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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
Romans 9



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Verse 1

In Christ

Not by Christ, as the formula of an oath, Christ being never used by the apostles in such a formula, but God. Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Philemon 1:8. For this favorite expression of Paul, see Galatians 2:17; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 2:14, 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 12:19, etc.


See on 1 Peter 3:16.

Bearing me witness

Rev., bearing witness with me. See on Romans 8:16. Concurring with my testimony. Morison remarks that Paul speaks of conscience as if it were something distinct from himself, and he cites Adam Smith's phrase, “the man within the breast.”

In the Holy Ghost

So Rev. The concurrent testimony of his declaration and of conscience was “the echo of the voice of God's Holy Spirit” (Morison).

Verse 2

Heaviness, sorrow ( λύπη ὀδύνη )

Heaviness, so Wyc. and Tynd., in the earlier sense of sorrow. So Chaucer:

“Who feeleth double sorrow and heaviness

But Palamon?”

Knight's Tale,” 1456


“I am here, brother, full of heaviness.”

2Henry IV.,” iv., 5, 8

Rev., sorrow. Ὁδύνη is better rendered pain. Some derive it from the root ed eat, as indicating, consuming pain. Compare Horace, curae edares devouring cares. Only here and 1 Timothy 6:10.


See on Romans 1:21.

Verse 3

I could wish ( ἠυχόμην )

Or pray as 2 Corinthians 13:7, 2 Corinthians 13:9; James 5:16. Lit., I was wishing; but the imperfect here has a tentative force, implying the wish begun, but stopped at the outset by some antecedent consideration which renders it impossible, so that, practically, it was not entertained at all. So Paul of Onesimus: “Whom I could have wished ( ἐβουλόμην ) to keep with me,” if it had not been too much to ask (Philemon 1:13). Paul would wish to save his countrymen, even at such sacrifice, if it were morally possible. Others, however, explain the imperfect as stating an actual wish formerly entertained.

Accursed from Christ ( ἀνάθεμα ἀπὸ τοῦ χριστοῦ )

Compare Galatians 1:8, Galatians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22. See on offerings, Luke 21:5. Set apart to destruction and so separated from Christ (Philemon 1:21; Philemon 3:8, Philemon 3:20). An expression of deep devotion. “It is not easy to estimate the measure of love in a Moses and a Paul. For our limited reason does not grasp it, as the child cannot comprehend the courage of warriors” (Bengel). Compare Moses, Exodus 32:32.

Verse 4

Who ( οἵτινες )

The double relative characterizes the Israelites with their call and privileges as such that for them he could even wish himself accursed.


See on Acts 3:12.


See on Romans 8:15. Israel is always represented as the Lord's son or first-born among all peoples. Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; Hosea 11:1.

The glory

The visible, luminous appearance of the divine presence was called by the Israelites the glory of Jahveh, or, in rabbinical phrase, the Shekinah. See Exodus 24:16; Exodus 40:34, Exodus 40:35; Ezekiel 1:28; Hebrews 9:5. Not the final glory of God's kingdom; for this belongs to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews.

The covenants ( αἱ διαθῆκαι )

See on Matthew 26:28. Those concluded with the patriarchs since Abraham. See Galatians 3:16, Galatians 3:17; Ephesians 2:12. The plural never occurs in the Old Testament. See on Hebrews 9:16.

The giving of the law ( ἡ νομοθεσία )

The act of giving, with a secondary reference to the substance of the law; legislation.

The service ( ἡ λατρεία )

See on John 16:2; see on Luke 1:74; see on Revelation 22:3; see on Philemon 3:3. Here the sum total of the Levitical services instituted by the law.

The promises

The collective messianic promises on which the covenants were based. The word originally means announcement. See on Acts 1:4.

Verse 5

Of whom ( ἐξ ὧν )

From the midst of whom. But in order to guard the point that the reference is only to Christ's human origin, he adds, as concerning the flesh.

Who is over all, God blessed for ever ( ὁ ὣν ἐπὶ πάντων Θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας )

Authorities differ as to the punctuation; some placing a colon, and others a comma after flesh. This difference indicates the difference in the interpretation; some rendering as concerning the flesh Christ came. God who is over all be blessed for ever; thus making the words God, etc., a doxology: others, with the comma, the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever; i.e., Christ is God (For minor variations see margin of Rev.)


See on Revelation 1:6.

Verse 6

Not as though ( οὐχ οἶον δὲ ὅτι )

Rev., but it is not as though. The thought is abruptly introduced. I am not speaking of a matter of such a nature as that the doctrine of faith involves the failure of God's promises to Israel.

Hath taken none effect ( ἐκπέπτωκεν )

Lit., has fallen out. Rev., come to nought.

Verse 7

In Isaac

Not in Ishmael, though Ishmael also was the seed of Abraham. The saying of Genesis 21:12is directly added without it is written or it was said, because it is assumed to be well known to the readers as a saying of God. The Hebrew is: “in Isaac shall posterity be named to thee.” In the person of Isaac the descendant of Abraham will be represented and recognized. The general principle asserted is that the true sonship of Abraham does not rest on bodily descent.

Shall be called ( κληθήσεται )

Named. See on Romans 4:17. Others, called from nothing. But the promise was made after Isaac was born.

Verse 8

That is

The Old-Testament saying amounts to this.

Children of the promise

Originating from the divine promise. See Galatians 4:23.

Verse 9

This is the word of promise

The A.V. obscures the true sense. There is no article, and the emphasis is on promise. “I say 'a word of promise,' for a word of promise is this which follows.” Or, as Morison, “this word is one of promise.”

At this time ( κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον )

Rev., according to this season. The reference is to Genesis 18:14, where the Hebrew is when the season is renewed or revives; i.e., next year at this time. The season is represented as reviving periodically.

Verse 10

And not only so

The thought to be supplied is: Not only have we an example of the election of a son of Abraham by one woman, and a rejection of his son by another, but also of the election and rejection of the children of the same woman.

By one

Though of one father, a different destiny was divinely appointed for each of the twins. Hence only the divine disposal constitutes the true and valid succession, and not the bodily descent.

Verse 11

Evil ( φαῦλον )

See on John 3:20; see on James 3:16.

Purpose according to election ( ἡ κατ ' ἐκλογὴν πρόθεσις )

For πρόθεσις purposesee on the kindred verb προέθετο , Romans 3:25, and compare Romans 8:28. The phrase signifies a purpose so formed that in it an election was made. The opposite of one founded upon right or merit. For similar phrases see Acts 19:20; κατὰ κράτος accordingto might, mightily; Romans 7:13, καθ ' ὑπερβολὴν accordingto excess, exceedingly. See note.

Might stand ( μένῃ )

Lit., abide, continue: remain unchangeable. This unchangeableness of purpose was conveyed in His declaration to Rebecca. Contrast with come to nought (Romans 9:6).

Of works ( ἐξ )

Lit., out of. By virtue of.

Calleth ( καλοῦντος )

Eternal salvation is not contemplated. “The matter in question is the part they play regarded from the theocratic stand-point” (Godet).

Verse 12

Elder - younger ( μείζων - ἐλάσσονι )

Lit., greater - smaller. Compare Genesis 27:1, here the Hebrew is: “Esau his great son;” Sept., πρεσβύτερον elder Genesis 29:16, Sept., “The name of the greater was Leah, and the name of the younger ( τῇ νεωτέρᾳ ) Rachel.” See a similar use in Aeschylus, “Agamemnon,” 349, “Neither old ( μέγαν ) nor young ( νεαρῶν ) could escape the great net of slavery.” While in these cases “greater” and “smaller” are evidently used as older and younger, yet the radical meaning is greater and less, and the reference is not to age, but to their relative position in the theocratic plan. Μείζων greateroccurs in forty-four passages in the New Testament, and in no case with the meaning elder. Compare Genesis 25:23be stronger; Sept., ὑπέρεξει ; shall surpass. The reference, if to the persons of Jacob and Esau, is to them as representatives of the two nations. See Genesis 25:23.

Historically the Edomites, represented by Esau, were for a time the greater, and surpassed the Israelites in national and military development. Moses sent envoys to the king of Edom from Kadesh, asking permission to pass through his country, which was refused, and the Edomite army came out against Israel (Numbers 20:14-21). Later they were “vexed” by Saul (1 Samuel 14:47), and were conquered and made tributary by David (2 Samuel 8:14). Their strength was shown in their subsequent attempts to recover independence (2 Kings 8:20, 2 Kings 8:21; 2 Kings 14:7; 2 Chronicles 28:17). Their final subjugation was effected by John Hyrcanus, who incorporated them into the Jewish nation and compelled them to be circumcised.

Verse 13

Jacob - Esau

See Genesis 25:23. Representing their respective nations, as often in the Old Testament. Numbers 23:7, Numbers 23:10, Numbers 23:23; Numbers 24:5; Jeremiah 49:10; compare also the original of the citation, Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:3, the burden of the word of the Lord to Israel. Compare also Edom in Malachi 1:4, synonymous with Esau in Malachi 1:3; and Israel, Malachi 1:5, synonymous with Jacob, Malachi 1:2.

Hated ( ἐμίσησα )

The expression is intentionally strong as an expression of moral antipathy. Compare Matthew 6:24; Luke 14:26. No idea of malice is implied of course.

Verse 15

I will have mercy - compassion ( ἐλεήσω - οἰκτειρήσω )

See Exodus 33:19. For mercy see on 2 John 1:3; see on Luke 1:50. The former verb emphasizes the sense of human wretchedness in its active manifestation; the latter the inward feeling expressing itself in sighs and tears. Have mercy therefore contemplates, not merely the sentiment in itself, but the determination of those who should be its objects. The words were spoken to Moses in connection with his prayer for a general forgiveness of the people, which was refused, and his request to behold God's glory, which was granted. With reference to the latter, God asserts that His gift is of His own free grace, without any recognition of Moses' right to claim it on the ground of merit or service.

Verse 16

d It is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth. It, the participation in God's mercy. Of him, i.e., dependent upon. Runneth, denoting strenuous effort. The metaphor from the foot-race is a favorite one with Paul. See 1 Corinthians 9:24, 1 Corinthians 9:26; Galatians 2:2; Galatians 5:7; Philemon 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 3:1. God is laid under no obligation by a human will or a human work.


Verse 17


Present tense. “There is an element of tirelessness in the utterance. If the scripture ever spoke at all, it continued and continues to speak. It has never been struck dumb” (Morison).


The original meaning of the word is now supposed to be the double house or palace. Compare the Sublime Porte.

Raised thee up ( ἐξήγειρα )

Hebrew, caused thee to stand. Sept., διετηρήθης thouwast preserved alive. Only once elsewhere in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 6:14, of raising from the dead. The meaning here is general, allowed thee to appear; brought, thee forward on the stage of events, as Zechariah 11:16. So the simple verb in Matthew 11:11; John 7:52. Other explanations are, preserved thee alive, as Sept., excited thee to opposition, as Habakkuk 1:6; created thee.

Might be declared ( διαγγελῇ )

Published abroad, thoroughly ( διά ). So Rev. See on Luke 9:60. “Even to the present day, wherever throughout the world Exodus is read, the divine intervention is realized” (Godet).

Verse 18

He will ( θέλει )

In a decretory sense. See on Matthew 1:19.

Hardeneth ( σκληρύνει )

Only here by Paul. See on hard, Matthew 25:24; see on Judges 1:14; see on James 3:4. Three words are used in the Hebrew to describe the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. The one which occurs most frequently, properly means to be strong, and therefore represents the hardness as foolhardiness, infatuated insensibility to danger. See Exodus href="/desk/?q=ex+8:15&sr=1">Exodus 8:15, Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:34), and as produced by God (Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3; Exodus 9:12; Exodus 10:20, Exodus 10:27; Exodus 11:10). Paul here chooses the latter representation.

Verse 19

Hath resisted ( ἀνθέστηκεν )

Rev., more correctly, with -standeth. The idea is the result rather than the process of resistance. A man may resist God's will, but cannot maintain his resistance. The question means, who can resist him?

Verse 20

O man

Man as man, not Jew.

That repliest ( ὁ ἀνταποκρινόμενος )

Only here and Luke 14:6. Lit., to contradict in reply: to answer by contradicting. Thus, in the case of the dropsical man (Luke 14), Jesus answered ( ἀποκριθεὶς ) the thought in the minds of the lawyers and Pharisees by asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Then He asked, “Who of you would refuse on the Sabbath to extricate his beast from the pit into which it has fallen?” And they were unable to answer Him in reply: to answer by contradicting Him. So here, the word signifies to reply to an answer which God had already given, and implies, as Godet observes, the spirit of contention.

Verse 21

Power ( ἐξουσίαν )

Or right. See on Mark 2:10; see on John 1:12.

Lump ( φυράματος )

From φυράω tomix so as to make into dough. Hence any substance mixed with water and kneaded. Philo uses it of the human frame as compounded. By the lump is here meant human nature with its moral possibilities, “but not yet conceived of in its definite, individual, moral stamp” (Meyer). The figure of man as clay molded by God carries us back to the earliest traditions of the creation of man (Genesis 2:7). According to primitive ideas man is regarded as issuing from the earth. The traditions of Libya made the first human being spring from the plains heated by the sun. The Egyptians declared that the Nile mud, exposed to the heat of the sun, brought forth germs which sprang up as the bodies of men. A subsequent divine operation endowed these bodies with soul and intellect, and the divine fashioner appears upon some monuments molding clay, wherewith to form man, upon a potter's wheel. The Peruvians called the first man “animated earth;” and the Mandans of North America related that the Great Spirit molded two figures of clay, which he dried and animated with the breath of his mouth, one receiving the name of First Man, the other that of Companion. The Babylonian account, translated by Berosus, represents man as made of clay after the manner of a statue. See Francois Lenormant, “Beginnings of History.”

To make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor ( ποιῆσαι ὃ μεν εἰς τιμὴν σκεῦος , ὃ δὲ εἰς ἀτιμίαν )

Rev., more correctly, to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another part, etc. For vessel, see on 1 Peter 3:7; compare Matthew 12:29; Acts 9:15. The vessel here is the one which has just come from the potter's hand. Those in Romans 9:22have been in household use.

Verse 22

Willing ( θέλων )

Although willing, not because. Referring not to the determinate purpose of God, but to His spontaneous will growing out of His holy character. In the former sense, the meaning would be that God's long-suffering was designed to enhance the final penalty. The emphatic position of willing prepares the way for the contrast with long-suffering. Though this holy will would lead Him to show His wrath, yet He withheld His wrath and endured.

Vessels of wrath ( σκεύη ὀργῆς )

Not filled with wrath, nor prepared to serve for a manifestation of divine wrath; but appertaining to wrath. Such as by their own acts have fallen under His wrath. Compare Psalm 2:9.

Fitted ( κατηρτισμένα )

Lit., adjusted. See on mending, Matthew 4:21; perfect, see on Matthew 21:16; see on Luke 6:40; see on 1 Peter 5:10. Not fitted by God for destruction, but in an adjectival sense, ready, ripe for destruction, the participle denoting a present state previously formed, but giving no hint of how it has been formed. An agency of some kind must be assumed. That the objects of final wrath had themselves a hand in the matter may be seen from 1 Thessalonians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 2:16. That the hand of God is also operative may be inferred from the whole drift of the chapter. “The apostle has probably chosen this form because the being ready certainly arises from a continual reciprocal action between human sin and the divine judgment of blindness and hardness. Every development of sin is a net-work of human offenses and divine judgments” (Lange).

Verse 23

And that He might make known

The connection is variously explained. Some make and that dependent on He endured: “If, willing to show His wrath … . God endured … and also that.” Others make that dependent on fitted: “Vessels fitted to destruction and also that He might make known,” etc. Godet supplies He called from Romans 9:24: “And called that He might make known,” etc. The difficulty is resolved by the omission of καὶ andSo Westcott and Hort, on the single authority of B. See Rev., in margin.

His glory

See on Romans 3:23. Godet thinks the phrase was suggested by Moses' request, “Show me thy glory,” Exodus 33:18.

Afore prepared ( προητοίμασεν )

Only here and Ephesians 2:10. The studied difference in the use of this term instead of καταρτίζω tofit (Romans 9:22), cannot be overlooked. The verb is not equivalent to foreordained ( προορίζω ). Fitted, by the adjustment of parts, emphasizes the concurrence of all the elements of the case to the final result. Prepared is more general. In the former case the result is indicated; in the latter, the previousness. Note before prepared, while before is wanting in Romans 9:22. In this passage the direct agency of God is distinctly stated; in the other the agency is left indefinite. Here a single act is indicated; there a process. The simple verb ἑτοιμάζω often indicates, as Meyer remarks, to constitute qualitatively; i.e., to arrange with reference to the reciprocal quality of the thing prepared, and that for which it is prepared. See Luke 1:17; John 14:2; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Timothy 2:21. “Ah, truly,” says Reuss, “if the last word of the christian revelation is contained in the image of the potter and the clay, it is a bitter derision of all the deep needs and legitimate desires of a soul aspiring toward its God. This would be at once a satire of reason upon herself and the suicide of revelation. But it is neither the last word nor the only word; nor has it any immediate observable bearing on the concrete development of our lives. It is not the only word, because, in nine-tenths of Scripture, it is as wholly excluded from the sphere of revelation as though it had been never revealed at all; and it is not the last word, because, throughout the whole of Scripture, and nowhere more than in the writings of the very apostle who has faced this problem with the most heroic inflexibility, we see bright glimpses of something beyond. How little we were intended to draw logical conclusions from the metaphor, is shown by the fact that we are living souls, not dead clay; and St. Paul elsewhere recognized a power, both within and without our beings, by which, as by an omnipotent alchemy, mean vessels can become precious, and vessels of earthenware be transmuted into vessels of gold” (Farrar). See note at end of ch. 11.

Verse 24

Called - of

Compare Romans 8:30. For of, read from ( ἐξ ), as Rev. From among.

Verse 25

That my people which was not my people ( τὸν οὐ λαόν μοῦ, λαόν μοῦ )

The Greek is much more condensed. “I will call the not-my-people my-people.” See Hosea 1:6-9. The reference is to the symbolical names given by the prophet to a son and daughter: Lo Ammi not my people, and Lo Ruhama not having obtained mercy. The new people whom God will call my people will be made up from both Jews and Gentiles. Hosea, it is true, is speaking of the scattered Israelites only, and not of the Gentiles; but the ten tribes, by their lapse into idolatry had put themselves upon the same footing with the Gentiles, so that the words could be applied to both. A principle of the divine government is enunciated “which comes into play everywhere when circumstances reappear similar to those to which the statement was originally applied. The exiled Israelites being mingled with the Gentiles, and forming one homogeneous mass with them, cannot be brought to God separately from them. Isaiah 49:22represents 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” (Godet).

Verse 27

Crieth ( κράζει )

An impassioned utterance. See on Luke 18:39; compare John 7:28, John 7:37; Acts 19:28; Acts 23:6. Mostly of an inarticulate cry. “The prophet in awful earnestness, and as with a scream of anguish, cries over Israel” (Morison).

Concerning ( ὑπέρ )

Lit., over, as proclaiming a judgment which hangs over Israel.

Verse 28

d For the reading of the A.V. read as Rev. The Lord will execute His word upon the earth, finishing and cutting it short. Difficulty arises on account of the variation in the Greek text and the difference between the reading adopted by the best authorities and the Septuagint, and again on account of the variation of the latter from the Hebrew. The Hebrew reads: 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 Rev. adopts the shorter reading of the Septuagint.

Work ( λόγον )

It does not mean work, but word, utterance, doctrine; not decree, which λόγος never means, though the idea may underlie it. Better reckoning.

Finish - cut short ( συντελῶν - συντέμνων )

The preposition σύν togethersignifies summarily; bringing to an end at the same time. Compare the peculiar word ἐκολοβώθησαν shouldbe shortened, in Matthew 24:22, and see note. Omit in righteousness.

Verse 29

Said before ( προείρηκεν )

Not in a previous passage, but by way of prediction.


Following the Septuagint, which thus renders the Hebrew remnant. See Romans 9:27. Like the remnant of corn which the farmer leaves for seed.

Verse 30

Attained ( κατέλαβεν )

See on perceived, Acts 4:13, and see on taketh, Mark 9:18; see on John 1:5. Compare attained ( ἔφθασεν , Romans 9:31). Rev., arrive at. See on Matthew 12:28. The meaning is substantially the same, only the imagery in the two words differs; the former being that of laying hold of a prize, and the latter of arriving at a goal. The latter is appropriate to following after, and is carried out in stumbling (Romans 9:32).

Even ( δὲ )

or and that. Subjoining something distinct and different from what precedes, though not sharply opposed to it. Attained righteousness, that is not that arising from these works, but from faith.

Verse 32

Not by faith ( οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως )

A.V. and Rev. supply the ellipsis, they sought it not.

They stumbled ( προσέκοψαν )

“In their foolish course Israel thought they were advancing on a clear path, and lo! all at once there was found in 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” (Godet).

Verse 33

Offense ( σκανδάλου )

See on Matthew 5:29; see on Matthew 16:23.

Shall not be ashamed ( οὐ καταισχυνθήσεται )

The Hebrew in Isaiah 28:16is, shall not make haste, or flee hastily. The quotation combines Isaiah 8:4and Isaiah 28:16.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Romans 9:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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Thursday, October 29th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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