In those days, Yochanan the Immerser came, proclaiming in the wilderness of Judea, saying,
Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
For this is he who was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight.’
Now Yochanan himself wore clothing made of camels hair, with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
2 Kings describes Elijah the Prophet,
“They answered him, ‘He was a hairy man, and wearing a leather belt around his waist.’ He said, ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
2 Kings 1:8
Then people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him.
They were immersed by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his immersion he said to them, You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Therefore bring forth fruit worthy of repentance!
Do not think to yourselves, We have Abraham for our father, for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the axe lies at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesnt bring forth good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire.
For more information, see our article on The Parable of the Fig Tree.
I indeed immerse you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. He will immerse you in the Holy Spirit.
“Rabbi Abbahu said to him: He immersed in fire, as it is written: “For, behold, the Lord will come in fire” (Isaiah 66:15). The heretic said to him: But is immersion in fire effective? Rabbi Abbahu said to him: On the contrary, the main form of immersion is in fire, as it is written with regard to the removal of non-kosher substances absorbed in a vessel: “And all that abides not the fire you shall make to go through the water” (Numbers 31:23), indicating that fire purifies more than water does.”
Sanhedrin 39a, William Davidson Talmud, Sefaria
His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.
The term “threshing floor” refers to the Temple, as David purchased the plot of land for the altar,
“Gad came that day to David, and said to him, ‘Go up, build an altar to HaShem on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
2 Samuel 24:18
Then Yeshua came from Galilee to the Jordan to Yochanan, to be immersed by him.
But Yochanan would have hindered him, saying, “I need to be immersed by you, and you come to me?”
But Yeshua, answering, said to him, “Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.
Yeshua, when he was immersed, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him.
As Yeshua was in the waters, and the dove was hovering over him, one of the meanings is that he is the Beginning of the New Creation, as Genesis says,
“The Spirit of G-d was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
The Targum interprets,
“…and the Spirit of mercies from before the Lord breathed upon the face of the waters.”
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Gen 1:2
Rebbe Nachman says,
“…[Mashiach’s] “breathing” will have a very positive effect upon mankind. . . The breath that Mashiach will breathe will emanate from the Torah and its 613 mitzvot. This is “The spirit of God [that] hovered over the waters.” The spirit is Mashiach and the waters are the Torah. Mashiach’s spirit is embedded in the Torah and he will draw his breath, the awe of God, from it. With this spirit, he will be able to “breathe into others” filing them with an awe and respect for God.”
Mashiach, Who, What, Why, How, Where, When, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, pg.63
A curious tale is told of Ben zoma in the Talmud,
“Our Rabbis taught: Once R. Joshua b. Hanania was standing on a step on the Temple Mount, and Ben Zoma saw him and did not stand up before him. So [R. Joshua] said to him: Whence and whither, Ben Zoma? He replied: I was gazing between the upper and the lower waters, and there is only a bare three fingers [breadth] between them, for it is said: And the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters’ like a dove which hovers over her young without touching [them]. Thereupon R. Joshua said to his disciples: Ben Zoma is still outside. See now, when was it that ‘the spirit of God hovered over the face of the water? On the first day [of Creation]; but the division took place on the second day, for it is written: And let it divide the waters from the waters!’ And how big [is the interval]? R. Aha b. Jacob said, As a hair’s breadth; and the Rabbis said: As [between] the boards of a landing bridge. Mar Zutra, or according to others R. Assi, said: As [between] two cloaks spread one over the other; and others say, as [between] two cups tilted one over the other.”
Chagigah 15a, Soncino Press Edition
“The Throne of Glory was suspended in the air and hovered over the face of the water with the breath of the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He and with His word, like a dove, which hovers over the nest . . . ”
Genesis Rabbah says,
”AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD HOVERED: this alludes to the spirit of Messiah, as you read, And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (Isaiah 11:2). In the merit of what will [this spirit] eventually come? [For the sake of that which] HOVERED OVER THE FACE OF THE WATERS, i.e. in the merit of repentance which is likened to water, as it is written, Pour out thy heart like water (Lamentations 2:19).”
Genesis Rabbah 2:4, Soncino Press Edition
While his gematria seems to be off, the Baal HaTurim connects the verse,
ורוח אלהים מרחפת. בגימטריא זו היא רוחו של מלך המשיח
“The gematria of this phrase (1034) is equivalent to that of זה היא רוחו של מלך המשיח, this refers to the Spirit of the Messianic King.”
Baal HaTurim on Genesis 1:2, Mesorah Publishers pg. 11