Jesus is perfectly clear about hate
Mat 5:43 You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
Mat 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you,
Mat 5:45 so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Mat 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?
Mat 5:47 And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax-collectors do so?
Mat 5:48 Therefore be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.
Commentary: Matthew 5:43-48
Mat 5:43 Ye have heard that ith been said ,…. By, or to them of old time. This law has been delivered to them,
thou shalt love thy neighbour, with this appendage to it, or false gloss upon it,
and hate thine enemy; for the first of these only is the law of Moses, Lev_19:18, the other is the addition, or wrong interpretation of the Scribes and Pharisees: wherefore the Jew (o) has no reason to charge Christ, or the Evangelist, with a false testimony, as he does, because the latter is no where written in the law, nor in the prophets: nor does Christ say it is; he only observes, that it had been traditionally handed down to them from the ancients, by the masters of the traditions of the elders, that the law of loving the neighbour was so to be understood as to allow, and even enjoin, hatred of enemies: in proof of which, take the following instances (p).
“When one man sins against another, he may not hate him in his heart, and be silent, as is said of the wicked; Absalom spoke not with Amnon: but it is commanded to make it known to him, and to say to him, why hast thou done to me so and so? As it is said, “rebuking, thou shalt rebuke thy neighbour”; and if he returns, and desires him to pardon him, he shall not be implacable and cruel; but if he reproves him many times, and he does not receive his reproof, nor turn from his sin, then מותר לשנאותו, “it is lawful to hate him”.”
Again, they say (q),
“Every disciple of a wise man, שאינו נוקם ונוטר כנחש, “who does not revenge, and keep as a serpent”; that is, as the gloss explains it, “enmity in his heart”, as a serpent, is no disciple of a wise man.”
And so Maimonides (r), one of their better sort of writers, says;
“A disciple of a wise man, or a scholar, whom a man despises and reproaches publicly, it is forbidden him to forgive him, because of his honour; and if he forgives him, he is to be punished, for this is a contempt of the law; but “he must revenge, and keep the thing as a serpent”, until the other asks pardon of him, and then he may forgive him.”
Thus they bred their scholars in hatred and malice against their enemies. This arises from a mistaken sense of the word “neighbour”, which they understood only of a friend; and concluded, that if a friend was to be loved, an enemy was to be hated; not the Gentiles only, but anyone, among themselves, which could come under that name.
(o) R. Isaac Chizuk Emunah, par. 2. c. 11. p. 402. (p) Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora precept. neg. 5. Vid. Maimon. Hilchot Rotseach, c. 13. sect. 14. (q) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 22. 2. & 23. 1. (r) Maimon. Hilch. Talmud Tora, c. 7. sect. 13.
Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, love your enemies,…. That is, as the Apostle Paul may be thought to interpret the words of Christ, Rom_12:20. “If thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink”: unless our Lord should be
supposed rather to regard the internal affection of the mind; since outward expressions of love, by words and works, are urged in the following exhortations: the actions of a man may be hated, and just indignation be expressed against them, and yet his person be loved, tenderness be used to him, and pity shown him: all men, even enemies, are to be loved with a natural love, as men; though they cannot be loved with a spiritual affection, as brethren in Christ: and in natural affection there are degrees, according to the relation and circumstances that persons stand in to one another.
Bless them that curse you: when wicked men curse you, as Shimei cursed David, do not “render evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing”; give good words, use kind language, mild and soft expressions; such as may either win upon them, or put them to shame and silence: “bless, and curse not”; the latter belongs to them, the former to you; “let them curse, but bless thou”: curses better fit their mouths, and blessings thine. Blessing here, does not signify praising them, for that would be sinful, which is sometimes the sense of the word; nor wishing, or praying for a blessing on them, which is right and good; but this is mentioned afterwards, as distinct from blessing; wherefore, it is better to understand it of a sweet and engaging address unto, and behaviour and conduct towards such, whose mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
Do good to them that hate you; such as hate you in their hearts, and discover their hatred by their actions; do not make returns in the same way, but on the contrary, do them all the good you can; perform all the kind offices that lie in your power; let them partake of your bounty and liberality; if poor, feed, clothe, and supply them, as you are able, with the necessaries of life; and give them wholesome advice for the good of their souls: by “so doing”, you will “heap coals of fire on their heads”; of enemies, make them friends; engage their affections to you, and you may be happy instruments in doing them good, both in soul and body:
and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. What Christ here commands and advises to, he himself did; for as he hung upon the cross, he prayed for his crucifiers, who were then using him in the most despiteful, as well as cruel manner; saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”: and in this he has left us an example, that we should tread in his steps; and here in he was quickly followed by his holy martyr Stephen; who, whilst he was being stoned, prayed for his persecutors and murderers, saying, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”. This breathes out the true spirit of Christianity, and is peculiar to it. The whole of this is directly opposite to the tenets of the Jews, particularly the Scribes and Pharisees; who allowed of revenge, and keeping anger against any person that had done them an injury, as has been observed: and which were also the sentiments of the Karaites, or Scripturarians, another sect among them who kept to the letter of the Scriptures, and rejected the traditions of the elders, which the Pharisees held: but in this they agreed with them,
“that it was right to do good to their friends, and to forgive them that asked pardon of them; but to such men who rendered evil, and did not return to do well, that they might receive forgiveness, אינו אסור לנקום ולנטור מהם, “it is not forbidden to revenge, and to keep anger against them” (s).”
It is indeed said (t) of their former holy men, חסידים, “Hasideans”, which some have thought to be the same with the “Essenes”, and a sort of Christians; however, were a better sort of Jews; that these
“heard their reproach, but did not return it; and not only so, but they pardoned him that reproached them, and forgave him.”
And it is reported of these men, that they used to pray to God to pardon and forgive all that disturbed them. But the Pharisees, whom Christ had to do with, and against whom he inveighs, were men of another complexion.
(s) R. Eliahu in Adderet, c. 3. apud Trigland. de Sect. Karaeorum, c. 10. p. 166, 167. (t) Maimon. Hilch. Talmud Tora. c. 7. sect. 13.
Mat 5:45 That ye may be the children of your father,…. Not that any became the children of God, by doing things in imitation of him: for as in nature no man becomes the son of another by imitating him, or by doing the things he does but either by birth, or by adoption; so in grace no man becomes a child of God by the works he does, as a follower of God, but by adopting grace; and which is discovered in regeneration. Christ’s meaning is, that they might appear, and be known to be the children of God, by doing those things in which they resemble their heavenly Father; and which are agreeable to his nature and conduct; as the tree is known by its fruit, and the cause by its effect: for where adoption and regenerating grace take place, the fruit of good works is brought forth to the glory of God. Some copies, instead of υιοι, “children”, read ομοιοι “like”: and accordingly, the Persic version renders it thus, “that ye may be like your Father, which is heaven”. Our Lord seems to have respect to the Jews, often having in their mouths this expression, אבינו בשמים, “our Father which is in heaven”; and to their frequent boasting that they were the children of God; and therefore he would have them make this manifest by their being like him, or acting in imitation of him;
for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil, and on the good. Christ instances in one of the greatest blessings in nature, the sun, so useful to the earth, and so beneficial to mankind for light and heat; which he calls “his sun”: his own, and not another’s; which he has made, and maintains, orders to run its race, and commands it to rise morning by morning, and that upon good and bad men; one, as well as another; all equally share in, and partake of its benign influences, and enjoy the comfortable effects and blessings of it:
and sendeth rain on the just and unjust; that is, on the fields of persons of such different characters, even both the early and the latter rain; which makes the earth fruitful, crowns it with goodness, and causes it to bring forth bread to the eater, and seed to the sower. This is one of the most considerable blessings of life; the gift of it is God’s sole prerogative; it is peculiar to him; it is what none of the vanities of the Gentiles can give; and yet is bestowed by him on the most worthless and undeserving. This flows from that perfection of God, which the Cabbalists (u) call
“”chesed, mercy”, or benignity, to which it is essential to give largely to all, both “to the just and unjust”.”
The Jews have a saying (x), that
“greater is the day of rain, than the resurrection of the dead; for the resurrection of the dead is for the just; but rain is בין לצדקים בין לרשעים, “both for the just, and for the wicked”:”
a way of speaking much like this here. They also used to praise God for rain, on this consideration, because it was given to unworthy persons.
“(y) R. Jose Bar Jacob went to visit R. Joden of Magdala; whilst he was there, rain descended, and he heard his voice, saying, thousands of thousands, and millions of millions are bound to praise thy name, O our king, for every drop thou causest to descend upon us, שאת גומל טובה לחייבים, “because thou renderest good to the wicked”.”
Now our Lord instances in things which could not be denied, and they themselves allowed; and makes use of their own words, to engage them to imitate God, whom they call their Father, by doing good to their enemies, and them that hated them, as well as to their friends and neighbours: yet sometimes they could scarcely allow, that the Gentiles had the same share in this divine favour with themselves; for they say (z), that
“God works by way of miracle, that rain should not be wanting in his land, although it is wanting in the countries of the Heathen; as he says, Job_5:10 “who giveth rain on the earth”, which is the land of Israel; for on that רב מטר, “a great rain” descends, and “sendeth waters”, מעטים, “few (which is added to the text) upon the fields”; which relates to what is without the land, whereupon it does not descend, but the substance of the land of Israel; therefore he saith, the Lord will open to thee his good treasure, and not to others.”
(u) Sepher Shaar Hassamaim, Tract. 7. c. 12. p. 155. (x) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 7. 1. (y) T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 14. 1. & Taanith, fol. 64. 2. (z) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 152. 4.
Mat 5:46 For if ye love them which love you,…. That is, if ye only love such that love you; for that such who love should be loved again, is both natural and just: our Lord’s meaning is not, that ye ought not to love them that love you, but that these should not be the only objects of your love; for should this be the case,
what reward have ye? or “shall ye have?” Do you deserve any thanks for your love now? none at all, it is what you are obliged to by your friend’s love to you. Do you expect any hereafter with God? if you do, you will be mistaken; you have your reward with men, who have loved you as much as you have done them, and therefore none can be due to you, either from God or men: besides,
do not even the publicans the same? men of the worst characters, and who were most hateful to the Jews, upon many accounts; partly because of their business, which was to collect the Roman tax, and carry it to the proper officers appointed to receive it, and of whom they sometimes farmed it. Now the Roman yoke was very grievous to the Jews, who boasted of their being a free people; nor did they willingly pay their tribute money; and some of them would refuse to do it, under a pretence of religion; wherefore those publicans, or tax gatherers, which were oftentimes men of their own nation, as appears from the instances of Levi and Zacchaeus, were very odious to them; because they looked upon them as joining with the Romans, in oppressing them, and abridging them in their liberty: and partly because of their character and conduct, being men of great improbity, rapine, and covetousness: hence, as in the New Testament, they are frequently joined with “sinners”, as being notorious ones themselves; so in the Talmudic writings, with thieves (a), and are reckoned as thieves, with murderers, and robbers (b); they were not allowed as witnesses (c) in any of their courts of judicature; nor were they to be kept company (d) with in private houses. Now our Lord instances in these men who were the most profligate part of the nation, and had in greatest contempt by the rest; and yet these, by the very dictates of nature, loved such as loved them: wherefore it must be shameful and scandalous in the Pharisees, and others, who pretended to great sanctity and religion, to do no more than these persons did.
(a) Maimon. Hilch. Gezela, c. 5. sect. 9. 11. (b) Misn. Nedarim, c. 3. sect. 4. (c) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 25. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Eduth, c. 10. sect. 4. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora pr. neg. 214. (d) Maimon. Hilch. Mishcab, c. 10. sect. 8.
Mat 5:47 And if you salute your brethren only,…. This does not mean salutation by embraces or kisses, but by words, asking of each other’s welfare, and wishing prosperity and happiness to one another.
“The manner of salutation among the wise men was this (e); he that salutes says, a good day to my lord; and he replies, saying, a good, and long day to my lord: always he that replies doubles the salutation.”
The persons they usually gave their salutations to were those of their own nation, their countrymen, relations, and friends; and who are here designed by “brethren”; meaning, not brethren in the strict sense, but any kindred, acquaintance, or any of their own nation. Some copies read it “friends”, who, generally speaking, only partook of such favours.
“A man, (says Maimonides (f),) might not salute his master, nor return a salutation to him in the manner they gave a salutation לרעים, to “friends”: and they return it to one another.”
They were not very free in saluting any persons, as strangers and Gentiles: such advice as this is indeed given הוי מקדים בשלום כל אדם (g), “prevent every man with a salutation”, or be first in saluting every man; upon which passage their commentators (h) say, even a Gentile in the streets. Accordingly, it is elsewhere (i) observed, that
“R. Abai used to say, let a man be always cunning with fear, for “a soft answer turns away wrath”; and multiply salutation with his brethren, and with his relations, and with every man, even with a stranger in the streets.”
But this proceeded not from any cordial hearty respect, but out of policy, and from fear; and in order to maintain peace; and for selfish ends, and with sinister views: otherwise their salutations were confined to their brethren and kinsfolk after the flesh. Now, this being the case, says Christ,
what do ye more than others? do not even publicans so? Or, as some copies read it, Gentiles or Heathens; and accordingly the Ethiopic version, and the Vulgate Latin so render it: the Arabic renders it “idolaters”. Now, what great matter was this to salute their brethren and their friends, when even the very Heathens, who had nothing but the light of nature to guide them, did the same?
(e) Sepher Chasidim, fol. 5. col. 2. apud Buxtorf. Florileg. Heb. p. 300, 301. (f) Hilch. Talmud Tora, c. 5. sect. 5. (g) Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 15. (h) Jarchi & Bartenora in ib. (i) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 17. 1.
Mat 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father,…. This perfection is to be restrained to the subject Christ is upon, love to men, and not to be referred to any, or every other thing; wherefore, in Luk_6:36 it is, “be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful”; and regards not a perfection of degree in that, but objects and quality: that is to say, not that men may, or can, or ought to be as perfect in love, as to the degree of it, as God is; that is impossible: the “as” here, is not a note of equality, but of likeness: such, who profess God to be their Father, ought to imitate him, particularly in their love to men, which ought to be extended to the same objects, as the divine goodness is; that, as he shows regard in a providential way to all men, good and bad, just and unjust, and his tender mercies are over all his works; so ought they to love all men with a natural affection, and hate no man, no, not their enemies: for he that loves only his friends, and not his enemies, loves imperfectly; he does not take in the whole compass of objects his love is to extend unto; and as God loves sincerely, and without dissimulation, so should they. To be “perfect”, is to be sincere and upright: in this sense is the word often used, and answers to the Hebrew word תמים, which signifies the same: see Deu_18:13 which is the passage Christ seems to refer to here; and the sense is, be ye sincere and upright in your love to all men, as your heavenly Father is hearty and sincere in his affections to them.
Commentary Resource: John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
More Commentary, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible.