Romans 12
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
12:1-15:13.] Practical exhortations founded on the doctrines before stated. And first, ch. 12 general exhortations to a Christian life.

1.] οὖν may apply to the whole doctrinal portion of the Epistle which has preceded, which, see Ephesians 4:1; 1Thessalonians 4:1, seems the most natural connexion,—or to ch. 11:35, 36 (so Olsh., Meyer), or to the whole close of ch. 11 (so Tholuck.) Theodoret remarks: ὅπερ ἔστιν ὀφθαλμὸς ἐν σώματι, τοῦτο τῇ ψυχῇ πίστις, καὶ τῶν θείων ἡ γνῶσις. δεῖται δὲ ὅμως αὕτη τῆς πρακτικῆς ἀρετῆς, καθάπερ ὁ ὀφθαλμὸς χειρῶν καὶ ποδῶν καὶ τῶν ἄλλων μορίων τοῦ σώματος. τούτου δὲ χάριν ὁ θεῖος ἀπόστολος τοῖς δογματικοῖς λόγοις καὶ τὴν ἠθικὴν διδασκαλίαν προστέθεικε.

διὰ] introduces, as in reff., an idea which is to give force to the exhortation.

οἰκτιρμῶν] viz. those detailed and proved throughout the former part of the Epistle. διʼ αὐτῶν οὖν τούτων, φησί, παρακαλῶ, διʼ ὧν ἐσώθητε· ὥσπερ ἂν εἴ τις τὸν μεγάλα εὐεργετηθέντα ἐντρέψαι βουλόμενος, αὐτὸν τὸν εὐεργετήσαντα ἱκέτην ἀγάγοι. Chrys. Hom. xx. p. 656.

παραστῆσαι] the regular word for bringing to offer in sacrifice (reff.).

τ. σώματα ὑμ.] Most Commentators say, merely for ὑμᾶς αὐτούς,—to suit the metaphor of a sacrifice, which consisted of a body: some (Thol., al.), because the body is the organ of practical activity, which practical activity is to be dedicated to God: better with Olsh. and De Wette,—as an indication that the sanctification of Christian life is to extend to that part of man’s nature which is most completely under the bondage of sin.

θυσίαν] Chrys. strikingly says, πῶς ἂν γένοιτο τὸ σῶμα, φησί, θυσία; μηδὲν ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρὸν βλεπέτω, καὶ γέγονε θυσία· μηδὲν ἡ γλῶσσα λαλείτω αἰσχρόν, καὶ γέγονε προσφορά· μηδὲν ἡ χεὶρ πραττέτω παράνομον, καὶ γέγονεν ὁλοκαύτωμα. μᾶλλον δὲ οὐκ ἀρκεῖ ταῦτα, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἡμῖν ἐργασίας δεῖ, ἵνα ἡ μὲν χεὶρ ἐλεημοσύνην ποιῇ, τὸ δὲ στόμα εὐλογῇ τοὺς ἐπηρεάζοντας, ἡ δὲ ἀκοὴ θείαις σχολάζῃ διηνεκῶς ἀκροάσεσιν. ἡ γὰρ θυσία οὐδὲν ἔχει ἀκάθαρτον, ἡ θυσία ἀπαρχὴ τῶν ἄλλων ἐστί. καὶ ἡμεῖς τοίνυν καὶ χειρῶν κὰ ποδῶν καὶ στόματος καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων ἀπαρχώμεθα τῷ θεῷ. Hom. xx. p. 656 f.

ζῶσαν] In opposition to the Levitical θυσίαι, which were slain animals. Our great sacrifice, the Lord Jesus, having been slain for us, and by the shedding of His Blood perfect remission having been obtained διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ, we are now enabled to be offered to God no longer by the shedding of blood, but as living sacrifices.

This application of the figure of a sacrifice occurs in Philo, who (‘quod omnis probus liber,’ § 12, vol. ii., p. 457) describes the Essenes as οὐ ζῶα καταθύαντες, ἀλλʼ ἱεροπρεπεῖς τὰς ἑαυτῶν διανοίας κατασκευάζειν ἀξιοῦντες. See also Jos, Antt. xviii. 1. 5.

τῷ θεῷ belongs to εὐάρεστον, not to παραστῆσαι.

τὴν λογικὴν λατρ. ὑμ.] “This may certainly be in apposition with θυσίαν (Reiche, Meyer), the acc. denoting the result and intention,—θυσία however alone can hardly be called a λατρεία, but παραστῆσαι θυσίαν may: therefore it is preferable to take the acc. as in apposition with the whole sentence, and supply some verb of exhorting: see 1Timothy 2:6; 2Thessalonians 1:5.” Tholuck.

λογικήν (reff.) is opposed to σαρκικήν, see Hebrews 7:16. So Chrys.,—οὐδὲν ἔχουσαν σωματικόν, οὐδὲν παχύ, οὐδὲν αἰσθητόν. Theodoret, Grot., al., take it as ‘having reason,’ ‘rational,’ opposed to sacrifices of animals which have no reason: Photius, Basil, and Calvin, ‘rational,’ as opposed to superstitious. But the former meaning is far the best, and answers to the πνευματικὰς θυσίας of 1Peter 2:5.

2.] συνσχηματίζεσθαι is not Imperative in sense, but dependent on παρακαλῶ. (Of course, in all such questions betwen ε and αι, the confusing element of itacism comes in: but in no case where both forms are equally admissible in the text, can the mere suspicion of itacism be allowed to decide the question.)

ὁ αἰὼν οὗτος, here, the whole world of the ungodly, as contrasted with the spiritual kingdom of Christ.

The dat. ἀνακαινώσει is not the instrument by which, but the manner in which the metamorphosis takes place: that wherein it consists: compare περιετμήθητε περιτομῇ ἀχειροποιήτῳ, Colossians 2:11.

εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν, that ye may prove, viz. in this process and the active Christian life accompanying it, compare reff. Eph., Phil.: not ‘that ye may be able to prove,’ ‘acquire the faculty of proving,’ as Bucer, Olsh., Rückert: the Apostle is not speaking of acquiring wisdom here, but of practical proof by experience.

τὸ ἀγαθ. κ. εὐάρ. κ. τέλ. are not epithets of τὸ θέλημα τ. θεοῦ as in E. V., for in that case they would be superfluous, and in part (τέλειον) inapplicable: but abstract neuters, see ver. 9, that ye may prove what is the will of God (viz. that which is) good and acceptable (to Him) and perfect. The non-repetition of the art. shews that the adjectives all apply to the same thing.

3-21.] Particular exhortations grounded on and expanding the foregoing general ones. This is expressed by the γάρ, which resumes, and binds to what has preceded. And first, an exhortation to humility in respect of spiritual gifts, vv. 3-8.

3.] λέγω, a mild expression for ‘I command:’ enforced as a command by διὰ τ. χ.… ‘by means of my apostolic office,’ of the grace conferred on me to guide and exhort the Church:’ reff.

παντὶ τῷ ὄντι ἐν ὑμ.,—a strong bringing out of the individual application of the precept. οὐχὶ τῷ δεῖνι καὶ τῷ δεῖνι μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἄρχοντι κ. ἀρχομένῳ, κ. δούλῳ κ. ἐλευθέρῳ, κ. ἰδιώτῃ κ. σοφῷ, κ. γυναικὶ κ. ἀνδρί, κ. νέῳ κ. γέροντι. Chrys. Hom. xx. p. 603.

μὴ ὑπερφρ. κ.τ.λ.] There is a play on the words φρονεῖν, ὑπερφρονεῖν, and σωφρονεῖν, which can only be clumsily conveyed in another language: ‘not to be highminded, above that which he ought to be minded, but to be so minded, as to be soberminded.’ Wetst. quotes from Charondas in Stobæus, Sentent. xlii., προσποιείσθω δὲ ἕκαστος τῶν πολιτῶν σωφρονεῖν μᾶλλον ἢ φρονεῖον,—and from Thucyd. ii. 62,—ἰέναι δὲ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς ὁμόσε, μὴ φρονήματι μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ καταφρονήματι.

But φρονεῖν must not be taken, with Calvin, ‘admonet ut eatantum cogitemus et meditemur, quæ nos sobrios et modestos reddere potuerunt:’—the thoughts implied in it being, thoughts of one’s self.

ἑκάστῳ ὡς] = ὡς ἑκάστῳ (reff.), not (λέγω) ἑκάστῳ, ὡς.…

μέτρον πίστεως is the receptivity of χαρίσματα, itself no inherent congruity, but the gift and apportionment of God. It is in fact the subjective designation of ἡ χάρις ἡ δοθεῖσα ἡμῖν, ver. 6. But we must not say, that (Ewb.) “faith, in this passage, means those gifts or graces which the Christian can only receive through faith:” this is to confound the receptive faculty with the thing received by it, and to pass by the great lesson of our verse, that this faculty is nothing to be proud of, but God’s gift.

4.] γάρ, elucidating the fact, that God apportions variously to various persons: because the Christian community is like a body with many members having various duties. See the same idea further worked out, 1Corinthians 12:12 ff.

5. τὸ δὲ καθʼ εἷς] But [severally, i.e.] as regards individuals. A solœcism for τὸ δὲ εἷς καθʼ ἕνα, as ἓν καθʼ ἕν in ref. Rev. Wetst., on ref. Mark, gives many examples of it.

Members of one another = fellow-members with one another,—members of the body of which we one with another are members.

6.] The δέ = ‘and not only so, but’.… χάρις, see above, ver. 3, on μέτρ. πίστ. These χαρίσματα are called, 1Corinthians 12:7, ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος. “These χαρίσματα δάφορα are next specified. The two first accusatives are grammatically dependent on ἔχοντες: by degrees the Apostle loses sight of the construction, and continues with the concrete ὁ διδάσκων, which still he binds on to the foregoing by εἴτε,—but at ὁ μεταδιδούς, omits this also, and, at ver. 9, introduces the abstract ἡ ἀγάπη.” Thol.

εἴτε προφητείαν] There is some dispute about the construction of these clauses. The ordinary rendering regards them as elliptical, and supplies before κατὰ and ἐν, χρησάσθω αὐτῇ or ὥστε εἶναι αὐτήν or the like. But Reiche, Meyer, De Wette, suppose no ellipsis, joining κατὰ τὴν ἀναλ., &c. to the foregoing substantives, as κατὰ τὴν χάριν to χαρίσματα. This construction must however be dropped at ἐν ἁπλότητι, which is manifestly to be rendered with a verb supplied: and (2) it reduces the four first mentioned gifts to a bare catalogue, and deprives the passage of its aim, which is to keep each member of the body in its true place and work without any member boasting against another. Tholuck quotes a passage of very similar construction from Epictet. Dissert. iii. 23. 5. He is speaking of reading and philosophizing from ostentation, and says that every thing which we do, must have its aim, its ἀναφορά;—λοιπόν, ἡ μὲν τίς ἐστι κοινὴ ἀναφορά, ἡ δʼ ἰδία. πρῶτον, ἵνʼ ὡς ἄνθρωπος. ἐν τούτῳ τί περιέχεται; … ἡ δʼ ἰδία πρὸς τὸ ἐπιτήδευμα ἑκάστου καὶ τὴν προαίρεσιν· ὁ κιθαρῳδός, ὡς κιθαρῳδός· ὁ τέκτων, ὡς τέκτων· ὁ φιλόσοφος, ὡς φιλόσοφος· ὁ ῥήτωρ, ὡς ῥήτωρ. See also the same construction in 1Peter 4:10, 1Peter 4:11.

On προφητεία, the gift of the προφῆται, see note, Acts 11:27.

κατ. τ. ἀναλ. τ. πίστ.] (let us prophesy) according to the proportion (compare Justin Mart. Apol. i. 17, p. 54: “each will be punished πρὸς ἀναλογίαν ὧν ἔλαβε δυνάμεων παρὰ θεοῦ”) of faith. But what faith? Objective (‘fides quæ creditur’), or subjective (‘fides quâ creditur’)? the faith, or our faith? The comparison of μέτρον πιστεως above, and the whole context, determine it to be the latter; the measure of our faith: ‘quisque se intra sortis suæ metas contineat, et revelationis suæ modum teneat, ne unus sibi omnia scire videatur.’ To understand ἀναλογία τ. π. objectively, as ‘the rule of faith,’ as many R.-Cath. expositors, and some Protestant, e.g. Calvin, ‘fidei nomine significat prima religionis axiomata,’—seems to do violence to the context, which aims at shewing that the measure of faith, itself the gift of God, is the receptive faculty for all spiritual gifts, which are therefore not to be boasted of, nor pushed beyond their provinces, but humbly exercised within their own limits.

7. διακονίαν] any subordinate ministration in the Church. In Acts 6:1 and 4, we have the word applied both to the lower ministration, that of alms and food, and to the higher, the διακ. τοῦ λόγου, which belonged to the Apostles. But here it seems to be used in a more restricted sense, from its position as distinct from prophecy, teaching, exhortation, &c.

ἐν τῇ διακ.] Let us confine ourselves humbly and orderly to that kind of ministration to which God’s providence has appointed us, as profitable members of the body.

ὁ διδάσκων] The prophet spoke under immediate inspiration; the διδάσκαλος under inspiration working by the secondary instruments of his will and reason and rhetorical powers. Paul himself seems ordinarily, in his personal ministrations, to have used διδασκαλία. He is nowhere called a prophet, but appears as distinguished from them in several places: e.g. Acts 11:27; Acts 21:10, and apparently 13:1. Of course this does not affect the appearance of prophecies, commonly so called; in his writings. The inspired διδάσκαλος would speak, though not technically προφητείας, yet the mind of the Spirit in all things: not to mention that the apostolic office was one in dignity and fulness of inspiration far surpassing any of the subordinate ones, and in fact including them all.

ἐν τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ] as before: he is to teach in the sphere, within the bounds, of the teaching allotted to him by God,—or for which God has given him the faculty.

8.] The παρακαλῶν was not necessarily distinct from the προφητεύων,—see 1Corinthians 14:31.

ὁ μεταδιδούς appears to be the giver of the alms to the poor,—either the deacon himself, or some distributor subordinate to the deacon. This however has been doubted, and not without reason: for a transition certainly seems to be made, by the omission of the εἴτε, from public to private gifts. We cannot find any ecclesiastical meaning for ἐλεῶν (though indeed Calvin, al., understand by it “viduas et alios ministros qui curandis ægrotis, secundum veterem Ecclesiæ morem, præficiebantur”),—and the very fact of the three preceding being all limited to their respective official spheres, whereas these three are connected with qualitative descriptions, speaks strongly for their being private acts, to be always performed in the spirit described. Add to all, that, as Vitringa remarks, διαδιδόναι is more properly to distribute (Acts 4:35), μεταδιδόναι to impart of one’s own to another. I would therefore render it: He that bestoweth.

ἐν ἁπλότητι] ordinarily, ‘with simplicity.’ But seeing that ἁπλότης, referred to alms-giving, bears another and an objective meaning, this hardly satisfies me, because σπουδή and ἱλαρότης designate not so much the inward frame of mind, as the outward character of the superintendence and the compassion: as might be expected, when gifts to be exercised for mutual benefit are spoken of. In 2Corinthians 8:2; 2Corinthians 9:11, 2Corinthians 9:13, Jos. Antt. vii. 13. 4 (where David admires Araunah, τῆς ἁπλότητος καὶ τῆς μεγαλοψυχίας), the word signifies ‘liberality:’ so perhaps ἁπλῶς also, James 1:5, but see note there. This meaning is not recognized by Wahl, Lex., but defended by Tholuck, who connects it with the phrase found in Stobæus, Eclog. Phys. i. p. 123, ἁπλοῦν τὰς χεῖρας, ‘to open the hands wide:’—and I would thus render it here.

ὁ προϊστάμενος] He that presides—but over what? If over the Church exclusively, we come back to offices again: and it is hardly likely that the rulers of the Church, as such, would be introduced so low down in the list, or by so very general a term, as this. In 1Timothy 3:4, 1Timothy 3:5, 1Timothy 3:12, we have the verb used of presiding over a man’s own household: and in its absolute usage here, I do not see why that also should not be included. Meyer would understand it of ‘patronage of strangers’ (ch. 16:2). Stuart in his Excursus on this place, appended to his Commentary, takes up and defends the same view. But, not insisting on the general usage of the word being preferable where it occurs absolutely, will ἐν σπουδῇ apply to this meaning? Of course so far as σπουδή is applicable to every employment, it might, but more than this is required, where words are connected in so marked a manner as here. Giving προϊστάμενος the ordinary meaning, these words fit admirably: implying that he who is by God set over others, be they members of the Church or of his own household, must not allow himself to forget his responsibility, and take his duty indolently and easily, but must προΐστασθαι σπουδαίως, making it a serious matter of continual diligence.

ὁ ἐλεῶν] See above: He that sheweth mercy, is the very best rendering: and I cannot conceive that any officer of the Church is intended, but every private Christian who exercises compassion. It is in exhibiting compassion, which is often the compulsory work of one obeying his conscience rather than the spontaneous effusion of love, that cheerfulness is so peculiarly required, and so frequently wanting. And yet in such an act it is even of more consequence towards the effect,—consoling the compassionated, than the act itself. κρείσσων λόγος ἢ δόσις, Sir. 18:16.

9-21.] Exhortations to various Christian principles and habits.

9.] Olsh., De Wette, al., would understand ἐστίν,—not ἔστω,—the ellipsis of the imperative being unusual. But I cannot see how this can be here. Clearly the three preceding clauses are hortative; as clearly, those which follow are so likewise. Why then depart from the prevalent character of the context, and make this descriptive?

ἀποστυγ.] This very general exhortation is probably, as Bengel says, an explanation of ἀνυπόκριτος:—our love should arise from a genuine cleaving to that which is good, and aversion from evil: not from any by-ends.

10.] in brotherly love (dat. of the respect or regard in which), affectionate.

φιλόστ.] properly of love of near relations; agreeing therefore exactly with φιλαδελφία.

προηγούμενοι] “invicem prævenientes,” latt. μὴ μένε φιλεῖσθαι παρʼ ἑτέρου, ἀλλʼ αὐτὸς ἐπιπήδα τούτῳ καὶ κατάρχου, Chrys.: similarly Syr., Theophyl., Erasm., Luther:—or, = ἀλλήλους ἡγούμενοι ὑπερέχοντας ἑαυτῶν, Philippians 2:3; so Origen, Theodoret, Grot.: or, as in ref. 2 Macc. ‘setting an example to,’ ‘going before,’ which however does not seem to apply here, unless we render τῇ τιμῇ, ‘in yielding honour:’ ‘in giving honour: anticipating one another’ (so Stuart).

11.] in zeal (not ‘business,’ as E. V., which seems to refer it to the affairs of this life, whereas it relates, as all these in vv. 11, 12, 13, to Christian duties as such: as ‘fervency of spirit,’ ‘acting as God’s servants,’ ‘rejoicing in hope,’ &c.) not slothful. ζέων τῷ πν. is used of Apollos, in ref. The Holy Spirit lights this fire within: see Luke 12:49; Matthew 3:11.

τ. κυρίῳ δουλ.] The external authorities, as will be seen in the var. read., are strongly in favour of this reading. The balance of internal probability, though not easy at once to settle, is I am persuaded on the same side. The main objection to κυρίῳ has ever been, that thus the Apostle would be inserting here, among particular precepts, one of the most general and comprehensive character. So Hilary (in Wetst.) and al. But this will be removed, if we remember, of what he is speaking: and if I mistake not, the other reading has been defended partly owing to forgetfulness of this. The present subject is, the character of our zeal for God. In it we are not to be ὀκνηροί, but fervent in spirit,—and that, as servants of God. A very similar reminiscence of this relation to God occurs Colossians 3:22-24: οἱ δοῦλοι, … ὃ ἐὰν ποιῆτε, ἐκ ψυχῆς ἐργάζεσθε ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις, εἰδότες ὅτι ἀπὸ κυρίου ἀπολήμψεσθε τὴν ἀνταπόδοσιν τῆς κληρονομίας. τῷ κυρίῳ χριστῷ δουλεύετε. The command, τῷ καιρῷ δουλεύειν, would surely come in very inopportunely in the midst of exhortations to the zealous service of God. At the same time, it is not easy to give an account of the origin of the reading. The ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρόν of Ephesians 5:16 may have led to the filling up of the contracted κυρίῳ (κω̄) with this word: and the notion that σπουδῇ referred to worldly business, may have favoured the sense thus given. For examples of the phrase τῷ καιρῷ δουλεύειν and ‘tempori inservire,’ see Wetst. As to its applicability at all to Christians, De Wette well remarks, “The Christian may and should certainly employ (Ephesians 5:16) τὸν καιρόν (time and opportunity), but not serve it.” Athanas. (in Wetst.) ad Dracont. says, οὐ πρέπει τῷ καιρῷ δουλεύειν, ἀλλὰ κυρίῳ.

12.] The datives here are not parallel. τῇ ἐλπίδι is the ground of the joy in χαίροντες,—but τῇ θλίψει the state in which the ὑπομονή is found.

13.] The reading μνείαις is curious, as being a corruption introduced, hardly accidentally, in favour of the honour of martyrs by commemoration.

τ. φιλοξ διώκ.] οὐκ εἶπεν ἐργαζόμενοι, ἀλλὰ διώκοντες, παιδεύων ἡμᾶς μὴ ἀναμένειν τοὺς δεομένους, πότε πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἔλθωσιν, ἀλλʼ αὐτοὺς ἐπιτρέχειν κ. καταδιώκειν. Chrys. Hom. xxi. p. 676.

14.] “The Sermon on the Mount must have been particularly well known; for among the few references in the N. T. Epistles to the direct words of Christ there occur several to it: e.g. 1Corinthians 7:10. James 4:9; James 5:12 (we may add 4:3; 1:2, 22, 2:5, 13; 5:2, 3, 10). 1Peter 3:9, 1Peter 3:14; 1Peter 4:14.” Tholuck.

15.] Inf. for imperative: see Philippians 3:16: and Winer, edn. 6, § 43. 5. d.

16.] Having (the participial construction is resumed, as in ver. 9) the same spirit towards one another, i.e. actuated by a common and well-understood feeling of mutual allowance and kindness.

μὴ τὰ ὑψ.] It is a question, whether τοῖς ταπεινοῖς is neuter or masc. Certainly not necessarily neuter, as De W.: the Apostle’s antitheses do not require such minute correspondence as this. The sense then must decide. In τὰ ὑψηλὰ φρονοῦντες, the ὑψηλά are necessarily subjective, the lofty thoughts of the man. But in τοῖς ταπεινοῖς συναπαγόμενοι the adj. is necessarily objective; some outward objects with which the persons exhorted are συναπάγεσθαι. And those outward objects are defined, if I mistake not, by the τὸ αὐτὸ εἰς ἀλλήλους φρονοῦντες. This spirit towards one another is not to be a spirit of haughtiness, but one of community and sympathy, condescending to men of low estate, as E. V. admirably renders it. For συναπ., see reff. and compare Zosimus, Hist. v. 6, cited by Tholuck, καὶ αὐτὴ ἡ Σπάρτη συναπήγετο τῇ κοινῇ τῆς Ἑλλάδος ἁλώσει. The insertion of the seemingly incongruous μὴ γίνεσθε … ἑαυτοῖς is sufficiently accounted for by reference to ch. 11:25, where he had stated this frame of mind as one to be avoided by those whose very place in God’s church was owing to His free mercy. Being uplifted one against another would be a sign of this fault being present and operative.

17.] The construction is resumed. The Apostle now proceeds to exhort respecting conduct to those without.

προνοούμ. καλὰ.…] from ref. Prov., which has ἐνώπιον κυρίου καὶ ἀνθρώπων.

18.] The εἰ δυνατόν, as well remarked by Thol. and De Wette, is objective only—not ‘if you can,’ but if it be possible—if others will allow it. And this is further defined by τὸ ἐξ ὑμῶν: all your part is to be peace: whether you actually live peaceably or not, will depend then solely on how others behave towards you.

19.] So Matthew 5:39, Matthew 5:40.

ἀγαπητοί] ‘The more difficult this duty, the more affectionately does the Apostle address his readers, with this word.’ Thol.

δότε τόπον] allow space, i.e. ‘interpose delay,’ to anger. So Livy viii. 32, “Legati circumstantes sellam orabant, ut rem in posterum diem differret, et irœ suæ spatium, et con-silio tempus, daret.” So that we must not understand τῇ ὀργῇ, ‘your anger,’ nor [exactly, though it comes to that,] ‘God’s anger,’ but ‘anger,’ generally;—‘give wrath room:’ ‘proceed not to execute it hastily, but leave it for its legitimate time, when He whose it is to avenge, will execute it: make not the wrath your own, but leave it for God.’ So in the main, but mostly understanding [exclusively] τ. ὀρ. τοῦ θεοῦ, Chrys., , Theodoret, and the great body of Commentators. Some Fathers interpret it, ‘yield to the anger (of your adversary);’ but this meaning for δότε τόπον is hardly borne out.

The citation varies from the LXX, which has ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐκδικήσεως ἀνταποδώσω;—and is nearer the Heb.,—לִי נָקָם וְשִׁלֵּם, “mine is revenge and requital.” It is very remarkable, that in Hebrews 10:30 the citation is made in the same words.

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 Psa_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.

21.] If you suffered yourselves to be provoked to revenge, you would be yielding to the enemy,—overcome by that which is evil: do not thus,—but in this, and in all things, overcome the evil (in others) by your good.

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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