Matthew’s Torah Quotes – Part 3/ Leviticus

From Leviticus

Topic: To not swear falsely using the Lords name

Leviticus teaches us:

And you shall not swear by My name falsely, so that you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:12

Both Rashi and Nachmanides agree that this commandment is referring to the tetragrammaton1 as the “name of your God”. However Rashi states that a person is not to swear using any of the Divine designations of God. Some Sages believe that this commandment is deduced from the commandment to “not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless….”2. The commandment from Exodus 20:7 is instructing us to not misuse the Lords name, and the commandment in Leviticus 9:12 instructs us that if you swear to something upon the Lords name, be sure that what you say is exactly accurate, and totally the truth. If what you are to swear to could possibly have any error, it would be better to no swear upon the Lords name.

The writer of Mathew states that Jesus quotes from this commandment as follows:

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘you shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord’. But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is Gods throne; nor by earth, for it is Gods footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king; nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black;but let your yes be yes, and your no, no. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

Mathew 5: 33 – 37

Jesus quoting, “you shall not swear falsely,” is quoted from Leviticus 19:12, but the remainder, “but shall perform your oaths to the Lord”, is not from Leviticus. Jesus making this statement infers that this statement was probably a teaching in that day. This portion of what he is saying is not a quote, but rather inferring possibly to Deuteronomy 23:24 (23).

That which has gone out from your lips you shall observe and do; according as you have vowed freely unto the Lord your God, even that which you have promised with you mouth.”

Deuteronomy 23:24 (23)

Jesus is saying that its better to not to swear at all, but rather just let your yes be yes and your not be no. This way if there is any error in what you say, you are not breaking a commandment. He also uses the logic that to swear on something other that God is of no avail because everything leads back to the Lord, and we are commanded not to swear in the name of the Lord falsely. Jesus is again promoting establishing a fence around this commandment so to prevent its disobedience.

Topic: Love your neighbor (fellow person)

The second greatest commandment is –

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:18

This is probably one of the hardest commandments to live by. To “….not take vengeance…” would be extremely difficult for me, when faced with particular circumstances. It doesn’t say to not defend yourself or your loved ones, but to seek vengeance is another matter. We can defend ourselves and those we love, must then it stops.

When it comes to vengeance the Lord says, “Vengeance is mine, and recompense….”. We are to leave vengeance to the Lord! The commandment goes on to say, “…nor bear any grudge against the children…”. We could say, they were not fair, he treated me wrong, or I was cheated, and several other examples could be listed justifying our desire to hold a grudge. I think back of how many times during my life I have waisted energy while holding a grudge. When we hold a grudge we are allowing another person to control our emotions. Because of the actions of another person towards us, is controlling our anger, and in turn we hold a grudge. As opposed to taking control of those emotions and deciding to be free of that anger, and let the grudge go. A decision to be free of it.

He then says, “But” or we could say “Instead, you are to love your neighbor (fellow) as yourself!” I am to love them? But he cheated me. I think at this point it depends on how we view ourselves. If I see myself totally independent and separate from God as an individual, then yes I was cheated, and perhaps I would desire to seek revenge. But if I seek myself as a light or beacon that is representative of God, a soul that is desiring to draw closer to its Creator, then I have to ask the question, was it I that was cheated, or ultimately did they cheat God? This isn’t promoting passivity, but it is about promoting the concept of seeing ourselves in the correct perspective. Who are we? What is our purpose? I am a soul that God placed into this particular flesh. I am here to accomplish a particular purpose that God has placed within me. This is so much bigger than bearing a grudge because my feelings got hurt. We have to let these things go and stay focused on why were here. God loves them and how much more we need to love them.

The writer of Mathew says………

Jesus quotes part of this commandment as recorded by the writer of Mathew.

You have heard that it was said, ‘you are to love your neighbor, and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. That you may be sons of your Father in heaven, for He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Mathew 5:43 – 48

The portion that he states, “you are to love you neighbor,” is a quote from Leviticus as stated above. However the portion following, “and hate your enemy” is not a quote from the Torah, the Talmud, or any other Jewish writing that is viable today. But it was a teaching, in the time of Jesus. It was a teaching from the Qumran Community by the Essenes.

The Essenes were a Jewish sect that did not agree with how the Priests managed the Temple, and various other denominational disagreements. The Essenes had a variety of beliefs different from the Pharisee’s and Sadducee’s. One of these beliefs was about “son’s of light” and “son’s of darkness”. The Essenes were the “son’s of light”, and the Gentiles and other Jewish sects were the “son’s of darkness”. They taught that a war was coming between the son’s of light and the son’s of darkness. They spent much of their time preparing for this war.

Their belief was based on Lev 19 to love your brother – meaning another Essene Jew and coupled with Nahum 1:2 expressing Gods vengeance toward His enemies.

Hasham is a jealous and vengeful God; Hasham is vengeful and full of wrath; Hasham is vengeful to His adversaries and reserves hostility for His enemies.”

Nahum 1:2

To investigate Jesus’steaching a littler further we need to ask a couple questions?

  • Who is he talking to,
  • what neighbor is the Tanach talking about,
  • and what enemies?

As noted above the writer’s recording of what Jesus taught is in Matthew chapter 5. At the beginning of the chapter in verse 1, it says,

he went up on a mountain, and when he was seated his disciples came to him. Then he opened his mouth and taught them saying:”.

This teaching continues to the end of chapter 7. On one of our visits to the Galilee my wife and I had the opportunity to visit the popular site that is believed to be where this teaching was given. However there are other locations in that general area that would probably be more likely the place for giving the teaching so his voice would carry for everyone to hear him plainly.

The writer of Mathew is the only one to record this teaching, and his recording of it is dated around 85 ACE, about 15 years after Mark was written. Some believe that Mathew was originally written in Hebrew and then translated to Greek, but this theory has not been substantiated. If Jesus was crucified at 33 years old and assuming he was born in 4 BCE, that would put his crucifixion in 31 ACE. With Mathew being written in 85 ACE and Jesus’s crucifixion in 31 ACE that gives us Mathew being written about 54 years after his death.3 We do not know who the author of Mathew was, nor do we know where he gathered his information for the recording’s outside of Mark. Given this, we have to make a variety of assumptions. One assumption is that the teaching took place, and it was in the Galilee. I believe it would be safe that his primary audience would be made up of Jewish residence from that area. His topic for the teaching is expounding on the Torah, something that would be of interest to Jews, but probably not of such great interest to a person of another religion. His topics from the Torah are taken from the Mosaic Covenant4. This covenant is with the descendants of Jacob, and not with anyone that is not one of his descendent’s.

When Jesus quotes from the covenant to these people of that day, who are people of the covenant, the passage to, “love your neighbor, as yourself”, a few questions arise. Keeping mind, we (today) are reading this in English, and not from the actual text. What is the context of the verse? The first portion of this verse is:

Do not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people,”. Note the last two words of this passage; “your people”. The sentence is speaking to “your people”. The sentence goes on to say: “but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Instead of taking vengeance or holding a grudge against “your people” they were to love them as they love them-self.

What was the Hebrew word that was translated to neighbor in English? The Hebrew word “ray’ah” is translated as “neighbor” in most translations. The actual word means a friend, a fellow citizen, a fellow, a friend. This is the same word used in Exodus 20:17, speaking about the prohibition to not covet, usually translated as “neighbor”. Today when we think of a neighbor, this person may or may not have any relationship to us other than living in a close proximity. The word ray’-ah is beyond that meaning. Rah’-ah was a person that was a fellow Israelite, and possibly a friend. Being a fellow Israelite would mean being part of the “covenant”.

The previous verse in Leviticus says:

You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him.”

Leviticus 19:17

Reading this verse would seem like a prelude to verse 18, and it is in some ways. However the translation for the word “brother” is a literal brother. A sibling from the same parents, or a half brother. The word translated as “neighbor” is different than in verse 18. The word is “aw-meeth” it is someone that is a neighbor, an associate, a fellow, a comrade. It does not have to be an Israeli, or person of the covenant.

It appears that the Essenes were teaching something quite contrary to what Jesus was teaching. The Essenes were teaching that “to love a fellow Israelite (person of the covenant) as yourself”, was a fellow Esseneonly. Jesus was using the literal meaning of the Scripture, to love your fellow Israelite as yourself. Also the Essene’s believed that the Torah promoted “hating your enemies” based on Leviticus 19:2 coupled with Nahum 1:2. They believed that to be holy as Hashem is holy includes being vengeful, full of wrath, and hostility toward your enemies, like it is stated in Nahum 1:2. They believed this was part of being righteous. They also believed that other sects (denominations) of Judaism were not really Jewish.

Jesus did not see this as the intent of Torah, the writings, and prophets. He not only taught that it is wrong to hate your enemies but again builds a fence around what he is teaching, and says to go the extra mile. This is not Torah, probably not really promoting being passive either, but maybe going a little toward the ridiculous. I see it like instead of coming back at someone who is being nasty toward you, instead respond back in a kind way. I have had this break barriers that would have only been reinforced if I had responded in the way expected by the opposition. This isn’t aways the best approach, sometimes its required to be aggressive, or assertive. But there are those times that are best to be in control with our speech, our actions, and to maintain our righteous demeanor. My dad would sometimes say, “you can be right and loose the customer”. Sometimes we have to sit back and look at the situation, evaluate it and decide, whats really important here. While in management, there were times I would take a loss on a particular collection situation, but I would gain by keeping the customer and many future sales. It didn’t matter if I was right, we both won in the long run.

Each situation requires its own evaluation to determine the appropriate approach.

by, Jim Behnke

1 Tetragrammaton – Is the term used to describe how The Lords name is recorded in print. In Hebrew it appears using the Hebrew characters as yod – hay – vav – hay.

2Exodus 20:7

3In the Hebrew year of 3791 (31 ACE) the day of Passover was on a Tuesday. With Passover on a Tuesday it aligns all the events recorded for that week pertaining to Jesus’ Crucifixion and burial to align up. Counting back 33 years places Jesus’ birth in the Hebrew year of 3758 (4 BCE). 4 BCE is a one of the more popular dates viewed as his birth. 85 ACE – 31 ACE is 54 years.

4The Mosaic Covenant is referred to as the covenant given by Hasham to the Israelite’s at Mount Sinai.

2 thoughts on “Matthew’s Torah Quotes – Part 3/ Leviticus

  1. May I just say what a relief to find someone that genuinely knows what they’re discussing over the internet. You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people must read this and understand this side of your story. It’s surprising you aren’t more popular given that you most certainly have the gift.


  2. Thank You for your compliment. It is my prayer for the truth to go forth, and to permeate into those who desire to receive. May you be blessed as you study Torah and grow in your relationship with God.


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