Romans 9:20
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"

New Living Translation
No, don't say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, "Why have you made me like this?"

English Standard Version
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

Berean Study Bible
But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?"

Berean Literal Bible
But rather, O man, who are you, answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the One having formed it, "Why have you made me like this?"

New American Standard Bible
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?

King James Bible
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Holman Christian Standard Bible
But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?"

International Standard Version
On the contrary, who are you—mere man that you are—to talk back to God? Can an object that was molded say to the one who molded it, "Why did you make me like this?"

NET Bible
But who indeed are you--a mere human being--to talk back to God? Does what is molded say to the molder, "Why have you made me like this?"

New Heart English Bible
But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed ask him who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?"

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Therefore, who are you, oh son of man, that you give a rebuttal to God? Does the thing formed say to the one who formed it, “Why have you made me this way?”

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Who do you think you are to talk back to God like that? Can an object that was made say to its maker, "Why did you make me like this?"

New American Standard 1977
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

Jubilee Bible 2000
Rather, O man, who art thou to reply against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

King James 2000 Bible
Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus?

American King James Version
No but, O man, who are you that reply against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus?

American Standard Version
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?

Douay-Rheims Bible
O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it: Why hast thou made me thus?

Darby Bible Translation
Aye, but thou, O man, who art thou that answerest again to God? Shall the thing formed say to him that has formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

English Revised Version
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?

Webster's Bible Translation
No, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Weymouth New Testament
Nay, but who are you, a mere man, that you should cavil against GOD? Shall the thing moulded say to him who moulded it, "Why have you made me thus?"

World English Bible
But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed ask him who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?"

Young's Literal Translation
nay, but, O man, who art thou that art answering again to God? shall the thing formed say to Him who did form it, Why me didst thou make thus?
Study Bible
The Calling of the Gentiles
19One of you will say to me, “Then why does God still find fault? For who can resist His will?” 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Does not the potter have the right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special occasions and another for common use?…
Cross References
2 Samuel 16:10
But the king said, "What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the LORD has told him, 'Curse David,' then who shall say, 'Why have you done so?'"

Job 9:32
"For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, That we may go to court together.

Job 33:13
"Why do you complain against Him That He does not give an account of all His doings?

Isaiah 10:15
Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it? That would be like a club wielding those who lift it, Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.

Isaiah 29:16
You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, "He did not make me"; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, "He has no understanding "?

Isaiah 45:9
"Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker-- An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?' Or the thing you are making say, 'He has no hands '?

Isaiah 64:8
But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.

Jeremiah 18:6
"Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.

Daniel 4:35
"All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?'

Luke 12:14
But Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed Me judge or executor between you?"
Treasury of Scripture

No but, O man, who are you that reply against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus?

O man.

Romans 2:1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are that judge: …

Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require …

1 Corinthians 7:16 For what know you, O wife, whether you shall save your husband? …

James 2:20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

who art.

Job 33:13 Why do you strive against him? for he gives not account of any of his matters.

Job 36:23 Who has enjoined him his way? or who can say, You have worked iniquity?

Job 38:2,3 Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge…

Job 40:2,5,8 Shall he that contends with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproves …

Job 42:2-6 I know that you can do every thing, and that no thought can be withheld …

Matthew 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is your eye …

repliest. or, answerest again.

Job 16:3 Shall vain words have an end? or what emboldens you that you answer?

Titus 2:9 Exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters, and to please …

or, disputes with God?

1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of …

1 Timothy 6:5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the …

Shall.

Isaiah 29:16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the …

Isaiah 45:9-11 Woe to him that strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with …

(20) Nay but, O man.--The answer is not so much a solution of the intellectual difficulty, as an appeal to the religious sense to prevent it from being raised. That His dealings should be questioned at all is a breach of the reverence due to God.

Verses 20, 21. - Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? (Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9). Hath not the potter power (rather, authority) over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Jeremiah 18:1-10). The figure of the clay, first introduced from Isaiah, is carried out at length in the passage from Jeremiah which is referred to. It is important, for understanding St. Paul's drift, to examine this passage. The prophet, in order that he might understand God's way of dealing with nations, is directed to go down to the potter's house, and watch the potter at his work. The potter is at work with a lump of clay, with the view of making a vessel of it; but it is "marred in the hand of the potter;" it does not come out into the form intended; so he rejects it, and makes anew another vessel after his mind, "as seemed good to the potter to make it." The prophet's application of the illustration is that, "as the clay is in the potter's hands, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel, saith the LORD;" meaning that if the house of Israel failed to answer to the LORD'S purpose, he could reject it at his pleasure, as the potter did the marred vessel; and in vers. 7-10 the view is extended to God's power over, and way of dealing with, all nations of mankind; and then, in ver. 11, the men of Judah are warned to return from their evil ways, lest the LORD should so do unto them. Thus it is by no means implied by the illustration that Israel, or any other nation, has been formed with the primary and irresistible purpose of rejecting it as a "vessel unto dishonour," or that, when rejected, it has not had opportunity of being otherwise; but only that God has absolute power and right over it, to reject it if proved unworthy. It cannot then resist his will (βούλημα, i.e. determination or resolve; not here θέλημα. The primary Divine θέλημα is "that all men should be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4); and this men do resist. For distinction between θέλειν and Βούλεσθαι, cf. Matthew 1:19); but yet he may "find fault" with justice. It is here again evident that it is not individuals, but nations, that are in view all along. The apostle goes on next to consider whether, in God's actual dealings with the "vessels unto dishonour," there may not be, not only great forbearance, but also a merciful purpose. Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God?.... Or "answerest again to God": some have been so weak and wicked as to suggest, that the apostle met with an objection he could not answer, or give a fair solution of, and therefore takes the method he does: but when the several things returned in answer by the apostle are considered, it will appear that he has taken the wisest method to silence such an audacious objector, and that he abundantly clears God from the charge of cruelty and unmercifulness. And he answers "first", by putting the insolent creature in mind of what he was; "nay, but O man, who art thou?" &c. Thou art man, and not God; a creature, and not the Creator; and must not expect that he, thy Creator, will give an account of his matters to thee, or a reason why he does, this or the other thing. Thou art but a man, who in his best estate was vanity, being mutable; thou art a fallen sinful creature, and obnoxious to the wrath and displeasure of God for thy sins, and darest thou to open thy mouth against him? thou art a poor, foolish, and ignorant man, born like a wild ass's colt, without understanding, and wilt thou take upon thee to confront, direct, or counsel the Most High, or tell him what is fitting to be done, or not done? "next" the apostle answers, by pointing out his folly and madness, in replying to God. To speak to God in behalf of a man's self at the throne of grace, in the most submissive manner, for any mercy or favour wanted, is an high privilege, and it is a wonderful condescension in God to admit of; and when a man, a good man takes upon him to plead with God on the behalf of others, of a wicked people, a sinful nation, he ought to set before him the example and conduct of Abraham, who in a like case acknowledged himself to be but dust and ashes, and more than once entreated, that the Lord would not be angry at his importunity; but for a man to answer again to God, which a servant ought not to do to his master, to litigate a point with God, to dispute a matter with him, is the highest instance of arrogance and impudence: "woe unto him that striveth with his Maker, let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth", Isaiah 45:9, with their equals, with men like themselves, but let no man dare to "contend with God"; if he should, "he cannot answer him one of a thousand", Job 9:3; for "he is wise in heart", in forming all his counsels, purposes, and decrees; "and mighty in strength", to execute them; "who hath hardened himself against him and hath prospered?" Job 9:4. Another way the apostle takes in answering the objection is, by showing the absurdity of a creature's wrangling with God about his make, and the circumstances in which he is made:

shall the thing formed, say unto him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? reference is had to Isaiah 45:9; Now as it would be a most absurd thing for the clay, was it capable of speaking, to say to the fashioner of it, why dost thou put me into such or such a shape and form? or for any piece of workmanship to say to the maker of it, he has no hands, no head, no judgment and skill; or for a child to say to its parents, what begettest thou, or what hast thou brought forth? so absurd and unreasonable is it, for any to say to God, why hast thou appointed me to such and such ends and purposes, and has brought me into being in such a manner, and under such circumstances? There is a story in the Talmud (n), which may be pertinently produced here;

"it happened to R. Eleazar ben Simeon, of Migdal Gedur, that he went from his master's house, and he was riding on an ass, and travelling by the sea side, and as he rejoiced exceedingly, and his heart was lifted up because he had learnt much of the law, there was joined to him a certain man that was very much deformed, and says to him, peace be upon thee Rabbi; but he did not return the salutation to him, but says to him "Raca", how deformed is that man! perhaps all thy townsmen are as deformed as thee; he replied to him, I do not know, but go and say, , "to the workman that made me", how ugly is this vessel thou hast made, when he knew in himself that he has sinned; upon this the Rabbi dismounted his ass, and fell down before him, and said unto him, I entreat of thee forgive me; he said unto him, I cannot forgive thee, till thou goest "to the workman that made me", and say, how ugly is this vessel which thou hast made.''

(n) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 20. 2. Massechet Derech Eretz, c. 4. fol. 18. 1.20, 21. Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made—"didst thou make"

me thus?—(Isa 45:9).9:14-24 Whatever God does, must be just. Wherein the holy, happy people of God differ from others, God's grace alone makes them differ. In this preventing, effectual, distinguishing grace, he acts as a benefactor, whose grace is his own. None have deserved it; so that those who are saved, must thank God only; and those who perish, must blame themselves only, Hos 13:9. God is bound no further than he has been pleased to bind himself by his own covenant and promise, which is his revealed will. And this is, that he will receive, and not cast out, those that come to Christ; but the drawing of souls in order to that coming, is an anticipating, distinguishing favour to whom he will. Why does he yet find fault? This is not an objection to be made by the creature against his Creator, by man against God. The truth, as it is in Jesus, abases man as nothing, as less than nothing, and advances God as sovereign Lord of all. Who art thou that art so foolish, so feeble, so unable to judge the Divine counsels? It becomes us to submit to him, not to reply against him. Would not men allow the infinite God the same sovereign right to manage the affairs of the creation, as the potter exercises in disposing of his clay, when of the same lump he makes one vessel to a more honourable, and one to a meaner use? God could do no wrong, however it might appear to men. God will make it appear that he hates sin. Also, he formed vessels filled with mercy. Sanctification is the preparation of the soul for glory. This is God's work. Sinners fit themselves for hell, but it is God who prepares saints for heaven; and all whom God designs for heaven hereafter, he fits for heaven now. Would we know who these vessels of mercy are? Those whom God has called; and these not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles. Surely there can be no unrighteousness in any of these Divine dispensations. Nor in God's exercising long-suffering, patience, and forbearance towards sinners under increasing guilt, before he brings utter destruction upon them. The fault is in the hardened sinner himself. As to all who love and fear God, however such truths appear beyond their reason to fathom, yet they should keep silence before him. It is the Lord alone who made us to differ; we should adore his pardoning mercy and new-creating grace, and give diligence to make our calling and election sure.
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