Matthew 3:1-10 – John the Baptist comes to Herald the coming Messiah. This is the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1,4:5. We know this from Matthew 11:10. Matthew also quotes Isaiah 40:3. The context of Isaiah 40 is the return of the Babylonian captives returning. We noted this motif of the Babylonian return in our observation of the quote in Jeremiah 31:15 about the slaughter of the innocents. In our study last week. John dressed in the same clothing as Elijah. 2 Kings 1:8.
Baptism is a Jewish rite established in the Law. (Numbers 8:5-22) The purification of Priests was necessary for them to assume their priestly office. This also was necessary for the individual Israelite. (Leviticus 14:8). By the time of the appearing of Jesus the Messiah, immersion was necessary for proselytes.
It is also mentioned in the Talmud as necessary for returning from idolatry. The Mikveh (Baptism) is still an important part of the Jewish community. This procedure was rooted in the events that occurred when Israel received the Law after being in bondage in Egypt (Exodus 19:10,14). It is also a picture of the Red Sea crossing (1 Corinthians 10:1ff.) We see this also in Paul’s was referring to in Romans 6:1ff.
Large numbers of people came to John. Some with genuine hearts of repentance others to go through the religious motions, still others to observe what was happening. John’s words demonstrate this in Matthew 1:7-10. The tradition Jewish opinion was that they were related to Abraham and as such were automatically sons of the covenant (Romans 2:28-29,Galatians 3:7). It is interesting that many Christian denominations have this concept because of the right of infant Baptism. John makes clear that repentance is a prerequisite for Baptism. The reference of Brood of Vipers harkens back to Genesis 3:15.