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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Luke 16



Verse 1

Steward ( οἰκονόμον )

From οἶκος , a house, and νέμω , to distribute or dispense. Hence, one who assigns to the members of the household their several duties, and pays to each his wages. The paymaster. He kept the household stores under lock and seal, giving out what was required; and for this purpose received a signet-ring from his master. Wyc., fermour, orfarmer. Here probably the land-steward.

Was accused ( διεβλήθη )

Only here in New Testament. From διά , over, across, and βάλλω , to throw. To carry across, and hence to carry reports, etc., from one to another; to carry false reports, and so to calumniate or slander. See on devil, Matthew 4:1. The word implies malice, but not necessarily falsehood. Compare Latin traducere (trans, over, ducere, to ad), whence traduce.

Had wasted ( ὡς διασκορπίζων )

Lit., as wasting. Rev., was wasting; not merely a past offence, but something going on at the time of the accusation. See Luke 15:13.

Verse 2

How is it that I hear this ( τί τοῦτο ἀκούω )

Better as Rev., What is this that I hear?

Give an account ( ἀπόδος τὸν λόγον )

Lit., “give back ( ἀπό ). Rev., render. The ( τὸν ) account which is due. Aristophanes has a striking parallel: “And now give back my signet; for thou shalt no longer be my steward” (“Knights,” 947).

Thou mayest ( δυνήσῃ )

More strictly, as Rev., thou canst.

Verse 3

Taketh away

Or is taking away. He was not yet dispossessed, as is shown by what follows.

I cannot ( οὐκ ἰσχύω )

See on Luke 14:30. “I have not strength.” His luxurious life had unfitted him for hard labor. In Aristophanes (“Birds,” 1431), a sycophant is asked: “Tell me, being a young man, do you lodge informations against strangers?” He replies: “Yes; why should I suffer, for I know not how to dig?”

To beg ( ἐπαιτεῖν )

See on besought, Matthew 15:23.

Verse 4

They may receive

The debtors of his master (Luke 16:5).

Verse 5

He called

Alford and Trench think that the debtors were together; but the words seem to me to indicate that he dealt with them separately. He called to him each one, and said unto the first; after that ( ἔπειτα ) another.

Verse 6

Measures ( βάτους )

Lit., baths. The bath was a Hebrew measure, but the amount is uncertain, since, according to Edersheim, there were three kinds of measurement in use in Palestine: the original Mosaic, corresponding with the Roman; that of Jerusalem, which was a fifth larger; and the common Galilaean measurement, which was more than a fifth larger than the Jerusalem. Assuming the first standard, the bath would be about fifty-six pints, and the debt, therefore, a large one.

Take thy bill ( δέξαι σου τὰ γράμματα )

Lit.,take back thy writings. Rev., bond. Wyc., obligation; and in Luke 16:7, letters. The plural is used for a single document. The bill is the bond which the buyer has given, and which is in the steward's keeping. He gives it back to the debtor for him to alter the figures.

Sit down quickly

It was a secret transaction, to be hurried through.

Verse 7

To another ( ἑτέρῳ )

A different one with a different debt, and his circumstances demanding a different rate of discount.

Measures ( κόρους )

Cors. A cor was ten baths; the dry and the fluid measures being the same.

Verse 8

The lord

Of the steward. Rev., properly, “his lord.”


Admiring his shrewdness, though he himself was defrauded.

Unjust steward

Lit., steward of injustice. See on forgetful hearer, James 1:25; and compare words of grace, Luke 4:22; unjust judge, Luke 18:6; son of his love, Colossians 1:13; lust of uncleanness, 2 Peter 2:10. The idiom is a Hebrew one. The phrase expresses Jesus' judgment on what the steward's master praised.

Wisely ( φρονίμως )

See on Matthew 10:16. Wyc., prudently. I would suggest shrewdly, though in the modern sense of sagaciously, since the earlier sense of shrewd was malicious, or wicked. Plato says: “All knowledge separated from righteousness and other virtue appears to be cunning and not wisdom. In Matthew 7:24-26, it is applied to the sagacious man who built his house on the rock, opposed to the foolish ( μωρός ) man who built on the sand. “It is a middle term, not bringing out prominently the moral characteristics, either good or evil, of the action to which it is applied, but recognizing in it a skilful adaptation of the means to the end - affirming nothing in the way of moral approbation or disapprobation, either of means or end, but leaving their worth to be determined by other considerations” (Trench, “Parables”).

In their generation ( εἰς τὴν γενεὰν τὴν ἑαυτῶν )

The A. V. misses the point, following Wyc. Lit., in reference to their own generation; i.e., the body of the children of this world to which they belong, and are kindred. They are shrewd in dealing with their own kind; since, as is shown in the parable, where the debtors were accomplices of the steward they are all alike unscrupulous. Tynd., in their kind.

Than the children of light

Lit., sons of the light. The men of the world make their intercourse with one another more profitable than the sons of light do their intercourse with their own kind. The latter “forget to use God's goods to form bonds of love to the contemporaries who share their character” (Godet); forget to “make friends of the mammon,” etc.

Verse 9

Make to yourselves friends

Compare Virgil, “Aeneid,” vi., 664:. Among the tenants of Elysium he sees “those who, by good desert, made others mindful of them.”

Of the mammon of unrighteousness ( ἐκ τοῦ μαμωνᾶ τῆς ἀδικίας )

The same idiom as in Luke 16:8, steward of injustice. Compare unrighteous mammon, Luke 16:11. Mammon should be spelt with one m. It is a Chaldee word, meaning riches. It occurs only in this chapter and at Matthew 6:24. “Of the mammon” is, literally, by means of. In the phrase of unrighteousness, there is implied no condemnation of property as such; but it is styled unrighteous, or belonging to unrighteousness, because it is the characteristic and representative object and delight and desire of the selfish and unrighteous world: their love of it being a root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Wyc., the riches of wickedness.

Ye fail ( ἐκλίπητε )

But all the best texts read ἐκλίπῃ , “when it (the mammon) fails.”

They may receive

The friends.

Habitations ( σκηνάς )

Lit., tents or tabernacles.

Verse 10

That which is least

A general proposition, yet with a reference to mammon as the least of things. See Luke 16:11.

Verse 11


Fidelity is, therefore, possible toward the unrighteous mammon.

Verse 12

That which is another's

God's. Riches are not ours, but given us in trust.

Your own

Equivalent to the true riches. That which forms part of our eternal being - the redeemed self. Compare the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:20), where the life or soul is distinguished from thepossessions. “Thy soul shall be required; whose shall the wealth be?” Compare, also, rich toward God (Luke 12:21). Chrysostom, cited by Trench, says of Abraham and Job, “They did not serve mammon, but possessed and ruled themselves, and were masters, and not servants.”

Verse 13

Servant ( οἰκέτης )

Properly, household servant.


See on minister, Matthew 20:26.

The other

See on Matthew 6:24.

Hold to

See on Matthew 6:24.

Verse 14

Covetous ( φιλάργυροι )

Rev. renders literally, according to the composition of the word, lover, of money. Only here and 2 Timothy 3:2. Compare the kindred noun, 1 Timothy 6:10. The usual word for covetous is πλεονέκτης (1 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:10).

Derided ( ἐξεμυκτήριζον )

Only here and Luke 23:35. Lit., to turn up the nose at. The Romans had a corresponding phrase, naso adunco suspendere,to hang on the hooked nose: i.e., to turn up the nose and make a hook of it, on which (figuratively) to hang the subject of ridicule. Thus Horace, in one of his satires, giving an account of a pretentious banquet at the house of a rich miser, describes one of the guests as hanging everything to his nose; i.e., making a joke of everything that occurred. The simple verb occurs at Galatians 6:7, of mocking God.

Verse 15


See on Matthew 24:15.

Verse 16


Rev., entereth violently. See on Matthew 11:12. Wyc., maketh violence into it. Tynd., striveth to go in.

Verse 17


See on Matthew 5:18.


Verse 19

Was clothed

Imperfect, and frequentative; denoting his habitual attire.

Purple ( πορφύραν )

Originally the purple fish from which the color was obtained, and thence applied to the color itself. Several kinds of these were found in the Mediterranean. The color was contained in a vein about the neck. Under the term purple the ancients included three distinct colors: 1. A deep violet, with a black or dusky tinge; the color meant by Homer in describing an ocean wave: “As when the great sea grows purple with dumb swell” (“Iliad,” xiv., 16). 2. Deep scarlet or crimson - the Tyrian purple. 3. The deep blue of the Mediterranean. The dye was permanent. Alexander is said by Plutarch to have found in the royal palace at Susa garments which preserved their freshness of color though they had been laid up for nearly two hundred years; and Mr. St. John (“Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece”) relates that a small pot of the dye was discovered at Pompeii which had preserved the tone and richness attributed to the Tyrian purple. This fixedness of color is alluded to in Isaiah 1:18 - though your sins were as scarlet, the term being rendered in the Septuagint φοινικοῦν , which, with its kindred words, denoted darker shades of red. A full and interesting description of the purple may be found in J. A. St. John's “Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece,” iii., 224: sq.

Fine linen ( βύσσον )

ByssusA yellowish flax, and the linen made from it. Herodotus says it was used for enveloping mummies (ii., 86), a statement confirmed by microscopic examinations. He also speaks of it as a bandage for a wound (vii., 181). It is the word used by the Septuagint for linen (Luke 15:23, Luke 15:24, Luke 15:29, Luke 15:32. Wyc., he ate, each day, shiningly.

Verse 20


See on poor, Matthew 5:3.


Abbreviated from Ἐλεάζαρος ,Eleazar, and meaning God a help. “It is a striking evidence of the deep impression which this parable has made on the mind of Christendom, that the term azar should have passed into so many languages as it has, losing altogether its signification as a proper name” (Trench).

Was laid ( ἐβέβλητο )

Lit., was thrown: east carelessly down by his bearers and left there.

Gate ( πυλῶνα )

The gateway, often separated from the house or temple. In Matthew 26:71, it is rendered porch.

Full of sores ( εἱλκωμένος )

Only here in New Testament. The regular medical term for to be ulcerated. John uses the kindred noun ἕλκος ,an ulcer (Revelation 16:2). See next verse.

Verse 21

Desiring ( ἐπιθυμῶν )

Eagerly, and not receiving what he desired. The same thing is implied in the story of the prodigal, where the same word is used, “he would fain have been filled” (Luke 15:16), but the pods did not satisfy his hunger.

The crumbs that fell ( τῶν πιπτόντων )

Lit., the things falling. The best texts omit ψιχίων , crumbs.

Moreover ( ἀλλὰ καὶ )

Lit., but even. “But (instead of finding compassion), even the dogs,” etc.

Licked ( ἐπέλειχον )

Only here in New Testament. Cyril, cited by Hobart, says: “The only attention, and, so to speak, medical dressing, which his sores received, was from the dogs who came and licked them.”

Verse 22

Abraham's bosom

A Rabbinical phrase, equivalent to being with Abraham in Paradise. “To the Israelite Abraham seems the personal centre and meeting-point of Paradise” (Goebel).

Verse 23


Rev., Hades. Where Lazarus also was, but in a different region. See on Matthew 16:18.

Verse 24

Cool ( καταψύχειν )

Only here in New Testament. Common in medical language. See on Luke 21:26. Compare the exquisite passage in Dante, where Messer Adamo, the false coiner, horribly mutilated, and in the lowest circle of Malebolge, says:

“I had, while living, much of what I wished;

And now, alas! a drop of water crave.

The rivulets that from the verdant hills

Of Cassentin descend down into Arno,

Making their channels to be soft and cold,

Ever before me stand, and not in vain:

For far more doth their image dry me up

Than the disease which strips my face of flesh.”

Inferno, xxx., 65 sq.

Tormented ( ὀδυνῶμαι )

Used by Luke only. Tormented is too strong. The word is used of the sorrow of Joseph and Mary when the child Jesus was missing (Luke 2:48); and of the grief of the Ephesian elders on parting with Paul (Acts 20:38) Rev., I am in anguish.

Verse 25

Son ( τέκνον )

Lit., child.

Receivedst ( ἀπέλαβες )

Received back ( ἀπό ) as a reward or quittance. Compare Luke 6:34; Luke 18:30; Luke 23:41.

Gulf ( χάσμα )

From χάσκω ,to yawn. Transcribed into the English chasm. In medical language, of the cavities in a wound or ulcer.

Is fixed ( ἐστήρικται )

Compare Luke 22:32; and see on 1 Peter 5:10.

Verse 27

Send him to my father's house

Compare Dante, where Ciacco, the glutton, says to Dante:

“But when thou art again in the sweet world,

I pray thee to the mind of others bring me.”

Inferno, vi., 88.

Verse 31

Be persuaded

Dives had said, “they will repent.” Abraham replies, “they will not be even persuaded.”

Though one rose

Dives had said, “if one went.

From the dead ( ἐν νεκρῶν )

Dives had said from the dead, but using a different preposition ( ἀπό ). It is wellnigh impossible to give the English reader this nice play of prepositions. The general distinction is ἀπό , from the outside; ἐκ , from within. Thus Luke 2:4, Joseph went up from ( ἀπό ) Galilee, the province, out of ( ἐκ ) the city of Nazareth. Abraham's preposition ( ἐκ , out of ) implies a more complete identification with the dead than Dives' ἀπό , from. A rising from among the dead was more than a messenger going from the dead. “We can hardly pass over the identity of the name Lazarus with that of him who actually was recalled from the dead; but whose return, far from persuading the Pharisees, was the immediate exciting cause of their crowning act of unbelief” (Alford).


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Luke 16:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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