It appears that the common theme here (Matt. 5:38-48) is revenge. This first theme concerns the many commandments in the Mosaic law that are built on the principle of repaying a crime with an equal punishment, an idea called lex talionis, a Latin term meaning law of retaliation.
The first two antitheses (murder and adultery) are based on the Decalogue. The antithesis regarding divorce and the ones that follow are taken from other sections of the Mosaic law, including the one about swearing falsely and performing oaths to the Lord.
Read Leviticus 19:11-13. What specific points do we find here? See also Exod. 20:7.
The Mosaic law, from which Jesus quotes, is listed in a section of Leviticus that condemns a number of deceptive […]
Jesus’ next example involves commandments concerning adultery. He first cites the seventh commandment, You shall not commit adultery. In the context of the law of Moses, adultery took place when a married person was sexually involved with someone other than a spouse. The law was very clear that both parties found guilty of adultery should be put to death. As with the sixth commandment, Jesus gave the deeper implications of this particular commandment.
After He clarified His intention to uphold the law, Jesus started to explain a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. He begins by citing the sixth commandment (Exod. 20:13) and summarizing, from the law of Moses, the penalty for violation (Exod. 21:12, Lev. 24:17).
Read again Matthew 5:17-20. How interesting that Jesus would greatly emphasize the law here, while at the same time making the statement that He did about the scribes and Pharisees, who so greatly emphasized the law, as well. What important lesson does this passage teach about true obedience to the law?
Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 5:17-20, Luke 16:16, Matt. 5:21-32, Rom. 7:24, Matt. 5:33-37, 5:38-48.
Memory Text: Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot, or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18, NKJV).
Further Study: For more information on this week’s topic, read Ellen G. White, Tradition, pp. 395-398, Woes on the Pharisees, pp. 610-620, in The Desire of Ages. Also read Matthew 23.
Let all who accept human authority, the customs of the church, or the traditions of the fathers, take heed to the warning conveyed in the words of Christ, In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. -Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 398.
The substitution of the precepts of men for the commandments of God has not ceased. Even among Christians are found institutions and usages that have no better foundation than the traditions of the fathers. Such institutions, resting upon mere human authority, have supplanted those of divine appointment. Men cling to their traditions, and revere their customs, and cherish hatred against those who seek to show them their error. . . . In place of the authority of the so-called fathers […]
As we saw, some of the rabbis paid so much attention to the rules and traditions created to assist in the keeping of the law of Moses that they failed to distinguish between the two. After a while, the words of the rabbis gained canonical status; people thought they were as binding as Scripture. In all probability, when the rabbis originally wrote their commentaries, they had no intention of adding to the pages of Scripture. However, their devoted disciples probably […]