on Matthew 5 :5
Blessed are the meek - Happy, οι πραεις, from ῥαος, easy, those who are of a quiet, gentle spirit, in opposition to the proud and supercilious Scribes and Pharisees and their disciples. We have a compound word in English, which once fully expressed the meaning of the original, viz. gentleman; but it has now almost wholly lost its original signification. Our word meek comes from the old Anglo-saxon meca, or meccea, a companion or equal, because he who is of a meek or gentle spirit, is ever ready to associate with the meanest of those who fear God, feeling himself superior to none; and well knowing that he has nothing of spiritual or temporal good but what he has received from the mere bounty of God, having never deserved any favor from his hand.
For they shall inherit the earth - Or, την γην, the land. Under this expression, which was commonly used by the prophets to signify the land of Canaan, in which all temporal good abounded, Judges 18:9, Judges 18:10, Jesus Christ points out that abundance of spiritual good, which was provided for men in the Gospel. Besides, Canaan was a type of the kingdom of God; and who is so likely to inherit glory as the man in whom the meekness and gentleness of Jesus dwell? In some good MSS. and several ancient versions, the fourth and fifth verses are transposed: see the authorities in the various readings in Professor Griesbach's edition. The present arrangement certainly is most natural:
1. Poverty, to which the promise of the kingdom is made.
2. Mourning or distress, on account of this impoverished state, to which consolation is promised. And
3. Meekness established in the heart by the consolations received.
on Matthew 5 :5
The meek - Meekness is patience in the reception of injuries. It is neither meanness nor a surrender of our rights, nor cowardice; but it is the opposite of sudden anger, of malice, of long-harbored vengeance. Christ insisted on his right when he said, "If I have done evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?" John 18:23. Paul asserted his right when he said, "They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves, and fetch us out," Acts 16:37. And yet Christ was the very model of meekness. It was one of his characteristics, "I am meek," Matthew 11:29. So of Paul. No man endured more wrong, or endured it more patiently than he. Yet the Saviour and the apostle were not passionate. They bore all patiently. They did not press their rights through thick and thin, or trample down the rights of others to secure their own.
Meekness is the reception of injuries with a belief that God will vindicate us. "Vengeance is his; he will repay," Romans 12:19. It little becomes us to take his place, and to do what he has promised to do.
Meekness produces peace. It is proof of true greatness of soul. It comes from a heart too great to be moved by little insults. It looks upon those who offer them with pity. He that is constantly ruffled; that suffers every little insult or injury to throw him off his guard and to raise a storm of passion within, is at the mercy of every mortal that chooses to disturb him. He is like "the troubled sea that cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt."
They shall inherit the earth - This might have been translated the land. It is probable that here is a reference to the manner in which the Jews commonly expressed themselves to denote any great blessing. It was promised to them that they should inherit the land of Canaan. For a long time the patriarchs looked forward to this, Genesis 15:7-8; Exodus 32:13. They regarded it as a great blessing. It was so spoken of in the journey in the wilderness, and their hopes were crowned when they took possession of the promised land, Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 16:20. In the time of our Saviour they were in the constant habit of using the Old Testament, where this promise perpetually occurs, and they used it "as a proverbial expression to denote any great blessing, perhaps as the sum of all blessings," Psalm 37:20; Isaiah 60:21. Our Saviour used it in this sense, and meant to say, not that the meek would own great property or have many lands, but that they would possess special blessings. The Jews also considered the land of Canaan as a type of heaven, and of the blessings under the Messiah. To inherit the land became, therefore, an expression denoting those blessings. When our Saviour uses this language here, he means that the meek shall be received into his kingdom, and partake of its blessings here, and of the glories of the heavenly Canaan hereafter. The value of meekness, even in regard to worldly property and success in life, is often exhibited in the Scriptures, Proverbs 22:24-25; Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 25:8, Proverbs 25:15. It is also seen in common life that a meek, patient, mild man is the most prospered. An impatient and quarrelsome man raises up enemies; often loses property in lawsuits; spends his time in disputes and broils rather than in sober, honest industry; and is harassed, vexed, and unsuccessful in all that he does. "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come," 1 Timothy 4:8. Compare 1 Timothy 6:3-6.
on Matthew 5 :5
5:5 Happy are the meek - They that hold all their passions and affections evenly balanced. They shall inherit the earth - They shall have all things really necessary for life and godliness. They shall enjoy whatever portion God hath given them here, and shall hereafter possess the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.