Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 3:10

The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Ax;   Minister, Christian;   Pharisees;   Reproof;   Unfaithfulness;   Unfruitfulness;   Wicked (People);   Scofield Reference Index - Holy Spirit;   Thompson Chain Reference - Axes;   Evil;   Fruitfulness-Unfruitfulness;   Roots of Evil;   Unfruitfulness;   The Topic Concordance - Baptism;   Bearing Fruit;   Harvest;   Hell;   John the Baptist;   Repentance;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Baptism;   Trees;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   John the baptist;   Prophecy, prophet;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Baptism of Fire;   Fruit;   John the Baptist;   Messiah;   Nahum, Theology of;   Repentance;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Holy Ghost;   Hutchinsonians;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Axe;   John the Baptist;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Keziz;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ax, Ax Head;   Luke, Gospel of;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Tools;   Trinity;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - John the Baptist;   Jordan;   Mss;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Asceticism (2);   Axe;   Doctrines;   Fig-Tree ;   Fire ;   Fruit (2);   Gentleness (2);   John the Baptist;   Logia;   Manuscripts;   Old Testament (Ii. Christ as Student and Interpreter of).;   Pre-Eminence ;   Retribution (2);   Root ;   Tares ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ax, Axe;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Kingdom of christ of heaven;   Kingdom of god;   Kingdom of heaven;   Levi;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Ax;   Fire;   Fruit;   Root;   Tree;   Trees;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;   Kingdom or Church of Christ, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ax (Axe);   Fire;   Good;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Baptism;   Christianity in Its Relation to Judaism;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

And now also the axe is laid - Or, Even now the axe lieth. As if he had said, There is not a moment to spare - God is about to cut off every impenitent soul - you must therefore either turn to God immediately, or be utterly and finally ruined. It was customary with the prophets to represent the kingdoms, nations, and individuals, whose ruin they predicted, under the notion of forests and trees, doomed to be cut down. See Jeremiah 46:22, Jeremiah 46:23; Ezekiel 31:3, Ezekiel 31:11, Ezekiel 31:12. The Baptist follows the same metaphor: the Jewish nation is the tree, and the Romans the axe, which, by the just judgment of God, was speedily to cut it down. It has been well observed, that there is an allusion here to a woodman, who, having marked a tree for excision, lays his axe at its root, and strips off his outer garment, that he may wield his blows more powerfully, and that his work may be quickly performed. For about sixty years before the coming of Christ, this axe had been lying at the root of the Jewish tree, Judea having been made a province to the Roman empire, from the time that Pompey took the city of Jerusalem, during the contentions of the two brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, which was about sixty-three years before the coming of Christ. See Joseph. Antiq. l. xiv. c. 1-5. But as the country might be still considered as in the hands of the Jews, though subject to the Romans, and God had waited on them now nearly ninety years from the above time, expecting them to bring forth fruit, and none was yet produced; he kept the Romans as an axe, lying at the root of this tree, who were ready to cut it down the moment God gave them the commission.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The axe is laid at the root of the tree - Laying the axe at the root of a tree is intended to denote that the tree is to be cut down. It was not merely to be trimmed, or to be cut about the limbs, but the very tree itself was to be struck. That is, a searching, trying kind of preaching has been commenced. A kingdom of justice is to be set up. Principles and conduct are to be investigated. No art, no dissimulation, will be successful: People are to be tried by their lives, not by birth or profession. They who are not found to bear this test are to be rejected. The very root shall feel the blow, and the fruitless tree shall fall. This is a beautiful and very striking figure of speech, and a very direct threatening of future wrath. John regarded them as making a fair and promising profession, as trees in blossom do. But he told them, also, that they should bear fruit as well as flowers. Their professions of repentance were not enough. They should show, by a holy life, that their profession was genuine.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-3.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Matthew 3:10

Axe is laid.

The axe lying at the root

I. The kind of fruit which God requires from us-“good fruit.”

II. The means which God employs to render us productive of this kind of fruit, and which show how reasonable it is that He should expect it from us.

1. God has endowed you with a capacity to produce this kind of fruit.

2. In order to enable you to bring forth good fruit, God has supplied you with the gospel of His Son, which contains the means, motives, and influences of fruitfulness.

3. God has visited you with various dispensations of providence, and with various convictions of conscience.

III. The continued unfruitfulness of some persons, notwithstanding all the means which the God of mercy has employed.

1. Some of these unfruitful persons are sensual and profane.

2. Some are intellectual, moral, and amiable.

3. Some are professors of the gospel.

IV. The axe which is lying at the root of such unfruitful persons.

1. The axe which is lying at your root reminds you of the patience and long-suffering of God.

2. It reminds you of the critical circumstances in which you are placed.

3. It has sometimes admonished you of its being there.

V. The awful condition to which such unfruitful persons are doomed.

1. The nature of this condition is indescribably terrible: “He is hewn down.” The certainty that this condition will be incurred: “He is hewn,” etc. (J. Alexander.)

I. What are we to understand by the axe?

1. It may denote temporal judgments.

2. It may denote church discipline.

3. It may denote eternal wrath and vengeance. The axe laid to the root of the tree seems to imply its utter destruction.

II. By whom is the axe laid?

1. Ministerially, by preachers of the Word.

2. By the inflicting of temporal judgments.

3. By God Himself. Whether it be an act of mercy or of judgment, He directs, strengthens for, and assists in it.

III. The axe is laid.

1. God’s judgments are certain and inevitable.

2. They are near at hand when least expected, least prepared for.

3. These judgments already begin to operate. (B. Beddome.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 3:10". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/matthew-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

And even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Axe ... root of the trees This is a bold metaphor, here directed against the Jewish nation, but applicable with equal force against all sinful and rebellious people who reject God's will. The "axe" is the army of destruction God would send against Jerusalem. "The root of the trees" refers to those great national institutions, the root and springs of Jewish culture, which would be destroyed when Titus razed the temple, prohibited the daily sacrifice, and destroyed the national polity of the Jewish people. "The fire" refers to the sorrows and tribulations through which the people would have to pass. The words "even now" suggest the near approach of the doom of Jerusalem, a theme which Christ himself more fully expounded later in his ministry.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And now also the axe is laid,.... These words may be rendered, "for now also", and contain in them a reason why they might expect future wrath; why they should bring forth good fruit; and why they should not trust to nor plead their descent from Abraham, because "the axe is now laid": by which is meant, not the Gospel which now began to be preached by John; though this was like an axe laid to the root of, and which cut down, their pride and vanity, their self-confidence and glorying in their righteousness, holiness, carnal wisdom, and fleshly privileges: but rather; the axe of God's judgment and vengeance is here designed, which, because of the certainty and near approach of it, is said to be "now laid"; and that not to some of the branches only, to lop them off, to take away from the Jews some particular privileges, but "to the root" of all their privileges, civil and ecclesiastical; even the covenant which God had made with that people as a nation, who was now about to write "Lo Ammi" upon them; so that henceforward they would have nothing to expect from their being the seed of Abraham, Israelites, or circumcised persons. The time was just at hand, when the Lord would take his "staff Beauty and cut it asunder, that he might break the covenant he had made with all the people", Zechariah 11:10 in a short time their civil polity and church state would be both at an end. The Romans, who were already among them and over them, would very quickly come upon them, and cut them off root and branch; and utterly destroy their temple, city, and nation: and this ruin and destruction was levelled not at a single tree, a single person, or family only, as Jesse's, or any others, but at the root

of the trees: of all the trees of the whole body of the people; for the covenant which was made with them all being broke, and which was their hedge and fence, they were all exposed to the wild boar of the forest.

Therefore every tree, every individual person, though one of Abraham's children, and made never such a fair show in the

flesh, which bringeth not forth good fruit; does not perform good works from a right principle, to a right end, such as are meet for repentance; particularly, does not believe in the Messiah now ready to be revealed, which is the main and principal work; and does not continue so doing, and thus believing,

is hewn down and cast into the fire. Temporal ruin and destruction shall come upon him; he shall not escape divine vengeance here, and shall be cast into everlasting burnings hereafter; which is quite contrary to a notion of theirs, that בזכותי דאברהם "by the merits of Abraham", the Israelites shall be delivered from the fire of hellF4Zohar in Exod. fol. 34. 4. .

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-3.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

And now also — And even already.

the axe is laid unto — “lieth at.”

the root of the trees — as it were ready to strike: an expressive figure of impending judgment, only to be averted in the way next described.

therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire — Language so personal and individual as this can scarcely be understood of any national judgment like the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, with the breaking up of the Jewish polity and the extrusion of the chosen people from their peculiar privileges which followed it; though this would serve as the dark shadow, cast before, of a more terrible retribution to come. The “fire,” which in another verse is called “unquenchable,” can be no other than that future “torment” of the impenitent whose “smoke ascendeth up for ever and ever,” and which by the Judge Himself is styled “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). What a strength, too, of just indignation is in that word “cast” or “flung into the fire!”

The third Gospel here adds the following important particulars in Luke 3:10-16.
Luke 3:10:

And the people - the multitudes.
asked him, saying, What shall we do then? - that is, to show the sincerity of our repentance.
Luke 3:11:

He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat - provisions, victuals.
let him do likewise - This is directed against the reigning avarice and selfishness. (Compare the corresponding precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:40-42).
Luke 3:12:

Then came also the publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master - Teacher.
what shall we do? - In what special way is the genuineness of our repentance to be manifested?
Luke 3:13:
And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you - This is directed against that extortion which made the publicans a byword. (See on Matthew 5:46; see on Luke 15:1).
Luke 3:14:

And the soldiers - rather, “And soldiers” - the word means “soldiers on active duty.”
likewise demanded - asked.

of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man - Intimidate. The word signifies to “shake thoroughly,” and refers probably to the extorting of money or other property.

neither accuse any falsely - by acting as informers vexatiously on frivolous or false pretexts.
and be content with your wages - or “rations.” We may take this, say Webster and Wilkinson, as a warning against mutiny, which the officers attempted to suppress by largesses and donations. And thus the “fruits” which would evidence their repentance were just resistance to the reigning sins - particularly of the class to which the penitent belonged - and the manifestation of an opposite spirit.
Luke 3:15:

And as the people were in expectation - in a state of excitement, looking for something new
and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not - rather, “whether he himself might be the Christ.” The structure of this clause implies that they could hardly think it, but yet could not help asking themselves whether it might not be; showing both how successful he had been in awakening the expectation of Messiah‘s immediate appearing, and the high estimation and even reverence, which his own character commanded.
Luke 3:16:

John answered - either to that deputation from Jerusalem, of which we read in John 1:19, etc., or on some other occasion, to remove impressions derogatory to his blessed Master, which he knew to be taking hold of the popular mind.
saying unto them all - in solemn protestation.

(We now return to the first Gospel.)

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/matthew-3.html. 1871-8.

John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

10. And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

[The axe is laid to the root.] These words seem to be taken from Isaiah 5:33,34. The destruction of the nation was to proceed from the Romans, who had now a great while held them under the yoke. That axe, now laid to the root of the tree, shall certainly cut it down, if from this last dressing by the gospel it bears not fruit. In the Talmud, those words of Isaiah are applied to the destruction of the city; and thence it is argued, that the Messias should be born not much after the time of that destruction, because presently after the threatening of that ruin follows, "A Branch shall arise out of the stock of Jesse," Isaiah 11:1.

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Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jlc/matthew-3.html. 1675.

People's New Testament

The axe laid at the root of the trees. A sign that the tree is to be cut down. The tree meant is the Jewish nation.

Every tree. A fruitless fig-tree was afterward made by our Lord the representative of the whole Jewish nation (Luke 13:6), but here John declares a universal law. What does not bear good fruit shall finally be destroyed.

Cast into the fire. When the tree is not fruitful, or bears useless fruit, it is fit for nothing but to be burned.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/matthew-3.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Is the axe laid (η αχινη κειταιhē axinē keitai). This verb κειταιkeitai is used as the perfect passive of τιτημιtithēmi But the idea really is, “the axe lies at (προςpros before) the root of the trees.” It is there ready for business. The prophetic present occurs also with “is hewn down” and “cast.”

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/matthew-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Is laid ( καῖται )

Not, is applied, as “She layeth her hands to the spindle” (Proverbs 31:19), but is lying.

Is hewn down and east

The present tense is graphic, denoting what is to happen at once and certainly.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/matthew-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

But the axe also already lieth — That is, there is no room for such idle pretences. Speedy execution is determined against all that do not repent. The comparison seems to be taken from a woodman that has laid down his axe to put off his coat, and then immediately goes to work to cut down the tree. This refers to the wrath to come in verse7, Matthew 3:7.

Is hewn down — Instantly, without farther delay.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/matthew-3.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

And even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees1: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire2.

  1. And even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees, etc. The threatened cutting down means the end of the probation of each hearer, when, if found fruitless, he would be cast into the fire mentioned below.

  2. And cast into the fire. Used as fuel.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/matthew-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Ver. 10. And now also is the axe laid to the root of the trees] q.d. God is now taking aim where to hit, and how to fell you, as a man layeth his axe at that very place that he intends to smite at: he seeth well enough that all his patience and pains in digging, in dunging, and in dressing you, is to no purpose. He comes "seeking fruit from time to time, but findeth none," Luke 13:7. Now therefore he hath laid down his basket, and taken up his axe, as resolved to ruin you, unless present course be taken. Neglect not the present "now," lest ye be cut off for ever. {a} God will not always serve you for a sinning stock. Since ye have a preacher, repent or perish. Let this spring distinguish between dead and living trees.

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit] So God is graciously pleased to style our poor performances; in every of which there is something of his, as well as something of our own (Jerome). That which is his he accepts, that which is ours he pardons. But good it must be, quoad fontem, as long as the souce, the Spirit of God: and quoad finem, as long as the end, the glory of God. Negative goodness serves no man’s turn to save him from the axe. It is said of Ithacius, that the hatred of the Priscillian heresy was all the virtue that he had. (Hooker ex Sulpitio.) The evil servant did not riot out his talent; those reprobates {Matthew 25:41-46} robbed not the saints, but relieved them not. Moab and Ammon were bastardized and banished the sanctuary to the tenth generation, for a mere omission, because they met not God’s Israel with bread and water in the wilderness; {Deuteronomy 23:4} and Edom is forethreatened for not harbouring them when scattered by the Chaldeans. (Obadiah.) Take we heed that live in the last age of the world, lest God hasten the calling of the Jews, and cast us off for our unfruitfulness, Romans 11:17-24.

{a} Ultimae desperationis indicium est, quoties securis admovetur radici. Erasmus, Annot.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-3.html. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

And this is not all:

v. 10. And now also the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

The ax has been placed, it is even now ready to begin its work of just retribution, of stern justice upon every spurious descendant of Abraham. Every tree which proves itself hopelessly barren cannot escape the near inevitable doom. And John makes use of careful phrasing. Not only is fruit demanded, which may, under circumstances, be unpalatable and even poisonous, but his condition is that the tree produce good fruit. Unless this demand is met, there is no other alternative: The useless tree is condemned to be firewood; the unbelieving Jew will be excluded from the kingdom of the Messiah.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/matthew-3.html. 1921-23.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Matthew 3:10. And now also the axe, &c.— The axe is already laid to the root of the trees: every tree then, &c. "There is now no more time for delay: God is going to offer the last dispensation of repentance and mercy; which if you accept not, his vengeance hangs over you; destruction will speedily overtake you." See Isaiah 10:33-34. It may be proper to observe, once for all, that in Scripture language, what is very sure and very near is spoken of as if it were already done; accordingly, the Baptist speaks here in the present sense. So Christ speaks of himself, as if as man he were already in possession of his glory while upon earth; John 17:24. See also Ephesians 2:16. Beausobre and Lenfant observe, that this verse contains a prophesy of the total ruin and destruction of the temple, the city, and the nation of the Jews, which happened forty years after the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/matthew-3.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

The baptist had preached the doctrine of repentance in the former verses, he backs it with a powerful motive in this verse, drawn from the certainty, the severity, and suddenness of that vengeance which would come upon them, if they continued impentent: Now is the ax laid to the root of the trees.

Learn, 1. That those whose hearts are not pierced and destroyed by the ax of his judgments.

Learn, 2. That it is not unsuitable for gospel preachers to press repentance and holiness of life upon their hearers from arguments of terror: John does it here, and Christ elsewhere.

Observe farther, That forasmuch as the sin here specified, is a sin of omission, which brings this sore and severe judgment, Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, as well as that which bringeth forth evil fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire; we may gather, that sins of omission are certainly damning as well as sins of commission; the neglects of duty are as dangerous and damnable as the acts of sin. Such trees as stand in God's orchard, and bring forth no good fruit, are marked out as fuel for the devil's fire.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/matthew-3.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

10.] Of ἤδη δέ, Klotz says, Devar. p. 606, “Respondent Latinis particulis jam vero, et habent idoneum atque alacrem transitum ab una re ad aliam.… Transitum faciunt illæ particulæ, ut nos ad rem præsentem revocent:” Eurip. Med. 772: Rhes. 499: Herodot. vii. 35.

The presents, κεῖται, ἐκκόπτεται, and βάλλεται, imply the law, or habit, which now and henceforward, in the kingdom of heaven, prevails: ‘from this time it is so.’

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/matthew-3.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 3:10. Already, however (it is then high time), is the decision near at hand, according to which the unworthy are excluded from Messiah’s kingdom, and are consigned to Gehenna.

In ἤδη is contained the thought that the hearers did not yet expect this state of things; see Baeumlein, Partik. p. 139; the presents ἐκκόπτεται and βάλλεται denote what is to happen at once and certainly, with demonstrative definiteness, not the general idea: is accustomed to be hewn down, against which οὖν is decisive (in answer to Fritzsche), the meaning of which is: “that, as a consequence of this, the axe, etc., every tree will be, and so on.” See upon the present, Dissen, ad Pind. Nem. iv. 39 f., p. 401.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 3:10. ἤδη δὲ, but now) Placed in opposition(126) to μελλόυσης, which is to come, in Matthew 3:7.— καὶ, κ. τ. λ., also, etc) Where grace manifests itself, there also is wrath shown to the ungrateful. It is not only possible that you should be punished, but also punishment is nigh at hand.— τὴν ῥίζαν, the root) The axe was aimed not merely at the branches, but at the root itself.— τῶν δὲνδρων, of the trees) i.e. the Jews (see Luke 13:7-9), in comparison with whom the Gentiles were mere stones.— κεῖται, lies) Although the blow has not yet begun to be struck.— ἑκκόπτεται, is being cut down) The present tense is used, to show that there will be no delay.— πῦρ, fire) See Hebrews 6:8.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/matthew-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

A prediction, as some think, of that dreadful destruction which within a few years came by the Romans upon the whole Jewish nation. The sense is, The vengeance of God is very near to be revealed, men must repent now or never, for

every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire; judgment now is as nigh unto men, as the tree is to falling, to the root of which the axe is already applied: whether it be to be understood of the judgment common to all unbelievers, all that know not God, and obey not the gospel of Christ, as 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9, or the particular destruction of this nation of the Jews. I shall not determine, though I rather judge the latter probable. The latter part of the text is made use of by our Saviour, Matthew 7:19, in the latter part of his sermon upon the mount. It letteth us know, that it is not improper, nor dissonant to the style of John Baptist, and Christ, and others the most eminent first gospel preachers, to press repentance, faith, and holiness of life, from arguments of terror.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/matthew-3.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

Уже и секира при корне дерев лежит Наказание неотвратимо (см. пояснение к 11:3).

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/matthew-3.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Hewn down; those who continue to neglect known duty will be destroyed.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/matthew-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

10.Axe is laid unto the root of the trees — Is about being laid by the axeman’s stroke. The verbs of this verse are in the present, to express a closely approaching future. Root — To express utter destruction. It was not to be a simply organic destruction, but individual also. Each individual fruitless tree was to be hewn down by a stroke of death and cast into the subsequent fire of perdition. No Abrahamic descent could save them.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/matthew-3.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

“And even now the axe lies at the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bring forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”

For he wants them to be clear about the fact that his baptism in itself is no protection against the axe of God, nor is their descent from Abraham. The only way of escape is by fruitfulness, by the evidence of changed hearts and lives (resulting from the pouring out (drenching) of the Spirit - Matthew 3:15). So they need to recognise that God’s axe is ready to start work (see Isaiah 10:33-34; and note Jeremiah 46:22, where however the emphasis is more like Matthew 3:7), and that He is ready to start cutting at the root of all the trees which do not produce good fruit (compare Matthew 13:7-9). And once He has cut them down He will cast them into the fire. Fire is a favourite description of judgment throughout Scripture (compare Matthew 7:19; Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:42; Matthew 18:8-9; Matthew 22:7; Matthew 25:41; John 15:6; Amos 2:5; Amos 5:6; and often in the Old Testament). Its searing heat destroys until nothing is left. Thus it is necessary for them to be totally genuine towards God if they are to escape His judgment.

Being put ‘to the root of the trees’ may indicate the marking of a tree for cutting down, for normally the cutting down would occur above the roots. On the other hand, John may have deliberately been speaking of the roots in order to demonstrate that they would be destroyed from their very roots. Alternately the term for ‘axe’ may indicate a wedge put in place at the base of the tree ready to be driven in so as to bring the tree crashing down.

‘At the root of the trees.’ Compare Isaiah 5:24. He may especially have in mind here that ‘the Pharisees and Sadducees’ are to be included (they would have agreed wholeheartedly about the common people not bearing sufficient fruit), as the root from whom Israel should have been receiving its life, but who only ministered death to them, because they were barren themselves. Thus it may be that John wants them to know that God’s axe will also be levelled at them, and that unless they do repent God will bring them crashing down because of His holiness.

‘Hewn down and cast into the fire.’ Such trees have only one use, to be burned for cooking purposes, and thus turned to ashes. It may, however, be that John has in mind an even bigger bonfire. He may have been thinking in terms of Isaiah 66:24. Compare Ezekiel 5:4.

Compare here Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:19. This whole picture built up by John is in Jesus’ mind there. He had probably heard this constant message of John and demonstrates that He wholeheartedly approved of it, and concurs with it. In fact Matthew deliberately parallels his summaries of John’s teaching with that of Jesus in this way. See also Matthew 3:2 with Matthew 4:17. It is his way of indicating that they have brought the same message, and that Jesus is continuing what John had commenced. But he has no doubt that in the end the difference between them is a large one, for he make clear that while John was the Herald, Jesus is the fulfilment. Both brought the good news about the Kingly Rule of Heaven, but only Jesus is the King in Whom that Kingly Rule is physically manifested. John is still a part of ‘the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 11:13). He is the Elijah who was to precede the Lord’s coming (Matthew 11:14).

It will be noted that this verse is paralleled in the chiasmus to the passage (see above) with John’s being in the wilderness of Judaea. Here the thought is of trees that are barren and fruitless, just like trees in the wilderness. It is this latter condition in ‘the wilderness which is Judaea’ which John is seeking to put right and bring back into fruitfulness (compare Isaiah 5:1-7 with Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 27:1-6; see Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 2:17; Jeremiah 2:21; Jeremiah 11:16-17 ).

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/matthew-3.html. 2013.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 3:10. And even now, while I am speaking.

The axe is lying at the root of the trees. The figure of Matthew 3:8 (‘fruit’) is carried out. The axe (Divine judgments) has not been applied as yet, but is ready for use, implying that ‘the trees’ were unfruitful, or of a bad kind. A striking declaration of imminent destruction.

Therefore, because of the position of the axe.

Bringeth not forth good fruit. There may be blossoms, professions, and yet no fruit, or the fruit may be bad.

If hewn down. Not ‘will be;’ the present tense represents a certain and immediate future action, or a general law of the ‘kingdom’ which John heralded.

Into the fire, continued figure, setting forth the effect, God’s wrath.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/matthew-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Matthew 3:10. : judgment is at hand. The axe has been placed ( = perfect passive of ) at the root of the tree to lay it low as hopelessly barren. This is the doom of every non-productive fruit tree.— : the present tense, expressive not so much of the usual practice (Fritzsche) as of the near inevitable event.— , in case it produce not ( conditional) good fruit, not merely fruit of some kind. degenerate, unpalatable.— : useless for any other purpose except to be firewood, as the wood of many fruit trees is.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/matthew-3.html. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Matthew 3:10. And now, also, the axe, &c. — To enforce his exhortation, he informs them that they had no time to delay their repentance, because the patience of God was very near exhausted, and come to an end with respect to them. His judgments were at hand and ready to be inflicted, so that, if they continued unfruitful, notwithstanding the extraordinary means that were now to be tried with them, destruction would speedily overtake them; as if he had said, God now once more offers you his grace in and through his Son, which, if you refuse, he will no longer bear with you. You think of national deliverances, but I am sent to warn you of national judgments; judgments, which even now hang over your heads, and are ready to fall upon you if you still continue barren, or do not bring forth good fruit: for I assure you, the hand of God is lifted up to strike the fatal blow. There is an allusion in the words to a woodman, who, having marked a tree for excision, lays his axe at the root of it, till he puts off his upper garment, and then immediately goes to work to cut it down. Therefore, every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit — Every one that, while he professes to be one of God’s people, contradicts that profession by a wicked life, or by the neglect of vital and practical religion, is cut down, &c. — Instantly, without further delay; and cast into the fire — Of hell: a prediction this, 1st, of that dreadful destruction which, within the short period of forty-four years, came, by the Romans, upon the whole Jewish nation; as if he had said, The Babylonians formerly lopped off your branches, but now the tree shall be cut down; your commonwealth shall be destroyed, and your temple, city, and nation totally ruined: and, 2dly, it is a prediction of that particular destruction which shall soon overtake all that reject the counsel of God against themselves, or, as the apostle expresses it, that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-3.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

the least attention to its origin, or other advantages. Hence you must not rest your hopes of salvation on your birth alone, nor on the baptism alone you receive at my hands. (Bible de Vence)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/matthew-3.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

now = already.

also. Omitted by all the texts (App-94.)

is laid = is lying at. The Jerusalem Talmud (Beracoth, fo Matthew 1:5, Matthew 1:1) refers Isaiah 10:33, Isaiah 10:34 to the destruction of Jerusalem; and argues from Isaiah 11:1 that Messiah would be born shortly before it

unto = at. Greek. pros. App-104.

is hewn down = getteth hewn down.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/matthew-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And now also, [ Eedee (Greek #2235) de (Greek #1161) kai (Greek #2532)] - 'And even already' --

The ax is laid unto, [ keitai (Greek #2749)] - 'lieth at' --

The root of the trees - as it were ready to strike; an expressive figure of impending judgment, only to be averted in the way next described.

Therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Language so personal and individual as this can scarcely be understood of any national judgment like the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, with the breaking up of the Jewish polity and the extrusion of the chosen people from their special privileges which followed it; though this would serve as the dark shadow, cast before, of a more terrible retribution to come. The "fire," which in another verse is called "unquenchable," can be no other than that future "torment" of the impenitent, whose "smoke ascendeth up forever and ever," and which by the Judge Himself is called "everlasting punishment" (Matthew 25:46). What a strength, too, of just indignation is in that word "cast" or "flung into the fire!" [ balletai (Greek #906)].

The Third Gospel here adds the following important particulars, Luke 3:10-16 : Luke 3:10 . "And the people" - rather, 'the multitudes' [ hoi (Greek #3588) ochloi (Greek #3793)] - "asked him, saying, What shall we do then?" - that is, to show the sincerity of our repentance. Luke 3:11. "He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat" - `provisions,' 'victuals' [ broomata (Greek #1033)] - "let him do likewise." This is directed against the reigning avarice and selfishness. (Compare the corresponding precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:40-42.) Luke 3:12. "Then came also the publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master," or 'Teacher' [ Didaskale (Greek #1320)], "what shall we do?" - in what special way is the genuineness of our repentance to be manifested? Luke 3:13. "And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you."

This is directed against that extortion which made the publicans a by-word. (See the note at Matthew 5:46; and at Luke 15:1.) Luke 3:14. "And the soldiers" - rather, 'And soldiers' [ strateuomenoi (Greek #4754)] - the word means 'soldiers on active duty' - "likewise demanded (or asked) of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to," or 'Intimidate' [ diaseiseete (Greek #1286)], "no man." The word signifies to 'shake thoroughly,' and refers probably to the extorting of money or other property. "neither accuse any falsely" - by acting as informers vexatiously on frivolous or false pretexts - "and be content with your wages," or 'rations' [ tois (Greek #3588) opsooniois (Greek #3800)]. We may take this, say Webster and Wilkinson, as a warning against mutiny, which the officers attempted to suppress by largesses and donations. And thus the "fruits" which would evidence their repentance were just resistance to the reigning sins-particularly of the class to which the penitent belonged-and the manifestation of an opposite spirit. Luke 3:15. "And as the people were in expectation" - in a state of excitement, looking for something new - "and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not" [ meepote (Greek #3379) autos (Greek #846) ein (Greek #1498) ho (Greek #3588) Christos (Greek #5547)] - rather, 'whether he himself might be the Christ.' The structure of this clause implies that they could hardly think it, but yet could not help asking themselves whether it might not be; showing both how successful he had been in awakening the expectation of Messiah's immediate appearing, and the high estimation, and even reverence, which his own character commanded. Luke 3:16. "John answered" - either to that deputation from Jerusalem, of which we read in John 1:19, etc., or on some other occasion, to remove impressions derogatory to his blessed Master, which he knew to be taking hold of the popular mind - "saying unto them all" - in solemn protestation: (We now return to the First Gospel.)

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-3.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

10. The axe is ready. A sign the tree is to be cut down. The tree is the Jewish Nation. Every tree that does not bear. Jesus made a fruitless fig-tree represent the whole Jewish Nation (Luke 13:6), but John gives a universal law—what does not bear good fruit is cut down and destroyed.

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/matthew-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(10) Now.—Rather, already. The present of an act no longer future.

The ax is laid unto the root of the trees.—The symbolism which saw in “trees” the representatives of human characters, of nations, and institutions, had been recognised in Isaiah’s parable of the vine (Isaiah 5:1-7), in Jeremiah’s of the vine and the olive (Jeremiah 2:21; Jeremiah 11:16), and the Baptist’s application of it was but a natural extension. Judgments that were only partial or corrective were as the pruning of the branches (John 15:2). Now the axe was laid to the root, and the alternative was preservation or destruction. For the unfruitful tree there was the doom of fire.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/matthew-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
now
Malachi 3:1-3; 4:1; Hebrews 3:1-3; 10:28-31; 12:25
the axe
Luke 3:9; 23:31
therefore
Psalms 1:3; 92:13,14; Isaiah 61:3; Jeremiah 17:8; John 15:2
is hewn
7:19; 21:19; Psalms 80:15,16; Isaiah 5:2-7; 27:11; Ezekiel 15:2-7; Luke 13:6-9; John 15:6; Hebrews 6:8; 1 Peter 4:17,18
Reciprocal: Genesis 1:11 - fruit;  Exodus 19:15 - Be ready;  Numbers 16:3 - all the;  Deuteronomy 20:19 - thou shalt not;  Deuteronomy 25:1 - General1 Samuel 4:3 - Let us;  2 Samuel 23:7 - and they shall;  Job 24:20 - wickedness;  Psalm 7:12 - If;  Psalm 21:9 - the fire;  Ecclesiastes 11:3 - if the tree;  Isaiah 1:31 - and they;  Jeremiah 5:15 - O house;  Jeremiah 7:4 - Trust;  Jeremiah 11:16 - with;  Ezekiel 19:12 - the fire;  Ezekiel 20:38 - I will purge;  Ezekiel 21:32 - for fuel;  Daniel 4:14 - Hew;  Amos 9:10 - the sinners;  Zechariah 13:8 - two;  Malachi 3:2 - for;  Matthew 5:20 - ye;  Matthew 8:12 - the children;  Matthew 13:23 - beareth;  Matthew 25:30 - cast;  Mark 4:19 - unfruitful;  Mark 11:14 - No;  Luke 6:43 - GeneralLuke 12:49 - come;  Luke 13:3 - except;  Luke 13:7 - cut;  Luke 13:30 - GeneralActs 3:25 - the children;  Romans 11:22 - otherwise;  Hebrews 10:27 - fiery

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/matthew-3.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

This verse is figurative and general and denotes the judgments of God against sin. An ax lying at the root of a tree suggests a probable attack upon it. The instrument is near but inactive, yet ready to be used if and when a decision is made against the tree. The tact on which the decision will be made is that the tree does not produce good fruit. I do not believe this verse applies to the Jewtsh nation as a whole for there was only one "tree" at the Lord tha.t could be considered. The words every tree indicate that John was speaking of indlviduals all of whom were exhorted. to repent and thus escape tbe wrath of God. The condemnation to such wrath was starting through the preaching of John. but the final result of rejecting that preaching would not come until the great judgment day. Being an inspired man John the Baptist was able to predict the future lot at all classes of men who were in his hearing, even to the punishment of fire awaiting the unsaved at the time of the final judgment. ThIs prepares us to understand the following two verses.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/matthew-3.html. 1952.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9.And now also the axe. After having stripped hypocrites of the covering of a vain confidence, John announces the approaching judgment of God. He had formerly said that, though they were rejected, God would not want a people: and he now adds, that God is just about to drive out unworthy persons from the Church, as barren trees are wont to be cut down. His statement amounts to this, that God has already displayed his power for purifying the Church. The grace of God is never manifested for the salvation of the godly, till his judgment first appears for the destruction of the world: and for two reasons; because God then separates his own people from the reprobate, and because his wrath is kindled anew by the ingratitude of the world. So that we have no reason to wonder, if the preaching of the gospel and the coming of Christ laid the axe for cutting down barren trees, or if the same causes (271) daily advance the wrath of God against the wicked.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:10". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-3.html. 1840-57.