“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
God’s ways are frequently very different from man’s ways. For instance: Few people would consider service to others as a measure of true greatness; but, God does [Matthew 20:25-28 (Mark 9:42-45); Luke 22:24-27]. Moreover, consider the Beatitudes: Few people would consider poverty in spirit, mourning, and meekness means and even prerequisites to true (spiritual) happiness; but, God does (Matthew 5:3, 4, 5). The wise learn to see things, as God sees things. They renew their minds (Romans 12:2).
The word “blessed” (makarios) is defined to mean, “blessed, happy” (Thayer); “blessed, fortunate, happy usually in a sense of divine favor” (BAG). Many strongly desire happiness, but they seek it without even considering God. True lasting happiness is found in a right relationship with God.
Blessed are the meek (gentle NASB, McCord’s). The word “meek” (praus) is defined to mean “gentle, mild, meek” (Thayer); “gentle, humble, considerate, meek in the older favorable sense” (BAG). The word is greatly misunderstood. Vine’s said of the noun form meekness (prautes), that it “is not readily expressed in English, for the terms meekness, mildness, commonly used, suggest weakness and pusillanimity to a greater or less extent, whereas prautes does nothing of the kind. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find a rendering less open to objection than ‘meekness’; ‘gentleness’ has been suggested, but as prautes describes a condition of mind and heart, and as ‘gentleness’ is appropriate rather to actions, this word is no better than that used in both English versions (KJV, ERV or RV – B.H.). It must be clearly understood, therefore, that meekness manifested by the Lord, and commended to the believer is the fruit of power. The common assumption is that when a man is meek it is because he cannot help himself; but the Lord was ‘meek’ because he had the infinite resources of God at His command. Described negatively, meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest.” The word meek does not mean weak. Wayne Jackson comments, “It does not suggest weakness; rather, it denote strength brought under control. The ancient Greeks employed the term to describe a wild horse tamed to the bridle” (Jackson, Notes From the Margin of My Bible, Vol. 2, p. 4). It is not “stiff-necked” (Exodus 32:9; 33:3; 33:5; 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6; 9:13; 10:16; 31:27; 2 Chronicles 30:8; Jeremiah 17:23; Acts 7:51).
Meekness is needed in two relationships. (1) Meekness is needed toward God. Roland Leavell comments, “Meekness connotes being disciplined to follow the direction of God” (Leavell, p. 37). Wayne Jackson comments, “In the biblical sense, it describes one who has channeled his strength into service of God” (Jackson, p. 4). The meek seek God (Zephaniah 2:3). They realized, “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). The Psalmist said, “The humble (the meek KJV) He (the LORD – B.H.) guides in justice, and the humble (the meek KJV) He teaches His way” (Psalm 25:9 cf. 73:24). (2) Meekness is needed toward others. The ESV Study Bible comments, “The meek are the ‘gentle’ (cf. 11:29), those who do not assert themselves over others…” Moses was very humble (very meek KJV) before others (Numbers 12:1-3). Jesus described Himself as “gentle (meek KJV) and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).
Which of these two relationships is contextually in view? the teaching of Matthew 5:5 are also taught in Psalm 37:10-11, where the wicked are contrasted with the meek. Therefore, I infer that “the meek,” in Matthew 5:5, are those who are meek towards God (though, one who is meek towards God will be one who seeks to live humbly and gently with others). Those who will be blessed humbly submit to God’s guidance.
They shall inherit the earth. Our inheritance is in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4). The blessed in the Beatitudes will “see God” (Matthew 5:8) and have great “reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12). Why is this language (inherit the earth) used? (1) It may refer to the new heaven and new earth to come (Revelation 21:1). That is: A new realm of existence. (2) It may refer to Canaan land. Albert Barns comments, “It is probable that here is a reference to the manner in which the Jews commonly expressed themselves to denote any great blessing. It was promised to them that they should inherit the land of Canaan. For a long time the patriarchs looked forward to this (Genesis 15:7-8; Exodus 32:13). They regarded it as a great blessing. It was so spoken of in the journey in the wilderness, and their hopes were crowned when they took possession of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:28; 16:20). In the time of our Saviour they were in constant habit of using the Old Testament, where this promise perpetually occurs and they used it as a proverbial expression to denote any great blessing, perhaps as the sum of all blessings… The Jews also considered the land of Canaan as a type of heaven, and of the blessings under the Messiah.” Adam Clark comments, “Canaan was a type of the kingdom of God.” (3) It speaks to justice, and the wicked being removed from the meek (Psalm 37:9-15). Whatever is intended, it is the meek who will be blessed.
However, let us not over-look the fact that there are benefits in being meek, even in this life (1 Timothy 4:8). It keeps one from many self-inflicted wounds (1 Peter 3:10-11). It opens up rich fellowship (Mark 10:30). J.W. McGarvey comments on Mark 10:30, “It is often the case, however, that a person who loses one friend for Christ actually gains a hundred, and that he who loses his home actually gains a hundred in the welcomes he finds in the homes of his brethren” (McGarvey, A Commentary on Matthew and Mark).