Romans 9
Matthew Poole's Commentary
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
Romans 9:1-5 Paul professeth an unfeigned sorrow for the Jewish nation,

Romans 9:6-13 but proveth by instance from Scripture that the promise

to Abraham did not necessarily include all his descendants,

Romans 9:14-18 asserting that there is no unrighteousness in God’s

bestowing his unmerited bounty on whom he pleaseth,

Romans 9:19-24 and that he was unquestionably free to suspend his

judgments, where deserved, either for the more signal

display of his power in taking vengeance on some, or

of his mercy in calling others to glory.

Romans 9:26-29 The calling of the Gentiles, and rejection of the

Jews, foretold.

Romans 9:30,31 Accordingly, the Gentiles have attained the

righteousness of faith, which the Jews refused.

Romans 9:32,33 The cause of such refusal.

The apostle being about to treat of the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, before he enters upon it, he premiseth a preface, to prepare the minds of the Jews to a patient reading or hearing the same; and in this preface, he solemnly protesteth his love to his nation, and his hearty grief for their rejection, that so it might the better appear, that these things were not written out of any spleen or malice, but out of conscience towards God and the truth.

I say truth in Christ; or, by Christ: so the word in is taken, Matthew 5:34-36. This is the form of an oath, which the Scripture elsewhere useth in matters of importance: see Genesis 22:16 Daniel 12:7 Ephesians 4:17.

I lie not; this is added for confirmation, or to gain the greater credit to what he said or swore. It was the manner of the Hebrews, to an affirmative to add a negative: see 1 Samuel 3:18 John 1:20.

My conscience also bearing me witness; as being for this purpose placed in man by God, and is instead of a thousand witnesses.

In the Holy Ghost; i.e. in the presence of the Holy Ghost, who is privy to what I say, and who is a witness also to the truth thereof: or, as some, by the guidance of the Holy Ghost, who cannot lie.

That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
His grief for his nation and people he expresseth,

1. By the greatness of it; it was such as a woman hath in travail so the word imports.

2. By the continuance of it; it was continual, or without intermission.

3. By the seat of it; it was in his heart, and not outward in his face. The cause he doth not here set down, but it is easily gathered from what follows, viz. the obstinacy and infidelity, together with the rejection, of the Jews.

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ; or, separated from Christ. This verse hath greatly vexed interpreters. Some read it, I did wish myself accursed from Christ: q.d. Before my conversion, I was willing to be accursed from Christ, to be a violent persecutor of the Christians, and so to be held of them as accursed for my brethren’s sake. The vulgar Latin, and many Romanists, thus render the word hucomhn, in the text; but the generality of interpreters read it as we do, not indicatively, but potentially; and they make an ellipsis in the words, hucomhn pro hucoimhn an; the like is frequent; see Acts 25:22 1 Corinthians 2:8 2 Corinthians 11:1. But then still the difficulty is, how, and in what sense, the apostle wished himself accursed, or separated from Christ. The received opinion is, that out of zeal to the glory of God, and love to his brethren, he was willing to be damned, that they all might be saved. Many of the ancients did thus expound this place: "Christ became a curse for us; and what marvel is it" (says one) "if the Lord would be made a curse for the servants, that a servant should be willing to become an anathema for the brethren." "He doth not wish" (says another) "for his brethren’s sake to be separated from the love and grace of Christ, but from the comforts of Christ, and the future happiness that we have by him: he is content to lose his part in the heavenly glory, if that might promote the glory of Christ, which would be more illustrated by the saving a whole nation, than a particular person: q.d. If this might be the fruit of it, if it would gain this end, I could, methinks, be content to part with all my hopes in Christ, even my eternal happiness, upon condition my brethren might be partakers thereof; so passionate and abundant love have I to and for them." This exposition is not satisfactory; therefore so, he think the apostle here speaks of being accursed only for a season, or of being an anathema in this world. An anathema sometimes signifieth corporal death and destruction: of old, in times of common calamity, they were wont to sacrifice men to their idols and infernal gods, for the pacifying of their anger; such a sacrifice they called anathema, which is the word here used: q.d. For my brethren’s sake, that so they might be saved, I could be content to be cut off, to be made a sacrifice, to die the worst of deaths. But if this be admitted, how then is that clause to be understood, from Christ? It is not, I could wish myself an anathema, but an anathema from Christ. To this they answer that favour this interpretation, That instead of from Christ, you may read, by Christ: q.d. I could be content to be cut off or destroyed by Christ, that my brethren might be saved. This sense of the words suits well with the zeal and kindness of Moses to his brethren, Exodus 32:32; rather than they should not be pardoned and spared, he prays, that God would blot him out of the book that he had written: see annotations there. There is yet another, and a more probable, interpretation of this wish of the apostle. It is as if he had said, I could be willing to be separated or excommunicated from the church of Christ, for the sake and salvation of my country and nation. Anathema (says Hesychius) signifies akoinwnhtov, excommunicate; 1 Corinthians 16:22: If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema; let him be removed from the Christian assemblies, deprived of those Christian privileges that are afforded there. Galatians 1:8,9, Let him be an anathema that teacheth another gospel; i.e. turned out of the church of Christ, and avoided by all true Christians. If this sense be admitted, then from Christ must signify, from the body of Christ; and so the word Christ is used, 1 Corinthians 12:12 Galatians 3:27. Christ being the Head of the body, he that is cut off from the body may be truly enough said to be cut off from Christ. Thus the apostle Paul, who was accused and persecuted by the Jews, for having made a defection from the law of Moses, and setting up Christian assemblies in opposition to their Judaical service, doth fitly express his kindness and love to them, in wishing himself deprived of those most valuable privileges, on condition they night be partakers thereof. To this it may be added, that in the primitive times, this anathematizing, or excommunicating, was attended with delivering up to Satan, and that with destruction of the flesh, with very sharp and severe punishments upon the bodies of men. And so anathema, in this notion, may be taken with this improvement, and may contain all those temporal calamities that he was willing to endure and undergo for their good: see D.H. in loc.

My kinsmen according to the flesh; so the Jews were by natural descent: see Genesis 29:14.

Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
In this and the following verse, he rehearseth the privileges and advantages the Jews had from God, above all other nations of the earth; and this he doth to show, that he had good reason to make such a wish, as in the foregoing verse; as also, that what he should declare concerning the Jews, and their ejection, did not proceed from any disrespect or disesteem of them.

Israelites; i.e. the offspring of that holy patriarch Israel: this was the Jews’ first title of honour, that they descended from him, who by God himself was surnamed Israel, or a prince that had power with God, and prevailed, Genesis 32:28.

The adoption; adoption is not here to be understood as before, in Romans 8:15, or as in Ephesians 1:5, and elsewhere. But thereby we must understand the peculiar privilege of the seed of Jacob; that they, of all the nations of the earth, were pitched upon to be nearly related to God, to be his children (as they are called) and his firstborn: see Exodus 4:22 Deu 14:1 Jeremiah 31:9,20 Mt 15:26.

The glory; the ark and the temple; so called, because in them God did manifest his glorious presence, 1 Samuel 4:21,22 Psa 26:8 78:61.

The covenants; some understand by covenants, the tables of the law: see Hebrews 9:4. Others rather understand the covenant made with Abraham, Genesis 15:8 17:2,7; and with the Jewish nation, Exodus 24:7,8 Exo 34:27, &c. Circumcision also may be intended, for that is called God’s covenant, Genesis 17:10.

The giving of the law; the judicial, ceremonial, but especially the moral law. This is spoken of as a great privilege, Deu 4:8,32. It may refer both to the law itself, and to the circumstances, also, with which the law was given.

The service of God; the true manner of worshipping God, which was a great privilege. Other nations knew there was a God, and that he must be worshipped, but they knew not how; and so they ran into superstition and idolatry.

The promises; of this life, and that to come; particularly of the Messiah, and of the benefits and blessings by him. These are found in Moses and the prophets, and were entailed upon the Jews and their children, Acts 2:39 Ephesians 2:12, till God at last cut off the entail.

Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Whose are the fathers; who are lineally descended of the holy patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with other holy fathers and prophets, and of the same blood. This was also a great privilege, of which the Jews boasted.

Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came; or out of whom; understand the people of the Jews, not the fathers. The meaning is, Christ took his human nature of their stock. It is the great honour of mankind, that Christ took not the nature of angels, but of man; and it is a great honour to the nation of the Jews, that he took the seed of Abraham their father.

Who is over all, God blessed for ever; this is the fullest place to express the two natures that are in the person of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ; he was God as well as man: yea, this is the title by which the one and supreme God was known amongst the Jews.

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
An objection is here obviated: the Jews might object and say: If they were cast off and rejected, then God is unfaithful, and all his promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their seed, are ineffectual. To this he answers by a distinction of Israelites. Some are Israelites only in respect of their carnal generation; and others, again, are true Israelites, children of the promise, and of the faith of Abraham: see Romans 2:28,29. Now the promises of God were made to the true Israelites, and in all such it is effectual: and under the name of Israel, or true Israelites, all those are comprehended, who imitate the faith of Abraham, and walk in his steps, whether they descended from him by fleshly generation or not. This he further asserts in the following verse.

Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
He had before made a difference of Israelites, and now he makes a difference of the seed of Abraham. This was ever and anon in the mouths of the Jews: We are Abraham’s seed, John 8:33. But here he tells them, that all Abraham’s seed were not the children of the promise; for it was said to Sarah, Genesis 21:12, that the promised seed should be confined to Isaac’s line, of his issue should the Messiah come, and all the true seed of Abraham, who are born after the manner of Isaac, by the word and promise of God. And as Ishmael, though Abraham’s natural seed, was cast out, and therein was a type of those who are born only according to the flesh; so Isaac is a type of Abraham’s spiritual seed, who are born not of the power of nature, but by virtue of the promise of God.

That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
q.d. That I may speak more plainly, all those that are the children of Abraham according to the flesh, are not therefore the adopted children of God; it is not their blood, but their faith, must make them such. There are some of Abraham’s seed, that are selected from the rest, to whom the promise was made, who are therefore called

children of the promise; and of this sort are all they who are born after the Spirit, ( as Isaac is said to be, Galatians 4:29), whether Jews or Gentiles. The sense of this verse is fully expressed, Galatians 3:8,14,29: see Galatians 4:28.

For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.
The birth of Isaac was a thing extraordinary; for which, neither Abraham nor Sarah had any ground to hope, but only that promise made, Genesis 18:10, in these words: At this time, or according to this time, i.e. the time of bearing children after conception,

will I come, and Sarah shall have a son; i.e. I will manifest my power in fulfilling my promise of giving thee a son. By which it is clear, that the birth of Isaac was an effect of God’s promise, and nothing else. So that they to whom the promise belong, (whosoever they be), they are the seed of Abraham, and, upon the obedience of faith, shall be accepted for the children of God. The apostle Peter tells women, (whether Jews or Gentiles, it matters not), that by well-doing they become the daughters of Sarah.

And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
And not only this; some read it, And not only she; the particle this is not in the Greek.

When Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac: this instance is added, because there might be some objection against the former; as if there were some reason why God chose Isaac, and refused Ishmael. Isaac was born of a free-woman, and when Abraham was uncircumcised: besides, Ishmael no sooner came to years, but he showed some tokens of perverseness, and of a wicked spirit. Therefore, in this and the three following verses, he gives another, which was beyond all exception; and that is in Esau and Jacob, betwixt whom there was no disparity, either in birth or in works: they had both one and the same mother; Rebecca conceived with them at one and the same time, and that by no other person than our father Isaac; and yet the one of these is chosen, and the other refused. Tills now was an undeniable proof, that the promise belongs not to all the children of Abraham, or of Isaac, according to the flesh; all the seed of neither are the children of the promise.

(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
For the children being not yet born: q.d. As there was nothing in the birth of those twins, so neither in their works, that occasioned the difference that God made between them; for when God spake of what should happen to them, they were unborn, and had done neither good nor evil.

Neither having done any good or evil; he means, actual good or evil, such as might difference them one from another. As for original sin, they were both alike tainted therewith.

That the purpose of God; this purpose of God is to be understood about reprobation, or (if you will) rejection, or preterition, as well as about election.

Might stand; be firm or stable.

Not of works, either done or foreseen.

But of him that calleth; i.e. of the good pleasure and undeserved favour of God, who also effectually calleth those that he hath elected, as Romans 8:30. See a parallel place, 2 Timothy 1:9.

It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
This verse is to be read with Romans 9:10,11 being a parenthesis. Then when she resorted to the Lord for counsel, about the struggling of the children in her womb, it was told her, or revealed to her of God, that

the elder should serve the younger: of the sense of which words, sea annotations on Genesis 25:23, where they are recorded.

As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
The foregoing oracle is expounded by another, taken out of Malachi 1:2,3; see the annotations there. Because the foregoing passage of Esau’s serving Jacob doth not seem so full and clear, to betoken the election of Jacob, and the rejection of Esau, in the purpose of God, therefore the apostle brings this place to explain the former; and proves that the service or subjection of Esau to Jacob, was accompanied with God’s eternal and undeserved love of the one, and his just and righteous hatred of the other. There are some, that by Esau and Jacob do understand their posterity, and not their persons; that say, the love and hatred of God, in the forecited text, doth only or chiefly respect temporal things; God loved Jacob, i.e. he gave him the Land of Promise; but hated Esau, i.e. he gave him a dry and barren country, and made his mountain waste: that by God’s hating Esau, is only meant he loved him less than Jacob, &c. Such should consider, that the scope of the apostle is to show, that some are the children of God, and of the promise, and not others; and they must not make him cite testimonies out of the Old Testament impertinently. Much is written pro and con upon this argument. But I remember, he that writes a commentary must not too far involve himself in controversy.

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
Another anticipation of an objection. Some might object and say: If God elect some, and reject others, their case being the same, or their persons being in themselves equal and alike, then he is unjust and partial. To this he answers,

1. More generally, with his repeated note of detestation: God forbid; the Syriac translator reads it, God forgive; noting thereby the heinousness of such a thought and then he answers this cavil more particularly; showing:

1. That God is not unjust in electing some, Romans 9:15,16. And,

2. That he is not unjust in rejecting others, Romans 9:17.

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
q.d. God is not chargeable with any injustice in electing some, and not others; for this is an act of mere mercy and compassion, and that can be no violation of justice. To prove this, he cites a testimony out of Exodus 33:19, which see. There he tells Moses, that the good pleasure of his will was the only rule of all his favourable and merciful dealings with the children of men. The same thing is intended and expressed in two several phrases: and the ingemination imports the freeness of God’s mercy; nothing moves him thereunto, but his own gracious inclination; and also the arbitrariness thereof; it depends only upon his good will and pleasure. The sum is, if God show mercy to some, and not to others, he cannot be accused of injustice, because he injures none; nor is he obliged or indebted to any.

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
q.d. God’s election is not of Jacob’s, or of any other man’s, willing or running; i.e. it is not from his good desires or deeds, his good inclinations or actions, or from the foresight thereof; but it is of God’s mere mercy and good pleasure. This text wounds Pelagianism under the fifth rib. Nec volenti, nec volanti, was the motto of a noble personage.

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
This verse shows, that God is not unjust in rejecting others of equal condition with the elect; for the proof of which, he cites a testimony out of Exodus 9:16. This verse must be joined with Romans 9:14.

God forbid; for the Scripture saith, i.e. God saith in the Scripture:

Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up; i.e. I have created or promoted thee to be king in Egypt. Or, (as some), I have raised or stirred thee up to oppress my people. Or, I have hardened thee, as it follows in the next verse, and given thee up to thy own rebellious and obstinate mind.

That I might show my power in thee, &c.: I have done what I have done for this very end, that the whole world may ring of my power and glory. And this shows, that it is not unjust in God to reject sinners of the children of men, because thereby he furthers his own glory. For this end all things are made, and all things are accordingly ordered and disposed, Proverbs 16:4.

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
This verse is a short repetition of the foregoing argument.

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy: see Romans 9:15, and the notes there.

And whom he will he hardeneth; i.e. in a judicial way. Besides natural hardness, which is in all men, and is hereditary to them; and habitual hardness, which is contracted by a custom in sin, as a path is hardened by the continual trampling of passengers; there is judicial or judiciary hardness, which is inflicted by God as a punishment. Men harden their own hearts sinfully, (so it is thrice said of Pharaoh in Exodus, that he hardened his own heart, Exodus 8:15,32 9:34), and then God hardens their hearts judicially: so it is often said of God in Exodus, that he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Exodus 7:13 Exodus 9:12 10:1,20,27 14:8. God is not said properly to harden the hearts of men; i.e. he doth not make their soft hearts hard, nor doth he put hardness into the hearts of men, (as our adversaries slanderously report us to affirm), nor doth he barely permit or suffer them to be hardened (which is the opinion of the papists about this matter); but two ways may he be said to harden sinners:

1. By forsaking them, and not softening their hearts: as darkness follows upon the sun’s withdrawing of his light, so doth hardness upon God’s withholding his softening influence.

2. By punishing them; he inflicts further hardness, as a punishment of former hardness; and this he infuseth not, but it is effected either:

a) By Satan, to whom hardened sinners are delivered up; or,

b) By themselves, they being given over to their own hearts’ lusts; or,

c) By God’s word and works, which accidentally harden the hearts of men, as might be shown. {see Romans 9:19}

See Poole on "Romans 9:19".

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
Here he obviates a third objection or cavil. The first was, that God is unfaithful, Romans 9:6; the second, that God is unjust, Romans 9:14; now the third is, that God is severe and cruel. Some might object and say, If God, in those courses which he takes with men and sinners, doth follow only his own will and pleasure, and all things are done thereafter; why then doth he complain of sinners, and find fault with them? It seems it is his will to reject them; and who hath resisted, or can make resistance thereunto? It seems to be a common saying amongst the Hebrews, that None can withstand God: Romans 9:2 2 Chronicles 20:6, and elsewhere.

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?
Here follows the answer to this cavil; which is either personal to the caviller, in this and the next verse, or real to the cavil, in the two following verses.

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? The apostle seems to speak these words with some warmth, as if his spirit and zeal was stirred at the sauciness of the caviller: q.d. Dost thou consider what thou art? Thou art but a man, a piece of living clay, a little breathing dust, a contemptible worm in comparison; and darest thou to word it with God, to dispute with thy Maker, to question or call him to an account? You may argue matters with your fellow creatures, but not with your Creator: see Isaiah 45:9,10, from whence this seems to be borrowed, and Job 40:2.

Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? q.d. Shall the wood quarrel with the carpenter, the iron with the smith; or, as it is in the next verse, the clay with the potter?

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
He argueth from the less to the greater, that if a potter hath power over his clay, to form it as he pleaseth, then God hath much more power over his creatures, to form them or order them as he listeth. God’s authority over his creature, is greater than that of a potter over his clay. The potter made not his clay; but both clay and potter are made by God. Here is something implied, that as there is no difference in the matter or lump out of which the potter frameth diversity of vessels, so there is no difference in mankind; all men are alike by nature, and in the same corrupt state; both those who are elected, and those who are rejected, that are made vessels of mercy, or vessels of wrath. And here is this expressed, that as the potter maketh vessels of honour or dishonour, of nobler or viler use, out of the same lump, as he listeth, and is not bound to give a reason of his so doing to his pots; so God may choose some, and reject others, and give no account thereof unto his creatures. The potter takes nothing from the clay, of what form soever he makes it; and the Creator doth no wrong to the creature, however he doth dispose of it.

What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
In this and in the next verse, is a real answer to the cavil in Romans 9:19. The apostle having spoken before of God’s absolute right and power over his creatures, to dispose of them at his pleasure, as the potter doth his clay; lest any should tax God with tyranny and partiality towards his creatures, he subjoineth the reasons of his different proceedings with the one and with the other. q.d. What hast thou to answer or object against God, if he take a severe course with some? Seeing:

1. He thereby manifesteth his great displeasure against sin, and his power to take vengeance of sinners. Seeing:

2. He bears long with them in their sins; exerciseth great patience towards them in the midst of their provocations, giving them space to repent, if they call or will. And seeing:

3. They are vessels of wrath, fitted to destruction; partly by themselves, and their own sensual courses; partly by God’s righteous judgment, who gives them up thereunto.

And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
q.d. Again, on the other side, what hast thou to say, if he proceed more mercifully with others? Seeing:

1. He thereby manifesteth the riches of his glory, or his glorious grace; and seeing:

2. They are vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory; i.e. he had done it by election from eternity, and by regeneration and sanctification of the Spirit in time. He speaks here of two sorts of vessels, some of wrath, and some of mercy, as he had before spoken of vessels of honour, and of dishonour. Concerning the latter, he speaks passively, that they are fitted to destruction: see Romans 9:22. Concerning the former, he speaks actively, that God hath prepared them unto glory.

Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Hitherto he hath been showing, that the promise was never made or meant to the carnal seed of Abraham. This argument he began, Romans 9:6,7, and he continues it (using several apostrophes and amplifications, which were to his purpose) till he comes to these words; and here he tells you plainly who are the true seed of Abraham, and the children of the promise, even the called of God of all nations, whether Jews or Gentiles. And he takes occasion to fall into it, by speaking of some in the foregoing verse, that were vessels of mercy, afore prepared unto glory: now here, in this verse, he tells you, who these are; (and to be sure they are the persons he is inquiring after, viz. the spiritual seed of Abraham, and the children of the promise:) he says, they are such as God called; i.e. effectually called,

not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles; and that this is so, he further proves in the following verse.

As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
Here the apostle proves, that the Gentiles were children of the Promise, or that the promise belonged to them, as well as to the Jews: and because the Jews could not endure to hear of this, he cites two testimonies out of Hosea, to convince them: one is in this verse, and it is taken out of Hosea 2:23; the other is in the following verse.

And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
This testimony is taken out of Hosea 1:10; and it is as if he had said: This that I affirm concerning the conversion and calling of the Gentiles, is nothing else but what the prophet Hosea long ago did preach to our fathers. Some think, these places in Hosea do speak primarily of the Jews, and but secondarily, or by consequence, of the Gentiles. Others think, that they speak chiefly of the Gentiles; those terms (not beloved, and not a people) being in Scripture mostly used of them.

Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
In this and the two next verses he proves, that it was foretold of old, by Esaias the prophet, that God should pass by the greatest part of the Jews, and save only a remnant, or a few of them.

Crieth; hereby is noted the prophet’s zeal, or his openness and plainness. The testimony recorded, is found in Isaiah 10:22,23.

As the sand of the sea; for number or multitude, for so the promise was to Abraham, Genesis 22:17 32:12.

Shall be saved: Isaiah saith, shall return; i.e. from the captivity, or from sin, as it is, Isaiah 10:21. This shows, none can be saved but they who return and repent.

For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
This verse is also found in that forecited place, Isaiah 10:22,23. The apostle in this, and in the other citations, follows the Seventy, which was a received translation, and had been in request about three hundred years, though in this, and in other places, it is very different from the Hebrew text. That which God is said to finish, and cut short, is his work; the Greek is logov, which signifies his word, or the account, as some read it. This is brought in as a reason why a remnant only should be saved; because God would shorten the acconnt, or (as we read it) make a short work, in the Jewish World. He would bring a sudden destruction upon that people. Sennacherib and the Assyrians, or Titus Vespasian and the Romans, shall make a complete and speedy conquest of them; few of them shall remain, the greater part being involved, first in infidelity, then in destruction. The apostle makes those few to be a type of God’s elect among that people, that should be saved by faith in Jesus Christ.

And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.
As Esaias said before; in Isaiah 1:9.

The Lord of sabaoth; or, of hosts: the mighty God, whose hosts all creatures are, which execute his will, as soldiers the will of their commander.

Had left us a seed: he means by a seed, the same that he meant before by a remnant, a small number. These were left as a little seed, out of a great heap of corn: that which is chosen, and left for seed, is little in comparison of the whole crop.

We had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha; i.e. utterly wasted and destroyed as they were, Jeremiah 50:40.

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
This is the conclusion of the apostle’s discourse about the election of some and the rejection of others; as also about the calling of the Gentiles and the casting off the Jews.

Which followed not after righteousness; that never minded or regarded it; instead of following after it, they fled from it. They were full of all unrighteousness, Romans 1:18, to the end; Ephesians 2:2,3.

The righteousness which is of faith; viz. gospel righteousness, or the righteousness of Christ, which is received by true faith.

But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness; i.e. the unbelieving Jews, who paid great reverence to the law of God, regarding and observing the outward precepts and ceremonies thereof.

Hath not attained to the law of righteousness; they came short of that righteousness which the law requires, which God will accept, and which is to be attained, not by works, but by faith, as it follows in the next verse (see Romans 9:32).

Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
Here is the reason of the foregoing seeming paradox; why they, who followed after the law of righteousness, should not attain it, rather than other.

Because they sought it not aright; they sought it not in a way of believing, but of working. These two are opposed in the business of justification, as before at large, in Romans 9:3,4.

As it were by the works of the law; i.e. as if they could have attained righteousness or justification in that way, which it was impossible to do.

They stumbled at that stumbling-stone; i.e. the true Messiah: q.d. So far were they from seeking righteousness by Christ, that, on the contrary, they took offence at him, to their own destruction, Mark 6:3 1 Corinthians 1:23. They thought it impossible that he should give them a righteousness better than their own. This happened to them according to the prophecy that went before them: so it followeth;

As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
As it is written; viz. in Isaiah 8:14, and Isaiah 28:16; to which prophecy also the apostle Peter refers, in 1 Peter 2:6-8.

A stumbling stone; Jesus Christ is properly a corner-stone, elect and precious; but accidentally and eventually a stumbling-stone, Luke 2:34.

Ashamed; or confounded. Isaiah saith, he that believeth; the apostle, whosoever believeth; which is much the same: an indefinite proposition is equivalent to a universal. The prophet saith: He that believeth shall not make haste; the apostle, he

shall not be ashamed. He that is rash and hasty will at last be ashamed and confounded.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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