Chapter 12:15 Lest any root, etc This quotation, made from Deuteronomy 29:18, seems to be an adoption of some words, and nothing more; for it is neither literally the Hebrew nor the Sept. |Root| refers not to a principle in Deuteronomy, but to an individual, to a person given to idolatry. A person also seems to be intended here. The clause in Hebrew is, |Lest there be among you a fruitbearing root, hemlock or wormwood;| and in the Sept., |Lest there be among you a root springing up in gall and bitterness.| As the idea only of a growing bitter or poisonous root is borrowed, it is not necessary to suppose that the application here is the same as in Deuteronomy. What is there applied to an idolater, is here applied to a person disturbing the peace of the Church.
Some understand this passage as referring to defection or apostasy; and therefore render the first clause, |Lest any one recede (or depart) from the grace of God,| that is, the Gospel, or Christian faith. But the words can hardly admit of this meaning. Hence most give this version, |Lest any one fall short of the grace of God.| But what is this |grace of God?| Various answers have been given, -- God's favor to those who cultivate holiness; God's mercy offered in the Gospel; the promised rest; eternal life. But taking this verse, as we certainly ought, in connection with the preceding, we may justly say, that it is God's sanctifying grace, or |the holiness |mentioned before; and then, according to the inverted order which we often find in Scripture, the next clause refers to |peace,| |lest any root of bitterness, growing up, should disturb you, and many by it (or by this) be polluted (or infected.)|
Then follow examples of these two evils in the same order: the first, |the fornicator,| is the violator of |holiness,| or is deficient as to this grace of God; and the second, |the profane,| is a disturber of the peace of the Church, as Esau was, of the peace of his own family, being |a root of bitterness.|
But observe, |peace| was to be with |all men;| yet the example as to the disturber of it refers to the peace of the Church; so with respect to |holiness,| what is universal is inculcated; but the example as to the violator of it is particular. For want of seeing this, no doubt some of the fathers regarded |holiness| in the former verse us meaning chastity.
Esau became |a root of bitterness| by being profane; and to be profane in this instance was to despise holy things, to regard them of no value, so as to prefer to them the gratification of the flesh. This was Esau's profaneness, which led eventually to a dreadful discord in his family; and to shew the evil which follows such profaneness, the Apostle points out the loss he sustained as a warning to others.