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, Luke iii. 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, (swmatikw eidei, Luke iii. 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." - en w endakhsa in whom I have delighted-though it is supposed that the past tense is here used for the present: but See the note on "chap. xvii. 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 victor.
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! touto pratte: 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 Dan. iii. 4, where the Chaldee word azwrk caroza, is rendered by the Septuagint khrux 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. Dan. iii. 4, is the only place in our translation, in which the word herald is used: but the word khrux, used by St. Paul, 1 Timothy ii. 7; 2 Tim. i. 11, and by St. Peter, 2 Pet. iii. 5, is found in the Septuagint, Gen. xli. 43, as well as in Dan. iii. 4, and the verb khrussw 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 khrux, kerux, or herald, must have been anciently known, and Indeed established, among the Egyptians: for in Gen. xli. 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 kai ekhruxen emprosqen autou khrux? 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 qrba 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 khrux among the Greeks. This is a probable meaning of the word, which escaped me when I wrote the note on Gen. xli. 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 the note on "Exod. iv. 17".
The word khrux kerux, or herald, here used, is evidently derived from khrussein, to proclaim, call aloud; and this from ghruv, 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, qeioi.- dolwn, eumhdeov uiov, khrukov qeioi. Iliad x. 315 "Dolon, son of Eumedes, the divine herald." They were also termed inviolable, asuloi; 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:-cairete, khrukev, diov aggeloi, hde kai andrwn. k. t. l.
"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. khrukev dÆ ara lawn eshtuon. See also Iliad ii. 280,) and delivered the scepter into their hands, before they began their harangue.
hn dÆ apa khrux, cersi skhptron eqhke, siwphsai rÆ ekeleusen. 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, &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 krw.