In 1 Chronicles 3:6–9, I came upon something I am wondering about. Did David have two sons named Elishama and two sons named Eliphelet? That would seem very strange. Also, what does the word “Raca” mean in Matthew 5:22?
Concerning your first question, the genealogy in this passage does list these two names twice. Bible scholars offer several explanations for one or both of the names. It is possible that one of the sons died and that a later son was given the same name. Another possibility is the repetition of a transcriber. Still another explanation is a possible spelling variation; for example, the first son by the name of Elishama might be more accurately identified as having the name Elishua (see 2 Samuel 5:15), and the first Eliphelet may actually be Elpelet (see 1 Chronicles 14:3–7).
The word “Raca” appears in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was contrasting Himself with the law of Moses. He was exhibiting to His disciples that the morality of the coming Kingdom would far exceed the interpretation of the law of Moses by the Pharisees, who were continually nit-picking about minute details but overlooking more important matters: “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
To give one example, Jesus stated, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment” (v. 21). Here Jesus simply pointed out what the law stated. Then He continued, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (v. 22).
The meaning of the word “Raca” is “empty one,” or a similar connotation. People of Jesus’ day used this Aramaic expression to voice their utter contempt for someone. The word was so vituperative that those who used this epithet could be called before (tried by) “the council,” as our King James Version puts it. The council referred to here was the Sanhedrin, the supreme court among the Jews of that day.
The Pharisees knew that murder is sin (see Matthew 5:21). Jesus, Who knew their self-righteous thoughts, announced a greater standard for His coming Kingdom. Their murderous thoughts and words were just as much a sin as bodily killing another human being. Unless a person is absolutely perfect—which no one, including the Pharisee, is—he will go to Hell regardless of the size or number of his sins, scribes and Pharisees included. The Pharisees’ ideas of right and wrong, contrary to their self-estimation of themselves, changed and bent often. God’s standards are perfect and unchanging.
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