Matthew 5 – The Beatitudesn & The Sadducees

There is one more horrible group of men.  As I had stated yesterday, the Catholics are the same as the Pharisees, our Congress is the same as the Sadducees, and the White House are…

Matthew 5
The Beatitudes

1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

5:1-7:29 – the Sermon on the Mount is the first of six great discourses in Matthew (chapters 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 23, 24-25).  It contains three types of material:

1. Beatitudes, i.e., declarations of blessedness,

2. Ethical admonitions and

3. Contrasts between Jesus’ ethical teachings and Jewish legalistic traditions.

The Sermon ends with a short parable stressing the importance of practicing what has just been taught (7:24-27) and an expression of amazement by the crowds at the authority with which Jesus spoke.

Opinion differs as to whether the Sermon is a summary of what Jesus taught on one occasion or a compilation of teachings presented on numerous occasions.  Matthew possibly took a single sermon and expanded it with other relevant teachings of Jesus.

Thirty-four of the verses in Matthew’s Sermon occur in different contexts in Luke than the apparently parallel Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6:17-49).

The Sermon on the Mount’s call to moral and ethical living is so high that some have dismissed it as being completely unrealistic or have projected its fulfillment to the future kingdom. 

Today the Hinnom Valley is covered with green grass. This photo was taken on the west side of the Mount of Olives near the southwest corner of the Old City walls.

An Arab family is resting in the shade of a tree while their children play in the Hinnom Valley.

The Hinnom Valley is also called “the valley of the son of Hinnom” or “Valley of Benhinnom.” This was shortened to “Valley Hinnom” which in Hebrew is pronounced, “Ge Hinnom” and transliterated into Greek as “Gehenna.”

Thus, the Hinnom Valley is the Gehenna of the New Testament, which is associated with fire, judgment, the Lake of Fire, eternal fire and Hell. The border for the land allotted to the tribe of Judah is partially identified with this valley by Joshua in 1400 BC:

Then it ran up the Valley of Ben Hinnom along the southern slope of the Jebusite city (that is,
Jerusalem). From there it climbed to the top of the hill west of the Hinnom Valley at the northern end
of the Valley of Rephaim. – Josh15:8

There is no doubt, however, that Jesus (and Matthew) gave the Sermon as a standard for all Christians, realizing that its demands cannot be met in our own power.  It is also true that Jesus occasionally used hyperbole to make His point.

2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed” – the word means more than “happy” because happiness is an emotion often dependent on outward circumstances.  “Blessed” here refers to the ultimate well-being and distinctive spiritual joy of those who share in the salvation of the kingdom of God.

4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Ahaz was twenty when he became king of Judah and reigned for 16 years.

His reign commenced in the seventeenth year of the reign of Pekahof Israel. Edwin Thiele concluded that Ahaz was coregent with Jotham from 736/735 B.C., and that his sole reign began in 732/731 and ended in 716/715 B.C. William F. Albright has dated his reign to 744 – 728 (16 years) B.C.

His reign is described in 2 Kings 16; Isaiah 7-9; and 2 Chronicles 28. He is said to have given himself up to a life of wickedness, introducing many pagan and idolatrous customs (Isaiah 8:19; 38:8; 2 Kings 23:12).

Perhaps his wickedest deed was sacrificing his own son, likely to have been Rimmon. He also added an idolatrous altar into the Temple. He ignored the remonstrances and warnings of the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

“Jot” – Greek iota, which we use when we say, “It doesn’t make one iota of difference.”  It is the nearest Greek equivalent to the Hebrew yodh, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he hall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

“Ye have heard that it was said” – the contrast that Jesus sets up is not between the Old Testament and His teaching (He has just established the validity of the Old Testament Law).  Rather, it is between externalistic interpretation of the rabbinic tradition on the one hand and Jesus’ correct interpretation of the Law on the other.

“Kill” – this word, as that used in Ex 20:13 specifically means “murder.”

22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

“Raca” – this word may be related to the Aramaic word for “empty” and mean “Empty-head!”

“Hell” – the Greek word is ge(h)enna, which derives its name from a deep ravine south of Jerusalem, the “Valley of (the Sons of) Hinnom” (Hebrew ge hinnom).  During the reign of the wicked Ahaz and Manasseh, human sacrifices to the Ammonite god Molech were offered there.

Josiah desecrated the valley because of the pagan worship there.  It became a sort of perpetually burning city dump and later a figure for the place of final punishment.

23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

5:23-26 – Two illustrations of dealing with anger by means of reconciliation.

24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

“Looketh on a woman to lust after her” – not a passing glance but a willful, calculated stare that arouses sexual desire.  According to Jesus this is a form of adultery even if it is only “in his heart.”  This does not mean you take a second look at a beautiful woman, you can, as long as that second look isn’t due to sexual desire.

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

5:29-30 – Jesus is not teaching self-mutilation, for even a blind man can lust.  The point is that we should deal as drastically with sin as necessary.

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

Thou shalt not commit adultery by Baron Henri de Triqueti (1803-74). 1837. Bronze bas-relief panel on the door of the Madeleine Place de La Madeleine, Paris.

32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

“Saving for the cause of fornication” – this I am uncertain of, but I think Jesus is talking about a married couple that both believe in Him.  If so then they should work it out, unless one cheats on the other, and even then that doesn’t mean you can’t work it out.

God does not like divorce, married people are supposed to treat each other as though their partner is a prize of all prizes, men should especially do that. God obviously wants everybody happy. 

Now if one partner is abusive than I say it would be okay to divorce because that means the abusive partner is not a believer and Paul says that a believer should not be with a non-believer (2 Cor 6:14).  But if you are looking for divorce, I’d take it up with God first.

33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

5:33-37 – the Old Testament allowed oaths except those that profaned the name of God.  Jesus would do away with all oaths, in favor of always peaking the truth.

34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:

35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

“Resist” – here is probably means in a court of law.

Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah. He was born during the additional 15 years that God gave to Hezekiah after he healed him from an illness. Manasseh did what was evil in God’s eyes.

He was the most wicked king of Judah as he killed so many innocent people, that their blood will fill Jerusalem from end to end. King Manasseh built altars to the starry hosts in the two courts of the temple. He put the Asherah pole in the temple. He burned his son to offer him as sacrifice, practiced divination, omens, consulted mediums and spiritists.

God sent his prophets to speak to Manasseh and the people and they did not repent. Therefore, God handed Manasseh into the hand of the king of Assyria. Manasseh was carried away into Babylon with a hook in hisnose, and bronze shackles.

Manasseh sought God and asked for forgiveness and repented from his sins. Manasseh prayed for God to deliver him and God brought him back to Jerusalem.

 “Smite thee” – the Greek verb used here means “slap you with the back of the hand.”  it was more of an insult than an act of violence.  The point is that it is better to be insulted even twice than to take the matter to court.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Probably not a general requirement to give to everyone who asks, but a reference to the poor (cf. Deut 15:7-11; Ps 112:5, 9).  We are to give to the needy, not necessarily to the lazy and greedy.  As Paul said, “…if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess 3:10).

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.

“Hate thine enemy” – words not found anywhere in the Old Testament.  However, hatred for one’s enemies was an accepted part of the Jewish ethic at that time.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

“Pray” – prayer is one of the practical ways love expresses itself (cf. Job 42:8-10).

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” – loving one’s enemy does not make one a son of the heavenly Father.  But it does make one known as a son.

“On the just and on the unjust” – God shows His love to people without distinction.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

“Publican” – or “tax collectors,” local men employed by Roman tax contractors to collect taxes for them.  Because they worked for Rome and often demanded unreasonable payments (they had the IRS too), the tax collectors gained a bad reputation and were generally hated and considered traitors.

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

“Be ye therefore perfect” – Christ sets up the high ideal of perfect love, not that we can fully attain it in this life.  That, however, is God’s high standard for us.

The Sadducees

The Sadducees were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century B.C. through the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.

The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. As a whole, the sect fulfilled various political, social, and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple.

The Sadducees are often compared to other contemporaneous sects, including the Pharisees and the Essenes. Their sect is believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., but it has been speculated that the later Karaites may have had some roots or connections with old Sadducee views.

Role of the Sadducees

Religious

The religious responsibilities of the Sadducees included the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem. Their high social status was reinforced by their priestly responsibilities, as mandated in the Torah.

AD 70 and the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans
Jesus Christ, upon visiting the temple in his day, had this to say about the temple which was situated at Jerusalem:

“And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he (Jesus) said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Luke 21:5-6

Jesus here was prophesying of the destruction of the temple by the Roman power in AD70. The Romans, led by Titus, besieged, conquered and destroyed the city of Jerusalem.

The city had previously been in subjection to the Romans in Christ’s day but the Jewish occupants had rebelled. The temple was destroyed by the Romans as Jesus had prophesied – they threw down all the stones which made up the temple from a large raised courtyard.

The Sadducee party was effectively destroyed in AD 70 when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Many were slaughtered. Without the Temple or the political support of Rome, the Sadducees effectively ceased to exist.

The Priests were responsible for performing sacrifices at the Temple, the primary method of worship in Ancient Israel. This also included presiding over sacrifices on the three festivals of pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Their religious beliefs and social status were mutually reinforcing, as the Priesthood often represented the highest class in Judean society. It is important to note that the Sadducees and the priests were not completely synonymous.

Cohen points out that “not all priests, high priests, and aristocrats were Sadducees; many were Pharisees, and many were not members of any group at all.”

Political

The Sadducees oversaw many formal affairs of the state.  Members of the Sadducees:

– Administered the state domestically

– Represented the state internationally

– Participated in the Sanhedrin, and often encountered the Pharisees there.

– Collected taxes. These also came in the form of international tribute from Jews in the Diaspora.

– Equipped and led the army

– Regulated relations with the Romans

– Mediated domestic grievances.

Beliefs

According to Josephus, the Sadducees believed that:

– There is no fate

– God does not commit evil

– Man has free will; “man has the free choice of good or evil”

– The soul is not immortal; there is no afterlife, and

– There are no rewards or penalties after death

The Sadducees rejected the belief in resurrection of the dead which often provoked hostilities.  Furthermore, the Sadducees rejected the Oral Law as proposed by the Pharisees. Rather, they saw the Torah as the sole source of divine authority.

The written law, in its depiction of the priesthood, corroborated the power and enforced the hegemony of the Sadducees in Judean society.

…The Sanhedrin.

Who the members of the Sadducees would be today.