Romans 5:14
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
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(14) After the similitude of Adam’s transgressioni.e., “in direct defiance of divine command.” They had not incurred just punishment as Adam had, and yet they died. Why? Because of Adam’s sin, the effects of which extended to them all, just in the same way as the effects of the death of Christ extend to all.

Who is the figure.—Better, type. There is thus hinted at the parallelism which was omitted in Romans 5:12. Adam was the type of Christ, his sin and its effects the type of Christ’s death and its effects. No doubt the way in which this point is introduced is, in a mere rhetorical sense, faulty. St. Paul was, however, much above caring for rhetoric. And beside, it must be remembered that he wrote by dictation, and, probably, never revised what the amanuensis had written. This fact has very rightly been insisted on by Dr. Vaughan (Preface to Third Edition, p. 22), “We must picture to ourselves in reading this profound Epistle to the Romans a man full of thought, his hands, perhaps, occupied at the moment in stitching at the tent-cloth, dictating one clause at a time to the obscure Tertius beside him, stopping only to give time for the writing, never looking it over, never, perhaps, hearing it read over, at last taking the style into his hand to add the last few words of affectionate benediction.”

Romans 5:14. Nevertheless — Though the law was not yet given by Moses, yet sin was in the world, and was imputed, as appears by this, that death, which is the punishment of sin, was in the world at that time, and reigned — Brought all under its power, from Adam to Moses — As Romans 5:21, and Romans 6:12, even over them, &c. — Not only over them that had sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, but also over infants that had not committed actual sin, as Adam had done, and over others who had not, like him, sinned against an express law. Who is the figure of him that was to come — A lively type of Christ in his public capacity, each of them being a public person, and a federal head of mankind: the one the fountain of sin and death to mankind by his offence, the other of righteousness and life by his free gift. Thus far the apostle shows the agreement between the first and second Adam: afterward he shows the difference between them. The agreement may be summed up thus: As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so by one man righteousness entered into the world, and life by righteousness. As death passed upon all men, in that all had sinned; so life passed upon all men, (who are in the second Adam by faith,) in that all are justified. And as death, through the sin of the first Adam, reigned even over them who had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression: so through the righteousness of Christ, even those who have not obeyed after the likeness of his obedience, shall reign in life. We may add, as the sin of Adam, without the sins which we afterward committed, brought us death: so the righteousness of Christ, without the good works which we afterward perform, brings us life, although still every good as well as evil work will receive its due reward.5:12-14 The design of what follows is plain. It is to exalt our views respecting the blessings Christ has procured for us, by comparing them with the evil which followed upon the fall of our first father; and by showing that these blessings not only extend to the removal of these evils, but far beyond. Adam sinning, his nature became guilty and corrupted, and so came to his children. Thus in him all have sinned. And death is by sin; for death is the wages of sin. Then entered all that misery which is the due desert of sin; temporal, spiritual, eternal death. If Adam had not sinned, he had not died; but a sentence of death was passed, as upon a criminal; it passed through all men, as an infectious disease that none escape. In proof of our union with Adam, and our part in his first transgression, observe, that sin prevailed in the world, for many ages before the giving of the law by Moses. And death reigned in that long time, not only over adults who wilfully sinned, but also over multitudes of infants, which shows that they had fallen in Adam under condemnation, and that the sin of Adam extended to all his posterity. He was a figure or type of Him that was to come as Surety of a new covenant, for all who are related to Him.Nevertheless - Notwithstanding that sin is not imputed where there is no law, yet death reigned.

Death reigned - People died; they were under the dominion of death in its various melancholy influences. The expression "death reigned" is one that is very striking. It is a representation of death as a monarch; having dominion over all that period, and overall those generations. Under his dark and withering reign people sank down to the grave. We have a similar expression when we represent death as "the king of terrors." It is a striking and affecting personification, for.

(1) His reign is absolute. He strikes down whom he pleases, and when he pleases.

(2) there is no escape. All must bow to his sceptre, and be humbled beneath his hand,

(3) it is universal. Old and young alike are the subjects of his gloomy empire.

(4) It would be an eternal reign if itwere not for the gospel.

It would shed unmitigated woes upon the earth; and the silent tread of this terrific king would produce only desolation and tears forever.

From Adam to Moses - From the time when God gave one revealed law to Adam, to the time when another revealed Law was given to Moses. This was a period of 2500 years; no inconsiderable portion of the history of the world. Whether people were regarded and treated as sinners then, was a very material inquiry in the argument of the apostle. The fact that they died is alleged by him as full proof that they were sinners; and that sin had therefore scattered extensive and appalling woes among people.

Even over them - Over all those generations. The point or emphasis of the remark here is, that it reigned over those that had sinned under a different economy from that of Adam. This was what rendered it so remarkable; and which showed that the withering curse of sin had been felt in all dispensations, and in all times.

After the similitude ... - In the same way; in like manner. The expression "after the similitude" is an Hebraism, denoting in like manner, or as. The difference between their case and that of Adam was plainly that Adam had a revealed and positive law. They had not. They had only the law of nature, or of tradition. The giving of a law to Adam, and again to the world by Moses, were two great epochs between which no such event had occurred. The race wandered without revelation. The difference contemplated is not that Adam was an actual sinner, and that they had sinned only by imputation. For,

(1) The expression "to sin by imputation" is unintelligible, and conveys no idea.

(2) The apostle makes no such distinction, and conveys no such idea.

(3) His very object is different. It is to show that they were actual sinners; that they transgressed law; and the proof of this is that they died.

(4) It is utterly absurd to suppose that people from the time of Adam to Moses were sinners only by imputation. All history is against it; nor is there the slightest ground of plausibility in such a supposition.


14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression—But who are they?—a much contested question. Infants (say some), who being guiltless of actual sin, may be said not to have sinned in the way that Adam did [Augustine, Beza, Hodge]. But why should infants be specially connected with the period "from Adam to Moses," since they die alike in every period? And if the apostle meant to express here the death of infants, why has he done it so enigmatically? Besides, the death of infants is comprehended in the universal mortality on account of the first sin, so emphatically expressed in Ro 5:12; what need then to specify it here? and why, if not necessary, should we presume it to be meant here, unless the language unmistakably point to it—which it certainly does not? The meaning then must be, that "death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those that had not, like Adam, transgressed against a positive commandment, threatening death to the disobedient." (So most interpreters). In this case, the particle "even," instead of specifying one particular class of those who lived "from Adam to Moses" (as the other interpretation supposes), merely explains what it was that made the case of those who died from Adam to Moses worthy of special notice—namely, that "though unlike Adam and all since Moses, those who lived between the two had no positive threatening of death for transgression, nevertheless, death reigned even over them."

who is the figure—or, "a type."

of him that was to come—Christ. "This clause is inserted on the first mention of the name "Adam," the one man of whom he is speaking, to recall the purpose for which he is treating of him, as the figure of Christ" [Alford]. The point of analogy intended here is plainly the public character which both sustained, neither of the two being regarded in the divine procedure towards men as mere individual men, but both alike as representative men. (Some take the proper supplement here to be "Him [that is] to come"; understanding the apostle to speak from his own time, and to refer to Christ's second coming [Fritzsche, De Wette, Alford]. But this is unnatural, since the analogy of the second Adam to the first has been in full development ever since "God exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour," and it will only remain to be consummated at His second coming. The simple meaning is, as nearly all interpreters agree, that Adam is a type of Him who was to come after him in the same public character, and so to be "the second Adam").

He proceeds to prove his assertion in the foregoing verse, that sin was in the world before the law, because

death, which is the wages of sin, did reign, and had power over all mankind, from Adam to Moses, which was about two thousand five hundred years.

Even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression; i.e. over very infants, that had not actually sinned as Adam did. But though infants did not sin like Adam, yet they sinned in Adam; the guilt of his sin was imputed to them, else death could have had no power over them. Infants (as one saith) are not altogether innocents; the very first sheet or blanket wherewith they are covered is woven of sin and shame, of blood and filth, Ezekiel 16:4,6.

Who is the figure of him that was to come; of his offspring, (so some), which came of him in after times; his posterity (as before) was represented in his person: but others better expound it of Christ, who is the Second Adam; and of whom Adam was a figure or type, not in respect of such things as were personal to either of them, but of that which by them redounded to others. The first Adam was the original of man’s natural and earthly being; the Second Adam, of his spiritual and heavenly. By the first, sin and death came into the world; by the Second, righteousness and life. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses,.... Though the law of Moses was not yet given, death exerted itself, and extended its dominion over all the sons and daughters of Adam, during the interval between Adam and Moses; which clearly shows that sin was in the world, and that there must be a law in being, which that was a transgression of: death is represented as a king, as sin and Satan sometimes are; and indeed, death reigns by sin, and Satan both by sin and death; their empires rise, stand, and fall together. So Bildad calls death "the king of terrors", Job 18:14; and a very formidable and powerful king he is; his dominion is very large, his power uncontrollable, and the dread of him very great, especially to Christless sinners. The Jews say (b), that at the resurrection the world will be renewed, and will not be as at the first, when , "death reigned in the world"; referring to the same period of time the apostle here does. The subjects of his government were not only adult persons, who had been guilty of many actual transgressions, but he reigned

even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression. This does not exclude the dominion of death over such who had sinned after the likeness of Adam, but rather confirms its power over them; nor does it intend adult Gentiles, who did not sin in the same manner, nor against the same law, as Adam did; but it designs infants, not yet guilty of actual sin; and therefore since death reigns over them, who only holds and exercises his dominion by virtue of sin, it follows, that they must have original sin in them; the guilt of Adam's transgression must be imputed to them, and the corruption of nature, from him, derived unto them, or it could not reign over them. A child of a year old, the Jewish doctors (c) say, has not tasted the taste of sin, that is, has not committed actual sin; and observe (d), that young children die on account of the sins of their parents: but the true reason of their dying is here suggested by the apostle; which is the transgression of Adam:

who is the figure of him that was to come; meaning, either his posterity that were to come out of his loins, whose figure, type, and representative he was; or rather Christ, who is sometimes called , "he that was to come"; and the Arabic version reads the words thus, "who was a type of Adam that was expected"; that is, of Christ the second Adam, that was expected to come, according to the promise and prophecy: of him the first Adam was a type, in his human nature, in the formation and quality of it; as the first Adam was made by God of the virgin earth, the second Adam was born of a virgin; as the first, so the second Adam was pure, holy, upright, and wise; in his office, as Lord of the world, head of the woman, priest in his house, and prophet to his posterity; in his marriage with Eve, a figure of the church; but in nothing more clearly than in his being a covenant head to all his offspring: and this is what the apostle chiefly designs, since he runs the parallel between them on this account in the following verses; showing, that as the one conveyed sin and death to all his seed, so the other communicates righteousness and life to all that belong to him. So the Jews say (e), that by Adam is intimated the righteous branch, the Messiah; and that , "the secret of Adam is the secret of the Messiah".

(b) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 96. 1.((c) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 22. 2.((d) Massecheth Calah, fol. 17. 2.((e) R. Abraham Seba, Tzeror Hammor, fol. 2. 3. & 3. 1.

{12} Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over {q} them that had not sinned after the {r} similitude of Adam's transgression, {13} who is the figure of him that was to come.

(12) But that this law was not the universal law, and that death did not proceed from any actual sin of everyone particularly, it appears by this, that the very infants which neither could ever know nor transgress that natural law, are nonetheless dead as well as Adam.

(q) Our infants.

(r) Nor after the manner of sin of those who are older, following their lusts: but yet the whole posterity was corrupted in Adam when he knowingly and willingly sinned.

(13) Now that first Adam corresponds to the latter, who is Christ, as it is afterward declared.

14. reigned] See below, on Romans 5:21. The idea is of unquestioned dominion.

after the similitude, &c.] i.e. by conscious transgression of express precepts. The phrase thus exactly meets the case of infant-death, and also includes all other cases, supposed possible, in which no distinct violation of then-known law was traceable.

the figure] Lit. a figure. The word “type,” (derived from the Gr. word used here,) expresses the meaning exactly. Adam so sinned that his sons, even irrespective of personal sins, died—a penal death. Christ, the last Adam, so lived and suffered that his “brethren,” irrespective of personal merit, live, with the life of the justified.

him that was to come] Christ; mysteriously foretold from the first as “to come.” A sentence is quoted from the Rabbis: “The last Adam is Messiah.”—Observe that the doctrine of the imputed guilt of the First Sin is distinctly found in Judaic literature. As Meyer says on Romans 5:12, (Germ. ed., p. 241,) it probably was a part of the Apostle’s belief before his conversion, but one “which he found, in his Christian enlightenment, no reason to reject;” on the contrary, he incorporated it as an integral part of his Gospel-teaching.—(And this he did, let us add, as the commissioned messenger of the Truth.)Romans 5:14. Ἑβασίλευσε, reigned) Chrysostom says, πῶς ἐβασίλευσεν; ἐν τῳ ὁμοιώματι τῆς παραβάσεως Ἀδάμ. “How did it reign? in the likeness of Adam’s transgression.” He therefore construed in the likeness with reigned; and no doubt [death] reigned, I say, may be supplied [before the words in the likeness of Adam’s transgression]; comp. Romans 6:5. A reign is ascribed to death, as well as power, Hebrews 2:14. Scarcely indeed has any sovereign so many subjects, as are the many even kings whom death has taken away. It is an immense kingdom. This is no Hebraism; sin rules; righteousness rules.—ἀπὸμέχρι, from—until) The dispensation respecting the whole human race is threefold. 1. Before the law. 2. Under the law. 3. Under grace. Men severally experience the power of that dispensation, chap. 7.—καὶ, even) The particle indicates a species of persons subject to death, whom death might have seemed likely to spare in preference to all others; and so therefore it establishes the universality of death. [Not only against those, he says, who committed many sins after the age of Moses, which were to be reckoned to them according to the law, but even against those, long before, who did not commit such sins—V. g.].—ἐπὶ, over) This is a paradox; death reigned over those who had not sinned. Paul shows an inclination to use such paradoxes in speaking of this mystery, comp. v. 19; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:5.—τοὺς μὴ ἁμαρτήσαντας, those who had not sinned) All indeed from Adam to Moses have committed sins, although some were virtuous, others profligate; but because they sinned without law, without which sin is not reckoned, they are spoken of as those, who had not sinned: but Adam is spoken of as the one who sinned, Romans 5:16. Observe, if these seven precepts of Noah, were what they are said to be, Paul would have described those who had not sinned, from Adam to Noah, not to Moses.—ὁμοιώματι, in the likeness) As Adam, when he transgressed the law, died, in like manner also they died, who did not transgress, or rather, who did not sin; for Paul varies the words in speaking of Adam, and of all others. This is the conclusion; That men died before the law, is a thing which befell them on account of the similitude of Adam’s transgression; that is. Because the ground on which they stood, and on which Adam stood, [their footing and that of Adam] was one and the same:—they died on account of another guilt, not on account of that, which they themselves had contracted, namely, the guilt which had been contracted by Adam. In fact, the death of many is ascribed directly to the fall of the one, Romans 5:15. Thus it is not denied, that death is the wages of any sin whatever; but it is proved, that the primary cause of death was the first sin. It is this fact, which has brought us to destruction, just as the robber, who has plundered his victim, after having murdered him, is punished for the murder, and yet he did not commit the robbery with impunity, since the punishment of the robbery merged in the punishment of the murder; but, as compared with the greater punishment of murder, it was scarcely taken into account.—Ἀδὰμ, of Adam) In this one verse we have the name of the individual Ἀδὰμ, in all the others, the appellative noun, man. But, while the name of Adam is consigned to oblivion, the name of Jesus Christ is distinctly preached [proclaimed] Romans 5:15; Romans 5:17.—ὅς ἐστι τύπος τοῦ μέλλοντος) ὁς for , which thing, agrees in gender with τύπος: that which was to come, τὸ μέλλον, is in the neuter gender [But Eng. vers., “of Him, that was to come.”] Hence what is said respecting the future, Romans 5:17; Romans 5:19. This paragraph from Romans 5:12 by implication contains the whole comparison of the first and second Adam, so far as they correspond to each other; for what follows refers to the differences between them, and the apodosis should be inferred from the protasis in this manner at Romans 5:12 : [As by one man sin entered—and death, etc.], so in like manner by one man righteousness entered into the world and by righteousness life; and so life passed upon all men, because all are justified. And at Romans 5:14, All shall reign in life, after the similitude of Christ, who has rendered all obedience; although those who thus reign have not by themselves fulfilled all righteousness [answering to the words “even over them,” etc., and ‘nevertheless’ in Romans 5:14.] Again Chrysostom says, πῶς τύπος; φησιν. ὅτι ὥσπερ ἐκεῖνος τοῖς ἐξ αὐτοῦ, καίτοιγε μὴ φαγοῦσιν ἀπὸ τοῦ ξύλου, γέγονεν αἴτιος θανάτου τοῦ διὰ τὴν βρῶσιν ἐισαχθέντος. οὕτω καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς τοῖς ἐξ αὐτοῦ, καίτοιγε οὐ δικαιοπραγήσασι, γέγονε πρόξενος δικαιοσύνης, ἣν διὰ τοῦ σταυροῦ πᾶσιν ἡμῖν ἐχαρίσατο· διὰ τοῦτο ἄνω καὶ κάτω τοῦ ἑνὸς ἔχεται, καὶ συνεχῶς τοῦτο ἐις μέσον φέρει. “How is he a type or figure? because just as that man [Adam] has become the source of death, which was brought in by the eating of the forbidden fruit, to those descended from him, although they had not eaten of the fruit of that tree, so also Christ has become the provider of righteousness to those belonging to Him, although they have not performed what is righteous; and this righteousness He has freely bestowed upon us all by the cross; therefore IN EVERY DIRECTION AND ON ALL OCCASIONS he maintains this One thing, and perpetually brings it into view.” We may farther add; as the sin of Adam, independently of the sins, which we afterwards committed, brought death upon us, so the righteousness of Christ, independently of good works, which are afterwards performed by us, procures for us life; nevertheless, as every sin receives its appropriate punishment, so every good action receives a suitable reward.
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