A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, 22 May 2011
21. Y’all heard that it was said to the men of old, “Do not
whoever murders will be guilty in the judgment.
22. But I myself am saying to you
every one who is enraged toward his brother will
be guilty in the judgment, and
whoever says to his brother, “Raqa,” will be guilty in the sanhedrin, and
whoever says, “Moron,” will be guilty in the hell of fire.
I have changed my mind on a statement I made earlier on what commandments were referred to in v.19. I stated that that the three commandments which Jesus commended on in the rest of the chapter were what were meant by “these commandments,” but now I believe Jesus was speaking about the law more broadly and that He was not just talking about murder, adultery, and bearing false witness, but about the whole body of God’s law, which He called “the law and the prophets” in v. 17. The three laws Jesus comments on in the following verses are certainly included, however. As we will see, Jesus does not loosen up on them. The first command Jesus tackles is murder:
Mat 5:21a ᾿Ηκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις, Οὐ φονεύσεις·
Jesus begins by referring to the authority of God’s 10 Commandments:
o ἐρρέθη - “It was said” comes across in English as though it were “hearsay” or rumor, however, it is a word used in the Greek New Testament exclusively to refer to God delivering a message which was recorded in the Bible as scripture. (Matthew 1:22; 2:15-23; 3:3; 4:14; 5:21-43; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 22:31; 24:15; 27:9,35; Mark 13:14; Romans 9:12,26; Galatians 3:16; Revelation 6:11; 9:4) Most people didn’t have books back in those days, and so the scripture was primarily something they heard in the synagogues rather than read at home (Gill). When Jesus says, “You have heard it said,” He is referring to a statement made by God in the Old Testament.
ἀρχαίοις - “to the
ancients/those of old/
the people long ago” This word means “early” or
“ancient,” and is used in Luke 9 to describe Elijah and the prophets of the Old
Testament, and in Acts 15 it is used in association with Moses. Again, we’re
talking about the writers of scripture who recorded what God said.
o Οὐ φονεύσεις – this is a quote from the 10 Commandments in Ex 20:13 and Deut 5:17, spelled exactly the same way in the Septuagint as it is here.
o Both Hebrew and Greek have different words for “kill” and for “murder” like we do in English. This Greek word phoneuw is not the generic word for “kill” but the specific word for one human being unjustly killing another.
In the New Testament, this command shows up three times, and each time it’s in a summary of the 10 Commandments:
So Jesus starts out quoting the 6th Commandment, then He goes on to say, “…whoever murders will be guilty in the judgment.”
Mat 5:21b ὃς δ᾿ ἂν φονεύσῃ ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει
This second phrase is part of the case law of the Old Testament which showed in detail how to apply the generalities of the 10 Commandments. This phrase Jesus uttered appears to be a summary of a longer passage in Numbers 35: (Note that the (NASB) I’m quoting uses two words alternately, the words “manslayer” and “murderer,” where the Greek O.T. uses the word phoneuw in this passage.)
Numbers 35:9-30 (NASB) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying… select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally may flee there. The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer will not die until he stands before the congregation for trial… 21 if he struck him down with his hand in enmity, and as a result he died, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer… But if he … died, while he was not his enemy nor seeking his injury, then the congregation shall … deliver the manslayer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled… 30 If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses, but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death. (Moses carries this out in Dt 4:41-42– cf Dt 19:9ff, 22:26)
ἔνοχος – in danger of/liable/subject to – Generally used of the whole process of a court holding someone accountable for a crime, finding them guilty, and sentencing them (in most cases) to death:
o Genesis 26:11 Brenton And Abimelech charged all his people, saying “Every man that touches this man and his wife shall be liable to death.”
o Exodus 22:2-3 Brenton And if the thief be found in the breach made by himself and be smitten and die, there shall not be blood shed for him. But if the sun be risen upon him [and the property-owner kills the thief in broad daylight, the property-owner would then be] guilty, he shall die instead; and if a thief have nothing, let him be sold in compensation for what he has stolen.
o Exodus 34:6-7 Brenton And the Lord passed by before his [Moses’] face, and proclaimed, “The Lord God, pitiful and merciful, longsuffering and very compassionate, and true, and keeping justice and mercy for thousands, taking away iniquity, and unrighteousness, and sins; and he will not clear the guilty...” (|| Num. 14:18)
o Leviticus 20:8-27 Brenton “And ye shall observe my ordinances, and do them: I am the Lord that sanctifies you. Every man who shall speak evil of his father or of his mother, let him die the death; has he spoken evil of his father or his mother? he shall be guilty. Whatever man shall commit adultery… let them both die the death, they are guilty. And if any one should lie with his daughter-in-law, let them both be put to death; for they have wrought impiety, they are guilty. And whoever shall lie with a male as with a woman, they have both wrought abomination; let them die the death, they are guilty… And whosoever shall lie with a beast… let them die the death, they are guilty… 27 And as for a man or woman whosoever of them shall have in them a divining spirit, or be an enchanter, let them both die the death: ye shall stone them with stones, they are guilty.”
o Mark 3:29-30 (NASB) “…but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” -- because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
o Matthew 26:65-66 (NASB) Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He [Jesus] has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?" They answered, "He deserves death!" (|| Mk. 14:64)
o 1 Cor. 11:26-27 (NASB) For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
o James 2:10-11 (NASB) For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY," also said, "DO NOT COMMIT MURDER." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
So this principle that we become guilty when we break one of the 10 commandments continues to hold true in the New Testament. And this guilt/liability is “in the judgment/court”
τῇ κρίσει – Krisei can be used as a noun for “justice” or “judging,” but also for a “court.” It is used of human courts of justice as well as of God's final judgment. Traditionally this court was composed of 23 elders, and was also called a Sanhedrin (Adam Clarke). The ESV quoted below alternately uses “lawsuit,” “court,” “justice,” “decision,” and “judgment” where the Greek Old Testament uses this word krisei:
o Exodus 23:3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit*… 6 "You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit*.
o Leviticus 19:15 "You shall do no injustice in court*. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor… 35 "You shall do no wrong in judgment*, in measures of length or weight or quantity.
o Deuteronomy 1:17 You shall not be partial in judgment*. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.'
o Deuteronomy 17:8 If any case arises requiring decision* between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose.
o Proverbs 18:5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice*. (cf. Proverbs 24:23)
o Isaiah 32:7 Brenton For the counsel of the wicked will devise iniquity, to destroy the poor with unjust words, and ruin the cause of the poor in judgment.*
o Jeremiah 4:2 and if you swear, 'As the LORD lives,' in truth, in justice*, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory."
The Final judgment
o Ecclesiastes 11:9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment*.
o Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment*, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
o Malachi 3:5 "Then I will draw near to you for judgment*. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
o Luke 10:14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment* for Tyre & Sidon than for you… Matt. 12:41-42 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment* with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment* with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (|| Luke 11:31-32)
Principles (in different words):
o Genesis 9:6 (NASB) "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.” – note that this is pre-Mosaic law.
o Exodus 21:12 (NASB) "He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.
o Lev. 24:17 (NASB) If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.
1. Human courts of justice were intended by God to uphold His 10 Commandments, and it is this standard which makes nations just or unjust.
2. The death sentence for murder was declared by God to be just. When civil authorities put to death a murderer, it is an appropriate way to honor the value of human life made in the image of God.
3. We must never minimize murder. Abortion, euthanasia, killings by criminal groups, and also careless entry into war must never be minimized. Each is murder and a terrible affront to the God who made those lives. The constant flow of murder reports on the news as well as the many unjust wars we study in history lessons make it easy to grow numb to the evil of murder. We must guard our hearts against callousness when we hear of the millions of children murdered in their mother’s wombs year after year and we must maintain our indignation at the thousands of lives taken in crime year after year. Each soul is precious, whether or not human courts recognize it, and each death is truly a cause for grief.
4. However, according to God’s law, not all killing should result in a death sentence. If you killed someone accidentally, you were not found guilty or put to death, but you had to live in a city of refuge. If you killed a robber who was breaking into your house in the middle of the night, you were not guilty of murder. And if you were fighting in the army to defend your nation, you were not guilty of murder, as long as you were doing God’s will.
5. If you have killed someone – whether on purpose, or accidentally, or in the course of duty, you should submit to your government’s process of justice. Romans 13 tells us that God has put our government in place to serve Him in recognizing on earth what God has declared to be right and wrong in civil matters. “for it [civil authority] is a minister of God to you for good. But… an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection...” (13:4-5 (NASB))
6. The 10 Commandments have continuing moral force. Even in the N.T. we see that we incur Guilt before God for breaking these laws of God.
7. There will be a final judgment where Jesus, as God Himself, will judge every one of us. Whereas our human courts won’t always get it right, Jesus will serve up perfect justice. Are you ready to stand before the judgment seat of Christ?
᾿Εγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν – “And I myself say to you” – Jesus makes a remarkable statement here: He sets himself on a par with God, the one who uttered the 10 Commandments to Moses. “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge” wrote James in his epistle, and that is God, and now the same God who spoke in fire and thunder and earthquake at Mt. Sinai when he gave the law to Moses is standing before mankind in the person of Jesus with the same authority to declare what is right and what is wrong, and He is expanding on the command not to murder. We had better listen attentively; this is no mere man speaking. This is God incarnate speaking to us!
Most Americans don’t realize what a weighty thing it is to dare to say, “God said this, but I say that…” Last week in City Hall, I had a conversation with a K-State professor. I had stated that the city government had no authority to promote what God tells us is evil. With anger in his voice, this professor shook his finger in my face and told me that I had no right to tell him or anybody else what was right or wrong. So I asked him, “How do you decide what is right and what is wrong?” He stopped in his tracks and thought for a minute and came back with a brilliant answer, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” He walked away quickly before I could interact with him on that. I say it was a brilliant answer because it gave the appearance of appealing to the Bible, but in fact, he meant that whatever he wanted done to him was right and whatever he didn’t want done to him was wrong. He was appealing to himself personally as the final authority on ethics.
Let us be ever so careful to walk humbly before God and acknowledge God to be the final authority on what is right and wrong; let us be people who know what the Bible says and weigh what we say by its standard rather than inserting our opinions into what we say.
πᾶς ὁ ὀργιζόμενος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ - So what is it that Jesus adds to the law? He says that everyone who hates his brother is also guilty. He says that hatred will get the same punishment as murder!
o ὁ ὀργιζόμενος – “one who is angry”
o Examples of sinful anger
§ Neh. 4:1 – Sanballat and Tobias, the Samaritans, did not want Nehemiah and the Jews to gain dominion over Jerusalem, so they got angry.
§ Esther1:12 – The Persian King Ahasuerus got angry with Queen Vashti for not making an appearance at his drunken party.
§ Job 32:2 – Elihu, Job’s youngest “friend” gets angry at Job and the three other older men because they don’t see things his way.
§ Psalm 112:10 – the wicked will see the righteous be exalted in honor and will be angry
§ Luke 15:28 – the elder brother of the prodigal son was angry that his dad threw a party to welcome the prodigal son home
§ Rev. 12:17 - Satan, who hates God’s people is angry at the church and tries to hurt her
o However, the vast majority of the occurrences of this word in the Greek translation of the O.T. are to describe God’s feelings toward people who have disobeyed Him.
o Anger is moral outrage at the breaking of God’s laws. When you take the place of God and become outraged at someone for violating what you think they ought to do, you are guilty of murder. Only God can be just in becoming angry at a human for violating what He thinks we ought to do because only God has the authority to tell us what we ought to do. The only time when anger is righteous is when we are outraged at someone dishonoring God and share purely in the feeling God has toward that person. What does that look like?
o Examples of how to hate:
§ Matthew 18:32-34 (NASB) …his [master] said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And his [master was] moved with anger…
§ Matthew 22:2-7 (NASB) The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."' But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. (cf. Luke 14:16-21)
§ Mark 3:5 (NASB) After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
§ Eph. 4:26 – “Be angry and sin not” (quoting Psalm 4:4)
o This says “whoever hates his brother” – well, that’s a good thing. I’ve only got one brother: his name is Ben, and he lives in Northern Indiana, and we had a great relationship; I only fought with him a half a dozen times when we were growing up. So I’m o.k., right? Nope! Even those half a dozen fights with my little brother make me guilty before God, and when the Bible speaks of our brother, it’s generally speaking of any fellow human being.
o πᾶς – No one will get away with anything in God’s court. It says “Every one/anyone/ whoever” is angry. That means every one of us who has ever been angry with anybody is in trouble, and that means we are all guilty before God!
o This, by the way, is not an essential change in the law. Jesus already said a few verses earlier that He did not come to do away with or loosen up on the law. The law of Moses already called men to love their neighbor as themselves rather than hate (Lev. 19:17-18 “You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.”). “Jesus is emphasizing one central lesson, namely, that the root of evil lies in the heart, where love must be substituted for hatred and indifference…” (Wm. Hendriksen)
δ᾿ ἂν εἴπῃ
ὃς δ᾿ ἂν εἴπῃ μωρέ, ἔνοχος ἔσται εἰς τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός
“whoever says to his brother ‘Raqa’
will be guilty before the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says ‘Moron,’ will be guilty of the Gehena of fire”
o “Racca” is a Hebrew/Aramaic insult that means “good for nothing” or empty-headed.
o “More” is a Greek insult that means “below avg. intelligence” “dimwitted” or “fool.”
o The idea is that anyone who speaks insultingly and demeaningly of another human soul is demonstrating hatred and is as guilty before God as a murderer. (If you can’t say “Amen,” say “Ouch!”)
In the Old Testament, several people are called Racca – or the plural form Raqim. In some cases, it is a good call:
o We can also see how this plays out in the use of the word “fool/moron.” Sometimes it was a good call when people were foolishly disobeying God. Sometimes godly leaders used this insult to wake people up to the foolishness of their rebellion against God:
o Moses called the Israelites “morons” in Deut 32:6 when they “acted corruptly against God,” and so did Jeremiah in 5:21, because “they had forsaken God and pursued foreign gods”
o Isaiah called the Egyptians “morons” in 19:11 because they followed idols and the wisdom of men.
Jesus called people “morons” in the N.T.:
Matt. 23:17 (NASB) “You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?”
Matt. 25:2 Five of the bridesmaids He called wise, and 5 of them He called foolish.
And Paul taught his disciples to identify moronic
conversations and avoid them:
2Tim. 2:23 (NASB) But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
Titus 3:9 (NASB) But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
o But we must be careful not to call people foolish out of personal hatred for them.
ἔνοχος ἔσται τῷ συνεδρίῳ… ἔνοχος ἔσται εἰς τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός
Notice the three courts mentioned by Jesus
Is there a progression intended? Bible scholars have conflicting opinions on the matter. I am of the opinion that no progression is intended.
The Greek word used in the second phrase is transliterated in the NIV “Sanhedrin”
o this Greek word has two components “syn” = “together” and “hedrin” = “those who sit. The idea is that these are the elders who “sit together” in the city gate and judge cases which are brought before them.
o Most of the times this word occurs in the N.T. it is speaking of the court of 72 elders in Jerusalem that tried Jesus and Paul and Steven, etc.
o However, on two other occasions, Jesus seems to use the word in a generic sense to indicate seats of justice in many towns (Mar 13:9 "But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts [sunhedria], and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. || Matt. 10:17).
o In that case, I think that the krisis judgment court and synhedrin court could be synonymous.
The Greek words used in the third phrase are literally “the Gehenna of fire.”
o “Gehenna” is the Hebrew name for a valley near Jerusalem where idolatrous Israelites burned their children as human sacrifices to false gods. (2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31-32; 19:2-6; 32:35)
o After King Josiah formally desecrated it to discourage further idolatry, Gehenna “became the common refuse-place of the city, into which the bodies of criminals, carcasses of animals, and all sorts of filth were cast.
o From its depth and narrowness, and its fire and ascending smoke, it became the symbol of the place of the future punishment of the wicked.” (Vincent). Jesus (and on one occasion James) used it as a vivid picture of hell Mat 10:28 "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].” (Matt. 5:22-30; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43-47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6)
In the last case, it is clearly speaking of guilt in God’s court of justice, since no human court has control of the fires of hell. While human courts might well recognize the problem of people becoming angry and saying mean things, I believe Jesus is saying that ultimately God will find all of us guilty and unworthy of heaven in His court of justice, not only if we have committed murder but also if we have hated or insulted someone.
 Some Bible scholars instead take this to mean the apostate forefathers of the Jews of Jesus’ time who only applied this law to actual first-hand murder cases and did not condemn as murderers those who had paid off hit men to do the murder for them. This is certainly an abusive way to interpret the law of God. However, I don’t see this interpretation fitting with the Biblical use of these phrases.
 Adam Clark has an interesting counterpoint that an accusation of being a fool was tantamount to accusing a person of being an unbeliever, apostate, and thus to be treated as a Gentile. If the charge held up in court, the person might be indeed cast into the valley of Hinnom to be burned with the unclean trash, so Clark suggests that this turns the same judgment upon the accuser in the case of a false accusation.