Matthew 5:1
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
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(1) What is known as the Sermon on the Mount is obviously placed by St. Matthew (who appears in the earliest traditions connected with his name as a collector of our Lord’s “Oracles” or discourses) in the fore-front of his record of His work, as a great pattern-discourse, that which more than any other represented the teaching with which He began His work. Few will fail to recognise the fitness of its position, and the influence which it has exercised wherever the Gospel record has found its way. More than any other part of that record did it impress itself on the minds of men in the first age of the Church, and more often is it quoted by the writers of that period—St. James, and Barnabas, and Clement of Rome, and Ignatius, and Polycarp. More than any other portion, in recent time, has it attracted the admiring reverence even of many who did not look on the Preacher of the Sermon as the faith of Christendom looks on Him. Not unfrequently its teaching, as being purely ethical, has been contrasted with the more dogmatic character of the discourses that appear in St. John. How far that contrast really exists will appear as we interpret it. Two preliminary questions, however, present themselves: (1) Have we here the actual verbatim report of one single discourse? (2) Is that discourse the same as that which we find in Luke 6:20-49, and which, for the sake of distinctness, we may call the Sermon on the Plain? Following the method hitherto adopted in dealing with problems which rise from the comparison of one Gospel with another, the latter inquiry will be postponed till we have to meet it in writing on St. Luke’s Gospel. Here it will be enough to state the conclusion which seems to be most probable, that the two discourses are quite distinct, and that each has traceably a purpose and method of its own. The other question calls for discussion now.

At first sight there is much that favours the belief that the Sermon on the Mount is, as it were, a pattern discourse, framed out of the fragments of many like discourses. Not only is there a large element common to it and to the Sermon on the Plain, but we find many other portions of it scattered here and there in other parts of St. Luke’s Gospel. Thus we have:—

-1Matthew 5:13

. . .

Luke 14:34

-2Matthew 5:18

. . .

Luke 16:17

-3Matthew 5:25-26

. . .

Luke 12:58

-4Matthew 5:32

. . .

Luke 16:18

-5Matthew 6:9-13

. . .

Luke 11:2-4

-6Matthew 6:19-21

. . .

Luke 12:33-34

-7Matthew 6:22-23

. . .

Luke 11:34-36

-8Matthew 6:24

. . .

Luke 16:13

-9Matthew 6:25

. . .

Luke 12:22-23

-9Matthew 6:26-34

. . .

Luke 12:24-31

-10Matthew 7:7-11

. . .

Luke 11:9-13

-11Matthew 7:13

. . .

Luke 13:24

-12Matthew 7:22-23

. . .

Luke 13:25-27

In most of these passages St. Luke reports what served as the starting-point of the teaching. It conies as the answer to a question, as the rebuke of a special fault. We might be led to think that the two Evangelists, coming across a collection more or less complete of our Lord’s words (I use the term as taking in a wider range than discourses), had used them each after his manner: St. Matthew by seeking to dovetail them as much as he could into a continuous whole; St. Luke by trying, as far as possible, to trace them to their sources, and connect them with individual facts. This line of thought is, however, traversed by other facts that lead to an opposite conclusion. In chapters 5 and 6 of the Sermon on the Mount there is strong evidence of a systematic plan, and therefore of unity. The Beatitudes and the verses that immediately follow (Matthew 5:2-16) set forth the conditions of blessedness, the ideal life of the kingdom of heaven. Then comes the contrast between the righteousness required for it and that which passed current among the scribes and Pharisees; and this is carried (1) through their way of dealing with the Commandments (Matthew 5:17-48), and (2) through the three great elements of the religious life—almsgiving, prayer, and fasting (Matthew 6:1-18). This is followed by warnings against the love of money, and the cares which it brings with it, as fatal to the religious life in all its forms (Matthew 6:19-34). In the precepts of chapter 7 there is less traceable sequence, but its absence is as natural on the supposition of missing links in the chain, as on that of pearls threaded on a string, or a tesselated mosaic made up of fragments. The Sermon, as it stands, might have been spoken in thirty or forty minutes. There is no reason to think that this was the necessary or even customary limit of our Lord’s discourses. Assume a discourse somewhat longer than this, heard by a multitude, with no one taking notes at the time, but many trying, it may be some years afterwards, to put on record what they remembered; and then think of the writer of a Gospel coming to collect, with the aid of the Spirit (John 14:26), the disjecta membra which all held so precious; comparing, if he himself had heard it, what others had written or could tell him with what he recalled; placing together what he thus found with a visible order, where the lines had been left broad and deep; with an order more or less latent, where the trains of thought had been too subtle to catch the attention of the hearers—and we have a process of which the natural outcome is what we find here. On these grounds, then, we may reasonably believe that we have substantially the report of a single discourse, possibly with a few additions from other similar discourses,—the first great prophetic utterance, the first full proclamation of “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25), the first systematic protest against the traditions of Pharisees and scribes—that protest in which we find the groundwork of holiness, and the life of Jesus translating itself into speech. That it was not more than this; that it did not reveal doctrines which, from our Lord’s own teaching and that of His apostles, we rightly hold to be essential to the true faith of Christians; that it is therefore wrongly made, as some would fain make it, the limit of theology—is explained by the fact that our Lord spake the word as men were able to hear it; that this was the beginning, not the end, of the training of His disciples; that the facts on which the fuller doctrines rested as yet were not. And so He was content to begin with “earthly things,” not “heavenly” (John 3:12), and to look forward to the coming of the Comforter to complete what He had thus begun. Those who would follow His method, must begin as He began; and the Sermon on the Mount, both in its negative and positive elements, is therefore the eternal inheritance of the Church of Christ, at all ages “the milk for babes,” even though those of full age may be capable of receiving the food of higher truths.

Matthew 5:1-2. And seeing the multitudes — A vast concourse of people assembled from all parts to attend him, some with their sick to obtain cures, for he never rejected any who applied to him; some out of curiosity to see his miracles, and hear his extraordinary doctrine; some with a design to find fault and censure; and some, doubtless, to hear and be edified by his discourses, which seldom failed to make a deep impression on those who had any share of good sense or true piety: — the Son of God, beholding such a vast multitude of men, bewildered in the darkness of ignorance, and lost in sin and wretchedness, had compassion on them, and feeling in himself a strong desire to give them more particular instruction than he had yet done in the infinitely important matters of religion; that he might deliver what he had to say to them on this most momentous subject, with more convenience to himself and advantage to them, he went up into a mountain — Which afforded room for all, and where, addressing them from an eminence, he could be seen and heard by great numbers. And when he was set — After the manner of the Jewish doctors, who, to show their authority, were wont to sit when they taught; his disciples came unto him — To be instructed by him as a teacher come from God. By his disciples here, not only those strictly so called, viz., the twelve, who were afterward chosen to be his apostles, are intended, but as many of the multitude as were willing to learn of him. And he opened his mouth — A phrase which, in the Scriptures, generally denotes the solemnity of the speaker, and the importance of what he delivers, and here signifies that he uttered the following weighty truths with great seriousness and earnestness. And taught them — As the great prophet and lawgiver of his church, the one way to present and future happiness, at the same time that he corrected those false notions of the Messiah’s kingdom which so generally prevailed, and which he foresaw would prove of destructive tendency to those who continued to be governed by them. Observe, reader! Christ thought it as lawful to preach on a mountain as in a synagogue; nor did his disciples doubt the lawfulness of hearing him wherever he thought fit to speak. Our Lord, it must be observed, pursues the most exact method in this divine discourse; describing, 1st, viz., in this chapter, the nature, excellency, and necessity of inward holiness; 2d, chap. 6., that purity of intention which must direct and animate our outward actions to render them holy; 3d, cautioning us against the grand hinderances of religion, and pointing out the chief means of attaining it: Matthew 7:1-20; Matthew , , 4 th, making an application of the whole, Matthew 7:21-28.

5:1,2 None will find happiness in this world or the next, who do not seek it from Christ by the rule of his word. He taught them what was the evil they should abhor, and what the good they should seek and abound in.And seeing the multitudes - The great numbers that came to attend on his ministry. The substance of this discourse is recorded also in Luke 6. It is commonly called the "Sermon on the Mount." It is not improbable that it was repeated, in substance, on different occasions, and to different people. At those times parts of it may have been omitted, and Luke may have recorded it as it was pronounced on one of those occasions. See the notes at Luke 6:17-20.

Went up into a mountain - This mountain, or hill, was somewhere in the vicinity of Capernaum, but where precisely is not mentioned. He ascended the hill, doubtless, because it was more convenient to address the multitude from an eminence than if he were on the same level with them. A hill or mountain is still shown a short distance to the northwest of the ancient site of Capernaum, which tradition reports to have been the place where this sermon was delivered, and which is called on the maps the Mount of Beatitudes. The hill commonly believed to be that on which the sermon was delivered is on the road from Nazareth to Tiberias, not far from the latter place. The hill is known by the name of Kuran Huttin, the Horns of Huttin. Of this hill Professor Hackett (Illustrations of Scripture, pp. 323, 324) says: "Though a noontide heat was beating down upon us with scorching power, I could not resist the temptation to turn aside and examine a place for which such a claim has been set up, though I cannot say that I have any great confidence in it. The hill referred to is rocky, and rises steeply to a moderate height above the plain. It has two summits, with a slight depression between them, and it is from these projecting points, or horns, that it receives the name given to it. From the top the observer has a full view of the Sea of Tiberias. The most pleasing feature of the landscape is that presented by the diversified appearance of the fields. The different plots of ground exhibit various colors, according to the state. of cultivation: some of them are red, where the land has been newly plowed up, the natural appearance of the soil; others yellow or white, where the harvest is beginning to ripen, or is already ripe; and others green, being covered with grass or springing grain. As they are contiguous to each other, or intermixed, these particolored plots present at some distance an appearance of joyful chequered work, which is really beautiful.

"In rhetorical descriptions of the delivery of the Sermon on the Mount, we often hear the people represented as looking up to the speaker from the sides of the hill, or listening to him from the plain. This would not be possible with reference to the present locality; for it is too precipitous and too elevated to allow of such a position. The Saviour could have sat there, however, in the midst of his hearers, for it affords a platform amply large enough for the accommodation of the hundreds who may have been present on that occasion."

And when he was set - This was the common mode of teaching among the Jews, Luke 4:20; Luke 5:3; John 8:2; Acts 13:14; Acts 16:13.

His disciples came unto him - The word "disciples" means "learners," those who are taught. Here it is put for those who attended on the ministry of Jesus, and does not imply that they were all Christians. See John 6:66.


Sermon on the Mount.

That this is the same Discourse as that in Lu 6:17-49—only reported more fully by Matthew, and less fully, as well as with considerable variation, by Luke—is the opinion of many very able critics (of the Greek commentators; of Calvin, Grotius, Maldonatus—Who stands almost alone among Romish commentators; and of most moderns, as Tholuck, Meyer, De Wette, Tischendorf, Stier, Wieseler, Robinson). The prevailing opinion of these critics is that Luke's is the original form of the discourse, to which Matthew has added a number of sayings, uttered on other occasions, in order to give at one view the great outlines of our Lord's ethical teaching. But that they are two distinct discourses—the one delivered about the close of His first missionary tour, and the other after a second such tour and the solemn choice of the Twelve—is the judgment of others who have given much attention to such matters (of most Romish commentators, including Erasmus; and among the moderns, of Lange, Greswell, Birks, Webster and Wilkinson. The question is left undecided by Alford). Augustine's opinion—that they were both delivered on one occasion, Matthew's on the mountain, and to the disciples; Luke's in the plain, and to the promiscuous multitude—is so clumsy and artificial as hardly to deserve notice. To us the weight of argument appears to lie with those who think them two separate discourses. It seems hard to conceive that Matthew should have put this discourse before his own calling, if it was not uttered till long after, and was spoken in his own hearing as one of the newly chosen Twelve. Add to this, that Matthew introduces his discourse amidst very definite markings of time, which fix it to our Lord's first preaching tour; while that of Luke, which is expressly said to have been delivered immediately after the choice of the Twelve, could not have been spoken till long after the time noted by Matthew. It is hard, too, to see how either discourse can well be regarded as the expansion or contraction of the other. And as it is beyond dispute that our Lord repeated some of His weightier sayings in different forms, and with varied applications, it ought not to surprise us that, after the lapse of perhaps a year—when, having spent a whole night on the hill in prayer to God, and set the Twelve apart, He found Himself surrounded by crowds of people, few of whom probably had heard the Sermon on the Mount, and fewer still remembered much of it—He should go over its principal points again, with just as much sameness as to show their enduring gravity, but at the same time with that difference which shows His exhaustless fertility as the great Prophet of the Church.


Mt 5:1-16. The Beatitudes, and Their Bearing upon the World.

1. And seeing the multitudes—those mentioned in Mt 4:25.

he went up into a mountain—one of the dozen mountains which Robinson says there are in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee, any one of them answering about equally well to the occasion. So charming is the whole landscape that the descriptions of it, from Josephus downwards [Wars of the Jews, 4.10,8], are apt to be thought a little colored.

and when he was set—had sat or seated Himself.

his disciples came unto him—already a large circle, more or less attracted and subdued by His preaching and miracles, in addition to the smaller band of devoted adherents. Though the latter only answered to the subjects of His kingdom, described in this discourse, there were drawn from time to time into this inner circle souls from the outer one, who, by the power of His matchless word, were constrained to forsake their all for the Lord Jesus.Matthew 5:1-12 Christ begins his sermon upon the Mount, declaring who

are blessed.

Matthew 5:13-16 He calleth his disciples the salt of the earth, the

light of the world; and by the similitudes of a city

on a hill, and of a candle, he urges upon them the

necessity of setting a good example.

Matthew 5:17-20 He came not to destroy, but to fulfil, the law.

Matthew 5:21-26 He extendeth the precepts against murder,

Matthew 5:27-32 adultery,

Matthew 5:33-37 and false swearing,

Matthew 5:38-42 exhorteth to suffer wrong patiently,

Matthew 5:43-47 to love our enemies,

Matthew 5:48 and to aim at perfection.

See Poole on "Matthew 5:2".

And seeing the multitudes,.... The great concourse of people that followed him from the places before mentioned,

he went up into a mountain; either to pray alone, which was sometimes his custom to do, or to shun the multitude; or rather, because it was a commodious place for teaching the people:

and when he was set: not for rest, but in order to teach; for sitting was the posture of masters, or teachers, see Matthew 13:2 Luke 4:20. The form in which the master and his disciples sat is thus described by Maimonides (z).

"The master sits at the head, or in the chief place, and the disciples before him in a circuit, like a crown; so that they all see the master, and hear his words; and the master may not sit upon a seat, and the scholars upon the ground; but either all upon the earth, or upon seats: indeed from the beginning, or formerly, "the master used to sit", and the disciples stand; but before the destruction of the second temple, all used to teach their disciples as they were sitting.''

With respect to this latter custom, the Talmudists say (a), that

"from the days of Moses, to Rabban Gamaliel (the master of the Apostle Paul), they did not learn the law, unless standing; after Rabban Gamaliel died, sickness came into the world, and they learnt the law sitting: hence it is a tradition, that after Rabban Gamaliel died, the glory of the law ceased.''

His disciples came unto him; not only the twelve, but the company, or multitude, of his disciples, Luke 6:17 which he made in the several places, where he had been preaching; for the number of his disciples was larger than John's.

(z) Hilch. Talmud Torah, c. 4. sect. 2.((a) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 21. 1. Vid. Misn. Sota, c. 9. sect. 15. & Jarchi, Maimon, & Bartenora in ib.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
Matthew 5:1. See on the Sermon on the Mount, the exposition of Tholuck, ed. 5, 1872. [Achelis, Die Bergpredigt, 1875.] Luther’s exposition (sermons of 1530), which appeared in 1532.

τοὺς ὄχλους] see Matthew 4:25. The evangelist does not determine either the time or place precisely, yet he by no means agrees with Luke 6:17.

The μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ are not the twelve apostles (Fritzsche, Hilgenfeld), against which Matthew 9:9 is already decisive, but, besides the first four that we selected (Matthew 4:18 ff.) His disciples generally, “qui doctrinam ejus sectabantur,” Grotius.

εἰς τὸ ὄρος] The article is not indefinite: upon a mountain (Luther, Kuinoel), which explanation of the article is always incorrect (Bengel on Matthew 18:7), but also not generic; upon the hilly district, or on the heights (Ebrard, Bleek), as ὄρος in the singular (on the plural, comp. Matthew 18:12, Matthew 24:16) in the N. T. is always only a single hill, as in classical writers; but τὸ ὄρος designates that hill which is situated in the place, where Jesus saw the ὄχλους. Comp. John 6:3; Euth. Zigabenus: τὸ ὄρος τὸ πλησίον. Others (Fritzsche, de Wette) make it the well-known hill; comp. Delitzsch: “the Sinai of the New Testament;” Ewald: “the holy hill of the gospel history.” These are arbitrary presuppositions, opposed to the analogy of Matthew 14:23, Matthew 15:29. It is a misuse of the article, however, to assume that in the Gospels the same mountain is always designated by τὸ ὄρος (Gfrörer, heil. Sage, I. p. 139; B. Bauer; Volkmar). Tradition points out the “mount of beatitudes” as near the town of Saphet; see Robinson, Palestine, III. p. 485. Comp. also Schubert, III. p. 233; Ritter, Erdk. XV. 1, p. 387; Keim, Gesch. J. II. p. 236.

Matthew 5:1-2. Introductory statement by evangelist. Ἰδὼν δὲεἰς τὸ ὄρος. Christ ascended the hill, according to some, because there was more room there for the crowd than below. I prefer the view well put by Euthy. Zig.: “He ascended the near hill, to avoid the din of the crowd (θορύβους) and to give instruction without distraction; for He passed from the healing of the body to the cure of souls. This was His habit, passing from that to this and from this to that, providing varied benefit.” But we must be on our guard against a double misunderstanding that might be suggested by the statement in Matthew 5:1, that Jesus went up to the mountain, as if in ascetic retirement from the world, and addressed Himself henceforth to His disciples, as if they alone were the objects of His care, or to teach them an esoteric doctrine with which the multitude had no concern. Jesus was not monastic in spirit, and He had not two doctrines, one for the many, another for the few, like Buddha. His highest teaching, even the Beatitudes and the beautiful discourse against care, was meant for the million. He taught disciples that they might teach the world and so be its light. For this purpose His disciples came to Him when He sat down (καθίσαντος αὐτοῦ) taking the teacher’s position (cf. Mark 4:1; Mark 9:35; Mark 13:3). Lutteroth (Essai d’Interprétation, p. 65) takes καθίσαντος as meaning to camp out (camper), to remain for a time, as in Luke 24:49, Acts 18:11. He, I find, adopts the view I have indicated of the sermon as a summary of all the discourses of Jesus on the hill during a sojourn of some duration. The hill, τὸ ὄρος, may be most naturally taken to mean the elevated plateau rising above the seashore. It is idle to inquire what particular hill is intended.

1. a mountain] Accurately, the mountain, the high land bordering on the Lake, behind Tell Hûm or Et Tabigah, which the inhabitants of those places would naturally call “the mountain” (see map). It was the Sinai of the New Law. Cp. Psalm 72:3.

he was set] The usual position of a Jewish teacher. In the Talmud “to sit” is nearly synonymous with “to teach.”

his disciples came unto him] This may be regarded as the beginning of the Christian Church.

Matthew 5:1. Ἰδὼν, seeing) sc. afar off.—ὄρος, mountain) and moreover the higher part of the mountain. There He prayed and selected His apostles; see Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16. Afterwards he came half way down the mountain; and, as He was coming down with His disciples, He met the people coming up, and sat down there to teach; see note on Luke 6:17.[166] A mountain, as being a lofty part of the earth, and thereby nearer to heaven, is best suited for the most holy actions.—προσῆλθον Αὐτῷ, came unto Him[167]) The close admittance and docility of recent disciples.

[166] The night, which is mentioned in Luke 6:12, succeeded to [followed immediately after] miracles, as appears from Mark 3:10, and preceded miracles, according to Luke 6:18. What is said in the beginning of Matthew 5 is suited to the even-tide, which put a close to both classes of miracles, viz., Seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: the day following will thus claim to itself the rest of His proceedings, viz., When He was set (seated), i.e., after the cures recorded in Luke, which he had performed standing,—His disciples came unto Him.—Harm., p. 242.

[167] Not only the twelve.—B. G. V.

Verse 1. - And seeing the multitudes; i.e. those spoken of in Matthew 4:25 - the multitudes who were at that point of time following him. He went up. From the lower ground by the lake. Into a mountain; Revised Version, into the mountain (εἰς τὸ ὄρος); i.e. not any special mountain, but "the mountain nearest the place spoken of - the mountain near by" (Thayer); in contrast to any lower place, whether that was itself fairly high ground (as probably Luke 9:28) or the shore of the lake (Matthew 14:23 [parallel passages: Mark 6:46; John 6:15]; 15:29). The actual spot here referred to may have been far from, or, and more probably (Matthew 4:18), near to, the Lake of Gennesareth. It cannot now be identified. The traditional "Mount of Beatitudes" is Karn-Hattin, "a round, rocky hill" (Socin's Baedeker, p. 366), "a square-shaped hill with two tops" (Stanley, p. 368), about five miles north-west of Tiberias. This tradition, dating only from the time of the Crusades, is accepted by Stanley (cf. also Ellicott, 'Hist. Lects.,' p. 178), especially for the reasons that

(1) τὸ ὄρος is equivalent to "the mountain" as a distinct name, and this mountain alone, with the exception of Tabor which is too distant, stands separate from the uniform barrier of hills round the lake;

(2) "the platform at the top is evidently suitable for the collection of a multitude, and corresponds precisely to the 'level place' (τόπου πεδινοῦ, Luke 6:17) to which our Lord would 'come down,' as from one of its higher horns, to address the people." But these reasons seem insufficient. And when he was set; Revised Version, had sat down; as his custom was when preaching (Matthew 13:1; Matthew 24:3; Mark 9:35). His disciples; i.e. the twelve, and also those others out of whom they had, as it seems, just been chosen (Luke 6:12, 20). The word is used of all those personal followers who, as still more distinctly indicated in the Fourth Gospel, attached themselves to him to learn of him, at least until the time of the crisis in John 6:66, when many withdrew (cf. also infra, Matthew 8:21, and for an example in the end of his ministry, Luke 19:37). In English we unavoidably miss some of the meaning of μαθητής, to our loss, as may be seen from the saying of Ignatius, 'Magn.,' § 10, Μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ γενόμενοι μάθωμεν κατὰ Ξριστιανισμὸν ζῇν Came unto him (προσῆλθαν αὐτῷ). Came up to him, and, presumably, sat down in front of him to listen. Matthew 5:1A mountain (τὸ ὄρος)

The Rev. recognizes the force of the definite article, and renders "the mountain," that particular mountain in the place where Jesus saw the multitudes. The mountain itself cannot be identified. Delitzsch calls the Mount of Beatitudes "The Sinai of the New Testament."

When he was set (καθίσαντος), following Tyndale

Rev., more literally, when he had sat down (compare Wyc., when he had sete). After the manner of the rabbis, he seated himself ere he began to teach.

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