Matthew quotes from Exodus – part 2

From Exodus

Topic: The ten commandments

The first verse of chapter 20 of Matthew says that God spoke these words. The following verses are what we refer to as the ten commandments, beginning with verses 2 through 14 (Jewish Bible) or 17 (in the Christian Bible). These are repeated again in Deuteronomy.

I will use the Scripture from the Jewish Bible, and make reference in the footnotes as necessary. We will only review the commandments that Jesus refers to in Matthew. These commandments are the second six, and not referring to the four. The first four commandments typically are our relationship with God2, and the remaining six is our relationship with our fellow man.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be lengthened upon the land that the Lord your God gives you”

Exodus 20:12

When I investigate a verse from the Bible, I like to break it down and ask the question; what is the subject? In this verse the subject is, to kabad (in Hebrew) translated as honor. Alternately kabad can be translated as glory, honor, or heavy. Who is to be, “gloried, honored, or to have a heaver weight”? The answer is, your father and mother. In this commandment we are given the why. The answer to this important question is if those who keep this commandment and glorify, honor, or give their parents the heaver weight, they will have a lengthy time in the land. What land is being referred to? It’s the land that God is giving them (Israel).

So, if you don’t live in Israel, does this commandment apply? What does lengthened days in the land have to do with honoring your father and mother? Rabbi Nachmanides3, a Torah scholar, commented on “kabad” (to glorify, honor, to give the heaver weight to). He sees the parents as co-partners with God in creation. By coming together and giving birth to their children. They are to be “kabad” the same as our Creator is. He goes on with stating that they will not only live to an old age in this world, but his days will also be long in the world to come. If this commandment is viewed into the first portion of honoring our parents and then the second portion reflecting the “why”, the question pertaining to the relevancy for today can be answered. We are instructed to “kabad” (honor) our parents, but many of us don’t live in the “land” (Israel). However we can keep the first part, as commanded. If we apply Nachamides commentary, we will have a long life in the world to come.

“You shall not kill”

Exodus 20:13a

This commandment is a prohibition to not kill. Actually the Hebrew says, “Lo teratzach” or “no

will-murder”. The Hebrew word translated includes, kill as well as murder, but the word “kill” is in the sense of homicidal killing (ratzach). We are not to intentionally take another persons life, without justifiable cause. Justifiable cause would include protection of self and or family, or in battle during a war.

“You shall not commit adultery”

Exodus 20:13b

We are to be faithful in our marriage relationship. The Hebrew is: “Lo tenaafe”, or “no will-adultery”. Nachamides4 and Rashi5 have stated that this law applies only to intercourse with a married woman. Other commentators state that it applies to illicit relations between the sexes. Nachamides states that the adulterer robs the child that may come from this act, from the knowledge of his or her father’s identity and prevents him from paying him filial honor. We are to be faithful to the person we are married to. To not be faithful has consequences that reach beyond just yourself. They reach your spouse, the spouse of the other person, and and children that could be a result result from this act of adultery.

“You shall not steal”

Exodus 20:13c

We are not to take what is not ours, or use without the owners permission. Rashi includes kidnapping as stealing. To take another person without their permission is stealing. Also taking any property that is not mine is considered stealing. To take home a pencil or paper clip that is not mine would be stealing.

“You shall not bear false witness against your fellow”

Exodus 20:13d

To bear false witness is literally “answer false witness”. This phrase means, do not answer if you are giving a false witness. If what you have to say is not true, then do not say it. This also includes telling a tale about someone, and slander. To repeat something that “may or may not” be true, you don’t know for sure. If your not sure about the truthfulness about something, it could be a “false witness” if you say it. Ask the question, “who will benefit by telling this information?”. If it’s just gossip, it’s best not repeated.

“You shall not covet your fellow’s house; you shall not covet your fellow’s wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, nor anything that belongs to your fellow.”

Exodus 20:14

You shell not covet. The actual text is: No will covet (or: lo tachmood). To desire something in a bad way, like to covet. We are not to desire in a bad way anything that our fellow person has! His home, wife, people that work for him, his animals or anything he has. This is to desire in a bad way, it doesn’t say that we are not to desire things. If I am contemplating the possibilities of purchasing a motor home, and my friend has one. After seeing his and notice how nice it is, and feel that it is the type and style that we would enjoy. This is followed by purchasing one like theirs. This would not be coveting. However, if I saw his motor home and desired it, then I would be coveting.

What Jesus said about these commandments –

These six commandments are all mentioned by Jesus with the exception of one6, in various portions of Matthew. Two of the ten commandments he uses for a short instruction.

Some of the Pharisee’s (Orthodox) Jews noted disciples of Jesus not washing before eating bread. This is a tradition followed today as well. Prior to doing the Bruka (blessing) over the bread, you are to wash your hands along with the hand washing blessing7. Their complaint was about not following “tradition”. Jesus not being an advocate about following tradition, comes back with an observance and complaint. He doesn’t disagree with them about washing before eating the bread but he says, look at what tradition is doing to the fifth commandment, “honoring your parents”.

He states, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” He goes on to say, “For God commanded saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ (Exodus 20:12), coupled with, ‘he who curses father or mother, let him be put to death’. (Exodus 21:17)

He continues his rebuttal by stating the tradition that these accusers follow, “but you say, ‘whoever says to his father or mother,

whatever profit you might have received from me has been dedicated to the temple – is released from honoring his father or mother.’

He then states, “Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by tradition”.

I have done a short search of the Talmud for this tradition Jesus is referring to, and concluded that it must have faded away over time, because it does not appear in the Oral Law.

A Oral Tradition will not direct you away from Torah. If a teacher is teaching contrary to Torah, be careful, because Oral Tradition walks side by side with the Written Torah.

Take special note that Jesus did not disagree with them about what they approached him about. He even says, “Why do you also transgress…..”, he is admitting their transgression against tradition. But he is pointing out that they also transgress against Torah with their tradition. Washing before eating is taken from sanctifying ourselves8. The kohanim (priests) are to wash before eating the bread from grain, and so the sages, to not differentiate the Israeli from the Kahanim declared both to wash, thus we have the tradition of washing before eating the bread.

Matt 5:21, 22

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not murder’, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment”. “Also I say to you: that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause (a reason) shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, reca9 shall be in danger of the council. Also whoever says, “you fool (stupid)”, shall be in danger of gehenna’s fire.

Matthew 5: 21 – 22

Jesus presents the commandment that we are not to kill, followed by presenting a “fence”. Placing a fence around a commandment is a common Jewish practice. The fence is to help us keep from breaking the commandment. It’s like having safety fence close to a dangerous cliff, so help us stop at the fence preventing an accident of falling over the cliff. He teaches us first to refrain from getting angry without a legitimate reason. Our attitude needs to be in check. People that have a different view are allowed to, they are not empty headed, or senseless, because they disagree. With this kind of attitude you will be challenged by those in leadership. He also to talks about those that see other people a “stupid” or “foolish”, will be in danger of “gehenna’s fire”. As opposed to Christianity’s teaching on “hell”, Judaism is different. Souls need to be righteousness to enter into Hashems presence. The Jewish belief is that upon death, our soul transitions to Gan Eden (heaven). This transition is a period of time, that varies upon our righteousness while our soul was on earth. It can vary anywhere from immediately entering Gan Eden to spending the equivalent of several months in Gehenna. The time in Gehenna is a purging of anything that is not righteous that we may be carrying with us. This “purging” process can be painful because we may have become quite attached to some areas of unrighteousness. In Judaism when that purging is painful it is referred to as “Gehenna’s fire”. Hashem doesn’t send His created souls to a place to burn forever. An attitude of, “submit to me or burn!”

“You have heard that is was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery’. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Matthew 5:27, 28

What is Jesus saying here? Perhaps, if you have studied Torah then you know that you are not to commit adultery. By stating what is already known by those receiving the instruction, is referred in Judaism as the “Pashat” of the text. The text being Exdos 20:13b. But what is the “Remez” of the text? In Judaism Jesus is implementing what is known as “PaRDeS”. Pardes is an acronym for, PRDS P = Pashat; R = Remez; D = Derash; S = Sod. Parshat (the surface) is the literal meaning of the Scripture. Remez (hints) is a deeper meaning, beyond the literal. Derash (inquire or seek) is the midrashic understanding of the Scripture. Perhaps comparing it with other similar Scriptures. Sod (secret or mystery) is a mystical meaning that may come from inspiration or revelation. According to what is recorded by the writer of Matthew Jesus is giving a Derash of “You shall not commit adultery”, by instructing to not look at a married women with lust, because in your heart you are desiring to commit adultery. A deeper meaning of keeping our heart in a righteous place, by not lusting for the wife of another man, staying sexually pure. This again can be seen as placing a fence around the commandment of not committing adultery. If a man guards himself from lusting after the wife of another, then he will be preventing himself from violating the commandment itself. How do you do this? One way is, when you find yourself being tempted, start reflecting on a Scripture of particular interest, and allow yourself to venture into it. You may find that the temptation of lust will diminish.

Topic: Rendering Fare Judgment

Throughout the Torah God issues a variety of laws for us to live our lives by. They are a standard that He desires for us as a way of life. This alone could be a topic, but the focus is on rendering a fare judgment when a law is broken. Anytime we break a law there is a consequence, whether the law is civil, criminal, environmental, against society, or anti social. Their is a consequence for our actions, but God states that consequence needs to be fare.

“But if any, then you shall give harm follow life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

Exodus 21: 23 – 25

This Scripture begins with “but” so we need to look at the previous passage to bring it into context. Verse 22 is talking about a woman that is pregnant and is struck by a man causing her to loose the baby. If no further harm is caused to the woman, the man is fined according to the amount decided by the the womans husband. But if he did harm the pregnant woman, then he is to receive a similar consequence for his action, not greater or less than he inflicted on her.

This same concept is given again in Leviticus, referring to a man that maims his fellow. A different situation but the same principle.

“And if a man inflicts a wound in his fellow; as he has done, so shall it be done to him: break for break, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, as he has inflected a wound on a person, so shall it be inflected unto him”

Leviticus 24: 19 – 20

If a person attacks another and harms him, then the punishment for the attacker is to not be greater or less than what he did to the victim. God is declaring this attitude of punishment as fare.

Another reference to this topic is in Deuteronomy 19:15 – 21. If a person has broken the law there must be at least two or three witnesses before the Judges. If someone testifies falsely then the punishment that would have been rendered to the defendant is given to the false witness. Verse 19 states that, “….and you shall destroy the evil from your midst”.

“And those that remain shall hearken and fear; and they shall not continue again to do such an evil thing in your midst. Your eye shall not pity; life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand foot for foot.”

Deuteronomy 19: 20 – 21

To bear false witness against a fellow is evil, and when the punishment is given, we are not to feel bad or be taken with pity. We are commanded to rid ourselves of this evil, and render the punishment necessary. The punishment rendered to the assailant is to not be greater or less than what the victim received. However if this is a false claim, and the accused is falsely being charged, than we are not to have pity on a person that is a false witness, and render the punishment that would have been given to the accused unto the accuser.

Jesus teaches to not resist a evil person

In Matthew 5:38 – 39 Jesus quotes this reference from the Torah.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist a evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

Matthew 5: 38 – 39

The three references I presented from the Torah are all referring to rendering a judgment from breaking a law. In this reference of Jesus stating not to resist an evil person, is not referring to a judgment. But he is talking about if a evil person attacks you to not fight back.

In verses 40 – 42 he continues: “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”

Is he is teaching towards passivity as opposed to asserting what is right in our eyes? If a person strikes you, you have every right to file charges that you were assaulted, especially if you have the proper number of witnesses. And you have the right to strike them back! He didn’t say that doing this is wrong, but he is saying, “let it go”, to prevent the situation from escalating.

He uses the phrase “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth”, which is used in the Torah as examples in issuing punishment after judgment is given. This does not apply to what he is talking about. But he says “You have heard it said,” which infers that he is talking about the Torah.

In this case perhaps this reference from the Torah was used to justify fairness. Whatever is being imposed on me, then I am justified to be the same with them – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. To many of us this is a normal way of retaliating. If someone strikes me I have every right to hit him back. It’s a far judgment of the situation!

Perhaps in this is the case, Jesus is saying that this is not what the Torah is teaching, and that it’s better to just let it go, and not seek revenge. If these Torah passages are talking about the Judges rendering a punishment to the accused, then take up our case before the Judge, and not outside the court.

To some this is just being passive, and not defending yourself, and to others it’s being well with yourself and not having anything to prove. I think both have their positive and both have some negative points. Perhaps the circumstance at hand would determine the action to be taken. There are times we need to defend ourselves, or our love ones. And then other times it better to walk away.

by, Jim Behnke

1Tanach – is an acronym for the Jewish Bible: Torah (the Law/Teachings), Neviim (Prophets), Chesuvim (Writings).

21. vs. 2 belief in God; 2. vs. 3 – 6 prohibition of idolatry; 3. vs. 7 prohibition of vain oaths; 4. vs. 8 -11 keep the Sabbath; 5. vs. 12 honoring parents; 6. vs. 13a prohibition against murder; 7. 13b prohibition against adultery; 8. 13c prohibition against kidnapping; 9. 13d prohibition against bearing false witness; 10. 14 prohibition against coveting.

3Rabbi Nachamides – b.1194 – d.1270; born in Spain and later moved to Israel. His primary work was related to the Torah.


5Rabbi Rashi b. 1040 – d. 1105; He was born in France and lived most of his life in the Rhineland. He is one of the foremost authorities on the Torah, and the Tanach as a whole.

6Matthew 19:18 Jesus mentions not murdering; not committing adultery; not stealing; not bear false witnesses; to honor father and mother. He does not mention to not covet you fellow neighbor’s possessions.

7Typically in the Orthodox circles after the hand washing you do not speak until the blessing for the bread is said and the portion of bread is eaten. The reason is to not be distracted and touch something before eating the bread.

8Taken from the verse in Leviticus 20:7 “You shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am the Lord, your God”. The Sages expound that “you shall sanctify yourselves” refers to washing before eating. From; Learning and Values; O&A; Ask Rabbi Y; “Why No Talking After Washing for Bread?”

9Reca translates to English as a vain fellow, empty; senseless, empty headed

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