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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament
Matthew 3



Other Authors
Verse 1

Matthew 3:1. ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, in those days) In the Evangelistaries1(112) this formula merely denotes the commencement of an extract; but in the Gospels it has a more definite meaning. In the present case it signifies, “whilst Jesus was dwelling at Nazareth.”—See ch. Matthew 2:23.(113) An interval of time is denoted between the events last recorded and those now mentioned, not short, yet not remarkable for any great change.— παραγίνεται, cometh) This word is pleasantly repeated at Matthew 3:13 : the LXX. frequently introduce it in the present tense.— κηρύσσων, preaching) sc. loudly. The expression in Matthew 3:3, φωνὴ βοῶντος (the voice of one crying), agrees with this. The words βαπτιστὴς, the Baptist, and κηρύσσων, preaching, declare the two parts of John’s office.— ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, in the wilderness) See Matthew 3:3.

Verse 2

Matthew 3:2. ΄ετανοεῖτε, repent ye) A lovely word (see verses 8, 11), implying change your disposition, put on a disposition royal, heavenly, worthy the kingdom of heaven.(114) Thus Jesus Christ Himself, thus His apostles commenced their preaching: thus the Lord commanded John to write at the commencement of the Apocalypse.— βασιλεία, the kingdom) See Gnomon on ch. Matthew 4:17.— τῶν οὐρανῶν, of the Heavens) expressed in the plural number agreeably with the Hebrew שמים.(115) This phrase βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, the kingdom of the Heavens,(116) is peculiar to Matthew, who employed it that he might cure the Jews, for whom he was writing, of the notion of an earthly kingdom.

Verse 3

Matthew 3:3. οὗτος, κ. τ. λ., this, etc.) There are many circumstances recorded in the New Testament, which had been predicted in the Old.— γαρ, for) The reason why it was necessary that John should thus arise at that time (as is described in verses 1, 2), was, that it had been so predicted.— φωνὴ, κ. τ. λ., a voice, etc.) See Gnomon on Luke 3:4. “A voice,” i.e., “it is a voice.”— βοῶντος, of one crying(117)) i.e., of John. An analogous phrase occurs in Romans 10:15, viz., οἱ πόδες τῶν εὐαγγελιζομένων, the feet of them that preach.— ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, in the wilderness) Not in the temple, or the synagogues. Some construe this passage thus, “Prepare ye in the wilderness, etc,” because the accents(118) in the original Hebrew of Isaiah require it to be so construed there. But if such had been the evangelist’s meaning, he would subsequently have expressed, in equivalent terms, the parallel phrase בערבה, in the desert.(119) As the passage stands, the expressions, “preaching in the wilderness,” in Matthew 3:1, and “a voice of one crying in the wilderness,” in Matthew 3:3, correspond with each other. It comes to the same thing: for where there is the voice, there also are the hearers who are commanded to prepare the way, and there is the Coming of the Lord. St Matthew, also, in ch. Matthew 4:15, contains something different from the Hebrew accents.—Cf. Gnomon on Hebrews 3:7.— τἠν ὁδὸν, the way) There is one primary way, and this includes many tracks, τρίβους.— κυρίου, of the Lord) The Hebrew יהוה, Jehovah, for which the Hebrews of later ages substituted אדני, Adonai, is rendered by the LXX. κύριος, Lord. In this passage Christ is intended. The appellation κύριος, Lord, when applied to Christ in the New Testament, has various meanings, according to the variety of circumstances, times, and speakers. In passages quoted from the Old Testament it frequently corresponds to the names יהוה and אדני, of which the one expresses His majesty as the Son of God, the other, His glory also as the Messiah. Men amongst whom He walked addressed Him thus with various purport, according to the various extent of their faith. From that time forward, the apostles, and the faithful in general, frequently employed this appellation with reference to His dominion and authority over His own followers, and over all things beside, even in His state of humiliation, ἐκένωσε, He emptied Himself—rendered in E. V., made Himself of no reputation.—(I. B.)">(120) but rather in His state of exaltation: in which cases the pronoun “my” is sometimes added, which is never joined with the tetragrammaton יהוה.— εὐθείας) straight.

Verse 4

Matthew 3:4. αὐτὸς δὲ ἰωάννης, κ. τ. λ., And the same John, etc.) A remarkable description. Even the dress and food of John preached, being in accordance with his teaching and office. Such as should be that of penitents, such was always that of this minister of penitence.—Cf. Gnomon on ch. Matthew 9:14, and Matthew 11:18.— ἀπὸ τριχῶν καμήλου, of camels’ hair) His dress was mean,(121) and rough, and coarsely woven.—Cf. Mark 1:6.— καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, and a girdle of skin around his loins) Thus the LXX. in 2 Kings 1:8, of Elijah, καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περιεζωσμένος τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, and girt around his loins with a girdle of skin. The girdle of John, like that of Elijah, was not of leather, but of skin rudely dressed. It is not without object that Scripture records the dress of many saints, of the Baptist, and of Jesus Christ Himself.— τροφὴ, food) We gather the nature of his drink from Luke 1:15.— ἀκρίδες, locusts) IN Leviticus 11:22, the LXX. render חגב (an animal which the Jews were permitted to eat), by ἀκρίς, locust.— μέλι ἄγριον, wild honey) flowing spontaneously.—See 1 Samuel 14:25.—Locusts might sometimes fail.

Verse 5

Matthew 3:5. πᾶσα, all) i.e., from all parts.

Verse 6

Matthew 3:6. ἐβαπτίζοντο, received baptism) The verb is in the middle voice.— ἐξομολογούμενοι, confessing) The preposition ἐξ denotes that they confessed their sins freely and expressly, not merely in the ear of John. A true confession mentions even individual sins (as formerly in the case of sin-offerings), although it does not enumerate them one by one. It holds the just mean between the lax abuse of a general formula and the narrow strictness of auricular confession. Thus it relieves the soul. At the Baptism of Repentance men confessed their sins, at the Baptism of Christ they confessed Christ.

Verse 7

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.

Verse 8

Matthew 3:8. ποιήσατε, produceκαρπὸν ἄξιον, worthy fruit) Orige(122) remarks, that in St Matthew worthy fruit is required in the singular number from the Pharisees and Sadducees; whereas, in St Luke, worthy fruits are required in the plural number from the people. I do not myself see what difference it makes in the matter. The singular καρπὸς, fruit, is often used collectively; and in the preaching of St John it may be opposed to barrenness: in the plural number, it implies fecundity. Men are here represented as trees; and the fruit is, therefore, their repentance.— τῆς μετανοίας, of repentance) Construe these words with καρπὸν.(123) Thus, in Acts 26:20, we read ἄξια τῆς μετανοὶας ἔργα.— μετάνοια, repentance, is an entire change of character,(124) and a renunciation of all that is evil, by which renunciation we wish that evil void or undone.

Verse 9

Matthew 3:9. ΄ὴ δόξητε, think not) The verb δοκῶ, to appear or imagine (in the same manner as φάσκω, to allege or suppose, the particle ὡς, as; and the Latin expressions, præ mefero, to profess; ostendo, to declare; puto, to suppose; videor, to seem; apparet, it appears; species, appearance), sometimes denotes a thing which is true, and at the same apparent; sometimes an empty appearance, which any one presents to himself or others. And thus the meaning in this passage is, “You may indeed say this, in some degree, with truth, but you must not plume yourselves upon it.”(125)λέγειν, to say) i.e. with safety.— τὸν ἀβραὰμ, Abraham) as there is no lack of his posterity.— λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν, for I say unto you) A most solemn formula, employed by a great man, on an occasion of the highest importance.—Cf. Gnomon on ch. Matthew 5:18.— δύναται, is able) The Jews supposed that they could not fall utterly away.— ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων, from these stones) and from any other material, as He produced Adam from the clod. God is not tied to the law of succession in the Church.— τούτων, these) The stones to which John pointed were perhaps those which had been placed there in the time of Joshua, that they might be for a testimony that the people of Israel had crossed the river Jordan, and entered the Land of Promise, and that they owed the land, not to themselves, but to God. The words sound like a proverbial expression, as well as those in Luke 19:40.— τέκνα, children) i.e. according to the spirit. They were indeed children according to the flesh, who are called nevertheless broods of vipers.

Verse 10

Matthew 3:10. ἤδη δὲ, but now) Placed in opposition(126) to μελλόυσης, which is to come, in Matthew 3:7.— καὶ, κ. τ. λ., also, etc) Where grace manifests itself, there also is wrath shown to the ungrateful. It is not only possible that you should be punished, but also punishment is nigh at hand.— τὴν ῥίζαν, the root) The axe was aimed not merely at the branches, but at the root itself.— τῶν δὲνδρων, of the trees) i.e. the Jews (see Luke 13:7-9), in comparison with whom the Gentiles were mere stones.— κεῖται, lies) Although the blow has not yet begun to be struck.— ἑκκόπτεται, is being cut down) The present tense is used, to show that there will be no delay.— πῦρ, fire) See Hebrews 6:8.

Verse 11

Matthew 3:11. ὑμᾶς, you) John, therefore, did not exclude the Pharisees from baptism.— ἐν ὕδατι, in water) The conclusion of the verse corresponds with this part of it. John, however, depreciates not so much his baptism as himself. And again, in this place alone, is that fire mentioned in contradistinction to water, whereas the Holy Spirit is mentioned in every case.— εἰς μετανόιαν, for repentance) This portion of the verse corresponds with Matthew 3:12.— δὲ, but) The contrast does not apply only to those who confer, but to those also who receive baptism (See Acts 1:5, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost), and also to the different times.— ὀπίσω μου, after me) It was fitting that John should be born a little before the Messiah.— ἐρχομένος, that cometh) sc. immediately; see Matthew 3:13.— ἰσχυρότερός μου, mightier than I) One whom you ought to fear and to worship, rather than me, who am feeble. John teaches, both here and in Matthew 3:12, that his power is not great; whereas that of Christ, as God, is infinite.(127) He does not say directly, “Messiah cometh after me,” but expresses it by a paraphrase more obscurely, and yet more augustly. John, moreover, said this at the time when he possessed the greatest power; see Acts 13:25.— βαστάσαι, to bear) As a servant bears the shoes, which his master has either called for, or commanded to be taken away.—Cf. Psalms 60:8.— αὐτος, He) Believe on Him: see Acts 19:4.— ὑμᾶς, you) sc. as many as shall receive Him.— βαπτίσει, shall baptize) i.e. abundantly impart; see Titus 3:6; Acts 2:3-4; Acts 2:17; Acts 10:44; and shall thereby show Himself the mightier. The Holy Spirit and fire have the greatest power.— ἐν, κ. τ. λ., in, etc.) This was the difference between John and Christ; see John 1:33.— πνεύματι ἁγίῳ, the Holy Ghost) See Gnomon on Luke 3:16.— καὶ πυρὶ, and with fire) St Luke has these words, though St Mark has not: even, therefore, were the reading doubtful in St Matthew, there would be no danger;(128) it is certain, however, that he also wrote καὶ πυρὶ. The Holy Spirit, with which Christ baptizes, has a fiery power, and that fiery power was manifested to the eyes of men; see Acts 2:3.

Verse 12

Matthew 3:12. οὖ, whose) This, and αὐτοῦ, His, being placed emphatically thrice, shows the power of Christ. οὗαὐτοῦ is a Hebraism.— τὸ πτύον, the fan) i.e. the Gospel.— ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ, in His hand) even now. The whole of John’s harangue, and therefore the commencement of the Gospel, agrees entirely with the last clause of Old Testament prophecy, in Mal. 3:19–24, where the connection of things from Moses to the conclusion of ancient prophecy, and thence to Christ’s forerunner and Christ Himself, and the day of His universal judgment, is exquisitely and solemnly declared.— αὐτοῦ, His) Neither His forerunner, nor any of His apostles, had this fan in the same manner as the Lord Jesus Himself. The consolation of His ministers in then weakness is, “The Lord will do it.” Their wrath, though void of strength, is not vain.— τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ, His threshing-floor) The wayfarers are in the threshing-floor, the conquerors in the garner.(129)αὐτοῦ, His) See Hebrews 3:6.— καὶ συνάξει τὸν σῖτον αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην, and will gather His wheat into the garner) αὐτου, His, must either be omitted or construed with ἀποθήκην, garner;(130) cf. Matthew 13:30, τὸν δὲ σῖτον συναγάγετε εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην ΄ου, but gather the wheat into My garner. The Same is Lord of the wheat as of the garner: the Same of the garner as of the threshing-floor. See Luke 3:17.— ἄχυρον, chaff) The chaff is held of no(131) account.(132)πυρὶ, with fire) Every one must be either baptized with fire here, or burned with fire hereafter: there is no other alternative.— ἀσβέστῳ, unquenchable) See therefore that your sins be first blotted out. In Job 20:26, the LXX. have πῦρ ἄκαυστοι, incombustible fire [i.e. fire that cannot be burnt out] shall consume the ungodly: or, rather, from the Cod. Alex., ἄσβεστον, unquenchable, unextinguishable (which word would otherwise not be found in the LXX.), so as to render אֵשׁ לא̇ נֻפָּח, fire which can never be extinguished.

Verse 14

Matthew 3:14. διεκώλυεν, forbade) John had not yet known that this was the Messiah. He had known, however, that the Messiah was close at hand, and that He would come to his baptism, and be indicated by a clear sign; see John 1:33. In the meanwhile, as soon as he sees Jesus, from that sympathy by which he had been moved in the womb, and from His most gracious aspect, he judges that this candidate for baptism must be the Messiah, and skilfully declares his conviction by a previous protest.(133) See Luther’s Kirchen Postille, on this passage, Fest. Epiph., Part II., ed. Spen., ff. 95, 96.— ἐγὼ, I) It is probable that John himself had not been baptized: see Luke 1:15, fin.— χρεὶαν, need) For it is elsewhere the part of the greater to baptize, of the less to be baptized, and to come on that account to one who baptizes.— ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι, to be baptized by Thee) sc. with Thy baptism of the Spirit and of fire. If either of us is to be baptized by the other, I am he.— σὺ ἔρκῃ; comest Thou?) sc. seeking to be baptized.

Verse 15

Matthew 3:15. ἄφες, permit) He courteously reduces John to silence. The word ἀφίησιν, he permits, at the end of the verse, refers to this.— ἄρτι, now) sc. without delay, this once.— οὕτω, thus) as I have come to thee.— πρέπον, becoming) That, which did not to John appear becoming, was in reality especially so, because it was righteous. The propriety which is manifested in all the counsels and works of God, claims our attention and admiration. See Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 7:26. The discourses and actions of Christ are pre-eminently conspicuous for that propriety, which, so well expressed by the Evangelists, affords a proof that they wrote under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, since it could not have been the product of human genius, however exalted.— ἡμῖν, to us) Our Lord speaks as if He were not yet fully known by John. It becomes Me, as the principal; thee, as the minister. In the mind of Jesus it might also have this sense, “It becomes Me and My Father that I should fulfil all righteousness.” See Matthew 5:17, and cf. Hebrews 2:10.— πληρῶσαι, to fulfil) all righteousness. This is effected, not by John and Jesus, but by Jesus alone, who undertook that very thing in His baptism; whence the appellation, “baptism,” is transferred also to His passion, Luke 12:50.— πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην, all righteousness) i.e. all the component parts of righteousness; and therefore this part also, the earnest of the other greater parts. In accordance with the particular view of righteousness, it would seem that John should be baptized by Jesus: in accordance with the universal compass of righteousness, the matter was inverted. Jesus uttered the words here recorded, instead of that which others who were baptized, being sinners, confessed concerning their sins. Such a speech suited none save the Messiah Himself. In matters even the most humble, the Son of God watches over the right of His own majesty. See John 13:7, seqq., John 14:30, John 18:5, John 20:36.— τότε, then) sc. forthwith.

Verse 16

Matthew 3:16. ἀνέβη εὐθύς, went up immediately) There was nothing to detain Him longer. Thus also He rose immediately from the dead.— ἰδοὺ, κ. τ. λ., lo, etc.) A novel and great occurrence.— αὐτῷ, to Him) This implies far more than if the Evangelist had said “above Him.”— οἱ οὐρανοὶ, the heavens) in the plural number.

Verse 16-17

Matthew 3:16-17. καὶ, κ. τ. λ., and, etc.) A most glorious manifestation of the Holy Trinity, and a proof of what occurs when we are baptized, since Christ was not baptized for Himself. And He received the Holy Spirit to baptize us with. See John 1:33.— ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν, like a dove) See Genesis 8:10-11.

Verse 17

Matthew 3:17. φωνὴ, κ. τ. λ., a voice, etc.) A most open manifestation of God, such as those recorded in Acts 2:2-3; Exodus 19:4; Exodus 19:9; Exodus 19:16; Exodus 40:34-35; Numbers 16:31; Numbers 16:42; 1 Kings 8:10-11; 1 Kings 18:38.— οὗτός ἐστιν, This is) St Mark and St Luke record that it was said, σὺ εἶ,” “Thou art.” St Matthew has expressed the meaning. The words, οὗτόςεὐδόκησα,” occur again in Matthew 17:5. Faith assents, declaring, “Thou art the Son of God,” as in Matthew 16:16.— , the) The article introduced twice has great emphasis.— υἱὸς, Son) See John 1:18; John 3:16ἀγαπητὸς, beloved) This might appear to be a proper name (cf. ch. Matthew 12:18), so as to produce these two predications: (1.) This is My Son; (2.) He is the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased. It is clear, however, from Luke 3:22, that Beloved is an epithet. Love is something natural, because This is the Son; good-pleasure, something, as it were, additional, because He does the things which please the Father. He is the Beloved, the only one; He shares not the Father’s love with another.— ἐν , in whom) The preposition ἐν, in, indicates especially the object, and then also the cause of the Father’s good-pleasure. The Son is of Himself the object of the Father’s good-pleasure, and in the Son, all persons and all things. A phrase of the LXX.; cf. Gnomon on Colossians 2:18.— εὐδόκησα, I am well pleased) The verb εὐδοκῶ, to be well pleased, and the noun εὐδοκὶα, good-pleasure, are employed when one is pleased either by what one has, or does ones’s self, or by that which another has or does. Both parts of this notion agree with the present passage concerning the good-pleasure of the Father in the Son; for there is an eternal στοργὴ (natural affection) towards the only-begotten, a perpetual graciousness towards the Mediator, and in Him towards us, the sons of reconciliation. In ch. Matthew 27:5, are added the words, αὐτοῦ ἀκούετε,” “Hear Him;” for then He was about to speak of His passion: now they are not added; for, at the commencement of His ministry, He only taught that which the Father spake, “This is My Son.”


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Bibliography Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 3:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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