By the Pharisees,
When the kingdom of God
‘The kingdom of God
Is not coming
With observable signs.’”
Ἐπερωτηθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν Φαρισαίων πότε ἔρχεται ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν Οὐκ ἔρχεται ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ μετὰ παρατηρήσεως,
Luke uniquely indicated that the Pharisees questioned Jesus (Ἐπερωτηθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν Φαρισαίων) about when the kingdom of God was coming (πότε ἔρχεται ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ). He answered them by saying (ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν) that the kingdom of God (ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ) was not coming with observable signs or careful watching (Οὐκ ἔρχεται…μετὰ παρατηρήσεως). Once again, Luke used a Greek word παρατηρήσεως, meaning observation or careful watching, that was only found here and nowhere else in the Greek biblical literature. Thus, no amount of careful watching or looking for signs would help them discover when the kingdom of God was coming. This discussion between the Pharisees and Jesus about the meaning of the kingdom of God and when it was to come was, of course, of interest to the followers of Jesus also. When do you think that the kingdom of God is coming?
“But love your enemies!
Will be great!
You will be
Of the Most-High!”
πλὴν ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ ἀγαθοποιεῖτε καὶ δανίζετε μηδὲν ἀπελπίζοντες· καὶ ἔσται ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολύς, καὶ ἔσεσθε υἱοὶ Ὑψίστου,
Matthew, chapter 5:44 was more forceful when Jesus said that they were to love their enemies (ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν) and even pray for those who were persecuting them. Here Luke indicated that Jesus said that they were to love their enemies (πλὴν ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν), as in Matthew. However, they were to do good (καὶ ἀγαθοποιεῖτε). They were expected to lend to others (καὶ δανίζετε), expecting nothing in return (μηδὲν ἀπελπίζοντες). This was based on Exodus, chapter 22:25 that if they lent money, they should not charge interest to the poor. Leviticus, chapter 25:27, said that if any of their relatives fall into difficulties and become dependent on them, they should support them as though they were resident aliens. They were not to take interest or profit from them while they are living and eating in their house. Yahweh would provide. Their reward would be great (καὶ ἔσται ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολύς) because they would be children of the Most-High God (καὶ ἔσεσθε υἱοὶ Ὑψίστου). Have you ever lent money to relatives?
“The merciful lend
To their neighbors.
By holding out
A helping hand,
They keep the commandments.
Lend to your neighbor
In his time of need.
Repay your neighbor
When a loan falls due.
Keep your promise.
Be honest with him.
On every occasion
You will find
What you need.”
Sirach says that lending to your neighbors is nothing more than giving them a helping hand. When you lend to others you are following the commandments. You lend to your neighbor with no interest in his time of need. However, if you borrowed the money, you should repay the loan when it is due. You should keep your promise and be honest. Thus on every occasion helping each other will work out.
“Those who walk blamelessly,
Those who do what is right,
Those who speak the truth from their heart,
Those who do not slander with their tongue,
Those who do no evil to their friends,
Those who do not take up a reproach against their neighbor,
Those in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
Those who honor and fear Yahweh,
Those who stand by their oath even to their hurt,
Those who do not lend money at interest,
Those who do not take a bribe against the innocent,
Those who do these things
Shall never be moved.”
Now we find out for sure who can be admitted to the worship of Yahweh. What are the moral pre-requisites? Here we have the list of those allowed into the temple of Yahweh. They walk blamelessly, doing what is right. They speak the truth from their heart. They do not slander. They do not do any evil things to their friends and neighbors. They despise the wicked. They honor and fear Yahweh. They stand by their own even in rough times. They do not lend money at interest. They do not take bribes that hurt the innocent. Doing all these things will get you entrance into the Temple of Yahweh.
“I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints. After thinking it over, I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them. ‘You are all taking interest from your own people.’ I called a great assembly to deal with them. I said to them. ‘As far as we are able, we have bought back our Jewish kindred who have been sold to other nations. But now you are selling your own kin that must then be bought back by us!’ They were silent. They could not find a word to say. So I said. ‘The thing that you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations who are our enemies? Moreover I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us stop this taking of interest. Return to them, this very day, their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the interest on the money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.’ Then they said. ‘We will restore everything. We will demand nothing more from them. We will do as you say.’ I called the priests. I made them take an oath to do as they had promised. I also shook out my garments and said. ‘May God shake out everyone from house and from property who does not perform this promise! Thus may they be shaken out and emptied.’ All the assembly said. ‘Amen.’ They praised Yahweh. The people did as they had promised.”
Nehemiah personally responded to these complaints since he was angry. This was an internal Jewish problem. The rich Jewish people were taking advantage of the poor Jewish people in their own community. Nehemiah was mad at the nobles and officials who were charging this interest on their fellow Jewish inhabitants. Although it was legal to charge interest to non-Jews, it was not legal to charge fellow Jews. He called a big assembly. He reminded them that they had been buying back other Jews from captivity. Now these officials were causing their fellow Jewish people to be put back into slave captivity. In fact, they were going to buy them then back out of captivity. He wanted all the fields, vineyards, olive orchards, and houses returned to their owners. He wanted to stop all interest on money, grain, wine, and oil. This was a strong demand to stop interest taking among the rich Jewish people among their own people. They were struck silent. They agreed to restore everything. I am not sure why they agreed so easily. He made the priests take an oath to do this also. Perhaps, it was the rich priests who were taking advantage of their kindred. Anyone who broke this promise would lose their own house and property. They all agreed with a great ‘Amen’ as they praised Yahweh. Apparently they kept this promise after the revolt of the poor Jewish people.