But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Bring forth the best robe.—It is hardly necessary, perhaps, in such a parable, to press the symbolic interpretation of each minute detail; but in this instance the symbolism lies so near the surface that it is at least well to ask ourselves what meaning either earlier or later associations would lead the disciples to attach to them. The “best robe” cannot well be other than the “garment of praise” (Isaiah 61:3), the vesture of righteousness, the new life and immortality with which it is the desire of the penitent to be clothed upon; the ring, as the signet upon the right hand (Jeremiah 22:24), must be the token of the special favour of the Giver, the seal of his “calling and election;” the shoes must answer to that “preparation” or “readiness” which comes from the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15), and which makes him eager to do his work as a messenger who proclaims that gospel to others, and which he need not lay aside (comp. Exodus 3:5) even when he treads on the “holy ground” where man holds communion with God, the forgiven and restored son with the Eternal Father.
THE PRODIGAL AND HIS FATHER
GIFTS TO THE PRODIGAL
Luke 15:22 - Luke 15:23.
God’s giving always follows His forgiving. It is not so with us. We think ourselves very magnanimous when we pardon; and we seldom go on to lavish favours where we have overlooked faults. Perhaps it is right that men who have offended against men should earn restoration by acts, and should have to ride quarantine, as it were, for a time. But I question whether forgiveness is ever true which is not, like God’s, attended by large-hearted gifts. If pardon is only the non-infliction of penalty, then it is natural enough that it should be considered sufficient by itself, and that the evildoer should not be rewarded for having been bad. But if pardon is the outflow of the love of the offended to the offender, then it can scarcely be content with simply giving the debtor his discharge, and turning him into the world penniless.
However that may be with regard to men, God’s forgiveness is essentially the communication of God’s love to us sinners, as if we had never sinned at all. And, that being so, that love cannot stay its working until it has given all that it can bestow or we can receive. God does not do things by halves; and He always gives when He forgives.
Now that is the great truth of the last part of this immortal parable. And it is one of the points in which it differs from, and towers high above, the two preceding ones. The lost sheep was carried back to the pastures, turned loose there, needed no further special care, and began to nibble as if nothing had happened. The lost drachma was simply put back in the woman’s purse. But the lost son was pardoned, and, being pardoned, was capable of receiving, and received, greater gifts than he had before. These gifts are very remarkably detailed in the words of our text.
Now, of course, it is always risky to seek for a spiritual interpretation of every point in a parable, many of which points are mere drapery. But, on the other hand, we may very easily fall into the error of treating as insignificant details which really are meant to be full of instruction. And I cannot help thinking-although many would differ from me,-that this detailed enumeration of the gifts to the prodigal is meant to be translated into the terms of spiritual experience. So I desire to look at them as suggesting for us the gifts of God which accompany forgiveness. I take the catalogue as it stands-the Robe, the Ring, the Shoes, the Feast.
I. First, the Robe.
‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him.’ That was the command. This detail, of course, like all the others, refers back to, and casts light upon, the supposed condition of the spendthrift when he came back. There he stood, ragged, with the stain of travel and the stench of the pig-sty upon his garments, some of them, no doubt, remains of the tawdry finery that he had worn in the world; wine-spots, and stains, and filth of all sorts on the rags. The father says, ‘Take them all off him, and put the best robe upon him.’ What does that mean?
Well, we all know the very familiar metaphor by which qualities of mind, traits of character, and the like are described as being the dress of the spirit. We talk about being ‘arrayed in purity,’ ‘clad in zeal,’ ‘clothed with humility,’ ‘vested with power,’ and so on. If we turn to Scripture, we find running through it a whole series of instances of this metaphor, which guide us at once to its true meaning. Zechariah saw in vision the high priest standing at the heavenly tribunal, clad in filthy garments. A voice said, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him,’ and the interpretation is added: ‘Behold! I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with a change of raiment.’ You remember our Lord’s parable of the man with a wedding garment. You remember the Apostle Paul’s frequent use of the metaphor of ‘putting off the old man, putting on the new.’ You remember, finally, the visions of the last days, in which the Seer in Patmos saw the armies in heaven that followed their victorious Commander, ‘clothed in fine linen, white and pure, which is the righteousness of the saints.’ If we put all these together, surely I am not forcing a meaning on a non-significant detail, when I say that here we have shadowed for us the great thought, that the result of the divine forgiveness coming upon a man is that he is clothed with a character which fits him to sit down at his Father’s table. They tell us that forgiveness is impossible, because things done must have their consequences, and that character is the slow formation of actions, precipitated, as it were, from our deeds. That is all true. But it does not conflict with this other truth that there may and does come into men’s hearts, when they set their faith on Jesus Christ, a new power which transforms the nature and causes old things to pass away.
God’s forgiveness revolutionises a life. Similar effects follow even human pardons for small offences. Brute natures are held in by penalties, and to them pardon means impunity, and impunity means licence, and licence means lust. But wherever there is a heart with love to the offended in it, there is nothing that will so fill it with loathing of its past self as the assurance that the offended, though loved, One loves, and is not offended, and that free forgiveness has come. Whether is it the rod or the mother’s kiss that makes a child hate its sin most? And if we lift our thoughts to Him, and think how He, up there in the heavens,
‘Who mightest vengeance best have took,’
bends over us in frank, free forgiveness, then surely that, more than all punishments or threatenings or terrors, will cause us to turn away from our evil, and to loathe the sins which are thus forgiven. The prophet went very deep when he said, ‘Thou shalt be ashamed and confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thine iniquity, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord.’
But not only so, there is given along with forgiveness, and wrapped up in it, a new power, which makes all things new, and changes a man. It would be a poor Gospel for me to stand up and preach if I had only to proclaim to men the divine forgiveness; and if that only meant that hell’s door was barred and some outward heaven was flung open. But the true Gospel offers forgiveness as preliminary to the bestowal of the highest gifts of God. The pardoned man is stripped of his rags and clothed with a new nature which God Himself bestows.
That is what we all need. We have not all been in the pig-sty; we have not all fallen into gross sin. We have all turned our backs on our Father; we have all wanted to be independent; we have all preferred the far-off land to being near home. And, dear brethren, the character that you have made for yourselves clings to you like the poisoned Nessus’ shirt to Hercules. You cannot strip it off. You may get part of it away, but you cannot entirely cast it from your limbs, nor free yourselves from the entanglements of its tatters. Go to God, and He will smile away your sin, and His forgiving love will melt the stains and the evil, as the sun this morning drank up the mists; and they who come knowing themselves to be foul, and needing forgiveness, will surely receive from Him ‘the fine linen white and pure, the righteousness of saints.’
II. The Ring.
This prodigal lad only wanted to be placed in the position of a slave, but his father said, ‘Put a ring on his finger.’ The ring is an emblem of wealth, position, honour; that is one signification of this gift to the penitent. Still further, it is an ornament to the hand on which it glistens; that is another. It is a sign of delegated authority and of representative character; as when Joseph was exalted to be the second man in Egypt, and Pharaoh’s signet ring was plucked off and placed upon his finger. All these thoughts are, as it seems to me, clustered in, and fairly deducible from, this one detail.
Freedom, exaltation, dignity of position are expressed. And that opens up a thought which needs to be set forth with many reservations, and much guarding, but still is true-viz., that, by the mercy and miraculous loving-kindness and quickening power of God in the Gospel, it is possible that the lower a man falls the higher he may rise. I know, of course, that it is better to be innocent than to be cleansed. I know, and every man that looks into his own heart knows, that forgiven sins may leave scars; that the memory may be loaded with many a foul and many a painful remembrance; that the fetters may be stricken off the limbs, but the marks of them, and the way of walking that they compelled, may persist long after deliverance. But I know, too, that redeemed men are higher in final position than angels that never fell; and that, though it is too much to say that the greater the sinner the greater the saint, it still remains true that sin repented and forgiven may be, as it were, an elevation upon which a man may stand to reach higher than, apparently, he otherwise would in the divine life.
And so, though I do not say to any man, Make the experiment; for, indeed, the poorest of us has sins enough to get all the benefit out of repentance and forgiveness which is included in them, yet, if there is any man here-and I hope there is-saying to himself, ‘I have got too low down ever to master this, that, or the other evil; I have stained myself so foully that I cannot hope to have the black marks erased,’ I say to such; ‘Remember that the man who ended with a ring on his finger, honoured and dignified, was the man that had herded with pigs, and stank, and all but rotted, with his fleshly crimes.’ And so nobody need doubt but that for him, however low he has gone, and however far he has gone, there is restoration possible to a higher dignity than the pure spirits that never transgressed at any time God’s commandment will ever attain; for he who has within himself the experience of repentance, of pardon, and who has come into living contact with Jesus Christ as Redeemer, can teach angels how blessed it is to be a child of God.
Nor less distinctly are the other two things which I have referred to brought out in this metaphor. Not only is the ring the sign of dignity, but it is also the sign of delegated authority and representative character. God sets poor penitents to be His witnesses in His world, and to do His work here. And a ring is an ornament to the hand that wears it; which being translated is this: where God gives pardon, He gives a strange beauty of character, to which, if a man is true to himself, and to his Redeemer, he will assuredly attain. There should be no lives so lovely, none that flash with so many jewelled colours, as the lives of the men and women who have learned what it is to be miserable, what it is to repent, what it is to be forgiven. So, though our ‘hands have been full of blood,’ as the prophet says, though they have dabbled in all manner of pollution, though they have been the ready instruments of many evil things, we may all hope that, cleansed and whitened, even our hands will not want the lustre of that adornment which the loving father clasped upon the fingers of his penitent boy.
III. Further, ‘Shoes on his feet.’
No doubt he had come back barefooted and filthy and bleeding, and it was needful for the ‘keeping’ of the narrative that this detail should appear. But I think it is something more than drapery.
Does it not speak to us of equipment for the walk of life? God does prepare men for future service, and for every step that they have to take, by giving to them His forgiveness for all that is past. The sense of the divine pardon will in itself fit a man, as nothing else will, for running with patience the race that is set before him. God does communicate, along with His forgiveness, to every one who seeks it, actual power to ‘travel on life’s common way in cheerful godliness’; and his feet are ‘shod with the preparedness of the gospel of peace.’
Ah, brethren, life is a rough road for us all, and for those whose faces are set towards duty, and God, and self-denial, it is especially so, though there are many compensating circumstances. There are places where sharp flints stick up in the path and cut the feet. There are places where rocks jut out for us to stumble over. There are all the trials and sorrows that necessarily attend upon our daily lives, and which sometimes make us feel as if our path were across heated ploughshares, and every step was a separate agony. God will give us, if we go to Him for pardon, that which will defend us against the pains and the sorrows of life. The bare foot is cut by that which the shod foot tramples upon unconscious.
There are foul places on all our paths, over which, when we pass, if we have not something else than our own naked selves, we shall certainly contract defilement. God will give to the penitent man, if he will have it, that which will keep his feet from soil, even when they walk amidst filth. And if, at any time, notwithstanding the defence, some mud should stain the foot, and he that is washed needs again to wash his feet, the Master, with the towel and the basin, will not be far away.
There are enemies and dangers in life. A very important part of the equipment of the soldier in antiquity was the heavy boot, which enabled him to stand fast, and resist the rush of the enemy. God will give to the penitent man, if he will have it, that which will set his foot upon a rock, ‘and establish his goings,’ and which ‘will make him able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.’
Brethren, defence, stability, shielding from pains, and protection against evil are all included in this great promise, which each of us may realise, if we will, for ourselves.
IV. Lastly, the Feast.
Now that comes into view in the parable, mainly as teaching us the great truth that Heaven keeps holiday, when some poor waif comes shrinking back to his Father. But I do not touch upon that truth now, though it is the main significance of this last part of the story.
The prodigal was half starving, and the fatted calf was killed ‘for him,’ as his ill-conditioned brother grumbled. Remember what it was that drove him back-not his heart, nor his conscience, but his stomach. He did not bethink himself to go back, because dormant filial affection woke up, or because a sense that he had been wrong stirred in him, but because he was hungry; and well he might be, when ‘the husks that the swine did eat’ were luxuries beyond his reach. Thank God for the teaching that even so low a motive as that is accepted by God; and that, if a man goes back, even for no better reason-as long as he does go back, he will be welcomed by the Father. This poor boy was quite content to sink his sonship for the sake of a loaf; and all that he wanted was to stay his hunger. So he had to learn that he could not get bread on the terms that he desired, and that what he wished most was not what he needed first. He had to be forgiven and bathed in the outflow of his father’s love before he could be fed. And, being thus received, he could not fail to be fed. So the message for us is, first, forgiveness, and then every hunger of the heart satisfied; all desires met; every needful nourishment communicated, and the true bread ours for ever, if we choose to eat. ‘The meek shall eat and be satisfied.’
I need not draw the picture-that picture of which there are many originals sitting in these pews before me-of the men that go for ever roaming with a hungry heart, through all the regions of life separate from God; and whether they seek their nourishment in the garbage of the sty, or whether fastidiously they look for it in the higher nutriment of mind and intellect and heart, still are condemned to be unfilled.
Brethren, ‘Why do you spend your money for that . . . which satisfies not?’ Here is the true way for all desires to be appeased. Go to God in Jesus Christ for forgiveness, and then everything that you need shall be yours. ‘I counsel thee to buy of Me . . . white raiment that thou mayest be clothed.’ ‘He that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.’Genesis 27:15.
A ring on his hand - To wear a ring on the hand was one mark of wealth and dignity. The rich and those in office commonly wore them. Compare James 2:2. To "give" a ring was a mark of favor, or of affection, or of conferring office. Compare Genesis 41:42; Esther 8:2. Here it was expressive of the "favor" and affection of the father.
Shoes on his feet - Servants, probably, did not usually wear shoes. The son returned, doubtless, without shoes a condition very unlike that in which he was when he left home. When, therefore, the father commanded them to put shoes on him, it expressed his wish that he should not be treated "as a servant," but "as a son." The word "shoes" here, however, means no more than "sandals," such as were commonly worn. And the meaning of all these images is the same - "that God will treat those who return to him with kindness and affection." These images should not be attempted to be "spiritualized." They are beautifully thrown in to fill up the narrative, and to express with more force the "general" truth that "God" will treat returning penitents with mercy and with love. To dress up the son in this manner was a proof of the father's affection. So God will bestow on sinners the marks of his confidence and regard.
the best robe—Compare Zec 3:4, 5, "Take away the filthy garments from him; behold I have clothed thee with change of raiment; and they clothed him with garments" (Isa 61:10; Re 3:18).
a ring—(Compare Ge 41:42; Jas 2:2).
shoes—Slaves went barefoot. Thus, we have here a threefold symbol of freedom and honor, restored, as the fruit of perfect reconciliation.Ezekiel 3:20 33:13; so in case of a true and hearty repentance, the sins of a soul shall not be remembered, Isaiah 43:25.
The father taketh no notice of the prodigal’s leaving his house, or wasting his estate riotously, but saith,
Bring forth the best robe, thn stolhn thn prwthn; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, ton moscon ton siteuton. I find some interpreters who by the fatted calf are willing enough to understand Christ; yet interpreting the best robe, innocency, or inherent righteousness. Nor is it an ill interpretation, if we consider, that God, at the same time when he imputeth the merits of Christ to the soul for justification, doth also put his Spirit of holiness into the soul, by which being renewed in the inward man, this man brings forth the fruits of holiness unto righteousness, Ezekiel 36:26,27. But why we should not understand both the phrases of the application of Christ’s merits, and the imputation of his righteousness to the soul, I cannot tell, considering, that the church of Laodicea is counselled to buy of him white raiment, that she might be clothed, Revelation 3:18; and that those clothed with white robes, Revelation 7:14, are said to have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; and that though the habits of grace are sometimes in holy writ compared to clothing, Be ye clothed with humility, ( saith the apostle), yet these are not v stolv v prwtv. I should therefore rather choose to interpret the killing of the fatted calf for the prodigal son, as representing that application of the blood of Christ, which is made to every sinner that truly repenteth, and maketh its application to God for mercy; and the best robe, as the righteousness of Christ, in that moment reckoned unto the soul (thus believing) for righteousness. Further yet, (to consider it only in the parable), the word yusate, sacrifice the fatted calf, seems to signify what a great cause of thanksgiving to God, as well as joy amongst men, the conversion of a sinner is. We that are earthly parents, or ministers of the gospel, should not receive the news, or see the visible probability of a soul’s being converted, and returning unto God, without offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto God for doing such things for men, and without a true and hearty rejoicing in ourselves. But to return again to the meaning of the parable.
Let us eat, and be merry: consider these words as the words of a heavenly Father, they signify unto us, that the eternal God, from the day that a repenting soul hath the blood of Christ applied to it, and is clothed with his righteousness, is at peace with the soul, hath a communion with it, and that it from that time hath a true right to spiritual mirth and rejoicing; for light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart: though possibly the soul at present, through temptations, cannot apprehend it, and be not actually possessed of that joy and peace which followeth believing, yet it hath a right to it, and indeed none but that soul hath any thing to do with peace.
It followeth, For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. A sinful soul is a dead soul, as the woman that liveth in pleasure is said to be dead while she liveth, by the apostle. The conversion of a sinner is as a resurrection from the dead. Nor is any soul capable of any true mirth, till it be reconciled to God through the blood of Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:11 and signifies, that though the son had behaved so badly, and was now so sensible of it himself, as that he desired to be a hired servant, being unworthy to be called a son; but the "father", against whom he had sinned, would hear nothing of it: but
said to his servants; not the angels, but the ministers of the Gospel; who are the servants of the most high God; and whose business it is to set forth, in the ministry of the word, the righteousness of Christ, and the everlasting love of God; and to direct souls to a life and conversation becoming the Gospel of Christ; and to set before them the rich provisions of the Gospel for their nourishment, joy, and comfort. These servants, the father of the son ordered, not to take him away from his presence, as one whose person he could not endure in his sight; nor to terrify and affright him with the curse and condemnation of the law, and fill his mind with wroth and terror; nor even to chastise and correct him for his former course of living, and to upbraid him with it; but to confer upon him all the honour, and high favours, and blessings that could be expressed in the following language:
bring forth the best robe; out of the wardrobe, that it is in. The Vulgate Latin version adds "quickly"; which increases the father's regard to him and shows that he was in haste to have his son appear in a better condition: the Arabic version adds it in the next clause, "and put it on him quickly"; which expresses the same thing: and the Ethiopic version renders it, "hasten ye, bring", &c. By the "best robe" is meant, not water baptism; nor an holy life and conversation; nor any particular grace, as faith, or hope, or charity; or the whole of sanctification; nor Adam's robe of innocence; but the righteousness of Christ which is often compared to a robe, or garment, Isaiah 61:10 because it is not any thing in believers, but what is unto them, and upon them, and is put there by an act of God's grace in imputation; and is what covers their naked souls, and hides their sins from the avenging eye of divine justice; protects them from all injuries, and saves them from wrath to come; as well as beautifies and adorns them, and renders them acceptable in the sight of God; and keeps them warm and alive; and gives them a right and title to eternal life. This is as in the Greek text "the first robe"; and so it is rendered by the Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions; because it was first in God's designation and counsel, and in Christ the head of his people, in whom they are blessed with all spiritual blessings before the foundation of the world, and so with this blessing; and it was also provided and secured in the everlasting covenant of grace, long before Adam's robe of innocence and righteousness was made and wore by him: the reference is not to the first that should be come at in the wardrobe; or to that which the son wore before he went into the far country; but to the "Talith", which was the first and uppermost garment wore by the Jews, and answers to the Greek word "the stole", here used: so the Babylonish garment is called, , (d) which the gloss interprets a "Talith", made of pure wool. The Ethiopic version renders the phrase, "fragrant garments"; and such are Christ's garments of salvation, and robe of righteousness; see Psalm 45:8 the Persic version renders it, "the splendid robe"; and the Syriac, as ours, the "chief", or "best robe"; and such is Christ's righteousness: it is a better righteousness, not only than that of a self-righteous Pharisee; but better than the outward conversation garment of a real good man, which, at best, is imperfect; or than the inward sanctification of the Spirit of God, which, though pure, is not yet perfect: it is better than the robe of innocence wore by Adam in his sinless state; for that was but a natural righteousness, and the righteousness of a creature, and was loseable, as the event has shown; and had he kept it, would not have given him a title to eternal life: yea, it is better than the righteousness of the angels heaven; for what is said of Adam's, may be said of theirs, that it is natural, the righteousness of a creature; and had it not been for confirming grace, a loseable one: but Christ's righteousness is pure and perfect; the righteousness of God, and an everlasting one: and when the servants of God, the ministers of the Gospel, are ordered to bring it out,
and put it on him: this is done, not by the imputation of it to men, for that is the Father's act; nor by application of it to them, that is the Spirit's work; but by a declaration of it, setting it forth in a ministerial way before them; declaring it to be a justifying one, and encouraging their faith to lay hold upon it as such:
and put a ring on his hand; on one of the fingers of his hand: by which is intended not the grace of faith; that is, rather the hand on which the ring is put; and though this grace is both precious and ornamental, as will be allowed, yet it does not unite to Christ, this must be denied; it being a grace which flows from union, as all grace does; and by which souls have communion with Christ: nor are good works designed; such indeed who are called by grace, are to be set to work from a right principle, to a right end; and true grace does show itself by works; and good works are the seal and token of grace to the world; but then, as before, these are rather meant by the hand; since that is the instrument of action: nor is the seal and earnest of the Spirit meant by the ring. The Spirit of God is certainly the seal of grace, and the earnest of glory; and to have this is a high favour, and a precious benefit indeed, and what will never be taken away; but as faith, so not the Spirit is the bond of union between God and his people, but the fruit of it: by the "ring" is meant the everlasting love of God; and which, as a ring, is round, and has neither beginning nor end; it does not begin with the obedience of his people, nor with their love to him; nor with their conversion; nor with the mission, sufferings, and death of Christ; but was from all eternity; nor will it have any end, nor can there be any separation from it: this is the bond of union, that can never be dissolved; and this being manifested to the soul, is a token of freedom; it sets a man free from the bondage of corruption, and from the slavery of Satan, and introduces into the liberty of the children of God: it is a mark of great honour, a sign of riches, both of grace and glory; it is a declaration of sonship, and heirship; and is a seal and pledge of everlasting happiness: now the putting on of this ring does not design the shedding abroad of this love in the heart by the Spirit of God; but the declaration of it by his servants in a ministerial way; setting it forth in its nature and effects, to the great joy and comfort of souls; when believers receive it by the hand of faith, and which constrains them, and makes them active, and puts them upon doing good works to the glory of God.
And shoes on his feet: by feet are meant the outward walk and conversation; which in persons called by grace should be different from what it was before, and from that of others: it should not be loose and naked, as those that walk barefoot, but should be upright, straight, and regular; not carnal and earthly, but spiritual and heavenly; and should be with prudence, care, and circumspection, and worthy of their calling, and as becomes the Gospel of Christ: and by "the shoes" may be meant, the preparation of the Gospel of peace, Ephesians 6:15. The Gospel is as shoes to the feet; it beautifies and adorns, Sol 7:1 it keeps the feet tight and straight, the conversation regular and upright; preserves from slipping and failing; strengthens and makes more fit for walking; directs, guides, and influences in walking, and protects from the stones, thorns, and scorpions of the world's reproaches; and the doctrines of it are shoes that will never wear out: and to walk according to the Gospel of Christ, is what Gospel ministers direct and exhort unto, and may be meant by their putting on those shoes; they pressing a good life and conversation from, and by the doctrines of grace. A person with all these things on him was reckoned, among the Jews, as one thoroughly dressed: a canon of theirs, relating to the defilement of leprosy, runs thus (e);
"a man of Israel that goes into a house infected with the plague of leprosy, , "clothed with garments, and his sandals on his feet, and his rings on his hands", lo, that man is immediately defiled.''
(d) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 44. 1. Vid. Targum in Joshua 7.21. (e) Maimon Hilch. Tumaot Tzaraath, c. 16. sect. 6. T. Bab. Cholin, fol 71. 2.But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Luke 15:22. δούλους: their presence conceivable, the father’s running and the meeting noticed and reported by some one, so soon drawing a crowd to the spot, or to meet the two on the way to the house. To them the father gives directions which are his response to the son’s proposed self-degradation. He shall not be their fellow, they shall serve him by acts symbolic of reinstatement in sonship.—ταχὺ, quick! a most probable reading (  ), and a most natural exclamation; obliterate the traces of a wretched past as soon as possible; off with these rags! fetch robes worthy of my son, dressed in his best as on a gala day.—ἐξενέγκατε, bring from the house—στολὴν τ. πρώτην, the first robe, not in time, formerly worn (Theophy.), but in quality; cf. the second chariot, Genesis 41:43 (currus secundus, Bengel).—δακτύλιον (here only in N.T.): no epithet attached, golden, e.g. (Wolff, golden ring for sons, iron ring for slaves); that it would be a ring of distinction goes without saying.—ὑποδήματα, shoes; needed—he is barefoot and footsore; and worn by sons, not by slaves. Robe, ring, shoes: all symbols of filial state.
 Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.
 Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.
 Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.22. But the father said to his servants] It is as though he had purposely cut short the humble self-reproaching words of shame which would have entreated him to make his lost son like one of his hired servants. “While they are yet speaking, I will hear,” Isaiah 65:24.
Bring forth] The true reading is probably ‘Bring forth quickly’ א, B, L, &c.
the best robe] The talar or stole poderes, Luke 20:46; John 19:23; Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 3:18. Compare the remarkable scene of taking away the filthy rags from the High Priest Joshua, and clothing him with change of raiment, in Zechariah 3:1-10. It is literally ‘the first robe’ and some have explained it of the robe he used to wear at home—the former robe.
shoes on his feet] Another sign that he is to be regarded as a son, and not as a mere sandalled or unsandalled slave (see on Luke 10:4). Some have given special and separate significance to the best robe, as corresponding to the ‘wedding garment,’ the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Php 3:9); and have identified the seal-ring with Baptism (Ephesians 1:13-14); and the shoes with the preparation of the Gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15; Zechariah 10:12); and in the next verse have seen in the ‘fatted calf’ an allusion to the Sacrifice of Christ, or the Eucharist. Such applications are pious and instructive afterthoughts, though the latter is as old as Irenaeus; but it is doubtful whether the elaboration of them does not weaken the impressive grandeur and unity of the parable, as revealing the love of God even to His erring children. We must not confuse Parable with Allegory. The one dominant meaning of the parable is that God loved us even while we were dead in sins, Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5.
kill it] Rather, sacrifice it (comp. Herod. i. 118 where there is a sacrifice and supper for a son’s safety). Hence perhaps one reason for assigning to St Luke the Cherubic symbol of the calf (Introd. p. 13).Luke 15:22. Εἶπε, said) The son does not speak out all that he had determined to say; either because that, owing to the gracious reception given him by his Father, who came forth to meet him, his filial confidence being enkindled, absorbed all slavish feelings: or else because the gracious kindness of the Father broke off the words of the son [before the latter had spoken all he had intended to say].—πρὸς τοὺς δούλους, to the servants) He answers the son in very act [not in mere words].—ἐξενέγκατε, Bring forth) in public. If this son had performed the greatest and best achievements, he could not have looked for a greater honour.—τὴν) that which is.—πρώτην) the first, the principal and best one. On the other hand, it is the second chariot [that is given by Pharaoh to Joseph], Genesis 41:43.Verse 22. - But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. The older authorities add "quickly" after the words "bring forth." Everything is done by the father to assure the wanderer of full and entire forgiveness. Not only is a welcome given to the tired, ragged son, but he is invested at once, with all speed, with the insignia of his old rank as one of the house. But it is observable not a word is spoken of reply to the confession; in grave and solemn silence the story of the guilty past is received. Nothing can excuse it. He forgives, but forgives in silence.
Bond-servants. There is a fine touch in throwing in the bond-servants immediately after thy son (Luke 15:21).
Some texts add quickly (ταχὺ). So Rev.
The best robe (στολὴν τὴν πρώτην)
Both the ring and the shoes are marks of a free man. Slaves went barefoot.
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