Ver. 21,22. The Pharisees, in their lectures upon the law, usually thus prefaced, It was said by them of old time; this, saith Christ,
ye have heard. Thou shalt not kill: this was spoken by God in Mount Sinai, it was the sixth of the ten words then spoke.
And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: this now was the Pharisees’ addition, for we read of no such addition to the law as delivered, Exo_20:13. Thus they mixed their traditions with the word of God, which possibly might be the reason of their saying rather, It was said by them of old time, than, "It was said by Moses," or, "It was said in the law of God"; for under that phrase, it was said by the ancients they both comprehended the law given by Moses to the ancient people of God, and also their own traditions and false glosses, which though not so ancient as the law, yet had obtained for some considerable time in the corrupt state of the Jews.
Shall be in danger of, or obnoxious unto, the judgment; not to the wrath and vengeance of God, of that they said nothing, but to those courts of judgment which sat amongst them, to administer justice in criminal causes. As if this law of God had been only intended to uphold peace, and to preserve human society and civil order.
Thou shalt not kill; that is, (as they interpreted), Thou shalt not, without a warrant from God, or from the law, actually take away the life of another. It appears by what followeth, that they extended not this law to unjustifiable passions in the heart, such as rash anger, malice, revengeful thoughts; nor to any opprobrious or revengeful words.
But I say unto you; I shall give you another sense of this law. The killing here forbidden is as well rash and causeless anger, and opprobrious, threatening speeches, as bloody actions.
Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment, &c. Our Saviour (as most interpreters judge) speaks this with allusion to the three courts amongst the Jews. The one was the court of three men, which only judged of smaller and lighter causes, not in capital causes. Another was their court of twenty-three men, which much answered our courts at Westminster. The third was their sanhedrim, consisting of seventy men, which answered our parliament. Some think that by the judgment is meant the first or second of the courts; by the council, the superior courts amongst the Jews. But the judgment of our reverend Dr. Lightfoot seemeth much more probable, that by the judgment is meant the judgment of God;
by the council and
hell fire, not only the judgment and vengeance of God, but the judgments and punishments that are inflicted in the courts of men, that are magistrates, and bear not the sword in vain: so as the sense is this: I say unto you, that if a man doth but in his heart nourish wrath and anger against another without a just cause, and lets it grow up into malice, and thoughts and desires of private revenge, though he be not by it obnoxious to courts of justice, who can only determine upon overt acts, yet he is accountable to God, and liable to his judgment: but if men suffer their passions to break out into reviling terms and language, such as
Raca, ( signifying a vain person), or, Thou fool, ( speaking this from anger or malice), they are not only liable to the eternal vengeance of God, compared to the fire of Gehenna, but ought to be subjected to the punishment of the civil magistrate. Every civil government being by the law of God, in order to the prevention of quarrels or bloodshed, (which often followeth revilings of each other), obliged to punish such offences, as being the beginnings of murder, provocations to it, and indications of murderous hearts, hearts full of that which in the eye of God is murder.