on Luke 3 :14
The soldiers likewise demanded of him - He, thirdly, instructs those among the military. They were either Roman soldiers, or the soldiers of Herod or Philip. Use no violence to any, μηδενα διασεισητε, do not extort money or goods by force or violence from any. This is the import of the words neminein concutite, used here by the Vulgate, and points out a crime of which the Roman soldiers were notoriously guilty, their own writers being witnesses. Concussio has the above meaning in the Roman law. See Raphelius in loco.
Neither accuse any falsely - Or, on a frivolous pretense - μηδε συκοφαντησητε, be not sycophants, like those who are base flatterers of their masters, who to ingratiate themselves into their esteem, malign, accuse, and impeach the innocent. Bishop Pearce observes that, when the concussio above referred to did not produce the effect they wished, they often falsely accused the persons, which is the reason why this advice is added. See the note on Luke 19:7.
Be content with your wages - Οψωνιοις. The word signifies not only the money which was allotted to a Roman soldier, which was two oboli, about three halfpence per day, but also the necessary supply of wheat, barley, etc. See Raphelius.
on Luke 3 :14
The soldiers likewise - It seems that "they," also came to his baptism. Whether these were Jews or Romans cannot be ascertained. It is not improbable that, as Judea was a Roman province, they were Jews or Jewish proselytes in the service of Herod Antipas or Philip, and so were really in the Roman service.
Do violence ... - Do not take the property of any by unlawful force, or do not use unjust force against the person or property of any individual. it is probable that many of them were oppressive, or prone to violence, rapine, or theft, and burdensome even in times of peace to the inhabitants.
Neither accuse any falsely - It is probable that when they wished the property of others and could not obtain it by violence, or when there was no pretext for violence, they often attempted the same thing in another way, and falsely accused the persons of crime. The word rendered "falsely accused" is the one from which our word "sycophant" is derived. The proper meaning of the word "sycophant" was this: There was a law in Athens which prohibited the importation of "figs." The "sycophant" (literally "the man who made figs to appear," or who showed them) was one who made complaint to the magistrate of persons who had imported figs contrary to law, or who was an "informer;" and then the word came to be used in a general sense to denote "any" complainer - a calumniator - an accuser - an informer. As such persons were usually cringing and fawning, and looked for a reward, the word came to be used also to denote a fawner or flatterer. It is always used in a bad sense. It is correctly rendered here, "do not accuse any falsely."
Be content ... - Do not murmur or complain, or take unlawful means to increase your wages.
Wages - This word means not only the "money" which was paid them, but also their "rations" or daily allowance of food. By this they were to show that their repentance was genuine; that it had a practical influence; that it produced a real reformation of life; and it is clear that "no other" repentance would be genuine. Every profession of repentance which is not attended with a change of life is mere hypocrisy. It may farther be remarked that John did not condemn their profession, or say that it was unlawful to be a soldier, or that they must abandon the business in order to be true penitents. It was possible to be a good man and yet a soldier. What was required was that in their profession they should show that they were really upright, and did not commit the crimes which were often practiced in that calling. It is lawful to defend oneself, one's family, or one's country, and hence, it is lawful to be a soldier. Man everywhere, in all professions, should be a Christian, and then he will do honor to his profession, and his profession, if it is not a direct violation of the law of God, will be honorable.
on Luke 3 :14