Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Then said he to the multitude.—Better, multitudes. In St. Matthew the words “Generation” (or brood) “of vipers” are related, probably with greater accuracy, as having been addressed specifically to the Pharisees and Sadducees. On the question itself, see Note on Matthew 3:7.Luke 3:7-9. Then said he to the multitude, O generation of vipers — See note on Matthew 3:7. Bring forth, therefore, fruits worthy of repentance — The Baptist did not stop at preaching repentance, and rest satisfied with the people’s making a profession thereof, but he insisted on the necessity of their bringing forth fruits suitable to such a profession, or a thorough reformation of their conduct in all respects. See this explained particularly in the notes on Matthew 3:8-10. Begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father — That is, trust not in your being members of the visible church, or in any external privileges whatsoever; for God requires a change of heart, and that now, without delay. For the axe is laid to the root of the trees — That is, the patience of God is very near come to an end, with respect to you, and his judgments are at hand and ready to be inflicted; so that if you continue unfruitful, notwithstanding the extraordinary means now to be tried with you, destruction will speedily overtake you. The drift of all John’s sermons was to root out their prejudices, and give them a sense of this important truth, that acceptance with God does not depend upon flowing garments, broad phylacteries, frequent ablutions, much fasting, and long prayers; but that good works, proceeding from faith and love, are necessary thereto.Matthew 3. See Poole on "Luke 3:4" Matthew 3:7
That came forth to be baptized of him; who came out of their houses, towns, and cities, round about, to the place where John was; and hearing and seeing what he was about, desired to be admitted to his baptism: not that they "were baptised of him"; as the Arabic version renders it; but they came with a view of being baptized, were it thought fit and proper they should: but John refused them, saying to them,
O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? See Gill on Matthew 3:7.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?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Luke 3:7-9. See on Matthew 3:7-10.
ὄχλοις] Kuinoel erroneously says: “Pharisaei et Sadducaei.” See rather on Matthew 3:7.
ἐκπορ.] the present. The people are represented as still on their way.
ΟὖΝ] since otherwise you cannot escape the wrath to come.
ΚΑῚ ΜῊ ἌΡΞΗΣΘΕ Κ.Τ.Λ.] and begin not to think, do not allow yourselves to fancy! do not dispose yourselves to the thought! “Omnem excusationis etiam conatum praecidit,” Bengel. Bornemann explains as though the words were καὶ μὴ πάλιν (he likens it to the German expression, “das alte Lied anfangen”); and Fritzsche, ad Matth. p. 540, as if it meant καὶ μηδέ, ne quidem. Comp. also Bengel.
 The generalization proves nothing on behalf of Luke’s having been ignorant of our Matthew (Weiss). From such individual instances an easy argument is drawn, but with great uncertainty, especially as Luke knew and made use of a multitude of evangelistic sources of which we know nothing.Luke 3:7-9. John’s preaching (cf. Matthew 3:7-10).—Lk. gives no account of John’s aspect and mode of life, leaving that to be inferred from Luke 1:80. On the other hand he enters into more detail in regard to the drift of his preaching. These verses contain Lk.’s version of the Baptist’s censure of his time.7. to the multitude] Rather, multitudes. Different crowds came from different directions, Matthew 3:5; Mark 1:5.
O generation of vipers] Rather, broods of vipers. They were like “serpents born of serpents.” The comparison was familiar to Hebrew poetry (Psalm 68:4; Isaiah 14:9), and we learn from Matthew 3:7 that it was specially pointed at the Pharisees and Sadducees, to whom it was addressed no less sternly by our Lord (Matthew 23:33). It described the venomous hypocrisy which turned religion itself into a vice, and hid a deadly malice under the glittering semblance of a zeal for orthodoxy. But let it be borne in mind that only teachers of transcendent holiness, and immediately inspired by God with fervency and insight, may dare to use such language. The metaphor was one of those desert symbols which would be suggested to St John both by the scene of his preaching and by the language of Isaiah with which he shews special familiarity.
from the wrath to come] The Jews had been taught by Prophecy that the Advent of their Deliverer should be preceded by a time of anguish which they called “the Woes of the Messiah;” comp. Malachi 3:2, “Who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.” Id. Luke 4:1 “Behold I send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Such prophecies received their primary fulfilment at the Destruction of Jerusalem (see Matthew 24:28; Mark 13:19-20); and await their final fulfilment hereafter. Revelation 6:16.Verse 7. - Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him. The following grave cutting rebukes, the burning reminders, must not be read as an extract from any one particular sermon of the Baptist, or even as a report of any of his discourses, but rather as a general sketch of the line of argument the great prophet adopted in his teaching. O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? In St. Matthew's account of John's work such scathing words as these were addressed to members of the Pharisee and Sadducee sects, who evidently flocked in great numbers to his baptism. They were alarmed and disturbed at his preaching; they feared that that drear time of awful suffering, generally known as the "woes of Messiah," a period which their great rabbis had told them would precede Messiah's advent, was at hand; they would provide themselves with some talisman against this time of sore calamity. The inspired predictor of these "woes" - men evidently looked on John as such - bade them come to his baptism; this baptism would be surely a safeguard, an easy bit of ritual, thought they, and one that readily approved itself to men trained in the rabbis' schools of that age, so they came to him in numbers. But John read their hearts; hence his stern fiery rebukes. "Let it be horse in mind that only teachers of transcendent holiness, and immediately inspired by God with fervency and insight, may dare to use such language" (Farrar).
The use of the tenses is graphic. He said, the imperfect, and came forth, the present participle; both denoting action in progress, or customary action; so that the sense is, he kept saying, or he used to say to those who were coming out, to the crowds of people which kept pouring out successively. Compare ἐξεπορεύετο, went out, also imperfect, Matthew 3:5. Luke gives the substance of the Baptist's preaching summarily.
Lit., births. Rev., better, offspring. It has been observed that John's figurative language is altogether the language of the desert. Notice the succession of images: Brood of vipers; fruits (of repentance); the axe at the root of the tree; the slave-boy loosing or bearing the sandals; the baptism of fire; the winnowing-fan, the threshing-floor, the garner, and the burning of the chaff.
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