Verses 38-42

VERSES 38-42:


VERSE 38:  “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”

You have heard that it hath been said”|
Literally:  “You have heard that it was said.”
Jesus proceeds to enforce such meekness    and love on those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake (which He pursues to the end of the chapter) as were utterly unknown to the scribes and Pharisees.  In the law, as a    direction to judges, in ease of violent and barbarous assaults. He refers here to the Law of Retaliation (Exodus 21:23-25).

“an eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth”–The quotation is from Exodus. 21:24; Deut. 19:21; Lev. 24:20. Like divorce this jus talionis is a restriction upon unrestrained vengeance.It limited revenge by fixing an exact compensation for an injury” (McNeile). A money payment is allowed in the Mishna.  The Law of Retaliation exists in Arabia today.

         Jesus is citing the oldest law in the world.  This law, known as the Lex Talionis, and it may be known as the Law of Tit for TatIt appears in the earliest known code of laws, the Code of Hammurabi, who reigned in Babylon from 2282-2242 BC.  This law eventually became part of the ethic of the O.T. and it appears in the Torah (Pentateuch) no fewer than 3 times (Exodus 213-25; Lev . 24-19-20; Deut. 19:21).
          In these places it was given as a rule to regulate the decisions of
judges. They were to take eye-for-eye, and tooth-for-tooth, and to inflict burning-for-a-burning. As a judicial rule it is not unjust. Jesus finds no fault with the rule as applied to magistrates, and does not take upon Himself to repeal it. But, instead of confining it to magistrates, the Jews had extended it to private conduct, and made it the rule by which to take revenge. They considered themselves justified by this rule, to inflict the same injury on others that they had received.

         This Law of Retribution was originally intended to take vengeance out of the hands of private persons, and commit it to the magistrate; but it was abused and was used in the opposite way as it was intended in the commandments of the Decalogue (the TORAH). While they were reduced to the level of civil enactments, this judicial regulation was held to be a warrant for taking redress into their own hands, contrary to the injunctions of the O.T. itself (Prov. 20:22; 24:29).
          The Greeks and Romans had the same law.  So strictly was it attended to at Athens, that if a man put out the eye of another who had but one, the offender was condemned to lose both his eyes, as the loss of one would not be an equivalent misfortune. It seems that the Jews had made this law (the execution of which belonged to the civil magistrate) a ground for authorizing private resentments, and all the excesses committed by a vindictive spirit. Revenge was often carried to the utmost extremity, and more evil returned than what had been received.
         Jesus finds no fault with the rule as applied to magistrates, and does not take upon Himself to repeal it. But, instead of confining it to magistrates, the Jews had extended it to private conduct, and made it the rule by which to take revenge. They considered themselves justified by this rule to inflict the same injury on others that they had received. Against this, Jesus argues. He declares that the law had no reference to private revenge and that it was given only to regulate the magistrate; and that their private conduct was to be regulated by different principles.

“But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

“resist not evil”
Literally:  “Do not resist the malicious (one; person).”Some Greek scholars disagree as   to whether this should be rendered as, “resist not the evil person”–that it should say “resist  not the evil deed.  This latter rendering seems more plausible.

                        RESIST:  (Grk.–antistênai)–This Greek word signifies standing in battle array;” or “striving for victory.’

         The general principle which Jesus laid down was that we are not to resist evil; that is, as it is in the Greek, not to set ourselves against an evil person who is injuring us. But even this general direction is not to be pressed too strictly. Jesus did not intend to teach that we are to see our families murdered, or to be murdered ourselves, rather than to make resistance. The law of nature, and all laws, human and Divine, have justified self-defense, when life is in danger. It cannot surely be the intention to teach that a father should sit by coolly, and see his family butchered by savages, and not be allowed to defend them.
         Neither natural nor revealed religion ever did, or ever can, teach this doctrine.
Jesus immediately explains what He means by it. Had He intended to refer it to a case where life is in danger, He would most surely have made that clear. Such a case was far more worthy of statement than those which He does mention. A doctrine so unusual, so unlike all that the world had believed, and that the best men had acted on, deserved to be formally stated. Instead of doing this, however, He confines Himself to smaller matters; to things of comparatively trivial interest, and He says that in these we had better take wrong than to enter into strife and lawsuits. The first case is where we are smitten on the cheek.

“smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”
Literally:  “But whoever strikes you on the right cheek of you, turn to him also the other.”  That is, rather than avenge thyself, be ready to suffer patiently a repetition of the    same injury.

          But these exhortations belong to those principally who are persecuted for righteousness' sake (don’t forget that Jesus is speaking of that time immediately preceding the setting up of the Kingdom.  Let such leave the judgment of their cause to Him for whose sake they are suffering.  The Jews always thought that every outrage should be resented; and thus the spirit of hatred and strife was fostered.
          Rather than contend and fight, we should take it patiently, and turn the other cheek. This does not, however, prevent our arguing firmly, yet mildly, on the injustice of the thing, and insisting that justice should be done us, as is evident from the example of that Jesus Himself (see John 18:23).
          The second evil mentioned is, where a man is litigious, and determined to take all the advantage the law can give him; following us with vexatious and expensive lawsuits. Jesus directs us that to imitate Him–rather than to contend with a revengeful spirit in courts of justice, and to perpetual broils–so take a trifling injury, and yield to him. This is merely a question about property, and not about conscience and life.


“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also”

“If any man will sue thee at the law”
Literally:  “And to him wishing to sue you.”–The one who is about to sue you.  This seems to be a reiteration of, or even an expansion of verses 23-25.         

            “thy coat … thy cloke also”
            Literally: “Your tunic…also the coat.”

            COAT:  (Grk.–chitōna)–Jesus here is referring to the “tunic” this (Grk.–chitōna)or as we would say in English, chiton, is really a sack-like inner or undergarment and would be demanded at law.

This is the inner garment; in pledge for a debt (Ex 22:26,27).  This might correspond with our expression, “to lose your shirt.”. A robber would seize first the outer garment or cloak (one coat). If one loses the undergarment at law, the outer one goes also (the more valuable one).

           “let him have thy cloak also”|
            Literally:  “Allow him also{to have}the coat.”        

           CLOAK:  (Grk.–himation)–The outer and more costly garment, made of cotton or linen. This was the outer garment, and  the covering at night.

This overcoat was not allowed to be retained over night as a pledge from the poor because they used it for a bed covering. It could not be held by a creditor (Exodus 22:26-27). Better to give it up, too, than to engage in litigation. Many a poor soul has realized this when it was too late, and the lawyers had divided his property. Jesus is simply saying, avoid lawsuits.

“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”

“compel thee to go one mile”
Literally:  “Will compel you to go one mile.” 

      COMPEL:  (Grk.–angareusei)–This word is said to be derived from the Persians, among whom the king's messengers, or posts, were called angapoi, or angari

          The Persian messengers had the royal authority for pressing horses, ships, and even men, to assist them in the business on which they were employed.  These angari are now termed chappars, and serve to carry dispatches between the court and the provinces. When a chappar sets out, the master of the horse furnishes him with a single horse; and, when that is weary, he dismounts the first man he meets, and takes his horse.  There is no pardon for a traveler that refuses to let a chappar have his horse, nor for any other who should deny him the best horse in his stable.
          Eventually, the word came to mean any kind of forced impressment into the service of the occupying power.  Sometimes the occupying power (in the case of the Jews—the Romans) exercised this right of compulsion in the most tyrannical way.  At any moment a Jew might feel the touch on his shoulder of a Roman spear (pilum) and be compelled to serve the Romans, and it might be in the most menial way.  This is what happened to Simon of Cyrene when he was compelled  (angareusei),  by the Roman soldiers to carry the cross of Jesus’.
          What Jesus is saying here is, “Don’t be always thinking of your own liberty or rights to do as you like; be always thinking of your duty and your privilege to be of service to others.  When a task is laid on you, even if the task is unreasonable and hateful, don’t do it as a grim duty to be resented; rather, do it as a service to be rendered.”

MILE:  (Grk.–milion)–A Roman mile was a thousand paces (Latin: millia passus), or about 1680 yards or 5040 feet..

“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

“Give to him that asketh thee”
Literally: “The {one} asking you to give.”–Palestine swarmed with blind, lepers, and maimed, who were dependent on charity. The sense of unreasonable asking is implied here (compare Luke 6:30).

          To give and lend freely to all who are in need, is a general precept from which we are only excused by our inability to perform it.  Men are more or less obliged to it as they are more or less able, as the want is more or less pressing, as they are more or less burdened with common poor or with relatives who are always asking for something.  In all these matters, both prudence and charity must be consulted.  That God, who makes use of the beggar's hand to ask our charity, is the same from whom we ourselves beg our daily bread: and dare we refuse HIM!  Let us show at least mildness and compassion when we can do no more; and if we cannot or will not relieve a poor man, let us never give him an ill word nor an ill look.  If we do not relieve him, we have no right to insult him.
          This is the general rule.  It is better to give sometimes to an undeserving person than to turn away one who is truly in need. It is good to be in the habit of giving. At the same time, the rule must be interpreted so as to be consistent with our duty to our families, (I Tim. 5:8) and with other objects of justice and charity. It is seldom, perhaps never, good to give charityto a man who is able to work, (II Thess. 3:10). To give to such an one is to encourage laziness, and to support the idle at the expense of the industrious. (Does this sound familiar)If such a man is indeed hungry, feed him; if he wants anything farther, give him employment What a novel idea!  If a widow, an orphan, a man of misfortune, or a man infirm, lame, or sick, is at your door, never send them away empty (see Matt. 25:35-45; Heb. 13:2).
          Regarding a poor and needy friend who wishes to borrow. We are not to turn away, or deny him. This deserves, however, some limitation.  It must be done in consistency with other duties. To lend to every worthless man would be to throw away our property, encourage laziness and crime, and ruin our families. It must be done consistently, and of this every man is to be the judge. Perhaps Jesus meant to teach that where there was a deserving friend or brother in want, we should lend to him, without usury, and without standing much about the security.

A loan is often more beneficial than an absolute gift for these reasons:
1.         Because it flatters less the vanity of him who lends;
2.         It spares more the shame of him who is in real want; and,
3.      It gives less encouragement to the idleness of him who may not be very honest.
However, no advantage should be taken of the necessities of the borrower: he who does so is, at least, half a murderer.  The lending which Jesus here instils is that which requires no more than the restoration of the principal in a convenient time; otherwise, to live upon trust is the sure way to pay double.

“turn not away”
Literally:  “do not turn away”–Here is a graphic expression of unfeeling refusal to relieve a brother truly in need.  Jesus does not bid to give to everyone, not to loan to everyone, for this would not be a blessing, but to have a spirit that will be ready to do so whenever it is right.

 “This is one of the clearest instances of the necessity of accepting the spirit and not the letter of the Lord's commands (see vv.  32, 34, 38). Not only does indiscriminate almsgiving do little but injury to society, but the words must embrace far more than almsgiving” (McNeile).

Recall again that Jesus is a popular teacher and expects men to understand His paradoxes. In the organized charities of modern life we are in danger of letting the milk of human kindness dry up.