3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign1 of Tiberius Caesar2, Pontius Pilate3 being governor of Judaea4, and Herod5 being tetrarch6 of Galilee7, and his brother8 Philip9 tetrarch of the region of Ituraea10 and Trachonitis11, and Lysanias12 tetrarch of Abilene13, JOHN THE BAPTIST'S PERSON AND PREACHING. (In the wilderness of Judea, and on the banks of the Jordan, occupying several months, probably A.D. 25 or 26.) Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign. Tiberius Caesar, stepson of
and successor to Augustus, began to reign as joint ruler with Augustus in
August, A.U.C. 765 (A.D. 11). On August 19, 767, Augustus died and Tiberius
became sole ruler. Luke counts from the beginning of the joint rule, and his
fifteen years bring us to 779. In August, 779, Tiberius began his fifteenth
year, and about December of that year Jesus would have completed his
Of Tiberius Caesar. He was born B.C. 41, died March 16, A.D. 37. As
a citizen he distinguished himself as orator, soldier, and public official.
But as emperor he was slothful, self-indulgent, indescribably licentious,
vindictive, and cruel. He was a master of dissimulation and cunning, and was
a veritable scourge to his people. But he still found flatterers even in
Palestine, Caesarea Philippi, and the town Tiberias being named for him.
Pontius Pilate. See mention of him in account of our Lord's trial.
Being governor of Judaea. The province of Judea was subdued by
Pompey and brought under Roman control in B.C. 63. Its history from that
date till the governorship of Pilate can be found in Josephus.
And Herod. Also called Antipas. The ruler who murdered John the
Baptist and who assisted at the trial of Jesus.
Being tetrarch. This word means properly the ruler of a fourth part
of a country, but was used loosely for any petty tributary prince.
Of Galilee. This province lay north of Samaria, and measured about
twenty-five miles from north to south, and twenty-seven miles from east to
west. It was a rich and fertile country.
His brother. His half-brother.
Philip. He was distinguished by justice and moderation, the one
decent man in the Herodian family. He married Salome, who obtained John the
Baptist's head for a dance. He built Caesarea Philippi, and transformed
Bethsaida Julius from a village to a city, and died there A.D. 44. After his
death his domains became part of the Roman province of Syria.
Tetrarch of the region of Ituraea. A district thirty miles long by
twenty-five broad, lying north of Batanea, east of Mt. Hermon, west of
Trachonitis. It received its name from Jetur, son of Ishmael (Genesis
25:15). Its Ishmaelite inhabitants were conquered by Aristobulus, king
of Judea, B.C. 100, and forced by him to accept the Jewish faith. They were
marauders, and famous for the use of the bow.
And Trachonitis. A district about twenty-two miles from north to
south by fourteen from east to west. Its name means "rough" or
"stony", and it amply deserves it. It lies between Iturea and the
desert, and has been infested with robbers from the earliest ages. It is
called the Argob in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy
3:4,13,14; 1 Kings
4:13; 2 Kings
"an ocean of basaltic rock and boulders, tossed about in the wildest
confusion, and intermingled with fissures and crevices in every
And Lysanias. Profane history gives us no account of this man. It
tells of a Lysanias, king of Chalcis, under Mt. Lebanon, who was put to
death by Mark Antony, B.C. 36, or sixty-odd years before this, and another
who was tetrarch of Abilene in the reigns of Caligula and Claudius twenty
years after this. He probably was son of the first and father of the second.
Tetrarch of Abilene. The city of Abila (which comes from the word
"abel", meaning "meadow") is eighteen miles from
Damascus and thirty- eight from Baalbec. The province laying about it is
mentioned because it subsequently formed part of the Jewish territory, being
given to Herod Agrippa I by Emperor Claudius about A.D. 41.
3:2 in the
highpriesthood of Annas and Caiaphas1, the
word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias2 in
In the highpriesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. Annas had been high
priest 7-14 A.D., when he was deposed by the procurator, Gratus. Caiaphas
was son-in-law of and successor to Annas. Luke gives both names, one as the
rightful and the other as the acting high priest. Compare Acts
4:6. Gentile innovations had made sad havoc with the Jewish law as to
this office. In the last 107 years of the temple's existence there were no
less than twenty-eight high priests. Luke is the only one who fixes the time
when Jesus began his ministry. He locates it by emperor and governor,
tetrarch and high priest, as an even of world-wide importance, and of
concern to all the kingdoms of men. He conceives of it as Paul did (Acts
The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias. The divine
commission which bade John enter his career as a prophet (Jeremiah
6:1). Prophets gave temporary and limited manifestations of God's will (Hebrews
1:1,2). Jesus is the everlasting and unlimited manifestation of the
divine purpose and of the very Godhead (John
1:3; 2 Corinthians
In the wilderness. The wilderness of Judea is that almost
uninhabitable mass of barren ridges extending the whole length of the Dead
Sea, and a few miles further north. It is from five to ten miles wide.
3:3 And he came1
into all the region round about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance
unto remission of sins;
And he came. He made his public appearance, and, like that of
Elijah, it was a sudden one (1 Kings
Into all the country about Jordan. The Jordan valley is called in
the Old Testament the Arabah, and by the modern Arabs the Ghor. It is the
deepest valley in the world, its lowest part being about 1,300 feet below
the level of the ocean.
Preaching the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins. As
a change leading to remission or forgiveness of sins.
3:4 as it is written in the book of the
words of Isaiah the prophet1, The
voice2 of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the
way of the Lord, Make his paths straight.
Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah flourished from about 759 to 699 B.C.
The voice, etc. See Mark
3:5 Every valley
shall be filled1, And every mountain and hill shall be
brought low; And the crooked shall become straight, And the rough ways smooth;
Every valley shall be filled, etc. The literal meaning of this
passage is expressed in Isaiah
2:12-17. See also Zechariah
4:7. Commentators give detailed application of this prophecy, and,
following their example, we may regard the Pharisees and Sadducees as
mountains of self-righteousness, needing to be thrown down, and thereby
brought to meekness and humility; the outcasts and harlots as valleys of
humiliation, needing to be exalted and filled with hope; and the publicans
and soldiers as crooked and rough byways, needing to be straightened and
smoothed with proper details of righteousness. But the application is
general, and not to be limited to such details. However, civil tyranny, and
ecclesiastical pride must be leveled, and the rights of the common people
must be exalted before for kingdom of God can enter in.
3:6 And all flesh
shall see the salvation of God1.
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. This last clause of
the prophecy is added by Luke alone. He loves to dwell upon the universality
of Christ's Gospel.
3:7 He said
therefore to the multitudes1 that went out to be baptized
of him, Ye offspring of vipers2, who
warned you to flee3 from the
wrath to come4?
He said therefore to the multitudes. See Matthew
Ye offspring of vipers. A metaphor for their "likeness"
to vipers-- as like them as if they had been begotten of them. The viper was
a species of serpent from two to five feet in length, and about one inch
thick. Its head is flat, and its body a yellowish color, speckled with long
brown spots. It is extremely poisonous (Acts
28:6). John here uses the word figuratively, and probably borrows the
figure from (Isaiah
59:5). It means that the Jewish rulers were full of guile and malice,
cunning and venom. With these words John gave them a vigorous shaking, for
only thus could he hope to waken their slumbering consciences. But only one
who has had a vision of "the King in his beauty" should presume
thus to address his fellow-men. The serpent is an emblem of the devil (Genesis
12:9,14,15), and Jesus not only repeated John's words (Matthew
23:23,33), but he interpreted the words, and told them plainly that they
were "the children of the devil" (John
8:44). The Jewish rulers well deserved this name, for they poisoned the
religious principles of the nation, and accomplished the crucifixion of the
Son of God.
Who warned you to flee. John's baptism, like that of Moses at the
Red Sea (1 Corinthians
10:2), was a way of escape from destruction, of rightly used. Christian
baptism is also such a way, and whosoever will may enter thereby into the
safety of the kingdom of Christ, but baptism can not be used as an easy bit
of ritual to charm away evil. It must be accompanied by all the spiritual
changes which the ordinance implies.
From the wrath to come? Prophecy foretold that Messiah's time would
be accompanied with wrath (Isaiah
7:10-26); but the Jews were all of the opinion that this wrath would be
meted out upon the Gentiles and were not prepared to hear John apply the
prophecy to themselves. To all his hearers John preached the coming kingdom;
to the impenitent, he preached the coming wrath. Thus he prepared the way
for the first coming of the Messiah, and those who would prepare the people
for his second coming would do well to follow his example. The Bible has a
voice of warning and denunciation, as well as words of invitation and love.
Whosoever omits the warning of the judgment, speaks but half the message
which God would have him deliver. God's wrath is his resentment against sin
3:8 Bring forth
therefore fruits worthy of repentance1, and
begin not to say within yourselves2, We have Abraham to
our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up
children unto Abraham.
Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, etc. See Matthew
And begin not to say within yourselves, etc. See Matthew
3:9 And even now
the axe also lieth at the root of the trees1: every tree
therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the
And even now the axe also lieth at the root of the trees, etc. See Matthew
3:10 And the multitudes asked him, saying, What
then must we do1?
What then must we do? This is the cry of the awakened conscience (Acts
22:10). John answered it by recommended them to do the very reverse of
what they were doing, which, in their case, was true fruit of repentance.
3:11 And he answered and said unto them, He
that hath two coats1, let him
impart to him that hath none2; and he that hath food, let
him do likewise.
He that hath two coats. By coats is meant the tunic, or inner
garment, worn next to the skin. It reached to the knees, and sometimes to
the ankles, and generally had sleeves. Two tunics were a luxury in a land
where thousands were too poor to own even one. Wrath was coming, and he that
would obtain mercy from it must show mercy (Matthew
Let him impart to him that hath none. For a like precept given to
Christians, see 2 Corinthians
2:15-17; 1 John
3:12 And there
came also publicans to be baptized1, and
they said unto him, Teacher, what must we do2?
And there came also publicans to be baptized. The Roman government
did not collect its own taxes. Instead of doing so, it divided the empire
into districts, and sold the privilege of collecting the taxes in these
districts to certain capitalists and men of rank. The capitalists employed
agents to do the actual collecting. These agents were usually native of the
districts in which they lived, and those in Palestine were called publicans.
Their masters urged and encouraged them to make the most fraudulent and
vexatious exactions. They systematically overcharged the people and often
brought false accusation to obtain money by blackmail. These publicans were
justly regarded by the Jews as apostates and traitors, and were classed with
the lowest and most abandoned characters. The system was bad, but its
practitioners were worse. The Greeks regarded the word "publican"
as synonymous with "plunderer". Suidas pictures the life of a
"unrestrained plunder, unblushing greed, unreasonable pettifogging,
The Turks today collect by this Roman method. Being publicly condemned,
and therefore continually kept conscious of their sin, the publicans
repented more readily than the self-righteous Pharisees. Conscience is one
of God's greatest gifts, and he that destroys it must answer for it. On
publicans, also see Matthew
And they said unto him, Teacher, what must we do? The publicans,
though lowest down, gave John the highest title. Self-abnegation is full of
the virtue of reverence, but self-righteousness utterly lacks it.
3:13 And he said unto them, Extort
no more than that which is appointed you1.
Extort no more than that which is appointed you. Such was their
habitual, universal sin. No man should make his calling an excuse for
3:14 And soldiers
also asked him, saying, And we, what must we do1? And
he said unto them, Extort from no man by violence2, neither
accuse [any one] wrongfully3; and
be content with your wages4.
And soldiers also asked him, saying, And we, what must we do? These
soldiers were probably Jewish troops in the employ of Herod. Had they been
Romans, John would doubtless have told them to worship God.
And he said unto them, Extort from no man by violence. The
soldiers, poorly paid, often found it convenient to extort money by
intimidation. Strong in their organization, they terrified the weak and
enforced gratuities by acts of violence.
Neither accuse [any one] wrongfully. John here condemns the custom
of blackmailing the rich by acting as informers and false accusers against
And be content with your wages. The term "wages" included
rations and money. The soldiers were not to add to their receipts by pillage
or extortion. Soldiers' wages were about three cents a day, so they were
exposed to strong temptation. Yet John did not bid them abandon their
profession, and become ascetics like himself. His teachings was practical.
He allowed war as an act of government. Whether Christianity sanctions it or
not, is another question.
3:15 And as the
people were in expectation1, and
all men reasoned in their hearts concerning John2, whether
haply he were the Christ3;
And as the people were in expectation. Expecting the Christ. See John
And all men reasoned in their hearts concerning John. Prophecy
induced a Messianic expectation. The scepter had departed from Judah, and
Caesar's deputies ruled. Tetrarchs and procurators held the whole civil
government. In their hands lay the power of life, and death from which only
Roman citizens could appeal (Acts
25:11). The power of the Jewish courts was limited to excommunication or
scourging. The seventy weeks of Daniel were now expiring, and other
prophecies indicated the fullness of time. But distress, rather than
prophecy, enhanced their expectation. Tiberius, the most infamous of men,
governed the world. Pontius Pilate, insolent, cruel, was making life irksome
and maddening the people. Herod Antipas, by a course of reckless apostasy
and unbridled lust, grieved even the religious sense of the hypocrite. Annas
and Caiaphas, impersonators of materialism, sat in the chief seat of
spiritual power. Men might well look for a deliverer, and hasten with joy to
hear of a coming King.
Whether haply he were the Christ. But, nevertheless, we could have
no more forceful statement of the deep impression made by John's ministry
than that the people were disposed to take him for the Christ.
3:16 John answered, saying unto them all, I
indeed baptize you with water; but there cometh he that is mightier than I, the
latchet1 of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he
shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and [in] fire3:
The latchet. The lace or strap. See John
He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit. See Mark
And [in] fire. See Matthew
3:17 whose fan is
in his hand1, thoroughly to cleanse his threshing-floor,
and to gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn up with
Whose fan is in his hand, etc. See Matthew
3:18 With many
other exhortations1 therefore
preached he good tidings unto the people2;
With many other exhortations. The sermon here given is in the
nature of a summary. It embodies the substance of John's preaching.
Afterwards John preached Christ more directly (John
Therefore preached he good tidings unto the people. But, like the
good tidings of the angel at Bethlehem, it was good only tot hose who, by
repentance, made themselves well pleasing to God.
3:19 but Herod the
tetrarch1, being reproved by him2
for Herodias his brother's wife, and for all the evil
things which Herod had done3,
JESUS SETS OUT FROM JUDEA FOR GALILEE. A. REASONS FOR RETIRING TO GALILEE. Matthew
But Herod the tetrarch. The son of Herod the Great, and tetrarch,
or governor, of Galilee.
Being reproved by him. That is, by John the Baptist.
For Herodias his brother's wife, and for all the evil things which
Herod had done. A full account of the sin of Herod and persecution of
John will be found at Matthew
6:14-29. John had spoken the truth to Herod as fearlessly as to the
Pharisees, publicans, and soldiers.
3:20 added this
also to them all1, that he shut
up John in prison2.
Added this also to them all. The sins of Herod, as a ruler, already
outweighed his virtues; compare Daniel
5:27. But, with reckless abandon, Herod went on, adding to the weighty
reasons which justified his condemnation.
That he shut up John in prison. In the fortress at Machaerus, east
of the Dead Sea, as we learn from Josephus. The duration of the ministry of
John the Baptist is variously estimated at from fourteen to eighteen months.
3:21 Now it came
to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus also having been
baptized1, and praying2,
the heaven was opened3,
JESUS BAPTIZED BY JOHN IN THE JORDAN. (Jordan east of Jericho, Spring of A.D.
Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus
also having been baptized. This may mean that, on the day of his
baptism, Jesus was the last candidate, and hence his baptism was the most
conspicuous of all; but it more probably means that Jesus was baptized in
the midst of John's work--at the period when his baptism was in greatest
And praying. All divine ordinances should be accompanied by prayer.
Luke frequently notes the times when Jesus prayed. Here, at the entrance of
his ministry, he prayed, and at the last moment of it he also prayed (Luke
23:46). In his highest exultation at the transfiguration (Luke
9:29), and in the lowest depths of humiliation in Gethsemane (Luke
22:41), he prayed. He prayed for his apostles whom he chose (Luke
6:12), and for his murderers by whom he was rejected (Luke
23:34), He prayed before Peter confessed him (Luke
9:18), and also before Peter denied him (Luke
The heaven was opened. See Mark
3:22 and the Holy
Spirit descended in a bodily form1, as
a dove2, upon him, and a voice
came out of heaven3, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am
And the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form. Lightfoot suggests
that the Spirit thus descended that he might be revealed to be a personal
substance and not merely an operation of the Godhead, and might thus make a
sensible demonstration as to his proper place in the Trinity.
As a dove. The descent of the Spirit upon Jesus was in accordance
with prophecy (Isaiah
41:1). The dove shape suggests purity, gentleness, peace, etc. Jesus
makes the dove a symbol of harmlessness (Matthew
10:15). In fact, the nature of this bird makes it a fit emblem of the
Spirit, for it comports well with the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians
5:22,23). The nations of the earth emblazon eagles upon their banners
and lions upon their shields, but He who shall gather all nations into his
kingdom, appeared as a Lamb, and his Spirit appeared under the symbol of a
dove. Verily his kingdom is not of this world. It is a kingdom of peace and
love, not of bloodshed and ambition. Noah's dove bore the olive branch, the
symbol of peace, and the Holy Spirit manifested Jesus, God's olive branch of
peace sent into this world (Psalms
And a voice came out of heaven, etc. See Mark
3:23 And Jesus
himself, when he began [to teach]1, was
about thirty years of age, 2being
the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the [son] of Heli3,
GENEALOGY ACCORDING TO LUKE. Luke
And Jesus himself, when he began [to teach]. Luke has been speaking
about John the Baptist, he now turns to speak of Jesus himself.
Was about thirty years of age, About thirty years of age
. The age when a Levite entered upon God's service (Numbers
4:46,47); at which Joseph stood before Pharaoh (Genesis
41:46); at which David began to reign (2 Samuel
5:4). Canon Cook fixes the date of Christ's baptism in the spring A.U.C.
780. Wiseler in the summer of that year, and Ellicott in the winter of that
Being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the [son] of Heli. This
may mean that Jesus was grandson of Heli, or that Joseph was counted as a
son of Heli because he was his son-in-law.
3:27 the [son] of Joanan, the [son] of
Rhesa, the [son] of Zerubbabel, the [son] of Shealtiel,
the [son] of Neri1,
Shealtiel, the [son] of Neri. Matthew called Shealtiel the son of
Jechoniah. Jechoniah may have been the natural, and Neri the father of
3:32 the [son] of Jesse, the [son] of Obed,
the [son] of Boaz, the [son] of Salmon1,
the [son] of Nahshon2,
Salmon. He was probably one of the two spies who were sent to
Jericho by Joshua (Judges
Nahshon. He was prince of the tribe of Judah during the wanderings
in the wilderness (Numbers
3:35 the [son] of Serug, the [son] of Reu,
the [son] of Peleg, the [son] of Eber1,
the [son] of Shelah
Eber. It is thought that the name "Hebrew" comes from
this name (Genesis
3:36 the [son] of Cainan, the [son] of
Arphaxad, the [son] of Shem, the [son] of Noah1,
the [son] of Lamech,
Noah. The hero of the flood (Genesis
3:37 the [son] of Methuselah1,
the [son] of Enoch, the [son] of Jared, the [son] of Mahalaleel, the [son] of
Methuselah. Who lived to be the oldest man on record, dying when
969 years old (Genesis
3:38 the [son] of Enos, the [son] of Seth1,
the [son] of Adam, the [son] of God.
Seth. The third son of Adam (Genesis
Adam, the son of God. Adam was the son of God, being not merely a
creature, but a creature made in God's image and likeness (Genesis