Matthew 3:1-12

Matthew 3:1-12
Advent A2


1 In those days JohnA the BaptistB appearedC in the wildernessD of Judea,E 2 proclaiming,F “Repent,G for the kingdom of heavenH has come near.”I 3 This is the one of whom the prophetJ IsaiahK spoke when he said,

“The voice of one crying outL in the wilderness:
‘PrepareM the wayN of the Lord,O
    make his pathsP straight.’”Q

Notes on verses 1-3

A “John” = ioannes. From Hebrew yochanan (Johanan); from Yehochanan (“the Lord has been gracious”); from YHVH (proper name of the God of Israel); from havah (to become); from hayah (to be, exist, happen) + chanan (beseech, show favor, be gracious; properly, to bend in kindness to someone with less status). This is John.
B “Baptist” = baptistes. 12x in NT. From baptizo (to dip, sink, submerge, wash, baptize. To immerse – literally to dip under); from bapto (to dip, dye, totally cover with fluid). This is Baptizer – used only of this John.
C “appeared” = paraginomai. From para (from beside, by) + ginomai (to come into being, happen, become, be born, come about; properly, to emerge – to transition from one state or condition to another). This is to arrive, appear, reach, be present. It implies appearing publicly.
D “wilderness” = eremos. A solitary, desolate, deserted place; the desert; a place that is abandoned or secluded. Properly, this refers to a place that is neither cultivated nor populated. Though wild, it is quiet and is generally a place where one is not disturbed. Jesus, for example, frequently retreated to the wilderness.
E “Judea” = ioudaia. From Hebrew Yehudah (Judah, son of Jacob, his tribal descendants, a name for the southern kingdom. Literally, it means praised); probably from yadah (to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise); from yad (hand). This is Judea, which was a Roman province.
F “proclaiming” = kerusso. To act as a herald or to preach – to speak publicly and persuasively, to announce.
G “repent” = metanoia. From meta (with, among, after, beyond) + noieo (to perceive, think, understand). Noieo is from nous (mind, understanding, reasoning faculty, intellect, capacity to reflect). This is literally to change one’s mind – to choose to think differently and so to act differently because of a moral compunction. It is an intentional change to the inner self. This word shares a root with the English “paranoia.”
H “heaven” = ouranos. May be related to oros (mountain, hill) with the notion of height. This is the air, the sky, the atmosphere, and heaven. It is the sky that is visible and the spiritual heaven where God dwells. Heaven implies happiness, power, and eternity.
I “come near” = eggizo. From eggus (near in time or nearby); from agcho (to squeeze). This is to bring near, approach, be at hand. This word means very close, imminent.
J “prophet” = prophetes. From pro (before, in front of, earlier than) + phemi (to declare, say, use contrasts in speaking to shed light on one point of view). Phemi is from phao (to shine) or phaino (to bring light, cause to appear, shine, become visible or clear). This is a prophet or poet. One who speaks with inspiration from God
K “Isaiah” = Esaias. From Hebrew Yeshayahu (Isaiah; salvation of the Lord); from yasha (to deliver, avenge, save, help, preserve, rescue; properly, to be open, wide or free by impl. to be safe; caus. to free) + Yah (the name of the God of Israel; God, the Lord); from YHVH (proper name of the God of Israel; tetragrammaton; the self-existent, eternal one); from havah (to be or become). This is Isaiah.
L “crying out” = boao. 12x in NT. From boe (a shout or cry; this word is onomatopoeia for the sound of a cry for help from strong feeling). This is to cry out, an urgent cry of distress from one needing assistance.
M “prepare” = hetoimazo. From hetoimos (prepared, ready, standing by); from heteos (fitting). This is prepare, make ready, or provide.
N “way” = hodos. This is a way, road, journey, or path. It implies progress along the route.
O “Lord” = kurios. From kuros (authority, supremacy). This is a respectful address meaning master or sir. It refers to one who has control or power greater than one’s own. So, it was also applied to God and Jesus as Master or Lord.
P “paths” = tribos. 3x in NT – all in John the Baptist’s proclamation. From tribo (to rub, thresh out). This is a beaten track, worn path, road, highway. This refers to a rut formed by regular use.
Q “straight” = euthus. 8x in NT. Perhaps from eu (good, well done) + tithemi (to place, lay, set, fix, extablish in a passive or horizontal position). This is straight, straightway, upright, immediately, early. It is straight as compared to crooked – no unneeded zig-zags or doglegs. Figuratively, means without delay or true. Literally, it means level.

4 Now John wore clothingR of camel’s hair with a leatherS belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wildT honey. 5 Then the people of JerusalemU and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6 and they were baptizedV by him in the riverW Jordan, confessingX their sins.Y

Notes on verses 4-6

R “clothing” = enduma. 8x in NT. From en (in, on, at, with, inside) + duno (to enter, sink into, set like the sun) [from duo (to sink)]. This is to clothe in the sense of sinking into the clothing. So, as a noun, this is apparel or clothing – especially the outer robe.
S “leather” = dermatinos. 2x in NT – both referring to John’s leather belt. From derma (skin or animal hide); from dero (to skin, flay, beat, hit, scourge). This is leather or something made of skin. This is where the English “epidermis” and “dermis” come from.
T “wild” = agrios. 3x in NT. From agros (field, the country, lands, property, country estate, farm; a field, particularly one with a crop; a field in which one drives cattle); may be from ago (to lead, guide, carry). This is living in the fields, wild, savage, fierce, untamed. This is wild as it relates to the countryside. Literally it means natural and figuratively fierce. This is the same root as “agriculture.”
U “Jerusalem” = hierosoluma. From Hebrew yerushalaim (probably foundation of peace); from yarah (to throw, shoot, be stunned; to flow as water so figuratively to instruct or teach) + shalem (to make amends, to be complete or sound). This is Jerusalem, dwelling of peace.
V “baptized” = baptizo. Related to “Baptist” in v1. From bapto (see note B above). This is to dip, sink, submerge, wash, baptize. Literally, to dip under, make fully wet.
W “river” = potamos. 17x in NT. From pino (to drink, imbibe). This is a river, torrent, or stream. It is like an arroyo, which may be an empty ditch for part of the year, but flood with water during heavy rain or time of melting snow. This is where the Potomac River gets its name as well as Mesopotamia and the hippopotamus.
X “confessing” = exomologeo. 10x in NT. From ek (from, from out of) + homologeo (to agree, promise, confess, praise, publicly declare; properly, to align with the conclusion of others, to endorse). Homologeo is from homou (together) + lego (to say, speak, tell).This is to be of the same mind, to agree whole-heartedly and then profess that agreement openly without holding back. So, it can be consent, acknowledge, give thanks, confess, praise, promise.
Y “sins” = hamartia. From hamartano (to miss the mark, do wrong, make a mistake, sin). Hamartano is from a (not) + meros (a part or share). Literally, this means not having one’s share or portion – like not receiving inheritance or what was allotted to you. This word means missing the mark so it is used for guilt, fault, and acts of sin.

But when he sawZ many PhariseesAA and SadduceesBB coming for baptism,CC he said to them, “You broodDD of vipers!EE Who warnedFF you to flee from the wrathGG to come?HH 8 BearII fruitJJ worthyKK of repentance.LL 9 Do not presumeMM to say to yourselves, ‘We have AbrahamNN as our ancestor’;OO for I tell you, GodPP is ableQQ from these stones to raise upRR childrenSS to Abraham. 10 EvenTT now the ax is lying at the rootUU of the trees;VV every tree therefore that does not bear goodWW fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Notes on verses 7-10

Z “saw” = horao. This is to see, perceive, discern. It carries a sense of staring at something to understand it clearly. See often has a metaphorical sense.
AA “Pharisees” = pharisaios. From Aramaic peras (to divide, separate) and from Hebrew parash (to make distinct, separate, scatter). This is a Pharisee, a member of a Jewish sect active in the 1st century. Their name meant separate in the sense of wanting to live a life separated from sin. Whereas the Sadducees were part of the priestly line and inherited their religious position and responsibilities, Pharisees were regular people who studied the scriptures and offered guidance to regular folk. Sadducees were often wealthier and willing to sacrifice their identity to rub elbows with Roman society. Pharisees were often more concerned with what it meant to follow God without compromising what made them different as followers of God. Sadducees primarily believed in that which was written down (the first five books of the Bible) and Pharisees believed in the Bible and the traditions of the elders. Pharisees had a very wide range of interpretations and diversity of opinion. Their standard mode of religion engagement was lively debate with one another. To argue religion with another teacher was to recognize that they had something of value to offer.
BB “Sadducees” = saddoukaios. 14x in NT. Probably from Hebrew tsadoq (Zadok, a personal name); from tsadaq (to be just or righteous, do justice); from tsedeq (rightness, righteousness, just cause, vindication; that which is right in a natural, moral, or legal sense; abstractly equity; figuratively prosperity). This is a Sadducee.
CC “baptism” = baptisma. Related to “Baptist” in v1. From bapto (see note B above). This is baptism literally or figuratively.
DD “brood” = gennema. 8x in NT. From gennao (to beget, give birth to, bring forth, conceive, produce offspring; properly refers to the father, but can be used for the mother; figurative for regenerating); from genna (descent, birth). This is offspring, child, fruit, or brood.
EE “vipers” = echidna. 5x in NT. From echis (viper, adder). This is viper or some kind of venomous serpent. Used figuratively for words that are venomous – a snake literal or figurative.
FF “warned” = hupodeiknumi. 6x in NT. From hupo (by, under, about) + deiknumi (to show, point out, exhibit, teach, demonstrate, make known). This is to show secretly, to show by sketching out, to teach, make known. This is to exhibit under someone’s eyes, to prove or forewarn, to instruct or admonish.
GG “wrath” = orge. From orgao (to teem, swell up, oppose from deep within oneself) OR it could be from orego (to stretch out, reach for, yearn for, desire to attain). This is impulse, wrath, anger, passion, punishment, vengeance. It is a long standing anger that is fixed because of personal exposure to what one considers wrong, unjust or evil. It is a violent passion arising from justifiable anger. It implies punishment.
HH “to come” = mello. This is something that is about to happen or someone right on the point of acting.
II “bear” = poieo. Same as “make” in v3 about making the paths of the Lord straight. This verb means make, do, construct, or act generally.
JJ “fruit” = karpos. This is fruit or vegetable, something of offspring of an animal. Figuratively, this is fruit in the sense of actions, results, or gains.
KK “worthy” = axios. From ago (to lead, bring, carry, weigh). This is properly to weigh in – matching worth for worth, the due reward, what is suitable, comparable, deserving, corresponding.
LL “repentance” = metanoia. From meta (with, among, after, beyond) + noieo (to perceive, think, understand). Noieo is from nous (mind, understanding, reasoning faculty, intellect, capacity to reflect). This is literally to change one’s mind – to choose to think differently and so to act differently because of a moral compunction. It is an intentional change to the inner self. This word shares a root with the English “paranoia.”
MM “presume” = dokeo. From dokos (opinion). This is to have an opinion, suppose, make a personal judgment. Reflect on one’s own perspective and values to make a judgment call. This is where dogma comes from.
NN “Abraham” = abraam. From Hebrew Abraham (exalted father); from ab (father) + rum (to be high or exalted, rise, extol, go up). Abraham.
OO “ancestor” = pater. Literally, father, but figuratively progenitor or ancestor.
PP “God” = theos. From Proto-Indo-European origins, meaning do, put, place. This is God or a god in general.
QQ “is able” = dunamai. To be able or possible, have power, be powerful, can. To show ability, be empowered. This is the same root that dunamis comes from (a word for miracle). This is also the root where dynamic comes from.
RR “raise up” = egeiro. This is to waken, raise up, arouse, lift up. Can be awake from sleep, rise from sitting or lying down, rise from disease or death. Figuratively, to rise from obscurity, inactivity, or ruin.
SS “children” = teknon. From tikto (to beget, bring forth, produce, yield). This is a child or descendant. One who lives in dependence on others.
TT “even” = ede. Already, now, even, now, this time. This refers to something that isn’t quite the present yet, but is having an impact on the present moment.
UU “root” = rhiza. 17x in NT. This is root, shoot, source, descendant. This can refer to anything that comes from a root in a literal or figurative sense. This is where the word “rhizome” comes from.
VV “trees” = dendron. Probably from drus (oak). This is tree. Where we get “dendrite” from.
WW “good” = kalos. This is beauty, noble, worth, an honorable character. Good literally or morally – valuable, virtuous. Contrast with agathos, which is intrinsic quality of good.

11 “I baptize you with waterXX for repentance, but one who is more powerfulYY than I is coming after me; I am not worthyZZ to carry his sandals.AAA He will baptize you with the HolyBBB SpiritCCC and fire. 12 His winnowing forkDDD is in his hand, and he will clearEEE his threshing floorFFF and will gather his wheatGGG into the granary;HHH but the chaff he will burnIII with unquenchableJJJ fire.”

Notes on verses 11-12

XX “water” = hudor. Related to huetos (rain); from huo (to rain). Water literal or figurative.
YY “more powerful” = ischuros. From ischuo (to be strong, have power, be in full health, be able, prevail; strength that engages immediate resistance); from ischus (strength, might, power, force, ability). This is strong, mighty, powerful, vehement, sure. Originally used of physical strength, can also be used figuratively as forcible.
ZZ “worthy” = hikanos. Different from “worthy” in v7. From hikneomai (to come, reach, attain to); from hiko (to arrive, come to). This is able, worthy, sufficient, competent, suitable. Properly, that which reaches and so that which is adequate or sufficient.
AAA “sandals” = hupodema. 10x in NT – 5x of John the Baptist. From hupo (by, under, about) + deo (to tie, bind, fasten, compel, declare prohibited). This is literally to bind under or tie under – thus, the sole of the sandal that is tied under the foot.
BBB “Holy” = hagios. From hagnos (holy, sacred, pure ethically, ritually, or ceremonially; prepared for worship, chaste, unadulterated, pure to the core; undefiled by sin; figurative for innocent, modest, perfect). God is totally different from humanity and thus set apart. That which is consecrated to worship God (elements of worship) or to serve God (as the saints) are holy because they are now set apart for God’s purposes. Holy because important to God. This is sacred physically, pure. It can be morally blameless or ceremonially consecrated.
CCC “Spirit” = pneuma. From pneo (to blow, breath, breathe hard). This is wind, breath, or ghost. A breeze or a blast or air, a breath. Figuratively used for a spirit, the human soul or part of us that is rational. It is also used supernaturally for angels, demons, God, and the Holy Spirit.
DDD “winnowing fork” = ptuon. 2x in NT – both from John the Baptist’s proclamation. This is a pitchfork, winnowing shovel, or fan.
EEE “clear” = diakatharizo. 2x in NT – both from John the Baptist’s proclamation. From dia (through, on account of, across to the other side, back and forth) + katharizo (to cleanse, purify, purge, make clean – literally, ritually, or spiritually). Katharizo is from katharos (clean, pure, innocent, clear, unstained, guiltless, innocent; what is separated or purged; not mixed with that which is not desired). This is literally purged all the way across or back and forth. So, it is to cleanse thoroughly or perfectly.
FFF “threshing floor” = halon. 2x in NT – both from John the Baptist’s proclamation. From halos (threshing flood); perhaps from the root of helisso (to roll up, coil, fold). This is the place where grain and chaff are threshed.
GGG “wheat” = sitos. 15x in NT. Any edible grain, but usually wheat, sometimes barley.
HHH “granary” = apotheke. 6x in NT. Related to “straight” in v3. From apo (from, away from) + tithem (to place, lay, set, fix, establish; in a passive or horizontal posture). This is a storehouse, repository, granary, or barn, It is literally the place where one stores away. This is where the word apothecary comes from.
III “burn” = katakaio. 12x in NT. From kata (down, against, throughout, among) + kaio (to kindle, burn, ignite, light; to burn literally or metaphorically). This is to burn up or consume entirely – to burn down to the ground.
JJJ “unquenchable” = asbestos. 4x in NT. From a (not) + sbestos (quenched or extinguished). Sbestos is from sbennumi (to quench, suppress, thwart; to extinguish literally or figuratively). This is unquenched or unquenchable. By implication, perpetual.

Image credit: Església de Sant Joan d’Horta, a church in Barcelona. Architect – Enric Sagnier, 1917.

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