Verse 36. "Hath everlasting life" - He has already the seed of this life in his soul, having been made a partaker of the grace and spirit of him in whom he has believed. See on chap. iii. 8.
"He that believeth not" - Or, obeyeth not-apeiqwn: from a, negative, and peiqw, to persuade, or peiqomai, to obey-the want of the obedience of faith. The person who will not be persuaded, in consequence, does not believe; and, not having believed, he cannot obey.
"Shall not see life" - Shall never enjoy it: there being no way to the kingdom of God, but through Christ Jesus, Acts iv. 12. And none can expect to enter into this kingdom but those who obey him; for to such only he is the author of eternal salvation, Heb. v. 9.
"But the wrath of God abideth on him" - opgh, the displeasure of God. I should prefer displeasure to wrath, because the common acceptation of the latter (fury, rage) is not properly applicable here. Perhaps the original word is used in the same sense here as in Rom. ii. 5; iii. 5; xiii. 4, 5; Eph. v. 6; 1 Thess. i. 10; v. 9; where it evidently means punishment, which is the effect of irritated justice. Taken in this sense, we may consider the phrase as a Hebraism: punishment of God, i.e. the most heavy and awful of all punishments; such as sin deserves, and such as it becomes Divine justice to inflict. And this abideth on him-endures as long as his unbelief and disobedience remain! And how shall these be removed in a hell of fire! Reader! pray God that thou mayest never know what this continuing punishment means! THERE are many very important topics brought forward in this chapter; the principal of which have been already illustrated in the notes: the subject in the 29th verse is of great consequence, and requires some farther explanation.
The friend of the bridegroom is the person called among the Jews ybw shoshabin; and paranumfov, paranymph, among the Greeks. Several matters are found in the Jewish writings relative to these, which may serve to throw light, not only on the discourse of John, but also on other passages of Scripture.
1. There were generally two shoshabinim; one for the bride, another for the bridegroom: though in many instances we find the shoshabin of the bride only mentioned.
2. These officers were chosen out of the most intimate and particular friends of the parties:-a brother might be shoshabin or paranymph to his brother.
3. Though it is probable that such persons were not always found in ordinary weddings, yet they were never absent from the marriages of kings, princes, and persons of distinction.
4. The Jews believe that this was an ordinance appointed by God; and that he himself was shoshabin to Adam. But in Bereshith Rabba it is said, that God took the cup of blessing and blessed the first pair; and that Michael and Gabriel were shoshabins to Adam.
5. So important was this office esteemed among them, that it wag reckoned one of the indispensable works of charity: much depending on the proper discharge of it, as we shall afterwards find.
6. Those who were engaged in this office, were excused, for the time, from some of the severer duties of religion, because they had so much to do about the new-married pair, especially during the seven days of the marriage feast.
These shoshabinan had a threefold office to fulfill, viz. before, at, and after the marriage: of each of these in order.
I. Before the marriage: it was the business of the shoshabin: - 1. To procure a husband for the virgin, to guard her, and to bear testimony to her corporeal and mental endowments; and it was upon this testimony of this friend that the bridegroom chose his bride.
2. He was the internuncio between her and her spouse elect; carrying all messages from her to him, and from him to her: for before marriage young women were very strictly guarded at home with their parents or friends.
II. At the wedding: it was the business of the shoshabin, if necessary: - 1. To vindicate the character of the bride.
2. To sleep in an apartment contiguous to the new-married pair, to prevent the bride from receiving injury.
3. It was his office to see that neither the bride nor bridegroom should be imposed on by each other; and therefore it was his business to examine and exhibit the tokens of the bride's purity, according to the law, Deut. xxii. 13-21. Of their office, in this case, the rabbins thus speak: Olim in Judea paranymphi perscrutati sunt locum (lectum) sponsi et sponsae-ad scrutandum et officiose observandum ea, quae sponsi illa nocte fecerint: ne scilicet alter alteri dolo damnum inferat: ne sponsus sanguinem virginitatis agnoscat, illum celet aut tollat: et ne sponsa pannum sanguine tinctum secum inferat.
4. When they found that their friend had got a pure and chaste virgin, they exulted greatly; as their own character and the happiness of their friend, were at stake. To this the Baptist alludes, chap. iii. 29, This my joy is fulfilled.
5. They distributed gifts to the new-married couple, which, on their marriage, were repaid either by their friend, or by his father. The same thing is done at what are called the biddings, at marriages in Wales, to the present day.
6. They continued with the bride and bridegroom the seven days of the marriage, and contributed variously to the festivity and hilarity of the occasion.
III. After marriage.
1. The shoshabin was considered the patron and advocate of the wife, and in some sort her guardian, to which the apostle alludes, 2 Cor. xi. 2.
He was generally called in to compose any differences which might happen between her and her husband, and reconcile them when they had been at variance.
2. They appear to have had the keeping of the marriage contract, which in certain cases they tore; when they had reason to suspect infidelity on the part of the woman, by which the marriage was dissolved; and thus the suspected person was prevented from suffering capitally. Schoettgen produces a case like this from R. Bechai, in legem, fol. 114. "A king visited foreign parts, and left his queen with her maids: they raised an evil report on her, and the king purposed to put her to death. The shoshabin hearing of it, tore the matrimonial contract, that he might have it to say, the marriage is dissolved. The king, having investigated the case, found the queen innocent: she was immediately reconciled to her husband, and the shoshabin was directed to write another contract." 3. Schoettgen very modestly hazards a conjecture, that, if the husband had either abandoned or divorced his wife, the shoshabin took her, and acted to her as a brother-in-law; which is probable from the place to which he refers, Judg. xiv. 20: But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend: or, as both the Syriac and the Targum have it, she was given, hynybw shoshebeeneyah, to his paranymph; which is agreeable to the Alexandrian copy of the Septuagint, kai sunwkhsen h gunh samywn tw numfagwgw autou, ov hn etairov autou. And Samson's wife dwelt (or cohabited) with his paranymph, who had been his companion. The same reading is found in the Complutensian Polyglott.
From the preceding particulars, collated with the speech of John in chap. iii. 29, and with the words of St. Paul, 2 Cor. xi. 2, it is plain that Christ is represented as the BRIDEGROOM: the Church, or his genuine disciples, the BRIDE: the ministers of the Gospel, the µynybw SHOSHBEENIM, whose great and important duty it is to present to the bridegroom a pure, uncontaminated virgin, i.e. a Church without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, Eph. v. 27, alluding evidently to the office of the paranymph, on whom the bridegroom depended to procure him, for wife, a chaste and pure virgin. Hence that saying of St. Paul, who considered himself the paranymph to Jesus Christ: I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ, 2 Cor. xi. 2.
From all these particulars, we see that the office of the shoshabin, or paranymph, was a very important one among the Jews; and that, to it, some interesting references are made in the New Testament, the force and true meaning of which passages cannot be discerned without considering the character and office of the Jewish paranymph. See several good observations on this in Lightfoot's notes on chap. ii. 1, and Schoettgen, on chap. iii. 29.
As the Christian Church was now to take place of the Jewish, and the latter was about to be cast off because it was polluted, John, by using the simile of the bride, bridegroom, and paranymph, or friend of the bridegroom, points out, as it were prophetically, of what kind the Christian Church must be: it must be as holy and pure as an uncontaminated virgin, because it is to be the bride or spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ: and God honours the Baptist by making him the paranymph; and indeed his whole preaching and baptism were excellently calculated to produce this great effect, as be strongly proclaimed the necessity of a total reformation of heart and manners, among all classes of the people. See the notes on Matt. iii. 8-12, and on Luke iii. 10-14. He heard the bridegroom's voice - he faithfully communicated what he had received from heaven, chap. iii. 27, and he rejoiced exceedingly to find that he had got a people prepared for the Lord. The success of John's preaching greatly contributed to the success of that of Christ and his disciples. For this purpose he was endued with power from on high, and chosen to be the paranymph of the heavenly bridegroom.