Luke 12:20
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
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(20) But God said unto him.—The bold anthropomorphic language seems intended to suggest the thought not only that death came suddenly, but that the man felt that it came from God as the chastisement of his folly.

Thy soul shall be required.—Literally, they require thy soul of thee. The idiom, as in Luke 12:48, and Luke 14:35, is impersonal, and does not require us to supply any definite nominative. We may compare “that when ye fail, they may receive you . . .” (Luke 16:9) as a possibly analogous instance; but see Note there.

Then whose shall those things be?—The words indicate one of the disturbing thoughts that vex the souls of the wealthy, “He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them” (Psalm 39:6).

12:13-21 Christ's kingdom is spiritual, and not of this world. Christianity does not meddle with politics; it obliges all to do justly, but wordly dominion is not founded in grace. It does not encourage expectations of worldly advantages by religion. The rewards of Christ's disciples are of another nature. Covetousness is a sin we need constantly to be warned against; for happiness and comfort do not depend on the wealth of this world. The things of the world will not satisfy the desires of a soul. Here is a parable, which shows the folly of carnal worldling while they live, and their misery when they die. The character drawn is exactly that of a prudent, worldly man, who has no grateful regard to the providence of God, nor any right thought of the uncertainty of human affairs, the worth of his soul, or the importance of eternity. How many, even among professed Christians, point out similar characters as models for imitation, and proper persons to form connexions with! We mistake if we think that thoughts are hid, and thoughts are free. When he saw a great crop upon his ground, instead of thanking God for it, or rejoicing to be able to do more good, he afflicts himself. What shall I do now? The poorest beggar in the country could not have said a more anxious word. The more men have, the more perplexity they have with it. It was folly for him to think of making no other use of his plenty, than to indulge the flesh and gratify the sensual appetites, without any thought of doing good to others. Carnal worldlings are fools; and the day is coming when God will call them by their own name, and they will call themselves so. The death of such persons is miserable in itself, and terrible to them. Thy soul shall be required. He is loth to part with it; but God shall require it, shall require an account of it, require it as a guilty soul to be punished without delay. It is the folly of most men, to mind and pursue that which is for the body and for time only, more than that for the soul and eternity.Thou fool - If there is any supreme folly, it is this. As though riches could prolong life, or avert for a moment the approach of pain and death.

This night ... - What an awful sentence to a man who, as he thought, had got just ready to live and enjoy himself! In a single moment all his hopes were blasted, and his soul summoned to the bar of his long-forgotten God. So, many are surprised as suddenly and as unprepared. They are snatched from their pleasures, and hurried to a world where there is no pleasure, and where all their wealth cannot purchase one moment's ease from the gnawings of the worm that never dies.

Shall be required of thee - Thou shalt be required to die, to go to God, and to give up your account.

Then whose ... - Whose they may be is of little consequence to the man that lost his soul to gain them; but they are often left to heirs that dissipate them much sooner than the father procured them, and thus they secure "their" ruin as well as his own. See Psalm 39:6; Ecclesiastes 2:18-19.

20, 21. this night, &c.—This sudden cutting short of his career is designed to express not only the folly of building securely upon the future, but of throwing one's whole soul into what may at any moment be gone. "Thy soul shall be required of thee" is put in opposition to his own treatment of it, "I will say to my soul, Soul," &c.

whose shall those things be, &c.—Compare Ps 39:6, "He heapeth up riches and knoweth not who shall gather them."

See Poole on "Luke 12:18"

But God said unto him,.... He determined within himself he should die that night; for the time of a man's death, as well as of his birth, is fixed by God; or he sent the messenger of death, some disease or another, the language of which was, immediate death, or death in a very short time; or spoke to his conscience, and impressed it on his mind, that he should die that night, and not live:

thou fool: as he appeared to be, throughout the whole of his conduct:

this night thy soul shall be required of thee: which is of God's immediate formation, is immortal, of more worth than a world, and its loss is irreparable; and for which a man is accountable to God, the Father of spirits; and which he requires at a man's hands at death, which is here designed; and shows, that a man has no power over it to retain it, but must give it up when it is called for, even that very instant, "this night" which may refer to the time when covetous persons are employing their thoughts about their worldly goods, or when epicures and sensual persons are indulging themselves in luxury and intemperance; and to the condition the soul is in, being in the night and in darkness, and knows not whither it is going; and denotes its immediate remove, and the suddenness of divine wrath and vengeance; the Vulgate Latin, and Syriac versions, agreeably to the Greek text, read the words, "this night do they require thy soul of thee"; or "out of thy body", as the Persic version reads: the Ethiopic version renders it, "they shall take thy soul from thee"; that is, the evil angels, the devils having a commission from God, shall demand thy soul; and as soon as ever it is separated from the body, shall seize upon it, and carry it to hell; just as the good angels carry the souls of the saints to heaven, Luke 16:22

Then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? not his own, for he can carry nothing with him; nor does he know whose they will be, whether the persons he designed them for, or some others whom he abhorred, and would, if possible, have prevented their enjoyment of them; and should he have them for whom he intended them, he does not know how he will turn out, whether a wise man or a fool, or what use he will make of them.

But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
Luke 12:20-21. Εἶπε κ.τ.λ.] is not to be converted into a decrevit (Kuinoel), etc. We have, indeed, no history; πλάττεται γὰρ ταῦτα ἡ παραβολή, Theophylact.

ταύτῃ] with emphasis.

ἀπαιτοῦσιν] the categoric plural (see on Matthew 2:20), which therefore does not prevent our regarding God Himself as the author of what was done, although the subject is left undetermined. The thought of a robber and murderer (Paulus, Bornemann) is not to be allowed on account of Luke 12:21.

τίνι ἔσται] not to thee will it belong, but to others!

Luke 12:21. So, having incurred the loss of his happiness by the unexpected appearance of death, is he who collects treasure for himself (for his own possession and enjoyment), and is not rich in reference to God; i.e. is not rich in such wise that his wealth passes over to God (Romans 10:12), by his possession, namely, of treasures in heaven, which God saves up in order to impart them to the man when Messiah’s kingdom shall be set up. See on Matthew 5:12; Matthew 6:20. Comp. 1 Timothy 6:19, and on Colossians 1:5. The πλουτεῖν εἰς θεόν (unless, however, εἰς is to be taken for ἐν, as Luther, Beza, Calovius, and others would have it) is substantially the same as ἔχειν θησαυροὺς ἐν οὐρανῷ (comp. Luke 12:33), and it is realized through δικαιοσύνη, and in the case of the rich man, especially through loving activity (Matthew 19:21; Luke 16:9), such as Christ desires, Matthew 6:2-4. It is not temporal possession of wealth which is applied in usum et honorem Dei (Majus, Elsner, Kypke, comp. Möller, Neue Ansichten, p. 201 ff.), but the higher ideal possession of wealth, the being rich in Messianic possessions laid up with God, and one day to be received from Him, which is wanting to the egoistic θησαυρίζων ἑαυτῷ. Against the former view, entertained by Majus and the rest, it is decisive that the negation of the being rich in relation to God (not of the becoming rich) is regarded as bound up with the selfish heaping up of treasure. This withal in opposition to Bornemann: “qui quod dives est prosperoque in augendis divitiis successu utitur, sibi tribuit, non Deo.”

Luke 12:20. εἶπε δὲ α., but God said to him, through conscience at the death hour (Euthy.).—ἀπαιτοῦσι, they ask thy life = thy life is asked.—τίνι ἔσται, whose? Not thine at all events.

20. Thou fool] Literally, “Senseless]” 1 Corinthians 15:36.

this night] Compare the death of Nabal, 1 Samuel 25:36.

thy soul shall be required of thee] Rather, they demand thy soul of thee. Who are ‘they’? Some say God (Job 27:8), or His death- angels (Job 33:22), or robbers whom they suppose to attack the rich man on the night that his wealth has flowed in. There is however no definite pronoun, the phrase is impersonal, as often in Hebrew.

then whose shall those things be] “He heapeth up riches and knoweth not who shall gather them,” Psalm 39:6; Psalm 49:16-17; comp. Psalm 52:7 and James 4:13-15. St James seems to have been deeply impressed with this teaching.

Luke 12:20. Εἶπε, said) if not by an express revelation, yet in His secret judgment: [Comp. Isaiah 57:11.]—ἄφρον, thou fool) This is put in contrast with his opinion of his own prudence, of which Luke 12:17, et seqq., treat.—νυκτὶ, this night) It is at night that most of the Divine addresses to men take place: it is at night that there occur many sudden deaths. [Job 27:20, “A tempest stealeth him away in the night.”]—ψυχὴν, soul) concerning which he had spoken so confidently in Luke 12:19.—ἀπαιτοῦσιν) They to whom the power of requiring the soul is given, require thine of thee:—they whom thou thyself knowest not, O rich man. An elliptical expression, as Revelation 12:6. So 1 Samuel 3:9 in the Hebr., where the LXX, according to the Aldine copy, has the full expression, ἐὰν καλέσῃ ὁ καλῶν: comp. 2 Samuel 17:9.—[ἃ δὲ ἡτοίμασας, those possessions which thou hast acquired [provided]) Not seldom, if one is said to have acquired and left behind many thousands, we may be sure that he has bestowed on that object the greatest share of his vital energies.—V. g.]—τίνι, for whom, for whose advantage) The dative of profit (Dativus commodi). So Genesis 45:20, ὑμῖν ἔσται. There are many things belonging to the rich, which, however, are not for the rich. The rich man knows not for whom they are about to be [who shall have the good of them, the enjoyment out of them]: at all events, they shall not be for the rich man himself.

Verse 20. - But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee. The literal rendering of the Greek here is more solemn and impressive in its awful vagueness: This night they require thy soul of thee. Who are meant by they? Most likely the angels: not necessarily "avenging," as Trench would suggest; simply those angels whose special function it was to conduct the souls of the departed to their own place. So we read in the parable of Lazarus and Dives how angels carried the soul of Lazarus into Abraham's bosom. On the words, "they require," Theophylact writes, "For, like pitiless exactors of tribute, terrible angels shall require thy soul from thee unwilling, and through love of life resisting. For from the righteous his soul is not required, but he commits it to God and the Father of spirits, pleased and rejoicing; nor finds it hard to lay it down, for the body lies upon it as a light burden. But the sinner who has enfleshed his soul, and embodied it, and made it earthy, has so prepared it to render its divulsion from the body most hard; wherefore it is said to be required of him, as a disobedient debtor that is delivered to exactors." Then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? Our Lord here reproduced the thought contained in passages with which no doubt he had been familiar from his boyhood. "Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool?" (Ecclesiastes 2:18, 19). "He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them" (Psalm 39:6). The parallel in the apocryphal book, Ecclus. 11:18, 19, is very close. Luke 12:20Fool (ἄφρων)

Senseless. In Xenophon's "Memorabilia," Socrates, addressing Aristodemus, says, "Which do you take to be the more worthy of admiration, those who make images without sense (ἀφρονά) or motion, or those who make intelligent and active creations?" (1, iv., 4). Sometimes, also, in the sense of crazed, frantic, but never in New Testament.

Is required (ἀπαιτοῦσιν)

Lit., they require; i.e., the messengers of God. The indefiniteness is impressive.

Whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?

The Greek order puts that first which was uppermost in the rich man's thought - his accumulations: "and the things which thou hast provided (Rev., prepared), whose shall they be?" God does not say, "the things which thou hast or possessest." The whole question of the tenure of his property is opened for the rich man. He had said my fruits and my goods. Now his proprietorship is ignored. They are not his. Whose shall they be? He is to be dispossessed at once. Plato relates how Pluto complained to Zeus that the souls of the dead found their way to the wrong places, because the judged have their clothes on, and evil souls are clothed in fair bodies, so that the judges, who also have their clothes on and their souls veiled by their mortal part, are deceived. Zeus replies: "In the first place, I will deprive men of the foreknowledge of death which they now have. In the second place, they shall be entirely stripped before they are judged, for they shall be judged when they are dead; and the judge, too, shall be naked; that is to say, dead. He, with his naked soul, shall pierce into the other naked soul, and they shall die suddenly and be deprived of all their kindred, and leave their brave attire strewn upon the earth" ("Gorgias," 523).

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