Romans 9
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
'Chap. 9-11] The Gospel being now established, in its fulness and freeness, as the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,—a question naturally arises, not unaccompanied with painful difficulty, respecting the exclusion of that people, as a people, to whom God’s ancient promises were made. With this national rejection of Israel the Apostle now deals: first (9:1-5) expressing his deep sympathy with his own people: then (vv. 6-29) justifying Good, Who has not (vv. 6-13) broken His promise, but from the first chose a portion only of Abraham’s seed, and that (vv. 14-29) by His undoubted elective right, not to be murmured at nor disputed by us His creatures: according to which election a remnant shall now also be saved. Then, as to the rejection of so large a portion of Israel, their own self-righteousness (vv. 30-33) has been the cause of it, and (10:1-12) their ignorance of God’s righteousness,—notwithstanding that (vv. 13-21) their Scriptures plainly declared to them the nature of the Gospel, and its results with regard to themselves and the Gentiles, with which declarations Paul’s preaching was in perfect accordance. Has God then cast off his people (11:1-10)? No—for a remnant shall be saved according to the election of grace, but the rest hardened, not however for the purpose of their destruction, but (11:11-24) of mercy to the Gentiles: which purpose of mercy being fulfilled, Israel shall be brought in again to its proper place of blessing (11:25-32). He concludes the whole with a humble admiration of the unsearchable depth of God’s ways, and the riches of His Wisdom (11:33-36).

In no part of the Epistles of Paul is it more requisite than in this portion, to bear in mind his habit of insulating the one view of the subject under consideration, with which he is at the time dealing. The divine side of the history of Israel and the world is in the greater part of this portion thus insulated: the facts of the divine dealings and the divine decrees insisted on, and the mundane or human side of that history kept for the most part out of sight, and only so much shewn, as to make it manifest that the Jews, on their part, failed of attaining God’s righteousness, and so lost their share in the Gospel.

It must also be remembered, that, whatever inferences, with regard to God’s disposal of individuals, may justly lie from the Apostle’s arguments, the assertions here made by him are universally spoken with a national reference. Of the eternal salvation or rejection of any individual Jew there is here no question: and however logically true of any individual the same conclusion may be shewn to be, we know as matter of fact, that in such cases not the divine, but the human side, is that ever held up by the Apostle—the universality of free grace for all—the riches of God’s mercy to all who call on Him, and consequent exhortations to all, to look to Him and be saved.

De Wette has well shewn, against Reiche and others, that the apparent inconsistencies of the Apostle, at one time speaking of absolute decrees of God, and at another of culpability in man,—at one time of the election of some, at another of a hope of the conversion of all,—resolve themselves into the necessary conditions of thought under which we all are placed, being compelled to acknowledge the divine Sovereignty on the one hand, and human free will on the other, and alternately appearing to lose sight of one of these, as often as for the time we confine our view to the other.

9:1-5.] The Apostle’s deep sympathy with his own people Israel. The subject on which he is about to enter, so unwelcome to Jews in general, coupled with their hostility to himself, and designation of him as a πλάνος (2Corinthians 6:8: compare also 2Corinthians 1:17; 2Corinthians 2:17; 2Corinthians 4:1, 2Corinthians 4:2; 2Corinthians 7:2 al.), causes him to begin with a προπαραίτησις or deprecation, bespeaking credit for simplicity and earnestness in the assertion which is to follow. This deprecation and assertion of sympathy he puts in the forefront of the section, to take at once the ground from those who might charge him, in the conduct of his argument, with hostility to his own alienated people.

I say (the) truth in Christ (as a Christian,—as united to Christ; the ordinary sense of the expression ἐν χριστῷ, so frequent with the Apostle.

It is not an oath, ‘by Christ,’—for though ἐν with ὄμνυμι bears this meaning, we have no instance of it where the verb is not expressed),—I lie not (confirmation of the preceding, by shewing that he was aware of what would be laid to his charge, and distinctly repudiating it),—my conscience bearing me witness of the same (the σύν in composition, as in reff., denoting accordance with the fact, not joint testimony) in the Holy Spirit (much as ἐν χριστῷ above:—a conscience not left to itself but informed and enlightened by the Spirit of God. Strangely enough, Griesb., Knapp, and Koppe take these words also for a formula jurandi, and connect them with οὐ ψεύδομαι), that (not because, or for, as Bengel: ὅτι, as in 2Corinthians 11:10, introducing the matter to which the asseveration was directed,—I say the truth, when I say, that.…) I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. The reason of this grief is reserved for a yet stronger description of his sympathy in the next verse.

3.] For I could wish (the imperf. is not historical, alluding to his days of Pharisaism, as Pelag. and others, but quasi-optative, as in reff. ‘I was wishing,’ had it been possible,—ηὐχόμην εἰ ἐνεχώρει, εἰ ἐνεδέχετο, The sense of the imperf. in such expressions is the proper and strict one (and no new discovery, but common enough in every schoolboy’s reading): the act is unfinished, an obstacle intervening. So in Latin, ‘faciebam, ni …,’ the completed sentence being, ‘faciebam, et perfecissem, ni …’) that I myself (on αὐτὸς ἐγώ see ch. 7:25; it gives emphasis, as ἐγὼ Παῦλος, [2Corinthians 10:1] Galatians 5:2: ‘I, the very person who write this and whom ye know’) were a curse (a thing accursed, ἀνάθεμα in the LXX = חֵרֶם, an irrevocable devotion to God, or, a thing or person so devoted. All persons and animals thus devoted were put to death; none could be redeemed, Leviticus 27:28, Leviticus 27:29. The subsequent scriptural usage of the word arose from this. It never denotes simply an exclusion or excommunication, but always devotion to perdition,—a curse. Attempts have been made to explain away the meaning here, by understanding excommunication, as Grot., Hammond, Le Clerc, &c.; or even natural death only, as Jerome, al.: but excommunication included cursing and delivering over to Satan:—and the mere wish for natural death would, as Chrys. eloquently remarks, be altogether beneath the dignity of the passage. Perhaps the strangest interpretation is that of Dr. Burton: “St. Paul had been set apart and consecrated by Christ to His service; and he had prayed that this devotion of himself might be for the good of his countrymen:”—it is however no unfair sample of a multitude of others, all more or less shrinking from the full meaning of the fervid words of the Apostle) from Christ (i.e. cut off and separated from Him for ever in eternal perdition. No other meaning will satisfy the plain sense of the words. ἀπό in the sense of ὑπό, making Christ the agent of the curse, would be hardly admissible: still less the joining,—as Carpzov and Elsner,—ἀπό with ηὐχόμην. On this wish, compare Exodus 32:32) in behalf of (in the place of; or, if thus I could benefit, deliver from perdition) my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

The wish is evidently not to be pressed as entailing on the Apostle the charge of inconsistency in loving his nation more than his Saviour. It is the expression of an affectionate and self-denying heart, willing to surrender all things, even, if it might be so, eternal glory itself, if thereby he could obtain for his beloved people those blessings of the Gospel which he now enjoyed, but from which they were excluded. Nor does he describe the wish as ever actually formed; only as a conceivable limit to which, if admissible, his self-devotion for them would reach. Others express their love by professing themselves ready to give their life for their friends; he declares the intensity of his affection by reckoning even his spiritual life not too great a price, if it might purchase their salvation.

4.] Not only on their relationship to himself does he ground this sorrow and this self-devotion: but on the recollection of their ancient privileges and glories.

Who are Israelites (a name of honour, see John 1:48; 2Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:5); whose (is) the adoption (see Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 1:2 al.), and the glory (perhaps their general preference and exaltation, consequent on the υἱοθεσία,—but far more probably, as all the other substantives refer to separate matters of fact,—the Shechinah or visible manifestation of the divine Presence on the mercy-seat between the cherubims: see reff.), and the covenants (not, the two tablet of the law,—as Beza, Grot., al.,—which formed but one covenant, and are included in νομοθεσία; nor, the Old and New Testament Covenants,—as , , Galov., Wolf,—see Galatians 4:24 ff.: but the several renewals of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and finally with the whole people at Sinai:—see Genesis 15:9-21; Genesis 17:4, Genesis 17:7, Genesis 17:10; Genesis 26:24; Genesis 28:13; Exodus 24:7, Exodus 24:8 al.), and the law-giving (‘si alii Solonibus et Lycurgis gloriantur, quanto justior est gloriandi materia de Domino!’ Calv. νομοθ. is both the act of giving the Law, and the Law thus given), and the service (ordinances of worship: see ref. Heb.), and the promises (probably only those to the patriarchs, of a Redeemer to come, are here thought of, as the next two clauses place the patriarchs and Christ together without any mention of the prophets. So Abraham is described, Hebrews 7:6, as τὸν ἔχοντα τὰς ἐπαγγελίας),—whose are the fathers (probably to be limited to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:—so De W., but Stephen gives οἱ πατ. a much wider meaning in Acts 7:11, Acts 7:12, Acts 7:19, Acts 7:39, Acts 7:44, and so apparently Paul himself, Acts 13:17. In all those places, however, except Acts 7:19, ἡμῶν follows, whereas here the word is absolute: so that the above limitation may be true),—and of whom is Christ, as far as regards the flesh (τό,—acc., as also in ch. 12:18,—implies that He was not entirely sprung from them, but had another nature: q. d. ‘on his human side,’—‘duntaxat quod attinet ad corpus humanum,’ as Erasmus), who is God Over all (prob. neuter; for τὰ πάντα, not οἱ πάντες, is the equivalent nominative in such sentences: see ch. 11:36) blessed for ever. Amen.

The punctuation and application of this doxology have been much disputed. By the early Church it was generally rendered as above, and applied to Christ,—so , , h. 1., Athan., , Chrys., Theodoret, Theophyl., Œ Wetstein has, it is true, collected passages from the fathers to shew that they applied the words ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων θεός to the Father alone, and protested against their application to the Son; but these passages themselves protest only against the erroneous Noetian or Sabellian view of the identity of the Father and the Son, whereas in Ephesians 4:5, Ephesians 4:6, εἷς κύριος, and εἷς θεὸς κ. πατὴρ πάντων, ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων, are plainly distinguished. That our Lord is not, in the strict exclusive sense, ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων θεός, every Christian will admit, that title being reserved for the Father: but that He is ἐπὶ πάντων θεός, none of the passages goes to deny. Had our text stood ἐξ ὧν ὁ χρ. τὸ κατὰ σάρκα, ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸς ὁ εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, it would have appeared to countenance the above error, which as it now stands it cannot do.

The first trace of a different interpretation, if it be one, is found in an assertion of the emperor (Cyril, p. 321. Wetst.) τὸν γοῦν Ἰησοῦν οὔτε Παῦλος ἐτόλμησεν εἰπεῖν θεόν, οὔτε Ματθαῖος οὔτε Μάρκος, ἀλλʼ ὁ χρηστὸς Ἰωάννης. The next is in the punctuation of two cursive mss. of the twelfth century (5 and 47), which place a period after σάρκα, thus insulating ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων.… ἀμήν, and regarding it as a doxology to God over all, blessed for ever. This is followed by Erasm., Wetst., Semler, Reiche, Köllner, Meyer, Fritzsche, Krehl, al. The objections to this rendering are, (1) ingenuously suggested by Socinus himself (Thol.), and never yet obviated,—that without one exception in Hebrew or Greek, wherever an ascription of blessing is found, the predicate εὐλογητός (בָּרוּךְ) precedes the name of God. (In the one place, Ps. 67:19 LXX, κύρ. ὁ θ. εὐλογητός, εὐλογητὸς κυρ. ἡμέραν καθʼ ἡμέραν, which seems to be an exception, the first εὐλ. has no corresponding word in the Heb. and perhaps may be interpolated. So Stuart, and even Eichhorn, Einleit. ins A. T. p. 320. In Yates’s vindication of Unitarianism, p. 180, this is the only instance cited. Such cases as 3 Kings 10:9; 2Chronicles 9:8; Job 1:21; Psalm 112:2, are no exceptions, as in all of them the verb εἴη or γένοιτο is expressed, requiring the substantive to follow it closely.) And this collocation of words depends, not upon the mere aim at perspicuity of arrangement (Yates, p. 180), but upon the circumstance that the stress is, in a peculiar manner, in such ascriptions of praise, on the predicate, which is used in a pregnant sense, the copula being omitted. (2) That the ὤν, on this rendering, would be superfluous altogether (see below). (3) That the doxology would be unmeaning and frigid in the extreme. It is not the habit of the Apostle to break out into irrelevant ascriptions of praise; and certainly there is here nothing in the immediate context requiring one. If it be said that the survey of all these privileges bestowed on his people prompts the doxology,—surely such a view is most unnatural: for the sad subject of the Apostle’s sympathy, to which he immediately recurs again, is the apparent inanity of all these privileges in the exclusion from life of those who were dignified with them. If it be said that the incarnation of Christ is the exciting cause, the τὸ κατὰ σάρκα comes in most strangely, depreciating, as it would on that supposition, the greatness of the event, which then becomes a source of so lofty a thanksgiving. (4) That the expression εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας is twice besides used by Paul, and each time unquestionably not in an ascription of praise, but in an assertion regarding the subject of the sentence. The places are, ch. 1:25, ἐλάτρευσαν τῇ κτίσει παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα, ὅς ἐστιν εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας. ἀμήν,—and 2Corinthians 11:31, ὁ θεὸς κ. πατὴρ τ. κυρ. Ἰησοῦ οἶδεν, ὁ ὢν εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ὅτι οὐ ψεύδομαι: whereas he twice uses the phrase εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεός as an ascription of praise, without joining εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας. (5) That in the latter of the above-cited passages (2Corinthians 11:31), not only the same phrase as here, but the same construction, ὁ ὤν, occurs, and that there the whole refers to the subject of the sentence.

I do not reckon among the objections the want of any contrast to τὸ κατὰ σάρκα, because that might have well been left to the readers to supply. Another mode of punctuation has been suggested (Locke, Clarke, al.), and indeed is found in one ms. of the same date as above (71): to set a period after πάντων and refer ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων to Christ, understanding by πάντων all the preceding glorious things, or the πατέρες only, or even ‘all things.’ This lies open to all the above objections except (5), and to this in addition, that as Bp. Middleton observes, we must in that case read θεός.

Variety of reading there is none worth notice: the very fathers [ Cypr-ed. Hil-ed. ] generally cited as omitting θεός, having it in the best manuscripts and editions.

Crell (not Schlichting, see Thol. p. 484, note, edn. 1842) proposed (and is followed by Whiston, Whitby, and Taylor) to transpose ὁ ὤν into ὧν ὁ;—but besides the objection to the sense thus arising, εὐλογητός would probably in that case (not necessarily, as Bp. Middleton in loc.) have the art.: not to mention that no conjecture arising from doctrinal difficulty is ever to be admitted in the face of the consensus of mss. and versions.

The rendering given above is then not only that most agreeable to the usage of the Apostle, but the only one admissible by the rules of grammar and arrangement. It also admirably suits the context: for, having enumerated the historic advantages of the Jewish people, he concludes by stating one which ranks far higher than all,—that from them sprung, according to the flesh, He who is God over all, blessed for ever.

ἀμήν implies no optative ascription of praise, but is the accustomed ending of such solemn declarations of the divine Majesty; compare ch. 1:25.

6-13.] God has not broken His promise: for He chose from the first but a portion of the seed of Abraham (6-9), and again only one out of the two sons of Rebecca (10-13).

6.] Not however that (οὐχ οἷον δέ, ὅτι = οὐ τοῖον δὲ λέγω, οἷον ὅτι.…, ‘but I do not mean such a thing, as that.…,’ or ‘the matter however is not so, as that.…’ De W. cites from vi. p. 244, οὐχ οἷον βαδίζει, and from Phrynich. p. 332, οὐχ οἷον ὀργίζομαι, in a similar sense. The rendering, ‘it is not possible that,’ would require ordinarily οἷόν τε with an infinitive,—and St. Paul is asserting, not the impossibility, however true, of God’s word being broken, but the fact, that it was not broken) the word (i.e. the promise) of God has come to nothing (see refif., so Lat., excidit); viz. by many, the majority of the nominal Israel, missing the salvation which seemed to be their inheritance by promise.

For not all who are sprung from Israel (= Jacob, according to Tholuck: but this does not seem necessary: Israel here as well as below may mean the people, but here in the popular sense, there in the divine idea), (these) are Israel (veritably, and in the sense of the promise).

7.] Nor, because they are (physically) the seed of Abraham, are all children (so as to inherit the promise), but (we read), “In Isaac shall thy seed he called” (i.e. those only shall be called truly and properly, for the purposes of the covenant, thy seed, who are descended from Isaac, not those from Ishmael or any other son. Thol. renders καλεῖν here by erwecken, ‘to raise up’):

8.] that is (that amounts, when the facts of the history are recollected, to saying) not [they which are] the children of the flesh (begotten by natural generation, compare John 1:13, and Galatians 4:29) are the children of God; but the children of the promise (begotten not naturally, but by virtue of the divine promise (Galatians 4:23, Galatians 4:28), as Isaac) are reckoned for seed.

9.] For this word was (one) of promise (not, ‘For this was the word of promise,’ i.e. οὗτος γὰρ ὁ λ. τῆς ἐπαγγ. The stress is on ἐπαγγελίας: the children of promise are reckoned for seed: for this word, in fulfilment of which Isaac was born, was a word of promise), According to this time (כָּעֵת חַיָּה, ‘when the time (shall be) reviviscent,’—as De W., Thol., al.:—i.e. next year at this time. The citation is a free one; the LXX has ἐπαναστρέφων ἥξω πρός σε κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον εἰς ὥρας, κ. ἕξει υἱὸν Σάῤῥα ἡ γυνή σου. The change into ἔσται τῇ Σάῤῥᾳ υἱός is probably made for the sake of emphasis—the promise was to Sarah) I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.

10, 11.] And not onlyο) (i.e. not only have we an example of the election of a son of Abraham by one woman, and the rejection of a son by another, but also of election and rejection of the children of the same woman, Rebecca, and that before they were born. οὐ μόνον δέ introduces an à fortiori consideration.

In the construction supply τοῦτο only), but when Rebecca also had conceived (see ref. Num. and ch. 13:13, where the meaning is not exactly the same though cognate) by one man (in the former case, the children were by two wives; the difference between that case and this being, that there, was diversity of parents, here, identity. The points of contrast being then this diversity and identity, the identity of the father also is brought into view. This is well put by Chrys.: ἡ γὰρ Ῥεβέκκα καὶ μόνη τῷ Ἰσαὰκ γέγονε γυνή, καὶ δύο τεκοῦσα παῖδας, ἐκ τοῦ Ἰσαὰκ ἔτεκεν ἀμφοτέρους· ἀλλʼ ὅμως οἱ τεχθέντες τοῦ αὐτοῦ πατρὸς ὄντες, τῆς αὐτῆς μητρός, τὰς αὐτὰς λύσαντες ὠδῖνας, καὶ ὁμοπάτριοι ὄντες καὶ ὁμομήτριοι, καὶ πρὸς τούτοις καὶ δίδυμοι, οὐ τῶν αὐτῶν ἀπήλαυσαν. Hom. xvi. p. 610), our father Isaac (τ. πατ. ἡμ., probably said without any special reference, the Apostle speaking as a Jew. If with any design it might be, as Thol. remarks, to shew that even among the Patriarchs’ children such distinction took place.

Christians being τέκνα ἐπαγγελίας, the expression might apply to them: but, as the same Commentator observes, the argument here is to shew that not all the children of promise belonged to the ἐκλογή. See ch. 4:1-12. As to the construction here, it is best to regard ἀλλὰ καὶ … ἔχουσα … ἡμῶν as a sentence begun but intercepted by the remark following, and resumed in another form at ἐῤῥ. αὐτῇ),—for (not answering to ‘furnishes us an example’ supplied after ἔχουσα, but elliptically put, answering to the apprehension in the Apostle’s mind of the force of the example which he is about to adduce. For this use of γάρ see John 4:44, note; Herod. i. 8, Γύγη, οὐ γὰρ.…; 30, ξεῖνε Ἀθ. παρʼ ἡμέας γὰρ.… Thucyd. i. 72, τῶν δὲ Ἀθ. ἔτυχε γὰρ …; and other examples in Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 467) without their having been yet born (the subject, the children, is to be supplied partly from the fact of her pregnancy just stated, partly from the history, well known to the readers.

μή instead of οὐ is frequently used by later Greek writers in participial clauses: Winer, edn. 6, § 55. 5; so Acts 9:9, ἦν … μὴ βλέπων κ. οὐκ ἔφαγεν …, and Luke 13:11, μὴ δυναμένη ἀνακύψαι. See Schäfer, Demosth. iii. 395, and Hartung, ii. 130-132) or having done anything good or ill (φαῦλ. an unusual word with Paul = properly ἁπλοῦν, ῥᾴδιον, εὐτελές, as Timæus in Lex. to Plato, with whom it is a very common word in this sense. Ruhnken, on the word in Timæus, gives from the Lex. Rhetor. MS., τὸ φ. σημαίνει δέκα· ἐπί τε προσώπου καὶ πράγματος τὸ κακόν. τὸ μικρόν, κ. τὸ εὐκαταφρόνητον, κ. τὸ ἀσθενές. κ. τὸ ἄδοξον. κ. τὸ ἀνόητον, κ.τ.λ. This will shew the connexion of the strict and the wider meaning), [to the end] that the purpose of God according to (purposed in pursuance of, or in accordance with, or (Thol.) with reference to His) election (Thol. prefers taking κατʼ ἐκλ. adjectively, as Bengel has rendered it, ‘propositum electivum,’ and as in Polyb. vi. 34. 8, εἷς ἑκάστης ἀνὴρ λαμβάνεται κατʼ ἐκλογήν, ‘electively’) may (not might; the purpose is treated as one in all time, which would be nullified if once thwarted) abide (stand firm; the opposite of ἐκπίπτειν, see reff. 1 Pet., Isa.),—not [depending on] works (ch. 3:20; 4:2) but on Him that calleth,—(this clause does not seem to depend on any one word of the foregoing or following, as on ἐῤῥέθη, Calv., Luth.;—or μένῃ, Rückert, Meyer;—or κατʼ ἐκλογήν, Fritz.;—but to be a general characteristic of the whole transaction; see a similar ἐκ in ch. 1:17. Thol., De W.

Thus viewed, or indeed however taken, it is decisive against the Pelagianism of the Romanists, who by making our faith as foreseen by God the cause of our election, affirm it to be ἐξ ἔργων. See the matter discussed in Thol.),—it was said to her (ὅτι is recitantis; the LXX have καί), “The elder shall serve the younger” (this prophecy is distinctly connected in Gen_25 with the prophetic description of the children as two nations,—λαὸς λαοῦ ὑπερέξει, καὶ ὁ μείζων κ.τ.λ. But the nations must be considered as spoken of in their progenitors, and the elder nation = that sprung from the elder brother. History records several subjugations of Edom by the kings of Judah; first by David (2Samuel 8:14);—under Joram they rebelled (2Kings 8:20), but were defeated by Amaziah (2Kings 14:7), and Elath taken from them by Uzziah (2Kings 14:22); under Ahaz they were again free, and troubled Judah (2Chronicles 28:16, 2Chronicles 28:17, compare 2Kings 16:6, 2Kings 16:7),—and continued free, as prophesied in Genesis 27:40, till the time of John Hyrcanus, who (Jos. Antt. xiii. 9. 1) reduced them finally, so that thenceforward they were incorporated among the Jews): as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated (there is no necessity here to soften the ‘hated’ into ‘loved less:’ the words in Malachi proceed on the fullest meaning of ἐμίσησα, see ver. 4 there, “The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever”).

14-29.] This election was made by the indubitable right of God, Who is not therefore unjust.

14.] What then shall we say (anticipation of a difficulty or objection, see reff.,—but not put into the mouth of an objector)? Is there unrighteousness (injustice) with (in) God (viz. in that He chooses as He will, without any reference to previous desert)? Let it not be:

15.] for He saith to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomsoever I have meroy, and [I] will have compassion on whomsoever I have compassion.” The citation is from the LXX, who insert the indefinite ἄν, the Heb. being … חַנֹּתִי אֶת־אֲשֶׁר אָחֹן; the meaning apparently being, ‘whenever I have mercy on any, it shall be pure mercy, no human desert contributing;’ which agrees better with the next verse than the ordinary rendering, which lays the stress on the ὃν ἄν; and is not inconsistent with ver. 18, ὃν θέλει, ἐλεᾷ: because if God’s mercy be pure mercy without any desert on man’s part, it necessarily follows that he has mercy on whom He will, His will being the only assignable cause of the selection.

16.] So then (inference from the citation) it is not of (God’s mercy ‘does not belong to,’—‘is not in the power of,’ see reff.) him that willeth (any man willing it) nor of him that runneth (any man contending for it, see reff. and Philippians 3:14. There hardly can be any allusion to Abraham’s wish for Ishmael, Genesis 17:18, and Esau’s running to hunt for venison, as Stuart, Burton, al.), but of God that hath mercy. I must pause again here to remind the student, that I purposely do not enter on the disquisitions so abundant in some commentaries on this part of Scripture, by which it is endeavoured to reconcile the sovereign election of God with our free will. We shall find that free will asserted strongly enough for all edifying purposes by this Apostle, when the time comes. At present, he is employed wholly in asserting the divine Sovereignty, the glorious vision of which it ill becomes us to distract by continual downward looks on this earth. I must also protest against all endeavours to make it appear, that no inference lies from this passage as to the salvation of individuals. It is most true (see remarks at the beginning of this chapter) that the immediate subject is the national rejection of the Jews: but we must consent to hold our reason in abeyance, if we do not recognize the inference, that the sovereign power and free election here proved to belong to God extend to every exercise of His mercy—whether temporal or spiritual—whether in Providence or in Grace—whether national or individual. It is in parts of Scripture like this, that we must be especially careful not to fall short of what is written: not to allow of any compromise of the plain and awful words of God’s Spirit, for the sake of a caution which He Himself does not teach us.

17.] The same great truth shewn on its darker side:—not only as regards God’s mercy, but His wrath also.

For (confirmation of the universal truth of the last inference) the Scripture (identified with God, its Author: the case, as Thol. remarks, is different when merely something contained in Scripture is introduced by ἡ γραφὴ λέγει: there ἡ γρ. is merely personified. The justice of Thol.’s remark will be apparent, if we reflect that this expression could not be used of the mere ordinary words of any man in the historical Scriptures, Ahab, or Hezekiah,—but only where the text itself speaks, or where God spoke, or, as here, some man under inspiration of God) saith to Pharaoh, For this very purpose (ὅτι recitantis; the LXX have καὶ ἕνεκεν τούτου) did I raise thee up (LXX διετηρήθης, ‘thou wert preserved to this day:’ Heb. הֶֽעֱמַדְתִּיךָ from עָמַד, stetit, in Hiph. stare fecit; hence taken to signify (1) ‘constituit, muneri præfecit,’ as 1Kings 12:32; Isaiah 21:6 (LXX σεαυτῷ στῆσον σκόπον); Esther 4:5,—(2) ‘confirmavit,’ as 1Kings 15:4 al.,—and (3) ‘prodire fecit, excitavit,’ Daniel 11:11; Nehemiah 6:7: the meaning ‘incolumem prœstitit,’ given in the Lexicons, seems to be grounded on the following of the LXX in this passage, who apparently understood it of Pharaoh being kept safe through the plagues. This has been done by modern interpreters [perhaps] to avoid the strong assertion which the Apostle here gives, purposely deviating from the LXX, that Pharaoh was ‘raised up,’ called into action in his office, to be an example of God’s dealing with impenitent sinners. The word chosen by the Apostle, ἐξεγείρω, in its transitive sense, is often used by the LXX for ‘to rouse into action:’ see besides reff. Psalm 56:8; Psalm 79:2; Song of Solomon 4:16 al. So that the meaning (3) given above for the Heb. verb—‘prodire fecit, excitavit,’ was evidently that intended by ἐξήγειρα), that I may shew in thee (‘in thee as an example,’—‘in thy case,’—‘by thee’) my power (τ. ἰσχύν μου LXX-B: δύν. (which is read in A) is perhaps chosen by the Apostle as more general, ἰσχύς applying rather to those deeds of miraculous power of which Egypt was then witness), and that my Name may be proclaimed in all the earth (compare as a comment, the words of the song of triumph, Exodus 15:14-16).

18.] Therefore He hath mercy on whom He will (ref. to ver. 15, where see note), and whom He will, He hardeneth.

The frequent recurrence of the expression σκληρύνειν τὴν καρδίαν in the history of Pharaoh should have kept Commentators (Carpzov, Ernesti, al., and of Lexicographers, Wahl and Bretschneider) from attempting to give to σκληρύνω the sense of ‘treating hardly,’ against which the next verse would be decisive, if there were no other reason for rejecting it. But it is very doubtful whether the word can ever bear the meaning. The only passage which appears to justify it (for in 2Chronicles 10:4 it clearly has the import of hardening, making severe) is Job 39:16, where ἀπεσκλήρυνε τὰ τέκνα ἑαυτῆς (αὑτῆς A) the LXX version of the Heb. הִקְשִׁיחַ, is supposed to mean, ‘treats her offspring hardly.’ But the LXX by this compound seem to have intended, ‘casts off her offspring in her hardness;’ the E. V. has, ‘She is hardened against her young ones.’

Whatever difficulty there lies in this assertion, that God hardeneth whom He will, lies also in the daily course of His Providence, in which we see this hardening process going on in the case of the prosperous ungodly man. The fact is patent, whether declared by revelation or read in history: but to the solution of it, and its reconciliation with the equally certain fact of human responsibility, we shall never attain in this imperfect state, however we may strive to do so by subtle refinements and distinctions. The following is the admirable advice of Augustine (ad Sixtum, Ep. 194:6. 23, vol. ii. p. 882), from whom in this case it comes with double weight: “Satis sit interim Christiano ex fide adhuc viventi, et nondum cernenti quod perfectum est, sed ex parte scienti, nosse vel credere quod neminem Deus liberet nisi gratuitâ misericordiâ per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, et neminem damnet nisi æquissimâ veritate per eundem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum. Cur autem illum potius quam ilium liberet aut non liberet, scrutetur qui potest judiciorum ejus tam magnum profundum,—verumtamen caveat præcipitium.”

19.] Thou wilt say then to me (there seems no reason to suppose the objector a Jew, as Thol. after Grot., Calov., Koppe, al.:—the objection is a general one, applying to all mankind, and likely to arise in the mind of any reader. The expression ὦ ἄνθρωπε seems to confirm this), Why then doth He yet find fault (ἔτι as ch. 3:7, assuming your premises,—‘if this be so:’ at the same time it expresses a certain irritation on the part of the objector: ‘exprimit morosum fremitum,’ Bengel. μέμφομαι has a stronger sense than mere blame here: interprets it αἰτιᾶται, ἐξουθενεῖ, καταγινώσκει: see the apocryphal reff. Thol.)? For who resists (not, ‘hath resisted:” ἀνθέστηκεν, like ἕστηκεν, is present, see Winer, edn. 6, § 40. 4. b, and compare ἐφέστηκεν, 2Timothy 4:6) His will (i.e. if it be His will to harden the sinner, and the sinner goes on in his sin, he does not resist but goes with the will of God)? Yea rather (μενοῦνγε, see reff., takes the ground from under the previous assertion and supersedes it by another: implying that it has a certain show of truth, but that the proper view of the matter is yet to be stated. It thus conveys, as in ref. Luke, an intimation of rebuke; here, with severity: ‘that which thou hast said, may be correct human reasoning—but as against God’s sovereignty, thy reasoning is out of place and irrelevant’), O man (perhaps without emphasis implying the contrast between man and God,—for this is done by the emphatic σύ following, and we have ἄνθρωπε unemphatic in ch. 2:1), who art thou that repliest against (the ἀντί seems to imply contradiction, not merely dialogue: see besides reff., ἀνταπόκρισιν, Job 13:22, BCא) God?—implying, ‘thou hast neither right nor power, to call God to account in this manner.’

Notice, that the answer to the objector’s question does not lie in these vv. 20, 21, but in the following (see there);—the present verses are a rebuke administered to the spirit of the objection, which forgets the immeasurable distance between us and God, and the relation of Creator and Disposer in which He stands to us. So Chrys.,—καὶ οὐδὲ τὴν λύσιν εὐθέως ἐπάγει, συμφερόντως καὶ τοῦτο ποιῶν· ἀλλʼ ἐπιστομίζει πρῶτον τὸν ζητοῦντα, λέγων οὕτω μενοῦνγε … θεῷ; ποιεῖ δὲ τοῦτο, τὴν ἄκαιρον αὐτοῦ περιεργίαν ἀναστέλλων, κ. τὴν πολλὴν πολυπραγμοσύνην, κ. χαλινὸν περιτιθείς, κ. παιδεύων εἰδέναι τί μὲν θεὸς τί δὲ ἄνθρωπος, κ. πῶς ἀκατάληπτος αὐτοῦ ἡ πρόνοια, κ. πῶς ὑπερβαίνουσα τὸν ἡμέτερον λογισμόν, κ. πῶς ἅπαντα αὐτῷ πείθεσθαι δεῖ· ἵνα ὅταν τοῦτο κατασκευάσῃ παρὰ τῷ ἀκροατῇ, κ. καταστείλῃ κ. λεάνῃ τὴν γνώμην, τότε μετὰ πολλῆς εὐκολίας ἐπάγων τὴν λύσιν, εὐπαράδεκτον αὐτῷ ποιήσῃ τὸ λεγόμενον. Hom. xvi. p. 614. Similarly Calvin: ‘Hac priori responsione nihil aliud quam improbitatem illius blasphemiæ retundit, argumento ab hominis conditione sumpto. Alteram mox subjiciet, qua Dei justitiam ab omni criminatione vindicabit.’

Shall the thing formed (properly of a production of plastic art, moulded of clay or wax) say to him who formed it, “Why madest thou me thus?”

These words are slightly altered from Isaiah 29:16 LXX,—μὴ ἐρεῖ τὸ πλάσμα τῷ πλάσαντι αὐτό (om. αὐτό Aא), Οὐ σύ με ἔπλασας; ἢ τὸ ποίημα τῷ ποιήσαντι, Οὐ συνετῶς με ἐποίησας

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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