Romans 1:31
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
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(31) Without understandingi.e., without moral or spiritual understanding; incapable of discriminating between right and wrong, expedient and inexpedient. St. Paul prays that the Colossians may possess this faculty (Colossians 1:9).

Without natural affection.—The affection founded upon natural relationship—e.g., between parent and child, husband and wife, brother and sister. In illustration of this particular expression, we may remember that infanticide and divorce were very common at this period.

1:26-32 In the horrid depravity of the heathen, the truth of our Lord's words was shown: Light was come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil; for he that doeth evil hateth the light. The truth was not to their taste. And we all know how soon a man will contrive, against the strongest evidence, to reason himself out of the belief of what he dislikes. But a man cannot be brought to greater slavery than to be given up to his own lusts. As the Gentiles did not like to keep God in their knowledge, they committed crimes wholly against reason and their own welfare. The nature of man, whether pagan or Christian, is still the same; and the charges of the apostle apply more or less to the state and character of men at all times, till they are brought to full submission to the faith of Christ, and renewed by Divine power. There never yet was a man, who had not reason to lament his strong corruptions, and his secret dislike to the will of God. Therefore this chapter is a call to self-examination, the end of which should be, a deep conviction of sin, and of the necessity of deliverance from a state of condemnation.Without understanding - Inconsiderate, or foolish; see Romans 1:21-22.

Covenant breakers - Perfidious; false to their contracts.

Without natural affections - This expression denotes the lack of affectionate regard toward their children. The attachment of parents to children is one of the strongest in nature, and nothing can overcome it but the most confirmed and established wickedness. And yet the apostle charges on the pagan generally the lack of this affection. He doubtless refers here to the practice so common among pagans of exposing their children, or putting them to death. This crime, so abhorrent to all the feelings of humanity, was common among the pagan, and is still. The Canaanites, we are told Psalm 106:37-38, "sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan." Manasseh among the Jews imitated their example, and introduced the horrid custom of sacrificing children to Moloch, and set the example by offering his own; 2 Chronicles 33:6.

Among the ancient Persians it was a common custom to bury children alive. In most of the Grecian states, infanticide was not merely permitted, but actually enforced by law. The Spartan lawgiver expressly ordained that every child that was born should be examined by the ancient men of the tribe, and that if found weak or deformed, should be thrown into a deep cavern at the foot of Mount Taygetus. Aristotle, in his work on government, enjoins the exposure of children that are naturally feeble and deformed, in order to prevent an excess of population. But among all the nations of antiquity, the Romans were the most unrelenting in their treatment of infants. Romulus obliged the citizens to bring up all their male children, and the oldest of the females, proof that the others were to be destroyed. The Roman father had an absolute right over the life of his child, and we have abundant proof that that right was often exercised.

Romulus expressly authorized the destruction of all children that were deformed, only requiring the parents to exhibit them to their five nearest neighbors, and to obtain their consent to their death. The law of the Twelve Tables enacted in the 301st year of Rome, sanctioned the same barbarous practice. Minucius Felix thus describes the barbarity of the Romans in this respect: "I see you exposing your infants to wild beasts and birds, or strangling them after the most miserable manner." (chapter xxx.) Pliny the older defends the right of parents to destroy their children, upon the ground of its being necessary in order to preserve the population within proper bounds. Tertullian, in his apology, expresses himself boldly on this subject. "How many of you (addressing himself to the Roman people, and to the governors of cities and provinces) might I deservedly charge with infant murder; and not only so, but among the different kinds of death, for choosing some of the cruelest for their own children, such as drowning, or starving with cold or hunger, or exposing to the mercy of dogs; dying by the sword being too sweet a death for children."

Nor was this practice arrested in the Roman government until the time of Constantine, the first Christian prince. The Phoenicians and Carthaginians were in the habit of sacrificing infants to the gods. It may be added that the crime is no less common among modern pagan nations. No less than 9000 children are exposed in Pekin in China annually. Persons are employed by the police to go through the city with carts every morning to pick up all the children that may have been thrown out during the night. The bodies are carried to a common pit without the walls of the city, into which all, whether dead or living, are promiscuously thrown. (Barrow's Travels in China, p. 113, Amos ed.) Among the Hindus the practice is perhaps still more common. In the provinces of Cutch and Guzerat alone the number of infantile murders amounted, according to the lowest calculation in 1807, to 3,000 annually; according to another calculation, to 30,000.

Females are almost the only victims. (Buchanan's Researches in Asia, Eng. ed. p. 49. Ward's View of the Hindus.) In Otaheite, previously to the conversion of the people to Christianity. it was estimated that at least two-thirds of the children were destroyed. (Turnbull's Voyage round the World in 1800, 2, 3, and 4.) The natives of New South Wales were in the habit of burying the child with its mother, if she should happen to die. (Collins' Account of the Colony of New South Wales, p. 124, 125.) Among the Hottentots, infanticide is a common crime. "The altars of the Mexicans were continually drenched in the blood of infants." In Peru, no less than two hundred infants were sacrificed on occasion of the coronation of the Inca. The authority for these melancholy statements may be seen in Beck's Medical Jurisprudence, vol. i.-18-197, ed. 1823; see also Robertson's History of America, p. 221, ed. 1821. This is a specimen of the views and feelings of the pagan world; and the painful narrative might be continued to almost any length. After this statement, it cannot surely be deemed a groundless charge when the apostle accused them of being destitute of natural affection.

Implacable - This word properly denotes those who will not be reconciled where there is a quarrel; or who pursue the offender with unyielding revenge. It denotes an unforgiving temper; and was doubtless common among the ancients, as it is among all pagan people. The aborigines of America have given the most striking manifestation of this that the world has known. It is well known that among them, neither time nor distance will obliterate the memory of an offence; and that the avenger will pursue the offender over hills and streams, and through heat or snow, happy if he may at last, though at the expiration of years, bury the tomahawk in the head of his victim, though it may be at the expense of his own life. See Robertson's America, book iv. Section lxxiii. - lxxxi.

Unmerciful - Destitute of compassion. As a proof of this, we may remark that no provisions for the poor or the infirm were made among the pagan. The sick and the infirm were cast out, and doomed to depend on the stinted charity of individuals. Pure religion, only, opens the heart to the appeals of want; and nothing but Christianity has yet expanded the hearts of people to make public provisions for the poor, the ignorant, and the afflicted.

30. haters of God—The word usually signifies "God-hated," which some here prefer, in the sense of "abhorred of the Lord"; expressing the detestableness of their character in His sight (compare Pr 22:14; Ps 73:20). But the active sense of the word, adopted in our version and by the majority of expositors, though rarer, agrees perhaps better with the context. Without understanding; or, without conscience; sunesiv, or snueidhsiv, being much the same.

Without natural affection; this evil also reigned amongst the Gentiles, who sacrificed their very children to their idols, and otherwise exposed them to ruin: see 2 Timothy 3:3.

Implacable; or, irreconcilable and vindictive.

Without understanding,.... Of God, of his nature and worship, of things divine and even moral, being given up to a reprobate mind:

covenant breakers; had no regard to private or public contracts:

without natural affection; to their parents, children, relations and friends:

implacable; when once offended there was no reconciling of them:

unmerciful; had no pity and compassion to persons in distress.

Without understanding, {n} covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

(n) Not caring if they keep their covenants and bargains.

31. without understanding, covenant-breakers] The Gr. words are almost identical in form and sound. On “without understanding” see note on Romans 1:21, where “foolish” represents the same Greek word; an epithet full of deep meaning.

implacable] Lit. truce-less; an adjective used in the classics for inevitable death and internecine war. The word is perhaps to be omitted here; but evidence is far from decisive.

Romans 1:31. Ἀσυνθέτους). The LXX. translate the Hebrew words בגד, to act with perfidy, מעל, to prevaricate, by ἀσυνθετε͂ιν.[19]

[19] The Vulg. translates ἀσυνθέτους ‘incompositos.’—ED.

Romans 1:31Without understanding, covenant-breakers (ἀσυνέτους ἀσυνθέτους)

Another paronomasia: asynetous, asynthetous. This feature of style is largely due to the pleasure which all people, and especially Orientals, derive from the assonance of a sentence. Archdeacon Farrar gives a number of illustrations: the Arabic Abel and Kabel (Abel and Cain); Dalut and G'ialut (David and Goliath). A Hindoo constantly adds meaningless rhymes, even to English words, as button-bitten; kettley-bittley. Compare the Prayer-book, holy and wholly; giving and forgiving; changes and chances. Shakespeare, sorted and consorted; in every breath a death. He goes on to argue that these alliterations, in the earliest stages of language, are partly due to a vague belief in the inherent affinities of words ("Language and Languages," 227).

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