And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger . . .—The words, in their relation to the effect of the punishment on the rich man’s character, offer two tenable explanations. On the one hand, they have been thought to indicate the old selfish arrogance and heartlessness of the man who still looks on Lazarus as one who may be sent hither and thither, at any cost of suffering, to do his bidding and minister to his ease; on the other, we may see in them the traces of pride conquered, and the cry for mercy at last coming from lips that had never uttered it before, and the craving for help and sympathy from one whom in his lifetime he had despised as beneath his notice. There is something terribly significant in the fact that it is the “tongue” that suffers most in that agonising flame. That was the organ of the sense which the man had pampered by his riotous and sumptuous living: that is now the chief instrument of retribution. The lesson is the same as that which a poet of our own has taught us—
“The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to scourge us.”—
Shakespeare, King Lear, v. 3.Luke 16:24-25. He cried, Father Abraham, have mercy on me — Being in an agony of pain, by reason of the flames, and the anguish felt in his conscience, he cried to Abraham to take pity on him, his son, and send Lazarus to give him, if it were but the very least degree of relief, by dipping the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue, for his torment was intolerable. Abraham might have replied, Thou art not my son, I disown thee; what has become of thy purple and fine linen, thy perfumes, thy feastings, thy dancings? Where are thy delicious wines, now that thou art so earnestly begging a drop of water to cool thy tongue? Instead of thy stately palace, thou art shut up in hell; instead of pleasure, thou art filled with pain; instead of music and mirth, nothing is heard but wailing and gnashing of teeth. No: such speeches, however just, would not have been suitable to the humanity of blessed Abraham; for which reason that good patriarch did not so much as put this wicked man in mind of his ill-spent life; only, being to justify God for having made so sudden and so remarkable a change in his state, he called him his son, and spake of his past debauched way of living in the softest manner possible, showing us the sweet disposition of the blessed in heaven. It cannot be denied, that there is one precedent here in Scripture, of praying to a departed saint: but who is he that prays? and with what success? Will any one who considers this be inclined to imitate him? And Abraham said, Son — That is, according to the flesh; remember, &c. — Is it not worthy of observation, that Abraham will not revile, even a damned soul? And shall living men revile one another? That thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things — He bade him consider, that in his lifetime he chose and accepted of worldly things, as his good, his happiness, despising heaven, and valuing, and seeking nothing but the riches, pleasures, and honours of earth. And can any be at a loss then to know why he was in torments? This damnable idolatry, had there been nothing else, was enough to sink him to the nethermost hell. But Abraham further intimates to him, that having enjoyed the good things of this world in the greatest perfection, he could not think it hard if, by the sentence of God, in the open violation of whose laws he had lived, especially of the great law enjoining sincere and fervent love to God and man, he was deprived of that heaven, and of those spiritual and eternal blessings, which he had always despised. And likewise Lazarus evil things — He reminded him that Lazarus, on the other hand, had borne the miseries of life with patience, had trusted in God, and looked forward to a better state: but now he is comforted — His afflictions are all brought to an end, and he is refreshed with eternal joys, which know neither hunger, nor cold, nor pain. He who had no house in which to hide his head, is now a free citizen, and blessed inhabitant of heaven: immortal joys and everlasting love refresh his soul, who lately desired the crumbs from thy table. Glory is his splendid robe for ever, health and gladness attend him always, who was covered only with sores and ulcers upon earth; and he is delighted with the sweet society of God, of angels, and of all the saints, whom no man regarded upon earth, and whose sores the dogs licked, more compassionate than his fellow-creatures. And thou art tormented — Instead of thy purple robe and fine linen, thou art invested with a robe of fiery flame: instead of sumptuous fare, art fed with bitter tears, and gnawed continually by a condemning conscience; instead of thy past elegancies and comforts, nothing but torment and anguish surrounds thee. Observe well, reader, it is not the merely being in a state of poverty and affliction on the one hand, or of wealth, affluence, and ease on the other, that causes this difference in the future conditions of men, that in itself saves or destroys their souls: but it is the right or wrong use of either state. When a man considers the good things of this life as his chief good; when his heart is taken up by them, and he is so intent on the gaining, the retaining, the increasing, or the enjoyment of them, as to neglect making his peace with God, and giving his heart to him in holy love, and his life in uniform obedience; or, when he makes his riches the instruments of pride, luxury, and uncharitableness; of impiety toward God, and inhumanity toward his fellow-creatures; — then he so receives his good things here as to give up all right to the good things hereafter; and having been here comforted by the enjoyment of temporal goods, will hereafter be tormented by the suffering of eternal evils. “For,” as an able writer well observes, and as is intimated in the note on Luke 16:21, “our Lord’s principal view in this discourse most evidently was, to warn men of the danger of that worldly- mindedness, neglect of religion, and devotedness to pleasure and profit, which is not so much any one vice, as it is the foundation and source of all vices. It is that which makes men regardless of futurity, and not to have God in all their thoughts. It is that deceitfulness of riches, ambition, and voluptuousness, and the care of things temporal, which stifle all sense of religion, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
Have mercy on me - Pity me. The rich man is not represented as calling on "God." The mercy of God will be at an end when the soul is lost. Nor did he "ask" to be released from that place. Lost spirits "know" that their sufferings will have no end, and that it would be in vain to ask to escape the place of torment. Nor does he ask to be admitted where Lazarus was. He had no "desire" to be in a holy place, and he well knew that there was no restoration to those who once sink down to hell.
Send Lazarus - This shows how low he was reduced, and how the circumstances of people change when they die. Just before, Lazarus was laid at his gate full of sores; now he is happy in heaven. Just before, he had nothing to give, and the rich man could expect to derive no benefit from him; now he asks, as the highest favor, that he might come and render him relief. Soon the poorest man on earth, if he is a friend of God, will have mercies which the rich, if unprepared to die, can never obtain. The rich will no longer despise such people; they would "then" be glad of their friendship, and would beg for the slightest favor at their hands.
Dip the tip ... - This was a small favor to ask, and it shows the greatness of his distress when so small a thing would be considered a great relief.
Cool my tongue - The effect of great "heat" on the body is to produce almost insupportable thirst. Those who travel in burning deserts thus suffer inexpressibly when they are deprived of water. So "pain" of any kind produces thirst, and particularly if connected with fever. The sufferings of the rich man are, therefore, represented as producing burning "thirst," so much that even a drop of water would be refreshing to his tongue. We can scarce form an idea of more distress and misery than where this is continued from one day to another without relief. We are not to suppose that he had been guilty of any particular wickedness with his "tongue" as the cause of this. It is simply an idea to represent the natural effect of great suffering, and especially suffering in the midst of great heat.
I am tormented - I am in anguish - in insupportable distress.
In this flame - The lost are often represented as suffering "in flames," because "fire" is an image of the severest pain that we know. It is not certain, however, that the wicked will be doomed to suffer in "material" fire. See the notes at Mark 9:44.
mercy on me—who never showed any (Jas 2:3).
send Lazarus—the pining victim of his merciless neglect.
that he may—take me hence? No; that he dares not to ask.
dip … tongue—that is the least conceivable and the most momentary abatement of his torment; that is all. But even this he is told is (1) unreasonable.See Poole on "Luke 16:19" Matthew 3:9 and so persons are after death represented by them, as speaking to, and discoursing with him; as in the passage cited in the note See Gill on Luke 16:22 to which the following may be added (c);
"says R. Jonathan, from whence does it appear that the dead discourse with each other? it is said, Deuteronomy 34:4 "And the Lord said unto him, this is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying", &c. what is the meaning of the word "saying?" the holy blessed God said to Moses, "go say to Abraham", &c.''
And here the Jews, in their distress, are represented as applying to him, saying,
have mercy on me, and send Lazarus; which seems to have respect to the mercy promised to Abraham, the covenant made with him, and the oath swore unto him, to send the Messiah, Luke 1:70 and which now, too late, these wretched Jews plead, the Messiah being sent already:
that he may dip the tip of his finger in water; in allusion to the washings and purifications among the Jews, and the sprinkling of blood by the finger of the high priest; which were typical of cleansing, pardon, comfort, and refreshment, by the grace and blood of Christ:
and cool my tongue; which had spoken so many scurrilous and blasphemous things of Christ; saying that he was a sinner, a glutton, and a winebibber, a Samaritan, and had a devil; that he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils; and that he was a seditious person, and guilty of blasphemy: so the Jews represent persons in hell, desirous of cooling water, and as sometimes favoured with it, and sometimes not: they say (d), he that reads "Keriat Shema, (i.e. hear, O Israel", &c.) and very accurately examines the letters of it, "they cool hell for him", as it is said, Psalm 68:14. And elsewhere (e), they speak of a disciple, or good man, that was seen after death amidst gardens, and orchards, and fountains of water; and of a publican, or wicked man, seen standing by the bank of a river, seeking , "to come to the water, but could not come at it". So Mahomet (f) has a passage that is somewhat like to this text;
"the inhabitants of hell fire, shall call to the inhabitants of paradise, saying, pour upon us some water, or of those refreshments God hath bestowed on you.''
This man could not so much as get a drop of water to cool his tongue, not the least refreshment, nor mitigation of the anguish of his conscience, for the sins of his tongue:
for I am tormented in this flame; in the destruction of Jerusalem, and calamities at Bither, and other afflictions; together with the wrath of God poured into the conscience, and the bitter remorses of that for speaking against the Messiah; and which are still greater in hell, where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Luke 16:24. Καὶ αὐτός] and he, on his part, as opposed to the patriarch and to Lazarus.
The poetical discourse as it advances now gives us a conversation from the two parts of Hades (for Rabbinical analogies, see in Lightfoot, p. 864 f.), in which, however, the prayer for the service of Lazarus is not on the part of the rich man continued presumption (Lange, L. J. II. 1, p. 394: “that Lazarus was to be sent on an errand for him”), but finds its motive simply in the fact that it is precisely Lazarus whom he sees reposing on Abraham’s bosom. The text does not go further, but leaves to be felt with sufficient profundity what is the humiliating reversal of the relation (that the despised beggar was now to be the reviver of the rich man).
τὸ ἄκρον τ. δακτ.] even only such a smallest cooling, what a favour it would be to him in his glowing heat! Lange grotesquely conjectures that he asks only for such a delicate touching, because he had seen Lazarus in the impurity of his sores. In his condition he certainly had done with such reflections.
ὕδατος] Genitivus materiae. See Bernhardy, p. 168; Buttmann, Neut. Gr. p. 148 [E. T. 170].
 Comp. also Bengel: “Adhuc vmpendit Lazarum heluo.”Luke 16:24. Πάτερ Ἀ.: the rich man, like Lazarus, is a Jew, and probably, as a son of Abraham, very much surprised that he should find himself in such a place (Matthew 3:8-9), and still hoping that the patriarch can do something for him.—καταψύξῃ (καταψύχω, here only in N.T.): surely that small service will not be refused! If the flames cannot be put out, may the pain they cause not be mitigated by a cooling drop of water on the tip of the tongue?—a pathetic request.24. I am tormented] Rather, I am suffering pain. The verb is not basanizomai but odundmai, as in Luke 2:48, where it is rendered ‘sorrowing.’
in this flame] Perhaps meant to indicate the agony of remorseful memories. In Hades no
“Lethe the river of oblivion rolls:
Her watery labyrinth, whereof who drinks
Forthwith his former state and being forgets,
Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain.”
As for the material flame and the burning tongue, “we may,” says Archbishop Trench, “safely say that the form in which the sense of pain, with the desire after alleviation, embodies itself, is figurative.” Even the fierce and gloomy Tertullian says that how to understand what is meant by these details “is scarcely perhaps discovered by those who enquire with gentleness, but by contentious controversialists never.”Luke 16:24. Αὐτὸς, himself). No longer now does he enjoy the attendance of slaves, but is a beggar himself.—πάτερ, father) Implying his “glorying in the flesh” [boasting of mere outward privileges of descent from the father of the faithful]: ‘Son’ in Luke 16:25 corresponds to ‘Father’ here.—πέμψον, send) Even as yet the self-indulger holds in little esteem Lazarus, even as yet in little esteem Moses: Luke 16:30.—ἵνα βάψῃ, that he may dip) This verb does not always imply a great abundance of water: from it is derived βαπτίζω. Not even the slightest mitigation is vouchsafed. This truly is “the wine of the wrath of God poured out, ἄκρατον, without mixture.” Revelation 14:10, (Chrysostom observes, ἡ τῆς ἐλεημοσύνης σταγὼν ἀμίκτως ἔχει πρὸς τὴν ἀπήνειαν, A drop of the Divine compassion is not mixed with the unfeeling hard-heartedness of this rich feaster.—γλῶσσαν, tongue) His tongue it was that had especially sinned.Verse 24. - And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. His intense longing seems to be for companionship. "Oh for a friend," he seems to say, "who could speak to me, comfort me, give me the smallest alleviation of the pain I suffer!" What picture of a hell was ever painted by man comparable to this vision of eternal solitude, peopled alone by remorseful memories, described by Jesus? As the Divine Speaker advanced in his thrilling, melancholy description of the rich man's condition in the world to come, how vividly must the listeners have recalled the Master's earnest advice to them, in his former parable of the steward, to make to themselves while here friends who would receive them into everlasting habitations! They saw the meaning of that detail of the parable then. Were flay, in their luxurious abundance, were they making friends here who would help them there in the eternal tents? Were they not, perhaps, making the same mistake as the rich man of the story? The question might be asked - Why is Abraham, the father of the chosen race, the centre of this blessed life in Hades? In reply, firstly, it must be remembered that the whole colouring of this parable is peculiarly rabbinic, and in the schools of the rabbis the life of the blessed in Paradise is represented as a banquet, over which, until Messiah come, Abraham is represented as presiding. And, secondly, when the parable was spoken, the Saviour was actually on earth; his great redemption work had still to be accomplished. There was truth as well as error mingled in that strange rabbinical teaching. Messiah, as Messiah, when the parable was being probably acted, had not entered that realm where Abraham and many another holy and humble man of heart were in the enjoyment of exquisite bliss.
Only here in New Testament. Common in medical language. See on Luke 21:26. Compare the exquisite passage in Dante, where Messer Adamo, the false coiner, horribly mutilated, and in the lowest circle of Malebolge, says:
"I had, while living, much of what Iwished;
And now, alas! a drop of water crave.
The rivulets that from the verdant hills
Of Cassentin descend down into Arno,
Making their channels to be soft and cold,
Ever before me stand, and not in vain:
For far more doth their image dry me up
Than the disease which strips my face of flesh."
Inferno, xxx., 65 sq.
Used by Luke only. Tormented is too strong. The word is used of the sorrow of Joseph and Mary when the child Jesus was missing (Luke 2:48); and of the grief of the Ephesian elders on parting with Paul (Acts 20:38) Rev., I am in anguish.
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