“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca' shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
“But I say unto you”
Literally: “But I say to you”–Thus assumes a tone of superiority over the Mosaic regulations and proves it in each of the six examples. Jesus being God as well as man (John 1:1, 14), and therefore, being the original Giver of the Law, had a right to expound it or change it as He pleased
Which of the prophets ever spoke in such a manner? Their language is, “Thus saith the Lord.” Who has the authority to use this language when speaking of the Law, but the One Who is the Lawgiver, Who is able to save and to destroy.
Jesus spoke here and elsewhere as One having authority, and not as the scribes. It may be added here, that no mere man ever spoke as Jesus did, when explaining or enforcing the Law. He did it as having a right to do it; and He that has a right to ordain and change laws in the government of God must be Himself Divine. The prophets would say, “Thus saith the Lord;” here is the Lord Himself saying it!
“whosoever is angry with his brother without cause”
Literally: “Who is angry with the brother of him without lightly.”
WITHOUT CAUSE: (Grk.-–eikê)—Better translated as “vainly, lightly” or even as “vainly incensed.” This phrase is really not in the original Greek text.
What Jesus seems to prohibit here is not merely that miserable facility which some have of being angry at every trifle, continually taking offence against their best friends; but that anger which leads a man to commit outrages against another, thereby subjecting himself to that punishment which is to be inflicted on those who break the peace.
Jesus goes back of the murderous act, and forbids the anger and the reproachful words that precede the act of murder, and are which likely to lead to it. He places a murderous heart on the same level as an actual murder. He forbade for ever the anger which broods, which aa man will not forget; the anger which refuses to be pacified, the anger which seeks revenge. Anger in a man’s heart, and anger in as man’s speech are equally forbidden by Jesus.
“shall be in danger of the judgment”
Literally: “Shall be liable to the Judgment.”–Again, this would mean judgment by the council during the Great Tribulation, or in the Millennial Kingdom, or even by Christ Himself during the Millennial Kingdom.
“say to his brother, ‘Raca,’”
Literally: “whoever3 says to this brother, ‘Raca.’”–“Brother” here seems to mean a neighbor, or perhaps any one with whom we may be associated. As all men are descended from one Father, and are all the creatures of the same God, so they are all brethren; and so every man should be regarded and treated as a brother.
RACA: (Grk.–raka)–This is probably an Aramaic word that means, “empty;” that is, “oh empty one.”
This was a frequent word for contempt; an epithet meaning “empty head,” or “spit out,” that is, a heretic. “Raca” comes from a verb signifying to be empty, vain; and hence, as a word of contempt, denotes senseless, stupid, shallow-brains. To call a man Raca was to call him a brainless idiot, a silly fool, and empty-headed blunderer. It is the word of one who despises another with an arrogant contempt; the sin of contempt.
Jesus teaches here that to even use such words violates the Sixth Commandment. It is a violation of the spirit of that commandment, and if indulged, may lead to a more open and dreadful infraction of that law. Children should learn that to use such words is highly offensive to God, for we must give an account of every idle word which we speak in the Day of Judgment.
“in danger of the council”
Literally: “Shall be liable to the Sanhedrin.”–The word translated “council” is literally, in the Greek, (sanhedrin), and there can be no doubt that he refers to the Jewish tribunal of that name.
The sanhedrin was instituted in the time of the Maccabees, probably about 200 years before Christ. It was composed of seventy-two judges; the high priest was the president of this tribunal. The seventy-one members were made up of the chief priests and elders of the people, and the scribes. The chief priests were such as had discharged the office of the high priest, and those who were the heads of the twenty-four classes of priests, who were called in an honorary way high or chief priests. This tribunal had cognizance of the great affairs of the nation.
SEATING OF THE SANHEDRIN
The elders were the princes of the tribes, or heads of the family associations. It is not to be supposed that all the elders had a right to a seat here, but such only as were elected to the office. The scribes were learned men of the nation, elected to this tribunal, being neither of the rank of priests nor elders. Till the time when Judea was subjected to the Romans, it had the power of life and death. In the time of Jesus it still retained the power of passing sentence, though the Roman magistrate held the right of execution. It usually sat in Jerusalem in a room near the temple. It was before this tribunal that Jesus was tried; hoswever, it was then assembled in the palace of the high priest (Matt. 26:3-57; John 18:24).
The sin of contempt is liable to an even severer judgment than mere anger. It is liable to the judgment of the Sanhedrin; the supreme court of the Jews. It is as if Jesus had said, “The sin of inveterate anger is bad; the sin of contempt is worse.”
“whosoever shall say, Thou fool”
Literally: “Who ever says, ‘fool’”–Then Jesus goes on to speak of the man who calls his brother a “fool.”
FOOL: (Gr.–môros)–The root from which we get our word “moron.” Shall revile, or seriously reproach any man. This is a term that expresses more than lack of wisdom. It was expressive of the highest guilt.
Jesus has specified three degrees of murder, each liable to a harsher punishment than the other. HereJ esus refers to the highest of contempt. This word had been commonly used to denote those who were idolaters, (Deut. 22:21) and also one who is guilty of great crimes, (Josua 7:15; Psa. 14:1). F.F. Bruce says this of the words raca and fool–Raca expresses contempt for a man's head (i.e., you stupid idiot)!
“Fool” expresses contempt for his heart and character (i.e., you scoundrel). Such a man was a moral fool, a man who lived an immoral life, and who in wishful thinking said there was no God. To call a man a môros was not just to criticize his mental ability; it was to cast aspersions on his moral character; to take his name and reputation from him, and to brand him as a loose-living and immoral person. Some have interpreted this as meaning, “thou graceless fool” and equate this expression with our English expression of damning a person to God.
“shall be in danger of hell fire”
Literally: “shall be liable to the hell of fire”–Jesus says that he who destroys his brother’s name and reputaion is liable to the severest judgment of all, the judgment of the fire of Gehenna. Literally: “the Gehenna of fire.”
Gehenna is the Valley of Hinnom where the fire burned continually. Here idolatrous Jews once offered their children to Molech (II Kings 23:10). Jesus finds one cause of murder to be abusive language. Gehenna “should be carefully distinguished from Hades which is never used for the place of punishment, but for the place of departed spirits, without reference to their moral condition” (Vincent).
In their pagan worship the ancient Jewish writers inform us that the idol of Moloch was of brass, adorned with a royal crown, having the head of a calf, and his arms extended, as if to embrace any one. When they offered children to him, they heated the statue within by a great fire; and when it was burning hot, they put the miserable child into his arms, where it was soon consumed by the heat; and, in order that the cries of the child might not be heard, they made a great noise with drums and other instruments about the idol. These drums were called Toph; and hence a common name of the place was TOPHET (Jer. 7:31-32).
After the return of the Jews from the Babylon captivity, this place was held in such abhorrence, that, by the example of Josiah, (II Kings 23:10) it was made the place where to throw all the dead carcasses and filth of the city; and was frequently the place of executions. It became, therefore, extremely offensive; the sight was terrific; the air was polluted and pestilential; and to preserve it in any manner pure, it was necessary to keep fires continually burning there. The extreme loathsomeness of the place; the filth and putrefaction; the corruption of the atmosphere, and the lurid fires blazing by day and by night, made it one of the most appalling and terrific objects with which a Jew was acquainted. It was called the Gehenna of Fire; and was the image which Jesus often employed to denote the future punishment of the wicked.
This may even be what Jesus had in mind in His Parable of the Net (or Dragnet—Matt. 13:47-50) in which He says, “…the angels shall come forthy, ad sever the wicked from the righteous, and shall cast them in the furnace of fire.” This would certain fit into the dispensational setting of this Sermon on the Mount. In this verse Gehenna denotes a degree of suffering higher than the punishment inflicted by the court of seventy, or the Sanhedrin; and the whole verse may therefore mean,
“He that hates his brother is guilty of a violation of the sixth commandment, and shall be punished with a severity similar to that inflicted by the court of judgment. He that shall suffer his passions to transport him to still greater extravagances, and shall make him an object of derision and contempt, shall be exposed to still severer punishment, corresponding to that which the Sanhedrin, or council, inflicts. But he who shall load his brother with odious names and abusive language, shall incur the severest degree of punishment, represented by being burnt alive in the horrid and awful valley of Hinnom.”
The Jews considered only one crime a violation of the sixth commandment, that is, the actual murder, or willful, unlawful, taking life. Jesus says that the commandment is much broader. It relates not only to the external act, but to the feelings and words. So Jesus insists that the gravest thing of all is to destroy a man’s reputation and take his good name away. No punishment is too severe for the malicious tale-bearer, or the gossip which murders people’s reputations. Such conduct, in the most literal sense, is a hell-deserving sin. The man who is the slave of anger, the man who speaks in the accent of contempt of contempt, the man who destroys another’s good name, may never commit murder in action, but he is a murderer at heart.
ANGER AND WORSHIP
VERSES 23-24: THESE VERSES GO TOGETHER TO EXPRESS A COMPLETE THOUGHT.
“Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee”
The greatest of all Jewish days was the Day of Atonement, (Yom Kippur) when the sacrifices were held to atone for the sins, known and unknown, but even this day had its limitations. The Talmud says, “The Day of Atonement does atone for the offences between man and God. The Day of Atonement does not atone for the offences between a man and his neighbor, unless the man has first put things right with his neighbor.” Here again is the lesson that Jesus is trying to get across to the people: A man cannot be right with God unless he is right with his fellowmen.
“if thou bring thy gift to the altar”
Literally: “if then you offer your gift on the altar”–This is a verse that it constantly taken out of its context by Christian preachers; out of both its literal context and its dispensational context.
The literal setting is that of the temple. An altar is a place for sacrifice; literally speaking, this cannot be for the church, or for Christians, since we do not have a sacrifices. Christ is our sacrifice, once and for all (Heb. 9:28)—“So Christ was once (literally: “once for all—past-perfect tense; past action, never to be repeated), to bear the sins for many…”
The Pharisees were intent only on the external act in worship. They did not at all look to the internal acts of the mind. If a man conformed to the external rites of religion, however much envy, and malice, and secret hatred he might have, they thought he was doing well.
THY GIFT: (Grk.–to dôron)–Jesus is telling these Jews, what you are about to devote to God as an offering.on the altar. The altar was situated in front of the temple, and was the place on which sacrifices were made. To bring a gift to the altar, was expressive of worshipping God, for this was the way in which He was formerly worshipped.
“rememberest that brother hath ought against thee”
Literally: “Remember that your brother has a thing against you.”
THY BROTHER: (Grk.–adelphos sou)–Any man, especially any fellow-worshipper.
“hath ought against thee”
Literally: “Has a thing against you.”– Is offended, or thinks he has been injured by you in any manner:
Has anything to charge you with or any just ground of complaint against you. If you have done him any injury, or given him any offence: particularly, if he had at any time said Raca to him, or called him "fool" for those words have reference to what goes before
“Our Lord was speaking to Jews as such, and paints, therefore, as it were, a scene in the Jewish Temple. The worshipper is about to offer a “gift” (the most generic term seems intentionally used to represent any kind of offering), and stands at the altar with the priest waiting to do his work. That is the right time for recollection and self-scrutiny. The worshipper is to ask himself, not whether he has a ground of complaint against any one, but whether any one has cause of complaint against him. This, and not the other, is the right question at such a moment—has he injured his neighbour by act, or spoken bitter words of him?”–Ellicott’s Commentary
“Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
“leave there thy gift”
Literally: “Leave your gift there.”–This springs immediately out of the modification of the Law, “Thou shalt not kill,” which required that there should be no anger with a brother.
If a man is about to offer a gift on the altar, and the remembrance comes that a brother has a grievance against him, then he are to leave the gift go and make it right with him. Then he may offer his gift. He is not to wait till the offended brother comes to him; rather, he is to go and seek the offended one out, and be reconciled to him. So now, the worship of God will not be acceptable, however well performed externally, until he is at peace with the one who is grieved. This shows that one guilty of wrongs to his fellowman cannot offer acceptable worship of God. Again, keep in mind that Jesus is speaking of this under the Jewish economy; under the Law of Moses. CHRISTIAN: Please REMEMBER–You are under grace; NOTunder the Law of Moses.
“before the altar”–To bring a gift to the altar, was expressive of worshipping God, for this was the way in which He was formerly worshipped.
This is as much as to say, “Do not attempt to bring any offering to God while you are in a spirit of enmity against any person; or have any difference with your neighbor, which you have not used diligence to get adjusted.”
“go thy way”
Literally: “And go.–He was not to wait till the offended brother should come to him; he was to go and seek him out, and be reconciled.
So now, the worship of God will not be acceptable, however well performed externally, until we are at peace with those that we have injured. He that comes to worship his Creator filled with malice, and hatred, and envy, and at war with his brethren, is a hypocritical worshipper, and must meet with God's displeasure. God is not deceived; and he will not be mocked.
“first be reconciled”–If about to offer a gift on the altar, and the remembrance comes that a brother has ought against you, leave the gift, go and make it right with him, and then offer you gift.
This shows that one guilty of wrongs to his fellowman cannot offer acceptable worship of God. This is the way it was to have been under the Law if Jesus had been accepted as their King; and may be how it is to be in the Millennial Kingdom. Basically, Law of Moses. is telling these Jews that they cannot be right with God until they are right with men; that they cannot hope for forgiveness until they have confessed their sins, not only to God, but also to men, and until they have done their best to remove the practical consequences of it.
Someone has said that the greatest threat to Jews were themselves—their own disunity and fighting among themselves. I once had a Messianic Jewish preacher (a “completed Jew” as he called himself, for he said that a Jew without his Messiah is incomplete) tell me that if you got four Jews together you would have five opinions. This man had once been an ultra-orthodox rabbi in the Warsaw Ghetto, and had spent 6 years in the Treblenka Concentration Camp during WW-II. His wife had been in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.