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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Romans 9



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Verses 1-5

Romans 9:1-5. Sorrow over the Reprobation of the Jews. Paul's rapture passes into anguish at the exclusion of his kinsmen from this blessedness. So the second theme of the epistle comes into view; see Introd. 5.

Romans 9:1 f. The apostle was denounced as a renegade (Acts 21:28, etc.); hence his solemn protest (cf. Romans 1:9, 2 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Thessalonians 2:5).

Romans 9:3. His deeply-wounded love prompts the "wish"—almost a prayer—"that I were myself anathema," that I were "cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my natural kinsfolk."—The Greek anathema (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23, Galatians 1:8) renders the Hebrew term for put-under-the-ban, as with Achan and his plunder (Joshua 7; cf. Joshua 6:17 f., Leviticus 27:28 f.).

Romans 9:4 f. This recital shows how far Paul is from disparaging his people's distinctions (cf. Romans 2:1, Romans 3:2, Romans 15:8), and how tragic is their reprobation. "Israelites"—the title of religious nobility (Genesis 32:28, Psalms 73:1, John 1:47, etc.). "The (national) adoption" (see Romans 8:15*): "Israel is My son, My firstborn" (Exodus 4:22, etc.). "The glory"—. the Shekinah of Exodus 16:10, etc., which attended the desert march and rested on the sacred Ark. "The Covenants"—with Abraham, Moses, David; finally, that of Jeremiah 31:31-37. "Of whom," not whose as in former clauses—a case of origin, not possession—"is the Christ," etc.: the consummate honour of the Israelite race.

Romans 9:5 b is sometimes punctuated as a detached doxology: "God, who is over all, be blessed for ever! A rendering grammatical indeed, but forced and improbable. "Who is over all, God blessed for ever," supplies the antithesis to "after the flesh"; cf. Romans 1:3 f., Galatians 4:4. Christ is not called "God over all": "over all" affirms His Lordship (1 Corinthians 8:6, Philippians 2:9-11, etc.); "God," His oneness of being with the Father (Colossians 2:9, Titus 2:13; John 10:30-38).

After all this, Israel's reprobation looks like God's defeat. But "God's word has not failed"; for God is acting, as always, in the sovereignty of His elective grace (Romans 9:6-29), while Israel rejects His way of righteousness (Romans 9:30 to Romans 10:21); in the end Israel will be saved (Romans 11).

Verses 6-18

Romans 9:6-18. God's Free Election.

Romans 9:6-9. We must distinguish: "to be of Israel, is not to be Israel." Mere physical heredity counts for nothing: "Isaac" was the proper "seed" of Abraham, designated as "the child of promise" (Genesis 21:12, etc.). Here Isaac's case illustrates the sovereignty of God; in Romans 4:18-21, the efficacy of faith.

Romans 9:10-13. The case of Esau and Jacob is equally significant. Twin offspring of the same parents, the unborn babes had done nothing to achieve merit or display worth, when God said, "The elder shall serve the younger," an election governing the history of the descendant peoples (Malachi 1:2 f.*).

Romans 9:14. No Jew would deem "God unjust" in such preferences; the question of Romans 9:14 answers itself. The application to contemporary Judaism is patent.

Romans 9:15 f. The election of Jacob recalls words used to Moses: "I will show mercy to whomsoever I will show mercy," etc.—not that God is arbitrary in His compassions, but He is untrammeled; even Moses may not prescribe to Him. Hence the inference: "it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs" (as Moses was doing then, Paul now, for Israel's salvation), "but of God," etc. (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6 f.). Dictation, like prerogative, is out of court.

Romans 9:17 f. This holds in respect of "hardening" too. Witness the Pharaoh of the Exodus: God "raised" this evil-hearted man to greatness, "on purpose to demonstrate His power" as the Judge of the earth. As the story shows, the monarch's defiant temper was the nemesis of unbelief; cf. Romans 1:24; Romans 1:28. In every decision God judges for Himself, despite human pleas of privilege and pride of power: "Whom He will He compassionates, whom He will He hardens."

Verses 19-29

Romans 9:19-29. The Divine Sovereignty in Judgment.

Romans 9:19 f. The hard saying just enunciated provokes the question, "Why does He blame," if the hardening is His doing and "none may resist His will"? Paul forgoes the obvious retort, that God's "hardening" is a judgment on hardness of heart (cf. Romans 2:5, etc.), that Pharaoh (and Israel now) did resist God (cf. Acts 7:51, etc.); he assails the spirit of contradiction: "Nay, surely, O man, who art thou who repliest against God—the thing formed saying to its fashioner, Why didst thou make me so?" (see Isaiah 45:9). Such questions cast on God the responsibility for our miscarriages: whoever is to blame, He is not.—The "forming" of Romans 9:20 is the shaping, not the creation, of the instrument.

Romans 9:21. "The potter has a right over the clay, to make a vessel for honourable or ignoble use, from any part of the lump" he chooses. He has his reasons, but those reasons are for himself. "What right," says the Jew, "has God to cast away sons of Abraham?" The right, answers Paul, of the potter, from which there is no appeal.

Romans 9:22 recalls Romans 9:17 : "Supposing God, resolved to make an example of His punitive wrath, has borne long" with evil-doers, rendering their doom in the end more terrible, who will gainsay Him—in Pharaoh's case, or (to read between the lines) in Israel's?

Romans 9:23 f. "And" supposing He did this "of purpose to make known His glorious wealth of mercy . . . in us," for example, "whom He has called from amongst both Jews and Gentiles?" The suggestion is that God's punitive judgments have mercy, somewhere, somehow, for their aim (Romans 11:30 ff.). The "vessels of anger" were chosen suitably, as well as sovereignly: God's displeasure found, not made, them "fitted for destruction." The antithetic clause, "which He prepared beforehand for glory" (cf. Romans 8:30, Ephesians 2:10), associates God with all that leads to the happier choice, without denying man's co-operation (cf. Philippians 2:12 f.).—Throughout Paul asserts the challenged right of God to deal judicially with Israel; he is not denying man's freedom in order to safeguard God's sovereignty, but maintaining God's freedom against Jewish presumption.—The sayings drawn from Hosea and Isaiah in Romans 9:25-29 reveal the disregard of previous status with which God "calls" into favour "the once rejected" and selects "a remnant" while rejecting the mass. Isaiah 10:22 f. and Isaiah 10:19 remind Israel how summary God's ancient judgments had been—yet "leaving a seed" to revive out of the waste.

Verses 30-33

Romans 9:30 to Romans 10:4. Paul has discussed the Jewish situation as from God's side; he proceeds to point out, from man's side, the Cause of Israel's Stumbling. This chs. 3-5 have prepared us to understand.

Romans 9:30-32 a. The paradox is that "Gentiles, who were out of the way of righteousness, have obtained it; while Israel, intent upon a law of righteousness, missed the mark, because it rejected the way of faith (which Gentiles took), preferring that of works." In other words (Romans 10:3), Israel wanted "to set up its own righteousness" (cf. Philippians 3:6; Philippians 3:9) and "did not recognise" nor "submit to God's righteousness."

Romans 9:32 b, Romans 9:33. They stumbled at the" old "stumbling-block" marked in Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 28:16—the demand for "trust" in God as the basis of salvation.

Romans 10:1 f. So Paul's "good-will and prayers" (cf. Romans 9:16), and Israel's unquestioned "zeal for God," are unavailing. Their zeal "lacks knowledge"—though the Jew prides himself on this (Romans 2:18 f.)!

Romans 10:3. This ignorance is bound up with self-conceit and insubordination (cf. Romans 2:4; also John 8:19; John 8:55, etc.).—On "the righteousness of God," see Romans 1:17*, Romans 3:22; Romans 3:26*.

Romans 10:4. The Jews deem the Mosaic system eternal; they fail to discern "the end of the law (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:13-16, Hebrews 7:18 f., etc.) in Christ," who, revealing God's righteousness, imparts "righteousness to every believer."—end: i.e. terminus and goal; see Galatians 2:19; Galatians 3:24, Matthew 5:17, Luke 16:16.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Romans 9:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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