Matthew 5:25
Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) Agree with thine adversary.—The imagery is changed, and returns to that of human tribunals, which has met us in Matthew 5:22. The man whom we have wronged appears as the “adversary,” the prosecutor bringing his charge against us. The impulse of the natural man at such a time, even if conscious of wrong, is to make the best of his case, to prevaricate, to recriminate. The truer wisdom, Christ teaches, is to “agree”—better, to be on good terms with—show our own good will, and so win his. The whole teaching, it is obvious, is addressed to one who has done wrong. The treatment of a false charge involves different considerations.

The officer.—In this case, the officer of the court, the gaoler.

In the application of the words, the judge is clearly God, and the officers, those (angels or others) who execute His judgment, and the “adversary,” those whom we have wronged, leaving the wrong unredressed. In 1Peter 5:8 the devil is described as the great “adversary,” and that meaning is, perhaps, not excluded, though it is not prominent, here. Any evil deed becomes in the end as an accusing Satan, bearing its witness against us; and Satan himself is the embodiment of all such accusers.

Matthew 5:25. Agree, &c. — Here our Lord enforces the preceding exhortation, from the consideration of what is reckoned prudent in ordinary quarrel and law-suits. “In such cases, wise men always advise the party that has done wrong to make up matters with his adversary while it is in his power, lest the sentence of a judge, being interposed, fall heavy on him. For the same reason, we, who have offended our brother, ought to make it up with him, while an opportunity of repentance is allowed us; and that though our quarrel should have proceeded to the greatest lengths, lest the sentence of the Supreme Judge overtake us, and put reconciliation out of our power for ever.” With thine adversary quickly — With any against whom thou hast thus offended; whiles thou art in the way with him — Going with him to a magistrate; or, instantly, on the spot; before you part. Lest the adversary deliver thee to the judge — To be tried before him; and the judge, deciding the cause against thee, deliver thee to the officer of the court, to keep thee in custody till satisfaction be made, and thou be cast into prison — Not being able to discharge an account enhanced with so many additional articles of expense. Thou shalt by no means come out thence — Be released out of prison; till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing — For thy antagonist, when he has got thee at such an advantage, will be more rigorous in his demands than before. And surely, if by impenitent wickedness thou makest thyself the prisoner of the divine justice, thy case will be yet more deplorable and hopeless. Understanding the words in a figurative sense, which is, partly at least, intended by Christ here, the prison is taken for hell, out of which the unrelenting sinner can never come, according to our Lord’s declaration, because he can never be able to make that satisfaction. “Lord, we are all the debtors, and, in one sense, the prisoners of thy justice, and of ourselves were most incapable, not only of paying the uttermost farthing, but even of discharging the least part of the debt! We bless thee for that generous Surety who has taken and discharged it for us; and by the price of whose atoning blood we are delivered from the chains of darkness, and are translated into the glorious liberty of thy children.” — Doddridge. What has hitherto been said refers to meekness; what follows, to purity of heart.

5:21-26 The Jewish teachers had taught, that nothing except actual murder was forbidden by the sixth commandment. Thus they explained away its spiritual meaning. Christ showed the full meaning of this commandment; according to which we must be judged hereafter, and therefore ought to be ruled now. All rash anger is heart murder. By our brother, here, we are to understand any person, though ever so much below us, for we are all made of one blood. Raca, is a scornful word, and comes from pride: Thou fool, is a spiteful word, and comes from hatred. Malicious slanders and censures are poison that kills secretly and slowly. Christ told them that how light soever they made of these sins, they would certainly be called into judgment for them. We ought carefully to preserve Christian love and peace with all our brethren; and if at any time there is a quarrel, we should confess our fault, humble ourselves to our brother, making or offering satisfaction for wrong done in word or deed: and we should do this quickly; because, till this is done, we are unfit for communion with God in holy ordinances. And when we are preparing for any religious exercises, it is good for us to make that an occasion of serious reflection and self-examination. What is here said is very applicable to our being reconciled to God through Christ. While we are alive, we are in the way to his judgement-seat; after death, it will be too late. When we consider the importance of the case, and the uncertainty of life, how needful it is to seek peace with God, without delay!Agree with thine adversary quickly - This is still an illustration of the sixth commandment. To be in hostility, to go to law, to be litigious, is a violation always, on one side or the other, of the law requiring us to love our neighbor, and our Saviour regards it as a violation of the sixth commandment. While you are in the way with him, says he, that is, while you are going to the court, before the trial has taken place, it is your duty, if possible, to come to an agreement. It is wrong to carry the contention to a court of law. See 1 Corinthians 6:6-7. The consequence of not being reconciled, he expresses in the language of courts. The adversary shall deliver to the judge, and he to the executioner, and he shall throw you into prison. He did not mean to say that this would be literally the way with God, but that His dealings with those that harbored these feelings, and would not be reconciled with their brethren, were represented by the punishment inflicted by human tribunals. That is, he would hold all such as violators of the sixth commandment, and would punish them accordingly.

There is no propriety in the use sometimes made of this verse, in representing God as the "adversary" of the sinner, and urging him to be reconciled to God while in the way to judgment. Nor does the phrase "thou shalt by no means come out thence until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing" refer to the eternity of future punishment. It is language taken from courts of justice, to illustrate the truth that God will punish people according to justice for not being reconciled to him. The punishment in the future world will be eternal indeed Matthew 25:46, but this passage does not prove it.

Thine adversary - A man that is opposed to us in law. It here means a creditor; a man who has a just claim on us.

In the way with him - While you are going before the court. Before the trial comes on. It is remarkable that this very direction is found in the Roman law of the Twelve Tables, which expressly directed the plaintiff and defendant to make up the matter while they were in the way, or going to the praetor - in via, rem uti pacunt orato. - Blackstone's Commentary, iii. p. 299. Whether the Saviour had any reference to this cannot be determined. As the Roman laws prevailed to some extent in Palestine, however, it is possible that there was such an allusion.

The officer - The executioner; or, as we should say, the sheriff.

The uttermost farthing - The last farthing. All that is due. The farthing was a small coin used in Judea, equal to two mites. It was not quite equal to half a farthing of British money.

25. Agree with thine adversary—thine opponent in a matter cognizable by law.

quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him—"to the magistrate," as in Lu 12:58.

lest at any time—here, rather, "lest at all," or simply "lest."

the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge—having pronounced thee in the wrong.

deliver thee to the officer—the official whose business it is to see the sentence carried into effect.

See Poole on "Matthew 5:26".

Agree with thine adversary quickly,.... These words are not to be understood in an allegorical sense, as if "the adversary" was the justice of God, demanding payment of debts; "the way", this present life; "the judge", God himself; "the officer", the devil; "the prison", the pit of hell; and "the uttermost farthing", the least sin, which will never be remitted without satisfaction: but the design of them is to prevent lawsuits about debts, which may be in dispute; it being much better for debtor and creditor, especially the former, to compose such differences among themselves, than to litigate the matter in a court of judicature. By "the adversary" is meant not an enemy, one that bears hatred and ill will, but a brother that has ought against a man; a creditor, who demands and insists upon payment of what is owing to him; and for this purpose has taken methods towards bringing the debtor before a proper magistrate, in order to oblige him to payment: wherefore it is better for him to make up and agree the matter directly, as soon as possible,

whilst thou art in the way with him; that is, whilst the creditor and debtor are going together to some inferior magistrate, or lesser court, as the sanhedrim, which consisted of three persons only, before whom such causes might be tried: for , pecuniary causes, or causes relating to money matters, were tried "by the bench of three" (g): and the selfsame advice is given in the Talmud (h), as here, where it seems to be a common proverb; for it is said,

"there are men that say, or men usually say, , "whilst thou art in the way with thine adversary, be obedient".''

Lest at any time the adversary should deliver thee to the judge, a superior magistrate in a higher court; for if the creditor would, he could oblige the debtor to go with him to the supreme court of judicature, and try the cause there; for so say the Jewish (i); canons:

"if the creditor says we will go to the great sanhedrim, they compel the debtor, and he goes up with them, as it is said, "the borrower is servant to the lender",''

where it might go harder with the poor debtor; and therefore it was advisable to prevent it by an agreement, lest

the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison,

"It was an affirmative command in the law, says Maimonides, to appoint "judges" and "officers" in every country and province, as it is said, Deuteronomy 16:18. "judges" they are the judges that are fixed in the sanhedrim, and such that engage in law suits come before them: "officers"; these are the masters of the rod and scourge, i.e. who beat and scourge delinquents; and these stand before the judges--and all they do, is by the order of the judges.''

Now it is one of these that is meant by "the officer"; in Munster's Hebrew Gospel, he is called who, when he had authority from the judge, could cast into prison, and that for debt; of which we have no account in the law of Moses.

(g) Misn. Sanhedrim, c. 1. sect. 1.((h) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 95. 2.((i) Maimof. Hilch. Sanhedrim, c. 6. sect. 7.

{p} Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

(p) Remove all cause for enmity.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 5:25 f. The precept, to be reconciled with the injured person in order not to be cast into hell by God the judge, is made clear by the prudential doctrine of satisfying a creditor in order not to become liable to imprisonment. To abide merely by the prudential doctrine itself which the words convey (Theophylact, Vatablus, and others, including Paulus), is opposed to the context (Matthew 5:21-24); to take the φυλακή, however, as the representation of purgatory (many Catholics, not Schegg), or of Sheol (not Gehenna) (Olshausen), is forbidden by the idea of the judgment which also excludes the vague and indefinite “transference of that which is destructive for the external life to that which is destructive in a higher sense” (de Wette). Luke 12:58 has the precept in quite a different connection; but this does not justify us in not regarding it in the present passage as belonging to it (Pott, Kuinoel, Neander, Bleek, Holtzmann, Weiss, and others), since it may be given here and there as a popular symbolical proverb; while precisely here it is most clearly and simply appropriate to the connection.

εὐνοῶν] be well disposed—that is, inclined to satisfy him by making payment or composition.

τῷ ἀντιδίκῳ σου] The opponent (in a lawsuit) is to be conceived of as a creditor (Matthew 5:26). The injured brother is intended; comp. Matthew 5:23. Explanations of the Fathers referring it to the devil (Clement of Alexandria), to God (Augustine), to the conscience (Euth. Zigabenus), see in Tholuck.

ταχύ] without delay, without putting off, Matthew 28:7 f.; John 11:29; Revelation 2:16. “Tarda est superbia cordis ad deprecandum et satisfaciendum,” Bengel.

ἕως ὅτου] If by ταχύ it was intimated that the compliance should begin without delay, so it is now stated that it shall remain till the extreme termination: even until thou art with him on the road to the judge—even then still shalt thou yield compliance. Not of itself (in answer to Tittmann, Synon. p. 167), but, in virtue of the context, is ἕως the inclusive “until,” as according to the context it may also be exclusive (comp. on the passage, Matthew 1:25).

The servant of justice (ὑπηρέτης) belongs to the representative of the legal act; and who is meant thereby, is evident from Matthew 13:41 f.

βληθήσῃ] The future, which might be dependent on μήποτε (Winer, p. 468 f. [E. T. 629]; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 201 [E. T. 233]; see on the passage, Colossians 2:8), taken independently, gives the appropriate emphasis to the tragic closing act.

In Matthew 5:26 is by no means contained the finality of the condition of punishment, but its non-finality; since the ἀποδιδόναι, that is, the removal of the guilt of sin, is for him who is in this φυλακή an impossibility, Matthew 18:34, Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46, etc. ἕως states, then, a terminus which is never reached. Comp. Matthew 18:34.

The quadrans is ¼ As in copper, or 2 λεπτά, ¾ of a farthing (Mark 12:42); see an the Roman coins in circulation amongst the Jews, Cavedoni, bibl. Numismat. I. p. 78 ff.

Matthew 5:25-26. There is much more reason for regarding this passage as an interpolation. It is connected only externally (by the references to courts of law) with what goes before, and it is out of keeping with the general drift of the teaching on the hill. It occurs in a different connection in Luke 12:58, there as a solemn warning to the Jewish people, on its way to judgment, to repent. Meyer pleads that the logion might be repeated. It might, but only on suitable occasions, and the teaching on the hill does not seem to offer such an occasion. Kuinoel, Bleek, Holtzmann, Weiss and others regard the words as foreign to the connection. Referring to the exposition in Luke, I offer here only a few verbal notes mainly on points in which Matthew differs from Luke.—ἴσθι εὐνοῶν, be in a conciliatory mood, ready to come to terms with your opponent in a legal process (ἀντίδικος). It is a case of debt, and the two, creditor and debtor, are on the way to the court where they must appear together (Deuteronomy 21:18; Deuteronomy 25:1). Matthew’s expression implies willingness to come to terms amicably on the creditor’s part, and the debtor is exhorted to meet him half way. Luke’s δὸς ἐργασίαν throws the willingness on the other side, or at least implies that the debtor will need to make an effort to bring the creditor to terms.—παραδῷ, a much milder word than Luke’s κατασύρῃ, which points to rough, rude handling, dragging an unwilling debtor along whither he would rather not go.—ὑπηρέτῃ, the officer of the court whose business it was to collect the debt and generally to carry out the decision of the judge; in Luke πράκτωρ.—κοδράντην = quadrans, less than a farthing. Luke has λεπτὸν, half the value of a κοδ., thereby strengthening the statement that the imprisoned debtor will not escape till he has paid all he owes.

25. Agree] Lit. be friendly with. The participle in the orig. conveys the idea of continuance. The thought of the preceding verse is extended and generalised. By the “adversary” are meant those against whom we harbour that resentment which keeps us from the kingdom of God. “While there is time in this life put away the resentment. Show thyself to be a son of God by being a peacemaker.” Matthew 5:9.

The imagery is taken from the law-courts. It would be well for a man to compound with his creditor before the case should be brought before the judge.

Matthew 5:25. Ἴσθι εὐνοῶν, be friendly) Seek kindly feeling by showing it yourself.—τῷ ἀντιδίκῳ, with the adversary) to whom you owe money.—Cf. Matthew 5:26. The language is parabolical, it applies principally to an adversary who entertains grave animosity even beyond death.—ταχὺ, quickly) The pride of the human heart is slow in deprecation and satisfaction.—ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ, in the way) sc. to the tribunal.—μετʼ αὐτοῦ, with him) The plaintiff used himself to apprehend the defendant.—σε παραδῷ, deliver thee) Great is the power of the adversary. God, as Judge, prosecutes the demand of him who pleads for justice.—φυλακὴν, ward) where thou thy whole self wilt be the pledge of payment for the debt.

Verses 25, 26. - Parallel passage: Luke 12:58, 59. The question of the relation of the two passages, as regards both language and original connexion, is exceedingly difficult. As to the former, the verbal differences seem to be such as would hardly have been made on purpose, and to be rather due to memory; yet the agreement is too minute to be the result of memory of a Gospel only oral. Perhaps memory of a document best satisfies the conditions. As to the original connexion of the verses, they, especially ver. 26, can hardly have been spoken twice. Most critics suppose that St. Luke gives them in their proper context; but if so, it is curious that two of his words, ὑπάγεις ἀπήλλαχθαι, seem to recall our preceding ver. 24. One word might have been a mere coincidence, but hardly two. It is not likely that these words in ver. 24 were derived from Luke, for this supposes a double process in St. Matthew's mind, rejecting them from ver. 25 and placing them in ver. 24. It is more natural also to regard the first clause of Luke 12:58, "As... him," as an expansion of the corresponding clause in our ver. 25 rather than this as a compression of that. This apparent reminiscence in Luke of what is given in our vers. 24 and 25a points to the connexion of vers. 24-26 in Matthew being original, and to it having been broken by Luke or by the framer of the source that he used. A further stage in our Lord's warning. A man must not only seek reconciliation with the injured person (ver. 23), and that in preference to fulfilling the holiest service (ver. 24), but he must do so the more because of the danger of postponing reconciliation. It is noteworthy that our Lord in this verse does not define on whose side the cause of the quarrel lies. Verse 25. - Agree with. And that not with a merely formal reconciliation, but reconciliation based on a permanent kindly feeling towards him (ἴσθι εὐνοῶν). Professor Margoliouth suggests that this is a confirmation of what he thinks is the original text of Ecclus. 18:20, "Before judgment beg off" ('Inaugural Lect.,' p. 23: 1890). Thine adversary. Primarily the injured brother (vide infra), Quickly. For such is not the tendency of the human heart. Whiles. Delay not in making reconciliation while you have opportunity. Thayer compares Song of Solomon 1:12. Thou art. On the indicative, cf. Winer, § 41. b, 3. 2, a, note (p. 371, trans. 1870). In the way with him; Revised Version, with the manuscripts, with him in the way. The right reading implies that the proximity of the persons may perhaps not last throughout "the way." "The way" is the road to the judge, as explained in -Luke. But being on the road to him is here not presented as a possibility (Luke), but as a certainty. For so, in fact, it is. Lest... the adversary (ver. 26, note) deliver thee. Translating from the language of parable to that of fact, it is only if reconciliation has not been made, if the heart is still unforgiving and quarrelsome, that God the Judge will take notice of the offence. And the judge... to the officer (τῷ ὐπηρέτῃ); i.e. the officer whose duty it was to execute the judge's commands (cf. Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.,' for illustrations). The expression here belongs to the figure; but in Matthew 13:41 similar duties are predicated of the angels. If the figure was derived from the synagogue, the officer would doubtless be the chazzan, of which, indeed, ὑπηρέτης is the technical rendering (cf. Schurer, II. 2. p. 66). And thou be cast (καὶ βληθήσῃ). The future indicative (still dependent on "lest") brings out the reality of the danger (cf. Bishop Lightfoot, on Colossians 2:8). Matthew 5:25Agree with (ἴσθι εὐνοῶν)

Lit., be well-minded toward; inclined to satisfy by paying or compromising. Wyc., Be thou consenting to.

Officer (ὑπηρέτῃ)

Denoting a subordinate official, as a herald or an orderly, and in this sense applied to Mark as the "minister" or attendant of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:5). It furnishes an interesting instance of the expansion of a word from a limited and special meaning into a more general one; and also of the influence of the Gospel in lifting words into higher and purer associations. Formed with the verb ἐρέσσω, to row, it originally signified a rower, as distinguished from a soldier, in a war-galley. This word for a galley-slave comes at last, in the hands of Luke and Paul, to stand for the noblest of all offices, that of a minister of the Lord Jesus (Luke 1:2; Acts 26:16; 1 Corinthians 4:1).

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