We have various tendencies that work counter to love. These largely involve selfish attitudes and ill feelings – along with the adverse speech and actions that they produce. These greatly inhibit and harm our relationships with others, and must be avoided.
Jer 45:5 And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go. ▤
God’s command to Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, was given in the context of the impending judgment that would engulf the land, thwarting any aspirations for great things or of greatness. However God’s command to not seek greatness is very much applicable to his people at any time.
a Or contentious
b Greek irritable and does not count up wrongdoing
Rivalry is generally indicative of selfishness. Moreover, the Greek translated here as “rivalry” can also be translated as “selfishness” (NASB, NCV; cf. NLT) or “selfish ambition” (GNT, NIV, NKJV, NRSV).
James 3:14-16 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. ▤
In v. 14 “the truth” most likely refers to the reality of this envy and selfish ambition (cf. CEV, NCV, NLT). Another possibility is that it denotes the truth of the gospel, which is effectively denied or negated by these things.
This suggests that pursuing selfish ends defies sound judgment (cf. CEV).
The phrase “according to the flesh” suggests that Paul claims that he did not make plans in a worldly way (cf. AMP, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV), in a way that served his own interests – “from selfish motives” (GNT) – so that he would be inclined to easily change his mind to suit himself. Paul implies that to do so would be like saying “Yes” and “No” in the one breath.
Gen 13:8-11 Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.c 9Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” 10And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. ▤
c Hebrew we are men, brothers
Lot’s selfish choice (v. 11) is in direct contrast with Abram’s considerate and unselfish act in giving him the choice (vv. 9-10).
Ezek 34:8 As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, … ▤
The Greek translated here as “self-indulgence” can also be translated as “selfishness” (CEV, GNT). It speaks of pleasing only oneself (cf. NCV).
Mark 10:35-37, 41 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” ▤ … 41And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. ▤
The reaction of the other ten disciples (v. 41) implies that they correctly interpreted James and John’s request as selfish.
3Jn 1:9-10 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. ▤
Verse 10 shows the lengths Diotrephes was prepared to go to in order to further his own interests and selfish ends.
1Cor 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. ▤
This underlines the gravity of greed (along with sexually immorality).
Jer 8:10 Therefore I will give their wives to others and their fields to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. ▤
This evidences the fact that greed leads to other sins, such as deceit, a reminder of the fact that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1Tim 6:10).
1Cor 6:9-10 Or do you not know that the unrighteousd will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,e 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ▤
d Or wrongdoers
e The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts
f Or and he blesses the one greedy for gain
- Greedy people are never satisfied:
Hab 2:5 “Moreover, wine
g is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. h His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.” ▤
g Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scroll wealth
h The meaning of the Hebrew of these two lines is uncertain
Like death, greedy people are never satisfied (cf. CEV, GNT, NASB, NCV, NRSV). Isaiah 56:11a makes a similar point, referring to wicked leaders as “dogs” – “The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough.”
We are not to crave or desire anything that belongs to another person.
Ex 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” ▤
Deut 7:25 The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God. ▤
This appears to indicate that in coveting the silver and gold on these idols of “gods”, the people would risk being led into worship of them.
In the latter part of the verse Jesus points out that life is not about and does not depend on how much one has.
Eph 5:3, 5-6 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. ▤ … 5For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. ▤
The description of such a person as “an idolater” (v. 5) probably refers primarily to being covetous, rather than also to the preceding adjectives. Covetous people serve their own interests, effectively putting themselves and material things in the place of God. The phrase “these things” (v. 6) refers to the sins mentioned in v. 5, which include being covetous. God’s wrath comes on people because of such things.
i Greek therefore your members that are on the earth
Covetousness is in a real sense idolatry as greedy people in effect idolize money or materialism (cf. Eph 5:5 ↑). Their hearts are set on such things, which thus become the object of their endeavors. They are “really serving a false god” (NCV™).
Josh 7:20-21 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels,j then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” ▤
j A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams
In 6:18-19 Joshua had warned the people that they were not to take any of Jericho’s great riches for themselves. Achan’s coveting led to him disobeying this command, which had horrific consequences – for all the people and in particular himself (cf. vv. 4-5, 24-25).
Mic 2:1-2 Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. 2They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance. ▤
Verse 1 indicates that coveting (v. 2) is sin and will bring woe. These verses also show that coveting can lead to other sins (cf. James 4:1-2 ↓), involving the perpetration of great injustice.
- Coveting can lead to quarrels and fights:
James 4:1-2 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions
k are at war within you? l 2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. ▤
k Greek pleasures; also verse 3
l Greek in your members
Here “murder” is probably hyperbole – “you are ready to kill” (GNT, NCV). The intense, destructive attitude that it depicts would appear here to arise from coveting, particularly in view of the following statement.
1Cor 10:24, 33 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. ▤ … 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. ▤
Verse 24 is not saying that we should never do anything for our own good. Paul is meaning that we should not focus on or be looking out for our own good, but rather for the good of others.
Paul appears to correlate being concerned about the interests of others (v. 20b) – in contrast to looking out for one’s own interests (v. 21a) – with being concerned about the interests of Jesus Christ (v. 21b). Note that in v. 20 Paul is speaking of Timothy, whose exemplary genuine concern for the welfare of the Philippians (v. 20) contrasted with the self-interest of others (v. 21a).
Rom 15:1-3 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” ▤
We should bear with the shortcomings of others, pleasing and encouraging them, rather than pleasing ourselves to their detriment (vv. 1-2; cf. ch. 14). In Psalm 69:9 – quoted in v. 3b – David spoke of how he had faithfully put pleasing God ahead of pleasing himself, at the cost of suffering the insults that his association with God brought. Paul quotes it to underline the fact that even Christ did not please himself (v. 3a), his point being that likewise we should please others ahead of pleasing ourselves (vv. 1-2).
Num 14:12, 19 [God, to Moses:] I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” ▤ … [Moses:] 19Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now. ▤
Here Moses provides a notable example of seeking the interests of others rather than one’s own. Rather then accepting God’s offer of greatness (v. 12b), Moses put the people’s interests ahead of such glory for himself (v. 19).
Matt 20:26b-28 But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,m 27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,n 28even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ▤
m Greek diakonos
n Greek bondservant (doulos)
Even Christ did not come to be served, but to serve, even giving his life for others. We should similarly serve others, even seeking their interests at great cost to ourselves.
Note that this selflessness of Christ was to an extent paralleled by Paul in his work, in which Paul spoke of being “poor, yet making many rich” (6:10).
1Jn 3:16-17 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? ▤
Putting the interests of others ahead of our own is particularly pertinent in regard to the interests of fellow believers. We should all the more be prepared to do so at the cost to ourselves of material possessions (v. 17) and even to the point of laying down our lives for them (v. 16).
Gen 44:32-33 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ 33Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. ▤
The speaker is Judah. The boy is his brother Benjamin, his father Isaac’s youngest son.
Ruth 2:11 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. ▤
1Chr 21:17 And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.” ▤
As punishment for David’s act of pride and self-reliance in spite of all that God had done for him, God had sent a plague on Israel. Here David unselfishly asks that he bear the full brunt of the punishment rather than it continue on his people.
Gal 4:14-15 … and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. ▤
The hyperbole in the latter part of v. 15 underlines the willingness the Galatians had had in aiding Paul even at great personal cost.
Neh 5:18 Now what was prepared at my expenseo for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. ▤
o Or prepared for me
Nehemiah did not demand his rights as the governor, being considerate of the heavy demands that were already on the people (cf. NCV, NIrV, NLT).
Prov 25:17, 20 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you. ▤ … 20Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda. ▤
These verses contain examples of actions that are inconsiderate.
Doing something which is in itself uplifting, at an inappropriate time or occasion is in fact detrimental. It reflects a lack of consideration, amongst other things.
1Pet 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with youp of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. ▤
p Some manuscripts since you are joint heirs
This directive reflects the need to be considerate (cf. AMP, NIV, NRSV).
- Do not ignore the problems of others:
Deut 22:1-4 You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. 2And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. 3And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. 4You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again. ▤
Note that in this and the following sections, many of the subsections begin with verses giving directions, followed by verses containing outcomes, examples or insights.
The inclusion of the topic of “Anger” under “Ill Feelings” needs qualifying. Anger is not always necessarily wrong (cf. comment on Eph 4:26-27 ↓). In fact at times anger is attributed to God and to Jesus Christ.
Eph 4:26-27, 31 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and give no opportunity to the devil. ▤ … 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. ▤
Not all anger is sinful in itself, but one needs to be wary of anger as it can easily lead to sin, hence the warning in v. 26a. One should also not allow anger to linger on and fester (v. 26b), as this would give the devil a starting point from which to make advances (v. 27).
Being slow to anger is a sign of wisdom.
The phrase “pressing anger” appears to refer to stirring up anger (cf. GNT, NCV, NIV).
Gen 49:6-7 Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. 7Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel. ▤
- Being angry with another makes one subject to judgment:
Matt 5:21-22 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother
q will be liable to judgment;
whoever insults r his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell s of fire. ▤
q Some manuscripts insert without cause
r Greek says Raca to (a term of abuse)
s Greek Gehenna; also verses 29, 30
Here “brother” “may refer to people in general or to other followers” (CEV text note). “You fool!” (v. 22) appears to be an insult spoken in anger.
Note that the last clause may mean that if our neighbor has done something wrong and we do not take them to task about it, then we also bare some responsibility. Alternatively, in the light of the first statement in the verse, it may mean that if our neighbor has done something that induces us to be hateful, we should rebuke them rather than hate them in our hearts, which would cause us also to be guilty of sin.
1Jn 2:9, 11 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. ▤ … 11But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. ▤
Here and in the following verses from 1 John, “brother” quite probably refers to a fellow believer – although arguably the teaching can be understood to extend to one’s neighbor, i.e. all people.
Not dissimilar to Jesus’ comment regarding anger in Matthew 5:21-22 in the previous subsection, John correlates hate with murder. It is an attitude of the heart that is outwardly fulfilled in murder (cf. Deut 19:11 ↓); it is the spiritual equivalent of murder. And one who unrepentantly hates, like an unrepentant murderer, does not have eternal life “abiding in him”.
t Some manuscripts how can he
For comment, see the comment on 1Jn 4:20-21 – under . . . Not loving other Christians has negative implications.
Num 35:20-21a And if he pushed him out of hatred or hurled something at him, lying in wait, so that he died, 21or in enmity struck him down with his hand, so that he died, then he who struck the blow shall be put to death. ▤
This and Deuteronomy 19:11-12 below speak of how hatred can lead to violence and even murder.
Deut 19:11-12 But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities, 12then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. ▤
- God treated Edom according to the manifestation of its hatred of its Israelite neighbors:
Ezek 35:11 … therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, I will deal with you according to the anger and envy that you showed because of your hatred against them. And I will make myself known among them, when I judge you. ▤
Note that bitterness may be listed first as often it is a key factor in the development of the other things listed.
u That is, a bitter fluid secreted by the liver; bile
Bitterness can express itself in ways that influence and defile others.
- Do not be resentful:
v Greek irritable and does not count up wrongdoing
Malice involves ill will towards others, wanting to cause them harm or to see them suffer.
Note that in light of the references to leaven (here and in v. 6) and also to the Passover lamb (cf. v. 7), the “festival” quite probably alludes to the Festival of Unleavened Bread. It is used here either as a reference to celebrating the sacrifice of “Christ, our Passover lamb” (v. 7), or alternatively to the Christian life being a joyful life or “festival”, in the light of Christ’s sacrifice and its implications.
Ezek 25:6-7a For thus says the Lord God: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within your soul against the land of Israel, 7therefore, behold, I have stretched out my hand against you, and will hand you over as plunder to the nations. ▤
Matt 22:15-18 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.w 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? ▤
w Greek for you do not look at people’s faces
Rom 1:28-29a And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. ▤
- Malice is associated with hatred:
James 3:14-16 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. ▤
As noted earlier, “the truth” most likely is referring to the reality of this jealousy and selfish ambition (cf. CEV, NCV, NLT). Boasting about such things and denying them are opposite approaches, but they are both inappropriate.
Here “who” may refer to the one who is jealous, rather than the one who is the object of the jealousy. Jealousy has an irresistible, detrimental effect on those in whom it abides (cf. Job 5:2 ↑) – as does envy (cf. Ps 73:2-3 ⇓; Prov 14:30 ⇓).
Num 11:26-29 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” ▤
Moses provides an excellent example of spurning jealousy.
1Sam 18:6-9 As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments.x 7And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” 8And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” 9And Saul eyed David from that day on. ▤
x Or triangles, or three-stringed instruments
Following this incident, Saul kept a “jealous eye” (NIV®, NLT) on David.
This and the following references (13:45; 17:5a), illustrate how jealousy can lead to wicked actions.
This and the following two extracts from Proverbs may allude to how being envious of wicked people can lead one to follow their ways.
Prov 24:1, 19-20 Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them, ▤ … 19Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, 20for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out. ▤
Note that Psalms 37:1-2 is quite similar to vv. 19-20.
Envy (v. 3) can lead to one losing one’s grip (v. 2) on such things as godliness and a sound mindset and existence.
y Or healing
z Or jealousy
Striving to achieve goals simply to satisfy envy is a common but pointless exercise.
- Paul’s godly jealousy for his converts’ undivided devotion to Christ:
“Contempt” means to regard someone (or something) as inferior, insignificant or foolish.
Gen 16:1, 4-5 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. ▤ … 4And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.a 5And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” ▤
a Hebrew her mistress was dishonorable in her eyes; similarly in verse 5
This indicates that contempt is wrong – “the wrong done to me” (v. 5a).
b Or grace
To be “scornful” is to have contempt and often involves the expression of it.
To despise someone is to look upon them with contempt.
Mocking someone is not only showing contempt towards them, but also to God as their Maker.
This underlines the evil nature of contempt, indicating that it is or can be bred by wickedness.
Here God is condemning “the princes of Israel” (v. 6).
Matt 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brotherc will be liable to judgment; whoever insultsd his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the helle of fire. ▤
c Some manuscripts insert without cause
d Greek says Raca to (a term of abuse)
e Greek Gehenna; also verses 29, 30
Insults are indicative of contempt.
f Some manuscripts add verse 11: For the Son of Man came to save the lost
Note that “little ones” may refer primarily to young or new believers, instead of children generally. Alternatively, it may denote believers in general, who should humble themselves like little children (cf. v. 4).
Luke 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayedg thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” ▤
g Or standing, prayed to himself
Titus was not to let anyone “look down” (GNT, NRSV) on him or what he had to say – implying that it would have been wrong for any of the church members to treat him with such disrespect and contempt.
Deut 17:12-13 The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again. ▤
Because of their association with God in their roles, showing such contempt (cf. NIV) for a judge or a priest was to a large extent being contemptuous of God (cf. Prov 17:5 ↑).
h Greek bondservant
Titus 3:1-2 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. ▤
i Some manuscripts the Lord
Whether this is referring to quarreling about the technical meaning of certain words or some other matter, the issues involved were certainly trivial. Doing so was not only pointless but also destructive, a foolish practice (cf. v. 23) – akin to sin.
This is speaking of the Messiah.
j Hebrew we are men, brothers
Prov 17:14, 19 The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out. ▤ … 19Whoever loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction. ▤
Strife and quarreling are sinful in themselves; but they also lead to sin – which may well be the gist of v. 19a.
In the same vain Proverbs 19:13 says, “… a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.” (cf. 27:15-16).
Prov 26:17, 21 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears. ▤ … 21As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. ▤
This illustrates that quarrelling can easily lead to violence (cf. Isa 58:4 ↓).
Ex 17:1-3 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” ▤
- God hates discord being sewn amongst brothers:
Prov 6:16-19 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. ▤
James 3:9-10 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,k these things ought not to be so. ▤
k Or brothers and sisters; also verse 12
One reason for not cursing others is that they may come to hear of it.
Cursing is characteristic of “the wicked” (v. 2).
Ps 59:12-13 For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. For the cursing and lies that they utter, 13consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth. Selah ▤
Rather than cursing those who curse, the psalmist asks God to deal with such people accordingly (cf. Ps 109:17 ↓), because of “the cursing and lies that they utter” (v. 12b).
l Revocalization; Masoretic Text curses have come
m Revocalization; Masoretic Text it is far
An undeserved curse will bring no harm to the innocent person it is directed against (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT).
- It would inevitably be hypocritical to be upset by being cursed by others:
n The singular Hebrew word for man (ish) is used here to portray a representative example of a godly person; see Preface
This may well be referring in particular to scoffing at wisdom – “whoever makes fun of wisdom will suffer for it.” (NCV™, cf. GNT, NLT)
Scoffing leads to one being punished.
Pride and arrogance are characteristics of a scoffer.
o Or scheming
2Pet 3:3-4 … knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” ▤
- Do not taunt:
Zeph 2:8-10 “I have heard the taunts of Moab and the revilings of the Ammonites, how they have taunted my people and made boasts against their territory. 9Therefore, as I live,” declares the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Moab shall become like Sodom, and the Ammonites like Gomorrah, a land possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a waste forever. The remnant of my people shall plunder them, and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.” 10This shall be their lot in return for their pride, because they taunted and boasted against the people of the Lord of hosts. ▤
p Hebrew blood
Ps 15:1-3 O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? 2He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; 3who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; … ▤
Note that the last clause appears to have gossip (cf. GNT, NCV) in view – the theme of the following subsection.
Ps 50:20-21 You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. 21These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that Iq was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. ▤
q Or that the I AM
As the text note implies, God is the speaker – the one who will rebuke and charge (v. 21) such slanderers.
To “speak evil of” another (cf. James 4:11 ↓) includes slandering (cf. NIV), but is not limited to it.
James 4:11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.r The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. ▤
r Or brothers and sisters
3Jn 1:10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. ▤
The first clause remarks on the attractiveness of listening to gossip – something which arguably is as bad as actually doing the gossiping, for doing so makes gossip possible and encourages it. The second clause may similarly have the attractiveness of gossip in view – but it could instead be implying that it is detrimental to the listener (cf. NLT), having an affect on one’s inmost being.
This suggests that gossip is a key cause of quarreling.
2Cor 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. ▤
- Avoid people who talk too much:
s Hebrew with one who is simple in his lips
Avoid people who talk too much because of the likelihood of them gossiping, both to you and about you.
Phil 2:14-15 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, … ▤
Avoiding grumbling about or “finding fault” (NIrV®) with others is vital to being “without blemish” (v. 15) ourselves.
Ex 16:2-3, 8 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” ▤ … 8And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.” ▤
The people’s complaints against Moses and Aaron were in effect against God (v. 8), whom Moses and Aaron represented, heightening the seriousness of their grumbling.
- Do not revile others:
To “revile” is to verbally attack someone in an abusive and/or insulting fashion.
Jer 22:3 Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. ▤
1Tim 3:2-3 Therefore an overseert must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,u sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. ▤
t Or bishop; Greek episkopos; a similar term occurs in verse 1
u Or a man of one woman; also verse 12
Note that some of the verses in the following subsections – which speak of particular violent actions – further indicate that God hates and punishes violence.
Ezek 8:17 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger? Behold, they put the branch to theirv nose. ▤
v Or my
Note that it is not clear as to exactly what the expression “put the branch to their nose” means. Whatever the case, it was obviously, like violence, offensive to God (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT).
Mal 2:16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,w says the Lord, the God of Israel, coversx his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” ▤
w Hebrew who hates and divorces
x Probable meaning (compare Septuagint and Deuteronomy 24:1-4); or “The Lord, the God of Israel, says that he hates divorce, and him who covers
It is the alternative translation in the footnote (cf. AMP, NASB, NIV, NRSV) that is pertinent to the theme of this subsection.
Gen 6:11, 13 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. ▤ … 13And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh,y for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. ▤
y Hebrew The end of all flesh has come before me
z Probably refers to an instrument of captivity
- Those who rely on violence will die by it:
a The Hebrew word also covers causing human death through carelessness or negligence
Gen 9:5-6 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. ▤
The NT does not propagate the death penalty. Nevertheless its mention here in regard to murder – as with other topics in this section (cf. Deut 2:25 ⇓) – serves to illustrate the seriousness of the crime (cf. Gen 9:6 ↑).
Deut 27:24-25 ‘Cursed be anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ 25“‘Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ ▤
Such cursing pronounced God’s punishment.
2Ki 24:3-4 Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, 4and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord would not pardon. ▤
b Hebrew until the pit
The reference to being a “fugitive” is speaking of being a fugitive from justice or possibly from a tormented conscience (cf. AMP).
James 4:1-2 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passionsc are at war within you?d 2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. ▤
c Greek pleasures; also verse 3
d Greek in your members
As noted earlier, here “murder” is probably hyperbole – “you are ready to kill” (GNT, NCV). However it portrays an intense, destructive attitude which can lead to actual murder.
Rev 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. ▤
e Hebrew blood
In light of the first clause, in the second clause the meaning may be: “nor shall you [secure yourself by false testimony or by silence and] endanger the life of your neighbor” (AMP; cf. NIV). Supplementary to commands not to murder is this command to not do such things that would endanger another’s life.
- OT regulations governing and distinguishing between murder and manslaughter:
Num 35:16-17, 20-25 But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. 17And if he struck him down with a stone tool that could cause death, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. ▤ … 20And if he pushed him out of hatred or hurled something at him, lying in wait, so that he died, 21or in enmity struck him down with his hand, so that he died, then he who struck the blow shall be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him. 22“But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled anything on him without lying in wait 23or used a stone that could cause death, and without seeing him dropped it on him, so that he died, though he was not his enemy and did not seek his harm, 24then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these rules. 25And the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. ▤
Another such law determining if a killing was in fact murder is that regarding the killing of a thief in Exodus 22:2-3a: “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, 3but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him.”
Gen 34:2, 7 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. ▤ … 7The sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done. ▤
Judg 20:5-6 And the leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead. 6So I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed abomination and outrage in Israel. ▤
2Sam 13:10-14 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes she had made and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. 11But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” 12She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violatef me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. 13As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” 14But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her. ▤
f Or humiliate; also verses 14, 22, 32
The damaging effect that this incident had on Tamar is shown later in vv. 19-22. Amnon himself – Tamar’s half-brother – paid the ultimate price for his evil act, with Tamar’s full brother Absalom killing him for it (vv. 26-29). Note that the above-mentioned incidences of rape also drew gruesome revenge (cf. Gen 34:25-29; Judg 20:33-48).
Deut 24:7 If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. ▤
1Tim 1:9-10 … understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,g liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to soundh doctrine, … ▤
g That is, those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery
h Or healthy
Such “enslavers” are “kidnappers” (CEV, GNT, NASB, NKJV), as reflected in the text note.
Joseph was effectively kidnapped – the most infamous example in the Bible.
Oppression entails unjust use of power, often involving violence or threat of violence.
Isa 33:15-16 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, 16he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure. ▤
Isa 58:3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,i and oppress all your workers. ▤
i Or pursue your own business
God ignores any supposed religious acts of oppressors.
Ezek 18:5-7 If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— 6if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, 7does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, … ▤
Isa 30:12-13 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, 13therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; … ▤
The things spoken of here are acts of oppression.
- Lament over the plight of the oppressed:
Eccl 4:1-2 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. ▤