John 1:23
He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
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(23) But he still gives the “No.” They think of his person and his work. He thinks of neither. His eye is fixed on the coming One. In this presence his own personality has no existence. He is as a voice, not to be inquired about but heard. They are acting as men who ask questions about the messenger of a great king who is coming to them and is at hand, instead of hastening with every effort to make ready for him. (Comp. Note on Matthew 3:3.)

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.I am the voice ... - See the notes at Matthew 3:3. 21. Elias—in His own proper person.

that prophet—announced in De 18:15, &c., about whom they seem not to have been agreed whether he were the same with the Messiah or no.

We had the same, See Poole on "Matthew 3:3", See Poole on "Mark 1:3". Chemnitius thinks, that John chose rather to preach and fulfil his ministry in the wilderness, than in the temple; to make an illustrious difference between himself, who was but the Lord’s messenger, and whose office was but to prepare the Lord’s way, and his Lord himself, of whom it was prophesied, Malachi 3:1, The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his holy temple; upon which account Haggai prophesied. Haggai 2:9, that the glory of that latter house (built by Ezra, and Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah) should be greater than of the former.

And he said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness,.... These words are cited by the other evangelists, and applied to John the Baptist; but then they are only to be considered as their citation, and as an application of them to him by them: but here they are used by John himself, who both expresses them, and interprets them of himself; and in which he was undoubtedly under the infallible direction of the blessed Spirit; and which confirms the sense of the evangelists, who apply the words to him. The Jews give a different interpretation of the words; though one of their celebrated commentators (u) owns, that the comforts spoken of in the preceding verses are what will be in the days of the King Messiah: one of them (w) interprets, "the voice", of the Holy Ghost; and so far it may be true, as John was filled with the Holy Ghost, and he spake by him in his ministry: and another (x), of the resurrection of the dead, or the voice that will be heard then, which will be the voice of the archangel: though another of (y) them better explains it by, , "they are they that bring glad tidings", or good news; such are Gospel preachers; only it should have been in the singular number: for the text speaks but of one voice; of one person crying; and of John the Baptist, who brought the good news, and glad tidings, that the Messiah was coming, yea, that he was already come, and that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. The Hebrew writers generally understand the passage, of the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and of removing all obstructions in their way to Jerusalem; to which sense the Targum on the place inclines, which paraphrases it thus,

"the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare the way before the people of the Lord, make in the plain, paths before the congregation of our God:

but not the people of the Lord, but the Lord himself, and not the congregation of God, but God himself is intended; whose ways were to be prepared, and made plain, even the King Messiah; which was to be done, and was done by his forerunner John the Baptist, who, with great modesty, expresses himself in the language of this Scripture, as being a prophecy of him: he was a "voice", but not a mere voice; nor was his ministry a mere voice of words, as the law was, but it was the sweet voice of the Gospel, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah; encouraging men to believe in him; calling them to evangelical repentance, and publishing remission of sins in the name of Christ, and pointing him out as the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world: this voice was "crying"; it was not a still small voice, it was a very loud one; John lifted up his voice like a trumpet; he delivered himself with great zeal and fervency; and it was "in the wilderness" where this voice was heard, in the wilderness of Judea, as in Matthew 3:1 where Jesus came preaching; the Ethiopic version renders the words, "I am the voice of one that goes about in the wilderness"; that is, in the several towns and villages which were in the wilderness, to whom John went and preached the Gospel: the Persic version reads, "I am the voice and cry which cometh out of the wilderness"; referring to the place where he was before he entered on his public ministry, and from whence he came; for he was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel, Luke 1:80. The words this voice cried were,

make straight the way of the Lord; he called upon persons to reform their ways, and walk in the way of the Lord, to repent of their sins, believe in Christ, and submit to the ordinance of baptism: the Ethiopic version reads, "the way of God"; and such was the person he came to prepare the way for, even the Son of God, and who is truly and properly God,

as said the prophet Esaias, in Isaiah 40:3.

(u) Kimchi in Isaiah 40.1.((w) Jarchi in Isaiah 40.3.((x) Zohar in Gen. fol. 70. 4. (y) Aben Ezra in Isa. ib.

He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
23. I am the voice, &c.] Or, I am a voice. The Synoptists use these words of the Baptist as fulfilling prophecy. From this verse it would seem as if they were first so used by himself. The quotation is almost exact from the LXX. John was a Voice making known the Word, meaningless without the Word. There is an almost certain reference to this passage (19–23) in Justin Martyr, Trypho, lxxxviii., which is evidence that this Gospel was known before a.d. 150.

John 1:23. Ἐγὼ φωνή, I the Voice) An abbreviated mode of expression; I am that person, of whom it has been said; the Voice of one crying. John was also himself crying.—εὐθύνατε) ἑτοιμάσατεεὐθείας ποιεῖτε, Luke 3:4, notes.—ἡσαΐας ὁ προφήτης, Isaiah the prophet) Formerly, saith he, there were prophets: now the kingdom of God is nearer at hand.

Verse 23. - He said, I am a voice crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said Isaiah the prophet. This great utterance had been by the synoptists distinctly applied to the Baptist (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4); here we have the origin of such application. The Baptist quoted from Isaiah 40:3 two sentences; the synoptists cite the whole passage, as finding abundant realization in the mission of John. The prophet felt that the work he had to perform entirely concealed the importance of his own personality. He lost himself in his office and in his message. Isaiah, when foreseeing the revival of the nation, then wandering in a spiritual "wilderness," along rugged ridges, savage precipices, stony gorges, of a symbolic desert, anticipated the return of the Jehovah to his own sanctuary, and declared that ample prophetic preparation was needed, so that the people, by repentance and reformation, might understand that Israel had received double for all her sins. "Hark!" says he, "a crier, or a voice." The herald has gone forth to break the silence that lay between the land of captivity and the land of promise. "In the wilderness prepare ye the way of the Lord." Israel was to see that there was neither self-righteousness nor moral rebellion to impede the approach of One who was mighty to save. A portion of this very oracle is quoted by Malachi when he exclaims, "Behold, I send my messenger before my face, who shall prepare the way before me." This "messenger before the face of the Lord" is no other than he who should come in the spirit and power of Elijah. John, therefore, gathered up the significance of both prophecies, when he spoke of himself as "a voice crying in the wilderness [actual and symbolical], Make straight the way of the Lord." The Hebrew text, as we have translated it above, associates the words, "in the wilderness," with "make straight." rather than with "the voice crying." The quotation by the evangelist from the LXX. will suffer either arrangement of the words. John 1:23The voice (φωνὴ)

Or, a voice. There is no article. See on Matthew 3:5.

Crying in the wilderness

Some join in the wilderness with make straight, as in the Hebrew. The quotation is from Isaiah 40:3. In the other three Gospels it is applied to the Baptist (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4). Here he uses it of himself. On wilderness, see on Matthew 3:1.

Make straight the way (εὐθύνατε τὴν ὁδὸν)

For ὁδὸν, way, all the Synoptists have τρίβους, beaten tracks; and for the verb εὐθύνατε, make straight, the adjective and verb εὐθύνατε ποιεῖτε. On the figure of preparing the roads, see on Luke 3:5.

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