Page images

III. 1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching

Egypt. 23. that it might be fulfilled] three Evangelists) begins, its extent being These words refer to the divine purpose in the same as that specified by Peter in Acts the event, not to that of Joseph in bring. i. 22, from the baptism of John unto that ing it about. which was spoken by same day that He was taken up from us.' the prophets] These words are nowhere For a comparison of the narratives in the verbatim to be found, nor is this asserted various sections, see notes on St. Mark. by the Evangelist; but that the sense of In this Gospel, I have generally confined the prophets is such. In searching for myself to the subject-matter. 1. In such sense, the following hypotheses have those days] The last matter mentioned was been made -- none of them satisfactory : the dwelling at Nazareth; and though we (1) Euthymius says, “ Do not enquire what must not take the connexion strictly as prophets said this : for you will not find implying that Joseph dwelt there all the out: because many of the prophetic books intermediate thirty years, those days" have perished, some in the captivities, some must be understood to mean that we take by neglect of the Jews, some also by foul up the persons of the narrative where we play.” So also Chrysostom and others. left them ; i. e. dwelling at Nazareth. But the expression" by the prophetscame] literally, comes forward_makes seems to have a wider bearing than is thus his appearance.' Euthymius asks the quesimplied. (2) Others say, the general sense tion, whence ? and answers it, from the of the prophets is, that Christ should be recesses of the wilderness. But this can a despised person, as the inhabitants of hardly be, owing to the “in the wilderNazareth were (John i. 47). But surely nessfollowing. The verb is used absothis part of the Messiah's prophetic cha lutely. The title “ John the Baptistshews racter is not general or prominent enough that St. Matthew was writing for those in the absence of any direct verbal con- who well knew John the Baptist as an nexion with the word in our text, to found historical personage. Josephus, in mensuch an interpretation on: nor, on the tioning him, calls him “ John who is called other hand, does it appear that an inha- the Baptist.John was strictly speaking bitant of Nazareth, as such, was despised; a prophet; belonging to the legal dispensaonly that the obscurity of the town was, tion ; a rebuker of sin, and preacher of both by Nathanael and the Jews, coule repentance. The expression in St. Luke, trasted with our Lord's claims. (3) The the word of God came to John," is the Nazarites of old were men holy and con- usual formula for the divine commission of secrated to God; e.g. Samson (Judg. xiii. the Prophets (Jer. i. 1: Ezek. vi. 1; vii. 1, 5), Samuel (1 Sam. i. 11), and to this the &c.). And the effect of the Holy Spirit on words are referred by Tertullian, Jerome, John was more in accordance with the 0. T. and others. But (a) our Lord did not (like than the N. T. inspiration; more of a John the Baptist) lead a life in accordance sudden overpowering influence, as in the with the Nazarite vow, but drank wine, Prophets, than a gentle indwelling mani. &c., and set himself in marked contrast fested through the individual character, with John in this very particular (ch. xi. as in the Apostles and Evangelists.- The 18, 19); and (b) the word here is not baptism of John was of a deeper signiNazarite, but Nazarene, denoting an in- ficance than that usual among the Jews habitant of Nazareth. (4) There may be in the case of proselytes, and formed an an allusion to the Hebrew “ Netser,a integral part of his divinely appointed branch, by which name our Lord is called office. It was emphatically the baptism of in Isa. xi. 1, and from which word it ap. repentance (Luke iii. 3), but not that of pears that the name Nazareth is probably regeneration (Titus iii. 5). We find in derived. So learned Hebrewsmen. Acts xviii. 24 - 26; xix. 1–7, accounts of tioned by Jerome on Isa. xi. 1, and others. persons who had received the baptism of But this word is only used in the place John, who believed, and (in Apollos's case) cited ; and in by far the more precise pro taught accurately the things (i. e. facts) phecies of the Branch, Zech. iii. 8; vi. 12: concerning the Lord; but required inJer. xxiii. 5; xxxiii. 15, and Isa. iv. 2, the struction (in doctrine), and rebaptizing in word “ T'semachis used.-I leave it, there the name of the Lord Jesus. Whether the fore, as an unsolved difficulty.

baptism practised by the disciples before CHAP. III. 1-12.] PREACHING AND the Resurrection was of the same kind, and BAPTISM OF JOHN. Mark i. 1-8: Luke iji. required this renewal, is uncertain. The 1-17 (John i. 6--28). Here the synoptic fact of our Lord Himself having received narrative (i. e. the narrative common to the baptism from John, is decisive against the

jin the three

Gospels, often: but neither verb nor substan. tive are used

by St. John, k ISA. Xl. 3.

in the wilderness of Judæa, 2 and saying, i Repent ye: Jim 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 di stare used voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way k of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a 'leathern 1 2 Kings i. 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, 6 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 accord ance 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 bad 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. l. 2. Repent] Used by the Baptist in the 0. 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 totheir neighbour, and piety towards God, and thus to receive his baptism.”

the kingdom of heaven] Anexpres. sion 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 under stood, 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 Évangelist; 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 Æthiopians, 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 lxxxi. 16: Judg. xiv. 8: Deut. xxxii. 13. 5.7 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 m China Xiz. 34: baptism, he said unto them, mon generation of vipers, who

hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ? 8 Bring

xxiii. 33.

Brender, offspring.

Jordan not included in “ Jerusalem and people, and are numbered by Josephus, as Judæa” before mentioned. Parts of Peræa, being, about the time of the death of Herod Samaria, Galilee, and Gaulonitis come under the Great, above 6000. We find in the this denomination.— There need be no sur Gospels the Pharisees the most constant prise at such multitudes going out to opponents of our Lord, and His discourses John. The nature of his announcement, frequently directed against them. The coupled with the prevalent expectation of character of the sect as a whole was hypo. the time, was enough to produce this crisy; the outside acknowledgment and effect. See, as strictly consistent with this honouring of God and his law, but inward account, chap. xi. 7-15. 6. were and practical denial of Him; which renbaptized When men were admitted as dered them the enemies of the simplicity proselytes, three rites were performed and genuineness which characterized our circumcision, baptism, and oblation; when Lord's teaching. Still, among them were women, two-baptism and oblation. The undoubtedly pious and worthy men, honourbaptisin was administered in the day-time, ably distinguished from the mass of the by immersion of the whole person; and sect; John ii. 1: Acts v. 34. The various while standing in the water the proselyte points of their religious and moral belief was instructed in certain portions of the will be treated of as they occur in the text law. The whole families of proselytes, in- of the Gospels. The SADDUCEES are cluding infants, were baptized. It is most said to have derived their name from one probable that John's baptism in outward Sadok, about the time of Alexander the form resembled that of proselytes. See Great (B.O. 323): but they were named above, on ver. 1. Some deny that the pro. from the Hebrew Tsaddik, righteousness, selyte baptism was in use before the time more probably. They rejected all tradiof John: but the contrary has been gene- tion, but did not, as some have supposed, rally supposed, and maintained. Indeed confine their canon of Scripture to the the baptisın or lustration of a proselyte on Pentateuch. The denial of a future state admission would follow, as a matter of does not appear to have been an original course, by analogy from the constant legal tenet of Sadduceisin, but to have sprung practice of lustration after all unclean from its abuse. The particular side of nesses: and it is difficult to imagine a religionism represented by the Sadducees time when it would not be in use. Be was bare literal moral conformity, without sides, it is highly improbable that the any higher views or hopes. They thus Jews should have borrowed the rite from escaped the dangers of tradition, but fell the Christians, or the Jewish hierarchy into deadness and worldliness, and a denial from John. confessing their sins of spiritual influence. While our Lord was From the form and expression, this does on earth, this state of mind was very prenot seem to have been merely shewing a valent among the educated classes throughcontrite spirit,' “confessing themselves sin- out the Roman empire; and most of the ners,' but a particular and individual con. Jews of rank and station were Sadducees. fession; not, however, made privately to — The two sects, mutually hostile, are John, but before the people : see his ex. found frequently in the Gospels united hortation to the various classes in Luke iii. in opposition to our Lord (see ch. xvi. l. 10–15: nor in every case, but in those 6, 11; xxii. 23, 34; also Acts iv. 1); the which required it. 7. Pharisees and Pharisees representing hypocritical superSadducees] These two sects, according to stition; the Sadducees, carnal unbelief. Josephus, Antt. xiii. 5. 9, originated at the

come] It would appear here as same period, under Jonathan the High if these Pharisees and Sadducees came Priest (B.c. 159-144). The PAARISEES, with others, and because others did, withderiving their name probably from Pa- out any worthy motive, and they were rash,” he separated,' took for their dis. probably deterred by his rebuke from tinctive practice the strict observance of undergoing baptisın at his hands. We the law and all its requirements, written know, from Luke vii. 30, that the Phari. and oral. They had great power over the secs in general ‘were not baptized of him.'

forth therefore fruits meet for repentance : 9 and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our " father : 1 John viii. 93, 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 o every tree which chwii. 10. 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

o omit.

the wrath to come] The reference of John's ministry to the prophecy concerning Elias, Mal. ii. 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 accom. pany 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 feeing from the wrath to coine : 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 simi. lar 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 ad. mission 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. i, 2: Think not that your perishing will leave Abraham without children : for God is able to raise him up children eren from stones, as He created man out of dust at the beginning. The present tenses, “is laid,“ is cut down," imply the law, or babit, 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 pro perty, 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. with the Holy Ghost, and with fire] This was literally fulfilled at the day of Pente. cost: but Origen and others refer the words to the baptism of the righteous by the Holy Spirit, and of the wicked by fire. I have no doubt that this is a mistake in the present case, though apparently to the superficial reader) borne out by ver. 12. The double symbolic reference of fire, elsewhere found, e.g. Mark ix. 50, as purifying the good and consuming the evil, though illustrated by these verses, is hardly to be pressed into the interpretation of fire in this verse, the prophecy here being solely of that higher and more perfect baptism to which that of John was å 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 Evan. gelist here deals with) is fully brought out. The superiority of nature and preeristence 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 saine 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.” here the triple baptism of water, fire, and

his floor) i.e. the contents of the barn- blood, two parts of which were now acfloor. Thus in Job xxxix. 12, “he will complished, and of the third of which He bring home thy seed, and gather thy himself speaks, Luke xii. 50, and the bebarn” (literally). Or perhaps owing to loved Apostle, 1 John v. 8.-His baptism, the verb (shall cleanse from one end to the as it was our Lord's closing act of obeother), the floor itself, which was an open dience under the Law, in His hitherto hard-trodden space in the middle of the concealed life of legal submission, His field. See “The Land and the Book," p. fulfilling all righteousness, so was His 538 ff., where there is an illustration. solemn inauguration and anointing for the “ Very little use is now made of the fan, higher official life of mediatorial satisfac. but I have seen it employed to purge the tion which was now opening upon Him. floor of the refuse dust, which the owner See Rom. i. 3, 4. We must not forget throws away as useless," p. 540. that the working out of perfect righteous. chaff] Not only the chaff, but also the ness in our flesh by the entire and spotless straw: see reff. : all that is not wheat.' keeping of God's law (Deut. vi. 25), was,

13—17.) JESUS HIMSELF BAPTIZED BY in the main, accomplished during the HIM. Mark i. 9-11: Luke iii. 21, 22. thirty years previous to our Lord's official It does not appear exactly when the bap. ministry. 14. forbad] Rather, tried tism of our Lord took place. If the coin to hinder: the word implies the active parative age of the Baptist is taken into and earnest preventing, with the gesture, account, we should suppose it to have been or hand, or voice. There is only an ap. about six months after this latter began parent inconsistency between the speech his ministry. But this is no sure guide. of John in this sense, and the assertion The place was Bethany (the older read. made by him in John i. 33, I knew him ing), beyond Jordan; John. i. 28.

not. Let us regard the matter in this 13. to be baptized] Why should our Lord, light :-John begins his ministry by a who was without sin, have come to a commission from God, who also admobaptism of repentance ? Because He was nishes him, that He, whose Forerunner he made sin for us : for which reason also was, would be in time revealed to him hy He suffered the curse of the law. It be a special sign. Jesus comes to be bap. came Him, being in the likeness of sinful tized by him. From the nature of his flesh, to go through those appointed rites relationship to our Lord, he could not but and purifications which belonged to that know those events which had accompanied flesh. There is no more strangeness in his birth, and his subsequent life of holy His having been baptized by John, than and unblamable purity and sanctity. My in His keeping the Passovers. The one impression from the words of this verse rite, as the other, belonged to sinners- certainly is, that he regarded Him as the and among the transgressors He was Messiah. Still, his belief wanted that numbered. The prophetic words in Ps, xl. full and entire assurance which the occur. 12, spoken in the person of our Lord, indi- rence of the predicted sign gave him, cate, in the midst of sinlessness, the most which the word knew implies, and which profound apprehension of the sins of that would justify him in announcing Him to nature which He took upon him. I cannot his disciples as the Lamb of God. suppose the baptism to have been sought 15. now] The exact meaning is difficult. by our Lord merely to honour John, or as It cannot well be that which the A, V. at knowing that it would be the occasion of a first sight gives, that something was to be divine recognition of his Messiahship, and done now, inconsistent with the actual and thus pre-ordained by God: but bona fide, hereafter-to-be-manifested relation of the as bearing the infirinities and carrying the two persons. Rather—though what has sorrows of mankind, and thus beginning been said (ver. 14) is true, yet the time is

« PreviousContinue »