Romans 11:4
But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
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(4) To the image of Baal.—The name “Baal” is here, as frequently in the LXX., in the feminine gender, and it is to account for this that our translators have inserted the word “image.” How the feminine really came to be used is uncertain. Some have thought that the deity was androgynous, others have conjectured that the feminine is used contemptuously. Baal was originally the sun-god. The sun, it may be remembered, is feminine in German and some other languages.

Romans 11:4-6. But what saith the answer — Recollect the answer which God gave to this doleful complaint; I have reserved to myself — To maintain my honour and true worship, I have preserved by my providence and grace not fewer than seven thousand; who have not bowed the knee to Baal — Nor to the golden calves, nor complied with any of those idolatrous rites which have been established by iniquitous laws. Even so at this present time — As it was then, so it is now; bad as this generation of Israelites is, there is a remnant who continue faithful to God; according to the election of grace — According to that gracious purpose of God, whereby he hath chosen those, whether Jews or Gentiles, for his people, that break off their sins by repentance, and believe on Jesus, as the true Messiah and Saviour of the world, with their hearts unto righteousness. Among those who thus repented and believed, in the first age of Christianity, were many thousands of Jews. Of the election here spoken of, see notes on Romans 8:28-30. And if by grace, then it is no more of works — That is, of the merit of works, whether ceremonial or moral; whether of the Mosaic or any other law, except that of faith. In other words, it is no more an election according to any covenant of justice, like that made with our first parents before the fall, which required unsinning obedience, but according to the covenant of grace, made with man since the fall, which makes provision for pardoning his past sins, and renewing his fallen nature, and by which alone a sinful creature can be saved: otherwise grace is no more grace — The very nature of grace is lost. But if it be of the merit of works, then it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work — No longer deserving the name, or is no longer meritorious, but the very nature of it is destroyed. There is something so absolutely inconsistent between the being justified by grace, and the being justified by the merit of works, that if you suppose either, you of necessity exclude the other. For what is given to works is the payment of a debt; whereas grace implies an unmerited favour. So that the same benefit cannot, in the very nature of things, be derived from both.

11:1-10 There was a chosen remnant of believing Jews, who had righteousness and life by faith in Jesus Christ. These were kept according to the election of grace. If then this election was of grace, it could not be of works, either performed or foreseen. Every truly good disposition in a fallen creature must be the effect, therefore it cannot be the cause, of the grace of God bestowed on him. Salvation from the first to the last must be either of grace or of debt. These things are so directly contrary to each other that they cannot be blended together. God glorifies his grace by changing the hearts and tempers of the rebellious. How then should they wonder and praise him! The Jewish nation were as in a deep sleep, without knowledge of their danger, or concern about it; having no sense of their need of the Saviour, or of their being upon the borders of eternal ruin. David, having by the Spirit foretold the sufferings of Christ from his own people, the Jews, foretells the dreadful judgments of God upon them for it, Ps 69. This teaches us how to understand other prayers of David against his enemies; they are prophecies of the judgments of God, not expressions of his own anger. Divine curses will work long; and we have our eyes darkened, if we are bowed down in worldly-mindedness.The answer of God - ὁ χρηματισμός ho chrēmatismos. This word is used no where else in the New Testament. It means an oracle, a divine response. It does not indicate the manner in which it was done, but implies only that it was an oracle, or answer made to his complaint by God. Such an answer, at such a time, would be full of comfort, and silence every complaint. The way in which this answer was in fact given, was not in a storm, or an earthquake, but in a still, small voice; 1 Kings 19:11-12.

I have reserved - The Hebrew is, "I have caused to remain," or to be reserved. This shows that it was of God that this was done. Amidst the general corruption and idolatry he had restrained a part, though it was a remnant. The honor of having done it he claims for himself, and does not trace it to any goodness or virtue in them. So in the case of all those who are saved from sin and ruin, the honor belongs not to man, but to God.

To myself - For my own service and glory. I have kept them steadfast in my worship, and have not suffered them to become idolaters.

Seven thousand men - Seven is often used in the Scriptures to denote an indefinite or round number. Perhaps it may be so here, to intimate that there was a considerable number remaining. This should lead us to hope that even in the darkest times in the church, there may be many more friends of God than we suppose. Elijah supposed he was alone; and yet at that moment there were thousands who were the true friends of God; a small number, indeed, compared with the multitude of idolaters; but large when compared with what was supposed to be remaining by the dejected and disheartened prophet.

Who have not bowed the knee - To bow or bend the knee is an expression denoting worship; Philippians 2:10; Ephesians 3:14; Isaiah 45:23.

To Baal - The word "Baal" in Hebrew means Lord, or Master. This was the name of an idol of the Phenicians and Canaanites, and was worshipped also by the Assyrians and Babylonians under the name of Bel; (compare the Book of Bel in the Apocrypha.) This god was represented under the image of a bull, or a calf; the one denoting the Sun, the other the Moon. The prevalent worship in the time of Elijah was that of this idol.

4. seven thousand, that have not bowed the knee to Baal—not "the image of Baal," according to the supplement of our version. The answer of God; the word properly signifieth the oracle, or answer of God given in the tabernacle from the mercy-seat; but it is generally taken for any Divine answer, or direction received from God: see Matthew 2:12 Hebrews 11:7, where the same word is used. The apostle doth not repeat the whole answer of God, as it is recorded in 1 Kings 19:15-18, but so much only as was pertinent to his purpose.

I have reserved to myself; he saith not: They have reserved themselves, but, I have reserved them: q.d. Of my own free grace I have kept them from idolatry and apostacy.

Seven thousand men; a certain number for an uncertain. There were doubtless women amongst them; but they are noted by the more worthy sex.

Who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal; the word image is not in the Greek; but the article being of the feminine gender, it was necessarily understood.

But what saith the answer of God unto him?.... The divine response, or oracle, the , "Bath Kol", or voice from heaven; the still small voice of the Lord, which Elijah heard, 1 Kings 19:12,

I have reserved to myself; for his worship and service, to be partakers of his grace, inheritors of his kingdom, to show forth his praise, and for his name's sake, for his honour and glory: these he reserved in eternal election, in the council and covenant of peace; separated them in time from others by his grace, and preserved them from the general defection and apostasy: even

seven thousand men: meaning either that precise and exact number, which was but small in comparison of the very large multitude of persons that were in the ten tribes, or else a certain number for an uncertain:

who have not bowed the knee; a sign of reverence and adoration:

to the image of Baal; Jezebel's god, the god of the Zidonians; a name common to many of the "deities" of the Gentiles, and signifies "lord", or "master"; we read of "Baalim" in the plural number, for there were "lords many" of this name: in the Greek text the article is of the feminine gender, wherefore our translators have supplied the word image. This word has, in the Septuagint version, sometimes a feminine article as here; see 2 Kings 21:3; but in 1 Kings 19:18, from whence this passage is taken, the article is masculine, as it is also in Judges 2:11, and in other places. This deity being either of both sexes, or of no distinguished sex; or it may be, the reason it has so often a feminine article is, because it was a young heifer, or in the form of one; so in the history of Tobias 1:5, it is said, that "all the tribes which apostatized together sacrificed", , "to Baal the heifer". The apostle's view in mentioning this instance is to show, that when the church and cause of God are at the lowest, God has always some true worshippers of him; and that he never casts away his foreknown people, whose numbers are generally more than they are thought to be by the saints themselves; good men, as Elijah, may be mistaken in this matter; all which he accommodates to the then present state of God's people, in Romans 11:5.

But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have {b} reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of {c} Baal.

(b) He speaks of remnants and reserved people who were chosen from everlasting, and not of remnants that should be chosen afterwards: for they are not chosen, because they were not idolaters: but rather they were not idolaters, because they were chosen and elect.

(c) Baal signifies as much as master or patron, or one in whose power another is, which name the idolaters in this day give their idols, naming them patrons, and patronesses or ladies.

Romans 11:4. Ἀλλά] But, although Elijah complained that he had been left sole survivor.

ὁ χρηματισμός] the divine oracular utterance (replying to this accusation). Found here only in N. T. (in the Apocrypha, 2Ma 2:4; 2Ma 11:17); but see Diod. Sic. i. 1, xiv. 7, and Suicer, Thes. II. p. 1532; and respecting χρηματίζω, on Matthew 2:12.

κατέλιπον κ.τ.λ.] 1 Kings 19:18, with free deviation, bearing on his object, both from the LXX. and from the original. It means: I have left remaining, so, namely, that they are not slaughtered with the rest. Comp. Xen. Anab. vi. 3. 5 : ὀκτῶ μόνους κατέλιπον (superstites, vivos reliquerunt); 1Ma 13:4. Hofmann incorrectly takes κατέλ. as the third person plural, having the same subject as ἀπέκτειναν. A groundless departure from the Hebrew text and from the LXX., according to which God is the subject. And it is God who has guided and preserved those who remained over.

ἐμαυτῷ] i.e. to myself as my property, and for my service, in contrast to the idolatrous abomination.

οἵτινες κ.τ.λ.] ita comparatos ut, etc.

γόνυ] Not a knee has been bowed by them; hence the singular, comp. Php 2:10.

τῇ Βάαλ] Dative of worship. Bernhardy, p. 86. Comp. Romans 14:11. The Phoenician divinity בַּעַל, the adoration of which was very widely diffused (Keil, § 91) amongst the Jews, especially under the later kings, though not of long subsistence (see Ewald, Alterth. p. 304), is most probably to be regarded as the sun-god (Movers, Phönicier, I. p. 169 ff.; J. G. Müller in Herzog’s Encyklop. I. p. 639 f.), not as the planet Jupiter (Gesenius in the Hall. Encyklop. VIII. p. 384 ff.). It is remarkable—seeing that בעל (according to different local and ritual forms also in the plural) is a masculine noun—that in the LXX. and in the Apocrypha it has sometimes, and most frequently, the masculine article (Numbers 22:41; Jdg 2:13; 1 Kings 16:31, et al.), sometimes the feminine (Zephaniah 1:4; Hosea 2:8; 1 Samuel 7:4; always in Jer.; Tob 1:5, et al.). That the LXX. should have thought בעל to be of the common gender, and to denote also Astarte (Reiche), is not probable for this reason, that in the LXX. not merely are the masculine Baal and Astarte often mentioned together (Jdg 2:13; Jdg 10:6, et al.), but also the feminine Baal and Astarte (1 Samuel 7:4). The view that the feminine article was assigned to Βάαλ contemptuously (Gesenius, in Rosenmüller’s Repert. I. p. 139), as also Tholuck and Ewald, Alterth. p. 302, assume, finds no sufficient support—seeing that בעל was a very well known divinity—in the feminine designation of idols unknown to them in the LXX. at 2 Kings 17:30-31; cannot be justified by comparison of the Rabbinical designation of idols as אֶלהוֹת; and cannot be made good in the particular passages where the LXX. have the masculine or the feminine. To refer the phenomenon solely to an opinion of the LXX., who held בעל to be the name of a god and also that of a goddess, and therefore, according to the supposed connection, used now the masculine and now the feminine article,—the latter particularly, where the word occurs along with עַשְׁתָּרוֹת (Fritzsche), as in Jdg 2:13; Jdg 10:6, 1 Samuel 7:4,—is improbable in itself (because of the unity of the Hebrew name), and cannot be maintained even in passages like Jdg 3:7, 2 Kings 21:3 (comp. with 1 Samuel 12:10; Hosea 2:10; Hosea 2:15), without arbitrariness. An historical reason must prevail, and it appears the most feasible hypothesis that Baal was conceived as an androgynous divinity (Beyer, ad Selden. de Diis Syr. p. 273 f., Wetstein, Koppe, Olshausen, Philippi), although more precise historical evidence is wanting. The feminine article has been also explained by supplying a substantive (εἰκόνι by Erasmus, Luther, Beza, Grotius, Bengel, and others; στήλῃ by Glass, Estius; θρησκείᾳ by Cramer; even δαμάλει by Drusius, after Tob 1:5, but see Fritzsche on Tob.); but this is both erroneous and arbitrary, because at least the expression must have run τῇ τοῦ Βάαλ, since בעל has always the article. This linguistic incongruity van Hengel avoids only by the precarious conjecture that ἡ Βάαλ signifies the column of Baal, and ὁ Βάαλ the god Baal.

We have to remark, moreover, that the LXX. have in our passage the masculine article; but Paul, acquainted with the use also of the feminine article, has, in quoting from memory, changed the article. According to Fritzsche and Ewald, he had found τῇ in his copy of the LXX.; but τῇ is now found only in more recent codd. of the LXX., into which it has found its way merely from our passage.

Romans 11:4. ὁ χρηματισμός: the word is related to χρηματίζω (Matthew 2:12; Matthew 2:22, Acts 10:22, Hebrews 8:5) as χρησμὸς to χράω: it means the oracle, or answer of God. Here only in N.T., but see 2Ma 2:4; 2Ma 11:17. The quotation is from 1 Kings 19:18 with ἐμαυτῷ added, by which Paul suggests God’s interest in this remnant, and the fact that He has a purpose of His own identified with them. God has reserved the seven thousand; He has reserved them for Himself; it is on this the proof depends that He has not cast off His people. The seven thousand are Israel to Him. Yet His unchanging faithfulness in keeping a people is not represented as a merely unconditional decree, having no relation to anything but His own will, for the seven thousand are described by their character: οἵτινες οὐκ ἔκαμψαν γόνυ τῇ Βάαλ. οἵτινες is qualitative: such were those whom God reserved for Himself, men who never bowed knee to Baal. Βάαλ takes the fem. art[3] because it was often replaced in reading by בּשֶׁת (LXX αἰσχύνη).

[3] grammatical article.

4. the answer of God] Lit. the oracular answer. The words “of God” are an explanatory addition.

I have reserved, &c.] 1 Kings 19:18. The Heb. is, “And I have left in Israel seven thousand; all the knees that have not bowed, &c.” (LXX. has “And thou shalt leave, &c.”)

4. It is hardly needful to point out how this metaphorical passage, like almost every other, secular or sacred, carries its qualifications and corrections with it. For example, the true Church of God existed ages before Abraham; it embraced Abel, Enoch, Noah. And no saint, however great, can be the “root” of the rest in the sense of being their source of life: the Divine Saviour alone can say “Abide in me.” And again, the figure here, if taken alone, would leave us with the impression that the Call of the Gentiles was an accident in the history of the Church, instead of being the great “Purpose of the Ages” (Ephesians 3:11) to which the privileges and work of the Elder Covenant were but the mighty prelude. But St Paul writes for those who will read his revelation in the full light of Gospel-truth; and therefore he securely leaves the details to self-explanation or self-correction. Carefully so read, the passage tells us not of a higher level of grace and glory hereafter for Jewish saints as above Gentile saints, but of a gracious welcome back, and a special work for God, for repenting and believing Israel.

Romans 11:4. Κατέλιπον, I have left [Engl. Vers. not so well, reserved]) who were not to be slain by Hazael, Jehu, or Elisha. The LXX., 1 Kings 19:18, have καὶ καταλέιψω ἐν Ἰσραὴλ ἑπτὰ χιλιάδας ἁνδρῶν πάντα γόνατα, ἃ οὐκ ὤκλασαν γόνυ τῷ Βάαλ. And I will have in Israel seven thousand men, all the knees, which have not bowed to Baal. From the verb λείπω [in κατέλιπον, I have left] we derive λεῖμμα a remnant [a portion left]; see what follows.—ἐμαυτῷ, to myself) Paul adds this for the sake of emphasis, in antithesis to the complaint of Elias about his being left alone. The Lord knows His own people.—ἑπτακισχιλίους, seven thousand) among a people, who had become reduced to a wonderfully small number, the number is not small, nay it was itself the whole people, 1 Kings 20:15. From these the whole posterity of the ten tribes at least were descended. Heb. בל, i.e. purely such as these, without any admixture of the worshippers of Baal. I do not say, that they were the same individuals, who are mentioned in 1 Kings 20:15; 1 Kings 19:18; but the number is equal, viz., seven thousand, in 1 Kings 20:15, and about seventy years afterwards, in ch. 1 Kings 19:18, after the time of Hazael, Jehu and Elisha, comp. 2 Kings 13:7; 2 Kings 13:14.—ἄνδρας, men) Men were chiefly taken into account in reckoning, and were present at public worship; therefore their wives and children also are to be added to the seven thousand.—Τῇ Βάαλ) In the feminine gender, supplying εἰκόνι, the image of Baal, used by way of contempt, and antithetic to men. So the LXX. also Jdg 2:11, etc. Under the assertion of guiltlessness as to the worship of Baal, guiltlessness as to the worship of the golden calves[120] is included.

[120] Set up by Jeroboam in Dan and Bethel, 1 Kings 12:29.—ED.

Romans 11:4Answer (χρηματισμός)

Only here in the New Testament. For the kindred verb χρηματίζω warn, see on Matthew 2:12; see on Luke 2:26; see on Acts 10:22. Compare Romans 8:3. The word means an oracular answer. In the New Testament the verb is commonly rendered warn.

I have reserved (κατέλιπον)

Varying from both Septuagint and Hebrew. Heb., I will reserve; Sept., thou wilt leave.

To Baal (τῇ Βάαλ)

The feminine article is used with the name instead of the masculine (as in Septuagint in this passage). It occurs, however, in the Septuagint with both the masculine and the feminine article. Various reasons are given for the use of the feminine, some supposing an ellipsis, the image of Baal; others that the deity was conceived as bisexual; others that the feminine article represents the feminine noun ἡ αἰσχύνη shame Heb., bosheth, which was used as a substitute for Baal when this name became odious to the Israelites.

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