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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Romans 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-33


The Rejection of Israel no Disparagement or Disproof of the Gospel

The Apostle sorrows over the exclusion of Israel (Romans 9:1-5), but their exclusion does not involve any breach of God's promises, for He always made a selection, even among the members of the chosen family (Romans 9:6-13). This cannot be unjust, for God has stated it to be His method (Romans 9:14-18). We should have no right to cavil, even if God seemed to use us sternly (Romans 9:19-21). But He has acted with mercy (Romans 9:22-29), and Israel has fallen through want of faith (Romans 9:30-33).

1-5. It is with the deepest sorrow that St. Paul sees the Jews outside the kingdom, for he loves them as brethren and remembers their privileges.

Paraphrase. '(1) It is the solemn truth (2) that my heart aches (3) over my brethren of Israel, so that I could wish to give my soul for their salvation. (4) How terrible is the fall of those who had. such privileges from God, (5) who are descended from the patriarchs, and from whom, on the human side, has come the Messiah, He who is almighty and divine!'

1. In Christ] see on Romans 6:11; Colossians 3:9. In the Holy Ghost] i.e. under His influence.

3. I could wish] i.e. if it were lawful and possible.

Accursed] RV 'anathema,' reproducing the Gk.: cp. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8.; The word is used in LXX of that which is devoted to God, either as an offering (cp. Leviticus 27:28.), or for destruction as evil: cp. Joshua 6:17.

4. Israelites] 'Israel' being the name given by God to Jacob, 'Israelite' described the Jew as the inheritor of God's promises: cp. Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22. Adoption] i.e. of Israel by God as first-born son among other nations: cp. Exodus 4:22. Glory] i.e. the light by which God's presence was manifested: cp. Exodus 16:10; Exodus 40:34. Covenants] with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Service] i.e. of Tabernacle and Temple. Promises] i.e. of the Messiah.

5. Of whom, etc.] RV 'of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh.' God] cp. John 1:1; John 10:30; Colossians 2:9.

6-13. Jewish opponents argued that the privileges enumerated in the last section were guaranteed to them as a nation, unless God broke His word. St. Paul replies that God is not bound to the whole nation. There had been from the first a process of selection, by which some had been rejected. The same process of selection and rejection might be expected now.

Paraphrase. '(6) Vet it does not follow that God's promises have failed because some have rejected them. Heirship of the promise does not belong to mere natural descent from Jacob. (7) For consider the case of Abraham. Ishmael was his elder son, yet Isaac was selected to be the father of the chosen race; (8) which shows that a position of privilege with God is a matter not of accident of birth, but of special promise and choice; (9) in fact, Isaac was born on purpose to inherit the promise. (10) Take a plainer example. Esau and Jacob had the same parents and were twins; (11) yet in their case also God showed that He carries out His purpose by selecting whom He chooses, for before their birth (12) He destined Jacob's line for privilege, (13) as Malachi recognises.'

6. RV 'But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought.' Israel] in the sense of inheritors of the promise. Of Israel] i.e. by physical descent from Jacob.

7. Seed of Abraham] i.e. by natural descent. Children] i.e. inheriting privilege. In Isaac, etc.] from Genesis 21:12.

8. Children of the flesh] i.e. those born into the family in the course of nature. Children of God] i.e. partaking of the 'adoption' to special privilege spoken of in Romans 9:4. Of the promise] i.e. born in fulfilment of a promise: cp. Galatians 4:23.

9. The word] RV 'a word.' At this time] i.e. at this season next year (Genesis 18:10).

11. The purpose] i.e. the purpose of salvation which existed in God's mind before creation: cp. Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:9.; 2 Timothy 1:9. According to election] i.e. the method by which God carries out His purpose is the selection of individuals and nations to be its instruments. So the Jews were selected to preserve the knowledge of God in the world, and to prepare for the call of the Gentiles. The selection is not to assured salvation, but to the privilege of helping to carry out God's plan of salvation for the world. Not of works] a further thought. God's choice proceeds from unmerited bounty.

12. From Genesis 25:23..

13. Loved.. hated] cp. Malachi 1:2. which refers to the nations of Israel and Edom, and expresses the historical fact that Israel had privileges which were denied to Edom. 'Hated' implies decided rejection, but not vindictiveness: cp. Luke 14:26 with Matthew 10:37. There is no reference to eternal salvation or rejection.

14-18. It is objected that the freedom of choice, which St. Paul attributes to God, would be unjust. This cannot be, for in the OT. God claims the same freedom. And, if then, so also now.

Paraphrase. '(14) The objector argues that such apparently arbitrary selection would be unjust. Far from it. (15) The Jew admits that all God does is just; here, then, are two passages in which God claims this freedom of choice. First, He told Moses, leader of the chosen people, that not even he could lay claim as a right to the favour about to be shown. (16) Therefore, human desire and striving are not the cause of God's choice of any, but His sovereign will and mercy alone. (17) Secondly, the words addressed to Pharaoh show that God did not punish him because he was an Egyptian, but for special reasons. (18) So, then, God is seen to show mercy or to harden according to His own will.'

15. From Exodus 33:19.

16. Runneth] i.e. as a racer strives.

17. From Exodus 9:16. Raised thee up] i.e. as king. St. Paul quotes Scripture to show that it was simply due to God's choice that Pharaoh, not some one else, was to be a world-wide example of God's power in punishment. It was not because of Pharaoh's nationality. The Apostle confines himself, here, to one point. It is that a Jew must admit that what God is shown, in the OT., to have done, cannot be unjust. He is not speaking, here, of eternal life or death. And he says nothing of Pharaoh's deserts or conduct, because that is not his point here. Presently he will assert (1) that those whom God has rejected have been rejected by their own fault after long forbearance; and (2) that it is God's will to have mercy upon all men.

18. Hardeneth] cp. Exodus 4:21. God is said to harden, because He has made man so that, by the constitution of his nature, hardening follows persistent disobedience.

19-29. It is now objected that if God's will is irresistible, He ought not to blame the Jews. The answer is that, first, it is presumptuous of man to criticise his Maker; and, secondly, that God has been longsuffering with the Jews, as well as merciful to the Gentiles.

Paraphrase. '(19) Another objection. If those who resist God's will, do so because He has hardened them, and so fulfil His purpose, how can they be guilty? (20) The answer is twofold. First, we are not competent to criticise our Maker. (21) It is His right to mould each nation of mankind for whatever purpose He chooses. (22) But secondly, as a matter of fact, God has not been arbitrary. Although He is determined to punish sin, yet when the Jews have proved unfit for high purposes, He has borne long with them; (23) not only for their sakes, but that by their means He might be able to show mercy upon those prepared from the beginning, (24) even upon us, called—such is His mercy—from Gentiles as well as Jews. (25, 26) His word confirms this again: the call of the Gentiles was foretold by Hosea, (27-29) and the fact that only a remnant of Israel would enter the kingdom was prophesied by Isaiah.'

20. Shall the thing] cp. Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9.

21. Power] RV 'a right': cp. Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6. Honour.. dishonour] not referring to final salvation or condemnation, but to the inequalities of life. Nations as well as individuals are called to duties and positions of greater or less honour: cp. 2 Timothy 2:20.

22. Longsuffering] cp. Romans 2:4. Vessels] the metaphor of the potter continued. Of wrath] i.e. deserving wrath. Fitted] St. Paul does not say, 'God had made them fit for destruction' (contrast 'afore prepared,' Romans 9:23). They had become 'fitted for destruction,'because, being intractable under the moulder's hand, they were of no use for His purpose.

23. Might make known] cp. Romans 11:11. Of mercy] i.e. experiencing mercy. Prepared] cp. Romans 8:28.

25, 26. From Hosea 1:10; Hosea 2:23 passages used freely and typically; originally speaking of the restoration of the Ten Tribes, who had become like those who were not God's people.

27, 28, 29. From Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 10:22.

27. A remnant] RV 'it is the remnant that shall be saved.'

28. RV 'for the Lord will execute his word' (i.e. sentence) 'upon the earth, finishing it and cutting it short,' i.e. making it conclusive and brief.

30-33. The Jews have been rejected because they sought acceptance with God in their own way by meritorious works. They had not that faith which would make them attentive to hear and do God's will, and so could not fulfil His purpose (see Romans 9:22 paraphrase). Stereotyped in a conventional religion, they were unable, for want of living faith, to receive the Messiah.

Paraphrase. '(30) We conclude that Gentiles, who were not seeking acceptance with God, won acceptance given to those who have faith, (31) while Israel, who was seeking to be accepted because of meritorious works, has failed. (32) The reason is that instead of living by faith in God, i.e. instead of waiting on God to learn what His will for them was, they fixed their attention on observances. Hence they refused the Messiah, fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy that the stone, the strength of those who should have faith in Him, would cause the fall of the unbeliever.

30. Followed.. attained] as a runner in a race: cp. Philippians 3:12.

31. The law] RV 'a law.'

32. By the works of the law] RV 'by works.' For] RV omits. Stumbling stone] cp. 1 Corinthians 1:23.

33. A combination of two passages. In Isaiah 28:16 the prophet spoke of a foundation stone which God was laying, and which would give a sense of security to those who trusted His promise. In Isaiah 8:14 the prophet spoke of Jehovah as being a stumbling-block to the unbeliever. St. Paul combines the two passages to show that Christ, who is strength and support to those who trust in Him, has been a stumbling-block to the faithless Jews. The 'stone' of Psalms 118:22 was interpreted by Christ of Himself, Matthew 21:42, etc., and from this, probably, the 'stone' of other passages was interpreted of Him. 'The stone' may have been a Jewish title for the Messiah.


Verses 1-36

It was obvious that the Church of Christ was coming to be almost entirely a Gentile Church, and that the Jews as a whole were refusing to accept Jesus as their Messiah. The Jew argued from this fact that Christianity could not be true. For if the Christian Church were really the fulfilment of the promised Messianic kingdom, and if the Jews were shut out from it, then God's promises to the Jews in the OT. would have been broken, which could not be imagined.

In Romans 9-11, St. Paul grapples with this objection:—

(1) He points out that in previous epochs God had narrowed His choice, making a fresh selection out of those already selected; and He may be acting so again (Romans 9:1-13).

(2) God is supreme. He may choose His instruments as He will, and we have no right to criticise (Romans 9:14-33).

(3) If the Jews have failed, it is because of their unbelief (Romans 10).

(4) After all, there may be more faithful Jews than is supposed, as in the time of Elijah (Romans 11:1-10).

(5) Seeing the reception of the Gentiles, the Jews themselves may be stirred up to accept Christ. God has forgotten neither them nor His promises, and His gracious purpose will not fail (Romans 11:11-36).

It should be noted that these chapters mainly treat of the selection by God of nations and Churches to spiritual functions and responsibilities. They have nothing to do with the predestination of individuals to salvation or condemnation, and the argument closes with the statement that what God has done has been with the purpose of having mercy upon all (Romans 11:32). While these chapters assume that God chooses His instruments for reasons which we cannot fathom, and which are independent of human merit and of birth or nationality, at the same time there are conditions which must be fulfilled on man's part. Those who have been chosen or elected, are free to fall away; they have done so in the case of the Jewish nation—they may do so in the case of the Gentile Church. They can only retain their position by 'faith,' i.e. here, by submitting themselves to God's purpose (Romans 10:20.).

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Romans 9:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/romans-9.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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