Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 12 October 2010; Revised 17 April 2017
Scripture Text: Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions.
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 Book of Matthew" because that is how Matthew introduces his story (Matt 1:1). Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Matthew and his book.
Methodology: For an explanation of abbreviations, acronyms, terminology, spelling conventions, and other information on organization of the commentary see my Commentary Writing Philosophy.
Primary Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Unless otherwise indicated the following primary sources are used:
• The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid–2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
• Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
• The meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), given as "BDB." The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
• Dates are from Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings (1992). Online.
Instruction on Judging, 7:1-5
Instruction on Pearls, 7:6
Instruction on Prayer, 7:7-11
Instruction on Charity, 7:12
Instruction on the Two Gates, 7:13-14
Instruction on the Two Trees, 7:15-20
Instruction on Judgment, 7:21-23
Instruction on the Two Foundations, 7:24-27
Yeshua's Authority, 7:28-29
Summer, A.D. 28
Instruction on Judging, 7:1-5
1 Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
Do not judge: Grk. krinō, pres. imp., may mean (1) make a selection, (2) subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior, or (3) draw a conclusion with focus on the mental processing. The second meaning applies here with an emphasis on condemnation. A continuum of judgment may be defined: observe, distinguish, evaluate, analyze, and decide, with the result being positive or negative. The imperative mood indicates an authoritative command, but the context is important for determining the bounds of the restriction. Not every form of judgment is proscribed.
In the LXX krinō is used mainly to translate Heb. dîn, rîb and shaphat (DNTT 2:363). Dîn means not only to judge (in a legal sense, usually by tribal elders, e.g., Ruth 4:1-3), but also to punish, wrangle, vindicate and obtain justice for someone (Gen 15:14; 30:6; Deut 32:36; 2Sam 19:9; Ps 54:3; Jer 5:28). Rîb means to quarrel, to litigate, to carry on a lawsuit (Gen 26:21; Jdg 8:1; 21:22; 1Sam 24:16). Shaphat occurs the most frequently and means to judge in a legal sense or to govern.
so that: Grk. hina, conj., used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that. you will be judged: Grk. krinō, aor. pass. subj. The verb could refer to God’s judgment or man's judgment. In Israel all justice is ascribed to God, who is both Lord and Judge (Deut 1:17). As a judge He helps his people (Judg 11:27; 2Sam 18:31). He never deviates from justice (Ps 7:12). Kasdan interprets the prohibited judging as "unfair judgment" (72). The rigor of the disciples' commitment to God's kingdom and the righteousness demanded of them do not authorize them to adopt a critical attitude.
Those who "judge" unfairly will in turn be "judged," not by men, but by God. The disciple who takes it on himself to be the judge of what another does usurps the place of God (Rom 14:10) and therefore becomes answerable to Him. Carson comments that Yeshua demands his disciples not to be censorious and interprets Yeshua's words this way: "Do not assume the place of God by deciding you have the right to stand in judgment over all--do not do it, I say, in order to avoid being called to account by the God whose place you usurp."
The rabbinic sages agreed with Yeshua.
"Judge every one by his good qualities (i.e., from his favorable side) … "Judge everyone from his favorable side." It happened that a girl was led in captivity, and two pious men went to redeem her. One of them entered into a house of harlots. When he came out again, he said to his companion: "What were thy suspicions of me (when you saw me enter this house)?" He said: "I thought you went to investigate what sum her ransom would be." He answered: "I assure you that so it was. As thou hast judged me from my favorable side, so may the Lord judge thee in the same manner." (Avot 1:6)
"R. Ishmael said: "He that refrains himself from judgment, frees himself from enmity, and rapine, and false swearing; and he that is arrogant in decision is foolish, wicked, and puffed up in spirit. Judge not alone, for none may judge alone save One; and say not, 'Accept ye my opinion,' for they are free to choose, and not thou." (Avot 4:7-8)
2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you."
For: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." in the way: Grk. krima, may refer to a judicial decision, decree or verdict, or a sentence of condemnation and the subsequent punishment itself. Most likely Yeshua refers to the standard followed in making the judgment. you judge: Grk. krinō, pres., 2p-pl. See the previous verse. The plural verb could apply to individuals, but also to groups conducting authorized judgment (cf. Matt 18:15-20). you will be judged: Grk. krinō, fut. pass. The implication of the verb is that God will judge in like manner. This saying is an application of the law of cause and effect. As Paul said, "God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." (Gal 6:7).
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.
by your standard: Grk. metron, a device used to meet a standard for determination of amount or dimension, used here fig. of a measured extent or amount. HELPS says the term is the controlling basis by which something is determined as acceptable or unacceptable. of measure: Grk. metreō, pres., to determine the extent of meeting a standard, with the focus on determining conformity. The NASB translates the verb as a noun, but it would be lit. "measuring." it will be measured: Grk. metreō, fut. pass. to you: 2p-pl. pronoun. Yeshua's statement here amounts to a proverb. If judgment is by a biblical standard, then there should not be a problem. However, if the judgment is based on prejudice or custom, then adverse consequences could follow. Yeshua's adversaries judged him a sinner because he healed on the Sabbath (John 9:16, 24).
Yeshua is not saying that his disciples must never observe and assess behavior. This would contradict verse 16 below, since "fruit inspection" requires judging. Individuals are expected to confront an offender (Lev 19:17-18; Matt 18:15). Believers have the right and duty to judge oneself (Rom 14:22) and to determine whether a matter conforms to wisdom and/or Scripture (Luke 7:43; 12:57; John 7:24; Acts 13:46; 15:19; 1Cor 11:13). Those who prophesy must expect to be judged by their hearers (1Cor 14:29).
Additional Note on Judging
Considering which Hebrew word Yeshua used would yield different interpretations.
1. Dîn. Yeshua probably did not forbid dîn, because rabbis had the authority to conduct Beit Din (house of judgment) proceedings. Yeshua instructed his disciples to follow a system to judge errant members and impose discipline (Matt 18:15-18). Even though normally a Beit Din required a minimum of three Jews knowledgeable and observant of Jewish Law (halakhah, cf. Matt 18:19-20), in exigencies halakhah permitted one Jew to conduct a Beit Din (cf. 1Cor 6:5). Congregational leaders have the right to judge and confront sinning members (1Cor 5:1-3; Titus 3:10-11). Also, Yeshua promised that the apostles will judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28; cf. Rev 20:4).
2. Rîb. It is possible that Yeshua was telling his disciples to avoid litigation. Do not go to law against your brother. The apostle Paul asserts that it is better to be defrauded than sue a brother (1Cor 6:1-8).
3. Shaphat. This is the most likely word for Yeshua to use in the context. Do not presume you have the right to pass judgment on your neighbor or criticize or find fault and deny him due process as if you were a law court judge. [Due process includes the principles of impartiality, orderly discovery, reliance on evidence and the right of self-defense.] Wrongful shaphat might take a variety of forms.
a. Assuming you have the right to judge (Luke 12:14).
b. Judging by appearance (John 7:24). In other words, don’t judge a book by its cover. Character is not to be determined by clothing or physical form. Judge by the evidence of deeds.
c. Defamation, whether slander or libel (Lev 18:15-16; Jas 4:11-12).
d. Judging hypocritically (Rom 2:1-2).
e. Making mountains out of molehills (Rom 14:3-4).
f. Condemning unbelievers (1Cor 5:12). Disciples have no authority of saying who is going to hell. Only God determines one’s ultimate destiny and we will all need his mercy on that great judgment day.
g. Imposing personal standards on others (Col 2:16). Anything not specifically prohibited by Torah is a matter for personal discretion.
h. Discriminating (Jas 2:2-4). Disciples must not give preferential treatment to some because of rank, socio-economic position or other factors.
i. Making fallacious statements (Col 3:8; 4:6). False speaking has many forms, such as (1) an Ad Hominem attack, which judges a person’s position because of an irrelevant fact about the person; (2) Hasty Generalization, which means leaping to a conclusion on insufficient sample; (3) Straw Man, which simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position; (4) Personal Attack substitutes abusive talk for evidence.
j. Engaging in lawsuits. It’s only logical that if you refrain from shaphat, you’ll refrain from rîb.
Not only do we have to be careful about our own judgments, but accepting the criticisms and hurtful gossip of others without proper analysis (Prov 20:19; 1Tim 5:19). The Talmud has a pithy way of describing how we should handle the critical judgments of others.
"R. Eleazar said: Why do the fingers of man resemble pegs? … The reason is that if a man hears an unworthy thing he shall plug his fingers into his ears." (Ketubot 5b)
3 [Now] Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
[Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. The NASB does not translate the conjunction which follows the pronoun in beginning this verse. The conjunction indicates that Yeshua is transitioning from his axiomatic proverb to application.]
Why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. do you look: Grk. blepō, pres., may mean (1) possess the physical ability to see; (2) use one's eyes to take note of an object; see, look at, observe; (3) to have inward or mental sight, perceive; or (4) be looking in a certain direction. The second meaning applies here. at the speck: Grk. karphos, sliver or splinter. Carson says the term could refer to any bit of foreign matter.
that is in your brother's: Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites who are of the same blood by virtue of descent from Jacob. In the LXX adelphos is used for the Heb. ach, meaning (1) brother, a male sibling born of the same mother and father (Gen 4:2); (2) half-siblings (Gen 20:5); and (3) indefinite of relative, of the same tribe, of the same people (Gen 13:18). The object of the judgment might actually be a sibling (cf. Luke 12:13), but here the focus is likely fellow disciples, since we have no authority to judge those outside the community of faith (cf. 1Cor 5:12-13).
eye: Grk. ophthalmos, the physical organ of sight; eyes. In the Tanakh the "eyes" function as a parallelism of the heart (Ps 19:8; 36:1; 73:7; Prov 21:4). but: Grk. de, conj. do not notice: Grk. katanoeō, pres., to pay close attention to, to take a close look at. the log: Grk. dokos, beam, wood used structurally in housing or as a security bar. that is in your own eye: Grk. ophthalmos. Kasdan notes that Yeshua engages in humorous hyperbole contrasting the speck and log (73). Taken literalistically someone with a log in the eye would have to get extremely close to the other person to see a speck. Thus, the analogy is that of fussy fault-finding or nitpicking relatively unimportant errors.
Carson comments that Yeshua is not prohibiting the community of his disciples in helping a brother to remove the "speck," but someone with a "log" in his eye would be disqualified to help. The "log" would be tantamount to a conflict of interest. A tragic example in the Tanakh is that of David judging a man regarding a sheep, but failing to judge himself (2Sam 12:1-12).
4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?
Or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote an alternative. how: Grk. pōs, adv. introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way? can you say: Grk. ereō, fut., inform through utterance, typically denoting speech in progress. to your brother: Grk. adelphos. See the previous verse. Let me: Grk. aphiēmi, aor. imp., to release or let go, used here in a permissive sense. take: Grk. ekballō, aor. subj., to cause to move out from a position, state or condition, here in the sense of removing or taking out. the speck: Grk. karphos. See the previous verse. out of your eye: Grk. ophthalmos. See the previous verse.
and behold: Grk. idou, demonstrative interjection (aor. mid. imp. of eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek particle, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG). the log: Grk. dokos. See the previous verse. is in your own eye: Grk. ophthalmos. Yeshua presents the patent absurdity of such helpfulness, because it would be like a half-blind doctor operating on someone eyes. The log is clearly going to interfere with a successful removal of the speck.
5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
You hypocrite: Grk. hupocritēs, vocative case, one who claims to be what one is not; play actor, pretender. The core idea of assuming a role in a dramatic production underlies the metaphoric usage of the term. In the LXX hupocritēs translates Heb. haner, someone estranged from God, and occurs only in Job 34:30; 36:13 and refers to someone who is too proud to call for help when he needs it. The noun occurs 18 times in the Besekh, all in the apostolic narratives spoken by Yeshua, generally in addressing certain Pharisees (Matt 22:18; 23:13-15, 23, 25, 27, 29). Even the Talmud names seven types of hypocritical Pharisees (Avot 5:9; Soṭah 22b). The hypocrites are those of whom Isaiah wrote that with their lips they honor God, but their heart is far from Him (Isa 29:13; Mark 7:6).
The confrontational statement here implies that the entire exhortation in this sermon about judging is directed to legalistic Pharisees. The legalist is a hypocrite because he is acting as if he is righteous when he is not. first: Grk. prōton, adv., having to do with beforeness, with resultant meanings of (1) having a primary position in sequence and (2) standing out in significance or importance. The first meaning has application here. take: Grk. ekballō, aor. imp. See the previous verse. the log: Grk. dokos. See verse 3 above. out of your own eye: Grk. ophthalmos. See verse 3 above. and then you will see clearly: Grk. diablepō, fut., stare with eyes wide open, look intently, have a clear look at. to take: Grk. ekballō, aor. inf. the speck: Grk. karphos. See verse 3 above. out of your brother's: Grk. adelphos. See verse 3 above. eye: Grk. ophthalmos.
With the introduction of the word "hypocrite" a case can be made that the "log" represents the legalism of the Pharisees. Among Christians the term "legalism" usually means doing good works to earn salvation. However, in Yeshua's confrontation of the Pharisees we see that legalism was the unlawful use of the laws given to Moses or using God’s Law in a way He never intended, as Paul says, "But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully" (1Tim 1:8). The misuse of the Law, as practiced by certain Pharisees, was at least fourfold.
● The first misuse was the casuistic application of Torah, i.e., pitting one commandment against another or elevating some commandments over others. Yeshua condemned the hypocrisy of rigorous observance of tithing and the Sabbath while neglecting the "weightier matters" of the Torah (Matt 12:1-12; 23:23).
● The second misuse of the Law was treating man-made traditions as equivalent to or more important than the written commandments given to Moses. Yeshua had no dispute with following traditions that had been created to help foster respect and obedience to Torah (Matt 23:1-3). However, Yeshua strenuously objected to using a tradition to enable disobedience of core commandments (Matt 15:1-6; 23:14).
● The third misuse of the Law was treating Torah commandments as a wall to separate the righteous from the sinners (cf. Matt 9:11-13; 23:13). In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), the Pharisee exercises legalistic judgment by congratulating himself on being better than the worst sinners like the tax collector. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), the priest and Levite ignored the needs of an injured man to maintain ritual purity.
● The fourth misuse of the Law was parsing the meaning of words in the Torah in order to excuse selfish decisions and injustice, such as divorcing wives for personal expedience (Matt 19:3) and classifying healing as work and thereby condemning Yeshua's ministry on the Sabbath (Matt 12:10).
Removing the log would be tantamount to abandoning legalistic thinking and in humility recognizing that all fall short of the glory of God. The speck then would cease to be a significant issue.
Instruction on Pearls, 7:6
6 "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."
Yeshua now offers an important instruction in the form of a parabolic proverb. Do not give: Grk. didōmi aor. subj., to give, often with the focus on generosity, with a variety of applications: (1) To give, grant, bestow, impart; (2) give, give out, hand over; (3) entrust something to someone; (4) give back, yield; (5) put, place as in to appoint someone to a position; (6) give up, sacrifice; (7) take pains, make an effort (BAG). In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, SH-5414, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41).
what is holy: Grk. hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of deity. As an adjective hagios is used of things dedicated to God (e.g., the temple, Jerusalem), of persons consecrated to God (e.g., prophets), then of angels, of Messiah, and of God (Lev 19:2). However, the neuter form hagion used here with the definite article denotes the word as a pure substantive designating that which has been dedicated or consecrated. Hagion is used of what is set apart for God to be exclusively His, e.g., sacred places as the temple (Num 3:38; Matt 24:15), the holy land (2Macc 1:29; 2:18), Jerusalem (Matt 4:5), sacrifices (Lev 22:14; Rom 12:1), and angels (Zech 14:5; 1Th 3:13) and human persons (Isa 4:3; Acts 9:13). In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy.
to dogs: Grk. kuōn, dog, used literally of a scavenging canine (Luke 16:21; 2Pet 2:22) that HELPS describes as a "mooch pooch," and fig. of persons disinterested in or hostile to the message offered them (cf. Php 3:2; Rev 22:15). This term contrasts with kunarion, small dogs kept as house pets (Matt 15:26). In Greek literature kuōn was used for shepherd dogs, watch-dogs, and hounds, and as a term of reproach, used of women to denote shamelessness or audacity, as well as other offensive persons, implying recklessness. In Greek Mythology kuōn was also used of the servants, agents or watchers of the gods (LSJ).
In the LXX kuōn renders Heb. keleb (SH-3611), which has both literal and figurative uses. Keleb is used in the Messianic psalm as a metaphor of the anointed one's enemies (Ps 22:16) and synonym of "evildoers" (Heb. ra'a, SH-7489). Keleb is used of intoxicated and slothful prophets (Isa 56:10-12). Keleb is also the name given to male temple-prostitutes (Deut 23:18) (BDB 476).
and do not throw: Grk. ballō, aor. subj., cause movement toward a position and may mean (1) cause movement through vigorous action; cast, drop, pour, scatter or throw; or (2) direct toward a position; apply, deposit, put, place, or lay. According to Danker the second usage applies here. Most versions have "throw" as the NASB, probably due to the specific animal named as the object of the verb. your pearls: pl. of Grk. margaritēs. Pearls were in more demand in ancient times than gold. The value of the pearl is indicated in the parable Yeshua told of a man who sold everything he owned to buy a singularly precious pearl (Matt 13:45-46). In this proverb the mention of "pearls" functions as a synonymous parallelism of "what is holy."
before: Grk. emprosthen, as prep. and adv., expresses position that is in front or ahead; before, before the face of, in front of. swine. Grk. choiros originally referred to young pigs and then to swine generally (BAG). The term does not appear in the LXX, but it is found the Testament of Judah 2:5 and Josephus (Against Apion 2:14, 137). The Heb. word for pig is chazir (SH-2386, boar, swine), which the LXX translates with Grk. hus, hog, boar or sow (Lev 11:7; Deut 14:8), an unclean animal. There are only a few places in the Bible where an allusion to people is drawn from swine (Grk. hus; LXX Prov 11:22; 2Pet 2:22).
The meaning of the parabolic saying seems straightforward. Thayer explains the proverb as meaning to "thrust the most sacred and precious teachings of the gospel upon the most wicked and abandoned men (incompetent as they are, through their hostility to the gospel, to receive them), and thus to profane them." BAG has "to entrust something precious to people who cannot or will not appreciate it" (492). Yet, accepting the principle presents a conundrum because Yeshua intended that the good news of salvation be taken to the greatest sinner. See the sermon Pardon for the Greatest Sinners by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).
or they will trample them under: Grk. katapateō, fut., to trample down or trample under foot. their feet: pl. of Grk. pous, the body part that is used for walking or running; the foot. and turn: Grk. strephō, aor. pass. part., to redirect a position; turn. In the LXX strephō is used to translate shuv (SH-7725), turn back or return (DNTT 1:354). The verb is used of physical action and fig. of behavior. and tear you to pieces: Grk. rhēgnumi, cause to come apart by application of force, rip apart. The last part of the verse constitutes a warning for violating the truth of the proverb.
F.F. Bruce points out that swine will trample the pearls and dogs will turn and bite the hand that fed them, even if they were fed with holy flesh (86). Pigs would despise pearls because they aren't food. Holy flesh, the flesh of sacrificial animals, have a religious value over and above the nutrition. Scavenging dogs would make no distinction between holy flesh and the scraps they battle over in the streets. They would not be especially grateful for the choice cuts.
Dogs and swine, being unclean animals (Lev 11:7), might serve as a metaphor of unclean people. The uncircumcised (e.g., Gentiles) were considered unclean and under Jewish law of the time a Jew was not to enter the dwelling of a Gentile (cf. John 4:9; 18:28; Acts 10:28). Stern points out in his comment on Acts 10:28 that at one point the Mishnah says, "The dwelling-places of Gentiles [literally, "Canaanites," meaning Gentiles in the Land of Israel] are ritually unclean" (Oholoth 18:7) (258). Most of Mishnah tractate Avodah Zarah ("Idol Worship") is devoted to limiting the contacts Jews may have with Gentiles. For example, according to chapter 2, Jews may not remain alone with Gentiles, leave cattle at their inns, assist them in childbirth, suckle their children, do business with them when they are traveling to idolatrous festivals, drink their milk or vinegar or wine, or eat their bread or oil or pickled vegetables or (in the Gemara on this section) their cooked food.
So, although one might conclude the disciples were not to have contact with unclean people, this is contradicted by the later experience of Peter (Acts 11:9). Since Yeshua describes what is being given as "holy" and "pearls," then the gift is something greater and more wonderful than the good news of salvation. The good news is foundational (cf. Heb 6:1). The "dogs" and "swine" may be comparable to the ones Paul described as "fleshly" (1Cor 3:1) and to whom he said, "I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able" (1Cor 3:2). Paul also used the pejorative term "dogs" of legalists in the Circumcision Party (Php 3:2). The secret things (Deut 29:29) or the mysteries of the Kingdom belong to the holy ones, so Yeshua may be saying not to give the these precious truths to the hypocrites.
Instruction on Prayer, 7:7-11
7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Parallel: Luke 11:9
Ask: Grk. aiteō, pres. imp., to ask in expectation of a response; ask, ask for, request. The verb is often associated with prayer. Even though God knows our needs, Yeshua encourages his disciples to pray. and it will be given: Grk. didōmi, fut. pass. See the previous verse. The verb declares that the request will be answered. to you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pronoun. seek: Grk. zēteō, pres. imp., may mean (1) try to find something, look for, search for; or (2) show strong interest in, seek, want. The second meaning applies here. and you will find: Grk. heuriskō, fut., to come upon by seeking; find, locate, discover, acquire, obtain. In other words, "you will find what you're seeking." knock: Grk. krouō, pres. imp., to knock, presumptively with the hand, at a door. and it will be opened: Grk. anoigō, fut. pass., to open, normally used of doors and objects. to you: Grk. humeis.
This saying is a spiritual application of the law of cause and effect. The action verbs all assume there will be a result, which could be positive or negative. Yeshua gives assurance that the result will be positive, although the future tense of the result verbs would not necessarily indicate an immediate result. In fact the present tense of the action verbs indicate persistent action and it is this persistence that produces the desired result. The imperative mood of the action verbs, though normally the mood of command, is probably intended to convey an entreaty or urgent request, rather than a command with the force of law.
8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
Parallel: Luke 11:10
For: Grk. gar, conj. a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." everyone: Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. who asks: Grk. aiteō, pres. part. See the previous verse. receives: Grk. lambanō, pres. The verb marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take (in the active sense) or receive (in the passive sense). and he who seeks: Grk. zēteō, pres. part. See the previous verse. finds: Grk. heuriskō, pres. See the previous verse. and to him who knocks: Grk. krouō, pres. part. See the previous verse. it will be opened: Grk. anoigō, fut. pass. See the previous verse. God says, "It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear" (Isa 65:24; cf. Jer 33:3; Eph 3:20; Heb 11:6; 1Jn 5:15).
Yeshua emphasizes an important principle. The power of prayer relies on persistent asking. The problem is that too often people don't ask (Jas 4:2). Israelites were exhorted "Give Him no rest" (Isa 62:7). Bible examples demonstrate the value of persistent asking. Abraham gained significant concessions from God in his intercession for Sodom (Gen 18:27). Isaac's persistent prayer for his barren wife resulted in pregnancy (Gen 25:21). Yeshua told the story of the persistent widow who's continued petitioning for justice paid off (Luke 18:1-5). As a result Yeshua offered a promise: "will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly" (Luke 18:7-8). So, we should keep on presenting our requests to God until He says "no," (2Cor 12:8-9).
9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?
Yeshua now makes an absurd observation to make the point that God is faithful to respond favorably to persistent prayer. Or: Grk. ē, conj. See verse 4 above. what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man, or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for man and woman and as a contrast to animals (Gen 1:26-27); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). is: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, exist; a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG).
there among you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pronoun. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to specify or give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. when: There is no word for "when" in the Greek text. his son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben ("son," "son of"), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity; (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor; (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3), and this too applies here.
asks: Grk. aiteō, fut. See verse 7 above. for a loaf: Grk. artos (for Heb. lechem, SH-3899), bread or food, which refers to a baked product made from cereal grain. Since bread was eaten at every meal in biblical lands, the term was often used as a synonym for food and the support of life in general quite apart from its literal meaning (DNTT 1:250). will give: Grk. epididōmi, fut., may mean (1) convey to, give, offer or (2) give up control, give up, give way. him a stone: Grk. lithos was a generic word for stone of various types, whether construction materials, millstones, grave stones, precious stones, tablets or small rocks.
10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?
Parallel: Luke 11:11
Or: Grk. ē, conj. See verse 4 above. if: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 2 above on "and." There is no word for "if" in the Greek text of this verse, yet almost all versions use "if." A better translation of kai here would be "also." he asks: Grk. aiteō, fut. See verse 7 above. for a fish: Grk. ixthus, a generic term for fish. In the LXX ixthus renders Heb. dag (SH-1710), first in Genesis 1:26 for the "fish of the sea" that God created. The request for fish would be a normal accompaniment to bread. Only the clean variety possessing fins and scales, as specified in the Torah, would be eaten (Lev 11:9). The fish would likely be salted or pickled. The most common fish would be small fish like the sardine. The Talmud has an interesting saying in regards to small fish:
"One who eats regularly small fish will not suffer with his bowels. Moreover, small fish stimulate propagation and strengthen a man's whole body" (Ber. 40a).
he will not give: Grk. epididōmi, fut. See the previous verse. him a snake: Grk. ophis, the reptile snake. The snake is an unclean animal because it does not have cloven hoofs or chew the cud (Lev 11:3). In the LXX ophis is used 30 times to render Heb. nachash (SH-5175), serpent or snake, whether of land (Num 21:6) or sea (Amos 9:3), and once to render Heb. epheh (SH-660), snake, viper (Job 20:16). The terms are also used fig. for evil people (Ps 58:4; 140:3), the adverse effects of drunkenness (Prov 23:32), and certain Pharisees (Matt 3:7; 12:34; 23:33), but especially the principal adversary of God (Gen 3:1; 2Cor 11:3; Rev 12:9). Ophis also appears as a synonym of Grk. drakōn, serpent, dragon (for Leviathan, Isa 27:1; Rev 12:3-4, 7, 9; 20:2). Leviathan is the name of a great sea dinosaur (Job 41:1-34; Ps 104:26).
will he: The words are added to clarify the sentence as a question. The second question is even more shocking in its absurdity. The sharp contrast between the two animals may be seen in the fact that fish were given as a source of food from the time of Noah (Gen 9:2-3), whereas the snake was considered a menace (Eccl 10:8; Jer 8:17; Amos 9:3; Acts 28:3). However, while interpreters typically assume Yeshua is talking about the land snake, it's just as likely that speaking in Hebrew he meant a "marine snake," e.g., the eel from the Sea of Galilee (Kasdan 74). The eel is also unclean because it does not have fins or scales.
11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"
If: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used here to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. you: 2p-pl. pronoun. then: Grk. oun, an inferential conj. used here to take account of something in the narrative immediately preceding. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 9 above. evil: pl. of Grk. ponēros may be used as an adjective and mean (1) in poor condition, sick, painful, virulent, bad, spoiled, worthless; or (2) in the ethical sense wicked, evil, bad, base. The term may also be used as a pure substantive (noun) and refer to (1) a wicked or evil-intentioned person, evil-doer, (2) the evil one (the devil), or that which is evil, such as thoughts or deeds (BAG). Danker adds another meaning of "marked by lowness in social worth."
In the LXX ponēros renders Heb. ra, which can mean adversity, bad, evil, or of little value (DNTT 1:565). In the Tanakh ra is used to describe (1) that which is ethically evil (Deut 1:35; 4:25) and (2) something or someone that is displeasing, injurious, unhappy, unkind or unpleasant (e.g. Lev 27:10; Deut 22:14; 28:35; Prov 25:20; Isa 3:11). The broad range of meaning of the term requires close attention to the context to determine its usage and here Yeshua obviously uses the term as an adjective. Delitzsch translates the plural ponēros with the plural Heb. haraim. So considering that Yeshua spoke in Hebrew it's reasonable to ask just how Yeshua meant the term. BAG says men are called ponēroi in contrast to God who is holy. While Yeshua does make a contrast between the disciples and the Father it is not their ethical character that is compared. There is no certainly no indication that Yeshua considered his disciples to be wicked (on the contrary cf. John 13:10).
Rather Yeshua immediately describes what his disciples do. He does not mention any evil action, but in fact points out something good. know: Grk. oida, perf. how to give: Grk. didōmi, pres. inf. See verse 6 above. good: Grk. agathos, adj., achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. gifts: pl. of Grk. doma, a thing given, a gift or present. The "good gift" is one that is beneficial, such as a medical dose. to your children: pl. of Grk. teknon, child of undetermined age, usually older than infancy. Thus, it is more likely that in calling his disciples haraim he alludes to the fact of human nature, that even though we are imperfect and fall short of the glory of God, we are capable of loving care, especially when children are involved.
how much: Grk. posos, interrogative pronoun with a numerical aspect, here with focus on degree or extent. more: Grk. mallon, adv. of increase or additive to some aspect of activity, situation, or condition; (much) more. will your Father: Grk. patēr (for Heb. aba), normally of a male biological parent or ancestor, but frequently in reference to God, which emphasizes His activity as creator, ruler and sustainer (BAG). In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), generally in the human sense, but also of God as father (DNTT 1:616f). In the Tanakh God's identity as a parent is first mentioned in reference to His covenantal relationship with Israel (Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6). Israel is specifically identified as God's son (Ex 4:22). Yeshua emphasizes this covenantal relationship in saying "your Father."
who is in heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim, lit. "the heavens" (DNTT 2:191). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to three different places (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere in which birds fly (Gen 1:20; Rev 19:17). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8; Matt 24:29) and the third heaven is the location of the throne of God and the home of angels (1Kgs 8:30; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2).
give: Grk. didōmi, fut. what is good: pl. of Grk. agathos, lit. "the good things." to those who ask: Grk. aiteo, pres. part. Him: 3p-sing. personal pronoun. As in 6:30 Yeshua employs a rabbinic form of argument known as kal v'chomer ("light and heavy"), corresponding to what philosophers call a fortiori reasoning. If A is true, then B must also be true. Kal v'chomer is the first of seven rules of hermeneutics compiled and taught by Hillel. If "evil" parents can be decent and do what is good for their children, how much more will the holy God do good for His children. Yeshua upholds the integrity of God as one who cares about justice. Any problem about answers to prayer is not due to lack of goodness or ability in God. He is ready to give. He does give.
Instruction on Charity, 7:12
12 In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
In everything: lit. "in all things." therefore: Grk. oun, conj. treat: Grk. poieō, pres. imp., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here. The translation of "treat" (also in the CEB, CEV, CJB, NET) seems an inadequate choice for representing the desired action. Many versions make a better choice with "do" (CSB, ESV, KJV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, OJB, RSV, TLV). The action verb implies many practical "doings" performed on behalf of another. people: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 9 above.
the same way you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pronoun. want: Grk. thelō, pres. subj., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. them to treat: Grk. poieō, pres. subj. you: Grk. humeis. Many versions as the NASB reverses the order of the saying. The literal translation would be as in the DLNT: "Therefore, everything that you want people to be doing to you, thus also you be doing to them." (The textual order is also found in the ASV, CSB, ESV, KJV, MW, RSV). for: Grk. gar, conj. this is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 9 above.
the Law: Grk. nomos may mean either a principle or standard relating to behavior or codified legislation, i.e. law. The usage of nomos in the Besekh has a much deeper meaning. In the LXX nomos translates torah, but torah does not mean simply "law” or "laws” as the English word conveys. Torah means "direction," "teaching” or "instruction" (BDB 435f). Torah sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God. In normal Jewish usage in the first century the term Torah could mean the commandments given to Israel at Sinai and Moab (Matt 12:5; John 8:5) or the entire Pentateuch, especially when used as here in combination with "the Prophets” (Matt 22:40; John 1:45). Yeshua emphasized the continuing authority of the Torah (Matt 5:17-19).
and the Prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness (DNTT 3:76). In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of Hebrew prophets. Some prophets left literary works that later became Scripture. Others left no writings. Some gave advice to kings. Some prophesied in worship settings. Some saw visions. Some proclaimed a message in startling symbolic actions. Some were gentle, some were fiery, some were confrontational, some worshipful, some full of joy, others full of sadness. But, they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21).
The plural noun used in this verse denotes the literary works in the Tanakh called Nevi'im written by Hebrew prophets. The Nevi'im included the Early Prophets (Joshua through 2Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi), except Daniel which was included in the K'tuvim (Writings). The mention of the literary Prophets occurs 29 times in the Besekh, 15 of which are combined with a mention Moses or the Torah (Matt 5:17; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16, 29, 31; 24:27, 44; John 1:45 Acts 13:15; 24:14; 26:22; 28:23; Rom 3:21).
This maxim of altruism has been called "the Golden Rule," which according to Wikipedia originated with Anglican preachers in the 17th century. The Golden Rule can be found in Jewish writings as early as the Apocryphal book of Tobit (third century BC), "What you hate, do to no one" (Tobit 4:15); similar sayings are attributed to Isocrates, Aristotle and Confucius (Stern). Rabbi Hillel expressed it in the generation before Yeshua as told in this passage of the Talmud:
"A certain Gentile came before Shammai and said to him, 'Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.' Thereupon he repulsed him with the builder's measuring rod which was in his hand. When he went before Hillel, he said to him, 'What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Go and learn it." (Shabbat 31a)
The Golden Rule paraphrases Leviticus 19:18, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself," which Yeshua calls the second greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-31). It should be noted that Yeshua stated the Rule as an active positive principle, whereas those who came before him had stated it as a passive negative principle. Loving others as an active principle requires much more thought and action. As Yeshua will affirm again on a later occasion loving one's neighbor along with loving God completely are the fulfillment of the Torah and Prophets (Matt 22:40).
Instruction on the Two Gates, 7:13-14
Yeshua now resorts to three parabolic sayings involving two things: two gates, two roads, two trees, two fruits, two men and two foundations. The point of these sayings is found in verse 21. They relate to the subject of living by God's will.
13 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.
Enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. imp., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. The verb is used here fig. of entering a relationship. through: Grk. dia, prep. (from duo, two), the basic sense is 'between' or 'through.' Here the preposition conveys instrumentality, 'by means of.' the narrow: Grk. stenos, narrow in the sense of dimension. gate: Grk. pulē, a gate or door; primarily used of gates in city walls. In the LXX pulē renders Heb. sha'ar, (SH-8179), gate, used of entrance to a human city (Gen 34:20) and of heaven (Gen 28:17). for: Grk. hoti, conj. indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. the gate: Grk. pulē. is wide: Grk. platus, adj., broad or wide.
and the way: Grk. hodos, with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. It can also refer to the act of traveling; journey, way, trip. Then, hodos is used fig. of conduct or a way of life. The LXX uses hodos to translate Heb. derek (way, road, journey) with the same range of meaning. is broad: Grk. euruchōros, wide, of a broad spacious road. The word occurs only here in the Besekh. Gill and Lightfoot suggest that Yeshua's words concerning the "broad way" here and the "narrow way" in the next verse borrows terminology from Mishnah rules concerning the public and private ways. A private way or road was to be four cubits in breadth, and a public way or road was to be sixteen cubits (Baba Bathra 6:7 100a).
that leads: Grk. apagō, pres. part., may mean (1) trans. 'take/lead (away)' or (2) intr. used of road direction. The second meaning applies here. to destruction: Grk. apōleia, the central sense is 'destruction' and is used (1) of extravagant expenditure; waste, loss; (2) of terrible loss one experiences; ruin, destruction, frequently with stress on its eternal aspect; and (3) of divisive teaching that is destructive (2Pet 2:1a). The second meaning applies here with emphasis on suffering God's wrath. Yeshua might even be using apōleia as a personification of Abaddon, the angel of the abyss (Rev 9:11). The Hebrew name Abaddon means destruction and the corresponding Greek title Apollyon means destroyer. The wages of sin is eternal death. So the final destination of the broad way is the house of Abaddon or Destruction.
and there are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 9 above. many: Grk. polus, adj., m. pl., extensive in scope, here as an adj. indicating a high number. who enter: Grk. eiserchomai, pres. mid. part. through: Grk. dia, prep. it: i.e., the broad way. Yeshua appears to affirm the Jewish belief in free will and yet choosing destruction would not serve self-interest. In reality the "broad gate" is birth as Paul says, "through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom 5:12). So, the point of this clause is not that people are choosing to enter the broad gate, but rather choosing to enter destruction by staying on the broad way.
14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Parallel: Luke 13:22-24
For: Grk. hoti, conj. the gate: Grk. pulē. See the previous verse. is small: Grk stenos. See the previous verse on "narrow." The change in translation for the NASB is inexplicable. The NIV also has "small." Other versions use "narrow" here (ASV, CEB, CEV, CJB, CSB, ESV, NET, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV).The "narrow gate" is Yeshua, not any work that a person might perform. In a later speech to the Pharisees Yeshua will tell them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the gate of the sheep" (John 10:7 mine). Then after Pentecost the apostles will declare to the Sanhedrin, "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12 NASB). Paul states the truth this way: "For God is one; and there is but one Mediator between God and humanity, Yeshua the Messiah, himself human" (1Tim 2:5 CJB).
and the way: Grk. hodos. See the previous verse. It is no accident that among Jews in Acts the Yeshua Movement is called "The Way" (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22), shorthand for "The Way of Salvation" or "The Way of Yeshua." is narrow: Grk. thlibō, perf. pass. part., has the basic meaning of compression and may mean (1) press close, crowd; (2) make narrow, of a road; or (3) metaphorically squeeze, oppress, or afflict. The NASB apparently did not want to repeat the word "narrow." If the road dimension was in view then "constricted" would be a better translation (DLNT, ISV, LEB, OJB). In the LXX thlibō renders several different Hebrew verbs that denote being afflicted, oppressed and mistreated. Sometimes the affliction was undeserved as Israel's experience in Egypt and sometimes deserved as punishment, such as for idolatry during the time of the judges.
So the choice of thlibō, from which thlipsis ("affliction, tribulation") is derived, would suggest that Yeshua was warning of the difficulty of following his way. Yeshua called his disciples to take up a cross (Matt 10:38) and promised they would have to endure tribulation (Matt 24:9; John 16:33). Throughout the apostolic writings tribulation is treated as a normal and expected experience for followers of Yeshua (Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; Eph 3:13; 1Th 1:6; 3:3-4; 2Th 1:4; 2Tim 3:12; Heb 10:33; Rev 1:9). Thus, some versions appropriately interpret the verb to mean a difficult or hard road (CEB, CEV, CJB, CSB, ESV, NET, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TLV).
that leads: Grk. apagō, pres. part. See the previous verse. to life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in the physical sense in contrast to being dead; life. The Besekh not only uses zōē in its normal meaning of physical existence in the presence age, but over forty times for life that continues into the next age and eternity. In the LXX zōē renders Heb. chay (SH-2416, alive, living) with both literal and figurative uses. The word "life" may be shorthand for "breath of life" (Gen 2:7), because "living" is defined as that which has breath (cf. Gen 6:17). As the Word in the beginning Yeshua had life in himself; he was not created (John 1:4). Moreover, he has the capacity to give physical life (Gen 2:7), which was manifested in the ministry of Yeshua through restoration of life to the dead (Matt 9:18-25; Luke 7:11-15; John 11:1-44).
More importantly Yeshua provides spiritual life (John 4:14; 5:21; 6:27, 33; 10:28) to those dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13). In the creation context it is no accident that Adam named his wife Chavvah (Khav-vah; unfortunately "Eve" in Christian Bibles), which means "life," because the first woman was the mother of all the living. It was the promised Seed of Chavvah (Gen 3:15) who would be the Life of the world (Lightfoot 3:239). Yeshua declared that he came to bring abundant life (John 10:10). The abundant life is the life of God working inside the individual to not only solve the sin problem, but to give meaning and purpose to our existence. Yeshua is both the gate (cf. John 10:7) and the way to life, as Yeshua will remind his disciples during the last supper, "I am the way [Grk. hodos], and the truth, and the life [Grk. zōē]. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6 mine).
and there are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 9 above. few: Grk. oligos, m. pl., adj. used to express a limitation, (1) in reference to extent of time, and (2) in reference to quantity. In the context "few" is a relative term of quantity and stands in contrast to "the many" (cf. Matt 22:14). who find: Grk. heuriskō, pres. part. See verse 7 above. it: i.e., life. Yeshua in parabolic fashion depicts life as something found after searching. This viewpoint is in line with Scripture that declares that one may find God after seeking Him (Deut 4:29; Isa 55:6).
The declaration that few will find the way to life (be saved) is a truly hard saying. Some people cannot envision a loving God condemning millions to hell. Yet there is no biblical support for universal salvation. Conversely many Evangelicals are very optimistic about the success of evangelism. "If every one would win one, we could win the world for the Messiah." Such thinking is naïve. Yeshua made no such promise to his disciples. The reality is that compared to the total world population that has ever lived or ever will live, few will enjoy eternal life with God, perhaps no more than 10%. This reality is echoed in biblical history. In the antediluvian world only one family was saved out of billions (Gen 6:5-8, 17-18). So it will be in the end (Matt 24:37-39). "The way of the wicked will perish" (Ps 1:6).
Instruction on the Two Trees, 7:15-23
15 Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Beware: Grk. prosechō, pres. imp., be on the alert, here of putting up one's guard; beware of. of the false prophets: Grk. pseudoprophētēs, is one who falsely claims to have divine credentials for service as a prophet, with or without the implication of offering incorrect information. Yeshua is exhorting his disciples to examine prophets carefully to determine whether they are true or false (cf. 1Jn 4:1). who come: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., to come, come back, return or appear and in a few instances it means to go. When used of persons erchomai often indicates traveling or a journey. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" (DM 110). Here the preposition denotes with reference to or in relation to someone. you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pronoun.
in sheep's: Grk. probaton, n. pl., sheep (whether ram, male sheep or ewe), an animal in the care of a shepherd. In Greek antiquity probaton in its widest sense denoted all four-footed animals (especially tame, domestic ones) as opposed to swimming and creeping animals. In the LXX probaton translates Heb. tson (SH-6629), a word for small livestock (sheep, goats, flock) and means primarily the sheep as a useful and gregarious animal (Gen 4:2; 30:38) (DNTT 2:412). clothing: Grk. enduma, n. pl., apparel, garment or clothing, especially the outer garment. The term as used here may refer to a mode of dress worn by a prophet. Yeshua engages in a play on words. The "clothing" of a sheep would be its wool, which itself is used to make clothing. The whiteness of the wool would represent purity and Yeshua's description would be comparable to Paul's statement that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2Cor 11:14).
but: Grk. de, conj. inwardly: Grk. esōthen, adv. with focus on origin from within; from inside or within. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 9 above. ravenous: Grk. harpax, m. pl., rapacious, ravenous. Paul uses the term of a swindler and extortionist (1Cor 5:10-11; 6:10). wolves: Grk. lukos, m. pl., wolf. In the LXX lukos renders Heb. ze'eb (SH-2061), wolf. The wolf was a feared predator of livestock (John 10:12), but also a threat to people. Lightfoot notes that the Mishnah contains an account of elders proclaiming a fast in their cities after wolves devoured two little children beyond the Jordan (Ta'anit 3:7). In the Tanakh the wolf is used as a metaphor of enemies of Judah (Jer 5:6), corrupt rulers (Ezek 22:27) and oppressive judges (Zeph 3:3).
In the Besekh "wolves" also represent adversaries of disciples (Matt 10:16; Luke 10:3). Paul predicted that after his departure from Ephesus that savage wolves would invade the congregation (Eph 20:29). This analogy illustrates in the most graphic manner the danger of false prophets.
16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
Yeshua now changes his metaphorical description of false prophets to non-living things. You will know: Grk. epiginōskō, fut. mid., 2p-pl., 'to know about,' which may be used (1) of familiarity with something or someone through observation , experience or receipt of information; (2) of awareness or recognition based on previous knowledge; (3) in an increasing measure, really know, know well; or (4) with focus on acquisition of knowledge, find out. The first usage fits here. False prophets are relatively easy to spot if examined properly.
them: 3p-pl. pronoun. by their fruits: Grk. karpos, m. pl., generally means the edible product of a plant grown for agricultural purposes, fruit, crop (Matt 13:8; 21:34; Jas 5:18), as well as the fruit of the womb (Ps 127:3; 132:11; Luke 1:42). In the LXX karpos renders chiefly Heb. peri, 'fruit,' first in Genesis 1:11. The term is used for the fruit of plants (Deut 1:25), fruit of the body or posterity (Gen 30:2) and fruit or results of an action (Prov 12:14; 18:21; 31:31). In late Judaism the righteous man brings forth good fruit; the unrighteous brings forth bad fruit (cf. Matt 3:10; 12:33) (DNTT 1:721).
Grapes: Grk. staphulē, m. pl., a bunch of (ripe) grapes. are not gathered: Grk. sullegō, pres., set apart by isolating or separating, gather, pick. from thorn bushes: Grk. akantha, f. pl., a species of thorn-plant. nor figs: Grk. sukon, n. pl., fruit of the fig tree. from thistles: Grk. tribolos, m. pl., a prickly wild plant, hurtful to other plants, thistle (Thayer). are they? These words are added to clarify that the sentence is a question. While Yeshua does not go on to explain the fruit by which false prophets are known, those characteristics may be deduced from Scripture.
● False teaching. "Lying lips" is one of the seven deadly sins and an abomination to God (Prov 6:17). There are a number of false teachings that have been advanced among the people of God from biblical times to the present day (cf. Deut 18:20; Jer 5:31; 1Tim 4:1-3: 2Pet 2:1).
● False predictions (Deut 18:21-22). The irony is that ministers who have made false predictions about the Second Coming are still held in high esteem.
● False wonders (Deut 13:1-3; 1Th 2:8-9). God is not the only one who performs supernatural events. False wonders lead to bondage to Satan.
● False motive (Prov 21:6; Jer 6:13; 1Th 2:5; 2Pet 2:1, 3). The false prophet is motivated by personal gain or prestige.
● False inspiration (Deut 13:1-3; Jer 23:25, 32; Ezek 13:7; Gal 1:8; Col 2:18). False prophets claim revelation based on dreams, visions or angels.
● False identity. Someone who claims to be the Messiah (Matt 24:5, 11, 24).
False prophets are still prevalent in the modern world and disciples need to be alert and judge all prophetic utterances by Scripture (Acts 17:11; 1Cor 14:29).
17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
Yeshua continues his parabolic comparison with an axiomatic observation. So: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. every good: Grk. agathos, adj. See verse 11 above. tree: Grk. dendron, tree without specification of species and variety. The term does not include vines mentioned in the previous verse. Trees grown in the land of Israel with agricultural produce are the apple, carob, date, fig, olive, and pomegranate. All of these except the apple and carob were to be included in the first fruits offering on Shavuot (Talmud Bikkurim 1:3). bears: Grk. poieō, pres. See verse 12 above. Most versions translate the verb with "produces."
good: Grk. kalos, adj., meeting a high standard or an exceptionally high quality; fine, good. Mounce adds 'honorable, distinguished, possessing moral excellence.' In Greek culture kalos originally meant beautiful or noble. In the LXX kalos is used most frequently as a translation of Heb. tov (SH-2896), with the basic meanings of pleasant, agreeable or good, whether in a practical sense or a moral, ethical sense. Foremost is the use of kalos/tov as descriptive of what's pleasing to God, what He likes or what gives Him joy (DNTT 2:103). Thus, the first use of kalos for tov is when God pronounced His creation "good" (Gen 1:4,8,10,13,18,21,25,31). Kalos is also used to translate Heb. yapheh (SH-3303), fair or beautiful as a physical attribute (Gen 12:14; 29:17; 39:6; 41:2). Yeshua no doubt used the Hebrew word tov.
fruit: Grk. karpos, m. pl. See the previous verse. In this context "good fruit" in the literal sense is edible and nourishing and in the religious sense qualified for presenting to God. but: Grk. de, conj., used here for contrast. the bad: Grk. sapros means (1) rotten or putrid; or (2) corrupted by age and no lounger fit for use, worn out; hence, in general, of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless (Thayer). The term occurs 8 times in the Besekh, seven of which in the narratives of Matthew and Luke to refer to vegetable and animal substances, and once by Paul for unwholesome speech (Eph 4:29) (HELPS).
tree: Grk. dendron. bears: Grk. poieō, pres. bad: Grk. ponēros, adj. See verse 11 above. fruit: Grk. karpos. In this context "good fruit" in the literal sense is inedible and unfit for consumption. In the religious sense the fruit of a rotted tree was not to be brought for the first fruits offering to God (Bikkurim 1:8). The fruit of a prophet would be his teachings and predictions and thus the fruit of a false prophet is unworthy of God and harmful to the people of God.
18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
Yeshua now reverses the axiom to demonstrate its reliability. The phenomenon could be easily observed in nature. A good: Grk. agathos, adj. See verse 11 above. tree: Grk. dendron. See the previous verse. cannot: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., to be capable of doing or achieving, to have power. The verb is negated with ou, a particle that makes a strong denial or negation of an alleged fact or proposition (DM 264). produce: Grk. poieō, pres. inf. See verse 12 above and the previous verse. bad: Grk. ponēros, adj. See verse 11 above and the previous verse. fruit: Grk. karpos. See verse 16 above. nor: Grk. oude, conj., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative; nor. can a bad: Grk. sapros. See the previous verse. tree: Grk. dendron. produce: Gr. poieō, pres. inf. good: Grk. kalos, adj. See the previous verse. fruit: Grk. karpos.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Yeshua offers another observation from agricultural practice. Every tree: Grk. dendron. See verse 17 above. that does not: Grk. mē, a particle of qualified negation, subjective in nature, involving will and thought; not. bear: Grk. poieō, pres. part. See verse 12 above; lit. "not producing." good: Grk. kalos, adj. See verse 17 above. fruit: Grk. karpos. See verse 16 above. is cut down: Grk. ekkoptō, pres. pass., eliminate by cutting, of a tree, chop down. and thrown: Grk. ballō, pres. pass., cause movement toward a position, which may be used of a vigorous action and be translated as "cast, throw or hurl," or of a more subdued action and be translated as "put, place, lay or bring" (BAG). The first usage applies here. into: Grk. eis, prep. the fire: Grk. pur, fire, as a physical state of burning.
The scenario does not presume an immediate judgment. The Torah states that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years; the fourth year's fruit is for God, and after that, people could eat the fruit (Lev 19:23-25). Also, fruit trees were not to be cut down in time of war (Deut 20:19). Yeshua used the same imagery in his parable of the vine and branches (John 15:6). The focus here is on the consumptive power of the fire. The wood of a bad tree cannot be put to any other use if it does not produce good fruit. Gale, as other commentators, sees an eschatological warning in this saying (15). The saying likely serves to anticipate the warning in verses 21-23.
However, we should not dismiss the possibility of another application. Burning was one of the modes of capital punishment prescribed in the Torah (Lev 20:14; 21:9). Rabbinic law mandated burning for bigamous marriage with the wife's mother or prostitution committed by the daughter of a priest (Sanh. 9:1; 76b; Yeb. 95a). Idols proclaimed by false prophets were to be burned (Ex 32:20; Deut 7:5, 25; 12:3). Yeshua, of course, did not grant the authority of capital punishment to the Body of Messiah, although burning is an appropriate response for eliminating idolatrous materials (Acts 19:19). Yet, Yeshua did expect the congregation to confront sinful conduct and discipline errant members as appropriate.
20 So then, you will know them by their fruits."
So: Grk. ara, marker of inference based on preceding matter; then, so. then: Grk. ge, emphatic particle with focus on the preceding word; indeed. The combination of ara ge is a forceful combination indicating "clearly then" or "beyond question then" (Danker 52). you will know: Grk. epiginōskō, fut. mid. See verse 16 above. them: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, m. pl. The pronoun refers back to the false prophets. by their fruits: Grk. karpos, m. pl. See verse 16 above. We must be careful in how far we press analogies. Trees cannot choose they kind of fruit they will produce. The point, though, is that fruit does identify the type of plant, and, thus, a false prophet may be identified by his fruit. Every disciple of Yeshua has an obligation to carefully examine anyone who claims to speak for God (1Cor 14:29-33; 1Jn 4:1-3).
The fruit of their false teaching, false predictions, false motives, false inspiration and especially false identity, can wreak havoc in people’s lives. False teachings lead people to justify their own misinterpretations of Scripture. False predictions may cause loss of faith when the prediction fails to happen. False motives breeds mistrust of God's true messengers. False inspiration may lead people into occultic practices. False identity seduces people into deception. All of these lead to Torahlessness and spiritual death. The history of Israel provides plenty of examples of the consequences of listening to false prophets (Hos 10:13; Mic 7:13).
In contrast Yeshua is the good tree. He is the true prophet (Deut 18:18-19). All of his teachings and predictions are true. His motives are pure. His inspiration comes from the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. His identity is above dispute. He is the true Messiah and Son of God. His fruit consists of "goodness and righteousness and truth" (Eph 5:9).
Instruction on Judgment, 7:21-23
21 Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
Not: Grk. ou, adv., particle of strong negation. everyone: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 8 above. who says: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. The Greek verb "say" also functions here as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. to Me: 1p-pronoun. Lord, Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, the great majority to translate Heb. words for God, principally the name YHVH. Kurios also occurs a number of times to identify men of higher rank to whom respect is owed (DNTT 2:511).
Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and others addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title. The double use of "Lord, Lord" occurs only in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Parable of the Ten Virgins on the lips of the five virgins who were rejected (Matt 25:11). Possible intentions of the speakers: (1) Acknowledging Yeshua as Master. However, if the rebels are really acknowledging him as Master, why would Yeshua tell them to depart from him? (2) Stern suggests the use of kurios here is to acknowledge Yeshua as divine, as YHVH (cf. John 8:58; Php 2:9-11). (3) Appealing to Yeshua as friend. The double repetition of personal address was a form of endearment among ancient Jews, copied no doubt from God. (cf. Gen 22:11; Ex 3:4; Luke 22:31)
will enter: Grk. eiserchomai, fut. mid. See verse 13 above. the kingdom: Grk. basileia may mean (1) the act of ruling or (2) the territory ruled by a king. BAG adds the royal reign of God or kingdom of God as a chiefly eschatological concept, appearing in the Hebrew prophets and Jewish apocalyptic literature. In the LXX basileia renders Hebrew noun derivatives of the verb malak (SH-4427, become a king; reign), some 400 times (DNTT 2:373). It's important to note that the Hebrew words are used first and foremost for the reign of earthly rulers and only secondarily of God's kingship. The concept of God's kingly rule is only presented in connection with the Israelite monarchy. Even in the eschatological kingdom the ruler will be a Jewish descendant of David (Jer 23:5; 33:15; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hos 3:5; Zech 12:7-10).
of heaven: Grk. ouranos, m. pl.. See verse 11 above. The phrase "kingdom of heaven," which occurs only in Matthew, is used synonymously of "kingdom of God." The hope that God would establish His reign as King over all the earth, with all idolatry banished, is expressed frequently in Scripture (e.g., Ex 15:18; Ps 22:28; 29:10; 93-99; 103:19; 145:10-13; Isa 34:23; 52:7; Dan 2:44; 4:3; 7:27; Micah 4:7; Obad 1:21; and Zech 14:9). The theme of God's kingdom is also found in intertestamental Jewish literature, such as Tobit, Sibylline Oracles and Enoch. Ancient Jewish prayer liturgy, such as Aleinu and Kaddish, include the phrase that "God may establish His Kingdom speedily" It was even laid down by the Sages that no benediction would be effective without reference to the Kingdom (Berachot 12a).
Yochanan the Immerser prepared the way for the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matt 11:12; Luke 16:16). Yeshua then declared that the Kingdom had arrived in his person (Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9, 11). The Kingdom in the present age is the reign of God in human hearts (Luke 17:21), as Yeshua told Pilate "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). Yet, Yeshua also spoke of the kingdom to come in his Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:14; 25:1; Luke 21:31) and during the last supper (Mark 14:25). Stern says, "The concept of the Kingdom of God …refers neither to a place or time, but to a condition in which the rulership of God is acknowledged by humankind, a condition in which God’s promises of a restored universe free from sin and death are, or begin to be fulfilled" (16).
but he who does: Grk. poieō, pres. part. See verse 12 above. the will: Grk. thelēma may mean (1) that which is to be carried out according to wish or purpose, will; or (2) the act of willing, will or desire. The first meaning applies here of My Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 11 above. Yeshua refers to something already revealed that men may choose to obey. The will of the Father is His moral will expressed in the instruction, commandments and statutes given to Moses. (See comment on 6:10.) who is in heaven: Grk. ouranos, m. pl. will enter: This redundancy is not in the Greek text.
22 Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'
Many: Grk. polus, m. pl. See verse 13 above. The plural pronoun does not imply a significant percentage of those gathered before the King, but that there will be not just a few is a matter of concern. will say: Grk. ereō, fut. See verse 4 above. to Me: 1p-pron.; i.e., Yeshua. on that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pron. typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there. day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The third meaning applies here. The phrase "that day" alludes to a special appointed day for divine activity. In the Prophets "that day" often refers to a day of divine judgment (Ezek 39:11; Hos 1:5; Ob 1:8; Mic 5:10; Zeph 1:9-10, 15; Zech 12:9), but also to a day of divine deliverance (Mic 4:6; Ezek 39:22; Zech 9:16; 13:1).
More importantly "that day" is the day when ADONAI (Heb. YHVH) will be king over the earth (Zech 14:9; cf. Isa 45:23), and we know from John 8:58 that YHVH is Yeshua. In Matthew's narrative the next time Yeshua says "that day" as a divine appointment is in his Olivet Discourse as a reference to his Second Coming (Matt 24:29-31, 36). In the parable of sheep and goats Yeshua declares that on "that day" he will sit on his glorious throne and separate people for judgment (Matt 25:31-32). Paul affirmed that we shall all stand before the judgment of the Messiah (Rom 14:10; 2Cor 5:10). The focus of that judgment from Yeshua's point of view will be deeds, whether good or bad, but especially those that serve the needy (Matt 25:35).
Lord, Lord: See the previous verse. did we not: Grk. ou, adv. prophesy: Grk. prophēteuō, aor., may mean (1) to proclaim a divine revelation; (2) prophetically reveal what is hidden; or (3) foretell the future, prophesy (BAG). In the LXX prophēteuō generally translates Heb. nava, which means to show, present or express oneself, to speak as a prophet (DNTT 3:77). The Hebrew verb primarily means to speak prophetically, that is "forth-telling," with occasional predictions (foretelling). Forth-telling predominates in the Tanakh and messages might consist of warning against sinning, announcing divine judgments, encouraging repentance and giving hope of restoration. True prophesying is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21).
in Your name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. In the Jewish context of the apostles to do something in the Lord’s name carried three possible meanings: (1) exercising the Lord’s authority (Matt 18:20; John 14:13-14; 2Th 3:6; Jas 5:10; 1Jn 5:13); (2) identification with Yeshua, that is, being incorporated into his body (1Cor 1:13-16; 12:13; Gal 3:27); and (3) bringing credit to the reputation of the Lord (Col 3:17).
This declaration is a defensive response of someone on trial. As stated here the phrase "in your name" may imply "with your authority." No mention is made of the content of the prophesying, but in reality it was a message spoken presumptuously of what the Lord did not command (e.g., Jer 29:23). False prophets have often promised good things (cf. 2Chr 18:7; Jer 14:14-15), especially in return for a generous donation.
and in Your name: Grk. onoma. cast out: Grk. ekballō, aor. See verse 4 above. Here the verb denotes driving out or expelling in a dramatic and forceful manner. demons: Grk. daimonion, n. pl., refers to a deity or transcendent being of lesser or subordinate rank. In the Besekh the term only has a negative connotation of an evil spirit hostile toward man and God. Daimonion was historically derived from daiomai, to divide or apportion and may be connected with the idea of the god of the dead as a divider of corpses (DNTT 1:450). The terms "demon" and "unclean spirit" are essentially synonymous in Scripture (Luke 9:42). Neither term refers to a ghost or a spirit of a dead person. Demons are subordinate to Satan and are his angels (Mark 3:22-23) and while active in the world, they are destined for judgment (Matt 8:29; 25:41).
In the LXX daimonion occurs only in Isaiah 34:14 for Heb. sa'iyr (SH-8163, 'satyr, demon,') and in Isa 65:11 for Heb. gad (SH-1409, 'fortune, or 'god of fortune'). The related term daimōn ('demon') occurs in Isaiah 13:21 for Heb. sa'iyr. The Tanakh has two other words for evil spirits: Heb. shedim (SH-7700, "demons" Deut 32:17; Ps 106:37), and lilith (SH-3917, 'female night demon,' Isa 34:14). Scripture is silent on the origin of demons, but they are likely the angels who followed Satan and were cast down to earth (Rev 12:9; cf. Jude 1:6). Demons might be considered the foot soldiers in Satan's army. According to the cases reported in the apostolic narratives they have the power to cause great harm.
Jewish scribes were steeped in belief in demons and had many names for them, such as powerful ones, harmers, destroyers, attackers, satyrs, and evil spirits. According to Jewish belief in the first century demons ascend from beneath the earth (cf. 1Sam 28:13) and fill the world. They have access to heaven, and though they belong to Satan's kingdom, God gives them authority to inflict punishments on sinners. Their power began in the time of Enosh (Gen 4:26), but will end in the days of the Messiah. Their main goal is to lead men into sin. They are the cause of some, but not all diseases, and they can also kill (DNTT 1:451).
Casting out demons is an important ministry, but again the declaration is made as part of a defense against the King's judgment. Yeshua commissioned his disciples to cast out demons (Matt 10:8) and when accused of casting out demons by Beelzebub, Yeshua retorted, "If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out?" (Matt 12:27). The exorcisms claimed in this scenario may be similar to the incident that occurred during the ministry of Paul. Luke records,
"But also some of the Judean Jews going about, exorcists, attempted to invoke the name of the Lord Yeshua over the ones having the evil spirits, saying, 'I adjure you by Yeshua whom Paul proclaims.' 14 Now they were seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, doing this." (Luke 19:13-14 mine)
In that incident the Jewish exorcists were merely using the name of Yeshua in a magical sense, which ultimately failed.
and in Your name: Grk. onoma. perform: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 12 above. many: Grk. polus, f. pl. miracles: Grk. dunamis, f. pl., may mean (1) power, might, strength or force; (2) ability or capability; (3) deed of power, miracle or wonder; (4) external resources, such as wealth or military forces; or (5) power of a supernatural being (BAG). The third meaning applies here. The outcasts tout works of extraordinary power. However, miracles may be fraudulent, much as a magician performs a trick. Miracles may also be accomplished by occultic means (cf. Ex 7:11; 8:7).
23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'"
I will declare: Grk. omologeō, fut., express oneself openly and firmly about a matter, here of a formal statement in a binding and valid form as a legal ruling (Rienecker). I never: Grk. oudepote, adv. excluding any occurrence of action cited; never. knew: Grk. ginōskō, aor., to know, but it has a variety of meanings, including (1) to be in receipt of information; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value. The third meaning dominates the thought here with a nuance of the third. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada (SH-3045), which has a similar wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge (DNTT 2:395).
you: 2p-pl. pers. pron. The words ("I never knew you") were used by the rabbis as a banish formula to excommunicate someone from the synagogue (Rienecker). The rebels are claiming privilege based on assumed friendship, that just because they used his name he should grant them the privileges of the kingdom. Yeshua is not saying that he never knew about these people, but that he never had a personal relationship with them. They were not the devoted disciples they claim to be. Thus, Yeshua rejects their claim to favorable judgment.
Depart: Grk. apochōreō, pres. imp., to depart or go away. from me: 1p-pron., i.e., Yeshua. The command is comparable to the words Yeshua says to the goats at the millennial judgment:
"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.'" (Matt 25:41)
you who: lit. "the ones." practice: Grk. ergazomai, pres. mid. part., to work, be at work, do, carry out, either with the focus on effort itself in the course of activity or the result of effort. lawlessness: Grk. anomia, absence of law, or more precisely absence of Torah. "You who practice lawlessness" = "you who live as if there were no Torah" or "you live as if you are not accountable to the Torah." Yeshua indirectly affirms his teaching on the permanence and authority of the Torah (see my comment on 5:17-20). As John later declared "sin is lawlessness" (1Jn 3:4). Yeshua describes a category of people that claim to represent the Lord and yet displease him. In the end the motive of these false messengers is to draw attention to themselves, not to live by God's ethical demands.
Yeshua's point is even more forceful in Luke's version: "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46) God expects his commandments to be obeyed. Various examples could be noted from Israel's history. Nadab and Abihu, priests of Israel, took an unconventional approach to their ministry and offered "strange fire" in contravention of God’s law. They died as a result of their folly (Lev 10:1-3). Balaam prophesied God's blessing on Israel and yet he was eventually executed as a false prophet (Num 31:8, 16) because he led Israel into idolatry and immorality. King Saul was reckoned among the prophets (1Sam 10:10-11) but justified his disobedience of God’s Word by claiming he didn’t disobey (1Sam 15:12-23). Jeremiah spoke of the false prophets of his day committing adultery (Jer 29:21-23).
Instruction on the Two Foundations, 7:24-27
24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. everyone: Grk. pas, adj. who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun, used as a generalizing reference to the subject of the verb. hears: Grk. akouō, pres., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; or (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about. The first meaning has relevance here. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). these: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes its use or follows it; this, these, m. pl.
words: Grk. logos, m. pl., vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar (SH-1697), speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, or matter (Gen 29:13; BDB 182). Logos is also used for Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter or say (Gen 34:8); imrah (SH-565), speech, utterance, or word (Gen 4:23); and Aram. millah (SH-4406), word, utterance, or matter (Dan 4:31) (DNTT 3:1087). of Mine: 1p-pron. Yeshua alludes to the content of his teaching contained in the Sermon on the Mount. The Torah promises strict accountability for those who do not heed the words of the true prophet.
"I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him." (Deut 18:18-19)
and acts: Grk. poieō, pres., lit. "does." See verse 12 above. on them: 3p-pl. pers. pron. In Hebrew thought hearing must always lead to doing. This is reminiscent of Moses exhortation to Israel.
"Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. (Deut 5:1)
"But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." (Jas 1:22)
In Hebrew writing parts of the human body were often used as allusions to behavior, both positive and negative (cf. Matt 5:29f; Rom 6:13; Heb 12:13). Here Yeshua makes a reference to "hearing" in order to make a point. The human ear is a beautifully designed organ to receive sound. The ear, of course, does not pick and choose the sounds it will accept. By turning the physical function of the ear into a metaphor, Yeshua could address the root issue in obedience. The metaphor of "hearing" points to the willingness to learn or to be open to the truth and then obey the truth.
may be compared: Grk. homoioō, fut. pass., may mean (1) cause to be like or (2) make a comparison. The second meaning applies here. to a wise: Grk. phronimos, using one's wits effectively; prudent, judicious. Mounce adds 'considerate, thoughtful, prudent, discreet, sensible, and wise.' HELPS notes that phronimos is the root of the English term "diaphragm," which controls key body functions from the inside out; properly, "how we size things up." man: Grk. anēr, man (for Heb. adam), an adult man without regard to marital status. A few versions unnecessarily make the noun gender neutral with "person" (CEV, GW, NLT, NOG). Yeshua may very well have a specific man in mind.
who: Grk. hostis. built: Grk. oikodomeō, aor., to erect a structure, which can be new construction, restoration of a structure or adding on to an existing structure. his house: Grk. oikia, may mean either (1) a habitable structure; house, abode, private residence (Matt 2:11; John 11:31); (2) fig. of a group within a house; household or family (Matt 10:13; John 4:53); (3) fig. of goods, property or means (Matt 23:13); (4) fig. of a life built on certain values (Matt 7:24-27); or (5) fig. of the bodily abode of the soul (2Cor 5:1). In the LXX oikia is used to translate Heb. bayit (SH-1004), house as a dwelling habitation, household, or descendants. Considering the literal and figurative uses of oikia, Yeshua could have layers of meaning in this saying.
on: Grk. epi, lit. "upon." the rock: Grk. petra, rock, used of a rock formation as distinct from a single stone, as here, stony ground (Luke 8:6), or of a piece of rock (Rom 9:33; 1Pet 2:8). HELPS defines petra as a mass of connected rock, solid or native rock, rising up through the earth, and a huge mass of rock, such as a projecting cliff. Yeshua also used the noun in a fig. sense in his revelation to Peter, "upon this rock I will build My community" (Matt 16:18 TLV). In the LXX petra is used to translate the Heb. tsur, (SH-6697), rock, large piece of rock, first in Exodus 17:6, and Heb. sela, (SH-5553), rock, crag, cliff, first in Numbers 20:8. As a metaphor "rock" (Heb. tsur-Grk. petra) is used in two significant ways in the Tanakh.
First, God is described as the Rock of Israel. Moses explains the metaphor as representing God's faithfulness, righteousness and salvation (Deut 32:4, 15, 30-31). Moses also mixes his metaphors by saying the Rock gave birth to Israel (Deut 32:18). David likewise refers to God as the Rock (often "my Rock") and frequently attributes the name to YHVH (2Sam 22:2-3, 32, 47; 23:3; Ps 18:2, 31, 46; 19:14; 28:1; 31:2-3; 42:9; 62:2, 6; 71:3; 92:15; 144:1). Isaiah likewise describes God as "the Rock," generally in reference to His being salvation and a refuge (Isa 17:10; 26:4; 44:8).
Second, Abraham was regarded as a rock (Isa 51:1-2) and Isaiah, as Moses, uses the metaphor of rock with the idea of Abraham and Sarah giving birth to Israel. Abraham could be viewed as a rock because he was the epitome of faithfulness (Heb 11:8-19). He was "rock steady." Abraham was a prophet, a priest, an intercessor, a teacher and a peacemaker. He was a godly and righteous man. His life and example challenges us to believe for great things from God and to perform daring deeds for God, knowing that God's purposes will be fulfilled in and through us. For a full discussion of his life see my web article The Story of Abraham.
The point of the illustration is that the "wise man" was totally loyal to the God of Israel and built his life on the kind of faithfulness demonstrated by Abraham. The "wise man" stands in contrast to the Pharisees who claimed to be sons of Abraham and yet Yeshua called them sons of the devil (John 8:39-44).
25 "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
And: Grk. kai, conj. the rain: Grk. brochē, precipitation in the form of rain, used here of a heavy shower or violent rainstorm. The noun occurs only here and verse 27 below. fell: Grk. katabainō, aor., proceed in a direction that is down; came down. and the floods: Grk. potamos, m. pl., flow of water, which may refer to natural streams and rivers, and here of storm-formed streams. came: Grk. erchomai, aor. See verse 15 above. and the winds: Grk. anemos, m. pl., wind in the sense of the air currents that influence weather. In general the air currents normally move out of the west, although wind locally can come from any direction. The wind is very important in the hydrologic cycle to transfer water vapor from the oceans to the land in the form of precipitation.
blew: Grk. pneō, aor., to blow. The verb occurs only seven times in the Besekh, all in reference to the wind. and slammed against: Grk. prospiptō, aor., to fall or strike against. that: Grk. ekeinos, dem. pron. house: Grk. oikia. See the previous verse. and yet it did not: Grk. ou, adv. fall: Grk. piptō, aor., to drop from a relatively high position to a lower position. for: Grk. gar, conj. it had been founded: Grk. themelioō, plperf. pass., establish a firm base for something, to lay a foundation. Mounce adds fig. to ground, establish, render firm and unwavering. on: Grk. epi, prep. the rock: Grk. petra. See the previous verse.
Yeshua makes an observation drawn from experience. The composition of the ground under a building is important to its long-term stability. Rock is far superior to any kind of porous earth. Foundations of some ancient cities were usually formed of rows of huge stones that made up the wall, down to the bedrock. Excavations of Herod’s construction of first-century Jerusalem revealed some very large stones measuring five feet wide, four feet high, and thirty feet long, weighing eighty to one hundred tons each and going down some fourteen to nineteen layers below the present ground level (Alan F. Johnson, Revelation. Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 1983; comment on Rev 21:14).
26 "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
[And: kai, conj. The NASB omits translation of the conjunction that begins the verse.] Everyone: Grk. pas, adj. who hears: Grk. akouō, pres. part. See verse 24 above. these words: Grk. logos, m. pl. See verse 24 above. of Mine: Grk. 1p-pron. and does not act: Grk. poieō, pres. part. See verse 12 above. on them: 3p-pl. pers. pron. will be like: Grk. homoioō, fut. pass. See verse 24 above. a foolish: Grk. mōros, adj., having little sense; foolish, stupid. HELPS has dull in understanding, nonsensical ("moronic"). man: Grk. anēr. See verse 24 above. who: Grk. hostis, relative pron. built: Grk. oikodomeō, aor. See verse 24 above. his house: Grk. oikia. See verse 24 above. on the sand: Grk. ammos refers to the sand of a beach or sandy subsoil.
Yeshua introduces a contrast to the wise man that is contrary to what any sensible building contractor would do. He is not talking about someone who is naïve, silly, or ignorant. He is speaking of someone who rebels against commonly accepted building codes. This man wants his house where he wants it, perhaps on the beach to have quick access to the lake or ocean. It is the stupidity of pride that insists on building on sand. (Like building a city close to the ocean and below sea level.) In the spiritual realm building on sand is tantamount to rebelling against divine authority and assuming God will tolerate it.
27 "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall.
The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house: This sentence is an exact duplication of the first part of verse 25 above. and it fell: Grk. piptō, aor. See verse 25 above. and great: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 9 above. its fall: Grk. ptōsis, condition of falling, here of a structure; fall, collapse. The circumstances of the story should not be pressed further than the intention of the analogy, which focuses on the composition of the ground under the house and not the structure of the house. The "rock" as exemplified in the life of Abraham is faithfulness to God's commandments and trust in God's sovereign care. "Sand" is equivalent to building a life by self-effort, and the moral relativism it represents inevitably leads to ruin.
The parable is a reality check. Storms will come and they will reveal what your life is resting on. Yeshua offers no promise of an easy or prosperous life. Unfortunately, many people have an expectation of life that because it is preferable to experience pleasure rather than pain, the world absolutely should arrange this and life is horrible and unbearable when the world doesn't. In this unrealistic expectation "the world" would include God because if He really is love as the Bible says, then He would arrange a pleasurable life without suffering and without adverse consequences to bad behavior. This unrealistic expectation is tantamount to building one's life on sand and unhappiness and even anger toward God can only result from life's disappointments.
Yeshua's Authority, 7:28-29
28 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching;
[And: kai, conj. it happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The third meaning applies here. The NASB omits translation of these two words that begin the verse.]
When: Grk. hote, temporal adv., when, at which time. Jesus: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua. Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning of Yeshua, his identity, and the translation of his name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
had finished: Grk. teleō, aor., to bring to completion in a manner that leaves nothing undone, to achieve fully, fulfill, accomplish, complete. these: Grk. houtos, dem. pron. words: Grk. logos, m. pl. See verse 24 above. The phrase "these words" could refer in the proximate sense to the parable of the two foundations immediately preceding, but more likely to the entirety of the sermon. the crowds: Grk. ochlos, m. pl., refers to an assembled company of people. In other contexts ochlos designates those that came to hear Yeshua from a particular locality. In many passages the term is equivalent to the Heb. am ha–aretz ("people of the land") whom the ruling classes and religious elite despised as ignorant masses accursed for not knowing and keeping Torah (John 7:49) (DNTT 2:800f).
were amazed: Grk. ekplēssō, impf. pass., to be astounded, amazed or overwhelmed. at His teaching: Grk. didachē, instruction or teaching with content implied. The term occurs 30 times in the Besekh, usually in the sense of the content of public teaching by Yeshua and the apostles. Such didachē is often the exposition and application of Torah. In the LXX didachē is found only in the superscription of Psalm 60:1 to render the Piel inf. of Heb. lamad, "to exercise in, to learn" (BDB 540), an action attributed to David (DNTT 3:767). According to Klaus Wegenast the Hebrew equivalent of didachē would in fact be talmud (which is derived from lamad), as found in Avot 6:2, "you find no free man but he that occupies himself with the study of Torah" (DNTT 3:769).
29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes."
Matthew then explains why the crowds were amazed at Yeshua's instruction. for: Grk. gar, conj. He was teaching: Grk. didaskō, pres. part., to teach or instruct, a verb used frequently of Yeshua. In the LXX didaskō occurs about 100 times and is used primarily to render nine different Hebrew verbs, which mean variously to learn, teach, cause to know, point out, direct, or instruct (DNTT 3:760). In contrast with Greek education Jewish teaching since the time of Moses has been more concerned with communicating God's ethical demands than imparting information (DNTT 3:766). them: Grk. 3p-pl. pers. pron.; i.e., the crowds. as: Grk. hōs, adv. that connects narrative components and functions here as a simile; like, as, similar to. one having: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application.
authority: Grk. exousia, the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval; authority, right, jurisdiction. and not: Grk. ou, adv. as: Grk. hōs. their scribes: Grk. grammateus, m. pl., refers to a specialist in Jewish legal matters. In Israelite culture a scribe was a legal scholar and a teacher of the Torah. In the LXX grammateus renders two Hebrew words, shotêr (SH-7860) and more frequently sopêr (SH-5608) (DNTT 3:477f). The term shotêr, official or officer, occurs in a variety of passages of men with administrative or judicial responsibilities (Num 11:16; Deut 20:5; 1Chr 23:4; Ezra 4:8). The word sopêr, secretary or scribe, was used of a professional class of learned men who served as a secretary to a king or government official (2Sam 8:17; Ezra 4:8), the military (Jer 37:15), a prophet (Jer 36:4, 18, 32) and in the later books, one skilled in interpreting Torah (Ezra 7:6, 12, 21; Neh 8:1).
In the Besekh grammateus always has its Jewish meaning of one learned in Torah, a rabbi or ordained theologian. Scribes were clearly influential. They were secretaries, teachers, lawyers, judges, and priests. Josephus mentions Sadducees who were magistrates (Ant. XVIII, 1:4) and scribes were always preferred for appointment as judges due to their knowledge of the Law (Jeremias 237). Some were members of the Sanhedrin (Matt 16:21; John 8:3). Some scribes belonged to the party of the Pharisees (Matt 22:34-35; Mark 2:16; Acts 5:34; 23:9) and some were "of the people" (Matt 2:4), suggesting no party affiliation. For more information on the scribes see my commentary on Mark 1:22.
Jeremias (Chap. 10) describes the stages of a scribe's professional development that helps to understand the contrast between Yeshua and the scribes on the issue of authority. Scribal education began as a pupil (talmid) in his adolescent years, and progressed for several years in a regular course of study. When the talmid was able to prove his skill to teachers in making personal decisions on questions of religious legislation and penal justice, the pupil would be considered a "non-ordained scholar" (talmid hakam). As a non-ordained scholar the scribe could be employed in a professional capacity. It was only when the talmid hakam attained the age of 40 (mentioned in Sotah 22b) that he could be ordained and accepted into the prestigious company of ordained scholars (hakam).
As an ordained scholar the scribe was authorized to make his own decisions on matters of religious legislation and of ritual (Sanhedrin 5a), to act as a judge in criminal proceedings (Sanhedrin 3a) and to pass judgment in civil cases either as a member of the court or as an individual. There is no question that scribes held considerable power and influence in Jewish culture (Jeremias 243). So to say that Yeshua had authority different from a scribe could mean a variety of things. First, it may indicate that his wisdom was superior to the scribes. Josephus, the Jewish historian, called Yeshua a "wise man" (Ant. XVIII, 3:3). Second, Yeshua's disciples called him Rabbi (e.g. Mark 9:5), but they primarily called him "Lord" (e.g. Matt 8:25; 14:28). Even outsiders called Yeshua "Lord" (e.g. Matt 8:2, 6; 15:22). Yet, no scribe was ever called "Lord."
Third, Yeshua taught a "strict construction" view of Torah, that is, the original intent of Torah. Scribes, on the other hand, invented interpretations that allowed them to violate Torah commandments. Fourth, and most important, is that Yeshua taught as one who had authority in himself, even though he was not yet 40 and possessed no credentials from Jerusalem. Yeshua did not appeal to the great Sages or the two rabbinic leaders of the day (Hillel and Shammai) to justify his interpretation and application of Scripture. Moreover, Yeshua asserted that his authority came directly from his Father (Matt 28:18; John 5:27; 10:18; 12:44–50). Since Yeshua has divine authority, obedience is not optional for a true disciple.
Works Cited and Consulted
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barclay: William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series. Revised Ed., 16 Vols. The Westminster Press, 1975-76.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online at BibleHub.com.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus. InterVarsity Press, 1983.
Carson: D.A. Carson, Matthew, Vol. 8, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp., 1989-1999.
Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762-1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible: Acts (1826). Abridged by Ralph Earle, Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1967. Complete commentary Online.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Delitzsch: Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), Hebrew New Testament. Leipzig, 1877. Online. (Translation into biblical Hebrew.)
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah(1883). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993. Also online.
Gale: Aaron M. Gale, Annotations on "Matthew," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Gesenius: Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius (1786-1842), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament. Trans. Samuel P. Tregelles (1846). Baker Book House, 1979. Online.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Jastrow: Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1903, 1926. Online.
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias (1900-1979), Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Kasdan: Barney Kasdan, Matthew Presents Yeshua, King Messiah: A Messianic Commentary. Lederer Books, 2011.
Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), 4 Vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1989. Online.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised and augmented by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Philo: Philo of Alexandria (aka Philo Judaeus, c. 25 BC─50 AD), The Works of Philo. Online.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1. Zondervan Pub. House, 1976.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901), Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
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