But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delays his coming;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)But and if that evil servant.—Better, but if that evil servant, the “and” being in modern English usage superfluous, and representing originally a different conjunction.
My lord delayeth his coming.—The temper described is identical with that portrayed in 2Peter 3:3-4. The words are memorable as implying the prescience, even in the immediate context of words that indicate nearness, that there would be what to men would seem delay. Those who looked on that delay as St. Peter looked on it would continue watchful, but the selfish and ungodly would be tempted by it to forget that Christ comes to men in more senses and more ways than one. The tyranny and sensuality which have at times stained the annals of the Church of Christ have had their origin in this forgetfulness, that though the final coming may be delayed, the Judge is ever near, even at the doors (James 5:9).
Say in his heart - Secretly suppose.
Mt 24:1-51. Christ's Prophecy of the Destruction of Jerusalem, and Warnings Suggested by It to Prepare for His Second Coming. ( = Mr 13:1-37; Lu 21:5-36).
For the exposition, see on Mr 13:1-37.See Poole on "Matthew 24:51".
shall say in his heart; secretly to himself, and with pleasure to his mind, and strengthen himself in a full persuasion of this,
my Lord delayeth his coming; and begins to think that either he will not come at all, to call him to an account for the use of his time, gifts, and talents; or if he does, it will be long first ere he will come, and visit the people of the Jews, by desolating calamities; or by death, to summon him to his bar; or at judgment, to give in his account of his stewardship.But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 24:48-51. Ἐὰν δὲ, κ.τ.λ.] the emphasis is on ὁ κακός as contrasting with ὁ πιστὸς κ. φρόνιμος, Matthew 24:45, therefore ὁ ἄπιστος κ. ἄφρων.
ἐκεῖνος] refers back to ὃν κατέστησεν, κ.τ.λ., Matthew 24:45, and represents the sum of its contents. Hence: but suppose the worthless servant who has been put in that position shall have said, etc. To assume that we have here a blending of two cases (the servant is either faithful or wicked), the second of which we are to regard as presupposed and pointed to by ἐκεῖνος (de Wette, Kaeuffer), is to burden the passage with unnecessary confusion.
ἄρξηται] will have begun, does not refer to the circumstance that the lord surprises him in the midst of his misdemeanours (Fritzsche), because in that case what follows would also have to be regarded as depending on ἄρξηται, but on the contrary it brings out the fearless wickedness of the man abandoning himself to tyrannical behaviour and sensual gratifications.
ἐσθίῃ δὲ κ. π.] Before, we were told what his conduct was toward his fellow-slaves over whom he had been set; now, on the other hand, we are shown how he behaved himself apart from his relation to the οἰκετεία.
διχοτομήσει αὐτόν] he will cut him in two (Plat. Polit. p. 302 F; Polyb. vi. 28. 2; x. 15. 5; Exodus 29:17), a form of punishment according to which the criminal was sawn asunder, 2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 20:3; Hebrews 11:37. Comp. Sueton. Calig. xvii.: “medios serra dissecuit.” Herod, vii. 37. See, in general, Wetstein and Rosenmüller, Morgenl., on our passage. There is no force in the usual objection that, in what follows, the slave is assumed to be still living; for, in the words καὶ τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ, κ.τ.λ., which are immediately added, we have a statement of the thing itself, which the similitude of that terrible punishment was intended to illustrate. All other explanations are inconsistent with the text, such as: he will tear him with the scourge (Heumann, Paulus, Kuinoel, Schott, de Wette, Olshausen), or: he will cut him off from his service (Beza, Grotius, Jansen, Maldonatus; comp. Jerome, Euthymius Zigabenus), or: he will withdraw his spiritual gifts from him (Basil, Theophylact), or generally: he will punish him with the utmost severity (Chrysostom).
καὶ τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ, κ.τ.λ.] and will assign him his proper place among the hypocrites, i.e. he will condemn him to have his fitting portion in common with the hypocrites, that thenceforth he may share their fate. Comp. on John 13:8, and the classical phrase ἐν μέρει τινὸς τίθεσθαι. Rabbinical writers likewise regard Gehenna as the portion of hypocrites; see Schoettgen. But the expression τῶν ὑποκριτ. is made use of here because the κακὸς δοῦλος is a hypocrite in the inmost depths of his moral nature, inasmuch as he acts under the impression χρονίζει μου ὁ κύριος, though he hopes that when his lord arrives he will be able to assume the appearance of one who is still faithfully discharging his duty, just as he must have pretended to be good at the time when he received the trust which had been committed to him; but now he is suddenly unmasked.
ἐκεῖ] namely, in hell, Matthew 8:12, Matthew 13:42; Matthew 13:50, Matthew 22:13, Matthew 25:30.
It is exegetically certain that from Matthew 24:29 onward Jesus announces His second advent, after having spoken, in what precedes that verse, of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of that, too, as an event that was to take place immediately before His second coming. All attempts to obtain, for the εὐθέως of Matthew 24:29, a different terminus a quo (see on Matthew 24:29), and therefore to find room enough before this εὐθέως for an interval, the limits of which cannot as yet be assigned, or to fix upon some different point in the discourse as that at which the subject of the second advent is introduced (Chrysostom: Matthew 24:23; E. J. Meyer: Matthew 24:35; Süsskind: Matthew 24:36; Kuinoel: Matthew 24:43; Lightfoot, Wetstein, Flatt: not till Matthew 25:31; Hoelemann: as early as Matthew 24:19), are not the fruits of an objective interpretation of the text, but are based on the assumption that every trifling detail must find its fulfilment, and lead to interpretations in which the meaning is explained away and twisted in the most violent way possible. The attempts of Ebrard, Dorner, Cremer, Hoelemann, Gess, to show that the prediction of Jesus is in absolute harmony with the course of history, are refuted by the text itself, especially by Matthew 24:29; above all is it impossible to explain Matthew 24:15-28 of some event which is still in the womb of the future (in opposition to Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. p. 630 ff.); nor again, in Matthew 24:34, can we narrow the scope of the πάντα ταῦτα, or extend that of the γενεὰ αὕτη, or make γένηται denote merely the dawning of the events in question.
It is true that the predictions, Matthew 24:5 ff., regarding the events that were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem were not fulfilled in so special and ample a way as to harmonize with the synoptical representations of them; still, that they were so in all essential respects, is proved by what we learn from history respecting the impostors and magicians that appeared, the wars that raged far and near, the numerous cases of famine and earthquake that occurred, the persecutions of the Christians that took place, the moral degeneracy that prevailed, and the way in which the gospel had been proclaimed throughout the world, and all shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem (after the Jews had begun to rise in rebellion against the Roman authority in the time of Gessius Florus, who became procurator of Judea in 64). This prophecy, though in every respect a genuine prediction, is not without its imaginative element, as may be seen from the poetical and pictorial form in which it is embodied. Compare on Matthew 24:7, Remark. But it is just this mode of representation which shows that a vaticinium post eventum (see on Matthew 24:1) is not to be thought of. Comp. Holtzmann, Weizsäcker, Pfleiderer.
With regard to the difficulty arising out of the fact that the second advent did not take place, as Jesus had predicted it would, immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem,—and as an explanation of which the assumption of a blending of type and antitype (Luther) is arbitrary in itself, and only leads to confusion,—let the following be remarked: (1) Jesus has spoken of His advent in a threefold sense; for He described as His second coming (a) that outpouring of the Holy Spirit which was shortly to take place, and which was actually fulfilled; see on John 14:18 f., Matthew 16:16; Matthew 16:20 ff., also on Ephesians 2:17; (b) that historical manifestation of His majesty and power which would be seen, immediately after His ascension to the Father, in the triumph of His cause upon the earth, of which Matthew 26:64 furnishes an undoubted example; (c) His coming, in the strict eschatological sense, to raise the dead, to hold the last judgment, and to set up His kingdom, which is also distinctly intimated in such passages of John as John 4:40; John 4:54, Matthew 5:28, Matthew 14:3 (Weizel in the Stud. u. Krit. 1836, p. 626 ff.), and in connection with which it is to be observed that in John the ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν ἐγὼ τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ (John 6:39 f., John 6:44; John 6:54) does not imply any such nearness of the thing as is implied when the spiritual advent is in question; but, on the contrary, presupposes generally that believers will have to undergo death. Again, in the parable contained in Matthew 22:1-14Matthew 24:48. he other side of the picture—ἐὰν δὲ … ἐκεῖνος: not the same individual, but a man placed in the same post (“cui eadem provincia sit demandata,” Schott).—χρονίζει (again in Matthew 25:5): the servant begins to reflect on the fact that his lord is late in coming, and is demoralised.—ἄρξηται, he (now) begins to play the tyrant (τύπτειν) and to indulge in excess (ἐσθίῃ καὶ πίνῃ, etc.). Long delay is necessary to produce such complete demoralisation.Matthew 24:48. Ὁ κακὸς δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος, THAT evil servant) whom the Lord knoweth.—χρονίζει, delayeth) See Matthew 25:5 [cf. Ecclesiastes 8:11].Verse 48. - But and if (ἐὰν δὲ). "And" is a remnant of an old use of the word, meaning "it'," so that it is here redundant, and the translation should he simply, but if; si autem. That evil servant (ὁ κακὸς δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος) is in a sense the same as he who, in ver. 45, was regarded as faithful and prudent. The opposite case is here put; he is supposed to be wicked and untrustworthy; he no longer is always watching for his lord's coming and endeavouring to be always ready, because he knows that he may at any moment be called to account. My lord delayeth [his coming]. B, א, and other good manuscripts omit ἐλθεῖν as unnecessary. Revised Version, my lord tarrieth, he brings himself to believe that the day of reckoning is still distant, and that he will have plenty of time to prepare his accounts before the settlement is called for. So men put off the day of repentance, saying, "Tomorrow, tomorrow," when they ought to feel that the present alone is theirs in which to prepare for judgment.
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