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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 6

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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From Scribe law, the main theme of Matthew 6:21-34 , the Teacher passes to speak of Pharisaic practice.

Verse 1

Matthew 6:1 . προσέχετε ( τὸν νοῦν understood), to attend to; here, with μὴ following, take heed, be on your guard against. δικαιοσύνην , not ἐλεημοσύνην (T. R.), is the reading demanded in a general introductory statement. Alms formed a very prominent part of Pharisaic righteousness, and was in Rabbinical dialect called righteousness, צדקה ( vide Weber, p. 273), but it was not the whole, and it is a name for the whole category that is wanted in Matthew 6:1 . If Jesus spoke in Aramaic He might, as Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr.) suggests, use the word tsedakah both in the first and in the following three verses; in the first in the general sense, in the other places in the special sense of alms. ἔμπροσθεν τ . ἀνθρώπων . In chap. Matthew 5:16 Christ commands disciples to let their light shine before men . Here He seems to enjoin the contrary. The contradiction is only apparent. The two places may be combined in a general rule thus: Show when tempted to hide , hide when tempted to show . The Pharisees were exposed, and yielded, to the latter temptation. They did their righteousness, πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι , to be seen . Their virtue was theatrical , and that meant doing only things which in matter and mode were commonly admired or believed by the doers to be. This spirit of ostentation Christ here and elsewhere represents as the leading feature of Pharisaism. εἰ δὲ μήγε , a combination of four particles frequently occurring in the Gospels, meaning: if at least ye do not attend to this rule, then , etc. γέ is a very expressive particle, derived by Klotz, Devar. ii. 272, from ΓΕΩ , i.e. , ΕΑΩ , or from ἄγε , and explained as meant to render the hearer attentive. Bäumlein, dissenting from Klotz’s derivation, agrees substantially with his view of its meaning as isolating a thought from all else and placing it alone in the light ( Untersuchungen über Griechische Partikeln , p. 54) = “Mark my words, for if you do not as I advise then,” etc. μισθὸν οὐκ ἔχετε : on μισθὸν , vide Matthew 5:46 . The meaning is that theatrical virtue does not count in the Kingdom of God. Right motive is essential there. There may be a reward, there must be, else theatrical religion would not be so common; but it is not παρὰ τῷ πατρί .

Verses 2-4

Matthew 6:2-4 . Almsgiving . Matthew 6:2 . ἐλεημοσύνην , mercy in general, but specifically alms, as a common mode of showing mercy. Compare our word charity. σαλπίσῃς : to be understood metaphorically, as there is no evidence of the literal practice. Furrer gives this from Consul Wetstein to illustrate the word. When a man (in Damascus) wants to do a good act which may bring a blessing by way of divine recompense on his own family, e.g. , healing to a sick child, he goes to a water-carrier with a good voice, gives him a piece of money, and says “Sebil,” i.e. , give the thirsty a fresh drink of water. The water-carrier fills his skin, takes his stand in the market, and sings in varied tones: “O thirsty, come to the drink-offering,” the giver standing by, to whom the carrier says, as the thirsty drink, “God forgive thy sins, O giver of the drink” ( Zscht. für M. und R. , 1890. Vide also his Wanderungen d. d. H. L. , p. 437). ὑποκριταὶ , stage-players in classics, used in N. T. in a moral and sinister sense, and for the Christian mind heavily burdened with evil connotation hypocrites ! What a deepening of the moral sense is implied in the new meaning! The abhorrence of acting for effect in religion is due to Christ’s teaching. It has not yet quite banished the thing. There are religious actors still, and they draw good houses. συναγωγαῖς : where alms were collected, and apparently also distributed. ῥύμαις , streets, in eastern cities narrow lanes, a late meaning; in earlier Greek = impetus onset. Vide Rutherford’s New Phryn. , 488. Cf. πλατειῶν , Matthew 6:5 . πλατεῖα , supp. ὁδός = a broad street. δοξασθῶσιν : in chap. Matthew 5:16 God is conceived as recipient of the glory; here the almsgiver, giving for that purpose. ἀμὴν : introducing a solemn statement, and a very serious one for the parties concerned. ἀπέχουσι , they have in full ; they will get no more, nothing from God: so in Luke 6:24 , Philippians 4:18 ( vide on Mark 14:41 ). The hypocrite partly does not believe this, partly does not care, so long as he gets the applause of his public.

Verse 3

Matthew 6:3 . μὴ γνώτω : in proverbial form a counsel to give with simplicity. Let not even thy left hand, if possible even thyself, know, still less other men; give without self-consciousness or self-complacency, the root of ostentation. ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ : known to the recipient, of course, but to no other, so far as you are concerned, hardly even to yourself. “Pii lucent, et tamen latent,” Beng. ὁ βλέπων ἐ . τ . κ ., who seeth in the dark. “Acquainted with all my ways.” Psalms 139, a comfort to the sincerely good, not to the counterfeits. ἀποδώσει σοι : a certainty, and not merely of the future. The reward is present; not in the form of self-complacency, but in the form of spiritual health, like natural buoyancy, when all physical functions work well. A right-minded man is happy without reflecting why; it is the joy of living in summer sunshine and bracing mountain air. The ἐν τῷ φανερῷ here and in Matthew 6:6 and Matthew 6:18 , a gloss by some superficial copyist, ignores the inward present reward, and appeals in a new form to the spirit of ostentation.

Verses 5-6

Matthew 6:5-6 . Prayer . ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί , as the actors. We shrink from the harshness of the term “hypocrite”. Jesus is in the act of creating the new meaning by the use of an old word in a new connection. φιλοῦσι stands in place of an adverb. They love to, are wont, do it with pleasure. This construction is common in classics, even in reference to inanimate objects, but here only and in Matthew 23:6-7 in N. T. ἑστῶτες , ordinary attitude in prayer. στῆναι and καθῆσθαι seem to be used sometimes without emphasis to denote simply presence in a place (so Pricaeus). συναγωγαῖς , γωνίαις τ . πλατ .: usual places of prayer, especially for the “actors,” where men do congregate, in the synagogue for worship, at the corners of the broad streets for talk of business; plenty of observers in both cases. Prayer had been reduced to system among the Jews. Methodising, with stated hours and forms, began after Ezra, and grew in the Judaistic period; traces of it even in the later books of O. T., e.g. , Daniel 6:10-11 ( vide Schultz, Alt. Theol. ). The hour of prayer might overtake a man anywhere. The “actors” might, as De Wette suggests, be glad to be overtaken, or even arrange for it, in some well-frequented place. ὅπως φανῶσιν τ . α . in order that they may appear to men, and have it remarked: how devout!

Verse 6

Matthew 6:6 : true prayer in contrast to the theatrical type. σὺ δὲ , hou, my disciple, in opposition to the “actors”. ὅταν , when the spirit moves, not when the customary hour comes, freedom from rule in prayer, as in fasting (Matthew 9:14 ), is taken for granted. τὸ ταμεῖον , late form for ταμιεῖον (Lobeck, Phryn. , 493), first a store-chamber, then any place of privacy, a closet (Matthew 24:26 ). Note the σου after ταμ . and θύραν and πατρί , all emphasising isolation, thy closet, thy door, thy Father. κλείσας , carefully shutting thy door, the door of thine own retreat, to exclude all but thy Father, with as much secrecy as if you were about a guilty act. What delicacy of feeling, as well as sincerity, is implied in all this; greatly to be respected, often sinned against. τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ , He who is in the secret place; perhaps with allusion to God’s presence in the dark holy of holies (Achelis). He is there in the place from which all fellow-men are excluded. Is social prayer negatived by this directory? No, but it is implied that social prayer will be a reality only in proportion as it proceeds from a gathering of men accustomed to private prayer.

Verse 7

Matthew 6:7 . βατταλογήσητε : a ἅπαξ λεγ . in N. T., rarely used anywhere, and of doubtful derivation. Some (Erasmus, e.g. ) have thought it was formed from Battus, the stammerer mentioned by Herod. (iv. 155), or from a feeble poet of the name who made long hymns full of repetitions (Suidas, Lexicon), but most now incline to the view that it is onomatopoetic. Hesychius (Lex.) takes this view of the kindred word βατταρίζειν ( ἐμοὶ μὲν δοκεῖ κατὰ μίμησιν τῆς φωνῆς πεποιῆσθαι ). It points to the repetition without end of the same forms of words as a stammerer involuntarily repeats the same syllable, like the Baal worshippers shouting from morning till noon, “O Baal, hear us” (1 Kings 18:26 , cf. Acts 19:34 , “Great is Diana of the Ephesians”). This repetition is characteristic of Pagan prayer, and when it recurs in the Church, as in saying many Aves and Paternosters, it is Paganism redivivus. ἐθνικοί , the second of three references to Pagans (Matthew 5:47 , Matthew 6:32 ) in the Sermon on the Mount, not to be wondered at. The Pagan world was near at hand for a Jew belonging to Galilee with its mixed population. Pagan customs would be familar to Galileans, and it was natural that Jesus should use them as well as the theory and practice of scribes and Pharisees, to define by contrast true piety. πολυλογίᾳ , epexegetical of βατταλογ . The Pagans thought that by endless repetitions and many words they would inform their gods as to their needs and weary them (“fatigare deos”) into granting their requests.

Verses 7-15

Matthew 6:7-15 . Further instruction in prayer . Weiss (Mt.-Evan.) regards this passage as an interpolation, having no proper place in an anti-Pharisaic discourse. Both the opinion and its ground are doubtful. As regards the latter, it is true that it is Gentile practice in prayer that is formally criticised, but it does not follow that the Pharisees were not open to the same censure. They might make long prayers, not in ignorance, but in ostentation (Lutteroth), as a display of devotional talent or zeal. But apart from the question of reference to the Pharisees, it is likely that prayer under various aspects formed one of the subjects of instruction in the course of teaching on the hill whereof these chapters are a digest.

Verse 8

Matthew 6:8 , οὖν , infers that disciples must not imitate the practice described, because it is Pagan, and because it is absurd. Repetition is, moreover, wholly uncalled for. οἶδεν γὰρ : the God whom Jesus proclaims “your Father” knows beforehand your needs. Why, then, pray at all? Because we cannot receive unless we desire, and if we desire, we will pray; also because things worth getting are worth asking. Only pray always as to a Being well informed and willing, in few words and in faith. With such thoughts in mind, Jesus proceeds to give a sample of suitable prayer.

Verse 9

Matthew 6:9 . οὕτως , thus, not after the ethnic manner. προσεύχεσθε : present, pray so habitually. ὑμεῖς : as opposed to the Pagans, as men ( i.e. ) who believe in an intelligent, willing God, your Father. The prayer which follows consists of six petitions which have often been elaborately explained, with learned discussions on disputed points, leaving the reader with the feeling that the new form is anything but simple, and wondering how it ever came into universal use. Gospel has been turned into law, spirit into letter, poetry into prose. We had better let this prayer alone if we cannot catch its lyric tone. Πάτερ . In Luke’s form this name stands impressively alone, but the words associated with it in Matthew’s version of the address are every way suitable. Name and epithet together Father, in heaven express reverential trust. Ἁγιασθήτω τ . ο . σου : first petition sanctified, hallowed be Thy name. Fritzsche holds that σου in this and the next two petitions is emphatic, σοῦ not σου enclitic. The suggestion gives a good direction for the expositor = may God the Father-God of Jesus become the one object of worship all the world over. A very natural turn of thought in view of the previous reference to the Pagans. Pagan prayer corresponded to the nature of Pagan deities indifferent, capricious, unrighteous, unloving; much speaking, iteration, dunning was needed to gain their ear. How blessed if the whole pantheon could be swept away or fall into contempt, and the one worshipful Divinity be, in fact, worshipped, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ επὶ γῆς ; for this clause appended to the third petition may be conceived as common to all the first three. The One Name in heaven the One Name on earth, and reverenced on earth as in heaven. Universalism is latent in this opening petition. We cannot imagine Jesus as meaning merely that the national God of Israel may be duly honoured within the bounds of His own people.

Verses 9-13

Matthew 6:9-13 . The Lord’s Prayer . Again, in Luke 11:1-4 vide notes there. Here I remark only that Luke’s form, true reading, is shorter than Matthew’s. On this ground Kamphausen ( Das Gebet des Herrn ) argues for its originality. But surely Matthew’s form is short and elementary enough to satisfy all reasonable requirements! The question as to the original form cannot be settled on such grounds. The prayer, as here given, is, indeed, a model of simplicity. Besides the question as to the original form, there is another as to the originality of the matter. Wetstein says, “tota baec oratio ex formulis Hebraeorum concinnata est”. De Wette, after quoting these words, asserts that, after all the Rabbinical scholars have done their utmost to adduce parallels from Jewish sources, the Lord’s Prayer is by no means shown to be a Cento , and that it contains echoes only of well-known O. T. and Messianic ideas and expressions, and this only in the first two petitions. This may be the actual fact, but there is no need for any zeal in defence of the position. I should be very sorry to think that the model prayer was absolutely original. It would be a melancholy account of the chosen people if, after thousands of years of special training, they did not yet know what to pray for Jesus made a new departure by inaugurating (1) freedom in prayer; (2) trustfulness of spirit; (3) simplicity in manner. The mere making of a new prayer, if only by apt conjunction of a few choice phrases gathered from Scripture or from Jewish forms, was an assertion of liberty. And, of course, the liberty obtains in reference to the new form as well as to the old. We may use the Paternoster, but we are not bound to use it. It is not in turn to become a fetish. Reformers do not arise to break old fetters only in order to forge new ones.

Verse 10

Matthew 6:10 . Ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου : second petition. The prayer of all Jews. Even the Rabbis said, that is no prayer in which no mention of the kingdom is made. All depends on how the kingdom is conceived, on what we want to come. The kingdom is as the King. It is the kingdom of the universal, benignant Father who knows the wants of His children and cares for their interests, lower and higher, that Jesus desires to come. It will come with the spread of the worship of the One true Divine Name; the paternal God ruling in grace over believing, grateful men. Thus viewed, God’s kingdom comes , is not always here, as in the reign of natural law or in the moral order of the world. γενηθήτω τ . θ . σ .: third petition. Kamphausen, bent on maintaining the superior originality of Luke’s form in which this petition is wanting, regards it as a mere pendant to the second, unfolding its meaning. And it is true in a sense that any one of the three first petitions implies the rest. Yet the third has its distinct place. The kingdom, as Jesus preached it, was a kingdom of grace. The second petition, therefore, is a prayer that God’s gracious will may be done. The third, on the other hand, is a prayer that God’s commanding will may be done; that the right as against the wrong may everywhere prevail. ὡς ἐν οὐρ . καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς . This addendum, not without application to all three petitions, is specially applicable to this one. Translated into modern dialect, it means that the divine will may be perfectly, ideally done on this earth: as in heaven, so also, etc. The reference is probably to the angels, described in Psalms 103:0 , as doing God’s commandments. In the O. T. the angels are the agents of God’s will in nature as well as in Providence. The defining clause might, therefore, be taken as meaning: may God’s will be done in the moral sphere as in the natural; exactly, always, everywhere.

The foregoing petitions are regarded by Grotius, and after him Achelis, as pia desideria , εὐχαί , rather than petitions proper αἰτήματα , like the following three. The distinction is not gratuitous, but it is an exegetical refinement which may be disregarded. More important is it to note that the first group refers to the great public interests of God and His kingdom, placed first here as in Matthew 6:33 , the second to personal needs. There is a corresponding difference in the mode of expression, the verbs being in the third person in Group I., objective, impersonal; in the second in Group II., subjective, personal.

Verse 11

Matthew 6:11 . Fourth petition . τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν : whatever the adjective qualifying ἄρτον may mean, it may be taken for granted that it is ordinary bread, food for the body, that is intended. All spiritualising mystical meanings of ἐπιούσιον are to be discarded. This is the one puzzling word in the prayer. It is a ἄπαξ λεγ ., not only in O. and N. T., but in Greek literature, as known not only to us, but even to Origen, who ( De Oratione , cap. xxvii.) states that it is not found in any of the Greeks, or used by private individuals, and that it seems to be a coinage ( ἔοικε πεπλάσθαι ) of the evangelists. It is certainly not likely to have proceeded from our Lord. This one word suffices to prove that, if not always, at least in uttering this prayer, Jesus spoke in Aramaean. He would not in such a connection use an obscure word, unfamiliar, and of doubtful meaning. The problem is to account for the incoming of such a word into the Greek version of His doubtless simple, artless, and well-understood saying. The learned are divided as to the derivation of the word, having of course nothing but conjecture to go on. Some derive it from ἐπὶ and οὐσία , or the participle of εἶναι ; others from ἐπιέναι , or ἡ ἐπιοῦσα = the approaching day ( ἡμέρα understood). In the one case we get a qualitative sense bread for subsistence, bread needed and sufficient ( τὰ δέοντα καὶ αὐτάρκη . Proverbs 30:8 , Sept [37] ); in the other, a temporal bread of the coming day, panem quotidianum (Vulg [38] , Luke 11:3 ), “daily bread”. Either party argues against the other on grammatical grounds, e.g. , that derived from οὐσία the word should be ἐπούσιος , and that derived from ἐπιοῦσα it should be ἐπιουσαῖος . In either case the disputants are ready with their answer. Another source of argument is suitableness of the sense. Opponents of the temporal sense say that to pray for to-morrow’s bread sins against the counsel, “Take no thought for the morrow,” and that to pray, “Give us to-day our bread of to-morrow,” is absurd ( ineptius , Suicer, Thesaurus, s.v. ἐπιούσιος ). On the other side it is said: Granting that the sense “sufficient” can be got from ἐπὶ , οὐσία , and granting its appropriateness, how comes it that a simpler, better-known word was not chosen to represent so plain a meaning? Early tradition should have an important bearing on the question. Lightfoot, in the appendix on the words ἐπιούσιος and περιούσιος , in his work “On a fresh Revision of the N. T.,” summarises the evidence to this effect: Most of the Greeks follow Origen, who favoured derivation from οὐσία . But Aramaic Christians put for ἐπιούσιος Mahar = crastinum. (Jerome comm. in Mt.) The Curetonian Syriac has words meaning, “our bread continual of the day give us”. The Egyptian versions have similar readings. The old Latin version has quotidianum , retained by Jerome in revision of L. V. in Luke 11:2 , while supersubstantialem is given in Matthew 6:11 . The testimony of these early versions is important in reference to the primitive sense attached to the word. Still the question remains: How account for the coinage of such a word in Greek-speaking circles, and for the tautology: give us to-day ( σήμερον , Mt.) or daily ( τὸ καθʼ ἡμέραν , Luke), the bread of tomorrow? In his valuable study on “The Lord’s Prayer in the early Church” ( Texts and Studies , 1891), Principal Chase has made an important contribution to the solution of this difficulty by the suggestion that the coinage was due to liturgical exigencies in connection with the use of the prayer in the evening . Assuming that the original petition was to the effect: “to us give, of the day, our bread,” and that the Greek equivalent for the day was ἡ ἐπιοῦσα , the adjective ἐπιούσιος was coined to make the prayer suitable at all hours. In the morning it would mean the bread of the day now begun, in the evening the bread of to-morrow. But devotional conservatism, while adopting the new word as convenient, would cling to the original “of the day”; hence σήμερον in Matt. and τὸ καθʼ ἡμέραν in Luke, along with ἐπιούσιος . On the whole the temporal meaning seems to have the weight of the argument on its side. For a full statement of the case on that side vide Lightfoot as above, and on the other the article on ἐπιούσιος in Cremer’s Bib. Theol., W. B., 7te Aufl., 1893.

[37] Septuagint.

[38] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

Verse 12

Matthew 6:12 . Fifth petition . ὀφειλήματα , in classics literal debts, here moral debts, sins ( ἁμαρτίας in Luke 11:4 ). The more men desire God’s will to be done the more conscious they are of shortcoming. The more conscious of personal shortcoming, the more indulgent towards the faults of others even when committed against themselves. Hence the added words: ὡς καὶ ἡ . ἀφήκαμεν , etc. It is natural and comforting to the sincere soul to put the two things together. ὡς must be taken very generally. The prayer proceeds from child-like hearts, not from men trained in the distinctions of theology. The comment appended in Matthew 6:14-15 introduces an element of reflection difficult to reconcile with the spontaneity of the prayer. It is probably imported from another connection, e.g. , Matthew 18:35 (so Weiss-Meyer).

Verse 13

Matthew 6:13 . Sixth petition : consists of two members, one qualifying or limiting the other. μὴ … πειρασμόν , expose us not to moral trial. All trial is of doubtful issue, and may therefore naturally and innocently be shrunk from, even by those who know that the result may be good, confirmation in faith and virtue. The prayer is certainly in a different key from the Beatitude in Matthew 5:10 . There Jesus sets before the disciple a heroic temper as the ideal. But here He does not assume the disciple to have attained. The Lord’s Prayer is not merely for heroes, but for the timid, the inexperienced. The teacher is considerate, and allows time for reaching the heights of heroism on which St. James stood when he wrote (Matthew 1:2 ) πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε , ἀδελφοί μου , ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις . ἀλλὰ , not purely adversative, cancelling previous clause, but confirming it and going further (Schanz, in accordance with original meaning of ἀλλὰ , derived from ἄλλο or ἄλλα , and signifying that what is going to be said is another thing, aliud , in relation to what has been said, Klotz, Devar. ii., p. 2) = Lead us not into temptation, or so lead us that we may be safe from evil: may the issue ever be beneficent. ῥῦσαι ἀπὸ , not ἐκ ; the latter would imply actual implication in, the former implies danger merely. Both occur in N. T. (on the difference cf. Kamphausen, Das G. des H.). τοῦ πονηροῦ , either masculine or neuter, which? Here again there is an elaborate debate on a comparatively unimportant question. The probability is in favour of the masculine, the evil one. The Eastern naturally thought of evil in the concrete. But we as naturally think of it in the abstract; therefore the change from A. V [39] in R. V [40] is unfortunate. It mars the reality of the Lord’s Prayer on Western lips to say, deliver us from the evil one. Observe it is moral evil, not physical, that is deprecated. ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν … Αμήν : a liturgical ending, no part of the original prayer, and tending to turn a religious reality into 2 devotional form.

[39] Authorised Version.

[40] Revised Version.

On Matthew 6:14-15 vide under Matthew 6:12 .

Verse 16

Matthew 6:16 . ὅταν δὲ : transition to a new related topic. σκυθρωποί , of sad visage, overdone of course by the “actors”. Fasting, like prayer, was reduced to a system; twice a week in ordinary Pharisaic practice: Thursday and Monday (ascent and descent of Moses on Sinai), artificial gloom inevitable in such circumstances. In occasional fasting, in circumstances of genuine affliction, the gloom will be real (Luke 24:17 ). ἀφανίζουσιν ὅπως φανῶσιν , a play upon words, may be rendered in English “they disfigure that they may figure”. In German: Unsichtbar machen, sichtbar werden (Schanz and Weiss).

Verses 16-18

Matthew 6:16-18 . Fasting .

Verse 17

Matthew 6:17 . ἄλειψαι , νίψαι : not necessarily as if preparing for a feast (Meyer and Weiss), but performing the usual daily ablutions for comfort and cleanliness, so avoiding parade of fasting by neglect of them (Bleek, Achelis).

The foregoing inculcations of sincerity and reality in religion contribute indirectly to the illustration of the divine name Father, which is here again defined by discriminating use. God as Father desires these qualities in worshippers. All close relations (father, son: husband, wife) demand real affection as distinct from parade.

Verses 19-21

Matthew 6:19-21 . Against hoarding . θησαυροὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς , treasures upon earth, and therefore earthly, material, perishable, of whatever kind. σὴς , moth, destructive of costly garments, one prominent sort of treasure in the East. βρῶσις , not merely “rust,” but a generic term embracing the whole class of agents which eat or consume valuables (so Beza, Fritzsche, Bleek, Meyer, etc.). Erosionem seu corrosionem quamlibet denotat, quum vel vestes a tineis vel vetustate et putredine eroduntur, vel lignum a cossibus et carie, frumentum a curculionibus, quales τρῶγας Graeci vocant, vel metalli ab aerugine, ferrugine, eroduntur et corroduntur (Kypke, Obs. Sac. ). διορύσσουσιν , dig through (clay walls), easier to get in so than through carefully barred doors (again in Matthew 24:43 ). The thief would not find much in such a house.

Verses 19-34

Matthew 6:19-34 . Counsels against covetousness and care (reproduced in Luke 12:22-34 , with exception of Matthew 6:22-23 , which reappear in Luke 11:34-36 ). An interpolation, according to Weiss. Doubtless, if the Sermon on the Mount was exclusively an anti-Pharisaic discourse. But this homily might very well have formed one of the lessons on the hill, in connection with the general theme of the kingdom, which needs to be defined in contrast to worldliness not less than to spurious types of piety.

Verse 20

Matthew 6:20 . θησ . ἐν οὐρανῷ : not = heavenly treasures, says Fritzsche, as that would require τοὺς before ἐν . Grammatically this is correct, yet practically heavenly treasure is meant.

Verse 21

Matthew 6:21 . ὅπου θησ .… ἐκεῖ καρδία . The reflection goes back on the negative counsel in Matthew 6:19 . Do not accumulate earthly treasures, for then your heart will be there, whereas it ought to be in heaven with God and the Kingdom of God.

Verses 22-24

Matthew 6:22-24 . Parable of the eye . A difficult passage; connection obscure, and the evangelic report apparently imperfect. The parallel passage in Luke (Luke 11:33-36 ) gives little help. The figure and its ethical meaning seem to be mixed up, moral attributes ascribed to the physical eye, which with these still gives light to the body . This confusion may be due to the fact that the eye, besides being the organ of vision, is the seat of expression, revealing inward dispositions. Physically the qualities on which vision depends are health and disease. The healthy eye gives light for all bodily functions, walking, working, etc.; the diseased eye more or less fails in this service. If the moral is to be found only in last clause of Matthew 6:23 , all going before being parable, then ἁπλοῦς must mean sound and πονηρὸς diseased, meanings which, if not inadmissible, one yet does not expect to find expressed by these words. They seem to be chosen because of their applicability to the moral sphere, in which they might suitably to the connection mean “liberal” and “niggardly”. ἁπλότης occurs in this sense in Romans 12:8 , and Hatch (Essays in [41] . G., p. 80) has shown that πονηρός occurs several times in Sept [42] (Sirach) in the sense of niggardly, grudging. He accordingly renders: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore thine eye be liberal thy whole body shall be full of light; but if thine eye be grudging, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.” Of course this leaves the difficulty of the mixing of natural and moral untouched. The passage is elliptical, and might be paraphrased thus: The eye is the lamp of the body: when it is healthy we see to do our daily work, when diseased we are in darkness. So with the eye of the soul, the heart, seat of desire: when it is free from covetousness, not anxious to hoard, all goes well with our spiritual functions we choose and act wisely. When sordid passions possess it there is darkness within deeper than that which afflicts the blind man. We mistake the relative value of things, choose the worse, neglect the better, or flatter ourselves that we can have both.

[41] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[42] Septuagint.

Verse 24

Matthew 6:24 . Parable of the two masters . Οὐδεὶς : In the natural sphere it is impossible for a slave to serve two masters, for each claims him as his property, and the slave must respond to one or other of the claims with entire devotion, either from love or from interest. ἢ γὰρ … μισήσει … ἀγαπήσει : We may take this clause as referring to the case of honest preference. A slave has his likes and dislikes like other men. And he will not do things by halves. His preference will take the form of love, and his aversion that of hate. ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται , etc.: this clause may be taken as referring to the case of interest. The slave may not in his heart care for either of the rival masters. But he must seem to care, and the relative power or temper of one as compared to the other, may be the ground of his decision. And having decided, he attaches himself, ἀνθέξεται , to the one, and ostentatiously disregards the other. In ordinary circumstances there would be no room for such a competition of masters. But a case might occur in time of war when the conquered were sold into slavery. οὐ δύνασθε , etc. Application of the parable to God and earthly possessions. μαμωνᾷ , wealth personified = Plutus, a Chaldee, Syriac, and Punic word (“lucrum punice mammon dicitur,” Aug. de S. D.) derived from טָמַן = to conceal or אָמֵן to trust ( vide Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. , p. 1217). The meaning is not, “ye cannot serve God and have riches,” but “ye cannot be faithful to God and make an idol of wealth”. “Non dixit, qui habet divitias, sed qui servit divitiis,” Jerome.

Verse 25

Matthew 6:25 , διὰ τοῦτο : because ye can be unfaithful to God through care as well as through covetousness. μὴ μεριμνᾶτε : μέριμνα from μερίς , μερίζω , because care divides and distracts the mind. The verb is used in N. T. in various constructions and senses; sometimes in a good sense, as in 1 Corinthians 7:32 : “The unmarried care for the things of the Lord,” and Matthew 12:25 in reference to the members of the body having the same care for each other. But the evil sense predominates. What is here deprecated is not work for bread and raiment, but worry, “Labor exercendus est, solicitudo tollenda,” Jerome. οὐχὶ ἡ ψυχὴ … ἐνδύματος : the life not the soul; the natural life is more than meat , and the body more than the clothing which protects it, yet these greater things are given to you already. Can you not trust Him who gave the greater to give the less? But a saying like this, life is more than meat, in the mouth of Jesus is very pregnant. It tends to lift our thoughts above materialism to a lofty conception of man’s chief end. It is more than an argument against care, it is a far-reaching principle to be associated with that other logion a man is better than a sheep (Matthew 12:12 ).

Verses 25-34

Matthew 6:25-34 . Counsels against care . More suitable to the circumstances of the disciples than those against amassing treasures. “Why speak of treasures to us who are not even sure of the necessaries of life? It is for bread and clothing we are in torment” (Lutteroth).

Verse 26

Matthew 6:26 . ἐμβλέψατε εἰς , fix your eyes on, so as to take a good look at (Mark 10:21 ; Mark 14:67 ). τὰ πετεινὰ τ . ου ., the birds whose element is the air; look, not to admire their free, careless movements on the wing, but to note a very relevant fact ὅτι , that without toil they get their food and live. σπείρουσιν , θερίζουσιν , συνάγουσι ε . ἀ .: the usual operations of the husbandman in producing the staff of life. In these the birds have no part, yet your Father feedeth them. The careworn might reply to this: yes; they feed themselves at the farmer’s expense, an additional source of anxiety to him. And the cynic unbeliever in Providence: yes, in summer; but how many perish in winter through want and cold! Jesus, greatest of all optimists, though no shallow or ignorant one, quietly adds: οὐχ ὑμεῖς μᾶλλον διαφέρετε αὐτῶν : do not ye differ considerably from them? They fare, on the whole, well, God’s humble creatures . Why should you fear, men , God’s children ?

Verse 27

Matthew 6:27 . τίς δὲ , etc. The question means: care is as bootless as it is needless. But there is much difference of opinion as to the precise point of the question. Does it mean, who by care can add a cubit to his height, or who can add a short space of time, represented by a cubit, to the length of his life? ἡλικία admits of either sense. It means stature in Luke 19:3 ; age in John 9:21 , Hebrews 11:11 . Most recent commentators favour the latter interpretation, chiefly influenced by the monstrosity of the supposition as referring to stature. Who could call adding a cubit, 1½ feet, to his height a very small matter, the expression of Lk. ( ἐλάχιστον , Matthew 12:26 )? The application of a measure of length to length of days is justified by Psalms 39:5 : “Thou hast made my days as handbreadths”. But Dr. Field strongly protests against the new rendering. Admitting, of course, that ἡλικία is ambiguous, and that in classic authors it oftener means age than stature, he insists that πῆχυς is decisive. “ πῆχυς ,” he remarks (Ot. Nor.), “is not only a measure of length, but that by which a man’s stature was properly measured.” Euthy. on this place remarks: “ καὶ μὴν οὐδὲ σπιθαμήν (half a cubit) οὐδὲ δάκτυλον (a 24th part): λοιπὸν οὖν πῆχυν εἶπε , διότι κυρίως μέτρον τῶν ἡλικιῶν ὁ πῆχύς ἐστι . Thus a short man is τρίπηχυς , a tall man τετράπηχυς .” But how are we to get over the monstrosity of the supposition? Lutteroth helps us here by finding in the question of Jesus a reference to the growth of the human body from infancy to maturity. By that insensible process, accomplished through the aid of food, Gods adds to every human body more than one cubit. “How impossible for you to do what God has done without your thinking of it! And if He fed you during the period of growth, can you not trust Him now when you have ceased to grow?” Such is the thought of Jesus.

Verses 28-30

Matthew 6:28-30 . Lesson from the flowers . καταμάθετε , observe well that ye may learn thoroughly the lesson they teach. Here only in N.T., often in classics. Also in Sept [43] , e.g. , Genesis 24:21 : The man observed her (Rebekah), learning her disposition from her actions. τὰ κρίνα , the lilium Persicum, Emperor’s crown , according to Rosenmüller and Kuinoel; the red anemone, according to Furrer (Zscht. für M. und R.) growing luxuriantly under thorn bushes. All flowers represented by the lily, said Euthy. Zig. long ago, and probably he is right. No need to discover a flower of rare beauty as the subject of remark. Jesus would have said the same thing of the snowdrop, the primrose, the bluebell or the daisy. After ἀγροῦ should come a pause. Consider these flowers! Then, after a few moments’ reflection: πῶς , not interrogative (Fritzsche), but expressive of admiration; vague, doubtful whether the growth is admired as to height (Bengel), rapidity, or rate of multiplication. Why refer to growth at all? Probably with tacit reference to question in Matthew 6:27 . Note the verbs in the plural ( vide critical note) with a neuter nominative. The lilies are viewed individually as living beings, almost as friends, and spoken of with affection (Winer, § 58, 3). The verb αὐξάνω in active voice is transitive in class., intransitive only in later writers. κοπιῶσιν , νήθουσιν : “illud virorum est, qui agrum colunt, hoc mulierum domisedarum” (Rosenmüller). The former verb seems to point to the toil whereby bread is earned, with backward glance at the conditions of human growth; the latter to the lighter work, whereby clothing , the new subject of remark, is prepared.

[43] Septuagint.

Verse 29

Matthew 6:29 . λέγω δὲ : the speaker is conscious He makes a strong statement, but He means it. οὐδὲ , not even Solomon the magnificent, most glorious of the kings of Israel, and on state occasions most gorgeously attired. ἓν τούτων : the lilies are in view, and one of them is singled out to vie with Solomon.

Verse 30

Matthew 6:30 . εἰ δὲ τὸν χόρτον . Application. The beautiful flowers now lose their individuality, and are merged in the generic grass : mere weeds to be cut down and used as fuel. The natural sentiment of love for flowers is sacrificed for the ethical sentiment of love for man, aiming at convincing him of God’s care. κλίβανον (Attic κρίβανος , vide Lobeck, Phryn. , 179), a round pot of earthenware, narrow at top, heated by a fire within, dough spread on the sides; beautiful flowers of yesterday thus used to prepare bread for men! ὀλιγόπιστοι : several times in Gospels, not in classics; not reproachful but encouraging, as if bantering the careworn into faith. The difficulty is to get the careworn to consider these things. They have no eye for wild flowers, no ear for the song of birds. Not so Jesus. He had an intense delight in nature. Witness the sentiment, “Solomon in all his glory,” applied to a wild flower! These golden words are valuable as revealing His genial poetic nature. They reflect also in an interesting way the holiday mood of the hour, up on the hill away from heat, and crowds, and human misery.

Verse 31

Matthew 6:31 . οὖν , goes back on Matthew 6:25 , repeating the counsel, reinforced by intervening argument.

Verses 31-33

Matthew 6:31-33 . Renewed exhortation against care .

Verse 32

Matthew 6:32 . τὰ ἔθνη , again a reference to heathen practice; in Matthew 6:7 to their “battology” in prayer, here to the kind of blessings they eagerly ask ( ἐπιζητοῦσιν ); material only or chiefly; bread, raiment, wealth, etc. I never realised how true the statement of Jesus is till I read the Vedic Hymns , the prayer book and song book of the Indian Aryans. With the exception of a few hymns to Varuna , in which sin is confessed and pardon begged, most hymns, especially those to Indra , contain prayers only for material goods: cows, horses, green pastures, good harvests.

To wifeless men thou givest wives,

And joyful mak’st their joyless lives;

Thou givest sons, courageous, strong,

To guard their aged sires from wrong,

Lands, jewels, horses, herds of kine,

All kinds of wealth are gifts of thine

Thy friend is never slain; his might

Is never worsted in the fight.

Dr. Muir, Sanskrit Texts , vol. v., p. 137.

οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑ .: Disciples must rise above the pagan level, especially as they worship not Indra , but a Father in heaven , believed in even by the Indian Aryans, in a rude way, under the name of Dyaus-Pitar, Heaven-Father. γὰρ explains the difference between pagans and disciples. The disciple has a Father who knows, and never forgets, His children’s needs, and who is so regarded by all who truly believe in Him. Such faith kills care. But such faith is possible only to those who comply with the following injunction.

Matthew 6:33 . ζητεῖτε πρῶτον . There is considerable variation in the text of this counsel. Perhaps the nearest to the original is the reading of [44] , which omits τοῦ θεοῦ with [45] , and inverts the order of βασ . and δικαι . Seek ye His (the Father’s) righteousness and kingdom, though it may be against this that in Luke (Luke 12:31 ) the kingdom only is mentioned, πρῶτον also being omitted: Seek ye His kingdom. This may have been the original form of the logion , all beyond being interpretation, true though unnecessary. Seeking the kingdom means seeking righteousness as the summum bonum , and the πρῶτον is implied in such a quest. Some (Meyer, Sevin, Achelis) think there is no second, not even a subordinate seeking after earthly goods, all that to be left in God’s hands, our sole concern the kingdom. That is indeed the ideal heroic attitude. Yet practically it comes to be a question of first and second, supreme and subordinate, and if the kingdom be indeed first it will keep all else in its proper place. The πρῶτον , like the prayer against temptation, indicates consideration for weakness in the sincere. προστεθήσεται , shall be added , implying that the main object of quest will certainly be secured.

[44] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[45] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

Verse 34

Matthew 6:34 . Final exhortation against care . Not in Luke’s parallel section, therefore regarded by Weiss as a reflection appended by the evangelist, not drawn from apostolic doctrine. But it very fitly winds up the discourse. Instead of saying, Care not about food and raiment, the Teacher now says finally, Care not with reference to to-morrow, εἰς τὴν αὔριον ( ἡμέραν understood). It comes to the same thing. To restrict care to to-day is to master it absolutely. It is the future that breeds anxiety and leads to hoarding. μεριμνήσει : future, with force of an imperative = let it, with genitive ( αὐτῆς , W. H [46] ) like other verbs of care; in Matthew 6:25 , with accus. ἀρκετὸν : a neuter adjective, used as a noun; a sufficiency. τῇ ἡμέρᾳ , for each successive day, the article distributive. ἡ κακία , not the moral evil but the physical, the misery or affliction of life (not classical in this sense). In the words of Chrys. H. xxii., κακίαν φησι , οὐ τὴν πονηρίαν , μὴ γένοιτο , ἀλλὰ τὴν ταλαιπωρίαν , καὶ τὸν πόνον , καὶ τὰς συμφόρας . Every day has some such troubles: “suas afflictiones, quas nihil est necesse metu conduplicare”. Erasmus, Paraph . Fritzsche proposes a peculiar arrangement of the words in the second and third clauses. Putting a full stop after μεριμνήσει , and retaining the τὰ of T.R. before ἑαυτῆς , he brings out this sense: The things of itself are a sufficiency for each day, viz. , the evil thereof.

[46] Westcott and Hort.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 6". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/matthew-6.html. 1897-1910.
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