Settle accounts with servant slaves (Mt 18:23-18:23)

“Therefore,

The kingdom of heaven

May be compared

To a king

Who wished

To settle accounts

With his servant slaves.”

 

Διὰ τοῦτο ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ ὃς ἠθέλησεν συνᾶραι λόγον μετὰ τῶν δούλων αὐτοῦ

 

This parable about the unforgiving servant slave is unique to Matthew.  This is not a hidden parable, because right up front, Jesus said that this was a comparison to the kingdom of heaven (Διὰ τοῦτο ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν).  In this parable kingdom story, this male king (ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ) may be an allusion to God.  This king wished to settle his words or accounts (ὃς ἠθέλησεν συνᾶραι λόγον) with his servants or male slaves (μετὰ τῶν δούλων αὐτοῦ).  Matthew was the only New Testament writer who used the word “συνᾶραι” 3 times that means to settle a situation.  In other words, these household slaves would not have had much to settle.

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The future exile (Mic 4:9-4:10)

“Now why do you cry aloud?

Is there no king in you?

Has your counselor perished?

Have pangs seized you

Like a woman in labor?

O daughter Zion!

Writhe!

Groan!

Like a woman in labor!

Now you shall go forth

From the city.

You shall camp

In the open country.

You shall go to Babylon.

There you shall be rescued.

There Yahweh will redeem you

From the hand of your enemies.”

Yahweh, via Micah, wanted to know why the people were crying.  They had a king and a counselor.  However, they were having labor pains, as if they were pregnant.  Yahweh told them to cry, groan, and contort like a pregnant woman because something bad was going to happen to them.  They were going to have to leave their city to camp in the open country.  They were going to go to Babylon.  There Yahweh would rescue and redeem them from their enemies.

The words of Yahweh in the Temple (Ezek 43:7-43:7)

“He said to me.

‘Son of man!

This is the place

Of my throne.

This is the place

Of the soles

Of my feet.

I will reside

Among the people

Of Israel

Forever!

The house of Israel

Shall no more

Defile

My holy name.

Neither they,

Nor their kings,

By their prostitution,

By the corpses

Of their kings,

At their death,

Defile

My holy name.’”

Yahweh spoke directly to Ezekiel using his normal appellation, son of man. However, rather than an amorphous glorified God, he refers to himself in anthropomorphic terms. Yahweh was going to sit on a throne, like a king. The soles of his feet would walk in this place. He was going to live among his people, not just for a short time but forever. However, there was a caveat. They were not to defile his holy name. Neither the people or their kings should tarnish his sacred name with their prostitution and dead bodies of kings in his Temple.

The powerless idols (Bar 6:53-5:56)

“These false idols cannot

Set up a king

Over a country.

They cannot

Give rain

To people.

They cannot

Judge

Their own cause.

They cannot

Deliver anyone

Who is wronged.

They have no power.

They are like crows

Between heaven and earth.

When fire breaks out

In a temple

Of wooden gods,

Overlaid with gold

Or silver,

Their priests will flee.

They will escape.

But the gods

Will be burned up

Like timbers.

Besides,

They can offer

No resistance

To a king

Or any enemies.

Why then must

Anyone admit

Or think

That they are gods?”

This author maintains that these false idols cannot set up a king over a country. They cannot give rain to anybody. They cannot judge their own cause. They cannot deliver anyone that has been wronged, since they have no power. They are like crows in the sky. If a fire breaks out in a temple of wooden gods with gold and silver, their priests will flee and escape. However, these idol gods will be burned up like timbers. These weak false idols cannot offer any resistance to a king or any enemies. How then can you think or admit that they are gods?

The futile activities of these temple priests (Bar 6:33-6:35)

“The priests

Take some

Of the clothing

Of their gods

To clothe

Their wives

Or their children.

Whether one does

Evil

To them

Or good,

They will not be able

To repay it.

They cannot

Set up a king.

They cannot

Depose a king.

Likewise

They are not able

To give

Either wealth

Or money.

If one makes a vow

To them,

Then does not

Keep it,

They will not

Require it.”

These priests of the temple take some of the clothing from their gods to give to their wives and children. Whether anyone does good or evil to them, they are not able to return the favor or resist. They are unable to set up or depose a king as the God of Israel can. They seem to have no control over wealth or money. If someone makes a vow, they do not require them to keep their vows.

Security in the foreign temples (Bar 6:18-6:19)

“Just as the gates

Are shut

On every side

Against anyone

Who has offended a king,

As though under sentence

Of death,

So the priests make

Their temples secure

With doors,

With locks,

With bars,

So that they may not be

Plundered

By robbers.

They light more lamps

For them

Than they light for themselves,

Even though their gods

Can see none of them.”

In an interesting bit of irony, this author points out that the foreign temples have a lot of security, as if the temples were in prison. These temples are like someone who has offended a king. They have gates on all sides of them, as if they are awaiting a death sentence. Their temple priests have secured their temples with doors, locks, and bars because they are afraid that robbers will come into the temple and steal things from it. They have so much light in the temple for themselves, rather than for their gods who cannot see anything anyway, with or without light.

You cannot question the judgment of God (Wis 12:12-12:14)

“Who will say?

‘What have you done?’

Who will resist your judgment?

Who will accuse you?

For the destruction of nations

That you made?

Who will come before you?

Who will plead as an advocate?

Who will plead for the unrighteous?

Neither is there any god besides you,

Whose care is for all people.

Who can prove

That you have not judged unjustly?

Nor can any king confront you.

A monarch cannot confront you

About those whom you have punished.”

Who can question God? Who could resist him? Who will accuse him? Who will plead for the unrighteous? Who can prove that he judged unjustly? Notice that there is a shift from wisdom to God, who is then compared to all the other gods. This God (Θεός), formerly Yahweh, cares for all (πάντων) the people, not just the Israelites. No one could confront him, not even a king or a monarch (βασιλεὺς ἢ τύραννος). No one could question him about his punishments.