Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 3:12

His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
New American Standard Version
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  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
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  7. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
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  35. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
  36. The Bible Study New Testament
  37. Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
  38. Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
  39. E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
  40. Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Chaff;   Fan;   Garner;   Heaven;   Hell;   Jesus, the Christ;   John;   Judgment;   Minister, Christian;   Punishment;   Reproof;   Righteous;   Wheat;   Wicked (People);   Winnowing;   Scofield Reference Index - Holy Spirit;   Repentance;   Thompson Chain Reference - Agriculture;   Agriculture-Horticulture;   Chaff;   Eternal;   Everlasting;   Fire;   Future State of the Wicked;   Future, the;   Punishment;   Righteous-Wicked;   Wheat;   Wicked, the;   Winnowing;   The Topic Concordance - Baptism;   Harvest;   Hell;   Holy Spirit;   Jesus Christ;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Agriculture or Husbandry;   Baptism;   Heaven;   Hell;   Saints, Compared to;   Threshing;   Wicked, the, Are Compared to;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Corn;   Fan;   Threshing;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Day of the lord;   Farming;   Kingdom of god;   Prophecy, prophet;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Baptism of Fire;   Fire;   John the Baptist;   Messiah;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Holy Ghost;   Hutchinsonians;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Chaff;   Corn;   Fan;   Garner;   John the Baptist;   Winnow;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Chaff;   Fan;   Fire;   John the Baptist;   Perdition;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Agriculture;   Economic Life;   Granary;   John;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Ordinances;   Trinity;   Wheat;   Winnowing;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Fan;   Fuel;   John the Baptist;   Jordan;   Mark, Gospel According to;   Mss;   Wheat;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Agriculture;   Asceticism (2);   Attributes of Christ;   Baptism;   Barn;   Benedictus;   Chaff;   Corn;   Eternal Fire (2);   Fan;   Fire ;   Food;   Gentleness (2);   Harvest ;   Holy Spirit (2);   House;   John the Baptist;   Judgment;   Logia;   Old Testament (Ii. Christ as Student and Interpreter of).;   Pre-Eminence ;   Redemption (2);   Sifting;   Tares ;   Trade and Commerce;   Wheat;   King James Dictionary - Chaff;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Fan, Fanner;   Fire;   Garner;   Winnowing;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Chaff;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Fan;   Kingdom of christ of heaven;   Kingdom of god;   Kingdom of heaven;   Levi;   Obsolete or obscure words in the english av bible;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Agriculture;   Fan,;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Burn;   Chaff;   Fan;   Floor;   Ather;   Purge;   Wheat;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom or Church of Christ, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Chaff;   Fan;   Fire;   Furnace;   Garner;   John the Baptist;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Punishment, Everlasting;   Purge;   Retribution;   Stubble;   Unquenchable Fire;   Wheat;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Agriculture;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Baptism;   Christianity in Its Relation to Judaism;   Fuel;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Whose fan is in his hand - The Romans are here termed God's fan, as, in Matthew 3:10, they were called his axe, and, in Matthew 22:7, they are termed his troops or armies.

The winnowing fan of the Hindoos is square, made of split bamboo; and the corn is winnowed by waving the fan backwards with both hands - "Whose fan is in his hand."

His floor - Does not this mean the land of Judea, which had been long, as it were, the threshing-floor of the Lord? God says, he will now, by the winnowing fan (viz. the Romans) thoroughly cleanse this floor - the wheat, those who believe in the Lord Jesus, he will gather into his garner, either take to heaven from the evil to come, or put in a place of safety, as he did the Christians, by sending them to Pella, in Coelosyria, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem. But he will burn up the chaff - the disobedient and rebellions Jews, who would not come unto Christ, that they might have life.

Unquenchable fire - That cannot be extinguished by man.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

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.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-3.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Matthew 3:12

Whose fan.

Christ a sifter

Humanity yields its twofold crop, its wheat and chaff, and keeps its terrible capacity of mixing chaff and wheat together, making them look alike.

A sifter needed

Something, then, is watered to lift the cover, to unveil the reality, to expose the things that we do and the persons that we are. Whether we want Him or not, He comes “whose fan is in His hand.”

A sifter needed for the sake of the truth

Realize, too, that the sifting work must be done not only for the truth’s sake and for God’s sake, but for the sake of the foolish people themselves-for the welfare of the world. Otherwise the world, cheated by the delusion, would go from bad to worse, and be deluded to destruction.

Life foreshadows a sifting process

Christ prepares the way for His own great reckoning to come, by setting foreshadows of His sifting work around us where we are. Life itself moves on with the fan in its hand. So into this medley where you live there springs suddenly some new-comer. It is a providence of God. A contagious disease escapes quarantine and breaks out in the town. There is a wreck on a reef off the shore. On a Western river great waterfloods sweep away scores of houses and lives. A hundred human bodies are crushed and burned in a mass in some building. You are not hurt; but as the report strikes man after man in the neighbourhood, if you could look underneath the masks which some people from pride or policy keep over their real selves, would you not see always two sorts of men revealed? In one there is apathy, and in another there is sympathy. Here are the two sorts of men disclosed. Before, you could not have told which was which; all looked alike; but in the threshing-floor of God the winnowing has begun.

Adversity a stifting process

One family that you know, overtaken by misfortune, is paralysed or embittered, and goes down. Another, struck by the same blow, summons its interior strength, is sweet-tempered, hopeful, and courageous, and as it descends in style rises in spiritual stature. The season why prosperity seems to enlarge some persons and belittle others is not so much that it actually alters their dimensions as that it publishes what their dimensions are. It is a shaking of the fan.

Public questions sift

Now and then a sharp question of right or wrong is thrust in upon a whole community in palpable shape-a question of public justice or oppression, of fair dealing between capital and labour, of chastity in literature or decency in art, of commercial honour, temperance in drinking, political integrity. Everybody must take sides, openly in act or virtually in secret choice or feeling. This new truth has the fan in its hand. It sifts your gay society, getting souls in position for their judgment. At certain historical epochs great characters arrive. They utter one of these great truths, and stand out or fight for it. They are not judges of men, but sifters of men. Every one of them has a fan in the hand.

Character cannot permanently be concealed

There is no privacy for character in the universe. The righteousness of God has arranged it that we shall live surrounded by a system of detectives and exposures, and all the uniforms and costumes and cosmetics and masks and escapes of that public stage, society, will not baffle them. This life is the beginning, though not the end, of judgment.

Truth a dividing power

It is inwrought benignantly into the silent and steady operation of the truth. Truth itself is a dividing power.

Discrimination a law of nature

To me it establishes faith, and makes the awful doctrine of retribution reasonable, to see the law wrought into the whole fabric of Nature around us and the very constitution of man. Even in the orchards and gardens there is a visible economy of discrimination, of rejection, of judgment. Bad fruit drops off and is cast away by the same hand that gathers and garners the good. Sow chaff and grain together if you choose; the chaff rots, while the vital seeds sprout and grow and yield “some thirty, some sixty, some an hundred.” Why not so when we come up to the immortal wheat? (Bishop Huntingdon.)

1. Christ is the universal Judge; “His fan is in His hand.” He possesses authority, discrimination, and impartiality,-the three grand qualifications for this office. (M. Henry.)

Wheat-chaff.

I. In the Christian Church there is a mixture of nominal and real Christians. Parable of the Tares. Of the Wedding Garment. Judas. Ananias and Sapphira. The false are the careless or indifferent. The self-righteous or sentimental; the hollow-hearted or hypocritical. The true are penitents, believers, new creatures.

II. The Head of the Church knows the true character of all its members. Seven churches of Asia. “I know thy works.” Intimate and exact knowledge of His own people.

III. The Head of the Church will separate the precious from the vile. By His doctrine-providential dealings-Satanic temptations-fire of persecution.

IV. The final doom of all the mem-bets of the Church will correspond to their character. The wheat to the garner, The chaff to the fire.

1. Examine yourselves.

2. Prepare for judgment. (Anon.)

I. The Two great classes into which the world is divided. Two only. In the eyes of men many. Either believers or unbelievers. No third class.

II. When these two classes will be separated. Not yet. When Christ comes!

III. The portion of Christ’s people.

IV. The portion of those who are not Christ’s. (J. C. Ryle.)

The wheat and the chaff

By the wheat is evidently intended those whose characters are useful; by the chaff those who are worthless. Wheat is valuable because it answers the purpose of the cultivator, which is to produce food for himself and others; so those persons are useful who answer the ends for which God has placed them here. God has placed us here to glorify Him:-

1. By our exercising suitable dispositions towards Him;

2. By cultivating every virtue;

3. By our doing good to others.

From this description of the wheat we may easily infer the character of those who resemble the chaff.

1. If those are the wheat who exercise suitable dispositions towards God, those are the chaff who are without such dispositions.

2. If those are the wheat who are seeking the perfection of their nature, then those are the chaff who neglect to seek it.

3. If those are the wheat who labour for the temporal and spiritual welfare of their fellow-creatures, those are the chaff who live chiefly to please themselves.

4. If those are the wheat who glorify God by believing in Christ, then those are the chaff who remain in unbelief.

5. To which of these two classes do we belong? (B. W. Noel, M. A.)

Good and evil are really different in kind, absolutely and intrinsically, essentially and in the nature of things:

I. By the free choice of will, and the practice consequent upon such a choice, real virtue or vice can be acquired.

II. Every man is as to his moral character what his own behaviour and practice make him. By as certain and determinate a distinction as wheat and chaff are, of their real and proper natures, different from each other.

III. God in all His commandments really desires to bring men by the habitual practice of virtue to a state by which they can become capable of His eternal happiness in the enjoyment of His unchangeable favour. Therefore the good must be separated from the evil surely and thoroughly, if we would win salvation. (Samuel Clarke, D. D.)

Similarity between real Christians and hypocritical

And let me remind you how like the chaff is to the wheat, how like the mere professor is to the saint. Of what colour is the chaff? Precisely the same as that of the wheat. And what is its form? Exactly that of the wheat. And where is it found? Not blowing about the highway, but in close contact with the wheat. It is upon us that this sifting trial is to pass; and it matters not how perfect may be our resemblance to the saints, if there be a resemblance and nothing more. (P. B. Power.)

Sect distinctions obliterated in destiny

I have seen a field here, and a field there, stand thick with corn-a hedge or two has separated them. At the proper season the reapers entered; soon the earth was disburdened, and the grain was conveyed to its destined resting-place, where, blended together in the barn or the stack, it could not be known that a hedge had ever separated this corn from that. Thus it is with the Church. Here it grows, as it were, in different fields, and even, maybe, by different hedges. By and by, when the harvest is come, all God’s wheat shall be gathered into the garner, without one single mark to distinguish that once they differed in outward circumstantials of form and order. (Toplady.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 3:12". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/matthew-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshingfloor; and he will gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.

Whose fan is in his hand, etc. ... Note the following analogies in this remarkable metaphor: the fan is the judgment; the wheat refers to the just; the chaff stands for the wicked; the fire is the Gehenna in which the wicked shall perish; the threshingfloor is Palestine or the world; the one with the winnowing fan in his hand is the Lord, Judge of all the earth. Significantly, God classifies people in only two categories, good and bad, wheat and chaff, sheep and goats.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "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

Whose fan is in his hand,.... The Jews had their hand fans, and which were like a man's hand; their names were מגוב מעבר מורה; which, as Maimonides saysF14In Misn. Celim. c. 13. sect. 7. Vid. Jarchi & Bartenora in ib. & in Misn. Tibbul. Yom. c. 4. sect. 6. , 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 ברר is used for purging by fanning, in the Misnic writingsF15Misn. Sabbat. c. 7. sect. 2. & Gittin, c. 5. sect. 9. . 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 stalksF16Misn. Oholot. c. 18. sect. 2. ; see Isaiah 5:24.

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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 3:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/matthew-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

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 Malachi 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 Amos 9:9; Luke 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 (Matthew 13:30, Matthew 13:43).

but he will burn up the chaff — empty, worthless professors of religion, void of all solid religious principle and character (see Psalm 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 (Luke 3:18-20):
Luke 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 John 1:29, John 1:33, John 1:34; John 3:27-36, the incidental allusion to his having taught his disciples to pray (Luke 11:1) - of which not a word is said elsewhere - shows how varied his teaching was.
Luke 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” (Mark 6:20).
Luke 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 Machaerus (Luke 7:18, etc.).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
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 3:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/matthew-3.html. 1871-8.

People's New Testament

Fan is in his hand. Rather the winnowing shovel, by which the wheat and chaff were tossed together into the air, so that the wind would blow the chaff away. In Palestine grain was threshed on an outdoor threshing floor, either by hand or the treading of cattle, and winnowed by casting it up to the wind.

Gather his wheat into the garner. Granary, or grain depository.

Unquenchable fire. A reference is here made to the practice of burning the chaff under process of winnowing. The wheat is the righteous, the chaff is the wicked, and Christ is the winnower; the granary is heaven, the unquenchable fire is hell.

Copyright Statement
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 3:12". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/matthew-3.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Will burn up with unquenchable fire (κατακαυσει πυρι ασβεστωιkatakausei puri asbestōi). Note perfective use of καταkata The threshing floor, the fan, the wheat, the garner, the chaff (αχυρονachuron chaff, straw, stubble), the fire furnish a life-like picture. The “fire” here is probably judgment by and at the coming of the Messiah just as in Matthew 3:11. The Messiah “will thoroughly cleanse” (διακαταριειdiakathariei Attic future of ιζω̇izō and note διαdiȧ). He will sweep from side to side to make it clean.

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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)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "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

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. Hisfan, that is his winnowing-shovel orfork, 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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The text of this work is public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "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

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

Whose fan — That is, the word of the Gospel.

His floor — That is, his Church, which is now covered with a mixture of wheat and chaff.

He will gather the wheat into the garner — Will lay up those who are truly good in heaven.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/matthew-3.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

whose fan1 is in his hand2, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing-floor3; and he will gather his wheat into the garner4, but the chaff5 he will burn up6 with unquenchable fire7.

  1. Whose fan. Winnowing shovel. In the days of John the Baptist, and in that country at the present day, wheat and other grain was not threshed by machinery. It was beaten out by flails, or trodden out by oxen on some smooth, hard plot of ground called the threshing-floor. These threshing-floors were usually on elevations where the wind blew freely. When the grain was trodden out, it was winnowed or separated from the chaff by being tossed into the air with a fan or winnowing shovel. When so tossed, the wind blew the chaff away, and the clean grain fell upon the threshing-floor.

  2. Is in his hand. Ready for immediate work. Both John and Malachi, who foretold John, are disposed to picture Jesus as the judge (Malachi 3:2-5). Of all the pictures of God which the Bible gives, that of a judge is the most common and frequent.

  3. He will thoroughly cleanse his threshing-floor. Removing the chaff is called purging the floor. Humanity is a mixture of good and bad, and to separate this mixture, save the good and destroy the bad, is the work of Christ. He partially purges the floor in this present time by gathering his saints into the church and leaving the unrepentant in the world. But hereafter on the day of judgment he will make a complete and final separation between the just and the unjust by sending the evil from his presence and gathering his own into the garner of heaven (Matthew 25:32,33). He will also winnow our individual characters, and remove all evil from us (Matthew 22:31,32; Romans 7:21-25).

  4. And he will gather his wheat into the garner. Eastern garners or granaries were usually subterranean vaults or caves. Garnered grain rested in safety. It was removed from peril of birds, storms, blight, and mildew. Christians are now on God's threshing-floor; hereafter they will be gathered into the security of his garner.

  5. But the chaff. When the Bible wishes to show the worthlessness and the doom of the ungodly, chaff is one of its favorite figures (Job 21:18; Psalms 1:4; Isaiah 17:13; Jeremiah 15:7; Hosea 13:3; Malachi 4:1).

  6. He will burn up. To prevent chaff from being blown back and mixed again with the wheat, it was burned up. All the chaff in the church shall be consumed on the day of judgment (1 Corinthians 3:12,13), and there shall be no mixing of good and bad after death (Luke 16:26).

  7. With unquenchable fire. In this and in other places (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9; Mark 9:48; Matthew 25:41), the future suffering of the wicked is taught in the Bible. He shows no kindness to his neighbor, no friendship toward mankind, who conceals the terrors of the Lord. These terrors are set forth in no uncertain terms. Many believe that God will restore the wicked and eventually save all the human race. Others hold that God will annihilate the wicked, and thus end their torment. This passage and the one cited in Mark would be hard to reconcile with either of these views; they indicate that there will be no arrest of judgment nor stay of punishment when once God begins to execute his condemnation. God purged the world with water at the time of the flood; he will again purge it with fire on the day of judgment (2 Peter 3:7-10).

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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 3:12". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/matthew-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Fan; a winnowing instrument.--Garner; granary.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/matthew-3.html. 1878.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

UNQUENCHABLE FIRE

‘He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

Matthew 3:12

When the Lord Jesus Christ comes to purge His floor, He shall punish all who are not His disciples with a fearful punishment.

I. Man’s view.—Painful as the subject of hell is, it is one about which we must not be silent.

(a) Some do not believe there is any hell at all. They think it impossible there can be such a place. They call it inconsistent with the mercy of God. They say it is too awful an idea to be really true.

(b) Some do not believe that hell is eternal. They tell us it is incredible that a compassionate God will punish men for ever. He will surely open the prison doors at last.

(c) Some believe there is a hell, but never allow that anybody is going there. All people, with them, are good as soon as they die, all were sincere, all meant well, and all, they hope, got to heaven.

(d) Some believe there is a hell, and never like it to be spoken of. It is a subject that should always be kept back, in their opinion. They see no profit in bringing it forward, and are rather shocked when it is mentioned.

II. What says the Word of God?

(a) Hell is real and true. There is not a fact or doctrine which you may not lawfully doubt if you doubt hell. Disbelieve hell and you unscrew, unsettle, and unpin everything in Scripture. From ‘no hell’ to ‘no God’ there is but a series of steps.

(b) Hell will have inhabitants. The wicked shall certainly be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God. ‘These shall go away into everlasting punishment’ (St. Matthew 25:46). The same Blessed Saviour Who now sits on a throne of grace, will one day sit on a throne of judgment, and men will see there is such a thing as ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ (Revelation 6:16).

(c) Hell will be intense and unutterable woe.—It is vain to talk of all the expressions about it being only figure of speech. Bible figures means something, beyond all question, and here they mean something which man’s mind can never fully conceive.

(d) Hell is eternal. If hell has an end, Heaven has an end, too. They both stand or fall together.

(e) Hell is a subject that ought not to be kept back. It is striking to observe the many texts about it in Scripture. It is striking to observe that none say so much about it as our Lord Jesus Christ, that gracious and merciful Saviour; and the Apostle John, whose heart seems full of love.

III. The wheat of the earth.—But if you are willing to be one of the wheat of the earth, the Lord Jesus Christ is willing to receive you. Do you think He does not desire to bring many sons to glory? You little know the depth of His mercy and compassion if you can think such a thought! If you never came to Christ for life before, come to Him this very day!

—Bishop J. C. Ryle.

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/matthew-3.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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

Ver. 12. Whose fan is in his hand] Though the devil and wicked men mightily strive to wring it out of his hand; for what, say they, need this shedding and this shoaling? this distinguishing and differencing of men into saints and sinners? Are not all the Lord’s people holy? Numbers 16:3. Is there any man lives and sinneth not? but yet there is as wide a difference between sinner and sinner as is between the bosom of Abraham and the belly of hell, Luke 16:26; Luke 1:1-80. The godly man projects not sin as the wicked doth; but is preoccupied by it, against his general purpose, προληφθη, Galatians 6:1; Galatians 2:1-21. He arts not the sin that he acts: he sins not sinningly; ου ποιει αμαρτιαν, 1 John 3:9. He is not transformed into sin’s image, as the wicked are, Micah 1:5. His scum rests not in him; he works that out by repentance that he committed with reluctance, Ezekiel 24:11; Ezekiel 3:1-27. He is the better for it afterwards. His very sin (when bewailed and disclaimed) maketh him more heedful of his ways, more thankful for a Saviour, more merciful to others, more desireful after the state of perfection, &c. Whence grew that paradox of Mr. John Fox, "That his graces did him most hurt, and his sins most good." {a} Whereas wicked men grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, till at length by long trading in sin, being hardened by the deceitfulness thereof, they are utterly deprived of all (even passive) power of recovering themselves out of the devil’s snare, 2 Timothy 2:23; 2 Timothy 3:13; Hebrews 3:13; which is a conformity to the devil’s condition. This their covering therefore is too short. Christ’s fan is in his hand to take out the precious from the vile, Jeremiah 15:19; and the ministers of Christ must separate (as the priests of old did) the clean from the unclean, drive the chaff one way and the wheat another: "for what is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord?" Jeremiah 23:28. See this enjoined them, Isaiah 3:10-11. Zuinglius, as in his public lectures be would very sharply rebuke sin, so ever and anon he would come in with this proviso, Probe vir, haec nihil ad te: this is nothing to thee, thou godly man. (Scultet. Annul.) He knew that he could not beat the dogs, but the children would be ready to cry, whom therefore he comforted.

And he will throughly purge his floor] That is, his Church, called God’s threshingfloor, Isaiah 21:10, because usually threshed by God with the flail of affliction. That is one way whereby the Lord Christ doth purge his people, and separate between the son that he loves and the sin that he hates. This he doth also by his word and Spirit: "sanctifying them by his truth, his word is truth," John 17:17; "And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are justified, but ye are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God," 1 Corinthians 6:11. Thus Christ purgeth his floor, here initially and in part, hereafter thoroughly and in all perfection. In all which we may observe (saith a divine) this difference between Christ and the tempter. Christ hath his fan in his hand, and he fanneth us; the devil hath a sieve in his hand, and he sifteth us. {b} Now a fan casteth out the worst and keepeth in the best: a sieve keepeth in the worst, and casteth out the best. Right so Christ (and his trials) purgeth chaff and corruption out of us, and nourisheth and increaseth his graces in us. Contrariwise, the devil, whatever evil is in us, he confirmeth it; what faith or other good thing soever, he weakeneth it. But Christ hath prayed for his (though never so hard laid at) that their faith fail not, and giveth them in time of fanning, to fall low at his feet, as wheat, when the wicked, as light chaff, are ready to fly in his face, as murmuring at their hard measure, with those miscreants in the wilderness.

And gather his wheat into the garner] Mali in area nobiscum esse possunt, in horreo non possunt. (Augustine.) The wicked may be with us in the floor, they shall not in the garner: for there shall in no wise enter into the City of the Lamb anything that defileth, or that worketh abomination, Revelation 21:27, βδελυγμα. Heaven spewed out the angels in the first act of their apostasy; and albeit the devil could screw himself into Paradise, yet no unclean person shall ever enter into the kingdom of heaven. Without shall be dogs and evildoers, Revelation 21:8; no dirty dog doth trample on that golden pavement, no dross is with that gold, no chaff with that wheat; but the spirits of "just men made perfect," amidst a general assembly of angels, and that glorious amphitheatre, Hebrews 12:22. In the mean while, Dei frumentum ego sum (may every good soul say, with Ignatius), I am God’s wheat: and although the wheat be as yet but in the ear, or but in the blade, yet when the fruit is ripe, he will put in the sickle (because the harvest is come), and gather his wheat into his barn, into his garner. It doth the husbandman good at heart to see his grain come forward, though the harvest be not yet, Mark 4:28-29. Spes alit agricolas, sed adhuc mea messis in herba est.

But will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire] In reference to the custom of those countries, which was to cast their chaff into the fire. But this, alas, is another manner of fire than that. A metaphorical fire doubtless, and differs from material fire: 1. In respect of the violence, for it is unspeakable. 2. Of the durance, for it is unquenchable. 3. Of illumination, for though it burn violently to their vexation, yet it shines not to their comfort. 4. Of operation, for it consumes not what it burneth; they ever fry, but never die; vivere nolunt, mori nesciunt; they "seek death, but find it not," as those Revelation 9:6. A just hand of God upon them; that they that once might have had life and would not, now would have death and cannot.

{a} παραδοξον αλλ ου παραλαγον. Capell on Temptations.

{b} Luke 22:31. σιυιασαι, Concussionem notat vehementissimam, quae manibus et genibus fit, nunc in altum efferendo, nunc ab uno latere ad alterum agitando.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-3.html. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

This thought is carried out still further:

v. 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.

The picture is that of a threshing-floor in the Orient, a flat, open space paved with stones. The husbandman has driven his oxen across the floor to tread out the grain from the hulls, or his workmen have beaten it out with flails. Now comes the purging of the floor to separate the stalks and the hulls from the grain, and the winnowing of the loose matter with a fan to blow away the lighter chaff and leave the heavier kernels. God's great threshing-floor is the earth. The test by which He decides the fate of every person in the world, by which He separates the wheat from the chaff, is the relation toward Jesus and His salvation. Those that are found secure in His redemption through faith are gathered safely into the garner of heaven. But those that are found too light, either on account of their reliance upon their own self-righteousness or because they esteem a mere external church-membership a sufficient guarantee of the joys of heaven, will find themselves subjected to the violent, inextinguishable fire, not only of the judgment, Mal_4:1, but of hell. Mat_25:41.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/matthew-3.html. 1921-23.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Matthew 3:12

I. The disciples of John were to learn (1) that their hearts were under another tillage-cultivation than their own. They could not winnow the grain, they could not separate corn from chaff. If there was no one more skilful than they were to do that, the labour had been thrown away; the corn would not supply bread to the eater, or seed to the sower. (2) They were to be sure that this discipline, if it was indeed Divine discipline, would be thorough. "He will throughly purge His floor." (3) Those who heard John speak, and understood him, must have received two lessons, at first sight inconsistent. They must have been sure that He who was conducting the sifting discipline, of which the prophet testified, over them and over the whole nation, was the Lord of the spirits of all flesh. And yet they were told of a Man standing among them, who claimed the floor as His, and could prove it to be His by purging it.

II. John the Baptist's words were fulfilled when Jesus Christ came in the flesh. They have been fulfilling themselves in every age since He ascended on high. In every age men, who have been led to discover their own great necessities, have asked indeed for one who should forgive their sins; but quite as earnestly for one who should destroy their sins, who should put an everlasting barrier between that in them which they knew to be their enemy often their triumphant enemy—and that which cleaved to a Friend, and sought fellowship with Him, likeness to Him. They have learned to welcome sufferings when they found that they were designed for this object. The fires were good which denoted that they were baptized with the Spirit, and that He would not leave them till He had made them what they were created to be. And so, too, the course of history and the trials of nations interpret themselves. As long as there is any strength, vitality, faith in a people, so long is there wheat, which Christ will assuredly gather into His garner; and so long that nation will be subjected to frequent fires, that its chaff, all its untruth, and baseness, and heartlessness may be burnt up; nay, it may be said, always be in such fires, for the time of our wealth, as well as the time of our tribulation, is a searching time. That is the time in which it is hardest for us to separate the chaff from the wheat, and therefore in which we have most need to recollect that there is a Lord who is doing it, and will do it thoroughly.

F. D. Maurice, Lincoln's Inn Sermons, vol. iii., p. 267.


References: Matthew 3:12.—Bishop Huntington, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 403; J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 290.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/matthew-3.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Matthew 3:12. Whose fan is in his hand, &c.— This expression is taken from the prophetical writings. See Isaiah 41:16; Isaiah 41:29. Dr. Shaw observes, that in the eastern countries, after the grain is trodden out, they winnow it, by throwing it up against the wind with a shovel, answering the original word το πτυον here, and Luke 3:17 rendered a fan, or van, too cumbersome a machine to be thought of. The text should rather run; whose shovel or fork is in his hand; for this is a portable instrument, and is agreeable to the practice recorded, Isaiah 30:24 where both the shovel and the van are mentioned, as the chaff which is thereby carried away before the wind, is often alluded to in Scripture. See Travels, p. 139. To understand the Baptist's meaning right, we should observe, that in this verse he describes the authority of Christ's ministry, as in that preceding he had described the efficacy of it. "The Messiah is infinitely mightier thanI not only as he will bestow on you the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, will purify and enliven your souls, and kindle in your hearts pious and devout affections; but also as he has power to reward those who obey him with eternal life, and to punish such as reject him with everlasting destruction." See Macknight. There is, in what the Baptist here declares, as Dr. Doddridge remarks, an evident allusion to the custom of burning the chaff after winnowing, that it might not be blown back again, and so be mingled with the wheat: and though it may in part refer to the calamities to come upon the Jewish nation for rejecting Christ, as Bishop Chandler, Beausobre and Lenfant, and others, have observed; yet it seems chiefly to intend the final destruction of sinners in hell; which alone is properly opposed to the gathering the wheat into the garner. Dr. Heylin understands the passage in a very different sense, as implying the total purificationof our sinful nature, through the grace of Christ; and, to keep up the metaphor he reads, He shall baptize you with holy wind and fire. Though I have no doubt that the exposition above given is the true one, yet there is something so ingenious as well as instructive in that of Dr. Heylin, that I cannot help referring my reader to it, assured that he will find great satisfaction in the perusal. See his Lectures, vol. 1: p. 24. Dr. Campbell renders the verse, His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his grain; he will gather his wheat into the granary, and consume the chaff in unquenchable fire.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". 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

In these words the baptists compare Christ, the promised Messiah, to an husbandman, the Jewish church to a barnfloor. The office of the husbandman is to thresh, fan, and winnow his corn, separating it from the chaff: preserving the one and consuming the other .

Learn hence, 1. That the church is Christ's floor.

2. That this floor Christ will purge and that thoroughly.

3. That the word of Christ is the fan in his hand, by and with which he will thoroughly purge his floor.

The church is compared to a floor, upon the account of that mixture which is in the church; in a floor there is straw as well as grain, chaff as well as corn, tares as well as wheat, cockle and darnel as well as good seed.

Thus in the church there is and will be a mixture of good and bad, saints and sinners, hypocrites and sincere Christians. But this floor Christ will purge; purge it, but not break it up: purge out its corruptions, but not destroy its essence and its existence:

And the fan with which he will purge his floor is his word, accompanied with the wind of discipline. The fan detects and discovers the chaff, and the wind dissipates and scatters it; and by the help of both the floor is purged. His fan is in his hand, &c.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". 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

12. οὗ τὸ πτύον] οὗαὐτοῦ, a very common redundancy. See reff. οὗ is not ‘whose,’ which is implied in τό: it belongs (against Meyer) to χειρί, not to πτύον, and the sense is just as if it had stood, οὗ ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ τὸ πτύον. In the Rabbinical work Midrash Tehillim, on Psalms 2:1-12, is found: ‘Advenit trituratio, stramen projiciunt in iguem, paleam in ventum, sed triticum conservant in area: sic nationes mundi erunt sicut conflagratio furni: ast Israel conservabitur solus.’ (Quoted by Lightfoot on John 3:17.)

τὴν ἅλωνα] The contents of the barn-floor. (De Wette, &c.) Thus in ref. Job, εἰσοίσει δέ σου ( σοι (23), not (24)) τὸν ἅλωνα. Or perhaps owing to διακαθ. (shall cleanse from one end to the other) the floor itself, which was an open hard-trodden space in the middle of the field. See “The Land and the Book,” p. 538 ff., where there is an illustration. “Very little use is now made of the fan, but I have seen it employed to purge the floor of the refuse dust, which the owner throws away as useless.” p. 540.

ἄχυρον] Not only the chaff, but also the straw: see reff.: ‘all that is not wheat.’

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/matthew-3.html. 1863-1878.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 1284

THE ISSUE OF THE FINAL JUDGMENT

Matthew 3:12. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

THE great duty of a Christian Minister is, to set forth the Lord Jesus Christ in all his characters, and to impress on the minds of all the necessity of believing in him for the salvation of their souls. But the view which we give of the Saviour should be altogether such as is exhibited in the Holy Scriptures. If, at one time, we represent him as a propitiation for sin, saying, with the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world;” or, at another time, exalt him as the Head of his Church, ready to “baptize men with the Holy Ghost and with fire;” we must not fail to proclaim him also as the Judge of quick and dead; and to declare, with the Baptist, that “his fan is in his hand, and that he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner: but that he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

This is a subject to which we cannot too often call your attention, seeing how deeply we are interested in,

I. The discrimination which will be made at the last day—

Men are here divided into two classes, under the images of “wheat and chaff”—

[These images are just: for though all men spring from one common root, yet is there a great difference between them: some, as righteous, resembling wheat; and others, as wicked, answering rather to the chaff.

The righteous may fitly be considered as wheat: for they are solid in the whole of their experience: their repentance is deep and genuine: their faith is lively and operative: their self-dedication to God is uniform and entire. They have in themselves a real and intrinsic worth.

The wicked, on the contrary, whether they be merely nominal Christians or hypocritical professsors, may well be compared to chaff: for they are light, unsubstantial, worthless. They may, to a superficial observer, appear like solid grain: but they will not bear a scrutiny. Examine their repentance: it has no depth in it: they have never known what a broken and contrite spirit means. Examine their faith: it has nothing beyond a bare assent to certain truths: they have never fled to Christ, as the manslayer to a city of refuge: they have never been cut off from their old stock, and been grafted into Christ, as scions; and been made to live by him, as branches of the living vine: such “a life of faith on the Son of God” is altogether unknown to them. Examine their obedience too: it goes to externals only; whilst the heart, instead of being given to him, is set upon the things of time and sense. In a word, they may “have the form of godliness; but they have not the power:” they may “have a name to live; but they are really dead.”]

In this world, however, they lie in one promiscuous mass—

[After that the corn is threshed, it lies on the floor, mixed together in one indiscriminate heap. Thus, in the house of God, persons of every character are assembled: nor is any man such a discerner of spirits, as that he can separate the evil from the good. The two are united in the same works of charity and beneficence; yea, and compose the members of the same family: they even join frequently in the same religious society; and sit down together, like Judas with the eleven, at the same supper of the Lord. This we are taught by the Lord Jesus Christ to expect, as long as we continue in the world: “the tares and the wheat grow together in the field;” nor is it in the power of man to separate them.]

But the Lord Jesus Christ, in the day of judgment, will discriminate infallibly between them—

[The husbandman, by the simple process of winnowing the corn, makes the wished-for separation. Thus, at the last day, the Lord Jesus Christ will “purge his floor;” yea, already is the fan in his hand, prepared for the work: and so perfect will the operation be, that not a single grain of wheat will be found among the chaff; nor the smallest atom of chaff be left among the wheat. The least and weakest of God’s people are infallibly distinguished by him here; as it is said, “I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted with a sieve: yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth [Note: Amos 9:9.].” And shall not the same care be taken by the Judge of quick and dead hereafter? On the other hand, “nothing that is unclean, or that defileth, shall enter into the mansions of bliss [Note: Revelation 21:27.]; and therefore we are sure that no hypocrite can find admittance there. The distinction between the wheat and the chaff will be unerring and complete.]

Let us proceed to contemplate,

II. The final issue of it to the souls of men—

“The wheat will be treasured up in his garner”—

[The husbandman regards the wheat as the object for which he has laboured, and as the recompence of all his toils; and he considers it as a treasure whereby he is enriched. It is in this light that the Lord Jesus Christ regards his faithful and obedient people. When the separation of them shall be made, and he shall behold them all assembled in one vast body, with what delight will he view them! How will he call to mind his own labours and sufferings in their behalf! and how will “he be satisfied, when he sees in them the travail of his soul [Note: Isaiah 53:11.].” It was with a view to this, that “he endured the cross, and despised the shame,” when he was in this lower world: to “this joy” he had then respect [Note: Hebrews 12:2.]: and no feeling of regret will occupy his mind, when he shall see their number, their safety, their felicity. And shall not the saints themselves rejoice, when they shall find themselves thus approved of their Lord, and have no more wintry blasts to menace, or noxious blights to endanger, their security? O, blessed day! The Lord prepare us for it, and grant us all to behold that day in peace!]

But “the chaff will be burned up with unquenchable fire”—

[The chaff, as being altogether worthless, was burned [Note: Isaiah 5:24.]. And what other end can the wicked hope for in that day? Can they suppose, that, after all the labour that has been bestowed upon them, and bestowed in vain, they shall meet with the same favour as the grain by which the labourer’s toil has been repaid? Can it be hoped that there shall be no “difference put between those who have served their God, and those who serve him not?” No: for them is a fire prepared; and happy would it be for them if they might be consumed by it speedily, like chaff! but, though ever burning, they will never be consumed: they themselves will be as imperishable, as “the fire is unquenchable;” and to all eternity will they endure the justly-merited wrath of an avenging God. Then shall be fulfilled in them the prediction of the Prophet Malachi, “Behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven: and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch [Note: Malachi 4:1.].” “The worm,” that is in their consciences, “shall never die; and the fire that shall torment them shall never be quenched [Note: Mark 9:43-48.].”]

See, then, Brethren,

1. What need there is to examine the real state of your souls—

[Nothing would be more easy than to ascertain this, if you would listen to the voice of conscience: but what a fearful thing will it be to dream of heaven, till you awake in hell! [Note: Unfold the idea contained in Matthew 7:22-23.]]

2. What need there is to live in a preparation for the eternal world—

[Whilst you are here, your character may be changed, and your bliss secured: but in the grave there is no work,” &c. As you are found in death, you will exist for ever.]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/matthew-3.html. 1832.

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

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).

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". 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 3:12. 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 ΄ου, 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.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". 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

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.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". 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

лопата Инструмент для просеивания зерна на ветру так, что сор выдувается ветром вон.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/matthew-3.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Wheat; the good.

Chaff; the bad. He will make an endless separation between the righteous and the wicked. Matthew 25:46. A knowledge of this should lead all to break off their sins by righteousness, and their iniquities by turning unto the Lord.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/matthew-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

12.Whose fan — John here proceeds to describe the terribly discriminating and adjudging process which the coming king Messiah was about to perform. Similar images are contained in Malachi 3:1-6, upon which and upon Malachi iv, we have repeatedly said John’s speech was founded as a prediction of his day. Fan — Or winnowing shovel. Wheat was winnowed from the chaff by dropping it from an uplifted shovel, so that the chaff might be taken off by the wind. Purge — Cleanse from the chaff. Floor — The area of flattened and hardened ground in the field where the winnowing was done. Garner — Granary or grain depository. The garners or granaries of the East are often excavations in the earth in which the grain is buried; frequently for the sake of concealment, either from an enemy or from an oppressive government. Sometimes, the owner being slain or driven away, the subterranean treasure is found accidentally by the plow, or other means. Unquenchable fire — A reference is here made to the practice of burning the chaff under process of winnowing. Lest the flying particles of chaff should be driven back into the wheat, a fire is made to burn, in whose blaze the chaff is forthwith consumed. The wheat is the righteous, the chaff is the wicked, and Christ is the winnower; the granary is heaven, the unquenchable fire is hell.

This epithet unquenchable is decisive against Restorationism and against Destructionism.

Restorationism teaches that the wicked will be delivered from hell; but this supposes the word unquenchable to be an empty terror devoid of meaning. For to what amounts it that the fire is unquenchable if the sinner may be snatched from it at any moment? what cares he for the phantasm of a hell forever empty though forever burning? Moreover, what sense in supposing a hell forever preserved flaming, yet forever void. But, in fact, hell is the penal condition of the condemned sinner, and the fire the penal essence itself; hell has no existence save as a penalty for guilt. Terminate the penalty and the fire has gone out.

Destructionism is the doctrine that the sinner ceases, by the penalty, to exist. So that God still keeps an empty hell eternally burning! In other words, this term unquenchable is unmeaning, and so essentially false.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/matthew-3.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

“Whose winnowing fork (or ‘shovel’) is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing-floor; and he will gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.”

The ancient way of threshing grain among the relatively poor was to toss it into the prevailing wind with a winnowing fork, and then with a shovel. The good grain would then fall to the ground, and would be shovelled away and taken to the barn, and the useless chaff would be blown to one side, some to be gathered up and burned, other to be blown away on the winds and lost for ever. And this is the activity that John pictures with regard to the coming Mightier One as the Great Winnower.

Thus here the whole of Israel (and the whole world) is seen as God’s threshing floor. All are as it were gathered there, multitudes, multitudes in the Valley of Decision (Joel 3:13-14). The world is His threshing-floor. And that threshing-floor will then be thoroughly cleansed. Nothing will escape His attention. All will in the end be dealt with and that with the thoroughness of God. Those who have repented and openly admitted their sins to God, and have become fruitful, and have enjoyed the life-giving showers of the Holy Spirit, will prove to be like harvested grain. And they will be gathered into God’s Barn. But those who have proved themselves to be chaff will be blown to one side, gathered up and burned in the fire that can never be quenched (Isaiah 66:24; Isaiah 1:31; Isaiah 34:10; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 17:27; Jeremiah 21:12; Ezekiel 20:47-48).

That Matthew saw this process as going on in the ministry of Jesus is unquestionable. We must not interpret Matthew by Luke. What Luke would write later was unknown to Matthew (and Luke also would have the Holy Spirit active throughout the life of Jesus - Luke 4:1; Luke 4:18; Luke 11:13). We must recognise therefore that Matthew is to be seen as providing his own answers. And it is inconceivable that he would show this ‘drenching with the Holy Spirit’ as lying at the very root of what the Anointed One was coming to do and then not show in what followed how He would bring it about. To Matthew therefore Jesus’ presence and great success demonstrated that the Spirit had come in the coming of the Kingly Rule of Heaven in Jesus (Matthew 12:28). He was here as the Spirit-filled Servant of Isaiah (Matthew 12:18). That was why men could even now pray in expectancy for the ‘good things’ of the Messianic age (Matthew 7:11) which Luke describes in terms of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 11:13). And that was why his description of the ongoing future was in terms of the presence of Jesus with His people (Matthew 28:20). To Matthew, Jesus as the Anointed One among His people was the absolute proof of the presence and outworking of the Holy Spirit, as He continued His work through Him, satisfying men’s thirst and welling up in men in eternal life (John 4:10-14).

Our problem is that by misinterpreting Luke, who in fact also makes clear the presence of the Holy Spirit from the beginning (Luke 1-2) and as continuing throughout the ministry of Jesus (Luke 4:1; Luke 4:18 and onwards, see our commentary), we overlook Matthew’s vital message, that the work of Jesus as the Drencher with the Holy Spirit began immediately that He commenced His ministry. John also makes this absolutely clear (John 3:1-4; John 4:10-14; John 7:38 where the drinking had begun even though the floods would come later). What would occur later in Acts 2 was the wider outreach of this Drenching reaching out to the wider world, the inauguration of the people of God as the living evidence of God’s presence in the world in the absence of the physical Jesus because of His resurrection, ascension and enthronement. It was in order that they might replace Jesus as God’s physical witness to the world on earth, by being indwelt by the Holy One Himself, Who was there manifested in wind and fire. They would now be the channels of the Holy Spirit. But Pentecost was by no means the commencement of the work of the Holy Spirit, as Luke makes clear in Matthew 11:13, and as John’s Gospel makes clear in Matthew 3:1-6; Matthew 4:10-14), especially when he speaks of Jesus’ words about the drinking of the Holy Spirit as occurring at the time that Jesus was on earth, while in the next breath speaking of the future outpouring as following Jesus’ glorification (John 7:37-39). This is something that Jesus also makes clear in the Upper Room after His resurrection where He breathes on His Apostles and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, which is there the Spirit in His function of leading them into all truth (John 20:22; compare John 16:13) as He enthrones them on their ‘thrones’ over His people, ‘the twelve tribes of Israel’ with the power to bind and loose (John 20:21-23, compare Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30 in context).

So Matthew pictures this drenching with Holy Spirit and fire as going on in the ministry of Jesus, as continuing in the ministry of the Apostles, and as resulting also in the destruction of Jerusalem by ‘burning’ (Matthew 22:7), (which burning did not literally fully occur in Jerusalem apart from the Temple, but the parable does not say that it was speaking specifically of Jerusalem), and in the end of all things (Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:42; Matthew 13:50).

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/matthew-3.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

John metaphorically described God separating the true and the false, the repentant and the unrepentant, in a future judgment. This thorough judgment will result in the preservation of the believing Israelites and the destruction of the unbelieving (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). The barn probably refers to the kingdom and the "unquenchable fire" to the endless duration and the agonizing nature of this punishment.

""Unquenchable fire" is not just metaphor: fearful reality underlies Messiah"s separation of grain from chaff. The "nearness" of the kingdom therefore calls for repentance ( Matthew 3:2)." [Note: Carson, " Matthew," p105.]

What then was the essential message of Messiah"s forerunner?

"John preached both a personal salvation, involving the remission of sins ( Mark 1:4), and a national salvation, involving the establishment of the millennial kingdom with Israel delivered out of the hand of their enemies ( Matthew 3:2; Luke 1:71-75)." [Note: S. Lewis Johnson Jeremiah, "The Message of John the Baptist." Bibliotheca Sacra113:449 (January1956):36. See also Toussaint, p69.]

2. Jesus" baptism3:13-17 (cf. Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23)

Jesus" baptism was the occasion at which His messiahship became obvious publicly. Matthew recorded this event as he did to convince his readers further of Jesus" messianic qualifications. Thus John"s baptism had two purposes: to prepare Israel for her Messiah ( Matthew 3:1-12) and to prepare the Messiah for Israel ( Matthew 3:13-17; cf. John 1:31).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-3.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 3:12. Whose winnowing-shovel, etc. A new figure, including a reference both to the saved and the lost; ‘the axe’ referred to the latter alone. The ‘winnowing-shovel,’ for separating the chaff and the wheat, was ready for use, in his hand, and thus equipped, he will cleanse thoroughly (from one end to the other) his threshing floor. The threshing floor was a circular space on the farm, either beaten hard or paved, where the grain was trodden out by oxen or horses. The threshing floor of the Messiah becomes larger as the course of history moves on. The thorough cleansing of the floor itself will be completed when the end of the world comes, but the process of winnowing is included, i.e., the disciplinary and punitive leadings of God with men.

And he will gather. The punctuation of the common version should be altered. The cleansing process is spoken of first in general, then the twofold result is set forth in contrasted clauses.

His wheat, the fruits of the husbandry, the persons saved, hence ‘His.’

The garner, the storehouse; either the kingdom of heaven on earth, or heaven itself, probably both, since Christ’s salvation includes both words.

The chaff, the refuse, not ‘His,’ when separated will be burned up. As in the case of the ‘wheat,’ persons are meant, and the punishment may begin, like the blessing, in this world.

Fire unquenchable. The violent, uncontrollable blaze of a straw fire is the figurative representation of an awful reality. Once begun, the fiery judgment continues, until the unquenchable fire of Gehenna is kindled.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "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 3:12. This ver. follows up Matthew 3:11, and explains the judicial action emblemed by wind and fire.— . . . . The construction is variously understood. Grotius takes it as a Hebraism for . Fritzsche takes . as epexegetical, and renders: “whose will be the fan, viz., in His hand”. Meyer and Weiss take as assigning a reason: “He ( 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.— from , late for classic . 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, (in Greek writers usually plural , 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 ( 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.— , a place in a field made firm by a roller, or on a rocky hill top exposed to the breeze.— means generally any kind of store, and specially a grain store, often underground. Bleek takes the epithet applied to the fire as signifying: inextinguishable till all the refuse be consumed. It is usually understood absolutely.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". 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 3:12. 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.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-3.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

yourselves then to Him, and prevent, by a prompt and sincere conversion, that dreadful judgment which the just and severe Judge, whom I now announce to you, will most undoubtedly pass upon sinners, when he shall remove the chaff from the good grain, i.e. the bad from the good, calling the latter with him to his heavenly kingdom, and sending the former to burn in unquenchable fire. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/matthew-3.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

fan = winnowing shovel. God fans to get rid of the chaff; Satan sifts to get rid of the wheat (Luke 22:31).

thoroughly = thoroughly.

floor = threshing-floor.

gather = gather together.

burn up. Greek. katakaio = burn down, or quite up.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "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

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

Whose [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 Malachi 3:1-3.)

And he will throughly purge, [ diakathariei (G1245)] his [threshing] floor - that is, the visible Church.

And gather his wheat - His true-hearted saints; so called for their solid worth (cf. Amos 9:9; Luke 22:31). Into the garner - "the kingdom of their Father," as this "garner" or "barn" [ apotheekee (Greek #596)] is beautifully explained by our Lord in the parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:43).

But he will burn up the chaff - empty, worthless professors of religion, void of all solid religious principle and character (see Psalms 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, Luke 3:18-20 : Luke 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 John 1:29; John 1:33-34; John 3:27-36; the incidental allusion to His having taught His disciples to pray (Luke 11:1) - of which not a word is said elsewhere-shows how varied His teaching was. Luke 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 thorough-going 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" (Mark 6:20). Matt. 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 until he had occasion to relate the message which he sent to Christ from his prison at Machaerus (Luke 7:18, etc.).

Remarks:

(1) If the view we have given of the import of John's ministry be correct, it has its counterpart in the divine procedure toward each individual believer. In the transition of the Church from Moses to Christ-from the Law to the Gospel-the ministry of the forerunner was expressly provided, in order to bear in upon the national conscience the sense of sin, and shut it up to the coming Deliverer. The dispensation even of the Law itself was introduced, we are told, for the same purpose-merely as a transition-stage from Adam to Christ. "The Law entered," says the apostle-`entered incidentally' or 'parenthetically' [ pareiseelthen (Greek #3922)] - "that the offence might abound" (see the note at Romans 5:20). The promulgation of the Law was no primary or essential feature of the divine plan. It "was added" [ prosetethee (Greek #4369)] (Galatians 3:19) for a subordinate purpose-the more fully to reveal the evil that had been done by Adam, and the need and glory of the remedy by Christ.

Thus, as in every age God has provided special means for making the need of salvation, and the value of His Son as a Saviour, felt on a wide scale by the obtuse conscience, so in the history of every believer it will be found that the cordial reception of Christ, as all his salvation and all his desire, has been preceded by some forerunning dispensation of mercy; in some cases lengthened and slow, in others brief and rapid-in some operating perceptibly enough, in others all unconsciously-but in every case real and necessary, as "a schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ."

(2) The Pharisees and Sadducees were not sects, in the modern sense of that term-holding no ecclesiastical fellowship with each other-but rather schools or parties, antagonistic both in principle and feeling. The Pharisees were the zealots of outward, literal, legal Judaism-not, however, as represented in Scripture, but as interpreted, or rather perverted, by the traditions which had from age to age grown up around it, penetrated to its core, and eaten into its life. The Sadducees, occupying sceptical or rationalistic ground, were, of course, anti-traditional; but they went much further, limiting their canon of Scripture-in effect if not professedly-to the Pentateuch, and explaining away almost everything supernatural even in it. The Essenes were a sect, it would appear, in the modem sense of the term; and so, not coming across the Evangelical territory, the Gospels are silent regarding them. Their religious system appears to have been a compound of Oriental, Alexandrian, and Jewish elements, while a special ritualism in practice and asceticism in spirit kept them very much by themselves. In these religious divisions of the Jews at this time, we have but the representatives for the time being of abiding and outstanding forms of religious thought-of that traditionary formalism, that sceptical rationalism, and that separative mysticism, which, with various modifications in kind and degree, divide among themselves the unwholesome thinking and feeling of Christendom at this day. And just as then, so still, the medicine which will alone heal the Church visible, and make it "white and ruddy" with spiritual health and vigour, lies in those three notes of the Baptist's teaching - "Flee from the wrath to come;" "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world;" "He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!"

(3) In times of religious awakening, the most unpromising classes are sometimes found making a religious profession. But, whatever just suspicions thin may awaken, where the change is not very marked, let not the preacher repel any who even seem to be turning to the Lord, but, like the Baptist, temper his faithful warnings with encouragements and directions.

(4) How sharp is the contrast here drawn between all mere human agency in the salvation of men and that of the Master of whom John here speaks. When John, the greatest of all the prophets, says of his own agency, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance," he manifestly means not only that this was all he could do toward their salvation, but that it was all outside work; he could not work repentance in them, nor deposit in their hearts one grain of true grace. When, therefore, he adds, "He that cometh after me is mightier than I He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire," beyond doubt he means to teach not only that Christ could do what he could not, but that it was His sole prerogative to do it-as "the Mightier than he" (Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16) - imparting the inner element, of which water-baptism was but the outward sign, and giving it a glorious, fiery efficacy in the heart. No wonder that at the thought of this difference John should say, "Whose shoes' latchet I am not worthy to bear" - language very offensive if we could suppose it meant of any mere creature, however gifted and honoured of God, but most fit and proper regarding Emmanuel, "God with us."

(5) As the saving operations of the Holy Spirit are here first mentioned in the New Testament, so His precise relation to Christ in the economy of salvation is here distinctly taught-that He is Christ's Agent, carrying into effect in men all that He did for men.

(6) The vengeance here denounced against impenitence under all this spiritual culture best exhibits the guilt of it - "Every tree, therefore, which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." "Be instructed, then, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from then."

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "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

12. Winnowing shovel. In Palestine, grain was threshed on an outdoor threshing floor, either by being pounded, or being walked-on by cows. Then the winnowing shovel was used to throw it up into the air for the wind to blow away the chaff, and the threshed grain would fall back to the ground. The wheat was put into the barn. The chaff was gathered and burned. The barn symbolizes the home of the saved. The fire is symbolic of hell.

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "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

(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; Psalms 1:4; Psalms 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.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/matthew-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
fan
Isaiah 30:24; 41:16; Jeremiah 4:11; 15:7; 51:2; Luke 3:17
he will throughly
13:41,49,50; Malachi 3:2,3; 4:1; John 15:2
and gather
13:30,43; Amos 9:9
but
Job 21:18; Psalms 1:4; 35:5; Isaiah 5:24; 17:13; Hosea 13:3; Malachi 4:1; Luke 3:17
with
Isaiah 1:31; 66:24; Jeremiah 7:20; 17:27; Ezekiel 20:47,48; Mark 9:43-48
Reciprocal: Exodus 15:7 - consumed;  Leviticus 13:57 - shalt burn;  Job 20:26 - a fire;  Job 27:19 - gathered;  Psalm 21:9 - the fire;  Psalm 50:3 - a fire;  Psalm 83:13 - as the;  Psalm 119:119 - puttest away;  Psalm 139:3 - compassest;  Isaiah 1:25 - purge;  Isaiah 4:4 - by the spirit;  Isaiah 10:17 - for a flame;  Isaiah 21:10 - my threshing;  Isaiah 27:4 - who would;  Isaiah 28:28 - Bread;  Isaiah 30:28 - to sift;  Ezekiel 15:4 - the fire;  Ezekiel 20:38 - I will purge;  Ezekiel 21:32 - for fuel;  Ezekiel 22:15 - consume;  Ezekiel 24:11 - that the filthiness;  Joel 2:5 - like the noise of a;  Malachi 2:4 - that my;  Matthew 13:42 - cast;  Matthew 13:48 - and gathered;  Matthew 21:41 - He will;  Matthew 22:11 - when;  Matthew 25:32 - he shall separate;  Matthew 25:41 - everlasting;  Mark 9:44 - the fire;  Luke 23:31 - GeneralJohn 1:20 - GeneralJohn 3:28 - but;  John 10:41 - but;  Acts 19:4 - John;  1 Thessalonians 2:16 - for;  Titus 2:14 - purify;  Hebrews 10:27 - fiery

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "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

The figures" now change and are drawn from a different source. In verse10 they were based upon the work of horticulture, while in this they are upon that of agriculture. Fan is from PTUON and is defined "a winnowing-shovel" in Thayer"s lexicon. Grain was piled down on a smooth place called the threshing floor and trampled out by oxen or beaten with a large club called a flail. Then an instrument like a broad shovel was used to scoop up the shattered grain and toss it up into the wind so the chaff could be blown to one side. The grain was stored in the garner (granary) and the chaff was burned. The process is used to illustrate the separation of the wicked from the good at the day of judgment. The good will be taken to the garner which is heaven, and the wicked will be cast into the lake of fire. The terms ordinarily used to describe the threshing process do not cover all of the phases of the work as it pertains to humanity, hence John qualified the fire by the word unquenchable which comes from the Greek word ASBESTOS and Thayer"s definition is, "unquenchable." There will be only one judgment day and hence no continual gathering of chaff to cast into the fire. There is but one explanation, therefore, for using unquenchable fire, and that is that the wicked will not be put out of existence as literal chaff is, but will continue to exist and burn endlessly, and that will require a fire that cannot be put out.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". 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

12.Whose winnowing-fan is in his hand In the former verse, John preached concerning the grace of Christ, that the Jews might yield themselves to him to be renewed: now he discourses of judgment, that he may strike despisers with terror. As there are always many hypocrites who proudly reject the grace of Christ offered to them, it is also necessary to denounce the judgment that awaits them. For this reason John here describes Christ as a severe judge against unbelievers. And this is an order which must be observed by us in teaching, that hypocrites may know, that their rejection of Christ will not go unpunished. They will thus be roused from their lethargy, and begin to dread him as an avenger, whom they despised as the author of salvation.

I have no doubt, that John intended also to show, what Christ accomplishes by means of his Gospel. The preaching of the Gospel, then, is the winnowing-fan Before the Lord sifts us, the whole world is involved in confusion, every one flatters himself, and the good are mixed with the bad in short, it is only necessary that the chaff be blown. But when Christ comes forward with his Gospels, — when he reproves the consciences and summons them to the tribunal of God, the chaff is sifted out, (286) which formerly occupied a great part of the thrashing-floor It is true that, in the case of individuals, the Gospel effects a separation from the chaff: but in this passage, John compares the reprobate to chaff, and believers to wheat The thrashing floor accordingly denotes — not the world, (as some people imagine,) but the Church: for we must attend to the class of persons whom John addresses. The mere title filled the Jews with pride, (287) but John tells them that it is foolish in them to be proud of it, because they hold but a temporary place in the Church of God, from which they are soon to be thrown out, like chaff from the thrashing-floor. In this way, he gives a rapid glance at the corrupt state in which the Church then was: for it was covered with husks, and straws, and other rubbish, but would soon be cleansed by the strong breeze of the Gospel. But how is Christ said to separate the chaff from the wheat, when he can find nothing in men but mere chaff? The answer is easy. The elect are formed into wheat, (288) and are then separated from the chaff, and collected into the granary

He will thoroughly cleanse his thrashing-floor This work was begun by Christ, and is daily going forward: but the full accomplishment of it will not be seen till the last day. This is the reason why John draws our attention to the subject. But let us remember, that believers even now enter, by hope, into the granary of God, in which they will actually have their everlasting abode; while the reprobate experience, in their convictions of guilt, the heat of that fire, the actual burning of which they will feel at the last day.

Many persons, I am aware, have entered into ingenious debates about the eternal fire, by which the wicked will be tormented after the judgment. But we may conclude from many passages of Scripture, that it is a metaphorical expression. For, if we must believe that it is real, or what they call material fire, we must also believe that the brimstone and the fan are material, both of them being mentioned by Isaiah.

“For Tophet is ordained of old; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it,” (Isaiah 30:33.)

We must explain the fire in the same manner as the worm, (Mark 9:44.) and if it is universally agreed that the worm is a metaphorical term, we must form the same opinion as to the fire. Let us lay aside the speculations, by which foolish men weary themselves to no purpose, and satisfy ourselves with believing, that these forms of speech denote, in a manner suited to our feeble capacity, a dreadful torment, which no man can now comprehend, and no language can express.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:12". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-3.html. 1840-57.