Matthew 18:34
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
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(34) Delivered him to the tormentors.—The words seem deliberately vague. We dare not say that the “tormentors” are avenging angels, or demons, though in the hell of mediæval poetry and art these latter are almost exclusively represented as the instruments of punishment. More truly, we may see in them the symbols of whatever agencies God employs in the work of righteous retribution, the stings of remorse, the scourge of conscience, the scorn and reproach of men, not excluding, of course, whatever elements of suffering lie behind the veil, in the life beyond the grave.

Till he should pay all that was due unto him.—As in Matthew 5:26 (where see Note), the words suggest at once the possibility of a limit, and the difficulty, if not impossibility, of ever reaching it. How could the man in the hands of the tormentors obtain the means of paying the ten thousand talents? And the parable excludes the thought of the debt being, as it were, taken out in torments, a quantitative punishment being accepted as the discharge of what could not otherwise be paid. The imagery of the parable leaves us in silent awe, and we only find refuge from our questionings in the thought that “the things that are impossible with man are possible with God” (Matthew 19:26).

18:21-35 Though we live wholly on mercy and forgiveness, we are backward to forgive the offences of our brethren. This parable shows how much provocation God has from his family on earth, and how untoward his servants are. There are three things in the parable: 1. The master's wonderful clemency. The debt of sin is so great, that we are not able to pay it. See here what every sin deserves; this is the wages of sin, to be sold as a slave. It is the folly of many who are under strong convictions of their sins, to fancy they can make God satisfaction for the wrong they have done him. 2. The servant's unreasonable severity toward his fellow-servant, notwithstanding his lord's clemency toward him. Not that we may make light of wronging our neighbour, for that is also a sin against God; but we should not aggravate our neighbour's wronging us, nor study revenge. Let our complaints, both of the wickedness of the wicked, and of the afflictions of the afflicted, be brought to God, and left with him. 3. The master reproved his servant's cruelty. The greatness of sin magnifies the riches of pardoning mercy; and the comfortable sense of pardoning mercy, does much to dispose our hearts to forgive our brethren. We are not to suppose that God actually forgives men, and afterwards reckons their guilt to them to condemn them; but this latter part of the parable shows the false conclusions many draw as to their sins being pardoned, though their after-conduct shows that they never entered into the spirit, or experienced the sanctifying grace of the gospel. We do not forgive our offending brother aright, if we do not forgive from the heart. Yet this is not enough; we must seek the welfare even of those who offend us. How justly will those be condemned, who, though they bear the Christian name, persist in unmerciful treatment of their brethren! The humbled sinner relies only on free, abounding mercy, through the ransom of the death of Christ. Let us seek more and more for the renewing grace of God, to teach us to forgive others as we hope for forgiveness from him.Delivered him to the tormentors - The word "tormentors" here probably means keepers of the prisons. Torments were inflicted on criminals, not on debtors. They were inflicted by stretching the limbs, or pinching the flesh, or putting out the eyes, or taking off the skin while alive, etc. It is not probable that anything of this kind is intended, but only that the servant was punished by imprisonment until the debt should be paid. 34. And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors—more than jailers; denoting the severity of the treatment which he thought such a case demanded.

till he should pay all that was due unto him.

See Poole on "Matthew 18:35".

And his Lord was wroth,.... Very angry, greatly incensed, and justly provoked at such inhuman treatment:

and delivered him to the tormentors, or jail keepers. The Ethiopic version renders it, "to them that judge", or the judges; Munster's Hebrew Gospel, "to the punishers", or such that inflicted punishment according to the decree of the judge: from both, the sense may be, that he was delivered over to proper judges of his case, to be treated as the nature of it required, to be cast into prison, and there endure all the severities of law and justice:

till he should pay all that was due unto him; which being so vast a sum, and he but a servant, could never be done: but inasmuch as this man was fully and freely pardoned before, how comes it to pass, that full payment of debt is yet insisted on? It is certain, that sin, once pardoned by God, he never punishes for it; for pardon with him is of all sin; he forgives all trespasses, though ever so many, and remits the whole debt, be it ever so large; which act of his grace will never be revoked: it is one of his gifts which are without repentance; it proceeds upon, and comes through a plenary satisfaction for sin made by his own Son, and therefore it would be unjust to punish for it: by this act, sin is covered out of sight; it is blotted out, and entirely done away, and that for ever. Hence some think this man had only the offer of a pardon, and not that itself; but it is not an offer of pardon, that Christ, by his blood, has procured, and is exalted to give, but that itself; and this man had his debt, his whole debt forgiven him: others think, that this was a church forgiveness, who looked upon him, judged him, and received him as one forgiven; but for his cruel usage of a fellow member, delivered him to the tormentors, passed censures on him, and excommunicated him, till he should give full satisfaction, which is more likely: others, this forgiveness was only in his own apprehensions: he presumed, and hoped he was forgiven, when he was not; but then his crime could not have been so aggravated as is: rather, this forgiveness is to be understood of averting calamities and judgments, likely to fall for his iniquities, which is sometimes the sense of this phrase: see 1 Kings 8:34 and so his being delivered to the tormentors may mean, his being distressed with an accusing guilty conscience, an harassing, vexing devil, many misfortunes of life, and temporal calamities. Though after all, this is not strictly to be applied to any particular case or person, but the scope of the parable is to be attended to; which is to enforce mutual forgiveness among men, from having received full and free pardon at the hands of God; and that without the former, there is little reason to expect the latter, as appears from what follows.

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Matthew 18:34. ὀργισθεὶς: roused to just and extreme anger.—βασανισταῖς: not merely to the gaolers, but to the tormentors, with instructions not merely to keep him safe in prison till the debt was paid, but still more to make the life of the wretch as miserable as possible, by place of imprisonment, position of body, diet, bed, etc., if not by instruments of pain. The word, chosen to suit the king’s mood, represents a subjective feeling rather than an objective fact.

34. The acquittal is revoked—a point not to be pressed in the interpretation. The truth taught is the impossibility of the unforgiving being forgiven, but the chief lesson is the example of the divine spirit of forgiveness in the act of the king. This example the pardoned slave should have followed.

Matthew 18:34. Ὀργισθεὶς, wroth) He had not been wroth before, cf. Luke 14:21. Those who have experienced the mercy of God, ought to be very careful of exciting His anger.—τοῖς βασανισταῖς, the tormentors) not merely jailors (custodibus).—ἓως οὗ, until) Such is the enduring character of guilt, founded on the inexhaustible claim of God over His servants.[850]

[850] “Servos.” The word is used with special reference to the parable, and does not indicate “the servants of God,” in the usual meaning of that phrase, but all those who were formed for the service of God, i.e. all His creatures.—(I. B.)

Verse 34. - Was wroth. This, as we said above, is the prerogative of God. Man is pained and grieved at sin; God is angry. Tormentors; βασανισταῖς: tortoribus. These are not the gaolers, prison keepers, but persons who put prisoners to the torture. Neither Jewish nor Roman law at that time recognized any such officials; neither were those in confinement treated thus in either community. The idea is taken from the practice of Oriental despotism, which might thus punish an offence considered supremely detestable. In a mystical sense these are the ministers of Divine vengeance who carry out the behests of the King. Till he should pay; until he should have paid (ἕως οῦ ἀποδῷ). Some editors omit or bracket οῦ, but the sense is the same with or without the relative. The debt never could be paid, so practically the punishment would last forever. Commentators, mediaeval and modern, see here an argument for the eternity of future punishment; others see in the clause an intimation that sin may be forgiven in the other world, though not repented of or pardoned in this present life. The words give no support to the latter interpretation. Until, etc., does not necessarily signify that the condition specified is certain to be fulfilled. As Bengel says, on Matthew 1:25, "Non sequitur ergo post." And in the present case there could be no possibility of payment. A criminal delivered to the tormentors would have no opportunity or means of raising the necessary funds. If this is a picture of the final judgment, it is parallel to our Lord's statement in Matthew 5:26, "Thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing;" for, as the Preacher says, "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). All that was due [unto him] (πᾶν τὸ ὀφειλόμενον αὐτῷ). Modern editors reject αὐτῷ: Vulgate, universum debitum. This is more general than "all that debt" in ver. 32. It is usually taken to refer to the old debt now redemanded. But a difficulty has been found in the fact that this old debt had been freely forgiven and utterly done away, and therefore could not, in equity, be again exacted. Hence some commentators have explained the clause as referring not at all to the former debt, but to a new debt incurred by a new offence, viz. ingratitude and unmercifulness. But the spiritual truth seems to be that, although sins once absolutely forgiven are not again imputed, they make subsequent sins more heinous, as in a human law court previous conviction increases the penalty of a fresh transgression. Falling from grace, a man passes into enmity with God, and so far cancels his pardon, and is in a state of condemnation (see Ezekiel 18:24, 26). Matthew 18:34To the tormentors (βασανισταῖς)

Livy pictures an old centurion complaining that he was taken by his creditor, not into servitude, but to a workhouse and torture, and showing his back scarred with fresh wounds (ii., 23).

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