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Bible Commentaries
Romans 9

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IN stating the theme which he proposed to discuss ( Rom 1:16-17 ), the apostle had introduced an element of an historical nature which he could not fail to develop at some point or other of his treatise. It was this: “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” In what relation did salvation, as set forth in his Gospel, stand to those two great sections of the human race looked at from the standpoint of its religious development? And particularly, how did it happen that the Jewish people, to whom salvation was destined in the first place, showed themselves the most rebellious to this final revelation of divine mercy? Did not the fact give rise to a grave objection to the truth of the gospel itself, and to the Messiahship ascribed to person of Jesus by the new faith? A Jew might reason thus: Either the gospel is true and Jesus really the Messiah but in this case the divine promises formerly made to this Jewish people who reject the Messiah and His salvation are nullified; or Israel is and remains forever, as should be the case in virtue of its election, the people of God, and in this case the gospel must be false and Jesus an impostor. Thus the dilemma seemed to be: Either to affirm God's faithfulness to His own election and deny the gospel, or to affirm the gospel, but give the lie to the divine election and faithfulness.

The apostle must have found this problem in his way every time he bore testimony to the gospel of Christ; and his demonstration of salvation by faith without the law would have contained a grave omission, if it had not presented a solution suitable to the nature of God of the greatest enigma in history: the rejection of the elect people.

Generally when a new doctrine presents itself, after demonstrating its intrinsic truth, it has a double task to discharge to mankind whom it professes to save (1) to prove that it is capable of realizing what ought to be, moral good; this Paul has done by showing, chaps. 6-8, that the doctrine of justification by faith (expounded chaps. 1-5) was capable of producing holiness; (2) to demonstrate that it can account satisfactorily for what has been, for history; this the apostle proceeds to do, chaps. 9-11.

The domain upon which the apostle here enters is one of the most difficult and profound which can be presented to the mind of man. It is that of theodicy, or the justification of the divine government in the course of human affairs. But he does not enter on it as a philosopher, and in its totality; he treats it in relation to a special point, the problem of the lot of Israel, and he does so as a part of his apostolic task.

There are two ways in which mistakes have been committed in expounding the thought of Paul in this passage. Some have taken it as a dogmatic and general statement of the doctrine of election, as an element of Christian teaching. This view finds its refutation in the entire course of this great exposition, in which the apostle constantly reverts to the people of Israel, the antecedents of their history ( Rom 9:6 et seq.), the prophecies concerning them ( Rom 9:27-29 and Rom 10:19-21 ), and their present and future destiny (see the whole of chap. 11, and particularly the conclusion, Rom 11:25-31 ). It is therefore a problem of history and not of doctrine, strictly speaking, which he proposes to treat. Calvin himself is perfectly aware of this. Here is the dilemma which, according to him, St. Paul resolved in these chapters: “Either God is unfaithful to His promises (in regard to the Jews), or Jesus whom Paul preaches is not the Lord's Christ particularly promised to that people.”

The other erroneous point of view in regard to these chapters is to take them as intended to reconcile the Judeo-Christian majority of the church of Rome to the apostle's mission to the Gentiles (Baur, Mangold, Holsten, Lipsius, with various shades). Weizsäcker, in his excellent work on the primitive Roman church, asks with reason why, if the apostle was addressing Judeo-Christians, he should designate the Jews, Romans 9:3, “as his brethren,” and not rather “as our brethren;” and how it is that in Rom 11:1 he alleges as a proof of the fact that all Israel is not rejected, only his own conversion and not that of his readers. He likewise demonstrates beyond dispute, in our opinion, that in the passage, Romans 11:13, the words: “I speak unto you, Gentiles,” are necessarily addressed to the whole church, not merely to a portion of the Christians of Rome (see on this passage). If it is so, it is impossible to hold that, addressing himself to former Gentiles, Paul should think himself obliged to demonstrate in three long chapters the legitimacy of his mission among the Gentiles. No; it is not his mission, and still less his person, which Paul means to defend when he traces this vast scheme of the ways of God; it is God Himself and His work in mankind by the gospel. He labors to dissipate the shadow which might be thrown on the character of God or the truth of the gospel by the unbelief of the elect people. The Tübingen school commits the same mistake in regard to this part of our Epistle as in regard to the Book of the Acts. This latter writing it views in general as the product of an ecclesiastical piece of management, intended to accredit Paul's person and ministry among Christians of Jewish origin, while it is meant to demonstrate by a simple statement of facts the painstaking and faithful manner in which God has proceeded toward His ancient people in the foundation of the church. Comp. besides, that remarkable passage in the Gospel of John, John 12:37-43, in which this apostle takes a general survey of the fact of Jewish unbelief, immediately after describing its development, and seeks to fathom its causes. This, indeed, was one of the most important questions at the period of the foundation of the church. In this question there was concentrated the subject of the connection between the two revelations.

How, at a given point in time, can God reject those whom He has elected? Is the fact possible? The apostle resolves this problem by putting himself successively at three points of view 1. That of God's absolute liberty in regard to every alleged acquired right, upon Him, on man's part; this is the subject of chap. Romans 9:2. That of the legitimacy of the use which God has made of His liberty in the case in question; such is the subject of chap. 10, where Paul shows that Israel by their want of understanding drew upon themselves the lot which has overtaken them. 3. That of the utility of this so unexpected measure; this forms the subject of chap. 11, where the beneficent consequences of Israel's rejection down to their glori ous final result are unfolded.

This passage does not contain a complete philosophy of history; but it is the finest specimen, and, so to speak, the masterpiece of this science.

Verses 1-2

Vv. 1, 2. “ I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have a great grief and a continual lamentation in my heart.

No connecting particle joins this part to the preceding. The asyndeton is here, as always, the evidence of a lively emotion which breaks, so to speak, the logical bond; but this form attests at the same time with all the more energy the profound relation of feeling which unites this piece to the preceding. And is it not in fact one and the same feeling in the two contrasted aspects, that emotion of triumphant joy expressed at the end of the previous chapter, when, after conducting poor condemned and lost creatures through the righteousness of faith and sanctification by the Spirit, he has brought them to the threshold of glory and the grief which he feels at seeing his Israel loved above all, yet deprived of such blessings? He has just been following a people of elect and glorified ones rising from the midst of fallen humanity, and Israel is wanting from among the number! There is between these two parts a bitter contemplation in which the misery of rejected Israel appears to him like the sombre reverse of the incomparable blessedness of the faithful who are adopted in Jesus Christ.

The apostle does not pronounce the word which expresses the cause of his grief. It is not an oversight, as Reuss thinks; but it costs him too much to pronounce the fatal word; every reader will divine it from his very silence.

The words: in Christ, must be joined to the preceding: I speak the truth, and not to what follows: I lie not. To make Paul say: “in Christ I lie not,” would be to put into his mouth a poor commonplace. Romans 9:2, and especially Romans 9:3, will tell what the fact is which he is concerned to affirm so solemnly.

A man, even a truthful man, may exaggerate his own feelings; but in the eyes of Paul there is something so holy in Christ, that in the pure and luminous atmosphere of His felt presence no lie, and not even any exaggeration, is possible. The parenthesis following: “I lie not”..., might be taken as a second declaration in a negative form, parallel to the affirmation which precedes. But it is difficult in this case to understand what the testimony of his conscience and of the Holy Spirit can add to the security already given by the words in Christ. It seems to me, then, that this parenthesis should be regarded as a confirmation of those first words themselves: “I do not lie in affirming that it is under the view of Christ that I declare what I there say.” It is therefore on this declaration: “I speak in the communion of Christ,” that the testimony of his conscience bears; and even this testimony, as too human, does not suffice. Paul declares that he feels at the same instant, through the Holy Spirit, the whole intimacy of this communion. The σύν , with, in the verb συμμαρτυρεῖν , to testify with, signifies: in concert with my own declaration. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established;” it seems as if Paul wished to confirm his affirmation by a double testimony, that of his conscience and that of the Holy Spirit. Why so much solemnity in entering on his subject? We understand the reason when we think what he has in view: the rejection of Israel. Was he not the man whom the Jews accused of being moved in his whole work by a spirit of hostility to his people? But here is the expression of his real feelings attested by all he counts sacred, however extraordinary what he is about to say ( Rom 9:3 ) may appear.

Verses 1-5

Vv. 1-5.

Paul expresses all the intensity of his grief on account of his people ( Rom 9:1-3 ), and he justifies it by the magnificent prerogatives wherewith this unique people had been honored ( Rom 9:4-5 ).

Verses 1-29

Twenty-first Passage (9:1-29). The Liberty of God in regard to the Election of Israel.

The apostle opens this passage with a preface expressing the profound grief he feels in view of the mysterious fact which is about to occupy him ( Rom 9:1-5 ); then he shows how the liberty of God is set in its full light by the theocratical antecedents ( Rom 9:6-13 ), and by the most unequivocal scriptural declarations ( Rom 9:14-24 ); and finally, he calls to mind that the use which God is now making of this liberty in relation to the Jews, was clearly foretold ( Rom 9:25-29 ). This last idea forms the transition to the following passage, which refers to the legitimacy of the application which God has made to the Jews of His sovereign right (chap. 10). Chap. 10 ought strictly to begin at Rom 9:30 of chap. 9.

Verses 2-3

Vv. 2. Rom 9:2-3 contain the matter of that truth so solemnly announced in Romans 9:1. The parallelism of the two propositions of the verse, as always, is the indication of a rising feeling. A triple gradation has been remarked between the two propositions. First, between the two subjects: λύπη , grief, which denotes an inward sadness; ὀδύνη , lamentation, which refers to the violent outburst of grief, though it should only be inwardly; then a gradation between the two epithets μεγάλη , great, and ἀδιάλειπτος , continual: it is so intense that it accompanies all the moments of his life; finally, between the two regimens μοι , to me, and τῇ καρδίᾳ μου , to my heart, the latter term denoting the deepest spring of the emotions of the me.

Here still Paul leaves us to read between the lines the tragical word which expresses the cause of this grief.

Vv. 3. “ For I could wish that myself were anathema away from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

This inward fact is the proof of the intensity of the feeling expressed in Romans 9:2 ( for); and it is to this almost incredible fact that the exceptional affirmations of Rom 9:1 applied.

The imperfect indicative ηὐχόμην , literally, I was wishing, has in Greek the force of throwing this wish into the past, and into a past which remains always unfinished, so that this expression takes away from the wish all possibility of realization. The meaning therefore is: “I should wish, if such a desire could be realized.” If the apostle had meant to speak of a wish really formed by him, though under certain conditions, he would have expressed this idea by the present optative εὐχοίμην , or by the aorist εὐξαίμην with ἄν ( Act 26:29 ); comp. Galatians 4:20, and also Acts 25:22 (where Agrippa expresses his desire, while stating it as unrealizable, that he might not have the appearance of encroaching on the authority of Festus). It is from not understanding or applying the meaning of the Greek imperfect indicative that recourse has been had to so many unnatural explanations, intended to spare the apostle a wish which seemed to have in it something offensive to Christian feeling. Thus the interpretation of the Itala ( optabam), Ambrosiaster, Pelagius, the Vulgate, Luther, Chalmers: “ I wished (formerly when in my blind fanaticism I persecuted the church of Christ).” The apostle would, on this view, be recalling the fact that it was his ardent love for his people which had then driven him away from the Christ (who had appeared in Jesus). But it is not of what he was formerly, it is of what he is now, as the apostle of the Gentiles, that Paul wishes to bear testimony; and that the expression: far from Christ, may prove the strength of his love to Israel, the testimony must go forth from a heart which has recognized Jesus as the Christ, and is able to appreciate Him at His proper value. Finally, some indication or other of the time when he formed this wish would have been necessary ( ποτέ , formerly, Rom 7:9 ).

Some English expositors, among the last Morison and Tregelles, have made the first half of Romans 9:3 a parenthesis, and joined the end of the verse “for my brethren”..., with Romans 9:2. What Paul, according to this view, meant to express by the wish, was the profound misery of Israel, a misery in which he himself also was formerly involved. But Morison has withdrawn this explanation, which is really inadmissible, and he now proposes to translate: I might desire (to go all that length). The examples which he quotes to justify this meaning appear to me insufficient, and the idea itself lacks precision. Finally, Lange, after Michaelis, has made a still more unfortunate attempt. He translates: “I made a vow,” and explains it of an engagement, accompanied no doubt with an imprecation, which he took, it is held, at the hands of the high priest when he was preparing to set out to Damascus, there to persecute the Christians ( Act 9:2 ). He undertook in some way or other, at the peril of his Messianic blessedness, to save Judaism by extirpating the heresy. To set aside such an explanation it is enough to point to the imperfect ηὐχόμην , which would require, since the matter in question is a positive fact, to be replaced by the aorist ηὐξάμην , or at least accompanied with some kind of chronological definition.

It need not be asked how this vow could ever be realized. Paul himself declares that it is an impossibility; but if its accomplishment depended only on his love, he would certainly express such a wish before the Lord.

The word ἀναθεμα , anathema, from ἀνατίθημι , to expose, to set in view, always denotes an object consecrated to God. But this consecration may have in view either its preservation as a pious offering in a sanctuary ( donaria) in this case the LXX. and the N. T. use the form ἀνάθημα , for example 2Ma 5:16 , and Luk 21:5 or it may be carried out by the destruction of the consecrated object, as in the case of the ban ( chérem); the LXX. and the N. T. prefer in that sense using the form ἀνάθεμα (for example, Joshua 7:12; Gal 1:8-9 ; 1Co 16:22 ). This distinction between the two forms of the word did not exist in classic Greek.

The expression is so strong, especially with the regimen ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ , away from Christ, that it is impossible to apply it either, with Grotius, to ecclesiastical excommunication, or, with Jerome, to a violent death inflicted by Christ (substituting ὑπό , by, for ἀπό , for from). Paul has evidently in mind the breaking of the bond which unites him to Christ as his Saviour. He would consent, if it were possible, to fall back again forever into the state of condemnation in which he lived before his conversion, if by the sacrifice of his salvation he could bring about the conversion of his people Israel. The words: away from Christ, express the bitterness that such an anathema would have for his heart; and yet he would face it, if it were possible thus to exchange lots with his people. Here is, as it were, the paroxysm of patriotic devotion. The pronoun myself, if placed, as in the Byz. text, before the term: to be anathema, sets Paul in contrast to the Jews who are really in this state: “I should myself like to be anathema (rather than they).” But if, with the other documents, it be placed after the words: to be anathema, it serves to contrast the real with the alleged Paul, who was made the mortal enemy of the Jews in consequence of the mission which he carried out among the Gentiles: “to be anathema myself, I who am represented as the despiser of my nation, and who have in fact the sad mission of consecrating the divorce between Israel and her God!” To the notion of spiritual and theocratic kinship denoted by the title brethren, the expression: kinsmen according to the flesh, adds the idea of natural human kinship by blood and nationality.

Verses 4-5

Vv. 4 and 5 are intended to justify the wish expressed in Romans 9:3, by declaring the glorious prerogatives which are fitted to render this people supremely precious to a truly Israelitish heart.

Vv. 4. “ Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law and the service, and the promises.

The pronoun οἵτινες , who, characterizes them in the context as persons for whom it would be worth while to accept even damnation.

The name Israelites is the name of honor belonging to the people; it is a title resting on the glorious fact related Genesis 32:28. It contains all the prerogatives which follow.

These prerogatives are enumerated in Romans 9:4, to the number of six, all connected by καί , and, a form expressing rising exaltation of feeling. Υἱοθεσία , the adoption: Israel is always represented as the Lord's son or first-born among all peoples, Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; Hosea 11:1. Δόξα , the glory: this term does not at all express, as Reuss thinks, the final glory of the kingdom of God; for this glory belongs to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. The term is here taken in the special sense which it often has in the O. T.: the visible, luminous appearance of the Lord's presence, Exodus 24:16; Exodus 29:43; 1 Kings 8:11; Ezekiel 1:28. The Rabbins had invented a particular term to denote this glorious appearance, the name shekinah, from schakan, to dwell. Διαθῆκαι , the covenants: this word denotes the numerous covenants concluded by God with the patriarchs. The reading of some MSS.: the covenant, is a faulty correction. What led to it was the term: the old covenant. Νομοθεσία , the giving of the law: this term embraces along with the gift of the law itself, the solemn promulgation of it on Mount Sinai; comp. the saying of the psalmist, Psalms 147:20: “He hath not dealt so with any nation.” Λατρεία , the service ( cultus), this is the sum-total of the Levitical services instituted by the law. ·Επαγγελίαι , the promises: this term carries our view from past benefits to the still greater blessings to come, which God promised to His people. The reading: the promise, in the Greco-Latin, is also an erroneous correction.

Vv. 5. “ Whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is God over all, blessed for ever, amen.

To blessings of an impersonal nature Paul adds, as crowning them, the gifts which consist in living persons, and which either preceded the above or followed them; such are the patriarchs, from whom the people sprang, and who are as it were its root; and the Messiah, who sprang from the people, and who is as it were its flower.

The first proposition literally signifies: “whose (Israelites') are the fathers,” that is to say, to whom the fathers belong as national property. The heroes of a people are regarded by it as its most precious treasure.

But the apostle is careful not to apply the same form to the Messiah, which would signify that the Christ is the property of the Jews. He says here ἑξ ὧν , from the midst of whom. He proceeds from them as to origin, but He does not belong to them exclusively as to His destination. The antithesis between the two forms ὧν , whose, and ἐξ ὧν , from among whom, is certainly intentional.

But while fully recognizing that the Christ comes from the Jews, the apostle is well aware that this mode of origin refers only to the human and phenomenal side of His person; and hence he immediately adds: as to the flesh. This expression should evidently be taken in the same sense as in Romans 9:3; for here as there the matter in question is a relation of filiation or origin. The term flesh therefore embraces the human nature in its totality; and it is a mistake to seek here the contrast between the flesh and the spirit, σάρξ and πνεῦμα . We find this same meaning of the word flesh again in Romans 9:8, where the human sonship is opposed to the divine (by faith in the promise). It is also in the same sense that John says ( Rom 1:14 ): “The Word was made flesh.” The antithesis to the word flesh in all these cases is not spirit, but God; comp. Galatians 1:16: “I conferred not with flesh and blood” (men in contrast to God); Matthew 24:22; Romans 3:20; 1 Corinthians 1:29, etc. The contrast is not, therefore, altogether the same in this passage as in Romans 1:3-4. There, the point was the antithesis between the flesh and the spirit in the person of Jesus Himself; here, it is the contrast between His divine origin (which was implied already in Rom 8:3 ) and His human, and more especially His Israelitish origin.

Many commentators close the sentence with the words: according to the flesh (Seml., Fritzs., Ew., van Heng., Meyer, Baur, Tischendorf, 8th edition). In that case it only remains to take the following words as an exclamation of thanksgiving to the praise of the God who has so highly privileged Israel; so Oltramare translates: “Let Him who is over all things, God, be therefore blessed forever! Amen.” The epithet: ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων , who is above all things, or above all, would require to be regarded as paraphrasing the term παντοκράτωρ , the universal sovereign, by which the LXX. often render Schaddaï, the All-powerful; comp. 2 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8. This thanksgiving in the context would apply either to the sovereign freedom with which God distributes His gifts to whom He pleases, or to His providence, which, always extending to all, favors one people only, with the view of bringing to Himself all the rest. On the other hand, it is impossible not to be surprised at a conclusion so abrupt and negative in form, at least as to sense, of an enumeration so magnificent as the preceding; for there is evidently a limitation and, so to speak, a negation in the words: as concerning the flesh. They signify: “ At least as concerning the flesh.” This restriction goes in the teeth of the feeling which has inspired the whole passage thus far. It is a descent which, after the gradual ascent of the preceding lines, closes it with startling abruptness. Still more, the burst of gratitude which on this explanation would inspire this doxology, would be out of all harmony with the impression of profound grief which forms the basis of the whole passage. In fact, the privileges enumerated have been heaped up thus only to justify this painful impression; and here is the apostle all at once breaking out into a song of praise because of those advantages which Israel have rendered unavailing by their unbelief! (comp. Gess). If, besides, the participle ὁ ὤν , who is, referred to a subject not mentioned in the previous proposition (God), this transition from one subject to another would require to be indicated in some way, either by the addition of a δέ , now, as in Romans 16:25, Jude Romans 9:24, etc., or by giving a turn to the sentence such as this: τῷ ἐπὶ πάντων Θεῷ , τῷ εὐλογημένῳ ... δόξα , “to God ever blessed be glory!” comp. Romans 11:36; or simply: εὐλογητὸς ὁ Θεός , as in 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3. In his truly classical dissertation on this passage, Hermann Schultz vigorously develops the argument often alleged against the interpretation which we are examining, that the participle εὐλογημένος , blessed, would require to be placed not after, but before the substantive Θεός , God. The usage is, that in forms of thanksgiving the first word proceeding from the heart of the grateful worshipper is the term blessed, and that this word precedes the name of God; comp. in the LXX. Genesis 9:26; Genesis 14:20; Psalms 18:46; Psalms 28:6; Psalms 31:21; Psalms 41:13; Psalms 66:20; Psalms 68:35; Psalms 72:18-19; Psalms 89:52, etc.; and in the N. T. Matthew 23:39; Mark 11:9; Luke 1:68; Luke 13:35; Luk 19:38 ; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Eph 1:3 ; 1 Peter 1:3. The only exception which can be quoted would be Psalms 68:19, if the text of the LXX. were not probably corrupted in this passage, and if especially the verb to be understood were not the indicative ἐστί , is, instead of the imperative ἔστω , let Him be; comp. Psalms 68:34. Finally, it is difficult to understand in our passage the object of the participle ὤν ( who is, who is really) applied to God; the form ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων Θεός (without ὤν ) would have been perfectly clear; and Paul could not have any reason for insisting in speaking of God on the reality of the divine sovereignty. For he was not concerned to combat idolatry, as in chap. 1 for example.

Erasmus, who first proposed to end the period after σάρκα ( flesh), had likewise put the question whether the sentence might not close with the word πάντων ( all things, or all): “of whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all things; God be blessed forever and ever!” Is this construction better than the preceding? Meyer thinks not. It seems to me that in the matter of improbability they are on a par. Yet the latter at least gives a more or less suitable conclusion to the proposition relative to the Christ. These last words: “who is over all,” applied to Christ, contain up to a certain point the antithesis which we were led to expect from the restriction: as concerning the flesh; and by proclaiming the supreme dignity of the Christ, they bring out, as the context demands, the exceptional prerogative granted to the people of which He is a member. It would also be somewhat easier to explain the form of ὁ ὤν , who is, than on the previous construction. For the application to Christ of the idea of universal sovereignty might require this word ὤν , who is really. But independently of several difficulties which attach to the preceding explanation, and which remain in this one, there are new difficulties which belong to it, and which render it, if possible, still more inadmissible. The words: who is over all things, are not the natural antithesis of these: as concerning the flesh. The latter referred to origin; the former point only to position. Then, as Meyer observes, the doxology comes on us with intolerable abruptness: “God be blessed forever and ever!” And more than all, the sole reason which would make it possible to explain to a certain extent the position of the participle εὐλογημένος ( blessed) after Θεός ( God), contrary to the uniform usage of the sacred writers, is wholly lost; for this displacement can only arise (see Meyer) from the forcible description of God in the words: who is over all things.

The entire primitive church seems to have had no hesitation as to the meaning to be given to our passage; comp. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, Theodoret; later, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Tholuck, Usteri, Olshausen, Philippi, Gess, Ritschl, Hofmann, Weiss, Delitzsch, Schultz. In fact, in writing the restriction: τὸ κατὰ σάρκα , as concerning the flesh, Paul had evidently in view this peculiarity: that the Christ was something else and more than a Jew, and it is with this unparalleled fact that he rightly concludes the enumeration of Israel's prerogatives. No doubt the words: who is over all things, express in a certain measure the naturally expected idea of the supreme greatness of the Christ; but they are not enough for the apostle's object. For, if they connect themselves with the ἐξ ὧν , from the midst of whom, contrasting the universal supremacy of the Christ with His national origin, they bear no relation whatever to the still narrower restriction: as concerning the flesh. Now this latter leads us also to expect its antithesis, which appears only in the title God. This word is therefore the legitimate conclusion of the whole passage, as it forms its culminating point. Scripture frequently contrasts, as we have seen, flesh (human nature in its weakness) with God; comp. Isaiah 31:3. And if it is certain that Paul recognizes in the divine being who appeared in Jesus the creator of all things (1 Corinthians 8:6; Col 1:16-17 ), the Jehovah of the O. T. who led the people in the cloud ( 1Co 10:4 ), who before coming on the earth was in the form of God ( Php 2:6 et seq.), is it strange that he should have sometimes given the name of God to such a being, and that he should have done so especially in such a passage as this, where he is feeling in all its bitterness the contrast between the transcendent greatness of the gifts bestowed on Israel and the sad result in which they have terminated? It seems to us difficult to avoid seeing in the benediction which follows the words: “who is God over all things,” an expression of homage rendered to this God-Christ, and intended to wipe out the dishonor cast on Him by Jewish unbelief, as in chap. 1 the form of adoration, pronounced in Romans 9:25, was a way of protesting against the outrage inflicted on the true God by Gentile idolatry.

But it is precisely because of this word God that objections are raised to the application of such utterances to the person of Christ. It is objected that nowhere else does Paul designate Jesus in this way (Meyer), and that even in 1 Corinthians 8:6, Christ, as only Lord, is expressly distinguished from the Father, as the one God (Reuss). It is added, that by the words: over all things, Christ would seem to be placed above God Himself, or at least made equal to the supreme God.

Suppose this passage were really the only one in which Jesus receives the name of God from Paul, is it not the same with John, in whose writings this name is not given to Christ confessedly more than once or twice (John 1:1, Joh 20:28 )? As to the general question, I am unwilling to give judgment from the various passages which are alleged by many commentators with the view of proving that Paul has given Jesus the name of God, Θεός , more than once. I have carefully weighed the reasons of those who deny the fact; and yet, after reading and re-reading Eph 5:5 and Titus 2:13, I always come back to the first conviction which the Greek construction produces, viz. that Paul in these passages really meant to designate the Christ as Θεός . But this discussion would be out of place here, and could not in any case lead to an absolutely conclusive result.

As to the doxologies of the N. T. besides those of Revelation, which are addressed to the Lamb as well as to God, there is that of 2 Timothy 4:13, which indisputably applies to Christ, and which must be assigned to St. Paul unless we deny to him the whole Epistle.

Let us add, that it would be wholly false to depend here on the rule (the correctness of which I do not examine), that when in the N. T. Christ is called Θεός , God, it is in every case without the article, and that the designation ὁ Θεός is reserved for the one God and Father. This rule does not apply to the case before us, for the article ὁ belongs not to the word Θεός , but to the participle ὤν . If Paul had meant here to use the form ὁ Θεός in application to God, he would have required to write: ὁ ὢν ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων Θεός . We have therefore the form Θεός without the article, as in John 1:1, that is to say, as a simple grammatical predicate.

Against our explanation Reuss with great assurance opposes 1 Corinthians 8:6. The reasoning of this critic may be valid against those who refuse to admit the subordination of the Son to the Father. But for those who prefer the true thought of Scripture to a theological formula, ancient, no doubt, but yet human, this argument does not affect them. The distinction between the God and Father and the God-Christ is in their eyes a perfectly established fact. And if there is nothing to hinder God the Father from frequently receiving the name Κύριος , Lord, neither is there anything to prevent the Lord Christ from receiving in certain cases the name Θεός , God (see Hofmann on this point).

The most singular objection is that which is taken from the words: over all things (or over all). Meyer says: “To all this there is added the insurmountable difficulty that Christ would not be simply called God, but God over all; which would designate Him the Θεὸς παντοκράτωρ , the sovereign God, and would contradict the general view maintained in the N. T. of the dependence of the Son in relation to the Father.” Meyer argues as if ἐπὶ πάντων , over all things, was descriptive of the word Θεός , God, and here denoted the being called God as the supreme God. But what does he say himself two pages farther on: “ ἐπί , over, denotes government over all things. ” The over all things, according to Meyer himself, is not at all a determination of the word Θεός . We must not, as his objection assumed, connect ἐπὶ πάντων with Θεός , but with the participle ὤν , a word which otherwise would be unmeaning there: “He who is exalted over all things, as God blessed forever.” Comp. Matthew 18:28. It is understood, of course, that to this πάντων , all things, the exception applies which is stated 1 Corinthians 15:27: “He is excepted which did put all things under Him.” How could God be included in the πάντα , all things?

Gess, while holding with us that the conclusion of the verse applies to Christ, divides it into three clauses, placing a first comma after πάντων , and a second after Θεός , “who is above all things, (is) God, (is) blessed”...; so that Paul is taken to affirm three things of Christ: first, that He is appointed universal sovereign; next, that He is God; finally as follows from the two previous terms that He is forever adored and blessed. I cannot agree with this explanation. The epithet blessed is too directly connected with the term God to be thus separated from it; and the expression: God blessed, seems, as well as the ἐπὶ πάντων , to be the attribute of the participle ὤν , and intended to form with this latter the complete antithesis to the restriction: as to the flesh. Besides, this breaking up of the proposition into three parallel clauses seems to me contrary to the gush of feeling which dictates this whole conclusion. Nearly the same reasons may be urged against the punctuation proposed by Hofmann (a comma after πάντων ): “who is over all things, (who is) God blessed forever.”

Schultz, after demonstrating with the tone of a master the necessity of applying this whole conclusion (from the word flesh) to Jesus Christ, insists notwithstanding on this point: that according to Paul's view this affirmation of Christ's divinity applies only to Jesus glorified (from the date of His exaltation at the close of His earthly life). Christ would thus be called God only in an inferior sense, as man raised to universal sovereignty. Three reasons render this explanation inadmissible 1. Paul requires to complete the idea of the Israelitish origin of Jesus by that of a higher origin. The matter in question, therefore, is not His exaltation, but His divine pre-existence. 2. The passages of the Epistles to the Corinthians, to the Colossians, and to the Philippians, which explain this name Θεός , God, relate to Christ before His incarnation, and not to Christ glorified by His ascension. 3. From the standpoint of biblical monotheism to become God, without being so by nature, is a monstrosity.

It seems to us, therefore, beyond doubt that Paul here points, as the crown of all the prerogatives granted to Israel, to their having produced for the world the Christ, who now, exalted above all things, is God blessed forever. It only remains to say a word about the term πάντων . Some translate: all, and understand either all men, or all the servants of God, under the O. T.; others understand by the term all things, and apply it either to all the prerogatives bestowed on Israel, or to the universe in its entirety. This last meaning seems to us the most natural and the most agreeable to the context. What can form a people's supreme title to honor, if not the fact of having given to the world the universal monarch?

And yet such prerogatives did not exempt the Israelitish nation from the possibility of a rejection. In the very history of this people so peculiarly blessed there were antecedents fitted to put them on their guard against this terrible danger. This is the point the apostle brings out in the following passage, Romans 9:6-13, borrowing from Israelitish history two facts which prove that from the beginnings of this people God has proceeded by way of exclusion in regard to an entire portion of the elect race. Thus, when Isaac alone received the character of the chosen seed, to the exclusion of Ishmael, son of Abraham though he also was, Romans 9:6-9; and again, when of Isaac's two sons Jacob was preferred, and his eldest rejected, Romans 9:10-13.

Verses 6-9

Vv. 6-9. “ Not as though the word of God were made of no effect; for they are not all Israel, which are of Israel. Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called;’ that is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for a seed. For this is a word of promise, At this time will I return, and Sarah shall have a son. ’”

The δέ , but, between Romans 9:5-6, is strongly adversative: “But all those privileges, excellent as they were, could not assure to Israel what the word of God did not promise;” that the divine election should apply to all the children of Abraham according to the flesh.

As the form οὐχ οἶόν τε signifies: it is not possible, this meaning has been adopted here by Beza and others: “ But it is not possible that the word of God should be of no effect;” which would imply that this word proclaimed the exclusion of the Jewish nation as inevitable, and that consequently this exclusion could not fail to come about some time or other. But the apostle does not go so far. In the demonstration which follows, he proves the possibility of the rejection of the mass of the people, but not its necessity; then οἶον has only the meaning of it is possible, when it is followed by the particle τε ; and finally, when it has this meaning, the verb following is in the infinitive, whereas we have here the perfect ἐκπέπτωκεν . This meaning must therefore be given up, and we must abide by the ordinary signification of the word οἶος , such that: “The thing is not such that,” that is to say, the rejection of Israel must not be so interpreted, that the word of God is thereby annulled. There is only a grammatical difficulty in the way of this explanation; that is the conjunction ὅτι , that, which intervenes between οἶον and the verb ἐκπέπτωκεν : such as that it has been annulled. This that was already contained in οἶον , and forms a pleonasm. It has been variously explained; it seems to me the simplest solution is to suppose that it depends on an idea understood: “such that one might say that”..., or: “that it comes about that”...

The word of God here denotes the promises by which Israel had been declared to be the people of God promises which seemed to exclude the possibility of their rejection. Hofmann, followed in this case by Volkmar, interprets the transition from Rom 9:5 to Rom 9:6 somewhat differently. He applies the οὐχ οἶον , not that the thing is such that, to Paul's desire to be cast off for the love of his people, and gives to Rom 9:6 this meaning: “Not that my wish signifies that without the sacrifice of my salvation which I am ready to make, the promise of God to Abraham would be nullified.” This meaning is more than forced. How could Paul suppose that the keeping of God's promise depends, even hypothetically, on the wish which he has expressed, especially when, in the very act of uttering it, he himself declares it to be impracticable? Holsten makes the οὐχ οἶον bear on the grief itself: “not that I distress myself as if the word of God were made of no effect.” This is less inadmissible, but far from natural. Could Paul suppose it possible for God to give man occasion to weep over the forgetfulness of His promises? The verb ἐκπίπτειν , to fall from, denotes the non-realization of the promise, its being brought to nothing by facts. And it must be confessed that the present rejection of Israel would be a giving of the lie to the divine election, if all the individuals composing the people of Israel really belonged to Israel, in the profound sense of the word. But that is precisely what is not the case, as the apostle declares in the second part of the verse. In this proposition Meyer applies the second Israel to the person of the patriarch Jacob; the first, to the people descended from him. But it is not till later that Paul comes to Jacob personally. We must beware of destroying in this place the significant relation between the first and second Israel. The word is used both times collectively, and yet in two different applications. They who are of Israel denote all the members of the nation at a given moment, as descendants of the preceding generation. By the first words: are not Israel, Paul signalizes among the nation taken en masse, thus understood a true Israel, that elect people, that holy remnant, which is constantly spoken of in the O. T., and to which alone the decree of election refers, so that rejection may apply to the mass of those who are of Israel, without compromising the election of the true Israel.

This possibility of rejection for the mass of the people is what is proved by the two following examples. And first, that of Isaac:

Verse 7

Vv. 7. The first proposition of this verse has almost the same meaning as the second of Romans 9:6, but with a different shade intimated by the particle οὐδέ , neither further. The apostle, by way of transition to the following discussion, Romans 9:8-9, for the expression: which are of Israel, substitutes seed of Abraham. For he is going to speak of the lot of Abraham's two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Both were seed of Abraham; but they did not both for that reason deserve the title of child. This term, taken absolutely, combines the characteristic of a child of Abraham with that of a child of God; for the subject in question is evidently that of the true members of God's family.

The simple fact of descending from Abraham is so far from making a man his child, in this exalted sense, that God, on the contrary, excludes from the divine family every other descendant of Abraham than Isaac and his seed, when He says to Abraham, Genesis 21:12 (literally): “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” This last word evidently denotes the seed of Abraham properly so called, that which was to remain the depositary of the promise of salvation for the world. We might identify the person of Isaac with his seed, and understand the ἐν , in, in this sense: in the very person of Isaac (as containing in him all his descendants). The verb καλεῖν , to call, would be taken here, as in Romans 4:17, in the sense of: to call into existence. But as Isaac was already born, and as the verb kara refers rather to the name to be given, it is more natural to distinguish Isaac from the seed, to understand καλεῖσθαι in the sense of: to bear the name of, and to explain the ἐν in the sense of through: “By Isaac it is that the race shall be born who shall truly bear the name of seed.

Verse 8

Vv. 8. In this verse Paul detaches the general principle from the particular fact which has just been cited. The τουτέστι , that is, exactly expresses his intention to derive from the historical fact the principle on which it rests. Ishmael's birth proceeded from the flesh, that is to say, had nothing in it except what was human. In Isaac's, God interposed with his promise; and it was from this divine promise, according to chap. 4, that Abraham by faith drew the strength which rendered him capable of becoming father of the promised seed. In consequence of this higher element, only Isaac and his descendants can be regarded as God's children. This is what explains the second proposition of the verse, in which the name of the (promised) seed is expressly given to the descendants obtained by faith in the promise.

The first proposition of this verse implicitly legitimates the rejection of the Jews according to the flesh; the second, the adoption of the believing Gentiles.

Verse 9

Vv. 9. This verse is simply intended to justify the expression: children of the promise, Romans 9:8. When the apostle says: a word of promise, he means: a word which had the free character of a promise, and which did not in the least imply the recognition of a right. The quotation is a combination of Romans 9:10; Rom 9:14 of Genesis 18:0. according to the LXX. The term: at this time, signifies: “Next year, at the moment when this same time (this same epoch) will return.”

But could Isaac and his race, though proceeding from Abraham, and that through the intervention of a divine factor, be regarded without any other condition as real children of God? Evidently not; for if the faith of Abraham himself ceased to belong to them, they became again a purely carnal seed. It must then be foreseen that the same law of exclusion which had been applied to Ishmael, in favor of Isaac, would anew assert its right even within the posterity of the latter. This is what came about immediately, as is seen in the second example quoted by the apostle, that of Esau and Jacob.

Verses 10-13

Vv. 10-13. “ And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election may stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth); it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger, as it is written: Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

This second fact is still more significant than the former. We are now in the pure line of Abraham by Isaac, the ancestor from whom is the promised seed; and yet his wife sees that divine selection which had been exercised in regard to the sons of Abraham reproduced as between her own children.

The nominative Rebecca, in Greek, might be regarded as a provisional nominative, its true logical relation being expressed in Rom 9:12 by the dative αὐτῇ , to her; but it is more natural to find a verb in the preceding context, of which this nominative is the subject: She was treated in the same manner, or had to undergo the same lot, ἐπάθη τὸ αὐτό .

The expression by one is occasioned by the contrast here to the case of Isaac and Ishmael. There, there were two mothers, which might justify the preference accorded to Isaac. Here, where the children were of the same mother, the only possible difference would have been on the father's side. But as the case was one of twins, the commonness of origin was complete; no external motive of preference could therefore influence the divine choice. This is what is brought out once again by the last words: Isaac, our father. The our, no doubt, applies in the first place to the Jews, but also to Christians as children of Isaac by faith ( Rom 4:1 ).

Verse 11

Vv. 11. Nay more, the preference given to Jacob was expressed even before the birth of the twins, before they had done any act whatever; so true is it, that it was not founded on any particular merit which Jacob might possess. The two subjective negations μήπω and μηδέ are used here because they contain a reflection of the author on the fact; as is expressed in the translation. No doubt it might have been said in answer to the apostle, that God foresaw the good works of Jacob and the evil acts of Esau, and that His predilection for the former was founded on this prevision. The view might even have been supported by a word used by the apostle, that of foreknowledge, Romans 8:29. But supposing the apostle had wished to discuss the question thoroughly, he might have replied in turn that the divine prevision, on which election rests, relates not to any work whatever as being able to establish some merit in favor of the elect, but on his faith, which cannot be a merit, since faith consists precisely in renouncing all merit, in the humble acceptance of the free gift. Faith foreseen is therefore a wholly different thing from works foreseen. The latter would really establish a right: the former contains only a moral condition, that, namely, which follows from the fact that possession in the case of a free being supposes acceptance. Work foreseen would impose obligation on God and take away from the freedom of His grace; faith foreseen only serves to direct its exercise. To accept and to merit are two different things. But the apostle does not enter on this discussion, and simply states the fact that it was no merit on Jacob's part which constrained God to organize His plan as He did. This plan certainly was not arbitrarily conceived, but it contains nothing which gives it the character of an obligation or debt.

Before citing the oracle which he intends to quote here ( Rom 9:12 ), the apostle explains the object of God's way of acting, announced in the oracle. What God meant by choosing the youngest of the two sons and setting aside the eldest was, that His liberty of organizing His plans in virtue of His free choice between individuals might remain perfectly intact.

We know already what the πρόθεσις is, the purpose formed beforehand (see on Rom 8:27 ). This purpose to be realized needs human instruments; and it is to the choice of these individuals that the word ἐκλογή , election, refers. The expression: the purpose of God according to election (not as in the T. R.: the purpose according to the election of God), denotes therefore a plan of conduct in the preparation of salvation, which God draws out in virtue of a choice which He has made between certain individuals, in order to secure the man who best suits his purpose. Such a plan is the opposite of one founded on the right or merit of one or other of those individuals. God's free will indeed would be at an end if any man whatever might say to Him: “I have a right to be chosen, and used by Thee rather than that other.” Suppose Saul had been chosen king in consequence of some merit of his own, when the time came for substituting David for him, God would have had His hands bound. In like manner, if in virtue of his right of seniority Esau must necessarily have become the heir of the promise, a man who suited His purposes less than another would have been imposed on God. The plan and choice of God must not therefore be tied up by any human merit, that the will of the only wise and good may be exercised without hindrance. This is the principle of His government which God wished to guard by choosing, in the case of which Paul speaks, the younger instead of the elder. It was easy for the Jews, who pretended to have a right to the divine election, to apply this principle to themselves.

The word μένῃ , may stand, may be understood in the logical sense: “may stand well established in the conscience;” but is there not something more in Paul's thought? Does he not mean: “may stand in reality ”? It is not only in the thought of man, but really that the liberty of God would be compromised if any human merit regulated His choice. God, who had determined to use Jacob and put aside Esau, might have caused Jacob to be born first. If He has not done so, it is precisely that His right of free choice may stand not only established, but intact.

Tholuck rightly observes that the apostle, by using the present μένῃ , may stand, instead of the aor. μείνῃ , might stand, extends this consequence of the fact to all times: it applies therefore also to the Jews of Paul's day.

The two regimens: “ not of works, but ”...might be made to depend on a participle understood: οὖσα , being, which would be a qualification of the verb μένῃ , may stand. But it is more natural to take this verb in an absolute sense, and to connect the two clauses with the subject of the sentence: the purpose according to election. Paul adds: “purpose not of works, but”...; that is to say, the choice on which the plan rests was not made in accordance with a merit of works, but solely according to the will of the caller. Chap. Rom 8:29 has shown us that though this choice is unmerited, yet neither is it arbitrary.

Verse 12

Vv. 12. The oracle quoted is taken from Genesis 25:23. The question whether it refers to the two brothers personally, or to the two peoples who shall spring from them, is settled by the words preceding: “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall issue from thee.” Hence it follows that the oracle speaks neither of the two peoples separately from their fathers, nor of the two fathers separately from their descendants. Possibly Genesis gives greater weight to the idea of the two peoples, whereas Paul ( Rom 9:11 ) thinks chiefly of the two fathers. It matters little; for a profound solidarity, at once physical and moral, connects the character of the race with that of the father.

The theocratic inferiority of Esau resulted historically from his profane spirit, which showed itself in the sale of his birthright; it was sealed by the blessing of Jacob. As to the people who sprang from Esau, this same inferiority appeared, first, in the fact that their dwelling-place was assigned outside the promised land properly so called, then in their submission to Israel under David, and finally, after several alternations of subjection and independence, in their final incorporation with the Jewish state under John Hyrcanus, and their obliteration from the number of the nations.

The translation of the words μείζων and ἐλάσσων by elder and younger, is rejected by Meyer as opposed to the natural meaning of the two terms. But it is quite impossible to give a different meaning than elder to the word μείζων in the passage Genesis 29:16, where it is contrasted with the term ἡ νεωτέρα , the younger. Even in Hebrew the meaning of the narrative is not certainly that Leah was physically greater than her younger sister. And in our passage how can Meyer hold that the term greater signifies that Esau was the stronger of the twins in their mother's womb!

Verse 13

Vv. 13. A second quotation, meant to confirm the first; it is taken from Malachi 1:2-3. The conjunction as may be understood in two ways: either in the sense that God's love to Jacob and His hatred to Esau were the cause of the subjection of the latter to the former; or it may be thought that Paul quotes this saying of Malachi as demonstrating by a striking fact in the later history of the two peoples the truth of the relation expressed in Romans 9:12. Malachi lived at a period when, in their return from exile, Israel had just received a marvellous proof of God's protection, while Edom was still plunged in the desolation into which it had been thrown by its eastern conquerors. Beholding those ruins on the one side and this restoration on the other, Malachi proclaims, as a fact of experience, the twofold divine feeling of love and hatred which breaks forth in these opposite modes of treatment. I have loved and I have hated do not signify merely: I have preferred the one to the other; but: I have taken Jacob to be mine, while I have set aside Esau. Calvin here employs the two verbs assumere and repellere. God has made the one the depositary of His Messianic promise and of the salvation of the world, and denied to the other all co-operation in the establishment of His kingdom. And this difference of dealing is not accidental; it rests on a difference of feeling in God Himself. On the one hand, a union founded on moral sympathy; on the other, a rupture resulting from moral antipathy; on hating, comp. Luke 14:26: “If any man hate not his father and mother..., and his own life”...

God's love to Jacob is neither merited nor arbitrary. When we think of the patriarch's many grave sins, when we think of Israel's endless apostasies, it will be seen that merit cannot enter into the case. But when we take account of God's prevision of the power of faith, and of its final triumph in that man and people (the foreknowing of Rom 8:29 ), it will be seen as follows otherwise from the divine essence itself that neither is the prerogative bestowed on Jacob arbitrary. As to Esau, let the three following facts be remarked in regard to the hatred of which he is the object: 1. In speaking of Jacob and Esau, either as men or nations, neither Genesis nor Malachi nor St. Paul have eternal salvation in view; the matter in question is the part they play regarded from the theocratic standpoint, as is proved by the word δουλεύειν , to serve. 2. Esau, though deprived of the promise and the inheritance, nevertheless obtained a blessing and an inheritance for himself and his descendants. 3. The national character inherited from the father of the race is not so impressed on his descendants that they cannot escape it. As there were in Israel many Edomites, profane hearts, there may also have been, as has been said, many Israelites, many spiritual hearts, in Edom. Comp. what is said of the wise men of Teman, Jeremiah 49:7, and the very respectable personage Eliphaz (notwithstanding his error) in the Book of Job.

The two examples of exclusion, given in the persons of Ishmael and Esau, have served to prove a fact which Israel embraced with their whole heart: God's right to endow them with privilege at the expense of the Arab (Ishmael) and Edomite (Esau) nations, by assigning to them in the history of redemption the preponderating part to which the right of primogeniture seemed to call those excluded. Now, if Israel approved the principle of divine liberty when it was followed in a way so strikingly in their favor, how could they repudiate it when it was turned against them!

To explain the apostle's view, we have added at each step the explanatory ideas fitted to complete and justify his thought; this was the business of the commentator. But he himself has not done so; he has been content with referring to the biblical facts, setting forth thereby the great truth of God's liberty. And hence this liberty, thus presented, might appear to degenerate into arbitrariness, and even into injustice. This gives rise to the objection which he puts in Romans 9:14, and treats down to Romans 9:24; this is the second part of this discussion: Does not liberty, such as thou claimest for God in His decrees and elections, do violence to His moral character, and especially to His justice? It is to this question that Rom 9:14-18 give answer; the apostle there proves that Scripture recognizes this liberty in God; and as it can ascribe to Him nothing unworthy of Him, it must be admitted that this liberty is indisputable. Then in Rom 9:19-24 he shows by a figure that the superiority of God to man should impose silence on the proud pretensions of the latter, and he applies this principle to the relation between God and Israel.

Verses 14-16

Vv. 14-16. “ What shall we say then? Is there not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be! For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.

Several commentators, and Mangold among the last, have taken Rom 9:15-18 not as the answer to the objection raised in Romans 9:14, but as the continuation and justification of the objection itself. But nothing is needed to refute this opinion beyond the exclamation: μὴ γένοιτο , let it not be, which cannot be a simple parenthesis; besides, the form of the question with the negation μή , in Romans 9:14, already assumes a negative answer, the development of which is necessarily expected in what follows.

The answer is taken solely from Scripture, which is an authority for Paul's opponent in the discussion as well as for himself. This opponent is a Jew, who thinks that the sovereign liberty which the apostle ascribes to God, and by which he seeks to justify the rejection of Israel, wrongs the divine character. It must, indeed, be borne in mind that the Jewish conscience, being developed under the law, was accustomed to consider God's dealings with man as entirely dependent on human merit or demerit. Man's doings regulated those of God.

Vv. 15. Scripture itself, that foundation of all Israel's theocratic claims, demonstrates divine liberty as it is taught by Paul. This liberty therefore cannot involve any injustice. And first, a quotation proving the absence, in the case of man, of all right to God's favors. It is taken from Exodus 33:19, where God, when condescending to grant the bold request of Moses that he might behold His glory with his bodily eyes, gives him to understand that nothing in him, notwithstanding all he has been able to do up till now in God's service, merited such a favor. If God grants it to him, it is not because he is that Moses who asks it, or because there is any right in the matter; it is pure grace on God's part. The passage is cited according to the LXX. The only difference between it and the Hebrew is, that here in each proposition the first verb is in the past (present), the second in the future; while in the Greek the first is in the future, the second in the present. It matters little for the sense. The two verbs in the present (or past) express the internal feeling, the source, and the verbs in the future the external manifestations, the successive effects. But the emphasis is neither on the first nor on the second verbs; it is on the pronoun ὃν ἄν , him, whosoever he may be. It is the idea of God's free choice which reappears. The condescension of God to Moses is certainly not an arbitrary act; God knows why He grants it. But neither is it a right on the part of Moses, as if he would have been entitled to complain in case of refusal. The difference of meaning between the two verbs ἐλεεῖν and οἰκτείρειν is nearly the same as that between the two substantives λύπη and ὀδύνη , Romans 9:2. The first expresses the compassion of the heart, the second the manifestations of that feeling (cries or groans).

Vv. 16 enunciates the general principle to be derived from this divine utterance in the particular case of Moses. When God gives, it is not because a human will ( he that willeth) or a human work ( he that runneth) lays Him under obligation, and forces Him to give, in order not to be unjust by refusing. It is in Himself the initiative and the efficacy are ( Him that calleth), whence the gift flows. He gives not as a thing due, but as a fruit of His love; which does not imply that therein He acts arbitrarily. Such a supposition is excluded, precisely because the giver in question is God, who is wisdom itself, and who thinks nothing good except what is good. The principle here laid down included God's right to call the Gentiles to salvation when He should be pleased to grant them this favor. The words: “of him that willeth, of him that runneth,” have often been strangely understood. There have been found in them allusions to the wish of Isaac to make Esau the heir of the promise, and to Esau's running to bring the venison necessary for the feast of benediction. But Isaac and Esau are no longer in question, and we must remain by the example of Moses. It was neither the wish expressed in his prayer, nor the faithful care which he had taken of Israel in the wilderness, which could merit the favor he asked; and as no man will ever surpass him in respect either of pious willing or holy working, it follows that the rule applied to him is universal. So it will always be. Israel, in particular, should understand thereby that it is neither their fixed theocratic necessities, nor the multitude of their ceremonial or moral works, which can convert salvation into a debt contracted toward them by God, and take away from Him the right of rejecting them if He comes to think it good to do so for reasons which He alone appreciates.

But if the words of God to Moses prove that God does not owe His favors to any one whomsoever, must it also be held that He is free to reject whom He will? Yes. Scripture ascribes to Him even this right. Such is the truth following from another saying of God, in reference to the adversary of Moses, Pharaoh.

Verses 17-18

Vv. 17, 18. “ For the Scripture saith unto Pharoah, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth.

Having given an instance of the liberty with which God dispenses grace, Paul gives an example of the way in which He hardens. This example is the more appropriately chosen, because the two personages brought on the scene are, in the Bible history, as it were the counterparts of one another. The logical connection expressed by for is this: There is nothing strange in Scripture ascribing to God the right of dispensing grace, since it ascribes to Him even the yet more incomprehensible right of condemning to hardness. These two rights indeed mutually suppose one another. The God who had not the one would not have the other. The passage quoted is Exodus 9:16. God pronounces this sentence after the sixth plague. The verb ἐξεγείρειν (Osterv.: I have called thee into being; Oltram.: I have raised thee up) signifies properly: to bring out of a state of insensibility or inaction; from sleep, for example, as in Xenophon: “having seen this dream, he awoke ( ἐξηγέρθη );” or from death, as 1 Corinthians 6:14: “God will also raise up us by His power” ( ἐξεγερεῖ ). This passage is, with the one before us, the only place where this word is used in the N. T.

But it is employed in the LXX. in the sense of raising up, causing to be born, thus Zechariah 11:16: “I raise you up ( ἐξεγείρω ) a shepherd;” Habakkuk 1:6: “I raise up (I cause to come) against you the Chaldeans.” It is in this last sense that the simple ἐγείρειν is used in the N. T., Matthew 11:11: “There hath not been raised up ( ἐγήγερται )...a greater than John the Baptist;” John 7:52: “Out of Galilee no prophet hath been raised up ( ἐγήγερται ).” The simple verb ἐγείρειν is likewise used, James 5:15, to signify to cure of a disease: “And the Lord will raise him up ( ἐγερεῖ ).” All these different shades of meaning have been applied by commentators to our passage. According to some (Aug., Fritzs., De Wette), the meaning is: “I aroused thee to resistance against me.” Reuss also says: “Pharaoh acts as he does in regard to the Israelites, because God excites him thereto. In this case the apostle must have departed completely from the meaning of the Hebrew word héémid (not héir), which simply signifies: to cause to stand up. And would there not be something revolting to the conscience in supposing that God could have Himself impelled Pharaoh inwardly to evil? Comp. James 1:12. Others (Hofmann, Morison), fixing on the sense of the Hebrew word, according to which the LXX. have translated ( διετηρήθης , thou hast been preserved), as on that of the simple verb ἐγείρειν , James 5:15, think that God is thereby reminding Pharaoh that He could have left him to die (in one of the previous plagues), or that He could at that very moment visit him with death with all his people; comp. Romans 9:15. But in the former case God would be made to allude to a fact which there is nothing to indicate; and in the second, the verb employed would not be suitable; for it expresses more than the idea of simple preservation, as is acknowledged by Hofmann himself. A third set give the word the meaning of: “I have established thee as king ” (Flatt, for example). But so special a qualification as this would require to be expressed more precisely. This last meaning, however, comes near what seems to us to be the true one. We think, indeed, that we should here apply the meaning raise up in all its generality. “I have caused thee to appear at this time, in this place, in this position” (Theoph., Beza, Calv., Beng., Olsh., Rück., Thol., Philip., Beyschl.). The subject in question is not the wicked disposition which animates Pharaoh, but the entire situation in which he finds himself providentially placed. God might have caused Pharaoh to be born in a cabin, where his proud obstinacy would have been displayed with no less self-will, but without any notable historical consequence; on the other hand, He might have placed on the throne of Egypt at that time a weak, easy-going man, who would have yielded at the first shock. What would have happened? Pharaoh in his obscure position would not have been less arrogant and perverse; but Israel would have gone forth from Egypt without éclat. No plagues one upon another, no Red Sea miraculously crossed, no Egyptian army destroyed; nothing of all that made so deep a furrow in the Israelitish conscience, and which remained for the elect people the immovable foundation of their relation to Jehovah. And thereafter also no influence produced on the surrounding nations. The entire history would have taken another direction. God did not therefore create the indomitable pride of Pharaoh as it were to gain a point of resistance and reflect His glory; He was content to use it for this purpose. This is what is expressed by the following words: ὅπως , that thus, not simply that ( ἵνα ). Comp. Exodus 15:14-15, those words of the song chanted after the passage of the Red Sea: “The nations heard it; terror hath taken hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. The dukes of Edom have been amazed; trembling hath taken hold upon the mighty men of Moab; the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.” Also the words of Rahab to the spies sent by Joshua, Joshua 2:9-10: “Terror hath taken hold of us, the inhabitants of the land have fainted; for we have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Red Sea from before you...; the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and in earth beneath.” Read also the words of the Gibeonites to Joshua, Joshua 9:9: “From a very far country thy servants are come, because of the name of the Lord thy God; for we have heard the fame of Him, and all that He did in Egypt.” Thus it was that the catastrophes which distinguished the going out from Egypt, provoked by Pharaoh's blind resistance, paved the way for the conquest of Canaan. And even to the present day, wherever throughout the world Exodus is read, the divine intention is realized: “to show my power, and make known my name throughout all the earth.”

Verse 18

Vv. 18. From this particular example Paul deduces, as in Romans 9:16, the general principle, while reproducing by way of antithesis the maxim of Romans 9:16, so as to combine the two aspects in which he wishes here to present divine liberty: “No man can say either: I am, whatever I may do, safe from the judgment of God, or such another, whatever he may do, is unworthy of the divine favor.”

The repetition of the words: him that willeth, as well as their position at the head of the two sentences, shows that the emphasis is on this idea. To a son who should complain of the favors granted to one of his brothers, and of the severe treatment to which he is himself subjected, might it not be said: “Thy father is free both to show favor and to chastise;” it being understood that the man who answers thus does not confound liberty with caprice, and assumes that the father's character sufficiently secures the wise and just exercise of his liberty? We must here cite the observation of Bengel, fixing the antithesis Paul has in view, and explaining his words: “The Jews thought that in no case could they be abandoned by God, and in no case could the Gentiles be received by God.” The apostle breaks the iron circle within which this people claimed to confine the divine conduct toward themselves and the Gentiles, saying: to the Gentiles wrath; to us, the only elect, clemency!

What is meant by the term hardening, and what leads the apostle to use the expression here? The notion of hardening was not contained in the term raised up, but in its relation to the conjunction that which follows (see Meyer); besides, the narrative of Exodus was in the memory of every reader. God, in raising up Pharaoh, foresaw his proud resistance, and had in reserve to chastise it afterward by a complete blindness which was to be the means of reaching the desired result.

To harden signifies: to take from a man the sense of the true, the just, and even the useful, so that he is no longer open to the wise admonitions and significant circumstances which should turn him aside from the evil way on which he has entered. We need not therefore seek to weaken the force of the term, as Origen and Grotius do, who regard it as only a simple permission on the part of God (leaving the sinner to harden himself), or like Carpzov, Semler, etc., who explain it in the sense of treating harshly. The word harden cannot signify, in the account Exodus 4-14, anything else, as God's act, than it signifies as the act of Pharaoh, when it is said that he hardened himself. But what must not be forgotten, and what appears distinctly from the whole narrative, is, that Pharaoh's hardening was at first his own act. Five times it is said of him that he himself hardened or made heavy his heart (Exodus 7:13-14, Exodus 7:22, Exodus 8:15, Exodus 8:32, Exodus 9:7; we do not speak here of Exo 4:21 and Exodus 7:3, which are a prophecy), before the time when it is at last said that God hardened him ( Exo 9:12 ); and even after that, as if a remnant of liberty still remained to him, it is said for a last time that he hardened himself ( Exo 9:34-35 ). It was a parallel act to that of Judas closing his heart to the last appeal. Then at length, as if by way of a terrible retribution, God hardened him five times (Exodus 10:1; Exodus 10:20, Exodus 10:27, Exodus 11:10, and Exo 14:8 ). Thus he at first closed his heart obstinately against the influence exercised on him by the summonses of Moses and the first chastisements which overtook him; that was his sin. And thereafter, but still within limits, God rendered him deaf not merely to the voice of justice, but to that of sound sense and simple prudence: that was his punishment.

Far, then, from its having been God who urged him to evil, God punished him with the most terrible chastisements, for the evil to which he voluntarily gave himself up. In this expression hardening we find the same idea as in the παραδιδόναι (“God gave them up ”), by which the apostle expressed God's judgment on the Gentiles for their refusal to welcome the revelation which He gave of Himself in nature and conscience (Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Rom 1:28 ). When man has wilfully quenched the light he has received and the first rebukes of divine mercy, and when he persists in giving himself up to his evil instincts, there comes a time when God withdraws from him the beneficent action of His grace. Then the man becomes insensible even to the counsels of prudence. He is thenceforth like a horse with the bit in his teeth, running blindly to his destruction. He has rejected salvation for himself, he was free to do so; but he cannot prevent God from now making use of him and of his ruin to advance the salvation of others. From being the end, he is degraded to the rank of means. Such was the lot of Pharaoh. Everybody in Egypt saw clearly whither his mad resistance tended. His magicians told him ( Exo 8:19 ): “This is the finger of God.” His servants told him ( Exo 10:7 ): “Let these people go.” He himself, after every plague, felt his heart relent. He once went the length of crying out ( Exo 9:27 ): “I have sinned this time; the Lord is righteous.” Now was the decisive instant...for the last time after this moment of softening he hardened himself ( Exo 9:33 ). Then the righteousness of God took hold of him. He had refused to glorify God actively, he must glorify Him passively. The Jews did not at all disapprove of this conduct on God's part as long as it concerned only Pharaoh or the Gentiles; but what they affirmed, in virtue of their divine election, was, that never, and on no condition, could they themselves be the objects of such a judgment. They restricted the liberty of divine judgment on themselves, as they restricted the liberty of grace toward the Gentiles. Paul in our verse re-establishes both liberties, vindicating God's sole right to judge whether this or that man possesses the conditions on which He will think fit to show him favor, or those which will make it suitable for Him to punish by hardening him.

Thus understood and we do not think that either the context of the apostle, or that of Exodus allows it to be understood otherwise it offers nothing to shock the conscience; it is entirely to the glory of the divine character, and Holsten has no right to paraphrase or rather to caricature the view of Paul by saying: “God shows grace, pure arbitrariness; God hardens, pure arbitrariness.”

Perhaps we shall be charged with introducing into the explanation of the apostolic text clauses which are not found in it. This charge is just; only it is not against us that it comes. The reserves indicated in our interpretation arose of themselves, we think, from the special case the apostle had in view. For he was not here writing a philosophy or a system of Christian dogmatics; he was combating a determined adversary, Jewish Pharisaism with its lofty pretensions both in relation to the Gentiles, and relatively to God Himself. Paul, therefore, only unveils the side of the truth overlooked by this adversary, that of divine liberty. Certainly if Paul had been disputing with an opponent who started from the opposite point of view, and who exaggerated divine liberty so as to make it a purely arbitrary and tyrannical will, he would have brought out the opposite side of the truth, that of the moral conditions which are taken into account by a wise and good sovereignty, like that of God.

This occasional character of the apostle's teaching in this chapter has not always been considered; men have sought in it a general and complete exposition of the doctrine of the divine decrees; and so they have completely mistaken its meaning. And hence we have been forced to put ourselves at the general standpoint by supplying the clauses which the apostle took for granted, and the statement of which was not required by the particular application he had in view.

The apostle has proved from Scripture God's liberty to show grace when He thinks right, as well as His liberty to chastise by hardening when He thinks right. On this point the adversary can make no reply; he is forced to accept the apostle's demonstration. But here is his rejoinder: “Granted! says he, God has the right to harden me. But at least let Him not claim to complain of me after having hardened me.” To this new rejoinder the apostle answers first by a figure, which he will afterward apply to the case in question. The figure of the potter:

Verses 19-21

Vv. 19-21. “ Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who can resist His will? Much rather, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the vessel of clay say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Or hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?

The word then proves that the interlocutor accepts the answer made to his first objection ( Rom 9:14 ), but that he starts from it to raise a new one. The ἔτι , yet, after τί , signifies: yet, after hardening me. The verb μέμφεσθαι , to find fault, to speak with anger, applies to the perdition with which God threatens sinners who are hardened by Him. When He hardens any one, God cannot ask that he should not harden himself. The question, Who can resist His will? literally signifies, Who hath resisted, or rather Who resisteth?...For the perfect of the verb ἵστημι and its compounds has really the sense of the present: “I have placed myself there, and continue there.” It is therefore clear that the question: “Who is he that resisteth Him?” signifies: “Who is he that can resist Him?” Hofmann thinks that the interlocutor means: Who, in this case (that of my hardening), hath resisted God? Answer: “Nobody; for in hardening myself I have done nothing but obey Him.” This meaning is not impossible; it is ingenious, but more far-fetched than the preceding.

Verse 20

Vv. 20. Most commentators do not hold that in the following answer Paul comes seriously to discuss the objection. Abrumpit quaestionem, says Melanchthon. Holsten observes that Paul raises the question, not to resolve it, which would be impossible, but to crush it. We acknowledge that in Rom 9:19-20 Paul pleads solely man's incompetency to discuss the dealings of God. But we shall see that he does not stop there, and that he enters more profoundly into the marrow of the question than is generally thought. It would be surprising, indeed, if a conclusion not-to-be received should be found to be the last word of Paul's logic. It would have been better for him in that case not to have made his interlocutor bring him to such a strait.

The particle μενοῦνγε , translated by much rather, is omitted by the Greco-Latins; wrongly, without doubt. It falls into three words: μέν , certainly; οὖν , therefore, and γέ , at least; that is to say, what follows remains in any case true, though all the rest should be false. Hence: much more certainly still; comp. Philippians 3:8 ( much more). It therefore signifies here: “I do not examine the intrinsic truth of what thou allegest; but, however that may be, what is more certain is, that thou art not in a position to dispute with God.” The address: O man! reminds the adversary of the reason of his incompetency; it is his absolute inferiority in relation to the Creator. The exclamation ὦ ἄνθρωπε , O man, is placed by the Byzs. at the beginning of the sentence, but by the Alexs. after μενοῦνγε ; the former is undoubtedly preferable. For the address: O man! justifies the use of this particle; and the two terms man and God placed, the one at the beginning of the sentence, the other at the end, form a better antithesis. The term ἀνταποκρίνεσθαι does not mean simply: to reply; but, as is proved by the only parallel in the N. T. ( Luk 14:6 ): to reply to a reply, to make rejoinder, as it were. God, indeed, had already answered once in the previous sayings. This word implies the spirit of the contest.

The comparison of the relation between God and man to that between the vessel and the potter seems logically defective. Man free and responsible cannot be a mere instrument in the hands of God. Moreover, endowed as he is with sensibility to pleasure and pain, he cannot be manipulated like worthless matter. And certainly, if the question addressed by the vessel to the potter: “Why hast thou made me thus?” signified: “Why hast thou created me good clay or bad clay?” and in the application to man's relation to God: “Why hast thou created me with the disposition to good or to evil?” the comparison would have no meaning. For the potter does not commit the absurdity of holding the clay responsible for its superior or inferior quality. But the question is not in the least about the production of the clay, and consequently about its qualities, but solely about the use which is made of it by the potter. He does not create the clay; he takes it as he finds it, and adapts it as best he can to the different uses he proposes to himself. And besides, it is not the yet shapeless clay which asks: “Why hast thou made me thus (with or without such or such qualities)?” it is the fully manufactured vessel ( τὸ πλάσμα ) which thus interrogates him who has given it its present form ( τῷ πλάσαντι ). Consequently, in the application made of this to the relation between man and God, this same question does not signify: “Why hast Thou created me good or evil?” in that case the question could not be summarily set aside by Paul but: “Why, in the development of Thy work here below, hast Thou assigned me an honorable use (by favoring me with Thy grace, like Moses) or a vile use (by hardening me like Pharaoh)? Why does such a man serve the end of Thy glory by his salvation; such another the end of Thy glory by his dishonor?” This is the question in regard to which Paul reminds his Israelitish disputant of man's incompetency as before God. As it belongs only to the potter, in virtue of the knowledge he has of his art, to determine the use which he shall make of the different parts of the mass in his hands to extract from each the best result possible, so it belongs to God alone to assign to the different portions of humanity, to the Jews no less than to the rest of men, the use which suits Him best, with a view to His final aim. The question whether, in determining the use of one and another, He will act without rhyme or reason, or whether, on the contrary, He will adapt the use made of each to His moral predispositions, finds no place in the mind of any one who understands that God's perfections always act in harmony, and that consequently His power is ever the servant of His goodness, justice, and wisdom. As that which justifies the power of the potter over the lump of clay is not only the superiority of his strength, but that of his understanding; so, with stronger reason, what explains the sovereignty of God and His right over mankind is not only His almightiness, but His supreme understanding, and His infinite moral perfection. And what follows, Romans 9:22-24, proves that such is the view of the apostle. For to what purpose are the expressions θέλων , willing ( Rom 9:22 ), and ἵνα , that ( Rom 9:23 ), if not to bring out, as we shall see, God's perfect wisdom in the choice of His ends and the employment of His means? It is obvious, therefore, that the use God makes of man at a given moment (a Pharaoh, for example, as a vessel of dishonor), far from excluding his moral liberty, supposes and involves it. For the honor or dishonor to which God turns him in the execution of His work is not independent, as appears from this example, of the attitude taken by man in relation to God. The work of the skilful potter is not the emblem of an arbitrary use of strength; but, on the contrary, of a deliberate and intelligent employment of the matter at his disposal. Such is the apostle's complete view. But it is quite true, as Lange says: “When man goes the length of making to himself a god whom he affects to bind by his own rights, God then puts on His majesty, and appears in all His reality as a free God, before whom man is a mere nothing, like the clay in the hand of the potter. Such was Paul's attitude when acting as God's advocate, in his suit with Jewish Pharisaism. This is the reason why he expresses only one side of the truth. The following passage, ver. Rom 9:30 to Romans 10:21, will show that he is very far from mistaking or forgetting the other.

The ἤ , or, of Romans 9:21, means: “Or, if it were otherwise, it must be admitted the potter has not?”...Comp. Matthew 20:15. The genitive τοῦ πηλοῦ , of the lump of clay, is dependent not on ὁ κεραμεύς , the potter, but on ἐξουσίαν , power: the power which he has to use the clay. The subject, the potter, is placed between the two words, the better, as it were, to command them.

What does the lump represent? Some think that it is the people of Israel, and that God is described as having the right to make them either His elect people, or a rejected nation. This meaning breaks down on Romans 9:23-24, where we see that the vessels unto honor are elected from among the Gentiles as well as from among the Jews. The lump therefore represents the whole of humanity, not humanity as God creates it, but in the state in which He finds it every moment when He puts it to the service of His kingdom. This state includes for each individual the whole series of free determinations which have gone to make him what he is. Let not Israel therefore say to God: Thou hast no right to make of me anything else than a vessel of honor; and Thou hast no right to make of that other body, the Gentiles, anything else than a base vessel. It belongs to God Himself to decide, according to His wisdom, the part which He will assign to every human being. Comp. 2 Timothy 2:20-21, where the words: “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor,” show clearly the truth of the standpoint which we have just expounded.

The forms ὃ μέν , ὃ δέ , might be explained as a remnant of the most ancient form of the Greek article; but it is perhaps more correct to admit an ellipsis: ὃ μὲν ποιεῖ εἰς τιμὴν , εἰς τιμὴν ποιῆσαι , etc.

Let us add, that the figure here developed by Paul is familiar to the writers of the O. T. (Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9-10; Jeremiah 18:6, etc.), and thus had the force of a quotation. Application of the figure, Romans 9:22-24.

Verse 22

Vv. 22 describes God's dealing with the vessels unto dishonor; Rom 9:23-24 will describe His dealing with the vessels of value. The relation between the participle θέλων , willing, and the verb ἤνεγκεν , He endured, may be explained in three ways, expressed each by one or other of the conjunctions, when, because, or though. In the first connection the meaning would be: “When He had the intention of”...Instead of striking at once, as He already purposed doing, He bore with patience. The relation thus understood is only slightly different from that which would be expressed by though. The connection expressed by because (De Wette, Rück., and others), would signify that God's long-suffering had no other end than to bring about an accumulation of wrath; but would such long-suffering deserve the name? It is obvious from Rom 2:4-5 that if the long-suffering produces this painful result, this is not the intention of Him who bears long, but the fault of those who abuse His forbearance to harden themselves the more. The true relation is consequently that expressed by the conjunction though (Fritz., Philip., Meyer). There is, in fact, a natural contrast between the long-suffering and the manifestation of wrath, and it is this contrast which is expressed by the though.

God's intention in regard to the Jews was moving on to the display of His wrath and the manifestation of His power. In these expressions there is an evident allusion to the saying of God regarding Pharaoh, as just quoted, Romans 9:17; comp. the expressions ἐνδείξασθαι τὴν ὀργήν , to show wrath, Romans 9:22, and ἐνδείξωμαι ἐν σοί , to show in thee, Romans 9:17; τὸ δυνατὸν αὐτοῦ , His power, Romans 9:22, τὴν δύναμίν μου , my power, Romans 9:17. This because unbelieving Judaism was playing toward the church, at the date of Paul's writing, exactly the same part as Pharaoh formerly played toward Israel themselves. As this tyrant sought to crush Israel in its cradle, so Israel was endeavoring to crush the church at its first steps in the world. And hence God's dealings with Pharaoh must be now reproduced in the judgment of Israel.

The manifestation of wrath refers at once to the doom of destruction which was already suspended over the head of the nation in general, and to the condemnation of all unbelieving Israelites in particular; comp. Romans 2:5, and the saying of John the Baptist, Matthew 3:10; Matthew 3:12. We might refer the manifestation of God's power to the mighty efficacy of God's Spirit creating a new people in Israel from the day of Pentecost onward, and thus preparing the spiritual Israel, which was to replace the carnal Israel when the latter is to be rejected. But it is to Rom 9:23-24 that this idea belongs; and the allusion to the power displayed in the destruction of Pharaoh and his army ( Rom 9:17 ) leads us rather to apply this expression to the near destruction of Jerusalem and of the Jewish people by the arm of the Romans, which was to be in this unexampled catastrophe the instrument of God's wrath and power.

The execution of this destruction, long ago determined and clearly announced by Jesus Himself, God delayed for forty years; that is the long-suffering of which the apostle here speaks. It seems as if, at the very moment when Israel was laying its deicidal arm on the person of the Messiah, God should have annihilated it by a thunderbolt. But, agreeably to the prayer of Him who said, “Father, forgive them,” a whole period more of long-suffering was granted them, and not only of long-suffering, but of tender and urgent invitation by the preaching of the apostles. Is not Paul then right in characterizing God's dealings with Israel by the words: “Though He was already determined to...He endured with much long-suffering”? Comp. the accumulated expressions of goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering. Chrysostom and De Wette have applied this word endured to God's patience with Pharaoh. This was to make a simple allusion the explanation; Paul has finished with Pharaoh long ago. According to Meyer, Paul means that God put off the judgment of the Jewish people, because as the destruction of Jerusalem was to be the signal of the end of the world, if God had hastened this event there would have remained no more time for the conversion of the Gentiles. This idea is bound up with the explanation given by Meyer of the that, Romans 9:23. But it is difficult to suppose that Paul, who, according to 1 Thessalonians 2:16, was expecting the destruction of the Jewish people as close at hand, and who yet, according to chap. 11, placed the conversion of all Gentile nations and the restoration of the Jews before the end of the world, could have imagined that all these phases of the great drama of humanity were to be accomplished in so brief a time. The meaning which we have given presents none of these difficulties.

But those Jews to whom God extends such marvellous long-suffering are none the less already vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. The term: vessels of wrath, signifies, according to Lange: “vessels on which wrath falls,” that is to say, which He will break in His wrath. But Rom 9:21 and the completely parallel passage, 2 Timothy 2:20, show that the point in question is the use, and consequently the contents of those vessels. The meaning is therefore: all saturated with wrath; not for the purpose of emptying it on others, like the angels who hold the seven vials of divine wrath, Revelation 16:0 (Lange's objection), but to taste all its bitterness themselves.

The perfect participle κατηρτισμένα , prepared, fitted to, has given rise to great discussions; for the apostle does not tell us by whom this preparing was made. Meyer contends that it should be ascribed to God Himself. He supports his view by the regimen following: to destruction, which indicates a judgment of God. But we find in Rom 2:4 an authentic explanation from the apostle himself on this subject. If the Jews are actually ripe for judgment, he says, it is not the fault of God, who has faithfully pointed them to repentance and salvation; it is the effect of their own hardening and impenitent heart which has changed the treasures of divine grace into treasures of wrath heaped on them. What answer does Meyer give to this? He holds that the apostle moves between two irreconcilable theories. In chap. 2 Paul stood, it is true, at the viewpoint of human liberty; but here he starts from the standpoint of absolute divine will. But is it probable that a mind so logical as Paul's should accept such an irreducible duality of views? And what seems stranger still is, that from Rom 9:30 of our chapter onward, and in the whole of chap. 10, he replaces himself anew at the standpoint of human liberty, and reproduces exactly the same explanation as in chap. 2! Finally, while in the following verse he directly ascribes to God the preparation of the elect for salvation: “ which He has prepared unto glory,” he deliberately avoids expressing himself thus in speaking of the preparation of the Jews for destruction. He here employs, instead of the active verb prepare, with God as its subject, the passive participle: fitted to. The understood subject of this action of fitting appears not only from Romans 2:4, but more clearly still if possible from the passage, 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16: “The Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway; but wrath is come upon them to make an end of them.” It thus appears who is the author of the present ripeness of the Jews for judgment in Paul's view. It is not God assuredly who has Himself prepared vessels which please Him not, and of which He is in haste to make an end. De Wette even acknowledges that the apostle “ avoids saying by whom they have been fitted to destruction.”

The perfect participle used by the apostle denotes a present state which has been previously formed in a certain manner; but this participle indicates absolutely nothing as to the mode in which this state has been produced; hence the expressions ripe or ready for...very well render the thought contained in this term; comp. Luke 6:40. The choice of the verb καταρτίζειν , to arrange perfectly, equip (for example, a vessel, that it may be ready to set sail, see Passow), shows also that the point in question is not the beginning of this moral development (which would have required the term ἑτοιμάζειν , Rom 9:23 ), but its end. In using this term, Paul means to designate the result of the historical development of the people: their present state as being that of full ripeness for divine judgment. So this expression has been rightly explained by the Greek Fathers, Grot., Calov., Beng., Olsh., Hofm., etc. As to the manner in which St. Paul viewed the formation of this state of perdition, we may determine it with certainty by what he has said in chap. 1 of the analogous development wrought among the Gentiles. First, they voluntarily extinguished the light which burned in them by natural revelation; then, as a punishment, God gave them up to their evil propensities, and thereafter evil overflowed like a flood; comp. Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28. The same was the case with Pharaoh; he began by hardening himself when confronted with the first signs of the divine will; then God hardened him; again he hardened himself; and finally, judgment took hold of him. Thus it is always that the two factors, the human and the divine, concur in the tragical development of such a moral state. As is admirably said by Lange: “These two points of view [which are alleged to be contradictory] fall into one, according to which every development in sin is a tissue of transgressions due to human responsibility, and of judgments coming from God.” It is exactly so with Israel. The development of their state of perdition begins face to face with the Mosaic and prophetic revelations, whose sanctifying influence they reject; it continues in presence of the appearance and work of Jesus Himself; and now it reaches its goal with the rejection of the apostolical preaching and the perfidious obstacles raised by Israel against this preaching throughout the whole world. After such a history this people deserved the judgment of hardening which overtook them ( Rom 11:8-10 ), more even than Pharaoh.

Perdition, ἀπώλεια , does not merely denote external punishment, the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the people; it is also the condemnation of the wilfully unbelieving Israelites. It is quite obvious, indeed, that this ripeness of the people for condemnation did not prevent the individual conversion of any of its members, any more than the collective entrance of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God, Romans 9:27, prevents the unbelief and hardening of individuals among them. And this is what explains the object of God's long-suffering toward this people even when ripe for destruction; He wished to allow all those who might yet separate from this mass time to respond to the gospel call ( Act 2:40 ). To the long-suffering of God with the already devoted nation, there is added the merciful work whereby God draws from within it the foreknown believers to form the nucleus of the church ( Rom 9:23-24 ).

Verses 22-24

Vv. 22-24. “ Now if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And [ if ] that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, us, whom he also called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles ”...

Many commentators, Tholuck for example, find in the δέ , now, which they translate by but, the indication of a strong contrast, and think that Paul is setting over against God's abstract right, expounded in Romans 9:19-21, the real use which He has made of it in the history of the Jewish people: Thou, O man, art in any case incompetent to dispute God's right; but what, when I shall prove to thee that He has not used it rigorously, and that His conduct toward thee is still marked with the most wonderful long-suffering! But such a contrast would have demanded a stronger adversative particle ( ἄλλα , but); and this notion of a purely abstract right is rather philosophical than religious. Is it not simpler to take Rom 9:19-21 as giving the figure, and Rom 9:22-24 the application? It is evident that the figure of vessels unto dishonor, Romans 9:21, finds its corresponding expression in vessels of wrath, Romans 9:22, as the figure of vessels unto honor, Romans 9:21, finds its corresponding term in vessels of mercy, Romans 9:23. It is equally obvious that to the liberty used by the potter over the lump of clay which is at his disposal, to make of it vessels of different destinations, Romans 9:21, there corresponds the power of God displayed either in the form of wrath or in that of grace in Romans 9:22-23. It is therefore the transition from the figure to the application which is indicated by the δέ , and the particle ought therefore to be translated by now. But in the form: Now if, there is at the same time contained a gradation. For Paul means thereby that God has not even dealt with Israel as the potter with his vessel. We seek the principal proposition on which depends the sentence: Now, if willing..., and we do not find it; but it is easy to understand it from what precedes: “Wilt thou still find fault, O Jew? wilt thou do what the vessel would not dare to do against the potter? Wilt thou still accuse God of being unjustly angry?” We shall see afterward the point in the following passage where this understood principal proposition finds its logical place.

Verse 23

Vv. 23. Here God is presented to us as the potter, laboring to form the vessels of honor.

How are we to construe the proposition: And that He might make known? The most forced construction is that of Ewald, Hofmann, and Schott, who find here the principal clause on which depends the subordinate: Now, if God, willing...ver. 22. The sense would in that case be: “Now, if God, willing to show..., endured..., He also ( καί ) acted that ( ἵνα ).” Such an ellipsis seems inadmissible.

Calvin, Grotius, Meyer, Lange leave nothing to be understood, but make the καὶ ἵνα , and that, directly dependent on the: He endured, in the preceding sentence: “If, willing to show His wrath..., God endured..., and also that ”...Here on this view would be a second aim in God's long-suffering, added by Paul as subsidiary to the first. The principal proposition on which the if depends would remain understood, as we said in the outset; it would be: “What can be said? Canst thou find fault?” The meaning is nearly the same as in the previous construction; only the grammatical form is a little more flowing. But it is difficult to believe that God's dealing with the vessels of honor should be given as a mere appendix, supplementary to His dealing with the vessels of wrath. The two things ought at least to be put on an equal footing, as in Romans 9:21.

Beza, Rückert, and Beyschlag make the that dependent on κατηρτισμένα , fitted to: “Vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, and also that ( καὶ ἵνα ) God might make known the riches of His grace.” But how make the idea of the manifestation of grace, which is one of the two fundamental ideas of the whole passage, dependent on an expression so subordinate as this participle?

There remains only one possible construction, that of some ancients, and of Philippi, Reuss, and others, that is, to understand here the εἰ , if, of Romans 9:22, and to make Romans 9:23 a proposition parallel to the preceding: “If willing...God endured...and [if] that”...But where, in this case, is the verb dependent on this second if and parallel to He endured? Either there must be held to be a new ellipsis to be added to that of the principal verb, which is very clumsy or this verb must be found in the ἐκάλεσεν , He called, of Romans 9:24. Undoubtedly the relative pronoun οὕς , whom, “ whom He called,” seems to be opposed to this solution. But we have already seen and it is a turn of expression not unusual in Greek that Paul sometimes connects with a dependent proposition a member of the sentence which properly belonged to the principal proposition; comp. Romans 3:8, and especially Galatians 2:4-5: “ to whom we did not give place,” for: “we gave not place to them. ” It is precisely for this reason, no doubt, that he here adds to the relative οὕς , whom, the pronoun ἡμᾶς , us, this apposition being, as it were, the last remnant of the regular construction which had been abandoned. And why this incorrectness? Is it a piece of negligence? By no means. By this relative οὕς , whom, as well as by the καί , also, added to the verb He called, Romans 9:24, the apostle means to bring out the close bond which connects with one another the two acts of preparing beforehand, Romans 9:23, and calling, Romans 9:24; comp. Romans 8:30, where the same relation of ideas is expressed under the same form: “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called. ” Our translation has rendered ( Rom 9:24 ) this turn of the original as exactly as our language permits.

By the words: to make known the riches of His glory, Paul alludes to the example of Moses, Romans 9:15, who had asked God to show him His glory, exactly as by the expression of Rom 9:22 he had reminded his readers of those relative to Pharaoh. These riches of glory are the manifestation of His mercy which heaps glory on the vessels of honor, as the manifestation of wrath brings down perdition on the vessels that are worthless. Glory is here particularly the splendor of divine love.

Vessels of mercy: Vessels that are to be filled with salvation by mercy.

Which He prepared beforehand, ἃ προητοίμασε . This expression means more than the ready or fitted for of the previous verse; it was God Himself who had beforehand prepared everything to make those beings the objects of His grace. This saying is explained by the analogous expressions Romans 8:29-30; comp. the πρό , beforehand, which enters into the composition of the verb, as into that of the two verbs Romans 8:29; then the relation of the verbs prepared beforehand and call, which is the same as that between the verbs predestinate and call, Romans 9:30; and, finally, the καί , also, before ἐκάλεσε , called, which reproduces that of Romans 8:30. Jesus expresses an idea analogous to this, Matthew 25:34: “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;” with this difference, that in this saying it is the kingdom which is prepared in advance for believers, whereas here it is believers who are so for the kingdom. In this term: prepared beforehand, there are contained the two ideas of foreknowledge (prevision of faith) and predestination (destination to glory), expounded Romans 8:29. Let us further remark these four striking differences between this expression and the corresponding term of the preceding verse ( κατηρτισμένα ): 1. The preposition πρό , beforehand, is wanting in the participle of Romans 9:22. Romans 9:2. There the passive form, instead of the active used here. 3. Here the aorist, referring to the eternal act, as in Romans 8:29, instead of the perfect ( Rom 9:22 ), which denoted the present fact. 4. Here the verb ἑτοιμάζειν , to prepare, which indicates the beginning of the development, instead of that of Romans 9:21, which indicated its result. These four differences are not accidental, and leave no doubt as to the apostle's view.

Verse 24

Vv. 24. And those predestined to glory, He has drawn by long-suffering, not only from the midst of the lost mass of the Jews, but also from among the Gentiles. This was what Jesus had declared: “I have yet other sheep which are not of this fold” ( Joh 10:16 ). And this Paul had in view in the words: the riches of His glory. While He gleaned among the Jews, He reaped a harvest among the Gentiles, and thus carried out, in spite of Jewish pretensions, the free and large plan of salvation which He had formed on the sole prevision of faith.

The καί , also, reminds us of the relation between the eternal decree and the call in time.

It is thus a new people of elect ones, composed of the believing portion of the old Israel and of the entire multitude of the believing Gentiles, whom the apostle sees rising to the divine call to take the place of that carnal Israel; comp. Luk 14:15-24 and Rev 7:9 et seq. He cannot but think with a profound feeling of gratitude that it is by his own ministry this rich exercise of grace is effected; that he is himself in a way the hand of God, to form out of the mass of the Gentile world that multitude of vessels unto honor!

Here should be placed logically the principal proposition, which is interrogative, but understood, on which rests the two preceding subordinate propositions, beginning with now if, Romans 9:22, and and if, Romans 9:23: “And if those Jews, already ripe for perdition, are still borne with by God, who holds His arm ready to strike them and cast them far from Him, and if as to those believers whom He has prepared beforehand He does not confine Himself to take them from Israel, but goes in search of them to the very ends of the earth..., will mankind be entitled to find fault with God who thus directs their destinies? Will the Jewish people in particular be able to reproach God for the way in which He exercises His justice on them, seeing they have so justly brought this judgment upon them, and for the use which He at the same time makes of His mercy, calling His elect from the whole mass of mankind, without disturbing Himself about the reprobation which Israel is pleased to suspend over one whole part of this mass?...Yea. O Jew, who dost venture to dispute with God, what hast thou to say!” And I ask every reader who has attentively followed this explanation of the apostle's words, what can be said against this defence of God's dealings? Do not all the divine perfections concur harmoniously in realizing God's plan, and has not the freedom of man its legitimate place in the course of history, in perfect harmony with God's sovereign freedom in His acts of grace as well as in His judgments?

The word of God has not therefore been made of no effect by the fact of the rejection of the Israelitish nation ( Rom 9:6 ). For, 1st, the principle of divine selection which controlled the early destinies of the patriarchal family is only realized anew in the distinction between believing Israelites and the carnal and rejected mass ( Rom 9:6-13 ). 2d. God, when making choice of this people to prepare for the salvation of the world, did not abdicate His freedom to reject them on certain conditions, and if He came to think this good; neither did He abdicate His liberty of calling other individuals not belonging to this people, on certain conditions, and if He came to see good reason. And the use which He actually makes of this liberty, in rejecting His obstinately rebellious people while sparing them as long as possible, and even after the greatest crimes, is not tantamount to the annulling of His word ( Rom 9:14-24 ). But, 3d, more remains to be said: this double dispensation of the calling of the Gentiles and of the rejection of Israel is nothing else than the fulfilling of His very word; for it was announced beforehand. This is what is proved by the third part of this discussion, Romans 9:25-29.

Verses 25-26

Vv. 25, 26. “ As He saith also in Osee, I will call that my people, which was not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called sons of the living God.

The words as also evidently refer to the last words of Romans 9:24: “but also of the Gentiles.” To facilitate the exposition of the following quotation, Hofmann has thought it best to apply this as also to the first words of Romans 9:24: “not of the Jews only.” But this reference is not in keeping with the apostle's thought; for when he really passes to the prophecies relating to Israel, Romans 9:27, he expressly indicates this transition. The difficulty which has driven Hofmann to his view is this Hosea, in the two passages quoted, Rom 2:23 and Romans 1:10, is certainly speaking of the Israelites of the ten tribes scattered in distant lands, and not of Gentiles; how can the apostle apply them to the latter? St. Peter does exactly the same thing ( 1Pe 2:10 ). Hodge remarks that the ten tribes having relapsed into idolatry, were thus in the same state as the Gentiles, so that what was said of the former could equally be applied to the latter. Then he cites the fact, as Tholuck does, that in Scripture a general truth enunciated in regard to a particular class of men is afterward applied to all those whose character and position are found to be the same. And, indeed, in the mouth of God the expressions: “that which is not of my people;” “her which is not beloved;” “I will call them my people..., beloved,” express a principle of the divine government which comes into play everywhere when circumstances reappear similar to those to which they were originally applied. This was the case with the Gentiles yet more completely, if that is possible, than with the inhabitants of Samaria. We shall add, that the exiled Israelites being mingled with the Gentiles, and forming one homogeneous mass with them, cannot be brought to God separately from them. Isa 49:22 represents the Gentiles as carrying the sons of Israel in their arms and their daughters on their shoulders, and consequently as being restored to grace along with them.

Instead of: I will call, Hosea simply says: I will say to. The meaning is the same; for I will call applies to the new name which will be given them (see the full context of Hosea). Only by the form I will call, Paul alludes to the calling of the Gentiles to salvation.

Verses 25-29

And, first, Romans 9:25-26: the proclamation by the prophets of the calling of the Gentiles; then Romans 9:27-29: that of the rejection of the mass of the Jewish people.

Verse 26

Vv. 26. The second saying quoted ( Hos 1:10 ) is attached to the preceding as if it followed it immediately in the prophet. More than once in the following chapters we find this combination of originally distinct sayings. Some apply the expression in Hosea: in the place where, to the land of Samaria, in the meaning that God there pronounced the rejection of the people. In that case, Paul, in applying this saying to the Gentiles, would have perverted it entirely from its meaning. But is it not more natural to apply this word: the place where, to the strange land where the Jews were long captive, and as it were abandoned of God? Was it not there God said to them by the voice of fact during long ages: “Ye are not my people”? Is it not there that they will begin anew to feel the effects of grace when God shall visit them, and recall them as well as the Gentiles, with whom they are at present confounded?

Verses 27-29

Vv. 27-29. “ But Isaiah crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant [ only ] shall be saved: for the Lord will make a short and summary reckoning on the earth:and, as Esaias foretold, Except the Lord of hosts had left us a seed, we had become as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrha. ” Δέ , on the other hand (but). Paul's object is not merely to contrast Israel with the Gentiles, for in that case the words concerning Israel would begin the sentence. He wishes at the same time to show how the one prophet completes the other. His meaning is this: “To the saying of Hosea regarding the Gentiles there is added, to complete the revelation of God's plan, the following declaration of Isaiah concerning Israel.”

The expression κράζει , cries, indicates the threatening tone of the herald called to proclaim thus the judgment of the Sovereign. In this relation the preposition ὑπέρ , over, might well have its local sense: this threat henceforth hangs over the head of Israel.

The quotation is taken from Isaiah 10:22-23. The article τό , the, before the word remnant, characterizes this remnant as a thing known; and, indeed, one of the most frequent notions of the Book of Isaiah is that of the holy remnant, which survives all the chastisements of Israel, and which, coming forth purified from the crucible, becomes each time the germ of a better future. The T. R. reads κατάλειμμα , which is the term used by the LXX.; we ought probably to read with the Alexs. ὑπόλειμμα . The view of the apostle is not, as Hofmann and others think, that this remnant will certainly subsist; that is not the question. In the context, both of Isaiah and of the apostle, there is a contrast between the innumerable multitude which as it seemed ought to form Jehovah's people and which perishes, and the poor remnant which alone remains to enjoy the salvation.

Verse 28

Vv. 28 explains this idea of a saved remnant. This time, indeed, judgment will be carried out neither by halves nor over a long period. It will be, says Isaiah, a sudden and summary execution which will fall not upon this or that individual, but on the nation as a whole. Such is the meaning of the Hebrew and of the LXX., though the latter have somewhat modified the form of the original. Isaiah says literally: “Destruction is resolved on; it makes righteousness overflow; for the Lord works on the earth destruction and decree.” The LXX. translate: “The Lord fulfils the sentence; He cuts short righteously, because He will execute a summary reckoning upon all the earth.” Paul reproduces this second form while abridging it; for it is probable we should prefer the shortest reading, that of the oldest Mjj. and of the Peshito (see the note), since that of the T. R. merely restores the text of the LXX. The word λόγος might undoubtedly signify decree; but in connection with the terms number and remnant of Romans 9:27, as well as with the two participles συντελῶν and συντέμνων , consummating and cutting short, the word ought here to preserve its natural meaning of reckoning: “God will this time make His reckoning with Israel by a short and summary process.” In this threatening the feeling of indignation prevails. Paul subjoins to it a second saying, Romans 9:29, which rather breathes sadness and compassion; it is taken from Isaiah 1:9. He no longer quotes it with the word κράζει , he cries; he uses the calmer term προείρηκεν , he said before. Some expositors explain this preposition πρό , before, contained in the verb, by the circumstance that in the Book of Isaiah this passage occurs before that which had just been quoted, Romans 9:27-28. This meaning is puerile; for the position has no importance. Paul wishes to bring out the idea that the prophetical mouth of Isaiah having once declared the fact, it must be expected that one day or other it would be realized. The meaning of this saying is, that without a quite peculiar exercise of grace on the part of the Lord, the destruction announced Rom 9:27-28 would have been more radical still, as radical as that which overtook the cities of the plain, of which there remained not the slightest vestige. Σπέρμα , a germ, a shoot; this word expresses the same idea as ὑπόλειμμα , the remnant, Romans 9:27. But, as is well said by Lange, it adds to it the idea of the glorious future which is to spring from that remnant.

Instead of saying: we should have been made like to, Paul says, with the LXX., made like as, thus heaping up two forms of comparison, so as to express the most absolute assimilation. Such would have been the course of justice; and if Israel will find fault, they have only one thing for which to blame God, that is, for not having annihilated them utterly.

No, certainly; by concluding a special covenant with Israel, God had not abdicated the right of judging them, and alienated His liberty in respect of them and of the rest of mankind. His promise had never had this bearing, and the rejection of Israel does it no violence. But thus far the problem had been treated only from the formal point of view; the question had been only as to God's right. The apostle now enters upon the matter involved. The right being established, it remains to examine what use God has made of it. This is the subject treated by the apostle in the following passage, which extends from Rom 9:30 to the end of chap. 10.

Verse 30

Vv. 30-33.

In Rom 9:30-33 the apostle gives summarily the solution of the problem; then he develops it in Romans 10:0.

Verses 30-31

Vv. 30, 31. “ What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have obtained righteousness, but the righteousness which is of faith; and that Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

The question: What shall we say then? has in the present case peculiar gravity: “The explanation of the fact not being found by saying, God has annulled His word; what, then, is the solution of the enigma?” Thus, after setting aside the false solution, Paul invites his reader to seek with him the true one; and this solution he expresses in Rom 9:31 in a declaration of painful solemnity, after prefacing it in Rom 9:30 with a saying relating to the lot of the Gentiles. While the latter have obtained what they sought not, the Jews have missed what they sought; the most poignant irony in the whole of history. Some expositors have thought that the proposition which follows the question, What shall we say then? was not the answer to the question, but a second question explanatory of the first. We must then prolong the interrogation to the end of Romans 9:31. But what do we find there? Instead of an answer, a new question, διατί , wherefore? This construction is clearly impossible. It is the same with the attempt of Schott, who makes a single question of the whole sentence from the τί οὖν to δικαιοσύνην (the second): What shall we say then of the fact that the Gentiles have obtained...? and who finds the answer to this question in the last words of the verse: “but the righteousness of faith!”

The solution given by the apostle may be thus expressed: “That, whereas the Gentiles have obtained..., Israel, on the contrary, has failed”... ῎Εθνη , without article: Gentiles, beings having this characteristic. The subjective negative μή might be rendered: “ without their seeking.” Δικαιοσύνην , without article, a righteousness. It is a mistake to give to this word here, as Meyer does, the moral sense of holiness; for it could not be said of the Greeks that they did not often aspire after a high morality. What they never sought was righteousness, in the religious sense of the word, justification. The idea which they formed of sin as a simple error. and of the Deity as not looking very narrowly at human actions, did not lead them to the pursuit of righteousness in this sense. And yet they obtained it, precisely because they were exempt from the false pretensions which barred access to it in the case of the Jews. They were like the man of whom Jesus speaks, who, crossing a field, discovers a treasure in it which he was not seeking, and without hesitating makes sure of its possession. The verb κατέλαβεν , literally, put the hand on, suits this mode of acquisition. It must, however, be further explained how the matter could transpire in this way; hence the last words: “but the righteousness which is of faith.” The δέ , but, is explicative (as in Rom 3:22 ): “but the righteousness thus obtained could, of course, only be a righteousness of faith.”

Verses 30-33

Twenty-second Passage (9:30-10:21). Israel the Cause of their own Rejection.

Verse 31

Vv. 31. The lot of the Gentiles presents a contrast fitted to bring out more clearly the tragical character of that of Israel. This people, which alone followed the law of righteousness, is precisely the one which has not succeeded in reaching it. Some (Chrys., Calv., Beng., etc.) have stumbled at this expression, the law of righteousness, and have translated it as if it were the righteousness of the law. They have not understood the apostle's expression. What Israel sought was not so much righteousness itself in its moral essence, as the law in all the detail of its external and manifold observances. The expression is therefore chosen deliberately, “to remind the reader,” as Holsten well says, “of the weakness of the religious conscience of Israel, which was ever seeking an external standard.” If the Jews in general had been seriously preoccupied, like young Saul, with true moral righteousness, the law thus applied would have become to them what it was in its destination, the schoolmaster to bring them to Christ ( Gal 3:23-24 ). But seeking only the letter, they neglected the spirit. Levitical prescriptions, minutiae about Sabbaths and meats, fastings, tithes, washings of hands, of bodies, of furniture, etc., such were their sole pursuits. The object of their labor was thus really the law, from which righteousness should have proceeded, and not righteousness itself, as the true contents of the law. Therein there was a profound moral aberration which led them to the refusal of true righteousness when it was presented to them in the person of the Messiah.

By designating true righteousness in the same sentence by the same expression, the law of righteousness, the apostle wishes by the identity of terms to exhibit the contrast in the things: pursuing the shadow, they missed the reality.

The term law is taken the second time in that more general sense in which we have found it so often used in our Epistle (Romans 3:27, Romans 7:21; Romans 7:25, Rom 8:2 ): a certain mode of being, fitted to determine the will. The reference is to the true mode of justification.

The strongly supported reading which rejects the word δικαιοσύνης , of righteousness, would signify: “they have not attained to the law. ” But what would that mean? They have not attained to the fulfilment of the law? The expression: “attain to the law,” would be very strange taken in this sense. Or would it apply, as some have thought, to the law of the gospel? But where is the gospel thus called nakedly the law? This reading is therefore inadmissible, as Meyer himself acknowledges, notwithstanding his habitual predilection for the Alexandrine text, and in opposition to the opinion of Tischendorf.

Verses 32-33

Vv. 32, 33. “ Wherefore? Because [seeking] not by faith, but as it were by works, they stumbled at the stumbling-stone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone and rock of offence: and he who believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.

The apostle has just declared ( Rom 9:30 ) the moral fact which is the real cause of Israel's rejection, and he now asks how this fact could have come about. The question, wherefore? does not signify for what end ( εἰς τί )? but on account of what ( διὰ τί )? If, with the T. R. and some Byz. Mjj., we read γάρ , for, with they stumbled, this verb necessarily begins a new proposition, and a finite verb must be understood with the conjunction because: “because they sought, not by faith, but as it were by works.” But this reading seems too slenderly supported to be admissible, and it is difficult to extract from it a rational meaning; for the act of stumbling is rather the effect than the cause, or than the proof of seeking in a false way. It would require, consequently, to be, “they stumbled therefore. ” If, with the most numerous and important documents, we reject, the for, two possible constructions remain: Either the whole may be taken as a single proposition (see the translation); the two regimens: not by faith and as it were by works, depend in this case on they stumbled, the participle seeking being understood; this construction is somewhat analogous to that of Romans 9:11. The meaning is excellent. “Wherefore did they not find true righteousness? Because, seeking it in the way of works, they ended in stumbling against the stumbling-stone, the Messiah who brought to them true righteousness, that of faith.” Or it is possible, even without the for, to find here two propositions, as is done by most commentators; the first: “Because they sought not in the way of faith, but in that of works;” the second, which would follow by way of asyndeton, and which would require to be regarded as pronounced with emotion: “Yea; they stumbled”...! But what prevents us from adopting this last construction is, that the idea of stumbling thus comes on us too abruptly. It would require a καὶ οὕτως , and so, to establish the relation between the two acts of seeking in the false way and stumbling. We hold, therefore, by the preceding construction.

Paul can with good reason make it a charge against the Jews that they have not sought righteousness in the way of faith; for he had shown (chap. 4) by the example of Abraham that this way was already marked out in the O. T.; comp. also the saying of Habakkuk quoted ( Rom 1:17 ), and that of Isaiah about to be referred to ( Rom 9:33 ), etc. Every day the experiences made under the law should have brought the serious Jew to the feet of Jehovah in the way of repentance and faith to obtain pardon and help (see the Psalms). And following this course, they would have avoided stumbling at the Messianic righteousness; they would, on the contrary, have grasped it greedily, as was done by the élite of the people. The as it were, added to the regimen by works, signifies quite naturally: “As if it were possible to find righteousness by this means.” Meyer explains it somewhat differently. “To seek righteousness by a process such as that of works.” But the first meaning much better describes the contrast between the real and the imaginary means.

The complement νόμου , of the law, in the T. R. is omitted by the Alexs. and the Greco-Latins; it adds nothing to the idea. Seeking in this false way, they have ended by stumbling on the stone which made them fall. This stone was Jesus, who brought them a righteousness acquired by Himself and offered only to faith. The figure of stumbling is in keeping with all those that precede: follow after, attain to, reach (obtain). In their foolish course, Israel thought they were advancing on a clear path, and lo! all at once there was found on this way an obstacle upon which they were broken. And this obstacle was the very Messiah whom they had so long invoked in all their prayers! But even this result was foretold.

Verse 33

Vv. 33. Paul combines in this quotation Isa. 27:16 and Isaiah 8:14, and that in such a way that he borrows the first and last words of his quotation from the former of these passages, and those of the middle from the latter. It is hard to conceive how a great number of commentators can apply the saying of Isaiah, Isaiah 28:16: “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone”...etc., to the theocracy itself (see Meyer). The theocracy is the edifice which is raised in Zion; how should it be its foundation? According to Romans 8:14, the foundation is Jehovah; and it is on this stone that the unbelieving Israel of both kingdoms stumble, while on this rock he that believes takes refuge. In chap. 28 the figure is somewhat modified; for Jehovah is no longer the foundation; it is He who lays it. The foundation here is therefore Jehovah in His final manifestation, the Messiah. We thus understand why Paul has combined the two passages so closely; the one explains the other. It is in the sense which we have just established that the same figure is applied to Christ, Luke 2:34; Luke 20:17-18; 1 Peter 2:4 (comp. Bible annotée on the two passages of Isaiah quoted by the apostle). The terms stone, rock, express the notion of consistency. We break ourselves struggling against the Messiah, rather than break Him.

The two words πρόσκομμα and σκάνδαλον , stumbling and scandal, are not wholly synonymous. The former denotes the shock, the latter the fall resulting from it; and so the former, the moral conflict between Israel and the Messiah, and the latter, the people's unbelief. The first figure applies, therefore, to all the false judgments passed by the Jews on the conduct of Jesus

His healings on the Sabbath, His alleged contempt of the law, His blasphemies, etc.; the second, to the rejection of the Messiah, and, in His person, of Jehovah Himself.

The adj. πᾶς , every one, which the T. R. adds to the word he who believeth, is omitted by the Alexs. and the Greco-Latins, and also by the Peshito. The context also condemns it. The point to be brought out here is not that whosoever believeth is saved, but: that it is enough to believe in order to be so. The word every one (which is not in Isaiah) has been imported from Romans 10:11, where, as we shall see, it is in its place.

The Hebrew verb, which the LXX. have translated by: shall not be confounded, strictly signifies: shall not make haste (flee away), which gives the same meaning. There is no need, therefore, to hold, with several critics, a difference of reading in the Hebrew text ( jabisch for jakisch).

General considerations on chap. ix.

Though we have not reached the end of the passage beginning with Romans 9:30, the essential thought being already expressed in Romans 9:30-33, we may from this point cast a glance backward at Romans 9:0 taken as a whole.

Three principal views as to the meaning of this chapter find expression in the numerous commentaries to which it has given rise:

1. Some think they can carry up the thought of Paul to complete logical unity, by maintaining that it boldly excludes human freedom, and makes all things proceed from one single factor, the sovereign will of God. Some of these are so sure of their view, that one of them, a Strasburg professor, wrote most lately: “As to determinism, it would be to carry water to the Rhine, to seek to prove that this point of view is that of St. Paul.”

2. Others think that the apostle expounds the two points of view side by side with one another that of absolute predestination, to which speculative reflection leads, and that of human freedom, which experience teaches without troubling himself to reconcile them logically. This opinion is perhaps the most widespread among theologians at the present hour.

3. Finally, a third class think that in Paul's view the fact of human freedom harmonizes logically with the principle of divine predestination, and think they can find in his very exposition the elements necessary to harmonize the two points of view. Let us pass under review each of these opinions.

I. In the first, we immediately distinguish three groups. In the first place: the particularistic predestinarians, who, whether in the salvation of some or in the perdition of others, see only the effect of the divine decree. Such, essentially, are St. Augustine, the Reformers, the theologians of Dort, and the churches which have preserved this type of doctrine down to our day, whether pushing the consequence the length of ascribing the fall itself and sin to the divine will ( supralapsarians), like Zwingle, who goes so far as to say, in speaking of Esau: “quem divina providentia creavit ut viveret atque impie viveret” (see Th. p. 500); or whether they stop half way, and, while ascribing the fall to human freedom, make the divine decree of human election bear solely on those among lost men whom God is pleased to save ( infralapsarians).

But, first, it is forgotten that the apostle does not think for a moment of speculating in a general way on the relation between human freedom and divine sovereignty, and that he is occupied solely with showing the harmony between the particular fact of the rejection of the Jews and the promises relating to their election. Then it would be impossible, if he really held this point of view, to acquit him of the charge of self-contradiction in all those sayings of his which assume 1st. Man's entire freedom in the acceptance or rejection of salvation (Romans 2:4; Romans 2:6-10, Rom 6:12-13 ); 2d. The possibility of one converted falling from the state of grace through want of vigilance or faithfulness (Romans 8:13; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12; Galatians 5:4; Colossians 1:23, a passage where he says expressly: “ if at least ye persevere”). Comp. also the words of Jesus Himself, John 5:40: “But ye will not come to me;” Matthew 23:37: “How often would I...but ye would not.” Finally, throughout the whole chapter which immediately follows, as well as in the four verses we have just expounded, Romans 9:30-33, the decree of the rejection of the Jews is explained, not by the impenetrable mystery of the divine will, but by the haughty tenacity with which the Jews, notwithstanding all God's warnings, affected to establish their own righteousness and perpetuate their purely temporary prerogative.

In this first class we meet, in the second place, with the group of the latitudinarian determinists, who seek to correct the harshness of the predestinarian point of departure by the width of the point reached; the final goal, indeed, according to them, is universal salvation. The world is a theatre on which there is in reality but one actor, God, who plays the entire piece, but by means of a series of personages who act under his impulse as simple automata. If some have bad parts to play, they have not to blame or complain of themselves for that; for their culpability is only apparent, and...the issue will be happy for them. All's well that ends well. Such is the view of Schleiermacher and his school; it is that to which Farrar has just given his adherence in his great work on St. Paul.

But how are we to reconcile this doctrine of universal salvation, I do not say only with declarations such as those of Jesus, Matthew 12:23 (“neither in this world nor in the world to come”), Matthew 26:24 (“it were better for that man that he had never been born”), Mark 9:43-48, but also with the sayings of Paul himself, 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Rom 8:13 ? These declarations, indeed, seem incompatible with the idea of a universal final salvation. Neither does this idea seem to us to arise from the sayings of the apostle here and there whence it is thought possible to deduce it, such as 1 Corinthians 15:22 (“in Christ all made alive”) and 1 Corinthians 15:28 (“God all in all”); for these passages refer only to the development of the work of salvation in believers. It is impossible to allow that a system according to which sin would be the act of God Himself, remorse an illusion arising from our limited and subjective viewpoint, and the whole conflict, so serious as it is between guilty man and God, a simple apparent embroilment with a view of procuring to us in the end the liveliest sensation of re-established harmony entered for a single moment the mind of the apostle.

We may say as much of the third form in which this determinist point of view presents itself, that of pantheistic absorption. No one will ever succeed in explaining the words of the apostle by such a formula. Paul emphasizes too forcibly the value and permanence of personality, as well as the moral responsibility of man; and it must not be forgotten that if he says: “God shall be all,” he adds: in all.

In none of these three forms, therefore, can the system which makes everything, even evil, proceed from divine causality, be ascribed to Paul.

II. Must we take refuge in the idea of an internal contradiction attaching to the apostle's mode of view, whether this contradiction be regarded as a logical inconsequence attributable to the weakness of his mind (so Reiche and Fritzsche, who go so far as to deplore that the apostle “was not at the school of Aristotle rather than that of Gamaliel”); or with Meyer, Reuss, and a host of others, the problem be regarded as insoluble in its very nature, and in consequence of the limits of the human mind; so that, as Meyer says, whenever we place ourselves at one of the two points of view, it is impossible to expound it without expressing ourselves in such a way as to deny the other, as has happened to Paul in this chapter?

We think that in the former case the most striking character of St. Paul's mind is mistaken, his logical power, which does not allow him to stop short in the study of a question till he has thoroughly completed its elucidation. This characteristic we have seen throughout the whole of our Epistle. As to Meyer's point of view, if Paul had really thought thus, he would not have failed, in view of this insoluble difficulty, to stop at least once in the course of his exposition to exclaim, after the fashion of Calvin: Mysterium horribile!

III. It is therefore certain that the apostle was not without a glimpse of the real solution of the apparent contradiction on which he was bordering throughout this whole passage. Was this solution, then, that which has been proposed by Julius Müller in his Sündenlehre, and which is found in several critics, according to which Paul in chap. 9 explains the conduct of God from a purely abstract point of view, saying what God has the right to do, speaking absolutely, but what He does not do in reality? It is difficult to believe that the apostle would have thus isolated the abstract right from its historical execution, and we have seen in Rom 9:21 et. seq. that Paul directly applies to the concrete case the view of right expounded in the instance of the potter.

Must we prefer the solution defended by Beyschlag in the wake of many other critics, according to which the question here relates solely to groups of men, and to those groups of men solely as to the providential part assigned them in the general course of God's kingdom; but not to the lot of individuals, and much less still as to the matter of their final salvation? That it is so in regard to Esau and Jacob, does not seem to us open to doubt, since in those cases we have to do with national dispensations in the course of the preparatory economy. But it seems to me impossible to apply this solution to the essential point treated in the chapter, the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles. For among those rejected Jews, Paul proves an election of redeemed ones, who are certainly so, in virtue of their individual faith; and among those Gentile nations who are called, he is very far from thinking there are none but saved individuals; so that the vessels of wrath are not the Jewish nation as such, but the individual unbelievers in the nation; and the vessels of mercy are not the Gentile peoples as such, but the individual believers among them. The point in question therefore is, the lot of individual Jews or Gentiles. When Paul says: “fitted to destruction” and “prepared unto glory,” he is evidently thinking not only of a momentary rejection or acceptance, but of the final condemnation and salvation of those individuals. What is promised as to the final conversion of Israel has nothing to do with this question.

Neither can we adopt the attempt of Weiss to apply the right of God, expounded in chap. 9, solely to the competency belonging to God of fixing the conditions to which He chooses to attach the gift of His grace. The apostle's view evidently goes further; the cases of Moses and Pharaoh, with the expressions to show grace and to harden, indicate not simple conditions on which the event may take place, but a real action on God's part to produce it.

A multitude of expositors, Origen, Chrysostom, the Arminians, several moderns, such as Tholuck, etc., have endeavored to find a formula whereby to combine the action of man's moral freedom (evidently assumed in Rom 9:30-33 ) with the divine predestination taught in the rest of the chapter. Without being able to say that they have entirely succeeded in showing the harmony between the two terms, we are convinced that it is only in this way that the true thought of the apostle can be explained; and placing ourselves at this viewpoint, we submit to the reader the following considerations, already partly indicated in the course of the exegesis:

1. And first of all, the problem discussed by the apostle is not the speculative question of the relation between God's sovereign decree and man's free responsibility. This question appears indeed in the background of the discussion, but it is not its theme. This is simply and solely the fact of the rejection of Israel, the elect people; a fact proved in particular by the preamble Romans 9:1-5, and the Romans 9:30-33, introduced as a conclusion from what precedes by the words: “What shall we say then? ” We should not therefore seek here a theory of St. Paul, either regarding the divine decrees or human freedom; he will not touch this great question, except in so far as it enters into the solution of the problem proposed.

2. We must beware of confounding liberty and arbitrariness on the part of God, and aptitude and merit on the part of man. To begin with this second distinction, the free acceptance of any divine favor whatever, and of salvation in general, is an aptitude to receive and possess the gift of God, but does not at all constitute a merit conferring on man the right to claim it. We have already said: How can faith be a merit, that which in its essence is precisely the renunciation of all merit? This distinction once established, the other is easily explained. Face to face with human merit, God would no longer be free, and this is really all that Paul wishes to teach in our chapter. For his one concern is to destroy the false conclusion drawn by Israel from their special election, their law, their circumcision, their ceremonial works, their monotheism, their moral superiority. These were in their eyes so many bonds by which God was pledged to them beyond recall. God had no more the right to free Himself from the union once contracted with them, on any condition whatever. The apostle repels every obligation on God's part, and from this point of view he now vindicates the fulness of divine liberty. But he does not dream of teaching thereby divine arbitrariness. He does not mean for a moment that without rhyme or reason God resolved to divorce Himself from His people, and to contract alliance with the Gentiles. It God breaks with Israel, it is because they have obstinately refused to follow Him in the way which he wished the development of His kingdom henceforth to take (see the demonstration in chap. 10). If He now welcomes the Gentiles, it is because they enter with eagerness and confidence on the way which is opened to them by His mercy. There is thus no caprice on God's part in this double dispensation. God simply uses His liberty, but in accordance with the standard arising from His love, holiness, and wisdom. No anterior election can hinder Him either from showing grace to the man who was not embraced in it at the first, but whom he finds disposed to cast himself humbly on His favor; or to reject and harden the man to whom He was united, but who claims to set himself up proudly in opposition to the progress of His work. A free initiative on God's part in all things, but without a shadow of arbitrariness such is the apostle's view. It is that of true monotheism.

3. As to the speculative question of the relation between God's eternal plan and the freedom of human determinations, it seems to me probable that Paul resolved it, so far as he was himself concerned, by means of the fact affirmed by him, of divine foreknowledge. He himself puts us on this way, Romans 8:29-30, by making foreknowledge the basis of predestination. As a general, who is in full acquaintance with the plans of campaign adopted by the opposing general, would organize his own in keeping with this certain prevision, and would find means of turning all the marches and countermarches of his adversary to the success of his designs; so God, after fixing the supreme end, employs the free human actions, which He contemplates from the depths of His eternity, as factors to which He assigns a part, and which He makes so many means in the realization of His eternal design. Undoubtedly Paul did not think here of resolving the speculative question, for that did not enter into his task as an apostle; but his treatment furnishes us by the way with the necessary elements to convince us that if he had meant to do so, it would have been in this direction he would have guided our thoughts.

What are we to conclude from all this? That the apostle in this chapter, far from vindicating, as is ordinarily thought, the rights of divine election over against human freedom, vindicates, on the contrary, the rights of God's freedom in regard to His own election relating to Israel. His decree does not bind Him, as an external law imposed on His will would. He remains sovereignly free to direct His mode of acting at every moment according to the moral conditions which he meets with in humanity, showing grace when he finds good, even to men who were not in His covenant, rejecting, when He finds good, even men who were embraced in the circle which formed the object of His election. St. Paul did not therefore think of contending in behalf of divine sovereignty against human freedom; he contended for God's freedom in opposition to the chains which men sought to lay on Him in the name of His own election. We have here a treatise not for, but against unconditional election,

Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 9". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/romans-9.html.
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