That it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)That it may be well with thee . . .—The quotation is but slightly varied from Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16. But by the omission of the limiting words, “which the Lord thy God hath given thee,” St. Paul at once generalises the application and determines it to the earth, and not to “the good land” of heaven. The words so interpreted are, therefore, a promise that obedience “in the Lord” to the great natural law on which society rests, shall bring with it reward on earth; just as our Lord tells us of “meekness” that it shall “inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5), and St. Paul of “godliness” that it “has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come” (1Timothy 4:8). The visible exemplification of this law is, indeed, as in all other cases, obscured by the disorder brought in by sin, and, moreover, is affected by the consideration that this life, being a discipline for heaven, must present, in the true sense of the word, “imperfection” or incompleteness, if viewed alone. But it is still a natural law, and is still accordingly fulfilled in actual experience. The promise is not to us so important as to them of old; but it is ours still.
(3, 4) Ephesians 6:21-24 form the conclusion of the Epistle, in commendation of Tychicus’ salutation and blessing. The extreme brevity and generality of this section here—in contrast with St. Paul’s practice in every other Epistle, except the Second Epistle to the Corinthians and the Epistle to the Galatians (both of which have the abruptness of indignation) and especially with the parallel Epistle to the Colossians—seem to bear on the question of the encyclical character of this Epistle.Deuteronomy 5:16. The whole commandment as there recorded is, "Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." The meaning here is, that they would be more happy, useful, and virtuous if they obeyed their parents than if they disobeyed them.
And thou mayest live long on the earth - In the commandment as recorded in Exodus 20:12, the promise is, "that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." This referred to the promised land - the land of Canaan. The meaning doubtless, is, that there would be a special providence, securing to those who were obedient to parents length of days. Long life was regarded as a great blessing; and this blessing was promised. The apostle here gives to the promise a more general form, and says that obedience to parents was connected at all times with long life. We may remark here:
(1) that long life is a blessing. It affords a longer space to prepare for eternity; it enables a man to be more useful; and it furnishes a longer opportunity to study the works of God on earth. It is not improper to desire it; and we should make use of all the means in our power to lengthen out our days, and to preserve and protect our lives.
(2) it is still true that obedience to parents is conducive to length of life, and that those who are most obedient in early life, other things being equal, have the best prospect of living long. This occurs because:
(a) obedient children are saved from the vices and crimes which shorten life. No parent will command his child to be a drunkard, a gambler, a spendthrift, a pirate, or a murderer. But these vices and crimes, resulting in most cases from disobedience to parents, all shorten life; and they who early commit them are certain of on early grave. No child who disobeys a parent can have any "security" that he will not fall a victim to such vices and crimes.
(b) Obedience to parents is connected with virtuous habits that are conducive to long life. It will make a child industrious, temperate, sober; it will lead him to restrain and govern his wild passions; it will lead him to form habits of self-government which will in future life save him from the snares of vice and temptation.
(c) Many a life is lost early by disobeying a parent. A child disobeys a father and goes into a dramshop; or he goes to sea; or he becomes the companion of the wicked - and he may be wrecked at sea, or his character on land may be wrecked forever. Of disobedient children there is perhaps not one in a hundred that ever reaches an honored old age.
(d) We may still believe that God, in his providence, will watch over those who are obedient to a father and mother. If he regards a falling sparrow Matthew 10:29, he will not be unmindful of an obedient child; if he numbers the hairs of the head Matthew 10:30, he will not be regardless of the little boy that honors him by obeying a father and mother.That thou mayest live long and happily. This promise is still fulfilled to believers, either in the thing itself here promised, or in a better way, God’s giving them eternal life. Deuteronomy 5:16. The Jews (z) say,
"there are four things, which if a man does, he eats the fruit of them in this world, and the capital part remains for him in the world to come; and they are these, "honouring father and mother", doing acts of beneficence, making peace between a man and his neighbour, and learning of the law, which answers to them all.''
And thou mayest live long on the earth: length of days is in itself a blessing; and though men's days cannot be lengthened beyond God's purpose and decree; and though obedient children do not always live long; yet disobedience to parents often brings the judgments of God on children, so that they die not a common death, 2 Samuel 18:14. On those words in Deuteronomy 32:47, the Jews (a) have this paraphrase;
"because it is your life, , "this is honouring father and mother; and through this thing ye shall prolong your days", this is beneficence.''
It may be observed, that the words in this promissory part are not the same as in the decalogue, where they stand thus, "that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee", Exodus 20:12, referring to the land of Canaan; for the law in the form of it, in which it was delivered by Moses, only concerned the people of the Jews; wherefore to suit this law, and the promise of it, to others, the apostle alters the language of it.That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Ephesians 6:3. After Paul has just said: “the first commandment with promise,” he now adduces the definite promise, on account of which this predicate pertains to that commandment, and that according to the LXX. of Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, with immaterial variation (LXX.: καὶ ἵνα μακροχρ. γένῃ ἐπὶ τ. γ.), and with omission of the more precise designation of Palestine, which in the LXX. follows after γῆς. This omission, however, was not occasioned by the circumstance that the promise was to bear upon long life in general (Calvin, Koppe, Rückert, Matthies, Schenkel, and many), in which case, indeed, ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς might also have been left out; but Paul could so fully presuppose acquaintance with the complete words of the promise, that with the mere ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς enough was said to preclude any misunderstanding which should depart from the original sense: in the land, i.e. Palestine. So, namely, in accordance with the sense of the original text well known to the readers, is ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς to be understood, not as “upon earth;” for the promise is here adduced historically. Hence its original sense is not at all to be altered or spiritualized, or to be taken conditionally, as e.g. was done by Zanchius: if the promise is not fulfilled simpliciter, yet it is fulfilled commutations in majus; or by Calovius: “Promissiones temporales cum conditions intelligendae, quantum sc. temporalia illa nobis salutaria fore Deus censuerit;” comp. also Estius, who at the same time remarks (so again typically Olshausen, comp. Baumgarten-Crusius) that the land of Canaan prefigures the kingdom of heaven (comp. Matthew 5:5), and the long life everlasting blessedness. Nor is it to be said, with Bengel, Morus, Stolz, Rosenmüller, Flatt, and Harless, that the earthly blessing is promised not to the individual, but to the people. For in the summons “thou shalt” in the Decalogue, although the latter on the whole (as a whole) is directed to the people, the individual is withal addressed, as is evident from the very commandments in which the neighbour is mentioned, and as is the view underlying all the N.T. citations from the Decalogue-law, Matthew 15:4; Matthew 5:21; Matthew 5:27; Romans 7:7; Romans 13:9.
εὖ σοι γένηται] Comp. Genesis 2:13; Deuteronomy 4:40; Sir 1:13. A Greek would employ εὖ πάσχειν, εὖ πράττειν, or the like, or even ἀγαθά σοι γένηται.
καὶ ἔσῃ κ.τ.λ.] is regarded by Winer, p. 258 [E. T. 361], and de Wette (comp. already Erasmus), not as dependent upon ἵνα, but as a direct continuation of the discourse. But this expedient is unnecessary, inasmuch as ἵνα with the future actually occurs in the case of Paul (see on 1 Corinthians 9:18; Galatians 2:4); and is, moreover, here out of place, since there is not any direct continuation of the discourse in those passages of the O. T., the sense of which Paul reproduces. At Revelation 22:14 also the future and subjunctive are interchanged after ἵνα, as also in classical writers the same variation after ὅπως is well known (see on the erroneous canon Dawesianus, Bremi, in Schaef. Appar. ad Dem. I. p. 277; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 335 f.; Buttmann, Neutest. Gramm. p. 184 [E. T. 213]). And how aptly do the two modes of construction here suit the sense, so that γένηται expresses the pure becoming realized, and ἔσῃ μακροχρόν. the certain emergence and continued subsistence (Kühner, II. p. 491). The change is a logical climax.Ephesians 6:3. ἵνα εὖ σοι γένηται καὶ ἔσῃ μακροχρόνιος ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς: that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the land. The quotation of the commandment is continued according to the LXX, but with some variations, viz., ἔσῃ for γένῃ, and the omission of τῆς ἀγαθῆς ἧς (Exodus 20:12, or ἧς alone as in Deuteronomy 5:16) Κύριος ὁ Θεός σου δίδωσί σοι. This clause is omitted perhaps as less suitable to those addressed (Abb.); or it may be with a view to generalise the statement and relieve it of all restrictions but those which necessarily condition the promises of temporal blessings (Ell.). Meyer strangely supposes that the quotation is left unfinished simply because the readers could easily complete it for themselves. In that case it might have been even shorter. The first clause promises temporal good generally; the second the particular blessing, so associated in the OT with the idea of the Divine favour, of length of days. The ἔσῃ is explained by not a few (Erasm., De Wette, Win., etc.; cf. Win.-Moult., p. 361) as a case of oratio variata, a transition from the ἵνα construction to direct narrative, = “and thou shalt be,” as the RV margin puts it. But there is no necessity for supposing such a change in the construction, as ἵνα with the fut. indic, though strange to Attic Greek (which yet uses ὅπως with that tense and mood), is found in the NT (1 Corinthians 9:18; Revelation 22:14). In Attic Greek the idea would have been expressed not by εὖ γενέσθαι, but by εὖ πάσχειν, εὖ πράττειν or similar form (Mey.). In the OT original, ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς refers of course to the land of Canaan. Meyer thinks it must retain its historical sense here. But that, in its literal completeness, would be something inapplicable to Paul’s Christian readers. The fact that the quotation is broken off at this point, and that the more restricted, national terms of the OT promise are omitted, might warrant us in giving the phrase the larger sense of “on the earth” (with RV text). But it is best to take the phrase as far as possible in its historical sense, and translate it “on the land” (RV marg.), i.e., the land on which your Christian lot is cast.3. that, &c.] The Gr. is nearly verbatim from the LXX. of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. It is observable that the Apostle omits the last words of the original promise. Is not this on purpose, to dilate the reference to the utmost? The Sinaitic limitation was but a special application of a perpetual principle of Providence, illustrated, we may observe, in the remarkable instance of the durability of the Chinese race and empire in its “land.” Not for Jews only, nor for Christians only, is the promise, but for man, with such modifications of the meaning of “the earth,” or “land,” as circumstances may bring.
To seek a reference here to “the better country, that is, the heavenly” (Hebrews 11:16), is a lawful and beautiful accommodation, but not in point as an interpretation.
mayest live] Quite lit., “shall live.” And it may be so read. But usage makes it at least probable that the A. V. (and R.V., text) represent rightly the intention of the Greek.
Observe, in passing, the hint given in these verses of the familiarity of the Gentile converts of St Paul with the O.T., and of the Divine authority which, he takes it for granted, they recognized in the Decalogue. See further, Appendix H.Ephesians 6:3. Εὖ σοὶ, well with thee) Let young persons attend to this statement.—καὶ ἔσῃ, and thou mayest [shalt] be) The LXX., in both passages, viz. that in Exodus, and that in Deuteronomy, where the Decalogue is recounted, have it, that thou mayest become long-lived, καὶ ἵνα μακροχρόνιος γένῃ, but Deuteronomy 22:7, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest have many days—ἵνα εἆ σοι γένηται χαὶ πολυήμερος ἔσῃ, from the cod. Al., where the ed. Rom. has γένῃ: ἔσῃ, in the future of the subjunctive, is rare. He, who lives well for a long time, long experiences the favour or God, even in his children rendering him honour, and he has a long season of sowing the seed of an eternal harvest.—μακροχρόνιος, long-lived) The more tender age of childhood, according to its capacity of apprehension, is allured by the promise of long life; the exception of the cross is more expressly added to those that are grown up, and are of mature age. But length of days is promised, not only to single persons who honour their parents, but to their whole stock.—ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, upon the earth [the land]) Moses, writing to Israel, says, in the good land, ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀγαθῆς, which the Lord thy God giveth thee. At present godly men live equally well in every land, as Israel did in that which God gave them.Verse 3. - That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. A free rendering (after the manner of the apostle) of the reason annexed to the fifth commandment, "that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." While the Decalogue was an expression of the will of God on matters of moral and indefeasible obligation, it had a local Hebrew element here and there. In the present ease the apostle drops what is specially Hebrew, adapting the promise in spirit to a wider area. The special promise of long life in the land of Canaan is translated into a general promise of prosperity and longevity. As before, we must not suppose that the apostle excludes exceptions. The promise is not for each individual; many good and obedient children do not live long. But the general tendency of obedience to parents is towards the results specified. Where obedience to parents is found, there is usually found along with it temperance, self-control, industry, regular ways of life, and other habits that tend towards prosperity and longevity. In Christian families there is commonly affection, unity, prayer, mutual helpfulness, reliance on God, trust in Christ, and all that makes life sweet and wholesome. The spirit of the promise is realized in such ways, and it may be likewise in special mercies vouchsafed to each family.
Lit., mayest be long-lived. The adjective occurs only here.
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