Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,
Lu 3:1-20. Preaching, Baptism, and Imprisonment of John.
(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 6:14).
Philip—a different and very superior Philip to the one whose wife Herodias went to live with Herod Antipas. (See Mr 6:17).
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].
Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
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 Word [Olshausen].
And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
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."
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
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 13:47).
Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
10-14. What shall we do then?—to show the sincerity of our repentance. (Also see on Mt 3:10.)
He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
11. two coats—directed against the reigning avarice. (Also see on Mt 3:10.)
Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
12. publicans, &c. (Also see on Mt 3:10.)
And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
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.)
And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
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.
And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
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.)
John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
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 throughout!
one mightier than I—"the Mighter than I."
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.
18. many other things, &c.—such as we read in Joh 1:29, 33, 34; 3:27-36. (Also see on Mt 3:12.)
But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,
19, 20. But Herod, &c.—See on Mr 6:14, &c. (Also see on Mt 3:12.)
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).
Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.
20. Added yet, &c.—(Also see on Mt 3:12).
Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
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."
And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,
Lu 3:23-38. Genealogy of Jesus.
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].
Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph,
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 persons.
Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge,
Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda,
Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri,
Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er,
Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi,
Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim,
Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David,
Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson,
Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda,
Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor,
Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala,
Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech,
Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan,
Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.
38. son of God—Compare Ac 17:28.