|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:21-26 The Jewish teachers had taught, that nothing except actual murder was forbidden by the sixth commandment. Thus they explained away its spiritual meaning. Christ showed the full meaning of this commandment; according to which we must be judged hereafter, and therefore ought to be ruled now. All rash anger is heart murder. By our brother, here, we are to understand any person, though ever so much below us, for we are all made of one blood. Raca, is a scornful word, and comes from pride: Thou fool, is a spiteful word, and comes from hatred. Malicious slanders and censures are poison that kills secretly and slowly. Christ told them that how light soever they made of these sins, they would certainly be called into judgment for them. We ought carefully to preserve Christian love and peace with all our brethren; and if at any time there is a quarrel, we should confess our fault, humble ourselves to our brother, making or offering satisfaction for wrong done in word or deed: and we should do this quickly; because, till this is done, we are unfit for communion with God in holy ordinances. And when we are preparing for any religious exercises, it is good for us to make that an occasion of serious reflection and self-examination. What is here said is very applicable to our being reconciled to God through Christ. While we are alive, we are in the way to his judgement-seat; after death, it will be too late. When we consider the importance of the case, and the uncertainty of life, how needful it is to seek peace with God, without delay!
Verse 23. - Therefore. Seeing that the consequences of an angry spirit are so terrible. For there is no thought here of an unforgiving spirit spoiling the acceptance of the gift (vide infra). Our Lord is insisting that it is so important to lose no time in seeking reconciliation with a person whom one has injured, that even the very holiest action must be put off for it. If thou bring; Revised Version, if... thou art offering; ἐὰν... προσφέρῃς (similarly, πρόσηερε, ver. 24), the technical word coming some sixty times in Leviticus alone. Christ implies that the action has already begun. Thy gift; a general word for any sacrifice. To the altar. Since those to whom he spoke were still Jews, Christ illustrates his meaning by Jewish practices. A perverse literalism has found here a direct reference to the Eucharist. For reasonable adaptations (cf. even in ' Didache,' § 14.) of these two verses to this, see Waterland, 'Doctrine of the Eucharist,' ch. 13. § 4 (pp. 359-362, Oxford, 1868). And there rememberest, etc. For the spirit of recollection may well culminate with the culminating action. Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.') shows that even the Jews taught such a postponement of the sacrifice if theft was remembered. He therefore thinks that the stress is on "ought" (τι): "For that which the Jews restrained only to pecuniary damages, Christ extends to all offences against our brother." But he overlooks the fact that, while the Jewish precept had reference to a sin (or even the neglect of some ceremonial rule, cf. Mishna, 'Pes.,' 3:7) vitiating the offering, there is no thought of this hero (vide supra). Thy brother (ver. 22, note). Ought. So from Tyndale downwards. Revised Version, aught, here and apparently always, after the spelling now preferred as marking the difference from the verb.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar,.... The Jews obliged such who had done any damage to their neighbours, by stealing from them, to make satisfaction before they brought their offering; concerning which they say (c),
"he that brings what he has stolen, before he brings his trespass offering, is right; he that brings his trespass offering, before he brings that which he has stolen, is not right.''
"they do not bring the trespass offering before the sum of what is stolen is returned, either to the owners, or to the priests.''
Some have thought Christ refers to this; only what they restrained to pecuniary damages, he extends to all sorts of offences. But not a trespass offering, but a freewill offering, seems to be designed by "the gift": which, when a man either intended to bring, or was going to bring, or had already brought, as a voluntary sacrifice to be offered unto God; and it came into his mind, that he had offended any man by showing any undue passion, or by any reproachful words, then he was to do what is advised in the following verse: "and there", whilst going, or when at the altar,
rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee: hath anything to charge thee with; any just ground of complaint against thee; if thou hast done him any injury, or given him any offence: particularly, if he had at any time said Raca to him, or called him "fool" for those words have reference to what goes before, and are a corollary, or conclusion from them, as appears from the causal particle "therefore".
(c) Misn. Bava Kama, c. 9. sect. 12. (d) Maimon. Hilch. Gezela, c. 8. sect. 13.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
23. Therefore—to apply the foregoing, and show its paramount importance.
if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught—of just complaint "against thee."
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