“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?”
King James Version (KJV)
3:7 The Pharisees were a very ancient sect among the Jews. They took their name from a Hebrew word, which signifies to separate, because they separated themselves from all other men. They were outwardly strict observers of the law, fasted often, made long prayers, rigorously kept the Sabbath, and paid all tithe, even of mint, anise, and cummin. Hence they were in high esteem among the people. But inwardly, they were full of pride and hypocrisy. The Sadducees were another sect among the Jews, only not so considerable as the Pharisees. They denied the existence of angels, and the immortality of the soul, and by consequence the resurrection of the dead. Ye brood of vipers - In like manner, the crafty Herod is styled a fox, and persons of insidious, ravenous, profane, or sensual dispositions, are named respectively by him who saw their hearts, serpents, dogs, wolves, and swine; terms which are not the random language of passion, but a judicious designation of the persons meant by them. For it was fitting such men should be marked out, either for a caution to others, or a warning to themselves.
Mt 3:7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The two principal religious sects. (1) The first originated in the time of the Maccabees, and were a kind of Jewish Puritans, but had in the Savior's time degenerated into a set of formalists, who paid far more attention to outward forms than to inner life. They were scrupulous in observing ceremonies, very orthodox, but were filled with spiritual pride. From an early period of Christ's ministry they opposed him. (2) The other principal sect of the Jews, the Sadducees, derived their name from Sadduc, the founder of the sect; were irreligious, sensual and skeptical. They were materialists, and denied "angel, spirit, or the resurrection of the dead" (Ac 23:8). Annas and Caiaphas, the high priests, were Sadducees. Generation of vipers. The guilty corrupted race had become a generation of vipers; not only poisonous, hateful to God, hating one another. The viper is hateful, full of hate, and dangerous. Who hath warned you? Malachi (Mal 3:2 4:5) had predicted the wrath to come. John's question expresses doubt of their sincerity.