|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:19-28 John disowns himself to be the Christ, who was now expected and waited for. He came in the spirit and power of Elias, but he was not the person of Elias. John was not that Prophet whom Moses said the Lord would raise up to them of their brethren, like unto him. He was not such a prophet as they expected, who would rescue them from the Romans. He gave such an account of himself, as might excite and awaken them to hearken to him. He baptized the people with water as a profession of repentance, and as an outward sign of the spiritual blessings to be conferred on them by the Messiah, who was in the midst of them, though they knew him not, and to whom he was unworthy to render the meanest service.
Verse 24. - And they had been sent from the Pharisees, which amounts to the same thing as "they which were sent were of the Pharisees," and it is after the manner of John to introduce explanatory, retrospective comment, which may throw light on what follows (vers. 41, 45; John 4:30; John 11:5). The οϋν of the following verse shows that we have still to do with the same deputation. The Pharisees were accustomed to lustral rites, but had legal points to make as to the authority of any man who dared to impose them upon the sacred nation, and especially on their own section, which made its special boast of ceremonial exactitude and purity. They might justify an old prophet, or the Elijah of Malachi, and still more the Christ himself, should he call men to baptismal cleansing. But the dim mysterious "voice in the wilderness," even if John could prove his words, had no such prescriptive claim. The Pharisaic priests and Levites would take strong views on the baptismal question, and even exalt it into a more eminent place in their thoughts than the fundamental question, "Art thou the very Christ?" The same confusion of essential and accidental elements of religious truth and life was not confined to old Pharisees.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. Who were the straitest sect of religion among the Jews; were very zealous of the traditions of the elders, and professed an expectation of the Messiah; and were famous in the nation for their knowledge and learning, as well as for their devotion and sanctity: and many of them were in the sanhedrim, as appears from John 3:1; see Gill on Matthew 3:7.
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