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Go to Bible: Matthew 19
|Mat 19:1||- (top)|
|Mat 19:2||- (top)|
“testing him.” This record in Matthew 19:3-9 is the same event as is recorded in Mark 10:2-12, which includes different details than the Matthew record . However, this event is different than Jesus’ teaching at the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:32), and when he spoke directly to the Pharisees about divorce (Luke 16:14-18).
The short phrase, “tempting him,” reveals the heart of the Pharisees in this situation. Their question about marriage and divorce was a genuine one and hotly debated in the culture of the day. However, they were not being genuine in asking it. They had no intention of changing what they believed based on Jesus’ answer to their question. In that light, we can see that the real reason they asked the question was to discredit Jesus. They were supporters of the school of Hillel and champions of “easy divorce,” which was popular in their culture just as it is in ours today. It is likely that they thought that Jesus would not support easy divorce (a correct conclusion) and that by making that fact public they could take away part of his popular support and possibly even sow division among his followers. Thus God calls their question a “temptation.” Jesus was tempted, as all ministers are, to avoid “hot topics” that may cause division in the Church. As we see from Jesus’ answer, he was more interested in pleasing God and telling the truth than he was in pleasing people—something we should all emulate.
“for any reason at all.” The Pharisees were asking Jesus a technical question about the Law: they were asking him how he would interpret Deuteronomy 24:1, which is about divorce. At the time of Christ, the Jews differed in their interpretations of Deuteronomy 24:1, which allowed for a man to divorce his wife if he found something “shameful” or “improper” in her. The problem is that the wording of Deuteronomy 24:1 in the Hebrew text is unclear. The relevant Hebrew word is `ervah (#06172 עֶרְוָה), translated “some uncleanness” in the KJV; the man could divorce his wife if he found “some uncleanness” in her. `Ervah has a rather wide range of meanings and interpretations including nakedness, pudenda, shame, shameful exposure, indecency, and improper behavior.
Many rabbis, particularly those of the school of Hillel, believed that Deuteronomy was saying that a man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever; he just had to find something indecent, improper, or displeasing in her. The rabbis of the school of Hillel thought `ervah could not just be referring to sexual immorality because the woman was married. That would mean that any “sexual immorality” would almost always be adultery, and adultery was punishable by death, not divorce. The teaching of Hillel was very popular at the time of Christ and many men were divorcing their wives on all kinds of pretexts just because they found another woman they liked better.
In contrast to the school of Hillel, rabbis in the school of Shammai taught that Deuteronomy 24:1 was speaking of sexual sin. They pointed out that a man did not have to have his wife stoned for adultery. He could have her stoned, but he could also just divorce her, just as Joseph was going to divorce Mary when she was found to be pregnant before they had come together sexually. Since the debate on the meaning of Deuteronomy 24:1 was a “hot topic” at the time of Christ, the Pharisees came to Christ and tempted him by asking for his opinion.
It is the social context of the time and the Pharisees’ specific question that sheds light on Jesus’ answer about divorce in Matthew 19:9, an answer that has been mistranslated in most English versions and misunderstood by most Christians.
[For more information on divorce and remarriage, see commentary on Matthew 19:9.](top)
|Mat 19:4||- (top)|
“be joined to.” The Greek word translated as “be joined to” is the verb kollaō (#285 κολλάω), which literally means “to be glued to,” related to the noun kolla, “glue.” This verse is closely related to Mark 10:7 and Ephesians 5:31 (see commentary on Eph. 5:31).
Scholars have been able to determine that the original Greek text read kollaō here in Matthew 19:5, but there are later Greek manuscripts that read proskollaō as Mark and Ephesians do. However, changing a word in one verse—in this case, Matthew 19:5—to match a word in another verse—Mark 10:7 and Ephesians 5:31—was a common scribal tendency known as “harmonization,” and that is no doubt what happened to the Greek text of Matthew 19:5 in some later manuscripts.(top)
|Mat 19:6||- (top)|
“command.” The hard-hearted Pharisees used the word “command,” emphasizing their belief that if a woman committed adultery the husband had to divorce her. Jesus gently corrected their belief by saying Moses “allowed” (or “permitted”) divorce (Matt. 19:8), but it certainly was not a command. Many marriages have been healed even though one spouse committed adultery.(top)
|Mat 19:8||- (top)|
“commits adultery.” The context of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:9 is the debate on the interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1 and the reasons a man could divorce his wife (see commentary on Matthew 19:3 for more on that debate).
Before we examine the meaning of Matthew 19:9, there are a couple of things to consider. First, we should know that Jesus spoke about divorce on three different occasions (Matt. 5:32; Matt. 19:3-9 and Mark 10:1-12; and Luke 16:14-18). Although there are similarities between these three teachings, there are also significant differences. What we can conclude from reading these three distinct teachings and putting them together is that divorce is a sin in the eyes of God, but God allowed it because of the hardness of human hearts. Nevertheless, even though there are cases in which a mostly innocent party has been harmed and can remarry without it being sin (see commentary on Matt. 5:32), there are times when divorce and remarriage are tantamount to adultery (that is the case here in Matthew 19 and in Luke 16).
Second, the Greek texts on Matthew 19:9 differ: there is a shorter and longer reading of the verse. Textual scholars have concluded that the shorter reading is original, but the longer reading has been translated into many of the older English versions of the Bible, such as the King James, ASV, and YLT. The versions with the longer reading usually have a final phrase that reads something such as: “and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (NKJV).
The key to understanding Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:9 is to recognize that it is not a “blanket statement.” Jesus was not saying that anyone who remarries after being divorced, unless the divorce was due to adultery, commits adultery; we can see this from reading what Jesus said in Matthew 5:32. In this case, Jesus was addressing a specific debate between the rabbis about the Law, which is why he focused on divorce connected with remarriage, and ignored the possibility of divorce without it. He said that a man who got divorced and remarried committed adultery, but he ignored the sin of a man just divorcing his wife for his personal reasons and ruining her life. In that culture, divorcing a woman could leave her alone and destitute, certainly a grievous sin, but Jesus did not address it because it was not a part of the question and debate the Pharisees wanted Jesus to comment on (cp. Matt. 19:3).
As was just stated, Jesus was not making the blanket statement that anyone who remarried after being divorced was committing adultery unless the divorce was because of sexual immorality. For one thing, the Old Testament Law allowed a divorced person to remarry, and the Pharisees were asking Jesus to interpret and explain the Mosaic Law, not to void it and make a new law, something they would not have accepted anyway. Also, for his part, Jesus explained and confirmed the Mosaic Law; he did not say that Mosaic Law needed modification. However, he appealed to God’s original intentions as revealed in Genesis, and pointed out that although Moses allowed for divorce, it was never God’s original intention.
Paul, in the Church Epistles, again confirmed what both the Law, and Jesus, said: that a person should not divorce, but if they did then it was not a sin to remarry after being divorced. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28: “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned….”
Also, although Deuteronomy 24:1 does not give any specific reasons for divorce, other places in the Mosaic Law do set forth some specific circumstances in which divorce was allowed. For example, the Law said that if a man took a second wife, but then did not provide his first wife with food, clothing (and by extension, shelter), and conjugal rights, his wife could divorce him. Just as He does today, God honored the marriage covenant, and both parties of the marriage covenant had responsibilities. The man was responsible to provide for his wife and make sure she had food, clothing, and shelter, and the sexual intercourse that gave her the opportunity to have children who would protect and care for her. If a man would not do these things for his wife, then he was not keeping his part of the marriage covenant and God allowed the wife to divorce him (Exod. 21:10-11). At that point, she was free to marry someone else (Deut. 24:1-4).
In Matthew 19:9, Jesus was not nullifying the Mosaic Law. He was not saying that although it was okay according to the Mosaic Law for a woman to leave her husband and remarry if he did not provide her with food, shelter, and sexual intercourse, it was not okay according to him. In other words, Jesus was not saying that now, according to his teaching, a woman could only divorce and remarry if sexual immorality was the cause of the divorce, otherwise, she was committing adultery if she remarried.
Matthew 19:9 can only be fully and properly understood if we know what the Old Testament says about marriage and divorce, and if we also know that Jesus was speaking in the very specific context of an ongoing debate between the rabbis about what constituted legal grounds for divorce. Jesus was making a specific statement and saying that God intended for men and women to stay together in marriage, so if a man or woman divorced simply in order to marry someone they liked better, in God’s eyes they were committing adultery.
Jesus anchored his comments firmly in the writings of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy), and this silenced the Pharisees, who then left the scene. The disciples, however, were steeped in the culture of easy divorce and were still confused about what Jesus said, and that part of the record is recorded in Mark 10:10-12 (see commentary on Mark 10:10).
On a technical note, it is worth noting that the phrase “commits adultery” is actually a passive verb in the Greek text. The verb is moichaō (#3429 μοιχάω, pronounced moy-'kah-ō), and it is in the passive voice. The passive verb is very important for the interpretation of the verse in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (see commentary on Matthew 5:32), but not so important here, because in this verse the wicked husband is both the agent and the subject of the verb. Thus, while it is true that the husband “is made to commit adultery,” he was the one who made himself adulterous by his own action of divorcing his wife and remarrying another woman. Nevertheless, a technically correct translation of the last phrase of the verse would be “is made adulterous,” instead of “commits adultery.”
[For more on divorce and remarriage, see commentary on 1 Cor. 7:27.](top)
|Mat 19:10||- (top)|
|Mat 19:11||- (top)|
|Mat 19:12||- (top)|
“so that he could lay his hands on them.” It was common in the culture that people would bring their children to the rabbis, and the rabbis would put their hands on the children and bless them. Note that in this case, Jesus was not asking to bless the children, this is what the parents wanted.(top)
|Mat 19:14||- (top)|
“And, having laid his hands on them.” Jesus laid his hands on the children and blessed them (Mark 10:16).(top)
“And look, a man came to him.” The record of the rich young ruler is in Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-23. It is Luke who tells us that the man was a ruler. The Greek text reads more literally, “one came to him,” but the context makes it clear it was a man.
“look.” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20. The “look” (the figure of speech asterismos) in this verse is important, because it shows that it was considered remarkable that someone (especially someone well off) would come to Jesus and ask how to have everlasting life. How many people actually seek everlasting life, especially rich people?
[See figure of speech “asterismos.”]
“what good thing must I do.” Although this is worded differently than the question in Mark and Luke, the records are the same; they only have a different emphasis. Mark 10:17 and Luke 18:18 say, “what must I do,” instead of “what good thing must I do,” but of course whatever the man had to do to attain life in the Age to Come would have been a “good thing.” The man involved was a “rich,” “young,” “ruler,” something we learn by piecing together the information in the different Gospels (Matt. 19:20; Luke 18:18, 23). We also learn from piecing the details in the different Gospels together that the fullness of what he said to Jesus was, “Good master, what good thing must I do….” The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus’ response to the question, “what good thing…,” while in contrast, Mark and Luke record the part of the conversation when Jesus responds to the man’s saying, “Good master.” There are multiple issues involved in the man’s question, and the different Gospels engage those different issues. There is no contradiction between the Gospels, they just deal with different details in the record.
Jesus’ answer is different in Matthew than it is in Mark and Luke, although the conclusion is the same, that there is only one who is good, and that is God. The issue being dealt with in Matthew, and Jesus’ answer to this rich young ruler, is an important lesson for each of us. Jesus said, “Why do you ask me about that which is good?” (Matt. 19:17). Jesus went on to say, “You know the commandments” (Mark 10:19). Jesus was making a powerful point. God is good, and truth and everlasting life come from Him. Furthermore, God has not made salvation difficult to understand; it is clearly presented in His Word. Although this man was young, because he was a rich ruler he would have been well educated and experienced in life. Educated people should have the confidence to read and believe the fundamental truths of the Word of God without having to have them explained to them.
One of the huge problems among believers today is that they spend very little time actually reading the Bible and learning it, so they end up confused by it and all the different opinions people have about it. As we see from the record, when Jesus did say what it took under the Old Covenant to have everlasting life, the young ruler already knew it and was doing it. In the Grace Administration in which we live, salvation is very easy (because Jesus paid for it and all we do is accept it!), and also clearly set forth in the Bible: “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him out from among the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
[For more on Jesus’ answer to the rich young ruler, see commentary on Mark 10:18.]
“life in the age to come.” The “age to come” is the future Messianic Age, the Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth, when Christ will reign over the whole earth as king. Once a person is raised from the dead in the age to come, they will never die again, thus it is appropriate, although not as accurate, to use “everlasting life” instead of “life in the age to come.”
[For more on the translation “live in the age to come,” see Appendix 2, “Life in the Age to Come.”](top)
“Why do you ask me about that which is good.” For an explanation of Jesus’ answer, see commentary on Matthew 19:16. This verse reads differently in some of the English versions such as the KJV. For example, in the KJV, Matthew 19:17 reads basically the same as Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19. Historically, scribes disliked when the Gospel records read differently, and so they “adjusted” the text so that they read the same way. Textual scholars refer to this tendency as “harmonization,” and it occurs a number of times in the over 5,700 manuscripts of the New Testament extant today, but in most cases, the change to a manuscript is caught before it ever gets into an English version. The scribes harmonized the text, sometimes on purpose, sometimes because they were copying from memory and simply mistakenly copied what they remembered from another place in the Bible. In any case, in this instance in Matthew, the textual evidence from the early manuscripts clearly points to the fact that Greek text and the reading that is based upon it in the REV and almost all modern English versions is the reading of the original manuscript of Matthew.
“life in the age to come.” This refers to “everlasting life,” the life in the Age to Come, which is the future Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth. We know that from the previous verse, when the young man wanted to know what to do to have “life in the age to come.” See commentary on Luke 10:28.
“keep the commandments.” Before the Day of Pentecost and the start of the Christian Church, salvation was by faith that was demonstrated by works. There was an interplay between them that is hard to exactly know but it is clearly there. Comparing Acts 16:31 with the time before the Administration of Grace shows us the dramatic change that occurred when the Administration of the Law came to an end and the Administration of Grace began (this change occurred on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2). Under the Law, to be saved a person had to have faith, but that faith had to be expressed outwardly in the way the person lived. Under the Law, and until the Day of Pentecost, being “born again” was not yet available, neither was being sealed with holy spirit or being guaranteed salvation; God started those things in the Grace Administration. We can clearly see this when we compare Acts 16:30-31 with Matthew 19:16-17 (see commentary on Acts 16:31).(top)
|Mat 19:18||- (top)|
“neighbor.” On who is our neighbor, see commentary on Luke 10:27.(top)
|Mat 19:20||- (top)|
“If you really want to reach the goal.” The Greek word teleios (#5046 τέλειος teˈ-lay-os) refers to bringing something to an end, a finish; bringing to completeness, maturity, perfection, or to a goal. In this case, the word “perfect” can be misleading. The man wanted to have everlasting life, which Jesus said he could have by keeping the commandments (Matt. 19:17). However, when the man pressed in and asked if he lacked anything, Jesus took the conversation to a new level, and said if you really want to reach your goal, sell all you have and you will have treasure stored up in heaven (that treasure would be actually conferred when the Lord set up his kingdom on earth).
[See Appendix 3: “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.”](top)
“these words.” The Greek is simply “the word,” meaning “the message,” or “word” can be understood to be a collective singular for “words.”(top)
|Mat 19:23||- (top)|
“camel.” Here, “camel” is a hyperbole, an exaggeration to make a point. Jesus’ illustration is not extreme given the fact that Jesus, and Orientals from that era in general, were fond of hyperbole (cp. Luke 6:41, a person having a “beam” in his eye). As the “gnat” in Matthew 23:24 is a hyperbole, so also is the camel. For the idea of the needle’s eye being a gate, or the “camel” being a “rope,” see commentary on Luke 18:25.(top)
|Mat 19:25||- (top)|
“for people...for God.” See commentary on Mark 10:27.(top)
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention (see commentary on Matthew 1:20). Here it is not spoken with great force, but to remind Jesus of the sacrifices the apostles had made. In this context, the meaning is close to “Look at what we have done. We have left everything and followed you.”
“…so what will we have?” Peter’s question is a good one, and one that all of us should be asking more. All of us are either like the rich man in Matt. 19:16-22 who hold on to worldly things and lose out on heavenly things, or we are like Peter who has “left everything” and will have great reward in the kingdom.(top)
“New Beginning.” The words New Beginning in Matthew 19:28 are from the Greek word paliggenesia (#3824 παλιγγενεσία), a compound word that means “new origin” or “new birth.” It is comprised of palin, meaning “again,” and gennēsis, “origin” (the Greek word used for the Book of “Genesis”). Here in Matthew paliggenesia is used as a technical term for the Messianic Age (the HCSB translates the word “Messianic Age”), which is why it is capitalized in the REV. The only other usage of paliggenesia in Scripture is Titus 3:5, which uses the term in a totally different context, and refers to the new beginning (the new birth) given to Christians when they are born again and receive holy spirit. By using paliggenesia, Jesus describes the Age to come as a “new beginning,” or, alternately, a “second genesis” (the word is comprised of palin, meaning “again,” and gennesis, which is the word for the Book of Genesis). The coming Millennial Kingdom, Paradise, is like starting creation all over again, renewed.
Christ’s Millennial Kingdom lasts 1,000 years (Rev. 20:2-4) and is Christ’s kingdom on earth. Jesus will one day come back to earth, fight the battle of Armageddon, and set up a kingdom that fills the earth (Rev. 19:11-21; Dan. 2:34, 35, 44; The name “Armageddon” comes from Rev. 16:16, the place where the enemy kings are gathered). Jesus’ kingdom on earth is so different from our current fallen world and this present evil age that the Bible calls it a new beginning or new creation. Here in Matthew 19:28. Jesus calls it a paliggenesia, a new beginning. Isaiah 65:17 says God will create a new heaven and earth (this is a different creation from the final heaven and earth of Rev. 21:1, which are also called a new heaven and earth). Peter called it the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). The Bible also calls this future earth “paradise,” and it is the earth that the meek will inherit when they are raised from the dead.
[See Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.”]
The wonderful teaching of the new earth that saved people will enjoy is almost completely unknown by Christians due to the unbiblical teaching that “heaven” is the eternal home of those who are saved. But the Bible is clear that Jesus comes back to earth, and when he does, the saved will be where he is.
“you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” According to the Old Testament prophecies, in the Millennial Kingdom, Jesus Christ will live in a palace on the south slope of Mount Zion, and the Temple of God will be on the top of Mount Zion. Jesus will be king over the earth (cp. Ps. 2:8; 72:8-11; Dan. 2:35; 7:14; Micah 5:4; Zech. 9:10; Rev. 2:8; 19:11-21). Furthermore, Jesus will set up rulers who will help him rule, and they will be righteous people who have been faithful to him in their lives on earth (cp. Jer. 23:4, also Jer. 3:15; 33:26; 1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 2:26-27).(top)
“will receive a hundredfold.” Not everyone who is saved and receives everlasting life will receive the same reward on the Day of Judgment. Those people who have obeyed God’s commands, and done more for Christ, will receive more (see commentary on 2 Cor. 5:10, “good or evil”).
“life in the age to come.” This is the everlasting life that begins with the new Messianic Age, the Millennial Kingdom.
[See Appendix 2: “Life in the Age to Come” for commentary on this phrase.](top)
|Mat 19:30||- (top)|