The Old Testament roots of Jesus’ Beatitudes

Photo by Luis Quintero on

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount begins with eight blessings in Matthew 5:3-10, often called “Beatitudes,” because they are blessings on those who have these attitudes. Jesus shows His deep connection to the Old Testament in these blessings. It’s structure is like the Ten Commandments, which begin with four commandments about our relationship with God and end with six commandments about our relationship with people. The first four Beatitudes relate to God, and the last four relate to people. His third blessing, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” is nearly a quotation of Psalm 37:11, “The humble will inherit the land.” The entire passage has echoes of Isaiah 61:1-9, a passage that Jesus read when He inaugurated His ministry at Nazareth (see Luke 4:16-21). Like the Beatitudes of Jesus, Isaiah 61 mentions good news for the poor (v. 1), comfort for those who mourn (v. 2), possession of the land by the downtrodden (v. 7), and the passage ends with how “they are a people the Lord has blessed” (v. 9).

Why would there not be a seamless connection between these Old Testament passages and the Beatitudes? The same Divine Mind inspired both. Now come in flesh, Jesus the Messiah spoke His distinctive message into the Beatitudes. As in His parables, He begins and ends with a reference to the “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, 10). These are the attitudes of citizens of the kingdom, under the Lordship of the King of kings, Jesus Himself:

*those who are poor in spirit

*those who mourn

*those who are gentle

*those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

*those who are merciful

*those who are pure in heart

*those who are peacemakers

*those who are persecuted for righteousness

What a radically different kingdom this is from the world we know– yet one that is declared “blessed.”

About Bob Rogers

Hospital chaplain in Mississippi. Adjunct history professor (online). Formerly a pastor for 33 years in Mississippi and Georgia. Avid cyclist.

Posted on January 12, 2015, in Bible teaching and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I was just reading the Beatitudes and thought the same thing! where in the OT are these same principles listed?

  2. By the way, you’re wrong about it being “almost a direct quote”. It is a DIRECT QUOTE VERBATIM – WORD FOR WORD from Psalm 37:11 KJV:

    “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”
    – Psalm 37:11 KJV

    Please stop reading your false translations. KJV is the only way to go if reading in English.

  3. John Strathern=-

    LOL. Loved your last reply re James 7/15.

  4. Justis St. Hilaire

    Beautiful insights. Thank you for the blessing of your insight Bob.

    God Bless

  5. Justis St. Hilaire

    Ijust read the comment on the post of an individual who thinks that the KJV is the only English translation to read. This is an uneducated perspective that unfortunately is held by individuals who do not realize that the KJV has many translation issues with a number of theological errors. When I was in university studying for the ministry and learning Greek and Hebrew, it became apparent that the translators made many egregious theological mistranslations from the actual context. KJV people should learn, to go to the original language and educate themselves concerning the actual meaning of the text, and they would not be so defensive about the KJV, and stop criticizing the other, sometimes, better, more accurate, translations.
    Pastor Justis
    PS: I still love to read and study from my KJV in most of my sermon preparation. However, it is not the only version of scripture that I read and study from for deeper study to understanding the actual context. God bless.

    • Justis St. Hilaire

      I also wanted to thank you for your insights and presentation on the beatitudes. I was blessed.
      Pastor Justis

  6. To be so narrow minded to insist one use only the KJV implies a lack of historical knowledge and hints at that persons lack of personal faith, Sorry ,way I see it. Using only the KJV I you will learn that the chossen Apostles quoted from different old testament translations, and paraphrased and so on. Did Jesus quote from a certain scroll ? Did Jesus say to use only one translation ? Did Philip ask the Ethiopian what translation he was reading? How far can you go back and find a pure translation, the council of Trent ?, the Nicene Council ? parchments from the Dead Sea Scrolls ? The written history of mankind on earth is bias by the author from conception. With in and hour modern day events, even with cell phone video are manipulated into propaganda instantaneously . The true content of the bible has survived over the years far better than any other ancient history. I have concluded that for it do so, is through the work of the Holy Spirit.

  7. Bad commemtary

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