And straightway coming up out of the water
Not John, as many think; though it was true of him, that he came up out of the water, as the administrator of the ordinance of baptism to Christ, but Christ himself; who having descended into the water, the river of Jordan, and being baptized by immersion in it by John, came up out of it; not from the river side, and up the declivity to it, but out of the river itself: when
he saw the heavens opened;
or "cloven", or "rent"; this may be understood, either of John, who was the spectator of all this, which was done for the manifestation of the Messiah to him, and the confirmation of his faith in him, and that he might bear record of him; and so the Persic version reads, "John saw" see ( John 1:30 John 1:33 ) , or of Jesus Christ himself, who came up out of the water; and when he did, saw the heavens part,
and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him.
The position of these words here, is a little different from that in ( Matthew 3:16 ) , there it is, "the Spirit of God descending like a dove"; which seems rather to point out the manner of his descent, than the form in which he descended: here it is put, "the Spirit like a dove descending on him"; which seems rather to incline to such a sense, that the Spirit appeared in the form of a dove, as well as descended like one; and both may be designed, and indeed the latter follows upon the former: if it was the form of a dove the Spirit of God descended in, it was a very suitable one: the dove is a very proper emblem of the Spirit of God: "the voice of the turtle", in ( Song of Solomon 2:12 ) , is by the Targum interpreted, the voice of the holy Spirit: he may be likened to a dove, for its simplicity and sincerity; he guides into all truth as it is in Jesus, and teaches to speak the word in all plainness, openness, and sincerity, and preserves the saints in the simplicity of the Gospel; and for its mildness and meekness; one of the fruits of the Spirit of God is meekness, ( 5:23 ) . And this it produces in converted persons, making them meek; humble, and gentle: and also for its harmlessness and innocence; and which appears, or at least should, in those who mind the things of the Spirit: hence that advice of Christ, "be harmless as doves", ( Matthew 10:16 ) . Likewise for its purity and cleanness; the Spirit of God is a Spirit of holiness, he is the author of sanctification; such as are washed, sanctified, and justified, are so in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, ( 1 Corinthians 6:11 ) . The dove is a mournful and bemoaning creature; and the Spirit of God makes intercession for the saints, with groanings which cannot be uttered, ( Romans 8:26 ) . To which may be added, that Noah's dove bringing the olive leaf in its mouth, as a sign, of peace and reconciliation, fitly resembled the holy Spirit, one of whose fruits is peace, ( Galatians 5:22 ) , and which he produces, by leading to the blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ, whereby peace is made, and reconciliation obtained: and his descending upon Christ here, points him out as the peacemaker, through whom was come peace on earth, good will towards men, and glory to God. Christ, on whom he lighted, is comparable to a dove; he is said to have doves' eyes, ( Song of Solomon 5:12 ) , and he has all the fruits and graces of the dove like Spirit of God, which rested on him; like the dove, he is humble, meek, and lowly; in which characters, he is to be followed and imitated by his people: and as that creature is a very loving one to its mate, so is Christ to his church; whom he has so loved, as to give himself for her: and as that is a lovely beautiful creature, so is Christ; he is altogether lovely; and especially his eyes of love, as they are set and fixed upon his church and people. With this descent of the Spirit as a dove on Christ, compare ( Isaiah 11:2 ) ( 61:1 ) ; (See Gill on Matthew 3:16).