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;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Every valley shall be filled.—The fuller citation by St. Luke, as compared with the other Gospels, is interesting, and suggests the thought that he was led to see in the manifold aspects of the Baptist’s ministry a fulfilment of this part of the prophecy. The “valley” was filled, when lowly and penitent souls received the assurance of pardon; “mountains and hills” were “brought low” when the pride of Pharisees and Sadducees was rebuked; the “crooked made straight” when Publicans learnt to be honest; the “rough places smooth” when soldiers were taught to do violence to no man. The imagery is, of course, taken from the work of pioneers levelling a road for the march of a great king.
(5) Here St. Matthew’s record stops, while St. Luke continues to trace the succession back to Adam—his list of names agreeing with those in Genesis 11:10 and 1Chronicles 1:24-27 as far as Noah, and Genesis 5 and 1Chronicles 1:1-4 from Noah to Adam, with the exception of the insertion of a Cainan between Arphaxad and Salah in the former section.
Each of these points calls for separate consideration, the first being obviously the most important.
(5) (a) The fact that the genealogy goes back to Adam may have been originally in the document which St. Luke translated, without any special significance; but it at least falls in with the whole character of his Gospel as intended to set forth the universality of the gospel, to prepare the way for the truth of the brotherhood of mankind in Christ. It represented Christ as the second Adam, as St. Matthew’s genealogy represented Him as the heir of Abraham. (b) The insertion of Cainan between Salah and Arphaxad agrees with the text of all known copies of the Greek version of Genesis 11. This may imply an original Hebrew text older than that which we now possess; but, on the other hand, as all existing copies of the LXX. version were made for Christian use, it is possible that the name may have been inserted to bring the genealogy in Genesis 11 into agreement with that given by St. Luke. The name does not appear in this place in the Vulgate, Syriac, or Samaritan versions of the Pentateuch, and in one of the best MSS. of the New Testament (the Codex Bezœ) it is wanting here. Further than this we cannot go in dealing with a question which, after all, is infinitesimally small in itself, and has no direct bearing on any graver issues.
It may be noted, lastly, that genealogies, such as those given by St. Matthew and St. Luke, were common in almost every Jewish family. The books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, compiled after the return from Babylon, show that they existed then. Josephus transcribes his own pedigree, from the time of the Asmonæan, or Maccabean, priest-rulers, from public registers (Life, c. 1), and states (against Apion, i. 7) that not in Judæa only, but in Alexandria and Babylon, and other cities, wherever the Jews were settled, such registers were kept of the births and marriages of all belonging to the priesthood; that copies were sent to Jerusalem; that the registers went back for 2,000 years. The prevalence of the name Cohen (= priest) among modern Jews indicates the same care in the priestly line. The members of the house of David were hardly likely to be less careful in preserving records of their descent than those of the house of Aaron. Hillel the scribe, i.e., was known to be of the lineage of David, and must have had evidence of some kind to prove it. So, at a later time, the Princes of the Captivity who ruled over the Jews of Babylonia, claimed their allegiance as sons of David.Matthew 3. See Poole on "Luke 3:4"
"that it went before them, smote the serpents and scorpions, and fiery serpents, and the rock; and if there was any low place, it raised it up; or high place, it made it low, and caused them to be plain; as it is said, Isaiah 40:3 "And every valley shall be exalted", &c.''
But what they say of this cloud literally, as preparing the way for the Israelites, is in a spiritual sense true, of the ministry of John; whereby many of the children of Israel, had the way prepared for them, for the reception of the Messiah; when as every humble soul had its expectation raised, and its faith encouraged, and its heart filled with spiritual joy; so such as were proud and haughty, were humbled:
and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; all such as are elated with their own abilities, and boast of their righteousness, trust in themselves, and look with disdain and contempt on others, their loftiness shall be bowed down, and their haughtiness made low; and the Messiah alone, in his person, grace, and righteousness, be exalted:
and the crooked shall be made straight: such as are of a crooked spirit, and walk in crooked ways, with the workers of iniquity, shall have new spirits given them, and be directed to right ways, and be led in the paths of righteousness and truth:
and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and men of rough tempers, comparable to lions and bears, shall become quiet and peaceable, smooth and easy; and moreover, whatever difficulties were in the minds of men concerning the Messiah, the end of his coming, and the nature of his kingdom; and whatever impediments were in the way of embracing him when come, should now be removed at least from many persons: R. David Kimchi, a very noted Jewish commentator (q), acknowledges that the whole of this passage is to be understood, , "by way of parable", in a mystical and figurative sense.
(o) T. Hieros. Erubin, fol. 25. 2.((p) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 177. 1, 2. Vid. Targ. in Cant. ii. 6. & Jarchi in Cant. iii. 6. (q) In Isaiah 40.4.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;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Luke 3:5. φάραγξ, a ravine, here only in N. T.—εἰς εὐθείας, the crooked places shall be (become) straight (ways, ὁδοὺς, understood)—αἱ τραχεῖαι (ὁδοὶ), the rough ways shall become smooth.5. Every valley, &c.] The metaphor is derived from pioneers who go before the march of a king. There is a remarkable parallel in Josephus (B. J. iii. 6, § 2), where he is describing the march of Vespasian, and says that among his vanguard were “such as were to make the road even and straight, and if it were anywhere rough and hard to be passed over, to plane it, and to cut down the woods that hindered their march (comp. prokoptein = ‘to advance’ in Luke 2:52), that the army might not be tired.” The Jews fabled that the Pillar of Cloud and Fire in the desert smoothed the mountains and filled the valleys before them. Tanchuma, f. 70, 3 on Numbers 20:22.
Every valley shall be filled, &c.] i. e. the humble and meek shall be exalted, and the mighty put down. Compare Isaiah 2:12-15, “The day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low.… And upon all the high mountains, &c.” Zechariah 4:7, “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.”
the crooked shall be made straight] The words in the original recall the names Jacob and Jeshurun; as though it were “then the Supplanter shall be turned into Prince with God” or “the beloved” (Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 11:4). The general meaning of the prophecy is that no obstacles, whether they arose from depression, or power, or pride, or cunning perversity, or menacing difficulties, should be able to resist the labours of the Pioneers and Heralds of the Kingdom of God. The feeble instrumentality of Galilaeans should be strengthened; the power of the Romans and Herods should be shattered; the duplicity and plots of Pharisees and worldlings should be defeated; the apparently insuperable opposition of Judaism and Heathenism be swept away.Luke 3:5. Φάραγξ, valley) Where there is a hollow and void, which is for removed from true righteousness, as in the case of the publicans and soldiers: Luke 3:12; Luke 3:14.—ὄρος, mountain) where there is a swelling [a tumid elevation] of human righteousness, or power, as in the case of Herod.—βουνὸς, σκολιὰ, τραχεῖαι, a hill, the crooked places, the rough ways) Those things which are distorted [which have lost their due proportions and so are perverted]: I. as to depth and height, II. lengthwise, III. broadwise, shall be restored to their right places and proportions, and shall be made level.—εἰς εὐθεῖαν, into a straight way) Ὁδὸν, way, has been left to be understood in the LXX. and so presently after, and the rough, viz. ways.Verse 5. - 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. Godet and other commentators suggest, though they do not press, a particular application to each of the details of the picture. "For instance, the mountains that must be levelled may be referred to the pride of the Pharisees; the valleys to filled up, to the moral and religious indifference of such as the Sadducees; the crooked places to be made straight, to the frauds and lying excuses of the publicans; and lastly, the rough places, to the sinful habits found in all, even the best.'
Strictly, of a chasm or ravine in a mountain-side.
Shall be filled - brought low
In allusion to the practice of Eastern monarchs. On occasions of their progress, heralds were sent out to call on the people to clear and improve the old roads or to make new ones. "When Ibrahim Pacha proposed to visit certain places in Lebanon, the emirs and sheiks sent forth a general proclamation, somewhat in the style of Isaiah's exhortation, to all the inhabitants to assemble along the proposed route and prepare the way before him. The same was done in 1845, on a grand scale, when the Sultan visited Brusa. The stones were gathered out, the crooked places straightened, and rough ones made level and smooth. I had the benefit of these labors a few days after his majesty's visit. The exhortation 'to gather out the stones' (Isaiah 62:10) is peculiarly appropriate. These farmers do the exact reverse - gather up the stones from their fields and cast them into the highway; and it is this barbarous custom which, in many places, renders the paths uncomfortable and even dangerous" (Thomson, "Land and Book").
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