1:4 John. The Old Testament citations locate John the Baptist in the preplanned history of God’s covenantal dealings with His people.
in the wilderness. John’s preaching in the wilderness symbolically reminds Israel of her covenantal origins in the Exodus (cf. Jer. 2:2). The wilderness is the traditional meeting place between God and His people.
baptism of repentance. The Qumran community, with which John may have had contact in his youth, practiced ritual cleansings and baptisms. Also, converts to Judaism were baptized. John’s innovation was to require a one-time baptism of Israelites already within the covenant community. For him to require such a gesture of radical repentance is a sign of the approach of the new covenant. See note Matt. 3:6.
for the forgiveness of sins. John does not actually bestow forgiveness of sins. Definitive forgiveness of sins belongs to the new covenant (Jer. 31:34), which the Messiah will bring.