John baptized people (Mt 3:6-3:6)

“They were baptized

By him

In the Jordan River,

Confessing their sins.”

 

καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν.

 

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.

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The special child Jesus (Mt 1:21-1:21)

“Mary will bear a son.

You are to name him

Jesus.

He will save

His people

From their sins.”

 

τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν·αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν.

 

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.

The cleansing fountain (Zech 13:1-13:1)

“On that day,

A fountain

Shall be opened

For the house of David,

For the inhabitants of Jerusalem,

To cleanse them

From sin,

From impurity.”

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.

Divine appeal (Mic 7:18-7:20)

“Who is a God

Like you?

You pardon iniquity.

You pass over

The transgressions

Of the remnant

Of your possessions.

He does not retain

His anger forever,

Because he delights

In showing clemency.

He will again have compassion

Upon us.

He will tread

Our iniquities

Under foot.

You will cast all our sins

Into the depths of the sea.

You will show faithfulness

To Jacob.

You will show

Unswerving loyalty

To Abraham,

As you have sworn

To our ancestors,

From the days of old.”

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”.

Yahweh’s punishment (Mic 6:13-6:15)

“Therefore,

I have begun

To strike you down.

I will make you desolate,

Because of your sins.

You shall eat,

But not be satisfied.

There shall be

A gnawing hunger

Within you.

You shall put away,

But not save.

What you save,

I will hand over to the sword.

You shall sow,

But not reap.

You shall tread olives,

But not anoint yourselves

With oil.

You shall tread grapes,

But not drink wine.”

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.

Bad behavior (Am 5:10-5:13)

“They hate him

Who reproves

At the gate.

They abhor him

Who speaks the truth.

Therefore,

You trample

On the poor.

You take from them,

Levies of grain.

You have built houses

Of hewn stone.

But you shall not live

In them.

You have planted

Pleasant vineyards.

But you shall not drink

Their wine.

I know how many are

Your transgressions.

I know how great are

Your sins.

You afflict the righteous.

You take a bribe.

You turn aside

The needy

At the gate.

Therefore,

The prudent will keep silent

In such a time.

It is an evil 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.

The role of the prophet (Hos 9:8-9:9)

“The prophet is

A sentinel

For my God

Over Ephraim.

Yet a fowler’s snare

Is on all his ways.

Hostility is

In the house

Of his God.

They have deeply

Corrupted themselves,

As in the days of Gibeah.

He will remember

Their iniquity.

He will punish

Their sins.’”

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.