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Romans 11:7-10

7. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

7. Quid ergo? Quod quaerit Israel, non est assequutus; 344344     Literally it is, “what Israel seeks, this he has not obtained.” The pronoun for “this,” τούτου Griesbach has displaced, and introduced τοῦτο in its stead, as the most approved reading. — Ed. electio autem assequuta est, reliqui vero excaecati fuerunt;

8. (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.

8. Quemadmodum scriptum est, Dedit illis Deus spiritum compunctionis, oculos ut non videant, et aures ut non audiant, usque ad hodiernum diem.

9. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:

9. Et David dicit, Fiat mensa eorum in laqueum et in captionem et in offendiculum et in retributionem ipsis:

10. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

10. Obscurentur oculi eorum ne videant, et dorsum eorum semper incurva.

7. What then? What Israel seeks, etc. As he is here engaged on a difficult subject, he asks a question, as though he was in doubt. He intended, however, by expressing this doubt, to render the answer, which immediately follows, more evident; for he intimates, that no other can be given; and the answer is, — that Israel in vain labored to seek salvation, because his attempt was absurd. Though he mentions here no cause, yet as he had expressed it before, he certainly meant it to be understood in this place. For his words are the same, as though he had said, — that it ought not to seem strange, that Israel gained nothing in striving after righteousness. And hence is proved what he presently subjoins concerning election, — For if Israel has obtained nothing by merit, what have others obtained whose case or condition was not better? Whence has come so much difference between equals? Who does not here see that it is election alone which makes the difference?

Now the meaning of the word election here is doubtful; for to some it seems that it ought to be taken in a collective sense, for the elect themselves, that there may be a correspondence between the two clauses. Of this opinion I do not disapprove, provided it be allowed that there is something more in the word than if he had said, the elect, even this, that he intimates that there was no other reason for obtaining their election, as though he said, — “They are not those who strive by relying on merits, but those whose salvation depends on the gratuitous election of God.” For he distinctly compares with the whole of Israel, or body of the people, the remnant which was to be saved by God’s grace. It hence follows, that the cause of salvation exists not in men, but depends on the good pleasure of God alone.

And the rest have been blinded 345345     “Excaecati fuerunt,” ἐπωρώθησαν; it means hardened, stupified, rendered callous or obdurate. Occalluerunt — “were hardened,” Beza; both Macknight and Doddridge render it, “blinded.” It is applied to the heart in Mark 6:52; 8:17; John 12:40, — to the mind in 2 Corinthians 3:14. — Ed. As the elect alone are delivered by God’s grace from destruction, so all who are not elected must necessarily remain blinded. For what Paul means with regard to the reprobate is, — that the beginning of their ruin and condemnation is from this — that they are forsaken by God.

The quotations which he adduces, collected from various parts of Scripture, and not taken from one passage, do seem, all of them, to be foreign to his purpose, when you closely examine them according to their contexts; for you will find that in every passage, blindness and hardening are mentioned as scourges, by which God punished crimes already committed by the ungodly; but Paul labors to prove here, that not those were blinded, who so deserved by their wickedness, but who were rejected by God before the foundation of the world.

You may thus briefly untie this knot, — that the origin of the impiety which provokes God’s displeasure, is the perversity of nature when forsaken by God. Paul therefore, while speaking of eternal reprobation, has not without reason referred to those things which proceed from it, as fruit from the tree or river from the fountain. The ungodly are indeed, for their sins, visited by God’s judgment with blindness; but if we seek for the source of their ruin, we must come to this, — that being accursed by God, they cannot by all their deeds, sayings, and purposes, get and obtain any thing but a curse. Yet the cause of eternal reprobation is so hidden from us, that nothing remains for us but to wonder at the incomprehensible purpose of God, as we shall at length see by the conclusion. But they reason absurdly who, whenever a word is said of the proximate causes, strive, by bringing forward these, to cover the first, which is hid from our view; as though God had not, before the fall of Adam, freely determined to do what seemed good to him with respect to the whole human race on this account, — because he condemns his corrupt and depraved seed, and also, because he repays to individuals the reward which their sins have deserved. 346346     The foregoing reasoning is not satisfactory: it goes beyond the evident meaning of the Apostle. He no doubt quoted the texts according to their original design, and to say he did not is to assert what is incapable of being proved, and what is even contrary to the Apostle’s reasoning throughout. The hardening or blinding spoken of by the Prophets, is stated uniformly as a punishment for previous unbelief and impenitence, as admitted by our author himself, and the obvious fact as to the Jews in the Apostle’s days, was an evidence of the same, and though he states not this fact here, he states it in the sequel of this Epistle. But why some were hardened, and others were softened, is what must be resolved altogether to the will of God. This, and no more than this, is what the Apostle evidently teaches here: and it is neither wise nor right to go beyond what is expressly taught, especially on a subject of a nature so mysterious and incomprehensible. — Ed.

8. Given them has God, etc. There is no doubt, I think, but that the passage quoted here from Isaiah is that which Luke refers to in Acts, as quoted from him, only the words are somewhat altered. Nor does he record here what we find in the Prophet, but only collects from him this sentiment, — that they were imbued from above with the spirit of maliciousness, so that they continued dull in seeing and hearing. The Prophet was indeed bidden to harden the heart of the people: but Paul penetrates to the very fountain, — that brutal stupor seizes on all the senses of men, after they are given up to this madness, so that they excite themselves by virulent stimulants against the truth. For he does not call it the spirit of giddiness, but of compunction, when the bitterness of gall shows itself; yea, when there is also a fury in rejecting the truth. And he declares, that by the secret judgment of God the reprobate are so demented, that being stupified, they are incapable of forming a judgment; for when it is said, that by seeing they see nothing, the dullness of their senses is thereby intimated. 347347     The quotation in this verse is taken from two passages: the first clause is from Isaiah 29:10, and the rest from Isaiah 6:9, or Deuteronomy 29:4. The first clause is not exactly according to the Hebrew or the Septuagint; instead of “God gave them,” etc., it is in the Septuagint, “the Lord hath made you drink,” etc., and in Hebrew, “Jehovah has poured upon you,” etc. It is the “spirit of slumber” in both, or rather, “of deep sleep” — תרדמה, a dead or an overwhelming sleep; and κατανύξις, though not as to its primary sense the same, is yet used according to this meaning. The verb means to puncture, to prick, either with grief or remorse, and also to affect with stupor. The latter idea the noun must have in this place, for the Hebrew does not admit of the other. The latter part is found in substance, though not in the same form of words in the two places referred to. — Ed.

Then Paul himself adds, to this very day, lest any one should object and say, that this prophecy had been formerly fulfilled, and that it was therefore absurd to apply it to the time of the gospel: this objection he anticipates, by subjoining, that it was not only a blindness of one day, which is described, but that it had continued, together with the unhealable obstinacy of the people, to the coming of Christ. 348348     Some consider this passage as taken from Deuteronomy 29:4, and regard the last words as part of the quotation. — Ed.

9. And David says, etc. In this testimony of David there is also made some change in the words, but it is not what changes the meaning. For he thus speaks, “Let their table before them become a snare, and their peaceful things a trap;” there is no mention of retribution. As to the main point there is sufficient agreement. The Prophet prays, that whatever is desirable and happy in life might turn out to the ruin and destruction of the ungodly; and this is what he means by table and peaceful things. 349349     Grotius understands by “table” guests, or friends, who partake of the provisions spread on the table. The wish is, that these should be a snare, etc. “Table,” according to Pareus, means luxury or festivity: and he adds, that there are here three metaphors, — the ensnaring of birds — the entrapping of wild beasts — and the stumbling in the dark, or that of blind men. Then the recompense or retaliation implies, that this evil of being ensnared and entrapped, and of stumbling, are only just retaliations for similar acts on their part; as they had ensnared, entrapped, and caused others to stumble, it was but just that they should be treated in the same way. And if we take “table” as a metonymy for friends or guests, the meaning would be very striking. And we know that the very friends and confederates of the Jews became their enemies and effected their ruin. See Jeremiah 38:22.
   The subject of imprecations is attended with some difficulty. To imprecate, or to pronounce a curse on others, or to wish others accursed, was forbidden even under the law, and it is expressly forbidden under the gospel, Matthew 5:45; Romans 12:14; we have the example of our Savior praying for his enemies even on the cross; and yet we find that God pronounced a curse on all the transgressors of the law, Deuteronomy 27:26, — that Christ pronounced a curse on Chorazin and Bethsaida, — that the Psalmist often imprecated vengeance on his enemies, Psalm 5:10; Psalm 109:7-15, — that the Apostle cursed Alexander the coppersmith, 2 Timothy 4:14, — and that John bids us not to pray for him who sins the sin unto death, 1 John 5:16.

   The truth is, that circumstances make the difference; what is forbidden in one respect is allowed in another. The rule to man is, not to curse, but to bless, except to pronounce on God’s enemies as such the judgment which God has already denounced on them. But to curse individuals is what no one is allowed to do, except he be inspired so as to know who those are who are given up by God to final judgment; which may be supposed to have been the case with the Psalmist and with St. Paul. — Ed.
He then gives them up to blindness of spirit and weakening of strength; the one of which he expresses by the darkening of the eyes, and the other by the incurvation of the back. But that this should be extended almost to the whole nation, is not to be wondered at; for we know, that not only the chief men were incensed against David, but that the common people were also opposed to him. It appears plain, that what is read in that passage was not applied to a few, but to a large number; yea, when we consider of whom David was a type, there appears to be a spiritual import in the opposite clause. 350350     Psalm 69:22,23. The passage is given as in the Septuagint, except that καὶ εἰς θήραν is added, and the two following words are transposed, with αὐτοῖς put after them, and ἀνταπόδομα is put for ἀνταπόδοσιν Romans 11:10 is given without any variation from the Septuagint. The Hebrew is in words considerably different, and more so in our version than it really is. The word, שלומים, is improperly rendered “welfare,” while it ought to be “recompenses,” or, according to Tremelius and Bp. Horseley, “retributions,” or “retribution.” See Isaiah 34:8. The last clause of Romans 11:10, though in meaning the same, is yet wholly different in words from the Hebrew, which is thus correctly rendered in our version, “and make their loins continually to shake.” The idea in both instances is the taking away of vigor and strength. — Ed.

Seeing then that this imprecation remains for all the adversaries of Christ, — that their meat shall be converted into poison, (as we see that the gospel is to be the savor of death unto death,) let us embrace with humility and trembling the grace of God. We may add, that since David speaks of the Israelites, who descended according to the flesh from Abraham, Paul fitly applies his testimony to the subject in hand, that the blindness of the majority of the people might not appear new or unusual.

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