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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 10 - Verse 7
Verse 7. Or who shall descend into the deep? These words are also a part of the address of Moses, De 30:13. But it is not literally quoted. The Hebrew is, "Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest 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 that which 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—(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." Isa 44:27, "That saith to the deep, Be dry," etc.; Ge 7:11; Ge 8:2.
To a broad place, (Job 36:16) and to the abyss before the world was formed, Ge 1:2. In the New Testament it is not applied to the ocean, unless in the passage Lu 8:31, See Barnes "Lu 8:31, but to the abode of departed spirits; and particularly to the dark, deep, and bottomless pit, where the wicked are to dwell for ever. Re 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. Re 11:7; 17:8; 20:1,3.
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, answers to hades, or the dark regions of departed spirits.
That is, to bring up Christ, etc. 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.
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