1. That is one of the ten commandments (Ex 20:13). But, the Pharisees had reduced it to: don’t kill someone and you’ve fulfilled the Law.
a. That was the letter of the Law, but they missed the spirit behind the law.
b. I John 3:15 tells us that hatred for a brother is equal to murder.
c. The act of murder is the outward expression of an inner attitude, hate.
2. Secondly, the Pharisees had reduced thou shalt not kill to: you’ll be in danger of judgment = legal trouble.
a. v21–Whoever kills shall be liable so that he cannot escape the punishment imposed by the court. (Amp)
b. Judgment = the local court = council of 23; judged cases of murder and capital crimes; could inflict punishment of strangling or beheading.
c. Pharisees made no mention of the fact that this an offense against God. Gen 9:6
3. Jesus then goes on to give the true interpretation — the spirit behind the letter.
a. v22–The command Thou shalt not kill also includes causeless anger against a brother.
1. The phrase “without a cause” is not in all manuscripts. Scholars can’t tell fully, conclusively, from the text if it should be there or not.
2. Without that phrase, Jesus sets an even higher standard of behavior.
b. v22–But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice [enmity of heart] against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court. (Amp)
c. According to Jesus, anger and ill will toward a brother would merit the same punishment as killing the man.
d. Keep in mind, Jesus is not setting up a new rule. If you hate your brother, you must be killed. He’s pointing out the spirit, attitude behind the Law.
4. v22–Then Jesus makes what seems to be a very strange statement: Whosoever shall say to his brother Raca shall be in danger of the council.
a. The council = the Sanhedrin; could inflict punishment of stoning.
b. Raca = worthless fellow; worthless before God; vain, empty, worthless fellow; shallow brains. The statement shows great contempt.
c. Contempt = the act of despising; the state of mind of one who despises.
d. v22–And whosoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin. (Amp)
e. Jesus puts verbal attacks which reveal a heart of contempt on an even more serious level than killing or physical injury.
5. v22–Next Jesus makes what is to us an even more astounding statement: And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
a. Thou fool = MOREH (Heb: MARAH) = rebel against God; an apostate from all good. Has the idea of hatred, enmity (ill will, hatred).
b. “This term implied, among the Jews, the highest enormity, and most aggravated guilt.” Adam Clarke.
c. W.E. Vine = “Thou fool” (Gr: MOROS); here the word means morally worthless, a scoundrel, a more serious reproach than “Raca”; the latter scorns a man’s mind and calls him stupid; MOROS scorns his heart and character; hence the Lord’s more serious condemnation.
d. v22–And whosoever says, you cursed fool! –You empty-headed idiot! shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (GEHENNA) of fire. (Amp)
6. Hell fire = represents GE-HINNOM = the valley of the son of Hinnom.
a. It was a place near Jerusalem where the Jews had burned their babies to the god Molech. Because of what happened there, the Jews of Jesus time used the word for hell, the place of the damned. Bodies thrown there and burned.
b. The sentence for a man found guilty of rebellion against God was to be burned alive in the Valley of the son of Hinnom.
c. Jesus was saying if one made such a charge falsely, he was in danger of being burned alive. (lit = the hell of fire)
7. Just because someone has not committed murder does not mean someone has kept this commandment.
a. Jesus lists three acts all of which violate the spirit of this commandment: anger accompanied by an act of harm; contempt expressed by calling someone Raca; hatred and ill will expressed by calling someone “fool” or apostate. The punishments for all are severe.
b. Do you rage when people wrong you? Do you get angry over nothing? Do you speak evil of those who’ve angered you?
c. Even though you haven’t murdered them, you’ve missed the spirit or intent behind the Law. You’ve broken the Law in spirit.