, Suidas), a vast stone about his neck. See the ancient Scholia upon the Equites, lin. 1360, and Suidas, in υπερβολον λιθον. We find also that it was a positive institute of the ancient Hindoo law. "If a woman," says the precept, "causes any person to take poison, sets fire to any person's house, or murders a man, then the magistrate, having bound a stone to her neck, shall drown her." Halhead's Code of Gentoo Laws, 4th. edition, page 306.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones,.... Not in age, but are little and mean in their own eyes, and contemptible in the esteem of the world; though otherwise men of great grace, gifts, and usefulness; who may be said to be offended, when they are not received; their persons despised, their ministry rejected, and they reproached and persecuted; and everything done to them to discourage, and cause them to stumble and fall, to drop their profession of Christ, to quit his service, and desert his cause: and that such persons are designed, appears by the following descriptive character of them,

which believe in me; which cannot be said of infants, or little ones in age, and who also are not capable of offence; but must be understood of adult persons, of such who by faith look unto, lay hold on, and receive the Lord Jesus Christ, as their Saviour and Redeemer, and who make a profession of their faith in him; and chiefly of such who preach the doctrine of faith, who having believed, therefore speak; and who are generally the butt of the contempt, reproach, and persecution of men.

It were better for him, that a mill stone be hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. The word translated "depth", is sometimes used for the Sea itself, Isaiah 51:10 and signifies the middle, or deeper path, and answers to the Hebrew phrase, "the heart of the sea"; , used by the Targum, in Psalm 46:3 and by Jonathan ben Uzziel, in Exodus 15:8. Jerom thinks, that this was a sort of punishment in use among the Jews, that is here referred to; but this does not appear. The four capital punishments inflicted by them were stoning, burning, slaying with the sword, and strangling (z): they had indeed other sorts of punishment, which they borrowed from other nations; and so they might this, either from the Romans, or Greeks, or their neighbours the Syrians. The mill stone, in the original, is called , which may be rendered "the ass mill stone", being either the nether mill stone, as some think, which was called "the ass", because, like an ass, it bears the chief of the weight and burden; or else respects such mill stones as were turned about by an ass, in distinction from those that were turned by the hand; for that it was usual with the Jews to make use of asses in grinding, as well as other nations, is certain: hence we read (a) of "the ass of mills", that were employed in grinding in the mills, and of one that turned his mill with wild asses (b): but it is further to be observed, that mention is made (c) of , "the ass of an handmill": which the commentators say (d), was a beam on which an handmill was fixed, and was called "the ass." Now, I should rather think that this is meant than the other. It does not seem likely that a nether mill stone, or one that required an ass to turn it, should be tied to a man's neck, in order to drown him, when cast into the sea; for our Lord must be thought to refer to a practice somewhere in use: but rather, that such a beam, or log, of an handmill, so called, were wont to be put about the necks of malefactors, in drowning them. Our Lord's sense is, that it was much better for a man to endure the severest temporal punishment, rather than by offending, and evil treating any of his disciples, expose himself to everlasting destruction. The phrase of having a mill stone about the neck, I find, is sometimes used to denote anything very troublesome and burdensome (e).

"The tradition is, a man that marries a wife, and after that learns the law, R. Jochanan says, , "though a mill stone is about his neck", yet he must study in the law: that is, though his worldly circumstances are narrow, and his wife and family are as burdensome as if he had a mill stone about his neck, he must continue his studies.''

(z) Misn. Sanhedrim. c. 7. sect. 1.((a) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 1. 10. 2. Maimon. Hileh. Yom Tob, c. 8. sect. 15. (b) T Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 16. 2.((c) Mish. Zabim. c. 4. sect. 2.((d) R. Maimon. R. Sampson. & R. Obadiah Bartenora, in. ib. (e) T. Bab. Kiddusbin, fol. 29. 2.

{2} But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

(2) We ought to have great respect for our brethren no matter how base they may be: and he that does otherwise shall be sharply punished.


Mt 18:1-9. Strife among the Twelve Who Should Be Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, with Relative Teaching. ( = Mr 9:33-50; Lu 9:46-50).

For the exposition, see on [1323]Mr 9:33-50.

18:1-6 Christ spoke many words of his sufferings, but only one of his glory; yet the disciples fasten upon that, and overlook the others. Many love to hear and speak of privileges and glory, who are willing to pass by the thoughts of work and trouble. Our Lord set a little child before them, solemnly assuring them, that unless they were converted and made like little children, they could not enter his kingdom. Children, when very young, do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable, and willingly dependent on their parents. It is true that they soon begin to show other dispositions, and other ideas are taught them at an early age; but these are marks of childhood, and render them proper emblems of the lowly minds of true Christians. Surely we need to be daily renewed in the spirit of our minds, that we may become simple and humble, as little children, and willing to be the least of all. Let us daily study this subject, and examine our own spirits. 18:6 Whoso shall offend. The Revised Version makes this plainer by rendering it cause to stumble, or to go astray.

Little ones not only embraces children who have learned to believe in Christ, but all lowly and humble disciples.

Better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck. Better that a man should lose his life in so terrible a way than to destroy the souls of others.

Drowned in the depth of the sea. Which was within sight. This method of capital punishment was practiced by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and possibly occasionally by the Jews. It is still practiced by the Turks.

Verse 6. - There is an opposite side to this picture. Shall offend; cause to stumble - give occasion for a fall, i.e. either in faith or morals. This is done by evil example, by teaching to sin, by sneers at piety, by giving soft names to gross offences. One of these little ones. Whether child or adult, a pure, simple soul, which has a certain faith it be not strong enough to resist all attack. Even the heathen recognized the respect due to the young: "Maxima debetur puero reverentia" (Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 14:47); and guilelessness and purity, wherever found, win some regard, even from worthless and careless observers. To wilfully lead one such astray is a deadly sin, which the Lord denounces in solemn terms. Christ affectionately calls his disciples "little ones" (Matthew 10:42). Believe in (εἰς) me. We must always distinguish between "believe in" (πιστεύειν εἰς, or ἐν: credo in) and "believe" with the simple dative; the former is applied to faith in God alone. Says St. Augustine, "Credimus Paulo, sed non credimus in Paulum." In the present passage the phrase implies the Divinity of Christ. It were better; literally, it is profitable. The crime specified is so heinous that a man had better incur the most certain death, if by this means he may avoid the sin and save the soul of his possible victim. A millstone; a great millstone - such a one as required an ass to inure. The upper, or movable, stone is meant, which was usually turned by the hand. Drowned. We do not know that the Jews punished criminals by drowning (καταποντισμὸς), though it is probable that it was practised in some cases; but by other nations this penalty was commonly exacted. Among the Romans, Greeks, and Syrians, it was certainly the practice. Commentators quote Suetonius, 'Aug.,' 67; Diod. Sic., 16:35; Livy, 1:51; Aristophanes, 'Schol. ad Equit.,' 1360. The punishment seems to have been reserved for the greatest criminals; and the size of the stone would prevent any chance of the body rising again to the surface and being buried by friends - a consideration which, in the minds of heathens, greatly increased the horror of this kind of death. Margin world

kosmos = world-system. Jn 7:7 Rev 13:3-8

See Scofield Note: "Rev 13:8".


Psalm 105:15 Saying, Touch not my anointed, and do my prophets no harm.

Zechariah 2:8 For thus said the LORD of hosts; After the glory has he sent me to …

Mark 9:42 And whoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in …

Luke 17:1,2 Then said he to the disciples, It is impossible but that offenses …

Acts 9:5 And he said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom …

Romans 14:13-15,21 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather…

Romans 15:1-3 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, …

1 Corinthians 8:9-13 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling …

1 Corinthians 10:32,33 Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor …

2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation …


Matthew 18:10,14 Take heed that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say to you…

Zechariah 13:7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is …

Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, …

that a. This mode of punishment appears to have obtained in Syria as well as in Greece, especially in cases of parricide. That it was customary in Greece we learn from Suidas, in [hyperbolon lithon,] and the scholiast on the Equites of Aristophanes: [Hotan gar katara tinos baros apo ton trachelos kremannumi.] 'When a person was drowned, they hung a weight about his neck.'

A millstone (μύλος ὀνικός)

Two kinds of millstones were in use; the one turned by hand, the other, and larger, by an ass (ὄνος). Here Jesus says an ass-millstone; or, as Rev., a great millstone; Wyc., millstone of asses.

18:5-6 And all who are in this sense little children are unspeakably dear to me. Therefore help them all you can, as if it were myself in person, and see that ye offend them not; that is, that ye turn them not out of the right way, neither hinder them in it. Matt 10:40; Luke 10:16; John 13:20. Mark 9:42; Luke 17:1.
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