VINCENT'S WORD STUDIES
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Robertson's Word Pictures in the NT - Greek NT
John. Hebrew, meaning God has dealt graciously. Compare the German Gotthold.
Came (paraginetai). 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 (khrusswn). See on 2 Pet. ii. 5.
Wilderness (th erhmw). 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."
The kingdom of heaven. Lit., the kingdom of the heavens (h basileia twn ouranwn). An expression peculiar to Matthew. The more usual one is the kingdom of God. It is a kingdom of heaven because its origin, its end, its king, the character and destiny of its subjects, its laws, institutions, and privileges - all are heavenly. In the teaching of Christ and in the apostolic writings the kingdom of the Messiah is the actual consummation of the prophetic idea of the rule of God, without any national limitation, so that participation therein rests only on faith in Jesus Christ, and on the moral renewal which is conditioned by the same. It is the combination of all rights of Christian citizenship in this world, and eternal blessedness in the next. All its senses are only different sides of the same great idea - the subjection of all things to God in Christ.
Voice. John's personality is thrown into shadow behind Christ. "What would be the duty of a merely human teacher of the highest moral aim, entrusted with a great spiritual mission and lesson for the benefit of mankind? The example of St. John Baptist is an answer to this inquiry. Such a teacher would represent himself as a mere 'voice,' crying aloud in the moral wilderness around him, and anxious, beyond aught else, to shroud his own significant person beneath the majesty of his message" (Liddon, "Our Lord's Divinity").
9. These stones. Pointing, as he spoke, to the pebbles on the beach of the Jordan.
Is hewn down and cast. The present tense is graphic, denoting what is to happen at once and certainly.
Throughly cleanse (diakaqariei). Throughly (retained by Rev.) obsolete form of thoroughly, is the force of the preposition dia (through). In that preposition lies the picture of the farmer beginning at one side of the floor, and working through to the other, cleansing as he goes.
The whole metaphor represents the Messiah as separating the evil from the good, according to the tests of his kingdom and Gospel, receiving the worthy into his kingdom and consigning the unworthy to destruction (compare Matt. xiii. 30; 39-43; 48-50).
"Thou from the first Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast abyss And mad'st it pregnant."
In art, the double-headed dove is the peculiar attribute of the prophet Elisha. A window in Lincoln College, Oxford, represents him with the double-headed dove perched upon his shoulder. The symbol is explained by Elisha's prayer that a double portion of Elijah's spirit might rest upon him.
It has been asserted that, among the Jews, the Holy Spirit was presented under the symbol of a dove, and a passage is cited from the Talmud: "The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters like a dove." Dr. Edersheim ("Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah") vigorously contradicts this, and says that the passage treats of the supposed distance between the upper and lower waters, which was only three finger-breadths. This is proved by Gen. i. 2, where the Spirit of God is said to brood over the face of the waters, "just as a dove broodeth over her young without touching them." "Thus the comparison is not between the Spirit and the dove, but between the closeness with which a dove broods over her young without touching them, and the supposed proximity of the Spirit to the lower waters without touching them." He goes on to say that the dove was not the symbol of the Holy Spirit, but of Israel. "If, therefore, rabbinic illustration of the descent of the Holy Spirit with the visible appearance of a dove must be sought for, it would lie in the acknowledgment of Jesus as the ideal typical Israelite, the representative of his people."