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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Romans 9



Other Authors

9. Israel’s rejection of the Gospel (a great grief and incessant pain to S. Paul and (Romans 9:4) a great problem in the economy of redemption), (Romans 9:6) is not due to a failure of GOD’S word, for the condition of acceptance was not a carnal descent but a spiritual, and depended upon GOD’S selection of men for special purposes. (Romans 9:14) This selection was righteous, because it was directed to the execution of His purpose of mercy and was the effect of mercy, by revealing to men His power and character, and (Romans 9:19) acted in accordance with qualities exhibited by men, in their response, as creatures, to the purpose of their creation, shown in the case of Israel, (Romans 9:24) as diagnosed by the prophets, (Romans 9:30) partly succeeding and partly failing to grasp the true nature of righteousness and the means of its attainment.

Verse 1

1. ἀλήθειαν, κ.τ.λ. Cf. 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Corinthians 11:31; 2 Corinthians 7:14; 2 Corinthians 12:6; Galatians 1:20 : in all cases a strong assertion of his personal truthfulness, in a statement which would be challenged. Here his deep personal interest in Israel is asserted; his championship of the Gentiles had no doubt been interpreted as hostility to Jews.

ἐν Χριστῷ = as a Christian; cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 12:19; Philemon 1:8. In this anarthrous and simple form the phrase is confined to S. Paul (all except 2 Thes. and Pastorals) and 1 Pet.; and seems simply to mark the Christian position.

συνμαρτυρούσης. Romans 2:15, Romans 8:16 only. In Romans 2:15 and here the συν is perhaps simply perfective; cf. Moulton, p. 113. Otherwise the conscious reflection is cited as a confirming witness to the uttered statement.

τῆς συνειδήσεώς μου. Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:11. = all that I know of myself; cf. Romans 2:15 n.

ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 12:3. Not merely ‘in my spirit as consecrated,’ but ‘in the light of or under the control of the Holy Spirit.’ |[172] ἐν Χριστῷ. 1 Corinthians 12:3 is decisive for this meaning.

Verses 1-33

E. Romans 9:1 to Romans 11:36. THE REJECTION OF THE GOSPEL BY ISRAEL

The theme of Romans 1:16-17 has been worked out; it has been shown that the Gospel is a power of GOD unto salvation for them that believe, a power needed by Gentile and Jew alike, guaranteed on condition of faith and in response to faith by the love of GOD, and adequate to man’s needs as shown in history and in individual experience; and a brief description has been given of the actual state of the Christian in Christ and of the certainty and splendour of his hope, resting upon the love of GOD. Naturally at this point the question of the Jews arises: they were the typical instance of a people brought into close and peculiar relation to GOD, and they therefore afford a crucial case of GOD’S dealings with such. How then did it come to pass that they rejected the Gospel? What is their present state? their future destiny? and how does this affect Christians? The answer is found in the conditions under which GOD selects men for the execution of His purposes. It is important to bear in mind that the selection throughout is regarded as having reference not to the final salvation of persons but to the execution of the purpose of GOD. Underlying the whole section is the special object of S. Paul to justify himself in preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Verse 2

2. ἀδιάλειπτος. 2 Timothy 1:3 only. Adv. Romans 1:9 and 1 Thes. [3] only.

Verse 3

3. ηὐχόμην. Cf. Acts 25:22; Galatians 4:20; Philemon 1:13. Here of an impracticable wish, ‘I could have prayed if it had been possible’; Blass, p. 207. Contrast Acts 26:29.

ἀνάθεμα, lit. a thing set up in a temple and so destroyed as far as use by man goes (LXX[173], Leviticus 27:28); then devoted to destruction (Deuteronomy 13:15), cursed (LXX[174] Joshua 7 alibi); cf. Nägeli, p. 49. Followed by ἀπὸ only here; cf. Romans 7:2, κατήργηται ἀπὸ; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9.

αὐτὸς ἐγὼ. Romans 7:25, Romans 15:14; 2 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 12:13. ? = instead of them.

ἀπὸ τοῦ χριστοῦ = so as to lose all that the Messiah means to a Jew and to a Christian. For ὁ χρ. cf. Romans 7:4, Romans 8:35, Romans 9:5. The reference when the article is present (except perhaps where it is due to an article with a governing word) seems always to be to the office of Messiah as exhibited and interpreted in Jesus.

ὑπὲρκατὰ σάρκα, to distinguish them from the spiritual family of Christ: the Church is now the true Israel. τ. σ. μ. κ. σ. explains τ. . μ.

Verse 4

4. οἵτινες. This form of the relative marks the characteristic which is the occasion of his feeling; cf. Moulton, p. 91 f.; Blass, 172; Hort, 1 Peter 2:1 f. ‘Never absolutely convertible with δς,’ M., ‘seeing that they are.’

εἰσιν, they still are in spite of what has happened.

Ἰσραηλεῖται, the name which marks the religious privilege of the nation; cf. John 1:48; below Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22 : and for Ἰσραὴλ cf. below 6; 1 Corinthians 10:18; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:12; closely connected with the expectation of the Messiah and His kingdom, Acts 1:6. The following enumeration gives the details which are all involved in this name, and emphasises the paradox of the rejection of the Gospel by a people so prepared.

ἡ υἱοθεσία. Not LXX[176] or class, but common in inscriptions; cf. Deissmann, B. S. II. p. 66. In N.T. Rom., Gal. [1], Eph. [1] only. This is the only place in which it refers to the sonship of Israel. Was it current among the Jews? cf. Exodus 4:22; Hart, Ecclus. p. 302 f.

η δόξα. Cf. Luke 2:32; 2 Corinthians 3:7 f. The reference is to the Shechinah, the visible sign of the presence of GOD among His people.

αἱ διαθῆκαι. The plural marks the successive repetitions and ratifications of the covenant from Abraham to Moses; cf. Acts 3:25; Luke 1:72; for the plural Ephesians 2:12.

ἡ νομοθεσία, the legislation—the positive revelation of GOD’S will which distinguished Israel from all other nations. Only here in N.T. and LXX[177] canon: 2 Maccabees 6:23; 4 Maccabees 5:35.

ἡ λατρεία, the ordered services of the Temple; cf. Hebrews 9:1; Hebrews 9:6.

αἱ ἐπαγγελίαι, primarily of the promises made to Abraham; of. Galatians 3:16, Hebrews 7:6, but including the whole prophetic revelation as touching the Messiah, cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20; Acts 13:32 : Hart, Ecclus. p. 306.

Verse 5

5. οἱ πατέρες. Cf. Romans 11:28, Romans 15:8; 1 Corinthians 10:1; Hebrews 1:1; Hebrews 8:9 (qu.); Luke 11:47; John 6:49; Acts 13:32. On the Jewish insistence on the merits of the fathers cf. S. H., p. 330. The term includes the whole ancestry of Israel, not merely the Patriarchs.

ἐξ ὧν, with τὸ κατὰ σάρκα. ὁ χρ. the Messiah. τὸ κ. ς.; as regards merely human origin, cf. Romans 1:3; Romans cf.1 Clem. xxxii. 2 (F. C. Burkitt, J. T. S., v. p. 455). On the constr. cf. Blass, p. 94, cf[178], Hebrews 2:17; below Romans 12:18, Romans 15:17 : “the accus. of reference has already become an adverbial accus.”

ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων, κ.τ.λ. I adopt the stopping of W. H. margin (σάρκα· ὁ ὢν κ.τ.λ.). This clause is an ascription of blessing to GOD, in His character as supreme ruler of all things, the author and director of all the dispensations of His Providence, tr. ‘He who is over all, even GOD, is blessed for ever, Amen.’ See Add. Note, p. 219.


F. Romans 9:5

ὁ ὣ ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀμήν

The insertion of the participle throws emphasis on ἐπὶ πάντων and shows that it must be taken as subject and θεὸς as in apposition. Otherwise we should expect ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων θεός. ἐπὶ πάντων implies not mere superiority (which seems never to be indicated by ἐπὶ with gen.) but authority and government, = He who is supreme governor of all things, a periphrasis for κύριος. πάντων is probably neuter and refers to the whole process, in sum and in detail, of the ordered government and dispensations of the ages. The only other occurrence of ἐπὶ πάντων in N.T. is in Ephesians 4:6. The question, therefore, whether the phrase can be applied to ὁ χριστός depends not on any strict parallel, but on the analogy of the use of κύριος: for this cf. Romans 10:9 with 12; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:10-11; and esp. 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:5; and generally the application of κύριος, with its O.T. associations, to Christ; see Hort, 1 Pet. p. 30 f. It still remains open to question whether S. Paul would name, as an attribute of the Christ, the management of the dispensations; Hebrews 1:3 (φέρων κ.τ.λ.) is only partly paralleled by Colossians 1:17; and S. Paul himself seems to reserve this function of providential government to GOD as creator. The term κύριος seems to be applied to Christ rather as sovereign over the present dispensation, than as the director of all the dispensations, the Son being the agent of the operations of the Father: cf. Romans 16:25-26. It was probably some such consideration as this that led Hort to say (Appendix, ad loc[348]) that the separation of this clause from ὁ χρ. τ. κ. σ. “alone seems adequate to account for the whole of the language employed.” Neither S. H. nor Giff. elucidate this point. The question is not whether the term θεὸς as predicate or the verbal εὐλογητὸς would be used of Christ by S. Paul (there is strong evidence for an affirmative answer); but whether he would assign to Him this function of deity. It is to be observed that it is generally agreed that the form of the phrase ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων throws the stress exactly on this function. These considerations point to a separation of this clause from the preceding; cf. 1 Clem. xxxii. 2.

Two questions remain: [1] is the insertion of the clause, if separated from the preceding, natural in the context? [2] does the run of the whole sentence allow of such separation?

As regards [1] the immediate context deals with GOD’s dispensation to and through Israel suggested by the strange paradox that the dispensation of the Gospel, expounded in the preceding chapters and in full climax in ch. 8, finds Israel alien. That the Gospel should have been prepared for in Israel, and that in spite of Israel’s opposition the Gospel should now be in full course in its comprehensive universality, are both the results of GOD’s government or management of the dispensations: it is not unnatural that when the climax of the description of Israel’s past has been reached, while the climax of ch. 8 is still in mind, S. Paul should turn to bless Him who directs and orders all, GOD worthy to be blessed for ever. The emphatic position and phrasing of ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων suits the turn of thought exactly. Nor is this assumption out of place here, in view of the great sorrow spoken of in Romans 9:2 (as Giff.): that sorrow does not even for a moment suspend S. Paul’s trust in the just and merciful government of GOD.

[2] It is no doubt true that the change of subject is abrupt: but it is of the very nature of an interjectional ascription to be abrupt: and the formal abruptness is compensated by the naturalness of the interjection.

Two further points require to be noticed. [1] It is argued that in ascriptions of blessing εὐλογητὸς always comes first in the sentence. But no order of words is so fixed that it cannot be changed for emphasis’ sake: and the emphasis on ὁ ὢ ἐπὶ πάντων is amply sufficient to account for the order here; cf. Psalms 67 [68]:2 LX[349]. [2] It is argued that τὸ κατὰ σάρκα. requires the statement of the other side of the nature of the Christ. But this argument ignores the reason for the mention of the Christ here at all, namely, to complete the enumeration of the privileges of Israel.

On the whole I conclude that the most natural interpretation is to place the stronger stop after σάρκα and to translate ‘He that governs all, even GOD, be blessed for ever. Amen.’

It is perhaps necessary to observe that this comment is not influenced by the consideration that S. Paul was not likely to apply the term θεὸς predicatively to Christ. The possibility of his doing so ought not to be denied in view of 2 Thessalonians 1:12, Philippians 2:6, 2 Corinthians 13:13, and other passages in which the Father and the Son are coordinated.

Prof. Burkitt (J. T. S. v. p. 451 ff.) argues that the ἀμὴν marks the clause as an ascription of blessing to GOD, not a description of nature. The ascription is here made, as an appeal for GOD’s witness to the truth and sincerity of his statement in 1–4; cf. Romans 1:25; 2 Corinthians 11:31. He takes ὁ ὢν (cf. Exodus 3:14-15; Revelation 1:4) as representing the ‘Name of the Holy One,’ the mere utterance of which with the necessarily accompanying benediction is an appeal to the final court of truth. So he connects “Romans 9:1; Romans 9:5 b, οὐ ψεύδομαιὁ ὤν, ἐπὶ πάντων θεός, εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ἀμήν: I lie not. The Eternal (Blessed is His Name!) I call Him to witness.” While this argument seems to me conclusive as to the main connexion and intention of the clause, and the reference in ὁ ὢν to Exodus seems very probable, I still feel that the context and the Greek order point to connecting ἐπὶ πάντων with ὁ ὢν, nor does this seem inconsistent with such a reference. If ἐπὶ πάντων had been meant as epithet to θεὸς, I should have expected the avoidance of ambiguity by a change of order—θεὸς ἐπὶ πάντων.

A conjectural emendation of the text (ὧν ὁ for ὁ ὢν) has occurred to commentators from time to time. Jonas Schlicting in his commentary on the Romans [1656] mentions it, as likely to suggest itself, and points out the suitability of the climax, but rejects it as giving an unscriptural phrase. John Taylor (of Norwich, 1754) makes the same suggestion and justifies it as giving a proper climax. Wetstein refers to these and others, without comment. Bentley (Crit. Sacr. ed. Ellis, p. 30) mentions it, apparently with favour. John Weiss (op. cit[350] p. 238) adopts it, referring to Wrede, Lic. Disp., a work which I have not seen. Hart, J. T. S. xi. p. 36 n., suggests the same emendation.

Mr Hart supports the emendation, in a letter to me, as follows: “St Paul is writing here if anywhere as a Jew, and the relation of Israel to the GOD of Jacob forms the proper climax: Christian scribes altered the text because in their view that privilege was forfeited and had lapsed to the Church. I think this passage from Philo clinches the matter—de praemiis § 123 (M. ii. p. 428) (Leviticus 26:12) τούτου καλεῖται θεὸς ἰδίως ὁ τῶν συμπάντων θεὸς, καὶ λαὸς ἐξαιρετὸς πάλιν οὗτος οὐ τῶν κατὰ μέρος ἀρχόντων ἀλλὰ τοῦ ἑνὸς καὶ πρὸς ἀλήθειαν ἄρχοντος, ἁγίου ἅγιος.—So St Paul says ‘to whom belongs the supreme GOD, blessed be He for ever and ever, Amen.’ But his reporters did not sympathise and desiderated an antithesis to κατὰ σάρκα, having identified the (abstract) Messiah with our Lord.”

It will be seen that here again the justification of the conjecture depends on the propriety of the climax. The quotation from Philo does not, I think, carry us far. He is there emphasising the establishment of a personal relation between the GOD of all men and the individual saint, and he calls this single person a λαὸς ἐξαιρετός. Such language could of course be used by any Jew or Christian. We have a parallel in Hebrews 11:16 : οὐκ ἐπαισχύνεται ὁ θεὸς θεὸς ἐπικαλεῖσθαι αὐτῶν, ἡτοίμασεν γὰρ αὐτοῖς πόλιν. But the point need not be laboured. Against this suggestion the following points may be urged:—[1] It ignores the effect of the ἀμήν in making the whole clause an ascription: see above. [2] The question is raised whether the idea embodied in the term ‘The GOD of Israel’ is naturally to be expected as the climax of the enumeration here made. It may be premised that that term is never used by S. Paul in his Epistles, or indeed in the N. T. except in Matthew 15:31, Luke 16:18, Acts 13:17. It does not occur, either explicitly or implicitly, in the other enumerations of the privileges of Israel (Romans 2:17; Romans 3:3, 2 Corinthians 11:22). Further, in this Epistle the whole argument has been based on the universal relation of GOD to man; and the very phrase ἐξ ὧν ὁ χριστὸς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα seems to exclude the divine relation of the Christ, and a fortiori the relation of man to GOD, from the list of the special privileges of Israel. Finally, the phrase ἐπὶ πάντων (see above), as referring directly to the governing and dispensing operations of GOD gives, almost necessarily, a wider range of reference than to the relations to Israel alone.

Verse 6

6. οὐχ οἷονὅτι. A unique combination: cf. Field, ad loc[180] He decides that οὐχ οἶον is in vulgar use a strong negative = nequaquam, ne minimum: ‘It is by no means the fact that.…’

δὲ contrasts with the implicit thought of Romans 9:4-5 : this wonderful dispensation has not ended in failure on GOD’S part.

ἐκπέπτωκεν. Absolute use not common. Here = to fail of its purpose (cf. Polyb. IV. 82. 8); cf. Sirach 31:7, slightly different.

ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ = the utterance of the purpose of GOD, as given in promises and covenants to Israel; cf. John 10:35 : a rare, perhaps unique (S. H.), use in N.T.; for the thought cf. Romans 4:14 = Galatians 3:17.

οὐ γὰρ πάντες κ.τ.λ., blood relationship does not of itself admit to the spiritual position.

Verses 6-13

6–13. The present condition of Israel has not been explicitly stated in Romans 9:1-5, but implied in S. Paul’s wish that he might have been ἀνάθεμα ἀπὸ τοῦ χριστοῦ for them. They are ἀνάθεμα ἀπὸ τοῦ χριστοῦ in spite of all their privileges: yet not all; and the fact that some have accepted the Gospel shows that the Word of GOD, the basis of their call and privilege, has not utterly failed; indeed that Word itself drew distinctions even within the seed of Abraham, between the descent of nature and the descent of promise or spirit; and again in the children of Isaac between the one chosen of GOD for His purposes and the one not chosen.

In this section, then, the first line of argument is stated: the condition of Israel depends solely on GOD’S choice for the execution of His purpose.

Verse 7

7. οὐδ' ὅτι κ.τ.λ., nor does descent of flesh make children, in the sense of the promise, as witness Ishmael’s case; cf. John 8:33 f.

σπέρμα, sc. κατὰ σάρκα.; cf. 11 τέκνα, sc. ἐπαγγελίας or τοῦ θεοῦ. ἀλλ' Ἐν Ἰς., Genesis 21:12.

Verse 8

8. τοῦτ' ἔστιν κ.τ.λ., the principle of selection is seen at work in the choice of lines and persons for the execution of GOD’S purpose: the starting point is GOD’S promise to Abraham, including both the birth of a son and the blessing of the Gentiles.

λογίζεται εἰς σπέρμα, are reckoned as seed, sc. of Abraham for the purposes of the promise: n. σπέρμα is applied here more narrowly than in 7, as the quotation in that verse suggests.

Verse 9

9. ἐπαγγελίας κ.τ.λ. This utterance, which was directly connected with the blessing (Genesis 28:10), is a matter of promise.

Verse 10

10. οὐ μόνον δέ, κ.τ.λ. The same principle is seen in the selection of one of two sons, born at one birth of one father and mother, even before birth or any act on their part.

Verse 11

11. ἵνα ἡ κατ' ἐκλογὴν κ.τ.λ. The purpose of GOD (the execution of His promise to bless the Gentiles) is carried out by a principle of selection, not as a matter of favour bestowed on merit but as a choice of fit instruments for attaining the end. πρόθεσις, cf. Romans 8:28, here primarily of the purpose indicated in the promise. ἐκλογή, cf. Hebrews 9:15 (below Romans 9:21), selection: GOD selects nations and individuals not primarily for their own interest, but for work to be done for Him: the ἐκλογὴ becomes definite in a ‘call,’ κλῆσις; both are subservient to His purpose; men and nations are His σκεύη; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10 : infra Romans 11:5; Hort, 1 Peter 1:1.

οὐκ ἐξ ἕργων κ.τ.λ., with ἐρρέθη. The word which determined their position was not the result of works already done by them by way of reward, but the result of GOD’S call to service.

Verse 12

12. ὁ μείζων κ.τ.λ., Genesis 25:23, where it is the nations represented by their founders rather than or at least as much as the founders themselves that are under consideration: throughout S. Paul is speaking of GOD’S purpose as dealing with nations; cf. S. H. ad lo[181].

Verse 13

13., Malachi 1:2, where the words describe the several fates of Israel and Edom, the disappearance of the latter and the desolation of their land being contrasted with the wideness of GOD’S love for Israel. That is to say, history confirms the selection: Israel, with all its faults, served GOD’S purpose; Edom did not.

The object, then, of these references is to show the character and object of the call of GOD—it is a choice of instruments for a definite purpose; and the call has not failed because of the failure of individuals, provided that there are still real instruments of His purpose doing His service (Romans 9:21), and forming a remnant through which His work is carried on (27, Romans 11:5). That S. Paul was combating an actual position—of the irreversible validity of the call of. Israel after the flesh—is shown by S. H. p. 249. But the question arises as to the justice of GOD in this discrimination; and this question is handled in the next section.

καθάπερ γέγραπται. The words of the prophet are quoted to show that the actual course of history bore out the statement made to Rebecca. Jacob and his descendants had proved to be objects of GOD’S love, Esau and his descendants, the Edomites, objects of GOD’S hate. Malachi, as Genesis, refers to the nations.

ἐμίσησα. Only here in N.T., and here as a quotation, is the verb used to describe GOD’S attitude to a man or men; cf. Hebrews 1:9; Revelation 2:6. S. Paul uses the natural language of the Jew, in enforcing an argument based upon Jewish conceptions. It is essentially not Christian language. The truth underlying it is the necessary hatefulness of the character and conduct embodied in the history of Edom.

Verse 14

14. τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; introduces a difficulty, as in Romans 6:1.

μὴ …; Can there be unrighteousness in GOD? is this choice of persons mere προσωπολημψία? (Romans 2:11)? Cf. Romans 3:5, where the problem here worked out is just stated.

παρὰ τῷ θεῷ. Cf. Hort, S. James 1:17 = in GOD παρὰ being used instead of ἐν from an instinct of reverence; cf. Mark 10:27; Romans 2:11.

μὴ γένοιτο. Cf. Romans 3:4, Romans 6:1.

Verses 14-33

14–33. This choice of GOD is not unjust, because it flows from His Mercy, not from man’s disposition or efforts. [17] Pharaoh himself was raised up to give an instance of GOD’S power and to make wide proclamation of His Name: GOD’S will works whether in mercy or in hardening. [19] If you ask what room is there for moral blame, seeing that GOD’S will is irresistible? I reply, that man has no right to protest against GOD the conditions of his nature: any more than the vessel can quarrel with the maker for the uses to which it is destined. [22] It was GOD’S will to make plain the conditions which should incur His wrath and to bring home to man’s knowledge His power; in doing so He bore long with those who served only to exhibit wrath and were formed by character only for destruction, His patience serving to reveal the great stores of revelation of Himself opened out to such as served to exhibit His mercy, formed and prepared for such revelation, men called now in our persons not only from Jews but also from Gentiles. [25] This action of GOD’S will is witnessed by the prophets both as regards the call of Gentiles [27] and as regards the call of only a remnant of Israel, representing the true Israel. [30] What then is the conclusion? That the righteousness (which is the purpose of GOD for man) is found among Gentiles, who for so long made no effort to attain it, while Israel missed even the law of righteousness at which they aimed. [32] And the reason is, that they neglected the one condition of attainment, namely faith: stumbling on the very rock of which the prophet spoke.

S. Paul is here defending his position, that the true people of GOD, the true Israel, now consists of a remnant of Israel and an incoming of Gentiles, both accepted on the ground of faith, against the objection that this involves an incredible rejection of the main stock of Israel: he shows how such an event was definitely contemplated by the prophets (25–33), and justifies it by the consideration of GOD’S use of man for the execution of His purpose. Man is made for such use; and according to his character he serves that use, either negatively by showing the awful consequences of GOD’S wrath upon sin (cf. Romans 1:17 f.), and an instance of His power, or positively by showing the operation of GOD’S loving mercy and self-revelation. The responsibility of man is maintained because he is a living instrument, who has the choice of faith or rebellion. He has no right to quarrel with the necessity which imposes this choice or the consequences which follow it; they are the conditions of his being a man at all. The clue to the meaning is to be found in the fact that the dominant thought is not that of man’s personal destiny and final salvation or the contrary, but the thought of GOD’S call to service, and the relation of man to GOD in the execution of that service. The call of man to take part in this work of GOD is a crowning instance of GOD’S mercy to man. The work has to be done; but it may be done either with man’s cooperation or against his will. The story of man is in the first case a revelation of GOD’S mercy, in selecting men for certain uses, in the second a revelation of GOD’S wrath, in visiting the failure to execute His purpose. The clue to the nature of man’s responsibility is given in Romans 9:32. See Add. Note, p. 222.

Verse 15

15. τῷ ΄ωυσεῖ γὰρ κ.τ.λ = LXX[182], Exodus 33:19. In the original the force lies in the assertion of effective mercy. S. Paul applies it as asserting selective mercy (cf. 18). The mercy of GOD depends upon His Will. But how does this exclude the charge of unrighteousness, as γὰρ implies that it does? It can only do so, on the unexpressed assumption that GOD’S Will is essentially and necessarily righteous; cf. Romans 3:6. But this is the very point raised by the objector: and we should have expected it to be expressed in the most explicit form. The context however shows that it is not the general mercy of GOD ‘over all His works’ which is here being considered, but His mercy in selecting human instruments for carrying out His work of redemption; ἔλεος is closely connected with χάρις (cf. Hort, 1 Pet. p. 30). Cf. Romans 11:30 f.

Verse 16

16. ἄρα οὖν. It follows therefore on a consideration of the whole circumstances—a combination very frequent in Rom. [8] and once each in Gal., Ephesians , 1 and 2 Thes. only.

οὐ τοῦ θέλοντος κ.τ.λ. Sc. ἡ ἐκλογή ἐστιν: the choice for the particular service depends not on man’s will or effort, but on GOD’S mercy.

τρέχειν. Metaph. only in S. Paul and Hebrews 12:1. Cf. περιπατεῖν.

Verse 17

17. λέγει γὰρ κ.τ.λ. Exodus 9:16 (LXX[183] ἕνεκεν τούτου διετηρήθης ἵναἰσχύν …): apparently an independent translation of the Hebrew. εἰς τοῦτο points forward to ὅπως: ἐξήγειρα, “used of GOD calling up the actors on the stage of history; cf. Habakkuk 1:6; Zechariah 11:16; Jeremiah 27:21,” S. H. So Lipsius, Zahn, alibi Cf. ἀνέστησεν, Acts 9:41. Giff. takes ἐξηγ. = ‘I raised thee from thy sickness.’ Pharaoh is cited as an unwilling instrument of GOD’S mercy: in his case and person the purposes of GOD’S mercy and the revelation of His character (ὄνομα.) are secured, although the process involves for him a ‘hardening’: that is due to his attitude towards GOD’S purpose.

Verse 18

18. σκληρύνει. Cf. Exodus 7:3; Exodus 7:22 alibi: the only place in N.T. where the hardening is directly attributed to GOD. Cf. Acts 19:9; Hebrews 3:8 alibi The ‘hardening,’ which is immediately the result of man’s own attitude, is so by reason of the conditions imposed in creation on man’s nature and consequently is an act of GOD cf. Romans 1:24, Romans 11:8.

Verse 19

19. ἐρεῖς μοι οὖν κ.τ.λ. You will say to me, In this case what room is still left for faultfinding? If men are thus appointed to be instruments of GOD’S use whether for mercy or hardening, how can they be responsible? how can GOD find fault? The answer is, on the one hand, that the question cannot be properly raised by man as against GOD, because man has to accept the conditions of his creation, and on the other hand that the revelation of GOD’S wrath is itself turned by the patience of GOD into a revelation of mercy. The answer does not seem to us sufficient, for it still leaves the fundamental point unsolved—why are some men to be the subjects of the revelation of wrath in order that the mercy may be revealed in others? If moral responsibility is to be maintained, the cause of this difference must be seen to lie in the man himself. But this is not brought out until we get to Romans 9:31 where the cause of Israel’s failure is named as want of faith. Can we use this particular instance to interpret the whole argument? If we are meant to, it is strange that it should be left so late, and unapplied to the general problem. The reason for this perhaps is that S. Paul’s mind is really absorbed in the particular problem of Israel, and does not attempt to elucidate, perhaps did not feel the weight of, the general problem. See Add. Note, p. 222.

τῷ γὰρ βουλήματι κ.τ.λ. The question assumes that the hardening is the primary purpose of GOD. The use of the term βούλημα slightly exaggerates the statement δν θέλει κ.τ.λ.; βούλομαι involving “volition guided by choice and purpose; θέλει expressing the mere fact of volition” (Hort, James, p. 32): but the distinction cannot be used to help the situation here.

ἀνθέστηκεν has ever succeeded in resisting (cf. Romans 13:12): if the hardening is GOD’S will, how can a man help it?

Verse 20

20. ὦ ἄνθρωπε. Cf. Romans 2:1; Romans 2:3; cf. James 2:20 only (Romans 9 :1 Timothy 6:11), thou that art mere man. For the idea cf. Wisdom of Solomon 12:12.

μενοῦνγε. Cf. Romans 10:18; Philippians 3:8 only; μενοῦν, Luke 11:28. Corrective, ‘rather than put such a question consider …,’ Blass, p. 270.

ἀνταποκρινόμενος. Luke 14:6 only.

μὴ ἐρεῖ τὸ πλάσμα κ.τ.λ. Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9; cf. Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-6; Sirach 33:13; 2 Timothy 2:20-21. The metaphor emphasises the absurdity of the creature who quarrels with the conditions of his creation: and it brings out also again the point that man and, in particular here, nations are made for use and must subserve that use. It must not be pressed to the denial of spontaneity in man, which would be contrary to all S. Paul’s ethical teaching. Men are living or personal instruments.

Verse 21

21. εἰς τιμὴν for honourable use, εἰς ἀτιμίαν for dishonourable use; of. 2 Tim. l.c[187]

Verse 22

22. εἰ δὲ.… No apodosis follows: the current is broken by the introduction of prophetic passages Romans 9:25 f. What apodosis was intended? The thought passes from the abstract relation of Creator to created to GOD’S actual government of men, as seen in His dealings with those who oppose and those who obey His Will: the principles of government are declared in the words ἤνεγκεν and προητοίμασεν, the attitude in π. μακροθυμία, the end in the revelation of GOD’S power and character, whether by wrath or mercy. The apodosis required, then, is some such appeal as ‘what fault can we find here?’ It should be remembered that the revelation of wrath is just as necessary for the moral education of man as the revelation of mercy. They are in fact the two sides of the shield.

θέλων = in willing, or while willing: the clear exhibition of wrath is one side of GOD’S revelation to man, and is given in the fact and consequences of sin; cf. Romans 1:18 f. The wrath of GOD towards sin is as true an outcome of His loving purpose for man, as is His pleasure in righteousness. The participle describes not the reason (because) nor a contrast (although), but the general condition under which the action of the main verb takes place.

ἐνδείξασθαι τὴν ὀργὴν exactly |[188], Romans 1:18 = to give an instance of …; cf. Romans 3:25; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:16.

γνωρίσαι τὀ δυνατὸν αὐ. γνωρίσαι = to bring to the knowledge of men. τὸ δυνατὸν, His power seen in combating sin no less than in effecting righteousness.

ἤνεγκεν σκεύη ὀργῆς. Jeremiah 50 [27]:25; Isaiah 13:5 (Heb.), but in both these passages the meaning is ‘brought out weapons by which to inflict His purpose of wrath.’ Here = ‘bore with … instruments of wrath’; cf. Romans 2:4, Romans 3:25-26; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 3:15 (Mayor cf[189], 1 Peter 3:20; Psalms 86:15; Isaiah 30:18 alibi). Cf. Exodus 34:6.

σκεύη ὀργῆς. Instruments whose only use now is for the wrath of GOD. The image of the preceding verse is continued but the form is changed (ὀργῆς not εἰς ὀργήν) = not ‘destined for wrath’ but fit only to exhibit or effect wrath (cf. S. H.). They have become so fit, by their own neglect of what they could know of GOD (cf. Romans 1:18 f.). So

κατηρτισμένα εἰς ἀπώλειαν marks that their present state is the result of a course of preparation, and this must be found (again in accordance with Romans 1:18 f.) in their own conduct. Cf. Luke 6:40; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:12 (-μός). ἀπώλειαν )[191] σωτηρίαν, cf. Romans 1:32; Matthew 7:13; Philippians 3:19; 1 Timothy 6:9.

Verse 23

23. ἵνα γνωρίσῃ. The object of the patience of GOD is to bring home to men’s minds ‘the wealth of His glory’; cf. Romans 11:32-33. ἵνα depends on ἤνεγκεν. The patience effected this object, because the mercy was revealed in spite of the opposition of sinners, such as Pharaoh or unfaithful Israel; and was recognised as all the more abundant because of that opposition. The redemption of Israel from Egypt, and the saving of a remnant and call of the Gentiles, were all the more signal triumphs of GOD’S purpose for the opposition that was overcome. Hence the emphatic τὸν πλ. τ. δ.

If καὶ is read before ἵνα, (as S. H.), we may take the final clause either [1] as practically connected with ἐν πολλῇ μακροθυμίᾳ ‘bore with much long-suffering and with the object of making known’ (so S. H.); but the sequence is disjointed; or [2] as connected with ἐνδείξασθαι, wishing to give an instance of His wrath and to make known His grace; where we have the same combination of constructions as in 1 Corinthians 14:5; and the sequence is good: but the intervention of the main clause makes this very difficult, though perhaps not impossible.

τὸν πλοῦτον τῆς δόξης. πλ. specially characteristic of Eph. and Col.: but cf. also Romans 2:4, Romans 11:33; Philippians 4:19 : = the inexhaustible abundance. δόξα here of the revelation of GOD’S character in His dealings with man, in thought closely |[192], Ephesians 2:7 : the great acts of redemption reveal GOD to man. Cf. Ephesians 1:18.

ἐπί. Towards or over as in Ephesians 2:7 : depends on the whole of the preceding phrase.

σκεύη ἐλέους |[193] σκεύη ὀργῆς, instruments fit for the use of His mercy; such as He can use for His merciful purposes.

ἃ προητοίμασεν. Which instruments He prepared beforehand for bringing about this revelation of Himself. For the word cf. Ephesians 2:10 only. The σκ. ἐλ. are prepared by GOD Himself; the σκ. ὀργῆς make themselves so, by rejecting His methods of preparation. The reference is to the training through history and life, not to ‘election,’ Gift.

εἰς δόξαν. δ. must have the same meaning as in the preceding clause = for revelation of His purpose and character. The thought of final glorification is not included here; cf. Romans 8:30.

Verse 24

24. οὓς καὶ ἐκάλεσεν. The attraction of οὓς (to ἡμᾶς) marks the turn of thought from regarding the persons as instruments to regarding the instruments as persons: the personal agency of men comes out.

ἡμᾶς. Even us, or in us—or perhaps—which He actually called us to be.

οὐ μόνον κ.τ.λ. Here the underlying thought of the whole passage becomes explicit: and its importance is marked by the anacoluthon: instead of finishing his sentence S. Paul goes on at once to illustrate the fact of this call from prophetic sayings. It may also be that he shrank from enforcing his argument that the unbelieving Jews were σκεύη ὀργῆς.

Verse 25

25., Hosea 2:23. The original refers to the restoration of the ten tribes, who had fallen from their privileged state. S. Paul applies this to the inclusion in the privileged state of Gentiles who had not possessed it; on the principle that, if GOD could bring back the disowned, He could call in those who had not before been called. Cf. 1 Peter 2:10 (and Hort’s note).

Verses 25-29

25–29. The four quotations are cited to show that the prophets contemplated that the choice of the chosen people would be maintained only in a remnant, and that there would be a choice of others also. There is warrant in Scripture for both sides of his proposition; not only for GOD’S working κατ' ἐκλογήν, but also for the assertion that the ἐκλογὴ in fact involved a call of Gentiles and at least contemplated a falling away of Israelites, or, as he here prefers to call them, Jews.

Verse 26

26., Hosea 1:10 describes the reunion of Israel into one nation under one head: again S. Paul extends the reference.

ἐν τῷ τόπῳ = Palestine in Hosea: here = the countries of the Gentiles.

θεοῦ ζῶντος. Cf. Acts 14:15; Westcott on Hebrews 3:12.

Verse 27

27. The next two quotations justify the claim that Israel’s call survives in a remnant.

Isaiah 10:22. The context speaks of a remnant saved by trust in GOD. LXX[194] is followed but slightly altered; the first phrase is from Hosea 1:10, a clear proof that the quotations were from memory (or from a catena?).

τὸ ὑπόλιμμα. Sc. only the remnant.

Verse 28

28. λόγον γὰρ συντελῶν κ.τ.λ. Cf. Isaiah 28:22 = LXX[195] πράγματα: λόγον w. ποιήσει, ‘shall effect a reckoning upon earth, completely and briefly.’

Verse 29

29., Isaiah 1:9 = LX[196].

Verse 30

30. τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; Cf. Romans 8:31.

ὅτι κ.τ.λ. introduces the answer to the question: but the answer is incomplete till the second subsidiary question 32 διὰ τί is answered.

διώκοντακατέλαβεν, pursuing … overtook; cf. Philippians 3:12; Exodus 15:9; Field, ad lo[197].

δικαιοσύνην δὲ κ.τ.λ. Corrective = a righteousness given by GOD in response to faith, not as a result of works nor as yet worked out in life; cf. Romans 1:17.

Verses 30-33

30–33. What conclusion is to be drawn? The facts are plain: Gentiles have attained a state of righteousness, though they were not seeking it: Jews, who sought it, have not attained. And the reason too is plain; what faith gave the one, lack of faith lost for the other: and this again corresponds to a prophetic warning.

Verse 31

31. Ἰσραὴλ. The name of privilege; cf. on Romans 9:4.

νόμον δικαιοσύνης. A law embodying righteousness, almost = a legal righteousness; cf. Romans 2:23, Wisdom of Solomon 2:11.

ἔφθασεν did not reach; of. 2 Corinthians 10:14; Philippians 3:16. Only in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 does the idea of anticipation certainly occur.

Verse 32

32. διὰ τί; Sc. οὐκ ἔφθασεν.

ὅτι. Sc. ἐδίωκεν. ὡς ἐξ ἔργων = with the idea that they could attain by starting from works.

τῷ λίθῳ τοῦ π. Allusion to Isaiah 8:14, LXX[198] λίθον πρόσκομμα. The sense in Isaiah is that the Lord of Hosts will be a sanctuary for Israel if they trust in Him; they will not then find Him as a stone to stumble against. The absence of faith makes Him so.

Verse 33

33., Isaiah 28:16, LXX[199] with λιθ. π. κ. π. ς. substituted for λίθον πολυτελῆ κ.τ.λ. and other slighter variations; cf. Romans 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6 (see Hort).

In the original, the stone is the Divine King or Kingdom of Israel (in contrast with alien alliances), the recognition of which is to steady the mind of the people: the trust in its divine mission will not be baffled by disappointment (cf. Hort, l.[200]). The Apostolic interpretation sees this ‘stone’ in the Messiah, recognising as so often in Christ the fulfilment of what had been said of the true Israel. A good instance of the re-interpretation of O.T. in the light of Christian experience (cf. Matthew 21:42 parallels; Acts 4:11 qu. Psalms 118:22). S. H. refer to Justin M. (Dial. 36, p. 122 l. 34, p. 112 D, Otto) and suggest that λίθος was a name for the Messiah among the Jews from an early (? pre-Christian) date. The point of the quotation here is that the Jews instead of trusting in this stone (of foundation for the true Israel, cf. Ephesians 2:20) had taken offence at it as revealed in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:23) and trusting instead in their own works had come to grief. The tendency of Judaism at this time, in St Paul’s view, was to trust in their performances of law instead of drawing life from communion with the living GOD the rejection of the Messiah was the culminating instance of this tendency. This reason, why Israel εἰς νόμον οὐκ ἔφθασεν, suggests that Christ is the fulfiller of law; so cf. Romans 10:4; Matthew 5:17; James 1:25.

καταισχυνθήσεται. Shall not be shamed by being disappointed in the object of trust; cf. Romans 9:5; 2 Corinthians 7:14; 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 10:8.


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"Commentary on Romans 9:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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