Matthew 3:7
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(7) Pharisees and Sadducees.—It is desirable to give, once for all, a sufficient account of these two sects to explain their relation to each other and to the teaching of our Lord. (1.) THE PHARISEES. Singularly enough, the name appears for the first time in the Gospel history. Josephus, who tells us most about them, being presumably later, if not than the Gospels in their present form, yet, at all events, than the materials from which they are derived. We cannot say, therefore, when the name came first into use. They are first mentioned by the Jewish historian as opposing the government of the priest-ruler of the Asmonæan house, John Hyrcanus (Ant. xiii. 5). The meaning of the name is clear enough. The Pharisees were the “separated” ones, and the meaning may help us to trace the history. The attempt of Antiochus Epiphanes (as related in the two Books of Maccabees) to blot out the distinctness of Jewish life by introducing Greek worship and Greek customs, was met with an heroic resistance by priests and people. The “mingling” or “not mingling” with the heathen in marriage or in social life became a test of religious character (2 Maccabees 14:3; 2 Maccabees 14:38). The faithful became known as Assideans, i.e., Chasidim or saints (1 Maccabees 2:42; 1 Maccabees 7:13; 1 Maccabees 7:17; 2 Maccabees 14:6), and looked to Judas Maccabeus as their leader. Later on, as the holding aloof from the heathen became more and more characteristic of them, they took the name of Pharisees, and under John Hyrcanus became a powerful and organised body; forming a kind of guild or fraternity as well as a party, uniting some features of the Puritan with some of the Society of the Jesuits. Like most sects and parties, they had their bright and their dark sides. They maintained the ethical side of the Law as against the sacrificial. They insisted on alms, and fasting, and prayer, as the three great elements of the religious life; on the Sabbath, as its great safe-guard. They did much to promote education and synagogue-building. In gathering the traditions of older Rabbis, they held themselves to be “setting a fence round the Law” to maintain its sacredness. They were eager in the mission-work of Judaism, and “compassed sea and land to make one proselyte” (Matthew 23:15). They maintained or revived the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and of the rewards and punishments that were to follow. On the other side, their “separation” developed almost into the exclusiveness of a caste. Their casuistry inverted the right relation of moral and ceremonial duties. They despised the mass of their own countrymen as the “brute people of the earth.” Within the sect there were two schools, represented at this time by the followers of Shammai and of Hillel, the former more after the pattern of the Puritan, rigid in its Sabbatarianism, hard and bitter in its spirit; the latter more after the type of the Jesuit, with wider culture, gentler temper, an easier casuistry, moral precepts of a wider kind. Of both schools it must be remembered that they were emphatically lay-religionists, unconnected with the priesthood, and often in opposition to it. (2.) THE SADDUCEES. Etymologically, the name, though connected with the Hebrew word for “righteous,” must be derived from the proper name “Zadok,” found in the Old Testament as belonging to the high priest in the time of Solomon. A tradition, of uncertain authority and date, states that the founder of the sect was a certain Zadok, the disciple of Antigonus, who, in his turn, had sat at the feet of Simon the Just. Antigonus taught, it was said, that “men should not be servants who do their Master’s will for a reward,” and the scholar developed the doctrine into a denial of the resurrection, which formed the reward. Whether this is a true account or not, the features of the Sadducees in the New Testament stand out with sufficient clearness. They are for the most part of the higher priestly order, as contrasted with the lay-scribes of the Pharisees. They admit the authority of the written Law, not of traditions. They deny the existence of angels and spirits, as well as the resurrection and the immortality of the soul. They made up for the absence of the fears of the future, by greater rigour in punishments on earth. They courted the favour of their Roman rulers, and to some extent even of the Herods. It is not easy to enter into the motives which led either of the sects to come to the baptism of John. It may be that they were carried away for a time by the enthusiasm of the people, or sought to guide the movement by controlling it, or to enlist the new teacher on this side or that. Anyhow, there was no repentance, and no confession, and so the Baptist met them with a stern reproof.

O generation of vipers.—Better, brood, or offspring, of vipers. Our Lord takes up the same term, and applies it to them at the close of his ministry (Matthew 23:33).

Who hath warned.—Better, who taught you? Who had shown them the way without repentance by which they sought to escape? He had given them no such guidance, and they must have gained that notion from some other teacher.

The wrath to come.—This is spoken of as something definite and known, the thought resting probably on the pictures of the great day of the Lord in Malachi 3, 4.

Matthew 3:7. When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees, &c. — These are not names of office, but of sects, or sorts of persons of different opinions in matters of religion. There were three religious sects among the Jews, — the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. Of the latter, indeed, we read nothing in the Holy Scriptures. We shall only, therefore, observe concerning them, that their way of life was very singular. They did not marry, but adopted the children of others, whom they brought up in the institutions of their sect. They despised riches, and had all things in common, and never changed their clothes till they were entirely worn out. When initiated they were strictly bound not to communicate the mysteries of their sect to others; and if any of their members were found guilty of any enormous crime they were expelled. As to their doctrine, they allowed a future state, but denied the resurrection of the body. The reason why we find no mention of them in the New Testament may be their recluse and retired way of life, no less than their great simplicity and honesty, in consequence of which they lay open to no censure or reproof. — The Pharisees were a very ancient sect. They are said to have made their first appearance about 150 years before Christ. It is certain from the account given by Josephus, Ant., lib. 12., cap. 10., sect. 5, 6, that in the time of John Hyrcanus, the high priest, about 108 years before Christ, the sect was not only formed, but made a considerable figure; and that it had advanced to a high degree of popularity and power about thirty years after that period. They took their name from the Hebrew word פרס, pharas, which signifies to separate, because they seemed to separate themselves from all others by their peculiar manner of living. They pretended to have greater knowledge of the rites of the Jewish worship and of the customs of their country than other people, and were very strict in the observance of them, as also of all the traditions of the elders. They fasted often, made long prayers, rigorously kept the sabbath, and put on an appearance of great sanctity, with much display of zeal for Moses and the law. On all these accounts they were in high esteem among the people: and some of them, we have reason to hope, had a measure of true piety; but it is evident from several of the discourses of our Lord, recorded by the evangelists, that they were in general devoid of that humility, and sincere love of God, which are essential to true religion. Though they acknowledged the existence of angels, the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and a future state of rewards and punishments, yet they were involved in many great and destructive errors, both in principle and practice. They held the unwritten traditions of the elders to be of equal authority with the written word, pretending that both were delivered to Moses from mount Sinai. From their rigorous observance of these traditions they considered themselves as more holy than other men, and held their own righteousness to be sufficient for their justification before God; having no proper conception of the spirituality, extent, and obligation of the divine law. Accordingly they neglected the weightier matters of it, justice, mercy, and the love of God, and rendered its holy precepts of none effect through their traditions, while they were scrupulously exact in little and trivial things, such as washing cups, &c., Mark 4., and tithing mint, anise, and cummin.

The Sadducees also were a sect of great antiquity, having existed, as well as the Pharisees, according to Josephus, from the time of the Maccabees. They had their name from their founder, Sadoc. Antigonus of Socho, president of the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, and teacher of the law in the divinity school in that city, having often in his lectures asserted to his scholars that they ought not to serve God in a servile manner, with respect to reward, but only out of filial love and fear; two of his scholars, Sadoc and Baithus, inferred from thence that there were no rewards or punishments after this life; and therefore, separating from the school of their master, they taught that there was no resurrection nor future state. Many embracing this opinion gave rise to the sect of the Sadducees, who were a kind of Epicureans, but differing from them in this, that, though they denied a future state, yet they allowed that the world was created by the power of God, and governed by his providence, whereas the followers of Epicurus denied both. The Sadducees, says Luke, (Acts 23:8,) say, there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit. Add to this, that they not only rejected all unwritten traditions, but all the books of the Old Testament, excepting those of Moses. They were not very numerous, but being the wealthiest of the three sects, the rich and great gave in to their opinions; whereas the people were firm in the interest of the Pharisees, and so attached to their notions, that, if a Pharisee should happen to throw out reflections, either upon the high priest or king, he was sure to be believed; for every thing that concerned divine worship was regulated by the Pharisees. So that when the Sadducees took upon them any public employment they were obliged, though never so much against their own interest, to obey the injunction of the Pharisees, which had they presumed to refuse, the consequences would have been dangerous, and would have set the people in an uproar. O generation of vipers — A wicked offspring of wicked parents, crafty, malignant, mischievous creatures. In like manner the crafty Herod is styled a fox, and persons of insidious, ravenous, profane, or sensual dispositions, are named respectively by Him who saw their hearts, serpents, dogs, wolves, and swine; terms which are not the random language of passion, but a judicious designation of the persons meant by them. For it was fitting such men should be marked out, either for a caution to others, or a warning to themselves. Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? — To put on this form of humility and repentance? What hath moved you to it? How came you to think yourselves in any danger of divine and future wrath, or to use any means to escape it? since you Pharisees think yourselves secure from it, on account of the sanctity of your lives, and you Sadducees imagine there is no such wrath, and that all that is spoken of it is a mere fable and delusion?

3:7-12 To make application to the souls of the hearers, is the life of preaching; so it was of John's preaching. The Pharisees laid their chief stress on outward observances, neglecting the weightier matters of the moral law, and the spiritual meaning of their legal ceremonies. Others of them were detestable hypocrites, making their pretences to holiness a cloak for iniquity. The Sadducees ran into the opposite extreme, denying the existence of spirits, and a future state. They were the scornful infidels of that time and country. There is a wrath to come. It is the great concern of every one to flee from that wrath. God, who delights not in our ruin, has warned us; he warns by the written word, by ministers, by conscience. And those are not worthy of the name of penitents, or their privileges, who say they are sorry for their sins, yet persist in them. It becomes penitents to be humble and low in their own eyes, to be thankful for the least mercy, patient under the greatest affliction, to be watchful against all appearances of sin, to abound in every duty, and to be charitable in judging others. Here is a word of caution, not to trust in outward privileges. There is a great deal which carnal hearts are apt to say within themselves, to put aside the convincing, commanding power of the word of God. Multitudes, by resting in the honours and mere advantages of their being members of an outward church, come short of heaven. Here is a word of terror to the careless and secure. Our corrupt hearts cannot be made to produce good fruit, unless the regenerating Spirit of Christ graft the good word of God upon them. And every tree, however high in gifts and honours, however green in outward professions and performances, if it bring not forth good fruit, the fruits meet for repentance, is hewn down and cast into the fire of God's wrath, the fittest place for barren trees: what else are they good for? If not fit for fruit, they are fit for fuel. John shows the design and intention of Christ's appearing, which they were now speedily to expect. No outward forms can make us clean. No ordinances, by whomsoever administered, or after whatever mode, can supply the want of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire. The purifying and cleansing power of the Holy Spirit alone can produce that purity of heart, and those holy affections, which accompany salvation. It is Christ who baptizes with the Holy Ghost. This he did in the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit sent upon the apostles, Ac 2:4. This he does in the graces and comforts of the Spirit, given to those that ask him, Lu 11:13; Joh 7:38,39; see Ac 11:16. Observe here, the outward church is Christ's floor, Isa 21:10. True believers are as wheat, substantial, useful, and valuable; hypocrites are as chaff, light and empty, useless and worthless, carried about with every wind; these are mixed, good and bad, in the same outward communion. There is a day coming when the wheat and chaff shall be separated. The last judgment will be the distinguishing day, when saints and sinners shall be parted for ever. In heaven the saints are brought together, and no longer scattered; they are safe, and no longer exposed; separated from corrupt neighbours without, and corrupt affections within, and there is no chaff among them. Hell is the unquenchable fire, which will certainly be the portion and punishment of hypocrites and unbelievers. Here life and death, good and evil, are set before us: according as we now are in the field, we shall be then in the floor.Pharisees and Sadducees - The Jews were divided into three great sects - the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. In addition to these, some smaller sects are mentioned in the New Testament and by Josephus: the Herodians, probably political friends of Herod; the Galileans, a branch of the Pharisees; and the Therapeutae, a branch of the Essenes, but converts from the Greeks. The three principal sects are supposed to have originated about 150 years before Christ, as they are mentioned by Josephus at that time in his history. Of course nothing is said of them in the Old Testament, as that was finished about 400 years before the Christian era.

I. The Pharisees were the most numerous and wealthy sect of the Jews. They derived their name from the Hebrew word Pharash, which signifies to set apart, or to separate, because they separated themselves from the rest of their countrymen, and professedly devoted themselves to special strictness in religion. Their leading tenets were the following: that the world was governed by fate, or by a fixed decree of God; that the souls of men were immortal, and were either eternally happy or miserable beyond the grave; that the dead would be raised; that there were angels, good and bad; that God was under obligation to bestow special favor on the Jews; and that they were justified by their own conformity to the law. They were proud, haughty, self-righteous, and held the common people in great disrespect, John 7:49. They sought the offices of the state, and affected great dignity. They were ostentatious in their religious worship, praying in the corners of the streets, and seeking publicity in the bestowment of alms. They sought principally external cleanliness, and dealt much in ceremonial ablutions and washing.

They maintained some of the laws of Moses very strictly. In addition to the written laws, they held to a multitude which they maintained had come down from Moses by tradition. These they felt themselves as much bound to observe as the written Law. Under the influence of these laws they washed themselves before meals with great scrupulousness; they fasted twice a week - on Thursday, when they supposed that Moses ascended Mount Sinai, and on Monday, when he descended; they wore broad phylacteries, and enlarged the fringe or borders of their garments; they loved the chief rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues. In general, they were a corrupt, hypocritical, office-seeking, haughty class of men. There are, however, some honorable exceptions recorded, Acts 5:34; perhaps, also, Mark 15:43; Luke 2:25; Luke 23:51; John 19:38-42; John 3:1; John 7:50.

II. The Sadducees are supposed to have taken their name from Sadok, who flourished about 260 years before the Christian era. He was a pupil of Antigonus Sochaeus, president of the sanhedrin, or great council of the nation. He had taught the duty of serving God disinterestedly, without the hope of reward or the fear of punishment. Sadok, not properly understanding the doctrine of his master, drew the inference that there was no future state of rewards or punishments, and on this belief he founded the sect. The other notions which they held, all to be traced to this leading doctrine, were:

1. That there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:8; and that the soul of man perishes with the body.

2. They rejected the doctrine of fate or decrees.

3. They rejected all traditions, and professed to receive only the books of the Old Testament. They were far less numerous than the Pharisees, but their want of numbers was compensated, in some degree, by their wealth and standing in society. Though they did not generally seek office, yet several of them were advanced to the high priesthood.

III. The Essenes, a third sect of the Jews, are not mentioned in the New Testament. They differed from both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They were Jewish monks or hermits, passing their time little in society, but mostly in places of obscurity and retirement. It is not probable, therefore, that our Saviour often, if ever, encountered them; and this, it is supposed, is the reason why they are not mentioned in the New Testament. They were a contemplative sect, having little to do with the common business of life. The property which they possessed they held in common. They denied themselves, in a great measure, the usual comforts of life, and were exceedingly strict in the observance of the duties of religion. They were generally more pure than the rest of the Jews, and appear to have been an unambitious, a modest, and retiring sort of people. The two sexes were not in company except on the Sabbath, when they partook of their coarse fare (only bread and salt) together. They practiced dancing in their worship. Few of them were married; they were opposed to oaths, and they asserted that slavery was repugnant to nature. In regard to doctrine, they did not differ materially from the Pharisees, except that they objected to the sacrifices of slain animals, and of course did not visit the temple, and were not, therefore, likely to come into public contact with the Saviour. They perpetuated their sect by proselytes, and by taking orphan children to train up.

The other sects of the Jews were too insignificant to demand any particular notice here. It may be said of the Jews generally that they possessed little of the spirit of religion; that they had corrupted some of the most important doctrines of the Bible; and that they were an ignorant, proud, ambitious, and sensual people. There as great propriety, therefore, in John's proclaiming to them the necessity of repentance.

Generation of vipers - Vipers are a species of serpents, from 2 to 5 feet in length and about an inch thick, with a flat head. They are of an ash or yellowish color, speckled with long brown spots. There is no serpent that is more poisonous. The person bitten by them swells up almost immediately, and falls down dead. See Acts 28:6. The word "serpent," or "viper," is used to denote both cunning and malignancy. In the phrase "be ye wise as serpents" Matthew 10:16 it means be prudent, or wise, referring to the account in Genesis 3:1-6. Among the Jews the serpent was regarded as the symbol of cunning, circumspection, and prudence. It was so regarded in the Egyptian hieroglyphics. In the phrase "generation of vipers" Matthew 12:34, the viper is the symbol of wickedness, of envenomed malice - a symbol drawn from the venom of the serpent. It is not quite certain in which of these senses the phrase is used in this place. Probably it is used to denote their malignancy and wickedness.

Wrath to come - John expresses his astonishment that sinners so hardened and so hypocritical as they were should have been induced to flee from coming wrath. The wrath to come means the divine indignation, or the punishment that will come on the guilty. See 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9.

7. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them—astonished at such a spectacle.

O generation of vipers—"Viper brood," expressing the deadly influence of both sects alike upon the community. Mutually and entirely antagonistic as were their religious principles and spirit, the stern prophet charges both alike with being the poisoners of the nation's religious principles. In Mt 12:34; 23:33, this strong language of the Baptist is anew applied by the faithful and true Witness to the Pharisees specifically—the only party that had zeal enough actively to diffuse this poison.

who hath warned you—given you the hint, as the idea is.

to flee from the wrath to come?—"What can have brought you hither?" John more than suspected it was not so much their own spiritual anxieties as the popularity of his movement that had drawn them thither. What an expression is this, "The wrath to come!" God's "wrath," in Scripture, is His righteous displeasure against sin, and consequently against all in whose skirts sin is found, arising out of the essential and eternal opposition of His nature to all moral evil. This is called "the coming wrath," not as being wholly future—for as a merited sentence it lies on the sinner already, and its effects, both inward and outward, are to some extent experienced even now—but because the impenitent sinner will not, until "the judgment of the great day," be concluded under it, will not have sentence publicly and irrevocably passed upon him, will not have it discharged upon him and experience its effects without mixture and without hope. In this view of it, it is a wrath wholly to come, as is implied in the noticeably different form of the expression employed by the apostle in 1Th 1:10. Not that even true penitents came to John's baptism with all these views of "the wrath to come." But what he says is that this was the real import of the step itself. In this view of it, how striking is the word he employs to express that step—fleeing from it—as of one who, beholding a tide of fiery wrath rolling rapidly towards him, sees in instant flight his only escape!

We shall often meet with the mention of these Pharisees and Sadducees; we will therefore inquire here a little more largely concerning them. There were three more eminent religious sects among the Jews. The Essenes, of whom we read nothing in Holy writ: their main doctrine was fate, they ascribed all things to it. The two others are here mentioned, and often in other parts of the New Testament we read of the Pharisees and Sadducees: the latter were most acceptable to the great men amongst the Jews; the former were more popular, and acceptable to the people. The Sadducees were directly opposite to the Essenes; they ascribed nothing to fate, but maintained the liberty and power of man’s will in the most extravagant height: they denied the immortality of the soul, the resurrection, angels, &c., all which the Pharisees owned: this we may learn from Acts 23:8 where Paul wrought his own escape by setting these two factions on quarrelling about these points. In short, these were no better than atheists, for what must they be less that deny spirits and the resurrection? The Pharisees, as to their doctrine, were much more sober; they owned spirits and the resurrection; and though they held much of the freedom of, and a power in, man’s will, yet they also ascribed much to the providence and grace of God. They were the interpreters of the law, and, as Mr. Calvin thinks, had their name from thence, not from their dividing and separating themselves from others, as some think. They spent much of their time in fasting and prayer; but,

1. They held a righteousness by the works of the law to be our righteousness for which we are accepted of God.

2. They made a very jejune interpretation of the law, as may appear from our Saviour’s correcting it, Matthew 5:17-48.

3. They held many unwritten traditions of equal force with the law of God.

4. They were very hypocrites in their practice, neglecting the weighty things of the law, making long prayers for a pretence for their wickedness, and doing all they did but to be seen of men.

Some of these Sadducees and Pharisees came to John’s baptism, and no wonder, for, Mark 6:20: Herod observed him, heard him, did many things, and heard him gladly; but, Luke 7:30, it is said the Pharisees were not baptized of him. It is like they came out of curiosity.

He said unto them, O generation of vipers; the very language which Christ used to them, Matthew 12:34 23:33. The viper, to which he compares them, is the worst and most dangerous of serpents. We need give no account of the Baptist’s treating them so roughly, because our Saviour justifieth the term by applying it to them. Corrupt teachers are the worst of men, and of all orders of sinners, fewest of them repent and have their hearts changed.

Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? What comes in your mind, who think there is no resurrection, no hell, or who think you are so righteous that you need fear none, to do any thing that might testify you are afraid of wrath to come?

But when he saw many of the Pharisees,.... This being the first place in which mention is made of the Pharisees and Sadducees, it may not be amiss to give some account of them once for all, and to begin with the Pharisees, and first with their name. Some derive this word from pharatz to "divide", to "make a breach", from whence Phares had his name Genesis 38:29 so Jerom (u), who observes, that

"the Pharisees, who separated themselves from the people as righteous persons, were called "divisi, the divided."''

And in (w) another place,

"because the Pharisees were "divided" from the Jews on account of some superfluous observations, they also took their name from their disagreement.''

Origen (x) seems to refer to this etymology of the word, when he says,

"the Pharisees, according to their name, were , certain divided and seditious persons.''

And true it is, that this sect often meddled with the affairs of the government, and were very ambitious of being concerned therein. Josephus (y) observes of queen Alexandra, that she governed others, and the Pharisees governed her; hence, though they were in great esteem with the people, they were rather dreaded than loved by the government. Others derive this name from "Pharas" to "expand", or "stretch out"; either because they made broad their phylacteries, and enlarged the borders of their garments; or because they exposed themselves to public notice, did all they could to be seen of men, prayed in the corners of the streets, had a trumpet blown before them when they gave alms, chose the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, greetings in the markets, and to be called of men "Rabbi": all which to be sure are their just characters. Others derive it from the same word, as signifying to "explain" or "expound"; because it was one part of their work, and in which they excelled, to expound the law; but this cannot be the reason of their general name, because there were women Pharisees as well as men, who cannot be thought to be employed in that work. The more generally received opinion is, that this name is taken from the above word, as signifying to "separate"; because they separated themselves from the men and manners of the world, to the study of the law, and to a greater degree of holiness, at least in pretence, than other persons. They were strict observers of the traditions of the elders; are said, to hold both fate and free will; they owned the resurrection of the dead, and that there were angels and spirits, in which they differed from the Sadducees. Or rather they have their name from which signifies "a reward"; they being stiff defenders of the doctrine of rewards and punishments in a future state, which the Sadducees denied. The Talmudic writers (z) say, there were "seven" sorts of them, and if it would not be too tedious to the reader, I would give the names of them; and the rather, because some of them seem to tally with the complexion and conduct of the Pharisees mentioned in the scriptures. There were then,

1. the "Shechemite Pharisee", who does as Shechem did; is circumcised, not on God's account, or for his glory, or because circumcision is a command of his, but for his own profit and advantage, and that he may get honour from men.

2. "the dashing Pharisee"; who walks gently, the heel of one foot touching the great toe of the other; and scarce lifts up his feet from the earth, so that he dashes them against the stones, and would be thought hereby to be in deep meditation.

3. the "Pharisee letting blood"; who makes as if he shut his eyes, that he may not look upon women, and so runs and dashes his head against the wall, till the blood gushes out, as though a vein was opened.

4. the "depressed Pharisee"; who went double, or bowed down, or as others render the phrase, "the mortar Pharisee"; either because he wore a garment like a mortar, with the mouth turned downwards; or a hat resembling such a vessel; so that he could not look upward, nor on either side, only downward, or right forward.

5. the Pharisee, that said, what is my duty and I will do it? the gloss upon it is, teach me what is my duty, and I will do it: Lo! this is his excellency, if he is not expert in the prohibitions and niceties of the commands, and comes to learn; or thus, what is more to be done and I have not done it? so that he shows himself, or would appear as if he had performed all.

6. "the Pharisee of fear"; who does what he does from fear of punishment.

7. "the Pharisee of love"; who does what he does from love; which the gloss explains thus: for the love of the reward of the commandment, and not for the love of the commandment of his Creator; though they say of all these there is none to be beloved, but the Pharisee of love.


{2} But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

(2) There is nothing that shuts up the way of mercy and salvation from us so much as the opinion of our own righteousness does.

Matthew 3:7. The Pharisees (from פָּרַשׁ, separavit, the separated ones, διὰ τὴν ἐθελοπερισσοθρησκείαν, Epiphanius, Haer. i. 16) received, besides the law, also tradition; taught the doctrine of fate, without, however, denying the freedom of the will; of immortality, and that in the case of pious persons, in pure bodies; of good and evil angels, and were, in all the strictness of external righteousness, according to law and statute, the crafty, learned, patriotic, and powerful supporters of the degenerate orthodoxy. The Sadducees[381] recognised merely the written law, and that not only of the Pentateuch, but of the whole of the O. T., although according to the strict exposition of the letter, and to the exclusion of tradition; they denied the existence of higher spirits, of fate and personal immortality, and adhered to a strict code of morals; they had less authority with the people than the exclusive orthodox Pharisees, against whom they formed a decided party of opposition, but had much influence over men of rank and wealth. The strictly closed order of Essenes, in its separation from the world and the temple, as well as in its ascetic self-satisfaction and self-sanctification, the quiet separatistic holy ones of the land, connected together by community of goods, and under obligation, besides, daily to perform holy lustrations, kept themselves far away from the movement evoked by John.

Observe that the article is not repeated before Σαδδουκ., because they are conceived as forming, along with the Pharisees, one unworthy category. “Nempe repetitur articulus, ubi distinctio logica aut emphatica ita postulat,” Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 574.

ἐπί] not contra (Olearius), which would be quite opposed to the context, but telic, in order to be baptized; comp. Luke 23:48. Why should the Pharisees and Sadducees not also have come to baptism, since they shared with the people the hope of the Messiah, and must have felt also on their part the extraordinary impression made by the appearance of John, and the excitement awakened by it, and, in keeping with their moral conceit, would easily enough have compounded with the confession of sins? It is, however, already probable à priori, and certain, by means of Luke 7:30, that they, at least so far as the majority were concerned, did not allow themselves to be baptized, although they had come with this intention, but were repelled in terror by the preaching of repentance and punishment, Matthew 3:8 ff.

There exists, therefore, no variation between this and Luke 7:30; the Pharisees and Sadducees are no addition by Matthew (Ewald, Holtzmann), and neither is Matthew to be blamed for committing a historical mistake, occasioned by John 1:24 (Schneckenburger, Bleek), nor is Luke to be charged with want of originality in this section (de Wette). But the former relates with more minuteness than Luke (Matthew 3:7 : τοῖςὄχλοις) in separating the persons in question from the mass along with whom they came.

γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν] cunning, malignant men! Matthew 12:34, Matthew 23:33; Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 59:5; Psalm 58:5; Wetstein on the passage. Comp. Dem. 799. 4 : πικρὸν καὶ ἔχιν τὴν φύσιν ἄνδρωπον.

τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς] is to be understood of the divine wrath which is revealed at the Messianic judgment (Romans 2:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). The common belief of the Jews referred this to the heathen (Bertholdt, Christol. pp. 203 ff., 223 ff.). John, however, to the godless generally, who would not repent. The wrath of God, however, established as a unity in the holy nature of the divine love as its inseparable correlate, is not the punishment itself, but the holy emotion of absolute displeasure with him who opposes His gracious will, and from this the punishment proceeds as a necessary manifestation of righteousness. The revelation of the divine wrath is not limited to the last judgment (Romans 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:16; Luke 21:23), but in it attains its consummation. Comp. Romans 1:18 and Ephesians 2:3, and so on, especially Ritschl, de ira Dei,[382] 1859; Bartholomaei in the Jahrb. f. deutsche Theol. 1861, II. p. 256 ff.; Weber, vom Zorne Gottes, 1862.

φυγεῖν ἀπό] is, like בָּרַה מִן (Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 24:18), constructio praegnans: to flee away from, Matthew 23:33; Mark 16:8; John 10:11; Hom. Od. xii. 120: φυγέειν κάρτιστον ἀπʼ αὐτῆς, Xen. Mem. ii. 6. 31; Plat. Phaed. p. 62 D. The infinitive aorist designates the activity as momentary, setting forth the point of time when the wrath breaks forth, in which the flight also is realized. Meaning of the question: Nobody can have instructed you, that you should escape. Comp. Matthew 23:33 : πῶς φύγητε.

[381] Epiphanius, Haer. i. 14 : ἐπονομάζουσι ἑαυτοὺς Σαδδουκαίους δῆθεν ἀπὸ δικαιοσύνης τῆς ἐπικλήσεως ὁρμωμένης. The Jewish tradition derives it from the proper name Zadok. R. Nathan, ad Pirke Aboth, i. 3. The latter is to be preferred, with Ewald, Geiger, Hitzig, and others; see Keim, Gesch. J. I. p. 275. Hausrath, Zeitgesch. I. p. 118. That name, however, is to be understood as that of an old and distinguished priestly family; 2 Samuel 7:17; 2 Samuel 15:24; Ezekiel 48:11; 1Ma 7:14.

[382] Who determines the conception, p. 24, thus: “Certum argumentum justitiae divinae ab humana diversae, quatenus valet ad defendendum adversus homines contumaciter Deo fidem denegantes finem ejus summum et absolutum, per Christum cum genere humano communicatum.”

Matthew 3:7-10. Words of rebuke and warning to unwelcome vistors (Luke 3:7-9).

7. Pharisees] The name signifies “Separatists;” the party dates from the revival of the National life, and observances of the Mosaic Law under the Maccabees. Their ruling principle was a literal obedience to the written law and to an unwritten tradition. Originally they were leaders of a genuine reform. But in the hands of less spiritual successors their system had become little else than a formal observance of carefully prescribed rules. “The real virtues of one age become the spurious ones of the next.” Prof. Mozley, Sermon on Pharisees. The “hypocrisy” of the Pharisees, which stifled conscience and made them “incapable of repentance,” is the special sin of the day rebuked more than any other by the Saviour.

Politically they were the popular party, supporters of an isolating policy, who would make no terms with Rome or any other foreign power. The Zealots may be regarded as the extreme section of the Pharisees.

The Sadducees were the aristocratic and priestly party, they acquiesced in foreign rule, and foreign civilization. They refused to give the same weight as the Pharisees to unwritten tradition, but adhered strictly to the written law of Moses. Their religious creed excluded belief in a future life, or in angels and spirits (Acts 23:8). The name is probably derived from Zadok the priest in David’s time. Others with less probability connect it with Zadok, a disciple of Antigonus of Socho, who lived in the second century b. c. The derivation from tsaddik (righteous) is untenable.

O generation of vipers] Translate “offspring or ‘brood’ of vipers.”

the wrath to come] In a technical sense “wrath” is (1) the divine attitude towards sin, and as a result (2) the divine judgment upon sin (Romans 2:5). “Fleeing from the wrath to come” implies agreeing with God’s view of sin and therefore “Repentance” or change of heart.

Matthew 3:7. Πολλοὺς, κ.τ.λ., many, etc.) of whom some adhered to their purpose of receiving the baptism of John; some, deterred by his just denunciations, appear to have gone back. By far the greater number did not come at all.—See ch. Matthew 21:25, and Luke 7:30.—τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων, of the Pharisees and Sadducees) Differing sects.—αὐτοῖς, to them) i.e., to the Pharisees especially, but also to the people, before baptizing them.—See Matthew 3:11, and Luke 3:7. It frequently occurs, that words are mentioned after the act which they accompany or precede.—See 2 Samuel 1:16; 2 Samuel 1:15.—γεννήματα, broods) Various families.—ἐχιδνῶν, of vipers) This is said in opposition to their boasting of their descent from Abraham.—τίς, κ.τ.λ., who? etc.) As though he had said, “You appear to be showing the way to others, but who showed it to you?” He implies that wrath was in store for them; that there was, close at hand, a means of escaping it, but that the Pharisees and Sadducees were strangers to it.—ὑπέδειξεν, hath showed) The compound verb has the same meaning as the simple δείκνυμι. He approves of their coming, but with an important condition.—φυγεῖν, to flee) sc. by baptism.—ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς, from the wrath to come) which they will incur, rejecting the kingdom of Heaven by their impenitence. That same wrath is afterwards spoken of, in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, as τῆς ἐρχομένης, which is coming. At the same time, the error of the Sadducees in denying the resurrection is refuted. That wrath was to come upon them at the destruction of Jerusalem and the last Judgment.

Verses 7-12. - The faithful warning. (Parallel passage: Luke 3:7-9, 16, 17.) Observe that this is before the baptism of our Lord, while the witness in John 1:19-27 is after. Verse 7. - But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The typical Jews, considered as one class (τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων), in contrast to the multitudes. Pharisees. Their characteristic is shown in their name, "Separatists;" i.e. from anything that would hinder exact obedience to the Mosaic Law. Hence they are the strict adherents of tradition. They ultimately gained the ascendancy, and, in consequence, the standard Jewish books represent the result of their teaching, They belonged almost entirely to the middle classes. Sadducees. They were chiefly of the noblest, especially the high-priestly, families. Hence their first thought was political quiet, and with this they not unnaturally combined the love of Greek culture. They set the plain meaning of the Law far above all tradition, even that of the Prophets and the Hagiographa. Come (Obtains, Revised Version) to his baptism; ἐρχομένους ἐπὶ τὸ βάπτισμα (omit αὐτοῦ). They were apparently not merely coming to see what took place, but with the purpose of receiving his baptism (cf. Thayer, ἐπί c. 1:2, g. γ aa.); cf. Matthew 26:50 (ἐφ δ); Luke 23:48. The marginal reading, however, proposed by the American Revisers "for baptism," does not do justice to the article. The Gospel according to the Hebrews (Resch, 'Agrapha.' p. 343) says that they were in fact baptized, but we can hardly suppose this to have been the case after John's words to them. Observe that the Pharisees, with their self-conscious sanctity, were hardly likely to come to confess their sins, or the Sadducees to even listen to so ascetic a teacher. He said unto them; i.e. to the Pharisees and Sadducees; Luke, less exactly, "to the multitudes that went out to be baptized of him." There is, indeed, nothing, save the opening sentence, which refers solely to the Pharisees and Sadducees; but this fact does not show (Bleek) that the words were really spoken to all, and that Matthew's expression is wrong. John doubtless addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees primarily; but as, after all, they only formed the apex of ordinary Jewish thought, what he said to them fitted also the majority of his listeners. O generation (ye offspring, Revised Version) of vipers! The simile not only expresses the thought that, behind their smooth exterior, the outward legal strictness of the Pharisees, and the worldly decorum of the Sadducees, lay hidden malice and venom, but also that this is due to their very nature. It may have directly implied that they belonged in a true sense to the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15); cf. our Lord's words (Matthew 12:34; Matthew 23:33). Who hath (omitted by the Revised Version) warned you? The verb (ὑπέδειξεν) has elsewhere in the New Testament (St. Luke's writings only) no thought of warning, nor of secrecy, but of teaching, of placing the matter under the eyes of others (cf. especially Acts 9:16; Acts 20:35; Luke 6:47). John is making no inquiry for information, but only utters surprise at seeing them (cf. Matthew 23:33, πῶς φύγητε). Whoever can have told you of your danger? He might have saved himself the trouble, you being what you are! Yet the very violence of his expression was such as to call their attention to the depth of their sinfulness, and after all to lead them perhaps to repentance. For this reason he adds, "Bring forth therefore." To flee; aorist, not exactly indicating "the activity as momentary, setting forth the point of time when the wrath breaks forth, in which the flight also is realized" (Meyer), but the flight as one single action, without any reference to the time of the breaking forth of the wrath. From. The wrath is pictured as coming on them from without. In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 St. Paul says that Jesus delivers out of (ἐκ) it, implying that he himself and all men are naturally in and under it (but see Matthew 6:13, note). The wrath to come. Perhaps connected in John's mind with the wrath of the Messianic age (Isaiah 63:3-6). If so, it would find its primary fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem, but its complete fulfilment only in the manifestation of the wrath at the last judgment - (Acts 24:25; cf. Romans 2:5; Romans 5:9; Revelation 6:16, 17; Revelation 11:18). Wrath. Not merely punishment. The thought is of the feeling of anger against sin in him who punishes it (cf. Matthew 18:34; Matthew 22:7; Mark 3:5). Matthew 3:7
Matthew 3:7 Interlinear
Matthew 3:7 Parallel Texts

Matthew 3:7 NIV
Matthew 3:7 NLT
Matthew 3:7 ESV
Matthew 3:7 NASB
Matthew 3:7 KJV

Matthew 3:7 Bible Apps
Matthew 3:7 Parallel
Matthew 3:7 Biblia Paralela
Matthew 3:7 Chinese Bible
Matthew 3:7 French Bible
Matthew 3:7 German Bible

Bible Hub

Matthew 3:6
Top of Page
Top of Page