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33 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!


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33. Oh! the depth, etc. Here first the Apostle bursts into an exclamation, which arose spontaneously from a devout consideration of God’s dealings with the faithful; then in passing he checks the boldness of impiety, which is wont to clamor against the judgments of God. When therefore we hear, Oh! the depth, this expression of wonder ought greatly to avail to the beating down of the presumption of our flesh; for after having spoken from the word and by the Spirit of the Lord, being at length overcome by the sublimity of so great a mystery, he could not do otherwise than wonder and exclaim, that, the riches of God’s wisdom are deeper than our reason can penetrate to. Whenever then we enter on a discourse respecting the eternal counsels of God, let a bridle be always set on our thoughts and tongue, so that after having spoken soberly and within the limits of God’s word, our reasoning may at last end in admiration. Nor ought we to be ashamed, that if we are not wiser than he, who, having been taken into the third heaven, saw mysteries to man ineffable, and who yet could find in this instance no other end designed but that he should thus humble himself.

Some render the words of Paul thus, “Oh! the deep riches, and wisdom, and knowledge of God!” as though the word βάθος was an adjective; and they take riches for abundance, but this seems to me strained, and I have therefore no doubt but that he extols God’s deep riches of wisdom and knowledge. 374374     It has indeed been thought by many that πλούτου, riches, is a noun belonging to wisdom and knowledge, used, after the Hebrew manner, instead of an adjective. It means abundance or exuberance. The sentence, according to our idiom, would then be, “O the profundity of the abounding wisdom and knowledge of God!” The Apostle, as in the words, “the gifts and calling of God,” adopts an ascending scale, and mentions wisdom first, and then knowledge, which in point of order precedes it. Then in the following clause, according to his usual practice, he retrogrades, and states first what belongs to knowledge — “judgments,” decisions, divine decrees, such as knowledge determines; and then “ways,” actual proceedings, for the guiding of which wisdom is necessary. Thus we see that his style is thoroughly Hebraistic.
   It appears from Poole’s Syn., that Origen, Chrysostom, and Theodoret connected “riches” with “depth,” “O the abounding depth,” etc.; but that Ambrose and Augustine connected it with “wisdom,” etc. The use of the term in Ephesians 1:7, favors the last; for “the riches of his grace” mean clearly “his abounding grace.”

   But some, with Stuart, suppose that by “riches” here is meant God’s goodness or mercy, according to Romans 11:12, and Ephesians 3:8. And Stuart gives this version, “O the boundless goodness, and wisdom, and knowledge of God!” But this destroys the evident correspondence that is to be found in the latter clause of the verse, except we take in the remaining portion of the chapter, and this perhaps is what ought to be done. But if we do this, then πλούτου means “treasures, or blessings,” or copia beneficiorum,” as Schleusner expresses it. “Riches of Christ” mean the abounding blessings laid up in him, Ephesians 3:8. God may be viewed as set forth here as the source of all things, and as infinite in wisdom and knowledge; and these three things are the subjects to the end of the chapter, the two last verses referring to the first, and the end of the thirty-third and the thirty-fourth to the two others, and in an inverted order. The depth or vastness of his wealth or bounty is such, that he has nothing but his own, no one having given him anything, (Romans 11:35,) and from him, and through him, and to him are all things, (Romans 11:36.) Then as to the vastness of his wisdom and of his knowledge; what his knowledge has decided cannot be searched out, and what his wisdom has devised, as to the manner of executing his purposes, cannot be investigated; and no one can measure the extent of his knowledge, and no one has been his counselor, so as to add to the stores of his wisdom, (Romans 11:34.) That we may see the whole passage in lines —

   33. Oh the depth of God’s bounty and wisdom and knowledge!
How inscrutable his judgments
And untraceable his ways!

   34. Who indeed hath known the Lord’s mind,
Or who has become his counselor?

   35. Or who has first given to him?
And it shall be repayed to him:

   36. For from him and through him and to him are all things:
To him the glory for ever. — Amen. — Ed.

How incomprehensible, etc. By different words, according to a practice common in Hebrew, he expresses the same thing. For he speaks of judgments, then he subjoins ways, which mean appointments or the mode of acting, or the manner of ruling. But he still continues his exclamation, and thus the more he elevates the height of the divine mystery, the more he deters us from the curiosity of investigating it. Let us then learn to make no searchings respecting the Lord, except as far as he has revealed himself in the Scriptures; for otherwise we shall enter a labyrinth, from which the retreat is not easy. It must however be noticed, that he speaks not here of all God’s mysteries, but of those which are hid with God himself, and ought to be only admired and adored by us.




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