Romans 10:7
Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Into the deep.—In the original, beyond the sea. The word which St. Paul uses is found in the LXX. for “the sea,” but here means the abyss of Hades.

10:5-11 The self-condemned sinner need not perplex himself how this righteousness may be found. When we speak of looking upon Christ, and receiving, and feeding upon him, it is not Christ in heaven, nor Christ in the deep, that we mean; but Christ in the promise, Christ offered in the word. Justification by faith in Christ is a plain doctrine. It is brought before the mind and heart of every one, thus leaving him without excuse for unbelief. If a man confessed faith in Jesus, as the Lord and Saviour of lost sinners, and really believed in his heart that God had raised him from the dead, thus showing that he had accepted the atonement, he should be saved by the righteousness of Christ, imputed to him through faith. But no faith is justifying which is not powerful in sanctifying the heart, and regulating all its affections by the love of Christ. We must devote and give up to God our souls and our bodies: our souls in believing with the heart, and our bodies in confessing with the mouth. The believer shall never have cause to repent his confident trust in the Lord Jesus. Of such faith no sinner shall be ashamed before God; and he ought to glory in it before men.Or who shall descend into the deep? - These words are also a part of the address of Moses, Deuteronomy 30:13. But it is not literally quoted. The Hebrew is, "Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go over the sea for us, etc." The words of the quotation are changed, but not the sense; and it is to be remembered that Paul is not professing to quote the words of Moses, but to "express the language of faith;" and this he does mainly by words which Moses had used, which also expressed his meaning. The words as used by Moses refer to what is remote, and therefore difficult to be obtained. To cross the sea in the early times of navigation involved the highest difficulty, danger, and toil. The sea which was in view was doubtless the Mediterranean, but the crossing of that was an enterprise of the greatest difficulty, and the regions beyond that were regarded as being at a vast distance.

Hence, it is spoken of as being the widest object with which they were acquainted, and the fairest illustration of infinity, Job 11:9. In the same sense Paul uses the word "deep," ἄβυσσον abusson - "the abyss." This word is applied to anything the depth or bottom of which is not known. It is applied to the ocean (in the Septuagint), Job 41:31, "He maketh the deep to boil as a pot." Isaiah 44:27, "that saith to the deep, Be dry, etc." Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:2; to a broad place Job 36:16; and to the abyss before the world was formed, Genesis 1:2. In the New Testament it is not applied to the ocean, unless in the passage Luke 8:31 (see the note on that place), but to the abode of departed spirits; and particularly to the dark, deep, and bottomless pit, where the wicked are to dwell forever. Revelation 9:1-2, "and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit;" Greek, "The pit of the abyss."

Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1, Revelation 20:3. In these places the word means the deep, awful regions of the nether world. The word stands opposed to heaven; as deep as that is high; as dark as that is light; while the one is as vast as the other. In the place before us it is opposed to heaven; and to descend there to bring up one, is supposed to be as impossible as to ascend to heaven to bring one down. Paul does not affirm that Christ descended to those regions; but he says that there is no such difficulty in religion as if one were required to descend into those profound regions to call back a departed spirit. That work was in fact done, when Jesus was recalled from the dead, and now the work of salvation is easy. The word "abyss" here, therefore, corresponds to Hades, or the dark regions of departed spirits.

That is, to bring up Christ ... - Justification by faith had no such difficult and impossible work to perform as would be an attempt for man to raise the dead. That would be impossible; but the work of religion is easy. "Christ, the ground of hope, is not by our efforts to be brought down from heaven to save us, for that is done; nor by our efforts to be raised from the dead, for that is done; and what remains for us, that is to believe, is easy, and is near us." This is the meaning of the whole passage.

7. Or, Who shall descend, &c.—another case of impossibility, suggested by Pr 30:4, and perhaps also Am 9:2—probably proverbial expressions of impossibility (compare Ps 139:7-10; Pr 24:7, &c.). Who shall descend into the deep? By the deep, here, understand hell: see Luke 8:31 Revelation 9:1 20:1,3. q. d. Do not inquire distrustfully, and despairingly, whether thou shalt go to hell, or who shall go thither, to see, and bring thee word, if such as thou are there.

That is, to bring up Christ again from the dead; this were in effect to frustrate and make void the death of Christ; it is as much as to say, he never died for us, or he must come again, and suffer, and shed his blood for the remission of our sins. He died to deliver us from death and damnation; he endured the wrath of God, that we may escape it. The sense of the whole is this, That the doctrine of justification by faith, doth not propose such difficult and impossible terms, as the doctrine of justification by works. The righteousness of the law, that speaks terror, and puts us into a continual fear of hell, and despair of heaven; but the righteousness of faith, that speaks comfort, and forbids all amazing fear and troubles about our salvation or damnation. But the righteousness which is of faith,.... Or "with respect to the righteousness of faith"; the other righteousness before called the righteousness of God, because God is the author of it, here the righteousness of faith, because that receives it,

speaketh on this wise; the selfsame writer who describes the righteousness of the law in such a manner, that it gives no room to a fallen creature ever to expect life and salvation by it, gives such an account of the righteousness of faith, as forbids all doubting and despair:

say not in thine heart; let not such a thought enter into thy mind, much less express it with thy lips;

who shall ascend into heaven (that is, to bring Christ down from above, or who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). These words are not properly a citation of Deuteronomy 30:12; but the apostle makes use of some phrases which are there, with his own explications of them; though the difference between them, stripped, of these explications is not very material: in the first clause, "who shall ascend into heaven?" the apostle leaves out the phrase, "for us"; which as to the sense was not absolutely necessary to retain; the difficulty, indeed, seems greater in the latter clause, "who shall descend into the deep?" which in the text of Moses is, "who shall go over the sea for us?" but when it is considered that the sea is often called the deep, and that sailing on it and over it, is expressed by "going down to the sea in ships", Psalm 107:23; and moreover, when it is observed that the Jerusalem Targum paraphrases it thus,

"the law is not in heaven that it should be said, oh that we had one of us, as Moses the prophet, who could go up to heaven and bring it to us! nor is it beyond the great sea, that it should be said, oh that we had one of us, as Jonah the prophet , "who could descend into the depths of the great sea", and bring it to us;''

the apostle is to be justified in his expressions. His sense, indeed, may seem to be different from that of Moses, and of the common interpretations of the Jewish writers, as in the above paraphrase and in the following account of them from the Talmud, understanding them of the law (w);

"says Abdimo bar Chama bar Dousa, what is the meaning of that Scripture, "neither is it in heaven, nor is it beyond the sea?" it is not in heaven, for if it was in heaven you must needs go up after it, and if it was beyond the sea, you must needs go over after it; Rabba says, not in heaven is it, you will not find it in him that exalts his knowledge in himself as the heavens, nor will you find it in him that enlarges his knowledge in himself, as the sea; R. Jochanan says, not in heaven is it, you will not find it in those that are of a haughty spirit, nor beyond the sea is it, you will not find it among traders abroad, or merchants.''

Though the apostle's sense may be brought pretty near to this, after this manner; who shall go up to heaven, or down to the deep, either to bring us the knowledge of the law, and yield an obedience to it which that requires of us, or to give us a full account of the Gospel of the grace of God? there is no room, nor reason, for men to say this in their hearts, or to make a doubt of them, as if they were not done already; to do so, is to deny that Christ is come in the flesh, and risen from the dead, who has given the true sense and knowledge of the law, and has perfectly fulfilled it, in the room and stead of his people, and by whom the doctrine of grace and truth is come, particularly the doctrine of a sinner's justification before God; this is brought nigh in the ministration of the word, so that there is no need of such inquiries as these. Moreover, for the illustration of these words, let it be observed, that these phrases are proverbial, and often used to express things impossible, of which take the following instances;

"it is a tradition of the Rabbins (x) if a man says to his wife, lo, this is thy divorce, on condition that "thou ascendest to the firmament", on condition that "thou descendest into the deep"; on condition that thou passest over the great sea on foot, this is no divorce;''

the reason is, , "because it is impossible". Again (y),

"if a man says to a woman, if thou wilt "ascend into the firmament", or if thou wilt "descend into the deep", lo, thou art espoused to me by this penny; but if thou wilt not go up into the firmament, nor go down into the deep, thou shalt not be espoused; and after that he puts the penny into her hand, lo, the condition becomes void, and behold she is espoused immediately, for the thing is known , "that it is impossible" for her to fulfil the condition.''

So here are forbidden all such thoughts, words, or expressions which carry such a sense as this; who will go down to the deep to fetch such a wretch as I am out of the lowest hell, to deliver me from the curses of the law, and the wrath of God, and bring me out of this wretched miserable condition in which I am? or go up to heaven and carry me there, and put me in the possession of the undefiled inheritance? all this is as impossible to be done, as for a man to ascend to heaven, or go down into the deep: now though the righteousness of the law encourages such despondency and black despair, the righteousness of faith, or the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ's righteousness, forbids every thing of this kind; assuring the sinner, that Christ is come down from heaven in human nature, that he has fulfilled all the righteousness of the law by his obedience in life, and has bore the penalty of it in his sufferings and death, and is risen again for justification; so that such questions should not be put, nor such despairing thoughts encouraged: besides, to think and speak in this manner, is to set aside the whole scheme of the Gospel, and supposes the person to doubt whether Christ is come down from heaven; and therefore asks, who shall go up to bring him down? and that he is not risen from the dead; and therefore puts the question, who will go down to the deep to fetch him up? whereas he is already come, has obeyed, suffered, and died, and rose again, and is become the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes.

(w) T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 55. 1. Maimon. Talmud Tora, c. 3. sect. 8. (x) T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 84. 1. & Bava Metzia, fol. 94. 1.((y) Maimon. Hilchot Ishot. c. 6. sect. 7. Vid. Zohar in Exod. fol. 40. 4. & 43. 1.

Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. Who shall descend, &c.] The Heb. has “Who shall go over (or on) the sea?”; the LXX., “to the other side of the sea?” St Paul takes the sea, as surely Moses took it, to be the antithesis of “heaven”—the “great deep;” and thus the idea is of exploring depth rather than breadth. The Jerusalem Targum on Deuteronomy has a remarkable paraphrase: “Neither is the law beyond the great sea, that thou shouldest say, O that we had one like Jonah the prophet, to descend into the depths of the sea, and bring it to us!” (Etheridge’s Translation.) To Moses, sky and sea were suggestive of heights and depths of supernatural mystery. St Paul finds in this use of them the latent truth of the special Height of Christ’s pre-existent majesty and the special Depth of His entrance at death into the world of souls; and so sees here an inspired declaration that this His Descent and Ascent were so “finished” as to make the means of salvation a prepared and present reality to the believing soul, which is asked (thanks to Divine mercy) not to elaborate, but to accept, the “righteousness of God” in the Incarnate and Risen Christ.Romans 10:7. Τοῦτ ἔστι), that is. That is construed with to say, as substantive and adjective. Moreover, they are again reproved for perverseness, who say, who shall descend into the deep? for they speak just as if the word concerning the resurrection of Christ from the dead were not nigh at hand, and the heart of the believer acknowledges, that He has risen, in the same Romans 10:9 : and they who wish to fetch salvation from the depths of the earth, wish to bring Christ (since there is no salvation without Him) from the deep, which He left once for all at His resurrection; but as the latter cannot happen, so neither can the former. Therefore the believer, so far as this is concerned, regards not either heaven or the deep, since he has the thing which he desires, as near to him, as he is to himself. But unbelief is always fluctuating; it is always wishing, and knows not what it wishes; it is always seeking, and finds nothing. Hence it looks down at the deep with giddiness, nor can it look up to the heaven with joy.—Χριστὸν, Christ) The unbeliever does not fetch Christ in His own name, that is in the name of Christ [in His peculiar attributes as anointed Saviour] either from heaven or from the deep: but the righteousness by faith, speaking here, suggests to the ignorant unbeliever to call upon the name of Christ, as much as to say, that which thou art seeking, O unbeliever [O unbelief], whilst thou art moving heaven and the deep, and art taking refuge in heaven or the deep, (as we find in Virgil, I will move hell[116] [Acheronta movebo], know that it can neither be thought of by me, nor be found by thee, without [outside of] Christ, Romans 10:4. The expression is hypothetical. That, which cannot be done,—to fetch righteousness from afar [opposed to, is nigh thee], from heaven or out of the deep; Paul sets this aside: and so leaves one only refuge, the word of Christ, which is very near.

[116] Aen. 7:312.Descend into the deep

Rev., abyss. Septuagint, Who shall pass through to beyond the sea? See on Luke 8:31. Paul changes the phrase in order to adapt it to the descent of Christ into Hades. The two ideas may be reconciled in the fact that the Jew conceived the sea as the abyss of waters on which the earth rested. Compare Exodus 20:4. Thus the ideas beyond the sea and beneath the earth coincide in designating the realm of the dead. Compare Homer's picture of the region of the dead beyond the Ocean-stream:

"As soon as thou shalt cross.

Oceanus, and come to the low shore

And groves of Proserpine, the lofty groups

Of poplars, and the willows that let fall

Their withered fruit, moor thou thy galley there

In the deep eddies of Oceanus,

And pass to Pluto's comfortless abode."

"Odyssey," x. 508-513.

"Our bark

Reached the far confines of Oceanus.

There lies the land and there the people dwell

Of the Cimmerians, in eternal cloud

continued...

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