The harvest is coming (Lk 3:17-3:17)

“His winnowing fork

Is in his hand,

To clear

His threshing floors.

He will gather

The wheat

Into his granary.

But he will burn

The chaff

With an unquenchable fire.”

 

οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ διακαθᾶραι τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συναγαγεῖν τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ, τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ.

 

Luke has John give this menacing saying that can be found almost word for word in Matthew, chapter 3:12.  Thus, this might be a Q source saying, since it is not found in Mark or JohnLuke has God, the Lord, as a farmer at harvest time.  Luke had John say that this famer has his winnowing fork ready in his hand (οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ).  He was going to clear the threshing floors (διακαθᾶραι τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ).  He was going to gather his wheat into his barn or granary (καὶ συναγαγεῖν τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ).  He would then burn up the leftover chaff (τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει) with an everlasting or unquenchable fire (πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ).  This last phrase was a little different than that of Matthew.  Nevertheless, this was a clear warning against the useless ones, who like chaff, would burn in an unstoppable fire.

First narrative

This first narrative began with the baptism of Jesus and his preaching about the kingdom of heaven.  Once again, there are five sections.  First there was the preaching of John the Baptist with his message of repentance.  Matthew made a comparison of the prophet Isaiah with John, including a description of John.  People went to John at the Jordan River where he baptized people.  John was against the Pharisees and the Sadducees, since he felt that the children of Abraham should not be presumptuous.  However, there was a powerful one yet to come when the chaff would burn.

The second section was about the baptism of Jesus, as he came to John.  However, John did not want to baptize Jesus, but Jesus insisted.  At the baptism of Jesus, a voice declared that Jesus was the beloved son, as the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended on Jesus.  Thus, John the Baptist and Jesus remain linked together.

The third section was about the temptations of Jesus in the desert.  Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.  Then Jesus had his first temptation with his response.  After the second and third temptations and responses of Jesus, the devil left.

The fourth section had Jesus return to Galilee after the arrest of John the Baptist.  He went to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee.  Like the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist, Jesus taught a call for repentance.

The fifth and final section was the call of the first four disciples.  The first two brother fishermen called were Simon and Andrew, who became his first two disciples.  Then he called James and John, the sons of Zebedee.  Then Jesus taught and healed in Galilee, where he was a faith healer with great crowds.

 

Punishment for idolatry (Hos 13:2-13:3)

“Now they keep on sinning.

They make a cast image

For themselves.

They make idols

Of silver,

According to their understanding.

All of them are

The work of artisans.

‘Sacrifice to these!’

They say.

People are kissing calves!

Therefore,

They shall be

Like the morning mist,

Like the dew

That goes early away,

Like the chaff

That swirls

From the threshing floor,

Like smoke

From a window.”

Yahweh, via Hosea, had this main complaint against the northern Israelites that they kept on adoring these idol Baal images. They kept on sinning. They made their own silver idols. They made their own images without any understanding, clearly the work of artisans. When they were finished, they wanted the people to sacrifice to these idols. They wanted people to kiss these idol calves. Yahweh was going to punish them. They were going to become like the morning mist that disappears during the day. They were going to be like chaff that blows in the wind from the threshing floor. They were going to be like smoke from a window. They would disappear before their very own eyes.

Yahweh is upset (Isa 33:10-33:12)

“‘Now I will arise.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Now I will lift myself up.

Now I will be exalted.

You conceive chaff!

You bring forth stubble!

Your breath is a fire

That will consume you.

The people will be

As if burned to lime,

Like thorns cut down,

That are burned in the fire.’”

Isaiah has Yahweh speak directly to everyone. Yahweh was going to rise up. He was going to lift himself up. He wanted to be exalted and acknowledged. He did not like what they were bringing to him, since he considered it only chaff and stubble, like useless left over things. Their breath was like a fire that would consume them. It would burn them as if they were lime. They would be like cut down like thorn bushes burning in a fire.

The great sea thunder to come (Isa 17:12-17:14)

“O the thunder of many people!

They thunder

Like the thundering of the sea!

O the roar of nations!

They roar

Like the roaring of mighty waters!

The nations roar

Like the roaring of many waters.

But he will rebuke them.

They will flee far away.

They will be chased

Like chaff on the mountains

Before the wind.

They will be chased

Like whirling dust

Before the storm.

At evening time,

Behold terror!

Before morning,

They are no more.

This is the fate

Of those who despoil us.

This is the lot

Of those who plunder us.”

Here Isaiah warns of a coming thundering water deluge. Many people will come like thunder. They will roar like roaring mighty waters of the sea. However, Yahweh will rebuke them. They will flee like chaff in front of a mountain wind or like whirling dust before a storm. At night, they will say that terror is coming. But by morning, they will be gone. They will be no more since those who wanted to plunder and destroy them will disappear. This could be an allusion to the Assyrians attempt to capture Jerusalem around 701 BCE as told in 2 Kings, chapters 18-19.

There is no hope for the ungodly (Wis 5:14-5:14)

“Because the hope of the ungodly is

Like thistledown

Carried by the wind.

The hope of the ungodly is

Like a light frost

Driven away by a storm.

It is dispersed

Like smoke before the wind.

It passes

Like the remembrance of a guest

Who stays but a day.”

Here we have a description of the hope of the ungodly (ἐλπὶς ἀσεβοῦς) that is like chaff or thistle carried away by the wind. It is like a light frost driven away by a storm. It is like smoke before the winds come. It is like a visitor who only stays one day. Here today, gone tomorrow, such is the hope of the ungodly.

Defeat our current enemies (Ps 83:13-83:18)

“O my God!

Make them like whirling dust!

Make them like chaff before the wind.

As fire consumes the forest,

As the flame sets the mountains ablaze,

So pursue them with your tempest!

Terrify them with your hurricane!

Fill their faces with shame!

Thus they may seek your name.

Yahweh!

Let them be put to shame!

Let them be dismayed forever!

Let them perish in disgrace!

Let them know that you alone,

Whose name is Yahweh,

Are the Most High over all the earth.”

This psalm ends with a call for Yahweh to do as he had done in the past. Very specifically this psalmist wants Yahweh to make all the Israelite enemies like whirling dust or chaff before the wind. He wanted them burned like a forest or mountain fire. He wanted them pursued and terrified like in a hurricane. They were to be filled with shame. They were to die in disgrace. They were to know that there was only one God, Yahweh, who ruled the earth. In a certain sense, this prayer was a curse to the present and traditional enemies of Israel.

The angel of Yahweh and David’s enemies (Ps 35:4-35:6)

“Let them be put to shame!                         

Let them be put to dishonor!

All who seek after my life,

Let them be turned back!

Let them be confounded!

All who devise evil against me,

Let them be like chaff before the wind!

Let the angel of Yahweh drive them on!

Let their way be dark!

Let their way be slippery!

Let the angel of Yahweh pursue them!”

David wanted all those who were after his life and devising evil against him be put to shame, dishonored, turned back, and confounded. He wanted them to be chaff in the wind. He wanted the angel of Yahweh to drive them into darkness on a slippery slope. He wanted the angel of Yahweh to pursue them. He wanted bad things to happen to his enemies. He wanted Yahweh or his angel to seek vengeance for him.

Do the wicked really suffer? (Job 21:17-21:26)

“How often is the lamp of the wicked put out?

How often does calamity come upon them?

How often does God distribute pains in his anger?

How often are they like straw before the wind?

How often are they like chaff that the storm carries away?

You say.

‘God stores up their iniquity for their children.

Let it be paid back to them.

Thus they may know it.

Let their own eyes see their destruction.

Let them drink of the wrath of the Almighty Shaddai.’

What do they care for their household after them?

When the number of their months is cut off?

Will any teach God knowledge?

He judges those that are on high.

One dies in full prosperity.

They are at ease and secure.

Their loins are full of milk.

The marrow of their bones is moist.

Another dies in bitterness of soul.

They have never tasted of good.

They lie down alike in the dust.

The worms cover them.”

Job wondered whether the wicked were really punished at all. The wicked people seem to be surviving pretty well. Where is their pain and calamity? They do not seem to be like chaff or straw in the wind. As for their children getting the punishment, what do they care about that? What do they care about their inheritance after they have died? They seem to die at ease and secure with their prosperity. What else could you ask for? They die like everyone else. Dust and worms will cover them up whether they were prosperous or not, whether they were wicked or not. Where is God’s punishment to them since they do not seem to care or know about God?