“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Jesus now turns to what He does require for His kingdom (5:21-48). He selects six subjects to distinguish His teaching from that of the scribes and Pharisees. First, He introduces the subject of murder.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old,
“Those of old” were the authors of the Old Testament.
‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’
Jesus quotes the sixth commandment (Ex 20:13) and adds Leviticus 19:17. No human court can deal with attitudes, but only with external actions.
Murder is an issue for the national entity. Notice that Jesus does not say “kill.” The Bible does not forbid killing but murder, which is killing someone for personal benefit or hostility.
But I say to you
Jesus introduces each of the six contrasts with the words “but I say to you.”
Jesus contrasts the true or full view of murder as over against the superficial view. The word “I” is emphatic. There is strong antithesis here.
that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;
Murder is one thing, but hatred that leads to murder is another.
whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council;
The “council” here is the civil council or court of Israel. This may refer to subject by trial from the highest court in Israel, the Sanhedrin.
and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
The word “fool” means numbskull, blockhead, imbecile, good for nothing. The person who calls someone by this name is “liable to the hell of fire.” The Greek term for “hell” is Gehenna, from the Valley of Hinnom. This valley lay south of Jerusalem where the city dumped its waste. The valley had constant fires burning the waste.
Gehenna is not the same as “Hades.” Hades is the place of departed spirits. Gehenna metaphorically is eternal fire. Make no mistake about the severity of Jesus’ words. Jesus talked more about hell than anyone else in the Bible.
Murder is external manifestation of inner hatred.
Refraining from murder does not constitute a person righteous in God’s viewpoint. We have to deal with the inner self. In Jesus’ economy, hating someone is equivalent to murdering them. All of us have murdered someone in the sense of hatred.
There are two types of anger: (1) subjective and (2) objective anger. It is possible to be angry but not sin. That is objective anger. It is valid to have anger toward a pedophile. Subjective anger is anger for personal reasons. It is not right to be angry out of resentment.
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, Eph 4:26