john the baptist gives advice to soldiers

Luk 3:14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

In Luke 3, the text quotes significant messages from the ministry of John the Baptist. John’s ministry was to “prepare the way for the Lord”. The text records his response to a few soldiers about how they should behave. We need to remember the Jews had special exemption from the Roman government for forced servitude in the military. These soldiers speaking to John were most likely volunteer Jewish auxiliary troops for the Roman Empire. Rome, contrary to modern depictions, did not have a large Roman military presence in Israel at the time of Christ.

The word for “violence” is sometimes translated as “extort money from”, but I think that translation fits “violence” (or “intimidation”) better. The context could go either way. The immediate context does deal with money “tax collectors not taxing more than authorized” and “being content with wages”, the overall message is about the end of the world. The entire message is in a world where the Romans have put down several prophets similar to John the Baptist for similar teachings. While some Roman soldiers (Jewish Auxiliary troops) might have engaged in theft, the accounts of the time focus on Roman oppression from the established powers. The soldiers were often used to suppress Jewish revolts. Due to this persecution and the soldier’s allegiance to Caesar, Jewish auxiliaries were seen as traitors. The same goes with the tax collectors. This is probably what compelled the soldiers to ask John in the first place. John the Baptist was held in high regard and they were looking for his perspective on the matter.

The same word for “violence” is used in Polybius’ Histories described a terrible tyrant:

Summoning their sons or husbands on absurd pretexts he intimidated them, and on the whole behaved in a most outrageous and lawless manner.

In any case, John the Baptist did not seem to think of Jewish auxiliary troops as traitors. John did not oppose military service, as so many Pharisees of the day. John the Baptist did tell them to do no harm and to be content with their wages. This is a good lesson for both American police and military personnel: the police which have a stigma of abusing innocents, and the Military which is paid exceptionally well (better than most people realize).

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Jewish History, Morality, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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