Sermon on the Mount ~ Part I
We continue our study of the Sermon in the Mount, beginning in Mattityahu 5:33.
33 “Again, you have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Do not break your oath,’ and ‘Keep your vows to Adonai.’ 34 But I tell you not to swear at all—not ‘by heaven,’ because it is God’s throne; 35 not ‘by the earth,’ because it is his footstool; and not ‘by Yerushalayim,’ because it is the city of the Great King. 36 And don’t swear by your head because you can’t make a single hair white or black. 37 Just let your ‘Yes’ be a simple ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ a simple ‘No’; anything more than this has its origin in evil.” ~ Mattityahu 5:33-37
Do not break your oath (or: “Do not swear falsely,” or: “Do not perjure yourself”). Keep your vows to Adonai. The distinction between vows and oaths is hazy not only to us but also within Judaism, and the issue doesn’t seem necessary today. The early Believers understood Yeshua not as prohibiting all vows but as prohibiting vain oaths – the Rabbis of the time did the same. In the Apocrypha compare Sirach 23:9, “Do not accustom your mouth to swearing oaths, and do not habitually use the name of the Holy One.”
Most Jewish people had black or dark hair; unless they were older, their hair turned white; verse 36 would have been heard as referring to God’s control over aging. Yeshua’s rule here is stricter than the letter of the law but according to its spirit (Deut. 23:21–23; Eccles 5:5). It is possible that the Essenes also avoided oath-taking after their initial oath to join their sect.
38 “You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’
Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21, where the context of eye for eye, etc., shows that God was not commanding revenge but controlling and limiting it. Retribution and punishment must be commensurate with the crime; contrast Cain and Lamech’s extraction of multiplied vengeance at Genesis 4:24. Although our society seems to now be woke, “the punishment should fit the crime,” it has long been the tradition in our western jurisprudence.
39 But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong. On the contrary, if someone hits you on the right cheek, let him hit you on the left cheek too! 40 If someone wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well! 41 And if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two! 42 When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something from you, lend it to him.” ~ Mattityahu 5:38-42
If a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two. Literally, “And whoever presses you into service one mile, go with him two.” The context is the Roman conquest; soldiers could make subjects do their work for them. Yeshua’s advice is a specific application of verse 16:In the same way, let your light shine before people so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.
In our next post, we continue to explore the Sermon on the Mount from Mattityahu’s Gospel.