Sharing The Blessing of The “Peacemaker”: An Exegetical Analysis of Matt 5:9
Jonathan LO

In Matt 5:9, Jesus tells his disciples: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" What is the meaning of peacemaker in the original context of the Matthean beatitude? "Peacemaker" is an obscure expression in the NT—it can only be found in Matt 5:9; its cognate verb is also rare, appearing only in Col 1:20. And given that the Jewish meaning of peace is theological and multifaceted, the task of interpretation is further complicated. The following essay is an exegetical analysis of Matt 5:9 for the purpose of illuminating the meaning of the expression peacemaker.

This study consists of two components: (1) a lexical study of "peacemaker", and (2) an exegetical analysis of the beatitudes in Matthew's gospel (Matt 5:1–10), with particular emphasis given to the meaning of Matt 5:9. The lexical study analyzes the use of "peacemaker" and related terms outside of Matt 5:9—in the NT, in the LXX, as well as the OT Pseudepigrapha. There is some indication that the meaning of the expression is not determined by the sum of its lexical components but by its surrounding context. While the expression refers to reconciliation in the writings of Paul, in the Septuagint and Pseudepigrapha it can also convey the broader meaning of a divine blessing that results in a state of well-being, as expressed by the Jewish concept of shalom.

The exegetical analysis of the beatitudes includes (1) an introduction of their setting, function, and arrangement within the Sermon on the Mount, (2) explanations of each beatitude, and (3) a fuller discussion of the beatitude concerning the peacemakers. An observation of the arrangement of the beatitudes reveals a chiastic structure in which the first and last beatitudes proclaim that the poor and those persecuted for the sake of righteousness will receive the kingdom of God. The second, third, and fourth beatitudes concern those in the kingdom who are in need, while the fifth, sixth, and seventh beatitudes relate to those who are in a position to help those in need. However, those who are in need in the seventh beatitude are not only the poor, the mourning, the hungry, or the oppressed––they are those who have committed offences and are in need of restoration. Therefore, the peacemakers refer to those who not only keep the peace, but those who initiate the process of restoring shalom in interpersonal relationships. In light of various teachings about interpersonal relationships in Matthew, peacemaking is also closely related to the ideas of reconciliation, forgiveness, and love for one's enemies (Matt 5:23, 38–42, 43–48). A blessing is pronounced upon those who are peacemakers, because they are the true children of God, who resemble God and who do the things God does. The essay concludes with some comments on the implications of the study and suggestions for contextualization. Those who participate in the activity of peacemaking can rightly share in the blessing of the peacemakers––they may truly be called the children of God.