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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Matthew 7

 

 

Verse 1

Matthew 7:1. μὴ κρίνετε, judge not, an absolute prohibition of a common habit, especially in religious circles of the Pharisaic type, in which much of the evil in human nature reveals itself. “What levity, haste, prejudice, malevolence, ignorance; what vanity and egotism in most of the judgments pronounced in the world” (Lutteroth). Judge not, said Christ. Judge, it is your duty, said the Dutch pietists of last century through a literary spokesman, citing in proof Matthew 23:33, where the Pharisees are blamed for neglecting “judgment”. Vide Ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus, i., p. 328. How far apart the two types I— ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε: an important, if not the highest motive; not merely a reference to the final judgment, but stating a law of the moral order of the world: the judger shall be judged; to which answers the other: who judges himself shall not be judged (1 Corinthians 11:31). In Romans 2:1 St. Paul tacitly refers to the Jew as κρίνων. The reference there and here defines the meaning of κρίνειν. It points to the habit of judging, and the spirit as evinced by the habit, censoriousness leading inevitably to sinister judging, so that κρίνειν is practically equivalent to κατακρίνειν or καταδικάζειν (Luke 6:37).


Verses 1-5

Matthew 7:1-5. Against judging.


Verse 2

Matthew 7:2. ἐν γὰρ, etc.: Vulgatissimum hoc apud Judaeos adagium, says Lightfoot (Hor. Heb.). Of course; one would expect such maxims, based on experience, to be current among all peoples (vide Grotius for examples). It is the lex talionis in a new form: character for character. Jesus may have learned some of these moral adages at school in Nazareth, as we have all when boys learned many good things out of our lesson books with their collections of extracts. The point to notice is what the mind of Jesus assimilated—the best in the wisdom of His people—and the emphasis with which He inculcated the best, so as to ensure for it permanent lodgment in the minds of His disciples and in their records of His teaching.


Verses 3-5

Matthew 7:3-5. Proverb of the mote and beam. Also current among Jews and Arabs (vide Tholuck).— κάρφος, a minute dry particle of chaff, wood, etc.— δοκός, a wooden beam (let in, from δέχομαι) or joist, a monstrous symbol of a great fault. A beam in the eye is a natural impossibility; cf. the camel and the needle eye. The Eastern imagination was prone to exaggeration. This is a case of tu quoque (Romans 2:2), or rather of “thou much more”. The faults may be of the same kind: κάρφος, a petty theft, δοκός, commercial dishonesty on a large scale—“thou that judgest doest the same things” (Romans 2:2); or of a different sort: moral laxity in the publican, pride and inhumanity in the Pharisee who despised him (Luke 18:9-14).— βλέπεις, οὐ κατανοεῖς: the contrast is not between seeing and failing to see, but between seeing and not choosing to see; ignoring, consciously overlooking. The censorious man is not necessarily ignorant of his own faults, but he does not let his mind rest on them. It is more pleasant to think of other people’s faults.


Verse 4

Matthew 7:4. ἐκβάλω, hortatory conjunctive, first person, supplies place of imperative which is wanting in first person; takes such words as ἄγε, φέρε, or as here ἄφες, before it. Vide Goodwin, section 255. For ἄφες modern Greek has ἄς, a contraction, used with the subjunctive in the first and third persons (vide Vincent and Dickson, Modern Greek, p. 322).


Verse 5

Matthew 7:5. ὑποκριτά: because he acts as no one should but he who has first reformed himself. “What hast thou to do to declare my statutes?” Psalms 50:16.— διαβλέψεις, thou will see clearly, vide Mark 8:24-25, where three compounds of the verb occur, with ανά, διά, and ἐν. Fritzsche takes the future as an imperative and renders: se componere ad aliquid, curare; i.e., set thyself then to the task of, etc.


Verse 6

Matthew 7:6. A complementary counsel. No connecting word introduces this sentence. Indeed the absence of connecting particles is noticeable throughout the chapter: Matthew 7:1; Matthew 7:6-7; Matthew 7:13; Matthew 7:15. It is a collection of ethical pearls strung loosely together. Yet it is not difficult to suggest a connecting link, thus: I have said, “Judge not,” yet you must know people, else you will make great mistakes, such as, etc. Moral criticism is inevitable. Jesus Himself practised it. He judged the Pharisees, but in the interest of humanity, guided by the law of love. He judged the proud, pretentious, and cruel, in behalf of the weak and despised. All depends on what we judge and why. The Pharisaic motive was egotism; the right motive is defence of the downtrodden or, in certain cases, self-defence. So here.— καταπατήσουσι: future well attested, vide critical note, with subjunctive, ῥήξωσι, in last clause; unusual combination, but not impossible. On the use of the future after μήποτε and other final particles, vide Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in N. T. Greek, § 199.— τὸ ἅγιον, τοὺς μαργαρίτας: what is the holy thing, and what are the pearls? In a moral aphorism special indications are not to be expected, and we are left to our own conjectures. The “holy” and the “pearls” must define themselves for each individual in his own experience. They are the things which are sacred and precious for a man or woman, and which natural feeling teaches us to be careful not to waste or expose to desecration. For this purpose knowledge of the world, discrimination, is necessary. We must not treat all people alike, and show our valuables, religious experiences, best thoughts, tenderest sentiments, to the first comer. Shyness, reserve, goes along with sincerity, depth, refinement. In all shyness there is implicit judgment of the legitimate kind. A modest woman shrinks from a man whom her instinct discerns to be impure; a child from all hard-natured people. Who blames woman or child? It is but the instinct of self-preservation.— κυσίν, χοίρων. The people to be feared and shunned are those represented by dogs and swine, regarded by Jews as shameless and unclean animals. There are such people, unhappily, even in the judgment of charity, and the shrewd know them and fight shy of them; for no good can come of comradeship with them. Discussions as to whether the dogs and the swine represent two classes of men, or only one, are pedantic. If not the same they are at least similar; one in this, that they are to be avoided. And it is gratuitous to limit the scope of the gnome to the apostles and their work in preaching the gospel. It applies to all citizens of the kingdom, to all who have a treasure to guard, a holy of holies to protect from profane intrusion.— μήποτε, lest perchance. What is to be feared?— καταπατήσουσιν, ῥήξωσιν: treading under foot ( ἐν τ. π., instrumental, with, de Wette; among, Weiss) your pearls ( αὐτους), rending yourselves. Here again there is trouble for the commentators as to the distribution of the trampling and rending between dogs and swine. Do both do both, or the swine both, or the swine the trampling and the dogs the rending? The latter is the view of Theophylact, and it has been followed by some moderns, including Achelis. On this view the structure of the sentence presents an example of ἐπάνοδος or ὑστέρησις, the first verb referring to the second subject and the second verb to the first subject. The dogs—street dogs, without master, living on offal—rend, because what you have thrown to them, perhaps to propitiate them, being of uncertain temper at the best, is not to their liking; the swine trample under foot what looked like peas or acorns, but turns out to be uneatable.

Before passing from these verses (Matthew 7:1-6) two curious opinions may be noted. (1) That ἅγιον represents an Aramaic word meaning ear-ornaments, answering to pearls. This view, once favoured by Michaelis, Bolten, Kuinoel, etc., and thereafter discredited, has been revived by Holtzmann (H. C.). (2) That ὀφθαλμός (Matthew 7:3; Matthew 7:5) means, not the eye, but a village well. So Furrer. Strange, he says, that a man should need to be told by a neighbour that he has a mote in his eye, or that it should be a fault to propose to take it out! And what sense in the idea of a beam in the eye? But translate the Aramaic word used by Jesus, well, and all is clear and natural. A neighbour given to fault-finding sees a small impurity in a villager’s well and tauntingly offers to remove it. Meantime his own boys, in his absence, throw a beam into his own well (Zeitsch. für M. und R. vide also Wanderungen, p. 222).


Verse 7

Matthew 7:7. αἰτεῖτε, ζητεῖτε, κρούετε, threefold exhortation with a view to impressiveness; first literally, then twice in figurative language: seek as for an object lost, knock as at a barred door, appropriate after the parable of the neighbour in bed (Luke 11:5-8). The promise of answer is stated in corresponding terms.— δοθήσεται, εὑρήσετε, ἀνοιγήσεται.


Verses 7-11

Matthew 7:7-11. Admonition to prayer: presupposes deferred answer to prayer, tempting to doubt as to its utility, and consequent discontinuance of the practice. A lesson more natural at a later stage, when the disciples had a more developed religious experience. The whole subject more adequately handled in Luke 11:1-13.


Verse 8

Matthew 7:8, teration in form of a general proposition: πᾶς γὰρ, for every one, etc.


Verse 9

Matthew 7:9. answers to a state of mind which doubts whether God gives in answer to prayer at all, or at least gives what we desire.— τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἀν.: argument from analogy, from the human to the divine. The construction is broken. Instead of going on to say what the man of the parable will do, the sentence changes into a statement of what he will not do. Well indicated in W.H.’(47) text by a—after ἄρτον. The anacolouthon could be avoided by omitting the ἐστι of T. R. after τίς and μὴ before λίθον, when the sentence would stand: τίς ἐξ ὐμῶν ἀν., ὁν αἰτῄσει υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ἄρτον, λίθον ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ. But the broken sentence, if worse grammar, is better rhetoric.— μὴ λ. ἐπιδώσει, he will not give him a stone, will he? Bread, stone; fish, serpent. Resemblance is implied, and the idea is that a father may refuse his child’s request but certainly will not mock him. Grotius quotes from Plautus: “Altera manu fert lapidem, panem ostentat altera”. Furrer suggests that by ὄφιν is meant not a literal serpent, but a scale-less fish, therefore prohibited to be eaten (Leviticus 11:12); serpent-like, found in the Sea of Galilee, three feet long, often caught in the nets, and of course thrown away like the dogfish of our waters.


Verse 11

Matthew 7:11, πονηροὶ, morally evil, a strong word, the worst fathers being taken to represent the class, the point being that hardly the worst will treat their children as described. There is no intention to teach a doctrine of depravity, or, as Chrysostom says, to calumniate human nature ( οὐ διαβάλλων τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην φύσιν). The evil specially in view, as required by the connection, is selfishness, a grudging spirit: “If ye then, whose own nature is rather to keep what you have than to bestow it on others, etc.” (Hatch, Essays in (48). Gr., p. 81).— οἴδατε διδόναι soletis dare, Maldon. Wetstein; rather, have the sense to give; with the infinitive as in Philippians 4:12, 1 Timothy 3:5. Perhaps we should take the phrase as an elegant expression for the simple δίδοτε. So Palairet.— δόματα, four times in N. T. for the attic δῶρον, δώρημα; δομ. ἀγαθὰ, gifts good not only in quality (bread not stone, etc.) but even in measure, generous, giving the children more than they ask.— πόσῳ μᾶλλον, a fortiori argument.— πατὴρ, etc., the Father whose benignant nature has already been declared, Matthew 5:45.— ἀγαθὰ, good things emphatically, insignia dona, Rosenm., and only good (James 1:17, an echo of this utterance). This text is classic for Christ’s doctrine of the Fatherhood of God.


Verse 12

Matthew 7:12. The golden rule. οὖν here probably because in the source, cf. καὶ in quotation in Hebrews 1:6. The connection must be a matter of conjecture—with Matthew 7:11, a, “Extend your goodness from children to all,” Fritzsche; with Matthew 7:11, b, “Imitate the divine goodness,” Bengel; with Matthew 7:1-5; Matthew 7:6-11 being an interpolation, Weiss and Holtz. (H.C.). Luke 6:31 places it after the precept contained in Matthew 5:42, and Wendt, in his reconstruction of the logia (L. J., i. 61), follows that clue. The thought is certainly in sympathy with the teaching of Matthew 5:38-48, and might very well be expounded in that connection. But the meaning is not dependent on connection. The sentence is a worthy close to the discourse beginning at Matthew 5:17. “Respondent ultima primis,” Beng. Here as there “law and prophets”.— ἵνα with subjunctive after θέλητε, instead of infinitive.— πάντα οὖνποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς. The law of nature, says Rosenmüller. Not quite. Wetstein, indeed, gives copious instances of something similar in Greek and Roman writers and Rabbinical sources, and the modern science of comparative religion enables us to multiply them. But recent commentators (including Holtz., H.C.) have remarked that, in these instances, the rule is stated in negative terms. So, e.g., in Tobit 4:15, μισεῖς, μηδενὶ ποιήσῃς, quoted by Hillel in reply to one who asked him to teach the whole law while he stood on one leg. So also in the saying of Confucius: “Do not to others what you would not wish done to yourself,” Legge, Chinese Classics, i. 191 f. The negative confines us to the region of justice; the positive takes us into the region of generosity or grace, and so embraces both law and prophets. We wish much more than we can claim—to be helped in need, encouraged in struggles, defended when misrepresented, and befriended when our back is at the wall. Christ would have us do all that in a magnanimous, benignant way; to be not merely δίκαιος but ἀγαθός.— νόμος καὶ προφῆται: perhaps to a certain extent a current phrase = all that is necessary, but, no doubt, seriously meant; therefore, may help us to understand the statement in Matthew 5:17, “I came not to destroy, but to fulfil”. The golden rule was Law and Prophets only in an ideal sense, and in the same sense only was Christ a fulfiller.—vide Wendt, L. J., ii. 341.


Verse 13-14

Matthew 7:13-14. The two ways (Luke 13:23-25). From this point onwards we have what commentators call the Epilogue of the sermon, introduced without connecting particle, possibly no part of the teaching on the hill, placed here because that teaching was regarded as the best guide to the right way. The passage itself contains no clue to the right way except that it is the way of the few. The allegory also is obscure from its brevity. Is the gate at the beginning or end of the way, or are gate and way practically one, the way narrow because it passes through a narrow doorway? Possibly Christ’s precept was simply, “enter through the narrow gate” or “door” ( θύρα, Luke’s word), all the rest being gloss.— πύλης, the large entrance to an edifice or city, as distinct from θύρα, a common door; perhaps chosen by Lk. because in keeping with the epithet στενῆς.— ὅτι, etc.: explanatory enlargement to unfold and enforce the precept.— ὁδὸς: two ways are contrasted, either described by its qualities and end. The “way” in the figure is a common road, but the term readily suggests a manner of life. The Christian religion is frequently called “the way” in Acts (Matthew 9:2, Matthew 19:9, etc.). The wrong road is characterised as πλατεῖα and εὐρύχωρος, broad and roomy, and as leading to destruction ( ἀπώλειαν). The right way (and gate, πύλη, is to be retained in Matthew 7:14, though omitted in Matthew 7:13) is described as στενὴ καὶ τεθλιμμένη, narrow and contracted, and as leading to life.— ζωήν, a pregnant word, true life, worth living, in which men realise the end of their being—the antithesis of ἀπώλεια. The one is the way of the many, πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερ.; the other of the few, ὀλίγοιοἱ εὑρίσκοντες. Note the word “finding”. The way is so narrow or so untrodden that it may easily be missed. It has to be sought for. Luke suggests the idea of difficulty in squeezing in through the very narrow door. Both points of view have their analogue in life. The practical application of this counsel requires spiritual discernment. No verbal directory will help us. Narrow? Was not Pharisaism a narrow way, and the monastic life and pietism with its severe rules for separation from the “world” in amusement, dress, etc.?


Verses 15-20

Matthew 7:15-20. Warning against pseudo-prophets. Again, without connecting particle and possibly not a part of the Sermon on the Mount. But the more important question here is: Does this section belong to Christ’s teaching at all, or has it been introduced by the Evangelist that false teachers of after days appearing in the Church might be condemned under the authority of the Master? (Holtz., H.C.). What occasion had Christ to speak of false prophets? The reference can hardly be to the Pharisees or the Rabbis. They were men of tradition, not prophetic, either in the true or in the false sense. But, apart from them, there might be another class of men in evidence in our Lord’s day, who might be so characterised. It was a time of religious excitement; the force of custom broken, the deep fountains of the soul bursting forth; witness the crowds who followed John and Jesus, and the significant saying about the kingdom of heaven suffering violence (Matthew 11:12). Such times call forth true prophets and also spurious ones, so far in religious sympathy with prevalent enthusiasms, but bent on utilising them for their own advantage in gain or influence, men of the Judas type. If such men, as is likely, existed, Jesus would have something to say about them, as about all contemporary religious phenomena.

Matthew 7:15. προσέχετε ἀπὸ, take heed to and beware of.— οἵτινες, I mean, such as.— ἐν ἐνδύμασι προβάτων. Grotius, Rosenm. and Holtz. (H.C.) take this as referring to the dress worn ( ἐν μηλωταῖς, Hebrews 11:37) as the usual badge of a prophet, but not without reference to the plausible manner of the wearer; deceptive and meant to deceive (Zechar. Matthew 13:4); gentle, innocent as sheep; speaking with “unction,” and all but deceiving “the very elect”. The manner more than the dress is doubtless intended. ἔσωθεν δὲ: manner and nature utterly different; within, λύκοι ἅρπαγες; greedy, sometimes for power, ambitious to be first; often for gain, money. The Didache speaks of a type of prophet whom it pithily names a χριστέμπορος (chap. 12), a Christ-merchant. There have always been prophets of this type, “each one to his gain” (Isaiah 56:11), Evangel-merchants, traders in religious revival.


Verse 16

Matthew 7:16. μήτι, do they perhaps, τι suggesting doubt where there is none = men never do collect, or think of collecting, grapes from thorns or figs from thistles. And yet the idea is not absurd. There were thorns with grape-like fruit, and thistles with heads like figs (Holtz., H.C.). But in the natural sphere these resemblances never deceived; men saw at a glance how the matter stood.


Verses 16-20

Matthew 7:16-20. An enlargement in parabolic fashion on the principle of testing by fruit.


Verse 17

Matthew 7:17. nother illustration from good and bad trees of the same kind. ἀγαθὸν, sound, healthy; σαπρὸν, degenerate, through age or bad soil. According to Phryn., σαπρός was popularly used instead of αἰσχρός in a moral sense ( σαπράν οἱ πολλοὶ ἀντὶ τοῦ αἰσχράν, p. 377). Each tree brings forth fruit answering to its condition.


Verse 18

Matthew 7:18. οὐ δύναται, etc. Nothing else is possible or looked for in nature.


Verse 19

Matthew 7:19. en look on this as so certain that they do not hesitate to cut down and burn a degenerate tree, as if it were possible it might bring forth good fruit next year.— μὴ ποιοῦν, if it do not, that once ascertained. Weiss thinks this verse is imported from Matthew 3:10, and foreign to the connection.


Verse 20

Matthew 7:20. ἄραγε: final inference, a very lively and forcible composite particle; again with similar effect in Matthew 17:26. The γε should have its full force as singling out for special attention; “at least from their fruits, if by no other means”. It implies that to know the false prophet is hard. Matthew 7:22 explains why. He has so much to say, and show, for himself: devils cast out, souls saved, spiritual if not physical miracles done. What other or better “fruit” would you have? What in short is the test? Doctrine, good moral life? Is the false prophet necessarily a false teacher or an immoral man? Not necessarily though not unfrequently. But he is always a self-seeking man. The true prophet is Christ-like, i.e., cares supremely for truth, righteousness, humanity; not at all for himself, his pocket, his position, his life. None but such can effectively preach Christ. This repetition of the thought in Matthew 7:16 is not for mere poetical effect, as Carr (Camb. G. T.), following Jebb (Sacred Literature, p. 195), seems to think.


Verse 21

Matthew 7:21. λέγων, ποιῶν: Of all, whether disciples or teachers, the principle holds good without exception that not saying “Lord” but doing God’s will is the condition of approval and admittance into the kingdom. Saying “Lord” includes taking Jesus for Master, and listening to His teaching with appreciation and admiration; everything short of carrying out His teaching in life. In connection with such lofty thoughts as the Beatitudes, the precept to love enemies and the admonition against care, there is a great temptation to substitute sentimental or æsthetic admiration for heroic conduct.— τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου. Christ’s sense of His position as Master or Lord was free from egotism. He was simply the Son and Servant of the Father, whose will He and all who follow Him must obey; my Father here for the first time.


Verses 21-23

Matthew 7:21-23. False discipleship. From false teachers the discourse naturally passes to spurious disciples. Luke’s version contains the kernel of this passage (Luke 6:46). Something of the kind was to be expected in the teaching on the hill. What more likely than that the Master, who had spoken such weighty truths, should say to His hearers: “In vain ye call me Master, unless ye do the things which I say”? As it stands here the logion has probably, as Weiss suggests (Matt. Evang., p. 219), undergone expansion and modification, so as to give to the title “Lord,” originally = מר, Teacher, the full sense it bore when applied to Christ by the Apostolic Church, and to make the warning refer to false prophets of the Apostolic age using Christ’s name and authority in support of anti-Christian tendencies, such as anti-nomianism ( ἀνομίαν, Matthew 7:23).


Verse 22

Matthew 7:22. ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, the great dread judgment day of Jehovah expected by all Jews, with more or less solemn awe; a very grave reference.— τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι: thrice repeated, the main ground of hope. Past achievements, prophesyings, exorcisms, miracles are recited; but the chief point insisted on is: all was done in Thy name, honouring Thee, as the source of wisdom and power.


Verse 23

Matthew 7:23. τότε. When they make this protestation, the Judge will make a counter protestation— ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς, I will own to them. Bengel’s comment is: aperte. Magna potestas hujus dicti. But there is a certain apologetic tone in the expression, “I will confess” (“profess,” A.V(49) and R.V(50)), as if to say: I ought to know men who can say so much for themselves, but I do not.— ὅτι, recitative, the exact words directly reported.— οὐδέποτε, never: at no point in that remarkable career when so many wonderful things were done in my name.— ἀποχωρεῖτε, etc.: an echo of Psalms 6:9, and sentence of doom, like Matthew 25:41.


Verse 24

Matthew 7:24. πᾶς ὅστις. Were the reading ὁμοιώσω adopted, this would be a case either of attraction πᾶς for πάντα to agree with ὅστις (Fritzsche), or of a broken construction: nominative, without a verb corresponding, for rhetorical effect. (Meyer, vide Winer, § lxiii., 2, d.)— ἀκούει, ποιεῖ: hearing and doing, both must go together; vide James 1:22-25, for a commentary on this logion. “Doing” points generally to reality, and what it means specifically depends on the nature of the saying. “Blessed are the poor in spirit”; doing in that case means being poor in spirit. To evangelic ears the word has a legal sound, but the doing Christ had in view meant the opposite of legalism and Pharisaism.— ὁμοιωθησεται: not at the judgment day (Meyer), but, either shall be assimilated by his own action (Weiss), or the future passive to be taken as a Gerund = comparandus est (Achelis).— φρονίμῳ: perhaps the best rendering is “thoughtful”. The type of man meant considers well what he is about, and carefully adopts measures suited to his purpose. The undertaking on hand is building a house—a serious business—a house not being meant for show, or for the moment, but for a lasting home. A well-selected emblem of religion.— τὴν πέτραν: the article used to denote not an individual rock, but a category—a rocky foundation.


Verses 24-27

Matthew 7:24-27. Epilogue (Luke 6:47-49, which see for comparative exegesis). οὖν, Matthew 7:24, may be taken as referring to the whole discourse, not merely to Matthew 7:21-23 (Tholuck and Achelis). Such a sublime utterance could only be the grand finale of a considerable discourse, or series of discourses. It is a fit ending of a body of teaching of unparalleled weight, dignity, and beauty. The τούτους after λόγους (Matthew 7:24), though omitted in (51), therefore bracketed in W. H(52), is thoroughly appropriate. It may have fallen out through similar ending of three successive words, or have been omitted intentionally to make the statement following applicable to the whole of Christ’s teaching. Its omission weakens the oratorical power of the passage. It occurs in Matthew 7:26.


Verse 25

Matthew 7:25. What follows shows his wisdom, justified by events which he had anticipated and provided for; not abstract possibilities, but likely to happen every year—certain to happen now and then. Therefore the prudence displayed is not exceptional, but just ordinary common sense.— καὶ: observe the five καὶ in succession—an eloquent polysyndeton, as grammarians call it; note also the rhythm of the sentence in which the war of the elements is described: down came the rain, down rushed the rivers, blew the winds—sudden, fell, terrible.— προσέπεσον, they fell upon that house: rain on roof, river on foundation, wind on walls. And what happened? καὶ οὐκ ἔπεσεν. The elements fell on it, but it did not fall.— τεθεμελίωτο γὰρ: for a good reason, it was founded on the rock. The builder had seen to that.


Verse 26-27

Matthew 7:26-27. μωρῷ, Jesus seems here to offend against His own teaching, Matthew 5:22, but He speaks not in passion or contempt, but in deep sadness, and with humane intent to prevent such folly. Wherein lay the second builder’s folly? Not in deliberately selecting a bad foundation, but in taking no thought of foundation; in beginning to build at haphazard and anywhere; on loose sand ( ἄμμος) near the bed of a mountain torrent. His fault was not an error in judgment, but inconsiderateness. It is not, as is commonly supposed, a question of two foundations, but of looking to, and neglecting to look to, the foundation. In the natural sphere no man in his senses commits such a mistake. But utterly improbable cases have to be supposed in parables to illustrate human folly in religion.


Verse 27

Matthew 7:27. καὶἄνεμοι: exactly the same phrases as in Matthew 7:25, to describe the oncome of the storm.— προσέκοψαν: a different word for the assault on the house—struck upon it with immediate fatal effect. It was not built to stand such rough handling. The builder had not thought of such an eventuality.— ἔπεσεν, καὶ ἦν πτῶσις αὐτῆς μεγάλη: not necessarily implying that it was a large building, or that the disaster was of large dimensions, like the collapse of a great castle, but that the ruin was complete. The fool’s house went down like a house of cards, not one stone or brick left on another.

Allegorising interpretation of the rain, rivers and winds, and of the foundations, is to be avoided, but it is pertinent to ask, what defects of character in the sphere of religion are pointed at in this impressive parabolic logion? What kind of religion is it that deserves to be so characterised? The foolish type is a religion of imitation and without forethought. Children play at building houses, because they have seen their seniors doing it. There are people who play at religion, not realising what religion is for, but following fashion, doing as others do, and to be seen of others (Matthew 6:1). Children build houses on the sea sand below high-tide mark, not thinking of the tide which will in a few hours roll in and sweep away their houselet. There are men who have religion for to-day, and think not of the trial to-morrow may bring.


Verse 28

Matthew 7:28. Concluding statement as to the impression made by the discourse. A similar statement occurs in Mark 1:22; Mark 1:27, whence it may have been transferred by Matthew. It may be assumed that so unique a teacher as Jesus made a profound impression the very first time He spoke in public, and that the people would express their feelings of surprise and admiration at once. The words Mark puts into the mouth of the audience in the synagogue of Capernaum are to the life (vide comments there). They saw, and said that Christ’s way of speaking was new, not like that of the scribes to which they had been accustomed. Both evangelists make the point of difference consist in “authority”.


Verse 29

Matthew 7:29. ὡς ἐξουσίαν ἔχων: Fritzsche supplies, after ἔχων, τοῦ διδάσκειν, and renders, He taught as one having a right to teach, because He could do it well, “scite et perite,” a master of the art. The thought lies deeper. It is an ethical, not an artistic or æsthetical contrast that is intended. The scribes spake by authority, resting all they said on traditions of what had been said before. Jesus spake with authority, out of His own soul, with direct intuition of truth; and, therefore, to the answering soul of His hearers. The people could not quite explain the difference, but that was what they obscurely felt.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 7:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/matthew-7.html. 1897-1910.

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