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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 23

Verse 23. And changed. This does not mean that they literally transmuted God himself; but that in their views they exchanged him; or they changed him as an object of worship for idols. They produced, of course, no real change in the glory of the infinite God, but the change was in themselves. They forsook him of whom they had knowledge, Ro 1:21 and offered the homage which was due to him to idols.

The glory. The majesty, the honour, etc. This word stands opposed here to the degrading nature of their worship. Instead of adoring a Being clothed with majesty and honour, they bowed down to reptiles, etc. They exchanged a glorious object of worship for that which was degrading and humiliating. The glory of God, in such places as this, means his essential honour, his majesty, the concentration and expression of his perfections, as the glory of the sun, 1 Co 15:41 means his shining, or his splendour. Comp. Jer 2:11; Ps 106:20.

The uncorruptible God. The word uncorruptible is here applied to God in opposition to man. God is unchanging, indestructible, immortal. The word conveys also the idea that God is eternal. As he is incorruptible, he is the proper object of worship. In all the changes of life, man may come to him, assured that he is the same. When man decays by age or infirmities, he may come to God, assured that he undergoes no such change, but is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Comp. 1 Ti 1:17.

Into an image. An image is a representation or likeness of anything, whether made by painting, or from wood, stone, etc. Thus the word is applied to idols, as being images or representations of heavenly objects, 2 Ch 33:7; Da 3:1; Re 13:14, etc. See instances of this among the Jews described in Isa 40:18-26; Eze 8:10.

To corruptible man. This stands opposed to the incorruptible God. Many of the images or idols of the ancients were in the forms of men and women. Many of their gods were heroes and benefactors, who were deified, and to whom temples, altars, and statues were erected. Such were Jupiter, and Hercules, and Romulus, etc. The worship of these heroes thus constituted no small part of their idolatry, and their images would be of course representations of them in human form. It was proof of great degradation, that they thus adored men with like passions as themselves; and attempted to displace the true God from the throne, and to substitute in his place an idol in the likeness of men.

And to birds. The ibis was adored with peculiar reverence among the Egyptians, on account of the great benefits resulting from its destroying the serpents, which, but for this, would have overrun the country. The hawk was also adored in Egypt, and the eagle at Rome. As one great principle of pagan idolatry was to adore all objects from which important benefits were derived, it is probable that all birds would come in for a share of pagan worship, that rendered service in the destruction of noxious animals.

And fourfooted beasts. Thus the ox, under the name apis, was adored in Egypt; and even the dog and the monkey. In imitation of the Egyptian ox, the children of Israel made their golden calf, Ex 22:4. At this day, two of the most sacred objects of worship in Hindoostan are the cow and the monkey.

And creeping things. Reptiles. "Animals that have no feet, or such short ones that they seem to creep or crawl on the ground." Calmet. Lizards, serpents, etc., come under this description. The crocodile in Egypt was an object of adoration, and even the serpent. So late as the second century of the Christian era, there was a sect in Egypt called Ophites, from their worshipping a serpent, and who even claimed to be Christians. (Murdock's Mosheim, vol. i. pp. 180, 181.) There was scarcely an object, animal or vegetable, which the Egyptians did not adore. Thus the leek, the onion, etc., were objects of worship; and men bowed down and paid adoration to the sun and moon, to animals, to vegetables, and to reptiles. Egypt was the source of the views of religion that pervaded other nations, and hence their worship partook of the same wretched and degrading character. (See Leland's "Advantage and Necessity of Revelation."

{d} "image like to" Isa 40:18,25; Eze 8:10

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