|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-6 After Malachi there was no prophet until John the Baptist came. He appeared first in the wilderness of Judea. This was not an uninhabited desert, but a part of the country not thickly peopled, nor much enclosed. No place is so remote as to shut us out from the visits of Divine grace. The doctrine he preached was repentance; Repent ye. The word here used, implies a total alteration in the mind, a change in the judgment, disposition, and affections, another and a better bias of the soul. Consider your ways, change your minds: you have thought amiss; think again, and think aright. True penitents have other thoughts of God and Christ, sin and holiness, of this world and the other, than they had. The change of the mind produces a change of the way. That is gospel repentance, which flows from a sight of Christ, from a sense of his love, and from hopes of pardon and forgiveness through him. It is a great encouragement to us to repent; repent, for your sins shall be pardoned upon your repentance. Return to God in a way of duty, and he will, through Christ, return unto you in the way of mercy. It is still as necessary to repent and humble ourselves, to prepare the way of the Lord, as it then was. There is a great deal to be done, to make way for Christ into a soul, and nothing is more needful than the discovery of sin, and a conviction that we cannot be saved by our own righteousness. The way of sin and Satan is a crooked way; but to prepare a way for Christ, the paths must be made straight, Heb 12:13. Those whose business it is to call others to mourn for sin, and to mortify it, ought themselves to live a serious life, a life of self-denial, and contempt of the world. By giving others this example, John made way for Christ. Many came to John's baptism, but few kept to the profession they made. There may be many forward hearers, where there are few true believers. Curiosity, and love for novelty and variety, may bring many to attend on good preaching, and to be affected for a while, who never are subject to the power of it. Those who received John's doctrine, testified their repentance by confessing their sins. Those only are ready to receive Jesus Christ as their righteousness, who are brought with sorrow and shame to own their guilt. The benefits of the kingdom of heaven, now at hand, were thereupon sealed to them by baptism. John washed them with water, in token that God would cleanse them from all their iniquities, thereby intimating, that by nature and practice all were polluted, and could not be admitted among the people of God, unless washed from their sins in the fountain Christ was to open, Zec 13:1.
Verse 6. - And (they, Revised Version) were baptized. The Revised Version probably desires to call attention to the change in the verb from singular to plural. In Jordan; in the river Jordan (Revised Version, with manuscripts). So also parallel passage in Mark (cf. Introduction, p. 5.). By him; i.e. their baptism was not self-imposed, but an act of submission to his teaching, and of acceptance of his message. The forerunner saw results, not merely in crowds of listeners, but in external actions. By him (contrast John 4:2). Confessing their sins; i.e. in at least some detail; cf. Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:04. 6, "confessing their sins and their transgressions of the laws of their country ( ἐξομολογουμένων τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν καὶ τὰς τῶν πατρίων νομίμων παραβάσεις);" also Acts 19:18, "confessing and declaring their deeds" (cf. James 5:16).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And were baptized of him,.... The place where they were baptized of him was, "in Jordan"; some copies read, "in the river Jordan", as in Mark 1:5. As to the name of this river, and the etymology of it, the Jews say (l) it was so called, "because it descended" from Dan, i.e. Leshem Dan, or Pamias, which they say is a cave at the head of it. It was in John's time and long after a considerable river, a river to swim in; we (m) read that "Resh Lakish was swimming in Jordan." And elsewhere (n), that one day "R. Jochanan was swimming in Jordan." Also it was a river for boats and ships to pass in, so that it was a navigable river; hence we read (o) of "the boat of Jordan", and of ships in it, and of such and such things being forbidden to be carried over Jordan in a ship (p); particularly,
"a man might not take the water of the sin offering, and the ashes of the sin offering, and carry them over Jordan in a ship.''
Pliny (q), Pausanias (r), Solinus (s), and others, speak of it as a very considerable and delightful river; see Joshua 3:15. The Christians of Christ's time are called by the Jews, in a way of contempt, apostates, that received the doctrine of baptism, and were "dipped in Jordan" (t). The manner in which they were baptized by him was by immersion or plunging them in the water: this may be concluded from the signification of the word where used, which in the primary sense of it signifies to dip or plunge; from the place in which they were baptized, "the river Jordan"; and from John's constant manner of baptizing elsewhere, who chose places for this purpose, where and because there was there much water; see John 1:28. The character of the persons baptized by him is this, they were such as were
confessing their sins. They were called to repentance by John's ministry, and had the grace of it bestowed upon them; being thoroughly convinced of sin, and truly sorry for it, they were ready to acknowledge and confess it to God and men; and such an abiding sense they had of it upon their minds, that they continued doing it: they were not only confessing their sins before baptism, which engaged John to administer it to them; since we find afterwards he refused to admit others, because of their want of repentance and fruits meet for it; but also whilst they were going into the water, and when they came up out of it, so full were they of a sense of sin, and so ready to own it. Even in baptism itself there is a tacit confession and acknowledgment of sin, for it represents the sufferings and death of Christ which were for sin, into which persons are baptized, and profess to be dead to sin thereby; and also the resurrection of Christ for justification from sin, which obliges the baptized person to walk in newness of life, see Romans 6:3 besides, in this ordinance believers are led to the blood of Christ, both for the cleansing and remission of their sins, which suppose filth and guilt, Acts 22:16 and Acts 2:38. Now this is the character given of the very first persons that were baptized by John, and ought surely to be attended to, by us; and as much care as possible should be taken, that none but such as have a true sense of sin, and are brought to an humble and hearty acknowledgment of it, be admitted to this ordinance.
(l) T. Bab. Becorot. fol. 55. 1. Kimchi in Joshua 19.47. (m) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 9. 2.((n) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 84. 1.((o) T. Hieros. Sabbat. fol. 7. 1. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 64. 2.((p) T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 116. 2. Chagiga, fol. 23. 1. Sabbat. fol. 60. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Parah Adumah, c. 10. sect. 2. & Bartenora in Misn. Parah, c. 9. sect. 6. (q) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 15. (r) L. 5. p. 29. (s) Polyhist. c. 48. (t) Cosri, p. 3. sect. 65. p. 241. Ed. Buxtorf.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins—probably confessing aloud. This baptism was at once a public seal of their felt need of deliverance from sin, of their expectation of the coming Deliverer, and of their readiness to welcome Him when He appeared. The baptism itself startled, and was intended to startle, them. They were familiar enough with the baptism of proselytes from heathenism; but this baptism of Jews themselves was quite new and strange to them.
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