Matthew Henry and the Penal Sanctions of the Law

Matthew 15:1-6:

1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.”

“The sanction of this law in the fifth commandment, is, a promise, that thy days may be long; but our Saviour waives that, lest any should thence infer it to be only a thing commendable and profitable, and insists upon the penalty annexed to the breach of this commandment in another scripture, which denotes the duty to be highly and indispensably necessary; He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death: this law we have, Exod. xxi. 17. The sin of cursing parents is here opposed to the duty of honouring them. Those who speak ill of their parents, or wish ill to them, who mock at them, or give them taunting and opprobrious language, break this law. If to call a brother Raca be so penal, what is it to call a father so? By our Saviour’s application of this law, it appears, that denying service or relief to parents is included in cursing them. Though the language be respectful enough, and nothing abusive in it, yet what will that avail, if the deeds be not agreeable? it is but like him that said, I go, Sir, and went not, ch. xxi. 30.”

from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Matthew chapter 15…Find it here.

Commentary Recommendation

I have been a big fan of the Tyndale New Testament commentaries for a while now. For this reason when I saw the Matthew volume for 50% off at PTS’s Cokesbury store I leaped at the opportunity to purchase it. I have not been disappointed. R.T. France does an excellent job in my estimation in developing a quality commentary on the tax collector’s gospel. It is very readable and engaging as well as evangelical and reformed. France deals decisively with progressive commentators who attempt to denigrate Matthew particularly and deftly deflects their attempts to cut his work into exegetical pieces all the while being respectful and careful. France also gives an excellent account of the Beatitudes and how they are properly to be understood and shows how they have been misused and misunderstood as ethical imperatives in our age. Now I am only on page 201 of 416 so I have not come upon the controversial passages in Matthew 24 & 25. Once I have I hope to give you a sense of how France deals with it. Also for those who are curious about the author’s take on Matthew 5:17 France gives the “normal” reformed response to the liberal, dispensational, and/or Marcionite attacks on Jesus and the Old Testament Law. One last thing before I give you the author’s biography. I think the author belies a “general equitist” understanding of the Old Testament Case Law.

About the Author – R.T. France

He was born 2 April 1938, educated at Bradford Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford (MA). He earned his BD at the University of London and his PhD at the University of Bristol. He served as a curate in Cambridge and then[1]: