Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Matthew 3:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

In whom I am well pleased - Εν ω ενδακησα in whom I have delighted - though it is supposed that the past tense is here used for the present: but see the note on Matthew 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.
  • To summon the Agonistae, or contenders, to make their appearance, and to announce their names.
  • To specify the prize for which they were to contend.
  • To admonish and animate, with appropriate discourses, the athletae, or combatants.
  • 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.
  • After the conflict was ended, to bring the business before the judges, and, according to their determination, to proclaim the victor.
  • To deliver the prize to the conqueror, and to put the crown on his head, in the presence of the assembly.
  • They were the persons who convoked all solemn and religious assemblies, and brought forth, and often slew, the sacrifices offered on those occasions.
  • They frequently called the attention of the people, during the sacrifices, to the subject of devotion, with hoc age! τουτο πραττε : 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 Daniel 3:4, where the Chaldee word כרוזא 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.

    Daniel 3:4, is the only place in our translation, in which the word herald is used: but the word κηρυξ, used by St. Paul, 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11, and by St. Peter, 2 Peter 3:5, is found in the Septuagint, Genesis 41:43, as well as in Daniel 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 Genesis 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 και εκηρυξεν εμπροσθεν αυτου κηρυξ· 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 אברק 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 Genesis 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, honor, 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 succor 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 the note on Exodus 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.
  • Or heer -held, the hero of the army: he who had distinguished himself most in his country's behalf.
  • Or from the Gallo-teutonic herr -haut, the high lord, because their persons were so universally respected, as we have already seen.
  • 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 .

    - Δολων, Ευμηδεος υιος,

    Κηρυκος θειοιο .

    Iliad x. 315

    "Dolon, son of Eumedes, the divine herald."

      They were also termed inviolable, ασυλοι ; also, great, admirable, etc. 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: -

    Χαιρετε, κηρυκες, Διος αγγελοι, ηδε και ανδρων. κ. τ. λ.

    "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," etc., Iliad i. 334, etc.

      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. Κηρυκες δ 'αρα λαων ερητυον . See also Iliad ii. 280), and delivered the scepter into their hands, before they began their harangue.

    Ην δ

    'απα κηρυξ

    Χερσι σκηπτρον εθηκε, σιωπησαι τ 'εκελευσεν .

    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. 334).

    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, etc).

    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, etc., 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 .

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    A voice from heaven - A voice from God. This was probably heard by all who were present. This voice, or sound, was repeated on the mount of transfiguration, Matthew 17:5; Luke 9:35-36; 2 Peter 1:17. It was also heard just before his death, and was then supposed by many to be thunder, John 12:25-30. It was a public declaration that Jesus was the Messiah.

    My beloved Son - This is the title which God himself gave to Jesus. It denotes the nearness of his relation to God, and the love of God for him, Hebrews 1:2. It implies that he was equal with God, Hebrews 1:5-8; John 10:29-33; John 19:7. The term “Son” is expressive of love of the nearness of his relation to God, and of his dignity and equality with God.

    I am well pleased - or, I am ever delighted. The language implies that he was constantly or uniformly well pleased with him; and in this solemn and public manner he expressed his approbation of him as the Redeemer of the world.

    The baptism of Jesus has usually been regarded as a striking manifestation of the doctrine of the Trinity, or the doctrine that there are three Persons in the divine nature:

    (1) there is the Person of “Jesus Christ,” the Son of God, baptized in Jordan, elsewhere declared to be equal with God, John 10:30.

    (2) the Holy Spirit descending in a bodily form upon the Saviour. The Holy Spirit is also equal with the Father, or is also God, Acts 5:3-4.

    (3) the Father, addressing the Son, and declaring that He was well pleased with him.

    It is impossible to explain this transaction consistently in any other way than by supposing that there are three equal Persons in the divine nature or essence, and that each of these sustains an important part in the work of redeeming people.

    In the preaching of John the Baptist we are presented with an example of a faithful minister of God. Neither the wealth, the dignity, nor the power of his auditors deterred him from fearlessly declaring the truth respecting their character. He called things by their right names. He did not apologize for their sins. He set their transgressions fairly before them, and showed them faithfully and fearlessly what must be the consequence of a life of sin. So should all ministers of the Gospel preach. Rank, riches, and power should have nothing to do in shaping and gauging their ministry. In respectful terms, but without shrinking, all the truth of the Gospel must be spoken, or woe will follow the ambassador of Christ, 1 Corinthians 9:16.

    In John we also have an example of humility. Blessed with great success, attended by the great and noble, and with nothing but principle to keep him from turning it to his advantage, he still kept himself out of view, and pointed to a far greater Personage at hand. So should every minister of Jesus, however successful, keep the Lamb of God in his eye, and be willing - nay, rejoice - to lay all his success and honors at Jesus‘ feet.

    Everything about the work of Jesus was wonderful. No person had before come into the world under such circumstances. God would not have attended the commencement of his life with such wonderful events if it had not been of the greatest moment to our race, and if he had not possessed a dignity above all prophets, kings, and priests. His “name” was to be called “Wonderful, Councillor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace;” “of the increase of his government and peace” there was to be “no end;” “upon the throne of David and of his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice forever” Isaiah 9:6-7; and it was proper that a voice from heaven should declare that he was the long-promised prince and Saviour; that the angels should attend him, and the Holy Spirit signalize his baptism by his personal presence. And it is proper that we, for whom he came, should give to him our undivided affections, our time, our influence, our hearts, and our lives.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Christ's gracious condescensions are so surprising, that even the strongest believers at first can hardly believe them; so deep and mysterious, that even those who know his mind well, are apt to start objections against the will of Christ. And those who have much of the Spirit of God while here, see that they need to apply to Christ for more. Christ does not deny that John had need to be baptized of him, yet declares he will now be baptized of John. Christ is now in a state of humiliation. Our Lord Jesus looked upon it as well becoming him to fulfil all righteousness, to own every Divine institution, and to show his readiness to comply with all God's righteous precepts. In and through Christ, the heavens are opened to the children of men. This descent of the Spirit upon Christ, showed that he was endued with his sacred influences without measure. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. At Christ's baptism there was a manifestation of the three Persons in the sacred Trinity. The Father confirming the Son to be Mediator; the Son solemnly entering upon the work; the Holy Spirit descending on him, to be through his mediation communicated to his people. In Him our spiritual sacrifices are acceptable, for He is the altar that sanctifies every gift, 1Pe 2:5. Out of Christ, God is a consuming fire, but in Christ, a reconciled Father. This is the sum of the gospel, which we must by faith cheerfully embrace.
    Ellen G. White
    The Desire of Ages, 110-3

    When Jesus came to be baptized, John recognized in Him a purity of character that he had never before perceived in any man. The very atmosphere of His presence was holy and awe-inspiring. Among the multitudes that had gathered about him at the Jordan, John had heard dark tales of crime, and had met souls bowed down with the burden of myriad sins; but never had he come in contact with a human being from whom there breathed an influence so divine. All this was in harmony with what had been revealed to John regarding the Messiah. Yet he shrank from granting the request of Jesus. How could he, a sinner, baptize the Sinless One? And why should He who needed no repentance submit to a rite that was a confession of guilt to be washed away? DA 110.1

    As Jesus asked for baptism, John drew back, exclaiming, “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” With firm yet gentle authority, Jesus answered, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” And John, yielding, led the Saviour down into the Jordan, and buried Him beneath the water. “And straightway coming up out of the water,” Jesus “saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him.” DA 111.1

    Jesus did not receive baptism as a confession of guilt on His own account. He identified Himself with sinners, taking the steps that we are to take, and doing the work that we must do. His life of suffering and patient endurance after His baptism was also an example to us. DA 111.2

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    Ellen G. White
    The Desire of Ages, 136

    Many of those gathered at the Jordan had been present at the baptism of Jesus; but the sign then given had been manifest to but few among them. During the preceding months of the Baptist's ministry, many had refused to heed the call to repentance. Thus they had hardened their hearts and darkened their understanding. When Heaven bore testimony to Jesus at His baptism, they perceived it not. Eyes that had never been turned in faith to Him that is invisible beheld not the revelation of the glory of God; ears that had never listened to His voice heard not the words of witness. So it is now. Often the presence of Christ and the ministering angels is manifest in the assemblies of the people, and yet there are many who know it not. They discern nothing unusual. But to some the Saviour's presence is revealed. Peace and joy animate their hearts. They are comforted, encouraged, and blessed. DA 136.1

    The deputies from Jerusalem had demanded of John, “Why baptizest thou?” and they were awaiting his answer. Suddenly, as his glance swept over the throng, his eye kindled, his face was lighted up, his whole being was stirred with deep emotion. With outstretched hands he cried, “I baptize in water: in the midst of you standeth One whom ye know not, even He that cometh after me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose.” John 1:26, 27, R. V., margin. DA 136.2

    The message was distinct and unequivocal, to be carried back to the Sanhedrin. The words of John could apply to no other than the long-promised One. The Messiah was among them! In amazement priests and rulers gazed about them, hoping to discover Him of whom John had spoken. But He was not distinguishable among the throng. DA 136.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Early Writings, 153-4

    I was carried down to the time when Jesus was to take upon Himself man's nature, humble Himself as a man, and suffer the temptations of Satan. EW 153.1

    His birth was without worldly grandeur. He was born in a stable and cradled in a manger; yet His birth was honored far above that of any of the sons of men. Angels from heaven informed the shepherds of the advent of Jesus, and light and glory from God accompanied their testimony. The heavenly host touched their harps and glorified God. They triumphantly heralded the advent of the Son of God to a fallen world to accomplish the work of redemption, and by His death to bring peace, happiness, and everlasting life to man. God honored the advent of His Son. Angels worshiped Him. EW 153.2

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    Ellen G. White
    The Great Controversy, 347

    So the throne of glory represents the kingdom of glory; and this kingdom is referred to in the Saviour's words: “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations.” Matthew 25:31, 32. This kingdom is yet future. It is not to be set up until the second advent of Christ. GC 347.1

    The kingdom of grace was instituted immediately after the fall of man, when a plan was devised for the redemption of the guilty race. It then existed in the purpose and by the promise of God; and through faith, men could become its subjects. Yet it was not actually established until the death of Christ. Even after entering upon His earthly mission, the Saviour, wearied with the stubbornness and ingratitude of men, might have drawn back from the sacrifice of Calvary. In Gethsemane the cup of woe trembled in His hand. He might even then have wiped the blood-sweat from His brow and have left the guilty race to perish in their iniquity. Had He done this, there could have been no redemption for fallen men. But when the Saviour yielded up His life, and with His expiring breath cried out, “It is finished,” then the fulfillment of the plan of redemption was assured. The promise of salvation made to the sinful pair in Eden was ratified. The kingdom of grace, which had before existed by the promise of God, was then established. GC 347.2

    Thus the death of Christ—the very event which the disciples had looked upon as the final destruction of their hope—was that which made it forever sure. While it had brought them a cruel disappointment, it was the climax of proof that their belief had been correct. The event that had filled them with mourning and despair was that which opened the door of hope to every child of Adam, and in which centered the future life and eternal happiness of all God's faithful ones in all the ages. GC 348.1

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