"And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into his garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."—Matthew 3:10-12.
"Every tree that brigheth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."—Matthew 7:19.
"And also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into the garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable."— Luke 3:9-17.
John here announces a calamity about to come on the Jewish people. The trees were the Jewish people, the axe the cause of their overthrow. Such is the use of these terms in the Old Testament. See Isa. 40:24; Jer. 10:2-3: 21:6-8. We need only quote the latter passage to illustrate the Old Testament usage.
"For thus saith the Lord unto the king's house of Judah: Thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon: yet surely I will make thee a wilderness, and cities which are not inhabited. And I will prepare destroyers against thee, everyone with his weapons; and they shall cut down thy choice cedars, and cast them into the fire. And many nations shall pass by the city, and they shall say every man to his neighbor. Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great city?"
Ortrhodox commentators of all chuirches apply this language to this world.
"We risk little in referring this to the Roman power and armies, which, as an axe, most vehemently cut away the very existence of the Jewish polity and state."—Calmet.
"By the axe being now laid to the root of the tree, may fitly be under stood, first, the certainty of their desolation; and second, the nearness, in that the instrument of their destruction was already prepared, and brought close to them; the Romans that should ruin their city and nation, being already masters and rulers over them."—Lightfoot.
"It was customary with the prophets to represent the kingdoms, nations and individuals whose ruin they predicted, under the notion of forests and trees, doomed to be cut down. See Jer. 46:22, 23: Ezek. 31:3-11, 12. The Baptist employs the same metaphor. The Jewish nation is the tree, and the Romans the axe, which, by the just judgment of God, was speedily to cut it down."—Dr. A. Clarke.
"In this whole verse (the 12th,) the destruction of the Jewish state is expressed in the terms of husbandmen; and by the wheat being gathered into the garner, seems meant, that the believers in Jesus should not be involved in that calamity."—Bishop Pearce.
"The Romans are here termed God's fan, as in verse 10, they are called his axe, and in chapter 22:7, they are termed his troops or armies. 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 his 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 rebellious Jews, who would not come unto Christ that they might have life.'—Dr. Adam Clarke.
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