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Verses 21-22

Matthew 5:21-22. Ye have heard Namely, from the scribes reciting the law, that it was said by them of old time, or to the ancients, as ερρεθη τιος αρχαιοις , might be properly rendered. Thou shalt not kill Words which they interpreted barely of the outward act of murder; and whosoever shall kill Or be guilty of that act, shall be in danger of, or, obnoxious to the judgment To understand this, it is necessary to observe, that the Jews had, in every city, a common court of twenty-three men, which, before the Roman government was established in Judea, had the power of life and death, so far as its jurisdiction extended, and could punish criminals with strangling or beheading. This was called the judgment, and the meaning of the clause is, that such a criminal should be capitally punished in the common courts of judicature. But I say unto you Which of the prophets ever spake thus? Their language was, Thus saith the Lord. Who hath authority to use this language, but the one Lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy? Whosoever is angry with his brother With any child of man, for we are all brethren; without a cause Or further than that cause warrants; shall be in danger of the judgment Shall be liable to a worse punishment from God than any that your common courts of judicature can inflict. It must be observed, that the word εικη , here rendered without cause, and which might properly be translated rashly, or inconsiderately, is wanting in some old versions and manuscripts, and, it seems, ought not to be inserted, being “utterly foreign to the whole scope and tenor of our Lord’s discourse. For if he had only forbidden the being angry without a cause, there was no manner of need of that solemn declaration, I say unto you; for the scribes and Pharisees themselves said as much as this. Even they taught men ought not to be angry without a cause. So that this righteousness does not exceed theirs. But Christ teaches that we ought not, for any cause, to be so angry as to call any man raca, or fool. We ought not, for any cause, to be angry at the person of the sinner, but at his sin only. Happy world, were this plain and necessary distinction thoroughly understood, remembered, and practised.” Wesley. Raca, means a silly man, or an empty, worthless fellow. Κενε , vain man, used James 2:20, seems to be a translation of it; for, as Jerome observes, it is derived from the Hebrew, rick, which signifies vain, or empty. Shall be in danger of the council In the Greek, συνεδριον ; “a word which the Jews adopted into their language, and giving it a Hebrew termination, sanhedrim, appropriated it to their supreme council, whose business was to judge in the most important affairs; for instance, in all matters relative to religion, as when any person pretended to be a prophet, or attempted to make innovations in the established worship. This court could, while the republic lasted, inflict the heaviest punishments; particularly stoning, or burning, with melted lead poured down the throat of the criminal, after he was half strangled.” Macknight. Whosoever shall say, Thou fool Or, Thou graceless, wicked villain: so the word fool generally signifies in Scripture: for as religion is the highest wisdom, vice must be accounted the extremest folly: the meaning here is, Whosoever shall break out into open revilings and reproaches against any man, shall be in danger of hell fire Ενοχος εσται εις γεενναν του πυρος , shall be obnoxious to a gehenna of fire, that is, by a common figure of speech, “obnoxious to the fire of the valley of Hinnom,” obnoxious to a degree of future punishment, which may fitly be represented by that fire. Of the valley of Hinnom, called also Tophet, see notes on Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 23:10; Isaiah 30:33. It was the scene of the detestable worship of Moloch, that horrid idol of the Ammonites, to which the Israelites burned their children alive as sacrifices. “In later times, continual fires were kept in this valley for burning the unburied carcasses and filth of the city, that, being thus polluted, it might be unfit for the like religious abominations. The Jews, from the perpetuity of these fires, and to express the utmost detestation of the sacrifices which were offered to Moloch in this valley, made use of its name to signify hell. Hence our translators have given Tophet, or gehenna, its metaphorical meaning in the present passage, whereas it ought rather to have had its literal signification. For our Lord, intending to show his hearers that the punishment of causeless anger, contemptuous speeches, and abusive names, shall, in the life to come, bear a proportion to the guilt that is in these sins; and finding no name in the language of men by which those different degrees of punishment could properly be expressed, he illustrated them by the punishments which the Jews were acquainted with.”

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