Matthew 3:12
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Whose fan is in his hand.—The scene brought before us is that of the large hardened surface which was the “threshing-floor” of the East, the sheaves of corn thrown over it, the oxen treading on them, the large winnowing fan driving on them the full force of the strong current of air, leaving the wheat in the middle, while the chaff is driven to the outskirts of the field to be afterwards swept up and burnt. The metaphor was a sufficiently familiar one. (Comp. Job 21:18; Psalm 1:4; Psalm 35:5; Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 29:5; Hosea 13:3.) The new features here are (1) that the “coming One,” the expected Christ, is to be the agent in the process; (2) that the Old Testament imagery rests in the “scattering” of the chaff, and this passes on to the “burning”; (3) that the fire is said to be “unquenched,” or perhaps “unquenchable.” The interpretation of the parable lies on the surface. The chaff are the ungodly and evildoers. The unquenched fire is the wrath of God against evil, which is, in its very nature, eternal, and can only cease with the cessation or transformation of the evil. The word translated “chaff” includes, it may be noted, straw as well, all but the actual grain.

It seems right briefly to direct the reader’s thoughts here to what is recorded of the Baptist’s ministry in the other Gospels; the questions of the priests and Levites (John 1:19-25); the counsels given to publicans, soldiers, and others (Luke 3:10-14); the presence, among the crowd, of Galileans, some of whom were afterwards Apostles (John 1:35-42). A curious legendary addition, found in the Apocryphal Gospel according to the Hebrews, is worth noting, as preparing the way for what follows: “Behold, the mother of the Lord and his brethren said unto Him, ‘John the Baptist baptiseth for the remission of sins; let us go that we may be baptised by him.’ But He said unto them, ‘In what have I sinned that I should go and be baptised by him? unless, perhaps, even that which I have thus spoken be a sin of ignorance.’ “This was obviously an attempt to explain the difficulty of the Sinless One seeking a baptism of repentance. It was, of course, probable enough that the household of Nazareth, cherishing, as they did, hopes of the kingdom of heaven, should be drawn with other Galileans to the Baptist’s preaching.

Matthew 3:12. Whose fan is in his hand — That is, the doctrine of the gospel, which is of such a nature as effectually discovers what is the real disposition of the hearts of men, and perfectly distinguishes between the hypocritical and the sincere. Perhaps, also, the Baptist might refer to the persecutions and tribulations which should attend the preaching of the gospel. Dr. Campbell renders the original expression, το πτυον, winnowing shovel, mentioned Isaiah 30:24, “an implement of husbandry, very ancient, simple, and properly manual: whereas the fan, (or van, as it is sometimes called,) is more complex, and, being contrived for raising an artificial wind, by the help of sails, can hardly be considered as proper for being carried about in the hand.” “In the eastern countries,” says Dr. Shaw, “after the grain is trodden out, they winnow it by throwing it up against the wind with a shovel.” “To understand the Baptist’s meaning aright, we should observe, that in this verse he describes the authority of Christ’s ministry, as in Matthew 3:16 he had described its efficacy. As if he had said, The Messiah is infinitely mightier than I, not only as he will bestow on you the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, but as he has power to reward those who obey him with eternal life, and to punish such with everlasting destruction, as reject him.” — Macknight. He will thoroughly purge his floor — His Church, at present covered with a mixture of wheat and chaff. As if he had said, Though, for the present, the good and bad, the fruitful and unfruitful, are joined together in the visible Church, yet in due time he will sever them, Malachi 3:2-3; and rid his Church of all hypocrites and ungodly persons. And gather his wheat — The, truly pious, into his garner — Will lay them up in heaven as his peculiar treasure. But the chaff — Those who have only a show of religion, without the power, and produce not the fruits of righteousness, he will burn with unquenchable fire — He will treat them as men do the refuse of the floor. He will destroy them as worthless and unprofitable trash. There is, in these words, an evident allusion to the custom of burning the chaff after winnowing, that it might not, by the wind’s changing, be blown back again, and so be mingled with the wheat. And though this may in part refer to the calamities to come upon the Jewish nation for rejecting Christ, yet, it seems chiefly to intend the final destruction of all sinners in hell, which alone is properly opposed to the gathering the wheat into the garner. See Matthew 13:40-42. And certainly this burning of the chaff with unquenchable fire, is absolutely inconsistent with all views of the restoration of the wicked, nor can it, by any easy or just interpretation, be reconciled with their annihilation, which, it is certain, no punishment of mind or body can, of itself, effect.3:7-12 To make application to the souls of the hearers, is the life of preaching; so it was of John's preaching. The Pharisees laid their chief stress on outward observances, neglecting the weightier matters of the moral law, and the spiritual meaning of their legal ceremonies. Others of them were detestable hypocrites, making their pretences to holiness a cloak for iniquity. The Sadducees ran into the opposite extreme, denying the existence of spirits, and a future state. They were the scornful infidels of that time and country. There is a wrath to come. It is the great concern of every one to flee from that wrath. God, who delights not in our ruin, has warned us; he warns by the written word, by ministers, by conscience. And those are not worthy of the name of penitents, or their privileges, who say they are sorry for their sins, yet persist in them. It becomes penitents to be humble and low in their own eyes, to be thankful for the least mercy, patient under the greatest affliction, to be watchful against all appearances of sin, to abound in every duty, and to be charitable in judging others. Here is a word of caution, not to trust in outward privileges. There is a great deal which carnal hearts are apt to say within themselves, to put aside the convincing, commanding power of the word of God. Multitudes, by resting in the honours and mere advantages of their being members of an outward church, come short of heaven. Here is a word of terror to the careless and secure. Our corrupt hearts cannot be made to produce good fruit, unless the regenerating Spirit of Christ graft the good word of God upon them. And every tree, however high in gifts and honours, however green in outward professions and performances, if it bring not forth good fruit, the fruits meet for repentance, is hewn down and cast into the fire of God's wrath, the fittest place for barren trees: what else are they good for? If not fit for fruit, they are fit for fuel. John shows the design and intention of Christ's appearing, which they were now speedily to expect. No outward forms can make us clean. No ordinances, by whomsoever administered, or after whatever mode, can supply the want of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire. The purifying and cleansing power of the Holy Spirit alone can produce that purity of heart, and those holy affections, which accompany salvation. It is Christ who baptizes with the Holy Ghost. This he did in the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit sent upon the apostles, Ac 2:4. This he does in the graces and comforts of the Spirit, given to those that ask him, Lu 11:13; Joh 7:38,39; see Ac 11:16. Observe here, the outward church is Christ's floor, Isa 21:10. True believers are as wheat, substantial, useful, and valuable; hypocrites are as chaff, light and empty, useless and worthless, carried about with every wind; these are mixed, good and bad, in the same outward communion. There is a day coming when the wheat and chaff shall be separated. The last judgment will be the distinguishing day, when saints and sinners shall be parted for ever. In heaven the saints are brought together, and no longer scattered; they are safe, and no longer exposed; separated from corrupt neighbours without, and corrupt affections within, and there is no chaff among them. Hell is the unquenchable fire, which will certainly be the portion and punishment of hypocrites and unbelievers. Here life and death, good and evil, are set before us: according as we now are in the field, we shall be then in the floor.His fan - The word used here and rendered "fan" means a winnowing shovel instead. It was used for throwing the grain, after it was threshed, into the air, so that the chaff might be driven away by the wind. This mode of separating the grain from the chaff is still practiced in the East. It is not probable that the fan, as the term is now used, was known to the Orientals as an instrument for cleaning grain. See the notes at Isaiah 30:24.

His floor - The threshing-floor was an open space, or area, in the field, usually on an elevated part of the land, Genesis 50:10. It had no covering or walls. It was a space of ground 30 or 40 paces in diameter, and made smooth by rolling it or treading it hard. A high place was selected for the purpose of keeping it dry, and for the convenience of winnowing the grain by the wind. The grain was usually trodden out by oxen. Sometimes it was beaten with flails, as with us; and sometimes with a sharp threshing instrument, made to roll over the grain and to cut the straw at the same time. See the notes at Isaiah 41:15.

Shall purge - Shall cleanse or purify. Shall remove the chaff, etc.

The garner - The granary, or place to deposit the wheat.

Unquenchable fire - Fire that shall not be extinguished, that will utterly consume it. By the floor, here, is represented the Jewish people. By the wheat, the righteous, or the people of God. By the chaff, the wicked. They are often represented as being driven away like chaff before the wind, Job 21:18; Psalm 1:4; Isaiah 17:13; Hosea 13:13. They are also represented as chaff which the fire consumes, Isaiah 5:24. This image is often used to express judgments, Isaiah 41:15; "Thou shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff." By the unquenchable fire is meant the eternal suffering of the wicked in hell, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Mark 9:48; Matthew 25:41.

12. Whose fan—winnowing fan.

is in his hand—ready for use. This is no other than the preaching of the Gospel, even now beginning, the effect of which would be to separate the solid from the spiritually worthless, as wheat, by the winnowing fan, from the chaff. (Compare the similar representation in Mal 3:1-3).

and he will throughly purge his floor—threshing-floor; that is, the visible Church.

and gather his wheat—His true-hearted saints; so called for their solid worth (compare Am 9:9; Lu 22:31).

into the garner—"the kingdom of their Father," as this "garner" or "barn" is beautifully explained by our Lord in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Mt 13:30, 43).

but he will burn up the chaff—empty, worthless professors of religion, void of all solid religious principle and character (see Ps 1:4).

with unquenchable fire—Singular is the strength of this apparent contradiction of figures:—to be burnt up, but with a fire that is unquenchable; the one expressing the utter destruction of all that constitutes one's true life, the other the continued consciousness of existence in that awful condition.

Luke adds the following important particulars (Lu 3:18-20):

Lu 3:18:

And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people—showing that we have here but an abstract of his teaching. Besides what we read in Joh 1:29, 33, 34; 3:27-36, the incidental allusion to his having taught his disciples to pray (Lu 11:1)—of which not a word is said elsewhere—shows how varied his teaching was.

Lu 3:19:

But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done—In this last clause we have an important fact, here only mentioned, showing how thoroughgoing was the fidelity of the Baptist to his royal hearer, and how strong must have been the workings of conscience in that slave of passion when, notwithstanding such plainness, he "did many things, and heard John gladly" (Mr 6:20).

Lu 3:20:

Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison—This imprisonment of John, however, did not take place for some time after this; and it is here recorded merely because the Evangelist did not intend to recur to his history till he had occasion to relate the message which he sent to Christ from his prison at Machærus (Lu 7:18, &c.).

Judea is at present God’s floor, the only church he hath upon the earth; but there is chaff upon this floor, as well as wheat. Now he is come who will make a separation between the chaff and the wheat; who by his preaching the gospel will distinguish between Israel and those that are of Israel, Romans 9:6; between those who, living in the true expectation of the Messias, shall receive him now he is come, and those who, by their not owning and receiving him, shall declare that they never had any true expectation of him: shall separate them into distinct heaps, raising up a gospel church, and shall at the last day make yet a stricter discrimination, and

thoroughly purge his floor, taking true believers into heaven, and burning unbelievers

with unquenchable fire, casting them into torments like unquenchable fire. Whose fan is in his hand,.... The Jews had their hand fans, and which were like a man's hand; their names were ; which, as Maimonides says (n), were three sorts of instruments used in the floor, in form of a man's hand; with which they cleansed the wheat and barley from the straw; and their names differ according to their form: some have many teeth, and with them they cleanse the wheat at the end of the work; and there are others that have few teeth, no more than three, and with these they purge the wheat at first, from the thick straw. By the "fan", here is meant, either the Gospel which Christ was just ready to publish; by which he would effectually call his chosen people among the Jews, and so distinguish and separate them from others, as well as purify and cleanse them, or rather the awful judgment of God, which Christ was ready to execute, and in a short time would execute on the unbelieving and impenitent Jews: hence it is said to be "in his hand"; being put there by his Father, who "hath committed all judgment to the Son". That this is the meaning of the "Baptist", seems evident, since "fanning" is always, when figuratively taken, used for judgments, Isaiah 41:16. By "his floor", is meant the land of Israel, where he was born, brought up, and lived; of which the Lord says, "O my threshing, and the corn of my floor!" Isaiah 21:10. This, he says, "he will thoroughly purge" of all his refuse and chaff, that is, by fanning: so fanning and cleansing, or purging, are joined together, Jeremiah 4:11 so is used for purging by fanning, in the Misnic writings (o). By "his wheat", are meant his elect among the Jews, the chosen of God and precious; so called because of their excellency, purity, usefulness, solidity, and constancy: these he "will gather into his garner"; meaning either some place of protection, where he would direct his people to for safety from that wrath, ruin, and destruction; which should fall upon the Jewish nation; or else the kingdom of heaven, into which he would bring them, by taking them out of the world from the evil to come. By "the chaff", are meant wicked and ungodly persons, such as are destitute of the grace of God, whether professors, or profane; being empty, barren, and unfruitful; and so good for nothing but the fire, which therefore "he will burn with unquenchable fire", of divine wrath and vengeance: an allusion to a custom among the Jews, who, when they purified the increase of their unclean fields, gathered it together in an "area" or floor, in the midst of them, and then sifted it with sieves; one sort with two sieves, another with three, that they might thoroughly purge it, and burnt the chaff and stalks (p); see Isaiah 5:24.

(n) In Misn. Celim. c. 13. sect. 7. Vid. Jarchi & Bartenora in ib. & in Misn. Tibbul. Yom. c. 4. sect. 6. (o) Misn. Sabbat. c. 7. sect. 2. & Gittin, c. 5. sect. 9. (p) Misn. Oholot. c. 18. sect. 2.

{6} Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly {m} purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

(6) The triumphs of the wicked will end in everlasting torment.

(m) Will clean it thoroughly, and make a full riddance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 3:12. And fire, I say; for what a separation will it make!

οὗ] assigns a reason, like our: He whose [German, Er, dessen]. See Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 371; Kühner, II. p. 939. It is not, however, as Grotius, Bengel, Storr, Kuinoel think, pleonastic, but the literal translation is to be closely adhered to: whose fan is in his hand; that is, he who has his (to him peculiar, comp. Matthew 3:4) fan in his hand ready for use. Comp LXX. Isaiah 9:5. According to Fritzsche, ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ is epexegetical: “cujus erit ventilabrum, sc. in manu ejus.” But such epexegetical remarks, which fall under the point of view of Appositio partitiva, stand, as they actually occur, in the same case with the general word, which they define more minutely (οὗ τὸ πτύον, τῆς χειρὸς αὐτοῦ). See Ephesians 3:5, and remarks in loc.

ἅλωνα] ἅλως (Xen. Oec. xviii. 6; Dem. 1040. 23), in Greek writers commonly after the Attic declension, is the same as נֹּרֶן, a circular firmly-trodden place upon the field itself, where the grain is either trodden out by oxen, or thrashed out by thrashing machines drawn by oxen. Keil, Arch. II. p. 114; Robinson, III. p. 370. Similarly in Greek writers; see Hermann, Privatalterth. xv. 6, xxiv. 3. The floor is cleansed in this way, that the seed grains and the pounded straw and similar refuse are not allowed to lie upon it indiscriminately mingled together, in the state in which the threshing has left this unclean condition of the floor, but the grain and refuse are separated from each other in order to be brought to the place destined for them. In the figure, the floor, which belongs to the Messiah, is not the church (Fathers and many others), nor mankind (de Wette), nor the Jewish nation (B. Crusius), but, because the place of the Messiah’s activity must be intended (Ewald), and that, according to the national determination of the idea of the Baptist, the holy land, as the proper sphere of the work of the Messiah, not the world in general (Bleek), as would have to be assumed according to the Christian fulfilment of the idea. In accordance with this view, we must neither, with Zeger, Fischer, Kuinoel, de Wette, explain τ. ἅλωνα, according to the alleged Hebrew usage (Job 39:12; Ruth 3:2), as the grain upon the floor; nor, with Fritzsche, regard the cleansing as effected, removendo inde frumentum, which is an act that does not follow until the floor has been cleansed. The διακαθαρίζειν, to purify thoroughly, which is not preserved anywhere except in Luke 2:17, designates the cleansing from one end to the other; in classical writers διακαθαίρειν, Plat. Pol. iii. pp. 399 E, 411 D; Alciphr. iii. 26.

ἀποθήκην] place for storing up, magazine. The grain stores (σιτόβολιον, Polyb. iii. 100. 4; θησαυροὶ σίτου, Strabo, xii. p. 862; σιτοδόκη, Pollux) were chiefly dry subterranean vaults. Jahn, Archäol. I. 1, p. 376.

ἄχυρον] not merely chaff in the narrower sense of the word (מֹץ), but all those portions of the stalk and ear which contain no grain, which are torn in pieces by the threshing, and remain over (חֶּכֶן), Herod. iv. 72; Xen. Oec. xvii. 1, 6. f.; Genesis 24:25; Exodus 5:7. These were used as fuel. Mishna tract, Schabbath ii. 1; Parah. iv. 3. Paulsen, vom Ackerbau der Morgenl. p. 150.

The sense, apart from figurative language, is: The Messiah will receive into His kingdom those who are found worthy (comp. Matthew 13:30); but upon the unworthy He will inflict in full the everlasting punishments of Gehenna. Comp. Mal. 3:19.

ἀσβέστῳ] which is not quenched (Hom. Il. xvii. 89; Pind. Isthm. iii. 72; Dion. Hal. Antt. i. 76, corresponding to the thing portrayed; comp. Isaiah 66:24). Not, therefore: which is not extinguished till all is consumed (Paulus, Bleek).

REMARK.

John 1:26 is not to be regarded as parallel with Matthew 3:12, for, according to John, the Baptist speaks after the baptism of Jesus, and to the members of the Sanhedrim. And doubtless he had often given expression to his testimony regarding Christ, who was the point which the prophet had in view in his preaching of repentance and baptism.

That he is not yet definitely designated in Matthew as Elijah (Luke 1:17; Matthew 11:10; Matthew 11:14), is rightly regarded as an evidence of the truth of the gospel narrative, which has not anticipated the subsequently developed representation of John. To relegate, however, the announcement of the Messiah from the preaching of the Baptist into the realm of legend (Strauss) is a mockery of the entire evangelical testimony, and places it below the narrative of Josephus, which was squared according to the ideas of political prudence (Antt. xviii. 5. 2).Matthew 3:12. This ver. follows up Matthew 3:11, and explains the judicial action emblemed by wind and fire.—οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐ. τ. χ. αὐτοῦ. The construction is variously understood. Grotius takes it as a Hebraism for ἐν οὗ χειρὶ τὸ πτύον. Fritzsche takes ἐν τ. χειρὶ αὐτοῦ as epexegetical, and renders: “whose will be the fan, viz., in His hand”. Meyer and Weiss take οὗ as assigning a reason: “He (αὐτὸς of Matthew 3:11) whose fan is in hand and who is therefore able to perform the part assigned to Him”. Then follows an explanation of the modus operandi.—διακαθαριεῖ from διακαθαρίζω, late for classic διακαθαίρω. The idea is: He with His fan will throw up the wheat, mixed with the chaff, that the wind may blow the chaff away; He will then collect the straw, ἄχυρον (in Greek writers usually plural τὰ ἄχυρα, vide Grimm), and burn it with fire, and collect the wheat lying on the threshing floor and store it in His granary. So shall He thoroughly (δια intensifying) cleanse His floor. And the sweeping wind and the consuming fire are the emblems and measure of His power; stronger than mine, as the tempest and the devastating flames are mightier than the stream which I use as my element.—ἅλων, a place in a field made firm by a roller, or on a rocky hill top exposed to the breeze.—ἀποθήκη means generally any kind of store, and specially a grain store, often underground. Bleek takes the epithet ἀσβέστῳ applied to the fire as signifying: inextinguishable till all the refuse be consumed. It is usually understood absolutely.12. fan] An instrument by which the corn after being threshed is thrown up against the wind to clear it of chaff.

floor] Here put for the contents of the threshing-floor, the mingled grain and chaff.

St Matthew represents the picturesque side of John’s preaching, these verses are full of imagery. How many similes are compressed into his teaching! The vipers, the stones, the trees, the slave, the threshing-floor, are all used to illustrate his discourse. St Luke throws into prominence the great teacher’s keen discrimination of character. St John has recorded a fragment of the Baptist’s deeper teaching as to the nature and mission of the Son of God.Matthew 3:12. οὖ, whose) This, and Αὐτοῦ, His, being placed emphatically thrice, shows the power of Christ. οὗαὐτοῦ is a Hebraism.—τὸ πτύον, the fan) i.e. the Gospel.—ἐν τῇ χειρὶ Αὐτοῦ, in His hand) even now. The whole of John’s harangue, and therefore the commencement of the Gospel, agrees entirely with the last clause of Old Testament prophecy, in Mal. 3:19–24, where the connection of things from Moses to the conclusion of ancient prophecy, and thence to Christ’s forerunner and Christ Himself, and the day of His universal judgment, is exquisitely and solemnly declared.—Αὐτοῦ, His) Neither His forerunner, nor any of His apostles, had this fan in the same manner as the Lord Jesus Himself. The consolation of His ministers in then weakness is, “The Lord will do it.” Their wrath, though void of strength, is not vain.—τὴν ἅλωνα Αὐτοῦ, His threshing-floor) The wayfarers are in the threshing-floor, the conquerors in the garner.[129]—Αὐτοῦ, His) See Hebrews 3:6.—καὶ συνάξει τὸν σῖτον Αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην, and will gather His wheat into the garner) Αὐτου, His, must either be omitted or construed with ἀποθήκην, garner;[130] cf. Matthew 13:30, τὸν δὲ σῖτον συναγάγετε εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην Μου, but gather the wheat into My garner. The Same is Lord of the wheat as of the garner: the Same of the garner as of the threshing-floor. See Luke 3:17.—ἄχυρον, chaff) The chaff is held of no[131] account.[132]—πυρὶ, with fire) Every one must be either baptized with fire here, or burned with fire hereafter: there is no other alternative.—ἀσβέστῳ, unquenchable) See therefore that your sins be first blotted out. In Job 20:26, the LXX. have πῦρ ἄκαυστοι, incombustible fire [i.e. fire that cannot be burnt out] shall consume the ungodly: or, rather, from the Cod. Alex., ἄσβεστον, unquenchable, unextinguishable (which word would otherwise not be found in the LXX.), so as to render אֵשׁ לא̇ נֻפָּח, fire which can never be extinguished.

[129] One cannot well express in English the contrast implied in the very rhythm of Bengel’s Latin, “In area sunt viatores, in horreo victores.”—ED.

[130] “Which Luther has rightly done.”—Not. Crit.

[131] Cf. Gnomon on chap. Matthew 13:49.—(I. B.)

[132] Although at times it is not unlike the wheat.—Vers. Germ.Verse 12. - Whose fan. The pronged winnowing-fork (see Pal. Expl. Fund Statem; Ap. 1891) which throws up the grain against the wind. The Coming One is to put an end to the present mixture of chaff and corn. He will thoroughly purge the threshing-floor of this world, gathering the good into one safe place, and destroying the evil. The figure of winnowing comes not unseldom in the Old Testament (e.g. Jeremiah 15:7; Jeremiah 51:2), but generally with the sole idea of destruction of the ungodly, not with that of separating so as to also preserve the godly (yet cf. Psalm 139:3, margin; Amos 9:9). Is in his hand. The figure is stronger than that in ver. 10, where the instrument was only lying ready to be taken up. But that was an instrument of destruction alone. And he will throughly purge; cleanse (Revised Version); permundo (Vulgate); διακαθαριεῖ, the preposition is intensive, not local. His. Observe the threefold αὐτοῦ, referring to hand, flour, corn - personal agency, sphere, ownership. In the Vatican and some other manuscripts it is found also after "garner;" but this is, perhaps, introduced from the parallel in Luke. Floor; threshing-floor (Revised Version). Not the barn that English-men think of, but an open and level space (for the figure, cf. especially Micah 4:12). Here the threshing-floor is equivalent to the scene of the Lord's operations, i.e. the world, or rather the universe (cf. Epbraem (? Tartan) in Resch, 'Agrapha,' p. 295). The present mixture of good and evil shall be brought to an end. And gather together, from different parts of the threshing-floor, or from intimate association with the chaff, into one heap. All true believers shall finally be brought to perfect unity (cf. Matthew 13:30). His wheat. The term is adopted by Ignatius ('Ram.,' §4): "I am the wheat of God, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread [of Christ]." Into the garner. The final home of the saints, hidden away and safe from all marauders. Garners in the East are generally subterranean vaults or eaves (but cf. Luke 12:18). But will burn up. Utterly consuming it (contrast Exodus 3:2), as the tares (Matthew 13:30, 40) and the books of magic (Acts 19:19). The chaff. For, as Jeremiah says (Jeremiah 23:28) when comparing a mere dream with a message from the Lord," What is the chaff to the wheat?" The Targum even interprets Jeremiah's words of the wicked and the righteous. The chaff in Jeremiah includes the straw, for in the East everything except the actual grain is generally burnt, and is sometimes used for heating fireplaces (Mishna, 'Sabb.,' 3:1; 'Parah,' 4:3). With unquenchable fire. "Unquenchable" shows that John is here thinking not of the figure of chaff but of the persons figured by it. But what does the word mean? In itself it might mean that the fire cannot be overcome by the greatness or the nature of the mass that it has to consume; i.e., to drop the figure, by either the number or the character at' the wicked. But from its usage it seems rather to be equivalent to not being overcome by the lapse of time. It is used, e.g., of the perpetual fire of Vesta, of the fire of the Magi, of the fire upon the Jewish altar (vide references in Thayer). The whole expression in itself says nothing about the everlasting duration of the punishment; i.e. it does not decide for "everlasting punishment" or for "annihilation," but seems rather to exclude the possibility of amelioration under it (cf. Isaiah 1:31). Fan, floor (Wyc. has corn-floor)

The picture is of a farmer at his threshing-floor, the area of hard-beaten earth on which the sheaves are spread and the grain trodden out by animals. His fan, that is his winnowing-shovel or fork, is in his hand, and with it he throws up the mingled wheat and chaff against the wind in order to separate the grain.

Throughly cleanse (διακαθαριεῖ)

Throughly (retained by Rev.) obsolete form of thoroughly, is the force of the preposition διά (through). In that preposition lies the picture of the farmer beginning at one side of the floor, and working through to the other, cleansing as he goes.

The whole metaphor represents the Messiah as separating the evil from the good, according to the tests of his kingdom and Gospel, receiving the worthy into his kingdom and consigning the unworthy to destruction (compare Matthew 13:30, Matthew 13:39-43, Matthew 13:48-50).

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