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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 3

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-15

18 Compare Jer_31:15 .

18 The name “Rama” was a common one for a site on a hill. There was probably such a place near Bethlehem beside the tomb of Rachel, who died there in sorrow ( Gen_35:19-20 ). There is a beautiful connection between her sorrow and that of the bereaved mothers whose infants Herod slew.

23 “He will be called a Nazarene” was spoken prophecy. There is no reason to believe it was written or is to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Much that was spoken by the prophets was never committed to writing, but was preserved by tradition.

1-12 Compare Mar_1:1-8 , Luk_3:1-18 ; Joh_1:6-8 ; Joh_1:10-34 .

3 The wretched roads in the East were seldom repaired unless in preparation for some royal visitor. To see the peasants employed in removing the stones and straightening the road, and leveling its rough places was a sure sign that some one of high rank was expected. John the baptist was the herald of the King, calling on His subjects to prepare His path before Him ( Isa_40:3 ).

4 There is no reason why this should not be taken literally. The Arabs of those regions still feed on locusts. The American Indians of the western deserts have been known to subsist for weeks on locusts alone. The insect was included among those which it was lawful for a Jew to eat ( Lev_11:22 ). The monks of the dark ages thought this incredible, so they planted locust trees near the grotto in the desert which was supposed to be John's home. The carob is also found in this region and pilgrims have given it the name “St. John's bread” in order to shield him from the charge of eating insects.'

6 Baptism, or ceremonial washing, was a recognized rite in the Jewish ritual. It was usually performed by the person himself. Since Moses consecrated Aaron and his sons ( Exo_29:4 ) no one did it for another. The priests washed themselves at the laver ( Exo_40:31 ) Defiled clothes were to be washed by the man himself ( Lev_11:40 ). Naaman dipped himself in the Jordan ( 2Ki_5:14 ). But, because John did the baptizing, he was called “the baptist”.

7 John came in the spirit and power of Elijah ( Mat_11:14 ; Luk_1:17 ). The superficial ceremonial without a corresponding condition of the heart was offensive to his spirit. He loathed hypocrisy. So he refused to baptize the religious zealots whose lives were not in accord with their profession. True repentance alone could avail to prepare them for the Coming One. Water could only symbolize the inward cleansing. It was not a substitute.

9 Compare Joh_8:33-39 .

11 See Act_1:5 ; Act_11:16 ; Act_19:1-4 ).

11 There are three baptisms here, water, spirit, and fire. John used water only. This method was continued during our Lord's ministry. But after His resurrection He told them “John, indeed, baptizes in water, yet you shall be baptized in holy spirit after not many of these days ( Act_1:5 ). From Pentecost onward two baptisms obtained. At first, those who were baptized in water received the baptism of the spirit also. Cornelius received the spirit before he was baptized in water ( Act_10:44-48 ). Now there is only one baptism ( Eph_4:5 ). In one spirit we all were baptized into one body ( 1Co_12:13 ). It is for cleansing, not for power.

12 The baptism of fire is the burning of the chaff. Such was the only baptism which the Pharisees and Sadducees deserved. Those whom He does not baptize in holy spirit, in grace, He will baptize in fire, in judgment. All of this is eonian, and does not determine their ultimate destiny after the eons have passed by.

13-17 Compare Mar_1:9-11 ; Luk_3:21-22 .

13 The Lord needed no cleansing, for He had no sin. But He needed to identify Himself with those who were cleansed. It was a foreglimpse of His baptism on Golgotha, when He became sin for the sake of His own.

Verses 16-17

16-17 Compare Joh_1:32-34 .

16 As God's Spirit has no material form it is figured to us in various ways, which suggest its force and significance. It is usually presented as a blast of air, for this is the primary meaning of the word pneuma, or spirit ( Joh_3:8 Act_2:2 Heb_1:7 ). Other spirits are represented as torches ( Rev_4:5 ), and horns or eyes ( Rev_5:6 ) to indicate their power and perception. Unclean spirits are figured as frogs ( Rev_16:13 ). The exquisite picture presented to the spiritual Israelite by the descending dove is largely lost on us. Our Lord Himself commended their artlessness to the emulation of His disciples. But doubtless a deeper thought lay in its universal use for sacrifice, especially by the poor. When He was presented to the Lord they offered two squabs of the doves ( Luk_2:24 ). The Spirit of God endues Him with power for the proclamation of the kingdom, not by presenting Him with a sword and mace, not by mounting Him on a white horse or crowning Him with a diadem, but by investing Him with the far more godlike powers of gentleness, artlessness, and sacrifice.

1-11 Compare Mar_1:12-13 ; Luk_4:1-13 .

1 If Christ is to be the King of Israel, He must not only overcome the opposition of men, but first of all, He must conquer the spirit that operates in them and rules the darkness of this world. Christ came to save others, not to please Himself. He refuses to use His power to provide food for Himself, but depends on God alone. He will not go out of His way to try and see if God will perform a miracle to save Him. Neither will He avoid the suffering and shame which lie between Him and the kingdom by accepting it at the Slanderer's hands. The Dove meets the Serpent in the wilderness and conquers it. Utter dependence on God's provision, absolute confidence in His words and ways, and the fullest fealty to His love, are more than a match for the Slanderer.

4 Compare Deu_8:3 .

6 Compare Psa_91:11-12 .

7 Compare Deu_6:16 .

8 Satan is evidently the real head of the fourth kingdom of Daniel's image. Rome's dominion was limited.

10 Compare Deu_6:13 ; Deu_10:20 .

12 Compare Mar_1:14-15 ; Luk_4:14-15 .

12 It is not likely that John was “cast into prison” at this time. The Lord had not yet called His disciples, and John was not yet cast into prison ( Joh_3:24 ) until some time later. Several attempts seem to have been made to put him in ward. This is probably the first of these. Hence the Lord left Judea, and spent most of His ministry in Galilee. In John, His messenger, He was rejected in Judea before He even began His proclamation.

13-16 Compare Mar_1:21-22 ; Luk_4:31-32 .

15 Compare Isa_9:1-2 .

15 Nazareth, Cana, and the region about, where the Lord commenced His ministry, were in Zebulon. This did not touch the sea of Galilee, but it bordered on Naphtali in the northeast, in which was Capernaum, “His own city,” as well as Chorazin and Bethsaida, where so many of His mighty works were done.

17 Compare Mar_1:14-15 .

17 “The kingdom of the heavens” would mean but one thing to a Jew in the days of our Lord. In the explanation of the marvelous dream of Nebuchadnezzar, in which he saw a succession of world empires, Daniel says that the last kingdom shall be set up by the God of the heavens ( Dan_2:44 ). “And in the days of these kings the God of the heavens shall set up a kingdom which shall not be harmed for the eon, and the kingdom shall not be left to another people. It shall crush and terminate all these kingdoms, and it shall rise for the eon.” Babylon fell to Medo Persia, and Medo Persia to Greece, Greece had broken up, and the fourth kingdom, in which the prophet's people under the figure of clay, were to be mingled with mankind, was due to appear. And this was to be followed by the indestructible kingdom of Messiah, for which all the Jews longed. Again, under the figure of rapacious beasts, Daniel had portrayed the kingdoms of the end time ( Dan_7:2-27 ). They are displaced by the kingdom of the heavens. “And the kingdom and authority and the majesty of the kingdom under all the heavens is granted to the people of the saints of the supremacies. The kingdom is an eonian kingdom, and all authorities shall serve and hearken to it.” “The kingdom of God” suggests subjection direct to the Deity, whether as individuals or nations. Its sphere cannot be circumscribed. “The kingdom of the heavens”, is, however, always concerned with the sovereignty of Israel over the other nations. Just as Babylon ruled the whole earth, so Israel will be supreme. As Medo-Persia brought all nations beneath its sway, so Israel will subjugate every other dominion. As Alexander found no field for further conquest, so Messiah will rule all nations with a club of iron, and all peoples and languages and nations will serve Him and bring their tribute to the land of Israel and the nation He has chosen. This is the kingdom which Christ proclaimed. The kingdom was proclaimed as “near”. This does not imply that must come soon. The nearness was only tentative. The same word is used of Epaphroditus ( Php_2:30 ), who draws near to death for the work of Christ, but God was merciful, and he drew away from death again. Nearness is a relative term, indicating that not much more is needed to cause contact. Israel was near the land of promise thirty-eight years before they actually entered. Had they believed Caleb and Joshua they would have drawn nearer instead of returning to the wilderness, far from its borders. So it was with Israel and the kingdom. As it was when their forefathers came out of Egypt, so they come near to the national hope, but for thirty-eight years they wandered in the wilderness of unbelief, and perished without entering the land of promise.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 3". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/matthew-3.html. 1968.
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