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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 14: Matthew 17:24-18:16, by Kevin M. Williams

“Binding and loosing” are Hebrew idioms. For instance, a local synagogue may declare a fast day. This declaration would be binding on the congregants. A woman might stand before the synagogue and publicly show her get, her divorce document. She was no longer bound to her husband and was loosed to remarry. This was legal language and is still practiced in Orthodox Jewish communities today.

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst” (Matthew 18:19-20).

While some teach that Yeshua is referring to prayer here, that does not appear to be borne out in the text. Yeshua says “again,” to repeat what He has already said. “Again” likely refers to the jurisprudence already examined. What was the purpose of the two or three witnesses? Repeatedly in the Torah, the gospels, and in Paul’s epistles “two or three” were to bear witness to official proceedings. In all cases, the witnesses’ testimonies had to be in agreement. When testimonies do not agree, then judgment cannot be decided. This was particularly crucial with capital crimes and one of the reasons why Yeshua’s trial was such a mockery—the witnesses had different testimonies.

In the Israeli culture and tradition of the day, the accused was not permitted to speak. They were not allowed to speak on their behalf or to give testimony. They had to rely solely on the deposition of the witnesses. The Torah claimed that a matter was to be decided on the testimony of these witnesses and in the beit din (house of judgment) and sanhedrin (temple court) of the day, this was taken quite literally. Guilt or innocence—truth would be determined based on the testimony witnesses by those sitting in the judge’s seat. This is how the Jewish audience listening to Yeshua would have interpreted what He was saying. This was a way of life for them and how their community functioned.

Matthew 18:9-20 is essentially stating that if the witnesses agree, and everything has been conducted in an upright and biblical manner—“in My name”—then there need be no fear of doing it “wrong.” The sentence, or discipline, will be acknowledged in heaven and the “judges” will be held blameless.


Next Issue: In part 15 of our series on Matthew, we shall begin the examination of the sometimes-thorny issue of “forgiveness.”


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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2004

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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