Matthew 3:1
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
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(1) John the Baptist.—For the birth and early life of the forerunner of the Christ, see Notes on. Luke 1. The manner in which he is mentioned here shows that his name was already well known to all readers of the Gospel. So, in like manner, Josephus names him as popularly known by the same title (Ant. xviii. 5, § 2), and describes his work as that of a preacher of repentance in nearly the same terms as St. Matthew. The symbolism of ablution as the outward sign of inward purification was, of course, derived from the Mosaic ritual. It was ordered for the consecration of the priests (Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 8:6), for the purification of the leper and other unclean persons (Leviticus 14:8; Leviticus 15:31-32). It had received a fresh prominence from the language of Isaiah 1:16, of Ezekiel 36:25, of Zechariah 13:1, and probably (though the date of the practice cannot be fixed with certainty) from its being used on the admission of proselytes, male or female, from heathenism. The question asked by the priests and Levites in John 1:25 implies that it was expected as one of the signs of the coming of the Messiah, probably as the result of the prophecies just referred to. That which distinguished the baptism of John from all previous forms of the same symbolism was, that it was not for those only who were affected by a special uncleanness, nor for the heathen only, but for all. All were alike unclean, and needed purification, and their coming to the baptism was in itself a confession that they were so. The baptism was, as the name implied, an immersion, and commonly, though not necessarily, in running water.

The abrupt way in which the narrative is introduced “in those days,” after an interval of thirty years from the close of Matthew 2, may be explained as referring to the well-known period of the commencement of John’s ministry; or it may loosely refer to Matthew 1:23, and imply that time had gone on with no change in the general circumstances. (Comp. Exodus 2:11. See Excursus on the intervening History in the Notes on this Gospel.)

Came.—Literally, with the vividness of the historic present, cometh.

Preaching.—Here, as everywhere in the New Testament, the word implies proclaiming after the manner of a herald.

In the wilderness of Judæa.—The name was commonly applied to the thinly populated region in the southern valley of the Jordan, and so was equivalent to “the country about Jordan” of Luke 3:3, including even part of the district east of the river. In this region John had grown up (Luke 1:80).

Matthew 3:1. In those days — That is, in those years. For, as these events happened near thirty years after those recorded in the former chapter, this phrase is to be taken, in a very extensive sense, for that age of which he had spoken in the preceding words. And it is here used with the greater propriety, because John did indeed appear in his public character while Christ continued to dwell at Nazareth, which was the event that Matthew had last mentioned. Christ was now about thirty years of age, before which time of life no priest, teacher, or prophet was allowed to perform his office, as the Hebrews tell us, and as may be collected from the Scripture, 1 Chronicles 23:3. Hence we learn that great preparation is necessary for sacred offices. The evangelists, therefore, pass over almost in entire silence our Saviour’s minority, only mentioning his disputing with the doctors in the temple, Luke 2:46. And yet it is probable many other remarkable things happened during that period, which, if they had been recorded, we should have read with pleasure and profit. But as the Holy Ghost has not been pleased to favour us in this respect, let us be thankful for, and duly improve, what is made known to us. Came John — The son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, who had lived for several years retired in the wilderness of Judea: the Baptist — So called, either because he was the first who, by God’s command, baptized penitents, or because by him God instituted the ordinance of baptism. For, admitting that the Jews received proselytes by baptism, yet he baptized Jews themselves, and from his time the ordinance of baptism must be dated. Before Christ’s entering upon the first part of his work, that of declaring the will of God, was recorded, it was necessary that the office of John should be spoken of, because he was his harbinger, or forerunner, and proclaimed his coming beforehand; and because, at the time of John’s baptizing Jesus, the Holy Ghost visibly descended on him, and consecrated him to his prophetic office. Preaching — The original word, κηρυσσων, means proclaiming, or crying aloud. It is properly used of those who make proclamation in the streets or camps, or who lift up their voice in the open air, and declare the things which are to be promulgated by public or royal authority, and which they have in charge from another. In the wilderness of Judea — That is, in the uncultivated and thinly-inhabited parts of Judea, where, it seems, his father Zacharias lived, Luke 1:39-40. For we are not to suppose that John shunned the society of men, as those afterward did, who, on that account, were called hermits; but he had been brought up and had always lived in the country, and not in the city, and had had a plain country education, and not an academical or courtly one, at Jerusalem. We must observe, that the term wilderness, among the Jews, did not signify a place wholly void of inhabitants, but a place in which they were fewer, and their habitations more dispersed, than in villages and cities. Hence we read of six cities with their villages, in the wilderness, Joshua 15:61-62; that Nabal dwelt in the wilderness of Paran, 1 Samuel 25:1-2; and Joab had his house in the wilderness, 1 Kings 2:34. John began his preaching in the desert, in which he had been brought up, Luke 1:80, as Jesus, in like manner, began his in Galilee, Acts 10:37. There was, however, this difference between them, that Christ preached in Galilee, a country the most populous of any in that neighbourhood, but John in the desert, that is, in a place but thinly inhabited, and little cultivated. The former of which was suitable to the benignity of our Saviour, and the latter to the austerity of his forerunner. Lastly, John, who had begun to preach in Judea, is imprisoned and put to death in the dominions of Herod; Christ, on the other hand, who entered upon his ministry in the tetrarchy of Herod, is crucified at Jerusalem, in Judea.

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.In those days - The days here referred to cannot be those mentioned in the preceding chapter, for John was but six months older than Christ. Perhaps Matthew intended to embrace in his narrative the whole time that Jesus lived at Nazareth; and the meaning is, "in those days while Jesus still dwelt at Nazareth," John began to preach. It is not probable that John began to baptize or preach long before the Saviour entered on his ministry; and, consequently, from the time that is mentioned in the close of the second chapter to that mentioned in the beginning of the third, an interval of twenty-five years or more elapsed.

John the Baptist - Or John the baptizer - so called from his principal office, that of baptizing. Baptism, or the application of water, was a rite well known to the Jews, and practiced when they admitted proselytes to their religion from paganism. - Lightfoot.

Preaching - The word rendered "preach" means to proclaim in the manner of a public crier; to make proclamation. The discourses recorded in the New Testament are mostly brief, sometimes consisting only of a single sentence. They were public proclamations of some great truth. Such appear to have been the discourses of John, calling people to repentance.

In the wilderness of Judea - This country was situated along the Jordan and the Dead Sea, to the east of Jerusalem. The word translated "wilderness" does not denote, as with us, a place of boundless forests, entirely destitute of inhabitants; but a mountainous, rough, and thinly settled country, covered to some considerable extent with forests and rocks, and better suited for pasture than for tilling. There were inhabitants in those places, and even villages, but they were the comparatively unsettled portions of the country, 1 Samuel 25:1-2. In the time of Joshua there were six cities in what was then called a wilderness, Joshua 15:61-62.


Mt 3:1-12. Preaching and Ministry of John. ( = Mr 1:1-8; Lu 3:1-18).

For the proper introduction to this section, we must go to Lu 3:1, 2. Here, as Bengel well observes, the curtain of the New Testament is, as it were, drawn up, and the greatest of all epochs of the Church commences. Even our Lord's own age is determined by it (Lu 3:23). No such elaborate chronological precision is to be found elsewhere in the New Testament, and it comes fitly from him who claims it as the peculiar recommendation of his Gospel, that "he had traced down all things with precision from the very first" (Mt 1:3). Here evidently commences his proper narrative.

Lu 3:1:

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar—not the fifteenth from his full accession on the death of Augustus, but from the period when he was associated with him in the government of the empire, three years earlier, about the end of the year of Rome 779, or about four years before the usual reckoning.

Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea—His proper title was procurator, but with more than the usual powers of that office. After holding it for about ten years, he was summoned to Rome to answer to charges brought against him; but ere he arrived, Tiberius died (A.D. 35), and soon after miserable Pilate committed suicide.

And Herod being tetrarch of Galilee—(See on [1210]Mr 6:14).

and his brother Philip—a very different and very superior Philip to the one whose name was Herod Philip, and whose wife, Herodias, went to live with Herod Antipas (see on [1211]Mr 6:17).

tetrarch of Ituræa—lying to the northeast of Palestine, and so called from Itur or Jetur, Ishmael's son (1Ch 1:31), and anciently belonging to the half-tribe of Manasseh.

and of the region of Trachonitis—lying farther to the northeast, between Iturea and Damascus; a rocky district infested by robbers, and committed by Augustus to Herod the Great to keep in order.

and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene—still more to the northeast; so called, says Robinson, from Abila, eighteen miles from Damascus.

Lu 3:2:

Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests—The former, though deposed, retained much of his influence, and, probably, as sagan or deputy, exercised much of the power of the high priesthood along with Caiaphas, his son-in-law (Joh 18:13; Ac 4:6). In David's time both Zadok and Abiathar acted as high priests (2Sa 15:35), and it seems to have been the fixed practice to have two (2Ki 25:18).

the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness—Such a way of speaking is never once used when speaking of Jesus, because He was Himself The Living Word; whereas to all merely creature-messengers of God, the word they spoke was a foreign element. See on [1212]Joh 3:31. We are now prepared for the opening words of Matthew.

1. In those days—of Christ's secluded life at Nazareth, where the last chapter left Him.

came John the Baptist, preaching—about six months before his Master.

in the wilderness of Judea—the desert valley of the Jordan, thinly peopled and bare in pasture, a little north of Jerusalem.Matthew 3:1-4 The preaching of John the Baptist; his office, and

manner of living.

Matthew 3:5,6 He baptizeth in Jordan,

Matthew 3:7-12 and rebuketh the Pharisees.

Matthew 3:13-17 Christ is baptized, and receiveth a witness from heaven.

That is, in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, (as Luke expounds it, Luke 3:1) when John the Baptist and Christ also were about thirty years of age, Luke 3:23, for there was no great difference betwixt the age of Christ and John, as may be learned from Luke 1:31,41,57.

In those days, while Joseph and Mary, and our blessed Lord, dwelt in Nazareth. See Exodus 2:11. This phrase in those days is the same with in those years. It is an ordinary thing in the Hebrew to confound the words signifying a day and a year, and the Greeks did the same, as appears by the seventy interpreters, 1 Samuel 1:3,7. The evangelists pass over with a great deal of silence our Saviour’s minority, only mentioning his disputing with the doctors in the temple, Luke 2:46.

Came John the Baptist; John the son of Zacharias, Luke 3:2, called the Baptist, either because he baptized Christ, or because by him God instituted the ordinance of baptism, which before that time the Jews used in the admission of their proselytes.

Preaching according to his commission, Luke 3:2, where it is said the word of the Lord came to him.

In the wilderness of Judea; some parts of Judea, where houses and inhabitants were very few. None must think that the history of the second chapter is continued in this, there was a distance of twenty-eight or twenty-nine years; the evangelist designing not to satisfy men’s curiosity, but only to give us that part of Christ’s story which might be profitable to us to know.

In those days came John the Baptist,.... The Evangelist having given an account of the genealogy and birth of Christ; of the coming of the wise men from the east to him; of his preservation from Herod's bloody design against him, when all the infants at Bethlehem were slain; of the flight of Joseph with Mary and Jesus into Egypt, and of their return from thence, and settlement in Nazareth, where Christ continued till near the time of his baptism, and entrance on his public ministry; proceeds to give a brief relation of John, the harbinger and forerunner of Christ, and the administrator of baptism to him: and he describes him by his name John, in Hebrew "Jochanan", which signifies "gracious", or "the grace of the Lord", or "the Lord has given grace"; which agrees with him, both as a good man, on whom the Lord had bestowed much grace, and as a preacher, whose business it was to publish the grace of God in Christ, Luke 16:16. This name was given him by an angel before his conception, and by his parents at his birth, contrary to the mind of their relations and neighbours, Luke 1:13. He is called by some of the Jewish writers (m), John the "high priest"; his father Zacharias was a priest of the course of Abia, and he might succeed him therein, and be the head of that course, and for that reason be called a "high" or "chief priest"; as we find such were called, who were the principal among the priests, as were those who were chosen into the sanhedrim, or were the heads of these courses; and therefore we read of many chief priests, Matthew 2:4. From his being the first administrator of the ordinance of baptism, he is called John the Baptist; and this was a well known title and character of him. Josephus (n) calls him "John", who is surnamed , "the Baptist"; and Ben Gorion having spoken of him, says (o), this is that John who , "made", instituted, or practised "baptism"; and which, by the way, shows that this was not in use among the Jews before, but that John was the first practiser this way. He is described by his work and office as a preacher, he "came" or "was preaching" the doctrines of repentance and baptism; he published and declared that the kingdom of the Messiah was at hand, that he would quickly be revealed; and exhorted the people to believe on him, which should come after him. The place where he preached is mentioned,

in the wilderness of Judea; not that he preached to trees and to the wild beasts of the desert; for the wilderness of Judea was an habitable place, and had in it many cities, towns, and villages, in which we must suppose John came preaching, at least to persons which came out from thence. There were in Joshua's time six cities in this wilderness, namely Betharabah, Middin, and Secacah, and Nibshan, and the city of Salt, and Engedi, Joshua 15:61. Mention is made in the Talmud (p) of this wilderness of Judea, as distinct from the land of Israel, when the doctors say, that

"they do not bring up small cattle in the land of Israel, but they bring them up , "in the wilderness which is in Judea".''

The Jews have an observation (q) of many things coming from the wilderness;

"the law, they say, came from the wilderness; the tabernacle from the wilderness; the sanhedrim from the wilderness; the priesthood from the wilderness; the office of the Levites from the wilderness; the kingdom from the wilderness; and all the good gifts which God gave to Israel were from the wilderness.''

So John came preaching here, and Christ was tempted here. The time of his appearance and preaching was in those days: not when Christ was newly born; or when the wise men paid their adoration to him; or when Herod slew the infants; or when he was just dead, and Archelaus reigned in his room; or when Christ first went to Nazareth; though it was whilst he dwelt there as a private person; but when John was about thirty years of age, and Christ was near unto it, Luke 3:23 an age in which ecclesiastical persons entered into service, Numbers 4:3. It was indeed, as Luke says, Luke 3:1 in the "fifteenth" year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar; Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea; and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee; and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea; and of the region of Trachonitis; and Lysanias, the tetrarch of Abilene; Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests.

(m) Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 2. Chronicon Regum, fol. 54. 4. (n) Antiq. l. 18. c. 7. (o) L. 5. c. 45. (p) T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol, 79. 9. 2.((q) Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 13. 3.

In {a} those days came {1} John the Baptist, preaching in the {b} wilderness of Judaea,

(a) Not when Joseph went to dwell at Nazareth, but a great while after, about fifteen years: for in the 30th year of his life Jesus was baptized by John: therefore those days means the time when Jesus remained as an inhabitant of the town of Nazareth.

(1) John, who through his singular holiness and rare austerity of life caused men to cast their eyes on him, prepares the way for Christ who is following fast on his heels, as the prophet Isaiah foretold, and delivers the sum of the gospel, which a short time later would be delivered more fully.

(b) In a hilly country, which was nonetheless inhabited, for Zacharias dwelt there, Lu 1:39,40, and there was Joab's house, 1Ki 2:34; and besides these, Joshua makes mention of six towns that were in the wilderness, Jos 15:61,62.

Matthew 3:1. Ἐνἐκείναις] בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם, Exodus 2:11; Exodus 2:23; Isaiah 38:1. Indefinite determination of time, which, however, always points back to a date which has preceded it. Mark 1:9; Luke 2:1. Here: at the time when Jesus still sojourned at Nazareth. The evangelist passes over the history of the youth of Jesus, and at once goes onwards to the forerunner of the Messiah; for he might not have had at his command any written documents, and sufficiently trustworthy traditions regarding it, since the oldest manner of presenting the gospel history, as still retained in Mark, began first with John the Baptist, to which beginning our evangelist also turns without further delay. It employs in so doing only the very indefinite transition with the same simplicity of unstudied historical writing, as in Exodus 2:11, where by the same expression is meant the time when Moses still sojourned at the court of Egypt, though not the time of his childhood (Matthew 3:10), but of his manhood. Accordingly, the following hypotheses are unnecessary; that of Paulus: in the original document, from which Matthew borrowed the following narrative, something about John the Baptist may have preceded, to which this note of time was appended, which Matthew retained, without adopting that preliminary matter; of Holtzmann: that a look forward to Mark 1:9 here betrays itself; of Schneckenburger (üb. d. erste kanon. Ev. p. 120): that in the gospel according to the Hebrews ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρώδου erroneously stood, instead of which Matthew put the indefinite statement before us; of Hilgenfeld, Evang. p. 55: in the older narrative, which lay at the foundation of our Matthew, the genealogical tree of Jesus was perhaps followed by ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρώδου τοῦ βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας ἦλθεν (or ἐγένετο) Ἰωάννης; compare also Keim, Gesch. J. I. p. 61. The correct view was already adopted by Chrysostom and his followers, Beza, Camerarius, Bengel: “Jesu habitante Nazarethae, Matthew 2:23; notatur non breve, sed nulla majori mutatione notabile intervallum.” It is Luke 3:1 which first gives the more precise determination of time, and that very minutely.

παραγίνεται] Historic present, as in Matthew 2:13. Euth. Zigabenus: πόθεν ὁ Ἰωάννης παραγέγονεν; ἀπὸ τῆς ἐνδοτέρας ʼρήμου. Opposed to this is the ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ that follows. Matthew has only the more general and indefinite expression: he arrives, he appears. Luke 12:51; Hebrews 9:11.

ὁ βαπτιστ.] Josephus, Antt. xviii. 5. 2 : Ἰωάνν. ὁ ἐπικαλούμενος βαπτιστής.

ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῆς Ἰουδαίας] מִדְבַּר יְהוּדָה, Jdg 1:16, Joshua 15:61, a level plain adapted for the feeding of cattle, sparsely cultivated and inhabited,[375] which begins at Tekoa, and extends as far as the Dead Sea. Winer, Realwörterb. s.v. Wüste; Tobler, Denkblätter aus Jerus. p. 682; Keim, Gesch. J. I. p. 484 f. The mention of the locality is more precise in Luke 3:2 f.; but that in Matthew, in which the wilderness is not marked off geographically from the valley of the Jordan, which was justified by the nature of the soil (Josephus, Bell. iii. 10. 7, iv. 8. 2 f.), and involuntarily called forth by the following prophecy, is not incorrect. Comp. Ebrard (in answer to Strauss); Keim, l.c. p. 494.

[375] The idea of a flat surface called מִדְבָּר is given us partially in the Lüne-burger Heath. See generally, Crome, Beiträge zur Erklär. des N. T. p. 41 ff. Not to be confused with עֲרָבָה, steppe, concerning which see Credner in the Stud. u. Krit. 1833, p. 798 ff. Compare in regard to our wilderness, Robinson, Pal. II. p. 431.

Matthew 3:1-6. John the Baptist appears (Mark 1:1-6, Luke 3:1-6).

1. In those days] See Luke 3:1, where the time is defined.

came] Rather, cometh. The same word and the same tense as in Matthew 3:13.

John the Baptist] So named by the other Synoptists and by Josephus: in the fourth gospel he is called simply John, a note of the authenticity of St John’s gospel. Josephus mentions the great influence of John and speaks of the crowds that flocked to hear him preach and to be baptized of him. He says John taught men “Justice in regard to one another and piety towards God.”

preaching] Lit. heralding, a word appropriate to the thought of the proclamation of a King.

the wilderness of Judea] i. e. the uncultivated Eastern frontier of Judah. The term also includes the cliffs and Western shore of the Dead Sea. In this wild and nearly treeless district there were formerly a few cities, and there are still some luxuriant spots. See Tristram’s Topog. of H. L. Ch. iv.

Ch. Matthew 3:1-12. John Baptist preaches in the Wilderness of Judæa. Mark 1:2-8; Luke 3:1-18; John 1:15-34St Luke does not name the Pharisees and Sadducees, he gives the particular exhortations to the various classes of people who came to hear John. In the fourth Gospel the Baptist’s disclaimer of the Messiahship (cp. also ch. John 3:25-36) and his teaching respecting the person of Christ are reported more fully.

Matthew 3:1. Ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, in those days) In the Evangelistaries1[112] this formula merely denotes the commencement of an extract; but in the Gospels it has a more definite meaning. In the present case it signifies, “whilst Jesus was dwelling at Nazareth.”—See ch. Matthew 2:23.[113] An interval of time is denoted between the events last recorded and those now mentioned, not short, yet not remarkable for any great change.—παραγίνεται, cometh) This word is pleasantly repeated at Matthew 3:13 : the LXX. frequently introduce it in the present tense.—κηρύσσων, preaching) sc. loudly. The expression in Matthew 3:3, φωνὴ βοῶντος (the voice of one crying), agrees with this. The words ὁ βαπτιστὴς, the Baptist, and κηρύσσων, preaching, declare the two parts of John’s office.—ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, in the wilderness) See Matthew 3:3.

[112] 1 The Evangelistaria were selections of ecclesiastical readings from the Gospels.—(I. B.)

[113] At the time that John entered on his public life, Joseph was probably no longer in the land of the living. Therefore, in the words of the text, the reference is to Him, of whom it was said by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. Jesus sojourned at Nazareth from His return out of Egypt up to the time of John’s entrance on his ministry.—Harm., p. 63.

Verses 1-12. - THE HERALD. (Parallel passages: Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18.) His public appearance and proclamation (vers. 1, 2), as foretold by Scripture (ver. 3). His Elijah-like dress (ver. 4). He is listened to by multitudes (vers. 5, 6). His faithful warning to typical Jews, and his pointing not to himself, but to the Coming One (vers. 7-12). The date at which he appeared is stated, in Luke 3:1, to have been "in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar; i.e. between August, A.D. 28, and August, A.D. 29" (Schurer, I. 2, p. 31). Verse 1. - In those days; and in those days (Revised Version). Probably merely contrasting those past days of the beginning of the gospel with the present, when the evangelist wrote (cf. Matthew 24:19, 22, where the days yet future are contrasted with those present). In Mark 1:9 the expression is used directly of the Lord's baptism. And (Revised Version); δέ; Hebrew usage taking up the narrative (cf. Joshua 1:1; Judges 1:1; Ruth 1:1; Esther 1:1). Came; cometh (Revised Version); historic present (cf. Matthew 2:19); παραγίνεται, here equivalent to "come forward publicly," make one's public appearance (cf. especially Luke 12:51; Hebrews 9:11; also especially 1 Macc. 4:46; also infra, ver. 13 and Matthew 2:1). John; Johanan. The name occurs first as that of a high priest in, apparently, the days of Rehoboam (1 Chronicles 6:9, 10, Authorized Version). "The Lord is gracious" was a fitting title for one born by the special grace of God, and sent to be the herald of his grace to all men (Titus 2:11). The Baptist.

(1) The Jews were far from having attained the simplicity of our present system, by which each person has both a family and a Christian name, and is thus designated with sufficient exactness for all the ordinary purposes of life. Their custom of name-giving was, and still largely is, as follows:

(a) A Hebrew name is given to the child at circumcision. This is the holy name, and is used at all strictly religious ceremonies; e.g. when called to read the Law in the synagogue.

(b) Each person has a name whereby he is known among the Gentiles. This is, at the present time, the name used for business and social purposes, and may be either Hebrew or of some ether language. It is usually connected, either in sound or meaning, with the holy name. So Paul and Saul, Didymus and Thomas (for numerous examples, cf. Hamburger, 'Real-Encycl.,' vol. 2. pp. 831-836. Lowe, 'Memorbook of Nurnberg,' pp. 18-28: 1881).

(c) He may have, either as well as or instead of the last, a name which designates him more exactly

(α) by mentioning his father or some other relation; e.g. Bartimaeus, Barsabbas (probably); (β) by mentioning some physical, mental, moral, or other peculiarity; e.g. James the Little, Simon the Zealot, Barnabas (the son of exhortation), and, from non-biblical authors, James the Just, Rabbi Judah the Holy, Samuel the Astronomer, John the Shoemaker. The title "the Baptist" belongs, of course, to this last class, and must have been given him partly because of the number of persons whom he baptized, and still more because baptism was the visible and external aim and result of his preaching.

(2) What was there new in John's baptism? In considering this it must be remembered that

(a) dipping in water had been commanded in the Law as a religious rite to priests (Exodus 30:20; Exodus 40:12; cf. Leviticus 8:6) on their first consecration to their office, and on each occasion that they fulfilled the holiest parts of their duties (cf. the sprinklings of the Levites on their consecration, Numbers 8:5-22); and to all Israelites in cases of ceremonial uncleanness (Leviticus 14:8; Numbers 19:13).

(b) It was very frequent among the Essenes (cf. especially the quotations from Josephus in Bishop Lightfoot, 'Colossians,' p. 171, edit. 1875).

(c) It was, we can hardly doubt, already customary at the admission of proselytes. There are, indeed, no certain allusions in Josephus, Philo, and the older Targumists (cf. Leyrer, in Cremer, s.v. βαπτίζω) to the baptism of proselytes properly so called; but (α) it is distinctly mentioned in the Mishna, and in such a way as to imply that it was an ancient custom, for the schools of both Shammai and Hillel assume it as a matter of course ('Pes,' 8:8); (β) as with books, so with customs, acceptance in two bodies originally one, as the Jewish and Christian Churches were, throws back the book or custom before the date of the separation. In other words, it is most improbable that Jews would only have begun to practise baptism at the admission of proselytes after it had been practised by a body which had separated from them. Jews would not be likely to adopt the distinguishing rite of Christians.

(d) Thus already, before John's time, baptism was largely practised as a symbol of purification from sin and of entrance on a new and holier life. Wherein, then, lay the distinguishing feature of John's baptism? Apparently in its being extended to all Israelites, without their having any personal ceremonial hindrance, and more particularly in the special aim and purpose to which it now referred. It signified the entrance upon a new life of expectation of Messiah. As of old, the nation had accepted the offer of God's kingdom, and, having washed their garments (Exodus 19:10, 14), had been sprinkled with blood (Exodus 24:8), so now, when this kingdom, was about to be more fully manifested, not the nation, indeed, considered as a whole, but (in harmony with the individualization of the gospel) those persons who responded to the invitation, came forward and publicly renounced their sins and professed their expectation of the kingdom (Edersheim, 'Life,' etc., 1:274). It is thus easy to account for the deep and widespread impression made by John the Baptist (cf. Acts 18:25; Acts 19:3), and for the important position that he holds in summaries of the origins of Christianity. John's baptism was treated by our Lord himself as the first stage in his earthly ministry, which culminated in the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), and naturally by the apostles as the historical introduction to the teaching and work of Messiah. Josephus's account of John the Baptist is well known, but too interesting to be omitted. "Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army [by Aretas] came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John that was called the Baptist. For Herod had had him put to death, though he was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue both as to righteousness towards one another and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for baptism would be acceptable to God, if they made use of it, not in order to expiate some sins, but for the purification of the body, provided that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now, as many flocked to him, for they were greatly moved by hearing his words, Herod, fearing that the great influence John had over the people might lead to some rebellion (for the people seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it far best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties by sparing a man who might make him repent of his leniency when it should he too late. Accordingly, he was sent a prisoner, in consequence of Herod's suspicious temper, to Machaerus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. So the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and was a mark of God's displeasure against him" ('Ant,' 18:5. 2, Shilleto's Whiston). Observe that

(1) Josephus confirms the Gospel account of the extent of John's influence over his countrymen; but

(2) attributes his imprisonment and death to a political, not a moral, cause. It is quite possible, on the one hand, that political reasons were not altogether wanting; and, on the other, that Josephus was ignorant of the more personal and stronger motive of Herod's action. Preaching (κηρύσσων). Unlike εὐαγγελίζομαι this word refers, not to the matter, but to the manner, the openness, of the proclamation. In contrast to the esoteric methods alike of heathen philosophers and of Jewish teachers, whether Pharisees, Sadducees, or Essenes. The herald proclaims as a herald; cf. Isaiah 40:9 (the original context of our ver. 3); Genesis 41:43 (LXX.). In the wilderness. By this term is not necessarily meant absolute desert, but "des lieux pen habites ou non cultives" (Neubauer, 'Geogr. du Talm.,' p. 52: 1868). The very place in which John preached was part of the symbolism of his whole life. The expectation of Messiah must lead to separation, but separation deeper than that of those who called themselves the "separated" (Pharisees). Of Judea. The exact expression comes elsewhere only in the title of Psalm 63, and in Judges 1:16, where it is defined as "in the south of Arad." It seems that, while different parts of the rugged district from Jericho southwards (Joshua 16:1), immediately on the west and north of the Dead Sea, had their distinctive titles - the wilderness of Siph (1 Samuel 23:14, 15), of Maon (1 Samuel 23:24), of Engedi (1 Samuel 24:1), of Jeruel (2 Chronicles 20:16), of Tekoa (2 Chronicles 20:20) - the whole district was, as belonging to the tribe and even more certainly to the kingdom and province of Judah, known by the name of "the wilderness of Judaea." According to tradition, John was now preaching near Jericho. We find him soon after this at Bethany beyond Jordan (John 1:28), and later still at tenon, near Salim, in, or on the borders of, Samaria (John 3:23)." Matthew 3:1In those days

The phrase is indefinite, but always points back to a preceding date; in this case to the date of the settlement of the family at Nazareth. "In those days," i.e., some time during the nearly thirty years since that settlement.


Hebrew, meaning God has dealt graciously. Compare the German Gotthold.

Came (παραγίνεται)

Rev., cometh. The verb is used in what is called the historical present, giving vividness to the narrative, as Carlyle ("French Revolution"). "But now also the National Deputies from all ends of France are in Paris with their commissions." "In those days appears John the Baptist."

Preaching (κηρύσσων)

See on 2 Peter 2:5.

Wilderness (τῇ ἐήμω)

Not suggesting absolute barrenness but unappropriated territory affording free range for shepherds and their flocks. Hepworth Dixon ("The Holy Land") says, "Even in the wilderness nature is not so stern as man. Here and there, in clefts and basins, and on the hillsides, grade on grade, you observe a patch of corn, a clump of olives, a single palm."

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