|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
9:1-5 Being about to discuss the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, and to show that the whole agrees with the sovereign electing love of God, the apostle expresses strongly his affection for his people. He solemnly appeals to Christ; and his conscience, enlightened and directed by the Holy Spirit, bore witness to his sincerity. He would submit to be treated as accursed, to be disgraced, crucified; and even for a time be in the deepest horror and distress; if he could rescue his nation from the destruction about to come upon them for their obstinate unbelief. To be insensible to the eternal condition of our fellow-creatures, is contrary both to the love required by the law, and the mercy of the gospel. They had long been professed worshippers of Jehovah. The law, and the national covenant which was grounded thereon, belonged to them. The temple worship was typical of salvation by the Messiah, and the means of communion with God. All the promises concerning Christ and his salvation were given to them. He is not only over all, as Mediator, but he is God blessed for ever.
Verses 2, 3. - That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. He does not say what for, leaving it to appear in what follows. The broken sentence is significant of emotion. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. None of the ways that have been suggested for evading the obvious meaning of this assertion are tenable. One such way is to take the imperfect ηὐχόμην as expressing what he once wished, viz. before his conversion; so that the meaning would be, "My interest in my own people is such that, in my zeal for them, I once myself desired to be entirely apart from Christ; I myself said, Ἀνάθεμα (1 Corinthians 12:3), and persecuted his followers." Neither the natural force of the imperfect here (as to which cf. Acts 25:22; Galatians 4:20), nor that of ἀνάθεμα εῖναι, nor the context, allow this subterfuge. Another way is to understand ἀνάθεμα εῖναι as implying only devotion to temporal destruction, i.e. to a violent death. In Leviticus 27, every animal devoted to the Lord (in the LXX. ἀνάθεμα) is surely to be put to death; and this has been conceived as all that is implied here. So Jerome, 'Quaest. 9, ad Algas.,' and Hilary, 'Ad Psalm 8.' But how then about ἀπὸ Ξριστοῦ? The words ἀνάθεμα and ἀνάθημα, from ἀνατίθημι, both denote primarily what is offered or set apart; the latter being applied to things devoted to God's honour and service (cf. Luke 21:5), the latter always in the New Testament used to denote rejection or devotion to evil. It occurs in Acts 23:14; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8, 9. It certainly means here separation from the communion of Christ, in the same sense as κατηργήθστε ἀπὸ τοῦ Ξριστοῦ (Galatians 5:4). Even if the expression ἀνάθεμα εῖναι be understood as meaning in itself excommunication only (as ανάθεμα ἐστω in ecclesiastical usage), the addition of ἀπὸ τοῦ Ξριστοῦ evidently implies more than mere separation from outward Church communion. The apostle can hardly mean otherwise than that he would forfeit his own communion with Christ on behalf of (ὑπὲρ) his countrymen, if so they as a nation could be brought to accept the gospel. This certainly was a strong thing to say, and it may seem to us to imply an impossibility, if we compare it, for instance, with Romans 8:38, "I am persuaded," etc. But we need not understand a passing expression of feeling, however real, as a deliberate utterance. The imperfect ηὐχόμην implies only that the fact had passed through his mind in the intensity of his desire for the salvation of his brethren. It corresponds with the saying of Moses under the like strong emotion, "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin -; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of the book which thou hast written" (Exodus 32:32). Bengel remarks well," Ex summa fide (cap. 8) nunc summum ostendit amorem, ex amore divine accensum. Res non poterat fieri, quam optarat: sed votum erat pium et solidum, quamlibet cum tacita conditione, si fieri posset." Also, "De mensura amoris in Mose et Paulo non facile est existimare. Eum enim modulus ratiocinationum nostrarum non capit; sieur heroum bellicorum animos non capit parvulus." St. Paul proceeds, in the spirit of a patriotic Jew, which he ever retained, to enumerate the peculiar privileges of the chosen people, their possession of which rendered their present failure to realize their purpose so peculiarly disappointing and distressing.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. This is the thing he appeals to Christ for the truth of, and calls in his conscience and the Holy Ghost to bear witness to. These two words, "heaviness" and "sorrow", the one signifies grief, which had brought on heaviness on his spirits; and the other such pain as a woman in travail feels: and the trouble of his mind expressed by both, is described by its quantity, "great", it was not a little, but much; by its quality it was internal, it was in his "heart", it did not lie merely in outward show, in a few words or tears, but was in his heart, it was a heart sorrow; and by its duration, "continual", it was not a sudden emotion or passion, but what had been long in him, and had deeply affected and greatly depressed him: and what was the reason of all this? it is not expressed, but may pretty easily be understood; it was because of the obstinacy of his countrymen the Jews, the hardness of their hearts, and their wilful rejection of the Messiah; their trusting to their own righteousness, to the neglect and contempt of the righteousness of Christ, which he knew must unavoidably issue in their eternal destruction; also what greatly affected his mind was the utter rejection of them, as the people of God, and the judicial blindness, and hardness of heart, he full well knew was coming upon them, and which he was about to break unto them.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. That I have, &c.—"That I have great grief (or, sorrow) and unceasing anguish in my heart"—the bitter hostility of his nation to the glorious Gospel, and the awful consequences of their unbelief, weighing heavily and incessantly upon his spirit.
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