Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 21 May 2012; Revised 9 January 2017
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found here. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations.
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Good News of Mark" because Mark describes his book as "good news" (1:1). Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Mark and his book.
Date: Winter A.D. 29
Teaching on Divorce
Parallel Passages: Matthew 5:31-32; 19:1-9; Luke 16:18
1 Getting up, He went from there to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan; crowds gathered around Him again, and, according to His custom, He once more began to teach them.
Several weeks have transpired between the end of chapter 9 and the beginning of chapter 10. For the significant events during this intervening time see Matthew 18; Luke 9:57-18 and John 7-11.
Getting up: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part., to arise from a recumbent position. Chapter Ten begins with Yeshua arising from sleep, leaving Capernaum and journeying south. The Synoptic Narratives omit the activities recorded in John 7 & 8, in which Yeshua went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2-9). His return from this excursion to Galilee is mentioned in John 8:59. So, it is after this that Yeshua again leaves Galilee, sometime in the winter of AD 29 (Santala 120). He would not return until after his resurrection from the dead. the region of Judea: Grk. Ioudaia transliterates the Latin provincial name of Iudaea and corresponds to the Heb. name Y'hudah, which means "praised" or "object of praise" (Gen 29:35; BDB 397). "Judea" most likely refers to the Roman province, which included from north to south Samaria, the historic territory of Judea, and Idumea. From this point on in Mark's narrative Yeshua's ministry occurs outside of Galilee.
and beyond the Jordan: Grk. Iordanēs transliterates the Heb. Yarden. This important river runs through a deep valley known as the Jordan Rift. It begins in the mountains of Syria, flows into the Sea of Galilee, which is 212 meters below sea level and finally empties into the Dead Sea, 400 meters below sea level. "Beyond the Jordan" would be the region of Perea, part of the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas. Perea was bounded on the north and east by the Decapolis, on the west by the Jordan and the south by the Dead Sea. Robertson suggests that the expression "the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan" apparently means that Yeshua left Galilee to go to Judea by way of Perea as the Galileans often did to avoid Samaria. Luke (Luke 17:11) expressly says that he passed through Samaria and Galilee when he left Ephraim in Northern Judea (cf. John 11:54).
crowds gathered: Grk. sumporeuomai, pres. mid., to join in accompanying someone, to go with. Yeshua was not afraid to pass through the edge of Galilee and down the Jordan Valley in Perea on this last journey to Jerusalem. Robertson suggests that the crowds were in fact caravans of Passover pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem. Many of them are followers of Yeshua from Galilee or at least kindly disposed towards him. Once the people saw Yeshua they quickly joined him and his disciples.
according to His custom: Grk. eiōtha, plperf., to be accustomed; lit. "as he was wont again" (Marshall). The verb indicates what Yeshua typically did when confronted with crowds. He once more began to teach them: Grk. didaskō, impf., the act of imparting information or instruction; lit. "he was teaching them." His "custom" does not refer to the mode of teaching (sitting vs. standing), but to the content, probably a reference to parabolic teaching (4:2, 11). The principal focus of Yeshua's ministry was teaching. Most of the time he only healed in response to a personal request.
Some: The Greek text does not have "some," but was chosen because the following noun lacks the definite article and is plural, so there was more than one. The verse begins with Grk. kai, "and." Pharisees: Grk. Pharisaios, masc. pl., a transliteration of the Heb. P'rushim, meaning "separatists." The name was born of the fact that they separated themselves from the common people for religious devotion. The Pharisees traced their roots to the Hasidim ("pious ones") organized in the time of Ezra, but are known as an organized group from the 2nd c. BC (Jeremias 247). The first mention of the group is in the books of Maccabees where they are described as "a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, every one who offered himself willingly for the law" (1Macc 2:42; cf. 1Macc 7:13; 2Macc 14:6). The Pharisees were one of several religious parties among Jews in the first century, yet they wielded considerable power.
There were many aspects of Phariseeism with which Yeshua would have agreed. They believed in resurrection and the importance of a holy life, and they regarded Greek ideas as abominations. In contrast to the Sadducees the Pharisees accepted the traditions of the Sages as having equal authority as the written Torah, sometimes even greater than the written Torah. Yeshua would later tell his disciples to respect their authority (Matt 23:2-3). Learning of the Torah in the synagogues was also supervised by Pharisees, and even though the temple was under the control of Sadducean priests, the Divine worship, prayers, sacrifices, and various festival customs were performed according to the direction of the Pharisees due to their popularity with the people (Ant. XIII, 10:6; XVIII, 1:3-4). For more information on the Pharisees see my comment on John 1:24.
came up to Jesus: Grk. proserchomai, aor. part., to approach from a point to a person or place; come, go to, approach. The name of "Jesus" (Yeshua) is not in the Greek text of this verse. testing: Grk. peirazō, pres. part., to make a trial of the quality or state of someone's character or claims, in this case in an effort to induce a damaging statement. Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. and began to question: Grk. eperōtaō, impf., to put a question to in the sense of a formal interrogation. whether: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used here to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. it was lawful: Grk. exesti, pres., allowable, permitted or right. The normal word for law (Grk. nomos) does not occur in the narrative.
for a man: Grk. anēr (Heb. adam), an adult man without regard to marital status, but in this context one who has taken a woman as wife. to divorce: Grk. apoluō, aor. inf., to set free from a condition or obligation, in this case to dissolve a marriage relationship at a husband's initiative. a wife: Grk. gunē is an adult female person, without respect to age or social status except as defined in the context. In the LXX gunē renders the Heb. ishshah ("woman"). In Scripture when a woman belongs to one man with the expectation of sexual intercourse (Gen 2:21-22), the Hebrew or Greek word is translated as "wife." For the process of a woman becoming a wife see my web article Marriage in Ancient Israel.
The Pharisees were not asking what the law provided, but they wanted to know Yeshua's position on the subject. What did he permit? The positions of the two great Jewish leaders of that generation, Hillel and Shammai, were well known. Controversy frequently raged between the two prominent Pharisaic schools of the day - that of Hillel (c. 110 B.C. - A.D. 10), who had been President of the Sanhedrin when Yeshua was a child, and Shammai (50 B.C. - A.D. 30), who was then President of the Sanhedrin. Divorce was one of those controversies.
The question of the lawfulness of divorce and remarriage had been the cause of Yochanan the Immerser's denunciation of Herod Antipas (6:17f). In Perea Yeshua was within Herod's jurisdiction, so the question of the Pharisees was not just a philosophical curiosity. The conspiracy of the Herodians and the Pharisees against Yeshua may well be a part of the context here (cf. 3:6; 12:13). If Yeshua could be induced to make a similar moral judgment as Yochanan the Immerser then the tetrarch would likely seize him (Lane).
3 And He answered and said to them, "What did Moses command you?"
He answered and said: The use of "answered and said" is typical Hebraic way of advancing the narrative of dialog. Yeshua does not give the expected answer, but in typical rabbinic fashion redirected the conversation with a question of his own. In advanced Jewish study of Scripture a rabbi would engage a student by asking a question; the student would respond in kind with a related question, showing he understood what the rabbi was asking and thereby advancing the discussion (Pryor 25).
What did Moses: See the note on 9:4 about this great leader of Israel. command: Grk. entellō, aor., to give instruction with magisterial claim, to command or to order. Since both rabbinic schools cited Moses as their authority for their respective position, Yeshua starts at this point. He does not imply that Moses issued a command independent of God's authority or contrary to God's will. Moses functioned as God's regent and mediator and had the authority to "bind and loose" just as Yeshua gave to his apostles (Matt 16:19). Yeshua's tactic is very important. The Bible interpreter, teacher and reader must constantly ask, "what does Scripture actually say?" Too often Christians hold to beliefs that would not hold up if pressed to provide definitive biblical support.
4 They said, "Moses permitted a man TO WRITE A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY."
They said: lit. "but they said." Mark's narrative makes this important point. The Pharisees expressed their opinion. The question the reader must ask is whether the Pharisees correctly represented what Moses said. Moses permitted: Grk. epitrepō, aor., to grant opportunity for an activity, to permit or to allow. Notice the Pharisees are careful to say that Moses "permitted," rather than Moses '"'commanded." a man: The allowance was granted specifically to men, not to women. TO WRITE: Grk. graphō, aor. inf., to write or inscribe, generally in reference to a document. A CERTIFICATE: Grk. biblion, document, ranging from one sheet to a roll. OF DIVORCE: Grk. apostasion (from the verb aphistēmi, to stand away from), a notice or certificate of divorce. The written notice, given in the presence of witnesses, formally announced the divorce and settled property claims.
In the Tanakh this document is called a sepher kerithuth, "bill of cutting off" and only occurs four times (Deut 24:1, 3; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8). Jewish law adopted the term get (the singular form of Gittin) for the divorce certificate, although get can refer to any legal document. AND SEND her AWAY: Grk. apoluō, aor. inf., to set free. See the note on the previous verse. The certificate of divorce ended all obligations of the husband and wife to the marriage. While divorce would have been a tragedy the certificate was actually a right and protection for the wife, as it provides proof of divorce.
The quotation mentioned by the Pharisees is taken from Deuteronomy 24:1, but the full context needs to be considered.
"If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something [lit. "thing"] indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deut 24:1-4 NIV)
The controlling circumstance is the "indecency" (Heb. ervah) of the wife described in verse 1. Ervah is a feminine noun that lit. means "nakedness" or "pudenda" (genitalia, mostly of women), and derives from the verb arah, to be naked or bare (BDB 788). In Leviticus 18:6 ervah is a euphemism for sexual relations. In Deuteronomy 23:14 ervah is a euphemism for improper behavior that violates public decency, specifically failure to cleanse oneself after a nocturnal emission and failure to bury excrement. In any event, the noun refers to conduct that involves the genitals. Interpretation by the schools of Shammai and Hillel concerning the meaning of ervah resulted in diametrical positions.
"Beth Shammai say a man should not divorce his wife unless he has found her guilty of some unseemly conduct, as it is says, ‘ … because he has found some unseemly thing in her.’ Beth Hillel, however, say that he may divorce her even if she merely spoilt his food, since it says, ‘… because he has found some unseemly thing in her.’ " (Gittin 9:10)
For Shammai ervah was some form of unchastity. The ervah need not be adultery, which required putting the guilty parties to death (cf. John 8:3-5). The flow of the syntax ("taking" and "finding") may suggest a scenario of a groom discovering that his bride was not a virgin:
"If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, 'I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin.'" (Deut 22:13-14)
Sex before marriage is not actually forbidden in the Torah, but regulations existed for the care of an unmarried unbetrothed woman who had been seduced or raped. For example, Joseph considered divorcing Miriam because of her pregnancy (Matt 1:18-19). He was willing to consider conception as having occurred before their betrothal and therefore she belonged to the man who impregnated her. Otherwise, Miriam would have been charged with adultery. Nevertheless, because of the betrothal Joseph had to divorce her so she could go to the supposed father of her baby. An angel quickly disabused Joseph of his reasoning.
However, Hillel interpreted ervah in light of the word "thing" (Heb. davar, lit. word, thing, matter, BDB 182) and concluded that divorce could be justified for the offense of spoiling food. Hillel's hypothetical grounds alluded to the basic duties of a wife set forth in the Mishnah, namely grinding corn, baking bread, washing clothes, cooking, suckling her child, making ready his bed and working in wool (Ketuboth 5:5). The opinion of the school of Hillel prevailed because the husband held the power in marriage, not the government. The rabbis might be involved in preparing legal documents, but they could not impose their will on the choices of men when it came to marriage and divorce. In the first century a man could divorce his wife at his pleasure. It was not until the eleventh century A.D. that the absolute right of the husband to divorce his wife at will was formally abolished among the Jews.
The Pharisees misrepresent Moses, because he didn't create an easy method to end marriage, but spelled out a situation in verses 1 to 3 to set up the command in verse 4. A woman who has been twice divorced with a written bill of divorce may not return to her first husband (Deut 24:4). The conditions in verses 1-3 might be taken in two ways: (1) Moses recognizes an existing use of divorce bills from their time in Egypt and applies it to the proposed scenario. The prescription for a bill of divorce seems strange since there is no evidence of a written contract for marriage in the Torah. (2) Moses instituted a written document as an innovation in documenting divorces and applies it to the scenario, which is more likely. The document would prove to the second (potential) husband that the woman was free to marry him. Otherwise, without proof of divorce a second union would be adultery (cf. Rom 7:3).
The mention of the bill of divorce affirms the antiquity of its use. Under rabbinic law a get had to be written on durable material with ink that did not fade, and once he had delivered the writ in person to his wife in the presence of witnesses he could not retract it; the woman was free. For the Jewish regulation on preparation and use of the bill of divorce see the Talmud Tractate Gittin ("Bill of Divorcement").
5 But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.
Divorce was an apparent fact of life, though not necessarily frequent, when the Torah was given to Israel. Because of your hardness of heart: Grk. sklērokardia, to be unyielding, hard-heartedness. The metaphor depicts one cutting himself off from God's call and command. This is a striking statement because in all Tanakh narratives it is non-Israelites who are hardened (e.g., Pharaoh, Ex 7:13). It is not until the great prophets that Israel is also seen as a hardened people (DNTT 2:154).
he wrote you: graphō, aor. See the previous verse. This simple statement contradicts the view of modern liberal scholarship that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, but that it was the product of later generations that synthesized oral tradition. Archaeology has shown writing to be evident from at least 3100 B.C. The El-Amarna tablets discovered in Egypt and dated c. 1500 BC, contain Hebrew. Oral tradition, by definition, cannot be proven. Portions of Torah were written on tablets (Ex 32:15), but mostly scrolls were used (Ex 24:4; Deut 17:18; 25:58; Josh 1:8; 1Sam 10:25; Jer 36:4).
this commandment: Grk. entolē, a directive for action, command, order or instruction. In the LXX entolē occurs 244 times (46 times without a Hebrew equivalent). The noun is concentrated in the Torah, especially in Deuteronomy (DNTT 1:331). In the majority of passages entolē renders Heb. mitsvah, (e.g., Ex 20:6; Ps 119:6), 159 times. A mitsvah is instruction intended for obedience and often associated with a good deed or charitable works with the promise of blessing for obedience. Violation produces guilt and need for atonement. See the note on 7:8 for other words translated by entolē.
Yeshua returns to the subject of his question. What did Moses command? The "commandment" refers to the entire instruction of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Yeshua asserts a foundational principle of exegesis, that Scripture means what the author intended. This is the strict construction approach to interpreting any document. Intention is determined by considering what the Scripture actually says and what the words mean as a grammatical whole in their cultural context. If Moses instituted the divorce certificate, he did so for the protection of women, and it is only mentioned as part of issuing the command forbidding a specific remarriage.
The legislation Deuteronomy 24 wasn't the only instruction concerning divorce. First, priests were expressly forbidden from marrying a divorced woman (Lev 21:7, 14). Second, husbands were absolutely forbidden to divorce their wives in specific cases: (a) a man who falsely accuses his virgin bride of unfaithfulness before marriage (Deut 22:19), and (b) a man who seduces or rapes a woman and subsequently marries her (Ex 22:16-17; Deut 22:28-29).
6 "But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE.
But: Grk. de is a conjunction that generally indicates either a slight contrast or a transition in presentation of subject matter. It is an extremely flexible word. The conjunction de could have any of three very different meanings:
(1) "And, moreover, furthermore," implying that what follows continues the thought already begun.
(2) "But, rather, in contrast, on the contrary," implying that what follows is different from and contrasts with the preceding thought.
(3) "But, but only if," implying that what follows is not in contrast with the preceding thought but does limit, condition or modify it in some way.
The problem with "but," is that it sounds as if Yeshua is contradicting or even rebutting Moses for his decision to accommodate the weakness of men. However, this approach undermines the integrity of Scripture (since Moses spoke for God) and overlooks the fact that God himself had divorced man because of sin. And, God had supported Sarah in her demand that Abraham divorce Hagar (Gen 21:12-14). Instead Yeshua is amplifying how far mankind had fallen from the ideal God had established in the Garden. The irony of Yeshua's contrast is that Moses also wrote the passages in Genesis that are quoted below. Yeshua's response, both to the Pharisees and his disciples, effectively follows the rules of hermeneutics (interpreting Scripture) developed by Hillel.
Yeshua's initial response could be the application of two of Hillel's rules. The third rule is called binyan ab mi-katub eḥad, "a standard from a passage of Scripture." In other words, a certain passage serves as a basis for the interpretation of many others, so that the decision given in the case of one is valid for all the rest. Hillel's seventh rule pertinent here would be dabar ha-lamed me-'inyano, "something proved by the context." Yeshua broadens the context regarding marriage from Deuteronomy to Genesis.
from the beginning: Grk. archē means beginning, first or origin. of creation: Grk. ktisis, creation, either of the act of creation or that which is created. The noun is used primarily of God's creation of the universe, whether of individual things or beings, or the sum total of everything created. The opening clause alludes to Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created." Yeshua then alludes to the creation law of Genesis 1:27, which illustrates that God revealed his nature and his expectations of Man long before Moses was born. Yeshua then proceeds to enunciate three of the twelve principles of marriage found in the creation story. (See my web article Marriage By Design for all the biblical principles of marriage.)
God MADE: Grk. poieo, aor., to produce something material. The word "God" does not appear in the Greek text but divine creation is assumed. THEM MALE: Grk. arsēn, male, as characterized by anatomy. AND FEMALE: Grk. thēlus, female or woman, as characterized by anatomy. For the first principle Yeshua quotes from Genesis 1:27, which should be considered in context with the verse preceding:
"Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen 1:26-27 NASB)
In the beginning God made Man (Heb. adam) in His image and gave him a great commission to rule (KJV "have dominion," Heb. radah) over the earth. This commission made Adam God's steward, not as one with license to destroy. God retained ownership but Adam served as God's regent to carry out the divine plan for humanity. The command to "rule," while a military word, should be understood as a responsibility to bring all aspects of Adam's world into a state of fruitfulness and utility, offering glory to God and benefit to mankind. By virtue of Adam being created first he as husband would be the head of his wife and the family that would come from their union (cf. 1Cor 11:3; Eph 5:23).
The text goes on to say that from Adam God made male (Heb. zakar) and female (Heb. nekebah). Yeshua reiterated this fact of creation as if it were a matter of great importance. The significance of this straightforward statement is that male and female belong together. In a sense marriage reenacts the original creation when both male and female were fused in Adam. Thus, from creation God's will for men and women is that they belong together. Stated another way God's original intention was that every man have a wife and every woman to belong to one specific man for a lifetime. Contrary to the ruling of the Council of Trent celibacy is not God's highest ideal for men and women. Yeshua reminds his critics that God created the institution of marriage; it was not the invention of Man, the State or of religion.
7 "FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER,
Yeshua then articulates a second creation principle of marriage (the tenth in my list). FOR THIS REASON: lit. "for the sake of this" (Marshall); in other words, to accomplish God's marriage mandate. A MAN SHALL LEAVE: Grk. kataleipō, fut., to leave behind. HIS FATHER: Grk. patēr, a male biological parent or ancestor. AND MOTHER: Grk. mētēr, a female biological parent. This leaving does not mean abandonment or any dishonor that would violate the fifth commandment, but God's design for marriage requires a radical shift in allegiance, commitment and loyalty from one's parents to one's mate. The responsibility for the woman's security is transferred from her father to her husband. Leaving, however, does not necessarily represent physical movement on the part of the husband as biblical stories are inconsistent on this point. Rebekah left her parents to join Isaac, but Jacob left his parents to take his wives.
8 AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Yeshua states the final creation principle of marriage. ONE FLESH: Grk. sarx, "flesh," which has both literal and figurative uses. The opening clause is lit. "and being the two into flesh one," a quote from Genesis 2:24. Given its first mention in the Genesis account, "one flesh" refers to the genitals. Only in this union of sexual opposites can marriage be legitimate. Eve became Adam's wife when they joined their bodies. Therefore, marriage by biblical definition occurs when a woman consents to belong to a specific man and they consummate with sexual intercourse (cf. Gen 24:67; 38:2).
so they are no longer two, but one flesh: When God commanded the couple to be "one flesh" He defined the two-fold purpose of sexual union: pleasure and procreation. Sexual relations between spouses is first a right and obligation (Ex 21:10). A husband and wife may not deny each other sex without mutual agreement, even for spiritual reasons (1Cor 7:3-5). Spouses also recognize that marriage is the exclusive relationship designed for sexual intimacy between people. Marriage does function as a societal hedge against immorality. Failure to take care of one another's sexual needs encourages unfaithfulness.
The combined counsel of Exodus 21:10 and 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 reinforces the principle that the husband's part in intimacy is serving his wife, that is, doing what brings pleasure to the wife, not simply seeking his own pleasure (cf. 1Th 4:4). God's intention is for the husband to know his wife, understand her needs and to take responsibility for meeting those needs (Gen 4:1, 17, 25; 1Sam 1:19; 1Pet 3:7).
Sexual union makes possible the creation of another "one flesh," namely a child born from the union of father and mother. The woman's body was especially designed for bearing and delivering the conceived child and then sustaining the new life with her own milk. The command to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" was given first to Adam and then reiterated to Noah (Gen 1:28; 9:1). God is the source of fruitful wombs and nourishing breasts (Gen 49:25). People in Bible times would not have considered preventing pregnancy. Children are a gift and blessing from God (Ps 113:9; 127:3-4; 128:3, 6). While there may be a medical necessity for preventing pregnancy, there is no justification for taking the life of a child in the womb.
9 "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."
What therefore God: Grk. theos, is the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings theos, representing a number of deities, was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos renders the generic designations of God, El (which occurs over 200 times, including combinations such as El Bethel, El Elyon, El Roi, El Olam, and El Shaddai) and Elohim (which occurs over 2300 times), as well as the tetragrammaton YHVH, over 300 times. As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70). Significant is that Yeshua did not say "What therefore the Church" or "What therefore the State."
has joined together: Grk. suzeugnimi, aor., to yoke together or to join together so as to make a pair. Yeshua reminds his critics of the institution of marriage. The concept of "God joined" operates on two levels. The first level is that since God created marriage then he has the right to dictate how all marriages should function. While government has a role to assure justice for participants in marriage (cf. Gen 9:5-7; Rom 13:1-4), government has no right to either allow conditions or impose requirements contrary to God's expressed will in Scripture.
The second level of "God-joined" marriage is found in the concept of covenant. Malachi 2:14 clearly states that a woman becomes a wife "by covenant" (cf. Prov 2:17). Marriage is a component part of God's covenant with His people. His covenant, reflected in the creation laws given to Adam and the commandments given to Moses, provides the basic framework for the marital relationship in the community of faith. The difference between these two levels is illustrated in Paul's differing instructions for a believing couple and an unequally yoked couple (1Cor 7:11-15).
"God joined" does not mean that God selects the mates for everyone, although this belief has been prevalent historically in Judaism and in modern Evangelicalism. The unequal number of men and women easily disproves this myth. While God's sovereign involvement may be evident in the marriages of those in the Messianic line, there is no evidence of God's direct involvement in other marriages. In Scripture God never directed any man to marry a specific woman, but He did give guidance on the selection of mates. In reality God gives His people freedom to choose. In ancient times the marriage proposal could come from the prospective groom or the father of the groom. All the specific arrangements were handled by the parents of the bride and groom (e.g., Gen 21:21; 24:2-5; 27:46 - 28:1), but a marriage would not take place without the consent of the bride (Gen 24:58). Romance could be, but was not necessarily, a factor in the match (Gen 29:20; Judg 14:1-2; 1Sam 18:20).
Under Torah an Israelite man could marry any woman he wished, except those specifically prohibited (Lev 18:1-18; 21:7; Deut 7:3) and even have more than one wife (Ex 21:10; Deut 21:15-17). The most important principle of Torah and emphasized in the New Covenant is that a prospective marital partner must be a member of the believing community (1Cor 7:39; 2Cor 6:14). Color, ethnicity, culture and national origin are no barriers to marriage in the Body of Messiah. Thus, for disciples of Yeshua covenantal faith, consent and consummation are the only elements required by Scripture to be married in God's sight, regardless of what the Church or the government might require.
An important development in the history of biblical marriage was the institution of betrothal prior to the man taking his bride. If the marriage proposal was accepted then the groom would perform a ceremony called erusin, "betrothal" (Deut 20:7; 22:23, 25; 28:30; 2Sam 3:14; Matt 1:18; 2Cor 11:2). Prior to Moses a man would take a wife at will by obtaining her consent and then taking her into his tent or house and having intercourse in private. From that point on she was his wife (e.g., Gen 25:1; 38:1-3; Ex 2:1). With the introduction of erusin a man would acquire the bride of his choice in the presence of witnesses (cf. Ruth 4:9-11). According to the Mishnah (Kidd. 1:1), a woman could be acquired [in marriage] in three ways: by money or its equivalent (cf. Gen 29:18; 34:12; Ex 21:11; 22:16), by deed (cf. Gen 24:3-4; Judg 14:2; Ruth 4:9-10), or by intercourse (cf. Deut 22:28-29). A deed was almost always involved because marriage included a transfer of property.
Jewish betrothal is not like the Gentile concept of engagement, which is only a promise of marriage. The erusin stage was also called kiddushin, "sanctification," and meant that from that point the woman belonged to the man. The word kiddushin comes from the same root word as kadosh ("holy"). Just as kodesh ("holy things") are forbidden to all but those for whom they are designated, so too does this woman become forbidden to all men but to whom she has now been designated. Erusin-Kiddushin made the woman a legal wife and her status could only be changed by divorce or death. Erusin was usually accomplished by the groom giving a coin or ring to the prospective bride and her acceptance of the token accomplished kiddushin.
Nisuin completed the kiddushin of marriage by the groom taking the bride into a room or his house for consummation. The Hebrew word nisuin ("elevation") comes from a verb that means to lift up, to carry or to take. The wife has left her father's authority and now belongs fully to her husband, just as Eve belonged to Adam when God presented her to him. In biblical accounts a wife never takes a husband, but a husband takes a wife (e.g., Gen 4:19; 6:2; 11:29; 1Sam 25:39; Hos 1:2). The wedding ceremony, if there was one, was determined by local custom and the wishes of the parents.
By the first century Jewish marriage incorporated the presentation of a completed ketubah (marriage contract) to the bride by the groom prior to nisuin. Often the ketubah was prepared by a rabbi. Unlike a betrothal deed that might only identify gifts between the parties, the ketubah specified the bride's dowry and contained a number of clauses to outline the husband's obligations towards his wife, including support and conjugal rights. References to these obligations can be found in Exodus 21:10-11, although no mention is made of a document. The intertestament Book of Tobit, however, mentions a scroll that was prepared at the marriage ceremony of Tobias and Sarah by the bride's father Raguel (Tobit 7:14).
In order to provide protection for the wife and limit the freedom of divorce, Rabbis also insisted that the ketubah contain a settlement on the wife of a certain amount payable at her husband's death or on her being divorced. Regulations for the preparation and content of the ketubah may be found in the Talmud Tractate Kethuboth. The groom had to present 200 zuzim (Hebrew silver coins) to his virgin bride to be her property (Ket. 10b). (A widow received 100 zuzim.) This amount was the equivalent of financial support for a year. If he didn't possess this amount (which was often the case for young and poor grooms), then the ketubah became a lien against his property for the amount in the event of his death or he divorced her.
The ketubah would be read aloud in the company of witnesses before nisuin took place, just as Moses did with the Torah at Mt. Sinai (Ex 24:3). The signing of the ketubah shows that marriage was more than a physical and emotional joining, but as a legal and moral commitment according to biblical law and customs. The acceptance of the ketubah by the bride signaled her readiness to proceed with the nisuin stage of the marriage process. The ketubah is still a traditional part of Jewish marriage.
let no man separate: Grk. chōrizō, pres. imp., to cause to be apart by space between, to separate oneself by means of divorce. The imperative mood and present tense of the verb combined with the negative particle mē indicates a command to stop a practice in progress. God intended that the obligations of marriage be taken seriously and to flaunt God's will invites divine judgment. The Talmud concurs saying, "If a man divorces his first wife, even the altar sheds tears" (Gittin 90b).
Without answering the Pharisees concerning grounds for divorce Yeshua reminded them that by God's design marriage is sealed by male and female joining their bodies in one flesh. God intended that with mutual consent and consummation marriage would last for the lifetime of the couple. Yeshua was not disputing a husband's authority, but asserting the obligation of husbands to act according to God's will and honor their wives (cf. Heb 13:4) instead of plotting ways to divorce them. Yeshua typically interpreted both the intent of God's Torah and made it even stricter as He did with other commandments in the Sermon on the Mount.
10 In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again.
[And: Grk. kai, conj.] In: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival; lit. "into." the house: Grk. oikia, a habitable structure, house. the disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs, one who learns through instruction from a teacher. In the apostolic writings mathētēs corresponds to the Heb. talmid and occurs only in the apostolic narratives. See the note on 2:15 for the expectations of a disciple. began questioning: Grk. eperōtaō, impf. See verse 2 above. This is the same word used of the Pharisees. Him: Grk. autos, pers. pron. about: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; about, concerning. this again: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pron., lit. "the same thing." The word "again" is not in the Greek text.
An important feature of Mark's narrative is that the definitive instruction on divorce and remarriage was given to the disciples in private. Matthew's narrative offers no change in setting, but there is no reaction from the Pharisees, while there is a sharp reaction from the disciples (Matt 19:10). In any event, Yeshua's pronouncement on divorce and remarriage in the next two verses mirror the exact situation of Herod Antipas and his second wife Herodias. Lane asserts that "the unconditional form of Jesus' statement [in verses 11 and 12] served to reinforce the abrogation of the Mosaic permission in Deut. 24:1."
On the contrary, Yeshua did not make any statement that abrogated the requirement of a bill of divorce nor could he without incurring the wrath of the Sanhedrin. Can you imagine the chaos that would result? A man could evict his wife from his house and justify it with "Yeshua said I didn't have to give you a bill of divorce [i.e., your legal rights]." If Yeshua's teaching abrogated Deuteronomy 24:1, then the twice-divorced woman could return to her first husband. One could imagine a scenario in which this would be possible if the parties had originally been unbelievers when the divorces took place, but the new birth would make the original marital parties eligible for remarriage. In any event, Yeshua said nothing about a twice-divorced woman.
Regardless, Yeshua did not abrogate Moses, but repeatedly affirmed the authority of Moses (cf. 1:44; 7:8-10; 10:19; 12:31). He specifically declared:
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; … 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:17, 19)
11 And He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her
Parallel: "Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery" (Luke 16:18)
Whoever divorces: Grk. apoluō, aor. subj., to dissolve a marriage relationship. See the note on verse 2. his wife: Yeshua did not cancel Torah provisions for divorce. As a theological concept divorce in Scripture is not generally a sin, but a judgment on a breach of covenant. Divorce, then, may be spiritual or marital. The first divorce took place when God both sent out (Heb. shalach, Gen 3:23) and drove out (Heb. garash, Gen 3:24) Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because of their rebellion against God's commandments. God takes no pleasure in spiritually divorcing anyone (Ezek 33:11; cf. 2Pet 3:9), but He does not allow sentimentalism to determine justice. As a result of God's judgment on the first parents, all their descendants are born spiritually divorced from God. In addition, Israelites could be cut off, or divorced, from the community for transgressing provisions of the Torah (Ex 32:33; Num 15:30-31; Deut 29:17-20; 2Kgs 17:20; 1Chr 28:9). God Himself divorced backslidden Israel for idolatry and harlotry (Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8, Heb. shalach in both verses; cf. Rom 11:20). Disciples of Yeshua can likewise suffer spiritual divorce for rejecting God (cf. Matt 24:48-51; 25:24-30; John 15:6; Rom 11:17-22; Heb 10:26-31).
The same principles that govern man's relationship with God also govern the relationship between men and women. Therefore, just as God decrees spiritual divorce for violation of His commandments, so He provided justice principles in His Torah to respond to a breach of the marital covenant. For example, God told Abraham to divorce (Heb. shalach) his concubine-wife Hagar (Gen 21:10-14), who had become rebellious against the marital covenant. Hagar was not guilty of any sexual sin, but Abraham obeyed God and sent away Hagar with some provisions. In the time of Ezra a number of Levites had unlawfully divorced their wives and married non-Jewish women (Mal 2:14; Ezra 9:1-2). To do justice Ezra ordered the Levites to put away (Heb. yatsa) their foreign wives, even though some had children by them (Ezra 10:3-44). Thus, the divorce (Heb. shalach) God hates (Mal 2:16) is the one in which there is no just cause as defined in Scripture.
Under Jewish law a man did not have to divorce his wife. If a man suspected his wife of adultery he could take her to the priest to perform the ritual of jealousy (Num 5:12-31). If she were rebellious, that is, she failed to perform her wifely duties as defined by tradition, then the husband could "fine" her. He could reduce her Ketubah security portion by seven denarii per week until she reformed her behavior (Ket. 63a). The fine was considered equivalent to the seven kinds of work that the wife was supposed to perform. If she committed any indecent act or violated festival regulations he could take her to a court and obtain a judgment for flogging (Yom. 86b; cf. Deut 25:2-3). As Maimonides said, "A wife who refuses to perform any kind of work that she is obligated to do, may be compelled to perform it, even by scourging her with a rod." (The Code of Maimonides, Book Four: The Book of Women, Yale University Press, 1972, p. 133.)
and: Grk. kai is used to mark connections or additions in thought, and is extremely flexible in usage. In the LXX kai is used to translate the Heb. vav, which has an even broader usage. When kai is used to connect verbs, the action normally occurs in the same time frame, not months and years apart. Just a cursory reading of this chapter in a literal version like the NASB, KJV, NKJV or RSV that translates all the incidents of kai will demonstrate the point. In addition, little considered by commentators is that with Yeshua speaking in Hebrew the conjunction was likely the vav of intention or purpose, "in order to, in order that, so that" (Bivin 116).
marries: Grk. gameō, aor. subj., taking a wife in marriage. See the explanation of Jewish marriage in the previous verse. another woman: Grk. allos, adj., 'another' in reference to an entity that is distinguished from one or more other entities. The word "woman" does not occur in the Greek text, but the adjective is feminine. The assumption, then, is that the man would be divorcing his wife in order to marry another woman. Of all the Bible versions only The Message conveys the intentionality in Yeshua's saying: "A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her." Also, in the parallel verse in Luke 16:18 The Message offers the insightful translation, "Using the legalities of divorce as a cover for lust is adultery; using the legalities of marriage as a cover for lust is adultery."
In Hebrew "another" would be the feminine adjective aheret. Under the Torah a man could simply add another wife and Jews did practice polygamy in the first century (Josephus, Ant. XVII, 1:2; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, §134). However, a man had to be able to support additional wives (Ex 21:10). Given those circumstances one might wonder why bother with divorce? Divorce was the only way to get rid of an unwanted wife. Besides, taking additional wives required the ability to support them and taking another virgin bride would mean satisfying all the financial expectations of a ketubah. Serial monogamy was cheaper.
Bivin suggests that perhaps Yeshua anticipated Rabbi Akiva (A.D. 50-135), reputedly the founder of Rabbinic Judaism (Gruber-Akiva 24), who said that a man could divorce his wife "even if he found another (Heb. aheret), more beautiful than she" (Gittin 90a) (117). Yeshua's use of aheret and the syntax of this verse (and the parallel in Luke 16:18) suggests that Akiva's view existed in Yeshua's day.
Not considered by commentators is that the "another" could be a concubine (Heb. pilegesh). A pilegesh was a legal wife, but the real difference between a pilegesh and the regular wife (Heb. ishshah) had to do with property. A man did not have to pay a bride-price for a pilegesh nor did she have a dowry. The man was not required to provide a pilegesh a formal betrothal (kiddushin) or a ketubah (marriage contract) (Sanhedrin 21a). The practical effect of not having a marriage contract is that the pilegesh was not assured of an amount to be settled on her should her husband die or divorce her.
The "another" could also be an unbelieving woman or one not part of the covenant community as happened in the time of Ezra. In any event, since a man had other recourses short of divorce to deal with marriage problems, the decision to divorce in order to marry another constitutes an unscrupulous act.
commits adultery: Grk. moichaō, pres. mid. (from moichos, adulterer), to put into an adulterous state or condition. In the LXX the Greek word group is used for Heb. na'aph (e.g., Ex 20:14). By definition adultery always involved sexual relations between a married woman and a man not her husband (Lev 20:10; Prov 6:29-32; Hos 4:13-14) and was considered wrong long before the seventh commandment was given at Sinai (Gen 12:15-18; 20:3; 26:10). Contrary to some Christian writers Scripture never includes polygamy in the definition of adultery. Under the Torah adultery was punishable by death of both parties, normally by stoning (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24). Yeshua's pronouncement here is ironic given his unwillingness to judge the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3-11).
against her: How does a man commit adultery in this situation? Commentators generally assume that "her" is the former wife since the preposition has the sense of opposition. Lane observes that the concept of a husband committing adultery against his former wife was totally unrecognized in the rabbinic courts. A man could commit adultery against another married man by seducing his wife (Deut 22:23-27), and a wife could commit adultery against her husband by infidelity, but a husband could not be said to commit adultery against his own wife. This is an example of Yeshua offering a midrash on the Torah legislation dealing with adultery and expanding its definition. Yeshua's saying does pose pastoral issues, but the straight-forward meaning is clear. Wessel comments that by putting the husband under the same moral obligation as the wife, Yeshua raised the status and dignity of women.
On the surface it may seem as if Yeshua's ruling on divorce in order to remarry has nothing to do with the Deuteronomy passage. He does not refer to Moses in order to answer the issue of grounds. Rather, he applied Hillel's fifth rule of exegesis called kelal uferat (the general and the particular). A general principle may be restricted by a particularization of it in another verse – or, conversely, a particular rule may be extended into a general principle. Yeshua argued that the prohibition of a particular remarriage allowed for extending the commandment to the prohibition of another kind of remarriage. After all the Torah legislation did not forbid all remarriages, only one of a particular type. Yeshua follows that same principle.
The reader may wonder why in Mark's narrative Yeshua does not address the issue of grounds as appears in the Matthew narrative. This difference does not imply a contradiction, but simply a different emphasis. After laying the groundwork with reference to the remarriage law of Moses and creation law, Yeshua issues a narrow ruling: if a man divorces his wife (without just cause) in order to marry another woman, then the divorce, though legal, would be contrary to God's will. This ruling finds its precedent in the illegal divorces and remarriages during the time of Ezra (Mal 2:14-16; Ezra 9:1-2; 10:3-44). In addition, Yeshua's pronouncement would no doubt be recognized as applicable in high profile marriages and divorces among two sons of Herod the Great.
Archelaus, who had received the tetrarchy of Judea upon the death of his father, married a woman known simply as Mariamne. He divorced her to marry Glaphyra who was the widow of Archelaus' brother Alexander, although her second husband, Juba, king of Mauretania, was still alive (Josephus, Wars II, 7:4). This violation of the Torah along with Archelaus' cruelty roused the ire of the Jews, who complained to Caesar Augustus. Archelaus was deposed in the year 6 and banished to Vienne in Gaul. The second son, Antipas, divorced his first wife Phasaelis in order to marry Herodias (Josephus, Ant., XVIII, 5:1). The action of Antipas was legal under Roman law, but contrary to God's law, a view that Yeshua wisely did not communicate to the Pharisees. However, his view is supported by the Mishnah:
"All documents which are accepted in heathen courts, even if they that signed them were Gentiles, are valid [for Jewish courts], except writs of divorce and of emancipation. R. Simeon says: These also are valid; they were only pronounced [to be invalid] when drawn up by unauthorized persons." (Gittin 1:4)
While the ruling of Yeshua essentially agrees with Shammai, Yeshua's answer provides a broader perspective. The Pharisaic debate was only concerned about the grounds for divorce. Any one who divorced under Jewish law (for whatever reason) could freely remarry. Yet, Yeshua made a moral judgment about remarriage and reminded the Pharisees that an unjust divorce (as defined by Torah) would cause a subsequent remarriage to be considered adultery from God's point of view. (For the issue of grounds for divorce presented in Matthew 19 see my web article Divorce in the Bible.)
12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery."
if she herself divorces: Mark's version of the saying also has Yeshua applying the same standard to women divorcing their husbands and in so doing accepts the reality of a divorce initiated by the wife. Under Jewish law only the man could initiate a divorce. However, if a husband "rebelled against his wife," that is, refused either conjugal relations or financial support, he could be forced to add three denarii per week to his wife's ketubah (Ket. 63a). As a last resort he could be compelled to divorce his wife with a full settlement (Arak. 21a). Under Roman law women could initiate a divorce. This saying no doubt alludes to the fact that Herodias divorced her husband Herod Philip in order to marry his brother Herod Antipas (Ant. XVIII, 5:4). Again, Yeshua extends the definition of adultery to include an improper divorce-remarriage.
Children and the Kingdom
Parallel Passages: Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17
13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.
And they were bringing children: While the Pharisees may have wanted to trap Yeshua with a controversial question, the crowds (verse 1) had more mundane concerns. that He might touch them: Grk. aptō, aor. mid. subj., to make contact with. The verb has two very different uses in the Besekh: (1) to cause to be in a burning state by touching with fire, i.e., kindling a light; and (2) to take hold of or to grasp in a physical manner. The touching could have been for different purposes, either healing or blessing. The latter reason might have given rise to the disapproval of the disciples who rebuked them: Grk. epitimaō, to express urgently to gain compliance, to reprimand. The fact that the interlude with children is in context with the divorce controversy is not accidental.
14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
But when Jesus saw this: Mark emphasizes the personal involvement of Yeshua in the situation. He saw the desire of the parents and the children and he saw the revulsion of the disciples. He was indignant: Grk. aganakteō, aor., the verb may indicate either an inward or outward expression. It means to be upset about something, to be vexed distressed or annoyed. There are stronger Greek words for anger, so this word indicates frustration on Yeshua's part concerning the attitude of his disciples. Permit: Grk. aphiēmi, aor. imp., to allow or tolerate. Yeshua is commanding his disciples to give up their bad attitude and adopt his perspective. the children: pl. of Grk. paidion represents an age range from new-born to the time of youth, normally pre-puberty. The word is used of a 12-year old girl in Mark 5:39-41.
to come: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. inf., to come or to go, indicating physical movement from one place to another. The middle voice hints at a child old enough to walk to Yeshua by his own power and volition. to Me: The disciples would no doubt have agreed that the Kingdom belonged to those who had accepted the yoke of the Torah, which normally took place at age 12 for girls (bat mitzvah) and age 13 for boys (bar mitzvah). However, younger children belonged to their parents for care, nurture and education and the Messiah should not be bothered with them. Yeshua rebutted their fallacious thinking.
do not hinder them: Grk. kōluō, pres. imp., to prevent. The imperative mood and present tense of the verb combined with the negative particle mē indicates a command to stop a practice in progress. This is the same word Yeshua used to forbid the disciples' interference with someone casting out demons in Yeshua's name (9:39). The disciples seemed intent on maintain an exclusive club, but Yeshua would have none of it. the kingdom of God: The expression refers to God's kingship, royal power, or territory over which he rules. The doctrine of the kingdom in the teaching of Yeshua and the apostles relates to the expectation and fulfillment of promises made to Israel. See the note on 1:15.
belongs to such as these: This statement of Yeshua provides the raison d'etre for children's ministries. In ancient Jewish culture the age for beginning school was from five to seven years of age. The Bible was the textbook. Yet, for Yeshua childhood education should include teaching the meaning of the kingdom. After all, the children are the future of the kingdom.
15 "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."
whoever does not receive: Grk. dechomai, aor. mid. subj., to receive, frequently with the component of enthusiastic acceptance. … like a child: Sermons often read "faith" into the analogy of receiving the kingdom as a child. Yet, Scripture never describes faith as child-like. While young children generally trust implicitly in their parents (assuming they are good parents), this is not the same thing as the trusting faithfulness expected of a disciple in the kingdom. "Receiving like a child" could be parallel to the admonition in Matthew 18:4, "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." So, "receiving like a child" could mean submission to the Messiah.
Another factor to consider is the readiness to learn, as mentioned in the comment on the previous verse. The learning ability of the young is emphasized in an early Rabbinic saying:
"One who is taught when young, absorbs the words of the Torah in his blood, and he can utter them explicitly, but the reverse is with one who is taught when old. There is also a proverb to this effect: "If thou hast not desired them in thy youth, how wilt thou reach them in thy old age?" Ab. 4:27
will not enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. subj., to go in, enter into or come in. This statement does not function as a prohibition as if God will keep people out, but simply completes the hypothetical nature of the proposition. it at all: lit. "into it." Use of the words "at all" appears to be too categorical. An unwillingness to trust, learn and obey is an inevitable deterrent to experiencing the true meaning and power of the kingdom.
16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
He took them: Grk. evagkalizomai, aor. mid. part., to take into the arms, to hug, to embrace. To give reality to his words Yeshua acted quickly to pull the children close to himself and assure them of God's love and favor. The children probably reacted positively to having someone so important show them special attention.
and began blessing: Grk. kateulogeō, impf., to bless. The verb is formed from the preposition kata, meaning down and eulogeō, meaning to invoke divine favor on or for something or to bestow favor. them: The verb with the plural pronoun is a picture of the Son invoking the Father's favor on the children as a group, not that he had an individual blessing for each of the children. The act is reminiscent of the Torah command:
"Again ADONAI spoke to Moses saying, 23 "Speak to Aaron and to his sons saying: Thus you are to bless Bnei-Yisrael, by saying to them: 24 'ADONAI bless you and keep you! 25 ADONAI make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you! 26 ADONAI turn His face toward you and grant you shalom!' 27 In this way they are to place My Name over Bnei-Yisrael, and so I will bless them.”" (Num 6:22-27 TLV)
The act of blessing children as commanded by the Lord was incorporated into Israelite worship. laying: Grk. tithēmi, pres. part., to place or to put. His hands: It's an important detail that Yeshua used both hands. on: Grk. epi, prep. can mean "upon" in the sense of tactile contact or "over." them: Yeshua probably mimicked the action of priests who, in pronouncing the blessing, would spread out their hands over the congregation.
The Rich Young Ruler
Parallel Passages: Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30
Date: Spring A.D. 30
17 As He was setting out on a journey a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
As He was setting out on a journey: lit. "and going forth into the way" (Marshall). a man: Matthew 19:20 identifies the seeker as a "young man." Luke 18:18 identifies the man as a "ruler." Grk. archōn is used of both synagogue officials (Matt 9:18; Luke 8:41) and Jewish community leaders, including members of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:13, 24:20; 35; John 3:1; 7:26; Acts 3:17; 4:5, 8; 13:27; 14:5). Verse 22 below indicates that he was a wealthy man. Beyond these meager facts nothing else is revealed of his background. ran up to Him: Grk. prostrechō, aor. part., to run to or toward. The narrative indicates the eagerness of the man. He apparently saw Yeshua from a distance and ran to catch up to him. and knelt before Him: Grk. gonupeteō, aor. part., to kneel. The verb does not indicate whether the man fell on just one knee or both knees. He did not prostrate himself. This act of kneeling could have been respectful, but just as easily feigned (cf. Matt 27:29). Rulers were not generally sympathetic to Yeshua. Only Mark mentions that the man "ran" and "knelt."
and asked Him, Good: Grk. agathos, achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest. Agathos may also refer to inner worth or that which is intrinsically morally good. In Scripture goodness is often linked with truthfulness or integrity (cf. 2Kgs 20:3; Isa 38:3; Eph 5:9; 3 John 1:12). The use of the adjective may be intended to mean, "I know you are a trustworthy man and will tell me the truth" (cf. the flattery of the Herodians, Matt 22:16).
Teacher: Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. In the LXX didaskalos only occurs in Esther 6:1 where it means "reader." The equivalent in the Tanakh of didaskalos would be moreh ("teacher" BDB 435), which occurs only a few times in the Tanakh (Job 36:22; Prov 5:13; Isa 30:20). The reason for the rare occurrence of both words may not be simply that the LXX translators did not regard didaskalos as adequate for the teacher of Torah, but against the Greek concept of teacher, the Tanakh is more concerned with obedience than imparting information (DNTT 3:766).
The Hebrew texts of Qumran reveal a frequent usage of moreh, but also rab, (lit. "great one," a teacher of the Law) and rabbi ("my teacher" or "my master") (DNTT 3:766f). In the Greek New Testament didaskalos does function as a synonym for Rabbi when spoken by Yeshua or a disciple (Matt 10:24-25; 23:8; Mark 4:38; 9:38; 13:1; 14:14; Luke 7:40; 22:11; John 1:38; 3:2; 11:28; 13:13-14; 20:16). Yeshua's disciples typically addressed him as Rabbi (e.g., Mark 9:5; 11:21; 14:45; John 1:38, 49; 3:2, 26; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8), but when other people addressed Yeshua as "Teacher" (as here), they would have said "moreh." Adversaries and people seeking help from Yeshua alike called him "Teacher," but this man is the only one to call Yeshua "Good Teacher" (also in Luke 18:18). Thus, the rich man begins the conversation by trying to flatter Yeshua.
what shall I do to inherit: Grk. klēronomeō, aor. subj., to be an heir in a legal sense. More frequently the verb means to be a recipient of a share in something, with focus on experience of divine conferral of promised benefits. eternal: Grk. aiōnios, adj., can mean (1) relating to a period of time extending far into the past; long ages ago; (2) relating to time without boundaries or interruption; eternal; or (3) relating to a period of unending duration; permanent, lasting. In the LXX aiōnios occurs as the equivalent for Heb. olam, "a long duration, antiquity or futurity" (BDB 761), which is also used as an adverb meaning "for ever, for all time" (DNTT 3:827). In the Tanakh olam is used for ancient time (Gen 49:26), and indefinite futurity, which may equate to a man's lifetime (Deut 15:17), but more often to the everlasting nature of God (Gen 21:33), His laws (Ps 119:89), His promises (Isa 40:8) and His covenant (Gen 9:16; 17:7; Ex 31:16; 2Sam 23:5). Lastly, olam encompasses existence after death and eternity (Ps 90:2; Isa 45:17; Dan 12:2-3).
life: Grk. zōē, alive in contrast with being dead. "Eternal life" is the ultimate prize and the quality of life manifested in glory, honor and immortality. Both the Pharisees and Essenes embraced the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and resurrection (Josephus, Wars II, 8:11, 14). Reward and punishment would begin after death and the souls of the righteous would enter heavenly blessedness, while the souls of the ungodly are punished in Hadēs in the depths of the earth. This separation is clearly presented in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-26). The ruler wanted assurance of life with God after death. Eternal life, however, is not just eternal existence, but sharing in the life of God. For that reason Yeshua taught that the abundant life, the best kind of life possible, begins now (Matt 10:39; John 6:35, 63; 10:10). It doesn't wait until after one dies, as the rich man mistakenly thought.
18 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
Why do you call Me good? Grk. agathos. See the previous verse. Yeshua asks a rhetorical question to call attention to the rich man's motives. Nothing gets by Yeshua. No one is good: Often overlooked, the first part of the proposition affirms an important theological truth. Yeshua speaks of the intrinsic nature of man at birth. The paradox is that man is capable of good, as he said in the Sermon on the Mount:
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good [Grk. agathos] gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matt 7:11; Luke substitutes Holy Spirit for "good' in Luke 11:13)
except God alone: When used of God agathos refers to his perfection. In the LXX agathos almost exclusively translates Heb. tov. In the Tanakh the concept of tov is inseparably linked with God. An idea of the good, apart from the concept of God as occurs in Hellenistic thought, is inconceivable (DNTT 2:99). The good is always a gift of God and as such is always outside the control of man. The goodness of God is revealed in the Tanakh in many ways: in His creation (Gen 1:18), in the birth of children (Gen 30:20; Ex 1:20), in deliverance from enemies (Ex 18:9), in fulfillment of promises (Num 23:19), in the Land given to Israel (Deut 1:25; 4:21) in His Word (Isa 39:8), in His Spirit (Ps 143:10) and many benefits of health and prosperity (Ps 34:10). Even in the most difficult of times the Psalmists repeatedly affirmed the goodness of God (Ps 69:16).
In this short sentence Yeshua emphasizes that the goodness of heaven is far better and greater than any goodness of man. Yeshua is modeling the Hebraic manner of self-effacement that recognizes one is always standing in the presence of the holy God, whom alone is holy (Rev 15:4). Ironically, Yeshua did refer to himself as "good," in the declaration "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:11, 14), a metaphor used of God in the Tanakh (Gen 48:15; Ps 23:1; 80:1; Jer 17:16; 31:10; Ezek 34:12).
19 "You know the commandments, `DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'"
You know: Grk. oida, perf., to have information about or understanding of. The perfect tense emphasizes that the knowledge was gained in the past with continuing results to the present. In Hebrew culture "knowing" was not limited to having access to information, but included "obeying" what one knew. the commandments: See the note on verse 5 above. Yeshua states a simple fact. Learning the commandments was part of the childhood education of every Jew. However, as a ruler, the young man would presumptively have a better knowledge of Torah than the average Israelite. Sadly, many Christians don't know the commandments and live below the standards of God's Word.
Yeshua quotes from the "Second Table" of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:13-17; Deut 6:17-21) by citing the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments, then inserts an injunction not to defraud and finally cites the fifth commandment from the "First Table." In the Matthew's version of the story lists the commandments in the same order, except there is no prohibition of defrauding, but he does add the commandment from Leviticus 18:19 about loving one's neighbor.
DO NOT MURDER: Grk. phoneuō, aor. subj., the unlawful taking of human life, from the sixth commandment in Exodus 20:13, although murder was known to be wrong long before Moses was born (Gen 4:11-12; 6:5-7; 9:3-6). The first English versions from Wycliffe (1395) to the KJV (1611, 1769) translated the Torah quote as "You shall not kill." Wesley (1755) departed from this trend by translating the phrase as "You shall not murder." Of modern versions only the ASV, DRA, ERV and RSV translate phoneuō as "kill" instead of "murder."
Because of mistranslation and prooftexting from the Sermon on the Mount many have believed that pacifism was a part of the teaching of Yeshua. Pacifists have essentially recreated God in their own image. The idea that God would command the Israelites to wipe out seven tribes in Canaan is abhorrent, so the "meek and mild Jesus" who advised turning the other cheek and didn't defend himself when he was tortured is the model of Christian conduct. This caricature of Yeshua demeans his teachings, his character and his future judgment.
Hebrew has two words for taking life: ratzach and harag and there is a clear distinction between these words. Ratzach means premeditated murder, while harag encompasses accidental killing, manslaughter, killing in war and court-ordered execution. The sixth commandment specifically prohibits ratzach, not taking the life of another in defense of oneself or others. It's a mystery how translators made the mistake when the Greek also has separate words for murder (phoneuō) and kill (apokteinō, e.g., Matt 10:28) and it is phoneuō that is used in this verse in the Greek text. God did not prohibit all killing. In the Scriptures God expects the death penalty to be imposed for murder. (Ex 21:12; Lev. 20:1; Num 35:16-21). God also commanded killing animals for food and sacrifice and permitted killing in self-defense and killing in war.
DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY: Grk. moicheuō, aor. subj. Yeshua quotes the seventh commandment (Ex 20:14). Adultery refers to sexual relations between a married woman and a man not her husband (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24; Prov 6:32; Jer 29:23; Hos 2:2; Rom 7:3). Like murder, adultery was an offense long before Moses (Gen 20:3; 26:10). Everyone knew the seriousness of adultery since the Torah prescribed death for the offenders (Lev 20:10) and any children born of an adulterous union were considered mamzer or illegitimate (cf. Deut 23:2; Isa 57:3). Adultery could also be spiritual. God accused Israel of adultery because of idolatry (Jer 3:9; Ezek 23:37). In the Sermon on the Mount Yeshua defined lust, that is, covetousness of a married woman, as adultery (Matt 5:28). In other words planning a sin is the same thing as actually committing the sin.
DO NOT STEAL: Grk. kleptō, aor. subj., to unlawfully take property belonging to another. Yeshua quotes the eighth commandment (Ex 20:15). The use of kleptō emphasizes the secrecy, craftiness, and cheating involved in the act of stealing or embezzlement. Unlike the concept of robbery, kleptō normally does not imply violence. In the LXX kleptō regularly translates the Heb. ganab, which also includes the element of stealth. In the Torah what is stolen might include objects of value, animals, men, things devoted to God, household gods and genuine words of God, stolen by false prophets (DNTT 3:377). Even if prompted by need or poverty, stealing always dishonors God (Prov 30:9) and deserves punishment (Ex 22:1f; Deut 24:7).
DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS: Grk. pseudomartureō, aor. subj., to give false witness. Yeshua quotes the ninth commandment (Ex 20:16). The original setting for the word is clearly the legal sphere (DNTT 3:1039). In the Torah the command refers to deliberately giving false testimony. False witness does not occur by mistake (Prov 14:5).
Do not defraud: Grk. apostereō, aor. subj., to take away that which rightfully belongs to another. In Mark's version the mention of "defraud" may stand in for the second great commandment as an allusion to Leviticus 19:13, "You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning." Stern sees the injunction as summarizing the ninth and tenth Commandments, which prohibit bearing false witness and coveting.
HONOR: Grk. timaō, pres. imp., honor. YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER: Last of all Yeshua quotes the fifth commandment (Ex 20:12), and in this case in the imperative mood. The mention of father and mother together refers to the ones who gave birth and reared a child.
20 And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up."
Teacher: Notice that he does not repeat "good teacher." I have kept all: This may not have been an idle boast, especially in the basic meaning of the commandments Yeshua quoted. However, if the broader meaning found in the Sermon on the Mount is considered (e.g., anger = murder; lust = adultery), then the boast may be disingenuous. To his credit the ruler realized that keeping the commandments did not automatically provide the assurance he needed.
21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
Looking at him: Grk. embleptō, aor. part., to look at something with the suggestion of some intensity. The KJV probably captures the nuance best with "beholding him." Yeshua did not just make visual contact, but saw the young man as he was. The stranger had youth (and therefore health). He had wealth (as probably could be seen by his clothing). He had power (as a ruler of his people). He had knowledge of God's Word. And, yet, he did not have assurance of life in the age to come.
Jesus felt a love for him: Grk. agapaō, aor., to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, even if it means making a personal sacrifice to do so. While the verb is typically translated as "love," it could also be translated as "have a concern for" or "to hold in esteem" (Danker). It's important to remember that while the text is in Greek Mark the Jew is narrating from an Hebraic point of view consistent with the LXX.
In Greek there are four words for love: agapē (sacrificial love), philia (love of friendship), storgē (family love) and eros (sensual desire). In the LXX agapaō is used by preference to translate the Heb. verb aheb, which can refer to both persons and things, and denotes first men's relationships to each other, and secondly God's relationship with man (DNTT 2:539). In human relationships aheb may be used as equivalent to all four Greek words (Ibid. 547). So, in the Tanakh the meaning of aheb in a verse can only be determined from the context.
The opening clause is lit. "But Jesus looking at him loved him" (Marshall). The NASB translation seems overly sentimental, as is the NLT, "Jesus felt genuine love for this man" and the CJB, "Yeshua, looking at him, felt love for him." The Gospels also record that Yeshua loved Martha, Miriam and Lazarus (John 11:5), and John (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). Only twice in the Besekh is Yeshua's love for all his disciples expressed (John 13:1; 2Th 2:16). So, Mark is not saying that Yeshua felt something different for the young man than he felt for others. The translation of "had a concern for" would seem much more apt in the context.
go: Grk. hupagō, pres. imp., to proceed from a position. The present tense emphasizes beginning and continuing an action until accomplished. Yeshua commands, "Go from here to wherever you need to go to accomplish what I'm about to command you." and sell: Grk. pōleō, aor. imp., to sell, that is, convert possessions into currency. The aorist tense emphasizes the completion of the project. Considering the rest of the command in this verse and the description of the man's wealth in the next verse such an undertaking could take days or weeks.
all you possess: lit. "what things you have." Under Jewish law property was classed as either movable (i.e., money, harvested products, clothing, household furnishings, foodstuffs, cart, animals, etc.) or immovable (i.e., land, crops in the ground, or house). Yeshua's command to the rich young ruler was very radical and demands total relinquishment. Although giving to charity was held in high esteem by the rabbis and thought to gain great merit, there were requirements prohibiting one from giving all of his goods. "No one should give away more than the fifth of his fortune lest from independence he may lapse into a state of dependence" (Ketuboth 50a). It's noteworthy that Yeshua does not tell the man to give away his possessions. There was no charitable organization like the Salvation Army in place to receive goods.
and give: Grk. didōmi, aor. imp., to make a donation, i.e., to voluntarily transfer ownership of property to another and in so doing relinquish any claims to future benefit. to the poor: Grk. ptōchos, a needy condition that is opposite of having much, being in an indigent state. In Scripture the poor have no means of earning wages. The Torah requires care for the poor:
"If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother." (Deut 15:7; cf. Isa 58:7)
From the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6) it might appear that the principal location for giving alms (charity) in Jerusalem was at the Temple. Within the Court of the Women thirteen chests for charitable contributions were placed (cf. Mark 12:41; John 8:20). The specific purpose of each chest was marked on it (Edersheim-Temple 25). However, the alms-boxes at the Temple, as described by Edersheim, were for gifts to God and the Temple, not gifts to the poor. In a sense Yeshua was saying, "The Saduccees [who were in charge of the Temple] have enough money. Give your money to the ones who need it." In reality, the synagogue, with its charity box, served as the principal institution for distributing aid to the poor.
The duty to care for the poor, especially among God's people, is as great a duty as caring for those who minister. The Sages emphasized that true piety consisted of giving to the poor and motivating others to give (Ab. 5:13).
and you will have treasure: Grk. thēsauros may mean either a place for safekeeping, i.e., a chest, or that which is stored in a safe place, i.e., treasure, whether material or that which transcends the earthly. in heaven: Grk. ouranos. See the note on 6:41. Given the three meanings of "heaven" in Scripture, the meaning here is the heaven of God's throne. As an idiomatic expression "treasure in heaven" seems a contradiction in terms considering the promise of immortality in the next life. What need is there of material goods, given the perfection of the heavenly home?
"Treasure in heaven" may have two levels of meaning. First, the idiom may symbolize the grace and mercy of God. Second, the idiom may refer to those who benefited from the rich man's largesse and received the good news by virtue of his generosity. The latter concept is parallel to the statement in Luke 16:9, "make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings."
and come: Grk. deuro, adv. ("now"), but used here as a verb. Danker says the basic idea is position in the presence of the speaker with focus on immediacy. follow Me: To be a disciple required sacrifice. A disciple had to leave close family, relatives and friends to be with his rabbi. Traveling the country often meant leaving behind security and living under austere conditions (Luke 9:57-58). This was not a life of luxury. The rich young ruler was not willing to pay this price to be a disciple (Matt 19:21-22).
Wessel insists that Yeshua's prescription for the young man was meant to be binding on all disciples. Yeshua's own teaching on giving to the poor was well known. He rebuked his Pharisaic critics for their greed (Luke 16:14-15), cruelty in regards to financial support of their parents (Matt 15:3-5) and injustice to widows (Matt 23:14). Yeshua warned against stinginess and the danger of loving money too much (Matt 6:19-24) and urged his disciples to "sell your possessions and give to charity" (Luke 12:33). In this respect Yeshua's instruction to the ruler was not unique. As a man once told me, "in the field of religion what separates the men from the boys is the pocketbook."
Since the good news was intended for the poor (Luke 4:18; 6:20; 7:22; Jas 2:5), the most important charitable work to give the poor is the message of salvation. The rich man was not really being asked to take care of the poor, but to remove an obstacle to joining Messiah's great crusade to build the Kingdom of God. "Selling and giving to the poor" could have the implied meaning of providing financial support to Yeshua's ministry, as Miriam of Magdala and other women did (Luke 8:1-3).
22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
But at these words: to logō, sing., lit. "on [hearing] the Word." The singular form of the noun emphasizes that the message of Yeshua came across as the word of God by the Word of God (as in John 1:1). he was saddened: Grk. stugnazo, aor. part., from stugnos (hated, abhorred or gloomy), to be dark or to be dejected. and he went away grieving: Grk. lupeo, pres. pass. part., to experience distress or sorrow. he … owned much property: pl. of Grk. ktēma, something that is acquired, property or possession; lit. "he had many possessions."
23 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!"
And Jesus, looking around: Grk. periblepō, aor. mid. part., to look around. The verb does not simply report Yeshua's ability to observe, but communicates his meditative study of the group. He could see their reaction to his startling expectation of the rich young ruler. said to His disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs, one who learns through instruction from a teacher. In the apostolic writings mathētēs corresponds to the Heb. talmid and occurs only in the apostolic narratives. How hard: Grk. duskolos, with difficulty. those who are wealthy: pl. of Grk. chrēma, a thing one used, but the plural refers to wealth or riches (Rienecker). to enter: Grk. eiserchomai, fut. mid., to go into. the kingdom of God: See the note on verse 14 above. The future tense of the verb implies the kingdom as a future event, i.e., the millennial kingdom. Yeshua does not say that sharing the kingdom was absolutely impossible for the wealthy, but attachment to material things can be a serious impediment. The King must have first place in every heart.
24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
The disciples were amazed: Grk. thambeō, impf. pass., experience a strong emotional response to an event, to be amazed or astounded. The reaction of the disciples indicated their assumption of the wealthy enjoying God's favor.
Children: Grk. teknon normally refers to man or woman's immediate biological offspring, but may also refer to more distant relations such as grandchildren or descendants. However, Yeshua employs the term as a euphemism for disciple. A rabbi was regarded as a spiritual father to his disciples. Yeshua addressed his disciples as "children" on other occasions (John 13:33; 21:5). The apostles likewise addressed those whom they had mentored into the faith as "children" (2Cor 6:13; Gal 4:19; 1Pet 1:14; 1Jn 2:1; 3:7). Yeshua's manner of address on this occasion served as a kindly appeal to change their thinking.
how hard: Yeshua repeats his axiom for emphasis. The KJV presents the statement as "how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter," but the phrase "them that trust in riches" is not found in the earliest manuscripts. Metzger suggests that the qualification was added in later manuscripts to soften the rigor of Yeshua's saying.
25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
It is easier: Grk. eukopos, easy, without trouble. for a camel: Grk. kamēlos. The camel is a large hump-backed mammal of Asia and Africa used for desert travel to bear burdens or passengers (cf. Isa 60:6). The camel was not a source of food for Israelites since it was unclean for eating (Lev 11:4; Deut 14:7). The camel is adapted for desert travel with padded feet, a muscular body, and a hump of fat to sustain life on long journeys. A young camel can walk one hundred miles in a day.
to go through: Grk. dierchomai, aor. inf., to move within an area or from one area to another. the eye: Grk. trumalia, hole, perforation or opening. of a needle: Grk. raphis, a device used in sewing a textile product, a needle. Luke has belonēs, a surgical needle (Robertson). than for a rich man: Grk. plousios, one possessing in abundance, rich or wealthy. to enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. inf., to enter into an area, most frequently a geographical location. the kingdom of God: See the note on 1:15. Regardless of geography the kingdom of God exists wherever God reigns in the hearts of people.
The common interpretation of the "needle's eye" is to treat it as a metaphor referring to a protective narrow passage at the entrance to a walled city. Visitors to modern Israel are sometimes shown such a small entrance in one of the city gates of Jerusalem and told that this is what Yeshua had in mind. If a man approaches the city gate on camel-back when it is closed, he can dismount and get through the small entrance on foot. Then if the camel is unburdened it may then, by kneeling, creep under a low gate in a Jerusalem wall. The supposed lesson is that if a rich man will rid himself of pride and humble himself (kneel) he can get into heaven.
However, Bruce points out that there is no way for a camel to perform the action described, even if unloaded (181). The camel must wait for the main-gate to be opened in order to enter. Even if a small camel, unloaded, tried to get through the small entrance, it would be in danger of sticking half-way. It is ordinarily impossible for a camel to get through such a narrow opening. This attempt to soften the hardness of the saying is of a relatively recent date. There is no evidence that a subsidiary entrance was called the 'eye of a needle' in biblical times.
Yeshua clearly engages in hyperbole. To contrast the largest beast in the land of Israel with the smallest aperture is typical of Jewish proverbs. In the Talmud an elephant passing through the eye of a needle is a figure of speech for sheer impossibility (Berakoth 55b). It should be noted that Yeshua told this rich man to get rid of his wealth, not his pride. What really separates those who enter the Kingdom from those who don't is the pocket-book.
26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, "Then who can be saved?"
Then who can be saved? Indeed! If the wealthy have no grounds for deliverance from the future wrath, what will happen to the poor?
27 Looking at them, Jesus said, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."
possible with God: Yeshua repeats the axiom he declared to the father of the demon-afflicted boy. See the note on 9:23. God is the author of the impossible. In the example Yeshua gave God could pass a camel through the eye of a sewing needle if He so desired. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is full of accounts of God doing what would be impossible for man to do.
28 Peter began to say to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You."
we have left everything: Peter reacts as if he had been criticized and alluded to his own sacrifice of leaving everything to follow Yeshua (Matt 19:27). Peter may well have been considered wealthy in view of his fishing business. In John 21:15 Yeshua asks Peter if he loved his rabbi more than his fishing business, tantamount to asking him to leave it again.
29 Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake,
no one who has left: Yeshua alludes to a fact of Jewish culture. Men did leave behind family and property for a religious calling. Elisha may be the earliest example (1Kgs 19:19-21). The Essenes in particular were known for their withdrawal from normal life to await the Messiah. The omission of "wives" in the list of what has been left behind is rather striking. By rabbinic law "students may go away to study the Torah without the permission of their wives for a period of thirty days" (Ketuboth 61b). In other words, to leave for a longer period would require a wife's permission. Peter apparently did not leave his wife behind (cf. Mark 1:30; 1Cor 9:5).
house: Grk. oikia typically refers to a structure designed for dwelling (Matt 2:11), and often of the group within the house, the household, which may include both family and servants (1Cor 16:15; Heb 11:7). Oikia is also used as a euphemism for the human body (2Cor 5:1-2) and for the congregation of Israel (Matt 10:6; John 14:2; Acts 2:36; Gal 6:10). or brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos (from delphus, "of the same womb") is usually literal in the Besekh. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings (Mark 1:16, 19; 3:17; Acts 1:14; 7:13), but sometimes euphemistically as fellow Israelites who share a common lineage back to Jacob (Matt 5:22-24; Acts 9:17).
or sisters: pl. of Grk. adelphē (from delphus, "of the same womb"), normally used of a female blood sibling (Matt 13:56; Rom 16:15), but there are also figurative uses. See the note on the next verse. or mother: pl. of Grk. mētēr normally refers to a female who has given birth (Matt 1:18) or assumed the role of mother for someone (John 19:27; Rom 16:13). or father: Grk. patēr normally refers to an immediate male parent (Matt 2:22), but also included more distant ancestors (Matt 3:9). or children: See the note on verse 24 above.
or farms: pl. of Grk. agros normally refers to a plot of ground used mainly for agriculture (Matt 13:24), i.e., a field, and occasionally as the countryside outside a city or village (Mark 15:21; 16:15; Luke 23:26). for My sake: Grk. heneka, functions as a preposition to express cause or reason for something; because of, on account of, for the sake of. A disciple would leave much behind to follow a rabbi, and Yeshua acknowledges the personal devotion of many disciples to him. for the gospel's: Grk. euaggelion originally meant a reward for good news and then simply good news. In the LXX euaggelion renders besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22). sake: Grk. heneka, prep. The good news of the kingdom and its announcement appealed to a strong expectancy in the Jewish people. In context there is no essential difference in leaving things behind for Yeshua's sake and the sake of the good news.
30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
a hundred times: The hyperbole is intended to show a marked contrast. Whatever is left behind because of following Yeshua will pale in comparison to what will be gained in the kingdom. in the present age: Lit. "in this time." In Hebraic thinking time is divided into ages, first the present age (cf. Matt 12:32; 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20; Luke 16:8; 20:34; 1Cor 1:20; 2:6, 8; 3:18; 10:11; Eph 1:21; Titus 2:12). Yeshua then proceeds to repeat the list of what was left behind to become a list of gains. This list should not be taken in any literalistic fashion, but as hyperbole to express the benefits of joining a new family.
houses: pl. of Grk. oikia. See the note on the previous verse. Yeshua is not advocating an early "prosperity gospel." Disciples will find new places of hospitality and new places of worship and learning (cf. Acts 2:46). Yeshua may also have alluded to the stewardship of property that the apostles would eventually gain when disciples sold their houses and donated the money to the congregation (Act 4:34; cf. Acts 5:1 which uses ktēma, "property").
and brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos See the note on the previous verse. In the apostolic letters adelphos, often in the plural, refers primarily to disciples of Yeshua and members of believing communities (1Cor 1:10; Gal 1:2; Phil 2:25; 1Th 3:22). Yeshua clarified its meaning with the statement, "whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother" (Matt 12:50). In the body of Messiah disciples find new relationships that are like, and often better, than biological relations. and sisters: pl. of Grk. adelphē . See the note on the previous verse. Adelphē is used figuratively in the Besekh of female non-relatives in the faith (Matt 12:50; Rom 16:1; 1Cor 7:15; Jas 2:15), a believing wife (1Cor 7:15; 9:5) and a congregation (2Jn 1:13).
and mothers: Yeshua commented that a disciple could be his mother (Mark 3:35) and both John (John 19:27) and Paul (Rom 16:13) gained mothers in the faith. Paul counseled Timothy to treat "the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters" (1Tim 5:2) and instructed Titus to have the older women train the younger women in the congregation (Titus 2:3-5). Thus, the congregation provides a family framework for disciples to be nurtured. and children: pl. of Grk. teknon. See the note on the previous verse. As with spiritual parents in the faith so a disciple may find others to nurture in the faith.
farms: pl. of Grk. agros. See the note on the previous verse. The term might be better translated here as "property" or "land." Yeshua may have alluded to the stewardship of real property that the apostles would eventually gain when disciples sold land and donated the money to the congregation (Acts 4:36-37; cf. Acts 4:34 which uses chōrion, "a piece of land or plot"). In another sense he may also have alluded to opportunities for evangelism. While in Samaria Yeshua challenged his disciples to see what he saw, "Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields [Grk. chōrion], that they are white for harvest" (John 4:35).
Two omissions may be noted in the list of familial relations. As in the previous verse there is no mention of "wives," although in the present age an unmarried believing man may gain a believing wife. Also, the mention of "father" in verse 29 is not repeated in this verse, probably because God was considered the Father of Israel (John 8:41; Heb 2:11; cf. Ex 4:22). Yeshua directed his disciples to pray to the Father in heaven (Matt 6:9). However, the omission is most likely connected to his later instruction not to call any man "father" in sense of having exclusive spiritual authority (Matt 23:9).
Two semantic differences may be noted. In verse 29 "house" and "mother" are singular but in this verse plural. Next, in the previous verse the list is connected with the conjunction "or," which emphasizes their separate identity, but in this verse the list is connected with the conjunction "and," which emphasizes their aggregate unity.
along with persecutions: pl. of Grk. diōgmos, a program of systematic harassment, especially because of differing belief or expression. Much of this harassment would come from unbelieving family members or synagogue rulers (cf. Matt 10:17-26), making the new relationships in the Body of Messiah that much more precious. in the age to come: the Messianic age (cf. Matt 12:32; Eph 1:21; 2:7; Heb 6:5). Stern suggests that the expression can mean either the Millennial Age (1Th 4:15–17; Rev 19–20) or the Eternal Age following Judgment Day (Rev 21–22) (46). eternal life: See the note on verse 17. It's notable that in this verse eternal life is associated with the age to come, but in reality eternal life begins now and continues into the age to come.
31 "But many who are first will be last, and the last, first."
The parabolic statement reflects folk wisdom of the time and is as old as the Aesop fable of the hare and tortoise (Bruce 199). In the usage by Yeshua the saying alludes to social standing and the expectation of reward. The "first" are those who possess either power or wealth or both. The "first" are the leaders of society, the movers and shakers, the ones who can influence policy, whether in the sphere of religion, politics or industry. The "last" should not be equated with poverty, but because of their social standing have little or no power to influence society or policy. The definition of "last" is always relative to those perceived to be "first."
This saying occurs in three other verses: Matthew 19:30; 20:16 and Luke 13:30. The first usage here and also in the parallel passage in Matthew 19:30 follows the encounter with the rich young ruler. The second usage occurs in the parable of the vineyard where the last ones hired are the first ones paid and all the workers received the same wage. The parable contrasts the generosity of God to care for the needs of all with the selfishness of those who believed they made a greater contribution to the harvest. In Luke 13:30 the words (in reverse order) are added to the assertion that men will come from east and west (i.e., Gentiles) to share equally with Abraham in the future kingdom. This latter usage echoes the promise of the Servant messages in Isaiah of the participation of the nations in the Messianic age (Isa 42:1; 49:6; 52:10; 60:3; 61:11; 66:12, 19).
For the Markan context the saying could have two applications, since the meaning of "first" and "last" is always relative to the context. One application pertains to the rich young ruler. The saying naturally connects to the comment in the previous verse about the present age and the age to come. Those who are first in the present age cannot count on being first in the age to come. The Sanhedrin will not rule in the millennial kingdom, but the apostles will judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28). The names of the twelve apostles will be on the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:14). Even Gentile disciples will be given prominence (cf. Luke 13:29-30; 1Cor 6:2; Rev 20:4), a lesson the apostles had yet to learn.
The most pertinent application would be directed at the disciples, particularly the three principal apostles, Peter, Jacob and John. Peter had just reminded Yeshua how much he had given up in order to become a disciple. John had tried to keep the band of disciples an exclusive club (9:38). Jacob will soon join with John to vie for position to share power with the Messiah (verse 37 below). However, Yeshua warns his disciples that being "first" in the Kingdom is not gained by how much one gives up in the present age or how much power one has, but how much one serves others (9:35; verse 43 below).
Suffering and Service
Parallel Passages: Matthew 20:17-19; Luke 18:31-33
32 They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him,
They were … going up to Jerusalem: Yeshua was always going up to Jerusalem because of the mandatory attendance at the three principal festivals. However, the statement here points to Yeshua's destiny and redemptive purpose. Jesus was walking on ahead of them: The narrative implies a brisk pace with Yeshua in the lead. Yet, there is also spiritual meaning in the words. and they were amazed: Grk. thambeo, impf. pass. ind., refers to a strong emotional reaction to an event, to be astonished. Yeshua had said some things the disciples found incredible to digest. those who followed: Grk. akolutheō, pres. part., (from keleuthos, road or path), to be in motion in sequence behind someone, to follow. The present tense emphasizes their effort to keep up with Yeshua.
were fearful: Grk. phobeo, impf. mid. ind., to be in a state of apprehension, lit. "they were fearing." The verb covers a range of emotional concern from anxiety to terror. However, the verb is also used of the appropriate reverence and awe due to an earthly ruler or to God. After all that Yeshua had said this emotion may well have been a mixture of fear that the promises Yeshua made would come at a high price. And again He … began to tell them: Yeshua returns to his prophetic announcement uttered on two previous occasions (8:31; 9:31).
33 saying, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles.
Yeshua's prophecy of his anticipated sufferings is parallel to the predictions in 8:31 and 9:31. See the notes there. In this verse two new elements are added. they will condemn: Grk. katakrinō, to pronounce a judicial verdict, to declare worthy of punishment. Him to death: Yeshua identifies the specific punishment determined by the judicial process. and will hand Him over: Grk. paradidōmi, to convey from one position to another. The verb in general refers to subjecting a person to a custodial procedure, which could involve various stages and numerous parties in the judicial process, with delivery to an authority for penalty by someone filled with animus.
to the Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. Ethnos in its plural form ethnos corresponds to the Heb. goyim, which in the Tanakh referred to all nations, including Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). General usage by Jews from the Second Temple onwards refers exclusively to non-Jews. Here the designation alludes to Gentiles in power with authority to exact capital punishment.
34 "They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again."
In this verse three new verbs are used to describe Yeshua's anticipated sufferings. They will mock Him: Grk. empaizō, to make an object of ridicule, make a laughingstock. and spit on Him: Grk. emptuō, to spit on or at. and scourge Him: Grk. mastigoō, to administer a severe whipping, to scourge or flog. and kill Him: Grk. apokteinō, fut., to murder someone or to end someone's life by force.
and three days: pl. of Grk. hēmera, acc. case, normally refers to the daylight hours, but also to the timeframe within which something takes place. See the extended note on 8:31 on the timeframe for Yeshua's death to resurrection. later: Grk. meta, prep., a sequential or positional marker when used with a noun in the accusative case, as here, with the meaning of "after." The phrase is lit. "and after three days" (Marshall). He will rise again: Grk. anistēmi, fut. mid. ind., to rise up or get up from a recumbent position. The middle voice emphasizes Yeshua's participation in the resurrection. As he says,
"For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again." John 10:17-18
The KJV (following the TR) has "he shall rise the third day." However the earliest and best manuscripts have the prepositional clause as in 8:31, "after three days." In the sequence of verbs the timeframe follows the mocking, i.e. arrest. The first mention of mocking is in the trial before Annas (Luke 22:63).
35 James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You."
Parallel Passage: Matthew 20:20-28
James: Jacob. and John: See the notes on 1:19 and 3:17 about the brothers. Matthew indicatess the request supported by their mother (Matt 20:20). Teacher: Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor. See verse 17 above. Yeshua's disciples typically addressed him as Rabbi (e.g., Mark 9:5), and given their relationship with Yeshua and speaking in Hebrew they likely addressed him as "Rabbi." we want You: The request is lit. "we wish that whatever we may ask you, you may do for us." The appeal was probably not as curt as it comes across in English translations. They wanted something only he could give. Yeshua had already taught the principle of "ask and you will receive" (Matt 7:7). However, the request was manipulative, since they wanted a blanket assurance of Yeshua's commitment prior to voicing their desire.
36 And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
What do you want: Yeshua ignored their request for a "rubber stamp" assurance and asked for a plain statement of their desire.
37 They said to Him, "Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory."
Grant that we may sit: Concern for seats of honor featured strongly in Jewish culture of the time. See the note on 9:33. The seats on the immediate right and left side of a chief person, whether the king or the host of a banquet, were the places of greatest honor. It was assumed that such seats were for those most highly esteemed above others.
in Your glory: Grk. doxa here no doubt refers to the glorious revelation of Almighty God. Yeshua had promised that he would come "in the glory of His Father with the holy angels" (8:38) and Jacob and John were witnesses to the transfiguration of Yeshua (9:2-3). The request reinforces their belief in Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel, which Peter declared in Caesarea Philippi (8:29), and that surely his glory would be revealed once they arrived in Jerusalem. Yeshua would sit on the throne as the king of Israel. With confidence that the Messianic kingdom would be soon established the brothers wanted to get their request in first for the most significant posts.
The wording of the request alludes to a prophecy not recorded by Mark. In the parallel narrative of the rich young ruler in Matthew Yeshua follows Peter's statement in verse 28 above with this prophecy:
"Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Matt 19:28)
Thus, Yeshua had already promised his apostles seats of authority over the twelve tribes of Israel, but Jacob and John wanted more. This reference to the twelve tribes affirms their existence at that time in spite of widespread belief that only the Kingdom of Judah survived the exile. See my web article The Lost Tribes of Israel. The prophecy could be taken four possible ways, depending on application of time and function. With respect to time the prophecy at this point relates to the millennial judgment, since Yeshua repeats the same prophecy in the parable of the sheep and goats: "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne" (Matt 25:31; cf. 2Cor 5:10). The apostles then will have some responsibility with assisting Yeshua with the judgment of Israel and the nations.
Yeshua would later repeat the promise at the Last Supper, with the implication that the apostles' authority would last for the millennial period:
"You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; 29 and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:28-30)
With respect to function the prophecy could reflect each apostle being given leadership of a specific tribe, which would imply that the twelve apostles each came from a different tribe. More likely, though, is that the twelve thrones allude to the apostles functioning as a judicial body replacing the Sanhedrin whose members sat on throne-like chairs.
38 But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"
You do not know: Yeshua does not respond in anger, but pity. the cup that I drink: The mention of "cup" likely portends the cup of consecration at the Last Supper, which itself symbolized his death as an atoning sacrifice. Yeshua will again refer to his death as "the cup" in the Garden of Gethsemane (14:36). the baptism: Grk. baptisma, more properly "the immersion" and in the Jewish context self-immersion. See the note on 1:4. Yeshua points back to his own self-immersion in the Jordan (see the note on 1:9-10). His immersion served as a commissioning to be the suffering Savior (cf. Luke 12:50). The cup and the water summarize the entirety of Yeshua's ministry. Before Yeshua could sit in glory (i.e., at the right hand of the Father) and later his throne of judgment, he would have to endure the agony of the cross.
39 They said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.
We are able: The quick reply reflects both their ignorance and arrogance. you shall drink: The two apostles didn't realize that Yeshua's pronouncement functioned prophetically. Jacob would be martyred and John would no doubt suffer the loneliness of grief over the loss of his brother and so many others that he outlived. Then toward the end of his days he would be thrown into a vat of boiling oil, and, having survived the oil, exiled to the island of Patmos.
40 "But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."
this is not Mine to give: Yeshua implies that such positions of privilege and power will exist in the millennial kingdom, but the appointment will not be his sole decision. He may be suggesting the role of the Father, but the point is superfluous. He and the Father are one and the Son would not make a decision he knew to be contrary to the Father's will. for whom it has been prepared: Grk. etoimazō, perf. pass., to put into a state of readiness, to make preparations. The perfect tense indicates an action completed in past time with continuing results to the present. The preparation of which Yeshua speaks does not refer to the persons to be chosen but to the seats of honor. Ironically, when John received the revelation on Patmos Yeshua promised the victorious saints, "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Rev 3:21).
41 Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.
Hearing this: Jacob and John had not been smart enough to maker their request in private. feel indignant: Grk. aganakteō, to be upset about something that violates a sense of propriety or to express indignation. Other versions as the NASB render the verb with the second meaning. The CJB makes it stronger with "outraged." The distress of the ten probably doesn't mean that they were mad because they were preempted in making the same request. Rather, the ten were shocked and upset that Jacob and John would attempt to take advantage of their relationship with Yeshua for personal gain and do so in such an open manner on the presumption that they were the greatest of the twelve. This same division would surface again at the Last Supper (Luke 22:24).
42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.
Calling them to Himself: Yeshua beckons all the disciples to gather around him in a huddle in order to put a stop to the bickering. You know: Yeshua appeals to their common sense about what is known by everyone. those who are recognized: Grk. dokeō, pres. part., to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion, to think or to opine. as rulers: Grk. archō, pres. inf., to rule or reign. The whole clause is lit., "the ones thinking to rule." of the Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. Ethnos in the singular may refer to a specific ethnic or cultural people, such as the Jewish Samaritans (Acts 8:9) or Israel (Matt 21:43; Acts 24:17).
In the Besekh the plural form of ethnos normally corresponds to the Heb. goyim, which in the Tanakh referred to all nations, including Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). lord it over: Grk. katakurieuō, pres., to treat another as a subject, to dominate or control. them: i.e., the Gentiles. and their great men: political and cultural leaders. exercise authority over them: Grk. katexousiazō, pres., to exercise unquestioned authority over, to dominate.
43 "But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;
Yeshua makes a proverbial observation in this verse and the next in the form of a parallelism.
whoever wishes to become great: Grk. megas, exceeding a standard and therefore impressive. The adjective implies a comparison to others in a group. among you shall be your servant: Grk. diakonos generally means a servant or helper in a domestic context and from that used with a ministry connotation in various passages of the Besekh. Robertson suggests that this word may come from dia (through) and konis (dust), to raise a dust by one's hurry, and so to minister (note on Matt 20:26).
44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.
whoever wishes to be first: Grk. prōtos, the basic idea has to do with beforeness, and in this setting to have primary position or the most prominence in a group. you shall be slave: Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. word ebed, which similarly described someone enslaved after being captured in war or in order to pay a debt, whether voluntarily or involuntarily (cf. Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 44, 47). In addition, ebed identified those who served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593ff).
The great Hebrew and Jewish heroes of the faith considered themselves servants of God the King and it was considered a high honor for a person to be called a servant of God. Abraham was the first to use this title (Gen 18:3; 26:24), but the most frequent usage is in relation to Moses and over 40 citations remind Jews of his status, including 18 in the book of Joshua alone. Many other Israelite leaders also bore this title. Others called "servant of the Lord" include Abraham (Gen 18:3; 26:24), Isaac (Gen 24:14) and Jacob (Deut 9:27), Job (Job 1:8), Moses (Ex 4:10; Rev 15:3), Caleb (Num 14:24), Joshua (Josh 24:29), Samson (Judg 15:18), Samuel (1Sam 3:10), David (2Sam 3:18), Elijah (2Kgs 9:36), Jonah (2Kgs 14:25), Hezekiah (2Chr 32:16), Nehemiah (Neh 1:11), Isaiah (Isa 20:3), Zerubbabel (Hag 2:23), Daniel (Dan 6:20) and all the Hebrew prophets (Jer 25:4). The nation of Israel is also considered a servant of the Lord (Isa 44:2).
Out of this tradition several spiritual leaders in the apostolic era followed suit. In the Besekh the expression is used of Miriam (Luke 1:38), Simeon (Luke 2:29), Paul and Luke (Acts 16:17), Apollos (1Cor 3:5), Timothy (Phil 1:1), Yeshua (Phil 2:7), Epaphras (Col 1:7), Tychicus (Col 4:7), Jacob (James 1:1), Peter (2Pet 1:1), Jude (Jude 1:1), and John (Rev 1:1). All of those in Scripture who used this designation possessed authority to speak for God.
45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Son of Man: See the note on 2:10 for this Messianic title. did not come to be served: Grk. diakoneō, aor. pass. inf. See the note on "servant" in verse 43. The verb is used in three ways in the Besekh: (1) care in the meeting of personal needs; (2) rendering helpful personal attendance; and (3) administrative activity of serving. The first two applications certainly apply to the ministry of Yeshua. The implication for Jacob and John is that Yeshua did not need the service they envisioned. but to serve: Grk. diakoneō, aor. inf. The verb is repeated in the active voice that Yeshua would be the one serving and in a far greater capacity than anything the apostles could offer.
and to give: Grk. didōmi, aor. inf., to give with a focus on generosity. Yeshua's giving reflected the magnanimous grace and mercy of God. His life: Grk. psuchē, lit. "soul," but generally describes a quality without which a body is physically dead, i.e. "life." Yeshua declares again that he gives his life rather than it being taken from him. a ransom: Grk. lutron, a redemptive price or ransom. In secular Greek the term denoted the means or money for a ransom, such as payment to free a slave, or in a religious sense of satisfying an obligation.
In the LXX lutron translates three significant words (DNTT 3:190): (1) kopher, "covering" (e.g., Ex 21:30; 30:12; Lev 27:31; Num 35:31, 32), which means the gift in exchange for life that according to the Torah is forfeit or come under divine punishment. (2) pidyon, "ransom" or "redeem," which stresses the action of redeeming and its price. The term occurs in texts of payment being offered by money or an animal sacrifice in lieu of first-born man or animal, which by Torah belongs to God (Ex 13:13, 15, 34:20). (3) g'ullah, from the verb ga'al, to redeem or act as a kinsman-redeemer, in the case of a relative who was both entitled and under obligation to act (e.g., Lev 25:34).
The basic meaning of ransom in both the Tanakh and the Besekh is that which provides freedom. In this context the freedom needed pertains to the bondage of sin. In order to deal with the sin problem of the nation God prescribed an annual sin offering. Yeshua essentially prophesied that he would be a sin offering. Just as the Torah prescribed animal sacrifice on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) to cleanse the sin of men (Lev 16:30) who deserved to die, so Yeshua would be offered instead, except on Passover. His death on this occasion was a sign that people would not only be cleansed of sin, but freed from its bondage. In so doing Yeshua's death replaced both the Yom Kippur sacrifice and the Passover sacrifice for all time.
There are two verses (2Cor 5:21 and Heb 9:26) that emphasize this truth, although obscured in almost all versions due to failing to translate hamartia, "sin," as "sin offering."
2Cor 5:21: "God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God's righteousness." (CJB)
Heb 9:26: "He has been manifested for annulment of the sin offering by the sacrifice of Himself." (Mine)
for: Grk. anti, prep., typically means "in place of" or "instead of," but also is used in the sense of requital or offset and may be translated as "for," "because" or "therefore." many: pl. of Grk. polus, an adj. of number, extensive in scope, "many," whether things, animals or people. The adjective is not qualified as to what the "many" are, but in context the "many" are the human beneficiaries of Yeshua's ransom, an allusion to the promise of Isaiah 53:11, "By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities." The use of the Hebrew idiom is employed by Paul, "For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many (Rom 5:15). But, who are the many?
Lane notes that among the Essenes "the many" was a "technical term for the elect community, the eschatological people of God" (384). This viewpoint is reflected in apostolic instruction that Yeshua died for the congregation of Israel (Rom 5:8; Gal 1:4; Eph 5:25; 1Th 5:10; Titus 2:14). Conversely, the apostles also taught that Yeshua died for all mankind (Rom 5:6, 18-19; 2Cor 5:14-15; 1Tim 2:6; 4:10; Titus 2:11). These two axiomatic principles are not mutually exclusive as reflected in the differences between Calvinist and Arminian theologies. Universal atonement does not guarantee universal salvation, as made clear in Yeshua other statement about "the many:"
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matt 7:13-14)
To summarize, Yeshua set the example by being a servant, acting as both high priest and perfect sacrifice as a ransom for sinners. Therefore, he has the right to call his disciples to the same vocation.
Healing of Bartimaeus
Parallel Passages: Matthew 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43; 19:1
46 Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road.
Then they came to Jericho: Grk. Ierichō, which transliterates the Heb. Yericho, lay about five miles west of the Jordan (Heb. Yarden) and 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem (Heb. Yerushalayim). There were actually two cities called Jericho that sat next to each other: Old Jericho, the site of the ancient Canaanite city, and New Jericho, the recently rebuilt Herodian city where Yeshua had his interview with Zacchaeus. The town had three distinctions at this time in history.
· Jericho was one of three places in the Land for the collection of customs and highway tolls. The other two were Capernaum (Heb. K'far Nachum) and Caesarea. It was at these points that tax agents examined import and export goods and collected tolls on roads and bridges, because they were major trade intersections.
· Jericho was home to many priests and Levites who could be encountered on the road as they traveled to the Temple for their assigned duties (cf. Luke 10:30-32).
· Jericho was near where Yochanan the Immerser conducted his ministry (Luke 3:3) and where Yeshua was immersed (Matt 3:13).
as He was leaving Jericho: The story is set in the context of Yeshua's visit to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Luke places the incident "As Yeshua approached Jericho" (Luke 18:35). But putting the two accounts together suggests that Mark is referring to leaving Old Jericho and Luke is referring to approaching New Jericho.
a blind: Grk. tuphlos, one unable to see. beggar: Grk. prosaitēs, one who begged financial support from the public. The term only occurs here and John 9:8, which also concerns a blind man. The Torah contains no enactment concerning beggars or begging, since it makes ample provision for the relief and care of "the poor in the land." Begging, however, came to be known to the Jews in the course of time with the development of the larger cities (ISBE). This social decline contrasts sharply with David's claim, "I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread (Ps 37:25).
Although almsgiving for the poor is strongly advocated in the Tanakh, as well as other Jewish literature, begging for money was not approved. The first clear criticism of begging in Jewish literature is found in Sirach 40:28, "My son, do not lead the life of a beggar; it is better to die than to beg." This attitude is reflected in the remark of the unjust steward, "I am ashamed to beg" (Luke 16:3). Professional beggars were a despised class among the Hebrews; and the Jewish communities were forbidden to support them from the general charity fund (Baba Bathra 9a). However, it was likewise forbidden to drive a beggar away without any alms (B.B. 10a).
This prevalence of begging may be attributed to an inadequate system of ministering relief, the lack of remedies for serious diseases or maladies, and the impoverishment of the land under the excessive taxation of the Roman government.
named Bartimaeus: Grk. Bartimaios transliterates Heb. Bar-Timai, which means "son of Timai." Bar is Aramaic for "son" corresponding to the Heb. ben. However, at this time the use of bar had become a loan-word in Hebrew, just as "pork" and "beef" in the English language originally came from French. Matthew notes that there were two blind men. Stern suggests that Bartimaeus was the more prominent of the two. the son of Timaeus: Grk. Timaios transliterates Heb. Timai, which means "unclean" (Kasdan 227). The reference to the father's name is not a redundancy, because in the Greek text it occurs before Bartimaeus. The CJB translates phrase as "Bar-Timai (son of Timai)", in order to show that "son of Timai" translates Bar-Timai. The mention of both the father's name followed by the son's name may hint at their later prominence as leaders in the local congregation.
was sitting by the road: In the apostolic narratives begging occurs in connection with public places, e.g. the temple (John 9:8; Acts 3:2) and the entrance to Jericho, which was a gateway to pilgrims going up to Jerusalem to the great festivals and in the neighborhood of rich men's houses (Luke 16:20). Bartimaeus and his companion waited in hopes of gaining a charitable response from passersby.
47 When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Jesus the Nazarene: Grk. ho Nazarēnos, "the Nazarene," or more accurately "of Nazareth." The naming convention of identifying persons by place of origin distinguished them from other persons with the same name. (Yeshua was a common name.) The last letter of "Nazareth" was dropped and an adjectival suffix added to form the label, the masculine nos for Nazareth, resulting in Nazarēnos. The same Greek construction may be found in other names, such as Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37), Lucius of Cyrene (Acts 13:1), and Dionysius the Areopagite (Acts 17:34). he began to cry out: Grk. krazō, pres. inf., to utter a loud cry, to scream. Bartimaeus knew that with all the people passing by he would have to elevate his voice considerably to be heard by Yeshua.
Son of David: Most significant to the theme of Yeshua's visit is that Bartimaeus addressed Yeshua with this distinctive title, which has two levels of meaning. First "Son of David" asserts the complete biological ancestry of Yeshua through his mother Miriam (Luke 3:23–38) and the legal ancestry through his "stepfather" Joseph who also descended from King David (Matt 1:20). Second, "Son of David" invokes all the promises of a Davidic kingdom based in Jerusalem with the Land of Israel back under Jewish control. The Messianic overtones of the title can be seen in various references in Matthew (Matt 1:1; 12:23; 21:9; 22:42). The fact that Bartimaeus should use this title implies possible divine revelation, but more likely prior knowledge. After all, there had been much public speculation about Yeshua's identity and there is no reason why Bartimaeus couldn't have heard the gossip and formed his own conclusion. In effect Bartimaeus said what Peter intended when he identified Yeshua as the Messiah.
have mercy: Grk. eleaō (a variant spelling of eleeō), aor. imp., to show concern for one who is in a bad situation or condition, to have compassion, to show mercy or pity. The imperative mood demonstrates the urgency and passion of the entreaty. Bartimaeus desperately needed help and he believed that Yeshua could provide it.
48 Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
be quiet: Grk. siōpaō, to observe silence by ceasing to speak. The common prejudice against beggars probably motivated the effort of many in the crowd to override Bartimaeus' appeal for help. There is no indication that the disciples necessarily participated in such discouragement. he kept crying: Bartimaeus was not to be denied and he yelled even louder, repeating the same passionate entreaty, calling to the Messiah for help. He had one shot at a new life and he pressed his advantage to the maximum.
49 And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him here." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you."
And Jesus stopped: Grk. histēmi, aor. part., to stand, as of bodily posture. Yeshua stopped his progress and looked at the source of the appeal. Call him here: It is noteworthy that Yeshua did not go to Bartimaeus. So they called: In this case "they" probably refers to Yeshua's disciples, who immediately obeyed. Take courage: Grk. tharseō, pres. imp., to have or take courage. The command urges Bartimaeus to immediately act upon his request. stand up: Grk. egeirō, pres. imp., to rise from a recumbent or lower position. After all, Bartimaeus was sitting on the ground, but there was nothing wrong with his legs. He is calling: Grk. phōneō may mean (1) to utter a sound designed to attracted attention, cry out or proclaim with emphasis; (2) call to oneself; summon, call for, or invite; or (3) to identify in personal address. The second meaning applies here. Bartimaeus is informed that Yeshua has heard and desires his presence.
50 Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus.
Throwing aside: Grk. apoballō, aor. part., to throw off. his cloak: Grk. himation, a covering for the body, generally referring to clothing or apparel, but in this context it means an outer garment. In the LXX himation rendered the Heb. beged, meaning both the outer garment and the clothes as a whole (DNTT 1:316). See the note on 2:21. he jumped up: Grk. anapēdaō, aor. part., to jump up, to spring up. and came
51 And answering him, Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And the blind man said to Him, " Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!"
What do you want Me to do for you? Yeshua no doubt knew what the man needed, both physically and financially. However, he still required Bartimaeus to specify his need. This is an important lesson for prayer. God provides specific answers to specific request. Too many people are too timid about requesting from God exactly what they wish.
Rabboni: Grk. rhabbouni (a transliteration of Heb. Rabbouni, "my master"), a form of Grk. rhabbi. See the note on 9:5. Bartimaeus regarded himself as a disciple of this rabbi from Nazareth. Unfortunately, his blindness had prevented him from seeking out Yeshua and joining his school of disciples.
52 And Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.
Go: Grk. hupagō, pres. imp., to proceed from a position, to depart or to leave, or to be on one's way. Instead of inviting Bartimaeus to join his band of followers, it appears that Yeshua commands the man to return to his home as the Gadarene had been instructed. your faith: Grk. pistis means (1) constancy in awareness of obligation to others, thus faithfulness or fidelity; and (2) belief or confidence evoked by another's reputation for trustworthiness, thus faith, trust or confidence. Yeshua makes an observation of the man's trusting faithfulness as he did of the friends of the paralytic. See the note on 2:5.
has made you well: Grk. sōzō, perf. (from saos, 'free from harm'), to rescue from a hazardous condition or circumstance, to save. Yeshua did not use the normal word for heal (therapeuō), but used a verb that highlighted the dangerous condition of blindness. Bartimaeus had been rescued from a life of beggary to a life of gainful employment. The perfect tense implies that Bartimaeus was instantly healed because he obeyed Yeshua to come and state his need when asked, not simply because he had a certain quantity of healing faith. Bartimaeus trusted and obeyed. Immediately: Grk. euthus, adv., "immediately" or "at once," a frequent occurrence in the book of Mark that dramatically stresses significant action. The adverb is actually preceded by a conjunction, kai euthus ("and immediately") a unique expression in Mark.
he regained his sight: Grk. anablepō, aor., to be able to see after a period without sight, without indication that the blind person had never been able to see (as in the CEV, CJB, GNB, HCSB, HNV, KJV, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT and RSV). However, the prefix ana may imply regaining sight after a temporary loss, as reflected in the translations of the ESV, Marshall, NASB, and NRSV. Regardless of how long he had been blind, it is not likely that he had been born blind.
and began following: Grk. akolutheō, impf., to be in motion in sequence behind someone or to be in close association with someone. Bartimaeus began following Yeshua both literally and spiritually. He was determined not to be parted from the one who returned his sight. Him on the road: Grk. odos, way, road or highway. The word emphasizes the dual nature of Bartimaeus' following. Later the band of disciples would be known as The Way to reflect their belief system and lifestyle of imitating Yeshua (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14). Bartimaeus had discovered that Yeshua was the way, the truth and the life.
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