Matthew 3:7 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 3:7, NIV: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

Matthew 3:7, ESV: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Matthew 3:7, KJV: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Matthew 3:7, NASB: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, 'You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Matthew 3:7, NLT: But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. 'You brood of snakes!' he exclaimed. 'Who warned you to flee God's coming wrath?

Matthew 3:7, CSB: When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

What does Matthew 3:7 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

John the Baptist was attracting large crowds from all around the region (Matthew 3:1–2). People were traveling from Jerusalem and all Judea to hear him preach (Matthew 3:5). Many of those who came confessed their sins and were publicly baptized by John to symbolize their repentance from sin and commitment to lead holy lives in preparation for the coming of the Messiah (Matthew 3:6).

This seems to have caught the attention of Israel's religious leaders. It's unclear from the text why the Pharisees and Sadducees had come to the wilderness to hear and see John's baptism. Were they there to repent and be baptized themselves as a religious act or were they there to observe and decide if they agreed with John's teaching about the coming Messiah? Checking on John's message would have been part of their spiritual duties (John 1:19–28); however, other gospels show these men are more interested in refuting John than in learning from him.

The Pharisees and Sadducees did not like each other very much. Pharisees were religious leaders and teachers more closely connected to the common people at the local level of the synagogues. They set the tone for everyday religious life in Israel. Highly respected and even feared, they held themselves—and others—to very strict standards when it came to following the law. They also developed a system of rules that went beyond the inspired law of Moses.

The Sadducees were a much smaller group of wealthier priests and religious aristocrats. They held different views than the Pharisees on key spiritual issues. Sadducees were committed to protecting their power. They were known for their cooperation with Rome's occupation and were resented by the people.

John the Baptist clearly did not fear or admire either group. He calls them a brood of vipers, the same term Jesus will later use when talking to the Pharisees (Matthew 12:34). This name connects them to the deceiving serpent in the garden of Eden. John asks them who warned them to flee from God's impending wrath? John saw in his prophecy of the coming of the kingdom of heaven as good news for those who lead holy lives but terrible news for those who continued in sin. His words show that he saw Israel's religious leaders as sinful and unrepentant.