Matthew 5:21-26

Matthew 5:21-26
A Women’s Lectionary – Proper 21


21 “You have heardI that it was said to those of ancientII times, ‘You shall not murder,’III

Notes on verse 21a

I “heard” = akouo. This is hear or listen, but it also means to understand by hearing. This is where the word “acoustics” comes from.
II “ancient” = archaios. 11x in NT. From arche (origin, beginning, rule; can refer to the power of a magistrate or a king; it is the first thing as being the starting point or the most important); {from archomai (to begin or rule); from archo (to rule, begin, have first rank or have political power)}. This is old, ancient, original. It is where the word “archaic” comes from.
III “murder” = phoneuo. 12x in NT. From phoneus (a murderer); from phonos (killing, murder, or slaughter; one of the crimes that Barabbas and Saul are accused of); from pheno (to slay). This is to kill or murder. It is killing on purpose without justification.

and ‘whoever murders shall beIV liableV to judgment.’VI 

Notes on verse 21b

IV “be” = eimi. This is to be, exist.
V “liable” = enochos. 10x in NT. From enecho (to hold in, ensnare, be angry at); {from en (in, on, at, by, with) + echo (to have, hold, possess)}. This is bound by, liable to, deserving, guilty, subject, in danger of.
VI “judgment” = krisis. From krino (to judge, decide, think good, condemn, determine, pass judgment, stand trial, sue; judging whether in court or in a private setting; properly, mentally separating or distinguishing an issue – to come to a choice or decision, to judge positively or negatively in seeking what is right or wrong, who is innocent or guilty; can imply trying, condemning, punishing, or avenging). This is a judging or a sentence. It is often used of God’s judgment, but can also be any accusation or condemnation. This is where the word “crisis” comes from.

22 But I sayVII to you that if youVIII are angryIX with a brotherX or sister, you will be liable to judgment,

Notes on verse 22a

VII “say” = lego. This is to speak, say, name, call, command. It is generally to convey verbally.
VIII “you” = pas. This is all or every.
IX “angry” = orgizo. 8x in NT. From orge (impulse, wrath, anger, passion, punishment); from orgao (something that teems or stews; this is anger rising from prolonged personal contact that is fixed rather than an angry outburst; it can also be anger that stems from an individual’s sense of right and wrong, justice, etc.). This is being angry, enraged, exasperated. It is a fixed, sustained anger.
X “brother” = adelphos. From a (with, community, fellowship) + delphus (womb). This is a brother in a literal or figurative sense. It is also used of another member of the Church.

and if you insultXI a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council,XII and if you say, ‘You fool,’XIII you will be liable to the hellXIV of fire.XV 

Notes on verse 22b

XI “insult” = rhaka. 1x in NT. Related to Aramaic roq (empty); from Hebrew reqam (emptily, in vain, undeservedly); from riq (to be empty or make empty; vanity, emptiness); from ruq (to pour out in a literal or figurative sense; to be or make empty). This is empty, foolish, or senseless – used to show contempt.
XII “council” = sunedrion. From sun (with, together with) + hedra (convening, siting together, being firm and faithful); {from aphedron (seat, well-seated; figuratively, this is firm in purpose, steadfast); from hedra (a seat)}. This is Sanhedrin – literally a sitting together. It was the high court for Jews and had 71 members. This term could also mean council or meeting place and was used for the lower courts that were throughout the land and had 23 members.
XIII “fool” = moros. 12x in NT. This is foolish, dull, stupid. It is something lacking an edge so figuratively it refers to someone who has a loose grasp of reality or whose understanding is dull. It is someone who acts as though they have not brain.
XIV “hell” = geenna. 12x in NT. From Hebrew Gehinnom (valley of Hinnom); from gay (valley; a gorge that is not a winter torrent) + Hinnom (most likely of foreign origin, perhaps from the Jebusites). This is Gehenna or hell, referring to a valley outside of Jerusalem and used figuratively for hell.
XV “fire” = pur. This is fire, lightning, heat from the sun. Figuratively, it can refer to strife or trials.

23 So when you are offeringXVI your giftXVII at the altar,XVIII if you rememberXIX that your brother or sister hasXX something against you, 

Notes on verse 23

XVI “offering” = prosphero. From pros (at, to, with, towards, advantageous for) + phero (to bear, bring, lead, make known publicly; to carry in a literal or figurative sense). This is to offer gifts or sacrifices, to bring up.
XVII “gift” = doron. 19x in NT. From didomi (to give in a literal or figurative sense). This is gift, offering, sacrifice; emphasizes that the gift is given freely, voluntarily
XVIII “altar” = thusiasterion. From thusia (a sacrifice or offering; the act of sacrifice or the thig being sacrificed; a sacrifice in a literal or figurative sense.); from thuo (to breathe violently, seethe, rage; properly, to rush as breathing heavy; so smoke as in offering an animal sacrifice by fire; by extension, killing or slaying in general). This is altar that is used for sacrifice.
XIX “remember” = mimnesko. From mnaomai (to remember; by implication give reward or consequence); perhaps from meno (to stay, abide, wait, endure). This is to remind or remember. It is memory through an active, intentional process or being mindful of. It is not incidentally or accidentally remembering.
XX “has” = echo. Related to “liable” in v21. See note V above.

24 leaveXXI your gift there before the altar and go;XXII firstXXIII be reconciledXXIV to your brother or sister, and then comeXXV and offer your gift. 

Notes on verse 24

XXI “leave” = aphiemi. From apo (from, away from) + hiemi (to send). This is send away, release, permit, forgive, allow to depart, discharge, or send forth.
XXII “go” = hupago. From hupo (by, under, under the authority of) + ago (lead, bring, guide, spend, drive, carry). This is to lead under so to depart, go away, or die. It is to lead away under the command of someone else, being given a mission or objective to carry out.
XXIII “first” = proton. From protos (what is first, which could be the most important, the first in order, the main one, the chief); from pro (before, first, in front of, earlier). This is firstly, before, in the beginning, formerly.
XXIV “reconciled” = diallasso. 1x in NT. From dia (through, because of, across, thoroughly) + allasso (to change, transform) {from allos (other, another; another of a similar kind or type)}. This is to change, exchange, or reconcile.
XXV “come” = erchomai.  This is to come or go.

25 Come to termsXXVI quicklyXXVII with your accuserXXVIII

Notes on verse 25a

XXVI “come to terms” = eimi + eunoeo. Literally, “be favorable.” Eimi is the same as “be” in v21. See note IV above. Eunoeo is 1x in NT. From eu (good, well, well, done) + noeo (to think, understand, conceive, realize, see; one who thinks things through sufficiently to reach a conclusion or value judgment; moral reasoning.); {from nous (mind, understanding, reasoning faculty, intellect, capacity to reflect); from noos (mind); probably from the base as ginosko (to know, recognize, realize, perceive, learn; gaining knowledge through personal experience)}. This is to think well towards or be favorable.
XXVII “quickly” = tachu. 12x in NT. From tachus (quickly, promptly; without unreasonable delay). This is quickly, but not immediately. It is without undue delay.
XXVIII “accuser” = antidikos. 5x in NT– 4x meaning opponent in court and 1x referring to Satan. From anti (opposite, instead of, against) + dike (the principle of justice; that which is right in a way that is very clear; a decision or the execution of that decision; originally, this word was for custom or usage; evolved to include the process of law, judicial hearing, execution of sentence, penalty, and even vengeance; more commonly, it refers to what is right); may be from deiknumi (to show, point out, exhibit; figurative for teach, demonstrate, make known). This is an opponent or adversary, whether in court or the devil. It is someone bringing former charges and seeking damages.

while you are on the wayXXIX to court with him, or your accuser may hand you overXXX to the judgeXXXI and the judge to the guard,XXXII

Notes on verse 25b

XXIX “way” = hodos. This is way, road, path, or journey. It can imply progress along a route.
XXX “hand…over” = paradidomi. Related to “gift” in v23. From para (from beside, by) + didomi (see note XVII above). This is literally to hand over – hence to deliver, abandon, or betray. It implies a personal involvement.
XXXI “judge” = krites. Related to “judgment” in v21. 19x in NT. From krino (see note VI above). This is judge or ruler.
XXXII “guard” = huperetes. From huper (by, under, subordinate to another) + eresso (to row). This is originally a rower or someone who crewed a boat on the lower deck. It came to mean underling, servant, or attendant. It is also used in the New Testament of disciples under the gospel.

and you will be thrownXXXIII into prison.XXXIV 26 TrulyXXXV I tellXXXVI you,

Notes on verses 25c-26a

XXXIII “thrown” = ballo. This is to throw, cast, rush, place, or drop. It is throwing, but it could be with more or less velocity and with more or less force/violence.
XXXIV “prison” = phulake. From phulasso (to guard something so that it doesn’t escape – to watch over it vigilantly; being on guard in a literal or figurative sense); related to phulaks (military guard, sentry, watcher). This is the act of guarding, the person who guards, the place where guarding occurs (i.e. a prison), or the times of guarding (the various watches).
XXXV “truly” = amen. From Hebrew amen (verily, truly, amen, truth, so be it, faithfulness); from aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid). This word is literally firmness, but figuratively fidelity, faithfulness, honesty, responsibility, trust, truth, steadfastness. Properly, it is to be sure, certain, or firm. This is a word of emphasis indicating that something crucial follows.
XXXVI “tell” = lego. Same as “say” in v22. See note VII above.

you will never get outXXXVII until you have paidXXXVIII the lastXXXIX penny.XL

Notes on verse 26b

XXXVII “get out” = exerchomai. Related to “come” in v24. From ek (from, from out of) + erchomai (see note XXV above). This is to go out, depart, escape, proceed from, spread news abroad.
XXXVIII “paid” = apodidomi. Related to “gift” in v23 & “hand…over” in v25. From apo (from, away from) + didomi (see note XVII above). This is to give back, return, give away. It is to restore as when one makes payment – to rend what is due, to sell.
XXXIX “last” = eschatos. Related to eschaton (end, last); perhaps from echo (to have, possess, hold). This is last, end, extreme, final. It is often used to discuss the end times, prophecies of the future, and the afterlife. The branch of theology focusing on all these topics is called “eschatology.”
XL “penny” = kodrantes. 2x in NT– also the widow’s two coins are worth a penny in Mk 12:42. Of Latin origin – quadrans; from quattuor (four). This word is quardrans; one fourth of an “as” or “assarion,” which was the smallest Roman unit of money – a copper coin that was 1/16 of a sesterius and equaled two leptas (in KJV translated “mites”).

Image credit: “Jacob Deceives Isaac” by Richard Gunther.

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