|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:38-42 The plain instruction is, Suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord's keeping. And the sum of all is, that Christians must avoid disputing and striving. If any say, Flesh and blood cannot pass by such an affront, let them remember, that flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and those who act upon right principles will have most peace and comfort.
Verse 39. - But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee, etc. The first clause comes here only; the second is found also in Luke 6:29 (for the principle, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:7). We may notice that, while our Lord most perfectly observed the spirit of this command, he did not slavishly follow the letter of it (cf. John 18:22, 23). Nor did St. Paul (cf. Acts 16:35ff; Acts 22:25; 23:3; 25:9,10). We must remember that, while he clothes his teaching with the form of concrete examples, these are only parabolic representations of principles eternal in themselves, but in practice to be modified according to each separate occasion. "This offering of the other cheek may be done outwardly; but only inwardly can it be always right" (Trench, 'Sermon on the Mount'). We must further remember the distinction brought out here by Luther between what the Christian has to do as a Christian, and what he has to do as, perhaps an official, member of the state. The Lord leaves to the state its own jurisdiction (Matthew 22:21: vide Meyer). That ye resist not; Revised Version, resist not, thus avoiding all possibility of the English reader taking the words as a statement of fact. Evil. So the Revised Version margin; but Revised Version, him that is evil (cf. ver. 37; Matthew 6:13, note). The masculine here, in the sense of the wicked man who does the wrong, is clearly preferable; Wickliffe, "a yuel man." (For a very careful defence of Chrysostom's opinion that even here τῷ πονηρῷ refers to the devil and not to man. see Chase, 'The Lord's Prayer in the Early Church'). Shall smite; Revised Version, smiteth, The right reading gives the more vivid present. Ῥαπίζω comes in the New Testament here and Matthew 26:67 only. It is properly used of a stroke with a rod. (For "smiting on the cheeks," cf. the curious rendering of Hosea 11:4 in the LXX; cf. also Isaiah 50:6.) Thee on thy right. Matthew only. Although it is more natural that the left cheek would be hit first (Meyer), the right is named, since it is in common parle, nee held to be the worthier (cf. ver. 29). Cheek. Σιαγών, though properly jaw, is here equivalent to" cheek," as certainly in Song of Solomon 1:10; Song of Solomon 5:13. Turn. The action seen; Luke's "offer" regards the mental condition necessary for the action.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil,.... This is not to be understood of any sort of evil, not of the evil of sin, of bad actions, and false doctrines, which are to be opposed; nor of the evil one, Satan, who is to be resisted; but of an evil man, an injurious one, who has done us an injury. We must not render evil for evil, or repay him in the same way; see James 5:6. Not but that a man may lawfully defend himself, and endeavour to secure himself from injuries; and may appear to the civil magistrate for redress of grievances; but he is not to make use of private revenge. As if a man should pluck out one of his eyes, he must not in revenge pluck out one of his; or should he strike out one of his teeth, he must not use him in the same manner; but patiently bear the affront, or seek for satisfaction in another way.
But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also: which is to be understood comparatively, rather than seek revenge, and is directly contrary to the Jewish canons, which require, in such a case, a pecuniary fine (g).
"He that strikes his neighbour (which Maimonides explains, he that strikes his neighbour with his hand shut, about the neck) he shall give him a "sela", or "shekel": R. Judah says, in the name of R. Jose the Galilean, one pound: if he smite him (i.e. as Maimonides says, if he smite him with his double fist upon the face; or, as Bartenora, with the palm of his hand, "on the cheek", which is a greater reproach) he shall give him two hundred "zuzim"; and if he does it with the back of his hand, four hundred "zuzim".''
R. Isaac Sangari (h) manifestly refers to this passage of Christ's, when he says to the king he is conversing with,
"I perceive that thou up braidest us with poverty and want; but in them the great men of other nations glory: for they do not glory but in him, who said, "Whosoever smiteth thee thy right cheek, turn to him the left; and whosoever taketh away thy coat, give him thy cloak".''
(g) Misn. Bava Kama, c. 8. sect. 6. Vid. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (h) Sepher Cosri, Orat. 1. Sign. 113. fol. 56. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
39. But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right check, turn to him the other also—Our Lord's own meek, yet dignified bearing, when smitten rudely on the cheek (Joh 18:22, 23), and not literally presenting the other, is the best comment on these words. It is the preparedness, after one indignity, not to invite but to submit meekly to another, without retaliation, which this strong language is meant to convey.
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