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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 17

Verse 17. Behold. Having thus stated the general principles on which God would judge the world; having shown how they condemned the Gentiles; and having removed all objections to them, he now proceeds to another part of his argument, to show how they applied to the Jews. By the use of the word behold, he calls their attention to it, as to an important subject; and with great skill and address, he states their privileges, before he shows them how those privileges might enhance their condemnation. He admits all their claims to pre-eminence in privileges, and then with great faithfulness proceeds to show how, if abused, these might deepen their final destruction. It should be observed, however, that the word rendered behold is, in many Mss., written in two words, ei de, instead of ide. If this, as is probable, is the correct reading there, it should be rendered, "If now thou art," etc. Thus the Syriac, Latin, and Arabic read it.

Thou art called. Thou art named Jew, implying that this name was one of very high honour. This is the first thing mentioned on which the Jew would be likely to pride himself.

A Jew. This was the name by which the Hebrews were at that time generally known; and it is clear that they regarded it as a name of honour, and valued themselves much on it. See Ga 2:15; Re 2:9. Its origin is not certainly known. They were called the children of Israel until the time of Rehoboam. When the ten tribes were carried into captivity, but two remained, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The name Jews was evidently given to denote those of the tribe of Judah. The reasons why the name of Benjamin, was lost in that of Judah were probably,

(1.) because the tribe of Benjamin was small, and comparatively without influence or importance.

(2.) The Messiah was to be of the tribe of Judah, (Ge 49:10); and that tribe would therefore possess a consequence proportioned to their expectation of that event. The name of Jews would therefore be one that would suggest the facts that they were preserved from captivity, that they had received remarkably the protection of God, and that the Messiah was to be sent to that people. Hence it is not wonderful that they should regard it as a special favour to be a Jew, and particularly when they added to this the idea of all the other favours connected with their being the peculiar people of God. The name Jew came thus to denote all the peculiarities and special favours of their religion.

And restest in the law. The word rest here is evidently used in the sense of trusting to, or leaning upon. The Jew leaned on, or relied on the law for acceptance or favour; on the fact that he had the law, and on his obedience to it. It does not mean that he relied on his own works, though that was true, but that he leaned on the fact that he had the law, and was thus distinguished above others. The law here means the entire Mosaic economy; or all the rules and regulations which Moses had given. Perhaps also it includes, as it sometimes does, the whole of the Old Testament.

Makest thy boast of God. Thou dost boast, or glory, that thou hast the knowledge of the true God, while other nations are in darkness. On this account the Jew felt himself far elevated above all other people, and despised them. It was true that they only had the true knowledge of God, and that he had declared himself to be their God, (De 4:7; Ps 147:19,20;) but this was not a ground for boasting, but for gratitude. This passage know us that it is much more common to boast of privileges than to be thankful for them, and that it is no evidence of piety for a man to boast of his knowledge of God. A humble, ardent thankfulness that we have that knowledge—a thankfulness which leads us not to despise others, but to desire that they may have the same privilege—is an evidence of piety.

{z} "art called a Jew" Ro 2:28

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