Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness,.... The apostle anticipates an objection against what he had said, taken from the prosperity of these persons; who might conclude from thence, that they were not so wicked as he had represented them; and that they should escape the judgment of God, otherwise they would have been punished by God in this life, and not have prospered as they did; which objection is removed by observing, that it was not their innocence, but "the riches of" divine "goodness, and longsuffering and forbearance", which were the causes of their prosperity: by "the riches of God's goodness", are not meant the riches of his special, spiritual, and eternal goodness, which his own people are only partakers of: but the general riches of his temporal and providential goodness, which the men of the world have commonly the greatest share of; they have it in great plenty, which is signified by "riches": and by his "longsuffering and forbearance" are designed, not his forbearance of his chosen ones and his longsuffering to them, which issue in their salvation; but his forbearance of sinners, and longsuffering towards them, in not as yet pouring down his wrath and displeasure on them; all which are "despised" by them; the riches of his goodness, when he is not glorified for his providential mercies, and in them, and when these are abused to the lusts of men. The
forbearance of God is despised, when men on account of it harden themselves in sin; and his
longsuffering, when they deny his concern in Providence, or a future judgment, and promise themselves impunity. Moreover, the apostle obviates the above objection by asserting that God's end in his goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, was not to testify to their innocence, as they imagined, but to lead them to repentance, of which they were ignorant;
not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. This is to be understood not of a spiritual and evangelical repentance, which is a free grace gift, and which none but the Spirit of God can lead, or bring persons to; but of a natural and legal repentance, which lies in an external sorrow for sin, and in an outward cessation from it, and reformation of life and manners, which the goodness of God to the Jews should have led them to; who had a large share of the good things of life, a land flowing with milk and honey, and many outward privileges which other nations had not, as the giving of the law, the covenant and promises, the word and ordinances; and repentance here chiefly designs, as it may respect the Gentiles, a change of mind and practice in them relating to idolatry and superstition Now the providential goodness of God has a tendency to lead persons to repentance on this account; but of this end of divine goodness the Gentiles were ignorant; nor was this end answered thereby; which shows the wretched depravity of human nature; see Acts 14:15.