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III. 1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching
Egypt. 23. that it might be fulfilled] These words refer to the divine purpose in the event, not to that of Joseph in bringing it about. which was spoken by the prophets] These words are nowhere verbatim to be found, nor is this asserted by the Evangelist; but that the sense of the prophets is such. In searching for such sense, the following hypotheses have been made-none of them satisfactory (1) Euthymius says, "Do not enquire what prophets said this: for you will not find out because many of the prophetic books have perished, some in the captivities, some by neglect of the Jews, some also by foul play." So also Chrysostom and others. But the expression "by the prophets" seems to have a wider bearing than is thus implied. (2) Others say, the general sense of the prophets is, that Christ should be a despised person, as the inhabitants of Nazareth were (John i. 47). But surely this part of the Messiah's prophetic character is not general or prominent enough, in the absence of any direct verbal connexion with the word in our text, to found such an interpretation on: nor, on the other hand, does it appear that an inhabitant of Nazareth, as such, was despised; only that the obscurity of the town was, both by Nathanael and the Jews, contrasted with our Lord's claims. (3) The Nazarites of old were men holy and consecrated to God; e. g. Samson (Judg. xiii. 5), Samuel (1 Sam. i. 11), and to this the words are referred by Tertullian, Jerome, and others. But (a) our Lord did not (like John the Baptist) lead a life in accordance with the Nazarite vow, but drank wine, &c., and set himself in marked contrast with John in this very particular (ch. xi. 18, 19); and (b) the word here is not Nazarite, but Nazarene, denoting an inhabitant of Nazareth. (4) There may be an allusion to the Hebrew "Netser," a branch, by which name our Lord is called in Isa. xi. 1, and from which word it appears that the name Nazareth is probably derived. So "learned Hebrews" tioned by Jerome on Isa. xi. 1, and others. But this word is only used in the place cited; and in by far the more precise prophecies of the Branch, Zech. iii. 8; vi. 12: Jer. xxiii. 5; xxxiii. 15, and Isa. iv. 2, the word "Tsemach" is used.-I leave it, therefore, as an unsolved difficulty.
CHAP. III. 1-12.] PREACHING AND BAPTISM OF JOHN. Mark i. 1-8: Luke iii. 1-17 (John i. 6--28). Here the synoptic narrative (i. e. the narrative common to the
three Evangelists) begins, its extent being the same as that specified by Peter in Acts i. 22, from the baptism of John unto that same day that He was taken up from us.' For a comparison of the narratives in the various sections, see notes on St. Mark. In this Gospel, I have generally confined myself to the subject-matter. 1. In those days] The last matter mentioned was the dwelling at Nazareth; and though we must not take the connexion strictly as implying that Joseph dwelt there all the intermediate thirty years, "those days"
must be understood to mean that we take up the persons of the narrative where we left them; i. e. dwelling at Nazareth. came] literally, comes forward-' makes his appearance.' Euthymius asks the question, whence? and answers it, from the recesses of the wilderness. But this can hardly be, owing to the "in the wilderness" following. The verb is used absolutely. The title "John the Baptist" shews that St. Matthew was writing for those who well knew John the Baptist as an historical personage. Josephus, in mentioning him, calls him "John who is called the Baptist." John was strictly speaking a prophet; belonging to the legal dispensation; a rebuker of sin, and preacher of repentance. The expression in St. Luke, "the word of God came to John," is the usual formula for the divine commission of the Prophets (Jer. i. 1: Ezek. vi. 1; vii. 1, &c.). And the effect of the Holy Spirit on John was more in accordance with the O.T. than the N. T. inspiration; more of a sudden overpowering influence, as in the Prophets, than a gentle indwelling manifested through the individual character, as in the Apostles and Evangelists.-The baptism of John was of a deeper significance than that usual among the Jews in the case of proselytes, and formed an integral part of his divinely appointed office. It was emphatically the baptism of repentance (Luke iii. 3), but not that of regeneration (Titus iii. 5). We find in Acts xviii. 24-26; xix. 1-7, accounts of persons who had received the baptism of John, who believed, and (in Apollos's case) taught accurately the things (i. e. facts) concerning the Lord; but required instruction (in doctrine), and rebaptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus. Whether the baptism practised by the disciples before the Resurrection was of the same kind, and required this renewal, is uncertain. The fact of our Lord Himself having received baptism from John, is decisive against the
tive are used
by St. John, k ISA. xl. 3.
in the wilderness of Judæa, 2 and saying, Repent ye: Jin the three for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he neither verb that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same. John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a 'leathern 12 Kings 1. 8. girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judæa, and all the region round about Jordan, and were bap
identity of the two rites, as also against the idea derived from Acts xix. 4, that John used the formula "I baptize thee in the name of Him who is to come." His whole mission was calculated, in accordance with the office of the law, which gives the knowledge of sin (Rom. iii. 20), to bring men's minds into that state in which the Redeemer invites them (ch. xi. 28), as weary and heavy laden, to come to Him. in the wilderness] Where also he had been brought up, Luke i. 80. This tract was not strictly a desert, but thinly peopled, and abounding in pastures for flocks. This wilderness answers to "all the country round about Jordan" in Luke iii. 3. See note on ch. iv. 1. 2. Repent] Used by the Baptist in the O. T. sense of turning to God as His people, from the spiritual idolatry and typical adultery in which the faithless among the Jews were involved. This, of course, included personal amendment in individuals. See Luke iii. 10-14. Josephus describes John as "commanding the Jews to practise virtue, and justice to their neighbour, and piety towards God, and thus to receive his baptism." the kingdom of heaven] An expression peculiar in the N. T. to St. Matthew. The more usual one is "the Kingdom of God:" but the Kingdom of heaven" is common in the Rabbinical writers, who do not however, except in one or two places, mean by it the reign of the Messiah, but the Jewish religion-the theocracy. Still, from the use of it by St. Matthew here, and in ch. iv. 17, x. 7, we may conclude that it was used by the Jews, and understood, to mean the advent of the Christ, probably from the prophecy in Dan. ii. 44; vii. 13, 14, 27. 3. For this is he] Not the words of the Baptist, meaning "for I am he," as in John i. 23, but of the Evangelist; and "is" is not for "was," but is the prophetic present, representing to us the place which the Baptist fills in the divine purposes. Of for, Bengel says well, that it gives the cause why John
then came forward, as described in ver. 1, 2, viz. because it had been thus predicted. -The primary and literal application of this prophecy to the return from captivity is very doubtful. If it ever had such an application, we may safely say that its predictions were so imperfectly and sparingly fulfilled in that return, or any thing which followed it, that we are necessarily directed onward to its greater fulfilment the announcement of the kingdom of Christ. Euthymius remarks, that the ways and paths of the Lord are men's souls, which must be cleared of the thorns of passion and the stones of sin, and thus made straight and level for His approach. 4. And the same John] rather, now John himself, recalling the reader from the prophetic testimony, to the person of John. As John was the Elias of prophecy, so we find in his outward attire a striking similarity to Elias, who was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins." 2 Kings i. 8. The garment of camel's hair was not the camel's skin with the hair on, which would be too heavy to wear, but raiment woven of camel's hair. From Zech. xiii. 4, it seems that such a dress was known as the prophetic garb:
neither shall they (the prophets) wear a rough garment to deceive.' locusts] There is no difficulty here. The locust, permitted to be eaten, Levit. xi. 22, was used as food by the lower orders in Judæa, and mentioned by Strabo and Pliny as eaten by the Ethiopians, and by many other authors, as articles of food. Jerome mentions it as the custom in the East and Libya and Shaw found locusts eaten by the Moors in Barbary. (Travels, p. 164.) wild honey] See 1 Sam. xiv. 25. Here again there is no need to suppose any thing else meant but honey made by wild bees. Schulz found such honey in this very wilderness in our own time. See Psalm 1xxxi. 16: Judg. xiv. 8: Deut. xxxii. 13. 5.] all the region round about Jordan means all the neighbourhood of
tized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his mch. xii. 34: baptism, he said unto them, m On generation of vipers, who
hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring
Jordan not included in "Jerusalem and Judæa" before mentioned. Parts of Peræa, Samaria, Galilee, and Gaulonitis come under this denomination.-There need be no surprise at such multitudes going out to John. The nature of his announcement, coupled with the prevalent expectation of the time, was enough to produce this effect. See, as strictly consistent with this account, chap. xi. 7-15. 6. were baptized] When men were admitted as proselytes, three rites were performedcircumcision, baptism, and oblation; when women, two-baptism and oblation. The baptism was administered in the day-time, by immersion of the whole person; and while standing in the water the proselyte was instructed in certain portions of the law. The whole families of proselytes, including infants, were baptized. It is most probable that John's baptism in outward form resembled that of proselytes. See above, on ver. 1. Some deny that the proselyte baptism was in use before the time of John: but the contrary has been generally supposed, and maintained. Indeed the baptism or lustration of a proselyte on admission would follow, as a matter of course, by analogy from the constant legal practice of lustration after all uncleannesses and it is difficult to imagine a time when it would not be in use. Besides, it is highly improbable that the Jews should have borrowed the rite from the Christians, or the Jewish hierarchy from John. confessing their sins] From the form and expression, this does not seem to have been merely shewing a contrite spirit,' 'confessing themselves sinners,' but a particular and individual confession; not, however, made privately to John, but before the people: see his exhortation to the various classes in Luke iii. 10-15 nor in every case, but in those which required it. 7. Pharisees and Sadducees] These two sects, according to Josephus, Antt. xiii. 5. 9, originated at the same period, under Jonathan the High Priest (B.c. 159-144). The PHARISEES, deriving their name probably from "Parash," he separated,' took for their distinctive practice the strict observance of the law and all its requirements, written and oral. They had great power over the
people, and are numbered by Josephus, as being, about the time of the death of Herod the Great, above 6000. We find in the Gospels the Pharisees the most constant opponents of our Lord, and His discourses frequently directed against them. The character of the sect as a whole was hypocrisy; the outside acknowledgment and honouring of God and his law, but inward and practical denial of Him; which rendered them the enemies of the simplicity and genuineness which characterized our Lord's teaching. Still, among them were undoubtedly pious and worthy men, honourably distinguished from the mass of the sect; John iii. 1: Acts v. 34. The various points of their religious and moral belief will be treated of as they occur in the text of the Gospels. The SADDUCEES are said to have derived their name from one Sadok, about the time of Alexander the Great (B.C. 323): but they were named from the Hebrew Tsaddik, righteousness, more probably. They rejected all tradition, but did not, as some have supposed, confine their canon of Scripture to the Pentateuch. The denial of a future state does not appear to have been an original tenet of Sadduceism, but to have sprung from its abuse. The particular side of religionism represented by the Sadducees was bare literal moral conformity, without any higher views or hopes. They thus escaped the dangers of tradition, but fell into deadness and worldliness, and a denial of spiritual influence. While our Lord was on earth, this state of mind was very prevalent among the educated classes throughout the Roman empire; and most of the Jews of rank and station were Sadducees. -The two sects, mutually hostile, are found frequently in the Gospels united in opposition to our Lord (see ch. xvi. 1, 6, 11; xxii. 23, 34; also Acts iv. 1); the Pharisees representing hypocritical superstition; the Sadducees, carnal unbelief. come] It would appear here as if these Pharisees and Sadducees came with others, and because others did, without any worthy motive, and they were probably deterred by his rebuke from undergoing baptism at his hands. We know, from Luke vii. 30, that the Pharisees in general'were not baptized of him.'
John xv. 6.
forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our " father: John viii. 23, for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now [also] the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which chvii. 19. bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather
the wrath to come] The reference of John's ministry to the prophecy concerning Elias, Mal. iii. 1; iv.5 (Mark i. 2), would naturally suggest to men's minds 'the wrath to come' there also foretold. It was the general expectation of the Jews that troublous times would accompany the appearance of the Messiah. John is now speaking in the true character of a prophet, foretelling the wrath soon to be poured on the Jewish nation. 8.] therefore expresses an inference from their apparent intention of fleeing from the wrath to come: q. d. if you are really so minded,'. . 9. think not to say] Not merely equivalent to "say not:" but, Do not fancy you may say, &c. The expression to say within yourselves, as similar expressions in Scripture (e. g. Ps. x. 6, 11; xiv. 1: Eccl. i. 16; ii. 15, al. fr.), is used to signify the act by which outward circumstances are turned into thoughts of the mind. of these stones] The pebbles or shingle on the beach of the Jordan. He possibly referred to Isa. li. 1, 2. This also is prophetic, of the admission of the Gentile church. See Rom. iv. 16 Gal. iii. 29. Or we may take the interpretation which Chrysostom prefers, also referring to Isa. li. 1, 2: Think not that your perishing will leave Abraham without children: for God is able to raise him up children even from stones, as He created man out of dust at the beginning. The present tenses, "is laid," "is cut down," imply the law, or habit, which now and henceforward, in the kingdom of heaven prevails: from this time it is so. 11. whose shoes, &c.] Lightfoot shews that it was the token of a slave having become his master's property, to loose his shoe, to tie the same, or to carry the necessary articles for him to the bath. The expressions therefore in
all the Gospels amount to the same.
mere introduction. To separate off "with the Holy Ghost" as belonging to one set of persons, and “with fire” as belonging to another, when both are united in "you,' is in the last degree harsh, besides introducing confusion into the whole. The members of comparison in this verse are strictly parallel to one another: the baptism by water, the end of which is “repentance," a mere transition state, a note of preparation,-and the baptism by the Holy Ghost and fire, the end of which is (ver. 12) sanctification, the entire aim and purpose of man's creation and renewal. Thus the official superiority of the Redeemer (which is all that our Evangelist here deals with) is fully brought out. The superiority of nature and preexistence is reserved for the fuller and more dogmatic account in John i. 12. whose fan, &c.] In the Rabbinical work Midrash Tehillim, on Ps. ii., the same figure is found: "The winnowing is at hand they throw the straw into the fire, the chaff to the wind, but preserve the wheat in the floor; so the nations of the world shall be the conflagration of a fur
p ch. ii. 22.
his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
13 Then cometh Jesus P from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.
nace but Israel alone shall be preserved." his floor] i.e. the contents of the barnfloor. Thus in Job xxxix. 12, "he will bring home thy seed, and gather thy barn" (literally). Or perhaps owing to the verb (shall cleanse from one end to the other), the floor itself, which was an open hard-trodden space in the middle of the field. See "The Land and the Book," p. 538 ff., where there is an illustration.
Very little use is now made of the fan, but I have seen it employed to purge the floor of the refuse dust, which the owner throws away as useless," p. 540. chaff] Not only the chaff, but also the straw: see reff.; all that is not wheat.'
13-17.] JESUS HIMSELF BAPTIZED BY HIM. Mark i. 9-11: Luke iii. 21, 22. It does not appear exactly when the baptism of our Lord took place. If the comparative age of the Baptist is taken into account, we should suppose it to have been about six months after this latter began his ministry. But this is no sure guide. The place was Bethany (the older reading), beyond Jordan; John. i. 28.
13. to be baptized] Why should our Lord, who was without sin, have come to a baptism of repentance? Because He was made sin for us: for which reason also He suffered the curse of the law. It became Him, being in the likeness of sinful flesh, to go through those appointed rites and purifications which belonged to that flesh. There is no more strangeness in His having been baptized by John, than in His keeping the Passovers. The one rite, as the other, belonged to sinnersand among the transgressors He was numbered. The prophetic words in Ps. xl. 12, spoken in the person of our Lord, indicate, in the midst of sinlessness, the most profound apprehension of the sins of that nature which He took upon him. I cannot suppose the baptism to have been sought by our Lord merely to honour John, or as knowing that it would be the occasion of a divine recognition of his Messiahship, and thus pre-ordained by God: but bona fide, as bearing the infirmities and carrying the sorrows of mankind, and thus beginning
here the triple baptism of water, fire, and blood, two parts of which were now accomplished, and of the third of which He himself speaks, Luke xii. 50, and the beloved Apostle, 1 John v. 8.-His baptism, as it was our Lord's closing act of obedience under the Law, in His hitherto concealed life of legal submission, His fulfilling all righteousness, so was His solemn inauguration and anointing for the higher official life of mediatorial satisfaction which was now opening upon Him. See Rom. i. 3, 4. We must not forget that the working out of perfect righteousness in our flesh by the entire and spotless keeping of God's law (Deut. vi. 25), was, in the main, accomplished during the thirty years previous to our Lord's official ministry. 14. forbad] Rather, tried to hinder the word implies the active and earnest preventing, with the gesture, or hand, or voice. There is only an apparent inconsistency between the speech of John in this sense, and the assertion made by him in John i. 33, I knew him not.' Let us regard the matter in this light-John begins his ministry by a commission from God, who also admonishes him, that He, whose Forerunner he was, would be in time revealed to him by a special sign. Jesus comes to be baptized by him. From the nature of his relationship to our Lord, he could not but know those events which had accompanied his birth, and his subsequent life of holy and unblamable purity and sanctity. My impression from the words of this verse certainly is, that he regarded Him as the Messiah. Still, his belief wanted that full and entire assurance which the occurrence of the predicted sign gave him, which the word knew implies, and which would justify him in announcing Him to his disciples as the Lamb of God. 15. now] The exact meaning is difficult. It cannot well be that which the A. V. at first sight gives, that something was to be done now, inconsistent with the actual and hereafter-to-be-manifested relation of the two persons. Rather-though what has been said (ver. 14) is true, yet the time is