Luke 3

3:1  Now in the fifteenth year of the reign1 of Tiberius Caesar2, Pontius Pilate3 being governor of Judaea4, and Herod5 being tetrarch6 of Galilee7, and his brother8 Philip9 tetrarch of the region of Ituraea10 and Trachonitis11, and Lysanias12 tetrarch of Abilene13,
    JOHN THE BAPTIST'S PERSON AND PREACHING. (In the wilderness of Judea, and on the banks of the Jordan, occupying several months, probably A.D. 25 or 26.) Matthew 3:1-12 ; Mark 1:1-8 ; Luke 3:1-18

  1. Now in the fifteenth year of the reign. Tiberius Caesar, stepson of and successor to Augustus, began to reign as joint ruler withAugustus in August, A.U.C. 765 (A.D. 11). On August 19, 767, Augustusdied and Tiberius became sole ruler. Luke counts from the beginning ofthe joint rule, and his fifteen years bring us to 779. In August, 779,Tiberius began his fifteenth year, and about December of that yearJesus would have completed his thirtieth year.

  2. Of Tiberius Caesar. He was born B.C. 41, died March 16, A.D. 37. As a citizen he distinguished himself as orator, soldier, and publicofficial. But as emperor he was slothful, self-indulgent, indescribablylicentious, vindictive, and cruel. He was a master of dissimulation andcunning, and was a veritable scourge to his people. But he still foundflatterers even in Palestine, Caesarea Philippi, and the town Tiberiasbeing named for him.

  3. Pontius Pilate. See mention of him in account of our Lord's trial.

  4. Being governor of Judaea. The province of Judea was subdued by Pompey and brought under Roman control in B.C. 63. Its history fromthat date till the governorship of Pilate can be found in Josephus.

  5. And Herod. Also called Antipas. The ruler who murdered John the Baptist and who assisted at the trial of Jesus.

  6. Being tetrarch. This word means properly the ruler of a fourth part of a country, but was used loosely for any petty tributary prince.

  7. Of Galilee. This province lay north of Samaria, and measured about twenty-five miles from north to south, and twenty-seven miles from eastto west. It was a rich and fertile country.

  8. His brother. His half-brother.

  9. Philip. He was distinguished by justice and moderation, the one decent man in the Herodian family. He married Salome, who obtained Johnthe Baptist's head for a dance. He built Caesarea Philippi, andtransformed Bethsaida Julius from a village to a city, and died thereA.D. 44. After his death his domains became part of the Roman provinceof Syria.

  10. Tetrarch of the region of Ituraea. A district thirty miles long by twenty-five broad, lying north of Batanea, east of Mt. Hermon, westof Trachonitis. It received its name from Jetur, son of Ishmael( Genesis 25:15 ). Its Ishmaelite inhabitants were conquered by Aristobulus,king of Judea, B.C. 100, and forced by him to accept the Jewish faith.They were marauders, and famous for the use of the bow.

  11. And Trachonitis. A district about twenty-two miles from north to south by fourteen from east to west. Its name means "rough" or "stony",and it amply deserves it. It lies between Iturea and the desert, andhas been infested with robbers from the earliest ages. It is called theArgob in the Old Testament ( Deuteronomy 3:4 Deuteronomy 3:13 Deuteronomy 3:14 ; 1 Kings 4:13 ; 2 Kings 15:25 ),

    "an ocean of basaltic rock and boulders, tossed about in the wildest confusion, and intermingled with fissures and crevices in every direction."

  12. And Lysanias. Profane history gives us no account of this man. It tells of a Lysanias, king of Chalcis, under Mt. Lebanon, who was put todeath by Mark Antony, B.C. 36, or sixty-odd years before this, andanother who was tetrarch of Abilene in the reigns of Caligula andClaudius twenty years after this. He probably was son of the first andfather of the second.

  13. Tetrarch of Abilene. The city of Abila (which comes from the word "abel", meaning "meadow") is eighteen miles from Damascus and thirty-eight from Baalbec. The province laying about it is mentioned becauseit subsequently formed part of the Jewish territory, being given toHerod Agrippa I by Emperor Claudius about A.D. 41.

3:2  in the highpriesthood of Annas and Caiaphas1, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias2 in the wilderness3.

  1. In the highpriesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. Annas had been high priest 7-14 A.D., when he was deposed by the procurator, Gratus.Caiaphas was son-in-law of and successor to Annas. Luke gives bothnames, one as the rightful and the other as the acting high priest.Compare Acts 4:6 . Gentile innovations had made sad havoc with theJewish law as to this office. In the last 107 years of the temple'sexistence there were no less than twenty-eight high priests. Luke isthe only one who fixes the time when Jesus began his ministry. Helocates it by emperor and governor, tetrarch and high priest, as aneven of world-wide importance, and of concern to all the kingdoms ofmen. He conceives of it as Paul did ( Acts 26:26 ).

  2. The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias. The divine commission which bade John enter his career as a prophet ( Jeremiah 1:2 Ezekiel 6:1 ). Prophets gave temporary and limited manifestations of God'swill ( Hebrews 1:1 Hebrews 1:2 ). Jesus is the everlasting and unlimited manifestationof the divine purpose and of the very Godhead ( John 14:9 ; John 12:45 ; Colossians 1:15 Hebrews 1:3 ; 2 Corinthians 4:6 ).

  3. In the wilderness. The wilderness of Judea is that almost uninhabitable mass of barren ridges extending the whole length of theDead Sea, and a few miles further north. It is from five to ten mileswide.

3:3  And he came1 into all the region round about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins;

  1. And he came. He made his public appearance, and, like that of Elijah, it was a sudden one ( 1 Kings 17:1 ).

  2. Into all the country about Jordan. The Jordan valley is called in the Old Testament the Arabah, and by the modern Arabs the Ghor. It isthe deepest valley in the world, its lowest part being about 1,300 feetbelow the level of the ocean.

  3. Preaching the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins. As a change leading to remission or forgiveness of sins.

3:4  as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet1, The voice2 of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight.

  1. Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah flourished from about 759 to 699 B.C.

  2. The voice, etc. See Mark 1:3.

3:5  Every valley shall be filled1, And every mountain and hill shall be brought low; And the crooked shall become straight, And the rough ways smooth;

  1. Every valley shall be filled, etc. The literal meaning of this passage is expressed in Isaiah 2:12-17 . See also Zechariah 4:7 .Commentators give detailed application of this prophecy, and, followingtheir example, we may regard the Pharisees and Sadducees as mountainsof self-righteousness, needing to be thrown down, and thereby broughtto meekness and humility; the outcasts and harlots as valleys ofhumiliation, needing to be exalted and filled with hope; and thepublicans and soldiers as crooked and rough byways, needing to bestraightened and smoothed with proper details of righteousness. But theapplication is general, and not to be limited to such details.However, civil tyranny, and ecclesiastical pride must be leveled, andthe rights of the common people must be exalted before for kingdom ofGod can enter in.

3:6  And all flesh shall see the salvation of God1.

  1. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. This last clause of the prophecy is added by Luke alone. He loves to dwell upon theuniversality of Christ's Gospel.

3:7  He said therefore to the multitudes1 that went out to be baptized of him, Ye offspring of vipers2, who warned you to flee3 from the wrath to come4?

  1. He said therefore to the multitudes. See Matthew 3:7.

  2. Ye offspring of vipers. A metaphor for their "likeness" to vipers-- as like them as if they had been begotten of them. The viper was aspecies of serpent from two to five feet in length, and about one inchthick. Its head is flat, and its body a yellowish color, speckled withlong brown spots. It is extremely poisonous ( Acts 28:6 ). John hereuses the word figuratively, and probably borrows the figure from( Isaiah 59:5 ). It means that the Jewish rulers were full of guileand malice, cunning and venom. With these words John gave them avigorous shaking, for only thus could he hope to waken their slumberingconsciences. But only one who has had a vision of "the King in hisbeauty" should presume thus to address his fellow-men. The serpent isan emblem of the devil ( Genesis 3:1 ; Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:14 Revelation 12:15 ), and Jesus not onlyrepeated John's words ( Matthew 12:35 ; Matthew 23:23 Matthew 23:33 ), but he interpreted thewords, and told them plainly that they were "the children of the devil"( John 8:44 ). The Jewish rulers well deserved this name, for theypoisoned the religious principles of the nation, and accomplished thecrucifixion of the Son of God.

  3. Who warned you to flee. John's baptism, like that of Moses at the Red Sea ( 1 Corinthians 10:2 ), was a way of escape from destruction, of rightlyused. Christian baptism is also such a way, and whosoever will mayenter thereby into the safety of the kingdom of Christ, but baptism cannot be used as an easy bit of ritual to charm away evil. It must beaccompanied by all the spiritual changes which the ordinance implies.

  4. From the wrath to come? Prophecy foretold that Messiah's time would be accompanied with wrath ( Isaiah 58:3-6 ; Daniel 7:10-26 ); but the Jews wereall of the opinion that this wrath would be meted out upon the Gentilesand were not prepared to hear John apply the prophecy to themselves. Toall his hearers John preached the coming kingdom; to the impenitent, hepreached the coming wrath. Thus he prepared the way for the firstcoming of the Messiah, and those who would prepare the people for hissecond coming would do well to follow his example. The Bible has avoice of warning and denunciation, as well as words of invitation andlove. Whosoever omits the warning of the judgment, speaks but half themessage which God would have him deliver. God's wrath is his resentmentagainst sin ( Matthew 18:34 ; Matthew 22:7 ; Mark 3:5 ).

3:8  Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance1, and begin not to say within yourselves2, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

  1. Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, etc. See Matthew 3:8.

  2. And begin not to say within yourselves, etc. See Matthew 3:9.

3:9  And even now the axe also lieth at the root of the trees1: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

  1. And even now the axe also lieth at the root of the trees, etc. See Matthew 3:10.

3:10  And the multitudes asked him, saying, What then must we do1?

  1. What then must we do? This is the cry of the awakened conscience ( Acts 2:37 ; Acts 16:30 ; Acts 22:10 ). John answered it by recommended them to do thevery reverse of what they were doing, which, in their case, was truefruit of repentance.

3:11  And he answered and said unto them, He that hath two coats1, let him impart to him that hath none2; and he that hath food, let him do likewise.

  1. He that hath two coats. By coats is meant the tunic, or inner garment, worn next to the skin. It reached to the knees, and sometimesto the ankles, and generally had sleeves. Two tunics were a luxury in aland where thousands were too poor to own even one. Wrath was coming,and he that would obtain mercy from it must show mercy ( Matthew 5:7 ).

  2. Let him impart to him that hath none. For a like precept given to Christians, see 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 ; James 2:15-17 ; 1 John 3:17 .

3:12  And there came also publicans to be baptized1, and they said unto him, Teacher, what must we do2?

  1. And there came also publicans to be baptized. The Roman government did not collect its own taxes. Instead of doing so, it divided theempire into districts, and sold the privilege of collecting the taxesin these districts to certain capitalists and men of rank. Thecapitalists employed agents to do the actual collecting. These agentswere usually native of the districts in which they lived, and those inPalestine were called publicans. Their masters urged and encouragedthem to make the most fraudulent and vexatious exactions. Theysystematically overcharged the people and often brought falseaccusation to obtain money by blackmail. These publicans were justlyregarded by the Jews as apostates and traitors, and were classed withthe lowest and most abandoned characters. The system was bad, but itspractitioners were worse. The Greeks regarded the word "publican" assynonymous with "plunderer". Suidas pictures the life of a publican as

    "unrestrained plunder, unblushing greed, unreasonable pettifogging, shameless business."

    The Turks today collect by this Roman method. Being publicly condemned,and therefore continually kept conscious of their sin, the publicansrepented more readily than the self-righteous Pharisees. Conscience isone of God's greatest gifts, and he that destroys it must answer forit. On publicans, also see Matthew 5:46.

  2. And they said unto him, Teacher, what must we do? The publicans, though lowest down, gave John the highest title. Self-abnegation isfull of the virtue of reverence, but self-righteousness utterly lacksit.

3:13  And he said unto them, Extort no more than that which is appointed you1.

  1. Extort no more than that which is appointed you. Such was their habitual, universal sin. No man should make his calling an excuse forevil-doing.

3:14  And soldiers also asked him, saying, And we, what must we do1? And he said unto them, Extort from no man by violence2, neither accuse [any one] wrongfully3; and be content with your wages4.

  1. And soldiers also asked him, saying, And we, what must we do? These soldiers were probably Jewish troops in the employ of Herod. Had theybeen Romans, John would doubtless have told them to worship God.

  2. And he said unto them, Extort from no man by violence. The soldiers, poorly paid, often found it convenient to extort money by intimidation.Strong in their organization, they terrified the weak and enforcedgratuities by acts of violence.

  3. Neither accuse [any one] wrongfully. John here condemns the custom of blackmailing the rich by acting as informers and false accusersagainst them.

  4. And be content with your wages. The term "wages" included rations and money. The soldiers were not to add to their receipts by pillage orextortion. Soldiers' wages were about three cents a day, so they wereexposed to strong temptation. Yet John did not bid them abandon theirprofession, and become ascetics like himself. His teachings waspractical. He allowed war as an act of government. Whether Christianitysanctions it or not, is another question.

3:15  And as the people were in expectation1, and all men reasoned in their hearts concerning John2, whether haply he were the Christ3;

  1. And as the people were in expectation. Expecting the Christ. See John 1:19-28 .

  2. And all men reasoned in their hearts concerning John. Prophecy induced a Messianic expectation. The scepter had departed from Judah,and Caesar's deputies ruled. Tetrarchs and procurators held the wholecivil government. In their hands lay the power of life, and death fromwhich only Roman citizens could appeal ( Acts 25:11 ). The power of theJewish courts was limited to excommunication or scourging. The seventyweeks of Daniel were now expiring, and other prophecies indicated thefullness of time. But distress, rather than prophecy, enhanced theirexpectation. Tiberius, the most infamous of men, governed the world.Pontius Pilate, insolent, cruel, was making life irksome and maddeningthe people. Herod Antipas, by a course of reckless apostasy andunbridled lust, grieved even the religious sense of the hypocrite.Annas and Caiaphas, impersonators of materialism, sat in the chief seatof spiritual power. Men might well look for a deliverer, and hastenwith joy to hear of a coming King.

  3. Whether haply he were the Christ. But, nevertheless, we could have no more forceful statement of the deep impression made by John'sministry than that the people were disposed to take him for the Christ.

3:16  John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but there cometh he that is mightier than I, the latchet1 of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and [in] fire3:

  1. The latchet. The lace or strap. See John 1:27.

  2. He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit. See Mark 1:8.

  3. And [in] fire. See Matthew 3:11.

3:17  whose fan is in his hand1, thoroughly to cleanse his threshing-floor, and to gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.

  1. Whose fan is in his hand, etc. See Matthew 3:12.

3:18  With many other exhortations1 therefore preached he good tidings unto the people2;

  1. With many other exhortations. The sermon here given is in the nature of a summary. It embodies the substance of John's preaching. AfterwardsJohn preached Christ more directly ( John 1:29-36 ).

  2. Therefore preached he good tidings unto the people. But, like the good tidings of the angel at Bethlehem, it was good only tot hose who,by repentance, made themselves well pleasing to God.

3:19  but Herod the tetrarch1, being reproved by him2 for Herodias his brother's wife, and for all the evil things which Herod had done3,

    JESUS SETS OUT FROM JUDEA FOR GALILEE. A. REASONS FOR RETIRING TO GALILEE. Matthew 4:12 ; Mark 1:14 ; Luke 3:19 Luke 3:20 ; John 4:1-4

  1. But Herod the tetrarch. The son of Herod the Great, and tetrarch, or governor, of Galilee.

  2. Being reproved by him. That is, by John the Baptist.

  3. For Herodias his brother's wife, and for all the evil things which Herod had done. A full account of the sin of Herod and persecutionof John will be found at Matthew 14:1-2 ; Mark 6:14-29 . John had spoken thetruth to Herod as fearlessly as to the Pharisees, publicans, andsoldiers.

3:20  added this also to them all1, that he shut up John in prison2.

  1. Added this also to them all. The sins of Herod, as a ruler, already outweighed his virtues; compare Daniel 5:27 . But, with reckless abandon,Herod went on, adding to the weighty reasons which justified hiscondemnation.

  2. That he shut up John in prison. In the fortress at Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea, as we learn from Josephus. The duration of theministry of John the Baptist is variously estimated at from fourteen toeighteen months.

3:21  Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus also having been baptized1, and praying2, the heaven was opened3,

    JESUS BAPTIZED BY JOHN IN THE JORDAN. (Jordan east of Jericho, Spring of A.D. 27.) Matthew 3:13-17 ; Mark 1:9-11 ; Luke 3:21 Luke 3:22

  1. Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus also having been baptized. This may mean that, on the day of hisbaptism, Jesus was the last candidate, and hence his baptism was themost conspicuous of all; but it more probably means that Jesus wasbaptized in the midst of John's work--at the period when his baptismwas in greatest favor.

  2. And praying. All divine ordinances should be accompanied by prayer. Luke frequently notes the times when Jesus prayed. Here, at theentrance of his ministry, he prayed, and at the last moment of it healso prayed ( Luke 23:46 ). In his highest exultation at thetransfiguration ( Luke 9:29 ), and in the lowest depths of humiliationin Gethsemane ( Luke 22:41 ), he prayed. He prayed for his apostleswhom he chose ( Luke 6:12 ), and for his murderers by whom he wasrejected ( Luke 23:34 ), He prayed before Peter confessed him( Luke 9:18 ), and also before Peter denied him ( Luke 22:32 ).

  3. The heaven was opened. See Mark 1:10.

3:22  and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form1, as a dove2, upon him, and a voice came out of heaven3, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

  1. And the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form. Lightfoot suggests that the Spirit thus descended that he might be revealed to be apersonal substance and not merely an operation of the Godhead, andmight thus make a sensible demonstration as to his proper place in theTrinity.

  2. As a dove. The descent of the Spirit upon Jesus was in accordance with prophecy ( Isaiah 11:2 ; Isaiah 41:1 ). The dove shape suggests purity,gentleness, peace, etc. Jesus makes the dove a symbol of harmlessness( Matthew 10:15 ). In fact, the nature of this bird makes it a fit emblemof the Spirit, for it comports well with the fruits of the Spirit( Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:23 ). The nations of the earth emblazon eagles upon theirbanners and lions upon their shields, but He who shall gather allnations into his kingdom, appeared as a Lamb, and his Spirit appearedunder the symbol of a dove. Verily his kingdom is not of this world. Itis a kingdom of peace and love, not of bloodshed and ambition. Noah'sdove bore the olive branch, the symbol of peace, and the Holy Spiritmanifested Jesus, God's olive branch of peace sent into this world( Psalms 72:7 ; Luke 2:14 ; John 14:27 ; Ephesians 2:11-18 ).

  3. And a voice came out of heaven, etc. See Mark 1:11.

3:23  And Jesus himself, when he began [to teach]1, was about thirty years of age, 2being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the [son] of Heli3,


  1. And Jesus himself, when he began [to teach]. Luke has been speaking about John the Baptist, he now turns to speak of Jesus himself.

  2. Was about thirty years of age, About thirty years of age
  3. . The age when a Levite entered upon God's service ( Numbers 4:46 Numbers 4:47 ); at whichJoseph stood before Pharaoh ( Genesis 41:46 ); at which David began toreign ( 2 Samuel 5:4 ). Canon Cook fixes the date of Christ's baptism inthe spring A.U.C. 780. Wiseler in the summer of that year, and Ellicottin the winter of that year.

  4. Being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the [son] of Heli. This may mean that Jesus was grandson of Heli, or that Joseph was counted asa son of Heli because he was his son-in-law.

3:27  the [son] of Joanan, the [son] of Rhesa, the [son] of Zerubbabel, the [son] of Shealtiel, the [son] of Neri1,

  1. Shealtiel, the [son] of Neri. Matthew called Shealtiel the son of Jechoniah. Jechoniah may have been the natural, and Neri the father ofShealtiel ( Deuteronomy 25:5-10 ; Matthew 22:24 ).

3:32  the [son] of Jesse, the [son] of Obed, the [son] of Boaz, the [son] of Salmon1, the [son] of Nahshon2,

  1. Salmon. He was probably one of the two spies who were sent to Jericho by Joshua ( Judges 2:1-4 ).

  2. Nahshon. He was prince of the tribe of Judah during the wanderings in the wilderness ( Numbers 1:4-7 ; Numbers 10:14 ).

3:35  the [son] of Serug, the [son] of Reu, the [son] of Peleg, the [son] of Eber1, the [son] of Shelah

  1. Eber. It is thought that the name "Hebrew" comes from this name ( Genesis 10:21 ; Genesis 40:15 ; Exodus 2:6 ).

3:36  the [son] of Cainan, the [son] of Arphaxad, the [son] of Shem, the [son] of Noah1, the [son] of Lamech,

  1. Noah. The hero of the flood ( Genesis 7:6 ).

3:37  the [son] of Methuselah1, the [son] of Enoch, the [son] of Jared, the [son] of Mahalaleel, the [son] of Cainan,

  1. Methuselah. Who lived to be the oldest man on record, dying when 969 years old ( Genesis 5:27 ).

3:38  the [son] of Enos, the [son] of Seth1, the [son] of Adam, the [son] of God.

  1. Seth. The third son of Adam ( Genesis 4:25 ).

  2. Adam, the son of God. Adam was the son of God, being not merely a creature, but a creature made in God's image and likeness( Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:27 ).