on Luke 3 :1
Fifteenth year - This was the fifteenth of his principality and thirteenth of his monarchy: for he was two years joint emperor, previously to the death of Augustus.
Tiberius Caesar - This emperor succeeded Augustus, in whose reign Christ was born. He began his reign August 19, a.d. 14, reigned twenty-three years, and died March 16, a.d. 37, aged seventy eight years. He was a most infamous character. During the latter part of his reign especially, he did all the mischief he possibly could; and that his tyranny might not end with his life, he chose Caius Caligula for his successor, merely on account of his bad qualities; and of whom he was accustomed to say, This young prince will be a Serpent to the Roman people, and a Phaethon to the rest of mankind.
Herod - This was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great who murdered the innocents. It was the same Herod who beheaded John Baptist, and to whom our Lord was sent by Pilate. See the account of the Herod family in the notes on Matthew 2:1 (note).
Iturea and Trachonitis - Two provinces of Syria, on the confines of Judea.
Abilene - Another province of Syria, which had its name from Abila, its chief city.
These estates were left to Herod Antipas and his brother Philip by the will of their father, Herod the Great; and were confirmed to them by the decree of Augustus.
That Philip was tetrarch of Trachonitis, in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, we are assured by Josephus, who says that Philip the brother of Herod died in the twentieth year of Tiberius, after he had governed Trachonitis, Batanea, and Gaulonitis thirty-seven years. Antiq. b. xviii. c. 5, s. 6. And Herod continued tetrarch of Galilee till he was removed by Caligula, the successor of Tiberius. Antiq. b. xviii. c. 8, s. 2.
That Lysanius was tetrarch of Abilene is also evident from Josephus. He continued in this government till the Emperor Claudius took it from him, a.d. 42, and made a present of it to Agrippa. See Antiq. b. xix. c. 5, s. 1.
Tetrarch signifies the ruler of the fourth part of a country. See the note on Matthew 14:1.
on Luke 3 :1
Now in the fifteenth year - This was the "thirteenth" year of his being sole emperor. He was "two" years joint emperor with Augustus, and Luke reckons from the time when he was admitted to share the empire with Augustus Caesar. See Lardner's "Credibility," vol. i.
Tiberius Caesar - Tiberius succeeded Augustus in the empire, and began his "sole" reign Aug. 19th, 14 a.d. He was a most infamous character - a scourge to the Roman people. He reigned 23 years, and was succeeded by "Caius Caligula," whom he appointed his successor on account of his notorious wickedness, and that he might be, as he expressed it, a "serpent" to the Romans.
Pontius Pilate - Herod the Great left his kingdom to three sons. See the notes at Matthew 2:22. To "Archelaus" he left "Judea." Archelaus reigned "nine" years, when, on account of his crimes, he was banished into Vienne, and Judea was made a Roman province, and placed entirely under Roman governors or "procurators," and became completely tributary to Rome. "Pontius Pilate" was the "fifth" governor that had been sent, and of course had been in Judea but a short time. (See the chronological table.)
Herod being tetrarch of Galilee - This was "Herod Antipas" son of Herod the Great, to whom Galilee had been left as his part of his father's kingdom. The word "tetrarch" properly denotes one who presides over a "fourth part" of a country or province; but it also came to be a general title, denoting one who reigned over any part - a third, a half, etc. In this case Herod had a "third" of the dominions of his father, but he was called tetrarch. It, was this Herod who imprisoned John the Baptist, and to whom our Saviour, when arraigned, was sent by Pilate.
And his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea - "Iturea" was so called from "Jetur," one of the sons of Ishmael, Genesis 25:15; 1 Chronicles 1:31. It was situated on the east side of the Jordan, and was taken from the descendants of Jetur by the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, 1 Chronicles 5:19.
Region of Trachonitis - This region was also on the east of the Jordan, and extended northward to the district of Damascus and eastward to the deserts of Arabia. It was bounded on the west by Gaulonitis and south by the city of Bostra. Philip had obtained this region from the Romans on condition that he would extirpate the robbers.
Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene - Abilene was so called from "Abila," its chief city. It was situated in Syria, northwest of Damascus and southeast of Mount Lebanon, and was adjacent to Galilee.
on Luke 3 :1
3:1 The fifteenth year of Tiberius - Reckoning from the time when Angustus made him his colleague in the empire. Herod being tetrarch of Galilee - The dominions of Herod the Great were, after his death, divided into four parts or tetrarchies. This Herod his son was tetrarch of Galilee, reigning over that fourth part of his dominions. His brother reigned over two other fourth parts, the region of Iturea, and that of Trachonitis (that tract of land on the other side Jordan, which had formerly belonged to the tribe of Manasseh.) And Lysanias (probably descended from a prince of that name, who was some years before governor of that country) was tetrarch of the remaining part of Abilene, which was a large city of Syria, whose territories reached to Lebanon and Damascus, and contained great numbers of Jews. Mt 3:1; Mr 1:1.