Luke 15
ICC New Testament Commentary
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
15:1-32. Three Parables for the Encouragement of Penitent Sinners. The Love and Free Forgiveness of God. The Lost Sheep (3-7) and the Lost Coin (8-10) form a pair. Like the Mustard Seed and the Leavin (13:18-21), and the Rash Builder and the Rash King (14:28-32), they teach the same lesson, which the Prodigal Son (11-32) enforces and augments. In the first two Jesus justifies His own conduct against the criticisms of the Pharisees. In the third He rebukes their criticisms, but at the same time continues the lesson to a point far beyond that touched by the objectors. When we regard them as a triplet, each parable teaching a separate lesson, Bengal’s classification will stand: 1. Peccator stupidus; 2. sui plane nesciens; 3. sciens et voluntarius. But the insertion of εἶπεν δέ (ver. 11) clearly marks off the third parable from the first two, whereas these are closely connected ἤ, which almost implies that the second is little more than an alternative way of saying the same thing as the first.

1-3. The Murmuring of the Pharisees against Christ’s Intercourse with Publicans and Sinners. We have had several other cases in which Jesus has made a question, or an appeal, or a criticism, the occasion of a parable: ver. 15, 10:25-29, 12:13-15, 14:15. There is once more no indication of time or place; but connexion with what precedes is perhaps intended. There a thoughtless multitude followed Him, intending to become His disciples, and He warns them to count the cost. Here a number of publicans and sinners congregate about Him, and He rebukes the suggestion that He ought to send them away. It was well to check heedless enthusiasts, that they might be saved from breaking down afterwards. It would have been a very different thing to have sent away penitents, that He might be saved from legal pollution.

1. ῏Ησαν δὲ αὐτῷ ἐγγίζοντες πάντες οἱ τελῶναι καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοί. The meaning of πάντες determines the meaning of the tense. We may regard it as hyperbolical for “very many,”—a common use of “all.” Or it may mean all the tax-collectors and other outcasts of the place in which He then was. In either of these cases ἦσαν ἐγγίζοντες (see on 1:10) will mean “were drawing near” on some particular occasion. Or we may take πάντες literally of the whole class of publicans and sinners; and then the verb will mean “use to draw near,” wherever He might be. This was constantly happening, and the Pharisees commonly cavilled (imperf.), and on one occasion He uttered these parables (aor.). It was likely that He would attract these outcasts more and more. Comp. 7:29, 37, and see on 11:29. For the characteristic πάντες see on 1:66, 6:30, 12:10, etc Note the repeated article: the τελῶναι and the ἁμαρτωλοί are grouped together as one class by the Pharisees themselves (5:30 ; Matthew 9:11); not so here by the Evangelist.

2. διεγόγγυζον. “Murmured among themselves, throughout their whole company.” In N.T. only here and 19:7, which is very similar. Comp. Exodus 16:2, Exodus 16:7, Exodus 16:8; Numbers 14:2; Joshua 9:18. “The scribes” are usually placed before “the Pharisees” (5:21, 6:7, 11:53; Matthew 12:38, etc.). Here perhaps the Pharisees took the lead: comp. 30 (true text); Mark 7:1, Mark 7:5.

προσδέχεται. “Allows them access, gives them a welcome”: Romans 16:2; Php 2:29.

συνεσθίει. A much more marked breach of Pharisaic decorum than προσδέχεται. He accepted invitations from Levi and other tax-collectors, and in His outdoor teaching He took His meals with them.

3. εἶπεν δέ. “But (in answer to this cavilling) He said.” Cov. and Cran. have “But”; Tyn. and Gen. “Then.” Something stronger than “And” (AV. RV.) is needed. Note εἶπεν δέ, εἶπεν πρός, and εἶπεν τὴν παραβολήν as marks of Lk.’s style. None of them is found in Matthew 18:12.

4-7. The Parable of the Lost Sheep. Comp. Matthew 18:12-14, where this parable is given in a totally different connexion, and with some differences of detail. Comp. also John 10:1-18. We have no means of knowing how often Jesus used the simile of the Good Shepherd in His teaching. No simile has taken more hold upon the mind of Christendom. See Tert. De Pud. vii. and x. Comp. Eze_34.; Isaiah 60:11 ; 1 Kings 22:17.

4. τίς ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ὑμῶν. Once more He appeals to their personal experience. See on 11:5, and comp. 12:25, 14:5, 28. The ἄνθρωπος inserted here marks one difference between this parable and the next.

ἔχων ἑκατὸν πρόβατα. The point is, not that he possesses so much, but that the loss in comparison to what remains is so small.

ἀπολέσας ἐξ αὐτῶν ἅν. This is the point of the first two parables,—the particular love of God for each individual soul. In Mt we have πλανηθῇ (Exodus 23:4; Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 27:17) for ἀπολέσας. καταλείπει τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα. He is the owner, not the shepherd. His leaving them does not expose them to danger. The wilderness (in Mt. τὰ ὄρη) is not a specially perilous or desolate place, but their usual pasture, in which they are properly tended. He does not neglect them, but for the moment he is absorbed in the recovery of the lost. Cyril Alex. and Ambrose make the ninety and nine to be the Angels, and the one the human race. Ambrose adds, Dives igitur pastor cujus omnes nos centesima portio sumus Migne, xiv. xv. 1756; lxxii. 798; Payne Smith, p. 497.

πορεύσται ἐπὶ τὸ ἀπολωλός. For ἐπί of the goal comp. Acts 8:26, Acts 9:11, Matthew 22:9; in each case after πορεύεσθαι. Mt has here πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ τὸ πλανώμενον.

ἕως εὕρῃ αὐτό. Peculiar to Lk. There is no cessation of the seeking until the lost is found. See Lange, L. of C. i. p. 497.

5. ἐπιτίθησιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ. This also is peculiar to Lk. The owner does not drive it back, nor lead it back, nor have it carried: he carries it himself. Comp. Isa_40:1l, 49:22, 60:4, 66:12. In LXX ὦμος is common; in N.T. only here and Matthew 23:4.

χαίρων. There is no upbraiding of the wandering sheep, nor murmuring at the trouble. Comp. the use of χαίρων, 19:6; Acts 8:39.

6. συνκαλεῖ τοὺς φίλους. See on 9:1. In Mt. there is nothing about his calling others to rejoice with him. Only his own joy is mentioned. It is a mark of great joy that it seeks sympathy.

τὸ ἀπολωλός. Not ὃ ἀπώλεσα (ver. 9). The sheep went astray through its own ignorance and folly (Psalm 119:176): the coin was lost through the woman’s want of care. This is another mark of difference between the first parable and the second.

7. λέγω ὑμῖν. Mt. has the characteristic ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν.

ἢ ἐπί. For ἤ without a previous comparative see small print on 17:2, and comp. Matthew 18:8; Mark 9:43, Mark 9:45, Mark 9:47; Mar_1 Cor, 14:19. Win. xxv. 2. c, p. 302; Simcox p. 92. Perhaps ἤ may be said to imply μᾶλλον by a usage which was originally colloquial. It is freq. in LXX; Genesis 49:12; Numbers 22:6, etc. In Matthew 18:13 the μᾶλλον is expressed.

δικαίοις οἵτινες οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν μετανοίας. “Righteous who are of such a character as to have no need of repentance.” The οἵτινες does not prove that δικαίοις means those who are really righteous. It will fit any explanation of δικαίοις and οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν. If both expressions be taken literally, the ninety-nine represent a hypothetical class, an ideal which since the Fall has not been reached. But as Jesus is answering Pharisaic objections to intercourse with flagrant sinners, both expressions may be ironical and refer to the external propriety of those whose care about legal observances prevents them from feeling any need of repentance. Comp. 5:31.

Mt. here has τοῖς μὴ πεπλανημένοις. In any case the χαίρων, ver. 5, and the χαρά here are anthropomorphic, and must not be pressed. Insperata aut prope desperata magis nos afficiunt (Grotius); but such unlooked for results are impossible to Omniscience. We must hold to the main lesson of the parable, and not insist on interpreting all the details.1

Note the confidence with which Jesus speaks of what takes place in heaven, and compare it with the claims made upon His followers, 14:26, 33.

μετανοοῦντι … μετανοίας. Both verb and substantive are much more common in Lk. than in Mt. or Mk. Neither occurs in Matthew 18:14 or anywhere in Jn. See on 5:32 and 3:3.

8-10. § The Parable of the Lost Coin. The main points of difference between this and the preceding parable are the changes from a man to a woman, and from a sheep, which could stray of its own accord, and feel the evil consequences, to a coin, which could do neither. From this it follows that, while the man might be moved by pity rather than by self-interest to bring back the sheep, the woman must be moved by self-interest alone to recover the coin; also that the woman can blame herself for the loss of the coin (ἣν ἀπώλεσα), which the man does not do with regard to the sheep (τὸ ἀπολωλός). Hence we may infer that the woman represents the Church rather than the Divine Wisdom, if she represents anything at all. The general result of the two parables is that each sinner is so precious that God and His Ministers regard no efforts too great to reclaim such.

8. τίς γυνή; No ἐξ ὑμῶν is added, perhaps because no women were present. Yet there may be something in the remark of Wetst, Cum varios haberet auditores Christus, mares, feminas, juniores, iis parabolas accommodat: de pastore, de muliere frugi, de filio prodigo. Women also may work for the recovery of sinners.

δραχμάς. The word occurs here only in N.T., but often in LXX (Genesis 24:22; Exodus 39:2; Joshua 7:21, etc.). The Greek drachma was a silver coin of nearly the same value as a Roman denarius1 (7:41, 10:35, 20:24), which is not mentioned in LXX. It was the equivalent of a quarter of a Jewish shekel (Matthew 17:24). Ten drachmas in weight of silver would be about eight shillings, but in purchasing power above a pound. Wic. has “besant,” Tyn. and others have “groat,” Luth. has Groschen. That the ten coins formed an ornament for the head, and that the loss of one marred the whole, is a thought imported into the parable.

ἅπτει. The act. is peculiar to Lk. in N.T., and always in the sense of kindling (8:16, 11:33; Acts 28:2, and perhaps Luke 22:55: comp. Exodus 30:8; Tob. 8:13; Judges 1:13:13). Oriental houses often have no windows, and a lamp would be necessary for a search even in the day.

σαροῖ.1 Non sine pulvere (Beng.). It may be doubted whether there is any lesson intended in the coins being lost in the house, whereas the heep strays from the fold; as showing that souls may be lost in be Church as well as by going out of it. In any case, the details are graphic, and express great and persevering activity. “The charge against the Gospel is still the same, that it turns the world upside down” (Trench, Par. p. 386)

9. τὰς φίλας καὶ γείτονας. “Her women friends and neighbours.” No meaning is to be sought in the change of gender, which merely preserves the harmony of the picture. It is women who congratulate Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 4:14, Ruth 4:17).

10. γίνεται χαρὰ ἐνώπιον. “There comes to be joy,” etc. The γίνεται = ἔσται in ver. 7. Joy will arise in any case that may occur. “In the presence of” means “in the judgment of.” The angelic estimate of the facts is very different from that of the Pharisees: comp. 12:8, 16:22; Ephesians 1:4-14.

ἐπὶ ἑνὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ. This is the moral throughout,—the value of a single sinner. The Pharisees condemned Jesus for trying to reclaim multitudes of sinners. They had a saying, “There is joy before God when those who provoke Him perish from the world.”

11-32. § The Parable of the Prodigal Son. It completes the trilogy of these parables of grace, but we cannot be sure that it was uttered on the same occasion as the two other parables. The Evangelist separates it from them by making afresh start: Εἶπεν δέ (comp. 24:44). But this may mean no more than that Jesus, having justified Himself against the murmuring of the Pharisees, paused; and then began again with a parable which is a great deal more than a reply to objections. Even if it was delivered on some other occasion unknown to Lk., he could not have given it a more happy position than this. The first two parables give the Divine side of grace; the seeking love of God. The third gives the human side; the rise and growth of repentance in the heart of the sinner. It has been called Evangelium in Evangelio, because of the number of gracious truths which it illustrates.2 It has two parts, both of which appear to have special reference to the circumstances in which Lk. places the parable. The younger son, who was lost and is found (11-24), resembles the publicans and sinners; and the elder son, who murmurs at the welcome given to the lost (25-32), resembles the Pharisees. In the wider application of the parable the younger son may represent the Gentiles, and the elder the Jews. Like the Lost Coin, it is peculiar to Lk., who would take special delight in recording a discourse, which teaches so plainly that God’s all-embracing love is independent of privileges of birth and legal observances. Its literary beauty would be a further attraction to the Evangelist, who would appreciate the delicacy. picturesqueness, and truth of this description of human circumstances and emotions. See Jerome, Ep. xxi., for a commentary.

11. Ἄνθρωπός τις εἶχεν. The appeal to the personal experience of each is no longer made; but the idea of possession still continues (ἔχων, ἔχουσα, εἶχεν). In each case it is the owner who exhibits the self-sacrificing care.

12. τὸ ἐπιβάλλον μέρος. According to Jewish law this would be half what the eldest received, i.e. one-third (Deuteronomy 21:17): but had he any claim to it in his father’s lifetime?

Very possibly he had. We have here perhaps a survival of that condition of society in which testaments “took effect immediately on execution, were not secret, and were not revocable” (Maine, Ancient Law, ch. vi. p. 174, ed. 1861), and in which it was customary for a father, when his powers were failing, to abdicate and surrender his property to his sons. In such cases the sons were bound to give the father maintenance; but the act of resignation was otherwise complete and irrevocable. Both in Semitic and in Aryan society this seems to have been the primitive method of succession, and the Mosaic Law makes no provision for the privileges of testatorship (ibid. p. 197). The son of Sirach warns his readers against being in a hurry to abdicate (Ecclus. 33:19-23), but he seems to assume that it will be done before death. We may say, then, that the younger son was not making an unheard-of claim. His father would abdicate some day in any case: he asks him to abdicate now. See Expositor, 3rd series, 10. pp. 122-136, 1889; Edersh. Hist. of J. N. p. 367.

This intrans. use of ἐπιβάλλω occurs Tobit 3:17, 6:11; 1 Mac. 10:30. Comp, κτημάτων τὸ ἐπιβάλλον (Hdt. iv. 115, 1). Other examples in Suicer. For οὐσία comp. Tobit 14:13; 3 Mac. 3:28.

διε͂λεν αὐτοῖς τὸν βίον. The verb occurs elsewhere in bibl. Grk. 1 Corinthians 12:1; Numbers 31:27; Num_1 Malachi 1:6, etc For τὸν βίον see on 8:43. Here it means the same as ἡ οὐσία: comp. ver. 31.

13. μετʼ οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας. He allows no delay between the granting of his request and the realization of his freedom. On the fondness of Lk. for such expressions as οὐ πολλοί, οὐ μακράν, and the like, see on 7:6.

συναγαγών πάντα. He leaves nothing behind that can minister to his desires; nothing to guarantee his return. The stronger form ἅπαντα is well attested (א A etc.).

εἰς χώραν μακράν. There is no reason for making μακράν an adv. (ver. 20) rather than an adj. either here or 19:12: μακρός in the sense of “distant, remote” is quite classical.

ἐκεῖ. Away from his father’s care and restraint, and from the observation of those who knew him.

διεσκόρπισεν τὴν οὐσίαν. The opposite of συναγάγων πάντα. It had cost him nothing to collect it together, and he squanders it as easily as he acquired it.

ζῶν ἀσώτως. The expression occurs Jos. Ant. xii. 4, 8; but ἀσώτως is not found again either in N.T. or LXX. The ἄσωτος is “one who does not save, a spendthrift, a prodigal”: Proverbs 7:11; comp. Arist. Eth. Nic. ii. 8, 2, iv. 1, 5. For ἀσωτία see Ephesians 5:18; Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 4:4; Proverbs 28:7; Pro_2 Mac. 6:4. Sometimes ἄσωτος is taken in a passive sense, “one who cannot be saved, abandoned”; perditus rather than prodigus, as if for ἄσωστος (Clem. Alex. Pæd. ii. 1, p. 168, ii. p. 184, ed. Potter). But the active signification is appropriate here. Trench, Syn. xvi.; Suicer and Suidas ς. ἄσωτος. Syr-Sin. adds “with harlots.”

14. The working of Providence is manifested in coincidences. Just when he had spent everything, a famine, and a severe one, arose in precisely that land to which he had gone to enjoy himself, and throughout (κατά) the land. And he himself (καὶ αὐτός), as well as the country, began more and more to be in want.

λιμὸς ἰσχυρά. See small print on 4:25. For καὶ αὐτός see on 1:17, 5:14, 6:20. For ὑστερεῖσθαι, “to feel want” (mid.), comp. 2 Corinthians 11:9; Php 4:12; Ecclus. 11:11. Syr-Sin. omits the clause.

15. πορευθεὶς ἐκολλήθη ἑνὶ τῶν πολιτῶν. He has to leave his first luxurious abode and attach himself, in absolute dependence, to one of another nation, presumably a heathen. Evidently his prodigality has not gained him a friend in need. Godet sees in this young Jew, grovelling in the service of a stranger, an allusion to the τελῶναι in the service of Rome. Excepting the quotation from LXX in Hebrews 8:11, πολίτης in N.T. is peculiar to Lk. (19:14; Acts 21:39): in LXX Proverbs 11:9, Proverbs 11:12, Proverbs 11:24:34, etc. For ἐκολλήθη see on 10:11. For the sudden change of subject in ἔπεμψεν comp. 7:15, 14:5, 17:2, 19:4; Acts 6:6.

βόσκειν χοίρους. A degrading employment for anyone, and an abomination to a Jew. Comp. Hdt. ii. 47, 1. But the lowest degradation has still to be mentioned.

16. ἐπεθύμει χορτασθῆναι. Exactly as in 16:21, of the pangs of hunger. See on 6:21. There is no doubt that χορτασθῆναι (א B D L R) is not a euphemism for γεμίσαι τὴν κοιλίαν αὐτοῦ (A P Q X Γ Δ), but the true reading: cupiebat aturari (d f), con cupiscebat saturari (e). Syr-Sin. supports A.

ἐκ τῶν κερατίων ὧν ἤσθιον οἱ χοῖροι. The pods of the “carob tree,” or “locust tree,” or “John the Baptist’s tree,” or “S. John’s Bread”; so called from the erroneous notion that its pods were the locusts which were the Baptist’s food. The carob tree, ceratonia siliqua, is still common in Palestine and round the Mediterranean. It is sometimes called Siliqua Grœca. But it is rash to assume that the siliquæ of Hor. Ep. ii. 1-123; Pers. iii. 55; Juv. xi. 58, are carob pods (D. B.2 i. p. 1412).1 For the attraction in ὧν see on 3:19.

οὐδεὶς ἐδίδου αὐτῷ. “No one used to give him” even this miserable food, so that the quantity which he got was small. The neighbours cared nothing about this half-starved foreigner, who even in this vile employment could not earn enough to eat.

17. εἰς ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἐλθών. Implies that hitherto he has been “beside himself”: comp. ἐν ἑαυτῷ γενόμενος (Acts 12:11). The expression is classical both in Greek (Diod. Sic. xiii. 95; Epictet. iii. 1, 15) and Latin, redire ad se (Hor. Ep. ii. 2, 138; Lucret. iv. 1020; Ter. Adelph. v. 3, 8). This “coming to himself” is manifested in the thought of home and the longing for it. Want rekindles what his revelry had extinguished. See Blass on Acts 12:11.

Πόσοι μίσθιοι … περισσεύονται ἄρτων. There is no emphasis on ἄρτων in contrast to κερατίων: the contrast lies in their having plenty to eat. Godet sees the proselytes in these μίσθιοι. The word occurs in N.T. only here and ver. 10: in LXX Leviticus 25:50; Job 7:1; Tobit 5:11; Ecclus. 7:20, 34:27, 37:11.

Only in late Greek is περισσεύω trans. In N.T. both act. (12:15, 21:4) and pass. (Matthew 13:12, Matthew 25:29) are used in much the same sense.

ἐγὼ δὲ λιμῷ ὧδε ἀπόλλυμαι. Comp. τῷ αἰσχίστῳ ὀλεθρῷ, λιμῷ τελευτῆσαι (Thuc. iii. 59, 4). The ὧδε is after λιμῷ in א B L before λιμῷ in D R U, ego autem hic fame pereo (Vulg.), while A A F etc. omit. The transfer to before λιμῷ caused it to be lost in ἐγὼ δέ.

18. ἀναστὰς πορεύσομαι. Not mere Oriental fulness of description (1:39; Acts 10:20, Acts 22:10). The ἀναστάς expresses his rousing himself from his lethargy and despair (Acts 5:17, Acts 5:9:6, Acts 5:18).

εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν. “Against heaven.” This is not a rare use of εἰς: comp. 17:4; Matthew 18:21; 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Corinthians 8:12. It is common in LXX and is found also in class. Grk. Comp. Pharaoh’s confession, Ἡμάρτηκα ἐναντίον Κυρίου τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑμῶν καὶ εἰς ὑμᾶς (Exodus 10:16); also Plat. Rep. iv. 396 A; Phædr. 242 C; Hdt. i. 138, 2; Soph. O. C. 968. Filial misconduct is a sin utterly displeasing to God. But the εἰς does not mean “crying to heaven for punishment,” himmelschreiend, which is otherwise expressed (Genesis 4:10, Genesis 18:21). For ἁμαρτάνω ἐνώπιόν τινος comp. 1 Samuel 7:6, 20:1; Tobit 3:3; Judith 5:17; Sus. 23. The sin is regarded as something to be judged by the person who regards it.

κληθῆναι υἱός σου. By the father himself. What other people may call him is not in question.

19. ὡς ἕνα τῶν μισθίων σου. This will be promotion from his present position. He asks it as a favour.

20. ἀναστὰς ἦλθεν. The repentance is as real and decided as the fall. He prepares full confession, but no excuse; and, having made a good resolution, he acts upon it without delay. Here the narrative respecting the younger son practically ends. What follows (20-24) is mainly his father’s treatment of him; and it is here that this parable comes into closest contact with the two others. Every word in what follows is full of gracious meaning. Note especially ἑαυτοῦ, “his own father,” αὐτοῦ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος, ἐσπλαγχνίσθη, and δραμών. In spite of his changed and beggarly appearance, his father recognizes him even from a distance.

ἐπέπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν. The exact parallel in Acts 20:37 should be compared. Excepting Mark 3:10 and the quotations Romans 15:3 and Revelation 11:11, ἐπιπίπτειν is peculiar to Lk. in N.T. (1:12; Acts 8:16, Acts 10:44, etc.), and he alone uses it in this sense: comp. Genesis 33:4, Genesis 45:14, Genesis 46:29. Latin texts vary much in rendering ἐπέπεσεν: cecidit (Vulg.), incubuit (a d Hier. ad Dam.) procidit (r), superjecit se (e). None of them marks the κατα- in κατεφίλησεν, “kissed him tenderly,” deosculatus est. See on 7:38, and comp. Tobit 7:6; 3 Mac. 5:4. As yet the son has said nothing, and the father does not know in what spirit he has returned; but it is enough that he has returned. The father has long been watching for this.

With the constr. αὐτοῦ ἀπέχοντος εἰδεν αὐτόν, for αὐτὸν ἀπέχοντα εἶδεν, comp. 12:36.

21. He makes his confession exactly as he had planned it: but it is doubtful whether he makes his humiliating request. The words ποίησον με ὡς κ.τ.λ., are here attested by א B D U X; but almost all other MSS. and most Versions omit them. They may be taken from ver. 19, and internal evidence is against them. Augustine says, Non addit quod in illa meditatione dixerat, Fac me sicut unum de mercenariis tuffs (Quæst. Evang. ii. 33). He had not counted on his father’s love and forgiveness when he decided to make this request; and now emotion prevents him from meeting his father’s generosity with such a proposal. But the servants are not present. They would not run out with the father. Not till the two had reached the house could the order to them be given.

22. Ταχὺ ἐξενέγκαρε. “Bring forth quickly”; cito proferte The father says nothing to his son; he continues to let his conduct speak for him.

The ταχύ must be retained with א B L X, Syr-Sin. Vulg. Boh. Aeth. Arm. Goth. D and other MSS. have ταχέως.

στολὴν τὴν πρώτην. Not, “his best robe,” still less “his former robe,” which without αὐτοῦ is scarcely possible; but, “the best that we have, the finest in the house.” Comp. Ezekiel 27:22. The στολή (στέλλω) was any long and stately robe, such as the scribes loved to promenade in (20:46), the talar: Mark 12:38, Mark 12:16:5; Revelation 6:11, Revelation 6:7:9, Revelation 6:13; Esther 6:8, Esther 6:11; Est_1 Mac. 10:21, 14:9. It is the common word for the liturgical vestments of Aaron; Exodus 28:2, Exodus 29:21. Trench, Syn. l.; D. B.2 i. p. 808.

The τήν before στολήν (D2 R) has been inserted because of the τήν before πρώτην, for an epithet joined to an anarthrous noun is commonly itself anarthrous. But comp. Romans 2:14, Romans 2:9:30; Galatians 3:21.

δακτύλιον. Here only in N.T., but freq. in LXX and in classical writers. Comp. ἀνὴρ χρυσοδακτύλιος (Jam 2:2). We are probably to understand a signet-ring, which would indicate that he was a person of standing and perhaps authority in the house (Esther 3:10, Esther 3:8:2; Genesis 41:42). The ὑποδήματα were marks of a freeman, for slaves went barefoot. None of the three things ordered are necessaries. The father is not merely supplying the wants of his son, who has returned in miserable and scanty clothing. He is doing him honour. The attempts to make the robe and the ring and the sandals mean distinct spiritual gifts are misapplied labour.

23. τὸν μόσχον τὸν σιτευτόν. Not “sacrifice” (Acts 14:13, Acts 14:18; 1 Corinthians 10:20), for the context shows that there is no thought of a thank-offering but “slay” for a meal (Acts 10:13, Acts 10:11:7; John 10:10): it implies rather more ceremony than the simple “kill.”

τὸν μόσχον τὸν σιτευτόν. There is only one, reserved for some special occasion. But there can be no occasion better than this. Comp. 1 Samuel 28:24; Jdg 6:25, Jdg 6:28 (A); Jeremiah 46:21. With σιτευτός comp. ἀπαίδευτος, γνωστός, θεόπνευστος, χωνευτός.

εὐφρανθῶμεν. Excepting 2 Corinthians 2:2, this verb is always pass. in N.T., but with neut. meaning, “be glad, be merry” (12:19, 16:19; Acts 7:41, etc.).

24. Note the rhythmical cadence of this refrain (24, 32), and comp. Exodus 15:1, Exodus 15:21; Num. 23., Numbers 23:24.; 2 Samuel 1:19-27. Carmine usi veteres in magno effectu (Bang.): There is probably no difference in meaning between the two halves of the refrain; but νεκρός means “dead to me,” and ἀπολωλώς “lost to me.” Would the father speak to the servants of his son’s being morally dead? Whereas he might well speak of one who had gone away, apparently for ever, as practically dead. And if we give a moral sense to νεκρός, why not to ἀπολωλώς (19:10; [Matthew 18:11])?

Here the first part of the parable ends. The welcome which Jesus gave to outcasts and sinners is justified. The words καὶ ἤρξαντο εὐφρίνεσθαι should be given to ver. 25 rather than to ver. 24. An interval elapses during which the father’s command is executed; and then the banquet, which is the setting of the second part of the parable, begins.

25-32. In the episode of the elder son the murmuring of the Pharisees is rebuked, and that in the gentlest manner. They are reminded that they are sons, and that to them of right belongs the first place. God and His gifts have always been accessible to them (ver. 31), and if they reject them, it is their own fault. But self-righteousness and exclusiveness are sinful, and may be as fatal as extravagance and licentiousness.

25. ἐν ἀγρῷ. Doing his duty, but in no loving spirit. This explains why he was not present when his brother returned.

συμφωνίΑς καὶ χορῶν. Performed by attendants, not by those at the banquet Comp. Discumbens de die inter choros et symphonias (Suet. Calig. xxxvii.). Neither word occurs again in N.T. In LXX χορός is freq. (Exodus 15:20, 32:19; Jdg 11:34, etc.); συμφωνία (Daniel 3:5, Daniel 3:10) is a musical instrument. D. B.2 art. “Dulcimer”; Pusey, Daniel, p. 29. There were some who understood symphonia in this passage to mean a musical instrument, for Jerome (Ep. xxi.) protests against the idea. It almost certainly means a band of players or singers, and probably fluteplayers (Polyb. xxvi. 10, 5, xxxi. 4, 8). D. of Ant.2 art Symphonia.

26. τῶν παίδων. Perhaps not the same as the δοῦλοι (ver. 22), who are occupied with the banquet.

Vulg. has servi for both; Cod. Vercell. has pueri for both; Cod. Palat. has pueri for παῖδες and servi for δοῦλοι. No English Version distinguishes the two words, and RV. by a marginal note implies that the same Greek word is used. D. C. G. art. “Boy.”

τί ἂν εἴη ταῦτα. “What all this might mean.” Comp. Acts 10:17, and contrast Luke 18:36, where there is no ἄν. Here א A D omit ἄν. His not going in at once and taking for granted that what his father did was right, is perhaps an indication of a wrong temper. Yet to inquire was reasonable, and there is as yet no complaint or criticism. See second small print on 1:29.

27. ὅτι. Recitative, and to be omitted in translation: see on 1:45 and 7:16. Not, “Because thy brother is come.” There is no hint that the servant is ridiculing the father’s conduct.

ὑγιαίνοντα. Not to be taken in a moral sense, about which the servant would give no opinion, but of bodily health. The house hold knew that the father had been anxious about his son’s safety. See on 7:10, and comp. Tob. 5:21. For ἀπέλαβεν of “receiving back” comp. 6:34.

28. ὠπγίσθη δὲ καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν. Note the characteristic δὲ καί here and ver. 32 (see on 3:9), and the change of tense: the unwillingness to go in was a state which continued. Hence the father’s entreaties continue also (παρεκάλει). He treats both sons with equal tenderness: the ἐξελθών here is parallel to δραμών in ver. 20.

The reading ἠθέλησεν (A L P Q R X) arose from a wish to harmonize the tenses. The reading οὖν (P Q Γ Δ) instead of δέ (א A B D L R X) is followed in Vulg. (pater ergo illius) and AV. (“therefore came his father out”): but it is a correction to the sake of smoothness. Lat. Vet either vero or autem.

29. τοσαῦτα ἔτη δουλεύω σοι. His view of his relation to his father is a servile one. With τοσαῦτα comp. John 12:37, John 21:11.

οὐδέποτε ἐντολήν σου παρῆλθον. The blind self-complacency of the Pharisee, trusting in his scrupulous observance of the letter of the Law, is here clearly expressed. This sentence alone is strong evidence that the elder brother represents the Pharisees rather than the Jewish nation as a whole, which could hardly be supposed to make so demonstrably false a claim. For παρῆλθον in the sense of “neglect, transgress,” see on 11:42.

ἐμοὶ οὐδέποτε ἔδωκας ἔριφον. The pronoun first with emphasis: “Thou never gavest me a kid,”—much less a fatted calf. He is jealous, and regards his father as utterly weak in his treatment of the prodigal; but what specially moves him is the injustice of it all. His own unflagging service and propriety have never been recognized in any way, while the spendthrift has only to show himself in order to receive a handsome recognition.

Both here and Matthew 25:32, B has ἐρίφιον for ἔριφος. Here the diminutive has point. In LXX ἔριφος prevails.

ἵνα μετὰ τῶν φίλων μου εὐφρανθῶ. He does not see that he is exhibiting much the same spirit as his brother. He wants to have his father’s property in order that he may enjoy himself apart from him.

30. ὁ υἱός σου οὗτος. Contemptuous: “This precious son of yours.” He will not say “my brother.”

μετὰ πορνῶν. This is mere conjecture, thrown out partly in contrast to μετὰ τῶν φίλων μου (who of course would be respectable), partly to make the worst of his brother’s conduct: That it shows how he would have found enjoyment, had he broken loose, is not so clear. But although there is contrast between πορνῶν and τῶν φίλων μου, and between τὸν σιτευτὸν μόσχον and ἔριφον, there is none between ἔθυσας and ἔδωκας, as if the one implied more exertion and trouble than the other, and therefore more esteem.

ἦλθεν. There is no bitterness in this, as if to imply that a stranger had come rather than a member of the family returned. Throughout the parable the prodigal is said to “come,” not to “return” (VV. 20, 27; comp. 18). But there may be bitterness in σοῦ τὸν βίον. As the father had freely given the younger son his share, it would more fairly have been called τὸν βίον αὐτοῦ.

31. Τέκνον. More affectionate than υἱέ, although the son had not said, “Father.” Comp. 2:48, 16:25; Matthew 21:28; Mark 10:24; 2 Timothy 2:1.

σύ πάντοτε. In emphatic contrast to the one who has been so long absent, and perhaps in answer to his own emphatic ἐμοί (ver. 29). “What he is enjoying for this one day, thou hast always been able to command.” But, like the Pharisees, this elder son had not understood or appreciated his own privileges. Moreover, like the first labourers in the vineyard, he supposed that he was being wronged because others were treated with generosity.

πάντα τὰ ἐμὰ σά ἐστιν. If he wanted entertainments he could always have them; the property had been apportioned: διεῖλεν αὐτοῖͅ τὸν βίον (ver. 12).

Thus the first reproach is gently rebutted. So far from the elder son’s service never having met with recognition, the recognition has been constant; so constant that he had failed to take note of it. The father now passes to the second reproach,—the unfair recompense given to the prodigal. It is not a question of recompense at all; it is a question of joy. Can a family do otherwise than rejoice, when a lost member is restored to it?

32. εὐφρανθῆναι δὲ καὶ χαρῆναι ἔδει. Note the emphatic order. “To be merry and be glad was our bounden duty.” The εὐφρανθῆναι of the external celebration, the χαρῆναι of the inward feeling. The imperf. perhaps contains a gentle reproof: it was a duty which the elder son had failed to recognize.

ὁ ἀδελφόͅ σου οὗτοͅ. The substitution of ὁ ἀδελφόͅ σου for ὁ υἱόͅ μου, and the repetition of οὗτοͅ, clearly involve a rebuke: “this thy brother, of whom thou thinkest so severely. If I have gained a son, thou hast gained a brother.”

Not the least skilful touch in this exquisite parable is that it ends here. We are not told whether the elder brother at last went in and rejoiced with the rest. And we are not told how the younger one behaved afterwards. Both those events were still in the future, and both agents were left free. One purpose of the parable was to induce the Pharisees to come in and claim their share of the Father’s affection and of the heavenly joy. Another was to prove to the outcasts and sinners with what generous love they had been welcomed. Marcion omitted this parable.

Cov. Coverdale.

Tyn. Tyndale.

Gen. Geneva.

AV. Authorized Version.

RV. Revised Version.

Tert. Tertullian.

Win. Winer, Grammar of N.T. Greek (the page refers to Moulton’s edition).

1 In the Midrash there is a story that Moses, while tending Jethro’s flocks, went after a lamb which had gone astray. As he thought that it must be weary, he carried it back on his shoulders, Then God said, that, because he had shown pity to the sheep of a man, He would give him His own sheep, Israel, to feed (Edersh. L. & T. 2. p. 257; Wetst. on Luke 15:5).

§ Found in Luke alone.

1 Nearly all Latin texts have dragmas, dracmas, or drachmas here; but Cod. Palat. and Ad Novatianum xv. (Hartel’s Cypr. App. p. 65) have denarios.

Wic. Wiclif.

Luth. Luther.

1 MSS. of the Vulg. nearly all read evertit, which Wordsworth conjectures to be a slip for everrit. Lat. Vet. has scopis mundavit (b f ff2 l), scopis mundabit (iq), scopis commundat (a) scopis mundat (c r), mundat (d), emundat (e).

Beng. Bengel.

Trench, Trench, Parables.

2 Inter omnes Christi parabolas hæc sane eximia est, plena affectuum of pulcherrimis picta coloribus (Grotius on ver. 20).

Hist. of J. N. History of the Jewish Nation.

אԠא Cod. Sinaiticus, sæc. iv. Brought by Tischendorf from the Convent of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai; now at St. Petersburg. Contains the whole Gospel complete.

A A. Cod. Alexandrinus, sæc. v. Once in the Patriarchal Library at Alexandria; sent by Cyril Lucar as a present to Charles 1. in 1628, and now in the British Museum. Complete.

Jos. Josephus.

Clem. Alex. Clement of Alexandria.

Trench, Trench, New Testament Synonyms.

Syr Syriac.

Sin. Sinaitic.

B B. Cod. Vaticanus, sæc. 4. In the Vatican Library certainly since 15331 (Batiffol, La Vaticane de Paul 3, etc., p. 86).

D D. Cod. Bezae, sæc. vi. Given by Beza to the University Library at Cambridge 1581. Greek and Latin. Contains the whole Gospel.

L L. Cod. Regius Parisiensis, sæc. viii. National Library at Paris. Contains the whole Gospel.

R R. Cod. Nitriensis Rescriptus, sæc. 8. Brought from a convent in the Nitrian desert about 1847, and now in the British Museum. Contains 1:1-13, 1:69-2:4, 16-27, 4:38-5:5, 5:25-6:8, 18-36, 39, 6:49-7:22, 44, 46, 47, 8:5-15, 8:25-9:1, 12-43, 10:3-16, 11:5-27, 12:4-15, 40-52, 13:26-14:1, 14:12-15:1, 15:13-16:16, 17:21-18:10, 18:22-20:20, 20:33-47, 21:12-22:15, 42-56, 22:71-23:11, 38-51. By a second hand 15:19-21.

X X. Cod. Monacensis, sæc. ix. In the University Library at Munich. Contains 1:1-37, 2:19-3:38, 4:21-10:37, 11:1-18:43, 20:46-24:53.

Δ̠Δ. Cod. Sangallensis, sæc. ix. In the monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland. Greek and Latin. Contains the whole Gospel.

D. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, 2nd edition.

1 “These ‘husks’ are to be seen on the stalls in all Oriental towns, where they are sold for food, but are chiefly used for the feeding of cattle and horses, and especially for pigs” (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of B. p. 361).

U U. Cod. Nanianus, sæc. x. In the Library of St. Mark’s, Venice. Contains the whole Gospel.

Vulg. Vulgate.

F F. Cod. Boreeli, sæc. ix. In the Public Library at Utrecht. Contains considerable portions of the Gospel.

Hier. Palestinian (Jerusalem).

Boh. Bohairic.

Aeth. Ethiopic.

Arm. Armenian.

Goth. Gothic.

And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
And he said, A certain man had two sons:
And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
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