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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Romans 12:20

"BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD."

Adam Clarke Commentary

If thine enemy hunger, feed him - Do not withhold from any man the offices of mercy and kindness; you have been God's enemy, and yet God fed, clothed, and preserved you alive: do to your enemy as God has done to you. If your enemy be hungry, feed him; if he be thirsty, give him drink: so has God dealt with you. And has not a sense of his goodness and long-suffering towards you been a means of melting down your heart into penitential compunction, gratitude, and love towards him? How know you that a similar conduct towards your enemy may not have the same gracious influence on him towards you? Your kindness may be the means of begetting in him a sense of his guilt; and, from being your fell enemy, he may become your real friend! This I believe to be the sense of this passage, which many have encumbered with difficulties of their own creating. The whole is a quotation from Proverbs 25:21, Proverbs 25:22, in the precise words of the Septuagint; and it is very likely that the latter clause of this verse, Thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, is a metaphor taken from smelting metals. The ore is put into the furnace, and fire put both under and over, that the metal may be liquefied, and, leaving the scoriae and dross, may fall down pure to the bottom of the furnace. This is beautifully expressed by one of our own poets, in reference to this explanation of this passage: -

"So artists melt the sullen ore of lead,

By heaping coals of fire upon its head.

In the kind warmth the metal learns to glow,

And pure from dross the silver runs below."

It is most evident, from the whole connection of the place and the apostle's use of it, that the heaping of the coals of fire upon the head of the enemy is intended to produce not an evil, but the most beneficial effect; and the following verse is an additional proof of this.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/romans-12.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Therefore, if thine enemy hunger … - This verse is taken almost literally from Proverbs 25:21-22. Hunger and thirst here are put for want in general. If thine enemy is needy in any way, do him good, and supply his needs. This is, in spirit, the same as the command of the Lord Jesus Matthew 5:44, “Do good to them that hate you,” etc.

In so doing - It does not mean that we are to do this “for the sake” of heaping coals of fire on him, but that this will be the result.

Thou shalt heap … - Coals of fire are doubtless emblematical of “pain.” But the idea here is not that in so doing we shall call down divine vengeance on the man; but the apostle is speaking of the natural effect or result of showing him kindness. Burning coals heaped on a man‘s head would be expressive of intense agony. So the apostle says that the “effect” of doing good to an enemy would be to produce pain. But the pain will result from shame, remorse of conscience, a conviction of the evil of his conduct, and an apprehension of divine displeasure that may lead to repentance. To do this, is not only perfectly right, but it is desirable. If a man can be brought to reflection and true repentance, it should be done. In regard to this passage we may remark,

(1) That the way to promote “peace” is to do good even to enemies.

(2) the way to bring a man to repentance is to do him good. On this principle God is acting continually. He does good to all, even to the rebellious; and he designs that his goodness should lead people to repentance; Romans 2:4. People will resist wrath, anger, and power; but “goodness” they cannot resist; it finds its way to the heart; and the conscience does its work, and the sinner is overwhelmed at the remembrance of his crimes.

(3) if people would act on the principles of the gospel, the world would soon be at peace. No man would suffer himself many times to be overwhelmed in this way with coals of fire. It is not human nature, bad as it is; and if Christians would meet all unkindness with kindness, all malice with benevolence, and all wrong with right, peace would soon pervade the community, and even opposition to the gospel might soon die away.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/romans-12.html. 1870.

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans

Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

If thine enemy hunger, feed him. — A Christian must be an enemy to no man, but he cannot prevent others from being enemies to him; but instead of revenging their injuries, he is bound to do good to them. Conduct so opposite to nature can never be genuinely effected by the natural man. It is only to be effected by the power of God through faith. It is the fruit of the new birth only. We are not to understand this precept as always to be fulfilled by the giving of meat and drink; but meat and drink are taken as an indication that in every possible instance good will is to be manifested. Shalt heap coals of fire. — Dr. Macknight, with many others, makes this refer to the custom of fusing metals, and supposes that it recommends this line of conduct as the most effectual way to soften or melt the enemy to repentance. This, however, is a meaning made for the words, instead of being extracted from them. Mr. Stuart makes it imply pain, but thinks that it is not the pain of punishment, but of shame or contrition. This is equally remote from the obvious meaning of the expression. Besides, it is equally unwarrantable to do anything with a view to occasion the pain of contrition, as to occasion the pain of punishment. We should desire the contrition of our enemy for his good, and not that he may endure suffering.

It is vain to force the words of the Holy Spirit. They evidently assert that the conduct recommended will have the effect of increasing the punishment of the enemies of God’s people; and though they should not rejoice in this effect as causing misery, yet they should hereby be led to adore the manifestation of Divine justice. Besides, this ought to be a warning to their enemies to abandon their wicked conduct, and finally to escape the fearful consequences which they cannot avoid if they persevere in their enmity. They ought to be informed of this part of the Divine pleasure. There can be no doubt that such conduct from the Lord’s people, if it does not overcome their enemies, will eventually add to their guilt and punishment. We should beware not to explain away the words of Scripture.


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Bibliography
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hal/romans-12.html. 1835.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.

This is an amazing scripture. The writer once heard of a woman involved in bitter quarrels with her husband. Seeking counsel, she was asked, "Have you tried heaping coals of fire on his head?" She replied, "No, but I tried a skillet of hot grease!" She, like many others, failed to realize that Paul here used a figure of speech, a style of rhetoric often found in the sacred scriptures. As Batey noted:

The original meaning of this figure of speech has been lost, but Paul suggests that the enemy will burn with shame for his abuse of one who loves him.[19]

Paul, throughout this chapter, has consistently elaborated the strategy of overcoming evil with good, the same being the ancient strategy of the Lord, announced centuries earlier in the book of Proverbs, thus:

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee (Proverbs 25:21,22).

Rather than delving into the strange and even bizarre interpretations people have suggested for this passage, it seems that it would be better to accept the explanation offered by Batey, to the effect that the actual meaning of the figure is lost. Whatever might have been the meaning, the motive of providing food and drink for an enemy cannot be that of increasing his punishment, nor of aggravating his guilt, the true purpose, or motive, being the effective discipline of the Christian's own spirit and likewise the subduing of enmity within the adversary. This alone would fit the strategy announced in the next verse.

ENDNOTE:

[19] Richard A. Batey, op. cit., p. 157.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/romans-12.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him,.... These words are taken from Proverbs 25:21, and to be understood, as a JewishF15Jarchi in Prov. xxv. 21. writer observes, כמשמעו, according to "their literal sense"; though some of the Rabbins explain them in an allegorical way, of the corruption of nature. The Alexandrian copy and some others, and the Vulgate Latin version, reads "but if"; so far should the saints be from meditating revenge upon their enemies, that they should do good unto them, as Christ directs, Matthew 5:44, by feeding them when hungry, and giving drink unto them when thirsty:

if he thirst give him drink; which includes all offices of humanity and beneficence to be performed unto them: the reason, or argument inducing hereunto is,

for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head; not to do him hurt, not to aggravate his condemnation, as if this would be a means of bringing down the wrath of God the more fiercely on him, which is a sense given by some; as if this would be an inducement to the saints to do such acts of kindness; which is just the reverse of the spirit and temper of mind the apostle is here cultivating; but rather the sense is, that by so doing, his conscience would be stung with a sense of former injuries done to his benefactor, and he be filled with shame on account of them, and be brought to repentance for them, and to love the person he before hated, and be careful of doing him any wrong for the future; all which may be considered as a prevailing motive to God's people to act the generous part they are here moved to: in the passage referred to, Proverbs 25:21, "bread" and "water" are mentioned as to be given, which include all the necessaries of life: and it is added for encouragement, "and the Lord shall reward thee". The sense given of this passage by some of the Jewish commentators on it agrees with what has been observed in some measure; says oneF16R. Aben Ezra in loc. of them,

"when he remembers the food and drink thou hast given him, thou shall burn him, as if thou puttest coals upon his head to burn him, וישמור מעשות לך רע, and "he will take care of doing thee any ill";'

that is, for the time to come: and another of them observesF17R. Levi ben Gersom in loc. Vid. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 147. 2. that

"this matter will be hard unto him, as if thou heapest coals on his head to burn him, מרוב בשתו, "because of the greatness of his shame", on account of the good that he shall receive from thee, for the evil which he hath rendered to thee.'

This advice of showing kindness to enemies, and against private revenge, is very contrary to the dictates of human nature, as corrupted by sin. The former of these Julian the emperor representsF18Fragment. inter opera, par. 1. p. 533. as a "paradox", though he owns it to be lawful, and a good action, to give clothes and food to enemies in war; and the latter, to revenge an injury, he saysF19Ad Atheniens. p. 501. , is a law common to all men, Greeks and Barbarians; but the Gospel and the grace of God teach us another lesson.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-12.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap y coals of fire on his head.

(y) In this manner Solomon points out the wrath of God which hangs over a man.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/romans-12.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

if thine enemy hunger, etc. — This is taken from Proverbs 25:21, Proverbs 25:22, which without doubt supplied the basis of those lofty precepts on that subject which form the culminating point of the Sermon on the Mount.

in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head — As the heaping of “coals of fire” is in the Old Testament the figurative expression of divine vengeance (Psalm 140:10; Psalm 11:6, etc.), the true sense of these words seems to be, “That will be the most effectual vengeance - a vengeance under which he will be fain to bend” (So Alford, Hodge, etc.). Romans 12:21 confirms this.


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/romans-12.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Feed him (πσωμιζε αυτονpsōmize auton). Quotation from lxx text of Proverbs 25:21f. Present active imperative of verb from πσωμοςpsōmos a morsel, and so to feed crumbs to babies, then to feed in general. In N.T. only here and 1 Corinthians 13:3.

Thou shalt heap (σωρευσειςsōreuseis). Future active of old verb σωρευωsōreuō from σωροςsōros a heap. In N.T. only here and 2 Timothy 3:6.

Coals of fire (αντρακας πυροςanthrakas puros). That is, burning or live coals.

Anthrax (our “anthracite”) is an old word, only here in N.T. It is a metaphor for keen anguish. The Arabs have a proverb “coals in the heart,” “fire in the liver.” Such kindness may lead to repentance also.


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/romans-12.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Feed ( ψώμιζε )

See on sop, John 13:26. The citation from Proverbs 25:21, Proverbs 25:22, closely follows both Hebrew and Septuagint.

Shalt heap ( σωρεύσεις )

Only here and 2 Timothy 3:6.

Coals of fire

Many explain: The memory of the wrong awakened in your enemy by your kindness, shall sting him with penitence. This, however, might be open to the objection that the enemy's pain might gratify the instinct of revenge. Perhaps it is better to take it, that kindness is as effectual as coals of fire. Among the Arabs and Hebrews the figure of “coals of fire” is common as a symbol of divine punishment (Psalm 18:13). “The Arabians call things which cause very acute mental pain, burning coals of the heart and fire in the liver ” (Thayer, “Lexicon”). Thomas De Quincey, referring to an author who calls this “a fiendish idea,” says: “I acknowledge that to myself, in one part of my boyhood, it did seem a refinement of malice. My subtilizing habits, however, even in those days, soon suggested to me that this aggravation of guilt in the object of our forgiveness was not held out as the motive to the forgiveness, but as the result of it; secondly, that perhaps no aggravation of his guilt was the point contemplated, but the salutary stinging into life of his remorse hitherto sleeping” (“Essays on the Poets”).


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Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/romans-12.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Feed him - With your own hand: if it be needful, even put bread into his mouth. Heap coals of fire upon his head - That part which is most sensible.

"So artists melt the sullen ore of lead, By heaping coals of fire upon its head; In the kind warmth the metal learns to glow, And pure from dross the silver runs below." Proverbs 25:21 , &c.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/romans-12.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Heap coals of fire upon his head; overwhelm him with shame and remorse for the injuries he has done you.


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Bibliography
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/romans-12.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

20.If therefore, etc. He now shows how we may really fulfill the precepts of not revenging and of not repaying evil, even when we not only abstain from doing injury but when we also do good to those who have done wrong to us; for it is a kind of an indirect retaliation when we turn aside our kindness from those by whom we have been injured. Understand as included under the words meat and drink, all acts of kindness. Whatsoever then may be thine ability, in whatever business thy enemy may want either thy wealth, or thy counsel, or thy efforts, thou oughtest to help him. But he calls him our enemy, not whom we regard with hatred, but him who entertains enmity towards us. And if they are to be helped according to the flesh, much less is their salvation to be opposed by imprecating vengeance on them.

Thou shalt heap coals of fire, etc. As we are not willing to lose our toil and labor, he shows what fruit will follow, when we treat our enemies with acts of kindness. But some by coals understand the destruction which returns on the head of our enemy, when we show kindness to one unworthy, and deal with him otherwise than he deserves; for in this manner his guilt is doubled. Others prefer to take this view, that when he sees himself so kindly treated, his mind is allured to love us in return. I take a simpler view, that his mind shall be turned to one side or another; for doubtless our enemy shall either be softened by our benefits, or if he be so savage that nothing can tame him, he shall yet be burnt and tormented by the testimony of his own conscience, on finding himself overwhelmed with our kindness. (398)

It is not true what [Whitby ] and others have held, that “coals of fire” always mean judgments or punishments. The word indeed in certain connections, as in Psalms 18:13, has this meaning, but in Proverbs 25:22, it cannot be taken in this sense, as the preceding verse most clearly proves. There is no canon of interpretation more erroneous than to make words or phrases to bear the same meaning in every place. — Ed.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-12.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

Ver. 20. Thou shalt heap] Thou shalt melt him, and make him thy friend for ever.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/romans-12.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Romans 12:20. Thou shalt heap, &c,— The sense cannot be, thou shalt consume him and bring judgments upon him; for that would be applying to revenge, and building upon it, while it is most expressly forbidden. It must therefore intimate, in how tender a manner mankind in general are affected with favours received from one who has been considered as an enemy. See Doddridge.

Inferences.—How should a consideration of the endearing mercies of God engage us to yield up ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to him! This is every way a most reasonable service. And how should our hearts be loosened from this world, and from all its sinful fashions, customs, and practices; and how desirous of such a renovation of our minds, by the blessed Spirit, as shall transform us into the image of God, and give us an experimental, practical, and approving acquaintance with every thing that is good in itself, pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, and agreeable to his holy will! But, be our gifts, graces, and services ever so great, we should keep up modest and humble thoughts of ourselves, and not be wise in our own conceit, or despise others; since all that we receive is according to the measure of the gift of Christ to us, as his members, for the good of the whole body. Wonderful is the grace and care of the great Head of the Church, in providing for it. He has furnished it with such gifts and officers, as are necessary for its spiritual edification, and for managing its temporal concerns; and has ordered all his servants to attend to their charge with integrity, diligence, and cheerfulness, according to the grace given them, and the rule of his word.—And, as to the duties of private Christians, they are called to the sincerest love, the most affectionate deportment, and honourable regards, one towards another; to detest every thing that is sinful, and cleave to all that is good; to be vigorously active in the business of their civil and religious stations, and fervent in every service, as doing it to the Lord; to rejoice in hope of eternal life, and to be patient and resigned to the will of God under all their trials and afflictions, and persevering in earnest prayer. How amiable are the Christian morals, founded in evangelical love! and how far surpassing all that was ever practised or taught by the most refined heathens! This love, which has such an influence upon and gives such a beautiful turn to all morality, is without dissimulation: it is liberal to the necessitous, especially to the poor that bear the characters of holiness; and is hospitable to good and honest strangers, especially those that suffer for righteousness' sake: it inspires us with such a fellow-feeling with others, as makes us rejoice with the happy and mourn with the afflicted: it is humble and condescending to men of the lowest degree, and benevolent to our very enemies: it implores blessings upon the heads of those that persecute, abuse, and curse us: it chooses to refer an injured cause to the righteous judgment of God, rather than render evil for evil, or seek private revenge: it endeavours to live peaceably with all men, and behave with honour toward them: and it takes pleasure in giving food and drink to poor necessitous enemies, in melting them with kindness, and overcoming evil with good.

REFLECTIONS.—The doctrines of grace are so far from leading to licentiousness, that nothing but these can effectually engage the heart to walk in holiness as Christ also walked.

1. The Apostle exhorts them to yield themselves wholly to God. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God; by the consideration of that boundless, undeserved grace, which you have tasted; that, constrained by a sense of such astonishing love, ye, as spiritual priests, present your bodies, not the carcase of a dead animal, but a nobler oblation than any which were offered under the law, even a living sacrifice; your whole selves to be employed for God's glory, holy, without allowed guile; in spirit, temper, and conduct, conformed to his will; and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, in whom your persons and services are regarded as a sacrifice of a sweet smell; all which is your reasonable service, to be performed with all the powers of your rational souls, and most fit and right, considering the infinite obligations lying upon you. And, in order hereunto, be not conformed to this world, to its temper, maxims, fashions, manners; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God; discerning what is the mind of God in his word; commending to others the excellence and importance of the revelation he has made; and cast into the very mould of the Gospel, the best proof of your approbation of it. Note; (1.) No argument is so powerful to engage the ingenuous heart, as a sense of the mercies of God. (2.) The most acceptable sacrifice to God is the surrender of our whole selves to him at the foot of the cross of Jesus, the altar which sanctifies the gift. (3.) They who yield themselves to God, must prove their simplicity in all holy conversation and godliness. (4.) Religion is indeed a reasonable service; the more we consider what we owe to God, the more shall we be bound to acknowledge, that he deserves to be served with every faculty of our soul, and every member of our body. (5.) They who partake of the true grace of God, and experience its transforming efficacy upon their tempers and conduct, they die unto the world, and live only for God.

2. He enforces upon them humility and lowliness of mind, that great ornament of the Christian character. For I say, through the grace given unto me, in virtue of the office with which I am invested, to every man that is among you, whatever his rank or attainments may be, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; affecting a superiority over others, or pretending to be wise above what is written, and to intrude into things that are too high for him; but to think soberly and lowly, of his gifts, graces, and attainments, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith; and acknowledging, that whatever measure of faith he possesses, or however distinguished his endowments by nature or grace may be, yet he has nothing which he hath not received, and therefore all boasting is excluded. And as our talents are merely lent us for the good of our own souls, and the edification of others, it will become us to see that our profiting appears. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office, but each discharges his separate function, and all are alike needful in their place, and contribute to the good of the whole; so we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another; united under our adored Head, each occupying his respective place according to the measure of the gift of Christ; and, therefore, instead of being puffed up in pride, and despising one another, we should give diligence to discharge the several services allotted to every member, acknowledging the mutual obligation which one has to the other, and contributing heartily to the prosperity of the whole. Having then gifts, differing according to the grace that is given unto us, as the Lord has been pleased to dispense to every man, let it be our care to improve them, according to our respective offices and station, for the glory of God, and the good of our fellow members:—Whether prophesy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith. They who are put in trust with the Gospel, must preach it with all fidelity and diligence, according to the measure of light, faith, and experience which they have received: or, according to the analogy of faith; in exact consistence with the grand principles laid down in the word of God, in Scripture-language, and with attention to the context:—Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering, in the inferior departments of the church, where attention, care, and constancy are required:—Or he that teacheth, on teaching; opening, explaining, and defending the doctrines of the Scripture:—Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; with warmth applying the word to the conscience, warning the unruly, supporting the feeble-minded, reproving the guilty, comforting the dejected, and, according to the different state of the people's souls, suiting his discourse for their edification and consolation. He that giveth, and is entrusted with the distribution of the public stock appropriated to charitable uses, let him do it with simplicity; without fraud, favour, or affection, according to the real wants of the church's poor. He that ruleth, and has the management of affairs, must do it with diligence, careful that proper discipline be observed. He that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness; ready to every work and labour of love; not dragged reluctantly to visit the sick or afflicted; or grudging the time, trouble, or expence; not treating the poor with coldness, or sternness, but with that affability, tenderness, and compassion, which bespeak the pleasure that he takes in assisting them. Note; (1.) Pride is a busy sin; we can never be enough on our guard against it. We are in danger of abusing even the gifts and graces of God, and of pluming ourselves upon them, if we do not watch unto prayer. (2.) If God has put us in trust with any office, our business is to approve our fidelity to him, employing the talents which he has lent us; not puffed up with any distinction which he may have made between us and others, but remembering the solemn account that we must shortly make before him, when he calls us to give an account of our stewardship. (3.) Ministers have different gifts, all excellent in their place. One is blessed with a clearer judgment, another with a warmer flow of eloquence, and all for the edification of the body of Christ.

3. The Apostle proceeds to urge Christians in general to walk before God and man in such a way, as may most eminently adorn the doctrine which they profess, and glorify their divine Master.

Let love be without dissimulation. Let your love to God in Christ be supreme, and your love to your brethren unfeigned and hearty; the living principle of every good word and work, and without which all our doings are nothing worth.

Abhor that which is evil. Turn away with abhorrence from all manner of iniquity, harbouring no allowed sin in yourself, and testifying your hatred of it wherever it appears, though in those who are nearest and dearest to you. And, on the contrary, cleave to that which is good; to God, his people, his word, his worship, will, and ways; never deterred by any danger, or seduced by any allurements, from the path of duty.

Be kindly affectioned one to another; tenderly desiring to promote each other's happiness; delighting in each other's prosperity; bearing each other's burdens; and ready to every word and work which fervent charity dictates: with brotherly love in honour, preferring one another; casting the veil of oblivion over the faults of others, and humbly acknowledging your own; thinking and speaking honourably of the gifts, graces, and attainments of your brethren, and entertaining lowly thoughts of yourselves.

Not slothful in business. In the business of your station be vigorous and active, and what thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; but especially in all the work of God be lively, fervent in spirit, animated with burning love and holy zeal for his glory; serving the Lord in prayer, and praise, and all ordinances; in persevering obedience to his will, and submission to his providences, approving your fidelity unshaken to the adored Jesus.

Rejoicing in hope; believing the faithfulness of God to his promises, and going forward with cheerfulness and delight in his work and ways, knowing that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.

Patient in tribulation; resigned to the divine Providence; calm under every provocation; with holy courage sustaining the rudest shocks of opposition and persecution; and, under the longer afflictions, quietly waiting to see the salvation of God.

Continuing instant in prayer; fervently and frequently approaching a throne of grace; seeking help and strength for all the work and service to which you are called, deeply conscious of your own insufficiency, without continual supplies of power from on high, to do any thing aright before God.

Distributing to the necessity of saints; cheerfully, liberally, according to their wants, and your abilities. Given to hospitality; welcoming to your house and tables those who for the sake of Christ are destitute, and giving them that warm and cordial reception which true charity dictates.

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not: speaking of them and to them respectfully; commending what is praiseworthy in them; never returning railing for railing; never harbouring a thought of resentment against your most malignant revilers; forgiving them, and praying to God that he would forgive them also, and turn their hearts.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice; sharing their joys, and, instead of envying, sincerely partaking of their prosperity: and weep with them that weep; feeling the tenderest sympathy with them in their sufferings, and, by prayer, advice, and every assistance, desirous to alleviate or remove the sorrows of the miserable.

Be of the same mind one towards another; united as much as may be in sentiment; and where any lesser difference in judgment subsists, still preserving the same warm affection towards each other; wishing all good to your brethren, and seeking to promote each other's happiness.

Mind not high things; affect not pre-eminence; aspire not after the honours and dignities of the world; nor court the company of the great; but condescend to men of low estate; treating your inferiors with kindness; and to whatever eminence or affluence you may arrive, be courteous, affable, and free to the lowest; ready to stoop to every proper office of love for the service and comfort of the meanest saint of God. Or, condescend to low things, as the words may be rendered; let your mind be humbled to your condition, and cheerfully acquiesce in every dispensation of Providence, however strait and necessitous your circumstances may be.

Be not wise in your own conceits. Beware of entertaining a high imagination of your own abilities, gifts, or graces; treating the advice and admonitions of others with scorn, as if you were above all teaching, and satisfied in your own self-sufficiency.

Recompense to no man evil for evil, neither in looks, words, nor works.

Provide things honest in the sight of all men; not only taking care of your families and worldly concerns, but so ordering the general course of your conduct and conversation, that the unprejudiced part of mankind, at least, may bear you an honourable testimony; and that none may be able to reproach you with any thing mean, or unbecoming your Christian character.

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men; studiously avoiding whatever may bring on disputes or uneasiness; and as far as is consistent with truth, charity, and the glory of God, cultivating a spirit of love and peace; that at least, if through the perverseness of others it be not possible to avoid contentions, you may have the satisfaction of your own conscience in the reflection, that, as much as lieth in you, it has been your endeavour to please all men for their good to edification.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: forgive the injuries that you receive; take no private revenge; suppress the angry passions which may attempt to rise within you; give the soft answer which turneth away wrath; nor, by opposing, irritate; but, however unreasonable others may appear, yield, or go away till the storm has subsided: and if, after all, you meet with implacable resentment, refer the matter to God; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. This is his prerogative, and not to be invaded by us. As magistracy is his ordinance, in some cases for the good of society we are bound to have recourse thereto; in others, where ourselves only are concerned, we must wait the great decisive day, when every man shall receive according as his work is. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head; either by such instances of kindness you will melt him down (as the refiners do their metals) into repentance, and gain his heart to love you; or if he continue obstinate in hatred, it will exceedingly aggravate his condemnation, to add base ingratitude to his unprovoked enmity.

Finally, Be not overcome of evil; let no ill usage, however aggravated, repeated, or persisted in, discompose your spirit, weary out your patience, or quench your love; so as that you should give way to anger, be enslaved by sin, and afford the enemy an occasion to triumph over you. But overcome evil with good, which is the most glorious conquest, the proof of the noblest spirit, and the assured evidence that you are born of him who causeth his sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth his rain upon the just and upon the unjust. Lord Jesus, give me such a heart, and stamp this thy image on my soul!


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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/romans-12.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

As if the apostle had said, "Instead of revenge, render kindness; return courtesies for injuries, affability for affronts: If thy enemy hunger, feed him." The words, as some critics observe, signify to feed their young ones. So doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.

By coals of fire, 1. some understand an heart-melting fire: as if the apostle had said, "By thy kindness thou wilt melt and mollify his spirit towards thee, as hardest metals are melted by coals of fire: it must be a very stony heart indeed that this fire will not melt, a very disingenuous nature that meekness will not mollify. Clemency will melt an enemy, and even force him by a sweet compulsion to become a friend, though of a rough and rugged disposition."

2. By coals of fire heaped upon the head, others understand a sin-punishing fire. Thou shalt heap coals of fire, that is, the fire of divine vengeance, upon his head, by making his malice and hatred against thee more inexcusable.

Learn hence, 1. That to conquer and overcome an enemy by love and kindness, is a noble conquest; and a glorious victory, to melt him down by obliging favours into a good affection.

Learn, 2. That if an enemy, after such kind offices, will persevere in his enmity against us, the event will certainly be this: by our patience towards him, and forbearance of him, we shall engage the wrath of God against him, and heap coals of fire, that is, the divine vengeance, upon him.


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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/romans-12.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

20.] The οὖν would mean ‘quod cum ita sit;’—carrying on the sentence with the assumption of the last thing stated. This perhaps may not have been understood, and hence may have arisen the alteration or omission of οὖν in the MSS. But the evidence is very strong for its omission.

What is meant by ἄνθρακας πυρὸς σωρεύσεις? The expression ἄνθρ. πυρ. occurs more than once in Psalms 18, of the divine punitive judgments. Can those be meant here? Clearly not, in their bare literal sense. For however true it may be, that ingratitude will add to the enemy’s list of crimes, and so subject him more to God’s punitive judgment, it is impossible that to bring this about should be set as a precept, or a desirable thing among Christians. Again, can the expression be meant of the glow and burn of shame which would accompany, even in the case of a profane person, the receiving of benefits from an enemy? This may be meant; but is not probable, as not sufficing for the majesty of the subject. Merely to make an enemy ashamed of himself, can hardly be upheld as a motive for action. I understand the words, ‘For in this doing, you will be taking the most effectual vengeance;’ as effectual as if you heaped coals of fire on his head.


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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/romans-12.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Romans 12:20. Without οὖν (see the critical notes), but thus the more in conformity with the mode of expression throughout the whole chapter, which proceeds for the most part without connectives, there now follows what the Christian—seeing that he is not to avenge himself, but to let God’s wrath have its way—has rather to do in respect of his enemy.

The whole verse is borrowed from Proverbs 25:21-22, which words Paul adopts as his own, closely from the LXX.

ψώμιζε] feed him, give him to eat. See on 1 Corinthians 13:1; Grimm on Wisdom of Solomon 16:20. The expression is affectionate. Comp. 2 Samuel 13:5; Bengel: “manu tua.” Sirach 7:32

ἄνθρακας πυρὸς σωρεύς. ἐπὶ τὴν κεφ. αὐτοῦ] figurative expression of the thought: painful shame and remorse wilt thou prepare for him. So, in substance, Origen, Augustine, Jerome, Ambrosiaster, Pelagius, Erasmus, Luther, Wolf, Bengel, and others, including Tholuck, Baumgarten-Crusius, Rückert, Reiche, Köllner, de Wette, Olshausen, Fritzsche, Philippi, Reithmayr, Bisping, Borger, van Hengel, Hofmann; comp. Linder in the Stud. u. Krit. 1862, p. 568 f. Glowing coals are to the Oriental a figure for pain that penetrates and cleaves to one, and in particular, according to the context, for the pain of remorse, as here, where magnanimous beneficence heaps up the coals of fire. Comp. on the subject-matter, 1 Samuel 24:17 ff. See the Arabic parallels in Gesenius in Rosenmüller’s Repert. I. p. 140, and generally Tholuck in loc.; Gesenius, Thesaur. I. p. 280. Another view was already prevalent in the time of Jerome, and is adopted by Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Photius, Beza, Camerarius, Estius, Grotius, Wetstein, and others, including Koppe, Böhme, Hengstenberg (Authent. d. Pentat. II. p. 406 f.),—namely, that the sense is: Thou wilt bring upon him severe divine punishment. Certainly at 4 Esr. 16:54 the burning of fiery coals on the head is an image of painful divine punishment; but there this view is just as certainly suggested by the context, as here (see esp. Romans 12:21) and in Prov. l.c., the context is opposed to it. For the condition nisi resipiscat would have, in the first place, to be quite arbitrarily supplied; and how could Paul have conceived and expressed so unchristian a motive for beneficence towards enemies! The saving clauses of expositors regarding this point are fanciful and quite unsatisfactory.


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Bibliography
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/romans-12.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Romans 12:20. εὰν οὖν πεινᾷψώμιζεαὐτοῦ) LXX. Proverbs 25:21-22, εὰν πεινᾷτρέφε [ ψώμιζε in LXX. ed. by Holmes and Bos] αὐτοῦ, δὲ κύριος ανταποδωσει σοι ἀγαθά. If he hunger, feed him [his head], and the Lord will repay thy good deeds. The apostles applied the phrase, it is written more to doctrines, than to morals.— ἐχθρὸς, an enemy) This especially holds good of a bitter and violent enemy.— ψώμιζε, feed) with thy hand. So LXX., 2 Samuel 13:5. Thus will even thy iron-hearted enemy be softened.— ἄνθρακας πυρὸς, coals of fire) The end of all vengeance is that an enemy may be brought to repent, and that an enemy may deliver himself into the hands of the avenger. A man will very easily attain both objects, if he treat his enemy with kindness. Both are described in this remarkable phrase; for it is such a repentance as that, which in the greatest degree burns; 4 Esd. 16:53, and an enemy becomes willingly the property of his avenger; you will then have him entirely in your power [ready at your nod to obey].— ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ, upon his head) i.e. upon himself, upon him wholly, in that part too where he will feel it most.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/romans-12.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: q.d. Instead of rendering evil for evil to thine adversary, do him good for evil: see following verse.

Thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head; i.e. either make him relent, or bring down the greater vengeance from God upon him. This is taken out of Proverbs 25:21,22; See Poole on "Proverbs 25:21". See Poole on "Proverbs 25:22".


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Romans 12:20". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/romans-12.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Feed him-give him drink; treat him kindly, do him good, and when he is needy supply his wants. Proverbs 25:21-22; Matthew 5:44.

Heap coals of fire on his head; which will be adapted to melt him into penitence and love.


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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/romans-12.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

20. ἐὰν πεινᾷ κ.τ.λ., Proverbs 25:21; for ψώμιζε cf. 1 Corinthians 13:3.

ἄνθρακας πυρὸς κ.τ.λ. The context in Prov. and here forbids us to take this as a symbol of mere punishment or vengeance. The ‘coals of fire’ are pains, but healing pains, of remorse and repentance. Lid. qu. Jerome and Aug. in support of this interpretation; cf. 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Peter 3:16.


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"Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/romans-12.html. 1896.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

20. “But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink, for in doing this you will heap coals of fire on his head,” i. e., you can literally burn him out and conquer him by kindness till he will almost die of shame, feeling mean as a sheep-killing dog; he will gladly seek to do you every possible favor.


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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/romans-12.html.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

“But if your enemy hungers, feed him, if he thirsts, give him to drink, for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

These words are based on Proverbs 25:21-22, and the first part is certainly indicative of the kind of response urged by Jesus towards our enemies. The idea is that we should not only give hospitality to those who love us, but also to those who hate us, and the thought is probably intended to be interpreted more widely as signifying that we should always do good in response to evil.

The problem clearly lies with the meaning of the last clause, “for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” There are a number of suggested alternatives:

1) That this signifies that by showing love to them we will be pouring out judgment on them. This does not mean that we are to do these things with a view to this, in other words in order to obtain vengeance, but simply indicates that that is what will necessarily follow if they do not repent of their ways. ‘The wicked will be brought into judgment’. This would tie in with the fact that coals of fire are seen in the Old Testament as manifestations of the approach of God in judgment on the enemies of the Psalmist (2 Samuel 22:9; 2 Samuel 22:13; Psalms 18:8; Psalms 18:12; Psalms 140:10; Psalms 11:6).

2) That it signifies that we will be covering them with ‘burning pangs of shame’, in that it will result in remorse burning within them as they see our reaction to their enmity. This was possibly to be seen as having a hope of bringing them to repentance. This might be seen as supported by the ancient Egyptian practise of carrying a tray of burning coals on the head in order to indicate contrition.

3) That it refers to a practise of demonstrating gratitude or giving praise to a slave by pouring literal coals of fire into a bowl which they had placed on their head, indicating an act of kindness to someone who might otherwise have no access to fire. This idea is not as yet attested anywhere, but it would certainly go along with the spirit of what Paul has previously been saying, and with Romans 12:21.


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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/romans-12.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

20. Heap coals of fire—Doing him good for evil is the true Christian man’s vengeance; it destroys your enemy by making him repent of his malignity and become a better man. It is a very likely way not to kill him, but to kill the enmity in him.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/romans-12.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Instead of doing one"s enemy an unkindness the believer should do him or her positive good (cf. Matthew 5:44). This may result in the antagonist feeling ashamed, acknowledging his error, and even turning to God in repentance.

One interpretation of heaping burning coals on his head is that it figuratively describes doing good that results in the conviction and shame of the enemy. The expression supposedly alludes to the old custom of carrying burning coals in a pan. When one"s fire went out at home, a person would have to go to a neighbor and request hot coals that he or she would then carry home in a pan, typically on the head. Carrying the coals involved some danger, discomfort, and uneasiness for the person carrying them. Nevertheless they were the evidence of the neighbor"s love. Likewise the person who receives good for evil feels uncomfortable because of his neighbor"s love. This guilt may convict the wrongdoer of his or her ways in a gentle manner. [Note: Cf. Griffith Thomas, St. Paul"s Epistle ..., p347.]

A better interpretation, I think, takes the burning coals as a figure of God"s judgment that will come on the enemy if he persists in his antagonism. The figure of "coals of fire" in the Old Testament consistently refers to God"s anger and judgment (cf. 2 Samuel 22:9; 2 Samuel 22:13; Psalm 11:6; Psalm 18:13; Psalm 140:9-10; Proverbs 25:21-22). Thus the meaning appears to be that the Christian can return good for evil with the assurance that God will eventually punish his or her enemy. [Note: See John N. Day, ""Coals of Fire" in Romans 12:19-20 ," Bibliotheca Sacra160:640 (October-December2003):414-20; John Piper, "Love Your Enemies": Jesus" Love Command in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Early Christian Paraenesis, p115; and Krister Stendahl, "Hate, Non-Retaliation, and Love: 1QS x, 17-20 and Romans 12:19-20 ," Harvard Theological Review55(1962):352. See Witmer, p490 , for a third view.]


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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/romans-12.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Romans 12:20. But, i.e., ‘on the contrary,’ ‘nay rather’ (Alford). The authorities present several variations; but the oldest manuscripts and more recent editors accept ‘but.’

If thine enemy, etc. The rest of the verse corresponds exactly with Proverbs 25:21; Proverbs 25:23 (LXX.) and is adopted by the Apostle without a formula of citation. The only difficulty is in the last clause; thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Explanations: (1.) Thou wilt thus leave him to severer divine punishment. This is opposed by the next verse, and contrary to Proverbs 24:17. (2.) Thou wilt prepare for him the glowing shame of penitence; so Augustine, Meyer, Godet, and many others. This is not open to any serious objection, if real penitence be understood. Simply to make him ashamed is not an exalted motive. (3.) Thou wilt by this kindness most readily subdue him, thus taking the most effectual vengeance; so Alford, Hodge, and others. This really includes (2), and is favored by the next verse. Tyndale’s gloss is: ‘This means that thou shalt kindle him and make him to love.’ Besides these, a number of fanciful interpretations have been suggested.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/romans-12.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Romans 12:20. ἀλλὰ: On the contrary, as opposed to self-avenging, and even to the merely passive resignation of one’s case to God. ἐὰν πεινᾷ κ. τ. λ. Proverbs 25:21 f. exactly as in LXX. The meaning of “heaping burning coals on his head” is hardly open to doubt. It must refer to the burning pain of shame and remorse which the man feels whose hostility is repaid by love. This is the only kind of vengeance the Christian is at liberty to contemplate. Many, however, have referred to 4 Esdr. 16:54 (Non dicat peccator se non peccasse; quoniam carbones ignis comburet super caput ejus, qui dicit: non peccavi coram Domino Deo et gloria ipsius), and argued that the coals of fire are the Divine judgments which the sinner will bring on himself unless he repents under the constraint of such love. But (1) there is nothing said here about the essential condition, “unless he repents”; this is simply imported; and (2) the aim of the Christian’s love to his enemy is thus made to be the bringing down of Divine judgment on him—which is not only absurd in itself, but in direct antagonism to the spirit of the passage.


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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-12.html. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. This figurative way of speaking is differently expounded. Some say, inasmuch as by this means thou shalt make him liable to greater punishments from God. Others, as St. Jerome and St. Augustine, by coals of fire, understand kindnesses and benefits, which shall touch the heart, and inflame the affections even of thy enemies, which shall make them sorry for what they have done, and become thy friends. (Witham)


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/romans-12.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

Romans 12:20 But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.

"but"-instead of taking vengeance. Simply to forbear from avenging is only half the battle! Some Christians never take actual revenge, but they sure complain about what happened.

"feed him"-this is exactly how God treats His enemies, in fact, it was how God treated us when we were His enemies. (Luke 6:35) Simply treat him in his best interest, continue to demonstrate kindness.

"heap coals of fire upon his head"-"Refers to the burning pain of shame and remorse which the man feels whose hostility is repaid by love." (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 694) "The most excruciating punishment to a man is to make him feel that he has done wrong to one who loves him, and leave it to his own conscience and to God to punish for the wrong." (Lipscomb p. 232)

The best way to destroy your enemy, is to make a friend out of him.


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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/romans-12.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

if, if. App-118.

feed. Greek. psomizo. Only here and 1 Corinthians 13:3. The noun only in John 13:26, John 13:27.

drink = to drink.

heap. Greek. soreuo. Only here and 2 Timothy 3:6.

on. App-104. Quoted from Proverbs 25:21, Proverbs 25:22.


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/romans-12.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

Therefore - or, 'But' (according to a well-supported reading)

If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. This is taken from Proverbs 25:21-22, which, without doubt, supplied the basis of those lofty precepts on that subject which form the culminating point of the Sermon on the Mount.

For in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. The sense of this clause is much disputed. In Jerome's time, and by the Greek interpreters, it was generally understood in the unfavourable sense of aggravating our enemy's guilt-q.d., 'That will be the most effectual vengeance, as effectual as if you heaped coals of fire on his head.' And so, among modern interpreters, Beza, Estius, Grotius, Tholuck, Alford. But Jerome, Augustine, and other Latin fathers, Erasmus, Luther, Bengel, Reiche, Tholuck, Meyer, DeWette, Olshausen, Fritzsche, Philippi, Lange, Hodge (last edition), take the expression in the good sense, in which now it is almost universally quoted-namely, that by returning good for our enemy's evil we may expect at length to subdue and overpower him-as burning coals consume all that is inflammable-into shame and repentance. And though we formerly judged otherwise, we are now constrained to regard this as the true sense. The next verse would seem to confirm this.


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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/romans-12.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

Instead, as the scripture says. Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21-22 Septuagint. Compare 2 Kings 6:22; Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27-28. A Christian is not passively non-resistive, but actively repays hostility with love!!! The purpose of Christ is not to destroy, but to save!!! This must be our purpose as well.


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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/romans-12.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(20) Thou shalt heap coals of fire.—Comp. Psalms 18:12-14, where the phrase “coals of fire” is used of the divine vengeance. So here, but in a strictly metaphorical sense, it means, “Thou shalt take the best and most summary vengeance upon him.” There may be the underlying idea of awakening in the adversary the pangs of shame and remorse.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/romans-12.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
if thine
Exodus 23:4,5; 1 Samuel 24:16-19; 26:21; Proverbs 25:21,22; Matthew 5:44
coals
Psalms 120:4; 140:10; Song of Solomon 8:6,7

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/romans-12.html.

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians

Therefore, if thine enemy hungry, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink, etc. That is, instead of avenging ourselves by returning evil for evil, we must return good for evil. The expressions, feed him and give him drink, are obviously not to be confined to their literal meaning, nor even to the discharge of the common offices of humanity; they are figurative expressions for all the duties of benevolence. It is not enough, therefore, that we preserve an enemy from perishing; we must treat him with all affection and kindness.

For in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. This whole verse is taken from Proverbs 25:21, Proverbs 25:22, "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee." The common and natural meaning of the expression, to heap coals of fire upon any one, is to inflict the greatest pain upon him, to punish him most severely; see Psalms 140:10, "Let burning coals fall upon them;" Psalms 11:6, "Upon the wicked he shall rain coals ( τη΄ηδιν for τη΄ϊβξδιν), fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest;" Ezekiel 10:2; 2 Esdras 16:53, "Let not the wicked deny that he has sinned, for coals of fire shall burn upon the head of him who denies that he has sinned against the Lord God." The most probable explanation of this figurative expression is, that the allusion is to the lightning or fire from heaven, which is the symbol of the divine vengeance. To rain fire upon any one, is to visit him with the severest and surest destruction. This explanation is much more natural than to suppose the allusion is to the practice of throwing fire-brands upon the heads of the besiegers of a city, or to the fusing of metals.

There are three leading interpretations of this interesting clause. The first, which is perhaps the oldest, and very generally received, is, that Paul means to say that our enemies will be much more severely punished if we leave them in the hands of God. than if we undertake to avenge ourselves. ‘Treat your enemy kindly, for in so doing you secure his being punished by God in the severest manner.' The revolting character of this interpretation, which every one must feel, is mitigated by the remark, that the enemy is not to be thus treated from any wish or intention of drawing down the divine wrath upon him; it is only meant that such will be the consequence. But this remark does not meet the difficulty. This clause is so connected with the preceding, that it must be understood as assigning the motive or reason for the discharge of the duty enjoined: ‘Treat thine enemy kindly, for in so doing,' etc. The second interpretation is, that by heaping coals of fire on his head, is meant, you will cause him pain, i.e. the pain of remorse and shame. So Tholuck, and many other commentators. The third, which seems much the most simple and natural, is, ‘for in so doing, you will take the most effectual method of subduing him.' To heap coals of fire on any one, is a punishment which no one can bear; he must yield to it. Kindness is no less effectual; the most malignant enemy cannot always withstand it. The true and Christian method, therefore, to subdue an enemy is, to "overcome evil with good." This interpretation, which suits so well the whole context, seems to be rendered necessary by the following verse, which is a repetition of the previous injunctions in plainer and more general terms. The sentiment which the verse thus explained expresses, is also more in harmony with the spirit of the gospel. "Vincere dulce et praeclaram est. Optimam autem vincendi rationem sapientissime docet Salomo (Proverbs 25:21) jubens nos esurientibus inimicis cibum, sitientibus potum praebere: quia beneficiis eos devincientes fortius superabimus, quam qui hostem a vallo et moenibus flammis superjectis arcent et repellunt." — De Brais.

Among the numerous striking classical illustrations of the sentiment of this verse, quoted by Wetstein, are the following: Justinus, , 8, "Tunc Darius se ratus vere victum, cum post praelia etiam beneficiis ab hoste superaretur." Caesar ap. Cic. ad Atticum, 9:8, "Haec nova sit ratio vincendi, ut misericordia nos muniamus, id quemadmodum fieri possit, nonnulla mi in mentem veniunt, et multa reperiri possunt." Seneca de Beneficiis, 7:31, "Vincit malos pertinax bonitas, nec quisquam tam duri infestique adversus diligenda animi est, ut etiam vi victus bonos non amet." 32, "Ingratus est — huic ipsi beneficium dabo iterum, et tanquam bonus agricola cura cultuque sterilitatem soli vincam." De Ira, 2:39, "Non enim ut in beneficiis honestum est merita meritis repensare, ita injurias injuriis; illic vinci turpe est, hic vincere."


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 12:20". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hdg/romans-12.html.


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Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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