Luke 12:48
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
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(48) He that knew not.—The words manifest the tenderness of a considerate equity, like that which uttered itself in our Lord’s words as to Sodom and Tyre and Sidon, in Luke 10:12-13. Man’s knowledge is the measure of his responsibilities; and in the absence of knowledge, more or less complete, though stripes may be inflicted as the only effective discipline for teaching men what things are or are not worthy of stripes, yet they shall be “few.” The words throw a gleam of hope on the darkness that lies behind the veil. We know not whether the “few stripes” imply limited duration, or suffering less acute, the tolerabilior damnatio of Augustine, and need not care to know. We may well be content to leave that question to Him who spake the words, and in so doing gave the most convincing proof that the Judge of all the earth will assuredly do right (Genesis 18:25).

Unto whomsoever much is given.—The two clauses differ slightly, though they are parallel in meaning; the first referring to “gifts” which involve what we speak of as a general moral responsibility, the second to that which has been solemnly “committed to men as a trust or deposit.” (Comp. 1Timothy 6:20; 2Timothy 1:12; 2Timothy 1:14.)

12:41-53 All are to take to themselves what Christ says in his word, and to inquire concerning it. No one is left so ignorant as not to know many things to be wrong which he does, and many things to be right which he neglects; therefore all are without excuse in their sin. The bringing in the gospel dispensation would occasion desolations. Not that this would be the tendency of Christ's religion, which is pure, peaceable, and loving; but the effect of its being contrary to men's pride and lusts. There was to be a wide publication of the gospel. But before that took place, Christ had a baptism to be baptized with, far different from that of water and the Holy Spirit. He must endure sufferings and death. It agreed not with his plan to preach the gospel more widely, till this baptism was completed. We should be zealous in making known the truth, for though divisions will be stirred up, and a man's own household may be his foes, yet sinners will be converted, and God will be glorified.Few stripes - The Jews never inflicted more than forty stripes for one offence, Deuteronomy 25:3. For smaller offences they inflicted only four, five, six, etc., according to the nature of the crime. In allusion to this, our Lord says that he "that knew not" - that is, he who had comparatively little knowledge - would suffer a punishment proportionally light. He refers, doubtless, to those who have fewer opportunities, smaller gifts, or fewer teachers.

Much is given - They who have much committed to their disposal, as stewards, etc. See the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

48. knew not—that is knew but partially; for some knowledge is presupposed both in the name "servant" of Christ, and his being liable to punishment at all.

many … few stripes—degrees of future punishment proportioned to the knowledge sinned against. Even heathens are not without knowledge enough for future judgment; but the reference here is not to such. It is a solemn truth, and though general, like all other revelations of the future world, discloses a tangible and momentous principle in its awards.

See Poole on "Luke 12:42" But he that knew not,.... His Lord's will; either not having the means of knowing it, as the Heathens; or through neglect of them, not attending to them, and making use of them, which is the case of many, where the Gospel revelation is:

and did commit things worthy of stripes; or punishment; as the Gentiles, by sinning against the law, and light of nature; and those who might have the advantage of a divine revelation, but neglect it: the Septuagint in Deuteronomy 25:2 have the same phrase as here, , "worthy of stripes":

shall be beaten with few stripes; their punishment shall be less, and it shall be more tolerable for them in the day of judgment, than for knowing professors. The Jews did not always inflict forty stripes, or forty save one, upon delinquents; but according to their crimes, and as they were able to bear them, more or fewer: so it is said (w),

"when they judge a sinner, how many (stripes) he can bear, they do not reckon, but by stripes that are fit to be trebled: if they judge he is able to bear "twenty", they do not order that he be beaten with twenty one, that so they may be trebled, but that he be beaten with "eighteen": if they condemn him to receive forty, and after he is begun to be beaten, they observe him to be weak, and they say he cannot bear any more than these "nine", or "twelve", with which he has been beaten, lo, he is free; if they condemn him to receive "twelve", and after that he is beaten, they see that he is strong and able to bear more, lo, he is free, and he is not to be beaten any more, upon that estimation: if they condemn him today that he is to be beaten with "twelve" (stripes), and they do not beat him till tomorrow, and lo, tomorrow he is able to bear eighteen, they do not beat him but with twelve.''

And elsewhere the rule is (x),

"he that commits a sin, in which there are two negative (commands broken) if they pronounce but one sentence, he is beaten and is free; but if not (i.e. if more than one) he is beaten, and when he is healed, he is beaten again.''

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall, much be required: the more knowledge a man has, the more practice is expected from him; and the greater his gifts are, the more useful he ought to be, and diligent in the improvement of them:

and to whom men have committed much, or to whom much is committed, of him they will ask the more; not more than what was committed to him, but more than from him, who has less committed to him; in proportion to what a man is entrusted with, the greater increase and improvement it is expected he should make.

(w) Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 17. sect. 2, 3.((x) Misn. Maccot, c. 3. sect. 11.

But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask {m} the more.

(m) More than the one who did not receive as much.

Luke 12:48. ὁ δὲ μὴ γνοὺς: the opposite case is that of one who does not know. What he would do if he did know is another question; but it is not to be gratuitously supposed that he would neglect his duty utterly, like the other, though he does commit minor faults. He is a lower servant in the house to whom the master gave no particular instructions on leaving, therefore without special sense of responsibility during his absence, and apt like the average servant to take liberties when the master is away from home.—παντὶ δὲ ᾧ ἐδόθη, etc.: a general maxim further explaining the principle regulating penalty or responsibility (cf. Matthew 25:15 ff.).48. that knew not] i.e. that knew not fully (Jonah 4:11; 1 Timothy 1:13), for there is no such thing as absolute moral ignorance (Romans 1:20; Romans 2:14-15)

shall be beaten with few stripes] A most important passage as alone clearly stating that punishment shall be only proportional to sin, and that there shall be a righteous relation between the amount of the two.

They who knew not will not of course be punished for any involuntary ignorance, but only for actual misdoing.Luke 12:48. Ὀλίγας) not merely fewer than he who knew his Lord’s will, but few absolutely.—ᾧ ἐδόθη πολύ, to whom much has been given) especially if he himself has got it by solicitation and by violence.—παρἐθεντο) To whom those, whose business it was to commit it, have committed as a deposit, much. A personal verb used with the ellipsis of the person [those or men].Stripes

See on Luke 10:30.


See on set before, Luke 9:16.

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