Matthew 7:15-20

Matthew 7:15-20
A Women’s Lectionary – Second Sunday in Lent


15 “BewareA of false prophets,B who comeC to you

Notes on verse 15a

A “beware” = prosecho. From pros (at, toward) + echo (have, hold, possess). This is have towards, which is to say to give something your complete attention, beware, be cautious, hold to, turn to.
B “false prophets” = pseudoprophetes. 11x in NT. From pseudes (false, lying, wicked); {from pseudomai (to lie, deceive, falsify)} + prophetes (prophet or poet; one who speaks with inspiration from God); {from pro (before, in front of, earlier than) + phemi (to declare, say, use contrasts in speaking to shed light on one point of view); {from phao (to shine) or phaino (to bring light, cause to appear, shine, become visible or clear)}}. This is false prophet – one who pretends they are prophesying from God or who teaches something that is false, but still attributes it to God.
C “come” = erchomai. This is to come or go.

in sheep’sD clothingE but inwardly are ravenousF wolves.G 

Notes on verse 15b

D “sheep’s” = probaton. Probably from probaino (to go forward literally or to advance in years); {from pro (before, ahead, earlier than, above) + the same as basis (a step, pace, foot); {from baino (to walk, to go)}}. This is literally easily led and so a sheep or another grazing animal. Also use figuratively of people who are led easily.
E “clothing” = enduma. 8x in NT. From enduo (to clothe, put on in a literal or figurative sense); {from en (in, on, at, by, with, within) + duno (to enter, sink into; can also be set like the sun); {from duo (to sink)}}. This is clothing, especially outer robes. This is clothing as something one sinks into.
F “ravenous” = harpax. 5x in NT. From harpazo (to seize by force, snatch away); from haireo (to choose, take). This is seizing suddenly, ravenous, ferocious, a thief, swindler.
G “wolves” = lukos. 6x in NT. Perhaps related to leukos (bright, white); from luke(light). This is wolf or maybe jackal. Figuratively, it means cruel, greedy, or destructive.

16 You will knowH them by their fruits.I Are grapesJ gatheredK from thorns,L or figs from thistles?M 

Notes on verse 16

H “know” = epiginosko. From epi (on, upon, what is fitting) + ginosko (to know, recognize, realize, perceive, learn; gaining knowledge through personal experience). This is to perceive, discern, acknowledge, recognize, know exactly because of direct interaction.
I “fruits” = karpos. Related to “ravenous” in v15. Perhaps from harpazo (see note F above). This is a fruit or vegetable, through sometimes it refers to an animal. Figuratively, it is deeds, results, profits, or gain.
J “grapes” = staphule. 3x in NT. Perhaps from the base of stephanos (something that surrounds i.e. a crown or garland; properly, the wreath or garland that the winner of athletic games would win; symbolized victory and honor from skill as contrasted with a royal crown, which is diadema in Greek); stepho (to twine, encircle). This is grape or a cluster of grapes as twined together.
K “gathered” = sullego. 8x in NT. From sun (with, together with) + lego (to speak, tell, mention). This is to gather up or gather together.
L “thorns” = akantha. 14x in NT. From akmen (even now, still yet); from the same as akmazo (ripe, to be vigorous); from akme (point, edge); related to ake (a point). This is thorn or thorn bush.
M “thistles” = tribolos. 2x in NT. From treis (three; figuratively can refer to God) + belos (missile); {from ballo (to throw, cast, place, put, rush, drop)}. This is a crow-foot, thistle, caltrop.

17 In the same way, everyN goodO tree bearsP goodQ fruit, but the badR tree bears badS fruit. 

Notes on verse 17

N “every” = pas. This is all or every.
O “good” = agathos. This is good, a benefit, or a good thing. It is good by its very nature, intrinsically good. A different word, kalos, refers to external signs of goodness.
P “bears” = poieo. This is to make, do, act, construct, abide, or cause.
Q “good” = kalos. This is good, noble, beautiful, correct, or worthy. This is external signs of goodness like beauty, demonstrations of honorable character, showing moral virtues. A different word, agathos, speaks of intrinsic good.
R “bad” = sapros. 8x in NT. From sepo (to putrefy, cause to rot; figuratively, to perish or to make something corrupt). This is rotten, worthless, corrupt, bad, or unwholesome. It is rotten and hence of poor quality and hence not good for use and so worthless in a literal and figurative (moral) sense. This is someone who previously embodied a virtue, but has fallen into sin.
S “bad” = poneros. From poneo (to toil); related to ponos (pain, trouble, labor, distress, suffering; toil, which implies anguish); from the base of penes (a laborer, poor person, starving or indigent person; someone who works for their living); from pernomai (working for a living; laborer, poor person; to work for daily bread); from peno (to toil to survive day by day). This is bad, evil, wicked, malicious, grievous, or toilsome. Properly, it is something that bears pain – it emphasizes the miseries and pains that come with evil. By contrast, the Greek kakos refers to evil as part of someone’s core character. Also contrasting the Greek sapros, which deals with falling away from a previously embodied virtue. This word can mean ill, diseased, morally culpable, derelict, vicious, malicious, or guilt. It can also refer to the devil or sinners.

18 A goodT tree cannotU bear badV fruit, nor can a badW tree bear goodX fruit. 

Notes on verse 18

T “good” = agathos. Same as “good” in v17. See note O above.
U “cannot” = ou + dunamai. Dunamaiis to be able, or something that is possible. It can also be empowered or being powerful. The Greek word for “miracle” (dunamis) comes from this root.
V “bad” = poneros. Same as “bad” in v17. See note S above.
W “bad” = sapros. Same as “bad” in v17. See note R above.
X “good” = kalos. Same as “good” in v17. See note Q above.

19 Every tree that does not bear goodY fruit is cut downZ and thrownAA into the fire.BB 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Notes on verses 19-20

Y “good” = kalos. Same as “good” in v17. See note Q above.
Z “cut down” = ekkopto. 10x in NT. From ek (from, from out of) + kopto (to cut, strike, cut off; beating the chest to lament and so to mourn). This is to cut off, down, out, or away. It can also mean to remove, prevent, hinder, or frustrate.
AA “thrown” = ballo. Related to “thistles” in v16. See note M above.
BB “fire” = pur. This is fire, lightning, heat from the sun. Figuratively, it can refer to strife or trials.

Image credit: “Tree of Life Painting” – photo by scott1346, 2012.

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