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But when he saw many coming from among the wealthy elite of Jewish society[a] and many of the religious leaders known as Pharisees[b] coming to witness the baptism, he began to denounce them, saying, “You offspring of vipers![c] Who warned you to slither away like snakes from the fire of God’s judgment?[d] You must prove your repentance by a changed life. And don’t presume you can get away with merely saying to yourselves, ‘But we’re Abraham’s descendants!’ For I tell you, God can awaken these stones to become sons of Abraham![e]

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Footnotes

  1. 3:7 Or “the Sadducees.”
  2. 3:7 Or “separated ones.” The Pharisees and Sadducees were two of the sects of Judaism of that day.
  3. 3:7 The word viper in the Aramaic is akidneh, which is really a reference to a scorpion. When a male scorpion mates it quickly dies. The mother scorpion dies when giving birth, so every scorpion is born into this world as an orphan without the guidance of a set of parents. The dual meaning is simply this: The Pharisees were indeed cunning as vipers, but they were also spiritual orphans. John implied in using the word akidneh that Abraham died giving them birth and they have lost his guidance. But if the Pharisees would only turn to their true loving Father, Elohim, they would no longer be orphans.
  4. 3:7 John is telling them they can’t escape the fire of judgment just by getting wet.
  5. 3:9 There is an interesting word-play in the Hebrew and Aramaic that is lost in an English translation. The Hebrew words for sons (bĕnayyā) and stones (’abnayyā) are similar. God builds his house with sons, not stones. John baptized the people at the place of the crossing of the Jordan during the time of Joshua. After their miracle crossing of the Jordan they were instructed to set up twelve stones, representing the twelve sons of Israel, as a memorial. Perhaps John the Baptizer was referencing those very stones from which God could raise up sons.

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