The story of the man with the incurable epileptic son can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 9:17-18, Luke, chapter 9:38-40, and here in Matthew, but there are minor differences in all 3 accounts. Here it is the kneeling man, and not someone from the crowd who yells out to Jesus. He addressed Jesus as the Lord (καὶ λέγων Κύριε). He wanted Jesus to have mercy on his son (ἐλέησόν μου τὸν υἱόν), who was an epileptic (ὅτι σεληνιάζεται). Epileptics were often considered to be possessed by the devil. Even today, we are still unsure of the exact cause of epilepsy seizures. This man’s son suffered very badly (καὶ κακῶς ἔχει). He often fell into a fire (πολλάκις γὰρ πίπτει εἰς τὸ πῦρ) and into water (καὶ πολλάκις εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ). Then there is the kicker that he had asked Jesus’s disciples to cure his son (καὶ προσήνεγκα αὐτὸν τοῖς μαθηταῖς σου), but they were not able to cure him (καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν αὐτὸν θεραπεῦσαι). Why were the disciples of Jesus unable to cure his son?
This first verse is somewhat similar to Luke, chapter 13:6-9, but Luke has a parable about a bad fig tree that should be cut down. However, Matthew has this saying here exactly the same, word for word, what John the Baptist was preaching in chapter 3:10, about bearing good fruit. Every tree that was not bearing or producing good fruit should be cut down (πᾶν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται). Then they should be thrown into the fire (καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται). The second verse is like what Jesus said earlier in this chapter 7:16, when he told his disciples, via Matthew, that they would know or discern people by their fruits (ἄραγε ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς). Once again, Matthew has Jesus teaching exactly what John the Baptist had been teaching, probably from a common Q source.
Here is the first of the sayings from the so-called Q source. Both Matthew and Luke have the exact same pronouncement of John to the people, who presumed that they were saved by being the children of Abraham. Instead of just the Pharisees and Sadducees, Luke, chapter 3:7, had John address this to all the people coming to be baptized. This saying emphasized deeds, rather than relying on ancestry. They were to produce fruit that was worthy of repentance (ποιήσατε οὖν καρπὸν ἄξιον τῆς μετανοίας). They had to perform good deeds. They should not presume that because they have had Abraham as their father, as the privileged chosen ones (καὶ μὴ δόξητε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ), that all would go well for them. Then John pointedly said to them (λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν) that God had the power (ὅτι δύναται ὁ Θεὸς) to change stones and rocks into the children of Abraham (ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ). This was a Hebrew play on words translated into Greek. The axe was already lying at the foot of the trees, ready to go to work (ἤδη δὲ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται). Every tree that was not bearing or producing good fruit would be cut down (πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται). Then they would be thrown into the fire (καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται).
The day of Yahweh would be a fiery hot day. The wicked ones would burn up as if they were in an oven. All the arrogant and evildoers would be like stubble for the fire that would burn all of them up. Yahweh of hosts was going to leave these wicked people without roots or branches. Thus, the idea that God will come with fire has its biblical origins here.
The day of Yahweh would be difficult for everyone. Who could endure it? Who would be able to stand up when it happened. This day of Yahweh was going to be like the fire that refined precious metals. This day was going to be like being rubbed with fuller’s soap. A fuller was someone who made clothes white. He used some kind of alkali, like a lye soap or a modern-day bleach. This fuller soap was very strong.
Yahweh then had a conversation with the adversarial Satan. Yahweh was rebuking him. Yahweh had chosen Jerusalem. Yet he still was going to rebuke Satan. Then he asked if this man Joshua was a hot brand from the fire. He wanted to know if Joshua was the representative of the Israelites of Jerusalem or from Satan.
Yahweh, in this oracle via Zephaniah, told them to wait for the day when he would gather all the countries and kingdoms together to pour out all his indignation and anger. He said that the fire of his passion would consume the whole earth on this final judgment day.
The house of Jacob and the house of Joseph would be like a fire or a flame. They were going to turn Esau into a stubble, since these fiery flames would burn and consume them. Thus, there would be no survivors in the house of Esau or Edom. Yahweh, according to Obadiah, had spoken very clearly.
All the important people of the Babylonian kingdom were gathered together, including the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors. They all marveled that the 3 men had survived the fire unscathed. Their hair was not even singed and their clothes were not harmed. They did not even smell like smoke from the fire. King Nebuchadnezzar then praised them and their God. He blessed God, just as they had done in the fiery furnace. The king noted that an angel of God had saved the 3 of them. They had trusted in their God by disobeying the king’s command. Then they suffering the consequences. They gave up their bodies, rather than serve and worship another god. They were truly blessed by their God.
Originally, the king’s servants who threw the 3 men into the furnace had died because of the flames. Either they were still alive or there were other servants to keep the fire in the furnace going. Here those same servants or other servants were also burned because the flames were 49 cubits or over 75 feet high. They were adding naphtha, pitch, tow, and brushwood to the fire. Naphtha and pitch were like peat coal or a flammable tar base. Tow and brushwood were woods that easily burned.