Matthew 3


John the Baptist begins to preach, 1.

The subject of his preaching, 2, 3.

Description of his clothing and food, 4.

The success of his ministry, 5, 6.

His exhortation to the Pharisees, 7-9.

He denounces the judgments of God against the impenitent, 10.

The design of his baptism, and that of Christ, 11, 12.

He baptizes Christ in Jordan, 13-15;

who is attested to be the Messiah by the Holy Spirit, and a

voice from heaven, 16, 17.


Verse 1. John the Baptist] John, surnamed The Baptist,

because he required those to be baptized who professed to be

contrite because of their sins, was the son of a priest named

Zacharias, and his wife Elisabeth, and was born about A. M. 3999,

and about six months before our blessed Lord. Of his almost

miraculous conception and birth, we have a circumstantial account

in the Gospel of Luke, chap. 1: to which, and the notes there, the

reader is requested to refer. For his fidelity in reproving Herod

for his incest with his brother Philip's wife, he was cast into

prison, no doubt at the suggestion of Herodias, the profligate

woman in question. He was at last beheaded at her instigation,

and his head given as a present to Salome, her daughter, who, by

her elegant dancing, had highly gratified Herod, the paramour of

her incestuous mother. His ministry was short; for he appears to

have been put to death in the 27th or 28th year of the Christian


Came-preaching] κηρυσσων, proclaiming, as a herald, a matter

of great and solemn importance to men; the subject not his own,

nor of himself, but from that God from whom alone he had received

his commission. See on the nature and importance of the herald's

office, at the end of this chapter. κηρυσσειν, says Rosenmuller,

de iis dicitur, qui in PLATEIS, in CAMPIS, in AERE aperto, ut a

multis audiantur, vocem tollunt, &c. "The verb κηρυσσειν is

applied to those who, in the streets, fields, and open air, lift

up their voice, that they may be heard by many, and proclaim what

has been committed to them by regal or public authority; as the

KERUKES among the Greeks, and the PRECONES among the Romans."

The wilderness of Judea] That is, the country parts, as

distinguished from the city; for in this sense the word

wilderness, midbar or midbarioth, is used

among the rabbins. John's manner of life gives no countenance to

the eremite or hermit's life, so strongly recommended and

applauded by the Roman Church.

Verse 2. Repent] μετανοειτε. This was the matter of the

preaching. The verb μετανοεω is either compounded of μετα, after,

and νοειν to understand, which signifies that, after hearing such

preaching, the sinner is led to understand, that the way he has

walked in was the way of misery, death, and hell. Or the word may

be derived from μετα after, and ανοια, madness, which

intimates that the whole life of a sinner is no other than a

continued course of madness and folly: and if to live in a

constant opposition to all the dictates of true wisdom; to wage

war with his own best interests in time and eternity; to provoke

and insult the living God; and, by habitual sin, to prepare

himself only for a state of misery, be evidences of insanity,

every sinner exhibits them plentifully. It was from this notion

of the word, that the Latins termed repentance resipiscentia, a

growing wise again, from re and sapere; or, according to

Tertullian, Resipiscentia, quasi receptio mentis ad se, restoring

the mind to itself: Contra Marcion, lib. ii. Repentance, then,

implies that a measure of Divine wisdom is communicated to the

sinner, and that he thereby becomes wise to salvation. That his

mind, purposes, opinions, and inclinations, are changed; and

that, in consequence, there is a total change in his conduct. It

need scarcely be remarked, that, in this state, a man feels deep

anguish of soul, because he has sinned against God, unfitted

himself for heaven, and exposed his soul to hell. Hence, a true

penitent has that sorrow, whereby he forsakes sin, not only

because it has been ruinous to his own soul, but because it has

been offensive to God.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand] Referring to the prophecy of

Daniel, Da 7:13,14, where the reign of Christ among men is

expressly foretold. This phrase, and the kingdom of God, mean the

same thing, viz. the dispensation of infinite mercy, and

manifestation of eternal truth, by Christ Jesus, producing the

true knowledge of God, accompanied with that worship which is pure

and holy, worthy of that God who is its institutor and its object.

But why is this called a kingdom? Because it has its laws, all

the moral precepts of the Gospel: its subjects, all who believe in

Christ Jesus: and its king, the Sovereign of heaven and earth.

N. B. Jesus Christ never saved a soul which he did not govern; nor

is this Christ precious or estimable to any man who does not feel

a spirit of subjection to the Divine will.

But why is it called the kingdom of HEAVEN? Because God designed

that his kingdom of grace here should resemble the kingdom of

glory above. And hence our Lord teaches us to pray, Thy will be

done on earth, as it is in heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not

meat and drink, says St. Paul, Ro 14:17; does not consist in the

gratification of sensual passions, or worldly ambition; but is

righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost. Now what can

there be more than this in glory? Righteousness, without mixture

of sin; peace, without strife or contention; joy, in the Holy

Ghost, spiritual joy, without mixture of misery! And all this, it

is possible, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, to enjoy here

below. How then does heaven itself differ from this state?

Answer. It makes the righteousness eternal, the peace eternal,

and the joy eternal. This is the heaven of heavens! The phrase,

kingdom of heaven, malcuth shamayim, is frequently

used by the rabbinical writers, and always means, the purity of

the Divine worship, and the blessedness which a righteous man

feels when employed in it.

It is farther added, This kingdom is at hand. The dispensation

of the glorious Gospel was now about to be fully opened, and the

Jews were to have the first offers of salvation. This kingdom is

also at hand to us; and wherever Christ crucified is preached,

there is salvation to be found. JESUS is proclaimed to thee, O

man! as infinitely able and willing to save. Believe in his

name-cast thy soul upon his atonement, and enter into rest!

Verse 3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness] Or, A

voice of a crier in the wilderness. This is quoted from

Isa 40:3, which clearly proves that John the Baptist was the

person of whom the prophet spoke.

The idea is taken from the practice of eastern monarchs, who,

whenever they entered upon an expedition, or took a journey

through a desert country, sent harbingers before them, to prepare

all things for their passage; and pioneers to open the passes, to

level the ways, and to remove all impediments. The officers

appointed to superintend such preparations were called by the

Latins, stratores.

Diodorus's account of the march of Semiramis into Media and

Persia, will give us a clear notion of the preparation of the way

for a royal expedition. "In her march to Ecbatane, she came to

the Zarcean mountain, which, extending many furlongs, and being

full of craggy precipices and deep hollows, could not be passed

without making a great compass about. Being therefore desirous of

leaving an everlasting memorial of herself, as well as shortening

the way, she ordered the precipices to be digged down, and the

hollows to be filled up; and, at a great expense, she made a

shorter and more expeditious road, which, to this day, is called

from her, The road of Semiramis. Afterwards she went into Persia,

and all the other countries of Asia, subject to her dominion; and,

wherever she went, she ordered the mountains and precipices to be

levelled, raised causeways in the plain country, and, at a great

expense, made the ways passable." Diod. Sic. lib. ii. and Bp.


The Jewish Church was that desert country, to which John was

sent, to announce the coming of the Messiah. It was destitute at

that time of all religious cultivation, and of the spirit and

practice of piety; and John was sent to prepare the way of the

Lord, by preaching the doctrine of repentance. The desert is

therefore to be considered as affording a proper emblem of the

rude state of the Jewish Church, which is the true wilderness

meant by the prophet, and in which John was to prepare the way of

the promised Messiah. The awful importance of the matter, and the

vehemence of the manner of the Baptist's preaching, probably

acquired him the character of the crier, βοων.

For the meaning of the word JOHN, see the note on Mr 1:4.

Verse 4. His raiment of camel's hair] A sort of coarse or

rough covering, which, it appears, was common to the prophets,

Zec 13:4.

In such a garment we find Elijah clothed, 2Ki 1:8.

And as John had been designed under the name of this prophet,

Mal 4:5, whose spirit and qualifications he was to possess,

Lu 1:17, he took the same habit and lived in the same state of


His meat was locusts] ακριδες. ακρις may either signify the

insect called the locust, which still makes a part of the food in

the land of Judea; or the top of a plant. Many eminent

commentators are of the latter opinion; but the first is the most

likely. The Saxon translator has [Anglo-Saxon] grasshoppers.

Wild honey.] Such as he got in the rocks and hollows of trees,

and which abounded in Judea: see 1Sa 14:26. It is most likely

that the dried locusts, which are an article of food in Asiatic

countries to the present day, were fried in the honey, or

compounded in some manner with it. The Gospel according to the

Hebrews, as quoted by Epiphanius, seems to have taken a similar

view of the subject, as it adds here to the text, ουηγευσιςην

τουμανναωςεγκριςενελαιω. And its taste was like manna, as a

sweet cake baked in oil.

Verse 5. Jordan] Many of the best MSS. and versions, with

Mr 1:5,

add ποταμω, the river Jordan; but the definitive article, with

which the word is generally accompanied, both in the Hebrew and

the Greek, is, sufficient; and our article the, which should ever

be used in the translation, expresses the force of the other.

Verse 6. Were baptized] In what form baptism was originally

administered, has been deemed a subject worthy of serious dispute.

Were the people dipped or sprinkled? for it is certain βαπτω and

βαπτιζω mean both. They were all dipped, say some. Can any man

suppose that it was possible for John to dip all the inhabitants of

Jerusalem and Judea, and of all the country round about the

Jordan? Were both men and women dipped, for certainly both came

to his baptism? This could never have comported either with

safety or with decency. Were they dipped in their clothes? This

would have endangered their lives, if they had not with them

change of raiment: and as such a baptism as John's (however

administered) was, in several respects, a new thing in Judea, it

is not at all likely that the people would come thus provided.

But suppose these were dipped, which I think it would be

impossible to prove, does it follow that, in all regions of the

world, men and women must be dipped, in order to be evangelically

baptized? In the eastern countries, bathings were frequent,

because of the heat of the climate, it being there so necessary to

cleanliness and health; but could our climate, or a more northerly

one, admit of this with safety, for at least three-fourths of the

year? We may rest assured that it could not. And may we not

presume, that if John had opened his commission in the north of

Great Britain, for many months of the year, he would have dipped

neither man nor woman, unless he could have procured a tepid bath?

Those who are dipped or immersed in water, in the name of the Holy

Trinity, I believe to be evangelically baptized-those who are

washed or sprinkled with water in the name of the Father, and of

the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, I believe to be equally so; and

the repetition of such a baptism I believe to be profane. Others

have a right to believe the contrary, if they see good. After

all, it is the thing signified, and not the mode, which is the

essential part of the sacrament. See the note on Mr 10:16.

Confessing their sins.] εξομολογουμενοι, earnestly

acknowledging that their sins were their own. And thus taking the

whole blame upon themselves, and laying nothing to the charge of

GOD or man. This is essential to true repentance; and, till a man

take the whole blame on himself, he cannot feel the absolute need

he has of casting his soul on the mercy of God, that he may be


Verse 7. Pharisees] A very numerous sect among the Jews, who,

in their origin, were, very probably, a pure and holy people. It

is likely that they got the name of Pharisees, i.e. Separatists,

(from pharash, to separate,) from their separating themselves

from the pollution of the Jewish national worship; and hence, the

word in the Anglo-saxon version is [Anglo-Saxon], holy persons who

stand apart, or by themselves: but, in process of time, like all

religious sects and parties, they degenerated: they lost the

spirit of their institution, they ceased to recur to first

principles, and had only the form of godliness, when Jesus Christ

preached in Judea; for he bore witness, that they did make the

outside of the cup and platter clean-they observed the rules of

their institution, but the spirit was gone.

Sadducees] A sect who denied the existence of angels and

spirits, consequently all Divine influence and inspiration, and

also the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees of that time

were the Materialists and Deists of the Jewish nation. When the

sect of the Pharisees arose cannot be distinctly ascertained; but

it is supposed to have been some time after the Babylonish

captivity. The sect of the Sadducees were the followers of one

Sadok, a disciple of Antigonus Sochaeus, who flourished about

three centuries before Christ. There was a third sect among the

Jews, called the Essenes or Essenians, of whom I shall have

occasion to speak on Mt 19:12.

Come to his baptism] The AEthiopic version adds the word

privately here, the translator probably having read λαθρα in his

copy, which gives a very remarkable turn to the passage. The

multitudes, who had no worldly interest to support, no character

to maintain by living in their usual way, came publicly, and

openly acknowledged that they were SINNERS; and stood in need of

mercy. The others, who endeavoured to secure their worldly

interests by making a fair show in the flesh, are supposed to have

come privately, that they might not be exposed to reproach; and

that they might not lose their reputation for wisdom and sanctity,

which their consciences, under the preaching of the Baptist, told

them they had no right to. See below.

O generation of vipers] γεννηματαεχιδνων. A terribly

expressive speech. A serpentine brood, from a serpentine stock.

As their fathers were, so were they, children of the wicked one.

This is God's estimate of a SINNER, whether he wade in wealth, or

soar in fame. The Jews were the seed of the serpent, who should

bruise the heel of the woman's seed, and whose head should be

bruised by him.

Who hath warned you] Or, privately shown you. τις

επεδιξεν-from υπο, under, and δεικνυμαι, to show. Does

not this seem to allude to the reading of the AEthiopic noticed

above? They came privately: and John may be supposed to address

them thus: "Did any person give you a private warning? No, you

received your convictions under the public ministry of the word.

The multitudes of the poor and wretched, who have been convinced

of sin, have publicly acknowledged their crimes, and sought

mercy-God will unmask you-you have deceived the people-you have

deceived yourselves-you must appear just what you are; and, if you

expect mercy from God, act like the penitent multitude, and bring

forth FRUIT worthy of repentance. Do not begin to trifle with

your convictions, by thinking, that because you are descendants of

Abraham, therefore you are entitled to God's favour; God can, out

of these stones (pointing probably to those scattered about in the

desert, which he appears to have considered as an emblem of the

Gentiles) raise up a faithful seed, who, though not natural

descendants of your excellent patriarch, yet shall be his worthy

children, as being partakers of his faith, and friends of his

God." It should be added, that the Greek word also signifies

plain or ample information. See on Lu 6:47.

The wrath to come?] The desolation which was about to fall on

the Jewish nation for their wickedness, and threatened in the last

words of their own Scriptures. See Mal 4:6.

Lest I come and smite the earth (et ha-arets, this very

land) with a curse. This wrath or curse was coming: they did not

prevent it by turning to God, and receiving the Messiah, and

therefore the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost. Let

him that readeth understand.

Verse 10. And now also the axe is laid] Or, Even now the axe

lieth. As if he had said, There is not a moment to spare-God is

about to cut off every impenitent soul-you must therefore either

turn to God immediately, or be utterly and finally ruined. It was

customary with the prophets to represent the kingdoms, nations,

and individuals, whose ruin they predicted, under the notion

of forests and trees, doomed to be cut down. See Jer 46:22, 23;

Eze 31:3, 11, 12. The Baptist follows the same metaphor: the

Jewish nation is the tree, and the Romans the axe, which, by

the just judgment of God, was speedily to cut it down. It has

been well observed, that there is an allusion here to a woodman,

who, having marked a tree for excision, lays his axe at its root,

and strips off his outer garment, that he may wield his blows more

powerfully, and that his work may be quickly performed. For about

sixty years before the coming of Christ, this axe had been lying

at the root of the Jewish tree, Judea having been made a province

to the Roman empire, from the time that Pompey took the city of

Jerusalem, during the contentions of the two brothers Hyrcanus and

Aristobulus, which was about sixty-three years before the coming

of Christ. See Joseph. Antiq. l. xiv. c. 1-5. But as the country

might be still considered as in the hands of the Jews, though

subject to the Romans, and God had waited on them now nearly

ninety years from the above time, expecting them to bring forth

fruit, and none was yet produced; he kept the Romans as an axe,

lying at the root of this tree, who were ready to cut it down the

moment God gave them the commission.

Verse 11. But he that cometh after me] Or, I coming after me,

who is now on his way, and will shortly make his appearance.

Jesus Christ began his ministry when he was thirty years of age,

Lu 3:23, which was the age appointed by the law, Nu 4:3. John

the Baptist was born about six months before Christ; and, as he

began his public ministry when thirty years of age, then this

coming after refers to six months after the commencement of John's

public preaching, at which time Christ entered upon his.

Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear] This saying is expressive

of the most profound humility and reverence. To put on, take off,

and carry the shoes of their masters, was, not only among the

Jews, but also among the Greeks and Romans, the work of the

vilest slaves. This is amply proved by Kypke, from Arrian,

Plutarch, and the Babylonian Talmud.

With the Holy Ghost, and with fire] That the influences of the

Spirit of God are here designed, needs but little proof. Christ's

religion was to be a spiritual religion, and was to have its seat

in the heart. Outward precepts, however well they might describe,

could not produce inward spirituality. This was the province of

the Spirit of God, and of it alone; therefore he is represented

here under the similitude of fire, because he was to illuminate

and invigorate the soul, penetrate every part, and assimilate the

whole to the image of the God of glory. See on Joh 3:5.

With fire] καιπυρι. This is wanting in E. S. (two MSS. one of

the ninth, the other of the tenth century) eight others, and many

Evangelistaria, and in some versions and printed editions; but it

is found in the parallel place, Lu 3:16, and in the most

authentic MSS. and versions. It was probably the different

interpretations given of it by the fathers that caused some

transcribers to leave it out of their copies.

The baptism of fire has been differently understood among the

primitive fathers. Some say, it means the tribulations, crosses,

and afflictions, which believers in Christ are called to pass

through. Hence the author of the Opus Imperfectum, on Matthew,

says, that there are three sorts of baptism, 1. that of water; 2.

that of the Holy Ghost; and, 3. that of tribulations and

afflictions, represented under the notion of fire. He observes

farther, that our blessed Lord went through these three baptisms:

1. That of water, he received from the hands of John. 2. That of

the Holy Spirit he received from the Father. And, 3. That of

fire, he had in his contest with Satan in the desert. St.

Chrysostom says; it means the superabundant graces of the Spirit.

Basil and Theophilus explain it of the fire of hell. Cyril,

Jerome, and others, understand by it the descent of the Holy

Spirit, on the day of pentecost.

Hilary says, it means a fire that the righteous must pass

through in the day of judgment, to purify them from such

defilements as necessarily cleaved to them here, and with which

they could not be admitted into glory.

Ambrose says, this baptism shall be administered at the gate of

paradise, by John Baptist; and he thinks that this is what is

meant by the flaming sword, Ge 3:24.

Origen and Lactantius conceive it to be a river of fire, at the

gate of heaven, something similar to the Phlegethon of the

heathens; but they observe, that when the righteous come to pass

over, the liquid flames shall divide, and give them a free

passage: that Christ shall stand on the brink of it, and receive

through the flames all those, and none but those, who have

received in this world the baptism of water in his name: and that

this baptism is for those who, having received the faith of

Christ, have not, in every respect, lived conformably to it; for,

though they laid the good foundation, yet they built hay, straw,

and stubble upon it, and this work of theirs must be tried, and

destroyed by this fire. This, they think, is St. Paul's meaning,

1Co 3:13-15.

If any man build on this foundation (viz. Jesus Christ) gold,

silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work

shall be made manifest: and the fire shall try every man's work,

of what sort it is.-If any man's work be burnt, he shall suffer

loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as BY FIRE. From this

fire, understood in this way, the fathers of the following ages,

and the schoolmen, formed the famous and lucrative doctrine of

PURGATORY. Some in the primitive Church thought that fire should

be, in some way or other, joined to the water in baptism; and it

is supposed that they administered it by causing the person to

pass between two fires, or to leap through the flame; or by

having a torch, or lighted candle, present. Thus have those

called Doctors of the Church trifled. The exposition which I have

given, I believe to be the only genuine one.

Verse 12. Whose fan is in his hand] The Romans are here termed

God's fan, as, in Mt 3:10,

they were called his axe, and, in Mt 22:7, they are termed his

troops or armies.

The winnowing fan of the Hindoos is square, made of split

bamboo; and the corn is winnowed by waving the fan backwards with

both hands-"Whose fan is in his hand."

His floor] Does not this mean the land of Judea, which had been

long, as it were, the threshing-floor of the Lord? God says, he

will now, by the winnowing fan (viz. the Romans) throughly cleanse

this floor-the wheat, those who believe in the Lord Jesus, he will

gather into his garner, either take to heaven from the evil to

come, or put in a place of safety, as he did the Christians, by

sending them to Pella, in Coelosyria, previously to the

destruction of Jerusalem. But he will burn up the chaff-the

disobedient and rebellions Jews, who would not come unto Christ,

that they might have life.

Unquenchable fire.] That cannot be extinguished by man.

Verse 14. John forbad him] Earnestly and pressingly opposed

him: this is the proper import of the words διεκωλευεναυτον.

I have observed that δια, in composition, most frequently, if not

always, strengthens the signification in classic authors.


Verse 15. To fulfil all righteousness.] That is, Every

righteous ordinance: so I think the words πασανδικαιοσυνην should

be translated; and so our common version renders a similar word,

Lu 1:6.

The following passage, quoted from Justin Martyr, will doubtless

appear a strong vindication of this translation. "Christ was

circumcised, and observed all the other ordinances of the law of

Moses, not with a view to his own justification; but to fulfil the

dispensation committed to him by the Lord, the God and Creator of

all things."- Wakefield.

How remarkable are the following words of Creeshna (an

Incarnation of the Supreme God, according to the Hindoo theology)

related in the Bhagvat Geeta, p. 47. Addressing his disciple

Arjoon, he says, "I myself, Arjoon, have not, in the three regions

of the universe, any thing which is necessary for me to perform;

nor any thing to obtain, which is not obtained; and yet I live in

the exercise of the moral duties. If I were not vigilantly to

attend to those duties, all men would presently follow my example.

If I were not to perform the moral actions, this world would fail

in their duties: I should be the cause of spurious births, and

should drive the people from the right way. As the ignorant

perform the duties of life from a hope of reward, so the wise man,

out of respect to the opinions and prejudices of mankind, should

perform the same without motives of interest. The wise man, by

industriously performing all the duties of life, should induce the

vulgar to attend to them."

The Septuagint use this word often for the Hebrew mishpat,

judgment, appointment. And in Eze 18:19, 21, the person who

δικαιοσυνηνκαιελεοςπεποιηκε-hath done righteousness and

mercy, is he who sacredly attended to the performance of all the

religious ordinances mentioned in that chapter, and performed them

in the genuine spirit of mercy. δικαιωματα is used 1Mac 1:13, 49;

2:21, and in Heb 10:1, 10, to denote religious ceremonies.

Michaelis supposes that kol chok, all religious statutes or

ordinances, were the words used in the Hebrew original of this


But was this an ordinance? Undoubtedly: it was the initiatory

ordinance of the Baptist's dispensation. Now, as Christ had

submitted to circumcision, which was the initiatory ordinance of

the Mosaic dispensation, it was necessary that he should submit to

this, which was instituted by no less an authority, and was the

introduction to his own dispensation of eternal mercy and truth.

But it was necessary on another account: Our Lord represented the

high priest, and was to be the high priest over the house of God:-

now, as the high priest was initiated into his office by washing

and anointing, so must Christ: and hence he was baptized, washed,

and anointed by the Holy Ghost. Thus he fulfilled the righteous

ordinance of his initiation into the office of high priest, and

thus was prepared to make an atonement for the sins of mankind.

Then he suffered him.] In the Opus Imperfectum, quoted by

Griesbach, there is the following addition, which, at least, may

serve to show the opinion of its author: Et Johannes quidem

baptizauit ilium in aqua, ille autem Johannem cum Spiritu. "Then

John baptized him with water, and he baptized John with the


Verse 16. The heavens were opened unto him] That is, to John

the Baptist-and he, John, saw the Spirit of God-lighting upon him,

i.e. Jesus. There has been some controversy about the manner and

form in which the Spirit of God rendered itself visible on this

occasion. St. Luke, Lu 3:22,

says it was in a bodily shape like to a dove: and this likeness to

a dove some refer to a hovering motion, like to that of a dove,

and not to the form of the dove itself: but the terms of the text

are too precise to admit of this far-fetched interpretation.

This passage affords no mean proof of the doctrine of the

Trinity. That three distinct persons are here, represented,

there can be no dispute. 1. The person of Jesus Christ, baptized

by John in Jordan. 2. The person of the Holy Ghost in a bodily

shape, (σωματικωειδει, Lu 3:22) like a dove.

3. The person of the Father; a voice came out of heaven, saying,

This is my beloved Son, &c. The voice is here represented as

proceeding from a different place to that in which the persons of

the Son and Holy Spirit were manifested; and merely, I think, more

forcibly to mark this Divine personality.

Verse 17. In whom I am well pleased.] ενωενδακησα in whom I

have delighted-though it is supposed that the past tense is here

used for the present: but See Clarke on Mt 17:5. By this

voice, and overshadowing of the Spirit, the mission of the Lord

Jesus was publicly and solemnly accredited; God intimating that he

had before delighted in him: the law, in all its ordinances,

having pointed him out, for they could not be pleasing to God, but

as they were fulfilled in, and showed forth, the Son of man, till,

he came.

As the office of a herald is frequently alluded to in this

chapter, and also in various other parts of the New Testament, I

think it best to give a full account of it here, especially as the

office of the ministers of the Gospel is represented by it. Such

persons can best apply the different correspondences between their

own and the herald's office.

At the Olympic and Isthmian games, heralds were persons of the

utmost consequence and importance. Their office was:-

1. To proclaim from a scaffold, or elevated place, the combat

that was to be entered on.

2. To summon the Agonistae, or contenders, to make their

appearance, and to announce their names.

3. To specify the prize for which they were to contend.

4. To admonish and animate, with appropriate discourses, the

athletae, or combatants.

5. To set before them, and explain, the laws of the agones, or

contenders; that they might see that even the conqueror could not

receive the crown or prize, unless he had strove lawfully.

6. After the conflict was ended, to bring the business before

the judges, and, according to their determination, to proclaim the


7. To deliver the prize to the conqueror, and to put the crown

on his head, in the presence of the assembly.

8. They were the persons who convoked all solemn and religious

assemblies, and brought forth, and often slew, the sacrifices

offered on those occasions.

9. They frequently called the attention of the people, during

the sacrifices, to the subject of devotion, with hoc age!

τουτοπραττε: mind what you are about, don't be idle; think of

nothing else. See PLUTARCH in Coriolanus.

The office, and nearly the word itself, was in use among the

ancient Babylonians, as appears from Da 3:4, where the Chaldee

word caroza, is rendered by the Septuagint κηρυξ kerux,

and by our translation, very properly, herald. His business in

the above place was to call an assembly of the people, for the

purpose of public worship; to describe the object and nature

of that worship, and the punishment to be inflicted on those who

did not join in the worship, and properly assist in the

solemnities of the occasion.

Da 3:4,

is the only place in our translation, in which the word herald

is used: but the word κηρυξ, used by St. Paul, 1Ti 2:7;

2Ti 1:11, and by St. Peter, 2Pe 3:5, is found in the

Septuagint, Ge 41:43, as well as in Da 3:4, and the verb

κηρυσσω is found in different places of that version, and in a

great number of places in the New Testament.

It is worthy of remark, that the office of the κηρυξ, kerux, or

herald, must have been anciently known, and indeed established,

among the Egyptians: for in Ge 41:43, where an account is given

of the promotion of Joseph to the second place in the kingdom,

where we say, And they cried before him, saying, Bow the knee; the

Septuagint has καιεκηρυξενεμπροσθεναυτουκηρυξ. And a HERALD

made proclamation before him. As the Septuagint translated this

for Ptolemy Philadelphus, the Egyptian king, and were in Egypt

when they translated the law, we may safely infer that the office

was not only known, but in use among the Egyptians, being

denominated in their language abrek, which our translators,

following the Vulgate, have rendered, Bow the knee; but which the

Septuagint understood to be the title of an officer, who was the

same among the Egyptians as the κηρυξ among the Greeks. This is a

probable meaning of the word, which escaped me when I wrote the

note on Ge 41:43.

As every kind of office had some peculiar badge, or ensign, by

which it was known among the ancients, so the heralds were known

by generally carrying a caduceus. This was a rod with two spread

wings at the top, and about which two serpents were entwined.

The poets fabled that this rod was given by Apollo, the god of

wisdom and music, to Mercury, the god of eloquence, and the

messenger of the gods. To it wonderful properties are ascribed-

especially that it produces sleep, and that it raises the dead.

Who does not at once see, that the caduceus and its properties

clearly point out the office, honour, and influence of the

herald? As persons of strong voice, and ready speech, and

copious eloquence, were always chosen for heralds, they were

represented as endued with wisdom and eloquence from above. They

lulled men to sleep, i.e. by their persuasive powers of speech,

they calmed the turbulent dispositions of an inflamed populace,

when proceeding to acts of rebellion and anarchy; or they roused

the dormant zeal of the community, who, through long oppression,

despairing of succour or relief, seemed careless about their best

interests being stupidly resolved to sink under their burdens, and

expect release only in death.

As to the caduceus itself, it was ever the emblem of peace among

the ancients: the rod was the emblem of power; the two serpents,

of wisdom and prudence; and the two wings, of diligence and

despatch. The first idea of this wonderful rod seems to have been

borrowed from the rod of Moses. See Clarke on Ex 4:17.

The word κηρυξ kerux, or herald, here used, is evidently

derived from κηρυσσειν, to proclaim, call aloud; and this from

γηρυς, the voice; because these persons were never employed in any

business, but such only as could not be transacted but by the

powers of speech, and the energy of ratiocination.

For the derivation of the word herald, we must look to the

northern languages. Its meaning in Junius, Skinner, and Minshieu,

are various, but not essentially different; they all seem to point

out different parts of the herald's office. 1. In the Belgic,

heer signifies army. Hence heer-alt, a senior officer, or

general, in the army. 2. Or heer-held, the hero of the

army: he who had distinguished himself most in his country's

behalf. 3. Or from the Gallo-teutonic herr-haut, the high lord,

because their persons were so universally respected, as we have

already seen. 4. Or from the simple Teutonic herr-hold, he who is

faithful to his lord. And, lastly, according to Minshieu, from

the verb hier-holden, stop here; because, in proclaiming peace,

they arrested bloodshed and death, and prevented the farther

progress of war.

These officers act an important part in all heroic history, and

particularly in the Iliad and Odyssey, from which, as the subject

is of so much importance, I shall make a few extracts.

I. Their character was sacred. Homer gives them the epithet of

divine, θειοι.


κηρυκοςθειοι. Iliad x. 315.

"Dolon, son of Eumedes, the divine herald." They were also

termed inviolable, ασυλοι; also, great, admirable, &c. In the

first book of the Iliad, we have a proof of the respect paid to

heralds, and the inviolability of their persons. Agamemnon

commands the heralds, Talthybius and Eurybates, his faithful

ministers, to go to the tent of Achilles, seize the young Briseis,

and bring her to him. They reluctantly obey; but, when they come

into the presence of Achilles, knowing the injustice of their

master's cause, they are afraid to announce their mission.

Achilles, guessing their errand, thus addresses them:-

χαιρετεκηρυκεςδιοςαγγελοιηδεκαιανδρων. κτλ

"Hail, O ye heralds, messengers of God and of men! come forward.

I cannot blame you-Agamemnon only is culpable, who has sent you

for the beautiful Briseis. But come, O godlike Patroclus, bring

forth the damsel, and deliver her to them, that they may lead her

away," &c., Iliad i. 334, &c.

II. Their functions were numerous; they might enter without

danger into besieged cities, or even into battles.

III. They convoked the assemblies of the leaders, according to

the orders they received from the general or king.

IV. They commanded silence, when kings were to address the

assembly, (Iliad xviii. 503. κηρυκεςδαραλαωνεσητυον. See

also Iliad ii. 280,) and delivered the sceptre into their hands,

before they began their harangue.



Iliad xxiii. 567.

V. They were the carriers and executors of the royal commands,

(Iliad i. 320,) and went in search of those who were summoned to

appear, or whose presence was desired.

VI. They were entrusted with the most important missions; and

accompanied princes in the most difficult circumstances. Priam,

when he went to Achilles, took no person besides a herald with

him. (Iliad xxiv. 674, 689.) When Ulysses sent two of his

companions to treat with the Lestrygons, he sent a herald at the

same time. (Odys. x. 102.) Agamemnon, when he wished to soften

Achilles, joined Eurybates and Hodius, his heralds, to the

deputation of the princes. (Iliad ix. 170.)

VII. Heralds were employed to proclaim and publish whatever was

to be known by the people. (Odys. xx. 276.)

VIII. They declared war and proclaimed peace. (Odys. xviii.


IX. They took part in all sacred ceremonies: they mingled the

wine and water in the large bowls for the libations, which were

made at the conclusion of treaties. They were the priests of the

people in many cases; they led forth the victims, cut them in

pieces, and divided them among those engaged in the sacrifices.

(Odys. i. 109, &c.)

X. In Odyssey lib. xvii., a herald presents a piece of flesh to

Telemachus, and pours out his wine.

XI. They sometimes waited on princes at table, and rendered them

many other personal services. (Iliad ii. 280; Odys. i. 143, &c.,

146, 153; ii. 6,38.) In the Iliad, lib. x. 3, Eurybates carries

the clothes to Ulysses. And a herald of Alcinous conducts

Demodocus, the singer, into the festive hall. (Odys. viii. 470.)

Many others of their functions, services, and privileges, the

reader may see, by consulting DAMM'S Homeric Lexicon, under κρω.

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