The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire BibleMatthew 3:1
In those days came John the Baptist…
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 (Nnxwy) , "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 1:13-60,63) . He is called by some of the Jewish writers F13, 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 F14 calls him "John", who is surnamed (o baptisthv) , "the
Baptist"; and Ben Gorion having spoken of him, says F15, this is that
John who (hlybj hve) , "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 15:61,62) . Mention is made in
the Talmud F16 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 (hdwhybv rbdmb) , "in the wilderness which
is in Judea".''
The Jews have an observation F17 of many things coming from the
``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
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.
F13 Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 2. Chronicon Regum, fol.
F14 Antiq. l. 18. c. 7.
F15 L. 5. c. 45.
F16 T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol, 79. 9. 2.
F17 Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 13. 3.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=003&verse=001>. 1999.