|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 26. - Thou shalt by no means, etc. A solemn statement of the unrelenting character of justice. The Romanists hold that the verse implies
(1) that if payment can be made, release follows;
(2) and that payment can be made.
The first statement is probable; but as for the slightest hint of the second, it is wholly wanting. Christ affirms that non-reconciliation with a brother, if carried beyond that limit of time within which the quarrel can be made up, involves consequences in which the element of mercy will be entirely absent. The element of mercy can enter up to a certain point of time, but after that only justice. (On "pay," ἀποδῷς, see Matthew 6:4, note.) It will be observed that, in the above interpretation, ἀντίδικος has been consistently explained as a human adversary, for this seems to be the primary meaning here. But it should not be forgotten that, in the parallel passage in Luke, the reference is to God. Offences against man are there represented in their true character as offences against God, who is therefore depicted as the adversary in a lawsuit. That, from another point of view, be is also the Judge, matters not. Both conceptions of him are true, and can be kept quite distinct. It may be the case, indeed, that this reference of ἀντίδικος to God was present to St. Matthew's mind also when he recorded these words, and this would partly account for the terrible emphasis on ver. 26, the pendant to ver. 22. But even if the reference to God were present to St. Matthew's mind by way of application, it is not with him, as it is with St. Luke, the primary. signification of the word. Farthing. The quadrans, the smallest Roman coin.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Verily, I say unto thee,.... This may be depended upon, you may assure yourself of it, that
thou shalt by no means come out thence, from prison,
till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing, or "last farthing"; or as the Ethiopic version reads it, "till thou hast exactly paid all"; which seems to express the inexorableness of the creditor, and the impossibility of the debtor's release.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
26. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing—a fractional Roman coin, to which our "farthing" answers sufficiently well. 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 Mt 5:29, 30, and Mr 9:43, 48—is the only doctrine with which His language here quite naturally and fully accords. (Compare Mt 18:30, 34).
The Same Subject Illustrated from the Seventh Commandment (Mt 5:27-32).
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