Once again, Matthew followed Mark, chapter 1:5. All these people were baptized by John in the Jordan River (καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ), which would have been north of the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. Jewish baptisms were not that uncommon. Washing was a physical and spiritual cleansing for sins, as people were unclean or dirty. Thus, in the process of this spiritual cleansing, they would confess their sins (ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν). John’s baptism had a few unique qualities since it was a moral statement with an expectation of a coming Messiah or savior.
This angel of the Lord proclaimed that Mary would give birth to a son (τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν). He was to be called by the name of Jesus (καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν). Jesus, Ἰησοῦν, was a Greek name, but implied the Aramaic or Hebrew name of Joshua, Jeshua, Yeshua, Yehoshua, or Yeshu. This angel gave a command to Joseph concerning the name of the child to be born. In the Old Testament, important people were named before they were born. Thus, in Judean society, the father had the right to name the child. The literal interpretation of this name would have been savior. This phrase about the name of Jesus is exactly the same as found in Luke, chapter 1, (καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν), where the angel Gabriel was talking to Mary about not being afraid because of the child she was bearing. Jesus was called by this name because he was going to save his people (αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ) from their sins (ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν). He was not yet seen as a universal savior, but only saving the Israelite people from their own sins.
On that special day, there was the wish to have an open fountain for the house of David and the people of Jerusalem, so that they would be able to cleanse their sins and impurities. This is a rare mention of a cleansing fountain that would become a mainstay of Christianity.
This Book of Micah ends with this psalm of praise to Yahweh, while asking for his mercy. There is no other God like Yahweh, who has pardoned iniquity. He has let go of the transgressions of his people. His anger was short lived, because he delighted in granting clemency, since he had compassion for them. He has stamped on and thrown out all their sins. He has shown faithfulness and loyalty to Jacob and Abraham, just as he did to all their ancestors in the good old days. Notice the change from the descriptive “he” to the more intimate “you”.
With great irony, Yahweh, via Micah, pointed out that his punishment for these wicked people in the city would be unrewarded labor. In other words, Yahweh was going to strike them down and make them desolate because of their sins. They would eat, but not be satisfied because of a continual gnawing hunger. They would try to save money, but none would be put away, because what little they had saved would be turned over to the robbers with swords. They would sow seeds, but not be around for the harvest reaping. They would tread grapes and olives, but they would not be able to anoint themselves with oil or drink any wine. They were just wasting their time.
Next, Amos listed all the bad behavior that the northern Israelites were involved with. They did not like any reprimanding at the city judgment gate. They did not like anyone who told the truth. They trampled the poor people, as they took away their grain. They had built beautiful stone houses, but they were not going to live in them. They had planted wonderful vineyards, but they would not drink the wine from them. Amos and Yahweh knew all about their various transgressions and how great their sins were. They took bribes, mistreated the righteous, and turned away the needy at the gate. The prudent people kept silent during this evil time.
Hosea said that the prophet should be a sentinel or watchman for God over the territory of Ephraim. However, the bird hunter or fowler had set snares for them. There was so much hostility in the house of God. They simply corrupted themselves too much. It was like in the days of Gibeah, as found in the situation over the concubine at Gibeah, in Judges, chapters 19-21. Then Hosea repeated what he had said in the preceding chapter that Yahweh would remember their iniquity, so that he would punish them for their sins.
The territory of Ephraim, in the northern Israelite kingdom, multiplied the number of altars to ask for forgiveness of sins. In the eyes of Yahweh, they were actually altars of sinning. Yahweh had given them plenty of instructions, but they regarded them as strange sayings, ignoring them. They tried to offer choice sacrifice offerings and eat them. However, Yahweh would not accept them. Instead, he remembered their iniquity. He wanted to punish them for their sins. One of the punishments was to send them back to Egypt.
Thus, we have the prophetic statement of Gabriel. The terminology here is weeks and not years. Jeremiah had used 70 years. 7 was generally a complete or perfect number. Therefore, the popular terminology developed about lucky 7. During these 70 weeks or 70 years, they would make up for all the transgressions of the people and the holy city. Does 70 weeks imply 70 years times a week of 7, or 490 years? This time would atone for their sins and their iniquities. This would then bring about an everlasting righteousness, sealing both the vision and the prophet. Thus, they could anoint this holy place at the end of this period.
Azariah pointed out the weakness of Israel. They were weaker than any other country, because of their sins. Thus, today, they do not have any rulers, prophets, or leaders. They have no place to offer burnt offerings, sacrifices, oblations, or incense. They have no place to go to ask for mercy. Their country and the Temple in Jerusalem were destroyed.