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Luke 15:11-32

Context
The Parable of the Compassionate Father

15:11 Then 1  Jesus 2  said, “A man had two sons. 15:12 The 3  younger of them said to his 4  father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate 5  that will belong 6  to me.’ So 7  he divided his 8  assets between them. 9  15:13 After 10  a few days, 11  the younger son gathered together all he had and left on a journey to a distant country, and there he squandered 12  his wealth 13  with a wild lifestyle. 15:14 Then 14  after he had spent everything, a severe famine took place in that country, and he began to be in need. 15:15 So he went and worked for 15  one of the citizens of that country, who 16  sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 17  15:16 He 18  was longing to eat 19  the carob pods 20  the pigs were eating, but 21  no one gave him anything. 15:17 But when he came to his senses 22  he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food 23  enough to spare, but here I am dying from hunger! 15:18 I will get up and go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned 24  against heaven 25  and against 26  you. 15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me 27  like one of your hired workers.”’ 15:20 So 28  he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way from home 29  his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; 30  he ran and hugged 31  his son 32  and kissed him. 15:21 Then 33  his son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven 34  and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 35  15:22 But the father said to his slaves, 36  ‘Hurry! Bring the best robe, 37  and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger 38  and sandals 39  on his feet! 15:23 Bring 40  the fattened calf 41  and kill it! Let us eat 42  and celebrate, 15:24 because this son of mine was dead, and is alive again – he was lost and is found!’ 43  So 44  they began to celebrate.

15:25 “Now his older son was in the field. As 45  he came and approached the house, he heard music 46  and dancing. 15:26 So 47  he called one of the slaves 48  and asked what was happening. 15:27 The slave replied, 49  ‘Your brother has returned, and your father has killed the fattened calf 50  because he got his son 51  back safe and sound.’ 15:28 But the older son 52  became angry 53  and refused 54  to go in. His father came out and appealed to him, 15:29 but he answered 55  his father, ‘Look! These many years I have worked like a slave 56  for you, and I never disobeyed your commands. Yet 57  you never gave me even a goat 58  so that I could celebrate with my friends! 15:30 But when this son of yours 59  came back, who has devoured 60  your assets with prostitutes, 61  you killed the fattened calf 62  for him!’ 15:31 Then 63  the father 64  said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything that belongs to me is yours. 15:32 It was appropriate 65  to celebrate and be glad, for your brother 66  was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.’” 67 

1 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

2 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

3 tn Grk “And the.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

4 tn Grk “the”; in context the article is used as a possessive pronoun (ExSyn 215).

5 tn L&N 57.19 notes that in nonbiblical contexts in which the word οὐσία (ousia) occurs, it refers to considerable possessions or wealth, thus “estate.”

6 tn L&N 57.3, “to belong to or come to belong to, with the possible implication of by right or by inheritance.”

7 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “so” to indicate the father’s response to the younger son’s request.

8 tn Grk “the”; in context the article is used as a possessive pronoun (ExSyn 215).

9 sn He divided his assets between them. There was advice against doing this in the OT Apocrypha (Sir 33:20). The younger son would get half of what the older son received (Deut 21:17).

10 tn Grk “And after.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

11 tn Grk “after not many days.”

12 tn Or “wasted.” This verb is graphic; it means to scatter (L&N 57.151).

13 tn Or “estate” (the same word has been translated “estate” in v. 12).

14 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “then” to indicate the sequence of events in the parable. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style generally does not.

15 tn Grk “joined himself to” (in this case an idiom for beginning to work for someone).

16 tn Grk “and he.” Here the conjunction καί (kai) and the personal pronoun have been translated by a relative pronoun to improve the English style.

17 sn To a Jew, being sent to the field to feed pigs would be an insult, since pigs were considered unclean animals (Lev 11:7).

18 tn Grk “And he.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

19 tn Or “would gladly have eaten”; Grk “was longing to be filled with.”

20 tn This term refers to the edible pods from a carob tree (BDAG 540 s.v. κεράτιον). They were bean-like in nature and were commonly used for fattening pigs, although they were also used for food by poor people (L&N 3.46).

21 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.

22 tn Grk “came to himself” (an idiom).

23 tn Grk “bread,” but used figuratively for food of any kind (L&N 5.1).

24 sn In the confession “I have sinned” there is a recognition of wrong that pictures the penitent coming home and “being found.”

25 sn The phrase against heaven is a circumlocution for God.

26 tn According to BDAG 342 s.v. ἐνωπιον 4.a, “in relation to ἁμαρτάνειν ἐ. τινος sin against someone Lk 15:18, 21 (cf. Jdth 5:17; 1 Km 7:6; 20:1).”

27 tn Or “make me.” Here is a sign of total humility.

28 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the result of the son’s decision to return home. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style generally does not.

29 tn Grk “a long way off from [home].” The word “home” is implied (L&N 85.16).

30 tn Or “felt great affection for him,” “felt great pity for him.”

sn The major figure of the parable, the forgiving father, represents God the Father and his compassionate response. God is ready with open arms to welcome the sinner who comes back to him.

31 tn Grk “he fell on his neck,” an idiom for showing special affection for someone by throwing one’s arms around them. The picture is of the father hanging on the son’s neck in welcome.

32 tn Grk “him”; the referent (the son) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

33 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

34 sn The phrase against heaven is a circumlocution for God. 1st century Judaism tended to minimize use of the divine name out of reverence.

35 sn The younger son launches into his confession just as he had planned. See vv. 18-19.

36 tn See the note on the word “slave” in 7:2.

37 sn With the instructions Hurry! Bring the best robe, there is a total acceptance of the younger son back into the home.

38 tn Grk “hand”; but χείρ (ceir) can refer to either the whole hand or any relevant part of it (L&N 8.30).

39 sn The need for sandals underlines the younger son’s previous destitution, because he was barefoot.

40 tn Grk “And bring.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

41 tn Or “the prize calf” (L&N 65.8). See also L&N 44.2, “grain-fattened.” Such a calf was usually reserved for religious celebrations.

42 tn The participle φαγόντες (fagontes) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

43 sn This statement links the parable to the theme of 15:6, 9.

44 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the result of the father’s remarks in the preceding verses.

45 tn Grk “And as.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

46 sn This would have been primarily instrumental music, but might include singing as well.

47 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the result of the older son hearing the noise of the celebration in progress.

48 tn The Greek term here, παῖς (pais), describes a slave, possibly a household servant regarded with some affection (L&N 87.77).

49 tn Grk “And he said to him.” Here δέ (de) has not been translated. The rest of the phrase has been simplified to “the slave replied,” with the referent (the slave) specified in the translation for clarity.

50 tn See note on the phrase “fattened calf” in v. 23.

51 tn Grk “him”; the referent (the younger son) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

52 tn Grk “he”; the referent (the older son, v. 25) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

53 tn The aorist verb ὠργίσθη (wrgisqh) has been translated as an ingressive aorist, reflecting entry into a state or condition.

54 sn Ironically the attitude of the older son has left him outside and without joy.

55 tn Grk “but answering, he said.” This is somewhat redundant in contemporary English and has been simplified to “but he answered.”

56 tn Or simply, “have served,” but in the emotional context of the older son’s outburst the translation given is closer to the point.

57 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “yet” to bring out the contrast indicated by the context.

58 sn You never gave me even a goat. The older son’s complaint was that the generous treatment of the younger son was not fair: “I can’t get even a little celebration with a basic food staple like a goat!”

59 sn Note the younger son is not “my brother” but this son of yours (an expression with a distinctly pejorative nuance).

60 sn This is another graphic description. The younger son’s consumption had been like a glutton. He had both figuratively and literally devoured the assets which were given to him.

61 sn The charge concerning the prostitutes is unproven, but essentially the older brother accuses the father of committing an injustice by rewarding his younger son’s unrighteous behavior.

62 sn See note on the phrase “fattened calf” in v. 23.

63 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events in the parable.

64 tn Grk “he”; the referent (the father) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

65 tn Or “necessary.”

66 sn By referring to him as your brother, the father reminded the older brother that the younger brother was part of the family.

67 sn The theme he was lost and is found is repeated from v. 24. The conclusion is open-ended. The reader is left to ponder with the older son (who pictures the scribes and Pharisees) what the response will be. The parable does not reveal the ultimate response of the older brother. Jesus argued that sinners should be pursued and received back warmly when they returned.



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