Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
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
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"
Here, evidently, commences his proper narrative. Also see on
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.
Philip--a different and very superior Philip to the one whose
wife Herodias went to live with Herod Antipas. (See
Iturea--to the northeast of Palestine; so called from Ishmael's son
Itur or Jetur
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].
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
Both Zadok and Abiathar acted as high priests in David's time
and it seems to have become the fixed practice to have two
(Also see on
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
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."
6. all flesh, &c.--(quoted literally from the Septuagint of
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"
Isa 11:10; 49:6; 52:10;
Lu 2:31, 32;
10-14. What shall we do then?--to show the sincerity of our
repentance. (Also see on
11. two coats--directed against the reigning avarice.
(Also see on
12. publicans, &c. (Also see on
13. Exact no more, &c.--directed against that extortion
which made the publicans a byword. (See on
(Also see on
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
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.
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
16. John answered--either to the deputation from Jerusalem (see
&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
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."
18. many other things, &c.--such as we read in
Joh 1:29, 33, 34; 3:27-36.
(Also see on
19, 20. But Herod, &c.--See on
&c. (Also see on
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).
20. Added yet, &c.--(Also see on
Lu 3:21, 22.
BAPTISM OF AND
DESCENT OF THE
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"
and lay in a sepulchre "wherein was never man yet laid"
so in His baptism He would be "separate from sinners."
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,
WILKINSON, &c.): but "was about thirty
years of age when He began [His ministry]," makes better Greek, and
is probably the true sense [BENGEL,
&c.]. At this age the priests entered on their office
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,
and see on
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].
24-30. son of Matthat, &c.--(See on
Mt 1:13-15). In
Salathiel is called the son, while in
he is called the father of Zerubbabel. But they are probably
38. son of God--Compare