Matt 5:21-26 The Sixth Commandment CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
After Jesus said that he had not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it, he began to interpret a couple of the commandments. In this lesson, we will study what he said about the sixth commandment: Thou shalt not kill (Ex 20:13). This commandment has to do with murder and not self defense, accidental death or war.
For instance, in Num 35:16-25, the Lord gave examples to distinguish between murder and accidental death. Examples of murder are smiting someone with an instrument of iron, a stone, a hand weapon of wood, or with a hand, or out of hatred, or by ambushing him [these last two are premeditated]. The murderer was to be killed by the revenger of blood, who is the murdered man’s brother (Gen 9:5).
Examples of accidental death are thrusting a man without enmity, casting something upon a man without laying wait for him [i.e., there was nothing premeditated], or hitting him with a stone accidentally when he wasn’t his enemy. In these cases, the killer wasn’t to die, but he was to remain in a city of refuge.
The distinction between murder and accidental death was, therefore, primarily hatred or enmity (Deut 19:11), because that would be the motive for the killing. If the killer hated the fellow he killed or was his enemy, then he was going to be found guilty of murder as long as there were at least two witnesses who could testify to the slaying (Num 35:30). If there were no enmity between the fellows and there was no evidence of premeditated murder, then the killer would likely be found innocent.
On this basis, the Lord gave the interpretation of the commandment not to kill. He said, basically, you’re guilty of murder if you are simply angry with your brother without a cause. John bears witness to this truth in 1 Jn 3:15. And then he adds some things that show you he was talking to a Jewish audience and not to Christians in the Church age. He gave three offences and three levels of penalties of which the fellow would be in danger.
Angry with a brother without a cause; The judgment,
Saying to a brother, “Raca”; The council,
Saying, “Thou fool”; Hell fire,
Now there are several things that need to be said about these three offences and their corresponding judgments.
1. Modern Bibles make Jesus a sinner by removing the words “without a cause,” on the first offence. You see, Jesus got angry (Mk 3:5) and yet he had a cause. Even Paul agrees that there is a way to be angry and yet not sin (Eph 4:26), but there would have to be a ‘real’ cause.
2. The second offence is not something you would even know how to commit. It’s the equivalent of calling somebody a “vain fellow,” if the marginal note is right. However, “Raca” is a word that a Jew would use, not you.
3. The third offence doesn’t apply to you either since both Jesus and Paul called some folks fools (Lk 24:25; Gal 3:1). And neither one of them is in hell (Heb 12:2; 2 Tim 4:8).
4. In these examples given by Jesus, the fellow is in danger of the judgment and the council in the first two cases. Those are specifically Jewish judicial bodies (Num 35:12; Deut 1:17; Matt 12:14; 26:59).
5. Finally, there is a literal hell; Jesus said so!
The rest of this passage is an example of a justifiable reason why somebody could be angry with a brother. This is the case of a fellow that owes a delinquent debt. He has to settle with his lender before he offers his gift at the altar (Rev 11:1-3 in the Tribulation and Eze 40-48 in the millennium; a Christian doesn’t have a physical altar where he offers gifts). Failure to do so could lead to arrest and imprisonment until the debt is paid in full. Jesus offered no protection under the law for a guy who wouldn’t pay his bills.
In the parable of the unmerciful servant, Matt 18:23-35, there were three remedies for indebtedness: the man and his family and possessions could be sold and the proceeds applied to the debt; the man could be forgiven; or he could be tormented, as in the case of Matt 5:25-26, until he paid in full.