Preaching, Baptism, and Imprisonment of
(See on Mt 3:1-12; Mr 6:17, &c.).
1, 2. Here the curtain of the New Testament
is, as it were, drawn up, and the greatest of all epochs of the Church
commences. Even our Lord's own age (Lu 3:23) is determined by it [Bengel]. No such elaborate chronological precision
is to be found elsewhere in the New Testament, and it comes fitly from
him who claims it as the peculiar recommendation of his Gospel, that he
had "accurately traced down all things from the first" (Lu 1:3). Here, evidently, commences his proper
narrative. Also see on Mt 3:1.
the fifteenth year of
Tiberius—reckoning from the period when he was admitted,
three years before Augustus' death, to a share of the empire [Webster and Wilkinson], about the end of the year of Rome 779,
or about four years before the usual reckoning.
Pilate … governor of Judea—His
proper title was Procurator, but with more than the usual powers
of that office. After holding it about ten years he was ordered to
Rome, to answer to charges brought against him, but ere he arrived
Tiberius died (A.D. 35), and soon after
Pilate committed suicide.
Herod—(See on Mr
Philip—a different and very superior
Philip to the one whose wife Herodias went to live with Herod Antipas.
Iturea—to the northeast of Palestine;
so called from Ishmael's son Itur or Jetur (1Ch 1:31), and anciently belonging to the half
tribe of Manasseh.
Trachonitis—farther to the northeast,
between Iturea and Damascus; a rocky district, infested by robbers, and
committed by Augustus to Herod the Great to keep in order.
Abilene—still more to the northeast,
so called from Abila, eighteen miles from Damascus [Robinson].
2. Annas and Caiaphas … high
priests—the former, though deposed, retained much of his
influence, and, probably, as sagan or deputy, exercised much of
the power of the high priesthood along with Caiaphas (Joh 18:13; Ac
4:6). Both Zadok and Abiathar
acted as high priests in David's time (2Sa 15:35), and it seems to have become the fixed
practice to have two (2Ki 25:18).
(Also see on Mt 3:1.)
word of God came unto John—Such
formulas, of course, are never used when speaking of Jesus,
because the divine nature manifested itself in Him not at certain
isolated moments of His life. He was the one everlasting
manifestation of the Godhead—The
5. Every valley,
&c.—levelling and smoothing, obvious figures,
the sense of which is in the first words of the proclamation,
"Prepare ye the way of the Lord."
6. all flesh, &c.—(quoted literally
from the Septuagint of Isa 40:5). The idea is that every obstruction
shall be so removed as to reveal to the whole world the Salvation of
God in Him whose name is the "Saviour" (compare Ps 98:3; Isa 11:10; 49:6; 52:10; Lu 2:31, 32; Ac
10-14. What shall we do then?—to show
the sincerity of our repentance. (Also see on Mt
11. two coats—directed against the
reigning avarice. (Also see on Mt
12. publicans, &c. (Also see on Mt 3:10.)
13. Exact no more, &c.—directed
against that extortion which made the publicans a byword. (See
on Lu 19:2; Lu 19:8). (Also
see on Mt 3:10.)
14. soldiers … Do violence to
none—The word signifies to "shake thoroughly," and so to
"intimidate," probably in order to extort money or other property.
(Also see on Mt 3:10.)
accuse … falsely—acting as
informers vexatiously, on frivolous or false grounds.
content with your wages—"rations." We
may take this as a warning against mutiny, which the officers attempted
to suppress by largesses and donations [Webster and Wilkinson]. And thus the "fruits" which would
evidence their repentance were just resistance to the reigning sins,
particularly of the class to which the penitent belonged, and
the manifestation of an opposite spirit.
15-17. whether he were the
Christ—showing both how successful he had been in awakening
the expectation of Messiah's immediate appearing, and the high
estimation, and even reverence, which his own character commanded.
(Also see on Mt 3:10.)
16. John answered—either to the
deputation from Jerusalem (see Joh 1:19, &c.), or on some other occasion,
simply to remove impressions derogatory to his blessed Master which he
knew to be taking hold of the popular mind. (Also see on Mt 3:10.)
saying unto them all—in solemn
protestation. So far from entertaining such a thought as laying claim
to the honors of Messiahship, the meanest services I can render to that
"Mightier than I that is coming after me," are too high an honor for
me. Beautiful spirit, distinguishing this servant of Christ
one mightier than I—"the Mighter than
18. many other things, &c.—such as
we read in Joh 1:29, 33, 34; 3:27-36. (Also see on Mt
19, 20. But Herod, &c.—See on Mr 6:14, &c. (Also see on Mt
and for all the evils which Herod had
done—important fact here only mentioned, showing how
thoroughgoing was the fidelity of the Baptist to his royal
hearer, and how strong must have been the workings of conscience in
that slave of passion when, notwithstanding such plainness, he "did
many things and heard John gladly" (Mr 6:20, 26).
20. Added yet, &c.—(Also see on Mt 3:12).
Lu 3:21, 22. Baptism of and
Descent of the Spirit upon Jesus.
(See on Mt 3:13-17.)
21. when all the people were
baptized—that He might not seem to be merely one of the
crowd. Thus, as He rode into Jerusalem upon an ass, "whereon yet
never man sat" (Lu 19:30),
and lay in a sepulchre "wherein was never man yet laid" (Joh 19:41), so in His baptism He would be
"separate from sinners."
Lu 3:23-38. Genealogy of
23. he began to be about thirty—that is,
"was about entering on His thirtieth year." So our translators have
taken the word (and so Calvin, Beza, Bloomfield, Webster
and Wilkinson, &c.): but "was about
thirty years of age when He began [His ministry]," makes better
Greek, and is probably the true sense [Bengel, Olshausen,
De Wette, Meyer, Alford,
&c.]. At this age the priests entered on their office (Nu 4:3).
being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph,
&c.—Have we in this genealogy, as well as in Matthew's, the
line of Joseph? or is this the line of Mary?—a
point on which there has been great difference of opinion and much
acute discussion. Those who take the former opinion contend that
it is the natural sense of this verse, and that no other would have
been thought of but for its supposed improbability and the uncertainty
which it seems to throw over our Lord's real descent. But it is liable
to another difficulty; namely, that in this case Matthew makes
Jacob, while Luke makes "Heli," to be Joseph's father;
and though the same man had often more than one name, we ought not to
resort to that supposition, in such a case as this, without necessity.
And then, though the descent of Mary from David would be liable to no
real doubt, even though we had no table of her line preserved to us
(see, for example, Lu 1:2-32,
and see on Lu 2:5), still it does seem
unlikely—we say not incredible—that two genealogies of our
Lord should be preserved to us, neither of which gives his real
descent. Those who take the latter opinion, that we have here
the line of Mary, as in Matthew that of Joseph—here
His real, there His reputed line—explain the
statement about Joseph, that he was "the son of Hell," to mean
that he was his son-in-law, as the husband of his daughter Mary
(as in Ru
1:11, 12), and believe that
Joseph's name is only introduced instead of Mary's, in conformity with
the Jewish custom in such tables. Perhaps this view is attended with
fewest difficulties, as it certainly is the best supported. However we
decide, it is a satisfaction to know that not a doubt was thrown out by
the bitterest of the early enemies of Christianity as to our Lord's
real descent from David. On comparing the two genealogies, it will
be found that Matthew, writing more immediately for Jews, deemed
it enough to show that the Saviour was sprung from Abraham and David;
whereas Luke, writing more immediately for Gentiles, traces the
descent back to Adam, the parent stock of the whole human family, thus
showing Him to be the promised "Seed of the woman." "The possibility of
constructing such a table, comprising a period of thousands of years,
in an uninterrupted line from father to son, of a family that dwelt for
a long time in the utmost retirement, would be inexplicable, had not
the members of this line been endowed with a thread by which
they could extricate themselves from the many families into which every
tribe and branch was again subdivided, and thus hold fast and know
the member that was destined to continue the lineage. This
thread was the hope that Messiah would be born of the race of Abraham
and David. The ardent desire to behold Him and be partakers of His
mercy and glory suffered not the attention to be exhausted through a
period embracing thousands of years. Thus the member destined to
continue the lineage, whenever doubtful, became easily distinguishable,
awakening the hope of a final fulfilment, and keeping it alive until it
was consummated" [Olshausen].
24-30. son of Matthat, &c.—(See on
Mt 1:13-15). In Lu 3:27, Salathiel is called the son,
while in Mt
1:12, he is called the
father of Zerubbabel. But they are probably different
38. son of God—Compare Ac 17:28.