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IV. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THIS SALVATION, AND THE HISTORICAL ORDER OF ITS APPLICATION.
The gospel is God’s power unto salvation, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile (chap. Romans 1:16): The unbelief of the Jews seemed to invalidate the Apostle’s statement respecting the universality of this salvation, and he therefore discusses the question which lay so close to his own heart. This of itself would account for these chapters; but it is also true that every one of his readers, irrespective of any supposed conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christians, would be profoundly interested in the matter. Ever since Christian people have been interested in it, both as belonging to the historical course of the development of the kingdom of God, and as one of the darkest mysteries of God’s dealings with men. So long as the mass of the Jews reject the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, the mystery will remain unsolved, except as, these chapters present a solution. It seems idle, therefore, to build up a baseless theory about the internal condition of the Roman congregation, to account for this portion of the Epistle (comp. Introduction).
On the other hand, this natural view of the passage helps the reader to avoid the false notion, that the Apostle here treats of Divine sovereignty in an abstract manner. He writes, not in a cold, metaphysical tone, but with a pathos at times almost tragical (comp. chap. Romans 9:3). Luther, therefore, well says of these chapters as related to what precedes: ‘Who hath not known passion, cross, and travail of death, cannot treat of foreknowledge (election of grace), without injury and inward enmity toward God. Wherefore take heed that thou drink not wine, while thou art yet a sucking babe. Each several doctrine hath its own season, and measure, and age.’
ANALYSIS: 1. Chap. Romans 9:1-29: GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY: His promise is not void.
I. Expression of deep sorrow at the fact of the exclusion of so many of his people, God’s covenant people, from salvation in Christ, chap. Romans 9:1-5.
II. But this does not render God's promise void; chap. Romans 9:6-29. For (a.) that promise was made of free grace, only to the chosen ones, as illustrated in the case of Isaac and Jacob (Romans 9:6-13); (b.) In this election God is not unjust, for He has a right to choose, being sovereign (Romans 9:14-29).
2. Chaps. Romans 9:30 to Romans 10:21: MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY: The Jews were excluded on the ground of their own unbelief.
I. The fact that the Jews rejected the way of faith: chap. Romans 9:30-33.
II. The proof that this was the one way of salvation; hence the unbelieving Jews themselves responsible; chap. Romans 10:1-21.
3. Chap. 11: THE PROSPECTIVE SOLUTION: But God has not cast off His people forever.
I. The rejection of Israel is not total; a remnant, elected of grace, will be saved (Romans 11:1-10).
II. It is not final; the unbelief and fall of Israel turns out for the salvation and reviving of the Gentiles, who, however, should not boast (Romans 11:11-24); since the rejection is only temporary, ultimately Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25-32).
Romans 9:1. I say the truth in Christ. The asseveration of the Apostle is threefold: and is introduced abruptly, without a conjunction, in accordance with the feeling which prompts it ‘In Christ’ is not an adjuration (the form of an oath in Greek would be entirely different), but means, in fellowship with Christ, the element in which be lives. Such fellowship with Him who is the Truth implies the sincerity of one who enjoys it.
I lie not. This negative form of asseveration is a rhetorical strengthening of the previous expression.
My conscience also bearing me witness; or, ‘my conscience bearing witness with me.’ The former explanation is preferable: he does not He, for his conscience, which would convict him of falsehood, gives testimony to him in accordance with what he is about to state. The other explanation points to a joint testimony; but his conscience and himself could not be joint witnesses to the Romans.
In the Holy Spirit. To be joined with ‘bearing me witness,’ not with ‘my conscience.’ His conscience is, indeed, governed by the Holy Spirit, but in what he is about to say, he cannot lie, for the testimony his conscience bears is ‘in the Holy Spirit.’ Notice the symmetry: He speaks the truth, in fellowship with Christ; he does not lie, for his conscience bears testimony in the Holy Spirit
1. Deep Sorrow of the Apostle for the Unbelief of the Jews, his Brethren, and God's Covenant People, from whom the Messiah came.
The pathos of the partially apologetic opening of this division of the Epistle is so great, that it has survived the interminable discussions which have been called forth by Romans 9:3; Romans 9:5. Probably he will interpret both passages most nearly aright who approaches them with the most vivid apprehension of the Apostle’s feelings; it is ‘a fervent outburst of Israelitish patriotism, the more sorrowful by contrast with the blessedness of the Christian previously extolled and so deeply experienced by the Apostle himself’ (Meyer). The language is that of sorrowful sympathy, deprecatory in tone, ‘to take at once the ground from those who might charge him, in the conduct of his argument, with hostility to his own alienated people’ (Alford).
In conclusion, the Apostle breaks forth into a doxology to the grace and wisdom of God, who will thus solve the enigma of the world’s history, and lead all things to the glory of His name and the best interest of His kingdom (chap. Romans 11:33-36).
Romans 9:2. Great grief and continual sorrow. The cause of this grief obviously is the unbelief of his countrymen, their practical exclusion from the Messianic salvation. This feeling was respecting those who had for years persecuted him with relentless hatred, and who, shortly after this time occasioned him a long imprisonment, thus becoming the immediate cause of his martyrdom.
Romans 9:3. For I could wish that I myself, etc. The order of the better established reading makes ‘accursed’ (lit., ‘anathema’) more emphatic, and forbids our taking ‘I myself’ as the subject of ‘could wish,’ which was grammatically possible with the order of the common reading.
The Greek verb rendered ‘could wish’ is in the imperfect tense, and might mean ‘was wishing;’ but the same tense is constantly used of what is termed ‘arrested action.’ The latter sense is preferable here. ( 1 .) The other view would seem to require ‘I myself’ as subject of ‘was wishing.’ ( 2 .) The reference to the past makes an anti-climax, or at best a common place sense: if the past wish were before his conversion, referring to his blind zeal for Israel against Christ, then the terms are strangely chosen to express that sense; to explain the wish as a past one, but occurring since his conversion, is open to all the objections that are urged against the common view, without having the same reasons in its favor. We therefore accept the obvious meaning: ‘I could wish that I myself were devoted to destruction from Christ for the sake of my brethren,’ etc. The implication is that the wish was not formed, either because it was impossible thus to wish, or, because the wish could not be fulfilled, or, both. The Apostle, however, is not using a hyperbole, nor is his language a senseless straining of the idea of self denial. The objective impossibility did not destroy or diminish the subjective intensity of Paul’s feeling, which thus seeks expression. This feeling, too, is most akin to the self-sacrificing love of the Lord he preached. Comp. the language of Moses (Exodus 32:32). There is no wish to be separated from the holy will of Christ which would be wicked but only from the enjoyment of Christ, temporarily, as Christ Himself, on the cross, was separated from the enjoyment of His Father’s presence, when He cried: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.’ And it detracts nothing from our estimate of Paul’s affection to know, as he did, that the very feeling he expresses was the result of Christ’s love to him, and would be impossible were he sundered from fellowship with Christ. ‘It is the expression of an affectionate and self-denying heart, willing to surrender all things even, if it might be so, eternal glory itself if thereby he could obtain for his beloved people those blessings of the gospel which he now enjoyed, but from which they were excluded. Others express their love by professing themselves ready to give their life for their friends: he declares the intensity of his affection by reckoning even his spiritual life not too great a price, if it might purchase their salvation’ (Alford). It is not implied that this is the constant and conscious state of every Christian, still less that our salvation depends upon our attaining to such a height of disinterested affection.
Accursed, lit., ‘anathema.’ This word, which occurs several times in the New Testament, as well as in the Septuagint, is the Hellenistic form of a word, originally meaning ‘dedicated to God.’ Cut as a rule, this form in the Bible denotes something dedicated to God in a bad sense. There is little reason to doubt that in the New Testament (see references) the word has the uniform sense of ‘having become obnoxious to the wrath or curse of God.’ Efforts have been made to prove that ‘anathema,’ in the time of Paul, meant only ‘Jewish excommunication.’ Others have explained it of banishment from church fellowship; some, of temporal death. But the idea of excommunication was first attached to this term in later times, and this sense is altogether inappropriate in the other New Testament passages where the word occurs, and to our mind unsatisfactory here also. The notion of’ temporal death’ is entirely foreign to usage. These remarks hold good in regard to the corresponding verb, which is found several times in the New Testament. Wieseler, after a full investigation (see his Galatians, Galatians 1:8; comp. Lange, Romans, pp. 302 - 304 ), says: ‘ Anathema, in entire congruity with the Old Testament cherem, is used of a person who is dedicated to God, subjected to the Divine curse for his death, not, however, to bodily death, as in the more ancient formula (this reference, however, being not necessarily contained in the root, but resulting only from the historical relations of the Jews in ancient times), but to spiritual and eternal death.’
From Christ. Separated from Christ, from the fellowship with Him.
For the sake of my brethren. Not, ‘instead of,’ which the preposition, of itself, does not mean, but for their benefit, just as the same term is used in Ephesians 3:13, Colossians 1:24 to indicate that Paul’s sufferings might result advantageously for others.
My kinsmen according to the flesh. Notice the tender way in which the Apostle characterizes the Jews. But the phrase suggests as its antithesis ‘brethren in the Lord.’ Paul’s patriotism grew out of the human consanguinity, but as the following description shows, has its deepest ground in the gracious gifts and religious privileges hitherto possessed by his countrymen.
Romans 9:4. Who are. The form of the original is almost equivalent to: ‘seeing they are.’
Israelites, belonging to God’s chosen people. In Romans 9:3 it is stated that they are Paul’s people, but he loved them all the more because they were God’s people, descendants of one whom God himself had chosen and named. Since their advantages grew out of this relation, all the privileges named point toward the sovereignty of God, which comes into view in the subsequent discussion of the enigma presented by their rejection of Christ.
Whose is the adoption. Six privileges of the Jews are enumerated in the remainder of this verse: ‘purely sacred, historical divine benefactions’ (Meyer). The first is ‘adoption,’ not in the full New Testament sense (comp. Romans 9:6-7), but in the theocratic sense pointing forward to the close union between God and men formed by Christ the only begotten, through the Holy Ghost.
And the glory. This refers to the visible Shekinah, which attended the people of Israel through the wilderness. Those who insist upon a chronological order, find a reference to earlier manifestations of Jehovah’s presence, especially as ‘the Angel of the Lord,’ with which the later appearance is identified, however, in Exodus 14:19.
And the covenants. The repeated covenants made with the patriarchs after the first covenant with Abraham, not the Old and New Testaments (covenants), nor the two tables of the law.
And the giving of the law. Not exactly the law itself, but the formal and distinctive act by which it became the possession of the Jews; a secondary reference to its substance may be implied.
And the service of the sanctuary, i.e., the Jewish (or, Mosaic) ritual service in the worship of God; in the tabernacle first, and then more fully established in the temple.
And the promises. This includes all the promises made to the chosen people, from the days of Abraham onward. This inclusive term prepares for the next clause.
Romans 9:5. Whose are the fathers. Persons are now introduced: the whole line of patriarchs and prophets were types of Christ, who is next named, as the crowning glory and privilege of Paul’s nation.
Of whom is Christ according to the flesh. The original is peculiar, suggesting a limitation, or, antithesis: as far as concerns the flesh, i.e., His human nature, as in chap. Romans 1:3.
Who is over all, etc. The natural connection of this clause is with what precedes, especially since the last expression used suggests an antithesis. Accordingly, this has usually been referred to Christ, as defining what He is, other than ‘according to the flesh.’ As, however, our earliest manuscripts are without punctuation, some editors and commentators, prominent among whom are Tischendorf ( 8 th ed.) and Meyer, separate this from what precedes, taking it as a doxology. This would require one of the following translations: ‘He who is over all, God, be (or, is) blessed for ever,’ adopted by Reiche, Van Hengel, and others, or ‘He who is God over all (be) blessed forever,’ adopted by Meyer and others. (Another view sets a period after ‘over all,’ including in the doxology only the words, ‘God be blessed for ever.’) Any one of these explanations is possible, and would be preferable to the usual one, if it were proven that the word ‘God,’ standing without the article, as here, is never applied to Christ in the New Testament. But Meyer not only admits that john thus applies it, but that Paul also might have done so, ‘by virtue of his essential agreement in substance with the Christology of John’ (Meyer, Romans, ii. 118 ). The objection he raises is that Paul has never done so. After renewed investigation of the subject we feel constrained to say that this is the only objection that is even plausible, and that it is clearly outweighed by the many considerations to be presented in favor of the usual punctuation. ( 1 ) We say ‘usual punctuation,’ for in all the authorities which can give evidence on a matter of punctuation (manuscripts, versions, and fathers), the unanimity is very remarkable. All the early writers accepted this view of the meaning, with the single exception of Theodore of Mopsuestia. ( 2 .) Moreover, ‘the doxology would be unmeaning and frigid in the extreme. It is not the habit of the Apostle to break out into irrelevant ascriptions or praise; and certainly there is here nothing in the immediate context requiring one’ (Alford). ( 3 .) Furthermore, in all such doxologies, as the other view would make of this, the word ‘Blessed’ stands first. ( 4 .) The words ‘who is’ would be unnecessary if this were a doxology. ( 5 .) As regards the objection drawn from Paul’s usage, we may not only cite such passages as Colossians 1:15, etc., but argue that for this Apostle not to have added something in regard to the Divine nature of Christ would be far more unlike him than for him to have once expressed himself in terms which agree, not only with the expressions of John, but also with his own statements. It should be added, that even if the clause be taken as a doxology, the Divinity of Christ is not thereby proven unscriptural; while on the other hand, if the usual view be correct, there is no room for a denial of that doctrine. Paul could not have been ignorant of the great question of the Master, which soon became the question of the Church, ‘What think ye of Christ? whose Son is he?’ (Matthew 22:42.) Is it likely that he could so express himself as to mislead the vast majority of Christians on that point? ‘It therefore does not seem to us at all doubtful, that Paul here indicates, as the crown of all the prerogatives accorded to Israel, that of having produced for the world the Christ, who now, exalted above all things, is God blessed for ever’ (Godet).
As regards details: ‘over all’ seems to refer to all things, not to the exclusion of persons (comp. Ephesians 1:21-23, and similar passages). ‘Who is’ points to the present exalted condition of the Incarnate Lord.
God. The words ‘over all’ should not be joined with this, as is done by many of those who could find here a doxology to God the Father Almighty. Such an idea would have been expressed in another form from that here used.
Blessed for ever. ‘The expression “Blessed for ever” is twice besides used by St. Paul, and each time unquestionably not in an ascription of praise, but in an assertion regarding the subject of the sentence. The places are, chap. Romans 1:25, and 2 Corinthians 11:31: whereas he uses the phrase “Blessed be God” as an ascription of praise without joining “for ever”‘ (Alford).
Amen. This conclusion is appropriate in either view of the passage. For if this is indeed the only place where Paul directly calls Christ ‘God,’ the mention of this coming privilege of Israel might well be regarded as an act of worship, to which he devoutly adds: Amen.
Romans 9:6. But it is not so, that. The Apostle returns to the fact that the Jews rejected the gospel, and proceeds to account for it by stating that the promise holds good only for the true Israelites; a result indicated in the Scriptures. The opening clause, which is quite peculiar, means: ‘What I am saying is not of such a kind as to mean that,’ or, ‘the matter is not of such a kind that.’ The former sense would imply the latter. Whatever he says, he does not mean that the word of God hath come to nought. The promise of God, as given in the Old Testament, has not ‘fallen to the ground,’ notwithstanding the unbelief of the Jews.
For not all who are of Israel (that is Israelites by birth) are Israel, constitute the true Israel of God. The exact form of the original cannot be reproduced, but the meaning is unmistakable. The Apostle here presents the negative side of the idea already advanced in this Epistle (chap. Romans 4:12) and in Galatians 3:9, that physical relationship does not constitute membership in the true Israel.
II. God’s Promise is not Void.
The rejection of the gospel by the Jews, which has caused the deep emotion of the Apostle in view of their great privileges (Romans 9:1-5), does not render God’s promise void. This position the Apostle proves: (a.) By showing that this promise was made of free grace, only to those who were individually chosen (Romans 9:6-13). Two Old Testament illustrations are cited: the case of Isaac (Romans 9:7-9), and that of Jacob (Romans 9:10-13). ( b.) But this assertion of God’s freedom may give rise to the false inference that God is unrighteous in thus choosing (Romans 9:14). But this very objection involves an admission of the fact of God’s sovereignty (implying that His promise is not void), which the Apostle affirms, citing the case of Pharaoh (Romans 9:15-18). Another objection is then raised, if God is sovereign, why doth He find fault (Romans 9:19). This objection the Apostle answers by reasserting God’s sovereignty (Romans 9:20-21), but suggesting that even in the exercise of this, His right, long suffering and mercy are displayed (Romans 9:22-23), especially the latter to both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 9:24), in accordance with various Old Testament predictions (Romans 9:25-29).
As regards the free, unconditioned grace of God, we must regard this as the fundamental fact in the discussion. We may further assume that Paul holds this in such a way as to exclude every theory which makes God the author of sin. In other words, the Apostle, in accordance with the teachings of the Scriptures as a whole, presents, on the one hand, the absolute causality and unconditioned grace of God; and, on the other, the moral nature of man, including also that relative freedom which involves human responsibility (human personality). To reconcile these two truths is the problem which confronts every one who believes in a personal God and is conscious of his own responsibility. Thus far the Christian life has proved the only practical solution, while Christian theology has been busied with the necessary task of attempting a theoretical solution. Probably such a solution will be reached, only when the full victory over evil has been achieved. We add the following remarks:
(1.) The Scriptures teach an eternal predestination of believers unto holiness and blessedness, and hence they must ascribe all the glory of their redemption, from beginning to end, to the unmerited grace of God alone.
(2.) But it is as plainly asserted or assumed that believers do not, on this account, cease to be free agents, responsible for all their doings. As God works in nature, not magically and immediately, but through natural laws, so He works in men, through their wills, hence through the mediation of finite causes; the more His grace is developed within them, so much the more is their true freedom developed; the result being the coincidence of perfect holiness and perfect freedom. For the highest freedom is the complete triumph over the evil, and is consequently identical with the moral necessity of the good. In this sense, God is free, precisely because He is holy.
(3.) It is nowhere asserted that God has foreordained sin as sin, although He has foreseen it from all eternity, and with respect to redemption, permitted it, while constantly overruling it to His purposes. Hence, those who are lost are lost through their own fault, and must blame their own unbelief, which rejects the means of salvation proffered them by God (comp. chap. Romans 9:30-33).
(4.) In the time of the calling of nations and individuals to salvation, God proceeds according to a plan of eternal wisdom and love, which we cannot fathom here, but should reverently adore.
(5.) The doctrine of election is designed and adapted to humble sinners, to comfort believers, while it increases their gratitude and happiness. Only a culpable misapprehension and misuse of it can lead either to a careless security or to despair. But because the depths of the divine decrees cannot be fathomed, the Christian may well accept the doctrine, not to puzzle himself with attempts to solve the mystery, but to gain new encouragement to make his own calling and election sure, and with fear and trembling to work out his own salvation.
Romans 9:7. Neither; ‘and also not,’ extending the same thought to physical relationship with Abraham, the father of the faithful.
Because they; either, ‘all those of Abraham,’ or, referring to the subject in Romans 9:6: ‘they who are of Israel.’ The former suits the immediate context (Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau), but the latter is grammatically more exact
The seed of Abraham. A well-known phrase, here meaning, as the context shows, ‘the physical posterity of Abraham’; in Galatians 3:29, the phrase is used of his true spiritual descendants.
All children; in the true, spiritual sense, inheritors of the promise made to him.
But; on the contrary, the Scripture itself shows that this was the design.
In Isaac shall thy seed be called. Spoken to Abraham (Genesis 21:12), at the time when Hagar and Ishmael were sent away. Explanations: 1 . In the person of Isaac shall thy seed be named. 2 . Through Isaac shall the race be born which shall be truly and properly called thy seed. Both are true in fact, but as the Apostle is choosing historical illustrations, it seems better to accept ( 1 .) which refers to the historical person. ‘Called’ is here = ‘ named,’ not, ‘called into being,’ or, ‘chosen.’ ‘Paul finds in this divine declaration the idea enunciated (Romans 9:8), that not on bodily descent (which was also the case with Ishmael), but on divine promise (which was the case with Isaac, Romans 9:9), the true sonship of Abraham is founded’ (Meyer)
Romans 9:8. That is; the Old Testament saying amounts to this.
Not they who are the children of the flesh, are children of God. Not those who must be regarded merely as the fruit of physical generation, as was the case with Ishmael (comp. Galatians 4:23).
But the children of the promise are reckoned as seed. The reference is directly to the birth of Isaac (Romans 9:9), but also to his true descendants, who ‘are reckoned’ such in virtue of the promise. The birth of Isaac was not only according to the promise, but God intervened through the promise, which Abraham believed, and thus by his faith in the promise obtained the power that rendered him capable of becoming the father of this son (comp. chap. Romans 4:16-21). ‘In virtue of this superior element, Isaac and his descendants alone could be regarded as “children of God.” It is this which explains the second proposition of the verse, where the title of (promised) posterity is expressly given to that descent obtained through faith in the promise. The first proposition of the verse by implication justifies the rejection of carnal Jews; the second, the adoption of believing Gentiles’ (Godet).
Romans 9:9. For of promise is this word. We restore the emphatic order of the original. That ‘the children of the promise are reckoned as seed’ is proven, for the word, in accordance with which the birth of Isaac took place, this passage now cited, is a word of promise. (Not ‘was,’ for the reference is to an existent passage of Scripture.)
At this season, or, more literally, ‘according to this season.’ The passage is freely quoted from the LXX. (Genesis 18:10; Genesis 18:14). The Hebrew phrase rendered: ‘at this season,’ means when the time (shall be) reviving,’ i.e., at this season of the next year: so the LXX. substantially. ‘According to’ here suggests nothing more than ‘at.’
And Sarah shall have a son. From Genesis 18:14, substituted for a similar clause in Romans 9:10, because of the emphasis it gives (in the original) to the word ‘Sarah,’ who is the principal person (comp. Galatians 4:22, etc.).
Romans 9:10. And not only this. These words introduce a second proof from history, namely, the case of Rebecca and her two sons, one of whom was chosen. ‘This,’ is preferable to ‘so,’ because this case is not strictly of the same kind as that of Sarah, but furnishes a stronger proof.
But Rebecca also. Some explain: not only Sarah, but Rebecca also, had a divine promise, was treated in the same manner. Others find a broken construction, ‘Rebecca’ being re-introduced in Romans 9:12: ‘unto her.’ Accepting the latter view, we place a dash at the end of this verse. In any case ‘also’ points to the previous case of Sarah.
Having conceived by one, our father Isaac. In the previous instance the two children were of two mothers; here the children were twins, having the same father and mother, and yet of such a different destiny. ‘Our father Isaac;’ recalling the quotation in Romans 9:7.
Romans 9:11. The parentheses are unnecessary, since we place a dash at the end of Romans 9:10
For without their having as yet been born, or done anything good or ill. This rendering, though varying from the form of the Greek, expresses the exact sense in its relation to what follows. ‘Their’ is properly supplied, rather than ‘the children.’ The reading of the best authorities gives a word which we render ‘ill,’ as having a wider range of meaning than ‘evil,’ though here it means immoral. The second clause incidentally opposes the doctrine of the preexistence of souls, and a previous fall
That the purpose of God according to election. This clause indicates the purpose of what was said to Rebecca, and is put first for emphasis. The phrase, ‘according to election,’ is closely joined with ‘purpose;’ ‘the purpose which was so formed, that in it an election was made’ (Meyer). Both are ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 3:11). The whole expression involves God’s freedom in His choice of individuals as an essential part of His purpose of redemption. Whether we can reconcile this with our consciousness of freedom, or not, it is here asserted to be a fact
Might abide, unchangeable, instead of ‘coming to nought’ (Romans 9:6); and this, not simply in man’s estimate, but in reality. ‘It is not only in the thought of man, it is really that the liberty of God would be compromised, if any human merit regulated his choice’ (Godet).
Not of works, but of him that calleth. This is joined by some with ‘purpose,’ by others with ‘abide,’ but is most correctly taken by others, as a definition of the whole preceding clause: and this design, that his purpose according to election might abide, was not effected by reason of works, did not depend on works, but on God Himself who calls. Whatever view be taken of the connection, the ultimate ground of our salvation is in God Himself. ‘God does not choose us because we believe, but that we may believe’ (Augustine). Our salvation is not on account of faith, but through faith.
Romans 9:12. It was said unto her. Genesis 25:23; here cited, quite closely, from the Septuagint
The elder shall serve the younger; lit., ‘the greater shall serve the less.’ As spoken to Rebecca, this language referred not only to the twin children, but to the nations springing from them respectively (Genesis 25:23: ‘two nations are in thy womb’). Hence it seems best to accept here both the national and personal reference. The former is required by the citation from Malachi (see Romans 9:13), but the latter is necessary to give point to the argument of the Apostle. As respects the nations, the prophecy was fulfilled in the days of David, who conquered the Edomites (2 Samuel 8:14), but how unlikely that Paul would, in this connection, separate the nations from their respective ancestors, especially when the prophecy became a fact in the history of the two brothers themselves; comp. Genesis 27:29; Genesis 27:37; Genesis 27:40. Eternal results in the case of these persons are not involved in the original prophecy; and doubtless theocratic privileges and promises are more prominently in the mind of the Apostle in both these historical cases.
Romans 9:13. As it is written (Malachi 1:2-3), Jacob I l oved, but Esau I hated. In the original prophecy the statement that Esau was hated, is proved by the added words: ‘and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.’ The reference to the nation of Edomites is therefore clear. ‘As it is written,’ however, implies a correspondence with Romans 9:12. We therefore apply the language to Jacob and Esau personally, regarding the national destiny as bound up in the personal position of the two ancestors. The word ‘hated’ seems harsh, and hence some explain it as ‘love less,’ making the whole passage to mean, ‘I preferred Jacob to Esau.’ But, despite such instances as Luke 14:24, compared with Matthew 10:37, this explanation is not allowable. The historical dealings of God with Esau (and with Edom also), indicate, not less love, but the deprivation or absence of love, to say the least. ‘God loves the good, because He produces the very good that is in them; and He elects them not on account of their faith and their holiness, but to faith and holiness. But it cannot be said, on the other hand, that He hates the evil men because He produces the very evil that is in them; for that would be absurd, and destroy His holiness; but He hates them on account of the evil that they do or will do in opposition to His will. While human goodness is the effect of Divine love and grace, on the contrary, human wickedness is the cause of Divine hatred and abhorrence; and on that account alone can it be the object of the punitive wrath, and condemnatory decree of God.’ (Schaff, in Lange, Romans, p. 328 .) This is implied in the subsequent discussion, where the ill desert of all men is assumed, and salvation in the case of any presented as caused by God’s mercy. But whatever be the extent of the preference, or the result of the choice in the case of Jacob and Esau, the main thought is: God does exercise a prerogative of election, independently of the human considerations referred to in these instances. That this is Paul’s meaning is evident from what immediately follows. His assertion of the freedom of God might be used to impeach His moral character. If the Apostle’s argument thus far had not plainly set forth that freedom, the objection of Romans 9:14 could not have been raised.
Romans 9:14. What shall we say then? This question introduces an objection, as in chaps. Romans 3:5; Romans 6:1; Romans 7:7, which is then stated in the form of another question. The usual indignant denial follows, and then the detailed answer (Romans 9:15-18). In Romans 9:19, etc.,, a further objection (growing out of the answer to this one) is raised and answered. The question is not put in the mouth of an objector, still less is it represented as the language of an unbelieving Jew. The connection of thought is natural: may it not be said that the exercise of this free choice on the part of God, as already illustrated, involves unrighteousness in Him? Let it never be ！ He only is unrighteous who is under obligations which he does not fulfil; but God is under no obligations to His creatures who have become sinful, i.e., opposed to Him. The blessings they receive of Him are not their right, but of His mercy, as the words of God Himself in the Old Testament plainly show. The underlying principle, already assumed in this Epistle, is that God’s will is the absolute and eternal norm of righteousness, and all that He does is necessarily right (see references). If there were any superior norm of righteousness to which this Personal God is subject then He would cease to be God.
Is there unrighteousness with God? In making this choice of individuals, the objection ends here.
Let it never be. See chap. Romans 3:4, etc. Some of the fathers took Romans 9:15-18 as a renewal of the objection, but the close connection, with ‘for’ and ‘ so then,’ as well as the Scripture citations, show that those verses give the reason for this indignant denial.
Romans 9:15. For he saith to Moses. An exact quotation from the LXX. (Exodus 33:19), giving part of Jehovah’s answer to Moses, when on Mount Sinai, he said; ‘I beseech thee, show me thy glory.’ ‘In condescending to grant this request, the Lord would have him understand that nothing in him, notwithstanding all he had hitherto been able to do for the service of God, would merit such a favor. If God accorded it to him, it was not because it was Moses who besought Him, or had any right to it; it was pure grace on His part’ (Godet).
On whom I have mercy. The present tense is used in this and the corresponding clause (‘I have compassion’), referring to the settled disposition of mercy and compassion. The word ‘whom’ in both instances might be rendered ‘whomsoever,’ and has an emphasis here, describing not merely the mercy, but the choice of the individual objects, as the free act of God
Have compassion is stronger than ‘have mercy;’ it ordinarily includes outward manifestations of compassion. The future tenses (‘will have mercy;’ ‘will have compassion’) point to the active exercise of God’s mercy and compassion.
Romans 9:16. So then. With this favorite expression, Paul introduces an inference from the passage cited: ‘In consequence of all this, it is proven that.’ The word to Moses is accepted as a divine axiom, and the inference is to be regarded as of universal validity, since neither the preceding context nor the scope of the argument suggests any limitation. ‘It is in parts of Scripture like this that we must be especially careful not to fall short of what is written not to allow of any compromise of the plain and awful words of God’s Spirit, for the sake of a caution which He Himself does not teach us’(Alford).
It is not of him that willeth, etc. The participation in any and all of the effects of God’s mercy and compassion, does not depend on human will, nor on human effort, but on the will of God, who thus spoke to Moses. The reference of ‘him that willeth’ to Abraham’s wish respecting Ishmael, and of ‘him that runneth’ to Esau’s running home from hunting, is worth mentioning as a specimen of farfetched interpretation.
Romans 9:17. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh. What the Scripture says is here regarded as equivalent to what God says: comp. Galatians 3:8; Galatians 3:22. The choice of an illustration outside the Jewish nation confirms the view that Paul is here concerned with principles of universal application. The case of Pharaoh presents the antithesis to God’s showing mercy.
Even for this very purpose did I raise thee up. Freely quoted from the LXX. (Exodus 9:16). Moses was commanded to say this to Pharaoh, after the sixth plague had fallen on Egypt. The main question is respecting the meaning of ‘did I raise thee up’ which is an exact translation of Paul’s language. But the Hebrew means literally: ‘have caused thee to stand,’ and this the LXX. weakens into’ thou wert preserved. Explanations: ( 1 .) ‘Allowed thee to appear,’ thy whole historical appearance has been brought about by me, in order that, etc. This is the view of the majority of our best modem commentators. It is neither fatalistic, nor does it improperly weaken the strong language of the Apostle. Since God numbers the hairs of our head, He superintended the exodus of His people, and in this as a matter of history, the principal human factor was Pharaoh. He did not cause the evil, but bent and guided it for His own glory. ( 2 .) ‘Preserved thee alive.’ This agrees with the LXX. But Paul has, apparently with purpose, deviated from that translation. Moreover, this view fails to give sufficient strength to this link in the chain of the Apostle’s reasoning. ( 3 .) ‘Excited thee to opposition.’ But this does not agree either with the original Hebrew, or with the LXX. Nor does the context sustain it, since the reference to hardening in Romans 9:18 is based upon this verse as a whole, not on the sense of this phrase. ( 4 .) ‘Created thee,’ as a hardened sinner. This is a fatalistic view, alike uncalled for by the words of the argument. The first view is, therefore, decidedly preferable.
That I might show in thee my power. This purpose was accomplished in the case of Pharaoh by means of the supernatural events accompanying the deliverance of the Israelites, which were called forth by the opposition of Pharaoh.
My name might be declared, etc. Further purpose. Comp. the song of Moses, after the destruction of Pharaoh’s army (Exodus 15:1-19, especially where he refers to the effect produced on other nations by these events.
The whole earth. ‘A result which, in the later course of history, was especially fulfilled in the dispersion of the Jews and the spread of Christianity, and continues to be fulfilled’ (Meyer). Comp. the many allusions in the Psalms to these events as fulfilling these purposes.
Romans 9:18. So then (as in Romans 9:16; the E. V. varies unnecessarily), summing up the whole matter, after considering both sides.
On whom he will he hath mercy. We thus restore the correspondence in form between the two clauses. Here the emphasis rests on ‘will;’ not, as in Romans 9:15, on ‘whom.’
Whom he will he hardeneth. Here, as throughout, the freedom of God is the main thought; the holiness, love, and wisdom of His will are implied. Hence we say, this freedom is not arbitrary, but more because of what God is, than from our ability to explain how it is so. As respects the word ‘hardeneth,’ it assumes, as does the whole discussion, the presence of sin in the individual, without referring to its origin. It here suggests such a fortification in sin, that the sinner is unsusceptible of all workings of grace and better influences, the removal into a state where conversion is either absolutely impossible, or rendered difficult in the highest degree. This may be termed an act of God, in so far as He has ordained the laws of the development of evil, ‘that, propagating still, it brings forth evil’(Schiller). The objection which follows (Romans 9:19) shows that the Apostle regards this hardening of Pharaoh as penal, and hence as to some extent effected by God. The personal tone of the answer (Romans 9:20) indicates further that the principle is of universal application.
Romans 9:19. Thou wilt say then unto me. This verse states a further objection, growing out (‘then’) of what has already been said. It is not necessary even here, where the answer is so sharply personal, to regard the objection as uttered by a Jew. For it will arise, wherever there is any such notion of God, however derived, as admits the possibility of His being the author of evil in man, or what amounts to the same thing, denies His righteousness, because there is a theoretical difficulty in reconciling our responsibility with His free will. The difficulty is an ontological one: Given an infinite free will, how can there be other free wills.
Why doth he yet find fault? Some good authorities insert ‘then,’ here also, referring to the previous discussion. ‘Yet,’ this being the case, that whom He will He hardens (Romans 9:18).
For who resisteth his will. The word is peculiar, meaning ‘the thing willed,’ but implying deliberation. ‘Resisteth’ is better than ‘hath resisted’; and the question implies the helpless ness of the objector, and acknowledges the Almightiness of God, but at the expense of His rectitude, since it virtually makes Him responsible for men’s sins.
Romans 9:20. Nay but. An unusual word, meaning, ‘Yes indeed;’ here used, either with a slight tone of irony, or, more probably, of indignant rebuke. ‘I do not examine the intrinsic verity of what you allege; but, be that as it may, this much is certain, that you are not in a position to dispute with God’(Godet).
O man. This address suggests the contrast between man and God, afterwards brought out more fully.
Who art thou. ‘How great art thou?’
That repliest against God. The peculiar word here used suggests an answer given to a previous response, i.e., to God’s response (finding fault, Romans 9:19) to man’s sin.
Shall the thing formed, etc. We have here an echo of Isaiah 24:16 (not a quotation). ‘The thing formed,’ as a vessel is moulded. Hence the question has no reference to original creation, but to subsequent ethical moulding. The nature of the ‘clay’ and ‘lump’ is not yet suggested. The original indicates that a negative answer is expected.
Why didst thou make me thus? The word ‘make’ in accordance with what precedes; is to be referred to preparing, adjusting, etc., not to creating. The folly, rather than the error of the objector, is thus rebuked.
Romans 9:21. Or hath not the potter. ‘Or’ suggests the dilemma arising out of the figure: Either the thing formed cannot speak thus, or the potter has not authority, etc. The interrogative form here implies an affirmative answer:’ The potter has authority,’ etc. The figure of a potter is found in the Old Testament (see references) and here undoubtedly represents God Himself.
Authority. Not, ‘power’ in the sense of ‘force,’ but rather, ‘right,’ ‘privilege.’
Over the clay. The ‘clay’ represents the human subjects under discussion; the article suggests that it is the potter’s clay.
From the same lump to make, etc. The whole clause explains what is meant by the ‘authority’ of the potter, while the figure itself excludes the idea of creature. ‘The lump’ and ‘the clay’ refer to the same thing; the latter is the substance itself, the former presents it as already in use by the potter for his purposes. To limit the ‘lump’ to the Jews is narrow, and opposed by Romans 9:22; Romans 9:24, etc. Meyer explains: ‘ The same lump denotes human nature in and of itself, as with its opposite moral capabilities and dispositions it is equally in all, but not yet conceived of in its definite individual moral stamp.’ Similarly Godet: ‘The mass represents entire humanity, not that humanity which God created, but in that state in which He finds it at each moment when He makes it serve His reign.’ The supralapsarian explanation, referring it to the created man, seems contrary to the figure and to revealed facts. The view taken of the moral status of the ‘lump,’ representing humanity, will depend largely upon the interpretation of chap. Romans 5:12-21. The denial of original sin makes the difficulty here all the greater.
One part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor. This rendering is more exact than that of the E. V. The potter makes from the same lump, a part into a vessel designed for honorable uses, and another is for dishonorable uses. The emphasis in the original seems to rest on the words ‘unto honor,’ just as below (Romans 9:23) the corresponding phrase, ‘vessels of mercy,’ is made prominent. It should be observed that the whole verse is designed to assert God’s freedom, under the figure of the potter; hence the failure of all attempts to limit the application to the Jews, or to temporal distinctions. ‘The honor and dishonor are not here the moral purity or impurity of the human vessels, but their ultimate glorification or perdition. The Apostle, in asking this question, rather aims at striking dumb the objector by a statement of God’s undoubted right, against which it does not become us to murmur, than at unfolding to us the actual state of the case’(Alford).
Romans 9:22. But what if God. The construction is elliptical: the original is simply: ‘but if.’ We may supply, as follows: ‘But what will be said, if,’ i.e., How can the objection raised be urged, if, as is the case, God, etc. ‘But’ thus introduces an additional thought, which forms the main answer to the objection.
Although willing, etc. The participle ‘willing’ may mean either, ‘since He is willing,’ or, ‘although He is willing.’ We prefer the latter, for ( 1 .) the former view gives to ‘willing’ the sense of ‘purposing,’ which it does not necessarily have; ( 2 .) it obscures the logical relation between ‘showing wrath’ and ‘enduring;’ ( 3 .) it relieves somewhat the difficult construction of Romans 9:23. On this view, ‘willing’ refers to the spontaneous will of God, growing out of His moral character, not to His fixed purpose. This will would lead Him to show his wrath, etc.
His power. This peculiar expression, meaning ‘what is possible to him,’ suits the view we take of ‘willing.’
Endured with much long-suffering. That the Apostle means to assert the fact of such endurance is plain. But how does this stand related to the previous clause? Our view accepts a contrast; ‘yet He endured;’ the other interpretation makes this the result of His purpose to show His wrath, etc. This raises a new difficulty, while the former explanation really answers the objection of Romans 9:19, by showing that the sovereign God had withheld the exercise of a power in accordance with His holy will, so that the endurance was really ‘with much long-suffering.’ Comp. chap. Romans 3:25.
Vessels of wrath. God’s wrath is meant, and these vessels are to be its objects. It is not necessary to carry out the figure and explain a vessel full of wrath. This phrase is suggested by the corresponding one in Romans 9:21 (‘vessel unto dishonor’).
Fitted for destruction; everlasting destruction is meant, as the contrasted word (‘glory;’ Romans 9:23) plainly shows, as well as the mention of God’s enduring with much long-suffering. The participle, ‘fitted,’ expresses the permanent present result of past action. It is not said that God has fitted them for destruction, although Meyer thinks this is implied Others think that they are represented as having fitted themselves for destruction, by deserving it. Probably the mediate agency of God is not to be excluded, but the obvious differences between the two phrases (‘fitted for destruction’ and ‘which He before prepared for glory,’ see below) point unmistakably to such a difference as should guard the passage against fatalistic interpretations. ‘Every development of sin is a network of human offences and divine judgments, that are related to each other.’
Romans 9:23. And that, or, ‘also that,’ in order that the omission of ‘and’ by some authorities was probably due to an effort to relieve the difficult construction. The simplest view is to translate ‘also that,’ and connect the verse with ‘endured.’ Besides His great long-suffering toward the vessels of wrath, He had another purpose in the endurance, one with reference to ‘vessels of mercy.’ To this it is objected that it makes the purpose in reference to the vessels of mercy secondary, but in our view the long-suffering suggests the thought of the revelation of God’s glory, which is fully carried out here. Alford supplies ‘what if this took place,’ others repeat ‘willing,’ which is inadmissible if ‘although willing’ is the correct explanation in Romans 9:22. To join this verse with ‘fitted for destruction’ gives an unwarranted sense. Some would supply ‘if,’ taking this verse as the purpose of the calling mentioned in Romans 9:24; but this only increases the grammatical difficulties.
The riches of his glory. This phrase, which Godet thinks was suggested by the request of Moses (comp. Romans 9:15): ‘Shew me thy glory’ (Exodus 33:18), refers to the fulness of the divine glory, in its beneficence, in its bestowal of blessing; riches of ‘goodness, grace, mercy, wisdom, omnipotence’ (Bengel). This making known is something which occurs throughout the gospel dispensation, as Romans 9:24 indicates.
On vessels of mercy. This may be joined with ‘make known,’ or, with ‘riches’; the former being preferable. The vessels are the object of divine mercy in every age, but especially in the gospel dispensation.
which he before prepared. The verb does not mean ‘predestined,’ nor is it to be explained as ‘prepared by providence and grace,’ since the latter involves a process, while the tense here used points to a single act, which takes place ‘before’ these providential and gracious dealings, probably referring to the actual constitution of the individual, as clay in the hands of the potter, the result of election, yet distinct from it.
For glory. The end of the preparation is the possession of the full and eternal glory of the kingdom of heaven. Alford remarks, that the theological difficulties here ‘are inherent, not in the Apostle’s argument, nor even in revelation, but in any consistent belief of an omnipotent and omniscient God.’ Yet, the variations between the description of the two classes are so marked, as to show that the Apostle distinguishes between God’s agency in the salvation of the one class and in regard to the destruction of the other. Two different words are chosen to express the preparation; in this verse we have ‘before,’ which is wanting in Romans 9:22; here ‘He’ is mentioned as preparing the objects of mercy, there the indefinite passive is used; here a single act (in eternity) is spoken of, there a process, the former referring to the beginning of a development, the latter to its result. These differences cannot be accidental.
Romans 9:24. Even as, etc. Or, ‘as such He also called us.’ ‘Also,’ (translated ‘even’ in the E. V.) belongs to the word ‘called,’ besides preparing, He also called. ‘As such’ brings out the sense fully, but is a paraphrase rather than a translation. The calling is that of individuals through the gospel.
Not only from among the Jews, etc. ‘The believing Jew is not called as such, because he is a Jew, but from among the Jews’ (Bengel). There is no preference shown them. ‘How naturally does the Apostle here return to the main subject of discussion.’ How skilfully is the conclusion brought out at which he has continually aimed!’ (Hodge.)
Romans 9:25. As he saith also in Hosea (Romans 2:23). The Hebrew text is here followed more closely than the Septuagint. What has just been said of the Gentiles accords with (‘as’) this prophecy; ‘also,’ probably, suggests that this is a secondary (or typical) application of the passage, while ‘Hosea’ refers to the book, as in our usage. On Paul’s use of the Old Testament, see Excursus on Galatians 4:19-30. Here we may say either that the prophecy lays down a general principle which is applicable to the calling of Gentiles, or that its primary reference was typical of this later event. The latter is more accordant with Paul’s conception of the Old Testament, and with the peculiar character of the original prophecy.
I will call that my people, etc. This passage refers to the fact that the prophet had Seen told (Hosea 1:6; Hosea 1:9) to give to a daughter and a son the names Lo-Ruhamah (not having obtained mercy) and Lo-Ammi (not my people). The former name symbolized the visible deprivation of mercy, the latter visible rejection as a people. The Apostle uses the LXX. equivalent of these names (‘not beloved’ for Lo-Ruhamah’), inverting the order, to emphasize the thought ‘not my people,’ which was prominent in his mind. ‘I will call’ is substituted for ‘I will say to,’ without altering the sense, for’ calling’ here means to ‘name,’ as do the words of the original prophecy. But undoubtedly the Apostle in this application had in mind the calling of the Gentiles to salvation. The original reference was to the ten tribes, not to the heathen; but they had become idolatrous, and any typical significance of the language addressed to them would apply to the reception of the Gentiles.
Romans 9:26. And it shall come to pass, etc. This is the latter half of Hosea 1:10, which is closely connected in thought with the other passage. The only variation from the LXX. is the strengthening of ‘also’ into ‘there,’ a word supplied in Italics in the E. V. of the prophecy.
In the place, etc. Some have thought that the prophet meant Palestine (Samaria), to which the ten tribes returned. This makes Paul’s application of this part of the prophecy purely typical. Lange, more correctly, finds in Hosea 1:11 a proof that the expression of the prophet denotes the stay of the Jews in the Gentile world. Others explain the phrase as referring generally to the heathen world; some, as meaning the Christian Church, the ideal state, etc.
Romans 9:27. And Isaiah crieth concerning Israel. To the prediction of Hosea which is applied to the calling of the Gentiles, the Apostle adds another which presents the other side, namely, that few of Israel will be saved. The quotation, extending to the close of Romans 9:28, is from Isaiah 10:22-23, the verses being, however, differently divided. The original reference of the prophecy was to the return of the Jews from Babylon. ‘Crieth’ describes’ the bold declaration of a truth very offensive to the people’ (Lange).
Though, lit., ‘if,’ the number, etc. The LXX. is followed, which varies but slightly from the Hebrew.
Sand of the sea. Comp. the promises to Abraham and Jacob (Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:14).
The remnant. This is the emphatic word, only ‘the remnant,’ mainly with a reference to the call of the Gentiles, but probably suggesting the thought of the future salvation of Israel, fully brought out in chap. 11.
Shall be saved. So the LXX. renders the Hebrew word: ‘shall return.’ Paul, of course, applies the phrase in the fullest sense.
Romans 9:28. This verse presents unusual difficulties, both as to the Greek text, the English translation, and the principle of citation which led the Apostle to use it
The weight of authority supports the briefer reading, although that reading can be explained as due to an oversight on the part of a transcriber. The longer reading may be translated thus: ‘For he ( i.e., the Lord) is finishing and cutting short his word in righteousness, because a short (lit, cut-short) word will the Lord execute upon the earth.’ This longer reading does not vary materially from the LXX.; hence it may have been enlarged to correspond with that. But the variations from the Hebrew are considerable, as may be seen from the following translation:
‘Consumption (extirpation) is decided, flowing with righteousness;
For a consumption and decree shall the Lord of hosts make,
In the midst of all the land.’
The question is whether the LXX. has varied from the meaning of the original prophecy as well as from its form. We think that the LXX., especially as here applied by the Apostle, has preserved most fully the thought of the original prophecy, in fact conveying it to the mind of a reader familiar with Greek more clearly than could have been done by a literal rendering of the Hebrew.
For is inserted by the Apostle to strengthen the connection.
Finishing and cutting short his word, not, ‘work,’ as in the E. V. The Greek word has been rendered ‘decree,’ to correspond more closely with the Hebrew, but this is not its meaning, though the idea of such a decree underlies Paul’s use of the passage. ‘Word’ is preferable, i.e., a word of promise and threatening (to the remnant and the mass respectively). Others prefer in view of the reference to numbers, to translate ‘make a reckoning,’ instead of ‘execute a word,’ but it is doubtful whether the phrase has this meaning. ‘His’ is properly supplied in English. ‘Finishing and cutting short’ then refer to the rapid accomplishment of the word uttered by the Lord. This applies, as we think, to both the threatening and the promise, and that too, whichever reading be accepted. Some have interpreted the whole of God’s mercy, of His cutting short judgment. But this explanation gives to ‘righteousness’ the sense of mercy. Moreover it is foreign to the Hebrew, and quite inappropriate here, where the Apostle is emphasizing the fact that only a remnant will be saved. The fathers had the fantastic notion that the ‘short word’ is ‘the gospel as an abridged doctrine of salvation, in antithesis to the elaborateness of the Old Testament’ Other fanciful interpretations are all too numerous. While the original reference was to the Jews in the time of Isaiah, the Apostle here makes a prophecy of more general validity, applying it to the sad fact, discussed in this part of the Epistle, that most of the Jews were cut off, but including the other fact that the remnant should be saved. Both points are closely connected with the great thought of this section, the freedom of God in election, and this application does no violence to the original sense of the prophecy.
Romans 9:29. And, as Isaiah hath said before, or, ‘beforehand.’ The punctuation we adopt, involves this explanation of the passage: ‘And, even as Isaiah has predicted (so I repeat his words), Except’ etc. Another view explains: ‘And (it is) as Isaiah has predicted.’ The former is preferable, since Paul is thus preparing the way for his own prophetic utterances in chap. 11. ‘Before’ can scarcely refer to the place of the passage in the Book of Isaiah, since this is a matter of no importance in this connection. The rendering ‘beforehand’ indicates that this was said before the fulfilment.
Except the Lord of Sabaoth, etc. The Septuagint version of Isaiah 1:9 is cited word for word.
Seed. So the LXX. renders the Hebrew word, meaning ‘remnant,’ which occurs in the original prophecy. This suggests an idea found in Isaiah 6:13 (comp. Ezra 9:2), that the remnant should be ‘a holy seed.’ In fact the Jewish Christians, who escaped the judgment which fell on their nation at the destruction of Jerusalem, constituted such a seed for the Christian Church.
Became is to be substituted for ‘been.’
As regards the application made by Paul of this prophecy, it will seem all the more appropriate when the full scope of the original prediction is considered. ‘The prophet with a few ground-strokes gathers up the whole future of the people of Israel. He announces a period of judgment as an unavoidable passage way; then, again, a time of salvation. But the period of judgment comprehends in itself all the judgments then standing without as yet: every visitation, of which history from that time on knows aught, is a proof of this word of prophecy, a fulfilment of it….. Just so is the period of salvation conceived as the sum-total of all fulfilment in general, since the complete realization of all God’s promises will bring what will still all the longing and the thirsting of the human heart from thenceforth and forever’ (Dreschler). With this thought of the rejuvenation of Israel, through a remnant which is also a germ, the Apostle passes to the other side of the dark problem, namely, the unbelief of the Jews as the human cause of their rejection. This phase of the subject is introduced in Romans 9:30, with which, therefore, we begin another section.
Romans 9:30. What shall we say then? Precisely as in Romans 9:14, where, however, it introduces an objection. But when followed by an assertion, it further unfolds an argument from what precedes. Here it introduces a summing up of ‘the historical result from the foregoing prophecies’(Meyer), yet with a view to present a new phase of the subject. What he would say is that ‘Gentiles,’ etc.
Gentiles. The article is wanting; what is affirmed is true of Gentiles, but not of the Gentiles as a whole.
Who were not following after righteousness. ‘Pursuing,’ as in running for a prize. This ‘prize’ which the Gentiles did not pursue was’ righteousness.’ While this word does not mean ‘justification,’ we need not give it here a purely ethical sense. For some of the Gentiles had a high ethical ideal which they pursued. But they did not follow this ethical aim with the thought of attaining a verdict of righteousness before God. Conformity to His law was not their ideal of virtue, nor was His judgment the ultimate ground of acceptance. Thus much we may understand, both from Paul’s previous discussions, and from what follows.
Attained to righteousness. The verb is used of laying hold of the prize in the Grecian games. Here the technical Christian sense of ‘righteousness,’ righteousness from God (chap. Romans 1:17), seems necessary.
Even the righteousness which is of faith. The peculiar form of the original suggests that this is the true righteousness.
2. MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY: THE JEWS EXCLUDED THROUGH THEIR OWN UNBELIEF.
For convenience we may divide this passage into two sections: (I.) Chap. Romans 9:30-33 sets forth the fact that the Jews had not attained to righteousness because they rejected God's way of obtaining it, namely, by faith. The responsibility for their rejection therefore rests upon themselves. (II.) The Apostle proceeds to lay emphasis upon this position, by proving that the Old Testament itself pointed to Christ as the end of the law, and to faith as the one way and the universal way of salvation; hence the unbelief of the Jews, in spite of the many prophetic warnings, left them without excuse, as a disobedient and gainsaying people; chap. Romans 10:1-21.
Romans 9:31. But Israel, following the law of righteousness. Lit ., ‘a law of righteousness,’ but referring to the Mosaic law. Here, however, it is described as a law which affords righteousness. Israel pursued this law in order that justification might ensue, but without any true sense of its contents, or real apprehension of its mission (comp. chap. Romans 10:4). Others explain the phrase as ‘righteousness of the law,’ which is ungrammatical, while some, without good reason, explain ‘law’ in the general sense of rule.
Did not come unto that law. The word ‘come unto,’ ‘arrive at’ is here substituted for ‘attain’ (Romans 9:30), and the best authorities omit ‘of righteousness,’ which would naturally be inserted by the transcribers, to make the sense more obvious. The omission makes impossible that (otherwise objectionable) explanation of the verse, which takes ‘law’ here as ‘the law of faith,’ and in the previous clause as ‘the law of Moses.’ The better view is: they did not even arrive at the real inward character of that law, which they pursued as affording righteous ness. They arrived at the letter, but not at the meaning of the Holy Spirit, for the law, rightly understood, would have led them to Christ Romans 9:32.
Wherefore? Why did they fail to arrive at that law, which they yet pursued as affording righteousness.
Because they sought it not by faith. The words’ they sought it ‘are properly supplied in the E. V.’ Had they started from faith in their striving, they would have obtained in Christianity the realization of their endeavor’(Meyer). They would have arrived at the law, in its real sense, and it would have become to them a ‘law of righteousness.’ Comp. chap. Romans 10:4. Here the Apostle distinctly asserts that the Jews were themselves responsible for their position, and the general principle which is involved here, is implied in every other passage of Scripture which bears upon the awful problem. The same principle, or fact, is asserted in those doctrinal statements which lay the greatest emphasis upon God’s sovereignty; see Lange, Romans, pp. 329 , 330 , and comp. Hodge, Shedd, and others in loco.
But as by works. The word ‘as’ implies that they imagined they were doing the works of the law, while really they failed to do them, because they did not apprehend the purpose of the law, nor the spirit in which its requirements should be met.
They stumbled. ‘For’ is properly omitted. Some would join this closely with what precedes: ‘Because they sought it not by faith, but as by works, they stumbled,’ etc. But this disturbs the relation to ‘wherefore?’ and is far less striking.
At the stone of stumbling; to which repeated reference is made in Scripture; see references on Romans 9:33. That Christ Himself is meant is evident from the New Testament application of the phrase. The figure is very appropriate to the previous notion of following (Romans 9:30-31). ‘Offence at Christ is culpable; it is taken, not given’ (Heubner).
Romans 9:33. As it is written, etc. Two passages from Isaiah are here combined.
Stone of stumbling, etc. In Isaiah 8:14, God Himself is represented as being ‘for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence’ to His enemies.
This was properly applied to the Messiah by the Jews, and to our Lord by the Apostle. But he substitutes these expressions for similar ones in Isaiah 28:16, where the figure of a corner-stone occurs, applied by both Peter and Paul to Christ. This combination is both justifiable and natural. In both cases the supreme revelation of Jehovah in the Messiah is referred to; in one passage as a sanctuary for His people, but for a stone of stumbling, etc., to His enemies; in the other as a corner-stone laid in Zion, for a secure foundation.
He who believeth on him, etc. In chap. Romans 10:11 this clause is introduced again, but there ‘every one’ (E. V. incorrectly: ‘whosoever’) occurs, which is to be omitted here, according to the best authorities. In the LXX. it is not found; nor could it be emphatic here, since the antithesis to ‘stumbled’ makes ‘believeth’ the prominent word.
Shall not be put to shame. The Hebrew is: ‘shall not make haste,’ or, ‘flee hastily,’ with a primary reference to escaping from danger, but the LXX., from which Paul varies very slightly, gives the meaning with substantial correctness (comp. ‘confounded’ in the margin of the E. V.). This negative promise is rightly regarded as implying a positive blessing. ‘As though he had said: Because Christ is called the stone of stumbling, there is no reason that we should dread Him, for He is appointed for life to believers’ (Calvin).
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 9". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13