Luke 10:29
But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) But he, willing to justify himself . . .—The question implied a conscience half-awakened and uneasy. It is characteristic that no doubt seems to cross his mind as to his love of God. There he felt that he was safe. But there were misgivings as to the second commandment, and, as if feeling that there had been a tone of rebuke in our Lord’s answer, he vindicates himself by asking the question, “Who is my neighbour?” No one, he thinks, could accuse him of neglecting his duties to those who lived in the same village, attended the same synagogue, who were Pharisees like himself, or even Israelites.

Luke 10:29-32. But he, willing to justify himself — That is, to show he had done this, and was blameless, even with respect to the duties which are least liable to be counterfeited, namely, the social and relative duties, asked him what was the meaning and extent of the word neighbour in the law? It seems, being strongly tinctured with the prejudices of his nation, he reckoned none brethren but Israelites; or neighbours, but proselytes; and expected that Jesus would confirm his opinion, by approving of it. For, according to this interpretation, he thought himself innocent, although enemies and heathen had no share of his love, since the precept enjoined the love of neighbours only. And Jesus answering said, A certain man, &c. — Our Lord, who well knew how to convince and persuade, answered him in such a manner as to make the feelings of his heart overcome the prejudices of his understanding. He convinced him of his mistake by a parable, an ancient, agreeable, and inoffensive method of conveying instruction, very fit to be used in teaching persons who are greatly prejudiced against the truth. For, “as to the scope of the passage, every body perceives, that it is the intention of it to confound those malignant Jewish prejudices, which made them confine their charity to those of their own nation and religion. Nor could any thing be better adapted for the purpose than this story, which, as it is universally understood, exhibits a Samaritan overlooking all national and religious differences, and doing offices of kindness and humanity to a Jew in distress. By this means the narrow-minded Pharisee, who put the question, is surprised into a conviction that there is something amiable, and even divine, in surmounting all partial considerations, and listening to the voice of nature, which is the voice of God, in giving relief to the unhappy.” — Campbell. Went down from Jerusalem to Jericho — Jericho was situated in a valley, hence the phrase of going down to it: and as the road to it from Jerusalem (about eighteen miles) lay through desert and rocky places, so many robberies and murders were committed therein, that it was called, according to Jerome, the bloody way. This circumstance of the parable, therefore, is finely chosen. And fell among thieves — This Jew, in travelling this road, was assaulted by robbers, who, not satisfied with taking all the money he had, stripped him of his raiment, beat him unmercifully, and left him for dead. While he was lying in this miserable condition, utterly incapable of helping himself, a certain priest, happening to come that way, saw him in great distress, but took no pity on him. In like manner a Levite, espying him, would not come near him, having no mind to be at any trouble or expense with him. The priest and Levite are here introduced coming that way very naturally, there being, according to a considerable Jewish writer, quoted by Dr. Lightfoot, no fewer than twelve thousand priests and Levites, who dwelt at Jericho, and all occasionally attending the service of the temple at Jerusalem, frequently travelled this road. The expression, κατα συγκυριαν, here, is very improperly rendered, by chance, in our translation. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing in the universe as either chance or fortune. The phrase merely means, as it happened, or, it came to pass. Both the priest and the Levite are represented as passing by without so much as speaking to the poor distressed and dying man, notwithstanding that their sacred characters, and eminent knowledge in the law, obliged them to be remarkable for compassion, and all the tender offices of charity; especially when it was the distress of a brother, which called for their help. In other cases, indeed, these hypocrites might have invented reasons to palliate their inhumanity: but here it was not in their power to do it. For they could not excuse themselves by saying, This was a Samaritan, or a heathen, who deserved no pity; they could not even excuse themselves by saying, they did not know who he was; for though they took care to keep at a distance, they had looked on their brother lying, stripped, wounded, and half dead, without being in the least moved with his distress. No doubt, however, they would try to excuse themselves to their own consciences for thus neglecting him, and, perhaps, might gravely thank God for their own deliverances, while they left their brother bleeding to death. Is not this an emblem of many living characters, perhaps of some who bear the sacred office? O house of Levi, and of Aaron, is not the day coming when the virtues of heathen and Samaritans will rise up in judgment against you?10:25-37 If we speak of eternal life, and the way to it, in a careless manner, we take the name of God in vain. No one will ever love God and his neighbour with any measure of pure, spiritual love, who is not made a partaker of converting grace. But the proud heart of man strives hard against these convictions. Christ gave an instance of a poor Jew in distress, relieved by a good Samaritan. This poor man fell among thieves, who left him about to die of his wounds. He was slighted by those who should have been his friends, and was cared for by a stranger, a Samaritan, of the nation which the Jews most despised and detested, and would have no dealings with. It is lamentable to observe how selfishness governs all ranks; how many excuses men will make to avoid trouble or expense in relieving others. But the true Christian has the law of love written in his heart. The Spirit of Christ dwells in him; Christ's image is renewed in his soul. The parable is a beautiful explanation of the law of loving our neighbour as ourselves, without regard to nation, party, or any other distinction. It also sets forth the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward sinful, miserable men. We were like this poor, distressed traveller. Satan, our enemy, has robbed us, and wounded us: such is the mischief sin has done us. The blessed Jesus had compassion on us. The believer considers that Jesus loved him, and gave his life for him, when an enemy and a rebel; and having shown him mercy, he bids him go and do likewise. It is the duty of us all , in our places, and according to our ability, to succour, help, and relieve all that are in distress and necessity.To justify himself - Desirous to appear blameless, or to vindicate himself, and show that he had kept the law. Jesus wished to lead him to a proper view of his own sinfulness, and his real departure from the law. The man was desirous of showing that he had kept the law; or perhaps he was desirous of justifying himself for asking the question; of showing that it could not be so easily settled; that a mere reference to the "words" of the law did not determine it. It was still a question what was meant by "neighbor." The Pharisees held that the "Jews" only were to be regarded as such, and that the obligation did not extend at all to the Gentiles. The lawyer was probably ready to affirm that he had discharged faithfully his duty to his countrymen, and had thus kept the law, and could justify himself. Every sinner is desirous of "justifying himself." He seeks to do it by his own works. For this purpose he perverts the meaning of the law, destroys its spirituality, and brings "down" the law to "his" standard, rather than attempt to frame his life by "its" requirements. 29. willing—"wishing," to get himself out of the difficulty, by throwing on Jesus the definition of "neighbor," which the Jews interpreted very narrowly and technically, as excluding Samaritans and Gentiles [Alford]. This lawyer’s desire to justify himself spake him a hypocrite. The reason of that question,

Who is my neighbour? was the notion of the neighbour (mentioned in the law) which the scribes and Pharisees had, who counted none their neighbours but their friends and benefactors, at least none but those that were of their own nation or particular sect; and had taught their people, that they might hate their enemies. Our Saviour (this being but a captious question, considering the received interpretation amongst them of the law of God) doth not think fit to answer his question directly, but telling him a story, maketh him answer himself. But he willing to justify himself,.... Upon the foot of his own righteousness, and to make himself appear to be righteous to others; for this the Jews thought themselves able to do, both to justify themselves before God by their own works, and make it out to men, that they were truly righteous persons; and it is a maxim with them, that

"every one that justifies himself, below (on earth), they justify him above (or in heaven) (k).''

No wonder then that this man was desirous of justifying himself; and in order to which

he said, and who is my neighbour? he takes no notice of God, and love to him, as coming into the account of his justification, only of his neighbour; thinking when this question was answered, he should be very able to make it out, that he was not wanting neither in doing justice between himself and his neighbour, nor in showing kindness and beneficence to him; for by his neighbour he meant only an Israelite; one of the same nation and religion with him. So the Jews commonly interpret the word neighbour, either of one that is related to them in nature, that is, near akin to them in blood (l); or that professes the same religion as they do, and whom they call a neighbour in the law; and so they explain the passage now cited, "and thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself", ; "that is, who is thy neighbour in the law" (m): for they will not allow a Gentile, no, not even a proselyte of the gate to be a neighbour: for thus they say (n),

"an Israelite that slays a proselyte of the gate, or the stranger that dwells with him, is not slain for him by the sanhedrim; for it is said, Exodus 21:14 but if a man comes presumptuously upon his neighbour to slay him, &c. and there is no need to say he is not slain for a Gentile.''

And again (o),

"when a man sees one of them (the Gentiles) fall into the sea, he need not take him up; as it is said, Leviticus 19:16 "neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour", "but this is not thy neighbour."''

This notion Christ opposes and disproves in the following parable, which is an answer to the lawyer's question.

(k) T. Bab. Tasnith, fol. 8. 1.((l) Kimchi in Psal. xv. 3.((m) Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. affirm. 9. (n) Maimon. Hilch. Rotzeach, c. 2. sect. 11. (o) Ib. c. 4. sect. 11.

{9} But he, willing {k} to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

(9) The law defines our neighbour as anyone at all that we may help.

(k) That is, to vouch his righteousness, or show that he was just, that is, void of all faults: and Jas 5:1-20 uses the word of justification in this sense.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 10:29. δικαιῶσαι ἑ., to keep up his character as a righteous man, concerned in all things to do his duty. Hence his desire for a definition of “neighbour,” which was an elastic term. Whether Lk. thinks of him as guilty of evasion and chicanery is doubtful. It was not his way to put the worst construction on the conduct even of scribes and Pharisees.—πλησίον, without article, is properly an adverb = who is near me? But the meaning is the same as if had been there.29. willing to justify himself] “before men”—a thing which the Pharisees were ever prone to do, Luke 16:15.

who is my neighbour?] He wants his moral duties to be labelled and defined with the Talmudic precision to which ceremonial duties had been reduced.Luke 10:29. Θέλων, wishing) with a heart not broken or bruised into contrition: priding himself on his one right reply.—δικαιοῦν, to justify) They who ask many questions have no delight in doing many deeds of obedience, and prefer to exempt themselves by subterfuges from the obligations of the law. He who limits, by exceptions and qualifications, those duties which ought to be performed, and the persons to whom such just duties are to be performed, invents for himself a righteousness easy of attainment.—καὶ, and who) This particle approves of the immediately preceding speech of the Lord, and yet adds something to it: it has a wonderfully characteristic effect in expressing the ἦθος or feeling of the speaker.Verse 29. - And who is my neighbour? The self-righteous, but probably rigidly conscientious, Jewish scholar, looking into the clear, truthful eyes of the Galilaean Master he had been taught to hate as the enemy of his own narrow, lightless creed, was struck, perhaps for the first time, with the moral beauty of the words of his own Law. Of the first part, his duty towards God, as far as his poor distorted mind could grasp the idea, he was at ease in his conscience. The tithe, down to the anise and cummin, had been scrupulously paid; his fasts had been rigidly observed, his feasts carefully kept, his prayer-formulas never neglected. Yes; as regards God, the Pharisee-lawyer's conscience was at ease! But his neighbour? He thought of his conduct towards that simple, truthful-looking Galilaean Rabbi, Jesus, that very day; trying to trip him up in his words, longing to do him injury - injury to that worn-looking, loving Man who had never done him any harm, and who, report said, was only living to do others good. Was he, perchance, his neighbour? So, vexed and uneasy - but it seems in perfect honesty now, and in good faith - he asks this further question, "Master, tell me, who do you teach should be included in the term 'neighbour'?" Willing (θέλων)

Rev., desiring. See on Matthew 1:19. I think this is stronger than desiring; rather, determined.

Neighbor (πλησίον)

See on Matthew 5:43.

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