Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Luke 3:20

Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - John;   Prisoners;   Reproof;   The Topic Concordance - Baptism;   Holy Spirit;   Jesus Christ;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Genealogy;   Mary;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - John the baptist;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Baptism ;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Aretas;   Dungeon;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Gospels;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Herod;   John;   Luke, Gospel of;   Prison, Prisoners;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - John the Baptist;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Herod ;   John the Baptist;   Prisoner;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Mat'that;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Ark;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Anitipas;   Baptism;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Herodias;   Jesus Christ (Part 2 of 2);   John the Baptist;   Prison;   Punishments;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Christianity in Its Relation to Judaism;  

The Biblical Illustrator

Luke 3:18; Luk_3:20

He shut up John in prison

Herod Antipas

The view here given of the character, conduct, and history of Herod Antipas is full of matter for awful reflection and serious admonition.

1. The mysteriousness of the ways of Providence. That a man so worthless should be permitted to cut short the labours and the life of so holy and useful a character, and that, too, in order to gratify the revenge of an abandoned adulteress, and to reward the vain exhibition of a giddy damsel, must, no doubt, at first appear strange. Yet the anger of God overtook: he persecutors before they left this world; and as for the holy sufferer, his work was done; and it was easy for his Lord to recompense to him his temporal sorrows a hundredfold in the world of glory.

2. The danger of power without grace. It is common to wish for power, and to envy those in whose hands it is; but when it is held without principle, it is fraught with peril, not only to those over whom it is exercised, but to those by whom it is possessed. They are generally borne away by the temptations which it presents to the gratification of caprice, luxury, covetousness, oppression, revenge, and every evil passion; and however prosperous their career may seem for a season, their end is generally destruction, and their memory is abhorred.

3. What is sin in the meanest is also sin in the highest. The judgment of God is impartial, and in every case He will render to each according to his deeds.

4. An awful commentary on human depravity.

5. The dreadful consequences which often result from the violation of the seventh commandment, and from intemperance.

6. We should learn to take reproof in good part. Well had it been for Herod if he had submitted to John’s rebuke and acted on it.

7. Sin, when pointed out, must be renounced. This man reverenced John, and yet lived and died in sin. Let us not do as he did. (James Foote, M. A.)

John’s rebuke of Herod

The life of John the Baptist divides itself into three distinct periods. Of the first, we are told that he was in the deserts until his showing unto Israel. This period lasted thirty years. The second is a shorter one. It comprises the few months of his public ministry. In the third we are to consider him as the tenant of a compelled solitude, in the dungeon of a capricious tyrant. A rare man, one of God’s heroic ones, a true conqueror; one whose life and motives it is hard to understand without feeling warmly and enthusiastically about them. One of the very highest characters, rightly understood, of all the Bible. In the verse which is to serve us for our guidance on this subject there are two branches which will afford us fruit of contemplation.

I. THE TRUTHFULNESS OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. “Herod being reproved by John for Herodias.” There are three things we remark in this truthfulness of John.

1. Its straightforwardness.

2. Its unconsciousness.

3. Its unselfishness.

II. THE APPARENT FAILURE OF CHRISTIAN LIFE. “Shut up John in prison.” The first thought which suggests itself is that a magnificent career is cut short too soon. At the very outset of ripe and experienced manhood the whole thing ends in failure. John’s day of active usefulness is over. The crowds that listened to his voice, we hear of them no more. Herod heard John gladly, did much good by reason of his influence. What was all that worth? The prophet comes to himself in a dungeon, and wakes to the conviction, that his influence had told much in the way of commanding attention, and even winning reverence, but very little in the way of gaining souls-the bitterest, the most crushing discovery in the whole circle of ministerial experience. All this was seeming failure. And this, brethren, is the picture of almost all human life. In the isolation of John’s dying hour there appears failure again. The martyr of truth dies privately in Herod’s dungeon. We have no record of his last words. There were no crowds to look on. We cannot describe how he received his sentence. Was he calm? Was he agitated? Did he bless his murderer? Did he give utterance to any deep reflections on human life? All that is shrouded in silence. He bowed his head, and the sharp stroke fell flashing down. We know that, we know no more--apparently a noble life abortive. And now--

III. Let us ask the question--WAS ALL THIS INDEED FAILURE? NO, it was sublimest victory. John’s work was no failure. He left behind him no sect to which he had given his name, but his disciples passed into the service of Christ, and were absorbed in the Christian Church. Words from John had made impressions, and men forgot in after years where the impressions first came from, but the day of judgment will not forget. John laid the foundations of a temple, and others built upon it. He laid it in struggle, in martyrdom. It was covered up like the rough masonry below ground, but when we look round on the vast Christian Church, we are looking at the superstructure of John’s toil. There is a lesson for us all in that, if we will learn it. Work, true work, done honestly and manfully for Christ, never can be a failure. We are treading upon a bridge of martyrs. The suffering was theirs--the victory is ours.

IV. In conclusion, we make three remarks.

1. Let young and ardent minds, under the first impressions of religion, beware how they pledge themselves by any open profession to more than they can perform.

2. We get from this subject the doctrine of a resurrection. John’s life was hardness, his end was agony. Be content to feel that this world is not your home. Homeless upon earth; try more and more to make your home in heaven, above with Christ.

3. Devotedness to Christ is our only blessedness. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

John Baptist’s imprisonment

Josephus gives some interesting particulars respecting the imprisonment and murder of the Baptist, which are not supplied in the gospel history. Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, was at that time tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, and had married the daughter of Aretas, an Arabian king, whose territories abutted on his own. When he was at Rome, however, he stayed at the house of his half-brother Philip, whose wife Herodias he conceived a passion for. Antipas made known his passion, and Herodias readily enough consented to leave Philip and go with him. The daughter of Aretas was divorced, and Herodias duly installed in her place. John the Baptist had the courage to denounce this infamous marriage; and by and by Herod Antipas, under pretence that he feared John’s popularity with the multitude might lead to disturbances, apprehended and imprisoned him. John was sent to Machaerus, or M’Khaur, on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, where Herod had both a city and fortress. The site and ruins of Machaerus were identified by Canon Tristram in his visit to the Land of Moab in 1872. It was from this spot, then, that John sent two of his disciples to Christ to ask, “Art Thou He that should come?” And it was here that Salome, the daughter of Herodias, danced before Antipas, and won for her infamous mother the head of John the Baptist. (Biblical Things Not Generally Known.)

John like Elijah

As the first Elijah reproved King Ahab for the murder of Naboth and the seizure of his vineyard, so the second Elijah rebuked King Herod for his lust. (W. Bull.)

Reproving a king

Dr. Hickington, chaplain to Charles II., used to preach at the king’s vices. This the king took to himself; and so, one day, he said, “Doctor, you and I ought to be better friends; give up being so sharp on me, and see if I don’t mend on your hand.” “Well, well,” quoth the doctor, “I’ll make it up with your Majesty on these terms: as you mend, I’ll mend.”

The king reproved

It is said that Henry the Great of France took much pleasure in conversing with an honest and religious man of low situation in life, who used great freedom with his Majesty. One day he said to the king, “Sire, I always take your part when I hear any man speaking evil of you; I know that you excel in justice and generosity, and that many worthy things have been done by you. But you have one vice for which God will condemn you, if you do not repent--I mean the unlawful love of women.” The king, it is said, was too magnanimous to resent this reproof, but he long felt it like an arrow in his bosom; and sometimes said that the most eloquent discourses of the doctors of the Sorbonne had never made such an impression on his soul as this honest reproof from his humble friend.

Excommunicating a prince

William IX., Duke of Aquitaine and Earl of Polctiers, was a violent and dissolute prince, and often indulged himself in improper behaviour at the expense of religion. Though he had contracted a very suitable marriage, and one with which he was satisfied for some time, he parted from his wife without reason, to marry another who pleased him better. The Bishop of Polctiers, by name Peter, could not brook so great a scandal; and having employed all other means in vain, he thought it his duty to excommunicate the duke. As he began to pronounce the anathema, William furiously advanced, sword in hand, saying, “Thou art dead if thou proceedest.” The bishop, as if afraid, required a few moments to consider what was most expedient. The duke granted it, and the bishop courageously finished the rest of the formula of excommunication. After which, extending his neck, “Now, strike,” said he, “I am quite ready.” The astonishment which this intrepid conduct produced in the duke disarmed his fury, and saying, ironically, “I don’t like you well enough to send you to heaven,” he contented himself with banishing him.

Moral courage

Dr. Harris, the minister of Hanwell, during the Civil Wars, frequently had military officers quartered at his house. A party of them, being unmindful of the reverence due to the holy name of God, indulged themselves in swearing. The doctor noticed this, and on the following Sunday preached from these words--“Above all things, my brethren, swear not.” This so enraged the soldiers, who judged the sermon was intended for them, that they swore they would shoot him if he preached on the subject again. He was not, however, to be intimidated; and, on the following Sunday, he not only preached from the same text, but inveighed in still stronger terms against the vice of swearing. As he was preaching a soldier levelled his carabine at him; but he went on to the conclusion of his sermon, without the slightest fear or hesitation.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 3:20". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/luke-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Added yet this above all,.... This sin to all other sins, and which was of a more flagitious nature; and attended with more aggravating circumstances, especially in the issue of it:

that he shut up John in prison; in the castle of Machaerus, by the instigation of Herodias; See Gill on Matthew 14:3.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/luke-3.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Added yet, etc. — (Also see on Matthew 3:12).

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/luke-3.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Added (προσετηκενprosethēken). First aorist active indicative (kappa aorist). Common verb (προστιτημιprostithēmi) in all Greek. In N.T. chiefly in Luke and Acts. Hippocrates used it of applying wet sponges to the head and Galen of applying a decoction of acorns. There is no evidence that Luke has a medical turn to the word here. The absence of the conjunction οτιhoti (that) before the next verb κατεκλεισενkatekleisen (shut up) is asyndeton. This verb literally means shut down, possibly with a reference to closing down the door of the dungeon, though it makes sense as a perfective use of the preposition, like our “shut up” without a strict regard to the idea of “down.” It is an old and common verb, though here and Acts 26:10 only in the N.T. See note on Matthew 14:3 for further statement about the prison.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/luke-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

He shut up John — This circumstance, though it happened after, is here mentioned before our Lord's baptism, that his history (that of John being concluded) may then follow without any interruption.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/luke-3.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

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 his condemnation.

  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 the ministry of John the Baptist is variously estimated at from fourteen to eighteen months.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/luke-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

Ver. 20. Added yet this] There is no stint in sin; but as one wedge makes way for another, so here. As after Jonathan and his armourbearer, came the whole host, so.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/luke-3.html. 1865-1868.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Luke 3:20. προσέθηκε, added) Persecution is an additional aggravation of sins. [By it in fact the full measure of one’s sins is filled up, when salutary warnings are despised or are repaid by absolutely evil deeds against the monitor.—V. g.]— κατέκλεισε, he shut up) This is mentioned here before the baptism of Christ; and therefore seems to have reproved Herod at the first possible opportunity. Afterwards follows immediately the uninterrupted history of Jesus Christ.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/luke-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

See Poole on "Luke 3:19"

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 3:20". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/luke-3.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

заключил Иоанна в темницу На самом деле, это событие произошло гораздо позже, во время служения Иисуса (Ин. 3:22-24; Мф. 14:1-12). Но Лука расположил свой материал по Иоанну Крестителю скорее тематически, чем хронологически (см. во Введении: Исторический фон и предпосылки написания).

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Bibliographical Information
MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/luke-3.html.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Luke 3:20. , added this also to all his misdeeds, and above all the crowning iniquity, and yet Lk. forbears to mention the damning sin of Herod, the beheading of the Baptist, contenting himself with noting the imprisonment. He either assumes knowledge of the horrid tale, or shrinks from it as too gruesome.— : instead of the infinitive; the paratactic style savours of Hebrew, and suggests a Hebrew source (Godet).

 

 

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Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/luke-3.html. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Added. Greek. prostithemi. A medical word in the sense of apply or administer, used by Luke thirteen times; in the rest of the N.T. five times.

yet this = this also.

above = to. Greek. epi. App-104.

prison. The fortress of Machaerus, on the borders of Arabia north of the Dead Sea (Josephus, Antiquities bk. xviii. ch. v 2).

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Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/luke-3.html. 1909-1922.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.
13:31-34; 2 Kings 21:16; 24:4; 2 Chronicles 24:17-22; 36:16; Nehemiah 9:26; Jeremiah 2:30; Matthew 21:35-41; 22:6,7; 23:31-33; 1 Thessalonians 2:15,16; Revelation 16:6
Reciprocal: 1 Kings 13:4 - his hand;  1 Kings 22:27 - Put this fellow;  2 Chronicles 16:10 - put him;  2 Chronicles 18:26 - Put;  Jeremiah 22:1 - Go;  Jeremiah 26:19 - Thus;  Jeremiah 38:6 - took;  Matthew 4:12 - when;  Matthew 14:3 - Herod;  Matthew 17:12 - but;  Mark 1:14 - after;  Mark 6:17 - Herod;  Mark 9:13 - and they;  Luke 13:32 - that fox;  John 3:24 - GeneralActs 13:1 - Herod

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Luke 3:20". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/luke-3.html.