Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Luke 3:5

‘ Every ravine will be filled , And every mountain and hill will be brought low ; The crooked will become straight , And the rough roads smooth ;
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - John;   Prophecy;   Quotations and Allusions;   Scofield Reference Index - Repentance;   Thompson Chain Reference - Awakenings and Religious Reforms;   Awakenings, Religious;   The Topic Concordance - Crookedness;   John the Baptist;   Salvation;   Seeing;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Valleys;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Genealogy;   Mary;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   John the baptist;   Luke, gospel of;   Prophecy, prophet;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - God;   John the Baptist;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Isaiah, the Book of;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Gospels;   Luke, the Gospel According to;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Luke, Gospel of;   Ordinances;   Wilderness;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - John the Baptist;   Luke, Gospel According to;   Vale, Valley;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Asceticism (2);   Benedictus;   Hill;   Redemption (2);   Septuagint;   Socialism;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Herod, Family of;   Yale, Valley;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Hill;   Rough;   Smooth;   Valley;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Crooked;   Make;   Vale;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Christianity in Its Relation to Judaism;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Every they shall be filled - All hinderances shall be taken out of the way: a quotation from the Greek version of Isaiah 40:4, containing an allusion to the preparations made in rough countries to facilitate the march of mighty kings and conquerors. See the instance produced on Matthew 3:3; (note).

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

The Biblical Illustrator

Luke 3:5

Every valley shall be filled

The King’s highway


1. Inattention.

2. Apathy.

3. Despondency.


1. The mountain of pride must be reduced.

2. The mountain of presumption must be depressed.

God to revive in the Church without exerting themselves to promote a revival.

3. The hills of ingratitude must be brought low.


1. Prejudice.

2. Jealousy.

3. Censoriousness.

4. Covetousness.


1. The ugly rock of Sabbath desecration must be removed.

2. That rut of drunkenness must be filled up.

3. Those sinks of immorality must be filled--lying, cheating, oppression, uncleanness.

4. The rough places of instability must be smoothed. (Prof. F. W. Macdonald, M. A.)

Preparing the way of the Lord

Before John, the wilderness preacher, the mountains of Pharisaic pride were levelled, the valleys of Sadducean unbelief were filled up, the tortuous vices of the courtly Judean were corrected, and the rude ignorance of the Galilean smoothed and reformed. (Canon Liddon.)


(To children.) In ancient times, especially in Eastern lands, when an emperor or king was travelling through his dominions, men were sent before them to prepare the way. Sometimes they had to make a new road through pathless wildernesses and rocky passes, hewing down trees, cutting a level way along steep or rugged hill-sides, clearing away rocks, and making embankments across valleys, and bridges over streams. Or sometimes the old road was overgrown with bushes and brambles, or washed away by floods, or covered with rubbish which the winter storms and swollen torrents had brought down from the mountains. In some Eastern lands, even at this day, travellers tell us how the roads are often so destroyed in the rainy season, that before a governor or high officer of state makes a journey, the highways must be mended and made ready for him to travel speedily and safely. So when the prophet Isaiah was speaking of the coming of the Lord Jesus, he foretold that some one would be sent by God to “prepare the way,” &c. Look at the Gospels and you will see that the messenger whom God sent to prepare the way for His beloved Son was John the Baptist. Now, how did John prepare the way? There were four things which he taught the people, in order to make ready their hearts for the Lord Jesus.




IV. TO HEARKEN TO HIM, AND BELIEVE, LOVE, AND OBEY HIM WHEN HE CAME. NOW, if the Lord Jesus were coming to the place where you live, would you not be glad if you were invited to help to prepare the way for Him? Would you not think it a great honour and happiness to take one stone out of His way? Oh yes! Your heart would dance for joy, and perhaps your feet too. Who would not like to be a pioneer for Jesus, the King of kings? Well, but don’t you know that He really wishes to come; not to pass along the streets, but to come into the homes and hearts of all the people, not to pay a visit, but to dwell there? Then what hinders His coming? Only that people arc not ready for Him. Do you know what God calls a heart that does not love and fear Him? He calls it “ a stony heart” Ezekiel 36:26). Well then, if you do not love and trust and try to obey the Lord Jesus as your own Saviour and King, don’t you see that there is one stone to be taken out of His way? How? Just by coming to Him in prayer to make you truly His. (E. R. Conder, D. D.)

Valley and mountain

Every valley shall be filled; that the people might know what our Lord would do, to exalt the mercy of God to undone sinners, who, like valleys, lay very low under despondency of spirit; John bid them repent, which the law did not admit of. This word repent is a most sweet word, and tends to advance mercy and God’s free grace, and so to fill up those valleys, I mean despairing and desponding sinners. When God sends a messenger to rebels, and commands them to repent and believe, a sweet pardon be sure is comprehended therein; and this tends to fill up or exalt two valleys.

1. The lowly and desponding soul.

2. The mercy of God is exalted, which was one grand design of God in sending His Son to satisfy Divine justice; for mercy and Divine goodness could not be raised to run level with justice, until our Saviour had made a complete satisfaction for our sins.

I. But before I proceed, let it be considered (as I conceive) that the grand obstructions or obstacles which lie in the way of God’s being reconciled to sinners, and of sinners’ reconciliation unto Him, are comprehended by these metaphorical expressions.

1. The haughty Jews and Pharisees, who were swelled with pride; yea, like lifted up high mountains and hills; how did the Pharisee glory, “God, I thank Thee I am not as other men, nor as this publican”?

2. They were like mountains, in respect had to their legal privileges, being God’s covenant people, boasting “They had Abraham to their father, and never were in bondage” (John 8:33). John Baptist in his ministry strove to level these mountains, when he saw them coming to his baptism, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

3. The Jews and Pharisees might be compared to mountains and hills, in that they boasted they had the key of knowledge, and were the only teachers and masters of Israel, and that all besides themselves were ignorant and foolish persons. Do but read what holy Paul speaketh of them, to bring them down level with the ground.

II. Sin (as Mr. Caryl notes, speaking of this very text) may be also meant by these mountains.

III. By mountains here also may be meant, or refer unto those great oppositions our Lord Jesus met withal, in His working out our salvation.

1. From men.

2. From the devil. These stood in His way like mighty mountains, like as Sanballet stood as a mountain in the way of Zerubbabel (a type of Christ): “And who art thou, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, thou shalt become a plain” (Zechariah 4:7).

IV. As valleys may refer to despairing sinners, so mountains and hills may refer to haughty and presumptuous sinners; I speak not here of self-righteous persons.

V. Valleys may refer to the low estate of mankind, or of God’s elect, as considered dead in the first Adam, or as under the law and curse thereof. (B. Keach.)

The crooked shall be made straight

1. Crooked may refer to men’s crooked opinions; they speak not right of God; they do not judge according to the straight and equal glory of all the perfections of God’s holy nature; nor according to the straight rule of His holy law, but magnify the glory of His mercy, to the eclipsing the glory of His justice; and of this crooked opinion are the Socinians, and all that magnify the pardoning grace of God, without having respect to a plenary satisfaction, made to the justice and law of God by Jesus Christ.

2. Crooked things may refer to those false and crooked ways of worship which many walk in; ways which Christ never instituted or appointed: the Word of God is the only rule for worship, and administration of ordinances. Now all pretended ordinances and Divine worship, that doth not exactly agree with this rule, but vary in matter or manner from it, are crooked way.

3. Crooked may refer to the lives and conversations of men; the law of God (as it is in the hand of Jesus Christ) and the glorious gospel is the only rule of our lives; and all whose lives and conversations do not agree with that rule, are crooked ways.

4. Crooked may also refer unto men’s crooked spirits; how cross and uneven are some men’s hearts and spirits to the word and will of God. “The carnal mind is enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). (B. Keach.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 3:5". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Every valley shall be filled,.... Luke cites more out of the same prophecy, as relating to the times of John the Baptist, and the Messiah, than the other Evangelists Matthew and Mark do: in the prophet it is, "every valley shall be exalted"; which is done, by filling it up; the metaphor is persisted in, of preparing and clearing the way, for the coming of the Messiah, done by the ministry of John; under which, such souls as were lowly and humble, and depressed with the sense of sin, should be raised and directed to believe in Christ, and be filled with divine consolation from him. These words are owned by the JewsF15T. Hieros. Erubin, fol. 25. 2. to belong to the world to come; that is, the times of the Messiah; though they understand them, of making way for the return of the Israelites from captivity, by the Messiah: just as they suppose such things were done by the miraculous cloud, for the children of Israel, as they passed through the wilderness; of which they sayF16Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 177. 1, 2. Vid. Targ. in Cant. ii. 6. & Jarchi in Cant. iii. 6. ,

"that it went before them, smote the serpents and scorpions, and fiery serpents, and the rock; and if there was any low place, it raised it up; or high place, it made it low, and caused them to be plain; as it is said, Isaiah 40:3 "And every valley shall be exalted", &c.'

But what they say of this cloud literally, as preparing the way for the Israelites, is in a spiritual sense true, of the ministry of John; whereby many of the children of Israel, had the way prepared for them, for the reception of the Messiah; when as every humble soul had its expectation raised, and its faith encouraged, and its heart filled with spiritual joy; so such as were proud and haughty, were humbled:

and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; all such as are elated with their own abilities, and boast of their righteousness, trust in themselves, and look with disdain and contempt on others, their loftiness shall be bowed down, and their haughtiness made low; and the Messiah alone, in his person, grace, and righteousness, be exalted:

and the crooked shall be made straight: such as are of a crooked spirit, and walk in crooked ways, with the workers of iniquity, shall have new spirits given them, and be directed to right ways, and be led in the paths of righteousness and truth:

and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and men of rough tempers, comparable to lions and bears, shall become quiet and peaceable, smooth and easy; and moreover, whatever difficulties were in the minds of men concerning the Messiah, the end of his coming, and the nature of his kingdom; and whatever impediments were in the way of embracing him when come, should now be removed at least from many persons: R. David Kimchi, a very noted Jewish commentatorF17In Isa. xl. 4. , acknowledges that the whole of this passage is to be understood, דרך משל, "by way of parable", in a mystical and figurative sense.

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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 3:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Every valley, etc.leveling and smoothing, obvious figures, the sense of which is in the first words of the proclamation, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

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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 3:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

5. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

[Every valley shall be filled.] The Jews have a tradition, that some such thing was done by the cloud that led Israel in the wilderness. Instead of many instances, take the Targumist upon Canticles 2:6: "There was a cloud went before them, three days' journey, to take down the hills and raise the valleys: it slew all fiery serpents in the wilderness, and all scorpions; and found out for them a fit place to lodge in."

What the meaning of the prophet in this passage was, Christians well enough understand. The Jews apply it to levelling and making the ways plain for Israel's return out of captivity: for this was the main thing they expected from the Messiah, viz. to bring back the captivity of Israel.

"R. Chanan saith, Israel shall have no need of the doctrine of Messiah the King in time to come; for it is said, To him shall the Gentiles seek (Isa 11:10), but not Israel. If so, why then is Messiah to come? and what is he to do when he doth come? He shall gather together the captivity of Israel," &c.

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Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". 1675.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Valley (παραγχpharagx). Here only in the N.T., though in the lxx and ancient Greek. It is a ravine or valley hedged in by precipices.

Shall be filled (πληρωτησεταιplērōthēsetai). Future passive indicative of πληροωplēroō In 1845 when the Sultan visited Brusa the inhabitants were called out to clear the roads of rocks and to fill up the hollows. Oriental monarchs often did this very thing. A royal courier would go ahead to issue the call. So the Messiah sends his herald (John) before him to prepare the way for him. Isaiah described the preparation for the Lord‘s triumphal march and John used it with great force.

Hill (βουνοςbounos). Called a Cyrenaic word by Herodotus, but later Greek writers use it as does the lxx.

Brought low (ταπεινωτησεταιtapeinōthēsetai). Future passive indicative of ταπεινοωtapeinoō Literal meaning here of a verb common in the metaphorical sense.

Crooked (σκολιαskolia). Common word, curved, opposite of ορτοςorthos or ευτυςeuthus straight.

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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)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Valley ( φάραγξ )

Strictly, of a chasm or ravine in a mountain-side.

Shall be filled - brought low

In allusion to the practice of Eastern monarchs. On occasions of their progress, heralds were sent out to call on the people to clear and improve the old roads or to make new ones. “When Ibrahim Pacha proposed to visit certain places in Lebanon, the emirs and sheiks sent forth a general proclamation, somewhat in the style of Isaiah's exhortation, to all the inhabitants to assemble along the proposed route and prepare the way before him. The same was done in 1845, on a grand scale, when the Sultan visited Brusa. The stones were gathered out, the crooked places straightened, and rough ones made level and smooth. I had the benefit of these labors a few days after his majesty's visit. The exhortation 'to gather out the stones' (Isaiah 62:10) is peculiarly appropriate. These farmers do the exact reverse - gather up the stones from their fields and cast them into the highway; and it is this barbarous custom which, in many places, renders the paths uncomfortable and even dangerous” (Thomson, “Land and Book”).

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

Every valley shall be filled, … — That is, every hinderance shall be removed.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

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, following their example, we may regard the Pharisees and Sadducees as mountains of self-righteousness, needing to be thrown down, and thereby brought to meekness and humility; the outcasts and harlots as valleys of humiliation, needing to be exalted and filled with hope; and the publicans and soldiers as crooked and rough byways, needing to be straightened and smoothed with proper details of righteousness. But the application is general, and not to be limited to such details. However, civil tyranny, and ecclesiastical pride must be leveled, and the rights of the common people must be exalted before for kingdom of God can enter in.

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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 3:5". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

Ver. 5. Every valley shall be filled] Every hole, or hollow, φαραγξ (Barathrum). Fainting of heart unfits the way for Christ, as well as the swelling hills of pride. Plain things will join in every point one with another; not so, rough and hollow things: so plain spirits close with God’s truths; not so, those that are swollen, and uneven.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Luke 3:5. φάραγξ, valley) Where there is a hollow and void, which is for removed from true righteousness, as in the case of the publicans and soldiers: Luke 3:12; Luke 3:14.— ὄρος, mountain) where there is a swelling [a tumid elevation] of human righteousness, or power, as in the case of Herod.— βουνὸς, σκολιὰ, τραχεῖαι, a hill, the crooked places, the rough ways) Those things which are distorted [which have lost their due proportions and so are perverted]: I. as to depth and height, II. lengthwise, III. broadwise, shall be restored to their right places and proportions, and shall be made level.— εἰς εὐθεῖαν, into a straight way) ὁδὸν, way, has been left to be understood in the LXX. and so presently after, and the rough, viz. ways.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

See Poole on "Luke 3:4"

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 3:5". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Luke 3:5. , a ravine, here only in N. T.— , the crooked places shall be (become) straight (ways, , understood)— ( ), the rough ways shall become smooth.



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Every valley, &c. If these words, in one sense, were a prediction of the deliverance of the Israelites from their captivity, (Isaias xl. 3.) and an admonition to level the roads for those that were to return, they also signified the redemption of mankind from the slavery of sin; and that all obstacles, which retard this benefit, should be removed, and also that the proud should be depressed, and the humble receive graces. (Witham)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(5) (a) The fact that the genealogy goes back to Adam may have been originally in the document which St. Luke translated, without any special significance; but it at least falls in with the whole character of his Gospel as intended to set forth the universality of the gospel, to prepare the way for the truth of the brotherhood of mankind in Christ. It represented Christ as the second Adam, as St. Matthew’s genealogy represented Him as the heir of Abraham. (b) The insertion of Cainan between Salah and Arphaxad agrees with the text of all known copies of the Greek version of Genesis 11. This may imply an original Hebrew text older than that which we now possess; but, on the other hand, as all existing copies of the LXX. version were made for Christian use, it is possible that the name may have been inserted to bring the genealogy in Genesis 11 into agreement with that given by St. Luke. The name does not appear in this place in the Vulgate, Syriac, or Samaritan versions of the Pentateuch, and in one of the best MSS. of the New Testament (the Codex Bezœ) it is wanting here. Further than this we cannot go in dealing with a question which, after all, is infinitesimally small in itself, and has no direct bearing on any graver issues.

It may be noted, lastly, that genealogies, such as those given by St. Matthew and St. Luke, were common in almost every Jewish family. The books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, compiled after the return from Babylon, show that they existed then. Josephus transcribes his own pedigree, from the time of the Asmonæan, or Maccabean, priest-rulers, from public registers (Life, c. 1), and states (against Apion, i. 7) that not in Judæa only, but in Alexandria and Babylon, and other cities, wherever the Jews were settled, such registers were kept of the births and marriages of all belonging to the priesthood; that copies were sent to Jerusalem; that the registers went back for 2,000 years. The prevalence of the name Cohen (= priest) among modern Jews indicates the same care in the priestly line. The members of the house of David were hardly likely to be less careful in preserving records of their descent than those of the house of Aaron. Hillel the scribe, i.e., was known to be of the lineage of David, and must have had evidence of some kind to prove it. So, at a later time, the Princes of the Captivity who ruled over the Jews of Babylonia, claimed their allegiance as sons of David.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
1:51-53; Isaiah 2:11-17; 35:6-8; 40:4; 49:11; 61:1-3; Ezekiel 17:24; James 1:9
and the crooked
Isaiah 42:16; 45:2; Hebrews 12:12,13
Reciprocal: Isaiah 43:19 - I will even;  Isaiah 57:14 - Cast;  Zechariah 4:7 - O great

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Luke 3:5". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".