Matthew 7:12
Therefore all things whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Therefore . . . whatsoever.—The sequence of thought requires, perhaps, some explanation. God gives His good things in answer to our wishes, if only what we wish for is really for our good. It is man’s highest blessedness to be like God, to “be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect,” and therefore in this respect too he must strive to resemble Him. The ground thus taken gives a new character to that which otherwise had already become almost one of the “common-places” of Jewish and heathen ethics. Perhaps the most interesting illustration of the former is the well-known story of the Gentile inquirer who went to Shammai, the great scribe, and asked to be taught the law, in a few brief words, while he stood on one foot. The Rabbi turned away in anger. The questioner then went to Hillel, and made the same demand; and the sage turned and said, “Whatsoever thou wouldest that men should not do to thee, that do not thou to them. All our law is summed up in that.” And so the Gentile became a proselyte. A like negative rule is quoted by Gibbon (Decl. and Fall, c. liv., note 2) from Isocrates, not without a sneer, as if it anticipated the teaching of the Christ. The nearest approach to our Lord’s rule is, however, found in the saying ascribed to Aristotle, who, when asked how we should act towards our friends, replied, “As we would they should act to us” (Diog. Laert., v. 1, § 21). All these, however, though we may welcome them as instances of the testimonium animæ naturaliter Christianæ (as Tertullian calls it), are yet wanting in the completeness of our Lord’s precept, and still more do they fall below it in regard of the ground on which the precept rests, and the power given to perform it. Yet even here, too, there is, of necessity, an implied limitation. We cannot comply with all men’s desires, nor ought we to wish that they should comply with ours, for those desires may be foolish and frivolous, or may involve the indulgence of lust or passion. The rule is only safe when our own will has been first purified, so that we wish only from others that which is really good. Reciprocity in evil or in folly is obviously altogether alien from the mind of Christ.

Matthew 7:12. Therefore all things, &c. — As if he had said, But it is only on this condition that he will give, and continue to give them, viz., that ye follow the example of his equity and benevolence, that you imitate the God of love; that, being “animated by his goodness, you study to express your gratitude for it by your integrity and kindness to your fellow-creatures, treating them, in every instance, as you would think it reasonable to be treated by them, if you were in their circumstances and they in yours: for this is, in effect, a summary and abstract of all the human and social virtues recommended in the moral precepts of the law and the prophets, and it was one of the greatest ends of both to bring men to this equitable and amiable temper. I say, one of the greatest, that this may be reconciled with our Lord’s declaring the love of God to be the first and great commandment, Matthew 22:38. And, indeed, it is a most absurd and fatal error to imagine, that the regulation of social life is the only end of religion.” — Doddridge. Thus far proceeds the doctrinal part of this sermon. In the next verse begins the exhortation to practise it. 7:12-14 Christ came to teach us, not only what we are to know and believe, but what we are to do; not only toward God, but toward men; not only toward those of our party and persuasion, but toward men in general, all with whom we have to do. We must do that to our neighbour which we ourselves acknowledge to be fit and reasonable. We must, in our dealings with men, suppose ourselves in the same case and circumstances with those we have to do with, and act accordingly. There are but two ways right and wrong, good and evil; the way to heaven and the way to hell; in the one or other of these all are walking: there is no middle place hereafter, no middle way now. All the children of men are saints or sinners, godly or ungodly. See concerning the way of sin and sinners, that the gate is wide, and stands open. You may go in at this gate with all your lusts about you; it gives no check to appetites or passions. It is a broad way; there are many paths in it; there is choice of sinful ways. There is a large company in this way. But what profit is there in being willing to go to hell with others, because they will not go to heaven with us? The way to eternal life is narrow. We are not in heaven as soon as we are got through the strait gate. Self must be denied, the body kept under, and corruptions mortified. Daily temptations must be resisted; duties must be done. We must watch in all things, and walk with care; and we must go through much tribulation. And yet this way should invite us all; it leads to life: to present comfort in the favour of God, which is the life of the soul; to eternal bliss, the hope of which at the end of our way, should make all the difficulties of the road easy to us. This plain declaration of Christ has been disregarded by many who have taken pains to explain it away; but in all ages the real disciple of Christ has been looked on as a singular, unfashionable character; and all that have sided with the greater number, have gone on in the broad road to destruction. If we would serve God, we must be firm in our religion. Can we often hear of the strait gate and the narrow way, and how few there are that find it, without being in pain for ourselves, or considering whether we are entered on the narrow way, and what progress we are making in it?All things whatsoever ... - This command has been usually called the "Saviour's golden rule," a name given to it on account of its great value. All that you "expect" or "desire" of others in similar circumstances, do to them. Act not from selfishness or injustice, but put yourself in the place of the other, and ask what you would expect of him. This would make you impartial, candid, and just. It would destroy avarice, envy, treachery, unkindness, slander, theft, adultery, and murder. It has been well said that this law is what the balance-wheel is to machinery. It would prevent all irregularity of movement in the moral world, as that does in a steam-engine. It is easily applied, its justice is seen by all people, and all must acknowledge its force and value.

This is the law and the prophets - That is, this is the sum or substance of the Old Testament. It is nowhere found in so many words, but if is a summary expression of all that the law required. The sentiment was in use among the Jews. Hillel, an ancient Rabbi, said to a man who wished to become a proselyte, and who asked him to teach him the whole law, "Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to another." Something of the same sentiment was found among the ancient Greeks and Romans, and is found in the writings of Confucius.

12. Therefore—to say all in one word.

all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them—the same thing and in the same way.

for this is the law and the prophets—"This is the substance of all relative duty; all Scripture in a nutshell." Incomparable summary! How well called "the royal law!" (Jas 2:8; compare Ro 13:9). It is true that similar maxims are found floating in the writings of the cultivated Greeks and Romans, and naturally enough in the Rabbinical writings. But so expressed as it is here—in immediate connection with, and as the sum of such duties as has been just enjoined, and such principles as had been before taught—it is to be found nowhere else. And the best commentary upon this fact is, that never till our Lord came down thus to teach did men effectually and widely exemplify it in their practice. The precise sense of the maxim is best referred to common sense. It is not, of course, what—in our wayward, capricious, gasping moods—we should wish that men would do to us, that we are to hold ourselves bound to do to them; but only what—in the exercise of an impartial judgment, and putting ourselves in their place—we consider it reasonable that they should do to us, that we are to do to them.

Most interpreters think the term therefore here redundant, as some such little particles often are in holy writ, for it is hard to make out this to be a proper inference from the premises. This precept containeth in it the substance of all that is to be found in the books of the law and the prophets which concerneth us in reference to others, the sum of the second table, which requireth only justice and charity. Christ doth not say, this is all the law and the prophets, but this is the law and the prophets. There is no man but would have others deal justly with him in giving him what is his own, whether honour, or tribute, or estate, &c., neither taking nor withholding his own from him. Nor is there any but, if he stood in need of it, would desire the charitable help of another, or a charitable remission from him of what he might in exact justice require. Do ye (saith our Saviour) the same unto them. And indeed this is but a confirmation of the light and law of nature, no more than what men would do if they would hearken to the light within them. And without this in vain do men pretend to religion, as our Saviour teacheth, Mark 7:9-13; which makes some think that our Saviour by this reflects upon the Pharisees, who laid all their religion upon ceremonies, and some ritual performances in observance of their traditions, and omitted the weightier things of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith, Matthew 23:23. Therefore all things whatsoever,.... These words are the epilogue, or conclusion of our Lord's discourse; the sum of what he had delivered in the two preceding chapters, and in this hitherto, is contained in these words; for they not only respect the exhortation about judging and reproving; but every duty respecting our neighbour; it is a summary of the whole. It is a golden rule, here delivered, and ought to be observed by all mankind, Jews and Gentiles. So the Karaite Jews (l) say,

"all things that a man would not take to himself, , "it is not fit to do them to his brethren".''

And Maimonides (m) has expressed it much in the same words our Lord here does;

"all things whatsoever ye would that others should do to you, (says he,) do you the same to your brethren, in the law, and in the commandments:''

only there seems to be a restriction in the word "brethren"; the Jews, perhaps, meaning no other than Israelites; whereas our Lord's rule reaches to all without exception, "all things whatsoever"

ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: let them be who they will, whether brethren, or kinsmen, according to the flesh, or what not; "for this is the law and the prophets": the sum of the law and the prophets; not the whole sum of them, or the sum of the whole law: but of that part of it which respects our neighbours. Remarkable is the advice given by Hillell (n) to one who came to be made a proselyte by him;

"whatsoever is hateful to thee, that do not thou to thy neighbour; , "this is all the whole law", and the rest is an explication of it, go and be perfect:''

yea, this rule is not only agreeable to the law of Moses, and the prophets, but even to the law and light of nature. Aristotle being asked, how we ought to carry ourselves to our friends, answered (o), as we would wish they would carry it to us. Alexander Severus, a Heathen emperor, so greatly admired this rule of Christ's, that he ordered it to be written on the walls of his closet.

(l) R. Eliahu Addaret, c. 3. apud Trigland de sect. Karaeorum, c. 10. p. 166. Vid. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 146. 4. (m) Hilch. Ebel. c. 14. sect. 1.((n) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 31. 1. Maimon. in Misn. Peah, c. 1. sect. 1.((o) Diog. Laert. in Vit. Aristotel. l. 5.

{4} Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the {b} law and the prophets.

(4) An explanation of the meaning of the second table.

(b) That is to say, The doctrine of the law and prophets.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 7:12. At this point Jesus takes a retrospective glance at all that He has been saying since Matthew 5:17,—beginning with Moses and the prophets,—concerning our duty to our neighbour, but introducing, indeed, many other instructions and exhortations. But putting out of view such matters as are foreign to His discourse, He now recapitulates all that has been said on the duties we owe to our neighbour, so that οὖν points back to Matthew 5:17. The correctness of this view is evident from the following: οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ νόμος, etc., from which it further appears that οὖν does not merely refer back to Matthew 5:1-5 (Kuinoel, Neander, Baumgarten-Crusius). As Luther well observes: “With those words He concludes the instructions contained in those three chapters, and gathers them all into one little bundle.” Fritzsche is somewhat illogical when he says that οὖν generalizes the conclusion from οἴδατε δόματατέκνοις ὑμῶν, which proposition, however, was a mere lemma. Ewald thinks that Matthew 7:12 is here in its wrong place, that its original position was somewhere before ἀγαπᾶτε, Matthew 5:44, and might still be repeated after Matthew 5:48; according to Bleek and Holtzmann, founding on Luke 6:31, its original position was after Matthew 5:42. But it is precisely its significant position as a concluding sentence, along with its reference to the law and the prophets, that Luke has taken away from it. Comp. Weiss. On θέλειν ἵνα, see note on Luke 6:31.

οὕτω] not for ταῦτα, as if the matter were merged in the manner (de Wette), but in such a manner, in this way, corresponding, that is, to this your θέλειν.

The truth of this Christian maxim lies in this, that the words ὅσα ἂν θέλητε, etc., as spoken by Jesus, and, on the ground of His fulfilment of the law (οὖν), which presupposes faith in Him, can only mean a willing of a truly moral kind, and not that of a self-seeking nature, such as the desire for flattery.

οὗτος, etc.] for this is the sum of moral duty, and so on.

For parallels from profane writers, see Wetstein; Bab. Schabb. f. 31. 1 : “Quod tibi ipsi odiosum est, proximo ne facias; nam haec est tota lex.” But being all of a negative character, like Tob 4:15, they are essentially different from the present passage. For coincidences of a more meagre kind from Greek writers, see Spiess, Logos Spermat. p. 24.Matthew 7:12. The golden rule. οὖν here probably because in the source, cf. καὶ in quotation in Hebrews 1:6. The connection must be a matter of conjecture—with Matthew 7:11, a, “Extend your goodness from children to all,” Fritzsche; with Matthew 7:11, b, “Imitate the divine goodness,” Bengel; with Matthew 7:1-5; Matthew 7:6-11 being an interpolation, Weiss and Holtz. (H.C.). Luke 6:31 places it after the precept contained in Matthew 5:42, and Wendt, in his reconstruction of the logia (L. J., i. 61), follows that clue. The thought is certainly in sympathy with the teaching of Matthew 5:38-48, and might very well be expounded in that connection. But the meaning is not dependent on connection. The sentence is a worthy close to the discourse beginning at Matthew 5:17. “Respondent ultima primis,” Beng. Here as there “law and prophets”.—ἵνα with subjunctive after θέλητε, instead of infinitive.—πάντα οὖνποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς. The law of nature, says Rosenmüller. Not quite. Wetstein, indeed, gives copious instances of something similar in Greek and Roman writers and Rabbinical sources, and the modern science of comparative religion enables us to multiply them. But recent commentators (including Holtz., H.C.) have remarked that, in these instances, the rule is stated in negative terms. So, e.g., in Tob 4:15, ὃ μισεῖς, μηδενὶ ποιήσῃς, quoted by Hillel in reply to one who asked him to teach the whole law while he stood on one leg. So also in the saying of Confucius: “Do not to others what you would not wish done to yourself,” Legge, Chinese Classics, i. 191 f. The negative confines us to the region of justice; the positive takes us into the region of generosity or grace, and so embraces both law and prophets. We wish much more than we can claim—to be helped in need, encouraged in struggles, defended when misrepresented, and befriended when our back is at the wall. Christ would have us do all that in a magnanimous, benignant way; to be not merely δίκαιος but ἀγαθός.—νόμος καὶ προφῆται: perhaps to a certain extent a current phrase = all that is necessary, but, no doubt, seriously meant; therefore, may help us to understand the statement in Matthew 5:17, “I came not to destroy, but to fulfil”. The golden rule was Law and Prophets only in an ideal sense, and in the same sense only was Christ a fulfiller.—vide Wendt, L. J., ii. 341.12. Therefore] The practical result of what has been said both in regard to judgment and to prayer is mutual charity. The thought of the divine judgment teaches forbearance; the thought of the divine goodness teaches kindness.Matthew 7:12. Οὖν, therefore) The sum of all that has been said from the beginning of the chapter. He concludes [this portion of the discourse], and at the same time returns to ch. Matthew 5:17. The conclusion corresponds with the commencement. And we ought to imitate the Divine goodness, mentioned in Matthew 7:11.—θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν, ye would that they should do) “Ye would:” this is pointedly said (notanter): for men often do otherwise [than what ye would that they should do]. We are not to follow their example. Sc. by benefiting, not injuring.—οἱ ἄνθρωποι, men) The indefinite appellation of men, frequently employed by the Saviour, already alludes to the future propagation of His teaching throughout the whole human race.—οὓτω, thus) The same things in the same way: or thus, as I have told you up to this point.—οὗτος, this) The law and the prophets enjoin many other things, as for example the love of God: but yet the law and the prophets also tend to this as their especial scope, viz. whatsoever ye would, etc., and he who performs this, performs all the rest more easily: see ch. Matthew 19:19.Verse 12. - Ver. 12a, parallel passage: Luke 6:31; Luke 12b, Matthew only. All things therefore. Therefore. Summing up the lesson of vers. 1-11 (cf. ver. 7, note). In consequence of all that I have said about censoriousness and the means of overcoming it, let the very opposite feeling rule your conduct towards others. Let all (emphatic) your dealings with men be conducted in the same spirit in which you would desire them to deal with you. Even so. Not "these things" do ye to them; for our Lord carefully avoids any expression that might lead to a legal enumeration of different details, but "thus" (οὕτως), referring to the character of your own wishes. (For this "golden rule," cf. Tobit 4:15 (negative form); cf. also patristic references in Resch, 'Agrapha,' pp. 95, 135.) On the occasional similarity of pre-Christian writings to the teaching of our Lord, Augustine (vide Trench, 'Serm.,' in loc.) well says it is "the glory of the written and spoken law, that it is the transcript of that which was from the first, and not merely as old as this man or that, but as the Creation itself, a reproduction of that obscured and forgotten law written at the beginning by the finger of God on the hearts of all men. When, therefore, heathen sages or poets proclaimed any part of this, they had not thereby anticipated Christ; they had only deciphered some fragment of that law, which he gave from the first, and which, when men, exiles and fugitives from themselves and from the knowledge of their own hearts, had lost the power of reading, he came in the flesh to read to them anew, and to bring out the well-nigh obliterated characters afresh." (Compare also Bishop Lightfoot's essay on "St. Paul and Seneca," in his 'Philippians.') For this is the law and the prophets. For this. This principle of action and mode of life is, in fact, the sum of all Bible teaching (cf. Leviticus 19:18). Observe:

(1) Our Lord brings out the same thought, but with its necessary limitation to the second table, in Matthew 22:40 (cf. Romans 13:10).

(2) Our Lord thus returns to the main subject of his sermon, the relation in which he and his must stand to the Law (Matthew 5:17).
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