John Gills Exposition of the Bible Commentary

Verse 24 (Matthew 6:24)

No man can serve two masters ,.... Whose orders are directly contrary to one another: otherwise, if they were the same, or agreed, both might be served; but this is rarely the case, and seldom done. This is a proverbial expression, and is elsewhere used by Christ, Luke 16:13 . The Jews have sayings pretty much like it, and of the same sense as when they say F23 Praefat. Celi Jaker, fol. 3. 1. ,

"we have not found that כל אדם זוכה לשתי שולחנות , "any man is fit for two tables."'

And again F24 Piske Tosephot Cetubot, art. 359. ,

"that it is not proper for one man to have two governments:'

their meaning is, that two things cannot be done together:

for, either he will hate the one, and love the other ; he will have less affection and regard to the one, than to the other; as the service or orders of the one, are less agreeable to him than the others;

or else he will hold to the one ; hearken to his commands, obey his orders, and abide in his service;

and despise the other ; show disrespect to his person, neglect his orders, and desert his service:

ye cannot serve God and mammon . The word "mammon" is a Syriac word, and signifies money, wealth, riches, substance, and everything that comes under the name of worldly goods. Jerom says, that riches, in the Syriac language, are called "mammon"; and so the word is often used in the above senses, in the Chaldee paraphrases F25 Vid. Targum Onkelos & Jon. in Gen. xiii. 13. & in Jud. v. 19. & in Prov. iii. 9. & in Isa. xlv. 13. & passim. , and in the Talmudic writings; where F26 Misn. Sanhed. c. 1. sect. 1. & c. 4. sect. 1. דיני ממונות , "pecuniary judgments", or causes relating to money affairs, in which were pecuniary mulcts, are opposed to דיני נפשות , "judgment of souls", or causes relating to life and death. The account and interpretation Irenaeus F1 Adv. Haeres. l. 3. c. 8. p. 249. gives of the word, is very wide and foreign; who says, that

"Mammon, according to the Jewish way of speaking, which the Samaritans used, is one that is greedy, and would have more than he ought; but, according to the Hebrew language, it is called adjectively Mam, and signifies one that is gluttonous; that is, who cannot refrain himself from gluttony.'

Whereas it is not an Hebrew word, nor an adjective, but a substantive, and signifies riches; which are opposed to God, being by some men loved, admired, trusted in, and worshipped, as if they were God; and which is incompatible with the service of the true God: for such persons, whose hearts go after their covetousness, and are set upon earthly riches, who give up themselves to them, are eagerly and anxiously pursuing after them, and place their confidence in them; whatever pretensions they may make to the service of God, as did the Scribes and Pharisees, who are particularly struck at by this expression, both here and elsewhere, they cannot truly and heartily serve the Lord. "Mammon" is the god they serve; which word may well be thought to answer to Pluto, the god of riches, among the Heathens. The Jews, in Christ's time, were notorious for the love of "mammon"; and they themselves own, that this was the cause of the destruction of the second temple: the character they give of those, who lived under the second temple, is this:

"we know that they laboured in the law, and took care of the commandments, and of the tithes, and that their whole conversation was good; only that they אוהבין את הממון , "loved the mammon", and hated one another without a cause F2 T. Hieros. Yoma, fol. 38. 3. .'

- John Gills Exposition of the Bible Commentary