And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Preach the gospel of peace.—These words are omitted in the group of oldest MSS., and should be left out in the text. The whole of the quotation is not given by St. Paul.
Except they be sent - That is, except they are divinely commissioned, and sent forth by God. This was an admitted doctrine among the Jews, that a proclamation of a divine message must be made by one who was commissioned by God for that purpose; Jeremiah 23:21; Jeremiah 1:7; Jeremiah 14:14-15; Jeremiah 7:25. He who sends a message to people can alone designate the proper persons to bear it. The point of the objection, therefore, was this: People could not believe unless the message was sent to them; yet God had not actually sent it to all people: it could not, therefore, be just to make eternal life depend on so impracticable a thing as faith, since people had not the means of believing.
As it is written - In Isaiah 52:7.
How beautiful ... - The reason why this passage is introduced here is, that it confirms what had just been advanced in the objection - the "importance and necessity" of there being messengers of salvation. That importance is seen in the high encomium which is passed on them in the Sacred Scriptures. They are regarded as objects especially attractive; their necessity is fully recognised; and a distinguished rank is given to them in the oracles of God - How beautiful. How attractive, how lovely. This is taken from the Hebrew, with a slight variation. In the Hebrew, the words "upon the mountains" occur, which makes the passage more picturesque, though the sense is retained by Paul. The image in Isaiah is that of a herald seen at first leaping or running on a distant hill, when he first comes in sight, with tidings of joy from a field of battle, or from a distant land. Thus, the appearance of such a man to those who were in captivity, would be an image full of gladness and joy.
Are the feet - Many have supposed that the meaning of this expression is this: The feet of a herald, naked and dusty from traveling, would be naturally objects of disgust. But what would be naturally disagreeable is thus made pleasant by the joy of the message. But this explanation is far fetched, and wants parallel instances. Besides, it is a violation of the image which the apostle had used. That was a distant object - a herald running on the distant hills; and it supposes a picture too remote to observe distinctly the feet, whether attractive or not. The meaning of it is clearly this: "how beautiful is the coming or the running of such a herald." The feet are emblematic of his coming. Their rapid motion would be seen; and their rapidity would be beautiful from the desire to hear the message which he brought. The whole meaning of the passage, then, as applied to ministers of the gospel, is, that their coming is an attractive object, regarded with deep interest, and productive of joy - an honored and a delightful employment.
That preach ... - Literally, "that evangelize peace. That proclaim the good news of peace; or bring the glad message of peace.
And bring glad tidings ... - Literally, "and evangelize good things;" or that bring the glad message of good things. Peace here is put for good of any kind; and as the apostle uses it, for the news of reconciliation with God by the gospel. Peace, at the end of the conflicts, distresses, and woes of war, is an image of all blessings. Thus, it is put to denote the blessings when a sinner ceases to be the enemy of God, obtains pardon, and is admitted to the joys of those who are his children and friends. The coming of those messengers who proclaim it is joyful to the world. It fills the bosom of the anxious sinner with peace; and they and their message will be regarded with deep interest, as sent by God, and producing joy in an agitated bosom, and peace to the world. This is an illustration of the proper feeling with which we should regard the ministers of religion. This passage in Isaiah is referred by the Jews themselves to the times of the gospel (Rosenmuller).
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, &c.—The whole chapter of Isaiah from which this is taken, and the three that follow, are so richly Messianic, that there can be no doubt "the glad tidings" there spoken of announce a more glorious release than of Judah from the Babylonish captivity, and the very feet of its preachers are called "beautiful" for the sake of their message.How shall they preach, except they be sent? viz. immediately, by God or Christ, as the prophets and the apostles: see Galatians 1:1. Or mediately, by men; i.e. by such as have authority from Christ to separate and ordain others to this work. Without this orderly mission, or ordination, how can they preach? Saith the apostle; i.e. how can they do it duly or profitably, or in the name and by the authority of Christ? For otherwise, there were, and still are, those that run before they are sent, Jeremiah 23:21.
How beautiful are the feet of them! Their arrival or approach. The persons of such are meant, though their feet be named, because they carried them up and down to do this work. The scripture referred to is found in Isaiah 52:7. The apostle here leaveth the Septuagint, and followeth the Hebrew text; yet he doth not cite the place in all points as the prophet hath it. He leaveth out some words, as upon the mountains, which had respect to the situation of Jerusalem; and he changeth the number, turning the singular into the plural.
Objection. But the text in Isaiah speaks of such a messenger as was sent to publish the deliverance of the Jews from the bondage of the Assyrians.
Answer. Though that be granted, it is applied and accommodated aptly enough to the preaching of peace and salvation by Christ; because that deliverance (as all other temporal deliverances) had its foundation in the redemption purchased by Christ. Isaiah 52:7, where
it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things; which words are not to be understood of the messengers that brought the tidings of deliverance from the Babylonish captivity, but of the ministers of the Gospel. In Isaiah 52:7 it is expressed in the singular number, "how beautiful are the feet of him", &c. and is by some understood of Christ, as it is also by many Jewish writers: thus interpreting the "turtle's voice" in Sol 2:12;
"this (say they (a)) is the voice of the King Messiah, proclaiming and saying, "how beautiful on the mountains", &c.''
And elsewhere (b) it is observed, that the
"Rabbins say, great is peace, for when the King Messiah comes, he does not open but with peace, as it is said, "how beautiful upon the mountains", &c.''
And says (c) another,
"one verse says, "how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings", , "the explanation", or meaning is, the King Messiah:''
and some of the more, modern ones (d) of them, own these words are, , "concerning the redemption, and the coming of the Messiah": and so the worlds, however they may principally regard the Messiah and his ministry, are property applied to the apostles of Christ; and may be rightly understood of any minister of the Gospel, whose business it is to "preach the Gospel of peace": which is so called from the subject matter of it, peace made by the blood of Christ, which it proclaims; from the effect of it, producing, peace and tranquillity in distressed minds, and making men of peaceable dispositions; and from the use of it, which is to direct men to the way of peace, to guide their feet in it, lead them to eternal peace: their work is also to "bring glad tidings of good things"; such as reconciliation, righteousness, pardon, life, and eternal salvation, by a crucified Christ; and the preaching of such a Gospel, and bringing such news, make their "feet beautiful": one should have thought rather their lips than their feet would be took notice of; the reason of this is, partly because of the agreeableness of their walk and conversation to the doctrine they preach; and partly because of their readiness to preach it everywhere, though they run the utmost risk in so doing; and also because of their swiftness, particularly of the apostles, in going through the cities of Israel, and running over the Gentile world with the Gospel of peace, in so short a time as they did; and more especially because of the acceptableness of their message, with which they were sent and ran; see 2 Samuel 18:27. And so this passage is pertinently alleged to prove, that mission is necessary to preaching; since these words declare the character of Gospel ministers, as publishers of peace, and messengers of good tidings; and express the message itself, and the nature of it; both which suppose them to be sent by another, even the Lord, under whose authority, and by whose warrant they act; just as ambassadors, heralds, and messengers do, by virtue of a commission they receive from their prince.And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)15. except they be sent] Q. d., “If they be not sent, if they are held back by misguided jealousy, how can the predicted evangelization take place?” If Rabbinism were right, were in accordance with God’s will, in its practical denial of hope to the Gentiles, then missionary work, such as foretold, would be impossible; there could be no commission for it.
as it is written] Isaiah 52:7. The quotation varies from LXX., but is nearly with the Heb. The context in Isaiah points rather to “good tidings” to Israel than from Israel. But (1) the tidings is “Thy God reigneth;” and of this no greater proof could, or can, be given than the universal spread of the kingdom of Messiah; (and see just below, Isaiah 52:10, “all nations,” “all the ends of the earth;”) and (2) it is clear from the drift of many N. T. quotations that a reference to the “Israel of God” (the true Church of Christ) underlies the primary Jewish reference of very many of Isaiah’s prophecies. Thus St Paul sees here a prediction of the “beauty” of the tidings of that Salvation which was “of the Jews,” and is now for Jew and Gentile alike. See Ephesians 2:17.—In the Heb. the proclaimer is single; “him that bringeth, &c.”
Some editors omit the words “that preach the gospel of peace;” but without sufficient reason. Probably St Paul had in view the previously-expounded “peace with God,” enjoyed by the true Israel.Romans 10:15. Πῶς δὲ κηρύξουσιν, but how [how then] shall they preach) viz., οἱ κηρύσσοντες, those preaching. This word, as well as those going before, is put in the future tense, in imitation of Joel, in whose writings this expression, shall call, is found, Romans 10:13, by that [manner, which Paul has at times, of] looking from the Old Testament [standing-point] to the New.—καθὼς, as) i.e. messengers [of the good tidings] were not wanting. Isaiah in spirit saw their eager steps.—ὡς—εἰρήνην, τῶν ἐυαγγελιζομένων τὰ ἀγαθά) Isaiah 52:7. LXX ὡς—ἀκοὴν εἰρήνης ὃς ἐυαγγελιζόμενος ἀγαθά.—ὡραῖοι) it is properly said of what is beautiful and pleasant in nature.—οἱ πόδες, the feet) at a distance, how much more their countenances [or else mouths, as preachers] close at hand.—τῶν εὐαγγελιζομένων, of them that bring glad tidings) for while they speak, the Lord Himself speaks, Isaiah 52:7, with which comp. Romans 10:6.
From ὥρα the time of full bloom or development. Hence the radical idea of the word includes both blooming maturity and vigor. Appropriate here to the swift, vigorous feet. Plato ("Republic," x. 601) distinguishes between faces that are beautiful (καλῶν) and blooming (ὡραίων) In Genesis 2:9 (Sept.) of the trees of Eden. Compare Matthew 23:27; Acts 3:2, Acts 3:10.
Emphasizing the rapid approach of the messenger. "In their running and hastening, in their scaling obstructing mountains, and in their appearance and descent from mountains, they are the symbols of the earnestly-desired, winged movement and appearance of the Gospel itself" (Lange). Compare Nahum 1:15; Ephesians 6:15; Romans 3:15; Acts 5:9. Paul omits the mountains from the citation. Omit that preach the gospel of peace.
Bring glad tidings
See on Gospel, Matthew, superscription.
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