Copyright
W. (William) Sanday.

A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans online

. (page 45 of 71)
Online LibraryW. (William) SandayA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans → online text (page 45 of 71)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


was joined to God by a covenant which nothing could dissolve,
and that he and his people alone were the centre of all God's
action in the creation and government of the world.

This idea St. Paul combats. But it is important to notice how
the whole of the O. T. conception is retained by him, but
broadened and illuminated. Educated as a Pharisee, he had
held the doctrine of election with the utmost tenacity. He had
believed that his own nation had been chosen froJH among all lh§



25° EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS [IX. 14-29.

kingdoms of the earth. He still holds the doctrine, but the
Christian revelation has given a meaning to what had been a nar-
row privilege, and might seem an arbitrary choice. His view is
now widened. The world, not Israel, is the final end of God's
action. This is the key to the explanation of the great difficulty
the rejection of Israel. Already in the words that he has used
above r] KUT €K\oyrjv irpodeais he has shown the principle which he
is working out. The mystery which had been hidden from the
foundation of the world has been revealed (Rom. xvi. 26). There
is still a Divine eVXoyi}, but it is now realized that this is the result
of a 7Tp6d(ais, a universal Divine purpose which had worked through
the ages on the principle of election, which was now beginning to
be revealed and understood, and which St. Paul will explain and
vindicate in the chapters that follow (cf. Eph. i. 4, 11 ; iii. 11).

We shall follow St. Paul in his argument as he gradually works
it out. Meanwhile it is convenient to remember the exact point he
has reached. He has shown that God has not been untrue to any
promise in making a selection from among the Israel of his own
day ; He is only acting on the principle He followed in selecting
the Israelites and rejecting the Edomites and Ishmaelites. By the
introduction of the phrase fj kht eK'knyfjv npofifais St. Paul has also
suggested the lines on which his argument will proceed.



THE EEJECTION OP ISBAEL NOT rN"COM"SISTEITT
WITH THE DIVINE JUSTICE.

IX. 14-29. Bui secondly it may be urged: * Surely then
God is unjust.' No, if you ttirn to the Scriptures you will
see that He has the right to confer His favours on whom He
will {as He did on Moses) or to withJiold them {as He did
from Pharaoh) (vv. 14-18).

If it is further urged. Why blame me if I like Pharaoh
reject Gods offer, and thus fulfil His will? I reply, It is
your part not to cavil but to submit. The creature may not
complain against the Creator, any more thaji the vessel
against the potter (w. 19-21). Still less when God''s piupose
has been so beneficent, and that to a body so mixed as this
Christian Church of ours, chosen not only from the Jews but
also from the Gentiles (vv. 22-24) ; — as indeed was foretold
(vv, 2^-29).



IX. 14-20.] THE UNBELIEF OF ISRAEL 251

** But there is a second objection which may be raised. ' If
what you say is true that God rejects one and accepts another
apart from either privilege of birth or human merit, is not His
conduct arbitrary and unjust?' What answer shall we make to
this ? Surely there is no injustice with God. Heaven forbid that
I should say so. I am only laying down clearly the absolute character
of the Divine sovereignty. " The Scripture has shown us clearly
the principles of Divine action in two typical and opposed incidents:
that of Moses exhibiting the Divine grace, that of Pharaoh ex-
hibiting the Divine severity. Take the case of Moses. When he
demanded a sign of the Divine favour, the Lord said (Ex. xxxiii.
17-19) ' Thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by
name ... I will make all my goodness pass before thee ; I will be
gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on
whom I will show mercy.' ** These words imply that grace comes
to man not because he is determined to attain it, not because he
exerts himself for it as an athlete in the races, but because he has
found favour in God's sight, and God shows mercy towards him :
they prove in fact the perfect spontaneousness of God's action.
'^ So in the case of Pharaoh. The Scripture (in Ex. ix. 16) tells us
that at the time of the plagues of Egypt these words were ad-
dressed to him : ' I have given thee thy position and place, that
I may show forth in thee my power, and that my name might be
declared in all the earth.' '* Those very Scriptures then to which
you Jews so often and so confidently appeal, show the absolute
character of God's dealings with men. Both the bestowal of mercy
or favour and the hardening of the human heart depend alike upon
the Divine will.

'• But this leads to a third objection. If man's destiny be
simply the result of God's purpose, if his hardness of heart is
a state which God Himself causes, why does God find fault? His
will is being accomplished. There is no resistance being offered.
Obedience or disobedience is equally the result of His purpose.
'■'•Such questions should never be asked. Consider what is in-
volved in your position as man. A mean's relation to God is such
that whatever God does the man has no right to complain or object
or reply. The Scriptures have again and again represented the
relation of God to man under the image of a potter and the



252 EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS [IX. 20-29

vessels that he makes. Can you conceive (to use the words ol
the prophet Isaiah) the vessel saying to its maker : ' Why did you
make me thus?' '^ The potter has complete control over the lump
of clay with which he works, he can make of it one vessel for an
honourable purpose, another for a dishonourable purpose. This
exactly expresses the relation of man to his Maker. God has
made man, made him from the dust of the earth. He has as
absolute control over His creature as the potter has. No man
before Him has any right, or can complain of injustice. He is
absolutely in God's hands. ^ This is God's sovereignty ; even
if He had been arbitrary we could not complain. But what
becomes of your talk of injustice when you consider how He has
acted? Although a righteous God would desire to exhibit the
Divine power and wrath in a world of sin ; even though He were
dealing with those who were fit objects of His wrath and had
become fitted for destruction ; yet He bore with them, full of long-
sufTering for them, ^^and with the purpose of showing all the wealth
of His glory on those who are vessels deserving His mercy, whom
as we have already shown He has prepared even from the
beginning, **a mercy all the greater when it is remembered that
we whom He has called for these privileges are chosen not only
from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles, Gentiles who were
bound to Him by no covenant. Surely then there has been no
injustice but only mercy.

^ And remember finally that this Divine plan of which you
complain is just what the prophets foretold. They prophesied the
calling of the Gentiles. Hosea (i. lo, and ii. 23) described how
those who were not within the covenant should be brought into it
and called by the very name of the Jews under the old Covenant,
' the people of God,' ' the beloved of the Lord,' ' the sons of the
living God.' *' And this wherever throughout the whole world
they had been placed in the contemptuous position of being, as he
expressed it, * no people.' "^ Equally do we find the rejection of
Israel — all but a remnant of it — foretold. Isaiah (x. 22) stated,
' Even though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand
of the seashore, yet it is only a remnant that shall be saved, "for
a sharp and decisive sentence will the Lord execute upon the earth.'
•* And similarly in an earlier chapter (I 9) he had foretold the com-



IX. 14, 16.] THE UNBELIEF OF ISRAEL 253

plete destruction of Israel with the exception of a small remnant :
' Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we should have
been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.'

14-29. St. Paul now states for the purpose of refutation a
possible objection. He has just shown that God chooses men
independently of their works according to His own free determina-
tion, and the deduction is implied that He is free to choose or
reject members of the chosen race. The objection which may be
raised is, ' if what you say is true, God is unjust,' and the argument
would probably be continued, ' we know God is not unjust, there-
fore the principles laid down are not true.' In answer, St. Paul
shows that they cannot be unjust or inconsistent with God's action,
for they are exactly those which God has declared to be His in those
very Scriptures on which the Jews with whom St. Paul is arguing
would especially rely.

14. Ti oSy ipovfiev ; see on iii. 5, a very similar passage : W 8e 7

ddiKia fjfjLcijv Q(ov 8iKaio<Tvi'r]v avviaTrjai, ti ipovfiev) fxr/ ciBiKos 6 Gfoj

o f'irL(f)(p(i)v TTjv opyfjv ; . , . pfj yevoiro. The expression is used as
always to introduce an objection which is stated only to be
refuted.

\i.r\ : implying that a negative answer may be expected, as in
the instance just quoted.

irapd Tw 06(i5. Cf. ii. Il ov yap fan irpotroa'nokri^la napa ra Qta
Eph. vi. 9 ; Prov. viii. 30, of Wisdom dwelling with God, ^nrju

nap' aiiro) appo^ovcra,

/ji^ yeVoiTo, Cf. iii. 4. The expression is generally used as here
to express St. Paul's horror at an objection ' which he has stated
for the purpose of refutation and which is blasphemous in itself or
one that his opponent would think to be such.'

15-19. According to Origen, followed by many Fathers and
some few modern commentators, the section w. 15-19 contains
not St. Paul's own words, but a continuation of the objection put
into the mouth of his opponent, finally to be refuted by the
indignant disclaimer of ver. 20. Such a construction which was
adopted in the interest of free-will is quite contrary to the structure
of the sentence and of the argument. In every case in which pij
yevoirm occurs it is followed by an answer to the objection direct or
indirect. Moreover if this had been the construction the inter-
rogative sentence would not have been introduced by the particle
prj expecting a negative answer, but would have been in a form
which would suggest an affirmative reply.

15. T« -^ap MuaTJ' Xe'yci. The yap explains and justifies the
strong denial contained in pi] ye'voiro. Too much stress must not
be laid on the emphasis given to the name by its position ; yet it is
obvious that the instance chosen adds considerably to the strength



254 EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS [IX. 15, 16.

of the argument. Moses, if any one, might be considered to have
deserved God's mercy, and the name of Moses would be that most
respected by St. Paul's opponents. Xtyn without a nominative for
eeos Ae'yfi is a common idiom in quotations (of. Rom. xv. lo;
Gal. iii. i6; Kph. iv. 8; v. 14).

i\er\(T<j) ov tiv eXew, k.t.X : ' I will have mercy on whomsoever
I have mercy.' The emphasis is on the tv av, and the words are
quoted to mean that as it is God who has made the offer of salva-
tion to men, it is for Him to choose who are to be the recipients of
His grace, and not for man to dictate to Him. The quotation is
from the LXX of Ex. xxxiii. 19 which is accurately reproduced.
It is a fairly accurate translation of the original, there being only
a slight change in the tenses. The Hebrew is ' I am gracious to
whom I will be gracious,' the LXX ' I will be gracious to whom-
soever I am gracious.' But St. Paul uses the words with a some-
what different emphasis. Moses had said, ' Show me, I pray thee,
thy glory.' And He said, ' I will make all my goodness pass before
thee, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before ihee : and
I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy
on whom I will show mercy.' The point of the words in the
original context is rather the certainty of the Divine grace for those
whom God has selected ; the point which St. Paul wishes to prove
is the independence and freedom of the Divine choice,

lKir\(T(a . . . oiKT€ipiiCTa). The difference between these words
seems to be something the same as that between XCnrj and oSc'w; in
ver. 2. The first meaning 'compassion,' the second 'distress' or
* pain,' such as expresses itself in outward manifestation. (Cf.
Godet, ad loc.)

16. apa oZv introduces as an inference from the special instance
given the general principle of God's method of action. Cf. ver. 8
TovT ea-Tiv, ver. 1 1 Ivu, where the logical method in each case is the
same although the form of expression is different.

ToG QiKovTos, K.T.X. ' God's mercy is in the power not of human
desire or human effort, but of the Divine compassion itself.' The geni-
tives are dependent on the idea of mercy deduced from the previous
verse. With 6e\ovTos may be compared Jo. i. 12, 13 tdcoKcv airols

f^nvcrlav TiKva Geou ytVicQai , . , oX ovk (^ aluaTav, oii8e tK dfXrjfiaros
aapKos, oiiSe (k 6(Xr]iiaTni dvSpos, aXX' tK Qtov €y(vvr]di](T(iv. The meta-
phor of TOO Tp^xoi'Tos is a favourite one with St. Paul (i Cor. ix.
24, 26; Phil. ii. 16; Gal. ii. 2 ; v. 7).

In vv. 7-13 St. Paul might seem to be dealing with families or
groups of people ; here however he is distinctly dealing with in-
dividuals and lays down the principle that God's grace does not
necessarily depend upon anything but God's will. * Not that
I have not reasons to do it, but that I need not, in distributmg a'
mercies which have no foundation in the merits of men, render



IX. 16, 17.] THE UNBELIEF OF ISRAEL 255

any other reason or motive but mine own will, whereby I may do
what I will with mine own.' Hammond.

The MSS. vary curiously in the orthography of (Xeto}, iXeaoj. In ver. l6
KABUEFG support fAedcy (eKeaivros), B^K &c. fXeico {fXfovvros) ; in
ver. 1 8 the position is reversed, i\edai (lAea) having only D F G in its
favour; in Jude 32 eKtatu (lAedre) is supported by K B alone. See \VH.
Introd. ii. App. p. i66.

17. X^ei Y^ip 'n YP*''<f*T • *and as an additional proof showing
that the principle just enunciated (in ver. i6) is true not merely in
an instance of God's mercy, but also of His severity, take the
language which the Scripture tells us was addressed lo Pharaoh.'
On the form of quotation cf. Gal. iii. 8, 22 ; there was probably no
reason for the change of expression from ver. 15 ; both were well-
known forms used in quoting the O. T. and both could be used
indifferently.

T(5 «t>apaoJ. The selection of Moses suggested as a natural
contrast that of his antagonist Pharaoh. In God's dealings with
these two individuals, St. Paul finds examples of His dealings with
the two main classes of mankind.

eis auTo TouTo, k.t.X. : taken with considerable variations, which in
some cases seem to approach the Hebrew, from the LXX of Ex. ix.
16 (see below). The quotation is taken from the words which Moses
was directed to address to Pharaoh after the sixth plague, that of
boils. ' For now I had put forth my hand and smitten thee and
thy people with pestilence, and thou hadst been cut off from the
earth ; but in very deed for this cause have I made thee to stand,
for to show thee my power, and that my name may be declared
throughout all the earth.' The words in the original mean that
God has prevented Pharaoh from being slain by the boils in order
that He might more completely exhibit His power; St. Paul by
slightly changing the language generalizes the statement and
applies the words to the whole appearance of Pharaoh in the field
of history. Just as the career of Moses exhibits the Divine mercy,
so the career of Pharaoh exhibits the Divine severity, and in both
cases the absolute sovereignty of God is vindicated.

cliiyeipa : ' I have raised thee up, placed thee in the field of
history.' There are two main interpretations of this word pos-
sible, (i) It has been taken to mean, 'I have raised thee up
from sickness,' so Gif. and others, ' I have preserved thee and not
taken thy life as I might have done.' This is in all probability the
meaning of the original Hebrew. 'I made thee to stand,' and
certainly that of the LXX, which paraphrases the words dieTrjpr'jdqs.
It is supported also by a reading in the Hexapla buTriprjaa o-e, by the
Targum of Onkelos Sustinui te ut ostenderem tibi, and the Arabic
Te reservavi ut ostenderem tibi. Although i^i-^iipdv does not seem
lo occur in this sense, it is used i Cor. vi. 14 of resurrection from



256 EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS [IX. 17.

the dead, and the simple verb eyelpfiv in James v. 15 means 'rais-
ing from sickness.* The words may possibly therefore have this
sense, but the passage as quoted by St. Paul could not be so inter-
preted. Setting aside the fact that he probably altered the reading
of the LXX purposely, as the words occur here without any allusion
to the previous sickness, the passage would be meaningless unless
reference were made to the original, and would not justify the
deduction drawn from it ov 8e BeXn aKkrjpvvn.

(2) The correct interpretation (so Calv. Beng. Beyschlag Go.
Mey. Weiss. Lips. Gore) is therefore one which makes St. Paul
generalize the idea of the previous passage, and this is in accord-
ance with the almost technical meaning of the verb i^cydixiv in the
LXX. It is used of God calling up the actors on the stage of
history. So of the Chaldaeans Hab. i. 6 StoVt l^ov eya i^eyeipco tovs
XaXbaiovs : of a shepherd for the people Zech. xi. 1 6 SioVt l8ov ry«
f^tyeipco noifitua eni rfjv yrjv : of a great nation and kings Jer. xxvii.

41 180V Xnos ep\fTai dno ^oppa^ Kai edvcv M^V" ''''' /Sar-jAfty jroXXoi

('^tyfp6r]<TovTai an ecrxdrov tt/s yrjs. This interpretation seems to be
supported by the Samaritan Version, subsistere ie feci, and cer-
tainly by the Syriac, ob id te constitui ut ostenderem ; and it ex-
presses just the idea which the context demands, that God had
declared that Pharaoh's posiuon was owing to His sovereign will
and pleasure — in order to carry out His Divine purpose and plan.
The interpretation which makes e^eyeipdv mean ' call into being.'
' create,' has no support in the usage of the word, although not
inconsistent with the context ; and ' to rouse to anger ' (Aug. de
W. Fri. &c.) would require some object such as dvfiov, as in
2 Mace. xiii. 4.

The readings of the Latin Versions are as follows : Quia in hoc ipsum
txdtavi te, d e f, Vulg. ; quia ad hoc ipsum te suscitavi, Ori^'.-lat. ; quia in
hoc ipsum excitavi te suscitavi te, g ; quia in hoc ipsut/t te servavi, Ambrstr.,
who adds alii codices sic habent, dd hoc te suscitavi. Sive servavi sive
suscitavi unus est sensus.

The reading of the LXX is kol tvtKiv tovtov difTrjftrjdrji I'l'a ivSd^aJnat ev
aoi Tr)v laxw f^ov, «ai ottois diay'Ye\^ Td ovojxd p.ov iv iraa^ rp 7^. St. Paul's
variations are interesting.

(i) (Is avTo TovTo is certainly a better and more emphatic representation
of the Hebrew than the somewhat weak tovtov tvtKiv. The expression is
characteristically Pauline (Rom. xiii. 6; a Cor. v. 5; Eph. vi. 18, 2a;
Col. iv. 8).

(2) (^Tjyftpa f7( represents better than the LXX the grammar of the Hebrew,
'I made thee to stand,' but not the sense. The variants of the Hexapla
(St(Tripr]aa) and other versions suggest that a more liteial translation was in
existence, but the word was very probably St. Paul's own choice, selected to
bring out more emphatically the meaning of the passage as he understood it.

(3) (i'df:i^a)(.iai ty aoi. St. Paul here follows the incorrect translation of
the LXX. The Hebrew gives as the purpose of God's action that Pharaoh
may know God's power, and as a further consequence that God's name may
be known in the world. The LXX assimilates the first clanse to the second
and gives it a similar meaning.



IX. 17, 18.] THE UNBELIEF OF ISRAEL 257

(4) onen . . . oiron. Here St. Paul obliterates the distinction which the
LXX (followimg the Hebrew) had made ofiva . , . oirws. But this alteration
was only a natural result of the change la the LXX itself, by which the two
clauses had become coordinate in thought.

(5) For SvvafJiv the LXX reads lax^v. The reading of St. Paul appears
as a variant in the Hexapla.

18. apa ouv. Just as ver. 16 sums up the argument of the first part
of this paragraph, so this verse sums up the argument as it has
been amphfied and expounded by the additional example.

ctkXtjpuVci : ' hardens ' ; the word is suggested by the narrative of
Exodus from which the former quotation is taken (Ex. iv. 21 ; vii.
3; ix. 12; X. 20, 27; xi. 10; xiv. 4, 8, 17) audit must be translated in
accordance with the O. T. usage, without any attempt at softening
or evading its natural meaning.



TAe Divine Sovereignty in the Old Testament.

A second objection is answered and a second step in the argu-
ment laid down. God is not unjust if He select one man or one
nation for a high purpose and another for a low purpose, one man
for His mercy and another for His anger. As is shown by the
Scriptures, He has absolute freedom in the exercise of His Divine
sovereignty. St. Paul is arguing against a definite opponent,
X typical Jew, and he argues from premises the validity of which
<:hat Jew must admit, namely, the conception of God contained in
the O. T. There this is clearly laid down — the absolute sove-
reignty of God, that is to say. His power and His right to dispose
the course of human actions as He will. He might select Israel
for a high office, and Edom for a degraded part: He might
select Moses as an example of His mercy, Pharaoh as an example
of His anger. If this be granted He may (on grounds which the
Jew must admit), if He will, select some Jews and some Gentiles
for the high purpose of being members of His Messianic kingdom,
while He rejects to an inferior part the mass of the chosen people.

This is St. Paul's argument. Hence there is no necessity for
softening (as some have attempted to do) the apparently harsh
expression of ver. 18, 'whom He will He hardeneth.' St, Paul
says no more than he had said in i. 20-28, where he described the
final wickedness of the world as in a sense the result of the Divine
action. In both passages he is isolating one side of the Divine
action ; and in making theological deductions from his language
these passages must be balanced by others which imply the Divine
love and human freedom. It will be necessary to do this at the
close of the discussion. At present we must be content with
St, Paul's conclusion, that God as sovereign has the absolute rigiil
and power of disoosing of men's lives as He will.



2^S EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS [IX. 18, 1©.

We must not soften the passage. On the other hand, we must
not read into it more than it contains : as, for example, Calvin
does. He imports various extraneous ideas, that St. Paul speaks
of election to salvation and of reprobation to death, that men
were created that they might perish, that God's action not only
might be but was arbitrary : Hoc enim vult efficere apud nos, ut
in ea quae apparet inter elecios et reprobos diversitate, mens nostra
con tenia sit quod ita visum fuerit Deo, alios illuminare in salutem,
alios in mortem excaecare . . . Corruit ergo frivolum illudeffugium quod
de praescientia Scholastici hahent. Neque enim praevideri ruinam im-
piorum a Domino Paulus tradit, sed eius consilio et vohintate ordinari,
quemadmodum et Solomo docet, non modo praecogniium fuisse impiorum
inter it um, sed impios ipsos fuisse destinato creates ut perirent.

The Apostle says nothing about eternal life or death. He says
nothing about the principles upon which God does act; he never
says that His actiom u arbitrary (he will prove eventually that it
is not so) , but only that if it be no Jew who accepts the Scripture
has any right to complain. He never says or implies that Goa
has created man for the purpose of his damnation. What he does
say is that in His government of the world God reserves to Him-
self perfect freedom of dealing with man on His own conditions
and not on man's. So Gore, op. cit. p. 40, sums up the argument :
' God always revealed Himself as retaining His liberty of choice,
as refusing to tie Himself, as selecting the historic examples of
His hardening judgement and His compassionate good will, so as
to baffle all attempts on our part to create His vocations by our
own efforts, or anticipate the persons whom He will use for His
purposes of mercy or of judgement.'

19. cpeis fioi oZv. Hardly are the last words ov 8i 6fKei o-kXj;-
piivd out of St. Paul's mouth than he imagines his opponent in
controversy catching at an objection, and he at once takes it up and
forestalls him. By substituting this phrase for the more usual
Tt ovv (poijfiev, St. Paul seems to identify himself less with his
opponent's objection.



Online LibraryW. (William) SandayA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans → online text (page 45 of 71)