Woe to him that said to his father, What beget you? or to the woman, What have you brought forth?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Woe unto him . . .—The implied argument is that men accept the accident of birth without questioning father or mother as to that which lay beyond the control of either. Should they not a fortiori accept what God orders for nations and individual men?
1. That man is formed by God, and that all his affairs are ordered by him as really as the work of the potter is moulded by the hands of the workman.
2. That God had a design in making man, and in ordering and arranging his circumstances in life.
3. That man is little qualified to judge of that design, and not at all qualified to pronounce it unwise, anymore than the clay could charge him that worked it into a vessel with want of wisdom; and,
4. That God is a sovereign, and does as he pleases. He has formed man as he chose, as really as the potter moulds the clay into any shape which he pleases. He has given him his rank in creation; given him such a body - strong, vigorous, and comely; or feeble, deformed, and sickly, as he pleased; he has given him such an intellect - vigorous, manly, and powerful; or weak, feeble, and timid, as he pleased; he has determined his circumstances in life - whether riches, poverty, an elevated rank, or a depressed condition, just as he saw fit; and he is a sovereign also in the dispensation of his grace - having a right to pardon whom he will; nor has man any right to complain.
This passage, however, should not be adduced to prove that God, in all respects, moulds the character and destiny of people as the potter does the clay. Regard should be had in the interpretation to the fact that God is just, and good, and wise, as well as a sovereign; and that man is himself a moral agent, and subject to the laws of moral agency which God has appointed. God does nothing wrong. He does not compel man to sin, and then condemn him for it. He does not make him a transgressor by physical power, as the potter moulds the clay, and then doom him for it to destruction. He does his pleasure according to the eternal laws of equity; and man has no right to call in question the rectitude of his sovereign dispensations.
Father of all things, as God is called, 1 Corinthians 8:6, for disposing of them and their affairs by his providence as he sees fit, and otherwise than they desire or expect; as. the Jews quarrelled with God for bringing them into captivity, and the Babylonians for translating the empire from them to the Persians.
or to the woman; disdaining to call her mother:
what hast thou brought forth? equally as absurd and impious it was in the Jews to quarrel with Christ for his conversation with sinners, and the reception of them; or for the regeneration of such persons; or to find fault with God for the conversion of the Gentiles, and resent it, and be angry at it, as they were; see Romans 10:19.Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. The impropriety of contending with God exhibited in a still more repellent light. The words “his” and “the” are not expressed in Hebrew; simply “a father,” “a woman.” “The rudest and most outrageous intrusion into an unspeakably delicate and sacred relationship” (Delitzsch).Verse 10. - Woe unto him that saith unto his father, etc.! A change is made in the metaphor, the relationship of a father and his child being substituted for that of a potter and his clay. What would a man think of a child murmuring against his parent for not having made him stronger, handsomer, cleverer? Would not such a child be regarded as most unnatural, and as deserving to have woe denounced upon him? Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee" (see Psychol. pp. 36, 37, 39); and what the God of prophecy here claims for Himself, must not be questioned by false criticism, or weakened down by false apologetics (i.e., by giving up the proper name Cyrus as a gloss in Isaiah 44:28 and Isaiah 45:1; or generalizing it into a king's name, such as Pharaoh, Abimelech, or Agag). The third and last object of this predicted and realized success of the oppressor of nations and deliverer of Israel is the acknowledgement of Jehovah, spreading over the heathen world from the rising and setting of the sun, i.e., in every direction. The ah of וּממּערבה is not a feminine termination (lxx, Targ., Jer.), but a feminine suffix with He raphato pro mappic (Kimchi); compare Isaiah 23:17-18; Isaiah 34:17 (but not נצּה in Isaiah 18:5, or מוּסדה in Isaiah 30:32). Shemesh (the sun) is a feminine here, as in Genesis 15:17, Nahum 3:17, Malachi 4:2, and always in Arabic; for the west is invariably called מערב (Arab. magrib). In Isaiah 45:7 we are led by the context to understand by darkness and evil the penal judgments, through which light and peace, or salvation, break forth for the people of God and the nations generally. But as the prophecy concerning Cyrus closes with this self-assertion of Jehovah, it is unquestionably a natural supposition that there is also a contrast implied to the dualistic system of Zarathustra, which divided the one nature of the Deity into two opposing powers (see Windischmann, Zoroastrische Studien, p. 135). The declaration is so bold, that Marcion appealed to this passage as a proof that the God of the Old Testament was a different being from the God of the New, and not the God of goodness only. The Valentinians and other gnostics also regarded the words "There is no God beside me" in Isaiah, as deceptive words of the Demiurugs. The early church met them with Tertullian's reply, "de his creator profitetur malis quae congruunt judici," and also made use of this self-attestation of the God of revelation as a weapon with which to attack Manicheesism. The meaning of the words is not exhausted by those who content themselves with the assertion, that by the evil (or darkness) we are not to understand the evil of guilt (malum culpae), but the evil of punishment (malum paenae). Undoubtedly, evil as an act is not the direct working of God, but the spontaneous work of a creature endowed with freedom. At the same time, evil, as well as good, has in this sense its origin in God - that He combines within Himself the first principles of love and wrath, the possibility of evil, the self-punishment of evil, and therefore the consciousness of guilt as well as the evil of punishment in the broadest sense. When the apostle celebrates the glory of free grace in Romans 9:11., he stands on that giddy height, to which few are able to follow him without falling headlong into the false conclusions of a decretum absolutum, and the denial of all creaturely freedom.
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