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scribes and pharisees, some might charge him with an intention of destroying their law, and abolishing the customs of the nation. He therefore told them that he did not come for that end, but really
to fulfill or accomplish what was in the law and the prophets. • To destroy. To abrogate; to deny their obligation; to set men free from the obligation to obey them. “The law. The five books of Moses, called the law, See note on Luke xxiv. 44. "The prophets. The books which the prophets wrote. These two divisions comprehend the Old Testament, and Jesus says that he came not to do away or destroy the authority of the Old Testament. But to fulfil.' To complete the design ; to fill up
what was predicted, to accomplish what was intended in them. The word 'fulfil, also means sometimes to teach or inculcate, Col. i. 25. The law of Moses directed many sacrifices and rites which were designed to shadow forth the Messiah, Heb. ix. These were fulfilled when he came and offered himself a sacrifice to God; a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they. The prophets contained many predictions respecting his coming and death. These were all to be fulfilled and fully accomplished by his miracles, and his sufferings.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Verily.' Truly, certainly. A word of strong affirmation. Till heaven and earth pass. It is the same as saying, every thing else may change, the very earth and heaven may pass away and be destroyed, but the law of God shall not be destroyed till its whole design shall be accomplished. 'One jot.' The word “jot is the name of the Hebrew letter I, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. 'One tittle.' The Hebrew letters were written with small points or apices, which serve todistinguish one letter from another. To change a small point of one letter might vary the meaning of a word, and destroy the sense.
Hence the Jews were exceedingly cautious in writing these letters. The expression, one jot or tittle,' became proverbial, and means that the smallest part of the law shall not be destroyed.
The laws of the Jews are divided into moral, ceremonial, and judicial. The moral laws are such as grow out of the nature of things, which cannot, therefore, be changed, such as the duty of loving God and his creatures. These cannot be abolished, as it can never be made right to hate God, or to hate our fellow-men, Of this kind are the ten commandments; and these our Saviour nas neither abolished nor superseded. The ceremonial laws are such as are appointed to certain states of society, or to regulate the religious rites and ceremonies of a people. These can be changed when circumstances are changed, and yet the moral law be untouched. That law, requiring love and obedience to God
and love to men, could not be changed, and Christ did no! attempt it, Matt. xix. 16—19; xxii. 37-39. Rom. xiii. 9. The judicial law regulated the courts of justice of the Jews. When the form of the Jewish polity was changed, this was of course no longer binding. The ceremonial law was fulfilled by the coming of Christ; the shadow was lost in the substance, and ceased to be binding. The moral law was confirmed and unchanged.
19 Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven · but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
'Shall break. Shall disobey. “These least commandments Christ teaches that in his kingdom those who taught that any laws of God might be violated with impunity, should be called
least;' while they should be held in high regard who observed all the laws of God without distinction. 'Shall be called least.' That is, shall be least. See ver. 9. The pharisees divided the law into greater and lesser precepts. They made no small part of it void by their traditions and divisions, Matt. xxiii. 23; xv. 3—9. Jesus says that in his kingdom all this vain division and tradition should cease. Such divisions and distinctions should be a small matter. He that attempted it should be the least of all. “Shall be called great.'. He who teaches that all the moral law of God is binding, and that all of it should be obeyed, without attempting to describe any part as unimportant, shall be a teacher worthy of his office, shall teach the truth, and shall be called great. We learn hence, that all the commands of God should be preached, in their proper place, by christian ministers; that they who pretend that there are any laws of God so small that they need not obey them, are unworthy of his kingdom; and that true piety has respect to all the commandments of God, and keeps them, Psa. cxix. 6.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Your righteousness.' Your holiness, your views of the nature of righteousness, and your conduct and lives. are more holy than they are, you cannot be saved.
Shall exceed.' Shall excel or abound more. This righteousness was external, and was not real holiness. The righteousness of true christians is seated in the heart, and is therefore genuine. The righteousness of the scribes and pharisees.' See note on ch. iii. 7. Their righteousness consisted in outward observances of the
fove of man.
ceremonial and traditional law. See Matt. xxiii. 13–33. The righteousness that Jesus required in his kingdom was purity, peace, chastity, honesty, temperance, the fear of God, and the
It is pure, internal reacning the motives, and mak. ing the life holy.
21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment:
“Ye have heard.' Or, this is the common interpretation among the Jews. Jesus proceeds here to comment on some prevailing opinions among the Jews; to show that the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees was defective; and that men needed a better righteousness, or they could not be saved. By them of old time.' Jesus here refers to the interpreters of the law and the prophets. Jesus did not set himself against the law of Moses, but against the false and pernicious interpretations of his law prevalent in his time. Thou shalt not kill. See Ex. xx. 13. This literally denotes taking the life of another, with malice, with intention to murder him. The Jews understood it as meaning no more. The comment of our Saviour shows that it was spiritual, and was designed to extend to the thoughts and feelings, as well as the external act. Shall be in danger of.' Shall be held guilty, and be punished by. The law of Moses declared that the inurderer should be put to death, Lev. xxiv. 21. Num. xxxv. 16. * The judgment.' This was the tribunal that had cognizance of cases oi murder, &c. It was a court that sat in each city or town, and consisted commonly of seven men. bers.
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council : but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire.
' But I say unto you.? Jesus being God as well as man, John i. 1, and, therefore, being the original giver of the law, had a right to expound or enforce it as he pleased. He therefore spoke here and elsewhere as having authority, and not as the scribes. He did it as having a right to do it, and he that has a right to ordain and change laws in the government of God must be himself Divine. 'Is angry-without a cause.' Anger is a natural feeling, given to us : 1. As an expression of our disapprobation of a course of evil conduct; and, 2. That we may defend ourselves when we are suddenly attacked. When excited against sin it is lawful. See Mark iii. 5. Eph. iv, 26. This anger. or indignation against sin, is not what our Saviour speaks of here. That is anger without a cause; that is, unjustly, rashly,
hastily, where no offence had been given or intended. In that case it is evil; and it is a violation of the sixth commandment, because he that hateth his brother is a murderer, 1 John iii, 15. He has a feeling which would lead him to commit murder, if it were fully acted out. • His brother.' As all men are descended from one Father, and are all the creatures of the same God, so they are all brethren; and so every man should be regarded and treated as a brother, Raca. This is a Syriac word, expressive of great contempt. It comes from a verb signifying to be empty, vain; and hence, as a word of contempt, denotes senseless, stupid. Jesus teaches us here that to use such words is a violation of the sixth commandment. It is a violation of the spirit of that commandment, and, if indulged, may lead to more open and dreadful infractions of that law. Children should learn that to use such words is highly offensive to God, for we must give an account of every idle word which we speak in the day of judg. ment. In danger of the council. The word translated council,' means the 'Sanhedrim,' and there can be no reason to doubt that Christ refers to the Jewish tribunal of that name. This was instituted in the time of the Maccabees, probably about 200 years before Christ. It was composed of seventy-two judges; the high-priest was the president of this tribunal. The seventy-two members were made up of the chief priests and elders of the people, and the scribes. This tribunal had cognizance of the great affairs of the nation. Till the time when Judea was subjected to the Romans, it had the power of life and death. Thou fool.' This term expressed more than want of wisdom. It was expressive of the highest guilt. It had been commonly used to denote those who were idolaters, or were guilty of great crimes, Josh, vii. 15. Psa. xiv, 1. . Heíl-fire. The original of this is
the Gehenna of fire.' The word 'gehenna, commonly translated hell, is made up of two Hebrew words, and signifies the
valley of Hinnom. It was formerly a pleasant valley, near to Jerusalem on the east. This valley the idolatrous Israelites devoted to the horrid worship of Moloch, 2 Kings xvi. 3. 2 Cnron. xxviii. 3. There they offered children to Moloch.
After the return of the Jews from captivity, this was made the place where to throw all the dead carcases and filth of the city; and was not unfrequently the place of executions. It became, therefore, extremely offensive; the air was polluted; and to preserve it in any manner pure, it was necessary to keep fires continually burning there. The extreme loathsomeness of the place, the corruption of the atmosphere, and the lurid fires blazing by day and by night, made it one of the most appalling and terrific objects with which a Jew was acquainted. It was called the Gehenna of fire;' and was the image which our Saviour often employed to denote the future punishment of the wicked.
In this verse it denotes a degree of suffering higher than the
punishment inflicted by the court of seventy, or the sanhedrim. And the whole verse may therefore mean; He that hates his brother without a cause is guilty of a violation of the sixth commandment, and shall be punished with a severity similar to that inflicted by the court of judgment. He that shall suffer his pas.. sions to transport him to still greater extravagances, and shall make him an object of derision and contempt, shall be exposed to still severer punishment, corresponding to that which the sanhedrim, or council, inflicts. But he who shall load his brother with odious appellations, and abusive language, shall incur the severest degree of punishment, represented by being burnt alive in the horrid and awful valley of Hinnom.
Not only murder shall be punished by God, but anger and contempt shall be regarded by him as a violation of the law, and punished according to the offence. As these offences were not actually cognizable before the Jewish tribunals, he must mean that they will be punished hereafter. And all these expressions relate to degrees of punishment proportionate to crime, in the future world, the world of justice and of woe.
23 Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
* Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar,' &c. The pharisees were intent only on the external act in worship. If à man conformed to the external rites of religion, however much envy, and malice, and secret hatred, he might have, they thought he was doing well. Our Saviour taught a different doctrine. It was of more consequence to have the heart right, than to perform the outward act. If therefore, says he, a man has gone so far as to bring his gift to the very altar, and should remember that any one had any thing against him, it was his duty there to leave his offering, and go and be reconciled. While a difference of this nature existed, his offering could not be acceptable. To obey is better than sacrifice. He that comes to worship his Maker filled with malice, and hatred, and envy, and at war with his brethren, is a hypocritical worshipper, and must meet with God's displeasure. God is not deceived; and he will not be mocked." Thy gift.' Thy sacrifice. What thou art about -to devote to God as an offering. "To the altar.' The altar was placed in front of the temple, and was the place on which sacrifices were made. See note on Matt. xxi. 12. To bring a gift to the altar, was expressive of worshipping, God, for this is the way in which he was formerly worshipped. Thy brother. Any man especially any fellow-worshipper. 'Hath aught.' Hath