|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-6 The first words of this chapter seem an answer to the scoffers of those days. Here is a prophecy of the appearing of John the Baptist. He is Christ's harbinger. He shall prepare the way before him, by calling men to repentance. The Messiah had been long called, He that should come, and now shortly he will come. He is the Messenger of the covenant. Those who seek Jesus, shall find pleasure in him, often when not looked for. The Lord Jesus, prepares the sinner's heart to be his temple, by the ministry of his word and the convictions of his Spirit, and he enters it as the Messenger of peace and consolation. No hypocrite or formalist can endure his doctrine, or stand before his tribunal. Christ came to distinguish men, to separate between the precious and the vile. He shall sit as a Refiner. Christ, by his gospel, shall purify and reform his church, and by his Spirit working with it, shall regenerate and cleanse souls. He will take away the dross found in them. He will separate their corruptions, which render their faculties worthless and useless. The believer needs not fear the fiery trial of afflictions and temptations, by which the Saviour refines his gold. He will take care it is not more intense or longer than is needful for his good; and this trial will end far otherwise than that of the wicked. Christ will, by interceding for them, make them accepted. Where no fear of God is, no good is to be expected. Evil pursues sinners. God is unchangeable. And though the sentence against evil works be not executed speedily, yet it will be executed; the Lord is as much an enemy to sin as ever. We may all apply this to ourselves. Because we have to do with a God that changes not, therefore it is that we are not consumed; because his compassions fail not.
Verse 2. - Who may abide the day of his comings? They had expected him to come and judge the heathen; the prophet warns them that they themselves shall be first judged (comp. Amos 5:18). "Malachi, like John the Baptist, sees the future Judge in the present Saviour" (Wordsworth); Joel 2:11. Who shall stand! Who can stand up under the burden of this judgment? The Vulgate Version,Quis stabit ad videndum eum? points to the brightness of his presence, which eye of man cannot endure. Like a refiner's fire, which separates the precious metal from the refuse. So the Lord at his coming shall sever the good among men from the evil (Isaiah 1:25; Jeremiah 6:29; Zechariah 13:9). Like fullers' soap; Septuagint, ὡς ποιὰ πλυνόντων, "as the grass of washers;" Vulgate, quasi herba fullonum, What is to be understood exactly by the "soap" (borith), washing herb, is not known. Probably the ashes of some plant yielding a lye, like carbonate of soda, are meant. Such plants are met with on the shores of the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, and at this day large quantities of alkalies are extracted from them and exported in different directions (see Tristram, 'Nat. Hist. of the Bible,' p. 480, etc.; comp. Isaiah 4:4; Jeremiah 2:22). The Lord shall wash away all that is filthy (comp. Matthew 3:10, 12).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But who may abide the day of his coming?.... When he should be manifest in Israel, and come preaching the Gospel of the kingdom; who could bear the doctrines delivered by him, concerning his deity and equality with God the Father; concerning his character and mission as the Messiah, and his kingdom not being a temporal, but a spiritual one; concerning his giving his flesh for the life of the world, and eating that by faith; concerning distinguishing and efficacious grace; and all such that so severely struck at the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees, and their self-righteous principles; and especially since for judgment he came, that they might not see? nor could they bear the light of this glorious Sun of righteousness; and he came not to send peace and outward prosperity to the Jews, but a sword and division, John 9:39 very few indeed could bear his ministry, or the light of that day, it being so directly contrary to their principles and practices:
and who shall stand when he appeareth? in his kingdom and glory, to take vengeance on the Jews for their rejection of him and his Gospel; for this coming and appearance of his include all the time between his manifestation in the flesh and the destruction of Jerusalem; and so all those sorrows and distresses which went before it, or attended it, and were such as had never been from the creation of the world; and unless those times had been shortened, no flesh could have been saved; see Matthew 24:3,
for he is like a refiner's fire; partly by the ministry of the word, compared to fire, Jeremiah 23:29 separating pure doctrines from ones of dross; and partly by his fiery dispensations and judgments on the wicked Jews, when he distinguished and saved his own people from that untoward generation, and destroyed them:
and like fuller's soap; or "fuller's herb", as the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions render it, and Jarchi interprets it: and so R. Jonah (s) interprets it of an herb which fullers use: and in the Misna (t) this is one of the seven things used to take out spots, namely, "borith", the word here used; and which Maimonides (u) says is a plant known by the name of "algasul" and "gazul" in the Arabic language: it signifies something by which filth is washed away; and so Bartenora (w) says it is a plant which purifies and cleanses; and Jerom (x) relates that this herb grows in Palestine, in moist and green places, and has the same virtue as nitre to take away filth; agreeably to which some other versions render it "fuller's weed", or "soap weed" (y). The Syriac version is,
"as sulphur that makes white;''
and fullers, with the Romans, were wont to make use of that along with chalk to take out spots; and so Pliny (z) speaks of a kind of sulphur which fullers make use of. A metaphor signifying the same thing as before, the removing of spotted doctrines or spotted persons, the one by the preaching of the Gospel, the other by awful judgments, as spots in garments are removed by the fuller's herb or soap.
(s) Apud Kimchi in Sepher Shorash. rad. (t) Niddah. c. 9. sect. 6. (u) In Misn. ib. (w) In ib. (x) Comment. in Jer. ii. 22. (y) "ut lanaria fullonum", Drusius; "radicula, vel saponaria", Vatablus. (z) Nat. Hist. l. 35. c. 15.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. (Mal 4:1; Re 6:16, 17). The Messiah would come, not, as they expected, to flatter the theocratic nation's prejudices, but to subject their principles to the fiery test of His heart-searching truth (Mt 3:10-12), and to destroy Jerusalem and the theocracy after they had rejected Him. His mission is here regarded as a whole from the first to the second advent: the process of refining and separating the godly from the ungodly beginning during Christ's stay on earth, going on ever since, and about to continue till the final separation (Mt 25:31-46). The refining process, whereby a third of the Jews is refined as silver of its dross, while two-thirds perish, is described, Zec 13:8, 9 (compare Isa 1:25).
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