Luke 12:5
But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear him, which after he has killed has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, Fear him.
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12:1-12 A firm belief of the doctrine of God's universal providence, and the extent of it, would satisfy us when in peril, and encourage us to trust God in the way of duty. Providence takes notice of the meanest creatures, even of the sparrows, and therefore of the smallest interests of the disciples of Christ. Those who confess Christ now, shall be owned by him in the great day, before the angels of God. To deter us from denying Christ, and deserting his truths and ways, we are here assured that those who deny Christ, though they may thus save life itself, and though they may gain a kingdom by it, will be great losers at last; for Christ will not know them, will not own them, nor show them favour. But let no trembling, penitent backslider doubt of obtaining forgiveness. This is far different from the determined enmity that is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall never be forgiven, because it will never be repented of.Shall be proclaimed upon the housetops - See the notes at Matthew 10:27. The custom of making proclamation from the tops or roofs of houses still prevails in the East. Dr. Thomson ("The Land and the Book," vol. i. p. 51, 52) says: "At the present day, local governors in country districts cause their commands thus to be published. Their proclamations are generally made in the evening, after the people have returned from their labors in the field. The public crier ascends the highest roof at hand, and lifts up his voice in a long-drawn call upon all faithful subjects to give ear and obey. He then proceeds to announce, in a set form, the will of their master, and demand obedience thereto." 5. Fear Him … Fear Him—how striking the repetition here! Only the one fear would effectually expel the other.

after he hath killed, &c.—Learn here—(1) To play false with one's convictions to save one's life, may fail of its end after all, for God can inflict a violent death in some other and equally formidable way. (2) There is a hell, it seems, for the body as well as the soul; consequently, sufferings adapted to the one as well as the other. (3) Fear of hell is a divinely authorized and needed motive of action even to Christ's "friends." (4) As Christ's meekness and gentleness were not compromised by such harsh notes as these, so those servants of Christ lack their Master's spirit who soften down all such language to please ears "polite." (See on [1646]Mr 9:43-48).

See Poole on "Luke 12:4" But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear, I will be your monitor, and direct you to the proper object of fear and reverence, and whom you should be careful to displease and offend:

fear him, which after he hath killed; your body, as the Persic version adds; hath taken away the life of it, by separating soul and body asunder, by sending one disease or another, or death in one shape or another:

hath power to cast into hell; your soul, as the above version also adds; yea, to destroy both body and soul in hell, as in See Gill on Matthew 10:28.

yea, I say unto you, fear him; and none else, not with a servile, but with a filial fear.

But I will {b} forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

(b) He warns them of dangers that presently hang over their heads, for those that come upon one suddenly make a greater wound.

5. Fear him, which after he hath killed] Many commentators have understood this expression of the Devil, and one of the Fathers goes so far as to say that it is the only passage in the Bible in which we cannot be certain whether God or Satan is intended. There can, however, be no doubt that the reference is to God. If “fear” ever meant ‘be on your guard against,’ the other view might be tenable, but there is no instance of such a meaning, and we are bidden to defy and resist the Devil, but never to fear him; nor are we ever told that he has any power to cast into Gehenna.

to cast into hell] Rather, into Gehenna. It is a deep misfortune that our English Version has made no consistent difference of rendering between ‘the place of the dead,’ ‘the intermediate state between death and resurrection’ (Hades, Sheol), and Gehenna, which is sometimes metaphorically used (as here) for a place of punishment after death. Gehenna was a purely Hebrew word, and corresponded primarily to purely Hebrew conceptions. Our Lord (if He spoke Greek) did not attempt to represent it by any analogous, but imperfectly equivalent, Greek term like Tartarus (see 2 Peter 2:4), and certainly the Apostles and Evangelists did not. They simply transliterated the Hebrew term (גי הנם Gê Hinnom, Valley of Hinnom) into Greek letters. It is surely a plain positive duty to follow so clear an example, and not to render Gehenna by English terms which cannot connote exactly the same conceptions. The Valley of Hinnom, or of the Sons of Hinnom (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31), was a pleasant valley outside Jerusalem, which had first been rendered infamous by Moloch worship; then defiled by Josiah with corpses; and lastly kept from putrefaction by large fires to consume the corpses and prevent pestilence. Milton describes it with his usual learned accuracy:

“First Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood

Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears;

Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud

Their children’s cries unheard that passed through fire

To his grim idol......

and made his grove

The pleasant Valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence

And black Gehenna called, the type of Hell.”

Par. Lost, I. 392.

Tophet is derived from the word Toph ‘a drum’ (compare τύπτω), dub, thump, &c.).Luke 12:5. Ὑμῖν, I will show or suggest to you) viz. my friends.—φοβηθῆτε, fear) This verb is employed thrice with the greatest force.[114]—μετὰ τὸ ἀποκτεῖναι) The verb is employed as it were impersonally [after the act of killing has taken place].—γέενναν, hell, Gehenna) Weighty and stern language this, addressed even to friends.

[114] Therefore in Luke 12:4 it would be better, instead of Engl. Vers. Beafraid of, to use the same word fear to translate the thrice repeated φοβηθῆτε, both in Luke 12:4-5.—ED. and TRANSL.Verse 5. - But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; literally, into Gehenna. This is simply Gee-hinnom, "valley of Hinnom," translated into Greek letters· This valley was situated in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, and originally was noted for the infamous rites practiced there in the worship of Moloch, in the times of the idolatrous kings of Judah. King Josiah, to mark his abhorrence of the idol-rites, defiled it with corpses; fires were subsequently kindled to consume the putrefying matter and prevent pestilence. The once fair valley, thus successively defiled with hideous corrupting rites, by putrefying corpses, and then with blazing fires lit to consume what would otherwise have occasioned pestilence, was taken by rabbinical writers as a symbol for the place of torment, and is used not unfrequently as a synonym for "hell." The translators of the Authorized Version have done so here. The reminder is, after all, we need not fear men. When they have done their worst, they have only injured or tortured the perishable body. The One whom all have good reason to fear is God, whose power is not limited to this life, but extends through and beyond death. Some have strangely supposed, not God, but the devil, is intended here to be the real object of human fear. The devil can be no object of fear to the Master's disciples. I will forewarn (ὑποδείξω)

Rev., warn. See on warned, Luke 3:7.


See on Matthew 5:22.

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