From:  Over 50 Interpreters Explain the Gospel of Luke Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2015


All reproduction of text in paper, electronic, or computer

form both permitted and encouraged so long as authorial

and compiler credit is given and the text is not altered.









Books utilized codes at end of chapter.





16:1                                                     Translations

Weymouth:    He said also to His disciples: "There was a rich man who had a steward, about whom a report was brought to him, that he was wasting his property.

WEB:              He also said to his disciples, "There was a certain rich man who had a manager. An accusation was made to him that this man was wasting his possessions.        

Young’s:         And he said also unto his disciples,

'A certain man was rich, who had a steward,

and he was accused to him as scattering his goods;
Conte (RC):   And he also said to his disciples: "A

certain man was wealthy, and he had a steward of

 his estate. And this man was accused to him of

having dissipated his goods.


16:1                 And He said also unto His disciples.  In interpreting the two following parables it is specially necessary to bear in mind the tertium comparationis, i.e., the one special point which our Lord had in view.  To press each detail into a separate dogmatic truth is a course which has led to flagrant errors in theology and even in morals.  [56]

                        There was a certain rich man, which had a steward.  One who has charge of the affairs of a family or household; whose duty it was to provide for the family, to purchase provisions, etc.  This was, of course, an office of much trust and confidence.  It afforded great opportunity for dishonesty, and waste, and for embezzling property.   The master's eye could not always be on him, and he might therefore squander the property, or hoard it up for his own use.  It was an office commonly conferred on a slave, as a reward for fidelity; and of course was given to him that, in long service, had shown himself most trustworthy.  [11]

                        Or (the possibility the steward was of a higher class):   The steward is not called a servant, although even slaves often filled positions of exalted trust and responsibility.  His office was that of overseer and manager of the affairs of his employer.  If we think of the latter as a great Roman or Oriental proprietor, whose slaves might be numbered by the thousand, and his tenants, some of them, large farmers, we see that the post of steward would be of no mean rank.  In the parable he stands for a disciple of Christ, entrusted with earthly possessions to be turned to account for promoting the interests of his proprietor, God.  Although not many rich men were attaching themselves to Christ, yet some of the many publicans who flocked to him were likely to be men of wealth, and many others had property to make them comparatively rich.  All such should think themselves God’s servants in the administration of whatever they had.  [52]  

                        No parable has been more diversely and multitudinously explained than this.  For instance in the steward some have seen the Pharisees, or the publicans, or Judas Iscariot, or Christ, or Satan, etc.  To enter into and refute these explanations would take up much space and would be quite fruitless.  We cannot be wrong if we seize as the main lesson of the parable the one which Christ Himself attached to it (verses 8-12), namely, the use of earthly gifts of wealth and opportunity for heavenly and not for earthly aims.  [56]

                        and the same was accused.  Only here in New Testament.  From (Greek), over, across, and (Greek), to throw.  To carry across, and hence to carry reports, etc., from one to another; to carry false reports, and so to calumniate or slander.  See on devil, Matthew 4:1.  The word implies malice, but not necessarily falsehood.  [2]

                        unto him that he had wasted his goods.  One of the responsibilities of the position was to assure the responsible use of the rich man’s goods.  He was accused of wasting them, which suggests not treating them in such a manner or diverting them into his own private use.  We discover in the following verses that another of his responsibilities was to assure that the rich man received the proper and agreed upon payments (in money or goods) that were scheduled. 

The fact that he mounted no defense for himself against the accusation of wastage argues that the fundamental accusation was true.  The behavior of “ripping off” the owner financially that he now engages in provides further supporting evidence for the same conclusion.  [rw]  


                        In depth:  The connection of the parable of the dishonest steward to the parable of the prodigal son in the previous chapter [11].  He had been discoursing with the scribes and Pharisees, and vindicating His conduct in receiving kindly publicans and sinners.  These publicans and sinners are those who are here denoted by the word "disciples."  It was with reference to them that the whole discourse had arisen. 

After Jesus had shown the Pharisees, in the preceding chapter, the propriety of His conduct, it was natural that He should turn and address His disciples.  Among them there mighty have been some who were wealthy.  The publicans were engaged in receiving taxes, in collecting money; and their chief danger arose from that quarter--from covetousness or dishonesty.  Jesus always adapted His instructions to the circumstances of His hearers; and it was proper, therefore, that He should give these disciples instructions about their [own, specific] duties and dangers. 

He related this parable, therefore, to show them the danger of the love of money:  the guilt it would lead to (verse 1); the perplexities and shifts to which it would drive a man when once he had been dishonest (verses 3-7); the necessity of using money aright, since it was their chief business (verse 9); and the fact that if they would serve God aright, they must give up supreme attachment to money--they could not serve God and mammon (verse 13). 



16:2                                                     Translations

Weymouth:    He called him and said, "'What is this I hear about you? Render an account of your stewardship, for I cannot let you hold it any longer.'

WEB:              He called him, and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.'      

Young’s:         and having called him, he said to him, What is this I hear about thee? render the account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest not any longer be steward.
Conte (RC):   And he called him and said to him: 'What is this that I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship. For you can no longer be my steward.'


16:2                 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee?   An indignant expression of surprise arising from abused confidence.  [53]

It was not to offer apology for his wasting nor to vindicate himself that he was summoned now, for his removal had already been decided upon.  He must render up his account [of what he had done].  [8]  Although that is true, if he had been innocent how could he possibly have avoided at least trying to introduce a self-defense?  [rw]

                        give an account of thy stewardship.  Give a full statement of all the rents and accounts, in order that this charge may be examined.  This command was fatal to him, because his dishonesty and private squandering of his lord's property would appear.  We see from this circumstance, that his office was to collect yearly rents, which, in the East, to this day [1800s] are collected in kind.  [4]

The reference may be either to a final account previous to dismissal, already resolved on (so usually taken), or to an investigation into the truth or falsehood of the accusation--produce your books that I may judge for myself (so Hahn).  The latter would be the reasonable course, but not necessarily the one taken by an eastern magnate, who might rush from absolute confidence to utter distrust without taking the trouble to inquire further.  As the story runs, this seems to be what happened.  [12]

                        for thou mayest be no longer steward.  Ordinarily the stewards were slaves; but this was evidently a free man, for he was neither punished nor sold, but discharged.  [53]

The charge was so probably true, he would at any rate displace him.  Did this refer to the Pharisees?  Was not Jesus then calling them to account, at not finding  "faith in Israel,"  as a result of their teaching?  The office was soon to be taken from them and given to others.  [4]


                        In depth:  Interpreting the parable as one centering on preparation for death [18].  No parable in the New Testament has been so copiously discussed or has received so many and such varying interpretations at the hands of expositors.  We will at once put aside all the ingenious, but from our point of view mistaken, interpretations which see in "the steward" the Pharisees, the publicans, Judas Iscariot, or Satan.  The parable has a broader, a more direct, a more universally interesting, meaning.  It contains a deep and important teaching for every man or woman who would wish to rank among the followers of Jesus Christ. 

Now, our Lord would have all men look forward gravely and calmly to the certain event of their death, and, in view of that event, would have them make careful and thoughtful preparation for the life which was to come after death.  To press this most important lesson home, the Master, as his custom was at this late period of his ministry, conveyed his instruction in the form of a parable. 

The sketch of a steward about to be dismissed from his office, and who thus would be stripped of his income, was a fit emblem of a man about to be removed from this world by death.  The steward in the parable-story felt that, when dismissed, he would be as it were alone, stripped of all, and destitute.  The soul of such a man, when dead, would be also stripped of everything, would be alone and destitute. 

The question here might be asked--Why take for the principal figure of the parable so immoral a character as an unjust steward?  The answer is well suggested by Professor Bruce, "For the simple reason that his misbehaviour is the natural explanation of the impending dismissal.  Why should a faithful steward be removed from office?  To conceive such a case were to sacrifice probability to a moral scruple."  Roughly, then, two things all-important to us are taught here:  (1) that dismissal, death, will certainly come; (2) that some provision certainly ought to be made for the life that lies beyond--the life that comes after the dismissal, or death. 



16:3                                                     Translations

Weymouth:    "Then the steward said within himself, "'What am I to do? For my master is taking away the stewardship from me. I am not strong enough for field labour: to beg, I should be ashamed.

WEB:              "The manager said within himself, 'What will I do, seeing that my lord is taking away the management position from me? I don't have strength to dig. I am ashamed to beg.         

Young’s:         'And the steward said in himself, What shall I do, because my lord doth take away the stewardship from me? to dig I am not able, to beg I am ashamed: --
Conte (RC):   And the steward said within himself: 'What shall I do? For my lord is taking the stewardship away from me. I am not strong enough to dig. I am too ashamed to beg.


16:3                 Then the steward said within himself.  Thought or considered.  [11]

                        What shall I do?  or my lord taketh away from me the stewardship. His dependence on the continuance of his stewardship for a living, shows that he had not saved, for his own permanent advantage, any part of what he had embezzled from his master.  In this, he was a pattern of the rogues and defrauders of our age [late 1800s], the most egregious of whom, while cheating the confidence of others out of enormous sums, and involving many in utter ruin, are seldom found to have secured any fortune to themselves thereby.  [52]

                        I cannot.  See 14:30.    "I have not strength."  His luxurious life had unfitted him for hard labor.  In Aristophanes ("Birds," 1431), a sycophant is asked:  "Tell me, being a young man, do you lodge informations [legal accusations] against strangers [in order to gain financial rewards]?"  He replies:  "Yes; why should I suffer, for I know not how to dig?"  [2]

                        dig.  This is put for all hard labor.  I cannot work as a day laborer.  [8]                           

Manual labour and begging; digging naturally chosen to represent the former as typical of agricultural labour, with which the steward's position brought him much into contact (Lightfoot).  But why these two only mentioned?  Why not try to get another situation of the same kind?  Because he feels that dismissal in the circumstances means degradation.  [12]

                        Or:  This would be to descend from a post of trust to a life of labor--certainly the most praiseworthy course for him.  But luxury had made him too tender of himself--pride prevented his mixing with other servants as an equal, after having ruled over them so long.  How often, alas, is honest labor despised for gainful dishonesty!  [4]

                        to beg I am ashamed.  Even this was better than lying.  But the luxuriant waster had nursed his pride withal, and he will not be ashamed to cheat, though too modest to beg.  Worldly men act so still.  They will cheat and lie, and owe          money, and resort to every unworthy stratagem to avoid payment, rather than seem poor.  Extravagance and waste in the young, are almost certain to bring on them dishonesty and knavery in age.  [4] 

                        The Jewish sentiment is well expressed in Eccles. 40:28:  “My son, lead not a beggar’s life; for better it is to die than to beg.”  [52]



16:4                                                     Translations

Weymouth:    I see what to do, in order that when I am discharged from the stewardship they may give me a home in their own houses.'

WEB:              I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from management, they may receive me into their houses.'           

Young’s:         I have known what I shall do, that, when I may be removed from the stewardship, they may receive me to their houses.
Conte (RC):   I know what I will do so that, when I have been removed from the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.'


16:4                 I am resolved what to do.  He had wasted his master's goods (verse 1); now he cheats him by downright fraud. Sin plucks on sin, one offence prepares the mind for another, and frequently causes the occasion for it: then, as sin becomes more easy, repentance is more difficult, and the soul ripens fast for destruction. —J. Ford.  [36]

                        It is as if, after profound study, the thought had flashed upon him:  “I have it; I know now what to do.”—Farrar on the passage.  [52]                       

                        that when I am put out of the stewardship.  When I lose my place and have no home and no means of support.  [11]

                        His cessation from the office is decreed, but is not yet actually effected.  This fact gives the basis of his scheme.  [52]

                        they may receive me into their houses.  We are not to suppose that permanent residence in other people's houses is in view.  Something better may offer.  The scheme provides for the near future, helps to turn the next corner.  [12]

                        Or:  Literally, “into their own houses.”  I will confer on them such a boon that they will not leave me houseless.  This eating the breading of dependence, which was all the steward hoped to gain after his life of dishonesty, was after all a miserable prospect, Ecclus. 19:22-28.  If different parts of the parable shadow forth different truths, we may notice that the steward has not enriched himself; what he has had he has spent.  So at death, when we have to render the account of our stewardship to God, we cannot take with us one grain of earthly riches.  [56]



16:5                                                     Translations

Weymouth:    "So he called all his master's debtors, one by one, and asked the first, 'How much are you in debt to my master?'

WEB:              Calling each one of his lord's debtors to him, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe to my lord?'   

Young’s:         'And having called near each one of his lord's debtors, he said to the first, How much dost thou owe to my lord?
Conte (RC):   And so, calling together each one of his lord's debtors, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my lord?


16:5                 So he called.  Alford and Trench think that the debtors were together; but the words seem to me to indicate that he dealt with them separately.  He called to him each one, and said unto the first; after that (Greek) another.  [2]

                        Privately--and ostensibly to prepare his account of the revenues.  [4]

                        every one.  No exceptions.  Anyone whose debt he can “creatively” rearrange to his own advantage, he will do so.  And with their signature on the papers, there will even be a “paper trail” to prove things are “aboveboard” however much the rich owner may be suspicious.  On that aspect he fails since the rich man is fully convinced that he has pulled a fast one (verse 8), but his own wealth is sufficient for him to let his former agent get away with his “creative” scheme.   [rw]

                        of his lord's debtors unto him.  It is quite evident, from the debts being stated to consist of corn and oil, that these debtore were the tenants of the steward's lord, and consequently that the transaction refers to the terms on which the corn-fields and olive grounds were held.  [9]

                        Tenants.  For the pith of his stratagem must lie in the fact that he relieved them of part of their annual rent.  If it had been a single debt, the tenants would have soon tired of supporting him.  The fact that an annual burden was removed, would insure their readiness to bribe him to silence.  [4]

                        Or:  These debtors might be farmers, who paid their rents in kind, or persons who had got supplies of goods from the master's stores; which of the two of no consequence to the point of the parable.  [12]

                        and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?  He is pressed for time and rather than drag out the paper record, he relies on the quickest means to get the information:  ask.  There is no hint that they are aware yet of the scheme he has in mind.  But since it both benefits themselves and somehow—they probably don’t think this aspect through till a little later—the steward as well, they have every financial incentive to go along with it.  [rw]

                        Two cases are mentioned, merely as specimens of the procedure with an indefinite number.  That they are to have unequal abatements favors the view that they came before the agent one at a time.  [52]



16:6                                                     Translations

Weymouth:    "'A hundred firkins of oil,' he replied. "'Here is your account,' said the steward: 'sit down quickly and change it into fifty firkins.'

WEB:              He said, 'A hundred batos of oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.'         

Young’s:         and he said, A hundred baths of oil; and he said to him, Take thy bill, and having sat down write fifty.
Conte (RC):   So he said, 'One hundred jars of oil.' And he said to him, 'Take your invoice, and quickly, sit down and write fifty.'


16:6                 And he said, An hundred measures.  Lit., baths.  The bath was a Hebrew measure, but the amount is uncertain, since, according to Edersheim, there were three kinds of measurement in use in Palestine:  the original Mosaic, corresponding with the Roman; that of Jerusalem, which was a fifth larger; and the common Galilaean measurement, which was more than a fifth larger than the Jerusalem.  Assuming the first standard, the bath would be about fifty-six pints, and the debt, therefore, a large one.  [2]

                        8 7/10 gallons according to Josephus; 4 2/5 according to Rabbinists.  [34]

                        of oil.  The tenants paid not in money, but in the products of their estate.  [14]

                        Olive oil, the usual fluid signified by this word in Scripture, used for lamps,             anointing, and in the toilette.  [4]

                        [It] was one of the staples of life in Palestine, and the olive tree was held in high esteem by the people.  The oil stood to them in place of butter, lard, oil, etc., in our culinary uses.  [52]

                        And he said unto him, take thy bill.  Obligation, bond.  These bonds, it seems, were kept in the hands of the steward, and of this we have instances in the Roman law.  [9]

                        The lease or writing by which they had contracted to rent the land.  As the knave was yet steward, he had the power to make the contract binding--at least, so long as it would seem that secret; and thus, as it would seem that he had received so much less than he did, he would perhaps, wipe off the proofs of his previous waste.  [4]    

                        and sit down quickly.  In order that the whole may be done before detection.  [14]

                        It was a secret transaction, to be hurried through.  [2]

                        Either he is energetic, and will do it at once, or he hurries, lest his fraud may be anticipated, and the opportunity lost.  [4]  

                        and write fifty.  The amount remitted here-- 450 gallons of olive oil--represented a large sum of money.  Such a reduction would put the debtor under great obligation to the steward.  [53]

                        Since Hebrew numerals were letters, and since Hebrew letters differed very slightly from each other, a very slight forgery would represent a large difference.  [56]



16:7                                                     Translations

Weymouth:    "To a second he said, "'And how much do you owe?' "'A hundred quarters of wheat,' was the answer. "'Here is your account,' said he: 'change it into eighty quarters.'

WEB:              Then he said to another, 'How much do you owe?' He said, 'A hundred cors of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' 

Young’s:         'Afterward to another he said, And thou, how much dost thou owe? and he said, A hundred cors of wheat; and he saith to him, Take thy bill, and write eighty.     
Conte (RC):   Next, he said to another, 'In truth, how much do you owe?' And he said, 'One hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your record books, and write eighty.'


16:7                 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou?  A different one with a different debt, and his circumstances demanding a different rate of discount.  [2]

                        and he said, an hundred measures of wheat.  Or, more exactly, 86.7 gallons.  [53]

                        About 11 bushels according to Josephus.; 5 1/2 according to Rabb[inical sources].  [34] 

                        And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.  The amount remitted was about two hundred sixty-seven bushels, and the debtor himself altered the writings, that he might be in no uncertainty about it.  Scholars disagree as to whether these debtors were tenants or traders; that is, purchasers of produce who had given their bonds or notes for the same.  Meyer, Trench, Godet, and others favor this latter view, but the language used and the customs of the land rather indicate that the former is correct.

In the East rents are in proportion to the crop, and hence they vary as it varies.  It was natural, therefore, that the steward should ask the amount of the rent; and also natural, since rents were thus payable in kind, that the tenant should answer as to the very thing owed.  Traders would have been held, not for the "purchase", but for the "price", and would rather have specified the money due than the quantity or thing bought.  Since the price of produce varies, it has been the immemorial custom everywhere to fix the amount to be paid for it at the very time it is purchased, and the amount becomes the debt.  [53]



16:8                                                     Translations

Weymouth:    "And the master praised the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for, in relation to their own contemporaries, the men of this age are shrewder than the sons of Light.

WEB:              "His lord commended the dishonest manager because he had done wisely, for the children of this world are, in their own generation, wiser than the children of the light.

Young’s:         'And the lord commended the unrighteous steward that he did prudently, because the sons of this age are more prudent than the sons of the light, in respect to their generation.
Conte (RC):   And the lord praised the iniquitous steward, in that he had acted prudently. For the sons of this age are more prudent with their generation than are the sons of light.


16:8                 And the lord.  Observe--it was the lord or master of the steward and not the Lord Jesus.  He was a worldly man like his steward and he commends him in a worldly point of view.  [8]

                        Throughout history a certain number of “bad guys” utterly enchant the popular imagination while a thousand others are dismissed out of mind.  This dishonest subordinate gained that kind of a response—anger yields to awe at the ingenuity of the evil.  [rw] 

                        commended the unjust steward.  Admiring his shrewdness, though he himself was defrauded.  [2]

                        When he learned it, the landlord, though a sufferer, commended the knave--but as a knave, for his skill.  For he calls him the unjust steward; and he dismissed him, showing his hatred of his dishonesty; yet separating this from all regard of right and wrong, he admired it as a stratagem.  [4]

                        because he had done wisely.  Prudently.  That is, because he had planned so well.  "And men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself" (Psalms 49:18).  [8]

                        His master did not praise him [for dishonesty], but as quick-witted, and shrewd in the choice of measures fit to help him out of difficulty.  [52]

                        The typical character of this wisdom lies in this fact, that as long as he still had control of his master's possessions, he did not make use of these in order to secure for himself yet a few days of enjoyment, but to secure his future.  For this is the only true wisdom in the use of earthly possessions, that they are not used for the purposes of momentary pleasure, but to secure through their rightful use the good pleasure of God and therefore the future happiness beyond the grave.  [31]

                        Arguments taken from a parable or similitude, are of force, no further than they pertain to the end [purpose] of the parable, or that resemblance, for which things are compared.  The labourer's penny doth not prove an equality of glory in Heaven; nor our Saviour's commendation of the unjust steward justify his cheating of his Master.  Christ proveth the readiness of God to do justice to His servants, upon their constant prayer, by a similitude taken from an unjust judge. Matt. xx. 9-13. —Abp. Bramhall.  [36]

                        for the children of this world.  Those who are devoted to this world, who live for this world only, and who are careful only to obtain property, and to provide for their temporal necessities.  It does not mean that they are peculiarly wicked and profligate, but only that they are worldly and anxious about earthly things.  [11]

                        in their generation.  The A.V. misses the point, following Wyc.  Lit., in reference to their own generation; i.e., the body of the children of this world to which they belong, and are kindred.  They are shrewd in dealing with their own kind; since, as is shown in the parable, where the debtors were accomplices of the steward they are all alike unscrupulous.  Tyndale, in their kind.  [2]

                        wiser.  Not absolutely, but with reference to the things of this generation.  [7]

                        In Matt. vii. 24-26, [wiser] is applied to the sagacious man who built his house on the rock, opposed to the foolish man who built on the sand.  "It is a middle term, not bringing out prominently the moral characteristics, either good or evil, of the action to which it is applied, but recognizing in it a skilful adaptation of the means to the end--affirming nothing in the way of moral approbation or disapprobation, either of means or end, but leaving their worth to be determined by other considerations" (Trench,  "Parables").  [2]

                        wiser than the children of light.  i.e. they make better use of their earthly opportunities for their own lifetime than the sons of the light (John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5) do for their lifetime; or even than the sons of light do for their heavenly opportunities for eternity.  The zeal and alacrity of the “devil’s martyrs” may be imitated even by God’s servants.  [56]


                        In depth:  What was the nature of the steward's fraud?  Interpreted as outright dishonesty only benefiting himself:   He had been dishonest to his master; and, having commenced a course of dishonesty, he did not shrink from pursuing it.  Having injured his master, and being now detected, he was willing still farther to injure him, to take revenge on him for removing him from his place, and to secure his own interest still at his expense.  [11]

                        Interpreted as, paradoxically, eliminating a fraud against the debtor while simultaneously creating a perceived obligation from the latter:  [The usual] interpretation makes this lowering of the tenants' debt a dishonest transaction on the steward's part; and yet it follows in the next verse that he was commended for it; and from the whole parable, that a bad man is held up as, in one respect, a model.  But Van Oosterzee furnishes another [explanation] which removes these last particulars.  The key to the whole parable, which he gives, is briefly this:  "The steward had overcharged the tenants and pocketed the surplus; and so this marking the tenants at a lower figure really is a righting of the matter."  The unjust steward therefore is commended for only the right part of his conduct.  [14]     

                        Interpreted as retrieving for the Lord part of His uncollectable debt while protecting the steward's own future:  These debtors were probably insolvent debtors ([cf.] 7:41-42).  He called every one of his lord's insolvent debtors whose debts were too large for their means, and who therefore were liable to be sold, and all their families, for payment (Matthew 18:25).  To relieve them was therefore the highest favor, and to make restitution to his lord, by paying part of their indebtedness, would accomplish two objects--and so would put what he had to the best account.  [8]



16:9                                                     Translations

Weymouth:    "But I charge you, so to use the wealth which is ever tempting to dishonesty as to win friends who, when it fails, shall welcome you to the tents that never perish.

WEB:              I tell you, make for yourselves friends by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when you fail, they may receive you into the eternal tents. 

Young’s:         and I say to you, Make to yourselves friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye may fail, they may receive you to the age-during tabernacles.
Conte (RC):   And so I say to you, make friends for yourself using iniquitous mammon, so that, when you will have passed away, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles.


16:9                 And I say unto you.  This is My instruction to you in regard to money.  [rw]

                        Make to yourselves friends.  Not palaces nor barns nor estates nor great name--but friends.   By means of worldly treasure we may make ourselves friends among the Lord's poor.  [8]

                        Some have understood the word "friends," here, as referring to the poor; others, to angels; and others, to God.  Perhaps, however, the word should not be considered as referring to any particular persons, but is used in accordance with the preceding parable; for, in the application, our Savior uses the language appropriated to the conduct of the steward to express the general truth that we are to make a proper use of riches.  [11] 

                        of the mammon.  Not make the mammon your friend, but make friends by means of it, i.e., of riches.  [4]

                        of unrighteousness.  [So labeled] because in many cases its acquisition and use implied so much of iniquity that one who saw this in its profoundest depths and boundless breadth, might well characterize it sweepingly as, in itself, “richesse of wickednesse,” Wycliffe; or, “wicked mammon,” Tyndale.  [52]

Or:  In the phrase of unrighteousness, there is implied no condemnation of property as such; but it is styled unrighteous, or belonging to unrighteousness, because it is the characteristic and representative object and delight and desire of the selfish and unrighteous world:  their love of it being a root of all evil (1 Tim. vi. 10).  [2]

The meaning of “unrighteousness:  Mammon simply means wealth and is called “unrighteous” by metonymy  (i.;e., the ethical character of the use is represented as cleaving to the thing itself) because the abuse of riches is more common than their right use (1 Timothy 6:10).  It is not therefore necessary to give to the word “unrighteous” the sense of “false” or “unreal,” though sometimes in the LXX it has almost that meaning.  We turn mammon into a friend, and make ourselves friends by its means, when we use riches not as our own to squander, but as God’s to employ in deeds of usefulness and mercy.  [56]    

                        that when ye fail.  When ye are left or when ye die.  The expression is accommodated to the discharge of the steward; but it refers to death, as if God then discharged His people, or took them from their stewardship, and called them to account.  [11]

                        they may receive you.  The word “they” points apparently to the friends who shall have been made.  There is indeed a difficulty in making plain how the beneficiaries of the prudent rich among the songs of light are to receive them into the places of celestial joy.  But the fiction of the intercession of departed saints is not even faintly suggest by the idea that those who have gone before “receive” (= welcome), not lead, nor bring, nor introduce, into the heavenly blessedness those who have introduced them into the spiritual life, or greatly enriched it for them, on the earth.  And when we see the glorified Jesus Himself making the kindness of His followers to those less well off the comprehensive reason for welcoming them to His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 25:34ff.), there seems great propriety in those poor themselves joyfully greeting the arrival of their benefactors among the blessed.  The only serious hindrance to the reception of this view as being intended by the language is that it supposes the object of loving liberality to have departed first to the reward, while in practice that would be the less common case.  But this partial incongruity may have been inevitable in the otherwise very expressive figure.  [52] 

                        into everlasting habitations.  Heaven, the eternal home of the righteous, where all these wants will be supplied, and there can be no more anxiety (2 Corinthians 5:1, etc.).  [11]

                        Literally, “the eternal tabernacles.”  This is a more picturesque way of saying, “that you may enjoy the fruit of your beneficent use of earthly riches through eternal ages.”  This figure for the residence in heaven is obviously suggested by the mention of “their houses” (verse 4).  “Eternal tabernacles,” or, “tents,” is an oxymoron; which, in applying so incongruous an epithet as eternal, emphasizes the contrast between the transient habitations of earth and the everlasting abodes to which we go (John 14:2; 2 Corinthians 5:1).  [52]


                        In detail:  In what way can an evil man be a good example [14]?  Jesus does here advise us to imitate a wicked man, but not in his wickedness.  Good man may be often instructed by the example of the wicked.  If a reveller can, as he often does, spend one night a week in revelry, surely the Christian may be incited to have one watch-night [of prayer] in the year.  We may take the devil as a model of unceasing activity; we in a good, as he in a bad cause.

                        It is a maxim in heraldry, that of the animal placed as emblem on the coat of arms, the good qualities alone must be considered, and not the bad.  So, if on the national banner an eagle, a lion, a rattlesnake, be placed, we leave out of account the beastly or reptile baseness, and take in only the excellences in these beings.

                        Our Lord commends to His apostles the wisdom of the serpent, but not his venom; the harmlessness of the dove, but not his simplicity.  In the same way He instructs from the Unjust Judge and the Reluctant Neighbour.  


                        An additional approach [53]:  "Wasted" (verse 1) is the same verb as found at Luke 15:13.  The attitude of the two brethren to their father's estate, as set forth in the previous parable, introduced thoughts as to the proper relation which a man bears to his possessions, and these relations Jesus discusses in this parable.  While no parable has been so diversely explained, yet the trend of interpretation has been in the main satisfactory.

The Lord himself gives the key to the parable in Luke 16:8, which is that the children of light, in the conduct of their affairs, should emulate the wisdom and prudence of the children of the world in the conduct of their affairs.  The difficulty of the parable is more apparent than real.  The whole parabolic machinery is borrowed from worldly and irreligious life, where dishonest cunning and rascality are freely tolerated.

The child of light is equally shrewd and wise in the management of his affairs; "using, however, only those means and methods which are permissible in his sphere of action".  God's word, of course, nowhere teaches that sinful methods are permitted to him whom it calls to lead a sinless life.  While the steward's conduct teaches valuable lessons, the steward himself is condemned as an "unrighteous" man in Luke 16:8.



16:10                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    The man who is honest in a very small matter is honest in a great one also; and he who is dishonest in a very small matter is dishonest in a great one also.

WEB:              He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.         

Young’s:         He who is faithful in the least, is also faithful in much; and he who in the least is unrighteous, is also unrighteous in much;
Conte (RC):   Whoever is faithful in what is least, is also faithful in what is greater. And whoever is unjust in what is small, is also unjust in what is greater.


16:10               He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.   This is a maxim that will almost universally hold true.  A man that shows fidelity in small matters will also in large.  Fidelity is required in small matters as well as in those of more importance.  [11]

                        Those maxims are proverbs taken from ordinary practice and experience, and it is quite enough if they are generally true.  It will sometimes happen, no doubt, that a deceiver, who had disregarded a small gain, shall display his wickedness in a matter of importance.  Nay, many persons, by affecting honesty in trifling matter, are only in pursuit of an enormous gain; as that author says:  "Fraud established confidence in itself in small matters, that, when a fit opportunity shall arrive, it may deceive with vast advantage."  And yet the statement of Christ is not inaccurate; for in proverbs, as I have mentioned, we attend only to what usually happens.

                        Christ, therefore, exhorts his disciples to act faithfully in small matters, in order to prepare themselves for the exercise of fidelity in matters of the highest importance.  [19]

                        and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.  The pattern of behavior normally stays the same.  If you work by the “what can I get away with?” standard of “morality,” then the only limit at any stage is practicality and whether one can successfully escape detection.  Or have someone else who can credibly be blamed for being “really” responsible while we were merely being “maneuvered” by them in the wrong direction. [rw]    



16:11                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    If therefore you have not proved yourselves faithful in dealing with the wealth that is tainted with fraud, who will entrust to you the true good?

WEB:              If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?         

Young’s:         if, then, in the unrighteous mammon ye became not faithful -- the true who will entrust to you?
Conte (RC):   So then, if you have not been faithful with iniquitous mammon, who will trust you with what is true?


16:11               If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon.  This is what we have in the here and now.  Therefore it has to be by its use that our behavior and character are judged.  [rw]

                        who will commit to your trust the true riches?  The graces of the gospel; the influences of the Spirit; eternal life, or religion.  The riches of this world are false, deceitful, not to be trusted (verse 9); the treasures of heaven are true, faithful, never failing (Matthew 6:19-20).  [11]

                        They are the deeds which are done in faith and mercy, called "treasure in heaven" (Matt. vi. 20), otherwise called "fruits of the Spirit" (Gal. v. 22), and again by St. Peter, "a crown of glory that fadeth nor away" (1 Pet. v. 4), and by St. Paul, "a good foundation" (1 Tim. vi. 17-19).  [4]



16:12                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    And if you have not been faithful in dealing with that which is not your own, who will give you that which is your own?

WEB:              If you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?      

Young’s:         and if in the other's ye became not faithful -- your own, who shall give to you?
Conte (RC):   And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?


16:12               And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's.  The lesson of the verse is that nothing which we possess on earth is our own; it is entrusted to us for temporary use (1 Chronicles 29:14), which shall be rewarded by real and eternal possessions (1 Peter 1:4).  [56]

                        who shall give you that which is your own?  The riches of heaven, which, if once given to us, may be considered as ours--i.e., it will be permitted and fixed, and will not be taken away as if at the pleasure of another.  We may calculate on it, and look forward with the assurance that it will continue to be ours for ever.  [11]



16:13                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    "No servant can be in bondage to two masters. For either he will hate one and love the other, or else he will cling fast to one and scorn the other. You cannot be bondservants both of God and of gold."

WEB:              No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You aren't able to serve God and mammon."        

Young’s:         'No domestic is able to serve two lords, for either the one he will hate, and the other he will love; or one he will hold to, and of the other he will be heedless; ye are not able to serve God and mammon.'
Conte (RC):   No servant is able to serve two lords. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will cling to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."


16:13               No servant.  Properly, household servant.  [2]

                        can serve two masters.  In a general view, it would be questionable whether no man can serve two masters.  It would have to be understood of a simultaneous service to masters whose requirements are incompatible with each other.  This is specifically indicated in our passage.  No house-servant can render unqualified, absolute service to different masters.  [52]

                        Spiritual application:  God requires a whole heart and an undivided service.  “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ,” Galatians 1:10.  “Whosoever . . . will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God,” James 4:4.  “Covetousness . . . is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).  [56]
for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Divided loyalties are the problem:  You are supposed to be equally answerable and serving to both, but it doesn’t work out well in “real life.”  There you inevitably find one person pushing for you to do one thing and the other to do something entirely different.  It guarantees you won’t make at least one of them happy and virtually guarantees that at least one of them will always be upset with you for doing different than their instructions.  [rw]

                        Ye cannot serve God and mammon.  The contrast implies that you are faced with two basic alternatives:  make God your object of worship, respect, and awe or make wealth accumulation what you honor and serve above all else.  This does not mean that wealth is inherently evil, but only that your own misguided desires and priorities can transform it into exactly that.  [rw] 



16:14                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    To all this the Pharisees listened, bitterly jeering at Him; for they were lovers of money.

WEB:              The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they scoffed at him.

Young’s:         And also the Pharisees, being lovers of money, were hearing all these things, and were deriding him,
Conte (RC):   But the Pharisees, who were greedy, were listening to all these things. And they ridiculed him.


16:14               And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things.  They were annoyed because the parable hit home at them.  The steward in the parable had an important and prestigious position just as the Pharisees often did.  He resorted to brazen fraud through changing the amounts of indebtedness only when he had no alternative due to his previous track record of abused leadership.  Hence you could argue what was abnormal for the steward was the “norm” for the Pharisees—making them even worse than the man in the parable. 

Alternatively, one could contend that the Pharisees, like the steward, were routinely “wasting” their Lord’s resources and when nothing else would work they also went to an astounding extreme—condoning, supporting, or at least doing nothing to prevent the death of Jesus.  Either way, the story has obvious application to the mind frame of the Pharisees and they clearly recognized it all too well.  [rw]

                        and they derided Him.  They ridiculed or laughed at Him.  [11]

                        The verb expresses great contempt as well as abusiveness = “turned up their noses at Him.”  We may almost hear their coarse jeers at His teaching about wealth.  [52]

Jesus and His disciples were poor men.  What did they know about the duties of wealth?  Besides, it was a well-known Pharisaic maxim that worldly prosperity was a sign of God's favor and those favored wealthy men did what was well-pleasing in God's sight when they conformed in external behavior to the maxims of Pharisaic tradition.  [6]



16:15                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    "You are they," He said to them, "who boast of their own goodness before men, but God sees your hearts; for that which holds a proud position among men is detestable in God's sight.

WEB:              He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Young’s:         and he said to them, 'Ye are those declaring yourselves righteous before men, but God doth know your hearts; because that which among men is high, is abomination before God;
Conte (RC):   And he said to them: "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of men. But God knows your hearts. For what is lifted up by men is an abomination in the sight of God.


16:15               And He said unto them.  He directly criticized their values and good judgement on the subject, arguing, in effect, that these were debased values and bad judgement.  [rw]

Ye are they which justify yourselves before men.  Pass yourselves off for righteous, with those who see only the outward appearance.  [52]

                        This approach worked quite well, of course, with those only concerned with outward appearance—a problem not exactly unknown among many “religious” people even today.  So long as the external appearance is “right,” the inner rot destroying the soul can be ignored in the delusion that God is willing to overlook the unseen.  In reality, He wants both the inner and outer person to be united in the pursuit of the same thing—excellence of character and peace with God.  [rw]

                        but God knoweth your hearts.  And knows that this is only an appearance, a cloak and pretense.  He finds no righteousness there, where it should all be, if there were any.  [52]

                        Hence God is called “a heart-knower” in Acts 15:8; and “in thy sight shall no man living be justified,” Psalms cxliii. 2.  There is perhaps a reference to 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 27:9.  [56]

                        for that which is highly esteemed among men.  These words are to be applied chiefly to what Jesus was discoursing about.  There are many things esteemed among men which are not abomination in the sight of God; as, e.g., truth, parental and [family] affection, industry, etc.  But many things, much sought and admired, are hateful in His sight.  [11]

                        is abomination in the sight of God.   [“Abomination:”]  The word is the one that, in the Old Testament, is commonly given to idols and denotes God's abhorrence of such conduct.  [11]



16:16                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    The Law and the Prophets continued until John came: from that time the Good News of the Kingdom of God has been spreading, and all classes have been forcing their way into it.

WEB:              The law and the prophets were until John. From that time the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.                      

Young’s:         the law and the prophets are till John; since then the reign of God is proclaimed good news, and every one doth press into it;
Conte (RC):   The law and the prophets were until John. Since then, the
kingdom of God is being evangelized, and everyone acts with violence toward it.


16:16               The law and the prophets were until John.  The Pharisees insisted that the “the law and the prophets” were authoritative—in contrast to the Sadducees, who insisted that only the Law was obligatory—and in this they were right.  But the prophetic forerunner to the Messiah had arrived in John and all that was about to change.  [rw] 

                        This is one of our Lord’s clearest intimations that the aeon of the Law and the Prophets was now merging into a new dispensation, since they were only “a shadow of things to come,” Colossians 2:17.  [56]

since that time the kingdom of God is preached.  The Law and the prophets spoke of the coming King and Kingdom, but it was only with the coming of John the Baptist that its literal imminence was announced.  [rw]

                        and every man presseth into it.  Many men, or multitudes.  It is an expression that is very common; as when we say everybody is engaged in a piece of business, meaning that it occupies general attention.  [11]

                        The word implies “is making forcible entrance into it,” Matthew 11:12, 13.  The allusion is to the eagerness with which the message of the kingdom was accepted by the publicans and the people generally, 7:20; John 12:19.  The other rendering, “every man useth violence against it,” does not agree so well with the parallel passage in Matthew.  [56]

                        Here (in the sixteenth verse), the Master went on speaking to the Pharisees who derided him (verse 14).  "Up to the period of John the Baptist," said the Master, "the old state of things may be said to have continued in force.  With him began a new era; no longer were the old privileges to be confined to Israel exclusively; gradually the kingdom of God was to be enlarged, the old wall of separation was to be taken down.  See, every man is pressing into it; the new state of things has already begun; you see it in the crowds of publicans, sinners, Samaritans, and others pressing round me when I speak of the kingdom of God."  [18]


                        In depth:  Connecting verses 16-18 with the context [52].  These verses are hard to bring into a manifest train with the discourse before and after.  Yet they here constitute a train of their own, though reported each, in other Gospels, in a different historical connection.  There is no reason, however, to conclude with some that they are thrown in here as scattered statements, not supposed to any original relation to each other.  And, on careful consideration, we find the whole to exhibit the joints of an argument (the details not being preserved) to prove the culpability of the Pharisees in their sham righteousness, from their own law, when [considered] in its true spirit.

                        The argument is that the law and the prophets, the Old Testament system, which was in legitimate force until John the Baptist, is—although since replaced—not only not abolished, but even sharpened and made more exacting on the disposition of its subjects.  This prepares the way for the sentence (verse 31) that the law shows the need of repentance, on the part of the Pharisees, of their sin of covetousness and the misuse of wealth.

                        The strictness of the requirement of the law upon the spirit is then exemplified in the gospel form of the law concerning divorce.  We have thus a fresh application of the principles of the kingdom of God as laid down in Matthew 5:16, 20, 31f.  


                        Or:  Jesus warned that God knew their hearts and justifying themselves in front of other people was not adequate to obtaining God’s approval as well (verse 15).  Jesus embraces vigorously their own concept of the authority of the Torah and prophets (verses 16-17) and then blanketly denounces divorce and remarriage (verse 18).  Since no reason is given for the divorce, Jesus is clearly targeting divorce that occurs without any justified reason.  (Whether there can be a justified reason isn’t raised in the current context.)  Divorce simply occurs because the husband has the power to demand it.

 THAT was a blatant violation of the Mosaical Law itself because moral unlceanness was required (Deuteronomy 24:1-5).  In other words, the Pharisees viewed themselves as exemplars of Torah obedience when, on this subject, many of them thought any and all “reasons” were acceptable—setting aside the plain and direct statement of the Law they claimed to uphold.  In essence, they thought “no reason” was actually necessary for divorce since “all reasons” were acceptable.   As the rich man in Hades (verse 31), they needed to repent because the Law stood in condemnation of their practice of living in defiance of Divine law when it inconvenienced them.  Clearly on the subjects of both divorce and wealth.  [rw]  



16:17                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    But it is easier for earth and sky to pass away than for one smallest detail of the Law to fall to the ground.

WEB:              But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tiny stroke of a pen in the law to fall.           

Young’s:         and it is easier to the heaven and the earth to pass away, than of the law one tittle to fall.            
Conte (RC):   But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to fall away.


16:17               And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass.  The form of expression implies that it is impossible for the law, in its spirit as divinely intended, not to reach complete fulfillment.  This is affirmed to prevent the mistake that, because now the kingdom of God was superseding the Mosaic Economy, the obligation of the true law was in the least degree weakened.  [52]

                        than one tittle.  The tip (keraia, horn) of a letter such as distinguished [one Hebrew letter from another].  [6]

                        Comparable to the dot of an I with us.  [52]

                        of the Law.  Marcion (second century) here, in his recension of St. Luke, changes the text thus:  "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of my sayings to fail."  Marcion, who refused to allow the Divine origin of any part of the Old Testament, was afraid of the testimony which this assertion of our Lord would give to the Divine authority of the Pentateuch.  [18]

                        to fail.  "Yet think not," went on the Master, "that, though things are changing, the Divine Law will ever fail.  The mere temporary and transitory regulations will, of course, give place to a new order, but not the smallest part of one letter of the Divine moral Law will fail."  [18]

                        The best comment on the verse is Matthew 5:27-48.  The bearing of these remarks on the previous ones seems to be that our Lord charges the Pharisees with hypocrisy and men-pleasing, because while they professed the most scrupulous reverence to the Law, they lived in absolute violation of its spirit, which was alone valuable in God’s sight.  [56]



16:18                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    Every man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and he who marries her when so divorced from her husband commits adultery.

WEB:              Everyone who divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery. He who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.        

Young’s:         'Every one who is sending away his wife, and marrying another, doth commit adultery; and every one who is marrying her sent away from a husband doth commit adultery.
Conte (RC):   Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. And whoever marries her who has been divorced by her husband commits adultery.


16:18               Whosoever.  Jesus stresses that the marriage covenant was one intended for permanency and not to be tossed away at a whim.  The exception clause found in Matthew’s presentation of Jesus’ teaching on the subject does not change the fundamental reality in both places:  with or without the exception of sexual misconduct being present, God is displeased at it taking place.  He tolerates it due to mankind’s weakness and not because it is something somehow praiseworthy.  [rw]  

                        putteth away his wife and marrieth another.  They had perverted and abused, for licentious purposes, the Mosaic law (Deut. xxiv. 1), that if "uncleanness" were found in a wife, the husband might "write a bill of divorcement, and put it into her hand, and send her out of the house."  What was then permitted, and that, too, only to prevent greater evils, and because it was found to be necessary in view of the hardness of the hearts of the people, was now regarded, sadly misinterpreted and applied.  This language of our Lord is to be interpreted in harmony with Matt. v. 32.  According to this law, adultery or unchastity, is the only sufficient reason for divorce.  [9]

                        committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.  You inadvertently mess up both your own life and—ironically—that of your new spouse as well.  However much God’s law has an exception (Matthew 5:32; 19:9), the fact remains that even when a divorce is fully called for and justified, God is still not thrilled by it.  Even in the Old Testament, we read: “For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts:  therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously  (Malachi 2:16)  This blanket statement about all divorces notes the commonness (verbal if not physical) and how it is easily accompanied with the most “treacherous” treatment of our spouse we think we can get away with.  “Accept” divorce (at least under certain conditions), God did; be ecstatic about it—never.  A concession to human weakness; not a thing to gloat over.  [rw]      


                        In depth:  The relationship of this teaching to the previous subject matter Jesus is emphasizing [56].  At first sight this verse (which also occurs with an important limitation in Matthew 5:32) appears so loosely connected with the former as to lead the Dutch theologian Van der Palm to suppose that Luke was merely utilizing a spare fragment on the page by inserted isolated words of Christ.  But compressed as the discourse is, we see that this verse illustrates, no less than the others, the spirit of the Pharisees.  They professed to reverence the Law and the Prophets, yet divorce (so alien to the primitive institution of marriage) was so shamefully lax among them that great Rabbis in the Talmud practically abolished all the sacredness of marriage in direct contradiction to Malachi 2:15, 16.

                        Even Hillel said a man might divorce his wife if she over-salted his soup.  They made the whole discussion turn, not on eternal truths, but on a mere narrow verbal disquisition about the meaning of two words ervath dabhar, “some uncleanness” (literally “matter of nakedness”), in Deuteronomy 24:1, 2.  Not only Hillel, but even the son of Sirach (Ecclus. 25:26) and Josephus (Antiquities IV. 8, 23), interpreted this to mean “for any or every cause.”  (Matthew 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12.)  Besides this shameful laxity the Pharisees had never had the courage to denounce the adulterous marriage and disgraceful divorce of which Herod Antipas had been guilty.  



16:19                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    "There was once a rich man who habitually arrayed himself in purple and fine linen, and enjoyed a splendid banquet every day,

WEB:              "Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day.      

Young’s:         'And -- a certain man was rich, and was clothed in purple and fine linen, making merry sumptuously every day,
Conte (RC):   A certain man was wealthy, and he was clothed in purple and in fine linen. And he feasted splendidly every day.


16:19               Introduction:  The relationship of the parable to the preceding criticism of the religious leaders.  Our Lord in the parable continues the subject of His discourse against the Pharisees, by shewing that wealth and respectability are very differently estimated on earth and in the world beyond.  The parable illustrates each step of the previous discourse:--Dives regards all he has as his very own; uses it selfishly, which even Moses and the Prophets might have taught him not to do; and however lofty in his own eyes is an abomination before God.  [56]

                        There was a certain rich man.  This  "certain rich man"  was  "clothed in purple"--which was the color in that age appropriate to princely rank--and "fine linen," which was then, because the manufacture of it was in its infancy, considered a proof of the greatest wealth or greatest luxury.  He also "fared sumptuously."  Not that he was a glutton or recklessly extravagant, but he lived well, as a rich man could afford to do.  And this rich display was not reserved for special days or festivals; it was his ordinary style.

                        It is important, in order that the edge of the parable may be retained, that the character of this man, as evil, should not be exaggerated.  He is not said to have been dishonest, or a false accuser, or an oppressor of the poor, or avaricious, or a spendthrift, or an adulterer, or a criminal.  There is not exhibited to us any peculiar wickedness in his conduct. 

The design of the parable is to admonish us, not that a monster of wickedness shall be punished in another world, but that the man who does little or no good, and who, though not perhaps intemperate or sensual, is yet careless about the situation of others and exists only for the indulgence of his own appetites and vanity, shall not escape punishment.  It shows the danger of living in the neglect of duties, though not chargeable with the commission of crimes, and particularly the danger of considering the gifts of Providence as our own property, and not as a trust from our Creator to be employed in His service (i.e., in doing His will), and for which we are accountable to Him.  [9]

                        It is remarkable that He gave no name to this rich man [unlike Lazarus].  If this was a parable, it shows us how unwilling He was to fix suspicion on any one;       if it was not a parable, it shows also that Jesus would not drag out [the names of specific] wicked men before the public, but would conceal as much as possible all that had any [specific] connection with them.  The good He would speak well of by name; the evil he would not injure by exposing them to public view.  [11]

                        He is left nameless, perhaps to imply that his name was “not written in heaven” (10:20).  Legend gives him the name Nimeusis.  Dives is simply the Latin for “a rich man.”  [56]

                        which was clothed in purple.  A color obtained from shell-fish.  It was much used by the rich, and by cortiers and kings.  It is sometimes translate scarlet, but is the same dye.  See Judges vii. 26; Dan. v. 7; and Matt. xxvii. 28.  [4]

Originally the purple fish from which the color was obtained, and thence applied to the color itself.  Several kinds of these were found in the Mediterranean.  The color was contained in a vein about the neck.  Under the term purple the ancients included three distance colors:  1. A deep violet, with a black or dusky tinge; the color meant by Homer in describing an ocean wave:  "As when the great sea grows purple with dumb swell"  ("Iliad,"  xiv., 16).  2.  Deep scarlet or crimson--the Tyrian purple.  3.  The deep blue of the Mediterranean.  The dye was permanent.  Alexander is said by Plutarch to have found in the royal palace at Susa garments which preserved their freshness of color though they had been laid up for nearly two hundred years.  [2]

                        and fine linen.  The byssus, a soft cloth made of flax, very fine and white when compared with other ancient cloths.  It was costly, and used only by the wealthy and powerful.  Gen. xli. 42; Ex. xxviii. 5.  [4]

                        Byssus is the fine linen of Egypt (Genesis xli. 42; Esther 8:15; Proverbs 31:22; Ezekiel 27:7; Revelation 18:12), a robe of which was worth twice its own weight in gold.  [56]

Byssus.  A yellowish flax, and the linen made from it.  Herodotus says it was used for enveloping mummies (ii., 86), a statement confirmed by microscopic examinations.  He also speaks of it as a bandage for a wound (vii., 181).  It is the word used by the Septuagint for linen (Exod. xxv. 4; xxviii. 5; xxxv. 6, etc.).  Some of the Egyptian linen was so fine that it was called woven air.  Sir Gardner Wilkinson says that some in his possession was, to the touch, comparable to silk, and not inferior in texture to the finest cambric.  It was often as transparent as lawn, a fact illustrated by the painted sculptures, where the entire form is often made distinctly visible through the outer garment.  Later Greek writers used the word for cotton and for silk.  A yellow byssus was used by the Greeks, the material for which grew around Elis, and which was enormously costly.  See Aeschylus,  "Persae,"  127.  [2]

                        and fared sumptuously every day.  Not merely occasionally, but constantly.  This was a mark of great wealth, and in the view of the world evidence of great happiness.  [11]

                        Literally, “making merry (12:19) every day, splendidly.”  It indicates a life of banquets.  The description generally might well apply to Herod Antipas, 7:25; Mark 6:14, 21.  [56]


                        In depth:  Is the Lazarus story history or parable?  From the very earliest days it has been a matter of dispute whether this portion of our Lord's teaching ought to be regarded as a parable or a real history.  It is, however, of no real importance to inquire whether this is the history of men who actually lived at Jerusalem, or whether our Lord borrowed only general characters and worked them into a parable.  In either case the moral is the same.  It cannot for a moment be supposed that Jesus would use any embellishment, even in a parable, that would leave any impression on an honest mind inconsistent with truth.  If the parable in part consists of drapery, it is not the drapery of error, but of truth.  [9]

                        Though it is unnatural to suppose that our Lord would in such a parable formally reveal any new truth respecting the state of the dead,--yet, in conforming himself to the ordinary language current on these subjects, it is impossible to suppose that He, whose essence is Truth, could have assumed as existing any thing which does not exist.  It would destroy the truth of our Lord's sayings, if we could conceive Him to have used popular language which did not point at truth.  And accordingly, where such language was current, we find Him not adopting, but protesting against it:  see Matt. xi. 5.  [15]


                        The anti “literal”-history approach:   We must remember that this is a parable, and that the details of picturesque description are not meant to convey actual facts or doctrines.  Hence we cannot take literally the burning thirst, the flame, and the bodily torments; but, on the other hand, these phrases are figures of something, and cannot be dismissed as revealing nothing whatever about the other world for the good and for the evil.  The evil-doer is brought face to face with the holiness of God, which he can never hope to share, and that is torment.  [6] 



16:20                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    while at his outer door there lay a beggar, Lazarus by name,

WEB:              A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was laid at his gate, full of sores,     

Young’s:         and there was a certain poor man, by name Lazarus, who was laid at his porch, full of sores,
Conte (RC):   And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, covered with sores,


16:20               And there was a certain beggar.  Literally, one who crouches.  The Greek word "ptochos" is used thirty-four times in the New Testament, and is everywhere translated "poor", save here and Luke 16:22; Galatians 4:9.  In the last stages of life Lazarus had become an object of charity, but there is nothing to indicate that he had been an habitual beggar.  [53]

                        named Lazarus.  The abbreviated form of Eleazar, signifying, "God is my help;" a very suitable name for one who had no sympathy from man.  [14]

                        Weizsacker goes the length of regarding Lazarus as the representative of the Gentiles despised by the Jews.  This last idea is incompatible with the Jewish name Lazarus, as well as with the place awarded to him in Abraham's bosom, the gathering place of pious Jews.  [13]

                        This is the only parable in which a proper name occurs; and the only miracles of which the recipients are named are Mary Magdalene, Jairus, Malchus, and Bartimaeus.  Whether in the name there be some allusive contrast to the young and perhaps wealthy Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary, as Professor Plumptre has conjectured is uncertain.  [56] 

                        which was laid at his gate.  Was stretched out, as Mark 7:30, not cast there by friends, but stationed at this place, a rich man's door.  [8]

                        gate.  This was the passage from the street to the open court [at] the front of the house.  The house is built around a quadrangular court, usually with a room in front over the gateway, which leads into the open area.  He was where he must be seen by the rich man, as he seems to have been known and recognized (verse 23).  [8]

                        full of sores.  The phrase is the medical word for ulcerous.  The poor man's body was in torment, full of sores that burned.  Leprosy was ulcerous; hence lazar for leper, laza-house for leper-house.  [6]

                        His condition was pitiable.  But it does not follow that he had been immoral, nor that he was under judgment for crime.  Our Saviour once said (John            9:3) that it was not because of a man's sins, nor of the sins of his parents, that he was born blind; and also he cautioned his disciples against concluding (Luke 13:4) that the people on whom the tower of Siloam fell were sinners above the rest.  [44]



16:21                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    covered with sores and longing to make a full meal off the scraps flung on the floor from the rich man's table. Nay, the dogs, too, used to come and lick his sores.

WEB:              and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores.    

Young’s:         and desiring to be filled from the crumbs that are falling from the table of the rich man; yea, also the dogs, coming, were licking his sores.
Conte (RC):   wanting to be filled with the crumbs which were falling from the wealthy man's table. But no one gave it to him. And even the dogs came and licked his sores.


16:21               And desiring.  Eagerly, and not receiving what he desired.  The same thing is implied in the story of the prodigal, where the same word is used,  he would fain have been filled" (ch. xv. 16), but the pods did not satisfy his hunger.  [2]

                        Or:  It is not said that the rich man refused him broken meat, but he did not aid him effectually.  Perhaps he chose to keep him there as a means of ostentatious charity, and prided himself on the appearance of piety which such a shadow of virtue afforded.  [4]

                        to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table.  The Orientals had no knives or forks; they wiped their fingers after feeding on pieces of bread, and these were flung out on the street in Eastern fashion for dogs or beggars.  [6]

                        moreover.  Lit., but even.  "But (instead of finding compassion, even the dogs,"  etc.  [2]

                        the dogs came and licked his sores.  Contrast with angels in verse 22.  [7]

                        Some understand this to mean that the dogs showed more humanity than man, by licking away the putrid matter issuing from his sores, thus affording him             some relief.   Others, that he was so well known there that the very dogs, that are in the habit of scaring away strangers, recognized him well.  Hence, the rich man would not but be aware of his misery.  Others, however, looking to the word "moreover," which would seem to denote an additional feature of his wretched condition--for everything mentioned regarding his condition in this life only exhibits his misery--say, the words mean, his condition was so weak, he was so destitute, that he was unable to drive off the dogs--wandering dogs, the pest of Eastern cities [even in the nineteenth century]--that caused him additional torture by licking his wounds.  [17]


                        In depth:  The case that Lazarus had received at least token charity from the rich man [9].  The expression, in the original, does not afford a sufficient foundation for supposing that he was refused the crumbs, the word rendered desiring, not implying so much in the Scriptural use of it.  Nor does such supposition seem to be warranted by the facts, that the rich man afterward immediately knew Lazarus, asked that he might be made the instrument of the relief wanted, and that, though the patriarch upbraided the rich man with the carelessness and luxury in which he lived, he said not a word of the refusal of the crumbs to the beggar at the gate.  Besides, as the beggar appears to have been laid there repeatedly, this implies some success.   



16:22                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    "But in course of time the beggar died; and he was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and had a funeral.

WEB:              It happened that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried.

Young’s:         'And it came to pass, that the poor man died, and that he was carried away by the messengers to the bosom of Abraham -- and the rich man also died, and was buried;
Conte (RC):   Then it happened that the beggar died, and he was carried by the Angels into the bosom of Abraham. Now the wealthy man also died, and he was entombed in Hell.


16:22               And it came to pass, that the beggar died.  The suffering he endured continued until he died.  Nothing that happened rescued him from it before then.  [rw]

                        and was carried by the angels.  The Jews held the opinion that the spirits of the righteous were conveyed by angels to heaven at their death.  Angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who are heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14); and there is no more improbability in the supposition that they attend departing spirits to heaven than that they attend them while on earth.  [11]

                        Nothing is said of burial for him, but angels, according to the Scripture teaching and the prevalent belief of that day, bore him to the intermediate state, there to await the day of the resurrection.  Angels receive the care of the spirits of the just.  Matt. xviii. 10; Heb. i. 13.  [4]

                        into Abraham's bosom.  A Rabbinical phrase, equivalent to being with Abraham in Paradise.  "To the Israelite Abraham seems the personal centre and meeting-point of Paradise"  (Goebel).  [2]

                        One of the three names common among the Jews to denote the future state of blessedness.  The other two were "Paradise" (23:43) and "the Throne of Glory."  [6]

                        Or:  The Jews expressed the present condition of departed saints in three ways, as in the Garden of Eden, under the throne of glory, and in Abraham's bosom.  By each they conveyed the idea of rest, of happiness, favor with God, and expectation of the future glory.  [4]

                        the rich man also died and was buried.  [Lazarus'] burial was too unimportant to mention; while "the rich man died and was buried"--his carcass carried in pomp to its earthly resting place.  [16]

                        Meyer thinks the latter item is stated in contrast with Lazarus, whom he makes to have needed no burial, being translated bodily.  It is rather to show that his earthly history was consistently terminated.  His burial was something to speak of.  It continued and crowned the vain and extravagant pomp of his life.  Lazarus’ body had been as little cared for dead as living.  [52]



16:23                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    And in Hades, being in torment, he looked and saw Abraham in the far distance, and Lazarus resting in his arms.

WEB:              In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. 

Young’s:         and in the hades having lifted up his eyes, being in torments, he doth see Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom,
Conte (RC):   Then lifting up his eyes, while he was in torments, he saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.


16:23               And in hell.  Hades (Greek) or Sheol (Hebrew) was the name given to the abode of the dead between death and the resurrection.  [53]

In Hades, not Gehenna, a vast abysmal region, which was divided into two portions, according to the notions of the Hebrews and Pagans of that age.  David speaks of his own soul as in hell (Ps. xvi. 10), which language St. Peter also uses as entirely true of the soul of Jesus during His time of death.  Acts            ii. 27, 31.  And that this is not the last place of punishment appears from Rev. xx. 14.  "Death and hell this is the second  death."  Compared with 2 Pet. ii. 4., "the angels that sinned were cast down to Tartarus (a portion of Hades), and delivered into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment."  See Jude 6.  The "judgment of the great day" is a command to "depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."  Matt. xxv. 41.  [4]

                        he lifted up his eyes.  A phrase in common use among the Hebrews, meaning "he looked" (Genesis 13:10; 18:2; 31:10; Daniel 8:3; Luke 6:20).  [11]

                        being in torments.  This indicates to which section of Hades he had gone.  It is mentioned as though a matter of course, seeing what he was.  There had been no external determination of his case; leaving this life, he simply went to his own place.  It was the righteous antithesis to that ungodly and inhuman merry-making in which he had lived splendidly on the earth. [52]

The word "torment" means pain, anguish (Matthew         4:24); particularly, the pain inflicted by the ancients in order to induce men to make confession of their crimes.  [11]

                        Or:  A great and complicated agony of horror, remorse, despair, fear, and shame; such torments as a spirit suffers when awake to eternal truths, and beholding the future with a  "certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries."  Heb. x. 27.  These agonies of mind, "chains of darkness," as St. Peter calls them, can be expressed only by the language taken from human life, since we can in no other manner obtain just sense of the severity.  [4]

                        and seeth Abraham afar off.  Being himself far away from the father of the nation, and center of the future blessedness, which he had expected naturally to share.  [52]

                        and Lazarus in his bosom.  This was an aggravation of his misery.  One of the first things that occurred was to look up and see the poor man that lay at his gate completely happy.  [11]

                        How precisely their conditions are reversed!  Lazarus, who had often sent a longing desire toward the overplus of his feasts, now rejoices in a perpetual communion with holy souls, while the rich man looks on at a distance, and must beg—in vain—for some slight alleviation of his woe.  [52]



16:24                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    So he cried aloud, and said, "'Father Abraham, take pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'

WEB:              He cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.'  

Young’s:         and having cried, he said, Father Abraham, deal kindly with me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and may cool my tongue, because I am distressed in this flame.
Conte (RC):   And crying out, he said: 'Father Abraham, take pity on me and send Lazarus, so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to refresh my tongue. For I am tortured in this fire.'


16:24               And he cried.  He did not acknowledge the justness of his punishment, or the greatness of his sins.  [9] 

                        and said, Father Abraham.  His pride on account of his fleshly descent from Abraham, and his Judaism, had gone with him; he thinks of laying claim to salvation as a right wholly standing in himself; and is quite blinded in regard to his unfilial state of heart (Matt. iii. 8; Rom. ix. 6-7), though he recognized Abraham as his father.  In such a state of mind his condition must have been doubly painful to him.  [9] 

                        have mercy on me.  Pity me.  [11]

                        and send Lazarus.  This shows how low he was reduced and how the circumstances of men change when they die.  Just before, Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores.  Now he is happy, in heaven.  Just before, he had nothing to give, and the rich man could expect to derive no benefit from him; now he asks, as the highest favor, that he might come and render him relief.  [11] 

                        that he may dip the tip of his finger in water.  This was a small favor to ask, and it shows the greatness of his distress when so small a thing would be considered a great relief.  [11]

                        and cool my tongue.  He did [not] ask to be released from that place.  Nor does he ask to be admitted where Lazarus was.  He well knew that there was no restoration.  [11]

                        cool.  Only here in New Testament.  Common in medical language.  [2]

                        for I am tormented.  The verb is not the one corresponding to torment, in verse 23, but signifies “to be sorely distressed.”  That fire was then commonly thought to be a cause of pain to lost souls, seems implied; but we know of no documentary support of such a view.  Fire was, at all events, a most appropriate symbol of the remorse and apprehension of God’s displeasure natural to the self-condemned soul beyond the grave.  [52] 

in this flame.  The lost are often represented as suffering in "flames," because fire is an image of the severest pain that we know.  [11]

                        Or:  Lustful desires, inflammed and fed by boundless gratification, change into torture for the soul as soon as it is deprived of the external objects which correspond to them, and from the body by which it communicates with them.  [13]

                        The evil passions which now rankle in the bosoms of sinners here will hereafter produce in them inconceivable anguish, by being released of every restriction, and being left unshackled to revel in full and exasperated expansion forever.  Each passion which it was the concern of a lifetime to indulge, but which it must now be the employment of an eternity to deny, will be as a fire-sheet around them.  The punishment of the wicked is often represented by Christ, not only in parables either, but in His explanations of parables, by fire.  (Matt. xiii. 41-42; Mark ix. 44, 46, 48; see also 2 Thes. i. 7-9; Rev. xiv. 9-11.)

                        Or:  Of course he, as a spirit, had no tongue, and could not feel any thing which we properly call flame.  "A spirit hath not flesh and bones."  Luke xxiv. 39.  Hence Dr. Whitby would place the whole scene beyond the judgment day.  But  that cannot be done, for he desires to send Lazarus to his "five brethren," then living.  The time was even at the then speaking; the flame, that inward fever of remorse; the tongue represents that inordinate passion, of which it had once been the organ and instrument.  [4]

                        The limits of language and lack of personal experience of the next world limit how far we can take the words of the story:  As for the material flame and the burning, “we may,” says Archbishop Trench, “safely say that the form in which the sense of pain, with the desire after alleviation, embodies itself, is figurative.”  Even the fierce and gloomy Tertullian says that how to understand what is meant by these details “is scarcely perhaps discovered by those who enquire with gentleness, but by contentious controversialists never.”  [56]



16:25                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    "'Remember, my child,' said Abraham, 'that you had all your good things during your lifetime, and that Lazarus in like manner had his bad things. But, now and here, he is receiving consolation and you are in agony.

WEB:              "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But now here he is comforted and you are in anguish.         

Young’s:         'And Abraham said, Child, remember that thou did receive -- thou -- thy good things in thy life, and Lazarus in like manner the evil things, and now he is comforted, and thou art distressed;
Conte (RC):   And Abraham said to him: 'Son, recall that you received good things in your life, and in comparison, Lazarus received bad things. But now he is consoled, and truly you are tormented.


16:25               But Abraham said, Son.  This is a representation designed to correspond with the word "father" [verse 24].  [11]

                        remember.  That is a cutting word in this place.  One of the chief torments of Hell will be the remembrance of what was enjoyed and of what was done in this world.  Nor will it be any mitigation of the suffering to spend an eternity in which there will be nothing else to do day or night but to remember what was done and what might have been, if the life had been right.  [11]

                        Had he remembered on earth, he would not have been called to remember in hell.  Do not neglect, and want of attention, and not looking about us to see what we have to do, bring upon us consequences, as ruinous to our worldly business, as any active misbehaviour?  It is an event of every day, that a man by mere laziness and inattention to his business, does as certainly bring himself and family to poverty.  So it is also with the affairs of the soul: neglect of that, will work its ruin, as surely as a long and daring course of profligate [extreme] wickedness.  Prov. xxii. 29; xxiv. 30. —H. Martyn.  [36]

                        that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things.  That is, property, splendor, honor.  [11]

                        receivedst.  This word, in the original, has great emphasis.  It expresses the receipt in full--the exhaustion of all claims on.  [9]

                        and likewise Lazarus evil things.  Poverty, contempt, and affliction.  [11]

                        but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.  A polite way of saying:  he suffered immense, long-going suffering while you, who enjoyed all the good things, had little or no concern for him.  On what basis do you have any legitimate reason for my trying to work around how the next life is set up?  [rw]


 In depth:  Is the rich man being punished for wealth and the poor man rewarded for poverty [18 ]?   As no special crime, no glaring sin of lust or wanton excess or selfish ambition, is laid to the rich man's charge, and yet when dead he is represented as lifting up his eyes, being in torments, many, especially men belonging to those schools which are generally unfriendly to the religion of Jesus Christ, have endeavoured to show that the condemned was condemned on account of his riches, while the saved was saved because of his deep poverty.  Nor is this error alone common to the Tubingen school, and to brilliant free-lances in religious literature like M. Renan.  Some such mistaken notion doubtless materially aided the rise and the popularity of the mendicant orders, who played so important a part in the Christianity of the Middle Ages in so many lands.

But the burden of our parable emphatically is not "Woe to the rich!  blessed are the poor!"  The crime of the life to which so awful a punishment was meted out as the guerdon, was selfish inhumanity, which Christ teaches us is the damning sin.  (See His words in his great picture of the final judgment, Matthew 25:41-46).  Lazarus was no solitary individual; he was one of the many suffering poor who abound in this world, and to find whom the rich need not go far from their own gates.  Lazarus represents here the opportunity for the exercise of humanity. 



16:26                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    And, besides all this, a vast chasm is immovably fixed between us and you, put there in order that those who desire to cross from this side to you may not be able, nor any be able to cross over from your side to us.'

WEB:              Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'

Young’s:         and besides all these things,

between us and you a great chasm is fixed, so

that they who are willing to go over from hence

unto you are not able, nor do they from thence

to us pass through.
Conte (RC):   And besides all this, between us

and you a great chaos has been established, so

that those who might want to cross from here to

you are not able, nor can someone cross from

there to here.'

16:26               And beside all this.  Even if you had a claim on me that would motivate me to try to help you—note the implication that he had not presented such!—things are set up here to assure that it can’t be done.  I may be “father Abraham” to you, but I am definitely not God:  He has set things up this way.  Any complaint you have you’ll have to take up with Him!  [rw]

                        between us and you is a great gulf.  A chasm or gorge; one impossible to overpass.  [14]

                        By this great gulf or abyss, which no mortal could pass, we understand an irreversible sentence of the Almighty, which assigns the everlasting condition of departed souls.  It is fixed--cannot be moved by any mortal cries of efforts.  It anticipates the decrees of the judgment. It is in the spiritual state and substance of        the souls themselves.  The period of change from bad to good, of regeneration by a Saviour's power, is past at death, and the soul is as unchangeably fixed for ever to the results of its own choice in life, as any man would be if on one side of such an abyss as these words suggest.  [4]                            fixed.  Strengthened, made firm, or immovable.   It is so established that it will never be movable or passable.  [11]  

                        We have thus, as far as sense can conceive, a complete view of the invisible state of the departed.  Two regions there are of settled bliss and woe, with a broad impassable separation between them.  [14]

                        so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot.  That separation was planned in the very constitution of their abode.  Their should be no passage either way, to seek relief or render aid.  [52]

It is impossible to conceive that the righteous would desire to leave their abodes in glory to go and dwell in the world of woe--nor can we suppose that they would wish to go for any reason unless it were possible to furnish relief.  That will be out of the question.  Not even a drop of water will be furnished as a relief to the sufferer.  [11]

                        neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.  There can be no doubt that the wicked will desire to pass the gulf that divides them from heaven.  They would be glad to be in a state of happiness.  But all such wishes will be vain.  How can men believe that there will be a restoration of all the wicked to heaven?  Who shall conduct them across this gulf, when Jesus Christ says it cannot be passed?   Who shall build a bridge over that yawning chasm which He says is "fixed"?  [11]



16:27                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    "'I entreat you then, father,' said he, 'to send him to my father's house.

WEB:              "He said, 'I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house;

Young’s:         'And he said, I pray thee, then, father, that thou mayest send him to the house of my father,      
Conte (RC):   And he said: 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers,


16:27               Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father.  We may presume that the scoffing Pharisees, who had been listening to the parable, and who perceived its application to themselves, were saying in their hearts:  “This is all false—a mere bugbear to frighten us.  If it were true, if such a fate as this really awaited us in the spirit world, the God of Abraham would not have left us in ignorance of it until now; he would have sent us messengers immediately from Hades to warn us.”  Now, to meet this thought of their hearts, the Savior exhibits the rich representative in Hades as asking this very thing for them; and puts into Abraham’s mouth the reason why the request had not been complied with.  [3] 

                        that thou wouldest send him to my father's house.  Some have inferred from this request that in the future world some good and kind sentiments may remain in those who are themselves forever lost.  It is more reasonable to suppose that there was in this request of the rich man the tormenting thought, that he had himself been the means, by his example and his life, of leading his brothers into careless, irreligious habits, which were most likely to involve them in eternal ruin, and that their presence with him in torment would increase his misery.  He dreaded the reproaches of those whom he had loved in a wrong manner, and thereby made companions in his misery.  [9]        

                        Or:  It is difficult not to see in this request the dawn of a less selfish spirit in the rich man’s heart.  [56]


                        In depth:  The context of the Lazarus narrative to the moral failures of the Pharisees [52].   At the point now preached (verse 27), the lesson called for by the mammon worship of the Pharisees (verse 14) had been fully given.  It was graphically shown how truly “that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  But the connection between the doom of the rich man and his religious character had not been plainly [developed].  What follows at once completes the picture of his posthumous state, and shows it to be the result of a lack of faith and repentance, such as a due regard to the Old Testament would have produced.  Want of this pious disposition could alone have led to their mockery of Christ’s exposition of duty concerning the use of riches (verse 15), and it proved His opposers generally liable to the rich man’s condemnation.                         



16:28                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    For I have five brothers. Let him earnestly warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'

WEB:              for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won't also come into this place of torment.'     

Young’s:         for I have five brothers, so that he may thoroughly testify to them, that they also may not come to this place of torment.
Conte (RC):   so that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torments.'


16:28               For I have five brethren.  The number "five" is mentioned merely to preserve the appearance of [credibility] in the story.  It is not to be spiritualized, nor are we to suppose that it has any hidden or inscrutable meaning.  [11]

                        It is a case where parents are dead.  Remembrance of brothers—and other relatives and friends—still living unprepared, is a part of the distress of a lost soul, and shows that perdition does not of necessity involve the destruction of such natural sentiments.  [52]

                        Specific historical allusions that have been suggested:  If there be any special meaning in this detail, the clue to it is now lost.  Some have seen in it a reference to the five sons of the High Priest Annas, all of whom succeeded to the Priesthood,--Eleazar, Jonathan, Theophilus, Matthias, and the younger Annas, besides his son-in-law Caiaphas.  But this seems to be very unlikely.  An allusion to Antipas and his brethren is less improbable, but our Lord would hardly have admitted into a parable an oblique personal reflexion.  [56]  H  

                        that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  What testimony he would have Lazarus bear to his brothers was, as we may confidently infer, that the self-indulgent use of their earthly possessions, the failure to regard themselves as God’s stewards, would inevitably result in cureless, helpless misery after death.  Note, that he supposes it must be a holy soul that can possibly deliver such a message; and that the thought does not occur to him of an effectual repentance for them, or for himself, in that abode of woe.  He would have them instructed in time to avoid the amazing folly, as well as wickedness, which he must rue through eternity.  [52] 



16:29                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    "'They have Moses and the Prophets,' replied Abraham; 'let them hear them.'

WEB:              "But Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'

Young’s:         'Abraham saith to him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them;
Conte (RC):   And Abraham said to him: 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'


16:29               Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses.  The writings of Moses.  The first five books of the Bible.  [11]

                        and the prophets.  The remainder of the Old Testament.  What the prophets had written.  [11]

                        The same source of wisdom and rule of life which these Pharisees had before them (verse 16).  [52]

                        let them hear them.  Hear them speak in the Scriptures.  Read them, or hear them read in the synagogues--and attend to what they have delivered.  [11]

                        God will have men believe the propositions of His word, and live up to the rule of life prescribed there, and not expect to have their curiosity satisfied by needless and extraordinary revelations.  [51]



16:30                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    "'No, father Abraham,' he pleaded; 'but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'

WEB:              "He said, 'No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'

Young’s:         and he said, No, father Abraham, but if any one from the dead may go unto them, they will reform.
Conte (RC):   So he said: 'No, father Abraham. But if someone were to go to them from the dead, they would repent.'


16:30               And he said, Nay, father Abraham.  No.  They will not hear Moses and the prophets.  They have heard them so long in vain and there is no prospect now that they will attend the message.  [11]          

                        but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.  The novelty of the message would attract their attention, and they would listen to what he would say.  [11]       



16:31                                                   Translations

Weymouth:    "'If they are deaf to Moses and the Prophets,' replied Abraham, 'they would not be led to believe even if some one should rise from the dead.'"

WEB:              "He said to him, 'If they don't listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.'"

Young’s:         And he said to him, If Moses and the prophets they do not hear, neither if one may rise out of the dead will they be persuaded.'
Conte (RC):   But he said to him: 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe even if someone has resurrected from the dead.' "


16:31               And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets.  Testimony from the dead returned to life must, it is supposed, have a greater influence on the belief and practice of men, in reference to the reality of that state, than all the testimony of God Himself, though His inspired spokesmen.  [52]

                        neither will they be persuaded.  Be convinced of the truth and of the folly of their way, and the certainty of their suffering hereafter, and be induced to turn from sin to holiness, and from Satan unto God.  [11]

                        Or:  Observe, Abraham does not say, "they will not repent," but, "they will not believe, be persuaded," which is another and a deeper thing.  [25]

                        though one rose from the dead.  We read of no wonderfully good effect of the return of the other Lazarus from the dead.  [52]


                        In depth:  The case that the story of Lazarus reflects objective reality and is not “only” a parable [53].  We have here a clear statement of the separation which parts the good from the evil in the future state.  But it has been urged that the coloring and phraseology of this parable is derived from rabbinical teaching, that our Lord made use of a current but erroneous Jewish notion to teach a valuable lesson, and that therefore it is not safe to draw any inferences from the narrative relative to the future state.

But it should be noted that the parables of Jesus never introduce fictitious conditions, nor do they anywhere violate the order and course of nature.  It is hardly possible that he could have made this an exception to His rule, especially since it is in a field where all the wisdom of the world is insufficient to make the slightest correction.  Moreover, it is certainly impossible that He could exaggerate the differences between the states of the lost and saved in the hereafter. 

Nor can the teaching of the parable be set aside on the ground that it represents merely the intermediate and not the final condition of things.  If the intermediate condition of things is fixed and established, the final condition must, a fortiori, be more so.  Moreover, the teaching here differs from that of the old rabbis, for, according to Lightfoot, a wall and not a gulf separated between the just and the unjust, and they were not "afar off" from each other, the distance being but a handbreadth.

The passage therefore confirms the doctrine that the righteous are neither homeless nor unconscious during the period between death and the resurrection (Philippians 1:23), and refutes the doctrine of universalism, for the gulf is (1) fixed, and (2) cannot be passed or bridged.  The gulf of pride and caste between the rich man and Lazarus while on earth was easy to cross.  


                        In depth:  Whether “parable” or not, what does Jesus intend to tell us about the nature of life after death [3]?  The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is especially esteemed for the light which it reflects from the future world.  For although there are many serious questions of the soul respecting that world, to which it does not respond—questions which all earnest natures feel to be deeply interesting and momentous—still, as to the main point, its answer is clear, distinct and full.  The essential truth, set forth in a form which was chosen for giving it a secure hold upon the interest of the world, shines with the serene and steady light of the life which is to come.  Apart altogether from any special interpretation of its imagery, it teaches—

                        1.  The reality of the future state.  It is not a shadow, a dream, a fancy, but an actual fact.  All that we know of Christ—His knowledge and wisdom, His goodness and truth, His mercy and love, combine to certify us here that the dead shall live again, and live in conscious personal identity, not by a Hindu absorption into the one life, but in their own proper individuality and selfhood.

                        2.  As clearly and certainly as it reveals the future state, it reveals also the difference of destiny in that state.  The good will be comforted and happy, the bad tormented and miserable.  Account for this as we may, whether on the ground of arbitrary appointment or on that of natural and necessary consequence, still the fact remains.

                        3.  The insuperable and eternal barrier between sin and happiness.  Whatever else may change and end, this must remain immutably and forever “fixed.”  There are some who think—and all would love to think—that somehow in the great round of ages to come, the wicked will all finally become good and pure, devoted, loyal and loving (and if such should be the case, all the myriads of sanctified hearts would rejoice and be glad), but the parable gives no intimation of this change, and suggests no reason to expect it.

                        4.  The intimate connection of the future with the present life—a connection as of cause and effect, of the tree and its fruit—a connection which the crisis of death, so far from breaking or modifying, simply brings into visible and conscious manifestation.  The future life is the present life continued and intensified; and as the case may be, is either enriched and blessed, or impoverished and cursed, according to the moral qualities enstamped upon it here.

                        5.  The essence of character in its relation to destiny lies not in the overt act but in the inmost heart.  What a man is, rather than what he does, determines his future.  The rich man is charged with not a crime.  Designedly he is painted as singularly free from vices, but he lacks the one thing needful for the bliss of the life to come—a pure and humble, an unselfish and loving heart.     




Books Utilized

(with number code)



1          =          Adam Clarke.  The New Testament . . . with a Commentary and

Critical Notes.  Volume I:   Matthew to the Acts.   Reprint, Nashville,

Tennessee:  Abingdon Press.


2          =          Marvin R. Vincent.  Word Studies in the New Testament.  Volume I:

The Synoptic  Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, Epistles of Peter, James,

and Jude.  New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1887; 1911 printing.


3          =          J. S. Lamar.  Luke.  [Eugene S. Smith, Publisher; reprint, 1977 (?)]


4          =          Charles H. Hall.  Notes, Practical and Expository on the Gospels;

volume two:  Luke-John.  New York:  Hurd and Houghton, 1856,



5          =          John Kitto.  Daily Bible Illustrations.  Volume II:  Evening Series: 

The Life and Death of Our Lord.  New York:  Robert Carter and

Brothers, 1881.


6          =          Thomas M. Lindsay.  The Gospel According to St. Luke.  Two

volumes.  New York:  Scribner & Welford, 1887.


7          =          W. H. van Doren.  A Suggestive Commentary on the New Testament: 

Saint Luke.  Two volumes.  New York:  D. Appleton and Company,



8          =          Melancthon W. Jacobus.  Notes on the Gospels, Critical and

Explanatory:  Luke and John.  New York:  Robert Carter &

Brothers, 1856; 1872 reprint.


9          =          Alfred Nevin.  Popular Expositor of the Gospels and Acts:  Luke. 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:  Ziegler & McCurdy, 1872.


10        =          Alfred Nevin.  The Parables of Jesus.  Philadelphia:  Presbyterian

Board of Publication, 1881.


11        =          Albert Barnes.  "Luke."  In Barnes' Notes on the New Testament.

Reprint, Kregel Publications, 1980.


12        =          Alexander B. Bruce.  The Synoptic Gospels.  In The Expositor's

Greek Testament, edited by W. Robertson Nicoll.  Reprint, Grand

Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B.   Eerdmans Publishing Company.


13        =          F. Godet.  A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke.  Translated

from the Second French Edition by E. W. Shalders and M. D. Cusin.

New York:  I. K. Funk & Company, 1881.


14        =          D.D. Whedon.  Commentary on the Gospels:  Luke-John.   New

York:  Carlton & Lanahan, 1866; 1870 reprint.   


15        =          Henry Alford.  The Greek Testament.  Volume I:  The Four Gospels.

Fifth Edition.  London:  Rivingtons, 1863.  


16        =          David Brown.   "Luke" in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and

David Brown,  A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the

Old and New Testaments.  Volume II:  New Testament.  Hartford:

S. S. Scranton Company, no date.


17        =          Dr. [no first name provided] MacEvilly.  An Exposition of the Gospel

of St. Luke.  New York:  Benziger Brothers, 1886.


18        =          H. D. M. Spence.  “Luke.”  In the Pulpit Commentary, edited by H. D.

M. Spence.  Reprinted by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,



19        =          John Calvin.  Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists,

Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Translated by William Pringle.  Reprint,

Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B.    Eerdmans Publishing Company.


20        =          Thomas Scott.  The Holy Bible ...with Explanatory Notes (and)

Practical Observations.  Boston:  Crocker and Brewster.


21        =          Henry T. Sell.  Bible Studies in the Life of Christ:  Historical and

Constructive.  New York:  Fleming H. Revell Company, 1902.


22        =          Philip Vollmer.  The Modern Student's Life of Christ.  New York:

Fleming H. Revell Company, 1912.


23        =          Heinrich A. W. Meyer.  Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the

Gospels of Mark and Luke.  Translated from the Fifth German

Edition by Robert Ernest Wallis.  N. Y.:  Funk and Wagnalls,

1884; 1893 printing. 


24        =          John Albert Bengel. Gnomon of the New Testament.  A New

                        Translation by Charlton T. Lewis and Marvin R. Vincent. 

Volume One.  Philadelphia:  Perkinpine & Higgins, 1860.


25        =          John Cummings.  Sabbath Evening Readers on the New Testa-

ment:  St. Luke.  London:Arthur Hall, Virtue & Co,1854.


26        =          Walter F. Adeney, editor.  The Century Bible:  A Modern  

Commentary--Luke.  New York:  H. Frowdey, 1901.  Title page

missing from copy.


27        =          Pasquier Quesnel.  The Gospels with Reflections on Each Verse.

Volumes I and II.  (Luke is in part of both).  New York:  Anson

D. F. Randolph, 1855; 1867 reprint. 


28        =          Charles R. Erdman.  The Gospel of Luke:  An Exposition.

Philadelphia:  Westminster   Press, 1921; 1936 reprint.


29        =          Elvira J. Slack.  Jesus:  The Man of Galilee.  New York:  National

Board of the Young Womens Christian Associations, 1911.


30        =          Arthur Ritchie.  Spiritual Studies in St. Luke's Gospel.  Milwaukee:

The Young Churchman Company, 1906.


31        =          Bernhard Weiss.  A Commentary on the New Testament.  Volume

Two:  Luke-The Acts.  New York:  Funk & Wagnalls Company,1906.


32        =          Matthew Henry.  Commentary on the Whole Bible.  Volume V:

Matthew to John.  17--.  Reprint, New York:  Fleming H. Revell

Company, no date.


33        =          C. G. Barth.  The Bible Manual:  An Expository and Practical

Commentary on the Books of Scripture.  Second Edition.

London:  James Nisbet and Company, 1865.


34        =          Nathaniel S. Folsom.  The Four Gospels:  Translated . . . and with

Critical and Expository Notes.  Third Edition.  Boston:  Cupples,

Upham, and Company, 1871; 1885 reprint.


35        =          Henry Burton.  The Gospel according to Luke.  In the Expositor's

Bible series.  New York:  A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1895. 


36        =          [Anonymous].  Choice Notes on the Gospel of S. Luke, Drawn from

Old and New Sources.  London:  Macmillan & Company, 1869.


37        =          Marcus Dods.  The Parables of Our Lord.  New York:  Fleming H.

Revell Company, 18--. 


38        =          Alfred Edersheim.  The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.  

Second Edition.  New York:  Anson D. F. Randolph and Company,



39        =          A. T. Robertson.  Luke the Historian in the Light of Research. 

New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1920; 1930 reprint. 


40        =          James R. Gray.  Christian Workers' Commentary on the Old and

New Testaments.  Chicago:  Bible Institute Colportage Associat-

ion/Fleming H. Revell Company, 1915.


41        =          W. Sanday.  Outlines of the Life of Christ.  New York:  Charles

Scribner's Sons, 1905.


42        =          Halford E. Luccock.  Studies in the Parables of Jesus.  New York:

Methodist Book Concern, 1917.


43        =          George H. Hubbard.  The Teaching of Jesus in Parables.  New

York:  Pilgrim Press, 1907. 


44        =          Charles S. Robinson.  Studies in Luke's Gospel.  Second Series.

New York:American Tract Society, 1890.  


45        =          John Laidlaw.  The Miracles of Our Lord.  New York:  Funk &

Wagnalls Company,   1892.


46        =          William M. Taylor.  The Miracles of Our Saviour.  Fifth Edition.

New York:  A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1890; 1903 reprint.


47        =          Alexander Maclaren.  Expositions of Holy Scripture:  St. Luke.

New York:  George H. Doran Company, [no date].


48        =          George MacDonald.  The Miracles of Our Lord.  New York:

George Routledge & Sons, 1878. 


49        =          Joseph Parker.  The People's Bibles:  Discourses upon Holy Scrip-

                        tureMark-Luke.    New York:  Funk & Wagnalls Company, 18--.


50        =          Daniel Whitby and Moses Lowman.  A Critical Commentary and

Paraphrase on the New Testament:  The Four Gospels and the Acts

of the Apostles.  Philadelphia:  Carey & Hart, 1846.


51        =          Matthew Poole.  Annotations on the Holy Bible.  1600s.



52        =          George R. Bliss.  Luke.  In An American Commentary on the New

Testament.  Philadelphia:  American Baptist Publication Society,



53        =          J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton.  The Fourfold Gospel. 

1914.  Computerized.


54        =          John Trapp.  Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.  1654.



55        =          Ernest D. Burton and Shailer Matthews.  The Life of Christ.

Chicago, Illinois:  University of Chicago Press, 1900; 5th reprint,



56        =          Frederic W. Farrar.  The Gospel According to St. Luke.  In “The

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges” series.  Cambridge:  At

the University Press, 1882.