Luke 16:28
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
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(28) For I have five brethren.—Here again we are left to choose between opposite views of the motive which prompted the request. Was it simply a selfish fear of reproaches that might aggravate his sufferings? Was it the stirring in him of an unselfish anxiety for others, content to bear his own anguish if only his brothers might escape? Either view is tenable enough, but the latter harmonises more with the humility of the tone in which the request is uttered. The question why “five” are named is again one which we cannot answer with certainty. The allusions which some have found to the five senses, in the indulgence of which the man had passed his life, or to the five books of Moses (!), are simply fantastic. It may have been merely the use of a certain number for an uncertain, as in the case of the five wise and the five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:2), or the five talents (Matthew 25:15), or the five cities in the land of Egypt (Isaiah 19:18). It may have been an individualising feature, pointing to some conspicuously self-indulgent rich man among the hearers of the parable, and so coming home to him as a warning; or, possibly (following up the hint in the Note on Luke 16:19), to the number of the Tetrarch’s surviving brothers. Of these he had had eight, but Aristobulus and Arche-laus were already dead, and possibly, of course, another. Here, returning to the structure of the parable, there is a special motive for the rich man’s wishing Lazarus to be sent. The brothers had seen the beggar lying at his gate. If they were to see him now, as risen from the dead, they would learn how far more blessed his state had been than the luxurious ease in which they had passed and were still passing their lives.

16:19-31 Here the spiritual things are represented, in a description of the different state of good and bad, in this world and in the other. We are not told that the rich man got his estate by fraud, or oppression; but Christ shows, that a man may have a great deal of the wealth, pomp, and pleasure of this world, yet perish for ever under God's wrath and curse. The sin of this rich man was his providing for himself only. Here is a godly man, and one that will hereafter be happy for ever, in the depth of adversity and distress. It is often the lot of some of the dearest of God's saints and servants to be greatly afflicted in this world. We are not told that the rich man did him any harm, but we do not find that he had any care for him. Here is the different condition of this godly poor man, and this wicked rich man, at and after death. The rich man in hell lifted up his eyes, being in torment. It is not probable that there are discourses between glorified saints and damned sinners, but this dialogue shows the hopeless misery and fruitless desires, to which condemned spirits are brought. There is a day coming, when those who now hate and despise the people of God, would gladly receive kindness from them. But the damned in hell shall not have the least abatement of their torment. Sinners are now called upon to remember; but they do not, they will not, they find ways to avoid it. As wicked people have good things only in this life, and at death are for ever separated from all good, so godly people have evil things only in this life, and at death they are for ever put from them. In this world, blessed be God, there is no gulf between a state of nature and grace, we may pass from sin to God; but if we die in our sins, there is no coming out. The rich man had five brethren, and would have them stopped in their sinful course; their coming to that place of torment, would make his misery the worse, who had helped to show them the way thither. How many would now desire to recall or to undo what they have written or done! Those who would make the rich man's praying to Abraham justify praying to saints departed, go far to seek for proofs, when the mistake of a damned sinner is all they can find for an example. And surely there is no encouragement to follow the example, when all his prayers were made in vain. A messenger from the dead could say no more than what is said in the Scriptures. The same strength of corruption that breaks through the convictions of the written word, would triumph over a witness from the dead. Let us seek to the law and to the testimony, Isa 8:19,20, for that is the sure word of prophecy, upon which we may rest, 2Pe 1:19. Circumstances in every age show that no terrors, or arguments, can give true repentance without the special grace of God renewing the sinner's heart.Five brethren - The number "five" is mentioned merely to preserve the appearance of verisimilitude in the story. It is not to be spiritualized, nor are we to suppose that it has any hidden or inscrutable meaning.

May testify unto them - May bear "witness" to them, or may inform them of what is my situation, and the dreadful consequences of the life that I have led. It is remarkable that he did not ask to go himself. He knew that he could not be released, even for so short a time. His condition was fixed. Yet he had no wish that his friends should suffer, and he supposed that if one went from the dead they would hear him.

27-31. Then he said—now abandoning all hope for himself.

send him to my father's house, &c.—no waking up of good in the heart of the lost, but bitter reproach against God and the old economy, as not warning him sufficiently [Trench]. The answer of Abraham is, They are sufficiently warned.

See Poole on "Luke 16:27"

For I have five brethren,.... Meaning his brethren and countrymen, according to the flesh; who when he was alive, stood in such a relation to him; said to be "five", in allusion it may be to the children of Israel coming out of Egypt, "by fives", or five in a rank, Exodus 13:18 as a learned man (m) conjectures, to whom I am beholden for several hints, in the explanation of this parable; and certain it is, that these five brethren were Jews, since they had the writings of Moses and the prophets with them, Luke 16:29. Wherefore I shall venture to propose another conjecture, though it may be liable to exception, as all conjectures usually are: it is plain that there were "six" brethren in all; let it be observed then, that the Jewish nation were usually divided into "three" parts, "priests, Levites, and Israelites"; of these three the great sanhedrim usually consisted (n); and these read the law every sabbath day; first a priest, then a Levite, and then "five Israelites" (o); (let that number also be remarked;) now these were again divided into "three" sects, "Pharisees, Sadducees", and "Essenes". The former of these are represented in this parable; this I only propose, I lay no stress on it: it may be, that the twice five, or ten tribes of Israel, which were not known where they were, nor are they to this day, may be designed by a "synechdoche", of a part for the whole; whose return the Jews are yet expecting, and for whose welfare they are greatly concerned.

That he may testify unto them: that is, preach unto them, as the word is used in Acts 2:40. Christ, when here on earth, did testify to that people of their sins, showed them the heinousness of them, inveighed against them, and reproved for them; and of their righteousness, and showed the hypocrisy, deficiency, and insufficiency of it to justify them; of himself as the Messiah; of truth in general; and of their ruin, temporal and eternal; but he had now finished his testimony, and which, though faithful, was not heard nor received by them; the reason of this request is,

lest they also come into this place of torment; as hell is, and which these brethren of his, he left behind, were deserving of, and in danger of coming into; and his concern for them did not arise from any regard to Christ, and the enlargement of his interest; nor from any love to his testimony, the Gospel; nor from any real notion or desire of converting grace for his brethren; nor from true love to them; but from a selfish principle, lest his own torments should be aggravated by their coming: this, as it may regard the Jews in their affliction, and if the ten tribes should be meant by the five brethren, may design the very passionate concern the Jews had, and still have for them, who yet, to this day, hope for the return of them; see Manasseh ben Israel's book, called, "Spes Israelis".

(m) Teelmannus. (n) Maimon Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 2. sect. 2.((o) Ib. Hilchot Tephilla, c. 12. sect. 16.

For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Luke 16:28. ἀδελφούς, brothers, in the literal sense. Why force on it an allegorical sense by finding in it a reference to the Pharisees or to the Jewish people, brethren in the sense of fellow-countrymen? Five is a random number, true to natural probability; a large enough family to make interest in their eternal well-being on the part of a deceased member very intelligible.—διαμαρτύρηται, urgently testify to, telling them how it looks beyond, how it fares with their brother, with the solemn impressiveness of one who has seen.

28. I have five brethren] If there be any special meaning in this detail, the clue to it is now lost. Some have seen in it a reference to the five sons of the High Priest Annas, all of whom succeeded to the Priesthood,—Eleazar, Jonathan, Theophilus, Matthias, and the younger Annas, besides his son-in-law Caiaphas. But this seems to be very unlikely. An allusion to Antipas and his brethren is less improbable, but our Lord would hardly have admitted into a parable an oblique personal reflexion.

Luke 16:28. Πέντε, five) Perhaps there were five Pharisees, who had especially ‘derided’ their Lord, Luke 16:14, and who did not hear the law and the prophets, Luke 16:16; Luke 16:29; and who were like the rich feaster, if not externally, at least internally. Certainly the Lord knew the inmost character and also the number of such persons. See Luke 16:15. The sixth brother was he who was now crying aloud in hell: in contrast to those six, one individual, a seventh, viz. Lazarus, who also was of the posterity of Abraham, reached the bosom of Abraham.—ἀδελφοὺς, brethren) who are living securely and without concern about their state.—ἵνα μὴ, that they may not) In hell the classical adage, “Companions the solace of the wretched” [Solamen miseris socios”], etc., gives no comfort to the rich feaster. See, however, Ezekiel 32:31. The self-indulger, who previously had shown no compassion, now puts forth into exercise a kind of compassion, but one which does not correspond to the Divine compassion. He was worse when amidst his pleasures, than now, when amidst the tortures of hell.

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