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Jehovah’s Witnesses

English
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)

Matthew 3:1-17

3  In those days John+ the Baptist came preaching+ in the wilderness of Ju·deʹa,  saying: “Repent, for the Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.”+  This, in fact, is the one spoken of through Isaiah+ the prophet+ in these words: “A voice of one calling out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of Jehovah! Make his roads straight.’”+  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.+ His food was locusts+ and wild honey.+  Then the people of Jerusalem and all Ju·deʹa and all the country around the Jordan were going out to him,+  and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River,+ openly confessing their sins.  When he caught sight of many of the Pharisees+ and Sadducees+ coming to the baptism, he said to them: “You offspring of vipers,+ who has warned you to flee from the coming wrath?+  Therefore, produce fruit that befits repentance.  Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’+ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. 10  The ax is already lying at the root of the trees. Every tree, then, that does not produce fine fruit is to be cut down and thrown into the fire.+ 11  I, for my part, baptize you with water because of your repentance,+ but the one coming after me+ is stronger than I am, whose sandals I am not worthy to take off.+ That one will baptize you with holy spirit+ and with fire.+ 12  His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clean up his threshing floor completely and will gather his wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with fire+ that cannot be put out.” 13  Then Jesus came from Galʹi·lee to the Jordan to John, in order to be baptized by him.+ 14  But the latter tried to prevent him, saying: “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?” 15  Jesus replied to him: “Let it be this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.” Then he quit preventing him. 16  After being baptized, Jesus immediately came up from the water; and look! the heavens were opened up,+ and he saw God’s spirit descending like a dove and coming upon him.+ 17  Look! Also, a voice from the heavens+ said: “This is my Son,+ the beloved, whom I have approved.”+

Footnotes

John: The English equivalent of the Hebrew name Jehohanan or Johanan, meaning “Jehovah Has Shown Favor; Jehovah Has Been Gracious.”

the Baptist: Or “the Immerser; the Dipper”; referred to as “the Baptizer” at Mr 1:4; 6:14, 24. Evidently used as a sort of surname, indicating that baptizing by immersing in water was distinctive of John. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote of “John, surnamed the Baptist.”

preaching: The Greek word basically means “to make proclamation as a public messenger.” It stresses the manner of the proclamation: usually an open, public declaration rather than a sermon to a group.

wilderness of Judea: The generally uninhabited, barren eastern slope of the Judean mountains stretching down—a drop of some 1,200 m (3,900 ft)—toward the western bank of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. John begins his ministry in a section of this region N of the Dead Sea.

fruit that befits repentance: Refers to evidence and actions that would indicate a change of mind or attitude on the part of those listening to John.Lu 3:8; Ac 26:20; see study notes on Mt 3:2, 11 and Glossary, “Repentance.”

repentance: Lit., “change of mind.”—See study notes on Mt 3:2, 8 and Glossary.

Repent: The Greek word used here could literally be rendered “to change one’s mind,” signifying a change in thinking, attitude, or purpose. In this context, “repent” refers to a person’s relationship with God.—See study notes on Mt 3:8, 11 and Glossary, “Repentance.”

Kingdom: First occurrence of the Greek word ba·si·leiʹa, which refers to a royal government as well as to the territory and peoples under the rule of a king. Of the 162 occurrences of this Greek word in the Christian Greek Scriptures, 55 can be found in Matthew’s account and most of them refer to God’s heavenly rule. Matthew uses the term so frequently that his Gospel might be called the Kingdom Gospel.—See Glossary, “God’s Kingdom.”

Kingdom of the heavens: This expression occurs some 30 times and only in the Gospel of Matthew. In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, the parallel phrase “the Kingdom of God” is used, indicating that “the Kingdom of God” is based in and rules from the spiritual heavens.Mt 21:43; Mr 1:15; Lu 4:43; Da 2:44; 2Ti 4:18.

has drawn near: Here in the sense that the future Ruler of the heavenly Kingdom was about to appear.

Jehovah: In this quote from Isa 40:3, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text. (See App. C.) Matthew applies this prophecy to what John the Baptist did in preparing the way for Jesus. In John’s Gospel, John the Baptist applies this prophecy to himself.Joh 1:23.

Make his roads straight: May allude to the custom of ancient rulers to have men prepare the way before the royal chariot by removing large stones and even building causeways and leveling hills.

clothed with camel’s hair: John’s garment of woven camel’s hair and his leather belt are reminiscent of the dress of the prophet Elijah.2Ki 1:8; Joh 1:21.

locusts: Rich in protein, these insects are designated by the Law as clean for food.Le 11:21, 22.

wild honey: That is, honey from natural beehives found in the wilderness, not from beehives kept by people. Eating locusts and wild honey was not unusual for people living in the wilderness.

baptize you: Or “immerse you.” The Greek word ba·ptiʹzo means “to dip; to plunge.” Other Biblical references indicate that baptism involves complete immersion. On one occasion, John was baptizing at a location in the Jordan Valley near Salim “because there was a great quantity of water there.” (Joh 3:23) When Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, they both “went down into the water.” (Ac 8:38) The same Greek word is used in the Septuagint at 2Ki 5:14 when describing that Naaman “plunged into the Jordan seven times.”

baptized: Or “immersed; dipped.”—See study note on Mt 3:11.

openly confessing their sins: Refers to people who admitted publicly or acknowledged openly their sins against the Law covenant.

Pharisees: See Glossary.

Sadducees: See Glossary.

You offspring of vipers: So called because their wickedness and deadly spiritual harm was like poison to unsuspecting people.

Repent: The Greek word used here could literally be rendered “to change one’s mind,” signifying a change in thinking, attitude, or purpose. In this context, “repent” refers to a person’s relationship with God.—See study notes on Mt 3:8, 11 and Glossary, “Repentance.”

repentance: Lit., “change of mind.”—See study notes on Mt 3:2, 8 and Glossary.

fruit that befits repentance: Refers to evidence and actions that would indicate a change of mind or attitude on the part of those listening to John.Lu 3:8; Ac 26:20; see study notes on Mt 3:2, 11 and Glossary, “Repentance.”

Repent: The Greek word used here could literally be rendered “to change one’s mind,” signifying a change in thinking, attitude, or purpose. In this context, “repent” refers to a person’s relationship with God.—See study notes on Mt 3:8, 11 and Glossary, “Repentance.”

fruit that befits repentance: Refers to evidence and actions that would indicate a change of mind or attitude on the part of those listening to John.Lu 3:8; Ac 26:20; see study notes on Mt 3:2, 11 and Glossary, “Repentance.”

baptize you: Or “immerse you.” The Greek word ba·ptiʹzo means “to dip; to plunge.” Other Biblical references indicate that baptism involves complete immersion. On one occasion, John was baptizing at a location in the Jordan Valley near Salim “because there was a great quantity of water there.” (Joh 3:23) When Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, they both “went down into the water.” (Ac 8:38) The same Greek word is used in the Septuagint at 2Ki 5:14 when describing that Naaman “plunged into the Jordan seven times.”

repentance: Lit., “change of mind.”—See study notes on Mt 3:2, 8 and Glossary.

stronger: Signifies having “more authority.”

sandals: To remove and carry another’s sandals or to untie another’s sandal laces (Mr 1:7; Lu 3:16; Joh 1:27) was considered a menial task that was often done by a slave.

baptize . . . with holy spirit and with fire: Refers to anointing with holy spirit and destroying by fire. The baptism with holy spirit began at Pentecost 33 C.E. The baptism with fire occurred in 70 C.E. when the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and burned its temple.

winnowing shovel: Probably made of wood and used for tossing threshed grain into the air so that the wind would blow the straw and chaff away.

chaff: The thin protective covering or husk on the kernels of cereal grains, such as barley and wheat. The chaff was often gathered and burned to prevent it from blowing into the piles of grain and contaminating them. John uses the winnowing process to illustrate how the Messiah would separate symbolic wheat from chaff.

fire that cannot be put out: Indicates that the complete end of the Jewish system of things was due.

to carry out all that is righteous: Jesus was not baptized in symbol of repentance, for he was sinless and had kept God’s righteous laws faultlessly; nor did his baptism symbolize dedication, for he was already a member of a dedicated nation. His baptism was a symbol of his presenting himself to do Jehovah’s righteous will in connection with his role as the Messiah, including offering himself as a ransom. Jesus acted in harmony with the prophecy concerning him at Ps 40:7, 8 and explained at Heb 10:5-9.

look!: The Greek word i·douʹ, here rendered “look!,” is often used to focus attention on what follows, encouraging the reader to visualize the scene or to take note of a detail in a narrative. It is also used to add emphasis or to introduce something new or surprising. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term occurs most frequently in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and in the book of Revelation. A corresponding expression is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures.

the heavens: Can refer to the physical heavens, the sky, or the spiritual heavens.

the heavens were opened up: God evidently caused Jesus to perceive and understand heavenly matters, which may well have included the memory of his prehuman life in heaven.

like a dove: Doves had both a sacred use and a symbolic meaning. They were offered as sacrifices. (Mr 11:15; Joh 2:14-16) They symbolized innocence and purity. (Mt 10:16) A dove released by Noah brought an olive leaf back to the ark, indicating that the floodwaters were receding (Ge 8:11) and that a time of rest and peace was at hand (Ge 5:29). Thus, at Jesus’ baptism, Jehovah may have used the dove to call attention to the role of Jesus as the Messiah, the pure and sinless Son of God who would sacrifice his life for mankind and lay the basis for a period of rest and peace during his rule as King. As God’s spirit, or active force, descended upon Jesus at his baptism, it may have looked like the fluttering of a dove as it nears its perch.

a voice: The second of three instances in the Gospel accounts where Jehovah is reported as speaking audibly to humans.—See study notes on Mt 3:17; Joh 12:28.

whom I have approved: Or “with whom I am well-pleased.”—See study note on Mt 3:17.

Look!: The Greek word i·douʹ, here rendered “look!,” is often used to focus attention on what follows, encouraging the reader to visualize the scene or to take note of a detail in a narrative. It is also used to add emphasis or to introduce something new or surprising. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term occurs most frequently in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and in the book of Revelation. A corresponding expression is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures.

a voice from the heavens: The first of three instances in the Gospel accounts where Jehovah is reported as speaking audibly to humans.—See study notes on Mt 17:5; Joh 12:28.

This is my Son: As a spirit creature, Jesus was God’s Son. (Joh 3:16) From the time of his birth as a human, Jesus was a “son of God,” just as perfect Adam had been. (Lu 1:35; 3:38) However, it seems reasonable that God’s words here go beyond a mere statement of Jesus’ identity. By this declaration accompanied by the outpouring of holy spirit, God evidently indicated that the man Jesus was begotten as His spiritual Son, “born again” with the hope of returning to life in heaven and anointed by spirit to be God’s appointed King and High Priest.—Compare Joh 3:3-6; 6:51; Lu 1:31-33; Heb 2:17; 5:1, 4-10; 7:1-3.

whom I have approved: Or “with whom I am well-pleased; in whom I take great delight.” The same expression is used at Mt 12:18, which is a quotation from Isa 42:1 regarding the promised Messiah, or Christ. The outpouring of holy spirit and God’s declaration concerning his Son were a clear identification of Jesus as the promised Messiah.—See study note on Mt 12:18.

Media

The Wilderness of Judea, West of the Jordan River
The Wilderness of Judea, West of the Jordan River

In this barren region, John the Baptist began his ministry and Jesus was tempted by the Devil.

The Wilderness
The Wilderness

The original-language words rendered “wilderness” in the Bible (Hebrew, midh·barʹ and Greek, eʹre·mos) generally refer to a sparsely settled, uncultivated land, often steppelands with brush and grass, even pastures. Those words may also apply to waterless regions that could be called true deserts. In the Gospels, the wilderness generally referred to is the wilderness of Judea. This wilderness is where John lived and preached and where Jesus was tempted by the Devil.Mr 1:12.

John the Baptizer’s Clothing and Appearance
John the Baptizer’s Clothing and Appearance

John wore a garment that was woven from camel’s hair and was secured at the waist by a leather belt, or girdle, that could be used to carry small items. Similar clothing was worn by the prophet Elijah. (2Ki 1:8) Camel’s haircloth was a rough fabric commonly worn by the poor. By contrast, soft garments made of silk or linen were worn by the rich. (Mt 11:7-9) Because John was a Nazirite from birth, his hair had never been cut. Both his dress and his appearance, therefore, made it immediately apparent that he lived a simple life, completely devoted to doing God’s will.

Locusts
Locusts

As used in the Bible, the term “locusts” can refer to any of a variety of grasshoppers with short antennas, or feelers, especially grasshoppers that migrate in great swarms. According to an analysis made in Jerusalem, desert locusts consist of 75 percent protein. When used for food today, the head, legs, wings, and abdomen are removed. The remaining portion, the thorax, is eaten raw or cooked. These insects are said to taste something like shrimp or crab and are rich in protein.

Wild Honey
Wild Honey

Pictured here are a hive built by wild honey bees (1) and a honey-filled comb (2). The honey that John ate may have been produced by a wild species of bee known as Apis mellifera syriaca, which is native to the area. This aggressive species is well-adapted to living in the hot, dry climate of the Judean wilderness but is not suited to being farmed by man. However, as early as the ninth century B.C.E., people living in Israel kept honey bees in clay cylinders. A large number of the remains of these hives were discovered in the middle of what was an urban area (now known as Tel Rehov), located in the Jordan Valley. Honey from these hives was produced by a species of bee that seems to have been imported from what is now known as Turkey.

Garments Worn by a Pharisee in Jesus’ Day
Garments Worn by a Pharisee in Jesus’ Day

The Pharisees took the statements found at De 6:6-8 and 11:18 literally. Motivated by self-righteousness and superstition, they strapped a scripture-containing case to their left arm and, at times, bound one to their forehead. In addition, the Pharisees not only wore fringes on their garments, as directed in the Law, but also lengthened the fringes so that they were more conspicuous.—Nu 15:38; Mt 23:5.

Horned Viper
Horned Viper

Both John the Baptist and Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees “offspring of vipers” because they inflicted spiritual harm that was like deadly poison to unsuspecting people. (Mt 3:7; 12:34) Here pictured is the horned viper, distinguished by a small pointed horn above each eye. Other dangerous vipers native to Israel are the sand viper (Vipera ammodytes) of the Jordan Valley and the Palestine viper (Vipera palaestina).

Winnowing Grain
Winnowing Grain

A farmer used a winnowing shovel to hurl threshed grain into the air. The heavy grain fell to the floor, and the lighter chaff blew away in the breeze. He repeated the action over and over until all the grain was separated.

The Jordan River
The Jordan River

John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River; the exact location of the baptism is unknown.