Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver
But it is not usual to refine with silver; not silver with silver, nor any other metal with it; that itself is what is refined; this therefore cannot be the sense of the words; wherefore they are, by others, differently rendered; by some, "not in silver" F4; not in a furnace of silver, as Aben Ezra; "but in a furnace of poverty", as the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Syriac versions render the next clause; and to the same sense the Targum; that is, I have tried, and purified, and refined thee, not by prosperity, but adversity; not with riches, which has its snares, temptations, trials, and exercises, but with poverty, which also has the same, or greater; and therefore Agur desired neither, ( Proverbs 30:8 Proverbs 30:9 ) . By others, "but not into silver" F5, so as to make silver of them, whereby all the labour was lost; but this is contrary to the following clause: by others, "not for the sake of silver" F6; so the Septuagint version; or for the gain of it, as the Arabic; which sense suggests that God was no gainer by their afflictions; what he did was freely, without money or price, and all the use and profit were to themselves; see ( Psalms 44:12 ) . Others think, that instead of "beth", "in", it should be "caph", "as", a note of similitude, and be rendered, "but not as silver" F7: but that the text is corrupted, and ought to be thus altered, there is no authority for it, and besides is contrary to several express passages of Scripture, ( Psalms 66:10 ) ( Zechariah 13:9 ) ( Malachi 3:3 ) . Rather therefore it should be rendered, "but not among silver" F8; along with that, which requires a fierce fire, is kept in the furnace or melting pot until all the dross is consumed: but if God was to afflict his people to such a degree, they would not be able to bear it; and if they were to continue under his afflicting hand till all their dross, sin, and corruption were removed, they would be utterly consumed; was he to contend, or be wroth for ever, the spirit would fail before him, and the souls that he has made; wherefore he does not afflict in this fierce and furious manner, but gently and gradually, in measure, in mercy, and not in strict justice, ( 1 Corinthians 10:13 ) ( Isaiah 27:8 Isaiah 27:9 ) ( 57:16 ) ( Jeremiah 10:23 ) ( 30:11 ) and by such gentle means he refines and brightens the graces of his people, tries and proves their principles and profession, and reforms their manners: I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction; such was the affliction of Israel in Egypt, called the iron furnace, ( Deuteronomy 4:20 ) and as God has his furnace to punish and consume his enemies, so he has his furnace to try, purge, and purify his people, ( Isaiah 31:9 ) , and which is a fiery one, and very grievous and distressing, especially when the wrath of God is apprehended in it, though fury is not in him: when he afflicts, it is all in love, and therefore is said to choose his people at such a time; which is to be understood not of their election to grace and glory; for that is not done in time, but in eternity, and is of them, not as transgressor, or as in the corrupt mass, but as in the pure mass of creatureship: rather of calling, which is the fruit, and effect, and evidence of election, and is expressed by choosing, ( John 15:19 ) ( 1 Corinthians 1:26 ) , and sometimes afflictions have been the means of it; or God has in them, or by them, brought them to himself, as he did Manasseh: but it seems best of all to understand it of the manifestation of election; God sometimes under afflictive providences appears to his people, and tells them that he has loved them with an everlasting love, and assures them that they are his chosen ones; he knows their souls, and owns them as his own in their adversities; besides, in afflicting them, he deals with them as his children and chosen ones; and because they are so, he takes the pains he does with them, which he does not with others, to purge and purify them, ( Psalms 31:7 ) ( Hebrews 12:7 ) . Moreover, he makes them choice and excellent persons by afflictions; they come forth out of them as choice silver and pure gold; they gain thereby many choice experiences of the love and grace of God, and of the truths of the Gospel, and of the promises of it: afflicted saints are commonly the choicest believers; they become thriving and flourishing Christians, humble and Holy Ones; more fit for their master's use, more weaned from the world, and wrought up for heaven and happiness. Some, as Jarchi and Aben Ezra, render the words, "I have chosen for thee the furnace of affliction" F9, or "thee for the furnace of affliction"; afflictions are chosen and appointed for the people of God, and they are chosen for and appointed unto affliction, ( Job 23:14 ) ( 1 Thessalonians 3:3 ) . Some, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi observe, by the change of a letter, read "bachantica", "have proved thee", or "tried thee", instead of "bachartica", "I have chosen thee"; but without any reason.