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Commentary on Romans
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Romans 10:18-21

18. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

18. Sed dico, Nunquid non audierunt? Quinimo, In omnem terram exivit sonus eorum, et in fines orbis verba eorum.

19. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.

19. Sed dico, Nunquid non cognovit Israel? Primus Moses dicit, Ego ad aemulationem provocabo vos in eo qui non est populus, et in gente stulta irritabo vos.

20. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.

20. Iesaias autem audet et dicit, Inventus sum a non quaerentibus me, conspicuus factus sum iis qui me non interrogabant.

21. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

21. De Israele autem dicit, Quotidie expandi manus meas ad populum contumacem et contradicentem (vel, non credentem.)

18. But I say, have they not heard? etc. Since the minds of men are imbued, by preaching, with the knowledge of God, which leads them to call on God, it remained a question whether the truth of God had been proclaimed to the Gentiles; for that Paul had suddenly betaken himself to the Gentiles, there was by that novelty no small offense given. He then asks, whether God had ever before directed his voice to the Gentiles, and performed the office of a teacher towards the whole world. But in order that he might show that the school, into which God collects scholars to himself from any part, is open in common to all, he brings forward a Prophet’s testimony from Psalm 19:4; which yet seems to bear apparently but little on the subject: for the Prophet does not speak there of Apostles but of the material works of God; in which he says the glory of God shines forth so evidently, that they may be said to have a sort of tongue of their own to declare the perfections of God.

This passage of Paul gave occasion to the ancients to explain the whole Psalm allegorically, and posterity have followed them: so that, without doubt, the sun going forth as a bridegroom from his chamber, was Christ, and the heavens were the Apostles. They who had most piety, and showed a greater modesty in interpreting Scripture, thought that what was properly said of the celestial architecture, has been transferred by Paul to the Apostles by way of allusion. But as I find that the Lord’s servants have everywhere with great reverence explained Scripture, and have not turned them at pleasure in all directions, I cannot be persuaded, that Paul has in this manner misconstrued this passage. I then take his quotation according to the proper and genuine meaning of the Prophet; so that the argument will be something of this kind, — God has already from the beginning manifested his divinity to the Gentiles, though not by the preaching of men, yet by the testimony of his creatures; for though the gospel was then silent among them, yet the whole workmanship of heaven and earth did speak and make known its author by its preaching. It hence appears, that the Lord, even during the time in which he confined the favor of his covenant to Israel, did not yet so withdraw from the Gentiles the knowledge of himself, but that he ever kept alive some sparks of it among them. He indeed manifested himself then more particularly to his chosen people, so that the Jews might be justly compared to domestic hearers, whom he familiarly taught as it were by his own mouth; yet as he spoke to the Gentiles at a distance by the voice of the heavens, he showed by this prelude that he designed to make himself known at length to them also.

But I know not why the Greek interpreter rendered the word קום, kum, φθόγγον αὐτῶν, their sound; for it means a line, sometimes in building, and sometimes in writing. 334334     Intepreters have been very much at a loss to account for this difference. The Apostle adopts the rendering of the Septuagint, as though the Hebrew word had been קולם. Though there is no copy, yet consulted, that favors this reading, it is yet the probable one; not only because the Apostle sanctions it, but it is what the context demands, and especially the parallelism which prevails in Hebrew poetry. In the next line “words” are mentioned, and “voice” here would be the most suitable corresponding term. But we may go back to the preceding distich, and find not only a confirmation of this, but also an instance of terms being used in the same passage in different senses, while yet the meaning is obvious to a common reader, and at the same time intricate and puzzling to a critic. The two distichs may be thus rendered, —
   4. Without speech, and without words!
Not heard is their voice! —

   5. Through all the earth goes forth their voice,
And through the extremity of the world their words.

   They have no words, and yet they have words; they have no voice, and yet they have a voice. Here the first and the last line Correspond, and the second and the third. There is indeed a different term used for “words” in the last line from that which is adopted in the first, but in the first there are two, “speech,” אמר, and “words,” דברים, which are expressed by one, מלים, in the last. It seems then most probable, that the true reading has been retained by the Septuagint

   The “sound,” or voice, as applied in this passage, means the report, the news, respecting the gospel; and the “words,” the actual preaching of it. — Ed.
As it is certain that the same thing is mentioned twice in this passage, it seems to me probable, that the heavens are introduced as declaring by what is written as it were on them, as well as by voice, the power of God; for by the word going forth the Prophet reminds us, that the doctrine, of which the heavens are the preachers, is not included within the narrow limits of one land, but is proclaimed to the utmost regions of the world.

19. But I say, has not Israel known? This objection of an opponent is taken from the comparison of the less with the greater. Paul had argued, that the Gentiles were not to be excluded from the knowledge of God, since he had from the beginning manifested himself to them, though only obscurely and through shadows, or had at least given them some knowledge of his truth. What then is to be said of Israel, who had been illuminated by a far different light of truth? for how comes it that aliens and the profane should run to the light manifested to them afar off, and that the holy race of Abraham should reject it when familiarly seen by them? For this distinction must be ever borne in mind, “What nation is so renowned, that it has gods coming nigh to it, as thy God at this day descends to thee?” It was not then without reason asked, why knowledge had not followed the doctrine of the law, with which Israel was favored.

First, Moses saith, etc. He proves by the testimony of Moses, that there was nothing inconsistent in God in preferring the Gentiles to the Jews. The passage is taken from that celebrated song, in which God, upbraiding the Jews with their perfidiousness, declares, that he would execute vengeance on them, and provoke them to jealousy by taking the Gentiles into covenant with himself, because they had departed to fictitious gods. “Ye have,” he says, “by despising and rejecting me, transferred my right and honor to idols: to avenge this wrong, I will also substitute the Gentiles in your place, and I will transfer to them what I have hitherto given to you.” Now this could not have been without repudiating the Jewish nation: for the emulation, which Moses mentions, arose from this, — that God formed for himself a nation from that which was not a nation, and raised up from nothing a new people, who were to occupy the place from which the Jews had been driven away, inasmuch as they had forsaken the true God and prostituted themselves to idols. For though, at the coming of Christ, the Jews were not gone astray to gross and external idolatry, they had yet no excuse, since they had profaned the whole worship of God by their inventions; yea, they at length denied God the Father, as revealed in Christ, his only-begotten Son, which was an extreme kind of impiety.

Observe, that a foolish nation, and no nation, are the same; for without the hope of eternal life men have properly no existence. Besides, the beginning or origin of life is from the light of faith: hence spiritual existence flows from the new creation; and in this sense Paul calls the faithful the work of God, as they are regenerated by his Spirit, and renewed after his image. Now from the word foolish, we learn that all the wisdom of men, apart from the word of God, is mere vanity. 335335     The quotation is from Deuteronomy 32:21, and it is literally the Hebrew as well as the Septuagint, except that “you” is put for “them.” The contrast in Hebrew is very striking; the whole verse is this, —
   21. They have made me jealous by a no-God,
They have provoked me by their foolish idols;
And I will make them jealous by a no-people,
By a foolish nation will I provoke them. — Ed.

20. But Isaiah is bold, and says, etc. As this prophecy is somewhat clearer, that he might excite greater attention he says that it was expressed with great confidence; as though he had said, — “The Prophet did not speak in a figurative language, or with hesitation, but had in plain and clear words declared the calling of the Gentiles.” But the things which Paul has here separated, by interposing a few words, are found connected together in the prophet Isaiah 65:1, where the Lord declares, that the time would come when he should turn his favor to the Gentiles; and he immediately subjoins this reason, — that he was wearied with the perverseness of Israel, which, through very long continuance, had become intolerable to him. He then speaks thus, — “They who inquired not of me before, and neglected my name, have now sought me, (the perfect tense for the future to denote the certainty of the prophecy.) 336336     Isaiah 65:1. The two sentences are reversed; the Septuagint and the Hebrew are the same. The reason for changing the order does not appear; but it may be observed, that it is an instance common in Hebrew, where essentially the same idea is expressed in two successive lines, so that it is immaterial which of them is put first. — Ed.

I know that this whole passage is changed by some Rabbins, as though God promised that he would cause that the Jews should repent of their defection: but nothing is more clear than that he speaks of aliens; for it follows in the same context, — “I have said, Behold I come to a people, on whom my name is not called.” Without doubt, then, the Prophet declares it as what would take place, that those who were before aliens would be received by a new adoption unto the family of God. It is then the calling of the Gentiles; and in which appears a general representation of the calling of all the faithful; for there is no one who anticipates the Lord; but we are all, without exception, delivered by his free mercy from the deepest abyss of death, when there is no knowledge of him, no desire of serving him, in a word, no conviction of his truth.

21. But of Israel, etc. A reason is subjoined why God passed over to the Gentiles; it was because he saw that his favor was become a mockery to the Jews. But that readers may more fully understand that the blindness of the people is pointed out in the second clause, Paul expressly reminds us that the elect people were charged with their own wickedness. Literally it is, “He says to Israel;” but Paul has imitated the Hebrew idiom; for ל, lamed, is often put for מן, men. And he says, that to Israel he stretched forth his hands, whom he continually by his word invited to himself, and ceased not to allure by every sort of kindness; for these are the two ways which he adopts to call men, as he thus proves his goodwill towards them. However, he chiefly complains of the contempt shown to his truth; which is the more abominable, as the more remarkable is the manner by which God manifests his paternal solicitude in inviting men by his word to himself.

And very emphatical is the expression, that he stretches out his hands; for by seeking our salvation through the ministers of his word, he stretches forth to us his hands no otherwise than as a father who stretches forth his arms, ready to receive his son kindly into his bosom. And he says daily, that it might not seem strange to any one if he was wearied in showing kindness to them, inasmuch as he succeeded not by his assiduity. A similar representation we have in Jeremiah 7:13; and Jeremiah 11:7, where he says that he rose up early to warn them.

Their unfaithfulness is also set forth by two most suitable words. I have thought it right to render the participle ἀπειθούντα, refractory, or rebellious, and yet the rendering of Erasmus and of the Old Translator, which I have placed in the margin, is not to be wholly disapproved. But since the Prophet accuses the people of perverseness, and then adds that they wandered through ways which were not good, I doubt not but that the Greek Translator meant to express the Hebrew word סורר, surer, by two words, calling them first disobedient or rebellious, and then gainsaying; for their contumacy showed itself in this, because the people, with untamable pride and bitterness, obstinately rejected the holy admonitions of the Prophets. 337337     The passage is taken from Isaiah 65:2. The Septuagint is followed, except that the order of the words in the first part of the sentence is changed, thought the Septuagint has preserved the order of the original. The version is according to the Hebrew, with the exception of the last word, which from its form, the last radical letter being doubled, can hardly be expressed in another language by a single term, and so the Septuagint has employed two. It means “revolting again and again,” or willfully revolting. The simple verb סר, signifies to turn aside, to revolt, to apostatize: and in a reduplicate form, as here, it means either a repeated or an obstinate revolt. Indeed the revolt or the apostasy of the Jews was both reiterated and perverse, as their history abundantly testifies. — Ed.


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