It is necessary to recognize that there are important differences between our readers and the Jewish audience sitting on the mountainside listening to Yeshua teach that day. Most of our readers are not Jewish, do not attend synagogues every week and hear scheduled Torah readings, listen to different discussions about those readings, or consider how they may be applied to real life situations. When Yeshua began with – “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subjected to judgment’” – everyone in his audience would have searched through their minds to identify the Scriptures he was about to interpret. Rabbis often gave “hints” to portions they were discussing by simply quoting a few words or phrases from them.
Most people recognize “You shall not murder” is one of the Ten Commandments.[i] However, where is – “anyone who murders will be subjected to judgment” -- in the Torah? Based on the hints he gave, the first thing that came to my mind was this:
Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from
the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s
blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of ELOHIM He made man.[ii]
Every man is responsible for the blood of every other man and ELOHIM (the Creator) demands a reckoning anytime a man sheds the blood of another man. This text, however, doesn’t say what “a reckoning” is or how it is to be done. The shedding of blood (shefikhut damim) is the primeval sin (Gen. 4:8) and throughout the centuries ranks in Jewish law as the gravest and most reprehensible of all offenses. Killing is prohibited in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17), but the death penalty is prescribed only for willful murder (Ex. 21:12, 14; Lev. 24:17, 21; Num. 35:16-21; Deut. 19:11), as distinguished from unpremeditated man-slaughter or accidental killing (Ex. 21:13; Num. 35:22, 23; Deut. 19:4-6).[iii] I also believe Yeshua hinted at this section too:
You shall do no injustice in judgment.
You shall not lift up the faces of the poor.
You shall not give preference to the faces of the great.
In righteousness you shall judge your people.
You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people.
You shall not stand against the blood of your neighbor.
I am Yahweh.[iv]
Many Jewish teachers have noted that if at all possible, disputes should be settled out-of-court rather than in a court of law because there is a possibility that both sides will be satisfied. But, if the matter is decided in court one of the two litigants must of necessity be the “loser.” In Jewish law, a judge is to be meticulous in ensuring that both parties to a dispute be equal before the law in every respect. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant is to be shown preferential treatment. People usually recognize the importance of the prohibition against showing favor to a wealthy person, but few understand that the same prohibition includes showing favor to a poor person just because he is a poor. The wealthy and the poor must be treated equally under the law.[v]
Keep in mind that the above words of the Torah were written centuries earlier before the Israelites even entered the land and set up their government. By the time of Yeshua, a complex justice system existed that was unknown to Moses and not found in the Torah. It was the result of many generations interpreting the Torah and working to apply its laws in their lives. An overview of the court system at the time of Yeshua is needed to understand his teachings below:
(1) The lowest court was the “BET DIN,” which literally means “House of Judgment.” It had three judges and these courts were found in villages throughout Judea and Galilee. They handled non-capital cases that covered a wide range of offenses.[vi]
(2) The LESSER SANHEDRIN had twenty-three judges and could try capital cases.[vii]
(3)The GREATER SANHEDRIN had seventy-one judges and tried cases that involved a tribe, a false prophet, a high-priest, or the nation.[viii]
(4) YAHWEH’S COURT has only one judge and will convene when all the nations of the earth are to be judged.[ix] It has the power to sentence a person to GEHINNOM, a place where the utterly wicked that are alive or have ever lived will be punished.[x]
Now, with all of this in mind, picture yourself sitting on the mountainside that day when Yeshua says:
“Anyone who is angry with a brother will be tried by the BET DIN!”
Let me put it in terms of our generation to give you a better idea of what they heard:
Any one that is angry with another person will be tried in a Justice of the Peace Court!
Would that get your attention? Who has never been angry? Everyone in the audience had probably been angry at one time or another. Did Yeshua intend for his words to be taken literally? No, he was using a very popular style of teaching to set the stage for the points he wants to make.
Keep in mind that he began by announcing that this will be a lesson about murder. The audience would have immediately recognized anger as a hint to one of the most famous passages in the Torah in which murder and anger play important roles.
Then YAHWEH said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do YTV, will you
not be accepted? But if you do not do YTV, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but
you must rule over it.”[xi]
The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament states that “YTV is an alternative form of TOV.”[xii] In the opening account Genesis, the word TOV appeared seven times after seven acts of creation by ELOHIYM (the Creator) – “and He saw that it was TOV (good).” Humans are created “in the image of ELOHIM” -- they are created with the ability to do what He did – acts of TOV.
When Cain became angry, YAHWEH told him to do acts of TOV for Abel -- acts that protect life, preserve life, make life more functional and increase the quality of life like the Creator. If Cain did acts of TOV, it would give him dominion over anger and then he would not murder his brother. In many of Yeshua’s teaching, he uses “righteousness” to describe acts of TOV.
We all know the end of the story, Cain didn’t do TOV -- his anger won and he murdered his brother. Keep in mind that in Yeshua’s interpretation, simply being angry is an offense that is tried by the lowest court the Bet Din. But, if one controls his anger, that might prevent murder!
Now Yeshua elevates anger to a more serious offense -- “Anyone who says to a brother, ‘RAQA,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.” The “anyone” means “anyone that is angry.” Pay close attention to what makes this a more serious crime – it is when an angry person says “RAQA” to the person he or she is angry with. RAQA is the transliteration of this Hebrew word -- !89. The story below will explain what it means.
"Our Rabbis have taught: A man should always be gentle as the reed and never unyielding as the cedar.
Once R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon was coming from Migdal Gedor, from the house of his teacher, and he
was riding leisurely on his ass by the riverside and was feeling happy and elated because he had studied
much Torah [20b]. There chanced to meet him an exceedingly ugly man who greeted him, `Peace be
upon you, Sir.' He, however, did not return his salutation but instead said to him, `RAQA (you useless
and empty thing), how ugly you are. Are all your fellow citizens as ugly as you are?' The man replied:
`I do not know, but go and tell the craftsman who made me, "How ugly is the vessel which you have made.'
When R. Eleazar realized that he had done wrong he dismounted from the ass and prostrated himself
before the man and said to him, `I submit myself to you, forgive me.' The man replied: `I will not forgive
you until you go to the craftsman who made me and say to him, `How ugly is the vessel which you have made".'
He [R. Eleazar] walked behind him until he reached his native city. When his fellow citizens came out to meet
him greeting him with the words, `Peace be upon you 0 Teacher, 0 Master,' the man asked them, `Whom are
you addressing thus?' They replied, `The man who is walking behind you.' Thereupon he exclaimed: `If this
man is a teacher, may there not be any more like him in Israel!' The people then asked him: `Why?' He
replied: `Such and such a thing has he done to me.'
They said to him: `Nevertheless, forgive him, for he is a man greatly learned in the Torah.' The man replied: `
For your sakes I will forgive him, but only on the condition that he does not act in the same manner in the
The audience understood that when the rabbi said, “RAQA,” he meant “the man was useless, empty and of no value." As pointed out above, a foundational principle and core value of the Torah is “all people are created in the image of ELOHIM.” The uncontrolled anger of the rabbi caused him to contradict what ELOHIYM taught about that man. Of all people, the famous rabbi should have known what he was doing. This should make us aware that uncontrolled anger may affect anyone. An important point Yeshua makes here is this – if you become angry take special care to control what you say. Do not say anything that devalues the worth of human life and denies that someone is “made in the image of ELOHIM.” If one commits that offense – he or she is one step closer to committing murder like Cain! But this is still not the most serious offence.
Now Yeshua reveals the line an angry person must not cross line – do not call anyone a “fool!” If anyone does that, he or she will ultimately come face-to-face with the highest judge of all – Yahweh -- whether murder is committed or not! For English readers this makes no sense because the English word “fool” is defined as: “a person lacking in judgment or prudence; a harmlessly deranged person or one lacking in common powers of understanding.”[xiv] Why would Yahweh consider that so bad? But, members of Yeshua’s Jewish audience had learned something in their synagogues that most of us never hear at church – and they knew he was hinting at a well-known passage found in Psalm 14:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no ELOHIM.” They behave corruptly. Their deeds are abominable. There is
no one doing TOV. YAHWEH looks down from heaven on all the sons of mankind, to see if there is one
understanding, seeking ELOHIM. All have turned away, all have become corrupt. There is no one doing TOV,
not even one.[xv]
Calling another person a “fool” means “that person denies the existence of the Creator and denies the existence of the Kingdom of the Creator (Kingdom of God).” Make sure you understand that last point clearly:
The Kingdom of the Creator is a kingdom of people who reveal the image of the Creator on Earth by doing what
He does -- acts of TOV.
Do you understand why calling a person a “fool” is such a serious offense in the eyes of Yeshua? He wanted his followers to be fully aware that this would bring people to the brink of committing murder. How could they prevent it? Take dominion over the anger by demonstrating that they are members of the Creator’s Kingdom by doing acts TOV and that is also absolute proof that there are people on earth doing TOV!
Yeshua the Fence Builder
There is a famous rabbinical maxim about "building fences around the law" that will help us understand what Yeshua was doing when he taught the things above:
Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the
prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly. They said three things:
Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah.[xvi]
The basic thinking is as follows: We do not want to violate the Torah. If we create extra laws to protect the Torah, and we obey those extra laws, then we will not come close to disobeying the laws of the Torah[xvii] -- but the fences are laws or instructions of the rabbis and teachers. Yeshua built three fences:
(1) Do not become angry.
(2) If you do become angry, do not say the person you are angry with is useless and of no value.
(3) If you violate Yeshua’s first two commandments, make sure you absolutely do not say that the person you are angry with denies the existence of the Creator and His Kingdom.
In the previous issue of The Teachings of Yeshua[xviii] we learned something very important about how he viewed his “fences” and who kept or did not keep practice them.
(1) Whoever misinterprets one of the least commandments and teaches men to do so shall be called “Least” in the Kingdom of the Creator.
(2) Whoever correctly interprets the least commandments and teaches men to do so shall be called “Great” in the Kingdom of the Creator.
(3) But, unless your acts of TOV exceed the acts of TOV of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of the Creator by any means.
When Yeshua said “the least commandments,” he was referring to “his fence laws,” not the commandments written in the Torah and Prophets. Pause! Let this sink in before you move on!!!
If you bring your QORBAN to the Temple Altar and there at the Altar
you remember that your brother has a charge against you
leave your QORBAN there before the Altar go find your brother
do TESHUVAH then return to the Altar and offer your QORBAN to Yahweh.[xix]
This reveals some interesting points that often go unnoticed. The first is that he is only speaking to Jews. How do we know? Only a Jew could present a QORBAN (sacrifice/gift) at the Temple Altar. As a matter of fact, if a non-Jew crossed the boundaries of the Court of Gentiles and stepped into areas in which only Jews were permitted – he risked being killed by Temple guards.
The next point is one every Jew in Yeshua’s audience clearly understood: QORBAN has no expiating effect unless the person making the offering does TESHUVAH before making it.[xx] Yahweh will not accept it until the person does TESHUVAH as explained below:
(1) TESHUVAH (“to turn”) is a prerequisite for divine forgiveness.
(2) Yahweh’s forgiveness, however extensive, only encompasses those sins which man commits directly against Him. Sins committed against a person must be forgiven by the person. Yahweh waits for him or her to do TESHUVAH.[xxi]
(3) To cease doing the sin is the first concrete act of TESHUVAH.
(4) Genuine remorse for the wrong he or she has committed should be experienced.
(5) The next step is to convert one’s penitential energy into doing concrete acts of TOV.
(6) After the above steps, making restitution to repair the damage that was caused by the sin, are completed, the injured party is to forgive the perpetrator. If he fails to do it, he commits a sin.
The motion of turning implies that sin is not an ineradicable stain but a straying from the right path, and that by the effort of turning, a power the Creator has given to all men, the sinner can redirect his destiny. This puts an interesting twist on the Cain and Abel story too. It explains why Yahweh ignored Cain’s offering – he was angry with Abel before he came to present his QORBAN. Many Christians today, especially Protestants, fail to grasp the importance of maintaining the wholeness of community and the Kingdom of the Creator. The idea of “individual salvation” was unknown to Yeshua and the Jewish people. It is still unknown to the Catholic Church. It didn’t exist until the 16th century with the creation of Protestantism. Yeshua ends this section with a well-known idea in his Jewish audience:
Do TESHUVAH while you are walking with him otherwise he will deliver you to the judge then the judge
will hand you over to the officer then the officer will throw you into prison. Amen! You will not get out of
prison until you have paid the last penny. [xxii]
This sounds pretty strange to many of us because our religion puts an individual’s relationship with God first. But as we listen to the teachings of Yeshua he will repeatedly teach -- God not only puts our relationship with other first, He bases His relationship with us on it! Don’t forget to do TOV! BHC
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[i] Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17.
[ii] Genesis 9:5-6.
[iii] The Principles of Jewish Law edited by Menachem Elon, Professor of Jewish Law The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Encyclopedia Judaica, © Keter Publishing House Jerusalem, Ltd., Jerusalem, Israel; published by Hamed Books, Inc., Brooklyn, NY; p. 475.
[iv] Leviticus 19:15-16.
[v] The Mitzvot: The Commandments and Their Rationale by Abraham Chill © 1974, Keter Publishing House Jerusalem, Ltd., Jerusalem, Israel; pp. 226-227.
[xi] Genesis 4:6-7.
[xiii] Taanit 20a-b
[xv] Psalm 14:1-3
[xvi] Mishnah Avot 2:1.
[xviii] Teachings of Yeshua #1 March 2016.
[xix] Matthew 5:23-24.
[xxi] Encyclopedia Judaica; Vol. 14 Col. 73
[xxii] Matthew 5:25-26.
Murder, Anger & God
by Jim Myers
Yeshua considered his role of correctly interpreting Hebrew Scriptures very important and it was important to his Jewish followers too. They heard Scriptures read and discussed in synagogues every Shabbat. They would have recognized the nuances of Yeshua’s interpretations and how his compared to those of other rabbis, priests and scribes. I will use the format described in the last issue again.