You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.—In form the latter clause was a Rabbinic addition to the former; and this is important as showing that our Lord deals throughout not with the Law as such, but with the scribes’ exposition of it. But it can hardly be said these words, as far as national enemies were concerned, were foreign to the spirit of the Law. The Israelites were practically commanded to hate the Canaanites and Amalekites, whom they were commissioned to destroy. The fault of the scribes was that they stereotyped the Law, which was in its nature transitory, and extended it in a wrong direction by making it the plea for indulgence in private enmities. Our Lord cancels the Rabbinic gloss as regards national and, à fortiori, private hatreds, and teaches us to strive after the ideal excellence which He realised, and to love, i.e., to seek the good of those who have shown us the most bitter hostility. So He taught men to find a neighbour even in a Samaritan, and so He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
THE LAW OF LOVE
The last of the five instances of our Lord’s extending and deepening and spiritualising the old law is also the climax of them. We may either call it the highest or the deepest, according to our point of view. His transfiguring touch invests all the commandments with which He has been dealing with new inwardness, sweep, and spirituality, and finally He proclaims the supreme, all-including commandment of universal love. ‘It hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour’-that comes from Leviticus 19:18; but where does ‘and hate thine enemy’ come from? Not from Scripture, but in the passage in Leviticus ‘neighbour’ is co-extensive with ‘children of thy people,’ and the hatred and contempt of all men outside Israel which grew upon the Jews found a foothold there. ‘Who is my neighbour?’ was apparently a well-discussed question in the schools of the Rabbis, and, whether any of these teachers ever committed themselves to plainly formulating the principle or not, practically the duty of love was restricted to a narrow circle, and the rest of the wide world left out in the cold. But not only was the circumference of love’s circle drawn in, but to hate an enemy was elevated almost into a duty. It is the worst form of retaliation. ‘An eye for an eye’ is bad enough, but hate for hate plunges men far deeper in the devil’s mire. To flash back from the mirror of the heart the hostile looks which are flung at us, is our natural impulse; but why should we always leave it to the other man to pitch the keynote of our relations with him? Why should we echo only his tones? Cannot we leave his discord to die into silence and reply to it by something more musical? Two thunder-clouds may cast lightnings at each other, but they waste themselves in the process. Better to shine meekly and victoriously on as the moon does on piled masses of darkness till it silvers them with its quiet light. So Jesus bids us do. We are to suppress the natural inclination to pay back in the enemy’s own coin, to ‘give him as good as he gave us,’ to ‘show proper spirit,’ and all the other fine phrases with which the world whitewashes hatred and revenge. We are not only to allow no stirring of malice in our feelings, but we are to let kindly emotions bear fruit in words blessing the cursers, and in deeds of goodness, and, highest of all, in prayers for those whose hate is bitterest, being founded on religion, and who are carrying it into action in persecution. We cannot hate a man if we pray for him; we cannot pray for him if we hate him. Our weakness often feels it so hard not to hate our enemies, that our only way to get strength to keep this highest, hardest commandment is to begin by trying to pray for the foe, and then we gradually feel the infernal fires dying down in our temper, and come to be able to meet his evil with good, and his curses with blessings. It is a difficult lesson that Jesus sets us. It is a blessed possibility that Jesus opens for us, that our kindly emotions towards men need not be at the mercy of theirs to us. It is a fair ideal that He paints, which, if Christians deliberately and continuously took it for their aim to realise, would revolutionise society, and make the fellowship of man with man a continual joy. Think of what any community, great or small, would be, if enmity were met by love only and always. Its fire would die for want of fuel. If the hater found no answering hate increasing his hate, he would often come to answer love with love. There is an old legend spread through many lands, which tells how a princess who had been changed by enchantment into a loathly serpent, was set free by being thrice kissed by a knight, who thereby won a fair bride with whom he lived in love and joy. The only way to change the serpent of hate into the fair form of a friend is to kiss it out of its enchantment.
No doubt, partial anticipations of this precept may be found, buried under much ethical rubbish, elsewhere than in the Sermon on the Mount, and more plainly in Old Testament teaching, and in Rabbinical sayings; but Christ’s ‘originality’ as a moral teacher lies not so much in the absolute novelty of His commandments, as in the perspective in which He sets them, and in the motives on which He bases them, and most of all in His being more than a teacher, namely, the Giver of power to fulfil what He enjoins. Christian ethics not merely recognises the duty of love to men, but sets it as the foundation of all other duties. It is root and trunk, all others are but the branches into which it ramifies. Christian ethics not merely recognises the duty, but takes a man by the hand, leads him up to his Father God, and says: There, that is your pattern, and a child who loves his Father will try to copy his ways and be made like Him by his love. So Morality passes into Religion, and through the transition receives power beyond its own. The perfection of worship is imitation, and when men ‘call Him Father’ whom they adore, imitation becomes the natural action of a child who loves.
A dew-drop and a planet are both spheres, moulded by the same law of gravitation. The tiny round of our little drops of love may be not all unlike the colossal completeness of that Love, which owns the sun as ‘His sun,’ and rays down light and distils rain over the broad world. God loves all men apart altogether from any regard to character, therefore He gives to all men all the good gifts that they can receive apart from character, and if evil men do not get His best gifts, it is not because He withholds, but because they cannot take. There are human love-gifts which cannot be bestowed on enemies or evil persons. It is not possible, nor fit, that a Christian should feel to such as he does to those who share his faith and sympathies; but it is possible, and therefore incumbent, that he should not only negatively clear his heart of malice and hatred, but that he should positively exercise such active beneficence as they will receive. That is God’s way, and it should be His children’s.
The thought of the divine pattern naturally brings up the contrast between it and that which goes by the name of love among men. Just because Christians are to take God as their example of love, they must transcend human examples. Here again Jesus strikes the note with which He began His teaching of His disciples’ ‘righteousness’; but very significantly He does not now point to Pharisees, but to publicans, as those who were to be surpassed. The former, no doubt, were models of ‘righteousness’ after a rigid, whitewashed-sepulchre sort, but the latter had bigger hearts, and, bad as they were and were reputed to be, they loved better than the others. Jesus is glad to see and point to even imperfect sparks of goodness in a justly condemned class. No doubt, publicans in their own homes, with wife and children round them, let their hearts out, and could be tender and gentle, however gruff and harsh in public. When Jesus says ‘even the publicans,’ He is not speaking in contempt, but in recognition of the love that did find some soil to grow on, even in that rocky ground. But is not the bringing in of the ‘reward’ as a motive a woful downcome? and is love that loves for the sake of reward, love at all? The criticism and questions forget that the true motive has just been set forth, and that the thought of ‘reward’ comes in, only as secondary encouragement to a duty which is based upon another ground. To love because we shall gain something, either in this world or in the next, is not love but long-sighted selfishness; but to be helped in our endeavours to widen our love so as to take in all men, by the vision of the reward, is not selfishness but a legitimate strengthening of our weakness. Especially is that so, in view of the fact that ‘the reward’ contemplated is nothing else than the growth of likeness to the Father in heaven, and the increase of filial consciousness, and the clearer, deeper cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ If longing for, and having regard to, that ‘recompense of reward’ is selfishness, and if the teaching which permits it is immoral, may God send the world more of such selfishness and of teachers of it!
But the reference to the shrunken love-streams that flow among men passes again swiftly to the former thought of likeness to God as the great pattern. Like a bird glancing downwards for a moment to earth, and then up again and away into the blue, our Lord’s words re-soar, and settle at last by the throne of God. The command, ‘Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,’ may be intended to refer only to the immediately preceding section, but one is inclined to regard it rather as the summing up of the whole of the preceding series of commandments from Matthew 5:20 onwards. The sum of religion is to imitate the God whom we worship. The ideal which draws us to aim at its realisation must be absolutely perfect, however imperfect may be all our attempts to reproduce it. We sometimes hear it said that to set up perfection as our goal is to smite effort dead and to enthrone despair. But to set up an incomplete ideal is the surest way to take the heart out of effort after it. It is the Christian’s prerogative to have ever gleaming before him an unattained aim, to which he is progressively approximating, and which, unreached, beckons, feeds hope of endless approach, and guarantees immortality.Matthew 5:43. Ye have heard that it hath been said — In this, as is in the former instances, our Lord, intending to comprehend not only the law itself, but the explications of it given by the Jewish doctors, and said to be derived by tradition from the mouth of Moses, does not say, Ye know, but, Ye have heard, that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy — God enjoined the former part of this precept, Leviticus 19:18, and the scribes added the latter, abusing, it seems, the commands for destroying the Canaanites, to countenance such an addition, though this was in direct contradiction to many other scriptures. See Exodus 24:4-5; Leviticus 19:17; Proverbs 25:21. But I say unto you, Love your enemies — To the narrow charity of the Jews, confined to their own brethren and men of their own religion, Christ here opposes his admirable precept, enjoining us, if we would be his genuine disciples, to love even our enemies; and that, by showing a sincere affection and good will to them who bear enmity or ill will to us; by manifesting our beneficence to them who, by their actions, show their hatred to us; by doing good to them for evil; by blessing them who with their mouths curse us; and by praying for God’s blessing upon them who revile and persecute us, as his followers. And this love he recommends, 1st, from the manifest absurdity of the Jewish doctrine, which made them no better, in this respect, than those sinners, publicans, and heathen, whom they allowed themselves to hate, &c.; 2d, that they, who boasted of it as their peculiar glory that they were the sons of God, might show that they really were so by their imitating His goodness who is kind to the unthankful and evil; 3d, because this would render his followers complete in the great duty of love and mercy to others, as he adds in the last clause. The following paraphrase on the different clauses of the passage may, perhaps, give the reader a clearer and fuller view of its meaning. Explaining what he intends, when he says, Love your enemies, he adds, Bless them that curse you — Give them kind and friendly language who rail, act, or speak evil of you; say all the good you can to, and of them. Do good to them that hate you — Repay love in thought, word, and deed, to those who really bear ill will to you, and show it both in their words and actions; and embrace every opportunity of promoting their welfare, both temporal and spiritual. And pray for those which despitefully use you, &c. — Besides doing all in your own power to advance their happiness, endeavour, by your prayers, to engage God also to befriend and bless them. The expression επηρεαζοντων υμας, is by some rendered, who falsely accuse, or traduce you; but more properly by Dr. Doddridge, who insult over you. The word is plainly used by St. Peter, (1 Peter 3:16, the only other place in Scripture where it occurs,) to express abusive language. Both it and the other terms here used express the highest degree of enmity, for what can be worse than cursing, and calumny, and insults, and persecutions; yet we are commanded to love, and bless, and do good to those who express their enmity to us even by these things; and this doctrine Christ enforces from the noblest of all considerations, that it renders men like God; for he adds, that ye may be the children of your Father — As if he had said, Being thus benevolent toward all the bad as well as the good, ye shall be like God, and so prove yourselves to be his genuine offspring; for he maketh his sun common to them who worship and them who contemn him; and lets his rain be useful both to the just and to the unjust; alluring the bad to repentance, and exciting the good to thankfulness, by this universal and indiscriminate benignity of his providence. For if ye love them which love you, &c., and salute your brethren only, &c. — These are common things, practised by people of the worst character; which therefore do not distinguish you from others, nor prove you to be of a truly pious and virtuous disposition, but as being only indued with the essential principles of human nature, so that no peculiar reward can await you for doing them. The phrase τι περισσον ποιειτε, rendered in our translation, What do ye more than others? but which Dr. Campbell renders, Wherein do you excel? is thought by him to refer to what our Lord had declared, Matthew 5:20, concerning the necessity of our righteousness excelling, or abounding more than that of the scribes and Pharisees. Thus, he thinks, our Lord’s expostulation is rendered more energetical by the contrast; as if he had said, I told you your righteousness must excel that of the scribes and Pharisees, but if you do good to your friends only, it will not excel even that of the publicans and pagans. Perhaps, in the phrase, If ye salute your brethren only, our Lord might glance at those prejudices which different sects had against each other, and might intimate that he would not have his followers imbibe that narrow spirit. And “would to God,” says a pious divine, “that the hint had been more attended to, among the unhappy subdivisions into which his church has been crumbled; and that we might at least advance so far as cordially to embrace our brethren in Christ, of whatever party or denomination they are! Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father, &c. — Imitate especially the divine goodness, as it is promiscuous, and extends to the evil as well as the good. This seems to be chiefly what is here intended; the love to friends, brethren, and countrymen implying only a very imperfect imitation of God; we are to labour after a more complete resemblance to him, in loving enemies. Our Lord, therefore, afterward expressed himself in a parallel discourse on the same subject in a rather different manner, saying, Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful, Luke 6:36. But, it is probable, he used a greater latitude of expression here, to remind us of our obligations to imitate the blessed God in all his moral perfections. The exhortation undoubtedly refers to all that holiness which is described in the foregoing verses, which our Lord, in the beginning of the chapter, recommends as happiness, and in the close of it as perfection. And it must be observed, that the words in the original, εσεσθε ουν υμεις τελειοι, express a promise, rather than a precept: Ye shall therefore be perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. And how wise and gracious is this, to sum up, and, as it were, to seal all his commandments with a promise! even the proper promise of the gospel, that he will put those laws in our minds and write them in our hearts! He well knew how ready our unbelief would be to suggest, This is impossible! And therefore stakes upon it all the power, truth, and faithfulness of Him to whom all things are possible. Leviticus 19:18. That we must therefore hate our enemy was an inference drawn from it by the Jews. They supposed that if we loved the one, we must of course hate the other. They were total strangers to that great, special law of religion which requires us to love both. A neighbor is literally one that lives near to us; then, one who is near to us by acts of kindness and friendship. This is its meaning here. See also Luke 10:36.
Thou shalt love thy neighbour—To this the corrupt teachers added,
and hate thine enemy—as if the one were a legitimate inference from the other, instead of being a detestable gloss, as Bengel indignantly calls it. Lightfoot quotes some of the cursed maxims inculcated by those traditionists regarding the proper treatment of all Gentiles. No wonder that the Romans charged the Jews with hatred of the human race.Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, was the old law of God, Leviticus 19:18; the other part, and hate thine enemy, was the Pharisees’ addition, or rather their collection, because the law only commanded them to love their neighbour. un signifies sometimes a friend, sometimes more largely any other person; they took it in the strict sense, yet they could not be so blind as not to extend it to all those of their own nation, for Matthew 5:17 there are two words used, one signifying thy brother, the other thy countryman, whom they are commanded in that verse not to hate in their hearts. But it appeareth by Luke 10:29, that they did not very well know their neighbour. The lawyer asked, Who is my neighbour? Christ instructs him by the parable of him that was fallen among thieves, that they ought not to look upon those of their own country only as neighbours, for a Samaritan might deserve the name better than a priest or Levite. But they generally looked upon all the uncircumcised as not their neighbours, but their enemies, whom the precept did not oblige them to love.
thou shalt love thy neighbour, with this appendage to it, or false gloss upon it,
and hate thine enemy; for the first of these only is the law of Moses, Leviticus 19:18, the other is the addition, or wrong interpretation of the Scribes and Pharisees: wherefore the Jew (o) has no reason to charge Christ, or the Evangelist, with a false testimony, as he does, because the latter is no where written in the law, nor in the prophets: nor does Christ say it is; he only observes, that it had been traditionally handed down to them from the ancients, by the masters of the traditions of the elders, that the law of loving the neighbour was so to be understood as to allow, and even enjoin, hatred of enemies: in proof of which, take the following instances (p).
"When one man sins against another, he may not hate him in his heart, and be silent, as is said of the wicked; Absalom spoke not with Amnon: but it is commanded to make it known to him, and to say to him, why hast thou done to me so and so? As it is said, "rebuking, thou shalt rebuke thy neighbour"; and if he returns, and desires him to pardon him, he shall not be implacable and cruel; but if he reproves him many times, and he does not receive his reproof, nor turn from his sin, then , "it is lawful to hate him".''
Again, they say (q),
"Every disciple of a wise man, , "who does not revenge, and keep as a serpent"; that is, as the gloss explains it, "enmity in his heart", as a serpent, is no disciple of a wise man.''
And so Maimonides (r), one of their better sort of writers, says;
"A disciple of a wise man, or a scholar, whom a man despises and reproaches publicly, it is forbidden him to forgive him, because of his honour; and if he forgives him, he is to be punished, for this is a contempt of the law; but "he must revenge, and keep the thing as a serpent", until the other asks pardon of him, and then he may forgive him.''
Thus they bred their scholars in hatred and malice against their enemies. This arises from a mistaken sense of the word "neighbour", which they understood only of a friend; and concluded, that if a friend was to be loved, an enemy was to be hated; not the Gentiles only, but anyone, among themselves, which could come under that name.
(o) R. Isaac Chizuk Emunah, par. 2. c. 11. p. 402. (p) Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora precept. neg. 5. Vid. Maimon. Hilchot Rotseach, c. 13. sect. 14. (q) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 22. 2. & 23. 1.((r) Maimon. Hilch. Talmud Tora, c. 7. sect. 13.Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 5:43. Τὸν πλησίον σου] In Leviticus 19:18, רֵעֲךָ denotes a member of the nation, whereby the proselyte also is included with others; hatred towards the heathen, however, is not conceived of by the legislator as an antithesis that follows of itself, and therefore we may all the less assume that Jesus Himself introduced into the law hatred of one’s enemies, as an abstraction from the national exclusiveness, in which the law keeps Judaism towards heathenism, as if it commanded this hatred (Weiss, Bleek). The casuistic tradition of the Pharisees, however, explained Leviticus 19:18, as the antithetical τ. ἐχθρόν ς. shows, of a friend, and deduced therefrom (perhaps with the addition of passages like Deuteronomy 25:17-19, comp. Malachi 1:3) the antithesis (which confessedly was also a principle of the common Hellenism), see Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phil. 110, p. 154; Jacobs, ad Del. epigr. p; Matthew 144: καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου, by which was meant not the national enemy (Keim), but the personal (σου) private enemy, in opposition to the law (Exodus 23:4 f.; Leviticus 19:18) and to the pious spirit of the Old Covenant (Psalm 7:5; Psalm 35:13 f.; Job 31:29; Proverbs 24:17; Proverbs 24:29; Proverbs 25:21 f.; comp. Genesis 45:1; 1 Samuel 24:7; 1 Samuel 18:5; 2 Kings 6:22). Jesus Himself also may have understood the Pharisaic addition only to refer to private enemies, as is clear from His antithesis, Matthew 5:44 ff.Matthew 5:43-48. Sixth and final illustration: from the Law of Love. To an old partial form of the law Jesus opposes a new universal one.c) Love or Charity, 43–48.
43. Thou shalt love thy neighbour] Leviticus 19:18, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The second clause does not occur in Levit., but was a Rabbinical inference. Enemies, all who are outside the chosen race, the etymological force of the Greek word. Heathen writers bear testimony to this unsocial characteristic of the Jews. Juvenal says it was their rule—
“Non monstrare vias eadem nisi sacra colenti,
Quaesitum ad fontem solos deducere verpos.”—Sat. xiv. 104.Matthew 5:43. Τὸν πλησίον, Thy neighbour) Gataker in his Adversaria miscellanea posthuma, ch. 10. f. 527, remarks, that in Sophocles and Aristotle, all men are indiscriminately called οἱ πέλας—μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου, thou shalt hate thine enemy) The Jews abused the precept which had been given in reference to certain accursed nations, as in Deuteronomy 23:7; for they had also been commanded to love even their enemies. Christopher Cartwright cites decrees of the Jews concerning the hatred of enemies.—See Book 2; Mellif. Heb. ch. 1.
 Thomas Gataker was born in London 1574; became Preacher of Lincoln’s Inn in 1601, Rector of Rotherhithe 1611, and died 1654. He was one of the most learned theologians of his time. He subscribed the Covenant, but declared in favour of Episcopacy, and during the Commonwealth preferred the Presbyterians to the Independents. His works are many and various.—(I. B.)
 i.e. neighbours.—(I. B.)
 A most vile gloss.—B. G. V.
 Christopher Cartwright, a learned English divine; born 1602; died 1658. The work here cited is Mellificium Hebraicum, sive observationes ex Hebræorum antiquiorum monumentis desumptæ.—(I. B.)Verses 43-48. - The treatment of those who injure us. (Cf. supra, ver. 38.) Our Lord now turns from the reception of injuries to the treatment of those who injure us. We are not to injure them in return, nor merely to keep aloof from them, but to show them positive kindness. The Law, in the natural development of it current at the time, taught very differently. Verse 43.. - Matthew only. Ye have heard (ver. 21, note). Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. The first clause is found in Leviticus 19:18, the second is the natural, and, from one point of view, legitimate, deduction from it. "The whole precept, as it stands, undoubtedly represents, and is a summary of, the sense of the Law" (Mozley, vide infra). The meaning of the words "neighbour" and "enemy" has been much discussed. In Leviticus, indeed, the meaning of "neighbour" is clear; it answers to "the children of thy people" in the preceding clause, i.e. it refers to members of the nation; all Israelites are termed "neighbours." The primary sense, therefore, of this whole precept is love to an Israelite, hatred to a non-Israelite (cf. Deuteronomy 25:17-19). As such, the precept was of value in cementing the unity of the nation and preventing greater exposure to the evils, moral and religious, found outside it. But as quoted by our Lord, it has evidently a more private reference. He treats the precept as referring to personal friends (those who act in a neighbourly way) and enemies, and even this is, in some respects, a legitimate summary of the teaching of the Law, in so far as it forms another side of the law of retaliation. In days when public justice was weak much had to be left to the action of the individual, and he who was wronged was bid satisfy justice by retaliating on his enemy. That, however, it was not the only teaching of the Law is evident from Exodus 23:4 (cf. Job 31:29). But as regards both aspects of the precept the time had come for a change. The Jews only too gladly showed obedience to the second part of the precept, making themselves proverbial (cf. Tacitus, 'Hist.,' 5:5. 2; Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 14:103) for their more than incivility to Gentiles, and they seem to have also zealously carried it out towards their personal enemies (cf. Psalm 109.). On the whole subject, vide especially Mozley ('Ruling Ideas,' pp. 188-200), who, however, hardly allows enough weight to passages like Exodus 23:4.
Another word to which the Gospel has imparted a broader and deeper sense. Literally it means the one near (so the Eng., neighbor equals nigh-bor), indicating a mere outward nearness, proximity. Thus a neighbor might be an enemy. Socrates (Plato, "Republic," ii., 373) shows how two adjoining states might come to want each a piece of its neighbor's (τῶν πλησίον) land, so that there would arise war between them; and again (Plato, "Theaetetus," 174) he says that a philosopher is wholly unacquainted with his next-door neighbor, and does not know whether he is a man or an animal. The Old Testament expands the meaning to cover national or tribal fellowship, and that is the sense in our Lord's quotation here. The Christian sense is expounded by Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29 sqq.), as including the whole brotherhood of man, and as founded in love for man, as man, everywhere.
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